Category Archives: Worlds of Wonder Author Hop

Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, Day 7: Interview With A Reader

Hi again, and welcome to the next First Cause contribution to the Worlds of Wonder. In today’s stop, we’re going to interview one of our readers! Enjoy.

1. Have you got a favorite genre? If so, why?

My favorite genre is paranormal/supernatural fiction. The reason is a little personal, but it has to do with the strength of the bonds between the two lead characters, which usually end up as a couple. The bond between these two characters isn’t realistic, but I’d really like to experience a bond like that anyway.

2. What makes you interested in First Cause?

I actually just learned about First Cause and I can say that I’m very intrigued by the story. It has an almost Fringe-like feel that leaves me wondering what could possibly be behind everything. That kind of story is addictive!

3. How important is covert art in influencing your decision to read a book?

Cover art is very important when I’m deciding to read a book. The first books I look at are the books that I like the covers for, then I look at the story. I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but everything needs a pretty package to gain a persons attention. It’s like when you’re shopping in the store for something: Aren’t you more likely to buy something that’s appealing to your eye?

4. How quickly do you generally read a novel?

Reading duration depends on what other things I have going on. If I’m participating in a reading challenge or a read-a-thon, I usually read a book within a day or two. If I’m just reading for my personal enjoyment and not an event, I take my time and finish when I get to the end of the book. That can take anywhere from two days to a week or two, depending on how big the book is.

5. Tell me a few of your favorite authors or books, and why they are favorites.

One of my favorite authors is Stephenie Meyer. If I hadn’t read The Twilight Saga, I wouldn’t be where I am today in the book community. Reading that series refueled my love of reading. I’m a huge Cassandra Clare fan. There is just something magical about her Shadowhunter Chronicles that enchants me. I’m always looking forward to her next book in the Chronicles. Then there is Jennifer L. Armentrout. I was always wondering about the hype behind her and her books, the Lux series in particular. I understood what everyone was talking about when I read Obsidian. She combines laugh-out-loud humor and steaming romance to create a science fiction story that I don’t want to end.

6. If you will, take a moment to read either Chapter One (here on the website) or this weekend’s excerpt. What do you think?

I read Chapter One of First Cause and I really want to continue! This first chapter alone had me holding my breath and had my eyes popping. And stopping at Chapter One leaves you with a big cliffhanger! Like I said in my answer to question two, this is the kind of story that is addictive.

7. Have you got any questions for me, based on what you’ve read in my contribution to this week’s Author Hop? I’ll reply below.

There are a lot of people who believe that something like the events in your book, First Cause, could really happen. Is there any belief on your part that something like the events in your book can happen in real life? Or is it purely fictional?

PW’s answer: My intention was to make the events of the book plausible, in a human context, because the story is essentially about the human condition. Interstellar travel (and a few other aspects of Luceri technology that might come to light) is the only part of the story that is, as yet, not considered possible; even so, the way the Luceri achieved it was rendered based on actual human history and a moderate extension of patterns and technological leaps that have already occurred. There’s a lot of precedent in human history for extreme quantum leaps in technological capability, especially in the past two centuries, and history in this sense (and others) is accelerating. This is both extremely hopeful and extremely dangerous, in my opinion (hence my opening one of my chapters with the H.G. Wells quote, “human history is more and more a race between education and catastrophe”)…with First Cause, I try to look at the good and bad possibilities of humankind. I guess that’s why I call it historical futurism! Hopefully you find it realistic enough to be compelling 🙂


Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

Thanks for reading! I’ve had lots of fun being part of the Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, and I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about First Cause. Thanks to the reader who participated in today’s Q&A, as well 🙂

To learn more about the Hop, click the link below:


Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, Day 6: Interview With President Cyrus Reardon

Hi again, and welcome to the next First Cause contribution to the Worlds of Wonder. In today’s stop, we’re going to read a Q&A with President Cyrus Reardon. This hypothetical interview will be presumed to take place during the events of the First Cause Terranaut Trilogy.

Mister President, why do you think you were chosen to lead in this crisis?

Still getting used to that ‘Mister President’ thing. I think, honestly, because I’m single. They wouldn’t want someone down in a bunker with a family above ground; the assumption would be that that would condition the decision making. And they wouldn’t want the distractions of a family down here…I’m not saying the argument makes sense, but then again, a lot of politics doesn’t really make sense when you think about it.

You’re known as a politician who isn’t fond of his peers.

That pretty much nails it. I got into politics–this sounds like something people just say, but I mean it–to change it from the inside. I can’t stand most politicians, and I don’t like their circles. Probably why I’m still single. I mean, where would I meet anybody? I don’t really have a ton of friends, either.

Does leading a relatively solitary existence prepare you for leading the government from inside a bunker?

Nothing prepares you for leading the government from inside a bunker. It’s been a heck of a thing, really. I’ve learned a lot in these past few weeks.

What have you learned?

I’ve learned to be more of an internationalist, first of all. It isn’t that I didn’t care about the world at large before, but I think I was always focused on solving the problems that existed within American society. This crisis–it really showed me that the same problems exist in different forms all over the world. Of course, there are problems specific to American society–for example, the specific nature of the scapegoating we’ve seen after the attacks, it’s similar to scapegoating in other places but directed at people in different ways and for different reasons here. But–I guess I was in politics for years, but I was really just flailing around. I had principles, and beliefs, and a strong ethical sense, but I didn’t really have a central rudder. I don’t have one now, but at least now, I’m aware that I didn’t have one before. Another thing: I’ve learned that I still really hate politics.

Will you leave politics after this crisis ends?

