Book Review – The Serenity Strain

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tssChris Pourteau is a perfect author for the Apocalypse Weird series. While the other novels give us explanations and grand statements about the end of all things, Pourteau straight up delivers an action-packed thrill ride in his book, The Serenity Strain.

Pourteau centers his story around Houston, a large city in its own right, but specifically hones in on a broken family. Mark works for the traffic management company for Houston and has already broken his marriage vows with a co-worker, Iris. Meanwhile, his soon to be ex-wife Lauryn and daughter Megan are trying to make it in a poor excuse for an apartment. When hurricane after hurricane after hurricane pummel the southeast coast of Texas, the three find themselves thrust back together, trying to survive a disaster exponentially bigger than Hurricane Katrina.

So what about the title of the book? The Serenity Strain? That is the brainchild of Dr. Eamon Stavros, a man who believes he can “cure” homicidal maniacs. He has given the serum to six individuals at the nearby prison with early promising results. However, in typical AW fashion, the serum backfires just as the hurricanes are making a mess of the city. Head of the “Serenity Six” is Peter Marsten, a serial killer who is now even more dangerous with Serenity focusing his thoughts. He breaks the six out of prison and they proceed to terrorize the city, acting as the precursors to someone even worse.

Out of all the AW books so far, the character of Marsten is the most evil, most gloriously psychopathic villain yet. One scene in particular is NOT for the faint of heart as Marsten really discovers who he is and the power he now yields.

Of course, Mark, Lauryn, and Megan are on a collision course with Marsten and his merry band of misfits with terrifying consequences. There are few moments of respite in this book and it makes for the quickest read out of all the AW books by far at this point because of that. Each moment acts as a springboard to the next with little fat in between.

You’ll love the Serenity Strain if you love great thrillers. In a very Dean Koontz-esque novel, Pourteau has given the Apocalypse Weird universe a wonderful and frightening tale.

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Author Interview – Jennifer Ellis

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Jennifer Ellis is one of five authors with books releasing next week under the “Apocalypse Weird” banner. The series started out with The Red King by Nick Cole and is spreading like a firebomb with the next books in the series, which include entries by Ellis, Michael Bunker, Chris Pourteau, E.E. Giorgi, and Cole himself with the follow-up to Red King. After reading Ellis’ book Reversal, I knew I wanted to interview her on my blog. The novel is a great read, in or out of the AW series. It reads a lot like a Clive Cussler novel with bits of Dean Koontz mixed in for good measure. And while you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, check out that M.S. Corley cover as well. Wicked.

Oh…and there may be a few spoilers, so consider yourself warned in advance.


WS: Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Why don’t you start with a short background about who Jennifer Ellis is and your career thus far.

JE: Well, I’m a bit of an enigma, even to myself. I started off as a serious academic and have a PhD in Geography, but quickly decided academia was not for me. I always wanted to be a writer and I could not see how a career teaching at a university and being forced to publish or perish could fit with my writing aspirations. I’m also a bit of a lone wolf. I like working on short-term projects, over which I have significant control, on my own, preferably in my house, in my pajamas, with the option to sneak out for a skate ski in the afternoon. So for the past sixteen years, I’ve worked as an independent consultant doing research, coordinating projects, and writing reports for multiple clients in the fields of sustainability and climate change. I started writing fiction seriously in 2007, and after having an agent and trying the traditional route for several years, published my first novel , A Pair of Docks, in 2013, which is a middle-grade science fiction fantasy. I have published two more since then—the second in my middle grade series, called A Quill Ladder, and a dystopian action adventure novel for adults, called In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation. Reversal will be my fourth novel. I also have published two short stories in anthologies—Synchronic and Tales from Pennsylvania.

My writing career thus far has been pretty fun, and I’m so glad I decided to go indie. I have had lots of amazing breaks and met lots of fantastic people. I’m still very much at the beginning of my career, but plan to ramp things up significantly in the coming year. I had just started two pretty major and intense consulting contracts in December 2013, which left very little time for writing over the past year. Those two projects will be done in March, and I’m really looking forward to focusing more on writing.

Reversal_FT_FINALWS: How did your involvement in AW come about?

JE: I had met Nick Cole and Michael Bunker through my involvement in Synchronic, which I was invited to join by my editor, David Gatewood, and got to know them a bit through the Facebook Launch Party and subsequent Facebook interactions. You know Michael and Nick—never a dull Facebook moment when they are around, beards and all. It’s sort of like working with Iceman and Maverick. And more importantly, they are both seriously great writers. Then I worked with them both in the Tales From Pennsylvania anthology. They asked me to join the AW crew and after doing some quick math in terms of whether I could generate the required word count to produce a complete novel by December, I gave them a resounding yes, and have been thrilled to be along for the ride ever since.

