Homeland Security Services

I’ve not been blogging much in the last two weeks, but I have a good excuse. Much better than “My dog degaussed my thumbdrive,” or whatever the kids say these days. Here it is:

I wrote a novel.

This novel is really important for a number of reasons that I’ll go into below. First, let me tell you a bit about the setting for Perfectly Invisible.

It’s 2011 in a closely parallel world to our own. The United States is engaged in a war on terror. We’ve initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The difference is this: in the world of Homeland Security Services, the war on terror began in 1993. Just over a month after Bill Clinton became President, a truck-bombing of the World Trade Center successfully sent the North Tower careening into the South Tower, and they both spilled out into Manhattan to the south-southeast. The death toll was pegged at 50,000 individuals and now, eighteen years later, the site is a parkland known to most as The Scar.

Clinton responded, bombing Al Qaeda out of Sudan and into Afghanistan, and then a ground war swept through Afghanistan. By 1996 most of Afghanistan was pacified, with a border skirmish war taking place near Pakistan—reminding many of the Cambodian and Laotian border in Viet Nam. In the summer of 1996 the Republicans chose Bob Dole and Jack Kemp to run for President.

In Chicago, on the last night of the Democratic National Convention, Al Qaeda successfully attacked the Democrats, wiping out Democratic leadership from the President on down to Mayors, selectmen and other party activists from across America. In one horrible night of fire and fear, the progressive movement in America died.

The Clinton assassination, known as The Big Hit, placed Newt Gingrich in the White House. The Patriot Act—the popular name for the 28th Amendment to the Constitution—was ratified virtually overnight. It created multiple tiers of citizenship, with appropriate rights and duties attached to each. Law enforcement was given sweeping powers to regulate dangers—including anti-social behavior—in order to keep American safe. And anti-social behavior is best described as those issues that fire-up preachers, are prohibited by the Bible, and can’t be simplified enough to be described in Country and Western lyrics.

Homeland Security Services was created. The Service is to the Department of Justice what the Green Berets are to the Army. The agents, commonly known as Snakes because of the unfortunate service acronym of HSS, are all highly competent and bring specialties to each team. It’s through the eyes of the members of Team Krait, based in New York, that many of the stories will be told.

The short form for the world is simple:

Dwight Eisenhower’s America
Richard Nixon’s Paranoia
Steve Job’s Technology
Newt Gingrich’s Morality
J. Edgar Hoover’s Wet Dream

In this world, Big Brother does more than just watch.


Perfectly Invisible is important not for philosophical questions that get asked and explored—though there is a fair amount of that in there. The story is a lot of fun, as is the world. It does give all of us a chance to explore some of the logical consequences not only of conservative or liberal political maneuvering, but just the impact of technology on our every day lives. All that comes wrapped around a mystery inside a mystery, with lots of secrets that will be revealed as more stories get written.

The importance of this book is that I put it together while working on other things, madly scribbling down notes, developing characters and doing lots of prep work in my spare time. I outlined it, then I knocked it out in ten days out of a two week period. The novel is short: 50,000 words or so. It’s the length of the old pulp novels—in essence the standard length of books right up to the 1980s. It’s my belief that this length makes it a perfect commuter novel. It will satisfy someone for a plane ride, or a series of weekly commutes to and from work. It’s a book that’s had its length adapted to the changing way we read things

It’s important to emphasize one thing—this is not a pulp novel in the sense that the phrase is used by those who denigrate such things. I’ve read countless pulp novels and have found them to be very entertaining. Eighty years ago, during the pulps’ heyday, characterization wasn’t a huge selling point. Readers wanted a ripping good yarn, and writers delivered. That doesn’t mean the best of them didn’t also provide interesting characters who grew in the stories. Absolutely they did. And because of those efforts, our taste in reading shifted. Writers and readers recognize and enjoy strong, deep characters; and any writer today forgets that at his peril.

Where this is a pulp novel, is that it’s designed to be entertaining. It’s a mystery in a world that makes you think. It has strong characters who have their own secrets, and their own demons which they must defeat. Perfectly Invisible is just the first in a set of stories, and the character story arcs have been plotted out over multiple stories. There will be more novel length works; there will be novellas and short stories; and there could even be much larger novels as the stories and sagas warrant. Digital publication gives me the freedom to approach the characters as their stories demand.

