Author: Elan

Pet Human – Nannybot A3–4

PET HUMAN COVERPet Human, by Nannybot A3-4, has to be one of the oddest pieces I’ve read in a while. It’s an instruction manual for the caring and control of pet humans. See, it turns out that sometime later this century, we create the first functional AIs, which leads to the subsequent development of TIs, Technological Intelligences (read: not artificial), which propels technology forward at an incredible pace. Cut forward a few thousand years, and we’re in something of an odd situation.

Pet Human is written for an audience across space and time, and is thus comprehensible to the likes of you and me. It’s a strangely enthralling read, for an instruction manual. Between the lines of its matter-of-fact descriptions of a post-humanist universe, wherein humanity has been improved upon, but reduced to pets, lay a magnificently built world. But there’s something more to it.

While the manual has me convinced of the TIs’ good intentions, I couldn’t shake the feeling that, lurking beneath the world of “operating environments” wherein the pet humans live is something more sinister; a darkness evinced by the existence of “strays” who nip at the heels of the TIs, whose core processing forbids them from returning the aggression.

The manual is detailed, and is sprinkled with definitions for terms used by inheritors of the future. There’s some captivating postulations on physics, spirituality, and human nature contained within those definitions, and they tell a remarkable amount of story considering their odd structure.

I didn’t know what to think of Pet Human when I opened it up, but was glued to it in a way I’d have thought unlikely if you’d told me the premise of the piece before handing it to me. It is abstract in its content, but intensely concrete in its form. I can think of a number of my close friends who would really enjoy reading it, but I think everyone should take a crack at it. It’s bizarre, but fascinating.

I doubt this is the last we’ll hear from Nannybot-A3-4. I wonder what’ll get beamed down to our parent-present node next. For now, I’m going to keep wishing that immersion pools were a real thing. For now, Pet Human is available on Amazon.

Spell/Sword – G. Derek Adams

Asteroid Made of Dragons was G. Derek Adams’s first (semi-)traditionally published work, but the man was no stranger to releasing books. As you may (or may not) recall from my review of AMoD, Adams had self-published two prequels prior to winning the Sword and Laser contest on Inkshares.

The first of those books is Spell/Sword, wherein we meet the protagonist duo of Rime and Jonas and go careening through glowing canyons and flying on wyverns with them on their first adventure.

Adams was kind enough to provide me with a copy of Spell/Sword in audiobook form, which is currently available on Audible, and is wonderfully narrated by Rachel Ahrens, who brings a voice and character to Rime so close to what my mind created when I read AMoD that I was a bit surprised, to be honest. She really did a fantastic job.

The thing about Adams’s writing is that, when you read it, you can tell how much fun he had writing it. His settings and scenes frequently border on the absurd, and as you laugh along with the characters at the situation, you are convinced of the imminent threats to them and deeply invested in their wellbeing. And curious about how the hell they intend to escape rocket-powered-electro-toads.

AMoD had the benefit of an editorial team, and is therefore more polished than Spell/Sword, but the nice thing about reading (or listening to) his self-published work is that it serves as proof of Adams’s skill as an author. He’s got what it takes to “go pro,” in my opinion.

Spell/Sword is a great read; it’s paced well, action-packed, and does an excellent job of setting high stakes and wrapping up neatly while leaving enough threads unraveled to spawn a torrent of sequels. For my part, I’m glad to know Derek. That means I can pester him about when the next book is coming out.

Until then, I can read Riddle Box, the next book in the series.

Spell/Sword is available at Amazon.com. The audiobook is available from Audible (also Amazon.)

(Using these links helps to support the Warbler!)

Featured Author: Rebekka S. Leber

As one of the hosts of Drinkshares: Last Call, Rebekka Leber (Facebook, Twitter) has cemented herself as an influential member of the Inkshares community. Her book, Proxy, is available for preorder now and if what I’ve read of it is any indication, it’s going to be gritty and dark, witty with snark, and … I can’t exactly think of a third pair rhyme that works. Long story short: it’s going to be a fantastic book. Learn more about Proxy and Rebekka below.

image00 About Proxy:

Max Lucas only ever worried about one thing: how she was going to score her next bottle. She’s not proud, but it’s the only thing that ever gets the voices to shut up.

When a horrific murder lifts the veil on her mysterious ancestry, she finally learns the reason why she can hear the thoughts of an entire city and why she can move objects with her mind. She’s a Preternatural.

Now, the ancient Preternaturals who once ruled the world as gods need her help to keep safe the most precious of human resources: the human soul. The entirety of human history has been written on the back of a conflict between the Preternaturals and the Vapids, an enemy that could upset the natural balance by profiting from the removal of human souls. Max will learn that hard way that the version of history you read about in textbooks is always written by the winners,  and until now, that has been the side she’s chosen.

To protect the human soul, Max agrees to become the only weapon that can fight against the Vapids. But, right now…she just needs a goddamn drink.  

Q: What part of your novel’s world excites you most?

A: The thing that I find most exciting is that Proxy is something new to me. Even though I am writing it, I am discovering it for the first time. The premise is really nothing all that new, and while it is not truly a “chosen one” story, it does feel like that sometimes. The story is so hard to describe, and that is because I have such trouble finding something to compare it with, as I truly feel that by the end of the story, no matter how many familiarities you may find in the story, it proves itself very hard to define as one particular type of story.

The genre at times is undefinable, and I believe that is simply because it is a story written within a historical background. As a history teacher, I often explain to my students that history is the subject that encompasses all other subjects, and writing history is no different. Perhaps this is why is has been so easy to create a historical novel with science, fantasy, and humor aspects, with elements of sociological and political conflict. What is even more exciting is I never really know where the story is going to take me.

The other exciting thing about this story is that I genuinely say it is a female driven story. Now, that is not to say it is chick lit—far from it. Which, that clarification in itself makes me sad that I have to defend a female driven novel as “not chick lit,” but that’s an argument for another day. The story did not originally start out leaning so heavily on the female characters, but they kind of ran away with the plot. Many of the roles in the story that began with male characters shuffled to female characters over the eight years I have been writing. Having the females drive the plot meant that many of the periods in history became periods in which women were questioning their place in society or the limitations that bound them, so one of the underlying themes in the story is female enfranchisement and agency, But, then, as the great Gene Roddenberry taught us with Star Trek, science fiction has always been the best mechanism for discussing social justice issues without preaching about it.

Q: What (if any) are some novels (or films, games, etc.) that are similar to yours?

A: Many people who have read the excerpts has stated that it reminds them of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Their words of course, not mine—not that I mind being compared to the writer of Stardust and my favorite Doctor Who episodes—but, I am not bold enough to compare my writing to his. At least in concept, they are similar, since both deal with gods who have long since lost their power among human beings.

What I do hope people see when the read it is the influence from my favorite writers: Christopher Moore and Joss Whedon. Moore’s books have always been my favorite for the way they mix humor into fantasy. Plus, he doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to dirty joke, and I have no filter. So, whether it is actually funny or not, that is up to the reader, by I have tried to make it as funny as it is dark. And, that is also influence that come from our lord and creator, Joss Whedon. One the best pieces of advice I have ever read on writing came from him:

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What I love about that quote is it is basically my approach to life- humor is the best defense mechanism, and nothing in this world is so sacred can’t make fun of it.

Q: What was the most interesting bit of information you uncovered in your research?

One of the first books I read during my research for Proxy was a book called Spook that attempted to explain the science of the soul, mostly in how it had been studied in the past.

Now, as an atheist, the fact that I writing a book that asks serious questions about religion should surprise nobody, but I will admit that I do find religion and spirituality fascinating. It’s actually one of my favorite things to teach in World History.  In fact, the idea for this book came to me in my sophomore year World Religions class in college during our section on Hinduism. I remember taking notes as we talked about the Trimurti, and the creation of all the souls in the universe at the conception of the universe, and a thought struck me: I wonder if Brahma accounts for growth? Is that something they control, especially considering that India is one of the most populous places in the world. What if they didn’t plan for it?

So, the original idea for Proxy was simple: What would happen if uncontrollable population growth lead to a shortage of souls?

Then, when I was reading Spook, I was struck again by an idea that anyone who loves science as much as me should have realized: Consciousness is just energy, right? It’s just a bunch of electrical signals that are interpreted by our brain as “thought.” And, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created or destroyed, on transformed. So… that means that when a person dies, the energy that is their consciousness has to go somewhere  because it just can’t  just die out. Where does it go? What does it become then? This became the basis for the science in my story. When the first sentient human beings began to die, their souls escaped their body as energy, and being sentient, it sought out a new host. But, after the first vessel, it is transformed. It began to need energy to sustain itself, and thus, the soul becomes a parasite. The funny thing is this actually has some historical truth in the fact that when human beings were hunter-gatherers, we were healthier, taller, and lived much longer. Now, in reality we know that it was the advent of a less healthy diet from agriculture in which we traded sustainability for diversity in our food supply that caused the early humans’ problems, but it also led to civilization. So, it wasn’t a huge leap to think that the price we paid for higher thinking and civilization was mortality.

Q: How much time is left in your campaign?

A: Currently there are 52 days left as of July 13th. It ends on 9/4.

Until the end of my campaign, I am holding a drawing every Friday to reward new readers and people who make the most referrals that result in orders. Prizes will consist of Proxy themed art, shirts, and glassware. Check my Facebook page for more information.

Q: Is this your first novel?

A: Officially, yes. I have written stories since I was a kid, but I really cut my teeth as a writer in fan-fiction. It sounds nerdy, but it was an excellent way to learn the mechanics of writing. It allows you to play with pre-created characters and concepts, so all you have to focus on is character voice, dialogue, and plot without the added pressure of world building. I always received compliments for my ability to capture the voice of the characters, and that I wrote realistic dialogue. Dialogue and description continue to be my strengths as a writer, and I built that strength writing fan-fiction before I moved to writing my own original works.

Q: What else are you working on?

A: I’m always working on something, but the next project I plan to focus on will probably end up being a series. The concept is still pretty raw, but it is based on a campaign I created for our home brew table top game. It will be set fantasy world existing in a time period like that of the Early 1900’s, mixing dieselpunk, magic, and mythical creatures. I like to sell the concept as “magic, motorcycles, and mermaids.”

Being the child of the most famous and powerful couple in the history of the realm has become a bit played out for Imperatrix Verity Starling. She rebels, refusing the accept her responsibilities as Imperatrix. When a vision of being tethered to her own Sentinel is seen by the Priestess, she is forced to embrace the inevitable and begin the task of growing up, accepting her role as one of the few magically blessed half-Paragons and heir to the throne.

But, after she meets her Sentinel, Orion Gray, she gets much more distracted ideas. Blowing off lessons and skipping meetings with her Father’s cabinet- all in preparation for her assuming throne some day- Verity is constantly hounded to shape up. Having to live in the shadow of your parents is a burden for any young girl on the verge of adulthood, let alone the by-product of the a relationship that has become akin to fairytale, and deep down, she feels like there is not point in really trying- she could never live up to their legacy.

When her blissfully carefree world is blown apart, and she is spared from the carnage only due to her carelessness, she will be forced to accept that she may be the only person who can restore the realm in the wake of disaster. Unfortunately, she has to lose everything and grow up first.

A draft of this project is already posted in Inkshares.

Monkey Business – Landon Crutcher

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I enjoy a good laugh as much as the next person, but I rarely find myself seeking out books in the humor category, opting instead for more “serious fare.” I don’t know why. I loved Lamb, had an exceedingly good time with Asteroid Made of Dragons, and have a leather bound and much loved collection of Douglas Adams’s famous Hitchhiker’s Guide series. And those are off the top of my head. Point is, I probably ought to laugh more. So when I spoke to Landon Crutcher about his debut novel— the first to be published by Inkshares’s Quill imprint — I decided it was past time for me to read a book that’d make me laugh.

And laugh I did.

Monkey Business is just like Landon described it in our chat: a zany, shenanigans-filled Will Ferrell-style comedy on paper. I was of two minds when I initially heard that description, as I wasn’t sure how that kind of slapstick, occasionally scatological humor would translate, but Landon did an excellent job of threading a well-paced adventure among his many jokes, the great majority of which landed with great success.

In particular, the strength of Monkey Business is in its banter. The character’s quick-witted retorts and dry humor make an otherwise tragic scene—being marooned on an island—hilarious. Another thing he does well in Monkey Business is physical humor, which I think is rather impression, given the difficulty of transmitting one-to-one the exact blocking of a scene in such a way that the readers see exactly what you intend. I had a hard time not laughing at the vision of a character, screaming at the top of his lungs at sentient trees (which were not, in fact, sentient) and hacking at them with an axe. Or when another character smokes a dubious flower and goes on the wackiest spirit quest imaginable, culminating in his discovery of of a new friend in the form of a long-deceased man’s skull. Perhaps you had to be there. Either way, it was lots of fun.

The book isn’t without its issues, which I think is due in large part to less editorial attention than books receiving full funding support from Inkshares. It feels like it’s firmly between a self-published book and something a little more formally produced, which I believe is more-or-less the purpose of the Quill imprint. I’m curious to see how the imprint develops, with some twenty-five books already slated to be published under it. The machine can only be tuned to run more smoothly, I assume.

If you don’t mind a bit of dirty humor, and feel like giggling at banter between two dehydrated men, a talking monkey, and a dead man’s skull, do yourself a favor and pick up Monkey Business. If can be found on Amazon and Inkshares.com.

Featured Author: Kelsey Rae Barthel

Note: at the time this interview was conducted, Beyond the Code was not yet published. The book is now available on Amazon.


After an unplanned hiatus, we’re back with another featured author! Kelsey Rae Barthel’s book Beyond the Code caught my attention long before we’d been put in touch by a mutual contact. Her book will be published by Quill, Inkshares’s light-publishing imprint. Follow along with Beyond the Code on Twitter and Facebook.

beyond_frontAbout Beyond the Code:

As a Knight, Luna had always believed in the Knights code of honour and the Hand Council that governed them. That believe costs her dearly when Damon Lexus orders the death of Luna’s master to cover up her strong arming other Knights into her service through black mail and murder. In her search for justice for her fallen master she discovers that the Hand Council had been corrupted. That they were allowing masters like Lexus to steal Knights from their masters. Luna must join forces with Ranger, the hunter sent by the Hand Council to kill her, to topple the corrupt order that betrayed them and change their world for the better. They must break away from being mere tools of battle and become the heroes they need to be to do the impossible. This story combines a covert shadow war, fast paced action, deep seeded conspiracies, and remarkable super powers.

Q: What part of your novel’s world excites you most?

A: The super powers and the action. I grew up watching anime and reading X-Men comics, and I love the idea of badass warriors with super powers.

Q: What are some novels (or films, or games, or whatever) that are similar to yours?

A: A lot of Marvel comics come to mind, as well as the show Arrow (for the action.)

Q: What was the most interesting bit of information you uncovered in your research?

A: I would say the most interesting bit of research I did was going to a gun range to see how firing a handgun felt.

Q: How much time is left in your funding campaign?

A: It’s done! I’m really happy that Beyond the Code ended up on the happy site of Quill.

Q: Is this your first novel?

A: Yes, it is.

Q: What else are you working on?

A: I have a lot of ideas in the works, but the only one that’s currently in the writing stage is the sequel to Beyond the Code.

Ageless Spoilercast — Interviewing Paul Inman

After reading and reviewing Paul Inman’s Ageless, I had the pleasurable opportunity to directly ask him several things about the novel. Our conversation meandered a bit, so I hope you’ll stick with it for its (rather lengthy) entirety.

Enjoy!

Ageless – Paul Inman

ageless_paul_inmanWe often try to classify writing by its elemental genre, the thing at the heart of the text that drives or emotional attachment to the story. These aren’t things like “fantasy,” “science fiction,” or “slipstream”; rather, it’s mystery, adventure, wonder, horror, relationship, and the like that connect us, on a human level, to what we read.

At a first glance, Ageless seems to be a combination of mystery and wonder: we have the big “what if” of wonder— what if a person aged so slowly that they were essentially immortal?— and the puzzle-piece arrangement of our leap into the story, immediately eliciting questions of “how” that start off a mystery.

But as Ageless progresses, it becomes clear that it is a character-driven story, unfolding across generations, and dealing with fundamental questions of love and loss, and the limits of human kindness and cruelty. It is a book about relationships.

It’s a good book, and it tells its story well, jumping back and forth across time, building a picture of how one (ostensibly endless) life can touch others, and the ripple effect that flows through the years as a result. Perhaps it was the nazi experimentation, or the conflicted emotional relationships I built with the cast as I read, but Ageless made me think at length about the chance meetings that have had a lasting impact on my life, and the events of the past that inform so many pieces of my life, in ways great and subtle. I think also about the monumental, global-scale events, like the holocaust, the transistor, and atomic bomb, in whose wake all human life is altered, the ripples more like tidal waves pushing us toward the future.

The climactic moment at the end of Ageless is intended to be (I imagine,) tragic, but I felt for Alessandra in that moment. She had dealt with enough. It was time. It was tragic, yes, but there was also release.

A peculiar way to relate to a character, perhaps, but that’s the result of the theoretical exercise that is Ageless. What would it be like to be ostensibly immortal? A life punctuated by fear and loss, mistrust and bitter solitude. Death is a grand unifier. To be excluded from it, while a utopian dream on the one hand, strips one of the basic elements of basic humanity away.

Ageless a compelling adventure populated with dynamic characters, and it’s thought provoking. Books don’t get much better than that.

Ageless is available on Amazon and on Inkshares.com

Featured Author: Scott Carss

At 17 years old, Scott Carss has to be the youngest author I’ve met in the Inkshares community. His story, The Adventures of MONOMAN, turned heads when it first hit the site, demonstrating a clever wit with its simple pitch that offers a new perspective on a classic super-villain trope: the dramatic monologue.

His participation in the recent Draftshares event earned him an interview on this blog. Read about Scott and his approach to the craft, then head over to the page for The Adventures of MONOMAN to stay up to date on Scott’s work.


About The Adventures of  MONOMAN:

Gordon Anyen is your average everyday college student-except he’s not at all-because at night he roams the streets of a lonely southern Florida city as MONOMAN, a hero with the ability to force others to monologue. What he lacks in skill he makes up for in determination; which he will need if he’s to survive when a hidden threat relieves itself to the world.

Allen is a down on his luck thug who would like nothing better than for the world to forget his existence. Unfortunately for Allen, he’ll soon find that running from his past is a lot more difficult when it comes looking for him. What he has in skill he makes up for with his lack of determination to ever make it big, which he’ll need if he wants to avoid everyone else in the city-who seem to have other plans in store for him.

Bolt is one of the newest members of the Union of Superheroes; the world’s largest superhero organization. With her mentor slain by a vicious super villain; Bolt swears revenge, pledging to do whatever it takes to bring the killer to justice. However, it’s hard to achieve your goals when nobody will give you the respect you deserve. Or you might just lack enough experience and knowledge gained through age to know how to deal with these issues

A myriad of betrayals, lies and secrets await these unlikely compatriots as they struggle to stay alive in the seemingly innocent city.

Q: You’re a very young author (17 years old!). How long have you been writing, and how did you get into it?

A: I’ve been writing for a while, but it’s mostly been for school. I’d say that as with most people it was reading that got me into writing. After reading so many other amazing stories I just wanted to get my own out there as well. I wrote the first chapter of The Adventures of MONOMAN in grade 10, but I only started working on the rest of it in November.

Q: Is MONOMAN your first fiction project? If not, what else have you written?

A: It’s my first fiction project that’s gone anywhere. There have been times in the past where I’ve tried to write books only to fail to get past the prologue. My solution for this problem was to not write the prologue until the entire first draft of The Adventures of MONOMAN was done. I mean, I’ve written school projects, but those are what they are.

Q: I love the idea of The Adventures of MONOMAN. How did the idea come up?

I’m pleased to hear you like the idea. As for how it came up I don’t really remember the specifics of the situation now. I just thought it would be funny to have villains monologue for an actual reason for once instead of clichéd writing.

Q: If you could give MONOMAN the “Marvel movie” treatment, who would you want to cast as Gordon?

A: This is actually something I’ve thought about before and come up completely blank. To be honest I have to admit that my actual mental image of Gordon is kind of vague and not really as he is described in the book. The other main characters are a little more defined for me, but I’m still just as bad at coming up with actors for them. The only person in the draft I can think of an actor for is Hardline (who shows up in chapter four). I’d cast Freddy Wong in his role.

