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 both ascending talent and established authors who write everything from young adult novels to romance, erotica, historical fiction, non-fiction and more, not to mention my own genres. We will explore not only their writing, but the varied lives and interests that drive these American, Canadian, Australian, Asian and European creators of today’s genre and mainstream literature.

I hope to create interviews that are interesting enough to entice you to return time and again. I also invite you to subscribe to this website’s mailing list to keep abreast of what’s on the horizon.

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 18 – A. J. Mayall Interview

By day, A.J. Mayall works in the indie publishing field and has quality checked nearly half a million manuscripts. He lives in California with his husband and his best friend. An avid gamer, A.J.got his writing start in the gaming industry with a focus on community events and content. As an LGBT author on the autism spectrum, he feels it is his duty to write diversity into his works, to ensure that readers have new and varied worlds to enjoy. The rumors that he is a menagerie of hive-minded sentient spiders wearing a human suit are sheer fallacy and should be ignored.

Today, we’re focusing on his latest release, The Art of Madness (The GearWitch Investigations), an urban fantasy published by WordFire Press on November 15, 2018. Its premise:

Phoenix McGee became a detective to show the world he was mature and reliable, capable of running his own life and business.

It’s just a shame he can’t adult his way out of a paper bag.

Being attuned to the clockwork nature of the universe and able to bend the fundamental laws of reality comes with the bonus that his powers don’t show up under any scans, leaving him in a loophole where he can use his powers without legal restriction… or protection.

On the verge of losing everything, he takes on a simple case of suspected adultery, something to keep the lights on and the creditors at bay. Little did he suspect his life would become a chaotic whirlwind of false leads, uneasy alliances, mob ties, and a woman who punches with a sedan.

Bodies pile up as he struggles to keep things normal for himself and his assistant, Suzette DiMarco. Phoenix will need his wits if he plans to solve the case and save himself, his livelihood, and everyone around him… because cosmic powers don’t pay the bills.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

There is more to come after it, and much to come before it. Also, I made a point of having my work pass the Bechdel Test. A world with diversity as a focus point, an urban fantasy without all the grimdark overcast.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

This is an idea I’ve had for the better part of 2 decades, a wide spanning non linear saga. The Art of Madness is the entry point, but it is NOT the beginning of the tale.

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

I’ve noticed a lot of urban fantasy authors go for more Noir inspiration, and I take mine more from comic books and graphic novels. I like worlds where you don’t have to hate the world to be the hero.

What was your path to publication?

As I work in indie publishing, I first did this on my own, but went with Wordfire Press to give me more time to write.

What are you working on now?

The next book in the series, The Always Machine.

What else have you written?

I have been in a couple anthologies, and the majority of my work was done for video games.

What is your writing routine?

I livestream the majority of my writing on Twitch, and I use dictation software.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes, I have every book broken down into chapters, with chapter breakdowns.

Why do you write?

Because I failed at being a ballerina. To be fair, I love storytelling, and with my job I can help others tell THEIR stories, but I have my own worlds in my head that I need to get out.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

To quote Jim Butcher, “I don’t have a muse. I have a mortgage.”

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Story Structure and understanding the nuances of mythos was something I struggled with in the beginning, and now it’s sort of how I operate.

At this stage in your career, what is your greatest challenge?

Getting the time needed to write.

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

I’m all for collaboration, and I think building communities is something that should be essential basics for getting in the industry

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

Being on the Autism spectrum means having a different perspective on a lot of things, so to me hearing people react to how I just see things is what inspires and enriches.

Do you have another job outside of writing? I am currently a Vetter for Smashwords, an indie e-book publisher

Describe a typical day.

I wake up, head downstairs, turn on the computer and proceed to vet about 200 to 250 manuscripts a day. When I’m done, after about 8 hours, I spend some time with my household, and then at the end of the day I do my livestreaming, which is both gaming and writing.

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

I was an autistic gay teen in the Bible Belt during the 80s and 90s, I dare you to throw something harder for me to survive.

Do you have any pet projects?

Currently I’m just wanting to get the GearWitch Investigations done, but I have things lined up for later, a cozy mystery and a story like Breaking Bad meets Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Always have a Plan B. Life can throw you a curveball at anytime so make sure you have a way out should you need one.

Who are some of your favorite authors?Jim Butcher, Terry Pratchett, Dan Wells, R. R. Virdi

A.J., thank you for shining light on the author behind the words. Before I present an excerpt from  The Art of Madness, followed by your book buy and social links, I like you to attempt a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: good sounding board.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Personal space.

The one thing I would change about my life: Being born shorter. I hate being 6’5”.

My biggest peeve is: Anything troublesome.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My friendships.

Excerpt:

“We have a case!” Phoenix exclaimed as he opened the front door to McGee investigations, raising his hand for a high five.

“About damn time, McGee,” said Suzette DiMarco, his assistant, confidante, and best friend, passing him by as she entered and leaving the hand hanging.

The slender, six-and-a-half-foot-tall redhead shrugged with a grin, sliding his hands into his pockets. His attire was simple: a white t-shirt, slightly baggy jeans, well-worn sneakers, and a little too much hair gel.

She had met plenty of guys like him in her brief stints as a model. Looking at what she was wearing, it was hard to imagine her on a catwalk; the high-collared gray dress was practically dowdy. Her appearance was only modernized by her thin-framed glasses and her hair in a haphazard bun.

Phoenix thought she resembled what angry librarians claim their final form to be.

“Come on. We’ll have a new investigation beyond the weekly insurance claims. Husband suspects an affair.”

“Oh, so you might be ruining a marriage? I’m in.”

Phoenix scowled, trying to lighten the mood, “We might save it, you know. At the very least, we could maybe make a new ad from a happy customer.”

Suzette looked at him, nonplussed.

“I’m still not giving you a high-five, not before my coffee.”

In his twenty-three years, Phoenix McGee had learned a few things. One: No matter what life handed you, try to find the positive. There were already plenty of people who were dark and dour in his line of work. Two: A friendly smile and a bit of wit could fix nearly any situation. Three: Suzette can’t be held responsible for manslaughter if it’s before her morning gallon of coffee.

“Fine, be that way. The client will be here in a few hours. Once we get his paperwork filed, put it to my B pile, after the insurance cases. We need to keep the lights on, after all. I’m certain your grandmother will understand.”

“I hope so. She’s been messaging me about when you’ll pay her back for the loans on this place.”

He looked around the office. Filing cabinets were half-extended out, plastered with sticky-note reminders about bills.

“When are you seeing her next?”

“Tonight,” Suzette said, pouring herself a cup of coffee. “Dinner at the hotel.”

“Tell her about the new case, and the insurance companies still need to cut me a check for last month. I’m not letting her take this place.”

“Will do, boss.”

He checked the time. It was nearly seven, which meant Genesis would have just opened up the combination bookstore and coffee shop across the street.

“I’m grabbing celebration donuts, Suzette, anything you want?”

“Bearclaw,” she said, sipping her coffee as she settled in for her day behind the desk. After a moment, she smiled, breaking her usual unimpressed expression. “Go celebrate your case, but keep it cheap.”

He scowled as he walked to the door.

“What? I do your banking, McGee. Until the checks clear, you need to keep a tight budget. You know, like a functional adult.”

“I’m a functional adult. Look at me. I’m running a business, I have my own place. I’m adulting fairly well. Hell, adultery is my specialty.”

“Adult, my ass. You sleep with a stuffed animal.”

“You leave Bouncer out of this.”

Suzette pointed to the door, chuckling, “Don’t forget my donut, you goddamned manchild.”

“I always thought of myself as more of a ‘rascal’,” he said, opening the door onto the streets of Rouge Mal, leaving McGee Investigations, and quickly crossing the street to The Books of Genesis.

He heard the familiar ring of the bell over the door as he entered, calling out to his friend and neighbor, curious what color her hair was today. When he turned to face the counter, he paled.

Two robbers had guns pointed at the rainbow-haired woman behind the counter. Genesis trembled.

Phoenix sighed, “And here I thought the morning was going so well.”

Those of you who would like to follow A.J. online can do so here:

Twitter: @ArbiterFabulous

Twitch: twitch.tv/Pound0fFlesh

You can purchase  The Art of Madness here:

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 4 – C. S. Ferguson Interview

I asked this week’s guest, C. S. Ferguson, to tell us something about himself. This was his response:

I live in the Pacific NW with my wife, two sons, a cat who thinks she’s a dog (she plays fetch), and a dog who thinks he’s a cat (he stalks and pounces). I enjoy camping, diving, swimming, lifting weights, reading, and just about anything that can act as a creative outlet.

I more or less spend all day every day studying or creating. I’m constantly outlining new novels and writing them, drawing things, painting, designing tabletop games, or studying whatever interests me at the time. Mythology. Anthropology. Military history. Ninjas. Pirates. The histories of various pop culture phenomena, like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Typical guy stuff, I suppose. I have no a social life (99% I on the I-E continuum) so I have a lot of free time to do these things.

I prefer science fiction and fantasy because of the creative freedom afforded in the more speculative genres. How else could I write a story about a mute psychic special agent chasing a group of washed up space pirates trying to bribe their way through an FTL jumpgate during an interplanetary civil war?

WordFire Press released his latest science fiction release, Devils & Black Sheep, on January 23 of this year. Its premise is as follows:

In the distant Heracles system, at the edge of explored space, the last pirates of the once-infamous Crimson Star fleet are trapped. Civil war has broken out between the seven systems of human space and the jumpgates that supply interstellar travel are closed down to all but official traffic. The pirate leader, retired university math professor Tybalt, is desperate to escape the system and attempt an experimental cure for the degenerative condition that got him fired from the university. Their pilot, corpulent ex-gangster Falstaff, clings to the hope that he can reconstitute the pirate fleet and return them to their former glory. Their surgeon, ascetic psychic Tamora, has grown disillusioned with their lifestyle and wants to return home to her monastery and a simple life of meditation. Their enforcer, retired military android Nicodemus, never found further employment except as a janitor until a law enforcement agent approached him about infiltrating an infamous pirate group. He has spent years sabotaging their efforts and is nearly ready for the endgame that will bring down the last of the Crimson Star pirates for good.

Soured by the Bureau recently moving him from active status to a support role, legendary but aging lawman Neil Tesso wants to reinvigorate his career and convince his superiors to return him to active status with the elite Spacetrooper raid teams. With the increased pirate activity in his home system and the growing civil war, the Core government on old Earth threatens martial law. Desperate to avert the arrival of the insidious Inquisitors and the suffering that follows and seeing an opportunity to convince his superiors of his continued worth despite his age, he pursues the pirates with zealous determination.

What neither side knows is that among the Crimson Star’s most recently pirated cargo is a crate of almost immeasurable value.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

That it exists. After that, I’ll let the book tell them everything they want to know about it.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

I set out to write a story about people who think, instead of people who constantly act and react. That was my diamond-hard core of intent. I hope it’s apparent.

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

It would be astonishingly arrogant to claim that my work stands out. There are a lot of fantastic authors with a lot of fantastic ideas. That said, I’m more interested in thinking characters than action characters, and am more interested in the bungled mistakes people make than in their perfect decisions. So I guess I write stories about non-badasses, which is different.

What was your path to publication?

I submitted the first 10k words for consideration. About a month later, I got a reply asking for the whole manuscript. I submitted that, and a few months later the manuscript was selected for publication. The publisher assigned me an editor, and we collaboratively tumbled down the sharp corners over several months. The whole process from query to published novel took about a year and a half.

What are you working on now?

Gamewise, I’m working on a narrative role-playing system with campaign settings for D.J. Butler’s Rock Band Fights Evil urban fantasy series, Quincy J. Allen’s Blood War Chronicles western steampunk fantasy series, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of Seven Suns space opera series.

Bookwise, I’m writing a sci-fi series about angels having lost Armageddon and being forced to integrate demons into their society. It’s told mostly from the angelic point of view, from an ensemble cast. The central theme is Nietzsche’s Warning.

What else have you written?

A whole lot of NaNoWriMo novels.

What is your writing routine?

The first thing I do is create characters. I write them out as an upbringing, achievements, traumas, personality, and goal. Then I imagine those characters telling me their story, and I write down the outline for the story that they would tell me. When I write, I aim for ~10,000 words per day. I dislike editing, so I write finished prose from beginning to end. When the manuscript is complete (complete and finished are different things), I do global searches for words I don’t like and find a better way to say them.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes, but my outline is quite loose. Sometimes the characters derail my outline and the story takes a different direction than intended, though. Pesky things, characters. They never do what they’re told.

Why do you write?

I can’t stand not to. Take away my computer and I’ll write stories by hand. Take away my paper and I’ll scratch stories into the dirt with a stick. I keep a notepad by my bed because I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night having dreamed a scene, or a character, or even an entire new story. I’ve dictated a story outline into my phone while grocery shopping. I’ve also typed one into my phone while at a rock concert.

At this stage in your career, what is your greatest challenge?

Balancing work with family. I tend to get lost in projects and become an absentee husband and father. I schedule an hour a day with each of my kids and with my wife to make sure I don’t become a total stranger.

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

I love collaborations. I sent out a request for short fiction submissions for a game I was working on, and that’s how I started down this path. I met a lot of great writers who submitted a lot of great stories. I bought the best ones for the game, and those authors got excited and introduced me to their friends and collaborators. It grew from there. The best thing you can do for your career is be competent and cooperative. If you are, collaborators will actively seek you out.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

I’m a boring person. Anything I’ve done, thousands of other people have also done. But I try to capture the experience in my writing. I’ve stood at the top of the highest peak for a thousand miles in every direction and watched the clouds sail past beneath me; I’ve writhed in agonizing pain and truly doubted whether I’d live long enough to make it to the emergency room; I’ve stood in the middle of a desert and wondered at the vast sea of sand extending to the horizon in every direction; twice, I’ve held a seconds-old newborn in my trembling hands and cried because I knew I wasn’t up to the job. Life is experiential. So I try to see what the character sees, feel what they feel, and describe the experience.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m a game designer, digital and tabletop.

Describe a typical day.

Wake up 5:15 a.m, leave for gym at 5:30, lift weights from 5:45-6:45, back home by 7:00, clean up, eat breakfast at 7:15. Check email (10 minutes or two hours, depending on the day). Phone calls (also 10 minutes or two hours, depending on the day). Second breakfast at 9:00, brunch at 11:00, and lunch at 1:00 p.m.. By afternoon, I’m caught up on contacts and ready for nuts and bolts work. Writing. Drawing. Reading. Background research. Market studies. I eat again at 3:00 p.m. and break from work at 3:30 to play with my kids. Diablo with Dad is a thing in our house. I play an hour of multiplayer Diablo with each of my kids, and I make it a habit of ruining it by turning the whole thing into a series of life lessons. “We defeated Belial on Torment! High Five! Now, how do you think it would work out if you faced Belial as a level 1 character? Life is like that. You can sit around in town and stay a level 1 character forever, or you can go out, take some risks, get bloodied up, get stronger, level up, equip better gear, and go farther than any level 1 character could even dream of going. But if you just stay in the safety of town, you’ll live your entire life as a level 1 character.” Eat dinner at 5:00, then return to work. I stop at 7:00 to eat supper with my wife, and we watch one episode of whatever show she wants together. Then I work until 9:00, at which point I clean up again and go to bed around 9:15. Repeat, seven days a week. Saturday and Sunday mornings are for chores and errands instead of phone calls, but I still occasionally field a call.

What motivates or inspires you?

Watching documentaries about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and about World War 2. Those were iron men.

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

Ignore it. 90% of adversity is imaginary. Nothing in my life is hard. Omaha Beach was hard. This? This is nothing.

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

I believe that kind of thinking is a pitfall of self-defeat. We make the best decisions we can, given the information we had at the time. Sure, there are things I could have done better. But that assumes I had different information than I had at the time. I didn’t, so if I was in the same position all over again, I’d make the same decision.

What is your greatest life lesson?

I believe that life lessons are experienced, not taught. My life lessons would be meaningless to anyone who hasn’t experienced my life.

What makes you laugh?

When my cat paws at my face in the middle of the night because she wants under the covers with me.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Stephen E. Ambrose, Antony Beevor, Robert Bloch, Philip K. Dick, Adam Makos, Andre Norton, Jeff VanderMeer, A.E. van Vogt, Kurt Vonnegut.

Thanks so much for sharing your time with us. Before I present our visitors with an excerpt from Devils & Black Sheep, followed by your book buy and social links, I’d like to conclude with a customary Lightning Round. In a few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: Loner

 The one thing I cannot do without is: A happy wife.

 The one thing I would change about my life: Nothing

My biggest peeve is: People talking loudly

 The person I’m most satisfied with is: My wife

 Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

 Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Select Start

Excerpt:

He turned and looked at Leer. The officer was motionless, a skeletal game piece, a mute specter of a secret policeman whose mind Staff could only guess at.

“The silent treatment,” Staff said. “More silence. How do you get anything at all out of your detainees, if you stand there and stare at them? I’ve got bunny slippers that are more intimidating than you are.”

He snorted and looked away from the officer.

An odd sensation trickled into his mind, again. His mind became cold, as if something had been poured into his brain, icy, flowing, snaking along each crevice and dripping into mental caverns that he didn’t know existed. He clenched his teeth and groaned against the pain, but it didn’t help. He tried to blink away the discomfort, focus through the wavering, twisting images in front of his eyes. It didn’t work.

“Drugs?” he gasped. “Really? ISB isn’t happy with their secret police interrogation tactics, you have to resort to drugs, now? You’re pathetic.”

A frigid lance of pain stabbed through his mind and shot down his neck, and he curled in agony.

I will kill you, Staff thought. You’re Number One on my list, when I get out of here. You’re done. I will crush you, and I will laugh in your face as you fade to black. But most of all, I’ll stab you straight through that stupid mask.

Pounding pressure stomped through his head, but the cold sensation faded and Staff fell back onto the bed. The wraithy officer remained mute and still as a tombstone.

“Okay,” Staff said in between panting breaths. “That one was special. I liked that. Do it again.”

He focused his body on relaxing, each limb in its turn, and waited for the chilling sensation in his head. But it didn’t come. Instead, the sinister officer reached up with a long-fingered hand and triggered the handcuffs. They snapped open with an ominous ring and fell to the floor.

Staff launched himself out of the bed in a blur of motion, his face curled in a mask of rage, his hands reaching for Leer’s throat, that thin, skeletal neck that he was certain would snap like a stick in his grip. Leer stepped aside, the subtlest twist of body, and Staff smashed into the wall. Veteran of a hundred brawls and boarding actions, he was back on his feet in a blink and lunged at the officer again. Again, Leer took a single step away, and Staff crashed into the bed that, a moment ago, had imprisoned him.

“You’re a fast little bastard,” Staff said. “But all I need is one hit, and you’re going down. You’re dead. I may look fat, but I’ve got a hell of a lot of muscle underneath it.”

He’s fast. Damn fast. I need to take him seriously, wear him down, play the long game. I’m not as fast as I used to be in my younger years. Or in my leaner years.

Meaty fists held up on either side of his face, Staff took a steadying breath and settled into a fighting stance, high on the balls of his feet, every joint loose and ready to move. He expected his silent opponent to do the same. But Leer stood straight and tall, hands dangling loosely at his side, feet flat on the floor.

This guy’s an amateur.

One hammer-like fist shot out at Leer’s mirrored mask, and Staff smiled in anticipation of the victory. Leer stepped back, the slightest motion, but enough to stop outside of Staff’s reach. Still, the gaunt officer was infuriatingly balanced, in perfect posture, upright and absent any lean or tilt. Twice more, he jabbed out at Leer, and twice the officer stepped away.

I’ve got you now, Staff thought when Leer put his back to the wall. Nowhere to run, you dodgy little bastard. And if you’re a witch, I’ll kill you and everyone you know with my bare hands.

His next punch sailed through empty air as Leer stepped aside, almost before the fist began to move. He lunged in for a powerful tackle, arms spread wide to grab the officer and pull him to the ground … but Leer stepped aside and twisted away with the speed and grace of a swallow in flight, and once again Staff slammed into the ground empty-handed. And Leer’s arms remained at his side, having not yet moved since the melee started.

Those of you who would like to follow C. S. Ferguson online can do so here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/darth.ferguson

You can purchase a copy of Devils & Black Sheep here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07N1XV16J

 

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 21 – Paul Kane Interview

Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over eighty books, including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts,The Mammoth Book of Body Horror andPain Cages(an Amazon #1 bestseller). His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, plus IMATS Olympia and Celluloid Screams in 2017, as well as being a panelist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications editor, he is currently serving as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network primetime television, and his audio work includes the full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, starring Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge), and the Robin of Sherwood adventure, The Red Lord for Spiteful Puppet/ITV narrated by Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint). Paul’s latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequels to REDBlood RED & Deep RED—the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell and Before (a recent Amazon Top 5 dark fantasy bestseller). He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan and his family. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

When I asked him to describe Arcana, Paul provided this:

Welcome to an alternate world where magic really exists, and where those who practice it are hunted down by a police division called The M-forcers. But some groups are fighting back! Callum McGuire is a new M-forcer who once worked the quiet streets of London (England’s capital is now Chelmsford, scene of the original Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins’ greatest victory). An orphan, Callum’s been brought up to believe all magic is evil. But the more he sees of The M-forcers’ cruel methods (implemented by General Nero Stark, and his second-in-command Sherman Pryce), the more he begins to question whether or not they are right. And when he unwittingly encounters a member of the rebel group called Arcana, he’s introduced to their world and realises that nothing will ever be the same again. Join award-winning and bestselling author Paul Kane (the sell-out phenomenon Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, the Hooded Man series and the bestselling Before) as he shows you a kind of magic you’ve never seen…

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Arcana is basically a book about the underdog, about people who are in a minority fighting back against a crooked system. It’s about how power can corrupt and how easily people can be controlled or the truth manipulated. I think that’s an important message, especially when you look at the world around us and what’s happening in it currently. Genres like SF, Dark Fantasy and Horror have always been a way to comment about things like that indirectly and this book is no different. At the same time it’s also got action, suspense, excitement and romance, so hopefully it ticks a lot of boxes for readers. I had a ball writing it and I think that comes across when you’re reading it.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

I think with Arcana I was trying to give readers who enjoyed books like the Harry Potter series something to move on to afterwards. There’s even a line in the novel where it’s referenced, that in another universe people who use magic like Harry are hailed as heroes. It’s also very much influenced by my love of Clive Barker’s book Cabal—famously filmed as Nightbreed—The X-Men, and even Dune. They’re filled with outsiders who are just trying to survive, but at the same time are forced by pretty serious events to stand up and be counted. Of course, in Cabal and Dune you also have the messiah aspect which I’ve carried across into Arcana, a legend that one day someone will come along to liberate the downtrodden, and it might not be whom you were expecting. As a fan of the more imaginative genres and as a writer, I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider myself, especially growing up. I didn’t really discover my ‘tribe’ until I started going to conventions and met other fans and writers. That’s really when I started to feel at home and accepted, I suppose. So Arcana is very much about that, drawing on those feelings.

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer that. I’m probably too close to it. But people seem to like what I do, which makes me very happy. I’ve been compared in reviews to some amazing writers like Stephen King, Robert McCammon and, of course, Clive. It’s incredibly flattering and more than a little daunting. But I also like to think that, the same as with all writers, my writing’s unique to me. We all go through different things that we bring to the table in our fiction, have different experiences and points of view, which is one of the reasons we appeal to some folk but not others. There’s a point in a writer’s career where they find their own voice, though, and the influence of other fiction – though it still remains – lessens to some extent. That happened to me when I wrote a tale called ‘Eye of the Beholder’, one of my Controllers stories which is being reprinted in March, in The Controllers, a collection from Luna. It was a character study really, about a woman’s life from start to finish and how it was being messed about with by those pesky Controller creatures, but when I’d finished it and read it back I just thought to myself—yes, this is you. This is what your writing’s going to be like from now on. The main character just came alive in a way that none of the others had done before, and that’s when I knew I was on the right track basically.

What was your path to publication?

In general? I started writing stories when I was in my teens, but they weren’t very good. At university, I took a module in Professional Writing, which led to a career in journalism. But I’d still kept up with the fiction and having my articles and reviews published gave me the confidence to start sending some of my stories off to small press magazines. Some were accepted, some weren’t, but I carried on and in 2001 a number of them were gathered together in my first collection, Alone (In the Dark),published by BJM Press. And it all just stemmed from there. In this instance, with Arcana, I’d heard that Kevin J. Anderson had set up a publishing company and thought this book would fit with the kind of thing he was putting out. I’ve known Kevin for some time, so I thought it would be okay to sound him out about Arcana, and at least ask if he’d be willing to have a look. He was happy to and passed it on to Dave Butler at Acquisitions who loved it, and the rest is history. It’s a tough one because, like a lot of my fiction, it doesn’t easily fit into one category or another. Yes, it’s Dark Fantasy, but there are also elements of Horror, SF, Crime… Thankfully the people at WordFire got where I was coming from with it, which is a gift to an author. My experience with them has been a delight, I have to say—from edits to cover design. I couldn’t be happier with the finished product, and I’m over the moon that they’ve decided to bring it out as a limited hardback as well as paperback and ebook.

What are you working on now?

Several things at the same time, as always. My wife Marie—who’s an excellent writer and editor in her own right, which is how we met—and I are just putting the mass market crime anthology Exit Wounds to bed for Titan. That features stories by the likes of Lee Child, Val McDermid, John Connolly, Dennis Lehane, Jeffery Deaver and Dean Koontz, and is out in May. Writing-wise I’ve just finished a couple of shorts that I owed, one a seaside horror and the other another entry in my Life Cycle spin-off series about a female werewolf called Diana; the rest were collected last year in a publication from Black Shuck Books. I’m also going through edits on a novella for PS that’s crept into short novel territory. It’s a monster story, a siege story, and my homage to the old horror books from the 70s and 80s.

What else have you written?

Oh, so many things! I celebrated 20 years of being a published writer a couple of years ago with a “Best of…” collection released by SST called Shadow Casting. That contained stories which have been filmed, won awards or were just reader favourites, so I think that’s a good starting point for anyone wanting to check out my fiction. I’m probably most associated with the Hooded Man mass market books, though: a post-apocalyptic take on Robin Hood set within Abaddon/Rebellion’s Afterblight Chronicles. That led to quite a few other PA books, such as The Dead Trilogy– one story of which was filmed by Lionsgate/NBC for their primetime TV series Fear ItselfThe Rot and my latest YA novella Coming of Age, as P.B. Kane. I’m also known for my association with the Hellraiser mythos: books like The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell—in which the world’s greatest detective meets the Cenobites—the anthology Hellbound Hearts, co-edited with Marie, and most recently an audio drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab.

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?

Quite a few of my books have been bestsellers, including most recently the novel Before. I’ve been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award several times, have won the Editor’s Choice Dead of Night award, the Skaadi, the Karl Edward Wagner Award for my work on conventions, and the film of my story Life-O-Matic won best short at the LA Independent Film Festival Awards, the London Independent Film Awards and the Wayward Film Festival, plus it won the Silver at the Spotlight Horror Film Awards.

What is your writing routine?

I try to keep office hours, though that’s not always possible, especially if I’m juggling a few jobs at once. A number of times recently, for example, I’ve put in a full day’s work writing then spent the evenings editing stories for an anthology that’s due in. But one of the benefits of this kind of work is that you can do it at home, which is handy at this time of year when it tends to snow quite a bit. At least I don’t have to drag myself out of the house to go to work! I also don’t know from one week to the next what I’ll be doing on any given day. You can try and plan it, especially if you’ve got a big job like writing a novella or novel, where you need to set aside some days in a row; I average about 3,000 words a day on a good day, so in theory it should only take a couple of weeks, working Monday – Friday, to get a draft done of a novella. But then things crop up all the time, like today, for instance, I had a book come back to go through that’s due out soon and I’ve got to put aside what I’m working on to do that because it’s time sensitive. Or you might get invited to an event you don’t know about yet, which is always nice—or have signings and launches to organize or go to. I’m definitely not complaining though, because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I’m a big believer in planning, yes. I’ll sit and work out an outline, or even chapter breakdown for a novel, before I start anything. I have to know where I’m heading or where I’m going to end up before I even set off on the journey. That doesn’t mean things can’t change along the way, and they always do, so I try to stay flexible. I think it comes from having to plan essays at uni and articles back when I first started writing and getting paid for it. And particularly when I have to do any work for hire or tie-in stuff, because publishers usually like to see outlines and breakdowns when you do that kind of thing before they commission you.

Why do you write?

I don’t think it’s something you can even explain, it’s just something you have to do. If you’re a writer you’ll do it no matter what, even if you’re not getting paid for it. There are times when things aren’t going right that I think about quitting altogether, but I don’t think I ever could. Then when things get back on track again, I don’t even want to! I was telling stories by drawing or with my toys before I even started writing, so I think it’s been in me right from the start. It’s also a way of processing the world around you, life and what’s happening in society like I was saying before about Arcana. If you’re a writer you can’t sit and watch what’s going on every day and not want to write about it, say something about it in some way. Of course the other answer is that it’s my job and how I pay the bills, and I’m very glad it is. I can’t imagine doing anything else now.

Tell us about your writing community and thoughts on collaboration.

I love being a part of the writing community. As I mentioned before, I felt like I’d come home when I found my “tribe”. I think getting out to events and meeting other writers is so important, because it’s quite a solitary job sitting at your keyboard tapping away. It’s also nice to know that people’s experiences in the industry, the highs and the lows, are all quite similar. We all have our insecurities and problems, no matter what level we’re at. Marie and I are actually running StokerCon™ in 2020 – www.stokercon-uk.com– and those kind of events are always fun to do. We’ve run or been involved in several FantasyCons, World Horror, World Fantasy, Alt.Fiction and various HWA UK events like our scripting day or the “Partners in Crime” day about crossover fiction. In terms of collaboration, I’ve only written a couple of things with other writers. The last one was a collaborative novella with bestselling author Simon Clark, Beneath the Surface, which worked well. But I should really do more, because I thoroughly enjoy the collaborative process. I think that’s why I like working in script form, for TV, films, comics, theatre and audio, because I like seeing what other people do with the material.

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

It’s difficult. As I say, there are times when I feel like quitting as I’m sure there are with a lot of writers. My wife Marie gets me through those times in all honesty, and gives me faith that things will work out. Mostly it’s just a case of hanging in there until the upswing comes around again.

Do you have any pet projects?

I do. My BA and MA are in film, so my pet projects tend to be connected with that medium. For example writing about the Hellraiser movies in Legacy was a bit of a labour of love for me, and I have a follow-up of sorts out now full of interviews with the creatives who worked on those films: Hellraisers from Avalard Books. I have a couple of other non-fiction film books in the pipeline that I’m fitting in around other projects, one of which I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, but I can’t really say too much about those. My other dream projects revolve around films being made from my scripts. I’m lucky enough to have had a few shorts made from those, and have a couple more on the horizon including The Torturer, which is being directed by Joe Manco at Little Spark Films. I’ve written features too, but have yet to see one get made—so that would be a huge buzz for me.

What is your greatest life lesson?

To just keep going, keep trying. Patience and perseverance are big ones in this line of work, you just won’t get anywhere without either of those.

What makes you laugh?

I’m lucky enough to have written comedy, one of my early collections gathered together a lot of those tales: FunnyBones. And I realised from the reaction to it that comedy is so subjective; different things tickle our own funnybones. But I do love the classics like Monty Python, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, Seinfeld, Frasier… At the last HWA event, both Mike Carey and Joe Hill were recommending The Good Place to us and I’m slightly obsessed with that show now. If you haven’t seen it, then drop everything and watch it immediately! And of course Marie cheers me up all the time, especially if I’m getting a bit too serious. We make each other laugh a lot, and I think that’s one of the keys to a happy marriage, or just a happy life in general.

Thanks, Paul, for taking the time to share with us. Before I provide our visitors with an excerpt from Arcana, as well as your social and book buy links, 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: Her husband.

The one thing I cannot do without is: My wife.

The one thing I would change about my life: More hours in the day.

My biggest peeve is: Stickers on book covers.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My marriage.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Just thanks to everyone who keeps buying the books, I’ll keep writing them if you keep picking them up!

 

Excerpt:

Callum looked around at the paintings that hung there. He didn’t know much about art, but bet they were worth a tidy sum. One showed a ship in a storm being battered about on the waves. Another had a knight in armour on a white charger, fighting a red dragon that was breathing fire.

“Cute,” said Gibson when he saw it.

“So, what exactly are we doing here?” Callum asked as they approached another receptionist.

“All in good time,” was the only answer he’d give. Gibson stepped up to the desk to talk to a woman who could have been a clone of the one downstairs, except for her blonde hair. “Mr. Temple, please.”

The secretary looked at him, puzzled. “He’s in a meeting … with a client.” It was exactly what they’d been told before.

“Oh, okay,” said Gibson, then made his way past into the foyer. The receptionist got up to stop him, but the policeman brushed her aside, reading the names on the doors to see which one belonged to Temple. He opened it and burst inside.

A tall man with pinched features wearing an immaculately cut suit rose from his desk, while the woman—middle-aged, wearing a black dress and hat with a veil—turned around in her leather seat. Surrounding them, on almost every wall of the room, were rows and rows of books.

“What’s the meaning of this?” shouted the man, who had to be Temple.

“Sir, I tried to stop them,” offered the receptionist.

“That’s right, she did,” Gibson confirmed. “But we kinda insisted.”

“It’s all right, Gloria,” Temple told her. “Go back to your desk.”

Gloria did as she was told, casting both Gibson and Callum a dirty look as she went.

“Now then,” Temple said, “I demand an explanation for this!”

Gibson walked further into the room. “What was the lure, Mr Temple? Was it boredom? Is that how you got into it?”

Temple frowned.

“Someone with your kind of money; drugs and drink not cutting it for you anymore?”

Temple’s distressed client looked up at him, seeking some sort of explanation.

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about, Officer. What I do know is that I can have you pulled up on charges at the drop of a hat. Let’s see, intimidation for a start, breaking and entering, abuse… Who’s your superior?”

“Does the name Zola Bates mean anything to you?” Gibson demanded, eyes narrowing. That certainly wasn’t his boss.

Temple appeared to think about this for a moment, then shook his head.

“Oh, come on—let’s cut the bullshit, shall we? We pulled Zola in a couple of weeks ago. She gave up all of her clients.”

“I’m afraid I still don’t—”

“We’ve been on to you ever since. You’ve been consorting with the wrong kind of people, Temple. You think nobody knows about your visits to the back room of that wine bar on Avon Street. But we have the rest of your lot, mate. And I’m here to take you in.”

“You have no right to—”

“Your fancy lawyer talk won’t save you this time. We have all the evidence we need.”

“This is absolutely preposterous,” announced Temple, rounding the desk, hands balled into fists. “What’s going on here, some kind of witch hunt?”

Gibson smiled. “Yes, that’s right. That’s exactly what this is.” The smile broadened. “I’m here under Section 27 of the James I of England Act, Temple.”

Then he pulled the canister from his belt and sprayed Temple with the liquid. Gibson aimed for the eyes first, and Temple howled, rubbing them with his knuckles. Then Gibson sprayed lower: into Temple’s mouth, covering his suit with the liquid. The smell was strong, even across the room.

Gibson then took a box of matches from his pocket and struck one.

Temple opened his eyes. “Oh sweet Heaven, no! Please…” His hands were clasped together.

“No good praying, I doubt whether He’ll help you now,” Gibson spat. Then he tossed the match. The little wooden stick seemed to spin over and over in slow motion. Callum watched it turn, the yellow, blue and white flame flickering as it did so. When it collided with Temple’s chest there was a fraction of a second’s pause. The next moment the lawyer himself was engulfed in flames. They spread all over the area Gibson had sprayed, down across his trousers, up into his face. The female client put her hands to her mouth, but that didn’t stifle her scream; though it was nothing compared to Temple’s cries while his flesh bubbled and seared. As Callum watched, shielding his face from the heat, the material of Temple’s suit stuck to its owner. Temple staggered around a little, then fell over. The plush carpet beneath caught fire too.

Callum looked around and saw an extinguisher by the door. He grabbed it and was about to move forward, when Gibson stopped him.

He shook his head. “Not yet. He’s still alive.”

Temple’s client was up out of the chair now, and seconds later out of the door. Callum couldn’t say that he blamed her. The sight of Temple’s eyeballs melting in his skull wasn’t exactly appealing. When the lawyer’s head dropped back and his arms—which had been reaching out even as he writhed on the floor—finally went slack, Gibson finally nodded for Callum to put out the fire. Wincing, the young officer sprayed the man, and the flames died down as suddenly as they’d sprung up.

Callum stood back from the blackened mess that had been a human being just a few minutes ago. Only the white of Temple’s teeth shone out, as what was left of his lips were pulled back over them.

“Best way for sparkies to go,” said Gibson from behind him. “Old-fashioned, but effective.”

Callum turned to face his partner, who was still smiling. He could think of nothing to say.

“You see, we’re the real knights on the chargers. They’re the dragons.” His smile faded. “And we fight fire with fire.”

If you’d like to follow Paul online, you may do so here:

Website: http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk

Twitter: @PaulKaneShadow

Instagram: @paul.kane.376

You may purchase Paul’s books here:

Amazon UK POD: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Arcana-Paul-Kane/dp/1614759448/

Amazon UK Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07MC142BR/

Amazon US POD: https://www.amazon.com/Arcana-Paul-Kane/dp/1614759448/

Amazon US Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MC142BR/

Books2Read: https://books2read.com/u/b5r9N6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 7 – Bobbi Schemerhorn Interview

My first guest in 2019 is Bobbi Schemerhorn, one of the group of authors I met after I signed up for Superstars Writing Seminar, conducted annually in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She was born in Nova Scotia, but raised in Alberta. She has lived all across Canada, living in at least five different provinces, thanks to her military husband. Bobbi enjoys watching a variety of TV shows and movies; she is, in her words, “a Sims 2 playing fool, and loves working with her hands making crafts.” Although she has no human children she does have one beautiful kitty who has reached her 18thyear.

Bobbi has self-published eight books, all in the fantasy genre. She has dabbled in Steampunk and Greek Mythology as well as Urban and Epic. Outside of her own writing Bobbi takes pride in helping her fellow authors with their work with her content editing and beta reading. She is known for her tough love both in her professional and personal life.

I asked her to tell me about her urban fantasy Bounty. She describes the book that is also touched by Greek mythology as follows:

On a world called Olympia, a terrible disease plagues the race of gods. As rumors spread about the disappearance of the anomalias, many infected gods flee through portals from Olympia to other worlds, including Earth, hoping to avoid a similar fate.

When the disease infects Rion, a bounty hunter who once helped return anomalias to Olympia, he, too, seeks sanctuary on Earth. But Rion’s partner, Temis, hunts him. Temis still believes the lies told to the bounty hunters about the anomalias. She believes they are violent, paranoid, delusional.

Rion’s only hope is to convince Temis to see the dark truth. But how can he convince her that everything she thought she knew is a lie?

A race against time to discover a chilling truth with powerful consequences.

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

To be honest I’ve never read any of the other books in this genre. When I started writing Bounty, Greek Mythology was the farthest thing from my mind. But being a pantser, I tend to end up in unexpected places.  My understanding of it now comes from my editor. She had commented that I had taken a new twist to this genre and approached it in a different manner. So you could say that I have broken the mold.

What are you working on now?

A six book series in a W.O.W/ D&D type setting. The first five books will be written in a standalone fashion, each character getting their own book and story. Then in the last book the five characters will come together.

What else have you written?

I’ve written two other separate series. The Guardians Series, which is a trilogy. Legacy, Sacrifice, and Obsession. This series follows a young woman on a journey of unexpected self-discovery. She learns more about her family and herself after she was resurrected from a car accident and thrown into a life of immortality.

The second series is my Mechanical Dragons Series. It’s a four book story line based mostly around a young woman discovering she has magic and the deadly consequences of such knowledge becoming known. She comes to this realization when she unintentionally brings her school project, a mechanical dragon, to life. When the wrong people took notice her world and her families were changed forever.

What is your writing routine?

I just sit down and start writing. I tend to jump all over the place, I don’t write sequentially. So one day I could be writing chapter one but the next day chapter 10. The more scenes and chapters I write the clearer the order of them becomes. When I am over half done I will sit and piece the scenes together. This helps me to discover where there may be some plot issues. I guess you can describe my writing routine as pure chaos.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I don’t create an outline but I usually have a good idea of where I want to start and where the story is going. How I get there and how it all ends is generally a mystery to me.

At this stage in your career, what is your greatest challenge?

My greatest challenge is visibility and how to achieve it. Millions of books are published a day, the hardest thing to do is ensure you are one of those million that people see.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I have been blessed with a spouse who not only has a job that can support the household but also encourages me to stay home to pursue my writing. So when I was laid off from my IT job in 2012 he strongly encouraged me to pursue my writing full time. And so I did.

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

I would have chosen to write sooner. I spent nearly ten years thinking about writing and never doing it. If I could talk to my younger self I would tell her to just do it and stop wishing you could.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Forgiving someone isn’t about them, it’s about me. I’ve been wronged by a few people as I’m sure everyone has and for the longest time I would carry around all that anger and hurt because I didn’t or couldn’t forgive them for what they had done. It was exhausting, they lived rent free in my head and I suffered for it. When I finally realized letting all that go helped me in so many ways. I severed ties with some of those people, but I forgave them for what they had done because I needed to let it go. It was then that I also realized their lashing out was their issue. It wasn’t truly about me but rather their own insecurities.

Before I present an excerpt from Bounty, followed by her social and book buy links, I’ll close with my traditional Lightning Round. Bobbi, please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m: Honest, opinionated, loud, and loyal.

The one thing I cannot do without is:  Chocolate, and my cat, but mostly chocolate.

The one thing I would change about my life:  Stronger knees so I can be more physically active.

My biggest peeve is: People who believe their actions don’t affect anyone else.

The person or thing I’m most satisfied with is: I’m quite satisfied with my life and my husband.

Thank you, Bobbi, for taking time out of your writing routine to share with us. Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

The one piece of advice I can give is to always follow your bliss. It may not put food on the table but it will put joy in your heart.

Excerpt

Rion glanced over his shoulder at his home one last time before crossing-over, through the portal and into the Hereafter. The hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood on end from the static caused by the two dimensions merging.

He pushed his way through Olympia’s portal. He could feel the warmth of the solid ground on the other side through the thin soles of his shoes. The Hereafter was a void absent of all life and sound; the space between worlds. He took a ragged breath. The air was so thin there may as well be none.

He spied the glow of Earth’s portal in the distance. He’d never used that particular portal before. Over the centuries Rion had traveled to Earth at least a hundred times, usually chasing the undesirables from his world, but sometimes from other worlds. The criminals would use the Hereafter to cross-over, attempt to escape to other places. It was Rion’s job to bring them home to face justice.

Only this time, Rion was the one on the run.

His circumstance was different. He was no criminal. But his only hope for survival was to seek refuge on another planet. Many of his kind in similar situations fled to Earth, it was the closest thing to a safe haven as they could find.

The Earth portal was approximately twenty minutes away. Rion would need to move quickly to reach it. The Hereafter’s air supply was minimal, and his changing physiology made it difficult to breathe. Gods could survive days in the Hereafter, humans mere minutes. Even though he was more god than human, his survival would still be difficult. He tried to pick up his pace and jog, but the dim light and the uneven surface made it challenging. Rion coughed several times. It felt as if his lungs were collapsing in on themselves from the lack of oxygen. He had to get out, and quickly.

The black surface was like volcanic rock and was cracked as if all water had dried up many millennia ago. But he often wondered if the Hereafter had once been a luscious and beautiful place, full of life. Tiny particles floated in the air around him, only visible if caught at the right angle against the warm glow of the many thousands of portals.

The Hereafter made him uncomfortable. The darkness seemed to enclose on him, and the lack of sound seemed to scream in his ears, like air rushing through a tight tunnel.

As he approached the portal the hair on his arms and the back of his neck again stood on end. The sound of rushing water filled his ears; all of Earth’s portals were submerged. It was going to be a difficult transfer. Kilometers of ocean separated Rion from freedom.

Before crossing-over from the Hereafter to Earth he struggled to take a final breath. His chest tightened and the thin air rattled through his lungs as he heaved in a breath. It had been months of planning, careful meticulous planning. He was directed to take this portal; it was the closest of all Earth’s portals. With his physical changes he would never survive the trek to any of the others.

Rion pushed through the portal. Immediately, the cold of the water began to seep through his bodysuit. It was made of organic material meant specifically for travelling to Earth. They had a series of sensors to help regulate the user’s body temperature in the frigid waters. The organic component also helped to make the suit more buoyant which would help him reach the surface faster. Rion suspected since his physiology is changing the suit wasn’t able to protect him properly.

The water was heavy and dark, he was certain he knew where he needed to go. He struggled, kicking his legs frantically to reach the surface before his lungs finally reached a point where they force him to take a gulp of air. Only it would be a mouth full of Earth’s salty ocean water.

His mind raced and drifted to when he had still been fully a god; when this short distance would have been a mere inconvenience. Now his ability to remain underwater had deteriorated. He knew the changes would only make this journey more treacherous the longer he stayed on Olympia. He feared he waited too long before leaving his world. The illness that plagued him was mutating his genes, changing him into a human.

You can follow Bobbi online here:

Blog: www.bobbischemerhornauthor.ca

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

You can purchase her book here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07JV9QY52

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1438445184

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bounty-bobbi-schemerhorn/1129710083;jsessionid=AEE98086C46280318EDE7D24AF359AEB.prodny_store01-atgap14?ean=2940156081653

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/bounty-21

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 17 – Christopher Ruocchio Interview

A new and powerful voice has risen among us. Christopher Ruocchio’s epic novel, Empire of Silence, is on a par with Allan Moore’s Jerusalem and Frank Herbert’s Dune. The first in a series, Empire gets underway with all the deliberation of a mile long freight train and builds to a logical, well conceived ending. Be forewarned. This is no blast-em-to-smithereens space opera. While there is physical violence enough for those who require it, the subtle threat of the ever-present Inquisition lurking in the background, threads tension through the story in a way swords and phase disrupters never can. The Chantry, whose Inquisitors are sure to be feared, like all religious fanatics, are perforce blinded to possibilities beyond their belief system. The fundamental posit that founds their beliefs is that humans are the universe’s sine qua non, all the while denying the possibility of any other intelligent race or species.

Christopher Ruocchio is the author of “The Sun Eater”, a space opera fantasy series from DAW Books, as well as the Assistant Editor at Baen Books, where he co-edited the anthologies “Star Destroyers” and “Space Pioneers”. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Christopher has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book, Empire of Silence, at age twenty-two. “The Sun Eater” series is available from Gollancz in the UK, and has been translated into French and German.

Christopher lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. When not writing, he splits his time between his family, procrastinating with video games, and his friend’s boxing gym.

I asked him to describe Empire of Silence and he provided this:

Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of “The Sun Eater” series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

Your style of writing, Christopher, is like a signature. Your unique choice of words, your frequent eschewal of traditional sentence structure, as well as the cadence of your prose, impart a greater surrealism to an already surreal story by removing the telling several steps from the ordinary. Was this a deliberate strategy, or simply a byproduct of your obvious love of language?

Is my sentence style non-traditional? It’s extremely hypotactic, with a lot of subordinate and dependent clauses, but I didn’t think there was anything unusual about it. I’m an extremely auditory person. I can remember virtually anything I hear after one or two exposures. I’ll remember a random snap from a conversation my friends were having in the other room without me days later, and so when I write it’s always out loud, and I check my writing out loud when I’m done. Good prose has to sound good, or it’s bad prose. Insofar as my prose is surreal, I made a conscious effort to make sure Hadrian doesn’t understand everything that’s happening around him. He’s not very technically minded, which allows the technology to feel a bit more magical, for one, but there are also events happening (especially later in the books) that are meant to defy human understanding in any event. So it’s best to write in such a way that hints at more, and to let the dark corners of your imagination fill in the rest.

Hadrian and Valka’s discussion about the Umandh while they were visiting the alienage at Ulakiel yields, not only an alien quality to the setting, but also emphasizes how un‑Earthlike these characters are. While most science fiction authors struggle to describe the strangeness of a person or place, you build an otherworldly scenario through your prose and dialogue. Is this a deliberate strategy, a happy accident, or merely this reader’s perception?

In a certain sense, the prose is dialogue. It’s first person, and everything here is Hadrian speaking with you, the reader. One of the things we modern people are really bad at is getting our heads around just how different people used to think about things in the Middle Ages and in classical antiquity. A lot of us are so thoroughly materialistic and rationalistic in our thinking that when we encounter someone who is, say, deeply religious, we almost think that they’re insane—when in reality they’re representing a mode of thinking that was far more common for most of human history than the way we think now. Hadrian’s tendency towards pattern recognition, to latch on to sounds or symbols and to see them as a through line that gives his life meaning (for example, when he experiences bright lights he connects them to the supernova he tells us he will cause at the end of the series, as if they’re omens of what’s coming), is very like the way a medieval or a classical Roman might have thought. Being somewhat religious myself, I find that symbolic way of thinking about the world a more reasonable and meaningful way to view existence in the first place, and I think the loss of it is something the modern world got wrong. So if Hadrian and his countrymen feel alien in this way, it’s because their cultural worldview has more in common with these older ways of thinking than ours does.

Empire of Silence is a story that is sometimes felt more than it is recounted. From Hadrian’s thoughts on the night before he steps into the Colosso, to the scene that takes place at the palace barbican in Chapter 49, more is inferred than stated outright. How much time do you spend revising and editing to get these scenes right?

Empire of Silence was actually completely rewritten after I sold it to DAW books (except for about the first dozen chapters or so), so the rewrites were fairly minimal after that. I do reread everything aloud before I send it in for copyediting, and I use that phase to sand down the rough edges, so to speak. But it’s always been my observation that many people are too afraid to say what they really mean, or are too embarrassed, and so there’s a good deal of side-stepping and beating around the bush. But really, this sort of conversation by implication-and-inference is less a product of revision and more a consequence of how I communicate in the first place, or at least reflects my personal theory about communication.

In the course of the conversation between Hadrian and the Cielcin commander in the chambers at Calagah, you reveal an understanding of socio-linguistic dynamics—how language springs from a culture and how the very structure of the language can impart layers of meaning above and beyond the mere words of the conversation itself. Will you tell us about how you acquired this knowledge?

I have a quibble with your question, if I may. It’s not that language springs from a culture, rather it seems to me that culture springs from the language. That’s something most modern linguists seem to get exactly backwards. They’ll talk about how language shapes perception (the Japanese have one word for both blue and green, and so it’s not uncommon to see a Japanese child use a green crayon for the sky), but then they’ll say people consciously manipulate the language to control populations, which is the precise reverse of the premise that language shapes perception. It’s foolish. Languages are almost Platonic forms (though they certainly change, despite the effort of we editors to keep grammar fixed in place). But languages are more long-lived than any individual human is, and they shape us  individually to a far greater degree than any individual shapes or controls language. We are its  creatures and not the masters of language at all. That’s why God is sometimes called the Wordthe Logos, in the Christian and Stoic traditions.

As for how I got interested in this sort of thing: because I hated linguistics classes in school. Linguists these days are all sophists. They espouse this postmodern ethos wherein there is no objective, higher meaning and words may mean whatever you want them to mean. They’re like Syme in Orwell’s 1984, who understands that if you replace the word bad with ungood, you destroy the ability of people to conceptualize bad as a concept on its own. Syme is certainly correct, but modern linguists seem to have taken him as a model for emulation, not an object lesson in how not to act. My interest in the subject came out of this conviction that my classmates and I were being ill-served by our instructors, who seemed more interested in advancing their private agendas than pursuing truth.

You recently told me you were outlining the third book in the series. Are your outlines detailed, or written in broad brush strokes?

The outline for my second novel, Howling Dark, ran about 60 pages long. I think it was more useful as a writing exercise than a reference material, because as I wrote the book I found I hardly looked at it, so the outline for my third novel only ran about 20 pages—just long enough to get the boilerplate for each chapter down, although there were certain parts that ran longer than others. Having written the outline, I find my thoughts are now ordered enough to get the book written with only the occasional glance back at the outline, which leaves me enough room to improvise where and if necessary, too!

 The Rod Serling quote in Chapter 10 caught me off guard. At what point in its creation did you decide to ground your story with real world, Earthbound references?

Probably in my senior year of high school. I’d been writing a  novel since I was about 8-years-old, and like the Ship of Theseus slowly changed out parts as I grew up. It began as an epic fantasy novel, heavily inspired by the cartoons I was watching at the time, and slowly changed. Around the time I got into college it properly became a science fiction novel, and the world moved from a secondary world to our far future. But I’ve always been a bibliophile and a classicist—as well as a science fiction/fantasy fan—and so it was natural to work in these references, ranging from the momentary Easter egg, like the Serling quote, to the overarching: The arc of the whole series is inspired by the Gothic migrations and Attila the Hun’s invasion of Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries. I’ve been utterly mystified by some reviewers on this score. One accused me of “stealing” a line from Doctor Who “like we wouldn’t notice!” Which was baffling because I had hoped people would notice the reference and be in on the joke with me. Literature is intertextual and referential by nature, after all! As for Serling, no one is surprised when someone references Shakespeare in these far future settings, but I thought Serling might surprise someone.

How did you find your publisher? Are you agented, did you submit to them directly, or did they find you through your relationship with Baen Books?

By brute force! I spent about 10 months finding an agent, racked up just over 50 rejections and nearly threw the book away. I had gotten down to the end of my list of reputable agents and decided to let the last couple queries I had play out while I started a new story. Fortunately, one of those agent was Shawna McCarthy, who took me on. I in fact tried very hard to minimize any advantage my then-internship with Baen Books might have given me. I didn’t show Baen my work for the whole first year I was with them for fear that I’d come across as unprofessional trying to worm my way into a deal I hadn’t truly earned. I didn’t want to be accused of nepotism, or of having gotten published by dint of some unearned privilege. This story is the culmination of my short life’s work (there’ll be other culminations later on, I’m sure), and I wanted to do it right, even if that meant rotting in the inboxes of half a hundred agents.

How did the story come to you?

I have lived with one version of this story or other for so long that I can’t really answer this question. Hadrian himself only fully formed when I was about 18, but the Cielcin and the threat they represent had menaced earlier versions of the story for far longer, when Hadrian was a different character with a different name. There was a time when this battle played out in a medieval kingdom, and it was the threat of a flood and not a destroyed sun that Hadrian’s precursors held over the world. Hadrian was called Caelan then, and the Cielcin were the Qorin. It was a high fantasy story in those days, not science fiction at all.

But really, the question of where this story comes from is the question of why I started writing, and the answer to that is this: my friends as I played make believe as children. They would be characters from shows like Dragon Ball Z  or Inuyasha, which were popular at the time. I was Batman. As we moved through grade school, our characters sort of individuated, and became their own thing. Soon there was nothing of Batman left at all, and my hero character grew and grew by layers and degrees. My friends left to play football, but this character—who began as Batman and became Hadrian, but who as I say had many names and incarnations—stayed with me, and I had to do something with him. Eventually, after throwing out a nearly-finished draft for the 80th time, I sat down and sort of sketched Devil’s Rest and the city of Meidua out in a scene or two, and the final Hadrian stepped out.

What else do you want readers to know about your book?

It’s a response to Frank Herbert’s Dune. I’ve taken hits from a few readers for being too much like Herbert’s book because of the byzantine galactic empire or the religious injunction against machines, but here’s the thing: Frank Herbert’s ethos for the Dune series can be summed up where Pardot Kynes says: “No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.” Frank Herbert is, at the end of the day, a skeptic about the virtues of heroism. Paul’s actions save the Fremen from the Harkonnens, but his actions result in the deaths of billions and the destruction of the Fremen way of life as water comes to Arrakis. He paves the way for his son’s 4500 year reign, and the series’ “Golden Path” is a plan to liberate mankind from hero worship and god-kings for the rest of time. I’m neither so libertarian nor so skeptical of heroes. Where Paul Atreides is a response to the naïve heroes of pulp fiction (your Buck Rogers and your Flash Gordons—and even Luke Skywalker if you want to be anachronistic, but accurate), a deconstruction, Hadrian is a response to Paul. Like Paul, Hadrian’s actions are terrible, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be the wrong thing to do (even if they tear him apart to do them). Modern people like to say that good and evil are matters of opinion—that they don’t really exist. That’s nonsense. Hadrian’s story is one of embracing the precepts of heroism that got playing straight by someone like Luke or Flash despite the horrific consequences of things like war and empire embodied in someone like Paul. And for me to do that, for me to enter into a dialogue with Herbert, the book has to share traits to invite comparison in the first place. If I’d written urban fantasy instead, no one would think to look to Dune for the other half (or third) of the conversation. So don’t be fooled by the sword fighting shields. Thematically, Empire of Silence and The Sun Eater generally are about as far removed from Dune as it gets.

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?

I’ve not won any awards as yet, nor do I especially expect to. I am being considered for the Compton Crook Award for best new writer, and I suppose I’m eligible for the Campbell in the same light—as well as the Hugo, Nebula, and Dragon. I would be honored to be nominated, of course.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’ve worked for Baen Books now for the last 4 years (1 of those as an intern). I’m their Assistant Editor, but don’t let the title fool you: I mostly do digital marketing, social media, PR and the like. If you email Baen with a question or complaint, I’m usually the one fielding it. I do some production work, some jacket copy, backads, and so forth, but I want to stress I don’t do acquisitions, so if anyone catches me at a signing trying to sell their book to me, I’m sorry in advance. But it’s been an educational experience. Its helped me get a better understanding of how publishing works, which I hope has made me a better editor towards Baen’s authors and a better author towards DAW. It’s also been a great boon. I have to travel to conventions for my day job, which has allowed me to reach more shows and readers than I might have done on my own. I’m very grateful to Toni Weisskopf and to everyone at Baen. It’s been a great experience and I’m looking forward to doing it for a while yet!

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I don’t know that it would be very interesting. I live with two roommates—friends from grade school—and will for another year. It’s time to buy a house and finish growing up. I’m very nearly as young as authors come (I’m 25), but I already feel like there are things I should have done years ago. My teachers and professors all told my generation to rebel and question “the Man.” In their day, I guess that meant free love and psychedelics, but since a lot of my generation seems to be doing just that, I figure I’ll rebel by marrying the girl I love and starting a family. I don’t think that’s what my professors had in mind, but I don’t think they realize that they’re “the Man” now. The world’s upside down.

Hadrian draws. Hadrian fences. Do you as well? If so, please elaborate.

I used to draw, but not very well. My uncle is a professional artist/industrial designer, and I really looked up to him as a boy (and still do!), and tried to learn to draw like him. But alas, I was frustrated by failure and rather than push into visual design, I made the lateral move to writing and that’s worked out pretty well so far. As for fencing: yes! I was a pretty avid fencer from about Grade 5 to Grade 11, when I had to start working nights and weekends as a bus boy and waiter, and I’m afraid the fencing gym has since closed down, and Raleigh doesn’t have another one at the moment. I was mostly a sport fencer, but I’m competent in Italian-style rapier (no master, by any means), with a smattering of Polish saber and some longsword. My father used to make fun of my lightsaber fighting antics as a small child and said I should learn to do it right, so I did. As it happens, I now take boxing lessons from the same man who taught me to fence, Wes Caudill. Wes was where I got Hadrian’s preference for fighting barefoot (something I’ve always refused to do myself), and there’s a little of him in Sir Felix and especially in Pallino.

Thank you, Christopher, for taking the time to share. Before I provide an excerpt from Empire, followed by your social and book buy links, I’d like to end this interview with a Lightning Round, because of the insights the answers frequently provide. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: bit of a madman, I expect.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Music. I’m a big hard rock/metal fan. Bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Blind Guardian. My favorite musician of all time is the late Ronnie James Dio. I actually own—and this is the truth—Dio’s bed. I bought it from his estate sale.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d spend more time on physical fitness. Boxing twice a week is great, but I should do something every day.

My biggest peeve is: People attacking J.R.R. Tolkien’s reputation. There was an article going around about how another writer thought Tolkien was a racist because of the way he treated the orcs. That opinion is so ludicrous as to be almost illiterate, and anyone who holds it gets a black mark from me.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: Most satisfied is a weird way to put it, but I love my girlfriend, Jenna, very much. At the time of writing, I just took her to the airport after a week long visit, and I miss her terribly. I feel very lucky to have her in my life.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Science fiction is in a weird place right now. There’s a lot of infighting, writers attacking writers, editors attacking writers, writers attacking awards. You’ve got the awards attacking writers back and worst of all, you’ve got writers attacking fans. I can’t fathom why any creator would attack his or her fans. It’s insane to me. One thing I learned from the aforementioned Ronnie James Dio is that you don’t do that. You don’t spit at your fans. I’m extremely grateful to the few fans I have thus far, and I’d be honored if any of you reading this who haven’t checked out my work might take a look. Empire of Silence really is my love letter to our genre, and I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Thanks for having me, Raymond.

Excerpt:

Light.

The light of that murdered sun still burns me. I see it through my eyelids, blazing out of history from that bloody day, hinting at fires indescribable. It was like something holy, as if it were the light from God’s own heaven that burned the world and billions of lives with it. I carry that light always, seared into the back of my mind. I make no excuses, no apologies, no denials for what I have done. I know what I am.

The Scholiasts might start at the beginning, with our remote ancestors clawing their way from Old Earth’s system in their leaking vessels, those peregrines making their voyages to new and living worlds. But no. To do so would take more volumes and ink than my hosts have left at my disposal, and even I—who have had more time than any other—have not the time for that.

Should I chronicle the war then? Start with the alien Cielcin howling out of space, their ships like castles of ice? You can find the war stories, read the death counts. The statistics. No context can make you understand the cost. Cities razed, planets burned. The countless billions of our people ripped from their worlds to serve as meat and slaves for those Pale monsters. Families old as empires ended in light and fire. The tales are numberless, and none of them is enough. The Empire has its official version: one which ends in my execution, with Hadrian Marlowe hanged for all the worlds to see.

I do not doubt that this tome will do aught but collect dust in the archive where I have left it, one manuscript amongst billions at Colchis. Forgotten. Perhaps that is best. The worlds have had enough of tyrants, enough of murderers and genocides.

But you will read on, tempted by the thought of reading the work of so great a monster as the one made in my image. You will not let me be forgotten, because you want to know what it was like to stand aboard that impossible ship and rip the heart out of a star. You want to feel the heat of two civilizations burning and to meet the dragon, the devil that wears the name my father gave me.

So let us bypass history, sidestep the politics and the marching tramp of empires. Forget the beginnings of mankind in fire and in the ash of Old Earth, and so too ignore the Cielcin rising in air and from darkness. Those tales are elsewhere recorded in all the tongues of mankind and her subjects. Let us move to the only beginning that I’ve a right to: my own. Born the eldest son and heir to Alistair Marlowe, Archon of Meidua Prefecture, Butcher of Linon, and Lord of Devil’s Rest.

No place for a child, that palace of dark stone, but it was my home all the same, amid the  logothete-ministers and the armored peltasts of father’s service. But father never wanted a child. He wanted an heir, someone to inherit his slice of Empire and to carry on—not as a man—but as an extension of our family. He named me Hadrian, an ancient name, meaningless save for the memory of those men who carried it before me. An Emperor’s name, fit to rule and to be followed.

Dangerous things, names. Perilous. They begin our shaping, for better or ill, guiding us by the hand or by opposition. I have lived a long life, longer than the genetic therapies the great houses of the Peerage can contrive, and I have had many names. During the war, I was Hadrian Halfmortal and Hadrian the Deathless. After the war, I was the Sun Eater. To the poor people of Borosevo, I was a myrmidon called Had. To the Jaddians, I was Al Neroblis. To the Cielcin, Oimn Belu, and worse things besides. I have been many things: soldier and servant, captain and captive, sorcerer and scholar and little more than a slave.

Interested readers can find Christopher online here:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheRuocchio.

You can purchase his book here:

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Empire-Silence-Eater-Christopher-Ruocchio/dp/0756413001/

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 3 – C. Michelle Jefferies Interview

C. Michelle Jefferies is a writer who believes that the way to examine our souls is to explore the deep and dark as well as the shallow, to manipulate words in a way that makes a person think and maybe even second guess. Her worlds include suspense, urban fantasy, and an occasional twist of steampunk. When she is not writing, she can be found on the yoga mat, hand binding journals, dyeing cloth, and serving ginger tea. The author and creator divides her time between stories, projects, and mothering four of her seven children on the wild and windy plains of Wyoming.

Today we’re discussing her YA science fantasy, Descending, published in May of this year. Its premise is as follows:

All he wants is to fly.
Ashby Standing has it all planned out: Prove his ability to captain a starship in the simulator, then enter the Star Captain Academy a year early, skipping another hellish year of being bullied at school. When a new street drug proves fatal, taking the life of Elija’s son Nicolai, Noble has no choice but to step back into his role as an agent for Trinity, in spite of his age and his other duties, including coordinating a twenty year celebration for the colonization of Caledonia. After losing Arial, Lyris is hyper-focused on making sure all of her children are safe and protected, even if it skirts what is legal or moral. Everything converges into a complicated mess as moral obligations, desires, and egos battle for dominance and for some, descending into the depths of dark is the option that seems the best choice.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

This book is a pondering of the story of the Prodigal Son. Getting into the depths of why he left, what he did while he was gone and what happened when he returned home. And what about his family? How did they react when he returned? Did the father truly embrace his son after everything he did? Was it easy to adapt to normal life again? And, what if the sins of the son were bigger than just gambling his fortune away?

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

Interesting question. I had a teenage son at the same time I was writing this who became involved in the world of drugs. I wrote Ashby’s story as I witnessed my own son’s downward spiral. I got to feel what Ashby’s parents were experiencing in real life. I got to see inside the court process, the jail, attempted recoveries, and relapses. I became very intimate in the emotions a parent goes through as they try to help a child who doesn’t want help.

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

I weave an eclectic mix of old and future into my stories. Floating shuttles and keys on key rings, Artificial Intelligence in the home and a box of old fashioned stationery. I like both the future and the past and imagine that even with futuristic advances, we still crave the security of older things.

What was your path to publication?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but took several years off to raise my children. When I came back, I spent a handful of years getting to know the world of writing again, practicing drafting, revising and editing. It was early 2012 when I signed a contract with a small press to produce the book Emergence. It was released October 31, 2012, Halloween, my favorite holiday. That book did fairly well and I received my rights back on it in May of 2016, and ended up re-releasing Emergence as Latent in March of 2017. I am now a hybrid author publishing both with small press and under my own imprint, Meraki Books.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a new series which is YA science/fantasy. It is a huge turn from my futuristic suspense novels. I have several ideas that go with this trilogy, such as coloring books, board games, and a field guide as well. It will be a fun change for me.

 What else have you written?

I have two series that I have published. The Chrysalis series and the Ashes series, of which Descending is the first book. I have two writing workbooks, one on story structure and outlining, and one on how to structure a series, and two middle grade books that teach manners to children using fairies and dragons as main characters.

 Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?

Back in 2012 I seemed to be on a roll. I took third place in a first chapter contest, first place in a song writing contest, won a publishing contract with a small press, and was a nominee for writer of the year in a local guild. Things happened, jobs changed and we moved and I took some time off from intense involvement in the writing world. Now I am back and ready to dive in again.

What is your writing routine?

My routine is probably anything but routine. I try hard to write during the day when my youngest is in school. Most of my drafting, revisions and editing happens during school hours. But I plot and world build best when I’m a little tired and the internal critique/editor is asleep or at least less aware. So for me, when I am not writing I am plotting. That’s something I can do with a pen and paper. And in all actuality, I am a better plotter/structure/detail person on paper with a pen. There’s something that happens in my brain creatively, when I sit down with a notebook in my lap.

 Do you create an outline before you write?

I do not outline like most people imagine outlining. I use story structure and that helps me create a story skeleton which I use as a blueprint for writing. At the most I use maybe 2-5 sentences to describe a future scene and go from there. It keeps me in line as I work toward the resolution of the story, but it also gives my characters a bit of room to wander a little. That way I am not lost in the middle of the story, and the story flows more organically for me which reduces the chance of writing stilted prose.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Writer’s block is a mean sucker. It can suck the life right out of you. Make you miserable. When I get writers block I start what a friend calls “just for funs”. It’s writing that is just fun. No one ever sees it, no one gets to judge or critique it. It can be 100 years in the future, or in the past, or scenarios that could never happen in the book. If that doesn’t work, I work on a non writing craft project. This year, I am redecorating my house as an alternative to writer’s block.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I teach community education classes at the local college. I am also fascinated by old creative processes, like old book binding, making paper and ink, dyeing fabric, and making soap and lotion. A lot of my free time is making other types of projects.

Describe a typical day.

My daily routine starts by getting the kids off to school. Then I sit down and do the business side of writing: answering emails, marketing, budgets and other things. Then about midmorning I sit and try to draft words. If that doesn’t work I revise or do other creative things like make book covers. If there’s nothing writing wise to do, I work on other creative pursuits. After school ends I try to spend time with my kids and husband. But, even when I am not writing the worlds in my head keep demanding my attention.

Do you have any pet projects?

I am particularly interested in feudal Japanese crafting. I am in the process of learning to make washi paper, ink sticks, and use indigo dye for fabric, paper and soap. One of my dreams is to make a bound book from scratch, from tanning the leather, to spinning the thread.

When I am not crafting, I volunteer to cook at the soup kitchen. We take food donations and make a hot lunch every weekday for the needy and homeless. We average about 60-70 people a day, especially in the winter time when it is very cold in Wyoming.

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

I would have not stopped writing just because I had kids, I would have at least gone back to school to take every English grammar and composition class I could take. I wouldn’t have re-started so late in life.

Thank you, Michelle, for taking the time to share with us. Before I present my site’s visitors with an excerpt from Descending, followed by links where they can purchase it and your online social links, 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: dedicated to my craft whatever it is that day.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Starlight mint candies

The one thing I would change about my life: Wouldn’t have quit college

My biggest peeve is: Dishonest or fake people

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: The bookshelf with my books on it. It shows how hard I worked at being a writer.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Don’t be afraid to suck at first. Learn to love revision, because that’s where the beauty of the story is. Just keep going, writing, revising, editing, and trying to be awesome.

 

Excerpt:

Someone slammed hard into Ashby Standing’s shoulder, forcing his chest into the cold metal of his locker as his cheek smashed into the chevron shaped vents at the top.

“Nice balance, four eyes, maybe you should get your ears checked as well,” Ashby’s personal bully, Mitchell, said. Laughter erupted from the students within hearing range. Ashby adjusted his glasses, more annoyed with their constant presence than the other student’s antics. The bully continued down the hall toward the science labs.

“What a freak,” another student whispered as they passed.

Ashby pushed himself away from the door and brushed his fingertip over the sensor to open his locker, then proceeded to place his books on the shelf and exchange his morning class notebooks for the afternoon ones. He was glad that Mitchell had moved on instead of making a bigger deal out of something.

“Ash!” Doran’s voice echoed off the metal. Ashby cringed at the nickname. He hated the burned and fire jokes that often came with it. Still, his eyebrow raised as his triplet brother, Doran, bolted down the hall toward him, followed by a few people in the far distance. Doran almost never called him Ash. Unless it was important.

“Ash!” Doran pulled some object from his satchel.

Ashby sighed. Doran never learned. It seemed Ashby was forever doomed to be dragged into all sorts of problems by his brother.

“Oh no, absolutely not,” Ashby countered. “Dad said I didn’t have to help you.”

Doran panted as he shoved a black ball into Ashby’s hands. “Remember when I said that I thought the coaches were altering the dantu puck weight?”

“I think—”

“This is the proof.” Doran met Ashby’s gaze with a certain pleading. “Please. Ash. I need your help.”

“What do you want?”

“Hide it. Put it in your pack, no one is ever going to suspect you.” Doran begged.

Ashby put the ball on the shelf in his locker behind the large physics workbook, then set his English book on the top to hide it from sight.

“Mr. Doran Standing, what do you think you’re doing?”

Doran looked over his shoulder. “Shit.” And he ran past Ashby and around the corner.

“Language, big brother,” Ashby whispered as he slung his pack on his shoulder.

“Wait, hold on,” the principal said as he slowed to a stop next to Ashby. One of the other teachers continued to follow his brother.

Ashby turned and raised an eyebrow. “Me?” He looked over his shoulder. Doran was gone from sight.

“We need to search your locker,” Mr. Davis said.

“Why?” Ashby shut his locker door and looked at the principal, folding his arms. The man was totally annoying, completely ignoring anything that happened to Ashby unless he suspected that Ashby was causing trouble. “According to the school’s bylaws, my locker is my personal property as long as I am using it and school is in session.”

“We have reason to suspect that you have received contraband from your brother, Doran.”

“Contraband?” Ashby actually laughed. “Um, no. Not without a warrant and my father or our lawyer present.”

“Grab him,” the principal said and Ashby was yanked backward his arms pulled behind him.

“You can’t do this. I’ve done nothing wrong, and you have no proof,” Ashby shouted. “Get off me!”

“Open his locker,” The principal said to his assistant. He nodded, turned to the locker and produced a master key card. “Search it.”

“This is a violation of my rights. I am assured the security of my possessions and information. It’s in the Caledonian planetary charter.” Ashby growled.

His locker door was pulled open. His pack ripped from his shoulder and hit the floor, where one of the coaches bent over and started to search it. Ashby cringed, his tablet was in there. They were going to break it for sure.

Ashby? Are you okay? His triplet Eiden’s voice echoed in his head. While Eiden being deaf had nothing to do with their ability to speak into each other’s minds, it certainly made it easier to communicate. Your heart just about jumped out of your chest.

I’m fine, little sis, he answered. She was way too sensitive for her own good sometimes.

You’re not at lunch.

I had to finish something for physics. He lied, the dull ache beginning in his chest. If he told her the truth she would for sure go to their dad and then who knows what havoc would ensue. He was enough of an outcast without his father flinching at everything that happened to him.

Those of you who would like to follow Michelle online can do so here:

https://cmichellejefferies.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/CMichelleJefferiesAuthor/

‪@cmichellejeffe1

You may purchase Descending here:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CTQF48K/

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 19 – Nathan Dodge Interview

This week’s featured author, Nathan Dodge, began writing as a teen, completing several novels, all, in his words, of questionable quality. During the next decades, he wrote spasmodically, in the meantime earning a BS in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University and MSEE and PHDEE degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. Although he continued to experiment with writing, mainly science fiction, Nathan served as an engineer and engineering manager in the industry for two decades before joining the University of Texas at Dallas faculty. He retired in 2014, although he still teaches half-time. He won several teaching awards at UTD.

Nathan began writing seriously in 2012 and has attended seven Superstars Writing Seminars. He has a story in the Purple Unicorn Anthology with daughter Sharon, a short story sale to Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, and recently sold the a book series of young adult science fiction stories to WordFire Press. He and Sharon will soon release an anthology of SF stories entitled, To the Stars, on Amazon.

In his spare time, of which there is surprisingly little, he loves weight lifting, hiking in Colorado, and solving crossword puzzles with wife Faye Lynn.

This is the premise of his WordFire Press release, Shadow Warriors, Book 1 of the Shadow Warriors series:

Cal’s father is drinking himself to death over the passing of his wife. He has lost his job and spent himself into complete bankruptcy. Their home is posted for foreclosure. Letty’s parents started out poor, but the business they founded has made them rich. Now, though, they fight all the time, and it’s driving Letty crazy. Tony has lived on the street for months with his prostitute mother, but he woke up this morning to find her dead, OD’ed on drugs. Ophelia is the daughter of a billionaire, but her father died mysteriously and now her stepmother is plotting to take all her inheritance. Sasha lives in a foster home with an abusive family that feeds him scraps and threatens that if he complains, they will send him to jail.

All five have terrible personal problems—and then one day, they wake up aboard a spaceship, kidnapped. They must train as the crew of a galactic fighter to defend the very civilization that has abducted them. The enemy is a predatory, unstoppable enemy that threatens the entire galaxy, including their home planet Earth. Either they successfully train to become a capable fighter crew, or they will die in battle. A gripping new adventure series in the spirit of Ender’s Game!

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Shadow Warriors is a Young Adult space opera, about five teens who are kidnapped and forced to train as a fighter crew in a galactic war. The underlying theme is family. The five protagonists have never had close  family relationships, or if they had, they didn’t last for long. Thrown together in training, they are first hostile and angry, but quickly learn the value of close relationships. The real theme of book one is that family is where you find it, not necessarily just the group of individuals that are your blood kin.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

None other than that I wanted to write a “cracklin’-good” story. However, the characters, themselves very independent, took me where they wanted the story to go.

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

I think my characters spend time exploring relations and learning the meaning of family to a greater degree than in many stories. But in addition, I believe that the story is a fun and exciting description of the beginnings of an epic galactic battle that will span five books.

What was your path to publication?

I spent nearly four years learning my craft after I finally started writing in earnest, with only one novel submission, which was rejected. I submitted MANY short stories, with a remarkable rejection rate, selling only one story in the Purple Unicorn Anthology with my daughter, and one story (a contest win) to Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge.

I shopped Shadow Warriors only to Baen’s Toni Weisskopf, which she rejected. Not surprising, since Baen doesn’t really do much YASF. I then sent it to Dave Butler at WordFire, more requesting an evaluation of where I should send it than really making it a submission, but Dave recommended that WordFire sign me to a contract. Since that time, WFP has agreed to publish all five books.

What are you working on now?

My first book series was a dystopian SF trilogy, which I have never finished. I am writing the third book now as I have time. It is slow going, as I am re-editing my other four Shadow Warriors books and getting ready to submit to WFP. The second book is already in process, and I hope to send in the third before Christmas.

What else have you written?

Two volumes of the dystopian trilogy, another YASF novel called The Freedom Conspiracy about a teenager living on the moon, and a novel about the first intelligent android, called I, One. It is currently submitted to a publisher other than WFP.

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?

Not a lot of writing honors. I have previously received two honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contests, and just this week I received a Silver Honorable Mention for a story in the latest contest.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I ALWAYS complete a thorough, chapter-by-chapter outline before I write a single word of a novel. That is due entirely to Dave Wolverton (Dave Farland), who trained me well!

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve become a far more “complete” writer over the last six years. I’m better at dialogue, character evolution, and scene description. I still struggle, and I still, from time to time, change character point-of-view in a chapter or scene, which is a real no-no. To quote the famous painter, Degas (modified for writing rather than painting), “Writing fiction is really easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”

Tell us about your writing community.

My writing community is the Superstars group, and I am friends with many of them. I would say without fear of contradiction that the writers in that group are all great folks, and I feel close to all of them. I have only collaborated with daughter Sharon, also a writer and Superstar. I think it’s hard, but frequently worth it.

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

Definitely start writing a couple decades earlier!!

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t waste a single day! Our time on Earth is limited, and we need to make the most of it!

What makes you laugh?

I must confess to enjoying ironic jokes of most types. I love the TV show “Big Bang Theory,” which almost always gets a few belly laughs. And sadly, I often laugh bitterly at the attitudes and prejudices of many of our public officials at all levels.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Have you got an hour? Robert Heinlein, first of all, closely followed by Kevin J. Anderson, Dave Farland, Brandon Sanderson, J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan. So you see, I like fantasy as well as SF, but I usually write SF. I also love Nora Roberts’ Eve Dallas murder mysteries written under the name of J. D. Robb—which are also really a mild science fiction.

Before I present our visitors with a Shadow Warriorsexcerpt, followed by your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: Good guy basically, but can be grouchy if irritated, and not very tolerant of stupidity.

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee in the morning! Or almost any time of day!

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d take a few more chances, and start serious investing a bit sooner.

My biggest peeve is: Traffic in general. And also, how many BAD drivers are out there!

The person or thing I’m most satisfied with is:

Person: My wife, and the way she has encouraged me to be a fiction writer. Even though she doesn’t like fiction!

Thing: My exercise routine, which has served me well for over 30 years.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

My favorite thought is a saying which I think of as applying to us writers, but can equally be for anyone who wants to lead a satisfied and useful life. It has credited been to sayings as far back as Confucius, although the earliest modern attribution is to something published in the “Princeton Alumni Weekly” in 1982 which quoted a Professor of Philosophy named Arthur Szathmary, who himself attributed the words to an unnamed “old-timer” who was not identified. That is: Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. I think I’ve been able consistently do that. I loved being a computer systems engineer and manager, and I fell in love with teaching at UTD. I probably love writing even more. I can truly say that I’ve NEVER had to “work.”

Excerpt:

 As they got their bearings, Tony sang out, “Formation sighted, sir. They are about to enter the system where we blasted the four ships last week.” He scratched his head. “They are very widely dispersed. It’s an unusual spread, approaching the planet. It stretches back in a cone-shaped formation nearly a thousand kilometers long.”

“Makes them harder to engage,” Cal observed. “They’re also probably looking for their four scouts. Opi?”

She raised her head from the portable. “We’re headed into an ambush, sir. They used this exact formation ten years ago and caught two dozen Warrior ships off-guard. Only one survived. We’re about to be trapped like foxes by the hounds.”

Cal got the point. They were preparing to attack; he had to move fast. He called out, “Red Seventeen to unit leader.”

A moment later, Valin’s voice snapped through their speakers, “Seventeen, Lead here.”

“Sir,” Cal said, “Our planner’s spotted a potential ambush.”

They could hear the sneer in Valin’s reply. “Seventeen, this is real war. Follow my lead, that’s an order.”

Cal almost screamed in frustration. “Lead, requesting permission to leap with engines hot.”

It took precious seconds to generate sufficient leap power. Going in “hot” would mean keeping leap power at maximum.

“Negative, Seventeen,” Valin said. “Form up for attack. Lead out.” The comms snapped off.

Cal swore under his breath. “Get Raj.”

In a few seconds Raj came on line. “Red Seventeen, Green Lead here.”

“Sir,” Cal almost shouted, “Opi’s spotted a trap. Heads up!”

A long silence followed. “Copy, Seventeen.”

“Go in engines hot, sir!” Cal persisted. “Warn your ships!”

Another long pause left Cal sweating. Then Raj said, “Roger that, Seventeen. Green Lead out.”

Cal blew out a sharp breath. “Everybody hold your breath.”

“I hope we’re wrong,” Opi muttered, “but I don’t think so.”

They waited in silence, Cal shifting uncomfortably in the pilot’s seat as though this were their first training exercise.

Shortly, Valin transmitted the signal to advance. Cal triggered Tony’s plotted leap, and a stretch of deep space lay before them. Silver dots scattered across their long-range displays.

They would micro-leap again to begin the attack.

Surveying their targets, the trailing section of the scout column, Cal identified about twenty ships. He and Red Eleven were closest, with the rest of the Red ships spread along the rear of the column.

As the Shadow Warrior ships appeared, Cal counted down, marking their attack points and exchanging target data with his fellow pilots. In seconds, Valin’s voice came through their comms, “On my mark. Three, two, one, leap.”

Cal initiated.

Directly ahead lay a Horde ship, with two more to port a few kilometers farther away.

Cal said, “Fire at will.”

Sasha opened up, and the Gatling cannon rumbled.

Under cover of its racket, Tony said softly, “Jump engines still hot, sir.”

The ship ahead disintegrated as they swept past. The other two moved directly ahead as Cal fired thrusters. He could see their blast cannons sparkling to life as Sasha fired again.

One ship exploded as the other fired at them, its weapons a combination of particle beam and laser blast, sparkling red as it crossed the gap to their ship. Their shields glowed red, absorbing the blast, and Sasha continued to fire. Sasha felt no contact from the beam, but the lights dimmed momentarily as the shield generator sucked power to absorb the energy of the blast.

Red Seventeen’s projectiles penetrated the skin of the enemy vessel, and the energy beam lit it up. Sasha had already targeted several other more distant ships.

Concentrating on tactical, Letty gasped. “Cal, ships coming in from six directions! Lot and lots of ships, maybe hundreds! Must have been hidden behind the planet.”

Watching the long-range display, Tony yelled, “Holy crap! She’s right, sir. Coming in from all over the place.”

Cal toggled his com line. “Red Unit, Red Seventeen! It’s an ambush! We’re in a trap!”

Valin’s angry voice came back. “What trap? What—?” He strangled into sudden silence.

Cal could identify at least twenty ships, the new type, small, fast, and sleek, zeroing in on his own.

“Bringing her about!” he warned the others, and leaned on the directional controls. “Sasha, you’ve got a straight shot.”

Thrusters flared and roared, and the ship swung toward the attackers. Sasha opened up, spraying bullets ahead as the ships came in. This time, Sasha felt buffeting from all the energy blasts as multiple ships began firing.

“Captain, we can’t take this beating long!” Sasha yelled. “Our shields are not going to last at this rate.”

Author Website:       https://www.nathanbdodge.com/

Amazon:                    https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Warriors-Nathan-B-Dodge-ebook/dp/B07J2SRYZ2/

Baen Books:              https://www.baen.com/wf201810-october-2018-wordfire-press-books.html

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 5 – Dan Grant Interview

KODAK Digital Still Camera

This week’s author, Dan Grant, has always loved stories and intriguing tales, especially suspense and thrillers that weave science, medicine, or technology into the fabric of the drama. Dan’s focus is thrillers. His debut novel, The Singularity Witness, is a thriller that mixes science, medicine, and technology into story threads. He is a licensed professional engineer with degrees from Northern Arizona University: a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and master’s in college education and English with an emphasis in creative writing. His engineering work has provided opportunities to work with a variety medical and technological applications, as well as get behind the scenes at military facilities. Those experiences have provided conspiracy threads that form a broader storytelling tapestry.

For The Singularity Witness, Princeton University was selected as a story backdrop and a place for characters to take root because of its unique setting, historical connections, and its active research programs. For a year, Dan and his wife lived outside the town limits and fell in love with the place. Dan currently lives in Colorado, where he’s working on his next thriller, entitled Thirteen Across.

I asked Dan to provide The Singularity Witness’s premise:

What happens when a radical technology ushers in an ominous future? Governments and corporations will kill to control it. So murder and abduction are just the beginning.

When a clandestine research lab disposes of its test subject and kidnaps a U.S. Senator to protect its secrets, those events trigger a federal investigation. The covert program requires the services of Thomas Parker, a Princeton University professor and cutting-edge neurologist, to deliver their breakthrough achievement. And FBI Special Agent Kate Morgan needs Parker to help her infiltrate the secret lab. They discover that no sacrifice is too great for a cause that unravels the mysteries of the mind and changes the world forever.

Parker and Morgan are faced with the dilemma of advancing the revolutionary technology in order to solve the senator’s abduction, save The Singularity Witness  and others, and survive. Who is The Singularity Witness? Read it to find out.

The Singularity Witness  plays off “what if” scenarios facing current medical and biological research endeavors. Some of those initiatives may fundamentally change social and geopolitical landscapes forever.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Mix some science, medicine, technology, and conspiracies together and have some fun. The Singularity Witness  finds ways to make these areas understandable and fun. It strives to be an “intellectually stimulating thriller.” Not only will readers be entertained but they will learn a few things too.

The Singularity Witness  plays with “what if” scenarios facing modern-day scientific and medical research efforts. It explores complexities to scientific achievements not yet realized.

I like research-based stories. I do field research as much as I can (rather than just make stuff up to fit the structure of the story). Many of the places and locations are real. I try to find ways to layer in setting and scene to add more story depth.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

As with all major medical discoveries, there can be doors that “lead to deep, dark passages.” How far will governments and power-hungry groups go in order to secure a technology that can rewrite geopolitical landscapes and control or influence mass populations? Where will ethics fall?

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

The Singularity Witness  takes a different approach to the topic, blends in murder and mystery, and presents a new twist to neurological science. What is neurological singularity? Read the book to find out.

What was your path to publication?

The original concept was my master’s thesis, written in a screenplay format. It was too close to concepts similar to reading the minds of primates (perhaps with influences from Planet of the Apes). Years later, I wrote a completely different version using some of the characters and attended writer’s conferences to help improve my narrative style and writing. Even though the story concept had meat to it, my writing was average. Everything went in the desk drawer while my engineering career took off. The manuscript deserved its interim fate. The writing wasn’t good enough. Looking back, I clearly did not work hard enough on the craft of being a good storyteller much less a good narrator.

Many years later, my wife heard about Pikes Peak Writers Conference on the radio. I attended the conference, and during a stretch of four years, I completely rewrote the entire novel. During that time I crafted a theme, deeper subplots and storylines, found interesting secondary characters. I had to relearn lessons, overcome bad habits, and found a story.

Oddly enough, during the duration from my college thesis to publication, much of the emerging technology that I researched actually came to fruition. I had to find explore new technologies that sit on future horizons.

Pikes Peak Writers was a great re-start. Since then I have attended ThrillerFest, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and SuperStars Writers and worked to refine the story. Each group has made me a better writer. I hired an editor and worked with a peer group to tighten the story and find my storytelling voice as well.

My master’s thesis was May of 1994. My publication date is October 2018. Yep. That’s a big span of time. But guess what? I never lost sight of my dream to be an author.

What are you working on now?

I am writing more of a catch-me-if-you-can thriller set in Washington, DC, entitled Thirteen Across. It still has a fabric of science and medicine as a secondary story element. This story focuses on FBI Special Agent Kate Morgan who is forced to confront a dark secret from her past.

After that is The Singularity Transfer. Thomas Parker and Kate Morgan face an old nemesis and are confronted with overwhelming odds. Pandora’s box is open. And the fate of the world is at stake.

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?

I have several Starred Reviews on The Singularity Witness. These can be found at:

Pacific Book Reviews

http://www.pacificbookreview.com/the-singularity-witness/

Hollywood Book Reviews

http://www.hollywoodbookreviews.com/the-singularity-witness/

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I’m an outliner but love the freedom to free-write between plot points. Outlines can be tweaked, changed, or redirected, but I like knowing my ending and story destination.

I like the hero’s journey because of my screenwriting exposure. Not all stories are hero’s journeys but there are a lot of tools in that toolbox to use.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Plotting helps some. There’s always a plot point to work on, investigate. If not, go back a revise and edit. Always try and push forward. Somedays there may only be 500 words written. Other days 5,000 words. Writing is rhythm. Find your rhythm and just do it.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I had to relearn how to write and how to be better at narration and craft several times during my writer’s journey. My original narrative style was flat and lifeless—concept and ideas weren’t enough. I went from wanting to write like Clancy and Crichton third-person omni to developing a more modern thriller pace and style and third-person close.

Pace and style and rhythm came over the past two years.

Writing is rewriting. I had to learn be a better editor. Trim words, long passages, and info dumps. Sometimes, shorter really is better.

Tell us about your writing community.

I support four writer’s groups: Pike Peak Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, SuperStars Writers, and International Thriller Writers. Each writer’s group is unique and different, yet I’ve been able to network with like-minded people that have helped make me better. People who inspire you and nurture the muse.

Every writer should have peer readers and use an editor… listen to what others say and take that information and try to be better at your craft.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Licensed professional engineer.

If you could do anything differently, what would it be?

Changing the past is dangerous.

For me, work harder at being a better writer the first time… without excuses, distractions, and don’t stop until my writing was worth a damn. But then I wouldn’t be an engineer.

But of course I think my writing is better now because it sat; I’m a far better storyteller for it.

What is your greatest life lesson?

More like words of wisdom. Three things:

– Life is short. Take chances and risks (without injuring yourself or others). Explore the world and see the sights. Do things different than anyone else. Dare to dream.

– It’s okay to fail. Learn from your mistakes and those from others.

– Surround yourself with people you care about.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Where to start? There’s so many and no matter what I’m going to leave someone out… here is goes… Michael Crichton, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, Tess Gerritsen, Steve Berry, and James Rollins. There’s so many more!

Lightning Round (answer in as few words as possible).

My best friend would tell you I’m a: nerd.

The one thing I cannot do without is: air.

The one thing I would should change about my life: I have lots of areas that need improvement… just ask my wife.

My biggest peeve is: long lines, rude people, traffic.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: (person/people) = family; things (engineering degree, licensed professional engineer, wrote and published a novel).

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

Encourage others: Find time and ways to give back. Mentor and teach. Spend time with others. In your own way, leave the world a better place than you found it.

Here is an excerpt from The Singularity Witness, followed by links where you can follow Dan and others where you can purchase his book:

Excerpt:

FAREWELLS

ANCRI, Undisclosed Research Facility, West of Princeton, New Jersey

Caroline Wang knew the authorities would view her atrocities as murder. No doubt they would be right.

She shook off the thought and cast her gaze down the intersecting sterile white corridors stretching before her. Deep inside her chest, her heart shuddered as pale lighting and colorless tile seemed to run forever. Trepidation smothered her like a swimmer caught in a swift undertow, her body submerged as an endless black tide towed it away from a distant, unreachable shore.

Caroline soaked in the foreboding silence before reaching back into the morgue and gripping the gurney’s stainless steel handle. In the corridor, a wheel on the gurney wobbled and competed against the echo of her shoes clicking on flooring as she navigated it through a maze of similarly placid corridors.

Caroline stopped at a nondescript door marked INCINERATOR.

Placards read: DISPOSAL OF MEDICAL NUCLEAR WASTE IS PROHIBITED. AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.

As the institute’s neurogeneticist, a biological data-farmer of sorts, she was responsible for keeping their Genesis participant alive as long as possible. But that had been a grave mistake.

Caroline cleared her throat, gripped the gurney’s handle tighter, and shoved it through the hinged door, which slammed closed like a blast of thunder.

She’d never visited the incinerator room. Disposal wasn’t in her job description. Gray masonry walls surrounded her. The floor’s dull finish soaked up most of the artificial light. A three-foot, dish-shaped door protruded from the far wall. Beside it hung a console packed with buttons and gauges.

Angst surged inside her as she searched for composure, while her vision settled on the crisp white sheet covering the body on the gurney.

“You thought I was your friend,” she said. “You were wrong.”

Her gaze found the surveillance camera above the door. Through the lens of the camera, she could almost see an audience of detached observers watching from comfortable offices located elsewhere in the facility.

The bastards were watching.

They should be here. Not me.

How many rats had fled the sinking ship? Nearly all of them. Most of her colleagues had resigned, citing philosophical differences. Others disappeared along with all traces of their existence. Her mistake was staying, naively thinking she could make the breakthrough. But in a year’s time, the institute had gone from resembling a thriving metropolis to a desolate ghost town. Those who stayed kept silent. Opinions were discouraged. And Caroline became no different from the hired boatman who ferried the damned across the river to the shores of Hades.

She slammed her palm into an orange, mushroom-stemmed start button. A pneumatic eruption roared to life behind the thick door of the incinerator. A thermometer needle crawled upward on an analog dial.

A waft of air filled her nostrils. The room felt different as microscopic particles escaped ventilation filters as a blower fan hummed to life. She knew what that meant. Air pressurization was a safety protocol—positive air flow introduced into the room to provide back-pressure, to keep fire and fumes from expanding, in case of a malfunction. She half-hoped the furnace would explode in a life-consuming blast, saving her from completing this mission. Disposal. Her current mandate.

But Caroline was not so fortunate.

A tear streaked down her cheek, and she fought a swelling watershed behind tired eyes.

“You didn’t deserve this. All you wanted to do was impress your father.”

Caroline stripped back the sheet to expose the naked body past a bony collarbone. Amy Richards, pale and stiff, was barely recognizable. Only a grotesque outer shell remained of a once-vibrant woman. Her head was shaved, including her eyebrows. Alien-like deformations and sutures arced across a leathery scalp. Thin, hair-sized lines connected the dots on her scalp to larger dime-sized gray circles, the obscure tapestry forming a fragmented set of geometric patterns. Her eyelids were sunken and shut, and Amy’s mask hid a recent, horror-filled past.

A year earlier, Amy had volunteered as their Genesis participant.

Now she was dead.

“This is how we repaid you,” Caroline said, tracing her fingers along Amy’s scarred forehead. Cold skin felt taut and rough, like starched linen.

Amy’s death had shown her that the institute’s Genesis program was a distorted conquest.

“I won’t let your sacrifice be in vain,” she said behind twitching lips.

Shielding her movements from the camera over her shoulder, Caroline withdrew a core biopsy needle from her lab coat. Using choreographed movements, she uncapped it, leaned over, kissed Amy on the forehead, and thrust the needle into Amy’s heart. After rising, she etched AMY RICHARDS RIP in the pale skin along the centerline of the body with the tip of the needle. She recapped it and returned it to her coat. Next she retrieved an iPhone, held it tight to her chest, and tapped the camera feature. The phone went back into her coat pocket too.

Evidence. And an insurance policy.

The world had to know what they had done.

Caroline folded back the sheet and flattened the edges over the body. Reluctantly, she turned back to the incinerator.

With a nervous hand, she opened the door and yanked the holding carriage out of the fire box. The protective ceramic coating on the carriage rails retained little heat, allowing Caroline to manipulate it with bare hands. She positioned the gurney parallel to the carriage. Her breathing stalled as she slid one arm beneath Amy’s torso, her elbow cradling the head, and the other hand below the buttocks. Amy’s emaciated body was lighter than expected, and Caroline had no problem laying it onto the carriage.

“Walk with God, in a place where no harm will come to you again,” she said over the knot forming in her throat. “Someday, I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Caroline shoved the carriage into the fire box and closed the door. After flipping up a clear plastic protective cover, she pressed a red button on the console. An inferno rumbled to life behind the door. The temperature dial on the incinerator leapt toward the 1600 degree Fahrenheit mark, where the unit would cremate the body in an hour and destroy all evidence.

Almost all evidence.

She stared at the incinerator, hoping to steal some warmth and overcome the soul-crushing cold residing inside her. It was a vain effort.

This was a funeral.

And she was the only one who had come.

As instructed, her efforts to get to know Amy Richards had been pretense, subtle coercion. Now Caroline was alone, with no one to give a eulogy when her time came to depart this life. It was a time that might come soon.

She knew too much.

And those who knew too much became liabilities.

Liabilities, well, they disappeared—like Amy.

Long black hair splashed across her shoulders as she collapsed across the empty gurney and sobbed. She wondered if the audience watching on surveillance monitors had returned to regular duties, as if this moment, the death of a human being, meant nothing.

Their Genesis participant was gone.

The world had to know the truth.

Caroline pressed a shaking hand against the pocket of her lab coat.

All will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.

Social links:

Website:         http://www.DanGrantBooks.com

Facebook:      http://www.Facebook.com/DanGrantAuthor

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/DanGrantAuthor

Goodreads:    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7097347.Dan_Grant

 

Book online sales links:

Amazon (print & e-book)

https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Grant/e/B07GT8X81P/

Barnes & Noble (print)

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-singularity-witness-dan-grant/1129410776?ean=9781732504011

IndieBound (print)

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781732504011

Tattered Cover (print)

https://www.tatteredcover.com/search/site/the%20singularity%20witness

Kobo (e-book)

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-singularity-witness-1

Smashwords (e-book)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/891393

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 22 – Larry Allen Interview

Starting with this post, I am resuming my practice of interspersing interviews of promising self-published authors between the traditionally published ones. At the suggestion of publicist Beverly Bambury, I begin by introducing Larry Allen.

When not working on his latest science fiction novel or short story, Larry Allen consults for the electronic engineering and embedded computing industries. He spends his recreational time flying light airplanes, long-distance bicycling, traveling, and of course voraciously reading. On rare occasions he has been observed taking the Polar Bear Plunge. He prefers cats to dogs, and lives with his wife on Cape Cod.

We’re focusing today on his novel, A Forgotten Legacy. This is how Larry describes it:

After eleven months of ship’s time, the Endeavor finally made orbit around its destination world. One of the most complex machines ever built, it had performed its mission flawlessly until a shipboard disaster wiped out the entire crew, save for one man. Mission specialist David Frey is alive and in good health, but his narrow specialty leaves him woefully unprepared for what he faces marooned over an unknown world and light-years from home.

Two years ago, Greg Parker was atop the world: a beautiful home, a loving wife, a senior position in a successful business, and a direct line to the man at the top. But that was two years ago. Now he drives a tired, rusty sedan to a job in a call center, and comes home to a shabby apartment and a note saying Holly is working late… again. But Greg is in for a surprise, one that will change is life in a way he can’t begin to imagine.

For Christopher Bishop, the world is not enough. The high-tech empire he founded a generation ago dominates global commerce, the company a household name everywhere. And yet, something eludes him, a secret he’s been searching for the last thirty years.

A Forgotten Legacy is the tale of how their lives converge, and how Greg Parker responds when he finds the opportunity of a lifetime within his grasp.

Written by an engineer and pilot, A Forgotten Legacy will be a compelling read for science fiction fans, as well as those who just want to enjoy an entertaining, suspenseful adventure.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

A Forgotten Legacy was intended to be an adventure beginning in the most improbable place; the story of an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances. My intent in writing it was give my readers a fun romp, not to teach a deep lesson or make a point, except perhaps that when life hands you an opportunity, make the most of it.

 Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?

I don’t know about a story, but definitely a lesson: Be bold. Take chances. You’re more powerful than you imagine yourself to be.

 Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?

If you asked that question forty years ago, the answer would have been “it isn’t.” But today, it may almost seem vintage; in the style of the classic science fiction masters. There are so many authors out there today teaching important lessons and making important points, that I think there’s room for just having fun, visiting places that you can’t ordinarily go, and seeing ordinary people stretch to something new.

What was your path to publication?

I opted for independent publication, because my writing isn’t mainstream. Traditional publishers need to cater to a common denominator to make their bottom line. I have no such restriction. Independent publishing provides me with a degree of freedom difficult to achieve in the commercial world. I’d much rather reach for a small, interested and interesting audience than a large, generic one.

 What are you working on now?

Another novel: The Sixth World. Without giving away too much, it’s a story set on a future Utopian earth, in which the protagonist discovers a deeply buried fatal flaw in that society; one that makes its eventual collapse inevitable. In addition to making some observations about our own world that I hope my readers will find thought-provoking, I’ll also be taking them to some pretty interesting new places. It’s out with beta readers now, and I hope it will be released early next year.

 What is your writing routine?

Early morning. I can’t recommend this for everyone, but my muse definitely speaks the loudest just after sunrise. It’s also the time least susceptible to interruptions and distractions. I try to do my work on a laptop NOT connected to the internet, because that can be one of the biggest distractions—I step away from my work to research a minute detail, and half an hour later I’m watching a YouTube video on how to milk a giraffe. Better to avoid the temptation altogether—factual errors can be fixed during editing.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Not an outline so much as a synopsis—something that might evolve into a blurb, or back cover material. But it’s not a strait jacket—very often a story will veer off in a direction all its own. And that’s fine.

Why do you write?

Well, I’d like to claim it’s to entertain my readers, or that I’ve got an important message to deliver. But I think my primal motivation is different. I was once diagnosed by a psychologist as someone who needed an audience. Well, if you’ve got a somewhat private personality and you need an audience, your only real choices are to either commit a heinous crime or write. I chose the latter. And I hope that when I do so, I’m able to entertain my readers and perhaps deliver a message of some importance as well.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Change tactics. There’s a saying that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Well, it’s also the definition of perseverance. That said, a logjam, writer’s block, whatever you want to call it, can be overcome by shifting tactics. If you’ve been pantsing, try outlining for a while. Or vice-versa. Take a good look at your characters, and work on their biographies and background for a while. If they’re well-enough defined, they’ll almost write the manuscript for you. I’ve also made good use of the Oblique Strategies card deck. This isn’t a plug; there are versions of the deck that are in the public domain. It was created by a musician and an artist, but I’ve found it to be very effective in catalyzing the written word as well.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

In real life, I’m an electrical engineering consultant, specializing in embedded systems—the microcomputers that control everything from telephones to refrigerators to arcade games to missile simulators. You’ll see some of my career experience in A Forgotten Legacy, and hopefully I’ve gotten all the technical details right.

Describe a typical day.

There is no typical day, so I’ll describe an ideal day: Up at roughly six AM. Quick bike ride to the beach (assuming it’s summer), an equally quick swim, and then back home for a shower, some breakfast, and picking up where I left off on my latest writing project. Two to three hours there, and then to the relatively mundane work of satisfying my consulting clients. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to isolate and fix the bug I’ve been chasing for the last several days. If I’m extremely lucky, it won’t be a bug that I created. Break for a late lunch with my loving bride, and then back to consulting work. If it’s Monday, I’m off to meet with my writers group, where they’ll be critiquing my science fiction and I’ll be critiquing their YA and cozy mysteries. Evenings spent reading, fiddling with the computer, or burning my fingers with the soldering iron while working on one project or another. Little or no television. Life’s too short for it.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

Well, striking a balance between a wide variety of interests and managing a successful marriage can be a challenge. I’m fortunate to have a spouse with a good sense of humor, an affection for weirdness, and zero willingness to suffer in silence—if I screw up she’ll let me know. That can be uncomfortable, but it also keeps things from ever getting too far off track.

Thanks, Larry, for sharing your thoughts on yourself and your work. Before I present A Forgotten Legacy’s excerpt, followed by your social and book buy links, 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: Man of honor. Old fashioned, maybe, but without it, what else matters?

The one thing I cannot do without is: My memories. They’re the sum of what I am.

The one thing I would change about my life: Extend it. I can’t die; I’ve got stuff to do.

My biggest peeve is: Lack of self-confidence. In others, and especially in myself.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: I think I exist in a state of continuous marginal dissatisfaction.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

The thought is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s not mine, but I’ll share it anyway. “Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.” Of course, knowing what you’re doing helps, too, but you can learn along the way. Drop everything and start doing it now.

 

From Chapter 4 of A Forgotten Legacy

It wasn’t that much longer before the shuttle entered the atmosphere, deployed its descent shroud, and began to decelerate. Not long after, it was in a steep aerodynamic glide, descending toward a billowing cloud deck.

“This must be some of the weather the science team was talking about,” Dave mused. “They said the large areas of water would result in much more robust cloud formation. Look at the size of…”

They entered the first cloud, and it was as though a giant hand had slammed against the bottom of the shuttle. With nothing but white visible through the window, the effect was even more unnerving. Ellen let out a brief shriek, as Dave uttered a subdued “wow…” and they both cinched up their harnesses. The shuttle pitched to the left and then dropped so rapidly that their bodies strained against the belts. The rate of descent continued to increase, wing surfaces twitching as the autocontrol system struggled to keep the shuttle upright and descending at a survivable speed.

Another bang, accompanied by a brutal shove against the seats, but this time accompanied by a chime and a blinking indicator ‘Autocontrol limits reached – disengaging’. Dave almost broke his finger stabbing the Engage button as the battering continued. At once, the shuttle was pounded by… something—what looked like a blast of gravel-sized ice pellets. There was an enormous, overpowering flash of light, accompanied by a lurch to the left. The left wing dipped and the shuttle flipped completely over, and then somehow righted itself. The ice-pelting continued, now with larger chunks. A crack appeared in the right window. The ship continued to descend, both its passengers holding onto whatever they could. Three of the status indicators on the panel turned from green to red, but the shuttle managed to hold together.

And then the vibration ended, even as the shuttle began being pounded by torrential rain. Ellen stared out the window in front of her, a look of resignation on her face. But her thoughts were interrupted by a rapid beeping, accompanied by a voice message: “Alert—prepare to engage manual control.” The rhythmic thrumming of the engines was audible, but just barely, over the sound of the rain.

Dave peered out his window, struggling to see anything through the downpour. “Can’t see a damn thing.” The shuttle continued to descend, even as the mechanized voice prompted “Alert—manual control, thirty seconds.”

At that instant, the shuttle broke out of the clouds into a dark, rainy sky with nothing but forest below.

Dave wiped a bead of sweat running into his right eye and surveyed the warning indicators on the instrument panel. The shuttle continued to buck and lurch in the remaining turbulence of the storm, but nothing on the screens suggested imminent disaster.

“Okay, we’ve lost backup communications, ground proximity radar, and primary cooling. But the engines are healthy, and we’re holding pressure. We haven’t lost anything mission-critical; we’re still on plan. Go ahead and start flying the search pattern while I get the computer loaded for the return trip. If we don’t hear anything, I want to be ready to head back up as quickly as possible.” He released his grasp on the controls, as Ellen began flying from her side, and began rubbing his hands together to relieve the numbness. He winced, realizing his grip had been nearly enough to deform the metal.

Ellen turned into the first leg of the search pattern as she eased up on the throttles, aligning their position with the route on the display.

Just as she did, the shuttle began dropping like a stone. Even in the safety harness, Dave’s head brushed against the ceiling. Ellen slammed the throttles forward; in an instant, they heard the engines spinning up, fighting the downdraft. The nose tipped up, and just as the shuttle began climbing, there was a wham as it lurched to the right while beginning the climb. Instinctively, both of them gazed out the side window to see a three-inch tree branch protruding through the wing surface.

“Something’s not right,” Ellen shouted, tugging on the controls. “I think that branch jammed one of the linkages. I’m going to try to put it down in that clearing over there,” she added, gesturing to a gap in the trees ahead.

As it loomed into their field of view, Dave’s last thought before the impact was that the clearing really didn’t look big enough.

Visitors can follow Larry here:

 Website:        http://www.larryallenonline.com

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/people/Larry-Allen/100010705326550

To purchase A Forgotten Legacy, click here:

 Amazon:       https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Legacy-Larry-Allen/dp/194126803X