Welcome!

Thank you for stopping by. Hopefully, you’ve done so because you are interested in learning about books, the writing process and what makes a writer tick. Although this author specializes in science fiction and fantasy, with an occasional detour into the realm of political thrillers, over the coming weeks and months you will find interviews with and articles about many of today’s top authors—not only producers of these genres, but everything from young adult novels to romance, erotica, historical fiction, non-fiction and more. We will explore not only their writing process and get tantalizing hints at their works in progress, but we will also learn about the varied lives and interests that drive these American, Canadian, Australian and European creators of today’s genre and mainstream literature.

I hope to find interesting enough stories to entice you to return time and again. And I invite you to subscribe to this website’s monthly newsletter to keep abreast of the rapidly changing world of modern publishing.

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 25 – Interview With Charles David Carpenter & D. W. Jones

For the first time since I launched my interview series, I’m featuring two authors at once. Charles David Carpenter and D. W. Jones have co-authored a YA fantasy series. Rather than my introducing them, it’s simpler if I allow each one to fill you in on his own background.

CHARLES_WEB_115Charles D. Carpenter: Welcome to my mind’s eye view of the world. Besides being a writer, I am an actor and martial artist who was born and reared in sunny Southern California. Yes, I am the rare native who was actually born here. See, we do exist.

As a martial artist, I have learned how to fight people. As an Angeleno, I have learned how to fight traffic. Traffic is tougher, by far. I attended California State University Northridge, but my father instilled in me my love for writing. My family has always said, “Before he could talk, he could write.” Thank you, family.

My love and passion is writing novels. To be very specific, fantasy novels. Although, D.W. and I have written various works together in differing genres, fantasy is the genre that moves my heart.

 

206D.W. Jones: Spending my formative years in Washington, D.C., I know about cold. I was accepted into the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts in high school and several years after graduating from Northwood High, I made my way to Los Angeles, where I have lived for the past ??? years. So now, I know about sunny and warm. Um, sunny and warm is better.

Stories of daring adventures in faraway places with action and romance helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the streets, inspiring me to dream bigger and reach farther. Those stories still inspire me today.

In 2005, I joined creative forces with Charles David Carpenter and began collaborating on various writing projects, including the very successful original comedy series for the Internet called CAN WE DO THAT?

Like night and day, we are two uniquely different authors who came together to form what we feel is a dynamic writing team. After several screenplays, TV pilots and commercial copy we embarked on writing our first novel series.

hd-bk-sos-copy-880x1024They have completed the third book in the series entitled Storm of Shadows, and they describe it this way:

Humanity teeters on the edge of chaos as war looms imminent and natural disasters strike the world of Tarune. The Necromancers, knowing their time is running out, intensify their plot as they close in on the Pride. As Velladriana struggles to control her growing powers, the blossoming emotions between she and Corwyn threaten to tear them apart. Only time will tell if hope will survive.

Tell us about your most recent release.

CDC: Before I do that, I want to take a moment to thank you for your EXTRAORDINARY patience, as well as for honoring us with this invitation to your interview series. We are huge fans of your work and are humbled by this consideration. So, thank you! Now, on with the show. Storm of Shadows is the third novel in series. It is difficult to give too much comprehensive detail about this novel without compromising the surprises waiting for you in the first two books. That having been said, I am really proud of this installment. I guess I’d say I have pride in this Pride. Anyone? Hello…is this thing on?

DWJ: Unfortunately for us, it is. Anyway, the action is fast paced as the world of Tarune heads to the brink of a war between both human and supernatural forces.

CDC: That, though, is just the backdrop. It is the interpersonal relationships and how they are developing that we truly love about this book. For us, characters and their motivations hold the true heft and power of any story.

DWJ: These characters are real. Their lives and needs are real. As such, the world they inhabit is real. A lot of surprises await the characters we hope you have come to love… and hate.

What was the inspiration behind your series?

CDC: For me, the original inspiration behind these books was to create a world in which people could immerse themselves and feel safe. You see; I was bullied as a kid. I didn’t have many friends in this world, so I sought them in other worlds. Most specifically, I found them in the pages of the novels that allowed me to escape my tormentors. Now, not to worry, I got through it and have a rich and bountiful circle of friends today, but those books did help me through some dark times. So, my inspiration was to create a world that would allow any child going through what I did to find a magical place of solace.

DWJ: Also, we have a lot of voices constantly talking, singing, chanting and squabbling inside our respective minds. Writing lets others hear those voices, too.

What other novels have you written?

CDC: We have written the first two installments of the series: Quest for Elderstone and Tides of War.

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Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

CDC: Actually, Quest for Elderstone is currently required reading for Diversity and Social Justice in Counseling class and Internship in Clinical Mental Health Counseling for the Department of Counseling at Johns Hopkins University. I think that is pretty darn cool.

DWJ: As a matter of fact, we will be the keynote speakers there for a symposium on bullying at the end of the month.

That is seriously cool! How did that happen?

CDC: Quest for Elderstone was discovered by a doctor named Marsha Boveja Riggio and she reached out to D.W.. Her complete title is Dr. Marsha Boveja Riggio, LPC -S (DC & MD), NCC, President, Maryland Association of Marriage & Family Counselors Executive Director, Maryland Counseling Association, Board Member, William V.S. Tubman University Foundation.

When D.W. told Dr. Riggio about the books we had written, she had the idea of using the books for her classes, as she is constantly looking for new client cases for her students to analyze and conceptualize as part of their clinical development.

She read the books herself and loved them. She said she was not really a fantasy fan, but our books touched her on a number of levels, and now she is very interested in exploring the genre.

Quest for Elderstone seems to be a successful integration. The characters give the students strong archetypes with well developed life histories for reference. Dr. Riggio may be adding the other two books as required reading, as well.

As I said, this is seriously cool, as well as an unexpected reader base. What else are you working on?

CDC: Along with the fourth and final novel in series, we are writing several short stories based on the characters we have introduced in the series. Corwyn, Reese, Dolthaia, most of the Companions of the Pride, in point of fact, will have eventual origin stories about them.

DWJ: Also, we will give origin stories on the different character classes and groups unique to our world, like the Oslyn and Weavers, to name a couple.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

CDC: When we are involved in the heavy lifting of the writing, meaning we have set the basic, loose outline and chatted at length about the world’s development, writing is best accomplished by setting aside hours in the morning. D.W. and I have schedules that are a bit more flexible than most. Personally, if I can keep my mornings clear, attacking the novel after a super early workout gives me a feeling of true accomplishment.

DWJ: The most important thing, though, is to put your proverbial butt in the seat and write something everyday.

Do you create an outline before you write?

CDC: We loosely outline. Since there are two of us, we need to be on the same page. We know the basic direction of where we want to take storylines and plot twists. That having been said, we really do allow the characters and the stories to speak to us as we go. It lets the life of the world grow on its own.

DWJ: Sounds artsy-fartsy, I know, but it really does gives us some interesting twists and turns in the creative process.

Why do you write?

CDC: Same reason I breathe.

DWJ: Wow, that is the shortest answer he has ever given. It is the truth, though.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

CDC: Writing is a collaborative art form. People talk about the lonely life of the writer. Well, it may be true that it is a solitary endeavor but, at some point, you need other people.

DWJ: Developmental editors, copyeditors, beta readers; you need help. We have learned to listen to others and openly accept and utilize their input and critiques.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

CDC: Yes, this is a story about real people. Some of their powers and abilities may be unique and unusual, some may not even be completely human, but their motives and desires are the same ones that drive us all. We didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. We just wanted to paint it our own color. From teens to adults, I truly feel this series has something for everyone.

DWJ: Also, check out our site, necromancerspride.com. We have great gear, from shirts to beanies to hats, which we think you will really like. We want your experience in the world our Necromancers inhabit to be immersive and interactive. The books are just the beginning…

Do you have another job outside of writing?

CDC: Acting.

DWJ: Entrepreneur.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

CDC: It’s not how, but how often. We will all fall at some point, most likely at many points. We all make mistakes. The biggest mistake would be to stop getting back up. DWJ: We are here for each other in that way. Everybody needs a hand.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

CDC: My wife, daughter and son.

DWJ: My son.

Before I provide our visitors an excerpt from Storm of Shadows, as well as book buy and social links, I’d like to thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedules to participate in The Write Stuff. It’s been an honor to have you aboard. I’m sure our visitors are curious by now, so here is a taste of Storm of Shadows:

Zara was somber as she looked out across the rolling landscape of the Locksdale Foothills. Here, so close to the border between Canodria and Medioc, the two great armies assembled for war. This beautiful countryside would bear the full brunt of the destructive might of both kingdoms. Neither would be foolish enough to willingly wage battle on the scorched earth of the Kerathic Plains. No, it would be this rustic setting, as well as the Flat Lands to the south that the war would ravage. The peoples of these lands would suffer, and many innocents would die. It was a morbid proposition.

The sweeping beauty of the land always made her reflective. The many canyons, gullies and undulating hillocks of the terrain often made her contemplate settling there when her time as a Herrod was done. The Flat Lands had their own subtle charms: windswept bluffs that opened onto vast savannahs leading to the shore. But something about the Foothills of Locksdale always held her heart.

That thought so burdened her soul at this moment.

She focused attention from the landscape and back to the situation at hand. The sounds of battle preparations filled her ears. Had she her way, only the sounds of music, reverie and song would ever reach her ears. As a Weaver, that was her passion. There were songs here, of course, but they were different. As the battalions marched past, the horns would blast, and the soldiers would sing. Theirs, though, were not songs of beauty. Theirs were rousing, bawdy songs of glory in battle and of crushing their enemies.

From her position on the wide hilltop, to her left, she watched the gleaming armor of thousands of men marching down into the large, open flat below. Banners streamed in the wind, and sunlight glinted off armor forged by the finest smiths in the southern kingdom. To her right, cavalry marching six abreast moved into their positions. The soldiers set up camp. They dug latrine trenches and erected tents in neat, tight columns. They had set the horse lines and put feed stations into position. They fortified the positions of the ballistae, which hundreds of heavy beasts of burden pulled.

The songs of war, she thought sadly as a particularly boisterous contingent of archers marched past. “What a sad refrain they do make,” she whispered aloud.

“Mistress Herrod,” a small voice behind her called. “My Lady?”

Zara saw Danth, a young boy, approaching her. He could be no more than seven winters, or perhaps eight. His eyes were brown and sparkled with the cheerfulness of youth. His smile was wide, with a large gap where his two upper front teeth used to be. He wore a doublet of brown leather much too large for him with the Cougar of Canodria emblazoned in red on the chest and a motley colored jester’s cap that slumped over his thick eyebrows.

“Yes, Danth.”

“King Forlmorlaine wishes to see you now,” he said with a smile.

He always seemed to smile. He was obviously well pleased at having so important a task as to call the Herrod of the South to have audience with the king.

“Lead the way,” she said with a grin, her smoky voice sweet and comforting.

The boy ran back toward the large tent erected as the king’s residence while on the march. Supported by three 20-foot tent poles, the huge burgundy canvas structure looked regal indeed in the final light of day. The golden rays of early sunset had broken through the clouds, sending rich yellow beams across the fields. The royal tent was bathed in it. The banners of Canodria blew majestically in the breeze from each tent pole, and several other banner stands had been set about the field.

Smaller tents of multiple colors surrounded the main royal lodging, the mobile residences of the nobles and generals that comprised the upper echelon of the army’s ranks. Cast in the dramatic rays of the sun, the scene had quite a noble and heroic feel. It evoked images of the tales of battles of long ago. For those Weavers who excelled at composing battle hymns, it would strike a most inspiring vision. For Zara, whose tastes leaned toward love and nature, the scene rang far more of melancholy than majesty. Where others would see future glory, she only saw inevitable death.

Those of you who are interested in keeping up with these authors can find them here:

Website:         http://necromancerspride.com/

Blog:   http://necromancerspride.com/blog/

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/Necromancers-Pride

Twitter:          @charlesdavidcar

Twitter:          @writerdwjones

You may purchase their books at:

http://necromancerspride.com/product/quest-for-elderstone-bk-1/

http://necromancerspride.com/product/tides-of-war-bk-2/

http://necromancerspride.com/product/storm-of-shadows-bk3/

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 11 – Interview With Matthew Pallamary

Author PhotoMatthew Pallamary is an author who writes in multiple genres and seems to do everything well. Ray Bradbury praised his collection of horror stories, The Small Dark Room of the Soul as well as his historical novel dealing with shamanism and, as pervades much of his work, spirituality, Land Without Evil, saying, “Bravo! More!” Three of his works were award winning finalists in the International Book Awards: Cyber Christ in the Thriller/Adventure category, A Short Walk to the Other Side, his collection of short stories, and Eye of the Predator in the Visionary Fiction category. He’s written a memoir and edited a biography, both of which have received notable reviews. He’s also written a science fiction novel entitled Dreamland and a dark novel entitled Night Whispers.

Matt’s work has appeared in Oui, New Dimensions, The Iconoclast, Starbright, Infinity, Passport, The Short Story Digest, Redcat, The San Diego Writer’s Monthly, Connotations, Phantasm, Essentially You, The Haven Journal, and many others. His fiction has been featured in The San Diego Union Tribune, for which he has also reviewed books, and his work has been heard on KPBS-FM in San Diego, KUCI FM in Irvine, television Channel Three in Santa Barbara, and The Susan Cameron Block Show in Vancouver. He has been a guest on the following nationally syndicated talk shows: Paul Rodriguez, In The Light with Michelle Whitedove, Susun Weed, Medicine Woman, Inner Journey with Greg Friedman, and Environmental Directions Radio series. He has received the Man of the Year 2000 from San Diego Writer’s Monthly Magazine and has taught a fiction workshop at the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference for twenty five years. He has lectured at the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Conference, the Getting It Write conference in Oregon, the Saddleback Writers’ Conference and numerous others. He is presently Editor in Chief of Mystic Ink Publishing.

Your endeavors are so varied, it was difficult to decide where to begin. Since spirituality is at the core of everything you do, I am focusing on Land Without Evil and your shamanic approach to writing and teaching others how to write.

Over the years, you’ve made several trips to the Amazon rain forest. How did these trips feed Land Without Evil and your writing courses?

Land Without Evil coverI took an honors course in anthropology titled “A Forest of Symbols – Orientation and Meaning of South American Indian Religions” which is where I learned of the actual Guarani story of the Land Without Evil, which is what the book is based on, so I actually wrote and published the book before ever going into the jungle. Prior to that course I was researching the lycanthropy mythos, (Werewolves), for my novel Eye of the Predator which led me to shape shifting. The jungles of South America have the strongest shape shifting traditions and these were tied to visionary plants. I have had a lifelong fascination with altered states and shamanism and one of the things that struck me the most through my research in anthropology was the fact that shamanism is based on experiential knowledge. You can read textbooks about it for the rest of your life, but you will have no real conception of what it is and what it entails. You can’t learn much of anything about it by watching or observing native people performing rituals. The only way you can truly learn is through direct subjective experience, which means taking part in the rituals and ordeals to learn first hand what the teacher plants have to teach you – if you prove you are worthy.

