Dinner Is Served: Consumption Release Day

CONSUMPTION COMPLETE

My new short story, CONSUMPTION, is out today! It retails for only 99 cents and you can find it at the following etailers (Nook link coming soon!):

| Amazon | Kobo | Nook |

| iBookstore | Google Play |

| Smashwords |

I’ve been lucky enough to get some advanced review coverage on this one, and here’s what the readers are saying:

Your stomach will turn, your throat will restrict, and jaw will clench tighter than a bull’s arsehole in fly season.

- S. Elliot Brandis, author of Irradiated and Once Upon A Time At The End Of The World

Consumption is wonderfully paced and a real treat for horror fans. … I read it with the lights off and my Kindle screen turned up, and it was a totally immersive and satisfying experience.

- Franklin Kendrick, author of The Entity series.

Hicks takes the reader to some twisted, nightmarish places and if you’re a horror fan with a strong constitution, add Consumption to your reading list – you won’t regret it.

- Teri Polen, Books & Such

wonderfully macabre! Cleverly thought out, I was both disgusted and excited by this tale. This a MUST read for horror fans.

- Great Book Escapes

Consumption means a lot to me, and it’s a bit of an ode to the sort of horror I love. It’s a gory, fatalistic creature feature, full of atmosphere and creepiness. I had a tremendous amount of fun writing it, and I hope that joy comes through in the story. I’ve already written about how this story came about, and it’s a huge departure from my debut work, Convergence.

I talked about all this with S. Elliot Brandis over the weekend, and he’ll be posting his interview with me over at his site. Keep an eye out for it soon. I think it’ll be a pretty good read, if I do say so myself.

Then, head over to your favorite eBook hustler and plunk down a mere 99 cents for a good old-fashioned Halloween treat.

CONSUMPTION: Behind The Scenes

CONSUMPTION COMPLETE

At the tail end of May, my wife and I were watching a few episodes of Food Network’s CHOPPED. It had been a while since we’d last seen the show, and the opening credits had gotten a bit of a makeover in our absence. As the sequence ended, the camera flashed on a weird, tentacly creature that surprised us, and we weren’t sure if it was a squid or octopus, or what. I made a joke, something like, “In tonight’s basket: Cthulhu!”

It was one of those stupid off-handed comments, but for whatever reason an idea took root. It must have been a Thursday, and by that weekend I was off to the races, writing more than three thousands words each day. By Monday, after a feverish writing sprint, the first draft of the story was finished.

I hadn’t written anything quite like it in a while. When I explained the premise to my wife, her first reaction was “Isn’t that a bit out of your range?” I’ve only dabbled in horror, long ago, and my last serious effort was a bit of a non-starter, one that aborted early on. In fact, for a look at my first and only published horror story to date (until CONSUMPTION releases on Oct. 14, that is!), you’d have to go back a whole decade, to June 2004, when my short story CATECHISM was published in the magazine REVELATION by Fourth Horseman Press. Since then, I’ve been much more on the side of consumer than producer in the realm of horror.  This story, though, was an ugly little baby, and I couldn’t turn away from it.

The initial concept was a bit of extreme cuisine by way of H.P. Lovecraft, a sort of satirical look at foodporn culture and Instagram dinners by way of a splatter-gore creature feature. Granted, I’m guilty of indulging in foodporn culture myself. I love food, and if it’s presented well enough I have no problem commemorating such a dish. The Food Network is my go-to station; CHOPPED, IRON CHEF AMERICA, even some of their home-cook turned celebrity shows are entertaining. I am an unabashed fan of Anthony Bourdain. And I think that NBC’s HANNIBAL is one of the best damn shows on television and is the perfect representation of culinary horror.

So naturally, I wanted to take this stuff to the point of excess and linger over some of the more disturbing intonations of it all. Originally, I was going to call the story YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT but that was a bit too on the nose for my tastes, and felt like more of a parody title than what I was going for. CONSUMPTION was more evocative to me, more mysterious, darker, and captured the sort of predatory feel of the piece itself.

