Reviews for Blink Are In!

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Blink has been out in the real world for about a week and a half, and the sales have been good, but the reviews have been even better. I seriously could have pulled lines from each of the reviews up on Amazon and Goodreads — all of them are so good. Allow me a moment of pride; Paul and I worked really hard on Blink and are hard at work on figuring out how to get Agent Smith and the Utility Company back on your Kindles. Here are a few quotes from some of the reviews up now on Amazon…


 

unnamed“The Swardstrom Brothers hit all the right notes in this tight little Super Science / Alternate Universes roller coaster. If the X-Files made you want more of the strange and mysterious government organizations battling not just with guns and smarts, but the occasional wit in the face of certain doom, then look no further. This is a great Friday Night read. A fun, fast, adventure where all is not as it seems.”

Nick Cole, author of Ctrl-Alt-Revolt

“…a book that I didn’t want to put down, even when life got in the way.”

Shay VanZwoll

“The story unfolds at a solid pace that always maintained my interest and when it hit a boiling point about mid-way through the novel, the pace became relentless and was extremely hard to put down.”

Chris Fried

“The Swardstrom brothers have co-crafted a sci-fi work of art. Together, they have written a novel that seamlessly transitions between protagonists (and worlds), never losing its brilliant voice, its sense of humor, its sense of the supernatural, its sense of adventure. This is an action packed tour de force that introduces a great cast of characters that I hope return again soon for a new adventure.”

Jonathan Ballagh, author of Stone & Iris

“This is a great book you won’t want to miss, it is like when you know you should go to bed but you just want to read one more chapter than just one more, than another and another, than the book is done and it is way past your bedtime…”

Trisha “Mindjacked” Perry

“The Swardstrom Brothers’ supernatural sci-fi world of Blink is a phenomenal meshing of classic pulp and contemporary Fringe. This is the beginning of something grand.”

Daniel Arthur Smith, author of Hugh Howey Lives

There is still time to get Blink for less than a buck — click on the link above to see what the reviewers are talking about!

Now Available – The Control

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Last summer I was fortunate to be one of the authors pegged for The Immortality Chronicles. I took my story and ran all through history. I wanted my protagonist to have seen everything — from Gilgamesh to Cleopatra, The Black Plague to Ebola, Mozart to Justin Bieber. I incorporated a popular theme — alien involvement in ancient Egypt, and I was off. What came of it was my story The Control, which I published on its own yesterday. I’m really proud of that story and think readers will love it as well.

To pick up your copy, click on the book cover below. The description will follow.

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A moment exists for everyone—a moment between disaster and victory. It was there, in that moment, where I lived. Always waiting. Always letting my fate be determined by others. Always hovering between a rousing triumph and a crushing catastrophe. I was that moment. But my moment was not to be under my control.

My name is Bek and I am immortal.

Book Release – BLINK (and Free Stuff!)

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OK…so if you came here just for the free and discounted books, scroll to the bottom. If you’d rather read about my journey to get to this book’s release, read on.


the partyWow. Today’s the day, huh?

Blink is finally out there. Live, on people’s Kindles and being read. Makes me excited, but more than a little nervous as well.

Of course, I can’t claim all the emotion for this book — half belongs to my brother, Paul, and if he chooses to share them, this blog will be the first place they’ll go. But for today, here is a peek behind the scenes with me.

Last January was…a weird time. I was still less than six months out from going with my wife to get our son, and adjusting to life as an adoptive father. I really hadn’t written much in a long time. The Powers That Be and The Alien Chronicles had both released in early January with stories I’d written, but most of those words had been penned months earlier. I was in the doldrums. For sure.

Then over the course of a few weeks, I stumbled into a daily Facebook status serial of sorts. It was small at first, just a sentence or two, but over time it grew to 500 to 1,000 words — the kind of output I wanted as a writer. I decided one way or another, I’d take what I had and I’d throw it up on Amazon at some point. Probably a 10-20,000 word short story or novella. Kinda fun, but nothing major.

