Coolest short story I have ever read – by Oliver Emberton

Oliver Emberton is currently writing the book – follow it’s progress here

Oliver on twitter


Oliver Emberton’s answer to:

Bond villains are such uninspiring, stupid creatures. We can do better.

Our villain is a prodigal business and scientific genius, with the kind of brash charisma and titanium self-belief that dares to take on the world. Imagine a real-life Tony Stark:

Like all good villains, our Tony begins with nothing but the noblest of intentions. He burns to make the world a better place. And he knows he’s got the skills to do it.


Born to a life of modest privilege in the United States, Tony rapidly asserts his abilities to build a global technological empire. He develops revolutionary new forms of sustainable energy just as the world’s oil supplies reach a critical level. As the middle east descends into a decade of conflict, the world rebuilds using his patents and products.


For the most part, people are grateful.


By the age of 40 he has a fortune to compare with the likes of present-day Buffet and Gates. Success, of course, is boring. His focus turns.


Tony sees the abject poverty of Africa as the greatest remaining blight on the world, and resolves to try to bring it to an end. And he believes he can.


He decides only a radical solution is viable: the construction of a new city, which he will fund as a gift. Pitching to several African nations, he offers to employ hundreds of thousands of local civilians which he will train, together with foreign specialists to produce a city capable of housing and employing millions.


As part of the deal, Tony retains 20% of the most central land, with the remaining majority to be a gift to the nation and the people who helped build it. In exchange, Tony seeks substantial political concessions, including legalisation of virtually every scientific practice and substantial tax breaks.


Despite great reservation, controversy, and accusations of modern-day imperialism, the plan proceeds. Within a decade – bolstered by modern construction methods – a new metropolis rises.


Meanwhile Tony has taken advantage of his new nation state, and invests heavily into genetic research forbidden almost everywhere else in the world; particularly the modification of the human genome.


His efforts do not go unnoticed. Rising figures in the United States consider him a threat to the future of humanity. Even as his company produces medical revolution upon revolution – a cure for Alzheimers, a simple injection for regrowing damaged heart tissue – these are met with active hostility: did the ends justify the means?


Reacting to growing public tension, many countries outlaw these products even as members of their public beg for them.


Business for Tony is exceptional of course, and the growing tensions only seek to make his city – as it has become known, colloquially as ‘Stark’ –  one of the most desirable places to live in the world. He moves himself and swathes of his company there as it expands.


It is not long before his science develops the ability to modify human genes in living patients; and ultimately in unborn ones. People could choose to have their DNA ‘optimised’ through a simple blood scan and synthesised viral injection.


This is too much for the world.


Within Stark and their growing collection of neighbouring cities, this technology allows them to virtually eliminate all birth defects, disease, low intelligence, physical imperfections and extend long life. Soon this extends to the augmentation of skills: eidetic memory, motor control, exceptional high intelligence. Changing your DNA becomes as commonplace as upgrading your operating system.


The rest of the world panics; the United States in particular. It is soon realised that making Stark’s technology illegal was not enough: a single person who had been ‘optimised’ could sell their sperm or eggs for a fortune. To public cries of “protect our gene pool”, and the fear of rendering ‘normal’ people obsolete, borders are closed, products are banned, and a near war-like stance against Stark’s country is adopted.


Tony is no fool, and he’s well prepared when the inevitable happens.


The US fakes a foiled terrorist attack on their soil. Using this as justification, a coalition of all-too-eager US / EU forces prepares to invade the city of Stark and depose Tony by force.


Unfortunately for them, this is where you make a villain out of a genius.


The military of the future is not so different from today; the US enjoys a sizeable advantage over the rest of the world combined, and nearly all their might stems from unpiloted drones and long range missiles. Stark has essentially no military force whatsoever, bar police and security officers who were quickly stationed on the border.


Their first attack was therefore predictable, if callous: there were no military targets for the coalition to attack, so they focused on aviation, industry and power instead. It didn’t really matter.


The US drones fell from the skies like stones. The missiles looped back upon themselves and crashed impotently into the ocean. Every automated technology the coalition could muster was all too easy for a technologically superior nation to deflect: targeted electromagnetic pulses, total satellite interference, remote hijacking of computers and communication.


No countermeasure was perfect of course, and many hundreds died. Yet the humble civilian city had left a vast military armada confused and humiliated.


Tony now broadcasts a simple message to the world, speaking over a montage of severed and charred civilian corpses. “Many of you think us evil. Yet we live in peace, isolated, our only crime is the pursuit of science that would end disease and enrich the lives of mankind’s descendants. For this, your governments rain death upon our people. Ask yourselves if that is really what you want, for what follows is their doing. Until they withdraw, we will not stop.”


For an hour, the world waited.


