Pilgrim of the Storm Limited Release







Only in the indie world can you go from a week between the cover reveal and a release.  Sometimes this is a sign of poor planning or poor production values. Let me assure you, neither applies here. (Just look at that gorgeous cover! And Heather, my editor, wouldn’t let me stuff that amazing spine full of misplaced commas and other bullshit as much as I tried…) Yes, this approach flies in the face of conventional wisdom but as a self publisher, I reserve the right to experiment.

Today marks a limited release for Pilgrim of the Storm. It will be available on Nook, iBooks and a few other select retailers with a pre-order set up at Amazon.

I should probably explain.

The vast majority of my sales come from Amazon. For that reason, I like Amazon. They are incredibly friendly to self publishers and have done more than any other retailer to enable the indie explosion.

However, since it is such a giant part of the market you have to do things just right to get and keep any momentum whatsoever. The indie explosion there is also an indie glut. You’re shouting into a storm (ba-dum-ching) to be heard. So, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve which may or may not work to help Pilgrim of the Storm have a super successful launch on that site.

With Crimson Son, I tried the traditional approach – promoting several months out, blog tours, signings, earlier cover reveals, you name it I did it. By most standards, it was a moderately successful indie release which cost me more marketing dollars than I wanted it to.

For Pilgrim of the Storm, I’m fighting leaner and meaner. I’m trying to set up opportunities which I know worked for me in the past. I’m also trying to navigate Amazon’s ever-changing rules on what makes an author pick up -and keep- any steam on their site.

Finally, I want to try and figure out how these other markets work. While I love Amazon, it bothers me that, as a business, everything I have is tied to their distribution channels. It’s only smart to diversify.

So, if you absolutely need to buy my book from Amazon, you’ll need to pre-order or wait a few months. Of course, if you were already on the mailing list, you might check your inbox. I’ve taken another page from retailers and started Christmas early…

Pilgrim of the Storm – Chapter One

The two Ek’kiru in the courtyard below barely looked humanoid.

Some of Sidge’s temple brethren called these creatures bugmen. He could see it now. Only by their upright stance could he tell they weren’t anything other than enormous insects. Among the swirling robes and soft, mahogany skin of the acolytes bustling about the courtyard, the cart-sized beings didn’t seem real.

Sidge let his sweeping taper off and he clutched his broom in two hands. He leaned against the window sill on his second pair of arms to get a closer look.

The Ek’kiru were massive, much larger than Sidge had imagined they would be. He’d never seen another one but had been told of the different variations in size, color, and shape. Witnessing precisely how different astonished him.

Their deep black underbellies melted into the polished obsidian wall behind them. Heads, impossibly small for their enormous bodies, sat atop their broad chests. Each one’s forehead sported a single onyx horn the size of a man’s thigh.

When the creatures turned, he could see the shells across their backs were iridescent; one a shade of green and the other gold. Lightning from the Storm reflected off them in a prismatic curve, mirrored on the metallic blue carapace of Sidge’s own forearm resting on the windowsill. He tugged the sleeve of his temple vestments so it lay evenly across his wrist.

Sidge was certain the only way these creatures could pull the palatial carriage that they loomed over was by scuttling along on their hands and feet; exactly like bugs.

He felt a shiver along his antennae.

The rest of the courtyard writhed with activity. Gray-robed acolytes formed rhythmic chains, passing crates from the storehouses toward an armada of gilded carriages. The armada’s patchwork of metallic roofs sat dull and lifeless under the clouded sky, but flared brightly with each arc of lightning. Fading waves of thunder rolled over the dark, seamless walls of the Temple. Beyond them lay an empty landscape where the sky spiraled in black troughs, circling like a hungry raptor around a brilliant white eye.

Sidge stepped away and let the chaos of the courtyard slip behind the window sill. His many lenses continued to marvel at the storm and the dazzling display of fire that took place there. Each pulse of light called to him—Vasheru called him. In the weeks ahead, he could not fail. Not only for his beloved master, but for a life spent beneath the Undying Storm, their pilgrimage had to be a success.

