Review of “Given to Fly” by JD Estrada

I smiled the entire time I read this book. It’s sweet, fun, colorful, imaginative, and includes wonderful lessons for any child or adult. The wordplay often made me chuckle, and the writing proves Mr. Estrada is a poet even in prose. The story reminded me at times of “Alice in Wonderland ” and at times of “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” while always being unique as well. Great characters, fantastical adventures, beautiful language – I was hooked.

This is a book I will definitely buy in paperback for my kid to treasure.

See it on Amazon!

Paperback Giveaways – ALTERNI

We’re within the final week to enter the paperback giveaways for my soon-to-be-released Urban Fantasy book, Alterni!  If you’ve missed out on entering these contests so far, I’ve compiled ALL of them below.  Just click the below posts, comment with your answer (they don’t even have to be the right answers!), and you’re entered to win 1 of 10 paperbacks that I’ll give away on 12/12/2017. 

Twitter Contests: 

Instagram Contests:

 

Enter as many contests as you want to increase your chances to win!  

Review of “Rise of The Super Strike” by Maxwell Blake

36366736.jpgI suspect this book would work great for a young audience. For me, I got distracted several times by things not lining up with reality or plot points getting a little convoluted.  The author has a lot of potential, I think, and I definitely see how he understands the superhero genre.  I really liked that Benji’s emotions were believable as he responds to the tragedy of what’s happened to him and also the high school tensions he’s currently experiencing.  Again, I think the book would work great for young teens for that reason – the main character is relatable and a good, smart, brave role model.

The side characters are great too, namely Andy, but even the bully brother, Buzz, served his purpose.  I really liked the grandmother, and it was nice to see a Spiderman-esque relationship with an older, loving family figure.  The subtle way Andy is gay was great because he wasn’t portrayed as a stereotype, and he’s exactly the friend Benji needs – both in superhero struggles and teenage ones.

All that said, there was a lot that didn’t work for me.  According to the book blurb, the Darkness supposedly is his nemesis, but she’s barely in the book at all.  Most of the “nemesis” tension is definitely with Buzz.  I can see how the supervillain aspect needed to get in here to set up for future books, but there wasn’t much here.  When it does come, the book suddenly shifts into this long backflash that seems weirdly placed in the story.  Also, Benji falling head-over-heels for Hen was a bit infuriating when she’s being so awful.  And, some parts of the book struggled with reality.  The whole scene in the ER was ridiculous, given he used a fake ID.  Who is older between Andy and Buzz is super-confusing because the ages/birth order don’t match even on the same page.  Some of the descriptions of traveling around New York are weird (I was actually there when I read this, and it didn’t make sense).  Benji thinks of Andy as clingy when really they haven’t even hung out after their initial meeting. Hen is this horrible girl who suddenly likes Benji and becomes perfect…

I could go on, but if you’re just reading this book for fun, it is fun.  Benji is likeable as a hero.  Andy becomes a great sidekick. The powers Benji gets are cool.  Overall, I’d say younger teens would enjoy this if they like Spiderman.

3 StarsSee it on Amazon!

Book Giveaway!

Hey, everyone! I have a Goodreads Giveaway running for “The Prophet” if you’d like to enter to win a free paperback copy!  I’m giving away a total of 5.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Prophet by Sunshine Somerville

The Prophet

by Sunshine Somerville

Giveaway ends June 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Also, you can grab the eBook for free at http://bit.ly/Amazon_TheProphet  or on Smashwords or pretty much anywhere else.  🙂

Review of “The Elemental” & “The Empath” by Lisa Veldkamp

26786740I’ve read a couple of fantasy/magic-based stories using the elements as the source for magic, and I liked the everyday approach to them in this story. Catherine and her gifted circle of friends lead pretty ordinary lives, but they use their gifts to help others in subtle ways every day. I WOULD say that there’s nothing flashy about the use of elemental magic in this book, but then again, there is the whole climax scene where they have to save the planet.
Catherine, for me, was a very believable and likeable character. She experiences a natural range of emotions in this book, and seeing the story through her eyes (mostly) added some mystery to the book because you’re naturally curious about this mysterious neighbor/love interest and what he really knows.
The first part of the book dragged just a little bit for me because I wasn’t sure where any action would be coming from, but it was a nice look into the fun and magic-quirked lives of these women. The use of the word “Darling” kind of drove me nuts, but once Tristan shows up things take off and the plot gets more direction.
The author’s definite strength is her ability to portray these characters as unique individuals, even if they’re only in small scenes. It felt like a rounded cast of characters. And the danger element was nicely woven in once it was revealed, which gave the book a great build to the end…with hints of something to come.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

