This is an excerpt from a short story I wrote way back in 2011. I was going through a particularly rough patch, and I channeled it into a story about a guy haunted by loss and a series of unforgivable mistakes. It’s something of a dark science fiction mystery. Enjoy!

Ethan knew how this worked.

The assistant in the crisp white scrubs would read the questions to him one by one to verify the answers he had given on the form. It was his job to sit on the edge of the paper-lined exam table and give the man the answers he wanted.

“Occupation?”

“Job seeker.”

“Parents?”

“Deceased.”

“Spouse? Children?”

“No. None.”

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Liquid Cool cover

I’m told you’re supposed to start book reviews with something positive. Liquid Cool isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read. It’s not the most offensive, or the most appalling. It isn’t even the most poorly edited. But that’s probably the extent of the positive things I can say about it.

Liquid Cool passes itself off as cyberpunk detective novel, but calling it that is a bit of a stretch. Cruz is a laborer in generically-named Metropolis. He restores cars and does odd jobs, none of which are particularly interesting, or of much interest to him. What Cruz really wants is to be a detective.

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Movie poster for Blade Runner 2049

A few weekends ago I finally got around to watching Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited addition to the cyberpunk phenomenon that started with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And I have to say, I’m impressed. 2049 far exceeded its predecessors.

In this review I’ll discuss what I liked and didn’t like about the movie. I’m also going to talk about some disagreements I have with the underlying premises of the original book and film. There will be mild spoilers. If you haven’t watched 2049 yet, I highly recommend you do so! This review will be waiting for you when you get back.

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Interesting fact: my Favorite Reads of 2018 is one of the most viewed articles on this site. It’s ranked 4th by traffic, behind only articles about Ingram Spark and Kindle Direct Publishing. This surprised me. It also tells me that people really enjoy these end-of-year summaries, and that’s more than enough reason to do another one.

Before we get into the meat of this list, a disclaimer: this isn’t a ranking of books that hit the best seller lists or received a lot of publicity. These are my personal favorites among the books I had the chance to read this year. There are fewer than last year because, unfortunately, the Other Job took a huge bite out of my free time. I haven’t had a chance to do nearly as much reading as I would have liked.

This list covers a range of genres, and many if not all of the authors are indies. (Read indie books! There are a ton of incredible stories out there from indie authors, their books are often more affordable than traditionally published ones, and you’re helping someone fulfill their dreams. What could be better than that?)

A word on how I evaluate books: I’m intrigued by new and unique concepts, subversion of expectations, and genre blending. Bonus points if it makes me laugh. Comparing most of these books to each other would be impossible, so they’re organized alphabetically by title. If you’d like to read more, each heading links to my review of that book.

Now, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2019!

Continue reading “Favorite Reads of 2019”

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I know I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of weeks keeping you up to date on the dumpster fire that is the Other Job. Now it’s time to update you on the good stuff– otherwise known as what I’ve been writing.

Inspired by real-life events, I’ve been working on a series of short science fiction stories about the experiences of a Load Master working for Baron Cargo, a fly-by-night freight hauling outfit operating on a backwater iceball planet. Lowered Expectations went live on Patreon on November 19th, and highlights the often catastrophic results of the “we’re not going to worry about this problem right now– it’ll be fine” style of management.

Continue reading “Looking Ahead”

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In the distance, distorted by the nutrient gel filling the stasis tank, klaxons blared.

The vat’s seal popped, exposing him to the sting of cold, dry ship-board air. Marc’s breather unit detached, followed by the connections that kept his body functioning through the long dark sleep. The klaxon became louder, more immediate.

Red emergency lights strobed as he opened his eyes, illuminating a dimly lit storage hold. He had just enough time to realize that this was not the comfortable passenger carrier he’d gone to sleep on before the stasis pod tilted upright and dumped him out on the dirty metal decking. The nutrient gel steamed as it flowed down a conveniently located drain. Icy metal welcomed him, naked and shivering, back into the real world.

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It’s hard to believe that yet another summer is nearly over. The leaves are turning yellow in my corner of the world, and the infamous low-lying areas experienced their first frost a few weeks ago. Where does the time go?

In my case, time flies when you’re screaming busy. I’ve been invited back for Part II of a superb speculative fiction anthology, Trumpland 2020: Divided We Stand, and am currently working on my entry.

Hel’s Fury, my submission for the first Trumpland collection, was extremely dark. It was kind of a worst case scenario, a hodgepodge of national news and the worst of my state’s own tendencies.

I’m happy to announce that my as-yet-untitled submission to 2020 will be much brighter. My goal is to highlight some of the good in Alaska and Alaskans, the spirit of community and resistance that I grew up with and still see occasionally in Alaska’s remote corners.

I’m also exploring Patreon as an avenue to get my short fiction in front of more readers and support myself while doing it. The first wave of September tier rewards are now live and I’m particularly excited about this month’s story, which digs into the origins of my cyborg OC Frank the Tank.

As some of you who’ve been with me the longest may know, Frank started out as a bit character in a piece of flash fiction.

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I’m proud to announce that today marks an exciting new step in my writing journey! But first, a proper introduction.

My name is Leland, and I write science fiction and crime stories. Most take place in the future, some are set in my home state of Alaska, and many contain hints of the otherworldly and unexplained.

I’ve been writing for the better part of 25 years, and for most of that time I wrote for myself. Writing was and is my escape from the grim grasp of reality. It’s a ray of light in a dark world.

In October of 2017 I published a cyberpunk science fiction novel called Necrotic City; and as of now I’m working on the sequel and a couple of other novel-length projects. I also run a weekly blog where I share flash fiction, short stories, reviews, and my thoughts on our high tech, low life world.

Money is tight, and because of the Other Job that pays the majority of my bills, so is writing time. My goal is to be able to write full time, so I’m trying something new: I’m launching a Patreon page.

I know there are a lot of you out there who enjoy my writing. Whether it’s the sequel to Necrotic City, my short stories and flash fiction, or my reviews and writing advice, becoming my patron is a great way to make it possible for me to create more of the content you love.

For as little as $2 a month you can gain access to at least one piece of brand-new fiction per month, excerpts from works in progress, deleted scenes, and exclusive insights into the weird worlds I create. If you think about it, that’s a pretty good deal. Virtually nothing in life is that cheap– not even a cup of coffee.

Kindly stop by my Patreon and check out the reward tiers. August’s monthly rewards are already up, and there’s also some free short fiction. Whether you choose to pledge a little or a lot, your contribution is greatly appreciated!

The following excerpt is a sneak peek at one of August’s patron rewards. Enjoy!

From A Call in the dark, Available now on Patreon:

The hulking wreck of an interstellar cruiser hung above an undeveloped world, baking under the gaze of the system’s giant-class star. The wreckage should have been wholly unable to host life. Debris formed a lethal halo around it, ejected from open ports and shattered shielding. Whatever had happened to the cruiser, it had been bad.

Stellar surveys reported it had been there for some time. The wreck was a permanent fixture, an ever-present star in the night sky of the planet below. It had been there for what CF46’s human cargo would have called ‘generations.’

And yet he was reading a distress signal that no other passing ship had registered… or chosen to register.

“…emergency. …support failing! Requesting immediate assistance…”

Support me on Patreon to read the rest!

A  q&A about my patreon launch

Q: Oh no! Does this mean you won’t be posting flash fiction and short stories for free on your blog anymore?

A: Absolutely not! I plan to continue posting here as I have been. Supporting me on Patreon is a way to access additional content and show your support for the stuff I create. 

Q: Isn’t asking for additional money from your readers kind of, you know, greedy? You already get paid when people buy your book(s).

A: The vast majority of the content I create is free, but at the end of the day I still need to eat. I want to make a full-time career out of writing, and that means I need to do one of two things: focus my effort purely on for-profit writing, or explore additional sources of writing-related revenue. I’m hoping that in addition to providing my fans with more awesome content, Patreon will act as a tip jar for those who enjoy my work.

Have questions I haven’t answered here? Feel free to ask them in the comment section. And remember, whether you choose to support me on Patreon or not, I appreciate you. Thank you for reading the things I write. You rock!

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Cover of Dead Inside by Barry J Hutchison

In Dead Inside, deceased detective Dan Deadman’s life takes a darker turn. And that’s saying a lot for a series that started out with Dan hunting a child-snatching serial killer.

The action opens with a car chase and doesn’t slow down much thereafter as Dan, Olly, and Artur investigate stolen children, straying spouses, a series of grizzly ritual murders, and a visitor from the Malwhere more nightmarishly powerful than any they’ve faced before.

It’s also dark– very dark. Although it’s hard to name a favorite chapter of a book this good, mine would probably be when Dan and Ollie find themselves in the Malwhere. Ollie runs into her ‘father,’ the hideously evil entity that kidnapped her as a small child. And Dan… Dan relives his own death.

Continue reading “Review: Dead Inside”

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Cover of Lost Dogs: Last Fight of the Old Hound by Nils Odlund

Lost Dogs is a different kind of fantasy series. Last Fight of the Old Hound follows Roy von Waldenberger, a prize fighter and therianthrope, and much of the story’s conflict is internal. His inner wolf makes him stronger, faster, tougher– but it also fights for control of his mind in times of duress.

The author’s world building and character development are top notch, and I found Roy’s internal conflict incredibly easy to relate to. I love seeing fantasy used as a way to approach real life conflicts, and the author does a superb job of this. The inner wolf is a terrific metaphor, with its instinct-driven approach to life, boundless strength, and absolute unwillingness to compromise.

This is the story of one man’s struggle to reconcile what’s right by his conscience with what’s right for his loved ones and his future. A prize fighter on the cusp of retirement, he has been given a choice between retaining his reputation as an honest man, and ‘falling’ to a new fighter in exchange for the ability to leave with a healthy retirement bonus and his good standing in the business world intact.

This story is more of an afternoon read than a week-long one, but there’s enough world building, conflict, and action packed into Last Fight of the Old Hound for the reader to feel like they got their money’s worth. A gripping and evocative short read, I highly recommend it!

Lost Dogs: Last Fight of the Old Hound is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon.

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