Lore | Division Zero


Pardon the long idle – I’ve been up to my eyeballs busy in writing and editing. Curiosity Quills is about to release an anthology of superhero-themed short stories, which I have been editing, as well as finishing up the first draft of the second book in the Roadhouse Chronicles series.

Anyway, it’s about time I posted something… and I should probably take a break from attempting to give out writerly advice, so here’s some “lore” from the “Divergent Fates” world. (The Division Zero series, Awakened series, Daughter of Mars series, and Virtual Immortality are set within it.)


Division Zero

In the year 2338, a previously-secret branch of the National Police Force entered the public consciousness. While most modern records show that the organization now known as Division 0 announced its official existence on April 3rd of that year, rumors lurk in the GlobeNet that their ‘going pubic’ came as a forced reaction to discovery. These same rumors hold that the National Police Force had maintained a clandestine group of psionic operatives for several decades prior to the official recognition of Division 0. Conspiracy hawks further point to the designation ‘0’ to mean they don’t officially exist.

Division 0 is the psionic arm of the UCF National Police Force. They are responsible for responding to incidents involving psionics, as well as any events unexplainable by conventional means. Owing to their previous secretive nature, many members of other divisions fear and distrust them.

In the early days, Division 0 operatives were cloaked in secrecy and many both in and out of government denied their existence. To this day, their all-black uniforms and vehicles often inspire either fear or suspicion. Secondary to their mission to protect the populous from those who would misuse psionic gifts, the unwritten goal of Division 0 is to maintain a positive image of psionic individuals in the public eye.

While Division 0 officers do not run about searching for psionics, they will approach them when they are discovered, and try to make contact with them as young as possible. This first meeting often includes a cursory assessment of the individual’s abilities. Certain talents, such as psionic suggestion or sensory overload burst telepathy-induced neuropathy (commonly shortened to Mind Blast) result in more stringent supervision of the individual, though to date, the UCF has no reported cases of psionic children being forcibly removed from their homes except in cases where the juvenile was attempting to harm people. Many cases of psionic children being moved to protective custody (away from abusive or terrified parents) exist, though these parents are all too happy to be rid of their paranormal problems.

Psionics as a whole (and the people who possess them) are not widely accepted by society and are, at best, tolerated. Their status in the UCF is perhaps the most favorable of anywhere on Earth, as some countries kill them on sight while others either force them to register, deport them, or detain them.

With the exception of those apprehended in the commission of serious crimes, Division 0 tends to recruit any psionic they come into contact with, sometimes to the point of overlooking minor legal offenses.


As a subset of the National Police Force, all personnel within Division 0 are considered to be part of the military, with corresponding ranks. The division is split into two primary groups: Tactical (patrol teams and active response units), and Investigative Operations―(I-Ops) as abbreviated―that processes crime scenes where a psionic was involved and pursues more detailed cases in a manner similar to normal detectives. Tactical personnel possess enlisted ranks, while members of I-Ops are commissioned officers. In some cases of powerful or rare (and in demand) abilities, individuals who are quite young (sometimes as little as fourteen) may be granted a merit rank of “Agent” in I-Ops, which is equivalent to the military rank of Warrant Officer 4.


Command Structure

Division 0 Director Jane Carter, a noted telempath, is the current head of Division 0, a post she has held for seven years as of the current year of 2418. Her rank of Division Director is equivalent to a General in the military, with a grade of O-10. She is regarded as a sedate and wise leader, and despite her creeping into her early sixties, shows no signs of stepping down any time soon. A pronounced pragmatist, she has made a few decisions that did not go over well with her underlings, citing her focus on the greater good for psionic people as a whole, as opposed to what is best for the bureaucracy.

Deputy Director Johannes Burkhardt is known to be a bit of a firebrand who tends to advocate for military solutions to most problems. He is often criticized for the policy which puts minors in active duty (usually when they have abnormally high ratings in combative abilities like pyrokinesis or telekinesis.) His primary ability, Mind Blast, coupled with his personality has cemented his reputation as someone most of the rank and file go out of their way to avoid. His rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant General (O-9).

West City Area Chief Mikhail Kovalev is the highest ranking member of Division 0 on the west coast of North America. He is a rated telekinetic as well as a telepath. With a reputation for being even-keeled, almost pensive and occasionally taken by bits of humor (often directed at Burkhardt), he is well-liked by those under his command. His rank of Area Chief equates to a Major General (O-8).

East City Area Chief Ravindra Kaur has the unenviable job of being responsible for Division 0 management on the east coast. East City tends to foster more violence, likely due to a population half again the size of West City crammed into a space eighty percent of the size. Several bands of off-gridder psionic gangs exist in the east, often using their abilities in flagrant violation of the law. A protégé of Director Carter, Chief Kaur is also a potent telempath.


From the Area chiefs down, a branching network of Commanders, Lieutenant Commanders, Captains, and Lieutenants run the day to day. If you, or anyone you know, is psionic, consider referring them to the Division 0 education and training program.

Remember, only by working together can we build understanding and trust between society and psionics.

Interview | Hayley Stone

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Hayley Stone, author of MACHINATIONS, which is due out on June 14th, 2016. Also, I get to help share the cover reveal.

Machinations Final Cover


Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

 The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Machinations is available for pre-order:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

And don’t forget to add it to your list on Goodreads!


hayley stone author photo

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Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Machinations is her debut novel, releasing June 14th, 2016 from Hydra/Random House.


  • Congratulations on the release of your debut novel! Regarding the process of going from staring at a Word document to being published: Aside from getting signed, what was the best thing, worst, and most surprising to occur along the way?

Thanks, Matt! And thanks for having me on the blog.

This is a great question. The best moment of this crazy process was my agent giving me the news that my editor, Anne Groell, loved the book. Anne freaking Groell who edits for two of my favorite authors, George R.R. Martin and Peter F. Hamilton, loved my book! Not only did she love it, but everyone at the publisher did as well. You try to have confidence and faith in your work, but it never hurts to hear that it’s good from someone with the industry experience to know.

The worst thing was the waiting. While on submission, it’s easy to second-guess every narrative decision you’ve made in a book and be cannibalized by doubt. I won’t lie: there were times I thought, “okay, if no one wants this book, that’s that. I’ll have to live with it.” I’m so glad it is getting published, however, as the story is near and dear to my heart. Also, the main character’s a riot to write.

As for the most surprising moment, it was getting actual input into the design of the cover. You hear horror stories of writers getting saddled with covers they hate, and I was worried about that happening. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded! The designer I worked with was very open to suggestion, and together we ended up with a design I absolutely love.

  • Let’s start with something you’ve probably been asked a dozen times – Can you give us some insight into what got you interested in writing a novel and how you went about deciding on genre?

I was practically a writer in the womb. As soon as I could put two words together, I was making up stories and pushing them onto people, haha! I didn’t jump straight into novel-writing, however. I began as a fanfiction author, playing in other people’s universe, adding an original character here and there. Post-by-post roleplaying also helped me grow as a writer, allowing me to interact with other people’s writing styles, and improve on my own. I finally made the leap to writing—and finishing—novels in 2009, prompted by the challenge of National Novel Writing Month.

As for genre, I’ve always been a sci-fi and fantasy girl. I grew up on Star Wars and Legend of Zelda, so I guess it was only natural for me to gravitate toward the SFF genre when it came time to write.

  • What is your target audience for MACHINATIONS? Is this a young-adult title or adult sci fi?

Machinations is adult sci-fi, but I think it would appeal to readers of upper YA, as well. It features a spunky female protagonist that I feel people of any age will relate to. It also has a clear, concise writing style that makes for fairly easy reading.

  • Tell us a little about the machines involved. Is this a story of runaway technology where everything from microwave ovens to cars to jet planes is trying to kill people, or are we talking about androids and cyborgs?

No, no killer microwaves, sadly!

There are various models of machines in Machinations, each with a specific purpose—scouting and combat, to name a few. I wouldn’t classify them as androids or cyborgs; they don’t share humanoid features, nor are they combined with human anatomy. The majority of the machines are actually dependent on a higher artificial intelligence referred to as the higher echelon, which possesses true sentience. Imagine a hive of mindless worker bees, all governed by an intelligent queen. That comes close to the machines we’re dealing with here.

  • As your book hasn’t released yet, I haven’t had a chance to read it – but based on the description, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities to the Terminator franchise in that intelligent machines have made the decision to wipe out humanity, and there’s a resistance. Aside from the lack of time travel, what unique twists does MACHINATIONS bring to this setting?

You’re not the first person to make that comparison, haha! On the surface, they do share the whole “robot apocalypse” premise, but they’re totally different stories when it comes down to it.

For starters, Machinations takes place in Alaska, and without giving too much away, I can tell you the majority of the machines the characters encounter are not nearly as sophisticated as a T-1000, and the higher echelon morally divergent from Skynet. The story also centers more on the struggle of the main character, Rhona, a clone left questioning what it means to be human after being “born” prematurely. At the same time she’s trying to fit back into her old life, she’s also running a struggling resistance. Rhona wishes she had it as easy as Sarah Connor. 😉

At its core, Machinations explores themes of identity and living up to expectations—those dictated by society versus the self—which I don’t think the Terminator franchise ever really touches on.

  • What authors would you consider to be your inspirations, and if you had to pick a favorite book, could you?

Ooh, inspirations! Off the top of my head: Margaret Atwood, George R.R. Martin, Audrey Niffenegger, Matthew Stover, and most recently, Kameron Hurley.

I think I’d rather have teeth pulled than pick a favorite book! But for the purposes of this interview, let’s say Kindred by Octavia Butler. That’s a book that stays with you long after you finish the final page.

  • Some writers develop idiosyncratic habits around writing – such as always having a cup of Tazo orange tea close at hand while drafting (looks around innocently). What, if anything, do you need to have in order to get into the zone?

It’s funny you should mention tea, as that’s been my go-to lately! A black chai does wonders to coax out the muse. I also like to use music to get myself into a specific mood when writing certain scenes, especially emotional ones.

I have a few other writer idiosyncrasies that are a lot weirder. I like to draft with all my paragraphs justified, and if the word count shows at the bottom of the document, I prefer ending on a 0 or 5.

  • Are any of your characters inspired by or based on anyone real?

If they were, I’d never admit it! 😉

Kidding aside, as a rule, I don’t usually base characters off of people I actually know. That said, I do tend to use “character models”—celebrities whose appearance help me visualize the character better. For instance, I’ve always imagined my main character, Rhona, as looking like Karen Gillan. Blame Doctor Who.

  • You’ve perhaps seen that comic where the author meant “the curtains are blue,” but the English professor goes on and on about the ‘deeper meaning’ behind the curtains being blue. To what extent (if any) is your story, or smaller elements within, a metaphor with a deeper meaning?

I’m meticulous when it comes to my writing, so nothing is really throwaway. If it’s on the page,  chances are good that I’ve included it for a reason. Plus, I come from a fandom background where everything can mean something if you squint, so I might have included things for the sole purpose of what they might inspire readers to imagine. I look forward to seeing what crazy and wild interpretations may come from an otherwise benign moment of description or dialogue. Bwahaha! clears throat Ahem.

  • Now that you’ve got a release date and a book coming out (congrats again by the way) – is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance to change any part of the process?

Hmmm. Not really! I’ve been very fortunate in the way things have worked out for Machinations, in no small part due to the efforts of my agent, Marlene Stringer. When you have good people fighting in your corner, it makes it much easier to get done what you need to get done.

  • Is MACHINATIONS part of a series or a standalone novel? What plans do you have writing wise in the future?

I’m glad you asked! Machinations is the first book in a planned series, though it can definitely be read as a standalone. I’m currently contracted for two books and finishing up the first draft of the sequel right now. My hope is that these two books will sell well enough to justify writing a third.

  • While writing, do your characters ever do anything you weren’t expecting? If so, do you run with it or force them back in line?

All the freaking time. In my experience, forcing them back into line never works. It just makes the narrative feel insincere, and authenticity of feeling is always my primary goal in telling a story. At the end of the day, the characters tend to drive the plot in my stories more than the plot drives them, and that’s the way I like it.

  • And finally, what message do you have for your readers?

I hope you’ll check out Machinations when it releases this summer. If you enjoy it, please tweet me and/or spread the word using the hashtag #Machinations to let others know about the book. I love connecting with fellow fans of sci-fi and fantasy—especially other writers—so if that’s you, definitely drop me a line!

