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POD People

Updated: 2017-12-01T04:50:56.880-06:00


Unofficial Kinde Help FAQ #1: Why are my sales not showing in my reports


I have been asked this one enough times that I thought it might be time to write a standard reply.

Authors often feel they have had Amazon sales that are not appearing on their sales reports, and  perhaps a suspicion they are being deliberately short-changed in some way.  In my experience this is not the case. Here are some of the things that might explain the apparent discrepancy.

1) Make sure you are looking at the right place in the reports, after the sales has been shipped and charged.
2) If it is an e-book you cannot buy more than one copy.
3) If it is a CreateSpace paperback, those sales are reported on your Createspace  account reports, not your kindle account reports.
3) If it is a gifted book the sale occurs only when the the recipient uses it, and they have the option to use it on something other than your book--in which case you are out the money and do not get the sale.
3) Friends and relatives lie more often than you would think. If they say they bought your book don't assume it is true unless you actually saw them do it.
4) Occasionally there are glitches and reports of sales are delayed.  If you can document the sale occurred and have waited about 2 weeks, ask Kindle Support for assistance.

If you know if other reason why people see these issues, please let me know and I will add them to the list.



Things have been a little quiet around here.  I have been busy at work and also developing a lifestyle where I just hang out and enjoy myself quite a lot.  That's turned out to be the upside of being a woman of a certain age.  I have a sufficiency of money and have more-or-less stopped giving a flock about a lot of things, so I spend more time just enjoying myself. That said, I do plan to  spruce things up and post some new reviews soon.

If you happen to have any interest in reviewing, we are always open to people joining in on a one-off or ongoing basis.  Just drop me a line at veinglory at

There is one thing I would like to mention regarding authors who request reviews.  Please don't spam us.  I am getting increasingly bogged down in mass mailings and newsletters from authors.  A recent one ended with the statment:

"You are receiving this email either because you are a personal acquaintance or you because you have read and/or reviewed one of my novels. My intent is not to overwhelm you with emails but to keep in touch with updates. Thanks so much."

Just: no.

Reading or reviewing a book does not constitute agreeing to be put on a mailing list.  Going forwards any more emails of this type will be reported as spam. This means, among other things, that any future requests for reviews will be blocked.

Edited to Add:

Re: Instafreebie--this is a service that requires provision of an email address and adds the user to a mailing list.  As such, Instafreebie is not an acceptable method for offering review copies.

Court Rules: Amazon is not a Publisher


An unfortunate couple found that their engagement photo had appeared, without permission, on the cover of a book suggestively entitled “A Gronking To Remember”. Recently a court ruled that they could not, as a result, sue Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords. The reason being that these websites are not publishers... they are shops. Which is a reminder that when we self-publish in these venues we alone take on all the liabilities of a publisher, and should be correspondingly careful abut the choices that we make.

REVIEW: Ten Gentle Opportunities


Title: Ten Gentle Opportunities Author: Jeff DuntemannGenre: Fantasy / Science fictionPrice: $2.99 (ebook) Publisher: Copperwood PressISBN: B01AQ1549EPoint of Sale: Amazon  Reviewed by: Chris GerribSo I’ve been a fan of Jeff Duntemann’s writing for some time.  This, his newest novel and first since 2006, was well-worth the wait.  The novel opens with one Bartholomew Stypek on the run from a magician in a fairly low-tech fantasy setting.  The chief difference between this world and the bog-standard Fantasyland is that magic can be bought and sold like salt, and worked at least in part by non-adepts.  Stypek’s on the run because he stole ten “Opportunities” (raw magic) from a magician, who wants them back.Desperate to save his hide, Stypek throws himself at the mercy of the Continuum, and asks to be sent far away.  This is where things get interesting, because Stypek ends up in our immediate future (late 2020s’) in a small town advertising agency.  The ad agency has a prototype AI-built copier, and in our world magic maps to software.  Stypek has (or rather concocts) a Gomog as a traveling companion.  In our world, said Gomog is an AI, and gets loose in the Tooniverse, a virtual space where various AIs live.  Unfortunately for Stypek, the magician who’s after him can and will follow him to our world.  Mayhem, entertaining mayhem, ensues.  A lot of the attraction of this book is the clever writing.  Several AIs of various levels are point-of-view characters, as are a number of humans.  Stypek keeps trying to map our world to his kings-and-magic one, and the humans and AIs keep trying to map Stypek’s magic to bits and bytes.  The conflict and confusion between these world-views is amusing and realistic.  The interpersonal conflict and characterization is also well-done.  Two of the human characters are a divorced couple, forced by economics to work together, and then get sucked into Stypek’s life-or-death struggle.  One of the AIs learns to dance, which proves to be a critical skill.There were two nits that bothered me in this story.  First, one of the AIs, Simple Simon, is in charge of running a robotic factory in which the parts and the finished products (copiers) are thrown in the air instead of moved via conveyor belts.  It felt a bit too convenient for the author.  The other nit was the AI dancing – I saw that coming a mile away.Having said that, I was easily able to suspend my disbelief and take a rollicking ride with Jeff Duntemann and his Gentle Opportunities.  Highly recommended.[...]

