Today is the day.

So yeah, I published a book today.

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After 5 years of writing, editing, cursing, looking for a home for it (rejection included), more editing, working with the cover artist, a life goal is finally achieved and here. My first novel is out. I can say that I have achieved the 3 goals I set for myself before I reached 40 (it was originally before 35, but I guess I’m a late bloomer). Those goals were:

  1. Marrying the most beautiful girl in the world. Check
  2. Publish a Book. Check
  3. Get a Ph.D. while studying abroad. Check

Damn, I need new goals now.

Anyways, back to the book, it was getting good reviews so far, it has been called “imaginative”, “an epic that bursts with originality”, “highly enjoyable” & “an impressive debut” that “should appeal to readers looking for adventure and fun.”

For more detailed reviews, please visit the Goodreads page of the book. Hopefully, those will cross over to Amazon and help get sales. Because while I write for the love of the art, the extra money would be nice and it would give my publisher an incentive to publish the sequel I should be writing.

And this is the book blurb:

Fionn is the wielder of a legendary Tempest Blade, and he is blessed – or cursed – by the Gift. Though his days as a warrior are long over, his past leaves him full of guilt and regret. Life, however, has other plans for him, when he agrees to help a friend locate a missing person.

Gaby and Alex never expected to become heroes… until they met Fionn. As an ancient evil arises and consumes the land, Fionn must help them to master their own Gifts and Tempest Blades.

Together the three of them, and their friends, will chart a course aboard the flying ship Figaro to save the planet. Will Fionn’s past be an anchor, or will he overcome the one failure from his former life before time runs out?

In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible.

Including second chances. 

Anyways, I hope you like the idea enough to buy it, read it and hopefully review it. You can get in Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indigo.

I will go to celebrate later with y wife and friends if the exhaustion from my day job doesn’t take a toll first.

So I did something at the last La Mole Comic Con…

I haven’t updated much the blog lately, because I’ve been busy with a certain book which is now also available for preorder at Barnes & Noble) and with grant applications that are really important for my day job (and my finances). But last Friday I took the day off to go to Mexico’s main Comicbook convention: La Mole.

La Mole is our equivalent to the SDCC and until last year, they were affiliated to the SDCC (shenanigans by a third party got said affiliation suspended until further notice) and they usually bring heavy hitters from the comic industry and pop culture. This year they brought Kevin Eastman, Jason David Frank, Jock and several other Marvel artists of which I’m afraid I can’t recall all their names (an apology).

So Salvador, the friend who did the art for my book’s cover, decided to do a limited print run of the cover art as a poster (only 25 copies), a hundred bookmarkers with a QR code to take the recipient to the Amazon preorder page and put them on sale along the rest of his art, in his stand at the Artist’s Alley part of the event. He also added the cover to his portfolio that he presented to Marvel, so let’s wish him luck. Given that it was a limited run, he signed it… and invited me to sign them as well. It’s the first time I do something like this. I even created a special signature for that (can’t use my legal one for… well legal reasons). My wife, as usual, had her camera at hand and took photos of the event, including one that Geoff, my editor, wants to use as Author Photo. I dunno… I was expecting to use something more epic, with a sword, like Ned Stark saying “Winter is Coming”. But hey, I dug my own grave on this one.

Anyway, here are some pics of the event. Don’t judge me, please. I’m not camera friendly.

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Yes, this is the new Author’s Photo. The tongue as sharp as a sword I guess. What I was thinking?

The Reveal: “Tempest Blades. The Withered King”.

Well, here it is, my book’s cover is finally done. And the book is for preorder too. But first the cover.

cover reveal TBWK

Pictured: Fionn, Gaby, and Alex, my main characters, trying to clean up the mess that someone else created. Some reunions can get really chaotic.

It’s amazing isn’t? I mean I can’t stop staring at it. It’s widely different from what I had pictured at first, but that’s the great thing! I get to see my world through the eyes of one reader. Because yes, Salvador Velázquez, the Mexican graphic artist who worked in this awesome art piece read the whole book to try and get the right feel for it.

