All posts by sroche

Featured Creator – Starla Huchton

I’ve decided that in the new year I’d like to feature a creator a week on this here blog. Basically, that’s me taking a few minutes to tell you about someone I know and whose work I enjoy. They could be artists, writers, musicians, programmers, or any number of other callings who put things they’ve made out there in the world for us all to see.

SH Banner

For me, a sign of a good author is one who can bring new eyeballs into their genre. To do that, and to be prolific in multiple genres, is another sign. Add to that, talent in designing covers and in voice acting and you have a person like Starla Huchton.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her for several years now, through podcasting and Balticon. She has a growing legion of loyal fans, and if the last two books of hers are any indication, I’ll be joining that army soon and very soon. Her characters are very well developed and she has a penchant for taking tropes you’re familiar with and flipping them around or tweaking them in a way that gives them life.

The other thing I appreciate about her is more as a business person than a creator. She approaches her multiple crafts in a way I wish more independent authors would. Everything she does is to serve the product. She puts out the highest quality books she can, from cover to concept to completion. Her attention to detail and consistent output are as important to her success as the joy her books bring to her fans.

Finally, Starla believes in giving back to her community. Every time I’ve approached her with a question or a comment, she doesn’t hesitate to help in any way she can. I think she knows this creative life isn’t a competition.

If you’re looking for a new book series to read, she’s got one you’ll probably enjoy. You can find her in these spots:

Website
Twitter
Facebook

Sir Chimbo the Kung Fu Astro-Monkey

This is a rough timeline for an abolutely silly idea I have.

1935 Shanghai – Dr. Lin Ho, master of a number of disciplines both scientific and mystical, had a breakthrough in his efforts to project his essence into an animal. Intending to use this as a method to infiltrate Nazi and Communist forces, he instead granted a portion of his intelligence. Chi, and knowledge into a gibbon he’d been keeping as a companion. He had named the ape Chen Bo, but given the ape’s limited ability to speak, its nickname quickly became Chimbo.

The doctor spent the next five years teaching and refining Chimbo’s abilities. The conferred essence, intense exercises, and mixtures of medicinal and herbal treatments also increased his physical stature. His intelligence continued to grow as did his knowledge of languages and the mystic arts. He was able to fashion a necklace which gave his words a clarity which exceeded his physical limitations.

In early 1940, Dr. Lin shared with his friend that he’d been invited to a retreat in the mountains of Tibet. He assured Chimbo that he would return. Until then, he was sending the gibbon to England to study with old friends at Cambridge. While his studies were largely conducted in secret, it could not be helped that he would make friends.

Eventually, one such friend went to war and was captured on a secret mission. It was then that Chimbo was sent on his first secret mission. Several such successful missions followed, at least two resulting in saving members of the royal family. The Queen recognized his contribution to the war effort and granted him official citizenship and made him a knight.

Once the war was over, Chimbo went to America. Dr. Lin still hadn’t returned from his studies in Tibet, though the pair stayed in regular contact via astral projection. Joint missions with Americans in the last months of the war had given him contacts in the scientific community. Fascinated with rocketry, he was able to secure a position working with Wernher von Braun. A combination of Chimbo’s mystical and scientific skills along with the secrets von Braun brought with him from the Nazi’s own secret programs soon resulted in a ship capable of escaping the confines of the Earth.

Christened the Sun Wukong, the ship enabled up to five travelers to explore the inner solar system. Chimbo and his crew were among the first to encounter the Martians and thwart an invasion. An uneasy peace treaty was forged.

The crew of the Sun Wukong:
Paul Dirac – English physicist
Dr. Percy Juiian – American chemist.
Dr. Rachel Carson – american Biologist and writer
Amelia Earhart – pilot, rescued by Chimbo in the early forties from an island in the Pacific.

Featured Creator – Clay Howard

I’ve decided that in the new year I’d like to feature a creator a week on this here blog. Basically, that’s me taking a few minutes to tell you about someone I know and whose work I enjoy. They could be artists, writers, musicians, programmers, or any number of other callings who put things they’ve made out there in the world for us all to see.

