Friday, November 29, 2013

Book Review - "Ransom of the Healer"

In any book review, there is always the potential for some plot point or other piece of vital information to be inadvertently leaked.  I will make my best effort to leave the stones turned face down, but also recommend you proceed with caution, as you should in reading any review of a book you have not already read for yourself.  After all, your own review upon entering the shiny, untrodden world of the unknown is really the only one that truly matters.  And rest assured, oh lover of the unexplored worlds lurking on bookshelves everywhere, the world found in the Ransom Series is one well worth adventuring.  But for now, the review of this, the first novel from A.C. Autry, “Ransom of the Healer.”

The pace in the first half of the novel is slower, as the primary characters are introduced and the world is created.  The author spins the web of the story line by line, pulling the reader into an unknown, mysterious new world a little at a time, carefully not revealing too much too quickly.  You spend most of the first half gaining an understanding that there are supernatural things afoot, but without understanding the full details.  A.C. Autry’s world for the Ransom Series is not just a new spin on well-travelled landscapes.  The author takes some fundamental concepts from the rich traditions of fantastical literature, and crafts an entirely new race of beings.  The setting is modern, so the idea is that these beings are among us even now - we just don’t know it.  The story is told from a “his” and “hers” point of view, alternating between Catryn and Nathan, and seeing the world through two sets of eyes, some of which might or might not even be human, effectively builds the mystery while providing the back story needed to move into the present action. 

The second half of the book is a breakneck speed race to the finish, only to find that the finish is just setting the stage for a much larger story to be continued in the next edition.  A.C. Autry hints at many subplots throughout the book, and leaves the reader with much to wonder about and speculate on.  The true power of this book is that the characters themselves become so important to you.  Kurt Vonnegut believed that a compelling story always required at least one character for the reader to root for.  In “Ransom of the Healer” the reader will find many such characters, and they are not your stock, two dimensional archetypes either.  They each carry their own backstory, their own flaws, and their own hopes.  All of which I can’t wait to find out more about as the series unfolds.

In the world of fantasy, the Ransom series breathes fresh air into a genre overrun by vampires and werewolves, and provides we lovers of worlds beyond our own an opportunity to visit a place that just might be there, if only we could see it.  I wait with eager eyes and space on my bookshelf for the sequel to “Ransom of the Healer.”  May it find its way to print quickly!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Swallowed by a whale.

Well, my goodness.

It has been a long time since my last blog posting, and for that I apologize.  I'm certain that all five of you have been deeply impacted by my absence.  The only excuse I can offer is that I was swallowed by a whale, and that pretty much took up most of my time for the last few months.

My whale was not a literal whale, of course.  My whale was comprised mostly of working long hours and then working some more long hours.  Not as exciting as a rogue orca, I know. 

After such a long hiatus, it would be safe to assume that I would have a backlog of topics to kick around and rant about, but the thing about being inside a whale is that pretty much all you think about while you are in there is the whale itself.  And no one really wants to read about all of that.

One thing that has started to bug me though, and it has bugged me enough that it managed to seep through the whale walls, is how extremely dang derivative everything has become in the world today. 

Every where I turn, everything is just a reboot or a reimagining of something else.  This is okay to a certain extent, but it has gotten out of control.  For example....

I recently became aware that there is a new version of Carrie coming out this year.  Okay.  I get it.  It was a great book and a really successful movie in 1976.  So much so that a sequel was created and released in 1999.  So much so that another remake was released in 2002.  And, apparently, so much so that we need another version of it to come out in 2013.  I'm sure it will be great.  The source material is great, so it's hard to screw it up, but come on.  It's a little too much, isn't it?  Do we really need to see it all over again?  We know it ends badly.  Blood.  Fire.  The works.

When you tack this on to the recent / upcoming remakes of Red Dawn, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, the Evil Dead, The Great Gatsby, Conan, Footloose, The Lone Ranger, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fright Night, the Karate Kid, Clash of the Titans, The Thing, The Last House on the Left, and the 4 million other films / TV Series that aren't readily available off the top of my head, it just too much..  AND, that doesn't even tap into the constant rebooting of superhero films, which relaunch every 5-6 years.

Okay... So I'm excited to see the Evil Dead remake.  I'm inconsistent and hypocritical. 

