This Memorial Day weekend, you might have time to stretch out with a good book, in between the grilling and the beers. There are a lot more military personnel (current as well as former) creating genre fiction than you might imagine. Supporting one or two of them by picking up an awesome read would accomplish multiple acts of awesome with just a few mouse clicks. Here’s a short list, just to start you off. If I left out your favorite veteran/author, add him or her in the comments box. I’m certain to miss one or two. If your wallet’s a little light after buying all that beer and meat, follow a few of these folks on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to their blogs!
Of course, this being my site, I’m going to lead off by pimping my dark superhero anthology, CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? (which opens with Tim Marquitz’ tale of a superhuman weapon in the War on Terror followed by an excellent story by Weston Ochse) but, if you already have that or superheroes aren’t your thing, you can pick up a copy of FOUR IN THE MORNING today, in advance of the official release date of 1 June.
Former Navy man Brian Keene has something for everyone–the holiday is certainly a good excuse to pick up something from him. I recently reviewedTHE CAGE and recommend it if you’re in the market for a quicker read.
Army vet Weston Ochse’s BLOOD OCEAN is available for a measly five bucks on Kindle. I have this one on my stack and will be cracking into it soon.
I haven’t read Army Reserve officer Myke Cole’s CONTROL POINT yet, but it looks interesting and has a lot of good reviews.
Weston’s a great guy, a retired Soldier, a killer author, a CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? contributor and, most importantly, a friend and mentor I trust to tell me when my head’s up my ass. I got my hands on a review copy of his novel EMPIRE OF SALT well before I met him, and since then, I’ve still yet to read a bad Weston Ochse story. You can read my review of EMPIRE OF SALT here. You can read my review of MULTIPLEX FANDANGO (one of my 2011 recommendations) here. And you can read information on his latest novel, BLOOD OCEAN, below. Click on the break to view more bookstore links than any twenty people will ever need in their lives.
BLOOD OCEAN Released on 16th February in the UK and 14th February in US & Canada
£7.99 (UK) ISBN 978-1-907992-87-2 $9.99 (US & CAN) ISBN 978-1-907992-87-2 Will also be available as an ebook
In a world reduced to ruin by all-consuming plague, one young boy embarks on a mission of revenge after one of his friends is found dead … harvested for his blood!
Kavika Kamalani is a Pali Boy on Nomi No Toshi, the floating city. The post-plague heir to an ancient Hawai’ian warrior tradition that believes in overcoming death by embracing one’s fears and living large, Kavika’s life is turned upside down when one of his friends dies – and he sets out to find the killer.
When he is kidnapped and subjected to a terrifying transformation, Kavika must embrace the ultimate fear – death itself. It is the only way if he, his loved ones, and the Pali Boys are to survive.
This stand-alone title is the latest pulse-pounding story of post-apocalyptic survival in The Afterblight Chronicles series from Weston Ochse – a writer who pulls no punches.
“Weston Ochse is an artist whose craft, stories and voice are so distinct and mesmerising that you can’t help but be enthralled.” – Dani Kollin, Prometheus Award-winning author of The Unincorporated Man
About the Series
The Afterblight Chronicles is a post-apocalyptic series in which a devastating epidemic has ravaged the world. In the Afterblight, pockets of humans attempt to continue civilization amidst the mounting chaos of the collapsed infrastructure . Mobs run rampant while cults and warlords fight for authority over the survivors of the global plague.
One of the three series with which Abaddon Books launched in 2006, The Afterblight Chronicles is a collection of stand-alone novels that has showcased the talents of a number of brilliant, up-and-coming authors, including Scott Andrews, Paul Kane, Jasper Bark and Rebecca Levene. Blood Ocean is the eleventh Afterblight Chronicles title.
About the Author
Weston Ochse is the Bram Stoker award-winning author of various short stories and novels, including the critically-acclaimed Scarecrow Gods and Tomes of the Dead novel, Empire of Salt
He is much in demand as a speaker at genre conventions and has been chosen as guest of honour on numerous occasions. Weston lives in Southern Arizona with his wife Yvonne and their menagerie of animals.
Here are my top books of 2011, with a couple of bonus mentions at the end. It’s a shorter list than my usual Top Five, but that’s because much of my reading this year was published prior to 2011, and the list only covers books published this year. If you’d care to read previous years’ lists, you may do so here. The books aren’t listed in any particular ranking, except for the Squee.
SQUEE OF THE YEAR: Livia Llewellyn’s ENGINES OF DESIRE. A provocative, arousing and diverse collection of speculative fiction. Hell, I even loved the cover. I’ll definitely be re-reading this one, and I almost never have time to re-read these days. This is Livia’s debut book, and I can’t wait to read more from her. You can read my full review here, and buy the book here.
THE REST OF THE BEST:
1. Weston Ochse’s MULTIPLEX FANDANGO. Even if Weston wasn’t a career Soldier who started his writing career while in the Army (sound familiar?) and one Hell of a guy, this book would be on my list. But he is, so instead of just telling you to buy one copy, I’ll recommend you grab two. It’d be worth picking up a copy for a friend, anyhow, especially if you or your friend haven’t read Weston before. MULTIPLEX serves well as an introduction to a talented and extremely hard-working author at the top of his game and as a damn-near epic, and career-spanning, collection of his short fiction. You can read my full review here and buy the book here.
2. Kelli Owen’s WAITING OUT WINTER. This is a limited-edition chapbook, so copies might be hard to come by, but this is a fun read you should snap up if you get the chance, and a story I’d expect to see in a collection of Kelli’s short fiction. It’s an apocalyptic story without zombies, as impossible as that may sound these days, and more importantly, it’s a human story, with a fun and ironic twist at the end. You can read my full review here, and if you have a Nook, you can pick up a digital copy.
