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5 Art Images That Capture the Fun and Silly Wit of Boomer Humor

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

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Dear Bruce,

It was so wonderful having the opportunity to reconnect last month. I enjoyed getting to know you better and coming to understand more of the parallels in our political and spiritual journeys. I look forward to many more deep discussions in the future.

I also really appreciate the book recommendations. These titles on the harmony between religion and science by Gerald Schroeder I put on hold at the library right after getting back from our lunch:

Two books reconciling #Science and #religion by Gerald L. Schroeder that I'm looking forward to reading. Hat tip: Bruce

I look forward to exploring these subjects in pieces more soon and think we should continue brainstorming together; let’s definitely plan on collaborating more in the future on ways to explore these concepts in articles, perhaps with some of your delightful artistic illustrations?

I want to congratulate you for your invention of the Bamusers, as showcased in your new collection of sketches that straddle the line between art and humor.

We’ve already talked about a few directions you might want to consider exploring using the Bamusers style of quick, simple illustrations accompanied by short titles. Today, I wanted to encourage you to consider another that could have some potential, both as a way to make perceptive cultural commentary and connect with new audiences: generational theory. Here are two books I’ll throw back your direction:

Two of my favorite books laying out the evidence for #generationaltheory one of the concepts I'm expanding for my book.... #millennial #genx #babyboomer #generations #howestrauss

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Indie Author Experience: Mark Wandrey

Friday, August 8th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

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[Charlie here: Today we have a guest post by Mark Wandrey, who we often plug on BPF. ]

Sixteen years ago while watching an episode of Stargate SG-1, I thought they were seriously under-utilizing their universe. Here was a galaxy-spanning transportation network and the galaxy is populated by… humans. Sure, from the production standpoint of a TV show, having an alien a week was simply far beyond what could be afforded. Even Trek handled this mostly with a prosthetic head application here and there, and skin paint. Lots, and lots of skin paint.

Anyway that thought was filed away for later consideration. As any writer quickly learns, there is a big difference between an observation and an idea. But some time later I was re-reading a favorite of mine, Ender’s Game. The protagonist is a young child, plucked from his environment, who grows even at a young age to be a powerful war leader. Then in later books, the writer proceeds to spend untold thousands of words trying to apologize for what Ender does in the first book.

Such is the decision of a writer. Rather like a role playing GM; your game, your call. But it got me thinking. What if there was no apology? What if that kid became a legendary leader, and didn’t look back? Now I had something, and then I remembered the Stargate theme. It’s not like portals to the stars are anything new. Everyone from Carl Sagan to Robert A. Heinlein have used them. They’re not as common in hard/military sci-fi as space ships, but if you want to go to other planets you have to have a way to get there, and dimensional portals are a damned fast way of getting there!

Up until a short time before these ideas occurred I’d only really written short stories. Tons of short stories. They’re generally easier in execution than a novel. Oh, not easy! Shorts have their own issues, and they can drive a writer nuts in short order. You have to do a lot in only a few thousand words. But when you get into novels, you commit to a vast canvas. And the bigger the canvas, the easier to miss things.

The first novel I wrote front-to-back was a book about the colonization of Mars. Also motivated by what others did (wrong in my opinion), I was tired of every trip-to-Mars book being filled with aliens, and endless disasters. So I wrote about a guy running a project to both travel to Mars, and colonize it. That novel still sits in a hard drive, and may well forever (it’s horribly out of date now among other problems) but it was about 100k words of work that I hadn’t thought I could do, so this new idea wasn’t impossible.

Armed with a setting (galaxy full of aliens and intergalactic portals), and a basic plot (young person becomes warrior leader), I set out to put electrons in order. And that was the beginning of the Earth Song series. But it didn’t start as Earth Song, or even a series!

I wrote the original book, The Avatar’s Overture, in less than a year at lunch each day while working nights. With the basics of an idea, it came out fast. As often happens with a writer, it wasn’t what I’d originally thought. There was a galaxy of aliens out there, there were portals, and a protagonist. But she wasn’t young, and not a war leader. And I up and destroyed the whole planet. It was a good stand alone story, but that was it.

I knew the chances for a publisher to buy an unknowns book, especially a rather large one (160k). But I fished around, with the expected results. So, I figured WTF, and went self pub. But this was before the days of POD (print on demand) changed the world. I went with a company that’s still around, called Authorhouse. Pay them, and they make it available. I did, they did, and sold a few books. The internet wasn’t what it is now too, so without stacks of cash I was very limited in my ability to promote. It went nowhere, and I move on.

Then about 6 years ago, I revisited the world of the ‘Avatars’. Because a guy named Cameron was coming out with a movie called Avatar. Crap. If it couldn’t get worse, it was also sci-fi (albeit badly written sci-fi). But again, it got me thinking about that book, and the original idea. The thought struck one night. “What if that was just the prologue to  a vast saga?”

As is often my style, I started writing before I’d fully formed an idea. But within a few chapters, I knew I’d hit on something. The descendant of that first heroine, many centuries later, earth long dead, and now they meet the aliens. Lots of aliens. Lots of aliens that don’t like us. Lots of aliens with better technology. But the galaxy is also in decay, decadent, falling apart.

As I wrote more and more pieces came into focus. This is a trilogy, I realized. But by the time I finished the book (2nd in the series), I knew it was a lot more than three books. Probably five. As I’ve written it went to six, and now seven. The galaxy got more and more crowded. Plots began to evolve, and motivations (both hidden and obvious) materialized. There was stuff going on I had no idea what I would do with later, just wrote it anyway.

With the 2nd book done, I went back and fixed the 1st. It had to be a clear series now, so I repaired some bad writing and some glaring plot holes, and brought it into the modern realm of a series launching book. I actually almost trashed it entirely, just leaving it as an unmentioned prologue of sorts, but friends convinced me otherwise. They said; “Overture is a good book by itself”. Overture. Well, that was the basis of the name. Dump the Avatar crap. More editing. But a series needs a title. “Overture” is a musical term for the beginning of a much larger movement. The second book takes place in humanities new home, Gamma Orionis. The title would be Sonata in Orionis. Another musical term. And now I had a series title, Earth Song.

As the second book launched and the first book relaunched, this time on Amazon’s Createspace, I set to work doing what I didn’t do nearly as well last time, and what wasn’t really that possible. I started building a web presence online. I use Facebook almost exclusively (to my detriment maybe). But even an indie has to have time to write, so if I’m on Facebook, twitter, G+, etc. all the time, when can I write?

The presence building has been a careful combination of cultivating fans I gathered from new sales (not a lot, but they started coming in), people I came across from wandering other writers pages (avoid plugging your stuff on other writers walls, it tends to piss them off), and building writers pages on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. I also never pass up an opportunity to write a bit for someone else (like this) and to self promote.

Next came conventions. And THAT can be a double edge sword. They’re expensive (even if you do them on the cheap), and as an indie you have to buy boxes of your own books to sell. I invested in some advertising, cards, flyers, and a nice banner that came from the cover to my third book (getting good cover art as an indie is a must). These are things you just have to do. If you show up at a con, buy a table, and just sit a couple books there, no one will even slow down. Put a nice looking book there, at a 6 foot banner with nice graphics, and they’ll slow down. If they slow down, they might look at a book. If they look at a book, they might buy it. And you get a sale! Indies make it one sale at a time.

And this is where I advise against eBook only. Yes, it’s easier. Yes, it’s cheaper. Yes, it’s also often a lot faster. But dead trees will be popular for a long time to come. I sell almost as many hard copies as eBooks.

So here I am now, 15 years after the adventure began, and the 3rd book in the series (The Lost Aria) is about to come out. I’ve been done with the 4th book for over a year (Etude to War), and am about ¼ of the way through the 5th book (Nocturne’s Reckoning). Promotion has become a lot of my online time, but when the eBook of Aria went live this week, I instantly saw sales. It came up a few days early (by mistake), and I looked at their tracking information and was surprised to see a bunch of sales. And this one was priced at $5.99. Remember, if you have a series, resist the urge to go for the money and reduce the older ones in steps. My first book is now only $0.99 (I barely make anything on each sale), the 2nd is $2.99, and the third $5.99. You’ve got to make that first taste cheap. Almost anyone will pop $0.99 for an eBook. I have fans that buy a half dozen a week just looking for that one good one.

I’ve been ordering paper copies of Aria for weeks, slowly building up inventory in prep of the 6/28 official launch (at Libertycon in Chattanooga). In the course of that, I put up on my blog a paypal button to preorder autographed copies. Sold quite a few of those as well. It’s beginning to develop momentum. Will I sell thousands? I really don’t know yet. Readers love a good long series with engaging characters and a dynamic story. That is my goal. So I will continue onward.

Oh, book 6 is titled Oblivions Waltz and book 7 Requiem, just in case it was eating you alive.


Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com to be plugged here on PJ Media.

It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like

TITLE

My Book

AUTHOR

My name as it's on the book cover.

AMAZON LINK

http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

BLURB

no more than about 100 words.


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Meet Bri (Part Two)
By Lilith Revnik 

Free Friday 8/8 and Sunday 8/10Jerry is dead and Charlie’s in jail. Saul turned out to be a bigger jerk than she could have imagined–what else could go wrong?

Bri races back to Charlie’s side to find he’s more than her next boyfriend. He’s the man she’s meant to be with. But before she can marry Charlie, she needs to confront Saul. The only problem is–he’s dead, too. Coincidence, or are Bri and Charlie headed for more than a simple Key West honeymoon?

[Note: This is an erotic thriller. If you don't like erotica, it's not for you.]


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Lost Book of Anggird
By Kyra Halland 

Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony has been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. He hires Perarre Tabrano to translate books for his research, and finds his orderly existence turned upside down by his unexpected romance with her. Caught up in his new-found love and the most important work of his life, he goes too far in his search, delving into forbidden books hidden away for centuries. When the most dangerous book of all falls into the Professor’s hands, magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre flee from the authorities in search of the secret of the magica’s origins, a journey that only their growing magical powers and their love for each other will help them survive.


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The Sky Suspended
By Laura Montgomery 

A generation has passed since asteroid scares led the United States to launch its first and only interstellar starship. The ship returns and announces the discovery of another Earth. People are star-struck, crowds form in Washington, DC, and a boy from Alaska and two lawyers grapple with questions surrounding whether ordinary people will emigrate to the stars.

This is bourgeois, legal science fiction with a hearty helping of space policy wonkery.

[I love the blurb. --C]


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Cities and Throngs and Power
By AUTHOR 

Which is stronger, love or honor?

The Collapse of 2015 left parts of Denver in ashes, the US economy in a mess, and the Salazar family with little besides their pride and honor. Now Alicia Salazar must repay her father’s debt by working in Illif House. She discovers a recluse, a wonder, too many tomatoes, and freedom. When Cousin Ernesto threatens to drag her away, Alicia must choose between freedom and honor. Will love and a Power prove stronger than lead and fury?

Novella includes bonus teaser.


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Cat’s Paw (King of Cats Book 1)
By Robert A. Hoyt 

Many humans know there is a mountain at the end of the universe to which a bird flies every thousand years to sharpen its beak, until the end of the mountain comes, and thus the end of eternity. What few of them know is that of the mountain only a few small grains of sand remain. And the bird that is to end eternity is alive and ready to fly. At half past noon at the end of the universe, the last great hopes of everything that exists, ever existed or has yet to exist, rests with a stray cat with alcohol issues, a Siamese cat with gender issues, and a Persian cat with pregnancy issues. Things are just about to get fun.

[Yes, those Hoyts. --C]


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A Touch of Night
By Sarah A. Hoyt 

PriDe and Prejudice – now with more dragons.

In a world where shape shifters are forbidden and being a shape shifter is forbidden, the Bennet family has a terrible secret. So does the Darcy family. They’re not what you expect.

Pride, Prejudice, werewolves and dragons, oh, my.


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The Kitsune Stratagem (Inari’s Children, Book 1)
By David A. Tatum 

The Inari’s Children Series: Once magic was plentiful and the world was dominated by a singular empire whose name has long been lost to history. In its time, the great wizard Inari developed his greatest creation: The kitsune. His enemies were quick to copy him, and soon the world was populated with many different types of this remarkable creature. Two thousand years later and these different breeds of kitsune are fighting amongst themselves, and the rest of the human world joins them.

Book I: The Kitsune Stratagem: To avoid being used as a political pawn against her father, a young kitsune vixen named Kieras must leave her homeland. She soon gets caught up in the fortunes of Mathis, a vagabond hunter from Ekholm, a once sleepy little town on the verge of becoming a small city. To find a way to return home, Kieras must first help Mathis save Ekholm from threats both inside and out.

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5 Life and Relationship Lessons from Finding Mr. Righteous

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

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Lesson #5: Everybody’s human. Very, very human.

I once heard a guy tell a story about a disastrous first date he went on. He was ultra-liberal, and didn’t realize the girl he’d asked out was a libertarian. They discovered their differences soon enough, and their debate was so fierce she left in tears. It didn’t end there, though; he followed up with links to articles and documentaries she had to see, to correct her point of view. She participated as well, sending him material from her own side. But it was clear there was no romantic possibility between the two of them — instead of finding love on a blind date, they found hate.

He asked, “What do you do? When you meet up with these DC vampires who are just dead set on destroying the world?”

I told him the first thing you do is stop denying their essential humanity by calling them monsters. Then, give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they hold their views because they want to make the world a better place, too — or, at the very least, not because of some desire to burn it all down. I wish now I could have just given him a copy of Finding Mr. Righteous, the romantic memoir by conservative activist Lisa de Pasquale.

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Reading and Writing for Love [With Dinosaurs]

Friday, August 1st, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
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picture of the author as a young dinosaur.

 

(Hi, this is Sarah.)  When I was a  young writer, knee high to a trilogy print out, I subscribed to every possible market listing in the world.  [“What is a market listing?” “That’s what people used to have, back when they needed gate keepers to publish them. Back in prehistory.  Publishing was expensive, on account of having to dispose of the chips you carved out of the rock with your chisel.”]  Partly this was, of course, because there was no internet. [“Seriously, no internet?  Now you’re just making stuff up.”  “Okay, you’re right.  There was internet.  It’s just the t-rexes kept snapping the cable with their toe claws.”]  You couldn’t just search for “markets for science fiction” and then spend three hours reading about Amazon’s dispute with Hatchette and dino porn.  [“I don’t read dino porn.”  “Of course not, the Amazon/Hatchette thing makes you feel dirty enough.”]

Anyway, so I subscribed to all of these in the certain hope that eventually I’d find the one that said, “You, Sarah A. Hoyt, sitting there, with your manuscript of dino porn inchoate pseudo literature, you’re the person we want to publish.”

Alas, this never happened.  But I used to come across this listing that baffled me.  After the pro markets to which I sent for fastest rejections, and the semi-pro markets which were buying me, and the penny markets, where I sent stuff that had been rejected everywhere else, there was a “for the love” column.

Look, I yield to no one in my love for writing. [“Liar, you just say that to get it into bed.”  “Only because the pterodactyl isn’t willing.”]  And I’m one of those people who think if something is not making you rich, and you don’t love it, then you’d be better off doing something else.  [“Unless of course writing is the only thing you can do.  Not that this has ever happened at low points in our personal finances.”  “Er… right, never.”] Writing, in particular, while easier than digging ditches, is still a lot to do day after day if you don’t enjoy it.  But… “for the love?”

I mean, if no one is ever going to pay you, are you going to give this story away just so someone will read it?  [“Yeah, like someone who wrote fanfic so that it would actually get read, when nothing else was selling.”  “That was different.  How many people make money rewriting Jane Austen with dragons? Don’t answer that.”]

Then I broke in, started selling to those pro markets, and then started getting paid more so the pro-markets attracted me, and I never gave this another thought.

Until today when I was thinking about writing for readers and writing for prestige.  For most of my traditional career, I argued with my agents/editors/publishers that I wanted to write popular and accessible fiction, while they tried to push me into writing convoluted, difficult “literary” fiction.

My fault in a way, because I broke in with a series that was a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s biography, this time with elves.  But at least I realized that though I loved that series, it had a limited audience. The average person on the street doesn’t want to relax after a hard day with Shakespearean word-play.  Also, the idea of writing nothing but literary fantasy forever made me want to slit my wrists.

I wanted to write mystery, and science fiction, and funny things, and serious things, and romantic things.  And while some of them would come out in a way that could be described as “literary” that was not what I was aiming for.  I mostly wanted to write to be read and to make a living.

I knew for a fact that “literary” works sold very little.

So why were publishers and agents so interested in them? Because their interests aren’t the same as writers’.  Writers want to make a living, and to get the sincerest form of appreciation in foldable form. Publishers, or at least editors, working for multinational corporations where their salary is assured, don’t want that – they want to be hailed at the next cocktail party as the person who discovered the literary wonder of the century.  And agents, too, want the prestige of being known to have exquisite taste. They won’t object to a lot of money, but mostly they need the prestige.

Eric S. Raymond said that what is destroying mainstream science fiction… (and more so mystery.  I’m going through my shelves to get rid of excess paper books, and if I had a dime for each “high prestige” mystery I got because it was up for some award or other and which is now worth less than one cent, I’d have a lot of dimes.) … is not so much politics, as this entire idea of “worth” that’s predicated on an academic culture which ignores readers and the ludic aspects of reading. [“Ludic. My, aren’t we posh?”  “Ludic means fun.  Like, you know, dinosaur porn.  At least I presume people have fun with it.  Never having read any, I wouldn’t know.” “Yes, but growing up in the Jurassic would give you a different perspective.]

He is right at that. But I don’t think it’s something that can be wrung out of the publishing establishment.  If the shrinking of the bottom line didn’t convince them, neither will our telling them what they’re doing wrong.

Fortunately, though, we don’t have to. It’s entirely possible that, after the shocks and aftershocks, traditional publishing will settle into a prestige and validation role for academic writers, bringing out little gems of books (possibly leather bound) for a small clientele for whom they’re objets d’art and not a way to while away a couple of hours of a rainy evenings.

I’m fine with that.  They can do whatever they want.

Those who want to read and write for fun can always go Indie.


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Blood and Dreams: Lost Years II (Parsival Book 4
By Richard Monaco 

Set some time after Lost Years: The Quest for Avalon and before The Grail War, Blood and Dreams continues the story of Parsival, who in middle age finds himself more the jaded cynic than the wide-eyed fool of his youth. Waylaid as he journeys home from his latest “bloody bit of work for Arthur,” Parsival must escape his captors, save his kidnapped family, and prevent the forces of Clinschor, the mad sorcerer bent on world domination, from finding and exploiting the Holy Grail, all while enduring the disdain of his teenaged son, Lohengrin.

(Charlie here: Richard has been one of my favorite writers for longer than either of us would care to think. This is free for the rest of today, and worth the $4.99 any time.)


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The God’s Wolfling
By Cedar Sanderson 

When The God’s Wolfling opens Linnea Vulkane has grown up since the summer of Vulcan’s Kittens. Sanctuary, the refuge of immortals on an Hawaiian island, is boring. When the opportunity for an adventure arises, she jumps right into it, only realizing too late the water may be over her head. Literally, as she is embroiled in the affairs of the sea god Manannan Mac’Lir. Merrick Swift has a secret he’s ashamed of. Then when he meets Linnea and her best friend, he doesn’t like her. She’s bossy, stuck up… and oddly accepting of his wolf heritage. Like her or not, he must do his duty and keep her alive. The children of the myths are being plunged into the whirlpool of immortal politics, intrigue, goblin wars, and they might be the only ones who can save a world.


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Screams from My Father: Stories by Paul F. Gleeson
By Paul F. Gleeson 

Entertaining pulp crime stories written in 1979 and 1980. Paul F. Gleeson was a lawyer, but he ached to be a writer, of tales of murder and intrigue and dark forces and witty twist endings. He submitted manuscripts to the pulp mags, and actually got two stories published, but the rejection letters kept piling up, and he finally stopped writing. After he died in 2012, his sons and daughter found the manuscripts in a cardboard box. They collectively decided that these stories would finally be published for the world to enjoy, the way their dad always wanted.

“Paul F. Gleeson’s hardboiled fiction paints characters who live in swirling cesspools of corrupt human nature in a rich, distinct voice that’s not to be missed.” — David Cranmer, editor of BEAT to a PULP


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The Book of Barkley
By L.B. Johnson 

LB Johnson knew how to get things done. The former jet commander was singularly driven, capable and highly educated, immersed in a world of complex puzzles, tangled story lines and the intricacies of the law. So how hard would it be for one redheaded federal agent to raise a black Labrador retriever puppy?

Mayhem on four legs was named Barkley and he led his owner down a path of joyful self discovery, loving frustration and self sacrifice, changing the way she viewed the world, and those that shared it with her. Her home and her heart were never the same.


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Stargazer
By Cedar Sanderson 

Free from August 1-5

A short story of a woman who looks to the stars as she tries to protect her children and offer them a future. In a world with no escape for those who cannot undergo a genescan, a fugitive mother has vanishingly few options left to her. Ultimately, only her sacrifice can change the world… but what becomes of the children?


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A Warrior’s Path
By Davis Ashura 

Two millennia ago, a demon named Suwraith thundered into the skies and cast down the First World. In a single horrific night, a glorious age of enlightenment was ended, leaving the world in fearful darkness. Humanity survives by a thread, only surviving in cities protected by an Oasis, mysterious places impervious to Suwraith’s power. Throughout the rest of the world Humanity is an endangered species, fodder for Suwraith’s deadly Chimeras. Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords and the sacred law of the seven Castes: for each Caste is a role and a Talent given, and none may seek that to which they were not born. It is the iron-clad decree by which all cities maintain their fragile existence and to defy this law means exile and death. But all his knowledge and devotion may not save him because soon he must join the Trials, the holy burden by which by which the cities of Humanity maintain their slender connection with one another. In the Wildness, Rukh will struggle to survive as he engages in the never-ending war with the Chimeras, but he will also discover a challenge to all he has held to be true and risk losing all he holds dear. And it will come in the guise of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – perhaps its greatest allies. Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.


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Kiwi
By Richard Alan Chandler 

Free on 8/1 and 8/2

Alex Sanderson doesn’t like much of anything, but of all the things he hates, getting locked up in an alien prison on trumped-up charges tops the list. All he wants is a fair hearing and he’s sure he can get out. His cellmate on the other hand, she has different plans for Alex….

Note: This story contains profanity, some violence, and sexual situations, although not especially graphic, they may be offensive to some readers.

This story is a Novellette, about 14,500 words long.

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Kindle and Price Elasticity

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

BEZOS

Amazon posted an explanation of the economics behind their row with book publisher Hachette:

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved.

Of course. This is Econ 101 stuff, and it’s deeply weird that Amazon should have to explain it to a profitable publisher. And a wider audience for a writer gives him better luck of having another hit with his next book, too.

