#communeseries BK3 and BK1 audio book #progress #amwriting #audiobook #postapocalyptic #dystopia

Book Three News!

This is a very fun time for me right now.  I’m what I would estimate to be a quarter of the way through on the first draft for Commune: Book Three; at about 50K words.  For the reference of those keeping score, Book One came in at 95.5K and Book Two was complete at 150K words.

I’m guessing that Book Three will wrap at around 200K or greater but it’s still early enough in the story right now that it’s hard to be accurate.  It would make sense, though.  The first book was a pretty simple affair.  There were only three main characters with a couple of side characters thrown in along the way, so it makes sense that the story was fairly short.

In the second book, I found myself juggling no less than nineteen personalities.  That kind of diversity takes a bit more space to explore, so yeah, another 60K words on top of the original is probably in order.

In book three, the scope is expanding yet again.  Our characters have been living in this world for a while, now.  There has been time to organize, time for folks to congeal together like little blood clots.  We’re dealing with factions spread out over the different points of the compass.  There are, of course, our band of heroes up in Wyoming but we also have the last known remnant of the United States Military to think about in the wastelands of Arizona, as well.  Additionally, something ugly (potentially very ugly) looms out in the quiet state of Nevada…

This is the third and final book that I intend to write in this series, for the time being at least.  I can offer that I see possibilities for more stories down the line but there are also some other ideas (other worlds) that I’d like to explore, and so I think I’ll take a bit of a break from the apocalypse after this one’s done…for a little while.  I can tell you that this book, big #3, is the story that I originally set out to tell when I started writing these back in January of 2017, just before I realized I had a lot of world building to get out of the way.  I’m glad I took this idea and broke it into three books.  I feel like we both (me, the writer and you, the reader) had an opportunity to spread out in this story for a good while and really enjoy it.

Audio Book News

R. C. Bray is starting to pick up a lot of steam on production for BK#1 and I have to say, he’s knocking this sumbitch out of the park, as I knew he would.  He’s delivered enough work for proofing now that I’ve had a chance to hear the three major characters that I created (Jake, Amanda, and Billy) out loud for the first time in my life.  The experience is not only surreal – it is intensely rewarding to me as a writer.  He’s bringing nuance to their delivery that I hadn’t even considered when I wrote them; providing a deeper, richer dimension just through his performance and how he’s interpreting what I’ve done.

The experience for me has been of such impact that I’m beginning to regard the simple text of these stories as pretty damned good (to toot my own horn) while the audio format is (at least by me) considered the ultimate expression of the material.

Bob, if you’re reading this: Nice work, dude.

Josh

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Review: No Time To Bleed by Dusty Sharp #bookreview #thriller

Every so often, a new writer breaks out onto the scene that causes you to wonder: where the hell has this guy been, anyway?  Dusty Sharp appears to be one of these.

He’s recently published a new novella, No Time To Bleed, as a prelude to a series of books featuring protagonist Austin Conrad, a salty old vet turned biker, who must navigate his way through a barrage of gunfire and unfortunate events, some of which were arguably self-inflicted.

Overview

This is a quick little read, both due to the length of the story as well as the fact that this is really a page-turning action shoot-em-up.  Not a lot of information is given outside of the fact that Conrad is done with his biker gang, The Rattlers, and simply wants to walk away from it all.  One gets the impression that this particular gang is a lot less of the weekend-rider, full time lawyer and dentist types and more of the blood-oath, we’ll shoot your ass if you cross us variety.  As the reader, your first clue is that they’re into some very serious shit, Conrad is on the run, and they’re coming after his ass.

And that’s about all the setup this story needs, really.  Conrad is a man who has strayed far enough away from his moral center that he’s decided enough is a enough.  He simply won’t be a party to it any more, consequences be damned.  He has one goal in this story: don’t get dead.

Review: 4/5 Stars

I can’t say where future installments will go, but for this particular novella, I would classify it as popcorn action.  The premise is simple, the characters and their motivations are clear; all the reader really needs to do is buckle up, pull his hat down tight, and hold on.  If you are an action buff; if you enjoy fast-paced action, you’ll read this in a single sitting.

