Reviews for Blink Are In!

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Blink has been out in the real world for about a week and a half, and the sales have been good, but the reviews have been even better. I seriously could have pulled lines from each of the reviews up on Amazon and Goodreads — all of them are so good. Allow me a moment of pride; Paul and I worked really hard on Blink and are hard at work on figuring out how to get Agent Smith and the Utility Company back on your Kindles. Here are a few quotes from some of the reviews up now on Amazon…


 

unnamed“The Swardstrom Brothers hit all the right notes in this tight little Super Science / Alternate Universes roller coaster. If the X-Files made you want more of the strange and mysterious government organizations battling not just with guns and smarts, but the occasional wit in the face of certain doom, then look no further. This is a great Friday Night read. A fun, fast, adventure where all is not as it seems.”

Nick Cole, author of Ctrl-Alt-Revolt

“…a book that I didn’t want to put down, even when life got in the way.”

Shay VanZwoll

“The story unfolds at a solid pace that always maintained my interest and when it hit a boiling point about mid-way through the novel, the pace became relentless and was extremely hard to put down.”

Chris Fried

“The Swardstrom brothers have co-crafted a sci-fi work of art. Together, they have written a novel that seamlessly transitions between protagonists (and worlds), never losing its brilliant voice, its sense of humor, its sense of the supernatural, its sense of adventure. This is an action packed tour de force that introduces a great cast of characters that I hope return again soon for a new adventure.”

Jonathan Ballagh, author of Stone & Iris

“This is a great book you won’t want to miss, it is like when you know you should go to bed but you just want to read one more chapter than just one more, than another and another, than the book is done and it is way past your bedtime…”

Trisha “Mindjacked” Perry

“The Swardstrom Brothers’ supernatural sci-fi world of Blink is a phenomenal meshing of classic pulp and contemporary Fringe. This is the beginning of something grand.”

Daniel Arthur Smith, author of Hugh Howey Lives

There is still time to get Blink for less than a buck — click on the link above to see what the reviewers are talking about!

Meet The Alt.Historians — Rysa Walker

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ALT-History-102-eBook (1)Another day, another introduction to an author for the upcoming anthology Alt.History 102. Today we hear a little from perhaps the most established of all the Alt.History writers — Rysa Walker.

If you aren’t familiar with Rysa, go check out her writing now. Seriously. Timebound was a phenomenal novel and she puts out some great work in science fiction, and specifically time travel. With her stomping about in the past so much, it makes sense that she gets a chance to change it up in Alt.History, which she does wonderfully in her story revolving around Lizzie Borden.

Alt.History 102 publishes on Sunday, January 31 and we’ve had a few other interviews already this week — me, Drew Avera & Asha Bardon, J.E. Mac, and Hank Garner & Therin Knite.

But now, it’s my privilege to introduce you to Rysa Walker…


 

Rysa Walker

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Give us a brief introduction to you. Who are you? What else have you written? What brings you to Alt.History 102?

I’m Rysa Walker, author of The CHRONOS Files series, which is time travel…but also, alternative history, since my characters do quite a bit of mucking around with the timeline. This is my second story in the Future Chronicles.  In my pre-writing life, I was a history professor, and I’ve always enjoyed the “What if…” questions the most, because there are so many aspects of history where a tiny change could have made a major difference.  And so much of the history we study is really “alt. history” anyway, because–as was the case in this story–the details that end up being accepted as “history” are often exaggerated or flat-out wrong.

What’s your story about? What gave you the idea for your story?

Simon Rand is one of the key characters in my CHRONOS Files books is Simon Rand. He’s a villain, but history junkies like me will probably find it hard to entirely hate Simon.  Yes, he alters the timeline a bit. And yes, he’s got a bit of blood on his hands. But hey–that’s his day job.  If he had his way, he’d toss all that aside and be a full-time time-tourist.

This is the second Simon story I’ve written, and there’s a third one planned for late spring. When I finished the final book in The CHRONOS Files, Time’s Divide, Simon was the character who just wouldn’t shut up and let me move on to The Delphi Project.  Both of these stories, and a third one that I plan to write this spring, show readers a side of Simon that wasn’t fully explored in the main books of the series.  And I think “Whack Job,” in particular, helps explain why Simon developed his taste for extreme time-tourism, where he lands right in the thick of the action.