Then Paul messaged me. Turns out one of my secondary characters had sparked something. He went off and wrote a complete backstory and side story for Agent Smith. When he sent it my way, I gladly turned over my status updates to him for a while. It’s natural to feel like your own writing is trash and other people are better, but his storyline with Smith was a game-changer. It had something I didn’t have with my own story — my interest. My own storyline was fascinating, but Agent Smith had so many possibilities and he was such a realized character by the time out storylines converged, I knew we had to do something. Something important.

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We had to make Agent Smith the focus of the novel. Ultimately it meant tweaking a few things in the back half of the book, but it also meant a complete reworking of the beginning. We had to flip back and forth on chapters and provide a intro for Smith that would help establish him and his team in this world.

Ironically, the summer was the worst time for us. Both of us are teachers so it would seem as though we would have more time to focus on the book when we aren’t in the classroom, but more time at home meant more time with our kids and writing and editing Blink proved to be a difficult thing indeed. Once school was back in session, both of us were committed to finishing this and thankfully we did in October.

And with the completion of Blink, we believe we have the beginnings of a potentially long-running series. Like Clive Cussler with his Dirk Pitt (and now NUMA Files, Kurt Austin, and more) series or Lee Child with Jack Reacher. Agent Smith is tough, hard-nosed, bright, and resilient. He’s going to continue to be in stories, as soon as we figure out what those stories will be. (And in case you missed it, Paul and I wrote a one-off holiday short story with our favorite government employee — Agent Smith and the Naughty Elf, which is FREE for one more day.)

Paul and I write really well together. Like…REALLY well. For brothers born eight years apart and who actually didn’t really have much in common until we both got to adulthood, it’s kinda crazy how well our writing meshes. There was a little here and there that I had to smooth out of mine or his to transition, but I would say that I didn’t even touch 95% of his stuff in Blink. When he proposed adding to my story, I was all for it cuz it would save me time. Little did I know that would push us into a novel, and a fairly sizeable one as well. Less work? HA!

Over the past 12 months, this was a huge focus, along with my stories for The Z Chronicles, The Immortality Chronicles, Alt.History 102 and the forthcoming Illustrated Robot Chronicles. Those helped pace the novel in a strange way, giving me times to step away and refocus at regular intervals.

Now that Alt 102 and Blink are both out there and the edits for Illustrated Robot are still on their way, I need to plan my year. First and foremost — Dead Search, the third novel of my Dead Sleep series that I put off a year and a half ago. I need to re-immerse myself in that world and hopefully I’ll have something for readers sometime this summer.

A few last things before we get to the free and cheap stuff…

I have a heartfelt thank you for Samuel Peralta. His commissioning of short stories in The Future Chronicles kept me writing in so many ways. The work on this book wasn’t just done by me and Paul; Ellen Campbell killed it on the editing, Adam Hall put out a fantastic cover, and Therin Knite put up with a lot from me on the formatting. Thank you to each of you.


BUT…with the release of Blink at just 99 cents for a limited time, I’ve decided to have a sale on my books and short stories. Everything I have control over has been priced down to 99 cents or even Free for the next few days. All the links below are Free/Discounted titles for the next few days.

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Thanks for reading! Enjoy the freebies and cheap reads!

Brother to Brother

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unnamedThis week is an exciting one for me and my brother Paul. We spent a good chunk of the last year working on a novel together and we’re releasing it officially on February 4 (Thursday). That book is called Blink. It is centered around Agent Smith, one of the top investigators for The Utility Company, a government agency that takes on the strange and weird cases. What Smith and his team tumble into is an inter-dimensional conspiracy of sorts.

To get people acquainted with both of us, I decided to solicit questions on Facebook on Monday. What follows is a joint session in Google docs where we answered them live and together. It is fun, crazy at times, and sometimes painfully honest. Oh, and our sister (Betsy Baker) crashes the party. A LOT. Don’t mind her. She means well…

Let’s get cracking!


 

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Us (Will on left, Paul on right)

Jon Frater asks: How about we start with: whose idea was this book, anyway?

W: OK. Ready Paul?

P: Sure. Wait. This is a book? How did that happen?

W: Uh. Not quite sure. It originally just started as a random Facebook post. My forehead was dry, which I guess I found funny or odd or something and I posted about it. I did it the next day and the next day and then they started a life of their own. Like 19 or 20 days later I had a legit story on my hands but it wasn’t right. Then Paul stepped in…(that’s your cue)

P: “You can call me Mr. Smith.” That one little statement sparked something in me. I wanted to know more about Mr. Smith. Where did he come from? How did he come to know about the character Will was writing about? What kind of agency did he represent? Knowing the way Will was approaching things I had an inkling that he didn’t know any of the answers, so I wrote a bunch on my own, submitted to him and…

W: Yeah, you make me sound like a doofus, but that’s cool. No…I really hadn’t even considered much about Agent Smith’s background. To me when I wrote him, he was a cog. A piece of the machine to get my main character to do things. But when Paul presented me with his piece — essentially a parallel story with Smith and his people, it was clear that Smith should be the protagonist. It would have been stupid to keep Smith as the secondary character. And because of that altering of perspective, I believe it made this book what it is, and it will hopefully propel us to write more about Smith and the Utility Company in the future. (It does say Book 1 on the cover after all. No pressure)

That it? We good with that question? yeah.

Bill Matthews asks: I think that you should allow your sister to ask each of you some questions … or tell your tales about both of you growing up.

P: I’m scared.

W: I am really unsure about this. Let’s move on and hope this doesn’t come back to bite us.  

Samuel Peralta asks: Who’s on your dream cast for the movie?

P: Martin Freeman for Nik?

W: oooo…that’s almost eerily perfect. I know he’s been in the new Fargo so he can do an American accent, so I think I would be totally down for that. Agent Smith. I could go with a number of different actors, but let’s go out of the box and say Chiwetel Ejiofor.

P: And…., we’re done folks. Chi. is. awesome.

W: I really didn’t actually include a ton of descriptors for the characters, so there is a lot that can be flexible. Paul’s right. Chi is awesome.

Preston Leigh asks: What was the writing process like? Did one person give plot ideas and the other write the story?

P: One guy goes write, write, write. Other guy eats popcorn and says, “Yay! You’re awesome!” First guy flames out, says, “I’m tired” or “I have no @%$&* clue where this is going.” Other guy takes over.

W: Essentially. But I don’t like popcorn.

P: Or cheese.

W: Oh. I do love cheese. But Paul’s pretty well spot on. We…have a terrible writing process. We could have finished writing this book about 4 or 5 months earlier if we were actually dedicated. We had some basic plot points (usually Paul felt the need to have some kind of outline) and then I usually broke them.

P: yep

Judah Ball asks: Having a little personal insight to your family I know distance between authors was a roadblock. How did you overcome that hurdle?

W: I don’t recall a hurdle. Do you?

P: FaceBook messenger and Google Docs are our friend.

W: Friend is singular. You mentioned two things. That should be friends. Also…where is that hurdle? (But Messenger and Google Docs enabled this when 10 years ago it would have been impossible)

Deirdre Gould asks: Did you give each other Noogies to resolve editing disputes?

P: Can one give a noogie to another person 1500 miles away?

W: Metaphorically. I think. Can you feel that?

P: Ouch.

W: SUCCESS.

Betsy Baker asks: Paul, your birthdays are just eight years and one day apart. How did you feel When he hijacked your party that year?

W: Here we go. Ladies and gentlemen. If you are still reading, I apologize.

P: I’m supposed to remember my 9th birthday? I have enough trouble remembering yesterday.

W: I certainly don’t. Yesterday I mean. And I think she means your 8th birthday. When I was born a day later. She means you had the BEST PRESENT EVAR.

P: I think we had a pretty good tradition of sharing birthdays in our family. We made a pretty big deal about it actually, so it was cool. and EVAR, yep.

Betsy Baker asks: Will, how has your brother influenced your writing style? Do you remember any specific tortures that may have brought you down this path?

W: I guess this is directed at me, so I’ll answer this one. Uh……..Paul was usually pretty cool to me. I don’t know about you, though. But he was 8 years older than me so by the time I got to the point of knowing anything at all, he was already too cool for school, so it wasn’t really until adulthood that we became BFFFFFFFs.

