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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CROOKED V.1 Author Spotlight — Mark Niemann-Ross

This week we’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.1 with author interviews!

Mark Niemann-Ross is an author, educator, and chicken wrangler living in Portland, Oregon. He teaches “R” — a programming language, and “Raspberry Pi” — a small computer used for the Internet of Things. Both topics influence his writing, which fits solidly in the genre of “Hard Science Fiction.”

Mark co-authored his first story in 2005 with Richard A. Lovett in Analog, Science Fiction and Fact. Since then, he has published additional stories in Analog and Stupefying Stories, has self-published two collections, and collaborated on a children’s book. Most recently, Mark published Stupid Machine, a science fiction murder mystery solved by a refrigerator.

Mark’s website: niemannross.com

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Tell us a bit about your story (and the story world, if applicable).
Araci Belo lives in our world, only slightly further downstream in the cosmic timeline. It’s entirely possible he’s already been born – or will be soon. Unlike you and I, he’s going to live through the Portland earthquake and see Portland rebuilt as a modernized city.

The technology he uses isn’t mind-boggling. It’s just a linear extrapolation of what we have today. You and I will recognize his world in the same way our parents recognize our world. Devices have a familiar form, but there’s always a sense of something impossible about them.

I write hard science fiction where the laws of physics still rule. In Hot Meal, I spent a lot of time researching how an oven would explode. If the FBI chooses to audit my search history, they will find incriminating questions such as “Do propane tanks explode?” … or “How much propane does it take to blow up a kitchen?” … or “air fuel mixture requirement for propane vs hydrogen”. You may see the problem I will face.

Both “Stupid Machine” and “Hot Meal” revolve around events in a kitchen. I think it’s a terrifying place: sharp knives, explosives, burning oil. Just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it’s safe. Coupled with the emerging (emerging is a euphemism for unknown) addition of artificial intelligence to these weapons of destruction… I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

I’ve been careful to write my artificial intelligence as different than the “human in a box.” Machines have different motivations and behaviors than humans. Persistence, for one. Machines continue to do a task long after humans get bored and move on to the next shiny object. Look up “persistence hunting,” then watch “It Follows.” Now are you worried?

What was the inspiration behind this story?
I seem to be exploring chaos at the edge of technology. Quality assurance engineers are employed to find these problems – and we continue to invent new ways to keep them busy. Anywhere two technologies touch, there is potential for unexpected behavior. Like genetic mutations, most are benign. Like genetic mutations, some are deadly. Who would have guessed light bulbs would provide hackers with entry points to the internet?

I’m also fascinated by the commercialization of basic human needs. Food and water have always been a source of commerce. Health and social interaction are the current darling of capitalism. Our nature is to control these assets – I perceive this drive to control as a rich ground for misbehavior.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?
I’m living in it! Michael Crichton would find inspiration for “Andromeda Strain” in today’s world of COVID-19. What would I do? Get vaccinated, wear a mask, cry like a baby and try to become acidotic.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?
My guilty pleasure is E.E. “Doc” Smith’s “The Lensmen.” It doesn’t age well – but it’s a roller coaster. Read it before you see Star Wars.

What authors have inspired your writing?
Daniel H. Wilson. I’m inspired by his take on robots and their motivations. I remember him discussing “Terminator” and how the robots would throw their opponents across the room. He asserted robots killer robots would instead try to get as close as possible to dismember opponents. I recommend “Robopocalypse” for insight into how true killer robots would behave.

What are you working on next?
I’m haunted by two other short stories that insist on being written. One has to do with the difficulty of maintaining a relationship when partners don’t share the same circadian rhythm. The other has to do with dissociative memory. They barged into the queue ahead of Stupid Machine Two, which is probably a science fiction murder mystery CAUSED by a refrigerator.

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CROOKED V.1

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CROOKED V.1 Author Spotlight: Benjamin Gorman

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.1 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Benjamin Gorman is an award-winning high school English teacher, political activist, author, poet, and co-publisher at Not a Pipe Publishing. He lives in Independence, Oregon with bibliophile and guillotine aficionado Chrystal, his favorite son, Noah, and his dog, E.V. (External Validation). 