Through a sleepless night he’d packed his and his master’s belongings; all that remained to be ready for the journey was to hitch the two horses—a mismatched pair in both health and temperament, but the best their meager funds could afford. He wondered if the team would make the long journey.
Of course, the journey itself was not his toughest challenge.

“Do you have my robe ready?” A voice at the door interrupted Sidge’s thoughts, though it did not surprise him. While Sidge faced the window, his compound eyes ensured the door, behind him and to his right, was well within his field of view. Acolyte Girish stood in the doorway with his two arms folded across his chest.

Sidge turned, unconsciously making sure his mandibles faced the human acolyte. He set the broom against his wall, placed his four palms together and bowed. He walked to a hook by the door where a gray robe, much like the one he wore, hung. As he pulled it down he ran the hem through his fingers. Silk, and a fine grade. The stitching had been done by a master tailor’s hand, but had recently come unraveled. Sidge had been pleased his repair had turned out nearly identical to the original.

“You can still see the transition to the repair if you know where to look, but it is the best I could do with what I had to work with. The temple stores had no silken thread.”

Girish snatched the robe and held it so the light from the window fell upon it. The repaired section dangled somewhere below his hands. His thin, severe features were absolutely gaunt in the flickering light of the Storm and the scattering of dark whiskers along his cheeks, barely noticeable. “I’ll have it properly sewn when the pilgrimage arrives in Stronghold.”

“Yes, you’ve been before,” said Sidge, his excitement getting the best of him. “You must know many wonderful tailors there.”

“Know tailors?” Girish was already turning toward the hall. “Master Udai arranges for such things through our raksha. I don’t know any commoners.”

“Oh, of course,” said Sidge.

Girish paused in the hallway long enough to bow toward the sound of approaching footsteps. “Acolyte Farsal.”

“Girish,” replied a familiar voice.

Girish disappeared into the hall and Farsal stepped into view. The smiling acolyte rolled his eyes. Such a simple gesture, Sidge felt a twinge of jealousy that his eyes couldn’t do the same. Yet he also understood the curt nature of the display to be unacceptable and decided it was best to quirk his mandibles in displeasure, but Farsal’s smile only deepened. They exchanged bows and Sidge retreated into his room.

Farsal entered and moved to the window, teeth shining into the storm outside, white like the ferocious tempest’s eye, whiter against the dark lips and thin beard surrounding them. His smile disappeared as he chewed his lip in thought.

“I don’t know why you bother,” muttered Farsal. “Girish doesn’t even like you.”

“We are all brothers. Beneath the Undying Storm. Unyielding before the terrible might of Kurath,” recited Sidge.

“You have more wisdom than I.”

“Not me. The Attarah’s words, his wisdom, so the Forge tells us.”

Farsal bowed deeply and his smile returned. “As always, you’re correct. Your recall of the mantras is flawless.” His eyes lit up and he focused on Sidge. “You’ll make an excellent Cloud Born.”

Sidge spread his mandibles and felt his antennae splay under the sincerity of Farsal’s words. “I thank you, brother. I can only hope our horses can make—”

Lightning exploded just beyond the wall. The landscape seemed to shatter and be made whole along the path of the strike. So much power to be wielded. No, the toughest challenge was definitely not the journey.

He pretended to wait for the thunder to pass so he could respond but he couldn’t regain the confidence Farsal’s praise had instilled. When he finally spoke, uncertainty crept into his words.

“You know the pilgrimage is only one part of my potential ascension. And we travel without a raksha. Without such a sponsor, I don’t know when or if we’ll be able to afford another trip, let alone complete this one.” He only said more because he knew Farsal would lend a sympathetic ear. “And there are other obstacles I have yet to overcome.”

Farsal’s face twisted in concern. “Channeling? Still?”

Sidge nodded.

