Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Bard Reviews: Songs In the Year of the Cat by H. Leighton Dickson

Having read the first two installments of H. Leighton Dickson’s captivating series, I was rewarded by having the experience of the third being published just when I finished the second. How often does that happen? I was able to leap directly from the end of the gripping second novel into the third, which picks up exactly where the last one left off.

I’ve already heaped praise on Dickson’s writing in my first two reviews, and that excellence doesn’t change here. Dickson is outstanding on presenting her world of combined elements of China, India, and Japan, but her character building is even stronger, and ties the story together. The characters reunite after the last books dramatic ending to try to unite the kingdom against the coming of the Ancestors. In order to do that, everyone must commit to peace.

That includes Dogs.

I can’t say much without spoilers from the last story, but if you’ve read the previous book then you’ll understand how improbable that plan of action is. Kirin, now the Shogun General of the Upper Kingdom, must try to make peace with the savage people he has every reason to hate, not to mention Ursa, Sireth, and the others.

But diplomacy and honor must take precedence, particularly in the face of the coming threat, as we see through flashbacks from Kerris and Fallon’s time spend overseas in the land of the Ancestors. Let’s just say that humanity is as prejudiced and oppressive as ever. In the Upper Kingdom, cats are joined by monkeys to form a powerful army that will face the wild throngs of Dogs that have formed their own army under a powerful Khan who is much more concerned with war than peace. In the middle of the conflict are a Dog Seer and her brother, and of course Sherah, the mysterious Alchemist who might hold the answer to the riddle of peace.

Once again, Dickson steers the reader along a journey with characters that serve a purpose, whose motivations and personalities alter and adapt to their ever-changing circumstances. This book is larger in scope, so some characters are regretfully limited in their impact. I was particularly interested in the monkeys, as their race wasn’t introduced in the first two novels. Unfortunately they didn’t get much exposure in this novel and I wasn’t sure quite how to picture them. Hopefully a future installment will expound. But as a whole the writing was satisfying as ever, and a solid resolution to a three-part act. The ending leaves room for future installments, which I will definitely look forward to. H. Leighton Dickson is now high on my list of favorite authors.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Bard Reviews: Tiger Paw by Charles A. Cornell

What do Wall Street, rogue CIA assassins, and Hindu cult worship have in common?

That’s what Scott Forrester has to find out in Charles A. Cornell’s fast moving thriller, Tiger Paw. Cornell proves he has the goods as a crime/thriller novelist as he navigates Forrester through a truly tangled web of deceit, torture, murder and betrayal that turns the investigator’s world not only upside down but inside out as well. It’s a race against time as he’s on the run from shadowy assassins, his own agency, and cult conspirators who have infiltrated the very infrastructure of society.

At first glance Tiger Paw appears to be a formulaic display of cliché’s from a crime writer’s checklist. World-weary FBI agent? Check. Sexy but tough female partner? Check. Grouchy boss who shouts a lot demanding results? Check. Femme fatale? Check.
Hindu cultists torturing and assassinating in the name of the Goddess of Death?


Gotta hand to Cornell, I don’t think we’ve seen that one before. To think, he could have easily went the Dan Brown wannabe route and tried to milk the whole ‘Catholic Conspiracy’ thing, but instead Cornell takes us an entirely different route. And he’s done his homework. I’m no expert, but Cornell’s writing style feels like he’s in his comfort zone with details on Wall Street marketing, Hindu religion, federal investigation, and the lifestyles of the rich and famous. He navigates the reader through a convoluted maze without losing us on the way to the climatic finish. And even though I guessed the identity of the Tiger Paw killer about 75% in the tale, I enjoyed the way that he wrapped it up. Tiger Paw is very cinematic, and I can imagine it as a Hollywood film one day.

Bottom line: If you like crime novels in the style of Patterson or Deaver then Tiger’s Paw will do quite nicely. Four out of five stars.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Bard Reviews: To Walk In the Way of Lions by H. Leighton Dickson

Having been sucked into Dickson’s world of anthropomorphic animal characters in her first novel, I was eager to return for the sequel. To put it lightly, I had not enjoyed a fantasy novel in a long time as much as Year of the Tiger. In it, I was taken into a fantasy world that discards the overused European mythology for a blend of Chinese, Indian, and Japanese myths that unite to form the culture of Dickson’s world. In the first novel the characters were introduced and were appealing and interesting enough to follow halfway around the world in their quest to unravel the mystery of their fallen Seers. Dickson’s talent is her character’s appeal, the way her motley crew of different personalities interacts like a dysfunctional family.

The new novel digs deeper, exposing the frailties of the characters. Their individual histories are expounded upon, revealing secrets that the others are unprepared for. I particularly found myself captivated by the relationship between the noble and rigid Kirin and the mysterious and deadly Sherah. Of all the characters, the seductive cheetah and honor-bound lion have the least in common, and the way that they interact is strangely compelling and saddening.