Betsy Baker asks: Paul, younger brothers are notorious pains in the touckus. You’ve suffered this one for well on 36 years now. What is the greatest lesson you have learned from this pain in your butt?

P: Water. It goes under the bridge. Stop taking things so serious.

W: There’s water under your touckus? (and I think the spelling is toochus. maybe touk-us. IDK. Can we not say butt?)

P: I don’t know where you’re taking-us…

W: I don’t think she knows either. 😉

Betsy Baker asks: Will, your handle, has been, in the past, CheeseWill. Please tell us, what is your favorite cheese? The world wants to know!

W: Cheese. There are lesser cheeses or greater cheeses. All the cheeses are wonderful and prized.

Betsy Baker asks:  Paul, knowing how much you love Kraft Velveta, how do you feel about Howard Starks apparent love of processed cheese food?

P: Iron Man’s dad rocks?

W: I think Betsy is confused. I think she’s referring to the part in Captain America when Howard is talking about fondue. Fondue is not a processed cheese food. If I’m incorrect, tell me in the comments cuz I’m confuzzled.

Betsy Baker asks: We grew up with a father who was very much into Science Fiction and Fantasy books. Both of you, which of dad’s favorite authors were also your favorite authors? How did that infuence your current writing style?

P: Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, David Eddings, Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, David Brin, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster, Orson Scott Card, Andre Norton, Larry Niven, Tolkein…  endless really. There are so many books I’m thinking of that I can’t place the author at the moment. I think I just have this deep bank of resource inside my head. As to style… that’s still evolving. But, I know when something’s good when I see it.

W: Asimov. Heinlein. So many others. As for current writing style…….hmmm…I don’t know. I mean the last thing I wrote was a robot story that I really wrote as an homage to Asimov. So probably very influential.

W: Okay Betsy. Thanks for hijacking this perfectly good thread. Anyone else?

Betsy Baker asks: Growing up I remember a time in kindergarten when I the school held a haunted house. I became scared and wouldn’t budge. The school had to call Paul out from his 6th grade classroom to pull me out of the haunted house. Will, do you have any similar protective brother memories of Paul?

W: Sorry. My brain isn’t braining right now. I’ll come back to this one if I can think of anything.

Betsy Baker asks: Will was always an advanced child. He was in multiple advanced level classes in school and somehow always managed to place high in the Pinewood Derby competitions. Paul, how do you see Will’s drive and competitiveness coming through now?

P: Hmmm…. I think it shows up in different ways. He’s driven and committed. He grabs on to the thought of what he wants to do and he pursues it. He’s committed to family and he’s great with them.

W: When I see a pizza, I commit. ALL THE WAY.

Betsy Baker asks: Piggy-backing on a question above a little bit, Will, how do you see Paul’s protective older brother nature come in to play now?

W: We’re really getting deep here, aren’t we. Paul is like the older brother I never had. Wait…he IS the older brother I do have. Anyway…I guess if we’re really looking into it that much, he does try to focus me when I’m flying all over the place on a plot point. He was the one who really directed much of the story in Blink and I honestly believe most of the better points of the book are because of him.

Betsy Baker asks:  Paul moved out of the family home far sooner than any of us would have liked. For a time, though, he lived quite close to you, Will. For writing purposes, I imagine that kind of distance would have suited you much better. How has technology helped and hindered your writing process?

W: OK. Background story time! When we lived in Arizona, Paul left to go to college. Because that’s what you do when you graduate high school. A couple years later we left Paul in Arizona because Dad got a new job in the Chicagoland area. YEARS LATER Paul decides the desert is too hot and when I am graudating from college, he takes a job an hour away from me for two years. We did a lot of stuff together like eating pizza and watching Blade II while he lived close by. Technology…we discussed earlier. Read that.

Betsy Baker asks:  Some of us know that your upcoming, highly anticipated, novel Blink involves inter-reality travel. Knowing that sliding is already a commonly accepted form of inter-reality travel, would you rather hurdle through a mirror, or slide like Quinn?