“Don’t worry.” Farsal placed a hand where Sidge’s shoulder would be had his wings, tucked beneath his robes, not been in the way. “Master Izhar will help you.”

Sidge turned to the window but couldn’t push his friend’s face into his narrow blindspot without being rude and turning his back entirely. The hectic motion of the courtyard did much to distract him, but Farsal’s pity maintained a corner of his vision. He wanted to draw the hood of his robe over his head to close his lidless eyes.

Farsal must’ve sensed his discomfort. “You’re making us all look bad again.” He laughed and grabbed the broom next to the window. “I noticed your vardo in the courtyard is all packed, and now you have extra time for chores?”

“Doing some last minute tidying, is all. You know I have plenty of spare time.” He motioned to the empty bed frame against the far wall of his room.

“Of course, of course. I’ve always wondered if that’s a fair trade—sleep for chores.”

“Not chores. Duties. And there is no trade. I simply have more time than the others.”

Farsal laughed and returned the broom to the wall. “Speaking of which, I should be going, brother. Master Gohala’s carriage won’t fill itself.” He headed for the hall and with another bow he was gone.

Yes, Master Gohala’s carriage, the one next to the behemoth Ek’kiru. It glinted as another seam of lightning opened the sky.

Even viewed from several floors up, the carriage was clearly the largest among the dozens arrayed there. Its wheels stood as tall as a man, their spokes gilded and polished. On the sides hung the face of the mighty Storm Dragon, Vasheru, in a gleaming silver relief. The roof rose into a golden dome crowned by a silver sword wreathed in lightning: the symbol of the Stormblade Temple.

Apparently there were certain perks if your raksha was the living Attarah himself. Savior of all humanity, a title handed down across the centuries like the twelve thousand one hundred and sixty-two mantras of the Temple.

Sidge sighed.

His and Master Izhar’s vardo slumped at the other end of his vision, the beaten-copper roof dull and lifeless. A collection of crystals and foil streamers jangled from the upper rails. Green stains streaked beneath the roof, adding a dilapidated appearance to the already weathered wood of the cabin. A white image of the temple’s symbolic sword burned starkly on the graying walls.

The symbol, at least, had been freshly painted. Sidge had insisted, even when Master Izhar balked at the cost. “Vanity was not the concern of the holy,” Master Izhar had said, in an odd paraphrasing of the ninety-seventh verse of the Rule. When Sidge had corrected him, he’d relented.

Sidge examined his room one last time. A bed he didn’t use, a chest whose contents he’d loaded in the vardo long before the sun had risen, a hook on the wall for his robe; until now, this had been all he’d ever needed.

But with the pilgrimage came his chance to ascend to the rank of Cloud Born. To make his master proud. To put to the test a life’s worth of rigorous memorization, study, and meditation. Rather, attempts at meditation. Sidge rattled his wings. He wanted to believe it was possible. Vasheru willing, it would be.

On the dark stone of the floor, an errant gray thread caught his eye. He knelt and plucked it from the ground. Holding it in front of him, he twisted it between his fingers and examined the rest of the floor from his new vantage point. Remnants of his late night work? Perhaps from Farsal’s robe. The fine silken thread wasn’t from his own. Satisfied the strand was the only one, he returned to the window.

He let the storm wind carry the thread from his hand and shuttered the window as it drifted away. Grabbing his broom, he swept a path to the hallway and closed the door behind him.

Read more…

Pilgrim of the Storm – Cover Reveal

pilgrim_of_the_storm_cover_webI have plans. Machinations. Mischief. I aim to misbehave.

A little.

As you can see, the next book is almost here. I pushed up my production deadline to test out a limited release and exercise some marketing mojo. The big release – with paperbacks and a spot on Amazon’s shelves will happen early next year when I finish book two (working title The Forge of the Jadugar – yep, that one is almost done as well.) For now, I want to test out the “other markets” and try to understand why it’s so damn hard to gain any traction outside the ‘Zon.

