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Author Interview with Robert Swartwood, new horror/thriller release THE INNER CIRCLE – and a GIVEAWAY

October 16, 2012 12 comments

UPDATE: Winners announced, check the bottom of the comments. Thanks everyone!

I’ve met some great fellow authors online over the past couple of years, but in this social media day and age, the vast majority of them have been online. Certainly nothing wrong with that, it’s the way of the world, but I consider it a rare privilege to be able to get together in person with some of these fine folks. One fine folk I call a friend is Robert Swartwood, the successful self-published author of several horror and thriller novels, the latest of which is THE INNER CIRCLE, and someone who was a woman the first time I met him.* This is the second in his horror/thriller trilogy, and he was kind enough to put together an interview about this, and the first in the series (MAN OF WAX).

* Okay, I can’t put that statement out there and leave it hanging… One of the first e-books I bought was NO SHELTER by a new female author, Z. Constance Frost, who I “met” in an online writers forum (and you know how those ‘meeting online’ things can be…mysterious). I had numerous conversations with her, noticed she was very good friends with Robert Swartwood (and even did some interviews with him!), promoted each other’s books, and so on. I even encouraged young Z. Constance to join Twitter, where so many other helpful authors reside! So imagine my surprise when Z up and turned into a man. (Robert wrote No Shelter under a pseudonym because it was a different type of novel than he normally wrote.) It took several days before I stopped feeling dirty… (Cut to bathroom scene from The Crying Game.)

Robert and I live less than two hours from each other, so we had a fantastic couple of hours at lunch (in a brewpub…writers don’t mess around) discussing writing, marketing, and other highbrow activities. Looking forward to doing it again. Make sure to visit his site and take a peek at his books, all very highly rated.

Short and Sweet Third-Person Bio

Robert Swartwood was born in 1981. His work has appeared in such venues as The Los Angeles ReviewThe Daily BeastPostscriptsChiZineSpace and Time,Wigleaf, and PANK. He is the editor of Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer, which was chosen by The Nervous Breakdown as one of their favorite books of 2010, and was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.

Oh, and check out these covers…they drip professionalism. Love ’em (click to enlarge):

       

Now without further ado, my interview with Robert, and a SPECIAL GIVEAWAY at the end (so read all the way through, folks…no cheating):

SU: If someone put a gun to your head and said, “Send a promotional 140 character tweet about The Inner Circle, and make it good”, what would you type?

RS: “The Inner Circle is The Hunger Games meets The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but even better!” … or something like that. I’m not good at promotional tweeting.

SU: Is the story more horror than thriller, or thriller than horror?
RS: Well, I guess that all depends on your definition of horror. Most people, I think, view horror as zombies and vampires and ghosts and everything else that goes bump in the night. Me, I view horror the same way Douglas Winter does. As he wrote in the introduction to his 1982 anthology Prime Evil: “Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.”

So is The Inner Circle (not to mention Man of Wax) horrific? Very much so, yes. In fact, I have received some one-star reviews of Man of Wax where readers make it about 15% into the book and stop because, they claim, it’s so “dark and disturbing” and “disgusting.” Personally, I don’t think it’s THAT dark and disturbing and disgusting, but I can see where some people would think so. Thing is, though, I am not one to show the dark and disturbing and disgusting. I’m not a fan of “torture porn”; in fact, I find myself almost bored by it, because it’s the same thing again and again. Some might argue there are instances where torture porn applies to these two books, but that again comes down to what your definition of torture porn (and horror) is. The books deal with a secret group of people who get off watching other people tortured and put through extreme situations, but the books are much more than that. In many ways they’re about survival, about the dark depths of human nature, while at the same time trying to show there is still hope.

So, to get back to your question, more horror than thriller or more thriller than horror? That, again, would have to depend on each reader’s definition of what horror (not to mention thriller) is. But the books are very fast-paced, so there’s that. I try to keep the action going as much as I can. At the same time … well, as some other readers have noted, they are dark and disturbing.

SU: In the first book, Man Of Wax, you have two very central protagonists: Ben Anderson and Carver Ellison. Considering they have such different backgrounds and roles, did you find it difficult to get into their heads writing the story?
RS: First, let me talk about where Man of Wax came from. Many years ago I’d had this idea about someone waking up in a strange place with no idea how he got there. It wasn’t necessarily a new idea, but I kept returning to it until one day I sat down and knocked out that first chapter. I don’t outline, at least not on paper; oftentimes I’ll think about the book for awhile in my head and get a good sense of where I’m starting and heading before I actually start writing. Like Harlan Coben says, it’s like taking a road trip across the country; you know where you’re starting and where you’ll end up, but you don’t know what will happen along the way. That’s sort of how I write. But in this instance, I had no clue where the story was headed. I just wrote that first chapter. Then I wrote the second chapter. Then third. Then fourth. Before I realized it, a week had gone by and I’d written close to 30,000 words. When I saw how much I had gotten done and the speed at which I was writing it, I pushed myself to keep going, and ended up finishing the entire 90,000-word novel in three weeks. (And no, I have never participated in NaNoWriMo.)

Now, let me clarify something: I had just graduated college, I was still living at home, my two jobs were substituting for a middle school and high school and working as an assistant manager at a movie theater. So, with all those factors, I had the opportunity to write as much as I could. There were mornings when I would get called to take a subbing job and would turn it down. When I went to work at the theater, I would take my laptop along and work up in the projection booth and write between sets. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) understood how hard I was working on the novel and didn’t press me to spend time with her … well, okay, not that much time.

Anyway, so when I started Man of Wax, I knew a little about Ben Anderson’s character, but none of Carver Ellison until he showed up halfway through the book. And then … everything just happened to fall into place. I didn’t have trouble getting into their heads because they were already there, just waiting to be written.

SU: The Inner Circle picks up where Man Of Wax left off, with Anderson joining Ellison against the mysterious, behind-the-scenes Caesar who runs the “games.” How have those two protagonists changed since you first introduced them?
RS: Ben has changed greatly. In Man of Wax, my idea was to create a “realistic” thriller. Meaning the good guys don’t always win. Meaning the protagonist isn’t necessarily the hero type. You drop the majority of us in a situation where we wake up in the middle of nowhere, with our families gone, and are forced to partake in a terrible game, and we don’t immediately become Jason Statham. Especially when our family’s lives are on the line and any false step on our end might mean their death. So it’s a delicate situation, and I have found some readers really love Ben while others don’t care for him much at all. Again, he’s supposed to be “normal,” whatever that means, plus he has a dark secret to his past, something he never even told his wife about, so there’s that.

But in The Inner Circle, two years have passed and Ben has changed drastically. He hasn’t found his family yet, and doesn’t think he ever will, so he doesn’t have much left to live for. Instead he becomes a soldier in Carver’s army against Caesar, and he steps up in a major way — in fact, he almost becomes that Jason Statham character we all like to think we would become in dire situations.

As for Carver, he is still doing whatever he can to get to Caesar and those in the Inner Circle. We do, however, learn more about his back story, and why and how he has become man he is.

SU: Man Of Wax, as the first in the series, was very mysterious and dark. Now that much of the mystery is out in the open, what does The Inner Circle bring to the table?
RS: Man of Wax showed what the games were like from the player side of the table. In The Inner Circle, we now see the aftermath, about those few who managed to leave the games alive, and how they’ve struggled with the consequences. We also get much closer to learning the truth about what the games are all about and what else Caesar has in store, not just for the Inner Circle but for the entire world.
SU: Give us one line, whether it’s description or dialogue, from The Inner Circle that gives a good example of the story.
RS: As I mentioned, in the second book Ben has become a completely different person. And near the beginning of the book, when he’s headed into a really bad situation and one of the other characters tells him not to, that he might end up dead, Ben says, “All of us are already dead, Ronny. We just don’t know it yet.”
SU: And I can’t end this without asking the logical question – what are the plans and/or progress on a follow up? Will this be a trilogy, or continuing saga?
RS: It will definitely be a trilogy. I haven’t started working on the third book yet — I want to work on something lighter, a new Holly Lin novel perhaps — but I hope to start working on it next year. It will be just as long as The Inner Circle, which ended up around 120,000 words.

Thanks for having me here, Steve!

GIVEAWAY TIME: Easy stuff here. Robert has generously donated a free e-book copy of the first in the series, Man of Wax, to ANYONE who helps spread the word about this interview and comments below. Simply link to this blog page, retweet it, share on Facebook or Google+, even post it on your MySpace wall. Then make a quick comment below saying “I did it!” or something creative along those lines, and you’ll find yourself with a horror/thriller book in your hands (e-reader).

And ONE LUCKY RANDOM winner will receive an AUTOGRAPHED copy of BOTH novels.

Ready? Go share!

Author Interview with Jason Andrew Bond, new thriller/horror release MORTAL REMAINS

September 24, 2012 7 comments

I don’t often do these interviews, so when I do I make sure the author’s a good guy/gal and the subject matter are up my alley*. I can easily attest to both in the case of Jason Andrew Bond.

* Can’t you just imagine that in a white-lettered meme on a Most Interesting Man In The World photo, passed around Facebook incessantly? Yeah, me too…which is probably why I gave up on Facebook.

I’m proud to call Jason a friend, one that I probably wouldn’t have ever “met” had I not enjoyed his science fiction debut Hammerhead so much. He’s been hard at work on a new novel, this one outside of the scifi genre, and as of last week, MORTAL REMAINS is now available. He’s been a heckuva busy guy the past few weeks getting the launch ready, as evidenced by this typical tweet from him:

I’m glad he was able to take some time to share about the novel and future works. Sit back, take a sip of coffee (or tea, or something stronger, whatever’s up your alley), and enjoy.

UPDATE: Jason has VERY GENEROUSLY (implied by all caps, see?) donated a SIGNED COPY of Mortal Remains to one lucky, totally random commenter. All you need to do is read the interview and make a quick comment, but in that comment you must do one thing to qualify: name the main character in Mortal Remains. Easy, peasy.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Giveaway closed, congrats to Terri Rykard, the random winner of the signed copy!

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SU: Pretend this is Twitter. Sell me (and the readers) on Mortal Remains in 140 characters or less.
JAB:When given the choice to live or die, Erica Morgan would rather fight back and die trying, but what’s at stake is far more than only her life.

SU: What genre (or genres) would Mortal Remains fall under? Any genre crossover that may appeal to more than just the core fans?
JAB: This would fit into the thriller/horror with a touch of adventure. So far folks who enjoyed Hammerhead (even those who are military and sci-fi fans) are giving it very good reports. The connection point is good people who are willing and able to fight who get caught up in horrible situations.

SU: I really enjoyed Hammerhead, a very unique story with excellent science fiction settings and technologies. What made you jump into a different genre like thriller/horror?
JAB: First-thank you for that. I sincerely appreciate it. In answer to your question, all advice would tell me to write the sequel to Hammerhead as closely to the first as possible, but I sincerely don’t choose what comes next. While laying the groundwork for Hammerhead Resurrection the entire plot of Mortal Remains poured itself into my head one night. I had to jump out of bed and take notes for two hours to record it all. It took me a year and a half of writing and editing to complete it.

SU: The protagonist of Hammerhead was a male starship breaker, set in the future. Erica Morgan is quite different from that. Was it difficult to shift into a different mindset to write her?
JAB: Writing this book made me think of William Faulkner’s comment on writing. I paraphrase very loosely as it’s been some time since I read it… He said that all he does is imagine interesting people in tough situations an then chase them with a pencil and paper as fast as he can. It feels like Erica Morgan came to me, sat down, and told me how to write her. Writing about a woman in an abusive relationship made me very uncomfortable at first. I didn’t want to sensationalize it at all because these things happen to women EVERY DAY and to go overboard would, in my mind, disrespect that reality. However, as I worked it just seemed that I was recording the story that she wanted to be told. I know that might come across as a bit crazed sounding, but it’s the truth.

SU: Are there any plans for a follow up to Mortal Remains? And a more personal question from me, any plans for a Hammerhead sequel, or another story set in that universe?
JAB: There’s a quote at the very end of Mortal Remains that says it all. I’ll let you all see it for yourself. 🙂 As far as Hammerhead… Absolutely! I can’t wait to get back to Stacy and Leif and Jeffrey. I have the first scene and the general plot outline for Hammerhead Resurrection and am going to start full-time work on it now that Mortal Remains is done. The basic concept is that it is ten years later and the alien invaders return. There will be a lot of action, but I’m still going to focus the main development of the plot around a small group of key characters.

SU: What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
JAB: What do you mean? African or European swallow?!?!
SU: Huh? I… I don’t know that. Aaaaaghhh!

Again, big thanks to Jason for his time in stopping by. MORTAL REMAINS is available for KINDLE (link); paperback coming soon. Still waiting to hear on other platforms – I’ll update this page when they become available. Unless he’s gone and signed up for KDP Select, in which case I TOTALLY disown him as a friend and rescind everything I said above.

Take a peek at Mortal Remains and Hammerhead, folks – Mr. Bond is a talented writer.

Comment below for a chance to win an autographed copy (after the paperback hits on October 4th). Don’t forget the qualifying requirement. Giveaway closes Saturday September 29th, good luck!

Categories: Book Reviews

Book Review: Fighting Gravity by Leah Petersen

May 14, 2012 2 comments

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REVIEW:

Science fiction, fantasy, romance, oh my! Fantastic read. Such a combination of genres, I’m not even sure where to start!

How about science fiction? Fighting Gravity is, in my opinion, much less sci than fi. Very little of the standard tech of scifi is present, and the same with interstellar travel and other worlds, except almost in passing (such as an unscheduled stop at a nebula to sightsee). Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a complaint, but as a lifelong scifi fan I do look for that ‘definition’ of traditional scifi (to paraphrase, if the science is taken out of the story it would collapse). Fighting Gravity has scifi elements, but is not necessarily scifi. The story could have easily taken place in Elizabethan England with horse-drawn carriages without missing a beat.

Which brings me to fantasy. Again several elements of fantasy, even high fantasy, are contained within Fighting Gravity. You have emperors and empires, children taken away from their homes for bigger and better things, other worlds and time frames, and so on. But again, no elves, no magic spells, no flying carpets.

Romance? Now we’re getting closer. Fighting Gravity is at its heart a romance between a royal and a commoner; a privileged one surrounded by wealth, opulence, and advisers, in love with an ‘unclass’ nobody. Now we’ve got the elements: forbidden, hidden love with the empire in the balance. But that’s still not Fighting Gravity as a whole.

So what is the story? To paraphrase James Carville, “it’s about the characters, stupid.” From page one, I was captivated by Jacob Dawes’ story and couldn’t stop turning the pages. I’m normally a reader looking for things blowing up and bullets flying, but the story was that good I didn’t miss them. Some have called the early parts of the story a little slow going, and I can see that, but it’s such a great look at a character developing, becoming who he is later in the story, that one doesn’t need cliffhangers and fire-breathing dragons.

Jacob Dawes is fascinating. I absolutely loved watching him grow up and mature, fall in love, get in trouble (no spoilers here) by continually running his unclass mouth in front of the privileged, and seeing his emotions run the full gamut. And the emperor is no less fascinating, as are the secondary characters (like Kirti, his childhood sweetheart he leaves behind).

The writing style is truly flawless and was a joy to read. I’m a HUGE stickler for the mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure) and Fighting Gravity was one of the best I’ve seen from any author. The writing style itself made me continue on reading well into the night, and the inter-character dialogue was spot on.

Oh wait, did I forget something? Right…the emperor’s name is Peter. Yes, Jacob and Peter fall in love. In today’s day and age, this is such a hot button topic for many, but Leah Petersen has written such an incredible story around a gay romance that it’s immaterial. It could be Jacob and Petunia, or Jane and Peter – didn’t matter. It’s a testament to Petersen’s writing style and her story that a controversial subject is secondary and accepted as just part of the overall plot.

Very well done. Ms. Petersen, I’m looking forward to the next one. Especially because you hinted at some very intriguing possibilities at the end of this one.

Pick up Fighting Gravity for Kindle here.

Categories: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Prodigal’s Foole by RB Wood (relaunch of book)

April 24, 2012 Leave a comment

My good friend R.B. Wood has relaunched his urban fantasy thriller The Prodigal’s Foole after getting his rights back from his former publisher, and he’s completely redone the cover to something that’s flat-out fantastic. I’m reposting my book review from a few months back, along with a high-res shot of the new cover.

Friends, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy for a measly $2.99 for Kindle (less than the “tall” latte I bought yesterday at Target – seriously, a book for less than that swill?) The story is even more flat-out fantastic than the new cover – one of my favorite reads of 2011. It’s currently available for Kindle and paperback (Mr. Wood chose the KDP Select route, but I won’t hold that against him…too much)

Don’t think about it. Just buy it. Or I’ll find you…

Click for full size

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ORIGINAL REVIEW: 

Demons and magic, shotguns and explosions.

That’s how I described The Prodigal’s Foole by R.B. Wood to my 11 year old son who asked me what the book was about. His attention span is short (what 11 year old’s isn’t?) so I had to summarize, and there’s so much more. Hence, a book review.

First of all, I have to say the opening of the book might very well be my favorite of any I’ve ever read:

“The old lady next to me in the window seat died somewhere over the Atlantic. I know because she told me.”

How’s that grab you? It certainly grabbed me, and never let me go.

This was my first real dip into urban fantasy, and I have to say I loved every minute of it. Wood weaves a complex story with excellent characters, believable magic (is that an oxymoron?), and humor into a hard-to-put-down novel. And when I found out that this was his first work, I was even more impressed. The writing style, the sentence structure, the plot consistency, the nice use of flashbacks, the editing, all are truly top notch.

Symon Bryson is a reluctant magic practitioner called back into action by old friends to combat a growing menace from Hell, and to help find a missing friend. He has to face not only this new danger, but his own dark past as well. The Catholic Church plays a large role in the story, and is not bashed (a la Dan Brown) nor praised (a la, uh, not sure…televangelists?), but portrayed in a modern, realistic way that fits well into the overall story.

The characters are fleshed out very nicely, and the team dynamic is excellent. And can I say Symon Bryson is one of my new favorite characters in any book? His wisecracking, inner emotions, and pop culture references kept me entertained throughout. Wood even pokes fun at some of the more ‘fantastic’ fantasies out there (one line I remember is when a character suddenly morphs into an animal, a person in the room says, “Where do her clothes go when she changes?”).

And here’s the bottom line. Like most readers (I think), I “see” the story as I read it, and in some cases they remind me of other stories or movies. And even though there are no vampires (thank goodness) in The Prodigal’s Foole, I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie Blade with Wesley Snipes. The characters, the modern setting, the demons, the weapons, the action, all mixed together like one of my favorite movies of all time – which meant I truly loved this book.

And the best part? It sets up very nicely for more stories in the series. I’m looking forward to more from Mr. Wood. The Prodigal’s Foole was definitely one of the best novels I’ve read this year…and he’s got me peeking into the Urban Fantasy genre now.

Review: The Prodigal’s Foole by RB Wood

October 27, 2011 1 comment

REVIEW: 

Demons and magic, shotguns and explosions.

That’s how I described The Prodigal’s Foole by R.B. Wood to my 11 year old son who asked me what the book was about. His attention span is short (what 11 year old’s isn’t?) so I had to summarize, and there’s so much more. Hence, a book review.

First of all, I have to say the opening of the book might very well be my favorite of any I’ve ever read:

“The old lady next to me in the window seat died somewhere over the Atlantic. I know because she told me.”

How’s that grab you? It certainly grabbed me, and never let me go.

This was my first real dip into urban fantasy, and I have to say I loved every minute of it. Wood weaves a complex story with excellent characters, believable magic (is that an oxymoron?), and humor into a hard-to-put-down novel. And when I found out that this was his first work, I was even more impressed. The writing style, the sentence structure, the plot consistency, the nice use of flashbacks, the editing, all are truly top notch.

Symon Bryson is a reluctant magic practitioner called back into action by old friends to combat a growing menace from Hell, and to help find a missing friend. He has to face not only this new danger, but his own dark past as well. The Catholic Church plays a large role in the story, and is not bashed (a la Dan Brown) nor praised (a la, uh, not sure…televangelists?), but portrayed in a modern, realistic way that fits well into the overall story.

The characters are fleshed out very nicely, and the team dynamic is excellent. And can I say Symon Bryson is one of my new favorite characters in any book? His wisecracking, inner emotions, and pop culture references kept me entertained throughout. Wood even pokes fun at some of the more ‘fantastic’ fantasies out there (one line I remember is when a character suddenly morphs into an animal, a person in the room says, “Where do her clothes go when she changes?”).

And here’s the bottom line. Like most readers (I think), I “see” the story as I read it, and in some cases they remind me of other stories or movies. And even though there are no vampires (thank goodness) in The Prodigal’s Foole, I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie Blade with Wesley Snipes. The characters, the modern setting, the demons, the weapons, the action, all mixed together like one of my favorite movies of all time – which meant I truly loved this book.

And the best part? It sets up very nicely for more stories in the series. I’m looking forward to more from Mr. Wood. The Prodigal’s Foole was definitely one of the best novels I’ve read this year…and he’s got me peeking into the Urban Fantasy genre now.

Find The Prodigal’s Foole here:

Amazon (Kindle) • Amazon (paperback)Smashwords (multi-formats)

Book Review: Unspoken Stories by B.C. Young

September 28, 2011 1 comment

REVIEW: 

Want to win a copy of the book? See the bottom of the post for details!

