Project Gene Assist Origin Story

I am happy to announce that as of this post’s publication, Project Gene Assist: The Complete Series is available for purchase in both ebook and paperback editions. In it, you can find all three books in the trilogy: The Fair & Foul, The Watch & Wand, and Lies & Legacy in one convenient volume. But what is Project Gene Assist about exactly?

Well, like all stories, it’s a journey, and one that started out a long, long time ago—junior high, to be exact.

A friend handed me a novel in between classes about a group of three boys who all happened to be born around the same time as a Chosen One was prophesied to appear. This Chosen One was destined to fight against the Dark One in the Last Battle, but could also go mad and burn the rest of the world down in the process. Color me intrigued.

It also helped that the person leading the three boys on their epic journey was a female Gandalf-like character. It also contained other strong supporting female characters with their own destinies, along with monsters, betrayal, and political machinations. The novel my friend gave me was the first half of the first book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

If it sounds familiar, it is because it has been picked up by Amazon Studios in the hopes that it will become the next Game of Thrones.

At the time of this writing, I have no idea how the story will play out on the small screen. Previous attempts have been laughable at best due to the epic and continent-spanning nature of the story itself, and the trailer alone makes it clear that they are taking a few creative liberties. I’ll still give it a chance though. Considering how much of my life has been spent reading and re-reading these books. It would be a crime not to.

Photograph of books 1-13 of Robert Jordna's Wheel of Time series plus its prequel, New Spring
Exhibit A

As much as I enjoyed the series and its three-dimensional main characters, I have to admit that what really hooked me in that initial book was how the author portrayed one of its villains. As to not spoil the series, I won’t go into the details, but she wasn’t what you would traditionally describe as a bad guy. She just happened make one really big mistake which led to more really bad things. Okay, so “really bad” might be a bit of an understatement here, but even so, I found her to be strangely sympathetic.

I found myself wondering what could have driven a person like her to that point. She wasn’t a sadist or sociopath like so many other cookie-cutter villains. If anything, the root of her sin was love, though I suppose some might also call it an obsession. Still, I had to think there had to be more to her origin. There had to be a catalyst no one talked about. Throughout the series, Robert Jordan had given some hints, but much of the character’s backstory is told from other characters’ points of view.

My brain attempted to fill in the gaps, but my brain didn’t stop there. The Wheel of Time also makes several references to a time of technological wonder that was lost long before the series’ main events unfold. I found myself wondering what it must have been like to live during the transition from age of wonder to pre-industrial. It must have felt apocalyptic. My brain filled in more gaps. The result was an early draft of Juliane’s story in The Fair and Foul.

The story changed during the revision process to become more and more my own. This also allowed Juliane to also grow into her own unique character—a heroine in her own right rather than a future villain. Although she did have a bad habit of stealing scenes intended for other characters.

So what is Project Gene Assist about? In short, it’s about good intentions gone astray, trust, found family, and the invention of magic set in the not too distant future. It is not, however, anything like the Wheel of Time. For one, there are only three books (one if you prefer the omnibus edition), not fourteen plus a prequel. It also only has two points of view. In fact, it is much more in line with the writing style of Anne McCaffrey, whose books about genetically engineered dragons also feature heavily on my shelves.

Photograph of books by Anne McCaffrey among other authors on my bookshelf
Exhibit B

That said, I hope those who enjoy science fiction dystopian / post-apocalyptic tales, or worry about what might happen when technology becomes even more integrated into our daily lives than it is now, will check Project Gene Assist out. Who knows, maybe it will inspire another story or two one day.

Ready or not, the next era of human evolution is here

What about you? What books have left you thinking about its characters long after the story is complete?

#ShortStory Saturday’s Flash Fiction Fun with The Writer’s Toolbox – Part Two

The following is the next installment in a sponsored short story series I am writing using  Jamie Cat Callan‘s fun and easy to use The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate links are included in this post). You can read more about Jamie’s other creations at the bottom of this post.

For those not as familiar with The Writer’s Toolbox, it prompts you with a first, middle, and last sentence as well as a series of descriptions to include and a protagonist and with it. The first post in the series can be found here.

More from the Writer's toolbox -“My brother did this weird thing with turtles.” Iris’s newest patient, Irene, sat with feet and arms crossed in the chair opposite her while Iris scribbled the occasional note in a black and tan steno pad. “He should be the one forced to talk to you,” the teen grumbled. “Not me.”

“Do you want to tell me about it?”

“About what? My brother or the turtles?”

“Either. Both.” Iris placed the pad and her pen on her lap. “We can talk about whatever you want.”

Irene’s eyes narrowed as if to say, ‘I may be young, but I’m not stupid.’

It was going to be one of those sessions. Iris fought frustration from showing as she picked up her pad once more, flipping it to the next available page. Its emptiness fit her mood. She’d listened to the speeches at commencement. She’d believed her professors when they told them their training had been special. She’d taken their every word as gospel. Their training would give them access to the whole wide world, should they choose to travel and no matter where they went, they would have the ability to make a difference.

