Non-Fiction Book Recommendations

I promised some non-fiction recommendations, and here they are! These are not the books I’m reading right now, they are ones that I think could have a huge impact on people’s thinking.

Hans Rosling’s Factfulness - This book is stellar - read it first! Rosling (and his children, he died) delve into the concept that while we think the world is getting worse and worse, it’s actually getting better and better. They have the data to prove it. A lot of it. For example, one hundred years ago, women were allowed to vote in one country. Now, there is only one country they are not allowed to vote in. In the last 30 or so years, 30% more of the entire world has access to clean water! I could go on and on as Rosling has a mountain of examples. This book is key in 1) improving your outlook, and 2) teaching you to really understand data, and how to cut through the statistical noise.

Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise - Speaking of which… In today’s world, it’s gotten more and more difficult to find that signal amongst the noise. Nate Silver, political and sports predicting wunderkind, gives us some pointers in here. This book is about 6 years old now I think, but it’s still relevant. One thing that blew my mind, weather prediction, one of the trickiest forecasting sciences out there, uses computer based modeling that is then adjusted by humans. Really interesting stuff to think about as our world grows more and more algorithmically determined. If Nate writes an update to this around 2020, I’m first in line. Take my money sir!

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow - Kahneman and his long-time work partner Amos Tversky are the two godfathers of behavioral economics. That is the study of how people REALLY think and act - not how your economics or psychology professor claimed they think and act. This book is chock full if fascinating experiments (seriously) Kahneman has run, and the work he describes is the foundation for most of the behavioral economics studies and books that followed. Start at the beginning, start with this one.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb The Black Swan - A study how improbably seeming events have outsize impacts on the world or our lives. The decade old financial crash is one good example - very few analysts predicted it, but it was a major event that cascaded across the globe and set the table for changes in economic and political policy that we are still adjusting to. A hurricane is another example, where you may not see it coming, but it completely reorders your personal life or the life in your city. They can be positive though, and my writing is a prime example of that (this book is one factor that inspired me to write). My friends and family would have called me becoming a full-time author highly improbably, yet, here I am… This book delves into how these events go unpredicted, and how we can adjust to the unknown. Taleb’s Antifragile digs deeper into that subject, but it’s not quite as good as this one.

Charles MacKay Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds - This book was first published I believe in 1852 and is out of print. The ones I found on Amazon appear to be scams. I have an edition from Three Rivers Press (imprint of PRH), and it’s legitimate, so look for that one if you can. Do Not buy a self-published version of this book, and if it’s less than 300 or so pages, it’s fake! We can get into copyright law and how this is possible another day… Anyway, this book is over 150 years old now, and it tells you everything you need to know about Bitcoin. It’s great stuff, and shows that as much as the world has changed, it really hasn’t changed.

Malcom Gladwell The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers - Three in one! Malcolm Gladwell does an amazing job distilling some really complex concepts and showing them to you in a unique, digestible way. I really loved these three books, but be warned, some of his later books aren’t as strong. David and Goliath, for example, was a bit garbage. Anyway, if you find some of my other recommendations difficult to get through, then check out Gladwell. It’s light, easy reading, and very educational. Some of his concepts have sunk into our collective conscious now - so it’s great to hear it from the man himself.

Stephen King’s On Writing - Stephen King’s “How to Become a Writer” paired with an autobiography. Insightful stuff, though I will warn you, the advice is terribly out of date now. Self-publishing, KDP, etc didn’t exist when King wrote this. That being said, for any aspiring writer, it’s incredible to see how King got started. Spoiler, he wasn’t born as an author who’s sold 100’s of millions of copies. He worked hard and got there… We can’t follow in his footsteps because the industry has changed, but the concept remains the same.

Honorable mentions: Anything by Michael Lewis for insight into financial crimes, any biography by Walter Isaacson (except the one on Da Vinci, it sucked), Daniel Yergin’s The Prize for THE comprehensive tome on the oil industry, and how it has had an incredible impact on modern day geopolitics, Benjamin Wallace’s The Billionaire’s Vinegar for something a little lighter and more fun, and to see how crazy rich people are.

Whew, enough to keep you busy? If you know some books you think I’ll enjoy, let me know here! I read mostly non-fiction these days, and I’m always on the lookout for something life changing.

