Thursday, December 18, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: S. M. Freedman, Author

S.M. Freedman, Author
Reviewers praise THE FAITHFUL from S. M. Freedman as anengrossing and original bit of fiction” and a “very unordinary book. Good unordinary.” It involves an agent and his search for missing children with psychic abilities. An Amazon best-seller in the U.S. and U.K., it was also a quarter finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

A former private investigator and business owner, S. M. Freedman now lives in Vancouver with her husband, two children, and a large yellow cat. (I have one of those, too!) She also studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, but she says writing is her true love. She is currently working on the sequel to THE FAITHFUL and plans to release it in the first half of 2015.

Q: Reviewers of THE FAITHFUL tout the vastness of your imagination and even wonder “How far was she going to push the limits of her imagination?” How did you envision your “supernatural/suspense/thriller/mystery,” which has been described as “something for everyone… mystery… SciFi…romance… heartbreak… thrills?” What inspired your story?

S. M. Freedman: The initial inspiration for THE FAITHFUL came from the meteorite that exploded above Russia in February 2013. I started to research NASA’s Spaceguard program, which is charged with finding Near Earth Objects (or NEO’s) before they impact the earth. My main character became a meteorite hunter, working for Spaceguard at their facility on the White Sands Missile Range. From there it grew to encompass an FBI agent obsessed with the kidnapping of hundreds of psychic children, and a twisted organization bent on Armageddon. How it actually ended up there is strange magic I just can’t explain.

Q: Reviewers also appreciated your characters as “vivid” and “real people with deep emotions, foibles, and unexpected humor.” What makes a “real” character?

S. M. Freedman: Flaws, and lots of them. Each of my characters began as an extension of me, whether it was my sass and love of junk food (Ryanne), my determination and ethics (Josh), or my totally inappropriate sense of humor (Sumner). But at some point, each of them took on a life of their own, much to my horror and delight. I think that’s when they became real.

Q: How helpful is humor to engaging readers and telling your story?

S. M. Freedman: If characters are the meat of your word stew, action and pacing the vegetables, and vivid imagery the broth that melds it all together, you’re still missing something without humor. Humor is the salt that enhances all the other flavors. Without it, the story is pretty bland.  

Q: How relevant is the concept of villains-versus-heroes to telling your story? What are the characteristics of an effective villain? Do you need a villain to produce a hero?

S. M. Freedman: Without a doubt, THE FAITHFUL is a classic good versus evil tale. But the truth is so much muddier than that. The best villains have redeeming qualities; the best heroes have major flaws. In any given circumstance, a hero can become a villain, and the worst villain can become a hero. It’s what makes them human, and relatable.

Q: Several reviewers were impressed with your technical knowledge claiming it “makes it look very realistic and believable.” How relevant is back-story to creating credibility? Is credibility important to engaging readers? How else did you deliver believability?

S. M. Freedman: I’m an obsessive researcher. The settings in THE FAITHFUL are real, right down to the gas stations, hotels and restaurants. For me, it helped to ground the fantastical parts of the story in that kind of reality. Even the locals don’t seem to know that the Spaceguard facility actually exists on the White Sands Missile Range (although I took some creative license and put it closer to Las Cruces, it’s actually near Socorro). To be fair, it is hard to find, and men with big guns will try to stop you if you try. Trust me on this one.  

Q: Why did you choose to write the story from various points-of-view? How helpful was this approach to telling the story?

S. M. Freedman: I honestly couldn’t tell this big a story if I’d stayed in one person’s head. And it’s fun to let readers in on secrets that other characters don’t know.

Q: Reviewers say THE FAITHFUL is “thought-provoking.” Did you write it to tell an entertaining story? To deliver a message? To educate? To make readers think?

S. M. Freedman: I wish I could pretend I was intellectual enough to have a message, but honestly, I just wanted to write a good story.

Q:  What’s next?

S. M. Freedman: I’m working on the sequel to THE FAITHFUL. If all goes well it should be available sometime in the first half of 2015.

Q: Tell us about S.M. Freedman. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

S. M. Freedman: I’m a former private investigator turned author. Mom of two, wife of one, and ruled by one giant orange cat. Seriously, don’t anger the cat.