REVIEW: Holding Fire


Title: Holding FireEditor: Scott HughesGenre: AnthologyPrice: $4.99 (ebook) / $12.99 (paperback)Publisher: CreatespaceISBN: 978-1508859284Available via: OnlineBookClubReviewed by: Psyche Skinner  Holding Fire edited by Scott Hughes is an anthology of ten stories with the theme of the destructive effects of holding onto anger or rage. I have to admit that my first reaction to the theme, intriguing as it is, is that it sounds like a bit of a downer. Stories of nasty instant karma, no matter how clever, might be a little too depressing to be good entertainment. What I was overlooking was that the stories are pretty evenly divided between the main character being the person cursed with destructive rage, being their victim, or being a third party to the events of the story. And in some cases the person being consumed by their anger is ultimately saved. So there is considerable variety in the stories inn themes of characters, genre, and outcomes—although murder is the instigating even or outcome (or both) in nine of the ten stories. Most of the stories were contemporary dramas, often bordering on melodramas. They had a lot of high stakes and emotional energy and generally a plot that held together. However most of them also had a lingering amateur quality where the balance between character angst and plot plausibility was a little shaky. Villains were often cartoonishly evil, with the evil stepmother trope getting more than one un-ironic outing, along with the alcohol abusive parents, and cute high school boyfriend/girlfriend savior. One of the stories (“Life is a Great Teacher” by John Mallon also suffered from questionable editing with multiple speakers being mashed together into the same paragraph). I think people nearer high school age might enjoy these stories more, as young adult themes like bullying, first love, difficult families, and choosing the kind of person you want to be (when you grow up) occur in a number of stories. From my rather-more-middle-aged perspective the story “Dog Eat Dog” (by Joy Meehan) about and vindictive executive getting \ her just deserts from an underling is more resonant. I also appreciated he characterization of the failed writer in “Ghostwriter” by Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill. I would give this anthology 6/10 for being an entertaining read but not providing any stories I am likely to want to revisit or ponder over.   [...]

REVIEW: Jupiter Justice


Title: Jupiter Justice Author: Donald J. HuntGenre: Urban FantasyPrice: $2.99 (ebook) / $11.74 (paperback)Publisher: Amazon Digital ServicesISBN: 978-1516972548Point of Sale: Amazon  Reviewed by: Chris GerribFull disclosure – I am a member of the author’s writing group and read partial drafts of Jupiter Justice before it came out.  Having said that, I paid full price for my copy and really enjoyed reading it.  It’s a great near-future romp.Set in a plausible mid-future Solar System, Jupiter Justice is the story of Rico Schroeder.  Thanks to fusion power, the Solar System is open for business, but fusion power is slow – or at least slower than humans would like.  Rico is part of one international team working on his generation’s X-Prize, developing a working anti-matter space drive.  It’s a very high-stakes endeavor, not just for the prize money but for political and economic control of the Solar System.The stakes are high enough that people are getting killed over the competition.  Rico has to make an abrupt transition from his test-pilot job back to his previous profession – cop – and figure out who done it.  That’s if Rico can stay alive long enough, as his investigation puts him immediately in the murderer’s cross-hairs.Don writes in a brisk and clear style, and he’s done a lot of research getting his facts right.  There’s a bit of romance thrown in, as Rico rekindles an old flame, and plenty of action.  I found the story well-written and enjoyable.  I think you will too.9/10[...]

The Indie Writers Support Website


Cold Coffee Café Press has been sharing the information that The Indie Writers Support Website ( webmaster 'Judd Miller', allegedly has the legal name of Korede Abayomi.

Abayomi and is reported to be subject of a current arrest warrant. He is also the owner of highly questionable publisher ParaDon Books.

As such any authors who have shared credit card information with The Indie Writers Support Website may wish to take precautions, and possibly rethink maintaining author pages on this site.

