Chronicles Week! (with Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway!)

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Been radio silence around here for a couple months. Sorry about that…I’ll fill you in later. Suffice it to say this summer didn’t go exactly as planned on the writing front, but was still productive as well.

(Yes, yes…I’ll get to the Kindle Paperwhite giveaway in a bit…)

But while I haven’t been updating Ye Olde Blog at all this summer, I’m breaking that fast now for Chronicles Week.

Let me back up a bit. When I started writing, I credited a lot of the reasons why to one man — Hugh Howey. After reading his blog and WOOL, I was heartened by his approach and the success he had. Not success as in worldwide blockbuster multi-millionaire success, but rather just simply getting that book written and published success. I told anyone and everyone that it was due to Hugh Howey’s career that I had one as well.

While I still credit Hugh a lot, I’ve taken my own course in the past year. And what a year it’s been in my life. Exactly a year ago this week, I arrived home after flying to Africa with my wife to adopt our four (now five) year old son. If you’re familiar at all with international adoption, you know that the transition isn’t always smooth. Our son has been a blessing on our lives, but my writing schedule took a huge hit. I went from being able to write hundreds or thousands of words a day to dozens. Maybe.

So it was a huge boon when I worked up the courage to introduce myself to Samuel Peralta.

robot chSam is the publisher and curator of The Future Chronicles. A year ago at this time he’d only published the first of the series — The Robot Chronicles. I nabbed an early copy and wrote up a review for it and honestly included it in my best-of-the-year list. I saw some of the authors he’d included in that volume and knew I was as qualified as some of them. I asked about being considered for a future anthology and he graciously read my novella Ant Apocalypse. A few weeks after returning from Africa (and writing virtually nothing the whole time), Sam got in touch with me and offered me a spot in The Alien Chronicles.

I will honestly tell you my heart skipped a beat when I read the message that Sunday afternoon (yes, I can tell you exactly where I was) and I had to read it a couple times before I would believe it.

I knew the quality of story the Chronicles called for, so I took a personal day off teaching and wrote all day. The worst part of that? I ended up scrapping the entire story I spent the day on and went a different direction. But I needed that time to convince myself the first story wasn’t as good as the story I ended up writing — Uncle Allen.

(Hold on, the Paperwhite giveaway is down a bit, hang in there…)

alien chWhen The Alien Chronicles released in early January 2015, my story was one cited in a number of reviews as a favorite, and I reached a bigger audience in that month than I had in the previous year and a half I’d been publishing put together.

The Chronicles allowed me to keep writing, but adjust my new life around quality stories with a larger audience thanks to the dozen writers featured in each volume. Being put alongside writers like Hugh Howey(!), Jen Wells, B.V. Larsen, W.J. Davies, Ann Christy, and… (I could literally go on all day…) has elevated my stories and pushed me to write even better than I did before. The relationships I’ve developed in the past few months have shown me the different ways to be an author in today’s new publishing system and Samuel Peralta is a true visionary with goals for the Future Chronicles for multiple anthologies down the road. I’m as thankful for Peralta and the universes he has had a hand in creating as I am for Hugh Howey at the start of my career.

the-z-chroncilesUncle Allen led to Z Ball (my editor says its my best yet) in The Z Chronicles and I’m one of the few veteran voices to be featured in The Immortality Chronicles (now up for preorder — get your copy now!)

With all that said, it’s CHRONICLES WEEK! All the authors behind the current Chronicles books (so far we’ve had Robot, Telepath, Alien, A.I., Dragon, Z, and Alt.History 101) plus the half-dozen or so planned in the next eight to nine months are showcasing the Future Chronicles anthologies. If you haven’t yet read a Chronicles book, there is a special edition due out in a month, entitled (appropriately enough) The Future Chronicles. It will feature ten stories which have previously appeared in Chronicles books and five NEW stories, as well as a Foreword by Hugh Howey himself(!). It’s up for preorder right now for just 99 cents.

And in honor of the celebration, The Future Chronicles authors are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Wait, there’s more! Not only will you get a brand new Kindle Paperwhite, this amazing machine will be pre-loaded with all the Chronicles titles already released. Each of these books have hit #1 in the Sci-fi/Fantasy Anthology list and you want to win this thing. Visit here to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway (GIVEAWAY is now closed. Thanks for all who entered!)

