Category Archives: pimpage

Review – Werewolves of Mass Destruction by Joshua Unruh (E-book)

werewolves Every once in a while I’ll see someone post about an indie author I’ve never heard of before. I was on Google plus a couple of days ago and just happened to see a share about a book called Werewolves of Mass Destruction by Joshua Unruh. The title, the price point, and that cover sold me in an instant. Did it live up to my expectations? Read on!

Verity Sooth, blogger of the bizarre, has a knack for finding weirdness and getting into trouble. So when she teams up with Ajax Stewart, Engineer of the Impossible, it can only be to battle an ageless Nazi Necromancer and his nihilistic cult.

But can even these two heroes thwart a beastly act of terror that may well end human life on Earth? And if they do, will Verity hit the story’s deadline?

Gripping Tales of the Impossible: Werewolves of Mass Destruction is the first in what will hopefully be many stories about Ajax Stewart, Engineer of the Impossible and Verity Sooth, Blogger of the Bizarre.

Approximately 15,000 words

The Goods – Werewolves? Check! Nazi mad science? Double check!! A muscular hero with amazing tech a la Doc Savage? TRIPLE CHECK!!! A smart ass and tough as hell female partner? QUADRUPLE CHECK!!!! This book had everything that a pulp fan like me could ask for. The writing was tight. The characters and situations were more than a little ridiculous. The action was pretty much non-stop. It had zombie-esque monsters strapped to jets with giant canons!!!!! There really isn’t any more to say.

The Bads – Really this is all YMMV stuff. I didn’t find any of this to be problematic for my enjoyment of the book (save for perhaps one thing. First of all, this is short. As the description says, it hits at about fifteen thousand words. That’s approximately thirty pages. So don’t go in expecting a novel. Second, there is a “damsel in distress”. I know that this is going to bother some of you. There were a couple of instances where she seemed a little too passive for my taste. To be fair, she does really try and in some cases she succeeds in self rescue. She also gets a few licks in, but she is more of a chronicler. The hero is also fairly old school. Apparently Ajax was a boyhood hero a la Tom Swift, and he’d gone off the radar somewhat.

I really wanted more depth from the two main characters. This feels like a setup for exactly that and I hope that in future adventures we’ll get it. I will indeed be picking up the next book when it becomes available. As I indicated with all of the exclamation points, it hit every button I had for this kind of thing and where it sputtered in a few places I am able to forgive. I give this four out of five “POW”s.

Amazon
Josh’s Site
Josh’s Twitter

Review – The Diary of Jill Woodbine by Jay Smith (E-book/Podcast)

jill_woodbine One of the things I love about listening to so many podcasts is that I discover some of the most amazing authors that you’ve never heard of. One such author is Jay Smith. Today I’m reviewing the podcast/ebook.

Synopsis: Jill Woodbine is a young college student who finds herself in the middle of a mass exodus as the walking dead pour out of our decimated cities in search of fresh meat. Her flight takes her to a house and garden warehouse store (HG World) which has been converted into a temporary shelter for refugees.

As that temporary situation grows into something that feels permanent, Jill begins to investigate her surroundings, its leaders, and its growing culture of denial and power struggles. What she finds may uncover some dark secrets leading back to the start of the zombie apocalypse.

Along the way, Jill chronicles the heroism and cruelty of her fellow survivors and explores her obsession with the beautiful and mysterious “Red Molly”.

Production: This is a straight read. There is some good bumper music, but no effects or additional production values. The audio quality is very clean.

Grade: B

Cast: If you’re going to do an audio book and you don’t have the talent for reading, then please, please, please hire Veronica Giguere. You can find her at http://voicesbyveronica.com. She’s an author and an audio producer as well. She voices all of the characters and provides the narration and is one of those voice actors who remains in my top ten. She developed strong, consistent voices for each character, and while the red skinned lady in the picture steals the show, the rest of her performances are stellar.

Grade: A+

Story: Every once in a while I think I’m over zombies. This, as it turns out, is often only because some writers forget that the best zombie stories actually have very little to do with the rotters and everything to do with the humans running and or hiding from them. Jay has not made that mistake.

The characters and situations in this book resonate with me, even though it’s been a couple of years since I listened to the podcast. Many of the scenes and the overall story have the same emotional punch for me that World War Z (the book/audio book) did. That’s about the highest praise I think anyone can offer for a book in this genre. That’s in no small part due to Veronica’s involvement in the audio. But even she can’t make a bad story into an A+ story.