REVIEW: Void Contract


Title: Void Contract: Gigaparsec Book 1       Author: Scott Rhine   Genre: space operaPrice: $2.99 (ebook) $8.99 (trade paperback)Publisher: Amazon Digital ServcesISBN B00VJEPHPEPoint of Sale: Amazon Reviewed by: Chris GerribVoid Contract is the story of Max Culp, human medic and assassin.  In the fairly far future, humanity has developed faster-than-light ships, made contact with various alien races and in true human fashion fought a war with one race.  Humanity won that war, although the alien race defeated in said war still exists.  Oh, and there’s an over-race, the Magi, running around, who bestow technology on other races as they see fit.In this very interesting world, Max, a !Kung tribesman descended from a group resettled from a dying Earth, is trying to make a living.  Max does so by killing sentient beings.  In the first chapter, he’s doing so to repay a debt to the aliens who protected his people.  Then, via a circuitous set of events, Max finds himself responsible for a “Goat” (Satyr-like alien) named Reuben, and forced to kill people to save Rueben.  This is where things get interesting.Frankly, I like these kind of books.  Who wouldn’t want to travel the stars, cracking wise with various alien races?  Personally, even if they are shooting at me (and I’m highly allergic to bullets) I’d be glad to sign up.  Having said that, I’m a sucker for these kind of stories.  It’s hard to do them wrong.Fortunately, Scott Rhine understands what makes this fun, and he delivers.  There’s the right amount of war-weariness, wise-cracking and do-or-die in his story.  There’s also a nice refreshing bit of sex, and not one but two mysterious aliens of difference species.  This is space opera, not science fiction, so the science is of the “I push this and X happens” variety, but in this genre that’s frequently considered a feature, not a bug.  Overall, a nice romp through a world that I’d like to visit, warts and all.  [...]

REVIEW: An Heir to Thorns and Steel


Title: An  Heir to Thorns and Steel
Author: MCA Hogarth
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $2.99 (ebook)
ISBN 978-0989263146
Point of Sale: Amazon 
Reviewed by: Psyche

MCA Hogarth has a refreshingly idiosyncratic take on fantasy and this book is no exception. Morgan Locke is a university student in a fantasy realm that feels broadly Victorian but with radical difference in areas like the role of religion and the degree to which magic and mythological races turn out to be real.

Locke has suffered a debilitating  lifelong illness that is getting even worse.  Some bizarre guests arrive to spin a wild tale that he is a prince from a distant land.  This leads the hapless Locke through a serious of adventures where he acquires both allies and enemies and the stakes get very high indeed.

While this is the first part of a trilogy and I enjoyed it, I feel strangely unmotivated to read the later parts.  If you are embarking on a Hogarth book for the first time my recommendation would be to start with the more nuanced Mindhealers sci fi series or the almost-a-classic-already Spots the Space Marine.


A Question of Book Reviewing Ethics: What Say You?


POD People requests that authors interested in having a book reviewed send a query email, not a copy of the book. This is not something we do just to make authors' lives more difficult.  This site has more than one reviewer so if the the query piques a reviewer's interest the book needs to be sent directly to the interested reviewer.  Sending an e-book to our main address just maximizes the chance of it being lost, spam-blocked, or otherwise going astray. Of course people do it anyway. No biggie.

In recent weeks, however, several authors have gone one step further and sent us a Kindle gift certificate for the book they want reviewed.  These queries are not forwarded to our reviewers.  I had hoped that if they were not accepted the author might get their money back (because even when sent by the author, these gift certificates are not free).

Images_of_Money / Foter / CC BY
 However, Amazon Customer Service have informed me:

" gift cards don't have expiration dates. You can use your gift card whenever it's most convenient for you. Though the seller will not be credited back, once gift card is applied in your account, it will be saved as an available gift card balance in your Amazon account."

So if the author is simply throwing the money away, is there any reason I should not just take the transferable gift certificate and run?  I would not do it just because it feels wrong, but whether I don't claim the gift certificate, or claim it and spend it on a box of pumpkin spice-flavored peeps instead, the author is out the same amount of money. So should it really matter to them?

In any case, then I came across this thread.  Based on what these Kindle users describe my advice to any author that sent a kindle gift certificate to the podpeep email account is to contact Amazon and ask for a refund.  That is the only way you will recoup your pointless expenditure.

TL;DR version: do not send us Kindle gift cards of books you want reviewed. 

REVIEW: Three Great Lies


(image) Title: Three Great Lies
Author: Vanessa MacLellan
Genre: archaeological fiction
Price: $5.99 (ebook) $16 (trade paperback)
Publisher: Hadley Rille Books
ISBN 978-0989263146
Point of Sale: Amazon 
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

In the tradition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court comes the debut novel of author Vanessa MacLellan, Three Great Lies.  At the start of the story, American tourist Jeannette Walker, traveling in Egypt, decides to go off the beaten path to see a newly-discovered and thus unspoiled ancient tomb.  Thanks to unknown powers, Jeannette is transported to a time when the tomb was fairly new, that of Old Kingdom Egypt.  Fortunately, the same powers that transport Jeannette allow her to understand and speak the local language.

