Going Postal in the News

Audible

Postmarked for Death now at Audible. A postal clerk in Tucson targets government offices and mail processing equipment supporting food stamps and Mexican immigrants near the border fence/wall. He is hunted by a rookie postal inspector while police search for the wrong man. (Calvin continues to work and mail letter bombs, with a patsy/fellow postal worker framed and tied up in an abandoned Titan missile base in the desert just north of Nogales.) A psychological suspense told from two viewpoints, with a look into the mind of the bomber (who realizes that shooters are committing suicide!) Based on actual postal shootings, like the one in Edmond Oklahoma that killed 14, and the Unabomber. New to audio, read by Len Cassamas. “A class performance, powerful and accomplished. Mystery at its best.” –Clive Cussler  

USA Today

Ready Player One

Ready Player One is a visually intensive “blast.” Stephen Spielberg pulled off many amazing stunts and scenes, utilizing the latest special effects technology. The look of the film, which seems to have an unlimited budget, is designed to capture gamers and video game lovers attention. Lots of virtual reality weapons, car and truck racing, explosions, and many movies playing a part like a Disney theme park come to life. (The Shining was particularly effective and fun.) My favorite scene was when Chucky and a emoji attack players. Their real world is broken, and depressing. Slum trailer parks and mansions, little in between. Based on the novel by Ernest Cline (narrated on audio by Wil Wheaton of Star Trek fame), it features a USPS van driven at the climax by the heroes, who are being attacked by corporate killers. The message of the film is that “VR is not reality, only reality is real.” So in a way it takes the path of Avatar, drama and romance and war, ending with food for thought. The switch from first person shooters to adventure games with puzzles may get some fans to switch from thinking “Reality is Broken” as an escape to thinking “Reality can be fixed. Let’s do it.” 

Playing with Fire

Audio Drama

Click on image above for link to the Radio Drama, which is downloadable for your local radio station or website. Produced for Sun Sounds Radio for the Blind (art museum related horror,) with a link to the charity. Free download; several others are there too. Full cast and sound. In news, my novel Awakening Storm has been released at Audible, narrated by ESPN horse racing producer and voiceover talent Barry Abrams. 

Barry Abrams

Hurricane Season

Audiobook News

Audiobooks

Even the ones which get the boot are worth a look, or listen…

Through the Audie Awards® competition, publishers enter titles in various categories for recognition of excellence. Finalists are selected by a diverse group of experienced judges and one winner is awarded the Audie in each category. Finalists for Industry Awards for Excellence in Design, Marketing, and Production and for Audiobook of the Year announced. For more information and to see a list of all of the nominees, visit www.theaudies.com.

Some of the nominees we recommend are:  Glass Houses by Louise Penny, narrated by Robert Bathurst, published by Macmillan Audio / How to Work for an Idiot (Revised and Expanded with More Idiots, More Insanity, and More Incompetency): Survive and Thrive Without Killing Your Boss by John Hoover, narrated by Brian Sutherland, published by Audible Studios / Peak Performance by Brad Stullberg and Steve Magness, narrated by Christopher Lane, published by Brilliance Publishing / The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss, narrated by Kate Reading, published by Simon & Schuster Audio / Beartown by Fredrik Backman, narrated by Marin Ireland, published by Simon & Schuster Audio / Code Girls by Liza Mundy, narrated by Erin Bennett, published by Hachette Audio / Carpet Diem: Or…How to Save the World by Accident by Justin Lee Anderson, narrated by Matthew Lloyd Davies, published by Tantor Audio, a division of Recorded Books / The Handmaid’s Tale: Special Edition by Margaret Atwood and Valerie Martin, narrated by Claire Danes, Margaret Atwood, and a full cast, published by Audible Studios / Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope, narrated by David Shaw-Parker, published by Naxos AudioBooks / The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, narrated by Ruthie Ann Miles, Kimiko Glenn, and others, published by Simon & Schuster Audio / Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry, narrated by Simon Vance, published by Macmillan Audio / Nevertheless We Persisted, edited by Tanya Eby: Blunder Woman Productions / Nights of the Living Dead: An Anthology edited by Jonathan Maberry and George A. Romero, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, Rex Linn, Gabrielle de Cuir, Adenrele Ojo, Richard Gilliland, Ray Porter, Kristoffer Tabori, and Kasey Lansdale, published by Blackstone Publishing / Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray, narrated by January LaVoy, published by Listening Library / Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork, narrated by Roxana Ortega and Christian Barillas, published by Scholastic Audio / Now, isn’t this all “The Voice” for Voice Actors? Somebody call Adam Levine. Today is his birthday. On today, March 18, if you say, “Alexa, Hello,” into your Amazon Echo, she will tell you this. Scary? She’s an AI. What happens when AI happens for real, with real emotions? Real narrations, robot actors? For now, Alexa can play your Audible audiobooks, and keep track of chapters and how much time is left in the book! AGT.

