Guest Post: Jesse Teller, Author of Hemlock

The Timeless Enemy

by Jesse Teller

 

When I was a boy, my parents took me to the movies. This was back when we had no money. No money at all. We had to fight to get food on the table and we were always strapped. Well somehow, my parents found the money and the time to take us to the movies, and I saw Sleeping Beauty.

I don’t remember much at all. Colors, I think, is all I could take away from it. I was about six and I had no recollection of the story or the images really, but I do remember very distinctly the dragon. I remember the colors, the breath, and the black. I remember this tiny man striving to fight it, and the way it seemed impossible. I remember thinking no force in the world could rival a dragon, and that is all I took from it.

Years later, I was watching TV in the morning on a Saturday, and I saw Bilbo Baggins take the first steps of his journey. The artistry of it consumed me, the way those particular animation artists moved the characters across the screen. They were the same animators that did The Last Unicorn and I will never forget the way they drew the line. The movie The Hobbit was fun until Bilbo and I found ourselves at the feet of Smaug.

So huge that dragon was, nothing Bilbo could do could ever stack up. There was no weapon to grasp to bring death to that monster. No hope, however slight, could be held when the idea of fighting that beast was at hand.

I do not accept the death Tolkien gave to his god of dragons. It is too convenient, too simple. No one arrow ever made could take down the beast I saw in that cavern, no matter how well shot, no matter the target.

I remember thinking if ever a power could exist that could rival a being that great, it would have to be me who found it. No other creator could reach within and pluck out the shred of hope that stood up to a creature so mighty.

Well, of course, I was wrong. Writers and artists have been killing dragons as long as dragons have been around. St. George cast one down centuries before I was born, and people have been doing it ever since. But Smaug stayed supreme in my mind, a creature of such immense power that no one dare stand before him had they not a ring of power.

So then I set to work. I began, time after time, crafting a hero or heroine strong enough to crush the monumental monsters of my mind. Soon wizards. Then warriors. Then one after the next, I began to put together an army of people and beings so invincible that they could stand up to Smaug. They could face the Nefarious, the Tempest and the Wrath of the greatest forces of darkness that any mind could find. Any mind anywhere. With this devotion to craft and heart of a creator, I plumbed the darkness within my mind to find magic.

When I hit teenage years, I wanted warriors. Arislan, Aragorn. Caramon Majere. I found Mycenae Kark and Sai Sibbius Summerstone. One after the next, I sought and found one swords smith, then another, to battle the monoliths of my mind. Twenties found assassins. Thirties, barbarians. One great hero after the next filled my mind, always with one goal in sight.

Crush Smaug.

Pulverize the immense. Bring down the invincible. I write high fantasy. If that means I am not grimdark, then so be it.

There is a boy in here, deep where no one can find him. He is fighting a monster, a monster deeply rooted in the fiber of his mind. That little boy will not let me go small. He has a nemesis. He has a nightmare, and one after the other, he will pump out the mighty and the brave to bring it down. I have never killed Smaug. He is, as far as, I know unkillable.

But Rayph Ivoryfist would get close. Smear Kond could sneak up on him. Dreark would make Smaug tremble. I fear that somehow the mighty, world-moving powers within my books will make me less grim, that I might lose some street cred. I might have readers who shrug and drop me, thinking they want lower fantasy than I am prepared to give them.

To them I say, please forgive. There is a monster in here. He scares me. I must fight him the best I can. Smaug is watching. Smaug is waiting.


Jesse Teller is the author of book 2 of the Manhunter Series: Hemlock. You can get Hemlock here and book 1 (Song) here!

You can follow Jesse at his blog at https://jesseteller.com/

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A Great Broken Nights: Strange Worlds Review!

Charles over at Booknest.eu had some really awesome things to say about the newest installment of Broken Nights, Broken Nights: Strange Worlds!

 

4/5

Superhero fiction is a niche genre in a niche genre. Superheroes thrive in comic books, video games, and movies but aren’t so very popular in prose fiction. Perhaps because it’s such a visual medium but I think it’s more there’s just never been an iconic example of the genre. Despite this, there’s some truly great examples of superhero fiction which I’ve been proud to review. Things like Wearing the CapeOrigins of a D-List SupervillainSoon I Will Be Invincible, and Villains Rule.

