Welcome to the Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in the literary universe.  If you want to join us next week, check out next week’s predetermined them, choose a book, compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog

This week’s theme is:

‘‘When she was a child, the witch locked her away in a tower that had neither doors nor stairs.” – a cover featuring a Tower

Finally!  A topic which is tailor made for a fantasy reader like me.  I mean, there are towers, towers everywhere in fantasy — even if the “Tower” is only in the title, baby.  My pick this week being J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers!

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Another tie.  I probably like the cover on the left the best, but I also find the other two intriguing in their own ways.

So, do you agree with my picks?  Disagree?  Love them all?  Hate them all?  Let us know!

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Today, I’m excited to welcome back to Bookwraiths C.T. Phipps, author of such book series as The Supervillainy SagaCthulhu Armageddon SeriesAgent G Series, Lucifer’s Star Series, and Bright Falls Mysteries.  He has stopped by to talk about a subject we’ve all pondered at one time or another:  Should heroes always be good?

To be honest, I’ve always had a fondness for anti-heroes; men and women who struggle against their baser nature to do what they perceive as right.  And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that what is viewed as right or good for one person (or by one culture) isn’t necessarily viewed as good or right by another.  So my initial answer to C.T. Phipps’ question would be that heroes aren’t always good whether they believe they are or not.  But let’s see what our guest has to say about the subject!

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I have noticed something about my books: all of my protagonists are bastards. They may have likable qualities, sometimes noble goals, and close friendships–but they’re all people who would be villains in other people’s books. They have motivations for what they’re doing but they also have guilt for their actions. They also sometimes make the wrong choice for selfish, petty, or emotional reasons. Which is why I believe it’s sometimes good to invert the default alignment in your protagonists. Yes, it’s sometimes good to write the bad guy as your hero.

Part of the reason for this is because it’s simply a good idea to go against the grain every now and then. Most readers assume the narrative is on the side of the protagonist whenever we begin a story. We assume Frodo, Aragorn, and Gandalf are the good guys so they’re doing the right thing by trying to destroy the One Ring. It would be a very different sort of book if it turned out Boromir had been right all along and it would have been better to use the ring against Sauron. That’s the kind of twist you don’t expect in books and very rarely happens.


Indeed, one of the things I’ve learned about in my own writing is that a protagonist is never more interesting than the sum of their flaws.  While some characters transcend this like Superman and Captain America (I used to be able to say Luke Skywalker), this rule is one which dates back to Gilgamesh and the first novel in his epic. There, Gilgamesh was the man who invented the “sleeping with brides on their wedding night” legend which Braveheart popularized and spent the last third of his journey pitifully trying to avoid death by any means necessary.

When I wrote The Rules of Supervillainy, I was interested in exploring the ups and downs of a superhero world. What would motivate people to want to be a supervillain? Couldn’t they make more money as a hero? Why would they hate the kind of people who would be colorful cops and EMTs in real life? That helped me create Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless: The Supervillain without MercyTM. I realized I wanted to tell the story of a superhero world from the perspective of a villain rather than from the perspective of a hero.

Rules of Supervillainy

I made Gary a person who was prone to short-sighted decisions, full of anger over the death of his brother, greedy, and carrying guilt over the fact he’d “avenged” his brother by killing a man when he fourteen with a stolen gun. In short, he was a ticking time bomb of various issues who was bound to misuse his powers yet could be persuaded to use them for good or evil depending on the situation. Also, what was good for one group of people might be bad for another. In other words, his flaws made him interesting.

This philosophy even benefits even characters who are supposed to be good and just. Eddard Stark is a great character of fantasy but he’s a man who is very much noble and heroic by the standards of Westeros versus those of a modern day society. His unbreakable honor, refusal to compromise, violent temper, and desire to maintain his friends’ status results in his horrible downfall as well as the end of his kingdom.

Indeed, the opportunity to explore different kinds of morality and values is one of the best things you can do with fantasy. One of the earliest lessons of writing I picked up on was ‘everyone is the hero in their own story.’ The Punisher is a villain to someone like Spiderman but functions because he’s fully committed to his private war against evil. Magneto has enthralled plenty of fans with his questionable extremism. After all, if you really are being hunted by the government with giant robots then what options suddenly become justifiable?

lucifer's starIn addition to Merciless, I’ve written stories from the perspective of professional killers (Agent G: Infiltrator), Ring-wraith like monsters (Wraith Knight), ex-Space Fascists (Lucifer’s Star), and even the occasional not-cuddly vampire (Straight Outta Fangton). It’s fun to walk a mile in the shoes of the bad guy and see why they think they’re justified. It’s also great to be able to have fun with their story going completely off the rails. Paragons almost always do the right thing in the end and that can get a little boring while there’s more freedom to be had with antiheroes who might deserve what happens to them.

