Music in Books

by Joshua C. Chadd

Music is my life. Ever since I was little I‘ve always loved music. In middle school I received my first iPod and I was on cloud 9! I could finally take all those CDs and put them on one device to listen to! It was mind blowing!!! Thinking back to that fat iPod classic makes me feel old, things have changed so much since then and I’m only 26! Back then, while doing homework, I’d listen to music to focus and now I listen to music as I write. It’s almost impossible for me to write without it. It gets me pumped when the scene in a book is ramping up or it can bring me to tears writing the death of a character.

Onto the real question: How do I take that love of music and put it into my books?

If you’ve read any of my Brother’s Creed series then you already know the answer to that. I have my characters listen to music. James and Connor are two brothers that learn about the apocalypse and so they do what any smart person would do. They get all their gear, load up in a truck, and head out on a road trip and like on any good road trip, they make an epic playlist: the Apocalyptic Road Trip playlist! Throughout my books these characters are listening to music as they drive across a ravaged America. But they don’t just listen to any music; it’s mostly zombie themed rock music of course. I mean it’s the end of the world, what else would you listen to but heavy metal and rock?

For me as an author this was not only fun, but it helped set the mood in some of the scenes. Most people will just read the title of the song in the books and move on. But those that stop and look up the lyrics to the songs (which I would put in the books if it wasn’t against Copyright law), they will see that the songs are actually woven into the story and scenes, not just thrown in. The songs add depth to what the characters are feeling and going through in the moment. This is how it is in real life. How many of you have a song you listen to when you’re sad? How about one when you’re angry? Happy? To focus? To workout and pump yourself up? I know I do.

See, music is a lot like writing. They are both forms of art. They help convey a meaning, concept, feeling, etc. So of course that means they work very well together. Want an example? Here’s an excerpt from my newest book, Wolf Pack:

“James couldn’t help but laugh. The situation was far from humorous, but he laughed anyway, and it felt good. Their friends were in grave danger—in fact, they were all in danger. Still, he needed to remember to live in each moment; otherwise, what kind of existence would that be? As the laughter quieted, James realized his brother was right—again. Everyone made their own choices. It was Tank’s choice to follow them, not his and not his brother’s. He couldn’t take that choice away from Tank and claim responsibility for his actions. That was up to him alone. Just like Peter and the group had decided to follow them. They’d made their choice, and even though it’d cost some their lives, it had been their choice to make. James still felt somewhat responsible. He always would, but it couldn’t all be on him. That kind of responsibility would break him. He had enough troubles to deal with as it was and he didn’t need to add to them.

I guess it’s time we decide where to go,” Connor said.

Yeah, I don’t wanna be a sittin’ chicken,” Tank said, smiling.

Let’s head back toward Sheridan and take the first exit east. Find a house out there to set up in until we figure out what to do,” James said.

Sounds like a plan,” Tank said, stepping on the gas and turning the Hummer around.

Cold by Five Finger Death Punch played through the speakers as the empty bus disappeared into the darkness behind them. James left some of his guilt with that bus. The rest he would carry with him until the day he died.”

Now, if you just read that and move on, then the song probably isn’t very impactful. But let’s take a second and look at the lyrics to Cold by Five Finger Death Punch:

I’m gazing upward, a world I can’t embrace

There’s only thorns and splinters, venom in my veins

It’s okay to cry out, when it’s driving you insane

But somehow someday, I’ll have to face the pain

It’s all gone cold…

But no one wants the blame

It’s all so wrong…

But who am I, who am I to say?

My heart’s an endless winter filled with rage

I’m looking forward to forgetting yesterday

It’s all gone cold…

And no one wants to change

It’s all so wrong…

But no one wants the blame”

I don’t know about you but when I listen to that song it makes me feel sad, angry, and hopeless. A perfect fit for how James is feeling right then. It’s awesome to take something that is auditory and put it into a book and have it be almost as impactful as listening to it. So, long story short, I love music and it is not only part of my writing process but something I include in my books when I can. Now, I will just have to try and figure out how to put rock music in a fantasy series… maybe I’ll just have to make it GameLit and then have the character listen to it while he plays. That’d work, right?

