Wednesday, October 26, 2016

In the Space of an Atom Cover Release

In the Space of an Atom is my working title for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month.  Writing starts in less than a week, but the cover is here now.

Working Synopsis:

Jeremy Reynolds had been listless for a while now.  First, his girlfriend dumped him after 4 years, and he was in a funk.  Then, he lost his job as an accountant.  Yes, Jeremy was doing little and caring less.  But recently, he has found something that energizes him, something that gives him direction.  It’s called…running for his life.

Just as Jeremy is finishing the last in a string of low-paying, temporary market research gigs, the study assistant pulls a gun on him and tries to kill him.  When Jeremy bungles his way to freedom, he realizes that the technology in this study is much more than it first appears.  It’s enough to kill for.  But he also knows he is in way over his head.  So, when the lab and the would-be assassin disappear, and the police close the case, Jeremy is desperate for help.  He finds it in the beautiful, young Diane Stapleton, MD.  Now, the two of them match wits with the killers, in chases that take them where no one has gone before…in the space of an atom.

Friday, October 21, 2016

NaNoWriMo – Week -1

Word Count:  0

Until a few weeks ago, I only knew 3 things about the National Novel Writing Month, or as it is known, NaNoWriMo. 
  1. Its objective is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month, November specifically.  That's what caught my attention.
  2. Whoever came up with the acronym, well, let's just say it's not what I would have chosen.  So, I poked some fun...I mean, I posted some serious suggestions on this blog.  They haven't adopted any of them yet.
  3. It's something my son has done that I have not.  And of course, what Dad wants that, at least any time before he's 90 and the son is going to run with the bulls at Pamplona.  So, starting November 1, 2016, I'm correcting this situation.
Consider this my Week -1 post on NaNoWriMo 2016.
I thought about posting my progress each day.  But then, having feeds to Amazon Author Central, Google+, and Goodreads, as well as emails that say:

Nov. 1:  1,231 words
Nov. 2:  2,046 words
Nov. 3:  163 words
It could get a little old.  So, I’m planning a (more or less) weekly progress post, which will be limited to date, words written, and maybe a few comments about my aching wrists or blurry vision.  It’ll be short and sweet; after all, I can’t waste some good verbiage on anything that doesn’t count toward my 50,000.  
But for those who cannot stand the stress of not knowing, I’ve also created a NaNoWriMo page that will have the daily count (page updates don’t go out to everyone, like posts).  I even plan to put portions of this hastily created masterpiece on that page as I go along.  That should be entertaining!  And before you ask – why am I claiming X words when the page has a lot fewer.  Let me just say, the prose needs a little time to breath…and I need to make sure I don’t want to double back and dump it all before I post it.

Happy NaNoWriting,

Picture by mpclemens from Pleasant Hill, United States (NaNoWriMo: the home front) (]

Friday, October 14, 2016

Book Review: Saturn Run by John Sanford and Ctein

A Bit of a Slower Starter, But with a Strong Finish

Set in 2066, Saturn Run is the story of the race between the United States and China to reach an alien space station and obtain the advanced technology that is expected to be there.
In general, the book starts a bit slow.  Much of the first part involves the description of the various people on the mission and in the government on the ground.  It provides the fodder for the rest of the story, in somewhat of a systematic and plodding way, and unfortunately, with some unnecessary repetition. After the introductions and when the alien spacecraft is sighted, the government team transitions quite quickly from the threat to humanity that the alien technology poses to the threat to dominance that getting to Saturn second poses.  At that point, I asked myself, would we really dash off to an alien space base without considering self-defense more fully?  I was surprised that the government did not want to know more about the aliens and their capabilities before they went on what might become essentially an interplanetary burglary mission.  But that race forms the basis for the story.
The authors’ synopsis loosely compares this book to The Martian.  I can see that.  Both are based in space and require solutions to nearly impossible engineering problems for the characters to survive.  The big difference to me was that the issues in The Martian are related to ones that everyone can identify with – having air, growing food, making water…  I have a much harder time relating to the problem of dissipating 600-degree Celsius heat, which was the central concern in Saturn Race; however, the solution seems reasonable and ingenuous, although the means to encapsulate the molten metal so it does not form drops (rather than sheets) seems a bit of smoke and mirrors.
But other than the solution to this central engineering problem, the technology of 2066 seemed to have changed little.  The viewing technology – vids and screens – seems almost unchanged from today.  We seem to have no Artificial Intelligences onboard or working issues groundside as far as I can tell.  Implants seem to be something like cochlear implants – they seem to be hearing pings and communications.  And so on.  I guess I expected to see more tech of the future based on current trends and less of what we have today.
While there was some suspense and tension in the first part of the book, it ramped up quite a bit for me in the last half, and I particularly liked the series of twists at the end.  Every time I thought the crew had covered every eventuality, something unexpected happened.  Additionally, the book hit one of my sweet spots – specifically, avoiding the use of totally made-up, non-science that is required to save the day in many science fiction stories.  Don’t get me wrong – total fabrications can be fun and entertaining.  And something beyond current state-of-the-art is needed in any story.  But for me, to move beyond fun and into being a really absorbing read, you can’t pull the world away from the brink of destruction solely on the weight of a completely unbelievable capability.  It’s too cheap, too easy.  The authors avoided that pitfall.
Overall, early on, I was not sure I was going to get into this book.  But some of the tech caught my interest, and then, the way the tension and suspense built, I ended up liking it a lot.  I believe other fans of science thrillers will as well.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Book Review: Raven’s Fall by Lincoln Cole