When I’m not writing, I’m cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, helping with homework, chauffeuring, and appeasing the cat.

About S. M. Freedman

S.M. Freedman is a top-ranked Amazon author in the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense
categories, and a member of the WorldWiseWriters group. She lives in Vancouver with her husband, two children and a giant orange cat.

She studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and spent years as a private investigator and business owner.

Inspired by authors of many different genres (favorites include Sue Grafton, Diana
Gabaldon, Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Justin Cronin, Suzanne Collins and Lawrence Hill, to name a few) she eventually turned back to her first love: writing.

THE FAITHFUL, a paperback and kindle Amazon Bestseller in both the US and the UK, and a Quarter Finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is her debut novel. She's currently working on the sequel.

For Agent Josh Metcalf, memories are ghosts. They are blood-soaked backpacks and the smell of strawberry Chap Stick. Josh is haunted by a little girl who went missing his first summer on the force. Decades later his search has become an obsession, and he's pinned the photos of hundreds of missing children to his wall of tears. All the children had psychic abilities. All the cases went cold -- with no witnesses, no useful tips, and no children ever recovered. Until a woman gets injured trying to stop an abduction, and Josh comes face to face with his personal ghost.

For Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard program, memories are lies. The childhood she thought she knew has been erased, leaving a black hole in its place. New recollections are flaring to life: men dressed like priests, a ranch in the mountains, mind control, and rape. Each new memory draws her closer to one of the other missing children, Sumner Macey; and to I Fidele, the underground organization for whom kidnapping is just the beginning.

For Sumner, memories have become weapons. He's sharpened each of his with surgical precision: the ranch, the doctrine, the mind-wash, and the murders. He's eager to slice at the black sludge pumping through I Fidele's heart, desperate to cripple those who stole his childhood.

To I Fidele, non-psychics are cockroaches in need of extermination, an inferior species destroying the earth. They're ready to enforce eugenics on a global scale. If they succeed, only those faithful to their doctrine will survive. Crossing several genres, THE FAITHFUL will appeal to anyone who enjoys supernatural mysteries; high-tech, edge-of-your-seat suspense flavored with paranormal elements; thrillers involving psychics, occult and high stakes action/adventure; tied up with a depth and humor usually reserved for works of literary fiction.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Darryl Olsen, SciFi Author

“Filled with page after page of adventure, chaos and profound action.” That’s how reviewers describe Darryl Olsen’s science fiction novel PURGATORY ORIGINS: POWERS OF DARKNESS. In the following interview, Olsen explains why his story is “not a predictable story line,” why it’s full of action, and why he chose Egyptian archaeological digs and Wyoming mountains as settings.

Olsen currently lives in Sydney, Australia where he loves to drive his jeep out to the State Forrest or race his race horses all over Australia. Olsen has also written PURGATORY SOLDIERS OF MISFORTUNE and CHILDREN OF THE GODS. He is currently working on a novella to follow CHILDREN OF THE GODS to be released early in 2015; and will then complete the Purgatory Series with “Purgatory Origins, Men in Black.”

Don't miss the giveaway opportunity following his interview.

Q: Reviewers applaud the originality of your plot for PURGATORY ORIGINS: POWERS OF DARKNESS and claim it’s “not a predictable story line” and integrates history with science fiction. How did you conceive or envision this unique plot?

Darryl Olsen: You’re right about PURGATORY ORIGINS having a “not predictable story line”, I wanted to devise an ending that the reader could finish, but still make them think about for days after the read. About 18 months ago I started devising a time travelling science fiction piece with a basic storyline which flows from the first book titled Purgatory, Soldiers of Misfortune. But with only a few months left I ended up changing Purgatory Origins to a prequel rather than a sequel. This process enables me to create a stand alone piece which subsequently introduced new characters and scenes to the Purgatory Series.

Q: Reviewer after reviewer talks about the “nonstop action” of PURGATORY ORIGINS: POWERS OF DARKNESS with its “relentless passion for adventure” and a “story [that] jumps and dives and turns over but never falls to the ground.” How do you create this pace? And how do you give your readers a chance to breathe? Or, do you?

