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.

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The Write Stuff – Monday, August 13 – Uri Kurlianchik Interview

This week’s featured guest is Israeli author, Uri Kurlianchik. He has written primarily for tabletop role-playing games but recently turned his attention to fiction. His work in the gaming field was published by WotC, Paizo, Mongoose and others. His fiction includes the modern fantasy story cycle “Tales from an Israeli Storyteller,” the space opera, Noblesse Oblige, released by WordFire Press on July 27, 2018, and several fantasy and horror stories published in various magazines and anthologies, including the British urban fantasy story cycle “The Red Phone Box.” When not writing, Uri is raising the next generation of geeks by instructing tabletop and board games to kids in schools and community centers. When not doing either, he sleeps.

Uri describes Noblesse Oblige’s premise as follows:

In a universe where corporate scions hold aristocratic titles and wield near absolute power over the masses, a young princess embarks on a mission of mercy to find a new home for the refugees created by her father’s latest war on the edge of the solar system. To her dismay, an invitation to an isolated planetoid that could serve as the perfect home for the exiles turns out to be a ploy by the infamous Baron Von Schmidt to add yet another outrage to his repertoire: a depraved auction where the item on sale is her royal highness and the bidders are the who’s who of the system’s worst scoundrels!

With only enemies in sight and no way to call for help, the young princess has no choice but to rescue herself. This will not be easy.

Her foes include: a Chinese pirate queen, Russia’s foremost duelist, a corporate samurai, a Venusian mafiosi, expert French poisoner twins, a floating Swiss banker of unimaginable wealth and weight, and a British gentleman who happens to be a pterodactyl.

Her arsenal consists of: vague memories from classes she mostly slept through, a pile of gadgets for which she’s never read the user manual, and an unruly ferret.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

It’s a story about a Princess who needs to rescue herself from a parcel of rogues while marooned on a faraway planetoid. It’s equal parts Dune, James Bond and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… if they were all written by a drunk Victorian (that’s actually how a friend described the prose in the novel). The Princess does have a name, but I keep forgetting how to spell it. It appears somewhere in the book, however, so not to worry.

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

Oh yes! The whole thing started online as a random late night chat with a friend. We just started throwing ideas back and forth and ended up discussing many people who didn’t exist and events that never happened. We talked for hours, but vampires that we are, we had to retire before the sun rose. However, I got so excited about the small mythology created in the conversation that the following evening I copy+pasted it into Google Docs and used it as a guideline for a short story which kept getting longer and longer until it reached its organic conclusion. There was never an outline or a plan of any sort, just rogue thoughts doing their best to outsmart one another.

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

The scope of this novel is intentionally very small. It covers a period of just 24 hours (almost in real time) and takes place entirely in and around one mansion on an isolated planetoid. At the same time, we keep getting hints about the greater setting and famous denizens thereof through cultural references and conversations between the characters. However, these are just hints. It’s possible to understand the context of the novel from them, but it’s also possible to be very wrong…

What was your path to publication?

Once the book was completed (something I never really planned for since I worked on it irregularly at best) I thought I might as well shop it around because I felt the result was a fun read and because this is what you do when you have a completed manuscript. An editor friend kindly offered to go over the manuscript and fix language and continuity issues. Without her assistance, I doubt the novel would be publishable. I sent the manuscript to several publishing houses that published stuff I liked. Eventually, the good people of WordFire Press liked the novel and chose to publish it. The rest is history.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a sequel for Noblesse Oblige. It’s still told from the POV of the Princess but it’s wider in scope and sheds light on some of the “mythological” characters mentioned only in passing in the first book. Also, since this time the Princess is on an adventure of her own choosing, she’ll hopefully be a little less outraged all the time, and we’ll get to see her nicer side. No guarantees though. You know how these aristocrats are…

My other project is a novel about four Jewish kids and a Bedouin girl who deal with all sorts of magical creatures as well as mundane dangers in the hills of Samaria as they try to help their giant friend to discover what happened to her children. The whole book is an ode to the view I see each time I raise my eyes from the screen and look into the distance. It burrows some elements from Jewish and Islamic folklore, but mostly it’s just my imagination running wild in the landscape before my eyes.

What else have you written?

I started as a writer for tabletop RPGs and have written many articles and adventures, mostly for the science fiction game Traveller and the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons. Fiction-wise, I have self-published “Stories from an Israeli Storyteller.” It’s a cycle of short stories in various genres ranging from lighthearted fantasy to rather bleak horror. Each story explores a different location I like in Israel. The plots are entirely fictional (you don’t meet many golems or efreeti in the desert these days) but the geographic details are precise enough to make each story useful as a guidebook to the location in question. I have also written several short stories, mostly horror and dark fantasy, including a couple of stories to a very unusual urban fantasy story cycle called “The Red Phone Box.”

What is your writing routine?

Nothing in my life has any semblance of a routine and writing is no different. I write whenever I feel like it, which is usually very late at night when it’s cool and quiet and my brain is tired enough to stop resisting the flow of ideas but not so tired as to muddle my writing. I don’t force myself to write unless I have deadline. I think writing should be fun and spontaneous. It shouldn’t be a chore.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I didn’t do it for my first novel, which got me in a pickle a few times. I ended up having to rewrite big chunks of the novel when I realized that the direction I was headed into wasn’t feasible and again when I decided to change an important detail about the setting. This wasn’t the least bit fun. My current projects both have plot outlines, though only in the vaguest terms because I still want to be able to surprise myself from time to time. I also wrote short but expansive setting bibles to help avoid inconsistencies. Lastly, I have a little notepad where I write down any cool idea that comes to mind, a creative diary of sorts. This can be anything ranging from a cool plot development to a funny line or even just a cool sounding name.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I never write until I’m intellectually exhausted. Instead, I stop right at the most exciting part, when I’m just burning with the desire to write some more. This way, the momentum of the previous session carries me to the next session. I find that when I write until my mind is empty it’s much harder to go on writing the following day.

Secondly, as the excellent fantasy writer Steven Brust once said, you need to invent some lie that helps you to go on writing and stick to it until your novel is done. In my case, the lie is that I am not going to write a whole novel. I’m only writing to kill time and can stop anytime I want without any consequences. It’s just mindless fun, like watching TV or reading a comic book. By constantly repeating this lie to myself, I’ve already finished a couple dozen stories and adventures, two gaming books, a story cycle and a novel. It’s far easier to start writing when you know it’s just to pass the time then when you feel like you’re doing important work and better do it right or else.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

As someone who lives in the Middle East, the news are full of villainy, heroism and the touch and go drama that can inspire anything ranging from bloody horror to epic fantasy. Sometimes, you can look out of the window and see stuff exploding in the sky as if you’re living in an episode of Star Wars or Babylon 5…

Traveling is another great source of inspiration. I daresay there are few locations in Israel I haven’t visited yet and almost everywhere I go I find a small fragment of a story, a trace of something fantastic (or terrifying!). Go to enough places and you have enough fragments to construct an entire tale. When I go abroad I usually try to stay with people rather than sleep in hotels. I don’t do this just because I’m a cheap bastard (well not onlybecause of that) but also because spending some time with people from a different culture can really help you see the world from a different perspective. This is a huge part of what writing fiction is all about: trying to see a different world through different eyes for a while.

Then there’s gaming. Yes, it’s all made up, but since it involves so many people from diverse backgrounds, some games create experiences that are far greater than a sum of their parts. While there are very few things more obnoxious than someone telling you about their character at length or describing the minute details of their campaign setting, some game scenes have enough drama and emotion to inspire excellent literally scenes as well.

Describe a typical day.

I wake up at the crack of noon, hastily dress so I won’t be late for work. I drive while holding the steering wheel in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Usually there will be some good audiobook in the background. After 2-3 groups, my work day is over and I can start the “me” part of the day. The majority of it will be spent in my garden with my laptop. It always starts with my intention to work on one of my novels, but often leads to hours of pointless surfing and chatting. Sometimes feral cats or hyraxes come to keep my company. At some point I will take a break to watch some good show or walk around town for an hour or so.

I go to bed just as the distant muazzin summons the faithful. I hardly ever see my neighbors, but I am very well acquainted with their white bunny and their black dog.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

The top of my fridge is a shrine of sorts. It contains little deities from Japan, China, India, Siberia, Russia, Nepal, Norway, Egypt, and of course dread Cthulhu. I think this may have attracted a domovoi spirit because I have no other way to explain why things disappear and reappear in my home at random. Right by the door to my house there’s a lovely ricinus plant. It provides shade in the summer and peace of mind in the winter. I don’t have any pets, but I get along very well with all manners of small animals. These include parakeets whom I almost, but not quite, trained to eat out of my hands.

Thank you so much, Uri, for sharing your story and imparting your delightful sense of humor to this page. Before I provide our visitors with an excerpt from Nobless Oblige, as well as your social and book buy links, I’m hoping to entice you to participate in a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: cheese!

The one thing I would change about my life: Eat less, exercise more.

My biggest peeve is: Stalin apologists. Never forgive. Never forget.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: My girlfriend is pretty cool. She’s the best traveling companion in the world.

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

If you get invited to a small planet at the edge of the solar system by a famously eccentric baron, don’t go. It’s bound to be a part of some nefarious plot!

Excerpt:

The Princess wrinkled her nose and turned away. She was surrounded by the sort of people one hopes to go through life without ever seeing outside of sensational newscasts or feverish dreams. While the guests she’d met so far had at least some tenuous claims to aristocracy, the same could not be said about the last and least of the guests – a venerable Chinese woman in a gown of seemingly living butterflies and an obese Italian man smoking a thick cigar while framed by two belles, one albino and one Afro-Terrestrial, their doped expressions a testimony to the ill effects of opium.

Von Schmidt followed her gaze and proceeded with his round of uncalled for introductions.

“This delightful lady, very wellpickledfor her age, which puts many of the rocks outside to shame, is the infamous pirate Chang Shih Feng, an admiral in the Fleet of the Thousand Butterflies. Her dress consists of a thousand ersatz butterflies with wings as sharp as razors. With a single word she can reduce a roomful of unshielded people to bloody ribbons or upgrade her dress into the latest scream in orbital fashion.

“Across the room, with two gorgeous women by his somewhat less gorgeous sides, is her sworn enemy, Don Vincenzo Calzoni. It is said that for all her flagrancy, Madam Chang has a soft spot for defenseless young maidens and would castrate anyone who would dare to take advantage of a young woman of any creed. Calzoni, on the other hand, has made quite a fortune by taking advantage of such young women, as well as boys, beasts, and various artifices unsuitable for civilized discourse due to being subjects of deviant intercourse.

“I hope you are flattered that two sworn enemies are willing to peacefully share a room just to bask in your royal presence, especially since both of them command private armies to match those of numerous smaller Terrestrial states, though, it must be said, not even a minor threat to your father’s fleet, or even the Old Brigade.”

“Overjoyed,” the Princess said with the expression of a person informed that their upcoming execution will be performed by a panel of award-winning executioners and that each artifice of murder would be lovingly handcrafted by a troop of celebrated Dutch artisans. “You could have saved considerable time by simply saying ‘a pirate and a pimp.’”

Von Schmidt clapped once, raising quite a few eyebrows, and laughed heartily. “This is true, oh yes, quite true! I will save time then – a scoundrel, a villain, a thief, a charlatan, an assassin, a radical, a libertine… well, that would be me of course, and a princess! My dear lady, if you feel yourself so much above this choice extract of the villains of the system, should we get to the matter at hand?”

“What matter?” The Princess asked suspiciously.

Von Schmidt turned away from her and spoke as loudly as one could without appearing emotional. “Ladies, Gentlemen. I’m so glad that most of you could make it. May I offer a moment of silence for our friends who did not survive the arduous journey?”

“No need! They already very silent!”  Madam Chang interjected. Several people laughed uneasily.

“I admit-a to a-nothing!” Calzoni laughed alone.

“Must we suffer this vulgarity for long, dear Jean?” Jean asked in a sensual voice that sounded as if it was leading to a yawn but never quite got there.

“It is a sad truth that the possession of some rare jewels is worth suffering the company of apes,” the other Jean replied in an identical voice.

“Apes are apes, though they speak with a rummy French accent.” Professor York misquoted the old poet and addressed Von Schmidt directly. “If one doesn’t care to spend the entire afternoon wiping blood and brain matter off the walls, one is dashed well advised to start with the proceedings already!”

Von Schmidt bowed his head slightly. “Indeed, my dear professor, let us waste no more time on banter and get to the auction.”

“What’s for sale?” the Princess asked uneasily.

“Why, you are, of course.” Von Schmidt answered cheerfully.

Readers can follow Uri here:

Website:         https://www.facebook.com/Urikson

Blog:               http://dndkids.blogspot.com

You can purchase your copy of Noblesse Oblige at:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Noblesse-Oblige-Uri-Kurlianchik/dp/1614756643/

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 30 – Bill DeSmedt Interview

This week’s featured author, Bill DeSmedt, describes his life this way:

I’ve spent my life living by my wits and my words. In my time, and as the spirit’s moved me, I’ve been: a Soviet Area expert and US/USSR exchange student, a computer programmer and system designer, a telecommunications consultant, an Artificial Intelligence researcher, a son, a husband and lover, a father and grandfather, an omnivorous reader with a soft spot for science fiction and science fact, and now, Lord help us, a novelist. I’ve tried to pack as much of that checkered history as I could into my Archon Sequence technothrillers, beginning with Singularity.

My previous writing credits include an unconventional two-part attempt to marry the fields of cognitive psychology and software engineering for the journal DataBase Programming & Design, a chapter on artificial intelligence in foreign language learning for Melissa Holland’s Intelligent Language Tutors, a beginner’s guide to natural-language processing for the Proceedings of the 1997 Computer Game Developers Conference, and a treatise on storytelling as a tool of military command for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The publication of Singularity marks the first time I’ve committed an act of fiction.

Bill’s novel, Singularity, released by WordFire Press on June 23, 2018, takes its terrifying premise from an actual occurrence termed by scientists the Tunguska Event.

TUNGUSKA, JUNE 30, 1908: The most catastrophic impact in recorded history rocks the Central Siberian plateau, flattening thousands of square kilometers of ancient forest and sending shockwaves around the globe, yet leaving behind not a shred of evidence as to what caused it.

Could the culprit have been, as Albert A. Jackson IV and Michael P. Ryan Jr. theorized in the pages of Nature, a primordial black hole? Earth’s encounter with such a fantastic object—smaller than an atomic nucleus, more massive than a mountain, older than the stars—could account for all the phenomena of the Tunguska Event.

All, save one: An infalling micro-hole should have burrowed unhindered through the solid mantle of the earth, bursting up out of the North Atlantic hours later with as much multi-megaton force as the original impact. Absent any trace of such an “exit event,” the Jackson-Ryan hypothesis was swiftly consigned to the dustbin of astrophysical history.

And yet …

110 years after Tunguska, maverick cosmologist Jack Adler is researching a new and improved scenario: What if there was no exit event because the black hole itself never came out? What if it fell into orbit around earth’s core instead? What if it’s still down there, tunneling through the lithosphere, slowly consuming the planet?

Unfortunately, Adler’s not alone in his surmise. A renegade Russian oligarch is plotting to capture the orbiting micro-hole and expose what lurks at its heart: a naked singularity—a gravitational point-source powerful enough to warp space and time itself.

Now only a rookie government agent and the ueber-consultant she’s drafted into helping her are standing in the way of a world-spanning conspiracy aiming to reshape the future by rewriting the past.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Kip Thorne, Nobel-prize-winning theoretical physicist and close collaborator with the late Stephen Hawking, had this to say about Singularity:

“Bill got the vast majority of the physics right, which is highly unusual—especially in a book that is such a good read.”

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

It took a lot of books to make this one. But this one started with a TV program. Perils of couch-potatohood, I guess.

