Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: “Paradise Sky” by Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Omnibus Volume 1

Book Title: Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Omnibus Volume 1
Author(s): Jim Butcher
Release Date: July 9, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: Dynamite Entertainment
Number Pages: 480

The Dresden Files is an exceptional series of fifteen (and counting) novels written by Jim Butcher, in addition to tie-in short stories and a short-lived television series. This graphic novel,
Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Omnibus Volume 1, includes comic adaptations of two of these novels, “Storm Front” and “Fool Moon,” as well as an exclusive-for-comics tale, “Welcome to the Jungle,” and a minor extra story, “Restoration of Faith”.

Overall, it’s a gorgeous book, as visually appealing as its stories are action-packed and engaging. The Dresden Files Omnibus is thoroughly enjoyable and well-deserves its critical acclaim, but that the quality of art seems to diminish slightly with each story. This one minor critique shouldn’t take away from the omnibus’s overall strengths, but it was a noticeable weakness; each of the art teams (pencils/ inks/ colors) was different with each story. The first, “Welcome to the Jungle,” was absolutely stellar and seems to set the bar for reader expectations, because following works leave one wondering, “Why do the characters get less gritty and more slapstick?” Again, a minor failing in an otherwise outstanding publication.

The Dresden Files universe is labeled as ‘magic-noir,’ blending hard-nosed detective mysteries with modern fantasy; Private Investigator Harry Dresden is as like to cross paths with a gun-toting mobster as he is a club-wielding troll, and more often than not, he crosses them at the same time. Damsels, demons, thieves, vampires, police, faeries, and more all fill Dresden’s world simultaneously.

The four stories contained include:

“Welcome to the Jungle” – Harry Dresden must solve a mysterious murder at the city’s zoo. Stunning artwork fills each page to accompany fast-paced action, likeable characters, and story arcs, setting, and dialogue that are exceptional. Background and explanation to Harry’s life are brief and meaningful, his ‘powers’ explained reasonably, and a stellar tie-in to Greek mythology. Really, if this is your first experience with Dresden, you’re hooked to be a lifelong fan.

“Storm Front
” – Harry Dresden is tasked with solving two mysteries at the same time which, coincidentally and expectedly, tie in with each other. Great homage to hardboiled pulp fiction tales. Dark, gritty, and sometimes erotic, the monster-filled action is offset by his humanization and snarky quips.
 

“Fool Moon
” – All the cards are down for Harry Dresden, who’s plunged into a vast werewolf conspiracy and murder mystery, where no one is who they seem. This story, though it has all the qualities of the stronger first stories, started to feel a little long-winded by its end. Character motivations and decisions felt ‘forced,’ although the story itself is fine. “Fool Moon” is thrilling and filled with intrigue and suspense; only by comparison, one may find this tale weaker than the others, although the artwork, just on par-value, came across as a bit clumsy.

“Restoration of Faith” – A giveaway comic, as part of Free Comic Book Day. A fun story, albeit it hokey and the least satisfying tale in the book, though an entertaining read nonetheless.

Overall,
Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, Omnibus Volume 1 is a highly-recommended read for anyone with a love of supernatural suspense, paranormal investigation, or urban magic realism.

Review first written for New York Journal of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/jim-butchers


###

Eric J. Guignard writes, edits, reads, and dreams of dark fiction. His recognitions include winning the 2013 Bram Stoker Award and being a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award. Outside the realm of fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor.



Friday, July 17, 2015

GUEST BLOG: “Sometimes Knowing is A Heavy Burden” by Jay Wilburn


So, this thing is going to be twelve books. I know because I outlined the entire mythology to see and that was the number I came up with. I don’t know every detail about every book, but I know the major story lines and events. I know who will be alive in book twelve. I know who will die before then and in which book. I’m all ready sad about some of those deaths. There is a great power in knowing the course of the series. I am purposeful with the action and when characters come onto the scene. I can do meaningful things with their actions by knowing who they are now, who they will become, and why their presence matters to the legend. There is also a burden with that.

When I introduce other elements in the story, I know where they will lead and why. I know characters that are growing in one moment, but will be pulled apart in another. Sometimes that will be spiritually and emotionally. Other times it will be physically too. There is a complexity to some of the coming villains that will make them sympathetic in ways they will not truly deserve. This will make the efforts of the heroes to stop them all the more difficult. I’m rooting for my heroes and I feel bad for the hard times that I’m finding ways to make darker and more difficult before they even begin.

Fiction serves sometimes to reflect our lives back to us in a way that allows us to look and see in ways we can’t without the lens of the fictional story. We can explore issues that we don’t know how to talk about. We can see our own hypocrisy laid bare in the actions of characters. We can hear our own prejudices and misconceptions voiced by characters in situations that allow us see through our own shortcomings. Sometimes coming to those realizations by opening ourselves to literature, even zombie stories, can bring the heavy weight of truth down onto our heads and shoulders. The truth was always there, but now we are aware of it and can really feel it in a way that we couldn’t before.

