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.

…..

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.

The Best Things I Laid Eyes on in 2015

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So a few weeks before Christmas, I put out my “Best of” list for short stories, fully intending to do the same for books and movies and who knows what. Then…I didn’t. But, I don’t want to leave it all hanging out there, so I’m combining lists and putting out a “Best Things I Laid Eyes on in 2015” list. You’ll find movies, books, places, people and more. I tried to think of the entire past calendar year, but I know I missed a thing or two I loved. Forgive me. So…here’s my list:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

bb-8_14e2ad77I’ve seen the newest Star Wars film twice now and yet it seems like we’ve just shaken hands. I can’t even tell you how many times I saw IV, V, and VI as a kid. We had the movies on VHS and I watched them over and over and over. I loved them all and when Lucas re-released them in theatres with the latest effects, my dad made sure all of us kids were sitting in the seats.

Then the Prequels. Ugh. Like so many others I wanted to like them. Like so many others I was disappointed. I barely remember watching them and I know I’ve only seen Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith once each. And I know with the final movie I only saw it so I could say I did. There was no hype. No anticipation. No excitement.

Not so here. There are haters, but they can forget about trying to get me to hate it. It checked all the boxes for me and established new characters I care about. A re-tread? Hardly. Similar storybeats, but so was Harry Potter. So have been stories throughout the ages. I am an unabashed fan and I don’t care who knows.

Weapons of Mass Deception by David Bruns and J.R. Olson

weaponsmass_cvr_lrgBruns and Olson have a great book on their hands, I think. Reading this book brought be right back to the hours and hours I spent reading Tom Clancy’s books when I was in high school and college. Clancy had a knack for telling a complicated story with complex international political ramifications and making me care about it. With Weapons of Mass Deception, Bruns and Olson have done the same. The book is a tremendous achievement and I can only hope that the two coordinate their efforts again to give us more books like this down the road.

Jessica Jones / Daredevil

David-Tennant-Jessica-Jones-Poster-Doctor-Who-BrasilI’m lumping these two together. The first two Marvel properties developed for Netflix and both were daring (pun intended) and showed us a side of Marvel we didn’t know we would ever get on the screen. In Daredevil we got a great introduction to the dirty underbelly of New York and were made aware early on that anything goes. Daredevil showed us that in violence, but keeping with the theme of Murdock’s blindness, a lot was kept in the dark and at night. That violence was brought to light big time in Jessica Jones. I loved Jessica Jones. I think I liked it better than Daredevil and that is saying a lot. As a father of a pre-teen girl, I am worried about the world she’ll grow up in and the boys she may date. As a high school teacher, I see a lot of borderline abusive relationships as well. In Jessica Jones, we see those relationships personified in the villain Kilgrave. What a performance and in a way it’s a shame what the end result was for his character. I’m looking forward to what Marvel and Netflix will be cooking up for us in 2016.

Chicago Architectural Tour

BoatTour2_NatalieTaylorI went on a school trip to Chicago early in the summer and one of the things we did was this. If you ever get the chance, it is a great trip up and down the Chicago River with historical context for nearly every one of the buildings along the shore. There is a lot of new building going on and the new Trump Tower gets its fair share of criticism, but I daresay that is part of what has spurred the new developments along the route. The day we went ended up being a lot colder than we anticipated, but I still wound up fascinated by what I saw and heard along the tour.

Constitution/Warrior by Nick Webb

warriorThese books were great. So great that when I was buying Christmas gifts, I bought them in paperback for my dad. He’s hard to shop for, but he’s a military space sci-fi nut, so I knew I was safe with these books. I enjoyed Constitution, but I wasn’t sure what Webb would give us in the follow up. Wow. He really set up a complex and interesting backstory for each side in the conflict (and there are many more than two) and set up a potentially explosive third book in this series. If you like action and intrigue in your science fiction, check out Nick Webb’s books.

Ant Man

The last movie I remember smiling about so much in the theatre before Star Wars was Ant Man. Such a great movie. Really impressed me with its humor and vibe. Just as Daredevil and Jessica Jones redefined Marvel for the TV audience, so did Ant Man for films after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy. I love the nods to Avengers and how it all fits in with the larger universe without feeling too small.

My Newest Book Cover

Coming Soon…. Check this out:

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The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott

I’d read the book by Andy Weir last year so I can’t credit that here, but the movie exceeded all my expectations. I have been burned too many times by books turned into terrible movies, and so when Scott managed to turn The Martian into not only a decent movie, but a GREAT movie, I was thrilled. Matt Damon did a fantastic job and I thought the changes made from book to film were slight and appropriate for the conversion to the movie theatre.

ALL the short stories

11160045_10207031928225789_1011873126454258904_oI read a lot of short stories in 2015. A LOT. I already did my Best of list for just short stories, so I’m not going to rehash them here, but if you like short fiction, you need to check out the Future Chronicles curated by Samuel Peralta. Some great works by a lot of amazing authors. (Myself included, Full Disclosure.)

My Family

Over the summer I had the opportunity to see a lot of family. My wife and I went on a joint vacation to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge with her parents. Unlike some, I do like my in-laws and we had a great kick-off to the summer and good stories for years to come.

We also had a family reunion for my family. My sister lives a couple states away and my older brother is over 2,000 miles away, so getting us all together is easier said than done. Fortunately it worked out and we all met at my parents’ home for a few days. Unfortunately, my 99-year-old grandmother passed away in North Dakota the same week, sending my parents off to handle that business. All of my siblings were able to make it for the funeral, but it did put a bit of a damper on the overall summer get-together. Regardless, it was a great time to see people I don’t typically get to see.

The Dark Man/The White Night by Desmond Doane

26105206A different kind of books than Webb’s offerings, but still just as compelling. If I was going to put out a Best Books of 2016 list, I really think The White Night would have held the top spot. Who is Desmond Doane? That’s the penname for Ernie Lindsey, an accomplished author on his own, but for these horror/supernatural books, he wanted a little edge he couldn’t provide as himself, so Desmond Doane was born. The first book is good, but the second…man, I couldn’t put it down. There was a moment – and you’ll get there too – when I read it and I had to send a message to Ernie cursing him out for what he did to me. I couldn’t wait to write up my review for it and I am strongly anticipating the third book in his Graveyard: Classified series in 2016.

Humbird Cheese, Toma, Wisconsin

humbird-cheese-mart-910750A must stop on our family trips to North Dakota. On our way up for the funeral, we had to stop here. If you love cheese, this is a great place with free samples of nearly all the varieties of cheese. Me? I love a good smoked cheddar and buffalo wing-flavored cheese curds.

Collider Movie Talk on YouTube

We ditched the Dish this year. After over 10 years with either Dish Network or DirecTV, we finally cut the cord so to speak. We rely on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu for most of our traditional TV viewing. However, I’ve come to expect one show each day – Collider Movie Talk on YouTube. Each day, John Campea leads a panel discussion show to discuss movie reviews, box office returns and general movie news. It isn’t dry – each of the hosts have their own unique brand of humor and their passion of movies and genre movies in particular is infectious. In addition to Movie Talk, they also produce weekly shows for comics (Heroes) and Star Wars (Jedi Council) as well as a plethora of TV show recap episodes. If you like entertainment news that isn’t just Kardashian this and Kanye that, check this out.

Meet The Immortals — David Bruns

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Most of my reads these days tends to be sci-fi, or perhaps a fantasy book here and there. A few months ago, I had the chance to read a book outside the sci-fi/fantasy genre and it was a great experience. Took me back, in fact to my high school days. I devoured Tom Clancy books (not literally of course) when I was a teen and moved on to Clive Cussler and Vince Flynn as an adult. David Bruns (along with JR Olson) put together a top-notch military thriller called Weapons of Mass Deception that harkens back to the glory days of Clancy with a modern style. I really enjoyed it and hope he continues to pen books in the genre. But it’s also clear David Bruns is an excellent writer and his science fiction also earns him a lot of respect as well.

