Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition by Russ Colchamiro: A Very Strange SF Romp

Finders Keepers: The Definitive EditionFinders Keepers: The Definitive Edition

by Russ Colchamiro
Series: Finders Keepers, #1

Kindle Edition, 310 pg.
Crazy 8 Press, 2018

Read: January 4 – 7, 2019


This is a very strange ride. That might be the most important thing to take away from my experience with this book. Strange is good, strange is unique, strange is the kind of thing you can only read here (well, you can read strange SF in other places, too, but they won’t be this kind of strange).

That doesn’t tell you a lot, though, does it? This is the story of two twenty-something guys (one from the US, one from New Zealand) backpacking their way around Europe. It’s the story of a young woman, an artist trying to escape from something, and her life-changing interactions with those two guys. It’s also the story of a young couple, trying to better their station in life, who might have taken on a job they shouldn’t have — and their tragic blunder in the middle of carrying out that job which just might ruin their lives. There’s also the woman whose ambition and slip-of-judgement that has led to her fall into disrepute and her loyal assistant as they try to stage a comeback. Oh, yeah, and there’s Ira and Howard — a dolphin and a whale — who are basically the sea mammal answer to Cheech and Chong.

Jason’s waiting tables at a small restaurant, putting off getting a teaching job, because he’s just not ready to take that step, when one of his customers inspires him to head to Europe for a while. This was a huge mistake — he’s unprepared for anything, the fact that he’s not robbed blind by the first slightly crooked person he meets in any country is a wonder. He eventually runs into Theo Barnes, who’s only a moderately better traveler. He’s on a quest — the exact nature of which I’ll leave to you — but Ira and Howard gave him some pretty specific directions. Primarily, these two do what backpacking twenty-something males do: the drink a lot, they chase girls, the drink some more, they get lost in Europe, and drink to excess.

I’m going to pass on explaining how the others I mentioned get into the story — there’s a lot of complicated explanation — that makes perfect sense in Colchamiro’s narration, but wouldn’t quite work in my summary. But most of the other people in the book aren’t human — they’re a different form of life who are responsible, in one way or another, for the construction of Galaxies, Star Systems and Planets — most notably, they’re all involved in the creation of our solar system. And all of them have done something horribly wrong (inadvertently or otherwise) and all are in the middle of crazy, elaborate plans to regain their status. Colchamiro tells us about their falls and their various efforts to fix things while we watch Jason and Theo binge drink their way around Europe.

I’m honestly not sure if that paragraph made much sense — I bet if you’ve read the book, it does.

What surprised me about the book wasn’t the strange antics these pairs got into — but that Colchamiro works a lot of heart and some pretty serious emotional arcs into the zaniness. He does so in a way that doesn’t seem forced, it doesn’t seem like he’s taking a break from the outrageous actions to have a heartfelt moment, or anything — but he seamlessly merges personal growth, insight or complex emotions into the same scenes as a talking dolphin or biker gang interrupting a son introducing his girlfriend to his mother.

There was a time back in the 90’s or so where it seemed that not a week could go by without someone on a sit-com ask the clarifying question: “Did you mean funny ‘ha ha,’ for funny ‘peculiar/strange/odd’?” I thought of that frequently while reading this book — and once I abandoned the idea of this book being “funny ‘ha-ha,'” and instead embraced the strange, the absurd, the idiosyncratic peculiarity of Finders Keepers, I enjoyed it a lot more. I’m not saying that there aren’t funny moments, and it’s definitely not a serious work — it’s a fun, goofy, and strange SF adventure, which we need more of. I just don’t think I laughed or chuckled all that much.

That said, do I encourage you to read it? Oh yeah. Am I curious about what the next two installments of this trilogy might bring? Oh yeah. And I fully intend on finding out as soon as I can. I wager if you spend some time with this particular batch of oddballs you’ll be as curious as I am — yet pleased that you spent this much time with them. It’s a great mix of heart, oddball characters, youthful indiscretions, and wisdom that time and suffering can only bring — all in one goofy adventure.

