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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Anthology Awesomeness!

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Whoa…time got away from me and I forgot to update you guys over here. In the span of one week in the beginning of 2015, I have two stories in two separate anthologies to tell you about. Let’s start with The Powers That Be.

Cover3Back in early 2014, I was privileged to be in my first anthology — WOOL Gathering. All the stories were centered around Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe and were penned by authors who had all previously written WOOL stories. It was a fantastic collection that I will forever be proud of. One of the best parts is that all the proceeds will go towards the National Novel Writing Month Young Authors program.

So, the authors of LOOW (the League of Original Woolwriters or perhaps the Loofah of Obstinate Wetness) have brought forth another charity anthology — The Powers That Be. It’s already been for sale for a few days and been holding steady on the Kindle Science Fiction Anthology sales charts. Nine stories, all centered around superpowers. Authors are: Ann Christy, WJ Davies, Samuel Peralta, Logan Thomas Snyder, Carol Davis, Thomas Robins, David Adams, Paul K. Swardstrom, and myself. And, I was able to cajole Ernie Lindsey into penning a wonderful Foreword to the book. All great stories, confirmed by the outstanding reviews we’ve received so far.

My story is called “To Sacrifice A King,” and deals with the oft-overlooked role of superhero sidekick. A touch of humor, a smattering of pop culture superhero references, and a question: do powers really make a hero?

For a limited time, just 99 cents and all proceeds for this book will go towards the Sickle Cell Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. The price will go up soon, so get your copy before it’s too late.

alien chrThe next book to tell you about is The Alien Chronicles. Throughout the back half of 2014, I watched a few independent anthologies get published — From the Indie Side, Synchronic, The Robot Chronicles & The Telepath Chronicles. After reading the first three and absolutely loving The Robot Chronicles (enough for it to make my top 18 list of 2014), I approached Samuel Peralta about joining in a future installment. He looked over my meager qualifications and invited me to join The Alien Chronicles.

To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. But I was also incredibly nervous. These anthologies are showcasing some amazing independent publishing talent and I was going to put my stuff up against theirs and say it’s on the same level. I worked hard to put out the best story I could — ultimately drawing back to my roots visiting my grandmother’s farm growing up. My story is called “Uncle Allen,” and has about the same vibe of my short story Ant Apocalypse.

But check out the list of authors joining me: Hugh Freakin’ Howey, B.V. Larson, Jennifer Foehner Wells (her Fluency was on my Top 18 List, too!), Daniel Arenson, Blair Babylon, Annie Bellet, Peter Cawdron (I love that dude), my good friend and writer WJ Davies, Patrice Fitzgerald, Autumn Kalquist, Moira Katson, Samuel Peralta, Geoffrey Wakeling, and Nicholas Wilson. Foreword by my pal Stefan Bolz. Holy Smokes. Edited by the incredible David Gatewood with a cover by the incomparable Jason Gurley and you have about a perfect package. People are going to love this book.

It’s up for pre-order right now and will officially be for sale on Friday, so pick up your copy and get to reading. Between these two books, you can read 24 stories for less than the cost of a Value Meal at McDonald’s. Amazing value for some amazing stories.

Book Review – Binary Cycle: Skyward

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I owe a lot to W.J. Davies. He may not even know it, but he was a huge inspiration when I first started writing last year. Of course, I’ve well-documented my reliance on Hugh Howey and his blog in the early part of 2013 and it was really Hugh’s story that encouraged me to get started with my career in self-publishing. But, it was a blog post by Howey about Davies in January 2013 that propelled me on the course I find myself now.

I had been writing my novel, Dead Sleep, for a couple weeks already and had made good progress when I saw Hugh tell about Davies’ WOOL fanfiction story, The Runner. Being a fan of WOOL, I grabbed the Kindle copy and devoured it. I determined pretty soon afterwards that when/if I finished my novel, a WOOL story would be the next thing I wrote as a tribute to Hugh Howey. I think Davies’ connection to my journey is clear from there, but then when I was actively writing The Veil, I got to know Davies on Twitter and found his existing knowledge of publishing and the burgeoning WOOL Universe to be a boon. He was generous and friendly when he could have blown me off as an unknown author.

(Full disclosure: both Davies and I have stories in the charity anthology, WOOL Gathering.)

WJDavies_Disruption_web-187x300But it isn’t just WOOL fanfiction that has contributed to Davies’ young writing career. His sci-fi series, Binary Cycle, recently wrapped up with a action-packed, killer ending in BC: Skyward.