Phantastic Fiction Front Cover IBW WinnerYou’ve been teaching writers for a quarter of a century, packing the house I might add. And now you’ve translated your courses into a book. Without giving away all of your course’s or Phantastic Fiction’s teachings, will you provide one or two salient points that might encourage visiting authors to explore the rest of what you teach?

In the shamanic world view, absolutely everything is energy. When we write and create we are manipulating energies on multiple levels and we are working in-depth with our subconscious, so we are in essence manipulating energy, whether it is plotting, pacing, dialogue exchanges, emotions, punctuation, and many more variables. Additionally, the shaman’s descent into the underworld where he experiences death, dismemberment, and rebirth in order to become a “man of power” is exactly what happens on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, which is the essence of story that has been around in this transformational process since prehistoric times, long, long, before the written word came into being.

How is it being received?

It’s been an eye opener for many people as it gets as far into the roots of what a story is as possible. These time honored concepts are deeply embedded in the psyche of humanity and have much to teach us about ourselves. Aside from its esoteric aspects, I have been blessed by the “wisdom of the masters” through all my years of being with the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and the Southern California Writers Conference where I was mentored and really adopted into the writing family of Ray Bradbury, Charles Schulz, Barnaby Conrad, Chuck Champlin, a leading L.A. Times Film Critic, and Paul Lazarus, former Vice President of Columbia Pictures as well as many others. They have all passed on and I find myself one of the few keepers of the wisdom and tradition they blessed me with, so I am also passing on much of what came from them.

Like all of your work, Land Without Evil has garnered high praise. In addition to the wonderful plaudits, it’s been made into a play. And now, I’ve heard rumors there’s something greater waiting in the wings. Would you care to elaborate on this new development, touching on key points of the book’s journey?

There was some interest from a producer in making Land Without Evil into a film, so I have written the script, but things appear to have come to a standstill there. What I am very excited about now is that Land Without Evil is being translated into Spanish. In the Lonely Planet Travel Guide under Paraguay, they say that if you want to learn about the history of Paraguay, read Land Without Evil, and it was listed as the top fiction pick on the Paraguayan Embassy web page. It’s a huge part of Latin American history, so I think it will find a good audience in Spanish.

Whose idea was it to have it translated? Yours or your publishers?

It was my idea to get Land Without Evil translated and I have been trying to make that happen for some years now.

What can you tell us about your translator?

Through  a service called Babelcube I found Rosina Iglesias who works in Spanish Administration as a civil servant.

Are you able to participate in the translation process? If so, how and to what extent?

She also asks me questions from time to time when she has them regarding certain parts of the book.

Shifting the focus from your work to you as a writer, what is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

 On an uninterrupted day, I like to hit it first thing in the morning after the first cup of coffee and morning email/business/posting chores are done, straight through until afternoon. After a bite and a break I hit it again until dinner time around 7:00.

It’s all about the discipline.

Indeed it is. Do you create an outline before you write?

I do, but it’s a bit different than what many might think. I have a chapter that goes into detail about it in Phantastic Fiction.

Why do you write?

Because I have to.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Fighting daily procrastination.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

My work is quite varied. I have ten books in print. Land Without Evil is a historical novel. I also have two short story collections that are science fiction/horror in the Twilight Zone tradition, a memoir about my shamanic studies that ends in the Peruvian Amazon. Two science fiction novels, two nonfiction books, one about perfect form and motion, and the other about writing, and two novels that are thrillers, one of which is horror.

About your “other” life, do you have another job outside of writing?

I edit, critique, teach, and guide people toward publication.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I am a nomad.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

By understanding that everything is transitory and nothing is permanent. I have been through some extremely challenging ordeals in my life and have learned the art of flexibility. It didn’t kill me and yes it made me stronger.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Land Without Evil show posterThe Land Without Evil show!

There is not enough space to go into how Land Without Evil was made into a play. But, for those who are interested, you can find the complete story here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/SkyCandyAustin2012/LandWithoutEvil11/prweb10182711.htm

That said, what do you consider your biggest failure?

I’ve had many, but I am still alive, so the game is not up yet.

Do you have any pet projects?

I am presently collaborating on a book about the history of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference which is now in its 43rd year.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

I’d have to say Ray Bradbury. But the biggest of all time was my Mom, who was my very best friend. She left the planet about twelve years ago.

Before I present an excerpt from Land Without Evil and provide your book buy and social media links, I’d like to finish as I usually do with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a …

 Bit crazy and eccentric.

 The one thing I would change about my life:

 I would have made different relationship and financial decisions if I had any inkling of where they might have gone, but then again, I may not have learned what I needed.

 My biggest peeve is:

 Hate

 The thing I’m most satisfied with is:

 My writing and the craft that goes with it.

Now, without further ado, Land Without Evil:

ONE

Avá-Tapé gazed up at the crescent moon looming high above. He felt the weight of the humid rain forest air hanging thick and still, and the presence of the trees pressing in on him. Firelight flickered at the edge of the clearing, darkened from time to time by the formless shadows of the dancers, led by his father.

Rattles shook and a new round of chants rose into the starlit sky as each syllable took wing and fluttered through the darkness like the cry of night birds.

Like Avá-Tapé, most of the tribe huddled around the fire watching the men dressed in feathered headdresses, armbands, and anklets dance as one. Their movements kept a rhythm that gave meaning to the unseen forces between the beats of time.

Avá-Tapé’s round face made him look younger than his sixteen harvests, but his dark, almond-shaped eyes missed nothing. He sat straight and alert, his long arms and legs coiled, ready to spring into the dance with the others. While he watched the pageantry unfold, Avá-Tapé pondered what his father had taught him. Chaos. Order. Destruction. Thoughts that held fear for the white people, but were everyday parts of his father’s world. He sighed remembering how important he had felt helping the Christian priests with their sacraments. His chest grew tight as the two realities fought for possession of his heart.

His father, Avá-Nembiará, had become the most powerful holy man of their people by the force of his visions. Most of the people now called him Nandérú, “our father.” In front of whites they called him paí, the solitary one who lives between man and the gods. Some whispered that Tupá, the son of gods, spoke through Avá-Nembiará.

Two men tossed another log on the fire, showering the night in a flurry of shimmering sparks. The tempo of the chants increased and the dancers quickened their pace. Flames jumped higher.

Avá-Nembiará’s voice rose above the rest, its tone full of yearning. Avá-Tapé shivered and watched his father’s dance become erratic, his movements larger and wider, until Avá-Nembiará threw his whole being open like the wings of a butterfly embracing the sky. A moment later, his steps grew fitful and jerky until he dance-staggered out of step with the others, keeping a rhythm only he could hear.

The chants and dances of the others faded until Avá-Nembiará remained alone clutching a feathered rattle, swaying before the fire, his handsome angular face impassive, short black hair flattened against his sweaty forehead.

Fire glow highlighted the brilliant colored feathers of his headband, reminding Avá-Tapé of the lights above the heads of the Christian saints in the pictures the whites had shown him. Light from the orange flames caressed the sweaty sheen of his father’s muscled form as if infusing it with new life. Swirling patterns washed over Avá-Nembiará’s dark features, illuminating his glazed eyes and changing expression.

Avá-Nembiará sank to the ground and tilted sideways, then straightened as though pulled upright by the head. His normally sharp eyes became unreadable hollows that glinted in the flickering light. Other than the fire’s crackle, the clearing remained silent and still. No wind. No bird or animal cries. No sound from the awestruck tribe.

Avá-Tapé held his breath, expecting flames to burst from his father’s chest… until Avá-Nembiará spoke. His words and voice were those of another.

“The time of destruction has returned. The Earth is old. Your tribe is no longer growing. Your world is bloated with death and decay. I have heard the Earth cry out to our Creator-Father. ‘Father,’ it says, ‘I have devoured too many bodies; I am stuffed and tired; put an end to my suffering.’”

“Tupá,” someone whispered.

“The weight of your faults has made your souls heavy and holds you from magic flight. You eat the food of the whites and live their ways, not the ways of your ancestors. The growing weight of your faults has brought you to the end of the world through the fleeing of the light. The bulk of your errors will soon block it. The sun will disappear and there will be nothing for you to do on this Earth. This will be the moment of the ará-kañí. This will be your last day. The last time that you shall see this world.”

Spiraling patterns from the fire accented his features as he spoke. Sometimes the calm face of Tupá and the sweep of his grand language dominated; other times the tenseness of an all too human expression came back amidst strange words. Avá-Tapé looked around at the faces of the people. Some showed the same intensity, some fear, others concern. The older men’s expressions revealed acceptance.

“You do not have to fall to the crushing weight of techó-achy,” he continued. “You can free yourself from the weight of your faults, lighten your bodies, and reach perfection by abandoning the food and the ways of the whites. You must journey to where you can dance until your bodies rise above the earth and fly across the great primeval sea to the Land Without Evil.”

A murmur rose from the crowd.

Ywy Mará Ey, a paradise of abundance and wealth. True immortality awaits you there. You do not have to die to enter. It is a real world that lies in the place where the sun rises. Only dancing believers dwell there. To find paradise you must…”

The clearing came alive with the soft rustling of robes fluttering like the wings of bats as Father Antonio rushed forward brandishing a cross, followed by a mob of black‑robed Jesuits. “I exorcise you, Most Unclean Spirit!” he bellowed, dark eyes blazing. “Invading enemy! In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He made the sign of the cross, causing the people to scatter into the forest. Avá-Nembiará looked up at the priests, his expression dazed and unfocused.

“Be uprooted and expelled from this creature of God.” Father Antonio’s hands moved deftly as he made the sign of the cross again. “He who commands you is He who ordered you to be thrown down from the highest Heaven into the depths of Hell. He who commands you is He who dominated the sea, the wind, and the storms. Hear, therefore, and fear, Satan! Enemy of faith! Enemy of the human race! Source of death! Robber of life! Root of evil and seducer of men!”

Satan? Confusion swept through Avá-Tapé. Tupá spoke through his father. Not Satan!

Avá-Nembiará shook his head and glared at the Jesuits. His features hardened. He rose, standing tall in the firelight, his headdress backlit by flames. His shiny skin glowed orange as if it held a life of its own, in stark contrast to the dark formless robes of the priests that seemed to swallow light. His father looked every part the Holy Man. Avá-Tapé felt a surge of pride swell in his chest.

One of the priests looked over, his glare pinning Avá-Tapé. “Begone!” the man shouted.

Avá-Tapé didn’t move. Father Antonio started speaking Latin and making elaborate movements around Avá-Nembiará while Father Lorenzo sprinkled him with holy water. Avá-Tapé stood on trembling legs, wanting to run, but willing himself to stay.

When the priest started toward him, Avá-Tapé ran to his father’s side. Father Antonio continued his rituals and Latin chants while thrusting the cross at Avá-Tapé and his father. Avá-Nembiará put his arm around his son, grunted, and pushed his way through the black robes. The priests let out astonished gasps, and Father Antonio stopped his invocations.

Avá-Tapé walked into the darkened forest at his father’s side, leaving the muttering priests alone in the clearing.

 *          *          *

To learn more about Matt or to purchase his books, you may do so here:

 Social media links:

Website:         https://www.mattpallamary.com

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/mattpallamary

Instagram:     https://instagram.com/matthewpallamary/

Linked-In:     https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattpallamary

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/MatthewJPallamary

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Google:          https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MatthewPallamary/posts

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The Write Stuff – Monday, March 28 – Interview With Jim C. Hines

Jim-WFC-FullJim C. Hines’ writing is so varied, it makes him a difficult author to label. His first novel was Goblin Quest, the humorous tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Actor and author Wil Wheaton described the book as “too f***ing cool for words,” which is pretty much the Best Blurb Ever. After finishing the goblin trilogy, he went on to write the Princess series of fairy tale retellings and the Magic ex Libris books, a modern-day fantasy series about a magic-wielding librarian, a dryad, a secret society founded by Johannes Gutenberg, a flaming spider, and an enchanted convertible. He’s also the author of the Fable Legends tie-in Blood of Heroes. His short fiction has appeared in more than 50 magazines and anthologies.

Jim is an active blogger about topics ranging from sexism and harassment to zombie-themed Christmas carols, and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012. He has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Masters in English, and lives with his wife and two children in mid-Michigan.

Every now and then, an author breaks new ground. In today’s publishing world filled with thematic repetition—galactic conquest, defeating a dragon, an evil wizard—it’s refreshing to encounter something untried. When he introduces us to Isaac Vainio, a libiomancer, in his Magic ex Libris series, he takes us onto untrodden soil. I asked Jim to tell us about Revisionary, his latest release and the fourth in the series. He describes it as follows:

RevisionaryWhen Isaac Vainio helped to reveal magic to the world, he dreamed of a utopian future, a new millennium of magical prosperity. One year later, things aren’t going quite as he’d hoped. An organization known as Vanguard, made up of magical creatures and ex-Porters, wants open war with the mundane world. Isaac’s own government is incarcerating “potential supernatural enemies” in prisons and internment camps. And Isaac finds himself targeted by all sides.

It’s a war that will soon envelop the world, and the key to victory may lie with Isaac himself, as he struggles to incorporate everything he’s learned into a new, more powerful form of libriomancy. Surrounded by betrayal and political intrigue, Isaac and a ragtag group of allies must evade pursuit both magical and mundane, expose a conspiracy by some of the most powerful people in the world, and find a path to a better future.

But what will that future cost Isaac and the ones he loves?

Will you tell us something more about it?

This is the fourth and final (for now) book in the Magic ex Libris series, which is based on the premise that a small number of people can reach into the pages of books and pull out the objects described in the story. As long as they physically fit through the book. Isaac Vainio is a librarian and libriomancer from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and an unabashed fan of all things magical. He’s very enthusiastic, which tends to get him into trouble, and very bright, which helps him to get back out of it again. Also, he has a pet spider who can set things on fire.

I am intrigued by your Magic ex Libris series and find the concept of a librarian being able to draw magic from a book, or step from a taxi that had been skirting Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere only to emerge from a pizza delivery truck in our nation’s capitol both enticing and delightful. Will you fill us in on how that concept came about?

The seed of the series was planted at a convention in Chicago many years ago, when an editor asked me to write a short story that took Smudge the fire-spider from my goblin books and brought him into the real world. So I had to figure out how to set that up, which led to a character who could pull things out of books.

The story was published in Gamer Fantastic, but the idea had so much more potential. Imagine all the things, good and bad, you could create with our collective literature. So I fleshed it out, added more characters like Lena the dryad and Johannes Gutenberg and more, and just ran with it.

I’ve been looking at the other books you have written. I must say it’s rare that someone’s book blurb brings me to laughter, but Goblin Hero’s description did just that. How much fun did you have producing your Goblin Quest series?

Jig and Smudge and the rest were great to write about. I’m a long time D&D player, and this series was a chance to go back and mess with some of those old tropes, to change up the traditional stories, and to just really play. I really enjoyed the characters, and the goblins in general. It’s one of the reasons I’ve gone back a few times to write shorter stories in that world.

I was delighted when Gregory Maguire spun off the 1939 the movie classic, The Wizard of Oz, with his Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Now—and I admit I am frightfully behind the reading curve—I encounter your princess series where you expand on Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. What was the spark that ignited that series?

Those books began when my daughter was a lot younger, and was going through a princess phase. A lot of the toys and merchandise she collected showed these characters as pretty, but… not much else. Some of the movies did a decent job of giving the characters strength and agency. Others, not so much.

So I decided to go all out and write a series that turned these traditional fairy tale princesses into action heroes. Snow White would get her mother’s magic mirror and be the sorceress. Sleeping Beauty and her fairy gifts of grace would become the ninja/assassin character. And Cinderella would receive an enchanted glass sword from her mother’s ghost.

Basically, I wrote it because I wanted more stories like this to be out there for my daughter and everyone else.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

It depends on the day. I quit my full-time day job last fall. Before then, I wrote every day on my lunch hour. Now my schedule is a lot more flexible…and at times, a lot more complicated. Some days I’ll put in four hours or more at the keyboard. Others I’m running kids to doctor appointments and dealing with calls from the school and chasing after the dog who got through the gate in the back yard again.

Most writers will envy your new situation. Why do you write and when did you first realize you were a writer?

I write because I enjoy it. I love inventing stories and sharing them with people. There are days when it’s frustrating or painful trying to get the story in your head onto the screen, and it’s just not coming out right. But then there are the moments when it comes together, or when you come up with a clever twist or idea, or you hit on something powerful. Those moments are amazing.

Plus I like fantasizing about swords and magic and robots and all that other cool, shiny stuff.

When did I realize I was a writer? That’s hard to say. I toyed with writing a bit as a kid. Started doing it more seriously toward the end of my undergraduate degree. To some extent, I started to really feel like a writer after my first fantasy novel Goblin Quest came out.

And then there are the days when I still don’t entirely feel like A Real Writer. Like I’ve been playing a trick on the world for 20+ years and having a blast with it, but sooner or later someone’s going to catch on.

You have blogged about some unfortunate incidents pertaining to sexual and racial harassment at several Cons. I think these occurrences are appalling and I applaud you for calling attention to them. Would you care to discuss this?

There’s so much to discuss, but in short, this stuff happens. At cons, at schools, at workplaces, and more. For a long time, there’s been pressure not to talk about it, but that’s one of the reasons it keeps happening. I’m encouraged by the shift I’ve seen in some areas to say no, we are going to talk about it, we are going to let people know this behavior is not acceptable, and we are going to take steps when and if it happens.

Please give some mention of your work as crisis councilor, especially as the Male Outreach Coordinator at Michigan State University.

I spent a total of about five years volunteering at the Listening Ear crisis center in East Lansing, working on the phone hotline for all kinds of crisis calls, as well as working in (and at one point, helping to coordinate) the sexual assault counseling program. In another position, I worked as the Male Outreach Coordinator for Safe Place, the domestic violence shelter and program at MSU.

A lot of that second position involved outreach and education, talking to men about consent and power and abuse, things a lot of guys may not be that aware of. It’s hard to solve a problem when a large number of people won’t even acknowledge the problem exists.

It was intense work at times, but also very powerful and eye-opening. I certainly learned a lot about the world that I hadn’t seen growing up.

Would you care to share how your work led you to write Goldfish Dreams?

Basically, Goldfish Dreams was a mainstream novel I wrote about rape and recovery, based on some of the things I learned and experienced during my time at Listening Ear. It’s not based on an actual person or anything like that. But it was a way for me to take all of those stories I’d heard and turn them into something I hope is both honest and, ultimately, hopeful.

Do you have anything else in the works you are free to discuss?

A few short stories, and a new three-book humorous SF series I’m writing for DAW (who published my fantasy books).

What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

A sense of wonder, and wanting to share that sense with family, friends, fans, and anyone else who’d like to get some.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

We have a cat who likes to wake me up in the morning by jumping onto the bed and licking my scalp. It’s a bizarre and disturbing way to wake up.

I always conclude each interview with what I call a Lightning Round, because it often yields unexpected insights. Answer as many as you care to in as few words as possible.:

My best friend would tell you I’m a …                  Turtle.

The one thing I cannot do without is:                    Insulin.

The one thing I would change about my life:       Fewer chronic illnesses for me and my family.

My biggest peeve is:                                                 Coconut.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:        Mister Rogers.

Before I provide links to your books and social media, I’m going to insert an excerpt from Revisionary:

 Hearing

of the

Joint Committee on Magical Security

before the

U.S. House of Representatives

and the

U.S. Senate

Chairman: Alexander Keeler

#

U.S. House of Representatives,

Committee on Magical Security

 

 

Derek Vaughn, Louisiana

Tammy Hoeve, Michigan

Timothy Hoffman, Ohio

Anthony Hays, Colorado

Susan Brown, Florida

Elizabeth Garcia, Oklahoma

John Senn, Nevada

 

U.S. Senate,

Committee on Magical Security

 

 

Alexander Keeler, Illinois

Kenneth Tindill, Rhode Island

Mary Pat Clarke, Maryland

Kent Childress, Oregon

#

Testimony and Questioning of Witness Number 18: Isaac Vainio

 

The CHAIRMAN: This hearing will come to order.

It’s my privilege and honor to welcome the members of the Joint Committee on Magical Security, as well as the witnesses who have been called to testify as we help to shape the future of this great nation during this time of worldwide turmoil and conflict.

Mister Vainio, thank you for taking time from your work with New Millennium to join us today.

Mr. VAINIO: Your invitation made it clear I didn’t have a choice.

The CHAIRMAN: Do you affirm that the testimony you will give before this committee is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Mr. VAINIO: Aren’t I supposed to be sworn in on a Bible?

The CHAIRMAN: For security reasons, no books will be permitted in the chamber during your testimony.

Mr. VAINIO: Don’t worry, I’m not about to try libriomancy with a Bible, or any other religious text. Gutenberg might have been able to handle that kind of intensity and belief, but—oh, sorry. Yes, I do so affirm.

The CHAIRMAN: Thank you. You may be seated. Mr. Vainio, would you please—what is that?

Mr. VAINIO: His name is Smudge. He’s a fire-spider. He’s perfectly safe as long as he’s in his cage. Don’t go poking your fingers in there, though. He’s my service animal. My lawyer advised me this was permitted under disability law.

Mr. CHILDRESS: You have a service spider?

Mr. VAINIO: He senses danger. Like Spider-Man. Having him around helps me with some…anxiety issues. It’s been a traumatic few years. I have a letter from my therapist if you’d like to see it.

The CHAIRMAN: That won’t be necessary. For the record, please state your history and current role with the organization known as the Porters.

Mr. VAINIO: I’ve been a member of the Porters—intermittently—for about seven years, working to protect the world from magical threats. I’ve been a cataloguer, field agent, and researcher. Ten months back, I helped to found the New Millennium project in Nevada, where I currently work as Director of Research and Development.

The CHAIRMAN: Ten months. That would be shortly after you announced the existence of magic to the world.

Mr. VAINIO: Correct.

The CHAIRMAN: You constructed New Millennium in the United States. You yourself are an American citizen, born and raised in Michigan. Are you loyal to this country, Isaac?

Mr. VAINIO: How do you mean?

The CHAIRMAN: There are hundreds of you libriomancers scattered throughout the world, and thousands of other creatures. Vampires and merfolk and werewolves and bigfoots and Heaven knows what else. What assurances does this committee have that you won’t turn against the United States of America? How do we prevent people like you from selling your abilities to the highest bidder?

Mr. VAINIO: Maybe you could start by not treating us all like potential criminals and terrorists.

 

Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to tell us about yourself. Those visitors who would like to learn more about Jim or purchase his books can do so here:

Website:         http://www.jimchines.com

Blog:               http://www.jimchines.com/blog/

Twitter:          http://www.twitter.com/jimchines

Facebook:      http://www.facebook.com/jimhines

HARDCOVER: Amazon | B&N | BAMM | Mysterious Galaxy | Schuler Books | Indiebound

EBOOK: Amazon | B&N | BAMM | Kobo | iBooks

AUDIO: Audible.com

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 29 – Interview With Laura Resnick

Last August at Sasquan, at the WordFire Press book launch party for Mike Resnick, the author promised to introduce me to his multi-award-winning daughter, Laura, for an interview. I’m pleased to tell you he’s a man of his word. I was equally pleased to find, after reading her work—something I should have done long ago—that her prose is crisp, compelling and filled with the dry, cutting humor I and many other readers enjoy.

Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, whose releases include Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, Polterheist, The Misfortune Cookie, Abracadaver, and the upcoming Goldzilla. She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made multiple “Year’s Best” lists. She began her career as the award-winning author of fourteen romance novels, written under the pseudonym Laura Leone. An opinion columnist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at LauraResnick.com.

I asked Laura to tell us about her most recent release, Abracadaver, the seventh in the Esther Diamond series. She describes it this way:

R.I.P. = Reanimated, Infernal, and Pretty damn dangerous

Struggling actress Esther Diamond, whose year got off to a rough start (what with incarceration, unemployment, and mystical death curses), finally catches a break when she’s hired to reprise her guest role as prostitute Jilly C-Note on The Dirty Thirty, a TV crime drama about depravity and corruption in the New York Police Department.

Esther’s ex-almost/sometime boyfriend, NYPD’s Detective Connor Lopez, who hates that show with undying passion, vows he’ll never forgive Esther for convincing her narcissistic co-star to add verisimilitude to his performance as a morally bankrupt cop by shadowing Lopez on the job. But Esther’s fellow thespian is her best bet for keeping an eye on Lopez 24/7—and, more to the point, on Lopez’s new partner, Detective Quinn. Esther and her friend Max, a 350-year-old mage whose day job is protecting New York City from Evil, suspect Quinn of being involved in the latest mystical mayhem to menace Manhattan—where corpses suddenly aren’t staying quite as dead as they should.

While Max and Esther try to determine what Quinn’s role is in the supernatural reanimation of the deceased downtown, a part-time mortician courts Esther, and a dangerous foe with deadly intent changes everyone’s dinner plans one cold winter night…

When did you start writing and, more important, when did you know your were a writer?

When I was 24 years old. I read a book called How To Write A Romance and Get It Published by Kathryn Falk (publisher of Romantic Times Magazine), and I thought that writing a short novel about two likeable people who fall in love might be something I could do. So I gave it a try. I got hooked, and as soon as I was done, I started writing the next book, and then the next after that.

A friend, who is a best-selling romance author, has used a pen name throughout her career as an admitted strategy to insure that any success she received was not due to her prominent New York family. When you wrote as Laura Leone at the outset of your career, was this a similar consideration, or was it just a way to keep both genres’ readerships distinct?

Neither.

When I sold my first romance novel to the Harlequin/Silhouette all those years ago, they had just instituted a policy whereby all new writers were required to use a pseudonym when writing for them, and we could never use the pseudonym anywhere else without their permission. Obviously, this meant that if a new writer built a readership while writing for them, she would thereafter face a choice between continuing to write for this company no matter how dissatisfied she was with the terms and payment, or else, upon switching to another publisher, losing her audience by having to start all over under another name. Various individual writers and organizations opposed this policy over the next decade or so, and it was eventually abolished; but back when I first signed with Harlequin/Silhouette, the choice presented to new writers like me was that I could agree to write under an exclusive pseudonym or I could forget about selling books to them. So I took the pen name Laura Leone and sold them about a dozen novels over the next five years. (This wasn’t a tough decision for me, since selling books mattered to me more than what name I used; and when I left, H/S released my pseudonym to me, so I have control of it.)

However, I was still writing for H/S and bound by the terms of that clause back when my dad and the legendary anthologist Marty Greenberg invited me to write a short story for one of their sf/f anthologies. I saw no reason to fight with H/S to try to get the use of my professional name (Laura Leone) for one sole short story in another genre, so I just wrote it under my real name, which seemed simplest. If I had known at the time I would eventually write fantasy novels, I would have chosen a different name, since there has occasionally been some confusion about there being two Resnicks in the genre. (For example, after my first fantasy novel, In Legend Born, was released, I kept hearing that Laura Resnick was Mike Resnick writing under a female pseudonym.)

To what extent has your father nurtured your career and how much has he stood aside? 

Around the time I was writing my 8th romance novel, my dad and the late Marty Greenburg started inviting me to write short stories for some of the anthologies they were producing together. I don’t know whether I’d ever have ventured into sf/f if not for that. It wasn’t something I had my eye on, and I initially just viewed the short stories as a refreshing change of pace from writing romance novels back to back to back. But it led to more sf/f people inviting me into more anthologies, which ultimately led to my writing sf/f novels. Pop subsequently also acquired my travelogue, A Blonde in Africa, for a nonfiction imprint he was editing at the time; it’s a book that might not have gotten published otherwise. Most recently, he asked me to write for his new e‑mag, Galaxy’s Edge, and I recently sent him a story for that, which will appear later this year. So, as an editor, he’s certainly given me plenty of work. Apart from that, he occasionally introduces me to editors (or interviewers!), or tells me about work opportunities, and if we talk business, he gives me advice or feedback based on his decades of experience.

With all that said, please describe your path to publication.

While living in Sicily years ago, I read Kathryn’s Falk’s How To Write A Romance Novel and started working on one. I wrote it by hand in notebooks, then typed it on a manual typewriter. Then I spent 24 hours on a train to Rome, which was where the nearest English-language library was, and got some addresses from a copy of Writer’s Market, so I could start submitting the book proposal to editors and agents via trans-Atlantic mail. All the literary agents I queried turned me down, but a young editorial assistant (with whom I am still in contact) asked me to send her the rest of the book. She was tired of doing office grunt work, and the way to get promoted to an editing position was to find a new writer in the slush pile whose book the company would buy. So she championed my manuscript through the multiple readings involved in acquiring a new writer, keeping me informed by mail. I was back in the US when they finally made an offer on the book the following year, and I published about a dozen books with them over the next five years. And like so many other writers who started there and are having long and busy careers, I learned a lot about my craft at H/S.

No matter an author’s success, I believe there is always the thought of the greater work inside that has yet to emerge. Does that ever nag at you, and what do you do to address it?

What nags at me is the question of whether any of my work will ever become popular enough to make me financially secure.

Coming at this from a different angle, does winning an award, such as the John W. Campbell, serve just to validate your work, or can it leave you daunted—as in, “what do I do now to surpass this?”

An award is very gratifying. It can also be an excellent addition to your résumé.  But I  believe that assigning any more weight than that to an award is illusory. Also counter-productive. If I worried about validation from awards or about how to surpass this-or-that milestone, then I’d freeze with anxiety and couldn’t keep writing book after book after book… which is what a career writer does. And then—GOOD GOD, MAN!—I’d have to go find a job.

Hah! “Who would want to do that?” asked the man with a day job. You’ve postponed Goldzilla, the eighth book in the Esther Diamond series, until later this year. For your eager fans, do you have an ETA?

I didn’t postpone Goldzilla, I just wound up being very, very slow on this one, which happens sometimes. I’ll post the release date front-and-center on my website as soon as I know it.

What do you love most about Esther and what, if anything, about her do you hate?

I love that she’s full of try. Esther is not always enthused about confronting challenges, but she never gives up, quits, chickens out, or freezes. I don’t think I hate anything about her, though I know from readers that there are things about her that exasperate them.

On an entirely different note, I noticed that in 2006 you wrote several articles for the Associated Press while serving in Jerusalem as a journalism intern. That caught my attention, because in 1972 I interviewed for the post of stringer photographer with Marcel Castro and Hal McClure, AP’s bureau chief, at the Mariv Building in Tel Aviv. This compels me to ask, did you write those articles in Hebrew, or were they for AP’s English-speaking audience?

The Associated Press is an American news service and publishes in English. I don’t speak Hebrew, but it didn’t limit me much, since The AP’s work is conducted in English. And since many Israelis speak English, I got sent out on a lot of stories, handled the phones often, and delivered a lot of copy despite not being a Hebrew speaker. (This is an an intern, though. Regular staffers needed to know Hebrew.)

I appears you haven’t abandoned journalism altogether. Will you tell us a little about the op-ed column you write for Nink?

Nink is the monthly journal of Novelists, Inc. (http://ninc.com/), an organization of career novelists. I’m allowed a lot of latitude with my column, so I research and opine on a wide variety of topics related to writing professionally: the Amazon-Hachette negotiations of 2013, the ongoing problems writers are having with reversion clauses in publishing contracts, the HarperCollins lawsuit against Open Road Media, the flow of successful writers leaving traditional publishing to self-publish, the Authors United letter urging the Department of Justice to investigate Amazon.com, imposter syndrome, fan fiction,  ebook pricing, and the pressure on introverted writers to be social media extroverts.

Is there such a thing in your life as a typical day and, if so, how does it unfold?

Not really. I’m always striving for a life in which there is such a thing as a typical day, since I suspect that having more routine and structure would make me more productive.

Would you care to share anything else about your home life?

I volunteer for the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) a small group that does big work—last year alone, we placed 350 cats in adoptive homes, after rescuing them from kill shelters or the street. So my home life includes the 3 madcap cats I adopted, which is how I first encountered C.A.T, as well as whatever kittens or cats I’m fostering at the time. If anyone would like to know more about us, here’s out website (where we welcome donations): http://catadoptionteam.net/. And here’s a link to the eBay site where we auction donated goods to raise funds for our fosters’ medical bills: http://www.ebay.com/usr/catadoptionteam.

I wish more people would care for their neighbors, both human and animal. What you are doing speaks well for you.

I always finish my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, because the answers often provide unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you: I’m honest.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Sleep; if  I go more than 3 nights without enough sleep, I am barely functional.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d write more prolifically, which would resolve a number of other things I’d like to change.

My biggest peeve is: People who are inconsiderately noisy—drivers who blare their stereos, neighbors who bellow right outside my window, people who talk in the cinema or theatre or opera, people yammering on cell phones in libraries, people thundering up and down hotel corridors at 2am, etc.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My friendships. I am very fortunate to have the friends I have.

Thank you, Laura, for agreeing to prticipate in my The Write Stuff interviews. Before we close, here is an excerpt from Abracadaver, after which, those of you who would enjoy learning more about Laura Resnick or would like to purchase her books will find the appropriate links.

Abracadaver coverExcerpt from Abracadaver, the 7th Esther Diamond novel, by Laura Resnick

Actress Esther Diamond questions a colleague who’s shadowing an NYPD cop whom Esther and her friend Max suspect is involved in mystical mayhem.

While Nolan had been talking, Max had been scribbling on a notepad in his elegant, archaic handwriting. Now he pushed his notes over to me. I saw he’d made a list of questions he wanted me to ask Nolan.

I read them, then gave Max an uncertain look. He nodded encouragingly. So I sighed and dived in.

“So,” I said into my cell phone, “have you guys entered any churches or houses of worship today?”

“No,” said the actor. “Well, not yet.”

“Does Detective Quinn appear to avoid them?”

“Huh?” Nolan sounded puzzled. “No. We just haven’t had any reason to—”

“Does he exhibit any ritual behaviors?”

“He chews on a pen sometimes. He says it became a habit when he quit smoking.”

Probably not the sort of ritual Max meant.

“Have you observed him encountering any dogs or other animals?”

“No. Not many people are out walking their pets in this weather. Why?”

“Has he appeared violent or menacing at any point today?” I asked as casually as possible.

“Uh, no . . . but that’s something I’d like to see. It could give me some background i—”

“Have you noticed any odd smells or odors in his presence?”

“What kind of odors?” Nolan sounded perplexed.

I made a gesture to Max indicating I needed more information, then I read what he quickly jotted down. “Excrement? Rotting flesh?”

“What?”

“Sulfur? Decay? Putrescence?”

No.” Nolan added, “Jesus, Esther, I’m eating.”

I moved on to the next question. “Have you observed any peculiar changes in his eyes?”

“Whoa, does Quinn have a drug problem or something? Is that what you’re getting at?”

“I’m just worried about him,” I said, which was not entirely untrue. “He, um, doesn’t look after himself.”

“Yeah, that’s obvious. Have you seen his posture? It’s no wonder he talks about aches and pains. I should make him an appointment with my chiropractor.”

“He talks about aches and pains?” I prodded, meeting Max’s gaze.

“Yeah—in fact, about an hour ago, he kind of doubled over for a few seconds when he got this stabbing pain in his stomach. I think something’s wrong with his appendix. But, you know, that could be referred pain from his heart. My cardiac doctor tells me—”

I held the phone away from my ear as Nolan prattled on, and I relayed this information to Max, who looked gratified.

“Recurrent, unexplained pain like that is another common sign of demonic presence,” Max said, keeping his voice low. “The evidence is mounting to the inescapable conclusion that Detective Quinn is oppressed.”

“Oppressed?” When Max started to explain, I said, “Wait, not now. Is there anything else you want me to ask Nolan?”

“Find out where they are now,” Max instructed. “This could be an opportunity for us to confront Quinn.”

When I held the phone to my ear again, Nolan was still talking about cardiac stuff. I interrupted him. “You said you’re having dinner? Where are you righ—”

“Whoops, not any more,” said Nolan. “Quinn is waving at me to get up and come to the register. I guess we’re paying and leaving.”

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“A funeral in Chinatown.”

“What?” I blurted.

“It’s for that tong boss who flew off a balcony last week.”

“You’re going to Joe Ning’s wake?” I asked shrilly.

Max’s eyes widened and our gazes met.

Chen’s Funeral Home. Quinn. And a body in a casket.

The last time Quin had visited Chen’s, a corpse suddenly climbed out of its coffin.

“This is gonna be great,” Nolan enthused. “Loads of texture, a tong boss’s wake, authentic underworld characters . . . Jackpot.”

“Nolan, listen to me very carefully,” I said. “You mustn’t let—”

“Gotta go, Esther.”

I sighed heavily and set down my phone in frustration when I realized he’d ended the call.

“So that’s what it wants,” Max said, rising to his feet.

I rose, too, and followed him to the coat hooks by the door. He started donning his heavy outerwear. I grabbed my coat, since I gathered we were going to Chen’s Funeral Home now.

“Max, I still don’t understand. What exactly does the entity want?”

“It wants a cadaver!”

“A corpse?” I said with a frown. “A dead body?”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “That game is afoot!”

* * *

Website: http://lauraresnick.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laura.resnick.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaResnick

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Laura-Resnick/e/B000AP8KXO

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 15 – Interview With Jason Fry

PORTjasonfry_084 4%22x6%22If you are a Star Wars fan, you already know that the release of Star Wars – The Force Awakens makes 2016 a milestone year. Die-hards, however, know full well that Star Wars has never gone away except, perhaps, on the silver screen. This week’s guest, Jason Fry, is one reason why. He has written more than 30 books and short stories set in the Star Wars galaxy, as well as The Jupiter Pirates, a young-adult space fantasy series. He also co-writes Faith and Fear in Flushing, which is a blog about the New York Mets. He spent more than 12 years at the online arm of The Wall Street Journal, serving as a columnist, editor, and blogs guru, among other things. Besides fiction, he writes about sports, music, genealogy, travel, history and anything else that interests him.

While The Write Stuff normally focuses on a single work by an author—occasionally two—because Jason’s work is so varied, we’ve chosen to discuss three: Rey’s Survival Guide, The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections, and The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra.

Please tell us something about each of these.

I had two books come out on the same day, which was kind of fun—Rey’s Survival Guide and The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections were both “day and date” books tied to the theatrical release of the new Star Wars movie.

tfa-csFor Incredible Cross-Sections I supplied the words to accompany Kemp Remillard’s gorgeous cutaway illustrations of vehicles from the movie. That seems like a fairly straightforward assignment, but the real work to be done was figuring out what the focus of that material should be. I decided it should be context for those vehicles’ roles in the Star Wars galaxy. What were they built to do, and how were they modified from that purpose? How had their designs evolved? Or, in the case of a specific craft like the Millennium Falcon, how had various owners changed them?

I found that approach more interesting than a hard-science engineering deep dive. For one thing, Kemp’s illustrations and the labels had already checked that box pretty effectively. But beyond that, Star Wars is fundamentally fantasy, not hard sci-fi, and while that kind of detail is satisfying to a certain subset of Star Wars fans, I think ultimately it’s not the best fit for the saga.

rsgRey’s Survival Guide is a manual for surviving on Jakku, written in Rey’s voice. I enjoyed that project because it was a unique way to try and tell a story. We didn’t want a diary or memoir – though Rey does recount some of the events of The Force Awakens. But at the same time, we wanted the reader to get a sense of Rey as a person and of how her odd upbringing had shaped her. So the challenge was to tell a story “between the lines,” if you will.

 

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing them and how did you overcome it?

I’ll go back to Rey’s Survival Guide, since I think I’ve summed up Incredible Cross-Sections pretty well. A lot of the challenges with that book stemmed from the unavoidable fact that I had to write it before seeing the movie.

You get a sense of a character from the script, the description, images and what the character does as the plot unfolds, of course. Those things were helpful. But that’s not the entirety of a character—not by a long shot. Rey’s a wonderful character—my favorite Star Wars character since Han Solo—but so much of what we’ve responded to about her comes from Daisy Ridley’s remarkable performance. And I couldn’t draw on that to write the book.

Now couple that with the fact that Rey has, essentially, no backstory. We don’t know who her parents were or where she came from. She doesn’t know who they were or where she came from. She’s not just a blank slate but an erased one—a cipher to us and to herself.

That was difficult, but it was a challenge I warmed to precisely because it was so difficult. So I looked for ways to give the reader a sense of who Rey was by how she reacted to things, by how she discussed people and places and objects in her life, and by figuring out what she wouldn’t talk about.

Fortunately, I had some help. The folks at Lucasfilm who had seen the movie were able to help steer the book in the right direction, and I’m grateful to them. But I still had my fingers crossed when I finally got to sit down in the theater—and two hours later I breathed a sigh of relief that the Rey I’d written fit the Rey I’d seen on-screen.

That would certainly have been a nail-biter. What other novels have you written?

For openers, there’s Servants of the Empire, a four-book series of young-adult novels tied to the Star Wars: Rebels TV series. That series follows Zare Leonis, who’s a minor character on the show. Zare and his sister Dhara are both loyal supporters of the Empire, but Dhara vanishes from the Imperial Academy on Lothal. The Empire says she deserted, but Zare doesn’t believe that – and he learns the Empire kidnapped her. But why? He decides to enter the Academy himself to find out what happened to Dhara and save her if he can.

I don’t just write Star Wars—I’m also the author of the Jupiter Pirates young-adult space-fantasy series from HarperCollins. Jupiter Pirates is set in the 29th century, when Earth’s colonies in the outer solar system have broken away and are in a state of cold war with the mother planet. The series follows the adventures of the Hashoones, a family of pirates turned privateers who are based on Jupiter’s moon Callisto.

The Hashoones operate their pirate ship as a family – the mother is the captain, the father is the first mate, and the three children are midshipmen. They have to cooperate, working together as a crew under dangerous conditions, but they’re also competitors—the captaincy of the family ship is passed down from one generation to the next, but only one sibling can be captain.

The first book in the Jupiter Pirates series, Hunt for the Hydra, came out in December 2013. The second one, Curse of the Iris, is out in hardcover and comes out in paperback in May. The third book, The Rise of Earth, will be out in June. And there will be two more to come!

What else are you working on?

Unfortunately, I can’t talk about the Star Wars books I’m working on now because they haven’t been announced by Lucasfilm or their publishers. But I’m pretty excited about them and hope readers will be too.

I’m also working on a Jupiter Pirates short story that I’ll put up for free on jupiterpirates.com as soon as it’s ready. And I keep playing with ideas for some big, ambitious novels I’d love to get to. I’m busy, which can be exhausting but is a lot better than the alternative when you’re a professional writer.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Depends on how many balls I have in the air at one time, how close I am to deadline, etc. Some days are a relatively measured march forward, while others are defined only by when I’ll have to collapse into bed and sleep for a few hours. (It’s best not to have too many days like those.)

I usually wake up by answering email, scanning the news and seeing what’s new on my frequented sites. I like to start writing by mid-morning and write until my kid gets home and finishes his homework and/or my wife comes home. How much I get done during that time depends wildly on what the project is and how well-defined it is in my head. I once wrote a 30,000-word novella in four days. I’m proud to say I did it; I also hope I never have to do it again.

Hah! I’ve produced a lot, but that tops everything. Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes. And I am a HUGE convert to outlining and/or writing a treatment first – planning instead of plunging.

Writers should find a process that works for them instead of following someone else’s blueprint. But having worked both ways, I’ll definitely evangelize for planning. My treatments are really detailed – sometimes too detailed – but there are huge benefits to that.

Most importantly, outlines/treatments will let you see plot holes, false starts, sagging character arcs, overly complicated narratives and the like before you plunge into writing the book itself. If you go down a wrong path, it’s a lot less painful to discover that on page 4 of a story treatment than on page 140 of a manuscript.

The other benefit is that because I write really detailed treatments and road-test them with editors and trusted readers, I can usually write the actual book very quickly. That four-day sprint I mentioned above could not have happened without all the work that had happened first.

Last bit of preaching: I think some writers dislike and/or fear treatments because they feel they’re straitjackets. But they’re not—they’re blueprints for the house, not the house itself. I’ve never had a book come out exactly like its treatment, and that’s good. You always change your mind about some things, see different possibilities, etc. The difference, to me, is that a treatment makes those zig-zags easier to navigate and results in a better book. You’re making improvements on the fly instead of improvising fixes.

Why do you write?

When I was a kid I told everybody I was going to be the starting shortstop for the New York Mets. When I turned out to have no athletic ability whatsoever, writing was my reluctant Plan B.

Ha ha. (Though that’s true.) I’ve always loved thinking up stories and sharing them with other people. Writing lets you dream onto the page, and sometimes what you come up with resonates with people who picked up your book. Which is really pretty miraculous, if you think about it.

