Category Archives: Book

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Neo Noir Story Bundle

Y’all, something kind of amazing happened a few weeks ago.

A few weeks after launching the Eight in the Chamber Box set I got an email. It was a fairly simple email of introduction and a request: would I be willing to participate in a big box set of Noir-style novels for Story Bundle.  Story Bundle is built on the same premise as the original Humble Bundle.

Humble Bundle went like this: here’s a bunch of independently developed games you probably haven’t heard of and you tell us how much it’s worth to you. That’s how much you pay.

Story Bundle is built in the same vein as Humble Bundle.  Here’s a bunch of cool books you probably haven’t read and they’re chosen around a theme. How much is that worth to you? That’s how much you pay.

Brilliant idea.

Well, I got that email and I immediately thought “Oh, sure, Scammy McScammerson, you want my book. Hah!”  Then I thought, Oh, what if this is for real. This would be a cool thing to be a part of. I better do some research.

So, I asked around. I talked to people. Did some reading. What I found is that Story Bundle was legit, and all the people involved had fantastic reputation.

I emailed back that I’d be thrilled to participate.

So what’s the deal with this Story Bundle?

Kate Sullivan, the intrepid founder and once-mastermind of Candlemark, put together a fantabulous StoryBundle of neo-noir speculative fiction. From space opera to swords and sorcery, from horror to urban fantasy, corrupt elves, werewolf cops, ghostly soul-whisperers, and Twitter-obsessed superheroes, it’s all there— just take a gander at that snazzy lineup!

Did you see the Concrete Goodbye cover in there?  Looks pretty cool, huh?

Yeah, I thought so too.

So what’s the deal? Well, like the inspiration Humble Bundle, the Story Bundle costs as much as you think it’s worth. It starts with $5. For that $5 you get Gods of Chicago, Mr Blank, The Concrete Goodbye, Trouble in Double.  If you think it’s worth more than $5, you pay more than $5!

Now you’re like “That sounds pretty good, but I see more titles than the ones you just listed right there.”

And that’s because if you go up to the bonus level you can get ALL the titles: Gods of Chicago, Mr Blank, The Concrete Goodbye, Trouble in Double, Green Light Delivery, City of Devils, Deep Space Dragnet, Hard Times in Dragon City, Fresh Hell, The Coconut Swindle, and if you sign up for the Story Bundle Newsletter  you get The Tau Ceti Transmutation!

How much do you think that’s worth?  Well, that’s what you’ll pay!

Did I mention that you can set 10% of your purchase to go to charity? Yeah, that’s right, if you buy the Neo Noir Story bundle, you can help make the world a better place.

That’s you doing dope stuff. Heck yeah!

What are the charities? Two that sit close to home for me. Girls Write Now and Might Writers. What charities are these?

Girls Write Now helps mentor girls so they can develop writing skills, leading to a more successful future no matter what path they decide to choose. From young women exploring writing to seasoned professionals practicing their craft every day, GWN is a community of women writers dedicated to providing guidance, support, and opportunities for high school girls to develop their creative, independent voices and write their way to a better future.

Mighty Writers’ mission is to teach Philadelphia kids to think and write with clarity. Our free programs combat the literacy crisis in a city where nearly half of high school students drop out and some 50% of working-age adults are functionally illiterate (can’t read bank statements, fill out job applications or easily comprehend news articles).

I have volunteered for a writing program like Girls Write now. The one that I worked for was for boys and girls in economically disadvantaged Texas schools to help teach kids how to write. The book those kids produced that year ended up in the George W. Bush presidential library.

I know, cool right?  Something I worked on ended up in a Presidential Library.

But, hey, Story Bundle!  $5 gets you Gods of Chicago, Mr Blank, The Concrete Goodbye, Trouble in Double.

If you go bonus level you can get ALL the titles: Gods of Chicago, Mr Blank, The Concrete Goodbye, Trouble in Double, Green Light Delivery, City of Devils, Deep Space Dragnet, Hard Times in Dragon City, Fresh Hell, The Coconut Swindle, and if you sign up for the Story Bundle Newsletter  you get The Tau Ceti Transmutation!

If you bought the Eight in the Chamber box set I was a part of you’ll recognize Alex Berg and Matt Abrams. They both had stories in that box set.

But here’s the link to The Neo Noir Story bundle: https://storybundle.com/noir
You pay what you think it’s worth. And you get to help make the world a better place.

Go you!


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The Art of the Con cover

The Art of the Con: How to Think Like a Real Hustler and Avoid Being Scammed

The Art of the Con cover

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

A little history on why I’m suddenly reading books about Con Artists.  I had an idea for an urban fantasy series but instead of a standard detective like I’ve been writing with my Jack Story series, I decided to do something more fun; urban fantasy in a Sting/Ocean’s Eleven setting.

Which meant two things;
1) I had to watch Ocean’s Eleven and the Sting pretty much on constant loop. (skip Ocean’s 12 and 13.)
2) I needed to learn a lot about cons, con men, and how that all operated.

So, for Step 1 I bought the Sting and Ocean’s Eleven.  Great movies. Pulling off a heist or con is all in the setup and finding the motivation in their character. Like in the Sting they’re pulling the con in order to get revenge on a mob boss that ordered a hit on Luther, a venerated older con man. Played by James Earl Jones’ father, btw.

In Ocean’s Eleven, we don’t find out Danny’s motivation until we’re well into the 2nd act. If the movie has a writing flaw, it’s that one.  Oh, they set it up from the very first scene and sort of allude to it in conversation but it should be clearly sooner.

But it’s still a dang good heist movie.

The second- I needed to find books on con artists, cons, and the psychology of cons and the people who pull them.

I found this book: The Art of the Con; how to think like a real hustler and avoid being scammed.

And I have to say, it’s really good. It’s written by R. Paul Wilson, a man who has studied confidence games his entire life, and has produced, started in, and written TV shows about cons.

He breaks down the various types of cons from the short con that happens when someone walks up to you, to the mid game where you’re hooked into a situation, and the “big game” cons that take thousands of dollars from people.

Not only does he break some of them down, he runs the reader through how he pulled those exact scams on his various shows.

He even gets into the thinking of a con artist. In his view, and I would have to agree with it, that all con artists are motivated singularly by the desire for money.  They’re after the money, and they’re ready to do and say whatever it takes to get it. They’ll sacrafice everything- even their relationships- to get more money.  And they’ll blame you for letting them get away with it.

He also says that he’ll get into why people fall for the cons, but I feel like he’s less successful here.  This is why I rate it 4 stars out of 5.  He suggests rather than categorically states, that people fall for cons because they’re stupid or greedy, but because manipulated by social expectations and by the con artists.

I agree with all of those, but I also think that a fair number of people think they’re smarter than the con that they’re faced with. Like, take 3 Card Monty.  You can see that the game is rigged just by watching it for 3 seconds. But it’s easy to think everyone else is a sucker and we’re the one person who can pull this one out.

But overall, this is a really good book to read up on cons, how they work, and how the people who pull them think. If you’re looking for a book like that, I recommend this one.


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book cover

Out of the Shadows

Category : blog , Book , Recommendation , Reviews

 

As an American, I enjoy reading stories from non-American authors.  I really like the subtle and small differences in the usage of English slang like Take Away instead of Take Out.  Ashlee’s style is both eloquent and a smooth read.

Normally I don’t like a book that starts with one character that is “in the know” then switches to an “innocent” character who is discovering the world. I feel more comfortable as a reader when we start with the innocent and stay there. That’s just me.  Ashlee is an excellent writer, so even though that very thing happens here, I didn’t mind it and kept rolling with the story.

If I have any quibble with the story, it’s how the supernatural world fits into the normal world. It kind of felt to me like a supernatural world where everything was “out of the closet” but they’re not.  Frankly, it’s a minor quibble.  If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll glide right past it for an enjoyable read.


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Book Cover

Dark Sacrifice

Category : blog , Book , Recommendation , Reviews

3 star rating

Dark Sacrifice is the third book in the Hidden Heritage series. I haven’t read a paranormal romance in a while and when the opportunity to read this book came up, I went for it.

Overall, it was a good read. The premise is interesting- it reminded me of Howl’s Moving Castle but more of an older/adult take on it. Not “ADULT” though.

The point that really drew me out of the story is that the characters often talked about exactly what they wanted to talk about. Which seems like a weird complaint, but think of that first scene in the Princess Bride with Wesley and Buttercup, right? She makes a demand and he says “As You Wish,” and we all know what they’re really saying to each other. There’s isn’t any of that here, and I think it really brings the work down.

I was provided a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


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Under a curse

Category : blog , Book , Recommendation , Reviews

So, I go through this cycle when I start a new project.  I think of it as my very own personal creators curse.

  • Step 1 is “Wow, this is a really good idea!”
  • Step 2 is “This is just so much fun! I love this idea.
  • Step 3 is “Huh. Hm. Well. This is a good idea. Well, I mean, I like it. But…”
  • Step 4 is “OMG, why do I even think I can do this! This is the WORST IDEA EVER!”
  • Step 5 is “Okay, I’ll just finish this draft and that’s it. No more.”
  • STep 6 is “Well, this isn’t so bad. I mean, with a little work…”
  • Step 7 is “You know, this is actually pretty good. Not amazing, but…yeah…”
  • Step 8 is “I AM SO SICK OF LOOKING AT THIS THING! Whatever! It’s done! I don’t care!”

Right now, I am firmly in Step 4.  The “creative doldrums” usually hits me in the outline stage. And I’m right in the middle of the outline stage. About two weeks ago or so, I really loved this idea.  Now that I’m working it out, I’m less enamored.  I know from experience that I go through this every time. What it takes to get out of this slump is to keep working on it.

I just gotta power through it.

If I switch to working on a different project, I will end up in the same place with that new project. So, I know it’s best to keep working on this project.

There’s a lot to be learned every time you complete a book. You get better at creating sell-able ideas. You get better at writing.  You get better at finishing. Being able to finish writing a book is an incredible valuable skill. There are an endless amount of books that have been started and never finished.

No one buys an unfinished book.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to go finish.

TTy’allLater.
~W.H.


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Obsidian Son (The Temple Chronicles #1)

Category : blog , Book , Recommendation , Reviews

3 star rating

3 out of 5 stars

 

cover image

#1 Nate Temple series

I’d be remiss if I criticized this book for having an unlikable protagonist.  My protagonist, Jack Story, is designed to be unlikable.  However, I do have to say that the protagonist in Obsidian Son is unsympathetic.

A lot of people think that you have to make your protagonist likable for the audience to root for them.  You don’t.  Two examples right off the top of my head are the MCU’s Tony Stark and Mel Gibson in Payback.

Tony, despite how charming RDJ’s performance is, is not likable. He’s rude. He’s a jerk to his friends. He only keeps people around based on how useful they are for him. His treatment of women is deplorable.

Mel’s character in Payback is a straight up bank robber. There’s nothing likable about this guy.

But we root for both of them, finding them sympathetic, because they do what we consider to be “the right thing.”  Sure, Tony is all those things I said he was, but at the end of the day he straps on the Iron Man suit and goes up against the forces of darkness.  Mel’s character just wants his cut of the money from the bank he robbed. Not all of it, just what’s due to him.

Things we think we would do in that same situation.  Thus we find them sympathetic.

This isn’t the case with Nate Temple. He’s got a Batman Origin, his parents were murdered. He’s a billionaire. He’s got magic at his disposal. But unlike Batman, he doesn’t do the sort of things we think we would do in that situation.

Imagine if you had magical power and essentially unlimited money.  Now add in the certain knowledge that your parents had been murdered. How would you spend your days?

Hunting down your parent’s murderer or would you run around collecting rare books for clients?

Exactly. Nate  doesn’t do that. He isn’t Batman. He is living his life as if no tragedy had touched him. And has a rare book store.

But there are some good things about the story. The use of the Minotaur from Greek myths is fun. The bookstore sisters are interesting. The action is fun. But I found Nate to be unsympathetic.


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2 Weeks Later…

It’s amazing how exhausting launching a book can be.  I’ve done it 5 times now, and each time it is an emotional rollercoaster.  It’s pretty much impossible for me to get any solid writing done during the whole time.

And this was the most successful launch I’ve had to date.  An “average” book will sell 200 copies in the first year.  Over a 10 year lifetime, they sell about 2000.  The Concrete Goodbye, on its first day, sold 61 books. On day 2, it sold 33.  in the first week it sold 175 copies.

It made it to the #1 spot in Pulp and Pulp Mysteries.  And #21 in Noir.  Not too shabby, huh?

Of course, that only lasted for a day or two. It eventually started to slide, and settled down to #6ish of Pulp and well further down in the other genre’s.  And with it the emotional high that comes from selling books.

And now comes the hard work of reaching out to reviewers, my mailing list to see if they can leave a review. On a recent Book Bub post, and an Amazing Insights post, it’s been proven that reviews- verified or not- are 90% as good as a purchase. The more a book is reviewed, the more Amazon bumps it up in the rankings even if there isn’t a sale to go a long with it.

Of course, I’ve also got to get cracking on the next book, The Nightingale’s Song. So, cheers, y’all!

I’ve got writing to do.


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Book title slider

Time for a cover!

Howdy, y’all!

You may not know this, but a few weeks ago I had a problem.  I got together with my cover designer Christine, and she came up with a couple of cover designs that were pretty cool. But she came up with 2 of them that were really kick ass. I couldn’t make up my mind.  So, I decided why not put it up to a vote?  So, I asked all the readers who have subscribed to my newsletter to vote on which cover they liked better.

The results were surprising!

And wow did you all vote!  There were around 480 votes cast. One cover dominated with over 78% of the  votes! That’s an amazing and decisive victory for one the two candidates.   You know, at this point I feel like I should draw this whole thing out and maybe post a video to a Rickroll on Youtube, but let’s cut to what’s important.

Without further ado the cover for The Concrete Goodbye and the synopsis!

 

cover of book

The cover

Greed, Sex, Murder, and Superheroes

 Blackmailing the world’s first superhero can be deadly

Jack Story is a Private Detective in a city full of superheroes.

Aging WWII super solider Major Victory is being blackmailed. The Major’s granddaughter, the apple of his eye, is an unwitting star of a sex tape.  If the Major doesn’t pay up, the world gets to see what his little darling gets up to at night. The Major wants Jack to make the blackmail stop. Preferably with lots of pain being inflicted on the blackmailer.

Jack takes the job.

But when Jack starts digging into the case things turn deadly.  There is an explosion downtown that levels a concrete building and kills a young superhero. The grand daughter insists the bomb was really meant her and not her best friend.

That same friend shows up in Jack’s office hours after the explosion, claiming she was the target all along.  She demands that Jack find out who’s responsible before disappearing into the night.

Can Jack find who is behind the blackmail and the bombing before others die?  What if it’s the granddaughter behind it all?

Sometimes being a detective in a city full of superheroes can be Hell.

 

Lemme know what you think. I’m super excited about the book, and the cover only makes it more exciting!