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Thank you for stopping by. Hopefully, you’ve done so because you are interested in learning about books, the writing process and what makes a writer tick. Although this author specializes in science fiction and fantasy, with an occasional detour into the realm of political thrillers, over the coming weeks and months you will find interviews with both ascending talent and established authors who write everything from young adult novels to romance, erotica, historical fiction, non-fiction and more, not to mention my own genres. We will explore not only their writing, but the varied lives and interests that drive these American, Canadian, Australian, Asian and European creators of today’s genre and mainstream literature.

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

Why do you write?

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

Tell us about your writing community and thoughts on collaboration.

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

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

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

Do you have any pet projects?

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

What makes you laugh?

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

Thanks, Paul, for taking the time to share with us. Before I provide our visitors with an excerpt from Arcana, as well as your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m: Her husband.

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

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

My biggest peeve is: Stickers on book covers.

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

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

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

 

Excerpt:

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

“Cute,” said Gibson when he saw it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temple frowned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m afraid I still don’t—”

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

“You have no right to—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: @PaulKaneShadow

Instagram: @paul.kane.376

You may purchase Paul’s books here:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can follow Bobbi online here:

Blog: www.bobbischemerhornauthor.ca

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

You can purchase her book here:

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was not his war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did the story come to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for having me, Raymond.

Excerpt:

Light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interested readers can find Christopher online here:

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

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

You can purchase his book here:

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

 What else have you written?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

 Do you create an outline before you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Describe a typical day.

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

Do you have any pet projects?

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Michelle, for taking the time to share with us. Before I present my site’s visitors with an excerpt from Descending, followed by links where they can purchase it and your online social links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m: dedicated to my craft whatever it is that day.

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

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

My biggest peeve is: Dishonest or fake people

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

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

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

 

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think—”

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

“What do you want?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re not at lunch.

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

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

https://cmichellejefferies.wordpress.com

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

‪@cmichellejeffe1

You may purchase Descending here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

Tell us about your writing community.

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

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

Definitely start writing a couple decades earlier!!

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

What makes you laugh?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cal swore under his breath. “Get Raj.”

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

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

A long silence followed. “Copy, Seventeen.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

They would micro-leap again to begin the attack.

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

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

Cal initiated.

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

Cal said, “Fire at will.”

Sasha opened up, and the Gatling cannon rumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KODAK Digital Still Camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

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

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

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

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

Pacific Book Reviews

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

Hollywood Book Reviews

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

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

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

Tell us about your writing community.

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Licensed professional engineer.

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

Changing the past is dangerous.

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

More like words of wisdom. Three things:

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

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

– Surround yourself with people you care about.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: air.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

FAREWELLS

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

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

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

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

Caroline stopped at a nondescript door marked INCINERATOR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bastards were watching.

They should be here. Not me.

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

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

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

But Caroline was not so fortunate.

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

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

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

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

Now she was dead.

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

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

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

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

Evidence. And an insurance policy.

The world had to know what they had done.

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

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

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

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

Almost all evidence.

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

This was a funeral.

And she was the only one who had come.

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

She knew too much.

And those who knew too much became liabilities.

Liabilities, well, they disappeared—like Amy.

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

Their Genesis participant was gone.

The world had to know the truth.

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

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

Social links:

Website:         http://www.DanGrantBooks.com

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

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/DanGrantAuthor

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

 

Book online sales links:

Amazon (print & e-book)

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

Barnes & Noble (print)

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

IndieBound (print)

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

Tattered Cover (print)

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

Kobo (e-book)

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

Smashwords (e-book)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

 What are you working on now?

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

 What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

Why do you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Describe a typical day.

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

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

Thanks, Larry, for sharing your thoughts on yourself and your work. Before I present A Forgotten Legacy’s excerpt, followed by your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a: Man of honor. Old fashioned, maybe, but without it, what else matters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From Chapter 4 of A Forgotten Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visitors can follow Larry here:

 Website:        http://www.larryallenonline.com

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

To purchase A Forgotten Legacy, click here:

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

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 8 – Claudia Gray Interview

This week’s guest is New York Times best-selling author Claudia Gray, an American writer of paranormal romance and young adult fiction, best known for the Evernight series and her Star Wars novels, Star Wars: Lost StarsStar Wars: Bloodline and Leia, Princess of Alderaan. She is not the least bit shy about telling you this name is a pseudonym. In fact, this is the first declaration on both her website and Goodreads author page where she states at the outset her real name is Amy Vincent. When asked about her pseudonym and her life, she says, “I would like to say that I chose another name so that no one would ever learn the links between my shadowy, dramatic past and the explosive secrets revealed through my characters. This would be a lie. In truth, I took a pseudonym simply because I thought it would be fun to choose my own name. (And it is.) So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing. I write novels full-time, absolutely love it, and hope to be able to do this forever. My home is in New Orleans, is more than 100 years old, and is painted purple. In my free time I read, travel, hike, cook and listen to music.”

