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Reading: Half a King

Why on Earth did it take me so long to crack open a Joe Abercrombie novel?

I burned through Half a King in two days, reeling and obsessed.

A “fast-paced tale of betrayal and revenge,” as George R.R. Martin puts it on the cover, this fantasy novel is swift, dark, subtle, cunning, and brutal.

Half a King tells the story of Yarvi, second son of the king of Gettland, who was born with a crippled left hand. With half a hand and the scorn of his family, he feels like half a man, and is stunned when the murder of his father and older brother shift him unexpectedly onto the throne.

If half a man can’t even stand up to his peers or hold his own in a fight, how can he expect to rule a kingdom?

Yarvi resents the position his kin’s untimely death has put him in. No one around him seems to think him remotely capable of doing the job, least of all himself. But that’s just the start of his journey. When a quest for vengeance takes an unexpected turn, Yarvi must first prove himself worthy before he can claim his birthright.

I highly recommend this one if you like medieval fantasy, or stories of vikings, or reading about ruthless cultures steeped in war. Read this one if you’re a student of human nature, because the characterization is spectacular.

I don’t know why it took me so long to read a Joe Abercrombie novel, but I’ll definitely be returning to his world soon.


Like my reading recommendations? Buy Half a King on Amazon and support this blog and Joe’s books at the same time (through Amazon’s affiliate program).

Last chance at two free SFF book giveaways

Greetings, goblins and gremlins!

It’s been another day in the word mines for yours truly, with not much news to share, so I’m choosing to take this blessed moment of calm to remind you that this is the last opportunity to receive six free ebooks, and enter to win two different bundles of paperbacks for your home library.

One offers prizes in multiple packages, all awesome indie books, all signed by the authors.

The other is a collection of 52 bestselling paperback books from the top science fiction and fantasy authors working today.

And as always, both are great ways to discover new authors you may fall in love with.

Honestly, you can’t go wrong. But be sure to read the terms and walk in with both eyes open. As with everything in life.

Last week for both giveaways. Don’t wait!

Happy binge reading.

SciFiBridge.com – Fall Sci-Fi Signed Book Giveaway

www.SciFiBridge.com

Sci-Fi Bridge Signed Book Giveaway

SFFBookBonanza.com – Ultimate Paperback Giveaway

Enter to win 52 sci-fi & fantasy paperbacks! Escape to another world for an entire year and enjoy this whopping collection of novels, from classics and bestsellers to new reads.

SFFBookBonanza.com – 52 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Paperbacks

The path of discipline

The other day I wrote about how creativity is not a well that can be emptied, or which diminishes over time. It’s more like a muscle that gets stronger with exercise.

I was talking about writing. But sometimes coincidence packs a hell of a punch. I fired up my podcasts app yesterday and saw that Jocko Willink, decorated Navy Seal, was guest hosting The Tim Ferriss show.

The topic? Discipline.

He has a new book out called Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual. One section talks about the “psychological win over the enemy” that a person gains from waking up early, which leads him to the topic of discipline.

This is what he says…

“Now, some scientists have claimed that discipline dissipates the more it is used—that willpower is a finite resource that is reduced every time it is used during the day.

This is wrong. That does not happen.

To the contrary, I believe, and studies have shown, that discipline and willpower do not go down as they are called into action—they actually get stronger.”

Could it be that discipline and creativity are the same that way? They get stronger, better, smarter, the more you use them? The more you work at it?

This makes sense to me. Creativity, especially regular writing output over a long period of time, certainly requires discipline. It can be hard. It calls up fear. It demands sacrifice. Creativity and discipline are the same that way.

Willink goes on for a while about this. Then he warns the reader away from the downside…

“Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Once you step off the path [of discipline], you tend to stray far. When you don’t prepare what you need to do the ne

xt day, when you sleep in and then skip your workout and you don’t start attacking the tasks you have—because you didn’t write them down the night before—that is when you make bad decisions. That is when your will and discipline fail. You figure you might as well have that donut for breakfast and once you have done that, might as well put down four or five pieces of pizza for lunch. It doesn’t matter anymore—you’re off the path and that is a disaster. Your will didn’t break—it never showed up in the first place.

So. Get on the path of discipline and stay on the path.

Discipline begets discipline.

Will propagates MORE WILL.

Hold the line across the line and victory will be yours.”

Willink’s words inspired me so much I actually got up early this morning and exercised. That’s why sleep is calling me at 9:21pm on a Saturday. So I’m going to head to sleep.If you’re still awake for a while longer, you can listen to the man read the words himself on Tim’s show. He is inspiring.

Reading: The Traveler

I picked up this high tech thriller a few weeks ago. Started reading tonight.

The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. Published 2005 by Vintage Books.

Good solid opening chapter, a training scene combined with a betrayal. Our hero, Maya, reminds me of the skateboarder in Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash, a fearless young woman. Danger obviously lurks around the corner. And it’s exceptional, because Maya has been prepared for it in a perfectly believable way.