I’ve gotten to know a LOT of awesome people thanks to my community. Clay Howard – musician, father, and possessor of amazing hair – is one I met thanks (as far as I can remember) entirely to our kids being in the same school. We kept in touch off and on, trading emails about writing and projects. I knew he was a musician. I did not know he was a good musician.

When I know someone who’s a creator and they release their art into the world, I do my best to at least sample it. Once I sampled Clay’s recent album, I knew two things: he’s a good musician and he rocks my face off.

I highly recommend you listen to/watch the video above. Then you should go buy his album. You can get it from CD Baby, Amazon (where he also has books), and Google Play.

I’ve reviewed music off and on over the years. For me the truly telling thing about listening to music is, if I enjoy it I will play it on HEAVY rotation. I’ve listened to this album a dozen times or more in ten days. Every track is fun in its own way. “Bottle Down” is probably my favorite. The distortion, guitar solos, and beat are infectious. I’m not going to give you a track by track breakdown, but if you like solid rock, this is where you’ll find it.

Follow Clay on Twitter and Facebook.

Featured Creator – Paul Elard Cooley

cooley I’ve decided that in the new year I’d like to feature a creator a week on this here blog. Basically, that’s me taking a few minutes to tell you about someone I know and whose work I enjoy. They could be artists, writers, musicians, programmers, or any number of other callings who put things they’ve made out there in the world for us all to see.

I’m starting off a couple of weeks early, to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. Who did I choose? None other than my friend, Paul Cooley. Paul and I have known each other for years. I met him through the podcasting community. He’s been a writer for decades, though like me he took a hiatus. For the last several years, he’s been releasing stories through his site Shadow Publications. He’s also a co-host on the Dead Robots’ Society, along with Terry Mixon.

What does Paul write? He’s got quite a body of work, but the tagline on all of his podcasts is “we don’t believe in happy endings”. Call it horror or thrillers or good old fashioned monster stories. His world is a terrifying place and the body counts are often quite high. Recently he’s made the leap from part-time creator to full time. He’s producing multimedia version of his work. He has a Patreon page. His “Black” series is published by Severed Press. Essentially, he’s got several irons in the fire and anyone who likes King or Barker should be checking out his work. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a sample of one of my favorite Cooley books:

Or click this link to read it – https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?asin=B005XCZANM

Amazon
Twitter

House of Phobos vol. 2 – Call for Pitches

House of Phobos Vol 1 Cover
House of Phobos Vol 1 Cover

Last year I put together a collection of short stories call House of Phobos vol. 1. It’s sold well, as collections go, and I’ve wanted to put out a second book for some time. I want this one to be more of a true anthology (mostly stories from other authors). I’ll be the publisher, hire an editor, and get another amazingly terrifying cover from Scott Pond. I will probably even include one or two of my own tales, but this is for me to showcase the talent of other authors.

So, here’s what I’m looking for:

Flash fiction (500-1500 words) – For these I’ll pay $10. If it’s a reprint, I’ll pay $5.

Short stories (1500-8000 words) – For these I’ll pay $.01/word up to $50. Half that for reprints.

For that I’m asking for an irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to distribute the creative works in an electronic text format. I have no plans to make this a print book or an audio book. If I do that, I would negotiate for those rights separately and pay additionally for them.

What the story needs to be about. Fear. Show me a phobia come to life. Make it as visceral (with little actual viscera please) and terrifying as you can. You can do that in almost any genre, but lets face it, horror is where this would work best. Throw in a dash of romance or science fiction or fantasy if you like, but scare our readers.

My budget has its limits, but I would like to have as many as eight total stories. Carving out one slot for me, that leaves seven. I hope to have more than that number submit. To make life easy one me, I’ll be accepting pitches, NOT COMPLETED STORIES, starting today and closing on Halloween at midnight. Send me an email with “Phobos Submission: Story Title” in the subject to scott@scottroche.com. Include the phobia, your proposed length, if this is a reprint, and a 250 word max. synopses in the body of the email. All of this will help me plan the budget and make sure there’s no (or minimal) duplication of phobias.