I don’t know when it well end, first of all. I don’t know how it will end, or even if there is an end, the way a lot of things just end. I think that I have a talent for politics, or at least for leadership…there are things in my life that have made me want to stay out of things, and things in my life that have made me want to get more involved in things. That’s my problem, really. I’ve always wanted mostly to attack poverty and division in American society, but I didn’t always have the patience to deal with the larger issues linked around poverty and division. I wasn’t enough of a big picture thinker. That’s definitely changed now. So…I guess no, I won’t leave politics. In a way, it’s increased my passion for politics.

Does that mean you’re hopeful for the future?

That’s a hard question to answer. I mean, if I really had that much hope, I wouldn’t feel compelled to try so hard to change things. But if I didn’t have any hope at all, I guess I wouldn’t bother. My increased passion for politics probably comes from a feeling that my understanding of things has improved a bit…the things people have done during the past few weeks have been both disgraceful and inspiring. I wouldn’t say I’m any more or less hopeful just yet.

Last question: do you believe the story in the letters?

Good grief…at this point, I think I do. A trusted friend has met Adam and Angela, and he believes their story–and he’s not an easy man to hoodwink. The mounting evidence is hard to deny. I guess everyone’s world just got a little bigger.

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

Thanks for reading! For more stops on the Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, click the link below:

Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, Day 5: Excerpt From First Cause

Hi, and welcome to my next stop on this week’s Worlds of Wonder Author Hop! I hope you enjoy your stop here; please check below for the other stops on the Hop. Today’s stop is another excerpt from First Cause–this time, from later in the story. Enjoy!

May 25th 2008

Orach sat with his back against the cave wall, silently regarding the assault rifle he cradled in his lap. Though it was nearly June, the weather on the steppes of Central Asia had lapsed into a wintry freeze; the floor of the cave felt like lightly dusted ice as the wind howled outside and the temperature around him hovered near thirty degrees. The men who had previously occupied the cave–the battered corpses that lay in a pile fifty feet away–had been less aptly dressed for the Afghan winter than the Terranauts who had taken them by surprise; the material synthesized for Orach and his men had been well designed. Nevertheless, even extensive temperature orientation could not prepare the Terranauts to feel more than minimally acclimated to the harshness of the local climate. Orach could not imagine a lifetime in such a climate; he looked forward to the warmer temperatures typical of the territory the Directors were planning to commandeer. He was unsure precisely which area of the so-called Middle East the Directors were planning to take; he was only aware of the most rudimentary details of the greater Terra Project, just enough that he might have some strategic understanding of his purpose in bearing freezing temperatures in an Afghan cave. He was the commander of roughly two hundred Terranauts, separated into half a dozen groups that, each several hundred miles apart, formed a loose perimeter to the north and east of the Arabian Peninsula. Their greater aim was to secure an area of land from which an assault might be launched, in coordination with several other groups, on a target area to be chosen by the Directors.

As if prompted by his lamenting the cold, it began to snow outside the cave.

Slinging the gun over his shoulder, Orach hopped to his feet and waggled his arms to warm up. He walked to the mouth of the cave, whose ceiling was mere inches above his head, and looked outside. The snow fell lightly but in large flakes, and it was already beginning to accumulate on the ground. Even less inclined toward introspection than the average Terranaut, whose society didn’t encourage introspection, Orach found himself easily bored when faced with a lack of interactive stimuli. When Orach became bored, he became sullen; it was a short step, for Orach, from sullenness to violence. As such, he was grimly pleased to see a lone figure plodding toward him in the whitening distance. Studying the shape, he saw that the man was not especially tall and that his emaciation was evident even through his heavy gear. He was surely not a Terranaut.

Moreover, he didn’t appear to be aware of Orach’s presence, which was almost certainly cloaked by the relative darkness of the cave’s interior. The only light in the cave was cast by a small portable spotlight, obtained from the cave’s deceased prior inhabitants, that stood at a forty-five degree angle fifteen feet from where Orach stood. Pressing his back against the sidewall of the cave’s mouth, Orach looked sideways toward the approaching figure, now less than fifty feet away. The intensifying wind now making the snow appear to fall diagonally instead of directly toward the ground; the man’s pace quickened in keeping with the snow, but he seemed to be favoring his left leg. Grinning, Orach slung his rifle across his back; he would not need it.

Kyonakh Sharipov was tired, cold and hungry–and lonely. Born and raised in the recalcitrant republic of Chechnya, his father, descended from a Chechen war hero, had named him “Knight”, in expectation that he would join his nation’s long and persistent struggle for independence from Russian rule. Kyonakh had, for much of his life, considered himself a pacifist—until October 7th of 2005. Kyonakh, then seventeen, had been preparing to join his mother and sister at the dinner table when an explosion shook the floor of their small house. It fell just outside the window, and seconds later another shell fell through their roof. Kyonakh was thrown to his bedroom floor, his ears ringing from the blast and his mind racing in panic; scarcely a minute later, the shelling had stopped and an eerie silence had taken its place. There were no sirens or screams from outside, as the Sharipovs lived roughly a quarter of a mile from the nearest house. Kyonakh, trying to gather his senses, staggered to his feet and scrambled toward the place where their dinner table had been; it was now covered in what looked like hundreds of pounds of rubble. He dug for what seemed like forever, finally happening upon his mother’s hand. It was cold despite the relative warmth of the outside air…and then Kyonakh discovered that it was detached from her arm.

