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Centurion: A Post-Apocalyptic Story

I’ve got a new story out today! Originally part of a science fiction anthology, Centurion is now available as a standalone ebook (for a mere 99 cents—I’d charge less but they don’t let me.)

Here’s a little bit about the story…

Centurion

Centurion ebook cover

New planet, new problems

Josu and his father trade up for a second chance at life by emigrating from a dead Earth to the Alpha Centauri system.

But their new role as planetary pioneers presents its own challenges.

One of which is that on this wild, waterlogged world, they always have to watch each other’s backs.

How dangerous can a little fishing trip be? Josu is about to find out.

Buy on Amazon Buy on Kobo, iBooks, Nook


Hope you enjoy it.

This story will also be included as part of an post-apocalyptic short story collection I’m putting together to release in December called Boys and Their Monsters. It will collect all the post-apoc stories I’ve written in the last year and a half into a single volume.

It will also mark my twelfth consecutive publication. My goal this year was to publish a new book or story every month and I’ve nearly done it. The finish line is in sight. Just in time to set bigger, badder, better goals for 2018.

Guest book review of Hyperion, the sci-fi epic

I’ve been on a mission.

A mission read a hundred science fiction classics.

Most recently, I read Hyperionan Hugo Award-winning 1989 science fiction novel by Dan Simmons. I enjoyed it so much that I also wrote a book review of Hyperion as a guest appearance on the blog of JR Handley, a military science fiction I recently met through a sci-fi fan group.

Here’s a snippet from the beginning of the review. Visit JR’s blog to read the full piece.

Guest Book Review: Hyperion

I’ll say this about Hyperion: it doesn’t pull any punches.

This epic science fiction fantasy novel follows a priest, a warrior, a poet, a detective, and the rest of their group on a tragic and often violent pilgrimage to the planet of Hyperion.

Their quest leads them not only to the Time Tombs of the Shrike, but down the battered, bloody, and often sexual fringes of their lives and memories.

Each of these characters is complex and nuanced, mysterious and determined. I don’t always like all of them… In fact, scratch that—I actively dislike most of them. They’re selfish, egostistical, vain people. But they turn out to be fascinating people too.

Read on: Guest Book Review: Hyperion.

3 great sci-fi mystery novels to read

After a full weekend enjoying the company of family and friends, taking care of some errands, and writing a chapter of Translocator 3, I’m winding down for the night by checking out some science fiction mystery novels I haven’t read yet, and thinking back on the ones I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve always loved sci-fi and speculative mystery, everything from Ghostbusters to the TV show Fringe to the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to almost everything Isaac Asimov ever wrote. I immediately fell in love with Minority Report when I was a kid, and of course Blade Runner is a classic and Philip K. Dick did SF noir like no one else.

But there are a ton of science fiction mystery books I plain didn’t know about, or that I missed because I was busy doing something else.

You can always count on Goodreads for a good starter list. I’ll be checking out a bunch of these in an effort to get to know the genre better: Science Fiction Detective Novels.

I also want to give a shout out to these three novels from writers I admire. I read two of them recently, and I’m in the middle of the Asimov book, but so confident of its stature as canon in the SF mystery field that I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

This is the classic science fiction detective novel on which most of the fascination with Asimov’s work is based. Set a millennium into the future, Detective Lije Baley is forced to work with a Spacer robot detective…who is practically indistinguishable from a real person. This fascinates and disgusts him, and it gets worse when his orders go beyond work and begin to infringe on his delicate family life.

 

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

The concept of this book hooked me from the start. Here it is from the book page:

“One day, not long from now, it becomes almost impossible to murder anyone—999 times out of a thousand, anyone who is intentionally killed comes back. How? We don’t know. But it changes everything: war, crime, daily life.”

Tony Valdez is a Dispatcher. When his friend and colleague goes missing, Tony gets involuntarily pulled into a missing person’s investigation.

Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

While Sanderson is known for writing epic fantasy, this incredible short novel shows he’s got SF detective mystery chops, too.

Police have the ability to take a snapshot of a day, and relive it. They use it to solve crimes. “Anthony Davis and his partner Chaz” relive May 1st in an attempt to solve a crime.

If that sounds surprising, just wait until you read what happens next.

