The Path to THE FREEZER: How Far Would You Go to Avenge Someone You Loved?

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By Timothy S. Johnston, author of THE FREEZER

Agatha Christie inspired me to write The Freezer.  Just as with the first in the series, The Furnace, it is a claustrophobic murder mystery with a limited number of characters, one investigator, and one or more killers.  As Michael Crichton is also a big influence on me, I’ve incorporated a scientific element to the story — something the investigator Kyle Tanner must decipher to not only solve the mystery, but also to survive.

I’ve recently tweeted from @TSJ_Author, “Kyle Tanner is having a very, very bad week.”  The book begins with the death of someone close to him.  An excerpt is here.  From this point on, the story is told as a countdown to his potential death.  He soon finds himself on an ocean of ice on a hostile moon, amongst a small cast of characters — one of more of whom wants to kill him.

It’s a classic setup, much like an Agatha Christie mystery, but I want to note that you don’t have to read these books in any particular order.  Each is a “standalone” murder mystery, or “A Tanner Sequence Novel.”

So the question is, How far would you go to avenge someone you loved? If someone was ripped away from you in the most horrible way possible — as a means to hurt you — what would you do in return?  It’s a question that has led many people in history down a dark and chilling path.

It’s also started wars.

Tanner is faced with this dilemma in The Freezer.  As an investigator working for the military, he often finds himself dealing with moral issues of this nature.  And because his position gives him the authority to arrest and punish criminals at will, Tanner is pushed to the edge of an emotional precipice.  It’s a dark and scary mystery, but I like to think that it’s also a compelling page turner.  It puts the reader right into the events — especially because it’s written in first person — and I hope it will make you wonder what you’d do in this situation.  It also takes place in a very hostile environment, one which mirrors his emotional state.

The question that haunted me as I wrote The Freezerwas:  Would a homicide investigator contemplate murder in order to exact revenge?

You’ll just have to read it to find out … but the ending could be the most powerful scene I’ve ever written.

I hope you decide to jump into Tanner’s world, experience the mystery through his eyes, and see if you can figure out this whodunnit.

CARINA_0814_9781426898853_TheFreezerFrom The Freezer by Timothy S. Johnston:

I stalked back to Module E with the mysterious vacsuit, which I dragged behind me.

Dyson was pale; he could see my fury.

He knew a confrontation loomed.

Once back at the dome, I found the rest of them in the seating lounge near the games tables and consoles.

I threw the vacsuit to the deck before them. Every eye went to it, but no one responded with anything other than bewilderment.

“Whose suit is this?” I demanded.

Lefave shrugged. “We don’t have that type of vacsuit here, Tanner.”

“Dammit, it’s Lieutenant. And I don’t care if it’s not standard. I want to know who it belongs to!”

He bent to examine it. It was large, clearly a man’s. He said, “Why don’t we just compare—”

“What is this, Cinderella?” Cray exclaimed. “If the vacsuit fits, you must be the murderer? That’s ludicrous!”

Dinova shrugged. “Well it’s clearly not mine.”

He spun on her. “Why? You can’t wear something that’s too big for you? Not possible?”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“It could be you. You arrived from Ceres and then the murders started!”

Everyone was on their feet now, and the tension between them crackled.  The killer was there…but who?

Thanks for spending your time with me today.

Timothy S. Johnston

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The Freezer by Timothy S. Johnston

A Tanner Sequence Novel

2402 AD

CCF homicide investigator Kyle Tanner and his girlfriend are on their way to Pluto, en route to a new life together. Just one little death to check out in the asteroid belt first. But when you’re as tangled up in conspiracy as Tanner is, a few hours on a case can change your life. Or end it.

The mystery is a strange one—one man dead, a cryptic message his dying breath. Still, Tanner’s ready to wrap it up until another gruesome murder shakes him to his core. The discovery of a microscopic bomb near his own heart offers the first faint clue, but the clock is ticking. He has four days….

A desperate search for answers takes Tanner to The Freezer, an isolated facility on one of Jupiter’s moons. With anti-CCF dissidents targeting the facility, a team of scientists conducting experiments the military would rather remain hidden, and a mysterious man in white hunting him on the ice, Tanner will have to choose his allies carefully. Putting his faith in the wrong person will leave him bleeding out in seconds.

98,000 words

Timothy S. Johnston’s Bio

Timothy S. Johnston is a lifelong fan of techno-thrillers and science-fiction thrillers in both print and film. His greatest desire is to contribute to the genre which has given him so much over the past four decades. He wishes he could personally thank every novelist, screenwriter, filmmaker, director and actor who has ever inspired him to tell great stories. He has been an educator for nearly twenty years and a writer for twenty-five. Timothy is the author of The Furnace, The Freezer, and The Void. He lives on planet Earth, but he dreams of the stars.

Visit to register for news alerts, read reviews and learn more about his current and upcoming techno-thrillers. Follow Timothy on Facebook and Twitter @TSJ_Author.



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Order The Freezer from Carina Press.

A Dragon-Haunted World—by John Tristan

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Goats whose milk spins spider-silk. Mice that grow human ears. Plants that have been altered to glow in the dark. Even though all of it has happened—here, in our world—it still sounds like science fiction to most of us.

To me, it also sounds a little bit like magic.

It was that feeling, that ambiguity between the cutting edge of weird science and the stuff of fantasy, that got me thinking about the story that would become The Sheltered City. It’s a story that could very easily take place on some futuristic version of Earth: the domed city, the mutant outcasts, the post-apocalyptic landscape. But this landscape hasn’t been destroyed by nuclear warfare or pandemics, but by dragons who are a little of both. Except of course, they’re alive—and hungry.

So why dragons instead of nuclear bombs or meteor strikes? Well, dragons are awesome, of course, in both senses of the word, and I’m not going to pretend that didn’t have anything to do with it! What’s more awe-inspiring than some winged malignant thing casting its enormous shadow on the world? But they’re also a pretty neat symbol for forces that we don’t understand. Off the edge of the map is where There Be Dragons, after all.

Maybe that’s what makes things sound like magic: their strangeness, their quality of being off the map that we’re used to. Of course, our wonders can be explained in a way dragons can’t be. If I wanted to, I could go and look up everything there is to know about our world’s floating cities of steel (aircraft carriers) or the tiny familiars in our pockets that can access encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge (smartphones).

Amon, the main character of The Sheltered City, doesn’t quite have that option with the threats that he faces. There’s no such thing as a quick Wikipedia check for him; the world he lives in barely has any of its books left after the dragons came, let alone libraries. Although, of course, he does uncover some of the mysteries of his world. Like what keeps the Last City sheltered from the dragons, and what his own connection is to those massive, eldritch monsters.

Amon might live in a world full of magic…but then, in a sense, so do all of us. What do you find magical about the world you live in?

the sheltered cityCARINA_0714_9781426898662_ShelteredCity THE SHELTERED CITY

Amon Vraja, last of the halfdead, tries to stay out of sight. His kind, twisted by the gift that grants them superhuman strength, are loathed and shunned. Under the enchanted leaves of the Last City, ruled by imperious elves whose love of beauty leaves little room for his ugliness, he’s not much more than the ghost of a dragon-haunted past.

When the young, headstrong elf-lord Caedian takes an interest in Amon, however, Amon’s days in the shadows may be over. Caedian needs Amon to find Caedian’s missing twin, and a halfdead brothel guard can’t just refuse an elf’s desires. Throughout the search, Caedian and Amon rely on each other’s strength and generosity, and Amon is struck by an impossible yearning for his elvish patron.

As they peel away layers of deceit and spiral closer to one another, they also near the horrifying truth of the elves’ protection. And when they discover it, they’ll face a choice: step outside the shelter of the world’s last city, or die where they stand.

John Tristan is a fantasy writer with a soft spot for men in love. You can find him on twitter at @johntwitstan or at

Technology in Science Fiction — T.D. Wilson

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One of the cool things about writing science fiction is the ability to use cool technology as part of the story.  In my series, The Epherium Chronicles, there is a significant amount of comat. The primary weapon of choice for space combat, and for some ground force units, is a railgun.  Why a railgun and not a particle weapon or laser?  Good question.  I looked at all viable types. Humans were still developing a particle weapon for a large military application in my series, but ended up reverse engineering an alien design.  For short range point defense weapons in space, pulse laser cannons were most effective, but had limited range.  The high energy laser cannons required even more energy than several railguns and their effective range was much less than the railgun.  The railgun could produce devastating effects if properly maintained and was chosen as the primary weapon on all Earth Defense Force ships.  Here’s a quick look at a design of a railgun.

 TD Wilson blog post image

This style uses a projectile carriage to carry the armature current instead of having flow through the projectile itself.  At the rear of the projectile, we can introduce another material across the rails almost as a spark to get the projectile in motion.  The high energy plasma moves the projectile initially and the new armature current transfers to the carriage, launching it deadly armament at high velocity.


Let’s look at the projectiles from the railguns.  The standard EDF projectile is solid and made for armor piercing.  Other rounds include high energy explosives encased inside.

The launcher design helps to prevent any detonation, since the armature current flows through the carriage and not the projectile.  Lastly, I designed a flak round.  That’s right, it’s a space flak round for dealing with fighters and other small craft.  Once the projectile is launched, it’s set to detonate at a predetermined time.  The explosion expels several hard metal chunks outward, but remember, momentum in space isn’t hindered like in atmosphere.  So now I have hundreds or even thousands of small metal pieces speeding in the same direction as the projectile with little or no loss in velocity.  It can create a huge hole in a fighter formation.

This is just a quick taste of the fun technology I’ve put into this story and readers get to experience them first hand in Crucible, the second book of The Epherium Chronicles.



Book two of The Epherium Chronicles

January, 2155

Earth Defense Forces Captain James Hood is on the mission of his life. The Cygni solar system is just one space-fold jump away. One more jump and they’ll have reached the fledgling colony that Earth desperately needs if the human race is going to survive. But a plot to derail him has already damaged his ship, threatened the lives of his crew and cost him time. Time the colonists might not have.

So much depends on him now, but Hood’s confidence is shaken. It’s self-doubt he thought he’d buried, a brutal mind-killer for all military commanders. Yet danger surrounds his team; a brutal insectoid alien race is still out there, intent on eradicating humans, and a greater threat from an unknown, elusive enemy has emerged.

The forces at work on Cygni are like nothing Hood has trained for, tactically or emotionally. When put to the test, he must choose to either trust the unlikeliest of allies, or run and seal the fate of the Cygni colony forever.


T.D. Wilson was born in 1968 in Troy, Ohio and has been an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy from a very young age. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and has supported the systems and networks in several of the largest Supercomputing data centers in the world. His early thirst for adventure in reading began as he explored many of the great stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As his reading scope expanded, Mr. Wilson was fascinated by strange new worlds from the magical of Middle Earth and Narnia to the far reaches of space in Star Trek and Babylon 5. As a science fiction author, he strives to integrate a realistic flavor to his worlds by providing his readers a feel for the real science in science fiction. A topic he loves to discuss with his friends and readers. Mr. Wilson still lives in Ohio with his wife and their two sons.

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In the Black—Sheryl Nantus

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I, like many other science fiction fans, loved “Firefly”. Aside from the gorgeous leading man it portrayed a rough and tough world where the final frontier wasn’t a clean and sterilized future – it was darned down and dirty.

I adored Inara, a strong woman who provided companionship for the rich but not necessarily sex. It inspired me to create the courtesans from In the Black.

The concept for In the Black came to me when I wondered about the miners working long hours far from home. They might hook up with each other but work relationships are hard to maintain in such circumstances.

But the courtesans of the Bonnie Belle aren’t just high-priced prostitutes.

To quote Captain Samantha Keller:

“Sean has a degree in English Literature and has performed Shakespeare at the New Globe Theater on Ares. Kendra is a twelfth-level chess grandmaster along with a level three dan in competitive go. April is a qualified tai chi instructor along with a black belt in various martial arts.”

Anything goes for the men and women on the Bonnie Belle. But there’s one rule that’s sacrosanct…

As UNS Marshal Daniel LeClair puts it:

“No one screws with the captain.” He tilted his head to one side. “No one.”

But rules are made to be broken.

Welcome to the Bonnie Belle.

Carina_0514_9781426898358_InTheBlackBook one of Tales from the Edge:

When Sam Keller left the military, she ran to the far end of the galaxy. Now she captains the Bonnie Belle, a spaceship full of courtesans who bring a little pleasure to hard-up men on mining colonies. When one of her girls turns up dead, it’s  Sam’s job to find out who killed her, fast.

Marshal Daniel LeClair is as tough as steel and quick on the draw. But when his vacation gets replaced by an assignment to help find the killer, he can’t help angling for a little action with the saucy, hard-charging Sam. She’s  got brains, attitude and a body he wouldn’t mind investigating.

Sam, six months lonely, might just indulge him. But the Guild that owns the Belle wants the case closed yesterday. With pressure coming from all quadrants, Sam and her marshal clash over false leads and who’s on top. But when the killer threatens the Belle again, romance will have to wait. It’s a captain’s job to save her crew, no matter the cost.

And here’s a question for you: What would you miss the most about working far, far away from home?

