Check back for updates and news! Like everyone else, I also wrote a practice novel or two not listed here; no need for details except to say I learned some things about what works and what doesn't. Ahem.
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chapters or full downloads of my released work. I'll continue uploading works
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Ad Astra Road Trip
Near-future YA SF. A story of friendship, othering, and chosen family. After being forced from home, Jack and Stella try to evade capture on a road-trip across Kansas that leads them to the Moon and beyond. Along the way, they learn the value of love and acceptance - and the danger of fears handed down from older generations.
When a brother and sister reach adolescence, they begin to "remember" things they never studied - ancient, secret keys to the universe buried in their DNA. To protect them from capture and perhaps save their lives, their mother sends them on a road-trip to danger and discovery, where they learn they were born into an interstellar game of politics where worlds stand in the balance. This revelation drops them into the middle of a millennia-long galactic conflict that threatens not only to destroy humankind, but throw all of galactic society back into devastating war!
While on the run from a secret government agency and alien police determined to eliminate humankind, they must discover whom they can trust: their parents, their friends, their alien allies, the vast galactic AI network, or just each other. Along the way, they must also evade powerful forces, build a stardrive, and save Earth's population from a winnowing plague unleashed upon our people - and meet new friends. By the end of the first book, they have become capable of reprogramming the human body, traveling to the stars, destroying entire planets - and surviving on their own. Their actions toss all of galactic society into turmoil, and Earth becomes the symbol of danger to many intelligent species, and a symbol of hope and change for others - but only if they can survive.
This trilogy follows our heroes across first Kansas and then out into the galaxy. As they travel to alien worlds - some inhabited by strange and wondrous beings, and some ruined by the last war - they face crises they can only solve by building alliances, mastering their new-found talents, controlling the vast powers they're beginning to sense within, relying on friends and allies, and especially learning to understand and trust one other.
Ad Astra Road Trip
Book 1 of The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella
July 11, 2016: One cannot overstate the value of first readers! Thanks especially to Kristen Koopman and Gregory Sheckler, whose incredibly useful feedback are shaping v.2. During an astoundingly stressful year, I've been intermittently addressing their feedback. Full version one goes out to agents (*fingers crossed*) before the start of Fall semester...
In related news, I've been working on Book Two. During my "Young Gunns Repeat Offenders" speculative-fiction writing workshop this year, the final development session that my fine workshoppers did was to help work out the dramatic narrative of the book. To the right is a shot of the session's results in all their colorful Post-It glory (thanks, Kristen, for doing the Post-It work!):
September 18: MILESTONE UNLOCKED: The complete revision of v.1 is DONE! Actually done! The whole thing is pretty fully revised, a bunch of new scenes are in place, and I took a deep breath and went ahead and killed a major character. Man, that's hard to do, especially when it's a good person. Off to my beta-readers! Now I dive back into revising some stories and getting them out while I wait to hear back whether or not all this work created something readable....
August 26: Revising is hard, but I'm nearly done. Discovered, as I revise, that the last few scenes contained several Easter eggs... not the fun kind, but of the "xyz - fill in this part with good stuff" variety. Just a few more days of revision and it'll be truly and actually ready to go off to my beta-readers! WOOHOO! On the other hand, school has begun, seriously eating into my writing time.
August 5: Just returned from the MOST AWESOME EVER science and writing workshop: "The Schrödinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction Writers," hosted by the quantum-physics geniuses at the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland. Some pics and reactions on my Tumblr blog. As you might imagine, the things I learned mean I need to revise and update a LOT of stuff. But WOW! Wrote 15,000 words of notes while there, got dozens of story ideas, and have already written about 4000 new quantum-physics-related stuff for the book. Inspiring!
May 29: MILESTONE UNLOCKED: I JUST TYPED "THE END"! Of course, I still need to fill in all the "xyz - insert stuff here" parts, and revise the final few scenes, but everything's in place. And now comes my Summer of Being Unavailable (I teach a residential writing workshop, conference, and teaching institute...).
May 20: After two hours' work this morning, I ended up with 300 fewer words than I had yesterday. Huh. Well, considering I'm now up to 162k, that's a good trend. Last year, I promised the good folks at ConQuesT, Kansas City's annual SF convention, that I'd have it done by this year for my reading there (Saturday, May 22, at 4:00pm), so I'm kicking butt to make that happen. ONLY ONE SCENE FROM THE END!
