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.

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My Top 10 (actually 18) Books of 2014

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It’s December, so that can only mean one thing – end of the year Top 10 lists! I did my favorite reads of 2013 last year, so now this can be a yearly thing. Just like last year, most of the books I read over the last 365 days or so were independently-published. Just like last year, I really believe we are in the midst of a publishing renaissance thanks to the new digital publishing tools at our disposal.

Personally, I did manage to get my second novel published, but everything else I published ended up being short stories (a couple will even be showing up in the first couple weeks of 2015). Due a lot of family situations, including a major addition to my family in August, writing just wasn’t as much of a priority during a few stretches. I can say I was able to get about 1/3 of Dead Search written and will endeavor to write the rest by spring. The year 2015 will be a great year and I encourage you to check back on this blog for future updates.

Anyway, back to the list. There are more than 10. Yep—a top ten list with more than 10. Deal with it. I took all my honorable mentions and just included them as well. Also, these are books I got a kick out of reading. Me. So if you don’t agree, I understand, but this is my list.

I don’t want to rank them, even though it will certainly come across that way, just due to seeing them in an order. So, the order will be assigned in alphabetical fashion, with one exception. The top spot belongs to one book that I know I will be reading over and over again. That book is:

The Martian by Andy Weir

martianHands down, The Martian was the best book I read in 2014. I read it in February and also listened to it as an audiobook this summer. Even after that, I still long to re-read it with fresh eyes. That’s the notes I was getting from friends when I first started reading it. From my Amazon review:

“I can honestly say I understand and I will have those jealousy pangs when I recommend it to a friend. The last book I honestly felt like that with was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. My brother was reading it for the first time a few weeks ago and I felt that. Like I wished I could go back in time, read it for the first time without spoilers and experience all those feelings I did for the very first time. This book was fantastic.”

From there, I will put the rest of my 2014 favorites in author reverse-alphabetical order (cuz those at the end of the alphabet get screwed. Jennifer Wells knows what I’m talking about), starting with:

Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells

fluencyI kept getting recommendations from Amazon and other places to buy and read this book. Finally I ran out of excuses a couple of months ago and I am glad I gave in. Fluency is a terrific tale of first contact with an alien race. Told from the perspective of a non-astronaut, Dr. Jane Holloway, a linguist, who is along on the trip to hopefully help find an “Alien Rosetta Stone,” of a sort. Instead, Holloway herself ends up being the Rosetta Stone and we see what happens in deep space when you begin to question all you know, your own sanity, and even your crewmates. Fluency is well done and I am intrigued by what Wells will offer us next.

 

The Violet Series by Logan Thomas Snyder

BV-Full-Cover-e1408487510867Three parts into a multi-part story and I’m fully engrossed. Logan Thomas Snyder has given us three tales so far—Becoming Violet, Being Violet, and Breaking Violet, and each have given us a great story with artificial intelligence as a fascinating backdrop. Here’s a part of my review of Becoming: “At first, I thought it was a typical “Bicentennial Man,” Isaac Asimov robot story with a man dissatisfied with his robot. Snyder, however, took the story in a new direction, giving the reader an introspective, yet action-filled tale of love in the face of trials. What does it mean to love? Does it have to be between two humans or can it be more than that?”
I know Snyder has a few more parts up his sleeve, but I also suspect that the farther he goes, the more the story will continue to grow and thrive. If you haven’t checked these stories out, they are just 99 cents a pop and are a great, easy read.

 

Zero Echo Shadow Prime by Peter Samet

ZESP_cover650Perhaps the most “holy cow, what did I just read” book I laid my eyes on this past year. I had heard some early buzz about this book and the cover was certainly an eye catcher. Frankly, this book did not catch on for some reason, but it still deserves an audience. From my Amazon review:

“So you might be asking – what is this book about? Zero Echo Shadow Prime is a novel about one character…or is it four…or a billion? My head is frankly still spinning a little…
But even apart from all the action, this book really offers some intriguing questions. What exactly is a human? Is it just flesh and bone or is there something more? If a person was able to move their consciousness to a computer, is there a spark of humanity there?”

Desperate to Escape by Thomas Robins

d2e fullThere are a number of authors on this list that I can claim a friendship with, and Thomas Robins is one of them. Desperate to Escape was published partly in 2013, but was finished in 2014 with a thought-provoking finish.

In four serial installments to the book, Robins gives us the story of Ineeka, an astronaut hailing from the inner city of Chicago, who, like the title implies, is desperate to escape from the constrained circumstances of her life. Throughout a flashback style narrative similar to “Lost,” Robins gives us a complete portrait of Ineeka, a girl lost on earth, but who finds her destiny in space.

Super by Ernie Lindsey

superLindsey is one of the best indie storytellers out there today. He has the ability to tell compelling tales in a variety of subjects and genres, and in Super, he took on superheroes. Super was released in the wake of “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” which showed the corruption of the government and its attempts to reign in the world’s superheroes. Edward Snowden and NSA data mining was also a very contemporary issue during the summer months when Super hit Amazon, which made the book and its subject all the more applicable.

From my Amazon review:

“I didn’t come into reading Ernie Lindsey’s Super with CA2 in mind, but it is hard to distance yourself too much from it after finishing and realizing the complex web Lindsey wove to get to the ending of the book. This is one book that I genuinely had a hard time putting down and when my Kindle ran out of battery life, I had to bide my time until it was ready for me to finish the book off.”

Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese

Starship GriftersI really can’t put it better than my Amazon review.

“After reading Robert Kroese’s Starship Grifters, I came to one conclusion: everyone in the 31st century is an idiot. Rex Nihilo is either the smartest man alive, or a Forrest Gump of a con artist, lucky enough to stay alive in the face of ridiculously deadly circumstances. I’m still not sure — I’ll get back to you on that.
In fact, the only one in Rex’s world that seems to have any brains is his robot, Sasha, who is programmed to turn herself off whenever she actually has an original thought. In a world like that, Rex seems to surround himself with the power players of the galaxy who all turn out to be bumbling morons.
I don’t often laugh at the books I read, but I found myself chuckling, chortling, at times flat-out guffawing — at times uncontrollably — at Kroese’s humor placed in the best places in the story.
At the end of the story, we do get answers to questions I wasn’t sure we were asking, but it certainly paved the way for more Rex Nihilo books, which I will gladly shell out money for whenever Mr. Kroese decides to write them.”

Sand by Hugh Howey

sandSand was one of the first novels I read in 2014, and almost a whole year later, it is still a thrilling book that continues to set Hugh Howey apart from other authors. I was lucky enough to read Sand earlier than most, and shared my thoughts on Amazon:

“I can honestly say I was blown away by Sand.  After I read Part 5, I said SAND > WOOL and I’m sticking by it almost a week later. The book is just magnificent and Howey once again shows off his masterful storytelling with an imaginative dystopian world that is all at once hard to fathom and easy to believe all at once.
Hugh calls Sand the antithesis to WOOL and I can see that clearly. While WOOL is about the absolute control that a small group of people can exert upon the masses, Sand is the opposite. It’s what happens when there is no clear authority and yet people live, work, and die — all under the invisible thumb of some unknown force.

If reading Hugh Howey is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

EleanorShould we call this book Eleanor 1.0? After releasing Eleanor earlier this year, Jason Gurley acquired an agent, and sold the rights to Eleanor. A new and edited version of the book should be in stores in 2015, so perhaps Eleanor will grace this list again next December. Regardless, the book I read was a great work; one that was clearly a labor of love.

From my Amazon review:

“There are many different reasons to read a book. Most times I tend to read to think about something in a new or different way. To spark my creativity and challenge my accepted ideas.
This book, Eleanor by Jason Gurley, is not that kind of book. Not that it doesn’t make you think. I had a lot of thoughts while I read this book. I thought about the similarities between it and two other books I’ve read. One was fairly recent – Neil Gaiman’s Ocean at the End of the Lane, while the other I read when I was just a child – Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Both had a profound influence on me, but all three of these books didn’t so much make me think.
They made me feel.”
The Robot Chronicles, edited by David Gatewood

robot anthoThere were a number of short story anthologies that I just fell in love with over the last year, but The Robot Chronicles absolutely leads the way. David Gatewood started out with the terrific, but eclectic From the Indie Side, then we got various tastes of time travel in Synchronic, but it was in Robot that the audience really got a treat. So many great stories, told in manageable little chunks. There are a ton of amazing stories inside, starting with Hugh Howey’s Glitch. Among the other authors to pay attention to is Matthew Mather, Wes Davies, Patrice Fitzgerald, Ann Christy, Edward W. Robertson, and A.K. Meek among the others.

I was a HUGE Isaac Asimov fan growing up and still have a lot of reverence for a well-told robot story, so I greeted this collection with excitement and a bit of trepidation, but the authors pulled it off. From my Amazon review:

“One of the best things about this collection of stories is that it got me to get out my collection of Asimov robot stories and re-read and re-discover them in the light of this remarkable modern anthology. Each of the stories in TRC is fantastic, even if I didn’t specifically name the story and author. I’ll carry these stories with me for a long time.”
(Reviewer’s Note: I have a story that is slated to appear in The Alien Chronicles, which is the third in the Future Chronicles series after Robot and Telepath. I was selected after I had already read and loved TRC.)

Dead in the Water by Carol Davis

DITWThis book is definitely different than most on this list. I think you’ll find most are hard science fiction with a great many set in space, but Dead in the Water takes our two protagonists to a creepy lake town in upstate New York to investigate a series of deaths over the decades.

Davis is a heckuva writer. This woman can paint a scene. Her mind works on the level of screenplays, so virtually every scene I can see set before me, as if leaping off the page and onto my TV screen. From my Amazon review: “While she is a pro at putting together a plot for short stories, Dead in the Water shows she is more than capable of adding the complexity a novel calls for. Her writing is sharp, and in this case, not for the faint of heart. She isn’t afraid to scare her readers, putting her protagonists in terrifying situations, only to play out their fears for the readers to see.”

Binary Cycle by Wes Davies

binary cycleI think a lot of people were interested to see what Wes Davies had up his sleeve after he finished telling his Silo Submerged series—one of the first WOOL fanfic stories. In Binary Cycle, Davies gave his readers a novel originally told in three parts that works quite well when put together. After reading the third part, I wrote: “The action is taken to a new level and after the early revelations in the book, Davies pushes his characters physically and emotionally, so much that the reader is left panting by the end of the book.”

Originally, I had a couple issues with the second installment and the pacing of the series, but in the third story redeemed Davies and when put together, I think it all works fairly well.

Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole

spsNick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier may be a traditionally published book, but it has the heart of an indie title. Cole certainly champions independent authors and his book takes risks like an indie author might. There were certainly moments that harkened to a book like Ready Player One, but there was more to this, and in fact Cole tackles the anonymous nature of online interaction with a violence inherent to modern video games.

From my review:

“With a name like Soda Pop Soldier, I half-expected a light-hearted romp through modern video games. What I got was something completely different. Something telling about how many of us live our lives online and the anonymity that we expect. Something visceral and violent, yet clean and sanitized at the same time. Something that fully engaged my head and heart alike.”

Strikers by Ann Christy

strikersAnn Christy likes to call herself an “accidental author.” If it’s an accident, it’s a happy one, as this woman can really tell a story. In Strikersher first full-length foray outside of Hugh Howey’s silos, Ann showed what she can do. From my review:

“Ann Chisty does a fabulous job of world-building, creating a realistic dystopian world where Karas and her friends find out what they are really made of. Her characters are very believable and although she does an admirable job tying up storylines by the end of the story, there are plenty of seeds and avenues to explore in future tales in her Striker Universe. I enjoyed reading it far more than a lot of dystopian young adult books on the market today and I feel she really tapped into the emotion that fuels much of the young adult fiction market these days.”
My Sweet Satan by Peter Cawdron

mssI’ll just start with the beginning of my Amazon review:

“With a title like that, it was a little difficult for me to want to read this book. Peter Cawdron has made a title that is very provocative, but if the reader can just get past it — get to the heart of the story — they will realize that Satan has very little to do with this tale at all.”

In fact, Cawdron has made a great first contact story that is really less about the first contact than it is a character study of stressed individuals in deep space approaching the unknown. Is it really Satan or something else – something worse?

I’ve always been a fan of Cawdron’s stories and can’t seem to get enough of them. The best part of MSS was perhaps the character of Jason, the ship’s AI. Again, from my review:

“I’ll say this about Jason — he may be the best character I’ve seen in a long time. I loved what Cawdron did in creating a character that feels totally real, but is not only fictional, but also doesn’t have a body to call his own. The evolution of Jason was fantastic and I would love to see more of him in a future book if Mr. Cawdron ever decides to revisit his MSS Universe.”

Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker

Bunker_PENNSYLVANIA_Omnibus_EbookEdition-640x1024The first two parts of Pennsylvania were on my list from last year, so this isn’t too much of a surprise. Bunker finished up his book by answering questions, but certainly leaving more than a few unanswered for a sequel in the upcoming Oklahoma.

From my Amazon review:

“The book is a great work, alternating between moments of calm with the Amish lifestyle, and anxiety with the pending war between the two factions on New Pennsylvania. The simple life that that Amish lead with the chaos and politics of the “English” world raging around them. Bunker has painted a brilliant picture of this dichotomy by showing the differences between Jed and Amos. One content to be plain – the other aware of a different calling on his life.”

The Fourth Sage by Stefan Bolz

10338227_10203080505026343_2241684756519716173_nIt hadn’t been very long after I’d read Stefan Bolz’s other novel, The Three Feathers, when I got my hands on The Fourth Sage. I found it to be a wonderful example of a dystopian novel without the depressing tropes that so often inhabit those books. From my review:

“There is a positivity present in Bolz’s work that you don’t find in other author’s books. In a post-apocalyptic, authoritarian society, you would expect to find death and depression around every turn, but for some reason, whenever Aries, her winged friend, Born of Night, or any of her numerous friends appear on the page, it is difficult to not smile and know that somehow, someway, their destiny is to survive and even thrive.”

Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon-Max-BarryLexicon is one of the few books I haven’t written an Amazon review for, but there are a few reasons for that. One – I actually read it as a paperback and wasn’t immediately prompted to write a review, and two – it was the first book I had a chance to read after the adoption of our son was complete.

Regardless, Lexicon was a ride and a half. Hugh Howey had been pushing this book for a while and when I had some money to spend at Barnes & Noble, I specifically looked for this book and devoured it in the days that followed. I loved the secret society nature of the book and the pacing. It was extremely well-written and I’ll certainly look out for Barry’s books in the future.

New Release – Jam Night

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Jam NightAbout a year ago, I wrote a short story inspired by things that were going on at the time. There had been some Internet bullying of indie authors, so I worked out some demons by writing a fictional story informed by my time in junior high. I can’t say by any stretch that I enjoyed junior high (with the exception of Mr. Henry’s Geography class and my 8th grade band trip to Michigan), but my experiences developed who I am.

Who am I?

I am a person who was bullied. Even now, over 20 years later, when I write that statement, my heart hesitates. Even admitting it makes me wonder if someone will retaliate against me. You might scoff, but that fear still runs through me to this day.

I was going through my blog the other day and found the story I’d posted, which I called Jam Night. I read through it, dusted it off a little, tightened up the wording and added a few hundred words to the narrative. It isn’t a long story — coming in just under 2,500 words, but it is one I needed to tell. I don’t care if anyone buys it or even reads it, but I wanted to put it out there for anyone who might be going through a tough time at school, or in their personal life with bullies. It is a trite saying, but it does get better. The first couple years of high school were no treat, either, but I can honestly say that a small group of friends made my final few years in high school some of my favorite memories.

Ultimately, writing the story helped me to tackle a few of my own demons left over from junior high. Will I ever be rid of all of the demons? I doubt it, but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe those demons are there to remind me what it’s like to be on the side of the bullied. As an adult, it’s easy to say kids should just “suck it up,” but for them, the fear can be crippling and debilitating. I hope this story can at least help one person in that regard.

Book Deals of the Week

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There are some great books out there for a great price this week. Let’s take a look at a few:

Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole

spsSoda Pop Soldier will be on my list of my favorite books of 2014, you can count on that. I loved Ready Player One, and Nick Cole took that technological society and showcased it through a different lens. I reviewed it a couple months ago here.

Thankfully you can get Soda Pop Soldier for much less right now. Just $1.99 for your Kindle copy. Michael Bunker says this is his favorite book of the year and I won’t disagree. Fantastic book.

This is really one of those books you will read and want others to read as well. That’s what makes the $1.99 price point so great. Buy one for yourself and a couple for friends — all for less than the original price of the book.

Dead Sleep by Will Swardstrom

You don’t think I would do this without including my own book, on sale this week for just 99 cents? This was my first novel and the first in a planned trilogy. The sequel is also available and the third book is about 40 percent done.

Dead Sleep tells a story of discovery with an action-fueled chase pushing the narrative. I was really inspired by Clive Cussler and Lee Child as I was writing this, with a definite sci-fi angle.

Dead Sleep is 99 cents for the rest of the week.

Linear Shift, Part 2 by Paul Kohler

linear shift 2Paul Kohler’s Linear Shift is soon to get its third installment in November, so now is a great time to catch up on what has happened in Part 1 and 2.

Kohler boldly takes on the time travel story, but takes his time setting the scene. Part 2 is longer and deeper than the first part and I fully expect the third story to really advance the plot when it drops next month.

Right now you can pick up Linear Shift, Part 2 for just 99 cents.

Janey X39: Rebirth by Nina Tozzi

janey x39Not really a deal, but after reading it, you’ll feel like you got one. Nina’s first foray into self-publishing tells the story about Janey, a household robot. Of course, there is more to see than just a standard robot story and Tozzi really makes the reader feel.

I picked this story up and read it the same day. Here is some of my review: “I can’t say I was surprised by the ending, but Tozzi does such a fantastic job of portraying heartbreak and loss that I didn’t even mind not being shocked at the reveal. The point is — Janey is shocked. In spite of everything that had happened to her and her existence as an “android,” Janey shows a lot of humanity in the pages of this story.”

Janey X39: Rebirth is just 99 cents.

Free Book Today – Baking With Swords

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The short story collection I published a few months ago with my brother Paul and my sister Betsy is now available for free for a very limited time (just one more day!).
You can pick it up at no cost and enjoy three separate and different short stories. Paul’s story, The Price of Greatness, is about man’s eternal search rivaling the ordinary of daily life. Betsy’s tale, Flutter, tells about a mother and her daughter, who is undergoing inexplicable changes. My story, A Whimper, is an end-of-the world tale through the lens of one person and society’s dependence on technology.
To get it, just click on the large cover image above!

A Conversation with Logan Thomas Snyder

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A couple weeks ago, I was asked by Logan Thomas Snyder if I would be interested in joint interview. Snyder is the author of one of the latest WOOL fan fiction stories, titled The Disappeared: Part 1, a mystery which looks at the seedy underbelly of silo life. Since I released The Veil back in late July, I’ve been welcomed into the WOOL world and have been blessed in my journey. What follows is a back and forth between myself and Logan over the past few days where we talk about each other’s books, favorite authors and the writing process among other topics. It is a great conversation if I say so myself. With that said – enjoy!

WS: Tell me how you came to write a WOOL story:

LTS: For me, I think, it was the challenge. Obviously I love WOOL (the omnibus was the very first thing I downloaded to my Kindle when I got it last year), but it’s not like I finished and started right away on my story. In fact, I wasn’t even aware there were other Silo stories until I saw Hugh gushing about WJ Davies’ The Runner. So I read that, then Jason Gurley’s amazing Greatfall series, and that’s really when the gears started turning. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that before The Disappeared I had zero experience in quote-unquote fan fiction. I just never felt comfortable writing for other authors’ characters in their worlds. Because of the unique nature of the silo system, though, I realized I could take a silo and run with it. So that was appealing, the challenge of taking an established, closed setting and imbuing it with an original story and characters. Throw in Hugh’s blessing to attach our stories to his world, and it feels like what we’re doing is almost semi-canonical. Or maybe ‘canon lite’ is a better way of describing it. Either way, for better or for worse, we’re all connected now, and that’s exciting.

Same question for you, with a follow-up: What, if anything in particular, inspired your story, The Veil?

Well, obviously I can’t answer that without saying Hugh Howey and WOOL. Just like you and so many others, I fell in love with Howey’s futuristic world after I finished the WOOL Omnibus. But, it wasn’t until I looked him up and started following his blog that I really thought, “Hey…maybe I can do this, too…”

I had planned to write a novel forever, but it was Howey — a man just a little older than me — who really inspired me. I wanted to honor that and pay tribute to his world, especially when I saw WJ Davies’ The Runner and other Silo stories in the early part of this year, but I pledged to finish my novel first. Once I did, I worked on The Veil. But, what directly inspired the story of The Veil? It was my sister. She had written for a newspaper in Grand Rapids about her trouble conceiving and with miscarriages. A line just jumped out at me where she talked about her circle of friends leaving her behind and her being an outsider with no kids. If you’ve read The Veil, this is a part of Mary’s life about halfway through and I basically built a world around that small little scenario, except in a silo.

I will also say really quick, that I had never written fan fiction before, either. I had always dismissed it, but Hugh added a sense of legitimacy to it with his endorsement. Now that I’ve done it, I’ll say it is sometimes more difficult that penning your own work. Instead of framing your own world, you have to follow the guidelines set out by someone else. It isn’t easy and I believe it actually helped my writing by forcing me to be more disciplined.

Next question: The Disappeared is your first work, right? How’s the rest of the story coming and when can we expect them? 

That’s incredible, although I think in retrospect I sensed there was something more personal lurking between the lines of that transition in Mary’s life. There was something very intimate about it that I think most people would be hard pressed to imagine cold, without the life experience underpinning it –- which, of course, is where the best stories often come from.

dis_cover_1As for The Disappeared, it’s actually my first published work of fiction. Up until about five years ago, I was a dedicated biographer and all around nonfiction article writer. Then I just hit the wall and decided I wanted to tell my own stories instead of other peoples’. So, like you, I embarked on my first novel. Unlike you, I failed miserably. I hit a point where I just didn’t know what to do with it. So I scrapped it and started on another one. Same result. That was when I realized I needed to think smaller. The result of that was my first novella, This Mortal Coil. I viewed it as more of a personal project, so I didn’t publish it, but just seeing it through gave me the confidence to return to the novel form. It took a little more than a year, but I finished my first full-length novel, The Lazarus Particle, a few days before my thirty-first birthday.

About a week later I emailed Hugh with a very lengthy pitch for The Disappeared, and he quickly emailed back with his blessing. I started on Part I the next day. As for the progress, it’s going great. Part II is the better part of done, and I’m about halfway through Part III. Part II should be available in early October.

Next question: Let’s talk a little bit about characters. What do you think is the worst of the secrets Mary carries with her? Or, if not the worst, maybe the most potentially damaging? Feel free to interpret the question as you see fit. There’s so many, I can certainly think of a few, but I’m curious as to your view on the subject.

I don’t know that I succeeded where you failed. I had many starts and re-starts over the last 10-15 years, but I wasn’t able to have the endurance to finish until I saw Hugh’s story.

As for Mary (SPOILERS AHEAD FOR The Veil), I’d identify two as damaging. Obviously if you’ve read the story, you know that the entire tale is centered around all the secrets Mary keeps from her family and the rest of the silo. The first of which is certainly one I could lead with. When she decides to reject the lottery as a newlywed and then keep that fact from Jacob, it sends her on a downward spiral. Ultimately the argument could be made that each and every one of her mistakes from that point on were a direct result of the initial secret she kept from her husband.

Veil_Part1On the other hand, the worst and longest-lasting secret would be when she indirectly sent her friend Chelsea to clean. By aiding Ari Green by betraying her best friend, she sided with IT over Chelsea, her mother and even her father’s legacy. But even then, it is really the secrets and the heritage of secrets passed down from her mother that led to it all in the first place. If Mary’s mother had told her earlier about her father, perhaps Mary might have made a different decision at the end of The Veil.

Next question: Was there something specific that led to the ideas behind The Disappeared? If we start wading into spoiler territory for the sequels, just say so.

I thought you might mention that first one and I have to agree. I remember reading her denial of the lottery and thinking it was almost a kind of reverse original sin. She’s presented with this unexpected gift, and instead of taking it, she refuses it, only to continue to come back to that moment, and how much different her life might have been if not for that rash decision and everything that follows. It’s a powerful statement, how people fool themselves into thinking secrets will eventually wither and die, when really it tends to be the exact opposite.

As for The Disappeared, sadly I didn’t have to look too far back into recent history for a real-world analogue. For those of us that don’t have a background in history (it would seem we’re pretty well steeped, you being a history teacher and me being a history major and biographer), Latin America experienced an incredible period of turmoil as a proxy battleground of the Cold War. During the late 1980’s, so many political dissidents went missing in Latin American countries that a new slang term was coined by necessity to refer to them: los desaparecidos, loosely translating into “those who were taken/went missing in the night” — also known more simply as the disappeared.

So to answer your question, my specific motivation for The Disappeared was examining crime and punishment in the silos, in particular what other options there are for someone who isn’t sent out to clean. The other side of the coin, so to speak. And from there it just fell into place, the combination of missing girls as part of a deeply disturbing conspiracy that overlaps our own modern-day concerns about government surveillance and overreach.

Next question: Tell me a little about [your first novel] Dead Sleep. I’ve got it on my Kindle and it’s a strong contender for my next read. Without giving too much away, what should I look forward to?

I think it’s great when we can harken back to a historical event or even to modern-day issues in our writing. The Latin American angle is clear when you explain it, but I can also see parallels to modern-day slavery, similar in some ways to the Liam Neeson movie “Taken.”

So…Dead Sleep. It was my first story, even though the short story Perfect Game was published about a month earlier. I started the book back in January of this year after I had been at a funeral for a friend’s mother. While I was in line to see the family, I kept thinking of a character waiting to see someone who had died. Then, the concept came to me — what if she wasn’t really dead?

As all stories do, it took a lot of different shapes early on, but within a month or so, I pretty much knew where I wanted to go with it. The trick was to finish it. Teaching high school at the time, I was able to work on it alot in the evenings, but I had to stop here and there, once for over three weeks. But…I kept on writing and that’s the trick.

Dead Sleep 3 medI’ll tell you something… the blurb on Amazon references that the main character, Jackson, has the ability to see his future. While that sounds supernatural, there is so much science fiction in the story. Kristina, the girl he thinks is dead, has nanomachines running through her body and later they are pursued by a team of androids. While there are a lot of questions answered at the end of the book, I’ve got a lot planned for two sequels to complete a trilogy. In book 2, we’ll find out a lot more about Jackson and his abilities and book 3 will really showcase Kristina’s talents.

Right now, I’ve actually got a new cover in the works and it may be done by the time this interview goes live (it hasn’t — stay tuned). With it, I’ll also have a print edition for the first time.

Next question: Who are some of your favorite authors? Who do you think you write like?

I was wondering when someone was going to mention Taken in connection with The Disappeared. Not that I disagree with the comparison the way you made it. You’re absolutely right, there are definitely points of overlap. It was one of the first things I had to get past mentally. But, I mean, ultimately, Echo is no Liam Neeson. She can’t fight and for the most part she’s completely out of her element. I mean, as much as she doesn’t understand the word ‘quixotic’ by the end of the story, that’s sort of the irony. What could she ever really have done for Shim on her own, the way she set out about it? And yet, be that as it may, no one could have ever talked her out of her search — as we’ve seen — and so we come to Part II, with her… well, you’ll see.

As for favorite authors? Wow. I’m going to say right off the bat, A.C. Crispin, who sadly passed recently but also wrote the absolutely amazing Han Solo origin trilogy that I read waaay back in high school. I haven’t read it since, but I remember that being sort of a touchstone of science fiction for me, in love with Star Wars as I was at the time. More recently, though, William Gibson, Iain M. Banks (again, another recent passing, so sad), Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern, Carsten Jensen, so, so many more. Oh, and all my fellow Woolwrights, of course! We strive for excellence in all things. (Sorry, had to do it.)

Boy, that last one is a killer, though. I don’t think I write like anyone. Not to say that my style is especially unique; I’ve just never really thought about it, I guess. I’ve had such a weird, circuitous journey to fiction that I feel like I kind of had to work it out for myself in large part. Trust me, if you saw how bloody red some of my pages run after a good long editing session, you’d see what I mean.

Same questions.

Wow…just goes to show how many influential authors are out there. I’ve read some of Crispin (Star Wars geek myself back in the day) and a little of the others, but most of the writers you cite I haven’t really read. I’ll have to tap into some of them someday.

As for me, I really have to credit my dad. He is a huge science fiction and fantasy fan and had a lot of classics for me to read through the years. Overall, my main influence in childhood was Isaac Asimov. His robot stories and the Foundation novels really informed my writing a lot. He had a way of advancing the story in a very concise way. Not too flowery for the sake of inserting adjectives into the plot. Robert Heinlein as well…Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova, and Frank Herbert for sci-fi. Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and J.K. Rowling for fantasy. Writers I like to read today include Hugh Howey, Lee Child, Vince Flynn (RIP), Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Clive Cussler.

I would love to think I write like Asimov. I did a lot of research into him when I was younger and he said he wouldn’t rewrite. He would write what he wrote and he rarely went back to re-do anything in his books. I think in many ways, I’m like that. But, I also have tried to pattern myself after modern-day writers like Dan Brown, Stephen King and Clive Cussler in terms of pacing and action.

Next question: What do you do for a living and when and where do you write the best? How do you find the time to write?

I’ve worked in the incredibly uninspired field of advertising and marketing for a little over three years now. It’s no coincidence that I started really writing in earnest again right around the time I took the job, mostly because it’s so lacking in creative stimulus that I needed some sort of outlet. The best thing about writing, unlike say something like painting or music, is that I can brainstorm and write in my head while I work. Even better, and really the best part about the work, is that I can more or less make my own hours, so if I have a sudden flash of inspiration, I can usually put it aside and get whatever just jumped into my head down on paper. As for where and when, I’ve got a nice little home office that’s pretty much my writer’s nest; I’ve never been one of those people who can peck away in a coffee shop or whatever, I definitely need to have control over my environment and that’s where I tend to find the most inspiration.

Speaking of occupations, one of the things I found most interesting about the world of Wool is how precious little the characters know about the world that came before the silos. As someone who also has a background in history, do you think your background as a history teacher gave you a different perspective or insight into the series as a whole, or possibly even the way you approached your own story?

That’s a fascinating question. Initially, that was one of the things I was really skeptical about in Hugh’s stories. How can a group of people so easily forget their own history? Obviously, he takes care of that with the medication dosed to the people of the silo, but it still has a ring of implausibility to it.

That is, until you look at history itself. The Middle Ages — sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages — was a period just like this. The Roman Empire existed and was the dominant force in the world. They ruled with an iron fist and provoked all their enemies in every direction, eventually suffering at the hands of the Visigoths and Vandals because of it. In WOOL and SHIFT, you can see a similar thing happening. The United States has so much power that it is very much like the Roman Empire in the latter stages. While the Romans had the Germanic tribes to worry about, the U.S. has foreign powers like Islamic extremists and Russians.

DUSTAfter Rome fell, the knowledge they had built up virtually vanished within a generation. All the Greek philosophers — Aristotle and Plato, Archimedes and Pythagoras — all the learning just went away. The world was “controlled” by the church and the bubble it established over the entirety of Europe, but eventually knowledge was re-discovered and Europe emerged stronger than ever. Obviously some stayed behind in the ignorance of the Catholic Church, but for the most part, Europe and the rest of the world were able to break free of the silos — I mean the “darkness” of the age. 😉

Next question: There is a lot of fanfiction out there now for WOOL. How much have you read and what is your favorite? Why?

