Book Review — Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

Standard

7thson

Today I’m reviewing Hank Garner’s latest novel, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I’m a big Hank Garner fan, but not just because of his writing. He has definitely been emerging as a talent and its hard to deny it when people like Nick Cole rave about his writing. But, lately I’ve been taken so much by his Author Stories Podcast. Hank has been running his podcast for a little over a year now, putting out a weekly interview with an author. Many of the authors are indie up and comers, but lately he’s had HUGE interviews with Andy Weir (The Martian), Matthew Mather (Nomad), and Hugh Howey (WOOL). I love listening to these things and I get a lot of encouragement and motivation from them each week.

But, when you come back from his podcast page, check out his latest book. Here is my Amazon review:

When I read Hank Garner’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, I kept loving it, seeing Garner’s growth as an author with a fantastically creative novel. The first thing I read of Garner’s was Mulligan, and while it was good, there were a few pacing issues that sometimes could keep the reader distant from the action. In Seventh Son, Garner has amped up the action and keeps his characters moving with a clear motive and momentum throughout the book. Even the characters are not always who we think they are and their actions go against the grain at times, adding to the intrigue.

I remember first hearing about Garner’s book when it was tied to the Apocalypse Weird series, but somewhere along the way, Garner separated it from that universe. It is clear Garner’s book can stand on its own, with a full realized backstory going back thousands of years to set up the action that takes place simultaneously in 1865 as well as the present day.

Our main protagonist, Oliver, is the title character who is tasked with being the secret keeper for his family’s legacy. The main problem is that the life he was destined for arrives when he least expects it and the secrets he protects are even a secret to him. As he tries to figure out what he is meant for, and who is actually is, the reader is taken on a great ride of ancient sacrifices, futuristic travelers, and secret organizations.

I loved Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and look forward to the next book from Mr. Garner.

Chronicles Week! (with Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway!)

Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still here? 

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

Book Review – Hugh Howey Lives

Standard

hh livesWhat a beautiful tribute, not only to the namesake author Hugh Howey, but also to the art of writing. Daniel Arthur Smith has written a wonderful book that explores a future where writing and art are not only rare, but obsolete. In that future, we see life exist with books written by machines, but a few books may be written by Howey, who has become a legend at this point.

There are moments in this book, where I could place myself exactly in Kay’s shoes. Kay and Tia are on a boat, searching for the elusive Mr. Howey, even though it’s set 160 years from today, when Howey would be roughly 200 years old. As the title of the book implies, yes, Hugh Howey Lives, but of course there is so much more than that.

Early on in the book, Kay, an aspiring author, is talking to Tia about Howey, and seemingly every other word out of her mouth is about the reclusive author. As a indie author myself, I can sympathize. I have written fiction set in Howey’s WOOL Universe, and have spent one of my birthdays reading one of Howey’s books that had been released that day. I have worn off the ears of loved ones with my praise and admiration of Howey as a writer and a source of inspiration for independent publishing. At one point, I have been Kay, and my wife was Tia, putting up with me, but not always understanding. To read the first half of this book is understand the mid of a writer and is a cast metaphor for how indie writers have put Howey on a pedestal over the past few years.

Smith could have ended the story there, but takes it in a different direction. When I was younger, I remember a short story by Isaac Asimov where a man’s computer slowly learns to be his own word processor, and eventually, writes just like him. That’s a huge part of this story, which is actually somewhat inspired by a blog posting by Howey last year (hence the tribute). What happens when computers write all the stories? The wave of originality from a human becomes all the more important.

I loved this story and look forward to more from Smith. Well done. On behalf of indie authors, thank you.

Author Interview: Ann Christy

Standard

ann christy mugOn Wednesday my friend Ann Christy releases her novel Strikers. She’s written a few short stories recently in Synchronic and the upcoming The Robot Chronicles, but Strikers is her first full work published outside of Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe. I’ll have my review up on Wednesday, but I really enjoyed it. The cover itself will sell a lot of books, but the story itself is well worth it.

In anticipation of the release of Strikers, I decided a small interview with Ann would be great as an introduction to the book and a little bit about what Ann is going to be working on next.


 

Where did the idea for Strikers come from?