Kyonakh’s next coherent memory from that afternoon was waking up several hours later, lying in the grass twenty feet from his house, his face covered in tears and his hands covered in blood–his own and that of the women in his family. By the time emergency vehicles arrived, he was nearly two miles away; he had simply wandered, dazed, until he could no longer walk, and then sank into a deep and turbulent sleep. He repeated this pattern for over ten miles, until he was picked up by a truckload of men who found him lying in a dewy patch of grass near the border of Kazakhstan two days later. The men were rebels, determined to fight off the yoke of outside rule and establish a Central Asian Islamic Republic from the ashes of the long-dead Soviet Union and the northern regions of ancient Persia.

Now, three years later, Kyonakh staggered through driving snow toward the cave in which he’d resided for nearly two months. His hatred of the Russians and their soldiers, of murderous European imperialists and corrupt ex-Soviets, had given way to a generalized hatred of warfare–and an even deeper hatred of winter. Only three years after having joined an Afghan-based insurgency, the specific enemy of which he had never quite been able to articulate, Kyonakh had seen enough blood and tears shed to last him several lifetimes; ninety-six hours ago, he had lost the closest friend he’d made since first taking up arms. Cradling Elias Myasi, who struggled to moan between his last breaths, Kyonakh had decided he’d had enough. He had a general sense of when European and United Nations convoys passed through the area, as well as a vague idea of their routes; the next time he happened upon a vehicle that traveled under the authority of a European flag, he would lay down his arms and lay himself down in the middle of the road. He would offer himself unto their mercies, claim conscription and hope he was allowed citizenship in a more peaceful land. He had no idea where he would end up, but he knew that he could no longer live where everyone seemed to be constantly in harm’s way and the rhetoric of nationalism seemed only a thinly veiled excuse for the shedding of civilian blood on both sides. For the first time in what seemed like forever, he once again found himself repulsed by violence rather than awash in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight; the memories of things he’d seen and done in the past three years began to haunt him like the nightmares of another man. Staggering through the snow, he shuddered to think of the eyes of the last man he’d shot at close range, whose broad cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes reminded him of a childhood neighbor with whom he used to eat lunch in the grass. His anticipation of no longer being always on alert–of no longer having to shoot or be shot, of no longer having to scan every visual angle for a sniper or assailant–in short, his anticipation of having a life he might actually somewhat enjoy–only seemed to intensify his physical and mental exhaustion.

As Orach watched the man approach, his sullen boredom gave way to gleeful anticipation. He would toy with this one, rather than quickly dispose of him; he would disarm the man and exorcise his boredom by making the man suffer. It had been a while since he had made someone suffer.

The snowfall had gotten extremely heavy, and Kyonakh was trying to walk faster, but all he could do was lengthen his strides–which seemed to have little effect; his legs felt leaden with fatigue, and his left ankle was recovering from a recent sprain. He was pleased to think he saw movement in the mouth of the cave; he craved company, something to take his mind off of his ankle and his longing for peace. Even the less communicative or more moody of his comrades would be a welcome presence in the cold darkness; in his tired state, it did not even occur to him that the shape in the cave’s mouth might not be an ally.

Orach stood and watched calmly, clenching and unclenching his fists as his mouth widened into a grin. The man paused for a second, his head tilted at a slight angle, perhaps realizing that the figure he saw did not belong to his group; Orach smiled more broadly, his eyes still gleaming with malice, and extended his arm above his head in a welcoming gesture.

Kyonakh paused. The man seemed surprisingly large and was wearing an unfamiliar uniform; something was wrong. The man raised his arm and presented an open palm–seemingly attempting to reassure him from afar. But why would that be necessary? Kyonakh reached for his assault rifle and steadied himself on his stronger foot. He called into the snow. “Who is there? Identify yourself.”

The tall man, who wore a synthetic looking bodysuit and seemed untroubled by the cold, simply stepped out of the mouth of the cave and disappeared into the driving snow. Kyonakh raised his rifle. “I am armed,” he called out. “Identify yourself at once!” His adrenaline began to surge, despite his nearly debilitating exhaustion. He readied his rifle and walked toward the cave, his step energized by his sense of danger. Suddenly he found his lungs half empty–and himself sailing toward the ground, wrapped in the arms of what he saw fit to assume was the tall man he had seen in the mouth of the cave.

As they landed in the snow, Orach turned his shoulders to increase the force with which he drove the startled soldier into the ground. With his arms still in a vice grip around the man’s ribcage, he planted one foot firmly and rose to his feet, lifting the much shorter man effortlessly into the air. The wind’s howl had increased to nearly a shriek, so Orach could not hear the soldier’s grunt of pain and surprise–he could, however, feel his ribcage contract suddenly and struggle to expand.

Kyonakh felt his concentration dwindle as he struggled to take in oxygen; his attacker’s arms felt like steel cables. The snow, driven by ferocious slabs of wind, battered him mercilessly upon the exposed parts of his face; all of a sudden it seemed ten degrees colder than when it had first begun to snow. He struggled and kicked his legs, but the man was nearly a foot taller than he was and Kyonakh’s attempted heel-butts seemed to glance harmlessly off of his thighs. He thrust his head backward, hoping to land a distracting blow to his assailant’s nose; the man simply wagged his head out of the way as his body shook with–laughter?

Orach chuckled at the man’s pathetic attempts to strike him. He felt the man lose strength and tightened his grip–carefully, however, as he did not want his prey to lose consciousness yet.

A mild state of delirium began to descend upon Kyonakh, visions of his boyhood home floating behind his half-lidded eyes. He felt a strange sense of calm as his consciousness began to wane; he still felt bitterly cold, but his mind seemed to have lost the will to fight–instead retreating into the world of memory, attempting to soothe him with pictures of his younger years and deceased loved ones. He almost willingly succumbed to the memory of a more peaceful time, his impending loss of consciousness beginning to lose its urgency. And then he felt one of his ribs crack.