This is done in first person. That irritate’s some people. Given the format (which follows the format of one of my other favorite zombie stories, Ruby Departed), it makes perfect sense and works for me. This is really the only thing that I could see as a potential for Your Mileage May Vary.

Grade: A+

Verdict: Gee, in case you can’t figure it out, my verdict is “Go get the darn book!”. If e-books aren’t your thing then go listen to the podcast (but buy the book anyway and gift it to someone who will appreciate it!!!)

Grade: A

Amazon
Podcast

Halloween Memories and Giveaway

Many of you know that the thing I like doing almost as much as writing is introducing people to new authors. As a result at the end of the week I’ll be giving away some fiction in cooperation with Jean Marie Bauhaus. Her book is called Midnight Snacks:

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From the author of Dominion of the Damned and Restless Spirits come four bite-sized tales of terror. Jean Marie Bauhaus spins a mesmerizing and haunting world in which monsters roam the post-apocalyptic streets of New York, scavenging for their next meal, vengeance finds room for compassion in surprising places, and even the vending machine down the hall begins acting shifty.
Also features the novelette Eucha Falls, a spellbinding tale of Lovecraftian horror. It’s been a year since Melanie Fisher’s little brother Scottie disappeared without a trace, and investigators are no closer to learning what happened to him. Determined to get answers, Melanie and her boyfriend, Shane Campbell, journey to the site where Scottie’s car was found abandoned and burned — a strip of gravel road leading to the long abandoned theme park once known as Eucha Falls.
Melanie and Shane’s explorations lead them to a lost video camera. What they find on the camera is shocking evidence that not only was Scottie there, but that he had succumbed to some sort of inexplicable madness. As Melanie and Shane dig deeper, they find that the madness is catching. But is it really madness, or evidence of something much more real, and much more sinister than they ever could have imagined?

We’re also giving away Dead Ends, featuring six awesome authors and myself.

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For this anthology I’ve assembled seven bloody, stark horror stories by myself and six other talented writers of horror and suspense. A sinister power in “In The Deep Dark” by Justin R. Macumber is overtaking men at the bottom of a West Virginia coal mine. A golden liquid sur-rounds a boy’s treehouse in Edward Lorn’s “Morning Dew” and its taste for human flesh is standing between the boys and safety. Reggie in Scott Roche’s “Power in the Blood” discovers that his thirst for blood can give him strength, but may cost him his soul. Philip Carroll brings us a tale of “Getting Even” where the wealthy Mr. Hasbrook must pay for his sins of greed and murder. Paul E. Cooley’s “Breakers” remove the broken ‘cogs’ from society’s machinery as ruth-lessly as possible. In J.R. Murdock’s “Breakup”, Ruby wants to leave her boyfriend Victor, but he wants eternity or nothing. Finally, Jake Bible reminds us in “Blister” that going to the doctor early is a good idea, particularly if your affliction makes you a happy little psycopath.

And we’re giving away not just one copy of each but THREE! How can you enter to win? Use the widget below to tweet about it. Leave a comment on this here blog post letting us know your favorite Halloween memory. Join our mailing lists (hers here and mine here). And follow us on Twitter.

The contest will run until Halloween. Thanks for helping spread the word and have a spooky holiday!

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Review – Streets of Payne by Jeff Brackett (Audiobook)

Streets-of-Payne-800-Cover-reveal-and-Promotional I got to know Mr. Brackett through a writers group on Facebook. He gave me a copy of the Audible book for review.

Synopsis: Humanity is in the eye of the beholder. But for street-smart detective Amber Payne, it’s the eyes that aren’t human. Cybernetic implants replaced the organics she lost in the line of duty, and their appearance often causes Amber to doubt her self-worth. Rookie detective Kevin Glass is her partner. And though he may be new, Kevin’s unparalleled skill as an elite cyber-surfer makes him an invaluable asset. When Alta Corp contracts the two of them to solve a case of high stakes data theft, they will need every bit of skill, experience, and determination to succeed. For the more they investigate, the more it becomes evident that this case is much more than it appears, and its resolution may forever alter the world in which they live.

Production: This book was narrated by Joy Nash. She’s an excellent narrator and really made the story that much better. She performed each character, though her performances weren’t over the top. She used just enough characterization to aid in keeping them straight.

Grade: B+

Story: I love cyberpunk. I played both Cyberpunk and Shadowrun in college and am a big fan of the genre in film and text. I really looked forward to experiencing this story. Jeff certainly didn’t disappoint. He developed his own world, but used all of the tropes that make Cyberpunk what it is. On it’s own, there’s nothing special about the plot. It’s well developed and moves along at a good pace. Where the writing really shines is the characters.

For me a story is all about the characters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, well developed, interesting characters can make an alright story excellent. And they can flatten an otherwise enjoyable tale. Here it’s definitely a case of the former. The protagonists are an interesting mix of personalities. Amber Payne is a tough female lead who is able to show vulnerability and still kick some ass. Her partner Kevin, a hacker extraordinaire, is also well developed and there are a few secondary characters that I enjoyed quite a bit as well. When bad things happen, and very bad things do happen, I care about what’s going on and when the story comes to a close I was sad to be unable to read book two. Because there isn’t one. Yet.

There’s a boat load of action in this story, and no small amount of mystery. In a book of this length (357 pages in the print edition), he keeps both going. There are a number of plot lines besides the main mystery, and he brings it all to a satisfying conclusion. One surprising scene involved combat in cyberspace and it was just as riveting an action scene as any of the physical battles.

It’s not a perfect story. The bad guys haunt the background and aren’t as well fleshed out as I would have liked. There are also a few nitpicks I have on the tech side of things. None of that makes this a deal killer.

Grade: B+

Verdict: If you’re a fan of cyberpunk (think Blade Runner, The Matrix, Akira) then this is definitely worth checking out. If you like fast paced action featuring a great female lead, but SF isn’t your thing, I still think it’s a risk worth taking.

Grade: B+

Jeff’s Blog
Amazon E-book
Audible book

It’s An HNoR

iPOS6 I write for my own enjoyment (though I do have a target audience in mind when I write most of my stories) but there are a handful of people I hope to earn the Head Nod of Respect from one day. These are people who aren’t celebrities by any means (though some have audiences far larger than mine). They are creators whose work I have known for some time and whose work I in turn respect and enjoy. I won’t list those people (that would feel like I was begging for attention), but I will list some people who I believe have earned it from me.

You need to check out the stuff these people produce. I’ve sung their praises before, but you can’t say too many good things about a person.

JC Hutchins – He’s one of the reasons I got into podcasting my own fiction. He consistently tells amazing stories in interesting ways. He also likes to try new things and isn’t afraid to set those things aside when they don’t work.
Paul Cooley – One of the smartest horror writers I know. If you like a good scare, you need to be reading his work.
Terry Mixon – I’ve just started reading Terry’s work. Not everything he’s written is my cup of tea, but he knows his ish when it comes to writing.
Christiana Ellis – One of the funniest and most gentle spirits in the world of podcasting. She’s put so much amazing stuff out into the world I just can’t begin to list it.
Mike Plested – He started a podcast on getting published and then worked his butt off to get it done. If you like good YA or heck, just good fiction period, you need to check out his stuff.
Tee Morris – One of the father’s of podcast fiction; Tee has a biting sense of humor, amazing taste in beer, and constantly surprises me with the variety of fiction he tackles.
Jared Axelrod – Seriously one of the most multi-talented artists I know. I can’t say enough good things about what he’s done for me as a creator (whether he realizes it or not).
Philippa Ballantine – Another early presence in the podcast arena, Pip has gone on to be quite the success with her husband and writing partner Tee and on her own.
Skinner Co. – I’m a podcast junky and I know how hard it is to put good work out there on a regular basis. These three people do that and then some. They’ve built a tremendous community and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.
Jake Bible – Seriously one of the most thoughtful and hardest working writers I personally know. He’s living proof that horror writers can be sweet, kind, and not at all what you would expect.
Starla Hutchton – A savvy business person, a great writer, and a sharp designer; Starla is a whole lot of talent in one package.

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

Review – The Black by Paul E. Cooley (E-book)

Black_paperback_for-print-sml1 My friend Paul Cooley has a new book out. Unlike his previous books, this one is not self published. It’s put out by Severed Press, a fine purveyor of books like Jake Bible’s Z-Burbia series. I’ve been watching his process and it’s very interesting. He wrote the book this year and it actually got published THIS YEAR. I’ve more to say about that, but it needs to be a separate post. On to the review!

