Book Review — From The Indie Side

Standard

ImageA few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to grab an Advanced Copy of the Short Story Anthology From The Indie Side featuring 12 incredible authors from all around the globe. I’ll admit to being friends with a few already – notably Hugh Howey, Peter Cawdron, Michael Bunker and Jason Gurley. I was drawn the collection by those stories, but discovered so much to love here. This will be one of those books I’ll come back to again and again.

In his Author’s Note, Peter Cawdron noted some important science fiction short stories, such as Asimov’s Nightfall and The Bicentennial Man and Philip K. Dick’s stories that inspired Minority Report and Total Recall. Stories like that were hugely influential to me as a teenager. I had a few collections of science fiction short stories from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, and frequently found myself returning to them over the years.

This could very well be a collection like that. Each of the stories is unique and presents their own distinct view on science fiction or fantasy (or in a few cases, both).

Along the way, I discovered some authors I hadn’t read previously – ones that I’ll definitely be paying attention to in the future – authors like Brian Spangler, Kate Danley, Sara Foster, Anne Frasier, Kev Heritage, Susan May, and Mel Hearse. I can’t find a lousy one in the bunch, honestly.

For me, though, three stories stood out. I loved all the individual tales, but the ones from Ernie Lindsey, Sara Foster, and Peter Cawdron really stuck with me and will ruminate in my mind for some time.

The story from Lindsey was so simple, yet was so relevant and so profound. “The Man With Two Legs,” is the title of Lindsey’s story, which is designed to catch the reader off-guard. Why wouldn’t a man have two legs? And thus begins a fantasy/sci-fi tale about a man who has two legs in a world where the general population has just one. One leg to keep them in line, to check their behavior, and to oppress opposition to the status quo. Those two legs represent so much, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say, this story will stick with me.

Sara Foster had a short little yarn called “Cipher,” which tells the story of a woman out for a visit to her ailing father when a bomb goes off, leaving her separated from her family. The man she meets takes care of her as all the apocalyptic potentials raced through my head. Suddenly the story was over in an instant and the shocking end seared the story into my memory.

And Peter Cawdron’s “The Man Who Remembered Today” caps off the anthology. For an Australian, Mr. Cawdron does a phenomenal job of putting us inside of an Arab-American working as a paramedic in New York City when terrorists are striking all around him. The writing is top-notch and crisp, not hesitating from the plot for a second, as Kareem (the aforementioned paramedic) cannot remember yesterday, only the events of today. Events that haven’t happened yet. Cawdron expertly follows Kareem throughout his day, putting us on a collision course with an epic conclusion.

Oh…did I forget to mention these are all independent authors? I suppose the title may have given it away, but the writing sure didn’t. This is up there was any of the short stories I would have devoured as a teenager and continue to love today. Just because the word “indie” is slapped in front of someone’s title doesn’t alter the fact they are phenomenally talented at what they do.

Pick this collection up. Read it. Pick and choose if you like. At the most, the longest story will take a little over half an hour. Some will take a few minutes. All are worthy of your time.

Advertisements

A Short Story with Long Legs — for FREE!

Standard

25 Reviews.

It’s a milestone and as such, it is time to celebrate.

What for you say?

ImageANT APOCALYPSE. My short story that proved to have some long legs.

I was knee deep in the self-publishing world last summer…having released a short story, a novel and then my Silo novella, all within a two-month time period. I was emailing and talking with other authors and really enjoying the experience.

Then one morning, I woke up and checked my phone. I found a tweet from Lyndon Perry, a fellow self-published author, musing about a can of ant spray. I don’t remember the tweet exactly, but it was something to the extent of “it claims to kill ants for up to 14 days. What happens after the 14th day?”

I tweeted back, “ANTAPOCALYPSE.”

Lyn tweeted back, “You should write that story.”

And then I tweeted, “Hmmmm….”

At that moment, I didn’t really plan to, but the concept wouldn’t leave my brain, eventually evolving into a tale of zombie ants, terrorizing a man at his wit’s end. That little seed of an idea became ANT APOCALYPSE. I commissioned a wicked cover from Jason Gurley and went ahead on writing the 15,000 word story, which I published in September last year.

Over the five works I have published, I have accumulated 68 reviews on Amazon. A whopping 25 of those reviews are for AA, which I didn’t expect in a million years. The story was simply one I had to write to get it out of my brain. I didn’t aim for literary genius, and even called it my “quick and dirty” little story for a while, just intending to publish it for funsies.

And so, to celebrate this achievement, I will have ANT APOCALYPSE free on today and tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday, January 29 & 30) this week. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, download and enjoy it now.