Pilgrim of the Storm is a very different book. Different from Crimson Son in tone, genre (whatever that means), and voice.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t a little nervous. Turns out, fans like consistency from their authors. I swear, I’m trying to do that but the voices in my head keep getting in the way.

Truthfully, this book is much like Crimson Son. An unlikely hero who struggles with personal demons, in this case relating to his identity, while finding himself in the middle of larger events.

Sidge is proper, soft spoken, and rarely curses. He is comfortable in his life at the start of the novel and the journey he embarks on only serves to unsettle a very precarious balance he didn’t know existed. But even though he’s vastly different from Spencer, he was born from my head so readers should find at least a sliver of familiar ground.

Well, he was sorta born from my head.

The base world was the result of a collaborative roleplaying session. The dragonfly-ish Ek’kiru was Benjamin Inn’s doing. The setting formed from a combination of wild ideas tossed around by myself, Ben, fellow crit group member Sam, and author, Alex Langley and his brother. They laid out the bones and I’m the one who dressed it in flesh and uttered the incantations.

It’s a good book. I think you’ll like it. Give me a few days to put on the final touches, you should see Pilgrim of the Storm at a few major retailers very soon.

And don’t worry, if you couldn’t get enough of Spencer (there’s gotta be some of you sadists out there), I’ve got plans for him too…

Normal People are Interesting People

Normal_is_a_bad_wordImagine if the media celebrated the lives of the victims in a tragedy instead of putting a microscope on the killer. If the media didn’t print or quote the killer’s manifestos. If they didn’t make the rantings public and give air time to whatever broken ideology the killer espoused.

I wonder how many copycats we’d have if that were the case? If the killer died anonymously, still lonely, with no one forced to listen to their desperate attempt to gain attention. Though that in itself is a tragedy of a different kind.

I realize, this is probably too much to ask. The “normal” people that died aren’t easily sensationalized for the ratings but they’re infinitely more interesting to me.

This is probably why I write the stuff I write – normal people who’d prefer to remain that way. Or people who aren’t people at all who are trying to find normalcy. People might not want to read those stories but it’s what I’ve got to offer.

Yesterday I drafted Chapter One of Crimson Son 2. No working title yet, just thirty chapters loosely outlined and a solid idea of the direction. Spencer is still that normal kid hoping to live a normal life. Sure, he can’t, and that’s where the story unfolds. But what he brings to the table isn’t a laundry list of superpowers like much of the rest of the cast. What he brings is a perspective.

A point of view different than what we like to idolize and vilify. Kind of like you and me, he’s just a smart ass (well, maybe you’re not a smart ass) trying to survive in a world of giants. He doesn’t necessarily want recognition or fame, he just wants to live a life he chose to live and not one thrust upon him.

But out there in the big, bad world we want to focus on the extremes. The easy clicks. Headlines belong to those who aren’t struggling to be normal but are struggling to be outside the norm. Whether they’ve gone off the deep end or are soaring into the atmosphere, it doesn’t matter.

Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense to be fascinated by those outliers. We’re all normal people already and who wants to hear about us, right?

I kinda do.

I Am Not Your Entertainment Committee

A time-honored classic. Like “Do you want me to turn this car around?” or “Wait until your father gets home!” One of those countless sayings you swore you’d never inflict on your own children, let alone your fans.

Yep, this one’s for you guys.

All five of you in the cheap seats waiting to hear what I have to say.

Hanging on every word.

I am not your entertainment committee.

Social media has become a many-tentacled beast. People kneel at the altars with their hands clasped tight around little, glowing screens of divination and spectacle looking to be entertained, outraged, surprised, shocked, turned on, diagnosed all while surrounding themselves with like minds and hurling barbs at the “unlikes”.

In return, social media demands to be fed.

