Join the Siege!

I have been silent for more than a week – which goes against the promise I made to myself when I started this blog – oops!

Anyway, I have been engrossed in Rhiannon Frater’s last installment of her Zombie epic, Siege, As the World Dies, Book Three.

If you haven’t picked up The First Days, As the World Dies, do it now (I mean it, stop reading this blog and go get the book)…

Now that you are back (and I am sure that you have now read all three books because I could not stop after the first), let me talk first about this book and then generally about the series. For those of you who ignored me earlier and have not read this series, I will not post any spoilers.

I expect a series to slack off. The longer you read a series, the more it kinda falls flat. That is not the case here. Siege is nonstop, and no one is safe. Frater makes it very clear from the beginning that she has no problem killing off her characters – for those of you who have never written a novel, this is very hard to do. An author creates a special bond with their characters. They are our friends as much as any flesh and blood. We applaud their successes and morn their defeats.

As a reader, you are kept on the edge of your seat. You expect the main characters to live, so when they die, you are shocked. And this novel has plenty of shocks. Frater has created something that is much greater than the sum of its parts – a zombie novel that is less about blood and gore and more about people working together, bickering over their differences and attempting to create hope among despair.

Siege is more political than the previous two novels which is to be expected given the events leading up to it. Fighting for survival causes us to come together – but once we feel comfortable in our survival, our prior prejudices get the better of us.

One note to Frater: I would have liked to know what happened to the Baptists (just saying… you left it dangling).

Overall, this was the best Zombie series I have ever read. More over, non-zombie fans would still be enthralled from the first paragraph (which caused me to mutter ‘daaaammmnnn’ under my breath).

The series has plenty of action, lots of blood and gore, but also heavy emotional moments and strong female characters. I see that Frater has optioned the movie rights, I will be first in line if it is ever made.

Thanks for the incredible journey Rhiannon!

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Trapped in the Dark! A Review of Jake Elliot’s New Novel

I was privileged to be asked to review Crossing Mother’s Grave by Jake Elliot. Jake and I “met” through our shared publisher, and parts of my review to his first book can be found inside the cover of this one. Crossing Mother’s Grave is the sequel to Elliot’s first novel, The Wrong Way Down, and I don’t think they can be read out of order, so if you haven’t read the first, you can have the luxury of reading them both back to back (where as I had to wait several months).

It is not often that a sequel out does the original, but over the past couple months, I have come across two (I will get into the other at another time). Often we get conned into reading a sequel because the first was so good – i.e. The Hunger Games, lets face it the first was way better than the second.

That is not the case with Crossing Mother’s Grave. This installment actually out does the first (and not that the first was bad), it was not, but it required a large amount of set up to introduce the Characters, the Setting, and so on (typical of a Fantasy novel since the author has to introduce their new world). This one was not encumbered with set up, so instead we get action – and a lot of it.

Elliot managed to take me back to my D&D days (I know, I’m a geek). I was reminded of those days drawing elaborate cave maps and setting up pitfalls and wicked monsters along the catacombs, only this book is more violent than I could have imagined as a teen.

Set mostly in the dark, I could feel the claustrophobia setting in. Popalia and her companions escape possible death at Dead Rik’s and resume their hunt for the thief that stole a sacred artifact, only to find that their prey has been captured and taken underground by an Orc hunting party. Fleeing through vast caverns, they spend the entire novel in ‘Mother’s Grave’ with only torches to light their way and death around every corner.

Elliot really sets the mood from the very beginning and my earlier assessment of possibly three or four novels is likely completely wrong – we may be at the beginning of a very long epic – having only scratched the surface – especially with what we find out at the end.

Where the first book seemed to hold back on the violence and sexuality, this one opened it up. From bloody fight scenes to eating human flesh, Crossing Mother’s Grave delivers excitement – and most of all empathetic characters that both inspire and annoy.

Great novel, Jake, your fans will not be disappointed!