Anyway I hope you enjoyed my little rant. If you’d like to see exactly how I did this in my stories you can check out my books on Amazon.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Brothers-Creed-2-Book/dp/B073HGF2YK/

Also if you’d like to listen to the full song Cold by Five Finger Death Punch you can here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM22MM8xgfQ

From my desk to you,

Joshua C. Chadd

The “What if” Aspect of Science That Makes Science Fiction So Powerful

by Stephanie Barr

I have a love-love relationship with science in science fiction. I love speculative fiction and can be very forgiving of fantasy elements like telepathy and shape-shifting sneak in, for instance, because, who knows? But, if you’re cruising along at three-quarters the speed of light and the engine goes out, so you stop, I’ll be tempted to throw your book across the room.

I’m a physicist and rocket scientist so there are certain things that set me off. Lack of the basic understanding of classical physics and orbital mechanics is one (I still haven’t recovered from Gravity, see other blog posts if you want my ranting [http://rockets-r-us.blogspot.com/2013/11/party-pooper-gravity-part-3.html]), but, you know, there’s a universe of science we haven’t learned yet. We’re barely scraping the surface and anyone can write a good tale using the science we know and speculating the science we don’t.

I love to see things taken to the next step in science fiction, books where the implications of potential breakthroughs in science and engineering have an impact on society—because they do—and that’s part and parcel of the story. I want characters shaped by their new reality and who are proactive enough to have their own hand in shaping what comes next. I want have my notion of what sentient life really is challenged.

Science is more than what we know—though I prefer it if what we know of science is not trampled on like Grandma’s petunias in a flag football match—it’s what if. Every science breakthrough of note has started with that. What if this bacteria died in the petri dish because it was contaminated with mold – could the mold kill bacteria? What if the reason this dairy maid has been missed in several smallpox epidemics was because she’s been exposed to cowpox? What if we could harness the forces that hold atoms together? What if we could tame the forces that power the sun?

That’s all past but there are an endless number of questions we haven’t really answered yet, not the least of which is, what if we’re wrong about this or that accepted aspect of science as we know it? What if a society grew as advanced as ours but without electronics as we know it, having instead, biologically grown computers and electronics, or no metal alloys as we use but grown crystal structures? What if autism is a harbinger of the next level of intellectual development? Our limited understanding of the intricacies of it might mask a level of understanding beyond our current understanding.

What if we conquer faster-than-light travel only to find that our first explorations make us look threatening to existing space-faring cultures? What if we never find our way out of the solar system before disaster strikes? What if the solution we find is the last thing we ever expected?

I don’t expect we’ll know the answers any time soon, but there are whole galaxies of possibilities to explore to try to find out the answers. Many are out there now in various books, for all of us to find and delight in, to make us wonder.

To encourage us to play, “What if?”


Brief Bio

My name is Stephanie Barr and I write books, fantasy and science fiction and combinations thereof. A lot of them. I’m also a rocket scientist, raising my two autistic children as a single mother, and herd a bunch of cats. I have three blogs, which are sporadically updated: Rocket Scientist, Rockets and Dragons, and The Unlikely Otaku. Anything else even vaguely interesting about me can be found in my writing since I put a little bit of myself in everything I write.

Exploration With Synced Audio

by Chris Turner

In 2014, I started sequencing original SFF to audio using the Booktrack free studio tool, and it offered up a unique, creative experience. I was amazed at how the placement of some well-crafted audio, synced by word, sentence or paragraph could make a story come alive—in the same way a soundtrack makes a movie come alive.

Adding sound effects to a story builds up the suspense, the mystery, just as adding theme tracks underlines moods of humour, tragedy, horror, romance.

