Category Archives: SciFi

Excerpt from “A Mote in the Eye” (the sequel to “The Dogs of Cyberwar”)

Here’s an excerpt from my cyberpunk novella A Mote in the Eye, the sequel to The Dogs of Cyberwar.  As I mentioned a few days ago, this is part two and I’m hoping to finish both this and part three in the next month or so.

In this scene, Logan (Connor‘s father) has put Connor in charge of a group of hackers who call themselves the Fianna, after a mythological band of Irish warriors.  (Logan, we’ve discovered, has a bizarre quirk:  he makes everyone who works closely with him take on Irish code names.)  Their goal is to take down B.A.L.O.R., the Artificial Intelligence which monitors the FreeCorp network and destroys anything — or anyone — it considers a threat.    Connor has done some reconnaissance and discovered a backdoor into the network, but he doesn’t like the idea of putting this group of people at risk.

The Fianna had their own small cafeteria off to one side of the “Link Room,” as Finn and his people referred to the computer area.  It was small and almost cozy, with a table just big enough for the ten people in the original group, comfortable padded chairs and warm lighting.  After Connor’s run, he dressed and everybody (including Luis) gathered around the table for real beer and poutine, a French-Canadian dish that was basically potato fries covered in cheese and gravy.  This was more of a Quebec favorite than something common to Vancouver, but Finn had been told that Connor loved it.  It bothered Connor a little to learn that Finn had been briefed in such detail about him, but he let it slide.  It really wasn’t surprising.  And after all, he did love poutine.

“So,” Finn began, after they were all settled, “once we’re inside, what’s our plan of attack?”

Connor wasn’t really sure he liked the idea of a team of people tailing along after him.  It would make it that much harder to stay off B.A.L.O.R.’s radar.  There was also no reason for them to risk their lives, if he could do the job by himself.  “No offense, but I’m used to working alone.”

The expressions on the faces around the table told him immediately that this wasn’t going to fly.  Finn glanced around at his team and then raised his hand.  The air in front of it immediately lit up with a holographic image of a keypad and he tapped out a code with his fingers, each “key” lighting up as he tapped it.  The keypad disappeared and suddenly the room was full of people.  Or rather, holograms of people.  There was a young man sitting in the chair to Connor’s left, which had been empty a second ago, and all of the other “empty” chairs now held ghostly occupants.  They were three-dimensional and moving the way real people did—one was eating from an invisible plate; another was simply grinning and looking around at the others, as if following their conversation; the one nearest Connor was leaning forward, typing something into an invisible keyboard.  One of these holographic ghosts was standing, leaning against the wall and watching the other’s in the room with a cocky expression.  Connor suspected this was because he and Luis were taking up two of the chairs at the table, which would normally be unoccupied.

The only reason three chairs had been available, instead of two, was that Daireann was standing and leaning against the same wall as the hologram.  With the two so near each other, it was impossible to miss the resemblance between them.

“These are the other members of the Fianna,” Finn said quietly.

“That one next to you,” added Goll, in his Québécois accent, “was Aengus.”  He nodded toward the other two sitting at the table.  “Umaill.  And Oisin.  All dead.”

Daireann smiled sadly at the young man standing beside her, reaching out a hand as if to brush his hair out of his eyes, though she couldn’t actually touch him.  “And this is my kid brother, Lughaid.  Louis, outside of here.  He’s still alive.”  She pulled her hand away.  “If you can call it that.”

“B.A.L.O.R. burned them all,” Finn said.  “Lughaid’s still in a coma, but the others all died pretty quickly after their brains were destroyed.”  He waved a hand and the holograms faded away.

Caitlin leaned back in her chair, stretching out her long legs into the chair just vacated by Umaill’s hologram.  She was a rough-looking woman, her head shaved and her bare arms covered in tattoos.  “We owe that fucker.  If Finn thinks you’re good enough to lead us in, well that’s fine.  You seem to know your shit.  But none of us is gonna sit by on the sidelines while you take B.A.L.O.R. down.  We all want a piece of it.”

Connor suppressed a sigh.  “I’m sure you’re all good at what you do, but a large group would leave a bigger digital footprint—”

“We’re all in this together,” Finn interrupted, looking him directly in the eye.  “I’m happy to step aside and let you take charge, but we’re your team.  Unless Logan says otherwise.”

For a moment, Connor considered going to his father and demanding that the Fianna be taken off the assignment.  But that would make enemies of them.  If he was ever going to escape from Logan’s grasp, he couldn’t afford to alienate the only group of people in NuadaTech who might potentially be allies.

“All right,” he agreed.  “We’ll do it together.  But we need a plan.”

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Back to Work on “The Dogs of Cyberwar”!

Okay, I’ve finally finished the edits on Book Two of my YA trilogy Dreams of Fire and Gods and it was submitted to my publisher at 1am this morning.

Now I’m going to take a little break from fantasy and try to finish the Dogs of Cyberwar serial.  More than one person has been asking me to do that and it has been ten months since the first book came out.  Not really a long time in traditional publishing, but practically forever in eBook publishing!

My original plan was for Dogs to be a trilogy of novellas, under 20k words each.  (The first was about 17k words.)  I planned on releasing it as a serial, with each one coming out maybe six months after the last.  But that turned out to be a bad idea.  As my publisher explained at a workshop last March, the only way serials really work in the eBook market is if the parts are released very quickly — say one to two months apart.  So it’s far better to write the entire thing before submitting it, so the publisher can space it out accordingly and put a “Coming Soon!” image of the next cover up.

So the plan has changed a bit.  I’m hoping to finish parts 2 and 3 this fall and submit them.  I can’t guarantee what my publisher will do with them, but we’ve discussed releasing all three parts as one eBook.  Perhaps parts 2 and 3 will also be released as novellas — I’m not sure.

Part two (called A Mote in the Eye) is actually one-third to one-half done, depending upon what its final length turns out to be.  I’ll be putting an excerpt up on my blog later this week, once I’ve gone over it to refresh my memory about where I’ve left off.

One final note:  I don’t yet know the name for the trilogy, even though I should have a title for it by now.  The Dogs of Cyberwar (referring to the security force Connor and Luis have to fight in the first novella) is just the name for part one.  Part two is A Mote in the Eye (referring to Connor going up against B.A.L.O.R., who is named after a giant in Celtic mythology with a single giant eye that destroyed everything it looked upon).  I’m not sure about the title for part three yet.

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Good Reviews for “Saturn in Retrograde”!

In addition to generally positive reviews of Saturn in Retrograde from readers on Goodreads, the novella has been noticed by a couple of review sites.

Serena Yates, from QMO Books (which is unfortunately temporarily offline for renovations of the site), gave the book 5-stars and said:

The story built very nicely. There are quite a few hints as to what is going to happen (most of which I figured out, but not all). Despite that, I loved watching the story unfold and following the details of how Patrick and Joshua arrived at where they needed to be. As for the big surprise at the end? That was truly shocking, yet no less logical. If you like time travel stories with a scientific slant, if two men separated by 25 years wanting to be together sounds like an interesting problem to solve, and if you like the slight headaches caused by trying to think in temporal circles, I am pretty sure you will love this story.

You can read the entirety of Serena’s review on Goodreads, though you probably have to have an account.  The link is here.

Don, at Hearts On Fire Reviews also gave it 5-stars and had this to say:

Patrick and Joshua were terrific together as a couple and the sex was hot.  Mr. Fessenden did a lot of research on the scientific end of the book which made the book all the better.  The numerous plot twists and turns kept me interested and guessing.  The unexpected HEA ending blew me away with surprise.  I didn’t see that coming at all and I’m still going over it in my mind.  I highly recommend this mind twisting book to anyone who loves a good puzzle.

The entire review can be read here.

So…Yay!

Now you’re probably wondering, “Does this guy do anything besides sit around all day reading his reviews?”

The answer is, “Yes.”   But it hasn’t been very exciting as a spectator sport.  I’ve mostly been writing.  By That Sin Fell the Angels is in editing now, so that will take up a good deal of my time for the next month or two.  I don’t have a firm release date for that one yet, but I believe the plan is for sometime in August.

I also signed a contract for a YA fantasy novel called Dreams of Fire and Gods: Awakening, which is part one of a trilogy!  I’m frantically writing part two now, because my publisher wants it fast, fast fast!  Don’t worry — it won’t suck.  So far I’m really liking it.

Whereas the first part was a traditional sword & sorcery story with a band of adventurers fighting monsters, as they trek through the wilderness, then fighting a big battle against an enemy army at the end, part two is a bit different.  We’re seeing a lot more of the political and religious struggles going on in the empire.  I’ve also introduced a third viewpoint character, in addition to the two heroes: an assassin who is attempting to kill one of the heroes for the emperor!

And no, before you ask…I haven’t seen or read Game of Thrones yet and this isn’t my attempt to emulate all of the political maneuvering in that series.  It’s just the way the story is developing on its own.  I love it!

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“Saturn in Retrograde” has been released!

My time-travel novella Saturn in Retrograde (part of the Time is Eternity Daily Dose anthology at Dreamspinner) was released this weekend!

So far it’s received a couple excellent reader reviews/ratings over on Goodreads and a very nice comment here on my blog!

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EXCERPT — “Saturn in Retrograde” by Jamie Fessenden (Rated NC-17)

Since my time-travel story, Saturn in Retrograde, will be released in just a couple weeks, as part of the Time is Eternity Daily Dose anthology from Dreamspinner Press, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the story.

Joshua has been showing an obvious interest in his boss, Patrick, who is twenty-five years older than him.  In this scene, they’ve both been drenched by the rain on their walk back from lunch and they’re changing into dry clothes in the locker room.  The scene CONTAINS EXPLICIT SEXUALITY, so be warned, if you don’t like to read about that sort of thing.

BLURB:  Saturn in Retrograde by Jamie Fessenden

Joshua Bannon has harbored a secret crush on renowned physicist Patrick Riley ever since high school. Now fresh out of college, Joshua has landed a job at the Eloi Institute, assisting Patrick in his work producing time fluctuations in the massive particle accelerator they’ve affectionately dubbed “Saturn.”

As they work, a strong bond develops between the two men—a bond that takes on romantic overtones even though Patrick is concerned by their twenty-five-year age difference. The project and their relationship make slow progress until a startling discovery about Patrick convinces Joshua to take a leap of faith to prove the technology—and their relationship—can work.

EXCERPT:  Saturn in Retrograde by Jamie Fessenden (M/M, Rated NC-17)

WHAT am I doing? Patrick thought, a feeling of panic settling in. Did I just extend an invitation to him?

Joshua had been watching him. He had no doubt about that. This was mutual. But it still seemed unethical to encourage it.

Patrick hung his towel on a wooden post near the shower entrance and went to stand under one of the nozzles. He turned it on and stepped under the hot spray, closing his eyes as it cascaded over his chilled body and warmed him. It felt amazingly good.

He opened his eyes to find Joshua stepping under the shower beside him, even though there were a number of other nozzles he could have used.

Christ, he’s accepting the “invitation.”

Part of Patrick desperately wanted to bolt—tell Joshua that he’d see him in the lab, and then get the fuck out of here. But a bigger part of him was enthralled, keeping him rooted to the spot. While Joshua’s own eyes were closed, his face tilted up into the shower spray, Patrick took in the young man’s naked body and marveled at it. If Joshua had reminded him of a Roman senator when they first met in the lab… naked, he was a Roman god. Not a single blemish marred that perfectly sculpted body.

Too late, Patrick realized that Joshua had opened his eyes and was watching Patrick’s eyes drinking him in. Patrick glanced quickly away, embarrassed, but Joshua said softly, “It’s cool.”

“What’s cool?”

“I mean… you can look.”

Patrick felt his face flush. Fortunately, Joshua had the good grace to look embarrassed, too, as he dipped his face under the spray again.

Patrick laughed uncomfortably. “I’m sure you don’t need an old man leering at you.”

Joshua rubbed the water out of his eyes and gave him a penetrating look that Patrick felt all the way down to his cock. Please, don’t let me get hard, he prayed.

Joshua seemed nervous as he cleared his throat. “You don’t look old to me.”

“I’m old enough to be your father.”

“You’re not my father.” Joshua hesitated, before blurting out. “I think you’re really hot.”

Patrick was no longer doing a good job of keeping his cock from stiffening. Damn it! He glanced around nervously to make sure nobody else had entered the locker room, as he angled his body to face the tile wall. But that didn’t hide it from Joshua.

He glanced over at the young man and was disconcerted to find Joshua growing hard too. And he seemed far less concerned about hiding it.

“Look, Joshua… I’m a terrible liar. I can’t deny that I’m attracted to you, and I’ve noticed your… interest… in me….”

To his horror, Joshua stepped out of his own shower and into Patrick’s. They were mere inches apart now, and Joshua tentatively reached out a hand to bridge that gap, placing it on Patrick’s upper arm. His hand felt hot against Patrick’s skin, far hotter than the water spraying down upon them.

Something in the back of Patrick’s mind was screaming at him to run away before things went any further. But he could barely hear it over the sound of the water and his own breathing, which suddenly seemed obscenely loud. Joshua’s breathing had grown louder, too, and the sound of it fueled Patrick’s desire. They were both fully erect now, and Patrick prayed no one would come in and find them like this.

Joshua was just as nervous as he was, he could tell. Both of them were trembling. Perhaps Joshua knew as well as Patrick did that this was an incredibly bad idea. But their mutual need drew them closer. Patrick wasn’t sure if he leaned in, or if Joshua did—likely they both did—but somehow their faces closed the short distance and their lips met. Joshua’s lips were warm and soft and sweet, still tasting faintly of root beer float. Patrick reached for him and pulled the young man close, until their bodies were pressed tightly together and they were grinding their erections against one another in frustration.

But sanity returned like a cold bucket of water being dumped on him. This was crazy! He couldn’t have sex with a twenty-five-year-old… kid!

Though it agonized him to do so, Patrick broke the kiss, turning his head and pushing Joshua away. “No!”

The hurt look on Joshua’s face nearly undid him. The last thing Patrick wanted was to hurt him. “I’m… I’m sorry. But this is wrong.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because I’m your boss, for one thing!”

“I’ll still do what you tell me,” Joshua insisted. “I know the project is the most important thing. I won’t do anything to jeopardize that. I just want to be with you.”

“I’m sorry,” Patrick repeated. “I just can’t.” He had to get out of there. Joshua’s eyes were pleading with him, and he knew he’d never be able to escape if he didn’t go, right now.

Damn it! Why did everything have to be so fucked up?

Afraid to look back, Patrick fled the room, grabbing his towel on the way out.

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Final Edits Done On “Saturn In Retrograde”!

My time-travel romance, Saturn In Retrograde, is now finished the final editing stage and all that’s left is to wait until it’s released in June 2012!  Anyone interested in order the entire Time Is Eternity anthology can click on the cover image.  Otherwise, my story will be available for individual purchase in June.

This is the finalized cover art, designed by the wonderful Catt Ford.  It has a terrific 1970s-style science fiction feel that perfectly fits the story, and I couldn’t be happier with it!

Also, there will be a chat on the LiteraryNymphsChat Yahoo! group this coming Saturday, May 5th, starting at Noon EST and going all day.  The chat will include me and as many of the other authors who are in the Time Is Eternity anthology as can be rounded up.  So if you’d like to chat with us, please stop by!

(Is that enough exclamation points, or should I add some more?)

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Final Galley Proof for “Saturn in Retrograde”!

I submitted the second edit of “Saturn in Retrograde” last night.  I have a bad habit of holding onto them until the very last minute, which I’m sure the editors just love.  This time, there were some questions the editor had about the repercussions of the sequence of events.  I made some tweaks to clear a couple things up, but it is, after all, a time travel story.  There are bound to be paradoxes, and I didn’t worry about them too much.  It’s not a comedy, but it’s intended to be lighthearted fun.  The editor seemed to think it all came together nicely at the end, with a lot of weird little moments sprinkled throughout the story (foreshadowing) suddenly being explained, and that’s what I was shooting for.

Only a few hours after I submitted my edits, the galley proof came back to me.  Now my job is to go through with a microscope and try to catch any dropped words or incorrect words — things that always seem to be missed, no matter how many times you and the editors go through the text.

There is a misconception (and a rather petty one) that eBooks are always badly edited.  While I have certainly come across a fair share of eBooks that are, it isn’t necessarily the case.  When compared to mainstream publishers, I do think eBook publishers tend to have more errors, but this is largely because mainstream publishers have a much slower schedule, putting out just a few books per year, whereas eBook publishers may put out hundreds of books in a year.  This isn’t because eBook publishers are “book mills,” as the critics like to call them.  It’s because the returns on eBooks are much smaller (initially, although the shelf life of an eBook is much longer than a paperback or hardcover), and if your competitors are putting out hundreds of books a year, you can’t afford to just put out a few.

I do find editing mistakes in mainstream publications.  It happens.  If it happens a bit more frequently in eBooks, it’s not because the editors aren’t good.  It’s simply that they have a faster-paced schedule.  However, the great thing about eBooks is that, if a mistake is found after publication and reported to the editors, it can be changed fairly easily, so that the next person who downloads it won’t see the same error.  In fact, if you purchase an eBook, most publishers will allow you to download it again, so you have a chance of getting the “patched” version.