More interesting was this last bit:

One more note on our proposal for how the total revenue should be shared. While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.

Message to authors: Go indie and cut out the greedy and ignorant middleman.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Who Took the Hero out of Hercules?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

You wouldn’t think it possible to say something profound about a movie starring The Rock — it seems almost an offense against reason! But over at the classics website The Forum — or as I like to call it “Young Klavan on Old Culture” — my son Spencer delivers a brilliant treatise on why taking the myth out of mythology gives us, not modern profundity, but emptiness and cynicism:

Back in the day, hero myths were how Ancient Greece told the stories that America now tells in superhero comics. An unstoppable renegade throwing a destructive hissy fit then going down in a blaze of glory for the good guys: that’s Phoenix from X-Men and Achilles from the Iliad. An ordinary guy turned extraordinary champion of justice to avenge a murdered father: that’s Batman and Theseus. And the long-lost son of super-parents in the sky, raised by humans to save earth with unheard-of strength and powers? That’s Superman. That’s Hercules.

But Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules is no Superman. In this movie, all that phony supernatural stuff is for suckers, a bedtime story that Hercules perpetuates to pump up his image. Scene after smug scene, the movie knowingly debunks its mythic origins. Son of Zeus? Let the saps believe that so they’ll fear me, says The Rock. Centaurs? Please. Just dudes on horses (from far away . . . before contact lenses). “I have seen too much reality to believe the legends,” says the canny queen, Ergenia, but “the people need a hero.”

In other words: Joe Schmo needs a pretty story so he can believe in “virtue” and “heroism.” The élites know better.

Yowsa! And he’s just getting started. Read the rest of it, really. It’s all good.

****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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The Top 10 Gods of the Pop Culture Pantheon

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Whether you’re seeking salvation or inner peace, a god to worship or add to your home-made altar, the pop culture pantheon is at your disposal so that you may pick and choose the gods and tools of worship to service your every emotional, spiritual, and even material need.

10. Harry Potter

When they aren’t re-reading their holy texts, Potterheads commune at MuggleNet to chat about their god, study their faith and perform the usual acts of tithing. According to the Facebook page “Being a POTTERHEAD” (which is classified as a non-profit organization),

Harry Potter has reached out to 200 countries, spoke out in 69 languages, and has touched the lives of 400 million people. It is the phenomenon that ignores race, age, gender and religion and has brought us all together despite our differences.

Also known as Potterholics, Potterites and Pottermaniacs, Potterheads should never be confused with potheads as their allegiance is strictly Wizard, not weed.

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The 10 Most Successful and Controversial Comic Book Publicity Stunts

Sunday, July 27th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

The early twentieth century was a time when the daily newspaper reigned as the number one source of public information; magazines such as Time, Look, and Newsweek were huge; pulp magazines were the prime source of affordable reading entertainment; movies were becoming a national pastime; and radio dominated the airwaves.

It was a time that saw the rise of a mass media that in turn created a rich environment for the entrepreneur, the advertiser, and the promoter to reach a national, even international audience. It wasn’t coincidence that a showman like Harry Houdini — who made it a practice to advertise escapes from straitjackets while hanging upside down from flagpoles or to challenge local law enforcement that he could escape from their jails, or survive being thrown into a river while locked in a trunk — became an international celebrity. Advertising stunts like that turned Houdini’s shows into SRO events and his success wasn’t lost on anyone. And so was born the advertising stunt, a contrived event designed to draw attention to a person or product.

But for the comics industry, advertising had always been something that publishers spent little money on. Considered mostly a children’s entertainment venue, money would have been considered wasted if spent on ads in Time or the local newspaper. Instead, publishers have traditionally concentrated their efforts on point of sale advertising such as store spinner racks with signs affixed to the top of them reading “Hey kids! Comics!” And if some comics characters like Superman or Batman made it onto radio or the movies, so much the better.

And so comics mostly flew under the radar except in rare instances when the larger media took notice. Those times, the spotlight was often unwelcome as it usually meant criticism of comics and questions about their suitability for children. Likely it was one of the reasons why publishers for the most part, avoided drawing too much attention to themselves.

All of the preceding then, makes the recent phenomenon of coverage of comics news by the mass media all the more surprising. But when looked at more closely, maybe it shouldn’t be. Since the 1960s, pop culture has risen to the point where today it dominates the culture and reporting on entertainment news (including whole television programs devoted to the subject) has become overheated, even hysterical at times. (Witness the mania surrounding the annual San Diego Comics Con). Add to that, the rise of social media, the proliferation of internet news sites, apps, tweets, and hits and you have an environment ripe for exploitation.

Enter savvy, young, and usually left leaning comics industry publishers, editors, and “creative consultants” who know how the world of internet news dissemination and just plain ole gossip can be spread hither and yon in a matter of hours or days. Add to that a real politik understanding of mob mentality and the inclination of human beings to follow the fad of the moment and you have a formula for the comics somewhat unique take on the marketing stunt.

Unique in that unlike other entertainment media, the comics industry thrives on continuing characters, many with long and storied histories going back decades into antediluvian times before the current wave of political correctness so to speak. Thus, events that see characters being killed off, changing genders, or embracing radical beliefs strike at the heart of readers’ comfort zones.

But such stunts, designed to catch readers’ attention and hopefully boost sales are nothing new in comics. Way back in 1983, Walter Simonson replaced Thor as the thunder god with an alien named Beta Ray Bill revitalizing the character’s title. In 1984, John Byrne replaced the Thing with the She-Hulk on the Fantastic Four. In 1974, Steve Englehart had Steve Rogers quit being Captain America to become a hero without a country called Nomad. And in 1988, DC held a poll in which fans could phone in and vote whether the Robin of the time should be killed off and replaced.

The difference with what is happening today is that in those instances, the stunt resonated only within the small pond of comics fans. The larger media had no interest in such small time shenanigans.

But today, all that has changed and the comics stunt often means a big boost in sales for an otherwise dying industry. The value of the properly handled stunt first became apparent to comics companies in 1992 when DC concocted the “death of Superman” event which grabbed the attention of the mainstream media and had gullible customers lining up outside comics specialty stores to get a copy of Superman #75 that they were sure would be a collectors item some day.

The sales and attention generated by the death of Superman was not lost on the industry and other such stunts were planned including DC’s next involving Batman having his back broken by super-villain Bane. As the years passed, marketing stunts became more frequent with the overall pace picking up substantially in recent years with new earth shaking announcements coming from Marvel and DC on an almost weekly basis. Each surely generates comment wherever the stories about them are posted but it’s questionable that they make much difference in sales anymore, the specialness of such stunts having worn off over the years.

Further dulling the edge of the latest stunts is the fact that the status quo ante is almost always restored at some point: a hero is brought back to life or never died in the first place, the event took place in a different dimension or different continuity, or the original character returns from retirement.

But all that hasn’t stopped the companies from coming up with new marketing ploys, most related to politically correct themes which perhaps explains some of the fervor with which these stunts keep coming. As with most of those harboring left leaning ideas, ideology trumps everything else even sales, the risk of public rejection, or damage to their iconic brands.

Note: The following list is ordered roughly in terms of least to the most successful stunt (in terms of marketing) with that of the position of the new female Thor admittedly an informed guess on the writer’s part.

Thor-001-regular

10) Thor becomes a woman

The latest news from the “house of ideas” is that long time male hero Thor (who’s been around like, since the Vikings sailed the seas around 1,000 AD) will become unworthy of wielding mjolnir (his uru hammer, natch) and a woman, as yet unidentified, will take his place. The stated reason for the change is to attract more female readers to Marvel (we’re told they comprise a significant part of its readership already… yeah, right) but aside from the bump in sales usual with these kinds of stunts (clueless consumers of mainstream news rushing to invest in the latest collectible), there’s no money to be made here. Look for sales of Thor to remain low until Don Blake returns in a couple years (with writers likely finding some way to keep his female counterpart around so as not to have to admit complete defeat).

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18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet

Friday, July 25th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
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Cedar Sanderson, author of today’s guest BPF.

The first thing you have to understand about this list, 18 Influential Voices in Literature on the Internet, it’s not mine. Yes, I published it on my blog, but that was after polling a bunch of people and then tallying up how many votes for whom. This isn’t a list of old school friends, or my twitter followers, it’s the names I was given when I asked simply “who do you listen to?”

The list of the top names voted for appeared on my blog, and I was surprised at the response to it. See, the original list was of 35 literary people who run the internet, and it was a list of (mostly) people none of us had heard of. My list, on the other hand, tilted heavily toward people who were mentors, who nurture good stories, and mostly, people who are vocal in caring about literature. Story is king, and these folks never lose sight of that.

Larry Correia tops out the list, which was ranked by number of votes received. Why? Well, Larry may not blog about the ins and outs of writing and publishing, but he does serve as an inspiration to indie authors, having gone from self-publishing to his new (hilariously funny) rating of being a “D-List” author. He also gives other new writers a hand up with his semi-regular Book Bombs. In short, he’s awesome.

Hugh Howey has become practically the voice of the Indie Author, with his best-selling series Wool, and his reports on the nitty-gritty of how independents are eating Big Publishing’s pie. In a recent blog post, he says “I advocate for: Reasonably priced e-books, for publishers to take risks and do exciting things, for us to embrace the future of storytelling and allow it to coexist with the past, to release all editions of a work at once, to get rid of DRM, to mix up genres and do something fresh and new . . . these are all things I’ve wanted as a reader for longer than I’ve been writing. These are things I complained about with fellow readers and bookstore workers long before I sat down and penned my first novel.”

Sarah A. Hoyt came in next, and her reaction to seeing this was ‘I don’t belong there… Why am I there?’ Sarah, you’re there for two reasons. One, alphabetically Hoyt comes before Konrath, and you were tied with him. Two, you are a strong, clear voice for writers to come to for help. You’re paving the way for some, and publishing how-to’s on the Mad Genius Club blog, providing support for those who are trying to find a place to start. Like Larry, you’re an inspiration and you put story above navel gazing. Of course we think of you. You’re like a mother to us… ducks and runs, fast

JA Konrath on his blog tackles thorny issues independent writers are concerned with, he’s responsible for the brilliant Writer’s Declaration of Independence, and spot-on for this particular topic, had this to say about legacy authors, publishers, and group narcissism: “I wish other people would recognize the authority of my group -Self-pubbed authors have no group. But many of us strive to be heard because we want to help, not because we want our authority recognized. Whereas the Authors Guild is recognized by the media, and many authors, as having authority.

My group has all predispositions to influence others – Self-pubbers don’t predispose to influence. We want to help. Legacy folks believe they are part of a special club. It is an ideology to them.”

Passive Guy, the formerly anonymous man who founded Passive Voice, is an attorney, although he warns nothing he says on the blog is to be taken as legal counsel. But a great deal of what he doe say is enormously helpful if you want to stay informed in this industry. Tapping into Passive Voice will keep any of us writers abreast of the news, as he posts lengthy quotes from blogs and other media several times a day, sometimes with pithy and relevant comments of his own attached.

John C. Wright, when I contacted him to ask him for a quote for this article, first sent me his bio, then rather than words from him, a nomination for someone he felt better suited to fill the place of an influential voice. “I nominate Tom Simon. He is the man who invented the term ‘Superversive’ which I took as inspiration to start a superversive literary movement in science fiction. The goal of the movement is to get SFF out of the doldrums. He has written several books, including nonfiction.” Which is interesting, and I look forward to reading them, but Mr Wright, I will insist you do belong on this list, as you have a way with words that may not cut to the heart of the matter immediately, but rather as an artist creates a sculpture with a thousand precise cuts.

Jerry Pournelle, one of the grand old men of Science Fiction, made it onto the list despite not having a traditional blog. What he does instead is to take fan mail and publish it, with his own trenchant comments. Less about the mechanics of writing will appear here, but for the earnest writer who wants to find bleeding-edge science, the site is a trove of information. Also, he is reviving his review column, which I will be interested to see what he has to say about new books.

Toni Weisskopf of Baen Publishing pointed out she hates talking about herself, Baen doesn’t really have a mission statement besides making SFF fun, and suggested that I refer my readers instead to something she wrote earlier this year when it seemed fandom was ripping itself apart from the inside out. “Yes, it took the brilliance and guidance of one person to set it in motion and shape it throughout, but it is the result of hundreds of people pulling together to explore and create on their own. Not as some side “fan fiction” endeavor, but as part of the—commercially viable—whole. And when I say “commercially viable” it is shorthand for: “lots of people like it and are willing to show this by paying money for it to continue.”

Brad Torgerson sent me to a blog post of his when I asked him for a few words, and suggested I glean from it. It’s all good stuff, and I recommend you take a look at his whole post. But the very first topic is perfect for this article, I think you will agree: “1. You must never self-publish.”

This was gospel when I was plowing through my proverbial first million words of “practice” fiction. And at the time, it was good advice. Self-publishing invariably meant vanity publishing, which is a form of publishing where the author spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars of his/her own money, to put his/her book into print. Vanity presses tend to be scams as often as not, and with the advent of widespread electronic book platforms (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) as well as print-on-demand options like Amazon.com’s CreateSpace, vanity presses are also wholly unnecessary. Plus, self-publishing doesn’t carry the same stigma it used to. Once upon a time self-publishing was a warning flag to the rest of the genre—hey guys, I couldn’t cut it with editors! These days, not so much. There are good writers who are self-publishing, and making a decent amount of money. You have no doubt heard of a few.”

There are more names on my original list, but in an attempt at brevity, which I have deeply failed, I’m leaving them to you to research through the links provided at my blog. I hope I have introduced worthwhile people to you, and I’m curious: who do you consider an influential, positive, nurturing voice in literature active on the internet? Comment below, and perhaps we can make another list of great voices to listen in on!

Oh, and I have permission to add this… my fifth novel is being released in a week. The God’s Wolfling is a tale of adventure, myths, goblins, troll blood, and more. If you’re interested in entering to win a signed print copy, possibly sketched in if the mood strikes me, step over to my blog and leave a comment here. Winner will be announced on August 2, the day after the release.

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[Charlie here:] Sorry the links didn’t make it in on time. As I said in the comments, when I was prepping the links, Google Mail suddenly decided not to let me get at the BPF email (at book.plug.friday@gmail.com, where you can also send an email to get submission guidelines, which say “Send the TITLE, AUTHOR’S NAME, a SHORT blurb, and an AMAZON KINDLE LINK.)

Oh, and here’s some hints: don’t bother to send a cover photo — I link to the one on Amazon anyway. Don’t forget that the official deadline is the Tuesday of the preceding week. I’m keeping up right now, but this turned out to be pretty long; if you submit a book with the necessary information, it’ll get up eventually, but if you hae a promotion, then make sure you send the book in plenty of time.

Oh, and I do try to be flexible about the submission format, but I’ve been giving a BPF No-Prize for the first submission that actually completely follows the guidelines, and it’s often not awarded until the fourth or fifth book. However, if your submission is like one this week, with no title, no author’s name, an Amazon link and about a five page excerpt of the book, then you’ll just get a new copy of the guidelines.


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires)
By Sarah A Hoyt 

ON SALE FOR 2.99 7/25 THROUGH 7/29 ONLY

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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Sundowning
By Walt Pimbley 

FREE on Kindle for a few days!

Korea vet steps irritably into the twilight, but unexpected guests make him feel young again. (Warning: a few salty epithets, and maybe some VIOLENCE.)

Amazon reviews:

“Short. Deadly. Hilarious.”

“[I]t’s like a punch in the solar plexus, only it tickles.”


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Forgiving Michael
By Walt Pimbley 

A teen trying to improve concrete for a science prize stumbles onto a formula that transforms the foundation of his parents’ house to mud. Hilarity does not ensue, even when it dries into something “rich and strange.”

Moscow wants that formula, and so do Tehran, Peking, and Tel Aviv. Can Michael and his family find a safe haven?

Amazon reviews:

“Unique and Thoughtful Thriller”

“A Gem in a Genre that Usually Lacks Gems”


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A Cat Among Dragons: Between Flood and Flame
By Alma Boykin 

Trouble’s never more than an ear-twitch away.

After fifty years away, Rada Ni Drako and her business partner Zabet return to Drakon IV and find themselves entangled in Lineage politics. Then a corrupt King-Emperor and a series of natural disasters force Rada to choose between obedience and duty, with near-fatal consequences for all involved. Add a dash of feudal justice and a child whose death uncovers a hidden crime, and Rada’s got her forefeet full in this Cat among Dragons story set.


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Dragonhunters
By Sabrina Chase 

Only one Mage Guardian now defends Aerope from the malevolent plans of Denais and his dreams of conquest and revenge. Ardhuin desperately tries to make the Allied governments see the danger and replace their murdered Guardians, but the long peace dulls any sense of urgency. Her new husband Dominic fears the Allies consider Ardhuin’s phenomenal power sufficient—and in no need of help from their mages. And yet…a weary traveler from the ends of the earth rushes to their home to deliver a message from a man thought dead. A desperate plea for help, invoking the Compact—as only another Mage Guardian would. Does another survive after all? And what new danger threatens the world?


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Spring That Never Came
By D. Jason Fleming 

(FREE this weekend!)

Tammy Kirsch has had her shot at fame. She came to Hollywood with stars in her eyes and lint in her pockets and looks that would open any door in town just to try to get her onto the casting couch. After several guest roles in TV shows, one starring role in a movie that nobody saw, inadvertently dodging the mid-70s porno chic moment and keeping her dignity and reputation intact, her career sputtered to a halt.

Then she lost her daughter in a custody case, and what was left of her world came crashing down around her ears. When the crazy homeless man tried to talk to her incoherently as she was leaving the court building, that only seemed to be the cherry on top of the layered dessert of her misery. In fact, it was just the first step on her path, a path that would end with her defending the entire world from an invasion of other-dimensional eldritch horrors.


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A Piece of Eternity
By Wesley Morrison 

“Better a world that might kill you, than a world you know wants you dead.”

A premium human in a genetically enhanced future, Rylen Weir was bred for a life of harmony and balance. Being kidnapped by unenhanced “throwbacks” and finding himself the key to which version of humanity survives was never in the plan.

Rylen has little choice, however. An unknowing test subject for the Traveller Enhancement, allowing him to send his consciousness back through time among his own ancestors, Rylen can possess the one man who set this future in motion. Which gives Rylen the power to save everyone, and everything, that he has ever known—or to prevent his world from ever happening.

Only neither side knows what Rylen will choose, because Rylen Weir is flawed.

A screenplay for a film that never was…


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Red on Blue: Establishing Republican Governance
By Art Chance 

Red on Blue is a former high-level bureaucrat and Republican appointee’s observations on re-organizing and managing a government designed by and for Democrats so that a Republican executive can actually run that government. The primary focus is on getting control of the money, people, and stuff in the government, getting the holdover Democrats out, and avoiding scandal in the process. Since there are few Republicans in government where there are heavily unionized public employees there is a dearth of working knowledge in conservative/Republican circles concerning dealings with unionized public employees. When I was Alaska’s director of labor relations Swartzenegger’s guy and I were the only Republican appointee-level heads of a state’s labor relations function; the rest of the union states were Democrat controlled. Consequently, I put a heavy emphasis on the dynamics of taking over a government from the Democrats and dealing with public employee unions in the aftermath.


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Take The Shilling
By Raymund Eich 

The Confederated Worlds, Book 1

The Confederated Worlds implanted in Tomas’ brain the skills to make him a soldier. He had to learn for himself how to survive interstellar war.

Tomas Neumann sought escape from his backwater planet and overbearing mother, and a mentor to replace his long-dead father. “Taking the shilling”—enlisting in the Confederated Worlds military—promised both. But despite the soldier’s skills implanted in his brain, combat still threatened to destroy him, in body and in spirit. Grieving for lost comrades, demoralized by a spiral of atrocities, could Tomas learn what he needed to survive, before facing his war’s ultimate challenge?


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Operation Iago
By Raymund Eich 

The Confederated Worlds, Book 2

The Confederated Worlds lost the war.
Can Lt. Tomas Neumann win the peace?

By the terms of the peace treaty, the citizens of the planet Arden will vote to stay in the Confederated Worlds or join the victorious Progressive Republic. Newly-minted Lieutenant Tomas Neumann leads his overstretched and demoralized Confederated Worlds Ground Force platoon in a mission that pushes men and machines to their limits, against elusive, deceptive foes out to tilt Arden to the Progressive Republic—and turn the Confederated Worlds against itself.


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Pixie Noir
By Cedar Sanderson 

Book one in the Pixie for Hire series.

You can’t keep a tough Pixie down…

Lom is a bounty hunter, paid to bring magical creatures of all descriptions back Underhill, to prevent war with humans should they discover the strangers amongst them. Bella is about to find out she’s a real life fairy princess, but all she wants to do is live peacefully in Alaska, where the biggest problems are hungry grizzly bears. He has to bring her in. It’s nothing personal, it’s his job…

“They had almost had me, that once. I’d been young and foolish, trying to do something heroic, of course. I wouldn’t do that again anytime soon. Now, I work for duty, but nothing more than is necessary to fulfill the family debt. I get paid, which makes me a bounty hunter, but she’s about to teach me about honor. Like all lessons, this one was going to hurt. Fortunately, I have a good gun to fill my hand, and if I have to go, she has been good to look at.”

Dave Freer, author of Dog and Dragon, The Forlorn, and many others, says: “”To those of you who thought there was nothing new worth reading in Fantasy: Cedar Sanderson’s Pixie Noir proves that you are wrong. The author plainly knows and loves her setting and characters, and this carries through to the reader. The pace picks up throughout, so save this book for a weekend, or you’ll be complaining about a lack of sleep at work. A very good read!”


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Times of Turmoil
By Cliff Ball 

In this first novel in The End Times Saga, we follow how the Evans family gained their riches and eventually their power to influence events in the United States. We see important events that the Evans family gets themselves involved in: such as the return of the Israelites to Israel, the assassination of President Kennedy, the terrorism of 9/11, and eventually events that lead to government tyranny in the United States with the sole purpose of destroying Christianity and its influence in the United States.


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Sammy: Dallas Detective
By Robin Hardy 

Do you believe in miracles?

When Marni Taylor meets her new apartment neighbor—brash, good-looking Dallas Narcotics Detective Sammy Kidman—she pegs him right away as a heartbreaker, a user. Still, she agrees to help him with an undercover assignment. By the time he’s through with her, Marni is so traumatized that she is driven to find healing in a faith she never knew she had.

That same faith forces Marni to decide what to do about a man she both hates and loves, while Sammy, faced with the terrifying consequences of his actions, makes a blind grab at redemption. But Sammy is a cop, first and last, and his life comes down to the choice every cop must make of how much of himself to give. The question is, when the time comes to give your all . . . how much do you believe?