Being the bad guy doesn’t mean that you can’t have comrades in arms, friends, loved ones, or even a code. It means that you aren’t bound by society’s rules or maybe are bound by those of one which isn’t our own. Plus, let’s be honest, a lot of us would rather rule the world than save it.

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About the Author

ct phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek.  He’s written Agent GCthulhu ArmageddonLucifer’s StarThe Supervillainy Saga, and Wraith Knight.


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Purchase his books at Amazon

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weredeerI Was a Teenage Weredeer by C.T. Phipps and          Michael Suttkus

Genre: Urban Fantasy – Paranormal – Young Adult

Series:  Bright Falls Mysteries #1

Publisher: Mystique Press (September 21, 2017)

Author Information:  Website | Twitter

Length: 256 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

Urban fantasy isn’t one of my usual reading genres. Young adult isn’t either. Neither is humorous stories. Be that as it may, I decided to cast caution to the wind and give I Was A Teenage Weredeer a go, certain that these authors could wow me as much with this creation as they did their space opera Lucifer’s Star.

Set in the same world as Phipps’ Straight Outta Fangton, Weredeer takes place in the small town of Bright Falls, Michigan: the home of the shifter clan. Our protagonist is a smart, snarky, and geeky girl by the name of Jane Doe, who just happens to be a weredeer. It isn’t a big issue for her though because everyone around here has a special gift and paranormal activity is a part of life.

What is a big deal is that Jane’s brother is a suspect in the murder of her friend’s sister.  Jane quickly winding up in the middle of said murder investigation. The mystery which thereafter evolves is full of family and town secrets; secrets which will certainly change Jane’s life forever.

There are more than a few things to really like about Weredeer, but one of its chief strengths is the authors’ clever subversion of the standard tropes of both urban fantasy and young adult. Even though the usual teen angst of YA and fantastical elements of urban fantasy are ever present here, the authors offer a rather darker side to many things, using societal issues and diverse characters in a refreshing way to add depth to what would otherwise be a fairly generic plot line.

If you had to point to one thing and say that is what I Was A Teenage Weredeer is all about though, then it would have to be the humor. First, everyone in this story is obsessed with puns. Good puns. Bad puns. Puns that are cheesy. Some that are damn clever. More than a few about deer and our protagonist Jane DOE. Second, pop culture references are everywhere, turning many scenes into funny discussions about how this film or this character would handle the current situation. The puns and references making sure the fun never stops.

The only thing I would complain in Weredeer is the pacing. To be fair, this was most notably a problem in the middle sections of the book, slowly fading as the authors accelerated to a very exciting conclusion; however, during the times it was an issue, the narrative did drag quite a bit, weighed down by descriptive passages and too much humor. I know all the puns and pop culture references were there to lighten the mood up, add some fun to things, but when it seemed ever single character was getting into the pun making, it became a case of a little too much of a good thing, causing my desire for more puns to peaked and quickly decline.

To sum up, I Was A Teenage Weredeer was a nice, easy read with a few surprises, some good paranormal MUR-DEER action, and loads and loads of puns. I could definitely see fans HUNTING for something like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or a similar tv series/films enjoying this novel DEERLY. (Yeah, I had to put in, at least, a couple of deer pun.) Seriously, though, anyone who finds YA urban fantasy with a dark side to their liking would probably really enjoy this novel.

I received this book from the authors in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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Today, the guys in the Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday group have an interesting topic, one which is straight forward and to the point: “Favorite Science Fiction & Fantasy in Other Media — favorite SFF outside of books (like movies, tv shows, games, anime, etc.)

Strange as it may sound for an avid SFF fan like myself to admit I struggled with this topic.  Specifically, I found it hard to name non-book SFF I loved.  Sad, I know?

I’m going to blame it on age.  As I’ve gotten older, my spare time has gradually become smaller and smaller, which means I do not spend hours and hours like I did back in my teens and twenties giving every SFF related movie, tv series, video game, or MMORPG a try.  Nope, today, I’m way more picky.  Very selective with what I spend my limited free time on, so my knowledge of non-book SFF isn’t what it once was.