Q: Have you done any research while working on MONOMAN? If so, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve uncovered?

A: The only actual research I did during the draft was on handguns for Allen to use. Although, I have learned some interesting things when talking to my brother. Actual discussion:

Me: I’m thinking of having a super villain duo called Cloak and Dagger in my book.

Brother: Like the Marvel heroes?

Me: Damn it…all the good names are taken.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about MONOMAN? It can be about characters, the world, magic (such as it is), interesting science-fiction doodads, etc.

A: I have to say two things for this question. First of all my story isn’t actually set on our earth, things are slightly different about. (Other than the superheroes of course. I’m talking about geography and history.) For example; Wales is in control of the British Isles and Comoros is a super power. The second thing is that I’ve actually thought of back stories and super powers for a bunch of the random heroes and villains that are mentioned. For example; the villain Metric—who’s mentioned in chapter one—can warp reality by converting things between metric and imperial. What I mean by this is that say a piece of lead had a mass of 65 kg which is around 143 lbs; he could make that piece of lead have a mass of 143 kg. He could take that same piece of lead later and change it back or make it have a mass of 315 kg. He can do this with any form of measurement, (distance, volume, whatever). So someone a mile away becomes only a kilometer away.

Q: How did you come to find Inkshares?

A: I found Inkshares thanks to the Geek and Sundry hard science fiction contest. I didn’t have a hard science fiction submission (The Adventures of MONOMAN just wouldn’t work-I thought about it.) but I put up what I did have. I really loved the idea of Inkshares which is what drew me into it despite my inability to enter the contest. I found the site Inkshare because of mistypes.

Q: You were one of the most active participants in Draftshares commentary—which drafts did you find particularly compelling, and why?

A: I actually only commented on about four drafts; I had so many comments because I spent several hours editing them. I was actually pretty surprised when I found out I was the top commenter. I chose the drafts I picked because they had said yes to hard critiques. What else can I say? I like to edit stuff. It’s just something I’ve always found enjoyable, although I still prefer basic writing more. I also looked at the draft Exile, Magus which seemed pretty neat, although it was already very polished so I didn’t really go in depth on it.

Author Interview: Landon Crutcher

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We’ve cooked up something really special for you this time, friend. Landon Crutcher, author of Monkey Business, the first book published under Inkshares’s Quill imprint, chatted with me about his book, the Quill experience, and more in our very first audio interview. Give it a listen below, then check out Monkey Business on Inkshares or Amazon.

You’ll have to pardon our several mentions of things you can’t see, dear reader. We tried to make this one a video interview, but technology got in the way. Enjoy!

 

Draftshares: Fantasy & Historical

Today’s the last day of The Warbler’s Draftshares coverage, after which we’ll be back to our scheduled programming. For now, these great Fantasy and Historical Fiction drafts ought to sate your thirst for book reviews.


Makhaira: (Fantasy) Once a generation, a dragon slayer is sent off to save his people. None have returned. Now it’s Balfour’s turn.

The Edge of the World: (Fantasy) A pirate captain abandons his crew to explore the edge of the world.

Clockwork Charlie: (Dark Fantasy) Charlie just wants to work on cars in peace. Until a stranger arrives with news about her father’s death. He says she has a Gift, and she’s needed in a war that’s been hidden from the world for ages. Charlene has to find the truth-and make a choice.

Electric Messiah – Lore of the Aos Sí: (Historical Fantasy) We were told it was man that was cast out of the garden of Eden. As mankind hurtles into the 20th Century, an ancient secret surfaces that will change the course of history. It is a tale about mankind reclaiming its destiny by learning of its past.

The Damnation of Man – Lore of the Aos Sí: (Historical Fantasy) Before man held dominion over the earth, the creatures of myth and legend flourished in the land of Tír na nÓg.

Silver Eyes: (Fantasy) Raised by adopted parents, Elwyn discovers a surprising event on her sixteenth birthday that changes her whole world. Wanting to find out who she really is, Elwyn leaves home to go on a adventure.

And last, but not least, an entry from yours truly.

Tordecti, 1694 and Other Stories: (Historical Fiction) A book of short stories prompted by Captchas, those odd demands that we prove our humanity around the Internet.