I first ran across A.Z. Anthony on Twitter and wandered over to his blog where I found him in the midst of releasing a story a month. He did this in four parts, one each week, and I got caught up in his writing style and unique setting. Every week for awhile, I would be in the same place, waiting, and Anthony’s stories would be there to let me escape to a far off land, play games of power, and fight.
Nine Parts Bluster and Other Stories is a potent mix of madness, myth, and murder, with a sprinkling of black humor.
A monster of legend stalks the shadows, surrounded by rumors as abundant as the slashed and torn corpses it leaves in its wake. It’s wonderful news, assuming you’re Senesio Suleiman Zhao, famed monster hunter, Champion of the People, and murderous egotist.
It’s the place of lesser men to fear the dead as Harper conquers the scared mountains of the ancestors. Honor be damned, there’s glory at stake.
Jao has always tried to do right by others, but the time for that is long past. When his brother and companions are murdered by bandits, there’s only one recourse: a feast.
A classical education at the imperial capital has taught Chen a great many things. What it hasn’t taught him, however, is to lie, cheat, and steal. A shame, then, that he’s working for the biggest liar, cheat, and thief this side of the empire.
Where are we Anthony? Singapore? Mongolia? Is the year 2136? Is it 1872? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Anthony creates a world that is here on Earth, in the East somewhere, or is it? Yes, his characters reference the West, but again, it is of little importance because he is so convincing that you already know. You already have some idea of your time and place and everything from there will be glorious.
Like Economy of Words? I thought I had a handle on that aspect of my writing until I read this short story collection.While the author doesn’t describe every facet of setting, the vivid direction is there for the taking.
He never says when we are either, not directly. He doesn’t have to. Somewhere off the Silk Road perhaps, an Imperial Land that has either reverted back to crude weapons, or is stuck in time.
I can’t get enough of this brave, disastrous, and comical duo in Nine Parts Bluster. Senesio is the perfect mix of charlatan and hero while Chen is a happenstance boulder. I want to follow these two on every adventure from now until the end of time. Yes, I could be summoned to quest after quest in my armchair. I would walk along the path of danger, hardship, and riches with this pair any day, all the while laughing with my popcorn, still ready with my sword on standby.
Like Characterization? Anthony spends all his writer money on just that:
“Senesio had a way with words, to be sure. He shaped the hopes and dreams of men like a potter did clay. And like clay after it was fired, what Senesio promised was prone to shatter.”
The author’s action scenes and monster are great in this. I do not want to give anything away here, but the way men die in this and Sensio’s reaction tells the reader so much.
In Respectable Work, the author jumps back to the duo’s first meeting. The action scenes are quite stellar and the origin story is there for the taking:
“A second knee caught him (in) the chin and he stumbled backward, spitting blood and what might’ve been a tooth.”
My favorite by far is Kiss of the White Mistress which had me entrenched in the protagonist’s inner and external battle. Again, the author’s ability to work magic with less is seen here. It is all characterization:
“He smiled at the pale chunks of white mistress floating in the simmering stew, and for an instant, in that shallow hell of a prison, he could swear the stew smiled back.”
This story was intense and deep. It had me up swilling Merlot last Saturday, turning pages and dreaming of a nightmare.
In the Garden of Giants, he describes a troop in almost another world that could be its own series as well. This story really brought out the author’s sense of narration. It made me feel like he was an authority, an old man of sorts that I could count on for a good tale.
What I didn’t like:
Found some minor editing flaws. No big deal but some people care when they stumble upon Indie material.
I am confused by the cover design. It markets like a horror feature yet the work is much deeper than that. While some aspects of the stories revolve around death and a body count, it makes me wonder if melee is the true purpose, or, an interesting side-effect of the characters and their decisions within this realm.
A.Z. Anthony would do best by writing a full-length novel including Senesio and Chen immediately and selling this book for .99 cents or free. That is likely the tactic here. All of these stories are available for .99 cents on Amazon. I WANT MORE! Now that he has released all of these in one collection, a fan like me only has one thing to buy. But, I was considering doing the same thing with my short story collection for marketing and funnel purposes. He did pretty much post everything on his blog, something I tried with my hopefully soon to be released short story collection as well. I had mixed results from my posts and we shall see when it comes to sales.
How this book effects my writing:
While I am here toiling away with the mostly real and dark, A.Z. Anthony is creating a convincing, dark world of his own. I twist reality while he creates one.
Really, Anthony reminds me what it is like to read for pleasure again and be entertained. My wife watches these Chinese recent release, action/fantasy shows that I get sucked into from time to time.
A similar hint of lore is there. His writing is so deep but he uses less. How? I appreciate Anthony’s presence, his word choice as a narrator, and his economy of words.