Leap Day Adapalooza – Twitter Ads

A couple months ago I put up a post on designing Twitter ads for writers. Hopefully a few people got something useful out of it, even if it was just a few ideas about things you can do. To celebrate Leap Day – which isn’t even a National Holiday, go figure – I figured I’d show off some of the ads I’ve come up with over the past couple months. If anyone’s interested in getting some ads done, please feel free to contact me.

For the most part the ads I’ve done have been created with open source software and licensed images. Always make sure to use licensed images; they’re not that expensive and, if you get good ones, can be reused in a variety of ways.

Software:

  • Inkscape (Free vector image editor. I use it for text work and layout)
  • GIMP (Free bitmap editor. I use it for editing and resizing images.
  • Canva (Free online ad creator. It’s a good piece of software, but I’m old school and stick to the flexibility of Inkscape and GIMP).
  • Photoshop and Illustrator are quite excellent programs, they’re just out of my price range.

Images

  • Dreamstime (Great selection, buy the five images for $40 pack and get the biggest images you can)
  • VectorStock (Excellent supply of vector images. $25 will get you around 25 images)
  • Free Stock Images (You’ll have to do some digging but there are some absolute gems in here)

You can scream about your book on Twitter all day long and may or may not get anyone to pay attention. One thing that has been proven time and again, though, is tweets with images get noticed and retweeted far more often than just plain text tweets. Text tweets disappear in the chaos of Twitter, but a good image can help draw the eye. Once you got the eye, it’s up to the ad itself to keep the person looking – and hopefully clicking on the link to buy your book. Therefore, the ad has to be eye-catching, but there also has to be something in the ad that makes the reader want to learn more. That thing can be the ad itself, bits of snippets from the book in question, or any number of things. I trend toward using snippets and quotes from the actual book, but not all the time. Sometimes a straightforward image and simple copy can accomplish miraculous things.

There’s a bit of an art (that I admittedly am not spectacular at) to picking the quotes to stick in an ad. You’ve got limited space: 1024 x 512 pixels and the text has to be big enough to see easily. Ideally, ad text should be quick and easy to digest. Twitter is like drinking from a fire hose and unless the image is grabby enough no one will take a second note of it. Once they do, you’ve got mere seconds to get your point across, so the quotes can’t be complicated and need to divulge enough information to warrant a second look. If you can get a click out of it, you’re doing pretty good.

Some people prefer to stick to the same ad images and content, and that’s okay. I prefer to shake it up so the content doesn’t get stale. In advertising terms I’m probably not making the best of my “brand”, but in Twitter terms I know if I see the same thing over and over again, I’ll just scroll by it on subsequent viewings. They become just more noise.

So, here are some of the ads I’ve pulled together over the past couple months along with some notes about where the images came from and what I was trying to do with them. As an added bonus, there’s some extra content about the books here, too. Think of it as the director’s cut. At the very least, hopefully someone will get some ideas out these.

AriseAd1

One of the most recent Arise ads, and still one of my favorites. The image was vertical and had to be faded into the blue on the left using a masking layer in GIMP. The base image is from Dreamstime.

AriseAgentAd1

A simple Arise ad. Image from Dreamstime. Not one of my favorites, but I do like the boldness of it. I should probably redo this one.

AriseComicAd1

One of the newest (as of this posting) Arise ads. I spent some time digging around Vectorstock and found some amazing vectors by Sababa66. A lot of those have been incorporated into the recent Henchmen and Arise ads.

AriseJessicaAd2Final

The text works, but just barely. I do like the intense stare she’s got, though. I always thought of Jessica as an intense young woman, capable of incredible highs and lows. The image was from Dreamstime and, once again, required some masking layers in GIMP to get it to fit the horizontal template.

AriseJessicaComicAd1

Again with Jessica. She really came into her own with Arise. This comes from one of my favorite exchanges in Arise: Jessica’s hand touches my shoulder and she says, “If someone comes up, drop and I’ll open with Painless here.” “Painless?” “Yeah, that’s what Jesse Ventura named his gun in Predator.” “You named your gun?” I ask. “Sure, you guys name your dicks all the time, why can’t a girl name her gun?” “Mighty Thor and I take offense at that statement,” I respond. Painless, of course, is was Jesse Ventura called his minigun in Predator.