Stories can also expose our fears. It can do so in a way that helps us face them. It can let us know that they need to be faced even though we are often not anywhere ready to do so.

Knowing is a gift that often can feel like curse. There are moments in life we can look back on and realize that not knowing what was coming was a gift in the brief moment. But we also realize that ignorance was never meant to be a permanent state. Knowing brings responsibility and expectations. It pushes us to act on that knowledge as it relates to the principles we hold dear. Knowing the truth about something – anything – is an innate call to action. It is a call to begin. Realizing that you know it is time to begin something new is a burden we all must face from time to time both in fiction and in life.

***
 
Check out the latest book and music from a new series by Jay Wilburn:
 

The Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00YDZKXCI/jaywil0d-20
 
 
The Sound May Suffer - Songs from the Dead Song Legend Book 1: January
https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/amazing-circle-of-suffering/id996569862?i=996569871&ign-mpt=uo%3D4



    
Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel, The Sound May Suffer. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com

 

 

  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Reached my 75th short story acceptance!

Just realized I reached a cool lil’ milestone the other day: I received my 75th short story acceptance! This number includes reprint sales, but still feels quite monumental that seventy-five markets have agreed to publish something I’ve written.

I keep track of every fiction short story submission sent out. As of today, I’ve accumulated 75 acceptances and 254 rejections, giving me a 22.8% acceptance rate. Another 16 stories are slated in the ‘Pending decision’ stacks. And, add to that, my non-fiction articles, interviews, book reviews, blurbs, and introductions, all since I decided to pursue writing in February, 2011!


Friday, June 19, 2015

New story published today at UNSUNG STORIES: “Discovery of the Mūsa fugacior”

New spec fiction story I wrote, “Discovery of the Mūsa fugacior”, is published today on “Unsung Stories”!  Check it out here:


 

Discovery of the Mūsa fugacior

            I’ve been hiding for hours, wearing the shadows like cloaks. Watching, just watching. The night is dark as midnight’s reach, and this favors my examination... specimens are less likely to notice my presence.
            I must be motionless at the moment of progression, or the mortals may see me in their dying breaths. If that occurs, the soul will spook and flee for the stars. It’s said that at the moment of progression—just before the physical body dies—its vision sharpens, adapting to awareness of our existence. It’s a tenuous transition into the domain of Mortuos, as the dying straddle the lands of dawn and dusk. Those fully alive do not notice us, but if dying mortals catch sight of our presence they may attempt to speak of our existence. Usually, if that should occur, their words are mere gasps and considered only delusional by friends and family wrought with grief. Nevertheless, no researcher wants his specimen aware it is being scrutinized; the results invariably will skew.
            With much experience comes patience and facility, and it’s now a rare outing in which I am detected. I slowly adjust the lens of my Anima Viewer to optimal magnification and zoom in.
            Like the colorful shells of brilliant scarab beetles, the mortal form gives visual clues to its genus and to the species of the soul encased.
            This subject is female. Her exterior is frail with skin wrinkled as wadded fabric, but she is lovely and intriguing, colored of autumn wheat. Wise green eyes flash between exaltation and long-suffering. Observing one who is aged, yet still filled with vitality, is hardly the visage I normally look upon during a death-watch. She has a large crowd of supporters, and I wonder as to her character. There is strength in her appearance and a glow from her aura I have seen in species such as Beloved Parent (Parenti dilectus) or Loyal Friend (Amice fidus), but this is something else.
            She may be a species of Artista or, by its common name, the Artist, which happens to be one of my favorite genera. But is it the Uninspired Artist (Artista non inspīrāta), or the Insecure Artist (Artista fragilemque), or the Unknown Artist (Artista obscura), or perhaps that rare breed, the Celebrated Artist (Artista celebre)?
            The moment is at hand: Death completes, and the human husk falls away. A pinprick of turquoise luminescence leaps to the air. I must set down my Anima Viewer in order to catch the soul within a collecting jar, careful as always not to touch it. A specimen’s behavior can be affected by direct physical contact....
 
Story continued at: 
 
 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book Review: “Paradise Sky” by Joe R. Lansdale

Book Title: Paradise Sky
Author(s): Joe R. Lansdale
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: Mulholland Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group
Number Pages: 416

Reading
Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale is to immerse oneself in a realm of roughneck, shoot-’em-up western writing where fact and fiction blend effortlessly on the page, and the action is only outgunned by the author’s tilt for beautiful literary prose.

For that’s the thing about Lansdale: His writing keeps you riveted by fleet pacing, bawdy characters, sharp-witted banter, and enough action to stampede a cavalry train, but it’s never cheap, it’s never gratuitous. Instead he fills each page with heartbreak, suspense, hope, and laughter through the lives and situations of his characters. They’re fallible, impassioned, the type of people you could imagine filling your own life, only these characters are ratcheted up tenfold, magnifying the ugliness of their lusts, the shock of their misfortunes, the satisfaction of recompense.