I finally did come up with five things to put on this list though.  Yeah, it took me a little while, but, hey, middle age guys are just more thorough and methodical than young guys.

Total-War-Warhammer-25. TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER

My prime gaming days are behind me, but there are still times when I get the itch to get online and compete with people, and this online strategy game is where I spend most of my time these days.  Amazing game!

bsg2bsg14. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978 & 2004)

Other than the original Star Wars trilogy, BSG has been my favorite science fiction series since I was a little kid.  I vividly remember running around my living room in my BSG pajamas acting like Apollo, then having to deal with Richard Hatch being a complex bad guy in the 2004 reboot.  BSG Forever!


Even though I’ve grown a bit weary of the tv series and actually want it to end at this point, I have to admit that for many, many years I loved this show.  So many memorable moments.  Ned’s fate?  Joffrey’s end?  The Red Wedding?  Even more important than that though, this series played a huge role in returning me to the fantasy fold again after a decade long absence.

Marvel-Cinematic-Universe2. MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE

Some of my real life friends argue with me occasionally, saying that the MCU (and superheroes in general) are not science fiction.  I tend to disagree, since Iron Man and Thor are both arguably scifi, and Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely scifi.  No matter, I love the movies, always watch them upon release.


There probably wasn’t any doubt from those who know me that these movies would be tops on the list.  Tolkien’s classic fantasy series is my favorite book series ever, so, naturally, Peter Jackson’s cinematic retelling of those tale are my most beloved films ever.  And the thing is I can’t see that changing anytime soon, because these movies are still as good today as they were when I watched them in the theater years ago.


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To Right the Wrongs by Sheryl Scarborough

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Young Adult

Series: Erin Blake #2

Publisher: Tor Teen (February 27, 2018)

Author Information: Website | Twitter 

Length: 320 pages

My Rating: 3 stars

If you like quick reading murder mysteries, To Right the Wrongs is a great book to pick up and enjoy on a nice rainy day. The title character, Erin Blake, is a smart, modern day detective who has a habit of getting mixed up in CSI-like cold cases. Her friends, Lysa and Spam, always along for the ride, as these precocious teens find a lot more to occupy their time than keeping a streak alive on social media.

Picking up shortly after the events of the first book (To Catch a Killer), Erin is trying to readjust to life after she gained local fame last time out. Not only did she catching the killer of her mother and teacher, but she brought loads of attention to herself when all she has ever wanted to do was blend in. Sure, there were some good things that had come out of everything like her new boyfriend Journey actually noticing her, but other than that she wishes she could just flip a switch and finish the last few weeks of her sophomore year of high school like nothing out-of-the-ordinary has happened.

Things aren’t that simple for Erin though. While she tries to focus on her summer forensic class, mysteries keep coming her way. From a new principal who is seriously crazy to Spam’s boyfriend acting strange to the girls’ digging up information to help Journey build a case to get his dad out of prison, Erin and her friends find themselves drawn into one dramatic twist after another.

Going into this read, all I was seeking was a fun murder mystery. The fact that the characters here were all young adults in high school gave me a bit of a pause, since I’m not in that age category anymore, but Sheryl Scarborough’s writing made me feel right at home among these teens, able to thoroughly enjoy the sleuthing and snooping. Plus, this is a fast-paced, quick narrative, one any avid reader will find easy to get sucked into.

The element I enjoy most about the book was the camaraderie between the characters. Erin, Lysa, and Spam are good friends, and it shows. They play off one another well, work great together, and find time to laugh, act like the teens they are. Sure, there are moments when the YA quotient gets a bit too high, but it always comes back down, as the detective business shifts to the forefront of the story.

My main criticism of the story would be Journey. Now, I didn’t read book one, so maybe he had more of an impact there, but here he seems a fairly throwaway character. Yes, his mission to clear his dad is what drives a lot of the narrative, but mostly he shows up in the story to alternate between making Erin feel uncomfortable (as shown by her constant blushing or giggling when he is around) or annoying the hell out of her. Like I said, this guy seemed really underappreciated.