It was years back, a rainy Saturday afternoon in mid-summer. I was sitting around watching a rerun of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Episode IV: “Heaven and Hell”—the one that deals with meteor and cometary impacts.

So, about midway through, Carl gets around to the Tunguska Event. And from there to the Jackson-Ryan hypothesis: that the Event was a collision between the earth and an atom-sized black hole. And then he’s off refuting J&R, citing the standard missing exit-event objection—namely, that the black hole should have cut through the earth like a knife through morning mist, and come exploding up out of the North Atlantic about an hour later, wreaking all manner of havoc in the North Atlantic sea lanes. Never happened. QED. And, next thing you know Carl’s gone on to Meteor Crater in Arizona or some such.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting there, staring at the TV. “But, Carl,” I say to myself, “What if the damned thing never came out?”

Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then. The idea wouldn’t leave me in peace. It kept rattling around in my hind-brain, gradually accreting mass as more and more pieces from my personal history fell into place: my background in Sovietology, my career as a consultant, just enough physics to glimpse what the successors to the KGB might want to do with a captive black hole… Over the next couple years, that one minuscule germ of an idea grew into a plotline.

Finally, on an equally rainy Saturday over a lost Memorial Day weekend, I sat down at the word processor, and Singularity began to write itself!

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

I can’t presume to speak for other authors, but I do feel an obligation to my readers to try and keep the science as accurate and understandable as possible—to get, in Kip Thorne’s words, the “vast majority of the physics right.”

What was your path to publication?

Arduous. Right up there with sausage and legislation as one of those things regarding which you don’t want to know how they come about.

What are you working on now?

Triploidy, the third installment in the Archon Sequence.

What else have you written?

Dualism, the second book in the Archon Sequence. All the rest to date has been non-fiction for various corporations and government agencies—oh, yes, a series of blogs on artificial intelligence and related topics for Huffington Post and LinkedIn.

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

Singularity

Singularity was also named to the following “Best of 2004” lists:

  • Barnes & Noble Explorationseditor Paul Goat Allen’s Top Ten Novels of the Year
  • com’sBest Books of 2004 list in not one, but two Categories—Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror and Mystery/Thriller
  • SFSignal’s Year in Review: The BestList and “John”’s List of “Top X favorite genre books read last year (Where X is 5 or less).”

What is your writing routine?

See: http://www.kylecassidy.com/projects/sfwriters/

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes.

Then I stick it in a desk drawer and never look back.

Why do you write?

Initially, it was the inciting incident of the Carl Sagan broadcast (see above). Thereafter, I became intrigued by my protagonists themselves—I wanted to explore the evolution of their relationship, assuming such a thing is even possible nowadays.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

I’d have to say my marriage to Kathrin. We’ve been going at it for decades, and it’s always reminded me of Thornton Wilder’s line in Our Town:

“Once in a thousand times it’s interesting.”

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a senior ontologist at semantic search firm NTENT, Inc.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

My wife Kathrin and I are serial wirehaired dachshund adopters.

Do you have any pet projects?

In my copious spare time, I’ve been working to create MetaLang, a knowledge-based, language-independent, end-user authorable conversational agent technology suite. MetaLang agents employ natural language processing and knowledge representation and reasoning capabilities to hold up their end of a conversation. Rather than parroting canned responses, or matching wild-carded patterns, a MetaLang agent relies on its “mindset”—the totality of the memories, beliefs, opinions, and knowledge comprising its simulated personality, based on Minskyesque frames populated from a homegrown, mid-sized (~12K concept) ontology—to extemporize like a human improvisational actor across a broad spectrum of instructional, entertainment, and customer-service interactions.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

David Brin, James Morrow, Larry Niven, Robert Pirsig, and Vernor Vinge

Thank you for taking the time to share with us. Before I present an excerpt to our readers and provide your book buy links, I’d like to engage in a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Intellectual stimulation.

The one thing I would change about my life: Pretty much nothing.

My biggest peeve is: The sad yet increasingly undeniable fact that nothing can defeat logic but ignorance.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: Marianna Bonaventure.

Excerpt:

Prologue: The Tunguska Event, June 20, 1908

The remnant had sailed the empty spaces between the stars since time began. Had journeyed far, far in space and time from its birth at the beginning of all things, far from its forging in the primal fires of Creation.

There was no destination on this voyage, though there were occasional ports of call. Here and there throughout the void tiny orbs circled their parent primaries, huddled close against the cold and the dark. Most such solar systems were bypassed without incident. Still, every once in an eternity, some unlucky world would chance to swim out into the remnant’s path.

As one is doing now.

* * *

In this, the summer of 1908, there is no science or technology anywhere on earth that might avert the impending catastrophe. Heavier-than-air flying machines have only just begun their conquest of the skies, while space flight remains but a distant dream, the exclusive province of visionaries like Jules Verne and Herbert George Wells. The controversial theory that the entire physical world might be made up of tiny particles called ‘atoms’ is still waging an uphill battle for scientific acceptance, against the strenuous opposition of influential physicist-philosopher Ernst Mach. It will be another fifteen months before a young Albert Einstein will leave his safe berth at the Bern patent office and devote himself fulltime to generalizing the theory of relativity he first broached a mere three years ago. For all the secrets that nature has yielded up in the two centuries since Newton, the scientists of earth still stand helpless before the threat posed by the remnant.

But they can, just barely, detect its approach.

In the main physics lab at Germany’s Kiel University of Applied Science, beginning at six in the evening on June 27th and continuing over the following two nights, Professor Ludwig Weber has been observing faint but regular disturbances in his magnetometer readings. After ruling out streetcar vibrations and Northern Lights, he concludes that a powerful magnetic point-source must be nearing the earth from somewhere out in space. But when Weber points the observatory telescope at the likely region of night sky, he sees—nothing.

What could be close enough and charged enough to interfere with the magnetic field of the earth itself, yet remain invisible to the most sensitive instruments early twentieth-century optical technology can muster? This is the question that confounds Weber throughout the evening of June 29th as he watches the magnetic disturbances grow in strength. He is still wrestling with the riddle when, at 1:14 on the morning of June 30, 1908, the frenetic jitter of his magnetometer needle comes to a sudden dead stop.

* * *

Six time zones to the east of Kiel, far out on the Central Siberian plateau, there yawns that vast, silent emptiness known as the Stony Tunguska basin—three hundred thousand square miles of watershed, peopled, even in this eighth year of the new century, by fewer than thirty thousand souls. Here, in this land of expatriate Russian frontiersmen and nomadic Evenki tribes, there are no telescopes, no magnetometers, precious little technology of any kind. Here in Tunguska, nothing but a dying shaman’s vision has foretold the remnant’s coming, and nothing more than the naked eye will be needed to witness its arrival.

Here in Tunguska, the morning of June 30th has dawned bright and clear, scarcely a wisp of cloud in the sky. By seven, the sun has been up for hours, banishing the chill of the brief subarctic summer night, promising another sweltering noontide. Herds of domesticated reindeer, lifeblood of the Evenki nomads, are already grazing on new shoots in the thickly-forested taiga. Dense veils of mosquitoes swarm the pestilential bogs of the Great Southern Swamp. The living world goes on unchanged, just as it has for centuries. All this despite the shaman’s warning.

Perhaps no one finds more comfort in the very ordinariness of this fine summer morning than a young Evenki herdsman by the name of Vasiliy Jenkoul. For today Jenkoul must tend to his father’s southern herds. And that will mean riding down the long Silgami ridge, directly into the Tunguska heartlands.

Directly into the lands where—to believe the shaman’s deathbed prophecy—on this morning, the great god Ogdy, Old Man of the Storms, will send forth his thunderwinged minions to visit death and destruction upon the clans of the Stony Tunguska.

* * *

7:14 A.M. The forest falls silent. Even the ceaseless susurration of the Great Swamp’s insect life fades. Far off in the southeastern skies, clearly visible in broad daylight, a bright blue star appears.

The remnant is close now. Four hundred miles out and a hundred miles up, just beginning to brush the lower edges of the ionosphere. The resulting shockwave fluoresces in the ultraviolet. Thickening atmosphere absorbs the radiation and re-emits it at longer wavelengths.

Trailing a plasma column of cerulean blue, it descends.

* * *

Book online sales links:

Amazon paperback:    https://www.amazon.com/Singularity-Archon-Sequence-Bill-DeSmedt/dp/1614756252/

Amazon ebook:           https://www.amazon.com/Singularity-Archon-Sequence-Book-1-ebook/dp/B07DZ4S6TR/

Links to your website, blog and any online social accounts:

Vurdalak:                     http://vurdalak.com/

Website:                      http://billdesmedt.com/

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 25 – Lou Antonelli Spotlight

Newspaper publisher and science fiction author, Lou Antonelli, has just released a collection of short stories entitled In the Shadow of the Cross. It touches on religion, especially Christianity, in a variety of touching and creative ways and gathers up stories Antonelli wrote over the years where Christianity plays a role. They range from down home and next door to far flung and in outer space. They remind us that despite the best efforts of a material world, Christianity is a sturdy creed that remains a vital part of many people’s lives.

The author explores two different time streams (among other stand-alone stories). The two main ones explore a world where Christianity had been the only world religion since the trial of Paul and another in which Saul died en route to Damascus, leading to a multitude of small religions.

So, Lou, how many short stories have you published in your writing career?

As of this morning, 124.

But you’ve only had one novel published, right?

Yes, the Dragon-nominated alternate history, Another Girl, Another Planet. I’ve worked mostly in short fiction.

With so many short stories, I suppose it’s easy to whip up a collection occasionally. Your latest collection is what number?

In the Shadow of the Cross is my fifth collection.

What is different about this collection from your others?

Most of my collections have some theme, except “Texas and Other Planets.” “Fantastic Texas” features stories centered in Texas, “The Clock Struck None” is all alternate history, and “Letters from Gardner” are stories from when I was breaking into the field and submitting copiously to Gardner Dozois at Asimov’s Science Fiction.

In the case of In the Shadow of the Cross, all the stories have some reference to Christianity, real or an alternate version. I don’t write Christian science fiction or fantasy per se, but I’ve often included Christian references and themes where appropriate. I think a writer needs to accurately reflect the make-up of his or her society even when writing speculative fiction. Most Americans are Christians of some sort.

What kind of stories are featured in the collection?

Well, over the years I’ve written a lot of alternate history, and so one-third of them—that is four stories—are alternate history, too. A couple explore scenarios where Christianity never developed into a major religion. Two other explore what would happened in electronic media has existed during the period of Christ’s ministry.

Three stories involve how space exploration and alien contact would work with religion as part of the milieu. “On a Spiritual Plain” was a finalist for the Hugo award in 2015.

The other stories include a very Twilight Zone-type tale, a ghost story, and—believe it or not—a zombie Christian Story. All but two are reprints.

Why do you seem drawn to short fiction?

I’ve been a working journalist for 40 years, so I am very comfortable at short lengths. I can pound out an acceptable short story in a few minutes. I just had a story published in a themed anthology that took me an hour and a half from start to acceptance.

Writing mostly short fiction cuts down on your books, but one thing I learned from fellow East Texan Joe Lansdale, who is primarily a horror writer, is that if you have enough published short fiction, you can assemble a collection at the drop of a hat. Joe has twice as many published short stories as I do, and so he can always cobble together a collection.

Why did you decide to pull this one together?

Well, I’ve worked at the same weekly newspaper since the start of 2015, but at the start of this year the previous owner sold out to me, so I am now an owner/operator. Since taking over I’ve been very engrossed in fixing and building up the existing business, so my time for writing has dropped a lot. I decided a collection would help keep my name before my fans. I wanted a “hook” to hang a theme on, and I realized that I had enough published stories where Christianity is part of the plot that I could hang the collection on that. But it is not a collection of Christian science fiction!

What do you mean by that?

These stories have nothing to do with Christian theology or orthodoxy. I got a one star review on Amazon from someone who went into it expecting the stories would stick to the Bible and follow standard Christian tradition. Boy, was he disappointed!

How can people get copies of your collection?

Well, you can get it from Amazon or Superversive Press, but you can also simply contact me at solacesdaddy@yahoo.com and buy a signed copy directly from yours truly.

What do you have planned in the future?

Right now, I’m totally preoccupied with the newspaper. If I listen to my fans, I need to write a sequel to Another Girl, Another Planet, but I don’t know when I will get around to that.

An excerpt from one of the stories entitled “Good News for the Dead”:

Jennifer made great strides at getting caught up with the books the rest of the week. By the following Monday, she could see daylight.

Bill was behind the front counter when she came back from lunch that day.

“I’m back, Bill.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

He returned to the back where he continued to pack orders. Jennifer began pulling up spreadsheets for the home stretch. After three hours of hard work, her brain was curdled and it was almost closing time—but she was done. She snorted at the screen and tossed the laser pointer down.

“Finally!”

She heard a loud thud in the back. She jumped up and walked quickly into the back room.

Bill was straightening up from picking something off the floor.

It was a custom-made prosthetic foot which had been sent in to be fitted with a new ankle motor. Whoever it belonged to was an athlete—it was a one-piece athletic shoe with cleats.

Jennifer looked at Bill. He was gazing at the shoe, and thinking real hard.

“Rehabs aren’t supposed to think,” she thought.

“Bill, get back to work,” she said.

He looked at her, and his mouth contorted.

“Sports,” he said.

He spoke again. “All Sports.”

“All Sports Emvee Pee.”

Suddenly it hit her. The Dworkin Plaque had struck during the early summer. Right after school got out.

High school always ended with an All Sports Banquet. He was the MVP of his class.

Bill looked at her, and pointed a finger at his chest.

“Proud!”

Despite all that she had been taught and told about men and Rehabs, she felt sorry for him.

“Yes, you must have been very proud,” she said evenly, adding mentally to herself, “for the memory to survive death itself.”

“My name is Tom,” he declaimed, stopping suddenly.

He began to groan. He dropped the prosthetic foot and began to sway.

“Oh, crap,” said Jennifer, as she pulled a cord from behind her ear and called 911.

“I’ve got a Rehab going rogue at my shop,” she said.

“There are officers right down your block,” the voice said as she backed up towards the front.

Three officers were coming through the front door by the time she got there. They rushed past her.

She heard a thud as one shot a tazer dart into Bill/Tom and he hit the ground.

She turned to another officer. “How did you get here so fast?”

“We were already on our way here on some other business.”

A pair of hands lighted on her shoulders, one with a cigarette, the other holding a summons card.

Jennifer spun around to see Kate.

“Sorry, dearest, it was too good an opportunity to resist. You should have moved faster. I bought your receivables from your suppliers. You’re bankrupt. Here’s the lien.”

Jennifer slapped the hand and the card fell to the floor.

“Your ass is mine, and this is my business now.”

Jennifer stepped back. “You lousy bitch!” She began to sputter, and as she stepped back, she had trouble catching her breath.

She felt a crushing pain in her chest, and fell to the floor as her heart exploded.

#

 “Very well, then, everything seems to be in order.”

The red-haired girl held out a pad. Kate pressed her thumb down as a signature.

“I’m very satisfied with Neugeburt’s service,” she said. “Tell your superiors I appreciate them taking the time to send you to follow up.”

“Well, with Bill having to be scrubbed, and, uh, Jane here being a new Rehab, we just wanted to be careful and offer the service you deserve,” said Jilian.

“Yes, well, I know their placement is a little unusual—but they were both working her before I took over the business.”

“I understand.”

“I have to go now. You can finish up without me.”

Jilian nodded. After the front door shut, she spoke to the Rehabs.

“Come with me to the back room.”

She pulled up Bill/Tom’s right sleeve, deftly slipping a green plastic band onto his wrist.

“Now, keep this hidden. Do you understand?”

He nodded slightly.