Whiskey Business

If your audiobook doesn’t win, you could turn to whiskey. Whiskey Business, that is! An audiobook narrated by Barry Abrams. A Powerball winner was announced today, too. Consolation prize? Or you could win next time.

 

Interview with Ctein

Ctein

Ctein has a double-degree from Caltech in English and Physics. He has written over 500 articles, columns, books, and manuals on photographic topics, and done research in everything from solar astronomy to computer screens, and from the seventy-year-old dye transfer printmaking process to state-of-the-art electronic color displays. He has made new discoveries about ordinary B&W photographic printing and new designs for computer printers. Most recently, he became a novelist, co-authoring Saturn Run with John Sandford, and is hard at work on a new novel, a disaster thriller, with Scifi author David Gerrold (who, among many novels, wrote “The Trouble with Tribbles” script for Star Trek.) 

Jonathan Lowe) How did your book collab with John Sandford come about? I heard he wrote you, and you didn’t want to do it at first, money being “the root of all evil.”

Ctein) This is, in fact, 99% true. We concatenated a couple of different conversations for the sake of narrative, and I never said money was the root of all evil. John stuck that in – he thought it amusing, but it is true to life.

Lowe) And the new book project? Not with Sandford?

Ctein) No. After Saturn Run, I had an idea for a natural disaster thriller, based upon a paper that appeared in Nature about 15 years ago – a computer model of what kind of tidal wave would occur after a major Hawaiian offshore landslide, which happens every couple of hundred thousand years. John wasn’t available to write another book with me. He and I like working together, but he’s contractually obligated to turning out two of his series novels a year, and there are only so many hours in the day. We may well work together at some point in the future. I’ve got this idea for next book. I could write it myself, but it happens I like collaborating. More fun. About the time the Saturn Run was coming out a long time good friend of mine and science fiction author David Gerrold asked me if I might be interested in having him as a collaborator at some point. So I rung him up on the phone, pitched the natural disaster novel idea to him and asked him if he’d be interested in doing something like that, and he said hell yes. The new novel is tentatively titled “Ripple Effect” and it’s about 75% done. Can’t tell you when it will come out, but I’m hoping within a year. In the meantime, a 35,000 word excerpt from it that stands on its own will be appearing in the May/June issue of Asimov’s science fiction magazine under the title “Bubble & Squeak.” To be clear, Ripple Effect isn’t science fiction. It’s a contemporary natural disaster thriller, set a few years from now for convenience, but it doesn’t make particular use of that. But it is hard science – all the actual disaster/geology stuff is as accurate as we know how to make it.

Lowe) Sounds great. Look forward to it. Do you have a mentor or someone who influenced you to write? Mine was Ray Bradbury, who answered every letter I wrote him as a teen fan.

Ctein) I met Ray Bradbury when I was in college. Several of us got to go out to dinner with him. It was not long after I had decided that my chosen career would be photographer, not physicist, and nobody was objecting but it was not the sort of thing that one got a lot of  explicit support for at Caltech. After dinner, Ray asked us what we planned to do with our lives. He got to me and I very hesitantly said, “Well, I was planning on becoming a photographer.” Ray clapped his hands and boisterously exclaimed, “Good for you!” It was the first time anyone had shown enthusiasm over my choice. It made a huge difference to me. That is why my first book was dedicated to Ray Bradbury.

Lowe) As was one of mine! Incredible. It’s a small world, after all. Thanks.

Saturn Run

Science Fiction

Vintage scifi, with a early Ray Bradbury story. Note AE Van Vogt. His novel “Voyage of the Space Beagle” (Darwin’s ship) inspired the Alien series. His estate sued, and Ridley Scott settled out of court. The new HBO series Fahrenheit 451 was inspired by a story Ray wrote called “The Pedestrian,” which later featured David Ogden Stiers in a Bradbury TV series, and foretold driverless cars and drones. The drone helicopter, piloted by a robot, takes two men out for a walk (instead of watching sports on their “viewing screens” –flat screen TVs) to the “Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.” The 2002 movie Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale, is another reinterpretation on Fahrenheit 451…this time featuring burning and guns. It is also interesting to note that “Voyage of the Space Beagle” inspired David Gerrold. His seeing “The Man Trap” on Star Trek caused him to submit his “The Trouble with Tribbles” script, and the “The Man Trap” was inspired by the Van Vogt novel. Gerrold also used the animal, a “Coeurl” in his book “A Season for Slaughter,” which is the creature’s name in the Van Vogt novel. Trivia, but interesting, no?

