Tag Archives: books

10 Sites for free and bargain ebooks

Hey readers,

If you’re like me, you can’t find new books to read fast enough. Here are ten sites you can visit to find free or bargain ebooks.

  1. Ask David is neat because you can enter search terms and it will help you find new reads.
  2. Bookbub is a newsletter you sign up for that features ebooks from $0.00 to $1.99.
  3. Bookgorilla is also a newsletter, and it has a wide array of subcategories to pick from, so you can fine tune the selections you receive.
  4. Ebook Soda is different because you can sign up for their newsletter, but can also search right on their site. I like that option.
  5. EReader Café also lets you browse their site.
  6. EReader News Today features a “Book of the Day,” and the prices appear to range more from Free to .99.
  7. Bookperk is a service provided by HarperCollins publishers that focuses on ebooks $1.99 and under.
  8. OHFB, or One Hundred Free Books, is a newsletter signup site.
  9. Pixel of Ink has been around longer than most of the other free ebook sites, and you can look at ebooks on their site.
  10. Read Cheaply appears to feature some of the newest best sellers, and of course they have a newsletter.
These ten sites should ensure your tablet is full of good stuff to read every time you have a spare moment. Enjoy!

Writing a Novel: Do you start with a character or a situation?

cwp_ParisCafeDiscussion

If you enjoy books and writing…

The following is the first in a three-part series about the craft of writing, specifically characters and situations, why we write stories, and how to refill the creative well. These conversations took place in early October 2015 with author Tony Simmons and myself.

Mark: We were talking the other day about characters. You read Stephen King’s “On Writing,” and he says he always starts with a situation; I started thinking, how predominant is that? How many authors start with a situation versus starting with a character? When you told me about your Alabama trip, it seemed like the seed of it, the germ was the character first. What triggered that idea, and then did you build the situation around that character?

Tony: I think that story came out of inundating — immersing myself in a bunch of unrelated ideas. I’m in Birmingham, and there’s a lot of stuff about the Confederacy, it’s an iron town — that whole blacksmithy, iron works, steam era feel to it. And I’m reading a lot of steampunk. All of those things fed into the mulcher, and then, driving home, seeing those old Southern city names —

Mark: Specifically, Jemison and Thorsby. Were they in that order?

Tony: Yes.

Mark: Because you might not have thought of it (if they were in the reverse order).

Tony: Right. That came from character first, from a mixture of the names and a time period I had floating around in my head. So in a way, the situation was kind of already there. I was primed to find a story that was steeped in the Old South.

Mark: Which is quite a departure, because I’d say most steampunk, maybe 90 percent of it, is Victorian England. At best, they cross the Channel to France. So Steampunk-USA is a departure.

Tony: With my Caliban stories, it definitely came out of character first. I was 14 years old and wanted to write Doctor Strange. Before I knew it, I wasn’t writing about the wizard, I was writing about the kid he trained and the development of his potential as a magic-user. Over the years, both of those characters kind of developed in the back of my head. — So, how about you, Mark? Character or situation?

Mark:  Looking at the last few books, I realize I’m going more ‘situation.’ My thing was a “what-if.” What if all these bad things happened at the same time? I love zombie things, and zombies were very big at the time. And yet I thought, okay, what if we ramped it up? Because one apocalypse is not enough for me. That’s just too slow. I want to see us get devastated. So you throw in aliens — the classic thing of alien invasion — and then you throw in a robot uprising, and then we’re starting to get it boiling. We’ve brought it up to temperature. Then I started thinking, everyone is going to be caught in this, but we don’t want to follow the people who just sit in their basement and wait for it to stop. We want to follow people out there actually doing things. The books jump around a fair amount to different characters. Even so, I tried to focus on the excitement: Let’s go look for the most important things happening or the most fun things happening. That was more a situation thing, but I had never thought hard about it until recently.

In the next post, we’ll address the question: Why do we make up stories?

(If you found this interesting, hit the button on the right and sign up for my mailing list. No spam, just good content and a free story.)

You can find Tony Simmon’s novels in paperback and ebook here at Amazon.

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Free chapter of DEAD GIRL

Winter is a good time to curl up with a warm pet and an exciting book.  So here’s the opening chapter from my novel DEAD GIRL.  (You have to supply your own pet.)

DeadGirl-R2 for blog

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DEAD GIRL by Mark Boss

Chapter 1

A mob rushed her, feet and elbows flying.

Dahlia Grove dodged her attackers and kicked the soccer ball to center field.  She caught a forearm to the ribs as she cut back and ran down the sideline.  “Go right,” she yelled and the midfielders and forwards shifted.

Her teammate Jessica corralled the ball and took it up field, but defenders swarmed her.  She hooked her left foot around and passed the ball high to Dahlia.

The ball soared through the night air.  A girl went up to head the ball, and Dahlia leaped, too.  Their heads crashed together, skull to skull.

The ball flew out of bounds.  A whistle blew.

While the other girl sank to one knee, Dahlia shook her head and staggered to the ball.  As she raised the dew-slick ball above her head, she saw her parents and little brother, Andrew, in the stands, eyes wide.  She winked at them.  I’m fine.

She slung the ball into play and watched the Ivanovich sisters pass it back and forth on their way to the goal.  She jogged back onto the field, still shaking the stars out of her head from the collision.  Her ponytail of long, black hair came loose and she stopped to pull it tight.

Something behind her left eye popped–a sudden, sharp lance straight into her brain.  Her legs buckled.  What the hell?

The world turned sideways as she fell.  Wet grass tickled her right cheek.  The pain spiked.  Then nothing…

* * *

Margaret left the elevator and hurried down the hallway, her black rubber clogs clopping on the waxed floor.  As she walked, the short nurse tugged on latex gloves to hide the half-healed chemical burns on her hands.

When she entered the hospital room, Robin pounced on her.  “Where have you been?” Robin asked.

“I was on my lunch break,” Margaret said as she slinked past her supervisor.  The double occupancy hospital room was a mess, and there was a new patient in the bed by the door.  “What happened?” she asked.

“Mrs. Barrow flat lined,” Robin said.  “We revived her, but she’s barely holding on.”  The tall nurse rubbed hand sanitizer between her fingers.  “She’s your patient.  You should have been here.”

Margaret shrugged.  “I have to eat.”  She unwrapped a piece of sour apple gum to cover the double-layered smell of Lysol and human waste.

Robin stood at the foot of the other bed, where a lean girl with long, dark hair lay in a coma.  As Robin checked the girl’s vitals, Margaret asked, “Who’s the dead girl?”

“Don’t call her that.  She has a name–Dahlia Grove.”  Robin flipped through the girl’s chart.  “She came in last Saturday for a concussion and they found a brain tumor.  Doctors say she won’t last a week.”

Margaret took the TV remote from Mrs. Barrow’s nightstand and clicked it.  A long scream came out of the television mounted on the wall, then a deep voice said, “Evil lurks in America’s heartland.”

“Oh, Heartland Serial Killers is on.  I love this show,” Margaret said.

“Really?” Robin looked up from Dahlia’s chart.

“Come on, they can’t hear it.”  Margaret waved at the comatose patients.

“Show some respect.”  Robin reached up and mashed the TV’s power button.  “Mrs. Barrow needs a fresh IV, her bag is almost empty.  I have to go get meds.”

“Okay, sorry, gosh.”  Margaret dumped a pot of dead flowers in the trash.  “Could you grab me an IV bag while you’re getting meds? They’re on the top shelf and I can’t reach them.”

“Fine.”  Robin opened the door to the hallway.  “I’ll be back in a minute.”

As soon as the wide door swung shut, Margaret took a flat stone carved with a symbolic glyph from her pocket.  She rubbed the enchanted stone to activate it, and slipped it under Mrs. Barrow’s mattress.  Margaret walked to Dahlia’s bed and stood smacking her wad of gum.  She watched the dark-haired girl breathe.

* * *

The Shadow Lands

Eyes shut, Dahlia took a deep breath of cold air and caught the faint scent of sour apples.

And the smell of something else.  Something thick and coppery.

She opened her eyes and stared up at an unlit fluorescent ceiling panel.  When she brushed her long, dark hair out her eyes, her face felt greasy.

Where am I?

She sat up, but a wave of dizziness hit her.  She put out her hands to steady herself and felt a tug.  A clear tube was taped to one wrist.

Why do I have an IV? Ah, crap, I’m in a hospital.  What happened?

She looked over her shoulder.  The medical monitors behind her were blank.  The power is out.  Don’t hospitals have emergency generators?

The wide metal door on her right was shut.  To the left, a gauzy curtain hung from a track on the ceiling.  Beyond the fabric, gray light seeped through a window on the far wall.

Something moved on the other side of the curtain, but it wasn’t close enough to make a silhouette.  She heard a low smacking sound.

She pushed the bed covers aside and a fat cockroach ran from under the sheet.  She flinched and the bed creaked.

The smacking sound paused.  Dahlia froze.  She inhaled the scent of salt and old pennies.

The sound resumed, wet and crunchy, like someone munching celery.

She eased her legs off the bed.  The cold tile floor shocked her bare feet.  She looked down.  A thin, red ribbon rolled along a grout line between the tiles toward her toes.

That’s blood.

The ribbon trickled toward her.  She moved her feet apart and it ran under the bed.  Looked at the bedside table and saw a landline phone and an empty plastic tray.  She reached for the phone, then saw the big, red emergency button on the wall and pressed it.

She expected to hear an alarm or voices from the hall, but nothing happened.

Something splashed onto the floor beyond the curtain, and the thick scent of human waste made her gag.

Run.

She lurched up, but her head spun.  Reached out to catch herself as she fell and caught a handful of curtain.

The curtain tore away and she fell to her knees.

Looked up.

Eight feet away an old woman lay in a bed identical to hers.  A hunchbacked monster the color of pus straddled the woman.  Its jaws burrowed into her chest cavity.  Blood and feces dripped to the floor.

Dahlia tried to scream but only hissed.

The old woman’s head turned.  Her eyes found Dahlia’s.  Her lips moved.  “Help me.”

The monster retracted from the woman’s ribcage.  Its bloody head rotated on a boney, elongated neck.  Small, hard eyes glared at her.  The monster’s mouth split into a red smile.

This time Dahlia screamed.

She scrambled up and around her bed, tearing the IV from her wrist.

The multi-limbed monster flowed to the floor like a giant millipede.

She grabbed the door handle and pulled.  The monster oozed forward.

She ran into the corridor and shouted, “Help! Someone help!”

Dahlia took three steps and stopped.

There were no people–no nurses, no patients, no visitors.  The electricity was out.  Weak gray light from the windows showed brown smears on the walls, and wide blooms of black mold.  Wires dangled from the ceiling.  She stood in a puddle of cold, slimy water.

A low moan sounded behind her.  The monster poked its head out the door, sniffed, and entered the hallway.

She ran.

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If you enjoyed this sample, you can download the complete novel at Amazon.  Thanks for reading!

Interview with author Tony Simmons

cwp_tales awakening dead

In this post my friend and fellow author, Tony Simmons, visits to talk about his new zombie book.

Mark:  What are the title and the topic of your new book?

Tony:  “Tales of the Awakening Dead” is a collection of zombie short stories. Each one takes a different approach to the genre, and the “rules” of the zombies are different from tale to tale. I enjoyed trying different voices and approaches, and I hope readers find it a fresh take.

Mark:  Where is it available and in what format?

Tony:  The collection is available through Amazon.com for Kindle devices and apps at only 99 cents.  And a real-world print edition is also available for under $5.

Anyone interested can “like” the Facebook page.

Mark:  I think zombies have transitioned from being a cultural fad to a full sub-genre of science fiction.  Why is that? What is our continuing fascination with them?

Tony:  They’re a cultural shorthand now. We see them in commercials, where they’re used to comic effect. Mainstream movies are made on the “Romeo and Juliet” model about zombies. It’s important to note that these are Romero-style undead creatures, not traditional voodoo zombies; these things are more like the old concept of the ghoul, hungry for human flesh. And I think that’s important because, while the idea of losing our mental faculties to enslavement by a witch doctor is pretty awful, the prospect of losing our humanity — or losing our loved ones to such a terrible death — is what haunts us.

Also, I remember being a kid and seeing one of the Universal movies about the mummy, and realizing that no matter where the protagonists ran to hide, this slow-moving creature would never tire, and it would find them. There’s something of that in our fear of the zombies. They just don’t stop, and there’s always more of them.

Mark:  In some ways, people seem to find zombies more accessible than vampires.  Vampires are powerful, immortal and often glamorous.  I don’t think most of us feel like that.  However, we see zombies, and that zombie is still wearing her uniform from work, and the zombie over there is wearing a tool belt and hardhat, and we see these reflections of us–ordinary citizens.  Somehow, that makes them easier to relate to.  Is that what gives them their staying power in our culture?

Tony:  I think that’s a good possibility. They are us, but broken. So many people feel isolated these days; we barely know our neighbors, and it would be no surprise to discover them massing to feed on our flesh, the mindless psychopaths that they probably are. I mean, have you seen the mess in their back yards? The way they dress their kids? They could be capable of just about anything. I’m watching.

Mark:  We see a lot of apocalypse and dystopia in books and movies right now, and some people think that’s because of the long economic stagnation, and the endless wars, and terrorism.  But the original Star Trek debuted in 1966, during the Viet Nam war, when the nation was probably as badly divided as it is now.  Yet Star Trek is a very positive look at the future, where humans have overcome their differences and are now exploring the galaxy.  It’s science and exploration, not gritty survival.  Why do you think we’re reacting differently now to tough times?

Tony:  I don’t know that zombies are so much a product of the times, as much as an idea whose time has come. Look at the Depression-era popular literature, and you find Doc Savage standing a head taller than all the others, a paragon of morality and individuality. Superman came out of that same cultural stew.

And your point about the original Star Trek is spot-on. Difficult times, at least in America, seem to bring us hopeful visions or heroes to emulate. Granted, we live in a more jaded world, a post-9/11 culture bombarded by images of violence in all its sordid forms. But I just don’t think it’s that easy to draw a straight line from economy and politics to zombies.

How do you explain the Ancient Astronauts and Big Foot mania of the mid- to late 1970s in those terms? The vampire chic of the 1990s? Hair bands? I think it may be that Romero-style zombies have had a generation to gestate in the collective unconscious and simply may have dug themselves into the light.

Mark:  Last question.  What’s the next project?

Tony:  That’s also difficult to define. As you know, I just completed a Southern Gothic/urban fantasy/Lovecraftian Horror novel that is in the editing stage. I’m close to finishing the initial draft of ‘This Mortal Flesh,’ which is a novel of ‘The Awakening Dead’ teased in this collection, which includes the novel’s first chapter. My next full-on “new” project will be a sequel to the SG/UF/LH novel now being edited, which I hope to make a big dent in during NaNoWriMo; I’m thinking of it in terms of a Hammer horror film, as our young Native American hero finds himself in a modern Welsh village full of nice folks who secretly are Satan worshipers, mixed with an ancient vampire that was also a mummy, and a certain mage’s manservant with a slight case of lycanthropy. Also, there’s this girl…

Mark:  Thanks to Tony for this interview.

Now hit those links and gobble up some zombie goodness!