His novels are The Sum of Our Gods, Corporate High School, The Digital Storm: A Science Fiction Reimagining of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Don’t Read This Book. His first book of poetry, When She Leaves Me, was published in November of 2020, and his second, This Uneven Universe, will be released in November of 2021. He believes in his students and the future they’ll create if given the chance.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.
I’ve been reading some great novels about aliens and the ways alien intelligences might view our universe very differently from the way we perceive things. I wanted to play with the idea that a confession of a murder could be complicated by inter-species cross-cultural misunderstanding.

What was the inspiration behind this story?
I started a story about a character trapped on a spaceship during a pandemic, and it turned into a murder mystery. I haven’t finished that novel, but when you asked me to write a sci-fi mystery, I already had the character of my consulting detective in mind. So I skipped ahead and imagined him taking on this case later in his career.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?
For comfort’s sake, I’d love to live in the utopia of Star Trek. I’d see if I could get a gig traveling around with Starfleet or maybe hanging out on a space station like DS9, collecting the stories of fellow travelers and then fictionalizing them into novels that could be beamed around the galaxy and read by people looking for entertainment during their long interstellar journeys.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?
I’m a big Star Wars fan (not a universe I’d want to live in, but one I love to visit), and both Solo (heist story) and much of The Mandalorian (bounty hunter in a space Western) are crime stories that fill me with joy.

What authors have inspired your writing?
This particular story was most inspired by Anne Lecke’s Imperial Radch series, specifically the character of Dlique, translator for the alien Presger in the second book, Ancillary Sword, and Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary, specifically the alien Rocky. These alien characters forced me to wrap my head around new ways aliens could comprehend our species from the outside. Liu Cixin’s The Dark Forest, the second book in his Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, made me think about the ways species that are far more or less advanced than one another might interact. And Jessi Kwak’s Bulari Saga and Durga System series showed how well a complex and enthralling crime drama could thrive in a sci-fi universe. You really should check them all out. Excellent.

What are you working on next?
I have a book of poetry coming out in November titled This Uneven Universe, and I’m still hard at work on the second book of my The Convention of Fiends paranormal trilogy that started with Don’t Read This Book. When I finish that, I’m excited about trying my hand at an epic high fantasy novel, but this story was so fun to write, maybe I’ll go back to that half-written murder-mystery-on-a-colony-ship-during-a-pandemic. Hopefully we’ll be a bit further from our own pandemic by then, and people will be interested in a story like that one without it feeling quite so close to home!

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CROOKED V.1

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CROOKED V.1 Author Spotlight: Mark Teppo

This week we’re featuring spotlight interviews with authors from CROOKED V.1!

Mark Teppo divides his time between Portland and Sumner, and he tends to navigate by local bookstore positioning. He writes historical fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and horror, and has published more than a dozen novels. If he’s writing a mystery, he’s pretending to be Harry Bryant. He also runs Underland Press, an independent publishing house.

Learn more at markteppo.com.

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Tell us about your story
I’ve been wrestling with Maisi for most of the year, actually. She started out as a secondary character in a larger ensemble, but I kept coming back to her story as being central to the narrative. Then, she decided that the role I had given her was too boring and that she wanted to be part of something more exciting. Wisely, I got out of the way . . .

What was the inspiration behind this story?
I was working on my weekly newsletter and realized that I hadn’t mentioned anything about writing in a few weeks. I decided it would be good to tell everyone that I was working on something, and so I found a cool piece of SF art and wrote part of the scene with Maisi and Nome in the car as a teaser.

The rest was a matter of figuring out why they were in the car and what was going to happen next.

If you could travel to any science fiction world, where would you go and what would you do?
When I stop and think about this, the first dozen or so that come to mind are either over-populated, thoroughly dystopian, or in the process of being devoured. That says something about what I’ve been reading.

I think I’d like to visit somewhere really weird. Something very un-earthlike. I’d like to see things that I couldn’t imagine. I remember taking my son to the Tacoma Zoo when he was very small. They had a white beluga whale, and I couldn’t get him to look at the magnificent whale. He was too busy being entranced by the pattern of light on the floor. I realized that he was seeing many things he had never seen before. It dawned on me that it had been years since I had had that sort of experience.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?
Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs series are bloody, explody fun. Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun continues to astound me.

What authors have inspired your writing?
I get a lot of my inspiration these days from crime writers. John D. MacDonald and Richard Stark, to name two.

