Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Counterpoint by Tom S Christian: Interview & Excerpt

Science Fiction

After narrowly escaping from what was supposed to be a routine
intelligence gathering mission to infiltrate a mercenary vessel, Commander
Jake Trant and his colleagues at the AEF uncover a conspiracy three
decades in the making. They soon realise that what they have stumbled upon
is not your common or garden power play, but something with potentially
far reaching implications for humanity, and perhaps even the very fabric
of the universe itself.

Pitted against the seemingly unrestrained ambitions of Harris Tolman, an
ageing interplanetary industrialist, who for the past few decades has been
quietly building and scheming, all in preparation for one moment on one
day, Jake and his team suddenly find themselves in a race against time to
prevent disaster on a universe wide scale.

With Tolman seemingly unwilling to let anything or anyone get in the way
of the fruition of his ambitions, and with death and destruction spreading
out around him like the unstoppable ripple of a solar shockwave, Jake will
have to go the extra mile to do what he increasingly finds he must. Save
the day

Amazon  |   Smashwords

Jake had done his best to stow the inert forms of the two men in an unobtrusive place and had managed to conceal them in what he hoped was a storage bin he’d found a little way along the corridor.  It had been a bit of a squeeze but it was essential he left as little warning of his presence aboard as possible to allow him the maximum amount of time to reach his objective and get out again.
Once the scene had been sufficiently cleansed of his handiwork he had quickly headed in the general direction he believed the ship’s engineering section lay.  He proceeded with caution however, as although thus far his ship schematic had been fairly accurate and had helped him to reach this stage with minimum fuss, he was aware it had been intercepted by unnamed intelligence sources in rather rushed circumstances which presented the risk that it might contain inaccuracies.  The veracity of his concerns were soon borne out as he found himself trying to traverse a corridor that had been blocked off at one end.  That cost him precious seconds and he had to retrace his steps and pick up the trail again.
As he paused at another fork and pulled out his TAC to try and interpret the schematic, he was acutely aware that he needed to move more swiftly as the bodies of the unconscious engineers wouldn't lay undiscovered for too long.  Settling on a direction he advanced into the next section and was relieved to stumble upon his target.  The section that opened up before him was a large open space hundreds of feet wide and high.  Despite the sheer enormity of the area the centre of the engineering section was itself dominated by the ship’s massive tesseract drive coils.  The coils towered above Jake as he carefully scouted around the section checking on computer displays and keeping alert for technicians.  The sheer size of the ship he had infiltrated meant that fortunately most functions appeared to be controlled via the bridge, as well as a few other hot spots he had done his best to avoid.  Despite this there were still likely to be one or two monitoring engineers wandering around the section and he had to stay alert to remain out of sight.
As one of the technicians passed by, Jake quickly ducked behind a bank of consoles and crouched with his back against the metal casing.  He produced his TAC once more and operated its keypad with his thumb.  Its display glowed briefly as he selected the functionality he required.  After a few seconds and a quick glance at his proximity readout Jake returned to his search of the section with renewed intent, now being guided by the readout of his palm TAC as it remotely scanned the various computer terminals. 
The huge engineering section was laid out over three levels with the main engine coils rising up from the centre of the lower level gangway all the way to the ceiling.  At both the top and their base the coils disappeared into the rest of the ship where they connected to capacitors and generators that triggered the tesseract field that made it possible for the ship to traverse great distances almost in the blink of an eye.  The coils themselves were encased in semi opaque polycarbonate aluminium shielding which protected the engineering staff from annihilation whilst still allowing them to visually inspect the coils at any time.  In order to accommodate the coils the section was laid out in a horseshoe formation around them with metal stairways leading up to the higher gangways. 
Glancing around the section he checked for anyone who might spot him and raise the alarm.  Jake's focus was not for now on the coils, rather the bank of computer screens on the left side of the horseshoe.  Gingerly he approached the consoles and tapped a few commands into his TAC.  He then laid the palm device on a flat surface next to a large keyboard that appeared to serve all of the five screens he was presented with.  From their readouts he was pretty sure that they accessed the systems controlling the ship's sub-light ion engine apparatus, life support and the ship’s eyes and ears; its sensors.  The terminal also appeared to give users access to the main computer core, and as he quickly scrolled through the reams of data produced by each couple of keystrokes his TAC beeped and clicked, recording what he had found.
His task almost complete he left his TAC to finish the interrogation of the ship’s mainframe whilst he quickly and quietly fixed flat, inch long rectangular discs at various junctures along the energy conduits feeding the banks of computer consoles spread throughout the engineering section.  As each small disc was produced from hidden pouches and pressed into place, a second after he touched it to the target surface it would briefly hum and magnetise itself with a ‘whump’. 
Once he had tagged up the crucial conduits in his immediate vicinity he turned his attention to the large coils dominating the room.  His experienced eye judged that the sheer size of the coils and their shielding would require a concentration around their base, with a further charge planted at the main control conduit that ran to the console he had just been working around.  It was clear that the coil charges would be trickier to plant than those he had so far primed.  The coils stood in the middle of the section overlooked by all of the upper gangways and visible to anyone passing on the ground level too.  As he pondered his predicament a loud voice came over the speakers in the room demanding two crewmembers report in.  Jake hoped it wasn't a reference to the two unconscious men he had encountered not so long ago but he didn't as a rule believe in coincidences.  As the demands came again he threw caution to the wind and jogged into the centre of the room.  Time against him he worked feverishly, crouched at the base of the shielded coils.  With increasingly sweaty palms he found the final few charges refusing to auto magnetise to the specialised coil shielding and arm their explosives.  Without any spares he had to improvise.  Breaking out his mini toolkit he popped open the charges’ casings and macgyvered the arming mechanisms manually.
Just as he armed the final charge all hell broke loose and around the room red lights started to flash and a loud klaxon began to bark.  As quickly as he could he checked his work and fixed the final few charges in place, all the time conscious that his time was almost up as men’s shouts filled the air and mingled with the ear-splitting sound of the klaxon.  Seconds or so later he had finished with the final of his eight magnetic gifts and ran back to the computer bank to retrieve his TAC.  As he arrived at the console a technician rounded a corner from between two other banks of computer screens and shouted at him to stop.  Using his momentum Jake swung a vicious chop at the man’s neck and he crumpled quickly to the floor.  Things really against him now Jake made a grab for his palm computer and gratefully noted its display was flashing a task complete alert.  More insistent shouts now filled the air and grew nearer.  Realising his luck had well and truly given out he stowed the TAC and ran.