For consumers of media, which is pretty much everyone in the developed world, it is a limitless hole which you can suck you in for days on end. A consumer’s feeding of the beast is optional but the voracious bugger always finds a way to wrap a tentacle or two around your precious parts and drag you into the fray.

For producers of media, the beast is insatiable. Like in an I-want-to-devour-your-first-born-and-may-I-have-another sorta way. We, the writers and designers and bloggers and youtubers and tweeters, are the priests who bring the sacrifices to the altar. We are legion and our voices cry out to the multitudes.

“Speculative fiction! Step right up! Succor your need to escape this dreaded existence!”

“Pornography, get your pornos here!”

“Moral outrage! Hurl insults worry-free at your sworn enemies!”

“Pornos! Get your jollies here!”

“You’ll never guess what happens when she…”


And so on…

The current wisdom says that in order to be heard, you must be constantly “on”. You must be capable of entertaining quips of 140 characters or less at any second. You must be photogenic or at least able to produce click-worthy images of your cats. Your political views should be borne on your sleeve and subsequently mesh with your target audience so you can rage with them about the trending news. Every mundane belch and movement and meal (wait, food pics are SO circa 2005…) becomes grist for the mill.

You MUST build your platform. You MUST connect with the fans (all five of them) lest the beast turn its insatiable hunger on you.

If you hadn’t noticed recently, I sorta said, “Fuck all that.”

Look, I’m a writer. I write things for your entertainment. I am not a performer. I’m not a quip machine (despite how amazingly witty I may be). I’m not even a great blogger (if this article isn’t enough proof…)

But I’m a damn good storyteller. Specifically of fantastical tales with a dash of realism – not perhaps the beast’s favorite meal. That’s what I’m meant to do. It’s what I want to do. My time is best spent making shit up, not communicating inane facts about my day with the horde. Some excel at that. I don’t.

If you want to hear those facts, great, ask away. I’m on all of these platforms in one form another. I’ll gladly answer any sort of mundane question you want to hurl my way on Facebook, or Google+, or Twitter, or email or Goodreads or Tumblr or any of the other dozen ways my life is tenuously connected to yours. But in the meantime – I’ve got worlds to create.

Because of this, I can’t entertain you twenty-four seven.

However, when you want to curl up with a good book, I promise, if you give me a chance the time you spend with my stories will be worth it. They’ll have been meticulously critiqued, edited, beta-read, torn apart and sewn back together again before being offered up on the altar. Hell, like them or not, these books will make you think. Give me enough time, you’ll get another offering, each one better than the last.

And another.

And another.

I’m not stopping anytime soon.

Mission Statement Take 2

aboutMissionStatementThis weekend my wife and I had a discussion about the difference between plot-driven and character-driven books. So what’s the difference you ask? In short, character-driven stories are what I like to write.

Clears that right up, eh?

Plot-driven books generally get their momentum from external events happening around the characters. Character-driven books get their momentum from the internal development of a character or characters.

Of course, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. You can fiddle with the dials and focus on both to varying degrees. Much like genre labels, the real dividing lines can get fuzzy.

Okay, so, what is the point of all this needless literary gobbledygook, Russ? Glad you asked. A year into this writing adventure and I’m discovering things about myself along the way. I’m modifying how I approach writing and also how I reach out to potential readers. Part of this includes revisiting my mission statement on a regular basis. The old one read like this:

Russ creates character-driven speculative fiction. His stories drip with blood, magic, and radioactive bugs. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls.

The new statement is more focused. I’ve pinpointed the genre and I’m letting people know what kind of characters I like to write about.

Russ creates character-driven fantasy about unlikely heroes. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls.

Why character-driven?

Plot-driven books are fun but I like to complicate pretty much everything I touch. And while webs of plot intrigue can get pretty thick, there ain’t nothing more complex and interesting to me than the inside of somebody’s head.