I would prefer that you do not duplicate any of the phobias from volume one (spiders, dentists, heights, failure, losing your memory, loneliness, darkness). There will be at least one clown story. There has to be. If you want that slot, you may have to tear it from my cold, dead fingers.

Once my dance card is full, I will contact the selected authors and give them a deadline.

It’s An HNoR (Part 3)

iPOS6 Once a year or so, I like to have Ol’ Clint up there give a Head Nod of Respect to those whose work I feel is amazing, deserving of recognition, and who gets far too little of it. This isn’t a thing I do for mainstream talents. People who’ve made it to the top of their creative fields are already household names. These aren’t them, but maybe one day…

You can read the previous two here.

Nobilis Reed – In addition to having the longest running speculative fiction erotica podcast on the internets, Nobilis is a good human being, a talented writer, an incredibly smart and thoughtful person, and a dynamite RPG runner.

Matt Selznick – I’m honestly surprised I didn’t give Matt one of these previously. He was one of the first people I heard of when I started listening to podcast fiction. He’s a talented writer. a musician, and produces a monthly e-zine called Thing.

Veronica Giguere – A phenomenal voice talent and writer, Veronica is also very kind. I’ve known her for years and she just keeps getting more and more awesome.

Laura Nicole Spencer – My little sister from another mister, I’ve watched this woman grown in talent and confidence since my first Balticon. We worked together at Flying Island Press. She’s a great writer, voice talent, and knows what a good story is.

Peter O’Malley – Another talented voice actor, Peter has voiced one of my stories. He’s also helped me out in one of my most recent dark periods. I couldn’t ask for a better friend. Hire this guy, seriously.

Michelle Browne – Michelle is an amazing bringer together of people, a talented and prolific author, and an all around cool frood. You should check out her works!

I hope to give more head nods down the line. Please feel free to give your own in the comments and provide links!

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Please consider visiting my Patreon page and supporting my monthly fiction output!

Review – The Shootout Solution (Genrenauts #1) by Michael R. Underwood (Audiobook)

Shootout_Solution I’ve known about Michael’s work for some time. We interviewed him for the Dead Robot’s Society.

Synopsis: Leah Tang just died onstage. Well, not literally. Not yet. Leah’s stand-up career isn’t going well. But she understands the power of fiction, and when she’s offered employment with the mysterious Genrenauts Foundation, she soon discovers that literally dying onstage is a hazard of the job!

Her first assignment takes her to a Western world. When a cowboy tale slips off its rails and the outlaws start to win, it’s up to Leah – and the Genrenauts team – to nudge the story back on track and prevent a catastrophe on Earth. But the story’s hero isn’t interested in winning, and the safety of Earth hangs in the balance….

Production: Mary Robinette Kowal is the performer for this audio book. I say “performer” because she does a lot more than a straight read. Each character gets their own distinct voice, complete with accent. The efforts are consistent and it adds some nice depth to the piece. It’s always a little dodgy when a person attempts a voice where the character is a different gender from the performer. Mary does a very good job with the male voices. I’m not a huge fan of one particular character’s voice, since it sounds more like she has a bad chest cold due to the low register. It doesn’t detract from the story, though.

Grade: A

Story: Before I get to reviewing the story in particular, I wanted to say a few words about the idea. The concept that story has a deep impact on the real world is evocative and dare I say true? While I don’t believe in other dimensions where these tropes live and breathe is a real thing, I want to. This is the kind of idea I as a writer wanted to have. This is the kind of series I’d love to write. Only one problem, Michael did it first, and I suspect did it better than I would have. His education in this matter shines through.

