Friday, April 17, 2015

Eden by Martin Roy Hill

Eden book cover"If this is Paradise, how bad could Hell be?"

A sandstorm uncovers a long buried secret in the Iraqi desert, an ancient Sumerian temple dating back at least 6,000 years to the beginning of civilization. An American army patrol sent to investigate the ruins is trapped inside the temple’s eroded walls, first by an insurgent ambush then by another, even more powerful sandstorm. When an enemy mortar shell blasts an opening into a hidden burial chamber, Captain Adam Cadman and his soldiers take refuge deep in the ruins. What they find hidden inside threatens to destroy every belief about the beginnings of mankind—as well as modern civilization as we know it.


Eden plays in a sandbox whose basic foundation is similar to the one that the Stargate movie and TV spinoff shows played in. Both were inspired by Von Däniken's controversial theory that Earth was visited in the distant past by aliens who helped shaped our early history. Whether or not you believe that, I find that in the right human hands it can make for entertaining stories. In the wrong hands, you get the slop put out by the History Channel (but that's a discussion to be had elsewhere). Fortunately, Hill belongs to the former group.

The army patrol is headed by an archeologist, Cadman. His is the level-headed response to the discovery in the ruins. Most of his team, while alarmed by what they've found, respect the chain of command and trust Cadman to do the right thing. One member, Thomas, does not. He's a literalist when it comes to interpreting the Bible. Cadman isn't necessarily an atheist, but when the evidence before him challenges his beliefs, he takes a rational approach.

From the outset of Eden, Cadman and Thomas clash. But Cadman knows the Bible better than Thomas and uses it, along with the chain of command, to keep Thomas in line. But the discovery in the ruins slams the walls of Thomas's belief system, and he's ill-equipped to deal with it. I know guys like Cadman, and I know guys like Thomas. I found them to be solid characters.

A good deal of the story is told through flashbacks. We're taken back to the ancient civilization that built the temple. Hill switches back and forth from showing and telling what happened. I think it would've worked better if he'd spent the whole time showing. Eden is listed as a novella (109 pages), so there was plenty of space to devote to further development of the flashback part of the story: flesh out the setting a bit more, maybe develop some characters from that time period, see things from their perspective.

Eden is a solid sci-fi story that entertains yet carries a message. While there are soldiers and there is action, this is more of a philosophical engagement than a militaristic one. The cultural differences between Cadman and Thomas struck me as being just as great as those between human and alien. Until we can overcome those differences without resorting to bashing in each other's skulls, we won't be ready for the treasures awaiting us in the cosmos.

Eden is available from Amazon. To learn more about Martin Roy Hill or his other books, please visit his website.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Author News - April

March 28th: Scott Semegran, author of the the Simon Birchwood series, released "The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen", a short story.

April 10th: Helen Smith's novel, Beyond Belief, has been nominated for three awards at this year's CrimeFest.

May 14th: Jeremy Robert Johnson will be at Powell's Hawthorne branch on Thursday, May 14th at 7:30pm to promote his latest novel, Skullcrack City, which was published on February 1st.

May 19th: Steve Anderson took a break from historical fiction to write the contemporary novel, The Other Oregon: A Thriller. The book drops on this day.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Witches of Armour Hill - A Crowdfunding Journey

There are many vehicles one can ride in on the road of self-publishing. Some authors opt for the cheapest ride possible. They make the cover themselves and self-edit. While it might technically be a book, it's a ride that few readers want to go on. Some covers look like Bondo covered Pintos; the typos are potholes in the road. But many indie authors realize that readers want that literary ride to be all style and comfort. A slick cover grabs their attention. A polished manuscript makes sure the reader settles in and enjoys the author's story. But to get to this level of enjoyment, authors realize they need to pay someone to do this work for them.

Alyssa Cooper is one of those authors. Now that I've blathered on long enough, here's Alyssa to tell her story.


Alyssa Cooper

Hey everyone!

