CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Maddi Davidson

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Maddi Davidson is the pen name for two sisters living on opposite sides of the country: Mary Ann Davidson in Idaho and Diane Davidson in Virginia. Together they have published several novels, a non-fiction book, and numerous short stories. Their tales range from the murder of a deranged scientist resurrecting the dodo to a spurned wife hacking the pacemaker of an ex-husband who richly deserved it.

“Narrow EscApe” is the first story in a planned series of Tastee Brioche Twistletoe adventures. Learn more at: https://maddidavidson.com/bitch-and-chips/.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

Tastee Brioche Twistletoe imagines herself a clever and successful thief, à la James Bolivar diGriz of Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat. When the operations of the criminal organization, Nemo Loquitur, draw police attention too close to Tastee’s home base, she sets a trap, hoping to ensnare one or more of the organization’s key operatives. Posing as a thief for hire, our heroine travels to a godforsaken mining planet, Galina 552, to steal orsothium, a metal more precious than gold. Despite having botched each and every heist she’s undertaken, Tastee confidently sets her plan in motion.

As sisters living thousands of miles apart, how do you collaborate on stories?

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been a challenge for us, not that it has been all beer and skittles (for the record, one of us likes Skittles, the other prefers Coconut M&Ms). Perhaps we did all our squabbling growing up.

A challenge for writing partners is ensuring that the writing hangs together and there is no obvious change of voice (i.e., when one of us takes over the writing). We are lucky that, as sisters, we share the same demented sense of humor, to the point where neither of us can, in many cases, remember who wrote what. That’s the idea, really, because “Maddi” is THE writer and nobody reading our work should be able to tell when The Other Sister started writing. Even more telling, in some cases when one of us is reviewing/editing/adding to a section, we find that the other one had the same idea. You end up deleting things you added because the other sister already put the same ideas in there.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories? What authors have inspired your writing?

Obvious from this story, one of us likes Harry Harrison. We’re great fans of authors who write over-the-top humor using almost believable characters. We’re both big fans of Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. Would that we could write half as well as she! While most of our writing to date has been in the mystery genre, we’ve begun to write stories in sci-fi and are relishing the opportunity to explore new pathways to humor.

What are you working on next?

We place about four short stories each year in various anthologies or magazines. We had such a great time writing this story that we hope to find more opportunities for Tastee to pursue her criminal career. We are working on humorous stories in various stages (idea, first draft, finalization, rewriting) in both the mystery and science fiction genres.

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Andrew Sweet

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Andrew loves science and possibility! He maintains a personal 5-year project on cellular automata that has evolved into a CLI and an “infinitely scalable” (hardware limited of course) CA platform as he continues his obsessive search for cellular automata that can perform simple math functions. Former lead guitarist for the grunge/punk band Permanent Ascent, Andrew has been involved in music as long as he’s been writing. Now the proud owner of a Takamine, Andrew has traded his rapid punk chops for chaotic jazz riffs. Finally, last but definitely not least, Andrew’s reasons for living are his wife and two children in their home in Portland, OR. In his writing, Andrew Sweet examines society with a magnifying glass and picks it apart at the seams.

Drawn to the underdog, he perpetually tries to examine how someone ends up in a losing position and then funnels what he learns into his writing. In doing so, Andrew Sweet builds grounded, futuristic dystopian societies based on our history and recent events. If you look closely, you can see these elements woven together in the fabric of gripping storytelling. He explores the “why” of how societies work through the “what if” of science fiction. Swim through Andrew’s Author’s Blog to discover the author’s take on science fiction today and its role in society as well as access samples of his latest works and works-in-progress!

Readers are invited to visit Andrew’s website: https://www.andrewsweetbooks.com. Once there, you will find a blog filled with reflections on science fiction, other short stories science fiction and otherwise. If you want to learn more about Dandelion, you can definitely catch up in the Dandelion Serial (which is rolled into Book 2 of the Virtual Wars series coming out next year). Dandelion is a fascinating character and seems to want to come into her own. Also, readers can meet a very different AI in the wattpad serial Notions of Home, in the same science fiction universe. Both of these characters come together in the Virtual Wars series, along with the goddess Quadesh from Libera, Goddess of Worlds. Goddess? You can be the judge. She certainly thinks she is.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

In the year 2202, the African Induna leadership council enforce the new Pax Americana around the world. Controlling the majority of trade between the Earth, Ganymede, Europa, Selina (the moon), and Mars, United Africa have their fingers in every interstellar transaction. To protect their trade routes from inevitable piracy, they commission more and more complex AI to the point of near sentience.

Dandelion is the culmination of decades of AI research, and is largely considered an AI dead-end because she does more than just follow orders (though in her opinion she does just fine). When Dandelion is tasked with protecting a specific shipment of rhodium, then she is faced with a situation she’s never faced before: following her vow means breaking her vow. Her decision could mean her survival or destruction.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

Dandelion as a character has been with me for over a year. When she first came to me, she was trying to lay low and stay under the radar. I never really knew why until I got around to writing this story. She’s literally on the run from the most powerful government in the world! Aside from that, I’ve always been interested in concepts about life and consciousness, and this is one way for me to explore that boundary between machine and self-awareness.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

I, Robot. Not the Will Smith, dystopian I, Robot, but the hopeful, optimistic “machines can save us” I, Robot of Asimov. Yeah, I know. I’m a dystopian author. But I really feel like the seeds to dystopia lie more in the choices humans make than any runaway machines. My entire Reality Gradient is about choices made. Even with a lot of cloning, there’s no secret hidden Children of the Damned telepathic link, or Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang where cloned children overthrow their makers in my work. And if there’s a universe that I think I want to see, it’s the universe where machines exist in harmony with people, and people have overcome what Octavia Butler writes about in her Lilith’s Brood series: the propensity for hierarchy to overrun our potential. That’s the world for me.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I’ve touched on a few already. One is Altered Carbon. The noir aspect of that is just so perfect. Dark, brooding, it’s everything a pulp fiction detective novel from the thirties would be in a sci-fi future. Along that same vein, Bladerunner is a great series for exploring humanity, especially the first one. Then there are the stand-by animes like Bubble-Gum Crisis and Alita and Ghost in the Machine.

What authors have inspired your writing?

This is going to seem weird. So Kazuo Ishiguro for his novel Never Let Me Go, which gave me permission to start a series about clones, even though so many had been done before. Octavia Butler for her series Xenogenesis series I’ve mentioned before. Also Mur Lafferty (6 Wakes) and then there’s the Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie (what she does with cloning is very innovative in her third novel). Last but definitely not least, the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Her take on Africa is what made me re-think the international power structures in the future.

What are you working on next?

The Virtual Wars series. This series dovetails my Reality Gradient trilogy and co-exists and overlaps with the short story and kind of ties my serial works in together to make a huge, kludgy mess! I can’t wait to finish molding something cohesive out of these pieces. The first three novels are done, and it starts with, for lack of a better word, a coming-of-age novel starring Larken Marche (a clone — but she doesn’t know it). She’s a very strong character, which is something that I didn’t do as well in the Reality Gradient series with Harper. Larken knows what she wants, even if she doesn’t always get it. And the spoiler is that she really rarely gets what she wants. And somehow, though, she has to cobble together enough people to save the world from an emerging totalitarian dictator. I have faith in her. But, like I said, only 3 novels in…anything could happen!

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: C.E. Clayton

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

C. E. Clayton is an award-winning author born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area. After going the traditional career route and becoming restless, she went back to her first love—writing—and hasn’t stopped. She is the author of the young adult fantasy series “The Monster of Selkirk”, the creator of the cyberpunk Eerden Novels, and her horror short stories have appeared in anthologies across the country.

When she’s not writing you can find her treating her fur-babies like humans, constantly drinking tea, and trying to convince her husband to go to more concerts. And reading. She does read quite a bit.

More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, social media presence, and newsletter can be found on her website https://www.ceclayton.com/. C.E. is currently working on her Paradigm Flux novella.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

“Renegade Havoc” is the story of Pema and Talin as they come to realize that the power dynamic in the illegal smuggling organization they are a part of has shifted, and shifted in a dangerous way. In a way, it’s a story of self discovery and recognizing that sometimes change is not always good, and that you have to look out for yourself first and foremost. The story is told only through Pema’s eyes, as she has the most to come to terms with compared to her girlfriend, Talin, but this is still very much the story of both these incredible women. Without giving too much away, this story has a little bit of mystery, a fair amount of action, and some big “ah ha!” moments sprinkled throughout. It may be a short story, but it’s a fun ride from start to finish.