Having a team who injects themselves into stories to solve their problems and tame the ripples these problems cause in the real world is brilliant. It allows for commentary on the genre itself (as one character says, there haven’t been (m)any groundbreaking movies or books in the genre for decades and this makes me said), and it also lets him play with tropes many of us know and love.

Now, on to the story. I love westerns. While I haven’t read very many, I consumed movies in the genre in massive doses ever since I was a small child. When I saw Michael’s first genre out of the gate was a Western, I was intrigued. I was not disappointed. The story uses many of the tropes and characters I love, and it puts a new spin on some of them. Since each of the genrenauts has to inhabit the body of a character in the story world, there’s a great fish out of water element. Leah becomes the young cowboy “Lee”, so not only must she play a part she’s not familiar with, she also has to become someone of a different gender and race.

Most of the conflict comes from finding out where the story is broken. The mystery elements are strong and the solution is satisfying. There’s some real teamwork on display and we also get to see Leah find her place on it. Everything is tied up fairly neatly by the end, just as it would if this were an episode of a TV show (which is sort of the point as I understand this series).

The world outside of the genrenauts, the one inhabited by Leah and her crew is interesting and it’s inhabited by a diverse cast. They have to keep the existence of this organization and the identity of its members a secret. If word got out that there were multiple dimensions, much less that there was a group who could travel to and from them and did so in an effort to save the world, chaos would ensue. The stakes are high, as a result. It means Leah will need to keep her public and private escapades separate, so there’s a super hero vibe to it. I would like to see more conflict as those worlds rub up against one another.

if I have a complaint, it’s a small one. Something about the whole story feels a little too “perfect”. Leah gets a phenomenal job with amazing pay and cool people. Yes, there’s an element of danger. People get hurt. But, she’s literally a chosen one who has the right skill set to get the job done. Of course, I suppose these elements are also a commentary of sorts on the tropes in question. I’d like to see more conflict or a little more mistrust coming from Leah. After all, the entire experience she has should cause a massive upheaval in her world view and in her life. Now, having said that, this is a novella and Michael is faced with the challenge of telling not just one story, but effectively two in tight confines.

Grade: A-

Verdict: I enjoyed “The Shootout Solution” a great deal. Everything from the concept to the execution is well done. The characters are a little thing in some cases, but Leah feels like a fully fleshed out person. The audio was a great listen, though in the future I’ll probably stick to reading the e-books. I highly recommend you have a look at this book and I will definitely be picking up book two.

Grade: A

Michael’s Blog
Amazon E-book
Audible book

Review – Armageddon Bound By Tim Marquitz (E-book)

armageddon bound I’ve been following Tim on various social media sites for a while. His offerings seem pretty popular and he’s a prolific dude. I wasn’t sure if they’d be the kind of thing I’d enjoy, but when I saw this book was available for $.99 I took a chance. Is this book devilishly clever or does it deserve to be thrown into the outer darkness?

Half-devil and miles from anything resembling heroic, perpetual underdog Frank “Triggaltheron” Trigg is the last man standing against Armageddon.

As the favorite nephew of the Devil, Frank has led a troubled life, but he’d always had his uncle’s influence to fall back on. Now, with God and Lucifer coming to terms and leaving existence to fend for itself, his once exalted status of Anti-Christ-to-be does little to endear him to the hordes of angels and demons running amok in the Godless world.

With help from the members of DRAC, an organization of wizards, psychics, telepaths, and low-end supernatural beings, Frank must thwart the pro-Armageddon forces and rescue an angel in whose life rests the fate of humanity.

Better luck next time, humanity.

The Goods – There’s a load of very dark humor here. That appeals to me quite a bit. When you have a protagonist like Trigg, who’s very in touch with his demonic side, it can be a lot of fun. The protagonist’s nature isn’t what fascinates me most, though. This is a universe where God and Satan just threw up their hands and left humanity and the angels/demons to their own devices. The forces who are aware of what’s happened are fairly sure this means there is no longer an afterlife. Since hell, and I think heaven, are still places you can go, I’m not sure why that’s the case. Some demons/angels believe they can bring about the end of the world and it won’t be the end of everything. That’s the crux of this particular book. Essentially, all bets are off. I want to see more exploration of this.