AriseJessicaRed

Not one of my favorites. I grabbed the image from Dreamstime for some damned reason or another and it doesn’t entirely fit, but I do like the red.

AriseJessicasBarAd1

What can I say? I love the fact that she had a bar in Mexico. I also like the Dia de los Muertos image. I’m not sure about the background color, though. The image is from Vectorstock and I’ll probably redesign something else with it.

ClockManCocoTwitter

The text is from Duérmete Niño, one of the stories in The Clock Man. The title comes from a classic bedtime song that tells kids to go to sleep or else Coco (the bogeyman of northern New Mexico) will come eat them. Working with the various stories in The Clock Man gave me a lot of room to draw on different designs for the various stories. The image is Francisco Goya’s Que Viene el Coco. I love the text and the conversation, but the image doesn’t work quite as well as it could.

ClockManDevilGirl

For some reason I really liked the idea that Jack (a character from Zona Peligrosa in The Clock Man) would fall in love with a literal devil girl. In case you’re wondering, she’s the SallyAnne from my story Loophole in the Holes anthology. At some point I need to work out a longer story with those two. This is one of those where I’m hoping the image is grabby enough to get someone to take a couple seconds reading the text. I played around with the fonts a lot in this one, going back and forth between Jack’s bombastic style and Zapp’s plain typewriter text, as well as highlighting “sexy” and “devil” with different fonts and colors.

ClockManDragonAd

The Clock Man (the story not the whole collection) started as a simple short story and ballooned rapidly as I explored Aluna. Felix Crow is a dick, but he’s got his heart in kind of the right place. Traditionally, dragons are wise creatures or holy terrors, but I was exploring the idea that the dragons of Aluna were very alien things; most of the people on Aluna know of them, but very few have met one. The dragon section was a fun little bit to write. I’m still plotting out a full-length novel of Aluna with Chan, Kevin, and Felix. Of course, the dragon will be there, too.

ClockManEveAd2

I’ve had at least a few people ask about what Eve is and what her back story was. It’s covered in Eve, one of the Clock Man stories. Some people have said it wasn’t as exciting as they were expecting, but from tiny misdeeds mighty Valkyries grow. It was a fun story to write. I had to do a lot of research on Norse mythology in general and Valkyries in particular. Plus, Eve gets to stab Odin, so it has that going for it. The text very much sums up why Eve does what she does. The story goes on to further explain how this one Valkyrie wound up on her own long before the events of Henchmen.

CLockManHeartAd1

The Clock Man story was a kind of stylized neo-wuxia, detective noir story with magic and horror thrown in. I love martial arts and exploring how the Clock Man would fight was interesting. I spent a huge amount of time on that story just looking up the Chinese I used in the text. I tried to go with a kind of Steampunk style. even though the story really isn’t Steampunk, it’s the closest analog to Aluna’s magic-powered world and the Clock Man himself is definitely a grotesque variation on Steampunk.

ClockManHorrorsAd

The horror aspects of The Clock Man show up pretty near the end. I wanted to explore what would happen to someone who goes completely off the rails and starts throwing his humanity to the breeze. What would a guy like that do? Probably nothing good. This particular ad has gotten noticed a couple times and a few people have even mentioned they stopped to read it. That alone makes it a win. Even as cluttered as the text is, the narrow font and simple use of color make it pretty easy on the eyes.

ClockManHuizhongAd

Huizhong was a part antagonist, part love interest, part unwitting pawn in a game that was much larger than she thought. She’s one of the characters I want to bring back in an Aluna novel. I like the image, it captures her pretty well even if I do need to work on her hair (it’s gray with a pink wash in the story), but the text design needs some more work.

ClockManHuntAd

Wilford Saxton was originally intended to be a disposable character in Henchmen, but I found he was more interesting than I had expected. As soon as he got the gun at the end of Arise it changed his dynamic entirely. The first story in his spin-off series is The Hunt from The Clock Man, it’ll be followed up a few weeks with Saxton: Uneasy Allies. The text is from a conversation between Wil and his gun. The image is a reference to the bruja in the story.

