Short Story Break – M. David Blake

July 14, 2010 at 10:58 am (review) (, , , )

“We Don’t Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore” by M. David Blake. It’s free at Smashwords.com, but keep reading for a special offer.

Summary: “Stan wanted a flying car. No, that wasn’t quite accurate… Stan wanted a nice flying car, and the quantities of bliss that purchase would bring. Stan desired bliss. Fortunately, Bliss also desired Stan.”

“If I were editing a magazine I would be seriously considering buying this story for publication—but I’m not, so I can’t. Sorry.” — Bruce Bethke, author of “Cyberpunk” and Headcrash

Score: 4.3/5

This is a nearly heartwarming story about a twenty-something actuary, his girlfriend, and his angst over a new aeromobile (flying car) purchase. He wants to get the fancy, sporty model, but she correctly objects. It’s science fiction, but totally character-driven; basically about a young couple that happen to live in the future. Required disbelief suspension is minimized, and the story wraps up happily. For someone like me, used to reading darker stuff, I had a weird feeling after finishing “Plummet,” a sort of surprise that everything had ended so harmoniously. (This probably says more about me than it does about the story!)

I’m excited to read more by this author. The style is quirky and pleasant, almost lilting. Sprinkled throughout, in the flying car’s advertisements, are hilarious disclaimers about bodily injury and test flights of said flying car.

The Bottom Line: Recommended for anyone, including young adults and the science fiction phobic.

This story is free anytime at Smashwords.com, but right now the author is, in conjunction with MobileRead.com, hosting an ebook signing event. What exactly is an ebook signing event? These are the author’s words from the MobileRead.com forum thread:

“Book signings are a wonderful way for readers to brush elbows with the authors they love, and for authors to get to know the people who have been enjoying their stories. You just wait in line until you reach the head of the table, whereupon the author picks up a pen, flips to the flyleaf, asks your name, jots down something witty, and then with a quick flourish swirls something that is probably illegible, but that you can assure your friends is a genuine signature.

Oh, wait… you went and bought an iPad. Or was it a Sony? A nook, you say? Maybe it was a Kindle. There are just so many eBook readers these days, and each one can hold thousands of eBooks.

Why am I going to such lengths? To be blunt, I really do believe what I wrote about book signings being a special interaction between readers and writers. I want people to read my stories, and enjoy them, and hopefully also keep an eye out for my name in the future. As writers, it is important for us to invest a little time in that relationship, because it won’t develop at all if we don’t.”

If you send an email to mdavidblake (dot) writer (at) vintageseason (dot) com (darn bots!) with your name and email address inside, you’ll receive a personalized, individually numbered copy of “We Don’t Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore” just like this one:

This promotion is going on through July 14, 2010, but if you’re reading this after that date, send your email anyway. The author will process those signature requests as time allows between writing projects.

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Short Story Break – Cockroach Suckers – David Niall Wilson

July 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm (review) (, , )

“Cockroach Suckers” by David Niall Wilson. Available from the Macabre Ink digital store.

Summary: “When Bobby Lee shows up at Jasper’s fruit stand with something big and covered in a tarp in the back of his truck, things start getting a little weird. From giant statues pulled out of the Great Dismal Swamp, to roadside attractions and ancient Lovecraftian-style gods, the two friends find themselves in way over their heads.

Cockroach Suckers introduces you to the world of Old Mill, North Carolina, just off route 17, where things are never quite as they seem.”

Score: 4.5/5

It’s back to Old Mill, North Carolina, USA, a stone’s throw from the Great Dismal Swamp, and good ol’ boys Bobby Lee and Jasper are out to make a buck. Inspired by all the “suckers” who spend money on tickets and souvenirs for roadside attractions, Bobby Lee acquires an enormous wooden cockroach to attract tourists. Jasper is a little spooked by the beast, but Bobby Lee erects a shed for her to reside in and the two are soon overwhelmed with customers eager to be separated from their money for the chance to get up close and personal with the wooden monstrosity. Not surprisingly, there’s more to the bug than meets the eye.

In “Cockroach Suckers,” the author does a great job modernizing some Lovecraftian elements such as the narrowness of human consciousness and eons old idol worship with real-sounding dialog and nice character development. The focus throughout the story stays on Bobby Lee and Jasper’s friendship and the effect Mama Roach has on them; the cockroach really isn’t the main character like one would expect, nor does the creature cause a permanent rift in the men’s relationship. By the end I was quite touched by Jasper and Bobby Lee’s friendship. The two men are simple and broadly drawn, but at the end of the day, neither one will throw the other under the bus.

The Bottom Line: It didn’t resonate with me like “‘Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky” did, but it was still sufficiently deep, freaky, and enjoyable to read.

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Short Story Break- Moxie Mezcal

April 7, 2010 at 1:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

“Sweet Dream, Silver Screen” by Moxie Mezcal is available at Smashwords.com as well as the author’s website, moxiemezcal.com.

Summary: “A young woman searches for her missing twin sister in a foreign country called America. On the road, she encounters a series of strangers who help her navigate its topography, including a cowboy in a pink Cadillac, a sadistic law enforcement agent, a pulp fiction novelist, the regulars at a nuclear bomb-themed dive bar, and a man who befriends mannequins.”

“Sweet Dream, Silver Screen” is about twin sisters: one missing, and one trying to find her. It’s an incredibly pulpy, entertaining story that moves quickly.  I loved the quirky details like the sisters’ names: did they dye their hair to match their names, or did they change their names to match their hair? I liked the searching twin, Scarlett, quite a bit. Her sister, Violet, asked for her help and she’s finally coming through, only it might be too late. Violet has moved on and her trail is almost cold. Scarlett is a tough bitch, though, and she isn’t easily diverted from her goal.

This is the kind of down-homey, hardcore story that is very West Coast USA. As a whole, it’s fairly bizarre but not hard to follow, carefree but not watered down.

Something else that’s worth mentioning is the author’s website, where there are playlists posted that correspond to each novel, sort of like a soundtrack for the book. This is something I found to be awesome, and it’s nice that the author took the time to do this. Great idea.

The Bottom Line: This isn’t for everyone. It has sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and violence. If you’re not sensitive, you’ll like it.

A young woman searches for her missing twin sister in a foreign country called America. On the road, she encounters a series of strangers who help her navigate its topography, including a cowboy in a pink Cadillac, a sadistic law enforcement agent, a pulp fiction novelist, the regulars at a nuclear bomb-themed dive bar, and a man who befriends mannequins.

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Short Story Break – Justin Kemppainen

March 20, 2010 at 12:47 am (review) (, , )

“Herbert Meets God” by Justin Kemppainen. Available at Smashwords.com.

Summary: “The world has ended. But not really, everyone on it has just died. Except for Herbert, but, as he soon discovers, he’s not alone, and he was kept alive for a reason. In the ashes of civilization, Herbert comes face to face with his creator. Unfortunately for Herbert, God isn’t exactly what he expected.”

Poor Herbert! God purposely let everyone die except him. Now he’s alone on Earth with God. Could you ask for better company? Probably…

What a goofy, fanciful, and cute story.  At first I felt bad for Herbert, but he turns out okay in the end, despite almost dying once and actually dying once.

This story presents another way to think about God: as an entity with a (childish) sense of humor, and a lot of bratty siblings around the universe. It’s not the most profound philosophical literature but it’s lighthearted and will provide some laughs. To me it seems oversimplified, and this makes the whole story basically a joke on itself. It’s refreshing.

The Bottom Line: It’s free and funny. There’s no reason not to read it.

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The Acorn Stories

March 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm (review) (, , , )

The Acorn Stories by Duane Simolke. Available at Smashwords.com.

Summary: “From romantic comedy to razor-sharp satire to moments of quiet reflection, Duane Simolke’s award-winning tales transform a fictional West Texas town into a tapestry of human experiences.”

Score: 3.75/5

This is a book of short stories about the residents of a fictional town called Acorn, in West Texas. I probably wouldn’t have paused on this book ordinarily, but I was invited by the author to read it and I’m glad I did.

The stories here are basically normal stuff: people getting mad, falling in love, struggling financially, making babies, etc etc. It’s a nice representation of the things that go on behind the scenes in other people’s lives that are so easy to forget about. Almost every story has a different tone and point of view, yet they all come together and fit perfectly.  The stories range from a blackmail letter, to a stream-of-consciousness while lap swimming, to a woman’s messages on her mom’s answering machine. Some characters make an appearance in more than one story, so the reader gets to know them and see them how other Acorn residents see them. Approximately a year goes by in Acorn over the course of the book.

I’ll say again that I liked this book, but I think I would have liked it more if there were a little more drama or scandal going on. There is some, but perhaps I’m desensitized. I read for the same reason I watch a movie or a TV show: to be entertained. Reading about normal people’s lives isn’t as entertaining as reading about murder mysteries and magic-casting elves.  If it were a novel of the same length focused on only one family, it would give more time for the reader to get to know those characters closely. As-is, little snippets of time are taken out of context and strung together like scenes in a movie, never staying focused long enough to get stale.

The Bottom Line: I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but this is a nice, well-written set of stories.

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Short Story Break – Scott Semegran

March 13, 2010 at 3:57 am (review) (, , )

In My Garage by Scott Semegran. Available at Smashwords.com.

Summary: “A couple of years ago, I made a pact with my two best friends, Nolan and Jacob. We decided that we would spend the last night before the end of the world partying in my garage. And that’s just what we did. A short story by Scott Semegran.”

This is a very fast read about three lifelong friends and the way they spend end-of-the-world eve: with each other, of course.

The narrator is of one of the three men, and his view of the world reveals a lot about him. We get a picture of the guy, at least what he wants us to see of him, and he freely admits the bad and the good. Reading this story, I got a feeling of stepping into his shoes completely. In this way I sensed that the narrator was, deep down, an angst-y, vaguely discontented person. It was a lot more effective and powerful to demonstrate these traits by showing them in a subtle way than it would be to mention them outright, and I was impressed at how the whole picture just crept up on me.

This story was okay overall, but it didn’t exactly make a lasting impression on me. I think I might have missed the point; however, I thought it was written well and I’ll check out more from this author in the future.

The Bottom Line: I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a brotherly love, “bros before hos” validation kind of story.

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