I'm also a shameless self promoter, and with that in mind....
The short film I worked on last year, which can be read about in more detail by clicking HERE, is being made into a full length feature film this summer.  You can make your own contribution to the demise of the hollywood remake merry-go-round by donating to the making of an original independent film.

You can help change the world, one zombie movie at at time!

If you are interested in contributing, click on the link below to go to the indiegogo donation page.  From there, you can also see the trailer and the original short film, and can interact with some of the cast and crew.  There are some really great prizes and giveaways for donating.  Go make me famous!

Blessings, until the next post find its way beyond the whale.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Help stop Santa's reign of terror!

Okay fellow humans and other readers, I’m fed up and I’m not sure how much more I can take. I know I’m not alone, but I definitely feel that I’m in the minority on this one. It’s been going on for years, and this year it started more than a month ago.  Somebody has got to do something about it.

Can we PLEASE stop with the Christmas items on display at the stores already!!

Why does America hate Halloween and Thanksgiving so much? Do we really need to begin making our Christmas preparations in September? Are we just trying to make those people who leave their lights up year round feel better about themselves? So many questions that demand answers! But do you hear about any of this in the presidential debates? No!

In fact, if either candidate would promise to pass legislation requiring us to only promote and celebrate one holiday at a time, I would not only vote for them, I would wear a sandwich board with their face on it every day from now until voting closes. But they won’t do it. I don’t believe either candidate has the courage and fortitude to really tackle an issue this volatile.

This is ridiculous. Halloween gets what, one or two measly aisles at the store? Christmas already has an entire wing at Walmart and people are still walking around in shorts. It’s too soon! There is only so much Christmas spirit that can be generated. It should be focused into a month and a half at the most, not a third of the calendar year.

We have a rule in our house. We do not put out any fall decorations before October 1st. We do not put out any Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving has been completed. And the Christmas decorations have to come down within a couple of days of the New Year beginning. These should not just be rules for my house. These rules should be mandated for all humans everywhere, punishable by public flogging. And just to keep it festive, the administrator of said flogging will dress in a manner appropriate for the particular crime.

For example, if a person disrespected Thanksgiving by putting up Christmas lights before the appointed time, they would be flogged by a person in a Turkey or Pilgrim costume. If a person failed to take down their Christmas decorations, they would be flogged by a snowman, reindeer, elf, or the main man himself, Santa. I know what you are thinking, but baby Jesus would not be appropriate for flogging and, being a baby, could not provide the proper velocity to send a message not soon forgotten. There is always Easter.

I know this is a dangerous message to share. I know that even you, beloved reader, might soon be pulling out of your driveway to come bludgeon me with a candy cane, laughing all the way to your favorite Christmas mix CD, but someone has to stand up and declare they won’t take it anymore! Someone has to have the courage to stop Santa's reign of terror!

Join me in my efforts to save Halloween from that rotund toymaker and his army of elven miscreants!

Before it’s too late!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Country Life (part 5 of 5)

Chapter Five

Ryan never was afterward able to completely piece together the remaining hours that passed from the time he realized someone had moved his coffee table to the time when the police showed up at his front door the next morning. He knew that at some point he must have crawled along the wall to the corner of the living room and curled up behind his large green armchair since that was where he was when the police finally kicked in the front door.

His memories were somewhat fragmented and he was never confident that he could accurately ascertain what memories were real and what memories were dreams or fancies formulated by his mind as a result of being in a state of absolute panic. He remembered having had the vague notion of hearing someone moving around in the house with him, but wasn't sure if that was real or imagined. The only part that seemed solidly cemented in his mind was the part that seemed the most absurd of all. He remembered hearing a voice repeating the same phrase over and over again, with the voice coming from different rooms in the house, always moving. The voice never altered in tone or pitch as it moved all around him from the kitchen to the back bedrooms and back again. Always moving, never changing.

The phrase which Ryan heard being repeated was, "I guess I'll have to call the phone company first thing in the morning to straighten this out." Each time it was repeated it was followed by a chuckle.

The very last thing he could remember at all, fictional or otherwise, was the impression that someone had sat down in the chair he was hiding behind, and that that someone in the chair then repeated that same phrase one final time before breaking into sustained, maniacal laughter, which followed Ryan down into darkness as his consciousness slipped away.

When the police arrived, Ryan was in no fit state to even be aware of their knocking on the door or their ringing the doorbell. They eventually kicked in the door and made their way inside. They found Ryan fairly quickly, but found no evidence of anyone else in the house. He would eventually find out that his next door neighbor had been murdered the night before.