Orach began to walk toward the cave, still holding the struggling soldier in his arms and intermittently tightening and releasing his grip on the man. Suddenly, he felt a slight jarring in the man’s torso and a soft whump that reverberated silently through the man’s clothing. He noticed blithely that the man, whose struggling had tapered off, opened his mouth and attempted vainly to cry out. Orach supposed that two or three of the man’s ribs were now broken inward, though not far enough to puncture a lung—just enough to cause great pain.

Kyonakh’s force of will–the strength of resolve that had first allowed him to resist taking up arms and then to survive as a soldier despite an essentially pacifistic personality–the resolve with which he had once vowed to fight imperialism and foreign incursion, and with which he later decided to leave the life of fighting and death behind—all of this suddenly rose within him, invigorating him with a determination not to perish in the snowy mountains of Central Asia. Determination, and moreover anger.

With his last words on this earth, Elias Myasi had instructed Kyonakh to take from his pockets the picture he carried of his family, along with the knife he had hunted with since childhood; this latter object, Kyonakh suddenly remembered, was tucked into the long, narrow pocket in the side of his pants. Kyonakh raised his left thigh toward his chest and subtly let his left arm dangle toward the ground; he reached into his pocket and pulled out the six-inch weapon, turning it in his palm so that its serrated blade faced the stranger who seemed to take such glee in causing him pain.

Orach felt the soldier’s arm go limp, collapsing toward the ground; he released his grip slightly, tucking his chin toward his chest as the driving snow changed direction and sandblasted his cheek. It was nearly impossible to see more than ten feet in any direction, but he knew he was mere feet away from the cave. He barely noticed the slight movements of the man’s left arm; he dismissed the man’s rising left leg as more agonized writhing. And then he felt a blinding, piercing pain, deep in the intersection of his hip and upper thigh. In shock and pain, he released his grip on the man.

Kyonakh landed on the ground with a painful thump as the man screamed–Kyonakh could hear his scream, even through the driving storm—and turned to see the man clutch his thigh, from which blood had already begun to seep profusely. The enormous man, infuriated, lunged toward him and slammed his hands down upon Kyonakh’s shoulders, lifting him with frightening ease several feet into the air. Kyonakh drove his heel into the man’s thigh at the exact point from which blood oozed through his strange uniform; predictably, he was released. He sprung to his feet and raced for his dead comrades—how could this one man have possibly killed all of them?—and reached for one of their guns.

Orach could not recall the last time he had suffered serious pain at the hands of another human being. Even as a child, he’d grown uncommonly strong and tall at such an early age that many of his instructors and superiors either feared him or selected him as an extension of their own personal power. He had suffered mild injuries–abrasions and the like–in altercations with his peers, but he had not lost a fight in nearly two decades; he had not felt pain of this magnitude in far longer than that. He was nearly blind with rage…and yet behind his rage hovered a fog of self-doubt, an emotion with which he was almost completely unfamiliar. The only thing to do, the only thing he could possibly do, was to punish the source of this unwanted emotion. He was even more determined than before to make the man suffer.

It didn’t occur to him to remember the rifles that lay strewn around the bodies of the Afghan soldiers in the cave; he looked up to see Kyonakh Sharipov pointing one at him.

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

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Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, Day 4: Interview With Angela Smith, Protagonist of First Cause

Hi again, and welcome to the next First Cause contribution to the Worlds of Wonder Author Hop. In today’s stop, we’re going to read a Q&A with one of the First Cause protagonists, Angela Smith. This hypothetical interview is set during the events of the Terranaut Trilogy.

How would you describe where you’re from?

While I was there, I might have described it very differently. I was raised on a militaristic compound, and contemplation of our lives was discouraged…the outside world on Lucero was very different from life on our compound, but we were never exposed to it. In fact, as we were told, Luceri citizens were spoiled children with highly advanced toys, who required our protection even though they would not have appreciated us. We were taught that we were the defenders of the Luceri future, and we didn’t think of the contradictions involved with protecting a future in which we would likely not participate.

How would you describe it now?

Brutish, Spartan, militaristic, regimented, pressurized and yet in some ways quite advanced in technique. The world in which I now find myself often fits these same descriptions, but it can also be quite inspiring and interesting.

How do you feel about your involvement in the Terra Project?

I could not feel sorrier for my involvement, though it was obviously not by choice. I have come to the belief that I would do anything to stop the Project. My time here on Earth–I would not necessarily say that my time on Earth has changed me, but it has allowed me to feel more complete. It has allowed me to be more complete. I was always vaguely discontent on the compound, moreso than my peers, but I was never able to articulate why. My experience here has given me context to do so.

But you just said that the world here mirrors the negative aspects of the compound.

It does. But being here, seeing the things I have seen, meeting the people I have met, has proven to me that the problems of Earth and the problems of the compound are the same–but so are the possibilities of Lucero and the possibilities on Earth. We were lied to, on the compound, about Lucero. Lucero is the product of two things: the problems on Earth, which mirror those on the compound, and the capability of terrestrial humankind to transcend the problems of Earth. If people here were exposed to the better aspects of the Luceri example, the Terra Project might move beyond its original aims and become a positive thing. I don’t know the larger aims of the Project, despite my relatively high status among the Terranauts; but I can say that, based on what I do know, and based on the methods and philosophy implied by our life on the compound, they do not reflect the better aspects of the human personality. By human, in this instance, I obviously mean both terrestrial and Luceri.

By ‘people I have met,’ do you mean Adam Grey?