When you’ve got characters like angels and demons running around, it would be all too easy (and an amateur mistake in my opinion) to make them all live up to their reputations. Instead, Tim has some angels and demons working together. Some demons are looking after mankind (albeit for their own reasons). There are angels who’ve seriously gone off the beam. Trigg and his, literally angelic, “cousin” Scarlett butt heads and also manage to work with one another. In short, he makes these characters more multi-dimensional than others might. I like that a lot.

The overall plot is strong enough, though it’s mostly a rollicking action piece. Tim does action pretty well. There are some minor issues here and there, but overall once things get rolling, they don’t slow down.

The Bads – This is, if not a first novel, a very early novel by Tim. It’s also independently published. As a result of both of those things, there are problems. The characters run fairly shallow. Minor mistakes are made regarding gun terminology and their operation. I didn’t catch any spelling or grammar mistakes, but I was reading at light speed thanks to the pacing. None of these were enough for me to be a deal breaker. I spoke with him about my concerns and he’s addressed them in future books in the series.

The Verdict – This is a fun read. The humor runs a little crude. The protagonist is a jerk in the same way that many fantasy/noir protagonists often are. He’s a bumbler and thinks with his dick. All of that said, there’s something about him that appealed to me. He wants to do the right thing, but doesn’t quite know how. He’s surrounded by people trying to show him the way. Sometimes he even listens to them. My hope is, the things which hurt this book will indeed improve as the series develops. I had a good enough time to risk the full price on the second book. If you like Butcher, you’ll probably enjoy this. I give this book three and a half rounds of out five.

BLOG – http://www.tmarquitz.com/
TWITTER – https://twitter.com/Marquitz
Amazon Link – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008L8J0JA/

District 21 Part Five


Cloning facility by adamkuczek on DeviantArt

Read all of the episodes of Kain’s story here.

Kain and Lilith walked for what seemed like four or five kilometers, taking twists, turns and in one case another ladder. Finally, she placed her pale hand against a palm lock on the corridor wall.

Kain wouldn’t have even noticed the lock, much less the hairline cracks which made up the outline of a door. That was, unless ze was looking for it specifically with zir senses turned to max. Ze chuckled at the cleverness of it. “Why in the void would anyone make that?”

Lilith walked into the space beyond and lights came on. The room was large and looked like a disused shelter of sorts. There were three sets of bunk beds three levels high. Storage cubbies on each of the side walls were filled with sealed plastic boxes. Their contents were a mystery due to the opaque material. A few cobwebs fluttered in the corners of the room and it smelled of neglect. “This is why. There are rooms like this all over the city and everywhere the population was over a certain amount when they were made. We’ve since turned them to our own uses.” She made a pass with her hands and the quality of the light changed, becoming more diffuse and blue rather than white.

The bunks disappeared, nothing more than a high quality holo. In fact, the cobwebs and even some of the dust vanished. In their place was a room you could operate in and a wall that was more of a vid screen. Or perhaps a window? Ze couldn’t be sure, but none of that mattered for the moment. The view ze now had was of a series of cylinders with one body floating in each. After staring closely for a few seconds, ze could tell it was a projected image from somewhere else. “I could run up a vid like this in half a day. It proves nothing.”

Lips formed a moue of annoyance. “This is real. I know, you don’t want to take my word for it, but we must make sure you’re on board before we actually let you join us.”

“So before I can receive the reward, one I don’t know is real, I have to put everything on the line.” Ze held up a hand to stave off protests. “I told you, it’s not about the money, or even the new body. It’s about the fun. You want to unmake our current society. You’ve gone to great pains to make it happen. That’s almost enough.”

Lilith snorted, more like a bull than a laugh. “What would put the fun over the top for you?”