Extending the Mystery and Character Development in this Second of the Series

Raven’s Fall is the second in the World on Fire Series by Lincoln Cole. 

One question readers often ask about a series is, do I need to read the books in order.  In this case, I would highly recommend that you do.  This work extends our understanding of a couple of the main characters, Abigail and Haatim, as well as our feel for the Council.  The foundation in book 1 is important to these developments.  And besides, you only need to see the acclaim book 1, Raven’s Peak is achieving, to know that it’s the place to start.

The first book used a formula featuring action, supported by some good character development and a touch of humor.  Raven’s Fall, on the other hand, delves much more deeply into the mystery and suspense of our demon-plagued world.  Most of this tension is created through the storyline, as unfinished thoughts and events that don’t quite add up fuel our interest.  But there are also occasions where, for want of a better description, we’re told there’s a mystery.  It occurs in conversations of the ilk, ‘you wouldn’t be mad if you understood.  So tell me.  No, I can’t, it’s too dangerous.’  These more blatant proclamations that there’s more than meets the eye are somewhat overused for my tastes.  But most of the mystery is resolved by a strong, action filled finale.

I said ‘mostly resolved’ because the book does end with a cliff hanger.  For readers that prefer books of a series that are self-contained, please be forewarned.

From book 1, it is clear that Abigail is somewhat reckless and clearly not bound by rules not of her making, i.e., the laws of the Council.  In Raven’s Fall, we learn much more about how flawed she might be.  Haatim, on the other hand, continues to adhere to his principles…at least for now, and achieves his successes through a combination of blind luck and knee-jerk reactions when he has no time to think.  He also engages in a series of mental debates with himself, which is fine in principle.  But sometimes, he goes back and forth so much that ‘paralyzed by indecision’ seems to fit his personality better than analytic.  And some of the dialog also involves these protracted debates.  When this happens, the story can drag a bit, but it generally moves at a good pace. 

We also get a more complex view of the Council, which seemed largely stodgy and out of touch with reality in book 1.  But in Raven’s Fall, it’s clear that their members are both more in-tune and more flawed than we might have thought.  It almost gets to the point where picking the protagonist and antagonist from the cast of characters is impossible, they all have their pros and cons.  Well, I guess the demons are always bad, but the good guys?  Not so much.
Personally, I loved that fact.  There’s no one white knight, which in thrillers is often the young, handsome Navy Seal turned brilliant neuro-surgeon after running an orphanage for 5 years.  Raven’s Fall offers us a wonderful quagmire of personal strengths and weaknesses, abilities and flaws, good intentions, successes, and utter failures.
So, if you are a fan of stories of the occult and the battle between sometimes and in some ways good vs. always and utterly evil, you’ll love Raven’s Fall.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Happy First Indie Author's Day!

Saturday, October 8th is the first Indie Author's Day.  Many of my colleagues are considering it a milestone, a recognition of what we bring to literature – new blood, a willingness to experiment (not always successfully), and a whole lot of words.  For me, I’m not sure what IA Day is.  Online, it’s only described as a chance for a “Q&A with writers, agents and other industry leaders.”  Maybe they’re going to try to explain to us the error of our ways, suggest we all find a traditional publisher, and until then, sew a red “I” on all our clothes until we do…but I’m probably wrong.

In any case, I wanted to take the day as an opportunity to mention some of my co-wanderers in the still emerging, wonderful world of indie publishing.  When I started this journey, I thought I knew what it meant to be an indie author.  Come up with an idea, sit at your laptop pounding the keys for several months, format your manuscript, and drop it online with your favorite eBook publisher.  Voila, you’re an indie author!  But when I did so, and saw my rank on Amazon – number 1,900,000+ in book sales – I was faced with a question much similar to that of the proverbial tree falling in the woods.  If you write a book and no one buys it, are you really an author?

I thought about answering this question in the affirmative and start pounding on book 2…but then, if nothing else, I decided I’d be missing out on part of my initiation into authorship.  After all, what could be better to hone your craft that the sting of book reviews and publishers’ rejection letters.  And so, my journey beyond the keyboard began.

As an experienced consumer and pretty much a ‘numbers guy,’ I knew the value of reviews and ratings.  And so, one of my first challenges was figuring out just how you generate them for your latest masterpiece or miserable failure.  Enter Goodreads (, which provides the new keyboard pounder lots of options.  It was in the process of deciding which of those options to use that I made one of my first, online indie author acquaintances, Emma Jaye (  Emma runs the Goodreads Review Group, the largest of its kind on Goodreads.  And while Emma has a fascinating background (check out her author’s profile), what sold me on her group was a comment in the Ask the Author section that remains one of her most popular responses even today.  Evidently, someone had friended her, and then turned around and asked her to review his book.  Her response?  ‘No, and I don’t appreciate the request…’  When I’m about to embark on a process that by definition involves multiple people, different personalities, and vulnerable egos, there’s nothing better than someone who knows their business and tells it like it is.  And she does.  Emma seems to be online all the time, running her group and dispensing advice and feedback to naïve writers like me.  And she has even found time to pen 20 books with quite enviable ratings.  Thanks Emma, for all you do.

It was in one of Emma Jaye’s review groups that I met the second indie author I’d like to mention, Laurel Heidtman (  One of my first memories of Laurel is…well, confusion.  That’s because she also writes under the name, Lolli Powell.  OK, I’m not such a rank amateur that I don’t know what a pen name is, but still, when you’re expecting a review from someone named Lolli and you start getting messages from Laurel…you get the picture.  But when the comments started coming back, my confusion disappeared.  Not only did Laurel/Lolli write a thoughtful review, but she also provided detailed feedback via Goodreads messages on some of my grammatical faux pas (hey, Laurel, is faux pas plural?).  You see, Laurel is a great source on grammar questions, and while I’ve offered to return the favor by providing some of my statistical expertise for one of her books…well, I guess she hasn’t found the right story yet.  Laurel also amazes me with her gung ho marketing approach.  I pretty much despise marketing my books – time wasted when I could be having fun writing pounding the keyboard.  But Laurel is always sending me links to marketing opportunities she’s found, information on the latest conference she’s attending, or offering to “blast” info on my latest promotions.  Maybe someday, I’ll start enjoying this marketing thing…but don’t hold your breath.

Last, but certainly not least, is Lincoln Cole (  Of the three, I have known Lincoln the shortest length of time by far; I met him only about 3 months ago when I ran across the opportunity to review one of his latest books, Raven’s Peak.  I say, ‘one of his books’ because with Lincoln, you turn away for a moment, and he’ll be releasing another novel.  In fact, when I sent him a draft of this post on September 21, he said the second book in this series, Raven’s Fall, was already on Amazon.  I’m sure he’ll be rolling in the 5-star ratings on it too.  And what’s more surprising to me – writing’s a ‘spare time’ activity for him.  Go figure.  But even with writing and work demands, Lincoln’s always quick with a word of advice or a link to helpful information.  Case in point – when I was planning this post, I wanted to contact each of these authors, make sure they were OK with the idea, would not take offense at my off-beat sense of humor…or at least wouldn’t sue me.  By the time I finished sending all three messages, I already had a response from Lincoln thanking me!

Well, it’s not much of a tribute to Indie Author Day, but it’s mine.  It’s my way of saying thanks to a group that says, ‘we’re all in this together’ and means it!

Happy Writing…and Happy Indie Author Day,