Playing for Keeps

27 04 2013

Look! We’re reviewing stuff!

This time it’s “Playing for Keeps” by Mur Lafferty.

Her website right here of course!

Now, Mur, is a sound I like to make to myself sometimes when I am thinking and occasionally when disappointed. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered someone with the name, Mur. I’m not trying to be insulting or anything, I really enjoy names. So when I happen upon one that’s nontraditional it makes me smile.

My name is Kyllan after all. Can’t tell you how many times that is even pronounced right and don’t get me started on the number of people who are shocked to discover that I’m not a woman.


I first stumbled upon Lafferty by way of a Chuck Wendig interview. A friend had directed me to a podcast “I should be writing”, hosted by, of course, Mur Lafferty. The interview was great and she was a rather entertaining host.

Fast forward a month or two.

I was poking about Matt Forbeck’s website and what do you suppose I notice while browsing a post on his 12 for 12 project? A book by Mur Lafferty called “Playing for Keeps”.

Naturally I took this to be a sign and did what any other rational human being would do. So following a quick goat sacrifice and naked moonlight ritual-dance, I bought the book off of Amazon.

So how about a blurb?

The shining metropolis of Seventh City is the birthplace of super powers. The First Wave heroes are jerks, but they have the best gifts: flight, super strength, telepathy, genius, fire. The Third Wavers are stuck with the leftovers: the ability to instantly make someone sober, the power to smell the past, the grace to carry a tray and never drop its contents, the power to produce high-powered excrement blasts, absolute control. Over elevators. Bar owner Keepsie Branson is a Third Waver with a power that prevents anything in her possession from being stolen. Keepsie and her friends just aren’t powerful enough to make a difference. At least that’s what they’ve always been told. But when the villain Doodad slips Keepsie a mysterious metal sphere, the Third Wavers become caught in the middle of a battle between the egotistical heroes and the manipulative villains. As Seventh City begins to melt down, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad, and even harder to tell who may become the true heroes.

Who doesn’t enjoy a nontraditional spin on established story telling?

I didn’t know what to expect heading into the book but I can tell you with the exception of some strange kindle formatting errors, I really enjoyed it.

 Lafferty has a knack for humor that comes out of nowhere. From unexpected comments during super powered combat to the very nature of some of the characters super powers, it came off as fresh and entertaining.

You could take a lot from this book.

For instance we have a story that is the tale of the downtrodden, third-rate (or third wave) citizen’s rising to meet the challenge of overcoming powers far greater than theirs. And succeeding through team work and the knowledge that they might fail.

We also have a touch of commentary perhaps on the sometimes less than wholesome methods by which ‘the good guys’ gather information for the greater benefit of all.

Regardless of whether Lafferty intended it or not of course, that is entirely up to interpretation.

Or you could just ignore all that deeper meaning stuff and enjoy the hell out of a well crafted take on the super hero genre.

I hope that someday we might see Keepsie in a whole new story!

 And if you missed that link up above near the beginning… go buy the book here!


11 06 2012

To my writerly compatriots.

I heart you.

Please see above.

Getting Back on Track and the Girl Who Knows How You’ll Die

14 05 2012

With the bloggery!

Sometimes I’d like to complain and say “I don’t have enough time in the day to manage all this crap! There’s this and that and the other thing and this guy over here. Blah. Blah. Blah.”

But come on, the same twenty-four hours. That’s what we get. No one gets more in which to accomplish a dozen different acts of awesome. So let’s not allow that to be an excuse.

I started this post three times before decided to just write it. I mean, sit down and begin. That’s the hardest part. The beginning. And maybe not necessarily the beginning itself, but rather the act of placing but in chair and apply controlled force to the keys.

So this is me. Getting started. Again.

Let’s talk about the girl.


Miriam Black knows when you will die.

Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.

Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Enter Chuck Wendig and his new novel,Blackbirds.

The newest book from Mr. Wendig takes us on a dark ride down the highways of America, introducing us to the weird, the terrible, and the occasional professional killer.

I chose this book to review for a couple of reasons. First and foremost this author is awesome. I’ve yet to encounter anything about him that I truly distaste thus I follow his works. Makes sense. Two, the subject matter grabs me like nothing else. I love to read tales that offer new spins on death, dying and what exactly those things mean.

A fair bit of warning to you. This, like much of Wendig’s other works, is not for the easily offended. I say this because you will run across profanity as you progress. In all honesty it doesn’t bother me. I think it rather adds an extra layer of depth to the people we’re reading about. That is to say that it is never wasted. Never forced. It doesn’t pop up where it does not make sense.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look a little more at it.

At its surface, Blackbirds follows a girl that’s just trying to cope. Keep contact with the outside world to a minimum. Miriam is an oddly endearing character, the depth of which, begins more apparent as the tale unfolds. A sarcastic, young girl with a delightfully twisted sense of humor, Miriam refused to sit back on the page and more often than not I found myself surprised to be giggling in the middle of terrible events.

She was easy to become invested in and the rest of the cast followed suit.

The story itself, the chain of events, the plot of plots, arc of events. Eh. Forgot what I was talking about for a second. Right, the story itself. Twisty, unexpected, full of emotion. Only Wendig could take an idea that might work in and of itself as a book and impose upon it layer after eerie layer of macabre brilliance, elevating the already great, to a position of damn good.

All I can say is, glad there’s a sequel. I’m thirsting for more Miriam over here!

Paying It Sideways. Or Was It Forward?

10 02 2012

The internet is a wonderful place. Someday I hope to own a nice split-level ranch somewhere along the shores of the great lake Ebay, nestled quietly amongst the shady tree limbs that are Google’s omniscient arms. But that will be a long time from now I’m sure.

My only hope that it is by free will and not at the oppressive hands of evil robot overlords on a quest for an eternal power source.

It keeps me awake at night.

For now however, I will continue to explore the furthest reaches of the web and humbly pass on the delicious, nectary bits that I find most sweet.

For starters why not poke your head around over at TerribleMinds? It’s lorded over by the ink-slinging, bourbon guzzling penmonkey, Chuck Wendig. He’s profane and critical. He shouts a lot and has no problem telling you exactly how he feels about writing as a profession and as an art form. It’s pants optional and loaded with down to earth advice for the penmokey in all of us. (And I dare you not to giggle.)

Plus he sells stuff. Good stuff. Seriously, I have all of his books and would recommend each and every single title.

Or perhaps you’d prefer someone a touch more low-key?

Keri Smith is an artist, blogger and great explorer of the world. And just like the mighty Wendig, I own all of Keri’s books too. They aren’t what you’d expect either. In fact I talked about one before over here. Several of them are full of directions. She requires you do things you might not normally dare do to a book and aims to get you out into the world looking at things a little differently too.

Or maybe you’re a tired writer yourself and are looking for a bit of a distraction? Hmmm? Why not visit the ladies over at Ermilia blog? They’re great for hunting down a new book to read with several honest reviews each month. But it doesn’t stop there. Aside from the random thoughts of both authors, they offer you a bit of a flash fiction challenge every week in their, “Picture it and write” posts.

And did I mention they have a couple of books coming out this year? It’s true. You want to know more? Then be sure to visit back to check out my reviews of each title, and those of other bloggers all throughout the month of March.

But maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe you don’t give a crap about writing. Maybe the last book you read was in high school just after you vowed that you would never again turn another page of anything other than a cookbook or television instruction manual, EVER AGAIN!

In that case you might be kind of crazy. I suggest you check out the witch’s hut over at stuffalsothings. She cooks. She rants. She talks about the oddity that is her day-to-day life. My one stop on the net for all my ‘dog yoga’ information and the occasional delicious new recipe. It’s on the other side of lake Ebay dead in the heart of the Yahoo Woods. It’s the place with the white pickett fence around the graveyard out back and the talking skull knockers on the door. (Beware: the skulls are kind of sassy.)

If you reach the yeti cave you’ve gone too far.

So go forth dear readers! Expand thy horizons and return slightly better or slightly crazier then when you left. Either is fine, I’ll still love you just the same.

This Ain’t Your Little Sister’s Vampire Book

7 12 2011

I read. A ton. It’s important for a lot of reasons. One, it makes you think a little more than just watching the idiot box. Not that I have anything against the box itself, its robbed me of my fair share of hours. Really its the garbage that pops up rather regularly on the bloody thing that zaps your brain cells into little piles of gray goo. Excercise your brain, stretch those mental faculties. Hell, stretch the students and maintainance guys while you’re at it.

Oh, and the other reason? I’m trying to be a professional here. Want to write? Have to read. Point A, meet B. It’s not rocket science.

Anyways, I mentioned in the not too distant past that I grabbed some new reading material in November. Did it really help me accomplish my NaNoWriMo task? Not a bit. Did I spend much time thinking about how reading the new stuff would benefit my desired career choice? Not even close.

I was too distracted by the cannibals.

I’ll give you a moment for that to sink in.

And no, it’s not the sort of “Hey stop chewing on me so I can read my book!” sort of distraction either. I don’t read with cannibals. It’s a personal choice. I’m talking about content. Yeah, cannibals in the book. Right.

Double Dead by Chuck Wendig.

This post’s title, not misleading at all. And yeah, I did use ‘ain’t’. Not because I like it, but it made sense right? It just felt good to use. Less refined, more appropriate to the subject matter. Forget it.

In all seriousness however, this isn’t the same sort of vampire you’ve been seeing in the movies and big print these days. Wendig has made a complete turn, or is it total half turn? He’s taking a different direction. (Yeah, smooth)

If you haven’t had any exposure to Wendig, be warned. His writing is not for the easily offended. If you get a bit squeamish when profanity pops up in your novel, (and not just from a characters mouth) than Coburn, and his snarky half-cocked creator, may just be a bit too bad ass for you.

Right from the get go Wendig hits you. He hits you with a lead pipe made of viscera and adrenaline. And lead. And he doesn’t stop, you don’t have time to lay there and bleed out, you’ve got places to go: New York, Texas, California. It’s a coast to coast thrill ride through Undead America. The United States of Who the Hell Can Tell Anymore?

I’ve read plenty of zombie stories and a great good smattering of post apocalyptic settings and Wendig’s picture of a broken, flesh-eating America is truly original and stands out for me as one of the better ones.

And as for the cast, there isn’t a better bunch of odd pairings for a drunk-on-power vampire to herd about. The characters feel and that’s the thing. They’re people you could get behind. People you may know. People you could invest your time in.

So that gives us:

1 part flesh-eating super zombies

1 part Walmart lording cannibals

1 part RV tour of America

1 part vampire

and probably a fifth of Jack

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Enjoy

The Monkey That Made Me Respect My Word-Machete

3 12 2011

November was quite a month.

In never used to be that exciting. That is not in the states.

Since moving back here I have noticed a few things are drastically different. For starters this country features a lot more tall people and a greater plethora of hair colors. Furthermore, there are no monuments or buildings that have a propensity to attract monster attacks time and time again. The only reason I knew about that big broadcast tower in Tokyo was because Godzilla or Mothra or some other monster was always knocking it down.

But that’s another matter entirely. To say that America doesn’t have its own monsters would be unfair. They just aren’t the same kind of monsters. They posses more subtlety. Maybe its because they’re a bit frightened of the spotlight. Or maybe the total opposite is true. Perhaps they love the spotlight but avoid for fear of getting shot at by whatever branch of the military has a new monster-killing superweapon.

Maybe that’s just how they roll. And no, the Cloverfield monster doesn’t count. That was a one-off sort of baddie. If he (or is it a she?) makes a dozen more movies and launches a profitable film/toy/apparel franchise then we’ll talk.

And don’t even get me started on the poorly conceived ‘americanized’ Godzilla in the Matthew Broderick movie of the same name. We’re going to do everyone a favor and just pretend that movie doesn’t exist.

The other thing about this place is the holidays. Or should I say LACK of holidays. Sure there are several federally recognized occasions to celebrate the country’s independence, a bunch of dead presidents and a few religious observances but that’s not the sort of holidays I’m talking about.


This country needs more festivals. They can be national, local or whatever else. Let’s find something to celebrate and go nuts! I remember festivals happening all throughout the year during my childhood and they celebrated a hundred different things. You google ‘Japanese Festivals’ sometime and tell me that at least one doesn’t come up that sounds like a good time.

Pick a month, it probably had a festival celebrating something.

Now, you may be reading this asking yourself, “So what? What does that have to do with the price of R/C cars in Graboid country?” Well I’ll tell you.

I’m looking for things to celebrate. Things to get me excited about the months flowing into years. I want more things to look forward to, to celebrate. And slowly, but surely, I am doing just that.

In 2009, I attempted, at the prompt of a friend I socialize with online to participate in NaNoWriMo. It was a blast. I had little time to prepare for it as I learned of its existence two weeks prior to the November 1 kick-off date. That didn’t stop me from having a great time though or from hitting the 50,000 word count mark . That story that I created, that glamorous half-a-novel I hammered out with little to no writing experience.

It was crap. Total crap. Crap with a capital ‘C’ ‘R’ ‘A’ ‘P’. I remember thinking at the time I was writing it that it was something along the lines of okay, not half bad and even a decent read. I was wrong. It was about none of those things. In fact, had I realized during that it was that awful I probably would have abandoned it all together.

I let those stars get in my eyes though, messed with my vision. They made me think I was producing quality work. Liars! Foul scheming liars. They let me crank out a manuscript that the CIA could include in a deluxe VIP torture kit.

I read it the other day. A part of it anyways before I had to stop and take some anti-nausea medications. But instead of trashing it, instead of destroying the ugly little beast, I slid it safely back into its drawer. But why? Well, it’s not done. I must finish it. Or, as I’ve learned recently, sometimes its better to cut it up and use the pieces.

I blame Chuck Wendig.

And who is this sarcastic, booze-soaked, bearded ape you ask? A genius. Hands down. He has a pile of professionally published credits to his name as well as a couple of non traditionally published works which are simply fantastic. I purchased a couple of his books over the month of November, looking to supplement my furious focus on my bit for NaNoWriMo.

The first item was ‘500 Ways To Be a Better Writer’ because hey, I need to study, to evolve, to hone my ink-slinging skills to the edge that will allow me to one day churn out lumps of coal filled with nuggets of gold instead of just, lumps of coal. It’s not what you would expect.

The last title on craft I purchased was much like you would expect it to be. Traditional chapters, broad subjects. Each section of the book a focused study on a singular element. ‘500 Ways’ on the other hand is a kick to the face of traditional style. It grabs you by the shirt collar and says “Hey you. Numbnuts. Pay attention before I crack this bottle upside your head!”

Its true.

Each ‘chapter’ is a list of 25 points. Smaller, easily digested morsels of information and opinion. It’s both simplistic and ingenious. The structure is such that you can pick it up and receive a fast, to-the-point injection of essential knowledge while simultaneously laughing hard enough to potentially wet yourself. Or at the very least attract some attention from the neighbors.

If you write, buy it. If you know a writer, tell them to buy it. Do it. DO IT. Or, get the other book.

Which is ‘Double Dead.’ This ain’t your girlfriends vampire novel. I’m not giving away too many details here but run some of these phrases through your dome and tell me you aren’t at least a bit interested.

“Vampire wakes in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.”

“Epic Clowns vs. Redneck showdown.”

“Wal-Mart Cannibals.”

Eh? Well? You can’t tell me that at least one of those little items didn’t grab you. Come on, you know you want to… get it here. You’ll be glad you did. And don’t forget you Kindle users, you can grab ‘500 Ways To Be a Better Writer’ here. Or directly from the man at his blog, Terribleminds.

Do me the favor. Go forth, read – enjoy.