Wednesday, August 29, 2012

All 5 covers for my 'Mage Hunter' series

With the release a few days ago of my new five-part Mage Hunter series, I've been asked, "Are you really going to have all five parts available?"

The answer is, obviously, a resounding "YES!"

As evidence of this, I thought I would give a very slight preview. No, not any of the story, but the covers, all five of them, the first one at the left and the others below. So at least everyone will know that much has been accomplished (actually, a lot more work has already been done, but this gives me a chance to show off my covers).

Also, for anyone interested, for a very limited time, Mage Hunter, Episode I: Blooded Snow is free over at Smashwords.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 72 -- Ielle: A Realm of Janos Novel

by Andre SanThomas

Started: August 25
Finished: August 28

Notes: I'm not much of an erotica reader, but this e-book has drawn me for a few reasons. My interest was initially piqued because this is erotica taking place in a fantasy world, so I want to see what the author does with this, the direction the tale takes. Also, I've sampled enough to know the author can write. And I'd like to add, attitude goes a long way, and this author has impressed me whenever I've seen him or her (I don't know which) on blogs or writing boards, etc.

Mini review: This was a damn fine read. The writing is solid, the mystery plot quite interesting, and the characters likable in their own manner. And I had a few chuckles because it dawned on my while reading this why I'm not generally attracted to erotica literature. I enjoyed the plot here, but I'd become frustrated every time there was a sex scene because I felt like it slowed the story down! Ha! This was no failing on the writer's part, as her sex scenes were written well and tasteful, but again, erotica just isn't my thing. For those who enjoy erotica, especially some slight bondage, this should be on your reading list. And even for those who aren't into reading erotica, if you enjoy fantasy, this is an interesting tale in an interesting world, and is worth reading.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mage Hunter series begins

Today kicks off my new Mage Hunter five-part fantasy serial. Each Monday for the next month following today another episode will be released until all five episodes are available. Each episode will be approximately 20,000 words and will have a price of 99 cents, at least until Nov. 1 when I will consider changing the prices on at least some of the episodes (we'll see).

This first episode is Mage Hunter: Blooded Snow. For now it will only be available for the Kindle, though I am not currently tied into any contractual agreements with Amazon and might make the series available soon for other e-book reading devices.

The story takes place in my fantasy world of Ursia, about eighty years before the events of my Kobalos Trilogy. All cover artwork and design for the series are of my own creation, including the map inside.

Here, I'll let the description of the first episode speak for itself ...

A hunt for raiding barbarians turns upon the hunters.

But far worse is to come for the sleepy villages of northern Ursia and the soldiers who protect the villagers. The Dartague barbarians have had enough of the Ursians encroaching upon their mountainous borders, and the raids are but a feint to draw out soldiers while a much larger attack is in the works.

His squad mates slain, Sergeant Guthrie Hackett finds himself alone in the winter wilderness on the border between his homeland and the nation of barbarians. He discovers the Dartague have a new leader, a wyrd woman who is behind the border assault. Worse yet for the sergeant, he has fallen under the attention of an ice witch, an inhuman creature with secret goals of her own.

Seeking to survive, Hackett tries to make it back to his own countrymen, only to find there is relatively little safety for him anywhere in the northern regions.
"Mage Hunter: Blooded Snow" is the first of a five-part series, and part of the author's much broader Ursian Chronicles.


Episodes are priced at 99 cents each until Nov. 1, 2012

Episode schedule:
Part 1: Blooded Snow: Monday, Aug. 27, 2012
Part 2: Sundered Shields: Monday, Sept. 3, 2012
Part 3: Bared Blades: Monday, Sept. 10, 2012
Part 4: Hammered Iron: Monday, Sept 17, 2012
Part 5: Changeless Fate: Monday, Sept. 24, 2012

Award winners on sale!

Readers! Eight award winners in the 2012 eFestival of Words "Best of the Independent eBook Awards" have grouped together to offer you an amazing opportunity. They've reduced the prices of their award-winning novels to 99 cents for August 27 and 28th!

Whether you like to read mysteries, romance, horror, young adult, women's fiction, or fantasy, this group has it. Are you a writer yourself? Do you want to learn all about digitally publishing your next masterpiece? They've got you covered there too.