She shifted and stood in front of the female.

She slipped a green band onto her wrist

“Keep this hidden. Do you understand?”

Jane/Jennifer nodded.

Jilian turned to walk out. She stopped and paused in the hallway.

“For I am the life and the resurrection,” she said to them, quoting from a banned text, “he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

After she left, the pair looked at each other. Then, gently, they held each other’s hands for a moment.

They quickly turned from each other, and went back to taking care of business as usual.

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 18 – Interview With Donald J Bingle

Donald J. Bingle is the author of six books (The Love-Haight Case Files (with Jean Rabe); Wet Work, his most recent; Net Impact; GREENSWORD; Frame Shop; and Forced Conversion) and about fifty shorter stories in the science fiction, thriller, horror, fantasy, mystery, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres. He was the world’s top-ranked player of classic role-playing game tournaments for the last fifteen years of the last century. He once received a surprise package in the mail with a lapel pin thanking him for his “contributions to time travel research.” He says he’ll really have to get around to doing that research some day soon. He is a full member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, International Thriller Writers, International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and Origins Game Fair Library.

Here is his description of Wet Work, the title we’ll be focusing on today:

Dick Thornby is not Hollywood’s idea of a spy. In his rough and tumble job there are no tailored Italian suits, no bimbos eager to please, and no massive underground fortresses built by evil overlords seeking world domination—just an endless series of sinister threats to the safety and security of the billions of mundane citizens of the planet. Sure, Dick’s tough and he knows a few tricks to help him get out of a tight spot, even if his boss accuses him of over-reliance on an abundance of explosives. But he’s also got a mortgage, a wife upset by his frequent absences on “business” trips, and an increasingly alienated teen-age son who spends way too much time playing in gaming worlds on the computer.

After taking personal revenge on the criminal behind both his son’s injuries and the continued disintegration of his marriage, Dick Thornby is teamed with Acacia (“Ace”) Zyreb, a young, female agent from the East European office of the Subsidiary, to deal with the mystery behind coordinated hacking of the braking systems of several car models.

Doing his best to maintain his vows to his wife, Dick struggles to deal with the inexperience and provocative attitude of Ace on her first non-European mission. Their somewhat combative investigation takes a left turn by uncovering a much more sinister threat to the world and to Dick’s family. He’s willing to risk his job, his partner, and his life to eliminate the threat, but the clock is ticking.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

It’s the second book in my spy thriller series and I’ll do a third if sales warrant it.

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

When I was first approached about doing the initial book in my spy thriller series by Gold Eagle, I wanted to do something a bit different than the James Bond or Jason Bourne type thing, so I made my spy a guy with a wife and a kid and a mortgage, where his family didn’t know he was a spy. Next, I wanted him to be dealing with cutting edge stuff and cybercrime was a way to do that. In researching the topic, I found there is some really weird stuff on the internet that I could both debunk and incorporate at the same time. Similar themes carry through in the latest adventure.

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

My spy loves his wife, worries about his kid, relies too heavily on explosives, and cares about collateral damage.

What was your path to publication?

Gold Eagle cancelled the series I wrote my first spy thriller for before it was scheduled for release, so I got the rights back and a small press publisher put out Net Impact. For the second, I decided to self-publish via a Kickstarter. I’d done two previous Kickstarters before, one for Familiar Spirits, an anthology of ghost stories I edited, and one for Frame Shop, my mystery thriller about murder in a suburban writers’ group.

What are you working on now?

Teleplay for The Love-Haight Case Files, about lawyers representing the rights of supernatural creatures in a magic-filled San Francisco. I’m also doing some research for Flash Drive, the potential third book in my spy thriller series.

What else have you written?

Forced Conversion (near future military scifi), GREENSWORD (darkly comedic eco-thriller about global warming), Net Impact (the first spy thriller in my series), Frame Shop (murder in a suburban writers’ group), and (with Jean Rabe) The Love-Haight Case Files (urban fantasy with a legal thriller twist). I’ve also written screenplays and about fifty short stories in the thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, romance, comedy, and memoir genres. And I’ve written a bunch of material and adventures for roleplaying games, like Dungeons & Dragons.

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

The Love-Haight Case Files won three Silver Falchions at Killer Nashville. And, I was the world’s top-ranked player of classic roleplaying game tournaments for the last fifteen years of the last century.

Do you create an outline before you write?

No. I know where I’m starting, where I’m going, and two or three places/scenes I want to include along the way, but rarely have more than one or two pages of character notes or phrases before I start, along with some research articles. For me, outlining too much would take away the fun parts of writing—the parts where I get excited by figuring out exactly what happens next—and make it tedious work.

Why do you write?

To be read. It’s hard to make substantial money writing, but it is worthwhile to know someone else is enjoying your story.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Writer’s block is a symptom of other problems, primarily not controlling your plot and characters with deliberation. If you have written your way into a corner and don’t know how to move forward, you probably need to go back and fix something earlier on to make the plot work.

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

Marketing. I’m too old to sit around waiting for traditional publishing to take a year or three to consider and put out a book, so I rely on myself and smaller, faster presses, but that makes it easy for the public to lump you in with amateurs who don’t edit their work and have no experience writing.

Describe a typical day.

On the average day I don’t write. The whole “write every day” advice works for some people, but not for others. I write infrequently, but I write very fast when I do write. Probably that’s because I respond well to deadlines and because in the intervals between writing stints, I’m researching and thinking about what comes next.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Try not to think too much about the past; nothing ever changes there.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Robert J. Sawyer; any combination of Niven, Barnes, and Pournelle (more than any of the three solo); Ken Grimwood; John Gardner.

Thank you for taking time to share with us. Before I present an excerpt from Wet Work, followed by links to where our visitors can follow you online and purchase it, I’d like to conclude with a traditional Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is… competition.

The one thing I would change about my life: Not doing that time travel research I received an award for. Must get to that.

My biggest peeve is… badly used, inaccurate idioms. NO ONE drank the Kool-Aid at Jonestown. It was Flavor-Ade.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is… the future, because I can still make it what I want if I try.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with? Don’t write for free and don’t steal books. Both disrespect the work and the author.

Excerpt:

Prologue

Jerry hated his wife’s car. He loved the hybrid’s gas mileage, and he didn’t mind saving the planet for future generations, but he was six foot two and husky. Squeezing behind the wheel practically let him steer with his beer belly.

Worse yet, his claustrophobia was heightened by a smoke-belching stream of growling Mack trucks hemming him in as they hauled gravel down the double black diamond sloped street  plummeting to the intersection at the entrance to the Joliet bridge. The rusting, Erector Set style span crossed both the shallows of the Des Plaines River and, on the near side, the darker, deeper Sanitary & Ship Canal. With traffic moving, Jerry felt like he was running with the bulls at Pamplona as powerful behemoths thundered about him. When stopped for a red light, like now, he felt like a surfer caught in the break as he paddled out, praying a monstrous wave wouldn’t crash down from above and pulverize him.

So Jerry kept his eyes glued to the rear view mirror … just in case.

Today his watchful paranoia paid off. A fully-loaded dump truck crested the hill with the momentum of a tsunami, threatening to obliterate him like one of the splattered moths littering his windshield.

Damn.

Jerry manhandled the wheel hard left as he checked for oncoming traffic, then punched the accelerator to escape being rear-ended to death.

The subcompact whined like an overstressed golf cart, inching to the left until the gas motor kicked in, then trembled into stuttering acceleration. Jerry stared at the mirror, watching as gravel flew off the looming truck’s payload and skittered across the roof of its cab. The unshaven driver inside braked hard, his eyes wide, a lit cigarette falling out of his surprised mouth, as his body lurched forward from the attempted emergency stop.

It was going to be close, closer than Jerry’s morning shave with the quadruple blade razor the kids got him for Father’s Day.

Jerry wasn’t a religious guy, so no prayers whispered forth as he watched his ignominious death approaching, his grim reaper laying black rubber on the pavement and churning out white smoke as worn tires tried to overcome the momentum of tons of loose, shifting rock. Instead, a stream of invectives flowed from Jerry’s lips as he imagined the huge tires of the gargantuan machine rolling atop his wife’s mouse of a car and stomping it down, greasy, bloody, and flat. He was going to die a stupid, needless, painful death simply because his wife traded days for the neighborhood carpool to school.

He hoped she would feel guilty about it at his funeral.

Closed casket, of course.

But, then … then the crappy automatic transmission shifted up. Jerry leaned forward instinctively, as if that could possibly save him. As he swerved farther into the open lane on the left, the truck driver jinked right toward the curb and the empty sidewalk, each action incrementally slowing the rate at which the gap between the vehicles was shrinking.

Maybe, just maybe …

Suddenly, the hybrid farted forward, as if it had just seen what was about to happen via its reverse view camera. Jerry kept his foot on the floor—he didn’t want to take any chances. He couldn’t do the math to figure the angles and vectors, but his big, fat gut told him he was going to make it. His pursed lips turned up into a tight smile. But when he looked ahead he saw a lumbering garbage truck turning into the oncoming lane from Canal Street, which fronted the dark, murky waters of the commercial canal.

Jerry had snatched his life from the jaws of defeat only to thrust it into the jaws of a Browning-Ferris Industries garbage truck. He kept the steering wheel hard to the left, hoping to jump the opposite curb to the far sidewalk. With any luck he could stop before he reached the corner and t-boned the big, green machine with “BFI” blazoned on its side. He twitched his foot up and to the left, then stomped down on the brake as hard as he had flattened the accelerator only moments, yet an eternity, before.

Nothing happened.

Nothing fucking happened.

If you’d like to follow Donald, you can do so here:

Website:         www.donaldjbingle.com

FaceBook:      https://www.facebook.com/donaldjbingle

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/donaldjbingle

Goodreads:    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2779581.Donald_J_Bingle

You can purchase Wet Work here:

Amazon:        http://a.co/1qni4lH

Nook:             https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wet-work-donald-j-bingle/1128291702?ean=2940159029973

Kobo:              https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wet-work-5

PRINT:           http://a.co/2il1eWS

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The Write Stuff – Monday, June 4 – Interview With Jean Rabe

Words on a page can be hollow or moving, flat or intriguing, woven into a masterpiece, or thoughtlessly scribbled onto paper for the sole sake of profit. However those twenty six letters are arranged, they can either end up as the stuff of fine novels or, too commonly these days, hackneyed pulp fiction. What a joy it was, then, to stumble onto the pages of The Bone Shroud, the latest novel by this week’s guest author, Jean Rabe, in which the world she creates is at once mesmerizing and haunting. In this, my website’s one hundredth post, I invite you to join me as I delve into her long and notable career, as well her mastery of the craft of fine writing.

This is how Jean describes herself:

I’m a writer, indefatigable tennis ball tosser, avid reader, board game geek, dog-belly scratcher, glass-fuser, and lousy gardener.

The Bone Shroud is my 37th novel. I’m working on 38 and 39 now. I write a lot, short stories, too—more than a hundred in all sorts of genres. And I write in old, comfortable clothes with either raggedy sandals or well-worn slippers. At the moment, I’m writing on my back porch—living in a tiny town in central Illinois. There are train tracks practically surrounding me, providing music to work by. I love warm weather, which is why I’m on my porch.

I studied journalism at Northern Illinois University many years ago, intending to be a crusading reporter… which I was for nearly a decade. Then I got itchy feet and went to work for TSR, Inc., the original producers of the Dungeons & Dragons game. I wrote several novels based on D&D worlds, and then wanted something new. My feet were itching again. I went freelance, fantasy and science fiction novels, game materials, edited magazines, ran writing workshops, and acquired dogs. I love dogs. And somewhere in there I wrote a true crime book with F. Lee Bailey.

Now it’s all about mysteries. I suppose I needed something new again. I always read mysteries, figured it was past time that I wrote them. I have two Piper Blackwell “uncozy cozies” out, and my suspense-thriller, The Bone Shroud. Nested in my computer are a lot more mystery plots … including one with The Bone Shroud’s protagonist. I’m going to be writing mysteries for a long while if the fates are benevolent.

I asked Jean to describe the book and she gave me this:

Irem Madigan’s wedding trip to Rome turns into a desperate search for historical relics, and a struggle to stay ahead of a killer. Irem, an archivist at the Chicago Field Museum, flies to Italy to be the “best man” in her brother’s wedding. He’s marrying an archaeologist who lures Irem into a centuries-old mystery.

In Rome’s belly, Irem discovers secrets, alliances, and is teased by a potentially world-shocking discovery. Her family ties and her sensibilities are tested, and she can’t seem to keep her eyes off what could be a life-changing prize.

Unfortunately, there are other players in the game, and some of them are playing deadly. Can she survive and uncover the ancient secrets?

“Strong characters, shady dealings, ruthless villains, a beautiful setting, an ancient mystery—The Bone Shroud has ’em all. Don’t miss it!”
New York Times bestselling Richard Baker, author of Valiant Dust

 “Jean Rabe uses her mastery of flowing prose to immerse you in a world of archaeological intrigue. From the art world to the underworld, keep your mind sharp as the bread crumbs she leaves are there to find if you read with your eyes wide open. With an intrigue reminiscent of Michael Crichton, I expect you’ll like this book as much as I did.”
Internationally bestselling author Craig Martelle

“Intrigue, romance, and danger amid the relics of Rome’s storied past, with compelling characters and building tension that will keep you turning pages!”
Gail Z. Martin, bestselling author of Vendetta

The Bone Shroud’s opening scene reminded me of a personal experience in Italy when, travelling at night by train, I made the mistake of sleeping without locking the compartment door. My travelling companion, eventually ex-wife, watched helpless as a man wearing what she described, back in 1976, as a two thousand dollar suit, chloroformed me then parsed through our luggage. The term the conductor taught me later was il furto when I attempted un robo in Spanish. Did any real life events help fuel this story? If so, please elaborate.

“Back in the day” I used to be a news reporter, often covering police. I’d written a few articles about purse-snatchers and pickpockets, and decided I would include such a scene in one of my novels. It took a while for me to get around to that, but it seemed like the perfect opening for The Bone Shroud. I wanted a beginning that had a little action to it, would make the reader curious about the character, and at the end of that scene would reveal that she had a kick-ass quality. Along the way, I got to describe an Italian street going by in a blur. And now, after hearing your story about your train trip, I’m mulling over how I can use a scene like that… In Irem’s backstory, I talk about a mugging in the Chicago subway. I was mugged once in the Chicago subway, and I never went down into a subway again. Shudder. Bad times, good fiction fodder, eh?

Your chapters are short, a technique that authors like Dan Brown use to propel the reader forward. Was this deliberate, or did it evolve of its own accord?

My short chapters are deliberate, and are entirely the result of attending a panel years ago at a gaming convention. Often gaming, sci-fi, and fantasy conventions have writer tracks, with all manner of seminars. At the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH, I sat in on a Michael Stackpole seminar. Mike is known for Star Wars novels as well as his own sci-fi works. He said he’d read a study that claimed a reader was more likely to finish a novel if the chapters were 2,500 to 3,000 words long. At the time, the chapters in my fantasy novels averaged 5,000 to 6,000 words. Intrigued, I figured I’d give it a try. I don’t know if it made a difference in whether my readers finished my novels, but it made a big difference in my writing. In the very next novel that I wrote—and I kept my chapters to 2,500 to 3,000 words—I had an insignificant rewrite. In fact, my editor said he only had a few suggestions and that my style had somehow overnight remarkably improved. I kept to those short chapters after that, and in many cases my editors ask for no rewrites. My storytelling is sleeker, the plot more focused. Win-win-win.

You appear to admire linguistic skills, as do I. You have an apparent understanding of both Italian and Latin. Might I ask how many languages you speak, regardless of the degree of fluency?