AC

David Estes Interview

In the Newsletter every month (sign up for it here!), I do a short interview with a fellow author. I chop these interviews down usually because I don’t want to kill people with pages and pages of e-mail. This month, I interviewed best-selling author David Estes. David has absolutely blown up huge recently, and I’m incredibly jealous…

Where were we?

Oh, right. David had a lot of great answers which didn’t make the e-mail, so I’m posting the entire transcript of the interview below. If you don’t know David Estes, the first book in his Fatemarked series is currently a Top 100 best-seller in the entire Amazon Kindle Store, which is huge. It is also blurbed by me, which I believe has led to potentially DOZENS of sales!

Perhaps feeling guilty about how awesome he has been doing, David granted me an interview:

AC: Most of my readers may know you from your recent Fatemarked series, but you’ve been publishing since 2011. Can you tell us a little bit about your previous works?

DE: Thanks for noticing! I’ve been around the block a few times. I got my start writing mainly SciFi dystopian series. Before Fatemarked, I was most well-known for The Dwellers/Country Sagas, sister trilogies with separate characters and plotlines that came together in a 7thand final book. In 2013, the Dwellers Saga was featured in Buzzfeed’s list of “Series to Read if You Enjoyed The Hunger Games,” which led to much of its success. I think my writing “grew up” a lot over the course of my first five years of publishing, paving the way for Fatemarked. 

AC: As a particularly prolific author who also manages to hold down a day job and spend time with a family, how do you do it?!?

DE: Sometimes I look back and wonder how I’ve managed to publish 35+ books over the last seven years. I was fortunate enough to write fulltime for almost five years, which greatly enhanced my productivity. Now, however, with a day job and a family of three about to become four, I am stretched. Honestly, I just do my best. I stick to a strict routine, in which I get up at 5am and make it to work by 6am. I write for two hours (3,000 words) and then do the day job thing for 8 hours. Home by 5:30pm, family time with my wife and toddler (dinner, outside play, inside play, bath time, reading time, bed time), and then alone time with my wife (Netflix!) while I multitask and get some marketing stuff done. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Whew. Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but well worth it. 

AC: What inspired the Fatemarked series?

DE: In one person, Tolkien. I grew up on Lord of the Rings, literally reading the covers off the books. It took me writing 30 other books before I felt ready to write my own epic fantasy series. I’m so glad I did!

AC: What advice do you give to newer authors who are in the pre-publication phase?

DE: Don’t worry about sales early on. Just keep writing, improving your craft, interacting with readers, building your platform. My first series has sold 6,000 copies in 7 years. My second series has sold 80,000 books in six years. Fatemarked has sold 85,000 books in 18 months. I try to ignore all that as much as possible and focus on writing the next book in a series, or the next series. Sales will come. 

AC: What do you think readers find most appealing about the Fatemarked series?

DE: The diversity of characters and the attention I give to each of them. I have a wide cast of characters from different genders, races and walks of life. I fully develop all of them over the course of the five books, even as I put them through hell. This makes for very long, but (hopefully) satisfying books. I’ve also been known to be relentless with twists, turns and killing off both main and supporting characters. No one is safe!

AC: You’ve gotten some flack for including a gay character in Fatemarked. We’ve spoken about it, and I know you’re happy with that choice, even if it leads to the occasional poor review. I am glad every time I see a different sexual orientation or different races represented in popular fantasy, and I wish I saw it more often. As an industry, how do you think we could encourage a more diverse range of characters in fantasy?

DE: The occasional backlash for having a bisexual main character has taken me completely by surprise. Especially because many of these haters seem to believe I’m trying to make some kind of a political statement. I’m not. I am a white, straight male with nothing to gain. BUT I do believe in my fantasy worlds being a reflection of the real world, so that ALL of my readers can relate to one or more of the characters I bring to life. Sometimes my characters speak to me in ways I don’t expect or plan. Does the negativity bother me? Sometimes. But the overwhelming response has been positive, so that is what I choose to focus on.

If you haven’t read any of his books, I recommend my fans start with Fatemarked (link to Amazon) and go from there. If you want to find out more about David, his website is: http://davidestesbooks.blogspot.com. Tell him AC sent you!