Get all eight award-winning ebooks for the price of one single paperback!

Award Winners

Best Mystery/Suspense: Dead is the New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice
Best Non-Fiction: DIY/Self-Help: Let's Get Digital by David Gaughran
Best Horror: 61 A.D. by David McAfee
Best Romance: Deadly Obsession by Kristine Cayne
Best Young Adult: The Book of Lost Souls by Michelle Muto
Best Fantasy/Urban Fantasy and Best NovelThe Black God's War by Moses Siregar III
Best Chick Lit/Women's LitCarpe Bead'em by Tonya Kappes
Award for Best Twist ("I've Been Shyamalaned"): The Survival of Thomas Ford by John A.A. Logan

Here's a one-stop shopping link for your convenience:

Book Blurbs

Dead is the New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice
Laura Carnegie gave up on the man of her dreams a long time ago. He's fashion designer Jeremy St. James, and not only is he her boss, everyone knows he's gay.

When the woman who holds the company purse strings is found dead in the office, and Jeremy's arrested for the murder, everything changes. If Laura can just solve this crime, keep the cops off her tail, break up a counterfeiting ring, and get the show on the runway by Friday, she might stop being Seventh Avenue's perpetual loser.

If you love Project Runway, or enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada, try Dead Is the New Black.

Let's Get Digital by David Gaughran
This guide contains over 60,000 words of essays, articles, and how-to guides, as well as contributions from 33 bestselling indie authors including J Carson Black, Bob Mayer, Victorine Lieske, Mark Edwards, and many more.

It covers everything from how the disruptive power of the internet has changed the publishing business forever to the opportunities this has created for writers. It gives you practical advice on editing, cover design, formatting, and pricing. And it reveals marketing tips from blogging and social networking right through to competitions, discounts, reviews, and giveaways.

If you are considering self-publishing, if you need to breathe life into your flagging sales, or if you want to understand why it's a great time to be a writer, Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should will explain it all.

61 A.D. by David McAfee
61 A.D. For ten years, Taras has lived in the young city of Londinium, feeding off the city’s underbelly. But now Theron, his old enemy, has come looking for revenge, and Taras’ nights of living in relative peace are about to end.

Yet not even Theron can slip into town unnoticed, and the Council of Thirteen sends Ramah to deal with the two renegades once and for all. But unknown to the Council, a much older enemy is also in Londinium, and this time even the great Ramah might not be safe.

Set against the backdrop of the Iceni uprising in Roman-era Britannia, 61 A.D. continues the story of Taras, Theron, and Ramah, as they fight their way through history.

Deadly Obsession by Kristine Cayne
Nic Lamoureux's perfect movie star life is shattered by a stalker who threatens any woman close to him. When he meets photographer Lauren James, the attraction is instant--and mutual. She's exactly the sort of woman he craves, but the stalker makes deadly clear Lauren is the competition.
And the competition must be eliminated.

"Stock up on ice cubes because this is definitely one sizzling debut. Readers will be hooked from the first sentence- on the book and on Nic! As rich as a white chocolate cheesecake, Cayne's entrance into the suspense genre is invigorating, explosive and simply intoxicating." ~ RT Book Reviews Top Pick

The Book of Lost Souls by Michelle Muto
When teen witch Ivy MacTavish changes a lizard into her date for a Halloween dance, everything turns to chaos. And when no one is powerful enough to transform him back except Ivy, it sparks the rumor: Like father, like daughter. Worse, someone has used an evil spell book to bring back two of history's most nefarious killers.

Ivy's got a simple plan to set things right: find the real dark spell caster, steal the book, and reverse the spell. No problem! But first, she’ll have to deal with something more dangerous than murderous spirits: the school’s hotter-than-brimstone demon bad boy, Nick Marcelli. Demons are about as hard to handle as black magic, and Ivy soon discovers it’s going to take more than a lot of luck and a little charm if she wants to clear her status as a dark witch, get a warm-blooded boyfriend, and have her former date back to eating meal worms before the week’s end

The Black God's War by Moses Siregar III
Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One.