What are you working on next?
I’m working on the next part of a giant robot mega-corp future story where the only person standing against an imminent attack of the Old Ones is a spy who learned all his tradecraft from old pulp novels. It’s Moonraker meets Pacific Rim meets Out of Sight.

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CROOKED V.1

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CROOKED V.1 Author Spotlight — Kate Sheeran Swed

Welcome to another author interview for CROOKED V.1!

Kate Sheeran Swed loves hot chocolate, plastic dinosaurs, and airplane tickets. She has trekked along the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, hiked on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in Iceland, and climbed the ruins of Masada to watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea. After growing up in New Hampshire, she completed degrees in music at the University of Maine and Ithaca College, then moved to New York City. She currently lives in New York’s capital region with her husband and two kids, plus a pair of cats who were named after movie dogs (Benji and Beethoven).

Her stories have appeared in publications such as Fireside Fiction, the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Volume 5, Electric Spec, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s the author of the League of Independent Operatives superhero series and the Toccata System sci-fi novella trilogy.

Learn more about Kate: katesheeranswed.com

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Tell us a bit about your story and the world.

The crew in my story, “Highly Irregular,” shows up in my superhero novels, though they’re about to get their own completely separate space opera series. “Highly Irregular” takes place between those two stories, and it stands on its own.

Basically, they’re a misfit crew run by a captain who was roped into the job and has no clue what she’s doing. There’s a lot of humor in it, or at least that’s the goal. An apt analogy might be that they’re the Guardians of the Galaxy to my superhero series’ Avengers types. Only no raccoons 🙂

The main character, Sloane, keeps trying to shed this responsibility and get back to her normal life. The crew pretty much wants to get rid of her, too. So this story finds her taking up her first bounty hunting gig, because she wants to try and earn enough money to start searching for her uncle, who stuck her in this situation.

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

Oh, I’d head straight for the world of Stargate: SG1. I love the idea of getting to travel to all those other worlds without having to ride a rocket to do it. And yeah, they land in trouble a lot, but they always end up OK. It’s the kind of optimistic, adventurous sci fi I like best, but with plenty of thoughtful ideas thrown in the mix.

Second choice: it’d be cool to live in the world of the Expanse, at least during the early part of the series (no spoilers). It’s pretty awesome to think about humanity expanding into the solar system like that.

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

Lock In by John Scalzi is incredible. One of my favorites. Leviathan Wakes is the first Expanse book, and I feel like it hedges on space crime. Lindsay Buroker’s Star Kingdom series has a nice thread of criminal activity running through it, too, including an intriguing pirate/mercenary character.

Is it awkward for me to say your Bulari Saga series Jessie? Because those books had me staying up all night. And I’ve got two little kids, so that’s something I try to avoid. It was so worth it though!

Lastly, this one’s technically fantasy, but I feel like sci fi crime readers might also really like Jade War by Fonda Lee. The magic is very scientific, and the characters are fascinating. It kept me guessing for sure.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Oh gosh, so many. Mary Stewart early on, especially her Merlin trilogy. More recently, I very much admire Leigh Bardugo, N.K. Jemisin, Heidi Heilig, Emily St. John Mandel, and Marie Lu.

What are you working on next?

The League of Independent Operatives series wraps up in January 2022, so I’m actually getting started on the Parse Galaxy series, which stars Sloane and her friends from “Highly Irregular.” So that’s exciting!

I’ve also got a YA dystopian space opera story in Amazon’s new serialized fiction platform, Kindle Vella. It’s called the Interstellar Trials, and season 1 runs through the end of September 2021. The second season will probably kick off in November-ish.

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CROOKED V.1

Get it here.

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CROOKED V.1 Author Spotlight: Greg Dragon

This week we’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.1 by spotlighting the authors!

Greg Dragon brings a fresh perspective to fiction by telling human stories of life, love, and relationships in a science fiction setting. This unconventional author spins his celestial scenes from an imagination nurtured from being an avid reader himself. His exposure to multiple cultures, religions, martial arts, and travel lends a unique dynamic to his stories.

You can enjoy excerpts from his work by visiting his website: gregdragon.com

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.
In the galaxy of Anstractor, the Vestalian people are dwindling on the edge of extinction. Having fled their planet after Geralos occupation, most survivors now serve on city-sized warships in space. Not everyone is meant to be a Navy spacer or Marine, however. Maysun Sear is no Navy man, and while he’s decent with a hand cannon, his prime concern is taking care of his family. Smuggling goods out from the Nusalein Cluster has allowed him to carve out a living and gives him hope of one day moving away from the conflict. When an Alliance patrol vessel intercepts an otherwise routine smuggling run, Maysun is thrown into a world he has spent his life trying hard to escape.