Agents for Stark’s cause had not been hard to find, and for the most part they were smart, secretive and organized. On cue they crippled global communication, commerce, and transport of the coalition rivals, all in just a few hours. They simply killed their power.


Conflict continued, but not for long. Every attempt to recover, to strike back, was blunted by Stark’s technical supremacy. When Tony crashed an array of foreign satellites on demand, the coalition ordered a withdrawal.


A battered and bruised world came to acknowledge: they had lost.


In a few years the ideological opposition to his technologies and even methods soon withered in the face of the practical advantages. As nation upon nation lifted their restrictions on Tony’s science, policing genetic purity became impractical, and then impossible. Soon, those countries who opposed him were modelled in his image.


You might think this a meagre victory, but consider: he died old, the richest man to ever have lived, near emperor of his own nation, having ultimately transformed the very identity of humanity for eternity. And he had quite literally taken on the rest of the world and won.


As a wise man once said: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”


(I had this idea for a book ever since I was 17 or so. You can probably guess I was dying to share it somewhere).


Update #1: Just hours after I posted this the reaction has been overwhelming. I’m genuinely considering writing this as a book now – if so, it would be my first and I wouldn’t pretend to know what I’m doing, but I’m sure Quora can help with that! Any thoughts / suggestions on what you’ve read are greatly appreciated.


Update #2: Ok, I’m going to write this as a book. If you want to be notified about this please go here: Oliver Emberton is writing a novel – and thanks!


Rosalind Hartmann – Twitter and Facebook

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How to write a novel synposis – Chuck Sambuchino

Writer Unboxed


I’ve never met a single person who liked writing a synopsis. Seriously — not one. But still, synopses are a necessary part of the submission process (until some brave publishing pro outlaws them), so I wanted to share 5 basic tips today regarding how to compose one in case you’re query agents or getting ready to pitch at a writers’ conference.

A synopsis is a summary of your book. Literary agents and editors may ask to see one if you’re writing an adult novel, a memoir, or a kids novel (young adult, middle grade). The purpose of a synopsis request is for the agent or editor to evaluate what happens in the three acts of your story to decide if the characters, plot and conflict warrant a complete read of your manuscript. And if you haven’t guessed yet, they’re pretty tough to write. If you are indeed putting one together and sending your work out, check out these tips below:

(Quick plug: I freelance critique query letters and synopses if anyone is at that stage and looking for a little guidance.)

1. Reveal everything major that happens in your book, including the ending. Heck, revealing the story’s ending is a synopsis’s defining unique characteristic. You shouldn’t find a story’s ending in a query or in-person pitch, but it does leak out in a synopsis. On this note, know that a synopsis is designed to explain everything major that happens, not to tease — so avoid language such as “Krista walks around a corner into a big surprise.” Don’t say “surprise,” but rather just tell us what happens.

2. Make your synopsis two pages, double-spaced. There is always some disagreement on length. This stems from the fact that synopses used to trend longer (six, eight, or even 12 pages!). But over the last five years, agents have requested shorter and shorter synopses — with most agents finally settling on 1-2 pages, total. If you write yours as one page, single-spaced, it’s the same length as two pages, double-spaced — and either are acceptable. There will be the occasional agent who requests something strange, such as a “5-page synopsis on beige paper that smells of cinnamon!” But trust me, if you turn in a solid 1-2 page work, you’ll be just fine across the board.

3. Take more care and time if you’re writing genre fiction. Synopses are especially difficult to compose if you’re writing character-driven (i.e., literary) fiction, because they may not be a whole lot of plot in the book. Agents and editors understand this, and put little (or no) weight into a synopsis for literary or character-driven stories. However, if you’re writing genre fiction — specifically categories like romance, fantasy, thriller, mystery, horror or science fiction — agents will quickly want to look over your characters and plot points to make sure your book has a clear beginning, middle and end, as well as some unique aspects they haven’t seen before in a story. So if you’re getting ready to submit a genre story, don’t blow through your synopsis; it’s important.

(When you’re ready to submit, check out these lists of numerous agent interviews: fantasy agents, science fiction agents, general fiction agents, horror agentsnonfiction agents, middle grade fiction agents, and young adult fiction agents.)

4. Feel free to be dry, but don’t step out of the narrative. When you write your prose (and even the pitch in your query letter), there is importance in using style and voice in the writing. A synopsis, thankfully, not only can be dry, but probably should be dry. The synopsis has to explain everything that happens in a very small amount of space. So if you find yourself using short, dry sentences like “John shoots Bill and then sits down to contemplate suicide,” don’t worry. This is normal. Lean, clean language is great. And lastly, do not step out of the narrative. Agents do not want to read things such as “And at the climax of the story,” “In a rousing scene,” or “In a flashback.”

