Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Space Zombies again?

Many of you might notice that an ex-Paladin zombie graces the cover of my science fiction/science fantasy eBook -  The Freelancer Chronicles Vol 1: Apex Predators

In this blog post I will explore why and how I implemented them into the story.

First off: Why?
I placed space zombies into my book to show the dichotomy of sentience and perceptions. First off we have a monster which is normally viewed as just a monster (the classic zombie) and generally nothing more. When I placed a religious and pious and good man as their unexpected leader (see here for more on that man) I've created a situation where the monster strives to still be a creature of faith. The man in question, Joshua Hughes, takes on a responsibility for all of the zombies as he strives to control them and to evolve them. He realizes that he can create a people without sin after viewing the Zom-Becks normal behavior as an extension of the host organism which tries to survive.

The ramifications and true story of how a mold became sentient and started to possess the living and to animate the dead is one of the central sub plots.

Second off: How?
There is precedence in nature: Currently science has identified parasites such as toxoplasmosa gondii which modify behaviors of their host bodies. Scarier still there is the Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani fungus which is in the Brazilian rain forest. From the link: "The fungus species can infect an ant, take over its brain, and then kill the insect once it moves to a location ideal for the fungi to grow and spread their spores."

And considering it is a vast galaxy that we live in with all types of strangeness... this is perfectly conceivable and can be downright scary.

The Zom-Becks evolve and develop different abilities. Joshua Hughes actually gets called a Zombie Lord.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Character Creation: Paladin Joshua Hughes

Writing an intriguing character - character creation: Paladin Joshua Hughes

This deals with my science fiction/science fantasy eBook -  The Freelancer Chronicles Vol 1: Apex Predators

The following is background that did not make it into the eBook, even though hints are thrown out every so often.

Joshua Hughes is a man who was destined for bigger things. Before he was recruited into the church, he was an interstellar marine in training who was engaged to the love of his life and they had a little girl on the way. At that time he wasn't even a religious man, yet he knew dedication and loyalty and commitment.

The Consortium of Planets had their eyes on Joshua ever since he bested all of his instructors during his military training. He broke records and was transferred to special operations training. In the middle of his training his wife went into labor.

The doctors had a hard time delivering his daughter and it looked like both the mother and the daughter might have died if it wasn't for the help of a specialist healer by the name of Lix. Lix was an Arglois and a priest of The Heirarchy and he would only perform the surgery if Joshua prayed with him. Lix attributed the survival of Joshua's immediate family to the will and acts of God.

The cost of Lix's services was too much for Joshua to financially afford, but there was an alternate method of payment Joshua could use. Joshua could learn the doctrines of the church and devote five years of service to the church. Not only would he not be financially crippled but he would earn a hefty salary, bigger than what the military offered him.

Joshua took the deal and graduated basic priest training within six months of dedication and a little bit of unasked for and unknown help from his superiors. He was next transferred to the Paladin school, and after another six months of training he was put out in the field as a soldier under the command of a full fledged Paladin by the name of Ron Sweitzer.

Joshua Hughes first mission was to go put a stop to an illegal smuggling outfit. The smugglers were trying to deliver exotic and dangerous animals from different planets to Mob Space for experimentation purposes. This was forbidden by law and the contract to grab these smugglers came from the Consortium and was grabbed by the church. During the decisive battle to bring in the smugglers, they unleashed a whole brood of Geysonis from the cargo container on a ship onto the heads of Joshua Hughes and his men. Joshua had to get his left foot amputated. The church gave him a cybernetic replacement.

Joshua's second mission was part of Sweitzer's mission to go investigate a lost mining colony which was too close to the Zembeckis planetary systems.

From the glossary of my eBook:

Zembeckis – a quarantined planet. Zembeckis is a world of nightmare full of some kind of semi-sentient hive minded mold which enslaves the living and can even re-animate the dead. This planet has another name amongst citizens throughout the galaxy, the name of “Zom-Beckis” in reference to the states of the current settlements

Joshua watched the mold take hold of the living and the dead. Some of his own squad mates became zombies from spore infections. Somethings went terribly wrong at his first engagement with space zombies. His men were outnumbered, Sweitzer cracked at the horrors around him. These weren't yet the zombies out of legend which ate flesh. These zombies would hold anyone in an environmental suit or armor and peel the armor off to vomit up dust clouds of mold onto their victims.

Joshua found himself overrun and outgunned by Zom-Becks. At that moment he wanted his daughter and the woman he was going to marry. He missed them both. So not knowing what else to do. He prayed to God for a miracle so that he would be able to see them again.

The mission was only a success in the fact that information was brought back by Joshua to his superiors. Joshua also rescued Paladin Sweitzer. For some reason he proved a little bit more resistant to the mold than others and he did not become infected. It seemed he got his miracle.

Joshua quickly rose through the ranks where he became more focused on his own faith and found the lack of  faith in the church and their constant thinly veiled grabs for money and power a bit disturbing.

When we first encounter Joshua Hughes in the book, he is a full fledged Paladin. He is often called the Paladin of Paladins (as we learn later) and he is full of hatred and anger at himself for helping out the sinners above him who used the faiths of others as tools. While his thoughts were turned inwards on negative matters, his own pride in his abilities kept him contemptuous of the Zom-Becks around him. Joshua Hughes becomes infected and through him the mold and the Zom-Becks begin to evolve. The mold mutates on Joshua when it can't break down his lipids and so Joshua does not get devoured and used up, instead he focuses his willpower and the other Zom-Becks begin to obey him. At one point a lot of them clumsily kneel in a prayer filled only with their grunts and moans.

Publishing to Amazon

Here are a few lessons learned when I published Apex Predators my science fiction/science fantasy eBook

Okay I was totally excited to publish my book after months of diligently writing it and editing it with help from my friend Coyote Holmberg.  I even drew a picture of one of the main characters in her commando power armor (mid graphic on my Facebook Fan page)..

My test program at home made a copy of my book just fine which I loaded up to my Kindle to test. After about 2 hours of tweaking the html file which Amazon uses to generate the book, I felt I was good to go.

The simple preview didn't quite work for me and the Amazon previewing program didn't want to work for the sample I could download of my own book. At first I thought it was browser or user error because as an insomniac I don't always function like a normal human being. I decided to publish it and to see what it looked like. Unfortunately it takes up to 24 hours for Amazon to have stuff ready (which is an awesome turn around time but I don't recommend it for proofing anything).

So come the next morning I downloaded it and realized that my first endeavor to publish an eBook went up initially without the graphics.

I spent a little time researching this before it hit me: The publish to Amazon only takes one file and it does not take a completed already processed eBook file (at least not the one I tried from my latest test).

The solution:  Books with pictures in it..
I just re-pushed it up with graphics. The trick when publishing is to include the (html) book and the image folder into a zip file and upload that file as your book through Amazon.

 Bonus Tip: Don't forget when you ask your friends to download it and they don't have a Kindle...

Kindle on your iPhone/iPad/iPod

For the droid:

You can also get it for your PC: (kindle reader for PC)

Character Creation: At'toock

Writing an intriguing character - character creation: At'toock

This deals with my science fiction/science fantasy eBook -  The Freelancer Chronicles Vol 1: Apex Predators

I'm going to take a look at one of the catalysts for change within my book, a character by the name of At'toock.

First a little bit of his background.

At'toock is an alien of the Arglois race who was put in place to try to keep the past buried. He also came to hate human beings through the histories that he was taught and the acceptance of his race's social stigma and ban on practicing complex sciences.

According to history the Arglois race wanted genetic diversity so they introduced human DNA into their blood and created a race which they could conceivably breed with and use as assistants in their scientific endeavors. This race was named Targlois.

The Targlois are considered to be failures with each generation becoming more and more intelligence deprived. The Targlois race breed like jackrabbits, have been blamed for the destruction of multiple planets and are now considered the brutes of known space.

How does this affect At'toock's personality? From chapter one of my book:

"...At’toock despised Humans. He hated their violence and their lack of self-discipline, both traits which are obviously genetic. Both traits were passed down to ‘The Great Mistake’: the Targlois race. The Targlois were to be the saviors and the breeding stock of the Arglois but the Targlois destroyed so much, they were so stupid and dense. The Targlois destroyed three entire planets and now the high crafts of the ancients, of At’toock’s own ancestors were forbidden."

At'toock also feels inadequacies and worry about performing his job of keeping the past buried. He had successfully done so for a long time until a family of xeno-archaelogists showed up.

Also from chapter one of my book:

"... Humans were always a bad mix. The only good Humans were the dead ones. Dead Humans could only do so much after all. His overly large purple eyes registered sudden fear. Dead Humans, Delezerians to be precise, were what has led these new Humans here. Humans always went for the Delezerian crystals. Strange, that, no Human alive could do more than make the crystals hold light and display images and that the Delezerian technology was far above what Humans currently possessed and the Humans could do nothing with it. Fools. All of them. Then again some mystic guardian he made. He couldn’t even do his job and keep these secrets here buried forever as he was ordained to do by the high council. Too many rumors left this planet because he couldn’t kill the Humans which came here before."

This starts At'toock off in a place where he is emotionally stunted in his views and his grasp of humanity. He is an antagonist at the start of the book, yet later on has to depend upon some humans for his survival.

Does he learn? He does to some degrees. At one point he becomes an honest friend to some humans while one of them is waiting to exact vengeance on At'toock.

Character Creation: Riana Conlan

Writing an intriguing character - character creation: Riana Conlan

This is an insight into a protagonist and main character of the series: Riana Conlan.

( This deals with my science fiction/science fantasy eBook  - The Freelancer Chronicles Vol 1: Apex Predators)

When I wrote Riana Conlan's character, my inspiration was definitely Summer Glau. I started with a beautiful, care-free, smart and athletic character then plunged her world into chaos. I took her and beat her and forged her on the anvil of life and situations outside of her control.

She develops a permanent wound (from a dangerous alien creature) which causes constant necrosis of part of her body, requiring semi-monthly self treatments of burning it out of her flesh through gun powder and fire. Riana is in constant pain from the flesh rotting off of her side and has to occasionally ease back on certain pain killers and switch up what she takes when her body develops a tolerance for certain medications. People she cares for are destroyed in her presence and she goes through a literal rebirth in their blood.

Riana shows strength to the universe, yet behind her eyes lurks pain and a little bit of insanity. From her genius she uncovers secrets to ancient and "lost" technologies and even brings back lost training techniques to create her own armies to help stop the evils  which are coming to destroy them all.

My book takes a girl who is perfect and beautiful and then shatters her and forces her to rise from the ashes or fail and doom the galaxy. She is betrayed by others throughout the book. She becomes both hunted and hunter. Leader and legend. Lost and found.

An innocent girl becomes one of the galaxy's Apex Predators