Tag Archives: sawyer

Review – Suave Rob's Double-X Derring Do by Dan Sawyer (Ebook)

suave_rob Dan Sawyer is the most proficient author I know (personally or professionally). I’ve reviewed his Clarke Lantham series and it’s easily among my favorites of his work. He offered to send me a copy of his most recent science fiction release, so naturally I said yes.

Two X-chromosomes. One Surfboard. All Man.

Climbing Olympus Mons put him on the map, winning a gold medal in asteroid jumping got him great press, and children everywhere tune into watch every time he skydives from a space station, but Suave Rob Suarez is just getting started. Together with his stunt partner and their childhood hero, he’s gonna stage the biggest daredevil stunt the universe has ever seen:

Surf a supernova.
Or die trying.

Now for those of you who are easily confused or who don’t remember high school biology (or like me if you fall into both categories) the possession of two X chromosomes would make you a female biologically. But that’s not a typo. The protagonist of Dan’s story lives in a time that allows people to be who they want. From a young age Rob identified as a man and got most of the physical modifications to be “manlier” than any science fiction hero to date. Rob’s desire to emulate his hero Gurgle Tippler, the first man to skydive from a space station, leads him to wonder if there are no more frontiers left. When you have the brains and tech to do the nigh impossible and can have your doctor rebuild you in case you guy too far, where are the challenges?

This story is interesting to me on a couple of levels and it tackles some questions that are incredibly pertinent today. First there’s that notion that we’re running out of challenges. Like Rob discovers, that’s only true for those of us with limited imaginations. It may take time and resources that you didn’t know you had. It may also take a dash of luck and it could cost you your life if things go sour, but is it worth it? And if you find that edge, ride it for all your worth, and survive what’s next?

I’m not a risk taker by nature. The older I get though, the more I realize that there are things that I want that I won’t get risk free. So these days I take the risks, but not without doing my homework. Like Rob, I call in some expert advice and when I mess up along the way I try and make it right. The only problem with real edge seekers like Rob is, once you surf a supernova what do you do next? This book doesn’t answer that question, but maybe future books will?

Deeper than that, this story looks at identity. Ro isn’t the only character in this story that doesn’t fit into a particular mold when it comes to gender identity. Dan’s dealt with sexual politics in his books before. Usually it’s a little more subtle than it is in this one, but this was no doubt written for fun more than anything else. Still, it wasn’t an accident, or I don’t know Dan.

He’s created a character here’s that’s hyper male and the only thing he lacks is the one inherently male physical attribute. (Pssst, it’s a penis.) In spite of that “lack”, Rob managed to woo women, win bar fights, and find plenty of opportunities to stick his foot in his mouth. It’s almost as though those things aren’t dependent on the male genitalia. Hmmm.

I love the characters in this story, More than that though I love the voice it’s written in. We get this story first person and it’s hard to explain the way Rob “sounds” but it absolutely fits the story. I’m also a fan of the way that Dan works the harder sci fi elements in this story. I’m not ordinarily a fan of the harder sf since it’s usually a little dry, but this never gets near that territory.

If my ramblings haven’t clued you in I really enjoyed this. Like many of his stories, this isn’t one for the young kiddos. As I’ve outlined above, it deals with territory that’s challenging even for adults to navigate. It could be an interesting one for the teens in your life, but there are one or two scenes that are graphic in nature. My only reservation is the price. I got this for free in exchange for a review. Four dollars in exchange for something that’s barely a novelette seems a bit much. Then again it seems silly to quibble over a dollar here or there and Dan makes his living from his art. And it will take you longer to read this than it would to drink the fancy coffee that the money would buy.

I give Suave Rob’s Double-X Derring Do four and a half supernovas.

Book Review – Throwing Lead: A Writer's Guide to Firearms (and the People Who Use Them)

I don’t know a whole lot about guns when it comes to practical experience. I’ve fired a few rounds through various shotgun gauges at turkey shoots. I plinked at some cans with a .38. I’ve read a lot about them and felt like I knew my share. That was, until I read this book. It turns out that while I do know a fair amount of the basics there are all kinds of things I wasn’t aware of. Such as:

  • Why you shouldn’t call the thing that holds bullets, a clip.
  • What “bullet proof” means and why you’re using it wrong.
  • Ways of determining what gun a bullet comes out of and how a smart criminal can avoid that.

All of that is really just the tip of the FMJ bullet. Details on caliber, shotguns, silencers vs. suppressors, and how bullets are made fill this book. As interesting as all of that was, there’s more. Mason and Sawyer give you as a writer insight into the minds of people that use guns on a daily basis. They’ve talked to police officers, soldiers, hunters and have pulled anecdotes from their own experiences as shooters.

If you’re a writer and you want to know about the history of guns, or you want to make sure that your protagonist is using the appropriate gun then this book is for you. If you want to avoid some of the mistakes common to fiction give it a read. They also go into some theory on energy weapons and other sci-fi standards and why it would be likely that slug throwers will still be around for some time to come.

Personally I would also recommend this book to readers as well. There are some great stories here and they’re told with Dan’s typical biting sense of humor. I also know there are people out there who love to nitpick help the writers in their lives and kvetch trade opinions on the fiction they love to read. Throwing Lead can give you plenty of… ammunition. (I couldn’t resist.)

I know that there are plans for a follow up book that sounds awesome. So you need to go buy this one and let them know that a second book would be appreciated sooner rather than later. I give this one 5 shotgun shells out of 5.


Ebook Giveaway – Compensating Controls & And Then She Was Gone

Congrats to Nuchtchas for winning Legends and The Sekhmet Bed! I’m changing up the rules a little so read carefully. If you’ve already won, please feel free to comment, but I really want future e-books to go to folks that haven’t won anything. Also, though I’m giving two books away this week, I’ll do a separate drawing for each. You might still win both, but this way there’s a chance for two people to win.

The books this week are by good friends of mine. This is one week where I know precisely what you’re getting into and I’m endorsing both of them.

The first is Compensating Controls by James Keeling. I reviewed the podcast here.

Nicolas Edgewood, a mild mannered computer guy is catapaulted into a world of danger and intrigue. Facing danger from every quarter, can he find a way to save the girl, stop the bad guys, and hopefully end up above ground?

The second is And Then She Was Gone by Dan Sawyer. I reviewed the ebook a while back and am a big fan of the Lantham books.

Disgraced former cop Clarke Lantham doesn’t mind making his living as a PI. He doesn’t mind the long hours, living in his office, or even dealing with bill collectors, because it keeps him in the city–as close to heaven as he’s ever likely to get.

Fortunately, the world needs private detectives. Unfortunately for Lantham, on this particular Saturday morning, “the world” consists of a fretful mother with a missing daughter, and the place he has to go look for her has a name every bit as ominous as hell: Suburbia.

With only a teenager’s blog and diaries to go on, and time running out, Lantham chases puzzle pieces from the posh shadow of Mount Diablo to the kink clubs of San Francisco to the genetic engineering labs of Stanford. Tailed by mercenaries, framed for murder, and forced into hiding, he somehow must keep his head in the face of a world where the normal rules of reality don’t seem to apply–all for the sake of a nineteen-year-old girl whose face he sees every time he closes his eyes.

So how do you get these? Merely leave a comment below and your name will be dropped into the virtual hat. There will be two drawings, one for each.

I plan on giving away a book a week this year, but none of them will be my own. Why? Well, I believe in helping introduce people to new authors and nothing does that like FREE! The contests will be as simple as leaving a comment on the blog, or showing me that you’ve left a review on Amazon or Smashwords of books you’ve picked up in the past. I’ll try and change things up to keep them interesting, but by and large you won’t have to work hard.

If you’re an author and you’d like to pitch your hat into the ring, let me know. I’m not asking you to give me anything for free. I plan on buying your e-book from Amazon/Smashwords as a gift for the winner. So in addition to you getting your name out there, you’ll also get a sale for the contest. The most I can budget per week is $2.99, so if you have a book in the $.99-$2.99 price range let me know. I reserve the right to turn you down, but I will try and do so gently. I’d like to have a variety of genres represented.

If you have a free book and would like me to just get the word out I can do that, but you won’t be part of my contest. If your book is more expensive and you would like to donate a copy, that works too.

Shoot me an e-mail, a DM, or leave me a comment to enter your book.

Kindle Love

I am in love.

I got a Kindle yesterday and it’s awesome. Now I didn’t do a whole lot of comparison. I know there are a bunch of awesome e-readers out there. For about twenty four hours I waffled between the Nook and the Kindle. I really don’t think there’s a wrong choice there (unless you were really offended by the 1984 debacle). My funds were limited so I went with the bare bones wifi model and it’s enough for me.

To break in the new device I loaded a few different docs on it. I put an extended version of Fetch on it for my wife to read. I also went out and grabbed a couple of e-books from Smashwords. That’s a great place to find new authors. There’s a mix of free and pay content there. I even have a few stories there. The best thing about the site is the sheer number of formats they have available. If you have a device, they have a compatible format.

The first story I grabbed was “Breakers” by Paul E. Cooley. I’m a big fan of Paul’s. In a world where most fiction classified as “horror” involves an excess of gore/sex or sparkly undead, he’s a breath of fresh air. What fiction of his I’ve read uses a degree of subtlety that I appreciate. It’s also horrific in ways that truly exemplify the word.

So what is “Breakers” about? Well I’ll use the synopsis that Paul chose. “Paranoia and anarchy are the tools of the Breakers. A Breaker agent explains his typical day in this bone-chilling, psychotic tale.” At four thousand words it goes quickly and the price tag of “FREE” is perfect. A true “review” of this is difficult without going into too much detail. I find that’s always true with short stories. Here’s what I can say. He sets up a world in this story that could easily be the one we’re living in right now. That alone makes this frightening.

Check it out and if you like it, I think you’ll enjoy his other fiction. I give it four out of five scalpels.

The second book I loaded (that wasn’t mine) was “A Ghostly Christmas Present” by Dan Sawyer. I’m also a big fan of Dan’s. This is the second story in his Clarke Lantham series. I reviewed the first one, “And Then She Was Gone”, here. What is it about winter time and “scary ghost stories”? Well whatever it is, I like it.

This is as noir as the previous entry, so if you like it, you’ll like this. Here’s the synopsis from the Smashwords page. “It’s hard to beat being thrown in an out-of-state jail on a trumped up charge as a Christmas present, but detective Clarke Lantham loves a challenge. So when he calls up his brother for help with bail, he thinks he’s prepared for the ordeal of spending a holiday weekend with relatives who put the “strange” back in “estranged.” That was his first mistake.”

This one is a bit more fun than the first, though no less dark or edgy. I read it all in one sitting and it kept me going until a quarter to one in the morning. If that’s not enough to push you in the direction of buying this, then let me see what I can do to nudge you along. In addition to being a modern noir, this is also a classic murder mystery with a twist. He makes a number of nods to Agatha Christie and/or Sir Doyle, but as with the classic noir of “And Then She Was Gone”, he adds modern sensibilities.

Dan takes the time to walk his readers through the processes Clarke uses to solve the crime, though never at the expense of pacing. There’s a dash of action, a dollop of sex (handled with humor and taste), and more than one laugh out loud moment. The only thing that really hurt the story for me were a few sections of prose early on that I had to re-read a time or two for clarity. I think $2.99 for a story that comes in at over thirty thousand words and provided me with a few hours of pure entertainment is money well spent. I give this story four and a half out of five bloody icicles.

Lilith – A Review

This is a review of Lilith by J. Daniel Sawyer. The short story can be found here.

The Bible as it stands tells us that in the beginning God created one man and one woman, Adam and Eve. There is a tradition however, in texts from the Middle Ages, that God created an equal to Adam and her name was Lilith. In the short story, or rightly classified faeirie tale, by Dan Sawyer we get to see what she might have been like had she existed.

I first got to hear this story in podcast form. If you’re not familiar with Dan’s podcast work I highly recommend it, particularly Down From Ten. You can find it all at his site http://jdsawyer.net/. Why, you may rightly ask, would I go through the expense, however minimal, of buying a short story I’ve already heard? Well, that’s a good question. I think that some stories benefit from being read in addition to being heard. There’s also the matter of thanking an author for an excellent story by buying it where there’s opportunity. My purchase of Lilith is actually a result of both.

There’s a fair amount of sex in this story, though much of it is less about titillation than it is about power. Sexual politics is at the core of this story. The struggle for equality, the different roles and gifts that men and women have, things that have been plaguing relationships since perhaps the very beginning of civilization are played out in these three thousand plus words. Of course all of this is filtered through Lilith’s point of view and like any first person narrative you have to ask yourself how reliable a witness she is. She does, after all, represent chaos and all of the pros and cons that involves.