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3.5 Stars

My thanks to iREAD Book Tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided, including a copy of the novel.

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A Few (more) Quick Questions With…Russ Colchamiro

Russ Colchamiro came back for round 2 — and I’m very happy about that. I hope you enjoy this:

Tell us a little about your road to publication.
Finders Keepers is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against a quest for a jar of the Universe’s DNA. Very much in the spirit of The Good Place, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It original published in 2010, and got great notices, including in Publishers Weekly. As part of the launch—it was my debut novel—I landed a national distribution contract, with Finders Keepers on the shelves in 20 or so Barnes & Nobles throughout the U.S.

About a year ago I had a hankering to revisit the guys and see if it stood the test of time. Seeing how I could improve upon the original, I was inspired to write Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition. It’s 15,000 words shorter than the original, with tighter pacing, some new content, and a few characters I reimagined to better match how I always intended them. This new, updated novel is indeed the final version. This is it!

In the Author’s Note you talked about your reasons for this new version of the novel, and how you cut a good deal of the original text. Talk to me about the process of revising — how painful was it to cut anything? What was it like to look back at an almost decade-old work with a critical eye?
It was trippy to go back and look at the manuscript with fresh eyes. Certain scenes were painful to cut because I loved them, as individual scenes, but I needed to serve the story, and keep the pacing as tight and lean as possible. The biggest change, where I had to take a humble, was some of the language. The original version was a bit raunchy, but as the series evolved, and as I evolved as a writer, I accepted that some of the sex comedy elements were distracting from the overall adventure. So I cut virtually every F-bomb, toned down some of the sex elements, and ultimately made it friendlier and more accessible for a wider audience. Consider the original as the Raw & Uncensored Edition, with an ‘R’ rating, whereas The Definitive Edition is ‘PG-13’.
I’m admittedly late to the Finders Keepers party — what kind of feedback have you received from readers who showed up earlier to the trilogy to The Definitive Edition? Anything surprising about the reaction (hopefully positive surprises, but I’ve been online long enough to not know to assume that)?
All of the feedback I’ve gotten is extremely positive. Finders Keepers is a 3-book series— Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza. The Definitive Edition much more closely matches the tone, length, and style of Genius de Milo and Astropalooza, so the entire trilogy feels much more like one cohesive adventure. I’m incredibly happy with the way it turned out.
Last time we talked, we spent some time talking about Finders Keepers when we were supposed to be talking about Angela Hardwicke and the anthology she was in. It’s time for some payback — talk a little about Angela — her tie to these books and her future.
Angela Hardwicke is my hard-boiled private eye, who briefly showed up in Genius de Milo with a much bigger role in Astropalooza. I’ve since written a few short Hardwicke mysteries in Crazy 8 Press anthologies. The biggest news is that I’ve also written the first draft of my first Hardwicke novel. I’ll be doing revisions over the next few months, with plans to publish either this year or in 2020. After that I plan to write Angela Hardwicke mysteries for years to come as an ongoing series. I’m not supposed to pick favorites, but Hardwicke I’ve never had more fun as an author than with Angela Hardwicke.
You’ve said Finders Keepers is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips you took through Europe and New Zealand. What inspired you to turn those adventures into a novel, and then expand it into a trilogy?
I know its cliché that a trip was life-changing, but in my case, it happens to be true. Before I went overseas, I hadn’t traveled much, and since then I’ve been halfway around the world, and made friendships that have endured all these years. Finders Keepers and the sequels are for readers who want to go on a wild cosmic ride that will, I hope, inspire you to think a bit about the meaning of life, your place in it, and the machinations of the Universe. And, of course, leave you with a smile on your face.
Thanks for your time, and I hope that Finders Keepers meets with all kinds of success!