The story goes that Nat Love (AKA Deadwood Dick), a teenage black man, becomes fugitive from a Texas lynch mob after daring to gaze upon the derriere of a white woman in full public view while she’s hanging laundry. Her husband, Sam Ruggert, as vile a relentless zealot as any penned by Melville or McCarthy, dedicates life and resources to hunting down and punishing the ‘uppity’ youth.

Paradise Sky follows the life of Nat as he grows up and searches the country for himself, and pursues love and freedom and adventure. He becomes a buffalo soldier, a gunslinger and trick shot, an associate of Wild Bill Hickok; he befriends many and makes equal number of enemies, all the while looking over his shoulder for Ruggert, who continues to hunt him, set to ruin or kill any good thing that happens in Nat’s life. It’s a long, tragic journey Nat Love travels, and every day seems fraught with tough obstacles and tougher choices.

And, as fantastic as the story is, it’s founded in historic fact. The real Nat Love birthed over a century of Old West mythology as a freed slave turned gunslinger and Indian fighter; his attributed persona, ‘Deadwood Dick’ become the fodder for dime store adventure novels throughout the late 1800s. But what of Nat’s lore really happened or got fictionalized over the years matters less than a man’s chances of quick-drawing on Nat himself; It’s all just good storytelling.

Besides the western genre, Joe R. Lansdale has also successfully written in horror, action, mystery, and suspense, all in formats of novels, short stories, and comics. Fans of Paradise Sky may further enjoy his works of similar tone: The Bottoms (winner of the Edgar Award), The Thicket (one of best historical fiction books of 2013 per Library Journal), and Edge of Dark Water (2012 Booklist Editors' Choice: Adult Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association)
.


Review first written for New York Journal of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/paradise-sky


*****

Eric J. Guignard writes, edits, reads, and dreams of dark fiction. His recognitions include winning the 2013 Bram Stoker Award and being a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award. Outside the realm of fiction, he’s a technical writer and college professor.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: “Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories (a story collection)”

Book Title: Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories (a story collection)
Author(s): Elmore Leonard
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Publisher/Imprint: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Number Pages: 256

Charlie Martz and Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories is a collection of fifteen short fiction stories (eleven of which have never been published), written by Elmore Leonard at the beginning of his career in the 1950s. The introduction to the book, written by Leonard’s son, Peter, lends a candid view of the author struggling to find balance in crafting his writing simultaneously with a career in advertising and in raising a family. It’s a shrewd lead-in to the book, framing these stories as Leonard’s ‘experiments’ with style and with voice, in which Leonard breaks his very own ‘Rules For Writing’ that he develops half a century later.

This book is honest and it’s raw, and I can picture Leonard so vividly working diligently away on tale after tale... but like all writers, much of what is crafted is not meant for publication. As his son notes, these unpublished stories are experiments or, perhaps more properly, ‘lessons’ as Leonard teaches himself to write.

By its nature, this type of work lends itself to a sort of paradox in review: On the one hand, there’s a reason these stories are not published. Many of them are flat or trite, long-winded with little pay-off at the end and, frankly, disappointing. On the other hand, it’s a meaningful insight into the mind of a burgeoning writer who would one day become an international bestseller; hailed as the best crime writer in America by Newsweek; be a recipient of the National Book Award’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution; and be a literary inspiration for generations of authors and fans.

And it is an inspiration to peruse the earliest works of this man, to find them as ‘average,’ sometimes less-so, but to know that from those origins he improved through hard work, study, and perseverance to write such novels as Get Shorty, Rum Punch,
and Out of Sight.

Of course, to say that that Elmore Leonard’s early writings were only average is still oft to say it’s passing enjoyment of which many readers will find satisfaction on diverse levels. The first story, One Horizontal, is a classic set-up piece, which brought a chuckle. The Charlie Martz stories were a bit banal. I wanted so much to like Short Stories For Men, but the characters seemed forced boilerplate, even the matador himself unengaging. The best stories in the book are Time of Terror, a clever military piece set in Malaysia, with empathetic and charismatic characters found in the contrast between Ah Min and Barney Clad; and Evenings Away From Home, which probably represented most closely the sharp, tight patter Leonard would later become known for.


No master of a skill is born as such; musical composers, athletic stars, artists, and authors all must start from that same baseline of inexperience, and it’s fascinating and inspiring to be invited to have a peek into Leonard’s own baseline. However, for the casual reader who may wish to invest time in some of his more well-crafted (nay, brilliant), thrilling stories, some of the following may be more enthusiastically recommended: The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard (2004) (which includes his famous tale-made-twice-to-movie, Three-Ten to Yuma); Pronto (1993) (which stars the US. Marshal, Raylan Givens, from which the television series Justified is based); Swag (1976); LaBrava (1983); or what Elmore Leonard may be most popularly known for, Get Shorty (1990).


Review first written for New York Journal of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/charlie-martz


*****

Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard