The Hook: Windswept by Adam Rakunas

September 1, 2015
The Hook:
I was sitting at my usual stool at Big Lily’s, talking with Odd Dupree about his troubles down at the plant, when something big and stupid came crashing through the front door. Vytai Bloombeck’s head swiveled like a pumpkin mounted on a sack of compost as he scanned the faces of the regulars. I tried to duck beneath the ironpalm bar, but it was too late — he had zeroed in on me. “Padma!” he shouted, moving toward me like a runaway cargo can, “I got something, make us both righteously wealthy, like Jesus would want.” He shoved Odd to the side as he plopped into two chairs. Odd’s eyes rolled back into his head from the smell. Bloombeck’s job was to fish blockages out of the city’s sewer mains, a Contract slot he’d kept since Time Immemorial because no one was stupid or desperate enough to take it from him.

“Not even Jesus wants you, Bloomie,” I said, wincing at the stabbing pain in my right eye. My pai was supposed to float text warning me that Bloombeck was within one hundred meters, but, thanks to the vagaries of my brain chemistry and the implant’s firmware, the damn thing always gave me an electric jab in the retina after he’d shown up. I’d complained to every tech I know, and they all shrugged their shoulders and gave me the Santee Anchorage Song-And-Dance about how We Don’t Have The Proper Tech, We Don’t Make Enough To Care About Your Problem, Just Wait For The Next Bloody Update. The Oh-God-It’s-Bloomie warning squatted between a migraine and my period on the pain scale, and the only treatment that worked was avoiding him. “You want to talk to me, you make an appointment.”

Adam Rakunas writes:

I started writing this book in a bar, so it made sense to start the book *in* a bar. Bars are places for forgetting, for resting, for *waiting*, and Padma Mehta, the heroine of Windswept, is waiting for a lot of things: to retire, to cinch the deal of her life, to get out of the rat race. In the meantime, she is sitting at her favorite spot in Big Lily’s, watching out the lanai as the city rolls away toward the ocean. This spot is important to her because it offers a mixture of security and respite; the instant she sits down in that stool, she has a little bit of control over the chaos that surrounds her.

Of course, it’s not perfect, or else someone like Vytai Bloombeck, the neighborhood con artist, wouldn’t be able to enter the bar and try his pitch on Padma. On Santee Anchorage, everyone has to hustle, and Padma’s no different. Her hustle is on a much grander scale than Bloombeck’s, but it still means she has to bribe, lie, and fight to get what she wants: an early pension and a sweet bonus if she recruits five hundred people to the Union. She won’t listen to Bloombeck now, but, when her plans collapse, she’ll have no choice.

Buy Windswept on Amazon.

About the author:

Adam Rakunas is the author of Windswept and its forthcoming sequel. He’s a stay-at-home dad, an amateur cellist, and a small-time political rabble-rouser. You can find him at or on Twitter @rakdaddy. He also wants you to know that Jessica Smith did the amazing cover art, and you can find her work at


If you’re an author with a book coming out soon and you wish to participate on The Hook, please read this.

Funny Science Fiction anthology is live

August 31, 2015


Funny Science Fiction anthology is now live on Amazon! Official release date is tomorrow, but the amount of time it takes for a book to go live varies a little, so you can go ahead and get it now, which will give you plenty of time to read it before UFO4 lands next month!



Worldcon 2015 photos

August 30, 2015

Coming up for air to report that I attended this year’s Worldcon, happily managed to mostly keep out of the controversies surrounding it, and had a great time hanging out with old friends and making new ones. I’m not very good at remembering to take pictures but, fortunately, I ended up in several taken by friends, enough to gather and post them here, mostly for my own records and ability to find them later.


With Bob Silverberg

With Bob Silverberg while at the Galaxy’s Edge/Phoenix Pick booth.


With Guest of Honor David Gerrold.

With Guest of Honor David Gerrold.


With Eric Flint

Watching Eric Flint sign books at the Phoenix Pick table.


Hanging out with Mike Resnick.

Hanging out with Mike Resnick.


Mike Resnick teaching me some of the finer points of novel plotting.

Mike Resnick teaching me some of the finer points of novel plotting.


With Toni Weisskopf, David Hartwell and Shahid Mahmoud.

With Toni Weisskopf, David Hartwell and Shahid Mahmoud.


And here are a few photos I managed to take (mostly during the Hugo ceremony):

Filled auditorium, view from the second row (aka the good seats!)

Filled auditorium, view from the second row (aka the good seats!)


Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta.


Hugos opening bit. Tananarive Due's fearlessly sports the redshirt Star Trek uniform.

Hugos opening bit. Tananarive Due’s fearlessly sports the redshirt Star Trek uniform.


David Gerrold and a dalek. Best line of the Hugos: "David, my eye is up here!"

David Gerrold and a dalek. Best line of the Hugos: “David, my eye is up here!”


Ken Liu delivering Liu Cixin's acceptance speech for "The Three-Body Problem."

Ken Liu delivering Liu Cixin’s acceptance speech for “The Three-Body Problem.”


Ken Liu and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

Ken Liu and Alvaro-Zinos Amaro.


Ron Friedman and Bob Silverberg.

Ron Friedman and Bob Silverberg.



Stories by UFO3 authors in the news!

August 17, 2015

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There have been some excellent news for two of the authors who appeared in UFO3 and their stories recently.

Jeremy Butler’s “The Full Lazenby” will be reprinted in Imaginarium 4: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing.

Also, the Parsec Award finalists have been announced and the podcast of Tina Connolly’s “Super-Baby-Moms Group Saves the Day” is up for the Best Speculative Short Story – Large Cast award. You can listen to the podcast here.

Will the class of 2015 produce similar gems in UFO4? Only a couple of months left until you get to read it and find out!