These enhancements add a whole new dimension to a reader’s experience. Readers can adjust the playback speed to taste and have a running cursor word by word. Pausing the booktrack and pulling down the gear box settings allows several options. The booktrack audio library includes thousands of clips, allowing designers to create richly layered soundtracks to their stories, as one would expect in professionally-mastered movies.

Some authors have sequenced whole books to audio, others have sequenced selected chapters, serving as teasers to their ebooks. Some well known authors such as Hugh Howey and JF Penn have worked with booktrack to put their novels to audio. Give them a read.

The Timelost, my most recent production, is a gritty, dystopian foray into the macabre, featuring visceral alien battles and edge-of-the-seat SF audio in a Star Wars meets Alien thriller. The Timelost marks my 25th text-and-audio creation, drawing on the wide variety of sound clips from the Booktrack audio library.


At an early age Chris’s parents encouraged him to play several musical instruments, mainly to keep him out of trouble. He began composing his own music, writing short stories, painting, thus developing a deep appreciation for the masters of music, literature and art. An avid traveller, he backpacked and mountain-biked through exotic countries in Asia and Europe, often undertaking some risky journeys solo, many of which fuelled his imagination and became a source for his adventure stories.

The Apocalyptic Timeline – How Close to the End Do You Like It?

by Phil Williams

A story’s timing in relation to an apocalypse, for me, says a lot about the nature of that story, and why we want to read it. Broadly speaking, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction tends to fit three rough areas – stories surrounding the apocalypse, those in the near post-apocalyptic future and those in the far post-apocalyptic future. So what does each periods offer?

The Apocalypse Itself

The stories depicting an apocalypse could cover almost any large-scale disaster or war story. What lumps a book in with the apocalyptic genre, though, is the scale of destruction caused. When enough damage is done that the world will never be the same. The best apocalyptic fiction is about something capable of destroying everything. More crucially, it’s about what can survive something capable of destroying everything. These stories are the domain of unrelenting action and adventure. They’re also the stomping ground of romances surviving against the odds – or tragically being cut short. They’re even an area of existential musing – looking at the inevitability of death. Zombie fiction like World War Z provide adventurous or horror examples, while more literary approaches like The Age of Miracles use the apocalypse in parallel to coming of age. Many stories in this field also take us right through to the aftermath – Stephen King’s The Stand is classic in this respect, and one that perhaps belongs in both the first and second category.

The Near Post-Apocalypse

In the immediate aftermath of an apocalypse, we’re still obsessing over what survives – though we shift towards how life goes on. The near post-apocalypse is concerned with how we start again, which can either be with hope and original ideas or, more commonly, with barbaric fighting for survival. The near post-apocalypse, more than anything, tends to be the time when the world is least populated, so it’s the ideal place for stories of loneliness and the importance of individuals or small groups. It’s a great area for stories that celebrate ordinary people being forced into becoming special by their circumstances. It’s also a great change to ask what we would do if our world lost its rules. Books like Day of the Triffids, The Road or I Am Legend are tremendous examples that touch on all these ideas.

The Far Post-Apocalypse

Post-apocalyptic fiction set in the far future, long after a disaster, may be more generally associated with dystopian stories than ones about the apocalypse. This is a realm of creative and unusual ideas – essentially sci-fi or fantasy with the barest roots in the world we know. It’s also where you find sweeping societal ideas – if stories about the apocalypse judge the current world, the far apocalyptic future is often used to ask questions of what could emerge if things were completely different. A Canticle for Lebowitz, for example, spans centuries – while Riddley Walker, the book I most frequently recommend in this area, completely reimagines language. Many examples only loosely use the old world disaster to explain the rise of a dystopia (my own Estalia series included). It’s an area where we can explore our fantasies of regression, in contrast to the science fiction that assumes we’ll continue to advance.

Whatever the timeframe, of course, good apocalyptic fiction depends on its characters. That’s what we really want from all apocalyptic fiction – a look at how extraordinary circumstances impact interesting characters. Whether we’re looking at the end of all things, the start of something new or surviving in a dystopian civilisation, it’s being able to relate to these stories that makes them successful. For each of their purposes, they help us question how we behave and survive right now.