I do mean Adam Grey, but not only Adam Grey. Adam represents a salient part of a larger process, for me. Without having met him, I don’t know how my life here would presently be. I would like to repay him…he’s certainly one of the reasons I’m so focused on stopping the Project. He’s a reason I’m willing to sacrifice my life to impede the success of the Project, and help him spread awareness of everything I know about the Project. But he’s not the only reason. It would be nearly impossible for me to list the reasons it is now my primary mission to stop the Project.

You sound as though you’re driven by regret.

Terrible regret…yes.

You say you would sacrifice your life. But at the same time, it sounds as if your experience on Earth has given you, so to speak, a ‘new lease on life.’ There’s some contradiction there. Which is a higher priority for you? Redemption, or moving forward with your new perspective?

My new perspective has altered my sense of purpose. More specifically, it has given me the sense of purpose that my training on the compound was not able to instill. For me, stopping the Project is more of a mission than my original mission ever was. I wish to survive, but my survival is secondary to the redemption you speak of.

And if you do survive? What then?

If I successfully contribute to stopping the Project, it will be a difficult process. It is hard for me to speculate on how exactly the Project can be stopped, so it is hard for me to speculate on what I’ll do if that occurs. I know I’ll be happy to have secured Adam’s safety, to have made a positive contribution to a world that I nearly had a hand in destroying, and…if Adam will have me, I believe I’d like to spend my life with him. I’m grateful for the chance to reconsider, and escape, my previous failures of perspective. I am grateful for Adam, and Gabriel, and Professor Stock, and the other terrestri–people who represent my new hope for the human race. I will do my best to cherish, and spend well, my time here on Earth. If I am so fortunate.

With all of this in mind, what are you most afraid of?

I’m afraid of failing at my new mission. I am terribly afraid of seeing Adam further harmed as a result of the Project. I have nightmares–I have always had nightmares, but lately they are always the same. In my nightmares, I wake up in my room, on the compound.

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

Thanks for reading! For more stops on the Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, click the link below:

Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, Day 3: Excerpt From First Cause

Hi, and welcome to my next stop on this week’s Worlds of Wonder Author Hop! I hope you enjoy your stop here; please check below for the other stops on the Hop. Today’s stop is an excerpt from First Cause–specifically, chapter one. Enjoy!

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause


Security is mostly a superstition.

– Helen Keller

May 5th 2008

Sitting in the back of the WVNY-TV news van, Anthony Francis Del Torro stared out the window blankly; he’d gone to a late dinner party the night before, and had only gotten five hours of sleep. As the van made its way through the dense traffic of midtown Manhattan, Anthony sipped his cup of coffee and gazed drowsily at the scores of people walking outside. The sun shone brightly, the temperature was eighty-four degrees, and the streets were packed with pedestrians; representatives of all of New York’s proverbial walks of life seemed to be enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.

Anthony, along with “roving reporter” Glenda Swanson, was on his way to cover a celebration for the Mexican holiday known as Cinco de Mayo. Organized by the students and faculty of New York University, the celebration was held in Washington Square Park–the closest thing the urban university had to a campus center. As of eleven in the morning, Washington Square Park was already packed with people as the sunshine and warmth brought student and civilian alike out into the spring air; in conjunction with the celebration, there was a modest street fair occupying a two-block stretch of University Place just outside of the park. Anthony was looking forward to a relatively short broadcast followed by an afternoon of downtime; he planned to walk around the Village a bit, check out the festivals, hit a few used record shops and catch a late afternoon movie with his girlfriend. Glenda, too, had plans for the afternoon: to take a yoga class and then head to the roof of her apartment building to sunbathe.

At three minutes past noon, an explosion occurred near the center of the park and sent bodies, property and concrete flying for dozens of feet in every direction.

At five minutes past noon, the WVNY-TV news truck was passing through Times Square. Anthony chugged the last few ounces of his lukewarm coffee. Glenda sat quietly across from him, eyes closed, engaged in a silent relaxation ritual she usually performed before going on camera. Neither was aware of the explosion that had just interrupted the festival they were on their way to cover. Having finished her meditation routine, Glenda opened her eyes and happened to glance out the window at a green pickup truck that was parked outside a subway station three lanes of traffic away from the van. Less than a minute after the truck passed out of her field of vision, it exploded. Had Glenda still been looking out the window, she might have suffered severe injury to her face and eyes as the van’s plate glass windows were blown inward; fortunately, she had already leaned back into her chair and closed her eyes again. When the truck exploded, the force of the blast rocked the van and Anthony and Glenda were knocked from their seats.

The van’s driver, forty-nine year old Dennis Ridgeway, managed to bring the van to a screeching halt before suffering a massive heart attack and slumping onto the steering wheel.

Glenda leaned toward the rear window, trying to see through the smoke that poured from the site of the explosion fifty yards away. The smoke was already so thick that she could hardly see ten feet beyond the back of the van.

Anthony, sprinkled with shards and pebbles of glass, scrambled to reach for his shoulder camera. Checking the camera for damage, he hoisted it into position and began preparing to tape. “Can you see anything? What the hell was that?”

“I don’t know…it was right by that subway station I think.” Glenda paused for a moment, then her eyes widened and her head snapped toward the front of the van. “Hey, where’s Dennis? Dennis, are you all right?” She called toward the front of the van. “Dennis?” There was no answer. She rose to her feet and began to climb over piles of tapes and equipment that had been shaken to the van’s floor; when she got to the front, she found Dennis’ limp body leaning across the steering wheel. Glenda had a bad feeling as soon as she looked at him–he’d had two heart attacks in the past six years–but she swallowed hard and checked his pulse nonetheless. She’d hoped to be surprised, but as expected there was no pulse in Dennis’ neck or wrist. She called to the back of the van. “Anthony?” She stopped, not knowing what to say. She looked down at Dennis’ body for a second; after a deep sigh, she squeezed his shoulder—she wasn’t sure why, perhaps to comfort his departing soul–and began to make her way toward the rear. Anthony called to her, “How is he Glen?”

