Monday, January 2, 2017

"Welcome to the Apocalypse" by D. L. Richardson

Welcome to the Apocalypse -
Pandora (Book 1)
by D. L. Richardson

Author D. L. Richardson stops by today to share a special guest post, an exclusive giveaway, and an excerpt from her new book, Welcome to the Apocalypse - Pandora, to commemorate National Science Fiction Day. Keep an eye out for my review coming later in the year.
For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Little Red Gem.

The Apocalypse Games is a state of the art virtual game designed to entertain doomsday preppers, gamers, and cosplayers. But not everyone is here to play the game the way the creators intended. Some players don't belong at all and some are there just to escape reality. Whatever the reason, over 100 people enter simulation pods and hook up to the computer with one goal: survive 24 hours of an apocalypse. Instead of game over at the end, they’re plugged straight into a new game. Then another. It’s clear the computer has malfunctioned. What's not clear is why.

Book Video

Jack Minnow grabbed a brochure off the rack and his eyes scanned the back page.
"It says here that rule breakers are ten times more likely to survive an apocalypse. They're adaptable and they rely on cunning and instinct."
Jack was five-foot-eight, and the woman behind the counter, called an operator, was easily six-foot tall. Looking at her was like looking at a marble statue atop a pedestal. All white – her hair, her tight-fitting jump suit, her face, neck, and hands were painted to resemble a computer generated character. He allowed himself to imagine that the stage make-up covered places he couldn't see.
She smiled at him. "It also says that rule breakers are ten times more likely to die within the first hour. They're reckless and often act without thinking."
She pushed a plastic tray towards him, the kind handed out at airports to slip under x-ray machines. Jack dropped his wallet, phone, and car keys into the tray.
"So it's a win/win day for a guy with a superhero complex," he said.
Superman, his mother had called him after he'd brought home a stray dog for the fifth time. "Can't help but save things," she'd told the dog ranger. Even as a boy, Jack knew what happened to the mutts who were handed over to the ranger, but he still brought dogs home for one last night of fun. His superhero complex was the reason he'd entered The Apocalypse Games. Save everyone. Save the world. Nobody dies. Not for real anyway.
The operator removed the tray and he stood there waiting for a voucher. None came. A warning flared up into his brain. What did he really know about this operation?
"Seriously, about those odds," he said. "Exactly how much testing has gone into the program? I mean this is opening day. There must be kinks to iron out."
"We use the same technology as they do at NASA," she said. "The nutrient tubes and mist emitters feeding into the simulation pods are the same as those used in space travel. The structural integrity of the pods was tested by NASA engineers only last week." She tilted her head to the side. "We'll take good care of you, Mr Minnow. I'll see to it personally."
He didn't know her name, or anything else about her, but he felt he could trust her. He had to trust her; he was placing his life in her hands.
She stepped out from behind the counter, slipped her arm through his, and guided him toward a set of doors where he caught flashes of shiny surfaces and bright lights. A sign indicated the room was called The Launch Pad.
"How will you see to it personally?" he asked, dragging his gaze back to her dazzling blue eyes. "Will you be in the game with me?"
She shook her head. Pity. He was sure he'd enjoy cyber-sex.
"You've got a good crowd here for the opening. How many players you reckon? Eighty? Ninety?"
"There are one hundred and five players taking part in today's auspicious event."
Jack's mood sank a little. "Won't it get crowded?"
She placed her other hand on his arm. Others might have found the gesture too friendly, but not him. Attention from a beautiful woman – genuine or as part of a customary service – warmed his insides.
"There are many apocalyptic scenarios on offer," she said. "Some players have chosen to be placed randomly, in which case we'll load them into scenarios that other players haven't pre-selected. It's highly unlikely you'll all be playing the same game." She stopped at a machine similar in size to an ATM and ran a laminated pass across the scanner. "I understand you'll be teaming up with two other players, Reis Anderson and Kelly Lawrence."
"Kelly's my sister," said Jack, not wanting to give the woman the wrong impression. "I'm being a good brother and chaperoning her."
The operator nodded. "Have you chosen an apocalypse to survive? Or will you opt for the random selection?"
"I don't mind surprises, but Kelly's…let's just say she's a novice at this. We've decided to play—"
Her fingers swiftly landed on his lips. "Don't tell me. If I don't know then I can't reveal any spoilers."
She slipped the laminated pass around his neck and continued ushering him toward The Launch Pad. At the doorway, she gently pried her arm away and her azure-blue eyes twinkled.
"I assure you, Mr Minnow, you will be in the greatest care. Please make your way inside and enjoy your complimentary champagne. It won't be long until you're taken to the simulation pod."
The doubt still niggled at him. "So when we die in the game, what happens?"
She looked off to another player signing up at the desk.
At last she turned around and smiled, revealing dazzling white teeth. "You can't die in the game."
"But it'll feel like it. That's what the brochure says."
"Yes, it will feel like death," she said before walking briskly away.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"The suspense is biting and the reader can feel the pulse of the characters. From the very first to the last page, the story is emotionally charged, the action intense, and the conflict driving the plot forward. ~ Readers Favorite
"This was a really interesting book on multiple levels, from the various Apocalyptic scenarios described, to the individual Characters and their stories, right up until the end, and what happens, leaving you wanting to read the next one NOW! Can’t wait to read it and find out what happens. This is what reading is all about, fun, interesting and amusement." ~ Jas P
"A very awesome book cover, great font & writing style. A very well written Apocalyptic book. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start/finish & never a dull moment. There were no grammar/typo errors, nor any repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. Lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns & a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This could also make another great Apocalyptic movie, animated cartoon, or better yet a mini TV series." ~ Tony Parsons
"When I first started reading the first game, I thought, 'Not another zombie book'. But I was pleasantly surprised as DL Richardson did that with more class than any other apocalyptic story I have experienced. Yes, there were zombies, vampires, alien invasions, and much more, but she also delved into the human psyche and provided a deeper analysis through her main characters. As they passed from one scenario to another, it became clear that the story deals with an Inception-like concept that will have you questioning your own reality. DL Richardson shows how much she has researched different apocalyptic situations that would blow the most hard-core survivalist away, and just when you think she's covered every single kind... she brings another out from the magic box! But that's not all! Just when you think there is a resolution to the issue, and there is, the final twist tells us there is even more to Welcome To The Apocalypse ... " ~ Chris Johnson

Guest Post by the Author
Influences for Writing Science Fiction -
Welcome to the Apocalypse
January 2 is National Science Fiction Day. You can't be blamed for not knowing this since it isn't an official holiday, it's a day that group of sci-fi fans declared as THEIR day. This chosen date is associated with Isaac Asimov's birthday, who many credit as the father of science fiction. Fans celebrate National Science Fiction Day by reading books and watching movies. Dressing up as their favorite character is optional.
I was asked by a Twitter fan about the influences for my writing, and it was fun to briefly list the influences. So I thought I'd go more into detail than the 140 characters that Twitter allows.
TV shows:
Supernatural - I'm a huge fan of this show, even though it gets a little silly at times. But the message that family is important comes across and it's this connection that fans love.
Agents of Shield - I've started getting into this series and I like the twists and the secrets. For a story to have suspense, it must have secrets that are unveiled piece by piece. This show does it well.
The 100 - The episodes always end on cliff hangers. This is a great practice to get into for a writer. I don't want to leave a place for the reader to put down my book.
The Hunger Games - this is one of my all-time favorite trilogies. What I really like about Katniss is her compassion. She is thrust into a violent world and she retains her goodness and makes allies amongst enemies. Of course, this type of character doesn't sit so well with readers who want a kill-fest, but you can't please everyone.
Robopocalypse - another my favorite books. I like the intense action, the fast pace, and I like that the characters have redeemable qualities. That's important to me as a writer, that I don't put my protagonist in a situation where they cannot redeem themselves.
Non-fiction books - I had to do a lot of research for these apocalypses and for the video games and virtual reality. I also had to research for the characters' back stories. I couldn't just make stuff up in this book.
I wrote the best book I possibly could and then I submitted it to a publisher. They had it on their pile for seven months, and then they said no. But they gave me great feedback. They said the character arc and narrative were secondary. I did a re-write and focused on strengthening these two aspects, then I submitted the book to agents. One agent replied with some amazing critique about the characters not being deep enough and they sounded younger than I'd made them. This meant another major re-write, but it was worth it. When I looked back at the original version, I cringed. No wonder it wasn't picked up by a publisher.
As with the other point on The Hunger Games, sometimes this in-depth character development doesn't sit so well with readers who want a kill-fest, but you can't please everyone.

About the Author
D. L. Richardson is an author of paranormal books for teens, and author of apocalyptic and dystopian sci-fi books for adults. She conducts workshops at writers centres and has appeared on panels at Conflux 2015. She recently held a mentor role at a writer weekend retreat. Writing credentials include "Writing Feature Articles for Newspaper and Magazines" Sydney Writers Centre, "Writing for Children and Young Adults" Sydney Writers Centre, and "James Patterson Teaches Writing" Masterclass.
She lives in Australia with her husband and dog. When she's not writing, she can be found wandering in her yard waging war on weeds, watching back-to-back episodes on Netflix, playing her piano or guitar, curled up on the couch reading a book, or walking the dog.

Enter our exclusive giveaway to win a fun free read by D. L. Richardson titled "10 tips to survive the apocalypse with your dog". Leave an entry for the author or about the blog post in the comments section at the bottom of this blog post. Everyone who leaves a comment wins! Please note that you MUST also use the Giveaway Tool below to record your entry, otherwise I won't have your email address and your comment won't count.

Plus, enter the Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win one of ten print copies of Welcome to the Apocalypse - Pandora by D. L. Richardson (US only; ends 28 February).