March 11: Just finished the second-to-last batch of scenes: Everyone gets one at the climax, including Jesi and Greg Tully, too!
January 15: Stella fires up her alien tech for the first time, but not soon enough! Only a few scenes left, and about 1500 words from 120k....
January 7, 2015: As the end approaches (now within just a few more scenes of being done!), I'm spending a lot more time going through earlier scenes to better unify things, insert missing elements, and generally improve the language. Through the miracle of revision, whenever I cut out a bunch of wordiness, I still end up with more words. MAGIC I TELL YOU. Now nearly up to 115,000 words, with a couple new scenes and a whole lotta improvement everywhere else....
December 3: MILESTONE UNLOCKED: Just passed 110,000 words (on a book I'd originally projected to be 80k... so it goes). Just about to start the next scene: "And then the bad guys show up."
November 11: Stella builds her first piece of alien tech!
October 15: Stella discovers the awesome power she holds in her mind, and isn't exactly comforted by it. Also, the noose tightens.
September 9: MILESTONE UNLOCKED: After a couple more weeks consumed by the start of Fall semester (and teaching two new courses!), I've been back at it and just passed 100,000 words! Woohoo! Some revising throughout, plus I finished another important scene. Nearing the climax....
August 21: After a couple of weeks consumed by finishing a new short story for the Mission Tomorrow: A New Century Of Exploration anthology (coming out in fall 2015 from Baen Books), I returned to finishing a pivotal scene where Jack not only becomes proficient with his alien biotech, but also discovers his best friend has been infected with a killer alien bioweapon. The story delayed finishing the draft before the start of Fall semester, but I'll be damned if it's not complete by the end of September!
July 31: After losing all of June (as usual) to the Center for the Study of Science Fiction's intensive summer program, I got back in the galactic saddle and have rallied nearly 98,000 of them-thar word-varmints. Also went through and made a couple more thorough character-driven revisions. The goal is now to finish the draft before the start of Fall semester, when things get crazy!
May 12: Almost up to 90,000 words. Since last month, I cut about 4000 words from the end of the manuscripts and moved it into the manuscript for Book 2. Also did a TON of revision throughout the book, because of a) significant re-imaginings of two major characters, and b) two new action scenes. Writers might find this interesting about revision: Despite cutting a great deal during the revision process, the word-count always increases at the end of a day of revision. Today, after cutting many hundred words (and of course changing hundreds more), the overall word-count went up by nearly 200. SF Grand Master (and my mentor) James Gunn has always said, "Writing is revision," and I've come to strongly agree with him.
April 12: MILESTONE UNLOCKED: Today I crested 80,000 words! While doing a physics experiment at the University of Kansas, Stella found someone to crush on. Of course, the wonderfulness of her day is about to be crushed....
April 2: Today, I wrote another 1000 words, bringing the total word-count up to 74,000. But more importantly, I've OUTLINED THE REST OF THE NOVEL. This means I can now confidently say I'm only 20 scenes from the end, and some of those scenes are already fully fleshed-out. Let's call it one month from putting a wrap around the first draft. EXCITED. Can I get a "woohoo"?
March 31: Almost reached 73,000 words... which is 3k more than I'd initially estimated the book would be, but it's so much richer now. Jack & Stella finally get to "meet" their biological father, albeit via a 14-year-old video, and then collapse after their second day of hell. At least they're free.
March 23: Gunfire! Creepy interrogators! This finally puts Stella over the edge of what she's willing to stand, and begins hunting for a way to tear down the tottering ruins of the adult establishment. Oh, and I've begun work on an interstitial scholarly piece about how AI came to be in Galactic Society, which contains speculations on its aims and the future: Terminator or Beneficent Power? We'll see.... Word-count update: 68,500.
March 4: Jack discovers that he and Stella possess information that could save humankind. And threaten all of Galactic Society. Word-count update: 64,500.
February 17: Writing all-new scenes lately! Thanks to a roadside interlude today, Stella glimpses the relationship between dark energy, the multiverse, and baryonic matter. Like you do. Word-count update: 55,821.