But that’s about the only good thing going for Jeannette.  The tomb’s occupant, a mummy, wants her to find his ba or soul.  There’s a cat-headed girl, freshly booted out of her litter, sent to “help” Jeannette, and Jeannette’s managed to come afoul of the Slave Master of Thebes.  She scoots out of town and heads upriver (which in Egypt is south) and tries to get her bearings.

MacLellan spent a lot of time researching ancient Egypt, and it shows.  The everyday lives and wardrobe (or lack of same) of the locals is painted in great detail.  We discover that beer was very important to Egyptians, and at the time they made beer by fermenting bread in water, which means you needed a straw to drink your beer!

In Mark Twain’s book, the title character used his knowledge of science to get out of trouble.  Here, Jeannette’s modern knowledge is of little help.  What is of help is her persistence and willingness to adapt to local customs.  Jeannette’s curiosity helps, as it allows her to solve a local mystery and get right with the Slave Master, who is what passes for law in Thebes.

I found Three Great Lies a fascinating book, and well worth the reading.

REVIEW: Justice Calling: The 20-Sided Sorceress Book 1


Title: Justice Calling: The 20-Sided Sorceress Book 1 Author: Annie BelletGenre: Urban FantasyPrice: $0.99 (ebook) / $8.99 (paperback)Publisher: Doomed Muse PressISBN:  978-1500629724Point of Sale: various via author’s website  Reviewed by: Chris GerribI first heard of Annie Bellet via this year’s Hugo brouhaha.  Ms. Bellet had a short story nominated, but, in her words, tired of being “both a conscripted player and also a ball” she withdrew from consideration.  Out of frankly appreciation, I bought Book 1 of her 20-sides Sorceress series.  It’s a good book.  Jade Crow, narrator, heroine and sorceress of the title, is enjoying a quiet life in (fictional) Wylde, Idaho, gateway to “The Frank” (Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness).  Jade, who’s of Indian descent, runs a game shop there, serving the local population of fae and college kids who populate the town.  She’s also hiding out from her ex-lover, a man who personally saw Julius Ceasar get stabbed, and who wants to kill her and eat her heart.  (That’s how sorcerers get more magic.)  Then a hunky blonde man walks in and says Jade is a murderer.  Oh, and he’s a Justice – the fae’s police, judge and executioner all in one.  Thus ends Chapter 1, and starts a very entertaining if alas too-brief romp in Bellet’s entertaining world.  Jade finds herself forced to make a decision – stay and help or run – and do so quickly.  Justice Calling is really a novella – only 121 pages – but terribly entertaining.  Jade Crow is very modern, and speaks fluent Geek, as do her characters.  I found Jade’s predicament believable, as were both her and the other characters responses to same.  Jade has some very useful magical powers, but she’s not invincible, and neither is anybody else.  This was really an entertaining romp, and at least in the paper edition, there are two chapters from Book 2 of the series – which I ordered immediately.  9/10[...]

REVIEW: Freedom at Feronia (Asteroid Police Book 2)


Title: Freedom at Feronia (Asteroid Police Book 2)Author: Richard PennGenre: SFPrice: $3.99 (ebook) / $10.99 (paperback)Publisher: Amazon Digital ServicesISBN:  978-1500830663Point of Sale: Amazon  Reviewed by: Chris GerribI first heard of Richard Penn via another reviewer, who made an off-hand comment about Penn’s second book, Freedom at Feronia.  I reviewed Book 1 earlier, so here’s Book 2, which is a close sequel.In Book 1, our heroine Lisa ends up with her very own spaceship, or at least the core for one.  After some not-terribly-interesting discussions, she decides to take it out with a crew to Feronia, a real asteroid, there to undertake a commission for the Asteroid Belt Police.In Penn’s universe, space travel is awfully slow, which causes the plot of this book to drag.  Eventually, our heroes make it to Feronia, which consists of two stations, a ground-based one and an orbital one.  The two halves are in the midst of a cold war, largely because the ground station has been overtaken by a group of American libertarians from Tulsa, who are doing all sorts of quasi-libertarian / religious hijinks.  Lisa’s problem is to end the hijinks with her crew of six police in a way such that she can leave without fighting returning.One of my criticisms of libertarians in general is that they don’t seem to understand how humans work.  Much the same can be said of the author, Penn.  He comes up with an innovative solution to the problem, which only works if people are much less stubborn than they usually are.  Considering that these colonists are true believers (or they wouldn’t be there) I found that hard to buy.I wish I could say that the breathless prose and other stylistic points salvaged the story for me.  They don’t.  The prose is workmanlike at best, and the dialog clunky.  I also felt that the POV shifted around a lot for no apparent reason.  About the best I can say for Freedom at Feronia is that it provides a more solid ending than that of the first book.  I would really consider both books as one novel for purposes of plot.Interesting concept, not well-executed.[...]

