A crow fluttered down from the heavens and landed on the railing amid a patter of falling snow, its arrival unobserved by those inside. Dull black feathers became tattered clothing, grease-stained blacks and greys blending into the shadows of the fading day.

The crow cocked his head and contemplated the scene on the other side of the glass. A fresh-faced boy, previously engaged in daubing paint across a canvas, paused and glanced out the window. Was he watching the crow? The falling snow slowly coating the old wooden porch and the forest below? Or the way the fading light outlined the bare-branched trees?

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Interesting fact: my Favorite Reads of 2018 is one of the most viewed articles on this site. It’s ranked 4th by traffic, behind only articles about Ingram Spark and Kindle Direct Publishing. This surprised me. It also tells me that people really enjoy these end-of-year summaries, and that’s more than enough reason to do another one.

Before we get into the meat of this list, a disclaimer: this isn’t a ranking of books that hit the best seller lists or received a lot of publicity. These are my personal favorites among the books I had the chance to read this year. There are fewer than last year because, unfortunately, the Other Job took a huge bite out of my free time. I haven’t had a chance to do nearly as much reading as I would have liked.

This list covers a range of genres, and many if not all of the authors are indies. (Read indie books! There are a ton of incredible stories out there from indie authors, their books are often more affordable than traditionally published ones, and you’re helping someone fulfill their dreams. What could be better than that?)

A word on how I evaluate books: I’m intrigued by new and unique concepts, subversion of expectations, and genre blending. Bonus points if it makes me laugh. Comparing most of these books to each other would be impossible, so they’re organized alphabetically by title. If you’d like to read more, each heading links to my review of that book.

Now, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2019!

Continue reading “Favorite Reads of 2019”

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I know I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks keeping you up to date on the dumpster fire that is the Other Job. Now it’s time to update you on the good stuff– otherwise known as what I’ve been writing.

Inspired by real-life events, I’ve been working on a series of short science fiction stories about the experiences of a Load Master working for Baron Cargo, a fly-by-night freight hauling outfit operating on a backwater iceball planet. Lowered Expectations went live on Patreon on November 19th, and highlights the often catastrophic results of the “we’re not going to worry about this problem right now– it’ll be fine” style of management.

Continue reading “Looking Ahead”

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Cover of Shadow Born by Martin Frowd

Eight year old Zarynn is an orphan. His parents were killed for committing the unspeakable heresy of worshiping a deity of light, and Zarynn is slated to be ritually stoned to death for manifesting magical abilities of his own when a dark stranger intervenes to save his life.

Rescued by the necromancer Glaraz, Zarynn embarks on an epic journey to escape certain death at the hands of the druids that rule the lands his people call home.

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The Interspecies Poker Tournament by Claire Buss

Chief Thief-Catcher Ned Spinks, along with his rag-tag band of mostly-supernatural fellow Thief-Catchers, have been tasked by the fey community with catching the most dangerous thief of all: a stealer of life.

The murderer has been targeting communities of supernatural creatures one by one, from the brownies to the dryads to the mer folk, and each victim has been killed in the most insulting way possible for their race. The murdered gingerbread man was dunked in milk. The naiad (water nymph) was left on dry land. And the deceased brownie, a race that’s fond of cake and notoriously intolerant of vegetables, was left in a salad bowl. Curiously, the only thing the survivors can seem to agree on is the existence of a suspicious mustache.

Continue reading “Review: The Interspecies Poker Tournament”

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Cover of Lost Dogs: Last Fight of the Old Hound by Nils Odlund

Lost Dogs is a different kind of fantasy series. Last Fight of the Old Hound follows Roy von Waldenberger, a prize fighter and therianthrope, and much of the story’s conflict is internal. His inner wolf makes him stronger, faster, tougher– but it also fights for control of his mind in times of duress.

The author’s world building and character development are top notch, and I found Roy’s internal conflict incredibly easy to relate to. I love seeing fantasy used as a way to approach real life conflicts, and the author does a superb job of this. The inner wolf is a terrific metaphor, with its instinct-driven approach to life, boundless strength, and absolute unwillingness to compromise.

This is the story of one man’s struggle to reconcile what’s right by his conscience with what’s right for his loved ones and his future. A prize fighter on the cusp of retirement, he has been given a choice between retaining his reputation as an honest man, and ‘falling’ to a new fighter in exchange for the ability to leave with a healthy retirement bonus and his good standing in the business world intact.

This story is more of an afternoon read than a week-long one, but there’s enough world building, conflict, and action packed into Last Fight of the Old Hound for the reader to feel like they got their money’s worth. A gripping and evocative short read, I highly recommend it!

Lost Dogs: Last Fight of the Old Hound is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon.

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Moon Buck

It felt like Jimmy’d walked up and punched him in the back. Jeremiah staggered forward, the sound of the gunshot ringing in his ears as a fine spray of blood erupted from his chest. His legs went weak. Glancing back toward the truck, he saw Jimmy lowering the hunting rifle from his shoulder.

“Why?” he whispered. Jimmy didn’t seem to hear him.

Ahead, though the moonlit clearing where they’d been stalking deer, the shadow of a massive buck raised its head. Strangely it hadn’t bolted at the sound of the shot. Footsteps crunched across dead leaves, and then Jimmy stood over him, face impassive.

Continue reading “The Moon Buck”

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Cover of Blood Crystal by Jeanette O'Hagan

In the aptly-named Blood Crystal, twins Delvina and Retza face the aftermath of the banishment of the evil Overseer Uzza. The Glimmer Heart that powers their people’s subterranean world is failing, and time is running out for the Darane to find a solution.

Continue reading “Review: Blood Crystal”

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Cover of Heart of the Mountain by Jeanette O'Hagan

A while back I reviewed Ruhanna’s Flight & Other Stories, a superb collection of short tales by author Jeanette O’Hagan. One of the stories that resonated with me the most was Heart of the Mountain, so I was pleased to learn it has its own series.

Continue reading “Review: Heart of the Mountain”

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Recently I stumbled across a thread where a group of fans were emphatically agreeing that the protagonists of a book should have been written as 19-22 instead of 14-18.

“Kaz acts more like 20-21 than 17. Like I understand traumas and life can force kids to grow up too fast, but his whole personality and maturity seems better suited for someone older. Even 19 would be better than 17.”

Here’s why this is a ridiculous stance to take.

Continue reading “Realism In Writing: Character Age”

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