Posts Tagged ‘review’

I’m very excited by the review of the Suspended in Dusk anthology that just went live over at The Horror Bookshelf blog, run by Rich Duncan. (See here)

Rich concludes the review with the following:

I loved Suspended In Dusk because while some of the authors that appear in the anthology are familiar to me, I was also treated to some new writers who I had never heard before. I think there is no better feeling than discovering new authors that capture everything you love in a story and Dewar’s stellar anthology offers up plenty of those opportunities to horror fans. This is Dewar’s first entry into the anthology world and I think he nailed it. He brought together an impressive cast of authors and crafted one hell of an anthology despite numerous setbacks along the path to publication. I will definitely be looking forward to Dewar’s work in the future, both as an editor and an author. I highly recommend picking up Suspended In Dusk and giving it a read!

Rating: 4.5/5

This is exciting stuff and a great vindication for myself and the authors who put a lot of hard work into crafting their fantastic stories.

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One of the great ironies of me being a systems engineer is that I’m generally really slow on the uptake when it comes to new technologies.
Generally speaking, I find what works, I master it, and then I incrementally add to it or tweak it. I’m usually the last to take on new tech or jump into new things like social media. Perhaps it comes from the fact that I”m often learning so much new technology and applications in my work life that I militantly resist doing it in my own personal life outside of work.

The company that I’m working for is a Google partner and makes use of Google Drive as shared space in the cloud for collaboration and to store business documents, etc. Using the Google Drive application which we install on our work laptops we’re able to syncronise a folder on our laptop with one in the cloud. When I write a new business document and save it in the folder it’s instantly uploaded to the cloud. If someone else updates that document, the change is automagically synchronised to the copy in my Google Drive folder on my laptop. This is pretty neat, and very handy for a distributed work force that is scattered across a number of different client sites.

When I started writing, I found myself juggling document versions of stories across multiple devices and things got pretty messy. For instance, I’d work on a story on my laptop during my lunch break at work and have to email it to my gmail account, and then download it at home so I could work on it that evening on my desktop PC. More than once during this convoluted process I lost data that I had to rewrite. So this got me thinking— why don’t I use Google Drive for my own writing? So I looked into it. I soon discovered that, out of the box, you can’t have more than one google drive account running on the same machine and you have to purchase third party software to enable this. Because I needed google drive on my work laptop for work purposes this ruled that out.
That’s when I remembered DropBox.

Like Google Drive, DropBox provides you a chunk of online Storage (5GB!) and client software you can install on your PC and phone (android/apple/etc) which allows you to syncrhonise a folder on your device with your storage on the cloud. This is freaking awesome. I put all the docs for my current writing project, and all my stories, into a folder on my PC and edit and save them there.  When the client notices a change has taken place to the files in the folder on my PC, it synchronises the folder with the cloud storage and the newly updated files are instantly available on all my other devices for viewing/editing/transmission.

I can also make files and folders within my dropbox available as a URL to other people. This is handy when you’re working on a collaborative project such as a short fiction anthology. For example, I could tell my writers “hey, grab the final proof of the anthology from my dropbox: http:\\simonsdropboxlink\” and they’d be able to jump online and instantly access it. And your stuff isn’t only accessible if you have the software client installed on your device You can access your cloud storage via the DropBox.com website just like you would webmail and all your files will be there ready to download. This is fantastic if you’re on a kiosk machine, or at a friend’s place and want to download some of your work but don’t want to (or are unable to) download the client onto the machine or device you’re using.

So what does this mean for me as a writer and editor? It means that I”m always working on the right version of my story and my story is always available no matter where I am or what device i’m using. As an editor it means that the edits I’m doing of other people’s stories are always saved, and always accessible. So far, I’ve performed the entire editing of the Suspended in Dusk anthology out of my DropBox—where I’ve been able to store all the stories, contracts and other information centrally. It has been truly invaluable and has definitely increased my productivity. More importantly, I’m more than certain its stopped me from losing data or losing important paperwork that I would’ve otherwise lost if I was juggling documents between multiple devices. As a writer there is nothing worse, nothing more heart-wrenching than data loss

There are a dearth of options out there for cloud providers, from DropBox to Google Drive, to Microsoft Skydrive and Apple iCloud. The following article discusses some of the offerings out there and I strongly urge you to take a look:

http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/24/2954960/google-drive-dropbox-skydrive-sugarsync-cloud-storage-competition

Each of these will operate slightly different or offer different features or different amounts of cloud storage, but the basic principles are the same and so is the benefit you can recieve in adoption.

Simon.

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I recently had the pleasure of reading Wool by Hugh Howey. My wife bought it for me after the shop assistant at Dymocks suggested it.
The story is set in a dystopian world where everyone lives in an underground silo we follow the the paths of several characters, the main protagonist being a lady by the name of Juliette.  Dragged from obscurity in the Mechanical department, located deep in the silo, Juliette is railroaded into becoming the Silo’s sheriff.  Things go pear-shaped when she discovers the I.T department’s dirty secrets and she’s banished from the silo into the toxic wasteland outside.  She discovers that life does exist outside her home silo, that there are other silos and in the end stages daring return to her home in an attempt to free it from the dictators that have assumed power there.

