A Penguin Eats a Boy Named Simon | Also, Free Stuff

Well, it looks like the Big Five might soon be the Big Four. I woke up to the not-so-awesome news that I’m sure you’ve heard about already: Penguin Random House is slated to acquire Simon & Schuster. Rather, its parent company Bertelsmann, which bought S&S for $2.2 billion.

As far as I know, there’s no word yet on whether or not the two publishing houses will merge into one, but at a time when the publishing industry has been flipped upside down by a worldwide pandemic, with delayed book releases, scandals involving imprints not paying their authors, and fewer new books being bought, this just freakin’ reeks of 2020.

But I don’t like to think in apocalyptic terms. As freelance editor and former literary agent Sarah LaPolla said in this tweet on Twitter, Big Publishing is eating itself. Mergers like this are inevitable, but the demand for books doesn’t change. In the short term, the space might be more competitive for a writer looking to get a big book deal, but small and mid-size publishers will grow as a result.

I ain’t worried about it. Moving on to better news. Who wants an amazing free book?

I’ve just purchased 10 Kindle copies of JJ Blacklocke’s debut sci-fi space opera REFUGE, and I want to give them away.

But there’s a catch: I’m only looking for readers who like science fiction or are willing to try something new.

Blurb for REFUGE:

Nine hundred Vennans undertake a cultural exchange to Tradepoint, a space station where aliens from different worlds meet to do business. A young and gyfted Speaker, Gredin, is translator and diplomat for the happy occasion.

But a horrific vision shatters her first night’s sleep on Tradepoint. Venna, their homeworld, has been destroyed. Now the safety of the delegation, the only Vennans left in all of time and space, rests on Gredin’s young shoulders.

Stunned and grieving, she navigates trade wars and political prejudice, bartering with other races—some friendly, some neutral, some outright hostile—for what her people need to survive. And the cost of failure is the unthinkable.


As an early reader, I’ve been intimately familiar with this book since before JJ’s agent started shopping it to publishers and ultimately sold it to Aethon Books. And I’ve believed from the beginning that this is a book that transcends its genre. It will be read and loved by people who normally don’t read sci-fi, just like A Game of Thrones is beloved by many, many readers who otherwise don’t read fantasy.

If you’d like a free Kindle copy of this book, go to my Contact page and send me a message. Tell me your favorite sci-fi novel or that you’re interested in giving this one a shot. There’s no obligation to read and review, but I would hate for these copies to sit unread on your Kindle.

One final note before I sign off:

In case you haven’t noticed, my co-conspirator WB Welch and I are hosting a 300 word writing contest, free to enter and with loads of prizes. Read about it and submit here, and then join us on New Year’s Eve to read the winning entries, find out if you won a prize, and have a chance to win one of several giveaways we’ll be hosting that night on Twitter!

With love,


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