If you could pick a previous Chronicles anthology that you could alter history to go back and be included in, which one would it be and why?

Hmm…tough call.  Probably Robot Chronicles or A.I. Chronicles.  I have a story idea that I think would have fit well in both of those.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

The first book in my new series, The Delphi Project, will be published by Skyscape in October. It lies somewhere in the nexus of the X-Files and X-Men.  Readers who enjoyed “Whack Job,” will probably like my CHRONOS novella, Simon Says: Tips for the Intrepid Time Traveler, which was published back in December on Kindle and which will be released on Audible in the next few days. Simon will also be featured in an upcoming graphic novel project that I’m working on.

 

An Introduction to Agent Smith

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Next month I’ll be releasing my new novel, co-written with my brother Paul. The novel revolves around a secret government organization called The Utility Company (think X-Files, Fringe) and the lead agent there named Agent Smith. I’ll have more about that book down the road, including a synopsis and cover reveal, but for now, I want to introduce you to Agent Smith.

A couple weeks ago, Paul said to me, “Hey, we should do an Agent Smith story for Christmas revolving around the Elf on a Shelf.” (or something…I really only half pay attention). I pretty much said, “eh” but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t shake it. I drafted the opening and then tagged Paul. He wrote some and then it was on. Within four days we had a legit story that we both loved. It’s a good introduction to the Utility Company and Agent Smith, and is a good old fashioned holiday yarn with at least twelve days of Christmas “Easter” Eggs.

Here’s the cover (click to go to it on Amazon):

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On a side note, you’ll notice an emblem in the star on top of the tree. It’s the logo for the Utility Company, which Adam Hall graciously allowed me to utilize for this short story cover. The cover for the full length novel, Blink, is a fantastic work by Adam Hall and I’ll unveil that in the next few weeks.

Until then, please check out Agent Smith’s Christmas Eve adventures at the Utility Company.

My Top 10 (Actually 12) Favorite Short Stories of 2015

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2015 is almost up, and you know what that means…

That’s right — excessive weight gain around the holidays!

Also Top 10 Lists!!

Last year I loved making my Top 10 books of the year (which ended up being around 17 or something), but this year I’m going to break down my lists into smaller categories. One of those will be the Top 10 (Actually 12) Short Stories I read in 2015.

Obviously not comprehensive, and not all were written in the past year, but all made a big impression on me. I’m terrible at telling you exactly which was THE BEST, so I’m just going to give them to you in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Fair warning — many of them are in the Future Chronicles anthologies since I’ve read each of them this year making them a significant reading source for me each time one was released.

A few caveats: A few stories may not have made the cut because I only took one per anthology, and I definitely left all of the parts of Hugh Howey’s Beacon 23 series off since they’ll make an appearance as a full novel on my best books of the year list.


Zero Hour by Eamon Ambrose

zeroRight off the bat, we get a revelation. Eamon has been well-known in the indie community for a few years as being a top reviewer and a big supporter of indie writers. That much talent wasn’t going to stay hidden behind his blog, though, and we were treated to the first of three (so far!), short stories by Eamon in August. The story could be written off, except that Eamon penned the story in the dreaded second-person perspective. You know — the same POV that you read all those Choose Your Own Adventure books in back in middle school. Eamon pulls it off with a flourish and is a fantastic new voice.

The Traveler by Stefan Bolz

tt chronI love how Stefan Bolz writes. Always interesting. Always compelling. Always positive. Even in The Traveler, which originally appeared in The Time Travel Chronicles, where bad things happen, there is an overall optimistic outlook. Bolz has the unique ability to take a dystopia and make it a place you want to be. In The Traveler, Bolz gives us a nuts and bolts (pun definitely intended) look at time travel as our protagonist builds a machine from scratch. The story is poignant and touching, and is one of a handful of phenomenal stories from that anthology.