WS: What inspired your story Reversal?

JE: Well, I am Canadian, so I wanted to do something with a bit of a Canadian and snowy spin. I also have friends who have done Arctic research and I thought the Ellesmere Island setting offered a lot of scope to do something a bit different than what the others were doing. Also, since I do have a background in climate change and geography, I wanted to take more of a geomorphological and environmental approach to the apocalypse with pole reversal, solar flares, super volcanoes and methane-venting craters. I’ve always been interested in the different theories of mass extinction and what from an environmental perspective might finally do us in.

WS: One aspect I was impressed with was the authenticity. Do you have a background in Arctic research?

JE: Thanks so much. No, I don’t have a background in Arctic research. But I did hang out with people who did do northern research in grad school and heard a lot of their stories, mostly about not being able to shower for 45 days. I also spend a lot of time in a snowy climate, as I live in a ski town. We have bears in town and our yard routinely. Regular black bears of course, but I am accustomed to thinking about bears every time I go out for a run in the summer. I also did a research paper on penguins in university, and when I started writing Reversal, I had just finished reading a book about Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic. Pulling the rest together was just pure straight research, which I am pretty used to doing.

WS: What’s it been being a part of the initial AW team?

JE: The best! They are such a great group and have been fantastic to work with. It has also been super exciting to be part of something that is such a revolution in publishing. But it has also been a bit nerve-wracking because of course I wanted to make sure my novel measured up to Nick’s and Michael’s and the other two launch books by Chris Pourteau and E.E. Giorgi.

WS: How about that Corley cover?

JE; I love it. He is a pro and totally worked with me to develop the elements that I wanted to include. It was great fun to be able to imagine what my characters looked like and how I saw the various settings and be able to send him links and have him just produce them with his pencil. That is true talent.

WS: Any hints on your next book?

JE: My next Apocalypse Weird book will be called Undercurrent. Sasha will carry on to the Falkland Islands in search of Murphy and Soren, and then back to the Arctic to retrieve the green folder with the mysterious coordinates with the help of Gregor, who has uncovered some information regarding the polar bear tags. They will encounter more than they bargained for, and discover that all magnetic roads lead to Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, the Deccan Traps in India, Parhump, Nevada and the year 1974. That is of course, assuming I get to write it, because that is not a given in the Apocalypse Weird world, as readers have to connect with my writing and characters, so if you want more Polar Wyrd, make sure you leave a review for Reversal.

WS: One last thing…exploding penguins???

JE: It seemed appropriately apocalyptic. I do feel a bit bad about the penguins. No real penguins were harmed in the writing of Reversal, I swear. I might have to have the penguins take over the Antarctic research station in Undercurrent to make up for it.


Seriously — if you love a good thriller, Jennifer Ellis’ Reversal might be right up your alley. A bit sci-fi, a bit mystery, a bit supernatural. All together a great read. It is just one of the five Apocalypse Weird books releasing on February 23.

Book Review — Skynoise

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HarlotWith Skynoise, Ernie Lindsey shows why he is one of the most compelling and dynamic indie writers out there. Earlier this year, I found Super, which turned the superhero genre on its ear, and in Skynoise, Lindsey takes the sci-fi trope of time travel and twists a good yarn through years of mysteries and bread crumbs.
One of the greatest mysteries of history is the disappearance of the settlers at the Roanoke Colony, off the coast of modern day North Carolina, back in the 1500’s. Historians to this day are uncertain as to the fate of the early colonists — did they die off? Did they leave with a Native American tribe? Even some even farther-out conspiracy nuts have argued for extra-terrestrials. Lindsey takes the Roanoke mystery and uses it as the central historical narrative to tie the present-day to our time traveling protagonists in a timey-wimey sort of way. As a high school history teacher, I am fascinated by stories like those of Roanoke, and was thrilled when Skynoise started and ended with the Roanoke mystery in full swing.
We quickly meet Helen, a non-fiction author whose latest book tackles the mystery at Roanoke. On her book tour, she repeatedly deals with Chip, who comes across as a conspiracy nut at first. Soon we find out there is a lot more to Chip than we initially see, which is definitely intentional on Mr. Lindsey’s part — this is definitely a story that will make you think in circles. Parts that happen at the beginning or even before the start of our tale are revealed later on; this is a book that would work well in repeated readings.
The best I could compare Skynoise to is “Timecop” plus “Conspiracy Theory” plus maybe a little “The Italian Job.” Lindsey keeps the pace up well, pausing at times to take a breath and to get our characters some important information. In the end, Skynoise is a wonderfully-told, and fun book that showcases Lindsey’s storytelling skills.