They’d lied.

Iris held her pen ready and mentally counted to one hundred. Irene’s shoulders sagged. “Fine, but I need a snack first.” She bent down to a bag she’d tossed under the chair along with her shoes when she’d arrived and pulled out a can of easy cheese. Tossing her head back, she gulped down an orange string that defied classification as either solid or liquid.

Charming, thought Iris. “So, your brother liked turtles …”

“It’s not weird to like turtles.” Irene huffed. “Turtles have built-in body armor. I mean, how cool is that? Do you know what I’d give to be able to tuck my head inside a shell? I’d kill for that.” The girl kicked her bare feet back and forth, making her appear more like an innocent waif than the street-hardened temptress the police file claimed her to be.

The door to Iris’s office swung open and in walked the dynamic duo of Bill and Larry, and at least one of them, if not both of them, carried an aroma with him like a T-shirt from a B-52’s concert. Irene gagged.

“I’m in a session.” Iris nodded her head in the direction of Irene. “You have to leave.”

“I tried calling.” Bill had the decency to look embarrassed as he let her lead him back out the door and into her office lobby. “When you didn’t answer … I guess we, I mean I, freaked out.”

“Have you never heard of voicemail? You leave a message. I call back,” Iris teased. Bill’s eyes tightened. In all the years they’d known each other, he’d never looked so vulnerable. If only … Iris banished the thought before it could cut her more deeply.

“It’s about Daisy.”

Iris blinked. “Your sister?” He couldn’t know –

Bill’s face relaxed, the mask of aloof unconcern once again firmly in place. “I didn’t realize it was such a common name. She’ll be ticked. Yeah, my sis. She didn’t show for duty and hasn’t been seen around her apartment. I was hoping you might know where she’s gone.”

Iris glanced sideways at Larry before answering. “We can talk, but not now. There’s a diner a block from here. Meet me there at nine.”

Iris closed the office door firmly behind her as she returned to Irene. “Now where were we?”

“Well, I guess it started after the time Fred went to the car wash and never came back.”

Curious as to what weird thing Irene’s brother did with turtles? I am too and yet I think some things we are better off not knowing. One thing is for sure, Iris doesn’t charge enough.

The next installment can be found here.

I believe in this product so much I reached out to its creator, the lovely Jamie Cat Callan, author of the upcoming Parisian Charm School: French Secrets for Cultivating Love, Joy, and That Certain je ne sais quoi (available January 2nd, 2018) to tell her how much I loved her creation and was beyond thrilled when she allowed me to use her prompts for these posts.

In addition to her upcoming novel, she is also the author of the books Bonjour, Happiness! and French Women Don’t Sleep Alone.

“A recipe for happiness with ingredients that you don’t have to travel far to find.

Accustomed to the American pursuit of happiness, Callan (French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, 2009, etc.) explores her French roots to find fulfillment in life’s simple pleasures.

Translates the joie de vivre into a language of life that is not so foreign. –Kirkus review for BONJOUR, HAPPINESS!”


Dinner with a side of distress Part Two – Flash Fiction

It is time once again for another installment in my Writer’s Toolbox Flash fiction. For those not familiar with The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate link) exercises, I pull out three sentences at random which have to be used as my first, middle, and closing lines. Additionally, I must utilize three descriptions, also pulled at random from a stack of cards. Due to the random nature, I do not know how the story will end. I apologize for the shift in point of view, but rules are rules.

Story to date: Bill, a somewhat socially awkward paleoclimatologist in our distant future, learned that his sister has gone missing. Their father, a high ranking official, living and working in the orbiting space station, has come to Earth requesting Bill’s help tracking her down. Click on this link to read the first part of the story in full.

Dinner with a side of Distress -
background image courtesy of

After only two months, Helen decided to become an exotic dancer. She’d tried to make it off the random tips the male patrons threw her way as she delivered drinks to their tables, but the wad of cash in her pocket at the end of the night was nothing compared to the stacks of bills the other ladies took home. She closed her eyes and thought of the space station even now spinning like a top over head as it circled the Earth. If tossing her clothes at some drunk strangers meant being able to afford a ticket on the shuttle sooner, so be it. It wasn’t like she was going to bump into any of the club patrons again once in orbit.

As she made her way toward the back office, she saw her manager, Devin, smile knowingly. “You finally ready to get into the driver’s seat?” he smirked, offering a drink. Devin was under the impression he had a gift for comedy. Helen hid her disgust by tipping her head and letting the bitter taste of Woody Allen’s kiss wash over her tongue as was tradition. Helen was fairly certain not even Devin knew the origin of the club’s signature drink’s name, but it didn’t stop him from keeping a ready glass on hand. She wasn’t the first girl to make this walk of shame. Nor would she be the last.

After her the first shift of her new career ended, Helen made her way outside into the narrow alley behind the club. The eight inch heels Devin requested she wear during the show, had wrecked havoc on her arches and toes. She held the more sensible shoes she’d worn prior too making her decision in hand, preferring to go barefoot that force her feet to withstand another minute of agony. The wine of a lost dog, a puppy by the sound of it, startled Helen. She turned, but couldn’t locate the animal in the darkness. It must be behind the dumpster, she thought. Unable to resist an animal in need, she crouched down as she looked for the pup.

