Category Archives: Reading

Jeb Kinnison’s Red Queen: The Substrate Wars



Red Queen: The Substrate Wars begins with a quotation from Robert Heinlein’s 1950’s novella, The Man Who Sold the Moon: “There is nothing in this world so permanent as a temporary emergency.” This idea sets the tone of Kinnison’s novel and permeates all of the events within his fictional world.

The novel is set in a not-too-distant future world with events that mirror our own society: Readers will recognize similarities in events like the AIDS epidemic, the creation of agencies like Homeland Security, and how some people use online games like World of Warcraft and other social media to create connections and send messages in “the real world.” The differences between our world and the story world of Red Queen: The Substrate Wars lies in how much personal freedom has been reduced and how far technology has developed. As it states in the book blurb, the technology being created could either save the world or destroy it; the stakes are no longer just personal freedom versus governmental control. The characters are actually fighting their governments for the right for the human race to exist.




It is hard to discuss the novel without giving away huge spoilers. (Of course I have this problem with most of the novels I review!) I really enjoyed the chapters with the ALife Simulations. The narrative of these chapters focused on the evolutionary development of the artificial life forms. It traces them from the very start of their existence, focusing on the entire species rather than one character, and each ALife section relates in some way to the actions taken by the main characters in the novel.

My favorite character in the novel is Professor Walter Wilson. Kinnison creates a very interesting character. Wilson is a homosexual male who grew up in a world that initially did not tolerate this lifestyle, although the level of acceptance evolved, and even flourished, over time. He survived the AIDS epidemic, although his lover did not. Infected, Wilson has to take what he terms a “daily wonder pill” to prevent the progression of the disease. Because of this loss, he never developed another close, romantic relationship. Instead, he threw himself into his work. He flourished in the academic world, even winning a protest against University regulations in the past when a security officer removed a poster with an image of a gun from his office door. Wilson also had a positive impact on his students, who maintained contact with him even after they left the University.

The twist with this character comes with the reduction of personal freedoms in The Red Queen society. At the start of the novel, Wilson has come under fire from the University officials because he commented on a biological difference between the genders. Any statement that points out a difference between people is considered offensive and subject to censure. This, however, is not as simple as it appears on the surface. The censure may be retaliation for the protest he won in the past, it may be an issue because his former students have become leaders in the resistance against The Red Queen governments, or it may have something to do with the ALife simulation project Wilson is running. The University’s actions do encourage Wilson’s former and current students to rally behind him. It is not really a “call to arms;” rather, it is the situation that starts a chain of events and it is fascinating as a reader to watch each domino fall into place.

I did enjoy this novel and look forward to the second book in the trilogy!

Be sure to check out my 5 Minute author interview with Jeb Kinnison at


Jeb Kinnison: The Long Bio

Jeb Kinnison’s Amazon author pagePrintCover3-1964x1395

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and timely review.

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New Series by Andrew Leon Hudson

Hello Everyone,
My fellow Darkside Codex writer, Andrew Leon Hudson, is releasing a new series of ebooks in January that feature various sub-genres of horror and science fiction.  The first one is Weird Westerns.
It is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Amazon Pre-Order:
Read a sample (on Andrew’s blog):

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Reading: Applied Natural Magic

Applied Natural Magic

Eric James Spannerman’s Applied Natural Magic is a book in the Darkside Codex, a shared world series that revolves around the city of Southwatch. Stories in this world are based in the steampunk genre, but can have additional elements of science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, paranormal, and/or noir.

Spannerman’s novel centers on the city of Southwatch and life below the Dark Cloud. It deals with the ideas of social climbing and social unrest. Along with the steampunk setting, it has elements of fantasy and a good whodunnit.

In Applied Natural Magic, Spannerman focuses on some of the problems inherent in living below the Dark Cloud. Because of the level of pollution in Southwatch, the sun no longer shines in the poorer districts of the city. The plants and trees needed to sustain the population no longer grow. Riots because of food shortages almost have become the norm. The Sky Rangers, the police force for the Baron of Southwatch, have armor, shields, stun batons, gyrocopters, and ironclad vehicles on their side. The rioters have little except numbers:

“The Rangers stood in absolute silence. The crowd milled about slightly, not advancing into the ten feet of no man’s land in front of the Rangers, but not retreating , either. Gradually, patterns began to appear in the crowd. Those carrying makeshift metal shields found their way to the front, forming a ragged line to match the Ranger’s wall of bessem. The groups stood like two armies: one with matching armor and bright red stun batons, the other with little more than greatcoats and an assortment of improvised weapons.”

Spannerman’s description of the violence that follows is chillingly realistic. It brought to mind descriptions I have read about the 1963 Civil Rights riots in Birmingham.

Caught up in the outskirts of the riots is Charles Woodridge, a junior professor at the Royal Academy who is trying to rise in society. Coming from work, he runs into a young boy named Tommy and tries to protect him from the violence by hiding in a store. Tommy asks Charles a simple question: Why are the rioters angry? Charles explains that they are angry because they do not have enough to eat. There isn’t enough food to feed everyone in the city.

Through his work at the University, Charles has created a special breed of potatoes that can grow quickly indoors. A success in this area would solve a lot of the food shortage problems for the people of Southwatch and all but guarantee that he could earn a fortune, marry well, and move out from under the Dark Cloud. When a theft occurs at his laboratory, all of this is put in jeopardy. Charles’s world is thrown into a whirlwind. Everyone in his life—everyone he trusts—could be involved in the theft. With very little help from the authorities, time is running out to solve the crime and put things right.

I enjoyed the story a great deal. The mystery aspect appealed to me and I liked the fact that Spannerman treated his audience fairly. As a reader I felt I had enough clues to solve the mystery and the ending was logical and left room for a sequel.

Disclaimer: I am also an author for the Darkside Codex series. My own novel, The Caelimane Operation, will be released in January, 2015.


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Reading: The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame


Daniel Ausema’s The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame is a book in the Darkside Codex, a shared world series that revolves around the city of Southwatch.  Stories in this world are based in the steampunk genre, but can have additional elements of science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, romance, paranormal, and/or noir.

Daniel Ausema’s novel centers on the city of Southwatch and life below the dark cloud.  It deals with addiction, scientific experimentation, and mystery.  Along with the steampunk setting, it has elements of science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror.

In The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame, readers are introduced to Mellia, a young woman who is immune to most electrical currents, but addicted to high voltage.  There is a limit to how much her body can stand, however.  This addiction pushes her ever closer to death whenever she chases a high voltage fix.

Although Mellia realizes this behavior is killing her, the lure is too hard to resist.  With her new job repairing broken gas masks for Professor Thurston and his students, she has to travel to the depths of the dark cloud to assist with the research.  An innovation that allows an electrical current to run through the filters might keep the gas masks working, but this additional temptation may be the last thing Mellia’s addicted body can handle.

I enjoyed reading this novel.  It was scary, but not in the same ways that a pure horror novel will evoke.  Some of it has to do with the language and the vivid imagery, but it also has to do with the ideas Ausema presents about the poor quality of life under the dark cloud—ideas that have echoes in our own world.  For example, look at the recent trip President Obama and other world leaders took to China.  The news media reported that the Chinese Government worked for weeks to reduce the level of smog so the world leaders would not choke.  For the first time in years, many people in Beijing could actually see the blue color of the sky.  In The Electro-Addictive Moth-Flame, Ausema raises questions about this type of dense pollution.  What happens in a city when the air is so polluted that the sun will no longer shine?  What happens when plants and trees will no longer grow?

I stood in one place and pushed each of those thoughts and many others away until I could breathe in and out and think about nothing else. The murky air of the room pulsed, as if it were the breath of some unknown beast, hidden deep within the Cloud. When I looked long enough in a single direction, I began to see at the edge of my vision the ghostly outlines of the plants that had once grown there. Stunted fruit trees and flamboyant grasses and darkly glowing flowers, all now gone except for this deep memory.

Something that foul, something that terrifying, makes me shiver.

See more at:

Disclaimer: I am also an author for the Darkside Codex series.  My own novel, The Caelimane Operation, will be released in January, 2015.


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Reading: The Beryllium Chalice


Recently I attended the Musa Anniversary Party where I met quite a few of my fellow authors. In a contest to win a copy of her book, The Beryllium Chalice, Iris Woodbury submitted a hilarious photo. She liked my caption the best and sent me a copy of the novel.

The Beryllium Chalice is a wonderful novel with a gripping story line. Flora, a dryad from Mount Olympus, Kytos, a battle-weary warrior, and Redwood, a fun-loving, randy satyr, are the only ones who stand between Olympus and the wrath of Hades. The trio must find and return The Beryllium Chalice from Hades grasp or all power and life will fade from the Mount. The three must find a way to band together in spite of their differences, or the God of Death will assume power over the entire world.

Woodbury’s writing reminds me a bit of Rick Riordan (author of the Percy Jackson novels) and a bit of Jack L. Chalker (author of the Dancing Gods series). Yet Woodbury has her own distinctive style of writing that makes the novel enjoyable to read.

Woodbury delves into Greek mythology with the storyline, but includes equal parts of romance, tragedy, and adventure. There are touches of humor as well. Indeed, one of the main characters, Redwood presents moments in the novel that are downright hilarious.

I enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more of Iris Woodbury’s work!


You can learn more about Iris Woodbury at the following:


The Beryllium Chalice [72,000] – $4.99 : Musa Publishing

Flora the concubine, a soldier, and an oversexed satyr are all that stand between Olympus and the wrath of Hades. . . .

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Reading: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride



Last night I started reading As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (who played Westley/The Dread Pirate Roberts) with Joe Layden. I had planned to read just a few chapters—no more than an hour or so—and then go to sleep with the intention of reading the same amount on subsequent nights until I finished the memoir.


I couldn’t put the book down. Each page provided new insights and stirred pleasant memories of a movie (and novel) that is termed a cult classic, but is in reality so much more. Terry Pratchett (2002) writes:

We know what “cult” means. It’s a put-down word. It means “inexplicably popular but unworthy.” It’s a word used by the guardians of the one true flame to dismiss anything that is liked by the wrong kind of people . . .

Much like the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, or Pratchett himself, William Goldman has created a novel that is beloved by readers. Rob Reiner assembled a cast and crew (including Goldman who wrote the screenplay) that brought the story to the screen in the most memorable way possible. As Pratchett (2002) notes, “sometimes things all come together at the right time in the right place” and make magic. The Princess Bride is a classic—plain and simple.

The movie has a bit of everything: fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles, and the kiss that left all others behind. The cast, including Elwes, delivered remarkable performances. Even when reading the following lines from the movie, it is impossible for me not to “hear” the actor’s delivery in my head:

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

“Have fun storming the castle.”

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

“Please consider me as an alternative to suicide.”

“Anybody want a peanut?”

“Mawidge. That bwessed awangement!”

“Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

And, of course, “as you wish.”

For me, each line has an instantly recognizable connection to the actor’s voice and delivery. I have used these lines in conversation many times (and often try to mimic the actors’ voices with varying results.)

In Elwes’s memoir, many of the cast and crew share their reminiscences, including Andy Scheinman Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, Carol Kane, Wallace Shawn, and Fred Savage. Norman Lear and Rob Reiner also contribute. The sections are blended effectively; Elwes writes from his point of view, includes comments from the other actors or crew on the same scenes/situations, and then comments on what the others had observed. In many instances it seems like he is not only discussing a wonderful, albeit challenging, time in his life, but also learning more about it through his friends’ musings.

(Spoilers Ahead)

At 2 AM I looked at the clock and thought “I have to work tomorrow. I need to get to sleep.” I looked down at my iPad and the open Kindle APP. On the page, Elwes (2014) was describing the atmosphere on the set when they filmed the Miracle Max and Valerie scenes:

For three days straight and ten hours a day, Billy improvised thirteenth-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice. Such was the hilarity of his ad-libbing that he actually caused Mandy to injure himself while fighting to suppress the need to laugh. Therefore you can only imagine what it did to me and to Rob, who had to leave the set because his boisterous laugh was ruining too many early takes.

I looked at the clock again. Stop reading now? Inconceivable. (I couldn’t resist!)

I ended up finishing the memoir at 3:45 AM, completely happy and completely satisfied. (Yes I am tired today as I write this.) The stories Elwes and the others share about filming The Princess Bride help bring the people behind the making of this movie to the forefront. As Pratchett (2002) notes, “sometimes things all come together at the right time in the right place” and make magic. For me it is wonderful to have both a copy of The Princess Bride and a literary snapshot of the people involved in creating it on my virtual bookshelves. I can see re-reading As You Wish multiple times and can also see sharing the stories from the memoir with my friends.

If liking this makes me one of the “wrong kind of people,” I will wear that title with honor.




Pratchett, T. (2002). Cult classic. In Meditations on Middle-Earth:

     New Writing on the Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien.

St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.

Disclaimer:  I am not associated with any of the authors, actors, or works discussed in this article.


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Reading: Cover Reveal for The Stars Are Infinite

I am pleased to present this post from Amber Sky Forbes about her newest book, The Stars Are Infinite. Enjoy!

Here is the what I think is the gorgeous cover of The Stars Are Infinite!


It is the sequel to When Stars Die. There will be a third book that I plan to call All Stars Align, which will be the final one in The Stars Trilogy. Here is the blurb for this novel:

Alice Sheraton is slated to be executed as a witch; however, her father spares her. He sends her to Finight Hill, a safe house for witches. Here a Shadowman begins to pursue her, and from this Shadowman she learns she has been bound with a terrible fate since birth: either be a martyr to free witches from their misery, or choose to live knowing her existence will bring on more chaos.

This novel has a December release , and you will know more information later, especially when you sign up for the newsletter.

Now here is an interview with Alice Sheraton so that way you get to know a little bit about her before you begin to read this sequel. There are no spoilers. However, make sure you read the first book before buying this one, or else you will get confused:

Hello, Alice. It must be strange being in an interview for you, especially because you’ve spent much of your life never having any attention drawn to you.

Alice: It’s true. Much of my life has been spent preparing me to find a suitable husband. I did go to a finishing school before coming to Finight, so I do have a great deal of education. At the same time, when I was in the other school, I was taught to never draw any attention to myself. So I am nervous about this. What will my mother think? I used to love painting, until my mother took that away from me. I am well-read, and I had my own collection of books in my room. I loved being with Sara, who liked to get into all sorts of trouble I never agreed with, but did so anyway. These things are memorable, but if my mother ever found out about them, she would beat me with a wooden board.

What are your parents like?

Alice: My father has been nothing but supportive, and I’d like to think that if I had said something about wanting to own my own life, he would have been supportive. My mother, on the other hand, is an alcoholic, which is why I was born as a witch. The Seven Deadly Sins give birth to witches, and I suppose my mother’s continual sin is gluttony.

How has being a witch impacted your life?

Alice: Dreadful. I don’t even want to think or talk about what led up to my discovery. I was imprisoned in a small, dirty room in Governor Branch’s home. He is a horrid, perverted man married to my best friend Sara, who is around my age: I am fifteen. I was slated to be executed, but my father saved me by paying a handsome sum of gold to Governor Branch. He couldn’t refuse the money, so he and Father decided to send me off to a safe house called Finight Hill. It looks like any other finishing school, and it is in a secluded area.

What were your reactions to Finight Hill?

Alice: I was paranoid at first. It’s lovely on the exterior, but it’s rather bland on the inside. My other finishing school was richly furnished, with original paintings, marble sculptures, fresh flowers. It was, I suppose, like the inside of a rich man’s home. Finight had no such decorations. So I was scared. I thought I was sent there to be executed, that my father truly had no idea where he was sending me. Governor Branch wanted me dead, but when I met Pastor Brandon and a boy named Nathaniel, their presence and kindness swept away any paranoia I had.

Tell us about Pastor Brandon and Nathaniel.

Alice: Pastor Brandon is nice but strange. He falls into these fits where he cries out, “Curse is everyone who hangs on a tree!” This is a sentence commonly used right before witch executions. He also coughs up some substance from time to time. I don’t know what it is, but it’s black. Even so, he has made me feel welcomed.

Nathaniel, on the other hand, is beautiful, and I saw that right from the start, though I couldn’t admit it to myself. He’s also troubled. He smokes a lot, he scratches himself, and he’s reckless, but he has made me feel welcomed at Finight, and I accepted his friendship. Master Akilah isn’t too fond of him because of his reckless behavior.

How do you feel about Master Akilah?

Alice: I can’t stand him. Neither can Pastor Brandon nor Nathaniel. He was rude to me my first day there when he introduced me, complaining that I was late, not even welcoming me. He is the one who created the unnecessarily strict rules rules for Finight, where we are watched at all times, as though we are in an asylum. We do have certain activities that we have to do throughout the day, like studying. We can go outside once a week–under strict supervision. Nathaniel is smart enough to evade some of these rules, but it eventually becomes our downfall. After a certain event takes place, the rules become worse. At that point, we can’t even have doors to our rooms.

You hear voices?

Alice: I’m unsure if the voice is real or not. It sounds real. She at first told me Pastor Brandon killed her. Then she told me I should kill him. She said he knew who I was, and I couldn’t make any sense of that. He apparently knows the future. When I fainted and woke up in my room, her final words to me were, “You will be mine.” We all thought it was stress and nerves. I thought I was insane, but I was so certain the voice was real. And it is. It truly is.

Can you tell us who the voice belongs to?

Alice: Her name is Annarelius, a Shadowman, a dead witch. She wants me because I can set the world free from sin, allowing everyone, even witches, into Paradise.

Tell us about this Shadowman.

Alice: I would rather not.

Are there any final words?

Alice: My story…it is mine and mine alone, rife with the darkness that is innate in the life of a witch. It was a very hard story to tell. If witches are not freed, at least my account will make them feel less alone, if my account will even be allowed to exist. Witches are insignificant. We are nothing. Those who used to love us betray us and automatically hate us when they find out we are witches. This was the case with my best friend, Sara. The Vulgate, our bible, indoctrinates people into hating us, which is why they can hate so easily. I am not sure if this hatred will ever be erased. I have never known any allies to stop the hatred. I have never known any witches to start a rebellion. But our world is filled with nothing but cruelty. The ugliness of our world surpasses its beauty. Love is the only beauty that exists, but there isn’t enough of it.

Those are some very harrowing words, Alice, but I know you will be the one to make that change. Thank you for letting me interview you.


I hope you enjoyed Alice’s interview and will pick up the already available When Stars Die and the not-yet-released The Stars Are Infinite when you are able to pre-order it or buy it on its release day. Remember it will have a December release date and will be mentioned in a future newsletter.


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ImageAbout the Author

Amber Skye Forbes is a dancing writer who prefers pointe shoes over street shoes, leotards over skirts, and ballet buns over hairstyles. She loves striped tights and bows and will edit your face with a Sharpie if she doesn’t like your attitude. She lives in Augusta, Georgia where she writes dark fiction that will one day put her in a psychiatric ward…again. But she doesn’t care because her cat is a super hero who will break her out.

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