 

Becoming Meryl Streep

Meryl StreepHer Again is an intimate look at the artistic coming-of-age of the greatest actress of her generation, from the homecoming float at her suburban New Jersey high school, through her early days on the stage at Vassar College and the Yale School of Drama during its golden years, to her star-making roles in The Deer Hunter, Manhattan, and Kramer vs. Kramer. New Yorker contributor Michael Schulman brings into focus Meryl’s heady rise to stardom on the New York stage; her passionate, tragically short-lived love affair with fellow actor John Cazale; her marriage to sculptor Don Gummer; and her evolution as a young woman of the 1970s wrestling with changing ideas of feminism, marriage, love, and sacrifice.

Featuring eight pages of black-and-white photos in a PDF, this captivating story of the making of one of the most revered artistic careers of our time reveals a gifted young woman coming into her extraordinary talents at a time of immense transformation, offering a rare glimpse into the life of the actress long before she became an icon.

THE POST was nominated for Best Picture, and Streep for Best Actress. The story is appropriate for our times for several reasons: newspapers are dying in favor of online McNews video and sound bites. Many local news stations have folded their investigative departments, and instead chase viral videos just like TMZ does. It is all about sports and weather. “Scores” (whether on the football field or killing fields) are tallied and delivered, accompanied by ads for junk food and prescription drugs. War stories and political secrets are particularly suppressed or debated, with only a few outlets like the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post (along with 60 Minutes and Frontline) spending time and money to get to the truth. Disinformation and fake news attack these efforts relentlessly. Many of the movies up for Oscars were based on books. Writing, like reporting, takes work that many do not want to take in a “winner-take-all” culture. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, had this to say about it: “Factoids are clips posted to make people believe they know more than they do. The less people read, the more violent the world becomes.”

 

Lottery Island or Jackpot Island?

Union Island

You decide the title: Lottery Island or Jackpot Island? Titles of books cannot be copyrighted, but the word “Powerball” is a registered trademark, and should not be used in the title (or so I’m told by Powerball legal, a different employee there whom I can’t name saying, “sounds like a great book!” And there is a 2014 novel at Amazon titled “Powerball.”) Anyway, there is a disclaimer at the end of the novel, partly based on a true story, reading, “This is a work of fiction. No connection to MUSL is intended or implied. Please play responsibly. Unlike Howard.” Howard Rosen is a dweeb solo Powerball winner whose first winning ticket is photographed but lost…so he is made the brunt of jokes on late night TV. (You can’t cash in a photograph, even if no one comes forward and you can prove you bought it at the place identified as selling it. They are very strict, and forbidden from endorsing anything. (LEGAL NOTE: No endorsement is implied.)  There is a woman who sued to remain anonymous, losing many thousands of dollars in interest, because she was unaware that signing her winning ticket legally allowed them to publish her name. In Howard’s fictional case, he wins again ($553 Million after taxes), and doesn’t sign, but erases all traces of him via a hacker so no one can track him….with a plan to reemerge a hero, famous for more than just 15 minutes of shame by financing a coup against a corrupt Caribbean island dictator. Lottery Island is at Amazon for Kindle, Jackpot Island is at iTunes iBooks and BN.com for Nook and iPad. Same book, different title. If you have Kobo or just want PDF, it is at Smashwords.com. Choose your pleasure. Currently in preorder for March 1 release, sales in April will also determine your vote for which title ultimately wins, and goes to audio. My novel Postmarked for Death, endorsed by Clive Cussler and John Lutz, will be going to audio in March at Audible and iTunes, as well. Think postal shootings and a serial bomber like the Unabomber, hunted by a rookie postal inspector. The USPS TV series The Inspectors is just starting up again. Good timing? We shall see. (Am told the new episodes was financed by seized property.) Again, the novel is partly based on true stories of shootings, like the one at Royal Oak, Michigan that killed 14. For the lottery novel above, based on the true story of John Caldwell, he and his sons once fired Enfield rifles over the heads of invading renegades that had taken Union Island, and came for his: Palm Island. He let the Marines park helicopters on his island (leased from St. Vincent’s government for 99 years at $1 year plus 12% of future profits) during the Grenada invasion. I was there writing an article on him for a sailing magazine, but his true story inspired mine. Add Powerball, and off we go…

Island Life

 

 

Bill Clinton and James Patterson?

