The New NIWA Anthology

The 2017 Northwest Independent Writers Association Anthology Bridges is now available in paperback on Amazon. The Kindle version is available for pre-order at the discount price of $0.99 until it’s released on November 14. It includes my latest suspense story, “The Affect Bridge.” I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet (my paperback copy arrives today), but if you’re a fan of speculative fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, with a dash of horror and steampunk, you might want to check it out. Click on the title above to pre-order the Kindle edition.

Meanwhile, work proceeds apace with  my next book, Catch of the Day. It’s on target for release in early February. Stay tuned!

Indie Author Shawna Reppert’s Book Ravensblood

I recently read a book of urban fantasy I really liked,  Ravensblood by Shawna Reppert. Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads:

Ravensblood is the first of a series, the fourth book of which is scheduled for publication in September. Shame on me for only just now catching up with it!

Reminiscent of Prohibition-era Chicago under the lethal thumb of a crazed Al Capone, the city of Portland cowers before the ruthless dark mage William. The three communities–the Mundanes, the Art, and the Craft–are in league against him, but fear they cannot match his strength. Their unlikely ally is Corwyn Ravenscroft–Raven–a man the Art rejected from their Academy. Taken in by William and schooled in the Dark Arts, he is a wanted criminal. But Raven has had a change of heart. Appalled by William’s brutality and bloodshed, he commits himself to destroying the dark mage, even if he forfeits his own life in the process. His only help may be Cassandra Greensdowne, his former apprentice and lover, who is now a Guardian, a member of the special police forces tasked with combating magical crime. And Cass hates all Raven has become.

Author Shawna Reppert has created a multi-layered alternate Portland. You will recognize the streets and the weather, but there the similarity ends. Magic abounds, but it is so entirely believable, the reader soon forgets it’s magic. In fact, the magic is just the context for a superb study of psychology and motivation. Reppert’s characters are so exquisitely drawn and emotionally complex that the reader begins to care deeply about them. We become immersed in their world–fearing what they fear, hoping what they hope, loving what they love. What would have been only another urban fantasy novel in the hands of a lesser writer, Reppert has elevated to the status of literature. She reminds me why I love to read really good fiction.

Click here for a free sample of it: Ravensblood.

 

Music and Mayhem: A review of the movie Baby Driver

If you’ve had any doubts about seeing the new action film Baby Driver, leave them all behind. This movie delivers in spades. No, the trailer didn’t contain all the good parts. This is a thrilling film from start to finish. The casting of Ansel Elgort as the driver was inspired–yes, he has a truly baby face, and to see him drive like a bat out of hell is a delight. Kevin Spacey is a menacing puppet master, and both Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx are deliciously evil bad guys. And did I mention the killer sound track? All of the delirious action is driven by the tunes that play in Baby’s ears, music he listens to in order to drown out his tinnitus. Just when you thought the movie was exciting, it careens toward a climactic battle that will leave you gasping for breath and thoroughly satisfied. Sick and tired of your stupid boss? Kids driving you crazy? Demoralized by your impotent road rage in your wimpy Toyota? Check in to your local cineplex for the ultimate catharsis. Just make sure to fasten your seatbelt.

More Indie Books

I’m feeling very neglectful. I didn’t tell you sooner about two other indie authors and their books. I highly recommend Bombed, by Winifred Morris. If you enjoy the Coen brothers and the TV series Fargo, you must read this book. Filled with quirky, inept characters, and marvelous goings-on, it’s great escapist fiction. Check out my full review on Amazon.

Although I don’t usually read romance, I thoroughly enjoyed Mars Ho! by Jennifer Willis, the first book in a trilogy about colonizing Mars. Check out my review on Amazon.

Click on the titles for a free sample of the books.

Movie Review: Alien Covenant

First a confession: I’m a bit of a romantic and long for the days of yore when the alien was simply a bad-ass space dragon hell-bent for leather. We know, since Prometheus, that it’s really a weaponized life-form genetically engineered to annihilate planets. Oh, well, the blush is off the rose. That said, Ridley Scott has demonstrated that there’s still (alien)life left in the franchise.

