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

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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

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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.
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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.

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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.)

[Infographic] Get Unstuck! How to deal with writer’s block.

A quick note: I wrote this infographic to go with my presentation at the Willamette Writers Conference this weekend. If you’re attending, I’ll be talking about Joyful Productivity for Writers at 9am on Saturday (in person) and 8am Sunday (virtually). I can’t wait to see you there!

A lot of professional writers say they don’t believe in writer’s block — but I totally do. I’ve been there, staring at the computer screen, knowing I should be writing but feeling totally, completely stuck.

However, as a professional writer, I’ve also had to learn tricks for pushing past that writer’s block in order to get those words flowing again. After all, when you’re up against a deadline you don’t have (much) time to wait for the muse to grace you with her presence.

Here are 15 quick tried-and-true ways to get yourself unstuck and back in the groove with your writing.

(Infographic text copied below for accessibility).

Get-Unstuck-infographic

1. Interrogate why you’re stuck

Every trick in the book won’t help get you writing if you are stuck on something bigger than not knowing a plot point. Free write to tease out the problem. Are you afraid to write something too true, or too close to you? Have you grown out of this project? Are you writing the wrong thing? This can be a scary exercise, but it’s better than continuing to work on the wrong project.

2. Change your environment

Switch things up by writing from a new location. Even if going to the usual favorites (coffee shop, bar, or library) is not in the cards right now, try moving to a place you don’t normally write in the house, or even take a drive somewhere with a good view and sit in your car.

3. Go for a walk

Getting up and moving can help break you out of your rut. Go for a thirty-minute walk around your neighborhood—you can either let your mind wander, or go with the intention of mulling over whatever specific thing you’re stuck on.

4. Go for a dictation walk

Take your phone on your walk, and record yourself thinking through whatever issue you may be having. Use a program like Dragon Dictation, Just Press Record, or Otter.ai to transcribe your thoughts afterward.

5. Remember your “why”

What was it about this project that you are most excited about? If you’ve been stuck for more than a few sessions, this could be a good way to help you find momentum again. Free write on what excited you most about your project initially, and what you’re most passionate about now.

6. Try writing gibberish

Try writing deliberately badly. Set a timer for 10 minutes and force yourself to write total, complete gibberish. This will help you get out of your head so you can get back to writing real words.

7. Set a timer

This is one of my favorite motivational methods. Set a timer for 25 minutes and tell yourself that’s as long as you have to work on the project. Once the timer is up, you can get up and do whatever else you want to. Chances are, though, once the timer goes off you’ll be in the groove.

8. Writing sprints with a friend

Meet up with a friend in person, or set up a video call to do some joint writing sprints. A good format is 25 minutes on, 10 minutes to chat, for as many cycles as you’d like. You could also join an online write-in with other authors for accountability.

9. Create a “swipe file”

Start a swipe file of things related to your work that inspire you. It could be passages from a favorite author, short movie clips, a soundtrack of inspirational music. When you’re feeling stuck, spend ten minutes with your swipe file to get inspired.

10. Skip ahead

Are you stuck in one location of your story? Try skipping ahead. There is no rule that says you have to write linearly. Plus, if you’re stuck because you’re bored of a scene, you may find the scene isn’t necessary, and your readers would be bored by it, too.

11. Get rid of distractions

Use an app to block your access to the Internet, write on a device that isn’t connected, or turn on your noise canceling headphones. It could be less that you’re stuck, and more that you’re letting yourself get distracted.

12. Create a border crossing ritual

When I put in my noise canceling headphones and turn on the sound of a thunderstorm, my brain switches into writing mode like a Pavlovian response. Find your own combination, whether it’s a white noise app, a special “writing time only” tea blend, lighting a ritualistic candle, or something else.

13. Write in a different medium

Our brains work differently depending on what are using, which is why brainstorming with pencil and a spiral-bound notebook can be so freeing if you’re stuck in the more formal writing mode of your fingers on your keyboard. Shut off your computer and write longhand in a notebook, try dictating, use crayons—whatever will make you feel a new spark of creativity.

14. Box yourself in

Try giving yourself limitations to get the creative juices flowing. Try using a writing prompt, telling yourself you won’t use words with the letter L, or whatever parameters you can think of to force yourself to be more creative and playful about your writing.