Free Fall by Peter Cawdron

freefallPeter Cawdron is perhaps the best writer who you should be reading if you aren’t. He’s written stories about aliens, genetic engineering, time travel, and has most recently been focusing his time and talents on zombies and the monsters humanity creates. Free Fall is set in Cawdron’s zombie universe and is a fascinating take on the genre, putting an astronaut in space at the time of the z-pocalypse. What does he do? How does he react when a distress call comes to him from a little girl on earth? The tale is thrilling and captivating.

Tasty Dragon Meat by KJ Colt

dragonIn The Dragon Chronicles, one title took the title of the “Most Talked About,” and that was Tasty Dragon Meat. KJ Colt managed to tell a story that was funny, scary, and thrilling all at the same time. Who would imagine that ingesting dragon meat would do anything besides fill a starving man’s stomach? The idea that the addictive flesh of the dragon had hidden qualities was fun and inventive and earned Colt a spot on this list.

A Long Horizon by Harlow Fallon

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nThe Immortality Chronicles was the first Future Chronicles title to send proceeds to charity. One might think the stories would be subpar, but throughout it, the authors strove for excellence. Harlow Fallon’s A Long Horizon capped the collection with a bang. The story spans hundreds of years from a ship bound for the New World from Europe to a ship in deep space bound for unknown destinations. One thing is consistent – an alien who has formed a symbiotic (even parasitic) relationship with its host, a woman who was just on the cusp of adulthood on her voyage to America. It is touching, interesting, and visceral.

Piece of Cake by Patrice Fitzgerald

aiPatrice Fitzgerald takes artificial intelligence and adds something we all can relate to – cake. Originally published in The A.I. Chronicles, Fitzgerald’s story takes the cake (sorry!) as the story of A.I. run amok with political correctness. There are certainly shades and hints that allude to our society today and the steps we take to making everyone the “same” and ignoring unique body shapes. I applaud Patrice’s work on the story and how it rings true, but also how it hits the funny bone as well.

Writer’s Block by Hank Garner

writers blockEarlier when I mentioned Eamon Ambrose, I talked about how much of a boon to indie publishing he’d been. Hank Garner is quickly becoming a major voice for publishing with his Author Stories Podcast. Recording one a week, Hank is giving a voice (literally) to dozens of writers who deserve to be heard. Garner is a heck of a writer as well, publishing a number of works this year, including Writer’s Block, a story that most any writer can relate to. Of course, it isn’t as simple as just a case of writer’s block, as our protagonist Stu finds out and we get a magical story out of it.

Under the Grassy Knoll by Richard Gleaves

tinfoilDavid Gatewood is one of the best editors out there, and he took a chance this year by publishing Tales of Tinfoil, a short story anthology centered on conspiracy theories. The anthology is a bold choice and I think it pays off. Gleaves’ story leads the collection with a JFK rabbit-hole tale. Where Gleaves shines is the attention to detail and the plausibility. By the end, I was almost convinced that was the actual circumstances of the president’s assassination. Gleaves’ main work on his Sleepy Hollow series is lengthy (the three books total over a half-million words), but the short story here is a fine work, indeed.

Unconditional by Chris Pourteau

Unconditional_sml2Apparently this year Chris Pourteau just wanted to rip people’s hearts out. He originally published Unconditional on its own at the beginning of the year, and then folded it into an anthology entitled Tails of the Apocalypse featuring stories of animals in the end times. I’m sure with both appearances, readers left the story a few tears fewer. Basic premise: What about the family dog during a zombie apocalypse? Here’s the twist — the story is told from the POV of the dog who is loyal to the last. Well done, Mr. Pourteau, thanks for making me think of it all over again. I hate you.

Where Dragons Lie by Thomas Robins

41MGayjgjJLThis may be more of a novella, but I’m putting it here anyway. Right about the time The Dragon Chronicles was out and garnering five-star reviews, Thomas Robins released the first of two stories in a fantasy world inhabited by dragons and those afraid of them. The title dragon isn’t all he seems to be, however, and you’ll find yourself questioning a lot as you read through the story. Robins has since followed it up with a quasi-sequel and I hope he continues the story in 2016.

Concerns of the Second Sex by Pavarti Tyler

althistoryI don’t know if I can say it much better than what I said about this story when it was first released with the alt.history 101 title in July. So here we go: “Important? Yes. Important. Take Pavarti Tyler’s story for example. Entitled Concerns of the Second Sex, her tale looks at a world where the 19th Amendment never came to be. In fact, with the absence of the women’s vote, the world has reverted to a place barely recognizable. Well, recognizable if you’ve read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but that’s about it. Tyler pays homage to Atwood with this story and takes it a step further with the treatment of other races, including race mixing. If we never respected the rights of half of the species, why would the race movement of the 50’s and 60’s be successful, either? The story is tragic, yet Tyler does give it a hopeful note. I found it poignant and an important story to read and understand where we’ve come from and where we are going.”

Carindi by Jennifer Foehner Wells

darkAn emotional gut punch rounds out this list as Jennifer Wells gets all the feels as the heart of the Dark Beyond The Stars collection. The authors and curator didn’t try to focus on it, but each of the authors for the anthology is a woman, showing that science fiction isn’t just for men. One of my favorites was Carindi, set in the universe of Wells’ debut novel, Fluency. The story focuses on dependency, love, and sacrifice. When everything you have is in the hands of someone else, what is does love mean? In the end, our actions are the loudest words of all, as we find in this moving short story.


…and there we go. What a great list. By no means is this comprehensive. I read a lot this year, but my my own admission, my reading list was mostly limited to independent publishing, namely The Future Chronicles anthologies. I rated A LOT of stories as five stars this year, so this list could change a lot depending on my mood. There were certainly stories that were great, but I had to set the line somewhere. Don’t worry — still going to have a Best Books of the Year list coming up in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for that.

But what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

 

Things I Think – December 2015 Edition

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Been a while…sorry about that. Had a story due a couple days ago I was obsessing over…tried NaNoWriMo (and failed, but I’m okay with that)…had my yearly evaluation…Thanksgiving…stuff…you know.

So to try to ease my way back into the blog, I thought I would go (mostly) lighthearted with a random buckshot of thoughts rolling through my head right now.

  • Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson is the best instrumental Christmas song. Hands down. Proof: 
  • Just finished Jessica Jones yesterday. Wow. I thought Daredevil was edgy, and then I watched JJ. It was phenomenal. I’ve read a number of articles that talks about how Kilgrave is essentially representing domestic abuse and what happened in the past couple years with Gamer Gate (here’s a good one: LINK) and they couldn’t be more right. As a high school teacher, I see this with young couples who are testing their limits and too often we try to get the girls out of those type of relationships (and a boy or two as well), and they keep on getting sucked back in. It’s hard to see and disturbing in Jessica Jones’ case as well. There was some criticism of her as a character by a Facebook friend last night and I can understand that, but I think we initially have the same thoughts about women in these situations. “Why are they staying? Why are they acting like that? Can’t they just be happy?” I think (without spoiling too much), that the Jessica we see down the line will be different after everything she goes through in these 13 episodes.
  • I think I might be able to just drink Diet Mtn Dew for the rest of my life. Maybe.
  • I have two tickets for Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Friday, Dec. 18 for me and my daughter. CAN NOT WAIT.
  • Every month there is a new edition of The Future Chronicles put out by curator Samuel Peralta. If you haven’t read any yet, the latest — Galaxy — just dropped the other day. Just $1.99 for a limited time and a huge collection of space-based stories. My brother (and co-author on our upcoming novel), Paul will be one of the featured authors in The Cyborg Chronicles, releasing at the end of December. Great books — check them out.
  • How about that Bears-Packers game on Thanksgiving? I know…I know…the general trend isn’t going the Bears way, but allow me a moment of joy. (Also a note…first NFL game I’ve watched since Week 2. We ditched the Dish in September.)
  • 26105206I’ve been a giving a lot of thought on my best books of the year and Ernie Lindsey’s alter ego is probably getting a lot of First Place votes from me. Which book? Maybe this will give you a hint…
  • Black Friday was still crazy, but I think Internet shopping has dramatically changed things. There were decidedly less people than I’ve ever seen and the crowds tended to be fairly civil. Of course, the news wants the insane videos so we got that, but I think those tended to be the exception rather than the rule.
  • It is impossible to diet in November and December. Maintain, yes, but to actually diet and intend to lose weight? Forget it.
  • I am not a fan of Thomas the Train (or Tank Engine for you Trainheads out there. ;).
  • Not that it needs to be said, but Adele is amazing. I could listen to her sing the phone book.
  • Speaking of, who uses the phone book anymore? Maybe I should say I could listen to Adele sing my contact list from my phone. Better.
  • And…that’s it for today. Tune in next time for a smattering of my thoughts.

How To Write One Novel In A Year

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I recently saw a blog post that detailed how to write four books a year. Of course, I know some writers who write more books than that, but there are plenty who write fewer. Chalk me up on that latter list.

But you know what there isn’t? I’ve not really seen a sure-fire way to struggle and stumble your way into writing a book over the course of 365 days. So….here we go. (By the way, this is roughly the way I’ve written my latest book, which may or may not be finished within the calendar year. [sidenote: it will. {side-sidenote: I really, really hope.}]).

Day 1: Write 27 words as a Facebook status update. Make it funny in an ironic sort of way and laugh about it quietly as a half-dozen of your closest semi-anonymous comment and/or like the post.

Day 2: Write 43 words. Again as a Facebook update, but loosely tie it into the original post from yesterday. Give a little backstory and create some forward momentum. And be funny. Chuckle as only three people “get” your unique brand of humor.

Day 3: Based on the previous two days of Facebook posts, add a twist. The post should reference the previous two days, but give the reader a sense of purpose and originality that is lacking in most Facebook posts. (Author note: this only works on Facebook. Don’t try this on Twitter or Snapchat or any of those other loser social media sites.)

Day 4-10: Add some other junk to your previous smatterings and tie it together in what we writer professionals call a “plot.”

Day 11: Take a day off. You deserve it.

Day 12: OK. So this is a thing now. True, you’ve only written 987 words over the course of a week and a half, but that’s still something, right? Maybe you should examine your characters and their motivations or something like that. Double what you’ve written so far in a torrential downpour of words. Then delete those words cuz they were terrible anyway.

Day 13: Enter THE BROTHER. (Alternately, THE SISTER may be a viable alternative.) THE BROTHER…we’ll call him Saul…sends you a message. “I like your story,” it says. “I came up with a plot device,” it reads. “Can I write more and we incorporate it?” You quickly reply “YES” because what he’s written is about 1×10^26 better than whatever you’ve written so far. Whatever you thought you were writing — YOU WERE WRONG and you need to reevaluate everything. Perhaps even your breakfast choices. A toaster pastry is clearly so 1990’s, after all.

Day 14-30: Marvel at what THE BROTHER writes. He claims to be just taking your lead on the story, but clearly his ideas are better than yours. Maybe you were really adopted? Your genes aren’t coming up with original ideas like he is. What’s wrong with you? Maybe switching from toaster pastries to Cap’n Crunch Berries wasn’t the best move.

Day 31: Time to get serious. Between you and Saul, there are now enough words to actually publish and not be embarrased. Problem is that you only have the beginnings of a story. Only the “P” of an actual Plot if you will. So, take a look at Saul’s additions and embrace it. Switch the entire POV of the narrative and go with the side character that he embraced as his protagonist. Oh…and decide to switch from first person to third person, necessitating an entire rewrite of the story thus far.

Day 32: Super Bowl. Eat Lil’Smokies wrapped in Bacon and dip it in Nacho Cheese. Enjoy the Bathroom tomorrow.

Day 33: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 34: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 35: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 36: Continue pondering where to really take the story.

Day 37: Write a side plot cuz you can’t really think about what you really want to do with your main characters.

Day 38-75: Trade off storylines with THE BROTHER. Be envious when you realize he has the best storylines, and then realize he has the best ones because he wrote them that way.

Day 76: Realize he feels the same way about your storylines and accept that you might actually be a decent writer. Maybe. Perhaps.

Day 77-95: Take a break. You have a short story to write about zombies and football, so focus on that and let Saul take the lead on the book for a while. RIP Jellyroll.

Day 96-108: Stress over the potential edits of the aforementioned zombie/football story. Write 24-48 words a day while under the cloud of future edits, and occasionally go back and delete those very words a few days later.

