Avid reader. Web developer. Architect by training, holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Now, author.
Nicholas loves to write. His first children's book, the Runaway Smile, is currently being illustrated. Mad Water, the third book in his epic fantasy series, Pearseus, will be published on July 15th, 2014. He has also published The Power of Six, a collection of short sci-fi stories.
He lives in Athens, Greece, in the middle of a forest, with his wife, dog and two very silly cats, one of whom is always sitting on his lap, so please excuse any typos in his blog posts: typing with one hand can be hard...
The Power of Six: 6+1 science fiction short stories
Six science fiction short stories written by Nicholas C. Rossis, plus one written by Amos M. Carpenter.
Although they seem to be concerned with various themes, there are certain passions that run through them, almost obsessively. What is the nature of reality; digital and corporeal? Is there more to the world than we can see? How far can we trust our senses? What are the consequences of our actions, and is it possible to change them? And if so, would we simply repeat same mistakes, or make new ones?
The anthology includes “I Come in Peace”, an award-winning short story that deals with a tortuous question: how far would man go to alleviate his loneliness? Readers of Pearseus will certainly recognize here the birth of the Orbs.
Humorous and poignant, these short stories are exciting, intriguing and imaginative.
May 4, 2014
Nicholas C. Rossis
Hi Nicholas, welcome to the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. It's great to have an author who is doing so well in both the fantasy and sci-fi genres on board. We look forward to hearing all about your writing.
Nicholas: Thanks Kasper. It's great to be here
When I finished writing the book, I posted on my blog a number of cover suggestions, asking people for their comments. My good friend Frostie took the process one step further, complaining about not the covers, but the title. She was right, of course; the initial title (“Six Days a Week”) was half as good as the one she suggested. Through our dialogue and the comments on the post, we ended up with “The Power of Six.”
As I felt some clarification was necessary, I then amended this into its full title, “The Power of Six: Six science fiction short stories.”
Then, Amos M. Carpenter, a blog follower, asked me to have a look at one of his short stories, as it was written in a style eerily reminiscent of mine, despite the fact the he lives in Australia and I live in Greece. When I did, I was gobsmacked by the similarities, and offered to included it in my book. He responded enthusiastically, leading to the final title “The Power of Six: 6+1 science fiction short stories.”
Ah, that makes sense and it certainly does stand out.
Which scene from the new book do you like best and why?
As the book consists of seven short stories, I’ll have to say that this questions is like Sophie’s Choice. I love all stories (even Amos’ one). If I had to choose, though, I’d say Hand of God, as it appeals to both the nerd and the gamer in me. After first writing it, years ago, I was disappointed, because I felt it lacked the oomph I envisioned for it. When I decided to include it in the collection, I rewrote it almost from scratch, and now I love it. So there’s a moral there, too; sometimes all it takes is a simple rewrite for a story to sparkle!
We are indeed lucky, that you have given us Hand of God to read today
Which is your favourite character and why?
I know this reflects terribly on me, but the favourite character has to be the slob in the second story, “For the Last Time.” It’s the story of someone who finds a time machine and screws everything up due to his narrow-mindedness and self-centredness. At least, he ends up with clean underwear, though.
What are you working on now?
I’m doing what I like to call the headless chicken dance. Both books in my epic fantasy series Pearseus have reached #1 on Amazon, giving me the incentive I needed to rewrite them, so as to reflect everything I’ve learnt in the last year. I like to think my writing has improved immensely in this time, and I figured it was a shame for my books not to reflect this.
Also, I just finished the third book in the series, and it’s now at my editor/proof-reader for that crucial final polish. It will be published on July 15th (officially), but it should be available at a discount from July 1st.
Finally, I’m having Runaway Smile, my first children’s book, illustrated. My illustrator friend, Dimitris Fousekis, is a perfectionist, though, and we’re already behind schedule, so I’d rather not venture a guess as to when it will be published. He just spent a month designing a new font for the chapter titles, feeling that none of the existing fonts (including a great one he had designed himself a few years ago) were good enough for Runaway Smile.
Gee, you have been busy. Congratulations on all your achievements. It sounds like you're having a brief pause before launching into writing again.
I design my own covers, incorporating illustrations by my afore-mentioned friend. In the case of The Power of Six, I started off with two cover suggestions and I put them forward on my blog. People made some great comments and I repeated the process twice more, helping weed out any imperfections. In the end, I still felt that something was lacking, so I approached Dimitris to ask for help. He came up with the silhouette in the background; as soon as I saw pasted it in place, I was in love with the cover.
Who are your favourite authors?
Too many! Richard Bach, for his brilliant Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Philip K. Dick, whom I consider a modern-day prophet, visions and all. William Gibson, for his amazing Neuromancer. Neil Gaiman for breaking down the walls between the various genres and media. Also, I’m partial to Jorge Luis Borges and the magical realism school; they have influenced my work greatly.
Who’s your favourite indie author and why?
Again, there’s just too many! Nat Russo and Rayne Hall, for their great storylines and superb writing. MPax, whose sci-fi work is amazing. Peyton Reynolds, whose fantasy books are an inspiration to me. Also, Effrosyni Moschoudi, Ryan Schneider and Elle Boca, among so many, many others. And of course Hugh Howey, both for his great books and his tireless support of Indy publishing.
NB: Readers, Effrosyni Moschoudi is another of the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network authors
What is your favourite quote?
"You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want."
- Zig Ziglar
It sums up nicely my whole approach to life.
Do you have a blog? What do you write about?
I do have a blog, and I’m very proud of it, as I see it as an extension of my books. Posting almost daily has helped me focus and improve my writing, while maintaining a daily writing routine. My posts deal with writing, publishing and book marketing. Mostly, I try to share my experiences (what worked and what didn’t), in the hope that others will benefit.
In between, I have some entertaining (book-related) posts, as well as some more personal ones. The one thing I never do is promote my books through the blog, although I do ask for help on occasion, as when designing my book covers.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
I have been a full-time web developer though my company, Istomedia Ltd, for the past 20 years. I hold a PhD in digital architecture from the University of Edinburgh, but have never worked as an architect, as everyone around me knows.
Except for my mom.
She still can’t wrap her head around this weird thing called the Internet, preferring to think of me as an architect (the fact that my BSc was in civil engineering and my dad is an engineer also play a part in this).
In fact, we had a hilarious dialogue the other day. A cousin of mine had just finished his studies in architecture, and my mom called me up to suggest I hire the lad.
“Why?” I asked her, confused. “He’s an architect; what would he do at Istomedia?”
"What do you mean? You’re an architect, aren’t you?”
“Probably not a very successful one,” I chuckled, “as I’ve never shown you a house of mine, have I?”
LOL. That cracked me up. My brother works in computers too, and his job title is 'Solutions Architect,' so it is quite the 'in' thing at the moment.
What’s your dream job and do you think you’ll do it one day?
My dream job is, simply, to write! I now split my time between web development and writing, but I’d love to be able to do the latter full-time. And yes, I do believe I will achieve this one day, hopefully sooner rather than later!
I don't doubt it.
Thanks so much for sharing your passion for writing with us today, Nicholas. I look forward to reading your books, cheers, Kasper.
The Hand of God
The bartender rubbed a soiled glass with a dirty towel, not quite sure which one was cleaning the other. The bar might be a dusty, crummy drinking hole, but it was the closest one to the Academy. As such, it was busy every evening, as soon as the cadets were allowed to leave the walled premises. He stole a glance at his watch; soon the bar would fill with uniforms.
A chuckle made him look up at the only full table. A bunch of cadets had gathered around the Veteran to listen to his story. The bartender had to admit the old man knew how to hold a crowd’s interest. He’d better; he must have told that story a million times in exchange for a drink.
The Veteran had just started his tale. Staring into his empty glass, his eyes opened as if he was watching the Beasts approach once more.
“You see, girls, things were different back then. Nowadays, each colony has its Academy and barracks in every major city. Back then, mankind had built a vast fleet of transports, but only a handful of military ships, safe in the illusion of its uniqueness.”
A cute redhead with freckles interrupted him. “Surely you suspected we were not alone.” She scrunched her face as a blonde with short hair dug her elbow into the redhead’s ribs to stop her.
The Veteran continued as if he had not been interrupted. “We were finally at peace after millennia of conflict. No one was prepared for the shock of encountering a hostile alien species; so alien, that communication was impossible. When we lost contact with the more remote colonies, we thought it was a glitch with our transmitters. As one colony after another fell silent, we sent ships. Not military ones, either. We had too few of those.” He took a napkin to his forehead to wipe beads of sweat and looked suggestively at the empty glass.
“Can we have one more over here?” the blonde yelled across the bar, without even bothering to look at the bartender.
A sweet smile played on the Veteran’s lips, and he licked them in anticipation. “Thank you, my love. Now, as I was saying, when the ships disappeared as well, we realized we had become complacent. I still remember the day we first saw the Beasts. A boy had beaten the odds to send us a video of their attack. I was a designer back then, waiting to go into a meeting. One of the secretaries rushed into the meeting room to switch the vid on. The poor thing aged ten years in a single moment.”
