Great info from one of my favorite writers. If you’re not already following this man, you should be.

Whatever

A question from the gallery:

Now that Redshirts has become a New York Times bestseller, to what do you attribute its success? Anything that could be replicated by the rest of us?

To answer the second part first: Maybe. To answer the first part second, there are several factors which I think came into play, which I will lay out below. But be sure to stick around for the end, because I will have a point to make there.

So, here’s how I think we — and by we I mean me and a whole bunch of other people at Tor Books and beyond — made a NYT best seller:

1. I wrote seven other largely successful science fiction novels first, two of which (The Last Colony and Fuzzy Nation) were NYT best sellers in their own right, albeit on the paper’s extended list. Which is to say

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Book Review – I am Not a Serial Killer

WHAT’S PLAYING: OneRepublic “Everybody Loves Me”

This week’s first book is I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells.

This is the story of John Wayne Cleaver, a fifteen-year-old sociopath who lives and works with his mother in their family owned mortuary. John believes that he is destined to become a serial killer and follows a strict set of rules to ensure he doesn’t give into his darker urges. When a bona fide serial killer turns up and begins slaughtering innocent victims in his hometown, John decides to use his unique skill set to stop him. But catching the killer may mean unleashing his own inner monster. And if he does that, no one will be safe.

I have one word to describe this book: compelling. John Wayne Cleaver is one of the most disturbing and refreshing protagonists I’ve ever encountered. His analytical mind is perfectly suited to finding the demonic serial killer terrorizing his town, but even he has a hard time figuring out his true motives. Is he really trying to protect his family and neighbors or is his subconscious simply looking for way to satisfy his own urge to kill? Honestly, I found myself more disturbed by the possibility that John may give into to his murderous instincts than anything else. The struggle to find and destroy the serial killer was almost tame compared to the intensity of John’s internal struggle.

I did have a few issues with the book’s structure. John spends the first hundred pages or so trying to identify the killer, so it reads like a mystery. Then, Wells throws in a demonic twist that transforms the book into a supernatural thriller. I must admit that he does a decent job highlighting the conflict between a demon killer with human motivations for his actions and a human boy who is incapable of feeling empathy. Still, the structure didn’t quite work for me. It felt like the author lost control of the story, or ran out of ideas and decided to shift genres in the middle of the book.

Still, I Am Not a Serial Killer is a book that works on many levels and a welcome addition to my library.

 

Favorite Line/Image:  “You’re a great guy, Rob,” I said. He looked at me oddly.

 “…you’re about as important to me as a cardboard box,” I said. “You’re just a thing—a piece of garbage that no one’s thrown away yet…The thing about boxes, is that you can open them up. Even though they’re completely boring on the outside, there might be something interesting inside. So while you’re saying all of these stupid, boring things, I’m imagining what it would be like to cut you open and see what you’ve got in there….The thing is, Rob, I don’t want to cut you open. That’s not who I want to be. So I made a rule for myself: anytime I want to cut someone open, I say something nice to them instead. That is why I say, Rob Anders of 232 Carnation Street, that you are a great guy.”

Bottom Line:  An interesting, disturbing read.  

Coming Up Next: Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

Stories from My Grandfather – The Origin of Poison

WHAT’S PLAYING: Brule “We the People”

A long time ago, when the world was new, a certain vine grew in the shallow waters of the bayou where the Choctaw people went to bathe or swim. This vine was very poisonous, and whenever someone touched this vine, he or she would get very sick and die.

Now, this vine liked the Choctaw people, and didn’t want to cause them so much pain and sorrow. But, since it grew beneath the surface of the bayou, it could not show itself to them. So, it decided to give away its poison. It called all of the chiefs of the small people of the swamps—the wasps, bees and snakes, and offered them its poison.

The small chiefs held a council about the and, since they were defenseless and often stepped on by others, agreed to share the vine’s poison.

