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Recommended Reading List: October 2017

What have I been reading lately? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a list of all the good science fiction/fantasy books and stories I’ve read over the last few months.

Originally, I had it set in my mind that I would be doing blog posts for each book, but I’ve come to realize that this is an unrealistic expectation. Plus, I read a lot of short stories because I love the format. So I’m going to experiment with this roundup format instead—the focus, as ever with me, is science fiction and fantasy books and short stories.

(Psst, links to books are affiliate links, which means I get a few cents if you end up buying one or two. Thanks for the tip!)

October Recommended Reading

Legionnaire by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole

A military science fiction tale fashioned after the Star Wars universe. The book has been described as “stormtroopers in Afghanistan,” which is not an inaccurate description—the story follows a company of Legionnaire’s (as they’re called in this world) who are incomparable shots with a blaster rifle and wear smart battle suits that protect them while they battle rebels on behalf of the (often incompetent) Empire.

But to just describe the book as Star Wars-inspired doesn’t do this particular story justice. Seeing what these men go through, living through their particular experience of combat, manages to be both emotional and endearing. It had me alternately laughing and choked up as they face death with a sense of humor.

Cole and Anspach have since released three more books in this series, so If you’re a fan of Star Wars, you’re bound to love it. Subtle (and some not-so-subtle) nods at the history of the original SW trilogy will have long-time fans chuckling and cheering them along.

Nomad by Matthew Mather

I originally thought of this one as a purely scientific apocalypse story. What’s most incredible is all the legwork Mather did to set up a very realistic hard science apocalypse using real-life astronomy. The story is good, too. Our main character is a climber and adrenaline junky (easy for yours truly to relate, let me tell you), who is on a vacation in Rome with her mother when the world turns upside down.

Or maybe upside down is the wrong expression. When the world explodes might be better. I don’t want to ruin it, but if you like hard sci-fi, books like The Martian, or Thrillers with a sci-fi bent, then check this one out.

“The Key” by Isaac Asimov

I found this sci-fi mystery short story in a paper copy of The Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction: 16th Series. I love Asimov’s short stories, and a large chunk of what he wrote uses the mystery structure with his typical science fiction slant. The best part was when the detectives found a secret code, and they interpreted it as corresponding to the names of the moon’s craters, which, it turns out, were named after a lot of ancient astronomers who believed the Earth was the center of the universe.

It was a fun mystery that held up well though more than 50 years has passed since it was written. No buy link for this one because I can’t find an ebook on Amazon that has it. Wikipedia tells me you can find it in The Best Mysteries of Isaac Asimov, a collection of his stories.

“Passerby” by Larry Niven

Another great sci-fi short stories from the 1960s, I read this in the Galaxy from September 1969. I’ll admit here that this is the first Larry Niven story I’ve read, and I was definitely not disappointed. The story is built around a metaphor, and a frame story to boot, so the writer in me was absolutely delighted. A peoplewatcher in a park meets a “rammer” (a space man) who has returned to Earth from a journey through the stars where he encountered a mysterious golden celestial being who walks among the stars. It’s one of those stories that makes you stop to reflect.

There’s an audible version for less than $2 here and or in a collection called All The Myriad Ways  (audio and mass market paperback only).

Why they don’t print these things as individual ebooks is beyond me.

The next few days I’ll be on vacation, so the blog will probably revert to short posts—hopefully with photos! New England is beautiful in the autumn.

Behold! My paperback to read pile

I spent a little time this afternoon reorganizing the bookshelves in our house! Since we bought a new bookshelf for the office, we’ve finally got enough shelf space for ALL the books,

I put all the genres together and got the books into (mostly) alphabetic order. This time, one section of the got pulled out: my paperback “to read” shelf.

These are all the books I’ve been meaning to read. Anything look good to you? (Let me know in the comments).

This doesn’t include my digital to read pile, of course. I’ve got a dozen books on my Kindle in various states of unread. But that’s not important!

The rest of my evening was spent watching the X-Files and turning a new story into an ebook. Make Like The Roaches And Survive should be available soon.

I noticed tonight how much I’ve managed to streamline my post-production process, which is great because less time publishing and marketing means more time for me to focus on writing a good blurb and working on the next story.

Still have to write the blurb for this one, but I think I’ve got a good place to start. You can tell me how I did when it’s out in a few days 🙂

How two vintage pulp sci-fi books landed in my lap

Spent the last 24 hours visiting with a good friend, Jacen, who was in town from Colorado Springs for a work thing. He only had a little time to hang out before heading back home, but even so I think it’s safe to say we did Austin right: we started with whisky tastings and eventually made our way into the wine bar last night, and then had breakfast tacos to sober us back up this morning. Thanks for visiting, Jacen!

