Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review: Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright

This is a tough one. How to review a novel that doesn't play by the rules, that switches genres, tone and even characters without warning? (That last part might be overstating it, but not by much). I was almost prepared to take a coward's way out, put a one-liner "Great stuff! Buy it!" on Amazon and call it a day. But then I remembered the true purpose of a review. Aside, of course, from helping sales and visibility by its mere existence (yes, kids, authors need reviews, but that's another blog post) a review acts as a matchmaker between the book and the reader. Thus, it could be done without excess reference to the particulars, but simply by describing what type of reader would enjoy the work. With this in mind, here comes the "Will you like this?" test.

You will enjoy this novel if:

 You believe in the power of love in all its forms. Romantic love, sure, but also love that is inherent in deep, abiding friendship; a scholar's love of knowledge and a philosopher's love of truth; and ultimately, if you're a believer of any stripe, the Creator's love for this world and all its inhabitants. While the story is given its momentum with a simple hook of two lovers in an exceptionally difficult and strange predicament, it rises well above its humble beginnings by the time it's all over.

You are tired of bland, interchangeable characters that populate most modern fiction and are ready to meet real heroes and villains, characters who are more than they appear, subject to forces and passions of epic proportions, and who never cease to surprise you as you follow them on their journey.

You appreciate the plot that keeps building and revealing layer upon layer, making you climb along the twisted path until you arrive at the pinnacle of a perfectly satisfying ending. The novel bends and mixes virtually every genre, from romance to urban fantasy to heavy-duty mythology to horror, in a way very few authors attempt and fewer still succeed.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Do Strong Female Characters Make for Better Stories?

(I was really tempted to add "THE ANSWER WILL SHOCK YOU!" I resisted. You're welcome.)

There has been much discussion over the last few years (probably longer, but I might have been too busy reading to pay attention) about Strong Female Characters. Yes, people usually capitalize the first letters of each word when using this term because it’s So Very Important.

Part of the emphasis comes from troublemakers from both sides of the feminist/masculinist divide. There is a type of feminist who would never be satisfied until there are no male characters left in fiction except for killers and rapists; and there are certainly people on the other side who groan in disgust every time a trailer for female-fronted action flick pops up on the theater screen. The issue is in fact that divisive, and politically charged on top of that, even if most of us fall somewhere in the middle and want no part of the drama.

Scratch that last one. We most certainly do want drama. Storytelling drama. Excitement. Unpredictability. Surprise. And this is where some of the current trends fail us. It’s a shame, really. Movies have more and better technology than ever, and book publishing is less and less constrained by the gatekeepers. Yet whether in an effort to adhere to new societal norms or simply to pander to the perceived demands of the market, our stories are swapping new tropes for the old and still leave many of us longing for something more.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Book Review: Alaska Hunt by Shelter Somerset

Alaska Hunt is marketed mostly as M/M romance due to the nature of its publisher, but to pigeonhole it that way would be to sell it short.  It is primarily a mystery/psychological thriller that contains a strong romantic element. The setting in Alaska gives it a different feel from most mysteries, and the protagonist is not a professional detective, but someone who takes extra interest in the case partly for personal reasons. And then, predictably enough, it gets REALLY personal.

The romance subplot comes naturally enough within the story, not just the usual "let's throw in a love interest" trope. It is an M/M romance between adults, one of whom is fairly comfortable in his own skin and the other is still figuring out his sexual preferences, but beyond that both of them have to decide where they belong and what they want to do with their lives. There's mystery to solve, tragedy and loss to overcome, and all the while, mortal danger is just around the corner ... The writing style can be somewhat disorienting in its combination of highly descriptive, almost flowery prose with a decidedly hard-boiled, unabashedly masculine vibe (think Andrew Klavan meets Nora Roberts). But then again, that's what makes it interesting to a reader who is open to trying something new.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance: 2015 Book of the Year Awards

(April 5, 2016) - The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA), a network of authors, readers, editors, publishers, reviewers, artists, and cultural leaders who read, write, and promote pro-liberty fiction, has released the list of the ten Finalists for the 2015 CLFA Book of the Year award.They are (in alphabetical order by author's last name):

The Notice by Daniella Bova
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia
Honor at Stake by Declan Finn
By the Hands of Men Book Two: Into the Flames by Roy M. Griffis
The Devil's Dictum by Frederick-Heimbach
Amy Lynn, Golden Angel by Jack July
Amy Lynn, The Lady Of Castle Dunn by Jack July
Her Brother's Keeper by Mike Kupari
The Violet Crow by Michael Sheldon

All titles are available for purchase on Amazon.

To qualify, books had to be novel length (minimum 50k words) fiction first published in the calendar year 2015. Self-published, small press and traditionally published works are all eligible, including e-book and audio formats. Authors need not be members of the CLFA or even consider themselves to be politically aligned with the CLFA in order to be nominated and win. Books were nominated by members of the CLFA closed Facebook group. The top ten nominees are the finalists.

Voting to determine the winner will commence on June 1st via a Survey Monkey poll, which will be open to the general public. A link to the survey will be posted on the CLFA public Facebook page and at, and shared via other social media at that time. Voting will conclude on June 30, and winners will be announced shortly thereafter.
Good luck to all the nominees!

For more information, contact

To join the CLFA Facebook group, visit and request to be added.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Guest Post: Amie Gibbons on Self-Defense Laws

Today I offer you a guest post by Amie Gibbons, a fellow author who had just published her first full-size novel. Considering her unique expertise, I have asked Amie to share her thoughts on self-defense with my readers. The subject comes up frequently in public discourse while being a popular subplot in thriller novels and action movies. Whether you are a curious reader, an author looking to add veracity to your works, or simply a concerned citizen, I believe you will find this information both enlightening and useful.

Don’t forget to check out The Gods Defense, the first book in Amie's new series about what happens to law and society when the ancient gods and magic wake up. 


Nothing in here is meant to be taken as legal advice and it is all extremely general statements of complex and often fact specific laws.  I can not stress that enough, especially in a post like this where the laws vary wildly by state and the line between self defense homicide and murder relies so heavily not only on the exact facts of the situation but the perception of those.

Nothing in here is meant to incite anything or to encourage any kind of homicide (basically, nobody point to my post later on and say, “She said I could!”).  If you are easily offended by someone saying you get to shoot bad guys, don’t read this, because I don’t want to deal with the whining and people getting their feels hurt (New Saying: Argue Facts not Feels).  Also, we’re discussing a private citizen’s right to self defense, as in homicide you argue was justifiable under the circumstances because you were under attack, not how to get away with murder or anything having to do with police.