Update on The Apex Predator … Book 7 of The Human Chronicles Saga

ApexCover5I’m about to play poker with my next novel. Let me explain.

I wrote this book a little differently that my others; essentially in sections that now must be shuffled together. I have three major plot lines running throughout the book, one with Adam Cain and Sherri Valentine, one with Riyad Tarazi and another with Nigel McCarthy. These are almost complete stories in their own right, yet related to the overall novel. I’ve completed these three storylines, and now I have to shuffle them together to make one complete story.

In nearly all novels, the perspective shifts between characters, either through chapter changes or within the chapters themselves, and as the storyline moves along, the author switches from character to character and from locale to locale. We normally do this within the writing process, so one moment you may be writing from the perspective of Character A, and then the next Character C. And then you may go to Characters B and D before returning to Character A. With this book I decided just to stick with one character throughout and entire section of my master Word document and tell the entire story from that perspective. And then, with the miracle of Microsoft Word, I can cut and paste all the various perspectives together. This will involve some segue writing to tie everything together and then a careful examination of timelines. Yet it has allowed me to blast through one character’s (or set of character’) complete story without the constant switching of personalities and perspective during the writing process. Now it just needs to be all tied together and mingled so that the story flows and makes sense.

I’m planning on releasing the new book on December 15, 2013 … after the editing and proofreading process is complete. I know fifteen to twenty days doesn’t sound like enough time to edit and proof an entire book, but in the world of ebook publishing things can move very quickly. I have a number of beta readers already lined up who will receive advance copies and check for typos and other issues, while my editor and professional proofreader are on standby as soon as I do my last run-through of the book and email it to them. The Apex Predator should be my best-edited and proofed book. At least that’s my goal. (Of course, some things will fall through the cracks, and when this happens I hope my readers will email me with the corrections. Again with ebooks, I can make changes and upload a new version of the book in about five hours.)

Galaxy Cover60With The Apex Predator being book 2 of part two of The Human Chronicles, it will end up being the middle book of a trilogy. As such, it picks up where Cain’s Crusaders left off and sets up the reader for all the wild climax stuff that happens in the final book of the trilogy — A Galaxy to Conquer. I had the opportunity this time to essentially plot out two books at once, so the day after I send The Apex Predator to my editor, I’ll be starting to work on A Galaxy to Conquer, with the projected release date around the end of January 2014. This will the soonest I’ve released a follow-up book, so hopefully my continuing fans — plus all the new ones who come onboard during the holiday season — will find gratification sooner than others have in the past.

It appears — at least for now — that The Human Chronicles Saga will run for a total of eight books. But don’t worry, I’m sure Adam Cain will surface again in the not too distant future — he always does. However, as an author, I have a number of other projects rumbling around in my brain that I’d like to get to first. I’m not quite ready to announce these yet, since I still have two more Adam Cain novels to release. But rest assured, if you like my writing style, you will find the same in every book I complete. And no matter what the subject, they will always contain their fair share of humor, along with unfiltered realism. One thing I will never be accused of is bowing to politically-correctness!

Now, back to my poker game. I’ve got some shuffling to do!

T.R. (Tom) Harris

As always, I will be sending out broadcast emails to my registered fans announcing the release of all my books, so if you haven’t been put on the list yet, go to Contact Me at the top of this page and send me an email. Thanks.

What’s In A Name?

Alien Talking“So you come from the planet Dirt?”

That’s one of the questions the aliens ask Adam Cain, the main character of The Human Chronicles Saga, when they learn he comes from a planet called ‘Earth.’ Just as the auto-correct on your phone tends to screw up what you’re typing, the alien translation device in this instance saw the word ‘earth’ as dirt, soil, ground, etc. You can see how this could happen.

Which is the subject of this post: Lack of context when communicating with aliens. Which is something I do all the time (communicate with aliens). What about you?

Yes, to others, we’ve named our home world dirt. Simple, basic and to the point; however, I have to admit we were NOT very creative with the name. Sure, Gia, Terra and a few others may sound more exotic, but that’s only to modern English-speaking ears. In Latin, Terra is Earth. So the impression a name conveys is often in the eye — and the ear — of the beholder. Still, why not Solar-3 … or even Fantasia?

And a little off subject, I have another gripe: The common house Fly. We went and named something a FLY! We take an insect with a couple of wings that buzzes around in the air … and we call it a ‘fly.’ Well, duh! So using this logic, a fish should be called a ‘swim,’ a cheetah a ‘run,’ and a grasshopper a ‘jump.’ C’mon, people, we can do better than this! The aliens are expecting a little more creativity out of us.

I mention the above because as a science fiction writer, I get to have fun with things like this. In my stories, I often examine some of the absurdities of language and how outsiders (aliens) would interpret certain words and phrases we take for granted. For instance, the common word ‘bullshit,’ when translated literally has absolutely no correlation to the colloquial use of the phrase. In my books, this really throws the aliens for a loop, especially since we Humans tend to use the word quite often. And not to be too vulgar, but one of my Human characters responds to some new information he’s just received by saying, “No shit?” Just let that roll around in your brain for a moment, with you in the place of the alien. This is really fun stuff for an author!

And I can also bring this subject back down to Earth — literally. As an English-speaking American from California, I’ve often wondered what goes through  the minds of my Spanish-speaking friends when they hear or read words such as Los Gatos — which is the name of a city in Northern California. Do they see this as The Cats, as in “I’m going to The Cats today to visit some friends?” Here’s another: Buena Vista (Beautiful View). Or Vista del Lago (Lake View). They each sound much more exotic in Spanish than they do in translation, and there are literally tens of thousands of other examples, in all languages.

So one person’s dirt is another’s home planet. It all depends on your point of view.

How we communicate with alien races, and how our common objects and points-of-reference can vary, is a big part of my stories, and something which I hope makes them more interesting  — and humorous — to read. I wish more sci-fi writers took these things into account. Common references such as these tend to Humanize the story.

And a few other quick notes.

I always capitalize ‘Human’ in my books, just as you capitalize Vulcans, Klingons and Martians. Why shouldn’t we also received the prestige of a capital letter? Also, some of my alien species are named for the planets they come from (Juireans, Sileans), yet in many cases they have names other than a variation of their planet-of-origin. For instance, one of the main enemies of the Humans are the Kracori … who just happen to come from the planet Elision. I would re-think this if we went around calling ourselves Earthlings, but we don’t. So there.

This reveals some of the crazy thought process that goes into creating my fictional worlds….

T.R. (Tom) Harris

Some Come Easier Than Others….

ApexCover5Book Seven of The Human Chronicles Saga is coming along nicely. It should be completed by November 23-25 and then sent off for editing and proofreading.

The issue I’m having now is with the title.

It has evolved from Starlight Falls to A Galaxy to Conquer … and now to The Apex Predator. Since the story revolves around mankind being the supermen in the galaxy — and therefore the greatest predator around — the new (or proposed) title seems appropriate and strong. I’ve put together a mockup of the cover, and I really like it. Any comments would be welcome, of course.

Since the final book in the series is already plotted and planned for release in late January, the title of A Galaxy to Conquer appears to fit that one better. That cover will probably be kept and used for that book. But for now, I’m adding The Apex Predator to my inventory of cover art.

Let me tell you about The Fringe Worlds….

Nov Fringe Cover JPEG (2) (816x1056) (816x1056)The Fringe Worlds is the first book in The Human Chronicles Saga, and sometimes it’s enlightening — and cathartic — to detail exactly how it all began … way back in the wild and crazy days of 2011….

The idea for The Human Chronicles had been swimming around in my head for decades, but it was only after I became convinced that ebooks and independent publishing were here to stay that I decided to commit the time and effort to actually finishing a book. I had been kicking around the writing profession my entire life, from junior high and high school journalism, to college and as a Journalist in the Navy. I went on to do freelance editing and publication design for a number of years before settling into a real estate career — of all things! Yet throughout all those years, I had never completed a single book or sent out a single submission to a traditional publisher. That all changed in 2011.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the origins of the concept behind The Human Chronicles.

I don’t know about you, but I had always been frustrated with the majority of science fictions stories and movies that depict humans getting our asses kicked by either a handful of aliens or by a spore or two released into the atmosphere. Let’s face it, reality could be a whole other ballgame. Just think of a den of lions, masters of the savannah,  fearing no creature. Now what if these lions entered the territory of the humans? What do you think would happen? No matter how strong and mighty the lions may be, it’s a pretty good bet that this encounter would not work out well — for the lions! I believe it would be the same for aliens.

Let’s face it, mankind has dominated everything on the planet Earth, and yet we’re to believe that every alien race we encounter will be able to kick our ass? It hasn’t worked out like that so far on the planet Earth. Here we are the head honchos, the top of the freaking food chain.

My vision of a science fiction story where the humans are doing the terrorizing and ass-kicking came into full focus years ago when I saw a cartoon in an old Soldier of Fortune Magazine. It was of a muscle-bound man standing over a dragon-looking thing and holding a smoking gun. The caption read, “I don’t know what it was, but it’s dead.”

Whether you like it or not, that is probably how it would work out for any aliens we encounter. Either by sheer force or by technology, I’m pretty sure we’ll find a way to prevail … and luck will have nothing to do with it.

So the premise of The Human Chronicles Saga is that Humans are the Supermen in the galaxy. No, we can’t fly and we can be killed, yet as I explain in the books, we come from a heavy-gravity world, helping us to build added strength, durability and quickness. I also remember seeing a study that was done on the bone structure of prehistoric man. As was necessary for survival in those days, their bones were a lot denser and stronger than ours are today. Frankly, you could take a baseball bat to the arm of a Neanderthal, — and even though you may really piss him off — you probably wouldn’t be able to break his arm, and he could probably outrun you, too. So it probably wasn’t such a good idea to hit him with a baseball bat in the first place! Now pretend you’re an alien and we’re the pissed-off Neanderthals….

I use a combination of literary license and suppositions to say Humans are more primitive along the evolutionary ladder than most aliens, like Neanderthals would be to modern man, at least physically. Then add in our heavy-gravity world and propensity for combat, and you have the perfect warriors — the Supermen among the aliens.

So with the premise of The Human Chronicles Saga established, now all I had to do was create a scenario where we would come in contact with aliens on their own turf, along with a way for us to show off our skills.

The Fringe Worlds introduces the readers to the world of Juirean Expansion, an alien empire encompassing half the known galaxy. The Juireans are a race of pragmatic aliens who, as part of an ancient alliance of races, were themselves the primitives among the enlightened. Using their own unique skill-set and warlike nature, the Juireans conquered their fellow alliance members and set about establishing a galactic empire using stolen technology and superior tactics of war. It’s within the Juirean’s efforts to rule a galaxy as a single race of beings that I also explore the difficulties the Juireans had to overcome while attempting to do the impossible. Eventually, their empire evolves into a loose affiliation of planets and coalitions, all under the banner of the Juirean Expansion. For my hypothetical universe, this seemed to work out just fine.

And yet, as always, there are forces looking to undermine the status quo, and that’s where the Humans come in. (By the way, I capitalize ‘Humans’ throughout the books, just as you’d capitalize Klingons or Romulans. It’s only appropriate.) An ancient alien race has discovered the Earth and realize that the Humans might be just the ticket to help them defeat the Juireans. However, like with all living things, there has to be motivation and incentive for the Humans to risk life and limb. And with that, I’ll leave that part of the story untold — until you read the books.

Now back to The Fringe Worlds. In truth, The Fringe Worlds was supposed to be twice as long as it turned out to be, and was to include what would become book two of the series, Alien Assassin. Yet impatience and curiosity got the best of me, and once a logical break point was reached, I decided to put the book up on Amazon and see if anyone cared about what I’d written.

The Fringe Worlds went live on Amazon.com on October 12, 2011, and needless to say it took off immediately. I was not only shocked but amazed at the reaction the book received. Here I was, a completely unknown author having just completed my very first book — ever — and it was selling like hotcakes. Yet this only goes to prove one of the basic tenets of science fiction writing: The Concept is King! If the idea is good, then science fans will flock to it. The story of Humans being the badasses in the galaxy really struck a chord, and now, exactly two years a few days after releasing The Fringe Worlds, there are six books completed in the series, and soon to be a seventh (and probably going to nine and beyond). I’ve sold nearly 150,000 copies of my books in two years, and The Human Chronicles Saga was one of the bestselling series on Amazon in 2012 — and should be again in 2013.

Besides the unique concept of the storyline, I also attribute some of the success of the series to the fact that I write very cinematically (after all, I am a product of the TV age). My writing is bare-bones and without fluff, so much so that many of my fans have commented on how quickly they’ve read my books … and about how long it takes me to write more! But with people’s short attention spans these days, I think readers like books they can blast right through … as long as there is another one available right afterwards.

I also believe in getting right into the story and in keeping the reader engaged — constantly — until the very last page. This comes from my journalism training, where one needs to hook the reader immediately, grab them by the throat and not let them go until they’ve read the entire article. (Well, maybe not so dramatic as that.) But really, I’m not out to impress anyone with my poetic and flowery writing style, or mastery of obscure words no one uses in everyday conversation.  I have a story to tell and I’m going to tell it in the most direct manner I can.

On a personal note, the success of series has allowed me to leave my 25-year career in real estate and mortgages and pursue writing full time — an ambition of mine since I was twelve! Better late than never, right? Also, for you out there thinking about pursuing a career in writing, I’ve pulled in close to $400,000 in two years, simply from my little science fiction ebooks!

And although there will come a time when The Human Chronicles Sage comes to an end (or I take a break from the story of Adam Cain for a while), my writing style will remain the same. I hope my fans will follow me into the future, as I pursue other ideas and create new worlds in which to play.

By the way, there will be a large section in this blog devoted to writing and publishing. Even though my success has been recent, it has been substantial compared to others, and in an effort to keep it going, I do try to analyze everything so I can figure out what works and what doesn’t. Within this blog I will pass along my findings, advice and experiences. I hope all aspiring authors will follow me, as we discover even more writing success … together.

Frankly, being an independent author is the most fantastic job in the world. As I tell others: All I have to do is sit around and make shit up — and I get paid for doing it!

You can’t beat that.

T.R. (Tom) Harris