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition by Russ Colchamiro

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the very strange Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition by Russ Colchamiro. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be posting a Q&A with the author (he came back for another round — the third author to do so!) and then I’ll be giving my take on the novel. Sounds like plenty of material to get to — let’s jump in. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

Book Details:

Book Title: Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition by Russ Colchamiro
Publisher: Crazy 8 Press
Release date: October 17, 2018
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 310 pages
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (A few f-bombs, and mild sex scenes + some casual drinking/pot smoking)

Book Blurb:

In the spirit of The Good Place, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, author Russ Colchamiro has gone back to the future to deliver his wildest, funniest novel yet–the updated Sci-Fi/Fantasy tale Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition.

When a jar containing the Universe’s DNA falls from Eternity, bumbling backpackers Jason and Theo find their loyalties–and sanity!–put to the test. Unaware that a motley crew from another realm is chasing them across the globe to retrieve that radioactive vessel, these intrepid new friends are forced to contend with passion, responsibility, and their own mortality–and the fate of the Solar System, which hangs in the balance.

Traversing Europe, New Zealand, and the backbone of Eternity, Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition ultimately asks one simple question: Is the life you’re living the life you actually want . . . or does the Universe have more to offer than you can possibly imagine?

Book Trailer

About Russ Colchamiro:

Russ ColchamiroRuss Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space opera, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself.

Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, and Brave New Girls. Russ is repped by The Zack Company.

Russ Colchamiro’s Social Media:

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Purchase Links for Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble
Playster ~ Kobo ~ 24symbols
Add to Goodreads

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My thanks to iREAD Book Tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

My Favorite Non-Crime Fiction of 2018

When I was trying to come up with a Top 10 this year, I ran into a small problem (at least for me). With 44 percent of my fiction, Crime/Thriller/Mystery novels so dominated the candidates, it’s like I read nothing else. So, I decided to split them into 2 lists — one for Crime Fiction and one for Everything Else. Not the catchiest title, I grant you, but you get what you pay for.

I do think I read some books that were technically superior than some of these — but they didn’t entertain me, or grab me emotionally the way these did. And I kinda feel bad about leaving them off. But only kind of. These are my favorites, the things that have stuck with me in a way others haven’t — not the best things I read (but there’s a good deal of overlap, too). I know I read books that are worse, too — I don’t feel bad about leaving them off.

Anyway…I say this every year, but . . . Most people do this in mid-December or so, but a few years ago (before this blog), the best novel I read that year was also the last. Ever since then, I just can’t pull the trigger until January 1. Also, none of these are re-reads, I can’t have everyone losing to my re-reading books that I’ve loved for 2 decades.

Enough blather…on to the list.

(in alphabetical order by author)

Lies SleepingLies Sleeping

by Ben Aaronovitch

My original post
I’ve read all the comics (at least collected in paperback), listened to all the audiobooks, read the books at least once . . . I’m a Rivers of London/Peter Grant fan. Period. Which means two things — 1. I’m in the bag already for this series and 2. When I say that this is the best of the bunch, I know what I’m talking about. Aaronovitch writes fantastic Urban Fantasy and this is his best yet. The series has been building to this for a while, and I honestly don’t know what to expect next. Great fight/action scenes, some genuine laughs, some solid emotional moments . . . this has it all. Everything you’ve come to expect and more.

—–

5 Stars

The Fairies of SadievilleThe Fairies of Sadieville

by Alex Bledsoe

My original post
I was very excited about this book when Bledsoe announced it was the last Tufa novel. Then I never wanted it to come out — I didn’t want to say goodbye to this wonderful world he’d created. But if I have to — this is how the series should’ve gone out. It’s the best installment since the first novel — we get almost every question we had about the Tufa answered (including ones you didn’t realize you had), along with a great story. It’s just special and I’m glad I got to read this magical series.

—–

5 Stars

Dragon RoadDragon Road

by Joseph Brassey

I haven’t been able to get a post written about this –I’m not sure why. It’s superior in almost every way to the wonderful Skyfarer — the idea behind the caravan, the scope of the ship and it’s culture are more than you might think anyone has done before. A fantasy novel about wizards and warriors (and warrior wizards) in a SF setting. I had a blast reading this and I think you will, too.

