Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Massive Group Sale and Giveaway

I'm participating in this giveaway and book sale. I encourage you to check out all of the books listed -- terrific reads! -- and be certain to enter the giveaway contests for the chance to win outstanding prizes.

 Book for a Buck Sale
TWENTY PRIZES!, T.S. Welti, and J.A. Huss have teamed up to bring you another MASSIVE Group Sale and Giveaway. This promo includes 18 book by 18 different authors - ALL books in this list are 99 cents from January 30-February 3rd.
You can see all the books in the sale at

Monday, January 28, 2013

Review: "Alone (The Girl in the Box #1)" by Robert J. Crane

ALONE is the first novel in The Girl In The Box series, detailing the adventures of Sienna Nealon, a 17-year-old girl who has been kept inside her house for a dozen years by her mother. Sienna has a number of rules she must live by, rules drilled into her by her mother. Among others, she is never to go outside the house, or even look outside the house.

Everything changes when Sienna's mother fails to return to the house, and Sienna finds two strange men in her home. Years of martial arts training enable her to survive, but in the process she finds herself outside the safety of those walls, and suddenly she's the target of a number of groups, each of which has their own agenda for capturing Sienna.

Sienna learns that she is a meta-human, a person born with exceptional speed, quickness, agility, and healing capabilities - the last of these being one that gets heavy usage throughout the story - who are targeted by a group called the Directorate. Competing organizations also want her, for they all believe her to be unusually gifted, even among the gifted meta-humans. Each meta-human develops a unique special ability, and no one - not even Sienna - knows yet what hers is.

A competing faction to the Directorate sends a crazed, dog-like killer named Wolfe to capture her from the Directorate, but when Sienna refuses to come quietly, Wolfe takes it personally - and he's no longer interested in capturing her. He wants her dead, in the slowest, most painful manner possible, and has his own methods of getting Sienna to come to him.
Will Sienna finally go to Wolfe? What is her special gift? And who is "Old Man Winter," the mysterious leader of the Directorate? You'll just have to read the book to find out, and I think you'll enjoy the read immensely.

Rating: 5.0 stars out of 5

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Today's Kindleboards Author Profile

I frequent Kindleboards, which boasts a huge number of active forums for both readers and writers, and enjoy reading their blog. I'm fortunate to be today's Author Profile. I decided to have a bit of fun with it; a completely dull and serious profile seemed too... normal. Hope everyone enjoys it!

Kindleboards Author Profile: Alex Albrinck

Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: "Out of Time: A Time Travel Mystery (Out of Time #1)" by Monique Martin

Out of Time: A Time Travel Mystery (Out of Time #1) by Monique Martin

Simon Cross has problems. His family shuns his beloved, recently-deceased grandfather, Sebastian. He has feelings for his assistant, Elizabeth. And he keeps having nightmares in which Elizabeth dies. Feeling he must be the cause, he keeps her at arm's length.

Then Simon and Elizabeth find themselves transported back in time to 1920s New York City. They determine that they need to survive for several weeks - at a minimum - before they can return to the present. Both manage to find jobs, which manages to bring them into contact with local mob boss King Kashian, a man used to getting what he wants. And he wants Elizabeth.

The story skillfully weaves together a number of substories: a developing romance between Simon and Elizabeth, King Kashian's story, and a series of murders that leave Simon,. a professor of occult stories, believing he may have found direct proof of the existence of vampires, proof that would validate the claims of his grandfather.

I also enjoyed the historical context as well: Simon and Elizabeth find themselves wondering what tourists from the future should visit when given the chance to see 1920s New York City, a time before the Great Depression and a time before the Empire State Building was under construction. I enjoyed how the author weaved modern-day sensibilities into 1920s realities; situations which today would be considered animal cruelty or sexual harassment are considered perfectly acceptable, and the future travelers must adjust to avoid standing out.

Naturally, Simon and Elizabeth's greatest priority is ensuring that they are prepared when the time comes to return to the present. Naturally, nothing goes smoothly as they try to make that goal. The conclusion provides both a satisfying ending to this book, and provides enough interest in the main characters to draw readers like me back for the next volume in the series.

Rating: 4.0 stars out of 5

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Importance of Reader Reviews

I've mentioned this topic before, but it bears repeating. Reader reviews are critically important in the publishing industry, especially in the self-publishing industry. Readers are wary of something, or someone, new. They'll wonder if the book they've just come across is worth a read, worth a buy. It's not something by one of the "big name" authors. They've heard self-published authors tell bad stories poorly, with language and grammar skills that would make a kindergartener blush. How, then, might they decide to try out someone new?

Reviews. Ratings. Likes.

Reviews and ratings by other readers provide that social proof, that comfort that you're not shelling out hard-earned money on something that's going to lower your IQ or waste your time. It's proof that somebody felt enough about the product to take a few minutes to go back to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or elsewhere, and type a few words explaining what they thought of the book. It's proof that somebody felt compelled to submit their thoughts on a site like Goodreads or LibraryThing, thoughts that other potential readers can review and use to determine if the work in question is something that will interest them.

Not all reviews are "good," of course. No book, regardless of its critical or popular acclaim, will appeal to everyone. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone has sold millions of copies and is loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world. Yet the book has received 183 1- or 2-star reviews on People are more likely to be intrigued by a book that has a lot many reviews than one that has few; people will review a book averaging 3.9 stars before one with five stars if the former has 200 reviews and the latter has 5.

There's also the fact that reviews are, for authors, the equivalent of sending them chocolate or a bottle of wine. Even if the quality is poor... it's still chocolate and wine. Reviews enable authors to grow and improve as writers, to fine-tune their craft and story-telling approach. It works, too. As I write this, my first book has received nine reviews, and the feedback from the one bad review is feedback I've used as I've written ongoing books. Did the rating sting? Absolutely. But it was constructive feedback, and I'm happy the author of the review chose to share that feedback.

Of course, there are also the reviews that please you because you've clearly reached someone, and had them understand the deeper messages you've tried to send with the story. I've gotten at least one review like that. Trust me, it's an incredible feeling when a stranger can connect with your work in such a fashion.

Amazon's policy bans (or at least very noisily discourages) authors from reviewing the work of other authors. Due to some highly publicized author misbehavior, Amazon is acting in its best interest, looking to ensure that readers trust the reviews to be honest, without any ulterior motives, and that potential readers can trust what they're reading. The concern with authors reviewing work is that there's the chance of suspicion of authors trading reviews in an "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine" move that may or may not accurately reflect their actual impressions of each other's work, or whether they've actually read the work they're "reviewing." Similarly, negative reviews by other authors could be construed as sabotaging a competitor's sales in order to promote one's own, whether by directly promoting the other work in the review, or simply expecting review readers to drift to the nasty author's work by process of elimination.

The problem is, of course, that the vast, vast majority of authors do neither. Authors read. They read in the genres they write because they like that type of story. And when they locate something they truly like, they'll happily promote it to their own readers. Similarly, they'll identify work of subpar quality, because poor work can turn readers off, not just from that title or author, but books in a similar genre. It's best for all that poorer works receive that feedback so that they might improve, just as it's important for outstanding work to receive top reviews and move up the rankings. Authors can study those top works and use it to improve their craft, and readers and authors both benefit. Except on Amazon, of course.

I've chosen to review all books I read on Goodreads, because they've not elected to adopt policies such as Amazon's. I write. I can review books. People can review my books. It works.

This is good, because ratings and reviews from other authors, seem that much sweeter. I've written two reviews lately that have had a great impact on those authors; one went so far as to include the money quote excerpt in a blog post. I think that's fantastic, because it means that those reviews meant something to them.

Reviews don't take long to write or submit. If you're a visual learner, this video by author Michael Hicks (a fantastic sci-fi writer that you should check out if you haven't already) explains the process. But the repercussions are endless. You'll help other readers decide whether to read -- or not read -- a book, and you'll give writers the knowledge that their months or years of work impacted someone enough to write about that work. The next time you finish a book, spend that few minutes on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever it is that you find books, and provide your feedback.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: "Flash Gold" by Lindsay Buroker

I'm a fan of Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series. I find the combination of characters, offbeat humor, and the overarching story themes a fun and enjoyable read.

So I was interested in reading her "Flash Gold" novella. Kali McAlister lives in an 1890s era Yukon style setting. Though she's only 18, she lives alone. She's a mechanical wizard, having modified her rifle to rapid-fire, constructed robotic guard dogs, and built a dogless sled that she intends to enter in an Iditarod-style dog race. Her technical wizardry hasn't gone unnoticed; the power source is unusual, and many in her village whisper of witchcraft.

She's attacked in her home shortly after receiving a guest inside, a man named Cedar who looks to accompany her during the race to provide protection in exchange for a small share of the prize money should she win. He proves himself efficient in those skills in helping to thwart the attack, and she reluctantly agrees to take him along.

The trip is fraught with peril, and Kali learns just how many people find something about her they'd like to take, whether her sled, her knowledge or her life. Cedar proves quite the mercenary... but what, exactly, is his true motivation? And what is the mysterious "flash gold" so many want to take from her... if they can find it?

While it doesn't possess the depth or spirit of the Emperor's Edge novels, Flash Gold is clearly recognizable as Buroker's: strong, chatty female lead, silent, deadly male lead; lots of creative steam-based technology; and quirky humor found in the ongoing banter.

3.75/5.00 stars.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: "Night of the Purple Moon (Toucan Trilogy, #1)" by Scott Cramer

Review of Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer.

I have to admit... about ten pages in, I didn't think I'd like this book.

I'm not sure what it was that made me think that, however, at least not anymore. Because as I kept reading this book, its claws kept pulling me deeper and deeper in, until it became a book that I truly enjoyed. Whatever it was in the first few pages that had me thinking I'd not finish... long forgotten at this point.

Abby Leigh lives with her father, her brother Jordan, and her sister Lisette (nicknamed "Toucan" by a younger Abby). The four live on a small island community off the shores of Maine. Mom works on the mainland, a long enough commute away that she stays at their old mainland home during the week and rejoins the family each weekend.

That all changed when the comet came. The comet would pass close enough to the Earth that the planet would travel through its tail, and the space dust was expected to lend a purple haze to the environment and atmosphere. People celebrated its arrival with purple drinks, food, clothing... all celebrating a once in a lifetime event. Abby, Jordan, and their father stay up late to watch the comet's passing.

The next day, Abby and Jordan wake to learn that the world has changed forever. Bacteria in the space dust attacks adult hormones, eventually killing the host. The earth has, overnight, lost billions of adults and post-pubescent teens. Only younger children (Abby, Jordan, Toucan, and others in their neighborhood) and those adults quarantined for various reasons survived.

And survive they must. There are no adults left to feed them, to grow their food or make their clothes. Older children must care for the younger children. They are old enough to understand the robotic voice from the Centers for Disease Control, sent by quarantined scientists, that aging is more a death sentence than ever. Now, physical rites of passage into adulthood spell certain and swift death. And Abby, Jordan, and others know it's only a matter of time. Can they survive long enough for the scientists to find a cure? And, if it's found... how will they get it?

As someone who has written books, I know that characters drives stories; it's their experiences in facing and meeting the challenges that come their way that truly make a story. Magic, killer comets, aliens on other planets - these are ways to help those characters to experience something remarkable, and to change accordingly.

What we see in this story, through the eyes of the children living through it, is that the human spirit will not give up, and will not quit. Faced with the deaths of their parents and all other adults, the children do not quit; they use what they know, what they can learn, and what they can share to survive. Not only does the human spirit not quit, but it adapts, even in the youngest. Cramer's story illustrates this well; young children grieve and experience sadness, but they find it within themselves to continue to fight and to never, ever quit. They experience horrors - children having to dispose of the remains of their parents and loved ones, and eventually each other - that we'd like to shield all children from. Yet they never quit.

Cramer's book is an enjoyable read, and one that I'm glad I finished. I recommend it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reveiw: "Open Minds (The Mindjack Trilogy #1)" by Susan Kaye Quinn

Open Minds, by Susan Kaye Quinn,  is the first book in the Mindjack trilogy. It tells the story of Kira, a sixteen-year-old girl living in a future time in which the vast majority of humanity has developed the ability to read minds. The ability shows up most commonly during the teen years, during the oh-so-challenging years of high school, where being different is a challenge few would want.

Yet being one without mind-reading abilities is a cause of social ostracism, an invitation to an open prejudice practiced by the majority. While there are many examples of this social phenomenon throughout history, I was most reminded of A Spell for Chameleon, the first in the Xanth saga by Piers Anthony. In that opening volume in the thirty-plus volume series, the main character is born without a magical talent in a world of magic where to be without is a crime, punishable by banishment to the non-magic human world. To without the ability to read minds, in the Mindjack world, is a condition ripe for abuse by those of weak character, who seek to enhance their own social status through humiliation and ostracism of those "zeros" like Kira who possess no mind-reading abilities. Classes in high school are taught via mind-link from teacher to student. Thankfully, Kira's best friend, Raf, is there to ensure that she's never lacking for protection by a popular, mind-reading friend. He makes sure that she gets the benefit of his ability in class work. And he's interested in deepening their relationship.

When he tries to kiss Kira, though, they both find out that she's different, but hardly powerless, when she knocks him unconscious with her mind. Through the help of bad-boy Simon, Kira learns that she's a mind-jacker. Others can't read her thoughts... but she can control theirs, directing them to act against their will. It's a power that makes Kira uncomfortable, and one that Simon exploits. It's also a power that cannot be revealed, for such a secret will pass rapidly among the mind-readers, like a viral video. Regretfully, Kira pushes Raf away to protect him from a secret of this magnitude.

Simon invites Kira to join the Clan, a group led by the powerful Malloy. Kira's asked to join... if being threatened with the injuries to her family and best friend, Raf, can be considered a request. At a meeting where Simon is to pledge his loyalty to the Clan, the FBI intervenes, revealing that not only are they aware of the jackers, but that many agents possess that very ability. And their plans for using that ability in others is chilling.

For me, Open Minds is about the depths of free will. In a society where there is no privacy, not even within one's own head and with one's own thoughts, can you ever truly be yourself? Will the instant knowledge of every whim and desire enhance personal relationships, or hinder them? And what freedom can exist in a world where a small percentage of people can force others to their will, without those exploited even knowing? It's one thing to be forced to act against your will as the result of legislation; it may be in opposition to your wishes, but there's some degree of transparency there. But in this world, you never see the control coming, and never even know it's happening. The irony, of course, is that those engaging in the control are the tiny minority that the majority believes are inferior zeros.

I found the concept of the future world intriguing, the various underground organizations feeding off the mindjacking abilities realistic within that framework, and the government's efforts to quietly suppress and control that ability frighteningly accurate. The ending gives rise to plenty of possible angles for the next two books of the trilogy, and I'm interested in seeing which direction the author chooses to go.

My New Blog

I've been publishing posts at my primary website ( since I started it. However, that blog doesn't do much in the way of enabling discussion and commentary. I'm therefore going to be moving the blog portion of the site here to better enable that interaction. I've also set myself a goal to read (at least) one book per week, and post my honest review of that book both here and on Goodreads, likely in the reverse order I originally wrote them (most recent first, that is). I've started that already, so I'll be cross-posting the review from Goodreads here, and then post at both sites as I create new reviews. (I'd post those reviews on Amazon, but... well, that's another blog post at some point.) The web site will serve as a reference site for those interested in the series. You can look there to get book descriptions, lists of characters, lists of the Aliomenti Oaths, and the like. I'm hoping the dual-site approach -- used by many authors -- will work well.