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, over the coming weeks and months you will find interviews with  many of today’s top authors—not only producers of these genres, but everything else including young adult novels, romance, historical fiction, thrillers and more. We will explore not only their writing process and get tantalizing hints at their works in progress, but we will also learn about the varied lives and interests that drive these American, Canadian, Australian, Asian and European creators of today’s genre and mainstream literature.

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

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, May 22 – Interview With Mike Baron

Solid reviews and a historic background are two elements that brought this week’s guest to my attention. Reviewers have this to say about him:

“I am a HUGE fan of Mike Baron’s work. The biggest influence on my Catman interpretation was the Badger, without question.This guy was scary/funny before that was even a thing. Get this book, dammit!”—Gail Simone

Baron’s book is a rocket blast of suspense that moves at breakneck speed. Along the way it is crammed with hundreds of hilarious cultural bon mots and innuendos that set it leagues above other mundane horror tales. “Banshees” is a brilliant achievement by a creative force that is just getting warmed up.—PULP FICTION REVIEWS

Mike Baron is the creator of Nexus (with artist Steve Rude) and Badger two of the longest lasting independent superhero comics. Nexus is about a cosmic avenger 500 years in the future. Badger, about a multiple personality one of whom is a costumed crime fighter.

Baron has published five novels, Helmet Head, Banshees, Whack Job, Biker and Skorpio. Helmet Head is about Nazi biker zombies. Whack Job is about spontaneous human combustion. Biker is hard-boiled crime about a reformed motorcycle hoodlum turned private investigator. Skorpio is about a ghost who only appears under a blazing sun. Banshees is about a satanic rock band that returns from the dead.

Mike describes Banshees as follows:

Notorious for their satanic lyrics, drunken excess and rumors of blood sacrifice, the Banshees shocked the world with their only album Beat the Manshees. Death stalked their concerts—lightning, stabbings, overdoses. The world heaved a sigh of relief when the Banshees all died in a plane crash. Or did they? Forty years later, with no fanfare, they appear in a seedy Prague nightclub. Ian St. James, son of original Banshees drummer Oaian St. James, can’t believe his eyes. Ian’s attempts to get backstage nearly kill him. In Crowd sends hot young reporter Connie Cosgrove to cover the Banshees along with that old burn-out Ian. Ian falls hard for the stunning Connie who regards him with a mixture of disgust and amusement. As if! The Banshees phenomenon goes viral—are they real or is it all a brilliant publicity stunt? Every time Banshees play someone dies. Is it bad luck or part of some diabolical plan? As Connie and Ian dig into the Banshees’ past they find disturbing links to black magic, the Russian mob and an ancient Druidic sect. Death only adds to their mystique as the Banshees steamroll across North America toward a triumphant appearance at LA’s Pacific Auditorium. Ian finally grasps the real reason they’ve returned—to tear a rift between our world and a monstrous evil—a rift created by an infernal machine built into Pacific Stadium and powered by human flesh.

Mike has much more to say about his work than about himself, as his interview will show.

Will you please tell us a little more about it?

I have written about music all my life. I have written for Creem, Fusion, The Phoenix, The Real Paper, Isthmus and many others. I have always been fascinated by rocks’ dark legends. Banshees, about a satanic rock band that returns from the dead, is my stab at an epic horror novel encompassing the scope of The Stand or Swan Song.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

The existence of heavy metal, death metal, bands like Deep Purple, Motorhead, Mayhem, even Alice Cooper demand epic stories.

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

The biggest challenged was learning how to write novels. It only took me thirty years, but I learned. I learned good!

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

I have won two Eisners and an Inkpot for Nexus.

What else are you working on?

A horror thriller called The Water Bug about a series of mysterious drownings. My goal is to evoke sheer terror. Supernatural terror. That frisson of fear you got the first time you watched The Exorcist or The Ring. H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King are among a handful of authors who can evoke supernatural terror.

I have five Josh Pratt (Biker) novels in the can. I will begin a 7th when I have finished The Water Bug. Liberty Island will publish my coming-of-age book Disco sometime next year. I also have a horror novel called Domain, a haunted house story to end all haunted house stories.

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

I get up, feed the dogs, fight the dogs, take the dogs to the park, hit the typer. I usually go to karate at noon, to break up my routine and work up a sweat. I will write sporadically throughout the afternoon, and make notes as I lie in supine splendor on my bed.

Tell us about your path to publication.

It is a long and winding road. I began writing as soon as I got out of college, working for alternative news weekly. Alas, most have gone the way of the buggy whip, but here in Colorado, thanks to legalized weed, they are fat and glossy.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes. I try to make it as entertaining as the finished product.

Why do you write?

I have stories to tell. I do not choose the stories. The stories choose me.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I believe I have successfully removed my presence from the narrative. My goal is to grab the reader by the throat and drag him through the narrative so that he, she, it, or xe is unaware of the passage of time.

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

Figuring out what happens next.

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

There’s a technique to everything, from breathing to building a nuclear power plant.

What is a typical day like in the Baron house?

I get up, feed the dogs, fight the dogs, take the dogs to the park, hit the typer. I usually go to karate at noon, to break up my routine and work up a sweat. I will write sporadically throughout the afternoon, and make notes as I lie in supine splendor on my bed.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

Our home is filthy. Filthy! Because of these damned dogs!

What motivates or inspires you?

My wife and these dogs. Sometimes it’s just a phrase, or wordplay in my head. I will carry a title around with me for years before I find the right story. And vice versa.

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

Attitude is everything is my motto. I used to have a shitty attitude. Now I have a good one. It’s a habit you can cultivate.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Being happy.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

Shoulda bought Apple back when.

Do you have any pet projects?

I’m working on a number of pitches with a number of my favorite artists.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My wife Ann.

Thanks, Mike, for dropping by. Visitors who would like to give Banshees a spin can do so here:

Amazon            http://a.co/aU3cBcw

The Write Stuff – Monday, May 8 – Interview With David Boop

I am pleased to feature today’s guest, WordFire Press author, David Boop. David is a Denver-based speculative fiction author. He’s also an award-winning essayist, and screenwriter. Before turning to fiction, David worked as a DJ, film critic, journalist, and actor. As Editor-in-Chief at IntraDenver.net, David’s team was on the ground at Columbine making them the first internet only newspaper to cover such an event. That year, they won an award for excellence from the Colorado Press Association for their design and coverage.

His debut novel, the sci-fi/noir She Murdered Me with Science, is back in print from WordFire Press after a six-year hiatus. His next novel, The Soul Changers, is a Victorian Horror tied in to the Rippers Resurrected RPG from Savage Worlds. Additionally, Dave is prolific in short fiction with over fifty short stories and two short films sold to his credit. In 2017, he edited the weird western anthology, Straight Outta Tombstone, for Baen. While also known for weird western series The Drowned Horse Chronicle, he’s published across several genres including horror, fantasy, and media tie-ins for Predator, The Green Hornet, The Black Bat and Veronica Mars. His RPG work includes Flash Gordon and Deadlands: Noir for Savage Worlds.

He’s a single dad, Summa Cum Laude creative writing graduate, part-time temp worker and believer. His hobbies include film noir, anime, the Blues and Mayan History.

Two of his works came out on the same day of April this year: She Murdered Me with Science, a noir sci-fi gum shoe detective novel and A Whisper to a Scheme, a self-published novel of the same ilk. Whisper can be quickly described with its back cover blurb:

My name is Noel R Glass and I’m not your average gumshoe. What I am is a pariah from the theoretical physics game; a former wunderkind who watched his future dissolve like the victims of my failed experiment. Years later, I’m finally putting my intellect to work solving crimes with science, not instinct. Well, mostly. Instinct told me the angelic damsel in a black dress who walked into my office was bad news. What made it worse is she admitted to possibly killing her husband, Millionaire Mercantile Maverick Marlin Black. Now I have to find Mr. Black, or his corpse, before the cops do. Otherwise, they won’t look beyond the bedroom eyes of his gorgeous widow. But I know different. It’s not just a hunch, but the science of the bullet that took down Black doesn’t add up. I’m on the run to find a rifle that kills without making a sound. Even my genius brain might need help on this one. Who can I turn to? Certainly not the Widow Black or any of Marlin’s associates. They’ve all got motives. No. The type of assistance I need comes in the form of a Japanese gangster with a Chinese Name. But if Wan Lee helps me, what will he ask for in exchange? Damn those dames singing the “Save Me” blues. Why aren’t I smart enough to just walk away?

As for She Murdered Me with Science, here’s a quick introduction:

My name is Noel Glass. I once was a respected scientist and madly in love. All that ended in a splash of scarlet. I can never forget, and I will never forgive myself.

It’s 1953 and I’m a shamus working the streets of Industry City. I don’t rely on instinct; science is my game. The cases I get, and the booze I drink, keep oblivion just a step away. That is, until some rich recluse walks in and tells me that accident from all these years ago was a set-up, a frame job, and I was meant to take the fall.

Now I have to clear my name… like that’s easy. Everyone’s keeping secrets. Who can I trust? My neighbor, the mysteriously connected Wan Lee? Or the songbird Merlot Sterling? Her lies are almost as beautiful as her voice. Even the muscle-bound bodyguard I inherited can’t keep the hit men, spies — or my own government — from trying to put me six-feet under.

You see, this secret organization believes I know something and wants to keep me quiet. All I do know is they’re aiming to remake the world into their own twisted image using a device I created. They’ve already axed one world leader, and Ike could be next.

God, I could use a shot of bourbon and some answers, but neither comes cheap these days.

Tell us about your most recent release.

I have two. One, the re-release of my first novel, She Murdered Me with Science, which has been out of print since 2010. It’s a sci-fi noir set in the 50s. Noel R. Glass was once a child prodigy, tops in his field of physics, but then at the height of his fame, an experiment goes wrong and kills several people including the woman he loved. Fourteen years later, he works doing an early form of forensics, considered a dirty science at the time. A rich recluse walks into his office and tells him the accident wasn’t his fault, he was set up. Glass goes on a quest to clear his name, but runs afoul of lies, deceptions, and conspiracies in a world on the verge of a global war. WordFire Press was kind enough to re-release it. I also self-published a prequel, set one year before the events in the novel called, A Whisper to a Scheme.

What was the inspiration behind it?

I grew up switching back and forth between reading mystery novels and sci-fi/fantasy. When I set forth to write a novel, I wanted to bring the best of both worlds into it. The pulp setting of the 50s allows for the seamless blend of weird science with the detective noir voice. However, it was the prolog that really set me on this course. I dreamt the prolog, much as you read in the book. It involves a murder, and when I woke up, I knew I had to invent a character to solve the murder from my dream.

I created a character that reflected the best traits of the pulp detectives I loved: hard drinking, fallen hero, seeking redemption – a combination of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin in one person. But I also needed supporting characters that were familiar, but not clichés. I have an Asian sidekick who constantly does the last thing you’d expect a sidekick to do. I give Noel a femme fatale, but made her African-American to reflect the racial tensions of the era. I put in assassins, spies, and real people from the times. I wanted the book to feel like it was written in the fifties.

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

Revision has always been my bane. I’m very ADD and the revision process is almost physically painful to me. And then going back some ten years since I first started writing it and seeing all the errors was grueling. However, the fact I could see them now was uplifting, as it meant I’d definitely improved as a writer over that time.

What other novels have you written?

I have a novel for Pinnacle set in the Savage Worlds roleplaying game. It’s a tie-in to their Rippers world, a Victorian Horror setting similar to the Penny Dreadful TV series. It’s called The Soul Changers and will be out later this year. I also have some fifty short stories in print, with another several due out this year, including a Predator story co-written with Peter J. Wacks. Additionally, I edited an anthology of weird westerns called Straight Outta Tombstone for Baen.

What else are you working on?

I have several projects due this year, including a historical fantasy, a WWII sci-fantasy middle reader in the vein of Hugo Cabaret, the follow-up to the SMMS, and a Flash Gordon RPG I just finished a sourcebook for.

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

I’m a binge writer. I write whenever I can, as much as I can, and then I go throw up. Seriously, I have no writing schedule. Life won’t let me.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

Novel, yes. Anything shorter, no. Having a good outline can mean a lot to an editor.

Why do you write?

Because I’m no good at anything else. No, seriously. I’ve held well over 100 different jobs in my lifetime. I used to work two or three at a time. I’d get bored and move on. Writing is the only thing that allows me to sleep. I have a lot of ideas and they won’t let me go until I trap them on e-paper. I cannot imagine doing anything else.

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

Keeping a rhythm. Novels flow best when they are worked on at a steady pace. I do not have a steady pace sort of life. I wish I did. I would love a routine that allowed me the freedom to write a certain amount of hours a day. As it is, I spend most of my time researching, then creating the outline, and then, if I’ve done parts one and two correctly, I should be able to drop in and just following the outline. Easy-peasy, right? Instead, the flow is disrupted by edits for other projects due yesterday, kids needing stuff yesterday, and bills that need to be paid yesterday. It’s a glamorous life, no?

