Archive for July, 2011

Book Review: Game 7: Dead Ball by Allen Schatz

July 22, 2011 1 comment


I’m going to preface this review by saying I am a diehard Phillies fan, and the ’08 World Series win was one of the best nights (or two, if you know what I mean…rain…) in memory. The plot summary of Allen Schatz’s Game 7: Dead Ball sounded like an interesting story, but the fact that it takes place during that series made it a must buy. But what I found was that the story itself drew me in far more than the teams playing. As a matter of fact, I was so into the plot and characters, I glossed right over mentions of the games themselves.

Game 7: Dead Ball follows the lives of childhood friends who have all gone in different directions since their college days. The main character, Marshall Connors, is called in to umpire the World Series because of the medical status another, and now must deal with umpiring for old friends. However the plot isn’t centered around Connors’ reluctance to call a ball outside on the Phillies’ star pitcher – rather, it’s the life and death situation he’s put in by murders and kidnapping.

I won’t get too in depth into the plot – several other reviews online do an excellent job of it, as does Schatz’s book description. I’d just like to praise the writing style, the plot line, the deep characters, realistic dialogue, suspenseful chapter endings, fantastic local scenery (being from near the Philly area, I can see Schatz knows Philly as well), and thrilling conclusion.

One thing I do want to make an important note about: Game 7: Dead Ball was one of the cleanest, most well-written works I’ve seen to date from an independent author. Schatz has not only crafted an excellent story line with lifelike characters, but he’s done it sans typos and awkward sentences, something that always pulls me out of a story. Here? Nothing of the sort. The only possible negative I can even remotely think of is that Schatz introduces main characters that all have significant roles in the story, and I sometimes lost track of them. Then again, perhaps because of my own work situation and not being able to read it straight through (took several weeks), that’s my own fault for losing track!

Game 7: Dead Ball was one of the best novels I’ve read all year, and I’ve already picked up Schatz’s sequel, 7th Inning Death, which picks up with Marshall Connors again.

Highly recommended for all suspense, mystery, and most especially, baseball fans. A no-brainer for the price of a venti latte…seriously.

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or at the author’s site here.


Readercon – Good Times, Man…Good Times.

July 18, 2011 12 comments

I just returned from one of the most enjoyable four days I’ve ever had, and I mean that seriously. I’ve been fortunate enough with my ‘day job’ to have been able to travel to many different countries, see many beautiful locales, and lie on many gorgeous beaches, all while sipping many local drinks. Jealous? Hey, it’s a job… But most of that pales in comparison to some great times at Readercon.

Interesting crowd...

The program itself was top notch, although I will admit…the content of some of the sessions knocked me down a peg in the “I’m a learned reader” category. Several times I felt as if I was the only person in the room who didn’t get the joke… And while that was a bit humbling at times, it also made me realize I still have a long way to go as an author. Oh, and I might not have the proper dress code – a whole lotta black socks & sandals, unique hairstyles, and even some chopstick eating during sessions. Yes, chopsticks.

I attended sessions discussing Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain (who if things had fallen slightly differently, may be known more as the father of modern science fiction than H.G. Wells), an interesting one on “Mastering the Puppets” where they discussed bringing the reader further into the story by allowing them to ‘touch the puppets’ (insert snicker here), some fascinating discussions on colonialism in the past as a narrative for stories set in the future, imaginary cities and how they are constructed and described, and several others.

Digital Era

I think my favorite session was one entitled “Book Design and Typography in the Digital Era.” I know, it sounds like a snoozer, but it was right up my alley. Some great discussions on the history of the printed word, back to the original (scrolls – which are actually what web pages are today), then to an in-between (whirlwind book, which was a multi-page scroll), to today’s codex (a bound, random-access book), and how all of that leads into the new e-book format. Some really great information, as well as dos and don’ts for formatting an e-book, and glimpses into the future interactive possibilities. Yep, I’m a techie geek… 

But when it was all said and done, my absolute, hands-down favorite part of the entire weekend was meeting, live and in the flesh, some fantastic people I’ve known for several months online. And to a fault, they were all as great as they are online – perhaps even better. We spent hours upon hours with each other, and with the common aspiring author line running through all of us, we made fast “real life” friendships…usually over pints in the Irish Pub (and how kind of Readercon to be based in a  hotel with an Irish Pub).

Great People!

Big shout outs to my carpool partner Karen DeLabar (who has now proven to me in real life how she ends up in overchatting Twitter jail – said with a smile), Karen Smith (who previous to this weekend was the only person I had met before), the always-supportive (and much younger than you might think) Al Boudreau and his wonderful girlfriend Jen, Glenn Skinner, R.B. Wood, Leah Petersen, Jennifer Gracen (who drove over 3 hours just to meet up with us for one evening), and Anne-Mhairi Simpson (who flew across the pond just for Readercon). And an extra-special congratulations to Karen Smith – as we dined as a group at a nearby restaurant after a long day of sessions and pints, she received an email on her phone…an offer of a publishing contract for her novel Dark Dealings. How about that for some good karma?

Thanks everyone, and thanks for ‘forcing’ me into signing some books. It’s certainly not my style, but it’s great to know people are interested. And it’s even greater to know all of you.

Until the next Con!

"Gabriel's Girls"

Categories: Thoughts Tags:

Excerpt from Gabriel’s Redemption for #SampleSunday

July 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Lamber and St. Laurent crept up on their first two targets, red outlines in their IR sensors showing the warm bodies huddled behind a ten foot snowdrift about forty feet away from the doors, where the other two figures stood. St. Laurent reached her target first, a man wearing a civilian environment suit. His visor was so iced over that she would have been invisible even without the active camo. With the camo and silent approach, she was able to get within just a few feet of him before he even turned his head. She punched with her battlesuit’s armored fist.