P: What about folding? Or entering new planes of reality by near-death experiences? or being stabbed in the eye? A simple stroll through a mirror sounds great.

W: Glory…who said anything about getting stabbed in the eye??! That sounds horrible. There is a bit of a B-movie horror vibe to the first quarter of Blink, but from then on, there is more of a straight up chase movie theme going on. In a lot of ways, I guess I borrowed from Star Trek’s mirror universe. Or Fringe. Which I didn’t even realize until after I’d written most of the book. Or co-written, as it were.

Betsy Baker asks: You’re both fathers and you’re both teachers. What is the one thing you seem to teach over and over again no matter if it’s your students or your kids? What is the one thing you have to relearn over and over no matter if it’s your students or your kids? How has that affected your writing and how has that made you a better writer?

P: No mixing of day job and whatever this is. No. Nope. Naw…. ok. this might have taught me patience there….

W: I have to tell my kids to put their names on the papers. I don’t know if that helped anything though.

Betsy Baker asks: Star Wars, Star Trek, Star Gate? Why?

W: Why choose? I would like a sci-fi nachos with all three. And extra guac.

P: Stargate Deep Space 9

W: …Episode VII

Rysa Walker asks: Each should ask the other why mom/dad loved him better. It’s a classic. 

W: Easy answer.

P: Matthew.

W: 🙂 (In hindsight, I think both of us read this question as who did Mom/Dad love better. Ooops)

Betsy Baker asks: You’ve both written some pretty fun stuff now. What character that you’ve written would you trade places with and why?

W: There are definitely a few I WOULDN’T trade places with. That’s for sure. Hmm…Maybe Bek from my story The Control? Maybe Franz in Requiem?

P: I wrote a story that I’m hoping Sam Peralta has seen for the Drifting Isles Chronicles. I really love the character I wrote for that one. He’s my take on Indiana Jones.

W: Cool story, Bro.

P: Bek is quality. There’s something to admire about him.

W: Yeah. I might be biased.

Adam Venezia asks: Will – how does co-writing a novel work? I’m real curious about the logistics of it. Who does what?

W: Did we already kinda answer this? Guess we should put out a FAQ.

P: Yeah cool.

W: I will say that I think you have to co-write with the right person. It wouldn’t work with everyone. We have fairly similar temperaments so neither one of us got bent out of shape when we didn’t get done what we said we’d do. We both like to write, but family and careers sometimes have to take priority, so this book wasn’t always Job #1. For us, we both were laid back enough to make it work.

Harlow C. Fallon asks: Here’s a question: If you (Paul and Will) could go back and change one thing in your life, what would it be, and why?

W: Letting our sister into this interview. LOL! (just kidding! sorta!)

P: Dang. That’s waaaaaaaaay too loaded of a question. If I had to do it all over again and had to make one choice again, it might be to have gone to Illinois with my family back in 1990. It would have been a different adult life. Totally.

W: Dude. That was a long time ago. You’re old. As for me….I don’t know. I hate to change things because there are so many other things that could change based on that one thing and I think even our failures make us into who were are. I worked for about six years at the local newspaper before I started teaching. I dug a huge hole for myself financially, but I learned so many things that I use as a teacher and a writer today.

P: Sure. I see the point. I wouldn’t want to change the last 13 years, but the 14 years before that….?

W: Tempting. For sure. If you could go and accelerate everything that you did right…that would be ideal.

P: If I only knew then what I know now….

W: Stupid hindsight.

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W: Is that it? You got any questions for me?

P: I think the crowd was a better interviewer than I could ever be. Good job crowd. Good job Will.

W: I agree. This was fun. A long thing, but fun. Look for Blink on sale Thursday in your local Kindle store.

Meet The Alt.Historians — Adam Venezia

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Alt.History 102 is up in the Top 10 of the Sci-fi Anthology charts and is getting some fantastic reviews, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t done meeting some Alt.Historians! Here is a few words from Adam Venezia. Who is he? I’ll leave that to him to answer…

Give us a brief introduction to you. Who are you? What else have you written? What brings you to Alt.History 102?