My name is Alyssa Cooper, and I want to talk to you about my next book series novel, The Witches of Armour Hill.
Margaret May Reis knows how strange she is; people have been telling her for years. At sixteen years old, though, Maggie begins to realize that strangeness is only half the story. Maggie isn’t just strange—she's a witch.
The Witches of Armour Hill is the story of a modern-day witch coven, struggling to maintain their magical culture in a world that has always betrayed them. This story is based a legend that’s well known in my native Ontario—it's believed that in 1840, a young woman from Peterborough was tried for witchcraft. When she was found guilty, the townspeople took her to the highest point in the city, and they burned her at the stake. The Witches of Armour Hill is the story of her descendants, of all the witches they couldn't burn.

The Witches of Armour Hill: Switch
The first installment of The Witches of Armour Hill, Switch, has already taken Wattpad by storm. With 12,000 views and almost 500 favourites, it's become a quick favourite on the free story-sharing platform. But read it while you can—once the finished version of Switch is published, the free version will disappear forever.

After allowing traditional publishers to handle my first three books, and finding myself sadly disappointed, I've moved on to self-publishing. I published four titles on my own last year, but Switch promises to be my biggest undertaking yet. That's why I've decided to crowdfund the publication, using Kickstarter to make this book the very best it can be.

I’m looking raise money for professional editing services, book design, marketing, and distribution - all of the things that can turn a good story into a truly great book. The Witches of Armour Hill’s Kickstarter campaign launched on March 26, and will conclude on April 25. Make a pledge to earn cool prizes, and keep an eye on the campaign page for previews and updates that you won’t see anywhere else. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you decide to join the coven someday!

******

The author of two novels, two collections, and countless short stories, I can always be found on my website: www.alyssacooper.ca.

I’m also found all over social media:
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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This Darkness Light by Michaelbrent Collings

This Darkness LightA man with no past, but who holds the future of the world in his hands. A woman who has sworn to protect him, for reasons she does not understand. A killer who must destroy them, or lose all he holds dear. They are running—from each other, from the plague that is killing all around them, from the dark forces beyond their understanding. Running from shadow to shadow. From dark to dark. Hoping to find light. Hoping that this darkness is not all there is. Hoping…because hope is all they have in This Darkness Light.

The book starts out like a Stephen King thriller, like the kind he wrote during the seventies and eighties when he was still hungry. Back before King started writing cinder block-sized epic tomes filled with meandering storylines that wandered off on tangents. It grabs your attention, hints at something terrible just outside your vision, and convinces you to keep reading because you have to know how this is all going to play out. And there's certainly a nod towards King with an all-obscuring fog and strange creatures that lurk within, a la The Mist. Unlike King, Collings is still hungry, and it shows. With only a couple of exceptions, Collings stays focused on the plot and the characters in said plot. There's plenty of action with several fight scenes and car chases. Horror is used to reveal the monsters living within people in a very literal sense.

Collings provides us with three likable protagonists: John (the man with no past), Serafina (the woman sworn to protect him), and Isaiah (the killer). Collings goes in depth with each of them, revealing their pasts and their struggles to hold it together as their worlds come crashing down. Isaiah was the most interesting of the three as he goes from avenging angel to a man caught in an emotional vise, blackmailed to do the dirty work of the antagonists. And he's a priest! I found his life journey from troubled youth to priest to assassin quite intriguing.

The two main antagonists are Dominic and Melville. While the former is in charge, it's the latter that had more depth (as despicable as he is). Dominic seemed too much a cardboard cutout villain. And then there's President Richard Peters, whose emails with Dominic, staff, and foreign leaders opens every chapter. He offers the reader a clue as to how the rest of the world is dealing with the crisis as well as a window into his deteriorating mental state.

After the thriller opening that plays on conspiracy theorists' worst fears of an all-knowing police state, the story morphs into apocalyptic fantasy. Los Angeles is collateral damage as John and Serafina are relentlessly pursued by Dominic's henchmen, Isaiah, and Melville. The disease morphs people into abominations and the fog closes in, yet there always seems to be a car to be found with a full tank of gas and maybe some sandwiches. This is all intentional; the characters are being led to a meeting place in the middle of the country where all will be revealed.

