MURDERED (Click Your Poison) by James Schannep

MURDERED (Click Your Poison) by James Schannep

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Genre: Mystery Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Estimated word count: N/A (Choose your adventure story)

Veteran Author: Yes, Air Force

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: No Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

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Author:

“James Schannep (1984-) is an American novelist and screenwriter with a dozen competition wins and placements. His first screenplay was optioned in 2011 and the Click Your Poison series was launched September, 2012 with the flagship book INFECTED.

A United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) graduate with a degree in English, Schannep left the service honorably to write full time. He resides with his wife along California’s central coast.”

Description:

“3 Unique Storylines. Over 50 Possible Endings. Just one question... Could YOU Solve a Murder?

MURDERED is a mystery novel unlike any other — YOU are the main character. Follow clues, interrogate suspects, and piece together the puzzle before the killer gets away! It’s up to you to solve the case in this action-packed, dark and humorous thriller. Each link represents a choice, and the story evolves based on your decisions.

You’re in a dark alley, a lost tourist in Brazil, when you stumble across a woman’s body and a revolver atop a grisly note which reads, “PICK ME UP.” That’s when you realize you’re not alone….

What starts as an exotic vacation ends up as the opportunity of a lifetime when you inadvertently witness a man fleeing the scene of a murder. Work side-by-side with US Diplomatic Security agents (DSS) and Brazilian Police Officers inside the lawless slums of Rio de Janeiro — but choose wisely, no one is who they truly seem to be.

Get MURDERED!

My Two Cents:

I took this expecting a quick read for old-time nostalgia sakes, but got more than I expected. The base story is witty, gritty and sometimes downright funny. This would be entertaining enough as a traditional tale. The gambook effect is mere icing on the cake.

Even though I died only 13% through the story on my first read, (I became an even worse murderer, woops!) I had a blast. That’s what many books promise but this one actually delivers: an adventure. After five endings, five stand alone rides, I’ve only exhausted 10% of the fun.

The only weakness might be how many decision points the reader has available. With over 50, keeping all the puzzle pieces in place gets confusing. Still, that’s a matter of taste and doesn’t significantly detract from the great experience.

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The Games by Izai Amorim

The Games by Izai Amorim

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Genre: Literary Fiction/Action Adventure

Rating: **** Four Stars

Estimated word count: 116,000 words

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: No Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

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Author:

“Izai Amorim was born and raised in Brazil but spent most of his adult life abroad, briefly in the USA, mostly in Germany. He was trained as an architect and worked many years in the profession. But his real passion is story telling. At some point in his life he decided to mix storytelling with architecture, changed profession, and became a branding consultant, something that he loves and has been doing to these days. He writes about media, information, and politics. His first novel The Games shows how information is processed to create and spread the stories needed to establish power structures not accountable to anyone. The graphic companion to this novel is the photographic essay The Lace Curtains of Berlin.”

Description:

“The Games is a mean political novel. Not for people who expect the good guys to win at the end: there are no good guys in it. It’s rather a battle of evil against evil. This mother of all conspiracies will take you to the world of terrorism without a cause; environmental protection organizations operating extortion rackets; secret services run amok; global television networks manipulating the news; major sport events being hijacked by politicians and profiteers; and last but not least the world of lace curtains and their political meaning to former terrorists on parole.”

My Two Cents:

On page 1 you’re led to believe this is a thriller about stopping nuclear terrorism. As you go along, the bomb has little to do with the story. This book is packed with satire, social commentary and dark humor, but relatively little action. But that’s alright, since the background story to the attack sucked me in. This whole story strikes me as literary fiction merely masquerading as a thriller!

Another unique point: almost the entire tale is told in the present tense. I thought that would get boring after a while, but not really. It helps keep the story fresh.

The only real weakness is it’s a little dated. That’s important because the “hopelessness” of rehabilitating East Germany plays such a crucial role in the story. What was true once has changed in the last decade.

Still, that doesn’t detract from the story. This is a well-written and fun book, as well as a cutting commentary of European social politics and big business in general. An enjoyable, unique read.

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Falling Up by Brian Bromberg

Falling Up by Brian Bromberg

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Genre: Literary Fiction/Humor

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Estimated word count: 392,000

Availability:

Kindle: YES Nook: No Smashwords: NO Paperback: Yes

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Author:

“BRIAN J. BROMBERG is a comedic writer living and working in New York City. He has penned several children’s television episodes, a children’s movie, a video game and app, live event scripts, educational materials, and over 13 children’s books. His diverse, often juvenile experience has given him much grist for the mill in his more life-lampooning, adult-oriented work, which has been featured in Lessons from Dad, After Hours and Inked! magazines, and in various stand-up comedy performances in Manhattan. Bromberg is a committed and loving father to a little girl who never fails to inspire him and make him smile on a daily basis.”

Description:

“Gregg Freeman is living the American Dream … in reverse.

For he can’t be the Great American Writer of his dreams unless he feels sufficiently tormented enough to have something to say.

But that’s his problem. He’s too comfortable to have anything to say. Instead, he’s got a high paying corporate day job, a sexy pseudo-girlfriend, a posh New York City apartment, and as such, complete and total Writer’s Block.

So when his best friend Alvaro drunkenly suggests the Muse of Misery best inspires artists, Gregg takes him at his word, embarking upon a systematic campaign to destroy everything in life that has plagued him with stability, comfort, contentedness, or joy. His job? His bank account? Sex? Sobriety? All of it must go. The worse his life, the better his work.

But how far will Gregg allow himself to fall so that his creativity may rise? Pretty damned far, as it turns out. For it’s hard to hit rock bottom when you believe you’re Falling Up.”

My Two Cents:

I was pretty skeptical of this “literary humor” book at first, but the author doesn’t take himself as seriously as I expected. For a tale about wannabe artists in New York, their trials and tribulations were actually relatable to normal folk. Reminds me of the biblical story of Job… just with a little more cocaine and sex!

The hero is so self-involved that he’s his own vicious antagonist. I’m not sure if it was intended or not, but I found myself loathing the main character and loving the sidekicks. Either way, these characters will suck you in. Whether laughing or annoyed, you have no chance of staying emotionally disconnected here!

By the way, loved the twist ending. It’s rare that a book takes me by complete surprise, so well done!

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Donation to Landstuhl Hospital Care Project Finally Paid!

I’ve finally sent out all my royalties from the sale of Power Games (Operation Enduring Unity 1) from 1 Nov to 31 Dec 2013 to the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project .

Sorry it took so long, not all retailers report sales the same month.

Landstuhl Hospital Care Project is an amazing charity that supports wounded service members straight out of combat. Especially during that lonely period where they’re recovering, but their family is back in the States and their buddies are still downrange. A particularly rough time.

These people helped me greatly when I was wounded in Iraq back in ’05. Swing on over to their page and show your support:

http://www.landstuhlhospitalcareproject.org/

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Review of Anatomy Of A Rock Star by Charles Steed

Anatomy Of A Rock Star by Charles Steed

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Genre: Contemporary/Pop Culture Fiction

Rating: **** Four Stars

Estimated word count: 50,000 words

Availability:

Kindle:  YES  Nook: No Smashwords: NO Paperback: NO

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Author:

“I think I spent the first 30 years of my life daydreaming, creating strange and unlikely scenarios and playing what-if in my head. I managed to honorably get through the Navy as a medic and later went on to putting in 12 years as an RN. I followed that with several years buying and selling real estate in a tri-county area of Puget Sound, Washington. I can’t say I wasn’t happy but I will say I was unsettled. It seems that everything I’ve done has led me here.

I was past the age of 40 when I had the urge to document the techniques I’d used as a real estate investor. That led to my first published book. I’d always been a storyteller but now I had stories to tell. And in between a long stint of writing nonfiction how-to books I’d steal time to work at my passion, writing fiction.”

Description:

“At 29 Drew Langley’s life is at a crossroads. By now he expected to be an international rock star. Talent certainly isn’t the issue. Drew’s been writing, singing and playing since the age of five. By all standards, the man is a gifted musical prodigy. He’s sat in as a session player for marquee bands. He’s got a kickass catalog of more than 700 radical tunes. He’s a great singer, a virtuoso on guitar and keyboards, and he’s light years ahead of most established session producers for creativity and ingenuity. 

His good friend Billy keeps urging Drew to pull off a dramatic publicity stunt, something of the shock and awe variety. But Drew thinks everything really crazy has already been done. But has it? After a revealing session with a savvy Hollywood psychic he playfully calls the Voodoo Lady, Drew comes up with a stunt that’s sure to send him to the top with a bullet. It should also make his girl Beth, happy. But things don’t quite turn out that way as serendipity enters the picture.”

My Two Cents:

This was not what I expected, but in a good way. Anatomy of a Rock Star is hard to toss into a particular genre. As self-aware as you’d expect from literary fiction, but with enough humor not to come off stiffly. I mean, I’ve never read a book that incorporates circumcision as such an integral plot device!

The only strange thing is that you never really doubt the eventual success of the main character. He’s intelligent, disciplined, focused… he’s got his act together. The big change is that he just dumps some baggage, gets even better at what he does and mellows out a bit.

All in all, a breezy and witty read. The sexual parts are pretty tastefully done, a hard balance for any author to strike. 

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Terror at Mirror Lake by Hank Kellner

Terror at Mirror Lake by Hank Kellner

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Genre: Psychological/Terror Thriller

Rating: **** Four Stars

Estimated word count: 65,000 words

Availability:

Kindle:  YES  NookYES SmashwordsYES Paperback: NO

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Author:

“Hank Kellner is a veteran of the Korean War and a retired associate professor of English currently based in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He is the author of 125 Photos for English Composition Classes (J. Weston Walch, 1978); How to Be a Better Photographer (J. Weston Walch, 1978); Write What You See (Prufrock Press, 2010); and, with co-author Elizabeth Guy, Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing (Prufrock Press, 2013).”

Description:

“Terror lurks in the shadows of Mirror Lake, where secrets of sex, lies, and death are all patiently waiting to surface from its murky depths. The small town of Hamptonville seems the last place you would find illicit sex, drugs, blackmail, and murder. But that’s exactly what Bruce Orum, his girlfriend Cindy Garvey, and two married couples encounter when they meet Luke Downing, a psychopath who takes pleasure by inflicting pain on his victims. At Mirror Lake Downing takes the two married couples prisoner and plans to torture and humiliate them before killing them. But he does not know that Sheriff Jeff Parker and his partner Molly Hutchison are on his trail and determined to stop him. From page one all the way to the breathtaking ending, you will find yourself on pins and needles waiting to see what happens next.

Terror at Mirror Lake is more than just another psychological thriller. In its pages the author describes the causes of Luke Downing’s evil nature, his relationships with others, and the relationships between the two married couples he plans to torment and kill.”

My Two Cents:

Psychological thrillers aren’t usually my thing, but I have to say this was well done. The author has a few fun and thought-provoking twists on the terror genre that, if not completely unique, are still rarely seen. The antagonist isn’t really the crazy killer, he’s more of a plot device to ramp up the tension. The real scourge in this tale are the main characters. Their deep-rooted shame, guilt and paranoia keep making things worse at every turn.

My only complaint is that the two most interesting characters aren’t even introduced until about 60% through the story. You’ve spent most of the tale wallowing in the (whiny) heads of the four main characters, only to meet the most complex and exciting actors just as the action is approaching a climax!

Still, this is a good read. While it starts dark and tragic, there truly is a happy ending. Despite the jacket’s description, there is no gratuitous sex or violence. What little you’ll find is handled surprisingly tastefully and actually relevant to the plot.

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Into Darkness by Richard Fox

Into Darkness by Richard Fox

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Genre: Spy/Military Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars

Estimated word count: 95,000 words

Availability:

Kindle:  YES  Nook: NO Smashwords: NO Paperback: YES

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Author:

“Upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Richard Fox began his decade-long service in the US Army as a Field Artillery and Military Intelligence officer. During that time, he served two fifteen-month tours in Iraq and was awarded the Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star, and a Presidential Unit Citation.

Drawing upon his personal experiences, Fox infuses authentic details regarding the people, customs, languages, and ever-present threat of death that US Soldiers encountered while serving in the Iraq War.

He lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona, with his incredible wife and two-year-old son, an amazing child bent on anarchy.”

Author’s Facebook page

Description:

“A deadly ambush leaves two Soldiers in al-Qaeda hands. With few leads to follow, a covert arm of the CIA called the Caliban Program charges Captain Eric Ritter to help rescue the missing men. Despite his reservations with the CIA’s “by any means necessary” methods, Ritter accepts the mission.

Once embedded with an infantry company deep inside enemy territory, Ritter must keep his true allegiance hidden from his brother-in-arms, Captain Greg Shelton. Shelton leads the search for his missing Soldiers while maintaining the high moral standards required of every Army officer, standards at odds with Ritter’s mandate. Deceiving his comrade is Ritter’s first step down a dark road paved with good intentions.

The terrorist responsible for the kidnappings, Mukhtar, is Ritter’s old enemy—an enemy Ritter thought was dead. Mukhtar is the local emir for al-Qaeda, and has enough fighters and willing suicide bombers to rule his piece of Iraq with a bloody fist. When Mukhtar learns that Ritter is within striking distance, he vows to settle the vendetta he’s carried against Ritter for years.

War and politics make for strange bedfellows, and Ritter finds an unlikely ally in Abu Ahmet, an Iraqi insurgent. While Abu Ahmet proves useful, Ritter suspects he may have American blood on his hands.

The harder Ritter tries to uphold the honor and integrity of the United States Army, the more he finds himself betraying those who are closest to him—and turning to more and more extreme methods of extracting information to track down the kidnapped Soldiers. Torture, murder, and ugly compromise push Ritter further from his oaths as an officer and into the arms of the Caliban Program.

Written in the brutally honest voice of one who has lived it, Fox’s experiences bring an edge of pathos to the book reminiscent of All Quiet on the Western Front, The Things They Carried, and The Yellow Birds.”

My Two Cents:

Spy thriller, war story, mystery adventure- all those labels fit this tale, but still don’t do it justice. Perhaps, as a vet myself, I’m somewhat biased and overly impressed by the author’s attention to detail and willingness to tackle tough subjects. Into Darkness pulls no punches and sharply contrasts “Big Army politics” with the field realities of fighting a 21st century insurgency.

This is no jingoistic, “America rocks” story. Due to the complicated nature of each character, I’m still not sure who really was the bad guy. The Al Qaeda warlord or the supposed hero? The author neither glorifies nor laments modern war; he simply shows it how it really goes down. The tongue-in-cheek writing style and the shadowy organization pulling strings behind the scenes prevents the reader from becoming lost in the war though. This also helps keep the story fresh and racing along.

I found the ending a little too dark for my personal tastes. The main character’s personal development arc is also incredibly steep. To the point where you get annoyed with him for becoming an extremist. Of course, isn’t that a hallmark of great writing? These aren’t simple characters; both the “good” and “bad” people truly come alive. It’s very hard to stay emotionally disconnected!

FYI:

Of all the military fiction I’ve ever read, none has captured the realism and immediacy of this book. The writer struck a fine balance between appealing to veterans and lay-folk alike. Details of weapons and tactics are watered down enough so as not to drown people in acronyms, but the meticulous detailing of every minor aspect of day-to-day deployment life gives vets that “he gets it” flavor they crave.

By the way, if you feel you’re missing the back story, check out the author’s short story prequel:

The Caliban Program

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Mythical (Stone Soldiers Series) by C.E. Martin

Mythical (Stone Soldiers Series) by C.E. Martin

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Genre: Paranormal/Military Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars (for a novella)

Estimated word count: 48,000 words

Availability:

KindleYES  Nook: YES Smashwords: YES  Paperback: NO

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Author:

“C.E. Martin resides in the midwest with his wife and two daughters.

After serving four years in the USAF, C.E. returned to the midwest in 1994. Toiling by day as a civil servant, C.E. enjoys classic pulp novels and B Movies in his spare time. When not writing, C.E. can be found lurking around the internet or on Xbox Live–when his kids let him have the TV.”

My Two Cents:

This was surprisingly entertaining. Maybe I just went in with lowered expectations for a paranormal novella, but I was impressed. Mythical is set in an alternative timeline where “superheroes” are a mundane, and often pathetic, part of everyday life. That small percentage of the population with superhuman abilities pretty much all do contractor work for the government… or are hunted down by them.

To further live up to the title, the author tosses in magic, alternate universes, commandos, the entire menu of mythical creatures, ancient legends… even Medusa makes an appearance.

Despite being an action thriller, there’s also quite a bit of character introspection and slow suspense building. Personally, I found some of the dangers comically ridiculous (a dragon?!), but that doesn’t distract too much from the story.

Overall, this well-polished and professionally edited novella rates 5 stars, but with a caveat: only when compared to other novellas in its genre: paranormal military thrillers.

As is standard practice in this industry, I received a free review copy of this book.

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IndieView New Reviewer Interview

Here’s the new reviewer interview the IndieView quizzed me on. The single most comprehensive directory for free indie book reviewers, if you’re hunting for some.

About Reviewing

How did you get started?

A) When I finished my book, I realized there were no real niche review/marketing sites for the genre. I was sick and tired of screening hundreds of reviewers to find the 10% or so that might, just maybe, possibly be interested in my techno thriller. I wanted to do something about that, but didn’t have the energy to change the world.

So, I decided that I could help by starting a review program based not solely upon genre, but by background of the author. That’s why active duty and veteran authors get first priority. They don’t have to write about war, hell, secretly I’m sick and tired of writing and reading about fighting, but if they served, they have my attention. Regardless of the tale.

How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?

A) Detailed notes as I go along. I give the notes to the author as a bonus.

What are you looking for?

A) Practically anything from a veteran author; doesn’t even have to be military related. However, for civilians, I have to insist that the story deals at least loosely with military life or veterans issues. Not that I’m uninterested in other subjects, but there has to be some niche focus to this blog or I’d be swamped with reviews and unfocused.

If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?

A: The devil’s in the “less than perfect” line. How bad? The occasional typo or misplaced comma is going to happen. I’ve never read a perfect book, even by so-called professional authors. It’s only an issue worth mentioning if it becomes distracting. If the reader’s being knocked out of the story too often.

How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?

A: How long is itself a great measure of quality. Maybe four days if the tale snatches me by the throat and takes me prisoner. Probably closer to 2-3 weeks if I’m struggling to really get emotionally engaged. Most books fall around the 1-2 week window.

How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?

A: I rank based upon whether a book is worth the time and/or money to read, in terms of simple entertainment and/or thought provoking value. I don’t do 1-2 stars because I obviously couldn’t finish such a story. 3 stars mean it’s worth the time to read, but unless it’s free or discounted, you probably can find better books for the price. 4 Stars mean you get the equivalent value for your time and money as most similar books, so take a chance on this. 5 Stars represent something you’ll probably not only buy for yourself, but will want to recommend to everyone you know.

What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?

A) Do your homework and create a custom request for each reviewer. It’s a hell of a lot of work, I know, I’m a struggling author as well, but it pays off. These people usually write 1 or 2 reviews a month and have a long backlog. “Spray and pray” requests won’t work. Screen the reviewers carefully. Not just their submission guidelines, but read their whole site and last couple of reviews.

– Are they pretentious and snobby (a common problem in the literary world)? Then kiss their butt in your pitch. “Your review of ‘x’ blew my mind…”

– Are they the down-to-Earth type? Then be yourself. Skip the hype in your pitch. “I wrote this book because…”

– Do they obviously prefer a particular type of book, regardless of the genres they say they like? Try to relate your story to their favorite style. If it’s too much of a stretch, don’t bother. Just move on.

Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?

A) Yes, and that’s the right thing to do. I try to stay in touch as much as possible.

My advice to authors on getting a “bad” review (hasten to add that might mean a perfectly honest, well written, fair review – just bad from the author’s point of view) is to take what you can from it and move on. Under no circumstances to “argue” with the reviewer – would you agree with that?

A) 100% right on! If you want to be treated as a professional, you have to act like a pro. Besides, a few negative reviews make all your other reviews look more believable. No one trusts 100 five star reviews. Also, be thankful for honest, detailed feedback. Free editorial services! If you have thin skin, then I’d suggest rethinking getting into this business.

About Reading

We talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and possibly not enough about reading, which is after all why we’re all here. Why do you think people love reading. We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a past-time is dying – do you think that’s the case?

A) I have no hard stats, but from what I’ve seen, yes, a smaller percentage of the world’s population are deriving most of their escapist entertainment from reading. It’s not a rapid drop, thankfully, but still a slow and steady drain. On the other hand, since books, especially ebooks, are cheaper and more readily available, those that do love to read are reading more.

About Writing

What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?

A) I’m flexible about the concept of a “mistake.” Down that road of criticism lies the straight jacket of stuffy conformism. I love to see writers intentionally breaking the so-called “rules” of writing. That said, there’s a fine line between pushing the boundaries to test new styles and just simply screwing up. The deciding factors are intent and, unfortunately, the capricious tastes of your readers.

Two errors I’ve seen (or made in my own writing):

Incomplete editing. More than just grammar/typo checking, great editing balances the story. “Too much detail here, not enough there, etc…” Get beta readers. The more the better. Not just your spouse or best pal, but people you either don’t or only barely know.

Rushing the end. It’s always a temptation after months of work to shove that ending in there and cap the story real quick. Who cares if you miss a detail or two? If someone hasn’t gotten the point after 90,000 words, they won’t ever understand, right?! Well…

Most authors expend far more writing and polishing effort on the first chapter than the last. Remember, the first 5 pages convince a reader to buy your book, but the last 5 convince them to buy the next one! One suggestion is to write the beginning, then the end and fill in the story last. Whatever you do, spend as much effort on the climax as the start.

We’re told that the first page, paragraph, chapter, is absolutely key in making or breaking a book. Agents typically request only the first five pages of a novel, what do you think about that; if a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first five pages, do you put it down?

A) Well, I prescreen the books I review, so I’m more flexible. Since, I believe, I’m providing a service, a book doesn’t have to grab me at the get go. As long as it’s professional, i.e. well edited and the author has done their homework, I’ll keep going. I remember one book where the first 20 pages or so were a complete snooze, but at the 10% mark it really took off and had me hooked. I begged the author to redo the beginning if he wants real commercial success though.

Is there anything you will not review?

A) Romance, erotica, poetry, children’s, or extreme religious works. No disrespect to the artists and their creations, but I’m not the type of reviewer you’re looking for, nor is my blog’s audience really interested. Sorry, wrong market.

About Publishing

What do you think of the oft quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?

A) The entire publishing industry has moved online, both the good and the bad. I don’t just mean the majority of sales, but the very process of finding and vetting new talent as well. The era of the respected, stately “professional” publishing houses holding the keys to the kingdom are over. It wasn’t technology that did them in, but rather their own ultra-conservatism.

All the other branches in the entertainment industry have embraced the revolutionary new technology and the ever-growing “indie” army. Record labels, movie producers, art studios, etc… everyone except for the major book publishing houses view online self-publishing as a vital filtering mechanism to discover new talent and then market them in cost-effective (viral) ways.

In the near future, reality will force those mega book publishers to pull their heads out of the sand and adapt or be wiped out. I’m actually hoping for the former. I fear a world where Amazon is both the world’s largest retailer and publisher!

Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to Indie or self-published titles?

A) Absolutely and rapidly. I don’t base that on anecdotal evidence, but the raw sales indie’s produce. Every year they represent a bigger slice of the pie. More importantly, indie writers are crucial to expanding that pie.