The hardened carbotanium caught the man squarely in the chest, knocking the wind out of him as he collapsed around her arm like a rag doll. She caught the falling body, hoping she didn’t break too many ribs, and lowered the gasping figure to the ground. Taking one of the personnel autorestraints from her belt with the other metal hand, she slapped it over his head and activated it. The net-like device expanded and covered his entire body in less than a second, cinching itself at his feet and sealing. The mesh surface tightened and immobilized him, cocooning the man in a sound- and electronics-deadening Faraday cage, preventing any outbound transmissions from comms, neuretics, or anything else short of two tin cans and a string. The body struggled in the net, but made no sound. She moved on to her secondary target.

Meanwhile Lamber had taken out his primary a little differently, St. Laurent noticed out of the corner of her heads-up. His immobilized target, while showing life signs, also showed no signs of movement, and appeared to be bent at a very unnatural angle.

On the other side of the compound, Jimenez and Sowers were in position. They crouched on the opposite side of a mining vehicle from Beta, two figures that appeared to be smoking and talking in low tones. Sowers sent a quick burst to Jimenez, signaling him to go around the back end of the vehicle as he rounded the front.

They both slowly made their way around the truck, stepping carefully around waste containers. Just as they approached arm’s reach, Jimenez tripped over a half-buried container and fell forward into the snow, not being able to compensate quickly enough for the mass of his battlesuit.

The two sentries looked up in alarm, seeing the indentations in the snow as Jimenez struggled to right himself. One of the men shouted and raised a weapon as a cigarette fell from his lips. Sowers cursed as he caught a burst of a comm. He snapped an active jamming signal out, blocking any further communications from the sentries, but most likely alerting others to their presence.

Stepping forward quickly, Sowers was able to disarm his sentry with a quick chop of a steel arm. He heard the bones snap in the man’s forearm as he screamed in pain. A careful smack to the side of his head knocked him out cold, and his body dropped into the snow.

Jimenez wasn’t so quick as he staggered upwards from his fallen position in the snow, and the second sentry’s weapon spat rounds rapid fire. Jimenez stumbled back under the onslaught of the rounds, but his suit’s carbotanium shell withstood the kinetic impacts. Sowers took a few steps forward and grabbed the assault rifle, yanking it from the sentry’s hands and crushing it, the loud firing immediately ceasing. With his other hand he grabbed the sentry by the front of his environment suit, picked him up, and threw him into the side of the mining vehicle with a loud thump. His unconscious body slid down into a sitting position in the snow.

Sowers went over to where Jimenez was standing to assess the damage. He sent a quick burst to Gabriel to let him know the targets were down, but that it wasn’t exactly quietly. Jimenez sent a neuretics apology to Sowers, who snorted in his helmet. You owe me, buddy, he thought.

Meanwhile St. Laurent and Lamber were both approaching the doors where the other two sentries stood. St. Laurent watched the passive scans in her heads-up, puzzling at one’s unusually small size. Before they were within twenty feet, they heard rifle fire from the other side of the building. Double time, she sent to Lamber, and the two of them sprinted the last few feet to the two figures at the door.

The sentries were alerted, and their figures went into crouches in St. Laurent’s heads-up. As she got within arm’s reach, she skidded to a halt in shock. In front of her, in a combat stance, was one of the Poliahu aliens she had seen in the briefings, wearing partial body armor and holding a laser pistol. Before she had time to react, the alien fired, and the light blast splashed across her armored chest plate.

Her electronics squealed in protest as several systems were overloaded. The battlesuit was able to take laser blasts in stride, but not entirely unscathed from such point blank range. Servos froze up, immobilizing her, as the energy pulsed its way throughout her suit. Her training kicking in, she frantically sent commands to her backup systems, rerouting alternate power and e-links in a split second. Freed up from the pulse, she dropped to one knee and reached out, grabbing the alien’s weapon before it had a chance to fire a second time. Fighting the urge to fire her suit’s arm-mounted pulse rifle, she pulled the alien’s arm downwards and pulled the gun from its grip as her other hand grabbed the alien’s armor to restrain it. A detached part of her brain noted the lack of claws on the alien’s hands, unlike what Gabriel had showed the team in the initial briefing.

Lamber had already immobilized the other sentry and turned to help St. Laurent. As he stepped towards the struggling duo, the alien’s small chest suddenly erupted in red gore, splattering on the doors behind it. The lifeless body fell backwards and St. Laurent let go of it. It landed in the snow with a wet thud, and blood pooled around it, quickly freezing in the super-chilled atmosphere.

“Cease fire!” St. Laurent screamed, breaking comm silence. She quickly got to her feet, checking her scans for nearby activity. Finding it clear, she sent a burst to Gabriel.

Gabriel was monitoring from the back and caught not only St. Laurent’s yell, but the angry tone of her burst. He quickly contacted Sabra, knowing it was her Burton round that just took the first life of the mission. He received an emotionless neuretics click in return. He shook his head. Loose cannon, he thought. He sent another burst to Sabra to recall her.

He called for a rally at the main colony entrance, and the team moved out.


Like what you read? Pick up Gabriel’s Redemption for Kindle, Nook, and at Smashwords for various e-reader formats. Print version will be coming within days! Oh, and the e-book version now has a sneak preview of Book 2 in the trilogy, Gabriel’s Return. Just a little appetite-whetting for you…