Indie Feature Friday: DOUBLE FEATURE The Blind Spot by Michael Robertson and Ringer by D.T. Wilby

So many books, so little time…

I have been reading a lot this year! Even more than usual, because I’m doing a deep dive into the cyberpunk genre, beta reading for other authors, reading books on writing craft and book marketing, as well as pleasure reading in other genres (my go-tos are mysteries, thrillers, and horror) and reading to my kids.

My goal was to read 40 books this year, and I’ve already read 46 by my count (I don’t add the middle grade and young adult books I read with my kids to my goodreads shelf because it gets too messy)

That’s great!

But I haven’t been as on top of writing reviews as I’d like to be.

I’m going to kill two birds with one stone here and do a Cyberpunk Indie Feature Friday: Double Feature!

Fancy, right?

Here they are…

The Blind Spot by Michael Robertson

The Blurb:

COULD YOU BETRAY EVERYONE YOU CARE ABOUT TO PREVENT A WAR?

The Blind Spot exists in defiance of Scala City’s dystopian big brother regime. It occupies a small sector in the city, and those who live there believe in their right to privacy. Scala City believe if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide. But the Blind Spot have hackers that could bring the larger city to its knees. This is why it’s never spilled over into all-out war. Until now …

A terrorist attack on Scala City’s main plaza has tipped the delicate balance. There is only one person who can halt the conflict before it begins …

Marcie Hugo, daughter of the Blind Spot’s leader, and the district’s best kept secret. Cybernetically enhanced, she’s faster, stronger, and smarter than most. But more importantly, she’s invisible. Protected and hidden away by her father for the majority of her life, she’s in the unique position to move between the Blind Spot and Scala City unnoticed.

With the best hacker in the city on her side, and while the rest of the Blind Spot prepares for a bloody war, Marcie gets to work …

To avoid total annihilation, she will have to betray everyone she loves, starting with her father …

And even then, her chances of success are slim …

Join Marcie in a race against time as she turns over every neon-lit inch of Scala City and The Blind Spot in a quest to discover who’s trying to destroy her home and why. And even if she is successful, with the number of ties she’s severed, how much of a life will she have left to return to?

My Review:

If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you will know that I only review the indie books I really love. The Blind Spot stands out for the intricacy of its plot and the excellent use of a double POV framework.

The book is structured so that chapters alternate between two characters from opposite sides of a politically divided city.

Nick, an overweight and underloved office manager from Scala City, is addicted to a social media app that sends him “lifts,” recordings of the positive things that his friends and colleagues say about him through out the day. In fact, nearly everyone in Scala City is driven by this app, and much of their days are made up of sending and receiving lifts to others. At first glance it seems like a really sweet, wholesome use of technology. But when Nick is betrayed by someone close to him, he begins to question the validity of this constant stream of thoughtless praise…

Marcie, a typical teenager rebelling against her father’s attempts to get her to settle down, wants nothing more than to escape the Blind Spot, an enclosed area of Scala City that is completely free of government surveillance. An uneasy peace exists between the Blind Spot and Scala City, and when a terrorist attacks, tensions rise, putting Marcie’s dream of moving to the City on hold. But Marcie discovers a secret that could stop an all out war from breaking out. The trouble is, she will have to betray everyone in the Blind Spot in order to stop the war…

Robertson very skillfully builds up these characters with their completely separate lives and then slowly brings them together in a fast-paced thriller that deals with huge universal themes like love and betrayal, the abuse of social media, the abuse of people by the government and huge corporations, and technological inequality.

I’d felt the characters were very believable and well rounded, though I would have liked to see a little more development of the true villain of the story. The interpersonal conflicts between Nick and Marcie and their respective antagonists was spot on, though! The characters really drive the plot in this story, and I could barely put it down.

I look forward to the rest of the series!

Ringer by D.T. Wilby

The Blurb:

Will is not himself lately… but is someone else?

All he knows for sure is something is out there. It wants his home, his girlfriend, his life. And it wants him gone…

Years from now, Will is one of the many who have benefited from gene therapy and replacement organs that fit like a glove. Growing up a sickly child was tough, but now he is able to live the full life he could once only dream of from a hospital bed.

Life couldn’t be going much better for Will, until one night he awakes to disturb a break in. A glimpse of the intruder drives him to demand answers that he knows will turn his life upside down. Something just doesn’t add up and he can’t let it go. Is he losing his grip on reality? Or is there really something very sinister going on at New Horizons Bio-Tech?

By demanding the truth, he will only be hurting himself…

My Review:

Ringer is a real throwback to classic sci-fi horror like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

This is a novella length tale with very slow burn tension that builds throughout the book and gets quite intense at the end.

Wilby’s language is very literary in style, another parallel with the classics. So if you aren’t used to that, you might find it a little difficult to get into. However, the prose is often beautiful and has moments of true poignancy that I feel are well worth the extra effort.

The main character, Will, walks a very fine line throughout the novella where we are not quite sure if he is going insane or if his experiences are actually happening to him. In the end, we are faced with another, even more unnerving reversal (no spoilers!) which really brings up some excellent thematic questions.

I feel this one would make a great book club book, but I don’t want to discuss it too in depth and give away the twist!

The dialogue was a bit stilted in places. Again, it reads in a similar way to classic stories where modern writers favour a bit more indirect conversational styles. But overall I don’t feel it detracted from my appreciation of the story.

It’s very difficult to weave a completely story into fewer than 100 pages and Wilby has done a superb job with the medium. I will be keeping my eye out for more of his work!

Discussion:

Have you read either of these books? What did you think? If not, do either of them strike your fancy? Robertson’s The Blind Spot is one of the original Top 10 Indie Cyberpunk Novels I set out to read and review this year. I’m slowly making my way through the list, but I keep getting sidetracked by new Cyberpunk books!

