Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Blogfests, book giveaways, and everything else you've ever been told to do is wrong. (Part One: Visiting Other Blogs Is Dumb)

*(I say most of April because some unexpected
surgery at the end of the month gave me
a reason to quit early to lay around
the house and focus
on American Horror Story: Asylum
on Netflix/not having my face hurt.)
Writing is easy. It's getting people to read stuff you write that is hard.

For most of April I took part in the A To Z Challenge and also gave away free books every day. My goal in doing this was (of course) to build up my readership and get some more reviews of my books to help sales along.  I thought PERHAPS by timing it with the A To Z Challenge, which has something like 2,000 blogs registered to it (although far far fewer actually taking part) I might possibly crack the Amazon Hot 100 Free, which I figured would jumpstart sales of books, if ever I could do such a thing.

I DID NOT crack the top 100, but I learned some things about marketing, and blog fests, and free books, and visitors and comments and the like.  And so for the next few posts on this blog, I'm going to share lessons I learned from my Herculean effort at marketing.  Some of them are lessons I learned before.  Some of them you may dispute.  But if you are trying to sell your books, they are all things to keep in mind.  And, because I like to be helpful, for each one I'll tell you whether I think it's worth doing or what you should try.

These are things that are suggested, mind you, as free marketing efforts, which is the price point I like: it's always possible to simply buy advertising for your book or blog, but I am one of those people who believes that while sure, you have to spend money to make money, first you have to make money to have money to spend to make money. (Got that?)  So I'm focusing in this series on whether the advice people give you that would let you sell your book without investing a ton of dough is worth it at all.

These are in no particular order, so today's lesson is simply the first one that popped into my mind:

1. People who visit your blogs out of courtesy rarely come back.

One of the most common tips I hear as a blogger is that if you want blog visitors, visit other's blogs.  This is something I hate doing, as many blogs don't interest me.  It's a tip I've questioned, too, in that you don't hear it about any other business.  "If you want people to visit your restaurant, visit theirs!  If you want people to poke someone on YOUR Facebook, visit theirs!"  It becomes a chore, reading blogs and leaving a comment -- more of a chore for me, as I don't leave "Nice post" comments, but try to say something thoughtful or funny or both in response.  If you visit a lot of blogs, you'll find that is VERY tough to do.  That's not a knock on your blog, which I'm sure is fine, but it's a knock on the 1,000,000,000 blogs out there that quite honestly are not very well-written or fun to read.

But why question a bunch of anonymous advice from total strangers? So, for April, I dutifully visited not only the blogs I try to read every day, but to visit others, too, going to the big A To Z List and randomly choosing at least one per day and usually 2 or 3.

What I found was that perhaps -- PERHAPS -- 1 in 10 of those people whose blogs I visited came and checked mine out, judging by the comments left.  And of those, I can't recall any who actually came and commented on a later day.

What I found, too, was that of those randomly-selected blogs, one was actually of interest to me and got bookmarked to visit again.

You can do the math, there, but as a method of advertising, commenting on other blogs I think is a terrible investment.  If you spend 10 minutes a day doing it, you'll put nearly a full (work) week a year into this form of advertising yourself -- what PT Dilloway once called "being the most interesting person in the room" -- but the return seems to be far, far less than if you simply took a week and spent time telling people about your book, or your blog, or your whatever, directly.

Because that's what this is, after all: it's an attempt at a sort of viral marketing.  "Hey, I said a thing, so you should go see other things I said," kind of the way those restaurants that gave away huge Groupon deals were hoping that by giving you a free burger you'd become a lifelong patron.

The thing about the "visit other blogs" idea is that it falls apart as a marketing strategy the more you look at it.  So you're going to read someone else's post, hopefully -- I can generally tell if a commenter read a post and put thought into their comment and if I feel like they didn't then I don't care what they said -- and say something thoughtful/funny/unique in response. That's the plan. But who is going to see that clever comment? The blog's author, sure, and anyone who reads the comments left before they got there, which I sometimes do (I skim them), but that's it. And in that comment you will not directly address the real reason you are there!

Imagine J.J. Abrams marketing Episode VII that way: the blog equivalent of going door-to-door, but then not even talking about the film.

*doorbell rings*
Me: Hello?
*JJ Abrams, wearing a sign that announces he can be found at, is standing there*
JJ: Hey, I just happened by and overheard you talking about your garden and I thought it was kind of funny. I had a garden once, too. I might stop by again sometimes to hear other things you have to say!
Me: *confused* That's... creepy? Or great? I don't know.
JJ: *runs off, shouting over his shoulder that I could pop in on him sometime to see what he's up to.*

So my advice? Read the blogs you want to read, comment on every blog you read because that's polite, but give up on reading blogs as a marketing device.  Instead, maybe try a blog hop yourself -- go to the person's blog directly and ask them if you can post something on their blog.  It will achieve the same goals -- notifying that person that you exist and allowing you to say something on their blog -- while simultaneously allowing you to reach their readership.