I loved the first installment in Davies’ original series, named Binary Cycle: Disruption. Allow me to quote myself from my Amazon review of it:

When I was a child, I devoured Isaac Asimov’s books — especially his Robot and Foundation books, which he ended up combining near the end of his life. As I read WJ Davies’ Binary Cycle: Disruption, I found myself going back to those days in junior high and high school, lying on my bed and dreaming of a world different than our own, yet similar in many ways.
The world Davies has dreamed up – Taran – is on the brink of disaster. A colony of a dying Earth, it has been left to itself since its founding and planetary forces are threatening its very existence. But, that’s just the foundation for the story as Davies interweaves characters through various places on the planet as these disruptions are having different effects — biological, physical, political — and the characters are all wonderfully crafted to the delight of this reader.
I really found myself identifying with the character Jonathas as he navigated a disaster area in search of his girlfriend and the new-found technology recently implanted into his bloodstream.
The book ends on a doozy of a note and I am really looking forward to the next installment in this series from Davies.

That was July of last year. If there was anything that Davies series suffered from, it was time. He didn’t get Part 2, Revelations, published until early March. He learned his lesson, though, and recently released the conclusion, Skyward, to his series in late May.

BCS-187x300Revelations continued the stories of the main characters Davies set up in the first part, but Jonathas’ story was noticeably cut short. Not so in the third installment as Jonathas was arguably the main character and hero of the entire series by the time the end of the story came.

The four main characters — Jonathas, Cassidy, Skyia, and Reggie — are all brought together as their storylines converged in Skyward with all having a part to play in saving the planet Taran. Again, I really identified with Jonathas, but Davies did a great job developing all the characters so when all their commonalities were laid bare, the reader really feels connected and cares about the outcome of the planet. While the second part of the series is titled Revelations, we get a ton of new revelations in this book, especially early on as we try to put all the pieces in place in the journey to save the planet.

The action is taken to a new level and after the early revelations in the book, Davies pushes his characters physically and emotionally, so much that the reader is left panting by the end of the book. In the end, Davies wraps it all nicely, but leaves room for additional tales to be told from Taran, which I would definitely welcome. Binary Cycle proved that W.J. Davies can write outside of the silo and is someone to pay attention to in this new indie publishing world.

Creativity Breeds Creativity

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

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

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

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

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*Note: Not Hugh Howey

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

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

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Proof: My first novel.

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

But, I wasn’t done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE (That’s right — 5!) Book Reviews

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So, this Labor Day weekend, I didn’t have a lot required of me as I lounged around my in-laws’ home, so I was able to get some books and short stories polished off my TBR Pile (this was before I wrote my list last night). I actually read 6 books, but one isn’t out yet, so I’ll write that one up separately later this week when it is released. Each book is a link to its page on Amazon and I’ve included part of my reviews for each one. Here we go:

The Watcher – WJ Davies

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“I suppose if I was going to sum up the three parts of Davies’ Submerged Series, I would say “Hope Carries On.” In spite of all the darkness present in the silo and the secrets harbored by the innocent and guilty alike, hope carries them through.”

 

Desperate To Escape: Part 1 – Thomas Robins

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“Thomas Robins’ first work outside Hugh Howey’s World of WOOL takes us on a journey into space and a journey from the inner city of Chicago to the International Space Station as our main character, Ineeka, is literally desperate to escape the life she was destined for on earth for the journey of a lifetime in space.”

 

Little Green Men – Peter Cawdron

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“I’m a sucker for science fiction in space, especially first contact-type tales, so I was in for a treat with Little Green Men as Mr. Cawdron takes the reader on a fantastic ride from the get-go. …Cawdron tells a wonderful story with head-fakes and misdirections, all leading to a terrific conclusion”

 

The Disappeared: Part 1 – Logan Thomas Snyder

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“The more and more I read of the continued Silo stories beyond what Hugh Howey originally wrote, I keep expecting a drop-off in terms of quality. What I have found, however, is the opposite. Howey’s legion of fan writers are so devoted to the author and the source material that they sacrifice nothing when they publish their own tales of silo life. The same is true of Mr. Snyder. The story starts slowly as we are introduced to the characters, but by the end, the pace is moving at a swift pace that keeps the reader wanting more…especially when the story ends.”

 

Amber – John Gregory Hancock

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“As a writer, I was enthralled with what Hancock did — made me think. I thought about the implications of the situation he proposed — what really is our relationship with God? Is God benevolent really and how and why is He required to answer our prayers. I thought Mr. Hancock did great with the story, keeping it short, but long enough to put our minds to work.”

 

…and there you go. It was a great weekend for reading, but I did manage to get some significant writing in as well. Hopefully I’ll have an announcement on a new short story/novella in the next few weeks.