Exhausted, cynical, and confused, Anna is always there to report for duty. She’s part of a clandestine government team that defends the nation against supernatural terrorism—a job that understandably leaves her life in shambles and drives her to drink a little more than she should. Toss in a fear of intimacy with a desire to have friends and lovers like a normal person and, well, Anna is a troubled soul wrapped in a special agent with arcane, magical powers. Waking up hungover at five–thirty in the morning with a zombie–infested apartment building in the heart of DC to deal with, she knows she’s got the makings of the worst morning possible.
Her team is its own challenge. A battle–scarred Nigerian shaman, a bookish shapeshifter, an inept summoner, and a brilliant but cantankerous wizard round it all out. Her partner, an immortal and cursed Paladin, is the only person she knows more jaded than herself. Getting them all to work together is never easy, with Anna often caught in the cross fire.
Their target, Ethan Morgan, is one pissed off necromancer. His brother was KIA by his own government, the victim of an experimental magical weapon they decided to test on the battlefield. Now bent on revenge and sponsored by one of hell’s most powerful demons, Ethan has a plan of his own to make us all pay. Anna and her team are fighting against the wake of destruction, but Ethan is always one step ahead. With the number of bodies he leaves and reanimates growing exponentially, Anna’s wondering if they’ll stop him before he engulfs everyone in an undead horde.
That Time I Stole an Entire Story and Didn’t Realize It
In college I thought I had the whole writer thing figured out. What I would major in wouldn’t matter much because I would clearly be a best-selling author by age 30. I’d written three novels in high school. In my mind they were simply “flawed,” but that would’ve been a generous way to describe them. Either way, I viewed them as practice and thought that surely the next thing I would write would blow away anyone who read it: classic arrogance of youth stuff.
Naturally, I also assumed that all of my ideas were original. I had an idea for a sci-fi novella that I started writing. It followed a group of deep space scouts. They were a mismatched crew with some humans and aliens of different races. On a routine surveying mission (like all sci-fi horror begins), they pick up a distress call. Knowing they’re the only ones nearby who can answer it, they stumble upon a sinister corporation’s mining colony. When they land on the planet to investigate, they find out that greed had pushed the colonists too far. The mining equipment had bored through the protective layer of an ancient alien prison. Monsters and malicious aliens begin to pour out and attack everyone. The miners, security people, and executives all perished quickly enough, and only a few of the deep space scouts make it out alive. They even barely manage to stop the worst of the prisoners from making it off the planet with them. I called it Natives of Krune. If you think the whole premise sounds familiar, you’d be right.
I wrote it all during the first few months of my freshman year. I had trouble making friends at first and adjusting, so I had a lot of time on my hands in my dorm room while I tried to figure out how the whole college thing actually worked. I thought I’d written something really cool and original, and I emailed the manuscript to a bunch of my high school friends to see if they’d willingly read it and give me feedback. I thought I’d written a great piece of space horror.
Weeks passed, then a friend of mine from high school who had actually read the thing during a particularly debilitating hangover sent me an email. The message was simple: “That was solid. It’s retelling of the Mines of Moria from Fellowship, right?” That email hurt a lot, because he was absolutely right. Somewhere from my subconscious I had lifted the entire section of the Mines of Moria from Fellowship of the Ring into a sci-fi story. Interesting enough concept, and still not badly written compared to my other work at the time, but not the original concept I thought I had. The more I read Natives of Krune, the more I realized that I had copied the story beat-by-beat. Greed leading to ruin, an ancient all-powerful evil released, and then a group of outsiders caught in the middle all matched right up. The only thing my story lacked was a Gandalf. Even the main villain, the worst prisoner in this ancient alien structure, had a touch of Balrog about him. So it goes, though.
Realizing I had ripped off Tolkien made me re-evaluate some things. Not my passion for writing, which I continue to plug away at, but maybe I had a harder and longer climb than I thought in store. I had a lot to learn. Maybe I wasn’t the most original writer in the world. Maybe I needed to think more critically about my plots and where they came from. What I didn’t take from the experience was to be afraid of the familiar. I mean, in the end, who hasn’t ripped off Tolkien at least a little?Natives of Krune still sits as a computer printout on a shelf, a cautionary tale to remind me. It also taught me an even more important lesson: beta writers like my hungover friend can save you from yourself. They are a cherished resource, and the delusional writer’s best friend.
Everyone needs a hobby. And, like most people, I hope one day that my hobby will liberate me from my mind–numbing day job. I chose writing. Not one of the easier ones. I chose it at the tender age of 14, churning out terrible science fiction novels that heaped on the cliches and barely hidden tropes of all space operas. Thankfully, those creations reside in the prison of an old Commodore 64 hard drive and several 3.5″ disks (kids, ask your parents) in a landfill somewhere. And, let me be clear, the world is better for it.
Along the way, I kept writing. Through college. Through grad school. Through the beginning of my career, such as it is. I like to believe I picked up skills. I wanted to write novels that had things I wanted to see. Hand of Chaos, my debut novel, brings together elements of a spy thriller and a police procedural with dark and urban fantasy. I followed that with Scarred Earth, a serial alien invasion novel I’m releasing entirely through tumblr. I’m probably going about this all wrong, but I don’t know any other way.