Under 30,000 feet of water, the exploration rig Leaguer has discovered an oil field larger than Saudi Arabia, with oil so sweet and pure, nations would go to war for the rights to it. But as the team starts drilling exploration well after exploration well in their race to claim the sweet crude, a deep rumbling beneath the ocean floor shakes them all to their core. Something has been living in the oil and it’s about to give birth to the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.

“The Black” is a techno/horror-thriller that puts the horror and action of movies such as Leviathan and The Thing right into readers’ hands. Ocean exploration will never be the same.”

The Goods – This is a book that is both like and unlike Paul’s previous books. Why is this a good thing? It shows his breadth and depth as a writer. This book proves that he can do a fairly straight forward monster tale (which this is) and bring his own flavor to it. It’s more “marketable” than his other works. Not to say that it’s better or worse, it’s just a bit more accessible than alt history/horror or Muppet VIOLENCE. His writing here is also a little tighter than usual, which is a requirement more of the genre. If he has continued success with this series and other books with Severed, it will hopefully bring more folks into the fold who will discover his edgier books. That’s a win-win.

The Black takes a few chapters to get warmed up to the level of action and violence a book like this needs, but it’s never boring. The characters are well fleshed out, especially for a book in this genre, and the monster is spooky without us knowing a damned thing about it. Once it does get going it doesn’t let up. There’s not a wasted bit of prose anywhere in here.

The Bads – Yeah, there aren’t any. I really can’t find a single damned thing I would change about this book. Except maybe to put my name on the cover.

Go buy this thing! It gets five and a half out of five tentacles from me. Yeah I can do that. It’s non-Euclidean or something.

Amazon
Paul’s Site
Paul’s Twitter

Review – The 33: Pramantha by JC Hutchins (Audiobook)

I’ve long been a fan of I reviewed the first part of this story early this year. I just finished listening to it and I’m here to tell you how it held up. This is not a podcast. JC is charging for it.

Synopsis: After cutting a deal with a mysterious recruiter, Addison Creel is thrust into a world he barely understands. He’s been called to join The 33 — a group of thirty-three misfits tasked with protecting humanity from ruthless criminals, malicious technologies, black magicians and hostile supernatural beings.

Addison’s first day on the job brims with brainbenders: teleportation, sorcery, nanotech. But that’s easy compared to his first mission: Investigating a rash of violent, shocking suicides at a high-tech, high-profile commune in Washington.

Will Addison’s unusual gift — and the gifts of other The 33 members Bliss, Azael, Mad_Ana and John Swords III — be enough to thwart the twisted epidemic before it spreads?

Production: The production on this is straight forward. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles here, but the sound quality is good.

Grade: B+

Cast:  JC is a quality narrator and brings a unique voice to each character that he portrays. This dramatic reading displays those talents.

Grade: A

Story: As I said in the original review, this story opens with a bang. The pace never lets up. If there’s one thing Hutch is phenomenal at, it’s crafting a story that take you for a wild ride. And when I say “craft” that’s not hyperbole. I know Hutch and he’s the kind of writer that agonizes over every detail. That shows. It does mean that he’s not released as frequently as he would like, but Pramantha is a finished product. So you don’t have to wait if you get this now.

The best thing about this story, in a story that seems full of “best things” for my money is the character development. Each of the characters is very unique, and they all possess a depth that’s almost shocking in a thriller. It would be tempting for me as a writer to take a few short cuts or to sacrifice some development for sheer streamlining, but he doesn’t do that.

The other thing that this story is chock-full of are face splitting grin moments. Whether it’s a call out to a bit of pop culture or a bit of inventive dialog, I found myself smiling and nodding along.

The finale certainly lives up to all of this buildup. There’s a TON of gore, violence, action, and adult language so this one’s not for the kids. But if any of that appeals to you then buckle up and take this ride. I guarantee you won’t be sorry.

Grade: A+

Verdict: I am as off the hook pleased about this story taken as a whole as I was by the first episode. I not only recommend that you go pick this up, I beg you to. It’s purely selfish of me. I want him to keep on writing in this universe. Whether/how quickly that happens is entirely reliant on sales. He’s putting a massive effort into this and naturally to pay the bills if it doesn’t pay off then he’ll move on to other projects.

He’s started releasing the second “adventure” in the first “season”. He’s taking a TV approach to this and these are his terms for them. He also released an interim story which was free to his newsletter subscribers (subscribe to his newsletter) and cheap to everyone else. You might want to pick that up first since it’s a prequel of sorts to Pramntha. Regardless of listening order it’s just as good, though a bit lower key.

The four ebooks that make up Pramantha will cost you $7.96. The audio books will cost you $11.96. Or you can get a set including both for $15.96. The audio clocks in at approximately seven and a half hours. It was imminently satisfying. I got the bundle and it cost me a little less as a subscriber (you should subscribe to his newsletter). I also recommend buying it directly from him. Support your local indie!

Grade: A

Buy direct from JC’s site.
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Alone With Friends – Guest Post by Martyn Casserly

In addition to this blog being about my writing and ramblings, I also want this to be a space where friends and colleagues can share their opinions and gifts. As a result, I’m soliciting guest posts. I got this one from my friend Martyn a couple of weeks ago. As a result it’s a hair out of date, but it’s poignant and still relevant. On a day where we are remembering other tragic events I hope this will serve as both an encouragement and that it pertains even to this, a national tragedy.

ProfileMCA friend of mine is sick. Now by this I don’t mean that he is cool and funky, as the more youthful among you might surmise, although he is definitely both of these. Neither do I mean to imply that the person in question has highly dubious taste in entertainment and extracurricular activities. No, my friend is the kind of sick that prompts people to pack overnight bags and make urgent travel plans.

This won’t be a blog about my friend. There are currently plenty of those online, all of which warm and break hearts in equal measure. But if you do find yourself able to help his family out in any way, either financially or with anything else useful you can offer, then please do visit this page to find out more – http://www.gofundme.com/pgfund

One thing that this awful situation has brought up is the nature of friendship online. It’s a curious thing to be a part of an international community that shares its grieving publically, and on forums that allow us to interact across vast distances. In some ways it makes things worse. Although social media can be infuriating at the best of times, with constant jabbering about inane subjects, or the more vicious comments threads that can spring from the innocent of posts, I still return for more on a pretty much hourly basis. Yesterday, I turned it off and walked away. Not because someone was invoking Godwin’s law after only two comments on a happiness and free unicorn thread, nor because I was trying my best to avoid spoilers for a movie or TV series finale that some people feel is their duty to announce to the world. No, it was a lot simpler than that. Yesterday my stream was just far too sad.

There has been much written about the echo chamber nature of online life. In essence we gravitate towards those that agree with our points of view, thus justifying our standpoint to ourselves – because I can’t be wrong if all my friends agree. In reality I’ve always found this to be somewhat simplistic. Many of my online circle have vastly different standpoints to me, and I prefer things that way. It allows me the chance to learn plenty from them and maybe, when conditions are right and the moon is in its curious phase, dispense a few pearls of wisdom of my own. The one time when this community does come together in a single voice is invariably when one of us is in trouble. It shows the strength of the bonds between us, but can also be overwhelming; my friend’s horrendous illness being a case in point. Within minutes of his tragic state becoming public knowledge my feed turned from random videos, article links, and witty comments, to one of anger, confusion, pain, and outpourings of genuine love and affection for someone we all respect hugely. It wasn’t long before a fundraising initiative to help him and his family was set up, raising and incredible $10,000+ in only a day. Memories were shared, profile pictures changed to feature happier times where we stood at his side, and each of us began to walk virtually together through the terrifying truth that one of our own would shortly be leaving, far too early for it to seem even remotely fair.

On so many levels it was magnificent. Here, at a moment of great need, we could close ranks and show a solidarity of spirit that many physical communities might struggle to muster. Our weapons would be video, audio, and written messages sent to his bedside from across the globe. Their purpose to let our dear friend realise before he slept that he had made a difference, left his mark, and would be remembered always by so many people. It made me very proud of this rag-tag bunch, many of whom I’ve only met once or twice in the several years that I’ve called them friends. It also reaffirmed to me that online friendship can be the equal, or even trump, those that so many deem superior merely due to physical proximity. But it also reminded me that there is distance between us, and the effects of this caught me quite off guard.

When I read of people going to visit my friend to pay their respects, and the tremendous sadness that these quiet farewells induced, it left me feeling isolated, almost envious of their chance to look him in the eyes one last time. It highlighted to me how we can carry our friends in our pockets, or in our laptops, but the simple truth is that we are corporeal creatures and that sometimes nothing can beat a hug. To share the same air with someone, hear them laugh again, and see the vulnerable honesty of tears falling. It reminded me of the final scene in the film ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ where, and there are spoilers here, as the two young boys find themselves in the most terrifying of places they instinctively reach for each other and clasp hands before the lights fall.

Here, as our small cadre of friends face the spectre of our own mortality, I feel the strongest of all desires to reach out my hand and find another frightened soul embrace it. To feel the heat, sweat, and frantic pulsing of blood to accompany my own. Of course we all share our pain, sorrow, and fears online, which is a positive, helpful thing. Indeed, this was the reason for me having to walk away yesterday, as instead of the shocked few conversations and quiet contemplation that grief usually brings in the physical world, I could instead see the cumulative breadth of people’s anguish. Peer inside the minds and hearts of so many, all at once, crying out in sadness. It was almost unbearable.

I heard someone say once that modern news coverage is something that is actually detrimental to us as people, because we were never meant to see the extent of suffering in the world. We can cope with what is near to us, but when presented with the woes of an entire species, it would damage our ability to hope. Now, I’m not entirely in agreement with this, although I do find myself filtering the amount I read about global conflicts, diseases, disasters, and governmental oppression. On one hand it is because they are truly depressing subjects, but on the other I admit it is because it does make you wonder whether there is any real purpose for us all, when so much horror exists and persists with little challenge against it.

The internet has brought so many incredible advances, and I still maintain that it is the most important invention of the modern age. What this whole experience leaves me to wonder though is whether it will take a generation that grows up with a global perspective as their norm, to truly realise its potential. For the first time in a very long time, I feel less a native in the brave new world.

Martyn is a freelance writer, musician, blogger and podcaster.

When not chasing his children around the house pretending to be a dragon, he can be found in the various coffee shops of London ‘writing’ his novel.

Follow him on Twitter.

One of his many blogs.

Interview With Jared Axelrod (Three Questions)

(This is part  “Three Questions With Xxxx”. If you’re interested in taking part click here and fill out the form.)

Headshot I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jared for a few years through his works and having met him at Balticon. He’s easily one of the most multi-talented people I know. Costumer, puppeteer, writer, visual artist, journalist, model, and voice actor cover just a few of his roles.

CCAcoversmall 1) You are a multi-talented creator. You’ve created podcasts, short fiction, awesome costume pieces, and graphic novels. It seems like you’ve woven all of those things together to form the narrative around and behind the character of Comrade Cockroach, a retired Russian super villain. What drove you to tell his story?

Neil Gaiman. Honestly.

Y’see, DC Comics hired Gaiman to write “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” the “last” Batman story. The idea was it was going to be similar to Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” “last” Superman story. Just as Moore focused on Superman’s capability to inspire, Gaiman was tasked with finding the essence of Batman. While Gaiman’s story is beautiful in so many ways, he can’t quite nail the dismount. The essence of Batman, according to Gaiman, is that he doesn’t give up.

Which to my mind is ridiculous. OF COURSE he doesn’t give up. He’s had, what, one defeat? Two? (the death of the 2nd Robin and that time Bane broke his back, for those following along at home) Compare that to the countless victories he’s had. Why would he give up, if all he’s known is success?

(I get what Gaiman was aiming for, that appeal of Batman is not in his success, but in his struggles, but that’s not really what’s presented in the story.)

Which, contrarian that I am, sent me thinking about the kind of person for who the statement “they never give up” WOULD mean something. Obviously, it would be a supervillian, for whom failure is a way of life. And from that rude clay, Comrade Cockroach was born.

ccmucolorsmall 2) One of the pieces of advice I often hear is “write what you know”. I think that advice, as it’s commonly understood, is more than just a little ridiculous. As a creator, you strike me as the kind of person who, if they don’t know something, will do whatever it takes to find it out in order to tell the story. What skills and knowledge did you acquire in order to bring this character to life?

Very little that I didn’t have already, I’m sorry to say. Comrade Cockroach has always been a love-letter to all the pop-culture elements I love. He crawls on walls like Spider-Man and heals from any wound like Wolverine. He costume purposely evokes a Luchadore outfit. He’s Russian, like so many Captain America villains of my youth. Comrade Cockroach is all of these things because I love all of these things. Any research involved happened long before I thought him up.

