Review: The Summer the World Ended


As far as Riley McCullough is concerned, her best friend getting ‘dragged’ off to Puerto Vallarta for the first two weeks of summer vacation was the end of the world―at least until the bombs fell.

Life in suburban New Jersey with her mother has been comfortable, not to mention boring, to an introverted fourteen year old. As if her friend’s surprise trip wasn’t bad enough, her expectations for the ‘best summer ever’ disintegrate when she gets sent across the country to stay with a father she hasn’t seen in six years. Adjusting to a tiny, desert town where everyone stares at them like they don’t belong proves difficult, and leaves her feeling more isolated than ever. To make matters worse, her secretive father won’t tell the truth about why he left―or what he’s hiding.

Her luck takes an unexpected turn for the better when she meets a boy who shares her interest in video games and contempt for small town boredom. In him, she finds a kindred spirit who might just make the middle of nowhere tolerable.

Happiness is short lived; fleeing nuclear Armageddon, she takes shelter with her dad in an underground bunker he’d spent years preparing. After fourteen days without sun, Riley must overcome the sorrow of losing everything to save the one person she cares about most.

Review: You already know I’m a lifetime fan of Matthew Cox‘s cyberpunk, of course. This YA is a bit of a change, though. It has the apocalyptic feel, but spends the time with his main character and digs deep. It’s an emotional ride, and I highly recommend it. I can’t say much the synopsis didn’t, because I’d hate to give any spoilers. This almost borders on horror, and I highly recommend it!

Get it on Amazon!

More reviews on Goodreads.

Author Bio: Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

He is also fond of cats.

Now Available! Actuator 2: Return of the Saboteur

Actuator 2 Ebook Cover

Available Now! The Actuator 2: Return of the Saboteur

The Machine Monks fight to keep control of the Actuator while enemies attack the base. As besiegers wear them down, the rest of the world struggles to adapt to the chaos left in the wake of the great change. Their only choice is to push forward and find the next key and shutdown the fantasy realm surrounding the base. When they do, Xenwyn will die.

Haunted by the incalculable death toll all over the earth, Jon accepts the mission to recover the next key. Despite his injuries and as much as he hates to leave his newfound love, he refuses to let all of humanity suffer if he can fix it.

Desperate to keep Xenwyn alive, Red determines to find a magical cure before Jon gets back with the key. Each time he takes her across a border, might be the end.

Seeing all his friends in turmoil, Dragon Star sets out to find the saboteur. If the architect of this dark world cannot offer any means of setting things right, he will at least see consequences for the horrors he unleashed.

None of them ever imagined the Actuator could still make the world even worse.

Get it for Kindle!

Get it in Paperback!

This series has been a wild ride! I’m so thrilled to finally have this book out. I’m well into editing for the next anthology and halfway through the first draft for book 3. If you liked Book 1, you will love what’s coming next!

Sometimes They Have to Live

Guest post by Jay Wilburn. I’ve had the privilege of working with Jay on 3 anthologies– So It Goes: A Tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, The Actuator 1.5: Borderlands Anthology, and the forthcoming Windows into Hell. He’s a pro all the way, and I’m thrilled to have him post on my blog.

“Sometimes They Have to Live”
by Jay Wilburn

Kill your babies is a common recommendation for writing. It is a broad piece of advice. It refers to pages and scenes within a story that don’t serve the story. Those have to be cut no matter how cleverly worded they are. It refers to flashbacks and dreams and back stories and tangents. They may be things that are beloved by the author, but often they are the very things that hold the story back. It can of course refer to the actual characters within a story. Sometimes a character has to be erased from existence or absorbed into other characters instead of standing alone. It can mean that characters have to die.

Dead Song Book 1 final cover

Not everyone gets to live until the end of every story. George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, the Walking Dead series both television and graphic novel, and others are well known for no character being safe. This is part of the appeal of these authors and stories to the fans. Everyone is in danger at every moment. The story becomes intense and the losses are anticipated with great dread. The problem in a long running series though is that after the sense of loss and history of certain characters, they often have to be replaced by new characters. When these new characters meet their end on the buzz saw of the infamous character killers, their demise lacks something and their replacements are sometimes kept at a distance emotional by readers. There is a novelty and a true power to a story where anyone can die, but there is also a cost in too frequent deaths.