I’m a dystopia fan and a huge fan of good YA fiction. But one of the problems with a lot of dystopian fiction is that it is hard to believe it would ever occur like that. Occasionally, the science is really…*really*…bad, as well. What I wanted to do was create a dystopia where the seeds of that dystopia already exist (if not in practice, then in popular thought). Then I wanted to take it out to the point where the good intentions had become so corrupted it was a dystopia. That is what Strikers is and I think it worked. The readers will tell me if it did or not, though. They are the ultimate deciders of that.

strikersWhat’s different about writing for Young Adult as opposed to Adult?

Young Adult is a lot like regular Adult fiction. It’s all in the focus and the newness of experience. Things we tend to take for granted as we get older…like the thrill of sitting close to someone we like or the frightening nature of being on our own for the first time…are still vivid in the YA world and need to be accounted for. I want readers to feel all the thrills and chills they deserve in a book.

For me, it was difficult to write YA. Far more than standard adult fiction. I couldn’t just resort to a curse word or anything like that. I *had* to find the correct way to express what needed expressing. In the end, I think it’s a much better book for having worked that hard to do it right.

Also, I absolutely adore the characters. If I were anywhere between 14 and 18, I would be scheming for a way to go out with Jovan. No question. I like them all, though. And the romance aspects of this story made me smile. I’m not a romance writer in general, but this part of the story turned out to be the most difficult and the most rewarding aspect of it.

This is the first trip out of the silo for you — how is going?

Well, it’s not truly the first trip out of the silo. It’s just the first full length novel out of the silo that I’ve published. I’ve got two other nearly complete novels…about 180,000 words worth…that I just haven’t finished yet. And there are two (or three?) non-silo stories in anthologies out there.

But, you’re right that this is the first non-silo novel I’ve felt ready to put out into the world. It’s scary and I’m keeping my coveralls close by so that I can run back into the decon station at a moment’s notice.

You’ve been included in a few recent short story anthologies as well. What has that experience been like?

My first thought after being asked for the Synchronic anthology was…”Uh, why are they asking me? Aren’t these people all famous?” For the second one, I felt a little less weird, but still completely intimidated. After all, The Robot Chronicles will also feature Hugh Howey in it!

Short story creation is actually really hard work. Essentially, you have to go to all the same work to create a new world you would in a book, but then tell the story in about 1/12th to 1/15th of the length. It’s like walking a high wire. I love it though! It’s the kind of challenge I enjoy. I’m thinking that I’ll probably do more of those.

What’s next on the docket?

After Strikers is released on the 16th of July, I’ll mostly be useless for a little while because I’ll be watching for reviews and seeing if people like it. I have another story for yet another anthology to create…no, make that two.

You and I will be together again in a book, don’t forget. Another LOOW anthology about superpowers. I’m excited about that one!

I’m already working on book two of the Strikers series, but readers should not worry about cliffhangers. I hate cliffhangers. Strikers is a complete novel. That world is a big world though and there is a lot to explore in it.

Also on the back burner, getting simmered to soak up all the flavor, is a series of medium length works I’m calling Good News Gone Bad. Each will be a stand alone story/novella that turns what might have been a good news story into something very dark, dystopic or apocalyptic instead. The first one is called, Young Blood. It’s my dark telling of the recent discovery that GDF11, something found only in young blood, reverses many of the effects of aging on brains in older people. Oh…yes…you can see the dark future there, can’t you?


 

(Full disclosure: Ann and I are both members of LOOW, a writing group that includes writers who have all published in Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe. Her first Silo 49 book was coincidentally published the same day I published my Silo Saga book The Veil.)

Book Review – Dead in the Water

Standard

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.

Paperbacks…dead? (Also a giveaway inside!)

Standard

SPOILER ALERT — 100th Blog Post!

(Giveaways to follow in comments)


IMG_20140701_220500

After I opened my latest package from Amazon, I decided to take a picture at a lot of the books I’ve stocked my shelves with over the past year since I started as an indie author. I’ve definitely added to it thanks to my wallet, but I’ve been lucky enough to have been the recipient of fellow author’s good graces.

Here’s the thing — none of the books pictured are traditionally published. From Hugh Howey’s last two novels, Peter Cawdron, Jason Gurley, John Gregory Hancock, Michael Bunker, an outstanding Indie collection edited by David Gatewood, Paul Kupperberg, and myself — all are what you might call independently published. (There are a few others I have that aren’t pictured for whatever reason.)

