Mom and Pop Books

I’m a capitalist. As such, I believe that ultimate power resides in the consumer and their ability to choose voluntarily where to spend their money. I tend to spend it on local, ‘mom and pop’ businesses and restaurants over chains. Often it costs a little more but you get more personalized service and there’s a straight line between you and the decision maker. Sometimes it lacks a little polish and professionalism, but usually they make up for it with their own unique charms. This year at Worldcon I decided to spend my money on ‘Mom and Pop Books’. I avoided some of the big names and picked up books by various indies that caught my eye. I expect that they’re going to be a little weird, a little bit lacking in the fine polish of the big names. Hopefully each will give me an entertaining journey into an interesting world.

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First up is TL Walker’s “Alex Twice Abducted”

Coming into Worldcon right in the registration area was this guy shouting, “Free books!” and getting few bites. Something about this hit me. Here’s a guy who comes all the way to Worldcon, offers up his books free of charge just to get some readers or some interest or something going, and still people just walk right by him.

The book is the shortest I picked up.  I’m guessing its more of a YA  story? It involves alien abduction and a boy named Alex dying from an undiagnosed disease. Apparently he and other ‘earthlings’ are trained by the aliens to save earth. There’s a dolphin on the cover, is that an alien, or one of the savior ‘earthlings’? Hard to say! I’m not sure which I prefer. A butt kicking dolphin super soldier sounds pretty cool. I’ll find out soon.

My wife pointed out the next author and I said, “Oh! Its the video guy!” Jay Swanson is the Video Guy in question, and did us a huge favor by making a video of some of the best spots in Spokane near the Convention Center. My stomach owes Jay a debt of gratitude. Nanten

Jay’s book, “Into the Nanten” shocked me within moments, and that shock has only increased as I’ve looked into him and his website and business. The production values are better than most traditionally published books. The art, provided by Nimit Malavia, is incredible and alluring. Its a bit of a ‘gimmick’ book, a 654 page (!) compilation of Jay’s real time fantasy blog about an exile’s journey within a jungle so deadly, its considered suicide to even set foot there. We’ll see if the writing compares with the rest of the packaging. They do say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but the cover and marketing package is damned impressive. I’d say this is the slickest, most professional looking indie title I’ve ever seen. As someone with a  marketing and graphics design background, this has my attention. Let’s see if Jay can hold it.

The next book, “Double Life” is by S. Usher Evans. Its Book 1 of the Razia Series.

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I bought this book because S. or Usher or… Evans. We’ll call her Evans. Evans hustled. She called out to me as my little group was passing and said something about girl space pirates. I’m fond of all three of those words, separately or together, so I stopped and had a look.

I’ve been in her position trying to get someone to stop and give a book a try. Smiling, being positive and engaging with the customers does wonders, writers. Don’t be afraid to make some conversation.

So what’s this book about? Razia is the name of a space pirate bounty hunter girl, and apparently she collects bounties on other pirates. Razia languishes on probation though and can’t get any bounty assignments from her pirate bosses above purse snatchers and the like. The titular double life involves her space ‘day job’ of collecting and selling planetary data. Evans’ author bio lists her as a ‘witty banter afficionado’. Skimming the book for about twenty seconds in front of her booth, this seems to be true. There was indeed some witty banter on the random pages I landed on, enough that I was sold on a fun, engaging and dare I say witty writing style. Also the book cover is purple and that’s my favorite color. So what the hell. Double Life.

Last but certainly not least is The Quest by Dani Hoots, book one of the Sanshlian series. Quest

I bought this book because of the cover by Marcy Rachel. She’s one of those cover designer people, so… money well spent Dani! This worked on me. Looking up Marcy Rachel leads to a lot of dead ends and expired websites. Hopefully all is well with her. I do wonder if this is one of those premade covers, or if it was made for the book. I’ve thought of buying a cool looking premade cover and then writing a story based around it.

Anyway, The Quest! We’re looking at a sci fi book involving multiple planets. Space Opera? Not sure. The main character is Arcadia, and she was taken from her family, put into something called the Kamps, and then trained as a killing machine. She became the Emperor’s Shadow, so she must have done well in that training! She becomes fanatically loyal to the Emperor, until she’s kidnapped by her brother and taken on a Quest (get it? Get it! okay I’ll shut up) to find the planet Sanshli, which has unusual properties which will help to topple the Emperor. The back of the book talks about her divided loyalty, and how she slowly begins to realize the Emperor has been deceiving her. Immediately I’m hoping this Emperor dude has some good points, and is not a two dimensional villain. The last lines are, ‘But I can’t turn my back on him, or can I?’ I find myself wishing for a scene where she actually sticks with the Emperor and throws a jerkwad brother down a mine shaft or something. A more realistic hope is that she struggles with the decision and the Emperor has some kind of good argument in there somewhere. We’ll see. Skimming the book, I didn’t get a good read on Dani’s writing style, but nothing leaped out at me as bad. She has a lot of books under her belt, a lot more than me certainly, so we’ll see what the Quest has in store for us!

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Burning Down The House

So how about those Hugo Awards huh? I don’t want to delve into the fireworks inside the halls, except to say that swords were everywhere, and not an olive branch was in sight. No, this post is talking about the fires that were outside the hall. So, the satellite picture looks pretty awful.

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Yeah. Look at that huh! So what does it look like in that blue dot over Spokane? Well the Spokane Convention Center looked like this:

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The smell of smoke was everywhere, the light was orange, and the oddest thing, the sun was Red. And you could look at it without it hurting your eyes. Weird. Getting away from the convention center didn’t improve things. Spokane itself looked like this:

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Our hotel room actually smelled of smoke! We had to head out early so we drove through most of that fire. About midway through, the highway was still quite smoke clogged:

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Finally though, we broke through the smoke and ash, and reached a bright sunlit sky:

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Hopefully this is a metaphor for the SFF community. We’ll see if anyone goes for those dusty and cobweb-lined olive branches any time soon.

Hello Sasquan!

Greetings Sasquan Attendees and other assorted passersby!

Its been an honor attending Worldcon this year and meeting so many of this community. I have a few postcards and bookmarks in the Worldcon freebie area there so I thought I’d introduce myself and my work to anyone who graciously followed those links or found their way here through other means.

I’m Thomas Alexander, a fantasy author with one book under my belt, Mistress of the Dancing Bones. The sequel, Mistress of the Midnight Sky, is coming out soon. These are the first two novels in the Sang Noir series set in the world of Avenesse. I have plans for another Sang Noir book and if all goes well, other series and standalone novels that expand the Avenesse setting and characters in bold new directions!

I wrote a pitch for Dancing Bones just for Sasquan that I’d like to share with you here:

Mistress of the Dancing Bones is the story of Ashia, a young woman with necromantic powers in an empire ruled by vampires. That empire borders the Deathlands, ruled by even worse undead that don’t just want to drink mortals’ blood, but to exterminate them. Ashia’s father is the vampire lord who protects the Empire and its mortals from the Deathlords. With the help of a gunslinging witch hunter, his mischievous changeling familiar and a laconic demon horse, Ashia must uncover the secrets of a deadly conspiracy that threatens the fragile peace between mortal and vampire. In this land, blood is currency, and Ashia’s is more valuable and dangerous than any.

You can read an excerpt here.

I’ve been fortunate enough to get some positive reviews, most notably from Black Gate’s Donald Crankshaw.

Readers have been very generous with their praise, which I appreciate, scan the amazon reviews.

I did some pinterest boards with images and brickabrack that reminds me of my books and characters.

As for me I’m a lifelong geek. I served as a Nuke in the Navy, I started game mastering DnD at 7 years old, mostly because my older brother forced me. I play video games, I write stories, I go to conventions, and I get to be unironically enthustiastic about stuff. Please take a moment to poke around this blog and check out some of the stuff and stories I love. With any luck, you’ll find something to love here too. Enjoy.