The Most Prolific Author You’ve (Probably) Never Read

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I’ve gotten to know Carol Davis over the past couple of months after she was welcomed into the WOOL fandom with her Kindle Worlds story, Rebel State: Underground. Since she hit publish on Aug. 30, she has since published a follow-up to her initial story as well as a one-off entitled They Kill. Back in the 90’s, Davis wrote and published two authorized Quantum Leap novels, but has been writing all along. 
Just last week, Davis published her first original story through Amazon — Blood Moon, a short story. I’ll include my review after a short interview I did with Davis (spoiler alert — I really, really liked it). Davis’s background in TV really informs her stories and she does a phenomenal job in bringing them to life. The following are just a few questions I peppered Carol Davis with yesterday:  
 
ImageYour author bio on Amazon now lists 6 works, but how many stories do you estimate you’ve written in your adult life? How were those published or read by others?
I’m going to guess at around 800 stories.  (I’ll use “story” as an all-inclusive term — some of my work was teleplays, a couple of screenplays, half a dozen novels, almost all of it fanfiction.)  I’ve always been crazy prolific when I’m interested in something! I started out publishing in fanzines.  The past 7 years, I’ve been offering my stories via LiveJournal, where they’ve been very well received — and that gave me the confidence to give Kindle Direct Publishing a try.
 
What do you think was the greatest impact on your writing career?
The encouragement of established writers.  As a beginning writer, I felt that “If this person, who knows what they’re doing and has had some noticeable success with their writing, says my writing is good enough that I should keep at it, I’m going to believe them.”  The past few years, the positive feedback I’ve gotten from readers on LiveJournal has really kept me writing.  There’s nothing like a pat on the back to keep a writer hammering on the ol’ keyboard.
 
What did WOOL and Hugh Howey’s writing career mean to you?
I was aware of Kindle Worlds before the big Wool-mania began, and it sounded like a very interesting proposition — a way for new writers to jump into the pool without the need to win over a “legitimate” publisher.  I loved  WOOL (the original novella), and when it was announced that Hugh was going to offer his universe to Kindle Worlds, all the pieces came together for me, and I got started on my first Silo Saga story.  Knowing that Hugh very patiently wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and published his work online with a nice degree of success (and was finally able to grab the brass ring) was very encouraging to somebody who’s spent a lot of years giving her writing away for free.
 
Talk about Blood Moon and the rationale for writing something that wasn’t fanfiction.
My long-term goal is building up a good-sized catalogue of work on Amazon, so that when I retire I’ll have something to do all day (putting together more stories!), and will be able to earn a bit of money to supplement my “fixed income.”  Original work seems like the way to go, because the field is wide open.  Horror, romance, family drama… I can give them all a try.  Short stories, novellas, full-length novels.  It’s a wonderful, thrilling opportunity.
 

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….and now my review of Blood Moon, Davis’ newest story, on sale for just 99 cents. I highly recommend it. 
 
Carol Davis is new to selling books on Kindle, but isn’t new to crafting and weaving a great story and that shows in her short story, “Blood Moon.”
Davis has previously one dabbled in the world of fanfiction with licensed works in the Quantum Leap universe and most recently with three stories in Hugh Howey’s WOOLiverse. Blood Moon is Davis’ first attempt at an original story; after reading it, I can honestly say if this is Davis’ try at originality — bring it on.
Immediately upon beginning the story, the reader is dropped into the middle of an already moving situation, almost as if you had started watching an hour-long TV show after the first commercial break and had to work to catch up on details you missed out on in the first few minutes. Thankfully, Davis doesn’t skimp on the details, bringing the reader along for the ride as we follow the road-weary Will Bronson and his 11-year-old son, Danny as they track down and hunt werewolves. We get glimpses at a larger world that Davis has clearly mapped out for this quick introduction. The story reads like an episodic television series that could go on and on with Will and his son hunting and killing wolves throughout a nine-year run on the tube.
If this is it for her werewolf stories, I’ll be disappointed, but ff this is what Davis gives us when she isn’t working in other authors’ worlds, I’ll take it.