5. Capitalize character names when characters are introduced. Whenever a new character is introduced, make sure to CAPITALIZE them in the first mention and then use normal text throughout. This helps a literary agent immediately recognize each important name. On this subject, avoid naming too many characters (confusing) and try to set a limit of five, with no more than six total. I know this may sound tough, but it’s doable. It forces you to excise smaller characters and subplots from your summary — actually strengthening your novel synopsis along the way.



Key Death (A Nicholas Holt Thriller) by Jude Hardin – Review by ROz

Key Death by Jude Hardin

Jude Hardin – twitter

key death


It starts off with Zombies.  How could this book go wrong?


Nicholas Holt is…was a private detective and a once legendary guitar rock star.  He is neither now, thanks to heroin.  Happily married with a beautiful adopted college aged daughter, Nicholas hangs around his house, watches TV as he eats pork rinds.  I’m not a huge fan of pork rinds, myself, but I’m sure it’s a living.


While trying to meet the also legendary John Foggerty, Nicholas is sidetracked by his old buddie’s girlfriend’s request:  find my biological father before I die.


Sounds easy, so he does.  Her father is dead.  With a capital D.  Murdered execution style in his condo.  His buddie’s girlfriend has another request:  find my father’s killer.


Oh, well then.  So Nicholas kisses his beautiful wife goodbye and heads out to Key West, currently dubbed ‘Key Death’ because of ‘The Zombie’ serial killer who kills his victims by asphyxiation, cuts their skull open, and scoops out their brains.  There have been 9 murders, and wouldn’t you know it, Nicholas gets caught up in the most recent.


With 10k in the bank from his dying client, Nicholas gets into a lot of shit over the next 7 days.  Discovering the missing, but murdered father, the landlord of said crime scene, a boyfriend, an ex-boyfriend, an ex-wife (not his), porn, drugs, really bad musicians, and some seriously bad luck kept me fairly interested.  It starts off a little slow, but the surprising turn of events and bad situations Nicholas finds himself in makes me question whether he’s really getting paid enough to find a killer that the police can’t find.  Not only is the bio-dad’s murder unsolved, but apparently it has something to do with The Zombie.


You get treated to excerpts of a movie Nicholas saw as a 12 year old at the beginning of pivotal chapters.  He has an intense fear of zombies or Kinemortophobia – you’d think it would be more of a fetish, but he really does have nightmares about zombies.  It has a bit of a twist ending that isn’t really surprising at all, but all in all it was written very well – I enjoyed, if not severely questioned, Nicholas’ point-of-view and dedication to his job.  The job he’s suspended from, by the way, and being there acting like a detective can literally get him thrown into jail.  Still, if you overlook those questions, Jude Hardin writes a trippy mystery.  It’s engaging enough to make me sit and read through the afternoon until I finished it, but then it’s not really a long book.


I rated ‘Key Death’ 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads, only because again – the ending wasn’t that big of a twist surprise.  I still enjoyed it and might seek out the other books in the series if I can get them cheap.


Rosalind Hartmann – Twitter and Facebook

Meet Kyle Evans (Book 2)

Kyle would not be anywhere near large crowds potentially filled with werewolves, vampires, or women showing this much leg if he could help it.  It had been a long recovery, almost three months, since discovering his emaciated self in that seedy hotel room.  Discarding a candy bar wrapper in a trash can worth more than his entire outfit; Kyle wiped his hands clean as he looked straight ahead toward the elevator bays in the mirrored lobby of the Piazza.


He had managed to gain 30 pounds back, a little fat – yes, but he wasn’t as gaunt as his barely 140 pound self.  At six foot one, the 170 pounds still looked extremely thin on him.  He had to force himself to eat, setting a timer to do so every four hours.  The extreme weight loss was the 100% appetite suppression from the combination of drugs he was taking to alleviate his Eternity addiction.  It was the only reason why he would risk coming out into the open.  The Illicit drug Eternity, made from the blood of vampires – a literal fountain of youth, as well as euphoria causing drug, came with extremely violent and debilitating side effects.


Eternity caused the user to experience in physical form what a cocaine user feels in that instantaneous high: heightened alertness, energy, and vampire strength, in addition to the mood enhancer and delusions of grandeur. But with all high rides comes the fall.  By the third high, the user is subjected to excruciating withdrawal and physically the drug begins to feed on the host.  Red blood cells are destroyed and used to sustain the drug’s effects on the body – essentially feeding on the user from the inside out.  Ultimately it makes the victim susceptible to illness, delirium, as well as complete submission physically and mentally to supernatural influences, before paralysis and an untimely death.


