Book Release – BLINK (and Free Stuff!)

Standard

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


the partyWow. Today’s the day, huh?

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

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

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

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

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

370

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

FREE

NaughtyElf 2

99 CENTS

ALT-History-102-eBook (1)

unnamed

Cover1 (1)

Concept 3

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the freebies and cheap reads!

Advertisements

Brother to Brother

Standard

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!


 

370

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.

Meet The Alt.Historians — Adam Venezia

Standard

ALT-History-102-eBook (1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to plug?

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

Changing History

Standard

Today’s the day!

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

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

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

Will Swardstrom

Drew Avera & Asha Bardon

J.E. Mac

Hank Garner & Therin Knite

Rysa Walker

Jennifer Ellis & Alex Roddie

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

ALT-History-102-eBook (1)

Meet The Alt.Historians — Jennifer Ellis & Alex Roddie

Standard

ALT-History-102-eBook (1)One day away from the official launch of Alt.History 102!! 

(I might be a tad excited…)

I think I said before that when I finished my story “Requiem,” I can honestly say it was one of the toughest challenges I’ve had as a writer — balancing the “real life” aspects of the story with the speculative elements I would add in by changing one or two historical events. I would say that most of the authors in Alt 102 would agree with me, especially the first of my guests today: Jennifer Ellis. Her story leads the collection and is a knock-out. She tackles the story of Hedy LaMarr in a real and emotional way. I appreciated her take on it and it fits the collection to a “T”.

Alex Roddie on the other hand is a new voice to me. I was tangentally aware of him through other work by mutual friends, but this was the first time I have been personally introduced, and I am looking forward to diving into his story later today.

If you missed them, the other interviews so far for Alt.History 102 are here —> Me, Drew Avera & Asha Bardon, J.E. Mac, Hank Garner & Therin Knite, and Rysa Walker.

And now, Jennifer Ellis…


 

Jennifer Ellis

Jenphoto-couch

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

I live in the mountains in Canada where where I write, hike, ski, borrow dogs, and evade bears. I also work as a climate change researcher, evaluator and strategic planner. I write mostly science fiction and fantasy. My Derivatives of Displacement series for children and adults is a time travel portal fantasy about the intersection between magic and science. The first novel in that series is A Pair of Docks and I just released the third novel A Grave Tree in November. I’ve also written several stand-alone novels including In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation set in the near future after peak oil has caused an economic collapse. I have also been lucky enough to be included in several anthologies such as Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel, Tales of Tinfoil, Tales of the Apocalypse and now Alt. History 102.

I came to Alt. History 102 in part through Synchronic, which Samuel Peralta was also part of, so we had met there, and in part because I submitted a novel to the Future Chronicles one book thread and Samuel checked out some of my other writing. I am extremely excited to be on board.

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

I have written an alternate history of Hedy Lamarr, Hitler, and World War II. Hedy Lamarr has always fascinated me. The facts of her life are in many ways stranger than fiction. Born in 1914 to wealthy Jewish parents in Vienna, she was the first woman to appear nude on screen in the controversial movie Ecstasy in 1933. She then married Austrian arms dealer who had dealings with Hitler and Mussolini and entertained both leaders at he and Hedy’s castle home. While fleeing her marriage, Hedy met Louis B. Mayer and was signed immediately to a contract with MGM studios. Dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, she became a major Hollywood star at the height of the golden age of Hollywood, but she is also credited with inventing frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology, which is the basis for Bluetooth, Wi-fi and many other modern communication methods. Upon receiving her invention, the military immediately classified it, and Hedy was dismissed to help the war effort by selling war bonds. Hedy did not receive credit for her invention until very late in her life when she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

All of these factors create so many delightful what ifs for an alternate history. What if Hedy’s invention was used in World War II? What if Hedy was a spy for the Allies, or the Axis powers, as some have speculated she might have been? What if Hedy had a relationship with Hitler, as has also been speculated? I took these threads and ran with them and had great fun as a result.