Unfortunately, the manuscript could've used another run through by a proofreader. There were enough mistakes in there that, while it didn't sink the story, proved to be a distraction: "laying down" was used instead of "lying down", an assault shotgun becomes an assault rifle then switches back, a gun becomes a knife, bad dates in email headers, misused punctuation, capitalization (the Bible) and word choice errors.

This Darkness Light is an an action-packed chase across an apocalyptic landscape. While the characters serve familiar roles, Collings embodies (most of) them with enough depth that you can picture who will play them in the movie. Another set of eyes would've been helpful before publication to tidy things up, but it shouldn't stop you from enjoying the ride.

To find out more about This Darkness Light and other works by Michaelbrent Collings, please visit his website.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Authors Need Websites

In this age of social media saturation, too many authors seem content with just a Facebook page and Twitter handle. Authors need websites. Think of them as a base of operations where readers can go to find out everything they need to know about you as an author. Jane Friedman has an excellent list of components that an author needs for her website. Check it out!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Author News: March

February 11th: Michael Sullivan, author of The Crown Conspiracy, announced on his blog that he signed a four-book deal with Del Rey. Congratulations, Michael!

March 11th: Kris Kramer, author of Sanctuary, has partnered with Alistair McIntyre and Patrick Underhill to pen the Rise of Cithria series. More info can be found at their website.

May 14th: Jeremy Robert Johnson will be at Powell's Hawthorne on Thursday, May 14th at 7:30pm to promote his latest novel, Skullcrack City, which was published on February 1st.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tethered Worlds: Unwelcome Star by Gregory Faccone

Jordahk Wilkrest doesn't think he's special. The backwater world of his birth has only known peace in his lifetime, and the war is bygone history. Far from its centuries-old stalemate line, Jordahk's interest is collecting war era technology called “mystic.”

Suddenly, political corruption and the people's own complacency opens a dreadful door, literally. Their way of life will be no more as the enemy assembles their giant transporting machine in orbit. The Wilkrests valiantly resist, but are unable to thwart the enemy's designs on land or in orbit. Jordahk is forced to leave his wounded parents and go off-world with his stiff grandfather. They venture far into the dustbin of human space looking for war-era help.

Now Jordahk finds out his family line is a lot more special than he ever knew. Their quest leads to dangerous mystic technology—controllable only by a select few. It's a wild ride for Jordahk, who has to come to terms with abilities he never knew he had... and their consequences. Can his new shady crewmates stop fighting amongst themselves long enough to overcome the enemy? They must if Jordahk's parents and his homeworld are to stand any chance.


I felt lost for a good chunk of the beginning of the book. Faccone throws myriad names and terms at the reader that I had trouble keeping the groups straight (Archivers, Sojourners, Perigeum, Cohortium, Imprimaturs, Khromas, Arkhons) and figuring out what the terms (too numerous to mention) meant. It's totally realistic to expect new additions to the lingua franca of the future, but I had a hard time gathering their meaning from the context of the sentence. In those instances where Faccone provided explanations, he went overboard at inopportune times. There would be this intense action scene and Faccone would break away to spend paragraphs to pages explaining the history of and how that piece of technology worked. It was terribly distracting.

There's an AI battle early in the book that went on for far too long—10% of the book, maybe. It felt like I was reading a game hybrid of Pokemon and Risk. I'm not sure I understood the point of the exercise, though it did turn an adversarial relationship between Jordahk and Cranium into a friendly one. I suppose that it also served as a contrast point for when Jordahk later encounters a hostile AI that subdues his own. Still, I believe that it could've been a lot shorter.

Now that I'm done complaining, let me say that this is a really good book. In particular, by the second half of the book, Faccone does a better job of balancing pacing and scheduling interludes of back story.

Faccone has developed a highly detailed world full of sentient AIs, advanced weapons and technology, political chicanery, and a host of new words and slang that demonstrates a tremendous skill at world-building. Although not stated by name, nanotech lurks under the surface: clothes that change color on command, artificial healing systems running through the bloodstream, and ammunition which reconfigures itself upon user command. Everything is networked. Humans and AI are directly linked; a thought is all it takes to switch the safety off a pistol or present data on a holographic projector.

The major characters are personable, except for the villains, who blurred together. Except for the side trips to his parents, the bulk of the story is from Jordahk's point of view. While he's fully versed in technology and battle tactics, his ability to control his emotions and understand his feelings demonstrates that he's very much the coming of age adolescent. That's not a bad thing; it's just that as mid-40's married man with kids I didn't really connect with him. I was more interested in the AI characters and his grandfather's mysterious past.

Tethered Worlds: Unwelcome Star is a fantastic adventure with a galaxy full of technological marvels. Despite the obvious differences in language and culture, people are people—and so are AIs. You can relate to them even if you don't know an "octal" from "scientum". You can tell that Faccone spent a great deal of time and effort creating every minute detail of the universe that fills this 522-page behemoth. I feel bad for having to write anything negative about it, but I had to explain why I'd rate this a four-star novel as opposed to a five-star.

For more information on Unwelcome Star and other books in the Tethered Worlds universe, please visit the author's website.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Interview with M. Terry Green

M. Terry GreenToday, we have the pleasure interviewing M. Terry Green, the author of the Olivia Lawson Techno-Shaman series. As has been posted here previously, Green has been working on a new series entitled, The Chronicles of White World. With her permission, we revealed the cover for the first book, Iced, and an excerpt from the first chapter. Now, she's here to talk to us about the book.

New Podler: Thanks for being here with us today, Terry!

Terry Green: It’s a real pleasure, and thanks for having me!

NP: The cover for Iced is striking. As we're in the midst of a New England winter, the cover isn't helping me forget how cold it is outside.

TG: As we’re in the umpteenth year of drought here in LA, having only just ended 375 straight days when the high temperatures didn’t drop below 60°F, the cover for Iced is a fond, fervent wish for me.

NP: The cover for Iced was created by RPG and book illustrator, Tom Edwards. Most of his work has been very dark, not necessarily in tone, but in color. Did that play a role in your artist selection?

TG: You know, I don’t really see them as dark at all. Then again, my favorite color is black, both in color and tone.

NP: So what drew you in?

TG: Tom makes a world. Each and every piece of artwork I’ve seen of his seems to create some other place entirely. As surely as novels have backstory and world building, I think artwork has it too. I’m immediately transported by his work and always find myself curious to know more.

NP: As we read in your "cover story" guest post, designing book covers is hard work. By my count you went through four cover design styles over the course of the Techno-Shaman series. How has that experience shaped your approach for this series?

TG: I just try to get out the way! I know I’m not up to the task myself, though budget drove me to try my hand in the beginning. For this series, I wanted to put my best foot forward right from the get go. I gave the barest sketch of the environment, the heroine, and the story to Tom. At times, he even had to ask for more information. I’ve found when chatting with readers or seeing their reviews, that my experience of the story can be very different from theirs. I think that’s true of the audiobooks, and I also think that’s true of the covers. A big part of the fun for me is finding someone with amazing talent who then just does what they’re already doing. The end product may not sound or look anything like what was in my head, but I think that’s awesome! There’s also a degree of trust when you place your work in the hands of another creative. For me that goes back to finding the right person in the first place.

Iced by M. Terry GreenNP: What can you tell us about the world where Iced takes place? Besides the fact that it's very cold!

TG: Iced is set on a far future earth. Though it’s fiction, I’ve based it on theories about our planet’s real past during eras that have been called “snowball earth” or “slushball earth.” It’s harsh. Luckily, my heroine is up to the task of surviving. :) Hey, maybe that’ll make for some prequels—all those weaklings who didn’t make it. Or not.

NP: Are there any cultural or political remnants of today still around? Or have the glaciers ground up everything from our world?

TG: It’s definitely a world with remnants of our own. But like other dystopian works, what remains is fractured. In that far future, only the most robust elements survive and frequently they’re cruel: autocratic rule, slavery, and some nasty creatures. On the other side, I’ve also elevated the roles of scientists as preservers of knowledge, people taking an active interest in the preservation and betterment of the human race.

NP: How do people survive? There's nothing to eat around here once the ground freezes. Is it like Minnesota where everyone is ice fishing?

TG: I like to think of it as ice fishing on a big scale. The only viable places for human habitation are places of warmth, near volcanos and fumaroles. Some sea life has survived, but it’s a matter of knowing where to drill. As I built the world, I did quite a bit of research into the latest discoveries that scientists are making in the Arctic, particularly when it comes to what types of life survive under the ice. It’s not easy to survive on White World, but it’s doable.

NP: In the excerpt, it appears that everyone gets around via iceboat—in essence, trimarans equipped with skate blades. While it's a mode of transportation that's been around for centuries, it's seldom used. And forget about seeing it in fiction. Have you done it yourself?

TG: I haven’t but I’d adore it! For the book, I watched videos and looked at sites that talked about how to make your own ice yacht. I’ve looked into land sailing on the ancient, dry lake beds near Las Vegas. That’s most definitely something I intend to try. Thanks for the reminder!

NP: Thirteen is an odd choice for the name of a protagonist. Is there anything you can share with us about her, without revealing any spoilers that is.

TG: Unlike the winning and compassionate protagonist of my previous series, Thirteen’s life has been brutal. As an escaped slave, she may know how to survive, but she has a lot to learn about being human. ‘Thirteen’ is only the name that she goes by because she doesn’t know her real name. But it’s something she’d dearly like to find out.

NP: One final question: What's up with all of your protagonists having white hair?

TG: I’m trending that way myself. They say write what you know. My next series will take place in an albino geriatric ward. That’ll take some research for a change.

NP: That's going to do it for me. If anyone in the audience has any questions for Terry, please post them in the comments.

Thanks again for joining us today, Terry. This was fun and illuminating. =)


TG: This was totally fun! I don’t think I’ve ever smiled at my laptop so much. And thanks for skipping the pirate talk.

NP: Iced is available now for pre-order and is scheduled to go live on February 10th.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Author News: February

We're a little light in this first edition of Author News, but I wanted to make good on that promise.

February 1st: Richard Levesque, author of Strictly Analog, released his latest novel, Foundlings.

Jeremy Robert Johnson, author of We Live Inside You, released Skullcrack City.

February 10th: Iced, the first novel in a new series from 2012 INA Winner, M. Terry Green, will be released.

February 15th: Steve Anderson, a 2010 INA Winner for The Losing Role, will be at the Barnes & Noble Tanasbourne in Beaverton, Oregon at 2PM. Anderson is in the midst of promoting his latest work: Liberated and Under False Flags.

That's all for now.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Book Excerpt: Iced by M. Terry Green

Iced by M. Terry GreenLast Friday, we revealed the cover for Iced, the first book in the Chronicles of White World series from M. Terry Green. This week, Green has granted us permission to reveal a sample of the story. Enjoy!



Iced by M. Terry Green

It was perfect slaver weather: visibility a hundred clicks, temperature a few degrees below zero, wind out of the northwest. Thirteen kept an eye on the horizon and opened the vent another notch. She watched steam pour from the opening and bend severely into the frigid wind stream.

They’d have to be blind not to see that—blind or dumb.

Slavers weren’t the brightest. She let slack into the control line and dumped more wind. The perlon sail fluttered and flapped, and the rigging slapped along the mast, audible over the high wind of midday. Her speed dropped a notch. The ship already sailed so slowly the wing couldn’t generate enough lift. Under the skimmer’s three hulls, the blades sliced the ice with a scraping and rattling sound.

“Where are you?” she muttered, scanning the infinite white.

The bright gleam of the Pacifica Sheet stretched to the horizon in all directions. Where the pale blue sky met the planet, a hazy seam divided them. Few mountains and no volcanos were in sight. The huge crinkles, saw-toothed hills, and sculpted blocks that pocked the ice near volcanos were absent here. It was easy to make good speed, especially in this weather. High cirrus clouds covered the sun. The sextant shot would wait.

She saw it then, ten points off the stern—a speck.

But as it came closer and grew a little larger, she recognized it: a sloop, typical for this far out, likely a crew of four, so as to leave room for slaves. Although she’d done this countless times, her heart beat faster. She nudged the tiller, putting the ship into a slight skid that kicked up ice shavings in a high sparkling arc off the starboard outrigger. The slavers unfurled more sail.

She lightly touched the pendant through the fabric on her chest. Maybe this slaver ship would be the one. Maybe their captives would know something. Either way, the chase was on, such as it was. Her skimmer would make quite the prize for slavers. They’d be looking for a small family at least, but they weren’t going to find that—not even close.

No longer on the horizon, the sloop was taking shape. Though it wasn’t built for speed, it had three sails up now. It moved fast enough for the wing that connected the three hulls to lift the blades clear of the ice. Harpoons and shotguns were likely at the bow. Even in white, the ship was as plain as a rock. Though the shimmering ice reflected the sunlight, the hulls didn’t. Despite being the exact same color of white, it was like looking at a silhouette—growing larger. They were gaining fast.

In two quick bounds, Thirteen was out of the cockpit and up on the black deck. It was the only part of the skimmer that wasn’t white. Throughout the day it absorbed the heat of the sun and passed it to the cabin below. Thirteen gave the trigger on the winch a quick push and the rope under the railing a little tug. The switches were cocked. Everything was set. She glanced to stern.

Beyond the tall tail and stabilizer that were useless at this slow speed, the power turbine whirled. Via gears in the stern and deck and the belts that ran the length of the ship, it connected to the winch. When she needed power, it’d be ready. Beyond the turbine she watched the slavers. They ought to see her soon even without a scope. Time to give them something to see.

Thirteen raced back to the cockpit and jumped down. She grabbed the light gray jacket from the steps. It was nearly as form-fitting as the first two layers, but the color was like a beacon against the ice or her ship. The way it clung to her would leave no doubt as to whether they were really seeing a woman on deck. Her petite frame would be the clincher. She took the matching cap from the pocket and put it on. Carefully, she tucked every strand of long hair under the snug hat. Then she put on the goggles. Of course they only looked like goggles. They were fake. She needed to look right, and the large, yellow lenses were the most important part of that deception. Already the gray fabric was picking up some heat from the sun. As long as she didn’t sweat it’d be all right. Judging by how fast the slavers were closing, she wouldn’t have to wear it for long.

She stepped into the safety harness, pulled it up, and slipped her arms through. The back was already clipped to the tether that ran up the mast. Bending at the knees, she tested her weight on it. She heard the carabiner rattle in the metal ring behind her as she took the tiller.

Off the stern, the slaver ship was clearly visible. Beyond the sloop’s protruding sounding buoy, a brief glint at the bow let her know the captain had his scope out. She turned profile for his benefit, pretending to look up at the sloppy mainsail, raising one hand against the sun as if it were too bright. At this point, even a fool would see they were being chased by slavers, so she turned to them. Their heading was on an intercept course, still closing fast, not taking any chances. On deck, there were three men. One had to be below. The slaver at the bow wasn’t using his scope any more. He’d seen everything he needed: an unarmed ship with a woman in the cockpit who didn’t know any better than to let steam vent and couldn’t set a sail.

“Come and get it, Slaver,” she said, almost inaudible over the wind.

©2015 M. Terry Green

If you're already hooked, pre-order it! Ship date is February 10th.