What I don’t get is the attitude that, if you discover a few editing mistakes in a novel, it totally kills the pleasure of reading the novel.  What kills the pleasure of reading a novel for me is the novel itself.  If it’s written awkwardly, so that I simply can’t read more than a chapter without being constantly aware of the stilted prose, or if the characters are simply unlikable, or the plot is dull.  Typos…not so much.

But of course I don’t want typos in my own novels, so I’ll spend the next few days trying to prevent that from happening.

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“By That Sin Fell the Angels” has been accepted for publication!

A lot of people have already heard this news, since I shouted it all over the Internet when I got the contract last week, but I haven’t had much time to blog about it.  Dreamspinner’s new religious/inspirational imprint Itineris Press has offered me a contract for my story about a small town in Maine dealing with the suicide of a gay teen.

I’m very excited, of course, but also a bit worried.  The novel is brutally frank about a lot of things, throwing biblical arguments around and depicting teen sexuality and drug use.  No doubt there are plenty of people out there who will consider it tame, but I did have at least one beta reader put off by the level of “raunch,” as he put it.  And with all the biblical stuff in it, I could be in for a world of hate mail from Christians and non-Christians alike.

Or maybe nothing will happen, which might even be worse.  I’ve been going through a dry spell recently, where I’ve received some nice e-mails from readers about my stories (for which I am very grateful), but sites like Goodreads no longer seem to know I exist.  I’ve been reminded of a quote from Oscar Wilde:

There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

Hopefully, I’ll get a little more attention in June, when Saturn in Retrograde is released.  It’s not so much that I’m an attention whore, as I would like to someday support myself with my writing, and that’s unlikely to happen if I fall off the radar.

But then I have a habit of whining too much.  I’ve just finished one of the rounds of editing on Saturn in Retrograde and now I’ve received this contract, so my life is pretty good right now.

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First Wave of Editing on “Saturn in Retrograde”

I just received the first edits back from the Dreamspinner editors for my novella, Saturn in Retrograde.

I only have a week to get through them, either approving the edits or rejecting them (with an explanation) but fortunately most of the edits are just grammatical and I rarely quibble over those.  I’m not so enamored of my prose that I object to swapping a “which” for a “that” or adding a comma here and there.

The only only comment that might give me trouble is a note that one of my surprises at the end isn’t foreshadowed well in the earlier parts of the story, and perhaps I should go back and drop some hints.  That will take some thinking.

Elizabeth, the executive editor, has been encouraging editors to comment when they think a section is particularly good, so the author doesn’t feel like the editors never like our writing.  So this draft had a couple “This made me laugh” comments, which is nice.

 

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“Saturn in Retrograde” has been accepted for publication!

This is the fastest I’ve ever received an acceptance of a submission: 6 days!  But it probably has more to do with deadline pressure than my brilliant writing:  Dreamspinner wants the anthology to be released in early June.

I’m very excited about it!  Not only did Saturn in Retrograde turn out to be something I’m rather proud of, but a release in June keeps me in the public eye.  It’s bad to go more than a year between releases, if you’re trying to build up a readership (or at least I’ve read that the “magic number” in the publishing world is a new release in not more than a year and a half, if you don’t want people to forget about you).  And although I did have a release in December (The Dogs of Cyberwar), and it garnered some nice reviews, it didn’t sell particularly well.  Seiðman will possibly be released this year, but I’m not sure yet.  So a new release in June is good.

In the meantime, I’ve been struggling with Shinosuke again, my re-telling of a 17th-century samurai love story.  I’ve written about five thousand words in the past two weeks, which is hardly a great pace.  It’s been pretty awful, in fact.  I was blaming the slow progress in the first week on having my attention focused on getting Saturn in Retrograde out the door, but I don’t have much to blame the slow progress of the past week on.  I have a handle on the manners of the period, now.  At least, enough so that I don’t have to worry about it constantly.  And I like the story.  But for some reason, it’s hard to write it.

I guess the only thing is to keep plugging away at it.

In other news, Dreamspinner Press is hosting a workshop for its writers in New York City this week and I’ll be there!  I’ll be hopping on board a train with my friend, Claire Curtis (who needs to be there for moral support — travel gives me panic attacks), Thursday, at 9:17am in that wretched time of day some more optimistic people like to call “morning” and returning Sunday night.  No doubt, I will achieve some kind of writerly enlightenment somewhere in the middle.

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