I hope you’ll enjoy the first book in the Tales from the Edge series and return in October for the next story, In the Void.

Sheryl Nantus grew up in Toronto, Canada. She met Martin Nantus through the fanfiction community and moved to the United States in 2000.

In 2013 she won a Third-Place Prism Award from the FF&P chapter of RWA for the first book of her paranormal series, Blood of the Pride.

You can find her here:

Personal website:



Journey to the Stars

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Did you ever stop and think what it would be like to live on a different world from Earth?  Not just an inhospitable one like Mars or a moon around Jupiter, but a world capable of supporting human life.  Trouble is, planets like those are light-years from us and to travel to another star system would take years, decades even.  Would you still sign up to go if given the chance?  I agree, it’s a big decision.

In my science fiction series, The Epherium Chronicles, I wanted to explore that possibility.  There are choices to be made—both good and bad—to make it happen.  The outcomes of those decisions will have severe repercussions.

One of the fun parts of writing Embrace, and the other novels in this series, was the creation of the characters.  My main character, Captain James Hood, is a brilliant commander, but a reluctant hero.  He’s been on the forefront of a lot of battles.  Despite his victories, there are combat decisions that continue to plague his mind.

For another character, I wanted to add something close to me.  My father suffers from Parkinson’s disease.  To honor his struggle, I used a nervous system disorder in the background of Lieutenant Maya Greywalker.  Maya is one of three surviving subjects from a genetics experiment to cure a disease similar to Parkinson’s.  The results of the experiment left her with augmented abilities.  I’ve had long conversations with readers about my characters, and besides Hood, Maya Greywalker is always a topic.

It’s been a great experience creating Embrace and I’m excited for readers to enjoy it as well.

The Epherium Chronicles: Embrace

Book one of The Epherium Chronicles

Hope. Captain James Hood of the Earth Defense Forces remembers what it felt like. Twenty-five years ago, it surged through him as a young boy watching the colony ships launched by mega-corporation Epherium rocket away. He, like so many others, dreamed of following in the colonists’ footsteps. He wanted to help settle a new world—to be something greater.

Then came the war…

Hope. During years of vicious conflict with an insectoid alien race, it was nearly lost. Though Earth has slowly rebuilt in the six years since the war, overcrowding and an unstable sun have made life increasingly inhospitable. When mysterious signals from the nearly forgotten colony ships are received, Hood is ordered to embark on a dangerous reconnaissance mission. Could humanity’s future sit among the stars?

Hope. Hood needs it now more than ever. As secrets about the original colonists are revealed and the Epherium Corporation’s dark agenda is exposed, new adversaries threaten the mission, proving more dangerous to Earth than their already formidable foes…


T.D. Wilson

T.D. Wilson was born in 1968 in Troy, Ohio and has been an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy from a very young age. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and has supported the systems and networks in several of the largest Supercomputing data centers in the world. His early thirst for adventure in reading began as he explored many of the great stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As his reading scope expanded, Mr. Wilson was fascinated by strange new worlds from the magical of Middle Earth and Narnia to the far reaches of space in Star Trek and Babylon 5. As a science fiction author, he strives to integrate a realistic flavor to his worlds by providing his readers a feel for the real science in science fiction. A topic he loves to discuss with his friends and readers. Mr. Wilson still lives in Ohio with his wife and their two sons.

Connect with T.D. Wilson – Facebook | Twitter | Blog


The Path to The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston

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(Giveaway contest details below)

TSJ, 2013

Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries inspired me to write The Furnace. It may sound bizarre, but there’s something calmly comforting to me about a secluded and claustrophobic location, a small cast of characters complete with one investigator and one killer, a rising body count, extreme paranoia, and a setting that will surely kill if any one of the characters tries to leave. That being said, it wasn’t enough for me to just write a mystery of this type. Instead I wanted to transform it into “techno-thriller” status. That is to say, I wanted to incorporate a scientific plot line into the actual murder. It had to be something that the protagonist had to uncover and understand in order to solve the mystery. Michael Crichton is another inspiration for me, and so it could be said that The Furnace is “Agatha Christie meets Isaac Asimov with added Crichton for flavoring.” (In fact, that quote is from’s review. And yes, that was extremely gratifying for me to read—to know that someone got it.)

However, before I wrote the book, I had to decide on a location. I knew that, once I’d settled on the science behind the murder, the setting was key. It had to be hostile. Since the investigator was going to find himself behind the eight ball from the second he arrives at the station where the murder occurs, I wanted an environment that mirrored the mystery’s tension. There have been many settings used for books of this type—snow storms (The Mousetrap by Christie), small secluded islands (And Then There Were None by Christie) and a variety of remote places like cabins in the woods—but I wanted a unique and dangerous location appropriate for my techno-thriller.

I settled on the sun.

A space station in close orbit around the sun, to be precise.

The techno-thriller nature of the book allowed me to use a location like this. It’s a futuristic thriller, after all, and this opened up a myriad of options for me.

But why the sun?

I wanted the investigator, Kyle Tanner, to be on his heels and reeling from the hostile situation. He had to be the target of people’s scorn from the second he arrives. His very presence needed to cause friction among the station’s personnel, and I knew this would ramp up the page-turner aspect of the novel. Also, the heat of the sun increases the tension of the investigation. In a big way, this mission is a descent into hell.

The Furnace  is a murder mystery with a scientific plot element that the investigator must solve in order to survive. The environment created an intensely dangerous situation for the characters, and the paranoia as the story unfolds is palpable.

An Excerpt of The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston:

“What are your procedures for a situation like this?” the Captain asked in a whisper.

“Truthfully? I’ve never been in one.”
“Never?” He was incredulous.
“Usually I chase a killer when they have a place to run. I’ve never backed one into a corner like this and not known who it is. Most often they make a mistake and I make a capture. In this situation, who knows what he’ll do? His behavior is escalating, there’s no doubt of that.”
“Why do you think he’s killing?”
I frowned. “I don’t think it’s random. There’s more going on here than three murders.”
A heartbeat, and then, “What do you mean?”
“I can’t tell you until I know everything. But there is definitely a reason for the killer’s method.”
He grew furious. “This is my station, Tanner. I demand to know —”
“I can’t tell you. It’s as simple as that.”
“Why? Because the Council sent you? Because you’re the best at this job?”
“Because frankly, Captain, you could be the killer.”
He looked down and saw my hand on my pistol. His jaw dropped. “You’re serious.”

Thanks for joining me today to discuss this type of murder mystery. I’d like to leave you with a question: Why do you think these types of mysteries appeal to us? Why are we attracted to the murder of innocents and the resulting investigation (a “procedural”) to uncover the killer?

Thanks for spending your time with me today.

Timothy S. Johnston
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(Giveaway contest details below)


The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston Back Cover Copy

Dead Space, 2401 AD

Kyle Tanner is about to die. Alone, floating in a vacsuit only a few million kilometers from a massive, uncaring sun, he has barely enough time or juice to get out a distress signal before either his oxygen runs out or he succumbs to the radiation.

When the CCF sent investigator Kyle Tanner to SOLEX One, a solar energy harvester past Mercury, he thought it would be an open-and-shut murder case. A crew member was found dead, minus his head and hands. Not the worst Tanner has ever seen, but the deeper he delves, the more nightmarish it becomes. A shadowy figure, bleeding from his hands, assaults Tanner in his quarters. Then two more turn up dead, missing their heads and hands as well.

With no one to trust and everyone a suspect—even the intriguing chief engineer, Shaheen—Tanner must navigate a crew on the brink of madness to uncover a conspiracy that could threaten the whole of the human race. Even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice…



I’m hosting a giveaway of The Furnace by Timothy S. Johnston during my blog afternoon on December 24! From 3:15 to 5:15 PM, email me at using “Carina Giveaway” as the subject heading.  Specify the format you’d prefer (.mobi or .epub). I’ll email the winner.


Timothy S. Johnston’s Bio

Timothy S. Johnston is a lifelong fan of techno-thrillers and science-fiction thrillers in both print and film. His greatest desire is to contribute to the genre which has given him so much over the past four decades. He lives on planet Earth, but he dreams of the stars.

Connect with Timothy on Twitter, Facebook, and his website (which includes reviews of The Furnace)!

Once Upon A Time On Mars

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The Grimm brothers are popular dudes these days. Within just the last three years, movies, books, television series and comics have begun reworking the old popular tales that the Grimms and other folklorists recorded. Interestingly, these latest interpretations of the classic stories, like “Snow White and the Huntsman” or “Once Upon a Time” are aimed at adults who grew up with the Disney versions of the tales. They have therefore been imbued with heavy doses of sex and/or violence in order to un-Disneyfy them. Of this approach, I heartily approve. Thus I offer up my own new novel Ice Red, a retelling of Snow White that has plenty of flash-bang action in the bedroom and out, and also happens to be set on Mars.

Now, Snow White, having lasted for centuries already, has a high probability of surviving in popular literature for centuries more. I have no doubt that the tale will still be in circulation three-hundred years from now, when our descendants are actually living on Mars or on space ships hurtling out of the Solar system. Of course, the people then will probably regard my visions of the future with the same bemusement with which we regard “The  Jetsons”. But the underlying themes of female power gone wrong, the generosity of strangers, and true love conquering evil will be as archetypal as ever.

And who knows? In three-hundred years, talking mirrors and poison apples might be ordinary artifacts of technology, taken for granted like smartphones and Google are today. as Arthur C. Clarke wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But all the mirrors and apples and spindles and beanstalks, cool as they are, are just props. The true magic of fairy tales is in the enduring faith we earthlings have in happily ever after.

Mirror, mirror, full of stars,
Who will claim the throne of Mars?

The princess: Engineer Bianca Ross, heir to a megacorporation and the Mars elevator, needs to acquire a mine on the surface to secure her place in the company. All that stands in her way is the mine’s charming owner, Cesare Chan. The evil stepmother: Victoria Ross is plotting to gain control of Mars. She plans to assassinate Bianca and seduce Cesare to further her goals, and Bianca’s trip is the perfect opportunity. The charming prince: Cesare shouldn’t get involved. Bianca’s visit could reveal the escaped slaves he’s hiding at his mine, but he can’t ignore a damsel in distress—especially one as beautiful as Bianca. Alone, neither would stand a chance against Victoria. But together, they could rewrite a tale that’s meant to end with Bianca’s blood.

Carina Amazon Goodreads Barnes & Noble

Happy reading!

Jael Wye grew up on the American Great Plains, went to school in the Midwest, and now lives in beautiful New England with her family and her enormous collection of houseplants. For more of Jael’s unique blend of futurism and fairy tale, don’t miss her ongoing series Once Upon A Red World. Come visit my website at


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I still get nightmares.

Not so much lately, they seem to have mellowed out a bit and found better prey once I hit my thirties, but they’re still around.  Lurking.  Even though I don’t like them much, I can at least appreciate them; anything that can make my heart boom that fast and hard is pure platinum for a writer.  Payment required?  A mere childhood of dashing off the living room floor anytime a scary scene even thought about flashing across the television screen.  Even scary music would have me peeping through splayed fingers.

And that’s what it’s all about, right?  Booming hearts?  Sitting up in your bed when you get to that scene, a little smile tugging at the corners of your mouth, your mind thinking, Oh my God, this is awesome, please don’t die, two hours of sleep is plenty of time… That’s what I live for when I read a book.  Heart-booming.  Somebody once asked me to distill into one word exactly the emotion that I wanted to evoke in my readers when I began writing  DRYNN.  It was hard because there were so many feelings dancing around in my head that I wanted to share, but okay, one word.  I could do that.  Same way I had to have a one-line pitch at a moment’s notice. So, here it is, the one word…ready for it?


That’s what I wanted to evoke.  I want somebody to go up to their friend, yank the Kindle out from said friend’s hand, clickity-clack in, command them to put in their password and get the book.  And when it’s done I want that ‘somebody’ to go buy said friend a cafe mocha and talk about it.  Pie-in-the-sky stuff, really.  I once heard the saying, “Shoot for the moon, maybe you’ll fall in the stars,” something like that?  I figured, why not shoot for the Andromeda Galaxy instead of the moon and land someplace on Neptune?  Might as well, right?

I believe I may have done just that.  Neptune City.

Speaking of one-lines, here’s DRYNN’s:  The heroes of two worlds reluctantly join forces to fight the Lord of the Underworld.  Ta-da.

So, genesis #1—harnessing the power of nightmares, pouring that emotion into a basin within my mindscape, modifying it as I see fit (exhilaration, passion, fear, all the things that boom hearts) and forging stories with high tension.

Genesis #2–inspiration.  Every writer has their muse, mine’s music.  Notice the first three letters by the way.  Interesting, huh?  When I hear a song, I see a scene instantly—two cars roaring down the highway, weaving and crashing; a small, anguish-filled shake of the head as tears spill; an electric ripple under the skin summoned by a brush of fingers—I just see it.  And I have to write about it.  I immediately start fleshing things out—who are the players?  Who’s getting chased?  Is it an affair or a first crush?  Is the creature from this world or some other?  And what would lightning wreathed in pale blue flames smell like?

Donald Maass (who’s counsel I hold in high regard) calls these scenes ‘uranium isotopes’.  When I say the movie, AMERICAN HISTORY X, what’s the first scene that comes to mind?  The curb scene, no question about it.  “Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya…” do I need to finish?    Every great story has them, no matter what vehicle used to tell it–movie, novel, novella, play–pick your ambrosia.  The coolest thing, a thing I am most grateful for, humbled by, a blessing bequeathed,  is that I get these scenes and ideas every day; I actually conjured a whole book (yet to be written but in the noggin) by a single song.  I think of myself as a reservoir, a wellspring of feelings, concepts and bits of dialogue that just…bubble out of me.  Consider yourself invited to drink.

I’d like to share something with you.  While looking for a CD the other day (yes, I still have my black leather zipper-closed CD holders) I stumbled upon my sacred box.  I’ve had it since childhood.  Within it is contained every story I ever wrote as a kid, every paper I ever got an A in, and one of my greatest treasures…

Left hand side, 7th grade, 42 pages on 42 blank restaurant placemats, the first story I ever wrote.  On the right…DRYNN, my first published novel.

I’ve waited my whole life for this.

I hope you think DRYNN’s as badass as I do.

Steve Vera

Twitter: @stevewvera




Aliens in sock kilts

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My in-laws gifted my 8-year-old daughter her own digital camera and her bedroom is now a sound stage, complete with “Quiet I’m filming” sign on the door. She’s made several movies starring her dolls. Most of these independent films revolve around Barbie’s rockstar career and/or Barbie’s trip to the mall. I don’t know how I birthed a mallrat. I’d rather go to the dentist than the mall. I’ve never liked Barbies in my life (those were another gift from her grandparents). Oh, and, in case you hadn’t guessed, I’m not a rockstar, either.

But I do have some strange qualities in common with my offspring. We both loved to spin in circles until we fell over, whirly drunk, when we were 5. At age 6, we would lay upside down on the couch, hanging our heads off of the edge of the seat, and pretend to walk on the ceiling. We still believed in Santa and the Tooth Fairy at age 7, no matter what anyone said.

Then, there’s this.

A few months ago, peanut asked me to edit her latest cinematic masterpiece and share it with her Facebook audience – her dad, the aforementioned grandparents and a few aunts and uncles. I popped the SD card into my laptop and began viewing.

She opened with an overhead crane shot of a naked Ken doll riding a “ferry” (box) and finding a sword and some “clothing” — one of her socks, tied around his lower half. Thus girt in trusty sock kilt, he hied hence to a “town,” (box) where he parked himself in front of Barbie’s “house” (another box) and started begging for money on her porch steps.

“Oh, hello,” said Barbie, in my daughter’s girliest of girly voices, which is pretty dang girly, considering that she’s an 8-year-old girl. Barbie conversed with the scraggly-haired Ken, whose very visible plastic package peeked out from beneath his ill-fitting sock kilt, reminding me of a vagrant I encountered once upon a time in a Los Angeles toy store. One of us had been going “commando” in a pair of Daisy Duke shorts at the time, and it wasn’t me.

I stopped the movie. “No. No. Just. No.” And then, as gently as possible, I instructed her about the ills of talking to strange men who beg for change while half dressed on one’s porch.

“It’s OK, Mom. He ends up being rich.” Yes, she’s seen Disney’s Aladdin. What can I say?

“It doesn’t matter. Barbie doesn’t know that. All she knows is that she’s got a bum in a sock kilt darkening her doorway, singing a Jem song from 1986. If you ever see anyone like that in real life, you call the police. You don’t say hello. We’re not going to finish this video. Please, honey, make a different story.”

Spurned by her studio executive like so many directors before her, my child returned to her room. Meanwhile, I returned to the final edit of my latest novel, Stellarnet Prince. and the following scene:

Belloc tossed shirts into an open case. Duin entered the bedroom and eyed the stack of crates beside the closet. “Do all of these contain clothes?”

“Some have shoes or musical instruments. I haven’t packed the pillows and blankets, yet.”

“When I met you, you were barefoot with one shitty wallump suit.”

“Thanks. My mother made that suit.”

“When you were what, eight rain seasons? The pants hardly covered your knees, and the shirt didn’t close in the front. You, bugloim, were a ragamuffin.”

Duin was right. Less than a year ago, Belloc didn’t understand why J’ni would buy more than one dress. When he left Meglin, everything he had would fit in a single sack. Now, he had a closet full of clothes.

“But J’ni loved me anyway.”

“Yes. Because you are attentive, sensitive and handsome…”

I should also add that in the first book of the series, Stellarnet Rebel, Belloc sat in the heroine’s doorway and played music on a flute. She’d saved his life, and Belloc had no family and no where else to go.

And that’s the kind of weird thing. My daughter doesn’t know anything about my books, other than the fact that I’ve written them, and she won’t be allowed to read them for at least another eight years. But I guess the acorn really doesn’t fall far from the tree. Who knew that an attraction to musical diamonds-in-the-rough on one’s porch was a genetic trait?

I’m still telling her not to talk to strangers… unless they’re hot sapphire-skinned alien strangers who are built like Michael Phelps. Maybe then.

To celebrate the release of Stellarnet Prince, book two in the Stellarnet Series, I’m giving away a r’naw eye pendant designed by Gypsy Moon Art Studio and handmade by me. This is in homage to the giant alligator-like creature who attacks our heroes in chapter two.

To enter the drawing, tell me: If you could have anyone on your front porch, who would it be and what song would they sing to you? I doubt it’s this one.

* * *

J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series published by Carina Press, including Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012) and Stellarnet Prince (November 2012), and a regular contributor to the Contact-Infinite Futures SF/SFR blog. Her artwork is featured in the books Steampunk Style Jewelry and 1000 Steampunk Creations. Visit her at or follow her on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and deviantART.

You tell us: Do you read science fiction?

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OCT 1, 2012 — I’ve met many women who don’t read science fiction. They might enjoy supernatural, fantasy or historical romance. But anything with aliens, robots, space ships or lasers, don’t bother to beam them up, Scotty.

Reasons for their dislike include a lack of characters to whom they relate, pervasive misogyny in the genre, absence of emotional depth or romance, too much violence, and too many boring descriptions of aliens, machines and technology.

I’m a woman who likes science fiction, sci-fi, SF, or whatever you want to call it. There are women who write great futuristic stories for Carina Press. And I meet women at science fiction events. Yet, even there, I hear a lot of “I only became interested after watching Firefly with my boyfriend.” Or they don’t read the stuff, they just like steampunk cosplay, anime, RPGs or video games.

Maybe I should keep this to myself, since I’m a science fiction author, but I don’t read a lot of science fiction, either. I’m turning into a fan of steampunk, but steampunk is kind of a weird cross-genre thing that can be science fiction-y … or supernatural, fantasy, romance, historical, horror, mystery, Western and just about anything else.

For the purposes of this question, I’m mainly talking about futuristic lasers-pew pew science fiction.

I grew up with Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Gallactica, Alien, Terminator and Star Trek. As a kid, I read my dad’s Heinlein books and Omni magazines, though I preferred Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes to his Martian Chronicles, and Michael Moorcock to Isaac Asimov, so I guess I had steampunk/supernatural leanings even then. My doctor is the Ninth Doctor and my favorite TV characters are Jayne Cobb, G’kar and Gul Dukat – all from science fiction shows.

Yet, when I settle down with a book, I tend to chose fantasy, romance, classics or non-fiction. With maybe a dash of supernatural. And I spent most of my life writing non-fiction or fantasy. Which is why I’m still a little surprised that my first published novel, Stellarnet Rebel, is science fiction — as is my second, Stellarnet Prince, coming out next month. And I have a third Stellarnet Something WIP. How did that happen? (I’m being sarcastic, but… no, really, how did that happen?)

I’ve had several female readers say, “I don’t usually like science fiction, but I loved Stellarnet Rebel.”

So, here I am wondering what’s up with that — not with my books, specifically, but the genre in general. I’m addressing women, because I have yet to hear a man say, “I don’t like science fiction.” But, if you’re a man, I’d like to hear from you, too.

You tell us: Do you read science fiction – hard, soft, military, cyberpunk, futuristic, apocalyptic, space opera? If not, what turns you off of the genre? And if you do, what are some of your favorite titles and why?

J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series, a regular blogger for Contact-Infinite Futures, and an artist whose work is featured in the books “Steampunk Style Jewelry” and “1000 Steampunk Creations.”

* I know some people use “science fiction” and “sci-fi” interchangeably, while others make a distinction between the two. I’ve also received conflicting information about the abbreviated “SF” — it’s used in place of “science fiction” and also “speculative fiction,” in different circles. I’ve chosen to just use “science fiction” throughout, but you’re welcome to substitute your favorite term, abbreviation or euphemism as you read.