I had a lot of fun with this one.  As someone who tends to look for the deeper meaning in much of his reading, it is good (decadently so) to put such mental gymnastics on hold and just enjoy a good old-fashioned shooter.  Dusty has the genre nailed in this entry.  A portion of this story is clearly a love-letter to the very best of 80’s action  films, right down to the campy one-liners.  The writer also demonstrates a deep knowledge of and abiding affection for the the Mohave desert and the historic back-road highways that stitch across it.  The setting in this story is as much a character as the bikers tearing up the landscape.

The only reason this story didn’t get five stars from me is that I wanted to know more about the protagonist than was offered.  I felt as though I was just getting to know who the guy was, with some very well written character background that aptly accomplished the two-fold task of getting you to care about the character as well as informing that character’s mental and emotional makeup in the present time.  But just as I felt I was really getting into the psychology of the guy, all of that stopped, the guns came out, and shit got real.  I felt as though I hit a stutter step and found myself preferring that this had been a novel rather than a novella.

This, I believe, is more of a personal preference than it is a failing on the writer’s part.  He’s clearly putting this story out as a teaser and, I assume, will be delving into a lot of these character aspects in future entries.  I get that you typically get less in a novella but for me, it just seems backwards.  I personally would have preferred a full length novel, maybe two, with a novella dropped after.  The challenge Sharp has set for himself now is that this short entry is going to get a lot of readers hungry for more; I’ll hope he’s able to put out more at a pace that keeps the interest up.

 

One of the best reviews I’ve ever gotten Commune B2 #communeseries #postapocalypse #dystopia

Originally posted on dustysharp.com:

Commune: Book 2 is a remarkable read, and even manages to improve on the solid first book in the series. And that’s a tall order, as that one came charging out of the gates as a fresh, thoughtful take on the post-apaclyptic theme by rookie author Joshua Gayou. With his sophomore effort, Gayou ratchets up the storyline by digging us deeper into the personalities of several of the main characters, while continuing to advance the overall narrative of the “history” of this fictional community of survivors.

Book 2 primarily expands the story of another of the commune’s main characters, who was briefly introduced in the epilogue to the first book. Gibs is a former Marine, and we meet him and his hapless band of misfits as they struggle to survive amid the ruined cities of Colorado. There are several tense, violent, defining moments where hope seems all but lost, but under Gibs’ will and perseverence they manage to press on. Eventually they make their way to the Jackson, Wyoming, and are taken in by the original settlers of the commune (whose establishment was the subject of the first book). Here, the narrative switches from run-and-gun survival against other groups of more ill intent, and settles into a procedural of planning and working toward their long term survival in a more secure, permanent place. There are some interesting solutions to the problems of housing, food, security, and yes even waste disposal. Gayou has thought of everything.

This is where Book 2 continues with the satisfying breadth of theme and subject matter that was initiated in the first installment. Yes, we get plenty of action, plenty of Road Warrior style confrontations with the bad guys. But mixing in a healthy dose of real-world problems, and the clever solutions to them, helps with the immersion into the story. It lends a level of believability that is absent in the more cartoonish, all-gore-and-grim examples in the genre. And, gratefully for this reader, it also infuses an underlying sense of hope to the story. Yes, disasters happen, the group is fraught with setbacks, but ultimately we can see that they’re laying down the groundwork for long term success. We’re rooting for them.

Which isn’t to say the violence and action take a back seat. The story climaxes in an epic road-borne battle that rivals any I’ve read in the genre. This is the set piece that Gibs’ entire story arc has laid the groundwork for. His colorful personality is matched by his battle-toughness, as he leads his ragtag group of scavengers against an overwhelming force of bad guys. Here is the red meat for hard core fans of the genre.

But Gayou’s talent is in weaving the id and the ego. It’s not all just gunfire and explosions. He’s put some real thought into many of the more basic questions of a post-apaclyptic world, and handled those subjects with skill. The aforementioned survival needs, and their solutions, are a case in point. But Gayou throws subjects into the mix that you’d never even think of, then forces his characters to figure out a solution. One such episode features a member of their own group, who goes off the rails in a way that I’ve never seen addressed in a story of this genre. Several themes come together in that one small corner of the story, such as the subject matter itself, the idea that the monsters a group of survivors must face can come from within as well as without, and also the moral struggle to figure out a just solution.