Phil Williams is an author of dystopian and contemporary fantasy fiction, whose work includes the post-apocalyptic Estalia series and the urban fantasy Ordshaw series. Find out more about him at: www.phil-williams.co.uk

Talking With Lizzie Borden

by C.A. Verstraete

Vogue Magazine has an interesting question-answer format it does called 73 Questions where it asks celebrities questions on video, while giving a glimpse of their home. It’s an interesting exercise, so I decided to share some questions I have for a famous person, namely Lizzie Borden. (And if you’re interested, Lizzie’s home, Maplecroft, which she bought after the trial ended in 1893, is up for sale. Interior photos can be found on Google or see http://www.insidethemagic.net/2017/09/lizzie-bordens-maplecroft-home-sale-fully-decorated-ready-ghost-hunting/.)

Why Lizzie? Well, if you could travel back in time wouldn’t you want to know the answer to that burning question: Did She or Didn’t She? (You can read more about the crime at my website, http://www.cverstraete.com/lizzie-borden-murders.html.)

Ironically, when she was on trial for the murders of her father, Andrew Borden, and stepmother, Abby Durfee Borden, Lizzie was portrayed as being far from a fashion doyenne, with one newspaper even calling her “a plain old maid.” (No matter what, that had to hurt.)

There have been some new insights into Lizzie’s character published by historians at the Fall River Historical Society, but other than the few letters and the still-enduring skipping rope rhyme that Lizzie Borden took an axe, mystery still surrounds the real persona of Lizzie Borden.

So, let’s see what she might say if interviewed…

* Eight Questions for Lizzie Borden *

1. ARE YOU AFRAID OF ANYTHING?

I used to be afraid of being alone. I’ve gone past that. I realize there are much worse things to be afraid of and that sometimes those really bad dreams can seep into real life.

2. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PASTIME?

I like to read, but I especially enjoy going to the theater. I would say it takes a special talent to be able to make words on a page come to life.

3. THAT LEADS ME TO ASK, WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FAMOUS PERSON?

If I am still thinking of the theater, then I do admire the stage actress Nance O’Neil. She is a wonderful actress and also a very nice person.

4. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE GREATEST INVENTION OF YOUR TIME?

I admit I haven’t been keeping up with all the news. I’ve been staying away from newspapers lately, which was hard to do. I so like to be informed. If I had to pick one thing, it might be the telephone. Amazing thing that is, and so helpful.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN SOME HARSH THINGS WRITTEN AND SAID ABOUT YOU. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I think no matter what I would say, people will think what they will, rightly or wrongly. I will say I’m not the person they make me out to be.

6. DO YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS?

That is an odd question. Don’t we all have something we regret?

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ROOM AT HOME?

I do enjoy sitting out on my porch in the summer. It’s pleasant hearing the birds sing and sitting quietly with the dog, a good book in hand.

8. WHAT IS THE BEST GIFT YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

My freedom.

I think that’s as many questions as I’d like to answer now, if you please. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. – Lizzie Borden


* C.A. (Christine) Verstraete is the author of the books, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter and The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. Learn more at her website, http://cverstraete.com or visit her blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com.

A Reader to Know

by R.R. Virdi

You readers are the lifeblood of authors, comic creators, and the literary arts overall. Understanding you and your tastes is just as paramount as understanding what we, the writers, yearn for. We want to make art, we want our voices to be heard and, we want to entertain you! It’s a trifecta. It’s not about us. We’re not ego-driven monsters.

Well…not all of us. I can’t speak for everyone. There’s always that one person somewhere, isn’t there?

But, this relationship hinges on understanding what authors can do for you, the readers. How can we make our words and spin our stories in a way that you enjoy them as we do?

This isn’t saying we’re going to change our voices and suddenly start writing what you want and what we don’t. No. But there are sweet spots. It’s true. This is a craft as much as it’s an art and a calling. There’s a science, practice, to this medium. That involves knowing you.

This isn’t aimed at getting down to the specifics of what exactly you want. It’s a piece to make you respond, to consider, and share. It’s about wanting to see how broad and diverse the readership of the world is. Some people like gripping, challenging, complex pieces that toe the lines of morality, personal issues, and push you to new limits of introspection. Some people love things that are reminiscent of the pulps: high action, fun, tropes run abound (not a bad thing if you do it right), hyper competent characters, maybe a degree (quite possibly a large one) of wish-fulfillment.

Everyone is different. Tastes vary and that’s a good thing. It creates an endlessly open market for authors of all walks of life to flourish in. But we need your help, readers. Talk to us, to me. Tell us: what do you crave?

What makes you want to keep turning the pages and invest in us?

Do you love something that may not be an action packed thriller all the time, but might make you lean back, reflect, wonder about your life and the lives of the characters? Do you want something heavier on the action and pacing, no reprieve, wonderful magic, lore, fights? Do you want some semblance of blend?

Since the advent of self-publishing, we’ve seen countless works flood the market. This is wonderful. We’re seeing the resurgence of the pulps across the SFF genres. We’re seeing people playing with things, twisting and making new genres, things never done before. So, what about you?

Where do you fall?

Do you choose by genre? If so, where do you fall? Do obsessively read everything published in those certain genres? Do you have a type you like to read: more action, less complexity, give me a fun, fast, popcorn read now! Or, do you want something that might slow, might twist and turn, explore things you’re uncertain about? Neither is wrong, and so long as you walk out happy, you’re right!

What is it about stories that keep you invested? Are you driven by fun, strong, broken, complex, or wish-fulfillment characters? Do you not care if they come out a little flat and you’re more interested in a gripping plot, a winding shocker of a maze that leaves you surprised by the turns, regardless of the character going through it? Does none of that matter and complete bore could lead you through an endlessly magical world, lush with lore and magic, an epic quest that takes you along for quite the ride? Blends of those? None of those? Are you into hard science and math? Do you need a problem in a hard sci fi, that with enough numbers and clues, you yourself could solve before the story is over? What do you need? What do you want?

Tell us.

Writing is fluid. So is language. And, believe it or not, so are tastes. What are some of yours? Comment below.

The World of The Children of Clay

by Ono Ekeh

The Children of Clay series is about a god, Queen Nouei, who is desperate for the respect of the other god in this world, Ryna. The series begins with the Queen declaring her intent to travel back in time, by reincarnating as a young woman, Bridget Blade. Her goal is to rewrite a few thousand years of history in two weeks (her time) to prevent her humiliation at the hands of the worshippers of Ryna.

The world of CoC series is very similar to ours. Queen Nouei is a god in a dystopian future, a couple of thousand years from the present. The world for much of the story, when she reincarnates, is the contemporary world. But if you look closely enough, you’ll see it is a very different world.

First, I should note that Ryna is the creator. But Nouei has done something ingenious. She has splintered Ryna’s world into millions of parallel worlds. Each world is indexed to different probability distributions. What does that mean?

In Icon of Clay, the third book of the series, Sister Kaypore explains the general idea. She asks Khzir Khan, what would be the probability of flipping a fair coin to get heads or tails. Khzir responds, “70-30”–a clue that this world is different. What this means is that if you flipped a fair coin a million times, you would get heads/tails seventy percent of the time and the other, thirty percent of the time. This is a 70-30 world. Which means the physics differs slightly from ours and the people are a little different.

The series begins with someone from the world of 100% probability index coming through to the world of zero-probabilities. I try to capture the uniqueness of the personality types of these separate worlds. The series, though moves quickly to the 70-30 world and that’s where most of the story will take place.