Darryl Olsen: You can breathe after you stop reading. haha. Yeah I admit the book has a lot of action, but it’s done in such away that it still holds up as a good read. My passion in reading and writing has always been action. That’s probably the reason I joined the military when I left school.

Q: You integrate history into your story. Did this require research? How relevant is historical accuracy to your story?

Darryl Olsen: To give myself a basic understanding of WW2 bombers and refuelling trucks I did find myself researching mainly through the internet and Google, but I did visit the War Memorial in Canberra ACT for some pictures. This knowledge gave me a basic understanding of the times, but the story itself doesn’t dive into the world of specifications of those machines.

Q: How significant is credibility to engaging your readers? If it’s important, how do you achieve believability? Or is it not a key issue for a “time-traveling sci-fi saga?”

Darryl Olsen: Your main role as an author is to engage the reader. The best way to engage the reader is to grab their attention in the first few chapters. The best way to grab their attention is to give them characters they believe and follow. Once you give the storyline good strong characters, you can put those same characters in situations like time travel and horror. This process makes the characters believable. But your base is always the welfare of those characters, make them believable but bend the world around them. 
Q: Why do readers care about your “well-formed” characters? How do you create characters in your world? Do you base them on people in the real world?

Darryl Olsen: The main characters are a mix of people I know and have read about, but they are not specific to any one person. I like mixing my characters up for each story, I’ll create characters I love and follow, then I’ll throw in those which make you dislike and cringe. Its like working for large companies, you are all there for the same result, but you don’t necessarily get along with everyone.  

Q: How helpful is setting (in Egyptian archaeological digs and Wyoming mountains) to telling your story?

Darryl Olsen: Those locations I picked suit those scenarios in the story the best. I looked at so many rural suburbs when researching my book and finally settled on Wyoming as my rural retreat. It offered that unique laidback lifestyle with a dense forest nearby. I also couldn’t pass on the opportunity to mention the archaeological dig sites around Egypt, it was an area that everyone would recognise and affiliate with ancient history.  
Q: Whenever Nazis occur in a book, I ponder why and how they existed to do the inhuman things they did. Did you intend to deliver a message or did you write the story strictly to entertain?

Darryl Olsen: The reason I chose the Nazis was for the fact I needed a group desperate enough and willing to sell their soul in a last minute effort to win a losing war. This is the reason I send the Nazis to Purgatory as they plan on bringing back secrets, which they can later transform into deadly weapons.

Q: You tend to appreciate and enjoy horror or exploring the “what if” of horrific characters and events. Do you see “life” this way? Or do you – like Stephen King – just appreciate a good horror story? What else do you like to read besides science fiction and horror?

Darryl Olsen: I do love a good horror story, but I also wanted the reader to think about the scenario where they themselves are one of the main characters. I love everything action, so if it’s a good read, coupled with heaps of action chances are I have probably read it. My favourite read is a story about the British SAS titled Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNAB.

Q: What’s next?

Darryl Olsen: I’m in the process of writing a short novella, which will follow from CHILDREN OF THE GODS. This should be released early next year. I will then complete the Purgatory Series with the next instalment titled Purgatory Origins, Men in Black.

Q: Tell us about Darryl Olsen. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Darryl Olsen: I live in Sydney Australia. I love taking my Jeep out in the State Forest. I also love football and motor sport. I own a number of racehorses that race all around Australia but that’s another story in itself. I’m a massive film junkie and read at least one book every fortnight.

About Darryl Olsen

Darryl Olsen is a Sydney based author of titles including PURGATORY SOLDIERS OFMISFORTUNE, CHILDREN OF THE GODS, and PURGATORY ORIGINS: POWERS OF DARKNESS. Darryl was first introduced to the world of fiction whilst schooling on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. After a short period of school Darryl Olsen found his true calling in life as he enlisted in the Australian Army.

For more information about Darryl and his upcoming books please go to or you can contact him on


Australian sci-fi author Olsen continues his Purgatory series, knitting together a disparate menagerie of time-travelling Nazis, escaped serial killers, dog-headed monsters and Corsican gangsters in a far-out tale that reads like a mash up of Raiders of the Lost Ark and 24. 

When Professor Harrison Standish, a bookish young archaeologist inadvertently stumbles upon an ancient burial chamber in Egypt, he is baffled to find symbolism inside that would appear to date from two different historical periods, thousands of years apart. Suspecting the tomb had been tampered with at some point in the distant past, Professor Standish soon discovers the skeletons of ten half-human/half-canine creatures lying in a far corner of the chamber and his initial bafflement now turns to shock. What kind of ancient madman would be conducting such a horrific experiment?

As Dr. Standish endeavors to explain this mystery over the ensuing days, he happens upon a news report, suggesting that these same grotesque, half-human/half-canine creatures have come to life in the remote mountains of Wyoming and he is immediately on the next flight. By the time he arrives in Wyoming, a World War II Nazi bomber has materialized out of the sky and crashed off the coast of France and a Nazi general named Schmitz has stumbled into the 21st century, leaving behind evidence of his presence in Professor Standish's ancient burial chamber back in Egypt, all of which sets the stage for a rollicking, nonstop, modern day fantasy/sci-fi adventure.

The cast of characters in Purgatory: Origins includes Rachael, a pesky, auburn haired New York magazine correspondent, who is known equally for her ability to sink her teeth into a story and her unwillingness to let it go, Jason Kendall, an escaped rapist and killer who falls hard for Rachael when they cross paths and turns out to have a past with our half human creatures, and Harper, the ex-special forces FBI agent, whose primary goal is finding Jason Kendall, getting him back behind bars and keeping him there for the rest of his life but soon finds himself sucked into this mystery woven of ancient symbolism, old Nazi war criminals and otherworldly creatures.

As with Soldiers of Misfortune, the first installment of the Purgatory series, Purgatory: Origins, The Prequel, presents an alternative universe that is as real as your Sunday morning paper, yet one that quickly leads to swashbuckling adventures. Purgatory: Origins. An alternative universe you enter with no hope of escaping, a book you pick up with little hope of putting it back down.


“Sir, you’d best get up here. They’ve found something and according to the captain of the search boat, it’s very strange.”

Jacques got to his feet wearily.

“Please wait here,” he said to the father and son. “I will return soon.”

Back up on the Préfet Maritime vessel, the inspector grabbed the radio receiver.

“Yes, this is Inspector Mitterand. What it is you’ve found?”

“Sir, we have located a plane on the sea bed that fits the general description and dimensions that your two witnesses described. It’s in about 50 meters of water.”

“Very well, send your divers down and get back to me once they’ve had a closer look.”

Jacques had started to hang up but heard a voice coming through the receiver.

“Yes, what it is?”

“Sir, there is more.”

“There is more what?”

“The plane appears to be balancing on a deep ocean trench.”

“And your point is?”

“Sir, there is no deep ocean trench in this area. At least there should not be. I have worked the waters off this coast for many years and have never heard of such a thing. I can assure you it doesn’t exist on any of the ocean charts we have.”



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Brian Burt, Science Fiction Author

Brian Burt, Author
(To be published Feb. 2015)
Please welcome science fiction author Brian Burt. Reviewers tout his first book, AQUARIUS RISING BOOK 1: IN THE TEARS OF GOD, as an “apocalyptic/dystopian aquatic tale of impressive scope and remarkable vision.” He describes it as a “cautionary tale,” a “what if”  story that tells what might happen if we don’t listen. It won the 2014 EPIC e-book award for Science Fiction. You can check out an excerpt from this book following the interview.

Burt's second book, AQUARIUS RISING BOOK 2: BLOOD TIDE, to be released in February 2015, features a human-dolphin hybrid trying to survive from the outcome of climate change. 

Burt is a father of three boys, although he hints that he might really be the fourth “boy” in the family.  When he’s not writing, he enjoys his day job as an information security engineer, protecting us against hackers. The award-winning author has published more than 20 short stories in addition to his novels and is already working on the third book in the Aquarius Rising Trilogy.

Q: I’m always amazed and impressed with how you science fiction authors envision your “what if” story. Reviewers tout your plot as an “apocalyptic/ dystopian aquatic tale of impressive scope and remarkable vision.” How do you do it? What inspired you to create the story for AQUARIUS RISING?

