Review: One Lucky Night by Various Authors

One Lucky Night by Various Authors

Title: One Lucky Night
Authors: Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, Melinda Dozier
Genre(s): Adult Romance Short Story Collection
How To Purchase: Kindle (Forthcoming) | Paperback – Amazon (Forthcoming)

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of One Lucky Night in exchange for an honest review.

One night can change everything…

The crew at Boston’s Brazen Head Pub hasn’t been very lucky in love. Can a mysterious visitor inspire them to look past old hurts and misconceptions and give romance a chance? One Lucky Night is a collection of five sexy interwoven novelettes by Aria Kane, Grace Teague, Ana Blaze, Constance Phillips, and Melinda Dozier.

One Lucky Night is a compilation of five contemporary romance short stories / novellas, all by different authors. Every story, at least in part, takes place in a pub where the main characters either work or are regulars. And every story has the same mysterious stranger that appears briefly to talk to at least one of the characters.

I was swayed to read these stories by the mysterious stranger bit, but I was disappointed in its execution. He interacts with the main character, always talking about the fledgling romance but never enough to affect the outcome of the story. Every couple seems destined to be together, by their own histories and their own attraction to one another, so the stranger is simply a bystander, offering some advice or encouraging the conflicted person to move forward, take a chance, give in to love. He doesn’t play a large role, and we only learn a few tidbits about his life.

Other than that, the stories were typical contemporary romance. Hot guy, hot girl, kept apart by their own stubborn refusal to give into love until … tonight. Tonight, they all work through their baggage, and tonight, they all get lucky.

I don’t normally post favorite lines (although maybe I should–there are a few that have struck me in previous novels I’ve reviewed that I could have shared), but here is one that I liked. The female main character of one story was describing another male character, not her love interest, but another gal’s love interest. She said that he had “a jaw sturdy enough to ride side saddle on.” It’s an entertaining metaphor, but part of my infatuation with the line is that I can’t decide if it’s dirty or not. What do you guys think?

If you’re a fan of contemporary romance, you’ll probably like this compilation. I personally am not a romance fan–I had visions of intrigue when contemplating the role of the mysterious stranger–so you can’t really take my lack of enthusiasm as meaning anything. One Lucky Night is cute, has plenty of sex when the main characters finally give into their passion, and is a good read if you want to discover a new favorite romance writer.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

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Cover Reveal: How To Reprimand Your Rock Star by Mina Vaughn

Mina Vaughn, author of the fun and sexy paranormal erotic romance How To Discipline Your Vampire, my first review on this blog, has written a follow-up! How To Reprimand Your Rock Star is releasing later this year, and I’m pleased to be able to take part in the cover reveal.

How To Reprimand Your Rock Star by Mina Vaughn

Summary:

In this fun and saucy romance novel, all-star college basketball player Thea dominates on the courts—and off—with a rock star who is determined to win her over.

Thea is a star basketball player at UConn on track to be Rookie of the Year. That is, if she can stay focused on the game. Lately that hasn’t been going so well, as her knee has been bothering her. But that’s not the only thing on her mind…

Ever since rock star Keaton Lowe surprised her in the girl’s locker room, Thea can’t stop thinking about him. On top of his status and enticing ways, he seems to know everything about her. But some of his actions cross the line, and Keaton needs to be punished. Will Thea keep her head in the game, or get distracted by her other favorite pastime—reprimanding her rock star?

Excerpt:

Set up: College basketball star Thea is surprised in her locker room after a shower.

The tall, gorgeous man stared at me with a smirk. Some fucking punk, sitting under my name and number and pulling a cigarette out of his thick leather jacket. He looked bad, dangerous, and delicious and my body reacted to seeing him with a jolt of fear and euphoria. I skittered back and covered my nakedness, hoping he hadn’t seen me fully naked. I peeked around the corner to get another look at him. I couldn’t help myself.

His blue eyes twinkled at me and he grinned. A lopsided, roguish grin that begged you to join him in sharing the mirth. But I wasn’t about to smile at this fool who was taking up residence in front of my locker. Especially while I was naked. He didn’t look like a student—a few years too old and a few drinks too seasoned, and from the rebellious appearance of his black-polished fingers and calloused hands. His hair, a mess of black roots and blue spikes arranged into a halo of sharp peaks, didn’t look very UConn at all. He looked as if he belonged in a tattoo parlor, not here in my locker room. For a moment, I imagined shoving him against the tile wall and punishing him for transgressing into my domain.