It's just a nonsense word.
Don't try to find meaning in it.
Briane Pagel, when not undergoing reconstructive surgery on his sinuses, writes books that he'll give you for free and then complain about you not taking enough of them for free.  Find more about him at Thinking The Lions, and some of his writing at lit, a place for stories.

A-Z Indie Books: Everything Zing!

This may be the final A-Z post, but it's actually the first one I've written for the A-Z Challenge. Congrats to all the other bloggers who finished the challenge, and thanks to everyone who visited us this month!

Everything Zing: Winter

Author: Grant Stone

What if you discovered that the legendary stories from destinations such as Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Narnia and Oz had all been shared with the world to set the stage for an even greater saga? What if after hundreds of years and endless myths and fables, you rode the Train of Thought from "A" all the way to "Z" and found a Capital City to this realm of fantasy?

As the new millennium begins, Zing's royal family has every reason to be concerned. Their kingdom is under attack, and all their nemesis needs is the small but powerful key a new visitor to Zing has mysteriously inherited. The society of eternal children, known as "Puresands," will use every ounce of magic to protect their kingdom, but the fate of the Imagine Nation now rests in a very dangerous place - a grown up's hands.

Adventure and suspense, villains and heros, mystery and magic... Everything Zing is your invitation to the Imagine Nation's ultimate destination - and saga!

Sandra's Comments: Despite the description, there is very little Oz, Narnia, or Middle Earth in this book. Most of it takes place in the city of Zing! It's an original premise with an inviting setting, but the main character is so well-liked he seems a bit Gary-Stuish to me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Yoshimi and the Shadow Clan

Today's featured book is Yoshimi and the Shadow Clan:
Yoshimi is a girl with a massive problem. She's just learned that her parents were murdered, and that the reason they were murdered is also going to send her hurtling into a life filled with danger, destined for thirty-six fateful battles. She has no idea who to trust, let alone the man who acted as her guardian for fifteen years, or Bill, the leader of the Shadow Clan. The biggest problem is that she's just fallen in love with him...

Comments:  This is the first of three parts.  You can buy the complete trilogy in The Whole Bloody Affair, but that didn't work for our alphabet soup here.  If you like kung-fu movies or Kill Bill then you'll enjoy this, even if it is a bit windy at parts.  And if you don't know the character of Yoshimi and somewhat of the overall premise comes from the album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips.  It made me insanely happy when there was a mention of pink robots in the second book.

You can buy this for $2.99 on Kindle or $9.00 in paperback

Tony has lots of blogs but here's his self-titled one:

Monday, April 28, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: X

T.S. Eliot was right when he said April is the cruelest month. What can be crueler than associating a lovely day like April 28th (which happens to be my birthday) with the toughest letter in the A-Z Challenge, the letter "X"? Fortunately, there are several books with the title of just "X" or "X: Subtitle." After reading the book descriptions and reviews, I decided to feature the "X" by Matt Thompson. Disclosure: I haven't read this book.

Cale is a young man who struggles with an unusual addiction. X. tracks his life through his thoughts and observations. His closest relationships, everything he holds dear, his entire life is put in serious jeopardy. Will the help of an unlikely new friend turn his life around? Or will he crash and burn?

You can find it on Amazon.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: War Angel

Today's featured book is War Angel by our own Rusty Carl:

Engel Johnson discovers that his Grandmother has been hiding a secret since the final days of World War II. His visit to her death bed reveals that she she witnessed some of the most horrifying moments of the 20th century first hand.

And that she's been keeping a secret for more than 65 years.

This novelette set both in the present day and in waning days of the second World War shows how great forces disrupted the life of one family for generations.

Comments:  This is a bit of a departure from Rusty's other published works as it does not involve superpowered guys in the Old West seeking revenge or killbots or anything like that.  It's a more conventional drama set largely in WWII during the last days of the war.  With the modern day parts you might think of The Notebook only not sappy drivel and also probably not destined to be a movie featuring Ryan Gosling, despite how awesome that would be.  Despite that it's not very long it's a very moving and effective drama about secrets and desperate acts during some very dark times.  And again you have a very cool cover drawn by the author.

You can buy it from Amazon for Kindle for 99 cents!

Visit Rusty's blog at:

Friday, April 25, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Visionary of Peace

Today's featured book is Visionary of Peace by Cindy Borgne:

Ian Connors had planned to use his visions to spy on Marscorp in order to maintain peace, but flashbacks and nightmares make it impossible. Since two years of peace have passed due to a stalemate, Ian decides to try and live a normal life, until one day he has a vision so horrifying he has no choice but to become the seer he once was or Vallar will have no future. While he struggles to regain his ability, the Marcs plot to capture him alive in order to complete a deal for their return to Earth.

