Review: Ride the Star Wind

rideI’ve always been a little skeptical of anthologies. I did a convention this week and my table mate sold out of his anthology while I nearly sold out of mine. With the quality of production and content on the rise, it’s easy to see how anthologies like Ride the Star Wind are changing opinions.

Ride the Star Wind is definitely the best anthology I’ve reviewed (and I’m very picky with anthologies over here at Inside the Inkwell.) I don’t say that lightly. I haven’t yet read every story, but that’s because I’m savoring it. These guys at Broken Eye Books nailed everything about the Lovecraftian mythos and it feels amazing.

I was a little concerned at first when I saw a preview of the cover art. A lot of great popmetal and metalcore bands were doing art like this (it’s almost a nu-ratfink) ten years ago and it exploded. The problem was that so many artists were merely doing copycat pieces to make a few bucks without really embracing the weirdness of it. By this I mean that it fits a certain mold and when you look at it up close it loses something. But not this one. This art is amazing! Everything on the cover is spot-on (I recommend getting the paperback for sure, everything from the finish and feel of the book to the fonts and color.) Seriously, I’d hang this as a poster in my mancave next to my Imax floor to ceiling Logan movie poster. The interior illustrations are also right on the money, even in black and white and the little touches like the Elder Sign paragraph breaks and the story title blocks preserves the feel of the book.

As far as stories and content, the feel is awesome. There are good stories in here! (I’m not going into specifics because it is an anthology and it will vary from piece to piece.) H.P. Lovecraft didn’t write novels; a huge swath of his work was limited in word count and wouldn’t even be considered a novelette. That said, those who really know Lovecraft will feel like this book is a big heaping pile of authentic cosmic horror, and in all the best ways possible.

I know the paperback looks a little expensive if you’ve bought anthologies before—but don’t let that fool you… this isn’t like others. It’s roughly two and a half times the size of the last antho I picked up, so you’re getting at least an equal value on it (and this comes from a guy who hates spending more than twenty bucks on a book.)

I did receive my copy for free in exchange for an honest review. You’ll have to pay for yours, but if you’re into the genre, I have a feeling that you won’t regret it. You can check it out by clicking here!

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the Indie Author’s Bible

So I accidentally published my Tuesday review on a Monday by mistake. I guess I’m all over the map this week–so why not throw in an extra post?

My how-to/DIY guide for Indie authors is finally out–pick up a copy today!

“I’m writing a novel… what are the steps?”
“My masterpiece is finished—where do I go now?”
“My fantasy series doesn’t fit in with any mainstream publisher—how do I self-publish and do it right?”
These are the sorts of questions we answer, and more!

IB

You wrote a book and need help breaking in? Need to know more about Indie and Traditional publishing models? Want a guided process to get your seeing your book in print?
This is the book for you!

——-

This book will show you how to get your manuscript independently published at zero cost, provided you can do the hard work required–you can be as successful as you want to be. This book cover topics such us:Step by step roadmap to getting in print

  • •How to get your book into Audible
    •How to spot predatory publishers/services
    •How to format your interior copy
    •Where to get free art for covers
    •How to get carried on bookstore shelves
    •Wasteful practices to avoid
    •Guide to meeting professional standards
    •How to create ebook & paperback coupons
    •The importance of reviews
    •Best practices for self-editing
    •And so much more…

The Indie world is a jungle and there are few well-beaten paths—and unlike you’d expect, even some of those well-beaten paths end in spike pits, too. If you want to navigate it safely, you might find a guide… like this book. This is a practical book with step-by-step advice to guide any writer through becoming an Indie author. It also covers some of the “why” aspects and peeks beneath the scenes showing failures, successes, inside information, and encouragement for the ultimate do-it-yourselfer.

GET YOUR COPY FROM AMAZON

Review: Kinglet

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I didn’t know anything about Donna Migliaccio (or her publisher, Fiery Seas Publishing) or The Gemeta Stone books that she writes. I stumbled on them quite accidentally while chatting about nonrelated items on a forum over at Absolute Write and Migliaccio was kind enough to send me a review copy for my Inside the Inkwell blog.

Comparatively speaking it felt like a splendid mix of RA Salvatore and Christopher Paolini. Whereas Salvatore can read stylistically like a fantasy version of Stephen King (for all the pros and cons there) Paolini can sometimes keep on point and keep it short—perhaps to a fault. Migliaccio’s writing is a good mix and keeps the story moving nicely but the worldbuilding feels more smooth and established, like Salvatore.

It had some elements that give it a YA feel, but also some that seemed more like it targeted a mainstream market; by that I mean there is a kind of coming of age in the characters as they discover their inner strengths and overcome Daazna (who is a real jerk—so that’s a good bit of characterization by the author.) That said, general lovers of fantasy would be a good fit for Kinglet and the upcoming sequel in the Gemeta Stone series.

Click here to get a copy of Kinglet for yourself!

Review: Sparkle

sparkleI recently read Sparkle by Arin Kambitsis at his request for a review on my blog. I might’ve mostly said yes because I thought his name was cool (and I first read it in my mind as Eren—the main character from Attack on Titan.) Anyways, I’m glad I read it (the author shot me a free review copy).

I thought Sparkle an odd name, but it made more sense once you start reading. Sparkle is the ironic name of the town where the story takes place. Similar to Arkham, MA or Twin Peaks, OR Sparkle is a normal place… up until it isn’t.

Derek’s quest to defeat the Bunyine (which is the great, mysterious evil of this book) begins with a journal and an adventure into the woods. He picks up a crew of other adventurers as the pages turn… after all, an old man in a cave once told us “It’s dangerous to go alone…”

The cryptic setting gave me a feeling like a modern day Dunwich Horror, although the antagonist is less force of cosmic horror and more voracious, calculating evil (like the creature from It.) The familial thread of the Windward family in the story kept reminding me of the Whatley’s from Lovecraft’s mythos… and that’s alright—it certainly adds an element of timeless mystery as the story unfolds across multiple storylines until the author begins crossing them over, making a braid out of individual threads.

The story is finely crafted and the writing is tight. It might be something like Clive Barker meets CS Lewis (specifically being a horrific kind of Narnia—the Bunyine’s origins are in a kind of para-biblical tale stemming from an Edenic creation story. Like Lewis, there are some moral implications we walk away pondering.) I recommend you hop on over to Amazon and pick up a copy for yourself!

You can find it by clicking here.

Review: The Muse

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The Muse, by Arjay Lewis is a weighty tome. The size and feel of it help give it a certain, desirable feel as I read through the book (so definitely spring for the paperback) that I normally get when holding a big, scary book (King, for example.)

While I found Lewis to be unlike King in many aspects (mainly, he didn’t wax eloquent for thousands of words as he digressed,) I had a very Dean Koontz vibe as I read The Muse. Maybe that’s because I’ve been watching old episodes of Twin Peaks and I got a distinct feeling of similar tropes from the second half of the original show (after Laura Palmer’s killer was found but a new serial killer was on the loose—the show turned down the weirdness factor, but it was still a paranormal detective thriller). If the first half was King and the second half was Koontz, The Muse certainly lands in the second half.

Lewis’s writing was tight and the book had a good flow and vibrant characters. The tension between Court and Trajan is palpable and their mutual hatred is felt. Godwine is relatable (especially as an author, the character’s profession—I’ve had the sort of dreams and experiences thrust upon Godwine, and so Lewis certainly writes what he knows and understands people will relate.)

As far as supernatural detective thrillers go, this story is more Fallen (the 1998 Denzel Washington movie) than it is Dresden. That said, I loved Fallen and I think you’ll like The Muse, pick it up asap!

I did get a copy of the book for free in exchange for a review. You can get a copy by clicking here.

Review: Chimera Catalyst

51n51c5N2HLPerhaps the best part of Chimera Catalyst is Susan Kuchinskas’s world building. The scope of the environment is pretty quickly summed up in the early pages of the book when we find the protagonist in a kind of genetic pawn shop where strands of DNA can be bought and sold. I kind of got a Repo Men vibe, only nowhere near so graphic… but the concept is intriguing—like Minecraft meets genetics. In the midst of all the advanced science and tech the world is very relatable and familiar as our hero searches for Miraluna Rose. In all honesty, it felt a little like futuristic Magnum PI in all the right ways as Finder embarks on a quest for the troubled girl, checking in with some contacts on the shady side of the law.

The story isn’t as raw and noir as the “Detective Miller” plot arc from the Expanse, but the book evoked similar themes of a future missing persons case in a relatable world of high technology and corporate greed. Perhaps unlike the Expanse and Repo Men there’s an internal dialogue that allows itself to dwell on humor for moments—even if it’s dark humor. That monologue helps keep the story from flinging itself into the darkness and keeps the tone from becoming dreary—it gives the narrative a kind of unique voice as well and does it without making light of an increasingly complicated case.

I’d recommend this book for readers who like Crime/detective stories and want to try something with a futuristic flair or want to add a dash of SF to their normal hard-boiled thrillers. While it’s not Minority Report or Bladerunner (Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,) this is certainly a 5 star book that deserves a place on the bookshelf near such iconic titles.

You can check out the book by clicking here.

I did receive a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

New Release Today: John in the John

jitj.jpgHey everyone!

I wanted to let you know that my humor book, John in the John, was published today via eLectio Publishing. Please go check it out and consider buying a copy! Below is a sample of the content and I want to urge you to consider sending me similar stories/devo pieces that you may have written for a second volume!

The next installment will be Gospels in the John and is an anthology style devo kind of like Chicken Soup for the Soul but with greater humor and depth! Check out my submissions website by clicking here!