Overall, To Right the Wrongs was a fun, fast-paced novel which did a great job mixing adventure with mystery and with teen friendship. I won’t go so far as to say it is the best YA mystery I’ve ever read, but it was really enjoyable and surprised me by how easy it was to slip into even though I hadn’t read book one of the series.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

This week we have a great topic to explore …


Every time I do one of these type of posts I have all these grand plans.  I usually list books that I’ve been meaning to read for months or years.  And, inevitably, I always fail, because my reading never lives up to my optimistic plans.  So with this list, I’m going to try to focus on books I feel pretty confident I will be reading in the months to come.

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in the eye of heaven10. In the Eye of Heaven by David Keck

Series: Tales of Durand #1

Publisher:  Tor (March 6, 2007)

Length: 446 pages

Set to inherit the lordship of a small village in his father’s duchy because the knight of that village has been bereaved of his own son, Durand must leave when the son unexpectedly turns up alive. But conspiracies are afoot–dark plots that could break the oaths which bind the kingdom and the duchies together and keep the banished monsters at bay. It may fall to Durand to save the world of Man…

Purchase In the Eye of Heaven at Amazon

kull9. Kull Exile of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard

Series: The Robert E. Howard Library #2

Publisher:  Del Rey (October 31, 2006)

Length: 352 pages

Much more than simply the prototype for Conan, Kull is a fascinating character in his own right: an exile from fabled Atlantis who wins the crown of Valusia, only to find it as much a burden as a prize.

Purchase Kull: Exile of Atlantis at Amazon

master of dragons8. Master of Dragons by Chris Wraight

Series: War of Vengeance #2

Publisher: Games Workshop (November 19, 2013)

Length: 416 pages

For millennia, the elves of Ulthuan and the dwarfs of the mountain realm have been friends and allies. Now that time is over and the War of Vengeance has begun. Prince Imladrik, master of dragons and Ulthuan’s finest warrior, is ordered to leave his beloved homeland and lead his host in a war he does not believe in. Facing the fury of the dwarfs, the jealousy of his brother and the ever-present threat of Malekith’s dark elves, Imladrik must balance his love for his wife and home with the thrill of battle.

Purchase Master of Dragons at Amazon

the wolf7. The Wolf by Leo Carew

Series: Under the Northern Sky #1

Publisher: Orbit (April 3, 2018)

Length: 512 pages

Violence and death come to the land under the Northern Sky when two fierce races break their age-old fragile peace and start an all-out war in this thrilling and savagely visceral epic fantasy.  A tale of war, rivalry, and honor, The Wolf creates a world that is both familiar and uncanny – one where the fiercest enemies are always closer than they seem.

Purchase The Wolf the book at Amazon

fierce gods6. Fierce Gods by Col Buchanan

Series: Heart of the World #4

Publisher:  Pan (February 23, 2017)

Length: 400 pages

A time of reckoning has begun.  For ten years the Free Ports held their own against the despotic empire of Mann – but the empire is now poised to destroy them. The crucial fortress city of Bar-Khos is under attack and its freedom depends on a few unsteady hands.  With the war entering its darkest hours, will any of them survive?

Purchase Fierce Gods at Amazon

she who waits5. She Who Waits by  Daniel Polansky

Series: Low Town #3

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (October 30, 2013)

Length: 405 pages

Low Town: the worst ghetto in the worst city in the Thirteen Lands. Good only for depravity and death. And Warden, long ago a respected agent in the formidable Black House, is now the most depraved Low Town denizen of them all.

Purchase She Who Waits at Amazon

9781101988886_GreySister_FCOmech.indd4. Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence 

Series: Book of the Ancestor #2

Publisher:  Ace (April 19, 2017)

Length: 400 pages

In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of Sweet Mercy Nona must choose her path and take the red of a Martial Sister, the grey of a Sister of Discretion, the blue of a Mystic Sister or the simple black of a Bride of the Ancestor and a life of prayer and service.

Purchase Grey Sister at Amazon

KING OF ASHES3. King of Ashes by Raymond E. Feist

Series: The Firemane Saga #1

Publisher: Harper Voyager (May 8, 2018)

Length: 512 pages

For centuries, the five greatest kingdoms of North and South Tembria, twin continents on the world of Garn, have coexisted in peace. But the balance of power is destroyed when four of the kingdoms violate an ancient covenant and betray the fifth: Ithrace, the Kingdom of Flames, ruled by Steveren Langene, known as “the Firemane” for his brilliant red hair. As war engulfs the world, Ithrace is destroyed and the Greater Realms of Tembria are thrust into a dangerous struggle for supremacy.