The voice is stark and cyberpunky and occasionally sarcastic. I’m into it. This is what the talking heads said (from the back cover):

“A cyber 1984…page-turningly swift, with a cliff-hanger ending.” —The New York Times

“A fearless, brilliant action heroine; a secret history of the world; a tale of brother against brother… and nonstop action as the forces of good and evil battle it out.” —The Times-Pocayune

Those are good blurbs.

*takes notes*

Anyway, reading is always a relaxing way to end a night. Are you reading anything good tonight?

What I’m Reading, Oct. 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.

Autumnal Equinox Sci-Fi Extravaganza

Every once in a while, I’m lucky enough to get involved with these big giveaways where new readers can find a bunch of great sci-fi novels to sample for free.

Today, the Autumnal Equinox Sci-Fi Extravaganza went live. It’s only good from today through October 8th, so head over there and grab any story that looks interesting to you.

As for myself, I’ve been working on Translocator 3. Wrote 1700 new words yesterday, and another 1000 new words today—it’s been a productive weekend.

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.

Scrivener Superpowers Reaches 100 Reviews

I’m a big fan of celebrating the little things when it comes to writing and the indie publishing business. It can be a tough gig, and wins like this are usually a long time coming. So it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate it.

Scrivener Superpowers, my nonfiction software how-to guide to the popular writing software, Scrivener, reached 100 reviews today. My first book to do so, and with a 4.6 star average no less!

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Nothing special happens when you reach 100 reviews. No fanfare, no parties, no champagne. But it’s still kind of cool. Three figure reviews show a certain amount of trust in a book. It’s a general indicator of quality. So in addition to the emails and messages I get about the book (hi, folks! You’re awesome), this is further proof to me that the book was worth writing.

Huge giveaway of signed science fiction paperbacks

I’m involved with this incredibly massive signed paperback giveaway over at Sci-Fi Bridge. They’ve got such an amazing deal going on right now I can hardly believe it myself, and it just seems a crime not to share it.

The giveaways SFB does are particularly special because everyone is a winner. Those who sign up will get these 6 ebooks straight away, no strings attached (and you can unsubscribe from the list whenever you please, although I don’t know why you would).

A little bit about each of the free books currently being offered, with links to Amazon* and author pages if you’re curious to find out more about a particular one.

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Earth Alone by Daniel Arenson – If you loved Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, and Old Man’s War, you’ll love Earthrise, a new military science fiction series. From a USA Today bestselling author.

Dark Space by Jasper T. Scott – Ten years ago the Sythians invaded the galaxy with one goal: to wipe out the human race. Now the survivors are hiding in the last human sector of the galaxy: Dark Space–once a place of exile for criminals, now the last refuge of mankind.

Ambassador 1 by Patty Jansen – “A Matt Damon political thriller meets Total Recall action with Avatar otherworldliness.” –Ditmar Award winning author Zena Shapter

The Future Chronicles – This Future Chronicles Special Edition volume is a compendium of stories selected from the Chronicles’ standalone titles, and includes five new stories, never before published, from some of today’s best writers in speculative fiction.

The Galapagos Incident by Felix R. Savage – The Galapagos Incident is the first book of the Sol System Renegades series, an action-packed near-future space opera series perfect for fans of The Expanse, the science fiction of Neal Stephenson, and character-centric hard sci-fi.

Earth-Last Sanctuary by Christian Kallias – When the evil Obsidian Empire delivers a deathblow against the Star Alliance, fighter pilot Lieutenant Chase Athanatos leads a band of scattered survivors to the farthest reaches of the known universe, to a little planet called Earth.

As for the winners

As for the actual signed paperback prizes, of which my novel The Auriga Project is one, six lucky winners will receive these gifts…

  • 1 Winner will receive 25+ Signed Space Opera/Exploration/First Contact Books.
  • 1 Winner will receive 25+ Signed Dystopian/Post Apolcayptic/Time-Travel Books
  • 1 Winner will receive 15+ Signed Military Sci-fi/Space Marine Books
  • 1 Winner will receive a Brand New Kindle Fire 7
  • 2 Winners will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card

This will be live until the end of October, but it won’t last forever. Good luck!

sfb-signed-paperback-giveaway

* Links to books are affiliate links, which means if you do decide to buy a copy I get a few pennies as a referral fee. That money goes to supporting my writing, so I thank you kindly.

Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard: A Post-Apocalyptic Story

My post-apocalyptic novelette Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard is now available as an ebook!

Originally published in a monster anthology back in the Spring, this is the first time the story is available by itself—and it’s only $0.99. Here’s the blurb:

Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard

Low Desert, High Mountain, Big Lizard: A Post-Apocalyptic StoryA basilisk barks and chases boulders across the desert.

Has the thing lost its blinking mind?

As a scavenger, Das is no stranger to the beautiful and deadly alien creatures the invaders left behind. He’s always careful, like his father taught him, when he’s exploring the ruins. But this is unlike anything he’s ever seen.

Putting himself at risk is one thing…but imperil the lives of the people he loves? Unthinkable. When the mad basilisk goes on a rampage, it’s up to Das to prove himself worthy of his father’s memory, and find a way to put the brute out of its misery before it hurts anyone else.

Buy on Amazon  Buy on iBooks, Nook, or Kobo