But then the entire story is driven by relationships. The yin/yang between the lion brothers, the dance of attraction between Ursa and Sireth as well as Fallon and Kerris. Each character is wonderfully flawed, and their flaws quickly wear on each other as the journey progresses. (with the exception of Fallon, who is the only character in the story that doesn’t quite work in my opinion. Too young to be a true Scholar, and her speech patterns clash with the way that everyone else in the story talks.)

In a way, the actual mission is the backdrop to a study of characters. By the time the novel draws to a startlingly brutal and dramatic conclusion, the mystery of the Ancestors is second fiddle to the culmination of how the characters try to salvage the relationships that they have so severely damaged on the way.

Speaking of damage, events in the climax definitely took me by surprise. Dickson is not afraid to subject her characters to the cruelest of consequences, and the emotional impact is staggering. Just because feline characters are prominent does not make this a story for children. I haven’t been this stunned by deadly turn of events since reading a certain other fantasy series that will go unnamed.

 Bottom line: Read the first book in the series. By the time you get to this one, you will no doubt be as drawn into this world as I am. Dickson creates a unique world of captivation characters that you will be grateful to journey with. Five out of five stars.

Purchased for my Kindle at Amazon

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Perfect Book Covers: Michal Suchanek

When it comes to book covers, I like to see at least one of three things:

1)An eye-catching image
2)A rendering of at least one of the main characters
3)An idea of what kind of book I'm buying.

If you follow my work than you're aware that I'm a big fan of dieselpunk. So it's nice to highlight an outstanding example of artwork that would be perfect for a novel in that genre. The artist is Michal Suchanek. I've seen his work before, both in dieselpunk forums and across the web. Michal is from the Czech Republic and does work in many different art forms. You can find out more about his work at his official website.


The title of this work of art is 'Anna Yurlova'. I like the way it instantly catches the eye. Anna is attractive yet tough, hardened by the gruel of war and injuries apparent by her eye patch and scar on her cheek. I like the small details like the sway of the uniform and tassels, indicating movement, and the field of tiny flowers about to be trampled by the machines of war. The muted color scheme compliments the mood of warfare, and the overall composition makes if perfect for a book cover.

This picture captures all the elements I look for in a book cover. The image is captivating, the main character is spotlighted, and the genre is obvious. This would work well for a wartime novel as well as a dieselpunk book featuring a tough female character.

Make sure to check out more of Michal Suchanek's work at his website.

More perfect covers are featured in my Pinterest board of the same name.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Bard Reviews: These Windows by Thomas the Younger

I have been a fan of the writing of Thomas the Younger since catching his work at an online writing site. Upon learning he was collecting a few in a volume, I immediately picked up These Windows, a troika of stories stirred from the part of the imagination that’s cold and dank, dark and dusty. Where most writers go to bury their skeletons, Thomas goes to unearth them.

Three stories: Rear Window. Jack Snapped. Jill Killed. Yeah, they pretty much mean what they say. Three tales of madness, surreal dreamscaping, and emotionally charged murder. Watch your step, because stairs don’t exist here. It’s just a sheer drop into a boiling pot of literary stew.

Rear Window: a hallucinatory dive into a house that’s not so much haunted as it is haunting, fully equipped with a rear window that allows a view of certain madness, or perhaps a subtle peek at the writer’s own mind. Jack Snapped: the cold-blooded tale of a unfortunate restaurant encounter with a bloke name Jack. Does he indeed snap? Read the title. Jill Killed: A tale to make Tarantino proud, featuring a dame of ruthless temperament who doesn’t mind serving her revenge cold. Watch out for that surprise ending.

There’s a bit of Stephen King here. A bit of Poe. But mostly it’s a lot of Thomas, a writer who doesn’t waste words. Readers who love pages of backstory and setup will be out of their element in these pages. Thomas the Younger enjoys pushing the throttle before you get both feet in. And then blowing you away with his delight of leaping headfirst into the dark side of the human psyche. 

Go get it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Bard Reviews: To Journey In the Year of the Tiger by H. Leighton Dickson

Publisher Description: Kirin Wynegarde-Grey is a young lion with a big job - Captain of the Guard in a Kingdom that spans from the mountains of western China to the deserts of the Middle East. When an ancient threat awakens in the West and threatens to overthrow the Empire, he must lead a team that includes his enigmatic brother, a lethal swordswoman and three radically different and mysterious specialists through a world where humans are legend and animals walk like men.

Review: It’s hard to find fantasy from new writers that isn’t trying to clone previously successful series, but this delightful series by H. Leighton Dickson proves to blaze its own trail as it relates the story of a band of anthropomorphic cats (lions, cheetah, tiger, leopards, etc) undertake a quest to solve a deadly mystery that threatens their Empire. Dickson’s characters are what keep this story moving, and I definitely connected with her dysfunctional family along their lengthy journey.

