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.

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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.