She looked back at the body one more time. “Not good. I think he had a heart attack…another one.” She plodded toward where Anthony was holding his equipment and gaping out the rear window. He turned to look at her. “Is he okay?” She tightened her lips and shook her head; he nodded, knowing exactly what she meant. Anthony steadied his camera, just as Glenda’s cell phone began to ring. She checked the incoming number; it belonged to WVNY-TV’s news director.

“Hi. I suppose you’re calling about–” Glenda paused, listening into the phone, as Anthony literally held his breath watching her. “What? No, I haven’t heard anything…there’s actually been an explosion here at Times Square. Yes, I said Times Square…you’re saying there was one at the park too?” She looked up at Anthony, her eyes wider than before and her mouth hanging open.

Anthony’s throat went dry. “Did I just hear you say there was another explosion?” He glanced out the window and back at Glenda. The smoke was thick and charcoal colored, and no longer seemed to billow from the truck’s carcass but by now was an impenetrable fog.

Glenda nodded her head energetically as she listened to the news director. “Okay, we’ll try and be rolling in a few seconds. I’ll put in my earpiece and get connected; Dennis may have had a heart attack, so we’re not mobile. It’s terrible up here…” She paused again. “Give us a few seconds to get hooked up and then try to talk to me through the piece.” She clicked the phone and looked up at her stunned cameraman. Her eyes, no longer saucers, were focused and steady. “You ready?” Anthony nodded in response, and hesitantly opened the back door as Glenda inserted her earpiece. He squeezed his eyes closed for a split second, took a deep breath and hopped down onto the street. His camera was equipped with a small floodlight affixed to its top; he clicked it on as Glenda climbed out of the van behind him.

They made their way over toward what was left of the truck; it was hardly recognizable as an automobile. The blacktop of the street was charred with burn marks, and the curb of the adjacent sidewalk was chipped and cracked from the blast. Bodies lay everywhere: in twos and threes near the site of the blast, piled on top of one another in the stairwell of the subway station and thrown on top of cars and nearby structures stretching at least fifty feet away. People staggered about, arms around each other as they tried to assist friend and stranger alike. Individual people wandered around in evident states of shock; some of them seemed impossibly unaware of horrific wounds to their bodies or even their heads and faces. Anthony saw a man limp past him, hobbling desperately on a leg that was bent almost thirty degrees at the middle of the shin. Anthony took a deep breath and lifted his camera into position. “Jesus Christ,” he said breathlessly. He looked over his shoulder at Glenda, who had donned her headset and clipped her earphone to her blouse. “Glen…you see this?” Anthony’s normally rich baritone had plummeted to a thin, strained whisper; he sounded as though he’d been punched in the stomach. He felt worse than that.

Glenda was listening through her earpiece to the instruction of the news director. She nodded her head–Anthony wasn’t sure if it was at him or at what she was hearing over the phone–then looked up somberly. “I see it…I can’t really believe it but I see it. Anthony, we’ve…we’ve got to get rolling. Can you do it? Are you okay?” She was hardly asking; she was insisting. Glenda could be occasionally shaken when caught off guard, but once she clicked into focus she was all business even under incredible duress. Anthony admired this trait in her greatly. Glenda now held the microphone. “Are we on? Tell me when we’re on.” The smoke had finally begun to clear.

He motioned in forward rolling circles with his free hand. “Yeah, yeah, go, go! We’re rolling.

“Okay–good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, this is Glenda Swanson, and I am here at the corner of Broadway and Forty-Second Street where a truck has just exploded in the middle of a crowded street. I have no idea how many people are injured, but the scene here is absolutely chaotic and the explosion was very, very powerful. It seems as though most of the vehicle–which appears to be some sort of pickup truck–is almost completely gone. I’m not sure what sort of detonation device was used, but if there hadn’t been two lanes of traffic separating us from the blast, it’s possible we might not be here to report this to you right now. I actually caught a glimpse of the truck as we passed it, not too long before it blew up…it was really quite an explosion.” Glenda began to walk around the area, which had gone from midday pedestrian throng to simulated war zone in mere seconds. Anthony followed her lead, filming the entire way and grimacing at the carnage. After several seconds, they both had fallen into stunned silence. Dan Morgan, the WNVYTV newscaster, looked toward the camera and tried to fill the dead air. “Wow. We haven’t got any footage or contacts at Washington Square Park just yet, but from what I understand the scene is similar down there. Glenda, are you or your crew injured at all?”

Glenda briefly considered mentioning Dennis, but it occurred to her that his family or friends might be watching. “No, we’re fine so far, but people are staggering around, many police officers seem to be injured as well, and the…wait, I think I hear sirens, yes, the fire department is approaching now.”

Another car exploded just then, six cars away from the truck. The force of the blast knocked Glenda several paces through the air and onto the pavement; it knocked Anthony to one knee and dislodged his camera from his grasp. The camera continued running, roughly two feet from its operator, while Dan Morgan tried to maintain his composure as he called Glenda’s name to no avail. Morgan turned to the camera, with a stunned expression, and simply said, “I’m sorry, but…we seem to have lost contact. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t want to speculate until we can at least regain visual contact or get a report from the area.” He hesitated for a full second; a keen eyed viewer would have noticed a slight twitch in his left eye, the resurfacing of a tic he’d suppressed in his teens. He quickly regained his composure and continued, deciding to speak candidly to the audience. “I can only pray for the safety of our crew, as well as the unfortunate souls in Times Square right now.” A hurried decision was made, behind the scenes, to cut to a commercial break.

Anthony staggered to his feet and peered through the thickening smoke, which poured from the wreckage of the second car and combined with the dissipating fog from the first explosion. It was getting hard to see more than a few paces in any direction; Anthony rubbed his eyes with both hands and squinted into the smoke. “Glen? Glenda, you okay?” Suddenly there was a trembling hand on his shoulder. He turned to face Glenda, who looked visibly shaken but was standing on both feet. “Shit. Are you hurt?”

“N-no.” She shook her head, brushing her hair from her face and brushing dirt from her blouse. “The camera, Anthony where’s the camera? I’ve got to…damn, what time is it, we’re going to miss the festival…I…” She glanced downward to look at herself. “My knee is scraped…wait, is my skirt torn? Shit, shit Tony I think I’m bleeding…” Glenda’s eyes were glazed and distant; recognizing that she was in shock, Anthony clutched her gently by the shoulders and checked her for visible injuries. Her knee was scraped, as she had claimed, but worse still—her auburn hair was darkened and thickened with blood near the back of her head. Anthony pulled her closer, put an arm around her waist and began to walk her away from the blast site as dozens of people ran past them in the same direction. She barely resisted, and began to speak in a dazed babble about her camera and how they were going to get down to Washington Square Park. He squeezed her more firmly around the shoulders. “We’re right by Forty Second Street, Glen, it’s a major thoroughfare, we can get some help there and maybe lay you down for a second. It’s okay; you’ll be fine, try to relax and don’t try to run or anything, honey. Just stay calm.” The truth was, as he tilted his head to look behind her he could now actually see the wound that oozed blood into her hair and onto her blouse. It wasn’t yet life threatening, but it was potentially dangerous and would certainly need stitches. He guessed she had probably hit her head on the street when the second blast knocked her down. A police officer walked quickly past them about five feet away. Anthony waved him over. “Uh, officer, we’re with the press, my colleague has been hurt and I think she’s in shock. Can we get–”

Officer Murray Shaw, who had been hustling toward the second blast site with radio in hand, paused in his tracks and glanced at Anthony with agitation. “Pal, I don’t know any more than you do right now, but you’ll have to evacuate the area. You really don’t wanna stick around here.” He hurried off in the direction he’d been heading.

Glenda was now slumped against him and barely standing on her own. He struggled with her deadening weight, whispering into her ear. “Glen, c’mon now, don’t fall asleep on me honey, let’s go, we’re gonna get you out of here in just a minute. You hear the sirens? Those are ambulances. You did a great job, we taped the footage, and you got just a little banged around but you’re going to be all right now.” He decided to try and carry her. He was a reasonably strong man, but not terribly tall at five foot eight; she was practically his height, an inch or two taller in her heels. He was leaning forward, his arm behind her back, bracing himself to lift her legs off of the ground when Officer Shaw returned. “Listen, how bad is she, pal? We got triage set up over there.” He pointed toward a cluster of ambulances parked on the corner of Seventh Avenue.

“Her head, I think she hit her head, man. She’s bleeding all over the place.” He felt his voice cracking, his sense of alarm rising and his head swimming as the smoke he’d inhaled began to affect his concentration. He’d been asthmatic as a child, and his tolerance for smoke inhalation was lower than that of the average person. He’d suppressed his discomfort up until this point, especially once Glenda had gotten hurt; now it all seemed to catch up with him at once and he felt short of breath and anxious. “Listen, I got asthma, I don’t know if I can carry her.”

“I got her, bro.” The officer, a powerfully built man, scooped up Glenda’s increasingly limp frame and began to walk toward the sound of sirens and shouting. “What about you, you okay? She might not be as bad as she looks, head wounds, they bleed a lot you know.”

“I’m okay, I think, just short of breath. Wait, my camera’s still running. Wait!” He almost sprinted toward the rubble when Shaw called him back sharply. “You’re not too clear in the head yourself right now, fella. Let’s walk this way and get the both of you some help. C’mon, I don’t wanna ask you again.” He began to carry Glenda, who had fully lost consciousness, toward the ambulances.

“Right, sorry.” Anthony scrambled to catch the officer, who had gained several feet on him. Meanwhile, his mind raced. Two explosions in one small area so close together in time–what the hell did it mean? Why two? Why so close together? Would there be another one? Something didn’t seem right. He looked around at the people, fleeing toward the corner where the ambulances had parked. He looked toward the police officers, milling about and trying to direct pedestrian traffic and halt vehicular traffic from adjacent streets. All of these people in one place, so many of them bloodied, scared, confused, and panicked; something occurred to him all at once. What if they were being herded? As a politics major in college, Anthony had taken an academic interest in military strategy. He recalled that one ancient, and not so ancient, tactic had been to get a population or army funneled into an area to make them easier to surround. He didn’t see any opposing army, but the strategy could be applied in other ways, couldn’t it? He tapped Officer Shaw on the shoulder. “Listen, man, when’s the last time you saw two bombs so close together in time and vicinity?”

Shaw, who was beginning to struggle somewhat with Glenda’s frame, looked mildly annoyed. “I don’t study these things, pal. You wanna write the book, do it later.” By now, they were mere paces from the nearest open stretcher.

