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Grandfather Anonymous is COMING BACK!

Elderly, unarmed, and extremely dangerous.

This has been in the works a good long while. Grandfather Anonymous never did much when it was traditionally published. I don’t blame the publisher, and I don’t blame myself, but there were definitely things that could have been done differently. It’s a strange thing, this publishing business, especially in the year 2020.

So, when the publisher offered me the rights back, I took the chance. With the sudden start of my self-publishing career (wow it’s been a year since my layoff), this seemed like a good opportunity to put together a relaunch. I crafted a new cover, reedited the book, and I’ve done everything I can to give Grandfather Anonymous another swing for the fences.

The trick is going to be getting it into more readers’ hands, getting those critical reviews, and giving it a chance to really shine.

And now it’s time.

The relaunch is scheduled for July 5th. You can now preorder anywhere ebooks are sold, and the hardcover is up for preorder on Amazon. I’m already very happy with how preorders are going. It has more than twice as many preorders of any of my previous books. That might be the special launch pricing of $0.99 or it might be the fact that something that drifts more toward technothriller has a bigger draw than my other books, which are solidly in the sci-fi category.

Either way, I have high hopes for this book, and how well this does in the next few weeks is going to weigh HEAVILY on my decision of what to write next.

So, head over to the Grandfather Anonymous book page for links and details on next week’s big relaunch.

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From a Barren Seed Grown Launch

From a Barren Seed Grown is out! Book Four of the Colony of Edge series sees Ash return to the colony, which has had the audacity to change while she was away.

This is running up to the end of the series. Book 5 (tentatively titled Above a Distant Sky Seen) is well on its way, and should be ready soon, but in the end of From a Barren Seed Grown you’ll get a hint about where we’re going.

And what challenges lie ahead.

Every story changes everything, and with From a Barren Seed Grown, we’re getting another lens through which to observe the deadly, empty world of Sky.

So, grab your copy now.

Woman standing in front of a city under a red moon

The Colony of Edge will never be the same.

When Ash Morgan returns after a long time away, she finds she hardly recognizes the place she once called home. Black towers stretch to the sky, strangers wander the streets, and odd smells permeate the very stones.

Monsters roam the streets.

After a terrible attack, Ash must determine what strange monster lurks among the city’s newest inhabitants. How is it connected to all the changes happening in the rapidly growing colony? More importantly, can she determine when the monsters attack next?

And why?

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On a Forsaken Land Found

The time is here. Ash Morgan’s next big experiment has arrived, and it’s time to find out what twists and discoveries await in the forgotten deserts of the planet Sky.

On a Forsaken Land Found is a huge release, since it sets up the Big Next Steps in the series and marks three (3) Colony of Edge books. I’m so excited to hear what people think about this thing.

As you may have noticed, this series borrows themes from various classic monsters. On a Forsaken Land Found is the mummy entry. Not any particular mummy book, but a huge part of the inspiration (and, roughly, its story structure) comes from the fabulous Brendan Frasier The Mummy, which is a modern classic all on its own. I mean, it’s no Encino Man, but come on.

But don’t expect the twists in this book to resemble what you’ve seen in other mummy stories.

Because what follows them back is not what you’ll expect.

On a Forsaken Land Found

There are some mysteries best left unearthed on the planet of Sky.

A secret is hidden in a dead city at the center of a faraway desert. Lost technology might save the colony of Edge and finally bring sustainable life to a world that has been so close for so long.
 
…But what dangers slumber in that forsaken land?
 
Ash Morgan leads a team of explorers to find clues that will save her people and bring on a new era of prosperity. She battles the elements and hazards of the city, but can she hold together her team when the dangers prove too much? Can she prepare them for the very real possibility of failure?
 
And what if something follows them back to Edge?
 
Maybe that city’s not so dead after all.

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AI in Sci-fi

Artificial Intelligence in Science Fiction

Artificial intelligence is many things in many stories. It’s hand-waved magic, a fancy literary device, and, more rarely than you might expect, a depiction of technology’s very real steps forward in the fields of machine learning.

I thought about this a lot when I started writing my Colony of Edge series. Even more as I delved into the third book, On a Forsaken Land Found. The AI Traverse plays a significant part of Edge’s heritage, and the way it uses colonists and is used by colonists puts together situations that keep me up at night.

AI in science fiction is rarely an accurate depiction of the modern understanding of technology. Even stories that claim to be HARD science fiction still tend to play fast and loose with artificial intelligence.

And that’s FINE. It really is.

There a lot of ways artificial intelligence shows up in fiction, and they’re all doing cool and interesting things. Here are some that rear their robotic heads ALL THE TIME.

AI as Just This Weird Guy

This is probably the most common. AI is just a guy with weird affectations and a poor grasp of dynamic grammar and dialects. This is Data from Star Trek or Mother from Raised by Wolves. This depiction of artificial intelligence is almost always a humanoid robot trying to do human things.

It’s not at all realistic given the current state of AI, but it isn’t really meant to be.

The Weird Guy AI is a literary tool. This is the guy the writer uses to explore the human condition. It’s the role we often see filled by certain aliens, sarcastic teenagers, and, sometimes problematically, people on the autism spectrum. They give us the outsider’s look at the characters in our stories.

I mean, when did Data ever STOP talking about what it means to be human?

The Dark Menace of Technology

Look, you know we need to talk about Skynet, right? If there’s one thing we know about artificial intelligence it’s that someday we’re going to hook it up to a bunch of nukes and it’ll kill us all. It’s the machines behind the Matrix or our good friend HAL. We see them as living things, autonomous identities that exist in the network, unkillable and distributed amongst its many machines.

These malevolent monsters represent our fear of technology, or, more importantly, a fear of what technology does TO US. They’re in our science fiction to represent our vices, whether it’s laziness (the ship in Wall-E) or aggression (Joshua in War Games).

This type of AI is sometimes still personified because we like our antagonists to have faces. GLADOS is very much a person, even though she represents our tendency to abandon ethics in the name of science, which is SCARY ENOUGH, ISN’T IT? Even Agent Smith gives the machines of The Matrix a face, though he’s separate instance of a program.

Artificial Intelligence: A Tool We Use

I’m not saying technology won’t advance, but right now AI’s real presence is not a guy we talk to or an all-powerful force we battle. It’s in the tools we use every day and it filters every single piece of data that crosses our screens.

Well, maybe that’s starting to sound a little malevolent.

The point is, realistic uses of AI and machine learning look nothing like the weird guys or evil robots we are used to seeing in fiction. For one thing, machine learning and robotics are totally different things. I tend to classify them as a totally different thing, in fact, because they have a very different use from a storyteller’s perspective.

Realistic depictions of advances on the tools we use every day are part of why I love science fiction. In my old job we worked on tools that better diagnosed cancer and found patterns in vast, vast piles of research. I use FaceID on my phone, read about self-driving cars, and I have even started using Facebook Ads. In fact, if a Facebook Ad brought you to this blog post, guess what, AI drove the decision to show you that Ad. That’s great! Welcome! Technology works!

The displays in The Expanse show a use of machine learning only a few steps beyond our current technology. Gestures move data seamlessly from one device to the next. It’s AMAZING. It also is definitely something that would need machine learning to implement. We see this from Minority Report to Iron Man. Nobody cares about the eyestrain inherent in transparent displays, as long as they can interact with data in cool and exciting ways.

Giving humans ways to manage enormous amounts of information is a real thing in AI and sci-fi’s depiction of it is both a prediction and an inspiration. It’s also kinda rare, compared to other depictions of AI.

But I like it because it makes me excited for our future. That’s why it’s there. It comes with a heavy dose of the hopeful, and even if everything else is falling apart, at least we have that.

Artificial Intelligence: The Tool that Uses Us

And then there’s this other side of that coin.

Remember those Facebook Ads? Really, you would not BELIEVE the amount of data Facebook has collected on you. Take that to the next step and watch Minority Report or Altered Carbon. Ads assault people on the street, following them relentlessly. Those cool, hopeful tools represent the future of our technology and can also be used to show the very real dangers of that same AI tech.

This isn’t the malevolent Ultron who just wants to squash humanity. This is humanity squashing itself. Weapons of Math Destruction gives a wonderful view of how large, opaque data systems can be harmful to human life. Are already harmful.

It’s fascinating to me when a piece of science fiction shows a tool we use using us back.

Even something as simple as the language laws in Demolition Man, demonstrate this. Demolition Man is a brilliant piece of science fiction wrapped in absolute absurdity and I love it right down to its ridiculous core, by the way. If you haven’t rewatched it recently, you should.

This kind of relationship with technology is nuanced as hell and that’s why I love it. If you give me a choice between an openly malevolent monster of an AI and the logical progression of Natural Language Processing’s affects on society, I will be more terrified of where we’re really going every single time.

There’s a reason many companies stopped working on facial recognition technology. The reason is that science fiction COVERED this. We KNOW that road is not a good one.

The Tool that Uses Us is a literary tool that futurists use to warn us about the path we’re choosing as a society. It’s the less hopeful side of the realistic depiction of artificial intelligence. The best depictions, are nuanced and complicated in my mind.

On a Forsaken Land Found

This brings us to the book coming out March 10, On a Forsaken Land Found, the third book in the Colony of Edge series. Underneath everything that happens in the Colony of Edge is the idea that people are shape the tools they use and are shaped by the tools that use them.

But they’re the same tools.

There are some mysteries best left unearthed on the planet of Sky.

A secret is hidden in a dead city at the center of a faraway desert. Lost technology might save the colony of Edge and finally bring sustainable life to a world that has been so close for so long.

…But what dangers slumber in that forsaken land?

Ash Morgan leads a team of explorers to find clues that will save her people and bring on a new era of prosperity. She battles the elements and hazards of the city, but can she hold together her team when the dangers prove too much? Can she prepare them for the very real possibility of failure?

And what if something follows them back to Edge?

Maybe that city’s not so dead after all.

AI in Sci-fi

What are your favorite AIs in science fiction? This article isn’t meant to be comprehensive, and I know I’ve left a good many out. Many AIs fit in several categories, but I’d love to hear your ideas on how your favorite machine people tell us more about who we are and how we live.

Thanks for reading. If you’re curious about my thoughts on Sci-fi Mysteries, you can find them here. If you’d rather read about my love of sci-fi novellas, well, I have that, too.

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Upon Another Edge Broken

Upon Another Edge Broken is out! The second installment of the Colony of Edge series sees Ash Morgan pit her brilliance and optimism against a murder mystery and… a kraken?

I’m really excited to see this one out there. It’s the first book I’ve written since the Big Layoff, and it’s the first step in turning Of a Strange World Made into a full series. There are three more to come after this, and wow am I excited to show you where this story’s going to take you.


The skies rain muck, the AI Traverse looms ever more dangerous, and the new nearby colony threatens to disrupt the status quo.

Now, murder has found its way to the colony of Edge.

Ash doesn’t want anything to do with tracking down a killer. She doesn’t want to delve into the anger and darkness that caused such a horrible event. It frightens her deep down into the core of her being.

But.

Well, it’s just that she’s curious.

More so when she discovers the killer might not even be from Edge. Was this the murder of an innocent scientist, or an attack from a neighboring colony? Is this the culmination of a bitter personal dispute, or is this war?

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Sci-fi Murder Mystery: Upon Another Edge Broken

Murder has come to the Colony of Edge in the second book of the series, Upon Another Edge Broken.

It wasn’t hard to decide to write a murder mystery in the second book of the Colony of Edge series. I love murder mysteries almost as much as I love heists, and science fiction contains some of my favorite mysteries. Whether it’s something like Gun, With Occasional Music or Altered Carbon or Lock In (all affiliate links), I’m right there picking apart clues and fully immersed with the intricate PUZZLE of it all.

Upon Another Edge Broken packs a lot of murder mystery goodness into a novella package, and I loved writing it. But writing a mystery isn’t easy, so it forced me to really think about what I love about my favorite sci-fi murder mysteries. Here are a few of my thoughts:

Characters

Characters are the number one most important thing in all my favorite stories, but there’s MORE needed in a murder mystery. First, the story simply needs MORE characters. I’ve read mysteries where there is really only one viable suspect. Turns out they were guilty. It’s not much of a mystery at that point.

BUT for the stories I really love, I want a few viable suspects, along with a few characters who are NOT viable suspects. Maybe a few in the gray area. Scratch that. I want EVERYONE to live in the gray area. It’s not easy for me as a reader to track all of those characters in a story, so I depend on cues the author gives me.

I’ve seen a bunch of techniques that do this. It can be as simple as a visual cue. The character’s funky goatee is always mentioned, or they always wear a certain style of shirt. It can be an audio cue in the tone of their voice or a certain smell always associated with that character. Done well, it’s SUBTLE, and the reader doesn’t need to actually notice that it’s happening. This is the equivalent of hearing Darth Vader’s theme song whenever Young Anakin is in a grumpy mood. Oh, right, he’s THAT guy.

My favorite by far are emotion-based cues. The point of view character HAS OPINIONS about everyone. Maybe a guy comes across as skeevy, so every time he shows up those emotions take center stage. Maybe the point of view character thinks someone can DO NO WRONG. Well, that’s probably a tip-off that they’re the murderer. Never mind that one.

The point is, I’m BAD at keeping track of a large cast of characters. A good murder mystery helps me out. The coolest part is that the more I lean on this help, the more I’m susceptible to…

Misdirection

Agatha Christie was a master of misdirection. She’d fill her novels with a whole bucket of red herrings, then pick one out at the end and claim that they were the murderer all along. Maybe they were. I don’t know.

A great murder mystery MUST use misdirection. It dazzles the reader with possibilities, playing on dubious qualities of the human condition to offer plausible suspects at a dizzying pace.

Sci-fi murder mysteries are no different, but those possibilities can be further complicated by the introduction of technology. How does someone get away with murder in a surveillance-heavy society? Who has access to a system locked down by security? Who has the power and who thinks they can still get away with anything? The questions change in science fiction, but the result is the same…

The Ah-ha Moment and the Big Reveal

The absolute best thing about a murder mystery is the ah-ha moment, when the surprising yet inevitable clicks into place. Throughout the book, puzzle pieces fly in all directions. The reader grasps at them, decides what’s really important (and who’s lying) and maybe, just maybe, figures things out. Different readers figure things out at a different pace, so the best murder mysteries need to be interesting even if the answer is revealed. For what it’s worth, this is a big part of why I love a good sci-fi mystery. Science fiction stands well on its own. It mixes incredible elements into the story and keeps everything fresh.

Then there’s that BIG REVEAL, where the book reveals the answer. There are a million ways to do it, but it’s so exciting to see how it plays out. Who was the murderer? What are the consequences? How does this change everyone else in the story?

And, in science fiction, we also ask what does this say about the society in which we live? What is it about our culture that leads people to murder? How do we handle that revelation?

Upon Another Edge Broken

A woman in front of a tentacle monster. Upon Another Edge Broken

Murder has come to the Colony of Edge.

Ash doesn’t want anything to do with tracking down a killer. She doesn’t want to delve into the anger and darkness that caused such a horrible act. It frightens her deep down into the core of her being.

But.

Well, it’s just that she’s curious.


Upon Another Edge Broken comes out January 18th. I hope you’ll join me for this mystery in the Colony of Edge. It’s not a big community, it’s not a dangerous population, but they say that about small British towns, too, and look how that turns out.

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Of a Strange World Made Release

Girl looking at a horizon with two moons

Of a Strange World Made is NOW AVAILABLE for the Launch Week price of $0.99! Welcome to the world of Sky, where the colony of Edge lives at the forward boundary of humanity and science. Ash Morgan doesn’t have a problem breaking rules, but things are getting ridiculous and she might not know where to stop.

A Strange World

Girl looking at a horizon with two moons

This book has been a long time in the making. I’ve spoken before about why I decided to self publish and why I love love love the novella length. The story itself goes back even farther. Of a Strange World Made is actually something I wrote back when the local library had a contest to write the best story inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I wrote Of a Strange World Made in ten days, edited it in twenty, and submitted to the contest.

It didn’t win.

Of a Strange World Made isn’t LIKE Frankenstein, but it deals with some of the same themes. Of course, I touched “man’s responsibility for that which we create” and blew right past “the limits of ethical science”, but my favorite Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein story isn’t even the story itself. It’s the story of the story.

See, it goes like this. Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein because of a writing contest between herself, Lord Freaking Byron, and Percy Shelley, who was kind of a turd. At least that’s how I remember it. Anyway, I’m sure Byron and Percy wrote perfectly lovely stories. Mary wrote an incredible story that happens to be the start of modern science fiction. No big deal.

THAT was the inspiration for Of a Strange World Made.

After losing the Frankenstein contest, I reworked a bunch of Of a Strange World Made and turned it into something that I’m genuinely excited to see in the world. It’s an exciting piece to me because it’s doing things in science fiction that I haven’t done before, and so far I’m liking the reception it’s getting.

I hope you’ll take a look. Kindle books are out now. Paperbacks are backed up in the Big Amazon Machine, but should be ready, um, two days ago. Whatever that’s worth. For Launch Week, the price is $0.99. After that, it’ll be at the regular price of $2.99, so grab it quick. Enjoy.