Writing | Outlining


It’s been a little over a week since I posted, so I figure it’s about time. The mental dart I threw at the wall landed on outlining, so I’ll ramble on a bit about my process. A bit over twenty years ago, I took my first stab at trying to write something that I hadn’t been ordered to write by a teacher. I’d been into role-playing games for quite some time by then, and the crux of that (aside from number-mashy combat) is developing characters and storylines.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

So, way back when, I made the synaptic leap to go from telling on-the-fly stories to writing one down. The attempt wound up meandering for a few dozen pages and collapsing. Some writers are adept at sitting down with an idea or two in their head and just typing willy nilly until they have a novel in front of them. (The good ones can even establish a cohesive plot while doing this; the rest keep content editors employed.)

Alas, I do not count myself among that type of writer, at least, not for novel length. A couple of my short stories worked that way though. For anything with length or (as I tend to prefer) some intricacies of plot, I found myself getting lost. Unlike Wymore, I couldn’t just light a goat on fire and follow it to the end of a story. (Perhaps it’s ‘Pick on Wymore day,’ perhaps I’m infringing on Defendi’s schtick, but the goat is still screaming so I’m doing it anyway.)

screaming goat

When I finally got around to trying again I decided I wasn’t going to run around in circles following smoldering hoof prints in the grass. I wound up building an outline that served as a backbone from which to hang the story I wanted to tell. (Granted, as most writers may or may not be willing to confess, that book wound up being monolithic – over 400k words… and still hasn’t seen the light of day. Hell, I’ve been afraid to look at it myself for years.)


But, it broke the wall.

Outlining for me has become de rigueur. Usually I’ll spend a few days randomly throwing plot nuggets on paper in the form of a sentence or two. Scenes for character development, plot turns, major events as well as minor, all drop into an Excel sheet in no particular order. Once I feel like I’ve dumped enough clay on the wheel, I start moving stuff around into an order that makes sense to me. Sometimes I’ll add more at this point; oh, who am I kidding – I always do.

With everything sorted into order, next comes chapter names. I’m not sure why that stuck with me, but I’m fond of them! (And no amount of burning goats will change that.)


So, now I’ve got an outline full of named chapter blurbs. These chapter segments vary from 500 words of detail to something as simple as ‘fight with demon here.’ (That was the chapter outline for Division Zero, Lex De Mortuis where Kirsten gets attacked by the demon in the abandoned skyscraper.)

This is not to say that the outline is immutable or iron-clad. Often, as I am writing the story out, something will occur to me or the characters will go off and do something that makes more sense than what I’d initially conceived. When this happens, I change stuff. I suppose to that regard, my writing style could be called a hybrid of outlining and ‘pantsing,’ with a heavier lean toward the outline.

The most significant example of a change occurred while I was writing Prophet of the Badlands. This is book one of a six-part series, and I had a general idea of how I wanted things to go for the entire series while writing Prophet. I got the idea to do that as a series at the same time I got the idea for Division Zero. Since Division Zero was a simpler story (one main character versus 5 + multiple antagonists) I decided to write it first. All the while I wrote Division Zero, it felt as though Althea (MC of Prophet) was standing behind me, arms crossed, foot tapping, asking me ‘is it my turn yet’ every fifteen minutes.

Property Andrew Hefter

Property Andrew Hefter

Once I finished Division Zero 1 and began the querying process to get it published, I started on Prophet. This is a story about a girl with powers of healing in a blasted wasteland where medical technology is nonexistent. Naturally, she’s a valuable commodity. Althea is almost inhumanly sweet and tolerates a level of mistreatment that would break most people’s will. Throughout it all, she focuses on her desire to help people regardless of what they do to her. The story is about her finding courage.

Initially, she is quiet, timid, and afraid of how people will react if she uses her ‘other’ abilities to protect herself. At about the 55% (rough estimate) mark, the outline called for something to happen. (Pardon the vagary here; I’m trying not to spoil for those who haven’t read it.) At the time I outlined it, it made sense to me―a temporary reprieve at a particular place before the cycle of being grabbed by others looking to exploit her abilities continued.

However, Althea had other plans. She formed a strong emotional connection to another character that I had not anticipated. When it came time for the outlined event to occur, she put her foot down and refused. Considering primary story arc involved her evolution from a meek and timid “All I want to do is help people no matter how mean they are” person to having the inner strength to stand up for herself, I couldn’t say no.

So, the outline changed.

And the entire series changed course because of it.

I’m not trying to say that outlining is better than pantsing. For me, it is―but a writer has to do what works for them. Especially with complex plots, I need to have an idea of where I’m heading or I’m going to get lost on the way.

Probably a good point for me to cease rambling before the goat explodes.

exploding goat

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