“It’s all right, love, I have your towel right here,” I heard him tease in a smoky, tempting voice.

My heart raced. All I had to do was scream loud enough and Matt would be down here in a flash. I didn’t want to, but it was an option. Just keep it together.

Keeping my nude form out of his sight, I shouted to the intruder. “What exactly do you think you’re doing?”

A white towel sailed my way and I stuck my wet arm out to grab it. I wiped myself off and discreetly examined the very bad boy who was about to stink up my precious domain.

“I needed a butt,” he said, placing a cigarette between his mocking lips. His sexy, curvy lips that went so well with his stubbly jaw and sharp features. Shit, what was wrong with me? He was invading my turf. He was also unashamedly checking me out from head to toe.

“Take your butt and get out of my locker room,” I growled.

With a flick of his fingers, the unlit cigarette disappeared. I assumed up his leather jacket’s sleeve, but I couldn’t be sure. His leather pants were far too tight to hide a cigarette, and I caught myself staring. Under his leather jacket was a threadbare tee that hugged his lean muscles tightly. I wanted him to take the jacket off. Hell, all of it.

“Whatever you say, Goddess,” he replied. I noted a slight accent, but couldn’t place it. Possibly British. “Is this seat taken?” he asked, looking behind him at the name on the nameplate and the name embroidered on my jacket.

I emerged, pretending to be unfettered by the whole bizarre situation, and nodded. “That’s my locker.”

“Is it now?” he asked, British accent coming through clearly now.

“Thea Papastathopoulos, future Rookie of the Year, and I need my clothes. And my lucky tape.”

His eyebrow quirked up. “Tape, eh? What’s a nice girl like you need something like that for?”

I hugged the towel closer to me and tried not to join in his contagious grin. He was such a scamp, this carefree weirdo sitting in the women’s locker room, about to light up. “What’s wrong with tape?”

I didn’t notice his hand reaching around to my supply, but within seconds he was holding my lucky roll in his right hand. “This stuff is far too naughty for a good girl like you. A goddess of war and wisdom.”

I felt my mouth dry up at the oddly accurate yet strange observation. I am a classics major, and Thea is short for Athena. “I need it for my knee,” I said, holding out my hand, keeping my towel pinned with my armpit. “I have some big games coming up. We made it to the tournament.” I nearly clutched my head with embarrassment. How would a punk like this know what the tournament was, or the significance of it? I was making myself out to be an idiot, but I didn’t care. I didn’t go for his type, the gothic, pierced, tattooed kind of guy.

“I like games,” he said, tossing the roll into the air and catching it behind him with a flourish.

“And yet you clearly don’t respect rules, given that you were about to smoke in our locker room.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “You going to show me how you use this tape, Goddess? Although I admit I’d rather see it binding my wrists rather than wrapped around your pretty knee.”

I reached forward and attempted to take the roll, but he just tossed it in the air again and caught it in his other hand before I could take a swipe. He shrugged off his leather jacket and exposed his muscular arms, which were ensleeved in tattoos. Not wanting to stare, but unable to stop myself, I admired the artwork. Swirling waves up his left arm, words spiraling his right.

I had no idea what to make of him, other than the fact that he annoyed me with his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and absurd hotness I wanted so badly to ignore. Maybe it was just my nakedness that was making my body think this way. And by that I meant slamming him against the tiles under the water’s spray and relieving him of his leather. I felt my heart pound and I rejected the fantasy. He was an intruder. How did this guy get past security if they stopped me?

I leaned toward him. “My friend upstairs, Matt, is a security guard. All I have to do is call up to him and he’ll be hauling your punk ass out of here. But I won’t do that if you just give me my goddamn tape so I can fix my bum knee and get home to watch the game.” I wasn’t about to ask him about my clothes, so I pretended I was totally cool with being in a towel and waited for his response.