Like any good fiction, this story raises a good deal of questions about our own reality and our relationships with others. Does Lilith fall into the same traps that some men do in achieving her desires? She holds the Voice, the creator of the universe, responsible for the state of things. We strive to do the same with God, hesitant to take responsibility for our own actions. Is that warranted? There’s a lot more I could say, but that risks revealing things about Dan’s story that I’d rather you discover for yourself.

If you’re looking for a provocative and interesting tale for your e-reader then I can definitely recommend this one. When you’ve read it make sure you reach out to Dan and let him know what you think. Then drop me a line and we can talk about the rest of the story.

I give Lilith four and a half out of five Golden Delicious.

Week Two Updates

Well another week and another update. November has turned out to be a month containing a fair amount of SUCK. My wife had strep throat for the first week (without knowing it) and I had it this past week. It took me out of action for a few days in every way conceivable. But I soldiered on with the days I did have.

As you can see in the picture I am still growing my mustache for Movember. It’s garnered some looks and comments (and a few laughs) but no money for the cause. I think men’s health is a very important cause and I’m sure you do too. If you’ve got a buck or two to donate please don’t hesitate to drop by my page and hit the donate button (thereafter filling in the pertinent details to make the proper exchanges from your money source to their income source). I know I’d appreciate it.

I’m also firmly committed to finishing NaNoWriMo. My current official word count is 15,953 which is a significant increase from last week’s 6,585. It’s not anywhere near the 25K I need to be at at the end of today (the halfway point), but I’m not ready to call it quits just yet. In fact if it gets to be looking bad for the “home team” I’ll just pull some inspiration from Brand Gamblin, a favorite writer of mine, and a blog post he dropped recently. If I’m gonna lose, I’m gonna “Lose With Style”.

Finally, I just thought I’d spread the word a little about Issue Three of Flagship. It dropped a couple of days latter than we would have liked, but it needed that extra layer of polish. We want it to be right for you lucky buyers. Have a gander at the contents:

I particularly like “Revival” and “Worse The The Disease”. I voiced the audio for the former, an interesting sci-fi piece told in first person. The aforementioned Brand Gamblin (Team Them and Evil Genius) wrote the latter. I championed it even though it isn’t precisely in Flagship’s wheelhouse and Zach and the team agreed that publishing it as a preview for Abattoir was a good idea. So if you buy it for no other reason, buy it to prove there’s a market for smart horror in e-zines. I think the price is write and those that filled out our survey seemed to concur.

Heck buy a few copies and send them to friends as a Christmas present! There’s a great Christmas themed piece in there as well.

Okay that’s enough pimpage for now. Please leave encouragements, attaboys, and death threats (HT to Dan Sawyer) in the comments or in one of the previously mentioned financial transactions!

And Then She Was Gone – A Review

I was thoroughly pleased when Dan Sawyer offered to send me a reviewer’s copy of And Then She Was Gone. I enjoy his writing style and I’m also a fan of detective stories, so I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do with it. It also gave me something else to put on my iPhone to continue testing it as an e-reader. Yes, Dan’s publishing it as an e-book and selling it through Amazon and Smashwords. Add to that, for me as a publisher, it’s always exciting to see authors continuing to test the electronic publishing space as a first, rather than a last, resort.

So, onto the review. There’s a lot of “noir” in this. While I’m no expert on the genre, I’ve seen my share of takes on it both light hearted and traditional. It has all of the elements you might expect. Clarke Lantham is a private eye and the story is told in first person. He has a girl Friday and the story opens with an attractive woman walking into his office. It also has the sort of content that would be considered “lurid” enough for a twenty-first century audience. If all of this seems a bit too “on the nose”, for me at least it was ameliorated by a thoroughly modern take on these elements.

Lantham is a very fallible detective, prone to errors in judgment and very human, believable motives. He’s hardly the iron jawed detective I recall from my exposure to the genre. His office assistant, a grad student working through her interneship, kicks his butt as much as she helps him out. While a bit of sass might be expected from a P.I.’s secretary, Rachel’s hardly satisfied to stay in that role. Finally, the good looking, wealthy client you’d expect to see is interested in finding out what’s happened to her daughter. I can’t recall having seen a noir with an over-protective soccer mom as the P.I.’s client so that’s anohter nice twist on the genre.

