Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What The Fuck... Theatre #3

And some more fucked up topics to discuss:

  • Twitter Blocked in Egypt: and all twitter-related apps as well. All because of some big headed, all powerful, master manipulating returning president. Egyptian citizens were outraged when they were informed that their ex authoritarian president won the election by a (rigged?) 90% landslide. Before taking to the streets, they took to their cellphones, texting and tweeting their protests. Can you imagine living in a country where your freedoms were taken from you for speaking your mind? What absolute bullshit! That shit is fucked up!
  • Please Print Your Name Here: Why am I just now hearing that 41 states have adopted a new core standard for English that does not include teaching our children how to write in cursive? Here's the argument: Teaching cursive is more time consuming and not as useful as keyboard skills! What the Fucking Fuck?! It is also one skill that is not assessed when testing for the No Child Left Behind law. Oh pah-lease. Are we really that obsessed with the internet age that handwriting no longer matters? What ever happened the weight of a signature? How will children sign their checks, or the deed to their homes? Have we really gotten so lazy?

And that concludes the third installment of What The Fuck...Theatre!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Forecast

Read 1/13/11 - 1/22/11
3.5 Stars - Strongly Recommended for readers familiar with genre

Housewives paid to watch television ads? Weather forecasts that differ from house to house? Electricity that is generated by negative human emotions? Wearing special masks when you go outside to block the Citizen Surveillance team's ability to "watch" you? This is the world into which author Shya Scanlon thrusts his readers when they crack the cover of his novel Forecast.

Released nearly a month ago by FlatManCrooked, Forecast is an "actionable narrative" set in 2212, written by Lead Citizen Surveillant Maxwell Point, who is currently serving a 6 month probation after his Watchjob mysteriously disappears.

Ok, in plain terms - This is a futurist novel about a woman named Helen who, unbeknownst to her, has been the target of a surveillance organization, and her sudden disappearance after leaving her cheating husband in search of her old boyfriend.

Our narrator, Maxwell, has been observing Helen's every move for the past few years. Floating between chapters, we slowly come to understand why. In a world that is no longer running on electricity, everyone has learned the essential process of Emotion Transfer (aka Buzz). Buzz, the transferal of negative human emotions to inanimate objects, fuels everything from batteries and lamps to blenders and cars. Helen, it appears, has the unique inability to create Buzz - she cannot generate her own electricity - and when she was younger had taught her old boyfriend how to withhold his own.

Currently married to a famous weatherman who is cheating on her with her best friend Joan, Helen finally decides to pick up and leave, kidnapping Joan's dog Rocket, and heads back to her old town in search of her ex-boyfriend. On the way, the focus of the novel shifts from whacky futuristic technology to a dirty underworld of voyeurism and REMO-addicts, as Maxwell watches Helen meet up with a shady actor by the name of Busy, where she hides out in an underworld amusement park, and ultimately vanishes.

While not an easy book to categorize, fans of futuristic, 'big brother', science fiction novels will find lots to love with this one! With twists and turns around every corner, this novel will keep lovers of detective noir guessing right up until the end.

It was interesting to watch Maxwell battle his unhealthy voyeuristic obsession with Helen. He struggled to keep himself emotionally removed from his subject yet continued to find himself feeling a strong attachment to her that mirrored a fatherly sense of responsibility for what happened, or may happen, to her.

As with any novel that deals with one form of surveillance or another (Orwell's 1984 comes immediately to mind) every author must ask himself "how much is too much" when divulging just what is being observed. Shya takes the high road and sticks only to the information that is needed to tell his story. I won't lie... I was waiting for the novel to share a little nose or wedgie picking here and there. You know, those things that people do when they think they are alone and no one can see them. Come on, you guys... you know what I'm talking about. Hell, I've seen some of you doing it... But I digress. The question is simply, what portions of the surveillance should be kept in, and what should be cut out? What makes it just realistic enough, and at what point does it become too much? And is it possible to not put in enough?

This also calls into question the morals and ethics of the "Citizen Surveillant" (or C.S.). I can only imagine how God-like Maxwell must have felt, sitting there observing every single thing Helen was doing, from heating up her morning cup of coffee to taking a shower to clipping her toenails. Did he ever give her some privacy? Does looking away even count as privacy, when you can choose to observe someone at any moment? Towards the end of the novel Maxwell found himself in a position, after years of being the one who "watched', to being on the other end of the camera, or whatever it was that they were able to observe through. So how do things change when one goes from watcher to watched? How does knowing that you are being watched change the way you behave? What does it feel like to be under the microscope like that? And can you ever go back to watching someone again, after knowing what it felt like to be watched?

This novel (which shares moments of similarity to The Truman Show, in which Jim Carrey's character unknowingly lives his entire life in a reality television show) contains people who live their lives somewhat aware that "someone" - as in the big eye in sky - is watching, but never quite knowing if they are the "target" of a specific C.S. They think that the AS-Mask is protecting them, when in reality they are not. Does Helen ever find out that she was targeted by Maxwell's group? Would she have lived a different life, had she known?

Sound like something you might be interested in reading? If you are still on the fence, check out the book trailer:

Also check out Shya reading some of the poems from his book In This Alone Impulse on his goodreads page!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Don't You EVA Interrupt Me While I'm Reading a Book

This video speaks for itself:

Look! I Haz Button!

Sometimes I amaze myself. No, really truly, guys! I mean, I am no computer whiz. But I just created a blog button all on my own (with a little help from Oikology, who wrote out the process step by step) - and I did it even better than them, because they instructed you to create TWO gadget boxes when really, you can simply add all the code into one nice neat little box!

Here's my button, which appears at the top of my blogs sidebar to the right:

Isn't it awesome? I love the button design - which was originally created by a super cool, super TNBBC fan by the name of Philip. What a talented guy, huh? Please share the TNBBC love by adding my button to your blog's sidebar, and I promise to do the same!!! Just link me to your blog here in the comments section letting me know you grabbed my button so I can grab yours!

And even though I am not officially taking part in Bloggiesta this year, I wanted to give all of you Bloggiesta participants a shout-out by attempting to add something new to my blog in honor of all of your hard work!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Down With Verizon: A Customer's Story

Many of you know that I am the owner of two brand new Motorola Droid 2 phones. Smart phones are something totally new to me, and before my hubby and I purchased them, I asked loads of questions in the Verizon Store.

Originially, we were only going to buy mine, even though Verizon was having a "buy one get one free" deal on the Droid's. I explained to the sales associate that one Unlimited Data Package at $30 was all I was willing to pay at the time. I couldn't justify adding the additional package to my bill - $60 was just too much.

With a great big smile, the sales associate informed me that the $30 Unlimited Data Package was the cost for the Primary line on the Family Plan. The two phone lines that were being upgraded were secondaries, and she told us that those Data Packages would only cost $20 each... so really, I would only be adding $40 to my overall Verizon bill, only $10 more than I originally anticipated.

Well, when she put it that way, I mean - I had assumed it was going to cost me $30 just for my phone, what was $10 more, right? So we went ahead and purchased the extra Droid, and had them both activated by Christmas time.

My son and I LOVE our new phones! We use them constantly and are incredibly attached to them. That's why this next part pisses me off so much:

Yesterday, I logged into to check my upcoming bill, and was shocked to see that I am being charged Data Packages that are pro-rated against $30 AND $30 Data Packages for a month in advance on both phone lines!!!

Certain that this was some sort of mistake, I call customer service. I explain what I see, and ask them to rectify the bill before I make my payment, only to find out that there was never any $20 option on an Unlimited Data Package, and that with any newly added feature to a phone, Verizon automatically charges one month in advance. So no dice - I have to pay what I see.

I am beginning to lose my cool at this point. I tell the woman from Customer Service that I would never have purchased the second phone if I hadn't been told, specifically, by the sales woman in the store that the secondary lines were only $20 each - and there had been NO mention of a month-in-advance charge. Customer Service basically tells me there is nothing they can do about it. I am stuck with the bill.

As a long term Verizon customer, I am growing increasingly more frustrated with the way they do business. What ever happened to "the customer is always right"? What ever happened to "customer loyality" and "in good faith"? Most companies I know will not allow a customer to hang up until that customer is 100% happy with their service. Most companies I know will throw you a bone as a peace offering, and knock off a portion of the first bill, to ensure you are content. Hell, most companies I know will charge you what you were promised and take the heat for the sales associate who quoted you the wrong price.

But Not Verizon! Their Customer Service team did not care that my family and I have chosen their products and service over their competitors for more than a decade. Their Customer Service team did not give a shit about the fact that I was misquoted and am now looking at a two year commitment to pay a bill THAT I WAS TALKED INTO BY ONE OF THEIR SALES ASSOCIATES that is much higher than originally promised! Their Customer Service team could care less that I was upset and unhappy with the way they do business. And believe me - I gave that poor girl a piece of my mind.

Verizon can kiss my "good word of mouth" goodbye. I will pay my cell phone bills, on time, and at the misquoted rates. I will continue to use our phones and take advantage of the unlimited internet and email access I am paying for. But I will never, ever, recommend their services or products to anyone, ever again. I will go out of my way to let people know that this is how Verizon treats their customers.

Customer Loyalty? Ha! They don't value that.

Customer Happiness? Ha! They don't believe in that.

Huge organizations, like Verizon, should never lose sight of the people who made them what they are - because we are also the people who can bring them to their knees.

If you have been wronged by Verizon - or had an interaction with them that left a bad taste in your mouth - please share it here. Perhaps by standing together, we can help them take Customer Service more seriously!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

TNBBC Merchandise

Are you a TNBBC addict? Do you hang out with us on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and the blog? Are you sitting there wondering how you can get your hands on some TNBBC merchandise?

Look no further! You can now be a walking TNBBC billboard by simply whipping out your credit card and clicking here.

TNBBC merchandise can be purchased at our page - everything from Tshirts to hoodies, mugs to stickers, baseball caps, and kiddie clothes. There are even three designs to choose from!

Not only am I the creator of TNBBC, I am a customer as well! Take a peek at me sporting my white TNBBC ringer Tshirt on the sidebar to the right (wayyy at the bottom) in a photo with author Teddy Wayne and again in a photo with Harper Perennial's Erica and fellow blogger friend Jamie. Not only is it a cool looking Tshirt, it's great quality and still looks brand new after tons of trips through the washer!!

For every item you purchase, $2 to $5 dollars will be refunded to me to be placed into a TNBBC fund that I will put towards book/gift card giveaways throughout the year. There's a catch, though... Cafepress only releases the refund once TNBBC's account has accumulated $25 or more.

Help support TNBBC as it continues to bring you book reviews, author interviews, author/reader book discussions and fun blog features while offering you bigger and better giveaways! And look pretty fucking rad while doing it!!