REVIEW: The Dark Colony (Asteroid Police Book 1)


Title: The Dark Colony (Asteroid Police Book 1Author: Richard PennGenre: SFPrice: $3.99 (ebook) / $9.99 (paperback)Publisher: Amazon Digital ServicesISBN:  978-1500357252Point of Sale: Amazon  Reviewed by: Chris GerribI first heard of Richard Penn via another reviewer, who made an off-hand comment about Penn’s second book, Freedom at Feronia.  Since both books were $3.99 ebooks, I bought them and read them in order.  My overall assessment is merely okay.The Dark Colony, today’s book, is set on a colony orbiting the very real asteroid Terpsichore.  Our heroine, Lisa, is an 18-year-old junior cop in the very small colony (around 400 people all told) whom, in Chapter 1, finds a dead body.  What’s especially shocking is that said dead body is the first stranger Lisa has ever met.Thus begins my many, many heartburns with the book.  Penn, in an attempt to be realistic, has kept his travel between points in space slow – arguably too slow, and too infrequent to support a realistic economy.  I have other world-building issues, such as a colony spun to produce 1/100th of a G gravity.My biggest heartburn begins when the investigation gets up to speed.  Nobody would reasonably expect the police department of a 400-person village to handle a murder all on their own.  So they call for help from Mars.  But because of the travel issues, Mars is really just computer help and talking heads on a video screen.  Yet when Lisa is told by Mars to arrest people she’s known her whole life, she does so without a peep!  Moreover, the locals stand for it.Now, I have to say I found The Dark Colony a refreshing change of pace from typical SF asteroids of late, which seem to be infested with gun-toting libertarians.  The economy and politics is much more (realistically, in my view) collectivist.  But I do believe than Penn has tossed the baby out with the bathwater in regards to how people would realistically behave.  Simply put, if The Authorities can’t actually put boots on the ground (or whatever passes for ground locally) they aren’t really in authority.I wish I could say that the breathless prose and other stylistic points salvaged the story for me.  They don’t.  The prose is workmanlike at best, and a fair amount of the dialog is maid-and-butler.  I get the feeling that Penn hasn’t ever lived in a small town, which is reflected in his characters.  Like much self-published stuff, The Dark Colony is an interesting concept not well executed.7/10[...]

Mark Lawrence publicity opportunity


If you have self-published a fantasy book you might be interested in this opportunity to get some high quality blog reviews.

REVIEW: A Sword Into Darkness


Title: A Sword Into DarknessAuthor: Thomas A. MaysGenre: Military SFPrice: $3.99 (ebook) $14.39 (paperback)Publisher: AmazonISBN 978-1939398086Point of Sale: Amazon Reviewed by: Chris GerribThere’s an ongoing debate in Science Fiction at the moment.  One very loud faction says people are abandoning SF because all our stories are “social justice novels” and we’re handing out awards not for good work but to hit a racial / ethnic / gender checklist.  Since I vote on one of the awards (the Hugos) I found that argument rather unconvincing.  One of the gentlemen on the other side, I discovered, had penned an SF novel entitled A Sword Into Darkness. The ebook price was right, so I bought it and read it.Overall, it's a pretty good book - I'd give it three stars. The action is engaging, the science is solid, and his invading aliens have unique motivations and modes of travel. (It's important to figure out why they are moving so slowly.)But it's not a 4 or 5 star book.Sword is in many ways old-fashioned. Chapter 1 is a temper tantrum thrown when a wealthy alt-space guy can't convince NASA with five (5) (five!!!!!) months of telescopic data that the aliens are coming. After five months, with dozens of telescopes and hundreds of astronomers looking, everybody would know the aliens are coming. Yet NASA somehow keeps the lid on the invasion for decades.So, in Chapter 3, wealthy industrialist decides to invest his billions in developing and building the type of tech we'd need to defeat the invasion. This goes surprisingly smoothly, despite government interference (of course the government interferes - ignore the fact that they're paying SpaceX and others) and has few technical glitches. (It's only rocket science, after all.) Oh, and there's a hijacking of a ship that I saw coming for a while. And the US Secretary of Defense has to be fired in order to put a stop to his obstructionism. (It's only an alien invasion.)Now, despite all of this I did find the story entertaining. Also, the aliens were unique, so it's not all recycled material. But there's a lot of recycling going on. It was enjoyable, but cotton candy for the mind.  It will not be on my Hugo list.7/10[...]