Sometimes I wish I was a financial wizard, a genius programmer or something more lucrative and stable than being a writer. But I’m not wired for any of those things—I’m wired for dreaming up stories and sharing them as best I can.

And you know what? I know financial wizards and genius programmers, and they say: “It’s so cool that you get to write Star Wars.” And they’re right. I’m insanely lucky and I try not to forget that.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve gotten much better at streamlining and strengthening plots and at being true to the characters in my stories. Some of that has come from working with superb, generous storytellers and editors at Lucasfilm, Disney, HarperCollins and other places. But it’s also come from simply putting in the work. I’m a better writer now than I was two years ago, let alone twenty, in part because I’m older and I’ve lived more, but also because I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words in that time.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Putting your butt in your seat and doing it. It is so much easier to not write than it is to write. There are errands to run, papers to organize, household stuff to clean, plans to make, mental rabbit holes to disappear down—all of which suddenly become urgent when it’s just you and a blank page. And we haven’t even mentioned the Internet, that marvelous and terrible curiosity/procrastination machine.

One thing that helps me is I spent years as a working journalist, with deadlines as clear and present dangers. If you’ve got a story due at 5, the paper isn’t going to hold the presses because the muse hasn’t flitted down to alight on your shoulder and whisper into your ear. You do the best you can with what you have and get the work done—and then you do the same thing again the next day. That was excellent training for when I was finally ready to write fiction.

Yes, you need inspiration to create good work. But the inspiration emerges from doing the work. We all want an idea to arrive fully formed and then bring it to happy fruition, but that rarely if ever happens. You have to fight for it. All that writing advice about summoning the muse is well-intentioned, but I suspect it does writers more harm than good. Waiting for the muse is a recipe for talking about writing instead of writing. If you’re going to succeed as a writer, you have to be your own muse.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m out of shape despite the fact that my desk is 20 feet from a treadmill. This is a problem that I need to address, not so I look better in my clothes (though that would be nice) but so I produce better work.

Writing is mental exercise, yes, but that exercise takes a physical toll. I find when I’m in good physical shape that I am able to put in a longer writing day, I’m more disciplined during that day, and my writing and storytelling are both sharper. And yet this is a lesson I’m constantly having to relearn, because exercise is the first thing I jettison when I get overburdened, stressed, etc.

I don’t mean you have to run five miles a day or have a six-pack or a certain BMI—that’s not it at all. But I think the writing life is more physical than we imagine and writers would do well to remember it. Starting with me!

That’s an interesting perspective and it has me eyeing my elliptical. What motivates or inspires you?

The world is just an amazing place. It can be horrifying and depressing and infuriating, yes, but it can also be astonishing and inspiring and heartbreakingly beautiful. In all those cases, it’s because the world is full of stories.

Here’s an exercise I like to do as part of school visits: I take a copy of that day’s newspaper (an actual physical copy), tear it into single pages and pass those out to the kids. Then I tell them to find something on whatever page they have—even if it’s the classifieds—and use it as a jumping-off point for a story. Give what they read a twist, or let one thought lead to another, and come up with something. Inevitably, they dream up great things—surprising and wonderful stories.

You can do that just walking down the street. Keep your eyes and ears open and be curious and ask yourself questions and you’ll come home with more story ideas than you can ever be able to write.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

You just keep going, I suppose.

When I get low, I remember that everything ever written has had its rabid detractors, that every writer has written things that didn’t work, and that we’re all fallible and make mistakes—some of them ones we’ll brood about forever. It can feel like you’re the only one that’s happened to, but it happens to all of us.

There are people who think To Kill a Mockingbird is a terrible book. There are Coen Brothers movies that don’t work. And everyone has some ill-advised remark or teenage humiliation or missed opportunity that haunts them when it’s 4 a.m. and they can’t sleep. You feel alone in these things but you’re not.

Just keep going. Learn from your mistakes as best you can. Accept that you’ll make more mistakes, vow to correct them, and forgive yourself for them. Know that luck plays a role in things and you can’t control that. And then get on with it. It’s all you can do.

Do you have any pet projects?

I make custom baseball cards. Not for stars, but for the marginal players who never got a card, or who played briefly for one team but only got a card with some other team. I make them to look as much as possible like the actual cards of a given year, down to the photos and the design and the stats on the back and the little accentuate-the-positive facts about the players.

When I make one of those that’s authentic enough, I get a little moment where I can be taken by surprise and think it’s “real”—that someone really made, say, a Benny Ayala card in 1976, and I just never got one buying packs at the drugstore or trading cards during recess.

That makes me really happy, in ways I struggle to articulate. I suppose it makes me feel like in a ridiculously small way I’ve made the universe a more ordered and complete place—more like it should be. I find that soothing. And even though sometimes I’m aghast at the time I didn’t spend writing, I think it’s good that to work different creative muscles.

Thank you so much, Jason, for taking the time to drop by. Before I share an excerpt from Hunt for Hydra, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a … stubborn, infuriating SOB. But one who’s got your back.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Baseball

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d have my hair back or the higher metabolism of my youth. I’ll take either, thanks.

My biggest peeve is: Winter. The northeastern U.S. is a 400-year-old scam. We should all move to California.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: I’m not wired to ever feel truly comfortable or happy and I’m learning to accept that. Sounds like a weird thing to be satisfied with, but I’ve wasted so much time trying to change it, and I have better things to do.

Excerpt from The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra:

jp1The firing ahead of them had stopped. Tycho looked at his schematic and realized this was where Carlo’s group had gotten lost. He turned on his lamp and saw they were in a narrow room with two ladder wells instead of the maze of passageways shown on the schematic. Pistols and a knife were spinning slowly through the air.

Tycho signaled to the retainers, and they kicked with their hands and feet until they reached the wall, where they locked on to the metal, the magnets in their gloves clicking faintly. They shut off the lamps and began to work their way around the perimeter of the room in the darkness, lifting their hands and feet one at a time and clanking along the wall.

“I think I know what modifications they made,” Yana said over Tycho’s headset. “In about five meters you should reach a short passageway leading to the quarterdeck.”

“Tycho, Ironhawk’s boarding party has entered the Hydra,” Diocletia said in his ear.

The members of the boarding party reached the spot Yana had told them to aim for, but instead of the emptiness of a passageway, their fingers found the outline of a sealed door. Tycho and four retainers—Higgs, Tully, Croke, and Laney—turned on their lamps and took up positions on either side of the door, with the last retainer, Chin, clinging to the ceiling like a spider. They shut off the lights, and Tycho thumbed the door control. Nothing happened.

“Break it down, Mr. Croke,” he said.

“Tycho!” Yana said urgently. “Dad says another gang of Hydras got behind them—they’re headed your way!”

Tycho spun, lifting his gloves off the walls too quickly. His upper body began to float, and he hurriedly felt for the wall again. He pulled out his earpiece and could hear yelling. The voices were getting closer.

“Enemy coming at us!” Tycho yelled. “Look to your rear! Tully, shut off that cursed light!”

A laser bolt struck high on the wall near Chin, dazzling Tycho’s eyes. He heard the thump of the Hydras kicking off the walls of the passageway to hurl themselves through the air in zero gravity, screaming as they came. Another laser blast gouged the decking below Tycho’s feet.

Just like the simulator, Tycho reminded himself, trying to force himself to breathe. But of course it wasn’t anything like the simulator. Wounds here were real, and those who died stayed dead.

“There’s too many—they’ll gun us down!” Higgs screamed, firing his carbine at the oncoming pirates. His eyes were huge and wild. In the sudden light from the shots, Tycho saw Chin windmilling his arms, trying to reestablish contact with the wall. Tully was fumbling for his blaster.

“Higgs! Chin! Tully!” Tycho yelled. “Stand your ground! STAND YOUR GROUND! You are Comets, men, and you will defend crew and country!”

Tycho drew his pistol, reaching behind him to press the magnets in the glove on his free hand against the wall. Short, controlled bursts, he thought.

Then the pirates were among them, screaming and firing. Flashes of laser fire lit up the darkness, giving Tycho crazy, jumbled glimpses of Comets and pirates firing, yelling, tumbling away from the walls. Carbines cracked and thudded, and a spear of laser light zipped by Tycho’s ear, close enough to scorch his skin and fill his nostrils with the smell of burning hair. Someone smashed into him, sending him spinning in the zero gravity, and he fumbled for the wall, his pistol jerking in his hand as he fired again and again, screaming at the top of his lungs.

Then Croke was gripping his shoulder, mouth close to his ear.

“Easy, Master Hashoone,” he said soothingly. “It’s done.”

Croke had turned his headlamp on. Five of Mox’s pirates were still and silent, floating through the air. So was Chin, hand still clutched to his throat, eyes empty. Higgs was hugging his arm to his side, teeth bared in a grimace.

“Tyke!” Yana was yelling in his ear. “What’s happening?”

“We lost Chin, but we’re all right,” Tycho said, gasping for breath.

“Acknowledged,” Diocletia said. “You need to keep moving.”

Tycho shut his eyes for a moment, trying to force his hands to stop shaking.

“Aye-aye,” he said. “Proceeding to the quarterdeck. Mr. Croke, I need this door open.”

For those of you who would like to learn more about Jason Fry or purchase his books, you may do so though the following links:

 Jason Fry’s Dorkery (his term, not mine): http://jasonfry.tumblr.com

Twitter: @jasoncfry https://twitter.com/jasoncfry

Jupiter Pirates official site: http://jupiterpirates.com

Faith and Fear in Flushing: http://faithandfearinflushing.com

 

Book Buy Links: 

RSG: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0794435696/

Cross-Sections: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1465438157/

Hunt for the Hydra: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062230212/

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 1 – Interview With Michaelbrent Collings

MbSeriousMediumEveryone dreams of becoming a best-selling Indie author, but very few make it, let alone to the very top of the heap. That is why I am particularly pleased to have been introduced to this week’s truly gifted and definitely prodigious writer, Michaelbrent Collings, who—for the moment—has stepped away from his usual works of horror to write a YA epic fantasy, The Sword Chronicles.

Michaelbrent Collings is an international bestseller and one of the top indie horror writers in the U.S. He writes horror, sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, and YA and middle-grade books. He is also a produced screenwriter who has written movies for Hollyweird, though in his dark and painful moments he admits he has never “done lunch” or engaged the services of a waxer. Larry Correia, New York Times bestselling author of Monster Hunter International and Son of the Black Sword, has this to say about Mr. Collings latest work, “Epic fantasy meets superheroes, with lots of action and great characters. The Sword Chronicles is dark yet hopeful, and very entertaining. Collings is a great storyteller.”

Michaelbrent describes his book this way:

She is a Dog – one of the many children and teens across the empire of Ansborn who have been sentenced to fight in the arenas. There they fight in battle after battle until they die for the sport of the people of Ansborn – an empire built atop the peaks of five mountains.

But one day she picks up a knife… and everything changes.

She discovers she is a Greater Gift – one of a handful of magic users with powers so great they have only two choices: to join the Empire as one of its premier assassins, or die as a threat to the Empire itself.

She is no longer a Dog. Now, she is Sword. And she will soon realize that in this Empire, not all is what it seems. Good and evil collide, and she can never be sure whom to trust – not even herself.

She holds life in her hands for some. Brings death by her blade to others.

She is a killer.
She is a savior.

That is one compelling lead-in. Will you tell us something more?

It’s an epic fantasy about a young woman who is raised to be a Dog – one of many teens and children all over the Empire of Ansborn who fight in an arena, over and over with no hope of release. One day she discovers she has a magic power granted to one in a million people in the Empire, and she has to choose between a life as an assassin for the Empire, or a life as a revolutionary fighting to overthrow it. It’s a tough choice, because the people she loves and admires the most are her fellow assassins, but she grows to understand the Empire might not be the good thing she has been taught it is. It’s a lot of fun, because I don’t just like to write books where the bad guys have redemptive qualities, I like to write books where you really aren’t sure who the bad guys are for most of the read.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

My need to eat. This is my job, so before I write anything there’s a pretty strict vetting process to figure out if there’s an audience for it, and if the audience will react strongly to this particular idea. In this case, both were a yes, so boom.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I had a narrow window to write it. It clocks in at something like 140,000 words, and I finished it in three weeks. I usually write very fast, but this was pushing it a bit. And how did I overcome it? I slept very little and was very cranky every day.

What other novels have you written?

That’s a short question with a long answer. I’ve written close to 40 novels in the last five years. Some of the popular ones are The Haunted (paranormal horror), The Loon (monstery goodness), The Colony Saga (a zombie apocalypse that moves so fast and hard it would give Michael Bay a heart attack), RUN (sci-fi thriller), and – of course – The Sword Chronicles: Child of the Empire

Tell us about your path to publication.

Ha! I wrote a book called RUN and shopped it to literally every publishing house and agency in the U.S. And if you had rolled me into their offices covered in gold dust, they wouldn’t have touched me. A few months after the last rejection, I put the book up on Kindle (“Hey! It can’t hurt anyone, right?”). A few months after that, it was the top-selling horror and sci-fi title on Amazon, and one of the top hundred products in the Kindle store. Not just books, but products. Out of all the blogs, crosswords, etc. etc. blah blah blah, RUN was in the top hundred. This did me the huge disservice of convincing me I knew what I was doing, so I wrote fifteen more books and had nothing like the same success. It took about twenty books before I started making serious money (i.e., enough to live on).

Happily (hence the “Ha!” at the beginning of this), I’ve fielded offers by numerous traditional publishing houses since then… and had to turn them down because I’m making more money on my own than they can offer me.

Good for you! Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

I’m actually a screenwriter as well as a novelist. Several of my scripts have been produced (and, through the magic of Hollywood, amazing scripts were turned into meh movies), and I’ve been reviewed and/or featured by everything from mom-and-pop blogs to The San Francisco Book Review to NPR. To my knowledge, only three or four (out of many dozens) pro reviewers have given my books the thumbs down, which is nice.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Nope. Well, I’m a husband and a father, but if I call either of those a “job,” my lovely wife wails on me with dirty diapers until I recant.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I am deeply in love. I have a wife I adore, and who has inexplicably stayed with me for over a decade of marriage. I have kids who inspire me – both to do better and to be better – and who constantly make me laugh. I am a blessed guy, and will be such whether I’m a world-famous writer or a guy who digs latrines with his mouth.

What motivates or inspires you?

I could say it’s my family, and that would be true. I could say it was the enjoyment I feel when creating, and that would be true.

Both are nice. How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

I could say it’s my family, and that would be true. I could say it was the enjoyment I feel when creating, and that would be true.

But let’s be honest here: some days it’s all about the Diet Coke.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Continuing to live. Which (for once!) isn’t a silly answer. I have major depressive disorder with psychotic breaks and suicidal tendencies. Some days it’s not about word count, it’s about the number of breaths I manage to take. And in my coherent moments, I understand that breathing in every time I breathe out is quite enough of an achievement – and one to be proud of.

Before I share some of your writing with our visitors, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … … love machine.

The one thing I cannot do without is: … my ability to shoot lasers out of my left eye.

The one thing I would change about my life: … the fact that I can only shoot Gummi Bears out of my right eye.

My biggest peeve is: … people who ask what my biggest peeve is (HOW DARE YOU!)

Thank you, Michaelbrent, for taking the time to share something about yourself and your writing. For those who would like to learn more about this author or purchase his books, I have provided links for you to do so right after the excerpt below:

Here, for your enjoyment, is an excerpt from The Sword Chronicles:

SwordChronicles433x653 The girl woke from the Dream of the Man and the Woman, and she woke as she always did: boot and water.

Many people curled in as the boot kicked them, tried to avoid the water.

These were the ones who would die fast.

The girl had learned quickly. Had learned that if you curled in around the boot it didn’t hurt any less, but it meant you weren’t face up to receive the water. A bucketful to the face, and if you kept your mouth open you could drink. She guessed that that water was fully a tenth part of what she would get each day. And it was clean. Water they were given in the trough was often foul, muddied with clouds of dirt and perhaps worse.

But the water that woke them… it tasted good.

We won’t waste bad water on torture. No, never that.

That it was a torture there could be no doubt. Because all was torture for those in the kennels. All was death for the Dogs.

Trainer walked among them, being handed bucket after bucket by Assistant, dropping a bucket on each of the twenty or so Dogs that slept in this kennel.

“Get up, Dogs!” he shouted. “Another beautiful day to die!”

I won’t die today, thought the girl. But she gave no voice to the thoughts.

There was no point. Speaking never brought anything but pain.

A good Dog was silent unless spoken to. And even then, silence was often best.

The girl stood. Stretched. Never could tell when a fight was coming, so it was best to be loose.

“Get up!” Trainer shouted. He was a beefy man, thick in the middle, with broad scars that crisscrossed his chest and back. The girl wondered – not for the first time – if Trainer had once been a Dog. And told herself – not for the first time – to get that thought out of her head. It was implicit hope. It was the idea that she might one day leave this place.

But there was only one way to leave this place. And she refused to leave that way.

I’ll stay forever – I’ll die – if it comes to that.

“I said, get up!” Trainer’s voice, never far from a roar, now rose to a shriek.

A moan came from a small pile of skin and bone, seemingly bound together only by the loose rags that passed for clothing in the kennel. Trainer prodded the pile with his foot. Another moan. But no motion.

Trainer gestured. Assistant – as wiry and thin as Trainer was thick and muscular – held out a sword.

The girl looked away. She knew what was next. Had seen it before. Had no wish to see it again.

There was the particular noise of sword cleaving flesh. A gurgle.

The pile of rags and skin and bone had refused to get up. And a Dog who resisted training, who refused orders, would earn no coin and was good for nothing.

Trainer tossed water on the next Dog. Some of it washed the blood on the floor toward the drain set in the middle of the kennel. That drain was where they pushed their nightsoils, the rare bits of food that were too rotten to eat.

And it had drunk its fill of blood. As it had done before, and as it would do again.

“Rise and shine,” shouted Trainer as the last Dog – the last still-living

Dog – struggled to his feet. “It’s another love-er-ly day!”

He laughed.

The blood had washed away.

The day was begun.

As promised, here are Michaelbent’s social links:

Website: http://michaelbrentcollings.com

Writing Advice Blog: http://michaelbrentcollings.com/writingadvice.html

Facebook Fanpage: http://facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings

Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/mbcollings

Book online sales links:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Sword-Chronicles-Child-Empire-ebook/dp/B018X2H2F2/

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-sword-chronicles-michaelbrent-collings/1123092008?ean=2940157845506

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-sword-chronicles-child-of-the-empire

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1064756171

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/292129494/The-Sword-Chronicles-Child-of-the-Empire

Oyster: https://www.oysterbooks.com/book/E6dS9NrwAtcPmTPX6Mb72T/the-sword-chronicles-child-of-the-empire

Paperback: https://www.createspace.com/5915037

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 18 – Interview With Alan Dean Foster

You can imagine my delight when WordFire Press asked me to interview the legendary author, Alan Dean Foster, about his two new books, Star Wars – The Force Awakens and his long-awaited original novel Oshenerth. Equally pleasing, I found Mr. Foster both easy to work with and prompt in his responses.

Author and friendAlan Dean Foster’s work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He has also written numerous non-fiction articles on film, science, and scuba diving, as well as having produced the novel versions of many films, including such well-known productions as “Star Wars”, the first three “Alien” films, “Alien Nation”, and “The Chronicles of Riddick”. Other works include scripts for talking records, radio, computer games, and the story for the first “Star Trek” movie. His novel Shadowkeep was the first ever book adaptation of an original computer game. In addition to publication in English his work has been translated into more than fifty languages and has won awards in Spain and Russia. His novel Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990, the first work of science-fiction ever to do so. His sometimes humorous, occasionally poignant, but always entertaining short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in original anthologies and several “Best of the Year” compendiums. His published oeuvre includes more than 100 books.

The Force Awakens CoverI understand that you spoofed the audience at the Star Wars Celebration 2015, Del Rey panel, where it was announced you would be novelizing the movie. Will you give us a recap of what you did?

The notion was mutually developed by Del Rey and myself. We thought it would be fun for the audience if, instead of my simply appearing on the stage with the other panelists, they announced that they were still looking for someone to do the novelization. They then opened the floor to questions.   As was prearranged, I was called upon first, whereupon I (as a presumed stranger) offered to write the book, as I was “familiar with the characters and setting”. After some easy back and forth, they said, “Okay, you can do it”. Whereupon I was introduced. The audience loved it.

After Michael Arndt, the original screenwriter, left the project and J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took over, the movie was put on a production fast track. Since it wasn’t until April 9 of 2015 that the above announcement took place and the book’s release had to coincide with the movie release, how much time were you actually given to complete the book?

Three months. I finished it in less than two. That’s just the way I write, whether it’s a novelization, a spinoff, or an original novel.

It’s not surprising, then, that they selected you. How satisfied are you with the result?

Quite, although as with any work, one always wishes for the opportunity to do another polish.

Was there any sort of collaborative process between yourself, Abrams and Kasdan, or were you just left on your own?

Making even a small film with no expectations is a 24/7 task. Making something on the nature of Star Wars is a 25/7 task. Directors, producers, writers, actors are completely focused on and absorbed in the making of the film. Even if they wished to participate in the development of what is at base an ancillary product, the time simply is not available. So yes, I was left on my on, albeit with input from my editor at Del Rey, Shelly Shapiro, and the Star Wars story group.

How much access to the screenplay and production materials were you given?

I had a full screenplay. I requested, and was provided, with as much in the way of production material as Lucasfilm/Disney was able and willing to provide. This consisted primarily of still shots of characters in costume, sets, and props.

Did The Walt Disney Company exercise any sort of supervisory role?

As will be the case with all Star Wars-related material in the future, the Star Wars story group vetted everything I submitted.

Because your “Pip and Flinx” series is as rife with both the intergalactic populace and dry humor one finds in the Star Wars saga, I thoroughly expected your distinct writing style would bleed over into Star Wars – The Force Awakens. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find your book sounds exactly like George Lucas. Was it difficult to take on his voice?

When doing a novelization, I try to stay as true to the work of the screenwriters as possible. I’m doing a collaboration, an expansion…not a revision. Over the decades I’ve had to assume the “voices” of many other writers, most notably that of Eric Frank Russell in my expansion of his novella “Design for Great-Day”. It’s very flattering when readers feel that the expansion is a seamless development of the original writer(s) style.

While on one hand, a novel can take a reader inside a character’s head and provide background in ways a movie cannot, but on the other lacks a movie’s visual cues, there are inevitable differences between the way each tells the story that raise certain questions:

 In many instances, your book provides much more detail than the movie does, for example the exchange between Rey and Unkar Plutt concerning BB8 or, much later on, when Finn and Statura were talking about Starkiller Base, its weaknesses and capabilities. Are these your embellishments, or were they in the original screenplay but lost on the cutting room floor?

Those are mine, as are a fair number of similar bits of expansion in the novel. If you don’t provide such material, then you as a collaborator are not doing your job and the reader is not getting their money’s worth when they buy the book.

Where do the character or cultural backstories included in your book—that I suspect could not have been part of the screenplay, for example as pertain to Poe and Finn—come from?

I take what there is in the screenplay and develop the material further, attempting to envision what the characters themselves would say if they were present to fill in the blank spaces in their own backgrounds.

Oshenerth CoverI’d like to switch to something else that I suspect is much dearer to your heart. As long ago as 2009, I saw references on your website to a trilogy of your own creation titled Oshanurth, but never saw the work materialize. Now I learn that WordFire Press has published it with the revised spelling Oshenerth. Are you excited it’s finally in print and why has it taken so long?

Legacy publishers are less and less willing to take on material that doesn’t fit into pre-conceived (read: pre-sold) slots. I think the fact that Oshenerth takes place entirely underwater might have caused some hesitation on the part of assorted editors…though there was one who wanted to publish it immediately, only to have it rejected by the conservative owner of the company.

What was the inspiration behind the story?

I’ve been an avid diver for more than 30 years, fascinated by the ocean and its life. I always wanted to incorporate what I’ve seen and experienced underwater into a full novel. I’m especially fascinated by cephalopods.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about it?

One of the main characters, a cuttlefish, is based on an encounter I had with two of them off the coast of Blupblup Island, northern Papua New Guinea. Watching them communicate with color changes (white means danger in cuttlefish talk, by the way) as well as watching them watch me, I could not help but be taken by their evident intelligence.

Will you eventually release the full trilogy and, if so, when may we expect to see volumes two and three?

Oshenerth is a fully stand-alone work. As to continuing it, time and readership will tell.

As I calculate it, over your writing career, you’ve produced more than two books a year. What is your writing routine?

Rise around 7 am, read international and national news on the web, do research, write something, have lunch, go to gym or do the shopping, write some more. Write something every single day.

Just for fun: I understand you used to be quite the world traveller. While my own travels have provided many unique experiences, one of yours really caught my attention: You’ve actually cooked and eaten a piranha. I have to ask (1) how did that come about and (2) what did it taste like? Please don’t tell me it tasted like chicken.

You’re safe. Piranha broiled in a pan with a little butter, salt and pepper, and spices to seasoning, tastes just like fresh-water trout.

Yum! Thank you so much for agreeing to participate in my author interview series. Before I close with an excerpt from Oshenerth, I’d like to attempt what I call a Lightning Round, since it often produces unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… talkative

The thing I’m most proud of is… getting a tooth from a live great white shark

The one thing I cannot do without is… iced tea

The one thing I would do over is… travel even more.

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… Chuck Jones’ work.

And now, a quick taste of Alan Dean Foster’s original work, Oshenerth:

Chapter 1

As soon as he had the sleek, toothy slayer cornered, Chachel knew the shark was going to use magic. He was not worried. The heavy spear of pure white bone that he held had been shaped and carved by Fasalik Boneworker himself from the massive, scavenged lower jaw of a dead rorqual. You could slam it against rock and the shaft would not shatter. Furthermore, he had surprised the shark from below while it was busy patrolling the mirrorsky. Now it was trapped between the waterless void above and reef wall behind.

Cradling the spear under one arm and aiming it with the other, Chachel adjusted the strap that held the woven patch over the socket where his left eye had once resided and swam forward. The webbing on his left foot and the fin growing from the back of his calf fluttered in perfect synchrony with the artificial counterparts that occupied the space where his right leg was missing below the knee.

Above and in front of him, the blacktip’s eyes darted nervously from side to side as it searched for an escape route. If the shark made a dash for it, Chachel was ready with the spear. If it began to spout time-honored shark sortilege, the hunter’s well-honed vocabulary contained a clutch of stock counterwords. The gills of trapped shark and merson alike pulsed furiously, flushing water and extracting oxygen as they strained in expectation of the coming confrontation.

A powerful, yard-long tentacle slithered over Chachel’s taut left shoulder.

“Watch for a combination of teeth and talk. It may try to attack and invoke at the same time.”

Chachel nodded tersely. He knew that Glint was only trying to help. But it would have been better if the cuttlefish, who was as big as Chachel himself though not nearly as heavy, had stayed back out of the way. The last thing a hunter needed at killing time was to feel crowded.

Then the blacktip charged.

To anyone who has never seen a shark strike, it can be said that the great fish does not actually appear to move. One moment it is swimming lazily, and the next it is somewhere else, as if no water in-between has been transited. Some mersons called it wish-swimming: wish you are another place, and without a single kick or flick of a tail you find yourself therewith transported. After all, to catch something as fast as a fish, the shark must be faster still. Couple this intrinsic speed and ferocity with traditional shark magic, and surely an intended target has no chance to escape at all.

But Chachel was ready for the charge. Ready physically, because over the years he had pushed and worked his body to compensate for the loss of his left eye and right leg. Ready mentally, because he had laboriously learned the appropriate counterspells and protections. And ready emotionally, because he liked killing. He especially liked killing sharks because it was sharks who had taken his eye and the lower half of his right leg. It was sharks who had killed his father and mother in the same unanticipated pitched battle.

It was always sharks.

Visitors who would like to better acquaint themselves with Alan Dean Foster, or purchase his books, may do so via the following links:

email:                  adf@alandeanfoster.com

Oshenerth via Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Oshenerth-Alan-Dean-Foster/dp/1614753806

Star Wars – The Force Awakens via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Force-Awakens-Star-Wars/dp/1101965495

Website:                                             http://www.alandeanfoster.com/version2.0/frameset.htm

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 4 – Interview With David Butler

There is no shortage of interesting authors in the WordFire Press stable and this week’s guest is no exception. Just when I thought the interview was on a predictable track, David Butler threw something at me from out of left field and I realized he is as unusual as are his story lines.

Friendly DaveDavid Butler is a lawyer by background and works as a corporate trainer teaching business acumen to employees of large international companies. He writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, superhero, and even horror stories, for adults, young adults, and even middle readers. His large press debut will be The Kidnap Plot (Knopf, June 2016).

Will you tell us about your upcoming WordFire Press release?

WordFire Press is about to release its edition of City of the Saints, a steampunk adventure novel set in the American West in 1859. It’s like an episode of Wild Wild West amped up by Nikola Tesla, with secret agents Sam Clemens (in his amphibious steam-truck, the Jim Smiley), Edgar Allan Poe (armed with a canister of flesh-eating scarab beetles), and Captain Richard Francis Burton (for Her Majesty, of course) facing off over which side in the looming war between the States will control the Kingdom of Deseret’s airship technology and phlogiston guns.

City of the Saints is also available in audiobook.

What other novels have you written?

My big press debut will be The Kidnap Plot (Knopf, summer 2016). This is book one of The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie, which is an action-adventure steampunk fantasy tale about an unusual boy who sets out to rescue his kidnapped father and discovers astonishing things about the world… and about himself.

Other novels with WordFire Press include Rock Band Fights Evil, which is a serial about a damned rock and roll band. The lead singer is Satan’s son, fallen out with his dad over the fact that the son’s lover is in hell and dad won’t release her; the guitarist sold his soul to the devil and was tricked, gaining amazing prowess… with the tambourine; the drummer is an outcast fairy, and so forth. The band’s plan to recover what they’ve lost is to steal a fragment of Satan’s hoof and use it to blackmail Old Scratch… but they have to get to it before any of Satan’s rivals do. Rock Band #1 is Hellhound on My Trail.