Bee spoke first. “I will take a small part of your poison, which I will only use to defend my hive. I will warn people before I sting them, and it will kill me to use my poison, so I will do so very carefully.”

Wasp spoke next. “I will take a small part of your poison, also,” he said. “Then I will be able to protect my nest. But, I will warn people by buzzing close to them, and I will keep my poison in my tail.”

Water Moccasin spoke. “I will take some of your poison, but will use it only if people step on me. I will keep it my mouth so that when I bare my fangs, people will see how white my mouth is and know to stay away from me.”

Rattlesnake spoke last. “I will take all that is left of your poison, and will also hold it in my mouth. And before I strike someone, I will use my tail to warn them. Intesha. Intesha. That is the sound I will make to let people know that they are too close.”

And so it was done. The vine gave up its poison to the bees, wasps, water moccasins and rattlesnakes. Where once that vine had poison, now it has small flowers.

From then on, only those who were foolish and did not listen to the warnings of the small ones, who took the vine’s poisons, were hurt. Now, the shallow waters of the bayous are safe for the Choctaw people.

Book Review – Pay Me in Flesh

WHAT’S PLAYING: Rob Thomas “Mockingbird”

This week’s first book is Pay Me in Flesh by K. Bennett.

 

 

Mallory Caine is not your typical defense attorney. She’s a zombie with an appetite for justice…and brains. When her client, a vampire prostitute named Traci Ann is charged with the murder of a corrupt police officer, Mallory takes the case without a second thought. Even though few of her clients are innocent, Mallory knows that Traci Ann didn’t kill the cop…because she did. To complicate matters, she has to go head to head in a courtroom battle with a very attractive ex-boyfriend who whets her appetite in more ways than one. Then there’s the mysterious sword wielding zombie killer intent on beheading her along with the rest of her kind. If Mallory dies before she gets her soul back, she goes straight to hell. But she’s not going down without a bite.

I fully expected to hate this book because, as you all probably know by now, I am not a fan of zombies. But Mallory isn’t your typical zombie. She doesn’t slobber, drool, or lurch – she’s smart, stylish, and sexy. She has standards. Her first question for potential prey is “Where did you go to school?” The way she sees it, if she’s going to eat brain, she’d like it to be relatively intelligent. You can’t help but root for her. After all, she never asked to become a zombie, and she hates having to kill to live.

Though I enjoyed this book immensely, I did have a couple of issues with it. One was the cumbersome plot. Bennett left a number of loose threads that will no doubt, be tied up in the rest of the books in the series. Mallory’s sarcastic voice, while hilarious, interrupts the narrative flow in some places. It was just too much. But my main issue with this book is that I didn’t connect with the protagonist emotionally. Of course, this might be due to the brain-noshing scenes, but I think it’s more than that. I never felt that she was in any danger, not even when the zombie killer trapped her in an alley.

Despite all of this, I could not put this book down. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and Bennett keeps the pace moving and throws in enough twists and turns to keep you up all night.

 

Favorite Line/Image:

A young couple was just emerging from a Lexus in the parking lot.

LAPD!” I said. “I need your car!”

The guy, looking like some South Bay arm candy, laughed. The girl shook her head.

“I know, that never works,” I said. “But watch out for the guy with the sword.”

South Bay looked behind him and screamed. The girl screamed.

The guy with the sword screamed.

I was the only one with the decency not to make a girlie noise.

 

Bottom Line:  An entertaining romp. Highly recommended.

 

Coming Up Next: I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

One Lovely Blog Award

WHAT’S PLAYING: Sonny Boy Mick “Hallelujah

One of my favorite bloggers, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, you should. She writes the most amazing poetry, and her posts are full of the kind of unflinching honesty we all should strive to emulate.

The Rules:

Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.

Share seven possibly unknown things about yourself.

Nominate fifteen or so bloggers you admire.

Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know and link back to them.

Seven Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me:

1. I’m OCD. I organize everything from my books to my sock drawer. Everything has to be in its place, or I can’t concentrate. I’m sure there are serial killers that are less anal-retentive than I am.

