Tags: meding

By Your Side

About This Writing Stuff...

This week, Neil Gaiman explains why he doesn't entirely mind piracy.  Jody Hedlund warns against killing off your protagonist while Jami Gold exposes ways to make our characters vulnerable.  From Writer Unboxed, we learn methods for forcing words onto the page as well as thwarting your characters.  Kristine Kathryn Rusch stresses the importance of storytelling over beautiful prose and Bob Greenberger examines science fiction.

All that and a bit more.  Enjoy!

In Which I Get Brutally Honest and Try to Explain Formatting and Why It's Not Always Up to Me by Kelly Meding

The Cardinal Sin No Writer Should Ever Commit by Jody Hedlund

How to Make Characters Vulnerable to Readers and Does Your Writing Have Rhythm? by Jami Gold

Examining Science Fiction Across the Genres and The Play's the Thing by Bob Greenberger

Frog Marching the Muse: Eighteen Tips to Get Words on the Page by Robin LaFevers

Interview with Gary Zenker, Publisher of Unclaimed Baggage by Tony Conaway

9 Ways to Undermine Your Characters' Best-Laid Plans by Lisa Cron

The Business Rusch: Storytelling by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Neil Gaiman on Piracy and the Web via Wimp.com (thanks, John Evans!)

By Your Side

Book Review: Wrong Side of Dead by Kelly Meding

The fourth and most recent volume in Meding's Dreg City series takes everything that she had built in the first three books, shakes it up, flips it and drops it on its head.  Following her escape from torture at the hands of crazed scientist Walter Thackery, Evangeline "Evy" Stone returns to find an alliance forged between humans, vampires, and Therians (shape-shifters that change from animal to human form) united against a common foe, Thackery. 

The devious geneticist is determined to find a cure for the infection in humans caused by vampire saliva.  Years before, Thackery's wife and son had been attacked and bitten by half-human vampires (known as "Halfies").  When he was unable to find a cure for the raging, murderous insanity that consumes Halfie victims, Thackery had been forced to kill his family.   Now, his obsession for finding the antidote has driven him far beyond the bounds of compassion and medical ethics and into ruthless barbarism.  After a fruitless attempt to find it through sadistic experimentation on Evy Stone, whose uncanny ability to spontaneously heal was thought to be the answer, Thackery turns his attention along a new path of research...

The adventure begins when Boot Camp, a brutal military-style academy for training human Hunters, is attacked and destroyed by monstrous genetically-altered creatures created by Thackery himself. Evy Stone had been trained there as well as dozens of other Hunters who, upon graduation, are grouped in teams of three known as Triads and assigned to a Handler.  The Handler is responsible for sending his or her Triad on missions throughout the city, typically to kill non-human creatures of the night when they get out of line.

This untested and dubious alliance of humans and non-humans makes its headquarters in an abandoned shopping mall, now retrofitted with a war room, crew quarters, infirmary, holding cells, cafeteria and gymnasium.  A magic spell surrounds the area, subtly dissuading passersby from paying the slightest attention.  The facility is dubbed "The Watchtower."   No sooner does this new order set up shop than seven Therians are reported missing from their homes, thought to be kidnapped by agents working for Thackery. 

To make matters worse, in a recent incursion with Halfies on a bus, one of their own Hunters, Felix, fell victim to their bite and has himself become one of them.  He had managed to escape and is now at large.  Due to the danger they pose to society, Halfies are hunted with extreme prejudice and killed on sight.   Yet when Evy and her Therian allies corner Felix on the rooftop of a nightclub, they are surprised to find that he is rational, cogent and rather...well...sane.   Rather than kill him, they capture and imprison Felix at the Watchtower for questioning where he admits to working with Thackery and that the scientist has found a drug that inhibits the madness caused by Halfie saliva.   Unfortunately, before Felix can answer any further questions, a bomb implanted inside his body by Thackery detonates.

Although only Felix is killed, the bomb releases an airborne toxin that infects the pure-breed vampires living and working in the Watchtower.   Worse, it is discovered that Thackery has employed not just one, but a pack of werewolves known as Lupa, long thought to be exterminated by the other Therians centuries ago.   While on a mission, Evy and her Handler-turned-lover Wyatt Truman are attacked by one of the Lupa and Wyatt is bitten.  It is not long before his body and mind are ravaged by the poison from the werewolf's saliva and the Watchtower's CMO is forced to induce coma to stabilize him.