ClockManLegendaryFelixCrow

Felix spends a lot of time getting pushed around in The Clock Man. The colors are great and I like the text for Alyssa’s quote, but something isn’t working for me. I think the font is just too fussy to be read clearly and the excerpt doesn’t convey enough information about the story. The image is from Dreamstime, by the way.

ClockManLingerieAd

I think this one freaked a few people out. It’s a reference to a section in Zona Peligrosa where the Guardian tries to seduce Zapp. The whole feel of the house in the nowhere was influenced by some of the events in Exceeds Expectations, and the Guardian (Alunan, naturally) was intended to trip up intruders by appealing to their baser instincts. There are a couple sections in the story that prove the tactic has worked in the past.

ClockManMonsterHuntAd

This is a subtle reference to the way Wil Saxton isn’t as innocent as he likes to think he is. The Saxton series will explore his motivations and his changing perspective on what makes a monster. The ad itself was intended to be a simple, bold shot, but the Clock Man logo doesn’t work well with it. This was later repurposed for the Saxton series.

CLockManSkull

Trying to pull up the horror aspects of The Clock Man. Image from Vectorstock. I’m actually thinking about redoing the cover with this image. This one is in the rework bin right now. I like the basics of it, but it doesn’t pop, damn it. It just lays there like a bored hooker.

ClockManSPTwitter

A later image and logo design for The Clock Man. I’ve also toyed with using this for the cover. This one is a straight up ad and was done before I started using bits of dialog in the ad pieces. In some ways it works pretty well, but in others not so much. I think the Chinese text on the left needs to be faded, and The Clock Man logo needs to be pop out more.

ClockManZappShoot

The background image was from a free stock image site that escapes me right now. It fit with some of the retro aspects of Zona Peligrosa (like Jack’s 1936 Cord 812 or the old Indian motorcyle). The statue also reminds me of one of the tchotchkes you could always find in the old gas stations along Route 66 (now Interstate 40).

ClockManZonaIndian

I think I only used this once. It’s not my favorite. In some ways the image is perfect for Zona Peligrosa, but there’s simply too much going on for anything to stand out. It’s a perfect example an ad that’s too busy to be of any use. Learn from mistakes, my young padawan.

HenchmenComicAd1

The first Henchmen ad with Sababa66’s graphics. The book has a comic-book feel (super villain and all) and the artwork was perfect. I ultimately redid the covers for both Henchmen and Arise (the text work, too), with the new graphics.

HenchmenComicAd2

Her eyes were blue in the original artwork, but I changed them to gray to reflect Eve’s eyes. It doesn’t say much about the book, but it is eye-catching. Unfortunately, the image took up too much of the usable space to add a snippet from the book.

HenchmenDoTheWrongThing

I still like this one. It’s got an action movie feel going for it. Again, it doesn’t say much about the story, but hopefully it caught someone’s eye. At some point in the future, I’d like to see this or something like it hanging with the rest of the coming soon posters at the theater.

HenchmenGroupAd2

One of the last ads done with photos from Dreamstime (for now, anyway). I’m still not happy with the text. The image is great, but the rest just doesn’t work as well as I’d like. I may need to experiment with the text.

HenchmenJacobTwitter

I like the Henchmen logo on this one and the picture kind of reminds me of my dad.

HenchmenJessicaComicAd1

No text from the book, but “in your face entertainment” sums up Henchmen pretty well.

HenchmenJessicaTwitterAd

I really like how this turned out and I’ve used it quite a bit. I’ve always seen Jessica as kind of crazy and the image captures her pretty well. This one has gotten noticed and even commented on a time or two; that makes it a win.

HenchmenRain

Another one I really liked. Even though I never mention rain in Henchmen, the image fits really well. The simple text pops nicely, too. This has been noticed a time or two on Twitter. I think it’s the simplicity of it all and the bold text that make it stand out.

HenchmenTwitterAd1

As you can gather, I’ve been trying to get something good out of this picture but it keeps eluding me. Sigh.

Saxton1

First promo piece for the Saxton series. Yes, I used the same image earlier. See what I mean about good artwork?

Book Review: Betrayal by Sharon Brownlie

A couple months ago my son took a tumble while we were riding bikes down a little dirt hill.  He hit the brakes too hard and wound up scraping the living hell out of his knee.  Unfortunately, we were about half a mile from the house and I didn’t have my cell phone so I pushed our bikes and he limped along.  Taking a big tumble is all part and parcel of riding, but he got a pretty good gash on his knee and slammed the pavement pretty hard.  It had to hurt.

Fast forward to now and he still doesn’t want to go down the hill again even though it wasn’t the hill that caused the damage, it was his jamming on the brakes at the bottom that caused him to fall.  Oh, well, we’ll work on his bike handling skills so he can stop with more control and one day he’ll go down the hill again.

It’s funny how we let the past control us.  A single element – in this case a fall – is more memorable than all the times he did manage to make it down the hill.  The crap I took in Junior High and High school still pisses me off sometimes and arguably drove me into the waiting arms of Kenpo.  Like the saying goes, never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.  What we are now is due in no small part to what we were back then.  The choices we make – and the ones made for us – follow us forever more.

Depressing thought, right?  Here, cheer up with Tim Kreider’s take on it.

Copyright 2009 by my hero Tim Kreider

Copyright 2009 by my hero Tim Kreider

The idea that the past creates the present determines the future is at the heart of Sharon Brownlie’s Betrayal, a gritty crime drama with an antagonist that you can’t help but root for in Helen King and a group of protagonists trying to stop King’s bloody quest for revenge.  One of my theatre profs in college loved to say, “Revenge is always a good motive,” and revenge is well established and well-used in Betrayal.

One of the things I like to see in a story is the idea that the bad guy (or girl, in this case) didn’t wake up one morning and just decide to be a evil.  Real characters, just like real people, rationalize their deeds and the best of them can rationalize to the point that, yes, it makes perfect sense to follow this path.  Those people deserved what they got.  It wasn’t murder, it was revenge, and it was justifiable.

Helen King, the protagonist/antagonist, of the story wakes from heroin sleep in a rat’s nest of a room and decides this isn’t right; this isn’t what she was meant to be.  She decides she wound up in this place, in this position, because of her past and what was done to her.  Her past created her present and that, in turn, determines her future.  We all have bad times, but our bad times pale in comparison to Helen’s: molested by her father, called a liar by her mother, shuffled off and covered up by the people that should have helped her, she fell into drug abuse and prostitution.  No one has helped her.  Ever.

That horrific upbringing molds her present, and her present is hardly better than her past.  Her present situation has, in her mind, only one future ahead of it.  But no matter how well-reasoned her future path is, there are those who will want to stop her.  Thus begins the cat and mouse game with Helen cutting a swath of destruction and cops trying to stop her.

Read it for the characters.  Read it for the violence.  Read it for the revenge.  Whatever floats your goat.  Betrayal is a good read and well worth the time.

Betrayal copyright 2014 Sharon Brownlie

Betrayal copyright 2014 Sharon Brownlie

Buy it here

Follow Sharon on Twitter

 

Book Review: Skin Cage by Nico Laeser

There’s a line in this book that triggered a memory of a dream I had many years ago after my dad died.

“Maybe when we are ready to let go of our memories, we are allowed to move on.’

Now I can’t get the dream or the line out of my head.

That’s the kind of book Skin Cage is; the haunting melody of forgotten dreams and things we should have left behind but clutch tightly to ourselves in a vain attempt to maintain some sense of self in a twisting environment.  But in the final analysis, you’re never who you were.  Like trying to cross the same river twice, you will always become the sum of an ever-shifting array of values from your past.

“Daniel Stockholm was fifteen years old when a parasite hijacked his brain, rendering him paralyzed and reliant on machines that run day and night to keep him alive. For nine years, Danny has been confined within a biological prison with only two small windows, through which to view the world around him; a silent witness to the selfless compassion of some and the selfish contrivance of others. When the malicious actions of care worker, Marcus Salt, threaten to push Danny farther from the ones he loves, and deeper into the dark recesses of his skin cage, he is left with only one option. He must find a way out.”

I had to chew on this book overnight to come up with a review that would do it justice.  It’s an engaging story, especially considering for the first part of it our hero largely cannot communicate with anyone at all.  He’s a pure sensory input with little to no output capabilities at all, but Daniel is not without skills honed from years of being stuck in his skin cage.  The first part of the book is great.

The middle and end of the book are phenomenal, but you’ll just have to read it to find out why.

Skin Cage is well written, engaging, and difficult to put down.  Physically it’s easy to read, the text is smooth and Nico has an excellent command of language.  The mental aspects of reading are more difficult.  It’s the kind of story you’ll continue to think about long after you’ve finished it and that’s a rare thing in a book.

It’s the kind of book I wish I could write.

©2015, Nico Laeser

©2015, Nico Laeser

As an aside, not only is Nico a bang-up writer, he’s an amazing illustrator.  The illustration for the cover is one of his works.  If you want to see some more of his art, check out his Tumblr feed.

Follow Nico on Twitter (his banner on Twitter is one of his prints, too, and is among the most amazing pictures ever made)

Buy a copy of Skin Cage (it’s available in ebook and print)

 

Book Review – Reborn by S.L. Stacy

One of the marks of a good novel, in my opinion anyway, is when I find myself immersed enough in the story that I start wondering what I would do in the same situation.  Ian Moore’s Salby Damned was like this for me, an all-encompasing feeling of being actually in the story.

S.L. Stacy’s Reborn was the same way, albeit more it was bit trickier for me to imagine myself in the story since it’s told from the point of view of a young woman in a college Sorority.  I went to college so – check – got that one.  I’ve been many things, but I’ve never been in a Sorority and I’ve never been a woman.  If that’s the only barrier to immersion, it’s a small one and the fact that Reborn was that immersive makes it a pretty damned impressive story.  Effective writing is the key to that one and Ms. Stacy is a damned fine writer.

So, what’s good about it (other than the writing)?  Well, for starters it’s just flat-out a good story.  Ms. Stacy manages to seamlessly weave together the mundane aspects of college, the sisterhood of the Sorority, and the wings that pop out of the back of the main character whenever her emotions start to run wild.  That’s also an impressive feat unto itself and a that makes this a great example of well-written urban fantasy fiction.

The mystery of the story helps keep the reader going, too.  Ms. Stacy is masterful at dropping little bread crumbs of information that keep you wondering about what’s going on.  As one mystery is answered, it leads invariably to another, larger mystery that will be covered in the sequel (Relapse).  Don’t get me wrong here, you don’t leave Reborn wondering what the hell just happened, you leave it satisfied that its part of the story has been covered.  But that story is only part of a larger arc.  I haven’t read Relapse yet, but it’s on my TBR list.

Description (from Amazon)

“Back in high school, Siobhan Elliot’s life was simple: Cheerleading, friends, and parties. But that all changed the night she and her friends investigated a mysterious light in the woods. There they found an injured man –an irresistible man with hypnotic blue eyes and magnificent black wings. A man Siobhan recognized. He was the handsome dark angel from her dreams. And with one touch of his hand, he left her with a special gift: a set of mythical wings that would change her life forever. Then he disappeared without a trace. Siobhan thought she would never see him again.

Now, six years later, her dark angel reappears –this time as a teaching assistant at her college. He calls himself Jasper. He challenges everything Siobhan thought she knew about herself and her world. And he’s come back for only one thing: her. Or so he says. Siobhan is about to find out that nothing is what it seems in this strange, new world.”

reborncover

 

Get your copy here and enjoy the ride.

Find S.L Stacy on Twitter

Check out her blog

Book Review – Salby Damned by Ian D. Moore

salbydamned

The traditional zombie genre has been done to death yet there are still authors who shamble along, moaning plaintively and struggling to eat the brains of their readers.  This is an unfortunate situation because those authors, the ones that focus on the terror and the hordes of undead, completely miss out on the possibilities of the genre.

Ian D. Moore is not on of those lazy hacks who just follows the horde around hoping to pick up on the scraps left by Max Brooks.  Ian made the genre his own and, in so doing, managed to treat the genre as it should be treated: as a story about humans doing human things in an inhuman environment.  Far too many zombie stories focus on the carnage instead of the people living through what is essentially a walking – or shambling – disease.  Zombies can, and arguably should, be used as a type of social commentary; an indictment on our hubris as a species.  Conveniently enough, Ian manages to do just that without getting all preachy at the same time.  I hate it when stories get all preachy; I get it, I’m a bad person, can we move on with the story?