What was the inspiration behind this story?
Having just published Steel-Winged Valkyrie, a book centered around the war with the Geralos, I thought it would be interesting to write about a survivor caught in the middle of this conflict. With no powered armor suit and Alliance ordnance, how would an outlaw refugee fare against these aliens combing the system, looking for Vestalian brains?

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go, and what would you do?
I would love to spend a month on the planet Coruscant in Star Wars, but with enough credits to move about freely ingesting spice, blue milk, and whatever else I fancy.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?
Neuromancer, A Scanner Darkly, Snow Crash, just off the top of the head.

What authors have inspired your writing?
Phillip K Dick, Stephen King, Dewey Lambdin, and Bernard Cornwell.

What are you working on next?
A story based in 2094, the future of an alternate history that has led to a world embroiled in conflict. In Case City, an isolated metropolis, an assassin loyal to his guild finds himself in deep trouble with not only his rivals but the government itself. That’s the gist of it without giving away too much. Lots of cyber augments, neon lights, speedy hover cars, and debauchery. It’s a wild ride, and I am having a blast writing it.

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CROOKED V.1

You can read Greg Dragon’s story, “The Smuggler,” in CROOKED V.1.

Get it here.

Learn more about Greg’s books and download a free novel at www.gregdragon.com.

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[Interview] Wade Peterson, author of the Badlands Born series

Like road trips? Giant robots? Badass heroines? Snappy dialogue? 

Sounds like you should check out the Badlands Born series by Wade Peterson. As Wade describes it, Badlands Born is a love letter to a misspent youth watching Mad Max movies, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and listening to hair metal on the radio.

The second book in the series is out today, and if you act fast you can pick up the first book for only $0.99 on Amazon

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Badlands Born

Jasmine Shaw didn’t expect death to be more complicated than life, let alone find herself caught in a decaying afterlife created and then abandoned by her twin brother. To survive she must brave the dangers of the Badland’s blood-spattered highways and find her lost brother while also escaping the dark choices she made in life that threaten to destroy her again.

Get the first two Badlands Born books here.

Interview with Wade Peterson

Jessie Kwak: Start by telling us about Badlands Born. What made you want to write a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series?

Wade Peterson: It was originally a NaNoWriMo* novel, and I started with some characters and the mood. It was just three people in a car, and one person hated the music on the radio. I started asking questions: Why does she hate the music? Well, it’s stuck on the 80s station and she hates 80s music. Why is it stuck on the 80s station? Well, that’s the only station there is. Why is that the only station there is?

Then it was like, okay, that’s the only station because they’re actually in hell. But she’s not even in her own personal hell, she’s in somebody else’s personal hell. And so the story went from there. 

Badlands Born became a road trip through hell that has elements of science fiction and elements of fantasy. 

[*NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing month, where authors attempt to write a 50,000 word draft during the month of November.]

Is that how you normally start a project? With characters and mood and seeing what happens next? Or do you also outline?

I do a bit of both. Usually, the kernel of a story starts with a mood and maybe a couple of lines of dialogue or a scene. A lot of my story ideas come when I’m driving, running errands with music on. Eventually a song will get to me and something will pop into my head. If that same idea keeps popping up over the next couple of weeks, then that’s usually something I’ll develop into a bigger story.

Do you keep track of those somewhere ideas? Or is it just kind of whatever keeps pinging your mind?

I used to write down everything. I’ve got this note card file of all these little story ideas that popped up, which was great at the time when I was writing short stories every week. 

But now, I think if a story idea hits you and it’s enough to keep coming back, that’s your subconscious telling you this is something you can work with. Usually the ideas that have been pinging around for a few weeks or months have developed enough that you can start writing them down and seeing the connections between them.

I definitely find when something has been nagging at the back of my mind for a while, that’s when I’m really excited to write it. I write into the dark, where I just follow a character to see what they do. But it’s definitely easier if I’ve been mulling it over long enough that I have some vague idea of what’s gonna happen.