3. Stephen King’s 11/22/63. King, even at the top of his game, has a habit of being a bit long-winded. His last novel, UNDER THE DOME, was a thousand-page brick and also, in my opinion, disappointing as Hell. I really wanted to like this epic-length story of a guy going back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination–and I did. Alot. As much as an unnecessarily padded book can aggravate me, nothing satisfies me like a long book done well, that I can lose myself in for a big chunk of time. This book did that, admirably well. King didn’t beat the mechanics of time travel to death, which I greatly appreciate, and Jake’s relationship with Sadie is at least as poignant, and somewhat reminiscent of, BAG OF BONES, another favorite King of mine. The bonus visit to Derry during the first quarter of the book is the cherry on top.
HONORABLE MENTION: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan. This isn’t a one-book sort of deal, where I can just throw up one pile of stapled-together pictures and words and call it good; it’s an ongoing comic series, hence the special mention. I’ve been a Turtles fan since forever, grew up watching the cartoon and have read the bulk of the original Mirage and later Archie comics turtles series’. I was stoked beyond words when I heard IDW was going to be doing the Turtles; even moreso when I learned that original creator, Kevin Eastman, was going to be on board. I’ve read the first three issues and I’m loving it. The first trade, which I’d imagine will collect the first four-issue arc, will be on sale in February, but I’m sure you can track down the individual issues at your local comic shop. Any concerns about the comic being cartoony, or for kids, or that the writers will just be rehashing what’s already been done..? Lay them aside. Already, we’ve had an entirely different Turtles origin and not a Shredder in sight, though even I’d be disappointed if we didn’t see the ol’ Shred-head eventually.
Author’s Note: Here’s another bit from the archives for you. I screwed up earlier this year and lost several months of blog entries, and this is another of them. As I’ve been doing periodically already, I’ll continue to post such material as I rediscover it, in my Facebook Notes, on my hard drive, etc.
L-R: Wrath James White, Me, Hank Schwaeble, Joe Lansdale, Adam Coats, Sandra Wickham, Brian Keene, Weston Ochse
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of sitting on a panel on Killing and Violence in Fiction with Wrath James White, Hank Schwaeble, Joe Lansdale, Adam Coats, Sandra Wickham, Brian Keene and Weston Ochse at the World Horror Convention. I’d known for a couple weeks that I’d be on the panel, and I did what anyone in my position would do when graced with such knowledge: I freaked the hell out. And then I gave some serious thought to what exactly I would say when the time came.
The panel, as I’ve since learned they often do, went in an entirely different direction than I’d imagined, and I didn’t say as much as I was worried I’d have to. This is for a couple of different reasons; one, the conversation drifted heavily towards the martial arts and while I have some training, I’m not a master or a trainer and don’t know enough to warrant running my mouth. Two, the guys on that panel… when some of them get to talking, I’m going to STFU and listen. But, since I didn’t want all that nervous thinking to go to waste, and this blog doesn’t write itself, here are my thoughts on the subject:
Writers have a responsibility to readers. The degree of responsibility is a matter of debate among some in the industry (see George R.R. Martin is Not Your Bitch, for example), but there are certain commitments that I feel an author makes when one chooses to publish. One is to Not Be a Dick, unless someone just comes out and asks for it. Another is to Be Gracious to Readers and Other Authors Who Are Where You Used to Be (Lord knows I’ve frequently been the beneficiary of this one). A third is to Suspend Disbelief. As a fiction writer, you enable the reader to get lost in your world, or else You’re Doing it Wrong.
As genre authors, we’re already stacking the deck against ourselves. We have to make readers believe in a world where cowboys fight zombies, werewolves exist, serial killers can resurrect their victims, etc. Why complicate matters by doing slipshod research or taking bad shortcuts that some readers are inevitably going to call us on? On the panel, I mentioned an author who sent me a story in which a husband attempted to treat his wife’s head injury with a tourniquet around the neck. We also touched upon the effect of individual rifle calibration on said weapon’s use by a third party. Whether your violence is inflicted by knives, guns, teeth or Kung Fu, the bottom line is Figure Out How it Works For Real. We have to create good fiction from scratch in most cases and hope it resonates, but the facts? We have complete control over the facts. The facts are what they are.
In terms of writing a fight… I look at it as choreography. The fights in movies and in books are staged; staged because we know the characters are going to throw down and in most cases, as creators, we know who’s going to win ahead of time. Creating such an illusion, in film or in prose, requires thought and planning. Think about how the surroundings can affect the fight. Consider such things as momentum and how body parts bend. Think about how long (or short, to be more accurate) a real fight is likely to be.
Also, don’t think of any of this as a limitation. Think of it as freedom, and as a way to make your stories more organic and spontaneous. Take my calibrated assault rifle, for instance. Every soldier goes to the range and calibrates his or her assigned weapon to interact with his or her own visual perception. If a random civilian picks it up, say after it’s dropped in the midst of a fight with zombies, the likelihood of them scoring a headshot on a zombie that’s attacking their friend 100 meters away is unlikely, even if they’re trained in the use of that weapon. If, upon consideration, you decide to have your character use the gun anyway, a far more likely result is that your character will kill or injure their friend instead. This might not be a bad thing. It can result in a plotline or character development that will take you by surprise… and if you’re surprised by your own story, imagine how it will affect the reader! This is the sort of thing writers mean when they talk about stories writing themselves.