Broken Nights is one of those series. Is it Citizen Kane? No, but it’s a great book which has created its own superhero universe and is slowly building it up to be something huge. In the previous book, we had Jason Night try to become Darden Valley’s answer to Batman only to accidentally stumble onto a plan to take over the world. Succeeding at extreme cost, he’s only now just recovered six months later–only to find out he’s unwittingly inspired an endless stream of superpowered copycats.

 

 

You can read the rest of his review over at Booknest by going here: http://booknest.eu/reviews/charles/1112-brokennightsstrangeworlds 

Thanks for the Great Review, Charles!

Review: Healer of Surflex by Lady Laindora

Healer of Surflex by [Laindora, Lady, Raymond, Sue]While Healer of Surflex isn’t my usual read, the pleasurable voice of Kelly Montijo Fink made the audio a fun time. Healer of Surflex is hard fantasy, with a story rooted in a world of magic and warring factions of good and evil. Most of the populace isn’t aware of the battle for their very souls, but it’s happening.
Having not read a lot of fantasy, I have read some, and what makes Lady Laindora’s book unique is that I’ve never seen a fantasy book that incorporates Christian beliefs into a fantasy realm. Doing so makes this more like an Arthurian legend, minus Arthur.
The book follows Kerlia as she’s selected, birthed, and trained by an angel and the warriors for good to be a healer in the upcoming battle with this book’s version of Satan, Kernel. Kernel has control over a large portion of the Kingdom of Surflex, and the book is filled with people being possessed or warped and twisted by their beliefs and support of Kernel. Honestly, in the first chunk of the book, the way that some of these people get twisted and filled with such dark evil makes it look like a contagion of belief, and solidifies how Kernel must have taken hold.
Lady Laindora’s strengths are in her ability to show and not tell. The protagonist, Kerlia, is mute and a lot of the book is explaining how she interprets the world and how she communicates without dialogue (and sometimes with, when she is part of the fairy realm). There are character descriptions that become part of the story’s narrative, and locations that are described the same way. She does a great job of describing things without you realizing that she’s describing them.
Healer of Surflex, and a lot of it’s aspects, remind me much of The Sword of Truth series, by Terry Brooks. The fairies and pixies that train her even reminding me of Zed the old wizard. They are funny but with purpose. At the same time, the style of the fight against evil gave me a feeling of Eragon with less dragons. Finally, there’s angels, God as we know him, and others aspects of this book that have a strong Christianity bend.
This is epic/battle fantasy with a theme, and it is done very well.
5 out of 5 stars.

First Draft of Satan’s Salesman is Complete!

All I can say about it is: “It’s about damned time.”

I originally had the idea almost two years ago as a kind of joke with author Kathryn Daugherty, who’s sales pitch for her books is “A penny from Heaven.” When we sat in booths near each other and I would see people ignore her and keep walking, I’d say “It’s better than a Dollar from the Devil,” and rarely guilt anyone into doing anything.

While in another really boring sales meeting at my former employer, I had the idea that every sales industry is kind of the same, and they probably all have to deal with the same issues, from boring meetings to cold call rejections. That thought led to the humorous idea of a man who’s part of the Soul-Trading industry and Satan’s Salesman was finally conceived.

Well, the first draft is done, and I couldn’t be happier.

Here’s the synopsis. If you want to be a beta reader, comment and I’ll email you an unedited first draft to let me know what you think.

 

Expect one HELL of a Deal!

Shane’s a damned good salesman, but when a promotion that he spent years earning gets taken away only hours after getting it, he realizes that sometimes it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do.

But that’s not good enough for Shane.

Confronting the person that he believes is responsible for his situation, Shane learns that there’s another, quieter, sales organization that he’s competing against:

Perdition Investments.

At Perdition Investments the products are whatever you want the most, but the cost is your Soul.

Shane has a chance to use his excellent skills in an entirely new way, but at what cost? Can you lose your soul by trading people for theirs? What’s the price for success?