34623300Veldkamp does something really daring with this book, which is basically retell the entire first book, but from a different character’s perspective. This kind of worried me that there’d be no mystery or suspense, but there really was a WHOLE other side plot going that we saw very little of in the first book. I was really impressed how well this worked. For me, this book was even stronger than the first because there was more danger, more intrigue, and more magically gifted people to get to know.
At the same time, it IS the same story. You do see a lot of repeat scenes from the first book, but again this somehow works well because Tristan has such a different take on what’s going on. For me, reading this one only made the pair of books stronger.
If anything, the plot thickens. Not only do we see more behind the scenes all the way through, but there’s quite a different surprise waiting at the end.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

“The Kota” Relauched

THIS WEEKEND ONLY, GRAB THE KOTA FOR $0.99! 

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Kota Cover New Front (1)

A terrifying virus.
A global tyranny.
Humanity remembers no better life.
It’s time to give them one.

Troy Kandoya wants nothing to do with his brother’s Kota movement. But when the DRK virus threatens mankind and strange portals open in the sky, the Kota are the only people with answers. Troy becomes Trok, the immortal Kota Interceder, and he soon finds himself responsible for more than he ever imagined.

After 500 years of war, genetic manipulation, viral plague, and the Dominion tyranny, Trok must unite four prophesied Kota Warriors destined to save Earth.  But nothing about these heroes is what Trok expected. Loree is an assassin with the ability to dematerialize.  Zaak is forced to grow up on an alien planet. Alex is a telepath missing a year of her life.  Ryu has incredible mutate-genes of strength.

Together, the Warriors join Earth’s rebels and use their abilities to fight the Dominion. But rebel politics are complicated. And always, the Dominion threatens its subjects with an unstoppable weapon – the dehumanizing DRK virus.

For centuries, no one’s been able to stop the Dominion and the DRK. Can four Warriors really make a difference?

Excerpt:

Lee’s expression was one of complete confusion as he looked up from within the cryogenic bed and saw Trok kneeling beside him. Reviving him had been a shockingly easy procedure, but the Kota scientists with Trok had prepared for this their whole lives.

Lee coughed and struggled to sit up in the steaming cryo bed.

“It’s alright,” said Trok. “You’re okay. Just take it easy.”

He was so excited and relieved to see Lee alive that he nearly grabbed him in a long-overdue embrace. Instead, he placed a hand on Lee’s shoulder to steady him. Trok was tense for several reasons, but first off he wanted to make sure Lee was okay.

He’s my long-lost little brother, thought Trok. Please, oh, please, just let him be okay!

As the doctors examined him, Lee looked beyond Trok at the dozen men and women gathered. Then he looked around the lab-cave. Trok knew Lee would see immediately that a good deal of time had passed – the state of the lab-cave showed centuries of disuse. Trok and the descendents of the Kota remnant had always kept a careful eye on the place, but some things couldn’t fight age. Faint running lights hummed overhead, but the balcony around their lower level had rusted long ago and collapsed in places. Most of the ancient machinery was broken. Only the life support functions remained intact, though the system had been repaired many times by the Kota assigned to guard over Lee throughout the years.

Lee looked back at Trok and examined his face. Lee himself had physically aged maybe ten to fifteen years while sleeping. Now middle-aged, his forehead was wrinkled. His hair and beard were peppered gray. His body underneath the medical scrubs appeared only minimally atrophic, though very pale.

“You…” Lee cleared his throat to find his voice. “You were frozen too?”

Trok lifted an eyebrow. “Not exactly. Let the doctors check you over, and then we’ll take you out of here. I’ll explain everything once we’re safely away.”

“These are the Kota?”

“Yes.”

“How long has it been?”

Trok hesitated, knowing this would be hard, but there was no real way to ease into it. “Five hundred years.”

Lee’s eyes widened, but he’d been prepared for this. He asked no more as the doctors finished examining him.

The doctor in charge stood, lowered his x-ray scanner, and turned to Trok. “Sir, he’s as stable as we could’ve hoped. I think we’re safe to move him. He’s weak and groggy, but that’ll wear off soon.”

“Good.” Relieved by this news, Trok focused on the next concern. He lowered his voice so as not to worry Lee. “I don’t want to stay here any longer than necessary. I’m sure Dominion patrols check this place on a daily basis in hopes of intercepting us.”

“Good thing we brought soldiers, then.”

Yes, thought Trok bleakly. Kota soldiers, anyway. And we’ve only got five with us. They’d be no match for Dominion drone soldiers.

“I’d rather we didn’t have to use them,” he told the doctor. “We can’t afford getting caught in a firefight.” He looked down at his brother.

The doctor nodded and turned to help his partners with their patient. Lee seemed curious about why the Kota deferred to Trok, but he allowed himself to be lifted into a wheelchair. Once he was ready, the whole group hurried for the ancient building’s exit.

Outside, the warm sunlight pouring down didn’t bother Trok’s eyes. He looked over the wilderness beyond the crumbling gates, searching for danger. Trok saw Lee take a deep breath of fresh air and close his eyes to feel the sunshine. This once again reminded Trok how disconnected he was from everything around him.

But now Lee’s with me, thought Trok. I’m not as alone anymore. I just hope he can handle this.

“No patrol activity in the area, sir,” called a Kota soldier from his position near a hover hummer.

Trok snapped into action and took over wheeling his brother toward this soldier’s vehicle. “Let’s be sure we’re gone before they arrive.”

“Yes, sir.” The soldier whistled to his partners. “Load up!”

The Kota doctors and soldiers piled into the other vehicles as Trok helped Lee into the backseat of their hover hummer. Once Lee was secure, Trok closed his door and stepped around the vehicle to climb in the other side. He watched as the first hummer started off toward the road.

So far, so good.

Inside the hummer, Trok ordered their driver to go. They took off smoothly, and Trok relaxed enough to face his brother. He remembered the last time they’d been here – at the lab-cave, in a hover vehicle, with a Kota driver.

Things are so different now, he thought.

Lee took a drink from a thermos the doctors gave him. “I don’t think I can wait until we get to wherever it is you’re taking me.” He was coming to life a bit. “What’s happened?”


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e-Book:  AMAZON   

“The Prophet” NEW RELEASE!

Woo-hoo! It’s finally done.

Starting today, if you sign up for my mailing list (and if you’re already on my list, you should be getting a link soon) you’ll receive a free, brand new, exclusive copy of The Prophet (The Kota Series Companion Story).
This is the story of the prophets who originally wrote the Kota prophecies. It’s a prequel of sorts, so you can jump into The Kota Series world for the first time OR read for surprises if you’ve already read the series.

TProph

Mind your own dystopia.

Hazen Stephenson grew up pampered, and he knows it.  But he’s never had it easy. Hazen’s nightmares aren’t merely products of his imagination, and he wrestles daily with guilt, responsibility, and questions of fate.  Setting off across the globe, he meets people he’s dreamed about and changes their lives…for better and for worse.

Then he meets Renny Nado, who never dreamed her Creative Writing degree would amount to much.  But a people called ‘The Kota’ say her gifts point to an important destiny, and she must convince Hazen of their purpose.

Meanwhile, the world is full of pain, hate, and political upheaval. Should they accept what the Kota say about the future and their place in it?  Or should they keep their heads out of the clouds?

Want to read it? 

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#AuThorsday with Calvin Demmer

calvindemmer-1Today I’d like to welcome Calvin Demmer, one of my favorite short story writers and author of the Dark Celebrations series.   

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

I currently spend the majority of my time writing short fiction.  As a relatively new writer, this gives me the opportunity to experiment a bit more with different genres and styles.  But I’d say most of my work falls under the speculative fiction umbrella, leaning towards the darker side of things.

Having read some of your shorts, I definitely agree about your work leaning towards the darker side, and I love that you play around with genres.   In my experience, writing shorts is a very different process from writing longer works.   If you start writing longer works (a novel, let’s say), what have you learned by writing shorts that will carry over to longer work? 

I’ve learned so much… But some of the major areas are pacing, not overloading with exposition at the beginning, and keeping the story tight.  With short fiction you’re always focused on making every word count and have a purpose.  I think that is a great skill to carry forward to any other works.

Agreed.  What are you working on currently?

My main focus is writing short stories and flash fiction then sending them to various markets.  I was fortunate to get published in a few places in 2016 and hope to continue that in 2017.  I also have a side-project, which are stories I write in my Dark Celebrations series.  These are short stories that I write for pure enjoyment with no restrictions. They’re really about having fun with the story and are usually written when I need a break from the main focus.  I’m also looking into some of my older stories with the idea of maybe putting some together for a possible future collection.  This is a slow process as many of them do require some work.  And then I’m also playing around with ideas for possible longer works.

Have you ever started a story or even finished a story and just not liked it, so you toss it?  Or do you always find a way to use a story? 

I’ve tossed a few away.  I’ve also made stories work in the past, but I don’t like doing that and don’t anymore.  There is always a fresh idea.  When I started writing, I probably wrote just over 200,000 words that I never used.  But I knew beforehand I likely wouldn’t use any of it as it was more for practice than anything else.

That’s a lot of practice!  What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the editing process is as important as the initial first draft.  In the beginning, I neglected the editing side a bit.  I now separate the two processes and give them equal attention.  It’s a lot of fun during the first draft.  Everything flows, usually, and it’s exciting to get to the next scene.  Editing was a bit more labor intensive for me.  However, it is where I can shape my story, give it direction, and make the story shine.  As I get better at editing, I am starting to enjoy it more and more.  I’ve also found that it helps to give myself a break from a story after the first draft and then tackle the work from a more critical standpoint when it isn’t so fresh.

Great advice.  I’ve read a lot of books that could be great if the editing was better, and it’s an extremely important step that authors need to pay attention to.  I’m glad you’ve found a way to enjoy editing (and it shows in your work that you take your time), but did you have to work at being critical of your own work, or does that come naturally to you?  I know some authors struggle with that.

It comes easy to me.  I battle myself quite a bit on some stories.  There is a good and bad side to that.  Sometimes, the stories never see the light of day because of it.  Other times, the stories really come out great and shine.

When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I find that having more than one project on the go works for me.  I guess that’s easier when you’re focusing on a lot of shorter works, but even if I throw some longer projects into the mix it would still be a formula I use.  I like to be able to switch to something different if I get frustrated or hit a brick wall with one thing.  This way the writing never stops.

That’s a good system.  When you’re working on more than one story at a time, do you find that thinking about one leads you to ideas for the others?  I imagine that would help keep the creative juices flowing, rather than being stuck in one story.

It does, mostly because your mind is always active and gets used to thinking like that.  I’ve been working on a story before when an idea for something else pops into my mind.  Depending on how interesting and complex the idea is, I might make a note of it.  But usually, the good ideas never really disappear.

Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

When I started just about everything I read and enjoyed made me jealous.  I was amazed by some of the epic works like Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.  Books like Richard Matheson’s I am Legend and Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle also left me in awe.  But as I started to write more and more, I realized that it wasn’t so much jealousy but rather an inner desire to create my own world and characters that was growing within.  These types of works then became inspiration that fuelled me to keep on improving, so that I may also one day create my own colorful worlds and characters.

(That’s always where I hope authors will take this question – turning it to inspiration.) 🙂  Even though your work is mostly on the dark side, do you get inspiration from all over the place, or just stick to certain genres?   How important is being well-rounded as a reader, to you?   

That’s a tough one.  Some people say you should stick to your genre and focus, while others say reading more diverse will make you a better writer.  I don’t know the answer to that, but as for myself, I read almost everything.  I do spend majority of the time in the genres I enjoy, but I also like the challenge of reading things I normally wouldn’t.  As for the inspiration, I get it from everything.  Sometimes works that are not in my genre will trigger an idea.  I would hate to be closed to any avenue that could provide fresh inspiration.

Thanks, Calvin, for sharing!

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WHERE TO FIND Calvin Demmer: 
Website:  www.calvindemmer.com
Goodreads: Calvin Demmer
Amazon Page: Calvin Demmer
Facebook:  Calvin Demmer
Twitter: @CalvinDemmer

Review of “Discovery” by J.B. Taylor

33583727I’m a sucker for any opportunity to read about a new alien world, and the one in this book is pretty good.  In a few short pages (most of the book is set on Earth), the author does a great job of describing this alien planet, alien animals, and alien people.  You get little glimpses throughout the book at just how different – and more powerful – these more evolved aliens are, and little bits about their history and abilities were interesting to me so that I’d like to see/read more.

Mostly this book is focused on Earth and the impending danger the aliens might bring.  Poor Eckta gets dropped here and stuck with us, and he’s a good character – a little bit Superman, but with more of an “alien” foreignness.  Other than him, it was a bit difficult to lock down who the main characters were going to be early on because of jumping from one character to the next, and no one was ever safe.  But each character along the way is fleshed out just enough to be believable, giving a well-rounded look at how Earthlings might deal with such an alien as Eckta. The government reaction and what they did with him was all-too believable, if a little predictable.

The movement of the plot was rough for me.  Everything moves really, really fast and could have been fleshed out better.  A lot of the government activity behind the scenes (avoiding spoilers) seemed implausible and forced.  A lot of the story just lacked a feel of reality for me – I know this is about aliens, but how the plot moved and what happened with the characters felt unlikely.  Another round of edits would probably help too, as there were a few goofs.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story.  It’s quick and full of action, with a likeable character at the center.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

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