Take the Russian element, for example. I’m of Russian descent myself—my ancestors, Mensheviks, every last one of them, left for America once it became clear they were on the losing side. Part of me is curious, I suppose, about what they missed by coming over here to lead far better lives then they ever would have had they stayed. The USSR under Stalin was this weird sort of history gift that keeps on giving; it’s fascism, make no mistake, but it’s fascism that grew up with the Nazis, so it’s desperate not to make the same mistakes. So you have things like giving medals to mothers for raising their children, and encouraging literacy, and the beautiful hubris of the space program, but also the gulags and airbrushing people out of photographs, and the immense corruption. Trying to make a better world and going about it in the worst possible way. All of that, all of the kaleidoscope of conflicting ideals, that is irresistible to me.

Comrade Cockroach is not so much a reason to research, but rather, a release valve for all the research I’ve got pent up inside.

CScover3small3) Most people, when they write stories, chose to tell the hero’s tale. With the good Comrade, we’re getting a decidedly non-heroic story. What were the challenges for you in that?

I guess it all depends on your definition of heroism, doesn’t it? Comrade Cockroach does think of himself as heroic, and he carries himself that way because of it.

What makes him fun is that sense of purpose, of heroism, is put in the service of goals that are usually petty, sometimes monstrous. Cockroach believes that the ends justify the means, but he is also guilty of over-inflating his ends. His primary goal is to destroy the American superhero the Bold Eagle, and in his mind, this is an epic quest, the kind you write operas about. Nevermind the regime that gave him this order is no longer around, and the current government wants nothing to do with him. Nevermind that the Bold Eagle who patrols the streets now is literally a different man than the one Cockroach was ordered to kill. And even if those things weren’t true, it would still be murder with the flimsiest of motives.

The nice thing about Cockroach is that he’s not a crazy person. He does regret the things he has done. And this regret, I believe, is the key to the character. He knows he’s done bad things, and he doesn’t even have the salve of success to tell him that he was right to do them.

Cockroach is a tortured everyman in the vein of —if I’m allowed to be so lofty—Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman. He has a job he’s not sure he believes in, for a goal that seems more uncertain by the day. But he doesn’t know how to do anything else. For all his power, he doesn’t have the strength to be anybody other than what he is. Because then everything he’s sacrificed up into this point would truly be for naught.

What’s weird is that all of these elements of who Comrade Cockroach is have come together from various small, short pieces. None of them have everything that is Cockroach in them, but all have contributed a piece. One of the fascinating things to me about this character has been watching him evolve as each layer of story has been put upon him.

But to get back to your question, because of the world he lives in, Cockroach must always lose. So the challenge with his stories is to make the plot come to a triumphant conclusion, but at a horrible cost to Cockroach personally. It’s not by accident that THE COCKROACH STRIKES ends with Comrade Cockroach figuring out what was going on, but at the cost of one of his few friends and his own sense of identity.

Comrade Cockroach must always lose. But he never gives up.

 

You can find Jared at http://www.jaredaxelrod.com/
Follow him on Twitter at PlanetX

Review – Space Casey Season Two (Podcast)

space-casey Space Casey Season Two is an audio comedy/space opera and is the sequel (as the title implies) of Space Casey. This isn’t an audio book, rather it’s a full voice cast audio production and was written by the inestimable Christiana Ellis.

Synopsis: n this follow-up to the award-winning comedy-science-fiction-audio-drama: “Space Casey”, Casey the intergalactic con-artist continues her thrilling tale of adventure, fraud, and time travel!

Ed. Note – This is not the best synopsis. Let me try.

Space Casey Season Two is the tale, told by Casey in her own defense on the witness stand, of the galaxy’s best con-artist who has stolen a time machine and in the process breaks nearly every rule of time travel three times.

Production:  The sound quality, music, and sound effects are very solid. Some of the manipulation used to make alien voices can be a little grating, but those voices are rare.

Grade: A-

Cast: If you’re a fan of podcasting you will here a LOT of familiar voices. Outside of Casey herself, voiced by Christiana, my favorite was probably Nathan Lowell as Benjamin Franklin or possibly Billy Flynn as the Defense Attorney. They all did stand up jobs.

Grade: A+

Story: This story deals a lot with time travel and you don’t get a much more untrustworthy narrator than Casey. If there are any holes in it the author has asked us as the audience to point them out. I was far too busy laughing to really worry about that.

Grade: A

Verdict: There aren’t many podcasts I’ve given A’s across the board. You need to listen to this and if you haven’t you need to listen to the first one.

Grade: A

Podcast Link
Christiana’s Site