The girls around him leaned away to allow the barman to deliver the man’s drink. The Veteran picked it up with slightly trembling fingers and swirled the amber liquid around, careful not to spill a drop. He listened to the clink of the ice cubes, the tips of his lips curling upwards.
“Meanwhile, even more colonies fell silent,” he continued. “We dropped everything to prepare for the invasion. Colonies were evacuated, millions of people returning to the welcoming cradle of mother Earth. Only, it wasn’t a haven, but a tomb. Or at least that’s what we thought back then, as one line of defence crumbled after another. I fought in almost all of the big battles, losing every single one of them. ‘We haven’t lost yet’, we’d tell each other. ‘We’ll get ‘em next time.’ Until they entered the Solar System, crushing the Jupiter garrison, then the Mars one, then finally reached the moon. Not the sorry affair you see in the sky nowadays; it was a full, nice round moon back then.”
He took a swish of the drink and swirled it in his mouth, before plonking the glass back onto the table. Smacking his lips for a moment, he lost himself in memories of a full moon. “The moon was our last line of defence. After that, there was nothing but women and children on Earth. It was down to us to stop them.”
The Veteran drew a line on the dirty table, pushing the fine dust with his finger to mark small dots. “They had kicked us out of each planet we had colonized, but this was different,” he snarled. “This time, we were fighting for our home. If we failed, nothing could save humanity. Next stop, Earth.”
He glanced at the wide eyes of his audience, hanging on his every word. “If you think that’s what was on my mind as we landed, you’re wrong. All I cared about was making it out of there alive. I don’t care what those teachers of yours tell you at the Academy; not even half of us made it to the moon. The rest, deserters. Some wanted to stay back on Earth to die with their families. Others took off for any corner of the universe with a rock they could crawl under, thinking they’d wait it all out.”
He cast a triumphant look around him, as if he dared them to contradict his story. In fact, less than 20% had deserted, but his claim made him feel special; brave.
Turning his attention back to the dusty line on the table, he continued. “We were deployed along the Line. The engineers had already dropped the bunkers while in orbit, so we moved in as fast as we could, followed by Blacks and Tourists.”
He shot a questioning glance at his audience, but they seemed familiar with the slang for the armoured units and air support. They probably knew that infantry was referred to as Dirts, too, but no one pointed it out to him. Besides, the animosity between the various units held fast even today. Back then it was worse; everyone really hated armoured units. Their missiles were notoriously unreliable, half of them missing their target to land among the infantry. In many battles, the Beasts only had to finish off the remains of infantry units blown to bits by friendly fire.
“There was so much dust around us, we could not see anything without infrared goggles. Central Command had sent everyone old enough to hold a rifle to stand on the Line. They knew we wouldn’t get a second chance; one mistake, and humanity’s gone. I was fighting alongside kids younger than you. Most had never seen a Beast up close, let alone survive one’s attack. I was the senior in my bunker, and the only real veteran. The oldest one after that had seen no action in two years.”
He took another gulp and wiped his unshaven chin with his napkin. A look of pride crossed his face for a moment, followed by a dark cloud.
“There is no sound in space, you know. Sounds need air to travel, but there’s no air on the moon. There is air in spacesuits, though. And microphones.” He flinched, a brief spasm crossing his wrinkled face. “When the Beasts attack, you hear your friends scream and the rip in their suits as they get torn apart, but the Beast slaughtering them moves in the vacuum of space, making no sound.”
“But we’ve heard the Beasts on the vids,” the freckled redhead blurted out with an involuntary shudder. “They sound like thunder.”
Once again, he enjoyed the cadets’ shocked expressions. Coming from someone else, a jibe against the most decorated soldiers in history would be considered treason. Their new President was but a Colonel back then; she was one of the few people to have survived the Line. The Veteran was one of only a handful of people who could speak his mind about her, and he loved his freedom.
He dug his fist into a bowl filled with nuts and brought them to his mouth. After washing the salty flavour with a sip of his drink, he continued.
“Once the shock passed, we threw everything we had at them. Bullets, missiles, grenades, our knickers, anything we could lay our hands on. Our bunker was lit up like a Christmas tree by the explosions and the flares, lighting up their ugly faces. Two Blacks flanking us disappeared under a wave of Beasts, leaving behind only charred remains. A Tourist almost crashed into our bunker, downed by acid-spitting Beasts. Outside, hell itself had broken loose. All I could see were explosions and the thin lines left by tracer bullets. We felt more than heard a dull thud, and I spun around to see our door cave in under their blows. As I turned my rifle against the Beasts storming in, I remember thinking, ‘This is it; it can’t get no worse than this.’ When I saw a Queen standing so close to me I could touch her, I knew I was wrong.”
He paused for another sip, raising the glass to his lips with shaking hands, terror filling his eyes. The cadets exchanged looks of doubt, but he did not mind. He knew what they were thinking. Could he really have seen a Beast Queen and lived to tell the tale? This was not the part that scared him to death, though; the part that woke him up screaming in the middle of the night. That part was coming.
“So? What happened next?” the freckled redhead asked after a while, her voice betraying her impatience.
Her voice returned him to reality, and he turned his gaze at her. She took an involuntary step back, hit by the strength of his glare. “What no one wants to admit,” he growled. “I saw the hand of God himself, is what happened!”
The cadet stared back at him, her look betraying her bemusement, but she dared not open her mouth.
“I don’t care if you believe me, I know what I saw,” he yelled and slammed the glass down, sending a cloud of dust to twirl inside a thin ray of afternoon light dancing on the table. He studied his hand until it stopped shaking. After a moment he continued, his voice a low growl again. “I know what I saw. Letters sliced the night like a knife. They were huge – bigger than a juggernaut! One after another, filling out the sky; only the wrong way around, like seen through a mirror. But crystal clear. Everything froze; I could not move, as if time itself had stopped by the strange words, written by the hand of God himself.”
He did not pause to see if anyone believed him. No one did, save for those on the Line; and most of them had tried to forget. Not him, though. He knew what he had seen, and had to tell everyone. “Time started its relentless flow again,” he continued, “only this time a white light engulfed me. I stared at my hands, trying to figure it out, too shocked to notice the Queen lunging at me. Not just me, all humans were glowing in that same light. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a huge tail whipping towards me, and I winced, expecting it to slice my body in half. Instead, it passed right through me.” He tapped a finger at the table, repeating every word. “Right through me!”
He shook his head and stared at the young girls, daring them to doubt him. No one spoke. “I don’t know who was more surprised; her or me. I’d run out of rifle ammo, so I fumbled with my sidearm and shot at her. I swear, I expected the bullet to barely scratch her. This is a Queen we’re talking about; I’d seen them survive missile attacks. And yet, as soon as my bullet hit her, she exploded! A boy in the bunker got caught up in the moment; so much so that he threw a grenade, not realizing we’d be caught in the blast. I yelled to stop him, but I was too late. The explosion nearly deafened me, but when the smoke cleared, we were all alive, standing over bloodied Beast bits.
We could not understand what was going on, and crawled out of the bunker. Outside, the few surviving men and women were bathed in the white light, and for the first time we killed Beasts faster than their Queens could spew them. We soon started our counterattack, claiming back first the moon, then clearing out the rest of the galaxy. It was the moment when everything changed, yet no one dares speak of it.” He banged an angry fist on the table, raising more dust.
The blonde cleared her throat. “We were shown vids from the Line at the Academy. It was the President’s strategy that – ”
He cut her off with a tired wave of his hand. “Yeah, yeah, that must have been it. She saved the day. Bah!”
The cadets exchanged awkward looks. “What are you still doing here?” he asked them. “That’s the story. There’s nothing more to say. Now scram. Leave me alone.”
The redhead patted him on the back as the girls moved back to their table, leaving the old man to his thoughts. The blonde made a circling motion with a finger against her temple and winked at the redhead, who nodded and chuckled, stealing a look at the Veteran, hoping he had not caught that. She need not have worried; he had bigger problems than a bunch of doubting cadets. He had seen the hand of God. He knew the world for what it really was.
The bartender standing next to him caught his attention. The young man pointed at the L-shaped medal hanging around the Veteran’s neck. “On the house,” he said and plonked a half-full bottle on the table, throwing a look of pity at the old man. The old man grunted his thanks as he poured the liquid into his glass. He stared at it, shaking his head and muttering to himself.
Mark glanced at the blinking cursor on his monitor, a wicked smile playing on his lips as he punched his keyboard. He paused for a second to check the message his mate had sent him; the one with the cheat code. “Cheat: godMode enable;” appeared on the screen. He hit enter, and the cursor blinked, along with a new message: “Cheat active. God mode enabled.”
“Let’s see how you like this, you suckers,” he mumbled under his breath and unpaused the game.
Book trailer: http://bit.ly/1j0OJKS
The Power of Six: http://amzn.to/1kKVduI
Pearseus, Year 18: The Schism (Book 1 in the Pearseus series): http://amzn.to/1aDgXDA
Pearseus, Rise of the Prince (Book 2 in the Pearseus series): http://amzn.to/1jlXLj6
Pearseus, Books 1&2 (special edition): http://amzn.to/RqjNbU
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