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4 1/2 Stars

Kill the Farm BoyKill the Farm Boy

by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

My original post
Probably the best comedic/parody/satire fantasy since Peter David’s Sir Apropos of Nothing. The characters are fun, well-developed and pretty strange. This is a great fantasy story, it’s a great bunch of laughs, but there’s real humans and real human reactions — it’s not all laughs but enough of it is that you won’t have to work hard to thoroughly enjoy the book.

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4 Stars

Kings of the WyldKings of the Wyld

by Nicholas Eames
Like Dragon Road, I’ve been trying to write a post about this book for months. An epic story about brotherhood, about family, about heroism, about integrity — but at its core, it’s a story about Clay Cooper. Clay’s a good man trying to stay one. He worked really hard to get to where he is, but he has to e back on the road to help his friends’ daughter. It’s a fantastic concept and set up, with an even better follow-through by Eames. Possibly the best book I read last year — and I don’t say that lightly.

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5 Stars

All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's FaultAll Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault

by James Alan Gardner

My original post
A Superhero story, a SF story, an Urban Fantasy, a story about friendship and destiny told with just enough of a light touch to fool yourself into this being a comedy. From the great title, all the way through to the end this book delivers.

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4 Stars

Smoke EatersSmoke Eaters

by Sean Grigsby

My original post
I started my original post about the book like this: Really, the case for you (or anyone) reading this book is simply and convincingly made in 13 words:

Firefighters vs. Dragons in an Urban Fantasy novel set in a futuristic dystopia.

That could’ve been my entire post, and it’s all I’m going to say now.

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4 1/2 Stars

Dark QueenDark Queen

by Faith Hunter

My original post
This could have been the series finale and I’d have been satisfied. I’m thrilled that it’s not. Hunter’s been building to this for a few books now — and it absolutely pays off the work she’s been doing. Better yet, there’s something else she’s been building toward that doesn’t get the attention it needed — and it’s devastating. The series will be different from here on out. Hunter’s as good as the genre has, and this book demonstrates it.

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5 Stars

Jimbo YojimboJimbo Yojimbo

by David W. Barbee

My original post
I don’t have words for this. I really don’t know how to say anything about this book — especially not in a paragraph. Click on the original post and know that even then I fail to do the book justice. It’s strange, gross, funny, exciting and thrilling.

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4 Stars

Beneath the Sugar SkyBeneath the Sugar Sky

by Seanan McGuire

My original post
As much as I appreciate McGuire’s Toby Daye, Indexing and InCryptid series, her Wayward Children books are possibly the best things she’d done. This allows us to spend time with characters I didn’t think we’d see again and the family — and world — of my favorite character in the series. It’s like McGuire wrote this one specifically for me. But it’s okay for you to read it, too. I’m generous like that.

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5 Stars

My Favorite 2018 (Fictional) Dogs

In one of the lightest moments of Robert B. Parker’s Valediction (just before one of the darker), Spenser describes his reservation about the first two Star Wars movies: “No horses . . . I don’t like a movie without horses.” After watching Return of the Jedi, he comments that it was a silly movie, but “Horses would have saved it.” Which makes me wonder what he’d have thought about The Last Jedi. Horses aren’t my thing, it’s dogs. I’m not quite as bad as Spenser is about them — I like books without dogs. But occasionally a good dog would save a book for me — or make a good book even better. I got to thinking about this a few weeks back when I realized just how many books I’d read last year that featured great dogs — and then I counted those books and couldn’t believe it. I tried to stick to 10 (because that’s de rigueur), but I failed. I also tried to leave it with books that I read for the first time in 2018 — but I couldn’t cut two of my re-reads.

So, here are my favorite dogs from 2018 — they added something to their novels that made me like them more, usually they played big roles in the books (but not always).