Comments:  This book picks up where the first one left off and it really is a good idea to read the first one, Seer of Mars, so you can get a good idea of who Ian is and the situation on Mars and how he came to work for the Vallar group.  It is a really interesting world the author has created on Mars and one that is largely based in reality--or near-reality.

You can buy it for $3.99 on Kindle or $12.34 in paperback!

You can find Cindy's blog at:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Up So Down

Today's featured book is Up So Down by our own Briane Pagel:

When "Bumpy" takes his sister's fiance out for a night on the town, a mysterious drowning crashes through their lives like a wrecking ball into an already-crumbling wall. Sarah mourns her lost lover by halfheartedly joining a group dedicated to proving there is a serial killer on the loose and jealously guarding her dying mother, while "Bumpy" moves to Las Vegas to take up a new career, only to accidentally stumble into his old one.

Through the course of a year that unfolds haphazardly and out-of-sequence, Bumpy and Sarah try to figure out how much of the past they ought to hold on to, and how much of the future is worth looking into.

Comments:  This was nearly as good as The After, my favorite Briane Pagel novel.  I was reminded of Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons, a novel that followed two pretty ordinary people and yet somehow made even the relatively mundane bits of their lives seem interesting.  Bumpy and Sarah are a little less ordinary than those characters, but they aren't exactly superheroes or mystery-solving physicist-rock guitar players either.  But like that book, what makes this great is how even the relative mundane seems exceptional.

Right now you can get it FREE on Amazon!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Twinned Universes

Twinned Universes

Author: Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

Paul Harrison always wanted to play Hamlet, but he never expected he'd live the role first.

In the aftermath of a family tragedy on 21st century Earth, Paul discovers he's the clone of Sean Lyon, his great-great-grandfather and a famous TwenCen musician. Suspecting his mother's death was no accident, Paul comes up with a plan to trick the answers out of the great-uncle who had him cloned. But in order to make his plan work, Paul needs help from Sean himself--and Sean's time is running out in the TwenCen universe next door. Although Paul's family lives on the spaceship that travels between the universes, he's never been allowed on TwenCen Earth. Now, with the help of his friends, his disguise-creating holoprojectors, and a quantum quirk, Paul must make his way to Sean while evading other time travelers who fear he'll change the history of the TwenCen universe. If Paul is to achieve justice, he must not only risk his own life, but the wormhole connecting the universes. "To be or not to be" was a simple question in comparison....

Sandra's Comments: I knew as I wrote Lyon's Legacy that I would need to write a sequel. This book is set about eighteen years later but can be read on its own. Paul is my favorite character I've created so far, but his friends are interesting too. I will be returning to the Catalyst Chronicles series once I publish the first book in my fantasy Season Avatars series later this year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Sale Day at C Mart

Today's featured book is Sale Day at C Mart by Joe Basara:

Set in Cypress Lake, Florida, this time during the eighties, this story shares the frantic antics of working and shopping in a discount store. Santa Claus is coming to the Cmart store on this July morning, but so is the district manager, and this has store manager Don McKeever worried. There is a mountain of merchandise in the stockroom, and there are counters on the sales floor that need filling and straightening. Arriving at the store, he meets three new hires who have come to be trained and oriented by a personnel manager who has unfortunately called in sick. McKeever puts the three to work anyway, filling and straightening. One of the three, Wally Humphery, is nominated to play Santa, inviting children to sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. But during an employee meeting Wally meets another new hire-Billy Buffalo, a mysterious, mystical fellow who will work in the garden shop. McKeever wants Santa to persuade the kids to get their parents to buy them something today, and never mind Christmas. The mystical presence of Billy Buffalo though, influences Wally into doing what he wants to do anyway-encourage the children to believe in the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of giving. This angers assistant manager Tony Pasquale. He replaces Wally with a new Santa, only to have the same thing happen again. Meanwhile, a host of characters are revealed-a man with three noses, an employee who claims to be a customer-avoidance expert, a very inept loss-prevention man, a woman who goes berserk whenever she hears the word "sale," a plant's-rights activist, and many more. The story culminates with a debate between McKeever and Buffalo on the merits of profit versus spirit. All ends well in this comedy about one day in the life of a discount store.

Comments:  If you're a fan of workplace comedies like The Office or Parks and Recreation or Clerks then you'll enjoy this book.  Like those it takes place in a workplace and features a lot of wacky characters in both the workers and the customers.  I thought this was an improvement over Basara's first book Cypress Lake, not that that book was bad, but this one is a lot more fun to read.

You can buy it on Kindle for a mere 99 cents or in paperback from $8.33.  I think the C Mart honchos would approve of those savings!

Monday, April 21, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Rebirth

Today's featured books are the Rebirth series by Eric Filler:

In the first book of the series, First Contact, a human expedition travels to a distant planet only to get ambushed by the alien S'Parnians.  While most of the expedition is wiped out, a small group led by Captain Lisa Shaw survives and attempts to thwart the aliens.

