Review: Alien Stars, A Harry Stubbs Adventure, by David Hambling

Alien Stars: A Harry Stubbs Adventure by [Hambling, David]Our modest hero, Harry Stubbs, returns in another great adventure!

He’s still reading his science fiction novels, working the jobs only an ex-boxer can get, and working on a correspondence course in investigations that has me super excited for future installments.

In this book, he’s investigating a weird type of meteorite that might have abstract properties, making it dangerous for the owner.

My favorite parts of this book were the parts that define any Harry Stubbs adventure. Specifically, the investigation into the museum, the library research, and the very interesting characters, specifically, his employer in this book and the sultry American visitor.

Harry Stubbs is one of my favorite characters and always a great adventure. David fails to disappoint, bringing an intelligent and intrigue-driven story to a character that could so easily be written as a dumb stereotype. Instead, he’s a smart man, who I would describe as more wise than intelligent, in that he’s always seeking to learn and better himself.

Even if those efforts and his current line of work might drive him mad.
5 out of 5!

Alien Stars is absolutely wonderful. Get a copy here!

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Review: The Jekyll Revelation by Robert Masello

The Jekyll Revelation by [Masello, Robert]Three parts historical fiction, two parts horror story, and one part adventure/thriller, The Jekyll Revelation by Robert Masello was an interesting read. Masello’s book takes a look at the Jack the Ripper murders and a popular theory at the time of those murders, and asks the author if such a theory is too far-fetched.

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Review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Hex

Writing horror isn’t easy. There are a lot of pitfalls that an author can fall into revolving around whether something turns too gory, too real, too fake, too hopeless, too unbelievable, or too disconnected from it’s audience. A lot of horror starts out well, but when it comes to the middle of the second act, it falls apart, a victim of it’s own narrative as the author tries and fails to ramp up the tension in new and exciting ways while still keeping our interest in these characters that we’re pretty sure are all going to die anyway.
It isn’t easy.
I point this out because I think that Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt is possibly one of the best examples that I have ever seen of how to take a few classic horror tropes and write them as new and exciting plot devices without being too heavy-handed.

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Review: X-Files: Cold Cases

Product DetailsBack in 2008, I moved to Iowa from upstate New York (read that as “Farther upstate than what you’re thinking”). I’m a social butterfly, and I made a ton of friends in my new home very quickly, but that didn’t stop me from having evenings alone. On one of those particular evenings, I made a serious decision to do something silly: I was going to rent all of the sci-fi shows that I had never gotten a chance to see before then and give them a watch (to be fair, I also included every b-rated sci-fi movie as well. For that reason, I’ve seen both Time Runner and The Guyver. For both of those, I thank you Mark Hamill).
This is how I became a fan of The X-Files, staring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (and a million other stars who would later go on to guest star or star in their own sci-fi shows). I went on every single mission with them and grew to love Mulder’s silly moments and Scully’s skepticism.
And, after binge-watching all nine seasons, keeping magnets at the ready, and learning to fear the year 2012, I faced the inevitable truth that so many others had already learned to cope with.
The X-files was over.
It sucked, and I tried finding more of the snarky Fox wit through the comic books, but it wasn’t the same. The movies came and went, trying to fill the gaps for some of us, but alas, they were a drop of water in a desert. There and gone far too quickly to quench any real thirst. I had to face a cold and hard fact: There were never going to be any more of The X-files.
Life happened and years went by and I was sitting at my computer and writing when my wife blurted out, “They’re bringing back X-files.”
Wait…what?
Not a reboot, and not another movie, but a new season picking up with most of the original cast and some great sounding new cast.
Then the season came, with mixed reviews, but I loved it. The mixed reviews had me worried, though. Would they keep it going?
Yes, it turns out. They are working on a 11th season as we speak.
Absolutely wonderful, but what about the time in between. Do I really have in the vast oceans of time between each of these seasons?
As it turns out, no, my friend, we no longer have to wait idly by. That’s where Audible’s new series, The X-files: Cold Cases, steps in.
Cold Cases is a full cast dramatization, bringing back all of your favorite characters and filling the gap between the end of the first nine seasons and the beginning of the 10th season. It’s cleverly done, and brings to life the characters that have earned so much of our respect. The only negative to any of this was that the writing of the show had to be changed to fit the new format. Instead of seeing something and then getting a snarky Mulder comment or a dry Scully remark, we instead get told that something is happening and then receive the comment.
For example (totally made up and not in the books, but illustrating my point): “Mulder, why are you holding that gun at an odd angle? And why is it covered in paint?” “Scully, lower your eyebrow before it floats away. I’m holding this gun because it’s evidence, and it’s painted this very interesting shade of blue because it’s covered in alien fecal matter.”
See, very descriptive, reminding you that it’s a radio show. I think I might have preferred narration instead, but I honestly don’t know because it’s not an option. This isn’t a complaint, so much as the only thing that made it different than the show we love.
Other than that, you get all of the great sci-fi tropes and monster of the week things that X-files is famous for, as well as some new sci-fi tropes that I don’t think X-files has ever dealt with in the past. You get Smoking Man, Skinner, Reyes, Doggit, and a few more surprises that I won’t spoil for you.
Oh boy, you’re in for a surprise.
I give this a 5 out of 5. I loved it, and I want more Audible Original full dramatizations. I’m moving on to the Alien ones next, and the sequel to Cold Cases will be out in October!
Can’t wait!
–MD–

