Monday, 30 May 2016

Book Review: September Sky by John A. Heldt


While this is only the second novel by Mr. Heldt I've read, I'm convinced he can basically do no wrong. I remember after reading "The Mine" I was trying to remember the actors in a movie I saw recently, and realized it hadn't been a movie. It was his book. "September Sky" is no exception.

Unlike 'The Mine' the two main characters, Chuck and Justin, knew and chose to travel back in time. In fact, they even chose the year. It made me wonder if I had a choice of a few years, when I would travel back to. It definitely would not be an easy choice for me, but I think they made a good decision and we learn that Chuck had an ulterior motive to choosing 1900.

Once in 1900, the two quickly defy their orders and travel to Texas in order to change history. As with all time travel novels, there's always the issue of the time paradox, and whether or not you can truly change the past. In Heldt's novels, you can, but we don't see the evidence of it effecting the present which I suppose is something Chuck and Justin were careful about.

I enjoyed the characters, and but for a few times where the dialogue didn't seem quite "there" the characters were memorable enough to overlook their flaws. I found Emily a little rough around the edges, but her development was wonderful. I found Charlotte to be the least developed. She seemed much too simple, to me at least. But of course I still liked her.

The novel seemed a bit longer than necessary but I'm not complaining as I love the author's writing style. The story, while drawn out, was written in a way that gave me a connection to what was happening. I was always wondering what was going to come around the next corner, as certain things hadn't been resolved yet. And, of course, everything was tied up nicely together in the end.

For anyone who enjoy historical fiction, and even a tiny bit of sci-fi (there is time travelling, after all) I highly recommend this novel. And all of Heldt's other novels.

Buy the book on Amazon.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Review for "In the Blood of the Greeks" by Mary D. Brooks


“In the Blood of the Greeks” by Mary D. Brooks

In the Blood of the Greeks by Mary D. Brooks is a riveting tale of the Nazi occupation of a town in Greece during the Second World War. Brooks tells us of the story of a local girl, Zoe Lambros and how her life became entwined with the Greek Resistance and the daughter of a German commander, Eva Muller, and how their actions shaped their small village in Greece. Along the way we meet and connect with many other characters who bring the desperation of war to life, who act and react to the constantly shifting morality they find themselves in.

This is not your average story about war; from the choice of setting the novel in Greece, to the types of characters chosen, “In the Blood of the Greeks” strives to bring a breath of fresh air to the WWII fiction genre. The two main characters, Zoe and Eva, are strong compelling women, different from each other in every way yet destined to be together. The relationship that grows between them melted my heart (Which I will inform you all is no small feat) and Brooks expertly kept up the intensity of their situation and kept the reader holding their breath the whole time. The fear felt real, the love felt real and the sadness that was ever present felt all too real.

There were times however, where the author poured too much into the story. Zoe’s anger at everything and everyone sometimes felt overbearing; she is a rebel, she is stubborn and she does things her way. You get that that is a necessary part of her character, but a lot of times that appears to be her only character trait, and her as a person does not fully develop as far as her potential. The relationship between the two women does also feel like it was rushed towards the end, that the pleasant pace of growth between the two was pushed beyond its means by the end of the book. I do tend to appreciate the build up towards a romance more than the romance itself, so perhaps I am being too fussy here, but despite that criticism their love is the golden apex of a fabulous book.

The best thing about this book in my opinion, is that Brooks has sequels planned, so you don’t have to say goodbye to Zoe and Eva just yet, and if this book is any indication the sequel will be even better. I highly recommend “In the Blood of the Greeks.”

To see more about the author click here
To buy it through Amazon click here

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Author Spotlight on Andrew Joyce

My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Lilaina has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to promote my new novel RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure. I think it’s a good book, but what do I know? Anyway, I’m kinda shy about tooting my own horn. So I think I’ll turn things over to my dog, Danny. He always has an attitude and usually does not speak highly of me. But please understand that we co-exist as the old Soviet Union and the United States once co-existed. We tolerate each other. So without further ado, here’s Danny the Dog.

Andrew took me away from some very important business of mine to help him out here. There was a duck outside the boat we live on and I had to bark at him. It’s my job.

Now on to the reason why I was so unceremoniously dragged here: For a person who works with words for a living, Andrew has very little to say in real life. He wants me to tout his book for him, but I don’t think I will. Instead, I think I’ll tell you a little about where we live.

I, of course, am Danny the Dog, purveyor of wit, wisdom, and words.

In times past, I’ve captivated and enthralled multitudes with my wondrous tales of taking Andrew for his morning constitutional to the park; however, I’ve been remiss in not regaling my fans with narratives of our stop by the Tiki hut every morning. In a moment, The Adventure at the Tiki Hut, but first the Tiki hut itself.

A Tiki hut, for those of you who don’t know, is a structure consisting of four open sides and a pitched roof covered with palm fronds. The Tiki hut at our marina sports a refrigerator, a microwave oven and three grills, two gas, and one charcoal. The humans used to congregate there in the evenings and do what humans do—mostly talk. But those humans have moved on to new ports of call. The only humans left here in the marina are like Andrew, antisocial. Nowadays, the Tiki hut is inhabited only on Saturday afternoons. That is when the male humans that store boats here—but do not live on them—come to drink beer and swap lies. They also say they come to get away from their females, but I don’t understand that. I like females, especially human females.

On Saturday afternoons when Andrew needs a break from his so-called work (he thinks writing is a chore—for me it’s a breeze), we’ll go to see the humans up at the hut. Notice how it’s always all about Andrew. When he needs a break from writing, we go for a walk, but when I need a break, we stay on the boat!

I like Saturdays because I like the guys. They always make a big fuss over me and I get many pats on the head and scratches behind my ears. They’ll say things like, “Is your daddy feeding you enough?” When they do, Andrew always says, “I prefer that Danny refer to me as his Lord and Master.” Yeah right! It’s the other way around and Andrew knows it. But I allow him to save face and say nothing. Andrew will then leave me with the guys and go back to our boat. I told you he was antisocial. However, I like hanging out with those males; they have such funny stories of how their females make their lives miserable. I know that the stories are not true because no female would ever do that.

Now that you know all about the Tiki hut, I can tell you what I wanted to tell you to begin with. There are two cats that live here in the marina and they hang out at the Tiki hut. They are what humans call strays and the humans have banded together to feed them. They take turns buying cat food. Andrew even bought some . . . once! The cats are fed in the morning and in the evening. It is the morning feeding that interests me.

On our way to the park every morning, we swing by the Tiki hut because by then the cats have eaten and they always leave a little for me. I love cat food, as anyone would. Wet or dry, but wet is better. It’s the only way Andrew can get me to take my pills when I’m sick. He tried hiding them in hot dogs, but I saw through his subterfuge and I ate around the pills, then spit them out. He then started to hide them in wet cat food and I would pretend not to notice (hey, I sometimes have to save face too). I just love wet cat food so much that it’s worth swallowing a pill to get some.

I’ve gone far afield from what I wanted to say. It’s simply this: Every morning, I eat the little food the cats leave in their dishes. It’s dry, but so what. The only problem is that it is on a table about three feet high and I’m only two feet high. So I have to get up on my hind legs to get to it. You would think Andrew would help out and put the bowl on the ground for me, but nooo! Alicia (she’s the female that feeds them each morning), when she is around, will put the bowl on the ground for me, but not Andrew.

That’s it for now. It’s Saturday and I’ve got to get ready to spend some time at the Tiki hut with my friends. And that damn duck is back . . . gotta go!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot—go out and buy Andrew’s new book and make the old guy happy.

This is Andrew again. On behalf of Danny and myself, I would like to thank Lilaina for having us over. It’s been a real pleasure.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Guest Post by B. R. Sanders "You Wrote a Book; Now What?"

Let’s say you wrote a book. First: CONGRATULATIONS, THAT’S AWESOME!

Let’s say you polished that puppy up, you’ve revised it, you maybe had a couple of people read it, even, and you revised it some more.

Let’s say you want to publish it, but you don’t even know where to begin. Guess what? I’ve been there. I can help you out.

Think of Publishing As A DND Campaign. Let’s Do Character Creation.
What kind of author are you? Truly, every author is a unique fingerprint, but authors tend to vary along a few attributes. Think about yourself now.

Are you a control freak? Can you imagine relinquishing any degree of control over your book’s content or presentation to anyone else? I...struggle with this a bit, myself. Other authors I know WOULD NEVER. Other authors are fine so long as the book gets out there without major typos.

Are you detail-oriented? Organized? I am. I have spreadsheets for my spreadsheets. I have a google calendar to track blog posts and open call deadlines and twitter chats. Other people apparently don’t. I’m not sure how they function. Life is a rich tapestry.

Let’s talk about patience. Can you wait for other people to get back to you? Can you wait for your writing to get out there? If you go the press route, querying takes forever, and when you finally get an acceptance, it takes longer than you think it will for your book to actually come out. I finished my novel Ariah in December, 2012. It didn’t come out until May, 2015.

What DIY skills do you have? Obviously you can string some words together; that’s not nothing! Can you use that to make a press release? You might have to do that. What about cover design? Ever tried your hand at that? Do you have some super secret book layout skills? Have you ever run a giveaway? I use Google Forms for those and for signup to my mailing list. Ever made swag before? You might need some if you do an author signing.

For the purposes of this article I’m going to focus on the last of these two attributes. Think about where you are in terms of patience and DIY Skill. Are you high or low or medium on these? Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being highest) on both.

Got your ratings? Ok, let’s look at which path you might go down.

Traditional Publishing: Requires +6 Patience
You’re a patient sort. And you’re focused on the craft of writing, not the sort to be distracted by all that other stuff. You can’t mockup a cover. You’re not interested in making your own book trailer...whatever those are. You write stories, not press releases.

Go forth, and traditionally publish. What this means is you should attempt to get a deal with one of the Big Five publishing houses. There are two ways to do this, one of which is more reliable than the other:
  • Reliable way, for the most patient: Get an agent first. This adds a step to your querying process. The agent will then query the publishing houses on your behalf.
  • Get slushy: Sometimes the houses have open call seasons. During these open calls the house will read manuscripts submitted by unagented writers (this is called the slush pile). Manuscripts that catch their interest may get picked up. For example, Angry Robot, an imprint of Peguin Random House, has one opening soon.

Traditional publishing takes patience, and loads of it, because there are few spots and many people want them. It takes relatively fewer DIY skills because if you snag one of those spots you’ll have a full complement of editors, copy editors, book designers to make your book look great. PLUS you get PR and marketing people to help out with publicity.

You will have less control over the finished product. And you often get a small share of the royalties (though you DO usually get and advance). You likely will not get any say over your cover. You may get told what conventions to go to. You may be told to take out or add elements to your book.

I realized pretty quickly that while I was potentially patient enough for traditional publishing I was not willing to relinquish enough control for it. My breaking point came when a potential agent asked me to take out some queer content in Ariah.

Self Publishing: Requires +6 DIY Skill
Notice I didn’t focus on control in this article. A lot of articles contrasting traditional and self publishing mark the difference in author opting for one over the other on the basis of control freak-ness. I don’t think that’s the real marker. I think the real defining trait is whether or not an author has a wide variety of skills or the inclination to learn them as needed.

Self-publishing requires a lot of flexibility to do well, both in terms of skills already possessed and in terms of resources. For example, we all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do it anyway. A sub-par cover can be the kiss of death for a self published book. What do you do as a self published author? Do you learn photoshop and make the best damn cover you can (minimizing cost, but maximizing time)? Do you scour Deviant Art and commission an artist to craft something beautiful for you (maximizing cost, but minimizing time)? If you go with the costly option, how will you fund it?

As a self published author, you can forge ahead, making all the decisions as you go. You make contracts, figure out what you can do and what you can’t. You’re a mogul.

I am in true awe of the self-published authors I know. I can’t do it. Between a day job and a kid, I’m stretched too thin to make all the pieces work (but how do they do it? They have day jobs and children, too!). I took a third option.

Small Press Publishing: +3 Patience/+3 DIY Skill
Maybe you’re like me: kind of controlling, a jack-of-all trades, and patient enough to query. Consider the road of small press publishing (bonus--most of them accept unagented manuscripts!).

Small presses are usually niche presses, which means it behooves you to do your homework. Small presses can also be like mayflies--they can live and die in a heartbeat, so do your due diligence and submit to those that look established. Look to see how long they’ve been around. Check out their books online. If you get an offer, reach out to a couple of their authors on social media and ask about their experiences with the press. Check out if they have an entry on Writer Beware (that’s a bad sign). Small presses just getting started can be eager to sign authors, but they also have a lot of growing pains, and they are also the ones most likely to go belly-up. A solid small press that’s been around a few years is more discerning but a safer bet.

Working with a small press gives you some of the supports you’d get if you went traditional, but lets you reap some of the benefits of going self published. With a small press, your publisher will take on the technical aspects of things like copyediting, book design, book layout, acquiring your ISBN, and uploading your book to various distributors. Your publisher will assign you an editor who will polish up your manuscript to a high polish, and they will contract out a cover artist for you at no cost to you--but most small presses will ask for your input on the cover design, which is not as frequently done with traditional publishers. You may not get an advance (I didn’t), or if you do it will be a small one. But, your royalty cut will be comparatively larger than what you would have gotten with a traditional publisher. Going niche means small presses are usually working with a specific audience in mind, and they are more likely to be open to more diverse or controversial content so long as it fits that niche.

But you’ll need to have some self publisher grit working with a small press. You have to have a self publisher’s willingness to get out there and market yourself. I’ve had to write press releases. I’ve organized my own blog tours. I’ve run my own giveaways. I’ve begged and pitched for my own reviews. I didn’t have to learn how to do everything, but I did have to learn the ins and outs of book marketing and publicity. I had zero marketing skills before I published a book. I’m now fluent in the lingo.

Your “Good Ending”
My best advice to anyone embarking on the exciting and terrifying journey that is publishing a book is to think really hard about what it means to you to be a successful author. Does it mean winding up on the New York Times bestseller list? Does it mean winning an award? Does it mean simply being published?

For me, it means putting something out there that at least a few people can find and connect with--deeply and meaningfully connect with. I’m not writing for everyone. I’m writing for other queer and genderqueer people who, like me, rarely see themselves represented authentically in fiction. That’s why I balked when literary agents told me they would pick up my work but that they wouldn’t be able to sell it unless I “toned it down.” That was a deal breaker for me because, ultimately, I was uninterested in having mass appeal. Niche markets were perfect for me. So, I went small press. The upside is I didn’t have to change anything! The downside is it’s harder to find and grow your audience that way. It takes work. It’s mostly word of mouth. It’s a long, slow road compared to being traditionally published where you have market saturation on your side.

Think about what you want, why you’re writing, what makes you happy about writing. Think about your authorial attributes. Between your vision of happiness and your personality you’ll be able to pinpoint how and where to pitch your book.

May the odds be ever in your favor!

About the Author

Pronouns: they/them/their. B R Sanders is a white, genderqueer writer who lives and works in Denver, CO, with their family and two cats. B’s latest novel, Ariah, is about queer elves carving out lives of their own in a hostile culture. B’s previous novel, Resistance, is about lesbian elves overthrowing a city. They write about queer elves a lot. Stay in touch with B with their newsletter, their blog, or on twitter.

Check out the authors website 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Teaser for "Resolution: Huck Finn's Greatest Adventure."

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Displaying 12Resolution-800 Cover reveal and Promotional.jpg

"It is 1896 in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The largest gold strike in the annals of human history has just been made; however, word of the discovery will not reach the outside world for another year.

By happenstance, a fifty-nine-year-old Huck Finn and his lady friend, Molly Lee, are on hand, but they are not interested in gold. They have come to that neck of the woods seeking adventure.
Someone should have warned them, “Be careful what you wish for.”

When disaster strikes, they volunteer to save the day by making an arduous six hundred mile journey by dog sled in the depths of a Yukon winter. They race against time, nature, and man. With the temperature hovering around seventy degrees below zero, they must fight every day if they are to live to see the next.

On the frozen trail, they are put upon by murderers, hungry wolves, and hostile Indians, but those adversaries have nothing over the weather. At seventy below, your spit freezes a foot from your face. Your cheeks burn—your skin turns purple and black as it dies from the cold. You are in constant danger of losing fingers and toes to frostbite.

It is into this world that Huck and Molly race.

They cannot stop. They cannot turn back. They can only go on. Lives hang in the balance—including theirs."

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He
wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has
written four books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and forty short stories
comprised of his hitching adventures called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS (as yet
unpublished), and his latest novel, RESOLUTION. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale,
Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, YELLOW HAIR.

Find him at:

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Book Review: The Serpent's Head by Bryan Young

The Serpent's Head

The Serpent's Head surprised me. It's not a difficult read, and at first it seems like a simple story. But the more I think about it, the more depth I find in the writing.

The novel follows the stranger called Twelve, a bounty hunter who travels to frontier planets looking for work. When he finds the only survivors of a massacred town, three children, he finds himself on a mission to rescue the fourth survivor.

What was at first slightly frustrating, I grew to appreciate that we're not told everything about the world or Twelve. We're given just enough about him to know his part in the mission is out of character, and his later revelation we understand to be a big turning point in his life.

The world that was created was actually quite well thought out. Young describes how planets become colonized and transformed to suit human life. But what I felt was unique was that he went into the consequences of colonizing these planets. It's something not dealt with in space sci-fi, and I appreciated that. Granted, it's a large part of the novel, but it was almost a side-plot and I would love to read a novel strictly about the mutations. It's something we deal with everyday without even knowing it, but we see it mostly in animals. Some have mutated based on what we're putting into their habitats, and it only makes sense that some humans would, when exposed to certain chemicals, would also mutate depending on their DNA. (I'm a huge Marvel fan, so this reminds me of the Inhumans and their transformation when they come in contact with the terrigen crystals...)

Bryan Young has done a wonderful job creating a universe in which he can set many other novels and never have to use the same characters. But I did rather enjoy how this ended, and would be content with just the one. It's as though it was told a long time ago, and this is the echo of a legend told on other frontier planets.

Buy the book on Amazon

Monday, 9 May 2016

Review for "Destitution Intensified" by James Gervois

Destitution Intensified by James Gervois

Destitution Intensified by James Gervois looks at the world, specifically Germany, after the death of Hitler and the unofficial end to World War II. It is set in Germany and revolves around the lives of multiple characters including German officers, Polish prisoners and British racketeers. Families are separated and destroyed, new relationships are formed, with some ending violently. The book encompasses all the chaos of war, but seeks to juxtapose this with the idea that this is technically peace time. No character is completely innocent and no one is safe from the events that unfold around them. Each person does what they can to survive, but it is up to the reader to decide the morality of their actions, a tricky thing to do in a place that has essentially descended into madness.

Gervois has done something I think few WWII authors have done, show the ugly side of peace. We all like to think a lot about the end of the war, the joy, the happiness, the celebrations, but that is a pretty narrow view of things, especially when we consider what happened to Germany. Gervois does not pull any punches, he holds nothing back and it is as captivating as it is graphic. I have never experienced war, but the sheer level of chaos and despair often felt by the characters seems to be a pretty authentic depiction of what life is like living in an occupied country immediately after a bloody war. The skillful way Gervois weaves together the plot lines of the multiple characters he follows is nearly flawless and always kept me fully engaged in the story. The characters had such great dimension to them, the result of a very talented author. The book was not all doom and gloom however, every once and a while some ray of hope in the form of a strangers kindness, or a lucky coincidence keep the characters moving forward and keeps the reader from putting the book down in a state of depression. That little bit of positivity made the book much more endearing than if it had been purely about the ravages of war, or exclusively about the greatness of peace.

Gervois has some slip ups in the book, that prevent it from becoming a really great masterpiece. Some characters meet their end during the book, and sometimes Gervois has not made it totally clear that they have died, or sometime that end comes quite abruptly with little finesse. The end of the book also meets q very quick conclusion, leaving the reader wondering how that happened so fast and spoiling what was otherwise a well-crafted story.

It is hard to find too much fault with Gervois, he did an amazing job with some pretty tough material to handle, and considering the type of world he was delving into has been studied and written about so extensively, I consider it a great feat to approach it in such an interesting and successful way. Gervois is certainly an author to watch out for. 

To learn more about the author click here
To buy it on Amazon click here