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

You can do that? Really? I never knew. Hahahaha! I do a whole talk on this subject. Since my novel first came out in ’08, I’ve been plagued with loss: family members, mentors, close friends. I’ve been hit with health issues. My son was diagnosed as autistic. I’m suddenly responsible for my 93 year old step-father. So, it’s been a bit overwhelming. But what got me through was never losing sight of the goals. I wrote short stories when novels were impossible to write. I wrote flash fiction when short stories were impossible to write. I kept my name out there even when I lost 50% of the fan base I’d built during the first release of SMMS. It’s why I now have so many anthologies. Little steps. Trying to go big will cause failure. Breathe. Write a gunfight. Build the story around why later. Just get some words on the page. Write badly. Fix in post. Keep your professional friends close around you. They’ll remind you why you’re doing this. Their successes will motivate you. And have faith, if only in yourself, but a higher power isn’t bad either. If I didn’t have my faith, I would have packed it in some time ago. I know that being a writer is my purpose. I can’t stray too far from the path that has been laid out for me.

Do you have any pet projects?

I love working on RPGs. I’ve done two for Pinnacle, so far. They use the Savage Worlds system. I just did a Flash Gordon sourcebook for them. I’m also writing for Moonstone Books, doing classic pulp heroes. I might also be editing an anthology for them in the near future.

Before I give visitors a sample from She Murdered Me With Science, I’d like to finish with a Lightning Round. Please answer in as few words as possible.

My best friend would tell you I’m … Certifiably insane, but creative.

The one thing I cannot do without is: TV

The one thing I would change about my life: The amount of TV I watch.

My biggest peeve is: Being called by my last name by people who don’t really know me.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My past. It got me here.

For those who’ve been waiting for it, here is the excerpt from She Murdered Me that I’ve Promised:

As I reached my apartment door, I found it already unlocked and open a crack. While I might have still been suffering a little barrel fever from the night before, I remembered clearly closing and locking it. I listened and heard the subtle sounds of rustling inside.

I had no weapon to speak of, save for a pocketknife. I unfolded the blade and launched myself into the apartment.

The wall I ran into felt suspiciously like someone’s back. I looked up until I found a neck. Sure enough, the mountain in front of me was a man. I jumped back into the hallway as the wall turned around. What best could be described as a shaved silverback gorilla smiled at me. His frame filled the doorway, keeping me from seeing who else was in the room.

“Sir?” the gorilla said, “I think he’s here.”

A weak voice came from somewhere behind it, err … him.

“Does the man have dark hair, intense eyes, and a hawk-like nose?”

I had never been sized up so quickly, but there it was.

“Yes, sir, that’s him.”

“Well? Let the man into his own place, Vincent. We have to talk.” Vincent stared at my hand.

“He’s got a weapon. Should I take it?” The question left no doubt as to if he could, just whether he should.

“Heavens, no! A man can defend his castle, no matter what form that castle takes.” He let out a hollow cough then, “Now move out of the way.”

Like a boulder rolling aside to open a cave, Vincent slid over, allowing me access to the room.

“Open sesame,” I whispered, but I’m sure the man-mountain heard.

I surmised from the angle of the second voice, the man running this show was in my lab. I moved cautiously past the gorilla-man, folding the blade back into its protective sheath.

As a child, you are taught opposites. The man looking over my blueprints was the best example of a contrast to his partner I could imagine. While Vincent was swarthy and bearlike, his master was anything but: tiny; frail; blotchy skin; and, as he ran a finger over the designs, seemingly intelligent. He used a cane to steady himself as he leaned over my drafting table. Dangling from his neck, a gold chain with a ring hung low. An indentation on his skeletal ring finger indicated that he had gotten too thin to keep it there anymore.

“This design is sound. You finally fixed the catalytic converter, I see.”

I never like to look surprised. It has added to the legend that I’m some sort of genius. I had to come up with some quick deductions to keep the ball in play.

“Along with a few other changes, Mr. Reece, but then you haven’t seen The Atlantis designs in quite a while. Not that you should have seen them at all, but I guess a man as affluent as you are has first dibs on everything coming out of NMIT, right?”

He kept running a finger around the prints. “First guess. I’m pleased your attention to detail hasn’t weakened in your banishment. I was also glad to hear what you had chosen to do in the private sector. Keeps those skills sharp, doesn’t it?”

“Okay, you know me and now I know you, Mr. Reece.” With my sarcasm dial fully engaged, I asked, “How can I be of service?”

Old Money didn’t want to let the designs go. I stepped in front of him. Vincent placed a hand on my shoulder as a warning. I stared up at him incredulously while I waved a finger at Reece. “Tsk, tsk. Just like the bearded lady at the circus, you get one look for free. You need to pay extra for a closer look.”

He tittered at the comment. Maybe he liked bearded ladies and was remembering some long-lost encounter. I don’t know; maybe he just found me amusing. He slid away and slowly moved into the area I call an office. Vincent heeled, helping him into the most comfortable seat.

I entered the room, took my usual chair behind the desk, and leaned forward expectantly.

“I’m being murdered, Mr. Glass, and it’s your fault.”

And here I was, thinking this day was looking up.

 

If you’d care to follow David online, you may do so via these links:

Website:         www.davidboop.com

Facebook:      www.facebook.com/dboop.updates

Twitter:          @david_boop

You can purchase his books here:  http://a.co/bBlXBRP

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 24 – Interview With Todd McCaffrey

I was delighted when author Jody Lynn Nye—whom I interviewed on this website on July 4, 2016 (her birthday!)—introduced me to Todd McCaffrey. I was even more pleased when this noted science fiction author consented to being interviewed. A New York Times bestselling author, Todd has written more than one dozen books, including eight in the Dragonriders of Pern® universe. He has published numerous short stories, the latest being “Robin Redbreast” in “When the Villain Comes Home.”

His most recent release, the one I am featuring today, initially published by Foxxe Frey Books in 2011, was re-released by WordFire Press in May, 2016.

WordFire Press describes City of Angels this way:

DO YOU BELIEVE IN ANGELS?

DO YOU BELIEVE IN NANOTECH?

She is Ellay, a name drawn from the city she loves, the city of her birth. She’s smart, she’s fast, she’s the first of her kind. And she knows that very soon, something horrible is going to happen.

Ellay is an A.I.—Artificial Intelligence. Machines that think like humans, only faster. But what if, like all living things, an AI starts out just like a baby: cold, wet, lonely, scared, and crying for attention? Can she convince the government to believe her, or will they hunt her down before she gets the chance to really help?

City of Angels is a radical departure from the Dragon series for which readers know both you and your mother. Will you tell us why you decided to move into sci-fi and away from fantasy, at least for the present?

Actually, many people confuse The Dragonriders of Pern® with fantasy but it’s really science fiction.

So City of Angels is not a radical departure at all. It is, however, more of a science thriller than science fiction, so I can see where the confusion arises.

When I first thought of the idea, I outlined it to my mother who said, “If you don’t write it, I will!”

Why do you say Dragon Riders is science fiction and not fantasy? That answer took me by surprise.

Because it is.  You’ll see that in the original Introductions to Dragonflight.

INTRODUCTION
When is a legend a legend? Why is a myth a myth? How old and disused must a fact be for it to be relegated to the category “Fairy-tale”? And why do certain facts remain incontrovertible while others lose their validity to assume a shabby, unstable character?
Rukbat, in the Sagittarian sector, was a golden G-type star. It had five planets, and one stray it had attracted and held in recent millennia. Its third planet was enveloped by air man could breathe, boasted water he could drink, and possessed a gravity that permitted man to walk confidently erect. Men discovered it and promptly colonized it. They did that to every habitable planet, and then— whether callously or through collapse of empire, the colonists never discovered and eventually forgot to ask— left the colonies to fend for themselves.
When men first settled on Rukbat’s third world and named it Pern, they had taken little notice of the stranger-planet, swinging around its adopted primary in a wildly erratic elliptical orbit. Within a few generations they had forgotten its existence. The desperate path the wanderer pursued brought it close to its step-sister every two hundred (Terran) years at perihelion.
McCaffrey, Anne. Dragonflight: The first novel in The Dragonriders of Pern . Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I’m sure many of your readers will appreciate this explanation.

Returning to City, I find it fascinating that an AI comprised of millions of nanobots becomes increasingly human as the story progresses, while artificial entities comprised of humans—namely the Catholic Church, the government, the military and corporations—become increasingly less so. Is this lesson the core of what drove this story into being? Or did it necessarily evolve during the creation process?

I wanted to get people thinking about AI as a force for good. We’ve seen so many stories about evil AI that I wanted people to think: what if AI was good? What if it could help us?

As a follow-up to my previous inquiry, the story brings into question what it means to be human. Would you care to comment more on this theme?

I think I would say, rather, what it means to be humane? An AI is no more our kin than dogs and cats, yet we’re willing to treat them well and they have a welcome place in our lives. I’m hoping that we will have a more intimate and respectful relationship, but at the end of the day what matters is: how does the AI treat us?

The intricate convergence of multiple subplots argues strongly that the story must have been outlined. Would you care to discuss your process in depth? Or, if, in fact, you wrote as a pantser, would you please let us in on how you managed to keep track of all the story’s ins and outs?

Oh, it was very outlined! And the outline was refined, particularly as the original version was 202,000+ words and the final version is a mere 176,000+ words. A story this big needs an outline or it falls apart.

At one point, I tore the novel apart into the individual sub-plotlines to be sure that they all worked.

One of the joys of writing is finding subtle ways to show while not telling. An especially enjoyable example of this is when Ellay tucks Ryan’s blanket around him while he’s sleeping—a show of her developing humanity.

How often does this sort of inspiration arrive—perhaps in the middle of the night—and are there any circumstances that seem to encourage it?

My biggest emphasis is on character. When I have a character fully realized, they do things I don’t expect. Ellay taking care of Ryan was one of those things. That’s when I knew she was real.

It’s quite obvious that a lot of research went into this book. On the first of two areas: Where did you acquire your knowledge of seismology, especially as it applies to the Whittier Narrows, the Newport-Inglewood and Northridge faults? I ask because, while events in the 6.5 magnitude range, although big, are neither the most unusual nor the most—I hate to use the term, but it fits—spectacular as seismic events go, you portray three coinciding events of this magnitude along these three fault lines as uniquely devastating.

I lived through the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the many aftershocks so I had firsthand knowledge. I researched the fault lines through the internet and read many books to add to my knowledge base. Of course, with all books, most of what I read you don’t see on the page—it’s just that I have to know it so that it’s real to me.

Years after I came up with the idea I was pleased to read in the newspaper that my triple earthquake was a real possibility—it shows that I was on the right track!

On the second: you’ve also acquired at least a superficial understanding of many things legal, such as patent law and court procedure. How did your knowledge in this arena come about? Did you consult with an attorney, or did you find relevant information online?

I’ve read a lot of contracts and I researched. Most of the stuff comes from understanding copyright law—which every writer and artist needs to know.

For those visitors who haven’t yet read your book, this question won’t make any sense. Please answer it only if you can do so without either of us creating a spoiler. When did the Peter Pan/Tinker Bell inspiration strike?

Oh that was from the very beginning! What I hadn’t seen was how it paid off. That’s why I let my characters do most of the plotting for me—they’re in the thick of things, they see connections I don’t!

I won’t ask if you’re currently working on anything else. You’re a prolific writer, so of course you are. Kevin J. Anderson, your publisher, has sent me The Jupiter Game’s cover. What I’m trying to edge into sideways is, would you care to give us a glimpse?

The Jupiter Game: A close encounter with aliens who watch Howdy Doody.

Yet another surprise!

I always follow my interviews with a Lightning Round, because the answers to these questions often provide my visitors with interesting insights. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… Awesome.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Coffee.

The one thing I would change about my life is: Rejuvenation.

My biggest peeve is: We haven’t got a stardrive yet.

So right on that one. Finally, the thing I’m most satisfied with is: SpaceX.

Here is one of Todd’s Social Links, in case you’d like to follow him:

 Facebook:                  https://www.facebook.com/todd.mccaffrey.5

Should you care to purchase any of his books, you may do so here:

Amazon:                    https://www.amazon.com/Todd-J.-McCaffrey/e/B00288X5NQ/

Finally, for those of you who are interested in sampling City of Angels, here is Chapter One:

Washington, DC

May 27th, D-Day: -271

05:23 EDT UTC-4

Cybersecurity Operations—or, Ops: low light, cold air, and a tension level that crackled on the skin.

Georgia MacDonald lengthened her stride as she headed to her workstation. Harry Norman didn’t look up from his desk as she approached. He was bent over his keyboard, shoulders hunched, typing as quickly as he could, sweat visible on his face.

One of those days, Georgia thought to herself, grabbing her chair and keyboard in one swift, graceful move. She pulled a copy of Harry’s displays, pursed her lips for a moment, started to work.

Harry was fighting with someone trying to hack into the Department of Defense—they were after the nuclear launch codes. That wasn’t out of the ordinary—it happened at least twice a week—but this guy was beating Harry.

“I’m in,” Georgia said. “I put him in the Philippines, but I think that’s a fake.”

“He got around the first level like it was butter,” Harry said. “He was into the second level before—” He stopped speaking as his fingers flew over his keyboard—more software programs into the defense.

Georgia said nothing, her fingers flying—one of her programs. A tense moment, then she slumped in her chair, relieved. “He’s in the honeypot.”

A honeypot was a network of computers specially designed to lure hackers.

“He’s got the ‘GO’ codes,” Harry said, leaning back in his chair and turning his head to flash Georgia a smile.

“He just bought the worst of all worlds,” Georgia set another routine running and raised her eyebrows when the results popped up. “He’s using three machines.”

“That’s light,” Harry said. “Maybe he’s a solo.”

“Those are mighty powerful machines,” Georgia observed. Certain foreign powers—not just governments, either—would pay a great deal for the keys to the United States’ nuclear arsenal—enough to finance the hundreds of solo operations that every day tried to do just that. “He could be working for our friends.”

Georgia searched her folders for a particular program and, with an evil grin, sent it after the three computers.

“Just try hacking into the US, twerp!” she said.

A minute later, all three computers flashed off the net. Dead.

“Wow, Georgia, you sure showed that nasty eleven-year-old!” The voice that came from behind her belonged to Johnny Jones—a short, dark-haired New Yorker with all the brash and none of the sophistication.

“Just my job, Jonesy.”

“Another idiot tried to hack into DoD and get our missile launch codes. We sent him to a honeypot—and Georgia reformatted his hard drives,” Harry said, reaching up an outstretched hand to Georgia for a high-five.

“Oh, wow, Georgia’s decided to play with the real boys!” Jones said. “Didja give up on Rome?”

“Jonesy, what this kid spent half a day doing, an AI could do in a millisecond.”

“Something like what your friend Ryan wanted to make?” Johnny Jones asked. “A real live talks-to-you-and-holds-your-hand sort artificial intelligence that’s smarter than anything?”

“Yeah,” Georgia returned coldly, “just like that.”

Jones smirked at her. “If it’s hand-holding you want, Georgia, I’m there for you any time!”

Georgia ignored him, starting up her morning routines.

“Ah, Georgie, and I had such hopes!” Jones cried.

“Don’t you have work to do?” Harry Norman asked.

“LA can look after itself, it’s not going anywhere. The only thing worth watching is that Fleet Streets launch—that’ll be a laugh,” Jones said negligently, but Georgia heard his footsteps heading back toward his own work area where Alan Manning was waiting for his relief.

“He’s an asshole,” Harry said as he rose and moved over to Georgia’s area.

“But he’s our asshole,” Georgia agreed bitterly. She changed the topic. “Anything from Rome?”

“Rome’s your baby,” Harry said. He caught her look and added, “But, no, nothing that I noticed. I think they shut it down when Lawson left.”

Lawson was good. Georgia was certain he’d been the one to convince the Vatican in to this wild idea, but she was pretty sure that since then he’d lost control.

The trouble with Rome was, since the departure of Father Lawson a few weeks ago, there had been very little to learn. The network activity log looked no different than it had for the past month—the part Georgia had tentatively identified as their active phase.

“Georgia,” a gruff voice spoke beside her.

“Morning, Chief.”

“How are our friends in Rome?”

“Still active,” Georgia said. She shrugged. “Their research is funded to the end of the year.”

“So there’s no reason to stop,” Sam Bennett agreed. He pointed to the screen—where the results of Georgia’s counterattack were still visible.

“Did you get his prints?”

“The honeypot’s still analyzing: we stand a good chance,” Georgia said. Prints in this case were a sophisticated analysis of the hacker’s coding, approach, and methods. The idea had been Georgia’s; in fact, it had been one of the two ideas which had brought her to the attention of Sam Bennett and the CSC in the first place.

The other idea had been the one that got her to join the Department of Defense’s Cyber Security Center—and had ended her relationship with Jim Ryan. Ryan had believed that any artificial intelligence naturally had to be good. Georgia wasn’t sure. She thought that, just like any animal, if an AI was treated badly or hurt, it would defend itself. It might even kill.

Sam Bennett, interviewing her for an “unknown” agency, had asked Georgia, “So, Ms. MacDonald, if you found an AI that was treated badly, that felt it had to defend itself, what would you do?”

“If we couldn’t reason with it,” Georgia had begun, “if it decided to be ‘evil’—” she paused, seeing the tension growing in Jim Ryan’s eyes, worrying about how he’d react to her next words.

Sam Bennett motioned for her to continue.

She took a deep breath and said, “—then we kill it.”

Jim gave an angry cry but she continued, adding, “Before it kills us.”

p n p

Which was how Georgia MacDonald ended up watching Rome. Because Father John Lawson, formerly Donal Lawson of CalTech, had convinced the Vatican to attempt to create the first artificial intelligence.

“We need to get someone in there,” Georgia said, pulling herself back from the memory. “Or we need to talk with Father Lawson.”

We can’t,” Bennett said. “Remember, we don’t exist.”

“NSA, CIA, whatever,” Georgia said, flicking her hand dismissively as she listed the “real” agencies that could represent them. “If they do make an AI and it gets out …”

“Assuming you’re right, how do you get to it?”

“Heck, I still don’t even know how to figure out if they can make one,” Georgia said, shaking her head. “And that’s probably the best news—if I can’t break into their system, there’s a good chance any AI will find it hard to break out.”

“Mmm,” Bennett murmured in agreement. His phone beeped. Bennett pulled it out of his pocket and glanced at it. “Well, we know where Father Lawson is.”

“Where?”

“Los Angeles.”

“Really?” Georgia said, her eyebrows going up.

“And?”

“Well, Jim’s out there,” Georgia said. “He signed on with DynaCorps for the Fleet Streets project—”

“That was a change for him, wasn’t it?” Bennett asked. He gave Georgia a thoughtful look. “You don’t think—?”

“He’s all stuck into nanotechnology and nanobots,” Georgia said, shaking her head. “From what Jonesy’s been saying, he might be trying to tie them into Fleet Streets, but that’d mean nothing more than a big expert system, not a true AI.”

“Nanobots?”

“Yeah, the dork they got to build their real-time database bailed,” Jones called from over by his desk. “Mackey—the VP of software—handed the patch-up job to Ryan.” Jones snorted and shook his head, staring at Georgia. “He’s gonna fail and get fired. Again.”

Bennett nodded his thanks for the news and turned back to Georgia. “What about Ryan?”

“Maybe if I talked with him, told him about Father Lawson—”

“From what I understand, your Mr. Ryan has his hands full at this particular moment.”

“He’s so ADD all I have to do is point and say, ‘Look! Bright, shiny!’” Georgia said. “Anyway, he and Lawson have a history. If he talked with Lawson, he’d get a good feel for what they managed to accomplish in Rome.”

Bennett’s eyes narrowed. “If that’s so, why didn’t Rome get Dr. Ryan?”

Georgia shrugged. “I’m still surprised that DynaCorps picked him up.”

“No doubt they know what they’re doing,” Bennett said. Georgia turned her chair around to stare up at him directly. Bennett gestured to his phone. “I’ve got to go.”

“So, can I call him?”

“Well, not now—you’re working,” Bennett told her. “Of course,” he added, his eyes twinkling, “I cannot dictate how you spend your off hours, Miss MacDonald.”

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 10 – Interview With Doug Dandridge

WordFire Press is noted for taking on prolific and widely read authors. This week’s guest, Doug Dandridge, is exemplary of their decisions. Doug had been writing since 1997, and had garnered almost three hundred rejections from publishers and magazines before trying his hand at self-publishing on December 31, 2011. A little over a year later he quit his day job with the State of Florida, and has been a full-time author ever since. Doug has published thirty-two books on Amazon, science fiction, fantasy, steam punk and one nonfiction about self-publishing, and has sold over two hundred thousand copies of his work. His Exodus books, with twelve volumes in the main series, plus five in the two spinoff series, have sold over a hundred and seventy thousand books. They have consistently hit the top five in Space Opera in the UK, as well as top ten status in the US. Doug likes to say that he does not write great literature, but entertainment, and his fans agree enough to keep buying his work. He has well over three thousand reviews on both Amazon (4.6 star average) and Goodreads (4.12 star average).

Doug attended Florida State University (BS, Psychology) and the University of Alabama (MA, Clinical Psychology). He served four years in the Army as an Infantryman and Senior Custodial Agent, followed up with two years in the National Guard. A lifelong reader of the fantastic, he had an early love for the classics of science fiction and fantasy, including HG Wells, Jules Verne and the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He writes fast moving, technically complex novels which appeal to a hardcore fan base. He has plans for several future series, including several space operas, a couple of classic fantasies, some alternate history, and even a post-apocalyptic tale. He puts out about five books a year, and still has time to attend several conventions, including Dragon Con and Liberty Con. This year he added board member of Tallahassee Writers Association to his resumé.

He describes the most recent contribution to his space opera catalogue, Exodus: Empires at War: Book 12: Time Strike, as follows:

The New Terran Empire is still trying to recover from the Ca’cadasan strike that left over three hundred million dead and ripped the heart out of the ship production of Central Docks. The Donut, the huge station in orbit around the supersystem black hole, was almost destroyed in that strike, and its defenses have been strengthened considerably. That Caca strike didn’t do all they had wanted, but it had hurt the Empire’s war making capabilities.

The Ca’cadasans are at it again, with a two-pronged attack on the Empire. Sean has to decide, and quickly, how his fleet is to counter this move. The fleet, short of resources, could use the almost thousand ships destroyed and damaged in the enemy strike. And Sean would give his soul to get his heir, killed in the Caca strike, back. The lure of changing time, something he learns is very possible, beckons. Despite the warning that time travel was the undoing of the Ancients who had once ruled his sector of space.

But the Ancients are not extinct, and they will do whatever they can to prevent the humans from disrupting the time stream and destroying their own race. Even if it means destroying the one weapon the humans have that might win their war of extermination against the Ca’cadasan Empire. They will try to prevent the Time Strike with their last resources, with their lives.

Please tell us about this one.

Exodus: Empires at War: Book 12: Time Strike is the twelfth book (as per the title) in the main Exodus series. The series is about a war of extermination between two enormous empires spanning thousands of star systems and tens of thousands of light years. In book eleven the Ca’cadasans (the bad guys) had hit the capital of the empire and killed over three hundred million citizens. The emperor has decided to use his empire’s wormhole technology to change the timeline so that the strike didn’t happen, despite the many warnings about trying to change time.

What was the inspiration behind it?

I have always had a problem with the paradoxes of time travel. In another series, I dealt with time travel by having some unknown power in the universe snuff out the offenders before the changes can take place. I had hinted about time travel throughout the series, and decided now was the time to tackle it.

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

I have tried to keep the Exodus series fresh from book to book, changing tech, throwing in tactical innovations. That has become more difficult as the series has advanced. I also have a desire to get on to other projects, and keep getting sidetracked by research and development. Still, I kept slogging through, and I am now almost finished.

How many other novels have you written?

Thirty-one. The Hunger (vampire novel), Daemon (steampunk fantasy), Aura (fantasy), Refuge (five book fantasy/technothriller series), Exodus: Empires at War series, Exodus: Machine War series, Exodus: Tales of the Empire series, The Scorpion (near future scifi), Diamonds in the Sand (near future science fiction, and the Deep Dark Well series.

What else are you working on?

I am still trying to get books out in the Refuge and Deep Dark Well series. I also just signed a two book deal with Arc Manor to develop a space opera shared universe. I also plan on writing a post-apocalyptic series and have ideas for several World War 2 alternate history series.

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

I usually get up late, about 10 AM, and go out for breakfast, reading something I’m interested in while at the restaurant. I then work out for an hour, then come home and take a nap (I know, rough life). I then write into the evening, usually knocking off at midnight, then in bed at 2. If I am editing a book, I will download it into my kindle and take notes on mistakes while I read it at breakfast and sometimes dinner. I am going to try and rework my schedule to get up earlier, because cons kind of throw a wrench in that schedule, and I really need to stay on a consistent schedule for my health.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I spent about thirteen years trying to get traditionally published. The rejections letters improved, but they were still rejections. On December 31, 2011 I self-published two books, The Deep Dark Well (scifi) and The Hunger (urban fantasy). The Deep Dark Well sold about twenty copies in eight months. Then I did a giveaway for DDW and gave over four thousand books away. A month later Exodus: Empires at War: Book 1 came out, and sold almost a thousand that first month. By January 2013 I was selling a hundred a day of both 1 and 2. Have since sold twenty-four thousand of book 1, and about twenty thousand of book 2. And it went from there. In March of that year I quit my job and have never looked back. Over four years I have sold about fifty thousand books each year, for a total of two hundred thousand.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I used to, but now just take a general idea and then pants it the rest of the way. I found that I was almost always veering away from the outline. Currently, in the project for Arc Manor, I have been asked to produce an outline, with the understanding that I will probably make changes along the way. I will probably be using more outlines in the future with long running series, because I find myself getting stuck in corners more and more.

Why do you write?

I love the nerd life. I love researching new things in science and history. And I love to make up stories, especially when I see lazy writing in TV and movies, and figure I can do better. To me it’s the absolute best job I can imagine. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. It’s gravy that I can get paid to do it, and don’t have to hold down a day job.

What was your previous working life like?

I had a day job for thirteen years while writing, trying to get published. My last job was working for the State of Florida. I hated that job with a passion, and it drove me to write continuously, struggling to get out of that job. I wrote the equivalent of seven novels in 2010. I quit my job in 2012 because I was selling online. I used the day job as motivation to get the career I really wanted. Luckily, I don’t have to go to work every day, getting on the road so I can get to the office at a certain time. I do what I want when I want. The only problem lately has been to have enough discipline to get enough work done to keep progressing.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have five cats. A lot of people think that is too many, but if I had room I would have more. They force me to get up in the morning even when I don’t feel like it, since the litter has to be scooped, and they have to be fed. They are spoiled little brats, but I love them, and they can make me laugh even when I’m feeling down.

What follows is an excerpt from Exodus: Empires at War: Book 12: Time Strike, after which visitors can find Doug’s social and book buy links:

“There is no one here, my Lord,” said the sensor officer. “We are detecting nothing.”

“And this was supposed to be one of their most important systems in Fenri space,” replied the chief of staff, looking up from his station.

“Then they have pulled out without a fight,” growled the high admiral in charge of this force. “Cowards.”

While they would still achieve their mission by taking the system without a fight, that was not all they wanted to do. They needed to destroy human ships as well as orbital installations and industrial plants. If they spent their time chasing an enemy that kept running, luring them off their path, what would the accomplish? And an enemy they hadn’t chased down could always come in behind them. Even if they never fired a weapon, they still needed antimatter to run the reactors so they could boost. And even more to run the hyperdrive arrays. An enemy that was striking their supply line would keep them from resupply.

This was the third marked system they had come to that was empty. Each time they had jumped down through hyper, costing even more fuel, to find the system unoccupied. Yet they had to check out these systems. And if they started sending smaller forces in to recon them first, they were likely to run into ambushes a small force couldn’t contend with.

“Why in all the hells haven’t they tried to fight us,” growled the tactical officer.

Because they’re smarter than we are, thought the high admiral. Most Cacada would still not admit that they weren’t the absolute masters of the universe, the strongest, the most intelligent. The high admiral was at the high end of the intelligence scale for his species, so he knew how stupid the average male could be. And he had a better idea of how his people stacked up against other species, including the much too clever humans.

“We’re picking something up on the sensors,” called out the sensor officer. “I’ve never seen a reading like this before.”

“Their impossible fighters?” asked the chief of staff.

“Doesn’t look like them,” said the sensor officer. “Though there are some similarities to their resonances. Small objects, moving very fast.”

The high admiral looked at the plot that was showing thirty-six objects heading straight for his force. They still couldn’t track the inertialess fighters worth a damn. They could tell they were out there on a general heading. They could definitely tell when they were close enough to waste fire on with the chance of a hit. But these things were pretty easy to track, even though they were moving.

“Twenty times light speed?” blurted the high admiral as the velocity figures filled in under the vector arrows. Of course those were only estimates, but still.

“I can’t tell you what they are, my Lord. But they are heading straight for us, and they will be here in about seven minutes.”

* * *

“Any changes in the targets?” asked Captain Wilma Snyder, the commander of the truncated wing that was moving into the attack.

“No, ma’am. They’re coming in fat and sassy. Not that’s there’s much else they could do.”

Snyder nodded. The enemy ships had jumped down before hitting the barrier at point three light, their maximum translation speed. They had started to accelerate as soon as they were through. There really was no quick way back into hyper, where the warp attack craft would not be able to hunt them, not that the Cacas knew that. It would take them several hours to slow to a stop, before they could start accelerating back out, which would take several more hours.

“We’ll be in range in six minutes, forty-three seconds,” continued the wing tactical officer. “Launch at that time.”

“Very good,” said Snyder, leaning back in her chair. She was trying to look as cool and calm as she could, and was not sure how she was doing. This was a first ever strike by the warp attack craft. Theoretically, they should come as a lethal shock to the Cacas. Theory was fine, but this was where they found out if they were a good as advertised.

“I want us to go to the port after launch. All ships will come out of warp at three light minutes from the Cacas, then spun and go back into a second attack.”

Her ships each had four missiles, also using warp technology. They carried lasers as well, as a last resort. The captain didn’t want to get into that kind of a knife fight with capital ships. Her craft would be in normal space, trading beams with ships that outmassed them by over three thousand times. Her lasers might not even make it through their screens, while theirs would vaporize her craft.

She looked at the plot, willing it to expand to cover the entire system and beyond. The carrier was out at ten light hours beyond the barrier to spinward. The craft could reach it in warp in about forty minutes, rearm, and be on their way back in. Snyder smiled as she thought of some of the other weapons on the boards for her babies. She wouldn’t have them, but sometime further into the campaign the Cacas would meet their acquaintance, and she hoped enjoyed the meeting.

“Launch in fifteen seconds,” called out the tactical officer, as the command went out over the com to the other thirty-five craft.

There was a one second delay between the time her ship fired and the last got off its missile. Thirty-six weapons jumped from the launching craft, erecting their own warp bubbles and then streaking off on their prearranged tracks. Warp field penetrated warp field. As soon as the missiles were out into normal space they dropped their fields for a couple of seconds, then went back into warp on tracks that would hit their designated targets. The launching ships meanwhile turned in space and lit out to the front and side of the enemy force. Unlike craft in normal space there was no accel or decel to deal with. Changing vectors meant they were now moving at warp in that direction.

The missiles took off, going from a standing start to ten times light speed in an instant. The weapons were all right on target. Each hit the side of their targets, their warp fields blasting through electromag screens and into twenty meters of armor before the missiles broke up, their warheads going off and flashing into the interiors of the ships. When the flares died down they left behind twelve spreading clouds of plasma and twenty-three still intact but seriously crippled ships.

If you’d care to learn more about Doug or dive into his works— at this point I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t—here is the wherewithal:

WordPress Blog:       http://dougdandridge.com

Website:                     http://dougdandridge.net

Twitter:                      @brotherofcats

Amazon:                    https://www.amazon.com/Doug-Dandridge/e/B006S69CTU/

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 27 – Interview With Pam McCutcheon

I have seldom had the opportunity to interview an author possessing dual personas, but Pam McCutcheon is one such and writes under the pseudonym, Parker Blue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parker Blue writes the YA Urban Fantasy Demon Underground Series, along with paranormal romance novellas. As Pam McCutcheon, she also writes fantasy short stories, romantic comedy, paranormal romance, and books for writers. She lives in Colorado Springs with her rescue dogs where she spends her spare time feeding her addiction for reading, beading, and watching television.

I asked her to describe the most recent release from her series, and she described it as follows:

What’s a vampire slayer to do when San Antonio’s vampire leader goes missing and rogue vampires are suddenly on the rise? Find him and bring him back—no matter what the cost—before the vacuum of power pits vampire against vampire in a deadly showdown for supremacy… with her boyfriend Austin’s immortal life at stake.
When she discovers that her ex, Shade, may have been “accidentally” responsible, Val Shapiro’s problems take on a whole new dimension and her loyalty to everyone in her life will be tested.

Please tell us how your series began.

The series, starting with Bite Me, came about when Buffy sadly ended. I loved the show and the characters, and wanted to write my own vampire slayer, without copying genius Joss. How could I make her different? By making her part succubus lust demon, of course—one who really fights against her demon nature by channeling her desires into slaying vampires.

And I had to give her a companion to talk to, so my terrier-poodle mix, Mo, inspired the creation of Fang—the snarky telepathic hellhound who turned out to be everyone’s favorite character. Mo passed away last year, but I love that she still lives on in Fang.

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

I didn’t realize the Demon Underground would be so popular, and wrote one book at a time without a plan for the entire series or making a series bible. Makes it difficult to figure out where to go next sometimes. I overcome it by brainstorming with my critique group, who have been there since the beginning with Val and Fang.

Would you care to expand a bit on the series’ extent?

The Demon Underground Series is six books in all so far: Bite Me, Try Me, Fang Me, Make Me, Dare Me, and Catch Me (I’m running out of  “me” titles!)… I also have a free prequel short story called Forget You, and a couple of paranormal novellas outside the Demon Underground universe: “Wolf Rising” in the Magick Rising anthology, and Time Raiders: The Healer’s Passion. Under my real name, Pam McCutcheon, I write fantasy short stories, romantic comedy, paranormal romance, and books for writers (check out pammc.com for more info).

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

I hate writing first draft, and I’m a night person, so I write first draft in the morning when my left brain isn’t quite engaged yet—it gives my right brain full rein. I usually write until I finish a scene, then quit for the day. Once I have a draft, I can edit at any time of day. I usually take a chapter at a time to my critique group.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I’ve always loved reading, and wanted to try my hand at writing, so I read a ton of craft books, went to writing conferences, and took classes. My favorite genres are fantasy, science fiction, and romance. So when futuristic romance first became popular, I knew that’s what I had to write. My first novel took a couple of years to write while I was learning, but it sold to the third publisher I sent it to: Golden Prophecies by Pam McCutcheon. That subgenre trend didn’t last long, though, so I switched to romantic comedy and other paranormal romance, then eventually to the YA urban fantasies.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

Yep. Actually, I have my own method, which I detail in my book, Writing the Fiction Synopsis (insert shameless plug here). The book not only discusses what at a synopsis consists of, but the process of getting there describes my outlining process.

Why do you write?

I’ve never quite believed in that overused writer maxim: Because I have to.

Okay, I do have to be creative in some way (I’ve done a myriad of hobbies over the years, the latest of which is beading). But I write for fun, because I enjoy creating a new world, helping characters find their own happily-ever-after, and making my critique group laugh.

It’s nice to encounter one who avoids the clichéd. Do you have another job outside of writing?

I used to work for the government as an industrial engineer, but now I work from home providing ebook services for other authors, including editing, scanning, formatting, and uploading.

Do you have any pet projects?

My dogs are my pet projects (insert groan here). Seriously, I currently have two dogs I rescued through National Mill Dog Rescue, and I enjoy watching how far they’ve come in trusting people after all they’ve been through. They make me smile every day.

Being a pet owner *slash* animal lover, I have to relate how that touches my heart. Your comment makes me especially glad I invited you. Before I provide our visitors with an excerpt from your series’ most recent installment, entitled Catch Me, I’d like to conclude with my traditional Lightning Round, because of the insights it often provides. So, Pam, in as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… Anal. I prefer to think I’m organized, with meticulous attention to detail.

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

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d win the lottery so I could travel more.

My biggest peeve is: Puppy mills!

And rightly so! Those of you who would like to learn more about my guest, Pam McCutcheon/Parker Blue, can do so by following the links I provide right after this excerpt from Catch Me:

Though the moonless night was already black as ink, I retreated farther into the deep shadows of a live oak outside my townhouse. My mouth went dry, my heart pounded, and my stomach churned as if a dozen vampires were cavorting about inside me. Yes, it was my most frightening outing yet—a date with Austin.

Beside me, Fang, my trusty hellhound, snorted. You’ve taken on dozens of vampires, mage demons, and blood demons . . . and you’re afraid of a date with the guy who wants to be your boyfriend?

I’m not afraid of him, I sent Fang telepathically.

Then what are you afraid of?

Oh, maybe looking like a child to the vampire who was way over a hundred years old and sexy as hell. What did he see in me, an average-looking eighteen-year-old with virtually no experience in this kind of thing? I’d never really “dated” before, though I had two short-lived relationships—one with Dan Sullivan, a full human, and the other with Shade, the broody shadow demon. Neither had prepared me for a date with a sexy vamp.

After the fabulous Valentine’s Day flash mob he’d arranged for me with “zombies” dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller a couple of weeks ago, I’d promised to go out on a real date with him, and this was the first time we’d both been able to arrange it.

Unfortunately, Fang could read all my doubts and insecurities and would call me on every single one of them. I cringed, waiting for it.

You’re not half bad-looking, Fang said.

Gee, thanks.

Don’t be an idiot. What could he possibly see in you? Well, maybe it’s the fact that you’re an awesome slayer, or maybe because you’ve saved his butt and countless other vamp and demon butts in San Antonio many times in the past few months—not to mention that of unsuspecting humans. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s hot for your inner succubus who makes his butt feel so gooooood.

“That’s a lot of butts,” I murmured. But I had to admit my inner succubus—I called her Lola—liked Austin, too. A lot.

You do get that Lola isn’t a separate entity? You are the succubus—that one-eighth demon part of you isn’t something or someone you can separate from your human self, no matter how much you might want to.

“How can I forget when you keep reminding me?” I muttered. Besides, I’d only wanted to get rid of Lola before I’d been kicked out of my home. Everyone else in my family—my mom, stepfather, and half-sister—was fully human, so I’d felt like a freak. But now that I’d discovered the Demon Underground, I didn’t feel so much freakish as I did . . . inexperienced.

Well, Fang drawled. There’s one way to get that experience, you know.

Yeah, I know. I’m doing it, aren’t I?

If you stop hiding—from yourself and him.

Austin drove up then, in one of the black luxury cars the San Antonio vein of vampires kept in their motor pool. He stepped out of the car, wearing jeans that snugged in all the right places, a black leather jacket, snakeskin boots, and his ever-present cowboy hat. My heart beat faster. What a hottie—and so out of my league it was ridiculous.

Fang nudged me with his nose. Don’t be ridiculous. You’re Val Shapiro, the Slayer, the Demon Underground’s Paladin enforcer. He’s out of your league.

Yeah, right. As if I could hide from Austin’s keen vampire vision anyway. His gaze found me in the depths of the shadows, and a slow, sexy smile widened his mouth. “Hello, darlin’.”

Would any girl not melt into a puddle right then and there? True to form, Lola surged front and center, her interest sharpening. As for me, I swallowed, trying to get some moisture in my mouth. “Hi,” I managed. Oh yeah, I am witty beyond belief.

He leaned against the car, waiting for me to come to him. “Shall we go?”

I took a deep breath and sauntered toward him, or tried to. Instead, I tripped over a root of the massive tree. Graceful, I was not.

I felt my face flame hot and wished I could rush back inside without looking like a fool.

Too late, Fang jeered.

Sooooo helpful.

As promised, here are Pam’s/Parker’s social Links: 

http://www.parkerblue.net/

https://www.facebook.com/ParkerBlueWrite

Her book buy links are as follows:

 Kobo:  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/catch-me-12

Google:          https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Parker_Blue_Catch_Me?id=mz9qCAAAQBAJ

iTunes:          https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/catch-me/id994983675?mt=11

Barnes&Noble:         http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/catch-me-parker-blue/1121802540?ean=9781611946420

Amazon:        http://www.amazon.com/Catch-Demon-Underground-Parker-Blue-ebook/dp/B00WFGYFDU

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 13 – Interview With Louis Antonelli

This week’s guest is a very prolific author with over one hundred short stories to his credit, a widespread and varied publication history and several awards. Small wonder that WordFire Press elected to bring Louis Antonelli on board.

Lou Antonelli started writing fiction in middle age; his first story was published in 2003 when he was 46. He’s had short stories published in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, India and Portugal in venues such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jim Baen’s Universe, Tales of the Talisman, Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), Daily Science Fiction, Buzzy Mag, and Omni Reboot, among many others.

His collections include “Fantastic Texas” published in 2009; “Texas & Other Planets” published in 2010; and “The Clock Struck None” and “Letters from Gardner”, both published in 2014.

His story “Great White Ship”, originally published in Daily Science Fiction, was a 2013 finalist for the Sidewise Award for alternate history. His short story “On a Spiritual Plain”, originally published in Sci Phi Journal, was a finalist for the Hugo award in 2015.

His first professional science fiction short story, “A Rocket for the Republic” (Asimov’s Science Fiction Sept. 2005) was the last story accepted by Editor Gardner Dozois before he retired after 19 years.

“The Yellow Flag” his 100th published short story (Sci-Phi Journal Aug. 2016) set the record for all-time fastest turnaround in genre fiction. It was written, submitted and accepted between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on May 6, 2015

A Massachusetts native, Antonelli moved to Texas in 1985 and is married to Dallas native Patricia (Randolph) Antonelli. They have three adopted furbaby children, Millie, Sugar and Peltro Antonelli.

Lou describes his latest release, Another Girl, Another Planet, which was published on February 1st of this year as follows:

Dave Shuster has been confronted by secret government agents over a photo taken by a Mars lander of a graveyard, complete with crosses, on Mars. Shuster claims that, in an alternate timeline, he was a low-level bureaucrat in the administration of a joint U.S.-Soviet Mars colony when he was caught up in a murder mystery involving the illegal use of robot technology.

In that timeline, the Cold War took a very different turn—largely influenced by Admiral Robert Heinlein, who was allowed to return to naval service following World War II.

When Shuster is thrown into a power vacuum immediately upon his arrival on the Mars Colony in 1985, he finds himself fighting a rogue industrialist, using his wits and with some help from unlikely sources in a society infiltrated by the pervasive presence of realistic androids.

Lou, please tell us about your most recent release.

Another Girl, Another Planet has been published by WordFire Press. This is my first novel, a retro-futurist alternate history. I’m 60 years old and grew up reading the Good Old Stuff, from Heinlein, Clark, Asimov and such. My novel is strongly influenced by the old themes of pioneering in space and finding solutions to the problems that are encountered.

What was the inspiration behind it?

Mostly a reaction for what passes for literary science fiction these days, which starts from a left-wing anti-western premise and builds from there. I go back and build upon the golden age premise that space exploration would be a good thing, and Americans were the good guys.

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

After writing and publishing short fiction for over a decade, there were increasing requests from fans for something at novel length. Of course, many authors only write novels, or write more novels than short fiction.

As a professional journalist, I had naturally gravitated to short fiction. I write short stories every day – of course, they are newspaper articles. Over the years I had found myself unable to even come up with an outline I thought could be turned into a book-length story.

I finally decided the only way I could attack the problem was to write a really long short story – in effect, I fooled myself by pretending I was still writing a short story. The first draft came in at 88,000 words – with no chapter breaks. That’s the way I submitted it, too.

I couldn’t get that past the editors, and after I broke it into chapters I added until it passed 100,000 words. So I think I got over that mental block.

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

My first professionally-published story, “A Rocket for the Republic” finished third short story category in the Asimov’s Readers Poll for 2005.

My alternate history “Great White Ship” was a finalist for the Sidewise Award in 2013.

In 2015 I was a finalist for both Best Short Story and Best Related Work in the Hugo awards.

What else are you working on?

Right now I am still working on short stories and pondering a potential sequel to Another Girl, Another Planet.

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

I enjoy spending time with my family and don’t like to ignore them so I write sporadically, usually only two or three days a week at that. I follow the dictum to write crap and edit brilliantly. I can get away with this because I write really fast, an outgrowth of being a journalist.

Tell us about your path to publication

In the case of Another Girl, Another Planet, I subbed it to one of the big publishers that allow unagented manuscripts (most don’t) and when I realized I might never get a reply, I basically bugged them until they rejected it, and then looked for a quality smaller publisher that I hoped would read it before I died of old age.

WordFire Press is a quality outfit. Acquisitions Editor Dave Butler read it, liked it and bought it. It went to a development editor who helped me with some rewrites, as well as expanding the length. He said it was written so tight it read like a movie script, and urged me to add almost 14,000 words. Then it went into proofreading and production.

It was released right at the end of January.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

No, I find it becomes a straitjacket for me. I usually have some good ideas and pieces of business in mind, and I just start writing and see where the story goes. I’ve generally found if the plot twists and turns surprise me they will entertain readers as well.

Why do you write?

For my fans, and to have something to read myself. Most of what passes for literary science fiction today is pretentious and boring.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Over the years I’ve tackled writing in different settings and from different perspectives.

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

Having a good hook for a beginning, sounding original, and keeping the readers’ interest for 250 pages, followed by a snappy ending.

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

You’ll find Another Girl, Another Planet fast-paced, fun reading, and hard to put down. Remember, I originally wrote it with no paragraph breaks.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Fiction is my “other job”, I work full-time as a small newspaper editor.

Describe a typical day.

There’s no such thing for me, as pertains to fiction writing. I write in snatches when I have some free quiet time, and that may come any time during the day.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

My wife and I were never able to have human children, so we adopted canine children, and I fully agree with Andy Rooney’s observation that “The average dog is a better person than the average person.”

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

My wife. I consider my myself the most happily married man in the world. I didn’t get married until I was 42, but it was worth the wait.

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

Throw myself into a new project and wait for fate to deal with whomever did me dirt. I’ve never encountered a person who did me wrong who wasn’t an asshole and treated other people like crap. Bad karma accumulates. I recall a person who really backstabbed me who, when they died, the family didn’t want the burial site mentioned – too many people were waiting to piss on it.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Marrying my wife and trying to be a good husband. I think I’ve done OK.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

I never did get a college degree, but that’s something that can be fixed in the future. I like to think nothing ever happens that is a complete failure, just maybe a painful learning experience.

Do you have any pet projects?

I’d like to get a collection of my short stories together that all touch on the legend of Atlantis in some way.

Who/what has been your greatest inspiration?

I’ve always greatly admired Howard Waldrop’s fiction, and I like to think at my best I approach his creativity.

Before I present our visitors with an excerpt from Another Girl, Another Planet, I’d like to conclude our interview with a customary Lightning Round.

 My best friend would tell you I’m… a witty person,

The one thing I cannot do without is… coffee.

The one thing I would change about my life is… my short temper.

My biggest peeve is… intentionally rude people.

The person I’m most satisfied with is… my wife.

And now, Another Girl, Another Planet, excerpt:

It was perhaps three hours later, when I realized it was quieter than ever. I looked up. Elena was staring at the monitor.

The gentle beeping sounds had stopped. All the lines were flat.

I stood up and went over to her.

She looked up at me. “He’s gone,” she said softly. “Just like that.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I won’t lie and tell you I know how much it hurts. I’m young, I’ve not had anyone I care about die yet.”

She laid a hand on his forehead. “His functions have stopped. He grows colder.” She looked at me. “Is this death?”

“This is what we call death, yes,” I said. “We really don’t understand it ourselves.”

She turned and walked around the end of the bed to go to the other side. She glanced through the door at the mirror in the bathroom as she passed by the foot of the bed, and stopped. She turned and instead went into the bathroom. She stopped and leaned forward onto the counter, staring at her face in the mirror.

“What is it, Elena?” I asked gently.

“I don’t look any different,” she said. “I feel very different, but I don’t look any different. I know when humans are unhappy, their faces contort, their muscles tighten, they cry,” she continued. “I am doing none of that. I don’t know how.”

She looked down at the water glass by the sink. Dipping a finger in the water, she drew a tear down below one eye. She dipped a finger again and did it for the other eye, then looked at herself. “Now I look how I feel,” she said.

She kept looking at herself in the mirror. Then she reached down and picked up the water glass. She turned, and in one violent motion, threw it out the door and across the room to the opposite wall where Mark’s bed was. She threw it with such super-human force that when it hit the wall it disintegrated into a shimmering cloud of glass dust.

I threw my arm across my face to keep the particles from flying into my eyes. After a moment I looked up, to see a shimmering cloud of fine glass particles and mist descending on Mark Davis-Seale’s body which made it look like his soul was dissipating.

Elena came and stood on the opposite side of the bed from me. She lowered the railing and gently slipped her arms beneath him. She lifted him effortlessly in her arms, and turned around. She walked over and stood at the open door that led to the balcony.

By then the nurse on duty had rushed into the room and was behind me.

I cried out, “Elena!”

She turned, holding him in her arms, and looked at me with what could only be described as sadness.

“Eyes do more than see, Mister Shuster,” she said.

She walked onto the balcony, and, with a violent kick, dislodged a segment of the railing. She then leapt off the balcony with his body in her arms

The nurse uttered a stifled scream. We both went onto the balcony. There below, you could see the oil and silica gel from Elena’s smashed android body mixing with Mark Davis-Seale’s blood. A crowd began to gather.

The nurse looked at me. “She killed him!”

“No, he was already dead,” I said.

The nurse’s eyes were wide. “What did she mean; what she said to you?”

“It’s from a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, about when in the future humans lose their physical bodies. I read it while I was on the Orion on the way here. One character says, ‘Eyes do more than see and I have none to do it for me.’”

We looked down. “They were a couple, and in love. She committed suicide,” I said.

The nurse looked at me. “Is that possible?”

“It is now,” I said. “I need to get down there to prevent a panic. We don’t need people thinking a robot committed a murder.”

The nurse looked at me, stunned.

I left the room and went to the ground level, where a security guard had come out from the hospital and stood near the bodies.

“You need to cover up the bodies,” I said to him. “Then remove them.”

“Did the android kill this man?”

“No, he was already dead. She was grief-stricken and committed suicide.”

 

For those of you who would either like to follow Louis online or purchase his book, this is how you may do so:

 

Book online sales links:

Baen Books:  http://www.baen.com/another-girl-another-planet.html

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MUG3V83/

 

Blog:               www.louantonelli.blogspot.com

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/LouAntonelli

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 27 – Interview With M. L. Spencer

While most of my interviews over the last two years have focused on traditionally published authors, I’m still delighted whenever I come across a self-published author who is winning awards and garnering acclaim. This week’s guest, M. L. Spencer is one such and I’m pleased to introduce you to her and her work.

M.L. Spencer fell in love with fantasy fiction in the third grade when she read the entire Chronicles of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever series by Stephen R. Donaldson. She went on from there to read every fantasy novel she could get her hands on. Her favorite authors are Robert Jordan, Stephen King, and Frank Herbert. Throw some David Eddings in there for flavor, and that mix pretty much describes up her series The Rhenwars Saga.

 She describes her most recent work, Darkstorm, this way:

When Merris Bryar stumbles across a secret meeting in the forgotten passages beneath Aerysius, she has no idea the harrowing sequence of events her discovery will set into motion. Merris discovers that deep below the city of the mages, forces of chaos are hard at work boring the Well of Tears, a gateway to the Netherworld.

Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a conspiracy of darkmages have resorted to harnessing the powers of Hell to save their legacy. The only mages who can oppose them are Merris and her mentor, Sephana Clemley, along with their protectors, Braden and Quin Reis: two brothers with a turbulent past and a caustic relationship. But both Braden and Quin are compromised, harboring terrible and tragic secrets.

Will Braden and Quin be able to protect Sephana and Merris long enough to stop the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they fall victim to the darkmages’ sinister manipulations and join their conspiracy?

Tell us about your most recent release.

Darkstorm is the prequel to The Rhenwars Saga, Spencer’s darkly epic fantasy series that chronicles the turbulent battle between two conflicting ideologies of magic and the moral imperatives that drive them.

In Darkstorm, Merris Bryar stumbles across a secret meeting where she discovers that forces of chaos are hard at work boring the Well of Tears, a gateway to the Netherworld. Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a conspiracy of darkmages have resorted to harnessing the powers of Hell to save their legacy.

Darkstorm is an exploration into two conflicting moral philosophies: deontology and consequentialism. The main character, Braden, is inflexible in his morals, while his brother Quin is constantly compromising himself. Braden adheres to deontological moral ethics, or duty ethics. The darkmages they face obey consequentialist moral ethics, in which the end justifies the means. If taken too far, both of these moral philosophies can be used to justify actions that most would deem immoral. Because of this, it is often difficult to tell who is “good” and who is “evil.”

What was the inspiration behind it?

The poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

That’s a very interesting and unexpected response. Will you tell us what was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how you overcame it?

Being a prequel, Darkstorm was written after Book Two of The Rhenwars Saga, Darkmage. Trying to create an entire plot out of a backstory was both thrilling and challenging, as many elements were already fixed and could not be changed or adapted to fit the new story.

I’ve already hinted about the awards that you’ve won. Would you care to expand?

Darkmage, Book Two of The Rhenwars Saga, won the IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy in 2012. I was also awarded First Place Prose in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration.

A bit about your time spent writing: What is your work schedule like when you’re exercising your craft?

I am a full-time biology teacher, so I write around my job. While working, I write nights and weekends. While on break, I write all day and night. I am quite obsessive with it.

Will you tell us about your path to publication?

After writing Darkmage in 2002, I tried to market it to agents and publishers but was met with only rejection. Not a surprise – the manuscript at the time was 230K words and I was not able to consider splitting it. So it sat in my closet for almost ten years. Then I dug it back out for a rewrite. Once again, I tried to market it without success and finally self-published Darkmage in 2011.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Definitely! I leave small details of individual scenes to chance, but I like to have a well-honed plot going in.

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

The most powerful challenge I face is trying to balance writing with my other commitments. I write obsessively and find it hard to pull myself away. It is often hard for me to stop plotting in my head and sit back and enjoy life. I have such a busy mind that always wants to be problem solving!

What motivates or inspires you?

Good people who go out of their way to help others for no better reason than because it’s the right thing to do.

I like that response. Before I conclude our discussion with an excerpt from Darkstorm, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m an… introvert

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee

The one thing I would change about my life: I would have majored in creative writing

My biggest peeve is: poor grammar

I’m right there with you on that one. The person I’m most satisfied with is: my husband

I’d like to thank you, M. L. Spencer, for taking part in my interview series. Those of our visitors who would like to follow you online, or purchase your books can do so on the links that follow this excerpt from Darkstorm.

Glancing at Braden, Sephana quickly produced another glow of magelight at their feet. To this he added his own, a golden-amber shade that mingled with Sephana’s mist, became a churning fog of roiling colors. The magelight trailed ahead of them through the opening in the wall, illuminating a dark chamber just ahead.

Through the glowing fog they walked hand in hand, their shadows cast in tormented display upon the walls to either side.

As they stepped into the chamber, Braden pulled up short.

Sephana shivered, feeling as if a cold wash of water had been poured over her head, running down her neck and trickling down her back.

The room they entered was just as dark and wet as the rest of the warren of passageways they had traversed. On one side of the floor was a large slab of granite, waist-high. It had the look of a table or altar, hewn from a single slab of rock. A foul, dark liquid oozed down its sides, congealing on its surface.

To the other side of the chamber was a circular well made of staggered granite blocks.

It was toward the stone table that Braden moved first. He paused beside it, eyes contemplating the rough surface. Slowly, he extended his hand and dipped a finger into the dark liquid pooled on its surface. His finger came away coated with thick, coagulated blood.

Sephana recoiled with a gasp. The sheer amount of blood was appalling. It collected on the surface of the table, running in thick rivulets to the floor. She was standing in it. The blood had mixed with the water at her feet, rendering it impossible to tell how much there actually was.

She shook her head and whispered, “Animal sacrifice? To what purpose?”

“No.”

Braden’s voice was empty and hollow, completely drained of all emotion. The sound of it chilled her heart. He lifted something from the floor next to the slab of rock. It took Sephana a moment to recognize the object in his hand: a thick iron shackle anchored by a heavy chain to the side of the granite block.

Human,” she whispered.

She covered her mouth with her hand as Braden cast the chain away from him, repulsed. The iron shackle slapped hard against the slab with a sharp ring of metal.

Sephana flinched at the harsh sound. Braden hardly seemed to care if anyone heard. With a grimace of contempt, he wrenched himself back away from the altar, swinging around to face the well. He stalked across the floor toward it, kneeling down beside the granite ring. His hand rose, tracing over a series of vile-looking markings that were carved into the well’s rim. They looked more like claw marks raked into the stone by some ghastly creature than any language Sephana knew.

She crept up beside him and observed Braden’s study of the gruesome marks.

“I want to go,” she insisted, voice quavering.

But he didn’t act as though he even heard her. He was kneeling beside the well, inching his way slowly around its circumference, eyes and fingers exploring the hideous markings all around the rim.

At last, Braden finished his scrutiny of the well’s texture and pushed himself to his feet. His gaze remained fixed on the sinister markings, stare narrowed in thought. He brought his hand up to his face, absently stroking his thumb over the whiskers on his chin. He rested his other hand on the well’s cover, a thick slab of granite stone.

“This is a portal,” he said finally. His voice was cold and dispassionate. Utterly flat. He didn’t look up at her; his eyes remained captured by the cruel markings of the well’s rim. “They’re boring a gateway to the Netherworld. And they’re using human sacrifice to finish the job.”

Sephana could only stare vacantly ahead, mouth agape.

“They call it the Well of Tears,” Braden continued impassively, indicating an inscription set into the very base of the well itself. “If they succeed—if this gateway is ever opened—then more than just Aerysius will be in danger. They will unleash the powers of Chaos across the world.”

The sound of a loud, metallic crash rang out across the chamber. And then another noise: a distant thundering sound, low and throbbing, echoing up from the depths.

“They know we’re here,” Sephana gasped.

 

You can follow M. L. Spencer online here:

Website: http://mlspencerfiction.com/index.html

Twitter: @MLSpencer1

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/m.l.spencer1/

And you can purchase her books here:

https://www.amazon.com/Darkstorm-Rhenwars-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MT77SK9

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 13 – Interview With Travis Heermann

In addition to being the second author I’ve featured this year with award-winning screenwriting credentials appended to his curriculum vitae, this week’s guest is also the second collaborative writer I’ve featured throughout. You will soon see that this multifaceted man is diversely proficient.

Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, Travis Heermann is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of The Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, Rogues of the Black Fury, and co-author of Death Wind, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Apex Magazine, Alembical, the Fiction River anthology series, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Battletech, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online.

He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and zombies. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT best-seller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.

In 2016, he returned to the U.S. after living in New Zealand for a year with his family, toting more Middle Earth souvenirs and photos than is reasonable.

His latest release, Death Wind is a horror western. It came out from WordFire in August and debuted at Dragon Con. To give you a sense of it:

Between the clouds lurks an evil older than man…

In 1891, in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre, awful nightmares and bizarre killing sprees shake the uneasy peace between the frontier town of White Pine and the Lakota on the nearby reservation.

Pioneer doctor Charles Zimmerman finds himself at the forefront of the investigation and uncovers a crawling horror the likes of which he could not imagine.

With the help of an orphaned farm girl, a smart-mouth stage robber, a beaten-down Lakota warrior, a beautiful medicine woman, and Charles’ estranged father – the aging town marshal – Charles must save not only the down of White Pine but also the starving Lakota from an ancient, ravenous evil.

I’m a fan of mixed-genre work. Will you tell us more about it?

Death Wind is a Lovecraftian horror western, co-written with jim pinto. It just came out in September from WordFire Press. It’s a story about hunger, greed, and oppression, and the people who feed on those dark impulses.

What was the inspiration behind it?

We wanted to write something neither of us had ever seen before, and we both liked the idea of doing a horror western, as fans of both genres. Obviously Lovecraft was an inspiration but also tons of great western films like Unforgiven, Tombstone, True Grit, and Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, plus the HBO series Deadwood, which contains some of the most phenomenal writing we’ve seen.

I myself grew up on the Great Plains, maybe a couple hours’ drive from the imaginary locale where we set the story, so there are doubtless experiences and impressions from my life that found their way in there.

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

The biggest challenge was that a novel and a feature film are not the same length. When I finished outlining the novel from the screenplay, I had only about half the length I needed. This turned out to be a great boon, however, because I had the opportunity to fill in the characterizations and backstory of the Lakota characters. The result is a much richer story.

What other novels have you written?

I’m also the author the Ronin Trilogy, a historical fantasy series set in 13th century Japan, Rogues of the Black Fury, a military action fantasy novel in the vein of the Black Company, and The Wild Boys, a young-adult supernatural thriller. I’ve also got a growing body of short fiction out there.

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

Death Wind is the novelization of a screenplay that jim and I wrote first. In 2012, the screenplay won Grand Prize in the screenplay contest at the CINEQUEST Film Festival in San Jose, CA, as well as 2nd place at H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Con—L.A. the previous October.

So we knew the story had some legs. From there, adapting the story to novel format was a no-brainer. The screenplay hasn’t been produced, but maybe if the novel is a success….

Since jim is primarily a game designer, we’re also kicking around the idea of turning it into a GM-less roleplaying game.

What else are you working on?

Right now I’m working on a feature-length, contemporary drama screenplay and some short stories that are in various stages.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I fall somewhere on the spectrum between pantser and outliner. With Death Wind, we had no idea where the story was going to go when we started. It was a really organic process, working in tandem on the story at the same time. A lot of time, we would take turns writing scenes, brainstorming the next few scenes as we went.

The ratio between outlining and pantsing has been different with every novel I’ve written, but the way the process most often looks is that I have the beginning, the idea, the characters, and I often have a rough idea of the ending (but not always). Writing scenes sparks ideas for more scenes down the road, so I rough those out, a few sentences maybe, and then write toward them.

Why do you write?

Because it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be, deep down, even though I’ve taken sidetracks on other careers.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’m much more conscious (and maybe self-conscious) than I was when I was just starting out. Back in my 20s, I just wrote, and I didn’t worry about whether it was any good, whether it was too much like X or Y. I just did it, and I told what I thought was a fun story.

Nowadays, I’m much more conscious of the fact that I am an artist, producing something that I want to have value for my readers. I still want my readers to enjoy it, but I also want it to have a little heft. Not in the George R.R. Martin/Robert Jordan-doorstop-book kind of way, but in that I have something to say. The world is more screwed up now than it’s been in decades, and I might have something to say about that. If I don’t make them feel something, if I don’t nudge them just a little, I haven’t done my job.

While this attitude makes me take my work more seriously, it can also be paralyzing, so the trick is to balance fun with thinking about what the story is really about.

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

The discipline to produce new words consistently, daily. Life is full of a million distractions, any of which is easier to face than the blank page. Life stuff, errands, jobs, family, all that stuff can force writing into the cracks of time, when it should be opposite.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I write full time, but that’s a mix of fiction and freelancing for a variety of clients. I also teach science fiction literature part-time at the University of Nebraska Omaha. This would be difficult, as I live in Colorado, but thank the web gods for virtual commuting.

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

What motivates me is the drive to have a real writing career. Writers who don’t write don’t have careers. I didn’t embark on this incredibly difficult—but rewarding—path just to stop half way.

My inspirations come from people, from history, and from nature, probably in that order. Humans are this wildly unpredictable species that can do incredible things, acts of poignant kindness, fly to the moon itself. And we can also shoot somebody because their skin is the wrong color.

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

You have to be a glutton for punishment to even consider jumping into the publishing industry. My personality is this strange mix of cynicism and optimism. The cynic in me is rewarded all too often by being right about something—especially over the last year of election season—which often depresses the hell out of me. But ultimately something in me will click and I’ll be able to get past it and move on, hoping that something good might happen. Maybe this time, my work won’t be rejected. Maybe human beings aren’t always awful. Maybe I’ll find a freelance client whose first instinct isn’t to try screwing me over. It’s the optimism that this time I’ll be wrong that keeps me going.

Do you have any pet projects?

I don’t screw around with projects. If I’m working on something, I’m working on something.

Let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… pretty cool guy.

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee.

I’m beginning to notice most authors say that. The one thing I would change about my life: I would have gotten out of destructive relationship much, much sooner.

My biggest peeve is: willful ignorance, the kind where you show someone the truth, over and over again, and they stick their fingers in their ears. La la la la la can’t hear you!

 That’s something I’m also hearing more. For those visitors who have stuck it out this far—I mean how could you not? This is one fascinating man!—here is an excerpt from Death Wind, followed by Travis’s social and book buy links:

Marshal Hank Zimmerman adjusted the brim of his old felt cavalry hat, so faded that it almost looked Confederate gray, and squinted into the midday sun, scratching the grizzled stubble along his jaw. His horse stamped and fussed about being reined up so harshly. A few rocky buttes and stands of brush and cottonwood were the only irregularities in the endless sea of grass.

Except for the lone, distant figure silhouetted on a hilltop, a figure moving unsteadily.

Hank turned his horse toward the figure.

Beyond it, in the distance, the brooding outline of a larger, tree-crested butte loomed, Sentinel Hill.

What was somebody doing so far from town or homestead, on foot, and this close to the reservation? Relations were tense with the Sioux after what had happened in December. The Army gave them a good beating, but the homesteaders and even some of the folks back in White Pine were still nervous about another uprising. All that wild dancing they were doing last year, days of it at a time, gave white folks the shudders.

The wind whipped over the grass and tugged at his hat, forcing him to jam it tighter on his head. His eyes were still sharp, even at his age, and he kept them on the figure. A lone man, no hat, a white man, carrying something in one hand.

Then the figure collapsed out of sight.

Hank spurred his horse to a canter, keeping track of the small impression in the grass where the man’s body lay. Reaching the spot, his reined up and dismounted, cursing his stiff old bones as his boots hit the sod. A slow, steady ,metallic, rhythmic clicking reached him from where the man had fallen.

He approached, hand on his Colt. On the wind, he smelled blood, and his shorthairs spiked like a porcupine. The man lay on his face. Hank rolled him over, and drew back.

A horrid groan escaped the man’s blood spattered face, like a man already reaching for the hereafter. He clutched an empty revolver, thumb and finger cocking and squeezing the trigger in rhythmic succession. His abdomen was a crusty wet mass of caked blood. Clots of brain and skull clung to his face and stubble.

The man’s eyelids fluttered, and Hank recognized his face.

“Oliver McCoy! That you, boy?”

Another groan, barely intelligible. “Marshal?”

“It is. You gutshot?”

A faint wheeze came back. “Yeah.”

Hank peeled his eyes and swept them around the area, pulling his six-gun. “What happened?”

Oliver’s broken, raspy voice forced Hank to lean in. “Camped. Ferrell. Crazy. Crazy. Killed ever’body.” His free hand snatched Hank’s coat. “Saw god!”

Hank clutched Oliver’s hand and tried to pry it free. Even gutshot, the kid was stronger than he looked. “What the hell?”

The whites of Oliver’s eyes blazed. “God! Saw the face of a black god!” Then Oliver’s eyes rolled back, and his head lolled.

Hank grasped the empty pistol and found Oliver’s fingers glued thick around it with dried blood. “Christ!” Prying it away, he thrust the pistol into his pocket, blood and all, then looked down at Oliver with a swell of pity. He knew what a gut wound was. He knew what bleeding out looked like. He knew all too well that getting Oliver help was nearly impossible.

His thumb tickled the hammer of his Colt. One shot, through the head, would end Oliver’s misery, like shooting an injured horse or a man too far gone from Confederate shrapnel. One quick shot. His hand shook a little, seeing creased blood funneling over Oliver’s lips, down his neck. Hank remembered all too well what young wounded faces looked like. Thirty-five years and he still remembered.

Common sense fought with common decency. They were miles from anything. White Pine was half a day’s ride. Oliver would never make it.

“Dammit to hell.”

But Hank was going to try today.

He eased the pistol back into his holster. “Pain in the ass.” In one swift motion, Hank slung Oliver over his shoulders. He approached his horse, knowing this boy should have been dead hours ago. “I’m gonna get your stupid ass to a doctor, son.” As he reached for the reins, the horse shied away. “Christ, Daisy, settle down! He ain’t gonna hurt you.” He reached for the reins again, but the mare shied back again. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

As his hand reached again for the bridle, the animal bolted for the nearest horizon.

He could do nothing but watch the horse’s rump grow smaller with distance. Who was the horse’s ass now?

“Son of a bitch.”

The McCoy boy was already getting heavy.

In a heartbeat, Hank took stock of his situation. Nothing to see in any direction except the grim gray butte of Sentinel Hill and those thunderheads in the distance. No way he could get back to White Pine now, not carrying a gutshot man. The White River Agency was the closest habitation. His jaw tightened at the thought of going among so many redskins, but he wasn’t going to change his mind now about saving Oliver’s life. It was a few miles to the reservation, but whatever was keeping Oliver alive might just kill him in the next hour. If was going to go, he had better get to it.

“Well, Oliver, how do you feel about walking?”

 

Follow Travis here:

Web Site: http://www.travisheermann.com

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/travis.heermann

Twitter: @TravisHeermann

Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/TravisHeermann

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/418704.Travis_Heermann

 

You may purchase his books here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Apple

Baen Library

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 30 – Interview With Aaron Michael Ritchey

I love it when an author merges multiple, entirely disparate genres into one, since the resulting book has the potential to take the reader down heretofore untraveled paths. This week’s featured interviewee, Aaron Michael Ritchey, did just that when he decided to combine several, apparently unrelated themes.

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of five young adult novels and numerous pieces of short fiction. In 2012, his first novel, The Never Prayer, was a finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold Conference. In 2015, his second novel, Long Live the Suicide King, won the Building the Dream award for best YA novel. His epic sci-fi western series, The Juniper Wars, is available now through WordFire Press. The second book, Killdeer Winds, was on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for September of 2016. Aaron lives in Colorado with his wife and two stormy daughters.

This is how he describes Killdeer Winds:

By 2058, both the Sino-American War and the Sterility Epidemic have decimated the male population. Electricity does not function in five western states. Collectively, they are known as the Juniper. It is the most dangerous place on Earth.

Cavatica Weller and her sisters have one chance to save their family ranch—a desperate cattle drive across a violent wasteland.  Having escaped from Denver, the Weller family now has to face the Juniper’s worst outlaw, the Psycho Princess.

Meanwhile, an inhuman army still dogs their every step. The mystery deepens—who is the lost boy Micaiah? Why would the richest man on Earth spend billions to find him? And will Micaiah’s secrets tear the Weller sisters apart?

Tell us about your most recent release.

The Juniper Wars Series! It’s a young adult, steampunk, biopunk, science fiction/western family drama epic about three sisters on a post-apocalyptic cattle drive. Why pick a genre when you can do all of them? It’s been described as Little House on the Prairie meets Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ll take that as a compliment.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

I was on my bike, cycling home, and listening to the song “Dead Run” by 16 Horsepower, which is a band that manages to combine goth and country music. And I realized I so wanted to do a western along the lines of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Series. As the story formed, I realized I wanted to add some family drama. The show, Supernatural, does a great job of showing the interesting conflicts of a dysfunctional family. I put it all into a blender, hit puree, and out came The Juniper Wars. Bam.

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

It’s a six-book series, my friend. That’s six flippin’ books. That’s a whole lotta focus for years on end. And I had to keep it fresh. Funny, I’ve been working on the fifth and sixth book in the series, and I keep finding myself wanting to end the main character’s emotional arc. Problem is, you start ending character arcs, you end the book. If everyone is getting along, you lose that fire of conflict. Compare the last few seasons of Supernatural to the first few. The show has far less of an edge (however, season 10 did give us the high school musical episode). And so I have to keep the Weller sisters all kinds of messed up to keep it interesting. The best part of a series, though, is that I get to show how completely traumatized my characters are after facing down death time and time again. It has this weary, jaded, cynical, bruised and broken feel to it. It’s about how I feel as a novelist after nearly twenty-five years of writing books.

I honestly believe that we do not begin to fully develop as writers until we have at least a couple of decades under our belt. That’s a lot of hours and a lot of inward exploration, so I have to ask why do you write?

I write because I like stories more than I like real life. Put another way, I understand real life more because I write stories. How wonderful that I can create a world where there is poetic justice, dramatic irony, and happy endings. I can control death, illness, depravity, and love. Life is life because that whole fate business is out of our control.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I used to care what everyone thought. I’d ponder every little bit of criticism for months on end. And I’d chase edits. Now, I’m caring less and less. If you don’t like it, read something else. I imagine at some point I’ll swing the other way. I write every day. Some of it is bound to good no matter what the haters think.

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

Writers, especially novel writers, need to be contrary creatures. The most challenging thing about long works of fiction is that you have to keep self-doubt at bay for months, if not years. I’ve been working on The Juniper Wars Series now for seven years, and for most of that time, I had no idea if anything worked or not. Then I had people who read it, and wanted me to change a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to change. And I had to stick to my guns, sometimes literally. In the end, I snarled at the universe, saying, “This is how I’m writing it. This is the book I’m writing. If you don’t like it, I don’t care. I am doing THIS and I’M DOING IT THIS WAY!” Contrary. I had to become contrary to write books. And mildly/dangerously anti-social.

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

Don’t pick up my book if you don’t want to feel. I mean that. This is a warning. A lot of science fiction/fantasy writers are far more Rush than Meatloaf, which fine, but I’m like Meatloaf. I’m like Bat Out of Hell epic, and yeah, I like over-the-top emotions. My characters cry and scream and gnash their teeth in the darkness, and those are during the good times. No, really, I write from my guts. I had a critique group who criticized me saying there was too much crying in my novel. I went home, wondering if they were right. I have a wife and two stormy daughters. After about a week, I added more crying.

Good for you! Frankly, I find all-action books that don’t touch my soul are akin to drinking a can of near beer or a cup of decaf. I don’t see the point. Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have daughters. My daughters have big, huge, amazing souls. If my life were an X-MEN comic, my daughters would be the powerful mutants that need to be kept in a coma so they wouldn’t destroy the universe. I suggested to my wife that we keep our daughters sedated and she said we’d tried that. My daughters laughed at Benadryl, and Codeine had no effect on them. But do you know what? I’m glad I have powerful big-spirited daughters. This world needs more women warriors.

What motivates or inspires you?

I really like doing difficult things. I know, that sounds kind of dramatic and badass, and while I am very dramatic, I am not at all badass. The writing game is this impossible thing, and I like that it’s so hard. It’s the hard that makes it good. I truly believe I am destined to fail, that I will die nameless, and not one person in a million will have read anything I have written. And strangely enough, that motivates me. It’s the Alamo, baby. It’s Helm’s Deep. It’s Game of Thrones, standing on the parapets of Castle Black and looking out over the Wall at the hordes of hell. It’s a losers game. And do you know what? I’m going to do it. I’m going to write books until I die. And if I fail? Oh, well. “Night gathers and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.”

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

I call three different people and tell them what is bothering me. I tell the same story three different times. It really works. Then I go write books.

That’s a very unique and interesting approach. I must try it some time.

Now, before I give our visitors a taste of Killdeer Winds, 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 … a whole lotta work.

The one thing I cannot do without is: stories.

The one thing I would change about my life: is my angsty inner life.

My biggest peeve is: my angsty inner life.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: Not much, but I will say, holding my published books in my very own hand, my name on the cover, my own ISBN, that rocks so very, very hard.

Yup! That definitely rocks. I’d like to thank you, Aaron, for gracing my website with your no-holds-barred replies. We’ll close with an excerpt from Killdeer Winds, followed by links where readers can purchase a copy and follow you online:

 

Chapter One

Certainly the Juniper is a dangerous place, but not because of outlaws, rustlers or stray bullets. No, the real dangers are the wind, solitude, and a drifting mind. When in doubt, I stay in my house and count my money. I never get lonely that way.

—Robert “Dob” Howerter

Colorado Courier Interview

August 3, 2057

(i)

The Cuius Regios were coming. I didn’t know it then, but the Regios were on their way and we didn’t have the guns to stop them.

The pain from my gunshot wounds barked like a dog on a distant neighbor’s porch. I sat on the floor of the strange room, my back against the bed. I couldn’t move. The Christmas issue of Modern Society magazine lay on my lap. The perfume of a cologne sample wafted from the glossy pages. Micaiah, cleaned and groomed, smiled at me on the cover.

But his real name wasn’t Micaiah. It was Micah Hoyt, son of the richest man on Earth. His father, Tiberius “Tibbs” Hoyt, was CEO and general jackerdan-in-charge of the American Reproduction Knowledge Initiative, otherwise known as the ARK. Tibbs Hoyt had hired an army to find his son, and we had the bullet wounds to prove it.

The foot soldiers were known as the Cuius Regios, and their commanders were the Vixx sisters, who could heal almost any wound, which sounded suspiciously like genetic engineering, however unlikely. I’d kept an eye on the popular science websites and hadn’t seen anything close to creating actual people with enhanced biology.

The idea scared me, scared me deep. How could we fight such a soulless army?

But why would Daddy Hoyt send in troops to retrieve a son who didn’t want to be found? Then again, if you give a rich man a cause, he can turn a family feud into a world war.

Before I’d gone unconscious, Micaiah had wanted to run away to protect us. Was he gone? That opened a floodgate of questions. Was Pilate still alive? Had Wren run away for good ’cause of what I’d done to her? And did my oldest sister Sharlotte still have us bound for Wendover, Nevada with our herd of nearly three thousand cattle?

First things first, I slid the magazine underneath the mattress, not sure what I would do with the information, but it felt dangerous in me. As did the pain from my gunshot wounds, barking like a dog on a distant neighbor’s porch.

I stood, moved to the window, and used my right arm to pull open the yellow curtains. My left arm throbbed as I held it to my belly. From the second story of the house, I saw our tents below—our chuckwagon dominated the front yard. Mama and I had fixed up the Chevy Workhouse II with an attachable ASI steam engine, and then found a long trailer for it to pull. We called the whole thing our chuckwagon. Next to it sat the old Ford Excelsior that had saved our lives. Cattle and horses meandered around outbuildings, barns, and hay sheds. I recognized a few of our horses—Elvis, Taylor Quick, and Bob D. Two of our best cows, Charles Goodnight and Betty Butter, stood in the strange yard, chewing cud. To my right rose a ridge of pine trees and craggy rock.

I searched the skies for the Moby Dick, the zeppelin that we’d hired to re-supply us and scout. There was no sign of it, but then Sketchy, Tech, and Peeperz might still be trying to find us after the blizzard.

Green grass pushed up from wet soil, which meant I’d been unconscious long enough for the snow to melt. Might’ve been a day. Might’ve been a week. Someone must’ve dribbled water into my mouth and then cleaned me up afterwards. Dang, but I hoped it was family that had done the work to keep me alive.

Out of the corner of my eye, something flashed in the distance—sunlight off a cast-off hunk of metal, or some bit of chrome, or a mirror, something, southeast of the house. The blinking stopped. Something didn’t feel right about it, but I had other things to worry about.

Like where I was and who owned the house.

Book online sales links:

Killdeer Winds (The Juniper Wars Book 2) – Amazon

Killdeer Winds (The Juniper Wars Book 2) – Barnes & Noble

Killdeer Winds (The Juniper Wars Book 2) – Kobo

Killdeer Winds (The Juniper Wars Book 2) – Smashwords

Social Links:

www.aaronmrichey.com

https://www.facebook.com/aaron.m.ritchey

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 16 – Interview With Brooks Wachtel

As I continue to feature WordFire Press authors, I never cease to be amazed by both their writing acumen and their impressive backgrounds. This week’s guest, Brooks Wachtel, is no different. Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead, a detective historical novel, may be Brooks Wachtel’s first novel, but he is no stranger to crafting stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning writer with a long resume in television and film. Mr. Wachtel spent his youth as a “Navy Brat” traveling the world. While attending Hollywood High and in college, he produced several student films. One, a forty-five minute Sherlock Holmes spoof was the first film ever shot at Hollywood’s famed “Magic Castle.” Wachtel co-created, executive produced and co-wrote many episodes of the hit series DogFights for the History Channel. He also wrote and produced many History Channel documentaries, including episodes of Defending America: National Guard and The Coast Guard. Additionally, he has written The Great Ships, Search and Rescue, The Royal Navy and Fly Past, which won the Cine Golden Eagle Award. Wachtel also wrote and co-produced an independent documentary feature illustrating the history of his famous alma-mater, Hollywood High School. All rights and royalties were donated to Hollywood High to help fill the school’s scholarship funds. His latest documentary project, Silver Tsunami, which he co-wrote and co-produced, details the calamity of the massive and aging baby-boomer demographic. In addition, Wachtel has written more than 100 produced episodes of television fiction, with shows as diverse as Fox’s live-action Young Hercules (starring Ryan Gosling), to animated hits like PBS’s Liberty’s Kids, Tutenstein, Heavy Gear, Spider-Man, X-Men, Robo-Cop and Beast Machines: Transformers. For younger viewers, he has penned episodes of the pre-school hits, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Rainbow Fish. His script for Tutenstein won an Emmy Award. Wachtel has written several live-action features, including Goddess of Death, which he also directed. Wachtel serves on the Steering Committee of the Animation Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild, as well as teaching screenwriting at UCLA Extension. He is also a performing magician member of Hollywood’s Magic Castle.

When I asked Brooks to give us a sense of his new book, he characterized its premise as follows:

Lady Natasha (Tasha) Dorrington, an emancipated and brilliant detective in 1906 London, is drawn into a deadly mystery involving an ancient pagan curse and a diabolical scheme to plunge Europe into a devastating war.

Will you please tell us more about it?

My most recent release is also my first novel, Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead.

The book chronicles the adventures of Lady Natasha “Tasha” Dorrington, a fast-thinking, hard-fighting and very sensual leading lady. The story takes the reader from fog-bound Edwardian London to a remote island in Scotland, where a terrified man is taunted by the power of a thousand year curse closing upon him.

Tasha finds herself embroiled in a much larger game. She has been lured to the island to play a life and death contest with Deirdre, the brilliant leader of an ancient and sinister cult who plots to plunge the world into war. The prize between these powerful adversaries is no less than civilization itself – and the life of Tasha’s daughter, held hostage by the cult.

The novel is also elegantly illustrated in the fashion of the original Sherlock Holmes stories as they appeared in the Strand Magazine.

I’ve been a television writer for more than three decades with over a hundred produced episodes in animation and live-action as well as documentaries, but “Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead” is my first step into prose. However, even that step had its launch-point in script-writing.

What was the inspiration behind it?

Before Lady Sherlock was a novel, it was a screenplay. The idea came about as the confluence of several of my favorite interests.

First, I love writing strong female characters. I became known for this with my television writing and often was the pick to do episodes which featured the female leads (e.g. An episode I wrote for “Young Hercules” featured the Amazons). I also have a love of history, especially the late-Victorian-Edwardian era. Fitting comfortably in that era is another interest of mine: Sherlock Holmes. Add to that, growing up a military-brat (or more properly, Naval Dependent) gave me an appreciation of ships, sea-power and its place in history.

I decided to combine these interests; history, naval, the supernatural, Holmes, powerful female characters, in one story. The story has a basis in real history as H.M.S. Dreadnought and the naval race and political collision between Britain and Germany which that ship help set in motion are a part of the book.

Making my main character a woman—a very capable, confident woman—in a particularly chauvinistic era would be fun and offer story and character opportunities that a male lead would not. There would be so many circumstances and attitudes, which would simply not exist for a man, of that era, that she would have to overcome. She’s a character equally skilled with women’s rights—and lefts. There’s a lot of humor in the book and much of it is the collision between a witty, smart woman who will not easily tolerate chauvinistic attitudes.

The character also had a visual inspiration. My friend, actress Tanya Lemani George had a wonderful look that I thought would be a great image for a feminine take of Holmes. She is the model for the cover and many of the interior illustrations.

Originally a screenplay that never sold—alas—but worked wonderfully as a writing sample, the script landed me lots of television (and screenplay) assignments. When I reread it several years later, I felt it was too good a story to languish in a drawer and only be seen by a few producers and story-editors. As I reacquainted myself with the script, I felt it had the makings of a novel. I’ve been writing scripts for decades and was looking for something new. Little did I know what vast changes lay ahead…

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

I have had two Emmy Award nominations and one win. My Emmy Award was for the animated series “Tutenstien.” An episode of the History Channel series “Fly Past” titled “The Cutting Edge,” which I co-wrote with Cynthia Harrison, received the Cine Golden Eagle Award.

While “DogFights” did not win any awards, it is a huge favorite in the aviation community. When I visited the Palm Springs Air Museum – which is one really superb enterprise – I discovered they are running excerpts from the series that show some of the aircraft they have on static display in action. When I visited Vancouver a few years ago and explored the Royal Canadian Navy Museum, one of the docents informed me that a World War One episode of “DogFights” is used by history classes at her university.

Episodes of “Liberty’s Kids,” a series about the American Revolution (with Walter Cronkite doing the voice of Benjamin Franklin) are used as an educational tool in elementary schools.

In fiction writing, I have worked on many series which are fan favorites. I wrote several episodes of the X-Men animated series, including the conclusion to the “Dark Phoenix” saga and, continuing in the Marvel Universe, the Spider-Man series I worked on is still fondly recalled. It was fun to be a part of the Hercules-Xena universe by scripting for “Young Hercules,” starring a very young Ryan Gosling.

One thing that always brings a smile is when twenty-somethings I meet find out I wrote episodes of “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” it always gets a very enthusiastic and happy response.

“Silver Tsunami,” a documentary I co-wrote with my often writing/producing partner, Cynthia Harrison-Wallach, dealing with the challenges the vast baby-boomer demographic will present to the world won several film-festival awards. Here’s the link to the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LJqt6fj8uI

Thanks to youtube most of my career is now online. If I ever need to review a show I wrote, no matter how vintage or obscure, chances are it will be posted.

There is a promotional video for Lady Sherlock, narrated by yours truly. The character inspired composer David Raiklen to write the wonderful theme which scores the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o39owXZHrRs

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

I suppose, like most of us, we just force ourselves to get back into life and work. I’ve had some losses in the last few years—my mother and brother passed away within four days of each other—and it hit me hard. There are still days when I am down and don’t feel like doing anything… and sometimes I don’t. Then there comes that time when life and work beckon and you simply start. Friends, and I have some wonderful ones, help a lot. But ultimately we all just find it in ourselves to place one foot in front of the other and continue on the journey.

What has been your greatest success in life?

That depends on the definition of success. Professionally, receiving an Emmy Award was certainly a high point. Co-creating, co-exec producing and writing “DogFights” was a professional highlight, as was getting to interview some of the amazingly heroic aviators and pilots whose amazing exploits we brought to life in the series.

One other success about “DogFights” that was important to me: at the time we were the only WGA covered series on the History Channel. I was proud to help several writers get the credits they needed to join the Guild.

But perhaps I treasure my friendships: the people that you are there for and are there for you, most of all. I have been blessed with some wonderfully caring people in my orbit. And I am exceedingly and always grateful for them.

Who or what has been your greatest inspiration?

I was about to answer with some literary or other notable or some book or film… but on reflection, perhaps it was, after all, my parents. They gave me the values and perspective that I think define me in the most important ways.

Lastly, what is the one thing you cannot do without?

Good friends, music, books, finding outlets for creativity.

Before I provide our visitors with online links where they can follow you or purchase your book, I’d like to give them a taste of Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead. Here is an excerpt:

Before Ian could halt the gig, Tasha—like Ian, soaking wet from the cold rain—leapt to the road, peering ahead to the ruins. Above the rain and fierce wind, they could hear the eerie chanting of more than a dozen voices.

“Utter fool that I was to desert him!” yelled Tasha over the din. “Look!”

The ruins odd appearance was even more distorted by the ferocity of the storm. The ancient shrine was torch-lit and full of black-robed people standing on various levels of the rocks. There were eighteen in all: nine men and nine women; every one of them wore masks that mimicked a goat’s heads with exaggerated horns. The torches were sheltered from the elements by alcoves cut into the dolmens. They created a harsh contrast of flickering red light and dancing black shadows that that exaggerated the malevolent atmosphere. Some sort of ceremony was transpiring, and the gathered all gave voice to a rhythmic chant. The horns of the masks turned in unison to the altar stone, where there was erected a black-robed effigy of an ancient demon-god, with crescent-moons on the robe and flaring horns protruding from the distorted goat-like animal skull that formed the sinister head.

From the roadway, Tasha and Ian scrutinized the proceedings in front of them.

“I don’t see McGloury!” yelled Ian.

“They have him. Depend on it!” said Tasha bitterly, as she drew her revolver and dashed to the ruins as fleetly as the mud-soaked ground would permit. Ian followed close behind.

Two masked men dragged a live goat to the altar. The robes of the effigy parted as Deirdre, in her priestess robes and bearing an ornate mask, emerged in flowing white with a crescent moon dangling near her breast. She raised a crude stone dagger and with one accurate stroke, slit the animal’s throat left to right. The chanting abruptly stopped and, save for the rain—the wind had died down—there was silence. Deirdre addressed the assembly in a disguised whisper. She pointed to a dolmen and motioned, “Come here.”

Tasha and Ian stepped from behind the towering monolith, weapons in hand.

Deirdre, with a bend of her finger, bid them forward.

Tasha boldly marched in, but Ian, his eyes darting from place to place, followed nervously. They reached the altar, and he pointed his revolver at Deirdre. “Up with your hands … ma’am.”

He was ignored, even by Tasha. She was focused on Deirdre—who, with her face concealed and her voice disguised, Tasha failed to recognise from their meeting at the Hermes. But she had put enough together to ask, “Deirdre, is it not?”

The priestess nodded.

Tasha nodded in return. “We meet at last.”

Deirdre’s smirk was just visible under the lower part of the mask. The cult members burst into laughter. Ian scowled at the masked faces made hideous by the malicious hysterics that surrounded them, but Tasha kept her eyes on Deirdre. The priestess raised her finger and the laughter stopped.

“We’ve met before,” came the mocking reply from behind the priestess’s mask.

“When?” There was no answer. “Where is McGloury?” Again no answer, just Deirdre’s maddening half-smile behind the ornate mask. “You are already responsible for two murders,” continued Tasha.

“Three,” Deirdre whispered. “Now four.” At once there was a vicious howling and human scream from the direction of the cliff. Tasha spun to see, indistinct through the storm and distance, the blur of a dog lunging for the throat of the vague shape of a man. That shape screamed again.

“McGloury!” yelled Tasha as she sprang into action.

She heard Deirdre’s mock sympathetic taunt. “Help him. You never fail.”

As Tasha and Ian raced toward the cliff, Deirdre, unmoving and regal, removed her mask, revealing her luminous eyes. Somewhere, faint in her throat, was a chuckle. “The cleverest woman in Europe.”

At that moment the “cleverest woman” was aiming her gun at the dog, but hound and human were intertwined as they struggled toward the cliff, making a clean shot impossible. She was too late. The battle ended as man and beast tumbled over the precipice, their screams and howls vanishing with them. Tasha stopped and staggered as if she’d been physically hit. Her mind screamed in protest as she bolted toward the cliff. Then the muddy ground crumbled under her feet and she slipped over the edge. She plummeted only for a second—Ian grasped her arm and, painfully, pulled her back up.

Tasha’s normal reserve was gone; she was desperate and fighting back tears. She had failed. Her client was dead.

If you’ve enjoyed Brooks’ writing and would like to read more, here are links to purchase his book, as well as ways you can follow him online.

Book online sales links:

Amazon                      https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Sherlock-Circle-Smiling-Dead-ebook/dp/B01LYDJTJL

Barnes & Nobel        http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lady-sherlock-brooks-arthur-wachtel/1124734777

Kobo                           https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lady-sherlock

Smashwords              https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/669578

iBooks                                    https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/lady-sherlock/id1162237016

Social Links:

Lady Sherlock Blog:            http://ladysherlocknovel.blogspot.com/

Lady Sherlock FaceBook Page:      https://www.facebook.com/TheLadySherlock/

Lady Sherlock FaceBook Fan created page:         https://www.facebook.com/groups/321693048210287/

Lady Sherlock Youtube promotional video:         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o39owXZHrRs

(Please note: Brooks Wachtel’s headshot was taken by Steven Sears)