“To get back to my people, without them chilling me en route, they require a pound of flesh to know it’s righteous. I don’t have proof, won’t be any me left to help you. And they might decide to strip mine my core processor, take the memories, and use them to find and blaze you off the map.”

Her pale skin turned a shade of green. “What’s to stop them from doing that even if you do bring them this proof?”

“They’re business types. I’ve done too much for them to cut any ties without provocation. There will be other jobs.” Something near zir forearm clicked and whirred. “Besides, can’t you just grew a replacement?” A thin rod slid out from under zir sleeve. As it got longer it tapered to a nearly invisible point. The steel whip looked rigid enough, but ze could use it to remove head from neck or hand from arm.

“I can, but I’d prefer not to. If that’s the only way.” Her pallor and slumped posture spoke of fear and subjugation. Emotions she likely hadn’t felt in a while.

Kain brought his hand back and down, aiming for the spot above her wrist bone.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

 

District 21 Part Four


Background design : corridor by ThoRCX on DeviantArt

Read all of the episodes of Kain’s story here.

Kain couldn’t smile, per se. That was more of an advantage than one might think. Ze still grinned on the inside. A hump, where zir right shoulder would be, exploded like a giant zit. If, that is, zits were filled with dozens of tiny darts. In case a face full of metal wasn’t a deterrent, each one was tipped with a virulent strain of flesh eating bacteria.

The scream, cut short by the hail of flechettes, indicated the being on the receiving end might not have to worry about the bugs.

“I don’t like being ambushed.” Kain took a couple of steps forward, enjoying the mix of horror and anger on the woman’s face.

To her credit, Lilith kept her hands where they were and more or less maintained her composure. Once she adjusted her attitude. “I can see that. Fortunately, he can be replaced.”

“Can you? I asked you before, and if there’s a thing I hate worse than being jumped, it’s repetition, why should I listen to you?”

“You’ve come this far, and if you try and leave without me, you won’t breathe fresh air again. No matter how many nice tricks you have under your raincoat.” Fear had been replaced by a steely determination.

According to the readouts flickering behind zir eyes, she wasn’t lying. The why of how of her threat didn’t matter. Ze did so love to feel the rain on zir skin. What was left of it. “Go on, then.” The mass driver went back to its home.

“Everything I’ve said is true. And we have enemies, as is apparent by the contract you have.” Lilith licked her luscious red lips. “I want you to take care of those problems we have. We’re not without resources. Since I wasn’t able to beat you, as I was the ones who came before you, I want you to join us.”

Kain squinted. “You want to pay me off to double cross my employer? I’d have to be careful. It would take a lot of money, but also a compelling reason. I don’t believe in your cause. Humanity as it was, proved to be weak and full of itself. We’re better off as we are.”

Lilith stepped forward and placed her hand gently on the plate on Kain’s lower face. It was smooth, warm, and made of flexible scales so small as to give it the illusion of being one piece. “You are? Wouldn’t you love to have everything back that you’ve lost? While I see merit in the improvements made to your form, I know enough to be certain most of them weren’t your idea. The ones I’ve seen are all military grade. You have more than two legs, don’t you?”

Kain nodded. He couldn’t feel her skin on his face, but could sense the pressure. She was barking up the wrong tree. Mostly. There was potential to what she was saying for other reasons. “You can reverse the changes they’ve made to me?”

“Better than that. I can regrow an entire new body for you. Then we can take that beautifully murderous mind and move it into its new home.” Lilith leaned in close enough to kiss Kain on the cheek. “How does that sound?”

“You have my attention again, Lilith. Try anything like you did with your boy back there, and they won’t be the only one who eats it.”

She pressed her lips to a small patch of skin that could still be thought of as original. Bristles of hair brushed her lips. She shuddered, though whether from delight or disgust it couldn’t be said. A bit of red was left behind on the greenish white surface. When she backed away, her smile was firmly in place. “I’ll keep that in mind. Let’s finish our little journey and we can talk about the details.”

Part One
Part Two
Part Three