Following the journey of award winning author, Alex Azar, as he travels the publishing world and all things interesting. To reproduce or publish any material found within this blog, please contact me at

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What I'm reading now 5/2/13 UPDATE

I've decided to do something a little different for these posts and write about my expectations for the book before I read it. From there I'll continue to speak about my feelings halfway through it, and what I think at the end. This way we can see if my expectations live up to the reality of the book throughout the reading experience.
With that said today I begin reading "Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz. I know I'm a little behind the Odd bandwagon but I prefer to let the hype of books die down before I read them (unless they plan on making a movie of it, then I have to read it before the movie is released) and Odd Thomas had some pretty good hype. Obviously I haven't read it yet, but the impression I got from this whole book series is that Koontz was reminding people that he's still here (and that his name isn't Stephen King).  

I've read Koontz before and while I like his writing I share the common concern about his books held by many readers of his, which is that once he has a good idea he goes back to the well too many times (which seems like it may be the case with the various Odd books). However, despite those concerns I have high hopes for this first book of the series and we'll see after if I decide to read any of the others.

Update 5/13/13 I've read nearly half of the book, and as you can tell from the dates of this post, it's been slow going.  I haven't been too impressed with the book.  I was dangerously close to getting to my 75 page limit when the book suddenly picked up.  The first 50 or so pages are dry useless fodder Koontz uses to pad his word count.  After getting through those pages, the story begins developing and he'c crafted an interesting world for Odd Thomas.  Prior to reading the book, I was aware (and thus don't consider this a spoiler) that Odd had the ability to see dead people.  I wasn't sure of the nature of this or how this would play into the story, but obviously it'd be the main factor.  He's done some things to differentiate his version of this trope from other popular ones, such as The Sixth Sense.

While Koontz has created an interesting world for Odd to live in, he hasn't populated it with any persons of interest, except for his one friend Little Ozzie.  Odd had a famous ghost companion, that I won't ruin the surprise of, but before it seems his story could develop, he's removed from the book, at least temporarily.  I'm holding out hope that that he'll return before the end.  Reading the description of the antagonist, I'm sure that he was meant to be an interesting character, but I find myself pulled towards the happenings around him.

Certainly things will continue along a path that satisfies my curiosities, but I fear that Koontz won't be able to get out of his own way and let the story go where it wants to, as opposed to where he thinks it should.

Update 5/29/13 So the book is finished and I'm not upset about it, but it didn't meet my expectations.  I liked the premise of the character being able to see dead people, and these things he calls bodachs.  Like I said earlier, Dean Koontz built an interesting world, but I found that he failed to fill it with equally interesting people.  Odd's best Friend Little Ozzie and his girlfriend Stormy are the two most interesting characters, but the former plays such a minor role he only appears in a scene or two.  The later, his girlfriend, is a nice character against Odd, I just wish she did more.

Odd learns of a pending terrorist (not the Arab variety) attack on his quiet town of Pico Mondo, and sets out to prevent it using his abilities.  It's a good story that Koontz finds an interesting twist to.  My major concern is the introduction of a black room, that goes unexplained.  At the end of the book, two possible explanations are provided, but it's never shown whether either of them are true, or if it's something else entirely.  The introduction to the room does nothing more than pique your interest, but plays no part in the actual story, so for it to not be explained, is a cop out on Koontz' part.

Overall the book found a way to put a new spin on ideas that have been done many times in the past by combining them in ways I haven't read before.  I just wish Koontz put more time into the characters that mattered to the story, and followed through on the idea of the black room, or not introduced it at all.

Perhaps the black room comes into play in one of the later books of the series but appearing in the first book and the POTENTIAL launch for a series, I don't think he should have left such a glaring plot thread unresolved in this book.

As for a rating, if you're a Dean Koontz fan, you've probably already read the book, or you will regardless of the rating.  If you aren't a fan or haven't read any of him before I'd rate it a Page 75

It's not worth the commitment to read the entire book and potentially be lured into reading more from the series.  I personally will be staying away from any of the sequels. On to the next one...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Intro 5: The Anonymous Portrait

Although this was the 4th story I had published it was the first story I ever had accepted, and as such certainly holds a special place with me.  I'd like to think that even if it weren't the first accepted one, it'd still be one of my favorite stories just from a quality standpoint.

I read the call for submission from this upstart company asking for horror stories revolving around a found item, hence the title of the anthology "Look What I Found". The writing prompt intrigued me and I wanted to write something for it but I couldn't think of a fitting story that didn't seem like a rehash of a dozen other books/stories I've read.  Resigned to let this antho pass by I began writing something else, but more importantly, at the time I was reading Stephen King "The Reaper's Image" and while I truthfully can't remember much about that story the description of the mirror sparked an idea for "Look What I Found".  From there I was just in the zone, the way a basketball player can get on a hot streak, the story just flew out of me.

This is also probably a reason why I like this piece so much, that it was inspired by a Stephen King story, who is one of my inspirations. From the haunted mirror sparked the idea for "The Anonymous Portrait" a twisty tale of the past coming back to haunt you, although it may not always be your own past.

Without further delay, the intro to "The Anonymous Portrait"...

"Sir Riley, what a pleasant surprise. Thank you for gracing my humble establishment." Luis Feldman, proprietor of Feldman's Antiques is unaware that Sir Malcolm Riley is there by chance. His automobile broke down just outside and Sir Riley entered in an attempt to escape the heat.
"Stop your cobbling man. Money and a title doesn't make me a better person, nor is this a humble shop if it provides for you and yours." Sir Riley stands at an impressive 6'2" with a good 300 pounds of supporting girth. "Now, why don't you show me around your fine establishment, while I wait for my automobile to be repaired."
Luis didn't need any more of an invitation; he takes Sir Riley directly to his backroom of fine antiques that the average customer couldn't afford. Hoping to make his first sale in a fortnight, he begins rattling off the history of each item Sir Riley even momentarily pauses on. "Ah, that chest migrated to Baltimore by way of Rio Jaina, originally brought across the ocean during Columbus' fourth and final voyage.
Sir Riley replies more flippantly than Luis would have preferred, "hmm, interesting."
"If that doesn't suit your tastes, perhaps this credenza salvaged from the original White House when most of the interior was burnt beyond repair in 1814."
As it appears that Sir Riley's interest is piqued by the credenza, his attention is pulled through a doorway into what appears to be a closet. "What's in there? I'd very much like to explore that room if you don't mind."
Not wanting to outright refuse a man of stature like Sir Riley, Luis explains, "Ah, that is just a storage room for items labeled 'undesirables'. Nothing that would be of interest to a man of your wealth."
"Tsk, tsk. I didn't become a rich man by passing up a good deal. Consider this, if I don't find something of interest in there, I'll purchase the chest."
Unable to reject such an offer, Luis leads the gentleman through the clutter of coverless books, broken mirrors, scratched furniture, and....
"Who is that in this portrait?"
"Apologies sir, this is an unidentified portrait, by an unrecognizable artist. That is the reason it is among the undesirables. However, in this portfolio, there's a rare sketch by author H.P. Lovecraft."
Unable to pry his eyes from the painting, "No, you must tell me about this painting. I know this man, I cannot place his face but I undoubtedly know this man."
"I'm sorry sir, but I've done all the research I can, but the subject and artist remain a mystery. If you know this man, I dare say you may be the only person who does."
"Nonsense, why would you purchase a painting you knowingly couldn't sell?"
"Again sir, I must apologize, the painting was amidst a crate of paintings from a private collection. The bank auctioned off the entirety of the collection when Lord and Lady Williamson were found dead with no heirs."
"How did they die?"
"It appears each of your inquiries lead to another mystery I do not know the answer of."
Before Sir Riley can ask another unanswerable question, they are interrupted by his driver. "Sir, the automobile is operational. It needs extensive repairs, however it will return you to your home."
"Very good. Load this painting as well." Shaking Luis' hand, "Thank you for indulging my elderly curiosity Mr. Feldman. Please send me a voucher for three times your asking price, and not a penny less."

Well that seems innocent enough, right?  If you want to know how this becomes a horror story published in an anthology with such a creepy cover, you can purchase it at the usual spots;, Joker's Child (located in Fair Lawn), and the AzarRising Mobile Bookstore (trunk of my car).

While this story was going through the editing process an interesting issue came up.  The editors didn't like that "Sir Riley" was referred to as 'sir'.  They read this as meaning he was a British royal 'sir' and as such must have been a UK citizen at the time the story takes places since the only person at the time to have dual citizenship was Winston Churchill.  I kindly pointed out that he was called sir only as a sign of respect, not as a title.  The editors weren't satisfied with this explanation and changed the title from Sir to Mr.

So that was my first clash with editorial, and honestly I didn't put up a fight.  The title wasn't a big deal to me, and again it was the first story I had accepted to be published, I didn't want to jinx it and/or ruin my standing with the editors for future publications, and it's a good thing too, I was published twice more with them.