Shane’s about to learn that, in these contracts, the Devil is in the Details…

Review: The Tournament of Supervillainy by C.T. Phipps

All the way back to when the Jetsons met the Flintstones, and every dang Scooby Doo special, I’ve always loved a good Crossover. Most recently, the CW Superhero shows reminded me how much I love Crossovers. Crossovers are great because they mean that no longer are there no consequences in a story. The story is unequivocally effected by having the rules of each story’s world suddenly become part of their own. I find it exciting and fun to know that the sandbox the creators are playing in is so much bigger. A beach more than a sandbox.
This love of Crossovers was reignited with a fury when I heard that the new Supervillainy book by C.T. Phipps was going to include a huge Crossover of all of his written worlds.
Unlike all of those other Crossover stories, though. It doesn’t open with an even breakdown from every one of those separate worlds. We get a Phipps Crossover in the best way that we could: From Gary’s point of view.
The story’s plot is pretty straight forward. There’s an orb that will allow anyone who possesses it one wish with absolutely no limits. Since all realities could be effected by a wishing device with no rules, Death’s first champion, Entropicus put together a Tournament for champions from each reality to duel for the right to win the magical orb. Entropicus’s goal is to win the orb for himself so that he can end all things. Death doesn’t like that and sends her newest champion, Gary, to try and win the tournament.
Things go crazy from there as Gary starts to meet all of the other characters from other works of C.T. Phipps, including Jane Doe, Agent G, and Cassius Mass. While I would have liked to see John Booth from the Cthulhu Armageddon series, John has already shown a propensity for being woven into the very fabric of the multiverse, and I understand leaving him out to preserve the integrity of his potential universe hopping.
But dang, it’d be neat for Gary to learn Cthulhu was real…
I digress. The plot surrounding Gary and his crew of misfits isn’t derailed by the Crossover event so much as enhanced by it. Gary’s wife Mandy is acting really off and it’s got Gary a little concerned, but he’s too busy to deal with it as his other wife Cindy and his new/old girlfriend, Gabriel, also known as Ultragoddess, are also in the tournament and everything seems to be going to hell. People are getting killed, their new friends want to steal the orb, and everyone is terrified about what will happen should Entropocis get the orb.
All of this is happening while Gary debates whether or not he has the right to bring people back from the dead who have already died. In the world of comic books, returning from death is a common occurrence, but just because someone can do it, doesn’t mean they should. It’s a question that has both philosophical and real world consequences depending on how he, the chosen champion of Death, chooses to answer.
And of course, the best part of any Crossover, the interactions between characters from other worlds were spot on. Agent G’s realization that his cyberpunk world isn’t the greatest while Jane Doe’s deer puns contagiously cross universes. Then there was all of the drama around Cassius Mass and … wait … how does he know Mandy?
This story had everything in it that first drew me to the Rules of Supervillainy series. From the pop-culture references to the kickass action scenes to the emotional moments that make you empathize with someone who continually fails at being a supervillain, but is a damned awesome anti-hero. Add in all of my favorite characters from other Phipps books and you have the perfect story. The perfect Crossover.
This was a 5 out of 5 book. Definitely give it a read.

The Friday 13 with David Hambling

A great interview with writer David Hambling!

Jesse Teller

david2

David Hambling is an author and science/technology journalist based in South London. He writes for New Scientist magazine, The Economist, WIRED, Popular Mechanics, The Guardian newspaper and others. 2018 will see the release of “Master of Chaos”, fourth in the Harry Stubbs series of Mythos adventures, as well as the nonfiction “We: Robot – The robots that are changing the world” …both of them are pretty scary.

InThe Elder Ice, Harry, a former heavyweight boxer and sometime debt collector now working for a legal firm, is on the trail of a valuable legacy left by Ernest Shackleton (a real-life polar explorer from Norwood). Shackleton died in 1922 leaving huge debts, and also hints of a valuable find; Harry is looking for the reality behind those hints.

The Elder Ice is a novella, and a taster for the rest of the series. It is succeeded by Broken Meats, Alien…

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Review: I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