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Review of The Wrong Way Down

Here is a copy of my Goodreads review of The Wrong Way Down by Jake Elliot. I will be finishing up his second installment in the series in a couple days so I though it would be appropriate to revisit the first. BTW part of this review made the inside of the second book.

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I’ll be brutally honest, since I know the author would expect nothing less (he is published by the same company that I am, though we have never met, and he read and reviewed my novel as well). It took me about two or three chapters to get my feet firmly planted in this alternative world. Once I did, I was sold. The best part about this novel is the main character, Popalia. At first, I really didn’t like her. She is whiny and stubborn and a bit self righteous. But then I realized that the author intended her to start out that way so that she had a starting point to grow upon — After all, she had been raised in a church and fed with a silver spoon. Wynkker, her trusty elf, served as her voice of reason, and some comic relief.

I did not realize that this book was just the beginning, and I think it is important to know that going in. I figured it out when I hit the 75% mark and realized that there weren’t enough pages left for Popalia and Wynkker to fulfill their duties. Perhaps there should be a “Book One” in the title.

To give Jake Elliot a grandiose comparison, I would compare this to The Eye of the World, Jordan started out that lengthy saga with a simple story about a farm boy and look where it went from there.

Here’s the gist (no spoilers), two thieves steal a sacred item. One is caught and the other gets away (with the item). While escorting the captured thief from the church to the nearest city, she escapes. Not wanting to turn back, Popalia and Wynkker pursue her, and this is the tale of that pursuit.

Now that I have my bearings on Jake Elliot’s writing style, I expect at least two more books in this series — possibly more if the subplots lead to a deeper understanding of this world, or a war breaks out around the characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure, it is a great read for fantasy fans. I just hope Mr. Elliot doesn’t make me wait two years for each installment like Jordan did!

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Michael Faust Back Cover

I hate writing blurbs! I think most authors will agree that Blurbs and Query Letter are the Devil’s punishment for creativity. With that said, here is what I am thinking about for the back cover of my new novel

Scott Cane, the shapeshifting vigilante, finally has it all – a fresh clean mind and body, even though it means living as a woman, Ally Miller. He has a beautiful girlfriend, even though she is one of the agents that have been hunting him for years. In addition, Ally is poised to inherit over a billion dollars. So why can’t he stop hunting and killing? Has living in the minds and bodies of serial killers for so long corrupted him to the point of no return?

Convinced he will stop hunting once he locates the creature known only as ‘Four’, Scott Cane sets his sites on two serial killers. In Atlanta, someone is stalking professional women in parking garages and dumping their bodies in grassy fields on the outskirts of town. And along the lonely stretch of highway, between Macon and Savannah, murders and disappearances have become so frequent the road has been dubbed ‘Georgia’s Dieway.’

The past is coming back to haunt everyone. For Agent Hanson it is a romance long forgotten. For Agent Cynthia Gates it is that night on the basement stairs – hiding from her abusive father. For Cane it is a serial killer, known as the A1A Stalker, which he failed to kill over thirty years ago. Is happiness completely unobtainable, or, like Faust, does one simply have to sell their soul?

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Let the Adventure Begin!

Above my fireplace is a plaque with an old saying (and I do not know the author) “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

The last moment in my life that completely took my breath away was the day I got the acceptance letter from my publisher for Lazarus Cane. It came with the realization that I, Jeremy Kline, was now a Published Author!

Many people write books, few actually get the opportunity to experience the joy that comes with receiving that letter and signing that contract.

That joy is quickly squelched by the publishing world and the realization that not every published writer is going to be Steven King – at least not right away. Being a writer, like any other job, takes hard work, determination and dedication to succeed. Since the pay is not great at first, being a writer ends up being like an unpaid intern – you do all the work and get nothing in return (okay, you do get the satisfaction of hearing how great you are).

When reality sets in, you find that you have taken on another full time job which requires the one thing that most writers are not good at – Self Promotion.

I would rather write an Oprah Book Club novel than have to self-promote (and if you have read my novel you know that my writing would never make her list!)

I am now about to begin a new adventure. Being impatient and wanting to get my work out to my fans (as few as they are, they are a very loyal bunch), I have decided to move my publishing over to Amazon’s service, called CreateSpace.

With this will likely come the stigma of being a “self-published” author. Not too long ago, that sigma was an author’s death knell, but the publishing world has changed, and I like Jimmy Buffett am “200 year too late”, so I am going to move with the world. The reasons for my decision are simple:

  1. I have already achieved my dream of getting published, so I know (from people who don’t know me) that I can write a readable story, and there has been a lot of demand for the next novel in the series.
  2. I can publish on my terms and keep the rights.
  3. I can focus on the writing without worrying about query letters. (better for my fans)
  4. If I make it big then it will be because of my writing.
  5. The pay is better! (well, at least the percentages)

I have been through the publishing process, and it has highs and lows. With my new track, I will be on my own. I will have to take what I learned and apply it forward. Luckily, my publisher still has a vested interest in selling my first novel, and I think the readers will find the second without their help.

I am hoping to have everything submitted to get the book out by November 1st. Here is the cover that I have been working on. Stay tuned for more details.

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Michael Faust — Chapter 3

I can’t believe it is Thursday and I haven’t posted anything this week!

 

Chapter Three

 

Hanson and Gates waited patiently in front of the large teleconference monitor mounted on the wall.  Their meeting room was small and rarely used. The metal-framed table in the center of the room provided just enough space for their laptops and could barely accommodate four chairs.

They had only been in the office twice since discovering the body under Ally Miller’s pool.  Most of their work was done from home or the mobile command center;  however, their office was the only place with a secure enough connection for these meetings.

Soon the large screen in front of them would split into four rows and five columns.  Each project manager for the SIA would appear in a separate box.  A red line would outline the box of whoever had the floor.  The whole process reminded Gates of group therapy sessions she attended while in college.  The red box was the digital substitute for the talking stick.

These meetings bored Gates.  Each person had to give a status update – without revealing the secretive aspects of their assignments.  Many of them asked her questions, which was the only reason she paid any attention at all.  She could only imagine how boring it must have been for her partner.

The sudden click of front door lock perked up both of their ears. The office rarely had visitors – mostly sales people. But no one in Beaufort had access to actually unlock the door.  Gates was certain she was hearing things, but the buzzer ringing as the door opened confirmed that someone had entered.

Hanson looked at her calmly even as he pulled his gun from its holster. He seemed torn between which gun to use – and eventually decided on the tranquilizer.

Gates and Hanson knew there was a mole in the SIA.  Both of them assumed it was Brooks, but they could not be certain of it.

Hanson quietly rose from his chair and moved toward the open conference room door.  As slow and silent as he was getting there, he was equally as adept at slinging his gun around down the hall.  All Gates could do was pull her own gun and shield herself behind the open door.

She saw Hanson’s expression change instantly as a sideways smile crept up his lip. He did not lower his gun.

“Warm afternoon in Florida,” he called down the hall.

“The manatee are delighted,” a voice called back.  Only then did Hanson return his weapon to its holster.

“Fuck, man!  You of all people should know not to walk into a SIA field office without some kind of advance notice.”

“Spur of the moment decision.”

“Good way to die.”

“Perhaps,” the man said as he finally came into Gates’ view.  He was ruggedly handsome with stark white hair cut high and tight.  His weathered face looked as if it commanded authority and his black pin-striped suit was tailored to fit perfectly over his trim broad-shouldered frame.

“It is good to see you again, my old friend,” Hanson grinned as he accepted his visitor’s open hand and turned it into a manly two-pat hug.  “But your timing is a little off.  I have a meeting it a couple minutes.  Perhaps I could meet you for lunch?”

“Are you in the habit of inviting people, who bypass your office security, out to lunch?”

“Well, I assumed you got one of your cronies to hack our database.  No worries; it will be changed and encrypted before you get another chance.  Is that a yes?”

“Actually, I am here on a business matter.  I am certainly open for lunch, but we need to talk first.”

“Well, like I said, I have a…”

“Are you going to introduce me to you lovely partner, Agent Hanson?  Or have you lost your manners?”

Hanson huffed and shook his head,  “My apologies,” he stated, with mock formality. “This is Dr. Cynthia Gates.  Agent Gates, may I introduce The Deputy Director of the CIA, Mr. Walter Thomas Ayers.”

The title rang home in Cynthia’s ears and she suddenly felt very small. Perhaps Hanson was too blinded by their obvious friendship, but she knew the moment the words came out of Hanson’s mouth – she was looking at her new boss.

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Michael Faust — Chapter 2

Chapter Two

 

            The woman, who calls herself Ally Miller, sat Indian-style on the hotel bed wearing only a white v-neck shirt.  Her long hair was tied up in a ponytail and photos lay scattered all around her.

            She studied each victim carefully noting each detail of their faces and bodies,  creating a chart on a notebook and tying the common features together with lines.  The notebook looked like a complex web; round face tied to blonde hair, connected to mouth lines, and so on.  The web painted a clear picture in her mind.

            She closed her eyes and searched her mind, each profile carefully cataloged and stored.  Unfortunately, none matched the one she needed.

            We’ll have to go out looking for one.

            Shouldn’t be a problem, it is a very common look.

            So why don’t we have it?

            Never needed it – I guess.

            The ringing phone gave her a start as she snapped out of her meditation.

            “Hey, Babe,” she said, seeing Cynthia’s face pop up on her screen.

            “I didn’t wake you, did I?  I know you had a long day.”

            “No, I’m still up.  It was just a bunch of signing today.  All of the details were ironed out over the last few months.  Getting that much money at one time makes it very hard to sleep.”

            “I can only imagine,” Cynthia said, biting her lip.  “Look… ahh… we have a problem.”

            “What’s going on?”

            “Did you watch Celebrity Tonight?”

            “That tabloid show?”

            “Yeah.”

            “No,” Ally laughed. “I’m surprised you did.”

            “Well… I was… anyway, somebody told them about us.”

            “What?”

            “Yeah, they were reporting that you were dating an FBI agent – a female FBI agent,” Cynthia omitted the ‘older’ part.

            “Oh, that could be an issue for you, right?”

            “Yeah, you didn’t tell them, did you?”

            “Oh, hell no.  I don’t tell any of those cretins anything.  They twist your words if you do; besides, I’m not a celebrity-just the daughter of a businessman.”

            “You’re a billionaire, young and hot, and now that they know you’re into women, they will be all over you.”

            “They’ll get bored soon enough.”

            “They haven’t gotten tired of Paris Hilton.”

            “Well, Paris shoves her shit in front of every camera she can.  Unless we decide to make a sex tape, or start texting each other naked pictures, we should be fine.”

            “Well, lay low awhile.  I’m supposed to be meeting with an FBI media consultant in a few days, so try to stay out of the limelight, okay?”

            “I will.”

            “It does suck that we can’t send each other naked pictures, though,” Cynthia said, coyly.

            “Why, Agent Gates, I do believe I’m rubbing off on you,” Ally replied in a deep southern drawl.

            “I wish you were rubbing on me.  I hate being apart this long.”

            “You wanna fool around?”

            “You are so bad,” Cynthia laughed.  “Listen, in all seriousness, you be careful, okay?”

            “I always am.”Alley replied, innocently.

            “I just started working up a profile. The guy is… well… he’s grabbing them out of parking garages.  I haven’t dug that deeply for other similarities, but he is probably a good -looking guy because there is no sign of a struggle.”

            “Okay, I promise I will not get into any handsome man’s car.”

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