David Bruns’ story in The Immortality Chronicles is a welcome change of pace and one that I think a lot of people will enjoy. The Immortality Chronicles drops on Friday, Sept. 4 featuring stories by Patricia Gilliam, John Gregory Hancock, Drew Avera, Gareth Foy, D.K. Cassidy, Thomas Robins, E.E. Giorgi, Harlow C. Fallon, David Bruns, Paul B. Kohler, D. Robert Pease, and myself. The anthology is curated by Samuel Peralta and edited by Carol Davis. Until launch day, you can get the collection for just $2.99.

Now…on to Mr. Bruns:

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nWho are you?

I’m David Bruns, recovering corporate executive and full-time author. I think of writing career as my Third Act. In Act One, I was in the US Navy for ten years and served as a commissioned officer on a nuclear-powered submarine. Act Two was two decades was as an executive in high-tech that included seven moves, two years in Asia, and a metric butt-load of airline miles.

Writing is my Act Three. I always knew I’d get to this place in my life–it just took forty-odd years to get here. I write science fiction under my own name and alternate history-military thrillers with a writing partner, JR Olson. JR is a twenty-five year US Navy veteran who spent most of his career in naval intelligence. We write and blog together under the name The Two Navy Guys.

Since my leap into writing, I’ve released a sci-fi series called The Dream Guild Chronicles, and a bunch of short fiction. The Two Navy Guys published Weapons of Mass Deception, a novel about modern-day nuclear terrorism, in May.

Why are you writing for the Immortality Chronicles?

Did you say ImmorTality Chronicles? Oh no, I thought this was the Immorality Chronicles—I need to get my story back from Samuel right now!

Seriously, it’s such an honor to be part of what Samuel is doing with these short fiction anthologies. Ever since I reviewed Telepath Chronicles last year I wanted to be part of it. I even went so far as to write a “reserve” story for AI Chronicles called “I, Caroline,” but all the invited authors came through–which is a good thing.

The fact that the anthology is benefiting a literary cause just makes it sweeter for me. I’ve always been a huge reader and I think every kid needs books in their life.

David author pic - cropped-minWhat did you write for The Immortality Chronicles?

My story, “Legacy,” is about a brilliant inventor named Edward Stemm who loses a leg in the Iraq War. When he gets home, he is dissatisfied with the available prosthetics and forms a company called Stemm Bionics. As time goes on—and Edward gets older—he replaces most of his own body with bionics. When the story opens, Edward is being sued by his great-granddaughter and CEO of Stemm Bionics to force him out of his own company.

In “Legacy,” Edward pursues the goal of life extension to the exclusion of all else—including living. At the end of story he makes a final choice about how he wants to live. The underlying theme of the story is that our entire culture is built on the transience of human life. Much of what we do in our lives—raise children, win awards, build inheritances—is with an eye toward how we will be remembered when we’re gone.

Did I mention I was an English major as well as a naval officer? I could go on about this stuff all day…

How can we find out more about you and your writing?

The best way is to visit my website at www.davidbruns.com. You can browse all my work and even download the David Bruns Starter Library for free.

What’s next for you?

I have a short story in the upcoming Cyborg Chronicles and another in Tails of the Apocalypse, edited by Chris Pourteau. My writing partner and I have started writing the sequel to Weapons of Mass Deception. Last month, my first-ever submarine story, called Voyage of the Orca, was published as the first episode of a serial novel in the anthology, Experiments & Enchantments. Episode Two is calling. I like to work on more than one thing at a time.

Chronicles Week! (with Kindle Paperwhite Giveaway!)

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Been radio silence around here for a couple months. Sorry about that…I’ll fill you in later. Suffice it to say this summer didn’t go exactly as planned on the writing front, but was still productive as well.

(Yes, yes…I’ll get to the Kindle Paperwhite giveaway in a bit…)

But while I haven’t been updating Ye Olde Blog at all this summer, I’m breaking that fast now for Chronicles Week.

Let me back up a bit. When I started writing, I credited a lot of the reasons why to one man — Hugh Howey. After reading his blog and WOOL, I was heartened by his approach and the success he had. Not success as in worldwide blockbuster multi-millionaire success, but rather just simply getting that book written and published success. I told anyone and everyone that it was due to Hugh Howey’s career that I had one as well.

While I still credit Hugh a lot, I’ve taken my own course in the past year. And what a year it’s been in my life. Exactly a year ago this week, I arrived home after flying to Africa with my wife to adopt our four (now five) year old son. If you’re familiar at all with international adoption, you know that the transition isn’t always smooth. Our son has been a blessing on our lives, but my writing schedule took a huge hit. I went from being able to write hundreds or thousands of words a day to dozens. Maybe.

So it was a huge boon when I worked up the courage to introduce myself to Samuel Peralta.

robot chSam is the publisher and curator of The Future Chronicles. A year ago at this time he’d only published the first of the series — The Robot Chronicles. I nabbed an early copy and wrote up a review for it and honestly included it in my best-of-the-year list. I saw some of the authors he’d included in that volume and knew I was as qualified as some of them. I asked about being considered for a future anthology and he graciously read my novella Ant Apocalypse. A few weeks after returning from Africa (and writing virtually nothing the whole time), Sam got in touch with me and offered me a spot in The Alien Chronicles.

I will honestly tell you my heart skipped a beat when I read the message that Sunday afternoon (yes, I can tell you exactly where I was) and I had to read it a couple times before I would believe it.

I knew the quality of story the Chronicles called for, so I took a personal day off teaching and wrote all day. The worst part of that? I ended up scrapping the entire story I spent the day on and went a different direction. But I needed that time to convince myself the first story wasn’t as good as the story I ended up writing — Uncle Allen.

(Hold on, the Paperwhite giveaway is down a bit, hang in there…)

alien chWhen The Alien Chronicles released in early January 2015, my story was one cited in a number of reviews as a favorite, and I reached a bigger audience in that month than I had in the previous year and a half I’d been publishing put together.

The Chronicles allowed me to keep writing, but adjust my new life around quality stories with a larger audience thanks to the dozen writers featured in each volume. Being put alongside writers like Hugh Howey(!), Jen Wells, B.V. Larsen, W.J. Davies, Ann Christy, and… (I could literally go on all day…) has elevated my stories and pushed me to write even better than I did before. The relationships I’ve developed in the past few months have shown me the different ways to be an author in today’s new publishing system and Samuel Peralta is a true visionary with goals for the Future Chronicles for multiple anthologies down the road. I’m as thankful for Peralta and the universes he has had a hand in creating as I am for Hugh Howey at the start of my career.

the-z-chroncilesUncle Allen led to Z Ball (my editor says its my best yet) in The Z Chronicles and I’m one of the few veteran voices to be featured in The Immortality Chronicles (now up for preorder — get your copy now!)

With all that said, it’s CHRONICLES WEEK! All the authors behind the current Chronicles books (so far we’ve had Robot, Telepath, Alien, A.I., Dragon, Z, and Alt.History 101) plus the half-dozen or so planned in the next eight to nine months are showcasing the Future Chronicles anthologies. If you haven’t yet read a Chronicles book, there is a special edition due out in a month, entitled (appropriately enough) The Future Chronicles. It will feature ten stories which have previously appeared in Chronicles books and five NEW stories, as well as a Foreword by Hugh Howey himself(!). It’s up for preorder right now for just 99 cents.