He studied me for a moment, all sexy grin and naughty blue eyes. Baby blue, like the color of clothes you buy a newborn. Powder blue, impossibly clear. Ringed with a smudge of black liner, the color popped even more. And his face, despite being in his twenties or maybe even thirties, had a youthful, almost kiddish quality when he smiled that softened the harsh angles of his nose, cheeks, and jaw. He tossed me the tape.

“What’s your name?” I asked, curiosity overtaking my anger.

“Keaton Lowe,” he said, dipping his voice an octave as he said his last name.

He looked at me expectantly.

I stared back, hot breath flooding in and out of my nostrils.

“Well,” he said, stretching his toned arms and lacing them behind his head, “this tape isn’t going to bind itself.”

I wanted to wring his neck but kiss the smile off his mouth. “What are you talking about?!”

“I might as well do it myself,” he said, and turned away from me. He spun and showed me his handiwork—his wrists were taped together behind his head. My body reacted with a flood of tingles from my hairline down to my panty line. Had I been wearing any, that is.

I looked down. My tape was no longer in my hands. My body took over my mind and I stood over him, looking down at him through a cascade of damp brown curls.

“Have a seat,” he rasped.

Some primal part of me wanted to sit my bare legs down on his lanky, leather-clad body. I wanted to get rough with him, pin him down, and have my way with him. Another part of me didn’t want him bossing me around. It should be the other way.

“No, you stand,” I replied.

His blue eyes sparked and he met my request with a smile that left me dazed and breathless. I felt the towel slide incrementally down.

“I’m glad you want to call the shots, darling.”

I placed my hand on his chest. “Don’t call me darling.”

“Goddess, then.”

Giveaway:

Win a copy of How To Discipline Your Vampire, a pre-order of How To Reprimand Your Rock Star, and a $50 giveaway. Follow the the Rafflecopter giveaway link!

Pre-order How to Reprimand Your Rock Star:

About the Author:

Mina Vaughn

Kink with a wink! Mina Vaughn is an international woman of mystery and a shoe whore with a heart of gold. When she’s not writing her unique brand of fun smut, she’s plundering Sephora for any pin up girl makeup she can find. Mina’s debut novel, an erotic comedy entitled How to Discipline Your Vampire is about a punishment-seeking vampire who meets a quirky Domme with a serious role play fetish, available now from Simon and Schuster’s Pocket Star. How to Reprimand Your Rock Star, a sexy New Adult contemporary romance about a basketball phenom and a world-famous rocker, arrives Summer 2014.  How to Punish Your Playboy arrives Spring 2015. Find her on Twitter.

I’m looking for bloggers for a cross-blog critique event

If you’re a writer on social media (and you probably are if you’re reading this blog entry), you’re probably aware of the myriad critique events geared toward authors seeking representation: query critiques, first sentence critiques, first 250 word critiques, and other things of that nature. I personally haven’t seen any critique events geared toward self-published writers (though I will admit that I haven’t strenuously searched for them), but I think it’s time we had one!

Though nothing so exciting exists at the end of this event as an offer of representation, I still believe that it can be valuable to all of us as a community of writers to network and hone our writing. Not only that, but I’m not excluding anyone–traditionally published or those looking to be traditionally published can participate in two out of the three proposed events.

The event itself will be three weeks of critiques, each with a week-long focus. We bloggers will put out a call for entrants for two days. Then we will post the entries on our blogs and invite commenters to critique as many entries as they want, linking to each others’ blogs. We will need to moderate the comments, of course, but people have generally behaved themselves in other events I’ve seen, so I don’t expect trouble. (But we will be vigilant.)

Right now, I’m putting out a call for participating bloggers. At the moment, I have two confirmed participants besides myself, and I’m looking for at least two more (for a total of five). If I get more interest, fabulous! I’m not going to turn anyone down.

So let’s say there are five of us. We will each post five entries, one per day, throughout the week for a total of 25 entries. The submission window will be open for two days or until we reach 25 entries.

Here are the details thus far. Note that these dates are subject to change, depending on how quickly I can pull this together, everyone’s interest, and how this works with our schedules.

Weeks of May 12 and 19 – Post announcements and tweet that we’re welcoming participants
– Tues, May 13 – What is it? post + announcement of weekly giveaway
– Fri, May 16 – Who are the blog hosts? post
– Tues, May 20 – “Rules” post – Critique at least four other posts if you enter, be nice/helpful, don’t enter if you don’t want feedback
– Fri, May 23 – Reminder that NEXT WEEK is the first round of critiques

Week of May 26 – Critiques of first 500 words
Week of June 2 – Critiques of cover art (the only week non-self-pub can’t participate)
Week of June 9 – Critiques of book blurb or query letter

The format for each week would be:
– Sat prior to the critique week, 6 a.m. Eastern – Open for submissions to an email address I will setup
– Sun prior to the critique week, 5 p.m. Eastern – Closed for submissions – Or until we get (Number of bloggers) x 5
– Sun evening – I will sort through the entries and send them out to the bloggers
– Mon through Friday – Each morning at 6 a.m. Eastern a new batch of entries to critique goes live on each of our blogs (for a total of 5 unique entries each day)
– Fri, 5 p.m. – Weekly giveaway* ends – Blog post goes up with a reminder of next week’s critique or “end of event, thanks for participating”

*Giveaway – People love free stuff. If I get enough donations, we can also put on a Rafflecopter giveaway each week. So far I have the beginning of two sets of packages to give away:

1) To the entrants – One of the other bloggers is an editor and will provide a free critique of X pages (she’s still deciding how many) to one of the critique entrants, chosen by random draw each week.

2) To anyone who happens upon our Rafflecopter giveaway – I will donate e-copies of my new release coming out next month, and I have another person who will donate some money for an amazon gift card.

If you’re interested in donating, anything along those lines is appreciated (free copy of your book, editing services, money for amazon gift card). HOWEVER, it is not mandatory for any of the bloggers to donate to the giveaway. This was more of my “how to get the word out there” idea, and if it fizzles away with no interest, that’s fine with me. I’m not here to ask for your stuff.

Does this sound like something you’d like to participate in? Got some ideas for how to make it even more fabulous? Leave a comment here or send me an email at Samantha (dot) Saboviec (at) gmail (dot) com.

Review: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christina Miller

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead by Christina Miller

Title: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead
Author: Christina Miller
Genre(s): Adult Urban Fantasy
How To Purchase: Kindle

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A little magic can go a long way — to really screwing up a girl’s life!

Mara is having the worst month of her life. At least, that’s what her cards tell her and they’ve never been wrong. She’s evicted from her apartment, loses her job and is banned from Beverly Hills. So when the tarot cards predict her imminent demise, she uses a little magic to make her world right.

Suddenly, an aunt she’s never met dies, leaving Mara as her sole heir. But when Mara moves into her inherited home, she discovers Aunt Tillie never moved out. She’s still one pissed-off old lady, even post-mortem, and she blames Mara’s magical meddling for her death.

When Mara accidentally releases a demon and awakens the spirit of the most powerful witch in history, Tillie’s ready to kill her — literally. It’s the only way she can think of to save the girl from herself. The witch and the demon, however, have other plans for Mara’s body.

Another one of my Bookbub finds, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead is not quite as good as I had hoped it would be. Written with an engaging voice, the story is interesting but meandering.

I’m going to get technical here for a moment. Novels have a certain structure, which you can learn in a novel-writing class or one of the thousands of books written on the subject. Certain things need to happen at approximately a certain percentage through the story, or it comes out feeling like the story is going on for way too long or is way too rushed. Unfortunately, this novel drags on in the beginning and then rushes through the ending.

All of Part One should have been chopped down to only a few chapters and much of the back story cut. Part Two has an abrupt shift halfway through it, the tone going from light and airy and goofy to somewhat dark and sinister. Then the ending, the big fight with the malevolent spirit that wants to take over Mara’s life, is packed into too few chapters. The result is that the book feels inconsistent and messy.

The good thing about it, though, is that I really enjoyed the main character Mara. Her voice was interesting, her perspective and knowledge of Pagan rituals, and her earnest discussion of the supernatural goings-on was endearing. Except for her fear of rodents, she was pretty brazen and unflinching in the face of all this trouble.

I can’t say the same for her best friend, Gus. I’m sure Ms. Miller was attempting to create a sassy, fun gay California man, but to me, he was a complete jerk. He insulted Mara’s weight, made fun of her lack of boyfriend, and when she was being evicted from her apartment in an unfair situation, never once offered to help her, instead picking on her throughout. I was pleased when Part One was over and I didn’t have to put up with his jackassery any more. Mara, honey, you deserve respect, and you can do so much better than being a hag to nasty old Gus.

If you’re looking for something different in the paranormal vein and don’t mind some of the foibles of a disjointed-feeling book, I would suggest Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead. The detail about witch accouterments and rituals is fascinating in and of itself–perhaps even worth wading through Gus’s terrible attitude.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard

Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan HowardTitle: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (Second Edition)
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard – Twitter | Blog
Genre(s): Non-Fiction
How To Purchase: Links on Catherine’s blog

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The only self-publishing guide with a No Saying “Gatekeepers” rule, now fully revised and expanded

Do you think that no one has the right to stand between you and your published writer dreams? That the publishing industry is going down in flames and self-publishers are going to rise like a 99c phoenix from the ashes? That all literary agents are interested in doing is blogging sarcastically about the rhetorical question at the start of your query letter, that editors will just use your submitted manuscript for kindling and that you’ll be senile before you hear back from either of them? That once you’ve uploaded the book you finished yesterday afternoon to Amazon, it’ll be mere minutes before the money starts rolling in and you can quit your day job? Do you say things like “gatekeepers”, “The Big Six”, “E.L. James”, “legacy publishing” and “indie author” a lot? Are you self-publishing to “show them all”?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions then I do apologise, but this isn’t the book for you.

This book is for writers who consider self-publishing to be a good Plan B, or even a sideline to traditional publication. Who want to do it the cheapest and easiest way possible while still producing a quality product. Who understand that much like Starbucks outlets and Nespresso coffee machines, traditional and self-publishing can peacefully co-exist. Writers who know that they don’t have to sell a million copies of their book to start earning a living from their writing, but that they do have to work hard and treat it like a business. Who are blessed with common sense and live in the real world at least most of the time. Who find my jokes funny, at least occasionally.

If this sounds like you, then Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing may be just the “How To…” guide you were looking for.

It will tell you everything you need to know in order to publish a Print On Demand paperback and e-book, and (crucially) sell them, without sounding like anti-Big Publishing propaganda produced by the Ministry of Truth.

Be warned: you are now entering a No Saying “Gatekeepers” Zone…

Remember what I’ve said about how I give out stars? I haven’t actually blogged about it, but it’s on my Review Policy. 5 stars means that something changed my life and gave me a different perspective. I reserve the elusive 5 stars for books like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I read when I was young and impressionable, or We Need to Talk About Kevin, which made me bawl when I wasn’t pregnant. I gave this book 5 stars. That means that if you want to self-publish, you have to read this book. I might make it required reading for everyone who submits to me. (No, I won’t, but I might start lecturing people with page numbers from this book.)

To be quite honest, I knew most of what was in this book already. This is the book I wish I’d read several months ago, rather than having to scrape together bits and pieces of information from a variety of sources and many, many blog posts. However, as this book so asserts, there’s a lot of bad information out there. Because I am terribly untrusting, six-months-ago-me wouldn’t have read the book because I didn’t want to waste money on something that may just be another “How I Won the Lotto of Publishing/Self-Publishing!” clone.

But believe me when I say this is the book that you need to read if you want some no-nonsense, hilariously delivered, intensely sane advice.

I have two dissenting opinions from Ms. Howard, which I will dispense in a moment, but I want to underline the fact that I agree with 98% of this book. To me, a lot of it is common sense, but as she notes, common sense doesn’t seem so common. (Was that her or Mark Twain? Or both? I don’t care, we’re all correct.)

First dissenting opinion: Get Your Own ISBN’s

Now, I will say that my opinion is different than hers because I get ISBN’s for free. I’ve explained this to people before, and they seem confused. By free, I mean, without cost. I mean, I could get one hundred ISBN’s, and they would cost me zero dollars. That is because I’m in Canada and I’m self-publishing as a Canadian “publisher.” (They see self-publishers/self-employed writers and publishing companies as the same thing.) If you’re in Canada and you want to get your free ISBN’s, signing up is a simple process. Just go here: The Canadian ISBN Service System.

That being said, I feel like having your own ISBN makes you seem more professional. Of course, I can afford to be professional since I get ISBN’s free. But this is one place I think a self-publisher should be consider carefully. Just as any entrepreneur or self-employed business person, we have to think like the patrons of the big companies and give ourselves maximum discovery potential. I think ISBN’s help accomplish that. My final caveat, in a section slathered in caveats, is that I haven’t researched this very much because of the whole free thing. So I suggest you do the same and create your own opinion.

Second dissenting opinion: Don’t use her chapter to format your eBook

I respect Ms. Howard, but her chapters on formatting your eBook made me cringe. It’s not difficult or frustrating. Not even a little bit. But I will forgive her because she hasn’t seen The Best Guide Ever Created:

Take Pride in your eBook Formatting by Guide Henkel (To which I also give 5 stars, for anyone interested.)

If you got at least a B- in Computer Science in high school, you should be able to figure it out. If you’re not technically saavy, well, go ahead and hire him. He knows what he’s talking about. But it’s not hard. It took me a few hours on a Saturday to figure out how to do it. And now I’m sure it will take a lot less time now that I’ve been through it once. (As in, half an hour to an hour … if that.)

In conclusion: Read this book

You will laugh. You will learn stuff. You will feel not so alone in this whole self-publishing journey. You’ll go forth into the world, confident and professional and convinced of the importance of a matching blog color scheme.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Review: Running into the Darkness by D. A. Bale

Running Into Darkness - DA BaleTitle: Running into the Darkness (The Deepest Darkness #1)
Author: D. A. Bale – Blog | Twitter
Genre(s): Adult Thriller
How To Purchase: Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Note: I received a free copy of Running Into Darkness in exchange for an honest review.

“I never intended to kill the President. As a doctor, I swore an oath to protect life – not take it. But that was before…”

Second year resident, Dr. Samantha Bartlett, is swept from the frigid New York winter to once again confront the sting of death back home – and face those she left behind. But she’s not alone. A strange man she dubs Shades haunts her every step as she seeks answers to the inferno which claimed her grandmother, an eerie reminder of her parents’ deaths. The secrets Samantha uncovers forever changes her image of those she only thought she knew.

Confronted by Shades, Samantha joins a secret underworld known only as the Elite, where a web of power and control is woven deep within governments worldwide. Their sights are set on the power structure of the United States, and Samantha becomes the unlikely key to infiltrating the White House at its most intimate levels.

The quest for blood threatens to destroy Samantha. From the darkness there is no escape.

Running Into the Darkness is a thriller with medical advancements and tech that, as far as I’m aware, are just outside the range of what’s possible now. Then again, what do I know about what the most shady government divisions have? Probably some interesting stuff, just like the tech in the book. I guess it says something more about me than about the book to say that I wish there was a little more of that. But the story itself is about Samantha and her world getting turned upside down when her life starts to crumble around her.

I’ll get this out of way early on, since no review would be complete without mentioning the incest. For other reviewers, this was a complete turnoff. I can’t say that I liked it–I mean, ew–but it served a purpose. It showed how the main character Samantha was able to become another persona. It also opens up a question as to what constitutes incest. She never knew her father, so he wasn’t a “dad” to her. He was just another guy, one who’d done a lot of bad things, and one she wanted revenge on. I still can’t wrap my head around why the Elite would insist she go through with sleeping with him, but she is the perfect person to hate him enough to kill him.

While incest is a darker subject, I didn’t feel like the book was dark enough, especially for one with “Darkness” in the title. I didn’t quite feel Samantha’s angst with her. I understood it, but it wasn’t gritty enough for me. I saw it, from the outside, but I didn’t have much of an emotional reaction. I wasn’t there with her. I did like the book well enough, so maybe the sequel brings us into the depths of emotional despair.

If you’re looking for a thriller-like contemporary read with elements of sci-fi, you’ll like Running Into the Darkness. The sequel, Piercing the Darkness, is out, so if you hate waiting for the next installment, fear not, it’s available. The third and final book is releasing soon, so you hopefully won’t have to wait for long until it’s out.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Guest Post: For Dystopia Use Real World Institutions by Jordan Thomas Smith

Jackson Operative - Jordan Thomas Smith

Today I host author Jordan Thomas Smith, whose forthcoming novel, Jackson Operative, releases in May. Today he’s here to talk about stumbling across familiar brands in dystopian stories.

When you’re reading a story set in the future it’s a great dizzying pleasure to be in a world you’ve never seen before. The shock and fear of the new technology and the new society create a thrilling, addictive sensation. As an aspiring author of futuristic fiction I try to think of ways to heighten this sensation for the readers, to try to give them as much dizzying sensation as possible. One way to do this is by featuring in a dystopian story some futuristic versions of current real world institutions or brand names. In the film Minority Report (an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel “The Minority Report”) we see Tom Cruise as the protagonist driving in a futuristic version of a Lexus, shopping at a future version of a Gap store and seeing future versions of ads for Guinness – personalized with his name since retinal scanners that he walks by can identify him moments before the ad plays.

The use of real world brand names enhances the dystopian feeling created in a story because it makes it so much more real. Brands like Lexus, The Gap and Guinness are ones many of us have interacted with, maybe purchased. Seeing that these real brands may very well continue to exist into the future and the way they might look then suddenly links us to the future, puts it in understandable and familiar terms. It also forces us to confront how things will change from the way they are now, and this is more jarring than when you’re presented with some made up brand or institution. Hearing about a futuristic soft drink company that never existed could be kind of interesting. Seeing an ad for Coca Cola in the future though, now that’s interesting. Coca-Cola is perhaps the most ubiquitous brands in the world, with a rich and complicated history. The use of a Coca-Cola ad on a massive outdoor advertising screen in the film Bladerunner (also based on a Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?) pulls you forward into the world of that film. You’re many hundreds of years from now at a time with human-like androids, flying cars and Mars-colonization, but there’s something you totally recognize right in front of you.

While seeing our known brand names in dystopian stories can be strangely enthralling, perhaps a far more portentous idea is the future versions of government agencies. Probably even hearing this sentence causes the hairs on most people’s necks to stand up as they imagine a future CIA or FBI that wants to spy on what every single person does. Indeed, some would say the revelations by Edward Snowden about what the NSA was doing to collect information from social networks was like something out of George Orwell’s darkest daydreams. Notice though that in 1984 Orwell was writing about the idea of a new, fictional government that had sovereignty over both England and America. He didn’t choose to make his book about a future version of the actual British Government. We also see some kind of new imagined government as what is ruling society in Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, The Children Of Men, V For Vendetta (at least a new form of government seems implied), The Hunger Games, Divergent, and several other dystopian stories as well. In fact, I have trouble thinking of an example of a dystopian story that writes about a future version of our actual real world current government. The novel and film of Minority Report is one of the few examples I can think of where the implication is that the government in the story is a continuation of our current US government. Surely there must be other examples, but it seems far more common for dystopian authors to write about a fictional government.

Why not explore the idea of conveying a future version of our current real government? Why not take advantage of how it makes reader’s hairs stick up on the back of their neck when they think about a future version of the CIA? In my own novel (in the final stages of revision) I wanted to write about the way the Federal Government’s Medicare Department might deal with the issues surrounding genetic engineering services if such services are available. Would Medicare (or perhaps also Medicaid) pay for genetic engineering sometimes? Should Medicare do so if it was necessary to ‘fix’ an unborn child so they wouldn’t have a congential disease? Should Medicare pay for any family to make their kids simply less disease prone? What if Medicare can pay for genetic engineering for all kids which makes them smarter?

Without getting too much into these or other particular questions in dystopian stories, framing those questions in terms of a real societal institution makes them much closer to the reader. Why separate the reader from the characters by placing the characters in a new government with entirely new brand name consumer goods? Why not use the shared cultural and institutional frameworks we already have in place to speak to the readers? Getting back to brand names, I think Walmart, Starbucks, Apple and Google are surely great candidates for being featured in dystopian stories, as each seems a little dystopian already (and I say this as someone who has bought from or used those each of those companies many times).

Thanks, Jordan! You can add his book, Jackson Operative, to your TBR list on Goodreads or look for it on Amazon at the end of May. He also blogs about an array of similar topics to this one on his website.

Tell us, what ways would you like to see real world businesses or government or other public institutions conveyed in dystopia?