by Brian H. Roberts
GENRE: Science Fiction
How do you fight a hidden adversary on Mars?
Dallas Gordon’s miners keep disappearing. Back on Earth, general Zhang Aiguo has seized control of the Chinese military and declared himself emperor. His forces have secretly dispatched to the Red Planet to plunder EPSILON’s hard-won treasure.
Time is running out. Can Dallas Gordon and the Prospector team find Zhang’s hidden bases before they are all killed?
“I’ve lost contact with Dave!”
Allie stood in the shop doorway, her eyes wide as saucers.
Dallas looked up from the shop bench, saw the panic in her eyes, and started toward the door. He briskly accompanied her to the common room.
“Tell me everything you know.”
Allie spoke in a torrent, “I compiled the latest welfare check just five minutes ago. The drill rig was still parked at Site 7. Dave and Number Two were positioned a hundred yards to the northwest of the drill rig. Dave’s heart rate, respiration and core temp were all nominal. Radio check was normal, using MGPS comm band.”
Allie sat down hard at the communication console.
“I no sooner sent the report to you and Doc when I looked up at the MGPS locator map and saw this!”
She stabbed an index finger at the display. Dallas followed her extended finger to the screen. A solid X labeled “Drill Rig” occupied the center of the screen. Three inches higher and to the left, another X was labelled “Site 7.” Other than topographic contour lines, the screen was blank.
Dallas ordered, “Show me where Dave and Number Two were located when you compiled the welfare report.”
Allie’s finger slid a few inches higher and to the left, then hovered over the X at Site 7.
About the Author:
In his first life, Brian worked as a contractor and civil engineer in bustling Seattle. Desiring a change, he and his wife traded big city life for the outdoor adventures of Central Oregon. His writing draws deeply on his lifelong loves of science/technology and adventure sports. His EPSILON Sci-Fi Thriller series now boasts two novels: Red Dragon and Crimson Lucre.
Q&A With the Author
When did you first consider yourself to be a writer?
I first realized I had a knack for writing in my junior high creative writing class. My teacher, Joel Berman, encouraged me to focus on descriptive writing – painting a picture with words. He taught me to observe a scene with my mind’s eye and describe what I see. It’s a skill the most successful writers have all mastered.
But as an author, I’m a late bloomer. I didn’t begin writing until after I retired. As an adult, my time was consumed with raising a family and my career as a civil engineer. Now I have the luxury of time, without having to worry about paying the bills. I have many author friends, who are in their twenties, thirties and forties. I can’t express how much I admire them, being able to pursue their dreams and enjoy a measure of success.
What advice do you have for a new writer?
I’ve had to learn how to live with reviews. Don’t have unrealistic expectations. The good reviews are great, but you’ll also receive some criticism. No one bats 1000, to borrow a baseball term.
It’s the coolest thing to have fans – people who absolutely love the stories that I tell and can’t wait for my next installment. I found that what my fans like fall into a few simple categories: plotting, pacing, technical realism, and characters. These tell me what I’m doing right, what to continue to hone and perfect with each new book.
Toughest thing is to accept criticism. Sometimes I get negative reviews for no other reason than that the reviewer didn’t like the genre. Which mystifies me why they would have read the book in the first place. I don’t exactly hide what one should expect when they read my books. Some people are simply trolls, who make themselves feel important by tearing down the work of others. Such reviews, I just accept as the price to pay for being published. It stings, but they are a small minority. And as my fanbase grows, I take heart that the work I do is appreciated, and entertaining.
Other times, reviewers object to how much time I give an individual scene, or I’ve spent too much time on detail, or they feel I’ve overstepped a societal norm. These comments I take to heart. They often contain a nugget that I can apply to improve my next book.
What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?
For me, it’s the actual writing. I’m meticulous about outlining my plot, so when I sit down to write, I’m describing what I’ve already visualized in my head. I’m now writing my third book, and so far, have yet to suffer from writer’s block.
What is your favorite part of this story?
Chapter 60. Dallas Gordon has been captured rescuing five other of his crew. Genady Antonov concocts a rescue plan where he has himself lowered on a rope over a cliff above the dome where Dallas is held captive. Genady swings above the dome like a swashbuckling pirate about to board a ship, swinging a massive blade made for the occasion. He slices the fabric dome open like a watermelon, releasing a huge cloud of condensation. Of course, he locates Dallas beneath the deflated fabric, slaps an oxygen mask on him and raises him to safety before the captors in another dome can suit up and exit their airlock to stop him.
Which Character was the most fun to write about? Why?
My favorite character is Genady Antonov, who not the main character. But I enjoy him so much, he may be the lead character in other books in my ESPILIN Sci-Fi Thriller series. Genady is a former Russian Air Force pilot who defected to the United States, and nearly died for his trouble. He winds up befriending a US Air Force flight surgeon while convalescing. After she leaves the Air Force, she recruits him to serve as a test pilot at EPSILON, where she is a Mars prospecting mission trainee. Genady becomes mission commander for the crew replacing Dallas Gordon’s team on Mars.
Dallas is logical, meticulous, brave, a natural leader. Around women he’s shy to a fault. Genady is a bit – correction – he is, a womanizer. He’s distrustful of authority. He’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants risk taker. But everyone (me included) loves a rogue.
Which Character was the hardest to write about? Why?
That distinction falls on Ann Waters. She is Dallas’s flight director back on Earth. They are also former lovers, whose feelings for each other have rekindled during Dallas’s struggle against attempts to sabotage his mission in book 1 (Crimson Lucre).
I recognize that being male puts me on thin ice, expressing the emotional and intellectual reality of a woman in a believable way. I’ve leaned heavily on my life experiences with my wife, daughter, mother and other women I’ve known. What I didn’t get right, my female editor did a tremendous job identifying the type of reaction Ann might have to the situation at hand. Add onto that the difficulty of maintaining the longest long-distance relationship in human history between Ann and Dallas – 200 million miles! It was quite a challenge.
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