Her father-king wants war.
Her messianic brother wants peace.
The black god wants his due.
She suffers all the consequences.

"Moses is a fine writer deserving of success, and I think that it will follow ... I really enjoyed Moses's work." - David Farland, NYT Bestselling Author of The Runelords

Carpe Bead'em by Tonya Kappes
Hallie Mediate was raised by her (slightly) crazy Great Aunt Grace on the wrong side of the tracks in Cincinnati. Hallie escapes her hometown and never looks back.

That is, until she’s transferred back to the hometown. Not wanting her past to cross paths with her future, Hallie puts her life on hold.

Aunt Grace is still up to her old tricks, but Hallie finds some sanity at a local jewelry-making class where she uncovers a hidden talent for beading.

Will she keep searching for the happiness she may already have found?

The Survival of Thomas Ford by John A.A. Logan

Thomas Ford is the only survivor of the car crash which killed his wife. He is also the only witness who would be willing to identify the young, reckless driver who caused the crash. But the driver would sooner see Thomas Ford dead than ever let that happen.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 71 -- Lessons (and Other Morbid Drabbles)

by Michael Crane

Started: August 25
Finished: August 25

Notes: I've been reading a lot of print books lately, mainly because I've been trying to whittle down my to-be read pile (and still have a long way to go). Meanwhile, my Kindle has been feeling kind of lonely. To correct that, I thought I'd turn to this collection of 25 100-word pieces of fiction that supposedly range from the absurd to the horrific.

Mini review: Quite the fun little collection. You can read the whole thing in 10 minutes or less. Of the 25 drabble pieces, probably the first half dozen are the best, in part because you're still learning what to expect from these very short tales. As can be expected from a collection, there were one or two which didn't do much for me, but there were also a handful I found quite intriguing. Another thing I liked was the author sometimes fooled you, changing the direction a story was going just as you thought you had things figured out. Good stuff.

Books read in 2012: No. 70 -- Breakfast at Tiffany's

by Truman Capote

Started: August 23
Finished: August 25

Notes: I've long been a fan of Truman Capote, mainly for his work In Cold Blood, one of the finest non-fiction books I have ever read. I had known Capote was the author of Breakfast at Tiffany's, but I had always thought that meant he was the screenwriter for the movie. Then I came across this little book a while back in a used book store. Having not read a lot of Capote, I snatched this one up. It turns out this is a collection of short stories and one novella, the novella being the title of the collection and the movie.

Mini review: These are excellent literary tales, mostly sad in the end, though not necessarily heart-wrenching. Capote's writing here isn't overly lyrical, but there are nice touches to the scenery and sometimes to character descriptions. The characters themselves are quite simple outwardly for the most part, not too inward-looking, but with an aura of faint, almost tired surrender about them, reminding me somewhat of the characters from short stories by the likes of Hemingway and Steinbeck.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 69 -- Jonathan Livingston Seagull

by Richard Bach

Started: August 23
Finished: August 23

Notes: I've been meaning to read this little book about spirituality for some while now. Finally getting around to it.

Mini review: A nice little story, though I felt it was a bit dated in its approach to thoughts on spirituality, though there's nothing wrong with that. It's sort of an allegorical tale of the life of Jesus, up to a certain extent, or perhaps the earliest days of Christianity. Included some very nice photographs of gulls from photographer Russell Munson.

Books read in 2012: No. 68 -- Dirty Harry

by Phillip Rock

Started: August 22
Finished: August 23

Notes: Sometimes you just want to read something for is nostalgia factor, which is the case here. As many likely know, this book is a novelization of a movie, one of my favorites. I just hope the novel is at least half as good as the film.

Mini review: The writing was better than I expected for an older novelization, though I still wouldn't say it was great writing, though not bad. It keeps with the movie for the most part, with only some minor changes here and there, which makes me curious as to whether the writer was working with a slightly earlier version of the script or if things were changed while actually shooting. The biggest changes I noticed were some of the dialogue, but even that was mostly in line with the film. If you can't guess, yeah, I know this movie pretty well.

Five Tales from the Rusty Scabbard

Finally, in one collection are the handful of short stories I've written based in my fantasy world of Ursia.

Here you will find:

Deep in the Land of the Ice and Snow: A young barbarian named Belgad goes on a quest to have his future told, but does he really want to know what fate has in store for him?

Road of the Sword: In a moment everything changes, and young Lerebus Shieldbreaker must leave his past behind him to tread into his future.

Six Swords, One Skeleton and a Sewer: A discovery takes six city guards below the streets of Bond into a maze of madness and mirth.

Blade and Flame: No one escapes the Prisonlands, but some exiles are making the attempt. Border wardens Kuthius Taller, Darkbow, Fist, and others are on the trail of the potential escapees, but these prisoners are not operating without some hefty magical aid.

Kron Darkbow: He lurks within shadows, he hunts those who deserve his wrath, but sometimes Kron Darkbow shows a touch of a soft side. But not often.

Now available for the Kindle, and soon available for other e-reading devices.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 67 -- Bread

by Ed McBain

Started: August 20
Finished: August 22

Notes: Argh! I really am trying not to read any more Ed McBain novels because I feel I've read a ton of them this year. But I was rushing out of the house one morning and knowing I was going to be sitting in a doctor's office for a while, I grabbed a book on the way out the door. That book happened to be this one. I almost always enjoy McBain, especially these 87th Precinct novels, but I'm teetering on the edge of being burned out on them. Ah well. And just think, I'm still got a stack of a dozen or so of these books waiting for me. This one is supposed to be about the police hunting for an arsonist, but often I find the actual tales are more complex than the book blurbs show.

Mini review: As always, a pretty good read. The mystery, or investigation, in this tale was more complex than most of McBain's, involving a lot of characters who were connected in various ways. It was almost impossible to see all the links, but McBain spelled them out beautifully in the end.

Monday, August 20, 2012

6 fantasy e-book novels only 99 cents apiece

I'm having an end-of-the month sale for the Amazon Kindle. From now until the end of August, I have six e-books going for only 99 cents apiece. Each of these are full novels, all between 40,000 and 85,000 words. They are the three novels in my Kobalos Trilogy and the three shorter novels in my Sword of Bayne trilogy.

Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of dropping prices so low on my e-book novels, so why am I doing this? Because I've got at least two new e-books coming out before the end of the month, and one of them I consider extra special, something new. Those two e-books are semi-secret right now (though I've mentioned one only days ago on this blog), but I'll release more about them in days to come.

For now, enjoy the sale!

City of Rogues: Book I of The Kobalos Trilogy

Road to Wrath: Book II of The Kobalos Trilogy

Dark King of the North: Book III of The Kobalos Trilogy

Bayne's Climb: Part I of The Sword of Bayne

A Thousand Wounds: Part II of The Sword of Bayne

Under the Mountain: Part III of The Sword of Bayne

Books read in 2012: No. 66 -- We Who Are Alive and Remain

by Marcus Brotherton

Started: August 17
Finished: August 20

Notes: This is another book about the men of the famed Easy Company of paratroopers from World War II. If you have read the book Band of Brothers or the related HBO series, then you'll be familiar with the men I'm speaking about. Funny thing, I've got the book Band of Brothers, have had it for years, but I've yet to read it though I have read related material. On the other hand, I've watched the HBO series from beginning to end at least a couple of dozen times, and single episodes only God knows how many times. Perhaps I need to read that book all this is based upon? But first, I'm reading We Who Are Alive and Remain.

Mini review: This was just an excellent read. If you're wanting detailed accounts of the history surrounding the events mentioned here, you're looking in the wrong place. But if you're interested in the daily, little details of soldiers in warfare, this is practically a must-read book. The writer has done an excellent job in taking all this material from a dozen or more different individuals and breaking it up into little, readable sections. Three parts toward the end were written by children of Easy Company soldiers who were no longer living at the time of publication, and I found those sections the most heart wrenching in many ways. But the rest was also very interesting and quite readable. Those with interests in the history of war, specifically World War II, should read this book.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New art ... 'Tavern'


This is the acrylic painting I've been working on this week. Again I made the mistake of working on a more complex subject on a canvas too small for it, but I still think there are signs of improvement here.

I generally like this piece. I'm not crazy happy with it, but I think it's better than some I've done.