I studied Latin, which provides a little background into other languages. I love the intricacies of languages, though I’ve never studied anything beyond Latin… and Egyptian hieroglyphics—I took a course in that. I also know American Sign Language and some Amslan. But I know people who are fluent in languages… Italian, French, Spanish, German, Finnish, Japanese, and I rely on them. I love to smatter different languages into my fiction, and I make sure I get it right because my friends are so kind as to check it for me. The man I studied Egyptian from is Italian, an archaeologist, and an Egyptologist. He was a lot of help with The Bone Shroud.

Your story takes the reader under the centuries old city of Rome. How much time have you spent studying archaeology? Have you visited any digs, especially Roman ones?

I visited digs in Illinois and Wisconsin, and incorporated a Wisconsin dig into an earlier book. Archeology intrigues me, and it was fantasy and sci-fi author Andre Norton who really got me into it. We’d have engaging conversations about new discoveries and digs around the world, and she’d share some of her books and magazines. She was particularly interested in the digs in the Middle East. I wrote a novel with her, Dragon Mage, that we set in ancient Mesopotamia. I read some archaeology books about the setting before I started work. I’d also taken some archaeology courses in college, and entertained pursuing it as a career, but decided on journalism, with an emphasis in geology and geography—of all things. As a coincidence, I was in my basement book room yesterday, looking for a military battles dictionary (for a short story), and I ran across two big books on underwater archaeology, one pertaining to WWII ships. Now I’ve got that topic twisting in my brain, needing to work it into a plot somehow. Yeah, I brought the books upstairs. I can see one of them right now out of the corner of my eye.

I enjoy the path you paint, weaving dialogue and thoughts throughout the exposition. It reflects the way our thoughts and perceptions intertwine with our experiences. Somehow through all of it you manage to move the reader forward without slowing the pace. Which authors have inspired or influenced your writing?

Oh, I have soooooooooo many authors who have and continue to inspire me:

Andre Norton, because I had the fortune of collaborating with her. She’d always stir my imagination with her “what if” and “what if” and “then what ifs.”

Gene Wolfe, another sci-fi author. He is a master stylist who layers multiple meanings into his prose. You have to read one of his books twice to truly appreciate it.

Ed McBain. I discovered the 87th Precinct when I was looking for a book at the airport to occupy me for a long flight. Then I went looking for all of his books and corresponded with him via email. He told me he started writing sci-fi and it didn’t fit him. A buddy sent me McBain’s only sci-fi novel, one of my treasures.

George R. R. Martin, but not for his Game of Thrones novels. The first book of his I read (when I met George at a convention in Louisville, KY), was Fevre Dream. It’s about vampires on a riverboat. The writing was butter that melted off the page. I decided I needed to write fiction instead of writing for a newspaper.

Michael Connelly: I love Harry Bosch. He moves a story seemingly effortlessly, and his protagonist never grows stale. Plus, he gets the police work right. A former police reporter, that’s a real big deal to me.

William Blake. I studied him in an English Lit course in college. Then I kept reading him on my own. He made me… makes me… think.

You wrote a series of fantasy novels with Andre Norton. How did that collaboration come to be and how would you describe the experience? I ask because writing, to me, is a highly personal affair, and I tend to find this sort of approach difficult to consider.

Writing with Andre happened accidentally. I edited a fantasy anthology for DAW Books, and they gave me an Andre story to include. All the other authors had provided recent bios, but I had none for Andre. I was told they’d come up with a “stock bio,” but I didn’t want to turn over the project missing that piece. So I found her phone number (remember, I’d worked as a news reporter, I know how to find people), called, and she answered. Andre was delighted that someone wanted a new bio, and she was quick to email me. Then she emailed me a few more times, and we struck up a friendship. I have a file folder filled with letters she wrote me. We later edited an anthology together.

Her agent approached her about doing a sequel to Quag Keep, the first Dungeons & Dragons-inspired novel, and she was getting up there in years and didn’t want to write a whole book. She told the agent “only Jean” could write this book with her, as she knew I played Dungeons & Dragons and had written for the company. So I outlined the book, Return to Quag Keep, got her approval, and started writing. We called often, chatting, retooled the villain, and had a grand time. She was disappointed at first that I wanted to kill off one of the characters, but I convinced her. I have this “thing.” I kill characters.

In the end, after I’d sent her the manuscript, I was watching the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. She called me and said (and I will remember this always): “Jean, you are an amazing writer.” The football game faded into the background and I did the Snoopy dance.

I went on to write Dragon Mage, and I finished her final novel, one she’d started and just couldn’t physically continue… she was 92… A Taste of Magic. She taught me how to ask: what if and what if and then what if?

How awesome was that?

What prompted you to break away from fantasy and turn to writing thrillers?

I’ve always read thrillers and mysteries. That’s mostly what fill my bookcases. I just thought it was time I wrote some. I had a taste of it, as I’d penned some Rogue Angel novels for Gold Eagle… modern-day adventure with a little supernatural bent. I had these mystery plots twirling away in my brain, and I just decided to go for it. Not easy switching genres, as all the contacts I had in the sci-fi and fantasy community couldn’t help me in the mystery field. I had to start over. The first mystery I wrote took second place in the Claymore Awards at Killer Nashville. The judges said I should be writing mysteries.

I’m really enjoying it. I find mysteries more difficult to write, challenging, refreshing. I have soooooooooo many ideas still churning. I’m having a hard time finishing your questions because I want to get back to my mystery book-in-progress, The Dead of Summer.

I laud your 2013 decision to step down from your position as the editor of SFWA’s Bulletin and I suspect it took a great deal of courage. Some argue it sparked the ensuing firestorm, but it seems to this outsider to have been merely one catalytic event among many. Three questions follow:

Would you care to comment on your thoughts leading up to it?

How did your move either enhance or diminish your friendships in the author community?

Would you care to comment on the organization’s response to the issue, both initially and over the course of the ensuing years?

Ahhhhhhhh… interesting times. There was a lot involved with the SFWA issue. I won’t go into all of it, lots of politics and such. People decided to be offended at magazine covers and at columns. Opinion columns. It taught me that writers need to be very careful about their topics and sentences and views.

I see people on Facebook today being offended by this and that, people banding together and complaining and getting people removed from convention guest lists and ousted as panelists. I see people being dragged through the mud because of something they said or wrote… or were perceived to have said or wrote.

Political correctness is so political. And freedom of speech… is it really free?

I resigned because I didn’t want to argue, didn’t want to be defensive, and I didn’t want to be involved in something that was so polarizing and where people I respected were being tossed under a bus that was driven by their peers.

I’m proud that I was able to put the magazine back on schedule after it consistently came out late. I’m proud that it didn’t miss a deadline under my watch and that I was able to get the writers paid.

I made some good friendships, and I kept the friendships that I treasured. I don’t know if I’m diminished in the author community; that’s up to the community.

I know that I like the mystery community much better. Fewer eggshells to walk on. I know that I’m doing well, and that I’m happy.

This brings me back to The Bone Shroud in which you tackle the issue of same sex marriage. Now that you’ve stepped away from fantasy, are you enjoying the opportunity to touch on social issues in a way fantasy did not permit?

I used to often touch on social issues in my fantasy works. In particular, books I wrote for Wizards of the Coast—the Goblin Nation trilogy—let me play with levels of society, discrimination, injustice… all cloaked with goblin and hobgoblin characters. That trilogy was about how vicious segments of society could be to each other. At the end, I let hope rise. (Literally, I had a character whose name translated into Hope.)

But you’ve more room for social issues and inclusivity in real-world mysteries. I want to be inclusive in my fiction, so in The Bone Shroud I opted for a strong female character of Turkish-Irish parentage, a gay brother and his Italian fiancé; and I touched on age-different relationships.

My friends are straight, gay, young, old, students, professionals, retirees, dirt-poor, and quite affluent. I draw from all of them to inspire my characters. In my Piper Blackwell novels, I touch on race, social disparity, and the “ruralness” of small town life.

What’s life like for Jean Rabe these days?

Busy. I’ve always been a workaholic. I’m not good at relaxing. So I write and edit, and take breaks to play with dogs. When I’m working on one book, I’m thinking about the next. Sometimes, like now, I’m working on two books. One for the morning, one for the afternoon. Short stories? I’ve got two I promised; those get the weekends. Well, I still game. This weekend it’s Axis & Allies. In the evenings, if I’m watching TV, I have a notebook in front of me so I can sketch out characters, scenes, start book outlines. My husband is correct; I cannot relax.

Thank you, Jean, for taking the time to share with us. Before I present an excerpt from The Bone Shroud, followed by your social links and links to your book, I always conclude my interviews with a Lightning Round because of the unexpected insights it permits. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: kind soul

The one thing I cannot do without is: dogs

The one thing I would change about my life is: not moving out of Wisconsin

My biggest peeve is: prejudice

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: dogs… always dogs. I measure my life in dog years—the number of dogs who have shared their years with me.

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

I hope people will try my mystery books. Many of my fantasy fans have bought them—and said they were surprised that they liked mysteries. I want to stay in this genre because it’s harder work for me and because I have all these stories I want to tell in so many different settings. I’ll never have enough days on the earth to tell all the stories; but I hope to tell the good ones. I’ve been a reader since age five, and a writer since age seven. I was first published at twelve. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Just tell good stories. Life is too short not to do what makes you happy and satisfied.

I guess my parting thought is: do what makes you smile, adopt a dog or three, and don’t judge; let fictional characters do that.

Excerpt

Irem was surprised to see car headlights and traffic signals holding off the night. Time had melted in the tunnels.

It had rained recently, adding a thin layer of freshness to the air that was otherwise heavy with the big city smells of car exhaust and too many people. Business lights reflected in wide, shallow puddles, the mirror image of a nearby fluorescent sign looking like wiggling pink and green snakes that extended from her feet.

Her legs ached from the climb, and she resolved to enroll at a gym when she returned to Chicago … pursuing something other than hapkido, which held acrimonious memories. But, for now, she’d exercise her ever-present curiosity.

“Benito, what did Santiago mean ‘if we don’t all end up dead’? I didn’t want to ask him when he’d said it.” But I should have. It had niggled at her brain for hours. Irem had plenty more questions—those all relating to the Roman underground, the bone tapestry and why it couldn’t be used as a map any longer, who’d been buried in it. She intended to answer at least some of those on her own later with a thorough Google search on her iPhone. “Is Santiago worried the underground is going to cave in? Or is it the tapestry? Does he think it’s cursed? Does he think pursuing—”

Neinte.” Benito shook his head.

“Then what is he worried about?”

“The bone shroud is not cursed, Irem. That’s the stuff of fantasy fiction. The deaths of the restorer and her husband were unfortunate to be certain, the museum intern to drugs and alcohol. Sfortunato. Unfortunate.”

Intern? A third death? Levent hadn’t mentioned that.

“No curse. I am not superstitious, and neither are the Garcias. If Santiago is worried about the tunnels giving way, he would not be digging with me. He has the fears of a young archaeologist new to the dark parts of this field. That is all.”

Benito stopped and stared at the sidewalk, let out a long breath.

“Dark parts.” Irem wasn’t willing to let the question drop. Her curiosity pushed her to pursue it. “Dark parts? Of archaeology?”

Mi scusi,” a man said, brushing by them and wrapping his long rain slicker in close. “Sono di fretta.” He said something else, softer, lost in the giggle of a sequined woman passing by.

Non è un problema,” Benito called after him.

The sequined woman giggled again and blew a kiss to an elderly man leaning against a post, then pointed a finger at Benito and winked. Irem guessed she was a hooker.

“So what did Santiago mean—”

“Archaeology is—” Benito ground the ball of his foot against the pavement. “Brutale. Cutthroat, Irem. I had to think of the English word. Cutthroat is a good word. In some circles the competition for finds is not unlike divers racing to discover a sunken ship full of treasure. I think that is an apt analogy.” Benito directed her south and around a white-haired woman with a walker, a man with a cane following. “Santiago worries that if someone discovers what we do, who we work to uncover, they will try to steal our find. His concern is not unfounded.”

 Buy links:

Amazon          https://www.amazon.com/Bone-Shroud-Jean-Rabe-ebook/dp/B07B6S5F7Y/

and                  https://www.amazon.com/Bone-Shroud-Jean-Erlene-Rabe/dp/1732003602/

 You can follow Jean here:

Amazon author page:           https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Rabe/e/B00J1QR5U2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

Website:         www.jeanrabe.com

Newsletter You can subscribe here:http://jeanrabe.us14.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=89364515308e8b5e7ffdf6892&id=9404531a4b

Twitter:          @JEANR

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/jean.rabe.1

 

 

 

 

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The Write Stuff – Monday, May21 – Interview With Charles Gannon

Dr. Charles E. Gannon’s award-winning Caine Riordan/Terran Republic hard SF novels have all been national best-sellers, and include 3 finalists for the Nebula, 2 for the Dragon Award, and a Compton Crook winner. The fifth, Marque of Caine, is forthcoming in January 2019. His epic fantasy series, The Broken World, is forthcoming from Baen Books. He collaborates with Eric Flint in the NYT and WSJ best-selling Ring of Fire  series, and has worked in the Starfire, Honorverse, Man-Kzin, and War World universes. His other novels and short fiction straddle the divide between hard SF and technothrillers and have appeared through various imprints and in various magazines. Much of this work includes collaborations in the Starfire, Honorverse, Man-Kzin, and War World universes. He also worked extensively in game design and writing, as well as being a scriptwriter and producer in New York City, where his clients included the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and PBS.  Other credits include many short fiction publications, game design/writing, and scriptwriter/producer in New York City.

A Distinguished Professor of English and Fulbright Senior Specialist, his book, Rumors of War and Infernal Machines, won the 2006 American Library Association Choice Award for Outstanding Book. He is a recipient of five Fulbright Fellowships and Travel Grants and has been a subject matter expert both for national media venues such as NPR and the Discovery Channel, as well as for various intelligence and defense agencies, including the Pentagon, Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy (CNO/SSG and ONR), NATO, DARPA, NRO, DHS, NASA, and several other organizations with which he signed NDAs.

Charles, I’ll start out by asking you about the wizard behind the curtain. Caine’s Mutiny is exceedingly complex. What tools do you use to keep track of the characters, the various species’ techno-sociological idiosyncrasies, and the story’s multiple plot lines?

Well, I certainly depend upon spreadsheets. Without them, I could not keep track of the most complex, but easily missed, challenge of writing in the Caine Riordan series: the timeline. Even leaving out the protagonist, if you consider the number of major characters engaging in activities at great remove from each other, and not at the same moment in time, there are certainly a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. Making sure that they are not in two places at once, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, does require a little bit of calendar work.

I’m fortunate enough to have fans and readers who come forward to help with various other challenges. My friend and fellow 1632 author Rick Boatwright massaged a whole bunch of my notes into something like an integrated writer’s reference for the Consolidated Terran Republic. Another astounding project was undertaken by Mark Gutis, who created an alphabetical compendium of the entire series and the unusual places people and objects populate it.

But a lot of the tracking involves old-fashioned memory, particularly when it comes to how various plots and motivations evolve over the course of the series.

As I read, I found myself increasingly fascinated by the behavior of the exosapient, Hkh’Rkh. For example, one character, Yaargraukh, felt “his eyes retract behind their protective folds, then under their bony ridges,” to represent misgivings over something he had been told, and later “clacked one set of opposable digits, releasing his adjutant from the submissive posture”. Are these entirely products of your imagination, or did you draw upon real world human or animal behavioral parallels?