The Hook: The Left-Hand Way by Tom Doyle

August 11, 2015


The Hook:

The Court of the Red Death

And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Edgar Allan Poe

In Pripyat, the first snow of the year fell early on the deserted city and on the steel arch that hung over the Sarcophagus covering the ruined Chernobyl power plant. The windless cold was appropriate for this urban tomb, but unseasonable for early autumn, and the below-freezing temperature and snow were confined to this small, desolate pocket of Ukraine.

Seven Russian soldiers, five men and two women, arrived singly at the exclusion zone that enclosed the town, having entered the country in civilian dress by car, train, plane, bus, and boat. They were spetsnaz magispecial forces mages. One of them had been in Kiev for over a year; the Kremlin had kept him in place and ready for such occasions. Two had crossed through Belarus, whose Moscow-dominated craft authority had raised no fuss.

Tom Doyle writes:

To set my hook, I had an extra problem to consider besides the usual ones. The Left-Hand Way is a sequel to American Craftsmen, a contemporary fantasy of magic and military intrigue but with a backstory in which Poe and Hawthorne were writers of thinly veiled nonfiction. I needed a beginning that promised as much action as the special ops opening of the previous book, yet would welcome new readers.

I decided to establish the villain first, as the Devil often gets the best music. At the end of the otherwise self-contained first book, one of the antagonists, Roderick Morton, escapes to Ukraine, but his horrible condition seems more pathetic than menacing. Part of choosing to begin with Roderick was personal–I was anxious to write about him so that I too could find out what he had become.

In his earlier life, Roderick was known as the Red Death both for his numerous killings and for the corpse-like mask and grave garments he wore for his bloody rituals. I titled the opening “The Court of the Red Death” in a nod to “The Court of the Crimson King” by the prog-rock band King Crimson. That and the Poe quote regarding the Red Death’s dominion set the scene for a Roderick who is no longer nearly helpless and on the run, but is in full possession of his powers, old and new.

So that was how I made the choice of whom to begin with, though he is still offstage in this hook. The next question was where to start. Ukraine has two places sufficiently notorious and ghastly for the murderous Roderick. The first, Chernobyl and its ghost town, Pripyat, is where I have the hook. But I also use the second location, though later in the opening: Babi Yar, the ravine (now a park) in Kiev where the Germans massacred Jews and others, with over 100,000 killed there.

Finally, I introduce the opposition to Roderick for an opening fight scene: seven Russian soldiers who’ve been ordered to kill the American. Like most of my magician soldiers, the leader of the Russians has a ancestry with historical significance, as his great-grandfather died holding the line outside of Moscow during World War II after months of helping to delay the Germans until winter could descend on them.

In my magical world as in the real one, seven to one should be absurdly lopsided odds, but of course the villain will find a way to survive, establishing just how powerful he’s become in the interlude between books. Thus, when my protagonists come on the stage in the next section, readers will know better than they do how perilous their situation is, creating a tension that only grows throughout the story.

Buy The Left-Hand Way on Amazon.

About the author:

Tom Doyle is the author of the American Craft fantasy series from Tor Books. In the first book, American Craftsmen, two modern magician soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil–and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America’s past. Tom’s collection of short fiction, The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories, includes his WSFA Small Press Award and Writers of the Future Award winners. He writes science fiction and fantasy in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. You can find the text and audio of many of his stories on his website,


If you’re an author with a book coming out soon and you wish to participate on The Hook, please read this.

H. G. Wells, Secret Agent is FREE on Amazon for 3 days

August 4, 2015


You can now grab my steampunk humor novella H. G. Wells, Secret Agent for FREE. This promotion is set to last between today (Tuesday, August 4) and Thursday, August 7. Then it will reset back to $2.99

This is the first time I’m doing a free promotion like this on Amazon. The idea behind it is twofold: I’m hoping that enough people read the book and like it to then purchase my collection and perhaps even some of my anthologies. Also, the potentially large number of free downloads will increase the visibility of the book and will theoretically help its sales going forward. We shall see.

Here’s how you can help:

* Please download the book. Even if you already have a copy you received via Kickstarter or from me directly, each download will help that ranking/visibility I talked about above.

* Spread the word! Let others know the book is free so they might try it too.

* If you read and enjoyed it, please leave a review.




Unidentified Funny Objects Becomes SFWA’s First Anthology Qualifying Market

August 3, 2015

Copying the Science Fiction Writers of America press release verbatim below. You can also see UFO listed here.


August 3, 2015

For Immediate Release

Unidentified Funny Objects Becomes SFWA’s First Anthology Qualifying Market

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is pleased to announce that Unidentified Funny Objects, edited and published by Alex Shvartsman, is the first anthology series to join the SFWA list of Qualifying Professional Markets, which holds markets that have been qualified by the SFWA Membership Committee as meeting the SFWA bylaws and other membership criteria. More information can be found on the Membership Requirement page:

Maintaining the list is one way SFWA tries to make the qualification process easier for its members by pre-vetting markets where it can. Unidentified Funny Objects is an annual anthology of humorous SF currently in its fourth year. Past contributors to the anthologies have included George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Esther Friesner.

Shvartsman said, “I’m extraordinarily proud for the Unidentified Funny Objects series to join the ranks of the fine publishers and magazines on the qualifying market list. I view our admission both as a valuable service to those authors we’ve published who are in the early stages of their careers, as well as a personal milestone, akin to the moment I was able to join SFWA as a member myself.”

“I’m pleased to see SFWA starting to work out the nuts and bolts of how independently published authors qualify,” said SFWA President Cat Rambo. “As the publishing industry changes, SFWA needs to shift with it, recognizing the various paths to professional success and helping members with whichever they’ve chosen.”




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