To counteract the effects, and to be a functioning member of society, Kyle Evans took Lithirium.  An experimental drug not readily available to the small percentage of the public that can afford Eternity, procuring it was even harder.  He was only able to attain it because of his protected status through Clan Tacharan, owners of Duibne Industries, where both drugs were manufactured.  Once upon a time Kyle Evans did Simon Huntington a favor, one that he continued paying for in unfavorable ways, but it made getting Lithirium as easy as walking in the front doors of Duibne Industries.  Now with his self-imposed retreat into the shadows, hiding from literally himself, Kyle had to think of more creative ways to get Lithirium.  If that meant walking into a New Year’s Eve event with hundreds of supernatural creatures trying to locate him for reasons unknown to him, then he’d do it.


If he was going to die, he’d do it on his own terms, thank you.


Kyle still had a few contacts in the city that wouldn’t immediately turn him over to the highest bidder, not without a little heavy handed monetary encouragement, but he knew this particular avenue was being blocked off to him.  He needed to find an unlimited supply to the both drugs, granted was like asking for a 1000 clingy virgins and the key to the pearly gates back door. Most pick-ups were in public areas with a dozen escape routes, and the largest, grandest hotel in the city did boast privacy as well as much needed anonymity, though the occupants of the one of the largest events of the year did make him nervous enough to want to puke in every expensive marbled trash can he passed.  They were to meet at the top floor ballroom, just before midnight.


Gosh, that wasn’t clichéd at all.


His contact was a female within Duibne’s North Medical tower where all the fun stuff happened.  Kyle’s alcohol addled brain had met her before he was persona non grata, but he managed to maintain his connection with her for reasons unknown to him.  She was using him, sadly not sexually, but that wasn’t something he was interested in, in any case.  He tried to stay away from women as much as possible.


I don’t know why, Kyle.


Halting as he reached out to touch the elevator call button, his mirrored image crossed his arms and looked at him admonishingly.  Kyle ignored the delusion.


We both like women.  They’re soft, supple…pliable in all the right places.


Closing his eyes, Kyle waited for the elevator doors to open.  Concentrating, he scratched at his throat, trying to ignore the voice in his head.  A loud thump made him jump, his eyes flying open.


Where ya been, Kyle?  I’ve missed you.


His mirrored image was leaning against the invisible barrier of the glass.  His Doppelganger pressed his face close so he could see the lobby.


This is the Piazza.  Why are we here?


The sound of party horns and laughing filtered into the hallway near the elevator bay and behind him a group of party-goers almost fell out of the car, nudging Kyle closer to the mirrored glass.


Ahhh, New Year’s already?  It has been a while, hasn’t it, Kyle?


Kyle refused to answer the voice in his head.  If he didn’t answer, then it wasn’t real.  That’s what he kept telling himself.  Taking a step back, he turned and entered the emptied elevator car, ignoring his reflection that was now surrounding him.  Reaching out, he hit the call button for the top floor and then shut his eyes tightly.


You’re looking healthier.  Props to you, man.  You’re going to need your strength.


The voice echoed in his head, sounding annoyingly ominous.  Foreshadowing – he was never a big fan.  Kyle let the feel of the silent elevator car ascend to the penthouse ballroom.    He ignored the LCD panels, sleek design, and undoubtedly premier artificial intelligence of the system.  All he cared about getting away from all the shiny surfaces reflecting his image and causing his hysteria to rocket to the moon.


Cracking his neck without opening his eyes, Kyle felt the elevator slow its climb and settle to a stop.  The doors opened and sound poured in; the tinkling of fine crystal, laughter, and soft band music playing.  Stepping out, he did not open his eyes until he had cleared the doors completely.  Slipping his hands into the trousers of his classic one-button tuxedo, he walked toward the stairs that spiraled up into the ballroom double doors.  Couples lingered, talking in the area before ascending the steps, invitations in hand.  Kyle watched, his eyes flickering left to right, moving from person to person until he saw a handsome couple exit one of the elevator bays.  Moving quickly, Kyle tracked his path and met the couple, but not before he tripped on his own feet and fell against the man, almost knocking him to the ground.


“Oh sh-, oh my god, I’m so sorry.  Are you alright?” Kyle steadied the gray-haired man and ignored his date’s glare.  “My fault, my fault.  I’m so sorry.”  The couple huffed and gawked at Kyle as he walked toward the staircase.


Smoothing out his jacket, Kyle nonchalantly made it up the steps and stepped up toward the two white gloved employees guarding the door.  He knew how this went – either you acted like you belonged or the dogs get a whiff of your fear and chase you out.  Without even acknowledging the two men, Kyle pulled out the invitation he had stolen from the gray-haired gentleman at the bottom of the stairs still fussing with his date, and didn’t even bother to look at it. Kyle rolled his shoulders and continued walking to the doors.




Kyle stopped, a bead of sweat forming on his forehead.  Turning stiffly, he looked at the hotel employee.


“May I?” The man walked passed Kyle and opened the door for him.


Clearing his throat, Kyle raised his eyebrow at the man, fairly certain that it was the proper response, before disappearing into the crowd of party-goers.