The HSS world is the first new world I’ll be playing in this year. While I was working on Perfectly Invisible, I was planning, developing and plotting a novel in yet another new world. It’s a Steampunk world, and my Chance Corrigan stories are set in it about 15 years before this new cycle. The first of those books will likely be the novel I turn out in July.

Unless there are unforeseen circumstances at play, I would imagine Perfectly Invisible will be available in August—maybe a bit sooner, watch here for notices. The ability to turn out a story quickly and make it available to readers without a long delay, allows me to keep the material fresh and even link it to timely events. It allows me to keep the work more relevant, and to give you the entertainment on a tighter schedule which is better suited to your needs than that of traditional publishers.

I am absolutely through-the-roof, over-the-moon happy with this novel, the world, the characters and what it means going forward for my writing career.


Writing up this series of blog posts is cutting into my fiction writing time. If you’re finding these posts useful, and haven’t yet snagged books of mine, please consider making a purchase now. Nice thing about the new age of publishing is that you become a Patron of the Arts, letting writers know what you’d like to see more of simply by voting with a credit card. (Authors charge less when they sell direct, so you save, we make more, and that frees us to write more.)

My latest paper novel, At The Queen’s Command, is available at book retailers everywhere.

Murderous Magick is a five-pack of short stories, including the only extant Talion short story, Shepherd and the short story, The Silver Knife. Also included are a weird-western set in the Deadlands universe, an even odder Holmes pastiche than The Silver Knife, and Looks are Deceiving, a new story in a brand new fantasy universe far more reminiscent of Robert E. Howard than The Lord of the Rings. It’s available for the Kindle, and for sale directly off my website for any epub compliant ereaders.

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83 Responses to “Homeland Security Services”

  1. Not a bad idea, and I suspect you’ll see that in the very near future.

  2. That is still the plan, yes.

  3. Do you know any release date for this novel?

  4. I hope to have it out end of August/beginning of September.

  5. Russell Davis 27. Aug, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Mr. Stackpole, (I would feel Weird calling you Mike), I’m a big fan of your books. First the X wing books, then Dragon Crown,then everything you have written.

    I’m a huge fan of you for championing E books, and have actually sent emails to other authors that are out of print directing them to your website in the hopes they would be inspired to get back in the game.

    I have a concern though. Many of your Ebooks have horrible editing. By that I don’t mean the content overall, just the words on the page. Missing punctuation, switched letters, computer conversion issues if I had to say. Some of your books are better than others.

    Once a hero was a wonderful book, but it was plagued with these errors. It was bad enough at points that I had to reread passages to make sure I understood what was going on.

    In hero years had similar issues but not nearly so bad. Not as good as I would expect from a professionally published book but much better in Once a hero.

    In case the cause is related I read the books via the Kindle.

    I expect the improvement was a learning curve? As someone who loves your books and will always buy them this is just an annoying tick that takes me somewhat out of the story. If I were not already a fan, and was just reading the preview portion of the book it might hurt the chances I would buy the book after the first several chapters.

    I’ve likely made a hundred mistakes in just this online post so i know this isn’t easy but as someone who is championing Ebooks I would ask that you have try a little harder to reduce the text issues.

  6. Russell, Thanks for the note. I really do my best to catch all the typos and errors in a book. As well you know, proofreaders often miss things, and this is true of me, as well.

    On the copyright page you’ll see a little tag that reads “Ebook Build X.xxx” If you want to look at it and let me know what the version number is, I can shoot you a later one if I have corrected the manuscript. (I save up errors that folks point out and put out corrected editions periodically.) I’m going to bet the copy of OAH you have doesn’t even have a build number, whereas I just released 2.01 with a bunch of corrections in it.

    As I move forward, I get better at this. While I do have folks who look these books over, the responsibility for errors is mine.


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  27. REVIEW: Perfectly Invisible by Michael A. Stackpole « fangirlblog.com - 06. Nov, 2011

    […] Mike offered me a chance to read and review some of his original works – Perfectly Invisible and In Hero Years…I’m Dead – I jumped at the opportunity. I really didn’t look at the […]