As luck would have it, we found ourselves with some extra time to kill before his flight took off, so we stopped by an art gallery on the east side called the Recspec Gallery. It’s in a converted warehouse along with three or four other small galleries and it was great fun to see all the cool art they had. The Austin Book Arts Center also has a workshop in there (they do book binding classes and book restoration work).

Recspec also happened to have a very small display of science fiction magazines and anthologies from the 1960s. Now, that’s just up my alley. Imagine my delight to find the September 1969 issue of Galaxy Magazine with Dr. Menzel’s martians on the cover. Apparently he sent these doodles out to friends and the originals are “highly prized.” Fun to have a book cover featuring those same sketches.

And The Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction: 16th Series, first published in 1965.

Both books are in beautiful condition, with only a little normal wear from reading and time. The vanilla old book smell is strong, and the art is beautiful. You see those details in the eyeballs of the anthology? Maybe I’ll do a giveaway to pass these two treasured volumes on…or maybe I’ll hang onto them. I love the art, and it’s fun to have original stories from Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Dr. Menzel, and Larry Niven. I’m gonna start by reading a few today.

The Alien Element is here

It's my pleasure to announce that The Alien Element, my pulse-pounding, throat-grabbing, ancient alien-having science fiction novel, is now available! This is the second book in the Translocator Trilogy.

The Alien Element

The Alien Element by M.G. HerronEarth is endangered by an ancient source of power…The Alien Element is here.

On Kakul, Rakulo scours the Wall for a way to free his people from centuries of subjugation. On Earth, Eliana searches Mayan ruins for clues to the origins of Kakul, and Amon is brought under investigation when an intruder in the lab is murdered.

The intruder seemed to be after the carbonado, a powerful black meteorite that caused the Translocator to glitch and stranded Eliana on that other world. Although the motives of those who sent him remain obscured, his disfigured body says all that Amon needs to hear.

Rakulo’s mission, Eliana’s search, and Amon’s troubles collide when the god known as Xucha steals the carbonado and uses its power to entangle the destinies of the two worlds.

This sets off a chain of events that drive Eliana back to Kakul, where she begins to unravel an ancient alien mystery.

"WOW! What a second book! The character development is amazing!" –John J. Knight, Amazon Reviewer

"Action packed sci-fi book with a wonderful storyline. Switching back and forth between locations lets you get a good feel for the similarities and differences between them and the mythology the story is based on is very rich." –Cleocutie, Amazon Reviewer

"This series is full of surprises, smooth to read, and definitely hard to set down. Highly recommended if you enjoy a good read." –Vickie, Amazon Reviewer

Buy on Amazon US  Buy on Amazon UK  Buy on Amazon CA

The $0.99 cent launch sale on The Alien Element will last through August 5th, and which point the book will go up to its regular price of $2.99. Grab it while the sale lasts!

Print readers can get a paperback copy here.

Reading: The Prometheus Project

The Prometheus Project by Steve White (Science fiction, 2005)

I loved the cover, so I bought it. More proof that good covers sell books. Never heard of Steve White before, just exploring sci-fi based on artwork and concepts that appeal to me.

The Prometheus Project opens with a scene where the newly elected president meets the sitting president to discuss the transfer of power. There’s a lot of smoldering enmity. After the banter, the sitting president says, there’s something you need to know…we’ve already made contact. Aliens exist. And now you must safeguard this secret.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I read this right after Trump’s uncanny inauguration, so of course it was top of mind for me — but the roles are reversed here. The democrat in this book is the newly elected president, the opposite of the most recent US election, but the roles could easily have been reversed. It gave me some perspective. Two parties are like two sides of the same coin in American politics. I couldn’t help but imagine Obama telling Trump about the aliens.

Just picture the look on his face.

Anyway, from there, the story hops back to 1963. Private security agent Bob Devaney was escorting a mysterious woman named Novak to the White House when they were ambushed by gunmen. When Novak uses an invisibility cloak to make an impossible escape, she gets ready to terminate Devaney for knowing too much—until her boss orders her to bring him into the fold instead.

Devaney is then recruited for The Prometheus Project—the white-labeled men in black. What follows is a rollicking adventure woven into a star-traversing journey. The man is valuable for his action hero abilities (so he thinks), but he’s there on the request of the mysterious and infrequently seen Mr. Inconnu.