My wife is right, though. It is a bit out of my wheelhouse. It’s more experimental that my previous science fiction novel, CONVERGENCE, but experimentation is one of the joys of writing and self-publishing. I can try whatever the hell I want and let readers decide how worthwhile it really is. There’s certainly a part of me that prefers being a writer as a whole, rather than pigeon-holed into a single category or type of writer. I want to dabble. I want to play with all kinds of ingredients and different flavors, if you will. On the other hand, I fully embrace the category of speculative fiction, which is broad and murky in its definition. All you need is a ‘what if.’ And CONSUMPTION began with one hell of a what if, one that, quite literally, consumed me for days on end.

Almost as soon as I finished writing it, I began editing. I carved away quite a bit, added new stuff, fleshed out the characters a little bit more, and amped up the gore. If the first draft was about just carving loose a horror story, then the second draft was a very deliberate attempt to make readers feel dirty by the end of it. By the end of the second draft, I felt that I had a tighter, better written piece, and that it was ready to go to a professional editor (and author herself) for the next round of work, and Carol Davis did a bang-up job fixing my mistakes.

For the cover design, I turned to Debbie at The Cover Collection for a custom job. While I was writing, I was also thinking about what sort of image would best represent CONSUMPTION. I very much wanted to see a kind of old-fashioned butcher’s chart, and came across this vintage diagram:

Photo by Lisa Michelle, Twisted Orchid Designs, 2013.

Instead of a pig, cow, or chicken, I wanted a nasty looking beastie. Debbie sent me a terrific stock image, and I asked for some specific alterations to bring it more in line with the creature of CONSUMPTION. The end result is a pretty close, neatly dissected representation, that was then grunged up a bit, and which focuses on the culinary themes of the story.

Hopefully you’re ready and willing to join me on this little adventure of food-gore. I hope you’re well fed, perhaps full of long pig, and well-satiated, yet ready for one more small morsel as the night deepens.

You can pre-order CONSUMPTION at Amazon, or check here for links to other fine eBook retailers where the book is available.

Guest Post: Commercial Fiction with a Literary Bent by Casey Peterson

Today, I’m turning the blog over to Casey Peterson. His debut novel, Just Another Job, is on sale this month at Amazon for 99 cents. With this book, Casey has set out to tell a superhero story with a bit more depth and literary oomph, using not only some marvelous Marvel flair as inspiration, but some decidedly older works as well. Read on for Casey’s piece!

Just Another Job final cover

Life’s script takes Chris Byrne from a passive tech support role to an active world saver.
A simple drudging existence was on tap for Chris before an attempt at bravery places him as a sidekick for newly discovered superheroes.
With government backing, Chris awkwardly attempts to live up to the heroic image while tagging along on Super missions. Although he may look it and proves slightly capable, Chris knows he can’t keep up the part and decides to quit.
But walking away is the most daring performance in front of him. He stands to lose financial security for his family, a best friend that is also playing sidekick, and a new friend in the form of a Super. Then Chris sees the machinations behind it all.


Commercial Fiction with a Literary Bent

Thank you Michael for the opportunity to do this guest post.

I feel my title at the top best describes the genre I set out for with my first epublished book Just Another Job. Because as much fun as a superhero romp is, I never could entrench myself in the soap operas of Captain America and the X-Men for too long. I always needed something deeper for my brain to chew on.

Sure Steve Rogers throws a wicked fastball with that nigh-indestructible shield of his, but he’s also a bit of a cry baby. A man out of time eventually needs to get his head together and find an identity. When written well I can totally dig it. The mask gives him a purpose, without it he struggles. In the 1000 plus comics he’s appeared in, half give this identity crisis justice. The other half; a lot of pity parties that you don’t want to see from the first Avenger.

I wanted my protagonist to deal with a similar struggle, because, like I said earlier, when done well I relate. I also felt that that stoic, chiseled jaw figure rarely second guesses himself even without super soldier serum running through his veins. So I went for a common man, less self-assured than most, thrust into the spandex wearing world. He has little choice as the money a sidekick brings home is much nicer than a tech support provider. As cool as it is to stand next to real superheroes kicking ass, he can’t not help but wonder if there’s a safer option to gain a middle class existence.

But you can’t have a superhero story without some stoic, chiseled jaw figures running and jumping around doing amazing things for truth, justice, and the American way. Like the X-Men, I had to have a team because the dynamics and opportunities to play off each other were what drew me to comics as a kid. First with the classic 90s X-Men cartoon and then simultaneously the Marvel Masterpieces trading card line alongside the original comics. The X-Men I grew up with always had a strong female leading a group or the entire group in their fights against prejudice. My first real superhero had to be female; a mix of Storm’s natural elegance with the intense ferocity of Wolverine. The rest of the supporting cast was made up from the hundreds of other characters I’ve run across in my comic collection.

