Book Giveaway

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Cleaning up the office, I found four ARCs of “Running Black” and 5 of “One Bad Apple

If you’d like one, (or both) leave a comment with an email so I can get your mailing address.*

*Yes, they’re free. No, I won’t spam you or sell your info. Of course I’d like a read/review, but there’s no strings attached.

Guest Post : author Lee Stephen

From fellow author and friend, Lee Stephen.

***

Several weeks ago, Patrick approached me about the prospect of writing a guest entry for HSSJ. As someone who’s never been asked to partake in guest blogging before, I leapt at the opportunity to splatter my thoughts all over someone else’s blog like a fat bug on a car windshield. Admittedly, I am a terrible blogger, as anyone who frequents my own blog at www.epicuniverse.com undoubtedly knows. I fall into the category of “writers who hate writing and who hate themselves for being good at writing, as opposed to, say, math.” Unfortunately for me, blogging falls under the “writing” category, so…yeah. A love affair with the craft, this isn’t.

Hey, at least I’m honest.

There are a litany of blog entries out there in the author-blogger ocean that offer writing advice. This will not be one of them. What this entry will offer is writer advice, which is entirely different. How so? Well when it comes to the actual process of writing, in my experience, the advice of most profiting indie authors is, “be just like me.” Are there exceptions? Sure. But in my own personal experience as a realist, I’ve found that most indie authors dedicate a lot of blog time to explaining how great they are, and how if you pattern your entire existence after them, you could be almost as great (but not quite). I would highly recommend these blogs to people who have no sense of self-worth or direction. But that’s not you!

So what is writer advice, exactly, and why is it so different? Writer advice (or at least my incarnation of it) has to do with attitude. It isn’t worried about things like daily tweet quotas or mandatory words-per-day levels. Writer advice has to do with you. It’s also not advice you’ll hear in very many places, because it’s kind of heretical. But as I like to say, “yeah whatever.”

ADVICE #1: Avoid most writers.

So I guess this one warrants explanation, eh? Basically…most writers are self-centered attention hogs who only care about you for the size of your fan base. Oh, snap!

Once again, the above does not classify all writers. But as a general rule, it’s kind of true, isn’t it? I actually debated this point recently with someone who was about to dive head-first into the realm of indie writers. I warned them, I flailed my arms, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Writers suck!” But they didn’t believe me. They started talking to writers. They went to writers’ group meetings. They joined the writing community. And sure enough, it was only a matter of time until they came back and said, “Lee, you were right. Writers completely suck.” I am fortunate to have three good writer friends in Patrick here, Robert Fanney, a fantasy author I’ve known for years, and Erik Sabol, WHO DESPERATELY NEEDS TO GET HIS FIRST NOVEL OUT, ERIK. I would tell anyone looking for writer friends to find 1-3 writers they can relate to and who they can toss ideas back and forth with. Leave the rest in the dust. In YOUR dust. Because you’re better than them. Which leads us to…

ADVICE #2: Do your own thing.

There actually is a practical reason for Advice #1, and this is it. When you get too caught up in group-think, you lose your sense of identity. You start buying into this FAKE mentality that there are certain things you absolutely, positively must do in order to be successful, based purely off what other people are telling you that you have to do. You probably don’t even realize how prevalent this is, but it’s true. Think about it. Right now, in 2013, in order to be a successful indie author, you must do at least two of the following:

1. Have a blog and blog consistently.
2. Tweet daily.
3. Make yourself write every single day.

I mean, those are like, the basics, right? Anyone with any hope of getting anywhere pretty much has to adhere some of those. Right? Wrong. Not one of those things is remotely necessary, as evidenced by the fact that I do none of them. Get the concept of a “must” list out of your head. There’s only one thing you need to focus on: standing out by the things that you do.

When you start avoiding writers, this becomes easier. It’s not about being antisocial. It’s about practicing your independence. When you start plugging into the collective, you start losing the uniqueness that makes you you. You become a mimicker as opposed to a trailblazer. You lose the ability to do things that get you noticed. Take the audiobook, for example. Just think of that word: audiobook. What comes to mind? What’s the first thought that enters your head?