And in honor of the celebration, The Future Chronicles authors are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Wait, there’s more! Not only will you get a brand new Kindle Paperwhite, this amazing machine will be pre-loaded with all the Chronicles titles already released. Each of these books have hit #1 in the Sci-fi/Fantasy Anthology list and you want to win this thing. Visit here to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway (GIVEAWAY is now closed. Thanks for all who entered!)

Still here? 

uncle allenOkay…visit The Future Chronicles this week and check out all the amazing books there. If you want a taste, my Alien Chronicles story, Uncle Allen is FREE this week only. Check it out as a taste of the collection.

Author Interview – Jennifer Ellis

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Jennifer Ellis is one of five authors with books releasing next week under the “Apocalypse Weird” banner. The series started out with The Red King by Nick Cole and is spreading like a firebomb with the next books in the series, which include entries by Ellis, Michael Bunker, Chris Pourteau, E.E. Giorgi, and Cole himself with the follow-up to Red King. After reading Ellis’ book Reversal, I knew I wanted to interview her on my blog. The novel is a great read, in or out of the AW series. It reads a lot like a Clive Cussler novel with bits of Dean Koontz mixed in for good measure. And while you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, check out that M.S. Corley cover as well. Wicked.

Oh…and there may be a few spoilers, so consider yourself warned in advance.


WS: Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Why don’t you start with a short background about who Jennifer Ellis is and your career thus far.

JE: Well, I’m a bit of an enigma, even to myself. I started off as a serious academic and have a PhD in Geography, but quickly decided academia was not for me. I always wanted to be a writer and I could not see how a career teaching at a university and being forced to publish or perish could fit with my writing aspirations. I’m also a bit of a lone wolf. I like working on short-term projects, over which I have significant control, on my own, preferably in my house, in my pajamas, with the option to sneak out for a skate ski in the afternoon. So for the past sixteen years, I’ve worked as an independent consultant doing research, coordinating projects, and writing reports for multiple clients in the fields of sustainability and climate change. I started writing fiction seriously in 2007, and after having an agent and trying the traditional route for several years, published my first novel , A Pair of Docks, in 2013, which is a middle-grade science fiction fantasy. I have published two more since then—the second in my middle grade series, called A Quill Ladder, and a dystopian action adventure novel for adults, called In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation. Reversal will be my fourth novel. I also have published two short stories in anthologies—Synchronic and Tales from Pennsylvania.

My writing career thus far has been pretty fun, and I’m so glad I decided to go indie. I have had lots of amazing breaks and met lots of fantastic people. I’m still very much at the beginning of my career, but plan to ramp things up significantly in the coming year. I had just started two pretty major and intense consulting contracts in December 2013, which left very little time for writing over the past year. Those two projects will be done in March, and I’m really looking forward to focusing more on writing.

Reversal_FT_FINALWS: How did your involvement in AW come about?

JE: I had met Nick Cole and Michael Bunker through my involvement in Synchronic, which I was invited to join by my editor, David Gatewood, and got to know them a bit through the Facebook Launch Party and subsequent Facebook interactions. You know Michael and Nick—never a dull Facebook moment when they are around, beards and all. It’s sort of like working with Iceman and Maverick. And more importantly, they are both seriously great writers. Then I worked with them both in the Tales From Pennsylvania anthology. They asked me to join the AW crew and after doing some quick math in terms of whether I could generate the required word count to produce a complete novel by December, I gave them a resounding yes, and have been thrilled to be along for the ride ever since.

WS: What inspired your story Reversal?

JE: Well, I am Canadian, so I wanted to do something with a bit of a Canadian and snowy spin. I also have friends who have done Arctic research and I thought the Ellesmere Island setting offered a lot of scope to do something a bit different than what the others were doing. Also, since I do have a background in climate change and geography, I wanted to take more of a geomorphological and environmental approach to the apocalypse with pole reversal, solar flares, super volcanoes and methane-venting craters. I’ve always been interested in the different theories of mass extinction and what from an environmental perspective might finally do us in.

WS: One aspect I was impressed with was the authenticity. Do you have a background in Arctic research?