At the heart of it, Crimson Son is a story about a kid trying to grapple with some serious family issues. To do that he’s got to put on his Dad’s overly large boots and play hero. Rarely does he get the “hero” part right and at times only sheer luck keeps him alive. The external plot finds him as often as he finds it, but the real action is in the changes his character undergoes as he grapples with loss, PTSD, and escaping his father’s shadow.

There’s even a subplot in Crimson Son which is the tragic tale of the Black Beetle. In the Beetle’s mind, he’s the hero who just saved the world an awful lot of trouble and he’s simply trying to move on (and to really blow your mind, read Empty Quiver and ask yourself if he isn’t the hero…) Yet he ends up failing to escape not only his own machinations but also the surprisingly effective efforts of a scrawny, reckless smart ass who is hell-bent on digging up the past.

Sure, plot happens and hopefully entertains. However, the true driver of the story is the confluence of all these characters over the common themes of family and the nature of heroism.

The external crisis is averted in the end, but more importantly Spencer has developed. He’s dealt with loss. He’s realized his Dad is an immutable force – the living superhero who can only see the world in certain shades (though there is a tiny spark of potential change). He’s also verified the superhero gig isn’t his thing. He figures out the value of being, well, Spencer. He wants his own life. Freedom becomes more than just escaping the bunker he’d been holed-up in.

Why unlikely heroes?

Because I find run-of-the-mill heroes boring. In truth, run-of-the-mill hero stories usually trend more towards plot-driven. Not that typical heroes can’t have strong internal development but the more trope-ish the protagonist, the less depth you have to work with. That and awkward, imperfect (re. normal) people (re. humanoids) intrigue me.

Why fantasy?

On the genre spectrum I’ve seen Crimson Son shelved under everything from Science Fiction to Fantasy to Action / Adventure and even Young Adult. But I’m firmly in the fantasy camp if I have any say in the matter. I prefer it because it helps me break rules or make new ones as I see fit. My next book is straight up traditional fantasy (in setting, maybe not in tone…).

Of course, my brain, like most, is an unpredictable place so I’m not sure what the next book will be (let me re-phrase, I’m not sure what the next, next, next book will be…I got plans). There’s a decent chance somewhere down the road “Fantasy” gets changed to straight up “fiction”. Who knows? We’ll have to see where this spate of internal development takes me.

Could You Survive Gracewood High?

One of my critique partners has just released his debut graphic novel, Kill the Freshman. Alex Langley is the author of a killer series of guides to geekery (The Geek Handbook, Geek Lust, and The Geek Handbook 2.0) and now he’s broken out his adamantium pencil sharpener to bring you a tale of high school survival. Like real survival. Like Bear Grylls would piss his pants and flee sort of survival (though he might bottle it for later use.)

From the blurb:

In junior high Vi may have been a nerdy outcast, but now that she’s a freshman, she’s going to get popular or die trying. Literally. At the Gracewood Academy of Queens and Patriarchs, ancient magical mumbo-jumbo gives superhuman powers to students willing to take the ID cards (and lives) of their classmates. Underclassmen are the unwilling prey in this jungle, only safe from each other, and in certain parts of the school. When Vi nearly dies courtesy of some sophomores, her motor mouth lands her a friendship with Allison Meadows, Gracewood’s apex senior, and into a student election that’s like The Hunger Games with gossip. Everyone is a target during the election— the weirdos in journalism (who Vi secretly kinda likes), Allison (who Vi secretly kinda fears), and even Vi herself (who Vi secretly kinda loathes). To save her newfound friends, this fast-talking freshman will risk everything she cares about most: being popular, being herself, and being alive (in that order).

You didn’t actually finish the blurb before you surfed on over to ‘Zon and bought it, right? ‘Cause if you’re reading this, you’re still here. You shouldn’t be HERE. You should be there.

Introducing Sidge

by timitalia via Creative Commons

by timitalia via Creative Commons

I’ve been pushing Crimson Son for so long, I’m getting nervous about one thing in particular: confusing my fans. Not that my fans are easily confused. If they read my fiction, they either enjoy puzzles and deep plots with a heavy dose of character development or…well…maybe they just like being confused.