Of course, that’s only half of what I intended. Beneath the superhero surface, I wanted something more, and as grandiose as it may seem that meant using Shakespeare as inspiration. Like the X-Men, Shakespeare sunk his hooks in me at a young age. I remember getting strange looks in 6th grade as the only student to get a copy of Romeo and Juliet from the Scholastic book orders. I’d heard of this William Shakespeare guy and how great he supposedly was, so I had to give it a try.

The first thing to shock me was there was no happy ending for those star crossed lovers. Or for Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and Othello. Yet these tragedies spoke more truthfully to me about the world than any Michael Crichton or John Saul book I ran across. Which isn’t a very fair comparison but those were the only serious reads I had to put up against the Shakespeare juggernaut. After reading most of his plays, and many a few times over, I just don’t think I can pull away from the gravity of his work. All my writing will be influenced directly or indirectly by the true king of language.

For Just Another Job, the themes I wanted to delve into best mirrored the themes so masterfully explored in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Two worlds run into each other in Dream and my book in which the characters can only catch glimpses of. And having just part of the whole picture affects them considerably in their choices. The power of dreams and the unsure nature of sleep felt like the right fit for my narrative as well. When we think of power, we forget how much sleeping and dreaming dominate our lives. Whether you’re catching a quick nap in the afternoon or daydreaming at work, the two patiently wait to take over your consciousness. Of course the most predominant theme of Just Another Job and one of Shakespeare’s many works of genius, was the engrossment of the theater/entertainment in our lives. Even more than any other time in history we seek out the pleasure of entertainment. So much media from so many different platforms fills up our headspace. The presence of superheroes is just that; entertainment. They are a spectacle that grabs our attention immediately, whether good or bad or the many forms in-between. I doubt I came anywhere close to mining the deepest depths of this idea but that’s why there’s always a next book.

It Was All for Nothing comes out this December in which Shakespeare’s influence on me goes even further in shaping my work. It’s a bit of a slow build horror novel about a valedictorian who wishes to balance out all the hard work he put in for high school with a debauched summer that ends in a legend trip.

For October 2014, Just Another Job will be on a $.99 promotion price on Amazon.

About Casey Peterson

I’m a burgeoning writer with just one book under my belt and another one on it’s way for fall 2014. When I’m not dabbling in the written art, I’m teaching the art of the English language to junior high students. Beyond those two time consumers I also wile away the hours with Lego building sessions with my two boys and searching the recesses of Netflix for something usually scary with my wife.

Follow Casey on twitter @CaseyBungie1524

CONVERGENCE is now on BitLit

Convergence-BitLitEarlier this week, I signed up with BitLit to give my print readers the opportunity to obtain the digital copy of Convergence absolutely free.

Although Convergence is enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook program, there are a few limitations to it that I’m hoping BitLit will help correct while offering my readers extra flexibility in their eReader options.

Here’s the skinny on Matchbook – if you buy the paperback copy of Convergence at Amazon, and only at Amazon, you can get the Kindle edition for free. But, if you ask your local indie bookstore or Barnes & Noble to order you the print copy, you’re out of luck on taking advantage of Matchbook. Should you ever wish to have the eBook edition, on Kindle or any other platform, like Nook or Kobo, you would have to repurchase it.

Matchbook is an Amazon-exclusive program, and ties your print copy purchase to the Kindle edition eBook. That’s fine for a lot of people, myself included. But there’s plenty of readers out there who would be missing out on this advantage.

Enter BitLit.

I played around with this app last month, and you can read my thoughts on it here. I am a big, big fan of bundling print and digital purchases. Marvel and DC Comics have been doing this for a while, and I applaud them for that. My big wish, particularly as a reader, is to see more publishers follow suit.

With BitLit, you don’t have to be an Amazon customer. You don’t have to be a Kindle user. If you want a digital copy of my book, and you already own the print edition, then, damn it, I want to give you that copy.

So here’s the skinny on BitLit – buy the paperback of Convergence anywhere you want. You can get it at Amazon. Buy it through Barnes & Noble. You can have a bookstore special order it for you. Whatever works. Frankly, I don’t care where you buy it, just so long as you get a copy. Then, you just put your name on the copyright page, scan the cover and your signature with the BitLit app, and within a few minutes you’ll have an e-mail with a DRM-free eBook edition of Convergence that you can read on whatever platform you want. You’ll get an ePub file for Nook or Kobo, a PDF to read it on your computer, or a mobi file for your Kindle, even if you didn’t buy the paperback at Amazon. Check out BitLit’s How It Works page for the step-by-step.

Forget all about that Matchbook exclusivity. It’s still available for anyone who wants it, and always will be. But for all those other readers, BitLit and I have got you covered now.

Reblog: Author Wednesday – Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks:

Many, many thanks to Patricia Zick for the wonderful interview as part of her on-going Author Wednesday series!

Originally posted on P.C. Zick:

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Welcome to another installment of Author Wednesday. Michael Patrick Hicks joins me today to talk about his first novel Convergence. This science fiction technothriller features Jonah Everitt as your everyday drug addict, memory thief, and killer. There’s bound to be an edge-of-your-seat story in the telling of his journey! convergence-800-cover-reveal-and-promotional

Hello Michael! Your book sounds exciting and chilling at the same time. Tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer before we delve into the plot of Convergence.When did you first discover your voice as a writer?

Probably in high school. I always dabbled with writing as a hobby, but in my senior year of high school–way back when now–I decided to get a little bit serious about it and took a creative writing course. I wasn’t quite prepared for the worlds it opened up for me, and I completely fell in love with the art. I’ve…

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Convergence and the Path to Publication Part V: On Promotion

[Previous installments on the Path to Publication: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV]

Last month, when outlining my five-year plan, I wrote in part three that I wouldn’t begin playing around with price promotions until the three or four-year mark. This idea was mostly because I wanted to wait and build up a significant back-list of titles that could be co-promoted or discoverable by those bargain buyers and new readers. The theory being that, with only one title available it’s less of a draw to bring in readers and keep them hooked.

On the other hand, one of the benefits of being an independent author-publisher is that I can afford to be flexible and no plan or price need be set in stone.

Since releasing Convergence in late February, sales became a bit flat. I had a solid opening month with the bulk of my sales happening in March and April. In May, my book got picked as a Kobo Next Read which came with a nice boost thanks to a mention in their newsletter. But, by June it had stalled out on that platform, as well, and hasn’t pushed a single unit since. June saw only a few sales overall, but July hit an enormous speed bump that drew any forward momentum to an absolute halt.

By mid-month, I decided I needed to something to incentivize sales, and with my next title not due until the fall, it came down to this decision: do I grin and bear it, and let my book just sit there for months on end, potentially not finding any kind of readership, or do I try a promotion just for the hell of it?

Naturally, I went with the latter. I held a week-long 99 cent promotion for Convergence and spent $5 on a bknights promotion through Fiverr. By the end of the week, I was pretty well convinced I’d made the right choice and had the best sales since March. I went from six units sold through the entirety of June to 6 units sold in a handful of hours at the start of the promotion.

Greenshot_2014-07-21_12-26-07

Can you tell when the 99 cent promotion went into full swing?

Greenshot_2014-07-21_12-27-39

The 99 cent promotion also had a significant impact on my author ranking at Amazon.

My numbers may not be too impressive to some (we all have to start somewhere!), but for an unknown indie with only one title and virtually zero brand recognition, I can’t help but be a bit floored.

The first day of promoted sales netted me seven customers (I’d sold three copies in the day prior to the unadvertised promotion), and experienced a slight incremental fall-off in sales over the next few days. What started as seven sales went down to six, then down to five, and then right down to two. I had a small uptick over the DetCon1 weekend, which got me three more sales as I tied the promo price into the sci-fi convention with the DetCon1 hashtag, and the convention’s official twitter account was kind enough to retweet the sale info. A few author acquaintances were also very kind enough to retweet some of my promo tweets.

Although the promo was aimed primarily toward Amazon customers, since that is bknights primary focus, the deal extended to my other platforms as well, and I saw a nice handful of sales on Nook. I was also able to reach out to Indie Author Land, who ran news of the promo and featured the title a few times, and sent out numerous tweets on my behalf. Solid folks there, so be sure to check out their site, too!