In terms of geography and culture, the countries are similar, there is a United States, China, France, etc. However, the history of the world is different, because in this world, there are two gods that are worshipped. At this point, Nouei/Bridget is not even on the radar as a god. Ryna is the god who’s been worshipped for millennia now, and in the past five hundred years, a new god has arisen, called Thysia. Ryna is a blood thirsty god in contrast to Thysia. So the series will see the decline of the worship of Ryna, whom the reader knows to be the actual true god.

Science and religion have no conflict in this world. In a 70-30 world, the people are more apt to be sure of themselves than not. For us, much of the conflicts between science and religion have to do with the degree to which evidence justifies belief in anything. In the world of this book, evidence functions differently. It is not necessarily a precursor to belief. So one does not need evidence to believe which means that there aren’t the sort of competing authorities claiming to be the source of knowledge.

The science and technology in this world is comparable to ours. In Books 4, 5, and 6, which are all partially written, we’ll see some significant technological differences, especially with autonomous vehicles and the infrastructure for such in place. The mathematics and physics differ from ours. I don’t address the physics much, but in Book 4, I hope to talk about the mathematics of the world a little more.

The series in the later books will move far into the future and there I’ll have to figure out how to create a highly sophisticated technological world in a dystopian context with its limited resources.

So this is the world of The Children of Clay series. I hope you’ve found it interesting.

Book Buyer’s Remorse: How to Not Hate Yourself

by Richard Parry

We’ve all been there. A book arrives on our Kindle/Kobo/iDevice, credit card already creaking from the strain of holiday shopping, and we think, Well, hot damn, but this book sucks.

At this point, it’s either suicide or push through, right?

The thing is, we also know how you got there. There are two paths.

  1. Recommendations from a friend. I tend to whitelist or blacklist my friends. One of my buddies kept pointing me at the most atrocious trash, with shills like, “This is the best thing I’ve ever read!” He’s been voted off the island, but I needed to burn a little time to get there. That’s no fun. One person’s gold is another person’s … you get the idea.
  2. Also-boughts by your retailer. Let’s be clear here: only about half the people in the world vote the way you do. Stands to reason only about half their recommendations are worthwhile. You can troll through these for the diamond in the rough, but if people’s views on Justin Bieber or their choices in interior decorating are anything to go by, most people have terrible taste. You do you.

Let’s see if we can build a sensible system for making clever purchases. I have a 5-step program that will save you time, money, and sanity. What’s not to like?

The Cover

You’ve been told before to never judge a book by a cover.

This is wrong. All your life, people have lied to you. This is just one of those times. Pick yourself up, move on. Along with the lies about potpourri making rooms smell better? The mighty falsehood of covers being a bad marker of book quality.

There are a lot of reasons to judge a book by its cover, but the main one is this: if it’s got a cover that a five-year-old did in MS Paint, odds are good a similar production quality has been applied to the rest of the book. You don’t have time to wade through bad editing, clumsy prose, and poor font choices.

If the cover looks clumsy, roll on by. Don’t know what I mean by a bad book cover? Well, I’m here to help.

[Hilariously Bad Book Covers] [Kindle Cover Disasters]

Star Ratings

Social proof is important. It’s difficult (not impossible, but tricky) to scam a bunch of reviews on popular retailers like Amazon. There are two tests you need to do here.

  • [Time in the Oven] If the book has fewer than ten reviews and is more than a couple months old, it’s likely a significant number of people bounced off it. Pull the ripcord, friend, and be free.
  • [Pure Gold] If the overall star rating is below 4 for an author-published book or below 3 for a traditionally-published book, it’s probably bad. This isn’t a hard and fast rule; the longer the book’s been alive, the more likely review scores will trend down (as writing evolves, ideas and approaches can appear stale or archaic after a while). But if it’s a new-ish release where even the advance readers gave it three stars? Run.

This isn’t to say that reviews are the be-all and end-all, but they’re useful. Scalzi has run the One-Star Challenge, showing that even Hugo winners get doused with kerosene and set alight.