Brian Burt: I'm a dad.  I have three boys, ages 8 to 18, and (despite my chronic immaturity) it's my job to look after them.  I've always believed that means I'm supposed to ensure that the world they inherit is at least a bit better than the one in which I grew up.  Lately, when I consider the trends, I struggle to convince myself that I'm living up to that responsibility.

Climate change is one of the "inconvenient truths" that keep me awake at night.  I'm not a scientist or a climate expert, but I do read what the experts have to say, and it's not encouraging.  We seem determined to conduct a massive, uncontrolled experiment with the Earth as our laboratory.  If things go wrong and the experiment blows up in our faces, we can't just leave the building until somebody else cleans up the mess.

That concern over "what if" emerged as one of the central themes that inspired my debut novel, AQUARIUS RISING: IN THE TEARS OF GOD. The characters in this story, Book 1 of the Aquarius Rising trilogy, find themselves fighting for survival on an Earth where a disastrous attempt to reverse global warming has had the opposite effect.  Most of the planet has become harsh and inhospitable.  To adjust to the brutal conditions, humans have adapted themselves through bioengineering.  We (humanity) have become the parent race to a variety of child species, all of them competing to dominate the ecological niches that still support life.  In this series, we're too often unfit parents.

So, yes, it has dystopian elements.  But I think of this as a cautionary tale, a fictional exploration of one possible future — one we as a species ought to fight like hell to avoid!

Q: How important is credibility to a science fiction thriller? One reviewer credited you with “incredible technical tools made believable.” What do you do to make your story and its characters believable?

Brian Burt: I'll admit to feelings of insecurity on this.  I don't have formal education in the hard sciences, so I often worry about messing up the technical details, especially in a series of novels of this complexity.  So I begged for help.  I ended up soliciting feedback from three very gracious scientists, experts in marine biology and oceanography, who reviewed the first draft of AQUARIUS RISING: IN THE TEARS OF GOD and helped me avoid obvious gaffes.  I think in any fiction genre, but especially science fiction, making a glaring mistake of scientific fact alienates a good chunk of your audience.

Q: Reviewers also embrace your characters as “well thought out” and characters “that you really care about.” Why do you think they like your characters? Did you copy real people?

Brian Burt: That's a great question, and a tricky one!  I think every author is a voyeur — a quiet student of human nature who observes and records unobtrusively all the time.  I definitely draw on aspects of the personalities of real people when I create fictional characters.  But, of course, no character in the novel is a "carbon copy" of somebody I know.  Good characters in fiction take on lives of their own and branch off in directions that you, as their "creator," never imagined up-front.  That's a big part of the fun and challenge of being a writer.  You have to give your characters (like your kids) space to evolve and not be constrained by your own biases or preconceptions.  If you do that, you can end up with characters who are compelling to you... and if they grab the writer's attention, they have a much better chance of appealing to readers.

Q: How relevant is the concept of hero-versus-villain to telling your story? What are the attributes of an effective villain?

Brian Burt: I've never been a fan of the "pure evil" villain, the cartoon bad guy who has no redeeming qualities.  In AQUARIUS RISING: IN THE TEARS OF GOD, I wound up with a villain named Edmund Bryce who was a pretty nasty dude; he did some truly despicable things.  But he genuinely believed he was doing them to achieve a greater good.  He had some worthy goals, and he was haunted by painful episodes in his own past that marked him indelibly.  I didn't much like him, but I did feel sympathy for him.  So, I think readers generally enjoy having somebody to root for and somebody to root against... but I think they're smart and sophisticated, savoring protagonists with some flaws and antagonists with some virtues.  Speculative fiction readers strike me as a very savvy bunch, and anyone who reads books these days is probably a pretty discriminating judge of storytelling!

Q: Did you write AQUARIUS RISING to entertain only, or did you intend to deliver a message or educate your readers?

Brian Burt: I wanted to write a story with plenty of action and compelling characters, but I was aiming for more than that.  I'm not an activist, and I don't mean to get overly political.  But I do hope the novel makes readers think: are we willing to bet the future of our planet on a roll of the climate dice, praying that the scientific consensus is wrong and that the bones won't come up snake-eyes?  Is this really the kind of world we would bequeath to our grandchildren?  Can we trust ourselves as a species to "play god" to some extent and manipulate our own genetics?  If we try to "geo-engineer" a fix to global problems, will we be better or worse off in the long run?  These aren't easy questions, and I certainly don't know the answers.  But if readers end up contemplating them, I'll feel satisfied that the novel had some value.