The exosapients of the Caine Riordan books are products of observationally informed imagination. I’ll unpack that: while I don’t usually take something directly from terrestrial examples, I let the constants of animal and human behavior inform various  exosapient actions and traits. For example, consider the way creatures signal threat/aggression, or the expression of amusement, and you might find some likely parallels. Possibly even inevitabilities. Some examples:

In the case of threat and aggression, it is difficult to imagine a creature which would do so by curling up into an unnoticeable ball. That is not an arbitrary behavior. It transcends speciate differences because it is the creature’s practical attempt to remain undetected by physically limiting visual signature. Attempting to appear smaller, less noticeable, and vulnerable is arguably one of the most certain and clear ways to signal a desire to avoid rather than engage in conflict. Conversely, therefore, aggression displays in almost every terrestrial species involve one or more of the following features: an attempt to make oneself seem larger, loud noise, violent movements, posture that is clearly preparatory to a strike, and the baring of teeth.

The latter is a particularly rich source of potential confusion, since logically therefore, a human smile would appear to be a threat display. Many other species presume that is exactly what it is until it is explained to be almost the opposite: a reflex that indicates amusement.

The expression of amusement in another species is also something I derive from a basic observational constant: that the experience of amusement usually depends upon surprise. Specifically, amusement arises when a being says or does something that is not expected, or is in some way contrary to logically productive activity. The typical human response to this is what we call laughter. Fundamentally, it is a spasmodic muscular reflex. To put it another way, laughter may follow from a very complex series of revelations, reversals, and surprises which are all cognitive, but the signifying reaction—laughter—is involuntary: a muscular reaction to the stimulus we call amusement.

How does this impact my creation of amusement reactions in other species? It tells me that if an exosapient is capable of the same kind of amusement that a human is, surprise is once again integral and inherent to that experience. Consequently, the exosapient’s expression of amusement will also be involuntary, not voluntary, and therefore will reflect an uncontrolled and/or spasmodic property in its physical expression of amusement.

The Arat Kur also display a curious set of relational posturing and dominant/subservient interchanges between an officer and its inferiors. Would you care to elaborate on how you developed their hierarchical thinking and attendant behavior? It appears you have more than a little earthside anthropological education to aid in your depiction of this species.

Most of my developmental processes are informed by an interdisciplinary approach (anthropology is one of many). In the case of the Arat Kur, their hierarchy and social patterns actually evolve out of their dawn of intelligence origins. Starting out as subterranean, they had huge resource limitations when it came to protein. Consequently, they became trappers. That started as an accident, resulting from opportunistic finds of dead animals that had fallen into pits. That led the Arat Kur to take the natural step of seeing if there wasn’t some way to encourage those accidents to become a little more frequent.

The logical impact on their population was profound growth. The more successful they became at wielding their new skills and tools, the more profound that population growth became. In short order, they had completely obliterated whatever modest subterranean competition they had. That left their potential growth unchecked.

This is a moment when zoology and animal behavior plays at least as large a role as anthropology. Any social creature with an independent consciousness cannot afford to have unchecked population growth. The consequences are well known to us and reprise the grim roles assigned to the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. However, the Arat Kur also realized that their profound population growth also provided them with innumerable opportunities to expand their resource base and dominate their environment.

So how does one avoid the disastrous consequences of population growth while retaining the benefits of it?

The answer is the same one we observe in a considerable number of human societies: preprogrammed and even rigid hierarchical organization. The larger the society becomes, the more control it requires in order to keep it from melting down in response to internal stresses, or crumbling under its own incorrectly balanced weight. That is the origin of the seeming rigidity of the Arat Kur, who are physically and temperamentally far more suited to a highly regimented social order than human beings are. As evinced in the novel, Trial by Fire, they have little tendency towards internecine strife. What has not yet been shown is how their means of reproduction are completely detached from territorial or property control. As such, they find communal coexistence, even in a clearly defined and somewhat rigid hierarchy, far more amenable than humans ever could. Indeed, in the same way that the Arat Kur are comforted by enclosed rather than open spaces, they take comfort and pride in the identity that comes from the role and caste that define them as individuals.

How did you become involved with SIGMA and what can you tell us about the advisory role you play with intelligence and defense agencies?

Oddly, I became involved with Sigma before Sigma even existed per se. When I was conducting research for my dissertation on speculative fiction, I contacted Jerry Pournelle to ask some questions about his work with the Citizens Advisory Council and their/his book Mutual Assured Survival. That became the start of our friendship. That was in the mid-90s.

About 12 years later, I had reason to revisit the entire topic of the influence and  exchange that existed between writers of hard military science fiction and defense agencies and contractors. By this time, Sigma existed, largely having grown up out of a number of core participants from the CAC. My friend and fellow science fiction author Bud Sparhawk was on Sigma, so I asked him if he could contact Sigma’s organizer and chief cat-herder, Arlan Andrews, with the view to my interviewing some of the members. A few weeks passed. I figured that I was going to be turned down, but in fact, when the reply finally came back, it was to invite me to become a member of Sigma myself. So you might say, I became the topic of my own research.

Since then, both under the aegis of Sigma or independently, I have been a consultant or workshop participant at most of the major three- and four-letter defense and intel agencies inside or just outside the DC beltway. At this point, the only armed service I have not worked with the Coast Guard.

My role is mostly to provide the kind of blue sky and braintrust speculation that such organizations are really not equipped to initiate internally. These days, it’s rare to find any defense or intelligence agency committed to in-house technology projections that reach out more than five years or so. Most are now down to an even closer horizon  than that. The exception has been the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, which is a direct report to the SecDef. Their mandate is essentially deep future speculation/projection, so I’ve been involved with over half a dozen of their in-house projects, either inside the five-sided squirrel cage itself, or those that are facilitated by external organizations like MITRE.

In a 2015 interview with Brad R. Torgerson, you listed a number of research sources you used to project the cost of exploring interstellar space, stating you kept your figures on the conservative side until 2040, which you declared “a reasonable fulcrum point.” Why that year in particular?

I think there’s a little misunderstanding about what I was saying in that particular response to Brad. Although I was using the decade by decade economics projection spreadsheet to look at space spending, that really was not the sole or even primary focus of the larger exercise. And certainly it’s not as though there’s any built-in presumption that any nation was looking to allocate resources to interstellar travel throughout all the years leading up to the Caine Riordan series (2105 start). Quite the contrary.

Rather, what I was doing was projecting world population and DGP growth according to CIA World Factbook and Almanac stats, using what’s called a Kondratief Wave effect to built in period variation in growth, rather than (highly dubious) straight-line modeling. Using what were standard budgeting benchmarks from the 1990s, I then projected forward the dollar amount of each decade’s total GDP output that was earmarked for space. The change after the 2040s occurs because of linked social and technological changes: specifically, advances in power generation, drive efficiency, and permanent orbital / lunar construction sites. Together, these factors made the cost of more ambitious projects lower, in the same way that any developed infrastructure makes bigger follow-on initiatives not only more possible but more economical. Ultimately, in the Caine Riordan series, when events conspired to prove that supra-luminal travel is in fact an engineering possibility (in the mid-2080s), that told me how much economic progression and investment in space had already accrued. That, in turn, gave me a legitimate starting place from which to project how much budget was available to devote to the achievement of the drive itself. It also reduced the cost of building the ship which would be furnished with the drive, since prior achievements reduced the total expenditures required. In other words, a lot of subsystems were available off the shelf, rather than requiring special new construction and research.

Do you have an ETA for the Broken Worlds trilogy? Can you provide teasers, e.g. is it set on this world or another al la Middle Earth? Anything else about it?

I can’t tell you the actual publication date of the Broken Worlds trilogy with any authority, I can tell you that I should be writing the first book by this fall. I suspect that it will be slated for publication sometime in 2020, but that is pure guesswork. The series is not set on this world, although readers will immediately detect some tantalizing echoes and resonances of Earth from various periods and locations. Those are quite intentional within the informed reality of that world. In other words, if you see parallels to Earth cultures, that is not because I am simply plugging in some easily accessible (and tired) terrestrial tropes. They are there for a reason. And that reason is part of the genre-subverting core of this trilogy.

The world on which this trilogy begins, known as Arrdanc, is indeed a broken world. However, almost none of the inhabitants are cognizant of the contradictions which exist all around them and under their feet. The story focuses on the protagonist, Druadaen, who, by dint of chance and birth, stumbles across these cracks in the apparently seamless and well integrated social and physical reality in which he lives.

How did your collaborations with Eric Flint and Steve White come to be?

I want to start by saying that I cannot imagine being more fortunate in a pair of collaborators than having the pleasure to work with Eric Flint and Steve White. Both partnerships developed from earlier acquaintances that rapidly became friendships.

In the case of Steve White, we began meeting over bourbons at conventions in the tidewater region, where I listened to his laments about his then-collaborator’s inability to complete the Starfire novel that ultimately became Extremis. It was mostly rewritten from the ground up. It was a great experience and the first novel I ever wrote.

At roughly the same time, I met Eric on a panel at Lunacon and wrote him a novella which he accepted immediately even though he wasn’t sure where he could use it. Before I had a chance to really do anything more, he, too needed someone to jump in on a novel. And on pretty short notice. That novel became Papal Stakes and I have since completed two other novels in the Ring of Fire series.

Are there any other projects in the works that you’re free to discuss? Any future collaborations, perhaps?

The sixth and seventh novels of the Caine Riordan series are already contracted, and Toni Weisskopf has accepted the outlines for novels eight and nine. She has also accepted two more novels in the Consolidated Terran Republic universe which feature other major characters as protagonists. One, Misbegotten, is mostly centered on Riordan’s son, Connor, and is the story of his development as a young naval officer in the midst of Earth’s transition to a more integrated set of armed forces. And if you know anything about my books, you know that that will not be an easy or pleasant transition. At all. There’s one other character in the book that I don’t want to give away here, because that would just be way too big a spoiler.

The other book in that universe is titled Triage and will be a collaboration with Eric Flint, who’s now going to be playing in my sandbox for a change! Keep an eye out for the Ktor villains you love to hate!

I can’t reveal a sekrit projekt that I am in the process of finishing for another very well known series. I can say that it’s  a considerable stylistic departure for me, told in first person.

After writing the Eddie Cantrell sequel this summer, Eric and I will embark upon what may be the most epic single project in the ring of fire Universe to date. Tentatively slated for writing next year, it is essentially what you might call the world at war. Without giving away any outcomes, the series is currently at a major historical tipping point. That point is defined by whether or not the Ottomans continue their advance, are held fast in a durable stalemate, or are driven back from Austria and the Balkans. Suffice it to say, that when readers get to the end of this book (or two-book dyad), they will have a lot more answers to that question.

There is another Ring of Fire book that I am now completing with Robert Waters entitled 1637: Calabar’s War. It is set in South America and the Caribbean. The title character is in fact drawn from a fairly famous (and in some people’s view, notorious), historical figure from Brazilian history.

In the very near future, the first anthology set in the Caine Riordan universe will be coming out through Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press. The anthology is titled Lost Signals and is mostly written by fellow professionals who also happened to be fans of the series, many of whom approached me about doing such a project years ago. For a variety of reasons, Toni Weisskopf and I decided that this project was probably not right for Baen, since its very structure would probably make brick and mortar stores like Barnes & Noble’s gaze askance at it. Not to give too much away, it’s called Lost Signals because the overarching conceit is that there are a variety of news stories presented as brief bits of IINS wire copy. Then, each piece of fiction shows the real truth behind each piece of wire copy. Those are the invisible truths that gives the book its title: Lost Signals.

You just returned from New York’s Heliosphere, a new event in the Greater New York area, where you were the Guest of Honor. Will you tell us a little bit about it and what you discussed with attendees?

Heliosphere was an absolute blast. I was there for its first iteration in 2017 as a special guest. I guess I didn’t repel anybody that strongly, because they reached out again and made Eric Flint and I the guests of honor for 2018.

It’s an extremely well-run convention, not too big, but growing consistently. It is also where we held this year’s 1632 Minicon, an annual event that enables fans of the series to gather with the major authors of the universe and to ask them questions and get glimpses of coming events that have not been revealed elsewhere.

I would recommend anybody who can get to the con to go. Heliosphere is a great weekend.

If your followers care to conduct a face-to-face with you, where can they find you over the remainder of this year?

My activities for the rest of the year include Balticon on Memorial Day weekend, then Fyrecon in Utah, where I have been invited as a master guest. What that means is that I teach extended seminars on practical writing topics. Fyrecon is primarily a gathering of  hopeful, journeymen, or more advanced professionals, first and foremost. And I am honored to have been asked to be one of the master presenters.

After that I share the guest of honor spot with my old friend and gaming companion Jane Lindskold at Congregate in South Carolina.

Next on my roster is Libertycon, where I am one of the guests of honor, this time by dint of being the master of ceremonies. I look forward to getting together with the many friends and readers that I am fortunate to see there every year.

Then it is on to being one of the Guests at Dragoncon, which is always a huge amount of fun and a complete madhouse.

Finally, my last solid commitment for the year is at  the ever-excellent and reading-focused DC area con, Capclave.

To give my site’s visitors a better feeling for Charles Gannon, the man (as opposed to Charles Gannon, the author), would you care to share something about your home life?

My home life is a very rich one but often so hectic that it’s hard to get the writing done on schedule. I have four children ranging in age from 11 to 21. Inasmuch as my wife works in an executive position well away from our home, I’m almost always the guy on the other end of the phone when any given domestic wrinkle or crisis comes through. But I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Thank you, Charles, for taking time out of your schedule to share with us. Before I present my site’s visitors with an excerpt from Caine’s Mutiny, followed by the links where they may follow you and purchase a copy, I’d like to conclude with a traditional Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a: brother from another mother.

The one thing I cannot do without is: time to write.

The one thing I would change about my life: increase the time available in which I can write.

My biggest peeve is: People who ostensibly take pride in being part of our Democratic Republic and then don’t stop to examine evidence and claims carefully, and/or who forget that if there is no courtesy in discourse, soon there will be no discourse left at all. At that point, people tend to start shooting—or worse.

The person(s) I’m most satisfied with is/are: my children.

Excerpt:

Riordan stood. “Sergeant Fanny, secure both the mouth of the cave and your present six. I’ll be there in two minutes.”

“You, sir? Coming out here?”

Riordan felt all three pairs of eyes on the bridge upon him. “I say again, I will be joining you. Hold the creepers in position, out of sight. I want two of the personnel you have covering the cave to swap out their lethals for suppressive rounds. Low juice feed, high rate of fire. And gas grenades for your tubes. If possible, we are going to keep this from turning into bloodshed. Keep me updated. Riordan out.”

“Sir—” started Sleeman and Solsohn.

“No time,” Caine interrupted. “And no time to equip a Know-It-All rig.”

“Even so, sir, protocol in this situation—”

“Does not encompass the variables here. Of which, one is paramount.” He was already at the ready locker just beyond the valve to the bridge. “Who here speaks Hkhi?”

Silence.

Riordan grabbed a duty suit already fitted with a ballistic liner. “I speak about four hundred words. That’s probably at least three hundred ninety-nine more than they’ve heard from a human so far. So if there’s a chance to talk our way out of a fight, this is the moment. Once blood is spilled, it becomes an Honor issue. Finding a way back to a parley would be difficult and highly unlikely.”

“Yeah, I heard about that crap,” Karam muttered. “Scuttlebutt is that once Honor is involved, they become bushido bear-aardvarks beating their horse chests and making much ado about nothing.”

Caine pulled a CoBro 8mm liquimix rifle out of the ready-rack. “It’s life and death to them, Karam. Talking to them, rather than shooting at them, in the next five minutes could mean the difference between getting our people out of here peacefully, or going to war. But if if comes to shooting, I’m going to need to know if our suppressives will work, Dr. Sleeman.”

“Right. I’ll get on the research. With the eye that’s not watching the sensors.”

“Commodore,” Duncan murmured. “Protocol says you must be wearing an armor shell—a cuirass, at least—before you—”

“Major, you are correct to quote the regs. I am exercising commander’s privilege to disregard due to extenuating circumstances. And if those circumstances become more extenuating than we hope, you are in charge of Pullerin the event of my—my prolonged absence. You will also inform Major Rulaine that he is brevetted to lieutenant colonel and to carry on as the mission CO.” Riordan grabbed a helmet, moved toward the ventral bay.