I Am ProvidenceI Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book pretty excited. The premise sounded like a lot of fun, and I liked Mamatas’ The Damned Highway. Unfortunately, this was a 3 star book for various reasons that only managed to get its fourth star from me because I did find myself regularly compelled to continue turning the page just for the murder mystery plot.
Unlike other reviewers, I mostly enjoyed the protagonist, Colleen Danzig. The parts that bothered me revolved around the victim’s point of view. Originally, those chapters were very entertaining and promised a very Lovecraftian answers. I felt that the story never delivered on those answers.
Once again, the murder mystery plot was very good, and felt like an homage to Poirot or Sherlock.
What Mamatas did, and what I think makes me uncomfortable enough to lose enjoyment during this novel, was write a novel aimed at the very specific audience of the Lovecraft crowd, and then use that sniper focus to shine a jaded mirror on that very same crowd, all while stating very plainly in that reflection that they are all whiney and opinionated enough that if they complained there would be no validity to their man-baby cries. My question is why someone would pick a target audience to write to and then insult it.
The answer, that I suspect, was that Mamatas was going for realism, but from the point of view of a fan who was tired of his fandom’s more negative people. If you’re a fan of Ghostbusters, Star Wars, or just about any series that’s been rebooted or sequeled in the last few years, than you’ve probably experienced similar feelings. You want to enjoy the medium, but when you go online, have a conversation with someone, go onto a Facebook group, or actually go to a CON than you’ll run into so many people that are adamantly argumentative about things you thought were just fun.
You can see this also in Mamatas’ mention of the Indie Author crowd. He brings up how getting found doesn’t mean anything other than a few more bucks and maybe a movie deal that won’t ever happen. How everyone with a pen makes an anthology or a publishing house. He complains from the perspective of someone who’s tired of hearing everyone else complain.
And he gets kind of mean about it.
I get it, there are a ton of stereotypes regarding the fans of Lovecraft, and honestly, I’ve never attended more than one convention-styled event, in a guy’s basement, filled with some of the stereotypes described in his book. The problem was that this book comes across as an angry “letter to the editor” about the fandom, his dislike of the conventions, and the people that he’s been stuck at his author booths talking to. As if he wrote this on a grumpier day in his career.
The last page of the book, the Acknowledgements, even states “First I must thank Jeremy Lassen, whose desire for one more Mythos novel from me inspired this book. He will never ask again, clearly.” And then he ends it with “As it turns out, writing a novel is a lonely business.”
Wow, that’s just bleak as Hell.
But the plot for the murder mystery was great. There’s a great story in this book and for that alone I think this novel deserved praise. Mamatas obviously wanted to put forth a good story.
It’s just unfortunate that his good story got mired in his hate letter to his fans.

View all my reviews

Review: Agent G-Saboteur by C.T. Phipps

Agent G, as described in the first book in C.T. Phipps’ cyberpunk novels, is an international assassin. Much like Liam Nissan, he has a very specific set of skills.
But that’s a very two-dimensional look at a very three-dimensional character. These novels, though fun, gritty, cyberpunk looks at spy adventure, and sold as cyberpunk, are actually the definitive example of perfect Science Fiction.
What do I mean by that? Science Fiction is meant to be a mirror that reflects back a very human idea but framed in an analogy that makes it clearer to understand. Historically, the best Science Fiction asks us to examine what it means to be alive, or the roles of gender, or in the case of the Agent G series, what it means to be human.
As an author, Phipps uses plot to flesh out and develop his characters. They are always relatable to the reader, but fundamentally broken, and Phipps uses his unique skill to take them on a journey that mends them through development and plot. Agent G, does this in a manner that is both the same, yet uniquely different. Through the quips and puns that are Phipps way, we meet G as a character that is entertaining to read along with, but is by definition “Perfect” and “Not Human.” G is a cyborg, a clone, a computer program, and an assassin. In the words of Tony Stark, everything that makes G special came out of a bottle.
What we get in Agent G: Saboteur is a desire by G to be less than he is. He doesn’t want to be the perfect killing machine that’s a copy of something or someone else. He doesn’t want to be owned or beholden to anyone. And he’d like to actually understand the pop cultural references that he makes because he partakes in pop culture, not because it was programmed into him. He doesn’t want to live longer, so much as have a life that’s entirely his own (and live longer, too, but that’s secondary). The journey of Agent G isn’t the mending of a broken man, it’s the humanizing of the perfect killing machine.
That brings me back to my calling this Cyberpunk Spy novel, Science Fiction. The mirror this story and character hold up to us is the question of humanity and what it means to be human. In this entire book there are very few people that fall under the definition of human, and those that do (James, Marissa, Douglas, and Daniel) are incredibly flawed to the point of being gross examples of the human race. G has no one to emulate, but a lot of artificial intelligence acquaintances who, without ever saying it, want the same thing. The Science Fiction question in all of this is “How human is human?” and “Is humanity the meat or the mind?” Those are just a few of the questions in this book that G demands get answered without ever verbalizing his need.
Another poignant question from this book: Have Humans lost their Humanity? This gets examined in the human characters of this series. Can humanity survive a surge in technology? Will the Singularity destroy them or will they adapt?
So many great questions come out of this series and specifically this book, and on top of that it’s a cyberpunk spy novel!
Simply put, Phipps wrote a fun spy novel that turned out to be a very deep Science Fiction piece of art.
Well done. 5 Stars.