Books base on fantasy versions of medieval Europe are endless, so it was refreshing that Dickson’s setting is a fantasy version of China instead. The blend of ancient Chinese myth and tradition in her world worked very well to this reader unfamiliar with such things. I was pulled into the story without any lengthy backstory or explanations. In fact, Dickson is such a good writer that even a sudden revelation that throws science fiction into the story isn’t jarring, it just adds to the intrigue. I won’t say more because to do so would spoil the surprise that definitely changes the tone of the entire quest.

What really hooked me was the characters. Dickson takes a stock of familiar archetypes (the stoic, the jester, the arcane, the studious, the fierce, etc) and fills them with flawed personalities that make them all the more appealing. Normally I’m drawn to a single character as a favorite, but I really like the entire band, which is a rare feat indeed. This is a quest story, so there is a lot of journeying. Having characters that keep you intrigued is worth every step of their trek.

Bottom line: I really can’t find anything not to like about this book. Highly recommended to any fan of fantasy, talking animal characters, or an all around adventure story with well-developed characters and a compelling story. Five out of five stars.

Purchased for my Kindle at Amazon.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Bard Reviews: Looper (DVD)

Film description: In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented - but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past where a 'looper' - a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good - until the day the mob decides to 'close the loop,' sending back Joe's future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination. The film is written and directed by Rian Johnson and also stars Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, and Jeff Daniels.

Looper is a rare film that tries to do more than just entertain with a slick premise and pointless action. (Like that awful Total Recall remake) This is science fiction, which is supposed to make you think as well as entertain you.

I'll start off by saying that it was refreshing to see Bruce Willis in a movie where he's not just cashing a check on his Die Hard persona. I haven't enjoyed a performance from him since Twelve Monkeys, which certain aspects of the film give just a slight nod to.

Joseph Gordan-Levitt proves once again that he's capable of lead man status with his multi-layered performance as a dead man walking who gets the wake up call of his life while literally facing his own future.

They dystopian version of the future was realistic and veers away from the constant Blade Runner knock offs that we've seen time and again in sci fi films. The darkness in this future isn't in endless scenes of darkness and rain, it's in the souls of its inhabitants.

The only thing that I'd knock is that the story tries to encompass too many themes at once, which isn't such a bad thing when you compare it to the trivial plots of so called films that are being produced right now. Time travel and meeting one's future self is quite a load, however, and would have been perfectly sufficient without the additional moral quandary of whether it's acceptable to kill someone before they have a chance to become the worst type of person.

Still, the beauty of the story is that it manages to juggle all of its themes without dropping the ball. The characters are fresh, the acting superb, and the movie ends cleanly, wrapping up the time travel paradoxes with a single act.

The only thing I regret is not seeing this sooner. Four out of five stars.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Perfect Book Covers: Peter Bergting

Still thinking of creative uses for this blog, so I think I'll do a weekly share on images that I think are perfect for book covers.

When it comes to book covers, I like to see at least one of three things:
1)An eye-catching image
2)A rendering of at least one of the main characters
3)An idea of what kind of book I'm buying.

I've seen this image for years, so I thought I'd share it first. I've used it as a personal avatar a few times, especially during my 'Bard of Darkness' years of writing poetry. I was pleased to track down the author, Peter Bergting, who does professional illustrative work for book covers and graphic novels. You can find his site here.

What I like about this image is that it instantly grabs your attention. The mysterious masked figure could be hero or villain. He (or she) appears powerful, and the book in hand lends knowledge or great learning to the person. And yet the individual could also be skilled in combat as well, judging by the armor. The artistic circle centers the piece, drawing the eye to the image, and the darkness of the figure stands out clearly from the background. All it needs is a title and author's name and it would be perfect for a fantasy novel featuring a mysterious, powerful hero or anti-hero.

This piece of art includes all three elements I noted from the beginning. The picture is eye-catching, the figure is perfect for a title character, and it is definitely well suited for a fantasy novel, or even a dystopian/sci fi space opera.

Make sure to check out more of Peter Bergting's work at his website.

More perfect covers are featured in my Pinterest board of the same name.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Kindle Summer This is a joint AUTHOR & BLOGGER GIVEAWAY EVENT! Bloggers & Authors have joined together and each chipped in a little money towards a Kindle Fire HD 7".
Kindle Fire HD 7" Giveaway
The winner will have the option of receiving a 7" Kindle Fire HD (US Only)
  Or $199 Gift Card (International)
  Or $199 in Paypal Cash (International)

Sponsoring Bloggers & Authors

  1. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer
  2. Feed Your Reader
  3. New Adult Addiction
  4. Jessabella Reads
  5. The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Somthing Year Old Girl
  6. Books Unhinged by StacyHgg
  7. S.A. Larsen - Writer's Ally
  8. Author Inger Iverson
  9. The Geeky Gamers
  10. annakyss
  11. Everyday Word Magic
  12. Candance's Book Blog
  13. Page Flipperz
  14. SMI Book Club
  15. Laurie Here
  16. Feed Your Fiction Addiction
  17. Phantasmic Reads
  18. The Book Bellas
  19. Please Don't Remove MarGreat's Glasses
  20. Author Jennifer Laurens
  21. J.C. Valentine
  22. Holly Hood
  23. Young Adult Novel Reader
  24. Author Heather Bixler
  25. Literary Meanderings
  26. Suspense Author Kim Cresswell
  27. Mother Daughter & Son Book Review
  28. Meredith's Musings
  29. Auggie Talk
  30. Author Camelia Miron Skiba
  31. Author Lena Sledge
  32. LoriTheAuthor
  33. Author Dianne Venetta
  34. Curling Up with A Good Book
  35. MyLadyWeb
  36. Fae Books
  37. Bea's Book Nook
  38. Girls with Books
  39. Ketch's Book Nook
  40. Turning Pages
  41. Bookhounds
  42. Karey White
  43. My Devotional Thoughts
  44. Author Talia Jager
  45. Author Helen Smith
  46. Sher A Hart: Written Art
  47. Author MK McClintock
  48. Word to Dreams
  49. Buku-Buku Didi
  50. Tasty Book Tours
  51. Readerlicious
  52. Romance Bookworm's Reviews
  Giveaway Details 1 winner will receive their choice of a Kindle Fire 7" HD (US Only), $199 Amazon Gift Card or $199 in Paypal Cash (International). There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire. Sponsor a future Kindle Fire Giveaway by signing up HERE. Ends 8/15/13 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Silent Empire Is Coming

I don’t collaborate often. But when I do, I prefer Stefan.

Stefan is no stranger to Dieselpunks. His work is often paired with the very idea of dieselpunk, the artistic standard bearer for the culture. I’ve had the honor of working with him on my Troubleshooter novels. His iconic images have created a visual reality to the world of Mick Trubble and New Haven, something for which I’m eternally grateful.

At long last I’m able to take a step to return the favor.

I’ve enjoyed all of Stefan’s work, but one series in particular captured my interest. It’s entitled Silent Empire. His images tickled the imagination, full of oppression and propaganda along with the bizarre and surreal depictions of dog-faced men and indoctrinated slaves listlessly performing their menial tasks under the dominion of a tyrannical government.

It was a story just begging to be told.

The result is a novella that will launch on July 1, 2013. The description:

Silence is essential. Question nothing. Obey everything.  Those are the words that Franklin Gamble has heard all of his life. But when an encounter with a stranger causes him to question his reality, he is set on a road to discovering secrets that shake the very core of what he's been taught to believe.

Franklin is a man haunted by vision of a family he can’t remember and the growing awareness that his world is a fabrication by oppressors who control every aspect of his existence.  After being contacted by the mysterious Coalition, Franklin is reluctantly persuaded to find the answers that elude him.  His pursuit of truth puts him in a duel of wills against the Sovereign, the oppressive empire that uses the machine of propaganda combined with the brutal terror of their Dogmen to smother any spark of rebellion. 

The Coalition reveals the Sovereign’s technological prowess that has trapped its inhabitants in a lethargic state that keeps its inner core protected by sleepwalking drones.  Franklin is the only person on the inside whose mind is active enough to resist and take action.  With time running out and his life at risk, Francis must choose between defiance or submission; a decision that will either further imprison him… or shatter an Empire forever.’

It’s a nod to genre-bending films like Brazil and Dark City along with social commentary on government and oppression, but explores and takes place in the setting of Diesel City, the concept that he introduced in his tome of prose and images by the same name. I thank Stefan for the honor of allowing me to put words to his images and relate a story that he had already established through his extraordinary work.

Silent Empire is coming. I invite you to accompany us on the ride.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Facing up Facebook: Promotional Hurdles

If you have Facebook author/musician/artist page, you probably know that Facebook has gone to great lengths to limit the range of your posts. This is especially the case when you include or share any links, both inside Facebook and outside.

Example: On my author page I like to share various posts and spotlight other authors and artists. A share of a writers poem received 44 views. A share of an editor's services netted 33 views. A spotlight link of another author received a meager 19 views. On the upside, a share of a story on Wattpad netted 50 views.

Compare that to posts where I shared text only -status updates, in other words. 117 views. 110 views. And one about seeing the Oblivion movie that netted 168 views. (Pay me, Tom Cruise)

It's quite obvious that Facebook doesn't want us to share links. That stinks of advertising, which in their eyes means that every shared link represents potential advertising profit going down the drain. That's why they've rolled out the 'promote your links' option that I've been ignoring. Want more views? Then pay for it like you're a major advertiser. Because Facebook needs the money, right?

