I'm a stay-at-home Dad who survived dotcom burnout and a chemical engineering career that fizzled. When I'm not chopping wood, renovating some part of the house, or making sure the kids are doing their homework, I write stories.
Where to find David Drazul online
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We'll Watch the Sunrise from the Bottom of the Sea
by David Drazul
A tiny star appears in a little girl's bedroom. An alien's first encounter with an Earthling is a dog. A couple find themselves adrift upon the Pacific Ocean in their hotel room. A trio of friends journey to Neptune to mine diamonds. These are just some of the stories included in this speculative fiction collection. Written by the author of the well-received indie novel, "Armistice Day".
by David Drazul
The Krendorian Empire has staged an intervention for our own good. Whether we liked it or not, they were here to stay.
Armistice Day is here and Earth is to be incorporated into the Empire. Aaron Osborne stumbles upon a plot to wreck the peace and rekindle the war. But in order to prevent it, he needs the help of the alien responsible for his best friend's death.
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- Fixing Mr. Styx (The Grim Arcana #3)
on Oct. 29, 2010
Mr. Styx, an alias for our protagonist, Sherman, finds "things" for his clients. Typically they're magic items, but sometimes he solves missing persons cases. Unfortunately, these are people who would prefer to stay missing. While he won't get his hands bloody, his conscience looks the other way if his clients make a mess of the mark. When we meet Sherman, he's in his favorite diner (not so much for the food as it is for the plethora of exits) being offered a job he's not allowed to refuse by a couple of lineman-sized thugs who are far more sinister than they appear to be.
Despite all of Sherman's flaws, Thorne makes him out to be a likable character. He's aware of his moral shortcomings, but acknowledges they're necessary for survival in the line of work he's in. Thorne spends a good deal of time exploring Sherman's character and reveals how he came to be the man he is. While on the surface, he resembles a Gen X version of the hard-nosed detective of many a pulp fiction story, underneath there's a vulnerability that belies that exterior.
Thorne's writing style makes for an entertaining read. To add to the almost noir-like atmosphere, he pours on the similes and metaphors like syrup over a steaming fresh stack of blueberry pancakes. Mmmmmm. It fits in well with establishing Sherman's character, his clients and the grim city he lives in.
As for the technicals, there are several typos. They were easy enough to find and could easily have been eliminated if a second set of eyes had gone over the manuscript before publishing. However, none of them were bad enough to detract from the story. Small bumps in the road as it were.
I understand that this is the third story in Thorne's "Grim Arcana" series. I'm not sure what the other titles are but you don't need to have read them to enjoy this story, though I suspect you'll want to. With "Fixing Mr. Styx", I feel like we've come in at the end of a story, and I'm left wanting to know how we got here. Only in Resident Evil can you have a sequel to "Apocalypse." Thorne throws us enough bones to want to read more about Sherman's past exploits that led up to this encounter. A novel, or a collection of novellas, highlighting his misadventures in expanded form is what I'd like to see.
All-in-all, "Fixing Mr. Styx" is a highly enjoyable excursion into a dangerous world that exists just outside the corner of our eyes.
on Jan. 09, 2011
Good story! Certainly didn't expect that ending. One suggestion: find an editor or join a peer review group. There are grammatical errors that could easily be weeded out with a second pair of eyes. Keep writing! There's a solid foundation you can build on.
on Jan. 10, 2011
Plenty of ick in this one. Good story, albeit a little on the short side.
I read this one after "Lumps." I don't know which one you wrote first but the editing in this one was far better.
- Mirror Shards: Volume One
on Sep. 22, 2011
Much like Carpenter's novel, The Digital Sea, the stories in this anthology all have augmented reality (AR) as a common element integral to each story. However, how each author incorporates AR into their story is as varied as the authors themselves. It would be difficult to provide a detailed analysis of all 13 stories so I will provide a taste of each.
We're shown how a submarine pilot guides a gaggle of tourists in the depths of the Indian Ocean in "The Watcher" and jacked in with a bio-engineered assassin dropped on a distant ring world in "El Matador".
AR is a positive force that advances the effectiveness of smart detectives in "Witness Protection" while helping a young woman survive an encounter with a crime syndicate in the cold of eastern Russia in "Of Bone and Steel and Other Soft Materials". It enables a singer to adopt new personas while Earth is under the boot of alien overlords in "Stage Presence, Baby". And it enables revolutions in the corporate dictatorship of "Gift Horses".
The darker side of AR is explored as well. It is used to bring about an advertizing apocalypse in "Below the Bollocks Line" and adds a new dimension to imprisonment in "The Sun is Real." It fosters the ugliness of narcissism in "A Book By Its Cover".
Some stories balance the two. It props up the ego of the actors in "These Delicate Creatures" but also restores their humanity when art becomes protest. And in the sexual slavery of "More Real Than Flesh" it provides an escape hatch.
I have to say that there isn't a bad story in the bunch but I was still able to pick out two stellar stories that rose above the rest: "Music of the Spheres" and "The Cageless Zoo".
"Music of the Spheres" is probably the best math story I've ever read. A math major helps his sister with her geometry homework and it doesn't come across as dull, instead it turns into a lesson she has to teach him later in life. The underlying theme is about what happens to those who are left behind when AR takes over society. The author, Ken Liu, poignantly shows how one can cope with watching dreams die.
My favorite is Carpenter's own, "The Cageless Zoo", which is about a widow and her two children visiting a zoo full of predators who are kept from eating people by AR implants. The mother is confronted by a zoo official who demands a copy of her late husband's research, which she doesn't want to surrender for fear of it being buried by the Darwin Institute. Not only does Carpenter's story present us with a unique use for AR but it provides us with an excellent demonstration for how epigenetics could work in nature on a fictional beast. But forgetting the science for a moment, it was a fun read along the lines of Jurassic Park, but without the dinosaurs.
Carpenter has amassed a diverse collection of highly entertaining and thought provoking AR stories in Mirror Shards, Volume 1. As with all good anthologies, I now have another list of talented writers whose works I can explore further. I look forward to the next installment of this series. Highly recommended for all sci-fi fans.
- The Godhead Machine (Digital Sea #2)
on April 10, 2012
The Godhead Machine is the second novel in Thomas Carpenter's Digital Sea series. In the first novel, we followed Zel Aurora across the planet as she sought the cure for her daughter's illness while evading capture by her former employer, the mysterious Djed.
Two years have passed. Zel's still on the run, though she tries to give her unappreciative adolescent daughter a normal life. An old foe, who she thought was dead, has resurfaced and is hunting her down. Running out of options, she joins the Wiki, but finds that the accompanying reality binder comes with its own perils.
The Wiki is an open source religion. You know about Wikipedia - where everyone can contribute to the building of the encyclopedia. In this case, members are trying to crowdsource their way to create the one true faith to get God's message. Unfortunately, there's too much of a social media aspect inherent to the Wiki that leaves it ripe for abuse and manipulation. When religious leaders are allowed to re-write the rules and twist the message, you're not dealing with spirituality anymore. You're preparing for war.
The other two major characters in the story are Sigh, an orphan girl living on the streets of London, and Nari, a pop megastar whose endorsements build fortunes for corporations and governments. Zel's fate becomes entwined with them. Carpenter keeps us hooked through their predicaments.
While I've read stories where the protagonist was female, I think this is the first novel I've read where all of the major characters were women. Men were relegated to the roles of minor characters and villains, not that he bashes them in a fit of self-loathing. It just so happens that these are three strong, diverse women who are masters of the worlds they inhabit. When forced to deal with adversity outside their domain, their resourcefulness enables them to persevere.
Carpenter's writing has matured. While I enjoyed, The Digital Sea, The Godhead Machine shows a definite improvement. His writing is tighter and more focused. There is no filler here. Action is sparse, but well-utilized. Carpenter would rather have his characters survive by their wits than violence. The dialogue moves the story along at a good pace and is effective at revealing the nature of the characters. Carpenter efficiently weaves the three storylines together, discarding anything that doesn't develop the characters or contribute to the plot.
Carpenter's augmented reality novels are building his reputation as a skilled writer in the new generation of cyberpunk novelists. So before you buy your Google Glasses at the end of the year, be sure to check out his work to see where the future is taking us.
- The Silver Cross
on Oct. 30, 2013
A young woman named "Cross" is sent out into the post-apocalyptic wasteland by her father to find "the soldier", a man believed to hold the key to saving their plague-ridden village. Before the desert can claim her, a warrior-priest named "Zero" discovers Cross and learns of her mission. When he spies a silver cross, the symbol of his brotherhood, glinting in her hair, he pledges his sword to defend her.
Although billed as a post-apocalyptic fantasy, this is, in fact, a post-apocalyptic romance novel. And were it not for a couple of references to said apocalypse and cultural references, one could not be blamed for thinking the story took place during the Middle Ages, perhaps even post-Crusades. Lying somewhere east of the Pyramids and south of Jerusalem, the wasteland is home to brigands and marauders, merchants and slavers, heathens and sinners. The men are misogynistic at best. Women are property—slaves to the whims of the men that own them. It matters not if the man is Muslim or Christian; women are inferior and must be treated as such. Love is a delusion.
So where's the romantic element? Cross and Zero. Cross spends most of her time pining for Zero, hating him for putting his faith before her, dwelling in her negative self-esteem, and believing that she's just a "stupid girl", as so many people call her. Meanwhile Zero struggles with his inner demons, trying to repent for the sins he commits and has committed. He could lose himself in her but fears it will cost him his soul.
A good deal of the novel is spent between these two characters exploring their feelings for the other. There's some action, too. Oh, and I don't just mean the sexual kind; there's some melee combat as Zero battles brigands and his former brother-in-arms.
While romance novels aren't my cup of tea (or, more accurately, my pint of beer), I do appreciate colorful prose. Whether it's from an action scene,
"The sword's voice sounded shy, not much more than a whisper. A fountain of blood gushed high in the sky, and seconds later, pattering like rain, the drops fell back down to the ground, leaving little red dents all over the freshly scuffed sand."
a moment of personal struggle,
"Empty now, and cold, she trembled as the wind leered at her nakedness, raking her body with its icy, invisible touch. So she drew up her knees and folded her arms over her head, weeping as the lost rhythms of childhood tried to rock her to peace."
or a point of tension.
"There was no sound but the rushing of the waterfall. Even the droplets of grease hanging from the hare simply shuddered in the firelight, like tears too frightened to fall."
For me, it was passages like these that got me through the ugliness of this world that Scot-Hays has sifted from the ashes. It made for a welcome contrast to the brutality that all the women in the novel had to endure.
In "The Silver Cross", Gayla Scot-Hays posits a grim world for women after the apocalypse. But aided by the use of colorful prose and characters desperately seeking redemption, she manages to grow a romance novel in the misogynistic wasteland.
- Shared Nightmares
on Dec. 29, 2014
Shared Nightmares is a collection of short stories whose central theme revolves around dreams, but more accurately, nightmares. That's about the only thing these stories have in common as the authors tell us tales that span all matter of genres. While horror is the overriding element, some authors make use of other elements: science fiction, historical fiction, and urban fantasy. Some stories rely on visceral action, while others suspense. Fortunately, none of these stories wander down Elm Street, and for that, I'm grateful.
Please indulge me as I offer brief comments about each story.
The anthology opens with “Father’s Day” by Larry Correia. Aliens have invaded Earth and are attacking us through our dreams. And we're losing. Correia does a stand up job with his protagonist, as he fights a bureaucracy in order to protect his daughter.
In “Dreamcatcher”, Sarah Hoyt warns us that things in the dream-world wants to become real. There are guardians who keep the nightmares at bay, and it helps to keep an ax—a very sharp ax—close at hand.
The message I got from D.J. Butler's “Incubation” is that regret is a nightmare that you can't wake up from. It takes some time before we learn what the unreliable narrator has done, but Butler drops us enough clues along the way to piece together this crime scene.
The devil has the Adam's number in Tom Lloyd's “The Devil On My Shoulder”. Every time Adam wakes up, whether from actual sleep or blackouts, he discovers that he's been up to no good. Pity him, but pray you never meet him. Lloyd does a great job bringing the reader along on Adam's senseless ride through misery and then rewards Adam (and the reader) by revealing his purpose.
The first of the historical fiction pieces is “Onnen” by Paul Genesse. Having visited the Kyoto imperial palace, he was inspired by its strange, bleak history to write this story. It's an excellent tale of a woman's scorn and her unquenchable thirst for revenge.
In “To Dream Awake, to Sleep the Real” by Michaelbrent Collings, Booker Nyx talks about the dream-like bliss of the early days of marriage: "Existing with one foot in dream, and the other in a place where the world was seen as it truly was: a place of magic, and wonder, and light, and infinite possibility." But then children come along, and the responsibility of parenthood kills the dream. Booker yearns to return to that dream. Collins does a solid job with his sad yet familiar portrayal of Booker's life.
“What Hellhounds Dream” is an action-packed urban fantasy story from Steven Diamond, who's also one of the editors. It was a fun story that seemed like it could be expanded to novel length.
“The Damnation of St. Teresa of Ávila” by Marie Brennan is the other historical fiction piece. The titular character died right at the time when Spain transitioned from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, whereupon ten days were lost. In Brennan's story, St. Teresa's death lasted for those ten days. Drawing from St. Teresa's life and writings, Brennan skillfully paints an all too real picture of the woman as she hovered between life and death.
“Man in the Middle” by Max Gladstone was another fun piece. It appears to be something out of his Craft Sequence series. If you're like me and haven't read anything about it, there's a bit of dead gods and scientific sounding magic (which reminded me of Stross's Laundry) that keeps the world—at least an alternate version of ours—running. This story concerns a trip into a nightmare where Tara discovers a remnant from the God Wars. After reading this story, I feel compelled to dive into this series.
A video game that you play in your sleep is the subject of “U.I.” by Howard Tayler. The game is still in beta as the protagonist is testing the game for the developer. Rather than just lamely showing the game action, Tayler presents their conversations, which shows the protagonist's progress in getting caught up in the game.
“The Quality of Light is Not Strain’d” by Peter Orullian was a difficult read due to the subject matter. That's not to say it wasn't a good story. It was well-written, and the difficult parts were tastefully composed. I find that the most disturbing horror stories are not the ones with visceral gore, but rather the mundane acts that are carried out by good people in desperate situations. This is one of those stories.
The anthology concludes with “Health and Wellness” by Dan Wells. It follows a pair of Indian immigrants who are here on work visas and take these special vitamins generously provided by the U.S. government. It's a delightful tale of paranoia and the paranormal.
Editors Steven Diamond and Nathan Shumate have done a fantastic job corralling these disparate tales into a cohesive collection. If you prefer your horror to be on the literary end of the spectrum, without the usual tired clichés, then check out Shared Nightmares.
Full Disclosure: I received a complementary copy in exchange for an honest review.