Happy reading,

AC

Precipice: Clockwerk Thriller Book Two

My small press has a new title out today, Precipice: Clockwerk Thriller Book Two. This series is a military steampunk set around the American Civil War. I had a ton of fun editing and re-reading this thing. I think of it as if Michael Bay wrote a steampunk book - and I mean that in a good way! It's chock full of fun action-movie tropes, and is really satisfying if you want some crazy escapism fun.

To celebrate the release of Precipice, I've put the first book in the series, Stalemate on sale for a limited time only. It's just $0.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited. This book has the best reviews of anything I've published, including my own books! So if military steampunk sounds interesting, you should check it out ;)

Stalemate: Clockwerk Thriller Book One

Precipice: Clockwerk Thriller Book Two

2018-1279 Thomas Webb b02.jpg

Book Recommendations

Since I became an author, people want to know what I'm reading. Sadly, it's not nearly as much fantasy as it used to be. These days, I'm reading non-fiction, history, behavioral economics, and other research material. So... yeah, not what people are looking for me to suggest. That being said, over the last few years I have dug into some pretty awesome "off the beaten path" books, and they're worth sharing. All links are affiliate ones to the US Amazon store. Sorry! Too lazy to dig up ones for every marketplace...

Keep going to the bottom to find my favorite title from the last decade. I hope this is enough quality stuff to keep you busy until December (you know, when you'll clear the calendar for Weight of the Crown):

Michael J Sullivan's Theft of Swords - Not available in KU, and priced higher than some of my recs, but this is a nice long book. MJS has been around awhile, and this is a deep, well-written world. I'd been hearing about MJS for years, but to be honest I'd never opened one of his books until he handed it to me. Based on his own suggestion, this is the best entry point to the world of Riyria. It features two lovable rogues, and is really well done. I churned through about 200 pages on the night I got it, and another 200 pages while traveling the next morning. Personal note, MJS and his wife are among the most generous people in the business - they're worth supporting.

Kel Kade's Free the Darkness - Available in KU. Book 4 comes out in a few days and it's going to be a huge hit - believe me! This book is in the "indestructible hero" genre, which isn't normally my thing, but I thought Kel did an excellent job with Rezkin. He's a complete badass, and it's setup in a fun way where you learn about the world along with him. If you like total badasses chopping their way through an intriguing mystery and a healthy dose of seedy underbelly, then this is for you!

Bryce O'Connor's Child of the Daystar - Available in KU. Up to Book 4 in the series, and they are long ones. Speaking of badasses chopping their way through a world, Bryce went with a lizard-man badass, and upped the seedy underbelly quotient. Again, not necessarily my preferred sub-genre, but Bryce pulled it off by giving us a believable premise. If you like Kel Kade's book, then you will very likely enjoy this one.

Jonathan Renshaw's Dawn of Wonder - Available in KU. Only one book out, and no date set yet for Book 2, but he is working on it. I believe this is - literally - the most popular self-published fantasy book of all time. I cannot wait until Book 2 comes out and is the best-selling eBook in the world (at least for a few days). No joke, that's what I'm predicting, and it will send a trill of joy through my black, self-publishing heart. In Dawn of Wonder, you've got a bit of wilderness adventure coupled with orphan goes to special school. I'll be honest and say I preferred the wilderness bit, but it's all well done, aside from one unnecessary romantic interest. Jonathan is also the most thorough researcher of any fantasy author I'm aware of, so this book is steeped in realistic battle and training. If you want to see REAL research, look up his blog.

Will Wight's Unsouled - Available in KU. 5 books out in the series. Mechanically, Will is an excellent writer and I really admire his skill in drawing you into his story. Like I've said before, this isn't something I thought I would enjoy as much as I did. There's a term for this, which I do not know, but it's kind of Dragonball Z-ish where you've got this hero who progresses further and further in power and meets more and more powerful bad guys. Unlike anime, which honestly I don't really enjoy, there's a real story in Unsouled and real connection to the character Lindon. It's exceptionally well done.

Phil Tucker's Path of Flames - Available in KU. 5 books in this completed series. Phil's writing is closer to my own than most current fantasy authors, and we have a ton of cross-over fans. His world is a bit more imaginative than mine though, and there are multiple, interesting characters to follow in this one. Phil's recently gone on to do some really highly touted LitRPG, but if you're new to him and a fan of my books, I recommend starting here.

