Ever have one of those years where you’ve already broken your resolutions even before you’ve finished cleaning up from the New Year’s Party? Sure, you fully intended to go running five miles a day, or get rid of your coffee addiction, or master calculus by March, but hey, things happen. We’ve all been there. When it happens to literary characters, though, the result is often highly entertaining. Take a look at what happens when indie book characters lose their willpower and succumb to temptation, leaving catastrophe, devastation, or simply amusing chaos in their wake.
In NO MORE ILLUSIONS by Daniel Babka, police detective Dylan Blake really needs a vacation after his last case, but his resolution to rest, relax, and leave his job behind gets thrown out thanks to a phone call from his boss the police chief, asking Dylan that he take a look at a nearby crime scene.
What follows is a non-stop, action-packed adventure as Blake overcomes several attempts on his – and his loved ones – lives and becomes deeply entwined in investigating two murders, a litany of sexual assaults, lies, charges, counter-charges and outright hatred. Blake takes the investigation in stride while fighting for answers from northern California, to Salt Lake City to a small town on the Georgia/North Carolina/Tennessee border.
Many people resolve to avoid overeating and getting drunk in the New Year, but in BLACK MOON DRAW by veteran indie author Lizzy Ford, unassuming librarian Naia finds that a night of high-calorie and alcoholic indulgence can send her literally out of this world.
The premise of BLACK MOON DRAW is initially simple. Naia wallows in despair and self-pity after her fiancée leaves her for another woman just four days before her wedding. When she consoles herself by indulging in a night of wine and chocolate, she passes out and awakens to discover that she has arrived within the world of BLACK MOON DRAW, a fantasy novel by one of her favorite authors.
In MURDER BY MISRULE by Anna Castle, Francis Bacon resolves not to irritate the temperamental Queen Elizabeth I, but does it anyway, and now he’s in disgrace. In order to save his good name and his career, he’s got to get back in favor again – and solving the murder of his former law tutor might just do it.
Bacon himself, however, doesn’t much like leaving his chambers, so he recruits his protege, young law student Thomas Clarady, and three of his friends to do the legwork while he does the reasoning. Can Bacon and his proteges figure out the identity of the guilty party and win back the Queen’s approval?
In Basil Lawrence’s darkly funny HENRY FIRST, Chef Henry First, dealing with an injured cook on the night a group of judges are coming to score his food for a local competition, resolves to win a cooking competition without the use of human flesh. While you might think that’s an easy enough resolution to keep, sure enough, it gets broken too.
After a mix-up occurs, the judges are accidentally given bowls of soup that have been flavored with a very special ingredient: the severed fingers of the injured cook. When the public goes crazy for this flesh-infused broth, Henry must make a choice: does he go back to his old, mediocre style of cooking? Or does he give the public what they want?
“Don’t undermine Western Civilization with my technological creations” – now there’s a resolution that many of us might consider very easy to keep. But in FURTL by Strobe Witherspoon, Manny Kahn finds that his new search engine has escaped his control and turned America into a nightmare dystopia.
Meanwhile, competition from China threatens his company’s well-being and gets him ousted on a trumped-up sexual harassment charge, leaving him disillusioned with technology and living off the grid in a foreign land for six years. On returning, he finds an America in sad decay, with his former company having made a devil’s deal with government – in exchange for banning their competition, they will use furtl’s data-mining abilities to allow government to control the population, eliminate political opponents, and dominate the country for the benefit of their corporate funders.
Kahn does his best to resist the monster he himself created – but even his allies seem foolish and dangerous. Can he keep his own moral sense and repair the damage his creation inflicted on his own country?
“I will avenge my brother’s death” is a resolution that a good Russian military officer cannot break without danger to his sense of honor and justice. But in THE HOUR OF PARADE by Alan Bray, when Russian Premier Major Alexi Ruzhensky meets and befriends Lt. Valsin, the Frenchman who killed his brother in a duel, he finds that his murderous objective is not as clear as it seems to be.
Written with the highest caliber of skill, author Bray has acquainted himself with all the necessary details of the relevant cultures, including dialects, military history, and how people of various social statuses addressed one another. Additionally, Bray is an author of supreme dexterity, writing with such minimal telling to make the reader work mentally to put facts together as the story progresses.
ASSURED DESTRUCTION by Michael F. Stewart, finds sixteen-year-old computer genius, Janus Rose, working for a company called Assured Destruction. The company’s mission? To get rid of old computers and hard drives. When Rose breaks her resolution to actually destroy a set of hard drives, and makes use of them instead, she finds herself in more trouble than she knows what to do with.
With the modern world being so intricately connected via computer and the internet, and a generation of children raised on social networking sites on which to document their every thought and image, the repercussions of a life constantly lived online are brought home to roost. Stewart’s characters are neither all bad nor all good, but rather a mix of both, making them well fleshed out and wonderful to read about. The story clearly lays out the choices Janus faces, and shows that what has been used for ill-gotten gain can easily be used for good.
In SLASH by Evan Kingston, Alexis Bledsoe, a closeted lesbian actress who plays the teenaged younger daughter in the TV show Koop’s Kitchen, resolves not to obsess over either her pretty but shallow castmate Lissa, or about the slash fanfiction written about the show. But when some of the more perverted stories appear to signal the deaths of actors playing minor characters, Alexis is drawn inexorably into the mystery.
Though the plot sounds campy in summary, author Kingston creates an exquisite combination of murder mystery, metafiction, and tragicomedy with a story that excels due to its strongly character–driven nature. In particular, Kingston captures well the isolating experience of being homosexual and closeted. The story also delves into issues of drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, the stresses of celebrity life, and family dysfunction. Of course, these issues have been handled many times before in fiction, but SLASH is written with such adeptness that reading this story is a transcendent experience.
So you see, if you fail to keep your New Years’ Resolutions, the results can be dramatic, interesting, and in many cases life-changing. So why feel guilty? Enjoy yourself, have a Happy New Year, and worry about keeping only one resolution – to read more indie books!