Here are some of my favorite reviews:

Image

Creepy crawly ants…

“This bit of horror is a slow burn – fun and well-written, but long on anticipation, so hang in there. It’s written in that memoir-ish style that catapults you along toward a finish you know is coming, but dread all the same. Clean and creepy.” – Lyn Perry

 

“The story line is reminiscent of those oh-so-popular “B” science fiction movies. I can just hear the MST3K team making fun of the scenes while I read the book, but that is a good thing because this was supposed to be campy story.

I identified with the dreaded ant invasion, as I have one every year at my own house, but the story slowly wraps and twists the horror into itself until you realize you are on the edge of your seat (as I did when there was a noise from the next room and I jumped.)” – Thomas R

 

“THE POINT IS, this is one amusing… and creepy… story. Well-crafted and draws you in, it’s hard to put down. Except when you get the heebie jeebies. Segmented insects….crawling where they don’t belong…. yikes!” – J. Hancock

Image

Not my hand. Seriously, there is no way I would have held still long enough for a picture to be taken.

“…a very interesting tale with very fleshed out characters, and some very villainous tiny ants. I thoroughly enjoyed Ant Apocalypse and would recommend it to anyone with a love of Stephen King.” – Joshua Cooper

 

“The ending? A whole new level of creepy. If you like a fast read with an unexpected turn or two, you’ll like this horror-lite story. Even if it is creepy.” – Deb Robbins

 

“Suffice it to say, this is one scary story that will make you look at ants differently. Ouch and WOW!” – A Navy Vet

So there you have it – without giving away too much, I’ll give away the whole story. Enjoy!

Creativity Breeds Creativity

Standard

The days where authors sequestered themselves in an isolated cottage in upstate New York may not be over for good. A lot of authors – myself included – love moments of quiet and solitude, but for me, those moments are rare. Instead, I’m actualy finding that the time I am out in the “real world” can provide inspiration for the ongoing plotlines winding and twisting through my head. And instead of shutting myself off from the world, I find myself reaching for other pockets of creativity.

As I write this post, my daughter is a few feet away, emptying the dishwasher and signing the entire “Frozen” soundtrack. In her elementary years, she discovers her creative side every day and is even prodded to do so in her schooling. As adults, we can’t always do that. In fact, there are many people who stop seeing the “possible” once real life has set in. They’ve convinced themselves they are no longer capable of painting a surreal landscape, of learning to play a musical instrument, of writing a novel.

When I was fresh out of college and writing at the local newspaper, I made a goal in my head to write a book by the time I was 25. My early 20’s went by way faster than I anticipated and soon that goal was to write one by age 30. I had a lot of life changes between 25 and 30, but writing a book was not one of them. Then the years just started ticking by. 31. 32. 33. Still no book.

But I had purchased a Kindle for myself in November of 2011. Then I started exploring the books and stumbled upon Hugh Howey’s WOOL. I’d love to say I read it and my life was transformed. But I didn’t even read it for months after downloading it. MONTHS.

Image

*Note: Not Hugh Howey

By the time I finally read it, I also had discovered Hugh’s blog and began discovering that he was JUST LIKE ME. Just a few years older and he had begun his writing career a few years before. He talked to his readers and even danced for them. Way different than I imagined a successful author. I always pictured them cooped up in some dark and dusty loft, plinking away on some ancient typewriter. Hugh was not that type, for sure.

And so, in January of 2013, I began to write again. I’d written the beginnings to books before…only to fail after 30-40 pages. This time I didn’t tell anyone – even my wife – for over a month after I’d started. I was scared to death I wouldn’t finish. That the book manuscript would simply get forgotten and curl up and die. It nearly did a few times when life got too much last spring, but once I’d reached a certain point – probably 20,000 words or so – I knew I HAD to finish.

Image

Proof: My first novel.

And I did. My first book. A life goal, accomplished before I reached age 34.

But, I wasn’t done.

Once I started, I found new ideas. Ones I didn’t know I had. I have more than a few Word files with just a paragraph explaining a plot that I didn’t want to fade into mental obscurity.

Then, I started to meet other authors. To be fair, I haven’t met a single one in person – or even talked to any on the phone, but I lucked into a remarkable group of authors who were all writing WOOL fanfiction last year. (I decided to write The Veil as a tribute to the man who finally got me off my duff; I published it last July.)

Image

Soon to be released Charity Anthology. Super excited for you guys to read these stories.

This group of writers has been amazing and we’ve all inspired each other. I read their work and they’ve read mine. Many of us have teamed up for a charity Silo Anthology to be released soon. (Announcement here.) Their creativity astounds me and inspires me. When I read my friends’ books, I find myself itching to get back to my laptop to add a chapter or four to my current manuscript. Their creativity sparks my creativity…and I think that is an amazing thing.

In November, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I decided to write the sequel to my first novel and successfully completed the month by putting over 50,000 words towards my book. But a strange thing happened that month. I read more books than I had in a few months. You wouldn’t have thought I would have wanted to expose my mind to all the new and different ideas found in other people’s books, but I found the opposite to be true. The strange, new, and wonderful ideas that sprang out of the pages of these books pushed me and motivated me to get my own words down on paper.

And I hope that my words will do that for you as well. Don’t just sit there – do something. Be creative. Take the energy you would put into a few rounds of Candy Crush or the next episode of Game of Thrones and put your thoughts down. They may be great, they may be terrible…but they’ll be yours.

That book I started writing in November? I had been a little stalled on it, but my friend WJ Davies challenged me to finish. I in turn challenged him to finish his book Binary Cycle 2 and we both aimed for February 8. (Here’s Binary Cycle 1, btw…) I just finished the rough draft two days ago and now it’s in the hands of five people who are (hopefully) critiquing the heck out of it. If all goes well and there aren’t any black holes (metaphorically speaking) in my plot, I should be publishing within a month or so. It may not be Feb. 8, but it’ll be pretty stinking close.

Maybe you won’t write a novel, maybe you won’t paint the Mona Lisa and maybe you won’t be the next Justin Bieber (we can all hope), but whatever you do, it’ll improve and enrich the world and your creativity will touch someone else. I can just about guarantee it.

Silo Charity Anthology Announcement!

Standard

I haven’t released anything new for your Kindle in a little while and the next thing with my name on it will also have a bunch of other names as well – and it’s all for charity!

Back last summer, after I’d written The Veil, I joined a group of writers who had also written WOOL fan-fiction stories. This has been one of the best things for me – a group that I can talk to about my writing, voicing frustrations, and bouncing ideas off of. The group itself has changed a little since I first became a member, but we’ve done a great job of supporting each other and pushing each other.

All of us can directly tie our success to Hugh Howey and his WOOL universe. As a tribute to Hugh and a way to give back, we’ve decided to team up to release an anthology of WOOL short stories. All of the profits will go towards the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program as we try to help the younger versions of ourselves to get writing before they get to our age and wonder what happened to their dreams. Just kidding…sort of.

Between us, we have 20 separate titles set in one or another of Hugh Howey’s silos (including a few omnibus titles) and I am ridiculously honored to share pages with them. In fact, I have just two Silo stories out – a pittance compared to a few of my comrades.

Joining me in this anthology will be: Ann Christy, Carol Davis, W.J. Davies, Thomas Robins, and Fredric Shernoff.

In case you aren’t familiar with all of them, here are their Silo works:

ImageAnn Christy’s Silo 49 series has garnered a lot of attention. Again, finding a nod to a silo from WOOL, Ann took Silo 49 and ran with it, creating a rich world full of memorable characters. She recently released the third book called Silo 49: Dark Til Dawn.

ImageCarol Davis has six books set in the silos –two silo horror stories – They Kill and They Feed and four other (including the omnibus) in the Rebel State series. The Rebel State books are fairly unique among WOOL stories in that they begin at the beginning – right after humanity was forced underground. The omnibus takes the first three books and puts them together and the title also hints at more on the way: Silo Saga: Rebel State: The Year One Trilogy.

ImageW.J. Davies is really the WOOL fanfiction pioneer among our group. While he wasn’t the first to use Hugh Howey’s silos for himself, his books really were the first to gain popularity and probably helped inspire Kindle Worlds in the first place. His books The Runner, The Diver, and The Watcher are all combined into the Silo Submerged Trilogy. A fantastic look into Silo 35 and into the outside world, Davies crafted a fine story.

ImageThomas Robins is the author of a collection of Silo poetry and three separate Silo stories – The Pawn, The Bishop, and The Rook, his latest, published in December.

ImageFredric Shernoff holds the distinction of having the first Silo story included in Kindle Worlds with his book Angels of the Earth. You can find the great little detective story here.

ImageAnd then, of course, I’ve written two Silo stories – The Veil and the follow-up Behind The Veil, that I published in November.

Almost all of us have also written outside of the Silo as well…and some pretty fine work as well. I’m totally stoked to be included in an anthology with such a great set of authors. The as-of-yet unnamed anthology is scheduled for mid-February. Once we have a title, a cover, and the particulars on each of the stories, I’ll write up another blog post, letting everyone know where and when they can get it.