Review: The Tower of Zhaal

Post-Apocalyptic fiction is fun, but Post-Apocalyptic Lovecraft fiction is even better.

That kind of fun led me to C.T. Phipps’ “The Tower of Zhaal.”

The Tower of Zhaal is the sequel to Phipps’ first successful foray into Lovecraftian fiction, Cthulhu Armageddon. In that first book, the world has been ravaged by the long ago (but still in our current future) rise of the Great Old Ones. The hero of the first book, John Henry Booth is back, and the taint of the world has eeked it’s way into his own flesh. With Nyarlahotep whispering in his ear, and the threat of the end of the human race on the brink of happening, John has to risk everything with a team that he can’t trust in order to save the few parts of the hellish world that mean something to him.

While traveling to and with some very Mythos specific names, as well as some that are a treat for readers of contemporary Mythos fiction (ie: the Ghoul priest being named Hoade as an obvious reference to fellow contemporary Mythos writer, Sean Hoade). The explanations of Magic, the Science of the Mind, and the different Alien races make it an epic adventure on par with Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, but within the Mythos elements that bring us back.

The world has ended, Alien Gods are everywhere, and the question of humanities survival is a complex one. Can Humanity survive? Should Humanity survive? Would the Humanity that survives even be recognizable as Human?

Phipps weaves a great tale, that makes for an exciting read.

5 out of 5 Stars!

Minor Potential Spoiler: There’s a scene in this book that made me laugh out loud, but not because it was funny. The moment I read it, I wanted to shout, “Ah! He’s been Rick and Morty’d!!!”

A Ramble About Making Podcasts

I’ve been incredibly interested, since day one of knowing that such things existed, of making a Podcast. I’ve even done it, multiple times. Usually with pal and cohort in crime, Bob. First we did the Epic Dwarven Blogger Elite (https://epicdwarvenblogger.wordpress.com/tag/podcast/) Podcast, where we basically talked World of Warcraft with guests and the mechanics of leveling hunters and such. Then we did Spoiler! A Book Review Podcast, where we read books, gave you a complete synopsis and then our reviews. And then I was working on the DW Radio Show, a podcast that’s goal was to provide authors with marketing information (like there aren’t a ton of those out there already) and author interviews (ditto).

There are a few things to consider when making a podcast, and any of these three could lead to you shutting your doors.