I consider myself lucky for many, many reasons in life (like having a wonderful wife and great friends). But in this case, I think, without wanting to sound as I’m gloating, that I’m also as a writer. Usually, when a writer gets to be published, the editor sends the design brief to the artist, the artist does their interpretation of said brief (which is not the same as the actual story) and you get a cover done. Most of the time it works but not always, as in that fight between a cover artist and an author that was neither good or kind. Others the author if they have the skill, work on the illustrations as well, like Tolkien. Sometimes if you self publishes, you buy a premade cover or hire an artist and result may vary. And occasionally a writer gets to work directly with the artist and a good rapport and communication surges, becoming friends, which is my case with Salvador.

I was lucky that my publisher, Artemesia Publishing, allowed me a certain degree of liberty when it came to the cover design and illustration. And me, being the control freak I am, took the opportunity. In another blog entry, I will showcase the development and evolution of the cover art, with added comments from Salvador (given that it will be a long post, it will take some time to put it together). Lest suffice to say that I spent the last months, chatting back and forth with Salvador, trying to get his vision and my ideas to mesh together into the fantastic illustration you are seeing above. I have to give it to him as he was patient enough to listen to me rambling about how a bow should be used or asking about references while leaving his own imprint on the piece. I think that something that helped is that both of us have a design background* (and since I will be overseeing as well the editorial design of the cover) so we shared a common language and understood how and why to ask something.

This is the cover, all put together with the synopsis in the back. The final cover design and assembling were done by my wife, who is not only an amazing photographer but also a talented editorial designer who is starting her business creating covers for authors like me. Trust me, it might look easy, but the level of skill required to make sure everything is correct right to the last millimeter is staggering. I still have a lot to learn from her if I want to improve the covers for Inklings Press.

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The synopsis reads:

Fionn is the wielder of a legendary Tempest Blade, and he is blessed – or cursed – by The Gift. Though his days as a warrior are long over, his past leaves him full of guilt and regret. Life, however, has other plans for him, when he agrees to help a friend locate a missing person.

Gaby and Alex never expected to become heroes… until they met Fionn. As an ancient evil arises and consumes the land, Fionn must help them to master their own Gifts and Tempest Blades.

Together the three of them, and their friends, will chart a course aboard the flying ship Figaro to save the planet. Will Fionn’s past be an anchor, or will he overcome the one failure from his former life before time runs out?

In a world where magic and science intermingle, anything is possible.

Including second chances.

Anyways, this is the cover. The back blurb is not on it because I wanted you to admire the art and the custom made logo Salvador and his girlfriend did for me. You can give them a better look at these promotional banners:

Banner TBWK Fionn

The Greywolf

Banner TBWK Alex

The Inventor

Banner TBWK Gaby

The Dreamer

While “Tempest Blades. The Withered King.” will be released on August 20th of this year, you can preorder my book (so weirdly satisfying to say that) here**:

http://mybook.to/TempestBladesWK

Preorders help writers too -actually, they help a lot, more than you can imagine- so I will be deeply thankful if you go and get a copy for yourself. And let me know what do you think when you get your copy after August 20th.

Thank you.

*Design, like many other fields such as engineering and medicine, has different specialties and different skills. Yes all designers, know how to draw. But one thing is to draw a product -like in my case, and I admit I’m not that good- and another to draw a custom made illustration or develop a marketing campaign. Yes, you can cross-pollinate abilities -my wife, a graphic designer, and photographer, is teaching me about editorial design and photoshop- but it takes time to get good at them. See my point about editorial design.

**I just hope that by the time you see this, Amazon has updated the cover image for the ebook version, that’s why the link will take you to the paperback version.

Worldbuilding feature: Fortunes’ Fool by E.M. Swift-hook

Today, I want to feature my good friend’s E.M. Swift-Hook’s books. I say books because she has done something I admit I’m envious: to write nine books in the same saga. That’s exemplary discipline.

Fortune’s Fool is a saga of science fiction novels that begins with the travails of the people living in the outskirts of galactic civilization, on a planet colonized before FTL and just recently entering the games that fate likes to play. If you want to know more, go and get the books HERE.

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Now, E.M. and I didn’t talk about every aspect of the book, instead, we focused on her world-building process. Because hey, you get to enjoy the ride when you read the books, but you don’t see the backstage building process.

Me: I’m sure you get asked this quite frequently but what are your most important sources of inspiration for your Fortune’s Fool world?

E.M: It would be a bit simplistic to say it had just one inspiration as every book I ever read and enjoyed will be somewhere on the list. But looking at it in the way historians view events, whatever the long-term causes, the ‘trigger’ was undoubtedly a 1970s BBC TV science fiction series called Blake’s 7, which turned so much of the expectations of science fiction at that time inside out and rewrote the rules. If you haven’t ever seen it, I’d recommend checking it out. The SFX might be a bit cardboard and sticky tape, but the characters – even the incredible antagonist, Servalan – and most of the storylines (it had writers such as Tanith Lee for a couple of episodes even) are superb.  I called one of the major characters in Fortune’s Fools ‘Avilon’ in a tribute to two of my favorite characters in the series.

Me: Would you define your setting as hard SF or do you leave room for the unexplainable?

E.M: It is soft sci-fi boarding into science fantasy. For a start, I include the Two Great Lies many writers of science-fiction indulge in – that faster than light travel is possible and that humans could live on other planets. To the best of my understanding the former is still unlikely ever to happen and the latter less so. For us to be able to live on the surface of a planet it would need to be biochemically identical to our own. Even the most Earthlike is unlikely to be so. It would only take a slight difference to our own biospheres balance to be completely toxic to human life.

That said, I do try to keep a very realistic and gritty feel to the series.

Me: I know realism is a big thing for you. How that does has impacted on your world building? It has allowed you freedom or has forced your hand at times?

E.M: Both. I think realism does not mean the setting needs to be completely consistent with physics as we know it, but it does need to be logical and rooted in the reader’s understanding of how things work. This means I do have tremendous freedom to build logical seeming extensions to the real world. The bigger test, for me as a writer of character-driven stories, is to ensure that the people in my books behave like real people. They may have spaceships and body shields but they are still human beings dealing with human issues like corruption, betrayal, greed, fear, and ignorance.

Me: You have mentioned before that Durban Chola is one of your favorite characters from your books. And he is certainly a fan favorite. Having read your stories before, I can say they tend to be complex beings. But how do you build your characters?

E.M: My characters are ‘born’ at the point where story need meets the character concept, but the senior partner is story need. Mostly it’s a simple matter of asking a few searching questions: What kind of person would do this? What skills would they need – and so what kind of background must they have? Then I can look at more interesting things like What sort of quirks would this person have that add story interest? What flaws or strengths of personality might their background have thrown up? And so on. Sometimes this is a very conscious process and sometimes much of it kind of ‘auto-fills’, leaving me the freedom to focus on the more fun aspects of the character.

Me: Fortune’s Fool started as a trilogy that somehow grew into a trilogy of trilogies. How did that happen? Did you have some vague idea of the overall plot or the story grew organically like those alien carnivorous plants that writers tend to have on their orchards and have tame now and then, else they eat the local inspector?

E.M: Again, a bit of both. Transgressor began with a very simple idea – having a high-tech raised individual crash on the most primitive planet in the galaxy. A medieval level of primitive, in a galaxy with FTL travel. But what if it was not just A.N. individual? What if it was a wanted freedom-fighter?

The culture shock on both sides would be immense. But I wanted to show that just because they were ‘primitive’ that did not make the people any less capable, intelligent or potent. The stranded man is not lauded or respected, he is despised and enslaved. And on his part, the difficulty of coming to terms with the situation and the assault on his physical and mental resources. That was what Transgressor was planned to be. But in the end, it became so much more and once I had finished it, I realized there was a bigger story to tell and so Fortune’s Fools as a series was born.

Me: How would you describe the aesthetics of your world? Is it all shiny like Star Trek, all war-torn like Star Wars, all rusty like Firefly, all toyetic like Tomorrowland or…?

E.M: Considering it is a galactic civilization and not a single world, I would have to say that depends where you happened to live. If you lived in Central, the high-tech hub of the Coalition, you would eat, breath and poop ‘shiny’. Your life would be long, fulfilled and prosperous.

If you lived on one of the Middle Worlds you would be noticing the edge knocked off the shine as a bit and on the Periphery, if you were unfortunate enough to live on a planet caught up in a resource conflict between two of the political-corporate conglomerates, it would be living in a war zone. Then again, if you lived on Temsevar, it would be little different from living in a medieval Earth society and about at that tech level.

Of course, even on the same planet, you would have very different ways of life. Thuringen, for example, has a pretty regular society on one continent, but the other is home to Starcity, which has laws that effectively empower organized crime. The ‘City is therefore truly the criminal capital of the galaxy and trades on that fact. There the aesthetic is shiny on the surface as it is pretty high tech, but scratch that surface and you find a layer of dried blood…

Me: Did you world build before writing the story or your world build responds to the specific needs of your story?