In The Savior, Shaw and her crew use a salvaged alien ship to try to return to Earth in time to warn them of the S'Parnian threat.  But when a human-alien hybrid appears to be the S'Parnian messiah, the two races join forces to take her to the alien home world.  Unfortunately getting her there is the easy part.

Finally in The Final Battle, the fragile peace between humans and S'Parnians is shattered when an ancient foe reappears.  With Admiral Shaw incapacitated, it's up to Captain Jack Laurants to rally human and S'Parnian forces to save both worlds.

Comments:  If you can overlook the comma splices and other grammatical issues, this is an unabashed space opera series.  The influences of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Robotech are pretty obvious.  If you like those, then you'll definitely get a kick out of this series.

You can get the first ebook free and the other two for 99 cents!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Q

One great thing about doing A-Z with indie books is that it's fairly easy to find titles for even the toughest letters, Q and X. I searched the Amazon Kindle store for the letter "Q" and found this story by William Hughes. I haven't read it myself, but it sounds interesting.

Q follows in the tradition of Dan Brown's, The Da Vinci Code, as an ecclesiastical what-if. Is it provocative and polemical? No doubt.

Q deals with another ancient quandary––the origin and contents of the theorized source text of the New Testament Gospels of Luke and Matthew, referred to by historians as Q.

Lost to history in the first century, Q is found in 1992 through sheer happenstance by US Special Forces canvassing caves in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Pakistan. Because of its damning nature, this archeological windfall cannot be reported and is sequestered safely from public view.

Q resurfaces on September 12, 2001, one day after the collapse of the World Trade Center.

That changes everything.

You can find it here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Powered

Today's featured book is Powered by Cheyanne Young
Maci Might's sixteenth birthday is supposed to be the day she's awarded Hero status. But thanks to a tiny anger problem and a questionable family tree, King City's elders think it's best if she doesn't join the Hero ranks. Determined to change their minds, Maci will break whatever rule it takes to prove she's Hero material. As her hair darkens and her anger grows, everyone turns against her except Evan; a childhood friend turned scientist who may be able to unlock the secrets hidden in her DNA.

When a villain attacks King City and her dad is held prisoner, Maci discovers a truth she refuses to believe. She may not be a Hero after all—but this time the Heroes of King City need her more than she needs them. And she won't let them down.

Powered is the first in a trilogy.

Comments:  As a writer of superhero fiction, I was really intrigued by the universe the author builds.  It is unlike the traditional superhero universe, as the heroes have essentially their own little society operating outside of mainstream society.  In that society either you're a Hero or one of the faceless minions supporting them.  If you want to think of it another way, it's like a sports team where you have the star athletes and then you have the trainer, waterboy, towel boy, equipment manager, and countless other faceless minions who make sure they can take the field/court/rink.  This universe then sets the table for Maci's problems as the daughter of the greatest Hero, she definitely doesn't want to end up a nobody.

You can enter to win a bookmark for Powered here and get ready for the sequel coming out next month!

You can buy it for $2.99 on Kindle or $2.99 from Smashwords and also in paperback from Amazon for $8.99
Find Cheyanne's blog at

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Oculus

Today's featured book is Oculus by Michael Offutt:
"What is the oculus?"

Autumn has arrived in New York, and Jordan Pendragon is a freshman at Cornell University. Gifted in mathematics, he balances life as a research assistant with that of a student athlete.

But Jordan also has a quest. He must find the Black Tower, a monolithic edifice housing a thing that defines the very structure of the universe. Jordan believes it is buried somewhere in Antarctica under miles of prehistoric ice.

October finds Jordan earning a starting position with the Cornell hockey team. But a dark cloud gathers over his rookie season. Unexplained deaths, whispers of a cannibal cult, a prophecy, and a stone known only as the Oculus, cast a shadow over his athletic ambitions. It is the start of a terrifying journey down a path of mystery, murder, and to a confrontation with an Evil more ancient than the stars.

Comments:  This is the second book of the "A Crisis of Two Worlds" series.  Since this one takes place entirely on our Earth, it is in some ways easier to follow than the first book.  Though you really do need to read the first book, Slipstream, to understand what's going on with the second.  This is probably the only book you'll ever read that combines ice hockey and parallel worlds.

You can buy Oculus from Amazon for $4.99 on Kindle and from B&N for $5.49 on Nook
 Check out Michael's blog at

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: New Pride

Today's featured book is New Pride by Laura Diamond:

Kicked out by his alpha father for nearly exposing their secret, seventeen-year-old Richard Leone is a shape-shifter without a pride. Alone, homeless, and hungry, he forms a tenuous friendship with Derek, a power-hungry shifter from an unstable rogue pride. It’s either that, or starve. Until they encounter a gorgeous brunette, Molly, partying with friends around a campfire. Richard immediately feels a connection with her, and something about her calls to him. Almost as if she was supposed to be his mate.