Not only was Anthony’s mind racing, but now his head was pounding. He spoke more insistently. “No, but listen. What if–what if whoever set off those bombs is just chasing us all into one spot? What if–”

Anthony Del Torro never got to finish his sentence, and Glenda Swanson never made it to a stretcher. The explosion that occurred at twelve fourteen, on the corner of Forty Second Street and Seventh Avenue, killed every human being within a twenty-foot radius. It melted signs, demolished vehicles, and blew the glass out of windows for several hundred yards. It was exactly the tactic Anthony had feared, and unfortunately for all present, it worked exactly as it had been planned.

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

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Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, Day 2: Interview With Author Paul West

Hi, and welcome to my next stop on this week’s Worlds of Wonder Author Hop! I hope you enjoy your stop here; please check below for the other stops on the Hop.

Q&A with Author Paul West

Paul West reading at Swift Hibernian Lounge NYC

Paul West reading at Swift Hibernian Lounge NYC

Can you tell us a little bit about First Cause?

Well, it starts off, literally, with a bang; then it switches to flashback mode for a bit, and levels off as the plot lines merge. I’ve been told that it’s ‘thought provoking’ and ‘a page turner,’ and I suppose I could do much worse than that! I call it historical futurism, because it’s got a speculative/futuristic premise but it draws heavily on actual history and has a long backstory.

Why this genre?

I think speculative fiction/science fiction holds great potential for exploring the human personality and the human condition. In one of my blog posts, “The Virtues of Speculation,” I discuss the fact that speculative fiction includes some of the most progressive, thoughtful and content-driven fiction of the past century. It’s not the only genre I read, write or watch, but I do believe it’s a potent genre. For that matter, I think “genre” is overrated in the first place!

What was the inspiration for First Cause? Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

The funny thing is that my novel, though it can loosely be described as science fiction, was heavily inspired by studying history and observing people in the real world. For me, First Cause was an avenue of exploration and comparison; my aim was to examine how we got here, where we might go, and how we could be different, and the story was designed as something of an allegory—a vehicle for that exploration. A lot of my favorite art—music, movies or books—is meant to inspire thought, introspection or re-examination; so really, First Cause was also partly inspired by some of my favorite albums and movies as much as it was by any bit of fiction. It actually began as a screenplay idea.

Is just a stand-alone novel, or is there a follow-up?

Not only is there a follow up book, there are two! First Cause: Homecoming, the second part of the Terranaut Trilogy, is currently in the works; I’m hoping it will be completed in 2013.

Are you reading anything interesting at the moment? If so, what is it?

I’m currently reading a book called Look Me In The Eye, an autobiographical account of growing up with undiagnosed Aspberger’s. I’m about a third of the way through it, and it’s really interesting so far.

Can you tell us some of your latest news?

I’m trying to branch out in my freelance writing career! You can find my freelance site at; I specialize in copywriting, ghostwriting and SEO, but I’ve got range beyond those three things. I’ve also been sports blogging, which has been a lot of fun. I’m writing articles for Through The Fence Baseball and Tarnation Sports.The links to my sports writing are below:

Where do you see yourself at in five years, related to your writing?

Hopefully having finished the trilogy, and further along as a sportswriter—perhaps also a journalist! For now, though, I’m getting my gears rolling fleshing out the ‘First Cause universe,’ and that will be fun and pretty challenging. I want to continue to figure out how to allow my writing strengths to flourish, while getting better at the things at which I’d like to improve.

Where can we purchase First Cause?

First Cause is available as an ebook pretty much everywhere ebooks are sold! You can buy it on Smashwords here, for your Barnes & Noble Nook here, and for your Amazon Kindle here. You can also pick up the paperback in a few independent bookstores, and on here. If you’re not sure if your local bookstore carries First Cause, ask for it! And thank you for reading!

Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

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Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, Day 1: Quotes From Reviews of First Cause

Hi, and welcome to my first stop on this week’s Worlds of Wonder Author Hop! I hope you enjoy your stop here; please check below for the other stops on the Hop.

I’m glad to say that my debut novel, First Cause, has been well received by a broad spectrum of readers around the country–and even the world. Below are some excerpts from readers’ reviews:

  • “The second chapter of West’s novel opens with a quotation: ‘It requires a very unusual mind to undertake an analysis of the obvious.’ The unusual mind, here, is the author’s; the analysis of the obvious is what he undertakes in his debut novel, with extraordinary results.”
  • “There can be no doubt that this work is not just science fiction with all of its possibilities, but social commentary as well.”
  • “In his deeply imagined first novel, Paul West creates a world that is both familiar and unknown.”
  • “The themes and ideas of First Cause have surfaced in many of my recent conversations, as they certainly connect to our daily realities.”
  • “Science Fiction is only the background for this psychological page-turner, which tests your perception of what can be achieved by the human race.”
  • “As with some of the best science fiction, the most “sci-fi” part of the book is the premise, which merely acts to set up a world co-inhabited by “aliens” in which an altogether human drama takes place.”
  • “The book tackles subjects like social justice, philosophy, political corruption, the ultimate human potential…a race who attains “human perfection” are still unable to overcome some hard wired human flaws.”
  • “It’s an exciting read for anyone whether they enjoy science fiction or not. If not for the fact of the Luceri being an advanced offshoot of humanity who left the planet, this really would not read as a science fiction novel. It does not contain any far-fetched technology or a lot of technobabble. It’s a book anyone can read and enjoy. I look forward to Mr. West’s next book.”
  • First Cause is a complex web of a story.”
  • First Cause is a cracking start thanks to its ideas and the themes it explores. This is a thoughtful and intelligent science fiction thriller and an excellent first effort. I eagerly await its sequel.”
Cover of First Cause: A Novel About Human Possibility

Cover of First Cause

Thanks for reading! Come back tomorrow, for the next stop on the Hop: a Q&A interview with author Paul West.

For more stops on the Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, click the link below: