The Alien Origins of Superheroes

We all know that Superman comes from another planet – Krypton. And the latest movie to chronicle the life of that superhero, Man of Steel, comes to theaters in just a few weeks. Should be a good flick.

But what about other superheroes – do they come from other planets? Well, some may. Others may have origins based off-world, but actually have been born here as humans. Case in point: the characters in my novella, RED DEATH.

Check it out and let me know (via comments, or better yet, a review) if you think RED DEATH offers a good superhero origin story…and if you’d like to see more from these characters.

You can get RED DEATH at Amazon (Kindle) or Smashwords (Nook, iPad, Sony, Kobo, and everything else). Enjoy!

Red Death_cover

 

First Contact…and Cutting a Rug

47 years ago last month, we made first contact with another planet for the first time. Well, by “we,” I mean, the Russians (but I really mean “we Earthlings”). Pretty cool.

(Of course 47 is a great number when talking about First Contact.)

Now…when are they going to make first contact with us? Not the Venusians…just…anybody. Or did that already happen in ’47?

Anyway…in my sci-fi short, ALIENS DON’T DANCE, I explore the adventure of one alien trying to make first contact with humans – on the dance floor – with hilarious results.

Please let me know what you think of it in the comments (and/or in a review from wherever you purchase it).

You can get ALIENS DON’T DANCE at Amazon (Kindle) or Smashwords (Nook, iPad, Sony, Kobo, and everything else). Enjoy!

Aliens Don't Dance_FINAL

 

Dreaming About Your Taxes?

A team of dream experts called Dreams Cloud announced this week that Americans are more likely to have weird and troubling dreams leading up this Monday’s tax deadline.

Dreams are so fascinating, aren’t they? Who doesn’t enjoy waking from a strange and involved one and telling someone all about it? It can actually be inspirational; the bestselling short story in my collection (SWITCH) was actually based partly on a dream my wife had told me about. (Funny,since Dreams Cloud recommends writing your dreams down.)

The dreamscape is such a weird place. And sometimes it fools us – like when we have a dream within a dream, thinking we’ve awoken when we’re really still asleep.

Reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Inception, where Christopher Nolan took that idea to a whole new level (or six whole new levels).

It also reminds me of a story I wrote very early in my career, called PROJECT: DREAMER. Check it out, and let me know if the twists and turns manage to throw you for a loop.

Then tell me about the last weird dream you had…

You can get PROJECT: DREAMER at Amazon (Kindle) or Smashwords (Nook, iPad, Sony, Kobo, and everything else). Enjoy!

Who Would’ve Thought?

Apparently, some people look to Twitter to provide predictions on things such as the U.S. economic “jobs report.” That’s a phenomenon that itself would’ve been hard for anyone to predict just seven short years ago (Twitter just turned seven last month).

And it’s certainly not something that Nostradamus would’ve predicted. (Of course, from what I’ve seen, his predictions were so vaguely worded they can be interpreted to mean anything, like a horoscope – so maybe he did predict the rise of the Twitterverse.)

Even Google is getting smarter at predicting things…

Speaking of predictions, you don’t hear much about it now, but wasn’t the world supposed to end, like, three months ago or so? Some people went out of their way to point that out . . .

And speaking of predictions. Nostradamus, and the world ending . . . you should check out my humorous short tale, PREDICT THIS. Why? Because it’s darned funny – no other reason.

And if you like it – which I predict you will – let me know in the comments, and by leaving a review for it wherever you purchase it. You can get it at Amazon (Kindle) or Smashwords (Nook, iPad, Sony, Kobo, and everything else). Enjoy!

 

Boogeymen Among the Books?

Just this month, paranormal investigators in Chattanooga, Tennessee, checked out a library to search for spooks and spirits that may be lurking amid the volumes.

Maybe ghosts like to read. Who knows?

I have no idea if they found any ectoplasmic entities, but it made me think of my short story, TURN THE PAGE – a paranormal-mystery-romance tale. My wife and sister-in-law insist this story should be the launch-point for a series of novels based on the characters and set-up I created with this short.

What do you think? Read it and let me know in the comments if you’d like to see more of young Virginia Ward and her phantom friend Wendell Young…

You can get TURN THE PAGE at Amazon for your Kindle (or Kindle-enabled device) or at Smashwords for Nook, iPad, and all other e-readers.

Was Armstrong a Slave to the Race?

Last year, I became quite the cycling enthusiast. But I have to admit, I don’t follow sports at all (or news much, for that matter), so I haven’t kept up much with the Lance Armstrong scandal. All I know is he got busted for “doping” – resulting in him getting stripped of his Tour de France wins.

I just know I like riding my bike.

Last week, CNN reported that big Hollywood studios are now racing to produce movies about the Armstrong story.

It got me thinking about one of my short stories, A SLAVE TO RACE – and how it might make a decent plot for a sci-fi movie. Do you think the drive to win in my story parallels Armstrong’s? Why or why not?

Let me know in the comments!

You can get A SLAVE TO RACE at Amazon for your Kindle (or Kindle-enabled device) or at Smashwords for Nook, iPad, and all other e-readers.

 

 

 

Life Under the Lash

A recent Forbes article discusses how China’s new president is working to reform the hundreds of forced-labor camps in that country. It’s hard to find a better illustration of tyranny than that of the government enslaving its people, making them work while restricting their freedom and confiscating the fruits of their labor.

There have been many accounts in history of a dominant group subverting another and forcing them to do slave labor – sometimes for hundreds of years, as was the case with the Hebrews who were in captivity to the Egyptians for so long.

In my novella, THE ONLY, the peaceful people of another world are subjected to a similar experience when they are conquered practically overnight by an invading alien force. With nothing but his faith to sustain him, Aedlem must find a way to repel these taskmasters before it’s too late.

But have his gods abandoned him and his world?

If your world (or part of the world) came under attack, and your friends and family were rounded up, what would YOU do? Let me know in the comments.

You can get THE ONLY at Amazon for your Kindle (or Kindle-enabled device) or at Smashwords for Nook, iPad, and all other e-readers.

They Used Seashells for…What?

This week’s online issue of Scientific American has an article chronicling the history of wiping. Yes, wiping – as in, “don’t forget to wipe!” (Something I never thought I would say so often; but, with a seven year old, I find I do sometimes have to admonish him thus.)

One the unusual items historically used for toilet hygiene was, believe it or not, a seashell. (I’d rather not think about how that worked.)

Why am I even talking about this, you ask? Well, I have this short story out right now called DECISIONS, DECISIONS in which the protagonist makes his living from collecting, cleaning up and selling seashells along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. No, he does not use them for wiping – just as beautiful decorative items.

Oh, and he collects the shells with the help of a pair of telepathic pigeons.

One day, he gets an incredible chance to magically change his destiny. If you had the opportunity to re-do any three events from your life – what would they be? Check out the story and tell me your three things in the comments.

You can get DECISIONS, DECISIONS at Amazon for your Kindle (or Kindle-enabled device) or at Smashwords for all other e-readers.

Swappin’ Bods

Recently in South Africa, undertakers accidentally delivered the wrong body to a funeral. While the situation may sound humorous in a “black comedy” sort of way, it was actually quite traumatic for the family.

My short story, SWITCH, is also about a body swap – but one of a very different nature: two living people, not two corpses. And the two people happen to be secret agents. And there is some trauma involved. But no undertakers.

SWITCH is a pretty quick read – maybe a half hour or so. You can get it at Amazon for your Kindle (or Kindle-enabled device) or at Smashwords for all other e-readers. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Funny thing – this story has been selling quite well. It is a good story, but so are many of my tales – so I was trying to figure out what made this one fly off the shelves – is it the cover, the blurb, something else?

Well, I think I discovered what the “something else” is: according to Amazon, for some reason, customers who bought SWITCH also bought a bunch of gender-swap erotica books. So now, my story (which is an exciting sci-fi spy thriller with no erotic content – sorry) shows up in the “customers also bought” list for those racy tales – and we all know the racy stuff sells well.

So there you go: guilt (or rather, high sales volume) by (incorrect) association.

Thanks, Amazon – I’ll take it.

Make Time Stop

Business Insider recently highlighted an ad that explores the possibilities of stopping time. While the possibilities are intriguing, it’s even more fascinating to contemplate what might happen if such power were used as a weapon – directed at certain individuals.

My novella PAUSE takes a look at a world where slowing down the clock can be used in warfare, and how it dramatically changes on man’s life when he is the victim of a “pause” misfire.

Check it out, and let me know if you think it would be a good or bad thing to be in Captain John Benjamin’s shoes…

PAUSE is a pretty quick read – maybe an hour or so. You can get it at Amazon for your Kindle (or Kindle-enabled device) or at Smashwords for all other e-readers. Let me know what you think!

Multiverses and All That

In preparation for helming the latest in the long and entertaining string of X-Men films, director Bryan Singer said last month that he “had a two-hour conversation with James Cameron about time travel, string theory, multiverses and all that.”

He wanted to make sure he really grasped the deep concepts – and who better to ask than the guy who went deeper than anyone else.

Singer also said that when you’re dealing with multiple realities, “you have to create your rules and stick with them.”

That’s something I strove for in my novella SUPERTHREAD – a story that deals with the very stuff Singer was discussing with Cameron – namely, the idea that time is fractured into an infinite number of alternatives, based on choices made by individual people. And in SUPERTHREAD, a special agency in the future is responsible for ensuring that the ideal reality is the dominant one – the “superthread”- by sending agents back to help with some of those important choices.

But this time, for agent Michael Dennis, the choice could come down to saving the world, or killing his wife. What would you do? Find a third way?

Read the story and let me know what you think in the comments.

You can pick up SUPERTHREAD at Amazon for your Kindle (or Kindle-enabled device) or at Smashwords for all other e-readers.

 

To See Afar

Just last week, “remote viewing” pioneer Ingo Swann passed away. He was renowned among those who studied the possibilities associated with psychic powers and “seeing” things beyond the scope of our five senses. You can read more about him here.

In SEER, a novella I wrote a while back, a simple farmer discovers his ability to see beyond normal perception – with the aid of an alien device. The extraordinary power this gives him makes him the instant focus of the military and United States government of 1947.

Is this sort of thing possible? Are some people able to see into the future, or across great distances? Check out SEER, and let me know in the comments!

 

Are We Cosmic Squatters?

Last month, astronomers announced that they’ve found what they call “tentative traces of a precursor chemical to the building blocks of life” a thousand light-years distant. They say that those very building blocks may be the same ones that started life on Earth. Get that? The SAME ones.

Personally, I think it’s a bunch of hogwash. But it’s fun to speculate.

And it made me think of my novella-length story, Diaspora, which is not a bunch of hogwash, but a gripping and human tale that examines what it is that ties us all together.

In this story, future humans find themselves at war with an intractable enemy species bent on conquering Earth.

But why?

Give it a read, and let me know what you think in the comments. What would you do if it turned out that we were not the first ones here?

Rights for Robots?

Artificial intelligence continues to make leaps and bounds of advancement. Check out this article from earlier this month in the U.K.’s Daily Mail about a robotic baby. It’s able to make very emotive and realistic facial expressions in response to stimuli.

Personally, I find it kinda creepy. Must be that whole “uncanny valley” thing.

But these advances tend to invite the obvious question (at least to the sci-fi mind) – what might a future of truly intelligent robots look like? What about sentience?

And what about robot rights?

This is a theme I explore in my short story Statute Forty-Nine.

Could we eventually come to a point where robots have actual legal status equivalent to real persons? What would that be like?

Check the ebook and let me know what you think in the comments!

Future Tech – How Far Will It Go?

As you probably know, the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped up recently in Las Vegas. CES is where all the geeks go to feast on the latest and greatest in the world of gadgets, doohickeys and thingamabobs. (Sorry to bombard you with so much technical jargon.) Anyway, the geeks at CNET covered the best stuff from the show here.

This year brought all kinds of innovations, from flexible glass to mind-controllers (no, not a device with which to control people’s minds – a device that allows you to use your mind to control stuff, like video games).

It all makes me wonder…how far will technology take us in the next few years, or few decades? Could it be possible for something to happen similar to what transpires in my novella (long short story) The File?

Check it out and comment below: could the events in The File really happen? How soon?

The File is a pretty quick read – maybe an hour or so. You can get it at Amazon for your Kindle (or Kindle-enabled device) or at Smashwords for all other e-readers. Let me know what you think!

 

 

You Can Buy Anything Online

Real skeletons? Zombie apocalypse survival kits? Naming rights to unborn children? From toenails to human souls (yikes!), a Yahoo! Finance article from last year details some of the most bizarre things found for sale on the internet.

But what about an assassination? That’s right – buying a hit online could be a thing of the future…

My novella, The Darkness, explores that very scenario. In this case, it’s a teenage girl piano prodigy buying the hit. But she has some pretty good reasons for resorting to this extreme.

Check out the story and let me know in the comments what you think: could something like this story really happen?

The Forces That Affect Our Lives

Ever get a strange feeling you’ve experienced this before? Notice how that person turns and looks at you when you stare at the back of their head? How about how the computer starts working again after you call for tech support – but before you actually get any help?

And what about that strange phenomenon where you learn a new thing, then keep seeing references to that new thing everywhere you look? You know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about FORCES.

In fact, VH1 makes reference to that last one in a recent article about the best wigs of 2012, of all things.

Bottom line is…from deja vu, to murphy’s law, to coincidence – all these forces with which we come in contact throughout our lives are mysterious, intriguing and powerful.

My novella FORCES explores what happens when these universal forces come to life in the life of one scientist. Check it out, then comment below if you’ve ever had experiences with deja vu, lucid dreaming, coincidence, or, of course, Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon!

2012: The Year of Publishing Dangerously

Dangerously FAST, that is.

Okay, not really THAT dangerous – I didn’t actually sprain anything, though I did lose a little sleep working late some nights.

You see, I set a goal at the beginning of 2012 (or rather, at the end of 2011) to publish a story a week, every week of 2012.

52 stories.

Now, don’t misunderstand – I was not going to WRITE and publish a story a week; the plan was just to publish stories already existing in my inventory while I went on with other writing projects. Still, that was a lot of work in itself. Each story I published went through a multiple-step process:

1) Create a subfolder for the project in my publishing main folder. This is where I keep the manuscript files, the cover work, blurb and other components organized.

2) Format the manuscript for e-publishing. This meant taking the original file that was in standard old manuscript format (12-point Courier New font, double-spaced, underlines instead of italics, etc.) and getting it ready for e-readers. I would change the font to Times New Roman 12-point, set it to single-spaced with 0.3″ paragraph indents, nuke out the tabs, go through and change all the underlines to italics, and add in the appropriate front and back matter for Smashwords, and create a separate file with Amazon front/back matter. I created templates to help streamline this process, but each story would take about a half hour to an hour to format, depending on length. Save these files in the appropriate subfolder and lark off the step in the master spreadsheet (the sheet I use to keep track of every step of this process, along with all my other business data).

3) Create a cover. This entailed determining the concept for the cover, searching the web for images that I could use (I’d take existing images and manipulate the crud out of them so they were unrecognizable, or use extremely generic images). Using Photoshop, I’d piece together the components, pick my fonts, position everything, add effects, etc. Save as a .jpg file. I also created a template for myself for this step – a standard-sized canvas and also a standard author name layer I could drop in for consistency. Throughout the year, I think my covers generally got better and better. For the most part. This step could take anywhere from an hour to two hours, depending on the complexity of the cover. Save this file in the appropriate subfolder and also in my “all final covers” folder for quick access. Mark it complete on the spreadsheet.

4) Write the blurb. This is a pretty crucial step, as the blurb – the brief description of the story – is a huge marketing tool that must tease and entice the reader to buy and read the product. Thanks to decades of day-job training, I’m actually pretty good at hashing out a concise, appealing blurb. This step usually only took a few minutes for me. Save as a .txt file in the appropriate folder. For convenience, I’d also list the keywords in this file (keywords used when listing the product at Smashwords and Amazon). Mark it complete on the spreadsheet.

5) Publish at Smashwords. This is a pretty simple process – just involves filling out a form (includes title, blurb, categories, keywords, pricing) and uploading the cover image and the Word file. And at Smashwords, it’s remarkably quick – from the time you click PUBLISH, it’s only a matter of a few minutes until your ebook is published and available for purchase. Mark complete on the spreadsheet.

6) Obtain an ISBN. This is done via the dashboard at Smashwords. I always get the FREE ones they offer. Very simple. Note the ISBN in my spreadsheet.

7) Get a tiny URL. I go to tinyURL to obtain a shortened URL for the book’s Smashwords product page. This is to simplify things such as posting links on Twitter. I used to use bit.ly for this, but they changed it so you have to register to use them, so I went with tinyURL instead. Same result. Note the short URL in the spreadsheet.

8) Create a coupon. Next, I issue a 100% off coupon for Smashwords that doesn’t expire for a couple of years. This is so I can easily give the ebook away to family members. Note the coupon code in the spreadsheet.