Another Snow Day! This means KU is closed for business...
which means more writing! Jack & Stella is now up to 49,775 words - that's almost 1200 freakin' more since yesterday, and close to ten grand more
than my last update here! I've almost reached the psychologically important 50k threshold. More importantly, the revision has progressed another 12 pages.
I'm only 9 pages away from writing all-new scenes - an even-grander psychological threshold! It's thrilling to be only a day away from jumping into uncharted waters.
Snow Day also means I had to shovel a crap-ton (that's a technical term) of snow from the sidewalks this morning. In many places, the snow was deep enough to spill into the tops of my foot-high snow-boots, soaking the feet. And the wind was so bitterly cold that my molars were frozen beneath my windburned cheeks. This afternoon, it's only 10F in Lawrence, Kansas, with a wind-chill in the negatives... so I was sort of an idiot to try to dig out this morning (click the link in the first paragraph to see a shot of the back yard). At least it's beautiful to look at, and sunny. AND THE BOOK IS ROLLING ALONG!
January 6, 2014: Crested the 40,000-word mark! You might be thinking, "Gosh, Chris, you've only written 4000 words since October; why the excitement?" Well, after getting super feedback from my three most-trusted writing advisors, I started afresh, changing the way the book handles POV, changing the opening scenes, cutting some scenes while adding others, and generally revising the hell out of this thing. After a bit of grumbling and sagging confidence, it all came together better than ever, and things are blasting along famously now! Sure, the total word-count is only up four grand, but I've probably written more like 20,000 words since September. So I'm taking this as a win!
October 1, 2013: Back in the saddle after the semester's initial overwhelmingness. Right now, the book is at a good place to show to my critique partners, so I'm working on the agent letter and outline at the moment. When it gets closer to submission, I'll be sure to post!
September 16: I first started working on this novel in 8th grade, stealing away during lunch hour to write in the library of Ortonville High School. I managed to get about 100 pages in before realizing that I was not yet equipped to write a decent novel. Nevertheless, the ideas and at least one character always stayed with me. Then, late in 2011, I realized that the set of ideas I was toying with, the characters that I couldn't stop thinking about, and the story I was starting to develop were all based on what I had begun years ago! Here's a shot of the original on top of a sort-of recent printout:
It obviously had to be YA, but I would treat the work as any other piece of adult fiction I write (only with younger characters - like Jonathan in Transcendence - and with less language and sex because, well, that's how Stella & Jack & Tully roll). Bam! Within a year, I had the book (which later clearly had to be at least a trilogy of books) outlined and had begun writing. Fun side-note: It seems I set the action in 1987, FAR IN THE FUTURE, PEOPLE.
September 5: Crossed the 36,000-word mark! Working on all-new scenes now that I'm happy with the early material. Wrote a ton of notes en route to San Antonio, plus a bunch there, too, while listening to intelligent and insightful speakers. Also got a lot of inspiration from being around so many pros. This is why we go to cons.
September 1: Gave a reading at this year's WorldCon in San Antonio (LoneStarCon 3) - thanks to all who attended, and thanks so much for your kind enthusiasm! It was a pleasure.
August 26: Up to 33k words now
- much of which is all-new! Thorough revision of this first sections after really
getting to know and understand Jack and Stella better (and everyone else), which of course led to
my needing to
revisit all their dialogue and interactions. I've come to realize that this book
is more about Jack and Stella's relationships than about than plot or story or
cool ideas. Every writer says their stories are "about character," of course,
but with Jack and Stella and their friends, every element of the book hinges on
character interaction and growth. Interesting to see this happen; I guess I've
reached the moment when my "characters come to life," as they say. The process
of writing is truly being able to suspend one's disbelief so well that the
writer honestly believes in these fictional characters while writing, or else
they come across as wooden or flat. Yes, writers are crazy. Anyone who argues
that is in denial.
Also addressed the usual making-it-better stuff. And I now have new character outlines and several thousand words for Book 2!
June 1: Donated another Tuckerization to the AboutSF charity auction at ConQuest, where I also gave a reading. A second Kansas City fan's name becomes just as central as it was in another author's work.
March 25, 2013: Progress continues - just completed revising the first chunk of the novel and sketching a rough outline Book 2 and some of Book 3.
Nov. 12, 2012: Our young heroes have been tracked down and taken into custody by their stepdad and other operatives of the Alien Management Unit of the NSA. Right now, they are being subjected to interrogation and tests - which, because the results are inconclusive, are threatening to escalate to brain biopsy.... The notes document has reached 18,000 words - including further fleshing-out of Book 2.
Oct. 28: Of note to people interested in the writing process: While the book's wordcount has finally breached the 20,000-word milestone, the notes document has also just surpassed 17,000 words. That's only the .doc file, not counting dozens of pages of hand-written notes. Taken together, Jack & Stella technically comprises nearly a novel's worth of writing so far. Huh. And still I regularly encounter challenges where I need to stop and re-outline scenes before jumping back in.
Sept. 19: Just a note to report that progress continues. Wordcount went down despite continued writing: such is the nature of the work. The notes file has nearly doubled in length this year, and I'm in the middle of a new set of scenes that drop Jack & Stella into the world of adult trouble....
June 4: Jack and Stella have been kicked out of their home, hit the road, and had an emotional bombshell dropped on them.
May 25: Reading at ConQuest! Also donated a Tuckerization - a local fan will make (a bit more than) a guest appearance in the novel!
Hard-edged far-future SF. A menace from the ancient past threatens galactic civilization. Aboard a world-sized Empire Ship, a boy comes of age in a society that sharpens men into weapons while the ship's Captain plans to resurrect the Empire. Meanwhile, a woman launches a mission to destroy the threat and must decide how best to save the human species. Along the way, she works to save her father from her boss while teaching a couple of borderline-psychopaths about loyalty and love... sorta.
Just finishing revising the final draft, then off to agent-land! Planned submission: early 2014.
Near-future cyberpunk/space opera/coming-of-age/new-wave philosophical action SF. Humankind rushes toward self-destruction, and must evolve or die. Our perspective: a scientist exploring an alien artifact on Triton, a teen-aged hacker in a city gone mad, three actors manipulated into igniting interplanetary war, the de-facto ruler of half the solar system, a soldier fighting in Africa to entertain his audience, an artificial intelligence facing personal crisis, and a cast of billions.
Here's a little of what I was trying to do with the book.
Now available in trade paper and hardcover editions at fine bookstores and directly from the publisher, Hadley Rille Books; the Nook and Kindle editions are also available. If you would like to download the full novel in various ebook formats - free - click here!
Want to see some
photos of the launch event? Here you go!
Want to order a signed and personalized copy directly from the author? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Medium-future SF. Two hard-drinking spacecraft pilots wreck their supercargo ship on an alien planet and stumble into a secret interstellar war. While dealing with the fallout, one man comes to terms with losing his son while the other falls deeper into the external drama.
Status: Draft complete, needs revision.
Near-future SF. A disturbed software engineer tells two parallel tales: The first is his personal story of coming of age in small-town America; the other is an adventure arising from first contact with aliens and conspiracy to commit terrorism on a vast scale... and why he ended up saving the human species he sought to destroy.
Status: Draft complete, needs revision.
Near-future SF. Beings from another universe tunnel into ours and download a vast amount of data into one man's mind. They tell him that they hope to save their vastly superior civilization by enlisting us in a grand scheme: For those willing to help, they promise eternal life and paradise... but - even if they can be trusted - the price might be the destruction of our universe and surrendering our humanity. Our protagonist must decode the aliens' agenda while human civilization shudders under the revelation he offers. Only when he recognizes that he holds the key to unlock the passage between our universes does he realize how he can save both... but time is short as the Earth teeters toward self-immolation: Religious ideologies first reject the news and then fight to incorporate what they have learned into their structures, economic and political structures are shaken to their roots, and our protagonist faces not only the loss of his world but the woman closest to him if he cannot solve the problems he has caused.
Status: Outlining phase.
Modern SF-horror. One of our main characters is "the Vivisectionist," a self-styled superhero... and serial murderer. He decided at a young age to use his power to sustain life (while doing horrible things) for good; that is, to remove bad people from the streets, torture confessions out of them, distribute their detailed confessions, and then transform his subjects into tools to help perpetuate his mission. The other main characters include a man who receives one of these confessions - a recording of his child's murderer - and a cop who discovers the Vivisectionist's identity.
Status: Draft begun, researching.
EXCERPT FROM EMPIRE SHIP