Alec Hutson's Crimson Queen - Available in KU. There's only one book out in the series right now, but the second is completed - Alec is just waiting on a new cover and then it will go live. He's the only debut epic fantasy author in 2016 to have a bigger release than me! No hard feelings though, because this is an excellent title and deserves the recognition it's gotten. I found his world building more intriguing than nearly any other book I've read in recent years. I can't wait until Book 2 comes out (just kidding, I won't wait. Time to shake loose a pre-publication copy). Crimson Queen fans will find the what well worth it when Book 2 arrives - any day now!

David Estes' Fatemarked - Available in KU. 5 books in this completed series, and they are all miles long. This success of this series has been a slow burn, and as of this writing, Fatemarked is in the Top 100 of all eBooks on Amazon! It didn't start out that high, and I think it's a testament to the quality of the story that it's climbed this long after release. There are multiple perspectives in Fatemarked, but I found all of them equally interesting. David does an excellent job of balancing the stories, and keeping you turning pages.

Michael McClung's The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braid - Available in KU. 4 books in the series, which I think is completed but now that I am writing this, I'm not 100% sure. This book won the SPFBO competition back in 2015, and it deserved the win. It follows one character on what is essentially the worst week of her life. Michael does an amazing job keeping the stakes high without wearing the reader out. You really feel for Amra and hurt as bad as she does when things go wrong. I wanted her to succeed more than any of the other characters mentioned in the previous recommendations!

Nicholas Eames' Kings of the Wyld - Not available in KU. Two books out. The second one, Bloody Rose, dropped last week. Simply put, this is my favorite fantasy book from the last decade. Boom! What else do you need? It's a delightful mashup of 80's hair band tropes with fantasy monster slaying. It's funny, suspenseful, heartfelt, and so much more. Honestly, I cannot recommend this one highly enough, and I will fight anyone who says they didn't enjoy it.

Whew! That's a lot of great reading, and I hope you find something you enjoy. Let me know if you'd like further recommendations, or want to know about what kind of boring stuff I'm researching ;)

Happy reading!

AC

Big Debuts

Mark Lawrence's list of the biggest debuts from the last decade. Check out 2016!

https://mark---lawrence.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-biggest-fantasy-debuts-in-past.html

Also, it's really interesting to me to see lists like this. Some of them, of course, you knew would be on there. Others, I've never heard of. Some years have loads of huge success stories, and uh, my year has me...

Anyway, Mark L is a numbers guy, so this post, and everything else he puts up is great for numbers loving fantasy geeks.

AC

Everyone Has An Opinion

This is primarily directed at my US based readers, but I think it will apply to anyone. My father-in-law shared something this weekend that really resonated with me. Hopefully I can say this without stepping on someone's toes, which is nearly impossible in the internet era...

He said "everyone has an opinion". There are incredibly strong opinions about family separation on the US/Mexico border, strong opinions about the broader immigration debate, strong opinions about gun control, strong opinions about Syria, strong opinions about Russian influence in US elections, strong opinions about how we view the press, of course the strongest opinions on Donald Trump, and on and on. I think you get the idea?

My father-in-law's point was that most of these are extremely complex issues, with shades of gray and loaded with ambiguity. He had a good thought experiment where if he was the King of America, how would he resolve - say - the immigration debate. What is the exact right number of immigrants to allow in? Like I suspect most of us if we're honest with ourselves, he didn't know what that exact number should be. I mean, how do you know?

It's been well-covered in behavioral psychology and it's spinoff, behavioral economics. The less information we have, the more likely we are to form a strong opinion on something. This day and age, we're exposed to constant headlines and sound bites, but we rarely dig deep enough to really know the nuances of these complex situations. And of course, on the internet, many of us receive our news and data via meme... Not ideal for crafting a well-argued opinion on complex issues that may literally have no correct answer. Add in that it's even easier to shout uninformed opinions to the masses, and we've formed warring tribes that in a lot of cases, aren't entirely sure what they're warring over, except it's the other guys are OTHER.

So, I suspect I got through that without offending anyone. You know why no one was offended? Because you're all assuming I'm talking about those uninformed, ignorant, noisy OTHERS, and not you. Well... I'm talking to you too, and to me.

