New Sci-fi Dystopian Novel

Many readers have asked about Reed, a character from Altered (Rogue Spark Book 1). He was bullied at Woodlawn Youth Improvement Center and harbored a huge crush on Ida.

The novel After We Fall describes what happened to Reed and the other kids at Woodlawn. Here is chapter 1…

Sci-fi Dystopian


Journal Entry of Reed Reynolds

February 16, 2040 

I guess I’d always thought the end of the world would happen fast. 

Maybe an asteroid would wipe out humanity, or Yellowstone would blow its top.

But it turns out the fall of society happens like a slow caving in. 

Ever build a sand castle and watch as a rolling wave steals a wall, and then you rebuild, but it gets sucked away again?

And with each rising swell, more pebbles disappear until there’s only a soggy lump on the water-logged beach.

Until you’re left with nothing but ruin. You shape and mold the slippery mud as fast as you can, but you’ll never beat the onslaught of waves.

Woodlawn Improvement Center

Oneida County, New York State

We’re misfits and orphans, sprinkled in with a few juvenile delinquents. 


I’ve been part of the system since I was fourteen, when my mother had left me in the hands of New York State because she couldn’t handle being a parent. Can’t blame her, I guess. Life in the late 2030s hadn’t been easy for anyone. Jobs were scarce and environmental disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes were happening frequently. Having a kid was just another burden in a crumbling mess of a world.

“Welcome to Woodlawn, Reed Reynolds,” Kilpatrick had said my first day—over two years ago. I’d shaken the head supervisor’s cold, moist hand while a creeping sensation had risen in my throat.

My social worker, a kind lady named Maxine, had assured I’d be in good hands. She’d winked goodbye. “It won’t be long before a nice couple adopts you and takes you to your forever home.”

I’d nodded despite my insides feeling like quicksand. Once Maxine had lifted off in her air cruiser, Kilpatrick had introduced me to the real Woodlawn. After handing me a scratchy used blanket, he’d led me to my new room, bare except for two cots with worn foam mattresses that weren’t much thicker than a folded towel.

That’s when I’d met my roommate Zeke. He’s a year younger and had looked like a frightened shelter puppy at first. Later, he’d confessed his relief I wasn’t a bully. We’re true friends now. Bonding happens fast when you’re both picked on by the older, bigger kids.

Zeke’s sister is Daria. She’s my age—sixteen—but also blind, which makes life really difficult at Woodlawn. Zeke often shakes his head, explaining that they’re a bonded sibling pair. According to him, they can’t be separated during the adoption process. That Daria is disabled means no one in their right minds would take them. I never know what to say when he mentions it; I suspect he’s correct

Six months ago, a red-headed girl named Ida had arrived. She’d been different from the others, more of a loner type. But there’d been something about her, and I’d followed her around in the exercise yard always trying to catch her attention. She’d kept ignoring me until one day—when she’d stood up for me against the biggest bully at Woodlawn—Marc Mal.

The few times Ida had actually met my gaze, I’d seen loneliness in her eyes and something else. Bitterness? She’d had a rough past like a lot of kids here.

Too bad she hadn’t stayed long. I’d only known her a few weeks before a couple had adopted her. But four months later, she’d sent a letter, and we’ve kept in touch since. The craziest thing of all? She’d been recruited into the military; now she’s in basic training. 

I miss Ida like anything, but her story gives me hope. Hope for a better future outside Woodlawn.

But that was before The Fall.

The Fall—the collapse, the invasion—whatever you call it, had happened real slow at first.

In the early days, soon after Ida had left, the adults who worked here had looked nervous. Some of them had stopped showing up, which had been odd because Woodlawn ran like clockwork. Even Kilpatrick, who’d usually enjoyed taunting us, had become distracted. He’d spent time alone, holed up in his office, listening to new reports. Something was happening. I hadn’t known what, but it had seemed like a big deal.

One day, after getting beaten up and sent to the nurses station, I’d found out.

Nurse Tilda’s lips had been tightly drawn as she’d rubbed alcohol-soaked gauze along my cut cheek. “At least they didn’t break your glasses this time. Good thing, too, because we can’t replace them.”