Unfortunately, the cheap price tag still wasn’t enough to draw Kobo readers back to my fold, and the Smashwords Summer Sale has done absolutely nothing for me. In fact, it was mostly out of frustration with the Smashwords sale that ultimately led me to running this promo on my own, and the benefit of that decision is pretty plain to me. Although my title is still enrolled in the Smashwords sale and can be bought for only $1 with the code SSW75, it really makes me question the benefit of that platform at all.

All in all, I sold more than 30 copies of Convergence, the bulk of them at the Amazon US store. I did get a few sales at their UK and Canadian outlets though, and Nook, as previously mentioned.

My big hope now is for some more reviews to come in from these new readers!

Lessons learned from this promotional effort? First off, it’s perfectly OK to experiment, and in fact, should be encouraged. It’s also got me thinking a bit on what steps I should take in launching my next title. My previous promotional effort was through eBookSoda, and while that wasn’t successful, I tend to think it was more of a disconnect on my end than theirs, and I treated it more as a release announcement than any sort of promotional venture, so there was no reduced price, and thus less incentive to buy. When I release Consumption, I intend to keep it at a permanent price of 99 cents, which will make future advertising easier by cutting out the necessity of manual price adjustments, but also help make it more eye-catching and hopefully attract some impulse purchasers. I intend on giving eBookSoda another shot, and I will definitely be employing the services of bknights one again, as well. It’s also given me a bit of food-for-thought on how I should launch Emergence next year, and what the role of Convergence will be in terms of advertising and exposure.

As I said, or at least alluded to in my Five Year Plan posts, flexibility is key and there’s always room for reexamination of one’s goals and adapting to those changes in the market and personal plans. My own plan, as is it stands, is more of a rough outline than a specific road-map, and, of course, your mileage may vary considerably.

Author-publishers – what kind of promotions have you found successful? Any tips or comments? Let’s hear them!


CONVERGENCE is available for purchase as an eBook on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and other retailers, or as a print copy here.

Last Chance: Convergence Sale

convergence-800-cover-reveal-and-promotionalSo, lots of you may know Convergence has been on sale this week for only 99 cents. But, lots more may not know that at all! And since the sale has proved to be pretty healthy, I’m extending it an extra day to cover the full breadth of the DetCon1 weekend.

Even though DetCon1 is happening nearby, I, unfortunately, will not be able to attend. I’ve already committed myself to some family fun with our town’s Founder’s Festival and the annual Pig & Whiskey.

I’m hoping to attend next year’s DetCon1, though! In the meantime, please enjoy Convergence at the nicely (I think) risk-free price of 99 cents throughout the rest of this weekend (and bonus-points for supporting a local, metro-Detroit author, too!).

| Kindle | Nook | Kobo |

 

The vitals:

An Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist

A Kobo Next Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads Selection, May 2014

Jonah Everitt is a killer, an addict, and a memory thief.

After being hired to kill a ranking officer of the Pacific Rim Coalition and download his memories, Everitt finds himself caught in the crosshairs of a terror cell, a rogue military squadron, and a Chinese gangster named Alice Xie. Xie is a profiteer of street drugs, primarily DRMR, a powerful narcotic made from the memories of the dead. With his daughter, Mesa, missing in post-war Los Angeles, Everitt is forced into an uneasy alliance with Alice to find her.

Mesa’s abduction is wrapped up in the secrets of a brutal murder during the war’s early days, a murder that Alice Xie wants revenged. In order to find her, Jonah will have to sift through the memories of dead men that could destroy what little he has left.

In a city where peace is tenuous and loyalties are ever shifting, the past and the present are about to converge.

Publisher’s Weekly* called CONVERGENCE a “smart splice of espionage and science fiction. … frighteningly realistic. Well-drawn characters, excellent pacing, and constant surprises make this a great cautionary tale about technology and its abuses.”