[One-Star Roundup] [Accepting the One-Star Challenge] [One-Star Review Challenge]

Blurb

Read it. Seriously.

Blurbs tell you a bunch of things, but mostly they’ll tell you whether the story is interesting. Blurbs follow a formula that can be applied from epic fantasy through to food memoirs.

  • Character intro (just one, two at the most, not twelve). You should see a name and something about them.
  • The “Awww, hell no” thing that’s going on. This should be clear! If it’s a book about aliens, it will mention aliens.
  • What the character has to do to fix it. If this is some complicated snakes-and-ladders story about the protagonist and their twelve friends, the book is likely more confused than the blurb.
  • What happens if they don’t fix it. I’ve read a bunch of books where there was no real consequence. Friends, stories without consequence are boring.

Okay, I admit: maybe food memoirs don’t follow that exact formula, but fiction tends to. Signs of a confused story are too many characters, unclear goals, lack of consequence, and no agency for the protagonist. If you can check that list off, the book likely has a good story structure.

Review Quick Check

You thought we were done with reviews because I said, “Stars.” But we’re not. Stars are a broad-brush stroke, but they don’t dive into the heart of all issues.

We’ve all got trigger points. Maybe we don’t like books with a long time to payoff (I don’t want to read 800 pages of a 900-page book to get to the ‘good part’). Sometimes books have protagonists that are scum and kinda boring to boot (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are an epic fantasy about a jerk who should have been euthanized in the first part of the first book). Maybe the book is a mix of eleventy-billion genres (really, an orphan, who uses magic, in outer space, against aliens? Oh, and it’s a post-apocalyptic romance).

Whatever your triggers are, look for people in the reviews commenting on ‘em. If you’re past the first two checks, this is worth your time, because despite what the blurb and excerpt might tell you, others have waded through to mine the real gold in them there hills.

I skim a bunch of four- and two- star reviews. It takes about thirty seconds to pull out my trigger points. If I don’t see ‘em, we’re almost there.

Almost.

Dollar Threshold

This is the last trap. I remember a cry of pure rage from my wife, who had bought a new release from Neil Gaiman for about a hundred dollars, only to find it was a novella that she finished before dinner.

What you want to have in your own head is what length is worth to you. If you’re gonna drop a bunch of gold bullion on your latest read, it needs to give you value for your time.

Check the length of the book. If it feels expensive for the length, then wait for a sale.

Despite this, I’d also encourage against absolutes, which is why this part is last. I’ve read short books that changed my life that I got for a couple bucks. I’ve read long books that weren’t expensive yet left me wanting to core out my skull with a sand blaster. Use the previous weightings to define how you feel about the particular book you’re considering.

Once you’ve passed all the tests, you may use your retailer’s preview system (e.g., Look Inside), or just go buy it. Your odds of hitting buyer’s remorse should be next to zero. You’re welcome.

About Richard Parry

Richard is the author of the Night’s Champion trilogy, the Tyche’s Journey trilogy, and a huge liar.

His latest Tyche’s Journey trilogy is a space opera where sword-wielding blaster-shooting heroes save not just Earth, but the entire universe through action scenes and clever dialogue.

You can find his Internet empire at http://www.mondegreen.co.

Author Interview: LC Champlin

What genre do you write?

I like a lot of genres, so I tend to blend them when I write. My current book series is sci-fi, action-adventure, dystopian, thriller. There are creatures like zombies in it, but they’re not really zombies in the classical sense, so while I classify it as zombie fiction, it’s not your average hack- and-slash zombie series. The thriller-genre elements like the ticking clock and the web of intrigue surrounding the outbreak make the story appealing to more than just zombie fans.

Is dystopian and zombie apocalypse (zompoc) really sci-fi?

That depends. I think it’s subjective, but if you focus more on the science end rather than just gore and scary zombie attacks, it falls into sci-fi rather than horror.

Why do you write?