It was reassuring to learn that the novel won the 2014 EPIC eBook Award for Science Fiction.  We all need validation once in a while, and this renewed my determination to keep working and striving to become a better storyteller.

Q: What draws you to write in your genre? Why “dystopia” rather than “utopia?” Can there not be an interesting story in “utopia?”

Brian Burt: I think utopias can be intriguing as well, but I'd have to confess that most of the memorable stories that leap to mind (from classics like 1984, Brave New World, or Farenheit 451 to more contemporary novels like the Hunger Games) seem to focus on the shadows in our future rather than the light.  I suspect it's easier to create drama and tension in a dystopian setting, sad to say.  The works of speculative fiction that stick with us are often haunting, not necessarily predictive but provocative.

Q: Why write a series rather than a standalone book?

Brian Burt: Believe it or not, the Aquarius Rising series began its life as a short story.  For most of my writing career, I've only written short fiction; in fact, my first big break as a writer was winning the Gold Award (grand prize) in the Writers of the Future contest for a short story entitled "The Last Indian War."  So I wrote a (somewhat long) short story called "Neptune's Children" that was set in the fictional world that became Aquarius, but it was a dismal failure.  I couldn't do the idea justice in that format.  So, when I finally decided (gulp!) to get over my fear of commitment and try a full-length novel, the world of Aquarius Rising seemed perfect, but I still strongly suspected that it would expand beyond the boundaries of a single novel.

Q: Reviewers are pleased with the “unremitting tension” and say you did a “good job of balancing action, exposition and scene-setting to create a highly colorful page-turner.” How do you build tension and suspense? Are there any tricks?

Brian Burt: I'm a rookie novelist, so I wouldn't presume to imply that I've mastered the tricks!  But I'm a longtime, voracious reader, and I've learned some valuable lessons from the brilliant authors who have hooked me with their writing styles.  I tried to approach my debut novel with the assumption that each chapter was in some sense a short story unto itself, but one that could end on a cliff-hanger without cheating the reader.  So I tried to build tension within most chapters, leaving some unresolved challenge for the point-of-view character to confront at chapter's end.  That can certainly be overdone, and the pace needs to be varied, but I tried my best to ramp up the tension steadily throughout the novel.

Q: What’s next?

Brian Burt: AQUARIUS RISING BOOK 2: BLOOD TIDE is scheduled for release in early 2015.  I'm hard at work on BOOK 3: THE PRICE OF EDEN, which will conclude the Aquarius Rising trilogy.  After that, I'm looking forward to building a totally new fictional world, but it will likely still draw on environmental themes since these evoke passion in me as a writer and as a person.

Q:  Tell us about Brian Burt. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Brian Burt: My wife would say that I'm an overgrown kid (maturity-wise, at least), so I love goofing around with my three boys.  I also enjoy my day job as an information security engineer.  Anyone who reads the headlines knows that the cyber-crooks keep breaching the digital barriers and stealing precious personal information from company after company.  I love the challenge of trying to block them, to put on the "white hat" and counter the black-hat hackers.  These days, it definitely feels like there are a lot more attackers than defenders.  Talk about job security!

About Brian Burt

Brian Burt works as an information security engineer in West Michigan, where some of his most bizarre and twisted imaginings wind up in threat assessments.  His wife and three boys tolerate his strange imagination and constantly inspire new flights of fancy, whether they mean to or not.  He enjoys reading, cycling, hiking, horseplay, red wine, and local micro-brews (so hopefully the virtues balance the vices, more or less).  At every opportunity, he uses his sons as an excuse to act like an unruly child (which is why his wife enjoys rum, school days, and migraine medication).

Brian has published more than twenty short stories in various markets, including print magazines, anthologies, and electronic publications.  He won the L. Ron Hubbard Gold Award in 1992 for his short story, “The Last Indian War,” which was anthologized in WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOLUME VIII.  His story “Phantom Pain” received an Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Tenth Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.  He’s a card-carrying member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  His debut novel, AQUARIUS RISING: IN THE TEARS OF GOD, won the 2014 EPIC eBook Award for Science Fiction.

*Winner of the 2014 EPIC Award for Best Science Fiction* 

On an Earth ravaged by global warming, human-dolphin hybrids called Aquarians have built thriving reef colonies among the drowned cities of the coast. Now their world is under siege from an enemy whose invisible weapon leaves no survivors. Only Ocypode the Atavism—half-human and half-Aquarian, marooned in the genetic limbo between species—knows why. Disclosing the reason could be as deadly to Aquarius as the Medusa plague itself. Ocypode and his comrades must face the perils of flight into the open ocean, a friend’s betrayal, a killer storm, a lethal kelp forest haunted by mutant monsters, and a fundamental challenge to their most cherished beliefs if they are to have any hope of saving Aquarius from destruction. They must enlist allies of the most unexpected sort from the most unlikely of places. Even then—when confronted by rogue scientists determined to resurrect the land by slaughtering the sea—it may not be enough.

We were born in the tears of God.
When the First Creator wept at the fate of His Creation, His tears fell like burning rain to melt the polar ice and swell the seas, the cradle of all life.  His grief swallowed the mighty human cities of the coast and gave them over to the realm of Mother Ocean.  Humanity, who did not aggrieve the Maker out of malice but out of ignorance, wished to atone for their sins against the Earth.  We are that atonement.  We are Humankind's offering to the First Creator, the Maker of All.  The Great Father — a man, and nothing more — crafted his transforming virus and infected his own kind, so that we might be born as the children of Man and Mother Ocean.  Humanity became the Second Creator, Aquarius the Second Creation, and we the stewards of its bounty.
We owe much to Man, who is our father and our brother.  We must honor our debt to him.  But we must always remember this: he who has the power to Create also has the power to Destroy.
— Delphis, Third Pod Leader of Tillamook Reef Colony, from a speech to commemorate the Fiftieth Aquarian Birth Day


Ocypode dove through the turquoise waters of Tillamook Reef toward the fringes of the celebration.  Revelers floated everywhere.  Strings of limpets, whelks, and periwinkles glittered around their necks, clicking when they moved.  Brightly colored pigments stained their skin of blue and gray and silver with pictograms symbolizing the history of Aquarius.  Ocypode ghosted through the crowd in silence.  His own flesh bore no ornaments.
Ocypode of Tillamook had no desire to draw attention to himself.
He slipped through the window of an ancient building, its barnacle-encrusted frame long devoid of panes, and hovered in the opening like a misshapen eye thrust into the socket of a skull.  Birth Day throngs made him want to flee toward open ocean.  He preferred to watch from the shadows.
The surface shimmered overhead as sunlight filtered down to paint the reef.  The drowned Human city had been reborn, bones of steel and concrete covered with a growth of corals. Fish darted between caves marked by crumbling doors and windows, danced across the reef like fragments of a shattered rainbow.  Waves soughed beneath the chatter of the crowd.  When he listened, Ocypode could almost grasp the secrets hidden in that ceaseless whisper.
Ocypode hated secrets.  They had ruled his life for far too long...but not today.

Scheduled for release by Double Dragon Publishing in 2015

Megalops is an Aquarian, a human-dolphin hybrid who lives in one of the many reef-cities that thrive beneath the waves on an Earth ravaged by climate change.  Some of the Humans who cling to the barren lands blame Aquarius for their plight and unleashed the Medusa Plague that entombed Megalops's wife and daughter in stone.  Tormented by that loss, Megalops dedicates everything to avenging his murdered family, no matter what the cost.  He unleashes a Vendetta Virus as cruel and lethal as the Medusa Plague, a bio-weapon that transforms living Humans into Aquarian corpses.

Ocypode — one of the heroes who stopped the Medusa Plague — and his band of Human and Aquarian allies battle desperate odds to prevent Megalops from committing an act of genocide that will escalate into global conflict, dragging the Earth's other humanoid species into the chaos.  War demands sacrifice.  If Mother Earth and Mother Ocean wage war against each other, will anyone survive?


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