Bill Clinton

The name of James Patterson is ubiquitous. Go to any hotel or cruise ship pool in summer, and you’ll see someone reading a Patterson thriller.  A former ad man, he is now the reigning king of pop fiction superstars, and lives part of the year in Palm Beach, Florida.  I once met him at Book Expo America.  His numerous books includes INVISIBLE, co-written with David Ellis, and read by Kevin T. Collins. PRIVATE GAMES was set at the London Olympic games in 2012, it’s about a terrorist named Cronus who wants to restore the games to their ancient “glory” by destroying the modern games of greed and corruption. A private security firm investigates, with newspaper reporter Karen Pope on the case. ZOO was a TV series. And THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING is due 6/4/18. Preorder HERE

JONATHAN LOWE: What led you to writing? Were you a voracious reader?

JAMES PATTERSON: I was a good student in high school, but I didn’t like to read at all. I’m still not a big fan of Silas Marner. Just after I graduated from high school, I got a job working at a famous mental hospital. I had a lot of free time, and I started reading everything I could get my hands on. At this point, I was reading serious fiction, poetry, essays, plays. I still didn’t read any commercial fiction. When I was in my twenties I read two commercial novels that turned it all around for me–Day of the Jackal and The Exorcist. At that point, I decided that I wanted to write a novel that readers would find almost impossible to put down.

Q: What was your reaction to the success of “Along Came a Spider?”

A: Long before I had a success with “Along Came A Spider,” I had learned to stop and smell the roses. Consequently, I savored every moment when Along Came A Spider hit the bestseller lists. That included every bookstore I visited on tour, every interview, every kind review.

Q: Was the Alex Cross character your first choice as protagonist? How and why did you develop him to be who he is?

A: Actually, when I began “Along Came A Spider,” Alex Cross was a woman. I wrote about fifty pages, and decided to go in another direction. I’ve told the story about where the Cross family came from, but I’m happy to tell it again. When I was a kid growing up in Newburgh, New York, my grandparents owned a small restaurant. The cook was a black woman named Laura. When I was three or four, she was having trouble with her husband and my parents urged her to move in with us. Over the next four years, I spent incredible amounts of time with Laura and her family. I got an incredible feeling for the warmth and good humor that they shared. That certainly influenced my creating the Cross family.

Q: Did you begin by thinking of Alex as a series character? Coming up with nursery rhymes as titles is obviously good for name recognition, but how much did they influence the actual plotting?

A: When I wrote “Along Came A Spider” I wasn’t thinking about creating a series. The publisher wanted to make a two-book deal, and the more I thought about writing about Alex again, the more I liked it. I don’t think the nursery rhymes have much to do with the plotting at all.

Q: Nor do I. One thing which strikes me about your books is your creative use of short chapters for dramatic effect. Knowing when and where to end a chapter which leaves the reader guessing or biting their nails or just staring at the page in shock. Two of your chapters in ROSES ARE RED are mere one liners, which explains a total of 125 chapters in a relatively short book. When your wife asks how much you’ve written today and you say “two chapters” doesn’t she just stare at you?

A: The short chapters were kind of an accident. I had written about thirty chapters of The Midnight Club and I expected to flesh them out later. When I read them, however, I liked the pacing a lot. I eventually fleshed the chapters out, but not as much as I planned to. My wife and I never talk about the quantity of work I’ve done on any given day, just the quality.

Q: Please describe, say, ROSES ARE RED.

A: You get on a roller coaster, it goes on and on for six or seven hours, you can’t believe how many twists and turns you’ve experienced, and when the ride finally stops you get off exhausted, shaken, but strangely satisfied.

Q: Do actual true crimes and criminals inspire you to create psychos like “The Mastermind?”

A: Not really.

Q: In that case, do you think you’re ever going to write a sweet historical romance or western?

A: Actually, I’ve written a very sweet romance, a five-handkerchief story, called Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas. When I told the story to my publishers, everyone in the room cried.  I spent incredible amounts of time with Laura and her family. I got an incredible feeling for the warmth and good humor that they shared. That certainly influenced my creating the Cross family.

Q: Do you listen to audiobooks on the road?

A: Ever since I moved out of New York City, I’ve been addicted to audiobooks. I listen to one or two a week while I’m driving around town. Generally, I listen to the books that I used to buy, but never get around to reading.

PLOT of THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING: 

The White House is the home of the President of the United States, the most guarded, monitored, closely watched person in the world. So how could a U.S. President vanish without a trace? And why would he choose to do so? An unprecedented collaboration between President Bill Clinton and the world’s bestselling novelist, James Patterson, The President Is Missing is a breathtaking story from the pinnacle of power. Full of what it truly feels like to be the person in the Oval Office—the mind-boggling pressure, the heartbreaking decisions, the exhilarating opportunities, the soul-wrenching power—this is the thriller of the decade, confronting the darkest threats that face the world today, with the highest stakes conceivable.