Chances are, it wasn’t this: http://www.epicuniverse.com/DODCh5Sample.mp3

That’s where independent thought can take you. That clip is a sample of the soon-to-be-released audiobook adaptation for the first book in my Epic series, Dawn of Destiny. Had I gotten audiobook advice from other writers, that probably wouldn’t have been the result. I’d have probably hired a narrator to read the whole book or read it myself – not that either of those things are bad! They’re just not necessarily new. I wanted to produce an audiobook for people who don’t like audiobooks, meaning I had to erase every preconceived notion of what I thought an audiobook was supposed to be from my head. In doing so, I like to think I’ve gone in a direction few folks have gone before. You can do this with anything. All you have to do is realize you can do it. Cut the “writing community” umbilical cord. It’ll make you stand out in a ridiculously overcrowded field.

8959319-stand-out-from-the-crowd

ADVICE #3: Just be nice.

It’s my nature to be sarcastic. I think to think of sarcasm as the quintessential underrated spiritual gift! But I also do everything in my power to exercise kindness and courtesy. Sometimes I struggle, as all humans do. But I try my utmost to abide by the Golden Rule.

One of my favorite quotes is by Conan O’Brien, at the end of his final night hosting the Tonight Show. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Conan fan or not (I happen to be one), I find this advice absolutely fantastic. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e35SVmdx9nY&t=3m58s .

I can tell you this, without hesitation: simple kindness has taken me further than any amount of social media savvy or writing ability ever has. I have opportunities (the kind I can’t even talk about), right now, because of courtesy and literally nothing else. If you ignore every other piece of advice I mention, take note of this one. And the next one.

ADVICE #4: Be humble.

There’s a vast difference between confidence and arrogance. I love confidence – I love to see it in people, because it drives them to be the best. But arrogance is the ultimate turnoff. Always remember: you’re never as good as you think you are, and there’s always somebody better.

Don’t brag about sales. Don’t assume you’re doing it the right way. Don’t buy into the notion that because you might be having more financial success than the next guy, you must be better or more important than he is. These are all tell-tale signs of an insecure writer. The only person you need to worry about is you. Let everyone else do what and how they will.

For those who may be wondering about my level of success, simply for contextual purposes, I’ve been incredibly successful. I married the woman of my dreams, I have a one-year-old who lights up my life, and we live in a nice little house with a fence for the dog we rescued. Oh, and every now and then, I sell a book or two. But you don’t need to worry about that part.

Do your own thing. Blaze your own trails. Be relentlessly fearless. When you separate from the herd, it is amazing–amazing–what you can do.

Good luck out there!

***

If you’re a Sci Fi Action Fan, check out Lee’s Amazon Page for his Epic Universe series:

Lee Stephen on Amazon

Soldier Dreams Release

soldier_dreams_typoThe second installment of Shift TenseSoldier Dreams – is now available at Amazon for Kindle.
Soldier Dreams at Amazon It’s got Somali pirates, killer robots, mad dictators, child soldiers, and plenty of action. What more do you need?

To mark the occasion, Part One – RED FLAGS – will be free for download starting tomorrow, Sept 27th through the 28th. RED FLAGS at AMAZON

A thousand thanks to everyone who’s taken their hard-earned cash and purchased my books, then taken their time to actually read them. I’m eternally grateful.

What’s in a Number – Update

Wherein I’m on the receiving end of justifiable criticism…

Latest “Running Black” Review addresses the exact questions I raised in an earlier post in Amazon Ratings and Reviews.

In my defense, I’m fully aware I’m not William Gibson and my debut novel isn’t going to win the Hugo, Nebula and PKD. Not in a million years. Neither would I assert the Eshu International world is a credible extrapolation of Middle Eastern politics or corporate hegemony. Any more than “Live Free or Die Hard” was a realistic depiction of a cyberattack on American infrastructure or “The 300” caught the historical reality of Thermopylae. But Mr. Durkey is well read with broader, higher points of reference, and the fact is my work doesn’t attain to elite levels. End of the day, I’m fine with Three Stars and ‘well-written’, ‘solid action, good airport book.’