Duncan cleared his throat. “Good luck. Sir.”

“You save that luck, Major. This situation is well in hand,” Riordan lied with a smile, then resumed his short jog to the bay.

***

Through the combo goggles, Turkh’saar didn’t look different from any other biogenic world. The outlines of the plant life were so repetitive in form as to be interchangeable and there was no color, not even of the corrected variety. Since the atmosphere on Turkh’saar was an unknown as far as humans were concerned, Riordan was running with a sealed helmet, the filtration set on maximum. The fact that other humans had already been operating here didn’t prove much. For all he knew, they were using filter masks. But, glancing at the Huey again, Caine was coming to doubt that more and more.

The rest of the team showed up as blue triangles on his HUD display, located just ahead, three aiming into the cave, three aiming outward, one hunkered down in the center. Riordan headed for that central triangle, overrode the voice-activation of his tac-set, made sure the external speaker was on. “Coming in on your six,” he said quietly.

The external audio pick ups crackled as Fanny responded. “We see you, Commodore.” If he noticed that Caine was not armored to protocol, he didn’t say anything.

Riordan crouched low as he approached, staying well out of the threat-cone defined by the cave mouth. He took a knee next to where Fanny was keeping his attention divided between the two fire teams. “Sitrep, Top.”

“No movement in the cave, sir, but when our audio pickups are on max gain, we get what sound like voices.”

“Human or Hkh’Rkh?”

“Too faint to say. This cave probably goes back a way. Forty meters, probably more. No further thermals, but we can see inside the first ten meters or so: abandoned sentry posts, noncombat load dumped all over the place. Everyone left in a hurry. Funny they didn’t take these two helicopters.”

“Not if they heard Puller. They probably figured us for Hkh’Rkh and that we’d shoot them out of the sky the moment they took off. What have the creepers found?”

“Solid rock in there, sir. If I send them in further, we’ll lose line of sight and have to resort to broadcast. And that might not be much better. Creepercam shows us what look like some sharp switchbacks. That’ll baffle-block the hell out of their weak broadcast units.”

Riordan wasn’t about to try a blind advance into a cave for which he had no ground plan. “Top, who’s your best with comms and remote ops?”

“Lance Corporal Somers, sir. Head and shoulders above the rest.”

“Okay. When we go in, she’s going to keep one creeper advancing so that it remains just within LoS of our point man. I don’t want to send them an automated greeting card in advance, but I’m not about to charge in there blind, either.”

“And if they tweak to the creeper?”

“Then we’ll have already closed to within ten meters or so.”

“That could get messy, sir. Hand grenades?”

“That’s our last recourse, Top. I’m here to talk to the Hkh’Rkh, not splatter them.”

You can follow Charles Gannon on his website: http://charlesegannon.com

You can purchase a copy of Caine’s Mutiny here: https://www.amazon.com/Caines-Mutiny-Riordan-Charles-Gannon/dp/148148317X

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The Write Stuff – Monday, May 7 – Interview With Christopher Katava

Christopher Katava was born and raised in the northwest edge of Los Angeles. Living near a park with a magical small stream and an abundance of open space provided him a deep appreciation for nature and led him to start writing, by his account, some pretty bad poetry at a young age. He has managed to improve in that department, but his main focus is writing short, slice of life fiction and full length novels covering many different genres. His first three completed manuscripts include, high fantasy, urban fantasy, and a near future psychological thriller. Christopher’s life path has shown him glimpses of a spiritual unity and respect for all life. He has developed a special bond with the big cats after having the opportunity to give educational tours where he shared the risk of extinction these majestic animals face. He currently lives in the Colorado foothills where he plays a never ending game of tag with his collection of muses and hopes to one day live near a stream again.

His most recent release, Rise of the First World, a sword and sorcery high fantasy, was published by WordFire Press on April 4thof this year. He describes its premise as follows:

For Iain, village life wasn’t too exciting until a sudden change in climate forces him to cross the sea in search of a new home for his tribe. There he discovers the strange and mystical creatures from his childhood stories aren’t only real, but are more beautiful and terrifying than imagined.

Alone and plagued by a bitter sense of loss, he is drawn into a maze of interwoven worlds where everyone he meets seems to have their own agenda for him. But battling dragons and an evil sorcerer aren’t his only problems. He must discover the one attribute the Hue-man tribes possess that can save them from extinction.

A fierce woman warrior, a mysterious Seraphim, and Iain’s own desire to overcome his past provide the best chance of survival. Even then, Iain is confronted by the risk that those he trusts the most may be plotting the destruction of his people and the Rise of the First World.

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

Good question. I feel every author is unique because everything from their word choices to character description is based in their personal life experiences. For me, I don’t like the blatancy of duality so I live my life from a rather zen perspective. I’m drawn to the archaic forms of magic and relationships formed through honor, personal responsibility, and respect. That comes through in my stories.
Personally, I don’t like comparisons to other writers because they rarely go beyond the surface. Nonetheless, comparisons will still occur and in regards to other authors I will have to leave any perception of similarities or differences to those who choose to read my books.

What is technique for crafting a story? Do you create an outline before you write?

Hello. My name is Christopher Katava and I’m a pantser. I’ve tried to outline. I’ve told myself I’d change. I’ve sought professional help, heard lectures, and read blogs about how wonderful life is for those who outline. But, when I return to my desk and I’m alone, the old habits grab hold of me. With trembling hands I reach for the keyboard determined to make different life choices, to plot out the story beginning to end with in-depth character backgrounds and detailed geographical maps.  But alas, I find myself once again succumbing to temptation and asking my characters, “So, what do you want to do next?” In retrospect, this is probably the same reason I decided not to have kids.

Why do you write?

A while back a friend asked me to create a talk regarding morality in fiction because she said I had a knack for presenting spiritual wisdom through my writing without preaching. That got me looking into the history of the written word. I felt a deep kinship with those who carved their messages into stone one mallet strike at a time, those who transcribed the sacred texts by candlelight one sweep of the quill at a time. Writing was so much harder then. It was reserved for the most important messages. Economy of words was essential. Times have changed, but to me the value of the written word and the message it conveys is the same. With humanity seeming to be at a spiritual crossroads these days it feels vital to continue planting seeds in the hope the utopian world can become the reality.

Writing provides a creative outlet to talk about the science behind the magic, the connection between all living things, and a path where humanity can elevate to a higher way of relationship. I write because I want to provide a positive message in a fun, engaging format that others can relate to and perhaps even be inspired by.

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

I feel the greatest challenge for any new writer is getting noticed. There are many pathways to overcome this, but for me it all started with joining a good writers group with people who are serious about becoming authors. Surrounding myself with like-minded individuals was essential. From there, going to local conferences and networking with others was the next step. I’ve found that as long as you can be genuine and considerate the connections you make will open opportunities for you. Allow me to repeat that last part. Opportunities will open for you. What happens after that is entirely up to you.

In all aspects of life the greatest challenge is always balancing the desire to push against the resistance while being aware the results may never achieve the vision of success. There are no guarantees and you have to continually swim against the tide.

What motivates or inspires you?

On one hand, nature is my inspiration. I find its beauty, its power, even its cold indifference to the survival of humanity calming. From the other viewpoint, the grace of soul contact moves me daily. Both of these seemingly divergent inspirations are linked through a correlation to the duality of perception. Within nature it is the interplay between light and shadow. Stillness and movement. In soul contact it is the spectrum of higher and lower frequencies. God and man. We humans are penned into a duality paradigm where we fixate on one over the other. Where all this coalesces is at the point of the observer self. The presence of duality sparks within me, a drive to stand in the third point in creation. That, as they say, is my happy place.

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

This is an ever-present challenge for me. What helps me the most is the awareness that no matter what’s happening, it is only a moment in time. Good and bad are constants in the world. As I’ve grown older I’ve gained the broader viewpoint that reminds me life isn’t always one or the other. Each experience, each moment, is insolated by our emotions regarding what we feel at the time. Above those emotions is a steadily flowing river reminding me there are rapids and there are shallows, but what remains steady is the rivers journey to the sea.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t expect anything from the world around you. It doesn’t owe you anything but it will constantly pull at you. Everything you desire to do, or be, or possess must come from within. Being as fully present and honest as possible in every situation will help keep you from getting lost in the expectations of others.

Thank you, Christopher, for taking time out of your schedule to share with us. Before I present our guests with your novel’s excerpt and links to where they can follow you or purchases your book, I’d like to conclude with a traditional Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following questions:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Oxygen

The one thing I would change about my life: Nothing. I’m the way I am for a reason.

My biggest peeve is: Ignorance, and slow left lane drivers.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: Self. It is where all else begins.

 

 Chapter One

 

Wind whipped Iain’s hair, pulling at the leather knot keeping the long strands out of his face. Far below, white-capped swells thundered against the steep cliffs. Vibrations shuddered through the ground beneath his feet. Wave after wave tumbled towards the dismal island, taunting him with their freedom to travel.

Iain closed his eyes with a heavy sigh, wishing the waves to carry him across the rolling sea to the forbidden mountains of mystery beyond the horizon.

Even obscured by the cloak of darkness as they were, Iain knew the far-off lands well from the maps his father had made. That same man who since forbade any of the tribe from setting foot upon the distant territory.

It was safe enough for him to cross the sea and bring back a Sune-Tara mate, but after claiming what he wanted, to say it’s too dangerous for any other to do the same I cannot understand. What did he see or learn that could make such a giant among men seek shelter upon this island and say it is enough?

Iain felt his mother’s eyes upon him and couldn’t help but smile. She was far away, back at their house, but Iain learned long ago, there was nowhere he could go where she couldn’t see him. That was just one of her gifts. From the stories she told, the ability was not uncommon among her people living at the edge of the Endless Forest beyond the sea.

The stories gave him knowledge and entertainment, but his dreams fed his restless desire more than anything else. Out there in the darkness was a land where creatures of legend still roamed. Where tribes like the Sune-Tara practiced the ancient magical craft and where the spirits of those swept away when the sea rose up to cover First World still lingered. Held fast by their hunger to return and rule the realm of man, they laid in wait amongst the shadows. There was the home Iain had only glimpsed in visions.

Another heavy sigh escaped and he turned, making his way across the uneven growth of thick peat grasses. Up above, Luphin, Goddess of the Night Orb, aided his trek by casting a gentle glow between silver-tinged clouds scurrying across the sky. She walked low to the horizon this night, but Iain didn’t fear meeting her, for she was still half dressed. The storytellers said, only when her cloak has been drawn tight and she’s disappeared from the sky should men keep a wary eye, for that is when she has taken the form of a beautiful young maiden, determined to find a mortal mate. So powerful was her beauty, no man could resist her temptations and he would be driven mad when she left to give birth to another point of light in the darkened sky.

Iain picked up the pace, knowing Ral would soon rise to give light to the land. If he didn’t sneak back into the house before the dawning, his father’s guards would surely catch him. Troubling enough he knew there would be a lecture coming on the morrow from Elsbeth, his mother. He certainly didn’t wish to endure one from his father, Karoc, as well.

Distracted while plotting out what he would say, a flicker of movement nearby caught his eye. Dropping at once into a crouch, he sidled into a small hollow. Offering up a silent prayer to Ault, Lord of Wind, Iain asked for Luphin’s glow to be obscured by the clouds. Relieved when the land was plunged into shadow, he peered into the darkness, searching for the source of movement.

I dare not delay for long.

There, not far off, a robed figure headed directly towards the paltry hiding place. Iain took stock of his options. He had a knife as a last resort, but preferred avoiding conflict if possible. If he was seen by anyone from the village, word would surely get back to his father and that was bad enough, but if it was a spy from across the water he would have no choice but to battle.

Focus on the breath. Summon the Melding the way Mother trained you.

Iain’s intuition directed him to merge with the land, become one with it. He flattened out as best as possible and opened his senses. The smell of dew soaked grass. The ground shedding the last of the warmth gained from the day. Croaking frogs in a nearby mud hole set an unsteady rhythm.

Surrender to soil and sky.

 

Those who are interested can follow Christopher here:

Website:         christopherkatava.com

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/chriskatava

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/tony.katava

You Can Purchase TheRise of First World here:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BX9JQ98

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 23 – Interview With Alex Singer

Alex Singer lives in coastal Connecticut with her wife, two cats, and far too many books on Greek mythology. She is author of the ongoing webcomic, Sfeer Theory, as well as the illustrated novella, Small Town Witch. Her work has appeared in Fairylogue’s Valor Anthology, Empyreome Magazine, and Crossed Genres Magazine. Her YA Cyberpunk, Sci-fi/Fantasy novel, entitled Minotaur, was published by WordFire Press on March 3, 2018. This is its premise:

A futuristic retelling of Icarus, Theseus, and the Minotaur in a city run by artificial gods.
As daughter of the royal architect, Ikki set out to discover a new world the day she flew her homemade bi-plane up beyond Crete’s artificial sun. Instead, she crashed her plane and found herself on trial for a crime she didn’t commit. She is exiled to the Labyrinth—the city’s ever-shifting mechanical core—and she has seven days to find her way back out. If Ikki can escape in time, she will be declared innocent by the gods of Crete. But no one has ever returned.
Lost among the moving walls and pursued by a diabolical engine large enough to shake the floors, she soon realizes there is a reason that no one has escaped the labyrinth. Determined to clear her name, Ikki’s only hope for salvation lies in the very thing that is hunting her: a fearsome beast known only as the Minotaur.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Minotaur is a retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur starring a gusty female Icarus. It straddles a line between sci-fi and fantasy—a world where the Greek gods are recast as AIs managing a enclosed world. The big thing I want to get across is that it’s a story about being a truthseeker. And a girl who’s a truthseeker. I was a girl who asked a lot of questions growing up, and that’s a really hard thing to be. Boys are often encouraged to be bold inquisitive, girls are expected to behave. So I wanted to do a story about a girl who was bold and inquisitive to a fault. I wanted her to have the strengths and flaws afforded to a male protagonist. I wanted to tell a story about a girl who couldn’t really be shut down, and how that can get her into trouble as well as out of it!

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

I’ve always loved Greek mythology, but especially the monsters in Greek mythology. There was always something so tragic about monsters in Greek mythology. So often there was this aspect of them being lonely, misunderstood creatures who are victims of circumstance as much as anything. Medusa, the Minotaur—they’re tools of some higher power’s punishment, but they’re still suggested to be fully sentient, reasoning beings. That’s a pretty raw deal from their perspective. So I guess I always sympathized and wanted to save these creatures from their narratives. That’s what I set out to do with Minotaur. I took two characters that meet very messy ends in their original myths (Icarus and the Minotaur) and made them the protagonists, rather than the footnote to someone else’s story (Theseus).

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

I’m bad at sticking to one genre.  It’s hard for me to stick to just sci fi or fantasy conventions. Combining genres in new and interesting ways is fun. Small Town Witch was a combination of fantasy and film noir. Sfeer Theory is fantasy steampunk with influences from American and British history.

Minotaur jumps between sci-fi and fantastical elements a lot. There’s gods—but they’re AIs. There’s machines—but they’re operated by Gods. There’s a minotaur—but he’s a genetically engineered monster. My friends have been referring to it as ‘greco-punk’—a word I like a lot!

What was your path to publication?

It’s been a pretty windy path! I haven’t really gone through conventional channels. I’ve written a few novels now but I’m very bad at sticking to one genre. I really enjoy shifting between sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve published a few short stories and there but most of my work has been in webcomics. I met my long-time creative partner, Jayd Ait-Kaci, as a freshman in college. Our first webcomic, Salad Days, was started when I was 19—it didn’t last very long. Our next one, Sfeer Theory, has published on and off for nearly 10 years. We’ve racked up quite a few independent titles, included Small Town Witch, our illustrated magical noir novella. I was promoting Small Town Witch at Connecticon when I pitched Minotaur to WordFire Press.