REVIEW: Death Stalks Door County


Title: Death Stalks Door CountyAuthor: Patricia SkalkaGenre: mysteryPrice: $26.95 (hardcover) $10.49 (ebook)Publisher: Terrace Books (University of Wisconsin Press)ISBN 978-0299299408Point of Sale: various, listed at author's siteReviewed by: Chris GerribMy local library held a local authors’ fair in January.  I attended the event, sold a couple of books, and of course bought a couple.  One of the books I bought was Death Stalks Door County by Patricia Skalka.  It’s a contemporary mystery, but I firmly believe one should vary what genres one reads.  It helps that Death Stalks is a very good book.Death Stalks is Patricia Skalka’s first novel, although the author enjoyed a long career in non-fiction writing.  It’s set in Door County, Wisconsin, which is a peninsula that juts into Lake Michigan.  For reasons cultural and geographic, when Chicagoans are looking for a weekend getaway, they go north to Wisconsin, and Door County is a heavy recipient of that traffic.The protagonist is Dave Cubiak, a newly-minted state park ranger and former Chicago cop.  His wife and child were killed by a drunk driver, and Dave crawled into a bottle.  In an attempt to help him get out of said bottle, his buddies set him up with the job in Door County.  It wasn’t helping.  Then, the brother of the man who killed Dave’s wife takes a fatal fall (or was he pushed?) from the top of the park’s observation tower, and Dave discovers the body.  Thus ends Chapter 1.This is the first of a number of suspicious deaths, all of them occurring just as the county is getting ready for their annual “start of the tourist season” festival.  The big wheels in the county, thinking tourists are coming to escape big-city violence not get dead in it, want these murders to stop and things kept quiet.  It turns out that there are other plans afoot, some of which are even more threatening to Door County.It’s hard to write a review of a mystery without giving it away.  All I can say is, everybody is a suspect, and Skalka plays fair with her clues.  When the final reveal happens, it’s fair and I could mentally go back through the book and lay out the clues I had missed.  There’s an especially subtle touch towards the end with an Indian feather head-dress worn during a parade.  All I can say is, read this book.8/10[...]

REVIEW: Riding the Red Horse


Title: Riding the Red HorseEditor: Tom Kratman and Vox DayGenre: military SF / military non-fictionPrice: $4.99 (ebook)Publisher: Castalia HouseISBN B00QZD9H5KPoint of Sale: AmazonReviewed by: Chris GerribI am not a fan of Vox Day.  He holds views diametrically opposed to mine on, if not everything, most things, and has a tendency to be very controversial.  I’m also not a fan of Colonel Tom Kratman, although I do respect his service.  Having said that, I've never felt that I should restrict myself to reading only books written by people I like, and so I took a flyer on Riding the Red Horse.In the 1980s and early 1990s, there were a series of anthologies entitled There Will Be War. The books were a mixture of military SF and non-fiction.  Red Horse is a revival of the same concept, and some of the same authors (notably Jerry Pournelle) appear in both anthologies.  The basic concept of both books is history has not ended, and Man (and probably Non-Man) will always fight wars.Red Horse has 26 separate works, half non-fiction and half short stories.  I found all of them well-written and thought-provoking, even if some of them I didn't agree with.  In short, I can recommend this unreservedly for fans of military SF.  Some noteworthy articles were:Sucker Punch – the fiction debut of Eric S. Raymond, this is a near-future story in which China invades Taiwan.  I had an issue with some of the naval tactics employed, but the story as a whole was reminiscent of Tom Clancy’s better work.Understanding 4thGeneration War – a non-fiction article by William S. Lind, this was well-written and provided a good summary of an important concept.  I (and I suspect Col. Kratman) don’t agree with the concept, but that’s in part the point of an anthology like this.A Reliable Source – Vox Day’s contribution to the book, which makes a point that should be obvious but apparently isn’t, namely the weakness of aerial drone warfare is the base “back home.”The Hot Equations – a non-fiction article by Ken Burnside, a genuine Rocket Scientist ™, which says “there ain’t no such thing as stealth in space.”The General’s Guard – written by Brad Torgersen, this is an interesting story on women in combat and on the idea that, as Stalin supposedly said, quantity is a quality all its own.   8/10[...]

SFWA Opens to Consideration of Self-Published Authors


"....the membership of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has approved bylaw changes that enable SFWA to accept self-publication and small-press credits for Active and Associate memberships in the organization. We are using existing levels of income but are now allowing a combination of advances and income earned in a 12 month period to rise to the qualifying amounts."

REVIEW: Proof of Our Resolve


Title: Proof of Our ResolveAuthor: Chris HernandezGenre: military fictionPrice: $5.99 (ebook) / $10.86 (paperbackPublisher: Tactical 16ISBN 978-0985558291Point of Sale: AmazonReviewed by: Chris GerribSome time back, I stumbled on the blog of Chris Hernandez while searching for something else.  From his author’s bio: Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo.  In short, Chris is a guy who has a lot to say about police and military matters.  So, having seen he wrote two novels, I took a chance and bought one.  Proof of Our Resolve is informed by Chris’s experience in Afghanistan.  It’s a fictionalized account of a Texas Army National Guard platoon sent there to handle mostly convoy escorts, and their activities in a fictionalized couple of Taliban-infested Afghan valleys.  Chris makes it a point to note that he was not any sort of Special Forces “operator,” but nor was he a FOBbit (somebody who hangs out at a Forward Operating Base and never goes outside the wire).  No, Chris was a grunt, and this is the story of grunts doing regular grunt work.Proof of Our Resolve is a short novel – 185 pages – but packed with action.  The author has an eye for characters and an ear for dialog, which show throughout the book.  Chris also spent some time with French forces in Afghanistan, and he found them tough and competent, which reflects their characterization in this book.  There’s soldier language and soldier violence to spare, but damn this is a good book.9/10[...]

REVIEW: Ascension, a Tangled Axon Novel


Title: Ascension: A Tangled Axon NovelAuthor: Jacqueline KoyanagiGenre: SFPrice: $6.99 (ebook) / $12.30 (paperbackPublisher: Masque BooksISBN 978-1607014010Point of Sale: Amazon Publishers siteReviewed by: Chris GerribI am a guest reviewer on the blog Heroines of Fantasy.  It’s a gig I paid the same as I do here, which is to say nothing.  In this case, the gig cost me something, because a review I read on Heroines of Fantasy prompted me to buy Ascension.  I’m glad I did.The novel is the story of Alana Quick, “sky surgeon” which means she fixes spaceships.  Unfortunately, the Otherspacers have arrived, bringing radically new tech that doesn’t need fixing, or at least fixing by independents like Alana.  So money’s tight, which is a real problem given that Alana has an auto-immune disease which requires expensive medication to manage.  Then a cargo ship arrives at the repair yard, except the crew is looking for Alana’s sister, a “spirit guide” and much wealthier.  On a wink and a nod from the ship’s doctor, Alana stows aboard, and action that lands her in the brig and a meeting with the ship’s hot blonde female captain, for whom Alana has an immediate case of the hots.  And now were up to Chapter Three.Lots of interesting stuff happens in the rest of the book, as Alana, her sister and the crew of the Tangled Axon try to sort things out both among themselves and in the universe.  Alana’s sister, Nova, is wanted by the equivalent of Bill Gates, except this version doesn’t play very nice.  But not only is there an interesting story, there are interesting characters.  As mentioned, Alana is both gay and has a disability.  She’s not alone in her problems – most of the characters aren’t “normal” for lack of a better word.  Nor are their interpersonal relationships vanilla – no this is a Rocky Road and pistachio bunch.  Yet the fact that they aren’t all Studly McSquarejaws isn’t beaten into the reader – it’s just there, like air and gravity.Ascension is not a typical novel – it’s a really good one.  9/10 [...]

REVIEW: Time Heist


Title:   Time Heist (Firstborn Saga) Volume 1Author: Anthony VicinoGenre: SFPrice: $3.99 (ebook) $10.73 (paperback)Publisher: One Lazy RobotISBN:  978-0692336991Point of Sale: AmazonReviewed by: Chris GerribAnthony Vicino, the author of Time Heist, contacted me directly via email with what proved to be a compelling pitch to review his first novel.  I agreed, and was pleased with my decision.Time Heist starts out as a futuristic hard-boiled mystery.  Our first-person narrator, Tom Mandel, is an ex-cop with less than a day to live.  He knows this because everybody is implanted with a Life Tracker.  This device counts down your allocated 70 years of life, and when it hits zero, it kills you.  Although Mandel has been abusing drugs for the past nine years since his wife was killed, nanotech means he’s fairly healthy.  Also, Mandel is an “Intuit” – somebody who can intuitively navigate the all-pervasive cyberspace.  As I mentioned, the story starts out as a hard-boiled noir, with tired and world-weary detective doing one last job for the good guys.  Perhaps fortunately, Mandel’s last assignment, to find Malcom Wolfe, escaped prisoner and killer of Mandel’s wife, proves to be much more high-stakes, involving no less than the fate of all humanity.Alas, I found the story curiously slow to get started.  Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of action from Chapter 2 thru to the end.  But for the longest time we don’t find out what’s at stake.  Malcom Wolfe, for example, killed nine million people!  He did this by hacking their Life Trackers, taking them instantly to ten minutes left.  Yet we don’t find this out until a good halfway into the book.  The world in general is so radically different as to leave me in doubt as to whether or not it was Earth, but again, that detail isn't provided until quite late in the book.  The other thing I found problematic was the action.  I felt like I was in a first-person-shooter video game.  Mandel and other named characters shot their way through guards and police like they were shooting zombies.  The named characters did get hurt and complained of pain, but thanks to nanotech they were literally up and running in no time.  The entire novel takes place in just over 24 hours.Having said all of that, I found Time Heist an interesting and enjoyable read.  Vicino’s writing is gripping, and his characters are sympathetic.  Although I would have handled some things differently, Time Heist was a good read.8/10[...]

REVIEW: The Immortality Game


Title: The Immortality Game  Author: Ted CrossGenre: SFPrice: $3.99 (ebook) / $12.59 (paperback)Publisher: Breakwater Harbor Books  ISBN:  978-0990987710Point of Sale: Amazon  Reviewed by: Chris GerribI was attracted to this book by two things.  First, Ted Cross, the author, has spent serious time in Moscow, where the story is set, and currently resides in lovely Baku, Azerbaijan.  Second, just look at that cover!  It’s from Stephan Martiniere, one of the premier SF illustrators.Fortunately, The Immortality Game lives up to its cover.  Set primarily in Moscow in the summer of 2138, the book is the story of Zoya and Marcus.  Zoya is a Russian teenager, who by accident comes in possession of some military cyber-ware.  Marcus is a twenty-something American and former addict of “The Mesh,” an all-consuming virtual reality place.  Marcus is also being led around by his “dad” – or rather an AI construct that has his dad’s memories and personalities.  Marcus’s dad thinks that Zoya’s cyber-ware, or rather the folks that made it, can be used to download him into a real body.  Alas, said Russian cyber-tech is valuable, and the Russian mob wants it.  Also, the world of 2138 is a radically different place, with what’s left of America being ruled by the Mormon Church.  This basic setup leads to an action-packed series of events, as the two young people struggle to survive.  Also struggling are the Russian scientists who invented the tech, and pretty much all of the good guys are way out of their depth.  While all of this action is going on, the author doesn’t skimp on character-building.  Everybody, from our leads to the Russian hit men and their bosses, has at least some character arc and development.  I have to say I also liked the ending.  The author has a chance to go with the conventional “happy ever after” ending but he doesn’t, subverting it while not being a complete downer.  Zoya, Marcus and his “dad” all have more substantial development, which leads them to some interesting places.  I also liked Mr. Cross’s eye for detail.  For example, his Moscow is full of poplar seeds floating like snowflakes in the summer breeze.   If you can’t tell, I really enjoyed reading The Immortality Game.9/10[...]

REVIEW: Rise of The Spider Goddess


(image) Title: Rise of the Spider Goddess
Author: Jim C. Hines
Genre: Fantasy, humor
Price: $3.99 (ebook) $9.89 (paperback)
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1502451903
Point of Sale: Amazon  
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Friend-of-the-blog and generally good egg Jim Hines is a writing machine, having released 10 quite enjoyable novels over the past eight years.  But he wasn’t born such a writing machine – like most “overnight successes” he spent a long time toiling in the trenches.  Jim’s also a giving fellow, and in the spirit of the season he’s decided to give us a special work.

Jim’s latest novel, out today, is called The Prosekiller Chronicles: Rise of the Spider Goddess.  Although it’s new to readers, it’s old hat to Jim.  Spider Goddess is Jim’s very first novel-length piece of prose, written back when Jim had hair in 1995.

I called Spider Goddess a novel-length piece of prose because it’s truly bad.  Our hero, Nakor the Purple, likes to hang around watching over-described sunsets while getting into truly unbelievable combat with unknown (and not very competent) foes.  The book also stars an angst-y vampire, an owl (or maybe a falcon, depending on the chapter) and the most cardboard world ever bound between cardboard covers.

There are two things that save Spider Goddess.  First, it’s an object reminder that even good writers started somewhere. More importantly, Jim has a sense of humor, so he’s liberally sprinkled snarky and humorous comments in the book, making fun of his younger self’s (lack of) writing skills.  Think Mystery Science Theater 3000 meets Lord of the Rings.

So, if you’re looking for a humorous diversion, go sneak a copy of Volume 1 (and done) of The Prosekiller Chronicles: Rise of the Spider Goddess.