Tag Archives: the day after

Predicting the Future…in My Books

Cover art by Tomislav Tikulin.

Science fiction writers have always tried to predict the future with their stories. Something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long, long time is how my books have done that. Or at the very least been a little ahead of the curve. No, I haven’t seen any giant cyborg dragons attacking Moscow or been whisked away to another world via a port-a-potty. However, I started to notice a few years ago that some of the concepts I used in Pandora’s Box and its companion short stories (“Suicide Soldier,” in particular) began to appear in current events. It was a bit frightening, honestly.

Back in 2014, Ebola was all over the news. An outbreak started in West Africa, but it also popped up in several developed countries, including the United States. It was brought over by travelers who had no idea they were infected. Once it was discovered they carried the virus, they were isolated to be treated. As you would expect, many people were scared by this. They feared an unstoppable outbreak in their own country. The thing of it was they didn’t understand how the virus was spread (it’s through bodily fluids) or have faith in the CDC to contain those infected.

Regardless, that fear was aggravated by some who said ISIS could use Ebola as a bio-weapon—by intentionally infecting operatives and having them interact with as many people as possible to spread it. This could be done because it would be difficult to smuggle out the infected bodily fluids. Considering ISIS was known for using suicide bombers, it seemed to be a natural progression that they would start infecting operatives with deadly diseases in order to spread them. They could potentially kill far more people that way.

Around this same time was when the Syrian refugee crisis became a bigger hot-button issue for several reasons, in particular because ISIS was smuggling operatives into other countries amid those refugees. Given the severity of the crisis, the compassionate response from rest of the world, and the difficulty of vetting refugees, it was a prime means of infiltration.

So, there’s an outmanned and outgunned terrorist organization that, at least at one point, was considering infecting suicide operatives with a deadly disease in order to spread it and was already infiltrating other countries with operatives disguised as refugees.

Like I said, I was a bit scared when I put two and two together.

Cover Art by Zach Hayden

For those who don’t know, I first conceived my novel Pandora’s Box back in 2002, but it wasn’t published until 2010. A key component of the story is a would-be world dictator beginning a non-nuclear world war by unleashing a horrific genetically-engineered virus in the most powerful nations on Earth, thereby forcing a two-prong crisis. The disease is essentially rabies on steroids (think the Rage virus from the movie 28 Days Later), which not only demoralizes the dictator’s enemies, the infected serve as cannon fodder, which presents a moral crisis (is it right to kill the infected on the battlefield?). I had this backstory in my head as I was writing the book, but I could never find a place to include it. That was until several of my writer friends put together the anthology The Day After, for which I submitted my story “Suicide Soldier.” The main character in that is one of the dictator’s operatives, a young woman with nothing to live for, who is sent to the United States as a tourist in order to spread the virus, which she is carrying.

As you can see, my stories actually became more relevant as time went on. I’d originally been inspired to write Pandora’s Box by all the gun control talk in the news (the book addresses this on a macro scale by using nuclear disarmament), and while that’s still a huge issue to this day, I was shocked to see how ahead of things my imagination was when these other issues started hitting the news. While the Ebola outbreak has faded from the public eye, the refugee crisis remains a point of contention, especially as terrorism increases in Europe.

I won’t pretend that I (or my stories) have any answers for how to deal with these problems. At least not any big answers. What do I mean by that? Well, you’ll have to read my stories to find out.

Have you ever written a story that ended up becoming “prophetic”? What was it about? What real-life events did it “predict”?

Proxy Characters and Wish Fulfillment

(My apologies for the risque art).
Robert E. Howard.

I once read that Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, considered his most famous creation to be the idealized version of himself. In other words, Conan was who Howard wished he was, which could mean a lot of things, both good and bad. Conan is strong, determined, and powerful, but he’s also a violent, womanizing brute at times.

Regardless, Howard isn’t the first or last author to live vicariously through his stories. Whether unintentionally or not, many authors have created proxy characters for themselves or written about activities they’ve wanted to do or places they wanted to visit.

In the case of proxy characters, some are like Mr. Howard and write a character they see as the ideal they want to be or wish they were. This makes me a bit sad. There’s a tinge of hopelessness in this. Instead of realizing that dream, they settle for a fantasy. Now, it’s a fantasy that makes them money, but it’s a fantasy nonetheless. I have long said that story and art are powerful things that can teach writers and readers alike things about themselves, and while a little escapism is good for the soul, it shouldn’t become a surrogate reality. That’s why many people get addicted to television, video games, and the like. On the other hand, some authors write characters that are (often) thinly veiled copies of themselves. Now, this could be a case of unhealthy wish fulfillment, or it could be a literary device they use to make a point. As Gene Roddenberry showed with the original Star Trek, one can make controversial statements so long as it’s couched in story. I’ve seen authors—including one I know—either put their own words in their characters’ mouths or model the character after themselves. Heck, the best example I can think of is Natasha Hayden’s story in The Day After, which is pretty much her life except she’s not a spy (so far as I know).

If I’m honest with myself, I’ve done the same thing. While I wouldn’t say I modeled him after myself (at least not consciously), I must admit that sometimes I envy Jaysynn, a character I created for the Children of the Wells serial. I sometimes wish I was an athletic parkour martial artist. Well, I wish I at least matched part of that description. I’m sure with the proper effort, time, and money, I can learn martial arts. I’ve wanted to for a long time. But as for parkour…I don’t think I have enough athletic ability to do that well. I could be wrong. Perhaps with the proper training….

See what I mean by wish fulfillment? My priorities dictate that I spend more time writing than I do to be a star athlete, though I may sometimes want to be said athlete. So, as it stands, these quasi-secret aspirations are kept in the “writer’s well” in my crazy brain, from which I draw to craft my stories.

It is fun to pretend.

Speaking of Children of the Wells…time for shameless self-promotion!

The Obligatory Gen-Con 2014 Blog

It’s been a week since Gen-Con 2014 ended, and as usual, I miss it. Not only does Gen-Con have a great Authors’ Avenue where I can sell books and a great Writers’ Symposium where I can attend seminars, it’s one of the few places I can be an unbridled nerd and nobody judges me.

If you follow me on Facebook (and if you don’t, you should), you saw my almost up-to-the-minute updates while my brother Jarod and I were at the four-day convention. There’s a lot I could write about, but for now I’ll focus on a few highlights not mentioned in those posts. UPDATE: More photos from Gen-Con have been posted on my Facebook page!

Want to see photographs from the convention? I recommend checking out my Facebook page. Until I figure out how the new photo gallery plug-in I downloaded works, that’s where I’ll be posting photos from signings and such. Sorry.

First, here are the fans/readers I met while I was at the con, both new and old.

My first sale of the con! A gentleman named Scott Blankenship purchased "Destroyer" and "The Day After."
My first sale of the con! A gentleman named Scott Blankenship purchased “Destroyer” and “The Day After.”
Here I am with fellow kaiju fan Tom Tancredi after he purchased "Destroyer."
Here I am with fellow kaiju fan Tom Tancredi after he purchased “Destroyer.”
My first "Chidlren of the Wells" buyer! His name is Sean Steele (which sounds like the name of a hero in a book).
My first “Children of the Wells” buyer! His name is Sean Steele (which sounds like the name of a hero in a book).
I convinced my buddy Darrin Ball to buy "Destroyer" and "The Day After" since he purchased "Pandora's Box" from me a few years ago. He's still the HeroScape champ to me! ;)
I convinced my buddy Darrin Ball to buy “Destroyer” and “The Day After” since he purchased “Pandora’s Box” from me a few years ago. He’s still the HeroScape champ to me! 😉
This is Ben and Ashley Davis. I befriended them through Facebook (mostly), and they stopped by and bought "Pandora's Box." Wonderful people!
This is Ben and Ashley Davis. I befriended them through Facebook (mostly), and they stopped by and bought “Pandora’s Box.” Wonderful people!
Joe Stichmeyer (I hope I spelled that right), anotehr fellow kaiju fan, bought "Destroyer" from me and "Mammoth Monster Madness"--an anthology I contributed to--from Ed Russell.
Joe Stichmeyer (I hope I spelled that right), anotehr fellow kaiju fan, bought “Destroyer” from me and “Mammoth Monster Madness”–an anthology I contributed to–from Ed Russell.
A Rogue cosplayer named Alyssa who bought "The Day After."
A Rogue cosplayer named Alyssa who bought “The Day After.”
I met Alyssa VanderGalien (I hope I spelled that right) at the FFC/CGG worship service that morning, and she stopped by to purchase "The Day After."
I met Alyssa VanderGalien (I hope I spelled that right) at the FFC/CGG worship service that morning, and she stopped by to purchase “The Day After.”
Here I am with Patricia Gore.
Here I am with Patricia Gore.

This was Jarod’s first time at Gen-Con, though it wasn’t his first convention. He’s gone with me to several others this year as attendees. We made prints of the illustrations he’s done for my short stories and the titles cards he’s made for my YouTube show, “But I Digress…”. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, we weren’t able to sell any of these. I was shocked. Conventions seemed like the places where people would eat up his artwork. Perhaps it was because we were in the authors’ section and not the art show area. Regardless, he did manage to get a pair of commissions: one for a steampunk pin-up girl a guy wanted for a restaurant he wants to start called Pandora’s Lunchbox (he told us about it because of the title of my novel), and another for a con-goer who wanted little pictures of Wile E. Coyote and a Digimon for a Magic: The Gathering card. Jarod also drew a few random sketches during our downtime, especially when things were slow on Thursday, including Maleficent, a ballerina Dalek (no joke), and a ninja Elsa. He gave the last one to a Jedi Elsa cosplayer, who inspired the artwork.

As for my book sales, they were slow again this year. I took fewer books with me assuming I’d sell out, but I didn’t. I got a few bits of advice from my fellow writers on how to improve that:

1) Get new signs. I’ve been using Jarod’s handmade sign for three years now. It’s time I upgraded. It’ll help me look more professional.

2)  Have more books. For whatever reason, people will be more interested in buying books when they have more choices. I thought the opposite was true, but I think it would diversify my appeal and show people I’m still writing.

It didn’t help that the new books I wanted to take—Children of the Wells, Volume 1—didn’t arrive in time, so I wasn’t able to sell them until Saturday. Even so, that was a bit of tough sell since I wasn’t in that collection (but I’ll be in volume two).

However, I think my networking was much-improved this year. I talked with more of the writers there and shared my business cards with them. I think I even found a publisher interested in seeing Ninjas and Talking Trees. J Hopefully, in the coming year, that will all pay off.

As usual, while other vendors were too tired to enjoy the convention after the exhibitors’ hall closed, I was still running around with boundless energy like the Doctor. (In fact, I cosplayed as the 10th Doctor while I was there on Sunday).

I've harassed this Dalek every year, and I was excited to do so this time since I had a real costume. But his batteries were dead. He must've been so scared, he shut down. :P
I’ve harassed this Dalek every year, and I was excited to do so this time since I had a real costume. But his batteries were dead. He must’ve been so scared, he shut down. 😛

I attended many writing seminars since many of the other events I wanted to attend were sold out. (I waited to sign up since I was on the waiting list for months and wasn’t sure I’d make it to the convention). Regardless, I was still able to participate in an “Ultra Street Fighter IV” tournament Friday night and see the Five Year Mission show Saturday night. I wasn’t able to play any board games, though.

Overall, I don’t think it was quite as good of an experience as last year’s convention, but I still want to return next year. That, sadly, is uncertain since the organizers didn’t allow writers and artists an early sign up at the end of the convention like they usually do. I have no idea when tables will be available. On the bright side, I could have as many as three new titles to sell at next year’s convention if all goes as planned (more on that later).

See you next year, Gen-Con!

New book signing in Warsaw, Indiana, featuring the Haydens!

The Next Chapter Bookseller
The Next Chapter Bookseller in Warsaw, Indiana

A few weeks ago, I discovered a little used bookstore in Warsaw, Indiana, called the Next Chapter. I learned they host signings for authors, so I immediately scheduled a signing. But not only will I be there, my Destroyer and The Day After co-authors and friends Nick and Natasha Hayden will be there, too! (I’m going to try to get another one of my co-authors to come, but I haven’t talked to him yet). We’ll be selling and signing copies of those books as well as my novel, Pandora’s Box.

