A Character Interview with Colonel Ramachandra || “Flipspace” by John Steiner

Today we bring you an interview conducted by author S. Hampton, Sr. with the character Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra of John Steiner’s Flipspace series – specifically “Branching Out” which is the second mission in the series.


Colonel Ramachandra, please tell us a little bit of your background and how you came to serve in the Naval Aerospace Treaty Organization. I assume NATO is a descendant of the original 1949 organization, North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

“Yes, yes it is. Following the formation of the Pan-American Combine near the end of the twenty-first century, it was decided that NATO’s role should be redefined. Many of the newer member nations weren’t located near the North Atlantic. Also, the costs of maintaining modern air forces and navies overtook even the wealthiest of nations.

“I joined in January of 2159 and graduated in the Class of ’61. There were… complications in my life, which is why I entered the Aerospace Defense Response [ADR] in my late twenties. At first other cadets had a little fun over the fact I was ten years older than many of them, but near the end they started looking up to me a bit like I was their mother. I suppose that’s why my command style turned out the way it has.”


How long have you been in command of the ISS-454 Mockingbird? Is it a beautiful ship, or was it built strictly for functionality? How old is the Mockingbird? What are her full capabilities—at this time? You know as well as I do that no organization can resist upgrading and changing things.

“There are really two starts for my command. The first was being selected as the ISS-454 Mission Commander a little under a year before becoming CO of the Mockingbird itself. Once the ISV-71 Raven passed the test phase a year-long training phase started for myself and my crew.”


By the way, what is the ISV-71 Raven, and how does she differ from the Mockingbird?

“The Intra-System Vessel, Model 71 denotes the year that the test bed exited development as NATO’s chosen multi-role deep space platform. To reduce the minimum number of in-service designs, the Mockingbird and other Ravens were built to be undergo frequent remodulation for several simultaneous mission-specific functions. The Mockingbird and then the Magpie were the first and second of the line.

“The concept, as I understand it, was to ensure that NATO wasn’t forced to devote so many resources to successive waves of wholly untested spacecraft in order to maintain cutting edge capabilities. The talk is that the ISV-71 Raven could remain in service for sixty years at least.”


How long has Major Lamarr Fitch been your Executive Officer, and Chief Master Sergeant Carl Anders been the Chief of the Bird? Can you tell us a little of their background too?

“The Major’s career trajectory and life history aren’t what you’d call the straightest of lines. He’s big on fast cars, and he has a strong command of what the rules are in most any situation. Some of us on the Mockingbird are a little suspicious of how intimately familiar Fitch is with the law.

“As for the Chief? His early childhood was on the Kuiper Belt Object, Pluto. His parents, aunts and uncles, who were all living as an extended family in one habitat, managed to scrape together enough money to move back to Earth. It’s not easy living for most people under Remote Space Conglomerated Industries. I spoke with him about it during our Kepler 22 mission.

“Major Fitch likes to kid around with the Chief and others, though sometimes walks near the edge of undermining his own authority. I just hope he gets a better handle on that so that there isn’t a breakdown of unit cohesion and discipline.”


Were Major Fitch and Chief Anders simply assigned to the Mockingbird, or do you have a say on who your top people are? Individually, what are their greatest strengths, and how do they mesh with you, your personality and expectations?

“Selection for Ravens is only partly under my control. When the 1st Raven Wing was being organized we mission commanders were asked what qualities were best for XO and Chief of the Bird. That’s part of why our training lasted for a year. Much like the NASA astronauts of old, we grew familiar enough to read each other’s vocal tones and gauge underlying messages with greater concession.


How large is the crew of the Mockingbird, and how would you describe that crew?

“There are two circles for crew. Onboard, the original core was for thirty-five, plus AI, Maggie. There’s room for another fifteen extended personnel for certain missions, like our first rescue op. The groundside command numbers around two-hundred maintenance and support.

“However, as of the inclusion of two Flipspace Devices [FSD] on our Extra-Vehicular Frame, which we’ve come to call the FSD frame, our standard compliment was upgrade to thirty-seven. Our original flight surgeon was replaced by Captain Malcolm O’Connell, who also serves as SETI Team Leader. Under him is our FSD expert, Dr. Stanly Goddard and our genetics expert, Specialist Todd Nathanial Ash.

“O’Connell was a firefighter some hundred and fifty years ago, which includes his famous exploits dealing with Self-Propagating Organized Thermotrophs. He’s a C.A.R.E. patient who went through the Combat Augmentation and Recuperative Engineering program from the late-United States Army Medical Corps program.

“Stanly Goddard is what they call a Logician, which is someone with DNA computers in their neurons and wireless synapses throughout the nervous system. Their expertise and education are diverse and extensive, well beyond what most people could handle even as geniuses. He doesn’t use his PhD title, and instead prefers to go by Stanly, or Mr. Wizard.

“As for Todd Nathanial Ash… ehh, I wonder why NATO included him in my command given his notorious background. He used to be a genetic code writer for Runt Racing, which is where they breed animals to be under fifty centimeters tall yet strong enough to take a rider. He admits to being a Gacker, which is something like a computer hacker but with genes instead of software code. The Pan-American Combine security tribunals convicted him for bio-terrorism, and so they’re a little less than pleased that he was given an alternative to serving his full sentence. Frankly, I’m not thrilled by the decision either, but I’m told we needed his skills for any SETI scenario that might crop up.


For those of us new to the world of the Mockingbird, what is Flipspace?

“It’s become a catch term for spatial rotation. Goddard would describe it as a Tesseract or a folding of space to conjoin two locations. Instead of flying through an opening those locations are swapped or flipped, which is where the term came up. The proof of concept was achieved on June 7th, 2173, when a cube of empty space-time was successfully switched with one that contained a sensor probe. While the 1st Raven Wing was officially reclassified as a Light FTL Ops Wing, modern twenty-second century science still hasn’t beaten the quantum barrier. Einstein’s universe speed limit still holds true outside of Non-Locality or NoLo transmissions and Flipspace events.”


Regarding the SETI Protocols, these are descended from the original SETI that was established in 1984 in California? What are some significant changes between the 1984 SETI and the current Protocols?

“At that time the focus was on detecting radio transmissions from what was then called extraterrestrial intelligences. When permanent human presence was established in the solar system and our reach extended to exo-solar planets the SETI Protocol reviews included changes to account for finding physical evidence of intelligent life or their technology. We’ve since learned that those earliest of radio transmissions from Earth degrade completely within just a few tens of light-years. Also, the prospect of waiting centuries if not millennia for an answer compelled later generations of scientists to reevaluate the practicality of radio communication between stars.

“With the SPOT phenomena that Captain O’Connell encountered and the artificial intelligence breakthrough much later, it was decided that clarification was in order. Now we have the term Natural Environmentally-Selected Intelligences to specify that a form of intelligence arose as a byproduct of physical processes wholly independent of human activity.”


Come to think of it, how has Earth changed since the early 21st century?

“The coastlines are quite different. Many Pacific Islands no longer exist, but in their place are oceanic structures that are called Mult-e-nomic platforms. They are centers for overlapping forms of industrial and business, much of it internet-related, which is why the odd ‘e’ in the name.

“You may have noticed a trend of nations forming leagues, unions and combines. That has increased a great deal and for many reasons. Many national governments realized that economics had become bigger than their countries could get a handle on alone. Also, as I described, aerospace and naval defense required increased international cooperation. Peacetime rivalries often bordered on animosity as high or higher than what they used to call a cold war. Stateless threats also have continued to proliferate.

“However, a lot of good has come with the modern twenty-second century. Brain death can be reversed in most circumstances. The nations of the world are starting to get a handle on reversing climate change, and oddly the oceanic oil drilling firms were instrumental in that regard. I hesitate to suggest that spewing greenhouse gasses was a good thing, but it forced us to learn terraforming techniques we might not have otherwise researched.”


Has mankind learned anything since venturing into interstellar space?

“The big shocker was discovering that more than one astral body in the solar system harbors life. Europa’s ice-covered oceans do shelter complex forms of life. While there are bacteria on Mars, we’re unable to distinguish if they’re indigenous or if the Jade Continuum contaminated the planet after declaring their independence from the former People’s Republic of China.

“I’d like to say we’ve tamped down our propensity for conflict, but in truth we just got better at accepting it. The Earth is further from risks of total annihilation, but that’s just the result of advances in precision warfare. As it turns out, the twentieth and twenty-first centuries’ greater threats were in the form of financial warfare, which has persisted as a common practice between powers not quite willing to call each other enemies. Captain O’Connell could probably tell you more about how the world changed, since he lived through most of those decades.”


Between you and us, what is your personal opinion of Remote Space Conglomerated Industries?

“I really wish that their executive boards could take a more humane approach. Despite Chief Anders’ experience, I refuse to believe that everyone in RSCI is bad. Maybe some kind of reformers’ movement could get started. To avoid undermining diplomatic efforts, I don’t think I should delve too much into their social makeup.”


Between Earth and interstellar space, is there someplace that is particularly close to your heart? If so, why?

“I was an aerospace intercept pilot stationed on the Leda Missile Base. Starting my day with the rise of Jupiter and some of its moons made sunrise on Earth a bit boring by comparison. When Leda’s orbit is just right you can see the thin ring that Jupiter has. While I sometimes miss seeing fields of green, Earth also reminds me of troubles I had before joining ADR.


Bearing in mind that plans always change, particularly when serving in a military bureaucracy, what are your plans for your future?

“Honestly, if the powers that be allow it, I hope to stick with command and Raven flight ops. There’s nothing– and I mean nothing, like directing a craft larger than old era cargo planes yet with an agility approaching that of a fighter! During Surface-to-Orbit there’s a point where the Planck engines of atmospheric flight shut off and before the fusion pulse-detonation engine kicks in. It’s just beyond the altitude where blue sky turns black and the stars no longer twinkle. It only lasts a couple of second, and right after you’re knocked into your acceleration couch at anywhere from three to five g-forces!

“I live for that quiet pause between. In more ways than one, you’re crossing between worlds.”


Thank you for joining us today.


About John Steiner

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

Email: john@walkingotherworlds.com
Website: walkingotherworlds.com

S. Hampton, Sr. About S. Hampton, Sr.

Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.

His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.

In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).

After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.

As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.

Hampton can be found at:

Melange Books

Amazon.com Author Page

Amazon.com. UK Author Page

Goodreads Author Page

Book Releases || June 18, 2014

Melange Books Releases June 19, 2014Today’s book releases will give you a little bit of everything to choose from. We have so many releases I won’t waste your time up with an intro and we’ll get right to it.


Seeking Sir Gwain

by Shari Dare

Keith Fletcher and Ian Brice are both on a mission to find the missing Gwain McGowan. Their quest takes them to the hut of the old hag, Tabitha. Even though many years separate the two of them coming to her to seek Gwain, they are both sent to the same place and time, Minter, WI 2008.

Emily Cranston and her roommate, Julie Langdon, are both older women who have given up on ever having sex again. When they find two interesting postings in a dating column of the paper, they decide it’s time to take a chance and see if they can find love.


Finding The Way Back

by Jill Bisker

Finding the Way Back is the story of Laney, a recently divorced woman who agrees to help her mother fix up her dead grandfather’s house. From the first night when she hears ghostly music to later physical attacks that seem targeted only at her, she soon discovers that a spirit in the house may have plans of its own. For her own well-being, she needs to find answers as the danger escalates and she learns to trust herself and others. With the help of her cousin Connie, an attractive ghosthunter named Emmett, and several other eccentric characters, Laney uncovers the dark secret of the house and a new path for her future.


Murder in Her Dreams

Murder In The Shadows #1

by Nell DuVall

Cassie Blake lives with guilt because she failed to heed her dreams and a young girl died. Now, a year later a handsome man and a vicious feral rabbit haunt her dreams. She has no idea of the man’s identity. At first she dismisses the dream as ridiculous, that is, until she discovers the man is real.



A Tucson Kid Western #4

by Richard Dawes

The Tucson Kid escapes Mexico ahead of a gang of outlaws bent on revenge. He rides west into New Mexico and finds himself in the middle of a range war between a brutal rancher and a beautiful widow. As Tucson takes a stand in favor of the widow, he is caught in the cross-fire between the rancher’s hired killers and the Mexican bandits who have finally caught up with him.


Tales From a Broad

by Jeannine Henvey

If you enjoy new twists on old classics, then Tales From A Broad is a comedic adventure of one woman’s quest to find herself, but the spotlight focuses on her older chaperone, instead.

Forty-two and feeling not-so-fabulous, Lucy Banks allows her older sister to talk her into accompanying her twenty-four-year-old niece on a trip around Europe. In the past year she has lost her fiancé, her job and her fertility. Embracing her role as spinster aunt seems to be Lucy’s only option, until she embarks on a romantic adventure through London, Amsterdam, Munich, Paris and Florence. Will a room with a view and a handsome stranger be enough to open her heart and mind to new experiences? Tales From A Broad promises to draw readers into a light-hearted tale of emotional development, self-discovery and love.


A Father’s Love

by Sherry Derr-Wille

When Jenny found herself pregnant at the age of fifteen she thought her life was over, but with supportive parents, she was able to get her education. With her future secure at the hospital on the reservation where she grew up, love was the last thing she wanted in her life.

Brand knew he was going to be practicing in a rural hospital. What he didn’t realize that Jenny, the beautiful Native American girl who entered his life would become so special to him he would become a doctor at the Lac du Flambeau reservation in Northern Wisconsin to be close to her.


When It Rains


by John Steiner

Only 42 light-years away, the exo-solar planet, Henry Draper 40307G, has yet to be visited by humanity. That changes, when the Mockingbird arrives with an astronomical survey team. Deploying probes and deep space telescopes, the science team stumbles upon intelligent aliens on sixth planet. Colonel Rama orders the crew onto alert. Captain O’Connell and his Seti team, clash with ISO scientists while studying the surface life. The crew is shocked again, when a derelict spacecraft is found in a Lagrangian Point beyond the planet’s moon. How many S.E.T.I. encounters they face is uncertain.

Second Act

by Rhonda Strehlow

When CASSIE BURNS’ husband dies her children think she should move into a condo and act like a grandmother. Instead she plans her first solo trip to a resort in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

In a chance encounter she meets mysterious Kurt Troy whose touch makes her “buzz” with excitement and Will Harley who introduces her to the beauty and wonders of farming.

Cassie begins a dual existence of soul-affirming work with Will’s caring family interspersed with spontaneous, intense romantic encounters with Kurt.

When Will’s ex-wife returns, Cassie reluctantly decides to head back to her safe and predictable future. On the way home, she unexpectedly encounters Kurt who invites her to move in with him and she impulsively agrees.

Their time alone is intensely sexual but the reality of living in booze, sex and drug culture intrudes on their haven. Before a big awards presentation, in an effort to erase the affects of time, Cassie becomes fanatical about vanity surgeries, exercise, pills, and bulimia until she overdoses two days before the big night and ends up in the hospital.

As she recovers, how does Cassie choose to play out her Second Act?

Everman and Uriel

by C. A. Withey

In a land of dreams made real, one man causes two worlds to clash, leading to the inevitable destruction of both. It’s up to Caleb Everman to right the wrongs of the dream’s creators, dodging dream-eating mechanical abominations and guardian aspects of the Dreamscape Nexus, while also stealing his love from the written pages of a different land.


Book Releases || May 15, 2014

Melange Books Releases for May 15, 2014

Did you hear? Melange launched a brand new imprint!

It’s called Satin Romance and features only the most romantic of stories in three levels of heat. White, Pink and Red. You can find out all of the details at our website: www.satinromance.com and be sure to subscribe to our Satin Romance Blog so you don’t miss out on all of the great new releases (including “Bait Shop Blues” by our very own owner, Nancy Schumacher – writing as Nancy Pirri.)

Without further delay, scroll down to check out the six brand new books from Melange.

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Wolfman Owner’s Manual

 by Tim Forder

If you’ve ever been attacked by a large man-shaped wolf, or perhaps you’re just interested in the lifestyle of the Wolfman, then this book’s for you. As a changeling myself, I wanted to learn more about my new change of life. This took a lot of time and research, and now I pass what I have learned on to you.

WARNING: This book has bite to it. Read it if you dare!

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Seducing Sir Gwain 

by Shari Dare

Denise Hopkins can’t believe her eyes when her Ouija Board spells out My name is Gwain. I knew you in 1470. You were my brother’s wife and I was your lover. After an erotic dream, Denise wakes up in the body of Davida Brice who is about to be married to the handsome Robert when Charles McGowan announces she belongs to him and takes her as his wife. Gwain McGowan has been called to McGowan manor to become the surrogate father for his brother’s son. Known for his sexual conquests he has no doubt he can father a child, but doing so for his brother is something else. Once he meets Davida he is afraid he will not be able to leave her once the child is christened.

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Fateful Encounters

 by Vovo Verdan

As far as twenty three year old Glen Verne was concerned, the crime was committed for all the right reasons. But unfortunately, the authorities didn’t agree.

Throughout our lives we encounter people who affect us in very different ways. Sometimes the encounter leads us down a path we would rather not have traveled – sometimes, however, it’s just the path we needed.

Glen Verne is a complicated twenty three year old man. He works a dead-end job and any form of excitement is always welcome. He has had his fair share of misfortune in life, and it is this misfortune that has shaped him as a person. He has also had his fair share of good fortune, but as Glen Verne discovers, bad decisions will subjugate good fortune every single time – especially when so many fateful encounters are involved.

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Blood Moon

A Tucson Kid Western #3

by Richard Dawes

The Tucson Kid escapes Mexico ahead of a gang of outlaws bent on revenge. He rides west into New Mexico and finds himself in the middle of a range war between a brutal rancher and a beautiful widow. As Tucson takes a stand in favor of the widow, he is caught in the cross-fire between the rancher’s hired killers and the Mexican bandits who have finally caught up with him. 

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Oh Fortuna


by John Steiner

During a deep space rescue, the Mockingbird receives emergency dispatch orders for the Fortuna asteroid. Colonel Rama is warned of Russian Federation and Remote Space Conglomerated Industries vessels. The Fortuna Foreign Relations Office invites Mockingbird’s senior officers and Federation command officers to an embassy dinner. The two Earth powers are asked to defend Fortuna from RSCI clandestine ops. Lt. Cipactli Arroyo-Diaz, and his team are invited to a “friendly” game of soccer with Russian security. Stanley Goddard runs into an old nemesis in the form of a Federation Logician.


Melange Book Releases || April 17, 2014 + Giveaway

2014-04-17There’s still time to enter to win the $10 Amazon gift card! Scroll to the bottom to enter!

 ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“Unexpected Blind Date”
by Joanne Rawson

If any of Grace Worthing’s friends dared to suggest she should go on a blind date, her answer would have been, “Blind dates are so tacky; they are definitely for the desperate.” She was so over men! After her fifth Sex on the Beach cocktail she told friends she would never have sex again, let alone have sex on a beach. Then, somewhere between her second and third tequila slammer, Grace found herself, agreeing to meet Adrian. Little did she know how interesting and unexpected her blind date would be.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“The Belialish Incident”
by D. B. Crawford

Vince Bocca, a Boston restaurateur and formerly a part-time white collar crime sleuth, is thrown back into the game when a bank president asks him to find the more than two million dollars a senior bank employee, Mark Overdale, embezzled. Overdale confessed that he spent the money gambling, but the banker is convinced Overdale is not a gambler and that he has hidden the money so he can enjoy it when he is released from prison.

Setting out to unearth the missing money, clues take Bocca from the penitentiary where Overdale is doing time to the casinos of Atlantic City and a New York auction house. Working with Overall’s neurotic wife, Bocca suspects the bank’s money was used to buy two original paintings by Paul Gauguin from a private collector. However, before Bocca can piece it all together, someone tries to kill the art dealer handling the transaction. As the police look for the would-be killer, Bocca uncovers Overall’s accomplice. But is she also working for someone else?

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“Astraeus Event”
Missions 1-3
by John Steiner

Flipspace 1

Training for the ISS Mockingbird, Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra and Major Lamarr Fitch find that they’re being deployed before certification. The ISS Astraeus, an International Space Organization vessel fails to transmit its latest exploration report in the Gliese 667 System twenty-two light-years away. Colonel Ramachandra learns that the Mockingbird she commands was built for more than intra-solar operation. Three people with complicated and enigmatic backgrounds are added to her crew roster just before launch.

Flipspace 2

The ISS Mockingbird is ordered to Kepler 22 to check up on a re-search outpost set up by the Astraeus. Colonel Ramachandra and her crew discover on the planet, Kepler 22B a form of life that doesn’t need ships to travel through space. Also present is a base established by Remote Space Conglomerated Industries. Their operations put profit before the concerns of the indigenous life. An unauthorized distress call originates from the RSCI base. Colonel Rama must risk breaching their air defenses to comply with international conventions and save lives.

Flipspace 3

On completion of two missions, the crew of the Mockingbird returns to Earth for Grav Leave. Not everyone welcomes them back as intrepid explorers and peacekeepers. Colonel Ramachandra becomes the target of a kidnapping plot, and the abductors’ motives aren’t clear. Major Lamarr Fitch struggles with the responsibilities of filling in. He must organize the ship’s crew to get Colonel Rama back. Captain Malcolm O’Connell confronts his past and the legacy of being a reincarnated Xerces Protocol patient.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Don’t forget there is still time to enter to win the $10 Amazon giftcard!

Simply sign up to receive updates from our Young Adult blog, Fire and Ice. Be sure to CONFIRM your email subscription or your entry won’t count.

Melange Book Release|| March 12, 2014


From romance to chic-lit to sci-fi, we’ve got you covered with these three great short stories from Megan Hussey, Joanne Rawson and John Steiner.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Sea Prince

by Megan Hussey

Artist Vivian draws endless inspiration from the beaches and waters of her tropical home. When she meets the exotic Haiden, she finds the ultimate muse—the handsome prince of an exotic undersea kingdom where nature always takes its course….

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Learner Mum

 by Joanne Rawson

Polly Wilkins is a successful freelance journalist slash writer. She has been living with her partner Steve in what her parents call sin for the last eight years. But, to her parent’s disappointment, there are no signs of wedding bells or the patter of tiny feet on the horizon. Why? Because Polly, is not in the least bit maternal. Can this all change after Polly and Steve have a torrid weekend looking after her nephew? Or will Polly stick to her guns and loose Steve forever?

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Sol Side Up


by John Steiner

On completion of two missions, the crew of the Mockingbird returns to Earth for Grav Leave. Not everyone welcomes them back as intrepid explorers and peacekeepers. Colonel Ramachandra becomes the target of a kidnapping plot, and the abductors’ motives aren’t clear. Major Lamarr Fitch struggles with the responsibilities of filling in. He must organize the ship’s crew to get Colonel Rama back. Captain Malcolm O’Connell confronts his past and the legacy of being a reincarnated Xerces Protocol patient.

An Interview with Author Daphne Olivier + Giveaway

For today’s Q & A I’m happy to welcome John Steiner, author of multiple Sci-Fi books including “Fire Alive”, “Squad V”, “Flipspace: Flight of the Mockingbird” and “Flipspace: Branching out.”

John is here today interviewing Daphne Olivier. She is the author of the upcoming “Thunder on the Veldt,” but John will be talking to her today about her 2013 mystery/sci-fi release, “Pegasus Project.”

About “Pegasus Project”:

When Jack Randal lands a job with Bells Biological Research Centre, he sets off for the remote South African farm, unaware of the dangers lurking behind the high, electrified fence. It doesn’t take long for him to uncover a top-secret project. When a fellow scientist dies under mysterious circumstances, Jack zeros in on the Pegasus Project. Tension mounts as he probes the dark secret surrounding the genetically modified bio-fuel, and the time comes when he must decide whether to risk his life in order to prevent a global catastrophe.

John: The subject of Pegasus Project deals with GMOs, but the story hails from a long tradition of noir mysteries. What prompted that aspect of the story?

Daphne: I’ve spent a good deal of my life on a farm so agriculture was a natural choice for a theme. A high-security GMO research farm was the perfect setting. All I needed was a protagonist to step into danger and risk his life to prevent a global catastrophe. Bingo—The Pegasus Project was born!

John: A hero’s foibles and a villain’s virtues can be as compelling in a story as the plot itself. The actor, Stephen Lang, who plays Colonel Quaritch in the movie Avatar, describes the villain he plays as, “Half a step away from being a hero.” Yet the main antagonist’s redeeming attribute in Pegasus Project, that of wanting to address climate change is itself marred by his desire to prove himself to the memory of a father who thought he’d amount to nothing. Tell us more about how you devised this character and why.

Daphne: Most of my characters start off as carbon copies of people I know. But pretty soon a strange thing happens— they take on a life of their own. And when I ‘got into the antagonist’s head’ I discovered that few men set out to do evil. Most times their actions are the result of circumstances combined with a flaw in their character. That’s what I wanted to portray with Brandt.

John: Certain action scenes and the many research projects in the novel strike me as an interesting mix of Dr. Moreau and a scheme that James Bond would be dispatched to stop, all with the background feel of the movie of District 9. What did you base the Pegasus 694 research program on, and the actions taken in the story to maintain its secrecy?

Daphne: Some from my research, some from my imagination and some from talking to a friend who worked on a similar research farm in a remote part of South Africa.

John: You live in South Africa, where the story takes place, so the regulations governing GMOs differ from those of the FDA and EPA. Do you think that program like Pegasus 694 or the other practices portrayed in the novel could happen?

Daphne: I most certainly do—not only in South Africa, but anywhere in the world. In my opinion, the danger of GMO is not the fact that they are genetically modified (most GMOs in use today are beneficial) but the possibility that the research may fall into the wrong hands. If that happens, the result may be worse than the scenario painted in my novel.

John: If given a choice of research projects in any company, what scientific challenge would you tackle?

Daphne: Medicine. I trained as a nurse so my choice would be some aspect of medical research.

John: Your other works include The Way It Was, The Kennaway Woman and Rock-A-bye Baby in the Having My Baby anthology. The first reminds me of a Bruce Hornsby song title about people facing hard times and discrimination in hiring in America. Pegasus Project seems like a sharp break from those genres and closer to science fiction, which I enjoy most. Is this the start of a new tract in your writing?

Daphne: Not at all. I read and write in a wide range of genre. When not working on a novel, I write science fiction. Most of my stories have appeared in sci-fi magazines. Maybe, just maybe, my next novel will be a SF… or a thriller… or historical fiction… There are so many ideas going around in my head, it’s difficult to settle on one.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

About Daphne Olivier

From an early age Daphne Olivier read everything she could lay hands on—biography, fantasy, historical fiction, thriller, mythology, science fiction and the classics. Her novels reflect this wide interest for she has written in several different genre—thriller, science fiction, young adult and historical fiction—all set in South Africa. She lives in a small South African town with her husband and their two dogs.

Blog: www.daphneolivierdotnet.wordpress.com

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

About John Steiner

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

Melange: https://melange-books.com/authors/johnsteiner/index.html

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Leave a comment on the blog and enter to win a free ebook copy of “The Pegasus Project.”

Winner will be chosen on March 11, 2014.

Book Releases || February 24, 2014

Today I’m happy to announce four new books!

Before we get into that though, for anyone who tried to enter the contest last week for John Steiner’s new Sci-Fi book, FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird, I apologize that the comments for the blog were not working and all comments will need to be re-entered in order to be counted. I welcome you to enter again here. We have extended the giveaway through March 4th so hurry over to John’s interview and enter now!

In other news, Fire and Ice, our Young Adult/New Adult book line finally has it’s own blog! We’ve got really great releases this week that I’m so excited to share with you so I beg of you to please visit the new blog and subscribe to get updates! We’ve got mermaids, we’ve got horses, we’ve got time travel and we’ve got a teen girl dealing with bullies! Visit the blog here: www.fireandiceya.com/blog

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

2014-02-23~ * ~ * ~ * ~

"Second Best" by Charmaine Pauls

Second Best by Charmaine Pauls

The first time that Molly sees Malcolm is in Oudtshoorn, South Africa in 1978, when he jumps from the back of an army truck to challenge her through the school yard fence. Little did she know then, when she boldly gave him the middle finger, how their lives would become intertwined.

Surviving the secret horrors of an industrial school, juvenile delinquent Molly van Aswegen grows into a tough and troubled woman who has sworn never to love anyone enough to be vulnerable. When Malcolm McLeod, rebel journalist and soldier, comes home from the Angolan border war to save Molly from her institution, he starts fighting a different war altogether—the battle for both of their souls.

Molly’s fight for survival and Malcolm’s moral struggle will expose them as anti-conformists, at risk of being branded and outcast from society during a politically turbulent time when South Africa is in the midst of a twenty-three year long war.

Second Best is a tender story about the scars of the human soul, and the road that leads to healing.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

FLIPSPACE: Branching Out by John SteinerFLIPSPACE: Branching Out by John Steiner

The ISS Mockingbird is ordered to Kepler 22 to check up on a research outpost set up by the Astraeus. Colonel Ramachandra and her crew discover on the planet, Kepler 22B a form of life that doesn’t need ships to travel through space. Also present is a base established by Remote Space Conglomerated Industries. Their operations put profit before the concerns of the indigenous life. An unauthorized distress call originates from the RSCI base. Colonel Rama must risk breaching their air defenses to comply with international conventions and save lives.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

"Within Reach" by Jill BiskerWithin Reach by Jill Bisker

Within Reach is the contemporary fiction story of Emma, a woman coming to terms with her mother’s increasing dementia and the everyday challenges associated with it. While serving as caregiver for her mother, she inexplicably finds herself ‘re-living’ specific events from her past, including times spent with her parents when she was a child. She soon wonders if her own sanity is slipping as she struggles to understand what is happening to her. If she can unlock the meaning of the visions from her past, she might be able to face the uncertainty of her future. Her mother must have the key—if only she can reach her.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

"Outlaw's Secrets" by Sherry Derr-WilleOutlaw’s Secrets by Sherry Derr-Wille

For Clay Martin his parents’ past is something he knows nothing about. He’s hoping a summer spent with his Uncle Gary in Missouri will shed some light on it. Amy Baines has a secret too, but doesn’t know it until Clay comes to town and helps her delve into her forgotten past. By the time they realize their friendship could lead to more, Clay has gone back to San Francisco and Amy is coming to grips with her St. Louis family. Can they bridge the miles and find love?

An Interview with John Steiner + Giveaway

We’re happy to be introducing a new series of interviews with some of our authors.

We’re kicking things off with author Daphne Olivier (“The Pegasus Project”, “The Way it Was” and “The Kennaway Woman”) interviewing author John Steiner (“Fire Alive!” and The “Squad V” series)

First, a little about “FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird”

Training for the ISS Mockingbird, Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra and Major Lamarr Fitch find that they’re being deployed before certification. The ISS Astraeus, an International Space Organization vessel fails to transmit its latest exploration report in the Gliese 667 System twenty-two light-years away. Colonel Ramachandra learns that the Mockingbird she commands was built for more than intra-solar operation. Three people with complicated and enigmatic backgrounds are added to her crew roster just before launch.

Now let’s get things started!

“FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird” by John Steiner

Daphne: Hello. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.

John: As a kid I was disappointed by the science fiction I was seeing, and in junior high school I preferred writing a fictional character’s journal rather a journal of myself as assigned by the teacher. Because I’d practically addicted to spaceflight I’ll start daydreaming it if I’m not getting enough in the news or in fiction.
Daphne: Flight of the Mockingbird is science fiction story that takes place in the far-distant future. Do you write in any other genre?

John: Other genres include speculative fiction, fantasy and horror.


Daphne: Who is you favourite sci-fi author?

John: It’s probably a tossup between Michael Crichton and Arthur C. Clarke. They both tackled stories with the backing of solid science, and still engrossed us with the depth of their characters and events in the story.


Daphne: What is the most memorable sci-fi book you’ve ever read?

John: That would be the Giants of Ganymede series by James P. Hogan. It involves finding a dead human astronaut on the moon who has been there for over 50,000 years. The discoveries and debates between main characters were intense and riveting, and engaged me to also speculate as to the outcome of the novel. This is what’s referred to as Active Reading, as those the audience is a participant in the story.


Daphne: What inspired you to write Flight of the Mockingbird?

John: The spaceflight monkey was riding me pretty hard. NASA missions were few, far between and all unmanned. Even shows involving space exploration were a let-down. I was excited for the series, “Star Trek: Enterprise” until a character I call, “Captain Buzzkill from the 26th century” steps in and spills the beans about what the first starship will encounter in the future.


Daphne: If Flight of the Mockingbird was made into a film, who would you choose to be the leading character?

John: That’s tough, because I’m not that familiar with Hindi-American or Bollywood actors from India. Most of the actresses from India I’ve seen kept their hair long, whereas Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra has hers very short.

I do picture Chief Carl Anders as being played by Carl Weathers, and wrote Major Lamarr Fitch as if he were Nathan Fillion.


Daphne: What are you working on at the moment?

John: The finale for the Astraeus Event series of Flipspace. I have a science fiction novel, “Bridging the Lotus” and a fantasy novel, “Brute” that are both waiting to be finished.


Daphne: Do you manage to write every day?

John: Not always. I’ve learned never to force a story if it’s not flowing, because the results always turned out bad.


Daphne: How do balance writing with all of life’s responsibilities?

John: To quote Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, “First order of business, survival.” The day job must be dealt with, because that’s where my steady money is. Sometimes Sniffles, my cat demands attention and may get very insistent.


Daphne: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?

John: Originally I wouldn’t take on more than one story at a time, but lately I’ve realized that a mood shift will push me to do a story in another genre, where creativity opens up. Also, I have a few PC games that I imagine my story through as I play, or just to numb the mind.


Daphne: Do you plot your stories from beginning to end or do you just get an idea and run with it?

John: I envision key scenes, and gauge how much character growth or plot development is needed to bridge them. Many times the ending isn’t known to me until I get there. Other stories I had plotted out, but the pathway leads itself to an unexpected direction.

Think of Shmendrick the Magician in The Last Unicorn, “Magic, magic, do as you will.”

There are even times when I get the story in whole or in part during the dream. If it’s too vague, sometimes the dream will provide a narrator or subtitles.


Daphne: Do you think the Flipspace device you describe in your novel will ever be developed and used to achieve faster than light space travel?

John: The science suggests that tesseracts could exist, but the question is why they don’t occur naturally. Two hurdles exist for interstellar flight. The first is energy, but the second is precision. Vacuum Energy could solve the power problem if we can figure out why observed

Vacuum Energy doesn’t match what established quantum principles suggest should occur. Also, figuring out how to harness it is the other issue. With precision that may prove trickier, because it means calculating trajectories with several magnitudes more accuracy than we’ve ever done before.

Alternative means of FTL travel are serious points of interest for NASA. One of those is the Alcubierre drive. You can find a description on nasa.gov or other the 100 Year Starship Project which is 100yss.org.


Daphne: The combat scenes you describe in Flight of the Mockingbird are very realistic. Are they based on real life experience or are they simply drawn from your imagination?

John: My time in the military was only a couple months, and that was back in 1992. However,

I had spoken to veterans of wars from WWII all the way through to the latest Iraq War. I read about military combat experiences, operations and watched documentaries on the subject. I had decided that in adult fiction I wanted no sugar-coating of combat. That combat is a terrifying thing is the point of why we should avoid conflict until left no other choice.


Daphne: I was intrigued by the gene importation therapy, cellular cybernetics and genetic hacking you describe. Do you think humans will ever utilise such practices?

John: The 20th century is where we discovered DNA, learned its code for proteins and unravelled the human genome. In the 21st I expect us to understand the epistatic genome which are the genes that don’t code for proteins, but influence those which do. Then Our understanding of gene interaction will be good enough that we’ll tackle major medical problems and work them with the same efficiency as any other machine.

Gene therapy exists now in its infancy, and I think we’ll go further at first to deal with genetic disorders. Following that, we’ll tackle those genes which are normal in the human species, yet lead to series problems, such as joints, blood flow, aging and other ailments that are the result of mutations that all primates inherited or that are common to all mammals.

Then we’ll decided that maybe we should have a double-retina. There is one defective step in the pathway for making vitamin C that all primates have, which we may decide should be fixed. If we learn how to prevent harmful mutations, we’ll then be able to insert the amphibian regeneration gene, whereas the one all mammals, birds and reptiles have contain defects.

In the century to come we’ll learn to write genes that have no natural parallel, but create enzymes that can in turn produce nanotechnology. This would give us thumbs at the molecular level.


Daphne: One of your characters is reconstructed and brought back to life 28 years after his death. Present-day doctors are already using stem cells to grow new body parts, but is it theoretically feasible to reconstruct a whole body.? And if so, would the reconstructed man have the memory and personality of the one who died?


“Fire Alive!” by John Steiner

John: Captain Malcolm O’Connell is a carry-over character from “Fire Alive!” His reconstitution had to do with the Xerces Protocol, which involved not only preserving neurological stems cells, but a computer backup to the neuro-synaptic pattern that represents his mind at the moment of death. I’m still deciding on what new limits to lifespan might emerge, but in Flipspace there are several legal issues as to what is considered the same person, and whether a patient has a living will for “Do Not Reconstitute.”


Daphne: Is your novel part of a series?  Can you tell me a little about the world you’ve created and what makes it so different from today’s world.

John: At present, Flipspace is a twelve part series, which I constructed on the model of television or cable series. The first twelve stories are “The Astraeus Event” which is where the ISS Mockingbird crew are sent on various missions to eventually figure out what happened and how to find the crew of the ISS Astraeus.

The world of Flipspace, which is in 2175, is where I think we’ll end up as a world of nations and alliances based on the social and geo-political trends I see today. While I can’t be sure we’ll have solved the FTL problem, I think the other technologies of Flipspace will arrive by 2175 or sooner. That all depends on what emerges that might stall advancement of civilization or even knocks us back.


Daphne: Did you use a critique partner or group to help with revisions and editing?

John: With Flipspace I had a test audience. One of those is a civilian pilot, who is a big fan of WWII aces, and another is a good friend of mine at the college I work for.


Daphne: If you had a time machine, what time period would you travel to?

John: Forward… definitely forward. I tell people never wish to live in an era before penicillin. I have a good idea of where humanity will be in the future, but the time to get there is likely longer than I’ll live. Malcolm O’Connell as the “oldest non-consecutively living” human being is born in 2002. Most especially, I would love to be on hand to witness our first encounter with extra-terrestrial life, in particular intelligent life.


Daphne: Some of your characters are genetically enhanced. If you had access to such “enhancement” what characteristics would you choose?

John: My wish for enhancements is closer to fantasy, which would be a duel state genome, where traits for human and wolf were present, and I switched between them. Barring that, the claws and sharp teeth just because I feel like I should’ve had them. The fluorocarbon nano-cages that O’Connell and the Ghostwalkers have would be nice. I’d love to sprint for nearly an hour and not be short of breath. Anything that meant joints and nerves never broke down. Having the kind of immune system like a shark, where disease and cancer are never a factor would be great, without having to wait four hundred million years of evolution to get it. Better senses, and greater capacity of the brain. It’d be a long list.


Daphne: What hopes and plans do you have for your writing future?

John: I have to wrap up “Brute” and “Bridging the Lotus.” I’m also considering an urban fantasy series in the same writing template as Flipspace. I feel like the “Squad V” series needs one more novel to show where the overall theme is ending at, and maybe a few prequel stories to go with it. Other stories will be brought to me as the universe sees fit.


Leave a comment below and we’ll give one lucky commenter a free copy of John’s first FLIPSPACE mission, “Flight of the Mockingbird.” Winner may choose Kindle, PDF or ePub file format.

Winner will be chosen via random.org on February 25, 2014 March 4, 2014.

NOTE: Due to an issue with comments not posting, this giveaway has been EXTENDED.

John Steiner

John Steiner

About John Steiner:

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College and works as a college tutor at Salt Lake Community College. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.

Contact John:
Melange: https://melange-books.com/authors/johnsteiner/index.html
Website: www.walkingotherworlds.com

Daphne Olivier

Daphne Olivier

About Daphne Olivier:

Daphne Olivier grew up in the foothills of the Amatolas, where the novel is set, and where many of the locals still speak with pride of their German/Irish heritage. The story of the Kennaway Girls has always fascinated her, and a visit to the museum in East London, which displays a collection of historic memorabilia, inspired her to write a novel based on the life of one of these brave women.

After training as a nurse, Daphne married and for many years lived on a farm. Today she lives in a small South African town together with her husband and their two dogs.

Contact Daphne:
Blog: http://dapholivier.wordpress.com

Melange Book Releases || January 28, 2014

Melange Releases for January 28, 2014

Melange Releases for January 28, 2014

Melange Books Releases

"Proposition" by Ola Wegner (Second Edition)

“Proposition” by Ola Wegner (Second Edition)

Proposition by Ola Wegner
(Second Edition)

Librarian Amy Carpenter decides to marry a wealthy man, whom she barely knows and whom she does not love. She agrees to the arranged marriage with Jake Barry in order to rescue her father’s company. She is a both pretty and intelligent, but she underestimates herself in many ways.

Jake Barry is an entrepreneur and owns a building company, among others firms. He is very successful professionally, but feels less fortunate in his personal life. Jake is ruthless and even manipulative if he wants something – and he wants Amy.

Amy wants to develop feelings for her husband, but is wary though she sees the tender side of Jake. Can the two learn to understand one another, as well as to deal with their painful past relationships and past partners; in order to find the true love both are learning they deserve?

"FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird" by John Steiner

“FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird” by John Steiner

FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird by John Steiner

Training for the ISS Mockingbird, Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra and Major Lamarr Fitch find that they’re being deployed before certification. The ISS Astraeus, an International Space Organization vessel fails to transmit its latest exploration report in the Gliese 667 System twenty-two light-years away. Colonel Ramachandra learns that the Mockingbird she commands was built for more than intra-solar operation. Three people with complicated and enigmatic backgrounds are added to her crew roster just before launch.

Fire and Ice YA Books Releases

"Pony Dreams" by K. C. Sprayberry

“Pony Dreams” by K. C. Sprayberry

Pony Dreams by K. C. Sprayberry

Abigail Weston’s starry-eyed dream is to become the first female Pony Express rider. Ma, Pa, and six overprotective brothers won’t even let her near the corral to train mustangs for the mail venture, so she gives up her dream to sneak out and talk to the ponies, teaching them to accept her weight on their backs.

Then her life changes and all her dreams are dust. Or are they?

"Little Girls Dream Big" by Nicole Angeleen

“Little Girls Dream Big” by Nicole Angeleen

Little Girls Dream Big by Nicole Angeleen

Olympic gymnast Trixie Dalca’s world is destroyed the day her sister Ileana falls during training, slips into a coma, and dies. To cope with the loss, Trixie turns to her best friend, American gymnast Shaye Sylvester. Together with Shaye and amateur documentary filmmaker Abby Vicari, the three unlikely investigators question whether Ileana’s death was merely a tragic accident or murder.

Igniting Fire Alive! // Guest Post by John Steiner

 Igniting Fire Alive! 

It licks without a tongue.
It breathes without lungs.
It devours without teeth.
It rages without a heart.
It cannot be frightened.

"Backdraft" (1991)

“Backdraft” (1991)
Photo from IMDB

These are the reason for writing the novel, Fire Alive! As a kid I wasn’t one of those who saw being a “fireman” as something I wanted to do when I grew up. Having seen Backdraft, I started to take interest in the idea that fire might be a living thing of sorts. I brought this up with one of the students at the college, where I work, and he mentioned that he had been in the wildfire service. He told me that the ideal psychology of a firefighter was one of believing the fire to be a living creature that was out to get you. I also realized that there weren’t that many stories which centered on firefighters.

Originally, I planned to write the story as taking place in the present day, but stopped myself. I’m a science fiction writer! Why not have it happen in the future? Who else has done science fiction firefighting other than Ray Bradbury? His firefighters burned books, so I didn’t think that counted. Fire Alive! takes place in the year 2026. It would allow me to toy with technological ideas, and possibly show how fire departments of the future might update their training.

From there, I endeavored myself to cast a story of how real firefighters handle their job using the metaphor of living fire creatures to convey to other people what the job was like. First, as always with my work, was to get the details right. I set about learning about fire suppression tactics, equipment, culture and procedures around firefighting.

An especially lucky find were the YouTube training videos by Captain Dale G. Pekel of the Wauwatosa Fire Department. Along with being a company officer, Captain Pekel is a certified firefighter instructor. His many videos demonstrate how to handle all manner of emergencies, and he shows how to build training props out of low-cost materials. After watching these, I emailed Captain Pekel explaining what I was writing and entailed some ideas I had. He particularly enjoyed my invention of the Ninth Evolution or “Ninth Circle” to the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus confidence course, which at present has eight evolutions or tests that every firefighter must overcome.

I then decided on the environs for the novel to be set in, and realized that I should pay tribute to a local fire station not far from home. As such, Fire Alive! centers on Salt Lake City’s Station 8. I called that station and asked if I could interview them and get a sense of the station’s layout. The first time I called was interrupted by an alarm that the department had to respond to, which I describe later. The idea of compartment fires, those being fire incidences in enclosed spaces, seemed the most interesting. Urban/suburban fires were also the reason for choosing Station 8, whose zone of operation overlaps these nicely, giving a wide variety of action scenes. For that, I needed more information about combating fires.

Thus, I found firetactics.com, a webpage created by Paul Grimwood, retired firefighter who worked in New York and London, former Principle Fire Safety Design Engineer and currently serves as a Principle Fire Safety Engineer. His website contains a library of articles, many written by Grimwood himself, regarding various fire emergency situations. I still have the notes I took, when studying the websites articles on compartment fires. The basics seemed simple; that every fire needs fuel, air to oxidize and an ignition source.

However, the world is a bigger lab and things get more complicated when entering the Dragon’s Lair. Grimwood’s descriptions of how to read smoke, establishing tactical ventilation and the mechanics of fire behavior had me thinking firefighters faced an enemy akin to John Carpenter’s The Thing. I learned things that truly creeped me out, such as the concept of “Snake Fires.”

Snake Fires are when the smoke, which is unburned fuel, is so dense that it prevents sufficient air for a fire to burn. A room that’s ablaze might appear to be contained from spreading to other compartments. However, as the main fire is being slain by people on the hose line, a streak of combustion could occur along the ceiling. Lacking enough air to reignite the gas billowing over fire crews’ heads, this sinusoidal line of incineration would slither along at random until entering a new room where ample air exists with enough smoke for a new inferno to be born.

"The Thing" (1992)

“The Thing” (1982)
Photo from IMDB

This is likened to a scene in The Thing where the creature’s head detaches itself from the body, as the characters attempt to kill it. That this event had a real world parallel instilled into me more respect for what dangers firefighters face on the job. Of course, there’s also room in storytelling to show when things get really bad, and that sometimes people make mistakes.

In my correspondences with Captain Pekel he sent me a video of the National Firefighter Instructors Association. The speaker was Lieutenant Ray McCormack of NYFD’s Ladder 28. Lt. McCormack brought up the four D’s of firefighting: Dirty, Demanding, Difficult and Dangerous, which he said is how it will always be. There’s nothing wrong with today’s firefighter, Lt. McCormack said, however, he did find fault with some of today’s leadership. In detail, he described a steady drip-drip of safety messages that he believed undermined the most critical asset to any firefighting company, public trust. In this, he described the fact that a fire company might be so focused on safety for the firefighter that they fail to prioritize the safety of the people counting on firefighters to be there when needed most.

In place of the Culture of Safety, Lt. McCormack argues strongly for a Culture of Extinguishment. This led me to add a plot element in Fire Alive! where the main character, Captain Duane “Longhand” Longhurst reflects back on McCormack’s words as one of the firefighters who was in the audience that day. In the novel, Captain Longhurst often receives praise for a rescue of fellow firefighters early in his career. However, Longhurst himself always saw that mission as a failure for one unanticipated fact. Civilians, whose presence wasn’t known during Longhurst’s evacuation of other firefighters, had died just minutes prior to a new rescue team discovering their final whereabouts.

This is the memory that both haunts Captain Longhurst and motivates how he works throughout the story. Longhurst’s occasional discarding of safety protocol in order to save civilians earns his fire battalion the name Crazy Eight, but captures the firefighter motto of, Risk a lot to save a lot, risk little to save little and risk nothing to save nothing.

However, that’s ordinary fire with complexities that might elude those of us not baptized by its fiery wrath. For this novel, I set out to learn how an organism based on fire might come to exist. I looked into particle physics to uncover such things as Superfluidity. I postulated that in certain quantum states particles might convey their kinetic energy, which we experience as heat, in only one direction along their axis of spin.

This allowed me to devise a creature composed of particles that hadn’t formed atoms and didn’t have appreciable mass. Because of their quantum states, infinitesimally thin filaments became the composition of the creature’s body. These Superfluid filaments exist at less than a tenth of a degree above Absolute Zero. However, because of their spin-specific heat convection, the fire creatures were enveloped by temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun. This spin property also allowed me to craft a way that the creatures could absorb heat from fuel sources as a means of eating.

“Fire Alive!” by John Steiner

The title itself, exclamation point included, I came up with as a new emergency code that firefighters would declare when encountering what I called a S.P.O.T. or Self-Propagating Organized Thermotroph. When firefighters encounter Spots in the novel they would declare, “Fire alive, fire alive, fire alive.” This then informs all other first responders on the scene to change their tactics to suit the infernal creatures.

The stage was set, it seemed. However, I still felt that the spirit of firefighting needed to be defined. In my interview of SLC’s Station 8 firefighters there was great emphasis that I learn about the Knights of Malta and the origins of the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross has become the symbol of firefighters everywhere. The Knights of Malta arguably were the world’s first fire rescue professionals. During sieges of the crusades the Knights of Malta encountered a new weapon in the form of naphtha, a moderately combustible liquid that Arabic soldiers employed to defend their fortifications. At that moment knights found their mission changed from one of combat to rescuing their fellows from a fiery fury. This became the inspiration for a couple of scenes in Fire Alive!, one of which is Longhurst’s dream before waking up to the sound of a station alarm.

Equally important to American firefighters was the Irish symbolism that pervades firefighter culture. When Irish immigrants came to America they encountered bigotry that tends to be aimed at every new wave of peoples who choose to become Americans. The shamrock was a code that let Irish know they could find work without discrimination. For the story, I decided to advance this proud history by including Hispanic firefighters facing similar injustices.

A number of other social and political issues entered into the novel, which is something I find myself compelled to do in all my works. Living in Utah, I saw a chance to highlight issues that I believe Utahans need to address as a civic body and as a culture. Furthermore, because I find soldiers’ stories fascinating, I included a second main character who is a veteran of America’s war with Iran. Malcolm O’Connell, who in the story is a probationary firefighter fresh from the academy, was injured in the line of duty in the U.S. Army. His background allowed me to splice political issues into one of the most prevailing themes of science fiction. O’Connell is the beneficiary of technological and genetic enhancement from an Army Medical Corps program code named C.A.R.E. or Combat Augmentation and Recuperative Engineering.

It was my belief that the near-sociopathic urge to destroy the social contract of civilization would lead to a bill that forbids the government from paying for veterans’ healthcare. Forces into a voucher system, veterans become the latest prey by opportunistic private enterprise. This was a fictional legislative test bed that might well become the forerunner to dismantling Medicare and Medicare, despite the fact that the United States had a history of government run healthcare dating back to 1897.

The Army Medical Corps and Pentagon officials realize that outlawing government healthcare for vets would be its own national security crisis. Who would enlist if they knew that any injury meant they would be discarded as if their lives were cheap and disposable? The C.A.R.E. acronym is meant to imply that it’s a weapons program, which both parties are just in love with, but in fact is a clever way to break an unjust law and do right by those who put their lives on the line. I merged two real life Pentagon agendas, the Future Force Warrior Project and the Wounded Warriors Program.

My argument for its justification dates back to the earliest tool-using hominid, that of Homo erectus. The shaped stone that anthropologists call a hand-axe represented to me the first cybernetic augmentation technology. In place of sharp teeth or claws, we used inanimate stone to grant ourselves powers otherwise not bestowed onto us by evolution. Whether it was clothing, crutches, a peg leg, having a hook on the stump from a lost hand or today’s artificial joints and organs; human augmentation was always with us. I proposed through one of my characters that the C.A.R.E. Program was simply the next chapter in human progress. There is potential for misuse and abuse, even the emergence of monstrosities, however, I wanted to show readers how well-meaning justification might lead to such advances that many find abhorrent. It’s why Probationary Firefighter Malcolm O’Connell becomes the second most important character in Fire Alive!

However, he is just on probationary status at Station 8, which brings me back to that fire phone call I made to today’s Station 8. A signature of any fire station is their warped, even morbid sense of humor. I proposed an initiation prank that would befall Malcolm O’Connell on his first day on the job. I mentioned this to the firefighters I interviewed, and they agreed that it seemed like something their brothers would pull on a new guy coming into the station.

Then, their captain described to me the event which interrupted my first attempt to schedule an interview and tour of the station house. The newest firefighter at Station 8 was having his first day on the job. His first call was a Dead On Arrival scene, where the victim had passed away quite some time before anyone thought to call for help. Engine 8’s crews found the victim in a state of rigor mortis. The company captain insisted that the “Probie” [short for probationary firefighter] check for signs of life anyway. The probie described all the sounds of dead tissue straining and creaking, as he forced the mouth open and pressed the tongue down for a clear airway. He then made a plea for the dead woman to not open her eyes, while he put his ear to her mouth in order to look, listen and feel for any sign of breathing. His company got a good chuckle out of his momentary fear of a zombie plague Patient Zero. From their recounting, I realized that I needed to brush up on my firefighter humor. Those guys at Station 8 are way ahead of me in that department.

With all that firefighters face, the culture requires coping skills the likes of which we fiction authors might never contemplate as part of great storytelling. In writing Fire Alive! I wanted to write a novel that firefighters wouldn’t be disappointed in. At the same time this novel is geared toward allowing other untrained civilians like me to get a peek into the world of Old Man Fire and those who dedicate themselves to slaying dragons.

I hope you enjoy reading Fire Alive! as much as I had in writing it.

Fire. The light by we tell our stories and mythic tales. It kept the night at bay for hundreds of thousands of years. It guided humanity’s migrations across the globe, and became mankind’s first weapon of mass destruction.

What if fire developed a mind of its own?

Fire Alive!

-John Steiner

Author John Steiner

About The Author

John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College, where he is currently working as a tutor in math and chemistry. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.


We’re giving away a free ebook copy of “Tampered Tales” by John Steiner! Winner may choose PDF, HTML, or Kindle format.

“Tampered Tales” by John Steiner

About the book:

Theme I: The Other is a Mirror into Ourselves

The storyteller is an honest liar, for they admit fully to their fiction. However, a tale can be false, yet tell us the truth. For while the adventure speaks of “The Other,” it reflects back upon us what we know to be within ourselves.

Wry Folk
Oh, the age of innocence. A time in childhood where you could clap your hands and say “I believe in fairies.”Then one such creature is found, only it’s not a fairy and definitely not from this world. Six year old Jesse and her mother quickly learn that things which appear small, harmless and cute potentially bring with them more than one world’s worth of trouble into the house. The binding ties of any civilization of any planet are that they fiercely protect their young and seek their safe return at all costs.

Red Rover, Red Rover
People of the Earth had only their own eyes through which to see themselves. That all changes when the technological eyes of an alien probe comes to our planet in study of the local inhabitants around the world. What future lays ahead of Homo sapiens depends on streams of sensor data and number crunching of the undetectable and seemingly innocent Red Rover.

Four Days in Backwater
The Great Coyote chase to build the first faster than light vessel over, America’s U.S.S. Roadrunner is the third place design out of four nations. Yet it is first in FTL speed. It is also the first FTLV to discover traces of civilizations in other solar systems. The crew of U.S.S. Roadrunner are in awe of the aliens they meet, and take precautions the best human minds advise. However, the aliens see under privileged wayward yokels needing to be humored and humbled. Here Homo sapiens discovers all their theories of first contact fall flat on bad premises and do nothing but give the employees of Planet Copan’s truck stop a good laugh.

Small Time
With new technology comes many uses. Some constructive or even lifesaving. Others for great harm and to satiate personal ambitions. Many often end up what hobbyists tinker with in the garage. Others still become the expression of mischief. In Todd’s day hacking long since departed the digital world and entered into the very physical realm of biology. DNA became the new code to write and manipulate. Small Time racing of “mini-mounts” drew talent from all corners to be applied to a myriad of species. All bred to small stature, yet still strong enough to carry a rider heavier than they. Todd also dabbled in “Jacking” with a G of genetic code to wage a harmless war of ridicule against the corporate world. He fit the bill of real bioterrorists all too easy, even if it was clear to the authorities he didn’t do it.


Theme II: In Dreams, Thus Speaks the Universe

When the universe so commands, the story writes the author. Such tales come to us as we sleep, waking us with the urge to reveal what was shown us when our closed eyes rapidly darted from side-to-side.

Encyclopedia Capella
We think of autism as a rare affliction brought onto few among us. In Mr. Ency’s world nearly everyone, including Ency himself, exhibit the condition. A distant colony finds itself inextricably sinking into the proverbial sands of their desolate desert planet. Being an habitual encyclopedist cursed with such keen attention to absolutely everything around him Mr. Ency can’t help but record all of it. But it’s what lives in the wild dunes between cities that will test him and everyone else aboard one of the great hover ships cruising over burning sands.

The Rez
Most American Indians have had live in two worlds. Whether they grew up on The Rez or, like Randy Crowfeather, constituted “City Indians.” Believing that service as a Navy Seal prepared Randy for anything, he would discover how wrong he was. When the bodies of mutilated white people show up during one of Randy’s frequent visits with grandfather there came with it a tragic family past to be confronted. It is said that all Indians must, at some point in their lives, make a choice.

Dimensional Cloister
All parents hold their children up as being special and destine for great achievements. In Aziz’s time the scale of greatness would span across the entire multiverse. Brought to a school for gifted children, Aziz learns he isn’t the only little boy who can send his mind slide back and forth along the temporal threads of his life. Now he’s to learn how to save humanity from extra-dimensional parasites that unravel the very existence of their hosts throughout all time.

Suppose you lived your life all wrong. Imagine that because of bad decisions or even inadvertent choices prior to death your soul had been condemned to hell. Then what…? A tale of learning coping skills no living spirit would need in order to accept and accommodate an afterlife of deafening horror and blinding pain lasting eternity.

Theme III: Conjure Me A Tale

The act of storytelling is a form of sorcery. The teller casts a spell upon their audience in summoning up tales that never happened, yet impact the reader as if they had lived the adventure.

Just because you’ve studied sorcery for more than fifty years doesn’t make you a sorcerer, Eric’s master, Iccabazzi had said. Were it so easy sorcerers would be everywhere. The power of magic remained an external tool to him. To BE that power and have it within him as the air he breathed Eric needed to face the challenge of the dragon. Only it could make sorcerers of mere mortals. It more often made smoldering ash of those who failed.

Counting Coup
We’ve all heard the story of Custer’s Last Stand, and in recent years we learned the more accurate sequence of events as told by Crow scouts working alongside the U.S. Cavalry. Suppose there’s yet more to tell. Most armies pray for divine intervention in battle. With the arrival of a Manitou, a spirit of the Earth, one side will receive that aid in their darkest hour.

Arrows of Winter
Sure, being a diplomat in a feudal age can be tough in any civilization. On an alien arctic world harboring two indigenous species, one avian the other a rather out-of-place serpentine people, the rules of victory and defeat don’t change. The prince whom Ayawa served had to pay tribute to another kingdom who staked victory over his air forces in battle. Part of that tribute would take more than questing for the famed Redsmiths and healers of the serpentine Fshajar. It required that Ayawa learn nobility isn’t only bestowed at hatching, but is also earned though noble acts.

To Drop A Bead
Carl Bohonowicz struggled with more than simply getting people to say his name right. As the police department negotiator he didn’t quite seem suited to the job, and possibly the reassignment was a punishment as well as a leash. Then came the Randal Ivison hostage case. We all wear masks. How much they hide and what they let through are the only true differences.

Theme IV: Too True to be Real, Yet Was Lived

Bride of the Blackbird
On the first day of summer, 2010 a small neurotic songbird wages mono a mono war against an equally dark clad talking ape to defend The Misses and their beloved nest of hatchlings. An absolutely true tale of nature’s comedy in the style of the great humorist himself, James Thurber.