Alien Covenant is closer to the original Alien than to the rather tepid Prometheus, and for my money, a far better film. Set ten years after the conclusion of Prometheus, it focuses on the crew of the starship Covenant, with its cryosleep pods full of earthlings eager to colonize another world. Alas, an emergency awakens the crew, who then succumb to that old alien trope of responding to a signal they intercept from another planet. This planet is much like earth and is also far closer than their original destination. Why not go down and check it out? Of course, this is akin to the plot device in slasher films, when the audience is screaming to the scantily-clad teenagers not to go down into the darkened basement. But adolescents never learn, nor do starship flight crews.

Michael Fassbender, scene-stealer that he is, reprises his Prometheus role of David, perhaps the creepiest android in cinema. He is joined by his technically superior upgrade Walter, a match made in hell.

Overall, the movie is quite stunning to watch, with its intricate sets and superb computer graphics. Scott includes some winks at the earlier films: the perpetual-motion drinking bird from Alien makes a cameo appearance, and Fassbender, using a recorder-like flute, plays the theme from Prometheus. But make no mistake about it–this is a horror movie and a pretty bloody one at that. Definitely not for the squeamish. Would you like to increase your heart rate and respirations without a boring workout at the gym? Alien Covenant will have your heart pounding and adrenaline pumping with its dizzying action sequences and its sometimes terrifying encounters with the creature that refuses to die. Add a plot twist or two and you have a recipe for a welcome escape from the heat of summer into the air-conditioned multiplex. I’ll give it four out of five stars–well worth the price of admission. I may take my sons and go see it again.

Movie Review: Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why”

Seventy-five years ago, the French philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “Living, naturally, is never easy. You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering. . . . in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land.” (The Myth of Sisyphus).

When 13 Reasons Why begins, Hannah has already taken her life. Before doing so, however, she made 13 audio tapes, each addressed to a person who contributed to her untimely demise, through acts of omission or commission, neglect or bullying. Each of those people must listen to all the tapes and then pass them on to the next person on the list. What unfolds is a gripping mystery, unraveling the sometimes casual insensitivity, sometimes brutal crime that is the stuff of relationships. It is a journey into everyday darkness, a descent into a world without redemption. And it all takes place in a high school.

It seems that the older we get, the easier it can be to dismiss the upheavals of adolescence. We belittle the pain by calling it “teenage angst” or “drama.” We’ll say things like, “How bad can it be? Their parents pay all the bills, put a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, food in their bellies.” This series is the antidote to such inane sentiments.

Over the course of 13 insightful episodes, we meet a group of adolescents who range from the shy and decent, to the bold and criminal. If you are a high school teacher or guidance counselor, you should watch this series. Your students are already talking about it. If you are a mental health therapist, you owe it to yourself and your patients to see it. But it is not a program for the squeamish. The graphic scenes of rape and suicide (without the slightest bit of prurience) may cause you to turn your eyes away. That said, it is a masterwork. The writing and dialogue are crisp, the production values high, the youthful actors uniformly excellent. It may be the most heartbreaking show I have ever watched and I am still haunted by it. You have been warned.

Book Signing and Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious

I wanted to let my friends know that I will be reading from my short stories and my latest novel and signing copies at Santiam Wine & Bistro on Saturday, May 13, from noon  to 3:00. The shop is located at 1555 12th Street SE in Salem. The owner, Debbie Rios, will have some yummy selections for tasting. What better way to start a weekend than a sip of wine and a good book? I hope to see you there.

That said, what about The Fate of the Furious? OK. If you didn’t enjoy any of the previous films in the franchise, then don’t go to see this one. If you did enjoy them, then run out and buy a ticket today. But let’s be clear. This isn’t rocket science, nor is it War and Peace. It’s a testosterone-fueled, car-chase-and-explosion-packed film probably aimed at an audience of adolescent boys. But what’s wrong with that? You were young once, weren’t you? So park your brain at the door and ramp up your willing suspension of disbelief to astronomic proportions. Then take out a personal loan so you can afford the popcorn and bask in the cinematic mayhem. But by all means, fasten your seat belt!