If we take a breath and think about it, I suspect most people agree. They understand that the internet has made it easier to go shouting about half-formed opinions, and they probably admit somewhere that they've been fooled a time or two by a crocked up meme or headline. But even knowing that, it's pretty hard to combat. These are volatile issues that touch people personally, it's hard NOT to have an opinion, and it's hard NOT to use social media to try and inform people of something you consider important. Just knowing the problem isn't enough to stop it. So, what do we do?

First, I think the most important thing to get over this divisiveness is to admit that we might be wrong. Yeah, by we I mean YOU and ME. We might be wrong on our strongly held opinions. We need to couch our discussion in terms of, "based on the information I have right now, this is what I believe. If someone comes to me with enough compelling facts (remember those?) or strong enough arguments, I'm capable of changing my mind." When two people discuss something on those terms, then real progress can be made. If you cannot change your mind, or you will not allow facts (they're still out there!) to change your view, then you're a huge part of the problem.

Second, you become what you absorb. If you watch CNN or Fox News exclusively, your opinion will reflect what those platforms are telling you. You will becoming a lemming in the tribe. The age of "unbiased" media is gone. It's best to assume every platform these days has some inherent bias, but importantly, that doesn't mean you should shut it off. CNN is leaning left and Fox News is leaning right. Ok, maybe "leaning" is mild, but you get my point. They skew one side because they want to appeal to viewers who skew to one side. They will espouse that one point of view because that is what sells to their viewer base. Importantly, it's not just the OTHER side that's doing it, it's all sides, including the one you are on. To combat that, take in a variety of news sources. Listen to what the other side has to say with an open mind (the only thing I bolded in this post, think about that). You may disagree, and that is Ok, but at least you'll actually know what their argument is from the source, and not a meme. 

Third, watch less news, check it on your phone less often, and take a breather. This is a personal struggle for me, but I think it's an important battle to fight. Just because there is a 24hrs news cycle does not mean you need to consume that news 24hrs a day. Unless it's an issue that personally effects you (ie, you are an immigrant to the US for example), there is simply no point in constantly absorbing that firehose of information, almost all of which is repetition of previously reported stories. Reading 10 articles about something which makes you mad is not going to make you happier as a person...

Fourth, it's Ok to admit you don't know. Modern issues are complex, and very few of us (looking at you Washington, DC!) understand all of the intricacies of any particular problem. That's fine, as long as you acknowledge it. Remember what I said in the first bullet, "based on what I know"? You can have an opinion when you feel suitably informed, but it's frequently even better to Not Have an Opinion! I used to say this to employees on the job, it's empowering when you say, "I don't know". Think about how powerful that is - "I don't know the answer, but I have an open mind and I'm willing to listen".

So, in summary, the internet is full of trolls who have strong, uninformed opinions about everything. We can all agree on that, right? What to do about it:

1) Understand you might be wrong

2) Absorb multiple inputs from diverse sources, and have an open mind to what they are saying

3) Absorb that input less often. Try going outside, if it's been awhile since you've done that

4) Be unafraid to admit you don't know something. It's empowering

If anyone has any additional bullets I should put on here, or you think I'm wrong and that you are never wrong, CONTACT ME and let me know!

AC

I'm on Patreon!

After months of pressure from fellow authors and some fans, I finally joined Patreon. If you're not familiar, it's a way you can support content creators and receive rewards based on your level of support. For me, I'm offering exclusive access to early looks and insight on my writing process, pre-publication copies of my stories, signed print copies, and even chances to request a short story or name a character in my main story lines! Good stuff, I hope.

If that sounds interesting, or you just want to see my intro video and know what I look like, head over to Patreon and check it out.

https://www.patreon.com/accobble

Happy reading,

AC

Auf Deutsch!

I've gone multi-lingual. Benjamin Ashwood Book 1 is now available in German with eBook and Print formats. It's a very strange thing when you open your book and can't recognize the words.

Also, for you German / Benjamin Ashwood trivia fans out there... Part of Dark Territory was written while I was in Hamburg for a few weeks. That city inspired some parts Hamruhg such as the red brick warehouses and obviously, the name. Not subtle, I admit, but you try to write while Ratsherrn Brewery is just down the street!

Find it here on Amazon.DE

2018-0713-AC-Cobble-B01.jpg