I’m not normally a short story reader; I prefer my time to be spent with full length, involved works, but the concept of Unspoken Stories (according to the author’s blog, named because without some friendly motivation and a new outlook on writing itself, he may never have written them) sounded fascinating. Five separate, unrelated, stories, all based in a different science fiction niche (some more scifi than others), all in one volume. I’m very glad I took the chance.

Unspoken Stories consists of Copy Bird, Going Home, Josie Dorri and the Coffee Ban, The Present, and Running to Keep Her. The author explained he wrote each one in a fairly short time frame; as such there are some minor editing issues, but nothing that would pull the reader from the story. One by one, my thoughts on each:

Copy Bird: A very unique present tense telling of a post-apocalyptic world. A man awakens in a burned out future society, thinking he’s alone, only to hear the call of a bird, speaking to him, pulling him along to an unknown destination. This was probably my favorite of the five. Great emotion and feelings of the protagonist, and a heartwarming ending.

Going Home: A young man has leave from military service against an alien invasion sweeping the human populated worlds, and takes time to visit his family and tries to keep his promise to them. This story started and ran slow for me, but when I completed it, my thoughts on it completely turned around. Looking at it as a whole, knowing the way it ends, made it an excellent tale.

Josie Dorri and the Coffee Ban: A different way of looking at the future Big Brother type society, one where cofee is banned, both for drinking and possessing. Easy to relate to, as well as easy to compare to some of today’s odd rules and regulations.

The Present:  A view on time travel from a personal perspective, and a twist on “what would you do if you could” with the added facet of how it affects others. Good flow, and relatively (no pun intended) easy to follow the timeline.

Running to Keep Her: A touching story about loss and what a man does to remember, and how that affects his life going forward.

Overall I enjoyed the volume. B. C. Young has a knack for storytelling and keeps the reader interested from start to finish. Even though each story was completely unrelated and stands on its own, they all have similarities and common threads that show Young can write. Looking forward to a few more short stories from him (never thought I’d say that…)

Unspoken Stories can be found for Kindle, Nook, and at Smashwords.

More information on the author can be found here:

Web Site/Blog: the-time-capsule.com
Facebook Author Page: facebook.com/authorbcyoung
WIN UNSPOKEN STORIES! Leave a comment below that lists the MISSPELLED WORD I typed above and I’ll choose one random correct guesser to receive an ebook copy of Unspoken Stories!

Review: In Her Name Empire by Michael Hicks

August 27, 2011 2 comments

REVIEW: 

I have to admit, before I even get into this review, that I’m a fussy reader when it comes to genres. I like a very specific, narrow type of science fiction. I certainly read all types – Hamilton, Clarke, Heinlein, Baxter, etc. – and enjoy them, but there’s a type of scifi, I suppose what I call near-future military, that I really get into (as evidenced by the type of scifi I write). So I really dig David Weber, Tobias Buckell, Charles Sheffield, John Scalzi, et al. My problem is it’s difficult, in my opinion, to find such a specific type of scifi from a self-published author, or at least one that’s up to the standards of Weber and the others. That all changed when I picked up Michael Hicks’s In Her Name: Empire.

From chapter one, the introduction to the very young Reza Gard in a captivating scene where he loses his parents as they try to defend him, to subsequent chapters where he moves to an orphanage/near-slave labor planet, his capture by the invading aliens (a blue-skinned humanoid that may bring to mind Avatar, but these are much more…cold, yet fascinating), and Reza’s maturation with the aliens, Hicks grabbed a hold of my attention and never let go.

The characters are fully developed, the settings are beautifully described without going overboard, the creatures encountered, the battles fought, the technology, and finally even a dash of romance, are all told in clear, concise style that made me want to continue turning pages. And the best part? There are two more in the series, then Hicks goes back to before this story to add three more.

The spelling & grammar, formatting, punctuation, and sentence structure (I’ve got an OCD for these errors) are flawless – better than many traditionally published works. No really, flawless. Hats off to Mr. Hicks’s editor; some of the big publishers should look into hiring him/her. Those issues really stand out to me, pull me out of the story, but I found none.

All in all, one of the best science fiction (with a smidgen of fantasy) novels I’ve read in a long time – mainstream or self-published. And easily the best self-published scifi I’ve had the opportunity to lay my hands (and e-reader) on. Congrats, Mr. Hicks – you’ve got a winner, and a customer for the next five books in the series. You actually pushed David Weber’s 4th Safehold novel down my list.

Find In Her Name: Empire, here:

Amazon (Kindle only $.99) • Barnes & Noble (Nook) • Author’s Site (6 other books as well!)