Still here? 

uncle allenOkay…visit The Future Chronicles this week and check out all the amazing books there. If you want a taste, my Alien Chronicles story, Uncle Allen is FREE this week only. Check it out as a taste of the collection.

Book Review: Soda Pop Soldier

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spsWith a name like Soda Pop Soldier, I half-expected a light-hearted romp through modern video games. What I got was something completely different. Something telling about how many of us live our lives online and the anonymity that we expect. Something visceral and violent, yet clean and sanitized at the same time. Something that fully engaged my head and heart alike. 

Nick Cole’s Wasteland Saga led by The Old Man and the Wasteland was Cole’s bleak dystopian debut. He impressed me with the deliberate and purposeful pace of that novel, but in SPS, he treats the reader to something completely different. Is the future portrayed in Cole’s new novel a dystopia? I would say it is, but it resembles more of a Ready Player One-type future rather than the post-apocalyptic tone of his previous work. 

Unlike RPO, however, Cole infuses his world with a much darker tone. RPO always had a certain Reagan-era optimism. That everything would be OK even if Parzifal didn’t succeed. Here though, there is a certain amount of fear behind the scenes. If PerfectQuestion doesn’t get everything just right his existence is definitely in question.

The gamer PerfectQuestion is a key piece in ColaCorp’s ongoing war for advertising space. The winner in the online arena gets billboard space in Times Square and other key spots around the world. PerfectQuestion is good at what he does, but his squad finds itself outmatched in their latest round of battles, leading to his pay getting cut.

In order to make ends meet, he takes to the back alleys and signs up for an illegal game called the Black, where twisted fantasies play out for those who want to indulge in that sort of thing. This game, however, turns into something more for PerfectQuestion and an additional quest to finish alongside his professional life in WarWorld.

Throughout it all, we see the real world, but in many ways Cole presents this as almost more fantastic and ridiculous than the online worlds that PerfectQuestion plays in. There are scientific advancements that take humans to other planets and planes that seemingly traverse around the world without stopping, but most of that is unavailable to the average person. The more the book explores those areas – the areas inhabited by the rich and powerful – the more the reader finds themselves in foreign territory.

In many ways PerfectQuestion is more at home in the war and fantasy of his online games than in the real world.

Hence why we never really get a clear picture of who our protagonist really is. What’s his name? PerfectQuestion is the name of his online avatar, but we are lead to believe that the names he gives others in real life are false ones. His name – his true name – is PerfectQuestion. He is more at home online.

I don’t know if he was intending it, but I think Nick Cole is certainly saying something in this book about our online behavior and the idea of anonymity. Are we truly anonymous online? In an age when the NSA could be spying on our every behavior, what protections do we truly have? When PerfectQuestion meets others in real life, they seemingly all know him by online personas. He doesn’t have an identity outside of the computer until the final pages of the book and we as the reader are left to decide if that is a good or a bad thing.

PerfectQuestion plays the part of a samurai in the Black game he launches into to supplement his income and that aspect of his life transcends and bleeds through every facet of his life. He is a noble person who truly wants to do what is right. There is an honor code he follows, even when the easy option is staring him in the face.

I loved Soda Pop Soldier. It definitely wasn’t light-hearted, showing off a fast-paced action with only brief pauses to catch your breath. Cole upped his game for this novel and I look forward to what he has up his sleeve next.

 

Author Interview: Thomas Robins

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As an author, I understand how it feels to finish a book. One of the most challenging, yet fulfilling aspects of the writing process is simply finishing. For Thomas Robins, he finished not only a series, but also the complete novel of Desperate to Escape this week with the fourth installment in the science-fiction serial.

Thomas published the first part of his D2E series last September. It is unique in a number of ways, chiefly in that his protagonist is an African-American woman from the inner city of Chicago. Ineeka Coleman’s unlikely story puts her as a NASA astronaut on her way into space when everything goes wrong. The fascinating part of the book is the dual-narrative where the reader is treated to Ineeka’s time in space in one storyline and her time on earth in the other. Each story can’t exist without the other and even though you know one will end with her in space, there are tons of unexpected results and surprises along the journey for Ineeka.