You can tell this book was inspired by mid-century sci-fi classics, but it’s written in a modern voice I found compelling. A familiar story, but the character relationships kept it interesting and new for me. I always love to see authors invent new societies and cultures, and then put confused humans there to see how they’ll cope. My kind of fiction.

The Prometheus Project is worth the read if you like aliens and action in your sci-fi. What happens to the President-Elect at the end will make you laugh.

Copyedits in for The Alien Element

Yesterday afternoon, my editor got back in touch with copyedits for The Alien Element. Right on schedule!

I hustled to get them all entered today. This is a simple but slow process where I take the changes back in to Scrivener, which I’ll use to produce the ebook version.

It was after dinner, nearly 11pm before I was done. Then I went out for a long walk to stretch my stiff back and legs.

A solid day. Tiring, but productive. Good to know I can do copyedits (and some minor revisions) for a full length novel in a day.

Tomorrow I’ll format the ebook and get it out to ARC readers. If you’re on my ARC list, look for an email in the next day or so! If you want to read this book early in exchange for an honest review, get in touch with me by email or leave a comment here.

Teasers for the book are starting to come out, too. Read Chapter 1 of The Alien Element on the blog there.

In the home stretch now!

Reading: The City and The Stars

The City and The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke. Science fiction, 1956.

I’m still on a kick to catch up on the mid-century masters of science fiction—stuff that, by choice or by chance, I’ve never been exposed to. When I saw this one in Half Price Books with the awesome cover I had to have it.

Appropriately aged, don’t you think? 

It took me a while to read this book, and even longer to write about it. It’s good. I just needed time to let it all sink in. 

Here’s the thing. It starts slow. A billion years has passed and Clarke is painstakingly laying out for you reader how society has changed in all that time—a time your brain can hardly quantify.

It takes some getting used to. But there’s a pace shift about a quarter of the way through that will absolutely blow your mind.

Once exposed, the sheer scale of the concept that powers this book is impressive. This is a high concept novel. Relatively short in length, but on a massive scale.

What’s most astonishing is how well the story has aged. Technology has advanced considerably since Clarke wrote this and his vision of the far-future society remains perfectly plausible if we look at it from today—again, that scale.

It almost feels like the story is more relevant today than it was when he wrote it. Some of the language is very mid-century, but if you can get past that, I think you might like this science fiction epic, The City and The Stars.

Bonuses! Artwork! June 13th!

I accomplished a ton of writing and book marketing stuff today, so I am exhausted, but I’m not tired because my mind keeps revving on all the cool art and bonus material I’ve put together for the upcoming launch of the complete Tales of the Republic.

That’s all seven episodes collected into a 400+ page book. A dangerous adventure filled with resistance fighters and scheming politicians between two matte covers.

If you buy the book when it launches on June 13th, you’ll also get all this great stuff with it:

  • A mech sketch
  • Character sketches of Po, Ari, and Ming
  • A desktop wallpaper of the cover
  • A deleted scene from the book

I’m still looking for ARC (Advanced Review Copy) readers. If you like reading and reviewing books early, get at me.

Finally, I’ll being giving away signed paperbacks during launch week—maybe a few other things. So keep an eye out! June 13th!

The second to last episode of Tales of the Republic out now

Episode 6 of my dangerous dystopian thriller, Tales of the Republic, came to life yesterday. It’s called Early Warning and it’s the second to last episode in the series.

Here’s a little teaser…

First, the print cover spread for the print-on-demand version.

Then the opening chapter of this episode…

Episode 6, Chapter 1
Click to embiggen

This is one of my favorite episodes of the series for many reasons, most of which have to do with the urchin communication network that Po recruits, and the return of Noura, as she takes on a new role and helps Po on her mission because she believes in her.

You can buy Episode 6: Early Warning on Kindle now. The print version is on its way and will be available shortly.

The final episode to complete the series will be out in a couple more weeks. It all comes together in Episode 7: Killer Cause, on May 10th. The last stand. The final battle. Who will survive? What price must be paid to save the Republic, and who will pay it?

• • •

So what’s next?

About a month after the TOTR episodes are all out, I’ve got some fun plans for launching the complete novel that include bonus goodies like a deleted scene and some wallpapers and a chance to get a signed copy in the mail. Still trying to think of what else to give away that might be fun, maybe do a few readings on Facebook.

I’m also in the process of recruiting an army of ARC readers, people who will help me launch books by reading early and leaving honest, timely reviews. Email me or leave a comment here if that sounds interesting to you, and I’ll add you to the list personally.

I’ll be posting the good photos from my trip to Portland soon. But first I have some work to do on Translocator 2. Recently crested 40k words and I don’t want to lost that momentum.