But when Molly is kidnapped, Richard must take on the entire rogue pride to save her and keep his human town safe from harm. Derek offers him a deal: he’ll help Richard take on the pride to rescue Molly, but only to secure his place as alpha. And once that happens, the humans could be in even more danger…

Comments:  Werewolves are so passe, right?  Werecats are way more awesome, especially since they come in all sorts of different flavors:  lions, panthers, jaguars, etc.  But apparently there's no were-Grumpy Cat, which would probably make the Internet explode.  Basically if you like Twilight and all that stuff then you'll like this book.  But even though I did not like Twilight, I liked this book anyway because it's less whiny and boring.

You can buy it for Kindle from Amazon for $2.99! You can find Laura's blog at:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: My Killbot Buddy

Today's featured book is My Killbot Buddy by our own Rusty Carl:

Peter Sumner is a man who loves solving problems. He's done so for most of his life. But when he awakes early in the predawn of an otherwise indistinct fall morning, he discovers that he has more problems than he can deal with.

Being chained to a hospital bed, with no memory of the past decade or more, and finding out he is the most wanted man on the planet... all things he'd rather not deal with at the moment.

With only his great-grandson and a combat rated robot as allies, Peter has to stay alive long enough to figure out why the world wants him dead.

Comments:  This is the hilarious and moving tale of an old man--and his killbot.  You could almost think of it like Up if the old man had a Terminator for a sidekick.  Which when you think about it is pretty awesome, right?  This novella moves along quickly but is full of mystery and laughs as the old man tries to figure out who he is and why everyone thinks he's such a bad guy.  And doesn't that killbot Rusty drew for the cover look pretty badass?  The human legbone only makes it even scarier.

Of course the title makes me think of this:

You can get it for just 99 cents on Kindle from Amazon!

You can visit Rusty's blog at:

Monday, April 14, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Lyon's Legacy

Lyon's Legacy

Author: Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

Sometimes being a geneticist isn't enough to understand your family....

Joanna Lyon is the great-granddaughter of the legendary TwenCen musician Sean Lyon. She may have inherited her ancestor's musical talent, but her parents' bitter divorce and her Uncle Jack's attempts to remake her into another Sean have left her hostile toward her family and music. Her passion is for science, but since she has no access to the family funds, she struggles to earn enough credits for graduate school. Then her uncle sets up a business deal with her employer to make Joanna go on a mission for him: travel via the spaceship Sagan to an alternate TwenCen universe where Sean is still alive in Chicago, 1962. Joanna must collect a DNA sample from Sean so her uncle can create a clone of him. She refuses at first, but finally agrees to go. Secretly, however, Joanna believes her uncle will exploit the clone, and she plans to sabotage the project to stop him. But when she falls in love with one of the scientists in the Sagan's genetics lab, clashes with other time travelers who fear she'll change how history develops on the alternative TwenCen Earth, and receives devastating personal news, Joanna will find herself pushed to her limit even before she comes face-to-face with her hated ancestor. Their encounter will leave her changed forever. Will she still be able to thwart her uncle's plan, and what will she have to sacrifice to do so?

Sandra's Comments: This novella was fueled by my twin passions for science and the Beatles, especially John Lennon. It was also my debut as an indie author. It's peaked at #3 on the Time Travel bestseller list on Amazon during promotions, and it's also earned recognition by the Book Readers Appreciation Group. It's available in all eBook formats as well as paper and audio. To purchase on Amazon, click here for the eBook (priced at $2.99) and here for the paperback (priced at $7.77).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Khe


Author: Alexes Razevich

Immerse Yourself in a New World.

Khe loves her simple life on a farming commune, until she discovers that her gift for pushing the crops is a death sentence. Fleeing across the treacherous wilderness, she makes her way to the city of Chimbalay, searching for the orindles who might save her. But Chimbalay has its own dangers.  The Powers are there--the secret rulers who have chosen Khe to be the mother of a monstrous new race.

Neither "man in space" Science Fiction nor classical fantasy, Khe deftly blends elements of both while satisfying those searching for something different in a dystopian novel.  Readers looking for solid world-building and fresh and fully-realized characters will especially enjoy this book.

A trust betrayed.  A transformation that changes everything.

Sandra's Comments: Told by the title character, this story does a good job of showing us an alien culture from the alien's perspective. It was my pick for best science fiction novel I read last year.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Just Exactly How Life Looks

Today's featured book is Just Exactly How Life Looks by our own Briane Pagel:

The short stories here will introduce unforgettable people living remarkable lives. Cowboys wander in a timeless desert. Scientists meet in secret to plot a new way to get attention, and money, from people. A man and his would-be lover try to find lions on safari, and more. The people and places in this book spring to life fully-formed and full of anxiety and imagination. They worry about the time they have had and the time they have left. They bury their loved ones and look for new friends. They talk and laugh and hope and cry and die, while their friends and family and enemies and Gods watch them, seeing, in their faces and actions and fears, a portrait of just exactly how life looks.

