Have you ever gotten out of a relationship and wondered if the other person had been in the same relationship? Or if he had a completely different relationship with you than the one you thought he had?
That was my premise when I started Kill By Numbers.
At the end of The Dangerous Type, the first book in my space opera trilogy, Raena Zacari is free of the Imperial torturer who trained her. She’s left the woman she’s loved most in the galaxy and the man who spent decades believing he loved Raena more than anyone. She’s ready to start a new life on her own.
Then the nightmares attack. They begin as if she’s reliving a memory, then spin off into new directions. Almost every dream ends with her ex-lover trying to save her – and every time, she doesn’t recognize him until after she’s killed him.
So many books are written about when the characters fell in love. I wanted to explore the end of a relationship: How do you recover? What do you owe someone after everything dissolves? What if the memories that mean so much to you meant something entirely different to your other half? What if someone was willing to risk everything to save you, whether you wanted to be rescued or not?
They weren’t questions I was used to seeing in science fiction. We’re all too familiar with the damsel who needs to be saved (I’m thinking of the original Sarah Connor) – or the strong leader who falls in love in the heat of the battle. (That’s you, Princess Leia.) So many stories end with the heroine surviving merely to settle down with the only person who understands what she’s been through. (I’m looking at you, Katniss.) I wanted to spin the tropes so that the protagonist never thought she needed rescuing and the “hero” wasn’t a nice guy.
One of the things that struck me as I was writing Kill By Numbers was the speculation that a nice guy does things not because he genuinely likes a girl and wants to help her, but because if he holds the door for her and makes her dinner and listens when she’s sad and treats her like a friend, she will reward him with sex. Friendship isn’t his goal. It’s a calculated means to an end.
That theory explained so many of the relationships I had when I was younger. It pointed up a fundamental schism in the definition of friendship between two people – and I don’t believe it breaks down simply along gender lines.
So while Kill By Numbers is about learning to fit in after all the rules have changed, and what would happen if the chief stardrive technology in the galaxy has a catastrophic flaw, and an exploration of the responsibilities and integrity of journalists, and what’s it like to recover from years of violence and manipulation to claim your survival as a triumph, it’s also a deconstruction of the end of love.
Because why jam your story into one simple box?
Loren Rhoads is the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes — the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy — all published by Night Shade Books in 2015. You can find out more at www.lorenrhoads.com.
Today, Kelly Swails is telling me how This May Go on Your Permanent Record came about. Kelly is an excellent author and editor. Silence in the Library does great work. I like the way this novel wormed its way into Kelly’s subconscious.
So one day one of my work friends told me about a guy her college-aged son had heard about. (Yes, this is a “girl who knew this guy who knows this kid” story. Bear with me.) Anyway, the son attended Webster University in St. Louis, and apparently, if Webster didn’t offer the major you wanted, they’d custom-make one for you. Also apparently, a kid at Webster wanted to major in World Domination. [Editor’s note: I really want to meet this guy and see how things turned out.]
As soon as my friend told me this my writer-brain started churning. What would a world domination program look like? Political science, obviously. But also mass communication. And science. And one can’t dominate a boardroom, let alone the world, without a working knowledge of military tactics. So after she and I joked about if this kid’s degree would be a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Art (I’m still not sure of the answer to that), we went about our work day. At least my friend did. I kept thinking about World Domination.
I poked at the idea for a while. Wrote a short story with a college-aged protagonist (if you’re interested, you can read it in Time Traveled Tales). Made a curriculum. Had fun naming classes like "Know Your Nemesis" and "Monologues for the Masses". Discovered the main character (Sally) and her back story (alcoholic mother, absentee father, and a penchant for breaking the law). It wasn’t until I realized Sally wasn’t enrolled in a college program but a high-school freshman at the top-secret prep school named School for Extraordinary Youth that the story really came alive. Oh, and by the way, maybe her dad disappeared for a reason…
Ultimately, This May Go on Your Permanent Record explores power on a few different levels. The lengths people will go to in order to get power. How a secret can control your life without your realizing it. The power of trusting someone enough to call them a friend. You know what, though? To hell with themes and meaning and all that. Mostly, I had a whole lot of fun writing this book, and I’m looking forward to learning more about Sally’s world. One book at a time.
Kickstarter link: http://tiny.cc/SITLfall2015
Writing, writing, writing. Here's a "Melissa Allen" themed Bubble & Squeek!
Article: On SFSignal, I write about Melissa Allen and Mental Illness.
Article: Over at Chuck Wendig's blog, I talk about Five Things I Learned While Writing Never Let Me Sleep.
Podcast: YA Books Podcast, Oct 7. I talk about all kinds of stuff on this one.
Pre-Order: Never Let Me Leave pre-order is up! Melissa Allen #2 is out in November.
Pre-Order: Never Let Me Die pre-order is up! Melissa Allen #3 is out in December.
Release: Never Let Me Sleep has been released! Lots of good buzz about it. Though, I have to admit, the first Amazon review of it is a little strange.
Happy book release day to me! Never Let Me Sleep, the first book of the Melissa Allen series is out now in ebook form. (The three books will be released in ebook form in Oct, Nov, Dec first, then the hard copy compilation in Jan 2016.)
“Never Let Me Sleep is a disturbing glimpse into an unfolding apocalypse. This is genuine nightmare territory.” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and Fall Of Night.
What would you do if you discovered everyone in your house, on your street, and in your town dead? Then discovered you weren’t alone and what was out there was hunting you? Melissa Allen knows exactly how it feels. With only a voice on the phone for help, she must stop what is happening before the monsters find her.
Melissa, a troubled teen under house arrest, is the only person left alive in South Dakota. Unable to leave the quarantine zone and with no help except for DHS agent, David Hood, on the phone, Melissa must figure out what killed everyone and stop it from happening again before the government takes drastic action.
“It's a cliché to say ‘I couldn’t put the book down,’ but greeting the dawn at about the time I read the final words suggests to me that I really couldn’t. The situation is downright creepy, the horror rooted in tension rather than gore, and the protagonist is more than a little fascinating in her own right. Definitely hoping there's a sequel on the way.” –Ari Marmell, author of the Mick Oberon and Widdershins series.
I’m so pleased. It’s gotten some great blurbs. This series is done and I’ve told the story I wanted to tell. I likened it to if Stephen King had been writing for teenagers back in the day. I really hope people like it. I do. I’m so proud of it.
Of course, now is the time of elation mixed with terror.
Add: Here's an article I wrote for SF Signal about the main character: Melissa Allen and Mental Illness.
This weekend was a whirlwind trip through Port Townsend and the surrounding area. The Husband decided we needed a weekend away and we had volunteered to clear parts of Port Townsend for a mega-field (Ingress game). One of the beauties of playing Ingress while vacationing is the fact that seeking out unique portals to hack and capture leads me and the Husband to some of the neatest places.
[Quick aside about Ingress. It's an ARG—augmented reality game. Think of it as a cross between digital geocaching and capture the flag. All the portals are based on real world locations and you must be within 30 meters of it to hack or capture. Two portals can be linked. Three portals can be linked to make a field. No links can cross each other. Nothing can be linked if they are under a field. There's a lot of layers to the game. It's not for everyone, but for some people it's the bee's knees.]
This past weekend, we explored Port Townsend, Port Gamble, Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, and the surrounding areas. We followed the portals and the missions connected to them. We discovered and visited a marine, an orca museum, a couple of literal castles (Trollhaven! Castle Manresa!), crazy roadside attractions, a couple of farmer's markets and a ton of parks. We walked so much. The Husband's pedometer had him walking 27,000 steps on Saturday. I did less than that, but enough that my feet ached.
The highlight, of course, came from helping create a field so big that it covered both Seattle and Portland and stretched into Montana. We didn't do much. Cleared a couple of links but the hour of sitting in the dark, waiting for the "Go!" command was awesome. Everyone was the enemy... the teenagers sneaking out of their house and looking at their phone, the dog walkers looking at their phones, even the coyote that randomly showed up. (Another cool thing about Port Townsend--the random deer and other wildlife around.) When you play Ingress, everyone with a cellphone is a potential enemy or ally. Do you know how many people stare at their phones all the time? :)
In the end, there was elation at being part of such a big endeavor. Over 50 agents and operators in all. Satisfied with a job well done, we took the long way home on Sunday to find more interesting places that we would never have found without playing Ingress. It is a great game for people who like to travel and explore. It's even better when the op is successful.
May the skies be ever in your color. (In this case, Enlightened Green.)