Crecheling is the first in a science fiction trilogy about a society that initiates its youth into adulthood by making them commit murder. When Dyan learns this horrible truth, she refuses, and learns the price you pay for choosing not to bear the guilt your society wants to put on you. It’s got sort of a Firefly feel in that it’s a horses and monofilament weapons in the desert setting.

Do you have any other books in the works?

The thing I’m writing right now is Urbane, which is the sequel to Crecheling. Dyan, having broken with the System in which she was raised, now re-enters it by stealth to try to rescue the woman she has learned is her mother.

In addition, my agent (Deborah Warren of East/West Literary) is currently showing a black powder epic fantasy novel called Witchy Eye to editors. Later in the year, Deborah and have another middle reader series and a young adult realistic thriller to take out as well. So it’s exciting times around here.

So I would say! Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Loneliness. Delusions of grandeur. Depression. Navel-gazing. Despair. Disdain. A sense of entitlement. Believing your own marketing. Doubting your fundamental awesomeness. Obsessing over commas. Losing the ability to read for pleasure. Failing to take in enough spiritual sustenance, and becoming barren. Forgetting that the world is bigger than books. Forgetting that stories are the only guide for making our way through the world.

It’s a given there are very few, if any, overnight successes in the publishing industry. Will you tell us something about your journey?

This is a long and tangled tale, so I will try to abbreviate it.

The first thing I wrote was a trunk book. That’s how it goes. But with the second book I wrote, I picked up a big name agent. I was sure I had it made. But the agent went one round with editors and got no bites. When I sent him a second manuscript, he could only rarely make time to even look at it, and never sent it out. Almost one year after offering to represent me, he dumped me, copying his lawyer on the e-mail.

In the meantime, I had co-written things with my wife, Emily. Shortly thereafter, she picked up an agent. She’s still represented by him—Steven Chudney. The first thing of ours he sent out went several rounds and didn’t get picked up. The second thing was a re-shaped version of the manuscript that had originally garnered me representation… and it sold!

So hurray, we were going to be published! Except that the publisher in question was Egmont. And after Emily went through the entire editing process, Egmont pulled the plug on its US operations, and the book was orphaned. Both those co-written books (and the series planned to follow them) are with Steven, being seen by editors today, and Emily continues to work on other projects.

In the meantime, I had starting self-publishing. This got me into conventions and onto panels, and that was a good thing. And then in early 2014, I got picked up by another agent—Deborah. She sent The Kidnap Plot to one editor on a sneak preview basis, Michelle Frey at Knopf, and Michelle went for it.

I’m going to unveil the cover art to The Kidnap Plot soon, via my mailing list. It’s by a very talented guy named Kenard Pak. Readers can sign up for my mailing list at: http://davidjohnbutler.com/mailinglist/

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Setting it aside, writing the next one.

I know that one. Tell us something about your “other” job.

I’m trained as a lawyer, but I don’t currently practice. By day, I teach business acumen to employees of large companies.

Describe a typical day.

My typical day really varies. If I am not on the road, I start by hitting the gym and then I go into the office. If possible, I try to write in the evenings, or at lunch. If I’m on the road, then I’ll write in airports, or on the plane (if I’m lucky enough to get upgraded—frankly, airlines should be ashamed of the ridiculous cattle car nature of their main cabins, in which it is impossible to get any reasonable amount of work done). I often write in hotels, either having arrived there from the airport, or after a day of teaching client employees the different between an income statement and a statement of cash flows.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m married, with three kids (the oldest is in junior high) and four chickens. We play lots of board games around here, and make music—piano, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and lots of odd little instruments. Our house is a rambling old affair on the side of a mountain, with snakes under the steps and a severed head hanging in the tree.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

You have to fill yourself with substance. You have to understand who you are and what you’re doing and why and know that there will be obstacles in your path. That won’t make picking yourself up easier, but it will make it possible. Your most basic skill as a human being is knowing how to stand back up again.

What has been your greatest success in life?

My kids. They’re creative, clever, hard-working, and good-hearted, without thinking much about the fact that they are those things.

Nicely put. Before I let our visitors sample City of Saints just below, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … Slow learner.

The one thing I cannot do without is: A good book to read.

The one thing I would change about my life: I would have started owning it earlier.

My biggest peeve is: Politics in social media.

David, I’d like to thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. At this point, I’d like to share an excerpt from your work.

From City of Saints:

CoverOnly300DPI“And magic!” he cried and, reaching into his canister, he pulled out a handful of the brass scarabs and scattered them across the laps of Burton, Fearnley-Standish, and their female companion.

“Aagh!” shrieked Fearnley-Standish, and would have jumped from his seat if Burton hadn’t restrained him with a hand on his arm.

“Arjuna’s bow, man, they won’t eat you!” the explorer snorted.

Then Poe saw their female companion’s face and froze. She was short and dark, all straight lines and grace, and though he would have recognized her through any disguise, she wore none.

It was Roxie.

Robert, you didn’t mention … but then, of course …

She smiled at him, the polite and slightly flirtatious smile of a woman who is casually attached to another man but conceals within her a voracious, insatiable wolf. She didn’t recognize him, obviously, but then it had been years, and Poe was proud of the verisimilitude of his false nose. Within his breast a desire to seize her in his arms, sweep her to his chest and devour her mouth with his warred against an equally strong urge to pull his pistol from inside his jacket and blow out her vicious, wicked, conniving brains.

“Well, man!” Burton snapped. “Get on with it!”

He felt stunned, his vision out of focus. He floated, lost. Then, in the sea of passengers’ faces under flapping parasols, he saw the physiognomy of his accomplice, the haggard dwarf Jedediah Coltrane. Coltrane was mouthing something to Poe, a nervous look on his face; Poe’s professionalism reasserted itself and he tore his eyes away from Roxie’s.

Stepping back, he raised both hands about his head, one of them holding the cylinder by its lid, and cried out in a loud voice, to be sure that the entire deck could hear him. “Behold the incantations of Thoth! Behold the power of Hermes Thrice-Greatest! Behold the might of the Egyptian priests, able to reach through the curtain of death itself and command the obedience of the inanimate and the damned!”

When he was sure they were all watching him, he waved his empty hand in a great circular flourish over the scarabs, carefully thumbing the recall button inside the canister’s lid. “Nebenkaure, panjandrum, Isis kai Osiris!” he shouted.

The clocksprung beetles sprang instantly to life. With a great chittering and clacking, each metal bug rolled upright, oriented itself, and then began its trek. From the laps and boots of Roxie and the Englishmen, from the bench they sat on and the floor beneath them, the brass beetles swarmed in a great mass towards Poe.

He raised his hands, stood still, and laughed as diabolically and mysteriously as he could as the bugs climbed his clothing, laughed when he felt the first brass legs touch the bare skin of his neck, laughed with his whole chest and belly as the scarabs detoured around his head and crawled up his left arm, kept laughing as they swarmed ticklishly about his fist and dropped one by one into their native canister, and then, for effect, stopped laughing at the exact moment in which he slammed the canister shut.

The spectators went wild.

“That wasn’t Egyptian,” Burton said sourly, but the passengers all about him applauded, and a few whistled or whooped in excitement.

Coltrane clapped along with the crowd, shooting shrewd appraising looks at the people around him. Sizing up the marks, Poe thought. The man had the ingrained instincts of an inveterate carny. The little boy with the loop of wire stood stiff as a statue, his eyes so wide they threatened to swallow his face.

“They’re scarab beetles, Dick,” Fearnley-Standish pointed out.

“I meant the words,” the darker man growled. “Pure higgledy-piggledy. Nonsense. Arrant balderdash.”

“My name is Doctor Jamison Archibald!” Poe announced. “Tonight, at seven o’clock by the Captain’s watch, in the stateroom, for the very reasonable sum of two copper pennies, any passenger may see exhibited and explained these and other marvels, visual and auditory. See the uncanny hypnotic hypocephalus in action, stealing the souls of men! Witness the muscular terror of the dire Seth-Beast!”

“Will children be admitted free of charge?” inquired a plain-faced, reedy-voiced, gray-wrapped matron in a blue prairie bonnet, clutching under her bony wings a trio of similarly undernourished-looking brats.

“My dear madam,” Poe stage-whispered, meeting her eyes over the rims of his spectacles, “the things I have to display are dark and terrifying apparitions; the stuff of nightmares. Children will not be admitted at all.”

Those of you who’d like to know more about David Butler can connect with him at the following links:

Website:         http://davidjohnbutler.com

Twitter:          @davidjohnbutler

Facebook:      http://facebook.com/dave.butler.16

City of Saints is scheduled to be released in paperback on January 15, 2016. Once that happens, you will be able to find book buy links at http://wordfirepress.com

You may purchase it immediately as an ebook at http://amzn.to/1TQwqrf

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 21 – Interview With Kevin J. Anderson

Few sci-fi or fantasy authors are as legendary or prolific, or have spent more time paying their success forward to up-and-comers than this week’s guest, Kevin J. Anderson. No other I am aware of owns his own publishing house, and I think you’ll agree, if anyone was ever born to write, it was this man.

KJA photoKevin started writing at age eight. A magazine accepted one of his manuscripts two years after he had entered high school and he received the first monitory payment for his writing in his high school senior year and sold his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., at age 25. In addition to creating his own Saga of Seven Suns series, his Nebula Award nominated Assemblers of Infinity and dozens of others, he has co-authored numerous works that include Star Wars, X-Files and Dune spin-offs. Not content with those accomplishments, he has written several comic books and authored novels delving into the histories of such super heroes as Batman and Superman. It can be said that Kevin has expanded and enriched the fabric of the genre at large. To date, fifty-two of his works have become best-sellers and there are more on the horizon.

Kevin, you are noted for writing complex epic tales told from multiple viewpoints. Do you have any other such books in progress, especially your own original works?

Oh, I always do! Right now I am finishing up my last edit on Navigators Of Dune with Brian Herbert, our grand finale in the Schools of Dune trilogy, and then I will turn immediately into polishing up Eternity’s Mind, the last book in the Saga of Shadows trilogy (which is set in my popular original Seven Suns universe). It is full of characters and storylines and much mayhem—like a Game of Thrones with planets. Obviously, dealing with such a big story and large cast of characters is exhausting. Wrapping up both of these big trilogies at once is making my brain tired!

An intriguing device you employ is the insertion of real world cultural and musical references into some of your tales. The Saga of Seven Suns’ Ross Tamblyn is a tad too similar to cinema’s Russ Tamblyn to be coincidental, as is his Blue Sky Mine to Midnight Oil’s identically titled song—I give a nod and a wink to Chairman Wenceslaus. At first, I thought you were just having fun with your readers. Then, when I found Clockwork Angels rife with Neil Peart’s lyrics and subsequently learned it evolved as a collaboration between the two of you, I wondered if there wasn’t something more that led you to use them. Would you care to expand on this?

Honestly, Ross Tamblyn is just a coincidence. I had developed the whole Tamblyn clan, and didn’t much think of the resonance. The Blue Sky Mine, though—you nailed it, and I didn’t think anyone would remember! Music is quite an influence in my work however, most predominantly the music of Rush, with lyrics by Neil Peart. My very first novel, Resurrection, Inc., is entirely based on my own vision of the Rush album “Grace Under Pressure” and because of that I got to know Neil quite well personally. We have collaborated together and inspired each other in small ways, but we really pulled out all the stops when Neil asked me to novelize their new concept album, Clockwork Angels, a novel that became a New York Times bestseller and a multiple award winner. We liked the universe so much, we adapted that story to a graphic novel and then just branched out to a new companion novel, Clockwork Lives, which I personally think is the best book I’ve ever done.

IMG_3001You do a lot of your writing and plotting while hiking. Is this a useful method for writers?

 

When I’m out in the big spectacular Colorado IMG_3018landscape, it frees my mind to think up big ideas. If I go far enough out, I can walk for hours without seeing anybody but the characters in my head. I am a storyteller, and I dictate as I walk… and when I can walk in a landscape like that, there’s no better office in the world.

 

ClockworkAngels_Ebook.pdfI have to congratulate you on Clockwork Angels’ hardback edition, from its striking cover and the beautiful end papers, to the wonderful illustrations and the subtle use of color printing to enhance the appearance of its pages. How pleased are you with the final result and how did it come about?

 

I couldn’t be more pleased, and Clockwork Lives is just as striking a book with its embossed leatherette cover, marbled endpapers, color printing, line art illustrations by Nick Robles, who did all the artwork for our graphic novel. I had shopped the original Clockwork Angels around to my primary publishers in the US, but even though I’ve had over 50 bestsellers and Rush is one of the biggest-selling music groups in history, they just didn’t get how ClockworkLivesone could do a novel connected to an album. But the Canadian publisher ECW (who had released Neil Peart’s non-fiction books) was very enthusiastic, and they really showed off what they could do. Even though Clockwork Angels became a bestseller, Neil and I never had a second thought about handing them Clockwork Lives, and they certainly outdid themselves. I have also edited an original anthology, with John McFetridge, for ECW titled 2113 and is filled with stories by major authors, all of them inspired by Rush songs. That one comes out in April.

On a more personal note, a mutual friend tells me you’re a big fan of IPA. Care to talk about this particular passion?

Over the past two decades, high-quality microbrew beer has become just as popular as good coffee in the US. I shudder to think of the swill we used to drink (both beer and coffee!) I am a big fan of both. My tastes in the microbrew beer have really focused in on the extra-hoppy India Pale Ales (named because in the British Empire, the kegs of ale being sent around Africa to India had to use a lot of hops as a preservative so the beer would remain good throughout the voyage). The other advantage of drinking an IPA is that it’s so bitter most other people don’t like it, so that way people don’t raid my stash in the fridge!

 

 

Hah! I love IPA and I like that strategy enough I may have to adopt it. Our friend also told me you wrote a book telling Mormons how to write about beer.

Not actually a book, just a talk to other writers. I viewed it as an alien contact scenario! While I’m not a Mormon, I have a LOT of LDS writing students, have lectured at BYU and many Utah conferences as well as being a writer-in-residence for a Utah writing retreat, where I was the token non-Mormon. I made the point that writers need to know about various things, to put the information into their creative repertoire. For instance, I told them, how many of you are experts in opera, or classic jazz? Nobody raised their hand (heck, I don’t know anything about opera or jazz), but they all agreed that it might be useful information to write a character who likes opera or jazz. Same thing, I explained some basics about wine and beer to people who had absolutely no experience in social drinking… not to convince them to try it, just so they would have a better understanding. I compared different kinds of beer to bread (Coors Light = Wonder Bread, Guinness stout = dark Russian rye, my hoppy IPAs like sourdough or a tangy caraway rye…) They seemed to find it useful. Like I said, writers should know about other cultures… and I have learned a lot about theirs, too!

 You promote aspiring writers, especially as centered around NaNoWriMo and have compiled several books to help them succeed. Please tell us about your work with Storybundle.com.

I’ve always believed in paying it forward. I had some very major mentors when I was a new writer (namely, Dean Koontz and Terry Brooks) and I want to do the same. I have given countless workshops at science fiction conventions over the past 20 years, and each year my wife and I run the high-level Superstars Writing Seminars, which focuses on the business of writing.

As an offshoot of my workshops and lectures, I have written several books on writing and published them through my own house, WordFire Press. (Yes, I’m a publisher, too.) Each year for NaNoWriMo, I have worked with storybundle.com to but together a “bundle” of writing books, The Nanowrimo Writing Tools bundle—this year, we have 25 titles on all aspects of writing craft, careers, and business, for a name-your-own-price (minimum bid of $25 for all 25 books). Storybundle is an innovative way of distributing books, mostly by indie authors—a grab bag of eBook titles for all platforms. I have a good working relationship with storybundle and have done many bundles for them. In fact, right now I have a Holiday Fantasy bundle running as well as a really big “bundle of trilogies” so you get as much reading material as your eyeballs can handle, for a very low minimum bid. All of these bundles go down at the end of the year, though, so if anybody’s interested they should check out http://storybundle.com to see what’s available.

Life as a publisher and life as an author offer differing rewards and place different demands on one’s life. A glance at your published works and accompanying release dates shows a not unexpected decline in frequency of your own books since you launched WordFire Press. How do you strike a balance between the two and keep one from overwhelming the other? For that matter, how are you able to maintain a personal life?

11813523_10153000233128244_5094300587170526367_nWhat’s a personal life? Actually, the key to that question is that my wife and I are both writers and we are the co-publishers of WordFire Press…so our LIVES are wrapped up in what we do. We live and breathe writing and publishing, so that’s pretty much all we do. It’s a little more nuts than you think, though, because the frequency of my book releases hasn’t actually declined—I had five books out in 2015, five books out in 2014, and I should do the same for 2016. At this very moment, I am doing Navigators of Dune and Eternity’s Mind simultaneously, both of them 600+ page manuscripts. I wish I could slow down a little!

WordFire Press began by republishing high-demand out-of-print books, including your own extensive backlist. Over the years it has expanded its directions by featuring new works by bestsellers and award winners such as Alan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, Frank Herbert, John A. Pitts, and Mike Resnick. Now, it also boasts a stable of rising new talent. How have you discovered these up-and-comers?

I’ve done a lot of work in the field with many other authors over the years, and I have a pretty good reputation. Even big-time authors are hungry for the experience that they can be involved directly in the process as a partner. Our newer authors often come from the ranks of people I’ve worked with, writing students, award-winners from the Writers of the Future, people who have the spark that makes me think they can hit the big time.

Is WFP looking toward any new publishing directions you’re free to discuss?

Publishing is an old business with a lot of established traditions, but a lot of those have gone out the window with the warp-speed changes in technology. From our inception, WordFire threw out the “it’s always been done this way” model and looked at it from a fresh, objective eye. Maybe we can try this, or this, or this. Sometimes it doesn’t work, other times it blows us away. Distributing our books through Storybundle or Humble Bundle generates a lot of sales for the included authors, but that’s not something traditional publishers even consider. We feature our authors and autograph and sell a lot of physical books directly to fans at pop-culture shows, which is also something most big publishers don’t do. At present, though, we are growing and expanding so quickly that my main objective is to keep all the gears turning smoothly.

WFP maintains an active presence at major cons across the country each year, not only selling its books, but also providing readers with an opportunity to meet many of its authors. Would you care to enumerate some of the venues where readers can connect in 2016?

These big comic and pop-culture shows are huge venues, and they feature media celebrities for fans to meet. We present our authors in the same way: As actual celebrities for fans to meet. And for an average fan and reader, even someone with one or two books published seems like a celebrity. A very abbreviated list of places we’ll be in the coming year includes Miami Supercon, Planet Comic Con (Kansas City), Pensacon (Pensacola), Emerald City Comic Con, Dallas Comic Con, DragonCon, Salt Lake FanEx, IndianaCon, C2E2 (Chicago), Phoenix Comic Con, Denver Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and enough others to make my head spin.

Thank you, Kevin, for agreeing to participate. I shall remain ever grateful. I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… The most-fun workaholic he’s ever seen.

The thing I’m most proud of is… My own novels—and the published novels of my writing students, so I must have been teaching them right.

The one thing I cannot do without is… My imagination

The one thing I would do over is… Hmm, that’s the good thing about writing: you can always edit your past drafts as much as you like.

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… My demanding cats, whose cheerful need for attention trumps any thought of deadlines

Visitors can follow Kevin at the following social links:

 Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/TheKJA

Blog:                           http://kjablog.com

Facebook:                  https://www.facebook.com/KJAauthor/

Some Book Buy links are as follows:

Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J.-Anderson/e/B000AQ0072

WordFire Press:        http://wordfirepress.com/our-books/

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 7 – Interview With Quincy J. Allen

Quincy J. Allen catches your eye as quickly as his writing catches your inner ear. “I have a mohawk. Your argument is invalid,” says his website. I encountered him at Sasquan in Spokane, Washington last August where he was working the WordFire Press booth around the corner from mine. He’s an imposing man, but genial from the outset and I’m sorry I was as busy as I was or I might have taken time to sample his work while I was there. Fortunately, WFP asked me to feature him. Now that I’ve read some 1000-Headshot1of his stuff—as you will have the opportunity to do at the bottom of this page—I intend to read more.

He’s a cross-genre author, has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, and one omnibus. His first novel Chemical Burn was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold Contest. He made his first pro-sale in 2014 with the story “Jimmy Krinklepot and the White Rebs of Hayberry,” included in WordFire’s A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories. He’s written for the Internet show RadioSteam, and his first short story collection Out Through the Attic, came out in 2014 from 7DS Books. His latest novel Blood Ties, Book 1 in The Blood War Chronicles, was made available in print on November 1st, 2015, with Book 2 due out early in 2016.

He works as a Warehouse and Booth Manager by day, does book design and eBook conversions by night, and lives in a cozy house in Colorado that he considers his very own sanctuary—think Bat Cave, but with fewer flying mammals and more sunlight.

I asked him to give us the gist of Blood Ties and he describes it this way:

Clockwork Gunslingers • Chinese Tongs • An Epic Quest

THE BLOOD WAR CHRONICLES When assassins jump half-clockwork gunslinger Jake Lasater, he knows the Chinese Tong wants to finally settle an old score. Unfortunately, Jake has no idea the Tong is just the first milepost on the road toward a destiny he refuses to believe in. With his riding partner Cole McJunkins in tow and his ward Skeeter secretly hidden away, Jake squares off against a deadly clockwork mercenary from his past and a troop of crazed European soldiers who want him dead. Add an insane Emperor with knowledge of Jake’s past and a mysterious noblewoman who desperately needs his help—and Jake is faced with a whole mess of trouble, with no end in sight. Blood Ties launches an epic saga that spans worlds and threatens the human race itself.

Please give us an idea of the book’s history and its future.

Blood Ties has been about 6 years in the making, from initial short story to committing to and writing the first book of six in the series. As I’ve written elsewhere, it starts off as Old West steampunk, but it turns sideways pretty quickly, and by the end, it’ll be full-on epic fantasy with a clockwork gunslinger at the helm.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

Well, that’s a longer answer. The Reader’s Digest version is that this was a lifetime in the making, starting with westerns on Saturday morning television, and Rooster Cogburn, and James West, and Josey Wales. It grew with readings of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. With the idea for a protagonist congealing in the aftermath of a MileHi Con in 2009 where I met the local steampunk organization.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

Writing the first one was fairly straight-forward, and that got split into books one and two. The problem has been the crazy-busy convention season, driving the truck for WordFire Press doing the setup at convention as the booth manager this past year left little time for writing. That continues to be the greatest challenge I face from a writing productivity perspective.

What other novels have you written?

Chemical Burn was my first published novel, and the sequel to Blood Ties, entitled Blood Curse, is slated to be out in the spring of 2016. I have three other novels that are partially written. One is written in the same world as the Blood War Chronicles and follow a young Jesuit priest excommunicated for the murder of a bishop. He becomes a demon hunting witch. The second is about a young girl who discovers she has mental abilities that are taboo in her culture, and has to rely upon them in order to rescue her father from airship pirates. As the story progresses, she discovers a secret that will shatter the strictly theological society she was raised in and set the stage for returning to the stars. The third is military science fiction, combining powered armor and psionics. At the help is a tactical genius bent on avenging the murder of his parents. He then discovers ancient technology that will allow him to fight the society that created his parents killers.

So, I have a lot on my plate.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Sporadic these days. I have the WFP book design stuff I do, Inventory Management for WFP, booth management, book design for my own clients, management for a small author marketing company with my girlfriend as partner and graphic artist, and a pretty strong Destiny video game addiction. It’s hard to balance that all.

Tell us about your path to publication.

That’s a long story tool but the framework is a straight line. It started with getting laid off from the IT industry. I then discovered I could produce anthologies myself, moved to writing and publishing my first novel, and then working the convention circuit here in Denver. I met the right people and it gets complicated from there.

Life is complicated, but sometimes adversity leads to opportunity. It seems to have done so in your case. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I continue to improve my craft. I was just talking with a few folks recently about the differences in prose between Chemical Burn and Blood Ties. When I’m all growed up, I hope to be a really good writer.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Only that Blood Ties is worth taking a gamble on. I’m a newer author, but this series will be one hell of a ride by the time it’s finished. And if you do read it, all I ask is that you leave one review on Amazon and then tell your friends. Readers are my greatest allies, and without you I won’t be able to get where I need to go.

I’m sure the excerpt you’ve provided is compelling enough to convince our visitors to purchase a copy.

Now that we’ve talked about you, the writer, I’d like to provide a glimpse of another side of Quincy J. Allen. Will you describe a typical day?

Coffee (a must). Go through my to do list and prioritize what’s left on it, including working for WFP, working for my own clients, trying to keep up with social media, market my books as much as I can, and get in a few runs on Destiny.

 Would you care to share something about your home life?

Like a lot of authors, I have a very supportive partner, Kathryn, who is also a working partner. We’ve got a rather pleasant and reclusive little existence in Denver, Colorado, and we’re working towards snowbirding between this house and something in either Costa Rica or Roatan… tropical and humid with scuba diving and deep sea fishing.

Roatan sounds appealing, especially this time of year. That said, what motivates or inspires you?

Music. Hell, I make my own soundtracks (sort of) for my books, can point to specific scenes in novels that were inspired by certain songs, and use music to keep going throughout the day. You can check out my playlists at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6cN7Zoi63khjYtdemFMx9Q/playlists

What else?

That’s an amalgam. I guess I’d have to say movies and music and Robert Heinlein and Julian May and Stephen Brust and Zelazny and Clarke and Laumer. My brother is in there, and certain characters I’ve been exposed to. I think I also have to say Firefly. That’s a complex question, and the answer is all over the place.

Before I share some of your work, let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a … dick.

The one thing I cannot do without is: music.

The one thing I would change about my life: being able to write full-time.

My biggest peeve is: willful stupidity.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: my home.

Thanks Quincy for taking time out of your difficult schedule for this interview. Since I’ve begun interfacing with WFP, I had several glimpses just how jam-packed that schedule can be.

For those visitors who’ve hung around to sample Quincy’s writing, here is a sample from Blood Ties, Book 1 in The Blood War Chronicles. At the end, you’ll find Quincy’s social links as well as links to purchase his books.

1600Cover The trooper’s chaingun spun up, but Jake picked up the whine of a second chaingun somewhere closer to the bridge. From behind a stack of crates at the water’s edge, Cole stepped into view, chaingun in hand.

“Jake!” Cole screamed.

Jake was already diving away from Ghiss as he watched the chaos unfold. Most of Szilágyi’s men had heard the second chaingun and, like amateurs, were turning to see what it was without bringing their guns around. Szilágyi had obviously heard the sound of the second chaingun, because he dove to the side. He seemed to be considerably better at math than his own man with the chaingun, or maybe the man didn’t hear Cole’s weapon over his own. He merely stood there like a Greek statue with a mean grin splitting his face.

A flash of gunfire erupted from the man’s weapon, and although Ghiss was already moving, Jake saw sparks fly from those skeletal limbs as several rounds hit home. That’s when Cole’s burst took Szilágyi’s man in the back and turned the poor bastard’s chest into a crimson blossom. The chaingun flew from his arms as he went down. Cole swept left and right with the chaingun, chewing up the pistol-wielding assassins. Several managed to turn their pistols and get shots off, but they missed Cole.

Cole, however, didn’t miss them, and they dropped in heaps with chunks torn out of their bodies.

That’s when Jake spotted shadows moving towards them from further up along the channel near the second bridge.

“Cole!” Jake shouted. “On your left!” Jake heard a clank from his right and turned to see the nearest assault unit cutting into the upper cockpit of Qi’s digger. A horrible scream filled the night. Blood poured out and ran down the top of the digger. Then the claw lifted and pressed into the plate covering of Qi’s cockpit.

Jake heard Cole’s chaingun cook off again in short bursts, followed by an occasional scream from the men approaching. Jake’s eyes were riveted on the digger.

The hydraulics of the massive claw screamed as they bit slowly through the black cockpit cover. “Qi!” Jake shouted. He yanked his pistols and unloaded them at the Confederate unit, the rounds sparking harmlessly off the cylindrical hull. Both pistols clicked empty. “Qi!” he screamed again and charged forward just as the digger’s arms pressed up against the assault unit.

“Jake, stay back,” Qi yelled through the machine’s speakers. The cockpit opened as she pushed. She peeked out the top to avoid getting cut in half. Jake saw her close her eyes, raise her hand, and begin making short, swift motions with her fingers, and he could see her muttering something.

The free claw rose up, ready to crash down up her. Her eyes shot open and her hand stretched forth. She pointed at the machine leaning over her and yelled a single, incomprehensible word. A ball of flame shot forth from her finger and grew impossibly large in the short distance it took to travel from her hand to the assault unit.

Both machines were caught in the ensuing explosion, blowing Jake back with the force of the blast. From his back he watched the assault unit rise up into the air, rotate slowly away from the digger, up and over, to crash heavily on its back. Jake could see a melted, slag-edged hole about a foot in diameter in the cylindrical cockpit.

“Qi!” he screamed.

Jake knew the smell of charred flesh, and it filled the air. Miraculously, Qi was still alive and seemed to be unharmed. He tore his gaze away from the ravaged assault unit to focus on four men in black running between several stacks of crates toward the digger with upraised swords. One of them was well ahead of the others and angling straight for Qi.

“God damn it,” Jake muttered, realizing that he was out of options.

Website:                     http://www.quincyallen.com/

Facebook:                  https://www.facebook.com/Quincy.Allen.Author

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/Quincy_J_Allen

Book purchase links:

Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Ties-Book-War-Chronicles/dp/1614753350/

Kobo:                          https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/blood-ties-68

Nook:                         http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-ties-quincy-j-allen/1122789262?ean=2940151072113

Smashwords:             http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/584817