My name is Lori, and I approve this blog-post :)

(Photo Credit goes to Philip)

Indie Book Event

Jaime, from The Broke and the Bookish, pointed me towards this today. It's the Indie Book Event, and it's taking place on July 30th at The New Yorker Hotel in NYC. I am absolutely going to attend this - Cost for a blogger is a super low $3.00 (it comes with a badge).

Not much information out there yet as far as which authors and publishers will be attending this day long event, but it appears that there will be panels and just about every genre and reading format to keep us entertained! Are you going to attend?

**EDIT: never mind. I just got an email kickback when I attempted to register that told me the event was cancelled and rescheduled for the summer of 2012... (insert very sad pouty face here)

**EDIT to the EDIT: It's back on Biatches! And I'm going to be a presenter!!!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stylish Blogger... Me??

Ottilie Weber, author of the YA novel of End of the Line and fellow blogger, just spotted me an award! It's the Stylish Blogger Award and I am very flattered to be in possession of it.

As with any award, this one comes with a list of things to complete:
  • Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Award 10 recently discovered great bloggers
  • Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

So 7 things about me... what to share.. what to share..

1. I am addicted to chapstick
2. I am terrified of spiders
3. I hate getting my hair wet when I go swimming
4. I own an 8 year old Goldfish and a 5 1/2 foot long Iguana
5. I believe I officially own more unread books than books I have read (gulp)
6. I am hopelessly addicted to Twitter (follow me @tnbbc !)
7. I LOVE indie publishers and authors

Now for the hard part... 10 recently discovered great bloggers... Only 10???

1. 100 Stars or Less - she reviews lesser known books and authors.
2. Our Fiction Addiction - two girls who blog about their book habits.
3. Me and My Short Stories - a girl on a mission to read and review one short story a day in 2011
4. A Book a Day Till I Can Stay - a guy reading a book a day until he's granted temp residency and a work visa in Australia
5. Caustic Cover Critic - it's all about the cover art
6. Corpuslibris - photo essays on books and bodies, fun stuff

I will hold off on the other 4 for now. I am on a niche-blog kick right now, always on the lookout for those quirky, unlikely, incredibly creative blogs that celebrate books in their own funky ways.
If you know of any that you think I might enjoy, or that you think are worthy of the final 4 copies of the Stylish Award, nominate them here!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What the Fuck.... Theatre #2

Here's some of the most fucked up topics of today:

  • You are not who you once thought you were: This has better be one big ass fucking joke! According to the Huffington Post, I am no longer a Pisces, whose sign is tattooed at the base of my neck. I am now an Aquarius. A mother fucking Aquarius! So what that it's still a water sign... I want my fishies back Biatch! I refuse to acknowledge this change. The Zodiac changes are dead to me. I mean, What the Fuck, man?

  • Imitation is the best form of flattery: What Two Dollar Radio started, Black Ocean Books and Octopus Books follow... although, for some strange reason, the media is hailing them for the concept. C'mon guys, do your research first, wouldja? Sheeet! And they call themselves journalists! Say it with me, everyone.... What the Fuck, man??

And that concludes the second installment of What the Fuck... Theatre!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: The Postman

Read 1/5/11 - 1/12/11
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with genre

This was another one of those novels that eluded me for quite a few years. Originally made aware of it's existence when checking out top 10 post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction lists, The Postman was hailed as one of the better books within those genres.

After searching high and low at local book chains, indie shops, library and used book sales, I contacted it's author David Brin, who selflessly sent me a copy for review. (Many thanks David!)

My timing for this novel couldn't have been any more perfect. Originally published in 1985 and set in 2011/2012, Brin created a world that had been destroyed in an unspecified nuclear and biological war of massive proportions. A world that has been beaten back into the "dark ages", where groups of survivors are cut off from one another and people are forced to barter and trade, and money means nothing.

Sixteen years after the war, we meet Gordon - a lone traveler who used to trade stories and song for food and a place to rest as he passed through isolated pockets of survivors - who is currently being robbed of everything he owns. As he runs from his attackers, he stumbles across an old jeep, containing the long dead body of a United States Postal Worker. In desperate need of clothing and supplies, he strips the skeleton of it's uniform and carries the mail pouches to the nearest populated town. There, he constructs a story about a "Restored United States" and his long and arduous task of reestablishing postal routes throughout the country.

What orignated as a lie to help him survive in tough times begins to instill hope in the towns he visits. And as the tale of a new America travels through the countryside, Gordon actually begins to collect and deliver mail from one town to the next, appointing fellow citizens as postmen, and reconnected long lost family members and friends.

Brin's novel, though quite dated, tackles some timeless concepts - the struggle of one against many, the strong against the weak; the struggle to survive against all odds, and of creating something grand and wonderous out of the ashes of something that had once devestated and crippled the entire country.

Throughout the novel, Gordon questioned his ability to continue the lie, convinced someone somewhere would realize the truth - that there was no "Restored United States", no government to the East attempting to rebuild itself - and call him what he really was, a fraud and a liar, rather than the hero and leader they saw him as. And throughout the novel, I found myself reading along, hoping that in the end, America would actually come running to Gordon's rescue - that the lie he began would eventually work itself into a truth larger than even he could imagine.

What it really became, however, was less a novel about dystopian America attempting to rebuild itself and more a novel of territorial battles against a group of enemy rebels looking to take control of the individual groups of survivors, specifically their supplies, women, and land.