For over a year the battle cry here has been “SUPERHERO FICTION!” Turns out this is a pretty nebulous thing. Nobody can really decide where it goes. Shelves at Goodreads have Crimson Son most often categorized under both Fantasy and Science Fiction in equal measure.

To clear up the air (for half of you at least) about the kind of writer I am, my next book will be more along the lines of a traditional fantasy. I’m pitching it as Kafka meets Tolkien on the Gangees. And there’s another unlikely protagonist involved. His name’s Sidge. (And my crit group knows what’s coming next….)

He’s a bug.

An Ek’Kiru to be more precise.  A humanoid bug the size of a smaller than average human male. He’s got six arms, two legs (which aren’t incredibly different from his arms, but the distinction to him is important) and great big eyes with a near 360 degree field of view. Nearly. He’s got a blind spot.

Sidge was raised in a monastery among humans. They live in the Stormblade Temple on the edge of an eternal storm. There, the mighty dragon, Vasheru, rides the clouds and sets the sky on fire with his lightning. The land beneath is pockmarked by strikes and carved by the torrential rains.

The priests there have learned to channel Vasheru’s immense power. They can channel that energy outward to smite their foes. The most powerful of them can absorb his holy lightning and see into the mind of the god himself.

The Stormpriests were founded to protect humanity from an ancient enemy, the Children of Kurath, who used their earth magic to subjugate humans.

Humans. Not the Ek’Kiru.

But Sidge was raised at the temple. The only Ek’Kiru there, he knows the humans as his brothers. His Master, Izhar, is the father figure he never had.

Unlike my previous protagonist, Sidge is not snarky. He’s not prone to questioning authority or launching off on a half-ass plan to right his universe. He feels his universe is right. He has accepted his life as an acolyte at the Storm Temple with great zeal.

Sidge can recite the twelve thousand verses of the Forge with perfect precision. He performs the menial tasks of an apprentice with a great sense of duty. Sweeping, organizing his Master’s shelves, sewing – these are among his favorite activities. He tries his best to create order in the world around him and he wants nothing more than to ascend to the rank of Cloud Born and make his Master proud.

In order to ascend, he must perform more than recitations of the holy mantras. He must learn to channel Vasheru’s energy and embark on a pilgrimage to the West where he will stand at the edge of the desert which the Children of Kurath call their home. Prophecy says the enemy will one day sweep across the sands to enslave the humans once more.

Yet prophecy has said this for a timeless age.

This enemy lurks behind a veil of the past so dense that the Stormpriests have wavered in their duty. No longer the warriors they once were, the temple stagnates under divisive politics and what some might call hypocrisy. Only Sidge’s irreverent Master seems to recognize the truth but his answers verge on heresy.

On his pilgrimage, Sidge will dutifully try to fulfill his obligations for he believes in the mantras more than even the humans he is sworn to protect. However his perfectly righted universe will begin to tilt. And like so many stories, it all starts with a girl.

Keep an eye on the site and sign up on the mailing list to get the latest. And don’t think this means you’ve escaped Spencer’s smart ass. He’ll be back in 2016.

So, a Girl Walks into your Buffer Memory


And you snag a copy. (Ba dum ching!) No, seriously. Go grab one.

A month later and I’m still figuring exactly how lucky I was to be included in the Immerse or Die story bundle. Ive got a never ending to-read list that includes reading for fun, reading for study, and reading for plain ‘ol work. In between these Ive seeded books from my fellow IoD bundle partners. And the awesome keeps coming.

My latest read was a jaunt into the not so distant future with Bryce Anderson’s The Improbable Rise of Singularity Girl.

I was first drawn to this book by the gorgeous cover. That and the title. I mean this is a title that will rock any sci-fi aficionado in the ansible no matter what quadrant of the universe they call home. But way before the bundle was released, Bryce picked up the transmitter and started shouting “WAIT! WAIT! Its not perfect!” To which if I didn’t have eight other books to read, I would’ve told him to buzz off.