I’m thrilled to welcome Tom Christian today.  He is stopping in and has agreed to answer a few questions. 

It’s great to have you here with me.  Shall we begin?  How did you start your writing career?

I’ve always loved writing, so much so that at school I was always really happy when a homework task or in-class assignment involved creative writing.  Funnily enough, the opening paragraph to my recent novel Counterpoint was written almost two decades ago as part of my A-Level examination coursework!  Obviously I’ve matured the writing style somewhat since then and maybe switched things about a little, but the concept was there quite early on.  In terms of pushing my work out there I think it’s just been a matter of finding the right time for me.  Obviously print media was my first thought but as I am very much a child of the internet age I saw the growth in Indie publishing too much of a temptation not to try it out.  I’m obviously never going to rule out pursuing more ‘traditional’ options but for now I’m really interested to see where the online/e-book route takes me as I make my name.

Tell us about your current release

It’s definitely science fiction and definitely an adventure novel.  It’s set in the not too distant future but one nevertheless where humanity has spread itself across many worlds and solar systems and space travel is the norm.  The story revolves around two key characters, Jake Trant, a tough and smart intelligence agent working for a covert team within the colonial navy, and Harris Tolman, a much older man who is at the top of a major mining company with a powerbase on Mars but also influence across the various human colonies.  We start out with Jake unknowingly infiltrating part of Tolman’s secret operation and uncovering information that leads him and his colleagues to realise they must quickly act if they are to stop Tolman from activating a plan he’s been formulating for decades; if it is allowed to come to pass they fear it could threaten humanity’s freedom and the very fabric of the universe itself.  The story starts off at a steady pace, quickly setting the scene, but then heads into a trot and before long the reader finds themselves hurled headlong into the action along with Jake as he struggles against seemingly incredible odds.  I hope people like the story and my writing style.  I’m looking forward to getting some reviews and honest feedback.

Do you use a pen name?  If so, how did you come up with it?

I do use a pen name.  Tom S. Christian is a very basic anagram of my real name.  I took a pen name partly to give a little distance between my day job and my writing but mainly because I thought Tom S. Christian was a great sounding and memorable name for a sci-fi author!

What are your favorite TV shows?

I think overall I’d have to say Chuck; it was a stroke of genius and I am very sorry it is gone.  Pure sci-fi wise, without a doubt Star Trek TNG and DS9.  Voyager, Enterprise and TOS obviously come in pretty close thereafter, and I am also a big fan of Babylon 5, Andromeda and of course the recent Battlestar Galactica series.  I used to like the original BSG too but recently tried to revisit it and found it a struggle after the brilliant rework.  Don’t even talk to me about the 1980 follow up...Dr Zee?  Obviously Knight Rider and Street Hawk need a name check too as they played a big part in my childhood.

What songs are most played on your iPod?

I’ve found overall I’m a big fan of instrumentals with a bit of guts to them.  For example the Rocky Training themes, most notably those from Rocky IV, the Navy Seals theme from the Cage/Connery movie the Rock, the Nyah/Injection theme from MI2, and some of the great character music from the much lamented Chuck – the Dark Side particularly.  Other than that I’ve got a real thing for the current Doctor Who’s action theme, it’s my ringtone.

Do you listen to music whilst writing?

Sometimes.  It has to not be too distracting though as I find it hard to block out unless I’m really on a roll.  Enya’s usually the best bet.

Entice us, what future projects are you considering?

Short story wise I’m trying to get them out there as much as I can.  Not only is it great to see them published but I also find this a great way to generate ideas and to help me wean out those themes and ideas I can maybe take further, and those that are better left neatly encapsulated.  Novel wise, well I’ve obviously got some ideas for Jake’s next outing.  This one will be a bit historical for him though and delve back into his early days with the AEF unit and his work during the years of Martian terrorism across the colonies.  It won’t all be set there and then though, or either as a bunch of flashbacks; I have an idea that I want to bring the old and new together.  Still early days though.  Besides that I’m nursing a concept loosely based around a secret society of men and women who are able to operate on a level spanning quantum universes.

Do you have a favorite quote, quip or saying?  What is it?

Whenever I, or someone I know finds themselves asking someone else if something is ok, or we’re wondering if we can/should do something, I find the following often rings true:  

If you find yourself asking the question you usually already know the answer

In my experience the asker is usually looking for affirmation that a knowingly shoddy job is passable and/or it’s ok for us to do the wrong thing!

Thanks so much, once again! I've enjoyed finding out a bit about you and your creative process.

Tom S. Christian is a lover of all things sci-fi with a penchant for adventure and mythology in the stories he reads as well as those he writes.  A thirty something lawyer by day he lives just outside London with his wife and daughter.  His first novel, Counterpoint, is now available via Smashwords and Amazon.  For more information you can visit his website and his blog, and he is also available to follow on Twitter: @TomSChristian.

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