E.M: A bit of both. The fundamental ideas were there from the first, my take on what a sci-fi universe should be like. But as specifics were needed to advance the plot or to fill gaps in the background, I put them in.

Me: What are your golden rules for world-building in a saga this long?

E.M: Consistency is paramount. If I invent something or name something, it has to be there ongoing as it impacts the entire story verse.

Me: Finally, what kind of music (a specific song, a musician, a playlist, an album) would fit your story? Care to share a link of a video as a sample of this?

E.M: Very tough as I don’t really link music with writing. Unlike many authors who use music as inspiration or background, I tend to prefer to write in silence or, if there are distracting noises like someone digging up the road outside, I’ll put the headphones on with rain sounds to cover it.

But, if pressed I could maybe give you some music that to me is kind of musical mood I might associate with my characters perhaps and from that, you’ll get a very good idea of my musical tastes too…

Avilon: Heart of Steel – Manowar
Durban: Soon from Gates of Delirium – Yes
Jariq: Time Table – Genesis
Jaela: China in Your Hand – T’pau
Jaz: Crawling – Linkin Park
Charis: Days of Our Lives – Queen
Grim: The Swing of Things – A-Ha
And for my main antagonist, Kahina Sarava: Stargazer – Rainbow

Thanks, E.M. for sharing your world-building process!

If you want to know a bit more about her:

E.M. Swift-Hook takes seriously the words that Robert Heinlein put into the mouth of Lazarus Long: ‘Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.’

Having tried a number of different careers, before settling in the North-East of England with family, three dogs, cats and a small flock of rescued chickens, she now spends a lot of time in private and have very clean hands.

Links:
Author.to/EMSH
Getbook.at/FF
Twitter: @emswifthook

Buried Sins: of regrets and lost memories

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This week is the official launch of the sixth anthology from Inklings Press (disclaimer: I’m a founding member and I usually do the cover design for their anthologies). This one is entitled ‘Tales from the Underground’, already available on Amazon. Unlike the previous anthologies were the theme was dictated by the genre (fantasy, science fiction, horror and so on), the theme dictated the stories and their genres. This time it was ‘Underground’ as if it wasn’t already obvious by the title. That kind of stories that take place in the worlds beneath ours, be it stories of adventure and exploration, or stories of space sirens, ghosts, and fairies. Or as in the case of my featured story, ‘Buried Sins’, of the titular sins buried both in ruined cities and inside the soul of the main character.

I don’t know if this is my darkest story yet (Bone Peyote might want to debate that), but I think it fits within the ‘dark fantasy’ subgenre. That said, this story has a special meaning for me, so let me tell you why.

For starters, it takes place in the same world of my WIP novel ‘Tempest Blades’, roughly during the time of the first chapter of the said novel, but in a different continent, with different characters. I know I have previous stories set in the same world (‘Silver Fang’, ‘Cosmic Egg’) but they take place in the past or the future. ‘Buried Sins’ is the first one that takes place at the same time of my novel. Second, it gave me the chance to recover and I would say, rediscover a character (or two) that I had liked from my very earlier drafts from ten years ago and who got cut from the latest iteration of the Tempest Blades story. I thought that character had got lost from that universe, but in writing this story, he got a new lease on life and also helped me to bring back another character that had suffered the same fate (such character doesn’t appear in the story per se, rather it is an ancestor). Why? Because of he will appear in the sequel of the novel as one of the main characters (so yeah, that’s a bit of a spoiler I guess).

Third, this story helped me to give him his own personality, backstory (which this story is) and unique abilities, rather than the generic expy of a vampire he was when I started writing in college. Now he has a really interesting take, I believe, on the ‘demon’ inside as weapon and means of protection. And he has as well a personality, several lost memories and a proper backstory, key ingredients for a good character I think. Even if he falls into the ‘broody’ side.

Joshua, the main character of ‘Buried Sins’, is a man with blurred memories. He doesn’t know when he was born or who he was before he was used in experiments that make him the ‘monster’ he thinks he is. But he does know where he was born and the dangers lurking in a buried city full of nasty things. And he has to return there if he wants to save a friend of his, coaxed by unsavory people, even if that means unearthing the sins that are hidden within the thing that makes him a monster.