I’ve been privileged to be a beta-reader for Thomas and his last couple D2E installments and he really pushes the envelope and gets the reader to think in the final couple chapters as the finish line approaches. I had a chance to ask Thomas a few questions about the series, about writing and what’s on the horizon. (Fair warning, the TV series LOST is mentioned more than a few times.)


d2e4 You have finished Desperate to Escape. Describe your feelings and what you’ve learned since starting this series.

I’ve learned that, as an indie author with a full-time job, you can’t find time to write, you make time. I’ve also learned that spending a year on a creative project is exhausting. Rewarding, but exhausting. Short stories are a much different thing: work intensely for a couple weeks and it’s done, but when the word count starts piling up, there are levels of difficulty that go into keeping everything straight. For example, when editing the final part of the story (part four), it turned out one of my characters had changed the way she talked since the last time she was in the story (part one). Something like that is not likely to happen in a short story.

Where did Ineeka Coleman come from? You don’t live in Chicago and Kansas doesn’t strike me as an “urban area,” so how did you go about creating that character?

I knew the main character would have to be strong enough to overcome some substantial hardships and Ineeka’s character came to mind as someone who could survive and grow despite the adversity.  I’ve always heard author’s say a character wrote herself, but this is the first time I’ve had it happen to me. Ineeka’s story seemed to write itself. Really, I think the first scene in the book is still my favorite: a young girl tucked away in bed using her imagination to play out her fantasy of space travel. Looking in from the outside, you’d think her whole life was terrible, but at the end of the day she had dreams just like all children do.

d2e1Did you have the finish line in sight from the beginning or did you make it up as you went along? Please answer as if you are Damon Lindelof, co-creator of LOST. 😉

Ha Ha. I feel like Damon Lindelof as I say this, but I really did have the basic story start to finish developed before I started writing. I did come across a substantial roadblock that changed the structure of the series, however. Originally, the first book “flashbacks” would feature Ineeka, book two was for Williard, book three was for Harold, and book for would go back to Ineeka. When I started writing book two, I just could not make Williard as engaging a character as Ineeka had become. I decided to make her the focus for all the books instead. Of course, I am sitting on a mountain of backstory for Willard and Harold that was not used in the books. I’m not sure they will ever see the light of day, though. Rest assured the ending was exactly as it was meant to be.

Speaking of LOST, once I finished, I really saw a lot of influences from the iconic TV series. How much do you think it influenced you in writing D2E?

I don’t watch much TV. In fact, I didn’t start watching LOST until a few seasons in. I think one of my friends lent me the DVDs and asked me to watch them. It is some of the greatest writing I’ve ever seen in television series. The slow, methodical buildup to the first season cliffhanger was brilliant, in addition to all the philosophical and religious views they touch on. LOST did influence my writing in that I liked how LOST gave equal weight to the backstory and the main storyline. In Desperate to Escape, the two parts of the story are nearly identical in length and help the reader understand why Ineeka acts the way she does.

d2e2What’s next for Thomas Robins?

Wow. I have some short stories running around my head I’ll take a stab at. I already have a superhero short written for a LOOW collaboration titled Repose. That is due out later this year. I fully expect my next novel to be even better than Desperate to Escape. It is a big project that I have been putting off until I am done publishing Desperate to Escape so I can stay on deadline.

How do you incorporate writing into your personal life and career?

Earlier, I said you can’t find time, you make time. Here are my secrets: First, if I am rocking a sleeping child, I don’t watch TV or surf the web on my phone, I write scenes on my phone. It passes the time nicely. One of my Kindle World books was almost entirely written this way. Second, I get to go to the coffee shop one night a week to work on my writing. It’s my night out. My wife has a night out too (for her hobby). It’s a great system we use to allow each of us to have a break from parenting duties while also giving each of us a night to spend quality time with the kids. It’s a win-win.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

This is such a hard question to answer because I don’t keep up with when I read books. The one that comes to mind is Eleanor by Jason Gurley.

DESPERATE_Part3What’s the best thing about being an indie author?