I definitely see the parallels on the macro level when you put it like that. As a reader, my reaction came more at the micro level. At first I felt a bit of a thrill, realizing I knew considerably more than the characters. That’s an interesting position for me as a reader, because it sets up the internal question of “Well, what happens when the truth comes finally comes out? How will people react, what changes will it elicit?” etc etc. But the further I pushed into the series, the more I realized the gulf of knowledge separating reader and character was not nearly as wide as I initially thought. What more do we really know that they don’t? Granted, we have the benefit of several thousand years of recorded human history to study, but even with that knowledge at our fingertips we’re no more capable of answering the questions that define the human condition to this day: Why are we here? What else is out there? Are we alone? At the end of the day, we’re all basically Lukas, looking up at the stars and wondering what, if anything, lies beyond. That was a powerful realization for me, one that made it a lot easier to relate to the characters and their unique situation.

As for the wealth of Silo stories now available, I have to confess I’m fairly far behind. For a while I was keeping good pace, but it seems like there’s a new one just about every day now! Greatfall continues to be my frontrunner favorite, I think, purely because of how shocking the subject matter was. The Silo Archipelago series was also intriguing to me, primarily because of the parallels with other underground movements throughout human history. As for the rest, my Kindle cup overfloweth with Silo fiction, so those two will definitely have some competition in the weeks to come as I finish up The Disappeared and have more time to kick back and read for a bit before resuming work on The Lazarus Particle.

Aside from your own personal favorite Silo fanfic, one last question: Based purely on your own parameters, which of your works are you most proud of and why? 

Greatfall is amazing. Jason Gurley really knocked that one out of the park. Boy, I’ve read so much of it, it really is difficult to say which is my favorite — they all have different flavors with each author bringing their own perspective on silo-life to the table. Bunker did great with the Archipelago, of course WJ Davies’ Submerged series (The Runner, The Diver and The Watcher) all have a great place, simply because they were really some of the first and Davies managed to end his just after DUST so they were really the first to incorporate facts learned in DUST into the narrative.

There are some great new authors coming up because of WOOL as well — Carol Davis, Brigid D’Souza, Ann Christy and Fred Shernoff to name a few. I’ll read just about anything they have to write, simply because of what I’ve already read from the WOOL universe.

As for my own books — that’s like asking which of my children I love the most!

Nah…not really. Right now, I have four published works (I just published Ant Apocalypse yesterday) with two short stories, a Silo novella and my novel. I think my best writing so far was in the Silo Saga novella, The Veil. I really worked hard at keeping the details clear and concise and fitting that into Hugh Howey’s universe.

However, which one am I most proud of? My novel, Dead Sleep. My writing (and finishing!) it, I proved to myself I could do it. Before I became a teacher, I’d worked for a newspaper and I could write 500-2,000 word articles all day long. But…a novel? I didn’t think I could. Once I learned about Hugh and his process…then found out that he endorsed “shorter” novels with as few as 60,000 words, I really decided to go for it. It wasn’t easy, but I persevered throughout a six-month time period to finish it. The book will always have a special place in my heart, in spite of some flaws in retrospect.

fin.

The novel I always wanted to write…

Link

Dead Sleep 3 medThe novel I always wanted to write…

I’m turning 34 this week. Throughout my life, I’d set arbitrary milestones for myself (i.e. by the time I’m 25, I’ll have written a novel; by the time I’m 30, I’ll have written a novel, etc…) In January of this year, I finally decided to just stop making excuses and just do it.

This is that novel. It isn’t necessarily the idea for a novel I’ve always had in the back of my mind. That idea has changed and evolved through the years and it eventually all came together into DEAD SLEEP.

The novel’s opening chapter came to me as I was standing in the receiving line for a funeral in January, 2013. I started writing shortly thereafter and I never stopped. That was the key that always tripped me up in the past. I did take a few weeks off here and there (being a teacher took priority occasionally), but continuing and finishing became a priority for me.

So, what’s the book about?

Jackson Ellis is the early-20’s protagonist who narrates most of the story. He confesses early on that he can see his future, but hadn’t actively done so since childhood. One day, his ability came back and knocked him out with its intensity. What did he see? The woman he would love and eventually marry.

He doubted his infallible ability when I learned later on that that woman, Kristina, was dead in the basement of the local funeral home. To quell his curiosity, Jackson sneaks into the funeral home, discovering Kristina’s death is not as permanent as it first appeared.

Kristina’s father implanted technology that could kill her and bring her back to life when she was just nine years old. She was soon taken captive by a mysterious group known as The Company and is forced to act as an operative on their behalf with an evil man named Donnie Cloyd.

Soon, Cloyd is on the hunt for Kristina and Jackson, a hunt that can only end in violence.

So…there you go. I hope it sounds interesting. In addition to science fiction, I’ve been told it also is New Adult.

I didn’t want to give too much away in the plot, but there is a lot that I didn’t give away. I hope people like it — so far with five reviews on Amazon, three are 5 stars and two have 4 stars, so it looks like people enjoy it.

Oh…and I’ve put it on sale for just 99 cents in August. Check it out and let me know what you think…