The world this story occupies is the same one as my Ellinor series (Resistor is book 1) that combines both traditional science fiction hi-tech and elemental magic like you’d find in most fantasies into something called magitech. Magitech is highly regulated in their world, and so there is a lucrative black market for the more … deadly types of magitech. That’s where Pema and Talin’s boss comes in. He specializes in using his own magical abilities to create and sell devastating pieces of magitech, which Pema and Talin then move across the city to different buyers for him. It’s very much a cyberpunk-esque world with massive high rise buildings, full of neon and sprawling slums on the lower levels. Which, let me tell you, is an amazing setting for the kind of illicit activities the main characters in this world get up to! It’s both dark and colorful, fantastic and grounded all at once. Creating the world of Eerden is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had when it comes to world building in a very long time!

What was the inspiration behind this story?

The main character in my Ellinor series has so many friends and former crew mates that have full lives with their own struggles and goals which are all separate from the main characters and their accompanying novels. There was (and is) a huge breadth of topics and characters that have stories to tell, both big and small. Talin and Pema are such characters, living with the fallout of Ellinor’s choices and trying to figure out what space they truly occupy in the criminal smuggling operation they are a member of. Given the role they play in the upcoming third book in my Ellinor series (Symbiotech), I really wanted to take more time and explore what these badass babes were up to and how they went from where things left off in the first book, to their reappearance in the third. Thankfully, you don’t need to read any of the Ellinor books to appreciate and understand what’s happening in this short story, but the events of the first book were a big part of the inspiration behind “Renegade Havoc”. I just had to showcase these formidable women and the lives they led when their former friend and crew leader was out of the picture.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I am such a sucker for the Murderbot Diaries! I guess that would be more of a sci-fi mystery series, but Murderbot does solve crimes so I think it counts. But I love Murberbot as a character and how it goes about helping its human friends while insisting that it does not actually care about humans. It’s a really fun space opera, and the writing is so smart, that I really cannot recommend these novellas enough!

What authors have inspired your writing?

Anne McCaffery and Terry Pratchett were the biggest influences for both this story and the Ellinor series as a whole. I love how Anne McCafferey wrote science fantasy that was both very smart with her use of science, but also had these incredible dragons that humans got to bond with. Her “Dragonriders of Pern” series started my love affair of combining science fiction with more traditional fantasy tropes, which is why the Ellinor series uses both hi-tech more common in science fiction, but also incredible elemental magic like you get in fantasy. I also love the way that Terry Pratchett wrote his “Discworld” series and the humor he used as well as how he created this whole world that you could pop in and out of with different stories and character arcs, which is why my Eerden books are set up the way they are. So even though there are moments of violence and serious topics in the Ellinor books, there’s also a lot of humor to balance it out. The Azer centric prologues are especially inspired by the “Discworld” books in particular, just saying.

What are you working on next?

I’m finishing up final edits now for the third book in the Ellinor series (Symbiotech), and then I’ll be heads down on finishing a sci-fi crime and mystery duology that focuses on two detectives and will be part of the Eerden family of novels. So while some characters from the Ellinor series may be familiar, these books will have new main characters and focus entirely on solving murder mysteries in new parts of the city. After that? I may go back to the romantic fantasy I’ve been dabbling with, or maybe even a novella set back in Eerden… Really, I have too many stories to write, and not enough time to write them all!

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Erik Grove

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Erik Grove is a writer, long-distance runner, and little dog wrangler living and doing things in Portland, OR. You can find his work in places like ESCAPE POD, the SPACE COCAINE anthology series, the Zombies Need Brains NOIR anthology and upcoming in NIGHTMARE. Follow him on Twitter @erikgrove or check out his webpage www.erikgrove.com for dog glamour shots, marathon training nonsense, and sundry writerly shenanigans.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

In “Terminal Sunset” Kate Hadon has 4 hours to pull off a double-cross before a solar storm burns everything on the planet’s surface to cinders and smoke. If she pulls it off she’ll be able to afford her own spaceship and a swimming pool full of whiskey and ice cubes. If she fails, she won’t make it to nightfall. The story takes place in my Moonshine Hustle series of space opera stories that features Hadon and her crew trying to pay their debts and get by in a galaxy choked by intergalactic capitalism, gangsters, and motherfucking space witches. Think of it as a scuffed up Guardians of the Galaxy directed by the Coen Brothers by way of Breaking Bad.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