Speaking of twists, the trail that the various clues Lantham uncovers leads him down a dark and convoluted path. From a bondage clubs and patrol cars to wealthy neighborhoods and universities, he covers the depth and breadth of San Francisco. I won’t give anymore away, save to say where it ends up isn’t anywhere near where I thought it would go. That’s actually something I’ve come to expect from Dan’s work.

So what’s to like? The thing about first person narratives is that you spend a lot of time in one person’s head. You don’t necessarily have to like that narrator, though that often helps, but they have to be interesting. There isn’t much to like about Lantham. He’s not exactly cuddly. He’s not afraid to lie, steal, or do (almost) anything to get the job done. When he gets roughed up, shot at, or otherwise abused I wasn’t really broken up about it. In fact those were some of the more fun bits of story. Still, Dan has a knack for taking a jerk like this and making him interesting enough for you to care about what he’s doing and what happens to him.

The other thing that really appealed to me about this book was its sense of realism. I get the sense from what I know of Dan that he’s a research junkie. Whether or not that’s the case, he’s very thorough. Upon finishing this story, I was left with a sense of what it feels like to be a detective in our modern age. Lantham’s use of technology, particularly hacking Facebook accounts, data mining, and the ubiquitous cellphone, appeals to a geek like me. He also takes advantage of (literally and figuratively) a number of experts. As much as I like detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, having a protagonist with a less than exhaustive knowledge of everything under the sun is good as well.

I only have a couple of gripes with this on the whole, one minor and one major. First, there’s a question of language. Dan does love his F-bomb. While cursing generally doesn’t bother me in fiction or in life, it can get distracting here. I suppose in this case it can be defended as realistic given the gritty nature of the tale in question, but it still seemed excessive. That’s the minor quibble though and for some, perhaps most, it might not be an issue at all.

The bigger problem I have, and I don’t want to give anything crucial away so I’ll be a little obtuse, is a matter of science that’s a large plot point. I’m no scientist and I’m not up on my research in this area. However, given how realistic the rest of the story seems, the tech in question strikes me as being more at home in the realm of science fiction. While it doesn’t hurt the story per se, it was jarring.

Is the story worth the price of admission? This e-book costs $3.20. In a market where authors/publishers/consumers are still trying to figure out what an electronic product is worth you see prices all over the place. You can get a lot of fiction for free and quite a bit for $.99. A lot of those examples are worth exactly what you’re asked to pay. I think in this case, if you aren’t a reader that’s bothered with the language, it’s a good investment. It’s a quick read and one that I think would bear up under multiple readings. I give it four out of five Maltese Falcons.

Gettin' Paid

So one of the things that makes its rounds in my circles is how difficult it is to make a living as a writer of fiction. I once bemoaned that fate to Mr. Sawyer and he, once again, called bullshit on it. It can be done. It takes dedication, hard work, and a few other things (not to mention a dash of luck) and we talk all about it in this conversation.

Let us know what you think, particularly if you disagree and why.

PS – Here’s part one.

Moving Ass – Literarily Speaking

Dan Sawyer laid down a challenge back in June of this year. He called it The Great Ass-Moving Experiment. He wanted to get off his backside and send his written works out to publishers and he wanted to take some people with him, make it interesting.

Here’s the proposition:

We’ll go from now till the end of the year (or perhaps we should go to next Balticon?). Everyone bets $10. Every story we submit gets 3 points. Every novel proposal we send in gets 4 points. Every nonfiction submission/query gets 1 point. Every sale – of any fiction – gets 8 points. Every sale of nonfiction gets 3 points. Any sale that pays money and has a contract counts. Non-paying and/or clickthru and/or under-the-table markets do not count.

At the end of the year, the person with the most points wins the pool (which will operate on the honor system – those of us that lose will paypal our $10 to the winner).

I, and several other authors, took him up on it. Recently he skipped way ahead and I wanted to know how he did it, since it looked like he was bending “the rules”. (Not the rules of his game, the rules of the publishers’ game.) I wanted to know why and this conversation resulted.

If you want to know how to move your ass, give it a listen. You should also check out the Association’s website too.