Sammy: Dallas Detective is the first book in The Sammy Series. The story continues in Sammy: Women Troubles.

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Bill Gates’ Summer Reading List Is So Lame. These 6 Books Are Much Better.

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 - by James Jay Carafano

Bill Gates is much more than your run-of-the-mill multi-billionaire. He also recommends books for you to read.  BONUS!—his list comes with a cute video.

Gates is, undeniably, a really smart guy. But his summer reading list leaves a lot to be desired. For starters, it’s totally predictable. If the East Coast and West Coast elites have such things as book clubs, there’s not a title on Gates’ list that wouldn’t appeal.

Doubtless everyone in Martha’s Vineyard will be reading what Bill is reading. But the rest of us might care for something other than what passes for orthodoxy with Bill’s crowd.  So here is Bill’s list and my “unorthodox” alternative selections.

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The Top 10 Most Overrated Super-Heroes Of All Time

Monday, July 21st, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Ever wonder why some things are shoved at you from every direction while others are virtually ignored? Why some things seem to dominate the pop culture scene and you feel almost guilty for not embracing them like everyone else…even though no one you know likes them either? Why, for the life of you, you can’t figure out the reason for a character’s popularity when nothing about him is terribly interesting?

If all those things have occurred to you after running into a TV show, movie, celebrity of the moment, novel, or…in this case, super-heroes, you’ve likely discovered something that’s overrated. Something that might have little demand or is largely uninteresting in and of itself but keeps getting pushed before the public, viewing audience, or readers by the powers that be for reasons unknown or simply inscrutable.

In the field of comic book heroes in particular, there could be any number of reasons including sales figures (once, in the 1960s, sales figures indicated that having apes on the covers of their comics improved sales, so editors at DC made sure covers featured an ape or two every few months), political correctness (by the 1990s, ideology trumped common sense in editorial offices), or simply to create a buzz (Dazzler anyone?).

Of course, some comics characters such as Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man may have appeared to be overrated at different points in their careers, but time has proven that to be untrue as they have demonstrated their staying power over the decades. Truly original characters can overcome the threat of becoming overrated through overexposure from the sheer inspiration they offer to creators in succeeding generations.

Such, however, cannot be said of most other characters. Surprisingly, few of the thousands that have been invented in comics over the years have been so overexposed as to render them overrated, that is, reaching a point of over-saturation based on a false hysteria whipped up by an overheated media.

But can anyone really blame comics publishers or their editors for promoting any character in their stable that displays even the slightest amount of heat? After all, do they have any other choice than treating the shrinking pond of comic book buyers as an indicator of what the larger public might go for? (On the other hand, how reliable is the enthusiasm of a few thousand comics readers in gauging the tastes of the larger public?) Be that as it may, publishers must justify their existence now that the movies have become the tail that wags the dog of the comics industry. How else to explain the mutual spectacle of multiple reboots of hundred plus million dollar film franchises or their equivalent in comics shops where their featured heroes star in a dozen different titles at once?

The danger of course, is that the requirements of the film industry feed into a narrative that sometimes only exists, not in the minds of the public, but in those of editors, marketing consultants, and comic shop sales representatives making for a toxic mix that grant some comic book heroes a false cachet to the point where they inevitably become: overrated.

10) Lex Luthor

Okay, so most of you are going to say “No fair! He’s a villain!” And for the most part, that’s true. On the other hand, there have been enough scenarios in the comics (as well as in other media), especially lately, where Lex is portrayed as a super-hero (complete with Iron Man style armor) and even President of the United States, that there’s some justification for his inclusion on this list. His overrated index which has been pumped up over the years by a much ballyhooed John Byrne comics reboot in the 80s, a Superman cartoon show in the 90s, and various movies (including one made in 2006 ) that he’s become synonymous with Superman himself. And why? Well he’s a millionaire tycoon! He can buy and sell mad geniuses to invent stuff for him! And…and…he’s bald! Exactly why does Lex deserve all the attention he’s gotten over the years? Why? Is Superman’s rogues gallery cupboard as bare as all that?

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12 Signs You’ve Sought Redemption Through the Religion of Pop

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Pop culture has become as much of a religious powerhouse as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism or any other faith. Don’t believe me? Sit in a college classroom. Better yet, attend a fan convention or simply rent the film Trekkies. Films, shows, bands, comic books and their like have become, for some, sources of spiritual nourishment. Do you feel the power?

12. What was once DVR-able is now weekly appointment television.

“Appointment TV” doesn’t begin to describe your weekly ritual. All pressing engagements are pushed aside, phones are silenced, and ritual food is laid out on the coffee table to be partaken in as the ceremony commences. You still DVR the show for good measure, being sure to re-watch at least once, if not multiple times in deep study so that you may discuss the meanings of both text and subtext with fellow fans.

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How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I have been reading Barbara Oakley’s new book A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra) this week. It’s a fascinating and fun read if you want to learn math, science, or, like me, just want to improve your memory.

I was actually pretty decent at math as my father was a mathematician and I grew up learning to love numbers. However, I had no natural talent, just no fear, which is important in learning math. Oakley makes this point throughout the book as she believes most people can learn math (and science) with the right tools and mindset. She is an engineering professor who failed her way through high school math but tackled these skills as an adult. Here is more about the book:

In A Mind for Numbers, Dr. Oakley lets us in on the secrets to effectively learning math and science—secrets that even dedicated and successful students wish they’d known earlier. Contrary to popular belief, math requires creative, as well as analytical, thinking. Most people think that there’s only one way to do a problem, when in actuality, there are often a number of different solutions—you just need the creativity to see them. For example, there are more than three hundred different known proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. In short, studying a problem in a laser-focused way until you reach a solution is not an effective way to learn math. Rather, it involves taking the time to step away from a problem and allow the more relaxed and creative part of the brain to take over. A Mind for Numbers shows us that we all have what it takes to excel in math, and learning it is not as painful as some might think!

Relaxing while trying to learn math sounds counterintuitive but it works, according to the book. One of my favorite chapters is called “tools, tips, and tricks” and it gives the reader positive mental tricks to use to their advantage in learning. She tackles procrastination and gets tips from experts regarding their student, such as “No going onto the computer during their procrastination time. It’s too engrossing,” “Before procrastinating, identify the easiest homework problem,” and “Copy the equation or equations that are needed to solve the problem onto a small piece of paper and carry the paper around until they are ready to quit procrastinating and get back to work.”

All this seems to lead to being a bit more creative and perhaps a bit more relaxed. Come to think of it, the above tips would be helpful in writing a blog post except the writer has to use the computer and cannot avoid it. Anyway, the book is great and goes into more detail about how to increase your memory with metaphors and visualization. Pick it up if you want to know more about how to succeed at math and science or if you just need to improve your memory and learning ability.

*****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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The 10 Best Sherlock Holmes Mysteries

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 - by Don Sucher

What would Arthur Conan Doyle say if he could see all the fans his great “consulting detective” has today? It has been, after all, over one hundred and twenty-five years since the first of his Sherlock Holmes stories were written.  And, what’s more, that fandom is continuing to grow day by day, thanks largely to the new, exciting and inventive versions of his stories being produced on film and video.

Many of us here share in the thrill of these visual retellings of the Holmes stories, but still we insist: The very best way to get to know Sherlock Holmes is via Conan Doyle’s books, be they on the printed page or on an e-reader. And what surprises many fans who got to know Holmes “on screen” is how accessible those stories are! Fifty-six of the original stories are quite literally “short stories” — only 12 to 15 pages in length.  But within those few pages are captured, not only some of the world’s greatest mystery stories, but something even better: the persona of Sherlock Holmes himself.

Have you actually read the Sherlock Holmes stories? If not we truly encourage you to do so! Indeed we are willing to bet that if you do you will find the pages flying by so quickly that as soon as you finish one you’ll be looking to start the next.

What follows, then, is a list of the top 10 Sherlock Holmes stories. Each one is a winner. And the list goes from very good to even better all the way to what many Holmes fans think may be the very best of them all.

We are also including video snippets from each of these selected stories – some short, others a bit longer. These will give you a delightful taste for what the story contains. But remember… it is only a taste.

Happy reading!

10. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”

A befuddled old man, a lost hat and a goose. Such things hardly seem the stuff of a great mystery.  But by scrutinizing each of them, and applying pure ‘Holmesian’ logic, Sherlock is able to solve one of the most perplexing crimes of his day – and, at the same time, save the life of an innocent man.

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It’s Your Party Too — Book Plug Friday 53

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

We can't wait for our terrible twos!  You ain't seen nothing yet!

We can’t wait for our terrible twos! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

 

Book Plug Friday turns one today.  Like all toddlers, it’s mobile, running around and creating havoc.  It’s still somewhat ineffectual, but we pride ourselves in thinking that over this last year we brought to the attention of readers many fine books or entertaining reads that they would otherwise never have heard of.

And since that was all we wanted to do: to lend a little impetus on the outer fringes of the digital book revolution, little Book Plug Friday is mighty proud today.

Out there, the adults in this business are winning battles too.

We’re the barbarians at the gates of publishing, yeah, sure, and our little horses are mighty fast, but you know we’d not be half as effective, if publishing hadn’t stopped adapting and started imploding from within long before technology set us free.

The Fall of Rome is still debated. How could such an empire fall? Various theories are floated; taxes were too high, barbarians joined the army, borders became too porous, corruption and incompetence were rampant.

But I would argue that these were mitigating factors. Empires always fall for the same reason.

They stop adapting.

Adaptive Capacity is the technical term for an ecological or social system’s response to changing conditions in the environment.

A system that cannot adapt, self destructs.

Go read the whole thing.

And there are true signs of hope out there.

At a glance, we can see how each publishing path performs in the top genre categories, and we can also see how these genres compare to one another in both total revenue and market share by publishing path. This last distinction is crucial, because the old-time advice to “never self-publish” has now faded to the advice that “self-publishing only works in certain genres.”

The truth is that, regardless of which publishing path an author chooses, some genres of trade ebooks sell vastly better than others, period. Other genres languish. For Big 5 authors, Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense is by far the most lucrative genre. But you don’t hear many people assert that traditional publishing is only good for people writing sleuths. Another common refrain is that nonfiction and literary fiction are uncrackable genres for indies. But in non-fiction, self-published authors are earning 26% to the Big 5′s 35%.

It turns out that Big 5 publishers have nearly as small a portion of Romance earnings (18%) and Science Fiction & Fantasy earnings (29%) as indies have of Literary Fiction earnings (13%) and Nonfiction earnings (26%), respectively.

Here, too, we say onto thee, go read the whole thing.

There are riches in the comments there too.

 Data Guy: The short answer to your question is yes, time and schedules permitting.

I did take a brief look Historical Fiction earlier today.

Historical Fiction makes up 7% of the overall gross Kindle sales. Indie books are somewhat underrepresented in Historical Fiction today, having so far captured 10% of the unit sales and 14% of the author earnings. I’d tend to see that as an opportunity.

And you know, he’s right.  Sarah’s top performing book of the reissues (books previously traditionally published and a whole different ball game from new and original indie releases, which do better for various reasons,) is No Will But His, straight up historical fiction.  It does so well in fact, that as soon as she finds the time, she will write the rest of what she terms “dead queens.”  That is the queens of Henry VIII and possibly, time permitting the queens of the War of the Roses.  There is gold in them there hills.

And that’s the message we want you to take on this anniversary of Book Plug Friday.  Go forth and write what you will.  Try any path to sales.  You no longer need to sell to a traditional publisher, and if they don’t like your idea, you can still publish it and make money.

Set yourself free.

And send us your book plugs!

 


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Streiker’s Bride
By Robin Hardy

What would you do if you received the offer of a lifetime—marriage to a billionaire—with one catch: you had to make up your mind without ever seeing him? When lowly bank teller Adair Weiss receives such an offer from reclusive philanthropist Fletcher Streiker, she is dumbfounded and disbelieving: Why me? What does he know about me? What does he want?

Rejecting his offer would end her dream of dancing. But accepting it would change her life in ways she never guessed. . . .


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The Lost Book of Anggird
By Kyra Halland

Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony has been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. He hires Perarre Tabrano to translate books for his research, and finds his orderly existence turned upside down by his unexpected romance with her. Caught up in his new-found love and the most important work of his life, he goes too far in his search, delving into forbidden books hidden away for centuries. When the most dangerous book of all falls into the Professor’s hands, magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre flee from the authorities in search of the secret of the magica’s origins, a journey that only their growing magical powers and their love for each other will help them survive.


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A Distant Eden (Book 1 of 5)
By Lloyd Tackitt

December 2012, a massive solar storm knocks out the power grid. Three hundred million Americans are suddenly faced with a survival situation. They have no water, electricity or fuel. Food rapidly disappears from the store shelves, not to be replaced. Only three percent will survive. Those three percent will have much in common. What does it take to be one of them?


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Adrian’s War
By Lloyd Tackitt

Three years after a solar storm wiped out the power grid Adrian Hunter embarks on a journey to the mountains, determined to live and survive by utilizing his knowledge of stone age techniques. He encounters a band of raiders who attempt to take him prisoner – and Adrian’s War begins.


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The Last Falangist
By Kevin Trainor

A military history buff shares his thoughts on religion, society, science fiction, anime, and affairs of the heart.

It is both a personal book and a glimpse, at moments, into the history of “The Blogosphere.” Readers are treated to a retrospective of moments in online life–the debates that raged at various points in the 2000s and 20-teens—along with moments in the life of the author, one of the co-bloggers at the online magazine The Other McCain. As a bonus, there’s an appendix, “21 Books,” that discusses the war stories, Russian novels, Westerns, and history books that have left the most lasting imprint on Trainor’s life.

Together, the entries and essays comprise a slice of gritty reality.


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Moonstone Obsession
By Elizabeth Ellen Carter

Secrets, scandal, and passion…

Selina Rosewall had given up on love, but while helping her brother further his merchant fleet business, she meets Sir James Mitchell, Lord of Penventen. Their attraction is mutual, but what James wants from the relationship goes further—much further—than Selina could have expected. And she learns that in the world of the Ton, scandal and deceit are commonplace.

For Sir James Mitchell, Lord of Penventen, it’s hard to say which is more dangerous: being a spy or being considered husband material by the Ladies of the Ton. With political machinations threatening to draw England into the violent wake of the French Revolution, the last thing James expected was to fall in love with Selina Rosewall, daughter of an untitled seafaring family. But when James’ investigation stirs up a hornet’s nest, can he protect Selena from danger that threatens her very life?


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Men Are Pigs: And That’s A Good Thing
By Ron Sturgeon with Mark Stuertz

Entertaining and enlightening, Men are Pigs is an unabashed peek into the differences between men and women. Women (and “enlightened” men) think men are pigs because all they think about is sex. Men think women are pigheaded because they think men are nothing more than women with whiskers. In Pigs serial entrepreneur Ron Sturgeon (and PJ Media contributor Mark Stuertz) takes aim at the current orthodoxy that idealizes the feminine and maligns the masculine, and how this destroys relationships and frays the social fabric. A little naughty and packed with humor and actionable tips, Pigs offers strategies on how men can attract more women, enjoy better sex and relationships, understand the differences between men and women, and keep the fires burning hotter and longer. Though written for men by a man, Pigs offers valuable insights for women too.


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Jennifer’s Neighbors: Part One: Try This
By Lilith Revnik

Jennifer’s parents are having troubles; Sammy has lived with her stepfather since her mother died. They’ve been next-door neighbors since they were little girls, and they’re the best of best friends.

So Jennifer and Sammy are just two teen-age girls — beautiful, sexy and sexual, shy, scared, learning about themselves, what they want, what they need, what they like. One of the things they want is sex, and they’re … uninhibited about getting what they want. Intrepid explorers. It’s not always easy, but they learn a lot about themselves, and even more about the ways of the world.

[Ed. Note: This book is erotica. If you don't like erotica, don't buy it.]

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10 Reasons to Give Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a Chance

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has taken a lot of flak, even before it premiered. PJM’s own Scott Ott declared “no interest” in the series despite loving its source material. I confess to holding my own doubts regarding a superhero show without superheroes. However, unlike Ott, I was willing to give the series a chance. After watching the first season in its entirety, I’m glad I did. Here are 10 reasons to take a look at Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

10. Cinematic Action

Certain shows have come along in recent years to demonstrate that the small screen can nonetheless explode with cinematic action. Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica comes to mind, a genre show which looked better than many films from past years.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a similar case for the possibilities of televised entertainment. In essence, it’s an international spy thriller, much of which takes place in the enormous aircraft our heroes call home. The special effects, while lackluster here and there, largely do justice to their Marvel cinematic pedigree.

Now if we can just get a live-action Star Wars series, life will be good.

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MindWar: ‘A Cross Between Tron, This Present Darkness, Ender’s Game, and The Matrix.’

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 - by Andrew Klavan

500x500-v1_MindWar

Had a chance to chat in depth with Paul Cook at CBS station KMOX NewsRadio 1120 out of St. Louis. The talk ran from writing fiction to politics to my new novel MindWar, the first in a trilogy of Sci-Fi adventure novels for young adults. First reviews for the book are starting to come in over at Amazon. I like this one from Wheelsms: “It reads like a cross between Tron, This Present Darkness, Ender’s Game, and The Matrix.” Not bad.

The story centers on Rick Dial, a one time star high school quarterback who retreats into obsessive gaming after his legs are shattered in a car crash. Turns out, his gaming skills combined with his quarterback reflexes and mentality, make him the perfect candidate to fight the MindWar and he’s injected into a video game-like atmosphere where the stakes are very real and very high.

You can buy it here, and you should!

*****

cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

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10 Ways ’90s Pop Culture Destroyed the American Male

Monday, July 14th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. If guys didn’t look like heroin-addicted street dwellers…

Before committing suicide, musician Kurt Cobain copyrighted the grunge look that came to define Gen-X/millennial crossovers in the ’90s. A reaction to the preppie style made famous by ’80s yuppies, grunge involved a level of disheveled that transcended even the dirtiest of ’60s hippie looks. Grunge trademarks included wrinkled, untucked clothing complemented by greasy, knotted hair and an expression best defined as heroin chic. The style depicted an “I don’t care” attitude that took punk’s anti-authoritarian attitude to a darker, more disengaged level. Grunge became the look of resigned defeat among American males.

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The Top 10 Best Super-heroes Of All Time!

Sunday, July 13th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

Can there ever be a more incendiary topic than asking who are the best super-heroes of all time? Bar fights have been started and wars have been fought over lesser topics! Nevertheless, this writer will attempt to answer the question and then immediately duck to avoid the inevitable brickbats.

First, how to pick from among the hundreds, nay perhaps thousands, of super-heroes that have paraded across the four color page since that fateful day when Superman first sent bad guys running on the cover of Action Comics #1? I say “since” because before the debut of Superman, comics had hosted many other heroes including such stalwarts as Speed Saunders and Slam Bradley. The difference was twofold (one which we shall use subsequently to help define what is meant by the term “super-hero”): Superman had super powers and a colorful costume that couldn’t be mistaken for street clothes.

Indeed, in retrospect, it seems that it was those two points, powers and costuming, that made all the difference; not only placing Superman at the top of the super-hero heap and initiating an avalanche of colorful imitators, but granting to the lowly comic book its raison d’etre. For better or worse, the super-hero would become synonymous with comics and by the 21st century, have eliminated all other genres for dominance of the industry.

That said, what to do with all those Superman imitators? How to sort the wheat from the chaff and pick out the very best of the lot? Aside from the basics of powers and costuming, something more is needed to differentiate the best from the rest. Metes and bounds need to be established to lend some legitimacy to those choice few that’ll make the cut (and cut down on the brickbats). For that, I suggest staying power, a hero who, decade after decade, comes on and off his own title, shows up steadily in other characters’ books and adventures, and continues to capture the imagination of readers over the years; originality, qualities in the creation of the super-hero that differentiate him from all others; and iconic status, a position captured over the years above and beyond the often insular world of comics readers.

With those parameters in mind, let the brawling begin!

thor

10) Thor

Sure, there were other Thors in comics before Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came up with their own version in Journey Into Mystery #83, but none of those others had the sheer durability of Marvel’s own god of thunder. What set the character apart from those others? Like them, he had super strength, a magic hammer, and connections to Asgard. He was better looking too: gone were the traditional scraggly red hair and beard. But Marvel’s Thor had one thing more: personality. Making this otherworldly being with godlike powers the alter ego of a lame physician who couldn’t make it with his pretty office nurse granted him a sympathy to readers absent in other versions. Together, it all added up to staying power and blockbuster movie status!

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Why the Freed Tiger Sings

Friday, July 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
FREEDOM!

FREEDOM!

This is Sarah and I have a message for my friends and colleagues still trapped in and only in Traditional Publishing:

First of all, that moist stuff on the back of your neck?  I don’t care how often they tell you that, but that ain’t no gentle rain.

Look, people, you might choose to close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears, and believe that your publishers are your friends.  They’re not.

Oh, okay, perhaps a small exception can be made for Baen books, a small family run company that treats its authors like family.  The others?

They’ve made it very clear what you are.  Widgets.  Another can of beans.  Burn your career (snap of fingers.) No skin off their noses.  There are another ten saps, patsies, writers just like you in line waiting to break in.

I learned this lesson in 2003.

I first started to write when I came to the US in ’85.  It’s not the publishing industry’s fault I didn’t make it in earlier.  Oh, okay, fine, maybe it is a little, as barriers to entry had accumulated and the preferred method of selling by the time I broke in was to meet the editor and pitch in person.  It took me to ’98 to be able to do so.  One of the books (oh, heck, Darkship Thieves) I’d later publish had gone in the drawer by then because my agent (which I’d acquired by then, the first of four) didn’t want to send it out.

So in ’98 I pitched my Shakespeare trilogy on proposal. The first came out October 2001.

You might have heard of the little contretemps a month before.  I don’t know if you remember what you were doing then.  I do.  I was trying to finish the third book in the series only I was so anxious I could only work in front of the TV, with the news on.

No one was buying books. Some people might have been reading old favorites for comfort.

Of course the publishing industry knew this, right?  I mean, had to.  They are in NYC.

Of course – considering all the paeans we hear to how caring, how wonderful traditional publishing houses are – publishers accounted for this, and gave all those writers who were new and hadn’t sold any so well another chance, right?

Are you kidding me? Baby, Cold Equations and its strict calculations of mass and fuel didn’t have anything on the publishing industry. It had taken me almost twenty years to break in, hand over hand from pays in copies to penny mags, to finally professional shorts, to going to a workshop and selling my novel, to—

But you see, my book didn’t even get unpacked in most stores. It spent the entire time in a closet.  I know.  I tried to do drive by signings. And then it went back.