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

So many great Chronicles to choose from, so little time. My original instinct was to say that I would love to be in The Time Travel Chronicles (which I would of course… I would like to be in any Chronicles anthology) as I write time travel fiction and it would be great cross over to my other work. I spend lots of time thinking about various models of time travel, and paradox, and multiple universes, and stuff like that. And of course I would be interested in The Dragon Chronicles as I’m always tempted to throw a dragon or two into my fantasy series. Who isn’t? There will be a dragon somewhere in my future I’m sure. But I think I would like to be part of The Galaxy Chronicles. It would push me more as I have never written a story set in space, but I like to be pushed, and I am of course a huge Star Trek, Star Wars fan. I would like to see what I could deliver in a different galaxy, and I’ve always thought it would be handy to be a Jedi.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

Well you can always buy any of my books. I promise action-packed adventures. The first novel in my Derivatives of Displacement series is only 99 cents. You can find my library here: http://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Ellis/e/B00H6V6PH8

You can also check out my website at www.jenniferellis.ca where I write about writing, and my upcoming releases and give away short stories.


Alex Roddie

alex

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

My name is Alex Roddie, and I’m a freelance writer and editor. I have a background in historical fiction and have written two novels set in the mountaineering culture of 19th century Britain: The Only Genuine Jones and The Atholl Expedition. More recently, I’ve branched out into science fiction. I have written short stories for the anthologies No Way Home and Crime and Punishment, both of which include work from Chronicles authors Lucas Bale and Michael Patrick Hicks. That’s how I became involved in the Future Chronicles project.

In addition to fiction, I’m an outdoor and adventure-travel writer. Backpacking and mountaineering are my passions and I have written content for a number of UK-based outdoor magazines and websites. This year I’m planning a thru-hike of the 500-mile Arctic Trail in Scandinavia.

My day job is editorial work, and I make a living helping other self-published writers to achieve success. I also freelance as sub-editor for Sidetracked Magazine.

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

The Locked Web is really two different alternate-history concepts in one. What if the Cold War never ended? and What if the internet never developed? In my story, these two ideas are tightly interwoven. A Soviet cyber-attack in 1982 leads to the microcomputer boom of the eighties failing in the marketplace, and the web is simply never invented. By 2015, Britain is still locked in a bitter war with the USSR and electronic communications are tightly controlled. Small-scale atomic attacks have been a fact of life for twenty years.

Computers have evolved in a weird direction, too, and this is really how I first got the idea for the story. I started to wonder what the world would be like today if small British computing firms such as Acorn, Sinclair and Psion hadn’t died off early, but instead flourished after a hypothetical failure of IBM and Apple. In this alternate history, Britain is the computing powerhouse of the world – but that’s largely irrelevant, because computing has no place in the lives of most people.

In the 2015 of The Locked Web, computers are seen as suspicious and alien objects. Old mainframes and dumb terminals are used in places like national libraries and universities, but the government has access to advanced tech such as e-ink desks. The only unregulated network is the Academic Subnet, and that’s where a new freedom movement arises – the Web Supremacist movement. Mirroring true events, the effort to set information free emerges from academia.

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

I’d probably pick The Robot Chronicles. I’ve always been interested in robots but have never written about them.

Anything else you’d like to plug?

You can follow me on Twitter at @alex_roddie.

My website is www.alexroddie.com.

 

An Introduction to Agent Smith

Standard

Next month I’ll be releasing my new novel, co-written with my brother Paul. The novel revolves around a secret government organization called The Utility Company (think X-Files, Fringe) and the lead agent there named Agent Smith. I’ll have more about that book down the road, including a synopsis and cover reveal, but for now, I want to introduce you to Agent Smith.

A couple weeks ago, Paul said to me, “Hey, we should do an Agent Smith story for Christmas revolving around the Elf on a Shelf.” (or something…I really only half pay attention). I pretty much said, “eh” but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t shake it. I drafted the opening and then tagged Paul. He wrote some and then it was on. Within four days we had a legit story that we both loved. It’s a good introduction to the Utility Company and Agent Smith, and is a good old fashioned holiday yarn with at least twelve days of Christmas “Easter” Eggs.