“kept me on the edge of my seat the WHOLE friggen time! The writing is tight. The world building is incredible, and the story itself is pretty compelling! A+”
-Melissa “Book Lady” Caldwell, Must Read Faster

“Not only is it original and fresh it makes you think about topics ranging from addiction to loss of personal freedoms and civil liberties. The book is very well written…”
-Amazon Reviewer

“This is a book with well-rounded and evolving characters. It draws you in right from the start and keeps your heart rate up the whole way.”
-Amazon Reviewer

A Top 100 Cyberpunk Bestseller on Amazon

A Top 100 Cyberpunk and Technothrillers Bestseller on Amazon UK

A Top 100 Science Fiction and High Tech Bestseller on Kobo

Advanced News On My Next Release And How To Get It For FREE

Over the rest of this summer, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on a short horror story called Consumption. I’m excited for you all to read this, and I have a feeling it may be pretty divisive so I’m really looking forward to your feedback, both good and bad! It’s a far cry from Convergence, both tonally and genre-wise, but still firmly rooted in the speculative-fiction category.

Coming in at nearly 12,000 words, this is a dark, adult piece that revolves around six guests who have been invited to a blind twelve-course tasting meal. Of course, they have no idea what they’re in store for, nor do they realize the true nature of that peculiar tasting meat plated before them. Not until it’s far too late, at least. I think it’s a pretty fun food-gore monster mash-up, although you might not want to read this one on a full belly…

You can find more about it on this page, and while you’re there feel free to sign up for a FREE Advanced eReader Copy of Consumption. I only ask that if you do sign up, please leave an honest review when the story launches in the fall. I’m planning for an October release and hope to send out the ARCs in late September/early October time-frame, at least two weeks prior to the eBook’s official release.

Stay tuned for more news soon! I’ll be revealing the cover art later this summer, a few looks behind the scenes, and getting the official release date locked down. In the meantime, you can read the official description, check out an excerpt, and, of course, sign up for your free early release edition here!

And, if you want to try out my work for cheap right now, Convergence is still on sale for only 99 cents for a few more days. Time is running out, though, so be sure to get your copy ASAP!

Convergence – Limited Time Sale Only $0.99!

convergence-800-cover-reveal-and-promotional

For a limited time, the Convergence eBook is on sale for only 99 cents!

You can download this Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarterfinalist and Kobo Next Read Selection for less than a buck.

After the sale ends July 19, the regular price of $3.99 returns. Until then, you can buy my sci-fi thriller (perfect for fans of Barry Eisler, William Gibson, James Rollins, or Michael Crichton, IMHO) at these fine merchants:

Amazon Kindle

Nook (Barnes & Noble)

Kobo

Google Play

And if none of those etailers are your preferred vendor, the book is also listed in the Smashwords Summer Sale, where you can save 75% of the usual $3.99 price by using the code SSW75 at checkout. That offer is good until July 31.

After you’ve bought and read it, please leave an honest review at the site you’ve purchased from. They can help a new author like me tremendously, and let future readers know if the title might be worth their time.

If you’re a Kobo customer who wants to review the work, don’t fret! Kobo reviews are coming soon, and you can leave a review right now over at this site.

Or, you can post a review at Goodreads, too!

Whatever you choose, whether your review it or not (but please do consider it), just know that your help and patronage is greatly appreciated and I thank you for your support.

You can find out more about my sci-fi thriller here.

Therin Knite’s OTHELLA Blog Tour

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You may have noticed that today we’re doing something a little bit different in this corner of my site. In May, I participated in a blog hop for speculative fiction authors. Today, I’m giving a bit back in the spirit of that previous blog tour for the indie community and am hosting a segment of a blog tour for fellow author Therin Knite, who will soon be releasing OTHELLA.

Some of you may already be familiar with Therin from ECHOES. I had the opportunity to read OTHELLA in advance of this tour, and I really think you’re going to enjoy this book. It’s a terrific story and Therin knows how to keep the pages turning. I had a blast with it (you can read my review over here), and it’s going to be too long of a wait for book two of the Arcadian Heights series.

Below, you’ll find information on OTHELLA, Therin Knite, and an excerpt of her latest. There is also a purchase link (protip: you’ll want to buy this one, and soon!) and a link to a giveaway of the paperback. The giveaway contest is running until July 25, so try your hand, but don’t delay.


About OTHELLA

Welcome to Arcadian Heights,
where the world’s brightest minds go in…and don’t come out.
___

Georgette

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Georgette McClain can’t resist a juicy tip. So when a rumored crazy ex-CEO gifts her evidence of a vast conspiracy involving the world’s premier scientific community, Arcadian Heights, she sets her sights on the story of a lifetime. And all she has to do to grab it by the reins is sneak into the most secure facility in the world—and expose it for the slaughter house it is.