You can check out past reviews here:

As well as some classics:

I have a review of Into Neon by Austin Dragon coming up, as well as a non-cyberpunk review of Alexis vs. The Afterlife by Marcus Alexander Hart, a fantastic YA/NA Paranormal that had me laughing out loud repeatedly and is a great fit for the other Sci-Fi Humour lovers out there.

What else would you like to see me review?

Last Call for Pre-Orders! Get your copy of Bubbles in Space #3 Pop ‘Em Up Today!

Phew!

The hardest part of being an indie writer is keeping track of all the promotional and marketing things around new releases…

So here’s trying!

The story thus far…

Sales of Bubbles in Space #1 Tropical Punch, and #2 Chew ‘Em Up, have been going strong with both books staying in the Top 100 of Amazon’s Crime and Mystery Science Fiction category since the last release.

It’s a small but mighty category and I’m proud to be well placed in it!

Tropical Punch has gathered nearly 100 reviews–95 at the time of posting– which is mind-boggling to me. My previous best was 34, lol

Only Three Weeks Until Launch Day!

Bubbles in Space #3 Pop ‘Em One is complete and with my editor for its final revisions. It’s already more than 25% longer than the first two books.

I’m really digging into Bubbles’ character arc in this book. Her development extends over the whole series, and with Book 3 being the centerpiece of the 5 book story arc, it was an emotionally intense book to write!

When I did the first re-read, still high on completion, I really felt like it was the best book I’ve ever written. You know, I might be slightly biased. Still, I was feeling pretty good.

And then, early reviewers have said the same thing!!

Now, I just can’t wait for it to land in your hot little hands…

If you’re as excited about it as I am (impossible!) I hope you’ll consider pre-ordering a copy so that the mysterious algorithms maybe be appeased and Amazon doesn’t throw me off the mythical cliff of obscurity…

I don’t know if that’s a thing. But I’ve heard stories.

What I do know is that I need 25 more pre-orders to meet my completely arbitrary personal goal for this release!

You have the power to set my happy little author heart a-fire!

Click here to go to your regional Amazon store!

I will update again with details on the launch when I have them.

Thank you so much for your support!

Innate Inclusion: Creating Realistic Diversity in Fiction

This weekend I had the pleasure of taking Indie It Press‘s course “Innate Inclusion: Creating Realistic Diversity in Fiction” taught by the wonderful SF&F author, W.A. Ford.

She’s the author of The Fadian Experiment, which I’ve reviewed here, and The Fadian Escape, which comes out next month!

I have always strived to create worlds full of interesting and diverse characters, representative of real people (even in fantastical fiction!). But it can be really difficult to write characters that are very different from ourselves, whether that means something as simple as writing male characters as a woman, or writing a Catholic character when as an agnostic.

It gets increasingly more difficult the farther out of our comfort zone that we get, such as writing a character who comes from a country you’ve never even visited, or who suffers from a disease that you don’t have first hand experience with, or who belongs to a persecuted group.

I think a lot of writers and artists bristle at the idea of “forcing” diversity into their works. And I get it. We want to create our worlds the way that feels natural, and diversity for diversity’s sake often results in flat, stereotypical characters who lack the depth of real human beings.

We’ve all read action books (and watched movies) where the heroine is essentially a cookie cutter of the usual badass male action heroes, just with tighter clothes and bigger boobs, and probably a gratuitous shower scene thrown in for good measure.

The stereotypical male action hero types are enough of a stretch, but to transplant a woman into the same role without acknowledging any of the ways in which her experience in the world would be different than a man’s just rings a bit hollow. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far, and little touches here and there can go a long way in adding depth to the reader’s experience.

Is Diversity Just a Trend?

In the course, Ford talks about the history of attempts at inclusion, from Affirmative Action in the ’60s and ’70s, to the Diversity trend in the ’80s and ’90s, and now the idea of Innate Inclusion.

Some folks will argue that this is “just a trend,” and that we should continue to write what we want to write how we want to write it.

Sure. I think we should, too.

I, personally, want to write in a way that represents as many kinds of people as I can!

I know from experience that seeing yourself in the books and movies that you consume is a very powerful thing.

But it is more difficult to do well than to just write characters who look and think like us, so it can be a challenge to get out of our comfort zone and explore writing different kinds of people.

The move toward inclusion is not a here-today-gone-tomorrow trend like fanny packs or bell bottom jeans, something that flares up every once in a while and then disappears, like an allergic reaction (I am allergic to fanny packs, just seeing them breaks me out in hives).

Western cultures have been in a steady state of slow evolution toward innate inclusion, from the suffrage movement to the abolition of slavery to multi-culturalism to gay pride etc.

Globalism has changed the face of our countries, provinces/states, cities, and neighbourhoods. Acknowledging these cultural differences has forced us to acknowledge other, less visible differences between us and our friends and neighbours.

These things include spiritual beliefs, invisible illnesses, non-binary gender and sexuality, and trauma.

And as we learn about and appreciate all the different ways to be a human, it only makes sense to represent these difference facets in our fictional worlds as well.

What is Innate Inclusion?

If you look at books and movies from the ’80s and ’90s, you can see early attempts at inclusion at work. There was a bigger effort to have women in lead roles, more non-white characters in supporting roles, and occasionally even gay characters (usually relegated to comic relief.)

Unfortunately, early “diversity” was often superficial. Characters ran the gamut between offensive stereotypes (how many 80s movies can you name that have “the fat kid” or “the Asian immigrant” or “the black friend” caricatures?), tokenism, and colour-coded paper cutouts.

I have re-watched a lot of my favourite kid’s movies with my own kids and have been amazed at how different they are from today’s films.

At best, there is a cast of characters who each represent a personality trait (the smart kid, the bully, the athlete, the angry loner, etc) but who are otherwise interchangeable. Sometimes, these characters would be made female, or gay, or black, but that detail never seemed to have any impact on the story or the character’s experience.

Arguably its better to have flat characters that, at least superficially, represent a diverse group of people rather than having an entirely homogenous cast.

But why not take it a step further and turn these paper cutouts into real people?

That’s what Innate Inclusion is all about.

What Kind of Characters Should I Include?

Today we are very aware, and we’re becoming more comfortable talking about, a lot of personal experiences that we once would have felt pressured to hide.

Debt, depression, mental illness, addiction, and abuse, for example.

These can be heavy topics.

So can discrimination and persecution.

Anyone who is different from the majority of people in their community, who is different from “the norm,” will at some point experience resistance, hostility, and othering.

To ignore this is a failure to fully explore a character’s potential. How a character reacts to challenges in their life tells us about who they are. We are shaped by both the positive and negative events of our lives, and to turn away from one or the other is to give an incomplete picture.

If you are writing a contemporary fiction story and include an Asian character, don’t just leave it at the physical description. Think about who that character is. How many generations has their family been in the country of the novel’s setting? Where are their ancestors from? How closely tied are they to their community? What is their family like? What are their interests and goals?

You could have an Asian character who is a first generation Canadian, whoseparents came from Vietnam, who watched her parents grinding away in the restaurant industry to give her a better life, and who is now estranged from her family because she rejected the idea of working her life away and followed her passion to become a rock musician.

You could have an Asian character who is a young man whose family came to the US from China in the 1800s but who no longer has any connection to his Chinese heritage because it was safer for his ancestor to assimilate, and who is now exploring that part of his history.

It is not enough to just say a character is Asian. You need to get specific about who that character is, their back story, how the world has shaped them.

A gay character whose family has accepted and supported them will be completely different from a gay character whose family sent them to conversion therapy. Explore your characters as deeply as you can!

Where Do I Start?

One of the easiest ways to explore diversity is to dig into the things that make you different.

Yes, it’s scary.

You will feel vulnerable.

For me, that means writing about alcohol abuse, recovery, depression, and anxiety. My books aren’t about these things, but my characters often experience these events and emotions. They react to them in ways that I did (and if they’re lucky, the ways I wish I had, haha)

Do you have first hand experience with disease or disability? With religious persecution? With discrimination?

Look to your friends and family next.

You will be more comfortable including characters who are similar to people you know well in real life.

Once you’ve practiced this, and hopefully added some depth to your characters, you can start exploring outside your inner circles.

The most important thing when writing about a person who is different from you is to research your character. Read first hand accounts from people with lived experience with the facets you will be exploring. What is it like to have breast cancer? Or to watch someone you love battle breast cancer? There is no one right answer to this, but I guarantee that reading about people’s experiences will both confirm your assumption and surprise you. Research will give you little details that add authenticity to your character’s experience that imagination on its own will never provide.

Why Does it Matter?

When there is something about us that makes us feel “different,” it can be incredibly validating to read a character who seems to represent our personal struggles.

When I read a sober character, it is so refreshing!

You don’t realize how casually alcohol is used in books and movies until you quit drinking. Reading can become a head game where you have to constantly remind yourself that this glamourized, fun party experience is not real. That you aren’t missing out. That not drinking is still the right choice for you.

Drinkers and life-long teetotalers experience this differently from recovering alcohol abusers.

So to find a character who just doesn’t drink, or who has quit drinking, really makes me feel like I’m not alone.

Many people have reached out to me to say that they appreciate this in my books, too.

An autistic character in a romance novel is a big deal for autistic people in real life. My writer friend Felicia Blaedel has done this in her book All The Wrong Shelves.

W.A. Ford–the instructor of the course I just completed–writes strong, Black female leads in her science fantasy novels.

N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Octavia E. Butler, and Nalo Hopkinson have shaken up the traditional publishing industries assumptions about what Science Fiction readers want to read with their Black female leads.

In the past, the safest way to sell books or have a box-office hit in North America, was to appeal to the financial majority (white Americans, for the most part.)

However, recent books and movies have shown that audiences are far less fickle than we used to assume. We want great stories, first and foremost. And a great story with a wide range of realistic characters is even better. The more people your story appeals to, the better chance it has of succeding.

Discussion

Which books or movies do you feel have done a great job of innate inclusion? Which tried, but didn’t quite hit the mark? What can we learn from them?

Let me know what you think!

Free Summer Reads!

If you’re looking to load up your e-reader with action-packed Sci-Fi this summer, check out the FREE Book Bonanza for all your summer reading needs!

It’s Launch Day! Bubbles in Space #2 Chew ‘Em Up is LIVE!

Up, Up, and Away!

Goals are fun.

They can be infuriatingly stressful and they can push us to out-perform our past limitations.

I have always performed best under pressure. Without a deadline looming over my head I’m prone to distraction and procrastination.

I could be a professional dilly dallier.

However, what I am is a professional writer.

Deadlines keep me in check with my business writing, and I knew that this is what I needed to kick my fiction writing into high gear, too.

So in January, I drew some hard lines on my calendar.

I put non-refundable deposits on contracts with my cover designer and editors, and set up my pre-orders on Amazon. If I failed to make my deadlines, I would be out some serious moolah, and be locked down on Amazon’s naughty list (and unable to set up future pre-orders) for a year.

I set myself a very aggressive release schedule for my new Bubbles in Space series. Five books in one year, with each book coming 9 weeks after the last. I have plans to release 3-4 novellas in that time, too, but they are bonus projects without the strict deadlines.

I had no idea if I could do it or not, but I knew other people could do it and that if they could find a way to make it work there was a good chance I could too.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of writing, editing, and business-learning as I dove headfirst into launching Bubbles in Space.

And I don’t want to jinx myself, but things are looking good so far! Today is release day for Book #2 Chew ‘Em Up and I couldn’t be happier with the results!

Both Tropical Punch and Chew ‘Em Up are sitting in the Top 100 of Crime and Mystery Science Fiction, which isn’t a huge category, but it’s chockablock full of heavy hitters in the genre like Dean Koontz, Martha Wells, Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, and Neal Stephenson. As an indie author, there is nothing quite like the feeling of leapfrogging one of your traditionally published idols on the charts, even if it’s only for a few days!

If you’d like to check it out and see what all the fuss is about, grab your copy today! As a special Launch week promo, both books are on sale for only $2.99 until Sunday June 6, 2021. And if you’re really keen you can pre-order #3 Pop ‘Em One for the earlybird price, too.

Click through to your regional Amazon store! books2read.com/u/bQJ9X7

The Journey So Far…

Lots of other indie Sci-Fi authors have asked about my launch strategies and how effective they’ve been. If you’re curious, here’s some of what I’ve been doing:

Last month I ran a free promo on my first book, Tropical Punch, and more than 5500 copies were claimed!

I know, I know. Giving away books for free is a poor way to make money as an author.

However, I had some ulterior motives…

Why give away my book for free?

By getting Book #1 in my series into as many hands as possible, I hoped to garner some more reviews and to start collecting pre-orders on the next books in the series. Also, and possibly most important, I wanted to teach Amazon’s algorithms which kind of people are interested in my books, and get more relevant “also bought” books showing on my page.

Was it a success?

Yup. Yup. Yup.

That’s a big yes on all counts!

I went from 14 to 45 reviews in less than two weeks. Yes, some of those were 1 and 2 star ratings from disgruntled freebie seekers. The risk in giving away books is that people sometimes take chances on books that aren’t really their thing, and some of them aren’t shy about telling the world about it. However, the vast majority of the reviews that came in are 4 and 5 star ratings, which lead to…

Pre-orders for books 2 and 3 started rolling in!

On Tropical Punch, I managed to get 19 pre-orders from my mailing list and folks who follow me on social media. That was so fantastic, as I really didn’t expect to get more than a handful. At the time of my free book promo, I only had 14 pre-orders on Chew ‘Em Up and 3 on Pop ‘Em One. But by launch day, I had 31 for Chew ‘Em Up and 15 for Pop ‘Em One!

I know, these numbers aren’t going to launch me to the top of the Amazon store, but it’s more than enough give me a boost in my little niche categories and keep the visibility on Bubbles in Space up where it needs to be for more organic discovery (For someone who typically sells only 0-5 books a day, organic reach is a beautiful thing!)

The “also bought” feature is in alignment, and hopefully this will translate into smarter ads in the AMS dashboard! Though this takes a few weeks to show up, so I’ll keep you posted.

The Biggest Success?

I’m not going to become an overnight bestseller. I knew that from the beginning. Publishing is a competitive industry whether you are traditionally published or indie.

But whether or not I ever become a bestseller is kind of a secondary dream to THE BIG DREAM.

The biggest success so far has been finding a group of readers who are as excited about this series as I am! Every day, new reviews roll in and they have been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. These are reviews I didn’t solicit, from people who are just genuinely thrilled with the story.

Knowing that my book is out there, in the wild, and finding its people is the coolest thing.

Tropical Punch sold an average of 2 books a day in the last 6o days. With Chew ‘Em Up out, maybe that will jump up to 4 books a day! By the time the series is complete, it could be 10+ books a day!

Well, I won’t be retiring any time soon, but I should break even this year!

And in 5 years, anything is possible…

Thank You for Your Support!

Indie Feature Friday: Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

I’ve gone and lost track of days again, so let’s just start out by pretending it’s still Friday!

In the last few weeks I’ve been working my way through my collection of Indie Cyberpunk Novels and I have been so pleasantly surprised by all the great work in this genre.

First was Grinders by C.S. Boyack, which is the perfect blend of cyberpunk and detective tropes. I was instantly hooked by the glittery high-tech world and the perfectly balanced dynamic between Jimi Cabot and her partner on the police force. I couldn’t put it down. Although it is different in tone, Grinders is the novel that inspired me to write my own cybernoir detective series, and is directly responsible for the birth of Bubbles in Space. I cannot recommend it enough!

Next I read Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin, which is a quick, easy read with great world building and a diverse cast of characters. It’s the kind of book you can pick up and devour in a single sitting when you just want some fun, action packed entertainment. Sci-Fi flavoured candy at its best!

And now we have something a little bit different again.

This one is a serious page-turner…

Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat

The Plot

In a future world ruled by warring mega-corporations, cyborg Nephilim believed she was fighting a righteous cause.

As a powerful, genetically and cybernetically enhanced elite soldier her brutal and violent life is not truly her own – until one day, a simple glitch separates her from the grid.

For the first time in her young life, she is free…and she has doubts. Doubts that bury deeper into her psyche when she meets Jake, a mysterious, 100% bio-human.

He opens her neon-blue eyes to the lies she had been exposed to all her life. Questioning everything she has ever known, Nephilim resolves to take a stand. To hold on to this freedom, she has miraculously discovered. But can one person, no matter how strong, beat an all-powerful system of oppression? Soon, Nephilim finds herself hunted by her own people in a deadly game of survival…

For fans of Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and Altered Carbon!

My Review

This book has been on my radar for a while, as I follow Anna Mocikat on Instagram and Twitter. Behind Blue Eyes has been consistently well placed in the Cyberpunk charts and fans literally RAVE about it at every opportunity.

So, I admit, my expectations were pretty high going in.

Mocikat does not disappoint!

Behind Blue Eyes is fantastic. It manages to hit all of the major genre themes, and still to be completely different from the last two indie cyberpunk novels I have reviewed. It is dark, gritty, and violent with a strong sexual undertones. A very different mood than Grinders or Into Neon.

There is quite a bit of world-building at the beginning of the novel and it took me a few chapters to get into the flow of the story, but once I did it was like being caught in a riptide.

Mocikat is a masterful plotter working in an intricate world with complex characters.

One of my favourite things about Behind Blue Eyes is the evolution of Nephilim’s character as the secrets of her world are revealed. She is a seriously badass cyborg warrior, and this could easily have turned into a Mary-Sue type character who just can’t seem to do anything wrong. But Mocikat manages to bring Niphilim’s humanity front and centre, and the plot focusses on her vulnerabilities rather than her physical invincibility, so that even though she’s literally built for world domination, she is constantly coming up against conflicts she isn’t prepared to handle.

I also really appreciate that, although there is a romantic subplot, and there are a lot of sexy themes being explored, Mocikat never delves into “steamy romance” territory. Full disclosure: I am not a romance fan. Really detailed sex scenes always make me cringe, and books with too many of them usually end up in my DNF pile. Mocikat handles it very well, and I think the sexual themes were all the more titillating because they were hinted at rather than being shoved in your face. I mean, sex is everywhere in the book, and the blasé attitudes of the characters toward it was refreshing in itself. But Mocikat leaves the actual squidgy parts up to our imaginations (thank you!)

In Nephilim’s exploration of her humanity (as a genetically engineered cyborg) Mocikat really digs into one of the most interesting themes in cyberpunk literature: where do we draw the link between (wo)man and machine? What makes any of us human? This really added a layer of emotional satisfaction to Nephilim’s character arc, and I will absolutely be diving into the next book, Fallen Angels.

If you love books and don’t have time to read these days, Mocikat has just dropped the audiobook for Behind Blue Eyes on Amazon’s Audible, and it’s been getting awesome reviews as well.

Discussion

Have you read Behind Blue Eyes? What did you think? Is this one you’ll be adding to your TBR list? If you have a favourite cyberpunk novel, please share it in the comments!

New Feature at scjensen.com

Greetings!

This post is for the book worms (and the book dragons!)

If you read books faster than you can earn money to buy them, I have a gift for you…

How to find FREE and Discount Books at scjensen.com!

There are almost always free and discount book promotions going on around the web. There are many sites dedicated to just this service. But if you don’t want to hunt them down yourself, I’m offering a new feature right here which you might be interested in!

I have a new page called the Free Book Bonanza! This is where I will be linking all the free and discount book promotions that I come across (and participate in). There will be a section for FREE books, Kindle Unlimited books, and deeply discounted books for all your bargain hunting needs.

You can find the link to the Free Book Bonanza in the drop down menu. It will be updated regularly so all the deals found on that page will be currently running with the dates clearly marked.

Check it out!

Why not head over and let me know what you think? Which genres would you like to see represented here? Do you prefer FREE books (usually requires signing up to the author’s mailing list), Kindle Unlimited books, or discounted books?

Let me know in the comments!

Indie Feature Friday: Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin

You know those moments you just want a quick and easy read? Nothing too heady or heavy, just a book to kick back and relax with?

I have the book for you!

I’ve been working through my collection of Indie Cyberpunk Books and recently finished reading Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin.

It was such a breath of fresh air after reading Neuromancer! (Read my review of the classic cyberpunk novel here)

If you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced read with great characters and a heist-style plot, you will not be disappointed by this book.

Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin

The Plot

When a corporate lackey has the rug pulled out from under his illusions, will his hidden fire flicker or ignite a rebellion?
Orphaned and alone, Moss is happy to have found a place in the world. But his humdrum working routines take a terrifying turn when a mysterious woman breaks into his apartment and hands him a data chip from his dead parents. Suddenly hearing messages revealing his benevolent employer has a far darker side, he braves the dangerous megacity streets in search of the truth.

Surrounded by outcasts and criminals and running on instinct, Moss stumbles onto a rebel group intent on exposing their corrupt oppressors. And though he fears for his life when his old boss has put a price on his head, the naïve man believes the key to taking down the enemy may lie inside the high-tech device… and his own cerebral cortex.

Will Moss’s attempt to fight the power cause him to terminally short circuit?

Into Neon is the electrode-laden first book in A Cyberpunk Saga science fiction series. If you like everyman heroes, futuristic tech, and immersive dystopian worlds, then you’ll love Matthew A. Goodwin’s mind-expanding epic.

My Review

I’ve been reading a lot of cyberpunk novels lately, and trying to mix up the classics and traditionally published fan favourites with my indie author brothers and sisters, and I have to say…

Indie is where it’s at.

Is it just me? Maybe my tastes have changed. My brain is admittedly more primed for fast-paced, bite sized, binge-worthy media.

I used to love reading epic SF&F tomes that transported me to another world for days on end. I loved that feeling of lifting my head after a long book or series was finished and feeling like I didn’t know how my life was going to go on without this world or these characters.

But my life has changed.

My husband and I run two businesses, I homeschool three kids, I write full time. There are never fewer than four people in my house and usually five or more. Not to mention the mountains of dishes and laundry created by having a full house 24/7…

I do not have peaceful, interruption free stretches of time anymore. I do not have the mental capacity to completely immerse myself in another world.

And I know it’s not just me. That was a rhetorical question. Most of us are dealing with similar situations these days.

You know who is serving this newly expanding market of easy escapism literature?

Indies.

Indie authors are hitting a note that traditional publishers are just missing out on these days.

Sometimes I just want to be entertained without needed to read and reread obtuse “literary” passages or search up scientific terminology to understand what the hell is going on.

I have a degree in English Literature and I specialized in Literary Criticism. I’m no lightweight when it comes to academic chest thumping.

But I can’t help but feel that traditional sci-fi is trying way too hard to impress me some days.

Sorry, boys. I’m not here for it.

Bring on the guilt-free entertainment. Bring on the pulp!

Bring on Into Neon!

I had so much fun with this book. It’s fun and easy to eat, Popcorn Lit!

Compared to something like the tech-heavy Neuromancer, Goodwin’s Into Neon is definitely more like cyberpunk lite. But I mean that in the best of ways.

Sometimes you want to explode your brain with mind-bogglingly intense science fiction and sometimes you just want to eat some sci-fi flavoured candy.

This is the candy.

Goodwin plays on lots of the standard cyberpunk tropes and has created a fascinating and frighteningly plausible future world, but you don’t need to have a dictionary handy in order to understand it.

Moss is a naïve, cog-in-the-machine type character who has no idea how his life is about to change. When the veil is lifted and Moss is thrown into a dark new world I couldn’t help being sucked into his story.

I’d classify Into Neon as geared toward an older Young Adult or New Adult audience, though it does have some strong language and mature themes.

The writing is simple and straightforward. The character development starts off quiet strong and is a little rushed near the end, but not so much that it interferes with the enjoyment of the plot. It’s really a coming of age novel with a cyberpunk back dropdrop.

Two things I think Goodwin does really well are:

  1. Maintaining the “punk” aspects of cyberpunk. This book’s main theme is rebellion against the government and corporate overlords. It’s about the underdog’s fight against oppressive power, which a lot of so-called cyberpunk these days seems to have forgotten.
  2. Great, inclusive characters. Goodwin uses characters of all backgrounds and fleshes them all out equally. There are no cookie cutter, tokenized characters, which I really appreciated.

So, if you are looking for a light, entertaining read with fabulous characters and an action-movie style plot, I highly recommend Into Neon! I can’t wait to read the rest of this series!

Discussion

Have you read Into Neon yet? Do you have recommendations for other fun, entertaining, light sci-fi reading? Hit us up in the comments!

FREE Cyberpunk and LitRPG Books from the Mysterious IASFA

Juicy news!

I belong to the International Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors (IASFA) and they are putting together monthly lists of free books from some of the biggest Indie authors in the genres.

Each month, the IASFA releases a collection of limited time FREE books from one SF&F subgenre.

This month it’s Cyberpunk/LitRPG/Gamer Lit, for example. And next month is post-apocalyptic.

If you are an SF&F author you can join the community here –> https://iasfa.org/join-iasfa/

If you are a reader, you can sign up to receive free books every month here –>  https://iasfa.org/get-free-books

Now, check these books out!

Here’s a note from the IASFA about the promo:

From May 11th through the 15th, pick up enough free LitRPG/GameLit/Cyberpunk novels to fill your summer reading needs.

Play the game, win the prize, or die.

Dakota Krout had this to say about the genre: “LitRPG is progression fantasy or science fiction bound by the rules of a video game. It uses a hard-magic system that allows the readers an in-depth look at those rules, which ensures consistency and allows for the mitigation of power creep.”

Available only from the mysterious IASFA.

This link takes you to the sign-up, where there are a few more steps because the evil internet trolls have attacked and we must hold them at bay.

1) click this link https://iasfa.org/get-free-books

2) Become an Insider by filling out your name (or online persona) and email address

3) Answer the math problem because we know trolls suck at math

4) Check your email – you should have received a confirmation email thanking you for subscribing, but you have to click on this to confirm your confirmation because we know that is the kiss of death for trolldom

5) Your subscription is confirmed! Go back to your email for the final confirmation which, during the free promotion period, will include the super-secret link that takes you into the back-end of the site where you can find incredible titles from some of the top names in the genre as well as well-established newcomers. If you join before the promotion timeframe, then you’ll get an email on the first day of the promotion with the super-secret link.
Find your next favorite author right here, right now.And next month, get ready for the end of the world as we know it – Post-Apocalyptic titles will tease your reading fancy from June 9-13.

Cyberpunk Book Review: Neuromancer by William Gibson

Do you ever find weird gaps in your literary or pop culture knowledge?

You think you know what you’re talking about and then you get blindsided by some fact that is so obvious that people have stopped talking about it. But somehow you just didn’t know?

That was me this year.

I’ve loved cyberpunk books and movies for ages, but I never really dug into the genre until I decided I was going to start writing it and then… BAM!

Suddenly I’m looking into the gap… NAY! The wide, gaping chasm! of stuff I never knew I never knew.

Did you know that The Matrix movies are based on the classic cyberpunk Sprawl series by William Gibson? Probably. Everyone but me knew this, apparently.

Until a couple of months ago, I had never even read William Gibson, who is like the All Father of the cyberpunk genre.

My dad, who is THE LEAST cyberpunk person you could ever meet, has read Neuromancer.

This is just embarrassing.

So, uh… better late than never, I guess…

Here’s my review of William Gibson’s Sprawl #1 Neuromancer.

WOW!

That was my first impression as I started reading this classic cyberpunk novel. First the dry, gritty, cybernoir flavour of the writing. Then the intense complexity of the world Gibson imagined. Then the twisting turning plot.

This is a book I will read again, probably more than once. The first time was just to get acclimated. The second time will be to start piecing together all the bits I missed the first time around. There is a lot going on under the surface of this novel, and Gibson isn’t spoonfeeding any details. Modern audiences will be a bit adrift in this world, but all the answers are there. The reader just has to work for it.

I loved that.

But let’s talk a bit about the book.

Setting/Themes

Neuromancer came out in 1984.

It’s kind of interesting that Gibson wrote this book–which prophesizes many things that have come to pass, like the internet and virtual reality and advanced cybernetics–in the same year that George Orwell set his own classic dystopian science fiction novel in.

1984, which Orwell wrote in 1948, in turn had prophesized things like the large colour telescreens and facial recognition, speech to text software, and an all-observing government bodies.

And it’s the year I was born.

So we kinda nailed it. 1984 was a good year.

But it is strange to read books like 1984 and Neuromancer from the present day, or rather “the future that wasn’t, quite.” Many of the things that Gibson predicts with computer usage is eerily accurate. We use words like cyberspace because of Gibson, for example. The high-tech, low-life dichotomy imagined in Neuromancer is very much representative of the massive income/class divides we see between first world and developing nations, and even within our own societies. As Gibson has said, “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

But some things, like the way Gibson’s imagined “grid” (does he even use that word, or is that just how I imagined it? now I have to check) is more like being inside a 1980s video game than the high-def 3D virtual reality we have now. When reading, I was picturing Tron more than The Matrix.

This doesn’t detract from the book at all, of course. The vivid settings and characters and the complex heist-style plot more than make up for any of the retrospective anachronisms. Chiba and the Sprawl have become iconic of the cyberpunk aesthetic–rainy nights and neon lights–which were echoed in the 1984 Blade Runner movie, based on Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I have read that when Gibson saw Blade Runner he was in a panic because he thought people would think his book, which he’d spent years writing, would be seen as a rip off of the movie. Fascinating that both Blade Runner and Neuromancer tapped into the same neon noir vibe at the same time.

But I’ve recently been reading Larry Niven’s Flatlander stories and I actually see a lot more of Niven in Blade Runner than Gibson, with the pyramidal cities and off-world colonization that shaped Ridley Scott’s interpretation of Dick’s fantastic novel.

The more I think about it, the more I realize all of my favourite books and movies have been circling the same themes for decades… I guess it’s no surprise that I started writing in this genre, too!

As far as themes go, the most prevalent in Neuromancer (and most cyberpunk) are: the struggle against a vast economic inequality, the way technology doesn’t make life better for everyone, and the inevitable corruption of governments and corporations that run the world.

Characters

Gibson’s character development, like that of PKD, is often subtle when it is there at all. Neuromancer is not a character driven novel. He writes fascinating, larger than life characters and throws them into intense situations, but don’t expect these characters to change.

I actually like this.

I love a good character arc, don’t get me wrong. But not all stories are about people growing and changing. Sometimes we just want some fast past action, intricately twisting plots, and mysteries to solve.

In this way, Neuromancer is very much like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Flatlander, as well as the hard-boiled noir writers who came before them, like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

And there’s a kind of statement in writing a character like Case or Molly, that they can undergo something like this and come out unchanged. No everyone gets better. Not everyone breaks the cycles that keep them trapped in their own lives. I felt that way about Deckard at the end of DADOES, too. Was he changed in the end? I’m not convinced.

So, Case isn’t a very dynamic character. He’s more reactive than active. But that’s okay. It works.

Plot

I have to admit I lost the thread a few times while reading this book. It’s not the kind of novel you can pick up and read with half an ear on your kid’s latest tale of woe or excitement. Neuromancer demands your full attention. When I couldn’t give it that, I moved very slowly and had to go back and re-read.

Gibson leaves clues to what is going on throughout the book, but they are easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention! So I will definitely have to go back and reread this one now that I know the big picture plot. I’d love to go back and dig into the details.

Conclusion

I gave this book 4 stars, which is kind of cheeky of me, since it’s clearly a classic. But, I mean, once a writer hits the kind of fame and critical acclaim that William Gibson has, I feel I can be a little harder on him than I might be on an up and coming or indie writer.

I might change my tune once I’ve re-read the book. But part of me feels like I shouldn’t have to read a book twice in order to get it. It’s a great story, but it’s a bit obtuse.

It could be the fault of me as the reader, too, in that I wasn’t always 100% committed to the page as I was reading. I don’t often get to read in peace and quiet without interruption.

So I will re-read it when the kids are visiting their grandma sometime and I will come back to this review.

Have you read Neuromancer? What did you think?

Other Reviews

Read more of my classic SF reviews here:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

Brave New World by Aldus Huxley

S.C. Jensen Author Update

Greetings, strangers!

I’ve been busy, busy getting lots of fun new stuff ready for you.

I have two more books in the Bubbles in Space series coming to you this Spring and Summer.

I have some book reviews I’ll be posting in the coming weeks.

I’m tossing around the idea of serializing my HoloCity Case Files novellas… Is that something you’d like to see? Let me know in the comments!

I will also be re-releasing my dystopian science fiction trilogy, The Timekeepers’ War, after receiving some bad news earlier this year.

More on that at the end of the post. Now for the fun stuff!

Upcoming Posts

I will be doing reviews on the following cyberpunk and cybernoir novels in the next few weeks:

  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Noir by Christopher Moore
  • Liquid Cool by Austin Dragon
  • Into Neon by Matthew A. Goodwin
  • Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat, and
  • Flatlander by Larry Niven

There will be more to come as I finished reading though my list of Indie Cyberpunk books, check it out –> HERE <–

Bubbles in Space Update

Things are starting to ramp up for my new sci-fi series Bubbles in Space. I just got Book #2 in to my editor last month and it will be out at the end of May. I’m done plotting Book #3, and will be diving into drafting ASAP once my edits are complete on #2.

I’ve got a really aggressive (for me!) release schedule planned this year and everything is on track, which means you will get your Bubbles fix right on schedule!

The HoloCity Case Files are a parallel series of mystery novellas, which I’ll be publishing along side Bubbles in Space. They can be read in any order, and you do not have to read them in order to read Bubbles in Space.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s everything you need to know:

Prequel Novella — Dames for Hire: HoloCity Case Files #1

Dirty jobs call for dirty dames.

But this is a bit much…

After a suspicious accident costs her a career, an arm, and nearly her life, Bubbles Marlowe needs all the help she can get.

When a friend asks her to do a little dirty work on the side, Bubbles isn’t prepared for just how dirty it’s going to get.

An arrogant scientist, a young heiress, a gambling king pin, and a few too many hired guns…

Can Bubbles finish the case before it finishes her?

HoloCity’s femme fatales are out in full force in this cybernoir detective thriller.

And these dames don’t mess around.

Join S.C. Jensen’s VIP Readers Club and read Dames for Hire for FREE! –> Join Here! <–

Or, you can buy it on Amazon for $0.99! –> Buy Now! <–

Or, when I start the serials, you’ll be able to CLICK HERE to start reading on the blog. (Coming soon!)

Tropical Punch: Bubbles in Space #1

Strippers, Drugs, and Headless Corpses…

All in a day’s work for Bubbles Marlowe, HoloCity’s only cyborg detective.

What do an anti-tech cult, a deadly new street drug, and the corrupt Chief of Police have in common?

It’s a question Bubbles can’t afford to ask. Last time she got curious it cost her job, a limb, and almost her life.

She vows to stay out of police business. But with a newly minted cybernetic enhancement, a semi-legal P.I. licence, and a knack for asking the wrong kind of questions…

Vows are made to be broken.

But as the body count stacks up, Bubbles realizes she’s made a terrible mistake.

Can she figure out who is behind the murders before she loses her head?

Read for FREE in Kindle Unlimited or Buy Now from Amazon for $4.99! –> Get it now! <–

Chew ‘Em Up: Bubbles in Space #2

She didn’t ask for this…
Now, there’s no going back.

Bubbles Marlowe prefers to stick to the shadows. But when one of her cases blows up in the media, the private eye is thrust into the public eye.

The timing couldn’t be worse.

Her best friend is on the run for her life and she needs Bubbles’ help!

Now the wrong kind of people are sitting up and taking notice… And the clock is ticking.

The friends will do anything it takes to get out of HoloCity. Even if it means leaving the planet.

Forever…

Can Bubbles survive her newfound stardom long enough to save her best friend?

Or is HoloCity going to chew them up and spit them out?

Coming May 31st, 2021… Pre-Order today for only $2.99! –> Get it now! <–

Pop ‘Em One: Bubbles in Space #3

You win some, you lose some.
And sometimes you lose everything…


Bubbles Marlowe is lost.

Lost in space, lost in love, lost in life.

After a contract to protect her best friend goes horribly wrong, things go from bad to worse.

Her best friend wakes up from a coma… changed. Rae has crucial information locked inside her brain, and she’s not talking.

Bubbles’ ex-partner and would-be lover has been kidnapped and brutalized by the megacorp, Libra. They want to exchange Tom for Rae, but she needs to save them both.

On top of all this, she finds herself the de facto property of an asteroid mining company! (Don’t even ask.)

They want to use her to start a war.

Bubbles has no choice but to follow orders…

It’s the only way she can keep Rae safe and save Tom’s life.

But can she pull off the heist without getting herself and everyone she loves killed?

And if even she can, what’s the point of saving them all if it means starting a corporate war?

Coming August 2nd, 2021… Pre-Order today for only $2.99! –> Get it now! <–

Spit ‘Em Out: Bubbles in Space #4

Coming October 2nd, 2021

Cherry Bomb: Bubbles in Space #5

Coming December 6th, 2021

HoloCity Case Files

I have another 2-3 novellas planned for release this year, alongside the Bubbles in Space series. I will be finishing them up in my downtime between drafts and don’t have a set release schedule for them. But they will all be available for FREE to my VIP Readers Club, for $0.99-$2.99 Amazon Kindle, and possibly as serials on the blog (if you guys are into it!)

UPDATE: The Timekeepers’ War Trilogy

As many of you know, March 2021 was supposed to be the release of Ghostlights: The Timekeepers’ War Book 2. It’s been a very long time coming, since The Timekeepers’ War Book 1 came out in 2014!

I was really excited about the release, and in the meantime have finished the final installment in the trilogy, Weirfall, anticipating a 2022 release.

Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.

My publisher, David G. Barnett, passed away suddenly in February. This was very sad news for me. I never met Dave in person, but he was instrumental in getting my author career off the ground.

When I was querying The Timekeepers War, my first ever novel, I was initially surprised by how well the novel was received by agents and publishers alike. I got many requests to read longer and longer excerpts, but ultimately each of these flickers of hope were snuffed out by rejection.

I couldn’t figure out why such positive responses were going nowhere.

I would probably have given up if it weren’t for the feedback I received from Dave.

He gave me actionable advice on how to make my manuscript where it needed to be. I followed his advice, worked with a developmental editor, and ended up cutting almost 50K words from the book! When I was finished, I asked Dave if I could submit it to him again.

He said yes!

I signed on with Bedlam Press only a few months after my twins were born.

I became a published author because Dave cared enough about my story to reach out and help me. And he continued to be a great support over the years, even while it took me so long to finish book two with three little kids running around my feet. Dave had a passion for great stories and he really cared about the authors he worked with. He will be sorely missed by me, and all of the other author’s he took a chance on.

With Dave’s passing, Necro Publications and Bedlam Press are being dissolved. So as the company’s assets are being sorted through, the trilogy is in limbo.

I do plan on self-publishing the books myself and re-releasing them next year.

So, to those of you who are still patiently waiting for Book 2, I promise you’ll get it! And Book 3 shortly after that.

If you haven’t started the series yet, please hold off on buying it until the new version comes out.

Thanks for reading!