A few years ago, I walked away from a PhD program in Structural Engineering to pursue a career in writing. Seven years of studying engineering taught me that science fiction is more fun than science. Alt.History 102 is my first time publishing. Most everything before it has been practicing the craft.

What’s your story about? What gave you the idea for your story?

“The Black Network” is about what would happen if we didn’t have all this lovely access to the internet and computing. But, it’s not about a time before computers were invented. They exist, and are just as powerful as we think of them now. But access is limited, controlled by the wealthy, prohibitively expensive for just about everyone.

If you could pick a previous Chronicles anthology that you could alter history to go back and be included in, which one would it be and why?

Time Travel Chronicles. I actually got into the Chronicles by writing a story just for Sam – a sort of audition piece. Time Travel Chronicles was on the verge of coming out at that time, and I just barely missed my chance to be in that collection. A shame, because time travel is easily my favorite subject within science fiction.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

I recently started a blog. I’ve spent the past few years teaching myself to write, and put up the blog as a way of organizing and sharing what I know so far. That’s at adamvenezia.wordpress.com

Meet The Alt.Historians — Artie Cabrera

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Yesterday was the official launch day for Alt.History 102, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. Alt.Historian Artie Cabrera got in touch with me with his answers to my questions, and in an another reality, he would have met the deadline, so we were just in the wrong continuum…and that’s okay.

Artie has a unique voice in the sci-fi and speculative fiction field. I really dug his story in The Cyborg Chronicles — a space noir if you will — and his twisty tale of Christopher Columbus is a great turn in Alt 102. Now for more from Artie…

Give us a brief introduction to you. Who are you? What else have you written? What brings you to Alt.History 102?

Howdy! My name’s Artie Cabrera. After working in the music industry for twenty-years, I turned my attention and sorrows to writing my first story, an apocalyptic self-help book called I’M NOT DEAD. Since then, I’ve met some really talented writers, learned to sharpen my storytelling tools (I think), and discovered new characters and worlds within myself. Unfortunately, sometimes those worlds and characters have to die when they stop carrying their weight around here. No one lives in my head for free.

What’s your story about? What gave you the idea for your story?

While researching conspiracy theories and UFOs in ancient arts for a story, I came across a very short and vague article about Christopher Columbus and his encounter with a UFO at sea. Even though it sounded ridiculous and probably (definitely) never happened, I was compelled to outline a story around it. I wanted to know more about a story some crazy person started online but never finished. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. I filed the unfinished story away in the vault of a dozen unfinished stories for a couple of years. When Sam announced Alt. History 102 last year, I thought it was an ideal opportunity to bring it back to life. He said yes. Lucky me. And here we are.

If you could pick a previous Chronicles anthology that you could alter history to go back and be included in, which one would it be and why?

I would probably pick Alien Chronicles first, Galaxy second, just because I love alien stories.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

I’m currently outlining my Jurassic Chronicles story and the sequels to Diablo Del Mar and Johnny Rangers for a summer release. When I’m done, I’m going to try and peddle more stories into The Chronicles if the boss allows it.

Changing History

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Today’s the day!

Alt.History 102 is changing history starting today. From Nikola Tesla to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Hedy LaMarr to Hannibal, Native American disease resistance to Cold War politics, there are stories in this collection whether you are a history buff, or a sci-fi genre reader to all points in between. I’m super proud to be a part of this collection and my story “Requiem” I believe is one of the finest things I’ve written.

Throughout the past week, I’ve done some interviews with the authors, but before I leave the links below for those, here is the interview Hank Garner (Also an Alt.Historian) did with Samuel Peralta, Jennifer Ellis, Therin Knite, and myself. We had a lot of fun talking together and I think it shows.

Now back to the text interviews. Click on any of the names below for the previous interview.

Will Swardstrom

Drew Avera & Asha Bardon

J.E. Mac

Hank Garner & Therin Knite

Rysa Walker

Jennifer Ellis & Alex Roddie

And I couldn’t leave this without a link to the book, which you can get by simply clicking on the book’s image below. Reviews are already rolling in and so far readers are loving having their histories altered before their very eyes. Go buy it for just 99 cents for a limited time and read it for yourself!

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