“Why not?” I’d asked, wincing at the sting lighting up my bruised and torn skin.

She’d dropped the bloody bandage in a tray and frowned. “Because… It’s hard to get things right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“Reed, I’m not supposed to say a word… But you seem like such a smart boy.” After checking the hallway and shutting the door, she’d knelt before me, resting a hand on my knee. “There’s been an incident.”

I had studied her face, noting dark circles under her eyes. And I’d smelled something like wine on her breath—a familiar odor from many evenings living with my mother, when she’d return from the bars.

“What is it, Nurse Tilda?”

“Far from here… in Europe. There’s been an invasion. These creatures… They call them the Heavies.”

Creatures?” My jaw had dropped, and even though it had ached from getting punched earlier, I hadn’t cared. “You mean like from space?”

She’d nodded. “There’s been little news. They don’t really know a lot about them. But they’re dangerous. So, people here have been scared. Folks are taking precautions… evacuating south to designated cities.”

Visions of green space creatures, like the ones from my comic books, had filled my head. Were they menacing? Had they tried to communicate with us?

Tilda had lingered by the window, gazing down into the yard. “It’s hard to leave you kids but… I have to go. My sister lives a hundred miles from here. She’s on a farm with her husband and daughters, and I figure if anywhere will be safer, it’s there.”

My stomach had dropped. Nurse Tilda had been the only adult at Woodlawn who was nice. “But you can’t move. What about me?”

“I-I’m sorry, Reed.”

That had been the last time I saw her. Over a week ago. And the other employees had stopped showing up, too.

Kilpatrick is the only one remaining, sequestered in his office, poring over papers that litter his desk, and constantly on his terminal. He’s grown a beard and hasn’t changed his clothes in days.

Last night, on hall sweep duty, I’d lingered near his door, staring through the glass partition. But then he’d seen me and had ordered me back to my room, promptly shutting his window blinds.

The bell rings, signaling our hour-long recess. Automatic doors shuffle us into the yard regardless of weather. The skies are grey and overcast today, and it’s warm enough I don’t see my breath.

I take refuge under a scraggly tree, poking a tiny stick into the top of an ant-hill. Each time I wreck the entrance, the worker ants race over and fix the damage. 

Once, in a foster home, there’d been an ant farm, and I’d spent hours watching the workers swarm and serve their queen. For once, I’d thought there might be a future with that foster couple. They’d lost their five-year-old in an air cruiser crash—he hadn’t been buckled in and another flying vehicle had collided with them, thrusting the boy forward into the cockpit dashboard.

But they had sent me away, like all the others.

Bored, I dig a path in the dirt pile to help the ants. Staring at the ten-foot-tall electrified fence that contains us, I sigh. What would be waiting outside Woodlawn? Would I ever lead a normal life?

Three older boys in the yard start brawling. I stand, yelling at them to cut it out as I stare up at Kilpatrick’s second-story office window where he usually watches the yard. But there’s no sign of him. After a few minutes, the Responsive Riot Control Units (RCUs) descend from the roof.

“Longlegs!” a kid yells, and the teen bystanders scatter. Four of the flying spider-shaped drones swoop down and survey the situation. Instead of running, I stay to see what will happen, fascinated by the insect-like robots that sense when fights break out and intervene.

One of the fighting boys (I think his name is Pete) runs off and blends in with the kids lining up for the door. The two others seem oblivious to the spiderbots until they announce, “Attention. Stop moving. Assume the position.”

That means the boys are supposed to sink to their knees and put their hands behind their heads in submission. They had trained us on the position from day one. Once the spiderbots had subdued us, adult supervisors would emerge from the building and handcuff the offending teens, escorting them to their rooms, the nurse, or to Kilpatrick’s office for punishment. It was standard procedure.

But none of us had seen the supervisors in a week.

“Get them!” Marc Mal shouts. Six boys storm over and throw stones at the RCUs. The drones swerve, dodging the projectiles. But Marc hits one square in the front control panel. It veers up, weaving a corkscrew pattern, crashes into the brick building wall, and falls to the ground.