I saw the first CROOKED anthology and said “Oh Jessie that’s MY SHIT!” and knew I needed to come up with something cool so I could hang out with the space heist kids for V.2. I’ve been working on the first novel in this series for a while and have a companion story out in a recently released anthology. “Terminal Sunset” is a prequel that takes place years before Hadon has her ship and a fully-formed crew. She’s younger, messier, and much more desperate. I wanted to write a lean pressure cooker story with a simple objective and high tension. I loved the idea of a mostly-abandoned world hours before the apocalypse and the prequel-ness of it all came together naturally during the conception of it. I had so much fun with Moonshine Hustle Year One, that I’m confident I’ll be returning to the era again soon.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

I am a massive Star Trek fan so I have to say, I would go there probably steal a bunch of stuff, find the poor people working lousy jobs outside of the pretty Federation worlds, and get drunk with them.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

The first ones that come to mind are Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, PKD in general, William Gibson, Cowboy Bebop, the Fallout games, every ferengi storyline on Star TrekJohn Wick (the speculative element is minimal but it’s there)and Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Moonshine Hustle is me in dialogue with Star Trek and other so-called utopian sci fi. Everything that Star Trek hand waves away, that’s my playground. I want to write about student loan debt in the future. I want to write about sex in all kinds of gravity environments and vacuum toilets and sci fi alcoholism. So it’s Star Trek plus Lies My Teacher Told Me plus Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys plus the Wire that have the greatest influence on me here. It is with love and a punk rock sneer that I create not dystopian work but anti-utopian. Utopias are naive nonsense that imagines a human nature that I’ve never experienced. Call me a cynic but I’m not convinced the elites would just give up institutional control in a post-scarcity world. They’d trademark and copyright replicators and dilithium crystals and mortgage the moon to remain the 1%. Eat the rich! Sorry — what were we talking about again?

What are you working on next?

I am currently focused on making the first Moonshine Hustle novel, Vertigo Punch, a smutty, anarchist, action packed romp. I also have short fiction in the pipeline for a variety of publications.

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: G J Ogden

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

G J Ogden is the author of numerous space opera and military sci-fi series that have collectively amassed over 5,200 5-star ratings on Amazon. He is a physics graduate and a former technology journalist with a lifelong love of science fiction and anything nerdy. On the rare occasions when he’s not writing, he is usually getting whooped in games of Warhammer 40K by his son.

Get a taste of G J’s writing with a free copy of his latest sci-fi novella at: https://www.ogdenmedia.net/omega-directive-free-novella.

You can also listen to his CROOKED V.2 story, “Sparrow,” in audio here.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

“Sparrow” follows Ramsey Lorcan, a bounty hunter from the Menders’ Guild that tracks down and eradicates deviant synthetic humans. We catch up with Ramsey as he’s hot on the trail of Malfunct SPR-0, or “Sparrow” for short. Malfunct SPR-0 is responsible for more than one hundred murders but has evaded capture for over a decade. Ramsey, along with his personal “Law Enforcement Assistant, High-Functioning” synth (Leah for short) is determined to be the one to cash-in on the contract and collect the enormous bounty that comes with it.

However, not everything is not as it seems, and his pursuit is about to take an unusual turn…

What was the inspiration behind this story?

As you probably gathered from my answer to the first question, Blade Runner is a strong influence on “Sparrow,” but as readers will discover, it’s quite a different take on the ‘cop hunting a rogue synthetic’ story. I’ve also been watching the TV series, Raised by Wolves, and I think their use of androids is really interesting, so that’s an influence too, I’d say.

The dynamic between organic and artificial life features strongly in many of my book series and I tackle it in a different way here, which was fun and exciting to write. I also love stories that have cool twists and, without giving away any spoilers, I think “Sparrow” delivers on that front too…

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

Without a shadow of doubt, I would go to TNG-era Star Trek! I love the idea of exploring the universe, meeting new and interesting species, and getting entangled in conflicts and dramas on a galactic scale. Plus, life on-board seems like great fun. Holodeck? Yes please!

If I could de-age myself, I’d start at Starfleet Academy and work my way up from the lower decks to Captain, but if I could just skip to commanding a retro-fit Excelsior-class star ship then I’d “Make it so…”

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I like a lot of classic sci-fi and Alfred Bester is one of my favourite authors. The Demolished Man is a superb book and probably just ahead of Tiger, Tiger (The Stars My Destination) as my all-time fave. It’s an ‘inverted detective story’, which means you see the crime being committed at the start of the book, and the story revolves around the police trying to solve the murder and catch the criminal.

The story follows Ben Reich, a corporation boss whose business empire is on the verge of collapse because of the rival D’Courtney corporation. He resolves to murder that corporation’s head – a feat made almost impossible because of powerful telepaths, called Espers.

Sci-Fi nerds will remember that Walter Koenig played a telepathic officer called Alfred Bester in the Babylon 5 TV series. I also named a character in my best-selling Star Scavengers and Star Guardians series after the Esper police detective, Lincoln Powell.

What authors have inspired your writing?

I think I’ve taken bits from all over the place! Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle For Leibowitz certainly inspired elements of my Planetsider post-apocalyptic sci-fi trilogy, and Alfred Bester, certainly, is a strong influence. I include AIs and androids/artificial beings in almost all my stories, which I think comes from reading John Sladek’s Roderick books, along with the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica.

I would say that I’ve been more strongly influenced by science fiction TV shows. I’ve already mentioned Babylon 5, but I’m a super-fan of the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Firefly, and I’m a devoted Trekkie too. I love space adventures with plenty of high-jinx and strong characters who are all flawed in unique ways.

What are you working on next?

I recently finished the first draft of the fifth and final book in my Star Guardians series. This is a follow on to my best-selling Star Scavengers series, which is like a cross between Firefly and Indiana Jones. Star Scavengers follows an interstellar relic hunter who makes a discovery that inadvertently draws a planet-killing alien entity back to human-occupied space, and Star Guardians picks up from this with a renewed threat.

The Star Scavengers series has garnered more than 1,500 5-star ratings (at the last count!) and Star Guardians is off to a great start too! You can read Star Guardians without having read Scavengers first, but obviously you get more out of it by starting at the beginning.

Other than editing and proofing the final Star Guardians books, I’ll be working on world-building and outlines for my next, as yet untitled, series. This will be a new universe and will tread familiar “space opera” territory for me. So, expect dynamic, flawed heroes, a sweeping plot full of mystery and intrigue, and plenty of high-stakes action. I have the premise already mapped out, and I’m really excited to get started!

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: E. L. Strife

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Strife enjoys crafting science fiction novels in various subgenres including space opera, cyberpunk, and fantasy. Sometimes she writes about aliens and colonization, other times she sticks to genetic engineering, the supernatural, and corrupt futuristic societies. Strife’s Sci-Fi is often crude and graphic, features strong women, and typically includes people who like to blow s— up.

E. L. isn’t always in front of her laptop. She enjoys taking the four-wheelers to the coast with her husband and doing donuts in the sand. Strife most enjoys camping in the mountains and soaking in hot springs in the snow, but you’re most likely to find her in the gym.

Strife craves learning new things like that crazy stuff called astrophysics and how to work on her 1981 Corvette and her Jeep. She hopes, someday, to add to her list of apocalyptic survival skills by learning to weld.

E. L. has traveled the US and Europe served in the military and completed two Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Health and Human Sciences. She’s toured lava tubes, the NASA center in Houston, castles, concentration camps, the Shelby center in Las Vegas, and many natural wonders. She’s even learned to race BMWs at the track in southern California.

Strife enjoys connecting with readers and welcomes all feedback and questions. If you’d like to know when Strife’s next books will be out, and to ensure you hear about her giveaways, visit her website: elstrife.com and subscribe via the links on her homepage.

You can also connect with her on BookBub and Goodreads. Strife’s next upcoming book is available for pre-order on Amazon.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

“Ion Hunter” is the first story of the Mega-City Crimes series, completely written on a whim for this anthology. I developed a world in which most of the land has been taken over and barricaded into expansive cities so that almost no farming or rural land is left. I wondered what this kind of life could push a person to do to survive and thrive. It was a concept I’d started on with another title coming out this year, but I hadn’t intended for it to become a series until this anthology opportunity came along. Each character in the series lives in their own city, so readers can experience a new place each time they pick up a new book.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

The basis of each Mega-City story was to explore the possible ill-effects of humanity’s “better options” for the future. I’m working in the speculative cyberpunk realm, which isn’t something I’ve directly done before. I usually include some aspects of crime and speculation with cyberpunk elements, but generally I write sci-fi subgenres of military, genetic engineering, fantasy, and colonization.

My closest relatable series is Hybrid Genesis, in which I explore to some extent the effects of living a natural life versus a synthetic one and the consequences of each. I’ve always wanted to take that concept to a higher level and really dive into more speculative work, but I needed a kick in the backside to pull the trigger. Code Reaper’s concept came first. What happens to your online presence when you die? How do you stop hackers, then? You hire a code reaper.

Then this story, “Ion Hunter,” came to mind as the rush to buy electric cars became popular. I’ve read many articles on the toxic processes involved in making batteries and thought perhaps it was worth exploring a world where batteries were outlawed. How would we survive? I might dive into this deeper with another story later because I feel there’s more to the hunter’s city that would be neat to open up.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

It’s way too hard to pick just one because I want to visit them all. I’ll take any story with a starship that I can lurk on just to see new places and species. If ever there was a way to be outside of the multiverse so I could watch it in action, count me in.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I have really enjoyed all of Frasier Armitage’s books. He is a new author with unique stories that always involve mind-melting concepts like controlling time. New Yesterday has to be one of my favorites. I had the luck of reading an early copy. Rememory is another title of his I admire where memory is currency. Armitage is the one who inspired me to challenge myself with something new, to write in more twists (especially head-game style), and work on new sci-fi crime books. I’m so excited (and a bit in shock) to be in this anthology with him!

What are you working on next?

Code Reaper publishes in December, so that’s next on my list to complete. Mind Breaker will, at this time, complete the Mega-City Crimes series. Both of these books feature characters from “Ion Hunter.” If the series does well, I might add books. I’m also working my way through my Dead Cell series (colonization) and planning book three of Hybrid Genesis (genetic engineering) and book five of Infinite Spark (military fantasy). I like variety in my subgenres and stories, but they all feature kick-butt and self-sacrificing characters, battles, new tech and weaponry, and the bad guys eating dust in the end.

To stay up-to-date on my latest titles and get two free books, sign up for my newsletter, Science Fiction Fantasy Fleet, here: https://elstrife.com/join-sff-fleet.

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Austin Dragon

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Austin Dragon is the author of over 20 books in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror. His works include the sci-fi noir, cyberpunk detective Liquid Cool series, the epic fantasy Fabled Quest Chronicles, the international epic sci-fi After Eden series, the classic Sleepy Hollow Horrors, and new military sci-fi PLANET TAMERS series. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, ex-political junkie, movie buff, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, futurist, and dreamer.

He is currently working on new books and series in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror! Head to AustinDragon.com.

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Tell us a bit about your story.

“A Cruel Cyber Summer Night” is a cyberpunk novella featuring Cruz, my sci-fi detective with an attitude. He was once a classic hovercar restorer and part-time amateur hovercar racer, but gave that all up to be a private investigator in the supercity of Metropolis—fifty-million residents in this high-tech, low-life world.

Cruz has settled into his new detective life nicely and is clearly a natural at solving his cases. He’s almost as famous as his bright red, high-performance, super-charged, classic Ford Pony. He’s already solved some of the biggest, high-profile cases in the city’s recent memory and tangled with some extremely dangerous criminals—gangsters, cyborgs, corporate samurai soldiers, and more.

The case featured in this story is supposed to be a routine corporate investigation one, but, as is so often the case with Cruz, routine often ends in complete mayhem.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

I wanted to create a new short story to introduce Liquid Cool to cyberpunk and sci-fi crime fans. With Cruz and company at the center, the futuristic series has action, mystery, and a wicked sense of humor.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

That’s a hard one to answer. Be an officer in the world of Star Trek? A Jedi in the Star Wars universe? Rather than wander to distant planets and galaxies, what about a futuristic Earth? Our own oceans are a “universe” onto themselves. So, I’d try my hand at being a combination of a marine biologist explorer and treasure hunter.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

My very first book I read in that sub-genre is Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I have been a fan of film noir forever so I was immediately drawn to the combination of the hard-boiled detective story with sci-fi.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Too many to list, but if we go way back, it includes the author of the Hardy Boys (which was actually a woman author using a male pen name), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (The Lost World but also Sherlock Holmes), H.G. Wells, Jules Vernes, and George Orwell. Another more modern author and favorite is the late Michael Crichton.

What are you working on next?

Well, my fans got me to finally write a military sci-fi series. I always wanted to write one, but I have to find a unique hook to get me interested. I read a quote from Elon Musk about humans being a multi-planet species and that was my impetus. The series will follow humans creating a second Earth with the military leading the way.

But that will be in addition to releasing the next four Liquid Cool novels!

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CROOKED V.2

Get it here.

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Patrick Swenson

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Patrick’s first novel, The Ultra Thin Man, appeared from Tor Books. The sequel, The Ultra Big Sleep, debuted soon after. The third Ultra novel will be out next year. His novel Rain Music was published recently. He was the editor and publisher of Talebones, which began in 1995 and ended with its 39th issue in 2009. In 2000, he began Fairwood Press, a book line, which is still running. He has sold short fiction to the anthologies Unbound II, Unfettered III, Seasons Between Us, Gunfight at Europa Station, Like Water for Quarks, and also to a number of magazines. He has been a high school teacher for 37 years and is the proud poppa of Artemis, an artist and budding designer. Patrick lives in Bonney Lake, Washington.

Patrick’s piece, “The Silent Passage,” takes place in the Union of Worlds universe. A third novel in the story arc comes out next year. See patrickswenson.net for more information.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

Dave Crowell, hero of the alien Ultra invasions of the previous years, sends his partner on a routine retrieval job to the planet Temonus, but he goes missing, and the job turns into a race against an alien faction that wants their settlements reinstated by the colony’s government. They sabotage and shut down the transportation tether to all the worlds of the Union, and threaten to destroy it.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

The partner who goes missing is one of two alien species in the Union of Worlds, though he has a shady past, and humans generally distrust Helks, who are giant in size compared to humans. I started the story by having the main character’s alien partner plead for help and admit he’s scared, knowing there isn’t a helluva lot that would scare a Helk. The actual job he is on is related to events from the second book of the Union of Worlds series, but is never revealed specifically in the story itself. That all comes to a head in the third book.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

I’d have to go to Caladan, from Dune, home of House Atreides. It’s described as a temperate place, and in that future, that’d be cool. And hey, a good arts scene and a place to get more writing done!

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

For old school, I fondly remember The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester. I’d add The Last Policeman by Ben Winters, Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem, The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, and the first Expanse book by James S.A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes, which is the most crime- and detective-oriented book of the series. Not all Martha Wells Murderbot books lean that way, but the last one, Fugitive Telemetry, definitely does.

What authors have inspired your writing?

It would be impossible, I think, to list them all. I read a mega-ton of SF in college. My goal was to read as many, if not all, the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novels. (I pretty much did it, minus a few here and there, for the Hugos.) It was a time I was very receptive to the genre, though one author goes as far back as junior high, and that was Frank Herbert, and more specifically, Dune. I ended up reading the five sequels in college. I read a lot more Herbert in college, too. Besides Herbert, I’d add Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. LeGuin, and William Gibson. The mystery authors would be Robert B. Parker (yay Spenser!), Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard, and, more recently, Jo Nesbo. In fantasy, Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster series and Joan D. Vinge’s The Snow Queen also pushed my writing buttons.

What are you working on next?

I’m doing edits on the third Union of Worlds novel, The Ultra Long Goodbye, and since I have the rights back to the first book from Tor, I’m going to spruce it up, as well as book two, and re-release them with new art, and follow with the third, all for next year. I think there will be other, shorter Union of Worlds novels with my main character down the road, but what I want to do next is a fantasy mystery set in the world of my story “Hawkeye,” previously published in Unfettered III.

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CROOKED V.2

Get it here.

Crooked_Vol2

Renegades of Tomorrow Bundle!

I’m incredibly delighted to announce that Double Edged, the first book of the Bulari Saga, was selected to be part of the Renegades of Tomorrow StoryBundle curated by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA).

If you’ve never seen a StoryBundle before, it’s a really cool deal. Basically, you can get bundles of themed ebooks at a ridiculously low price. Here’s the info on the Renegades of Tomorrow bundle:


Renegades of Tomorrow

“Not on my watch.”

Why do rule-breakers and rogues intrigue us? Perhaps because we know the rules often need changing. Meet thirteen reluctant heroes of all types as they face an unjust system and find they can’t leave well enough alone. Then join each of our carefully selected renegades on their thrilling adventure to make things right, one way or another!

SFWA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, advancing, and supporting science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere. This year the SFWA Independent Authors Committee had the pleasure of sorting through over a hundred excellent books as we narrowed our selection down to these special stories.

We were fascinated and inspired by a determined cop who risks the wrath of her AI superiors to save her mentor from a ruthless crime boss in In The Paradise Factory. We were moved by the story of an illegal cyborg fighting to survive in Ternary and nanotech addict struggling to recover in ACHE. We reveled in tales of prison revolts, steam punk adventure, sci-fi espionage, underworld intrigue, and of entire galaxies standing on the brink of war in this exciting and varied look at the difference one person can make when they dare to say “not on my watch.” – The SFWA


The StoryBundle Deets

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Glitch Rain and Other Stories by Alex Livingston
  • Petra by Matthew S. Rotundo
  • The Diamond Device by M. H. Thaung
  • ACHE by Kelvin Myers

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $20, you get all four of the regular books, plus NINE more books for a total of 13!

  • The Ascension Machine by Rob Edwards
  • The Hands We’re Given by O.E. Tearmann
  • Situation Normal by Leonard Richardson
  • Ternary by Kristin L. Stamper
  • The Paradise Factory by Jim Keen
  • Double Edged by Jessie Kwak
  • Ardulum by J.S. Fields
  • Blue on Black by Carole Cummings
  • Centricity by Nathaniel Henderson

This bundle is available only for a limited time via StoryBundle. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.

  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to The SFWA!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

Cursed Saint Caper! Plus Nanshe Chronicles FAQ

Hey hey! Nanshe Chronicles 3, aka Cursed Saint Caper is officially out, which means that the Nanshe Chronicles trilogy is now complete. Good news if you’re the sort of person who likes to know you’ll get closure before diving into a new series. 🙂

You can buy the print book directly from me (ebook is included!) or grab it on Amazon. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited reader, all three of the Nanshe Chronicles books are enrolled — but probably only for a few months, so get on it quick.

You can also grab Ghost Pirate Gambit, Blood River Blues, and Cursed Saint Caper on Audible, narrated by the wonderful J.S. Arquin.

I’ve been really thrilled by the response to this series — a huge thank you to everyone who’s already read it, reviewed, emailed, etc. You’re all amazing!

I’ve also gotten a few questions about the series, so I thought it would be fun to do a quick FAQ. Here we go…

Do I need to read any of your other books first?

Absolutely not! The Nanshe Chronicles is set in the same universe as the Bulari Saga, but they are both written as a standalone series set about thirty years apart. If you’ve already read the Bulari Saga you’ll find a few Easter eggs and at least one crossover character in the Nanshe Chronicles — but you can start with whichever series sounds more interesting.

Well, if I haven’t read either series, which should I start with?

It depends on what you’re in the mood for. Do you like a good heist with a quirky crew? The Nanshe Chronicles is basically Cowboy Bebop meets Leverage, with each book a standalone adventure where the crew of the Nanshe set off to explore fantastic new locations. The character arcs build over the course of the series.

The Bulari Saga, on the other hand, it’s all about politics and power struggles in the underworld of the city of Bulari. Picture Godfather meets the Expanse. Each of the five books build on one another to make a full story arc — so if you are looking for a meaty, high stakes drama to sink your teeth into, that’s a good place to start.

What about all these novellas?

There are three prequel novellas in the Bulari Saga and one in Nanshe Chronicles. They’re all designed to add more context and character backstory, and you definitely don’t need to have read them to enjoy the main series.

You can get the Nanshe Chronicles novella, Artemis City Shuffle for free by signing up for my mailing list.

If you do want the full Bulari Saga experience, I recommend downloading the ebook boxed set, which contains all five novels, three novellas, and a bunch of short stories. All for only $9.99.

You keep calling the Nanshe Chronicles a trilogy. Are you stopping after Cursed Saint Caper?

Absolutely not. I picture the Nanshe Chronicles as an ongoing series, with these first three books serving as the jumping off point. I actually have nine books planned!

This first trilogy is all about the crew getting together and learning to trust each other. Future books will explore character backstory more in-depth and build a richer world, in a similar format of the crew heading off on wild adventures.

When will book 4 come out?

I’m aiming for March 2023.

Who’s your favorite of all your characters?

How could you even ask that?? I could never have a favorite character!

(It’s definitely Manu.)