What are you working on now?

More Sfeer Theory! Along with the next in Ikki’s adventure. I’m also experimenting with serialized fiction—something you see a lot in webcomic format but still hasn’t yet found its way back to mainstream publishing. Which is a shame because so many great classic novels were once published in serialized form.

What is your writing routine?
I take the train from New Haven to New York a lot—visiting family and commuting. The train’s a great way to have an enforced period of time to write. The stretch between New Haven and Stamford is how most of Minotaur got done. Besides that, my wife keeps teacher hours, so I find getting up a bit early to get a few pages done is often a nice way to get my mind focused for the day. A little bit here and there regularly is the steadiest way to complete anything. I usually aim for about 2K a day at my best. 1K is acceptable when you’re busy. But the key thing is I try make a habit out of it—a bit like going to the gym. This is something doing a few goes at NaNoWriMo has taught me.

Do you create an outline before you write?
Depends on the story! I don’t write out traditional outlines, but I do often try to figure out what the last scene of my story is going to be before I write it. I think a key thing in any narrative is figuring out your starting point and endpoint. Once you know where you need to go, the middle isn’t quite as daunting. I’ve written novels where I’ve started with the last scene first.  I wrote Minotaur almost entirely chronologically. I didn’t have an outline, but I knew what I wanted the last scene to be—so I powered through in order to get to write it!

Why do you write?

Because I’ve got a thousand worlds in my head and I need to get some of them out of there. For me though, I really love sharing stories and ideas, and I find putting a narrative to them is the best way to communicate those ideas. That’s part of why I love sci-fi and fantasy in particular, the real world can be an exhausting place—fantasy and sci-fi a good way to create the world you wish you could see more of. I don’t believe in escapism, but I think idealism in sci-fi/fantasy is worth it sometimes. There are so many ideas that came out because someone saw or read about it in a sci-fi/fantasy novel. (R2D2 was the inspiration for Roombas, for example). I think that extends to social issues as well. So I like to tell stories because I like to hope for better things.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Read. And read a lot. A good book is the best way to get excited about writing again. Sometimes I fall back on my favorite authors to calm my mind down and remind myself how much I love words. Diana Wynne Jones is one of them. Ernest Hemingway is another one. Both of them have very clear styles that are very refreshing. Sometimes I just need to be reminded how a sentence gets formed, and Hemingway especially was an expert at that.

My other solution is to find a very patient friend and talk out my stories.  Conversation and collaboration is a good way to solidify an idea in your head. I sometimes find explaining a plot or situation out loud helps me get past whatever was causing it to stall in my mind.

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

Self-promotion! Authors are generally an introverted people, and I’m no exception. Going to conventions and promoting my work is hard. I love talking to fans and hearing what they have to say about my work, but it takes a lot of courage! You have to talk yourself up before you can really sell what you do to other people, and that’s a huge leap of faith.

Tell us about your writing community.

I come from webcomics, and collaboration is part of what’s gotten me to where I am. I think some of my favorite ideas are the ones I’ve come up with while talking with friends about collaborative work. It’s a great energy to channel, and I’m lucky I’ve had friends and loved ones who’ve willingly lent me an ear.  My creative partner Jayd Ait-Kaci, who was always willing to bat ideas around for me. And my wife, Valerie, who has often helped me come up with some terrible pun to justify an entire short story.  I think community is a really important part of the creative process. I like reading other peoples stories, seeing them create their characters, watching them find narratives that suit those characters—and sending whatever encouragement again!

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

My grandfather was my biggest influence growing up. He was really supportive of my creative influences. He was also just a really cool guy. He was trained as a spy in World War II, and he wrote political thrillers. His novel, The Parallax View, had a film adaptation done by Warren Beatty. It had a bit of a cult following—but I never knew about that for years. Mostly he always sat by and listened to me tell stories about dragons. They weren’t very good stories about dragons, but he was always willing to hear them. He also once very gently told me to use less adverbs, something I appreciate as an adult.

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

Just get back up! If I get rejection one short story I’ll send two more out that day.

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

I’d have started submitting short stories for publication sooner! I let my fear of rejection hold me back for a long time. I used to share my stories only with my friends, I wish I’d been bolder sooner. I might’ve gotten more rejections, but I’d also have been putting myself out there sooner!

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t fear rejection. Don’t be afraid to fail at things. Someone might not like one story you submit, but it doesn’t mean it’s not good or it’s not a story worth telling. Even successful people fail sometimes. It’s not worth holding yourself back. Living in fear of other people’s judgment is living half a life.

What makes you laugh?

My wife Valerie. She’s good at saying something ridiculous to get me out of myself when I’m having the inevitable artistic angst. Octopus videos help, too.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Diana Wynne Jones, E.M Forster, Ernest Hemingway, and Leo Tolstoy

Thank you Alex for taking the time to share with us. Before I show our visitors an excerpt from The Minotaur and provide your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a customary Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Sushi

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d have more time to write!

My biggest peeve is: Cynicism.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My books/comics. I’m amazed I’ve gotten this far.

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

Be sincere. Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there about what you like. The best stories come from a place of emotional honesty, and if you hold yourself back, your reader can tell. So you may as well love what you do wholeheartedly, and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself a little bit.

Minotaur excerpt:

 “Blue,” said Ikki. “I told you this. Blue. It’s blue. It came through in the feed didn’t it? You have the recording! You saw what I saw!”

Tierce frowned, very slightly. “No,” he said. “I’m sorry. I haven’t seen anything like that in my life. Everyone knows the sky is chrome.”

“But outside—”

“And outside it is the color of horrible deadly toxins,” finished Tierce primly. “This is something we all know. Certainly, Your Majesty, I heard the girl’s theory about this.”

He wont even look at me! thought Ikki, she started to step forward, but the captain grabbed her arm.

“And I was aware she had built a flying machine, but I had no notion that she would use it like this. Certainly, she decided to do so; it was on her own volition. I would never have thought it was possible to fly above the Helios lights. I told her as much.”

“But you said you’d be curious if it could be done!” cried Ikki. “Stop telling them only half of the story. You were there, I was talking to you. I’m not lying.”

Tierce gave a labored, sympathetic smile. “I understand that’s how you might feel, but just because you want something to happen doesn’t mean everyone else automatically agrees with you. I’m sorry for this misunderstanding, I truly am.”

Ikki wanted to punch him. She wanted to drag him down and strangle him. The captain pulled her back.

“I don’t believe you,” she said. “Tierce, the footage. You have it. What did you see?”

“Yes, what did you see?” asked King Minos.

Tierce turned his back on Ikki and held his hands out, gloved palms up. “Nothing, your majesty,” he said. “I saw nothing. I can see how what she says is awfully troubling, though. I know Ikki. She’s stubborn. If there’s something she really believes she won’t ever let it go.”

“Tierce—” started Ikki, and then the captain struck her across the face. He wore metal gauntlets over his huge, meaty arms. If he’d really wound one back he could have easily killed her. As it was, a light flick from his wrist left her head ringing. She fell to her knees, feeling the new pain hot over her right cheek.

“Show respect,” said the captain. “You are speaking to the House of Minos.”

“I know that,” whispered Ikki. He’d hit her. He’d really hit her.

“As you see,” said Tierce. “Stubborn.”

Minos II growled: “We knew this already.”

Minos III said: “I stand by my original verdict.”

“I’ve got one better,” said Tierce, “The Minotaur.”

Those who would like to follow Alex online can do so here:

Website:         https://alextsinger.weebly.com/
Twitter:          https://twitter.com/sfeertheorist

You can purchase The Minotaur here:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Minotaur-Mechanical-Myth-Myths-Machina-ebook/dp/B07B6GGLHM
Kobo:              https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/minotaur-17

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The Write Stuff – Monday, April 9 – Interview With Ron S. Friedman

Ron S. Friedman is a science fiction novelist and a short story writer, a Calgary Herald #1 Bestseller Author and a Best Short Fiction finalist in the 2016 Aurora Awards, Canada’s premier science-fiction and fantasy awards. In his day job, he works as a senior Information Technologies analyst. During the Gulf War he served as an NCO in the Israeli Air-Force Intelligence.

Ron’s short stories have appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and in other magazines and anthologies. Ron co-edited three anthologies, and he received ten Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future Contest. Ron is a Quora most viewed author in Space Exploration, Astronomy and Planetary Science, with over a million views. His first novel, Typhoon Time, a time-travel thriller, has been released by WordFire Press. A time travel project goes awry when a nuclear submarine goes back to 1938, resulting in Hitler gaining a nuclear weapon.

Ron came from a family of Holocaust survivors. Part of his fiction was inspired by the experiences of his grandfather during WWII. Originally from Israel, Ron is living with his loving wife and two children in Calgary, Alberta.

Ron describes Typhoon Time this way:

The Hunt for Red Octobermeets Timeline.

A nuclear submarine led by a Holocaust survivor, travels back in time to 1938 in an attempt to prevent WW-II.

###

MARTIN RICHER, a pacifist history professor specializing in pre-WWII Germany, has two passions in his life: history, and opposing nuclear weapons. That is why he feels torn when he finds himself traveling back in time to 1938 aboard a nuclear ballistic missile submarine.

When ERIC SOBOL, a terminally ill holocaust survivor billionaire, learns about the existence of a wormhole leading from present days to 1938, he decides to do everything within his power to change the past.

###

A modernized Russian Typhoon class nuclear submarine, manned by twenty-first century multi-national experts, and equipped with the best civil and military technologies money can buy, jumps the time barrier and appears in 1938.

Eric’s plan to stop the war falls apart when a saboteur steals a nuclear warhead and hands it to the German War Navy. As the crippled Typhoon is ambushed by a U-boat wolf pack and barely escapes the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, Hitler contemplates how to use his newly acquired weapon to make all of Europe fall to the Third Reich.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

World War II was the most devastating war in history, with countries destroyed, cities leveled, and with a total of over 60 million people killed, including 418,000 Americans. During the Holocaust, 9 million people were systematically murdered in industrial methods, including 6 million Jews, and others such as gays, Slavic, Romani and disabled people. Even someone like Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be spared.

If you, the reader, had a chance to prevent the war, would you take it?

How far will you go?

Will you create a new Holocaust to prevent another?

This is the main dilemma the main protagonists face when they take a nuclear submarine back in time to 1938.

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

I would like to speak about two items under this umbrella.

The first issue is personal. I came from a family of Holocaust survivors. My grandfather was a Polish Jew who served as a lieutenant in the Polish army. In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland from the west, while the Soviet Union invaded from the east. My grandfather’s infantry battalion was sent to stop the advancing German panzers… It didn’t end well.

A couple of scenes are loosely based on his story.

The other issue I would like to discuss is the German resistance to the Nazis. In 1938, a number of high ranking German officers plotted against Hitler. In our history, later, many of those conspirators were executed following the failed July 20 1944 plot. I wanted to ensure the Germans in the story are presented as three-dimensional complex characters.

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

The intention. The time travel mission is well planned, focused and goal oriented.

In many WWII alternate history and time-travel stories I read or watched, something happens by mistake and history is taking a new course. The characters are reacting to the events as they fold.

Unlike those, in Typhoon Time, the time travel mission is well planned in advanced. Eric, the person in charge, knows very well what he is doing. He recruits a nuclear submarine, hires the best scientists and engineers to the task. And he purchases the best equipment money can buy. Only then, they travel back in time to 1938 with a clear intention to stop the war.

Unfortunately, even the best plans can fail. Well… it’s not really unfortunate. At least not for me, the writer. Because, if everything works according to plan than we have no story.

What was your path to publication?

I faced many challenges. The biggest one was the language barrier. I immigrated to Canada from Israel in 2002. English is my second language. When I started to write stories, and submitted them to magazines, I got rejections in the form of: “You are not a native English speaker. It would be best for you to choose another hobby.”

The thing is… I’m not a good listener. So, I ignored that advice and I continued to write. My first story was published in Daily Science Fiction in 2011. Since then I published 14 short stories.

When I finished Typhoon Time, I submit it to a few publishers. Granted, it was rejected, and in one case it was lost in the slash pile.

In late 2014, I decided to self-published it. But before I did, I heard of a writer’s workshop David Weber was leading at VCON. I registered to that workshop and submitted the first three chapters, just to get a few tips from David before self-publishing it. David liked it, and he asked to read the entire manuscript. The rest is history.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a sci-fi novel that takes place on Titan, after Earth goes through an apocalypse. Mad-Max in space.

What else have you written?

I published 14 science fiction short stories in various magazines and anthologies. My story Game Not Over was selected by Mike Resnick, and has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge in 2015. My name was listed right besides Robert Heinlein. Can you imagine that for an emerging writer?

You can find a link to that Galaxy’s Edge issue here: https://www.amazon.com/Galaxys-Edge-Magazine-Predestination-Tie-ebook/dp/B00RKM2Z3G/

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

Typhoon Timeis an Amazon.ca #1 Bestseller in Time Travel.

Best Short Fiction finalist in the 2016 Aurora Awards, Canada’s premier science fiction and fantasy awards.

Calgary Herald #1 Bestseller.

Quora most viewed author in Astronomy and Planetary Science with over a million views.

Ten Honorable Mentions in the Writers of The Future Contest.

What is your writing routine?

I write for an hour or two every day. I do have a day job and a family, which makes it challenging to commit more than that. A large portion of my writing is posting on Quora.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

When I wrote Typhoon Time I didn’t write an outline. The story developed organically.

Lately, I started to spend more time on planning the plot and the characters. The recent stories I published were outlined. The novel I’m currently working on has an outline.

Why do you write?

Creativity. I want to do something creative, and I feel writing is the way to share it. I also used my writing experience as a tool to improve my written communication skills.

Tell us about your writing community.

I belong to a writing group in Calgary called IFWA (The Imaginative Fiction Writers Association). I’d been a member of IFWA since 2005.  I think writers should support each other rather than write in solitude, and IFWA had been a great source for support, both as a critique group and for social writing related events.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m senior Information Technologies analyst with over 20 years of industry experience. What one learns in the computer industries could be a great material for science fiction stories.

In the late 1980s early 1990s I served in the Israeli Air Force as an Air-Force Intelligence analyst. I guess some military experience could be helpful when writing MilitarySF.

What motivates or inspires you?

The future. I think we are now at the start of a new era in human history.

Some of the greatest future revolutions will involve Genetic Engineering, Artificial Intelligence and Space Travel. I’m trying to promote those topics in my writing. Some of these revolutions were seeded in the 20st century. Some, during World War II. We want to make sure to learn from the past in order to navigate to a better future.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Persistence. If I may quote Tom Alan’s character from Galaxy’s quest: “Never give up, never surrender.” If you want to be successful in something, do it and don’t be afraid to fail. And if you do fail, try again. And again.

Thank you, Ron, for taking time to share. Before I present our visitors a Typhoon Time excerpt, as well as links where they can follow you and purchase your book, I’d like to conclude with a customary Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Time

The one thing I would change about my life: No idea.

My biggest peeve is: Stress

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: Family

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

Thank you for reading the interview. I hope you’ll enjoy reading Typhoon Time.

 

Excerpt:

Atlantic Ocean

April 13, 2018

Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Professor Martin Richter fiddled with the frayed fabric of the fresh bullet hole in his tweed jacket. How did Eric Sobol convince me to join this lunacy?

Alarms sounded. Dim, red light flooded the control room. Crewmen rushed to take their positions. Russian syllables rolled from the speakers all around as the Typhoon-class submarine prepared to enter the wormhole.

Martin looked to Vera Pulaski for a translation, and so did Steve T. Stiles and Eric Sobol. Of the four Americans who were invited to the control room, Vera was the only one who spoke Russian.

“They have detected a bomber on an interception course,” she said. “The captain gave the order to dive. We have less than four minutes.”

This is a mistake, thought Martin. I’m not the adventurous type. What was I thinking when I signed up for this suicidal experiment?

Martin always knew himself as the kind of person who remembered historical events. He could recount when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He could recall the date Dr. Albert Schweitzer won his Nobel Peace Prize and when the demonstrators toppled President Mubarak from office. So, even if he forgot certain dates once or twice, he could still claim to be a person who was passionate about history.

But describing himself as a peaceful, non-adventurous sort, while standing on the bridge of a nuclear submarine about to enter a wormhole in a desperate attempt to violate the laws of physics and travel back in time?

Evidently, that specific self-assessment will now have to be revised. I can’t really claim I’m not a militaristic risk-taker, in the same way that Marcus Junius Brutus couldn’t claim that stabbing Julius Caesar on the Senate floor wasn’t like him. I guess, deep down, I’m not exactly who I thought I was.

A strange buzz filled the control room as a new image appeared on the main screen. A black and blue sphere, surrounded by dark clouds and electrical sparks filled the monitor. The way the dark sphere spun, devouring the ocean in its path, was both awe-inspiring and horrifying.

Cold sweat trickled down Martin’s forehead. He could barely stand up straight. What are our chances of surviving the wormhole? He didn’t think they were attractive.

“I’m scared,” Vera whispered. Her voice quivered.

Martin stared at her in silence. He was probably more terrified than she was. Mechanically, he lifted his shaking arm and put it around her shoulders.

“Don’t worry,” he said to comfort Vera. His mouth was dry. He cleared his throat. “It’ll be over soon. In a few seconds, we’ll cross the 1938 threshold.” He doubted he convinced her. He didn’t convince himself either.

Someone tapped on Martin’s shoulder.

Martin flinched. He nearly had a heart attack. Thank God Vera had been there to support him.

“This is so wicked!” He heard Steve’s voice. He turned and saw a grin spread across Steve’s face.

“Have you ever seen anything so cool?” Steve pointed at the wormhole image. “The first dudes in history to travel back in time. Boy, that’s what I call a thrill.”

Martin wondered if Steve had lost his mind. They were staring at certain death, and Steve found the prospect exciting?

“Hey, look.” Steve stepped closer to the monitor.

The sphere was now clear of smoke and electrical discharges. Caribbean water slowly poured into the rupture like honey into a bowl. The inside was black. Was Eric successful after all? Could this bubble really lead to 1938 Earth, or was the wormhole’s dark entrance their death sentence?

“That’s a good sign.” Steve stared at the monitor. “The submarine’s propulsion should work on the other side.” He made the victory sign with his fingers. “Let’s rock ’n’ roll!”

A rumble shook the vessel. Martin gulped.

As the submarine began to submerge, Martin held his breath. The crew seemed nervous.

The dark blue globe grew bigger. Then, the monitor turned black. Martin tensed. He forced himself to breathe; in, out, in, out …

“We’ve just crossed the threshold,” Steve announced. “Do you feel anything?”

“I feel like I’m about to throw up,” replied Martin, gazing at the black monitor.

“I mean the smooth motion.” Steve shrugged. “I wonder if it’s normal. I expected some kind of rumble or shake, something more … grandiose.”

The image of the Caribbean Sea slid back to the center of the screen. The operator must have turned the camera backward. They were looking at Earth from the inside of a wormhole.

“What’s that?” Back on the contemporary Earth’s side of the wormhole, something white was entangled with the rear cable line which fed power to the ultra-capacitor on Eric’s yacht. The same yacht that had brought them to the submarine and carried all the scientific equipment which made time travelpossible.

The image flickered.

 

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

Website:                     https://ronsfriedman.wordpress.com/

Amazon Author Page:          http://amazon.com/author/ronfriedman

Goodreads:                https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6979231.Ron_S_Friedman

Quora:                       https://www.quora.com/profile/Ron-S-Friedman/answers?sort=views

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

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/RonSFriedman

LinkedIn:                   http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/ron-raanan-friedman/a/904/770

Google+:        https://plus.google.com/u/0/?tab=wX#102514383771529750251/about/p/pub

SFWA speaker’s Bureau:    speakers.sfwa.org/profiles/ron-friedman/

 

You may purchase his book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Typhoon-Time-Ron-S-Friedman-ebook/dp/B07B7J2BJF/

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The Write Stuff – Monday, March 26 – Interview With Sam Stone

Award winning genre writer Sam Stone began writing at age eleven after reading her first adult fiction book, The Collector by John Fowles. Her love of horror fiction began soon afterwards when she stayed up late one night with her sister to watch Christopher Lee in the classic Hammer film, Dracula. Since then she’s been a huge fan of vampire movies and novels old and new.

Sam’s writing has appeared in many anthologies for poetry and prose. Her first novel was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. Like all good authors she drew on her own knowledge and passions to write it. The novel won the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel in ForeWord Magazine’s book of the year awards in 2007.

In September 2008 the novel was re-edited and republished by The House of Murky Depths as Killing Kiss. Sequels, Futile Flame and Demon Dance went on to become finalists in the same awards for 2009/2010. Both novels were later Shortlisted for The British Fantasy Society Awards for Best Novel and Demon Dance won the award for Best Novel in 2011. Sam also won Best Short Fiction for her story Fool’s Gold which first appeared in the NewCon Press Anthology The Bitten Word.

In 2011 Sam was commissioned by Reeltime Pictures to write a monologue for their talking heads style Doctor Who spin-off, White Witch of Devil’s End. She was also co-script editor with David J Howe. White Witch, starring Damaris Hayman, was released on DVD to much critical acclaim in November 2017 by Koch Media as part of boxset called The Daemons of Devil’s End. Sam also edited and wrote a story in the novelisation inspired by the drama for Telos Publishing also called The Daemons of Devil’s End.

Other works include official Sherlock Holmes stories for Constable and Robinson and Titan. Sam also wrote a Dorian Gray story for Big Finish’s successful series, The Confessions of Dorian Gray.

Sam was commissioned by Telos to write several sequels to her hugely successful steampunk novella Zombies at Tiffany’s. The audio rights to Zombies At Tiffany’s were subsequently bought by Spokenworld Audio and were made available for download in Halloween 2013. In January 2015 the first novel of her new post-apocalyptic trilogy, Jinx Town – Book 1:The Jinx Chronicles, was published by Telos and was been followed by Book 2: Jinx Magic in 2016. The third and final book in the trilogy, Jinx Bound is planned for release sometime in 2018.

The rights for Sam’s latest novel, Posing For Picasso, were acquired by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s publishing house, Wordfire Press, in 2016. The book was released in January 2018 and is a crime supernatural thriller. Four top crime writers have given endorsements for this standalone novel, including Peter James who says that it is “A powerful mix of the supernatural and police investigation”.

An eclectic and skilled writer Sam also has a BA (Hons) in English and Writing for Performance and an MA in Creative Writing, which means that she is often invited to talk about writing in schools, colleges and universities in the UK. Sam is also frequently invited to appear as a guest at literary events, conventions and Comic Cons in the UK, USA and Canada.

Sam describes Posing for Picasso as follows:

It was Annabel, and something was wrong with the features … He thought he saw a triangle, not an irregular jigsaw shape after all. And it was missing from her face. As if a sharp pastry cutter mould had been stamped through her skull.

Someone is killing young girls in New York. Horrific murders where the bodies are being mutilated and parts harvested for unknown reasons. Detective Jake Chandler has a mystery on his hands, and even though there seems to be a connection to the Russian artist Avgustin Juniper, Juniper himself seems innocent and as confused as everyone else as to what is happening.

So why is Juniper painting all the murdered women, and what is stalking the artist? Something wants to return … something which was also known to Pablo Picasso … and only Chandler can stop it.

What do you want readers to know about your book?
Posing For Picasso is a book that feels as though it is a long time in the making. I first had the idea for this story in 2013. I love art and artists and the premise I originally came up with for this story was based around Picasso’s unique style – Crystal Cubism. Picasso was a brilliant artist, capable of realist art as well as the stylist work he later became famous for. I wanted to explore why his style might have changed. And the idea came to me that perhaps his model actually looked like that and he really painted what he saw. From there I developed a story set in modern times, with a back story of Picasso’s experiences.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?
The theme of this novel is very much about loss—the loss of a loved one, the loss of one’s self through obsession, and the loss of immortality. Through this we have underlining explorations of morality in which our protagonists have to make choices to sacrifice themselves or someone else. There’s also an element of an artist being driven to create their art… having something “riding on their back” so to speak and pushing them to create, even though they themselves might have no memory of the actual creation process. This theme was in part inspired by a visit to see Clive Barker’s home in Los Angeles where we saw some of his incredible paintings and sculptures and heard stories of Clive’s amazing work ethic and his drive to create. I take inspiration from all over the place when planning and writing my books…

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?
I believe that all writers are different. We all bring our own unique experiences to any subject matter. I like to try different genes and mix and merge them whenever it feels right. I also always have an underlining point I’m trying to make in a story—whether the reader is aware of it or not, I know it’s there. I’m also not afraid to tackle dark issues, and I often have a cast of characters that are central and important to the story, not just one main person.

What was your path to publication?
I wrote my first novel, Killing Kiss, as my Master’s Degree dissertation. I was working as a high school English Teacher in the UK but I had since my early teens, always wanted to be a novelist. When I had completed the book and obtained my Masters, I didn’t know what to do with this shiny complete body of work that I was very proud of, and so, knowing nothing about the industry, I ended up going down the self publishing route. Then the book was submitted to ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards and I won the Silver Award for best horror novel. From there, I signed my first three book deal with an independent publisher. It was a roundabout route to being published, but it all turned out well in the end!

What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on my first straight thriller. There will be no supernatural elements at all in this.

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?
As mentioned earlier I won the Silver BOTYA Award with ForeWord Magazine. I was also the first women in 31 years to win the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2011, as well as Best Short Story that year too. The best “award” though is when people buy and appreciate my work!

What is your writing routine?
I very much treat my work as a job (but I’m fortunate in that I love it!). I wake up in the morning, have a cup of tea and I’m straight to work. I write all day, breaking for meals until about 4-5pm depending on how it’s going. I think I’m somewhat unique in that I can write an average of 5-6,000 words a day when I’m writing a novel. This is because I’m a fast typist (I work straight onto my laptop) but also because I don’t get hung up on tweaking. I just write and aim to finish, knowing that the finished novel will then be easier to edit and improve afterwards.

Do you create an outline before you write?
I wrote outlines for the first two books in my Jinx Trilogy—Jinx Town, Jinx Magic—and in some ways it made it easier to write the novels. However mostly I like to fly by the seat of my pants and just write. Especially with thrillers. However I do plot them all in my head. I’m always working because even when I’m not writing I’m thinking about the plot and the twists and turns I want in it. I always know the end of my books as I’m writing the opening—just not always the route by which we’ll get there. This to me makes the journey more fun, and less predictable. Often when I plot who will be the bad guy in a mystery I’m writing I often don’t decide until the end who it is. I hate predictable endings!

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?
My childhood plays a great part in a lot of things I write because it wasn’t a very happy one. I think the darkness in my writing comes mostly from my beginnings. As a child I spent a lot of time alone, reading to keep the outside world out. My imagination began there: I’d daydream better times. Nowadays, travel, people, food and especially my husband David, and my daughter Linzi, all inspires me. One of the lovely aspects of being a writer is that I can go to conventions and meet amazing people. It sometimes feels like a dream, and at others that this is normal. But it is enriching and I feel privilged to be in this position because I love people and I’m very sociable.

Would you care to share something about your home life?
I am married to David J. Howe—my soul mate—and we’ve been together for 10 years. I have a grown up daughter who no longer lives at home. She’s a beautiful girl and is a singer/songwriter called Linzi Gold. She seems to have inherited my storytelling gene as many of her songs tell tales. Check out her album at www.linzigold.com! We have two bengal cats called Leeloo and Skye and I’m well on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady.

What is your greatest life lesson?
I learnt to stand up for myself.

What makes you laugh?
Toilet Humour!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love Anne Rice, Stephen King, Mary Higgins-Clark, Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz. Peter James, Paul Finch.

Thank you, Sam, for spending time with us. Before I share a Posing For Picasso excerpt, followed by your social media and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round.

My best friend would tell you I’m: amiable.
The one thing I cannot do without is: My laptop.
The one thing I would change about my life: More financial security perhaps …
My biggest peeve is: Terrible drivers!
Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?
I hope everyone enjoys Posing For Picasso… it’s something of a departure for me as supernatural crime isn’t something I’ve dabbled in before… But initial reader feedback has been excellent!

Posing For Picasso excerpt:

A stifled sound, almost a cry, came from the bedroom. Juniper froze, startled, but also because he was unsure what he had heard. Maybe Annabel had turned off the radio beside the bed. Maybe it was the groan of the shower as the stop button was pressed. This old building often emitted sounds that Juniper had learned to live with but that sound, he couldn’t quite place.
Juniper put the paint brush down on the table beside his easel. Then he walked down the narrow corridor, past the empty, dark bathroom and opened the door to the bedroom.
The bed was empty. Annabel was on the balcony outside, or at least that was what he thought. There was a shape there, strangely dulled, not illuminated at all in the street lights.
“I’m back!” he called.
The shape moved. Juniper knew that eyes watched him. The hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood up.
“I hope you missed me …” Avgustin said. His voice was soft, teasing.
A prickle of anxiety crept along his spine as Annabel didn’t answer. A peculiar lethargy consumed his limbs. He stopped in the middle of the room as overwhelming tiredness swept over him. His eyes dulled, as though he was wearing sunglasses in the dark, but he could still make out a second shape. And this one he knew without doubt really was Annabel. Juniper blinked. He forced his arm to move, rubbed a softly clenched fist into one of his eyes. There was a blur, a flurry of movement and then a dull thud: a sound that would replay over and over in his head.
The tiredness began to leave him. It was as though some miasma had enclosed his body, but now the fog was clearing. Juniper crossed the threshold onto the balcony. The whole space was lit up now, not only by the streetlight below, but also by the side light on his wall outside.
There was no one there.
He experienced a sense of confusion and then the sounds of hysteria floated up to him as though he were waking from a drug induced sleep.
He staggered to the railing, every step forced the paralysis farther away, and his eyes cast downwards, into the street below.
It was hard to make sense of what he saw at first. A weird shape in a robe. A twisted body—arms and legs at painful angles. And a face turned upwards that was somehow incomplete.
Four stories up, Juniper could not make out all of the detail and so he later told himself that his hysterical mind had created this bizarre image. It was as though something was gone—like a jigsaw puzzle awaiting its final piece. A part that had been lost. No! Stolen.
But it wasn’t a puzzle that lay below him. It was Annabel, and something was wrong with the features that had inspired him. He thought he saw a triangle, not an irregular jigsaw shape after all. And it was missing from her face. As if a sharp pastry cutter mold had been stamped through her features.
“Annabel!” he screamed.
Below a man looked up and shouted. Juniper didn’t understand his words. They did not make any sense at all because what the man was saying was wrong. Impossible.
“It was him!” shouted the man. “He threw her over.”
Darkness swamped his vision again. Tears seeped like black rain. Juniper was blind. His heart a cold mass that hurt beyond endurance but still somehow continued to pump blood through his icy veins. He slumped to the ground and he stayed there until the uniformed police arrived to take him away.

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

Website: www.sam-stone.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/samstonereal
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamStoneReal

You can purchase Posing For Picasso here:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Posing-Picasso-Sam-Stone/dp/1614756228/
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Posing-Picasso-Sam-Stone/dp/1614756228/

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