Though I have no previous exposure to Brin's work, which are all classified as sci-fi, I sensed a higher level of science fiction bubbling beneath the surface of this novel. At one point, where he introduces a city that is ruled by a super computer name Cyclops, I actually felt myself losing interest in the story. I mean, how does one go from a world that has been plunged back into the "dark ages" to a secluded city that takes orders from the country's only functioning computer, complete running electricity and Servants who are at it's every beck and call?

Overall, I think my expectations set me up for disappointment, so I do not blame Brin or his story for my reaction to it. When I compare it to other post-apocalyptic novels - like On the Beach by Nevil Shute, The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner, or the more recent The Road by Cormac McCarthy - The Postman fails to hold it own. If I view it on it's own, as a piece of literature sans genre, it fair better as a stand alone novel dipicting the survival of one man in a hostile and distrusting world. It's really a great novel that will have you rooting for the underdog. Attaching a genre to it does not do this book justice.

Here's To Hoping the Movie is Better Than the Book

It is not often that I hope for a movie to outshine the book on which it is based. Wanting it to do the book justice? Yes. Wanting it to contain actors who can actually act? Of course. But sitting here actually hoping that the movie exceeds the book, by leaps and bounds? Well, in this case, I most certainly am.

It should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of Cormac McCarthy. I inhaled his dystopian novel The Road in one sitting. He weaved his backwoods country spell on me with Child of God and Outer Dark. He kept me intrigued with his Borders Trilogy. With each book I read, he climbed higher and higher up my list of favorite authors.

Of course, one cannot be expected to love every book an author puts out, and for me - Sunset Limited ranked lowest on my McCarthy scale. It's a screenplay that deals heavily with God and religion as two men sit at a kitchen table discussing life and death and attempted suicide.

I was not impressed - it came across as preachy, pro-religion, and lacked the haunting poetic prose McCarthy is so well known for. I forced myself to finish it, wanting to get it behind me as quickly as I could.

While watching TV with my kids the other night, however, I saw a preview on HBO for a film adapation of this book starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones. Now, color me crazy, but when you mention Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones in the same sentence, my ears prick up. These two guys, while great actors on their own, creating movie magic when they work together, and the previews actually look quite good. Here, take a peek:

Tell me this doesn't look good! I am planning on watching this. And I have high hopes that Jones (director, executive producer, and actor) will blow this adaptation out of the water. Crossing my fingers that the overwhelming religous undertones won't come across as strongly in the film as it did in McCarthy's screenplay/book.

What do you think? It premieres February 12th on HBO. Anyone making plans to watch it?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CAPTCHA aka Word Verfication

So. I had my eyes pried open this afternoon after seeing a tweet made by @Irisheyz77 about word verification for blogs. She was frustrated after attempting to comment on 3 blogs today, when all 3 required word verification.

CAPTCHA has never bothered me before. I use it on my blog, and most blogs I visit use it as well. I see it as an additional layer of spam protection, and truthfully - I wish my email provider required CAPTCHA to be completed before uploading emails into my inbox. The ratio of spam to "actual" emails is at a headache-causing 3:1. I always looked at it as a positive thing, and did not mind typing it in when commenting on fellow blogger's sites. I never thought of it as a comment deterrent, or a thing from which frustration and aggravation stemmed.

However, after seeing @Irisheyz77 strong reaction, I decided to open it up to Twitterland for additional feedback. Here are some of the replies:

@Irisheyz77: Blogger has a GREAT spam protector. Since they put it in I've had no spam & what does come is caught by it. if it doesn't can always put it back. :-)

@Meghan_Moloney: I find it a bit unnecessary, especially if I'm signing in as one of my existing profiles (Google blogger). An extra step.

@Bookladysblog: Totally agree re: word verification being annoying & a deterrent to commenting. Suppose it depends on how important commenting & conversation are to you.

Like all bloggers, I blog because I love it. I like being able to talk about the books I've read, or the books I want to read. I like being able to showcase indie novels and authors. I like how it's added another layer on to my relationships with authors and publishers. And I also like the interaction it allows me with other bloggers. Nothing makes me happier than when I log into Blogger, and see comments anxiously waiting for me to publish them! And to think that having word verification on my blog might be turing away those very comments that I love so much, well....

Today, I have decided to take the plunge. While I am still going to moderate comments (which means new comments will not appear on a blog post until I publish/approve them), I have removed the word verification process. I will allow Blogger to filter my spam for me, and sit back and wait for that influx of comments I have unwittingly been turning away!

Or.. I am about to find out that the lack of comments had nothing to do with CAPTCHA and has everything to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of my content! Oh Dear!

So let me open this up to you guys: What do you think about comment word verification? Does it stop you from commenting? Does you use it on your own blog, but dislike when others use it? Are you more likely to comment here at TNBBC now that the word verification has been removed?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

My Phone...or...My Friends?