A Decade Later…

Happy New Year!

I graduated college on December 22, 2007. On December 31, 2007, I uprooted my entire life in New York and was putting a key into my new apartment in Marion, Iowa by January 1st, 2008.

To commemorate my decade anniversary as an Iowan, I dug up old Facebook posts.

A lot has happened since these old posts. A lot. As I enter into 2018, I can’t help but be excited for what life will throw at me in the next decade. I’m happier now than I have been in my entire life and am married to the most wonderful person I have ever met. Iowa has brought me happiness this last 10 years. I’m so excited for it to continue.

Review: FNAF-The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley

The Silver Eyes (Five Nights At Freddy's #1) by [Breed-Wrisley, Kira, Scott Cawthon]A few years ago, I realized that while I might not want to play certain video games, I still wanted to know the story that was written in those games. This, combined with my general love of all things horror, led me to start watching Markiplier’s Let’s Play videos that cover the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. The aforementioned “King of Five Nights at Freddy’s” was both entertaining and caused me to jump with every jump scare that he subjected himself to. That being said, the most intriguing thing about those games was the hidden story elements that Markiplier would discover as he played through each terror-filled evening.
Needless to say, I quickly became hooked. The story elements were sparse and spread out over each of the games (now up to 6 and kind of a 7th) and implied a tale of murder turned supernatural possession. If you search the internet for the entire timeline or story, you won’t find any two answers the same. We’re given just enough information to make us crave more, and it makes these stories very addicting.
I’ve even taken the time, while rewatching each secret from Markiplier’s episodes, to try and sketch out my own timeline for what happens and I soon become so mired in facts and theories that the whole thing collapses. Simply put, the games are scary and the plot is a literal mystery.
I’m explaining my rather addicted history with FNaF to explain what urged me to pick up and listen to the audio book FNaF: The Silver Eyes, by Scott Cawthon and Kira Breed-Wrisley. While the book (and the entire franchise, for some reason) seem to be aimed at the Young Adult market, I wanted both a good horror story and to finally figure out what the story for this franchise actually is.
The first thing that I should mention is that this book is not, in anyway, an explanation of the story presented (in parts) during the video game. From what I’ve found online, Scott Cawthon thinks of it as more of an alternate telling to FNAF 1.
The book follows Charlie and her friends as they get together at the 10 year reunion of the death of their friend, Michael, who disappeared at the original Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzaria. It happened when they were little, and while memories might not be trustworthy after a decade, a horrifying experience can usually cement them into place. Together, the teenagers put together the clues that help them discover the original Freddy Fazbear’s and the mysteries it holds within.
In it’s own way, (parallel universe, remember) it answers the questions of who Purple Guy is, who made the suits/animatronics, who Springtrap is, and the natural progression of the murders/disappearances through the different franchises. As a matter of fact, a lot of what we learn during the book fits well with my own theories on the timeline in FNAF with the only major differences being how they handled Henry’s life (Henry being the man who invented the original animatronics). Also, I don’t think, or at least have any evidence toward, the existence of Charlie in the game world. She mourns her twin brother who died at the original Fazbear diner, but in the game, she’s not mentioned. Plus, in Pizzaria Simulator, Henry mentions that his daughter’s name is Elizabeth. To be fair, it gets really confusing once you start diving into the mythos of this stuff, and it’s best if we just stick to them being separate worlds, for sanity’s sake.
That being said, this entire book read less like a story from a video game world for young adults, and more like a horror movie that would be better than a lot of what’s to offer from Netflix’s horror selection (I’ve watched a lot of Netflix horror…just sayin’). The writers manage to bring to life the feeling of dread that the game does through the waiting for jump scares. That’s something that’s not easy to do in a book. That being said, I was left wanting in regards to more detail regarding Henry’s life and I have a huge (I mean HUGE) question regarding William Afton’s…condition. There is a second book, and I will be getting that soon as well, so maybe those answers will be found between those pages.
4 out of 5 Stars.