Well it’s certainly not to pay the bills! The series I’m writing now, I’m writing because I had a story I wanted to tell. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, and that’s fine. I think as a writer, there are primarily two reasons to write. One is you are trying to write the next hit. Two is that you’re writing a story you would like to hear and would like other people to hear.

When I write, I can make worlds how I like. Of course, it’s easier to base the story’s world in reality, the present day, and America, since that’s what I’m familiar with. As a writer, I have full control of what my worlds do. I just don’t have full control of what my characters do!

That’s another good reason to write: to see what your characters will do, how they’ll react in situations, and who they will become. I don’t know many authors who have a story and characters planned out from the get-go, then follow that plan to the letter. Even if they do, it’s after the plot outline went through a lot of evolution. When I write, it’s almost like I’m reading someone else’s book. Except I’m the one in charge of making sure everything makes sense, so I can’t take the easy way out and read the end!

What genres do you read?

I used to read primarily fantasy. But somewhere along the way, probably around when I was in college and didn’t have time to read anything but textbooks, I lost a lot of interest in the sword and sorcery genre. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I still love the classics, such as Dragonlance and Lord of the Ring, but I prefer sci-fi. While I will read some “space sci-fi” from time to time if the characters are the source of the plot (“space opera”), rather than the tech (“hard sci-fi”), it’s not my real love. I like stories set on Earth, preferably close to the present day. It’s interesting to see how the world could be different, even in small ways. I like dystopian sci-fi as well. It shows where the world could go if left to the dark side. Then again, what we call dystopian, most of the world calls every-day life.

How likely is it that the zombie apocalypse could happen?

Depends what you mean! If you mean walking dead — as in animated corpses, not the series — then not likely. Scientifically it would be difficult to have a corpse behave in the way zombies do. While you can make muscles contract with electrical stimulation, they won’t do so indefinitely. But if you mean is there technology or organisms or medications out there that could turn people into a zombie, of course. Illicit substances already do it, just look at drugs such as Flakka. Certain brain injuries can reduce people to zombie-like behavior. And I have no doubt that at some point, scientists will invent a device that can control how the brain operates.

Bio

Writer, traveler, adventurer, prepper. Lover of all things Geek and Dark. INTJ. I write the Wolves of the Apocalypse series.

I write fiction because the characters in my head have too much attitude to stay in my skull, I want to see the world through different eyes, and I want to live life through different souls.

Ghosts in Fiction

by C.A. Verstraete

Ghosts aren’t just for Halloween.

In fact in fiction, they continue to be popular characters for both their real and un-real actions. While some books with ghostly or paranormal elements are often called “woo-woo” books, that doesn’t mean the story or characters are any less intriguing than their more “solid” counterparts.

For fun, here are some ghostly books and authors for your reading pleasure:

1. Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series is a great read for its ghosts and paranormal elements. In this addicting series, the FBI team has “special” abilities to see, hear and interact with the dead. Okay, maybe these ghosts sometimes are “talkier” or can do things you wouldn’t expect, but the stories are enjoyable enough that I, at least, am willing to go with it.

2. For ghostly elements, you can’t beat Sherlock Holmes, of course. Who can forget the gripping terror of that phantom dog howling in The Hound of the Baskervilles?

3. You can’t beat stories from classic authors like Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and others for the best ghostly thrills. This collection of Classic Ghost Stories has enough chills to keep you shivering all night.

4. I remember being hooked on the Nancy Drew books. Add in a few ghosts as in The Ghost of Blackwood Hall (#25, 1948) and you had a mystery that kept you reading to the end. There also are newer versions now with Nancy and friends investigating in The Nancy Drew Diaries and collections of short stories for ghost-loving young readers.

5. Once again, I’m going back to one of the classics. The Haunting of Hill House remains one of the classics for its spookiness. After all, what’s a ghost story without that creepy house watching you?


C.A. (Christine) Verstraete is the author of The Haunting of Dr. Bowen and Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. Learn more at http://www.cverstraete.com or visit her blog, http://girlzombieauthors.blogspot.com.