I might make use of it on a book cover. Not sure about that one yet. I'll have to see if I can make it work, and perhaps make it look a little better, in Photoshop.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 65 -- Horns

by Joe Hill

Started: August 12
Finished: August 17

Notes: This horror author recently impressed me with his debut novel, so I thought I would give him another try. The plot sounds a little simplistic but also somewhat intriguing, being about a young man who wakes up one morning to find horns growing from his head.

Mini review: I hate to admit it, but over all I did not enjoy this novel as much as the first one by this author. The parts I did like were all the religious allusions throughout. This was a much more literary tale than the author's first book, though it's still somewhat a genre tale, leaning heavily upon the horror genre specifically. The writing here is solid, quite good, well thought out. The characters are interesting, likable, though I felt not quite as unique as the characters from the first novel. What I really did not enjoy about this novel were all the flashbacks, even flashbacks within flashbacks. I don't usually mind flashbacks. I can hold back my sense of suspense long enough to make it through a chapter or two of flashback, or short scenes here and there. But at least half this novel was flashbacks, perhaps more than half, and that I found frustrating, though I will admit the use of the flashbacks did fit the tone of the story. There is a lot about religion within this novel, mostly about Christianity and Christ and Satan, so those with strong fundamental beliefs might be turned off by some of what they find here, though there's really nothing I read that was anti-Christian or anything of the like, nor was there anything that tried to rewrite the Bible. The religious aspects were one of my favorite parts of the book, and I enjoyed catching little things here and there pertaining to religion. John Milton came to mind more than once, reminding me specifically of Paradise Lost.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Series announcement and new art

I've been kicking around the idea of writing serial fiction or a series for some while now, so I thought I would test the waters with a five-part series. If I enjoy the process, and if it turns out to be somewhat successful, I have plans for future projects. Time will tell if this works for me.

This first series is title Mage Hunter, the first book being titled Mage Hunter: Blooded Snow. It should be live in e-book format on Amazon and B&N on Monday, August 27, and available about the same time on Smashwords and its related sites (since I have little control over actual publishing dates at Smashwords, I can only guess when my e-books will appear on the sites to which it distributes). Each Monday thereafter for the next month, a new episode of Mage Hunter will appear, each being approximately 20,000 words. Through Nov. 1, each e-book will be priced at 99 cents apiece. After Nov. 1, those prices will rise. I will also eventually publish an omnibus edition collecting the Mage Hunter episodes into one package, but I have yet to decide upon a particular date for that.

The first episode of Mage Hunter has been written, edited, formatted, and is ready to go. I'm not releasing it just yet, giving myself a little time to work on the other episodes, which have been started and are in various stages of completion.

The covers, however, have all been completed. You can see the first of them at the top of this post. Each cover actually consists of two paintings, one being my 'Background' piece and the other an icon figure related to the story, in this first case a salet type helmet. The blue leather backdrop to the whole cover was something I came up with in Photoshop, the covers themselves being put together in Photoshop. I think they're pretty cool covers, and I'll release the others as time draws near for each episode's release.

I really hope this series works for me. Until recently I had never really considered writing serial fiction and its like, but I'm kind of drawn to different ways to tell stories, and this one I find appealing, worth trying and tinkering with. Also, I've got a lot of story ideas which didn't seem to fit the more traditional molds of the novel or the short story, and I've never been quite sure what to do with these tales, but now I find many of them would lend themselves well to a serial story format.

For those who are interested in such details, the story of the Mage Hunter series is part of my Ursian Chronicles, the same world as my Kron Darkbow and Belgad characters, though this tale takes place a couple of generations before the births of those characters. Mage Hunter is an origin story of sorts concerning one Guthrie Hackett.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 64 -- Charade You Are

by Reagan Pheasant

Started: August 12
Finished: August 12

Notes: This little e-book was first brought to my attention on Facebook by none other than Charles Gramlich. As far as I could tell from Charles's description, this is sort of a political tale of bizarro fiction. Charles was seeking others' reactions to the piece, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Mini review: I'm truly not sure what to make of this piece of fiction. It's somewhat of the gonzo variety, but it seems to have a semi-political message behind it, but not one that leans toward any particular side, more as if it hearkens toward a middle path. I can't disagree with that point of view, and wish I'd see more of it. However, the ideas here are expressed in a fashion not for every reader. There is some violence here, but stronger are the sexual overtones. I didn't have a problem with such, but realize some readers will. Overall, the writing was actually of strong quality, and the writer can tell a story. As weird as this material was, I'd like to see more from this writer, to see the direction he or she takes their fiction.

Artwork ... 'Gunslinger'


This simple painting continues the trend of a dark, single figure against a lighter background which I started with my "Dee" painting and continued to lesser success with "Bandito." I like this one better than "Bandito" but still not as much as "Dee." I'll have to work on that. I might take another stab at something along these lines.

As is obvious, here I went with a much more silhouetted form and not the blurry, scratched figure of the earlier paintings. This was intentional, but also an experiment. And while the title might think I am referring to the Stephen King character, I don't feel the guy in my painting is anyone nearly as noble as the fallen Roland Deschain. No, I think of the character in this image as more dark, possibly robotic, akin to the android played by Yul Brynner in the film Westworld.

Another thing I enjoyed about working on the piece was the play with the bright colors of the yellows and burnt sienna with a dash of darker shades here and there, as contrasted to the plainness of the all black cowboy figure. I find it interesting the number of faults the paint can actually conceal, but at the same time can make others stand out.

Again, I'm no great artist and don't plan to be, but I'm enjoying myself with my simple paintings, and soon I'll be revealing five new e-book covers, each containing simple works painted by me but also some fancy work I did in Photoshop (a medium I'm much more experienced with, though I don't consider myself a genius with Photoshop). These e-books will be part of a serial tale I'm working on, the first part already complete and bits of the others started.

I'd also like to add I'm finding of interest the differences between painting and writing, or at least the differences I am discovering. Painting has a feel, a flow to it that I find lacking in writing, not that that's good or bad, just the way things are. The paint brush feels almost like a living thing in my hand, telling its stories but not necessarily mine. I control the tool, but it doesn't necessarily do what I want or how I want. Perhaps that is a sign of my being an amateur, but I'm also finding it somewhat liberating.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Artwork ... 'Bandito'


This is sort of an abstract piece, though not quite. The germ of the idea for this painting began when I was reflecting upon an earlier piece of my art, my 'Dee' painting. In that painting, I was focusing on scratching out or sort of blurring the singular character within, in part because he is a mage of sorts. "Bandito' came about while I was thinking about how to expand upon the notion of a dark, blurred central figure within a painting.

I admit, this is not a favorite piece of mine, and I think the earlier "Dee' painting works much better. Still, there's a quality of this painting I kind of like, the textures of the yellow with the canvas, though unfortunately most of that is lost in the photo image above. The central figure here is more cartoonish than I anticipated, but the general feel I was going for is mostly there. The yellow, too, is a bit brighter here than in the actual painting, being washed just a little with a light brown shading.

Still, even when I'm not overly fond of one of my pieces, I don't consider it a waste. Each is a learning experience, an experiment with the brushes and the paints.

Artwork ... 'Blue'


The reasons for the title of this one should be fairly obvious. I was doing some more experimenting painting with a palette knife, with the idea in the back of my head that I might be able to use this painting as part of a book cover in the future. I'm not sure that's going to happen, but I'll test it out at some point.

Though this is the only painting I've put up in a little while now, I've actually been painting quite a bit. Another painting might be up for view on this blog in the next day or two, but a handful of others I've been working on won't be available for public viewing for some little time. Why? Because they are part of some e-book covers I'm still working on for a serial fiction project I'm writing. Once all the covers are complete, I will show them off. So far, I really like those covers, and I've got four out of five finished.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Author Scott Fitzgerald Gray: Characters are key in SF

With the recent release of his novel We Can Be Heroes, author Scott Fitzgerald Gray is blog touring this month and next, and my little ole spot is fortunate enough to feature Scott today.