Salby Damned follows a group of survivors struggling to find a resolution to a problem that they ultimately created.  The true showcase of the story isn’t the infected (as they’re called in the story), but rather how regular people can overcome extraordinary odds and grow in the process.  It’s also a tale of how regular people can let their greed overrun their senses and how a dastardly act can have far-reaching consequences.

I’m not going to do a full outline of the plot here so you can read the story and let it unfold with me giving up any spoilers.  It’s a wild ride, so hold on tight.  Suffice it to say the story lives up to its premise.

“A small rural town in a ruthless fight between The Shale Gas Fracking Corporation and The Residents Association sees the multi billion pound energy company drilling beneath the town with catastrophic results. A freelance reporter teams up with a mysterious council leader in a fight to save humanity against one of science’s most fearsome and deadly creations. They must race to find a cure whilst battling against hordes of flesh eating zombies intent on one thing and one thing only………..KILLING!”

Buy it on Amazon

Find Ian on Twitter

Ian’s Website

Ian’s Blog

 

Word counts and what’s on the menu?

“The Clock Man” is a story I started thinking about a while back.  I quickly realized it wasn’t quite long enough to be a full-length novel, but was far too long to be a simple short story.  It’s currently sitting at about 20k words with an estimated 5-10k more to go.  That puts it full-on into novella length but unless you’re Joseph Conrad it’s hard to sell a single novella these days.  Even if you are Joseph Conrad it’s hard to sell a novella these days because people still flee in terror when they see a ghost, even if that ghost is trying to get a story published.  In the erotica world novellas sell like hot cakes, but in the science fiction/urban fantasy world they don’t work so well.  Not that I’m some awesome writer, but when I put up Henchmen: Arise for $0.99 I got a whopping one sale.  That story is being rewritten and repurposed for inclusion in “The Clock Man” so that’s why it’s a bit harder to find these days. The other problem I wound up with is I had all these smaller stories that I had come up with when I was writing Arise that didn’t fit the main narrative but were interesting little tidbits.  For instance: ever wonder what was going through Wilford’s head when he decided to start hunting down Coco?  For that matter, where did Coco itself come from?  The one regular note I get about Henchmen is “what’s up with Eve?”  What’s her back story?  I had originally intended to leave her somewhat nebulous; a force of nature if you will, but she’s an interesting enough character that she needs some further explanation that couldn’t be handled elegantly in either Henchmen or Arise; it would require far too much exposition to make it fit.  Part of her story is here somewhere on this blog, but her story will be expanded and included in “The Clock Man.” As I sat down to work on some of these stories I realized there were little threads that existed between each of them.  The stories all stand on their own but it seemed like there was a link back to something in a previous story or in either Henchmen or Arise.  That got me thinking that maybe the events of Henchmen and Arise were really a part of a larger story.  I guess that’s what happens when you start throwing gods into the mix. Interestingly enough, the very first story I actually sat down and wrote explicitly for inclusion in this collection was based on a dream I had about ghosts in my hallway.  It’s arguably my first true horror story but it has a twist and a half.  Other stories sort of spun up from other ideas I’d had.  Without further ado, here’s a tentative list of what will be in “The Clock Man” when it comes out sometime this summer.

  • The Protectors: Ghosts appear and disappear in a house but that may not be a bad thing.
  • The Hunt: The first adventure of Wilford Saxton and his talking gun.
  • Awaken: Retitled and edited version of the original Henchmen: Awaken.
  • The Clock Man: On Aluna magic is very real and the Clock Man manages the distribution of magic.  But something’s gone wrong and the current Clock Man’s daughter wants Felix Crow to kill her father.
  • Eve: How did a Valkyrie wind up trying to spark the end of the world?
  • Exceeds Expectations: Katherine designs monsters and her skills have attracted some attention.
  • Zona Peligrosa: In a house at the end of the endless highway is something only the innocent can touch.

And there may be one more.  The entire collection will come out to around 90k words, give or take 5k or so.

