Guest Post: Jenn Nixon

Friend and fellow writer Jenn Nixon has a new book out, so I’m giving her space to tell all two of you who read this blog all about it. – TS
Mind: The ReckoningFan Favorite, Baldwin Bates, finally gets his own story and HEA in book three MIND: The Reckoning.  To celebrate the new release, books 1 & 2 are both on sale for the rest of the week! You can find all three books here:  MIND: The Beginning .99c, MIND: The Emergence $1.99

Baldwin Bates has only wanted one thing since joining MIND, to take care of his friends and keep them all safe. While the Meta-Alien Investigation and Neutralization Department is busy monitoring an emergence of human psychic and alien activity, Bates takes his first solo assignment searching for a woman who claims to see the future, only to botch it up and let her get away.

After helping to destroy an alien device called the Transcender, Lexa Quinn wakes from a two-week coma a very different person than she was before. While her abilities grow stronger, her feelings for Bates begin to interfere with the MIND team’s mission, putting everyone at risk. Secrets from her past threaten the present and future, forcing Lexa to decide who she is and where she belongs.

When a powerful, ancient enemy lays claim to the Earth and brings his judgment upon the population, Bates, Lexa, and the entire MIND team must do whatever it takes to save the human race before the reckoning is complete.

Mind seriesAs Bates bypassed the crafters and artists, the scent of Asian BBQ wafted through the air. He grumbled along with his stomach and hoped a few of them stuck around so he could pick something up on his way out.

“How’s it going?” Dina Ranger asked via his earcomm, jolting him.

“Shit! Forgot I had this bloody thing in,” he replied, taking a breath and shutting his eyes for a second.

“Have to get used to it if you want to be in the field…alone.”

“Unlike your brother, I need some me time, Sherlock.” This time, he chuckled when he felt her brush his mind with calming thoughts. “How’s Lexa? Any change?”

“No, nothing. Never changes. I…just don’t get it.”

“Me either,” he said with a sigh, quickly putting it out of his mind to maintain his focus. “I just got to the park. I’ll check in before I leave.”

“Okay. And whatever has you so hungry bring some back. Talk to ya.”

Shaking his head, Bates waited for the static of the comm to fade before pushing farther into the park, eyeing the tables and tents, but mostly their occupants, searching for a face. Miss Takashi had a pretty face, although older now, since the photo from the collective Meta-alien Investigation and Neutralization Department database was almost one hundred years old.

When he neared the end of the first row of vendor tents, he took in the sight of the city across the river, and then found the second and final row of vendors left to search.

He politely declined several offers to purchase various items like candles and potholders, wondering why his ‘blah face’—a term his new friend Kim called his usual stern façade—wasn’t working.

Toward the middle of the second row, Bates slowed, eyeing a colorful booth, shrouded in light purple curtains, and a sign that screamed for attention. When a face-painted toddler, followed by a frantic parent, came running out of the booth, he barely sidestepped out of the way. The parent offered Bates a weary shrug. He nodded politely and carried onward, finally seeing a sign for “Madam Takashi” two booths down.

Author Bio: Jenn Nixon’s love of writing started the year she received her first diary and Nancy Drew novel. Throughout her teenage years, she kept a diary of her personal thoughts and feelings but graduated from Nancy Drew to other mystery suspense novels.

Jenn often adds a thriller and suspense element to anything she writes be it Romance, Science Fiction, or Fantasy. When not writing, she spends her time reading, observing pop culture, playing with her two dogs, and working on various charitable projects in her home state of New Jersey.







MarketingSince I first released The First One’s Free, since rolled into Before Amargosa, I’ve focused almost entirely on producing new material. I’ve spent very little on marketing. Why?

Well, I was busy with life. But I also did not have much to market. And I tried an idea The First One’s Free was poorly suited for: Serialization.

Well, by the end of the year, there will be four Compact Universe novellas and The Children of Amargosa, five books in all, with a sixth, Tishla, to be released early next year. So what do I need to do?

  • Guest posting – I need to guest post. And I need to let other authors guest post. Blogs have small audiences anymore, especially this one. Guest posting cross-pollinates traffic. In fact, tomorrow, Jenn Nixon will drop by to talk about the latest book in her Mind series. I will need to do the same for Warped and especially Amargosa: Second Wave.
  • Free – Free has lost some of its power as a funnel, but it’s still an effective hook. I need a free story that focuses on JT, Davra, and the others as they are core to the Amargosa Trilogy. The rest of the Compact Universe is too scattershot, different characters in each novella. Still, I also have plans to go further back than “The First One’s Free” in Before Amargosa and tell what happened on Barsoom. It’s a Mark Watney-type story called “No Marigolds in the Promised Land.”
  • Promotion – I don’t talk about my work enough in social media. I don’t mean making every other post or tweet about whatever book I’m pimping. I do mean talking about it just the same. This has to be done properly, though. Too little, and your books just lie there. Too much, and you’re one of those pathetic writers whose every utterance is a sales pitch.
  • Conventions – When you talk to someone in person about your work, it really draws them in. So yes, you have to develop some social skills and, no, being an introvert does not get you out of this. I will be attending my second con this year, at which a few familiar faces will be present.
  • Advertising – This can become a money pit if not done properly. Facebook ads are cheap, but you need 30,000 views to get 300. It’s something I can’t ignore, but something I can’t overdo, either. The goal is to start turning a profit.
  • 100 readers – The Long Tail Theory says you need to find 1000 people who will buy everything you do. Not too long ago, someone suggested that would not be possible until you recruit a core of 100 fans. Those, of course, are the hardest 100, but once you have them, it becomes easier to build an audience up.