I sulked and dumped the first edition from my Kindle to start in on an indie reading frenzy. The bundle books were all four to five star solid reads and by the time I got back to IRSG, Bryce had a bar to jump set so high he’d need a three stage rocket to come close.

With an even better cover and apparently a few minor tweaks, I was finally able to dive into the world of Helen Roderick, ambitious yet wounded grad student who had a detailed plan for her future which probably didn’t come from the admissions office.

You see, and I don’t think this is much of a spoiler, Helen only makes it through the first third or so of chapter one before she’s dead of self-inflicted science.

Helen becomes a virtual entity trapped in a computerized state of consciousness of her own design. There she explores her limits (and lack thereof) as she attempts to prove to the world that shes every bit as human as the next girl running on borrowed clock cycles.

The story unfolds with humorous footnotes (of the Pratchett-esque variety) and a solid dose of emotion as Helen wrestles with the complications of interpersonal relationships brought on by the lack of a physical form. Throughout book one, you always have the sense that Helen is real – that her human spirit survived this unique transformation and somehow, despite the loss, has kickstarted an evolutionary shift toward the next stage in humanity.

The novel isn’t without a few hiccups. The transition from book one to book two is a major shift so that you have a very different kind of story playing out in the final acts. Helen’s digital evolution has progressed into alien realms and a reader might be thrown by the jarring difference. Book one sets up this shift nicely enough, but the tone is very different afterwards. (Of course, I’m not guilty of doing things like that in MY books…) Trust me though, you’ll plow on through that little twist as the intriguing personal drama unfolds into an epic confrontation with a fragmented Helen struggling to reconnect to her humanity.

Anderson’s work is thoughtful, humorous and even manages to pack in plenty of action and adventure with a dash of political intrigue. These are the books that the Big Five (four, three…we got a countdown going yet?) won’t touch, not because of poor execution or craft but because it doesn’t fit neatly on their calcified shelf. Often, these works are the most worthy of attention while the big guys are trying to figure out the optimum placement for Twivergent Games III.

For the skeptical, I’d like to point out I no longer have any reason to be charitable to the books in this bundle (nor was I ever softballing these reviews – these are all good books). The sale is long over. Yet The Improbable Rise of Singularity Girl continues the trend of me asking “how is it I managed to get into this bundle of badassery?”

Ooops, I published.

So this managed to completely escape my attention: in mid-June I had a new story hit the shelves in the SkyWarrior Press anthology, Zombified: Hazardous Material. I’ve mentioned it before, but there had been some confusion on the publisher’s end as to when it might actually be available. That date ended up being last month and I don’t believe I ever added a proper link.

If you like zom com, this is the title for you. Hell, if you just need a laugh, this is for you. I haven’t had a chance to read all the stories, but hopefully mine is worth the price of admission.

An Apocalypse of Zombies: Robert the zombie is having a terrible time getting to the brains before his comrades slurp them all up and the rabid chihuahua clinging to his ankle isn’t helping. Driven by an epicurean zeal, he manages to find a way to get ahead of the horde but the consequences of his quest for yummy brains just might put the whole apocalypse thing in jeopardy.


And, yes, I’ve gone quiet on the social media front. I’ve been experimenting with this whole author career thing behind the scenes, trying to figure how best to get my books into your faces. I’ve also been sorting out what exactly I’m writing and doing my best to build up a solid inventory of kick ass fiction for everyone to peruse.

Hang in there. I’ve got one book to the editor and at least two more on the way. If I can get my process better refined and really dial-in my schedule, only spending those precious seconds on stuff that actually matters, I hope to go from a book every year to two every year. Maybe more.

Be on the lookout for changes here at the site as well. I need a makeover and a better way to display my new and improved universe of things. Lots of changes on the horizon and I hope you’ll stick around to see where I’m headed!