Someone had also killed the dog, but there was less fuss about that.

The neighbor's time of death had been estimated at shortly before 2:00 AM. No one had bothered to estimate the dog's time of death.

The following months found Ryan arrested, out on bail, charged with first degree murder, and then, finally, a free man again as a lack of any physical evidence linking him to the murder resulted in the charges being dropped. The whirlwind of activity kept him so busy that he had had very little time to process what was truly happening around him and even less to be able to make sense of the bizarre happenstances of the night in question. He had initially tried to explain to the police about the voice he had heard in his house and about the dog barking, but eventually his lawyer instructed him to kindly shut his trap as he was only making things worse.

In the end Ryan moved back to the city and was even able to get his very same apartment back. After what had happened, he wasn't sure he'd be able to sleep in the country house ever again. He had yet to have any luck selling the country house due to it's now less than stellar reputation. He tried to return to his prior life, but his heart wasn't in the editing game any more. His headaches had not come back with his return to the city, but he found he could not muster any energy for editing other people's work any more.

One day, about five months after he had given up on editing entirely, he picked up a notepad and a pen and began writing down a thought that had been running through his mind all morning long. This led to another thought. Then another thought. Before he knew it, Ryan had written sixteen pages and, upon review, found it to be excellently written and quite compelling.

He had found his voice at last.

When published the following year, "The Country Life" went straight to the top of the bestseller list. It was a story about a man with multiple personality disorder and the horrific results of his illness. It was a sort of a Jekyll and Hyde story, with one personality being an ordinary, mild mannered individual with a mundane, every day job. The other personality was a murderous fiend. The chilling narrative described a night when the alternate personality made its way to the surface and killed the next door neighbor.

In the story, the reader came to know that the man was about to shift to his other, darker side when he began to get a terrible headache. The main character in the book ended up in a mental institution at the end of the story, locked away for the rest of his life following his trial for the murder. No one failed to notice the resemblance to the author's own life, which only served to fuel book sales.

Ryan eventually moved out of his apartment for a second time, and went back to his still unsold country house. The man responsible for the murder of his neighbor had never been caught, but Ryan no longer thought too much about any of that. It all seemed ancient history. Part of another life, and one which he'd just as soon forget. Loyal readers even began to make pilgrimages to see the house, hoping to catch a glimpse of the now famous author.

It took more than a year after publishing "The Country Life" for Ryan's world to slow back down again. He then began trying to write a follow up novel, but was finding it increasingly difficult to do so. He would sit for hours with a pen and notepad, but nothing would come. He began to loathe the very sight of his notepad and its blank pages. He even began to feel nauseated whenever he passed the pad sitting on his desk and began avoiding the study, except for the one hour a day he would force himself to sit with the pad in his lap and try to write.

He began to wonder if he was getting an ulcer, as the stomachaches were getting quite bad. His doctor, however, couldn't find anything physically wrong with him and, after multiple visits, suggested that Ryan might look into calling a psychiatrist based on that working for him when he had his issues with headaches.

Ryan thought about this on his way back home and decided he had nothing to lose and might as well call Dr. Copeland again. It certainly couldn't hurt to try.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Country Life (part 4 of 5)

Chapter Four

Ryan had never considered himself to be much of an automotive expert. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, his mechanical proficiency was primarily limited to adding gasoline when required and using the filling station squeegee on the window. However, despite his extremely limited knowledge of the mysteries of the internal combustion engine, he felt very confident in his opinion that cars do not normally wind up with four flat tires simultaneously.

After exiting the vehicle, he had confirmed that all four tires were indeed completely flat by use of the emergency flashlight he kept in the glove box. He was now standing beside the car and staring at it, a perplexed expression on his face, when he heard a noise he would never forget.

The dog had continued its steady stream of barking the entire time Ryan examined each of his tires. Suddenly, just after he finished his circuit of the vehicle, the barking rose in pitch and ferocity to a heretofore unheard level. The noise sounded increasingly frantic when, all of a sudden, it cut off completely with a high pitched yelp.

Then silence.

Ryan didn't even realize he was running until he was already on the front porch. He rushed inside, slammed the door behind him and stood leaning against it, his breath coming in shrill, ragged gasps and his heart beating frantically in his chest.

" just...fine. Quit...being...stupid!" he berated himself as he tried to get his breathing under control. He closed his eyes and began counting silently to himself. By the time he reached 85, his breathing had more or less returned to normal and his heart had begun to slow down again. He felt a little bit more like himself again, and he thus began the same process most adults go through following a fright. Denial. His job now was to convince himself that his fear was entirely irrational. He locked the front door behind him, muttering "Just to be on the safe side," and took two steps forward through his entrance hall before every light in his house suddenly went black at the same time.

This time Ryan had to count all the way to 337 before he could begin to think clearly again. Once he was calm enough for a semblance of rational thought, he started slowly making his way forward.

"Just a blown fuse. Nothing out of the ordinary." His voice sounded strange and hollow and far too loud in the darkness around him, and he quickly decided to stop talking as he continued on his path through the living room, towards the back bedroom where the fuse box was located.

The pain in his shin was truly remarkable, as was the octave his voice reached as he crashed suddenly and violently to the floor. With the hand not holding his throbbing shin, he felt blindly for the object that had caused him so much pain. It was his coffee table! The very same table he had so skillfully maneuvered around just a few short hours ago when the dog had first awakened him. He wondered how he could have possibly drifted so far off course and felt to his left to use the couch to pull himself to his feet, but instead his hand found the piano in the darkness. Completely disoriented, he reached to his right and found the couch where it never should have been.

His brain was struggling to process the information it was receiving and Ryan was trying desperately to come up with some way for the layout of the furniture to make sense, when suddenly the truth hit him hard, sending a feeling of icy dread through his stomach.

The coffee table had been moved.

It should have been on the other side of the couch and instead it was between the couch and the piano. This realization led him directly to the next conclusion, which would have knocked him to the floor if he had not already been there.

Someone must have moved the coffee table since coffee tables were not known for moving themselves.

Ryan found that all of his prior impressions of terror were purely intellectual in nature.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Country Life (part 3 of 5)

Chapter Three

Ryan just couldn't take it any more. Living in a remote area was one thing, but letting your dog flip out non stop for two straight hours was just going too far. He generally tried to take a 'live and let live' attitude about how other people choose to go about their business, but this kind of tomfoolery was just not acceptable.

"How the heck is that man sleeping through all of this?" he asked himself. He didn't know his neighbor, Mr. Jansen, very well, but decided that the two of them were about to get to know each other a whole heck of a lot better.

Ryan crossed the Study and picked up the handset of the antique desk phone, which he had purchased from a thrift store after cancelling his cell phone plan, and brought the receiver up to his ear.


No dial tone, static, or anything else. Ryan jiggled the cradle several times and made sure the phone cords were all fully connected, but still nothing came from the earpiece. "Great. This is just great. First time I need to make a phone call in a month and the stupid thing is dead. I guess I'll have to call the phone company first thing in the morning to straighten this out!"

Ryan laughed at his little joke and hung up the phone. He decided to give Mr. Jansen another half hour to do something about the racket his dog was making before taking any further action. If the dog didn't zip it by that time, he would just have to drive up the road and call on the good neighbor in person. He really didn't want to, but "Enough is enough!" he added vehemently.

"Can a dog lose his voice?" he asked the empty room. "I'm thinking the evidence on hand is pointing towards a 'No' verdict, but perhaps this specimen is an anomaly, or some kind of mutant dog. I've certainly never heard one go on and on like this before."

Ryan only lasted another twenty minutes before the barking finally drove him out the front door and down the sidewalk. The barking was even louder outside, and Ryan wondered again how anyone could possibly sleep through this much noise. "It's enough to wake the dead," he told the night sky. It was still so dark he couldn't see more than the vague outline of his vehicle and he had to feel his way down the car's side to find the door handle.

Ryan knew that something was wrong the second he slid into the driver's seat of the car. He could not immediately identify what it was, but he definitely felt that something was not normal. He tried adjusting his seat and checking the mirrors, but neither of those things did anything to diminish his feelings of uneasiness. He went ahead and turned the key and the engine roared to life, sounding healthy enough. Deciding that it must have been in his head, he shifted into reverse and pressed the accelerator pedal.

This was the very first moment that night when Ryan felt afraid.

It wasn't the last.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Country Life (part 2 of 5)

Chapter Two

Ryan put his red pen down on the stack of papers on his desk and looked at the grandfather clock in the corner. "Half past three and you're all ready to quit aren't you?" he asked himself with an air of mockery. "These books aren't going to edit themselves you know."

He did, in fact, know this to be a true statement. For three endless years, he himself had attempted to write a novel which he, at that time, believed would change the scope of American literature forever. In those three years of attempting to etch his name alongside Steinbeck and Hemingway, he nearly lost his grip on reality entirely. The stress and pressure associated with trying to pull together all the loose ends of his story nearly left him completely unhinged. When he finally gave up on attempting any further polishing of his prose and sent the completed manuscript to an editor, he found out just how terribly far from the great American novel he had landed. Instead of great, he was merely unpublishable.

This began the long and arduous process of attempting to resuscitate what would have been better left for dead. This attempt to breathe life into his manuscript lasted three and a half months, during which time he became more and more fascinated with the little red marks all over the pages of his would be masterpiece. Had there been fewer of them, he might have simply taken their direction and moved on with the rewriting. However, the exorbitant proliferation, the veritable sea of red swimming on every page, became more and more captivating as he made his way through the novel. Ryan began to see his writing in a whole new light. He began to clearly see the problems inherent in his writing, and even began to discern the solutions to those problems. Had his material been remotely worth saving, this newfound knowledge might have indeed been the beginning of his ascendency to literary greatness. As it was, he instead found his new calling.

Ryan had spent the last six years of his life becoming one of the most sought after editors in the business. He had edited fourteen New York Times best sellers and a great many more books that had turned a tidy profit for several major publishing houses. He had reached that wonderful point in his professional career where he could afford to be selective about what work he chose to edit. He had reached the pinnacle, and it was everything he could have hoped for it to be.

Then the headaches had begun.

They were small at first, just a nagging pain behind his eyes, and he initially thought that he might just need a new pair of glasses. He then proceeded to place the blame on the glare on his computer screen. Eventually, he came to a point where he would start feeling his head throb the second he flipped on his computer monitor in the morning and he started to wonder if he had a brain tumor or something along those lines. His doctor couldn't find anything wrong with him, and neither could any one else in the long string of specialists he went to see. His head was scanned and scrutinized from every possible angle, always with the same results. No one could find anything physically wrong with him.

The headaches continued to worsen over the subsequent months, and when they finally reached the point that he could no longer work at all, he concluded that it was time to take drastic action. He decided he had no other recourse remaining but to follow up on the one and only recommendation made by one of the specialists which he had not yet pursued.

Ryan went to see a psychiatrist.

He visited the psychiatrist once a week for three months, during which time he continued to be unable to work on his computer. In fact, he had stopped even going into his study at all, as the very sight of the monitor on the desk caused him to begin feeling the prickling sensation behind his eyes that always foreshadowed the coming of a monstrous headache.

Dr. Copeland, the aforementioned psychiatrist, eventually made a recommendation that would change Ryan's life forever. He recommended that Ryan try an experiment to see if it would help alleviate his symptoms. He suggested that Ryan leave the city for an afternoon and take a printed copy of a manuscript with him. He was to leave his cell phone and laptop at home, drive well outside the city limits to a park the doctor told him about, and take the manuscript and a red pen with him.

Ryan followed the directions exactly, and the results were truly extraordinary. It was only when it began to grow so dark he could not make out the words on the page that he looked up and realized how much time had passed while he had been sitting at a picnic table, happily editing away without the faintest trace of a headache.

The decision was one of the easiest Ryan had ever made. He took his entire savings and bought a house in the country. He allowed a realtor to do most of the work, with the explicit instructions that he was looking for a house the furthest from any city as could be found, but it had to be one that still had electricity and plumbing. He cancelled his cell phone plan, threw out his computer and television, packed his remaining possessions, and left the city with no plan to ever return.

That was all now six months in the past and, other than the occasional dog interrupted sleepless night, Ryan had found the country life immensely to his liking. He had worked steadily the entire time and seldom missed any of the conveniences he had left behind. He had not felt even the faintest symptoms of a headache since he began his new life, and he was excited to see what the world outside his windows would look like when winter came. He imagined it would be much more picturesque than the dirty slush he was used to seeing outside his apartment in winter time.

Ryan was perhaps a bit lonely, but he had made his peace with that a long time ago. At least in the country he could pretend that the reason he was lonely was because no one else was around. He found this to be far preferable to the loneliness a person could feel in a crowded city.