As I was putting this blog post together, I saw at the bottom of the Snapshot page that the film rights have been options for this story. Here’s to hoping that means sequels, because I enjoyed the hell out of this book.

Click on the book covers or titles above to check the books out on Amazon. (Those are affiliate links, which means I get a few pennies if you buy the book. That money goes back into this blog, which means more books by me like the ones you see above. Thanks in advance for your support!)

Deleted scene from The Republic: Soldiers

This is a deleted scene from my novel, The Republic. It takes place in Episode 4: High Crimes, and looks at a pivotal moment in the story, but from a new character’s perspective, a soldier who is also an APU mechanic.

SOLDIERS

by M.G. Herron

Private Rajit Kapur tossed the blackened rag to the ground and stood, arching his back against the stiffness in his muscles. He drew a dirty sleeve across his face, but sweat still skidded down his greasy brow to sting his eyes. In the distance, a lantern at the top of the Capitol building flickered, signaling that the senate was still in session. No doubt they would be going late into the night.

He looked back down at the day’s futile effort. He’d been working on the APUs since he woke up. What most people call mechs, soldiers call Armored Personnel Units—or “apes” because of their long arms and fearsome power. His gorilla of the day, number 049, was still broken as hell, but now it was less dirty. The shine had returned to the metal armor on the front. He set the cockpit’s control panels and joysticks to rights, replacing parts that had been broken or too burned to bother cleaning. Soot seemed to be permanently embedded in the fine cracks between panels, and along edge of the foglights embedded in the sternum, but at least you could tell it was a fighting machine again and not just a big hunk of scrap metal.rivate Rajit Kapur tossed the blackened rag to the ground and stood, arching his back against the stiffness in his muscles. He drew a dirty sleeve across his face, but sweat still skidded down his greasy brow to sting his eyes. In the distance, a lantern at the top of the Capitol building flickered, signaling that the senate was still in session. No doubt they would be going late into the night.

Repairing the APUs was tedious work that made his back ache, but Raj liked it better than night patrols, or marching in formation drills, or cleaning the officer’s mess hall. Come to think of it, almost anything was better than that last one.

Besides, Raj was good with machines. And it bothered him that he hadn’t been able to get a single one of these busted grease monkeys to gas up yet.

“Ey Kapur! You figger out how to turn yours on yet?”

“No luck.”

“Thank god. You had me convinced you were a mechanical genius there for a while. Glad to see a problem can stump you, too.”

Private Stanislov, a mechanic who joined the APU squadron right before they flew back from the western border to offer support in Enshi, did not share Raj’s desire to get the APUs back online.

Stanislov kicked the metal leg of the APU nearest to him with contempt. His boot failed nudge the half ton machine from its spot.

“I don’t get it,” Raj said. “I’ve already swapped out fuses in all three, rewired the diagnostic panels to two of them, run the reset operation from my tablet twice. And still no juice!”

“The longer we spend back here in the parking lot the better as far as I’m concerned.”

“Maybe the lithium batteries were damaged in the fighting.”

“That wasn’t a fight, it was a slaughter.”

Raj didn’t want to have that discussion again, so he changed the subject.

“It’ll take half a day to pop one open and scour the core for damage.”

“And what? You don’t actually think a little fall punctured the battery.”

Of course he didn’t. The mechs were designed to withstand long-range weapons, patrol a thousand miles of border, and hold their ground under artillery fire. They weren’t meant to be easy to destroy. But what else could it be?

Kapur looked at the wires running to the tablet he’d left on the pavement by the leg of 049. The face of the tablet glowed a bluish tint.

Kapur picked up the tablet and ran the core diagnostic one more time. He keyed the ignition of the mech twice to dead air.

“Fuck it, man,” Stanislov said. “It’s a lost cause.”

Kapur put his fists on his hips and stared over the prone bodies of the dead mechs. It was weird being this close to the Capitol, but it was, at the same time, heartening to be reminded what you were fighting for. Kapur only hoped the people inside knew what they were doing.

As he watched, the lantern blinked out.

A second later, rows of green LEDs that ran up the left leg of all three prone mechs flickered to life.

“What the hell?” Stanislov said.

Private Kapur disengaged himself from Stanislov’s excited grip and picked up his tablet, which was still hardwired. The screen filled with commands, like the readout you might expect to see during operation. But no one was in the pilot’s seat to issue the commands. “But I didn’t do anything.”

“Sure.”

The mech to which Private Kapur’s tablet was connected bent its knees and torso and used the gyroscope in its core to rotate itself to its feet. It twisted right, and then left, as if surveying its surroundings. Then it cocked back one arm, the multiple turrets embedded in its forearm clicking as they rotated.

“Stanislov, watch out!”

Stanlislov swiveled back just in time, and that’s why he was able to turn his body a few inches and dodge the missile that blasted out of the APU’s leveled arm.

The projectile exploded at the foot of the rot iron fence bordering the lawn in front of the Capitol building. Shards of metal flew into the air, smoke rising in a column through the boughs of the trees that shaded a garden where a certain senator and a certain magistrate had sat to rest earlier that day and watched Raj and Stanislov pull the mech off a truck.

The tablet jerked out of Private Kapur’s hands and skidded across the pavement as the mech ran toward the smoldering hole in the fence.

Hydraulic pistons and the heavy metal thud of mech feet sounded to Raj’s left. The other two mechs were waking up and looked as if they wanted to follow the first one.

Stanislov had scooped his tablet off the ground and called in a code black. A single, long, wailing siren sounded in the air across the whole army camp.

Raj sprinted to the nearest operational APU and dove into the pilot’s seat. He jammed the yolk forward and took off in the direction of the rogue mechs. At least a dozen soldiers who had been patrolling the perimeter when the mechs broke through were close on his ape’s heels.

Reading: The Traveler

I picked up this high tech thriller a few weeks ago. Started reading tonight.

The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. Published 2005 by Vintage Books.

Good solid opening chapter, a training scene combined with a betrayal. Our hero, Maya, reminds me of the skateboarder in Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash, a fearless young woman. Danger obviously lurks around the corner. And it’s exceptional, because Maya has been prepared for it in a perfectly believable way.

The voice is stark and cyberpunky and occasionally sarcastic. I’m into it. This is what the talking heads said (from the back cover):

“A cyber 1984…page-turningly swift, with a cliff-hanger ending.” —The New York Times

“A fearless, brilliant action heroine; a secret history of the world; a tale of brother against brother… and nonstop action as the forces of good and evil battle it out.” —The Times-Pocayune

Those are good blurbs.

*takes notes*

Anyway, reading is always a relaxing way to end a night. Are you reading anything good tonight?

A new apocalyptic book cover!

The next short story I’m going to publish as a solo effort is a post-apocalyptic adventure called Centurion, which first appeared in the science fiction anthology At The Helm: Volume 3.

But I like having them available as standalone ebooks, too, and since I’ve now managed to establish a brand for my post-apoc series, it’s really fun to see them all together.

So here’s the new cover for Centurion, which will be published soon. Plus all the other post-apoc stories I’ve put out this year, four of them that have covers.

I almost have enough for a low price collection.

How two vintage pulp sci-fi books landed in my lap

Spent the last 24 hours visiting with a good friend, Jacen, who was in town from Colorado Springs for a work thing. He only had a little time to hang out before heading back home, but even so I think it’s safe to say we did Austin right: we started with whisky tastings and eventually made our way into the wine bar last night, and then had breakfast tacos to sober us back up this morning. Thanks for visiting, Jacen!

As luck would have it, we found ourselves with some extra time to kill before his flight took off, so we stopped by an art gallery on the east side called the Recspec Gallery. It’s in a converted warehouse along with three or four other small galleries and it was great fun to see all the cool art they had. The Austin Book Arts Center also has a workshop in there (they do book binding classes and book restoration work).

Recspec also happened to have a very small display of science fiction magazines and anthologies from the 1960s. Now, that’s just up my alley. Imagine my delight to find the September 1969 issue of Galaxy Magazine with Dr. Menzel’s martians on the cover. Apparently he sent these doodles out to friends and the originals are “highly prized.” Fun to have a book cover featuring those same sketches.

And The Best From Fantasy and Science Fiction: 16th Series, first published in 1965.

Both books are in beautiful condition, with only a little normal wear from reading and time. The vanilla old book smell is strong, and the art is beautiful. You see those details in the eyeballs of the anthology? Maybe I’ll do a giveaway to pass these two treasured volumes on…or maybe I’ll hang onto them. I love the art, and it’s fun to have original stories from Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Dr. Menzel, and Larry Niven. I’m gonna start by reading a few today.

Huge giveaway of signed science fiction paperbacks

I’m involved with this incredibly massive signed paperback giveaway over at Sci-Fi Bridge. They’ve got such an amazing deal going on right now I can hardly believe it myself, and it just seems a crime not to share it.

The giveaways SFB does are particularly special because everyone is a winner. Those who sign up will get these 6 ebooks straight away, no strings attached (and you can unsubscribe from the list whenever you please, although I don’t know why you would).

A little bit about each of the free books currently being offered, with links to Amazon* and author pages if you’re curious to find out more about a particular one.

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Earth Alone by Daniel Arenson – If you loved Ender’s Game, Starship Troopers, and Old Man’s War, you’ll love Earthrise, a new military science fiction series. From a USA Today bestselling author.

Dark Space by Jasper T. Scott – Ten years ago the Sythians invaded the galaxy with one goal: to wipe out the human race. Now the survivors are hiding in the last human sector of the galaxy: Dark Space–once a place of exile for criminals, now the last refuge of mankind.

Ambassador 1 by Patty Jansen – “A Matt Damon political thriller meets Total Recall action with Avatar otherworldliness.” –Ditmar Award winning author Zena Shapter

The Future Chronicles – This Future Chronicles Special Edition volume is a compendium of stories selected from the Chronicles’ standalone titles, and includes five new stories, never before published, from some of today’s best writers in speculative fiction.

The Galapagos Incident by Felix R. Savage – The Galapagos Incident is the first book of the Sol System Renegades series, an action-packed near-future space opera series perfect for fans of The Expanse, the science fiction of Neal Stephenson, and character-centric hard sci-fi.

Earth-Last Sanctuary by Christian Kallias – When the evil Obsidian Empire delivers a deathblow against the Star Alliance, fighter pilot Lieutenant Chase Athanatos leads a band of scattered survivors to the farthest reaches of the known universe, to a little planet called Earth.

As for the winners

As for the actual signed paperback prizes, of which my novel The Auriga Project is one, six lucky winners will receive these gifts…

  • 1 Winner will receive 25+ Signed Space Opera/Exploration/First Contact Books.
  • 1 Winner will receive 25+ Signed Dystopian/Post Apolcayptic/Time-Travel Books
  • 1 Winner will receive 15+ Signed Military Sci-fi/Space Marine Books
  • 1 Winner will receive a Brand New Kindle Fire 7
  • 2 Winners will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card

This will be live until the end of October, but it won’t last forever. Good luck!

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* Links to books are affiliate links, which means if you do decide to buy a copy I get a few pennies as a referral fee. That money goes to supporting my writing, so I thank you kindly.

First words on Translocator 3

I’m finally making some visible headway on Translocator 3. Spent the first half of the month planning/outlining the book using a combination of the 9 point outline from Larry Brooks and 4 act plot structure (see Lester Dent’s Master Fiction Plot), journaling madly, and then blowing it all out into a chapter by chapter synopsis.

Some people think I’m crazy for doing that kind of legwork up front—they’re either afraid of the work or it bores them, or they call themselves pantsers and just don’t believe in planning. For me it’s thrilling, architecting the whole diabolical scheme and making sure all the pieces fit. The plot of a good science fiction thriller like these books is complex. Multiple points of view! Ancient mysteries! Secret alliances! Betrayals… It’s the only way I can keep it straight.

There’s another advantage, too. Once I figure out how the book goes at a high level, I can let go of the plot and focus on the scenes and the characters, and on the rhythm of the sentences. I think it makes the book better, and it certainly makes the writing easier. And planning well also cuts down on the amount of rewriting I have to do. Ye gods, I hate rewriting.

And so, with my blueprint in hand, last week I finally started typing. I got off  to a slow start, and then got sick over the weekend, but I kept dripping out words the whole time.

Right now I’m at 2500 words with a deadline of December 15th and a target of 80,000 words.

No idea if the 80k target is going to turn out to be accurate, or if I can hit the deadline. I guess we’ll see 😀 The challenge is half the fun of it.

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