Sunday, November 18, 2012

Brodie Wade is Back

Brodie's back in a prequel novella. See Jerry Hanel's troubled, determined hero at a much younger age, as he takes on his first cold case in The Truth Has Teeth. The Brodie Wade series begins with Death Has a Name (free!) and continues in Thaloc Has a Body. 

As an added bonus, Jerry's made a video trailer for Thaloc Has a Body. Enjoy.

Free Steampunk/Lovecraft Goodness

Gears of a Mad God is now free on Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook retailers.  Check out the series at no risk, get hooked, and come back for more.  The first trilogy is in stores now, and I'm hard at work on the follow-up trilogy, The Zeppelin War.

Gears of a Mad God: Proper young ladies in the 1920s don't get dirty, and they certainly don't get into fights. But Colleen's favorite uncle has died under mysterious circumstances, and she wants answers. 

When a sinister cult comes after her, she pushes back - hard. Soon she's running for her life, hunted by the cult of Katharis and aided by a secret government agency. It will take all of her courage, all of her strength, and every steam-powered weapon she can devise to keep her alive long enough to unravel the mystery of her uncle's death. 

The cult thinks she knows her uncle's secrets. They'll do anything, hurt anyone, to make her talk. But they've made a grave mistake. Colleen is going to take the fight to them, again and again, until the people she cares about are safe - or have been avenged.

Free at Amazon

Free for Nook

Free at Smashwords

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Serials are Back!

I got some exciting news today.  eSteampunk Magazine, a new spinoff from eFiction Magazine, is picking up my new steampunk serial, Black Dragon Blues.  It's the globe-trotting adventures of Molly, inventor and tinkerer, and Lan, the dangerous young woman sworn to protect her, as they are hunted by the Kung Fu assassins of the Black Dragon gang.  Subscribe to eSteampunk Magazine, or visit eFiction on the web.

A few different online magazines are publishing a mixture of serial episodes and stand-alone stories.  In addition to some of the eFiction spinoff titles, there's Steampunk Tales, which promises "The 'Penny Dreadful' for your iPhone."  Check them out at

It's a brave new pulp-fiction world out there.  Amazon has a fascinating new feature called Amazon Serials, where you pay once for a novel that gets released in episodes.  The moment you buy, you get every installment that's been released so far, and each new installment as it's released.  They're including some of Charles Dickens' books, which were released as serials back in the day.

Not every writer can release their work in progress as a serial.  There are some significant quality checks in place, which is good news for readers.  Check it out at  

Then there are smaller players, like JukePop Serials, available at  The good thing about this innovative new site is that it's a curated collection of episodic stories.  That means that an editor is making some careful choices and only releasing the good stuff.  It's not just crap from any hack who has learned how to type and thinks he can tell a story.  

JukePop is new, so there aren't a huge number of episodes available for any one story.  It will be interesting to see how well the site does.  On the plus side, it's free, there's a rich variety of stories available, and some sort of quality is being maintained.  On the down side, it's web-based only, and being new, you never know when the capital will run out and the site will close its doors.  I'd say it's worth the risk, though.

I just read a couple of chapters of The Case of the Syphillitic Sister, a quirky, hilarious, and endlessly surprising story of a superhero detective agency with a VERY strange case.  It's by the talented James Hutchings, whom I've blogged about before.  Horizon, by John Gregory Betancourt, looks quite promising as well.  It's a much more serious work of space opera.

Visit JukePop, vote for the stories you like, and help this nifty new venture succeed.  I want to find out how the story ends.

The World of Steam Kickstarter

Man, this looks cool. Check out the kickstarter at  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shanghai Steam

Shanghai Steam, one of the coolest anthologies you'll see this year, is now available - sort of.  Amazon's got it in paperback, but the ebook version doesn't seem to be on the digital shelves yet.

I can't wait for my copy, and not just because I have a story in it.  This is one of the most intriguing and fun anthology ideas I've ever come across, a blend of steampunk and wuxia, a Chinese literary genre that can best be described as "Martial Arts Heroics."  Steam-Fu, in other words.

Nineteen authors bring you stories set in China, Britain, Canada, the old West, even Mars. There are dragons, automatons, flying monks, and a coffee maker of terrifying power.  There are heroes and assassins, grim tales of vengeance, and light-hearted tales of comedy. 

I'll keep you posted about e-book availability.  In the meantime, here's a link to the paperback version at Amazon:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Review - Origins (Spinward Fringe)

My rating: 4/5

This is some pretty cool space opera.  I enjoyed it a lot.  It's not perfect, and it's not terribly deep, but it's lots of fun and undeniably cool.  Plus, it's clearly the work of an author who takes his craft seriously and puts real thought into what he's doing.  I'll be reading more of this series.

There are quite a few books in Randolph Lalonde's Spinward Fringe series.  Origins is a trilogy of three novellas, the origin story for some of his characters and situations.  And it's free, from Smashwords or Amazon, so you can check the series out at no cost.

It's the far future and much of the galaxy is groaning under the oppressive heel of large corporations.  It's a disturbingly plausible premise, and it feels more authentic than the usual galactic empire type of stuff.  

Freeground Station is a vast space station deep in the middle of nowhere, a bastion of liberty and democracy, home of a free society, and under siege from the corporations.  It's all-out interstellar war, with Freeground fighting just to survive.

Captain Jonas Valent takes a ship called the First Light out into the galaxy on a mission of discovery and diplomacy, looking for alliances and technology that can help the station.  He's a heroic commander in the Captain Kirk mold, a born leader whose biggest burden is a lack of experience.

The premise of the story seems ridiculous at first glance.  Valent and his friends have been hacking into the military's training simulator to play games.  And they've been kicking butt, beating the military's best and brightest.  They make such an impression that they get recruited, assigned a ship, and sent on their mission.

It's not quite as silly as it sounds.  Valent is ex-military, and most of the crew are ex- or current military.  It feels reasonably plausible, and frankly, it's such a cool premise that I'm willing to suspend a bit of extra disbelief.

Many parts of the story are quite excellent.  It's straightforward high adventure in an interesting galaxy.  There's ship-to-ship combat, the exploration of new planets and space stations, hand-to-hand combat as they are stalked by bounty hunters, and psychological warfare when key crew members are captured by ruthless, amoral corporate officers.

The science is fairly interesting and reasonably plausible without being ground-breaking or particularly deep.  It's primarily a story of adventure, not science, but Lalonde doesn't botch the science anywhere that I noticed.  Well, there's some spray-on clothing that I had a bit of trouble swallowing, but overall the science feels solid.  He put a decent amount of thought into it without letting it take over the story.

Characterization is not as deep as it could be.  I would say that it's adequate to make the story interesting, but the characterization is definitely not a particular strength of the book.  There's nothing wrong, it's just not all that it could be.  Pretty much every crew member on the First Light is noble and brave, there are no significant interpersonal conflicts within the crew, and if anyone has an internal conflict, it's along the lines of, "Am I good enough to come through when all my crewmates are relying on me?"

The writing is reasonably good.  There are no serious problems with Lalonde's prose, although there is room for improvement.  Now, bear in mind that I'm picky about phrasing.  Lalonde is pretty decent, all things considered.  His writing has no serious problems, it's just not quite free of nits for me to pick.

For example, in many places, there will be three or four lines of dialogue, ending with "Oz whispered."  So you have to read a fairly big block of dialogue before you find out who's speaking.  And people whisper to each other on the bridge a lot.  

Origins is well worth checking out.  It's a fun, fairly light story with likeable characters, interesting situations, and plenty of excitement.  It's also a chance to get a free introduction to an author who's worth watching.  I suspect I'll see the stories and characters getting deeper and the quality of the writing improving as the series progresses.  It's already good.  I look forward to seeing if it becomes fantastic.

Check out Origins at Smashwords

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Review - Color Me Grey

My rating: 2.5 / 5

I'm afraid this one's a bit of a stinker.  I generally try to focus on books I like here, and to be honest there were things I liked, but man, there is a LOT wrong with this poor book.

Now, I have to point out in the book's defence that I did read all the way to the end, so it must have had something going for it.  I don't believe in continuing to read books that suck.  I did eventually get pulled into the story, and although I nearly closed it a dozen times, I never quite stopped reading.  I won't read any more in the series, though.

There is a really cool concept behind the book.  A young woman answers a mysterious help-wanted ad and gets recruited into a freelance spy agency.  After that it's non-stop action as she trains, goes on missions, faces setbacks and learns to overcome them.  There are some really cool elements.

But that ad she sees, the one that puts the story in motion?  It happens a dozen pages into the book.  Everything, every last thing, in the first dozen pages is backstory, and it's DULL.  I skimmed page after page after page, until I came to the ad.  And I had no problem following things from that point on.  Hey, Phelps, cut the first ten pages!  Completely!

The rest of the chapter plunges into moronic backstory, but eventually she goes to apply for the job, and things pick up nicely.  She gushes a lot about how sexy the men are, which gets old fast, but there's an air of mystery and menace as she gets through the evaluation process.  

She recruits a talented friend to help her out, and they compete with another applicant in some pretty cool ways.  From there the stakes keep rising, and there's always something new around the next corner.  In many ways it's a fun potboiler of a book.

But it's also unintentionally hilarious.  Comma errors?  They happen to everyone.  Rappel vs. repel?  Anyone can make that mistake.  But "a vile of liquid?"  It's not a typo, either.  She calls it a "vile" twice.  

There is some good, solid storytelling, paired with writing that varies between adequate and incompetent.  I suspect that, ten years from now, Phelps will be a pretty good writer, and she'll look back on this book with keen embarrassment.  

But at least the price is right.  Color Me Grey is free, so you can check it out and see if the writing bugs you enough to ruin the story.  I recommend starting at Chapter 2.  If the premise (and it's a really good premise) really appeals to you, give the book a chance.  At the very least you can enjoy a feminist James Bond fantasy with plenty of unintentional laughs.

Free at Amazon:

Free at Smashwords:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shanghai Steam is Coming

I sold a story this year to a very cool anthology called Shanghai Steam.  The anthology is a mashup of Steampunk and Wuxia (essentially Kung-Fu heroics).  I had a blast writing a bunch of stories, submitting the best ones, and finally selling one.  I think the anthology is going to be crazy good, and I can't wait to get my sweaty hands on a copy.  

The official launch is at the World Fantasy convention in Toronto at the start of November.  In the meantime, the talented Laurel Anne Hill has made a trailer and crammed it full of awesomeness.  Check it out.


Friday, October 5, 2012

This Brilliant Darkness - Free Today

This Brilliant Darkness, a dark fantasy novel by the talented Red Tash, is free at the moment (Amazon only) but likely not for much longer.  It's a dark, somewhat disturbing tale, with mystery elements and well-crafted, engaging characters.  It's also quite unlike the standard urban fantasy fare, and well worth checking out.  You can see my review here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Scheherazade is Live

A year or so ago I wrote some material for a game from Black Chicken Studios. It's one of the most fun assignments I've ever had, an adventure with a bit of romance, set in 1931 and taking place all over the world. Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum is live now. Check out the trailer below.

The finished game is huge.  My own contribution is just a tiny percentage of the final product.  It's got everything I like, from globe-trotting adventure to treasure hunts, mystery and exotic locations, and a fun, pulpy, really cool vibe.  

Julius Katz Mysteries

My Rating: 5/5

Dave Zeltserman's Julius Katz mystery stories are classics of the mystery genre, but they have a distinct science-fiction element to them.  Julius Katz is a detective in the Sherlock Holmes mold, brilliant and always several steps ahead of everyone around him.  What makes the stories unique is the nature of his sidekick, Archie, who narrates the stories.  Archie is a self-aware computer program.

There are two stories in this collection, plus a sample chapter from a full-length novel.  The stories are flawless.  In fact, you could call them textbook examples of how to write a mystery story.  "Julius Katz" was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and won a Shamus Award for best short story, and a Derringer Award for Best Novelette.  "Archie's Been Framed" was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and won a Readers Choice Award.  

"Julius Katz" introduces us to Julius, chronically lazy genius detective, who never takes on a client unless he's running out of money, and Archie, his virtual sidekick who resides in a tie clip Julius wears.  He handles all of Julius's paperwork, and even answers the phone via an online interface.  No one but Julius knows that Archie hasn't got a body.

There is an intriguing mystery, and a fascinating exploration of the potential of a digital person.  We see Archie ponder his nature and his limitations, as well as his unique abilities.  And Zeltserman gives Archie a distinct, intriguing, and thoroughly entertaining personality.  He wants to learn how to be a better detective, so he pesters Julius to take on more cases, so Archie can watch and learn.

In "Archie's Been Framed," he takes it to another level.  Archie has been dating, sort of.  He's met someone on an online dating site, chatted with her on the phone, even generated a photo to send to her.  But he's done too good a job.  When a body turns up, all the clues point to the new boyfriend.  Yes, a computer program is accused of murder.

The stories are designed to appeal to mystery fans, but there's something for fans of science fiction too, all of it buoyed up by really excellent writing.  And if you like these stories, there is more.  Zelsterman has written a novel and another collection of Julius Katz and Archie short stories.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Two Horror Collections

One Buck Horror, Volume 1

My rating: 4/5 stars
I've been checking out some horror anthologies lately. First, volume one of the One Buck Horror series. Really, the title says it all, and any questions that might remain are answered by the cover. It's a fun collection of pretty decent horror tales bundled together at a really low price.

It's a surprisingly solid collection of five stories, all of them effective, all of them entertaining. The unifying theme is children in peril, an effective choice. We've all been kids, and we've all known what it's like to be powerless, at the mercy of the people around you. Some of the stories are darker than others, but even the light ones have a nasty undertone to them that gives them a real punch.

A boy brings a bit of slime from the monster in his friend's basement to school for show and tell, and the real horror is what you read between the lines. Three kids visit a travelling circus after dark, and even discovering that the alligator man is real isn't the worst thing they find. A predatory old man has plans for his latest victim, a young runaway, but his previous victims have a plan of their own. A boy encounters a werewolf in a cornfield, and flees for the safety of home, until he learns the truth of where the wolf came from. And a boy puts his trust in the wrong parent when a marital spat mixes with black magic.

It's a thoroughly enjoyable collection, worth a lot more than the price would indicate. And there's lots more where that came from. The series is up to volume 5 so far.

Darker Than Noir

My rating: 4/5
I saw this book and knew I had to have it.  I wasn't disappointed, either.  There are some startlingly excellent stories in here.  There is some really great stuff, and for some reason it's priced at a buck.  As an ebook it's only available for Kindle at the moment, unfortunately.  You can get a paperback copy instead.

It's an awesome idea, a blend of the noir mystery genre and supernatural horror.  Most of the protagonists are world-weary private detectives, with some cops and civilians mixed in.  There's a gumshoe with demonic connections, and an ex-cop whose soul is in limbo, which makes him a uniquely-qualified freelancer when the Vatican is facing a tough exorcism.  An immortal investigator chases the mother of Hansel and Gretel from life to life as she murders the innocent in a quest to resurrect her children.  An insurance investigator captures a demon on video.  

They face a kitsune in Japan, a mad scientist, amateur Satanists, and the demonically possessed.  Sometimes they prevail.  Sometimes they lose their lives.  Sometimes they lose much more.

There are eighteen stories in the collection, and many of them are excellent.  Several are outstanding.  A few are mediocre, and some of them need better editing.  One story is so sick I couldn't read it.  You won't have trouble figuring out which one.  It's got a title so vulgar I won't type in in my blog.  

I was hugely impressed by some parts of the collection, but I was frustrated, too.  The formatting is crap.  Half-assed, sloppy crap.  Every paragraph is left-aligned, with no spaces between paragraphs.  Then there will be places where an entire page is indented for no particular reason.  In a couple of places, pages and pages are in italics.  It's amateurish.  

Still, the good parts are so good it's more than worth your while to endure the hamfisted formatting and hit-and-miss editing.  It annoyed me, but I still have to recommend Darker Than Noir.

Get One Buck Horror at Smashwords

Friday, September 7, 2012

Guest Post - Creating an Alternate History

Today I've got a guest post from Christian Porter, whose debut novel, Shadow Precinct, has just been released by Aziza Publishing.  Shadow Precinct is a wildly inventive tale, kind of a ninja murder mystery set in an alternate world where Japan, instead of bombing Pearl Harbor, sent an invasion of Kamikaze swordsmen.

You can order the book in paperback form from Aziza publishing by visiting and clicking the "Shop Aziza" link.  I've even got a coupon code for you to get an extra two bucks off: SPCP201209PROMO.

Now here's the author, to tell us about the process of creating an alternate history.  Take it away, Christian:

I have been asked over the course of writing my first novel what the hardest part was.  Honestly, I lost count of the hard parts a long time ago.   Am I writing a cool and engaging story?  Will the reader be able to visualize the events in their mind?  Have I actually written anything or have I been awake so long I am now hallucinating?  There have been a lot of obstacles that I had to overcome to make it to the finish line, many of those obstacles were self-imposed.  I had to become confident enough and determined enough to see the story through from beginning to end, but I also had to have a plan.  I’d like to provide some gems about the process that I used to create the fictional history for my novel, Shadow Precinct.    
When I first had the idea for the story of Shadow Precinct, I knew immediately that I wanted to incorporate real events into the history.  There had to be a reason why the alternate version of the United States that exists in the book became what it is.  If you are creating an extensive history or backstory for your story, I would suggest starting with an initial premise and work backwards from that.  For me, the initial idea was:  What would the US be like if firearms were heavily restricted?  For you it may be:  What was life like before dragons?  What was life like before the zombie apocalypse?  You get the point.  From this initial premise, I had to consider the many events that would lead up to such an event to come to pass.  Of course, it wouldn’t be something that happened overnight, there would have to be a substantial snowball effect to create the particular set of circumstances.  One of the most helpful ways to do this is to establish a timeline.
Start your timeline with the earliest major event that you want the reader to be aware of.  There are two things you should be aware of.  One, you should always be sure anything you add to the timeline eventually leads your world to the major event of your premise.  Two, try not to overdo it here.  You don’t want to inundate your history with a bunch of pointless facts.  There’s a fine line between adding weight to the story to enhance believability and drowning it in details that will hinder the reader’s experience.   Your timeline will become a valuable tool in your writing arsenal going forward.
Lastly, I know this may come as a bit of a shock, start writing.  You have ideas about where you want your story to go, now it’s about the getting there (the fun part).  Fortunately, you have a handy timeline to help guide you in your writing.  Keep in mind that the timeline is not concrete, it should be ever growing and changing as your story does.  As you come up with new story elements, ask yourself how it fits into the continuity you’ve already established.  Sometimes, you’ll have to rework some aspects to make sure everything fits as it should.  It’s a back and forth process that I’ve found to be immensely helpful in my writing, and hopefully it is in yours as well.      

Christian Porter is a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C.  He has had jobs as a programmer/designer in the video game industry, and most recently as a technology coordinator for a network of charter schools in New Orleans.  He drew his inspiration for his debut novel from many different places: comic books and anime, old school kung-fu movies with awful voice dubbing, hip hop music with lots of curse words, action movies with awesome one-liners, and visionary science fiction films with awe-inspiring settings.

People can view concept art or contact him at his website:


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Odd Title, Very Cool Book

Marcin Wrona has released a new book.  A Century of Swollen Clouds is as good as his other titles, which is saying something.  This guy is definitely one of my favorite authors.

The title and cover seem appallingly literary, but the story itself is crammed full of action, hairs-breadth escapes, grim vengeance, high adventure, gunfire and flying ships.  It's fun and awesome in an almost comic-book style, with endless action and fantastic elements.

And yet it's much more than a crowd-pleasing adventure story.  As usual the prose is excellent, evocative, occasionally poetically beautiful, and occasionally hilarious.  The story itself is remarkably original, especially in terms of setting.  Wrona has a talent for sidestepping cliches and digging deeper.  Where most fantasy authors go to Medieval Europe for a starting point, he's gone east, taking his inspiration from Indian Buddhism.

Culturally, the world is richly detailed and feels utterly authentic.  This isn't another Tolkien knock-off with kings and queens and knights and peasants.  It's a richly detailed world with complicated people, clashing cultures, bigots and mystics, history and traditions.

In physical terms it's a brilliantly original concept.  Certain forces have used magic to cover much of the world in storm clouds for a hundred years.  Humanity survives on mountaintops that stick above the clouds, and uses magically-propelled airships to travel.  Every part of this odd new world seems to have been thought out in great detail.  It all makes sense, it works, and it's fascinating to read about.

The characters show similar depth.  The protagonist is a girl in her late teens, raised in a wealthy household, surrounded by privilege but without any power of her own.  As she discovers the world we see her gradually letting go of her preconceptions.  She moves through a rich tapestry of complex personalities.  There are heroes and villains and people who are somewhere in between, struggling to find their path.  

It's a coming-of-age story, and a story of exploration, and a tale of high adventure.  It also explores issues like colonialism, prejudice, the abuse of power, gender stereotypes, and the nature of responsibility.

I highly recommend A Century of Swollen Clouds.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The End - From "The New Death and Others"

The story below is from The New Death and others, a collection of unexpected, thought-provoking, and highly original stories by James Hutchings.  I selected one of his lighter and more whimsical stories to share with you, because, hey, I'm shallow.

The End

"OK, that was a pretty scary story, but I think I've got a better one." Rob paused to pop a roasted marshmallow in his mouth. He stood up. In the flames of the campfire his eyes seemed to glow, like those of a wolf in the night.

"Once upon a time, not so long ago, a group of friends went out camping. There were five young men and women...but did I say five? In truth there were but four. For the fifth member of their party was not the young man he appeared to be. He was not a man at all; indeed, not even a living creature, but one of the walking dead! Dear friends, there is a twist in the tale. This is no story. Many years have I walked in the guise of mortal man. Many thirsty years. Now, at last, I shall feed!" Rob opened his mouth, now filled with long, wolf-life fangs, and howled with inhuman laughter.

There was a long silence.

"Wow. This is awkward, Rob," said Jenny at last. "I'm actually a vampire as well. But I guess we can split two ways?"

"Three ways," said Mark.

"Oh, no way you're both vampires too," Rob said angrily.

"No, no. I'm a demon. I was hoping to tempt you into sin and damn your souls. Well, Tim and Alice's souls now."

A pair of bat-like wings, huge and leathery, sprouted from Alice's back.
"Sorry. Succubus."

Tim raised his hand.

"I'm the coagulated rage of the murdered children whose bodies lie beneath us. I regenerate, so I guess you guys could eat a bit of me, but I'm kind of sour..." He trailed off as the others shook their heads. Mark warmed his hands at the campfire. Everywhere is too cold when you come from Hell.

"Man, what are the odds?" Rob asked no one in particular. "I mean, you assume everyone else is a real human, am I right?"

"I guess so," Tim replied. "I actually stalked these four college kids last month? Turned out they were the ghosts of some college kids I killed years ago. Pretty embarrassing."

"You don't..." Alice began, then trailed off.

"What?" Mark asked.

"Well, you don't think that they're all gone?"


"Humans. Mortals. They haven't...I don't know, died out?"

"What, everyone's really a vampire or a demon or something?"

"Well, yeah."

"No. No, no way. I mean, we'd know. You could tell."

"You know," Mark said thoughtfully, "people don't seem to be into forbidden magic any more. It's been so long since anyone tried to sell me their soul. It was...actually I think it was in the 20th century some time. Gee, that long. But no, no way they could all be gone." He turned to the two vampires. "I mean you guys get hunted all the time don't you?"

"Oh, for sure," Jenny nodded. "I'm always thinking people are following me or about to throw holy water or whatever. There was this old guy, Obadiah something. Wow, he just didn't give up. Followed me pretty much the whole Civil War."

No one replied. The only sounds were the insects and the fire. At last Alice broke the silence.
"Hey, if this was a TV show? The vampire hunters would leap out at us about now, and they'd be all like 'we didn't die, we just got real careful' or 'we're over here' or something."

But no human sprang upon them. None at all.

James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia. He fights crime as Poetic Justice, but his day job is acting. You might know him by his stage-name 'Brad Pitt.' He specializes in short fantasy fiction. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, fiction365 and Enchanted Conversation among other markets. His ebook collection The New Death and others is now available from Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. He blogs daily at Teleleli.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

eFiction Kickstarter

Doug Lance is running a Kickstarter in support of two things close to my heart: launching five new genre fiction magazines, and paying his writers more.  eFiction Magazine has been around since 2010 and it's gotten well-enough established that Lance is branching out and creating separate titles for noir, fantasy, science fiction, and horror.  (There's also a romance title in the works, but why focus on the negative?  Kidding, I kid.)

It's a good chance to score a cheap subscription or three, and of course you'll be helping create something cool.  Check out the kickstarter here:

eFiction magazine is at

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Yes, There Is a Zombie Shark

So I submitted a story a little while back to Cruentus Libri Press for their upcoming "Dead Sea" horror anthology.  Today I got a reply.  Definitely the coolest editor response I've ever gotten.  Check it out:

Good morning, Brent,

Thank you for your submission to The Dead Sea. We are pleased to confirm that we will be including it in the anthology. It's a great story, well told. It's nice to see a horror story that isn't afraid to load itself with action, as opposed to a brooding, slow build - very refreshing. What really sold me on it was the inclusion of a zombie shark - seriously, what's not to love?

Anyway, a contract will reach you by the end of the week, so keep an eye out in your inbox.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Book Review - The Brodie Wade Series

Jerry Hanel's Brodie Wade series rocks.  There are two books so far, Death Has a Name and Thaloc Has a Body.  You could call them highly original paranormal mystery/adventure stories starring Brodie Wade, a man who can see the living embodiment of The Truth.

It's a challenging and intriguing premise for the series.  The Truth has a physical manifestation that is visible and palpable to Brodie Wade, the likeable everyman hero of the series.  The Truth just wants to be known.  In fact, sometimes it demands to be known, and it will quite literally smack Brodie around to make itself heard.  It's one of the most powerful parts of these stories.  The Truth is like a force of nature, extremely powerful yet completely unreasoning.  

Brodie's relationship with The Truth is strained, to say the least.  It has provided him with valuable insights.  It provides a source of income, allowing him to work as a consultant to the local police department.  But it has also pretty much ruined his life.  Brodie has spent time in a mental institution, and as he keeps reacting to things no one else can see, the risk of being committed again is always hanging over his head.

In the first book, Death Has a Name, Brodie has just one friend, homicide detective Phil Dawson.  Aided by a lady cop, Jamie Stanford, they try to stop a mysterious entity who seems to be a serial killer but may actually be trying to bring to life the living embodiment of Death.

Thaloc Has a Body gets off to a killer start when The Truth tells Brodie that he's going to die.  That's frightening enough, but what REALLY scares him is Jamie.  She wants to go on a date.  The mystery is puzzling, the drama is powerful, and the characters and their relationships are endlessly engaging.

Brodie as a hero is the best part of the series.  He's scrawny and timid and introverted, and heartily wishes The Truth would just leave him alone.  He constantly walks a fine line, needing to react to The Truth to keep this powerful supernatural force placated.  Yet he must constantly pretend that The Truth isn't there, to keep up an appearance of sanity.

Yet despite all that he goes through, when the chips are down and the stakes are high, he just keeps doing what needs to be done.  Life keeps clobbering him again and again, and he keeps getting back up, battered and bloody, and fighting the good fight.  You feel his pain, his terror, his hopelessness.  And his remarkable courage.  It's marvelously good reading.

There are things I don't like about the series.  It's crying out for a good editing and proofreading.  The prose is often clunky and unpolished, though the power of the storytelling more than makes up for it.  The Truth is a wonderfully original idea, but it's kind of inconsistently portrayed.  Sometimes The Truth is just a neutral, if powerful, force, wanting only to be known.  Other times The Truth seems to have an agenda, and pesters Brodie to save people who are in danger.  

Overall, though, it's well worth checking out.  Especially since volume 1, Death Has a Name, is currently free.

Get Death Has a Name and Thaloc Has a Body at Smashwords.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Review - Dark King of the North

My rating: 4 / 5

The Kobalos trilogy comes to a close with Dark King of the North.  In City of Rogues we met Kron Darkbow and saw him wage a war of vengeance on local crime lord Belgad the Liar.  In Road to Wrath he set out with Randall Tendbones and Adara Corvus to confront the freakishly powerful Lord Verkain, pursued by Verkain's war demons, an angry Belgad, and a professional duelist with grudges against Kron and Adara.  Now, in Dark King of the North, everything comes to a head.

There's a potential issue in this story with Kron encountering enemies and allies so powerful that he becomes superfluous.  However, even as war demons and a mage of mind-boggling power on one side do battle with a powerful wizard and a reincarnated god on the other side, there is still plenty of mayhem for Kron to revel in.

One of the beautiful things about the trilogy is how the story has been building up to this bigger-than-epic confrontation.  Verkain is a horrifically dangerous opponent, and the stakes have risen and risen until Kron has no choice but to somehow try to stop him.  The price he pays is high.  He gets hurt.  He loses friends.  He gets hurt more.  The things he tries blow up in his face, and he just has to pick up the pieces and try again.

It's very powerful storytelling, and it brings the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.  If you liked the earlier books you'll like this one.  Dark King of the North could work as a stand-alone novel, but I'd definitely recommend reading the other books first.

I think I can see the author improving, as well.  Ty Johnston is a writer to watch, constantly challenging himself, writing in various genres, expanding and honing his skills.  The prose is still a bit rough, but it has improved over the earlier books.  The kick-ass storytelling is still intact and working fine.

At three bucks it's a bargain, but there is now a Kobalos Trilogy omnibus edition that will save you a few bucks.  It's gritty, hard-edged, action-packed sword and sorcery adventure, and I recommend you check it out.

The Kobalos Trilogy Omnibus on Smashwords
Dark King of the North on Smashwords

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Book Review - The Whitechapel Gambit

My rating: 5 / 5

You'll know I'm a fan of Marcin Wrona if you've read my review of Pale Queen's Courtyard. What he's done for sword and sorcery he's now done for steampunk, and I think this book is actually better.

The Whitechapel Gambit is the story of a boy named Squeak who helps maintain the machinery that keeps an artificial sun blazing over an underground community.  An on-the-job injury leads to involvement with mad science, a millionaire with a dark obsession, and a deadly journey to the surface of this strange new world.  There's a serial killer, class struggles, bad poetry and chess lessons.

As with Pale Queen's Courtyard, Wrona has crafted something challenging, complex, and deep, while keeping all the fun genre elements that make it delightful to read.  I don't know anyone who does a better job of combining thought-provoking ideas and the best parts of literary writing with sheer fun, crowd-pleasing, really cool storytelling.

It's a very ambitious book.  I, as an author, would not try a lot of the things Wrona tackles.  There's a VERY strange setting.  There's language.  Some of the cast speaks a blend of 19th-century Cockney slang and invented slang.  Others speak the middle-class Victorian English.  The rest speak upper-class English.  It's no more difficult than juggling chainsaws, after designing one of the chainsaws yourself.

There's some non-linear narrative.  There are chess lessons loaded with symbolism.  There are technological and magical systems built from scratch.  I might attempt any one of these things.  This book earns my respect by trying them all.  I'd be impressed even if it had blown up in his face.  But he actually made it all work.

By the very end the timeline was starting to slip away from me. There were times when I wasn't sure where I was temporally, what level of flashback I was in.  There is a cast of servants too big to keep track of them, and when one of them does something shocking, the effect is blunted for me by not being able remember just who that person was.  And there was a significant plot element that I don't think got resolved.  I'm not sure if it's a setup for a sequel, or if I missed something.

Overall, though, the book is brilliant.  There's powerful drama, mystery, and parts that made me laugh.  It's a highly original world that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring, and there was no shortage of thought-provoking ideas.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Cover Art

I've got some fantastic new cover art for Lord of Fire, courtesy of Deedee Davies at She does excellent work, she's a pleasure to work with, and she's quite affordable.  I recommend her without reservation.

I think she's captured the essence of Hazel, my take-no-prisoners witch.  The look on her face makes you really glad you aren't the poor sap with the sword.  

If you have any inclination to buy the book, now would be a good time.  I'm going to be re-releasing it with the new cover art and a higher price sometime soon.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Creative Commons

Today I have a thought-provoking guest post from a talented writer named James Hutchings.  I gave James every opportunity to shamelessly plug his short story collection, The New Death and others , but he chose instead to write about copyrights, intellectual property, and simple ways for all of us to be a bit less anal-retentive.

You'll be hearing more about James in a week or so when I post a story of his, The End.  I encourage you to check out The New Death, which is insightful, highly original, and quite entertaining.  In the meantime, here's a very accessible primer on a topic important to all of us as readers and writers.  Take it away, James:

Many writers, whether published or just starting out, are very nervous that someone else will steal their work, whether that be another writer using their ideas in their own stories, or someone making pirated copies of their books. When I put out a collection of my writing, I specifically gave permission for anyone at all to copy my ideas, or even to cut and paste whole stories. I also contacted the Pirate Party, a worldwide network that wants to lessen copyright, and told them that I was giving anyone permission to put my ebook on file-sharing sites. In this post I hope to show why I went against common wisdom.

Creative Commons

I used a free service called Creative Commons. Creative Commons is useful for people who want to give the general public permission to use their work, but with restrictions. In my case I didn't mind people using my work for non-profit purposes, such as posting on a blog, but I didn't want to allow anyone to make money off it. Similarly I wanted anyone who used it to give me credit. I could have just listed these things myself. However I'm not a lawyer, and perhaps I would have worded it wrong so that someone could twist what I said to do more than I meant. Also I could have been unclear about what I was allowing and what I wasn't allowing. Sure, someone could email me and ask, but the whole purpose of having a written statement is so that people don't have to ask.

Creative Commons has a series of different licenses, which give permission to do different things. They're all legally 'tight', and they're all summarized in plain language. So all you have to do is go to their site and answer a series of questions, to get to the license that does what you want. In my case I used the Attribution Non-Commercial License.


That's what I did. But why? Common sense would suggest that I'm giving something away for free that I could be selling. However I believe that, in the long run, I'll be better off. The main reason is that I've seen how many people are, like me, trying to get their writing out there. Go to Smashwords and have a look at the latest ebooks. Then refresh the page ten minutes later, and you'll probably see a whole new lot. The problem that new writers face isn't that people want to steal your work; it's getting anyone to show an interest in your work at all. If someone passes on a pirated copy of my work, it might get to someone who's prepared to buy it - and that someone would probably have never heard of me otherwise. Even if they don't want to pay for what they read, I might come out with something else in the future, and perhaps paying 99c for it will be easier than hunting it down on a file-sharing site.

Science fiction writer Andrew Burt tells the story of someone who disliked his book, and to get back at him decided to put a copy on a file-sharing site. The effect was that he got a small 'spike' in sales immediately afterwards.

I also have some less selfish motives. Many people would assume that the purpose of copyright is to protect authors and creators. Leaving aside the fact that someone else often ends up with the rights (how many Disney shareholders created any of the Disney characters? How many shareholders in Microsoft have ever written a line of code?), that doesn't seem to have been the intention in the past. The US Constitution says that Congress has the power "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Note that protecting 'intellectual property' isn't mentioned. The authors of the Constitution seemed to see the point as getting ideas out there where people can use them: almost the exact opposite of keeping them 'safe' and 'protected'.

The original idea of copyright seems to have been a sort of deal: you have an idea, and we want you to get it out into the world where it will do some good. To encourage you to do that, we'll give you a monopoly on its use for a limited time. After that, anybody can use it (it will enter the 'public domain').

A lot of people don't know that copyright used to give a lot less protection than it does now, especially in the United States. In the US, it used to be that works were copyrighted for a maximum of 56 years. Today copyright in the US can last for over 100 years. In fact Congress keeps extending the time. In practice, they're acting as if they never want ideas to go into the public domain.

This is great for the owners of 'intellectual property'. But it's hard to see how this "promotes the Progress of Science and useful Arts," or how forever is a "limited time." In a sense it's a theft from the public. Anyone who publishes work has accepted the deal that the law offers, of a limited monopoly in return for making their idea known. Congress has been giving them more and more extensions on that monopoly, but doesn't require them to do anything to earn it.

It probably doesn't matter that much that Disney still owns Mickey Mouse, or that Lord of the Rings is still under copyright. But remember that these laws don't just apply to the arts. Similar laws apply to science as well. So a life-saving invention could be going unused, because its owner wants too much money for it, or because it's tied up in court while two companies fight about who owns it.


I'm far from an expert on either the law or the publishing industry. However I hope that I've given you, especially those of you who might be thinking about publishing some writing, a different take on the whole issue of whether authors should worry about their ideas being stolen. At least I hope I've shown you that there's a different way of thinking about it, and that that way doesn't require you to just give up on making money; in fact that it might be more profitable as well as better for society.

James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia. He fights crime as Poetic Justice, but his day job is acting. You might know him by his stage-name 'Brad Pitt.' He specializes in short fantasy fiction. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, fiction365 and Enchanted Conversation among other markets. His ebook collection The New Death and others is now available from Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. He blogs daily at Teleleli.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Free Fantasy, Two Days Only

It's the first annual summer solstice fantasy promotion, 21 fantasy authors and 27 fantasy books that will be free on June 20-21 2012. Check out the entire list here:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Pants on Fire

Today I have a guest post from Grant Stone, the author of Everything Zing – the Imagine Nation’s ultimate saga.  Take it away, Grant:

Growing up we all remember a schoolmate, neighborhood pal, or perhaps even a parent of teacher exclaiming, “Liar liar – pants on fire!” Because lying is a bad thing, right? Because liars are dreadful people, certainly not the sort of individuals we’d ever want to grow up and become. And probably because liar and fire rhyme so nicely together.

Over the past decade, my life has been consumed in a quest to create the most entertaining saga possible. Like all authors my goal was to create a fascinating and enchanting plotline composed of characters my readers would find both intriguing and relatable. My mission seemed reasonable, even commendable, as society upholds the art of creative writing, and I believe I have succeeded as Everything Zing is receiving positive reviews. However, I must face a fact – my britches are burning!

None of my characters are real; none are even based on actual people. None of the events actually took place, even though exact dates are used. From cover to cover my novel is a complete fabrication and fiction at her finest… 100% pure lies.

Think back to your favorite stories – the most beloved tales, the ones you know in your mind couldn’t really exist, and yet in your heart wish and almost believe could somehow be true. According to this argument, those writers are also the world’s greatest liars, and therefore, their trousers must certainly be in flames.

But escaping the truth of reality is the reason we dive into a novel – to lose ourselves in another world for a while – so we can return with a new perspective and a bit more clarity about the life we currently live. We trust writers to do precisely that – to create galaxies and kingdoms and “once upon a times” that mesmerize us – even though we know they’re lying to us. Our favorite fantasies are indeed only fantasies, but it sure is fun to pretend, especially when a novel delivers an element of truth and revelation, even a simple reminder that good is still good and bad is still bad.

Certainly there are times when the truth is stranger than fiction, and there are definitely occasions when the kindest act is not to tell the truth (that dress does look hideous and does make you look obese). Can you imagine a world where every truth that swept across our minds became public knowledge? Thanks to films like Liar Liar and The Invention of Lying we have an entertaining glimpse at such a scenario. I think we’d all agree that we’re better off without complete truth.

Lastly, let’s not forget that writing and reading is entertainment and fun, so don’t take this discussion too seriously. After all, this essay is about a writer poking fun at himself, his craft, and his goal to become one of the world’s greatest writers – which as we all now know equals greatest liars. In fact, there may be no truth to this entire piece. Perhaps the lie is in the lie… and there really is an Imagine Nation with a Capital City called Zing. Perhaps this narrative has simply been another work of fantastic fiction.

Grant Stone is the author of Everything Zing – the Imagine Nation’s ultimate saga.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Free Fantasy Deluge

It's the first annual summer solstice fantasy promotion, coming in one week for two days only.  A group of 21 fantasy authors and 27 fantasy books that will be free on June 20-21 2012.  Check out the entire list here:

Friday, June 1, 2012

eFiction Science Fiction Issue

eFiction Magazine's June issue is dedicated to science fiction.  Pick it up for $3.99 or subscribe for two bucks a month.  The lead story, The Angry Astronaut by Kevin C. Norris, is currently posted free on the eFiction website -

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recommeded Reading - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

Looking for some free reading? I think the title of this website says it all. There's a very solid selection of stories, each one chock-full of two-fisted pulpy action goodness.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review - Bob Moore: No Hero

My Rating: 4/5

 I've found another free gem, and another author to watch. Bob Moore: No Hero is the kind of story that makes me enthusiastic about digital publishing. It would never see the light of day in traditional publishing. It' too short. However, it's exactly the length it ought to be, and it's a thoroughly entertaining and worthwhile tale. 

A blend of comic book tropes and gritty noir stylings, No Hero is the tale of an ordinary guy in a world where mad scientists and super heroes are commonplace. He's found his (very dangerous) niche in this new world: he's a private eye who specializes in investigating supers. 

The opening gambit is brilliant and hilarious. Bob has been hired by "The Flamer" to spy on his sidekick. He's afraid she might be sidekicking for someone else. It turns out she's having a torrid affair with another superhero. Bob learns first-hand the dangers involved when you start snapping photos of people with super-hearing, who can fly and throw fireballs. 

It's one of the funniest things I've read in months, but it has a serious undertone that sets the theme for the rest of the book. The supers know they're better than the rest of us. It makes them arrogant. They abuse their power almost automatically, bullying regular people with no more thought than you would give to putting your dog on a leash. 

The bulk of the tale involves Bob being hired by a mad scientist whose patients have been disappearing. There's a baffling mystery, a looming sense of danger, and beneath it all a thoughtful exploration of the theme of power and its abuse. It's a comic-book world, but it's populated by complex, fascinating people. 

There is now a sequel available, Bob Moore: Desperate Times

Get Bob Moore: No Hero free at Amazon.

Get Bob Moore: No Hero free at Smashwords.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review - Flash Gold

My rating: 4.5 / 5

Flash Gold is a steampunk novella by Lindsay Buroker.  Set in the Klondike during the gold rush, it tells the story of 18-year-old Kali McAlister, who has inherited her father's alchemical invention, flash gold.  She's using it to create some fantastic inventions, but there are gangsters and pirates who will do anything to get it from her.

She builds a steam-powered "dogless sled" and enters a race, hoping to win enough money to escape Moose Hollow (by building an airship, of course).  A potential ally comes along in the form of Cedar, a tall, mysterious stranger who hires on as her assistant.  She doesn't trust him, not even close, even when he helps her out of some tough scrapes.  Her distrust is not without reason.  He's got secrets.

All in all this is a hugely fun, entertaining story.  There are cool elements, from pirates in an airship to Kali's weaponized gadgets.  There is action galore, all of it in a setting quite refreshing for a steampunk story.  The characters have depth and nuance, and secrets too.  They're also really fun to read about.  Kali's spunky and full of bravado, with a bunch of vulnerability kept hidden under the surface.  Cedar is mysterious and dangerous, with a tongue nearly as dangerous as his sword.    

Some of the dialogue is a delight to read.  Kali and Cedar are quite intelligent, and their dialogue reflects this.  There is some excellent witty banter, and the chemistry between them is handled very well.  Even as they save each other's lives they exchange insults and keep secrets.  It's a real pleasure to read.

From time to time, though, the dialogue gets a little too erudite.  It starts to sound like something you would write, but not something you would ever say out loud.  That's as close as I've got to a complaint.

At 18,000 words it's a fairly short tale, but the length is appropriate for the story being told.  There are two sequels, each one longer than the one before.  I'll be checking those out for sure.

Check out Flash Gold for steampunk gadgets, high adventure, and a thoroughly enjoyable story.  Best of all, it's free.

Get it at Smashwords.

Get it at Amazon.