Marco

Tech company CEO Marco Salt has it all. Fame. Fortune. Family. But not long after Marco’s beloved genius daughter is invited to join Arcadian Heights, a rogue agent reveals to him the horrifying truth about the revered scientific community. Forced to flee for his life, Marco finds himself on the run with a deadly secret in his grasp and a single goal in mind: destroy Arcadian Heights.

Quentin

Quentin Belmont has been the Arcadian Heights spokesman for the better part of two decades, and his singular motivation is to keep the community safe at all costs. So when an internal incursion leaks vital information to an outside party, Quentin preps a “cleanup” without a second thought. But what at first appears to be a simple task turns out to be anything but, and Quentin comes face to face with the unthinkable—a threat that could annihilate the community.

Othella


About Therin Knite

Therin Knite: n. speculative fiction writer, college student, and master of snark.

Or at least that’s what I’d like to believe.

If you’re reading this, then I’m assuming you’re wondering who the hell Therin Knite is, and the answer is nobody. Yet. I like to think I’m an up-and-coming author or sorts, but you know how those things tend to work out. In case you’re still interested, however, let’s put me through my paces.

I’m a Senior in college, majoring in Finance and English (which makes me about 22). I write every length of literary work known to man, from flash fiction to epic-length novels, but my genres are a bit more limited. My short stories and flash pieces tend to be any genre I’m in the mood for that day, while anything longer is pretty much limited to some variant of sci-fi or fantasy. Mostly sci-fi, though.


Where to Find Therin Knite


OTHELLA Excerpt

[From Chapter 1]

6

Quentin

( 5 Years Ago )

I call it the “last supper.” I’m morbid that way. But it’s an accurate enough description.

After greeting the recruits as a group, I lead them to the temporary dormitories where they’ll be spending less than a night, nervous and excited for the orientation program that doesn’t exist. They have most of the day to unpack belongings that will be trashed by the end of the week, get acquainted with fake orientation class schedules, and get a taste of the spa and gym area I had cleaned and prepped two days ago for their arrival.

Droids have no use for facial scrubs and elliptical machines. And God knows I haven’t exercised since my MBA stint at Harvard. So dark it stays for most of the year like most things droids and I don’t need. It’s a hassle to get all that crap up and running again for less than twenty-four hours. I’d do away with the pretense if Howard would let me, but he lectured me again this morning about how the recruits deserve a few moments of rest and relaxation before the transfer.

So I head yet another table of bright young things with glorious visions of the future. Howard was right—this recruitment round has brought in major talents. Sachiko Nakamura, who started inventing clean energy tech when she was twelve. Vincent Star, who revolutionized gene therapy before he finished his undergrad years. Clarissa Salt, who built her first computer in elementary school. Brilliant kids.

It’s a pity they have to die.

I open dinner with a warm welcome and begin carving a freshly cooked turkey, handing slices out one plate at a time.

Star, scratching his stubbly chin, passes a plate to Nakamura and asks, “Mr. Q, when will we get to meet some of the other scientists? I noticed there hasn’t been anyone around since we entered the community.”

I smile and nod. “Yes. It’s just a ritual. When we have your official welcoming ceremony tomorrow, everyone will greet you together as a group before you’re split into your respective departments for orientation.”

“Ah, I see.” He grabs a biscuit from a nearby basket. “I look forward to it. One of my old mentors is here. Green, you know?”

“Of course. Dr. Green is currently heading up one of our major genetics projects. I’m sure you’ll be working with him again soon, Dr. Star.”

The children dig into their meals and chat amongst themselves. One of them throws a question my way every now and then, and I answer with the same dull lies I repeat every dinner. Yes, there is a pool. Yes, we purchase all the latest films for your enjoyment. No, skydiving is not an available leisure activity at the Heights. Try bowling instead.

I’m munching on a slice of pie when I hear the patrolmen coming. Their boots pad against the hallway tiles, and their shadows slink through the gap underneath the dining room doors, lining up in attack formation. I remember the first transfer. A bloody, awful battle. I made the mistake of trying to convince the recruits it was the best choice. I earned a broken collarbone for my efforts.

I wipe my mouth off with a napkin and rise from my seat. “I’ll be back momentarily, everyone. I have an important business call to make.”