With the odds now stacked against them, will the alliance be able to track down Thackery and the missing Therians before his new line of research leaves yet another trail of bodies in its wake?  And what of Wyatt?  Will he be cured of the poison that is turning man into beast, or will Evy lose him forever?

And is there an even deeper conspiracy at work?  One that calls into question the very founding of the Triads, Boot Camp and the Hunters? 

Like the other books in the series, Wrong Side of Dead is a quick, action-packed read that ties up a few loose ends in the previous books without actually resolving all of them—and introduces two or three more.  Clues and hints, cleverly sprinkled throughout the series, bear fruit here and are clear evidence of thorough world-building and plotting.   Word has it that although Bantam Dell has canceled the Dreg City series, Meding will self-publish the fifth installment.  As of this writing, I have not heard of a release date.  

Overall, it has been an enjoyable saga thus far.  As far as protagonists go, Evy Stone is at times amazing and other times infuriating and unreasonable.  However, like any good hero, she undergoes an obvious change from hard-ass killer—who actually enjoys her job—to rape and murder victim only to be resurrected in a new body and slowly transform into a woman still more than capable of handling herself, but also of expressing love and kindness in a life that has precious little of either.    As the review states in the cover image below, Meding is a real storyteller who knows how to move the story along, write dynamic action scenes and develop strong, memorable characters.

wrong side of dead
  • Current Mood: exhausted exhausted
By Your Side

Book Review: Another Kind of Dead by Kelly Meding

The third installment of the Dreg City series follows a simpler storyline and tighter cast of characters than the first two volumes.   The book opens with a scene of closure as Evangeline "Evy" Stone, Wyatt Truman, and Leo Forrester pay their final respects to Leo's son at a local cemetary.  Alex had been the roomate of Chalice Frost in whose body Evy had awakened after returning from the dead in book one.  Unfortunately, the ever-loyal Alex involved himself in Evy's life as a bounty hunter of the city's non-human inhabitants.  For his trouble, Alex had ended up a "Halfie" (human/vampire hybrid), forcing Evy to kill him.  

After the funeral, Leo moves on with his life, but not before private detective James Reilly shows up asking questions about things he should know nothing about.  However, he speaks only to Leo and Wyatt (Evy's manager-turned-lover) because Evy herself is carrying a crystal of invisibility.  Evy is considered a fatality of a warehouse fire set by her fellow bounty hunter.  In other words, Evy Stone is dead--again.

After Wyatt dismisses the private investigator, Leo leaves the city to move on with this life but not before Wyatt and Evy are shaken by a minor tremor.   The fact that Leo does not feel it indicates that it was not an earthquake, but something meant only for those who are Gifted with special abilities.  

Back at their apartment, a man known as Jaron arrives mortally wounded.  Jaron is a human host who is occasionally possessed (voluntarily or not) by a member of the Fey, a group of fairies and sprites that live far beneath the Earth's surface near the "Break", the source of all magic. The Fey appear in our world strictly in the form of their avatars (hosts).

Jaron's final words warn of betrayal.  No sooner does he die than his killer arrives--a half-goblin/half-human out for blood.  After a vicious brawl, Evy and Wyatt manage to subdue the creature and learn that he was sent by one Walter Thackery.  Thackery is a scientist that had also been the silent partner of Tovin, the maniacal elf who had been experimenting with hybrid creatures in book one.

As the story unfolds, our heroes come to find that Thackery's wife and son had been attacked by Halfies years before.  Thackery had raced to find the antidote to the parasite in vampire saliva, but was unsuccessful.  As a result, he had been forced to kill them.  Now, the scientist will do whatever it takes to continue his research and find a cure--and no one will stand in his way.

Unfortunately for Evy, her ability to spontaneously heal makes her the perfect test subject for Thackery's "study" (read: torture).   When Thackery kidnaps one of Evy's friends and demands an exchange, Evy puts her life on the line yet again.  Will she survive Thackery's hidden lab of horrors?  Will Thackery find the antidote and if not, what further horrors will the lunatic scientist unleash on the city?