(in alphabetical order by author)

  • Edgar from The Puppet Show by M. W. Craven (my post about the book) — Edgar has a pretty small role in the book, really. But there’s something about him that made me like Washington Poe a little more — and he made Tilly Bradshaw pretty happy, and that makes Edgar a winner in my book.
  • Kenji from Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby (my post about the book) — The moment that Grigsby introduced Kenji to the novel, it locked in my appreciation for it. I’m not sure I can explain it, but the added detail of robot dogs — at once a trivial notion, and yet it says so much about the culture Cole Brannigan lives in. Also, he was a pretty fun dog.
  • Rutherford from The TV Detective by Simon Hall (my post about the book) — Dan Groves’ German Shepherd is a great character. He provides Dan with companionship, a sounding board, a reason to leave the house — a way to bond with the ladies. Dan just felt more like a real person with Rutherford in his life. Yeah, he’s never integral to the plot (at least in the first two books of the series), but the books wouldn’t work quite as well without him.
  • Oberon from Scourged by Kevin Hearne (my post about the book) — Everyone’s favorite Irish Wolfhound doesn’t get to do much in this book, because Atticus is so focused on keeping him safe (as he should be). But when he’s “on screen,” he makes it count. He brings almost all of the laughs and has one of the best ideas in the novel.
  • Mouse from Brief Cases by Jim Butcher (my post about the book) — From the moment we read, “My name is Mouse and I am a Good Dog. Everyone says so,” a good novella becomes a great one. As the series has progressed, Mouse consistently (and increasingly) steals scenes from his friend, Harry Dresden, and anyone else who might be around. But here where we get a story (in part) from his perspective, Mouse takes the scene stealing to a whole new level. He’s brave, he’s wise, he’s scary, he’s loyal — he’s a very good dog.
  • Ruffin from Wrecked by Joe Ide (my post about the book) — Without Isaiah Quintabe’s dog opening up conversation between IQ and Grace, most of this book wouldn’t have happened — so it’s good for Grace’s sake that Ruffin was around. And that case is made even more from the way that Ruffin is a support for Grace. He also is a fantastic guard dog and saves lives. His presence is a great addition to this book.
  • Dog from An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson (my post about the book) — I might have been able to talk myself into ignoring re-reads if I hadn’t listened to this audiobook (or any of the series, come to think of it) last year — or if Dog had been around in last year’s novel. Dog’s a looming presence, sometimes comic relief (or at least a mood-lightener), sometimes a force of nature. Dog probably gets to do more for Walt in this book — he helps Walt capture some, he attacks others, just being around acts as a deterrent for many who’d want to make things rough on Walt. Walt couldn’t ask for a better partner.
  • Trogdor from The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin (my post about the book) — Honestly, Trogdor probably has the least impact on the book than any of the dogs on this list. But, come on, a Corgi names Trodgor? The idea is cute enough to justify inclusion here. He’s a good pet, a fitting companion for MG — not unlike Dan’s Rutherford. He just adds a little something to the mix that helps ground and flesh-out his human companion.
  • Mingus from The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (my post about the book) — Like Trogdor, a great name. Like Mouse and Dog, a great weapon. He’s really a combination of the two of them (just lacking Mouse’s magical nature). He’s vital in many different ways to the plot and the safety of those we readers care about. Petrie made a good move when he added this beast of a dog to the novel.
  • Chet from Dog On It by Spencer Quinn (my posts about Chet) — If I couldn’t cut Dog, I couldn’t cut Chet. Listening to this audiobook (my 4th or 5th time through the novel, I believe) reminded me how much I love and miss Chet — and how eager I am for his return this year. This Police Academy reject is almost as good a detective as his partner, Bernie, is. Chet will make you laugh, he’ll warm your heart, he’ll make you want a dog of your own (actually, all of these dogs will)
  • Zoey from Deck the Hounds by David Rosenfelt (my post about the book) — how do I not invoke Tara when discussing an Andy Carpenter book? Good question. It’s Zoey that brings Andy into the story, it’s Zoey that helps Don to cope with his own issues, it’s Zoey that defends Don and saves him (in many ways). Sure, Tara’s the best dog in New Jersey, but Zoey comes close to challenging her status in this book.
  • Lopside from Voyage of the Dogs by Greg van Eekhout (my post about the book) — It almost feels like cheating to bring in a dog from a novel about dogs — conversely, it’s hard to limit it to just one dog from this book. But Lopside the Barkonaut would demand a place here if he was the only dog among a bunch of humans — or if he was surrounded by more dogs. He’s brave, he’s self-sacrificing, he’s a hero. He’ll charm you and get you to rooting for these abandoned canines in record time.