Yeah, I think it’s easier to keep a mental note and let it build. Little ideas only have a little bit of momentum and when you have a bunch of them together they push each other forward.

I wanted to ask you about the desert and why you chose that setting. Did you find inspiration from actual deserts that you have been in? 

You have this whole pop culture mystique about the desert. There’s the Wild West, Weird West, Spirit West — all those iconic scenes of the big gigantic arches and hoodoos and monoliths, from cartoons like Coyote and Roadrunner to franchises like Mad Max. There’s definitely a bit of Mad Max post-apocalyptic theme going on in Badlands Born

The desert’s also kind of spooky. You’ve got the extremes of heat and cold. You can’t trust your senses because maybe you can see water, but it’s just a mirage. You can hear things in the wind, echoes that can either be miles away or really close to you. The desert has a lot of potential for strange things happening. 

I started writing the story when I was in Wisconsin, which is definitely not desert. But as I was rewriting, I was living in Utah. The story starts out in a red rock desert, and eventually emerges into more of the sage and sandstone that you find in southern Utah right before you get to places like Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park.

Yeah, that’s one of my favorite parts of the US. I love that area of southern Utah, Northern Arizona. What was one of your favorite parts of writing the series?

My favorite part is when everything’s going in a flow. Then, you’re not so much thinking about what’s happening, you’re just typing and the next line is right there for you. You’re almost telling yourself a story as fast as you can write it down. That’s when things happen that you didn’t plan, and it changes the story. That’s the magic part of writing.

I also had lots of fun with writing the big set piece battle scenes in the climax. That was a lot of fun, just setting things up and shooting it all out. 

When do you most get into flow?

I can’t put my finger on when I’m going to be in flow and when I’m not. Usually at the beginning of a book there’s a lot of back pressure of ideas that want to flow out. But it comes and goes. I think a lot of it is just staying in the chair, then it either comes or it doesn’t. 

I will say some scenes are easier for me to write. Action scenes are easier, and I usually have really loud music going on in the background. That seems to help. 

Maybe that’s what I need, because I find action scenes challenging. The last quarter of this book I’m working on right now is all action scenes. Everyone’s just running around shooting things, and it’s been tough to draft. What’s your action scene go-to music?

For this series my action scene go-to music is hair metal from the 80s. So Mötley Crüe, Guns and Roses, AC/DC, Metallica. I have a playlist called “Battle,” and another one labeled “80s Novel” with all the other pop music I listened to growing up. 

The third book of the series is going to have a lot more of a the Wild West theme, so that changes the music. I’ve got the soundtrack from Red Dead Redemption, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and a lot of other spaghetti western themes show up in that playlist, too. And some stoner rock, like Clutch and Radio Moscow. You know, laid back, heavy, sometimes they go into 6/8 time. 

When I was starting out with the NaNoWriMo novel, I would write song lyrics at the beginning of each chapter to set the mood, but you can’t do that with copyright. So I put it into a playlist instead.

[Curious? Get Wade’s playlist when you join his newsletter.]

What has been one of the most challenging parts of writing the series?

The hardest part is that when you start a novel, you have these key scenes in your head. When you’re doing the first draft, especially during NaNoWriMo, when you get stuck you can just cut and start a new scene. Well, when you’re putting it together you gotta address those cuts. And sometimes you have to throw stuff out you want to keep in. So the hardest part has been learning how to bridge things together, and then how to cut things that you really want to keep. 

Like with writing the third book, I had two act ones and I had to choose at the end which one I was going to take, because they both followed the outline, kind of. But they went different directions at the end. 

For me, it’s about finding a milestone and trying to aim towards it. I always start in the place I wanted to and end in the place I wanted to, and usually I hit the big scene in the middle. But the path in between those three points isn’t usually what I thought it would be.

What’s next in the Badlands Born series and beyond?

There will be at least three Badlands Born books, and it’s definitely a series that can go as farther. A lot of is gonna just depend on how well it’s received. 

Next, I’m planning a science fiction series, because I have such a huge background in sci-fi. I grew up reading about fifty-fifty sci-fi and fantasy, and I think they go together like chocolate and peanut butter. So I did my peanut butter. Now it’s time to do some chocolate. 

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Thanks, Wade! 

Don’t forget to grab the first two Badlands Born books here.

And head to Wade’s website to sign up for his newsletter and get his 80s road trip through hell playlist