The signing will be part of the bookstore’s First Fridays event on February 1, 2013, from 5:30pm-7:30pm (or so). We’ll be selling our books at discounted prices. Don’t miss this opportunity to have Destroyer and The Day After signed by multiple authors!

‘The Day After’ now available as a Kindle download!

I’ve been neglecting to announce this for months. Forgive me, readers, especially if you own a Kindle.

Cover Art by Zach Hayden

The Day After, a short story collection that includes my story “Suicide Soldier” (a companion piece to Pandora’s Box), is now available on Amazon.com as a Kindle download for $1.99. This is thanks to my friend, fellow writer, and fellow contributor Nick Hayden.

Natalya is an American mom and wife with a Russian name working as a spy for the Brazilian government in a Midwest American town. Balancing dual identities is dangerous–and sometimes comical–especially when her husband hasn’t a clue.

Morana is on a suicide mission to transmit a bestial virus to her enemies when she encounters a smalltown family with the potential to break through her boundaries of hatred. But in the end, will it make a difference, or is it too late for redemption?

Peter, a photojournalist, returns home late to meet his newborn son…but just in time to rescue his family from a national zombie infestation. As they travel toward safer ground, trying to maintain a modicum of normalcy, Peter has the urge to document the disaster, but at what price?

Jacob is trapped in an endless maze of a house that appears to have no exits to the outside world except for a noose in his bedroom. He meets a mysterious stranger in the darkness and discovers pieces of letters he doesn’t remember writing. Who knows how long he’s been there? The noose is tightening.

Four stories, four writers, four genres…one connecting thread. What happens when the main focus of your life is stripped and all that’s left is the day after?

You can buy it for your Kindle here.

I’m going to Gen-Con 2012

I just finished my registration for the Authors’ Avenue at Gen-Con 2012. I’ll be selling copies of my books there, including Pandora’s Box, Destroyer, and The Day After. The convention will be held August 16-19 at the Indianapolis Convention Center (ICC) in Indianapolis.

Gen-Con is one of the oldest and largest gaming conventions in the world for over 44 years. It showcases the latest movers and shakers in the gaming world and many related products. You can learn more about the convention and register to attend here.

Book signing at Pete & Freddy’s Pages Aplenty

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, so please forgive me for my delay.

I’m having a book signing this Saturday from 10AM-noon at Pete & Freddy’s Pages Aplenty, a small used bookstore in Mentone, Indiana. I’ll be signing all of my books, including Pandora’s Box, Destroyer, and The Day After. I was referred to this place by a co-worker at my part-time job, who told me his daughter runs the place.

Be there, or be square!

Book signing at NWCPL this Saturday

Hello, readers! I wanted to remind you to come out to the North Webster Community Public Library this Saturday from 10AM-noon because I;ll be having a book signing! The signing is advertised as being for Destroyer, but I will also be signing and selling copies of The Day After and a few leftover copies of Pandora’s Box (since my story in The Day After is a companion piece to my novel, it is only fitting).

Cover art by Tyler Sowles
The Day After
Cover Art by Zach Hayden
Cover art by Tomislav Tikulin

Be there, or be square!

Big ‘Pandora’s Box’ announcement on Derailed Trains of Thought!

In celebration of their podcast’s first anniversary, my friends and co-authors Nick Hayden and Timothy Deal invited me to return to “Derailed Trains of Thought.” They review each of the previous 19 episodes in reverse order, having each of their previous guests–including myself, Natasha Hayden, Laura Fischer, and Brian Scherschel–pipe in to give updates on the topics they talked about when they were previously on the show. In my segment, I told everyone about my short story “Suicide Soldier,” a companion piece to my novel, Pandora’s Box, which is included in Novel Concept’s latest publication, The Day After. But the biggest announcement comes during the second half of my segment–I officially announce that I will write a sequel to Pandora’s Box!

Listen to the podcast here for the details, or you can download it on iTunes.