Day 109: You’ve been working hard. Take a day off.

Day 110: Write a couple hundred words and wrap up a scene that’s been sitting open for two months. Breath a sigh of relief and throw out the Cap’n Crunch. All the cool kids are eating bagels anyway.

Day 110: You’ve been working hard. Take a day off.

Day 111-140ish: Work at a snail’s pace on the book, putting a rough plan in place to “HIT IT HARD” in the summer. As you and THE BROTHER are both teachers, the summer is like Shangri-la. A promised land with candy and time. This will be the summer of finishing ALL THE THINGS. Let’s do it!

Day 141-148: What were you thinking? You’ve got a vacation to start your summer break in the mountains of Tennessee. OK. Do the vacation and then when you get back, do ALL THE WRITING.

Day 149-150: Back from vacation. Worn out and the kids don’t seem to get the fact that you got stuff to do. Seriously.

Day 151-155: Another trip. This time a national tournament for the school’s quiz bowl team. OK. Have fun, and when you get back, do ALL TEH WRITING.

Day 156: Get back. Wife goes to her parents. Kids don’t get it that they need to stay quiet and work on their particle physics all day in their rooms. Especially the five-year-old. Sheesh.

Day 157-165: Wife still gone. Kids still kids. Manuscript still untouched even after weeks of summer break actually in existence and whooshing by like…things that whoosh by. Mind turns to mush after the tenth episode of “Bubble Guppies” in one day.

Day 166-180: Wife calls. Needs you at her parents to set up for an estate sale. Spend the next two weeks cleaning and emptying outside buildings and barns. Physical exhaustion sets in. An unfamiliar feeling…sleep beckons and will not be ignored.

Day 181: Estate sale done. Money made, but not for me. Book still unfinished. THE BROTHER notes your place at the bottom of the pit and tries to reach you. Unfortunately, he lives on the Left Coast and the humidity of the Midwest prevents his arm from reaching you.  Despair. Desperation. The book sits unloved on my Google Drive. It may never see the light of day.

Day 182: OK. First day of July. Let’s do this. Cracking the document open you realize the book isn’t half bad. It might not be half good, either, but it ain’t half bad. One of the kids is at camp…maybe you can get stuff done.

Day 183: Nope.

Day 184: Also nope.

Day 185: Add 500 words.

Day 186-194: Peck away word by word, but look forward to THE BROTHER flying to the Midwest in person. Know THINGS will be accomplished in his mere presence. Put your faith in the ridiculous idea you’ll write 40,000 words in a week of him and his family being around.

Day 195: Nope.

Day 196-210: Hang out with Saul. Talk about the book, but work rarely. Have 99 year old grandmother pass away in Upper South Dakota and have to travel there with the rest of the family. Manuscript survives. But just barely.

Day 210-220: School starts soon. Write a little, but prep for the Fall. Summer is gone and so was your chance to fully write. THE BROTHER starts school later, but he has second and third vacations so he doesn’t write either.

Day 221: First day of School. Yay.

Day 222: Second day of School. Double yay.

Day 223: Third day of School. The GRADING begins. Writing is tough enough without having to decipher the scrawlings of a 10th grade boy. Oy. Forget it. I’ll try again in a couple weeks.

Day 224-260: Try. Try to start writing again. Remember how great of a book this can be and write in spurts.

Day 261: Return of THE BROTHER, along with his cultivated ideas for where to take the story and how to finish. Shame upon your house for not getting it done, but praise be to THE BROTHER. Saul is your muse. Take it and run.

Day 262-285: Write. Write and write some more. Settle on the final details of the final scene. Realize your year-long novel writing plan may end up being a 10-month plan.

Day 286: Write a blog about how to write a book in a year.

Day 287: MAKE BANK>

Day 288: OVER.NIGHT.SUCCESS.

TIME HEIST only $0.99 (for now)!

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My buddy Anthony Vicino has his novel on sale for just 99 pennies today!  I’m reading it right now and am loving it so far. Go get it!

Get your copy of the bestselling cyberpunk technothriller, TIME HEIST, for only $0.99. Do it now or I’ll set my rabid robo-puppies on you!

Source: TIME HEIST only $0.99 (for now)!