And at the 2003 World Fantasy, my editor attempted to fire me.  She had fired most of the people who came in that year by then.  I’ve never seen so many crying people, not even at my grandfather’s funeral.

Tried to fire me? Well, I refused to say fired, but that’s a story for another day.  For months after World Fantasy I thought I was fired, and that all the years of working and improving my craft meant nothing.  That I’d done it all for nothing, because events outside my control could kill my career forever.

Hey, readers, did you like Darkship Thieves? Consider I already had it in the drawer at that time. Imagine Baen hadn’t picked me up, and Berkley hadn’t decided they didn’t want to be left behind.  You’d never have read it.

Now think of all those Darkship Thieves, or perhaps better books, languishing in drawers.

Hey, you know who allows writers to put their work up, to let readers decide what they want to read?

Oh, that’s right, Amazon does.

Which is why SFWA is so grateful to Amazon hates Amazon with the fire of a thousand suns.

Wait, what? Isn’t SFWA supposed to be a writers organization?

Ah!  Fooled you, did they?

They’re not really, you know?  They’re an organization of the establishment and their main function is to keep the establishment going without change. Otherwise, explain to me letter the first, and letter the second, both supporting a publisher known for its numerous dirty tricks, while berating the people who would set them free.  (Or to quote my colleague Cedar Sanderson, F%$K me, SFWA, One More Time.

Oh, wait, I can explain it.  In a novel (Revolt in 2100 unless it’s the Benadryl speaking) Heinlein talks about a tiger who is set free but who still paces in the confines of imaginary bars.

Oh, yes, here it is:

“Please understand me-it is easy to be free when you have been brought up in freedom, it is not easy otherwise. A zoo tiger, escaped, will often slink back into the peace and security of his bars. If he can’t get back, they tell me he will pace back and forth within the limits of bars that are no longer there. The human mind is a tremendously complex thing; it has compartments in it that its owner himself does not suspect. I had thought that I had given my mind a thorough housecleaning already and had rid it of all the dirty superstitions I had been brought up to believe. I was learning that the ‘housecleaning’ had been no more than a matter of sweeping the dirt under the rugs-it would be years before the cleansing would be complete, before the clean air of reason blew through every room. “

Right now SFWA and those of you who agree with SFWA are that tiger. You’ve grown so used to and so comfy in your prison – treated like widgets, forced to do more and more of your publicity and even your editing, all for the princely fraction of profit you get of your books, and even in that scammed – that you’re afraid of the bars going down.  You’re afraid of being free.  Freedom is scary and cold. Or as the ever loving Grauniad  El Guardian tells us self-publishing is a reactionary activity and antithetical to community.

Oh sure, I have more colleagues I cooperate with, help and encourage than I did when I was strictly traditional, because there are no publishers playing mind games, and this is no longer a zero sum business. But never mind that.  It’s “anti-community” and you’re afraid of dying alone in the dark with no one to close your eyes. (You are aware, right, that your publisher would steal the sesterce from your eyes before you cooled. Never mind.)

Which brings us to my second point: You’re free. You’re not dependent on anyone to get your stories in front of the reading public. Whatever you want to imagine the bars are gone.

Get used to the scary now. Once you get over your fear you’ll realize you have control – real control not just doing all the work and being blamed for others’ mistakes and even for national tragedies – over your career for the first time in your life.

You’re free.  Surely you can get out of that cage at the computer and walk into your own career.

Do try. You’re letting the writer side down.

Even if you never came up against the “Writers are widgets” mentality, you are bound to, sooner or later. Because you see, in traditional publishing, you have no power. The publishers have all the power  When things get pinched, you’re out of there. They think they can replace you just like that.

Indie publishing is scary, but it’s also yours.  You do it, you take responsibility.  You reap the rewards.

I understand that freed slaves walked as far away as they could from their place of captivity, just in case someone changed his/her mind and enslaved them again.  Surely you can at least stop beating the companies that allow indie publishing long enough to start your own career.  All it requires is that you walk the road to freedom in your own mind.

Forget the Stockholm syndrome.  You’re free.  Act like it.


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Hunter’s Home
By Ellie Ferguson

They say you can never go home. That’s something CJ Reamer has long believed. So, when her father suddenly appears on her doorstep, demanding she return home to Montana to “do her duty”, she has other plans. Montana hasn’t been home for a long time, almost as long as Benjamin Franklin Reamer quit being her father. Dallas is now her home and it’s where her heart is. The only problem is her father doesn’t like taking “no” for an answer.

When her lover and mate is shot and she learns those responsible come from her birth pride and clan, CJ has no choice but to return to the home she left so long ago. At least she won’t be going alone. Clan alphas Matt and Finn Kincade aren’t about to take any risks where their friend is concerned. Nor is her mate, Rafe Walkinghorse, going to let her go without him.

Going home means digging up painful memories and family secrets. But will it also mean death – or worse – for CJ and her friends?


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Vengeance from Ashes
By Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.


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Chosen of Azara
By Kyra Halland

Juzeva: Born a princess of the beautiful land of Savaru, dedicated to the service of the magical Source Azara, she is forced to marry a man she doesn’t know for the sake of her country’s survival, and finds herself trapped in a web of evil and betrayal…

Sevry: The last king of the war-ravaged land of Savaru, he is tasked by Azara with finding the secret that his aunt Juzeva carried with her when she disappeared – the secret that will bring Savaru back to life – and finds himself hounded by evil men who want to use that secret for their own terrible purposes…

Lucie: A pampered young noblewoman, haunted by visions of a desperate man, she is unaware of her true heritage and the power she holds to restore life to a long-dead land…

Then Sevry, Savaru’s past, and Juzeva’s secret catch up with Lucie, leading her to adventure, danger, and a love that will forever change her life and the lost land of Savaru.


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Wings
By Sarah A Hoyt

From Elizabethan England to the Far Future, discover who really was Shakespeare and why Marlowe was called The Muses Darling. Discover the horrifying secret that Leonardo DaVinci found beneath a cave in his home village. In the far future, find a new way to keep Traveling, Traveling. Use cold sleep to find your love again, and join the (high tech) Magical Legion.

Seventeen short stories from Prometheus Award Winning Author, Sarah A. Hoyt. This edition features an Introduction by Dave Freer and a Bonus Short Story “With Unconfined Wings.”


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Witchfinder (Magical Empires)
By Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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Elizabeth of Vindobona: Book Three in the Colplatschki Chronicles
By Alma T.C. Boykin

All’s unfair in love and politics.

Countess Colonel Elizabeth of Vindobona has fought against Frankonia and the Turkowi, faced down a heretic traitor, evaded the romantic attentions of the emperor’s brother, and rebuilt the estate of Donatello Bend. But Court politics prove too much even for her. Sent to the far end of the Empire, Elizabeth and her allies race to save the Empire when a surprise invasion puts all else to naught. Even if she succeeds, love may prove Elizabeth’s final undoing.

Fortune favors the bold—but gunpowder settles everything.


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The Grave Artist
By Paula Lynn Johnson

“Johnson presents a believable, multilayered heroine whose narration is lively and insightful . . . The action is brisk, with a surprising but believable twist near the end. Never stilted or clumsy, this debut novel reads like the work of a far more experienced writer.” – Kirkus Reviews

16-year-old Clare can’t stop drawing the bizarre, winged skulls she calls “Sammies”. Her psychiatrist assumes the compulsive drawings are just expressions of Clare’s grief over her father abandoning her. But then Clare discovers that her Sammies are exact matches for the Death’s Head on the grave of Samantha Forsythe, a teen who reportedly fell to her death over two centuries ago.

Before long, Clare’s drawings morph into cryptic writings that urge her to uncover the truth behind Samantha’s death. Together with Neil — the friend she might be falling for — Clare scours the local history for clues. She finds that, although Samantha was engaged to a wealthy landowner, there were whispered rumors of her involvement with a younger, biracial man.

Soon, Clare is haunted by disturbing dream images — a mysterious eye, a broken chain — that point to someone Samantha called her “Dearest”. But who is Dearest? And why does Samantha need Clare to find him so badly?

Isolated and carrying hidden scars of her own, Clare fears her obsession with Samantha will threaten her sanity and safety. But it seems she has no choice in the matter . . .

The Grave Artist is a compelling paranormal murder mystery and a poignant story about loss and what it means thrive in a less-than-perfect reality.


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Cold Trap
By Jon Waskan

Economic geologist Og Rowley knows Unity well. He helped design it. He led its first science team. And upon his return home, he looked forward to reuniting with gal pal Moochy and plucky protégé Sej, who were each completing Unity missions of their own. But when word arrives that Sej has vanished, NASA sends Og back to Unity to investigate, launching him headlong into a secret battle to thwart the global aspirations of the Sino-Russian Entente. As for Moochy, well she has a secret of her own, one that could unlock the mystery of complex life and even deliver up a key to the stars … if it doesn’t cause a mass extinction first.


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What the Deaf Mute Heard
By G.D. Gearino

When ten-year-old Sammy awakens in an empty bus after an overnight trip, it’s a moment of paralyzing disorientation: He doesn’t know where he is, his mother has disappeared, and he’s surrounded by strangers.

The town is Barrington, Georgia, and Sammy grows up there — never leaving the bus station, in fact — and almost three decades pass before he speaks another word. But the man who everyone in Barrington assumes is a deaf-mute handyman reveals the town’s secrets, and in the process learns the story of his own life.

The basis for the most popular television movie in a generation (not to mention the most-watched Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation in history), “What the Deaf-Mute Heard” is a tale that stays with you long after the last page is turned.


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Slow Death in the Fast Lane
By J.W. Kerwin

On the surface, Slow Death in the Fast Lane is a wildly entertaining story about an unconventional attorney who defends a client charged with criminal tax fraud by putting the IRS and America’s tax laws on trial. But underneath the fast action, quirky characters, and outrageous courtroom stunts is a scathing indictment of a federal agency that many believe has become far too powerful.

Although a work of fiction, the book reveals a number of IRS practices, including a little known sting operation targeting small businesses.

In the particularly entertaining chapter, “Dean Wormer must be running the IRS,” an expert witness uses the “double secret probation” scene from National Lampoon’s Animal House to explain why the Internal Revenue Code violates constitutionally mandated due process requirements.


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The Mystery of the Dying Woman
By Paul Leone

London, 1888 AD. Zillah Harvey came to the city to make a better living than the country could offer… but a brutal encounter on the streets of Whitechapel opens doorways to a new and sinister world. The first in an occasional series of Victorian occult detective stories.


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Trail of Second Chances
By Paul Duffau

A high-octane adventure on a wild Montana mountain as one girl finds herself racing for her life against a malignant fire. It should have been the highlight of the summer, a training camp for elite runners in the mountains of Montana. Coached by her father, and frustrated by his efforts to hold her back, Becca Hawthorne dreams of competing in the Olympics. She earned her chance to test herself against the best runners in the Pacific Northwest. But now she faces a tougher opponent than even the fastest girl. An action-filled roller coaster ride that keeps you turning the pages as the fire creeps closer.

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Want to Get Rich? Buy a Walgreens

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I am reading a book by Tom Wheelwright called Tax-Free Wealth: How to Build Massive Wealth by Permanently Lowering Your Taxes (Rich Dad Advisors) and trying to figure out how to reduce taxes. Many of the strategies are a bit too complicated and risky for many people, including myself.

