Read outside your comfort zone.

Buy 1, get 1 free. I'm running a promotion on my books, and I think the chain of ideas that led me to the promotion is kind of interesting, but I f you don't want to read about all that only want the promo code, here it is.

I have set up a coupon at Smashwords where the same coupon code can be used for 50% off two different books, Forever Young and Galaxy Dog. Use the code on one book, use it on the other, or even use it on both. It expires Feb 03 2020, which is a month from now, and the code is: YN54L

Forever Young - Regular Price $4.99 Promo. Price $2.50
Galaxy Dog - Regular Price $4.99 Promo. Price $2.50

Okay, so what made me think that using the same coupon code for two such dissimilar books was a good idea? Well, Xmas has just gone by, bringing with it the usual selection of essentially random gifts, and in my case (as an ex-bookseller and current self-published author) that means people have given me books, and these are sometimes books that I would never have bought for myself. They're books that weren’t even on my radar, such as Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which is a Polish book about grim shenanigans in the frozen forests of the high mountains in winter. It is very much not a thriller, it’s an introspective work by an author called Olga Tokarczuk, who has won the International Man Booker prize, and is an outspoken feminist.

In the book, a hunter is found with deer prints all around him, giving the impression that an animal is responsible for his murder. It is left to Janina Duszejko, a kind of Eastern European Miss Marple, to find the killer. She is devoted to Blake, and to studying astrological charts in order to make sense out of chaos. The book is also secretly a kind of primer on the politics of vegetarianism, a dark feminist comedy, and an existential musing on life and death.

I've spent some time living in Austria, so I'm very familiar with the strange backwoods of Central-shading-into-Eastern Europe, along with its small village culture, which is just like depicted in the book. Local culture centers round hunting, drinking, hard work, and grim silences. Like I said, it is not something I would have picked up for myself, but it is so good it sends shivers down my spine. It is a translation, and in many places it is a tad too literal for my taste, allowing shadows of Polish grammar, sentence structures, and idioms to come through, but instead of negatively impacting the story, it just adds an extra layer of strangeness, of foreignness.

Another book I am reading is Crudo, which was forced on me in another way. I did pick it, but I picked it from a tiny collection of English books in a small Italian book store that mostly caters to students from the nearby Venice university. Crudo is a very modern, disjointed sort of read, with long paragraphs and short sentences, and it is primarily a reaction to Brexit, of all things. In normal circumstances I would never have bought this book, but that tiny, high-brow book store certainly didn't have a sci-fi section. Obviously, at least obviously to anyone who has spent any time reading this blog, the sci-fi section is the area I always make a B-line for on entering a book store. I only end up browsing the grown-up 'proper' books in general fiction if I can't find anything in sci-fi first.

Crudo, by Olivia Laing, is definitely a grown-up book. It’s about getting married, going on a luxurious holiday in Italy, and settling down. The character doing these things is Kathy Acker, a real person. I am usually allergic to authors presuming to use real historical people as characters in their books, and I thought long and hard about whether to make an exception for this one. I'm glad I did, because although the author's version of Acker is very present and well referenced, often it is Laing who is more present, and sometimes it doesn’t matter at all who is talking, because Crudo isn't really about that. It’s an absorbing read, and I’m glad I ended up plumping for it.

The reason I'm writing about this idea – the idea of reading outside your comfort zone – is because of the books I write. I mostly write sci-fi, but I do also write books in other genres, too. For example, I have recently collaborated with coauthor Barbara Stanzl on writing a Vampire novel called Forever Young.

Forever Young is a modern take on the classic Gothic novel, combining horror, death, and faded luxury. It is firmly in the tradition of the most famous books of the genre but it is also something new. The book introduces us to Jasmine, a student of anthropology, newly arrived in Venice, and to Violetta, who is trapped in an ancient and violent world with no escape. After the two meet, Jasmine gradually awakes in Violetta the desire to escape.

The book is also available at Kobo and at Smashwords.

Forever Young is a book with a modern setting that is written in an updated, less wordy version of the Gothic style. For the typical reader of science fiction, of which I am one, it is very common to encounter a little reluctance to engage with a genre like Vampire fiction, and there are good reasons for that.

Vampire books have long had a very close relationship with romance tropes, culminating in the most egregious example of a romance book masquerading as a vampire novel, in the Twilight books. Twilight is famous for its glittering vampires and has a bad-boy love triangle involving a werewolf. This is a risible series of books, and it is understandable that every last one of them is avoided by most sci-fi fans, no matter how close to the sci-fi shelves the horror is placed, and no matter how prominently the Twilight books, and others like them, are displayed. But not all Vampire books are like this.

Forever Young is not a vampire book in this modern, romance, sense. It goes back to the original myths about vampires, and takes those myths at their word. In folklore there is no mention of vampires being super strong, or as fast as the Flash. Those ideas all came later. Vampires have much stranger powers, such as being able to open any lock, and have equally strange limitations, such as not being able to enter a building without being invited.

Vampires are doppelgangers, hypnotists, monsters capable of melting away, forced to live in the dark, cursed with eternal undeath, but they yearn to connect with the living. Forever Young is a vampire book from an entirely new perspective, and for anyone who feels (often with good reason) that vampire books are outside their comfort zone, I say give it a read. Or, for the kind of sci-fan who usually arrives at this site, I can recommend my bestselling space opera, Galaxy Dog.

The Dark Galaxy series starts with Galaxy Dog:

What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet brings to light an ancient archeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy.

The entire series is available to buy from Amazon.

In fact, why not read both of them? To make it easier to read the two books I have set up a coupon at Smashwords. The same coupon code is used for Forever Young and Galaxy Dog. It has an expiration date of Feb 03 2020, which is a month from now.

The two for one coupon code is: YN54L

Forever Young - Regular Price $4.99 Promo. Price $2.50
Galaxy Dog - Regular Price $4.99 Promo. Price $2.50

Use the same coupon code for 50% off each book and read the two of them for the same price as buying just one book. Whether it is the sci-fi of Galaxy Dog or the gothic horror of Forever Young that is outside your comfort zone, you can read them both.