Guest Post + Excerpt || Fires of Man by Dan Levinson
Fires of Man
by Dan Levinson
Release date: June 17th 2015
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Genres: Sci-fi, action, drama
Age category: Young Adult
No. of pages: 392 pages
No. of pages: 392 pages
Supposedly, the war between Calchis and Orion ended decades ago. But upon reporting to an isolated Orion army base for basic training, Private Stockton Finn learns the war still rages, only the weapons have changed—most disturbingly of all, Finn has been selected to become one of those weapons.
Across the border, young Calchan farm boy Aaron Waverly learns all too well just how determined his country is to win the war when he is abducted from his family's property by a sinister government operative known only as Agent. Trapped in dreary new surroundings, learning deadly skills he's never before imagined, Aaron struggles to reconcile his ephemeral faith with his harsh new reality.
As the two nations hurtle toward a resurgence of open hostilities, Finn and Aaron—along with their powerful new mentors—prepare themselves for the inevitable clash. Meanwhile, Calchan archaeologist Dr. Faith Santia unearths a surprising find in the frozen tundra far to the north, which hints that the brewing conflict may only be the first of their worries...
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Putting Your Fears on the Page
Someone once asked me, “What do you fear, and how does it influence your writing?”
The truth is I’m not afraid of spiders or snakes. I don’t give much thought to the zombie apocalypse, or alien attacks, or the rapacious appetites of extra-dimensional deities from beyond the stars.
I think, more than anything, my fears embody the most fundamental of human experiences: tragedy; loss; lack of control of the world around us; the unknown. I was raised in a household where anxiety was commonplace, where I picked up a constant sense of concern for situations that were beyond my ability to manage. This came from my father, who, in turn received it from his father—an anxiety born of both the Great Depression, and fighting amid the German skies during World War II.
I like to think that I’ve overcome the throes of apprehension and self-consciousness that used to paralyze me as a youth. Yet, though they no longer impact my day-to-day life, it doesn’t change the fact that these fears still embody a certain truth: Sometimes, bad things happen. Things that are beyond our ability to predict, much less prevent.
A year ago, I was in a minor car accident. No more than a scrape, yet I couldn’t help thinking about how events had seemingly conspired against me. My family dog of nearly fifteen years had died earlier that morning, and while one might think that I was distracted, in that moment I was as aware and cognizant as any other time I was driving. It was a freak occurrence. If only I’d been in a different lane; if only I’d left the house a minute sooner or later; if only I’d decided to stay home instead of choosing to spend time with a friend to ease my sorrow—all these things flashed through my mind. I’m certain nearly everyone has had a similar experience.
“Tragic happenstance” is a term I use a lot when talking about writing. It’s being in the wrong place at the wrong time; it’s bad things happening to good people. When this occurs in our own lives, we can be struck by a sudden terror that the universe is a cold and uncaring place with little affection for we who populate one infinitesimally small corner of existence. Moreover, this evokes the most fundamental fear of living: fear of our own mortality.
My writing often has dire stakes; no character’s survival is guaranteed. Of course, these moments always have to serve a greater narrative purpose. But in order to create an authentic war story—and Fires of Man is very much a war story—it’s integral that there be a real sense of risk, that there are no assurances the characters will make it out unscathed, heroes and villains alike.
Yet this lack of reassurance is indeed what gives rise to our greatest appreciation for living. Knowing that we are impermanent, we must cherish every moment. Thus am I also inspired to write of the joyous times, coming through the fire, surviving, reuniting with loved ones, achieving the impossible. Because what is a story, really, but the truest representation we can muster of life’s tragedies and blessings both?
That’s what I believe.
He ran toward the edge of the cliff.
The sun beat down upon him as his limbs pumped. Earth crunched beneath his feet, and a breeze blew across his black-stubbled scalp. His breathing was calm, meticulously measured.
When the ground slipped away, he felt only anticipation.
Plummeting, the man inhaled. Power flooded into him, thrilling, delicious. He reached out with that power, warping reality with an energy born from the depths of his being. Suddenly . . .
He winked out of existence . . .
And then reappeared at the base of the cliff.
Ahead lay a farmstead, suffused in noontime light. Past its assorted buildings—barns and silos, stables and chicken coops—a field of wheat swayed like the hair of some sleeping giant.
It would burn soon.
Through his years service, he’d been called many things: “raven”; “hellhound”; “black-hearted bastard.” There was but one epithet that mattered—the one he’d earned with blood, and devotion.
He was “Agent.”
A man with no name. A man who owed his nation everything.
Just then, he spotted his quarry—a teenage farmhand named Aaron Waverly. The boy had power—strong power, according to the readings.
Agent dashed toward the farm; dry winds kicked dirt and debris over his steel-toed boots. The expanse of greenery blurred past. He moved swift as a shooting star, his power saturating him with speed and strength.
When Waverly turned, and saw, it was too late.
Agent teleported behind Waverly, and struck once, at the base of the farmhand’s skull. The young man swooned, and Agent caught him, and slinging him over his shoulder.
A frown split the crags of Agent’s face.
Before him stood a girl, no more than sixteen, a pitchfork clutched in her fingers. She was a pretty thing, her blonde tresses tied back in a ponytail, her face darkened by hours in the field. She was an innocent. Agent did not relish the thought of ending her. “Run,” he said.
“I’ll scream.” Her eyes flitted to the silenced pistol at his side. She hesitated.
He laid a hand on the gun. “Run,” he repeated.
He drew his weapon and shot her in the back of the head.
She pitched forward, hit the ground, dead. Blood spread in a widening pool around her. Waverly groaned, eyelids flickering. Agent holstered the gun and looked at the girl. Killing civilians was distasteful, but she had seen him. He’d had no choice.
Now, time to go.
Agent stepped toward the nearby barn, and pressed his palm against the red-painted planks. He sent his power into it, and a ripple spread through the wood, like a pebble striking the surface of a pond. Furrows of heat fanned out from his fingertips, crackling furiously.
He turned away and teleported to safety.
Back atop the cliff, he paused, to watch his handiwork.
The barn exploded. Eruptive force flattened surrounding buildings and rocked the landscape. Screams broke out below, the sound carried on the wind. Again, Waverly stirred on Agent’s shoulder.
Agent smiled, and was gone.
About the author:Dan Levinson is a NY-based writer of speculative fiction. Trained as an actor at NYU's Tisch School of Arts, he also writes for the stage and screen. He grew up immersing himself in fantastical worlds, and is thrilled to now create them. In addition to the Psionic Earth series, he is also the author of the upcoming YA fantasy novel The Ace of Kings, first book of The Conjurer's Cycle.
His latest book is the scifi/action/drama novel, Fires of Man.