I absolutely loved A Place Outside The Wild, Daniel Humphreys‘ Dragon Award nominated debut novel, even though I don’t normally go for zombies. So when Mr. Humphreys offered me an early preview copy of the sequel, A Place Called Hope, I absolutely jumped at the chance.
This story picks up very closely where the first book left off, and it hits the ground running. The primary story concerns Pete, the amputee Marine, and Charlie as they set off on a new mission to bring some real Hope into their world. The stakes are high and compelling, and the characters are just as fun as ever.
The story focuses more heavily on the Marines this time out. On the one hand, that was really fun. On the other, it leads to my two actual complaints about the book. First, the title is excellent and a wonderful followup given the ending of the first book. But despite the title, very little of the book actually takes place in Hope. Second, I really missed Miles.
I strongly suspect the sequel will deal with both of those issues, however – especially given some of the revelations at the end of this book. And boy, are there some doozies!
If you loved the first book, this worthy sequel won’t let you down. I give it five out of five stars, and I can’t wait to see what Humphreys has coming next!
My friend Jon Del Arroz has a new novella out this week. The Gravity of the Game fits into a rather unusual niche: science fiction sports stories. Attention all, we’ve found a unicorn! I know – two great tastes that go great together. Like ice cream and kale, strawberries and Pine Sol, or ribeye and motor oil. I strongly suspect that the sports guys and the scifi guys will interpret those metaphors very differently.
But they’ll both agree that unlike each of those combinations, Jon’s novella is actually really good. Whether you’re a sports guy or a scifi guy, you’ll enjoy this story. In a future of near-Earth space travel, the World Baseball League is coping with a sharp decline in attendance and viewership. Commissioner Hideki Ichiro thinks he knows the answer: baseball on the moon!
First of all, that’s actually kind of a cool idea. I’m not a sports guy, and I’m definitely not a baseball guy. To me, it’s one of the slowest and dullest sports out there – long periods of boredom punctuated by a few moments when something almost interesting happens. But come on – you put “on the moon” after anything and it becomes cool. But that’s not what makes the story work. That just makes an interesting hook.
The story works because of Commissioner Ichiro. This is a man who loves baseball so much that he almost makes me love the sport. And though I don’t share his love of baseball, I definitely identify with and respect his passion.
Somewhat like baseball itself, this is a dramatic piece with no actual “action” in it. But the drama and the characters will keep you interested. I give The Gravity of the Game five stars out of five, and dare you not to find Commissioner Ichiro just as captivating as I did.
As I prepared to publish and market my latest novel, War Demons, I set out in search of other, similar novels. Cursed City by William Massa quickly rose quickly to the top of my list. It turns out that male leads represent an endangered species in urban fantasy novels. Many of the books sold in the genre should actually sit in the paranormal romance category. I hold nothing against that, but War Demons doesn’t fit with that crowd at all.
Neither does Cursed City. Book one of Massa’s Shadow Detective series, this book packed in the fun. It’s pulp as hell, and I mean that in the best possible way. Mike Raven, the hero, provides a welcome breath of masculinity in an estrogen dominated genre. Furthermore, he lives up to the primary duty of a protagonist: he’s interesting.
The writing is simple and straightforward. At first, that worried me. But a few chapters in it became clear that the simple writing is intentional, in the tradition of the old school pulp writers. This kind of deliberate simple writing is actually a challenge to accomplish, and it makes the book very accessible. And if I hadn’t already overcome that objection, the twists in the final act more than compensated.
A quick, thrilling read, this book started in the middle of the action and only paused for a few breaths along the way. I give it four stars out of five, and I look forward to finishing the rest of the series. I highly recommend it to fans of male led urban fantasy. It’s available right now on Amazon for only $0.99, or you can pick it up for free on Kindle Unlimited like I did.[Cross posted on PulpRev.com.]
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Longtime readers will already know that I’m a fan of Daniel Humphreys work. They’ll also know the caveat that I have to provide: Dan and I “attended” the same online writing class from Larry Correia, and we’ve participated in the same closed Facebook group that resulted from that class. He’s also provided an excellent blurb for my new novel, War Demons. With that said, these are my honest opinions on his first urban fantasy novel, Fade.
Fade is book one of the Paxton Locke series. Paxton Locke, unsurprisingly the series’ protagonist, suffered a rather unfortunate childhood. I can’t go into that too much without spoiling the book. Suffice to say, he also developed a bit of magical power. As the book begins, he’s using that power to help rid unfortunate people of the traumatized ghosts that haunt their homes. But then one of those ghosts gives him a message from beyond the grave. Everything hits the fan from there and the plot explodes.
I don’t actually want to say a lot more than that, because this book has a ton going for it in the plot department. Paxton Locke manages to out-Dresden Harry Dresden. Read it for yourself and enjoy it.
I loved Humphreys’ A Place Outside the Wild enough to give it five stars even though I’m not a fan of the zombie genre. I am, however, a fan of the urban fantasy genre. When you add Humphreys’ fantastic writing to a genre I love, the result is truly amazing. I blew through this book faster than I could blink, and my only complaint is that Dan is busy writing the sequel to his zombie book instead of this one. Thankfully, he’s nearly finished with that book, so we should be getting the sequel to Fade sooner rather than later.
If you liked War Demons, you should definitely check out Fade while you’re waiting for the sequel. It won’t disappoint you. This is one of the easiest five star reviews I’ve ever given.
Today I’m very pleased to announce the launch of my debut novel, War Demons.
When he came home, so did they…
Driven by vengeance, Michael Alexander enlisted in the Army the day after 9/11. Five years later, disillusioned and broken by the horrors he witnessed in Afghanistan, Michael returns home to Georgia seeking to begin a new life. But he didn’t come alone. Something evil followed him, and it’s leaving a path of destruction in its wake.
The police are powerless. The Army has written Michael off. Left to face down a malevolent creature first encountered in the mountains of Afghanistan, he’ll rely on his training, a homeless prophet, and estranged family members from a love lost…
But none of them expected the dragon.
Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden collides with Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International in this supernatural thriller that goes straight to Hell!
I’m very happy with how this ended up for my first book. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what early readers have to say:
The deadline for your final votes for the 2017 Dragon Awards rapidly approaches. The finalist list this year contains a fantastic summary of amazing works in science fiction and fantasy over the last year. I can highly recommend a huge number of the entries. They’ll prove well worth your time.
With that said, each of us can only vote for one of them. In some categories, that means difficult choices. Here’s how I’m voting this year. As it happens, my vote lines up entirely with the Happy Frogs suggestions. There’s a good reason for that. Someone over there has great taste.
Once again I have to choose between not only several great novels but also two good friends – Richard Paolinelli and Brian Niemeier. They’re both fantastic works, as are several others on the list (I confess, I have not yet read them all). But in the end, my vote goes to Brian. If you’re not up on the Soul Cycle series, you should be. And now you can get Secret Kings on Kindle Unlimited!
Once again there’s a hard choice here. The Correia/Ringo MHI collaboration is great (see my review). I haven’t finished Beast Master yet, but I’m enjoying it. But this one has to go to A Sea of Skulls. Vox Day’s Acts of Dark and Light series is simply one of the most interesting things going on in the SciFi/Fantasy world right now. Also, Correia asked to bow out. I know he’s relented a little since he’d share it with Ringo… but he’s still right that he’s already been duly recognized. Ringo will have plenty of other chances.
I don’t read a ton of young adult. But once again I’m forced to choose between two amazing works that also happen to be written by friends. Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland is a delightful read, and John C. Wright honored me with the very great privilege of a work-in-progress version of Swan Knight’s Son as a Christmas gift. This husband and wife pair are not only good friends, but Ms. Lamplighter also edited my own upcoming novel, War Demons. However, they made the choice easy for me by declaring their own wish that fans of either author vote for John. I could have gotten behind either book easily, but I’m happy to support their choice.
When I made my nomination list, I hadn’t yet read any Mil SF this year. Since then, I have had a chance to catch up on a few. I can easily recommend Star Realms: Rescue Run by my friend Jon Del Arroz.
Side note: if they’re going to break out Mil SFF as its own category, there are several other subgenres that should be broken out. Paranormal is the first that comes to mind, including both SciFi and Fantasy (as Mil does).
Kai Wai Cheah (also credited in some instances as Cheah Kai Wai, due to the confusion between Asian and Western surname customs) is one of the most interesting new writers out there. We have two of his short stories running on Lyonesse, and they’re easily two of the best we’ve got. No Gods, Only Daimons is a fantastic debut novel. Keep an eye on this author.
With respect to my friend Declan Finn, A Place Outside the Wild is one of the best books I’ve read all year – and I don’t even like zombie books. That’s how good it is. Get it, even if you, too, don’t like the genre. You won’t regret it.
There’s some good stuff in this category, but you really should check out Declan Finn’s vampire romance series. It’s worth the time.
I picked this one up after seeing it on the Happy Frogs list. Good choice.
Precisely zero of my friends or fans will express surprise that I picked Butcher here.
This category was easy. Everything else on this list either always sucked or has taken a serious nose dive in the last season or three. Stranger Things, hands down. This is the sole category where I diverge from the Happy Frogs slate, and I can only assume that’s because the frogs haven’t actually seen the show.
There are still too many films on this list I haven’t seen. I’m working to rectify that. And for the rest of the categories, I’ve been out of gaming for too long. I defer to the fine folks at Happy Frogs for suggestions.
Time for a writing update, and the news is good! The biggest news is that I’ve completed the first draft of my next novella, tentatively entitled Vigil. That title is subject to change, and the text itself still needs to go through editing. Vigil picks up one of the two paths left hanging at the end of War Demons and runs with it. The working start of the book description:
There’s a demon in the church.
When Peter Bishop received the Sword of Saint Michael the Archangel he understood right away that dragonslaying would be part of the gig. After all, he first bonded with the blade while fighting a dragon back home in Georgia. And when there’s dragonslaying, saving damsels kind of comes with the territory. But he never expected he’d have to rescue a damsel from a dragon under an ancient medieval church in France. On Easter Sunday. During the Easter vigil mass.
Now Peter’s stuck eighty feet below ground with the damsel, a faithless priest, and a little girl to care for. Thankfully, the stray dog showed up to help.
The extraordinary mashup of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files continues in Vigil.
Look for Vigil in December. It still needs a strong editing pass, a cover, and some other work before release.
Next on the agenda is Spirit Cooking – book two of The Prodigal Son series and the direct sequel to War Demons. The outline is about 80% done, so I’ll hit the ground running later this week or early next.
Unlike many other indie authors, I’m actually a fan of Kindle Unlimited. I think it’s generally a good thing for indie authors. Believe it or not, I think it’s especially good for indie authors that don’t sell very much. The downside is, KU is harsh. Unlike straight book sales, KU makes a clear and important distinction between two groups: buyers and readers.
Authors and publishers aren’t used to tracking those two groups separately. In the information era, this is a critical mistake. In the past, big name authors and publishers could get away with selling books nobody actually read. Today, you can’t do that. If nobody’s reading your books, it will ultimately be the kiss of death in the only market that matters: Amazon.
Because whether you track the data or not, I can assure you that Amazon tracks the data. They know who buys your book. They know who downloads it for free. Thanks to the Kindle’s wireless connectivity, they can tell you who has ever bothered to even crack it open (whether you’re in KU or not). They know how many pages that person read – and more importantly, what page they stopped reading. And if people aren’t reading your book all the way through, they know it.
If you’re not selling very well, you can know it, too. Got a five hundred page book? Did you just register 500ish page reads? I guarantee you that wasn’t 500 people trying one page of your book and giving up. Somebody just read the whole thing. On the other hand, if you’ve only got 15 page reads, that’s not good. Somebody tried it and didn’t like it. Unfortunately, this data gets lost as your book becomes more popular. It’s hard to tease this information out when your KU page read count is several multiples of your book’s length. You’re back to guesswork.
And that’s where I think Amazon has missed the boat. Releasing some of this data, in an anonymized way, would provide valuable feedback that would help authors – and Amazon – make more money.
Here are some things that I’d really like to know as an author and publisher:
Each of these data points gives me a spot where I can improve my product – the book – or the marketing of it. If people aren’t actually seeing it, I can improve that end with external marketing. When people aren’t buying or downloading it, I know I have a presentation issue: my cover, title, description, or genre selection needs work. If people never open it, then I know I still have a presentation issue. When people stop reading it, then I know the book itself has problems. If I know where they stopped, then I know where it has problems.
In the digital age, I can actually update my books to fix these problems – but only if I can pinpoint and identify them! Amazon has this data. They could easily anonymize it enough to present it to authors and publishers, especially if they made you wait until you had enough sales before you could see it. I could live with that constraint.
But it’s frustrating as hell to know that data is out there and not be able to use it.
Three Silver Empire and Lyonesse authors managed to score an impressive four Dragon Award nominations between them. How’d they pull off this feet? Our own Declan Finn managed to score two all by himself!
Silver Empire authors who received nominations this year include:
Ms. Lamplighter also served as editor for my own upcoming novel, War Demons.
In addition, two future Silver Empire authors also received nominations this year.
Congratulations to all of these fine authors for their well-deserved nominations!
I’d also like to say congratulations to my personal friends and friends of Silver Empire who also received nominations this year: Richard Paolinelli, Brian Niemeier, Vox Day, and John C. Wright.