JE: Thanks so much. No, I don’t have a background in Arctic research. But I did hang out with people who did do northern research in grad school and heard a lot of their stories, mostly about not being able to shower for 45 days. I also spend a lot of time in a snowy climate, as I live in a ski town. We have bears in town and our yard routinely. Regular black bears of course, but I am accustomed to thinking about bears every time I go out for a run in the summer. I also did a research paper on penguins in university, and when I started writing Reversal, I had just finished reading a book about Shackleton’s voyage to the Antarctic. Pulling the rest together was just pure straight research, which I am pretty used to doing.

WS: What’s it been being a part of the initial AW team?

JE: The best! They are such a great group and have been fantastic to work with. It has also been super exciting to be part of something that is such a revolution in publishing. But it has also been a bit nerve-wracking because of course I wanted to make sure my novel measured up to Nick’s and Michael’s and the other two launch books by Chris Pourteau and E.E. Giorgi.

WS: How about that Corley cover?

JE; I love it. He is a pro and totally worked with me to develop the elements that I wanted to include. It was great fun to be able to imagine what my characters looked like and how I saw the various settings and be able to send him links and have him just produce them with his pencil. That is true talent.

WS: Any hints on your next book?

JE: My next Apocalypse Weird book will be called Undercurrent. Sasha will carry on to the Falkland Islands in search of Murphy and Soren, and then back to the Arctic to retrieve the green folder with the mysterious coordinates with the help of Gregor, who has uncovered some information regarding the polar bear tags. They will encounter more than they bargained for, and discover that all magnetic roads lead to Mount Asgard on Baffin Island, the Deccan Traps in India, Parhump, Nevada and the year 1974. That is of course, assuming I get to write it, because that is not a given in the Apocalypse Weird world, as readers have to connect with my writing and characters, so if you want more Polar Wyrd, make sure you leave a review for Reversal.

WS: One last thing…exploding penguins???

JE: It seemed appropriately apocalyptic. I do feel a bit bad about the penguins. No real penguins were harmed in the writing of Reversal, I swear. I might have to have the penguins take over the Antarctic research station in Undercurrent to make up for it.


Seriously — if you love a good thriller, Jennifer Ellis’ Reversal might be right up your alley. A bit sci-fi, a bit mystery, a bit supernatural. All together a great read. It is just one of the five Apocalypse Weird books releasing on February 23.

Anthology Awesomeness!

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Whoa…time got away from me and I forgot to update you guys over here. In the span of one week in the beginning of 2015, I have two stories in two separate anthologies to tell you about. Let’s start with The Powers That Be.

Cover3Back in early 2014, I was privileged to be in my first anthology — WOOL Gathering. All the stories were centered around Hugh Howey’s WOOL Universe and were penned by authors who had all previously written WOOL stories. It was a fantastic collection that I will forever be proud of. One of the best parts is that all the proceeds will go towards the National Novel Writing Month Young Authors program.

So, the authors of LOOW (the League of Original Woolwriters or perhaps the Loofah of Obstinate Wetness) have brought forth another charity anthology — The Powers That Be. It’s already been for sale for a few days and been holding steady on the Kindle Science Fiction Anthology sales charts. Nine stories, all centered around superpowers. Authors are: Ann Christy, WJ Davies, Samuel Peralta, Logan Thomas Snyder, Carol Davis, Thomas Robins, David Adams, Paul K. Swardstrom, and myself. And, I was able to cajole Ernie Lindsey into penning a wonderful Foreword to the book. All great stories, confirmed by the outstanding reviews we’ve received so far.

My story is called “To Sacrifice A King,” and deals with the oft-overlooked role of superhero sidekick. A touch of humor, a smattering of pop culture superhero references, and a question: do powers really make a hero?