Commune: Book 2, ultimately becomes more than just a post-apocalyptic narrative. It studies themes that break the norms of the genre, and therefore would be a satisfying read for even those who don’t usually read such books. We see deep character studies, watch them grow and develop, some for the good and some not so. Gayou stress-tests them in a wide variety of situations to see what they do. And its fun to watch.

Disclaimer: I was provided an Advanced Reader Copy by the author at no cost. I was only asked for initial feedback, though there was no requirement to post an official review in exchange for the ARC. However, I enjoyed the book so much that I gladly purchased it anyhow, and am proud to offer my thoughts in this review as a verified customer of the book.

Commune Book One 5-star review #communeseries #postapocalypse #bookreview

What a lovely, lovely way to start the morning.  It makes me ridiculously happy to know that there are people out there connecting with the characters in these stories.

I am and have always been a huge fan of post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction. I love the different ways in which writers can dispense mass destruction and then take you on a journey of how they imagine rebuilding. I love getting into their heads and discovering how they see the world and the human condition. So I tucked into this book, eager to lose myself in yet another disaster and see what came next.

To sum up the complicated beginning, picture the solar storm of 1859 meets present day infrastructure. This is the Flare. Shock and awe precede inevitable chaos and anarchy, but enough order remains to get a handle on the riots and get a good start on getting the world back on the grid. But then comes the Plague; a disease with communicability AND mortality rates of nearly 100% that wipes out life and hope on a global scale. Those that don’t die only live to endure a different kind of hell. Because all that remains is a desolate shadow of what was once the world as we know it. And to make it in this new world, one must have exactly the right amount of luck, skill, determination, and humanity. Commune Book One begins the story of a few such people and how they found one another.

So, what do you do as a reader? You prepare yourself for a tale in which almost nothing and no one are what they seem. You try to avoid becoming too attached to any of the characters, but you bond to some of them anyway and you hope that they don’t ultimately betray you. You know that not every character you grow to care about is going to make it, and you hope that they don’t suffer too greatly. You know that several characters will turn out to be vile, deplorable psychopaths, and you hope that they will get some level of a comeuppance. All you can do is go along for the ride, never knowing when and where the next “Oh sh!t” moment will jump out at you, and continuing to hope against hope. Because this story delivers the bottom line right up front: no deux ex machina is coming. At all. These characters are not going over, under, or around, they are going straight through and fairness no longer exists.

The largest part of my enjoyment of any fiction is the character development. This probably explains why I enjoy dystopian stories so much. No matter what kind of cataclysm has struck, the real story lies in the characters, what they do to survive, and who they become as a result. To that end, I particularly admire Mr. Gayou’s integrity in creating his characters. Each has their own individual identity and unique voice, but despite his obvious investment in these characters, Mr. Gayou throws no bones. As the story unfolds, no one is spared hunger, violence, or terror. No one gets a free ride. Yet it is this authenticity that will likely make this story a difficult read for some. The reader gets no sense of safety, just a moment here and there to catch your breath (and maybe have a laugh) before the next shoe drops. While I read, I bounced from feeling thirsty, anxious, incensed, tired, sorrowful, and back again. But I also felt invigorated and keen to know what was going to happen, even if I wasn’t going to be happy about it. If you can handle all of that, you will enjoy this book as I did.

Now on to Book Two!”

Originally posted here on Amazon.

Game of Thrones S7 – A Monument to Lazy Writing #GoT #GotS7

gotwtfWell, season 7 is in the bag and we’re all gnashing our teeth again with the realization that another two years stares us all in the face before we’ll have another round of episodes to watch.

Now to start, let me get this out of the way: I enjoyed the hell out of this season.  With the exception of the first couple of episodes, this damned show had me alert and engaged throughout the run of this season and there were tons of payoffs that I can honestly say I’ve finally been rewarded with after waiting for years.  Originally, I griped pretty hard when I learned that the season’s episode count would be truncated but now, having watched it all, it’s really easy to see where all of that money went.  Towards the end of this season, nearly every episode was an epic explosion of incredible effects, massive set piece battles, and ever increasing stakes.  That kind of thing takes money, so they cut the number of episodes down to ensure that each entry for the season got the absolute maximum bang for its buck.

I noticed something, though, while watching the second to last episode.  The continent of Westeros sure was seeming mighty small…

Yes, apparently, ravens and dragons can fly really freaking fast!  Now, I’m clearly not the only guy to have noticed this.  I had my argument all laid out and everything, ready to share the distances involved between the wall and Dragonstone, the average airspeed of a raven (not to be confused with a laden swallow), and so forth, but the guys at Nerdist have already done and incredible job of laying all of this out, so I’m just going to link their video here.

As stated in the video, director Alan Taylor addresses the issue by stating, “There’s a thing called plausible impossibilities, which is what you try to achieve, rather than impossible plausibilities.  So I think we were straining plausibility a little bit, but I hope the story’s momentum carries over some of that stuff.”

So, my problem with that statement is that he’s essentially stating that they hope the awesomeness of the action sequences help you to miss all of the plot holes.

The problem is, it didn’t.  I didn’t know what it was specifically when I was watching the episode; I only knew that the world I was being shown suddenly felt incredibly small.  I could see how fast that dragon was flying.  It appeared to be about the speed of a WWI era biplane.  So whatever flight she took had to happen in a time frame that those men stranded out in the middle of the frozen lake would be able to stand there, realistically, as they waited for her to arrive.  Right away, I’m asking questions.  Just how close is Dragonstone to The Wall, anyway???

This kind of thing drives me crazy in any kind of media.  I get it; there are dragons in the show.  As a story teller, you’re allowed to ask your audience to believe the impossible, absolutely.  Zombies exist, dragons fly, dead men can be resurrected, and so forth.  What you are not allowed to do is ask your audience to believe the improbable.  They cannot and will not buy it.

The distances involved in this show should have been a major component in how the story works itself out.  A major challenge in any conflict is the Fog of War, which is essentially defined by uncertainty due to a lack of information.  In the GOT universe, this is compounded by the fact that any new information sent by courier would already be days old by its very nature.  This alone could have constituted a major challenge within the framework of the season and been made into a major asset to the story telling in general.  Instead, the creators of the show chose to ignore it in favor of fast, easy storytelling.  Was it a good gamble?  I leave it up to the viewers to decide but, for me, it was not.  I’m made aware of all the possibilities that could have been had the writers just worked a little harder.

Here is a quick example that I can rattle right off the top of my head.  At the end of the episode in question, the walkers are hauling the dragon out of the frozen lake through the use of several massive chains.

GOT Chains

Now, before you nerd out on me, I’m well aware of the various theories stating that walkers can’t cross water, can’t swim, etc, etc.  They seemed to even come out and state this explicitly in the final episode of S7, where the Hound stated that, no, they won’t cross water.

Putting that aside, the Hound only knows what he observed, and that was that the walkers wouldn’t walk across that lake when the ice was broken.  Being honest, however, the rules are rather fast and loose on this show.  Personally, I suspect they just sink to the bottom and can’t swim back up again.  Having walkers be destroyed by the application of water would be idiotic (I’m looking at you, M. Night Shyamalan).

So the question here becomes: where did they get that chain?  The forged the thing or just had it laying around or…?

The thing is, you can come up with all sorts of reasons why the walkers would have such a thing, but not a single one was actually given in the episode.  They needed a big ass chain because the imagery would look cool for the scene; therefore a chain appears.  Lazy writing.

And the issue with that is, again, the audience is now taken out of the episode wondering where the hell that chain came from rather than what a big deal it is that the Night King now has a dragon.

The frustrating thing is that a little rewriting and extra thought could have made this scene work just fine.  The walkers are undead.  They don’t need to breathe.  I’ll assume this extends to the Night King.  Can you imagine how cool it would have been if that scene opened up with the Night King silently slipping beneath the surface of that lake while the entirety of his army stood around the hole, motionless?  Just quietly waiting for a drawn out, pregnant period; call it 20 or 30 seconds of real screen time.  Following that period, the resurrected dragon bursts from the surface of the lake, clawing its way into the air, this time with the Night King perched upon its back.

Something like the above conveys the exact same information as what the show actually went with.  It is arguably just as dramatic, if not more so, and has the added benefit of not inspiring the viewers to ask a bunch of uncomfortable questions.  It keeps them in the moment, rather than taking them out of it and reminding them that they’re just watching a TV show.

And that should always be a concern on the forefront of any writer’s mind.