We begin our exchange with a discussion of the initial volumes of the Defy the Stars series: Defy the Stars and Defy the Worlds. Here is a brief description of Defy the Worlds’ premise. (Please note that the third volume of this series, Defy the Fates, is in the final stages of the publishing process.)

Hunted and desperate.

Abel only has one mission left that matters: save the life of Noemi Vidal. To do that, he not only has to escape the Genesis authorities, he also must face the one person in the galaxy who still has the means to destroy him. Burton Mansfield’s consciousness lives on, desperate for a home, and Abel’s own body is his last bargaining chip.
Alone in the universe.
Brought back from the brink of death, Noemi Vidal finds Abel has not only saved her life, but he’s made her into something else, something more. Not quite mech, yet not quite human any longer, Noemi must find her place in a universe where she is utterly unique, all while trying to create a world where anyone—even a mech—can be free.
The final battle between Earth and the colony planets is here, and there’s no lengths to which Earth won’t go to preserve its domination over all humanity. But together, the universe’s most advanced mech and its first human-mech hybrid might have the power to change the galaxy for good.

The moment in Defy the Stars, when Abel demonstrated sensitivity to Noemi’s dilemma about how to deal with Esther, caught me off guard—one sign of a superior author. Do you remember how the solution came to you?

In all honesty, I don’t remember when Abel’s solution for Esther’s “burial” came to me. That may be one of those things that seems to spring from the character himself. Abel had always had a deeper emotional life and sensitivity, but that becomes so much stronger as soon as he meets Noemi—for many different reasons. And it was important for Noemi to start thinking of Abel as more than a machine very early in the story. The readers know it before she ever encounters him; if she didn’t start to catch on soon, it would be easy to hold her in contempt. Abel’s suggestion here gives her an immediate reason to do that.

Both Defy the Stars and Defy the Worlds are filled with numerous religious references—Zoroastrianism and Catholicism, for example. How much time have you spent studying the religions you deal with?

Probably not as much as I should? Well, Catholicism is the faith I was raised in, so that one at least I have covered. As for the others, I wanted to make it clear that these are the religions we know…and yet not entirely. Centuries have passed between our time and Defy The Stars, and every religion changes over time. Plus, these religions are almost all represented on Genesis, an entirely different planet that has been developing its own culture for at least the past hundred years. So there probably are some differences between our reality and what’s in the Defy The Stars series—but that’s by design.

When you set out to write this series, did you do so with a conscious attempt to involve your young adult readers in both philosophical and spiritual matters?

No, that wasn’t my intention. I’m a big believer in story and characters coming first. Any “message” should emerge organically from the writing process. If I’d sat down to teach young readers something about religion or philosophy, the result probably would’ve been a seriously dull book.

Both plots are concerned with the natural of humanity: at what point might a bio/machine hybrid’s sentience make it human and how might its humanity evolve? Was this question something that arose during the course of your writing, or was it what drove you to write?

Abel’s nature was the origin of the story, really. Or, more specifically, it was what I wanted to see in the movie Prometheus, and didn’t, and then decided—well, if Ridley Scott doesn’t want to tell that story, I do! I was intrigued by the idea of a being who does have programming and inner laws to obey, but who has true personhood as well. How much free will does this individual have? Can they be held responsible for their actions? Getting a robot into this situation, and pairing him with someone who had every reason to doubt him, gave me a central conflict to build the story from.

Your earliest successes with the Evernight and Spellcaster series all involved the paranormal. Then, when you launched the Firebird series with A Thousand Pieces of You, you took your readers in a different direction, one that approached science fiction, albeit not the hard sci-fi of your Star Wars novels. Why did you choose to move away from a genre that was garnering certain success for something slightly chancier?

I wish I could tell you I had some well-developed theory as to why I should shift from paranormal fantasy to scifi. Really, it comes down to the fact that I had a scifi idea. Alternate universes—that story grabbed me from the get-go. I would’ve followed wherever it led. But since I—like most fangirl types—love scifi and fantasy and always have, it didn’t feel like that much of a leap.

The way your plots abruptly shift makes me wonder: are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a plotter. If I don’t know where I’m going, I can’t get myself excited about taking the trip.

How were you chosen to write Leia, Princess of Alderaan?

Well, I’d written the first new canon novel about Princess Leia, Bloodline, which dealt with the character at a later period in her life. People were happy with it, so that led them to ask me to do LPOA. It’s been a real privilege to get to spend that much time telling Leia’s story.

Who informed you?

I think Jennifer Heddle emailed me? Or maybe it was Michael Siglain… but I think it was Jen. If you’re talking about finding out I’d get to write my first SW novel, that definitely came from Michael Siglain via email. My agent called me while I was pumping gas, and said, “Did you see this email?” I said, “What email?” She said, “The one that says STAR WARS.” My afternoon was made!

I can imagine. Can you tell us something of the process, from first notification to the completed book?

The word comes that I get to write a book! I learn what their prompt is for it—the hook, the central concept of the story they need told. From there, I develop the story. The plot really is very much mine to invent, which gives me a lot of freedom. I come up with an outline, which I then submit to my editor and publisher. They come back with thoughts and suggestions, both just in terms of crafting the narrative and in making sure that my story is going to fit into the developing canon. Once the outline is approved, I can begin writing.

I notice you’re planning to attend the Humbook Fest in Prague, Czech Republic. Are you excited about it?

Yes! As I write this, it’s about one week before I’ll leave for Prague. I’ve never been to the Czech Republic before, so I’m thrilled to have the chance to go. This book festival seems to be a wonderfully run event that will give me a chance to meet readers I’d never have been able to talk with otherwise.

Since I suspect that you don’t speak very much Czech, I am compelled to inquire if you will be a panelist.

…You know, I’m not sure? They haven’t said I’ll be on a panel, but they haven’t said I won’t. Forgive my not being sure, but I actually just got home from a long trip (pure vacation) and have only just begun pulling myself together to focus on the events ahead. I imagine there will be some kind of setup where I get to talk with readers, even if it’s just before a signing.

In which countries are your books in print?

I’ve never put together a list. Maybe I should! I know they’re in France, Germany, Russia, England, China, Japan, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Columbia, Poland—you know, I should stop listing, because then it will seem like I’m leaving someone out! It’s amazing to me how broad a reach the books have (especially Star Wars).

How do you spend your time when you’re not either writing or attending literary conventions?

When I’m not writing or attending literary conventions? I love movies, I read a lot, I’m learning to cook, I really enjoy board games, and I do a fair bit of traveling. Though right now it feels like maybe too much traveling!

I’d like to that you, Claudia, for sharing your thoughts with us. Before I close, I’d like to try a Lightning Round because of the unexpected insights it sometimes provides. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: …a very silly person, sometimes.

The one thing I cannot do without is: my dog, Pierre.

The one thing I would change about my life is: I’d be more organized and disciplined.

My biggest peeve is: the way restaurants in the US put tons of cheese on EVERYTHING.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: my dog. Again. He’s just the best.

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

There’s no such thing as learning how to write books. You have to learn how to write each individual book as it comes along.

Boy! Do I agree with that! The following is an excerpt from Defy the Worlds, after which I provide social and book buy links for those who’d like to learn more about Claudia and purchase her work.

Chapter One

Noemi Vidal walks through the two long lines of starfighters in the hangar, helmet under one arm, head held high. She doesn’t wave to her friends, like she always used to—until six months ago.

Back then, somebody would’ve waved back.

Chin up, shoulders straight, she tells herself, taking what comfort she can in the familiar smells of grease and ozone, the hiss of repair torches and the thump of boots on tarmac. If you want them to see you as a fellow soldier again, you act like one. You don’t back down from mech fire, so you won’t back down from this.

But Earth’s warrior mechs only aim at the body. Noemi has shields for that. The distance between her and her fellow squadron members aims at her heart, for which no protection has ever been invented.

“Vidal!” That’s Captain Baz, striding across the hangar with a dataread in her hand. She’s wearing her uniform, a dark-patterned hijab, and the first smile Noemi’s seen all day. “We’re putting you on close-range patrol today.”

“Yes, ma’am. Captain, if I could—”

Baz stops and comes nearer. “Yes, lieutenant?”

“I wanted to ask—” Noemi takes a deep breath. “You haven’t put me on Gate patrol in months. I’d really like to take on a shift sometime soon.”

“Gate patrol’s the most dangerous gig there is.” Baz says it matter-of-factly as she scans through her dataread. Everyone on Genesis knows that the Gate ties them to Earth and the other colony worlds on the Loop, holding one point of a wormhole in place and making instantaneous cross-galactic travel possible. It also makes possible the war that’s devastating their world.  “Most pilots would be glad to stick a little closer to home.”

“I’m willing to share the danger.” More than willing—by now, Noemi’s very nearly desperate. Defending Genesis is what gives her life meaning. She hasn’t been allowed to truly defend her world for months, not since her return.

It takes Baz a few long seconds to answer. “Listen. That day’s going to come, all right? We just have to give it time.”

The captain is on Noemi’s side, which helps a little. That doesn’t mean Captain Baz has it right. In a lower voice, Noemi says, “They won’t trust me again until I’m pulling a full load.”

Baz weighs that. “Maybe so.” After another second’s contemplation, she nods. “We’ll try it.” Her voice rises to a shout. “Ganaraj, O’Farrell, Vidal’s with you today! Let’s get up there, people—gamma shift’s ready to come home.”

The other two pilots stare at her from across the room. Noemi simply heads straight for her starfighter.

She’s going to earn their acceptance the only way she can: one flight at a time.

Wait and see, she tells herself. Soon they’ll like you just as much as they did before.

She figures it shouldn’t be hard. They never liked her that much.

You can follow Claudia Gray at the following:

Website:         http://www.claudiagray.com

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

Twitter:          @claudiagray

Tumblr:         http://claudiagray.tumblr.com/

Pintrest:         https://www.pinterest.com/realclaudiagray/

You can purchase her books here:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Claudia-Gray/e/B001JRZGQ6/

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 1 – Liz Colter Spotlight

Today’s featured guest is WordFire Press author, Liz Colter. Due to a varied work background, Liz has harnessed, hitched, and worked draft horses, and worked in medicine, canoe expeditioning, and as a roller-skating waitress. She also knows more about concrete than you might suspect. Liz has followed her heart through a wide variety of careers, including farming with a team of draft horses, and working as a field paramedic, Outward Bound instructor, athletic trainer, and roller-skating waitress, among other curious choices. She also knows more about concrete than you might suspect. Her novels written under the name L. D. Colter explore contemporary and dark fantasy, and ones written as L. Deni Colter venture into epic fantasy realms. She’s an active SFWA member with multiple short story publications, and her debut novel, A Borrowed Hell, was the winner of the 2018 Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy.  I asked her about her recent epic fantasy novel, The Halfblood War, and she cited its underlying premise:

A sweeping story of love and war, prejudice and acceptance…

Tirren, heir to the ruler of Thiery, has raised his half-Elven son in a land that hates and fears the Elves, but his son’s struggle for acceptance is only one source of Tirren’s pain. The other is his unfading desire for Yslaaran, the Elven woman who eighteen years ago captured him in a spell, seduced him, and vanished. She returned only once more—to hand him his infant son.

When a neighboring ruler attacks the land of Thiery, Tirren rides to battle with his half-breed son at his side. Learning of the war, Yslaaran fears the conflict will unravel her long-laid plans for the boy. If she doesn’t interfere, he could die before his time, but if she reveals her hand by meddling, her own people could rise up against the humans they despise and trap the land between two deadly enemies.

The fate of two races hang in the balance, but only Yslaaran knows that both humans and Elves risk a future more devastating than war.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

This is a classic, Western European-based fantasy, like the ones I grew up reading and enjoying. While I love the new directions epic fantasy is taking, and while I may write something in the future that’s more of a departure as far as setting and culture, for this novel I poured into it everything I’ve loved over decades of reading epic fantasy. It’s a stand-alone novel, but packed with terrifying and powerful elves, romance and war, and the halfblood offspring of humans and elves who are caught in the middle of the conflicts.

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

I’ve always loved the old stories and ballads of capricious fae: the fairy queen who abducted Thomas the Rhymer, or the one who wooed Tam Lin away from his mortal lover (according to scholars, both may be the same story but separated and changed by a few centuries). I also love the Celtic stories of the light and dark fae courts, and creatures so bound to their natures that they can hardly be judged by mortal standards of morals and behavior.

What are you working on now?

I write epic fantasy as L. Deni Colter but also contemporary/dark fantasy as L. D. Colter. Currently, L. D. Colter is neck-deep in a challenging set of books—a loosely-connected series of contemporary fantasies about gods from various cultures. Meanwhile, L. Deni Colter is planning a set of epic fantasy books about a court executioner.

What else have you written?

I’m thrilled to announce that my novel, While Gods Sleep (written as L. D. Colter) has also just released. The cover quote by Walter Jon Williams describes it as “The pleasures of Greek mythology mixed with the dark undercurrents of contemporary fantasy.” My debut novel, A Borrowed Hell (contemporary fantasy from L. D. Colter) was published by Digital Fiction Publishing at the beginning of 2018.

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

A Borrowed Hell was the 2018 winner of the Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy from Colorado Humanities, and in 2014 I was selected as a winner in the international Writers of the Future contest for my short story “The Clouds in Her Eyes.”

Excerpt from The Halfblood War:

Chapter 1

“It’s too soon to risk it,” Erimar said.

Tirren stood, anticipating the rest of the objections his father would raise. It was an old argument but past time to revisit it. He paced to the library’s hearth and leaned an elbow on the fireplace mantle. “We’ve held off an extra year already. What will more waiting accomplish? It won’t alter my son’s heritage.” The heavy, gray stone of Thiery Hold seeped cold into his arm, despite the fire. Outside, a chilly, spring rain pelted the leaded windows with a sound like small pebbles hitting the thick glass.

“He would have more time to mature,” Erimar insisted.

“He’s seventeen,” Tirren said, striding back to the middle of the room, his volume increasing, “a year into his manhood.” Escalating this would accomplish nothing. He took a breath and began again. “The more we emphasize his differences, the harder we make this for him. Chayan has enough to overcome already. He has to be ready to be Beodan by the time he’s twenty, to be Bealdor when you and I are gone.”

“Gods, Tirren! Don’t you think I’ve thought of that every day since that woman brought him to us?”

That woman. Erimar had never once referred to Chayan’s mother by name.

Tirren had intentionally steered the conversation away from Yslaaran, as much for his own sake as to avoid his father’s bitterness, yet even the harsh and impersonal invocation of her triggered memories: His first sight of her through the open gate of the Hold eighteen years ago, as she stood at the edge of the woods that Winterfest night. A woman, nearly of a height with him, wearing a single, flowing gown that had shimmered in the dark like opals, so different from the layered, high-cut dresses of Heshan women. Her thick, red hair loose, spilling down her back to her hips. He asked if she was well, titling her “Iden,” as her graceful elegance bespoke a highborn woman. He hadn’t realized at the time how much he debased her.

Tirren dragged himself from the memories. “I’m sure you’ve thought of her daily.” He didn’t bite back the resentment that seeped into his words. Unfair of him, he knew, to criticize his father’s objections to her when he’d never reconciled his own conflict at loving the woman who stole his will and his seed for reasons he’d never understood. Leaving him with the complications of Chayan’s heritage heavy on his shoulders.

Their ancestors watched the argument even now, from tapestries covering the stone walls of the library. Men paused forever in the bloody battles that had won Thiery in the Conflicts, and paved the way for it to become the wealthiest of the four regions comprising their country of Hesh. Tirren’s father would have continued the family’s strong line, but his wife’s frail body had given them only one child. And Tirren had failed more grandly still; one bastard child, born to the Elven woman who abducted and seduced him eighteen years ago. A halfblood heir for a land that hated and feared the Elves.

“Don’t twist my meaning, Tirren. You know I love Chayan. I’ve raised him as my grandson despite his blood and his illegitimacy. But to let him travel the region, see the people, meet with the councils. We have no way to know the effect it will have.”

“We’ll never know if we keep him prisoner in the Hold.”

“Prisoner?” His father snorted. “Chayan has never been kept in the Hold and you know it. I’m saying we can’t let our plans outrun our caution.” His father stared into the fire. “The two of you are all I have,” he said, quietly.

In nearly twenty years since Tirren’s mother died, his father had never remarried, pinning his hopes on his son instead. Tirren had failed him there as well. He had been twenty-two the last time he saw Yslaaran, that following Winterfest eve, when she brought Chayan to him as an infant. At thirty-nine, he still couldn’t bear the thought of another woman. His obsession with her was wrong, and guilt plagued him for it, but year after year the feelings refused to fade.

“I know we are,” he said at last. “And I know the part I’ve played in that.”

BOOK LINKS:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FZ7496L/

Barnes and Noble (paperback): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-halfblood-war-l-deni-colter/1129191339?ean=9781614756620

Barnes and Noble (Nook): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-halfblood-war-l-deni-colter/1129191339?ean=2940161670965

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-halfblood-war

 

Author website: https://www.lizcolter.com/

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