Like most serious readers of speculative fiction of my generation, I cut my teeth on the masters of hard science fiction — people like Clarke and Asimov, Heinlein and Niven whose tales were unabashedly told against a backdrop of science and technology. At different points, I’ve been a voracious consumer of the works of some that SF generation’s most hardcore high-tech offspring — Greg Bear, Neil Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, David Brin, Rudy Rucker… it’s a long list. Even outside of fiction, I’ve always been drawn to technology and to the writers who celebrate or warn against it. On all the really important levels, I used to be what you could comfortably call a hardware geek. As a much younger man, I used to spend a lot of time reading Byte  (ask your parents) and  Scientific American  while not having a social life. I’ve rebuilt computers and wired LANs just for the enjoyment of it, I understand how black holes and quantum computers work, and Slashdot and ArsTechnica are at the top of my websites-I-should-really-spend-less-time-on-while-I’m-supposed-to-be-working list.

At the same time, though, I’m one of the many fans of SF who prefer that abbreviation to stand for “speculative fiction.” Because even at the most tech-heavy heart of the genre, the best SF for me is less about the details of possible futures and technologies and more about the questions those details inspire. What happens as a result of the changes that technology brings to bear on human society and culture? What happens when…? What happens if…? As they relate to technology, we see these questions writ large all around us every day. You’re reading this on a blog by way of a web browser, both of which might already know a whole lot more about you than you’re aware of. We’ve all seen the devastating WikiLeaks video showing helicopter troops shooting unarmed civilians in Iraq, at least partly because those soldiers’ reliance on video technology superseded the ability to look and question with their own eyes and minds. Just this past month, I read three different articles making the point that the use of unmanned drones to kill high-profile military targets doesn’t just represent a new tactic in warfare — it’s actually redefining what “war” actually means. These are huge changes, and as with all sweeping technological transformations, science fiction writers are often the front lines of the people reacting to these changes.

The problem is, I’m still not sure if I have what it takes to be one of those writers.

We Can Be Heroes is the first science-fiction novel I’ve published, and the second SF novel I’ve written. It’s a book that focuses in a big way on certain aspects of technology, and as such, one of the bigger challenges of writing the book was wanting the tech to look and feel “real” to some degree. But at the same time, I recognize that there’s a big difference between someone who maintains my kind of comfortable geek-amateur status and a person driven to use the pulpit of fiction to Make Grand Statements about technology. And that bothered me for a long while, to the extent that I actually got bogged down in an early draft of the story because I didn’t feel like I was properly coming to terms with the technology underlying the story. In trying to rise to the level of the masters who have inspired me, I fell flat pretty fast, and it made me wonder whether I was really the person to be writing this book in the first place. But then I came to an important realization.

The one thing that all my own favorite writers of science fiction and speculative fiction do is to look not only at the narrative possibilities inherent in technology, but at the interface line where technology impacts on and resonates in the human world. Technology changes things, but its changes are measured in the barometer of human reaction. Decades after having last read them, I’d have to struggle to give you any accurate technical details of Niven’s Ringworld or the asteroid/ship that’s the centerpiece of Greg Bear’s Eon. But I remember Louis Wu and Teela Brown, Mirsky and Patricia Vasquez like I might have actually met them all those years ago. And that realization led me to understand that in originally focusing on the technical side of  We Can Be Heroes, I was actually telling the less interesting side of that story — for me, at least.

Even though We Can Be Heroes isn’t a technological tour-de-force by any stretch, the book has a number of different layers of technology wrapped up in it. Most of these layers are less about speculation for the future and more just extensions of what’s already going on around us — things like the machinations of observation and eavesdropping; how that observation lends itself to the control of those being observed, and the risks involved in creating expert systems that get a little too expert for their own good. (There are also a lot of high-tech firefights and high-speed chases and things exploding, but those figure less in the philosophical underpinnings of the book.) And in the end, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to write a book that embraces the big issues of technology as well as the high-tech SF writers whose works have inspired me. But I can ask the same questions they ask, and I can answer those questions in my own imperfect way, and I can show how those questions and answers are written in the record of the characters at the center of the story. And in the end, I’m okay with that, because for me as a reader, the questions and the characters are what really count.

For more on author Scott Fitzgerald Gray
Insane Angel website
Insane Angel blog
Scott's Smashwords page
Scott at Amazon