Most of them ignore me and continue their discussions about mass bat die outs and gene splicing—God, science is a bore—but one of them stares at me curiously when I make for the door opposite the assault force entrance. Clarissa Salt. Frowning. Her eyes are narrow, rife with suspicion. As I slip through the door to safety, she glances at the same shadows I perceived moments ago.

Observant, that one. But too late.

The instant my escape door clicks shut, the patrolmen burst into the room. Children scream. Glasses shatter on the floor. Chairs overturn. Some try to run but are swiftly captured and sedated by the patrolmen. A few of them attempt to fight, using whatever they can find. I listen to silverware bounce off bulletproof chest armor and plates fragment as they’re swatted to the side by robot men who feel no pain or fear. But then, the kids don’t know that. To them, the community guards are flesh in powered suits.

I begin to march off through the darkened kitchen area, but something thumps against my escape door. I pause and wait. Another thump. Then the knob spins around and Clarissa Salt bolts into the kitchen, slamming the door shut in the helmet-covered face of an oncoming patrolman. Before I can react, she’s got me by the throat, dinner knife flush with my carotid artery.

The patrolman kicks the barrier out of its way, hinges splitting on impact, and the thick metal door crashes into the cooling stove in the corner. Beyond the now door-less threshold, the other patrolmen are carrying the unconscious recruits two at a time into the main hallway. The dining room is a wreck. Typical.

“What the fuck is going on?” Clarissa Salt’s rapid breaths are hot against my ear.

I blink at the patrolman in Morse code. Wait. The machine registers the order and pauses mid-step. I wet my bottom lip and say, “Only what’s necessary, Dr. Salt. I promise you that.”

The serrated edges of the knife nip at my neck. “Don’t give me that non-answer bullshit. What are you doing to the recruits? Where is everyone else? Dead? Are you killing them?”

Yes. “No. I’m changing them. In a way most of them won’t accept, unfortunately, if I give them the option to decline. And I can’t have them all decline, Dr. Salt. We’re on a tight schedule here.”“If you don’t stop speaking in riddles, I will slit your throat.”

I raise my hands in a non-threatening manner, fingers extended and spread. “Don’t be rash. I’m doing what needs to be done.”

“For what?”

“For the world.”

Her hair tickles my cheek as she leans over my shoulder. “Explain.” The knife bites deeper.

“You know why the Heights was created.”

“To speed up scientific advancement and improve the prospects for the future.”

“Yes, except, you see, there is no future. Not for the current human civilization anyway. It’s all going to fall down. Guaranteed. We started this project too late to stop a total collapse. So instead of planning for a better future for our society, we had to plan for a better future society. We had to plan to rebuild. And in order to create a human society not doomed to repeat the same cycle of rise and fall, rise and fall, we need to achieve an optimal level of advancement across eighty-six critical disciplines before we go about rebuilding. And we need to be ready at the moment of the fall, too, or the community will inevitably collapse before we can implement anything. So, you see—”

“You’re rambling. Make it quick. I want the whole story.” She puts her thumb on the knife blade and increases the pressure every three seconds.

“For fuck’s sake! You’re slow, okay? You’re too damn slow. We tried this the real way at first, providing the safety and the funding and the leisure activities and everything else we advertise to ‘boost your productivity.’ But it wasn’t enough. Human beings are too slow. You cannot create at the rate necessary to reach the tech level required at the fall.”

“So?”

“So we came up with an alternative solution. One that cuts out your inefficiencies. One that increases your productivity to the appropriate level.”

“What solu—?“

A second patrolman leaps out of the shadows behind us, grabs both of Salt’s arms, and rips her away from me. She shrieks, kicking and clawing at the iron grip, but the first patrolman is already on her. It roughly yanks her hair to expose her neck and injects the sedative. She struggles for almost a minute more, the energy draining from her limbs as the seconds tick by. The patrolman who jumped us lifts her weakened body into its arms and strides in the direction of the ruined dining room.

Before it crosses the threshold, Salt mumbles, “What are you going to do to me?”

I dab at the blood pooling on my collar. “Remove the inefficient parts. The parts that cause all the problems, all the time. That have always caused our problems. The parts that have built empires and ground them into dust. The parts that make us act when we shouldn’t yet idle when we should. You know, Dr. Salt: the human parts.”


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