Comments:  Just Exactly... is a collection of "literary" short stories, so there's no lasers or aliens or dragons. That's not to say that some of the stories don't have fantastical elements. The cowboys in one story wander endlessly in a desert. Lions magically (? or not) appear while on safari. God is a character in one story. There are secret cabals of scientists and, in one of the strangest stories, Sitting, a mysterious man who shows up on a hilltop and causes nearly an entire town to pause for a while. They're more in the "magical realist" genre of stories, but are worth checking out.

You can buy it on Kindle for $3.99  or in paperback for $10.06!
You can read more of Briane's stories on lit:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: In Control

Today's featured book is In Control by Ethan Cooper
Office politics... real estate deals... fathers and sons... control freaks... marriage and family... ambition... competition... the accumulation and exercise of corporate power... these are the subjects that Ethan Cooper addresses in IN CONTROL, the first novel in the Corporate Quartet, his tetralogy of workplace fiction. In IN CONTROL, Harry Kramer, the Chairman and CEO of a major bank, finances the construction of a sixty-story office tower, even though he knows the market for office space will be saturated when the building is finished. He then pulls a young executive named Gordon Elliam from the pack and makes him the front person for the loan. In telling this story, Harry describes the distant and controlling relationships he establishes with Gordon and other banking associates. He tells of his wily effort to outsmart other major players in this business deal. And he talks of his own son, Hay Kramer, who bears a certain resemblance to Gordon. In this way, he begins to talk about his marriage and family. At the novel's conclusion, the shrewd Harry wins again. But he has shown the effects of his need to be in control. IN CONTROL is a must-read for those interested in leverage and intrigue in the C-suite and the traits that enable managers to rise to the top

Comments:  If you're a fan of House of Cards or Mad Men, then you'll enjoy reading about Harry Kramer, who's in his own way just as conniving and unscrupulous.  In the same way Harry has no problem using anyone to get what he wants, whether that's a business deal or a roll in the hay.  And in light of the banking collapse of 2008, you can see how we got there with people like Harry at the helm.

You can buy In Control from Amazon on Kindle for $2.99.  It's currently out-of-print for paperback, but you can buy used copies for as little as $2!

Ethan doesn't have a blog but you can read his astute Amazon reviews at:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: House on the Corner

Today's featured book is from our own Andrew Leon, The House on the Corner:

Three siblings have their plans for the summer ruined as they move across country as soon as school is out. The new house has been mostly vacant for the previous two decades, when the previous owners mysteriously vanished. The kids in the neighborhood believe the house is haunted, and even the adults can't deny that strange things happen around the creepy, old house on the corner. The Howards think these are no more than stories springing from overactive imaginations. That is until they discover a cache of ancient weapons. And what does the crazy old man across the street with his dire warnings have to do with it? Tom, Sam, and Ruth are convinced that things are anything but normal.

All children dream the improbable; some dream the impossible. What happens when three children stumble into the impossible? Will it bring them together, or will it tear them apart?

Comments:  This is kind of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe meets one of those 80s kid-friendly adventure movies like The Goonies or something, though it starts off more like a traditional ghost story as the family moves into the scary, rundown house on the corner.  But soon they discover the Imagination Room and it's more like one of those Star Trek The Next Generation episodes where the holodeck would malfunction and the characters become real and start running amok.  A little imagination is a dangerous thing!

And BTW, you have to love that cover art by our own Rusty Webb.

You can buy it for Kindle for $3.99 and in paperback for $13.49! You can visit Andrew's personal blog at:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Girl Power

This post is being simulcast on my author blog.

When a supervillain's weapon turns Earth's greatest male heroes into its greatest heroines, they enter a whole new world. Can Apex Girl, Velocity Girl, the Mermaid, and Midnight Spectre come together in time to save the world?

The idea behind the story was combining a superhero series like Tales of the Scarlet Knight with the gender-swapping of the Chances Are series.  Basically the point was:  what if Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and the Flash all became girls?  While they have to fight supervillains, they also end up dealing with other issues.