The 50th hastily produced book from some mega author isn’t encouraging many new customers to buy ebooks. The hundreds of thousands of small-time authors emerging every year, who convince dozens of friends, family and acquaintances to buy their first ebook and then get them hooked are the ones expanding the industry.

Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can “filter” good from bad, aside from reviews?

A) Social media presence. Check out the author on Facebook or Twitter to see how active they are. Such research doesn’t take any longer than reading reviews and can be even more enlightening. Most bad books fall into one of two categories:

1. The lazy writer unwilling to put their heart and soul into their work. These people likely aren’t going to actively promote their works longer than a couple of weeks.

2. The super star writer cashing in on their name. We’ve all seen this. Had a few great books, now pumping stuff out 2 or 3 times a year. Refers to launch day as “ringing the cash register.” If they aren’t willing to put the work into their book, of course they won’t market it actively.

It’s conceivable that someone can give 100% to a story, aggressively market it and engage with fans, but still have a poor product. Possible, but rare.

With all that said, I’m still a believer in the 3-4 star review system. Such people probably don’t have an axe to grind, but also aren’t likely close friends of the author. Lookup the author on social media to double check before spending your hard-earned money.

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Review of NEFARIOUS: The Blackwell Files by Steven F. Freeman

Nefarious: The Blackwell Files by Steven F. Freeman

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Genre: Mystery Thriller

Rating: ***** Five Stars  

Estimated word count: 60,300 words

Availability    

Kindle:  YES   Nook: YES  Smashwords: NO  Paperback: YES

Click on a YES above to go to appropriate retailer.

Author:

“Thriller/mystery author Steve Freeman is a former member of the US Army’s Signal Corps, a twenty-five year employee of a large American technology company, and an avid traveler who has visited five continents. The Blackwell Files novels draw from his firsthand knowledge of military service, the tech industry, and the diverse cultures of our world.

He currently lives near Atlanta, Georgia with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.”

Website: http://www.stevefreemanwriter.com/

Description:

“Nefarious, the debut medical thriller of “The Blackwell Files” Series, is a fast-paced foray charting the investigation of an ex-Army captain and an intelligent, beautiful FBI agent into a covert, sinister project, a saga certain to mesmerize anyone who likes a thriller served up with plenty of surprises and some mind-bending science, set against a backdrop of the pursuit of impossible love.”

My Two Cents:

This is the first 5 star Indie review I’ve ever given. Nefarious is a first class mystery thriller that starts in a military setting but doesn’t limit itself to the military world. This story will rope in both civilians and veterans alike.

While great mysteries are a dime a dozen, what sets this tale apart is how well the author explores serious, real world issues. He brazenly takes on uncomfortable subjects, such as injured veterans’ challenges with overcoming shattered self-confidence, emotional disconnection from reality and struggling to find new goals in life. He deftly drops the reader into the shattered warrior’s shoes in such a way that you aren’t just interested, but you really care what happens next to the character. All without coming across overly depressive and still crafting this emotional angle as an integral part of the story rather than a side diversion.

Now, the author does take some extreme “artistic license” with the details of military operations. For example, officers wandering around off base in Afghanistan to some civilian bar to drink, flirt with locals and “hang out.” Many veterans would find that annoyingly fictitious. Still, I admit that’s a personal bias that doesn’t detract from the narrative, but rather makes for a more wild story.

The only issue that’s somewhat negative is the rushed ending. While the conspiracy is wrapped up tightly and logically, the method doesn’t fit with the rest of the book’s smooth tone. During the journey you’re fed tantalizing hints, grim foreshadow and believable twists. The “who done it?” feeling rises to a fever pitch by the last chapter… and then the heroes just have a eureka moment and unravel the whole sordid tale in one scene. Rather anti-climactic, in my opinion.

However, none of that changes the fact that this is one of the most addictive page turners I’ve had the pleasure to read in a while. The tale is both fun and emotionally engaging- a thriller with a soul. Definitely worth both the money and time to read.

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