15. Check your expectations

Do you have unrealistic expectations about how fast you are working? How many words you’re writing in a day? The quality of your first draft? Identify those, acknowledge them, and then set them aside to give yourself space to write in your own way.

[Story Sale] Happy release day to NOIR!

When you write a 5-book saga with a rather large cast of characters, you’re likely to hear from readers that you should have written more about so-and-so.

One of those characters is Detective Timo Cho of the Bulari Police Department, who spends some time investigating our heroes and learning some truths of his own about how the seedy underbelly of Bulari works.

I agree. I loved Cho, and loved being in Cho’s point of view for his scenes. Because his storyline is a bit separate from the rest of the characters — he is investigating them, but not physically interacting until the end of the book — I actually approached his storyline as though I was writing a short story. The end result was a fun noir detective subplot mixed in with the rest of the adventure. (Complete, of course, with the femme fatale.)

I’d wanted to revisit Cho’s story for a while now, so when I saw a call for submissions to a sci-fi crime anthology called NOIR, I knew exactly what story I wanted to write.

“Storm Warning” is the story of Detective Timo Cho doing what he does best: asking too many questions.

It’s set in Bulari, but is completely apart from the events of the Bulari Saga, so it stands on its own. If you’ve read the Bulari Saga books, you’ll find another fan favorite character makes a cameo. If you haven’t read the Bulari Saga, no worries! “Storm Warning” is meant to be just plain fun.

I’ll include a snippet to whet your appetite in a second, but first:

NOIR

NOIR

edited by David B. Coe & John Zakour

A missing intergalactic artifact valuable enough to inspire murder. A cartoon gag gone bad that leads to a gruesome death. Greek deities unraveling a divine mystery in New York City. A human detective navigating the temptations of Faerie in pursuit of a magical killer. Call them sleuths, call them gumshoes, call them shamuses or dicks or beagles—these private investigators prowl the back alleys of imagination, explaining the unexplainable, seeking answers and justice for two hundred dollars a day plus expenses.

In Noir, speculative fiction authors Hal Bodner, Jessie Kwak, Esther M. Friesner, Travis Wade Beaty, John Zakour, Alex Bledsoe, Erik Grove, Andrija Popovic, Julie E. Czerneda, Aprilynne Pike, D.B. Jackson, Justin Jordan, Steven Harper, R.S. Belcher, and Eve Golden-Woods spin tales of intrigue and danger, introducing you to worlds where information is currency and life is cheap. So put on your fedora, raise your trench coat collar against the evening chill, and come explore the shadows. But remember, in this seedy business, you can trust no one…sometimes not even yourself.

Get the book:

Direct from the publisher
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc.


Storm Warning [Excerpt]

When Detective Timo Cho watches the replay he doesn’t pay attention to the body. He focuses on the killer’s eyes. 

They’re a deep, after-sunset blue with a thin ring of silver around the pupil, narrowed with intense focus though the lines around the eyes are relaxed. This surgery is complicated, but routine. The timestamp on the footage says they’re around the three-hour mark, but it’s not just the demands of the morning’s work threading the surgeon’s sclera with glints of red. The irritation could be from the lens he wears—the faintly shimmering assistive tech floating over delicate eye tissue—but Cho guesses the surgeon also hasn’t been sleeping well. There are bags under his eyes. The outside corner of the right eye is inflamed. 

And, there.

That’s the moment when things go wrong. A flurry of sudden blinking. The pupils flare, the brows draw in, the corners of the eyes crinkle in sudden confusion. One of the capillaries in the sclera of the left eye bursts, glazing the eye with a wash of red just before the surgeon begins making the fatal cuts. 

Ten seconds later, both eyes widen in horror. And squeeze shut. Cho turns the replay off. He’s seen what comes next enough times.

A Sulila-trained surgeon—the elitest of the elite—deliberately killed a patient in the middle of surgery and then slit his own throat. 

Cho leans back in his chair in the Bulari Police Department’s least-malfunctioning investigations cube, cracks his neck. Studies the patterns of water leaking into the ceiling, layered over the years like a topographical map. If only he could read that to understand what happened here—and how to proceed on this case without pissing off his supervisor, the public, or Sulila corporation. 