Like the previous volumes, Another Kind of Dead was a quick and enjoyable read.  Meding should be applauded for her consistency in both her characters and voice.  Again, though, I have to chuckle at how often her characters "flinch" when being told off by Evy.  That has actually become a noticeable--and somewhat unnatural--trend.  At times, some of the characters abruptly change mood or tone or react in ways that do not quite ring true for the situation, but I chalk that up to Meding's style.   Next up, the fourth and final entry in the series (for now), Wrong Side of Dead.

By Your Side

Book Review: As Lie the Dead by Kelly Meding

The second installment in the Dreg City series picks up mere minutes after the epic battle at the conclusion of book one.  Former bounty hunter Evangeline 'Evy' Stone finds herself facing an entirely new set of challenges.  As she continues to adapt to the new body she inherited after her resurrection from the dead, and her newfound ability to teleport, Evy must also reconcile her feelings for ex-boss-turned-boyfriend Wyatt Truman.   Unfortunately, there is little time for self-indulgence as Evy is recruited by Phineas, a shapeshifting member of an avian race known as the Owlkins, to protect a pregnant member of their species. 

This request brings with it a certain degree of guilt for Evy.  The Owlkins had been all but nearly exterminated weeks before when her fellow bounty hunters had been ordered to exterminate their home in an attempt to kill Evy who had taken refuge among the peaceful creatures.   Now, Evy agrees to return the favor and takes these last remaining Owlkins into her "home", an apartment that once belonged to Chalice Frost whose body Evy now inhabits.

Meanwhile, at St. Eustachius Hospital, friend and handler Rufus St. James recovers from burns and bruises incurred from an explosion that destroyed his apartment complex.  Handlers are essentially managers of bounty hunter teams known as Triads.  Unfortunately for Rufus, the Clan Assembly (of non-human entities) is set to execute Rufus for his team's assault on the Owlkins...unless Evy can hand them the brass that actually gave the order.  This is, of course, nearly impossible given the fact that the identities of the brass are shrouded in secrecy.  It is known only that they are high ranked officials in the city's police department.

To complicate matters, enter Leo Forrester.  Father of the late Alex Forrester--killed by a Halfie (half-vampire/half-human) in bok --Leo shows up at the apartment demanding to know the whereabouts of his son.  Playing the role of Chalice, Evy attempts to calm him down, stating that she had not seen her roommate in days.  It was easier than telling him the truth at the moment.  She invites him to stay at the apartment and wait, but his bouts of rage frighten the Owlkins and Evy eventually asks him to leave.

Later that night, Evy comes under attack from two were-cats who break into her apartment.  After a short brawl, one of the shapeshifting creatures is shot and wounded by Leo, who cannot believe his eyes as the creature changes from feline to human.  Unfortunately, its partners manage to take the Owlkins away as they do not trust humans to protect them.  Evy sets up Leo in a hotel room and promises to explain everything when she returns.

As if these challenges were not enough, a new enemy emerges with intent to raise a militia of weres and exterminate all humans in the city.  As Evy and Phineas investigate this new threat, they learn that it is being coordinated by a human who may not be a new player at all, but someone very familiar with Wyatt Truman--someone with a score to settle.

As Lie the Dead is an enjoyable follow-up to Three Days to Dead with the same action-packed, fast-paced style and well-developed story.  This time around though, some of the characters' reactions to insults and stinging remarks seemed a tad unrealistic.  More often than not, the characters flinched or winced or leaned against walls in defeat when being told off, reminded of a past mistake, or learning of new developments in the case.  Also, the do-I or don't-I romance between Evy and Wyatt that carried over from book one was starting to drag and I was glad to see that resolve in the end, though the outcome was predictable.   It was nice to see some other loose ends tied up as well. 

I'll be taking a break from the Dreg City series to read and review a few books that I picked up at Farpoint last weekend, but there are still two more books in the series, Another Kind of Dead and Wrong Side of Dead, which will be reviewed here over the coming weeks.

  • Current Mood: distressed distressed
By Your Side

Book Review: Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding

Dreg bounty hunter Evangeline "Evy" Stone is dead...well, at least until she awakens on a slab in a morgue in someone else's body.  While dealing with that little surprise, Evy eventually determines that her host body had belonged to one Chalice Frost, a young college student who, for reasons as yet unknown, had committed suicide by slitting her wrists.

But that's only piece in a complex and dangerous puzzle.  The problem is, Evy cannot recall the details of her final days.  A former member of a Triad group of bounty hunters, she recalls that her team had been killed by Halfies during an ambush (Halfies are vampire/human hybrids and are held in disdain by both races).   Yet somehow, Evy had been blamed for their deaths.  In other words, she'd been framed.

Now resurrected, Evy reaches out to her Handler, a Gifted human known as Wyatt Truman.  Handlers are essentially managers of a Triad and Wyatt was her boss.   Reuniting with him, Evy learns that it was he who had bargained to bring her back to life in exchange for his free-will.  The fact that Evy had awakened in another body is a mystery to everyone…at least in the beginning.  

The pair set off to find out why Evy had been framed and whether there is truth to the rumors of a Vampire/Goblin alliance that would threaten humanity.   In their adventures, the pair encounter such familiar dregs as gremlins, goblins, gargoyles, vampires (aka Bloods), Halfies, the Fey, and other mystical elements until their final battle against an all-powerful elf named Tovin.

There is only one problem, Evy's new lifespan is a mere 72 hours. Once she is dead, Wyatt must relinquish his free-will to Tovin as per their deal.   As the time ticks away, will Wyatt and Evy be able to clear her name and garner enough allies to stop an alliance that could consume the earth with pure evil?    

Three Days to Dead is a fast, fun read.  Even without a deep understanding of the urban fantasy genre, any reader that enjoys an action packed story filled with familiar creatures of the night, a little romance and dark humor will enjoy Kelly Meding's opening novel in the Dreg City series.


  • Current Mood: busy
Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity

Reading List for the Rest of 2012

As I near completion on Ben Bova's The Hittite, I took a moment to review my reading list of the rest of the year.  Taking into consideration my writing and editing schedule (I am finishing revisions on my second novel and editing an anthology), plus my real life responsibilites, this is what I have left for 2012:

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
Passing Through Lightning by Mark Benjamin
Stalking the The Nightmare by Harlan Ellison
Reach for Tomorrow by Arthur C. Clarke
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein
Voyagers by Ben Bova (I've read the second and fourth book in this series, like them)
Three Days to Dead by Kelly Meding
As Like the Dead by Kelly Meding
Another Kind of Dead by Kelly Meding
Wrong Side of Dead by Kelly Meding
Trance by Kelly Meding

Of course, all of these will be reviewed here on the blog.

  • Current Mood: busy
Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity

About This Writing Stuff...

Susans Spann and Squires discuss the factors that go into the choice of publishing method.  Dean Wesley Smith thinks that prices should be printed on the covers of indie books while Bob Mayer offers advice to authors on handling book reviews. Konrath is critical of Stephen King's decision against releasing his latest novel, Joyland, as an eBook. Steven H. Wilson explains why Katniss Everdeen is not a hero.  Jami Gold delves into fan fiction, Jody Hedlund emphasizes the importance of macro editing, Susan Callender offers advice on grants, and Jen Haupt believes in karma for writers.

NYT Bestselling author Peter David re-releases book two of his Hidden Earth Chronicles under the Crazy 8 Press imprint and Kelly Meding's urban fantasy MetaWars series continues with Changeling, due out June 26.  Kelly's series will see two more books in 2013 (Tempest and Chimera) from PocketStar, a new division of Simon & Schuster.  They will be eBook format only as of this update.

Too Many Choices - A NYT Author Decides by Susan Squires

Gettin' Busy With It - Business Decisions for Publishing Careers by Susan Spann

Prices on Covers of Indie Books by Dean Wesley Smith

How Should Authors Handle Book Reviews? by Bob Mayer

JA Konrath vs. Stephen King by--you guessed it--JA Konrath

An Author's Guide to Fan Fiction by Jami Gold

Why Skimping on Macro Editing Could Cost You Readers by Jody Hedlund

The Not Quite So Starving Artist by Sarah Callender

Writing and Karma by Jen Haupt

Katniss Everdeen is Not a Hero by Steven H. Wilson

MetaWars Continuation by Kelly Meding

Peter David Releases Book Two of his Hidden Earth Chronicles: Height of the Depths

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity

Farpoint: So Say We All!