Some of the power in characters not making it through the apocalypse or the war story is both in that anyone can die, but deaths aren’t one after another. If the death of a character is meant to catch readers off guard and move them the way the characters within the story feel the loss, then sometimes they have to live.

There must be a core of the story characters that make it through. Readers benefit from having some characters that have been with them since the beginning. These characters hold the history and know the full scope and meaning of the series. They can refer back to moments that carry meaning throughout the series. Often, these moments hold more potential than the death of these characters would.

Dead song book 1 CD Cover Idea-001

There are moments when it is time for characters to go and those moments must be chosen carefully, if we are serving the readers. Their lives and deaths matter to the story and matter to the audience. If they don’t, then killing them off in a creative way isn’t going to carry much punch anyway.

Check out the latest book and music from a new series by Jay Wilburn!

The Dead Song Legend Dodecology Book 1: January from Milwaukee to Muscle Shoals –

The Sound May Suffer – Songs from the Dead Song Legend Book 1: January –


About the Author: Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at


Several events have brought TIMING to my attention recently. I’ve been writing for decades, of course, but my first publishing contract with Curiosity Quills Press showed up just under three years ago. It’s been such a wild ride! I’ve loved every minute of it. Still, it sometimes amazes me how slowly the cogs of the publishing industry turn.

The catalyst for these thoughts came from Robert J. Defendi. He’s been writing a multi-part blog chronicling the story of his first published novel– Death by Cliche— coming soon. I heard him mention the audiobook of it at LTUE in 2013. I listened to it that summer and loved it. At SLCC that September, I talked to him about it and was floored to find out it wasn’t a published book, ONLY an audiobook! Since I do acquisitions for CQ, I told him he should let us publish it. It’s happening now, but well over a year later.

Did I ever tell you I once had a publisher contact me two years after I queried them with an acceptance?

Currently, I’m writing the final Actuator book. That series has taken a LOT longer than I expected. The anthologies between each book take TONS of time, but I think they are so awesome that it’s worth the wait for the readers. Still, I never would have guessed.

The real reason I wanted to write this is SUNDOWN, my superhero comic. It took me years to find an artist willing to dedicate the time it takes to launch this comic. Then we had several colorists and letterers drop out. We finally finished issue #1 almost a year ago, and I’ve been querying comics publishers ever since. (No, Marvel and DC are NOT accepting submissions from outside artists.) I exhausted the list of comic publishers. Luckily, I found somebody interested in the project. Artisync!

It took so long to get them, that the artist moved on to a different project. Fortunately, Artisync has artists. So we are basically starting over a couple years later… but the project is happening.

Since it took me YEARS of rejection after rejection to my queries to sell my first short story and then contract my first novel, I think I can safely say you have to be patient in this business.

Am I patient? Pfft! No! :) But I keep working on new projects all the time. So while one thing is stewing (like the comic or an anthology) I work on something else. It keeps me from going crazy waiting for the slow machine to finally crank out the work.

I guess the advice here is to just keep writing. Whatever you do, don’t stop and wait. Finish a book, set it aside, and write something else. Between each of the Actuator series books, while I waited and worked on the anthologies, I wrote entire other novels. Salvation was one. Thug #1 is the one I just finished. So, whatever happens…




Book Review: Five Out of the Dark


Five teenagers who’ve recently discovered they have magical powers and are living in the Seattle underground feel it’s their responsibility to protect unsuspecting humans from otherworldly foes.

Things are going well until Johnathan, their unofficial leader and the boy sixteen year old Paige is in love with, is bitten by a changeling – the venomous saliva causing him to metamorphose into a ravening beast with each full moon.

Paige vows that, no matter the cost, she will find a way to cure Johnathan of the evil that has embedded itself in his soul. But Johnathan’s monthly transformation and daily personality roller coaster aren’t the only problems they have to deal with.

The Five are also gearing up to face their toughest and most dangerous enemy yet—a powerful and ruthless Warlock who will go to any means, including high school, to build his Dark Army.