Cho’s supervisor, Major Ngara, would say start by making Sulila happy and keep the public from knowing why they should be angry. In fact, he’d given Cho step-by-step instructions, handed down from Sulila: review the hologram, declare the surgeon had a mental breakdown, write up a report that absolves Sulila of responsibility and reassures the public that their hospitals are safe.

Cho digs his mechanical left fingers into a hard knot of muscle in his right shoulder, lets the front legs of his chair clatter to the floor, and skims the replay back to the beginning. This time he lets his gaze go soft as the hologram plays around him, only half-watching the murder, waiting for something to ping his subconscious.

Getting to see the moment of a murder is rare. It definitely eliminates the who. Just leaves the why.

The holograms he usually works with are done after the fact, meticulously recorded by Hallie Bachelet and her crew of crime scene techs, body blanks programmed into the scene so detectives can play them like puppets and puzzle through what might have happened. This recording, though, is surgery-room footage, supplied by Sulila. The quality is amazing—way better than the tech the Bulari Police can get. Cho halfway expected the rich file to crash the BPD’s system when he loaded it in the scenario desk. 

Provided by Sulila means censored by Sulila. A few things are blurred: proprietary surgery tools, the patient’s medical data, and the assistant’s face. Cho’s not allowed to talk to them. The Sulila PR team has provided the BPD with a transcript of the assistant’s testimony to “protect an innocent person’s identity.”

Cho pulls out his comm. Hallie Bachelet answers almost immediately. “You around?” 

“Depends.” From the distant clatter of voices and ringing comms in the background it sounds like she’s in the office. “You got something happy and uplifting to show me? I just got back from a pretty rough scene.”

“It’s all puppy dogs and flowers in this investigations cube. I’m on the Sulila case. Can you help me with this footage?”

She’d say yes anyway, but a chance to muck around with proprietary Sulila footage sweetens the deal. Hallie swears under her breath.

She’s there by the time he has the scenario desk reset, slumping into the seat beside him with a sigh. She’s still dressed for a crime scene in silver-gray scrubs and an appropriately somber hijab, a touch of mascara smudged in the warm brown skin under each eye. 

“Bad day?” Cho asks. 

Hallie waves him off. “Same old. What’s your question?” 

He lets the footage run, pausing about ten seconds before things go wrong. This time, he’s not looking at the footage at all; he’s watching Hallie’s reaction. Her attention darts immediately to the blurred parts. 

“Any way to repair the blurring?” he asks. 

She scoots closer to the scenario desk. “Maybe. Super easy if it’s just a filter the PR team slapped on.” She types for a few minutes, then hits Play once more. The blurring is gone. “Who’s a hero?” 

“You are.”

Cho leans in to study the now-unblurred assistant as Hallie plays it again from the beginning, but he stops it before it gets to the murder—he did promise her something happy.

Hallie waves away his hand. “The day I’ve had, Timo, nothing else can faze me.” She frowns through the murder-suicide, then stops. Replays it.

“I thought you were looking for a cheer-up,” Cho says. 

“Shush.” Hallie leans in, hits Pause. “There.”

Cho frowns at the body, at the surgeon, at the frozen horror on the assistant’s face. “What?”

“There’s time missing in the recording,” Hallie says.

“Can you get it back?”

“That’ll be tougher than just clearing a filter, but I can get one of my techs on it. But Timo…”

Cho turns to meet her gaze.

“I thought you were supposed to have an easy solve on this.”

“Don’t you want to know what actually happened? Justice shouldn’t—” 

“Have compromises, I know. You say it all the time. Just promise me you won’t make any mistakes here.”

“I promise.” He seals the promise with a wink. “Can I thank you for the help here with dinner tonight?”

“I thought there was a storm warning.”

“That’s not until tomorrow.” 

Hallie’s smile tilts to the side. “Then sure. So long as we don’t talk about work.”

“Done.” 

Cho switches off the hologram when she leaves, does a fast search for the assistant’s profile, then wipes the search and logs out of the scenario desk. He’s got a few hours before dinner, and doesn’t owe Sulila’s PR team a report until tomorrow. Still time to ask a couple of questions. 


Read the rest of the story in NOIR. Get it today: