Monthly Archives: January 2011

flattr this!

One of the wonderful things about this podcasting thing I’ve been a part of for around three years now is discovering “new” authors. Granted most of them are hardly new at the game. They’re just new to me. One of the writers in question owns my iPod whenever something new of his comes out. That would be Nathan Lowell.

I’ve tweeted and blogged about his works before, but I just thought I’d join the ranks of some of my fellow bloggers/podcasters in thanking him for his Share series. He’s finished the series up with Owners Share and I’m in the midst of listening to it. If you’ve been waiting for this to start listening, go ahead! If you’ve never listened to any podcast novel before now, start with this one!

I’ll do a proper review down the road, but for now I just want to take a minute to thank Nathan, not just for his writing, but for all the things he’s done for me personally and the community at large.

flattr this!

This week’s review is of Fetidus by James Durham

Synopsis: FETIDUS: The Damned Heir by James Durham is the first sci-fi/horror novel and original music score set in the grim and fetid alleyways of a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC, circa 2034. In this first novel, Art Blanchard, a jaded Washington lobbyist who works for The Foundation for the Ethical Treatment of the Innocently Damned, Undead and Supernatural (FETIDUS), takes up the blackmail case of a mysterious woman, which leads him on a twisted adventure filled with noir-humor, suspense and horror.

Production: James does audio production for a living. He’s also a musician and composer. It shows in every bit of this podcast. He won a Parsec for it and it was deserved, even though at the time he won it, it had not yet finished. Fetidus seems not so much produced as sculpted. The music and sound effects accentuated every bit of the story.

Grade: A+

Cast: Fetidus uses a full voice cast. Most of the people involved are pros, possibly all. As such, they do a marvelous job with their various roles.

Grade: A+

Story: This is a modern noir. There’s a healthy dose of violence and sex, though the former is more explicit than the latter. There’s a lot going on here and in that sense it’s perhaps more complicated than its cinematic predecessors. Of course he injected vampires, zombies, and a horrific apocalypse into it as well. Taken all together there are times when it almost seems like too much. It’s easy to get overloaded with plot threads in addition to the world building that he’s done here. If you’re looking for a straight forward romp, this ain’t it. It also gets really, REALLY dark and there are times where the violence is a bit too much for my taste.

Grade: B+

Verdict: I heartily endorse this podcast. In case it’s not obvious I think it’s one of the top ones out there and it earned the Parsec. Odin rightly dinged it for it’s release schedule, since it did go through a reboot. There are good reasons for that that I won’t go into since they’re immaterial now. You as a new listener have the benefit of all the episodes being out there for your consumption. If you’re into noir and zombies I’m frankly surprised you haven’t already listened to it!

Grade: Solid A

flattr this!

A little over a week ago I put Fetch up on Smashwords. I thought to myself, “Let’s just see how an expanded version does.” I’ve been tickled with the results. While I’ll grant you that the overall sales numbers haven’t broken into the double digits yet (one more would do it), it’s my best selling story to date in terms of how quickly I’ve reached that number. More importantly, a number of people have discovered my back catalog of stories there. So overall I’d say it’s a success for me personally.

A number of reviews have gone up and all of them have certainly pleased me. Critical Press Media says that, “Roche, true to form, sets out to turn folklore on its ear.” Fred Grenvile said that it’s “a remarkable little story with a number of uncommon observations lurking just beneath the surface” and compared me favorably to Flannery O’connor. David Sobkowiak left a review on Smashwords that tickled me utterly when he said he was “more than a little moved by this story.” He went on to say this, “It not only scares me on a spiritual level, but also on an emotional level. It speaks to a greater battle that we as humans often never consider.” It’s exactly the kind of reaction I was shooting for.

John Wilkerson went through the trouble of leaving me a video review (which blows me away).