The best thing is when people read my writing and enjoy it. Ultimately, I make up stories all the time. Most of them are forgotten, others are never written down. The only reason I write and publish stories is because I think those stories are worth sharing.

Anything else to add? 

Will, thank you for taking the time to interview me. Please let your readers know they should sign up for my e-newslettter on my blog at www.thomasrobins.com.

Thanks Thomas!

Do yourself a favor, and pick up the four parts of the Desperate to Escape series before the price goes up (because they are really a steal at just 99 cents a piece!) Click right —-> HERE!

 

Oh…and behold the complete D2E cover (all four parts and the omnibus edition were all designed by the amazing Jason Gurley, btw…). Thomas is pegging August 1 as a release date for the full D2E story.

d2e full

Book Review – Strikers

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Yesterday I shared a short interview with Ann Christy, author of the new Young Adult novel, Strikers. Today, I present a review of that book. Ann has written previous novels in Hugh Howey’s world, but she does not shy away from world-building in this tale.

strikers

In many ways Strikers is a perfect name for Ann Christy’s first work outside of Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe.  Just taking a look at the cover is striking, the bold design pops out and will certainly draw scores of readers from just seeing it next to the other books in the Kindle store. But beyond the cover, Ann’s story is striking as a great work of young adult fiction.

In the world Ann Christy creates in Strikers, the United States is no more. In its place is a collection of independent nations, including the place where the story originates – Texas. In Texas, the people are controlled by a few select families and going against the law earns the violator a “strike,” including a tattoo on their neck. They go a bit farther than baseball as five strikes earns an out, or rather, death. That should’ve driven most of the people off the land, but even leaving Texas is an illegal act, making anyone who does so a “Striker.”

For Karas, a free spirit, this means her life is made all the harder than it already was. Life takes a drastic turn when her father, who she’d never ever known, shows up and reveals there is more to life outside of Texas. He comes back along with Maddix, the older brother of her friend Connor. Both are Strikers without any strikes left and Karas and Connor risk everything for their family.

Along with Karas, her friends Cassi and Jovan risks their lives to join her on a life-changing journey.  Along the way, Karas discovers who she really is, the truth about her father and the life she never knew existed outside of the authoritarian nation of Texas.

In this book, Ann Chisty does a fabulous job of world-building, creating a realistic dystopian world where Karas and her friends find out what they are really made of. Her characters are very believable and although she does an admirable job tying up storylines by the end of the story, there are plenty of seeds and avenues to explore in future tales in her Striker Universe. I enjoyed reading it far more than a lot of dystopian young adult books on the market today and I feel she really tapped into the emotion that fuels much of the young adult fiction market these days.

Well done, Ann. I enjoyed Strikers and I know many others will as well.

Self-Publishing: What a Kick!

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I’ve been on the inside of the self-publishing world for a little over a year now and every day is a new adventure. It is a fun ride and I get to enjoy my own success, along with seeing friends (and even family!) enjoy successes as well. Among some of the things I’ve done in the couple months or so:

  • Published a family short story collection featuring stories by myself, my brother Paul, and my sister Betsy – Baking With Swords. It was very rewarding on a personal level and it is a thrill to have a book with each of our names on it.
  • superRead a number of GREAT indie books. Some have been published already, like Super by Ernie Lindsey, Eleanor by Jason Gurley, Dead in the Water by Carol Davis, The Lazarus Particle by Logan Thomas Snyder, The Fourth Sage by Stefan Bolz, and Ma Tutt’s Donut Hutt by Lyn Perry. Some haven’t seen the light of day yet, but are going to do great when they are out: Desperate to Escape, Part 4 by Thomas Robins and Strikers by Ann Christy. (You really can’t go wrong with ANY of these books and the genre range is wide from space opera to supernatural to cozy mystery and young adult dystopian.)
  • Wrote and published a new short story within less than 5 days’ time. I wrote about it the other day, but my new short story, Contact Window was released last week and I’ve already received 6 fantastic reviews. I enjoyed the characters so much, I’m really contemplating expanding on the universe in the book after finishing my Dead Sleep Trilogy.
  • CW vertWrote my 100th post on my blog last week. Since starting this site up last summer, I’ve written about a lot of things, but I hope my love of indie books has been clear.
  • And today, watching Michael Bunker’s Amish Sci-fi book Pennsylvania rocket up the charts. All along the way, I’ve seen him be totally transparent about his sales figures and his joy of self-publishing and selling this book.
  • Oh, and I think in the next week or so, I should have something to announce about a WOOL Gathering paperback. Get ready!