Oh dear. I sorta knew it would come to this. I do not want to choose between my phone or my friends. At the break table, I am chewing and swallowing my breakfast, scrolling down through Twitter on my sexy little phone, and the people I used to socialize with are heckling me. One of them attempted to kidnap it. Sometimes they even leave an empty seat on every side of me. They don't understand the NEED to check my twitter-feed. I only have 20 minutes. It isn't enough time to Tweet AND chat. So much is happening, so many hashtags to follow, I cannot fall behind. I blink and twenty more tweets drop into my lap. There is not even enough time to tweet myself, only time to catch up. Feverishly scrolling against the clock, still reading the tweets from 5am, 6am, 7am...choking down my breakfast. They try to suck me into their break table conversation, but I only have a few minutes left. Reading the tweets from 8am, 9am, Ok, I think I am caught up... One second guys - let me just refresh the screen and SHIT! Twenty more tweets drop into my lap. They are whispering about me now, I am the butt of their jokes, I just know it. But damn it, I am so close to the end. And then the bell rings. We gather our garbage and tuck in our chairs and head back to work. So it appears I have chosen. Oh Phone, don't fail me now. They will not take me back without a fight.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What The Fuck.... Theatre

I now bring you some of the most fucked up hot topics of today:

  • Dead Birds and Fish make the news: Is this Biblical end-times? A terrorist attack? Is it safe to go outside?
  • Erasing the N-Word from a classic work of literature: Essentially rewriting history because as a society, we have become obsessed with being "politically correct". This is beginning to sound more and more like the future that M.Clifford predicted in his fictitious novel The Book. Keep your god-damned hands off of our literature!
  • #lessambitiousbooks and #lessambitiousfilms: Twitter time-suckers. Addictive as hell and non-stop "pee your pants" fun! I've gotten nothing accomplished since this shit took off. Less ambitious book titles I've created: Around the Block in 80 Minutes; Oryx and Cake; The Not So Ha-Ha; Sigh, Babylon; The Chartreuse Mile; Catcher in the Tall Grass; A Weed Grows in Brooklyn. See what I mean, I can keep going... I was at this for hours!!!!

And that concludes my first installment of What The Fuck.... Theatre!

Free PDF of Jeremy Shipp's "Camp"

Jeremy Shipp, the Bram Stoker Award Nominee and author of Cursed - recently reviewed here; Sheep and Wolves; Fungus the Heart; and Vacation, is offering a free PDF version of his short story "Camp".

Jeremy has achieved Twitter-cult status with his trippy 140-character comments about attic clowns and yard gnomes. You can follow him at @jeremycshipp .

His short stories have been published in numerous online magazines, and he is heavily active within the blogging community - guest posting and interviewing with fans of "Bizarro" fiction.

If you have ever wondered whether or not you should purchase one of his novels, here is your chance to preview his writing for free. Simply click this link, and you shall find yourself the proud owner of "Camp" .....

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Subversia

Read 1/1/11 - 1/4/11
4 Stars: Strongly Recommended

I'm a fan of Duke Haney. I fell in love with his novel Banned For Life, which I reviewed here in March. As a struggling actor, screenplay writer, musician, and author, I don't think there is anything out there that this guy hasn't seen or done first hand... and in Subversia, his newest release - an autobiographical collection of stories/essays - he puts it out there, "warts and all", for the whole world to read.

From attending summer camp at the age of 10 under the perverted eye of a Camp Director who took naked photographs of the boys, to finding himself plagued by compulsive-obsessive thoughts of murdering his family, to chance encounters with Elliot Smith and Al Pacino, to spending 9 years of his life writing and rewriting Banned... Duke allows us to walk a mile in his well-worn yet incredibly hip shoes.

Subversia reads like a conversation between two very close friends. Tweeting with Duke as I read through the book, I explained to him that it's almost as though he is sitting beside me at a bar, sharing stories of his childhood and young adult life over a couple of beers. These are the sort of things you talk about when you're on a first date with a girl; embarrassing stories that you think might impress her, or get her giggling; horrific stories that will make her gasp; stories that allow you to show her your scars. These are the things that made you who you are, and you want her to either accept them, or run away screaming.

"Forever Strangers" reveals his tender, thoughtful side - discussing the millions of strangers who weave in and out of our lives, and the few who manage to make an impact as they pass through. This is a topic I could talk forever on. It begs us to ask the age-old questions - What's our purpose? Why am I here? Does anything I do really matter?

"The Uninvited" shows his vulnerable, easily spooked side - hearing strange noises in the house, calling a friend on the phone contemplating the place being haunted, only to find that a big ass rat has moved in! And then contemplating how the heck to rid himself of it. This one made me giggle, because (1) I am terrified of ending up someplace that is haunted, and so every noise I hear immediately starts me thinking of ghosts and spirits and (2) if you swap "rat" for "spider" I would be climbing the walls in fear until I knew the damn thing was dead, dropped into the toilet, and flushed away for good. (For those of you who read this story: Duke tells me that, to this day, he doesn't know what happened to the rat.)

In "Romance, Bromance, and Deja Vu" he teaches us that yes... men ARE like women. They can get catty and let people come between them too.

Drug abuse, wild punk rock concerts, a short lived James Dean icon phase, a car accident that nearly killed him, all of the shitty side jobs he worked and screenplays he wrote to keep a dollar in his pocket... it's all in here.

Most of these essays were previously published on The Nervous Breakdown, an incredibly cool online magazine that Duke regularly contributes to.

My hat off to Duke. For having the guts to put his life stories out there, in black and white, to be dissected by the public, because that is not always an easy thing to do. Man, This guy can write. And he deserves to be read. I have a much greater appreciation for his novel Banned now, having read everything he went through and understanding more of what went into it.

I also want to thank Duke - for supplying me with a signed, tea-stained copy of this book to review. I will cherish it always. (and yes, I sniffed the pages.) And for humoring me over Twitter this past week.

Congrats to The Nervous Breakdown as well, for this is their very first release as a brand spankin' new publishing company (TNB). I cannot wait to see what you guys are serving up next!

Free eBook Download of Sukkwan Island

In anticipation of the soon-to-be released Caribou Island, Harper Collins is offering a free eBook download of David Vann's novella "Sukkwan Island".

The novella, originally found nestled between short stories in Vann's Legend of a Suicide, recently won France’s prestigious Prix Medicis award for best foreign novel.. and can be downloaded with an excerpt of Vann's new novel.

For those of you who are long-time followers, you may remember that I reviewed Legend of a Suicide back in April. I was blown away by "Sukkwan Island", and Vann's writing style in general.

You can download your free copy of this novella via amazon, sony, or kobo. And you totally should!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Scars on the Face of God" Giveaway

The first TNBBC giveaway of 2011!!
This one is coming to you compliments of C.G. Bauer himself...

You may remember me reviewing Scars on the Face of God at the beginning of December, the book that I searched high and low for in bookstores, book sales, and library sales for over a year... and fell hard and fast for!

Here is the description from Goodreads:

"Hex signs protect every barn and outbuilding. The local tannery spews its poison on the land and in the river. And babies disappear at birth.

An orphan and one-time felon who earned his nickname -from the sound a crowbar makes when it hits a man-s head,- Johannes -Wump- Hozer is now the custodian of Our Lady of the Innocents parish in Three Bridges, PA. Wump is old and tired. He-s fought all his life against the tannery-s waste, against God, and against the blind eyes of his good neighbors. Nowadays he tries to ignore the old priest-s exploits with the young women of the parish and the strangeness surrounding the local orphanage, and does what good he can for his wife, the church, the sisters who run the orphanage, and the poor orphans themselves.

Then childhood memories and strange presentments begin to plague Wump when a brick wall unearthed at the site of a new restaurant collapses, and raw sewage carries hundreds of baby bones into the pit left behind. Looks like the devil-s made Three Bridges his playground, and Wump needs to find out why; the babies keep screaming and he has to make it stop."

Chris is offering up one signed copy of his novel.

The giveaway is for US Residents only
and ends midnight January 7th.

Here's how to enter:

1. Post a comment telling Chris and I why you want to read his book and be sure to leave a way for me to contact you.

2. Please do not enter if you have won a book from TNBBC in the past three months. We want to make sure we are sharing the book-winning experience with everyone!

Author Interview w/ C.G. Bauer

I can't think of a better way to ring in the New Year than with an author interview! Today, we have C.G. Bauer with us, author of Scars on the Face of God - a chilling tale of a small Pennsylvanian town where religion has gone horribly horribly wrong.

A native of Philadelphia, Chris shares with us how his personal experience with religion helped shape his novel, his feelings on the eBook craze, and which actors he would cast in the film version of Scars..

How old were you when you first realized that you had a knack for writing?

I wrote one sci-fi short story while I was in my twenties (on a typewriter), its sole hard copy weighed down by crusty Wite-Out and eventually lost to posterity during one relocation or another. I wrote no other creative/fictional pieces until I was in my forties when I began a novel about corporate greed, takeovers, layoffs, cross country relocation and, um, slow-pitch softball. (Sing along with me, kids: “Which of these things is not like the other…?”) Eight to ten years and 130,000 un-publishable words later The Rabbit, Stilled was finished, only to be relegated to back-up disk after an unsuccessful campaign at finding an agent, with a few agents mentioning that it was about 50,000 words too long for an unknown debut author. (Think shelf space.) But Rabbit may rise again someday after a rewrite, considering its main characters had their origins in Scars on the Face of God, this because Scars was purposely written as a shorter novel (88,000 words) after Rabbit to make Rabbit publishable. Good plan, right? The problem: Scars is paranormal/horror, Rabbit is mainstream contemporary. Hey, shit happens.

I also authored a tongue-in-cheek advice column during my early years at an insurance company, which, as my current employer, must remain unidentified due to the potential for copyright violations, unauthorized usage of trademarks, etc., etc. Suffice it to say the column was purportedly written by a cartoon dog named Snoppy, the frustrated and cynical twin brother of another cartoon beagle with nearly the same name yet arguably more significant notoriety.

Who or what was your greatest influence?

My greatest influences have been situational as well as author-inspired. For Scars it was my discovery of the real-life religious artifact manuscript Codex Gigas (“Giant Book”, aka “The Devil’s Bible”) when I surfed the net after asking the question “What if the Devil wrote his own Bible?” A Bohemian monk wrote the massive book in the 13th century as a penance because of one monastic indiscretion or another, and it was completed, according to legend, in one night with the help of the Devil. Over the centuries it became the spoil of a few European wars and now resides in Sweden’s Royal Library.

A hilarious telephone conversation I eavesdropped at a seaside restaurant, between a mobster wannabe and his nosey mother, led to my published-then-recorded short story titled “You’re a Moron,” seen in the pulp fiction e-zine Thuglit (Jan. 2009) and heard/performed in an audio version at Well Told Tales (Sept. 2009; 22,000 downloads and counting).

On the author front, I’ve been most inspired by Dean Koontz, specifically his supernaturally gifted yet wonderfully honest fry-cook character Odd Thomas. And I’m still enamored by the undereducated voice that Steve Shilstone used to relate his account of fictional baseball shortstop Chance Cain in his novel Chance.

In your interview with Philadelphia Stories, you mentioned that your novel – Scars on the Face of God – took 3 years to write. What was the writing and editing process like for you?

I work fifty-plus hour weeks at my day job plus my commute takes another two plus hours out of each workday. The only way I find time to write is if I don’t sleep, so I write and edit (and social network, surf the net, procrastinate, etc.) by rising by five a.m. seven days a week, working until seven a.m. on weekdays, nine a.m. on weekends. I found I like what I’ve written in the morning then I often find I don’t like that morning’s production in the evening, turning so cynical that my evening edits can occasionally produce a minus word count for the day. Since I’m also part of two writers’ critique groups I decided to replace my evening writing routine with critiquing other people’s work at night, rather than my own. Minus-word-count problem solved.

Your novel is set in Pennsylvania, yet has a very southern, gothic feel to it. How did you decide on its tone and setting?

I’m thinking the tone has been set by my first-person narrator-protagonist Wump Hozer, a blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth type who wears his heart on his sleeve. One reader compared the narrative to some of Mark Twain’s storytelling. Wump comes across as anti-religion, or at least anti-Catholic, while his wife Viola, whose pre-Wump plan was to join a convent, keeps him grounded in a belief in God. From Wump’s perspective God’s existence is rooted more in providing punishment, with said punishment often delivered to the wrong people.

Reasons the novel is set in Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia: I’m a Philadelphia native; Philadelphia has a very large and active Catholic population; the fictional St. Jerome’s Home for Foundlings is fashioned after St. Vincent’s Home, an iconic orphanage on the Delaware River that now provides services to unwed teenage mothers; and in deference to the leather tannery subplot, the greater Philadelphia area had a number of tanneries in operation in the nineteenth century.

All of your characters, for better or for worse, are incredibly unique and intensely flawed. What went into the creation of the four main characters - “Wump” Hozer, the narrator; Father Duncan, the new priest; Leo, a mentally handicapped boy; and Raymond, Leo’s blind, mute, wheelchair-ridden best friend?

Wump Hozer is a composite, fashioned after a now-deceased gruff uncle, a South Philly truck driver from a large family (one of eleven, twelve, maybe more siblings) who were major hellions during their younger years. There was also a real-life “Dogshit Johnny” (Wump’s childhood nickname), grandfather to a writer friend of mine, who did police his neighborhood in search of, ahem, dog shit, and who did deliver it to tanneries for money. Fertilizer is apparently an excellent leather-softening agent.

Father Duncan, former pro ballplayer who got his call to the priesthood from a dead relative, was a character made completely from scratch. I love baseball and wanted to provide an earthy, macho quality to his portrayal as a priest, a profession not typically known for its machismo. There’s also something about the potential of seeing a baseball bat-wielding priest that gets me going in the good guys vs. demons department.

Leo, Raymond and Teddy are fashioned after three children I remember from my northeast Philadelphia upbringing. As an adult I felt it odd that there were this many and more mentally and physically impaired kids in a small, four-city block area. Their real-life counterparts were what gave the tannery waste-dumping storyline its purchase. I believe the real-life Leo (real name Jimmy), probably in his early fifties now, may well still run errands for the people in the neighborhood.

If Scars on the Face of God were to be released as a movie, which actors would you cast to play the roles of “Wump”, Father Duncan, Leo, and Raymond?

Like most authors, I love being asked this question regarding something I’ve written.

Jeff Bridges as Wump. Looking forward to seeing Bridges’ portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the remake of True Grit, and I loved his cantankerous country-western singer protagonist in Crazy Heart.

As Father Duncan, the late Merlin Olsen. He was a soft-spoken giant of a man, NFL Hall of Famer, a football announcer, and a supporting actor from Little House on the Prairie. Hey, with all the new zombie science out there and a decent Hollywood special effects team, we should be able bring him back for this role. Okay-fine, if I have to go with someone living, Joaquin Phoenix. I loved his baseball swing in M. Night Shyamalan’s crop circles thriller Signs, plus his Johnny Cash portrayal in Walk the Line proves he looks great in black.

Leo is a no brainer. Leonardo DiCaprio can borrow from his Arnie Grape role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. (Yes, at age thirty-six DiCaprio could play a ten-year-old boy, he’s that good an actor.)

As Raymond, Stephen Hawking. That was too easy.

Directing: M. Night Shyamalan. This would be just the vehicle for him to return to his roots as a premier teller of eerie Philadelphia stories. Plus he’s a Philly native. You listening, M?

Religion plays a large role in Scars. How did your 12 years of Catholic School influence its plot?

In elementary school I was an altar boy. Plus—surprise—I was also afraid of the nuns. Standard fear stuff like not wanting to get cracked across the knuckles with a ruler, avoiding after-school detention with snoring elderly bearded female gnomes robed in black, avoiding embarrassment at not having word-for-word recall of my Catechism, that sort of thing. In Catholic high school not much changed: Afraid I’d get cracked across the face by a hall-patrolling, yardstick-wielding priest (the school’s “disciplinarian”), then contending with detention (called “jug”) after bitching to said disciplinarian for his said cracking across my said face. I’m now more of a cradle and grave Catholic, getting back to church for baptisms, weddings and funerals only. As I’ve gotten older I prefer to be more attuned to simply treating other living things the way I’d like to be treated and calling that my religion.

This novel was originally released as an eBook, and earned you a finalist slot in the 2010 EPIC awards. As a writer and a reader, what is your take on the rise of eBooks and eReaders?

I’m loving the eBook revolution. While I admit as an older fart I’d rather read ink on paper, I love the idea of generating customer interest in a product that can be satisfied nearly instantly by downloading it on the spot. Impulse buying at its finest. Point, click, sold, delivered! A published novelist friend mentioned this real-life scenario: He attended a writers conference as a panelist, visited an audience table, was soon told that everyone at the table had downloaded his novel to their Kindles by the time he’d finished answering their questions. Yet even with this endorsement I fess up to not owning an eReader of any kind just yet. It’s not because I’m too set in my printed word ways. It’s simply because I have a stack of unread print novels that I’m determined to finish first before I load up a Kindle or some other device with more unread novels. There are only so many hours in a day…

What are you currently reading?

I just finished the non-fiction NYT bestseller Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern, now a TV sitcom starring William Shatner. Hilarious, tears-in-my-eyes, lol book and a quick read. No feel for the sitcom but somehow I don’t see the blue-humored charm translating well on network TV, considering its charm has so much to do with its f-bomb and equivalent content. Justin’s father’s quotes are so incredibly irreverent, politically incorrect and raunchy that the reader has him instantly pegged as either a truck driver, hockey player or drill sergeant, and all of them in need of more fiber. Wrong on all counts. His real-life dad, now retired, taught nuclear medicine! Unbelievable. Currently reading Patient Zero by multiple Bram Stoker Award winner and NYT bestselling author Jonathan Maberry. Outstanding premise: zombies being used as pawns in a terrorist plot. Excellent read. Also in my queue: Jonathan’s second installment in the series, The Dragon Factory; another non-fiction offering, Jeanne Denault’s Sucking Up Yellow Jackets, a humorous yet somewhat tragic memoir about raising an Asperger’s Syndrome child who was fixated on motorcycles and explosives.

What can we expect from you next?

I’m into the second half of a standalone novel with the working title Hop Skip Jump, a paranormal mystery about reincarnation and channeling. One sentence summary: What happens when souls try to come back to where they’re needed the most and other entities are hell-bent on not letting that happen? Plus my comedic/tragic horror short story “Zombie Chimps from Mars” will be coming out in this winter’s print edition of Shroud Magazine (, publication date pending.

What websites/authors/novels would you recommend to our audience?

I recommend my small press publisher’s website (, publisher of legend and fantasy fiction. I also recommend my own website ( of course, but it’s a cautious recommendation in that it’s currently undergoing significant reconstruction.

I’ve found myself visiting crime fiction websites more often these days, this because I’d like to write some longer crime fiction pieces. Pulp fiction websites: Thuglit, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp. Horror websites: Horror Bound, (hundreds of horror magazines). Authors I’m following nowadays: Jonathan Maberry is hitting his stride in horror (adult and YA) and comics; new novelist Dennis Tafoya is making waves with his crime fiction (Dope Thief, The Wolves of Fairmount Park); the venerable Stephen King; Jeffrey Deaver; Dean Koontz.

Thanks much for having me here, Lori. Happy reading and blogging in 2011, to you and those who follow you. And if folks are interested in contacting me for signed copies of Scars on the Face of God they can do so at

Review: Volt

Read 12/30/10 - 12/31/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Release date: 3/11

So in my mad rush to cram another book into 2010 - I cracked this collection of short stories open and found myself unable to lift my eyes from it's pages. Not because I wanted to finish it before the ball dropped, but because it completely sucked me in and refused to spit me back out!

2010 seemed to be bursting at the "short story" seams. I read more short stories this year than any other years combined and it looks as though 2011 is headed in the same direction. What I love about Alan Heathcock's collection, what sets his book apart from most other collections, is an interconnectedness amongst his characters and their setting.

Volt is a series of short stories that all take place in the made-up town of Krafton: A bad luck, back-woodsy sort of place that reeks of tragedy and mischief. Running into some of the same characters, at different points in their lives, helped create a sense of familiarity and eased the transition between stories for me.

We meet Jorgen as a sort of love-sick, confused young man on the verge of returning to the war - and then catch up with him much later in life, when an outside police force contact Helen, the local sheriff, with a warrant for his arrest after he fails to show for a court date. By this time, we've already met Helen, the local sheriff, as she rescues the townspeople during a flood while reminiscing about a murder she attempted to cover up. Vernon, who we know once helped his father dispose of a man he killed, winds up knocking on his ex-wife's door many years later with a shoe box filled with unread letters from his dead son.

Reading Volt is almost like flipping through the family album, or reading a decades worth of back to back newspaper clippings from a single town. Each story cuts deeper and deeper into the wounds of Krafton and it's residents. Each chapter pulls the skin back a little farther, exposing more of it's filthy rotting core.

Heathcock is a master at torturing his characters - sometimes physically, sometimes mentally. Heathcock allows them to grieve and grow and be human. But he does not hand them resolutions. They do not get closure. We are left to believe that their pain and suffering and frustrations continue long after the stories we've read have ended. That is the beauty of Volt.

His writing and his stories reminded me very much of author Benjamin Percy - who, believe it or not, is acknowledged on the back cover of the ARC with advanced praise for Volt. A must read for fans of the dark, dreary, underside of humanity.

Many thanks to publisher Heathcock's publisher Graywolf Press for making the ARC available to me for review!