A shrill blaring sounds from the other machines—one of their defense mechanisms.

Marc’s gang draw more rocks from their pockets and pummel the machines.

I edge away from the chaos, trying to avoid the line of fire. I scan Kilpatrick’s office window and glimpse him. His gaze meets mine, and he hesitates. Frowning, he grabs his jacket and exits the room.

The RCUs blast their sirens while Marc and friends continue their assault. I watch the roof four stories up, expecting a fleet of spiderbots to descend. But I spy Kilpatrick. One moment he stares down at us and shakes his head. Then he steps out of sight.

The machines launch tranquilizer darts. Every attacker collapses within five seconds except Marc. It takes three darts in the chest to bring him down.

Kilpatrick’s air cruiser lifts off from the rooftop and soars east into the muted grey sky.

That’s the last time I see him.

Game Night

Did you see Avengers End Game yet? I went on opening day and made it all the way through without a bathroom break! But seriously, the movie was amazing, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again (at home when I can press pause).

My next novel is called After We Fall. The story takes place between Books 1 and 2 of the Rogue Spark series. It’s about what happened to Reed and others at Woodlawn Youth Improvement Center after Ida left. The cover is ready, and I’m excited to share it with you.

What do you think?

Game Night
Last weekend, I invited friends over to play a game called Dark Tower. It came out in 1981 but was discontinued. I have fond memories of my family sitting around our kitchen table playing it when I was a kid. The game did not disappoint!

Four players own a kingdom each and must travel to other kingdoms to find brass, silver, and gold keys. Then you trek to the Dark Tower where you have to decipher the order of the keys to enter. 

Along the journey, there are battles with brigands and other dangers such as plague or just getting lost. Each player manages a supply of soldiers, gold, and food. The game was groundbreaking at the time because it contained a tall plastic tower with a computer interface. 

Guess what? Dark Tower is coming back in 2020! Restoration Games is updating the game and bringing it back. I’m so excited:-)

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite game to play? Do you have a game night? Hit reply and let me know.

Mind-bending cyberpunk

I love to read. Ever since I was a kid, books have been an escape and a refuge from all the craziness in the world.

Every once in a while, I pick up a book and get so lost in the story that it’s hard to function because I can’t stop thinking about it and wondering what will happen to the characters next. Has this ever happened to you?

There’s a new book called Soul Jacker, and it’s the best cyberpunk I’ve read in some time. It’s currently on sale for $0.99 and free for Kindle Unlimited readers. I don’t know how long that sale price will last…

soul jacker

Imagine a post-apocalyptic arctic landscape where jacking deep into a person’s brain and altering their memories is a thing. The main character, Ritry Goligh, is a former marine who specializes in the dangerous business of soul-jacking.

When he’s not getting drunk on arcloberry vodka and trying to piece together his past, he’s waiting for the big one–a giant tsunami wave that will destroy everything in its path. But when he helps a runaway girl, he spirals down a path toward destruction and danger.

If you enjoy cyberpunk such as Neuromancer, Altered Carbon, and Snow Crash, you’ll love reading this book. Plus, it’s a 3-book series so you can really dig in.

Question of the Week:
What’s the last book you had trouble putting down?
P.S. I recommend sci-fi & fantasy books frequently on BookBub. CLICK HERE to follow me and get all my recommendations. 

Life on Mars

I’m writing this from the frigid tundra of Chicago where the current temperature is -16°F. Yesterday morning, it was -21 with a wind chill of -50! My city is about the same temperature as the surface of Mars.

While I write about strong characters, I’m not an adrenaline junkie myself.  🙂 I did not venture outside yesterday. The cold is so brutal that you can get frostbite in under 10 minutes. I’m beyond grateful to have a safe, warm home.

There is beauty in extremes. Lake Michigan, which is a few degrees above freezing, appears to boil like a cauldron. Steam rises from the surface in roiling waves as water meets the arctic subzero air.

I read a lot of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, and it is eerie to see Chicago looking abandoned. Schools and businesses have closed. Train and air service has stopped, and very few cars are on the road. Nearly everyone stays inside their homes.

Recently, I read Birdbox. In the book, everyone hides inside their homes. It struck me as eerie to have the same type of situation here. Thankfully, it’s just 48 hours. The forecast is for warmer times ahead. I’m very grateful.

Birdbox is fantastic, and I highly recommend the book (grab it here). Read it before you watch the movie if possible. I’m also reading Cinder, a retelling of Cinderella but with a cyborg. I love it so far. Find it here.

What are you reading lately? Leave a comment below.

In writing news, I finished the Authors on a Train short story with my co-author. We had so much fun writing together. It’s a horror tale that contains voodoo and ritualistic magic. We channeled our inner Stephen Kings! I’ll let you know when the book is available.

Meanwhile, I continue making progress with Salvage (Book 4 in the Rogue Spark series). I am excited to be nearing the finish line. I had hoped to make the book available in January, but it’s taking longer than expected. Look for an announcement by the end of February.

Here’s a glimpse of the cover. What do you think?

Salvage Cameron Coral

After Salvage, I will plot a new series that I’m excited about. Ideas are brewing. I’m also planning more short stories since I had so much fun with the New Orleans story. Exciting times ahead!
On March 2nd, I’ll be attending the Tucson Festival of Books. Let me know if you live in the area and want to stop by my booth or meet up. My Dad and stepmom live in southern Arizona, and I enjoy getting the chance to hang out with them for a few days. We like hiking in the nearby mountains and canyons.
I hope you are staying warm wherever you are in the world. I look forward to sharing more exciting news with you soon.

The Verse [Dystopian Political Satire Flash Fiction]

The Verse flash fiction political satire. What does the future look like? Cameron Coral

Every year, I enter the NYC Midnight flash fiction story contest in which I have 48 hours to write a 1,000-word story.

How does it work?

There are four rounds. In July, you receive an email at 11:59 pm on a Friday night. The clock starts ticking, and you have 48 hours to write an original story.

But not just any story—you’re assigned a specific set of prompts:

1) Genre – the story style

2) Setting – a place where the majority of your story should take place.

3) Object – a random thing that must appear in your writing.

Participants are assigned into random groups, so there’s lots of variation in the prompts. Judges review the stories and award points. Everyone advances to Challenge #2, but only the top entries move on to compete in Challenges 3 and 4.

Last year, I wrote a fairy tale and an action story. This year, my first round prompt was:

1) Political Satire

2) Liquor store

3) A flip chart.

I’ve never written political satire! It was difficult to come up with ideas in such a short amount of time.

But I appreciated the challenge. My first draft ended up too dystopian!! It was grim. I was going for a Fahrenheit 451 vibe.

The story hardly qualified as political satire, so I rewrote it. My husband and parents served as hapless beta readers.

Draft number two was still too dark! I finally came up with a third and final draft, which I’ve shared below with you.

I’d love to know what you think. Please leave a comment below or email me:

Thanks for reading!


The Verse

“Which window, again?”

“The left one,” Rik repeated over his shoulder as his daughter examined the poster containing the daily special: $20 off a case of Truth Enhancer wine. Ever since her implant, her short-term memory had shrunk to the size of a comma.

Inside the narrow supply closet, he grabbed the stepladder, then eyed the black duffel bag wedged high on the top shelf.

The pack contained his sleeping bag and enough supplies to last three days. A few times a year, he camped solo in Purgatory Chasm. The forest preserve was his refuge. Not a blasted wi-fi signal around for fifty miles.

Rik carried the ladder to the front of the store.

Janice rolled her eyes and climbed up to hang the poster. “I can’t believe you won’t switch to a digital display. Not FAIR!”

A bell chimed, startling Rik. “What’s that?”

Perched atop the ladder, Janice giggled. “Points I just earned for using one of the President’s snarkiest catchphrases.”

Rik watched as a cartoon smiling face floated down to him like a bubble. He swiped it away with his arm. “Your damn brain implant generates emoticons?

“Brain Enhancement. Don’t be such a hater.” Another bell sounded.

He sighed and scanned the empty parking lot outside. Damn the Versers. Since the election, he’d warned Janice against the “upgrade.” But she was stubborn and tried to convince him the Verser party wasn’t so extreme. He clung to the hope that maybe things wouldn’t be so bad.

The pundits had predicted mediocrity. Certainly, nobody had expected the newly elected administration to unveil a neuro-communications breakthrough, a new Internet they called the Verse.

Just a quick twenty-minute appointment was all it took for the government to insert its proprietary nano-chip into your occipital lobe. Then, presto! You were always ON. Never again would you miss a presidential chirp or a heartwarming video of kittens snuggling with tortoises.

After America’s favorite television health expert, Dr. Borgus, endorsed the program, people lined up in droves. The suicide rate dropped. Loneliness didn’t exist when your constant companion was the hum of millions of people tapped into your neural networks.

Janice stopped attending high school. Rik had been furious. “School is for losers,” she cried. “If I go, I’ll fall behind on all the latest snap-chirp videos!”

“What the heck is snap-twerp? Can’t you record it and watch later?”

“Dad! Recording? Videos disappear in eight minutes. Duh!” A frowning face suddenly floated in the air before him.

His customers had shaken their heads in amazement at the prospect of letting the government inside their heads. “Not us. No way!” But as the public grew swayed by the mounting celebrity endorsements, even his most skeptical customers succumbed.

Afterward, they came by the store and only spoke in soundbites and emojis.

“How ya doing, Bernard?” Rik asked one of his long-term patrons.

“Things are better than ever. The economy is ROARING. Wow!”

After similar exchanges, Rik avoided small talk. Instead, he grunted, rang up their purchases, and shuffled them out as quickly as possible. Their implants meant they only half-listened to his comments about the weather anyway.

He prayed for an alternative. But the only other party had flubbed the election, and their influence weakened every day since President West rose to power.

How could you win against a platform that promised seamless connectivity at the speed of thought? “A new frontier of innovation,” West declared during his victory speech. “And available for a low monthly payment plan. Chips for EVERYONE. Even illegals.”

Life had made sense. Janice would take over the shop one day. But he’d never predicted the sudden political change. Post-implant, his customers didn’t consume as much alcohol as before because they were occupied with making up snappy zingers. His business had practically been wiped out overnight.

Late afternoons, Rik used to share an Irish coffee with Mr. Jones who owned the dry cleaner next door. Post-election, both had expressed dismay at the state of affairs. But Jones got the chip a few days ago, and Rik didn’t join him outside on their shared sidewalk anymore, preferring to busy himself drawing new posters of the daily deals that decorated his storefront.

Janice had begged him to install flashy digital window displays. “These are all the rage. Businesses that have them double, even quadruple their sales. The signs are hooked into the Verse, so thousands of people see your specials instantly.”

But he preferred to illustrate his banners with magic marker on an old-fashioned flip chart. ‘Keep it simple, stupid,’ had been his motto since opening twenty-five years ago. Now stupid seemed to surround him.

Janice descended the ladder, and he surveyed her work. “Good job, pumpkin.”

“Ugh. Paper. It’s like the stone age.” A blank look crossed her features, and she tilted her head as if listening.

“Janice?” Her vacant stare persisted. A bored look, common among teenagers, their attention stolen by screens. Rik waved a hand in front of her face before she came to and met his gaze.

“You okay?” he asked before trotting behind the counter and wiping it with a rag. He yearned for simpler times–before implants tapped into a person’s brain, distilling every thought into pictures and soundbites.

She opened her mouth as if to speak, but a croak emerged. Her eyes widened, and she snapped her mouth shut.


She nodded and pretended to zip her lips together. Then she pointed at a string of floating emoticons.

Rik squinted at the shimmering icons: An eye, a heart, and a finger pointed at him.

“I should have taken you away from here. Canada,” he said, pouring himself a whiskey.

She blinked and flashed him a poop emoji.

“So long, baby girl,” Rik kissed her forehead.

He swigged his drink, feeling its warmth swell in his chest before collecting the camping pack from the closet and stepping out the back door.