So, if any of this speaks to you and you’re interested in buying the story, go here. You can read the first half for FREE and that in and of itself is a complete story, though it may leave you wanting more. It’s only $1.49, as at least one reviewer said, well worth the price of admission. I get a healthy cut of that.

In other news I released two werewolf stories under one title on Amazon over the weekend. The first one, “The Good Doctor”, was written for Great Hites. I should go on to say that I think this particular episode of Great Hites is possibly the best of the bunch.

The other story, called “Changes”, was inspired by a prompt from News From Poughkeepsie. The original story was posted here so feel free to read it. The version on Amazon has been tweaked, but I believe runs about the same length.

So, feel free to read the stories as I’ve put them out there for free and if you like them, go buy them in one tidy package for your Kindle. I will likely be putting this on Smashwords this week and putting most, if not all my Smashwords stories on Amazon, since at this point they don’t talk well to each other. So stay tuned and thank you for supporting my work!

flattr this!

This week’s review is of Other People’s Heroes by Blake M. Petit

Synopsis: Josh Corwood has spent his whole life in a world full of superheroes, even becoming a reporter just to get a little closer to their world. When he finally comes face-to-face with the Capes of his dreams, though, he realizes his ideal view may not be in synch with reality.

Production: The audio quality in this podcast is good. He made serious strides compared to his previous podcasts. I’m going to ding him here for one pet peeve of mine. Edit marks. Not infrequently, he’s guilty of leaving obvious edit marks in the episodes. This is easily rectified and according to the author he will be doing more serious QA for the Podiobooks version (which they would, of course, require). No idea if he’ll be doing the same in his own feed. For this, he loses a letter grade.

Grade: C

Cast: Blake elects to act as the voice for each of his characters and stays consistent within each character. If hearing a man do a woman’s voice irritates you then this isn’t the podcast for you, but then that would also disqualify Sigler and a number of other podcast novels. He’s a stage actor and this is to his credit as I’m sure it played a role in his being able to… play… roles.

Grade: B+

Story: This is a comic book in audio form. The characters are fairly well fleshed out (some more than others). The story is certainly enjoyable and there are a few surprises towards the end. That’s always good. If you’re looking for a serious treatise on the state of humanity at large, well there’s actually a little bit of that here. If you’re looking for an interesting take on what it would be like to live in a comic book universe, then I recommend this. It compares favorably in my mind to Playing For Keeps*.

Grade: B+

Verdict: Audio issues aside, I think this is a strong entry. It’s funny. I love the takes he has on some of the superhero/villain tropes and the world he’s constructed is very interesting. There are more stories in this universe including on that was published in Flagship. I will continue to check out Blake’s podcast projects. I might recommend waiting for the Podiobooks* version though.

Grade: B

*At the time of posting the Podiobooks site is down due to upgrades. Consider donating to help them defray costs and keep money flowing to the authors!

flattr this!

Just wanted to drop a quick note on two things that have happened recently.

First, I dropped the new, extended version of “Fetch” on Smashwords. You can check it out here. The first half is available for you to read or you can listen to the audio version on the Every Photo Tells site. They were kind enough to drop a blog post about it today, too.

Second, JC Hutchins, author of 7th Son and Personal Effects: Dark Arts, had myself and Zach Ricks on his podcast to talk about Flying Island Press. It was a blast and you should listen to it ASAP.

flattr this!

I’m going to start reviewing podcasts as I complete them. Since I believe in stealing only from the best I shall be using a format similar to Odin at View from Valhalla. I don’t promise that these reviews will be as good or as regular as his, but I will dedicate this first one to him. Go over to his site. He’s reviewed sixty-three podcasts (including Archangel: Valley of the Shadow).

So, onto the review for The Guerrilla Poet by Keith Hughes.

Synopsis: What if by simply Writing a Word you could build a wall, light a fire, or cloud someone’s mind? In an environment like this Alan Porter struggles to use his talents to overthrow a totalitarian government that controls the masses by controlling Words. Access to Writing materials is restricted, and creating Verse without a license is severely punished. Raised in this atmosphere of systematic censorship, Alan heeds the irresistible call of Words to create a better world.