This is a new age for books and publishing. The average person may not realize it, but there are boundary-pushing books out there, available, and for a much more reasonable price than the cookie-cutter books the traditional publishers are shoving down our throats. If you haven’t tried a self-published book, just give one of the above books a shot. You might find you were surprised by the quality of self-published fare (especially if you believe what a few of the traditionally-published authors are saying about us in the indie community.)

Throughout it all, I’ve had a blast. Self-publishing is such a kick!

Book Review – Dead in the Water

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Full-disclosure: I am a member of a writing group called LOOW (League of Original WOOLwriters or Lobotomizing Our Own Warthogs– whichever you prefer). Carol Davis is also a member of this group. We both have stories in the charity anthology, WOOL Gathering. I was given a copy of Dead in the Water to read prior to its release, but a favorable review was not expected.

A few things about Carol — she is a wonderful writer. She’s written countless stories over the years, but only started publishing through Amazon in the last year. She has a number of stories set in Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe, but I daresay her original stories are better. She’s penned a few werewolf stories featuring a father/son team as well as many other original tales that don’t always conform to one genre.

DITWI’ve been a fan of Carol Davis’ writing for a while now. The woman can sure craft a visual story; everything I read of hers, I can plainly see in my mind’s eye. That trend continues with her novel “Dead in the Water” — a spine-tingling, creepy, page-turning read well worth your money as well as a couple afternoons spent reading.

Davis has already shown her writing chops on a handful of short stories and novellas, including the Silo Saga trilogy “Rebel State.” While she is a pro at putting together a plot for short stories, “Dead in the Water” shows she is more than capable of adding the complexity a novel calls for. Her writing is sharp, and in this case, not for the feint of heart. She isn’t afraid to scare her readers, putting her protagonists in terrifying situations, only to play out their fears for the readers to see.

The story follows two “Investigators” — Nick Moore and Terry Banner, who have garnered fame thanks to an “Inside Edition”-type TV show. The two end up at the backwater location known as Thompson Lake, searching for scandal and hidden secrets. They uncover some, but they end up getting more than they bargained for when supernatural forces begin to invade their comfortable, but not-quite-stable lives.

Throughout it all, and even after the mystery of Thompson Lake is solved, Davis is setting up Moore and Banner for future stories. There are plenty of directions for Davis to go, but one storyline in particular is glaringly obvious for Davis to take the pair in the next installment. The book stands quite well on its own and doesn’t leave any threads dangling, but some clues are definitely there for future Moore and Banner books.

It is clear that Davis is passionate about writing — it comes across with each word you read. Make sure you don’t miss out on this novel by a great new author.

Book Review – Eleanor

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There are many different reasons to read a book. Most times I tend to read to think about something in a new or different way. To spark my creativity and challenge my accepted ideas.

EleanorThis book, Eleanor by Jason Gurley, is not that kind of book. Not that it doesn’t make you think. I had a lot of thoughts while I read this book. I thought about the similarities between it and two other books I’ve read. One was fairly recent – Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane, while the other I read when I was just a child – Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Both had a profound influence on me, but all three of these books didn’t so much make me think.

They made me feel.

When I first began reading Eleanor, I was struck by the pictures Mr. Gurley paints for his readers. Spending a little time in Oregon and on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, I could readily accept the fog-shrouded town and seaside he presented as real. He worked so hard to place his story in the real world that when the supernatural world opens up later in the book, it feels natural. It feels like an extension of the world Gurley has created and it feels better than the world in which his characters reside.

I’ve followed Jason’s journey of writing this book for the past year (although he’s been writing it for the past 13 years) and I can feel the passion he had for it in every word I encountered. I saw the care he put into it and the work he put in to make it just right.

How to describe this book? I’m not really sure. I literally finished less than five minutes after starting to write this review, so my thoughts are still swirling like the water in a tide pool off the shore of a small island near the beach in Oregon. I felt for the characters that Mr. Gurley painstakingly presented to the readers. How in just the first few pages, we were introduced to Hob, Eleanor and their daughter Agnes. I was getting settled in for a book about this Eleanor, until Gurley ripped the rug out from underneath me and I realized this was not really the titular character – she was still to be discovered.

Discovered is really a great word for this book. Eleanor discovers so much in her journeys throughout this book. You see the younger Eleanor taking care of her family as best she knows how, but then through other means, we see there are better ways she can take care of her family. She discovers who she is, who her parents really are, and her true purpose.

This needs to be discovered. I could call Jason Gurley the American Neil Gaiman and I don’t think many people would argue after reading this book. It is a phenomenal book and one I could not put down. Well done, Mr. Gurley.

Baking With Swords Launch Party – Monday, June 9

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Concept 3To celebrate the launch of Baking With Swords, as well as my one-year anniversary of self-publishing, I’m hosting a party on Facebook next Monday. I’ve hinted at giveaways and I worked to compile quite a list of books that you will want to win next week. Huge thanks to my DeadPixel Publications friends and my LOOW buddies for all the terrific giveaways. Following is a comprehensive list of what will be given away next week. Most are digital ebook copies of the books, a few are physical copies and I’ve even got some audiobooks to giveaway as well.

Here is a link for the Party, in case you haven’t committed to “coming” yet. (It’s all on Facebook, you don’t actually have to go anywhere.) With as many things as I have to giveaway, there is a great chance of winning, so stop on by, comment and like.

Oh, and if you haven’t gotten your copy of Baking With Swords yet, plan to buy a copy on Monday so we can get it charting. Thanks so much guys!

(Also, here is the official blog page for the book with links to all the blog posts for it so far)

Baking With Swords Launch Party Giveaways

J.W. Kent — The Bridge at Ardendale (digital), and short, Patina (digital).

d3f441f8f71a1f71ff5d9ca3d9b015fb_largeJohn Hancocktwo copies of ROOF (audio), two copies of ROOF (ebook), two copies of Splintered Tales (ebook) and two copies of Plague of Dreams (ebook)

Tony Bertauski — The Annihilation of Foreverland (digital) and Halfskin (digital)

Darke Conteur – The Watchtower (Digital) and Under the Cover of Wicca (Digital)

Steve Wetherell — The Last Volunteer (digital) and Into The Black (Digital).

singular ptsTravis MohrmanDown The Path (Digital) and Singular Points (Digital)

Carol Davis – Signed paperback of Quantum Leap book and Blood Moon (digital)

Hanna Elizabeth – Concessions (Kindle) and Visions of WOOL (Kindle)

Chris Saunders – X (digital)

Robert Bevan – Critical Failures (digital) and Cornholed (digital)

Brian Braden – Black Sea Gods (digital)

Renee Miller – In The Bones (digital)

Robert Brumm – two audiobook codes for Windigo Soul (or choice)

Paul Kohler – signed copies of Linear Shift 1 (paperback) and Borrowed Souls (paperback)

Logan Thomas Snyder – The Disappeared Omnibus (digital) and This Mortal Coil (digital)

Fredric Shernoff – Atlantic Island (print or digital)

SynchronicFinalCoverAnn Christy – Silo 49 books (mobi), Wool Gathering (Kindle), Synchronic (Kindle)

Thomas Robins – two Desperate To Escape sets (books 1-3) (digital)

Will Swardstrom – two sets of Dead Sleep/Dead Sight paperback first editions, two paperbacks of Baking With Swords, four audiobook codes for Ant Apocalypse

Guest blogger: Betsy Baker

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One thing I’ve really found over the past year as an independent author is the cooperative and collaborative nature of many writers. I guess I always imagined that most writers sequestered themselves in a dark attic and pounded away on a typewriter until they emerged with Catcher in the Rye or went crazy. (Or both!) 

I am a part of two amazing groups that encourage and push me as a writer and feel I can call a number of other indie writers friends. I can show my work to them and get feedback, positive or negative. Many of them have read at least some of my books and will promote them to other readers when the opportunity presents itself. Writers don’t live in bubbles, as much as it feels like we do at times. 

That’s what I wanted t do when I first decided to do Baking With Swords with my brother and sister. I wanted them to know the writer’s life does not have to be a lonely one. You’ve already read Paul’s guest blog (here) and today you can read Betsy’s road to writing her story Flutter. 

Baking With Swords will be available in print and on Kindle in the next couple weeks. 

(By the way, she refers to me as William, which I allow her and my parents to do. It would seem weird for her to go with Will, so I’ll allow it here. Once.)


 

I’ve started so many stories and books over the years, it shocked me when William managed to finish one first. But then again, William and I have been in competition to be first for most of our lives. I went to college first, but he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do in life before I did. He was engaged first, even though I’d been dating my prospective husband for years before he’d even met Sarah. I managed to get married before him, by one week.

 

Betsy sent me a picture to use, but due to unforseen technology issues, I had to nab a picture off Facebook, just like I did for my brother. (Fair's fair -- and there are no birds in your picture, Betsy!)

Betsy sent me a picture to use, but due to unforeseen technology issues, I had to nab a picture off Facebook, just like I did for my brother. (Fair’s fair — and there are no birds in your picture, Betsy!)

I know what you’re thinking, I got married the week before him just to be first. Well, no. Not really. That date was special to David & me and that’s why we wanted to get married on that date. Getting married first was just a very, very small sibling rivalry perk. (By the way, Sarah, sorry if that really messed you up!)

William & Sarah got pregnant first. That hurt because we then tried for another five plus years before we got pregnant. The hurt and pang from our infertility and loss of a baby is some of what inspired Flutter. You can read more of that story here, if you would like. William tells me that my story also inspired a character for one of his first Wool World stories (The Veil, found here).

William got his Master’s first. Though, honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever pursue that. I wanted to at one point, but now I have other priorities.

So, we’ve been competing for our whole lives. But after having my second child I was finally able to set that rivalry aside. When William announced that he had written a short story available for sale on Amazon, and was at work on a novel, I honestly wasn’t jealous. Well, not for longer than sixty seconds, anyway. I was more annoyed at myself. Why had I not done this? I actually, at the time, had two books in the works; a cookbook and a coursebook. I have yet to finish either of these. I’ve been in the editing process for my coursebook for a year and a half now. I’ll get it done, but it’s more tedious than picking small stones out of a cubic foot of sand.

William asked if I’d like to contribute to a sibling compilation book and at first I didn’t know what to say. Really? Wow. Uh…yes…but…what about? And…when will I find time? And….What I’ve learned in my life is that if you really want to do it you just say ‘yes’ and then you get to work. If all you can type is ‘duh, duh, duh’ over and over again, then do it. Eventually you’ll type a different word. And then you’ll type a sentence. And then you’ll type a paragraph.

So I sat down and fairly quickly knocked out the first segment of Flutter, which could stand on it’s own as a very short story. I then realized I could easily write a second segment, which could also stand on it’s own as a very short story. There came a point when I knew where the story was going and how it would end. You know what’s tough? Filling in the middle bits and flushing out the details. And even harder than that is the editing.

Concept 3I’m not good at rejecting what I’ve written. I get protective of my works. Like a mother bird over her little chicks. Really, though, I need to remember that when it’s gotten to the editing phase it’s time to let the little chick fly. I need to let go and let it grow up. William was very gracious during the editing process of Flutter and very much walked me through it.

Like I said, Flutter was inspired a bit from my own life, in a way. And I found myself very emotional during the process. I hope it comes through; how much of myself is in this story. But I hope you don’t get bogged down in it, either.

Rivalry isn’t always a bad thing. When William went first in getting published it showed me I can do it, too, and prompted me to get on with it already. I’m glad I’ve had William to compete with. Though now I’m even more glad to have him to work with. Thanks, Mom, for giving me these brothers of mine!

Oh, and yes, this Baker does know how to cook…here’s a great slow-cooker rib recipe:  http://grkids.com/recipe-and-store-sales-matchup-may-20-to-may-26-2012/ (ignore the sales talk, that post is from two years ago).

Book Review – Synchronic

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SynchronicFinalCoverAs much as the title suggests its relationship to time, Synchronic also has a hint of something else. My mind wandered to chronic health conditions that persist over time, or perhaps even a hint at an addiction.

By the time I finished Synchronic, I had developed my own addiction: a persistent desire to read stories about time travel. One after another, the 13 writers involved in the anthology created new and interesting tales of time travel without repetition or fatigue.

I’ve read works by some of these authors already, but one of the great things about an anthology like this is finding new and different authors I hadn’t yet discovered. After reading some of the stories in Synchronic, I wish I could go back in time and discover these authors in their writing infancy – to read their early works as they were first getting published.

There is a certain appeal to time travel stories. What is it that draws the reader to them? I imagine the pull of regret has a lot to do with it. After I first got a DVR at home, I used it so much to skip commercials and to rewind live TV if I happened to miss something. Eventually I started having urges in real life to skip back or replay something. At first, it was just a few moments at a time, but when I realized major mistakes, oh how I wished I could go back and correct those blunders. To make my life better with just a simple revisit to the past.

Ultimately, that regret has a necessary place in our lives and helps us as we encounter new, but similar circumstances. That doesn’t lessen our desire to alter our past, though. I imagine if we were really able to go back, the tragedy of our actions would resonate throughout our lives. Most of the time travel stories I’ve read or seen on the big screen have that tragic element and over and over we see that in this collection as well.

There are so many great stories contained in Synchronic, but I want to highlight a few of my favorites – the stories that stuck with me long after I’d read them.

The Mirror by Irving Belateche

For me, the standout of this collection. I usually like my time travel to be science fiction-based, but wow, I’ll take it with a supernatural twist after reading The Mirror. Peter Cooper is a Manhattan antiques dealer who stumbles upon the titular object that reshapes his life, and has defined who he was before he even knew it. I really loved this story and made me think twice before looking in any antique mirrors.


The First Cut by Edward E. Robertson

When I first started reading Robertson’s contribution, I thought of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Timecop, but this story had a mind of its own, putting these time police officers on the case of time violators who go to alternate histories of Earth. Our protagonist, Blake Din, is at the bottom of his class from the Academy, but we find out that Blake thrives once the simulations end and the real life situations emerge, taking us on a who-dun-it set in a time like the mid-90’s (where the Internet is in its infancy and cell phones aren’t ubiquitous). Wonderful twist at the end pays off for the reader.


Reset by MeiLin Miranda

This story struck me kind of like a Groundhog Day-type of story, except that Catherine lives almost an entire life over and over. This not only reminded me of Groundhog Day, but also the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the Enterprise is stuck in a time loop and Data is the only one aware of the repetition. Again, both those two tales are just a day or a few days – Catherine’s story involves years. What would you do if you lived decades over and over again?


Reentry Window by Eric Tozzi

Tozzi wrote one of my favorite books of 2013 – The Scout, and his knowledge of NASA and the space program pays off fantastically here. With hints of Andy Weir’s The Martian, Tozzi gives us a “chicken or the egg” story set in outer space that leaves you thinking for a long time.


Rock or Shell by Ann Christy

What is the effect of time travel on the space-time continuum. If you’ve watched enough Star Trek, you’ve heard of the continuum and Christy gives us a look behind the curtain so-to-speak with Rock or Shell. When the world as we know it starts to collapse, what do we hold on to? What keeps us centered – keeps us grounded? There was a bit of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception here – you’ll know it when you read it – and Christy’s story pays it off wonderfully.

Like I said – all the stories are winners. It was tough for me to pick my top 5 and I’ll say that Susan Kaye Quinn’s Corrections was right there on the outside. Some other fantastic stories from Nick Cole (who also penned the amazing Foreward), Michael Bunker (what a twist!), Jason Gurley, Samuel Peralta, Jennifer Ellis, Christopher Nuttall, and Isaac Hooke round out the collection. I really could go on and on about this collection. And of course, I couldn’t forget to mention that editor extraordinare, David Gatewood, compiled this outstanding anthology, just a few months after publishing his last indie anthology, From The Indie Side.

This collection gets and deserves five stars and also deserves a paperback on your bookshelf. The short story is not dead and this collection proves it.