“It’s not my fault the plane was two hours late,” a male’s voice coming from a yard or so behind her almost caused Helen to jump out of her skin. “What was I supposed to do?”

“You were supposed to stick around and finish the job. That’s what you were supposed to do,” Another male replied.

“Don’t see what you are getting all upset about. Thought the whole point was to take the girl out while the captain was in his meeting. Whole plan falls apart if he’s on ground when it happens.”

Helen heard a slap of skin on skin. “Idiot. You and your big mouth are going to get us both on his list one day.”

“What was that for? It’s not like anyone’s around but a bunch of drunks and hookers.” The first man whined as Helen tried to make her body as small as possible in the shadows.

“Doesn’t mean they don’t still have ears,” the second man argued.

“Yeah, but who’d believe them? Especially not after the thing he does with the newspaper…”


Will Helen’s first day on the new job also be her last? Who is the ‘he’ the men are referencing and what is he planning with the newspaper? Will the Writer’s Toolbox ever allow me to close a story without a cliff-hanger ending?


Dinner with a side of distress – Flash Fiction

My mind is still reeling from a weekend of holiday hosting duties, so instead of one of my usual essays, I decided to take another stab at writing some short fiction as prompted by the ever so handy dandy Writer’s Toolbox (you can find an earlier piece here).

For those not as familiar with The Writer’s Toolbox (affiliate link), it prompts you with a first, middle, and last sentence as well as a series of descriptions to include and a protagonist. I hope you enjoy it –

Dinner with a side of Distress -
background image courtesy of

Dad gave me a wink like we were pals or something. Then again it could just have as easily been a bit of pollen or dust caught in his eye. It always took a while for the orbiters to get reacquainted with uncontrolled wilds of earth-bounding living again. Gazing up into the twilight sky at the stars above, I thought I saw a circling bat. They had no idea what they were giving up, living up there. He had no idea.

“Where is your sister?” he barked the question out between coughing fits.

So definitely the dust then. How silly of me to think he was actually trying to reconnect. “I haven’t seen her,” I replied returning my attention to the meal in front of me. It was the truth, but then again I rarely saw anyone outside of the lab. For some strange reason, people didn’t seem to think that my passion for paleoclimatology combined with my charming personality produced the most stellar party guest. It was also why I agreed to this open-air dinner in the first place. I bit into a slice of apple savoring its juices. At least the food was good even if the company was less than ideal. “Last I heard, she had her eye on some bartender from Seattle. Maybe she’s taking up stalking?”

This time, I suspected the resulting frown on Dad’s face didn’t have anything to do with his allergies. “This isn’t a joke, Bill. Your sister is listed as failing to report to the launch deck this morning and I only have so much influence I can spend.”

I fought the eye roll by focusing on the straggling cuticle on my right thumb. Dad could never resist the opportunity to remind any of us exactly why he was living in space while the rest of us were on the ground. As if I’d ever want to. “Well then, I don’t know what to tell you other than I haven’t seen her since last week.”

“And you aren’t concerned?”

I shrugged. “She can go off for a few days if she wants too. She’s an adult – unless you hadn’t noticed.”

“I’ve noticed. I’ve also noticed that she has started taking up a lot of bad habits. Habits I would prefer weren’t associated with the family name.”

I waved his concern aside. “Lucky for you, I’ve been using Mom’s name for years.”

Dad’s frown deepened so much I briefly wondered if it might cause his entire face to collapse into his crisp uniform. “Listen, I’m not trying to be combative here. It just would be better if I found her before command does.”

“What? Are you that really that afraid of what her AWOL designation might do to your reputation?” I snorted. “I’ve seen you smooth over worse.”

“No, I’m afraid because as much as either of you might not like to admit it, I am your father. And because I found this in the briefing room.” Dad shoved a piece of fabric at me featuring a vaguely familiar looking pattern.

“Have they taken up quilting?” I asked with a smirk, picking up the fabric. “Well, that’s a relief. That group really could use a hobby other than making the rest of us miserable.” I couldn’t help adding just to annoy Dad as I rolled the piece of cloth around in between my fingers. The jab wasn’t strictly necessary, as Dad knew full well what I thought of his cronies, but it was always fun to remind him that this apple had fallen far from the proverbial tree. As in two hundred and fifty miles, give or take a mile.

“Bill, for the last time, this isn’t a joke.”

“Fine. No jokes.” I replied holding up my hands before examining the fabric more closely. Where had I seen it before? “So what is this then?”

“Something that has no business being up in command if your sister is still on the ground. It’s from her dress.”

Was that really a bat circling overhead, or was it a drone? Did Bill’s sister get mixed up in a larger conspiracy or did she simply run off with a bartender from Seattle? And will Bill’s experience with paleoclimatology actually play a part in the plot, or is that a throw-away detail? Who knows!