9) Download the .MOBI file. Since I published the book, Smashwords recognizes that I already own it and lets me download it in any or all of the available formats (Kindle, Nook, iPad, HTML, TXT, PDF, etc.). I always save a Kindle copy to my “all Kindle files” subfolder in my publishing folder. Mark it off in the spreadsheet.

10) Publish at Amazon. This is almost as simple as publishing at Smashwords, but there are a few more steps to the form. Also, it takes about 10-12 hours for it to actually publish. Mark it on the spreadsheet and wait…

11) Update home page. While I’m waiting, I can update the main image on my website’s home page, which is a mosaic of all my book covers. Just add the latest cover and upload the new image.

12) Add to Goodreads. Also while I’m waiting, I can add my book to Goodreads. Again, it’s a matter of filling out a form. Simple.

13) Get another short URL. Once the story is published at Amazon (they send you an email confirmation) I get a tinyURL for the Amazon product page and note it in the spreadsheet.

14) Note the ASIN in the spreadsheet. This is the product number at Amazon, kind of like an ISBN. Not sure why I make note of this, I guess it just seems like it may be useful info.

15) Update the group page on my website. Now that I have a link to the Amazon product page, I can update the appropriate page on my website to include the new product (this may be on the novels page, the novellas page, the short stories page, or the anthologies page). This entails uploading the cover image and linking it to the Amazon product page, and copying in the blurb. Mark complete on the spreadsheet.

16) Update my Author Central page. At Amazon’s “Author Central” I have an author profile page that lists all my works. I just have to go there and add the latest book. Easy. Mark it off.

17) Promotion Step 1: Pinterest. All I do here is post my latest book cover to my book covers board on Pinterest with the blurb and a link to my website. Mark it complete.

18) Promotion Step 2: Twitter. In 140 characters or fewer, I need to tweet about my latest release and post a link (the short Amazon URL). This is usually done by drastically editing down the blurb. I only have about 300 followers on Twitter, so I don’t expect it to drive much traffic, but it’s still worth a try. One time I was retweeted by a very popular and influential tweep who follows me, and it immediately drove sales for that particular book. I was pretty thrilled. Mark it done on the spreadsheet.

19) Promotion Step 3: Facebook. The final step in the process, I publicly post about the latest release on Facebook. Here I have more room (characters) to describe the story and include a link. I have 500+ Facebook friends, which is not a lot, but I know that some of them like to buy my books, and some of them are kind enough to share my posts to their own networks. Mark it done on the spreadsheet and get ready to start all over again on “publishing day” the next week.

So that’s the secret to my success – a simple 19-step process. All told, probably about four hours of work a week at most. The key was being consistent – every week, week in and week out. Also, I tried to make my publication schedule make sense. that is, I released spooky stories at Halloween, mixed it up a little between short stories and anthologies, etc.

It certainly kept me busy and on my toes for a year. And it was a great feeling to achieve a pretty ambitious goal I set about this time last year. In the end, I wound up publishing 53 (instead of 52) ebooks this year. Overachiever. 🙂 Now, all told, I have 63 ebooks available (this includes my 3 novels, 6 novellas and 1 anthology published in 2011).

The results of my 2012 work? 41 short stories, 4 novellas, 7 anthologies and a flash fiction story published this year alone.

And that’s how I did it: a plan, a strategy, a spreadsheet, and dedication.

* * *

In 2013, I plan to actually WRITE and publish 7 novels and nothing else. However, one of those novels is already mostly done (first draft complete). Another two are complete but need a lot of expansion. Two more are about 30% complete (one is a sequel to AssassinWare). Another is a sequel to Rufus Quince: Bounty Hunter and has a pitch but no outline yet. The other is a novelization of a short story (Turn the Page) that will become a book series.

I can’t wait to see if I can do this…BRING ON 2013!

FREE FICTION OFFER

It’s time for my final promotion of the year: get your choice of the TIME AND AGAIN anthology or the SPIES anthology FREE with purchase of any other ebook from my inventory. Offer good now through midnight December 31, 2012.

(Comment here to confirm your participation.)

Happy New Year!

Image of Michael D. Britton

Get HONORED

Do me the honor of wishing me a Merry Christmas by signing up over on the home page for occasional product updates (see the form on the home page). If you do so between 12/23 and 12/26 I will give you the HONORED anthology FREE (a $7.99 value). It’s the perfect gift for you or your loved one to read on your new e-reader device that you got for Christmas! Now through December 26 only.