Someone complained it wasn't as "deep" as Watchmen, but I would say it's deeper than he gave it credit for.  Maybe not in terms of geopolitical situations, but the smaller, personal situations.  I designed it so each character has something to overcome:
  • Apex Girl (Superman) first has to deal with a very sexist new boss.  Later it becomes awkward for her when the woman she pined for over the last decade becomes her best friend--and yet not the best best friend ever.
  • Mermaid (Aquaman) and Velocity Girl (Flash) kind of flip-flop.  Before Mermaid was a gay man and Velocity Girl was straight and married with a daughter.  Afterwards Mermaid goes home only to find her boyfriend no longer wants her because she has a vagina while Velocity Girl's daughter doesn't recognize her and her wife isn't comfortable around her.
  • Midnight Spectre (Batman) loses all the strength she had spent years building, to the point that she's thrown off the team.  So she has to find other ways to make herself useful, with the help of a geeky boy at her new school.
These issues are not wrapped up all nice and neat in the first book.  They continue on into the sequels, the first of which is featured on my blog in two days.  But if there aren't enough plot twists for some people, well excuuuuuuse me.  I ain't no M. Night Shymalan, which at this point is probably for the best.

You can get the book FREE from Amazon or Smashwords.  The paperback is $8.99 from Amazon and $9.99 from B&N

Monday, April 7, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Flying Saucers

Today's featured book is Flying Saucers by Nigel Mitchell:

Every intergalactic warlord had to start somewhere. Mortog Flethrax is eager to make his mark in the Xenon Empire that rules the Galaxy. Mortog's first assignment is an insignificant little planet so pathetic that even its inhabitants call it dirt: Earth. With his devoted robot soldiers and textbook from class, Mortog plans to rule the world in less than twenty-four hours.

Mortog is starting with the town of Dead Meat, Illinois. He never counted on Jeffrey Foster, a convenience store clerk who happens to be best friends with Dirk Smith, an intergalactic freedom fighter. Together with Dirk's family, Jeffrey will be forced to rise up and save the world

Comments:  This is a hilarious sci-fi romp in the tradition of Douglas Adams.  Kind of like Mars Attacks! only if it weren't terrible or The Day the Earth Stood Still if it were funny--and not funny-terrible like the reboot.  Mortog is a hapless, bumbling fool but Earth is deemed such a pushover that he thinks he can subdue it with a single ship and only one robot helper.  The absurdity of this concept is pulled off very well and had me laughing from start to finish.

You can buy it for Kindle from Amazon for $1.99! You can read Nigel's blog at:
And visit The Geek Twins, his co-blog with his twin brother that's a one-stop shop for all things sci-fi:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Eclipse

Today's featured book is Eclipse by our own Briane Pagel. If you thought it was the Stephanie Meyer one then you are wrong and don't have any idea what the core concept of this blog is.

Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars-- and maybe he was. In a stunning psychological horror work, 'Eclipse' unfolds slowly, beginning with Claudius drifting through space after something has gone wrong with his mission. As he stares at the only thing he can see, a tiny rock off in space, he mulls the events that led him here, reflecting on his childhood and the mission-turned-into-murder. Or did things go bad? As 'Eclipse' unfolds, the reader is treated to a twisting, constantly changing landscape created by Claudius' own mind, as version after version of what-might-have-happened pile on. One thing is clear, though: Something has gone wrong, and Claudius may never reach the stars. Or will he?

Comments:  This is a really twisty sci-fi story that will have you questioning what is real and what is fantasy.  It certainly seems like a lot of what Claudius is doing is real, but then some of it seems to contradict that.  This guessing game is what keeps the narrative going strong all the way through to the end. 

You can buy it for Kindle for $3.99 or on paperback for $8.06
You can read more from Briane on lit at

Friday, April 4, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Demetri and the Banana Flavored Rocketship

Today's featured book is Demetri and the Banana Flavored Rocketship by Bryan Pedas:

Demetri Gainer is suffering from a terminal case of frugality. He has more than most—a million dollars, a house in a beautiful community, and a loving sister. Unfortunately, his money is in wads of cash left behind by his dead family, his house is a rusted metal trailer dumped off in the corner of a very unhappy yuppie housing development, and his sister is severely disabled and unable to do much more than eat her weight in food and watch cartoons. Because taking care of her is its own full time job, he has to make that million dollars last for the rest of his life, even if it means not having one of his own.

But it’s not just money hindering Demetri’s life. The community’s Home Owner’s Association is making every attempt to rid him from his eyesore of a home, citing an outdated, archaic law stating that only wholesome, married families are able to care for a disabled child. In order to keep his sister and his home, Demetri needs a wife, fast.

The obvious choice is the pretty neighbor girl that adores Demetri and his frugal ways, but to Demetri, the obvious answer is the Internet, where he stumbles upon a poorly written website advertising the perfect mail-order-bride: one who will ask of nothing, keep to herself, and cost nothing to keep happy, identified as Mai Keungern by the website. Thinking Mai is his only option, he sends away for her, and when she comes, via a shipping crate sent halfway around the world, he finds out that she’s just a blowup doll. Mai Keungern simply means ‘no refunds’ in Thai.

With the HOA Nazis sniffing out answers, Demetri has no choice but to breathe some life (and some air) into Mai and pass her off as his wife, even giving her a personality—one he can’t stand. And so with a little help from the girl down the street and a lot of therapy from an angry blowup doll, Demetri will face everything he hates about his frugality—in the form of inflatable plastic—as he attempts to balance the responsibilities of caring for his sister and relearn the simple, once forgotten joys of life.

Comments:  The writing is incredible. The only drawback is that the premise of the story may be a barrier to some readers. It's like the movie Lars and the Real Girl, beautiful and completely under appreciated. I understand the under appreciation, because I can understand that people see what it's about and respond with "that's dumb" without ever giving it a chance, and Demetri is like that in some ways, but it's also a beautiful story, and people who dismiss it because of its premise will be missing out.

You can buy it on Kindle from Amazon for $2.99 and in paperback for $10.34

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: CassaFire

Today's featured book is CassaFire by A to Z guru Alex Cavanaugh:

CassaStar was just the beginning The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron 's days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it 's a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren 's civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan 's technology and strange mental abilities. To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron 's unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy

Comments:  This is an adequate, well-mannered piece of space opera.  Reading the first book is definitely not necessary as this takes place 20 years later and from what I could tell there was little from the first book that carried forward except for Byron, the main character.  So you can jump right in without being worried that you'll be lost or anything.  Probably the most unique feature to the book is that to travel through space they use psychic powers to open up a wormhole.  Somehow I bet Neil deGrasse Tyson would scoff at the possibility of that, but making the impossible possible is one of the good things about science fiction, right?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A-Z Indie Books: Backworlds, The

Today's featured book is The Backworlds by M. Pax:In the far future, humanity settles the stars, bioengineering its descendents to survive in a harsh universe.

After the war with the Foreworlders, Backworlders scatter across the planets left. Competition is fierce and pickings are scant. Scant enough that Craze’s father decides to improve his fortunes by destroying his son.

Cut off from family and friends with little money and even less knowledge of the worlds beyond his own, Craze heads into an uncertain future. Boarding the transport to Elstwhere, he vows to make his father regret this day.
Comments:  Fans of Firefly or Star Wars's Mos Eisley scenes should enjoy the Backworlds.  A lot of it has that same kind of sleazy, sci-fi Western feel to it, which in some ways is a lot more fun than traditional Star Trek-type stories with its more goody-goody rule-following heroes.  Obviously someone named Craze isn't going to be the most straight-laced hero You can buy it for Kindle on Amazon for 99 cents and in paperback for $8.06! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The April 2014 issue is here, and free for five days starting April 2!

Ordinarily 99 cents, the issue is FREE from April 2-6, 2014.  CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD IT.

A-Z Indie Books: Alliance

It's always hard coming up with a theme for the A to Z blogging challenge.  But when you're Indie Writers Monthly, what better theme than to celebrate indie writers?  So for the month of April, each day we will feature a different book written by an indie author.  We hope this will help you discover some great new books and authors.  (And we promise most of them won't be from contributors to this blog.)

Up first is Alliance by Jessica Stank
ALLIANCE follows Alexander Quinn as he tries to find a new normal as the world's first super human. He is at the tail end of his senior year of high school and is struggling to find his path, and make the right decisions for his future. A future he hopes will include Natalie.

Life isn't easy for Alex. In fact it's not at all what he expected. Natalie Sullivan, the love of his life, and his newly developed friendship with Jordan Hall, are helping to get him through.

When Marcus Fowler escapes custody and flees the country, Alex can only think of one place he would go. Thirty vials of Dr. Cruz's serum remain hidden somewhere inside the secret facility in Costa Rica where Alex had been experimented on. The race is on to see who can get to the vials first.

Following the format of Small Town Hero, ALLIANCE is written in dual first person. The second voice in this case, alongside Alex is Jordan Hall.

Jordan is doing his best to adjust to having real friends. He's always been a loner. Of all people, he never expected to strike up a friendship with Alex Quinn. The two of them didn't exactly have a pleasant history.
Being the third wheel all of the time isn't the easiest thing either. Especially when he used to have feelings for Natalie.

Being friends with Alex turns out to be a dangerous decision, between the constant threat of the bad guys attacking and Alex's poor decisions that put everyone's lives in jeopardy. Being a sidekick isn't all its cracked up to be.

Join these two as they embark on an amazing adventure to save the world and finish high school in one piece.

Comments:  This is the second book of the series, but it's a big leap forward from the first.  A lot of the first book was narrated by Natalie Sullivan, but she didn't really contribute anything to the plot, so she was pretty useless.  This time around the book is narrated by would-be Superman Alexander Quinn and his sort-of sidekick Jordan Hall.  This is the kind of book where you don't need to have read the first to be able to follow the second.  Will there be a third?  There could be but it's kind of in what TV/movie people call "development hell" right now.

You can buy the book from Amazon for $2.99 on Kindle or for $8.54 in paperback
Visit Jessica's blog at