The first is hosting. A lot of websites offer hosting for free (but limited to a set number of hours of recorded material), and a ton more offer hosting options that cost. In the past, I wasn’t a fan of paying for hosting, but I did anyway because the alternative was a little more difficult. In recent years (DW Radio) I was using SoundCloud but they have a limited number of hours. Even more recently, I’ve discovered that I can use my own website to host the podcast, or any podcast, and in the future that might be what I decide to do. Most importantly, whether you pay for it or not, you’re going to want your hosting to be simple and unlimited. That way you’re never concerned about if a show runs over. That limited space also acts as an expiration date on your show, too, and you probably won’t want that if you’re having fun working on your show. Wherever you host it, that’s where you’ll get the RSS feed that will direct people to your show. (if it’s your blog, be sure to give a show-specific tag so that you can generate an RSS feed to provide to iTunes and all those fun podcast places)

Another thing to consider is the people you work with. A lot of shows are just one person, and those aren’t a lot of fun. So, if you decide to work with more people (ie: cohosts, podcast networks, audio editors, whoever) make sure, without a doubt, that they are either working for you or are at least aligned 100% with your vision. When Bob and I did the Epic Dwarven Blogger Elite show, we started off with a simple idea that was a blast for us, but we were blinded by an offer for unlimited free hosting of the show. The company wanted us to record the show live (never did that before, we like editing), if the show started to get boring to them (which was all the time, since they aren’t WoW fans) they would interupt us, very randomly, with their own guests who would cuss (not something we did on the show) or verbally disrupt our guests by asking them topics not related to the show, and they would write us scathing emails if viewership was down. That isn’t someone we should have worked with. They drained our spirit and took something fun from us and turned it into work. I loved playing WoW, and while it doesn’t hold interest in me today, it was that relationship that was directly responsible for me quitting the game.

Content is another big thing to consider. Specifically, less about what the show is about and more about how to come up with fresh and new content for every show, no matter your schedule. With DW Radio, author interviews are nice, but they aren’t all that I want to do. I’d like to continue doing articles about how to maximize your author business, but doing so gets boring, as I’m the only host. An idea here would be for me to turn the focus of those very same author interviews into how they are effectively handling their author business. Do they see themselves as successful? That’s my most recent problem: fresh content.  Interviews are nice, but they don’t pay the bills (metaphorically). I need content that isn’t only fresh (read as “new”) but is also exciting and makes people want to tune in.

That’s about it, I guess. Those are the big concerns that I had to learn the hard way. Another concern you might have might be ads. Ads are fun ways to monetize your site. You can reach out to a ton of different websites and ask to be an affiliate. The big ones that everyone seems to use are Stamps.com and Audible.com. Both will give you money when people use your information to sign up for an account and they tend to accept a bunch of folks. You could also sell ad space if you have a specific type of podcast. For instance, I tend to relate to authors and readers, so I’ll sell ad space for books via my website. Want an ad placed, gimme money. Easy peasy and helps to turn what might just be a simple hobby for you into a means of getting some easy cash.

This has somehow changed from a “geeze, podcasts ain’t easy” to a tutorial on how to start your own. In that vein, I’d encourage you to download Audacity, (just google it, I’m too lazy to grab you the link). Audacity is a simple, professional level (I say, as not in anyway a professional) editing software for anyone with recorded audio. I’d also encourage you to go to Fiverr.com (there’s a link for you, now get off of my back) and pay $5 for a simple intro with music that can be yours and yours alone. Maybe pay another $5 and get some credits read to music that you can tag to the end of your show.

Anyway, the reason that I brought this up is because I really want to revamp DW Radio, or start a new show altogether. Ren and I have talked about a bunch of ideas, but none of them have sung to us yet, or they involve more effort than the amount of reward we’d receive from doing it. Sticking to just revamping DW Radio, I think maybe I should start doing interviews of multiple authors at one time, where we discuss a little bit about their background and then go over how they handle their writing as a business.

Another idea I had, compiled while talking to both my father and author Larry Clayton about entirely unrelated subjects, would be to just interview authors via recording implements about their journey as writers and making that the whole show. My concern there is that I’d fall into the same hole that I am already in for DW Radio.

Or maybe I’ll just start reading chapters of Self-Publish Without Spending Money, and release each chapter as an episode…

Anyway, I’m rambling now. Ideas for a show? Looking to start your own? Bring it up in the comments and I’ll let you know what I think.

–MD–