My Review: This book is like Harry Potter in the Seattle underground, so automatically cool. It’s full of teenage angst and romance, but against a backdrop of werewolves and demons. The magic system is enigmatic and intriguing. The characters are fun, especially the main girl who is tough and strong willed. Anderson doesn’t pull the punches, leading to a shocking and powerful climax.

About the Author: Holli Anderson has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing–which has nothing to do with writing, except maybe by adding some pretty descriptive injury and vomit scenes to her books. She discovered her joy of writing during a very trying period in her life when escaping into make-believe saved her. She enjoys reading any book she gets her hands on, but has a particular love for anything fantasy.

Along with her husband, Steve, and their four sons, she lives in Grantsville, Utah–the same small town in which she grew up.

I’ve been to a lot of conventions and other events with Holli. She is more than a fun person, I consider her a friend. We not only share a publisher, we are both Space Balrogs. Although I’ve known and shared tables with her for years, the only excuse I can offer for waiting so long to read this book is that I usually avoid series until they are all the way finished so that I don’t have to wait out long cliff hangers. This book justified my position. Luckily, book two is out and I can get that now. Also, I get to beta read book three before it’s out, so envy me. If you love Urban Fantasy, you won’t regret reading this book.

Book Review: Bieber’s Finger

Bieber's Finger An intergalactic pop idol dies in a tragic murder. But one of his most devoted fans isn’t ready to say goodbye. Twana Burch, super-fan, waits outside a concert venue for a glimpse of Bieber, the object of her obsession. Her whole world changes when his limo explodes. In the blast, she catches a souvenir, his finger. In the midst of recent controversy surrounding illegal cloning, Twana concocts a plan to resurrect her pop idol and rescue his career by booking him at the biggest concert event in the known universe: The Pan-Galactic Prom Show. Meanwhile… The warrior crew of a dying race of alien creatures sets out into space in a search for help to rescue their war-tattered planet. Their tools: entertainment and propaganda. Their target: The Pan-Galactic Prom Show.

My Review: This book is hilarious! The two stories progress to a climax until you can’t stop until you reach the end. A master of suspense and humor, this book has everything from familial love to genocidal war. It packages deep and touching humanity in media hype and snickers. A cross between Spinal Tap and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I had to get book 2 before I finished book 1, because I couldn’t wait! It’s a good thing they are both out, or I would have been angry.

As a second note, I listened to this as an audiobook. The author is an amazing reader! His voicing talent is exceptional. I honestly don’t know why he isn’t making his whole living reading audiobooks. It is among the best audiobook presentations I’ve ever heard.

About the Author: Craig Nybo lives with his beautiful wife and kids in Kaysville, UT. He works as a creative director for, a digital agency. Craig writes novels, short fiction, and screenplays. As a musician, he has released several records with friends under the band names, Rustmonster and The Big Sky Country Boys. Craig also records solo work. He has released three records under his own name, Zombie Sing-a-long, and a sequel album, Zombie Sing-a-long: Whistler and the Children (Parts 1 & 2).

As a filmmaker, Craig has written and directed many short films. He also writes and directs many commercials and industrial videos as part of his profession. Aside from writing, Craig enjoys playing in the Rocky Mountains, rock climbing and canyoneering.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Craig Nybo on panels, in games, in bands, and on writing projects. He’s one of the most professional musicians and artists I’ve ever met. Women want him and I want to be him! That’s not an exaggeration. His creative studio is flippin’ amazing! If you’ve never had the chance to read Nybo’s work, Bieber’s Finger is a great book to start with.

Cover Reveal: The Actuator RPG

Actuator RPG E-book Cover

I’m thrilled to announce The Actuator Role-playing Game has been picked up by Final Redoubt Press! This is a module suited to work with any role-playing game system. The full version will be released digitally and in print this August, just after book 2 in the series: Return of the Saboteur. I hope to have copies for sell at Comic Con. The cover art is courtesy of Curiosity Quills Press, who published the books. If you can’t wait, you can get the beginning of the game now for free right here. A shout out to Robert J. Defendi for making this possible!