Doctor Who: Rose by Russell T. Davies: It All Starts with — and Comes Back to — Rose

Doctor Who: RoseDoctor Who: Rose

by Russell T. Davies
Series: Doctor Who

Paperback, 197 pg.
BBC Books, 2018
Read: December 31, 2018

She ran into a cavern.

She ran into a vault.

She ran into a cathedral.

She ran into a huge space, a vast dome, with the Doctor standing at its centre, the grinning lord of an impossible realm.

It was like being plunged underwater, the sudden pressure in her head, and Rose thought, simply, No! and ran back out again.

Into the yard. The same old yard. With headless Mickey still chopping away at the fire door.

She looked back at the blue box. She’d left the door open and she could see, in the gap between door and jamb, that huge, strange space reaching far beyond, With the Doctor somehow in the distance, a small figure, a good twenty metres away and yet within a box that stood beside her, no deeper than a metre in itself.

I think that was the moment in 2006 that sealed the deal for many of us — Doctor Who was back. My kids (who were at the perfect age to be introduced to the show) loved that moment, but I don’t think they were sold until The End of the World the next week. But I was in from the time Rose Tyler stepped into the TARDIS — and (not at all surprisingly) her creator, Russell T. Davies, captured the moment perfectly in his novelization of the episode.

It’s more than just a novelization, Davies is able to take a lot of things that happened or developed later in the show’s run and weave them into this adventure (or at least set the stage for them) while he’s fleshing out a lot of things that he couldn’t get into the episode. We got a very nice glimpse of Doctors past and future (even post-Jodie Whittaker), and a very character-appropriate appearance from a future companion that made me chuckle audibly (that moment was worth half of what I paid for the book)

The prologue adds weight and context to the disaster of Rose’s store being destroyed (which is pretty easy to miss). Davies also does a great job at showing that Mickey isn’t just the loser that Rose is shackled with, but he’s someone worthy of her time and devotion. We eventually got to see some of that in the show — but it was about the same time that Mickey left. Here we see it from the start.

But the most important part of the book — like the episode itself — was Rose (it’s right there in the title). Davies probably knows her better than anyone, and is able to use that knowledge to flesh out the character, to helps us see (and not just assume) what’s going on in Rose’s mind. We see her loneliness, her sense of being incomplete, how she needs something more than working at a shop or being with Mickey can give her. Seeing Rose embrace her capabilities and end up as sure and certain as she is later. This depth was most welcome and made me miss Ms. Tyler even more.

I needed a quick, fun read after some pretty heavy reads — and the BBCAmerica Doctor Who marathon had me nostalgic already. So I’m glad I had this handy, it fit the bill precisely. It was a pleasant blast from the past with plenty of bonus nuance and detail from the man who brought us the new era of The Doctor. If you’re a Whovian who’s never tried one of these Target books — this would be a great place to start. If you’re no stranger to them, you know how good they can be. This is just that.

—–

3.5 Stars

A Few Quick Questions With…Matt Cowper

Very happy to have done this Q&A with Matt Cowper, who describes himself as, “Unbranded author trying to write sentences that read good.” Back in August of 2017, I posted about his Double Lives and today (unless I messed up the scheduling), I posted about his newest book — The World Savers, the first book in his series The Elites. I hope you enjoy this, and that you’ll go back and read those posts (or skip the posts, and read his books, I guess. But first, at least click on the links to the post, so I can get the ego boost from page views),

As always, I kept this short and sweet, because I’d rather he work on his next book than take too much time with me, y’know?

Clearly, super-heroes are your niche. What is it about them that captures your imagination?
I’ve always read comic books, from way back when I was a young’un with an allowance, and could only afford one or two issues at a time!

In my grizzled old age of 33, I still enjoy cape-and-cowl adventures. They’re a break from a “normal” book, that is one with black words on a white page, with no images. I read in a variety of genres, but I can only read a “normal” book for about an hour before those endless words, all arranged in the same manner, start to blur together.

Then I open a graphic novel, and BAM – it’s like Dorothy stepping from the drab gray of her home to the dazzling colors of Oz.

It’s a refreshing experience after being a Serious Adult reading Tomes of Great Importance.

(Not that comics can’t be of Great Importance. See: Alan Moore.)

And superheroes appeal to me as a writer because, as I mentioned above, I’m familiar with the tropes. The standard writing advice is, “Write what you know.” Well, I’ve read hundreds of comics and graphic novels in my lifetime, everything from your standard “superhero battles supervillain” stories to the “deconstruction” style stories. I’m comfortable in the world of caped crusaders.

If you can without spoiling anything — talk to me about Blaze. Where did he come from and why did you pick him for your other narrator? (Nightstriker is an obvious choice — who doesn’t want to write Batman?)
What?! You think Nightstriker is a stand-in for Batman?! I thought no one would figure that out! 🙂

Blaze is the yin to Nightstriker’s yang. Blaze is young and inexperienced, Nightstriker is the grizzled veteran. Blaze’s power is potentially limitless, while Nightstriker has no powers. Blaze has a family, and he develops a love interest, while Nightstriker is a loner.

Having these two characters as POVs, rather than just sticking with one of them, allowed me to (hopefully!) create some interesting conflicts, as well as show certain aspects of the fictional world that would be missed if I only used one POV.

And I don’t think it’s a major spoiler to say that, as the novel (and the Elites series) progresses, each character will help the other change and grow. Blaze will become more adept at using his powers, while Nightstriker will soften his hard-edged approach, and so on.

As for the specific inspiration for Blaze, I don’t really have one character or idea I can point to. Readers may associate him with the Human Torch, but Blaze is far different from the confident ladies’ man, Johnny Storm.

This is tonally different than your Johnny Wagner books — was that a conscious choice before you started, or something that developed as you got into the characters/story? How did the difference in tone affect your writing?
Yes, writing “The World Savers” in this manner was a conscious choice.

The Johnny Wagner novels are much wackier, and Johnny is the typical anti-authority PI. He’s suspicious of superheroes, and for good reason; the version of the Elites that appear in these novels don’t do themselves any favors.

And Dak, Johnny’s God Arm…well, he’s in a class of his own!

By contrast, the new Elites in “The World Savers” aren’t meant to be satirical. They’re legitimate superheroes, though they still have plenty of flaws.

There is some humor and wackiness in “The World Savers,” but overall the novel has a serious tone.

I don’t think the tonal differences affected my writing efficiency or satisfaction. If you establish at least a rough plan beforehand, the novel’s proper tone should develop just fine.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
“Metabarons.”

It’s a massive graphic novel created by two raving lunatics. No, seriously – no one could come up with this unless their minds existed in a different dimension than us normal schlubs.

It takes every sci-fi trope in the history of mankind, boils them all in a giant intergalactic pot, then spills them out onto the starways for the unworthy to gawk at.

In sum: it’s really good and you should read it.

It’s on my list! Thanks.

I’ve often heard that writers (or artists in general) will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?

My debut novel, “The Clerk” was one of those “small” literary works, as opposed to a comic book-style tale featuring copious explosions and giant floating fortresses.

Several reviewers disliked the novel’s “excessive” sexuality. This baffled me, because I thought I’d glossed over most of the sexy sex!

I learned that a writer has to be mindful of his audience. Some readers don’t care if there’s sex on every page, with the characters swearing like sailors, while others will stop reading if they encounter a single “F” word.

Some writers have created their own content rating systems, or placed disclaimers in their book descriptions, to help readers ascertain if the novels fit their sensibilities.

I’ve considered implementing one or both of these options, but haven’t moved forward with anything yet.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these, and I hope that The World Savers finds all sorts of success!
Thanks, bub! *snikt*