Book Release – BLINK (and Free Stuff!)

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OK…so if you came here just for the free and discounted books, scroll to the bottom. If you’d rather read about my journey to get to this book’s release, read on.


the partyWow. Today’s the day, huh?

Blink is finally out there. Live, on people’s Kindles and being read. Makes me excited, but more than a little nervous as well.

Of course, I can’t claim all the emotion for this book — half belongs to my brother, Paul, and if he chooses to share them, this blog will be the first place they’ll go. But for today, here is a peek behind the scenes with me.

Last January was…a weird time. I was still less than six months out from going with my wife to get our son, and adjusting to life as an adoptive father. I really hadn’t written much in a long time. The Powers That Be and The Alien Chronicles had both released in early January with stories I’d written, but most of those words had been penned months earlier. I was in the doldrums. For sure.

Then over the course of a few weeks, I stumbled into a daily Facebook status serial of sorts. It was small at first, just a sentence or two, but over time it grew to 500 to 1,000 words — the kind of output I wanted as a writer. I decided one way or another, I’d take what I had and I’d throw it up on Amazon at some point. Probably a 10-20,000 word short story or novella. Kinda fun, but nothing major.

Then Paul messaged me. Turns out one of my secondary characters had sparked something. He went off and wrote a complete backstory and side story for Agent Smith. When he sent it my way, I gladly turned over my status updates to him for a while. It’s natural to feel like your own writing is trash and other people are better, but his storyline with Smith was a game-changer. It had something I didn’t have with my own story — my interest. My own storyline was fascinating, but Agent Smith had so many possibilities and he was such a realized character by the time out storylines converged, I knew we had to do something. Something important.

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We had to make Agent Smith the focus of the novel. Ultimately it meant tweaking a few things in the back half of the book, but it also meant a complete reworking of the beginning. We had to flip back and forth on chapters and provide a intro for Smith that would help establish him and his team in this world.

Ironically, the summer was the worst time for us. Both of us are teachers so it would seem as though we would have more time to focus on the book when we aren’t in the classroom, but more time at home meant more time with our kids and writing and editing Blink proved to be a difficult thing indeed. Once school was back in session, both of us were committed to finishing this and thankfully we did in October.

And with the completion of Blink, we believe we have the beginnings of a potentially long-running series. Like Clive Cussler with his Dirk Pitt (and now NUMA Files, Kurt Austin, and more) series or Lee Child with Jack Reacher. Agent Smith is tough, hard-nosed, bright, and resilient. He’s going to continue to be in stories, as soon as we figure out what those stories will be. (And in case you missed it, Paul and I wrote a one-off holiday short story with our favorite government employee — Agent Smith and the Naughty Elf, which is FREE for one more day.)

Paul and I write really well together. Like…REALLY well. For brothers born eight years apart and who actually didn’t really have much in common until we both got to adulthood, it’s kinda crazy how well our writing meshes. There was a little here and there that I had to smooth out of mine or his to transition, but I would say that I didn’t even touch 95% of his stuff in Blink. When he proposed adding to my story, I was all for it cuz it would save me time. Little did I know that would push us into a novel, and a fairly sizeable one as well. Less work? HA!

Over the past 12 months, this was a huge focus, along with my stories for The Z Chronicles, The Immortality Chronicles, Alt.History 102 and the forthcoming Illustrated Robot Chronicles. Those helped pace the novel in a strange way, giving me times to step away and refocus at regular intervals.

Now that Alt 102 and Blink are both out there and the edits for Illustrated Robot are still on their way, I need to plan my year. First and foremost — Dead Search, the third novel of my Dead Sleep series that I put off a year and a half ago. I need to re-immerse myself in that world and hopefully I’ll have something for readers sometime this summer.

A few last things before we get to the free and cheap stuff…

I have a heartfelt thank you for Samuel Peralta. His commissioning of short stories in The Future Chronicles kept me writing in so many ways. The work on this book wasn’t just done by me and Paul; Ellen Campbell killed it on the editing, Adam Hall put out a fantastic cover, and Therin Knite put up with a lot from me on the formatting. Thank you to each of you.


BUT…with the release of Blink at just 99 cents for a limited time, I’ve decided to have a sale on my books and short stories. Everything I have control over has been priced down to 99 cents or even Free for the next few days. All the links below are Free/Discounted titles for the next few days.

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NaughtyElf 2

99 CENTS

ALT-History-102-eBook (1)

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Thanks for reading! Enjoy the freebies and cheap reads!

The Best Things I Laid Eyes on in 2015

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So a few weeks before Christmas, I put out my “Best of” list for short stories, fully intending to do the same for books and movies and who knows what. Then…I didn’t. But, I don’t want to leave it all hanging out there, so I’m combining lists and putting out a “Best Things I Laid Eyes on in 2015” list. You’ll find movies, books, places, people and more. I tried to think of the entire past calendar year, but I know I missed a thing or two I loved. Forgive me. So…here’s my list:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

bb-8_14e2ad77I’ve seen the newest Star Wars film twice now and yet it seems like we’ve just shaken hands. I can’t even tell you how many times I saw IV, V, and VI as a kid. We had the movies on VHS and I watched them over and over and over. I loved them all and when Lucas re-released them in theatres with the latest effects, my dad made sure all of us kids were sitting in the seats.

Then the Prequels. Ugh. Like so many others I wanted to like them. Like so many others I was disappointed. I barely remember watching them and I know I’ve only seen Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith once each. And I know with the final movie I only saw it so I could say I did. There was no hype. No anticipation. No excitement.

Not so here. There are haters, but they can forget about trying to get me to hate it. It checked all the boxes for me and established new characters I care about. A re-tread? Hardly. Similar storybeats, but so was Harry Potter. So have been stories throughout the ages. I am an unabashed fan and I don’t care who knows.

Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns and J.R. Olson

weaponsmass_cvr_lrgBruns and Olson have a great book on their hands, I think. Reading this book brought be right back to the hours and hours I spent reading Tom Clancy’s books when I was in high school and college. Clancy had a knack for telling a complicated story with complex international political ramifications and making me care about it. With Weapons of Mass Deception, Bruns and Olson have done the same. The book is a tremendous achievement and I can only hope that the two coordinate their efforts again to give us more books like this down the road.

Jessica Jones / Daredevil

David-Tennant-Jessica-Jones-Poster-Doctor-Who-BrasilI’m lumping these two together. The first two Marvel properties developed for Netflix and both were daring (pun intended) and showed us a side of Marvel we didn’t know we would ever get on the screen. In Daredevil we got a great introduction to the dirty underbelly of New York and were made aware early on that anything goes. Daredevil showed us that in violence, but keeping with the theme of Murdock’s blindness, a lot was kept in the dark and at night. That violence was brought to light big time in Jessica Jones. I loved Jessica Jones. I think I liked it better than Daredevil and that is saying a lot. As a father of a pre-teen girl, I am worried about the world she’ll grow up in and the boys she may date. As a high school teacher, I see a lot of borderline abusive relationships as well. In Jessica Jones, we see those relationships personified in the villain Kilgrave. What a performance and in a way it’s a shame what the end result was for his character. I’m looking forward to what Marvel and Netflix will be cooking up for us in 2016.

Chicago Architectural Tour

BoatTour2_NatalieTaylorI went on a school trip to Chicago early in the summer and one of the things we did was this. If you ever get the chance, it is a great trip up and down the Chicago River with historical context for nearly every one of the buildings along the shore. There is a lot of new building going on and the new Trump Tower gets its fair share of criticism, but I daresay that is part of what has spurred the new developments along the route. The day we went ended up being a lot colder than we anticipated, but I still wound up fascinated by what I saw and heard along the tour.

Constitution/Warrior by Nick Webb

warriorThese books were great. So great that when I was buying Christmas gifts, I bought them in paperback for my dad. He’s hard to shop for, but he’s a military space sci-fi nut, so I knew I was safe with these books. I enjoyed Constitution, but I wasn’t sure what Webb would give us in the follow up. Wow. He really set up a complex and interesting backstory for each side in the conflict (and there are many more than two) and set up a potentially explosive third book in this series. If you like action and intrigue in your science fiction, check out Nick Webb’s books.

Ant Man

The last movie I remember smiling about so much in the theatre before Star Wars was Ant Man. Such a great movie. Really impressed me with its humor and vibe. Just as Daredevil and Jessica Jones redefined Marvel for the TV audience, so did Ant Man for films after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. I love the nods to Avengers and how it all fits in with the larger universe without feeling too small.

My Newest Book Cover

Coming Soon…. Check this out:

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The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott

I’d read the book by Andy Weir last year so I can’t credit that here, but the movie exceeded all my expectations. I have been burned too many times by books turned into terrible movies, and so when Scott managed to turn The Martian into not only a decent movie, but a GREAT movie, I was thrilled. Matt Damon did a fantastic job and I thought the changes made from book to film were slight and appropriate for the conversion to the movie theatre.

ALL the short stories

11160045_10207031928225789_1011873126454258904_oI read a lot of short stories in 2015. A LOT. I already did my Best of list for just short stories, so I’m not going to rehash them here, but if you like short fiction, you need to check out the Future Chronicles curated by Samuel Peralta. Some great works by a lot of amazing authors. (Myself included, Full Disclosure.)

My Family

Over the summer I had the opportunity to see a lot of family. My wife and I went on a joint vacation to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge with her parents. Unlike some, I do like my in-laws and we had a great kick-off to the summer and good stories for years to come.

We also had a family reunion for my family. My sister lives a couple states away and my older brother is over 2,000 miles away, so getting us all together is easier said than done. Fortunately it worked out and we all met at my parents’ home for a few days. Unfortunately, my 99-year-old grandmother passed away in North Dakota the same week, sending my parents off to handle that business. All of my siblings were able to make it for the funeral, but it did put a bit of a damper on the overall summer get-together. Regardless, it was a great time to see people I don’t typically get to see.

The Dark Man/The White Night by Desmond Doane

26105206A different kind of books than Webb’s offerings, but still just as compelling. If I was going to put out a Best Books of 2016 list, I really think The White Night would have held the top spot. Who is Desmond Doane? That’s the penname for Ernie Lindsey, an accomplished author on his own, but for these horror/supernatural books, he wanted a little edge he couldn’t provide as himself, so Desmond Doane was born. The first book is good, but the second…man, I couldn’t put it down. There was a moment – and you’ll get there too – when I read it and I had to send a message to Ernie cursing him out for what he did to me. I couldn’t wait to write up my review for it and I am strongly anticipating the third book in his Graveyard: Classified series in 2016.

Humbird Cheese, Toma, Wisconsin

humbird-cheese-mart-910750A must stop on our family trips to North Dakota. On our way up for the funeral, we had to stop here. If you love cheese, this is a great place with free samples of nearly all the varieties of cheese. Me? I love a good smoked cheddar and buffalo wing-flavored cheese curds.

Collider Movie Talk on YouTube

We ditched the Dish this year. After over 10 years with either Dish Network or DirecTV, we finally cut the cord so to speak. We rely on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu for most of our traditional TV viewing. However, I’ve come to expect one show each day – Collider Movie Talk on YouTube. Each day, John Campea leads a panel discussion show to discuss movie reviews, box office returns and general movie news. It isn’t dry – each of the hosts have their own unique brand of humor and their passion of movies and genre movies in particular is infectious. In addition to Movie Talk, they also produce weekly shows for comics (Heroes) and Star Wars (Jedi Council) as well as a plethora of TV show recap episodes. If you like entertainment news that isn’t just Kardashian this and Kanye that, check this out.

Book Review – Texocalypse Now

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A few weeks ago, I had my first taste of the wave of Apocalypse Weird novels to be released next week in the form of Nick Cole and Michael Bunker’s Texocalypse Now. The book has some great moments and sets up a lot, but I was really unprepared for the quality of stories I would find in the other three AW stories not written by Cole or Bunker. The following is my review for TN, but over the next few days I’ll share reviews for Jennifer Ellis’ Reversal, E.E. Giorgi’s Immunity, and Chris Pourteau’s The Serenity Strain in addition to my thoughts on the first sequel in the AW Universe — Nick Cole’s The Dark Knight. 


tex nowThere have been some early comparisons between the Apocalypse Weird series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of us are familiar with how Marvel is expanding their comic books with tales on the Silver Screen in the form of Iron Man, Captain America, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy. While that familiarity may not be present in the Apocalypse Weird series, the analogy is appropriate nonetheless, especially when it comes to the Nick Cole/Michael Bunker novel, Texocalypse Now. And that familiarity will come in time if the quality of the stories in AW continues like it does in this novel.

A huge part of constructing the Marvel movies is telling an engaging story while advancing potential threads that can branch off into different plotlines for future movies. For example, Captain America’s shield was seen in Tony Stark’s lab in Iron Man 2 and Thanos was seen in a post-credits scene of The Avengers – both of which helped to set up future stories and villains.

I don’t think many would say The Avengers didn’t deliver as a stand-alone movie, yet it laid the groundwork for potentially dozens of future movies. That’s because Marvel went in with a plan and made sure certain threads were maintained and manicured throughout the editing process.

The same is true of Texocalypse Now. After The Red King, it serves as one of the next in a wave of AW stories to be released in February, and by being in that wave, it needs to serve two functions – be a wicked-awesome story (check), and further the overall mythology of AW (check).

We’ll get back to the overall mythos in a bit, but let’s take a look at what Cole and Bunker did here.

It’s an apocalypse story, so we need at least one apocalyptic event, and the authors take care of that with the Blindness — a moment when the entire world went dark, causing madness in most people. Combine that with zombie hordes who scour the earth after taking the weight-loss drug, Slenderex, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster and Mad Max-type scenarios.

In the wake of this, a family comes together. Not one of blood, but of circumstance, that has a bond forged by violence. To save themselves, they turn to a series of tunnels under the ground — tunnels put there years before for a different purpose (which is a fascinating side story that deserves a book of its own). As the book progresses, the action ramps up, powered by an evil figure: Mayhem.

Even as all of this happens, Cole and Bunker make sure to plant seeds for future installments of Apocalypse Weird books. Not all of those seeds are blatantly obvious, but just like in the Marvel Universe, they are important and play a key role in the proceedings.

Texocalypse Now stands perfectly on its own and is an exciting, powerful book. But, when you look at it as part of the AW series, it works tremendously well and will be an important book to read for anyone interested in the Apocalypse Weird novels. I thoroughly enjoyed the Cole-Bunker collaboration and hope to see more from the two in the future.

Author Interview – Chris Pourteau

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Yesterday, I had an interview with Apocalypse Weird writer Jennifer Ellis, author of the amazing polar apocalyptic tale, Reversal. Another one of the AW stories to be unleashed next week is Chris Pourteau’s incredible book The Serenity Strain. Just like with Reversal, I felt like I was on the ground with the characters, living their lives with them for better or for worse (usually worse). There are a lot of great things to like about The Serenity Strain. I highly recommend it. To talk about the book and his experience in indie publishing as well as AW, here is Chris Pourteau:


WS: First off, give us a short background about who Chris Pourteau is and your career thus far.

CP: Well, I’ve been a technical writer and editor for the past 20+ years at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). I started working there after I finished my master’s degree in English at Texas A&M and, you know, needed a job. TTI is the dayjob that pays for my fiction writing in my spare time. In Sept. 2013, I indie-published my first novel, Shadows Burned In (SBI). Short of the technical aspects of putting it up on Amazon, I had no idea what I was doing. Like many first-time indie authors, I think I had it in my head: “OK, here’s the opportunity to show the world what the traditional publishing world was too stupid to see.” So I put it out there and waited. And waited. And waited. Lightning did not strike. I was not declared the next Great American Author. What a pisser, right?

But that turned out to be a good thing. The best thing that’s happened to me in the last year and a half is that I got plugged into the independent publishing community and met great folks like Nick Cole, Michael Bunker, Jennifer Ellis, Hank Garner, and yourself, all of whom seem determined to help one another out. What a concept! So, in retrospect, I’m glad SBI didn’t take off. Quick success might’ve robbed me of getting to know, and coming to rely on, my fellow indie authors. Every one I’ve met has been generous and helpful to me in my quest to become a successful fiction writer. And whenever I can, I take the opportunity to pay forward the kindness to others who are just entering the world of independent publishing. I’m a big believer in karma, and that if you put good out into the world, it’ll come back to you.

tssWS: How did your involvement in AW come about?

CP: I met Michael about a year and a half ago via Nick Cole’s Facebook page. Michael’s a fellow Texan and we share the same barbed sense of humor, so we hit it off pretty quickly. I did the standard “new author” thing of “Hey, would you read my book?” So Michael read SBI and liked it, and I wrote some fan fiction in his world of Pennsylvania, and he loved that. So he invited me onboard AW.

WS: What inspired your story The Serenity Strain?

CP: Back in September, Nick asked for a pitch. I gave him one, he liked it, and he assigned me a deadline of mid-December for my novel. I was horrified. I’d written SBI back in 2000 or so, shelved it due to disinterest from the traditional-publishing establishment, picked it back up in 2013, reworked it several times . . . well, as you can see, publishing SBI wasn’t a fast process. So the idea of banging out a full-blown novel in a couple of months was very daunting. (Nick can knock out a Hemingwayesque classic over a weekend in Sausalito… 😉 ) Plus, I was in the middle of producing Tales from Pennsylvania, a short story collection set in Bunker’s world of Pennsylvania, and my second Pennsylvania fanfic novella, Susquehanna. So I didn’t even get started on TSS until mid-October. I even remember PM’ing Nick and telling him, “I’m gonna bust my ass for you, but prepare for me to blow past your deadline, man.” He was totally cool about it, though.

So, I had very little time, in my book (heh), to produce a quality novel. To save time, I decided to go with what I knew (the old writer’s mantra, right?).

  1. I’ve lived on the Gulf Coast all my life, so multiple hurricanes seemed natural apocalyptic fare to use;
  2. I set the novel in North Houston, a region I know very well;
  3. The concept of a demon who unleashes appetite-driven inhibitions was very appealing to me. I’m a licensed professional counselor [LPC], so understanding Freudian psychology is part of my DNA;
  4. The 3-part, 7-chapter organization I’d used in SBI gave me some structural reassurance amidst the “crap! I have to do this in two months!” feeling;
  5. And last, but certainly not least, I’ve been through the pain of divorce, so it wasn’t hard to plug into those feelings for my main characters.

All those elements became my essential equation for TSS. And, by the way, I was only a week off Nick’s schedule in bringing the novel in, so I was kinda proud of (more or less) making his deadline.

WS: Do you think this was easier because you did Pennsylvania fan fiction? Why?

CP: Absolutely. Michael Bunker liked SBI, and that was very gratifying. But he was really enthusiastic about my writing after he read Gettysburg, and he had a similar reaction to Susquehanna, as did Nick to both novellas. I think those two pieces, plus co-helming Tales, showed them both I could write well enough and be organized and reliable about it.

WS: I really liked the nonstop thriller aspect. From what I can tell, you had four distinct storylines that intersected here and there, eventually coalescing in the final scenes of the book. Talk about the challenge of writing a multi-strand book and making sure all the chess pieces end up at the right place.

CP: Thanks! You know, I don’t think a lot about the plotting while I’m writing. For me, the story is all about characters and how the circumstances of the story make them into the people the reader comes to know, if that makes sense. In TSS, a couple of my “heroes” aren’t very likable people at first. But black and white hats bore me. Sometimes life has a way of forcing us to step up, and that’s what I try to remember when writing characters. I want to write about complex people who aren’t perfect but who, at the end of the day, find it within themselves to reach for nobility, usually through an act of self-sacrifice. That appreciation for the journey of self-awareness and self-actualization probably comes from the same place that drove me to become an LPC.

Having said that, I did a lot of outlining for each section of TSS before I started writing. Again, I was writing a lot and fast, so I needed to give myself direction. (I’m pretty anal retentive—if I don’t have a plan, I’ll just stare at a blinking cursory with no idea what to do; I’m not good at improv.) I basically wrote an extended story arc for each of the three sections before I started them, so I could aim at a target. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll keep it general, but I knew the basic plot—family in crisis crosses paths with the evil characters in the book—who the Big Bad Boss was gonna be, and how she’d enlist the lesser bad guys in the novel.

Beyond that, I relied on my section outline to give me general direction, with the actual plot details coming about as I wrote. I guess the (too late) short answer is, for me as a writer, plotting is organic and derives from characters and their motivations. I know it’s not that way for everyone. But a general idea of where I’m going with the story is absolutely necessary to my going anywhere with it. 😉

WS: What other books were influential in what you put into this book?

CP: I tell anyone who will listen—Nick Cole’s The Old Man and the Wasteland is a modern classic of dystopian fiction. Someday (if they aren’t already), people are going to hold that up as one of the turning point works for independent publishing demonstrating how, quality wise, it could compete with traditionally published works. At its heart, Nick’s book is a “journey story” of self-discovery and adventure, like its namesake, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I’d also call out King’s The Stand or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain is also an author-hero of mine) as examples of that kind of story. Combine that journey/adventure-of-self-discovery model with the psychological grotesquery in Poe’s tales and the “normal guy next door thrown into a horrific situation” of King, and I think that pretty well defines my approach in TSS.

WS: What’s it been like being a part of the initial AW team?

CP: Awesome! I’d also make this point more generally about the indie-publishing community, but it’s certainly true of AW—we aren’t just a bunch of authors working on a common project. We’re a team—and here’s a quick example. When I was trying to figure out how the Serenity Virus would work, I did what all writers do these days—I Googled. But I couldn’t make heads or tails of some of the research—it’s complex stuff! Then I became Facebook friends with E.E. Giorgi and, within a week, found out she does HIV research. Wow! A real-live scientist! So, via Facebook, I reached out to her (she didn’t really know me from Adam) to help me figure out how Serenity might work, if it were real. She reached right back and was very generous with her time and expertise in doing that.

That’s very indicative of how everyone has worked together in AW. I do the same for the other authors, when they ask. I have over 20 years’ professional editing experience, so while AW has its own awesome in-house editor, Ellen Campbell, she doesn’t have time to answer every grammatical question that pops up. So if someone reaches out for that, I do the best I can for them. AW has been (and continues to be) a wonderful example of—as Nick calls it—a Community Created Bookverse, where authors, graphic designers, marketing experts, and all-around good people come together to help lift one another up and produce excellent works of speculative fiction. I’m honored and damned lucky to be a part of this group. I will now lead you in a chorus of Kumbaya 😉

WS: How about that M.S. Corley cover?

CP: Yeah, how about that!? Mike did a great job of individualizing each cover for the 5 launch books but making them obvious members of a family of AW works. Working with him was awesome. He asked for ideas for important characters/stuff to include, then gave me a sketch (which was pretty much on target). Then we refined the sketch together, and he added color and finalized it. It was seamless, painless, and he was very open to my suggestions as the writer. I recommend Mike very highly. A great guy and a very talented artist!

WS: Any hints on your next book?

CP: I’m actually working on two short stories at the moment—one for David Gatewood’s The Tinfoil Tales, one for Sam Peralta’s Dragon Chronicles—both due around March 1. I’ve outlined my third B Company tale, Columbia, which continues the story begun in Gettysburg and Susquehanna. Writing that will take me through March. After that, we’ll see. I have a futuristic/sci-fi/dystopian story idea about an over-the-hill mob enforcer who becomes the target of his own employer, and I’m anxious to pursue that. And I have a couple of what I think are unique ideas for short story anthologies I’d like to helm. Plus, hopefully TSS will be successful, and Michael and Nick will be knocking on my door to write the sequel. 😉 The immediate future is packed with projects, and that’s a good problem to have.

WS: Last thing…besides your book, what is your favorite AW book?

CP: Oh, besides mine? 😉 I’ll be honest, I’ve only read (to date) The Red King, Reversal, and Immunity. ALL of them are excellent. It’s like asking me: Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, or Bernard Cornwell—which is the better author? Well, they’re all great…but different. And that’s what I’d say about the AW novels. We all have different styles and different approaches to our stories, but each has its strengths and “great moments.” So, I’d say, read ’em for yourself…and you make the call.

Author Interview – Jennifer Ellis

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Jennifer Ellis is one of five authors with books releasing next week under the “Apocalypse Weird” banner. The series started out with The Red King by Nick Cole and is spreading like a firebomb with the next books in the series, which include entries by Ellis, Michael Bunker, Chris Pourteau, E.E. Giorgi, and Cole himself with the follow-up to Red King. After reading Ellis’ book Reversal, I knew I wanted to interview her on my blog. The novel is a great read, in or out of the AW series. It reads a lot like a Clive Cussler novel with bits of Dean Koontz mixed in for good measure. And while you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, check out that M.S. Corley cover as well. Wicked.

Oh…and there may be a few spoilers, so consider yourself warned in advance.


WS: Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Why don’t you start with a short background about who Jennifer Ellis is and your career thus far.

JE: Well, I’m a bit of an enigma, even to myself. I started off as a serious academic and have a PhD in Geography, but quickly decided academia was not for me. I always wanted to be a writer and I could not see how a career teaching at a university and being forced to publish or perish could fit with my writing aspirations. I’m also a bit of a lone wolf. I like working on short-term projects, over which I have significant control, on my own, preferably in my house, in my pajamas, with the option to sneak out for a skate ski in the afternoon. So for the past sixteen years, I’ve worked as an independent consultant doing research, coordinating projects, and writing reports for multiple clients in the fields of sustainability and climate change. I started writing fiction seriously in 2007, and after having an agent and trying the traditional route for several years, published my first novel , A Pair of Docks, in 2013, which is a middle-grade science fiction fantasy. I have published two more since then—the second in my middle grade series, called A Quill Ladder, and a dystopian action adventure novel for adults, called In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation. Reversal will be my fourth novel. I also have published two short stories in anthologies—Synchronic and Tales from Pennsylvania.

My writing career thus far has been pretty fun, and I’m so glad I decided to go indie. I have had lots of amazing breaks and met lots of fantastic people. I’m still very much at the beginning of my career, but plan to ramp things up significantly in the coming year. I had just started two pretty major and intense consulting contracts in December 2013, which left very little time for writing over the past year. Those two projects will be done in March, and I’m really looking forward to focusing more on writing.

Reversal_FT_FINALWS: How did your involvement in AW come about?

JE: I had met Nick Cole and Michael Bunker through my involvement in Synchronic, which I was invited to join by my editor, David Gatewood, and got to know them a bit through the Facebook Launch Party and subsequent Facebook interactions. You know Michael and Nick—never a dull Facebook moment when they are around, beards and all. It’s sort of like working with Iceman and Maverick. And more importantly, they are both seriously great writers. Then I worked with them both in the Tales From Pennsylvania anthology. They asked me to join the AW crew and after doing some quick math in terms of whether I could generate the required word count to produce a complete novel by December, I gave them a resounding yes, and have been thrilled to be along for the ride ever since.

WS: What inspired your story Reversal?

JE: Well, I am Canadian, so I wanted to do something with a bit of a Canadian and snowy spin. I also have friends who have done Arctic research and I thought the Ellesmere Island setting offered a lot of scope to do something a bit different than what the others were doing. Also, since I do have a background in climate change and geography, I wanted to take more of a geomorphological and environmental approach to the apocalypse with pole reversal, solar flares, super volcanoes and methane-venting craters. I’ve always been interested in the different theories of mass extinction and what from an environmental perspective might finally do us in.

WS: One aspect I was impressed with was the authenticity. Do you have a background in Arctic research?

JE: Thanks so much. No, I don’t have a background in Arctic research. But I did hang out with people who did do northern research in grad school and heard a lot of their stories, mostly about not being able to shower for 45 days. I also spend a lot of time in a snowy climate, as I live in a ski town. We have bears in town and our yard routinely. Regular black bears of course, but I am accustomed to thinking about bears every time I go out for a run in the summer. I also did a research paper on penguins in university, and when I started writing Reversal, I had just finished reading a book about Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic. Pulling the rest together was just pure straight research, which I am pretty used to doing.

WS: What’s it been being a part of the initial AW team?

JE: The best! They are such a great group and have been fantastic to work with. It has also been super exciting to be part of something that is such a revolution in publishing. But it has also been a bit nerve-wracking because of course I wanted to make sure my novel measured up to Nick’s and Michael’s and the other two launch books by Chris Pourteau and E.E. Giorgi.

WS: How about that Corley cover?

JE; I love it. He is a pro and totally worked with me to develop the elements that I wanted to include. It was great fun to be able to imagine what my characters looked like and how I saw the various settings and be able to send him links and have him just produce them with his pencil. That is true talent.

WS: Any hints on your next book?

JE: My next Apocalypse Weird book will be called Undercurrent. Sasha will carry on to the Falkland Islands in search of Murphy and Soren, and then back to the Arctic to retrieve the green folder with the mysterious coordinates with the help of Gregor, who has uncovered some information regarding the polar bear tags. They will encounter more than they bargained for, and discover that all magnetic roads lead to Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, the Deccan Traps in India, Parhump, Nevada and the year 1974. That is of course, assuming I get to write it, because that is not a given in the Apocalypse Weird world, as readers have to connect with my writing and characters, so if you want more Polar Wyrd, make sure you leave a review for Reversal.

WS: One last thing…exploding penguins???

JE: It seemed appropriately apocalyptic. I do feel a bit bad about the penguins. No real penguins were harmed in the writing of Reversal, I swear. I might have to have the penguins take over the Antarctic research station in Undercurrent to make up for it.


Seriously — if you love a good thriller, Jennifer Ellis’ Reversal might be right up your alley. A bit sci-fi, a bit mystery, a bit supernatural. All together a great read. It is just one of the five Apocalypse Weird books releasing on February 23.

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.