Now Alan gathers people who will fight with him to bring about a society based on freedom. In a war where the weapons are stylus, paper, and Words, he is the only one who can lead the battle and show the way to victory, a fight that Alan Porter wages even long after his death, because he is the Guerrilla Poet.

Production: The audio quality is good and he does use some musical cues and some light effects. In a world where podcasters seem to go overboard on these things, I like a light touch.

Grade: B

Cast: This is a straight read a la Scott Sigler. For those of you not “in the know” on the reference that means that Mr. Hughes, like Mr. Sigler, does give each character their own inflection and tone. While I wouldn’t say that Hughes is anything like a voice actor, I can say that this didn’t detract from the story and did serve to distinguish characters. His reading of the narration is done in his own voice and his reading style is what I would call a bit soothing. Perhaps not ideal for a story that involves a fair amount of tension.

Grade: B

Story: This is a story within a story. While the synopsis would lead you to believe that this story is all about Alan Porter, the titular poet, there is a framing device around it. I think that this story would have worked better simply as the story of Porter, told in first person perhaps, that served as a prequel for what’s going on in the “here and now” world of Trev Haroldson. The frame seems to weaken both stories a little. The villains were also more than a little two-dimensional. Still, there’s a strong dystopian sci-fi vibe with a dash of fantasy and I like the characters and end up caring about them all. That goes a long way towards smoothing over the story cracks. I also like the world he developed and how it feels one world removed from our own.

Grade: B-

Verdict: The more podcasts I listen to the more I like to “mainline” them. That is, I wait til production finishes and consume them in large chunks. I did that with this one and it definitely had me coming back to it time and again. I would say if you’re looking for a new author this is one that deserves to be checked out. If you decide to listen, give it a few episodes, because it does get off to a little bit of a slow start.

Grade: B

flattr this!

As a writer I don’t shy away from using strong language or imagery. If you’ve listened to Archangel, particularly the story that I put up in between novellas, “Power in the Blood”, then you know that. That’s an extreme example and not one for the kids (or even some adults), but if someone wanted to come along and replace every swear word or violent scene with something less offensive I wouldn’t be thrilled. I do think changes like these, as well intentioned as they might be, do damage to the text. But is that always a bad thing?

These thoughts have come about thanks to the whole Mark Twain/Huck Finn fiasco. For those of you that haven’t heard, a Mark Twain scholar has released a version of the book that replaces the word “nigger” with the word “slave”. This article lays out some of the history of the book and the different versions that have been released. Since it’s out of copyright, it’s open to people doing this type of editing. No one’s rights are being infringed upon, certainly not Twain’s. I don’t know that anyone can clearly say what he would have thought of this, but I would like to think he’d have a sense of humor. You can blame this on “liberal” political correctness, or on over-sensitivity, or on white guilt. Or perhaps it has to do with the editor’s own insecurities.

Whatever the reason, in this particular case, I don’t think this is a bad thing, per se. The government isn’t doing this, the original version still exists, and as stupid as replacing “nigger” with “slave” is (as evidenced by this post’s title), I think getting “up in arms” about it is even more ridiculous. If it means more kids will get to read Twain’s work, I’m okay with it. As it stands right now, fewer kids are getting assigned it, because of that word. For the record, while I think that’s even more stupid than the idea of a new “whitewashed” version, kids should be reading the classics. That’s true even if they (or possibly because they) will embarrass some of us about the true nature of the past, but better to read a slightly mangled version than none at all.

Whichever version kids get exposed to though, I want them reading books like Huck Finn. Of all the things I remember from reading it as a boy the use of that word isn’t one. As an adult I can appreciate why he may have chosen to use it and can dialog with someone about that. Good fiction reveals and means different things to different people.