My finacee and I couldn't have asked for better driving weather both to and from this year's Farpoint SF Media Con in Timonium, MD.   Farpoint was founded in 1993 by Beverly Volker and her son-in-law Steven H. Wilson, who also happens to be my publisher (Steve started Firebringer Press in 2005).

For 19 years strong, Farpoint has brought a more cozy fan-oriented atmosphere to its annual conventions, which started in October but moved in February around 2002 or 2003.  I began attending in 1995 and have missed only two in all of these many years. 

This year brought in Michael Hogan and Kate Vernon, Colonel Saul Tighe and Ellen Tighe, respectively, from the successful reboot of Battlestar Galactica.   We were also joined by the beautiful Kristen Bauer from True Blood.   On Friday evening during the opening dinner,  Steve Wilson's Prometheus Radio Theatre troupe performed a live episode of "Waste of Space", a creepy comedy about four evil geniuses living together.  The cast included Steve Wilson, his sons Ethan and Christian, as well as Cindy Woods and John Scheeler (and one other actor whose name escapes my addled brain).  Joining them in the performance were Kate Vernon and Kristen Bauer.  Had Michael Hogan not missed his connecting flight, he would have performed as well.  Nevertheless, it was an excellent, hilarious episode that will be podcast soon on the Prometheus Radio Theatre feed.

Also joining us for her first Farpoint was YA author Kieryn Nicolas.  I had learned of Kieryn on the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group Yahoo forum and then met her in person last summer, albeit only briefly, at my local library when she visited for a booksigning event.   Since then, we kept in touch (I interviewed Kieryn on this blog in June 2011) and Steve and I agreed that she would make a great addition to the author line up at Farpoint.  Kieryn and her mom had a wonderful time at the con.  They sold some books, Kieryn spoke on a YA writing panel along with writer Don Sakers, and attended a crowded Doctor Who panel.

Friday night at 10PM also saw a book launch for Steve Wilson himself.  His third novel, Unfriendly Persuasion, is based on his award winning SF podcast series, The Arbiter Chronicles.   It was a very successful launch, selling nearly 20 books in an hour. It will hit the market in March in paperback and all eBook formats.  

Other writers in attendance at Farpoint included Peter David, Bob Greenberger, Michael Jan Friedman, Howard Weinstein, Aaron Rosenberg, Glen Hauman (collectively known as Crazy 8 Press), Kelly Meding, Dave Galanter, Bob Jones, Helen Madden, Nobilis Reed, and...oh yeah...ME!

Saturday morning started of well for both Kieryn and me.  Not 10 minutes after setting up our tables, we started selling.  A gentleman from the USS Susquehannock chapter of Starfleet invited both Kieryn and me to their annual sci-fi event in September.  Hey, if NYT Bestseller Greg Cox can go, I'll be more than happy to attend as an author guest!

Kelly Meding also arrived on Saturday and while she was visiting my table, I bought all five of her books in one shot from Constellation Books as their dealer table was directly across from me.  Kelly was kind enough to sign all of them and take her picture with Kieryn and me.   Later in the day, I attended Howard Weinstein's 2-hour Writer's Workshop that was co-hosted by Kelly as well as Bob Jones, Dave Galanter, and the inimitable Bob Greenberger.  Kelly then also joined musician Jonah Knight and me at 3PM for a discussion panel on Supernatural in Science Fiction which had excellent audience participation.  At4PM, the Crazy 8 team assembled for their panel to discuss their status and updates since their launch exactly one year ago.  And I will say that they are doing exceptionally well, having launched a variety of SF, Fantasy, and Urban Fantasy novels and novellas.

Saturday also saw face time with the actors.  My fiancee and I, along with Kieryn, met Michael Hogan and Kate Vernon.  Both were incredibly outgoing and friendly.  We got autographs and took pictures with them.  Michael was so gregarious and fun to be around.  He never stopped smiling and joking with the fans.  A truly positive convention experience.

Both Kieryn and I had a few more sales on Saturday before breaking for dinner at the local Chipotle.  Afterwards, Kieryn and her mom returned to their hotel and my fiancee and I went back to the con. Unfortunately, that was when I began to feel the tendrils of the beast known as the common cold putting the choke hold on my sinuses.  We crashed in our room where I ended up remaining for the night and completely missed the 10 Forward dance party that jammed from 10PM to 3AM.  Luckily, our room was well removed from the music this year so we heard none of that and were able to sleep.  Normally, I enjoy the dance party and social time but I was far too drained.

Sunday morning kicked off with a panel on Copyright Law at 11AM that was very informative.  Kieryn and her mom departed and noon with hugs and then at 2PM I packed up the table.  Despite festering illness, I gave a reading at 2PM, one scene from my upcoming novel, By Your Side, and a first draft scene from a short story in progress, "Water to Share".  Steve Wilson then rescued my voice and stopped in to read from Unfriendly Persuasion.

Before the con ended, I stopped by to see Michael Hogan one last time to give him a copy of my first novel, Testing the Prisoner.   "I'll read it on the plane!" he said.  I wished him a safe flight home.   My publisher, Steve Wilson, struck a deal with Constellation Books for them to purchase two copies each of his books and mine so a few more sales were scored on Sunday.

The USS Farragut, a group of Star Trek fans and filmmakers, provided the convention with a replica of an original Star Trek series Captain's Chair for fans to take a seat and have their photo taken.  That was a nice addition to the con.

All told, it was a fantastic convention, one of the best ever, despite my insidious head cold.   Some pictures below.

With Michael Hogan (left) and Kate Vernon (right) at Farpoint 2012.

With Kieryn Nicolas (left) and Kelly Meding (right) at Farpoint 2012.

Phil in command at Farpoint 2012.

The writers of Crazy 8 Press (above).  From left to right: Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David, Glenn Hauman, Bob Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman at their Farpoint 2012 panel.

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity

About this Writing Stuff...

Happy Valentine's Day!
A slightly abbreviated list this week as I am buried in work and getting ready for Farpoint.  Among today's selections, Joe Konrath vows that Amazon will destroy you.  Dean Wesley Smith reviews the cost of indie production while Jody Hedlund discusses the importance of book covers in this digital age.  From Writer Unboxed, Ann Aguirre asks what makes books magical and Joanne Baggot advises us to just breathe.   PC Magazine accuses self publishers of overloading eBooks with porn. I found PC Mag's article to be an insulting blanket statement and biased against self publishers, but that's just my not so humble opinion.

On lighter notes, Harlan Ellison makes an appearance to discuss...well...anything.  And a slightly belated congratulations to Kelly Meding on the release of the fourth book in her Dreg City series!

Amazon Will Destroy You by JA Konrath

What Indie Production Actually Costs by Dean Wesley Smith

Book Covers: Are They Important in the Digital Age? by Jody Hedlund

What Makes A Book Magical? by Ann Aguirre

The Trick is to Breathe by Julianna Baggot

Self Publishers Stuff Nook, Kindle Comics with Porn by Sascha Segan (via Steven H. Wilson)

Harlan Ellison, Lunatic Genius by Paul T. Bradley

Release Day: Wrong Side of Dead by Kelly Meding

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity

Farpoint is Near!

One of annual conventions that I traditionally attend is just two weeks away:  FARPOINT, a SF media convention that occurs each February in Timonium, MD.   This year, the dates are February 17-19.

For the third year in a row, I will be a writer guest at the show and I am proud to announce that fellow YA writer and GLVWG member Kieryn Nicolas has accepted an invitation to her first FARPOINT as a guest.

Other writers include familar faces Peter David, Keith RA DiCandido, Howard Weinstein, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Kelly Meding, Don Sakers, and more including Marc Okrand, developer of the Klingon language for the Star Trek films.

Actor guests include Michael Hogan and Nancy Vernon from the new Battlestar Galactica and Kristin Bauer from True Blood and Once Upon a Time.

I don't have a schedule yet.  I expect that will show up in my inbox in the next week or so and I will post it here.