And finally and fourth: this is the first story where I truly explore, in a subtle way my battles with depression. I’m by no means an expert on depression. I can only talk about my own struggles with it since I was a teenager.

I started writing as a mean to deal with my depression. It was my way to explore and deal with many of those feelings in a healthier way.  Depression, contrary to what many people believe, never truly goes away. It lurks, buried deep down in your psyche, waiting for the proper moment to spring a flood of memories, regrets, and anxieties to hit you back. It is the ‘beast’ that you learn to live with. Pretty much like Joshua.

Nowadays, thanks to my wife, a support network of friends and family, writing and some therapy back in the day I’m feeling a bit better these days. That doesn’t mean I don’t get depressed (and with the current status of the world no one could blame anyone for getting depressed and anxious), but now at least I have options to deal with it. Joshua is on his way to start that path and that experience in this story will color his interactions with one of the main characters of Tempest Blades that is going under his own struggles with depression.

So as you can see, this is a very personal story for me and I’m glad I have the chance to get it out into the wider world. I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed it writing it. And if you think about it, it is a sample of what you can expect from my novel once I get the chance to publish it.

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P.S: If you want the full experience when you read it, I recommend listening ‘Hurt’ by Johny Cash for three-quarters of the story and the Theme of One Punch Man during the finale. Yes, it’s quite the mood whiplash, but I like the combo because it ends on a more hopeful note than intended. Joshua, like any of us that suffer from regrets, is a person in search of redemption. The story is just the first part of that journey.

Time to talk about ‘A Time of Need’

I haven’t done a book review before and certainly, this ain’t one. See, I have a peculiar relationship with this book and its author, as I was there bearing witness of its creation, the pains of editing, the search for a publisher and even the cover design travails. This book is like a nephew for me as I have the honor of calling his author, Brent A. Harris my friend. It

I have known Brent for the past decade since he and Leo McBride (pen name of my friend Stephen Hunt) made a habit of kicking my ass in Heroclix. With both of them, we created Inklings Press with the aim of polishing our craft as writers through short stories so one day we were ready to share our personal projects, out full-length novels with the world. That day is today for Brent.

A Time of Need, published by Insomnia, is an alternate history tale of the American Revolution. To put you in context of its quality, Brent was nominated this year for a Sidewise Award for the story ‘Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon‘ -of which I’m the coauthor, so yes I’m a nominated author as well-. This put us in the company of alternate history luminaries such as Bruce Sterling, Ken Liu and Kim Stanley Robinson. So yeah, when it comes to alternate history, Brent knows what he talking about. That kind of nomination is not given freely. You pay the iron price for it.

And he also knows enough of the American Revolution as to spin a tale of switched allegiances, unbridled ambition, and regrets that will make you look at that person in US history with a different look. I admit I’m not an expert on the time period, but that didn’t detract me from enjoying the book.

Yes, Washington and Arnold are greater than life figures that loom over the birth of a nation. And Brent does a sterling job humanizing them, giving them rational motivations for the decisions that in this flipped story changed the course of the conflict. But I believe that where he does his best is when he shows us the gritty face of war through the eyes of “secondary” characters. I quote unquote secondary because I think Stevens, one of the POV characters is as much better, more relatable one. It’s through his eyes that we see the struggles of the soldier to navigate an uncertain future while the big men take life and death decisions. It’s through his eyes that we see how history unfolds.

Now while I kinda subscribe to the ‘Great Men’ history outlook of some historians -as it makes easier to understand history- the reality and the more interesting part of the unfolding of history is to consider how the regular people faced it. History is not a fossil but a living thing created each day. And is this that Brent truly excels.

There is nuance, action, betrayal and passion, elements that make any novelization of history -real or alternate- a treat for the reader and the seed for a good tv drama *wink wink tv producers*.

It is frightening for an author, for any creator really, to release their baby for the first time into the wider world. If I were in Brent’s shoes I would be a mess, then again I’m anxious all the time. So dear reader, make us a small favor and support a new author. If you are an alternate history fan or a US history fan or even a Brent A. Harris fan -if those exist yet- then give A Time of Need a bit of your reading time.

Meanwhile, I will be bidding my time till I can kick Brent’s ass at Heroclix once and for all.

Big news! A new paperback in town. 


Inklings Press, the writers’ collective were my shorts stories are appearing in anthologies is finally releasing the first two,  Tales of the Tavern & Tales from the Mist,  fantasy & horror respectively, as a single paperback & ebook under the KDP system at Amazon. It will cost  $8.99 and will feature 10 stories, five for each genre. It was decided to create one book out of two smaller anthologies due the size.
My stories featured there are:

“Silver Horn”: a young man has a simple mission that takes a somewhat humorous bent. I wrote that story when I was in college and *shameless plug* won 1st place at a contest.

“Bone Peyote”: cosmic horror in the venue of Cthulhu Mythos, but taking place in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead. There is a reason you don’t mix hallucinating drugs, forbidden rituals and a  celebration when the dead come to visit in a country that had strange gods.

You can buy the paperback already here.

I already ordered my copies. Yes, plural. Have you? If not, stop reading and go to buy it now.

The technology and curious data of ‘Cosmic Egg’

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Taking on the challenge raised by Leo McBride who depicted the amazing technology featured in his short story ‘Lazarus Soldiers’ in his blog, it’s my turn to do the same with my own story, ‘Cosmic Egg’. Now full disclosure, ‘Cosmic Egg’ is not exactly a pure, hard science fiction. It is more like science fantasy (if you have doubts what genre that is, think Star Wars or the classic cartoon Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors). That’s why some of the ‘science’ of the story veers more into fantasy/magic than hard science. That fact has made the story a harder sell, but what’s life without challenges? Also, the story is set in the same setting but a generation or so later to that my current work in progress – my novel Tempest Blades. Let’s say that ‘Cosmic Egg’ is a sequel of sorts that came before the actual story. With that say, let’s dive into the matter at hand.

A little context beforehand

‘Cosmic Egg’ features two of the three main species of my narrative universe: humans, which are more or less like you and me, with a few differences, and samoharos, a humanoid race of sentient lizard like people.

The samoharo are subdivided in two races that share common traits that allowed them to intermingle. The type A are larger beings, up to two meters tall, their reptilian features owing more to a humanoid iguana or gecko with long hair, long fangs and slit pupils. Their tails are strong enough to smash a tree. The type B is shorter, a mix between an iguana and a turtle due to the shell-like structure at their backs. They had also hair on their heads, but usually were shorter and traded the lack of long fangs with more humanlike eyes and blinding speed. Both types are warm-blooded. They have their own language (for which I’m inspired by Mayan), religion and are fond of humans, seeing the younger species as ‘younger siblings’.

There is a third species, the freefolk, who are near-humans (they can actually reproduce with humans), and whose genetically modified traits allow them to feel and manipulate the thaums (an elementary particle, akin to gravitons and bosons and that carry the force needed for quantum entanglements and other quantum effects) to manipulate reality in a way we would call ‘magic’.

Doing that alters their physiology and they don’t travel to space unless it is really needed because the methods used don’t sit well with their bodies.

The three species currently live (at least in the Tempest Blades universe) in a world named Theia (none of them are native of the planet by the way), a goldilocks zone planet, slightly bigger than our Earth and with a warmer climate. Its atmosphere is covered by a thick ionosphere, with a violent streak of electric storms that has posed challenges to both long-range telecommunications and launching ships to space exploration.

This is why a ship like the Firefox (renamed Fireraven in a new edition of the story) has certain characteristics that make it unique.

The Fireraven/Firefox: the titular ship of the story, one of the first of its class. It’s a long range exploratory vessel, built with the best technology of the three species. It was designed to explore the nearby galactic quadrants in an autonomous way, able to refuel itself without having to return home for years. It is powered by three massive energy cores, following samoharo design: the first two are fusion gravitational engines that provide power for the general functions of the ship as well as sub-light impulse. The third core is used mainly to feed the backup life support systems (which on their own have several redundant subsystems) and the Stringspeed device, ‘The Puncher’.

This core works through a system similar to a particle accelerator-collider of matter-antimatter. Its energy output is similar to the other two, but can’t provide it for extended periods of time, storing the surplus energy for the backup systems in regenerative batteries. The synergy of these cores provide the ship with modular artificial gravity for the crew (which is a good thing in case of a fire or to avoid ill effects from extreme g-forces) and to make the ship lighter than it really is when flying inside the gravity well of a planet – a sort of anti-gravity or repulsion system.