For example, in chapter nineteen on “The Magic of Real Estate,” the author suggests that you find a Walgreens to buy. You buy Walgreens property, they find the land, build the building, sell the land and building to the investor, and lease them back for 30 years. Okay, so now, you as the investor pay the mortgage. Then Walgreens sends you a check that you deposit in your account. “So you don’t have to do anything. You travel all over the world with the investment income for your Walgreen’s property til a ripe old age.”

The next paragraph goes into how one can use depreciation deductions to further shelter your taxes. All this “sounds” easy, right? Wrong, not to me anyway. You need accountants that are hard to get in touch with, constant documentation, and tax planning that sounds pretty complicated. In addition, I thought there was a depreciation recapture which means some of the money will have to be paid back at some point if you sell it. It sounds like a headache. And what if Walgreens goes bankrupt? What do you do then? Books like these always make it sound like nothing will go wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, the book is good, interesting and makes some good points about how to save on taxes but dealing with so many professionals, their costs and all of the accounting really sounds time consuming and if time is money, as the book mentions, aren’t you just trading one form of work for another?

If you have some simple tax saving strategies, please share them below (legal ones please!).

*****

cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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The 10 Most Interesting Superhero Alter Egos

Monday, July 7th, 2014 - by Pierre Comtois

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What’s a superhero without a secret identity? A common sense question because they can’t be super-heroes all the time, right? Well, if you go by what you see at the local cineplex, you could be excused for thinking that super-heroing is the only thing super-heroes do. Granted, the possession of a secret ID seems to be divided along Marvel/DC lines with Superman and Batman upholding the tradition (flimsy as it seems to be what with any of the heroes’ girlfriends able to penetrate it at a the drop of a hat) and Marvel’s characters abstaining. (Although there too, if one of their characters has an alter ego, he’s more likely to give the secret away to a female admirer than not).

So with the vast number of people now familiar with these characters via the big and small screens now trained not to think of the necessity of a secret identity, it behooves us to revisit just why super-heroes needed secret identities to begin with. And beginning with means going back to the beginning, namely the golden age of pulp heroes, the prose universe of superheroes that preceded the four color comics page with characters like The Shadow, The Spider, and the Phantom Detective all of whom operated outside the law or feared for loved ones who might become targets of the super-villains and gangsters they warred against.

That tradition, like many others from the pulp era, was transferred lock, stock, and barrel to comics when Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster first introduced Superman to a waiting world and instantly created an archetype that endless numbers of similarly caped heroes would be patterned after. And although they would take from Supes the idea of a secret identity, ironically it was reversed for the Man of Steel whose real identity was that of Superman not the invented Clark Kent!

Be that as it may, secret identities became a staple of comics heroes if only as a springboard for endless complications involving its protection against discovery often with the seeming object of making any connection between the hero and the man as unlikely as possible. In addition, unlike the aforementioned pulp heroes whose occupations were simply being independently wealthy, our beleaguered comic book heroes usually had to earn a living when out of costume. Thus, our list of the top ten most interesting occupations/alter egos/private lives in the four color world (secret or otherwise)!

Consumer warning: The following list is based on traditional versions of the heroes, the versions that comics companies have returned to time and again and more often than not television and film have used as well. Editorial upheavals at Marvel (reboots and alternate versions of its continuity) and DC (the New 52) in recent years have made characters’ current back stories uncertain to say the least.

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The Declaration of Independents

Saturday, July 5th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

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“When in the course of human events….”

The funny thing about revolutions is that they don’t stop, even though there are always Tories who think things would be better done The Old Way. These words, 238 years ago, started a revolution that goes on today — a revolution of people who asserted their right to their own life, liberty and property.

For all the halting and inconsistent progress, this revolution continues — this week, there were demonstrations in Hong Kong demanding greater political freedom. In the Anglophone West, the revolutions are smaller, but happen every day: cell phones making us independent of the old Ma Bell, and independent even of wires; the Internet letting us contact people world wide in real time; the World Wide Web becoming the platform from which we do business with everyone from major corporations to a small-time craftsperson on e-Bay.

One of those revolutions is the e-publishing revolution: now we get our music, our news, and increasingly our books in the form of bits transferred over the Internet. In some ways, perhaps, the most exciting part of this revolution is the e-book publishing revolution: through Amazon (primarily) and the Kindle platform (again primarily) it has become possible for a writer to publish a book and make it available to an international audience without needing a publisher, or the limited and expensive resource of a printing plant and a distribution network.

(See, this is a Book Plug Friday column, even though it’s probably Saturday when you see it because that’s the way Thursday and Friday went; and this is Charlie, by the way. If you listen closely you can probably hear Sarah struggling against her bonds in the background.)

Even better than being able to be published, the e-book revolution has made it possible for writers to make a living by getting published, with everything from 99¢ thrillers to porn to science-fictional series that would be wrist-breaking volumes in physical realization.

This is really new, and as Sarah has been detailing for the last year, it’s causing consternation and dislocations that have been amazing to behold. Fiction had become, really, pretty limited — personally, I blame the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and MFA programs. We have been learning to see “good fiction” as approved fiction, and the approvers increasingly have seen themselves as an Elite, the Guardians of Proper Literature, with the Right Attitudes and the Politically Appropriate Opinions.

It hasn’t been quick, but it’s been amazingly thorough, and while it went on, we saw the death of many markets, especially for short fiction. The funny thing was that when there was a market for short fiction, it was publishing Hornblower, and Heinlein, and Agatha Christie — writers and characters we still read today. But as it became necessary to write serious IWW fiction to get published, it also became harder and harder to pay for a fiction magazine. By the time I was first trying to write fiction, there were probably at most a dozen commercial magazines that still published fiction, and usually one short story a month.

Strangest thing though — if you looked at the magazine stand, down a couple racks and to the left, there were another two dozen or more monthly “true confession” magazines that had pretty immense circulation. But they weren’t “serious” fiction, just as the pulps weren’t “serious” fiction. What they were is emotionally involving, mimetic, and cathartic. Basically, Aristotle would recognize true confessions and pulp as good art. The IWW literati would say those were boring old clichés and not good art at all — and this recent generation would ask if there were enough women, gays, people “of color”, and transgendered people, and whether the author was from an under-represented group.

All that has changed because of the possibility of publishing independently through Amazon, and the Boston-New York Literature Mavens don’t like it. People are writing, and sometimes writing wonderfully well, the fiction that Aristotle would recognize, and they’re selling it too.

The big publishers, and the literature Tories, don’t like it. They’re like everyone to stay in proper line and read what’s good for us.

The ability to publish without their permission that comes from ebook publishing is a Declaration of independence, a revolt against another aristocracy that knows what’s good for us.


I wanted to correct something from my piece last week. Since it was published, I was contacted by a source, an industry insider with some knowledge of the big publisher contracts with Amazon. It appears that the big publishers do indeed manage to get the 70 percent royalty from Amazon, even when their books are outside the Kindle Direct guidelines.

Here’s the kicker, though: they pay the same royalty to the author (assuming they report ebook sales honestly, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) So, if a publisher sells a book for $30 in hardcover, they get something like $15 for it, out of which they have to pay for the printing, shipping, warehousing, and so on. Then they pay the author something like $3.

If they sell the ebook for $13, they get $9.10 from Amazon. It costs them effectively nothing on the margin to “print” or “warehouse” the book. They still pay the author $3.


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CRIMSON
By Warren Fahy 

Voyage into an enchanted world in this epic fantasy of adventure and romance as a young king with god-like powers inherits a kingdom and a curse: what he loves most will be his doom. How he decides to fight his fate will endanger his entire kingdom, unite him with his true love in another world, and launch a desperate voyage across a sea of seething monsters and fearsome illusions that will test the will of an intrepid crew of mariners and determine the fate of their world forever. Get ready for an epic fantasy like no other in CRIMSON by Warren Fahy, author of the New York Times bestseller FRAGMENT and PANDEMONIUM.


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Extendedcompanion
By William Krasinski 

Breakthrough technology is great, until you live long enough to become obsolete. Wilek and the other ABC Captains have successfully handled this over the past century, but a resurgent Earth jealousy eying the Off Worlds will soon put the hype to the test. Add to the mix an unasked for new crew ‘mate’, salty recruits and a happy bio, Captain Wilek may reach his last good nerve long before Earth.


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Au Pair Girl
By Judy Klass 

Janine Larson’s parents don’t like her spending her summer hanging out with her boyfriend and her ditsy friends. To teach her responsibility, they get her a job taking care of the kids of a rich, unpleasant doctor and his wife in their summer island home. Janine wins over the small boy, but not the creepy little girl. Janine tries to see the rotten job through, and wonders if she is paranoid about some things . . . When the doctor and his wife realize she has discovered their unsavory, criminal secrets, her cell phone disappears. That night, they chase her around the island, trying to kill her.


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The Morning Which Breaks (Loralynn Kennakris #2)
By Jordan Leah Hunter & Owen R. O’Neill 

For eight years, Kris was the property of a brutal slaver captain. Now she’s free and a cadet at the League’s military academy. All she brings to this new life is a unique set of skills, a profound ignorance of ‘civilized’ society, and a large chip on her shoulder.

But Kris isn’t quite sure what to make of the Academy, and the Academy isn’t at all sure what to make of her. The medical staff thinks she’s homicidal, her fellow cadets think she’s crazy, and her instructors don’t know what to think.

So when she’s approached about helping capture a terrorist warlord, she’s more than happy to leave the halls of academia behind for awhile. Kris knows she’s not signing up for any pleasure cruise. What she doesn’t know is that the key to the mission’s success is reliving her very worst nightmare .

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5 Deep Books For Overcoming Our Addiction to Idol Worship

Sunday, June 29th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Over at the PJ Tatler last week I unveiled my newest e-book size, giant list post: “30 Books For Defeating Valerie Jarrett’s Cult of Political Criminals.”

I organized the list into eight different sections by either theme or author, the second to last being a subject I’ve been preoccupied with perhaps more than all the others the past few years: “5 on cults, idol worship, and the origins of religion.” Here are numbers 21 through 25. I intend to eventually do a much longer, more in depth list devoted specifically to this subject. What other books do you think I should include? I’m now taking suggestions… Also related from earlier this month for those looking for more: ”Is God a Noun or a Verb? 6 Great Books Introducing Jewish Mysticism

"Idolatry comes from the way in which an image is worshiped, and not from the image itself." Leora Batnitzky, page 23 of Idolatry and Representation: the #Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered. #God #Religion #Bible #Judaism

21. and 22. Idolatry and Representation: The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig Reconsidered by Leora Batnitzky and The Star of Redemption by Franz Rosenzweig

From PJ Media columnist David P. Goldman‘s articles and books I’ve developed a fascination with Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig. This book provides accessible insight into a core component of his thought very much of relevance to those wanting to better understand and overcome the powerful personality cults dominating America today. Leora Batnitzky focuses the discussion of Rosenzweig on idolatry, the primitive religious practice Judaism evolved against. For Rosenzweig idolatry is not based in the images or in the “foreign” customs of competing religions. It’s based in an incorrect apprehension of how to worship. Rosenzweig argues that the postmodernist, Nietzchean, truth-is-relative philosopher engages in the same practice as the ancient idolaters, self-worship, from page 47:

"Rosenzweig's suggestion is that the point-of-view philosopher's worldview is one of self-worship." - page 47 of Leora Batnitzky's fantastic #Idolatry and Representation: The #Philosophy of #FranzRosenzweig Reconsidered

Once I finish reading Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed this year it’ll be time to focus on The Star of Redemption. As Goldman’s first essay book demonstrates, Rosenzweig’s ideas provide piercing analysis of our culture today…

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