Here’s the cover (click to go to it on Amazon):

NaughtyElf 2

On a side note, you’ll notice an emblem in the star on top of the tree. It’s the logo for the Utility Company, which Adam Hall graciously allowed me to utilize for this short story cover. The cover for the full length novel, Blink, is a fantastic work by Adam Hall and I’ll unveil that in the next few weeks.

Until then, please check out Agent Smith’s Christmas Eve adventures at the Utility Company.

My Top 10 (Actually 12) Favorite Short Stories of 2015

Standard

2015 is almost up, and you know what that means…

That’s right — excessive weight gain around the holidays!

Also Top 10 Lists!!

Last year I loved making my Top 10 books of the year (which ended up being around 17 or something), but this year I’m going to break down my lists into smaller categories. One of those will be the Top 10 (Actually 12) Short Stories I read in 2015.

Obviously not comprehensive, and not all were written in the past year, but all made a big impression on me. I’m terrible at telling you exactly which was THE BEST, so I’m just going to give them to you in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Fair warning — many of them are in the Future Chronicles anthologies since I’ve read each of them this year making them a significant reading source for me each time one was released.

A few caveats: A few stories may not have made the cut because I only took one per anthology, and I definitely left all of the parts of Hugh Howey’s Beacon 23 series off since they’ll make an appearance as a full novel on my best books of the year list.


Zero Hour by Eamon Ambrose

zeroRight off the bat, we get a revelation. Eamon has been well-known in the indie community for a few years as being a top reviewer and a big supporter of indie writers. That much talent wasn’t going to stay hidden behind his blog, though, and we were treated to the first of three (so far!), short stories by Eamon in August. The story could be written off, except that Eamon penned the story in the dreaded second-person perspective. You know — the same POV that you read all those Choose Your Own Adventure books in back in middle school. Eamon pulls it off with a flourish and is a fantastic new voice.

The Traveler by Stefan Bolz

tt chronI love how Stefan Bolz writes. Always interesting. Always compelling. Always positive. Even in The Traveler, which originally appeared in The Time Travel Chronicles, where bad things happen, there is an overall optimistic outlook. Bolz has the unique ability to take a dystopia and make it a place you want to be. In The Traveler, Bolz gives us a nuts and bolts (pun definitely intended) look at time travel as our protagonist builds a machine from scratch. The story is poignant and touching, and is one of a handful of phenomenal stories from that anthology.

Free Fall by Peter Cawdron

freefallPeter Cawdron is perhaps the best writer who you should be reading if you aren’t. He’s written stories about aliens, genetic engineering, time travel, and has most recently been focusing his time and talents on zombies and the monsters humanity creates. Free Fall is set in Cawdron’s zombie universe and is a fascinating take on the genre, putting an astronaut in space at the time of the z-pocalypse. What does he do? How does he react when a distress call comes to him from a little girl on earth? The tale is thrilling and captivating.

Tasty Dragon Meat by KJ Colt

dragonIn The Dragon Chronicles, one title took the title of the “Most Talked About,” and that was Tasty Dragon Meat. KJ Colt managed to tell a story that was funny, scary, and thrilling all at the same time. Who would imagine that ingesting dragon meat would do anything besides fill a starving man’s stomach? The idea that the addictive flesh of the dragon had hidden qualities was fun and inventive and earned Colt a spot on this list.

A Long Horizon by Harlow Fallon

11796327_10153423837640170_1900403244562143189_nThe Immortality Chronicles was the first Future Chronicles title to send proceeds to charity. One might think the stories would be subpar, but throughout it, the authors strove for excellence. Harlow Fallon’s A Long Horizon capped the collection with a bang. The story spans hundreds of years from a ship bound for the New World from Europe to a ship in deep space bound for unknown destinations. One thing is consistent – an alien who has formed a symbiotic (even parasitic) relationship with its host, a woman who was just on the cusp of adulthood on her voyage to America. It is touching, interesting, and visceral.

Piece of Cake by Patrice Fitzgerald

aiPatrice Fitzgerald takes artificial intelligence and adds something we all can relate to – cake. Originally published in The A.I. Chronicles, Fitzgerald’s story takes the cake (sorry!) as the story of A.I. run amok with political correctness. There are certainly shades and hints that allude to our society today and the steps we take to making everyone the “same” and ignoring unique body shapes. I applaud Patrice’s work on the story and how it rings true, but also how it hits the funny bone as well.