For a limited time, just 99 cents and all proceeds for this book will go towards the Sickle Cell Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. The price will go up soon, so get your copy before it’s too late.

alien chrThe next book to tell you about is The Alien Chronicles. Throughout the back half of 2014, I watched a few independent anthologies get published — From the Indie Side, Synchronic, The Robot Chronicles & The Telepath Chronicles. After reading the first three and absolutely loving The Robot Chronicles (enough for it to make my top 18 list of 2014), I approached Samuel Peralta about joining in a future installment. He looked over my meager qualifications and invited me to join The Alien Chronicles.

To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. But I was also incredibly nervous. These anthologies are showcasing some amazing independent publishing talent and I was going to put my stuff up against theirs and say it’s on the same level. I worked hard to put out the best story I could — ultimately drawing back to my roots visiting my grandmother’s farm growing up. My story is called “Uncle Allen,” and has about the same vibe of my short story Ant Apocalypse.

But check out the list of authors joining me: Hugh Freakin’ Howey, B.V. Larson, Jennifer Foehner Wells (her Fluency was on my Top 18 List, too!), Daniel Arenson, Blair Babylon, Annie Bellet, Peter Cawdron (I love that dude), my good friend and writer WJ Davies, Patrice Fitzgerald, Autumn Kalquist, Moira Katson, Samuel Peralta, Geoffrey Wakeling, and Nicholas Wilson. Foreword by my pal Stefan Bolz. Holy Smokes. Edited by the incredible David Gatewood with a cover by the incomparable Jason Gurley and you have about a perfect package. People are going to love this book.

It’s up for pre-order right now and will officially be for sale on Friday, so pick up your copy and get to reading. Between these two books, you can read 24 stories for less than the cost of a Value Meal at McDonald’s. Amazing value for some amazing stories.

Self-Publishing: What a Kick!

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I’ve been on the inside of the self-publishing world for a little over a year now and every day is a new adventure. It is a fun ride and I get to enjoy my own success, along with seeing friends (and even family!) enjoy successes as well. Among some of the things I’ve done in the couple months or so:

  • Published a family short story collection featuring stories by myself, my brother Paul, and my sister Betsy – Baking With Swords. It was very rewarding on a personal level and it is a thrill to have a book with each of our names on it.
  • superRead a number of GREAT indie books. Some have been published already, like Super by Ernie Lindsey, Eleanor by Jason Gurley, Dead in the Water by Carol Davis, The Lazarus Particle by Logan Thomas Snyder, The Fourth Sage by Stefan Bolz, and Ma Tutt’s Donut Hutt by Lyn Perry. Some haven’t seen the light of day yet, but are going to do great when they are out: Desperate to Escape, Part 4 by Thomas Robins and Strikers by Ann Christy. (You really can’t go wrong with ANY of these books and the genre range is wide from space opera to supernatural to cozy mystery and young adult dystopian.)
  • Wrote and published a new short story within less than 5 days’ time. I wrote about it the other day, but my new short story, Contact Window was released last week and I’ve already received 6 fantastic reviews. I enjoyed the characters so much, I’m really contemplating expanding on the universe in the book after finishing my Dead Sleep Trilogy.
  • CW vertWrote my 100th post on my blog last week. Since starting this site up last summer, I’ve written about a lot of things, but I hope my love of indie books has been clear.
  • And today, watching Michael Bunker’s Amish Sci-fi book Pennsylvania rocket up the charts. All along the way, I’ve seen him be totally transparent about his sales figures and his joy of self-publishing and selling this book.
  • Oh, and I think in the next week or so, I should have something to announce about a WOOL Gathering paperback. Get ready!

This is a new age for books and publishing. The average person may not realize it, but there are boundary-pushing books out there, available, and for a much more reasonable price than the cookie-cutter books the traditional publishers are shoving down our throats. If you haven’t tried a self-published book, just give one of the above books a shot. You might find you were surprised by the quality of self-published fare (especially if you believe what a few of the traditionally-published authors are saying about us in the indie community.)

Throughout it all, I’ve had a blast. Self-publishing is such a kick!