Children of the Plague by Gregory Carrico. I admit that I cheated. I picked it up a few times for some unscheduled reading. And so, it is my duty to inform you that I will be wrapping up here.
So, what do you need to know...for one, how can I begin to express how honored I felt to be mentioned in this book...so to speak.
"Zombies," she muttered. "Pete said there were zombies. We're in a Todd Brown novel, aren't we?"
I'm not gonna lie...that felt super groovy. Now, you might think that such a thing could cloud my judgement when it comes to offering an unbiased review. Yeah...maybe. However, take what you will from this and base it on some of the previous reviews that I have written.
Here is what I took away from this book...
First thing is that I love it when somebody takes an established genre like zombies and goes their own way with it. There is as much science fiction as horror going on here and it works very well. As you know, I do not offer spoilers, I think you should be able to discover the twists, turns, and icky moments on your own. Just know that there is a very cool vibe and twist on the standard post-apocalyptic tale here that you won't regret discovering. Also, kudos on the strong female characters here.
Gregory does not "dumb" down his story. And I could be mistaken, but there is a noticeable lack of profanity which makes this a title that you can put in front of your younger house members and introduce them to some cool horror without all the cliches of gutter-speak that some might find offensive. Yes, it is still horror, but I can not explain it any more than to say it is handled in a way that opens itself up to young audiences as well as old.
I look forward to whatever Gregory has next and make this suggestion...get this book.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Several months back, I made a post informing people that I would not be reachable on Sundays. The reason being that my wife and I spent too many hours connected to our computers and our work. That single day was supposed to be a chance to shut out the world and just be together. Over time, it morphed..."Just checking emails real quick" or "making sure the latest promotional sale is posted" and a million other excuses. Long story short, we began to drift back to the old ways.
Now, some may say that it is okay to have a seven-day work week. And I do not begrudge them that belief. Lord knows I have spent enough of my life banging that same drum. However, there comes a point and time where you have to make a choice. Sure, I may miss a promotional opportunity here or there, but if my wife and I are nothing more than two cars driving down the same freeway, what is the point?
The reality is that we both have very busy schedules. She is busy working on her second Master's (this time in forensic accounting) and I have editing projects as well as my own writing that take a lot more time and effort than many realize. When you say that you are a writer, many immediately think you just do whatever...whenever. The reality is not nearly as glamorous. Writing a book is one of the few jobs where you can see a physical representation of your progress (in the form of a word count) every minute of every day.
This weekend, we began something new. We will be making this a monthly event. During the week, we came up with five very simple things on a Post-it note. The object was to pick something that your spouse could do with and for you. (Before you get all wonky, this is not a sex thing...not saying you can't make it about that, but this was about TIME spent together.) So, for instance, one of Denise's was "Brush my hair". These are placed on the refrigerator by Friday night and the object is that you will pluck one at random times through the weekend, ensuring that the last one is draw by noon Sunday. These take a commitment from both people. The person drawing is going to do something that his or her spouse wants, and the recipient has to be ready for that even.. For one of mine, it was "play a zombie-killing video game for an hour". It was not about how well or adept at it she might or might not be...it was just having her do something with me that I find fun.
So, we spent the weekend together. At random times, we pulled each others slips from the fridge (they are face down so you don't know what you will be choosing...it keeps it random and fun) and spent time together.
My point is that so many of us have gotten so sucked into our INDIVIDUAL worlds that we have forgotten the person we chose to spend forever with in the process. No matter what degree of success you have found in your life, if you are not doing things to enjoy it WITH the individual you gave all of your "forevers" to, then what is the point?
Friday, May 17, 2013
|Dis guy wishes he was as handsome as Vinnie|
Yo, Vinnie DeSporto here, so listen up. Apparently, basketball season is still on. Seattle is in tears. I don't know why, who the hell wants the Sacramento Kings? Not Sacramento, that's for sure. You stupid coffee drinkin' weenies shoulda thought about dat before you let the Sonics ride out of town with the Durant kid. Of course, you still would only be good enough to be first losers considering Miami had this locked up back in October at opening tip off.
So, since sports got nothin' worth talkin' about, I figured some of youse writin' weenies needed to be brought down a peg or two. I mean hey, it ain't like you got real jobs or nothin' to make fun of...I mean, from what I hear, we got waitresses, HR people (and we ALL know what those folks are like), and...if I got my facts straight...a card dealer? But not like a real card dealer, I mean, hey, if ain't in Atlantic City or Vegas...it's kind of like calling yourself an athlete because you drive a car around a track or play golf. To dat end, I have decided to see how many of youse I can make cry.
I decided to start with dis Armand Rosamilia guy. First off, I knew some Rosamilias when I was workin' for the ****** Family in Queens. Most of 'em had elevators dat didn't go to da top floor if you catch my drift. Now, dis guy...dis AR-mand if you will, he looks like dat guy who showed up to join the Hell's Angels on a Vespa. I mean, da only people dat wear goatees like dat anymore are usually just tryin' to make sure they catch all the drips from their Ben & Jerry ice cream cone.
I hear dis guy has a thing for the sittin' part of da lady. Anybody wanna let Armand know that the good part is just a little bit forward from da part he is so infatuated with. S'matter, Armand? You get so used to seeing your bunkmate's dat you forgot where your s'possed to dip the cannelloni?
I heard you on some interview...and I had to check to make sure somebody hadn't put it on fast forward. You gonna walk around lookin' like dat, you may wanna add some bass to your voice. Dat, or I hear da Chipmunks wanna cover some old Sha Na Na tunes, you could maybe pass for a chipmunk version of Bowzer with a little work.
You have likely noticed I have said nothing about his books yet. Hey...when he writes one worth readin' I might get around to trashin' it.
Anyways, I figure dats about all youse writin' weenies can handle for now...so me and my gal, Estelle Scarpelli, we gotta head down to da corner tavern. It's karaoke night. I gotta show dat Bruce Springsteen wannabe what it feels like to be "Born to run". Come back next week...I hear rumor some guy named Tufo fancies himself an author of...lemme see if I got this right...zombies AND vampires? And get dis...he's a Boston fan! I gots two words for you Tufo. Bill. Buckner.
Steppin' on toes in da Rose City, I'm Vinnie DeSporto, in yer face.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Okay, I have a slight dilemma. I am embarking on this 30 minute reader project. However, I think it needs a catchy title. So, all you smart "catch phrase" types...throw a few things my way. If it is really groovy and I use it, I will give you the eBook of your choice from my catalog. (I will send you the MOBI unless you prefer something else.)
That out of the way...my timer is set, my copy of Children of the Plague is on my desk, and I will begin reading...now.
Wow! That was quick!
So, now that the story is starting to flesh out, I am able to make a few observations. First, I love how this book seems to straddle sci-fi and horror. It is like The Twilight Zone meets Tales from the Crypt. There is a definite pace to this book . The tempo has you reading fast to stay up with the energy.
New people that I met: Pete...maybe a cop, but initial feelings are that he will be a "good" guy. Lanni's twin brother, Alex, he gets a few more scenes and comes in with a bang eventually. I almost feel like he will be the heel...or "bad" guy if you will. And then there is the beastie. I won't give anything away here, but I really dug the description of it and how Gregory included a variety of the senses. So, you not only get to paint an image of it in your mind, but you now have the distinct pleasure(?) of associating it with certain smells.
Now for a tiny critique...a bit "comma happy" at times. The good part is that he uses them in all the right places...but he also had a few extraneous ones. Overall, if that ends up being my biggest complaint...I think we can live with it.
See you next time!
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Most of you know my zombie stuff, but a few have taken the plunge and read my novel, Dakota. I am at work on the second one and am actually seeking your input here in the way of critique/criticism. As many of you know, the beginning can make or break a novel. So, here is the first couple thousand words from Dakota: Traitor/Patriot. It is NOT edited at all, so there may be a few errors, use of words repetitively...etc. I get that. What I am looking for here is an honest input...from those who read Dakota, how does this feel, and from those who have not...would you want to keep reading? Trust me...my skin is thick enough to take it.
“The man, Dakota Riley, is charged with treason and shall face the military court where his crimes will be proven. The penalty for such crimes is death.” The man held a piece of parchment in his hand, but he did not actually need to read it, he knew very well what it said. After all, he had written it just moments before.
Standing in chains, Dakota was only now starting to be able to see in single vision, and even then, it was a bit fuzzy around the edges. The two soldiers that stood guard over him—one to either side—had worked him over twice already. Each time, their sergeant stood a few feet away lecturing about how “good men had died due to his malfeasance.”
The first beating had been interrupted when the man assigned as his defender entered the tiny cell for an interview. While it had been obvious what was taking place, the man had said nothing about it and simply asked Dakota how he intended to plead.
“I don’t even know what I’m being charged with,” Dakota managed after spitting out a mouthful of blood.
“I believe that the official document states that you aided the newly proclaimed Confederate States through acts of sabotage that resulted in massive casualties. However, I believe they will simply shorten it to treason,” the tall, skinny man said matter-of-factly as he removed his glasses and polished them with the hem of his wool jacket.
Even stripped to the waist, Dakota was sweating in the muggy heat of July. He had no idea how that man managed not to melt dressed as he was with a linen shirt, wool slacks, and a jacket that looked to have been made for a much shorter but heavier man.
“That’s ridiculous,” Dakota said of the charges.
“Mr. Riley, we have sworn documents form several soldiers, many of them respected officers. You can save yourself considerable trouble,” he flashed a look at the two thugs that stood just outside the cell rubbing their knuckles, “if you plead guilty. The sentence will likely be carried out immediately following.”
“But I didn’t do anything!” Dakota insisted.
“According to witnesses, you signaled troops led by the enemy and directed their coordinated attacks on the exposed flanks of Federal Army forces,” the lawyer said as he rifled though a stack of papers.
“I was calling for help,” Dakota insisted.
“And it seems that you received it in the form of several hundred soldiers led by one Joseph Johnston,” the lawyer continued to pour through the pages, never bothering to make eye contact with Dakota as he spoke.
“Listen, Mister…what the hell is your name?” Dakota snapped when he realized that the man had not even gone so far as to introduce himself to his “client” in this first meeting.
“Davis, Abernathy Percival Davis.” Finally, the man looked up at Dakota and met his glare. “And there is little need for profanity, Mr. Riley.”
I’ll give you profanity, you little beanpole, Dakota thought angrily. Instead, he swallowed hard and did his best to sound pleasant. “Listen, Mr. Davis, I realize that things might look bad, but rest assured, I did nothing that I am charged with. I was simply trying to call for help. There was a woman injured—”
“Ah yes…” Abernathy Davis flipped through a few pages and produced the page he sought. “Judith Carter Henry was pronounced dead at the scene. And also a known sympathizer to the enemy. Your being in her home does not actually help your case, Mr. Riley.”
Dakota sagged. He was fully aware how things appeared. However, that was simply not the way things had gone. Unfortunately, it was his word against the Union Army.
A mist clung to the ground as dawn broke. The sound of birds waking and beginning their day was about the only noise that could be heard. Dakota climbed down out of the wagon and stretched. His body welcomed the motion and his lungs sucked in huge gulps of the cleanest, freshest air he could remember breathing.
Wading through the dew-coated fronds of tall grass, he moved into the trees to answer nature’s call. He still could not get over how quiet the world seemed. Born in 1979, and living most of his life around Seattle, Washington, Dakota Riley had spent many years with the drone of aircraft as a near constant background symphony.
He was along way from home.
Not only was he out in the countryside somewhere west of Washington DC, he was also, as impossible as it seemed, in the year 1861. His mind was still struggling with the idea of ‘when’ he was far more than the aspect of where.
As he emerged from the woods, he could see Marc and Aaron already busy with the morning fire. Aaron was never far from Marc, and Dakota often teased that the man had two shadows…one in 3-D. Aaron ahd asked what that meant, but no amount of explaining could help.
The best guess about Aaron was that he was perhaps fourteen. Born on a plantation where he served as a slave, such things as his age were difficult to know with any certainty. The same could be said for Clancy. A large man with a soft voice, Clancy was the only slave who had survived an attempt by Marc to organize a slave rebellion on a trio of plantations. Dakota guessed the man to be in his twenties.
Almost on cue, the large man crawled out from under the wagon where he preferred to sleep now that they were travelling. He claimed it was because he had always dreamed of sleeping under the open sky, but two things about that claim rang false. For one, the man slept under the wagon. For another, he wasn’t the only one who woke to the rattling snores of Art O’Grady.
As Dakota got closer to the wagon where it was currently parked under the wide cover of an old oak tree, he could hear what might be mistaken for a chainsaw…if they were in existence these days that is. Art would be the last to rise and then make what he considered to be humorous remarks about how everybody looked so tired in the morning after what he announced was another splendid night’s sleep.
“I thought old people woke up early…seems like my granddaddy was usually awake an hour before sunrise when I was little…and then told me about how much of the day I had wasted,” Marc grumbled as Dakota knelt and began the ritualistic making of the coffee.
“Must be something in the air,” Dakota said with a shrug. “Back at the pub, that old fella was up before me on the regular, and that was after he closed the place up for the night and did a quick count of the night’s sales totals.”
“Mister Dakota, how long ‘afore that brew be finished?” Clancy said as he squatted down by the fire with his cup.
“About ten minutes.” Dakota had given up trying to get Clancy to simply call him by name without the ‘Mister’ honorific. One day a few weeks back, Clancy had just stopped talking. When Dakota asked, he realized just how careful he would need to be with his words.
“If you call me ‘Mister Dakota’ one more time…I’m gonna sew your mouth shut,” Dakota had quipped in what he thought was an offhanded jest. A lifetime of slavery had ingrained very real fear of any threat involving physical punishment in the man. It had been Marc who eventually got the big man to come clean with why he had just quit talking to Dakota.
“And then I can makes us breakfast,” Clancy said with a nod.
“And what is on the menu this morning, Clancy?” Marc’s stomach grumbled to add emphasis to the question.
“Got some fat rabbits last night and even managed to find a few onions.”
That last bit caused Dakota to shoot a questioning look at Marc who simply shrugged. They had plenty of food packed in the wagon for the trip; however, they had also agreed that any time they could toss something fresh on the table and save their stores for when things got lean. The first night out, Clancy and Aaron had strolled into camp with two chickens and a dozen eggs.
“The last thing we want to do is draw attention to ourselves,” Dakota had scolded.
“But Marc say we ain’t never gonna be comin’ back this way,” Aaron had protested. “We learned real good how to slip into places when we was trainin’ for that big fight.”
“Ain’t no massa gonna be missin’ us come mornin’. We can walk in just as pretty as you please…and then right back out without nobody sayin’ nary a word,” Clancy continued.
“We can’t go around stealing from folks,” Dakota insisted. “You know very well what would happen if you get caught.”
“Ain’t never anybody up and about such a late hour,” Clancy tried to explain.
“It just takes once,” Marc said softly.
After Clancy and Aaron had moved out of earshot, it was Marc who voiced his concern to Dakota. “We told them they are free, but I don’t think they understand. To them, the only version of free they ever saw was that of their white masters. They came as they pleased and took what ever they wanted.”
“Still,” Dakota shook his head, “they know what stealing is…they aren’t stupid…just ignorant.”
“I don’t believe that they acted out of wanting to do something wrong…I just don’t think they really know how to handle themselves yet,” Marc said.
That night, they sat down with the two and told them that anything on another person’s property was private, and therefore, not to be taken. To do so would be stealing. That had opened a new can of worms when both Clancy and Aaron insisted that they had been on another person’s property. Did that make Marc and Dakota thieves?
Finally, it was Art who came to the rescue. “You are people. Can’t rightly own another person. There’s some that belive that…and some who don’t. But God placed a spark of life inside each human being. When God placed Adam in that garden, he gave him dominion over all creatures…but he never gave him the right to treat another man like a cow, chicken, or pig.”
Dakota figured that there would be a whole bunch of questions now, but there was not. Clancy and Aaron simply nodded and smiled at each other, then apologized for breaking one of, as Clancy put it, “the ten comets”. There had been no further incidents of stealing…until now it would seem.
“Where did you find those onions?” Dakota asked with a sigh.
“Growin’ aside the trail just around the bend,” Clancy replied.
“Don’t know what is wrong where you two come from,” a voice with a thick Irish lilt sounded with a loud smacking of lips as Art O’ Grady popped his head out of the back of the covered wagon. “Find all sorts of things growin’ wild if’n you know where to look. And trade roads are a good place to look considering what might fall out of a cart along the way.”
“Is that right?” Dakota let the doubt coat his words. He didn’t want to call Art a liar any more than he wanted to accuse Clancy and Aaron of being thieves. By the same token, he didn’t want to see anybody in his group beaten…or worse.
“Know one fella came across enough tobacky that he were able to make enough see-gars to pass out at his daughter’s wedding and still had enough left over for himself to last through a whole winter.”
Before long, the air was carrying the savory smells of cooked rabbit. The coffee cups were filled, emptied, and filled again by the time breakfast was ready. The conversation was almost non-existent as each set to his morning meal. As was his custom, Art celebrated the end of the meal with a cigar.
“So, boyo,” Art said through a puff of the acrid smoke, “now that you got me out here on the road, maybe we can talk about this war you say is fixed to rip this country apart.”
“I could tell you plenty, but I have no idea how things will shake down now that I met with the president.”
Dakota was still in awe of the fact that he had sat down with and actually spoken to Abraham Lincoln. When he was told that the meeting had been arranged, he really thought that the man would sit politely and let him speak. What he was not prepared for was the amount of questions and follow up questions that came. He certainly never expected the man to write down notes.
When the meeting was over, Dakota had walked back to O’Grady’s Pub in a daze. He could have no way of knowing that, while still tragic in the number of lives lost, Dakota had unwittingly halved the duration of the American Civil War. In addition, he had also set into motion a tragic demise for the president.
“But if what you have told me is true, then I still do not understand why we are having to trek all the way across this country. I heard tell of savages that would eat you as soon as look at ya, mountains that no man can cross, and a scarcity of womenfolk that is just too sad to even consider longer than a heartbeat.” Art repeated the same arguments each day in almost ritualistic fashion.
“Where is your sense of adventure?” Dakota came back with the same response that he had given each time Art raised these concerns.
“I think I left it in the pub under my bed.” This response was practically sang I chorus by Marc, Clancy and Aaron as the words came out of Art’s mouth. The old Irishman scowled and bit down on his cigar, puffs of smoke billowing around his head.
The others chuckled and went about the task of breaking down the camp. Dakota made sure to douse the fire, stir it, and bury it. The tall dry grass stretched out all around them and he did not want to be the person that started a terrible wildfire.
As the sun crept into the sky on its slow journey west, it acted as a beacon for the band of five. The day was a mixture of Art teaching inappropriate songs to Aaron interspersed with lengthy silences where nothing but the song of nature drifted down all around them.
As midday passed and they reached a slight rise, a strange buzz began to filter in among the sounds of birds and whirring insects. Before it came into view, they first heard, and then smelled the large encampment of soldiers in and around the small town.
“Looks like the boys in blue are on the move,” Art whistled as Dakota brought his horse up beeside the wagon.
“Seems like an awful lot of ‘em,” Dakota agreed. “What town is that?”
“Centerville,” Art replied.
The group came to a halt. Dakota fished out a set of binoculars and scanned the area. What he saw did not appear at all like what he envisioned an Army camp to look like. There were men lying about in front of tents. Young men, barely old enough to carry the title from the looks of many of the faces, were chasing each other around waving sticks like they were sabers.
“These are just children,” Dakota muttered.
“And why so many different colored uniforms?” Marc asked nobody in particular.
“They weren’t ready,” Art muttered. “Damn fools went and started a war without being ready.”
“I don’t understand.” Marc brought his set of binoculars down and looked at Art, gesturing for him to explain.
“These are coming in from all over. Ain’t many of them seen any real training except how to march in line…and even that is lacking in most. But these folks dress out in local colors to display who they are really fighting for…be it New York or Pennsylvania,” Art explained.
“I guess I just expected them to look like…” Marc let his sentence fade as he went back to looking at the sprawling camp of the Union Army.
“Like soldiers?” Art finished.
After a few minutes, Dakota and Marc looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Did they dare? seemed to be the question on their minds.
“I know we are trying to make sure we don’t get involved,” Marc began, “but what harm can a little peek cause?”
“Said Pandora as she opened the box,” Dakota grumbled.
“I know what you are worried about,” Marc urged. “But I can’t help but be curious. Aren’t you just a little bit curious what it feels like to be able to walk through history?”
Dakota sighed. He had to admit, there was a peculiar and almost irresistible urge to go down there and just wander around. He could not see the harm in that. Besides, it wasn’t like he was going down there to sign up or anything; he was just going to take a look. Really pull in the sights and sounds of an honest-to-goodness Union Army camp.He knew enough about history to know that things would take a sharp turn for the worst after the first real battle. The romance would be peeled away and the true horror would be revealed.
Monday, May 13, 2013
In just over two weeks, the sixth book in the DEAD series will be out. Dead: Confrontation will be the largest offering to date in a series that boasts five volumes that each come in at 100,000 words, give or take a few thousand. I am very proud of this arc in my story. It took a life of its own a long time ago, but this particular piece went in directions I never even remotely imagined. I can't wait for the reader reaction. That is the reward for me.
In other news...I am anxiously waiting for my tattoo artist to finish the custom design of a zombified version of Ace Frehley. I spent 47 years of my life without one, but I have decided to take the plunge...and what two things do I relate to more than KISS and zombies?
And then there is the newest addition to our home...Tyrion the Border Collie. Do not let that sweet face fool you...he is a handful, plus some. He is the version of the Border Collie that they warn you about. You have to keep him busy and occupied or he will create all sorts of chaos.
And now...I will begin writing the next book in my Dakota series. This will be fun because I get to dig through all sorts of interesting Civil War facts. This story will play out as the first major engagement of the war happens--First Manassas/First Bull Run. The only thing I will be giving away is that Henry House Hill will feature prominently. Also, I will be dusting off Uncivil War--my thriller that brings up the possibility of a full-scale, modern day race war that completely destroys the United States.
Friday, May 10, 2013
So, it is almost the weekend. As you read this, I am gearing up for a weekend that has Mother's Day as the highlight. Somewhere in there, I will be taking some personal time to reset my brain. I have a writing binge coming up that will see the second Dakota tackled, the seventh DEAD book started, and the second venture into the realm of That Ghoul Ava. To do that, I have to clear my plate of some other projects that are almost done. (One of them is the new +Mark Tufo project...how lucky am I?!) I really am a very lucky person. I always say, the best way to get back at those who doubted you in life is to succeed. I am doing what I love...and surrounded by GREAT people who love me despite all my flaws.
So, without further delay, let me step aside and welcome an old friend back to the blog.
Yo, Vinnie DeSporto here, so listen up. After a bit of a vacation with my gal, Estelle Scarpelli, I got home to a bunch of messages on my answering machine. Imagine my surprise when that writer guy, TW Brown, was asking me to return and share some of my wisdom with his writing weanie friends. At first I thought it was a clever ploy by him to lure me out from my place in da witness protection program...then I realized something...
He ain't that clever.
So, since my thing is sports, I had to think...what could be going on that might be worth talking about? Basketball? Really? Now that LaBum James has basically bankrupted Miami so he could bring home a few titles to a town that has way too many guys walking around in Speedos to actually be considered part of the United States...seriously, it is Cuba with cell phones and old white people mixed in...so what would I talk about in a sport that died with the retirement of Bill Laimbeer? Nothin'!
Baseball? What can you say about a sport where the object seems to be stand in a grassy field, scratch your crotch and spit? Until they start making it legal to clothesline the runner between the bases...I'll pass. Besides...too many stupid bird names.
NASCAR? Wait...drive fast...turn left...drive fast again...repeat. Until Danica Patrick drives in a thong...I ain't watchin'.
I'm waiting for football. I can't wait to see the fans of that stupid bird-named team in Seattle start cryin' when that little squirrel-faced boy who thinks he is a quarterback gets de-cleated. Face it folks...I've dated bigger women.
Now, since I am back and most of you weanies are writers...maybe next time I will roast a few of you. I'm looking at you +Armand Rosamilia...if that is your real name. And what the hell is a +Mark Tufo? Sounds like something that causes feminine itching. And +Suzi M...what, Suzi Twinkie already taken? I hear you got more aliases than a former Gotti family member. (RIP Teflon Don.)
So, until next week...Steppin' on toes in da Rose City...I'm Vinnie DeSporto...in yer face.