Writer’s Block by Hank Garner

writers blockEarlier when I mentioned Eamon Ambrose, I talked about how much of a boon to indie publishing he’d been. Hank Garner is quickly becoming a major voice for publishing with his Author Stories Podcast. Recording one a week, Hank is giving a voice (literally) to dozens of writers who deserve to be heard. Garner is a heck of a writer as well, publishing a number of works this year, including Writer’s Block, a story that most any writer can relate to. Of course, it isn’t as simple as just a case of writer’s block, as our protagonist Stu finds out and we get a magical story out of it.

Under the Grassy Knoll by Richard Gleaves

tinfoilDavid Gatewood is one of the best editors out there, and he took a chance this year by publishing Tales of Tinfoil, a short story anthology centered on conspiracy theories. The anthology is a bold choice and I think it pays off. Gleaves’ story leads the collection with a JFK rabbit-hole tale. Where Gleaves shines is the attention to detail and the plausibility. By the end, I was almost convinced that was the actual circumstances of the president’s assassination. Gleaves’ main work on his Sleepy Hollow series is lengthy (the three books total over a half-million words), but the short story here is a fine work, indeed.

Unconditional by Chris Pourteau

Unconditional_sml2Apparently this year Chris Pourteau just wanted to rip people’s hearts out. He originally published Unconditional on its own at the beginning of the year, and then folded it into an anthology entitled Tails of the Apocalypse featuring stories of animals in the end times. I’m sure with both appearances, readers left the story a few tears fewer. Basic premise: What about the family dog during a zombie apocalypse? Here’s the twist — the story is told from the POV of the dog who is loyal to the last. Well done, Mr. Pourteau, thanks for making me think of it all over again. I hate you.

Where Dragons Lie by Thomas Robins

41MGayjgjJLThis may be more of a novella, but I’m putting it here anyway. Right about the time The Dragon Chronicles was out and garnering five-star reviews, Thomas Robins released the first of two stories in a fantasy world inhabited by dragons and those afraid of them. The title dragon isn’t all he seems to be, however, and you’ll find yourself questioning a lot as you read through the story. Robins has since followed it up with a quasi-sequel and I hope he continues the story in 2016.

Concerns of the Second Sex by Pavarti Tyler

althistoryI don’t know if I can say it much better than what I said about this story when it was first released with the alt.history 101 title in July. So here we go: “Important? Yes. Important. Take Pavarti Tyler’s story for example. Entitled Concerns of the Second Sex, her tale looks at a world where the 19th Amendment never came to be. In fact, with the absence of the women’s vote, the world has reverted to a place barely recognizable. Well, recognizable if you’ve read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but that’s about it. Tyler pays homage to Atwood with this story and takes it a step further with the treatment of other races, including race mixing. If we never respected the rights of half of the species, why would the race movement of the 50’s and 60’s be successful, either? The story is tragic, yet Tyler does give it a hopeful note. I found it poignant and an important story to read and understand where we’ve come from and where we are going.”

Carindi by Jennifer Foehner Wells

darkAn emotional gut punch rounds out this list as Jennifer Wells gets all the feels as the heart of the Dark Beyond The Stars collection. The authors and curator didn’t try to focus on it, but each of the authors for the anthology is a woman, showing that science fiction isn’t just for men. One of my favorites was Carindi, set in the universe of Wells’ debut novel, Fluency. The story focuses on dependency, love, and sacrifice. When everything you have is in the hands of someone else, what is does love mean? In the end, our actions are the loudest words of all, as we find in this moving short story.


…and there we go. What a great list. By no means is this comprehensive. I read a lot this year, but my my own admission, my reading list was mostly limited to independent publishing, namely The Future Chronicles anthologies. I rated A LOT of stories as five stars this year, so this list could change a lot depending on my mood. There were certainly stories that were great, but I had to set the line somewhere. Don’t worry — still going to have a Best Books of the Year list coming up in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for that.

But what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.