Thank you Mr. Durkey, for taking the time to read and review my book.

What’s in a number?

Review Numbers, that is.

My puzzlement has been brewing sometime, not only over inflated ratings but the sheer volume of reviews. I’m looking at Amazon, specifically here.

Now before anyone accuses me of whining, of course I want my books rated and reviewed. This isn’t a ‘cry for help’; I straight up ask for reviews. They make a difference. And no shill and gush, please. Every honest rating adds value and provides information to potential readers/buyers. (I have a review to write for a fellow writer, in fact.)

That said, if you go by the flood of Five-Stars floating around Amazon these days, you’d think we’d entered a new Golden Age of Literature. Either that, or there’s serious fan-boy/fan-girl (fan-person? person of fandom?) inflation going on.

Congrats to anyone who writes and finishes a novel. It’s a serious accomplishment. I applaud your courage in publishing it too. Really.

But I think a lot of readers have lost points of reference. Does anyone read great literature anymore? Scratch that, does anyone even read the classic, defining works in their preferred genre? In my experience, most books are competent, coherent, exhibiting a working knowledge of plot, character, and the fundamentals of grammar – in other words, Three-Star books. It’s the minimum requirement for a decent, solid story. It’s the median, the AVERAGE.

A One-Star equates to treachery: the author should re-take Freshman English Comp, and return the purchase price along with some recompense for pain and suffering. Five-Star means not only does it exhibit exceptional literary skill, but had a profound impact on my life. Two and Four-Star ratings fall below and above average, respectively. It’s not rocket surgery. Yes, much of the process is subjective, but there are benchmarks. Objective Standards have to enter the equation somewhere.

I get daily BookBub alerts – notice of new releases, deals, freebies – and the descriptions always tout phrases like “over seven-hundred 5-star reviews on Amazon!” and “Highest rated in xyz category” Seriously? For “Shaniqua – Elven VampireHuntress of the Lycan Wars, Part 7“*

Three-quarters of the offerings are like that. It’s gotten so bad, I don’t believe any of it. Worse, I’m auto-hitting ‘Delete’ about half the time.

Even allowing for passionate fans, a new generation of readers, a failing educational system, what’s up with the atmospheric review numbers?

For example, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the book that popularized, even defined the Cyberpunk genre, currently has 625 reviews and is holding steady at Four Stars. The author’s debut novel won the Hugo, Nebula and PKD Awards in 1984. The archetype, it represents a tectonic shift in science fiction and is counted among the top 100 english books of the last century.

Contrast that with Hugh Howey’s “Wool Onmibus” at six-thousand plus reviews and Four and a half Stars as of this writing. Now I’m not slagging HH. All props to him. I bought the W:O ebook. Yes, I want those sales numbers. But Wool is a stock, serialized Post-apoc tale. It’s derivative. It’s average. Those numbers are Marketing fluff, not indicative of quality.

More:
Cyberstorm by Mathew Mather: Pubbed this year in 2013, 1,808 ratings at Four and a Half Stars.
John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War (Hugo Nominee, btw. Pubbed in 2005) Only 861 at 4.5 Stars.

Patrick Rothfuss’ very excellent Kingkiller** novels Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear have 2,000 odd and 1,000 plus ratings respectively, whereas Ilona Andrews’ brand new Magic Bites is already rocking 426 at 4.5 Stars.

Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle, book 1) is my most recent disappointment. Heavily Suggested, it had 48, 4 and 5-star reviews prior to being released, via something known as the “Amazon Vine Program.” We’re at one-hundred eleventy solid Four-Stars at the moment, and they’re already pimping books 2 and 3. Which aren’t even out yet. I slogged through to 80% and finally deleted it from my Kindle. It was steaming pile of tedious pedestrian trope.

We could go on and on, finding more extreme examples, but my real questions are (aside from how can I legitimately boost my own numbers) how to sift the wheat from the chaff, and how to counter-act loss of credibility due to Rampant Review Inflation?

Any ideas?

*not a real book. Names have been changed to protect the clueless
** Him and Joe Abercrombie restored my faith in contemporary fantasy.

Candi-land (Another Clar1ty Wars story)

A chapter from the next Clar1ty Wars installment. Titled “Under Strange Stars” it’s slated for Q1, 2014 release.

***

CANDI-LAND

Cooper Lynch and Natesh Sarin pulled up inside the gate and flicked off the blues. Two news vans were already in front of the house, their Network holo-logos trying to out-dazzle each other like a pair of flustered tropical birds. Reporters primped as their camera crews jockeyed for position, the roof dishes like steel flowers, tracking that vital satellite up-link.

“How do they know so fast?” Natesh asked.

Cooper explained the obvious. “You really think patrolmen pay their own bar tab?” He looked over at the younger detective. “Only a matter of time before some Newsie scopes out your favorite restaurant.”

Natesh hesitated. “You do it?” he ventured.

“Sometimes. Not so much anymore.”

“What makes sometime that time now?”

“Depends.”

“On what?”

Cooper Lynch shrugged. “Hard to explain. You’ll know when you get there.”

Natesh didn’t respond.

A boxy, tripod-mounted Central Enforcement monitor lensed the car, their police IDs, automatically logging them into the Crime Scene. Two bored uniforms waved them on toward the main house. Dead palm trees lined a long crushed shell driveway.

“Well damn,” rumbled Lynch. “Groundskeeper must have the day off.”

Natesh looked up at each desiccated trunk as they drove forward. “No way. You’ve got to work to kill those.”

Cooper made a noncommittal noise. Their sixth call in seventy-two hours, talk between the veteran and noob had boiled down to the essentials: caffeine fueled sarcasm and raw fact. On their first day, the day of the seven spongers in the warehouse, the office pool was five-to-one “Bambi and Godzilla” wouldn’t last the week, but eleven more bodies had forced the cogs to mesh.

Fact was, all Drop City was on edge; five Senators attacked, a two buildings blown up, street violence red-lining, and junkies dying in waves… Helluva first week. Natesh was swamped, but Cooper, Chief Detective Cooper Lynch, rolled on like a freight train. “Shit,” the big man had said sometime around dawn yesterday. “Things haven’t been this interesting since the Cronies dropped the Soros Towers and they were pulling the Angel murders from the Back Bay.” Each fresh obscenity, each new outrage seemed to bring him to life, hone the edge. So Natesh buckled down and hung on for the ride.

When they reached the front porch, Cooper threw the car in Park and exited without a word. He flashed his Central Enforcement Charm at a third uniform by the front door, cast a suspicious glance over the overgrown lawn, the tangled shrubs, then at the dark woolen cloud cover lowering over head. “I bet a little rain will perk things up in no time.”

Natesh came around with his shiny new silver shield in hand. He took in the peeling paint, the bank of grimy windows, the whiff of mold and neglect, and frowned. “Whole place looks like it should be washed out to sea.”

“Yeah well, be gentle. The Point’s ‘get-up-and-go’ got up and went ten years ago. It’s barely hanging on these days.”

Natesh leaned against the car, waiting as Lynch decided against another cigarette and any more of an explanation, then the two detectives strode through the Police Line holo-tape. A garish pink sign over the dingy double doors identified the mansion as the “Peek-a-Boo Bungalow.”

Like the sign, like the house, Montrose Point had spiraled the drain of chic to shabby to seedy. A peninsula on the southwestern edge of Shumai Island, the ‘Point’ used to be among the most coveted real estate on the planet. With an ocean breeze, a limitless view and breathtaking sunsets, it had been the exclusive playground of indolent millionaires, pop musicians and vid-stars. Anyone who was anyone back then had a villa on the cliffs or a mega-yacht in a slip. The zip code used to be the very definition of mind-numbing debauchery, and for years, the Point was a tabloid gold-mine of juicy sex-scandals, sordid celebrity drama, and lurid endings that defied logic. And sympathy.

A generation of paparazzi made their careers skulking through its wide, palm lined avenues, white sand beaches, and glass-fronted mansions. But like all good things, the catered orgies, the champagne-filled swimming pools, the silver platters heaped with designer drugs, the roar of heli-jets, and the custom sport cars races on the lawn came to an abrupt, but not unexpected, end.

When the Hydro-Energia plant went up on the barrier reef, along with six blocks of low-income worker housing, the view went to hell and so did the marine life for ten kilometers. Most of the rich simply pulled anchor and sailed further out to places like the Ferrari Archipelago and Slim Helu island. Keep the party-music thumping.

Some Point residents weren’t that lucky. Stuck in that hazy twilight cusp, they weren’t quite rich, connected or pretty enough to come along. The party sailed away without them and residents like the owner of the Peek-a-Boo Bungalow were left with nothing but fuzzy memories, stained carpet and a nasty hangover.

A stout, red-faced beat cop named Karnel met Natesh and Cooper in the living room. A hundred pounds and a couple years past his freshness date, Karnel was angling for that last benefit tier in the CE pension package. Gadowski, his latest partner was rummaging around upstairs. A stick-thin kid with radar dish ears and a beak made for snatching up migrating salmon, Officer G. looked like he belonged more in secondary school jacket than a C.E. uniform.

Karnel nodded to Cooper, ignored Natesh.

Behind the patrolman’s rounded shoulders, a step-down side room was taped off. Cooper spied two bare feet with candy apple red toenails, and the black-edged slate of a high-end Bose wallscreen.”What do we got?”

“Celebrity brain-pop,” Karnel smirked. “Classic case of Rapid Cerebral Hemorrhaging.”

“ID?”

Karnal’s grin widened to shit-eating proportions. “Remember Candi Moore?”

Cooper edged forward to a better look. “You sure?”

“I shit you not. It’s her – what’s left of her anyway. And ‘cept for being older… ” Karnel giggled. “She’s just like she always was: stark fucking naked.”

“And dead,” Cooper added.

“Yeah, that too,” the patrolman conceded.

The big detective shook his head. “Been waiting to say that, haven’t you?”

Natesh looked at Cooper, curious.

“Miss Candi Moore, porn queen. Before your time,” he explained.

“Big time porn queen,” Karnel interjected. “Huge.” Meaty hands perched out in front of his chest.

Cooper continued. “She made a ton of holos back in the day. Had her own studio. Used the money she made to pioneer Sexperia.”

Natesh was genuinely puzzled now.

“‘Sexperia – Sexperience the difference’,” Kernel scoffed. “Sex-net?” Then to Cooper. “What is he, Mennonite?”

Cooper Lynch raised an eyebrow. “Nah, he’s just one of them kids that paid attention in school – instead of jerking off between class.”

The old patrolman gave Natesh a once-over with watery, hound-dog eyes. “You don’t know what you missed.”

“Can we go in?” Cooper asked.

Karnel stepped aside, his grin back. “Be my guest. Not like ol’ Candi couldn’t handle a couple guys at once. Just say the word if you want a little private time,” he snickered.

Natesh pulled out a pair of blue latex gloves from his pocket, handed them to Cooper. “Sex-Net… biomodded with sensory modules to capture tactile input? Like for training sims?”

Cooper nodded. “Industry standard for everything now, but porn started it. Hell, Candi Moore practically invented it. She was the first gal to get plugged and make feature-length vids.”

“Oh, she got plugged alright. Anything stiff,” Karnel called from behind them. “Remember that one with the guy with the two—”

“We gotta focus here,” Cooper cut in. “OK?”

The officer’s hands went up. “Sheesh. OK. Not like you haven’t seen her in the buff. Half the fucking planet seen her. Except for junior here.”

Cooper and Natesh slowly circled the room, drawing closer to the body with each pass. Cooper had insisted the younger man do it this way. The victim wasn’t going anywhere, he’d said. The crime scene would change however. Starting at the perimeter, slightly, subtly, every new cop, technician, investigator would tread, touch or tweak something as a person’s private tragedy drifted to a matter of public record.

“You have to get there when it’s raw, untouched,” Cooper had explained. “Evidence gets lost. Can’t help it. Pain in the ass, but it’s true. They teach you ‘the more the merrier’, but really every new person muddies the water. Then that one thing that was out of place, that tiny clue that could put a bow on it, is gone. And you never realized it was there.

Five minutes of silence brought Natesh and Cooper to the body.

Miss Candi Moore was indeed very naked and very dead. Curled on the floor beside a leather recliner, her body was a patchwork of tan lines, taut implants, and nip and tuck microscars. A cheap, life-size silicone doll of her younger self.

Her knees were together, bent slightly, and one arm angled behind her head. Her back was arched, thrusting her breasts up and apart. Dark red blood matted her blonde hair to the threadbare dhurrie in a sticky halo. A frosted-pink grimace, mascara streaked cheeks, eyes shut tight …If was as if she had tried to strike one last pose in mid-convulsion. Natesh soured on the notion pain climaxed like passion.

Two dead shih tzus nestled against her abdomen, tiny, faux-diamond barrettes in their coifed fur. Her ‘babies’ expired, lapping her poisoned blood.

Natesh cut off his reaction, concentrated on taking in the scene without judgment or opinion like Cooper had told him. “Who found her?” he asked.

Karnel sucked his teeth, waved up the police log and displayed it mid-air for them to see. “Her Charm squirted a death-gram less than forty minutes ago. Medi-Care cc’d Dispatch who sent us to check the premises. Gadowski and me were first on scene. Forensics and Morgue are on the way.”

“Been a busy past couple days,” Cooper nodded. “You check the house security?”

Karnel chuckled. “Old ‘mouth-watering Candi’ here has fallen on hard times. Ain’t banging ’em like she used to. All this place’s got is perimeter alarms. No video.”

“Any sign of forced entry?”

Karnel barked a nasty laugh.

Cooper turned and stared. “Yes or no?”

“Nah.”

Natesh studied the body, looked around the room. “No signs of a struggle, no bruises, defensive wounds. She was all alone?”

Kanel looked at Cooper. “Got yourself a genu-wine de-tect-ive, here.”

The big man shifted on his feet, leaned closer to her head. “What was she watching?” he murmured.

Natesh stared, raised his eyebrows. “What?”

Cooper reached over, plucked a stylus from his partner’s shirt pocket and lifted a clump of wet hair. A thin lime green cable snaked through the aspic to disappear behind her right ear.

Natesh looked from the cable to the huge flatscreen, then back to the cable. The Experia player beside the recliner was blinking green. “Was the player on when you arrived?” he asked the patrolman.

“Wha–?” Karnel started. The pudgy officer had ambled from the hall over to a shelf piled with jewel cases and music discs. Something slim flashed in his hand.
“Outtakes from ‘Candi-land, Ho’. You think this is worth anything?”

“Why are you touching anything?” Cooper growled.

“So long as he isn’t touching himself,” Natesh muttered.

Cooper’s eyes narrowed but he stifled a smile. “Officer Karnel, are you fleecing my crime scene for souvenirs?”

“What? No.” Karnel blushed. “I mean, yes.” He slid the vid-disc back on the shelf.

“Yes, what?” Cooper growled.

“Yeah, the Bose was on. Gadowski and I came through the door to moaning. First thought was her medi-chip malf-ed in the middle of some serious frolicking.”

“So the set was on. And?”

Karnel’s face broadened in another dopey grin. “You’re never gonna believe it.”

Cooper sighed, unconsciously felt for his cigarettes. “Just tell us.”

“The underwater one: ‘Candi on Cousteau Reef.'”

“What?” Natesh asked.

“She was watching herself, numb-nuts. She archied watching one of her own vids.” The patrolman gave the body a once-over, tutted softly. “Candi always said she was dying to stay young.”

Natesh shook his head, uncomprehending. “Wait… She was all alone, jacked in, watching… feeling herself getting– erm, having intercourse?”

Karnel beamed like he was delivering the punch line of the best joke he’d heard in weeks. “Got it on one, junior. What a way to go, huh?”

The patrolman paused, seemingly lost in thought. Natesh figured it was unfamiliar territory. “Wonder what part she popped at?” Karnel mused. “Piece of fucking trivia, right there, eh?”

Cooper was studying the floor around the body, under the recliner. He nudged a shih tzu with the stylus. “You see a vial? A Clar1ty vial?”

Karnel smirked, fished something out of his vest pocket. “Of course.” He held up an evidence baggie with a tiny blood-smeared glass cylinder in the corner.

Cooper stood, three strides took him to the patrolman. Karnel blinked twice as the detective snatched the baggie out of his hand. “Not an hour and you’ve bollixed the place,” Cooper said in a low voice.

Karnel swallowed, took half a step back. “Hey, I didn’t mean nothing. There’s a carton of ’em in the freezer.”

Natesh was on his feet. “Take me there.”

Two minutes later Natesh was back in the living room. “Six vials, still sealed. Pfizer-Teva.”

Karnel sniffed. “Some hot-shit po-lice work that is; fucking stamp’s on top of the carton.”

Natesh ignored him. “Think your pal in Forensics could take a look at them?” he asked his partner.

“He’ll do it,” Cooper said. “We got Spongers dropping like fruit flies last seventy-two hours. Any question of tainted brain-juice gets bumped up the priority scale.”

“Wanna bet it’s the same batch as the waterfront?”

Cooper reached for a cigarette, turned to the front door. “Nope.”

Natesh’s smile was short lived. His CE Charm pinged three seconds later: Code 10. Emergency Alert.

Officer Gadowski lurched into view. “Holy shit. We have to roll. Dispatch says a huge bomb just went off in Government Square.”

© Patrick Todoroff – 2013

MDBT Guest Post – Mark Carver

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MEGA-DARK BOOK BLOG TOUR: “TAKING A BREAK FROM ALL THE DARK STUFF”

A while back, I read an article that admonished writers to stick to one genre. Of course my initial reaction was, “How dare he tell me what to write!” but I soon realized that the article was largely correct. The most successful authors are those who write in one genre, since their fans know what they want and the authors are happy to give it to them. Of course this isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule, but the fact remains that an author has to establish themselves as a brand and this means carving out one’s niche, rather than diluting their brand by dipping their wick into too many genres.

Mark Carver headshotI’ve come to realize that my primary genre is dark supernatural fiction, and I’m comfortable settling into this genre. But writing is a lot of work, and every author needs a vacation now and then. The question on my mind was: how can I branch out into other genres without throwing my readers for a loop?

As I pondered weak and weary, I came up with a simple solution, which I call “Two On, One Off.” Basically, I will write two books in my primary genre, and then one book in a different genre. By following this schedule, readers can know what to expect and when, and it gives me a chance to stretch my legs and exercise different muscles of my imagination.

My first two books under this plan were The Age of Apollyon and Black Sun, both of which were extremely dark and intense. I definitely needed a break after being submersed in this grim world for nearly a year and a half. Thus, Indelible was born.

While my previous books contained Christian themes and elements, Indelible is a completely secular book. That’s not to say that it’s full of four-letter words or graphic descriptions of sex and violence, but it does contain some mild language, casual sex, partying, drug use, etc. But it’s actually a pretty light and easy read, at least compared to my earlier work. There’s not a single act of violence in the entire story, though there is plenty of tension and drama. I won’t give away any details about the story, but if you’re a fan of tattoos, heavy metal, or fantasy weapons, I guarantee you’ll love Indelible.

Writing this book was an absolute joy, and I had the entire manuscript cleaned and polished in just over three months (half the time it usually takes for me to complete a book). Of course I hope that it will attract a whole new market of readers to my corner, but my main purpose in writing Indelible was just to give my mind a breather.

And it worked. Almost immediately, I launched myself into the final book in The Age of Apollyon Trilogy, entitled Scorn, which I’ve nearly completed. I don’t think I could have written the entire trilogy back-to-back-to-back, and writing Indelible gave my imagination the rest and rejuvenation it needed to finish strong.

Indelible cover

So if you’re looking for something a bit different from my usual fare (or anyone else’s, for that matter), check out Indelible when it releases in just a couple of weeks. I think you’ll be very surprised, and that’s exactly what I’m hoping for.