2. Sometimes, in my darkest hours, I believe that the wrong twin died the night I lost my brother. I would trade places with him in an instant and often fantasize about scenarios that would make this possible. I don’t do it because I’m tired of life, but because I know the world would be a better place just for having him in it.

3. I have a thing for British men. I even dated one in college. Things ended when I finally realized that the only thing I liked about him was his accent. To be fair, he was extremely hot. Unfortunately, he was also dumber than a bag of hair. I blame David Bowie.

 

 

4. I have ten tattoos. And no, you can’t see them. Not unless you buy me drinks and dinner first.

5. Even though I speak six languages, I still think in Choctaw, which is why I tend to pause for a long time before I say anything.

6. I hate the words “moist,” “threshold,” and “panties.”

7. Someday, I want to take a year off work, rent a cottage in Ireland, and spend all day everyday just writing.

Now, I have to pick bloggers I admire. Due to time constraints, I limited myself to ten. And the nominees are…

FicFaq

Authors Block

Melinda VanLone

S.J. Driscoll

In My Opinion

Janice Heck

Jill Archer

S.Z. Wordsmith

No More Race

This Man’s Journey

Book Review – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

WHAT’S PLAYING: Solomon Burke “The Judgment”

This week’s second book is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

Christopher Boone is a 15-year old autistic savant in Swindon,England. He hates being touched, cannot tell a lie, or understand metaphors or jokes. He is a whiz at math and enjoys puzzles. When he finds Wellington, the neighbor’s poodle, skewered on a pitchfork, he sets out to solve the mystery and write a true account of his detective work. In doing so, he stumbles upon the messy, illogical, emotionally complicated secrets of his parents and their neighbors.

I absolutely loved this book. I started reading it after breakfast and didn’t look up again until I was done. The thing that makes this book so compulsively readable is Christopher who, despite his autism or maybe even because of it, is a beautifully rendered, original and nuanced character. Haddon puts us deep inside Christopher’s mind, so deep in fact, that I found myself questioning the common sense and erratic emotionalism of the so-called normal people around him.

His solo journey from Swindon to London is just as suspenseful and harrowing as any scene in a hardboiled detective novel. He literally sees everything around him and is unable to edit the onslaught of sensory data in a new environment. And he is afraid of strangers and ill-equipped to ask for their help.

In fact, Christopher is ultimately more hard-boiled than any gumshoe in previous detective fiction. Unlike Sam Spade or Nick Charles, he has no sentimental streak, no underground reservoir of emotional identification with other human beings — although he is fond of dogs.

This book is a prime example of how character defines story.  In the hands of a less talented author or told by any other narrator, the plot would have felt melodramatic and maybe even a bit boring. But Haddon manages to pull it off without a hitch. An excellent read!

Favorite Line/Image:  It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears’s house. Its eyes were closed. It looked s if it was running on its side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The points of the fork must have gone all the way through the dog and into the ground because the fork had not fallen over. I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer, for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.

Bottom Line:  Read it! Read it now! Seriously, why aren’t you reading it yet?

Coming Up Next: Pay Me in Flesh by K. Bennet

Stuff I Learned the Hard Way – Sometimes a Zombie is Just a Zombie

WHAT’S PLAYING: Tim McGrawJust to See You Smile

I’m afraid of zombies. I mean, crap your pants while gibbering in terror afraid. (I know it’s completely irrational. I never claimed to be sane.) My friend gave me a book of zombie haiku, and it gave me nightmares. And zombie movies? Forget about it. I slept with my katana for weeks. 

 

My therapist says that my aversion to the walking dead stems from a fear of losing my faculties to insanity or senility. I say it comes from not wanting some brain-munching bastard to take a chunk out of me while I’m still alive and screaming.

I suppose the whole fear of losing my mind idea has merit.  

But I’m still sleeping with my katana.