Friday Flashback: Death Race 2000

In the mid-to-late 1970s, there was a spate of futuristic movies about blood sport competitions. Stephen King wrote The Running Man during this period (released under the name Richard Bachman in the early 1980s), and The Hunger Games takes its cues from these, with a lot of reality television mixed in.

But this was one of the first. There’s already been one remake with another remake in the works. The original’s premise, which looks a lot like the Purge movies, is that a dystopian America has adopted a murderous cross-country road race as its form of entertainment. Think Cannonball Run with a higher body count.

And possibly funnier. I blame Burt Reynolds for that last part.

Poor Jackie Chan.


And here’s the same idea, massively dumbed down in the wake of Smokey and the Bandit.

Dark Matter by Black Crouch

Dark MatterThe man who brought you Wayward Pines has created Dark Matter, a new take on a premise visited by Sliders. Jason Dessen lives a quiet life as a physics professor in suburban Chicago. He has a wife and a son and, while not ecstatic about life, is happy. And then one night, he is kidnapped by a mysterious man who takes his clothes and drugs him. When he wakes up, his son was never born, he never married his wife, and he works for a shadowy company interested in “superpositioning” matter. It’s a theory Dessen was working on when he received his doctorate, only Daniela, his then girlfriend, got pregnant. In his old life, they gave up chances at wildly successful careers to have a quiet family life. Now, he discovers, he’s been a workaholic for the past fifteen years, working for an organization willing to kill to protect this new technology. And he realizes his kidnapper was him.

What follows is a desperate gamble to find his way back to his own reality. All he finds are different versions of Chicago from the utopian to the nightmarish. He meets multiple versions of Daniela, himself, and the people the other Jason work for.

The novel seems tailor-made for modern television. I can see this stretched out over a 13-episode stream on Netflix or Hulu.  Props have to be given to Crouch for not making this a special effects-worthy story. He sets his story in naturalistic settings. With one exception, where modern technology is advanced by about a century, the realities Jason finds can be found outside your door or on CNN.

Typing Vs. Dictation

Dragon Naturally Speaking logoAs work continues on Amargosa: Second Wave, I’m noticing the typing habit is strong. So strong, in fact, that all of last week’s production was done on the keyboard instead of by voice. There are two reasons for this.

One, I’m an old fart, and these fancy new-fangled voice-to-text thangies annoy me. Get off my lawn. Ike for President. (And now people on both sides are saying, “Wait. Can we do that?” That’s another post.)

Second, the windows are open now that cooler weather is upon us in Cincinnati. And while Amargosa 2 has somewhat of a YA bent, there is a scene where Suicide dresses down JT Austin and drops the series’ only F bomb.

Billy Crystal typing in Throw Mamma from the Train

Orion Pictures

Um… My neighbor upstairs has two kids. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to hear me drop F bombs, even if that’s the only one. Plus, I don’t want to freak out the neighbors as I narrate scenes involving exotic technology, alien anatomy, or faster-than-light travel. I do want to get back to it as I write during the week before leaving for work. When I’m relaxed and able to keep my hands off the keyboard so much, I can really cruise through a morning’s writing and get over a thousand words in the time it usually takes me to write 500.

But Winter is coming, both the season and Jim himself. With the windows closed, I can write the gritty (ie – violent and foul-mouthed) sequel to Holland Bay without freaking out my neighbors.

Do you think Dragon can handle it when I do dialog and can’t help saying “Ya feel me?” in Idris Elba’s voice?

Amargosa 2: Electric Boogaloo

Hemingway writing13,000 words in as of Sunday. I’ve had three of my meddling kids set out on the road dodging Gelt air patrols and getting attacked by lycanths. For those of you who haven’t read Gimme Shelter and The Children of Amargosa, lycanths are wolf-like creatures that sometimes stand on their hindlegs. In Children, JT Austin gets into a fist fight with one of them. Well, he throws his fists, which utterly confuses the lycanth in question. These lycanths, however, are acting very strange.

They’ve also run into Tyler Wat, the war criminal from the Polygamy Wars who has found himself part of the resistance. His presence angers JT, whose father fought in the wars. Those with Wat creep out Davra and Ellie Nardino. And it’s certain they get on Suicide’s nerves.

And Suicide drops the first F bomb in the Compact Universe, leveled at JT, who gets full of himself. It’s a skill he excels at, and Suicide’s seemingly infinite patience snaps.

The outline is holding up rather well. I was afraid it would veer off suddenly, making it hard to get my fellowship broken up. Nope. Not yet. Maybe near the end.

Fitting It All In

Dali's melted clocksLast month, I had to invite the tenants at a rental property I own to try new living arrangements. This has resulted in lost evenings driving out to Clermont County to clean and do repairs. Most of the cleaning and repairs are their fault. Some of the repairs are the fault of me, my last tenant (who was pretty handy himself), and the previous owners. If you own a house or take up the slack for an absent landlord, you can see how some things get filed permanently under “later” until later comes. It’s later now.

But I still need to work on Amargosa 2. And edit Warped. And build demo web sites. And work my day job. So how do I do that?

Well, I’d love to take a week off, deep clean and paint the house, but that’s not feasible. I could put the web sites on hold, but that’s not happening. And what about writing?

I write first thing in the morning before I leave for work. I edit and revise at lunch or late at night before going to bed. But a funny thing happened on those evenings where I only had an hour or so to work on book formatting or web design. I got more done in those short working periods. Some of this might have to do with having a short attention span. However, I also seem to be more focused. I have damned little time, so how do I get the most out of them?

That said, I can’t wait until the house is done and rented out.

Because I have another half marathon to train for.

Friday Flashback: A Boy and His Dog

Almost a decade before Miami Vice, Don Johnson traveled the post-apocalyptic landscape of America with a telepathic (and sarcastic) dog named Blood in A Boy and his Dog, loosely based on a Harlan Ellison series of short stories. Susanne Benton shows great taste in the end.


Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma KeyEdgar Freemantle gets his melon crushed when a crane falls on him. This naturally scrambles his brains for a while, enough so that his wife abandons him. So to recover, he goes into retirement and leases a home on Florida’s remote Duma Key. There, he believes he can unscramble his brain, get used to having only one arm, and, in a recurring King them since 1999, rehab his newly replaced hip. It’s long and arduous, and Edgar passes the time by taking up drawing. Then painting. Something on Duma Key drives him to draw and paint, especially when his phantom right arm “itches.” A funny thing happens when he paints during that itch, though. The things he paints come true. And it wouldn’t be a Stephen King novel unless something spooky was behind it all. Edgar, his neighbor Wireman, and Jack, the handyman, pull on this thread to find out what happened. It goes back to the man who built Edgar’s new home, dubbed “Big Pink,” and the disappearance of two girls in the 1920s.

After his accident, once King finished the Dark Tower series, he seems driven to find his old form once more. His first efforts seem almost meandering, aimless. Then Cell retreads the familiar ground covered in The Stand, but reaches. Lisey’s Story is a stream of consciousness tale reminiscent of his 90s work, but much more coherent. Duma Key is where he seems to hit his stride. It’s a little longer than it needs to be, but it also kept me turning the pages. It’s probably what gave King the confidence to dig out Under the Dome once more and go back to the type of storytelling that made him the master.

Worldbuilding: You’re Doing It Wrong

Luke Skywalk on Hoth

“You mean we could have built the rebel base in Florida?”

It’s a staple of the Star Wars movies. The ice planet. The desert planet. The swamp planet. From pole to pole, it’s one climate all the time.

Only this doesn’t really work in real life. You might get a desert planet, but it’d be barely habitable if at all. Same with an ice planet. A Hoth in the real world (real universe?) would be habitable only in a limited area. And a swamp planet?

As noted crime author Charlie Stella might say, “Fuhgettaboutit!”  It would have to be temperate all over.

So what’s the most realistic planet we can use in science fiction? Simple. Go look out your window. Now think of a place that looks utterly unlike where you are right now. Now think of someplace else different from that. Imagine a place that could support all those climates and landscapes. Can you think of one?

Planet Druidia from Spaceballs

And remember, when world building, don’t match the combination to your luggage.

Try Earth.

Now on distant Earths, one climate might dominate over the other. Warmer planets might have more swampland (assuming the life forms evolve). Colder planets could be icy, but quite likely, they’d be a lot like Mars with warmer weather (and let’s hope a magnetic field.) But that dominant climate won’t be the only one, or even the majority of the surface. Plus, factor in different gravity, distance from its star, size and number of satellites, the star itself. Plus, you can go to town with something that’s been normally the domain of fantasy writers:

Making your own map. The layout of continents can affect how a planet evolves much the way they do on Earth. And really, what SF writer doesn’t want his or her own Mordor?

Really, if a planet is going to be habitable to humans, there’s a 90% chance it’s going to look a lot like Earth. ‘Cept different. And that’s where you can really start to have some fun.