Tuesday, August 30, 2011

NOWHERE HALL by Cate Gardner

Nowhere Hall by Cate Gardner is the latest volume of Spectral Press’s chapbooks, and like previous books, it continues the tradition of high-quality, thought-provoking stories. This was the first of Cate Gardner’s work that I’ve had the privilege to enjoy, and if this chapbook is a good representation of her work, she is an up-and-comer to keep your eye on.

Here’s the description from the back cover of the book:

In the ballroom, wallflower mannequins stretch their fingers towards Ron. He can’t ask them to dance. He’s already waltzing with other ghosts.

Someone stole the world while Ron contemplated death. They packed it in a briefcase and dumped him in the halls of the ruined hotel—The Vestibule.

After reading this story, I felt like I had just returned from a visit to a creepy, otherworldly realm of existence. Intensely haunting and mind-bending at times, Gardner’s tale stuck with me long after the words The End. This small book challenges the reader’s notions of reality and life, and as you turn the pages, you feel like you’re chasing something that’s always just out of your grasp. Nowhere Hall is an emotion-packed ride into another world . . . or is it really a different world?

I’ve reached the point that I now look forward to each new volume of Spectral Press’s chapbooks. While each story in the line is unique, it’s a guarantee that I’ll walk away every time in introspection. It’s like holding a mirror in front of me and taking a deep, long look. Sometimes I like what I see. Other times I don’t. Bottom line, I can’t ask for any more from a book, much less an entire line of books.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Interview with Author R.E. McDermott

Thriller writer R.E. McDermott recently published his first book, Deadly Straits. He was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about himself and his book for Bookhound's Den. Mr. McDermott was also generous enough to offer a FREE e-copy of his new book to everyone who leaves a comment before 5:00 p.m. Friday, August 26, 2011. Make sure to leave an e-mail address to recieve your copy!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is R.E. McDermott?

At least partly the sum of my experiences; I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for thirty-six years (probably seems longer to her), and we have two fine sons. I’ve worked multiple jobs and started different businesses, failing miserably at some and succeeding beyond expectations at others. I grew up on the Texas coast and attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York. I’ve been around the sea and ships all my life. I’ve traveled widely, and lived in Brazil for a year in my 20s. We lived in Singapore and China for most of the last decade. I’ve done things I never dreamed possible, including climbing the Great Wall and snorkeling on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. I like different cultures, and I try to learn a little of the language where ever I go. I invariably screw it up, but just trying earns you friends. I always wanted to write, but earning a living got in the way. I’ve finally reached a point where I can devote time to writing.

What inspired you to write Deadly Straits?

We lived in Singapore, oblivious to the threat, when the towers came down. 9/11 was a wakeup call, especially to those of us who traveled often. Increased airport security was a constant reminder. Tankers were always a big portion of my marine business, and I began to speculate on what form a tanker-based terrorist plot might take. I did my first blog post on the evolution of the idea and how the plot of Deadly Straits closely parallels current events. If readers want a bit more information, the post is up on my site.

Why did you go Indie, and how would you describe your journey?

Reluctant, at least at first. I was querying agents last year while I haunted the internet to learn about publishing. Form rejections were the bulk of my responses, but some agents wrote detailed and encouraging comments. I got a few requests for partials/fulls. Christmas 2010 brought a flood of new Kindle owners (I was one of them), and I watched Indie publishing take off.

I added the blogs of Konrath, D.W. Smith, Scott Nicholson, and other Indie authors to my daily reading list. These guys were amazing, sharing numbers, successes and failures, and experiences in legacy publishing. It slowly dawned on me that life on the traditional mid-list wasn’t all that great. I mean, here were mid-list authors “telling it like it is,” and recommending the Indie route. The logic was unassailable.

So I put down my Kool-Aid and went Indie. But not in haste. I took Konrath’s “don’t write crap,” advice seriously. I hired an editor. I got the book back with tons of comments, all garbage. I put the book down and picked it up ten days later, and somehow those idiotic comments had turned into gold. They were about 95% accurate. (OK, so maybe they were all accurate.) I got on the phone with the editor in New York, followed by some email exchanges. He did such a thorough job explaining the problems, I felt confident taking it on my own from there. I threw out half the book and rearranged what was left and supplemented that with new material.

Then I moved to Konrath’s second dictum, “Get a great cover.” There are many great artists out there, but I really liked Jeroen ten Berge. I had no clue what I wanted, but Jeroen nailed it right out of the gate. I couldn’t ask for anything more perfect.

While Jeroen worked the cover, some guy named Hock in North Carolina (maybe you’ve heard of him) did an incredible job of copyediting and proofreading. When that was finished, Guido (The Formatting King) Henkel formatted the eBooks. He did his usual exceptional job.

Six months after deciding to go Indie, I had a product worthy of readers.

How do you define success?

The conventional answer is making enough to quit your job, but it’s more really. I’m just starting, yet I feel I’ve already succeeded. I’m producing a quality product I believe in. That’s pretty satisfying.

Just being a part of the Indie movement feels like success. The community is amazing. Show up with a good product, and established authors go out of their way to help. Scott Nicholson provided a great blurb and showcased Deadly Straits on his blog. D.B. “Debbie” Henson did the same, and responds to my every email, answering questions patiently and in detail. Michael Wallace gave great advice on getting Amazon reviews. David Gaughran expanded on the finer points of his excellent book. The list is long; people who don’t know me from Adam, yet give freely of their help and advice.

The whole experience is upbeat and hopeful, permeated by a contagious generosity of spirit. Contrast that to the query-go-round. Writing Deadly Straits took years, but I enjoyed it. Querying was the most joyless four months of my life. Even successes were conditional and transient. But now I’m having fun again. And that, my friend, is success.

What projects that you working on currently?

The launch is keeping me busy, but I’m plotting a sequel (working title Deadly Coast), pitting Dugan against Somali Pirates. I’m also working on something different. A humorous short story. I’m not sure where that will go.

How can readers connect with you? Website, Twitter, etc.?

My email and website/blog addresses follow. I’m setting up a Facebook Author’s Page, and hope to have that live in a week or so. I’m still learning Twitter, so that might be a bit longer. I’ll post contact details for both Facebook and Twitter on my website.

Email: rem@remcdermott.com
Website/blog: http://www.remcdermott.com/

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Guest Post: Author Brenda Wallace

It's with great pleasure that I welcome author Brenda Wallace to Bookhound's Den. Brenda recently published her first e-book, Brilliant Prey. I've read a little bit of it, and from what I saw, I can't wait to dig into the whole thing. Brenda is a great person and she's a lot of fun to hang out with on Twitter, and it's truly a treat to have her here today.

Hello, Neal, and fellow Bookhound’s Den fans. I am truly honored to be here and appreciate everyone taking their valuable time to come by and say “hi.” I know that Neal, particularly, is under great time constraints because of his editing service. More importantly, Flavel Sue, his alpha chicken, is due to go into labor at any second.

Brilliant Prey is a somewhat dark mystery thriller with a complicated romance thrown into the mix. Bestselling author Scott Nicholson described it as “A twisting, intense psychological thriller.” The book is now available for only 99 cents at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. I’m hosting a Kindle Giveaway Contest on my blog to celebrate the launch at http://tinyurl.com/3mrkhhb.

I first started writing Brilliant Prey shortly after my dad died. Of course, my father’s death made me realize that it was time to stop daydreaming about writing novels and actually start writing that first book. I made some early stabs at writing lighthearted romantic comedies. Unfortunately, “comedy” normally means that laughter should be involved in there somewhere. I love to laugh and joke a lot, so I was as surprised as anyone that my stories tend to focus on darker issues. I still hope to write a great comedy some day.

As long as my day job requires me to study literally thousands of psychological and psychiatric reports, I’ll probably continue to pour out all that darkness somewhere. Because I’m an optimist by nature, I do attempt to thread light throughout my books and end on the upbeat. I am way too empathetic, so many of the mental health reports I read, as well as all the physical tragedies involved in all those medical records, break my heart. Plus, I’ve run across these same sad issues enough in life, that I understand the profound impact of these events on a soul, so my books speak out as warnings.

I used to think that people are basically “good.” Brilliant Prey speaks, maybe yells, to anyone who still believes that, to watch out. There are evil people out there with no “good” in them who are searching for and will target naive trusting people and their loved ones. I think Brilliant Prey would also resonate with the many people who agree with me on this point. One nice thing I enjoy about writing is that I can make sure that the villain gets what’s coming to them.

What is that earsplitting racket? Sounds like a terrible painful squawking, and I’m talking about a “ten” kind of pain on a scale of one to ten. Oh. It’s time...for Neal to help birth his breakfast. Thanks again for stopping by. It was great fun chatting with y’all. You can visit me at http://www.brendawallace.com/, http://www.brendabwallace.blogspot.com/ and @brendabwallace on Twitter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thank You, Philip K. Dick

I’m one of those folks that need some personal time. I don’t mean to be rude to others; it’s more like time for me to hit reset and power down for a brief time. So last night I needed a little bit of downtime. After I whined to my wife for a while, she told me to get out. No, not for good. But she can tell when I need to reset, and it was obvious to her last night. Reluctantly I hopped into the car and headed down the road.

I’m very much a creature of habit, so when my journey ended, I found myself where I usually find myself when I go out to reset: the used-book store. Normally I just walk around the store, browsing the shelves for anything that tickles my fancy. But last night I realized I was on a mission; I was looking for a specific author: Dick.

See, last week I watched The Adjustment Bureau despite my reservations of seeing it. I had absolutely no desire to watch that movie, yet my wife wanted to see it. Being the good husband that I am, I agreed to watch it. In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and immediately wanted to read the story on which it was based.

After a couple of minutes, I had the original story, “The Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick, downloaded and opened on my Kindle. Over the following few nights, I read the short story and was impressed (the story is very different than the movie, but I enjoyed both). I was a bit surprised that I enjoyed the story so much because I’ve never considered myself a sci-fi person.

When I found myself standing among the aisles of used books last night, I knew there was only one reason why I was there. It only took me a couple of minutes to locate the sci-fi section, and it took even less time to spot Philip K. Dick’s books sitting on the shelf. I selected a couple of his short-story collections, paid for them, and found a place to read. In a matter of minutes, I was lost in the City of Lightness, learning about the Roogs, and watching little toy soldiers attempt to take over the world.

As I settled down for bed last night, I realized that I had experienced the magical moment that all serious readers strive for: I lost myself in the story. I forgot about all the stress, all the demands, everything that needs to be done. For a few precious minutes, I was able to reset. As I turned off the light and crawled into bed, all I could think was Thank you, Philip K. Dick.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Interview with Author Jarrett Rush

I recently read Jarrett Rush's novella, Chasing Filthy Lucre, and was impressed with the quality of writing and how the story pulled me in (check out my review of it here). I'd tweeted occasionally with Jarrett, and after I read his book, I decided to ask him if he'd be up for a brief interview. Jarrett was kind enough to agree, and I'm happy to share that interview with you today. If you haven't purchased his novella, you can get it for the Kindle or Nook.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Jarrett Rush?

I can give you my standard answer that appears on my blog and at the end of all of my online fiction. It goes like this: "Jarrett Rush is a writer who lives in the Dallas area with his wife, Gina, and their overly energetic lab, Molly." If you want more than that, here goes. I'm a guy in my late 30s who has wanted to be a writer nearly all my life. Until this writing thing can pay the bills -- and the hope is that one day it can -- I work for The Dallas Morning News. Baseball and writing have been my two loves since I was a kid, and before I wanted to be a writer I wanted to be a baseball player. I play a little softball to indulge that dream. Not being able to hit a curveball kept me from taking my baseball career past junior high so I had to settle for being a fan. I spent far too much money cheering the Rangers through the playoffs last season. But it was all worth it to be able to be there when the team clinched its first American League pennant.

2. What's your creative process like? Do you have a routine, or do you just wing it?

My process depends on the project. For short stories I wing it. I know the beginning and maybe the ending, but, usually, not much of the middle. With longer pieces, like Chasing Filthy Lucre, I use an outline. It's loose. Not moment-by-moment, but just hitting the action's high points. There are four parts to Chasing Filthy Lucre. In the outline each of those sections was broken into four parts. I knew where the action was supposed to start and I just wrote from one part of the outline to the next part of the outline. It was the first time I'd used something like that and I loved it. I didn't feel like my creativity was stifled, and that was always my worry with using an outline.

As far as the actual writing goes, I try to get behind the keyboard on a daily basis, but I'm not always successful. When I'd I shoot for between 750 and 1,000 words. Not as much as some, but it works for me.

3. Who are some of the influences on writing?

The most important is my wife. She's the person who pushed me to try and make a real go of this, to make my dream come true. That's probably not what you meant though. There's one writer who showed me the power of a good book. It was Matt Christoper and the book was The Kid Who Could Only Hit Homers. That was the first book I read all the way through in one day. I was a kid -- third or fourth grade, I think -- and I remember laying on the couch in our living room just buried in those pages. I couldn't tell you now what the book was about, but the title seems like it gives things away. But I think it says something that the title and the author have stayed with me all these years later. It's that kind of book that I want to write. Something that pulls a reader in and just won't let go.

4. What inspired you to write Chasing Filthy Lucre?

I just loved the story. It was something that came out of a few other ideas I'd been playing with. The idea of data addiction first appeared in something that's still sitting on my hard drive. I fleshed the concept out in a short story. It was there that I created the beginnings of the world where Chasing Filthy Lucre takes place. The opening scene is actually a response to a writing prompt I put together for a writers group I'm part of. I took all of those pieces and let them marinate for a while then started writing. And once I started I didn't want to stop. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I still wanted to see how we got there.

5. Are there any projects that you're currently working on that you can tell us about?

Chasing Filthy Lucre is part of a planned series, so I'm working on Book Two right now. We pick up the story a few months after the end of Book One. Berger and Rexall, our heroes, are in the middle of investigating a kidnapping, looking for missing girl and also trying to stay a few steps ahead of Roma Corp security forces. I've also got a few ideas cooking on the back burner that I'm excited about. I'll keep those to myself, though, because I don't even know when they'll see the light of day. But, trust me, they're cool.

6. How can readers connect with you? Website, Twitter, etc.?

I have all the social networking tools you can think of. You can follow me on Twitter at @JarrettRush. I try to keep the book promotion to a minimum. I also don't Tweet every thought that pops into my head. If you are on Facebook and are in the mood to like an author then head over to http://www.facebook.com/jarrettrushauthor. I can always use more Facebook fans. Like Twitter, I try to keep the book promotion to a minimum. Most of the time I'm sharing links to blogs, mine and others. And, yes, I have a blog. It's a http://jarrettwrites.blogspot.com/. I update it semi-regularly. And if all of that's not enough, readers are always welcome to email me at jarrettrush@yahoo.com.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review Schedule

My review for Jarrett Rush's Chasing Filthy Lucre will be posted next Tuesday over at Jenna Anderson's novella-review site. I should also have a treat for you here at Bookhound's Den the same day. And finally, I'll have a review of the newest Spectral Press title posted here sometime next week.

I hope you have a great weekend and you come across some great reads!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I can't believe it's already August! I guess time really does fly when you're having fun. Or maybe I'm just having a difficulty keeping up with time because we're not talking about whether or not Brett Favre will stay retired this year. So, will he or won't he?

Things are quite busy right now. In case you've missed it, I went off the deep end and decided to work full-time for myself. So I've been fairly busy with editing projects and working on pages for my business site, Hock's Editing Services. I do have a couple of things that I'll post here in the next week or so. While on vacation this past week, I read a great novella by Jarrett Rush, Chasing Filthy Lucre. I should have a review of it up by this Friday. I should also have a review of the new Spectral Press novella up in the next week or so.

Things should become a little more lively around here soon. I'll probably be reviewing many more novellas, just because it takes me a while to get through a full-length novel right now. Heck, I may even pull out my soapbox and stand on it a day or two. Who knows? I'll probably fall off of it, though. But at least you'll get a good laugh.