With the arguments surrounding indie vs. traditional publishing, Amazon vs. The Big 5, digital vs. paperback, we all line up a choose a side. I would argue that we can have both. Indie can coexist with traditionally published books. Amazon and the Big 5 can get along and all can make a profit (unlikely, but I’m a dreamer), and we can have paperback and digital books. The more I got into my Kindle and reading books on various digital devices, the more I wanted to own some of these books in paperback form. I don’t regret it — what happens when the zombie apocalypse happens and the Internet goes dark? I’ll still have my copy of Jason Gurley’s Eleanor to keep me company as I trek across America under dark and grim skies.

I almost feel inadequate when I put my own books in the same picture as some of the others here, but that’s the beauty of indie publishing. My books are viewed on the same playing field as Gurley, Bunker, and even Howey — even Patterson, King, and Koontz on occasion.

Are paperbacks dead? Not for me. I certainly scour and search for books on my Kindle on an almost daily basis, but when I want a physical copy of a book, I don’t hesitate to add it to my collection. I don’t think I’m alone here, either. It is a special time in publishing and most readers are recognizing this as well. Go out and read!


 

Still here?

Good — in honor of my 100th blog post, I want to give a few books away. I’ll give away a set of Dead Sleep/Dead Sight and a copy of Baking With Swords as well. That is two (2) winners — one for the DS1/DS2 books and one will get the copy of BWS.

What do you need to do to win? Tell me what is the best book you’ve read in 2014 and whether it was physical or digital. That’s it. I’ll keep this open for a week (until July 8) and then choose a winner randomly then. (Sorry — winners will be chosen from U.S. only)

Book Review – Binary Cycle: Skyward

Standard

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.

A Year in this Crazy Adventure We Call Publishing

Standard

One year ago, I hit publish on a short story, thereby earning myself the title, “Published Author.”

Perfect Game cover (1548x2400)That short story, Perfect Game, has had very impressive staying power, especially considering I don’t promote it at all. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to share the ups and downs of the past year and the experiences I’ve had. This may get a bit lengthy — I’m forewarning you.

May 24, 2013 — Perfect Game is published. It was originally intended to be an experiment before I published Dead Sleep just weeks later. It was one of those stories that gets written when you are stalling other projects and was written and edited in just three days’ time. I worked up my own cover, using a picture I took, and tinkering with it in Picasa. In just a week, it sold remarkably well, but I had a bevy of family and friends who wanted to show a little support on Facebook, so that’s what I chalk those initial numbers to.

July 1, 2013 — Dead Sleep is published. As much as Perfect Game was just an experiment, this was a life-long ambition to finally write and publish my own novel. It was really a perfect storm of conditions that set this up: I finally had just one 40-hour-a-week job, I was reading and following Hugh Howey’s journey, and an idea came to me at just the right time. This first edition of Dead Sleep was riddled with problems, some of which I didn’t find out about for months. It really taught me a lot — to really be meticulous when it comes to your novel. Double, triple, quadruple check everything before you publish. I was thrilled to just have it for sale, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t learn from the experience.

Veil_Part1July 20, 2013 — The Veil is published. A Silo Saga story, I believe it was one of the first few Silo stories in Kindle Worlds that hadn’t already been published in the Kindle store. After drawing inspiration from Hugh Howey, I really wanted to pay homage to the author who showed me I could become a published author on my own terms. To this day, The Veil is my best-selling title on Kindle.

From there, it was a little while until I published anything else. I worked on a few things and then school started back up in early August, pushing any new titles back until I got the new semester under my belt. One of the stories I worked on was The Sheriff’s Son, which was recently published in WOOL Gathering. The charity anthology was over a half-year in the waiting from when I wrote my story to its publication, but well-worth it. More on this later…

AntApoc_EbookCover (640x1024)September 15, 2013 — Ant Apocalypse is released. Over the summer, I saw a humorous tweet from fellow author Lyn Perry where he wondered about the effectiveness of ant spray that killed them for “up to 7 days,” or something like that. On a whim, I replied “ANT APOCALYPSE,” and he told me to write it. I know he was joking, but I took it as a personal challenge. Horror isn’t really my thing, so I tried to take it on in B-movie fashion and think it paid off. Recently, AA became my first audiobook when narrator Sean Lenhart recorded the book. I’ll tell you — the book really takes the creepiness to another level when you hear it voiced.

Veil_Part2October 29, 2013 — Behind The Veil is published in the Kindle Worlds store. A sequel to The Veil, it is told from the perspective of the villain from The Veil. I also set another small challenge for myself in the process. I knew the story I wanted to tell wasn’t really long, so I made it a goal to tell the story of BTV in less than 10,000 words (thereby making it 99 cents in the Kindle Worlds store). As of this blog posting, I still have plans to write the third and last part of the series, Beyond The Veil. It will be on my summer writing list, I promise.

November through February — Nothing published, but that doesn’t mean nothing gained. I knew heading into November that it was also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I planned and made it my goal to write Dead Sight during the month. I did complete over 50,000 words of the novel in November, but didn’t quite finish. December brought first semester exams, so I put off finishing until later and the final 20 percent of the novel was completed in January. Then came revising and editing, until…

Dead Sight ebookFebruary 23, 2014 — Dead Sight is published. Book 2 in my planned trilogy, it picks up a couple weeks after Dead Sleep leaves off. If Dead Sleep was a personal story for me, Dead Sight was a family story. Not sure what that means for the third book in the series, but these books will always have a lot of meaning for me. I know I’m doing something right because the sales for Dead Sight in the first month and a half equaled the sales for its predecessor in about four months’ time. The sales for the first book in the series have continued to sell better since I published the sequel as well and it has really given me incentive to complete the series. (Another summer project!)

Woolgathering_Cover-3 (1)March 13, 2014 — Finally, WOOL Gathering is published. I actually got involved with the anthology a couple months after its inception, but it took a while before we got all our ducks in a row. I wrote The Sheriff’s Son set in Hugh Howey’s Silo Universe back in August 2013, but it didn’t see the light of day for about seven months. But I am super-proud of this project, being next to stories from my fellow WOOL authors W.J. Davies, Ann Christy, Carol Davis, Lyn Perry, Fred Shernoff, Thomas Robins, Logan Thomas Snyder, and Dave Adams. A lot of great stuff in there and all the proceeds are going to the NaNoWriMo Young Author program. I guess I lied earlier — this is my best-selling work, but since so many other authors are involved, I don’t chalk it all up to me.

So what’s next? 

Concept 3Within a few days, my next project, Baking With Swords should be complete and for sale in the Kindle store. I’ll have a lot more to write about this in other blog posts, but this is a collaboration between me, my brother Paul, and my sister Betsy. After everything I’ve done over the past year, they each unearthed their long-dormant writing abilities and we decided to pool our talents for this collection. The cover is terrific and I’m really looking forward to people reading all the stories, not just mine (A Whimper, which I previewed earlier this year.)

I’ve also written my next short story, tentatively titled True Confessions of a Professional Sidekick, which may go in another anthology with my WOOL friends, and may not. We’ll just have to see. I had a lot of fun writing the story, but once again, it’ll be a few months before most people get a chance to read it.

Then — Dead Search, the final installment in the adventures of Jack and Kristina. I’ve written the first chapter, approximately 3% of the book. Just 97% to go.

This past year has been a trip. Writing and putting myself out there was scary. Hitting publish and waiting for people to read it is like hitting the top of a hill on a roller coaster. The seat is gone for a moment and you aren’t sure how bad or good it’s going to be.

My sales haven’t been life-changing. I’m still going to keep my job as a high school social studies teacher, but this is pretty cool:

  • I’ve sold over 1,200 copies of my books on Kindle in the last year.
  • I’ve sold about 100 copies of my two novels in paperback form as well.
  • Just over 50 people have checked out my books through the Kindle Lending Library Program.
  • I’ve also given away just over 6,500 copies of my books during the same time period.
  • Over 1,000 copies of WOOL Gathering have been sold since its launch.

That means that by now, over 9,000 copies of books that include words I actually wrote are out there on someone’s Kindle, Kindle app, or bookshelf. For that, I’m honored. Even more incredibly, my books have a 4.5 combined average with 113 total reviews on Amazon.com.

I’ve met some great authors and readers throughout the past year and have been encouraged throughout the way. It hasn’t all been an upwards trajectory (you can’t help but think you are doing something wrong when your sales go from 250 one month to about 100 the next and you’ve released a new story.) Staying focused on the next book has helped, as well as the supportive authors I’ve encountered along the way (you know who you are!)

Along the way I also started this blog back in August and have loved entertaining you and providing reviews of my favorite books as well. Thanks for everything and stay tuned — the best is yet to come!

 

A Few Items…

Standard

Just a few things to let you know about today: 

— The audiobook of Ant Apocalypse is done! My narrator, Sean Lenhart, did a fantastic job evoking the comedic horror of my short story. I really enjoyed listening to it (when I wasn’t utterly creeped out by the words I, myself, wrote). It is on sale at Amazon.com with a link for iTunes coming later. To celebrate, I’ve marked the Kindle version of the story down to FREE today only. That’s right — FREEEEEE!! ANTS!!! Then download the audiobook and enjoy it together!

— My book Dead Sleep has been a Countdown Deal this week. Still just 99 cents through the weekend for U.S. Amazon customers. (I’ll take care of the UK readers later — I promise!) If you never picked this up, now would be a great time. A total of 19 reviews on Amazon and 16 of those are 5-star. 

— The next book in the trilogy, Dead Sight, is now a Countdown Deal, beginning today! You can pick up both full-length novels for less than 2 bucks for a couple days! I wrote the bulk of this book in November, 2013 (NaNoWriMo) and it has 10 reviews — all with a five-star rating. People are loving it and you can get it super-cheap right now!

— I’m done bragging on myself, but I can’t leave this without mentioning my buddy Logan Thomas Snyder also has a Countdown Deal of his WOOL series The Disappeared right now for just 99 cents. Great stuff. 

 

Desperate to Escape, Part 3

Aside

DESPERATE_Part3Thomas Robins published the first entry into his Desperate to Escape series in September of last year and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s exciting, really — getting to read some great science fiction, all while seeing a brand-new author develop and bloom right before you. (Full Disclosure: Thomas and I are both in the WOOL fanfic charity anthology WOOL Gathering and his story “Eight” is my favorite of the bunch.)

Today we are blessed with Part 3 in Robins’ ambitious tale, ready for download on Kindle. I was lucky enough to be an early reader of DTE3, and I have to say: Robins steps up the story to another level I didn’t know he had in him.

So what’s the story with DTE?

Basically, DTE tells the story of a young woman named Ineeka from inner-city Chicago. As a reader, we see two stories told in parallel tracks — one is Ineeka’s quest to escape from Chicago, from her past, from her nature, from what could have been her destiny. The alternate story is of Ineeka as an astronaut, taking a passenger to the International Space Station and the unexpected adventure that follows in orbit of Earth. Ineeka was so desperate to escape her life on Earth, that she wound up leaving the planet entirely.

From there Robins does an exceptional job following Ineeka as she battles her figurative demons back on Earth and the literal enemies she has once she reaches the ISS. With each new addition to the story, Robins amps up the drama and the action as his skill as a writer continues to improve.

I think a lot of people can really relate to Ineeka’s situation. Her mistakes from her adolescence threaten to ground her from NASA before she even has a chance. She dreams of flying…away from Chicago and her life there. It would be easy for her to stay. It would be the well-worn path taken by so many young women, not just in the inner city, but all over this country. I see it myself in rural Illinois. Girls latch on to a guy. They don’t work as hard in school because they think they can just depend on Mr. Good Ol’ Boy the rest of their lives. (Maybe they can, maybe they can’t — that isn’t the point.) They mentally hit stop on their education and any dreams they may have had and slide into a sense of apathy. They stay within 15 miles of their high school most of their lives and by the time they reach middle age, they wonder what happened to their childhood hopes and dreams.

Ineeka is not that girl. She is strong and confident. Even with every obstacle and hurdle in her way, she manages to make her dreams come true. It may not come in the traditional way, but just as her name suggests, Ineeka is not the traditional girl. As Robins takes us from the peril the entire world is in at the end of Part 3, it will take that tenaciousness for Ineeka and the rest of the human race to survive Part 4.

Robins has gotten a lot of compliments on his portrayal of the Earthside story through Parts 1 and 2, but his spaceside story in Part 3 holds its own. I kept rushing through Ineeka’s Earth struggles to get back to her issues in space.

If you haven’t yet checked out Thomas Robins’ Desperate to Escape, here is Part 1, and Part 2, and finally, Part 3. All just 99 cents with Part 4 destined for your Kindle this summer. Get this book — you won’t regret it.