Purchase King of Ashes at Amazon

2. The Brass God by K.M. McKinleythe brass god

Series: The Gates of the World #3

Publisher: Solaris (March, 2018)

Length: 400 pages

War is coming to Ruthnia. As ancient, inhuman powers move against one another, Rel Kressind finds himself in the company of the fabled modalmen – giants who regard themselves as the true keepers of humanity’s legacy. Far out in the blasted, magical wastelands of the Black Sands where no man of the Hundred has ever set foot before, Rel comes face to face with the modalman’s deity, the Brass God. What Rel learns in the Brass God’s broken halls will shake his understanding of reality forever.

Purchase The Brass God at Amazon

1.  Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellanwrath of empire

Series: Gods of Blood and Powder #2

Publisher: Orbit (March 6, 2018)

Length:  624 pages

The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint’s soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not.

Purchase Wrath of Empire at Amazon

Well, that is my list this week.  Agree?  Disagree?  Have some thoughts on my picks?  Let us all know!

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Spotlight and giveaway time!  First,  I am going to make sure you have an idea of what book you will soon be entering a giveaway for, then introduce you to the author, and, finally, give you the details of the giveaway itself.

This time around the giveaway is for a novel I reviewed last week and immensely enjoyed: Blade and Bone.  Take a look at the review if you don’t mind spoilers for this third installment of the series.

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blade and boneBlade and Bone by Jon Sprunk

Genre: Fantasy — Sword and Sorcery

Series: The Book of the Black Earth #3

Publisher: Pyr (February 27, 2018)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 515 pages

In a world reminiscent of ancient Egypt and Babylon, where God-Kings and God-Queens hold the power of life and death in their hands, Horace, the onetime slave who became a powerful magician, has turned the tables on his former masters.

Horace, Alyra, and Jirom navigate the hurdles of managing the slave rebellion under the Akeshian Empire’s nose. But evil is not content to sit back and let them gather their strength. A new threat is coming in the form of an unstoppable army of the walking dead. To face this enemy, our heroes will have to dig deeper and find a strength they didn’t know they possessed.

sprunkAuthor Bio

Jon Sprunk is the author of The Book of the Black Earth epic fantasy series as well as the Shadow Saga trilogy. His first book, Shadow’s Son, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, as well as a nominee for the David Gemmell Award for Best Debut Novel and Best Fantasy Novel.

For more on Jon’s life and works, visit him at his Website or on Twitter.

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With thanks to Pyr, this giveaway will be for one autographed copy of Blade and Bone. The giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada. To enter, check out the Rafflecopter giveaway

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Another week begins.  I quickly slip into my business suit and head back into the office to save a few innocent people. But while I try to fool myself into being excited about the promise of a new year and the continuation of the regular grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by finishing up a book I started last week and beginning a new one I just received from the publisher

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If Tomorrow ComesIf Tomorrow Comes by Nancy Kress 

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy #2

Publisher:  Tor Books (July 11, 2017)

Author Information: Facebook | Twitter  

Length: 336 pages

Ten years after the Aliens left Earth, humanity has succeeded in building a ship, Friendship, in which to follow them home to Kindred. Aboard are a crew of scientists, diplomats, and a squad of Rangers to protect them. But when the Friendship arrives, they find nothing they expected. No interplanetary culture, no industrial base–and no cure for the spore disease.

A timeslip in the apparently instantaneous travel between worlds has occurred and far more than ten years have passed.

Once again scientists find themselves in a race against time to save humanity and their kind from a deadly virus while a clock of a different sort runs down on a military solution no less deadly to all. Amid devastation and plague come stories of heroism and sacrifice and of genetic destiny and free choice, with its implicit promise of conscious change.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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dayfallDayfall by Michael David Ares

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Tor Books (March 13, 2018)

Author Information: Website

Length: 288 pages

 In the near future, patches of the northern hemisphere have been shrouded in years of darkness from a nuclear winter, and the water level has risen in the North Atlantic. The island of Manhattan has lost its outer edges to flooding and is now ringed by a large seawall.

The darkness and isolation have allowed crime and sin to thrive in the never-ending shadows of the once great city, and when the sun finally begins to reappear, everything gets worse. A serial killer cuts a bloody swath across the city during the initial periods of daylight, and a violent panic sweeps through crowds on the streets. The Manhattan police, riddled with corruption and apathy, are at a loss.

That’s when the Mayor recruits Jon Phillips, a small-town Pennsylvania cop who had just single-handedly stopped a high-profile serial killer in his own area, and flies him into the insanity of this new New York City. The young detective is partnered with a shady older cop and begins to investigate the crimes amidst the vagaries of a twenty-four hour nightlife he has never experienced before. Soon realizing that he was chosen for reasons other than what he was told, Jon is left with no one to trust and forced to go on the run in the dark streets, and below them in the maze of the underground. Against all odds he still hopes that he can save his own life, the woman of his dreams, and maybe even the whole city before the arrival of the mysterious and dreaded event that has come to be known as…. DAYFALL.

Purchase the book at Amazon


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Welcome to the Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in the literary universe.  If you want to join us next week, check out next week’s predetermined them, choose a book, compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog

This week’s theme is:

‘‘‘I got no strings to hold me down” – a cover featuring a doll or puppet

Another difficult topic for me.  Unless my mind going blank on this one is the beginning of early onset dementia, then I really don’t think there are many fantasy books out there with covers featurning dolls or puppets.  Let me take a quick look on the web though.

Unfortunately, I’m right:  not many fantasy covers about dolls or puppets.  I did find a few science fiction novels though.  Guess I’ll use the one with an unusual kind of puppet: the human variety!

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Yeah, it is a tie.  I like all three of these covers for different reasons.  And in my present mood, I just do not want to only pick one.

So, do you agree with my picks?  Disagree?  Love them all?  Hate them all?  Let us know!

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Today, I’m excited to welcome Warren Hammond, author of such science fiction novels as KOPEX-KOPKOP Killer, and Tides of Maritinia, to Bookwraiths.  He has stopped by today to talk about his new project over at Hex Publishers: a multi-platform cyberpunk franchise titled Denver Moon, where he and his co-author Joshua Viola explore the dark underbelly of Mars.

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How did Denver Moon start? For me, it started over a beer with Josh Viola, the owner of Hex Publishers. He was telling me the basics of a new story idea, trying to tempt me into joining the project. “We can write it together,” he said.

I’ve heard such proposals before and haven’t ever taken them seriously. It’s surprisingly common for authors to be approached by people who have great story ideas. The proposal usually sounds like this. “I have this awesome idea, but I don’t know how to write, so how about you write the book, and then we’ll split the proceeds?”

Authors learn early on in their careers to politely refuse such proposals. Even if the idea is indeed awesome, we know something the other party hasn’t learned yet: ideas are cheap. I know that sounds glib, but as earnest and well-meaning as such proposals may be, the ideas they bring really aren’t worth much. Ideas aren’t stories. They’re just ideas.
The real work comes when you try to grow that initial seed of an idea into an actual story, a book featuring compelling characters, tight prose, and a page-turning plot that twists and turns and eventually arrives at a satisfying ending. That’s where 99% of a writer’s energy goes. So, yes, the initial idea may be important, but in the book world, it’s really just the conversation starter.

But when Josh brought me his premise for a detective story set on Mars, it wasn’t so easy to dismiss. First off, Josh is a good writer, so I knew the writing burden wouldn’t land solely on my shoulders. Second, Josh is his own publisher, so if written, this story came with a solid guarantee that the work would be published. Needless to say, such guarantees are rare. “Okay,” I said after taking a sip from my beer. “Tell me more.”

Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars Trailer

Most would call Josh’s company a small press or an independent publisher. Unless you count short fiction, I’d never done any work for an indie publisher, so I knew that if I decided to sign on, I’d be in for a new experience. Truth be told, to this point in my career, I’d always considered the option of working with an indie publisher to be tier two. Sure, I’d take one of my books to a small press, but only if I’d already struck out with the big-league publishers in New York.

The challenge for smaller presses has always been distribution. Thanks to online shopping and e-books, the game has changed quite a bit in their favor over the last couple decades, but for maximum reach, including brick-and-mortar bookstores, the odds are best with one of the big houses, which is exactly why I’ve always considered those publishers to be my first choice for novel-length projects.

That said, it’s a tough market to sell books no matter what publication path you choose. As nice as it might be to become rich and famous from my writing, the truth is it doesn’t happen for the vast majority of us even if we do land deals with the big publishing houses. The market is saturated with so many books (some say as many as one million get published in the United States every year), that even a great book will most likely get very little notice. In other words, if getting rich and famous was my only goal, I shouldn’t have become a writer.

Denver Moon: Metamorphosis Graphic Novel Trailer

So the question became, what might Josh’s Hex Publishers have to offer?

The answer was plenty. Josh wanted to start by writing a short story with the eventual goal of converting that story into a three-issue comic book series. He wanted to do a soundtrack. A series of novellas. PlayStation themes. Possibly a short story anthology. Josh wanted Denver Moon to be much more than a book. He wanted it to be a franchise.
This is where Hex Publishers has set itself apart. Josh has a broad skillset that includes marketing, graphic arts and video game design. He also has an eye for talent, and I’d already seen several works of art created by Aaron Lovett, so I was instantly excited to hear he would likely sign on to do the art for the Denver Moon comics.

The complete picture was a compelling one. Although the distribution channel with Hex Publishers was somewhat limited, the creative channels were wide open. What Josh was offering me was the chance to do a lot of things I’d never done before. A lot of things many authors never get to do.

Bottom line, it sounded like a hell of a lot of fun.

Two years later, we’ve accomplished many of the goals we discussed over that first beer. We also have a project or two yet to complete. After that, I don’t know what’s next…but I’m keeping an open mind.

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About Denver Moon

denver moonDenver Moon, P.I., works the dark underbelly of Mars City. While investigating a series of violent crimes linked to red fever—a Martian disorder that turns its victims into bloodthirsty killers—Denver discovers a cryptic message left by Tatsuo Moon, Mars City co-founder and Denver’s grandfather. The same grandfather who died two decades ago.

Twenty-year-old revelations force Denver on a quest for truth, but Tatsuo’s former friend, Cole Hennessy, leader of the Church of Mars, has other plans and will stop at nothing to keep Denver from disclosing Tatsuo’s secrets to the world.

Hellbent on reclaiming her grandfather’s legacy, Denver—along with her AI implant, Smith, companion android, Nigel, and shuttle pilot, Navya—set out on a quest to find the answers they hope will shed light on the church’s true agenda, the origin of red fever, and the mysteries surrounding Tatsuo’s tragic death.

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“Take the Mars of Total Recall, the cybertech of Ghost in the Shell, the noir of Blade Runner, the action of Cowboy Bebop, and accelerate them to twelve times Earth escape velocity, then you will find yourself with the pure awesome joy that is Denver Moon.”

—Matthew Kressel, multiple Nebula Award and World Fantasy Award finalist

“This is Mars done as well as Elton John did it, as well as John Carpenter did it, as well as Total Recall did it. Move over, Andy Weir. Step aside, John Carter. Denver Moon is swaggering into this red landscape…”

—Stephen Graham Jones, bestselling author of Mongrels and Mapping the Interior

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Denver Moon will be available in different formats.
The novella, Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars (paperback, hardcover and eBook) June 5, 2018
Comic editions (Floppy/softcover, and digital on comiXology) will be available on the following schedule:
– Issue 1: Murder on Mars – Available on comiXology Jan. 31 or in print June 5, 2018.
– Issue 2: Rafe’s Revenge – July 3, 2018
– Issue 3: Transformations – Fall 2018
Graphic novel, Metamorphosis, which contains the 3 comic book issues (Hardcover and digital on comiXology) – Winter 2018
Short story, Metamorphosis, which the stories are based on. (eBook.) – June 5, 2018
Soundtrack featuring Celldweller, Scandroid, and Blue Stahli with an original track by Scandroid.
PlayStation 4 dynamic theme – June 5, 2018.

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About the Author


Warren Hammond grew up in the Hudson River Valley of New York State. Upon obtaining his teaching degree from the University at Albany, he moved to Colorado, and settled in Denver where he can often be found typing away at one of the local coffee shops. He is known for his gritty, futuristic KOP series from TOR Books. By taking the best of classic detective noir, and reinventing it on a destitute colony world, Warren has created these uniquely dark tales of murder, corruption and redemption. KOP Killer won the 2012 Colorado Book Award for best mystery. Always eager to see new places, Warren has traveled extensively. Whether it’s wildlife viewing in exotic locales like Botswana and the Galapagos Islands, or trekking in the Himalayas, he’s always up for a new adventure.

Purchase the books at Amazon

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