Despite how evil that is, it only makes sense. You can look for similar actions being taken across popular social networks everywhere in the near future. Why let people advertise their work for free using your network as the medium? I don't think they care so much about small fries like me, but there's probably some major money being saved by larger businesses who have been using Facebook, Twitter, and the like as their major source of advertising. And like everything else, the little guy suffers along with everyone else. Frankly, I'm surprised it took Facebook this long to wise up.

In light of this, I tried a viral marketing experiment a few days ago. Since you can get the most views on text posts and uploaded pictures, I uploaded a picture... advertisement.

I created a simple ad for my novel series, and posted it on my author page with this simple text statement: An experiment in viral marketing. You can help by taking three simple steps. 1: Like this post. 2: Share this on your page. 3: Leave a link to your own author/artist/musician page in the comments. If successful, I'll do this again next week featuring one of you. Thank you!

I created the post on Friday. Today (Monday) I checked the numbers. The post was shared 14 times, liked 40 times... and seen by a whopping 414 people. 

Understand that I'm a small time operator who just reached 500 likes. I'm not a math wiz, either -so you'll have to do the appropriate calculation for your own page and audience. But the point is that a simple shared ad increased my average likes by 300 percent or greater depending on which numbers you run it by. And obviously there were more likes than shares, which shows that not everyone participated all the way, which is the way these things go. 

So is this the answer to overcome Facebook's advertising hurdle? Probably not. Unlike a direct link, someone would have to actually note the website location and type it in in order to go the the page that I advertised. In this age that's more work than a lot of people are willing to go through. But it does show that there are ways to find a loophole in the barriers that Facebook has tried to slam into place. I plan on using this option periodically to highlight authors and others that I find of interest and interact with, as well as the occasional ad for myself as well. 

Like all things, take this with a grain of salt. Your own experiences may produce different results. But hopefully it demonstrates a way to help you get across to your fans, customers and followers in a more productive way.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Presenting the Dieselpunk ePulp Showcase

I'm proud and excited to be a part of an ensemble project putting a spotlight on dieselpunk culture and adding to the the mythos of neo-noir and retro-futurism. It's called the Dieselpunk ePulp Showcase. Four writers. Four stories. For free... pretty much everywhere.
Free ebook from Dieselpunks

Here is the official press release from Dieselpunks:
Do you need more gritty, hard-boiled noir in your life? Do you feel the urge to drag on your beaten coat, tip your fedora to just the right angle, and slum it in a smoky speakeasy? Do the grimy streets of another age call to you from deep within your blood? If so, then do I have the book for you.

Featuring works by Grant Gardiner, John Picha, Bard Constantine, and Jack Philpott, the writers of would like to present the very first Dieselpunk ePulp Showcase.

These four tales embody the spirit of another age and are absolutely free to download.

Dieselpunk book coverFor young hoods, the Aether Age streets of mob-plagued Chicago present a world of opportunity. And Mack and Mickey are headed straight for the top in "That Sort of World: a Tale of the Aether Age" by Grant Gardiner.
It's class-warfare in Citadel City as Pandora Driver and her Car of Tomorrow deliver rough justice to the elites and a douche named the Gooch in "Who are the People in your Neighborhood?" by John Picha.
"The Wise Man Says" by Bard Constantine introduces Mick Trubble: a hard drinking, chain smoking charmer who bites off more than he can chew... then chews like hell. The Troubleshooter takes the grit and slang of a hardboiled detective and drops it in a dystopian setting that mixes Fedoras, trench coats, flying cars and android policemen.
Our last tale is set in the World of Mañana by Jack Philpott…
The dirty streets of Roanoketown were his home and his only family, until he met HER. Now he'll follow HER into hell, tamahaak held high, and fight as a proud Indian against the Anglo Oppressors. He'll wager his life to be a true "Friend of the Spirits."

Download them here for free, or pick them up at your favorite online bookstore


Why would we give this away for free?

#1 - Because we’re good people. Really. If you like these free dieselpunk stories and want to buy us a drink, we wouldn’t turn it down. In fact, if you like the stories, the best thing you can do for us is write a review at your favorite online bookstore and share the book with your friends. Good reviews bolster our authors’ online reputation and help them with future book releases.
#2 - We’re building interest in dieselpunk fiction and paving the road for other dieselpunk writers.
#3 - By giving away freebies like The Dieselpunk ePulp Showcase (volume 1), we’re attracting people to Dieselpunks and growing our online community. Dieselpunks is the world’s largest and most active news site and social network for dieselpunk artists, and it’s projects like these that show how much we care about our fans.

Do you want more?

Meet our authors and check out their other works:

Jack Philpott is a born writer and artist who somehow ended up as an Electrical Engineer. Whether he's enjoying chilled Vermouth on the streets of Geneva, being catapult-launched off of a perfectly good aircraft carrier, or digging in the sandbox with his son, Jack tries to appreciate the sublime nature of the moment.
Jack's previous works include several articles for Palladium Books'® Rifter™ periodical plus the perpetually-upcoming Rifts® Delta Blues trilogy (with Josh Sinsapaugh), several fan award winning "timelines" for (as Geekhis Khan), and regular contributions to (as Cap'n Tony). Jack co-created the World of Mañana with Norman James in 2010. See more exciting adventures from the World of Mañana in the upcoming Twit Publishing Dieselpunk Anthology ("Cocktails on the Street of Bones") with even more stories to come... mañana.
# # # # #
John Picha was born on St. Patrick's Day 1968 in Joliet, Illinois. He was raised in Frankfort, a suburb of Chicago, but his mind always seemed to be elsewhere. The little Midwesterner was captivated by comic books, cartoons and animation, mythology and all things imagined. He made the world around him more exciting by pretending. A bicycle was a spacecraft, a bush became a dinosaur, and, of course, there was always a bath towel hidden away for a quick change into a super hero. You can find John’s full bio on his website:
It was the 1930s. Young Betty McDougal discovered how hard life could be when her family was evicted from their farm and forced to live in a Citadel City shelter. They struggled to survive. It was a time of desperation, sin, mistakes and lessons Betty didn't want to learn. Her life felt pointless until a mysterious stranger delivered her an ominous black car. It transformed her.
Pandora Driver summons the spirits of pulps past and adds dieselpunk hardware in a retro-hero tale for mature readers. It ain't Shakespeare. It's pure Pulp! There are more Pandora Driver stories headed your way, so keep an eye on for updates on her future adventures.
In addition to Pandora Driver, be on the lookout for more of John’s ePulp titles coming in 2013: Skyracos, Rurik, and Dead Reckoner.
# # # # #
Bard Constantine was born in Chicago, raised in Southern California, and currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama. But where he really resides is in the worlds he creates in his writing. A writer of gritty futures and far-flung fantasy, he decided to concentrate on publishing when he approached the age of thirty. Although he writes in several genres, his hallmark character is Mick Trubble: the rugged, wisecracking protagonist of The Troubleshooter novels.
The Troubleshooter is the flagship title of Bard’s expanding Havenworld universe, in which humanity dwells in city-sized constructs called Havens to survive a terrifying Cataclysm that nearly wiped out life on earth. Further exploration of other Havens in this world will be coming soon.
Follow Bard Constantine’s adventures in his works: The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues, The Troubleshooter: Red-Eyed Killer, and The Aberration. More info on Bard Constantine’s current projects and titles can be found at his official website:, and the official Troubleshooter website: He can be followed at Facebook ( and Twitter (
# # # # #
The Dieselpunk ePulp Showcase is Grant Gardiner’s first foray into the world of ePublishing but it won’t be his last. He is currently working on an upcoming pulp alternate-universe adventure series, The Tales of Tommy Thunder, Scourge of the Skypirates, as well as several more dieselpunk short stories for his collection series The Tales of the Aether Age.
For more details about Grant’s projects, please visit:

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Bard Reviews: Automaton by Cheryl Davies

The Future Is Artificial

Take One: Cheryl Davies’ sci fi novel Automation takes social media, reality TV and online gaming to a whole new level –with deadly results.

Take Two: In the near future, our love of gaming and reality TV combines. Gameworld is the result: a Truman Show/The Sims-inspired digital world so realistically portrayed that the games have a hard time separating the game from reality. Each gamer controls a character in a game that operates like the most addictive soap opera. Each character looks and acts like a human being with all of our emotional intricacies in place. There appears to be no difference between the characters in the game and people in real life.

And there might not be.

The drama surrounds two of the gamers and their characters. When one gamer has relationship problems, he becomes jealous of the perfect relationship of his character. He decides to ruin it, not realizing the effect that it will have on the owner of his characters girlfriend. The dominoes fall, putting the two owners on a crash course toward one another.

The novel also has its mystery involving the true nature of the characters and the secrets of their ‘existence.’ I can’t say much without giving away the details. 

End Take: This is a solid debut novel from Cheryl Davies. She is able to lay out her futuristic world without getting muddled in unnecessary or overloaded details, but still paint a picture that easily translates to the reader. She does well in fleshing out her characters –one wonders if it is on purpose that the gaming characters are more likable than their human counterparts. Selfish human nature and the culture of voyeurism are strong themes that she presents without beating the reader over the head with the message.  

Four out of five stars

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop


I was tagged by a fellow writer, Brad Anderson, to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Brad is currently working on a science fiction space opera, the third book in a series called the Triumvirate Trilogy. The setting is near the tail end of a devastating war between the three major powers of this universe. Definitely  seems intriguing and I'll be checking it out.

Product Details

Here’s how the blog hop works. A writer/blogger gets tagged, they write an intro where they shout out & link back to their tagger, and then answer the 10 questions listed  below about current work in progress. At the end, they tag five other writer/bloggers.

10 Questions About My Current Work in Progress:

1. What is the title of your book?

I’m at the very start of The Troubleshooter: The Most Dangerous Dame. It is the second full length novel in a continuing series about a hardboiled private eye character in a dystopian future world.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I've always liked the film noir style, with all of the jargon and colorful characters included. The idea rolled around in my head as I read novels like Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins series and watched films like Dark City, The Matrix, and of course the biggest film influence: Blade Runner.

The idea was to take both of those unrelated genres and combine them. A blend of old and new, noir and sci-fi with a dystopian twist. So you get your slick hustlers, cool dames, fedoras and trench coats along with your flying cars, synthetic humanoids, and post-apocalyptic futures. The reader is taken along for a ride with Mick Trubble: a hard drinking, chain smoking, slick talking man whose job description is shooting trouble. In the installment that I'm working on, Mick is recovering from revelations from the last book, only to find himself engaged in a deadly game with a person who comes from his murky past. It's going to be a blast, and I can't to get deeper into it.

The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues (Volume 1)
The debut novel

3. What genre does your book fall under?

It's hard to fit it to one particular genre, since it blends elements of noir, detective, sci-fi, dystopia and dieselpunk. But I like to call it 'dystopian noir' for short.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Michael Fassbender as Mick Trubble
Uma Thurman as Selene
Shahid Kapoor as Poddar
Ethan Hawke as Frankie Newman

Lance Reddick as Tommy Tsunami
Olivia Wilde as Ms. Kilby

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

30's noir meets science fiction in this dystopian tale of a man whose job description is shooting trouble..

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?


7. How long did it take you to write your first draft?

I'm just starting the first draft of Most Dangerous Dame, but New Haven Blues took me around three months for that very rough first draft. When you add in the time to almost completely re-write it, you're looking at about five months, give or take a week or so.

8. What other books would you compare yours to within your genre?

I haven't read the Harry Dresden novels yet, but from what I've read of the series, it has a similar 'urban noir' style, only those are of a supernatural angle. There's also the E.M. Faustus novels by Christoper Davison which I recently came upon, which is also a noir blended series. I'm sure there are more out there, but I haven't run across them yet.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The novel started off as just a writing exercise to try out stream of consciousness storytelling. I just took things I liked from similar themed movies and novels and ran with it. Once it was finished, I knew immediately that it had potential for a full-length novel. From there it all about shaping it and expanding the ideas and characters.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It's a fast paced story laced with colorful characters, dry wit, and plenty of action. What I've liked from the readers is that it's been praised by readers of old school pulp and noir as well as readers of science fiction, detective, and adventure lovers. There's also a lot of humor that readers have enjoyed. Mick Trubble gets himself in some pretty ridiculous situations at times.

All Right, Who’s Next in the Next Big Thing Blog Hop?

Victoria Selene Skye Deme is a highly talented writer and friend. Known mainly for her volumes of captivatingly surreal poetic collections, but she has a groundbreaking prose project in the works as well. In fact, she so fantastic that a major character in The Troubleshooter is named and styled after her. How cool is that?

David W Moore is a friend and writing peer that I've come to know across various online sites. He has horror novel being circulated to publishing houses at the moment, as well as a sequel in the works. Definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Christopher Davison is the author of a hardboiled detective series not unlike my own, although his comes with a paranormal twist. If his interview answers are as wild as his writing then we should be in for a wild ride!

I recently met C.L. Davies, who writes in the genre of science fiction and dystopia. Her debut novel was Automaton, any eye-opening take on the gaming and online relationship culture. I look forward to hearing about her other projects, as well as what's forthcoming.

Tiyana White is a writer I came across while doing a reviewer search. Her upcoming project is called Element 7, a dieselpunk fantasy novel with a very intriguing premise. I personally can't wait to hear more about it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Looking Back: Bard Constantine's Year In Publishing -2012

If I were the type to make resolutions, I'd resolve to make better use of this blog.

But since I know that's probably not going to happen, I'll share what I've learned this past year about my experience with indie publishing.

What I published:

That would be one short story, two novellas and a full length novel. Not too bad, all things considering. Makes me wonder what I can do if I actually applied some sort of writing schedule that included writing at least four days out of every week. I'll try to find out the answer this year...

 What I learned:

  1. Writing is easy. Editing is hard.

    I can't stress enough how tough editing is. That's why every article on writing strongly suggests that you never edit your own work. It's how the brain is hotwired. You read your manuscript the way it should be read, not actually how it is. So it's only natural to miss mistake after mistake, even after countless efforts. It's a frustrating experience, especially when you catch errors after you publish your work.

    The fix? Pony up and pay for a professional editor. There are many like Moody Edits who charge reasonable fees and do fine work. Of course, even at good rates -like 2 cents per word, it can get costly for a pro edit, especially for the starving writer trying to get their work out. In that case, you might look at bribing or blackmailing a literary minded friend into at least proofreading your manuscript for easily noticeable errors. Other tricks include switching formats for each edit so that your eyes aren't looking at the same thing over and over. If you did your last edit on the computer, save it to your tablet and go over it again. You'd be surprised how those errors stand out by switching formats.
  2. Commitment Is Key

    One of the problems that plagued me in my earlier writing attempts was that point in writing when I got bored. The solution? Start writing another story. The result? A lot of unfinished manuscripts.

    I had to learn to fight past those moments and stick to the story at hand. It takes discipline, but it's certainly not impossible. Like anything else, it's a developed habit. Once you commit to a story, you have to stick it out until it's finished. Anything else is just wasting your time. And the sooner you finish a novel, the sooner you can get to editing. That's when the real fun starts. See the above.

  3. You Think Editing Is Bad? Try Marketing.

    Just when you thought it was safe to publish your novel... nothing happens. After the small segment (and I do mean small) of family and friends are forced to buy your novel, it falls on you to market it to readers beyond your circle. Some writers strongly believe that the way to do this is to spam everyone they know with endless advertisements of their work. Then they promptly go to any and every possible online discussion board involving their genre and do the exact same thing.

    Don't be surprised if that doesn't get you many readers.

    No one likes to be bombarded by desperate, attention seeking, living advertisers. There are other ways to market your material that will be less annoying and might actually endear readers to you and your work. A lot of this is time consuming, and can be quite frustrating as you learn to negotiate the chaotic world of marketing and promotion. And for the penniless writer trying to establish their work, the task is even more daunting and harder to accomplish.

    But take heart. Pay attention to helpful articles that are provided online from sites like Bestseller Labs and online newsletters like The Constantine. Many bestselling authors like David Farland and Warren Adler give excellent insight and advice at their online pages and websites. Learn from those who have done it well. Stay up on technological tools and resources available to indie authors. I have much to learn about the best ways to market and promote, but I'm an eager learner. If one masters marketing, then the battle is 50% done. (The other 50 is actually writing a great novel, but you know that already, right?)
  4. Patience, young Padawan. Born in a day, is not a Jedi.

    Say the above in your best Yoda voice. One thing I've learned is that if you've jumped into indie writing for bestseller status and easy cash, then you're going to quickly learn what agonizing heartbreak is. It's really quite simple. According to most stats, the average indie writer sells around 150 copies per title. Yeah, you read that right. What separates the average from the few that sell in the thousands and dare I say it: millions of copies? (Better concentrate on the thousands. Or better yet, more than 150)

    Quite simple: write a book that doesn't suck and learn the best ways to market correctly. That's easier said than done, because the average indie published novel is subpar at best. Too many writers take the easy route and glut the market with shoddy material and low quality work. To stand out, one has to try to be at least as good as anything traditionally published. I say at least, because the goal for the successful indie writer actually should try to be better. Then put in the hard work. You did the crime. Now do the time. The odds are still against you, but I firmly believe that if an author builds a body of high quality, captivating work then eventually a readership will develop.

    I gave myself three years to build my brand and gain a solid enough readership to make my writing at least somewhat profitable. It may take longer than that, but the point is that I'm already geared for the long haul, not some dream of instant success. Anyone can be a writer. It takes a lot more to be an author, which is what I'm trying to be.

    There's so much more to the writing experience than I can get into in this one article. Who knows? Maybe I'll share some more. Especially since I have this blog that I never use. Maybe this year I'll actually use it.

    But no promises.

Something New

I chose my new desktop background today.

I know... to most people that's not a big deal. But for me it is, because I only do it once a year. I select one piece of art and apply it to every computer that I use. It becomes a subliminal theme for me, an subconscious reminder of what I hope to accomplish.

Deep, I know. Before we all drown together, let's take a look at last year's desktop:

I thought it was fitting because I had committed myself to independent publishing for my novels. I was sailing into uncharted waters, so to speak. The pirate ship was a good representation of my indie status, and the night scene was a good indicator of my stealth status, flying under the radar as I established my brand.

Plus it's a fine piece of art. I'm quite taken with George Grie's surreal work, so looked to him again to provide the inspiration for this year. Take a look:

I really like this piece because to me it represents the struggle to maintain balance as a creative being. Reality and everyday life can be confining at times because the creative forces struggle to release, and like a uncontrolled inferno can actually consume if not controlled. At the same time, one should indulge their creative side or suffer the draining effects of unfulfilled passion and the stifling effects of imprisonment, shackled by the doldrums of everyday happenstance.

The ship must set sail, but at the same time must be guided by the sure hand of a captain who knows what's out there.

Yes, I know I'm crazy for putting all of this thought into my annual desktop change, but I thought I'd share the process this time. I figure I have a blog for some reason...