The propulsion is provided by ion thrusters (as in space inertia can get you anywhere with the right thrust), capable of moving the ship up to 45% of light speed. For FTL travel, there is the Puncher and the Stringspeed (see below). The hull of the ship is made of a series of alloys based on material modified at molecular level thanks to nanotechnology, roughly arranging the molecules of materials such as titanium into crystal structures similar to the diamond ones. Embedded in the hull, there is a wide array of sensory systems to provide the crew with as much information as possible of the surroundings, up to gravimetric waves and quantum interactions. The ship’s external form is modeled after the body of a giant raven with six wings (hence the name) and has no edges, everything is rounded. This is to avoid the internal atmosphere putting pressure on the structure.

The ship has a total mass of 500,000 metric tons, ten decks, and 187 rooms. It nominally carries a crew of 50 but can be operated with a skeleton crew of 8 and can carry passengers to a total of 200 very crammed beings in case of emergency. Among the rooms available are a cantina with a well-supplied kitchen, hydroponic gardens, meat growth vats, med bay (with equipment for both types of samoharo, humans, freefolk and near human races), a xenobiology lab, the Akash Archive storage room, a whole engineering deck, astrometry and physics observatory, viewing gardens, water and oxygen recyclers and generators, AI housing, crew rooms and living spaces to practice sports and other leisure activities. The command deck is in the upper levels, next to the captain and pilot rooms. It has as well four hangars: two for terrestrial and aquatic exploration, one for the midrange drones and one for the three combat fighters it has stored. It also has workshops and labs to give maintenance to all the equipment and the ship itself.

The Fireraven is a research and exploration vessel, but that doesn’t mean it is not capable of defending itself. Along with the combat fighters stored in it, it has a rudimentary cloaking system (can cloak almost everything but the third core signature energy residual radiation), railgun missiles with variable loads (ranging from thermonuclear to ions), coherent energy beam cannons and three main cannons that are for mining asteroids and planetary surfaces but under the right protocol can be used as a main weapon to obliterate most known materials. It also has a cryo-sleeping chamber for the whole crew and the main AI can be detached from the underbelly of the ship as escape means for the crew. Finally, it can deploy communication buoys to open a transmission channel to Theia. Its design is based on an earlier samoharo mining ship, modified for combat, named the Figaro (featured in the Tempest Blades novel), as well as the original generation arks of the samoharos. It adds all the combat features of the brand new human air fighters (as humans are more vicious warriors than even the samoharos who pride themselves on being a warrior race) and the advances in data storage and power coupling crystals of the freefolk.

Rumour has it that there will dreadnought class ships built by the time the Fireraven returns home to serve as a defensive armada for Theia. Just in case.

Stringspeed: this is the Faster-Than-Light method developed by the species in my story (it doesn’t mean there aren’t others though). Stringspeed parts from the idea that you can’t travel FTL in the regular universe due the well-known physical constraints. But the universe is formed by several upper and lower dimensions neatly folded and compressed like a napkin made of several planes. These dimensions or planes are the result of living in an N-string universe where the cosmic strings ‘vibrates’ at different frequencies. These planes, depending how high or low you go, follow similar but not identical physical rules and thus it is possible to transverse them to travel long distances in a few minutes. Accessing those planes however is tougher due the energy conversion and different rules.

What the Stringspeed engine in the Fireraven does is shunt the ship through a ‘puncher’, a device that punches a hole into time-space to allow access to what’s called the ‘travel plane’ while wrapping the ship in a bubble, similar to the Alcubierre cube with a portion of the local reality fabric. Since these planes are not exactly conductive to matter and lifeforms as we conceive them (but might possess their own version), generating the bubble is a necessity to ensure the viability of the travel, the integrity of the ship and the survivability of the crew. Once the ship is in the travel plane, which due to its proximity to our own plane of existence doesn’t differ that much in terms of rules, the ship maneuvers the bubble along cosmic string of lesser order, using them as tracks to reach point B from A, using the idea that quantum entanglement happens because these strings connect points of reality on the upper and lower planes of the ‘napkin’.

When the ship arrives at its point of exit, the puncher device uses the energy contained in the bubble to return the ship to our plane, reducing the risk of expelling gamma rays that are byproducts of the Alcubierre cubes. Traveling along these tracks is difficult due to the disorienting nature of the travel plane, the gravity shadows of massive objects such as stars and singularities and the quantum uncertainty properties of the cosmic strings that collapse once the pilot chooses one to follow.

There are navigational charts (generating new ones is one of the missions of the Fireraven) but most of the choices are carried out by pilots using their ‘hunches’ assisted by computers that do most of the logical, quantum calculations. To be chosen to be a pilot for stringspeed vessels means to have certain genetic traits that allow to ‘feel’ whether these quantum entangled cosmic strings end in the place one wants to go. Ships usually carry at least four or five crewmembers with such genetic traits. In the case of the Fireraven, Michael, Scud, Roanna and two more crewmembers possess such abilities. Still, doing it by feeling generates much stress on the senses of the pilots, thus the need for the Artificial Intelligences.

AI: The Artificial Intelligences used in the Fireraven are of two kinds: the regular ones that control most systems of the ship and are just highly developed software; and the main AI of the ship which  is a semi-empathic brain with quantum neural pathways of third generation. Sounds like a mouthful, even coming from Scud.

Basically, the AI is a quantum computer modelled after a human/samoharo/freefolk hybrid brain. The neural pathways are meant to emulate the way biological brains generate neuron connections.

This allows the AI to learn and improve, as well as to develop faster calculations than a biological brain in real time, while allowing it certain degree of ‘human guessing’. It makes it a more flexible AI than the ones used regularly for industrial purposes on Theia, as those more commercial ones are very limited in their applications (they are either limited in terms of usability and available actions or go mad, like the clockwork golems littering some parts of Theia after the Great War).

However, these features created an unexpected effect: the AI has personality. It acts similarly to what you would expect of a very schizophrenic brain trying to deal with multiple sensory inputs. In the case of the Fireraven AI, it has the personality of a child, a very eager child wanting to learn everything even if could get it into hot water, which is the crux of the dilemma posed by the story.

The first prototype of a semi-empathic AI was created by a human decades ago of the story, by mapping his own brain before passing away and the AI ended in the hands of a samoharo (both featured in my novel).

The samoharos used the concept and improved upon it with their biotechnology, mixing characteristics of human, samoharo and freefolk to allow the brain housing the AI to be able to process all the sensory inputs, mathematical calculations and other activities that a space travel might ask for. Developing these AIs is a long and expensive process, thus they are limited use only for space ships and special missions. So far, there are only five in existence.

Drones: the drones used by the crew of the Fireraven are not dissimilar to the ones we use today, except from a few differences. For starters, they are made of the same alloys of the hull of the Fireraven, with sensors embedded on their fuselages. They can measure and record different types of inputs, depending on the mission, including most of the full EM spectrum and under certain circumstances, quantum and particle interactions.

Housing all those sensors, the communication systems and the power source limit the capacity of data storage of the drone, reducing their range to that of a reliable transmission, as they broadcast their finding in real time to the mother ship. To allow for better handling, the drones are piloted through neural connections and feedback with the pilots. This means that the pilot, rather than controlling it with a yoke or a pad, controls the drone with thought. The pad used is only to register the intensity or the force needed for certain actions.

As a result, the drones are nimble and can improvise. However, this system has a drawback: the connection is both ways so if the drone is damaged or destroyed, the feedback is felt by the pilot. This doesn’t result in actual physical damage to the pilot, but can leave neurological and sometimes psychological trauma.

For example, there are documented cases where a drone lost a wing and the pilot reported losing all the feeling and response of the corresponding arm, as if it had been cut from his body, needing several years of therapy to correct that.

Stringspeed pilots in general and Michael in particular have showed higher resilience to block such feedback, at least to a certain extent, leaving them only with migraines and seizures. Drones can be used to attack too, but since the possibilities of destruction are bigger, to avoid injuring the pilots, their control is transferred to the regular AI of the mother ship, in extreme cases to the main semi-empathic AI.

Akash Archives: These are basically the compilation of all the knowledge and lore generated by the three species in Theia, compiled in data crystals through quantum engravings. In Theia, it’s usually resting in the Aethernet, the equivalent of our Internet. Since web connectivity in the far reaches of space is not exactly available, the Fireraven and similar ships carry a copy of the archives in the special databank.

This is all for now. I hope you liked this sneak peek to the world building I’m doing for the Tempest Blades universe of my novels and most short stories and may be be interested in more details about the setting. Thanks for reading. 🙂