Clock Man cover design rev 6.  ©2015, Eric Lahti.  Background image © Skypixel

Clock Man cover design rev 6. ©2015, Eric Lahti. Background image © Skypixel

Book Review: Addiction by B.L. Pride

Addiction is a difficult book to review, and not because it’s bad.  It has a pretty damned cool twist that I can’t talk about lest I give away the mystery and I’m not so much of a jerk that I’d do that to you.  There are some books that keep you guessing, where you just want to dig up the Wikipedia entry, read the synopsis and say, “Ah ha!  It was the butler in the library with the candlestick.  I never would have seen that coming.”

But there is no Wiki entry for Addiction.  You have to read it and you won’t see it coming.

The title refers to Mila’s (our heroine, also addictive) addiction to Adam, a mysterious and extremely hot sad guy who Mila falls deeply in love with.

Because Thor.  Wait, that's my Addiction

Because Thor. Wait, that’s my Addiction

It’s Adam’s chemistry and touch that Mila becomes addicted to and she finds herself falling further and further for a guy she frankly doesn’t know that much about.  He’s convinced she’ll ditch him when she learns more about him and she’s convinced she’ll never leave him.

Ah, yes, that's the right one.

Ah, yes, that’s the right one.

At its heart Addiction is a romance, but to keep things interesting it also has some great elements of mystery and acts as the set up for a series which should explain even more.  Normally I’m not given to enjoying romantic stories unless they’re of the “boy meets girl and they both fall in love under a full moon that turns out to be a space station” variety, but Addiction kept my interest until the end and now I find myself wondering where Mila, Adam, and that total jerkface Alex are going to wind up.

There’s plenty of introspection on Mila’s part, so you really get to know her as a person.  There’s also plenty of sex, intrigue, sex, wonder, sex, romance, and sex in the story.  Just kidding; there are some sex scenes, but they’re very tastefully handled which, in my opinion, keeps this firmly on the fiction side of the fence.  With sex scenes it’s easy to tip over into the erotica side of things (which isn’t bad, I know plenty of great authors writing erotica), but B. and L. keep things well in hand (read their author bio for that tidbit).

Overall, though, it’s the story that compels and keeps you coming back for more.  So, B.L. Pride, you’ve got book one of the Beyond Life series out; we’re wondering what will happen in book two.

Buy Addiction on Amazon

Follow B.L. Pride on Twitter

Check out B.L. Pride’s blog and website

Book Review – The Truth Finder by Penny Luker

TruthFinder

If you could read minds would it be a blessing or a curse?  Think carefully before you answer.  People think all kinds of things that are, shall we say, less than palatable.  Read the average person’s mind and you’ll find not only a slew of mundane thoughts about football and hot wings but the odd thought so disgusting it’ll curl your brain.

Unless I’m around; then people just think how awesome I am.

Okay, so maybe that doesn’t happen.

Anyway, that’s the starter for Penny Luker’s The Truth Finder, a YA story about a young man far in the Earth’s future who can read minds and communicate telepathically.  In this world there are others with similar gifts such as the ability to create mirages of sorts.  Throw in a pinch of political intrigue, a shot of coming-of-age story, and a dash of magical swans and you have a very rich YA story that avoids the traditional pitfalls of talking down to its audience.  Our protagonist, Vrail, is not out to save the world from the shadowy forces of danger.  He’s not the most powerful person in the world.  He’s, arguably, not even the most powerful person in his village.  And that right there is a powerful way to tell a story; rather than making the main character so amazing that he becomes a charicature or something to strive for but never attain, Luker tells us a story that we can fit ourselves into.  It has a lot of moving parts – coming-of-age, political intrigue, hints of things that started normal but became magical – but Penny pulls it most of the way together.

I say most of the way because there are some dangling threads left at the end.  The primary story is told, but bear in mind the subtitle of the book Future Earth Book 1.  It simply wouldn’t be proper to finish everything at the end of this.  Besides, if the whole story was told there’d be no reason for a sequel and I’d personally like to see more of the story.  Here’s to looking forward to Future Earth Book 2.