For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I felt the world building was fantastic and the characters were well visualised.  Juliette was a very strong and capable character, but had her flaws and weakeness as well and I found myself rooting from her.

Where GRRM killed off the initial hero of his series and I could barely continue to read onwards, Hugh Howey basically does the same thing and it didn’t ruin the story.  I think this was achieved by the fact that he’d generated enough interest in me about what the silo was and what secrets were to be uncovered, that I could withstand having the first person I invested myself in killed off very early.  Kudos, Hugh.

The book deals with typical dystopian themes of societal control, control of information, etc and does so well but nothing Hugh Howey does is particularly revolutionary there.

The weaknesses I found in this novel were  largely around poor writing of action scenes and what I felt was a bit of a deus ex machina ending.

The eyes through which the major battle scene in the novel are viewed are not even close to those which would show the most adrenaline-pumping or emotional view for the reader.  This momentous event in the story could have had a much greater effect for the reader if it had been delivered from a different point of view.  In addition, much of the action seemed glossed over .. as though viewed from afar.  Effectively it was being viewed from afar, but this had the resultant effect of removing much of the impact for me.

As for the ending,… I guess it was plausible, however I feel it is very much deus ex machina style ending.  I didn’t really buy it 100%.  Effectively, the day is saved by a character who has been off screen for 90% of the novel until that point who suddenly decides to have a change of heart based upon overhearing a radio conversation. He then turns on the guy who got him his job and who has been grooming him for a leadership role and sides with the woman who he knowingly sent to her death previously so he could steal her job.  If this character, Peter Billings, had spent more time on the page and there had been more reason for the reader to not just seem him as an opportunistic evil goon but rather as a reasonable and genuinely good but mistaken guy, then I would’ve found more realistic. Given what we did know about Peter (knowingly sending innocent people to their deaths for material gain etc) his change of mind at the end of the story is a bitter pill to swallow.

If I had to give it a rating out of five I’d give it a 3.5-4 stars.  It’s a great book and a great read and I do look forward to reading Shift and Dust, but I feel it was let down by the ending and poorly written action.

Generally speaking, I don’t *do* Urban Fantasy.  With the possible exception of the Underworld movies and Blade movies because they were kinda badass.  I don’t know whether its because Twilight and other sparkly vampire franchises ruined it for me, or maybe I’m just being obtuse. So, it was with some trepidation that I picked up the novella Traitors by Carrie Clevenger.

Traitors, tells the story of Xan Marcelles, younger brother to the leader of his vampire family or clan who is tasked (ordered) by his elder brother Magnus to go after an unknown group of vampires hiding out in a backwater town in Texas.  I havent read the other Crooked Fang stories, but I get the picture that when Xan Marcelles isn’t rocking out with his band Crooked Fang, he’s generally kicking vampire asses and taking names.  With him travels Nin, a smoking hot vampire of a different clan who, in the past, had betrayed Xan so that there was a level of mistrust between the two characters.

There is sneaking around, there is sexual tension, there are bar-storming fight scenes and psychotic car chases.  With the exception of the first few pages which set the scene, this is an action packed ride from start to finish. I read it in a couple of hours and risked the wrath of wife because I didnt want to put the book down and come to bed until it was finished.  Thats a pretty damn good sign that a book is a good read.

Xan is a great character because he’s got the whole anti-hero thing happening and because he’s a fully fleshed out person. He’s a bad ass vampire that has all the urges to chomp neck as any other blood sucker, but he has affinity and a secret love of humans. He wants to escape the clutches his family bonds, yet he’s dragged back into the fold by a sense of duty to his brother and out of fear of what he learns about current events. (I wont spoil that one for you!).  Nin, the other main character in this story, is also shown to progress from someone who in the past had betrayed Xan to someone now very much on his side and interesting and strong female character in her own right, able to lop heads with the best of them.

Verdict:  I figured, on a craft-level, the book would be a decent because Carrie Clevenger has been around for a while in the writing scene and this is one a few stories set within the same setting.  Having an established world and mythos and character cast and a few books under her belt meant that she already had an advantage.   To be frank, I was wrong. It wasn’t decent. It was very good – bordering on awesome.  You see, for me to really get into this book (bearing in mind I’m a self professed urban fantasy-phobe and haven’t read any of Carrie’s other books) she needed to do a few things.  She needed to capture my interest pretty early on. She had to make me give a shit about her characters. She needed to expose enough about Xan’s past and the general vampire mythos in her world without boring me. She had to then go on an tell an actual story that was interesting, exciting and progress her characters and develop them and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.  She did all of these things with flair and I found the pages turning quicker the further into the novella I got.  With one exception:  The end was not satisfying because it set the stage for another epic tale to follow and I don’t have that tale and I cant read it and waiting sucks.

Check it out and buy it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Traitors-Crooked-Fang-series-ebook/dp/B00F7YF3RY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379749853&sr=8-1&keywords=traitors+carrie+clevenger