 

Fairweather Fans

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” John 9, 12-13 NIV

I live in the frigid, purple tundra of Minnesota. We don’t get real excited about things very often; we are pretty solid examples of the “frozen chosen,” as my old pastor used to say when he thought people ought to act more excited about their faith. Especially up Germanic/Scandihoovian north (MN is actually the furthest north state in the continental 48, in case you didn’t know that,) we find it difficult to get super motivated—but when we do get excited, we’re all in.

In January 2016 our NFL team, the Vikings, played the third coldest game in NFL history with our playoff hopes on the line. In fact, it was so cold that the Gjallarhorn (a giant ram’s horn-like battle trumpet the size of a small bus) shattered in the frigid air. There I was, in the coldest seat in the house: top row of the outdoor stadium, in the shade of the announcer booth, and facing directly into the wind. A guy a few seats away went the entire game shirtless while my beard frosted white and froze solid (and my children abandoned their seats for the shelter of the stairwell).

We all get excited about things we value and we are willing to pay a price for those things. I’m not just talking about paying the price of tickets. We want to be involved and help our team; there’s something called “the twelfth man on the field.” Crowds participate in the game; their enthusiastic screams can change the dynamic of the game and even cause confusion and errors by the opposing team. Real fans are willing to sacrifice their comfort and stand for hours in the sub-zero air in order to be a part of that experience.

There’s another sports term called “fair-weather fans.” These are the people who say they are fans, but usually only when things go well and it’s easy and exciting to watch from comfortable seats. They wear a team jersey if the team’s been winning: their support is subjective to feelings (like if the team is on a winning streak.) A perfect example is the crowd who cheered for Jesus’s triumphal entry and disappeared once he was arrested and Barabbas was freed instead of Jesus. Their excitement was fickle.

The Vikings lost that game when Blair Walsh missed a short kick that he should have made under any normal circumstances. There I was: coldest seat in the house… wearing a #3 Blair Walsh jersey. It’s a good thing my love of my home-team isn’t based on whether or not we’re winning.

Today’s a good day to check your heart. Are you really excited about your faith, or are you a fair-weather fan for team Jesus? Do more than just wear the jersey; today is your chance to get in the game.

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Review: Trust in Axion

I wasn’t sure what to find in between the covers of Trust in Axion, by Bruce Meyer. I desperately want to design a new cover for him because the subpar MS Paint cover does not match the tight and focused writing that leaps off the first page and I found the opening sentence to be a good hook.

The story is a mad dash to try and fix the initial science problem gone awry. The cast is interesting and personalities read as distinct and unique, each working his or her own angles.

I don’t know how much of the science is accurate, but much of it felt very high-tech and much of it was entirely else (scenery ranged somewhere in between Walter’s lab on fringe and starfleet’s Academy with vivid scenery.) It’s not an overly long read and so it’s a perfect read for an afternoon.

I picked up a copy for free. You can get yours on Amazon

Review: Wisconsin Vamp

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Wisconsin Vamp by Scott Burtness is downright funny—even moreso if you’ve lived any amount of time in the old cheese state or in her sister states. I did a little over a nickel in the state after college (not in prison…I just find the terminology appropriate,) and the language and euphemisms kept cracking me up. The book is funny—not an overt comedy, but that subtle, deeply mirthful kind of humor that interlaces great films like Evil Dead or Lethal Weapon—it’s foundational to the story and the becomes the outlook of the reader. So seamlessly changing the perspective lens of the reader is a mark of truly great writing.

Not only is the form and function of the writing great in a technical sense, so is the language. I marked page three where I found a brilliant nugget that summed up the Packer state. “Trappersville was as different from New Orleans as day-old cheese curds from fresh jambalaya… the tiny town was a tick-infested, cheese-infused, flannel-clad waiting room for the last train to boredom.” Reading that gave me the first smirk of many. I think I’ve visited that town, or one like it, and can tell you the whole place feels authentic… and hilarious… kind of like if Twin Peaks had a slightly normal day.

I received a limited edition copy from the author at an event in exchange for an honest review. If you’d be thrilled to read a grown-up version of Monster Squad, I’d recommend you check this book out. You can get a copy here!

Review: Humanity’s Hope

61xgk4YJOsLI enjoy zombies in games and in movies, but very seldom in books. Far too many people fail to understand what makes a good zombie story—good zombie stories are about humanity… people. A lot of writers either rip off Walking Dead, making a superb story just a cheap copy, or they write about zombies, making a story just as lifeless and soulless as the subject matter. Humanity’s Hope, by Pembroke Sinclair  suffered neither of those trappings.

Not only did the protagonist, a 17 year old boy named Caleb, have heart and character, but he was thoroughly human. The story telling was tight with great editing and dialogue. As young Caleb tries to navigate a world rebuilding following the zombie crisis (a difficult order even in our current, nonzombified world,) it gets even harrier as certain mysteries unfold at Zomtech—both about the world and about himself.

If you like Warm Bodies (which I thought was superb) then this is the sort of book for you. It has heat and soul… and braaaaaiiiinnss… Go check it out by clicking here.