Saturday, February 23, 2013

Author Influences: Robert A. Heinlein

"There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."
---RAH, from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress


My Dad was reading this book one day when I was but a tot, called Methuselah's Children. I didn't know what it was about, because I was at the age when pictures were as important as words. I think I was about 4 years or so old (I started teaching myself to read at 3, and at 4 I was already conviced I was going to hunt for dinosaur bones like Roy Chapman Andrews). 

Anyway, dad was reading this book (sometime before he chucked  Atlas Shrugged  against a wall), and I was just fascinated with how he could read this huge book with no pictures. He told me Heinlein was a mathematician and an astronomer as a well as a writer, a sort of renaissance man. And he was.

I don't remember what was the first of Heinlein's books that I read, but I do remember his writing style was so smooth and easy that I got lost in a big hurry. I finished the book before I knew it, no pictures or anything. And I went on to:


 Followed by

And then on to his deeper works,


And others to numerous to mention here. There was always something to learn in his works, too. If he stated something as a fact, it was. Do yourself a favor. If you haven't introduced yourself to Robert A. Heinlein, it's never too late. Most of his works are still available, which is a testament to his title as the Dean of Modern Science Fiction. He has influenced more writers than many are aware.

Thanks for putting up with me for that last couple of weeks as I ramble on about some of my favorite writers, those who influence a lot of my own work.

I'll be back next week with a sneak preview of my second book, coming to paperback this summer. Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Author Influences: Andre Norton

I was in my early teens when I first read anything by Andre Norton. I'm pretty sure it was Spell of the Witch World.

I'd already been thoroughly corrupted by Robert A. Heinlein (whom will be our subject in the near future), and my taste in science fiction and fantasy were well-established by Heinlein and Tolkein. I think what drew me to the book was the sci-fi label attached to what was, on the cover, a fantasy type scene. What I found inside exceeded all my expectations. It was later that I learned the series was considered the pinnacle of her work, and for good reason. The mixture of science fiction and magic was blended with masterful skill, and the stories took my mind to this other world where the Old Ones still lurked in the High Places in the hills of High Hallack. If you haven't read this, put it on your list now, before you dot another "i", Bob Cratchett!

The next of Miss Norton's works I picked up was this one:


Dread Companion stands out today as one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors. Norton's heroes and heroines are human and therefore flawed. They make mistakes, and are forced to overcome themselves as well as whatever evil forces are arrayed against them. Norton was always full of surprises. Her characters had depth and warmth that made them stand out and live inside my head. And isn't that what we as writers want for all our readers?

Another one that I really enjoyed was Storm over Warlock:


One of the best blends of hard sci-fi and mysticism I've been blessed to read. Norton's magic systems are pretty predictable, I'll be free to admit. The more powerful ones are all women, and there are other similarities throughout her entire volume of works. But her stories were all so enjoyable, I never really cared to pick nits about it. After all, Louis L'Amour said he only wrote eight stories. He just changed the names and horses, changed locales and settings, and titles, and most people never noticed.

I want to encourage everyone to pick up the above titles and others of Andre Norton. Her works always stood head and shoulders above many of her contemporaries in sheer quality of story, and they deserve to be carried on her her posterity as influences on writers for generations to come.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Critical Mass is now live!!!

Great big cool announcement alert!

My third novel and the final chapter of The NADIA Project is now available. I know a lot of you folks are already familiar with the whole story behind Nadia and Jon (Will they or won't they?), but some aren't so please indulge me while I tout the latest.

Book One, Becoming NADIA, opens the saga with the question, "What makes a being, a person?"

Book Two, Unalive,  carries forward and expands the question of what constitutes Life, and digs deeper into the story of Jenna Paine.


Now, with Book Three, Critical Mass, let's throw Jenna and Nadia together. Shake well, add Jon, Jimmy, a pinch of gunpowder and a splash of vengeance. Mix carefully over high heat, and stand back.

Here's the down and dirty on the new release, Critical Mass:

Jenna Paine is a super spy, genetically enhanced to be more than human. Nadia Velasquez is a living weapon of mass destruction. When the secret organization who built them both decides they are no longer useful, two enemies are thrown together for the only purposes they could have in common: survival and revenge.

There's only one way out of The Pinnacle, and that's on a coroner's slab. Jenna lives through a treacherous attack vowing to exact her vengeance on the people who trained her to be the most deadly agent on the planet.

Wounded and on the run, she turns to the man who's sworn to make her face charges for her involvement in The Pinnacle's nefarious schemes.

After years spent hiding from The Pinnacle, Nadia runs into the one thing she never counted on: Shelf life. As her body breaks down, she realizes it's only a matter of the short time she has left to redeem her existence and give her daughter a chance to live free.
In the final showdown, the two transhumans join forces against a common enemy, and The Pinnacle come to know the deadly significance of…

Critical Mass


 Ten minutes later, Carlos pulled onto the shoulder of an unpaved road. After he
and Tab got out, he locked the car and drew a small GPS unit from a cargo pocket
in his BDUs. “Hang on—” He took a few steps to orient the unit, then turned and
strode across the dusty road, boots grinding in the dry gravel. “This way. Just a
short walk, now.”

Tab muttered, “At least we’re not wearing Class As,” before following.

They walked along a deer path through hardwoods and poison ivy when Carlos
heard the same voice he’d spoken with on the radio.

“That’s far enough, Sergeant.”

Carlos turned to see a mound of dirt move and rise into the figure of a man
wearing a ghillie suit of rough, earth-colored rags. “Check’em out, Jenna.”

“Right,” a female behind Carlos answered.

As Carlos spun around, a compact young woman stepped out of the trees in
camo BDUs. What the hell, she wasn’t there a second ago—

Jenna seemed to read his mind. “That’s okay,” she said with a smirk, “I’m a
sneaky little wench when I want to be.” She hummed a random little tune as she
waved a wand that looked like it was made from a curling iron in the air around his
body. A steady static hiss came from a small speaker. She finished with Carlos and
waved it around Tab. “Okay, no bugs, and they came alone.”

“Sergeant Villanueva,” said Jon, “I’ll come right to the point. I want you to
leave us alone. Don’t contact us anymore, and shut down your investigation of

Carlos looked them up and down for a minute. They didn’t carry any long
weapons, but that didn’t rule out pistols. And the way they were just standing, it
didn’t look like they were in too much of a hurry to use them. But something about
this Jenna woman nagged at him. Maybe it was just the casual, self-confident
smirk she wore. But she was someone he did not want to make mad. All the same,
he felt safe enough to respond honestly to the request to desist. “Can’t do that,
Agent Daniels. I’m under orders to get to the bottom of NADIA. You’ve been
sheltering a known felon and using him to illegally obtain information—”

Jon said, “Are you a cop?”

“Huh?” Carlos’ jaw hung open, caught open in mid-sentence.

“I asked if you’re a cop. It’s a simple question.” Jon removed his hood and stepped closer, looking like a comical cross between Sasquatch and a homeless man with the rags hanging loose from his suit. “A yes or a no will do.”


“Then shut down your investigation. It’s a matter for the Justice Department,
not the Army.”

Tab said, “What’s NADIA?”

Jenna stepped up, nose to nose with her. “Who’s asking?”

“The United States Army, on whom you’ve been eavesdropping,” said Carlos.
Jon said, “You could have closed the hole in your firewall.”

“I peeked back through. It led me to you.”

“It’s also going to lead to you getting a bullet in your head, if you dig any

Carlos felt the hair on his neck stand up. “Is that a threat?”

Jon shook his head. “Not from me, Sergeant. But the enemy has moles
everywhere. For all you know, the one who gave you the orders to find me, may
have done so only so they could take us all out.”

“Don’t you think you’re being just a little paranoid?”

“Do yourself a favor, Villanueva—start checking your superiors for connections to the Global Unification Alliance.”

Jenna whispered in Carlos’ ear, “Chapter Seventeen. Look for it.”

Jon’s brow wrinkled. “I’m sorry, what?”

Jenna stepped back. “Just keeping your ass out of the meat grinder, Jon. Let these guys handle that one.”

“Are we going to have to have a talk when we get back?”

“No, dear.” She gave Jon a sly grin as a flush rose in his face.

Carlos interjected, “So this…group will lead us to NADIA?”

“No, Carlos,” said Jon. “It will lead you away from NADIA.”


Jon looked around, shifted his weight nervously, and heaved a sigh. Rubbing
the back of his neck, he said, “Carlos, you have to trust me. Finding NADIA will
only lead to the last arms race that humanity will ever see.”

Carlos thought for a minute. Was this man actually pleading with him? The
implied threat was that NADIA could potentially destroy the world. The thought
sent a cold chill up Carlos’ spine. But he was duty-bound at least to find out what it
was. “Are you asking me to ignore my orders, then?”

Jon fixed him with a desperate stare. “I’m asking a fellow human to leave well
enough alone, for the sake of all our futures. If NADIA’s secret gets out, no one on
the planet will be safe. We’re trying to make sure the secret dies where no one will
dig it back up. I’m asking you to go beyond your orders, straight to the source of
the problem.”

Jon backed into the forest. “Leave us alone. Drop your investigation.” He slid
the hood back over his head and ducked down, and Carlos could no longer tell
where the undergrowth ended and Jon began. He wasn’t even sure Jon was still
there anymore.

Jenna gave Carlos and Tab one last, penetrating look. “Take some big guns.
You’ll need ’em.” She took off after Jon, so silent Carlos wondered briefly if she
was a ghost.

Tab muttered, “Strange people.”

Carlos whuffed a sigh of relief. “Scared people.”

“What next?”

“Tab, I think we’ll take a look at our own first. I want to see if Daniels’ theory
holds water.” Carlos started back toward the car.

Tab waited a moment before hustling to keep up. “What if he’s right?”

“I hope he’s wrong. On everything. But if he is right, and we’ve got a rat in the
woodpile, we’re all in a heap of trouble. Let’s go, Tab.”

When he took her hand, it was trembling almost as much as his own.