Buy The Truth Finder on Amazon

Check out Penny’s Blog

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Meet moneyguzzler, eBook pirate extraordinaire

From the “I’m sure it happens to everyone at some point” files…

I always wondered how I’d feel when I found the first pirated copy of one of my books.  For over a year it was a completely hypothetical situation and I could look at it in the abstract.  I mean, on the one hand it would mean someone actually cared enough to pirate a copy of it.  On the other hand, someone actually pirated it.  Today I got to experience that feeling without the abstract part of it.  A little site that calls itself mobilism (that’s run on blogikates.com) had a copy today.  The Nazi swine that posted it couldn’t even get the newest cover.

Psst. It’s this one:

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

May cause unexpected awesomeness in readers

Aside from the obvious “Hey!  That’s mine!” feeling I have to wonder who would be interested enough to read it but can’t spare the $2.99 to buy a copy.  Or get a free one when I run those regular giveaways.  Seriously, if you’re that interested and short of cash drop me a line and I’ll probably send you a copy.

I guess I should look on the bright side: there’s no such thing as bad publicity and if this helps sales of other books, then so be it.  Not that I’m condoning piracy.  I’d prefer it if moneyguzzler and the 400 some odd folks who’ve downloaded it had actually paid for Henchmen, but I try to find the good in the situation.

So, all things aside, this part boggled my mind.  Here’s a link to where moneyguzzler got his much deserved props.  I’ve attached a screenshot in case it gets lost somewhere.  I particularly love the part where the admin thanks him for his hard work and good character.

GoodJobMoneyguzzler

He’s such a good boy!

 

Hard work?  How hard is it to download a book, run it through a DRM stripper, convert it in Calibre and rar it up?  Not exactly rocket science, if you know what I mean.

So, there you have it.  My first pirated book.  I sent off the requisite “stop this” letter to the admins at blogikates (who DO NOT condone piracy, even though their site has a special level for people who pirate a lot of books).  Something tells me I doubt I’ll ever hear from them.

If you’d like to buy a legit copy (and make an Indie Author happy), you can get one on Amazon.

Book Review – Darkly Wood by Max Power

darklywood

Darkly Wood is, as far as I know, the first novel by Max Power, the Irish author with the coolest name on the planet.

Darkly Wood seems, from the outset, to be a simple horror story but is actually far more.  It details the misadventures of Daisy May Coppertop and her ill-advised entry into the titular woods near her house.  Things go bad and the wood becomes much more than they prototypical scary woods you tend to find in average horror stories.  In an average horror story our heroine would have barely escaped and then we’d have the literary equivalent of a fading scene of someone else standing at the edge of the wood, thinking about going in.  We would have been given all the answers and at least a couple teenagers would have been killed.

This is not an average horror story.  This is a richly textured story that defies conventions and breaks boundaries.  The heroine fights back against unspeakable odds.  The antagonist is more than a relentless killing machine.  We don’t get all the answers.  Even at the end of the story there’s still some mystery and that mystery allows the story to keep its magic intact.  Darkly Wood will mess with your head, you’ll find yourself on the edge – hoping everything works out but dreading that it won’t, and in the end you’ll find you’ve read a great story.  It will take you places, even if they’re places you don’t want to go, and drop you in the thick of it.  This is where horror stories should go; less about the monsters and more about the characters.  And when the characters fight the monsters – oh, yeah, that’s good stuff right there.

So, about that richly textured stuff…

Most stories have exposition.  It’s one of those things you just have to do unless the story focuses on an extremely narrow slice of time and uses well-known characters or settings.  The going phrase these days is “show me, don’t tell me,” which is kind of silly if you think about it.  A book is telling you a story.  If you want something to show you a story go to the movies.  Darkly Wood (the wood, not the book) has a long history of turning people into corpses and one of the best ways Darkly Wood (the book, not the story) handles the exposition about that history is a book within the book that tells you stories about what has happened in the past.  It was a stroke of genius, and a brilliant way to handle the horrid history of the past.

I’ve written in the past about my disdain for traditional horror stories, but this was one of the rare gems that makes use of a horror backdrop to explore characters and how they react to extreme situations.  Well worth the read.

Buy it on Amazon

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Max’s Blog of Awesome

Max Power on Facebook