Welcome!

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

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

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, 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/

Newsletter signup: https://mailchi.mp/bc969529fd5b/4tnr6lc28f_ldcolter

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 24 – Nancy Palmer & R.A. McAvoy Interview

This week’s guests are the writing team of R.A. “Bertie” MacAvoy and Nancy L. Palmer. R.A. MacAvoy published her first novel in 1983. All others she has published since then can be found online, along with awards she has won or for which she was nominated.

She studied various martial arts, starting at the age of eleven, but is no longer any sort of lethal weapon. She has raised and educated ponies and horses and been educated by them. She dived the waters of the Pacific Ocean, which was an experience as close to being in outer space as she is likely ever to know. She has been married to Ron Cain longer than she has been publishing books.

 

Nancy L. Palmer tells stories in words and pictures, and has done so as long as she can remember. She has looked carefully at small things and carelessly at large things until she’s quite certain there’s no difference really, and no space between them either.

They have recently published two novels through WordFire Press: Albatross, which was released in October, 2017 and which we will be featuring today, and Shimmer, which was released in January of this year.

Ms. Palmer, who has elected to speak for this duo, sent me this description of Albatross:

 

Accused of being a terrorist, a fugitive physicist takes flight in a gritty future world where the government has gone insane.

Rob MacAulay has followed the flight of seabirds all his life, as well as the elusive nature of quantum field theory. He is a brilliant physicist, famed for solving the Unity Theory, a tall, gentle man with glasses and a tweed jacket.

And he is framed as a terrorist.

Now, on the run from the police and under the steamroller of politics, MacAulay is on a flight of his own. As the EU fractures around him, MacAulay learns that his scientific reputation means little when the world is out to get him.

Thomas Heddiman, technical consultant with the police, finds himself both running with the fox and hunting with the hounds as he pursues MacAulay. But the tall, gentle physicist is an odd bird…and capturing him doesn’t go as planned.

Nancy, what do you want readers to know about your book?

When Bertie and I began working on this book, certain political events seemed more like sinister whispers of dark potential, rather than circumstances we would actually be facing so direly here, now. But frankly I suspect Bertie of having more than one prescient bone in her body; she led the book down the dystopian path. Of course, she might say it’s more accurate to say she followed the story down the path. But there was a great deal of urgency in writing this book; this urgency has only grown since its completion.

When a writer talks about big issues, it’s sometimes necessary to come at them sideways. And often, these big issues are better understood through scaling down and looking at them through the lens of the personal. That’s what we’ve done here.

How did the two of you come together?

I read my first R. A. MacAvoy book while I was still in college. I was blown away by her willingness to embrace difficult subjects, her ability to craft a sentence, her observation skills and her knack for finding just the right words to express those observations. Readers may find themselves returning to certain books again and again over the years, and that was definitely the case with me regarding Bertie’s works. While I wouldn’t claim to write like Bertie, I do believe that her works were formative in my own writing style.

Years later, we met via a mutual harping friend on social media. I was blown away when she asked me to help with Albatross. It was a challenge, but a wonderful experience. Bertie always quotes Thomas, “Don’t thank me,” when I express it, but I have to say I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with her. And I’m glad that we stayed friends through the process!

What was your path to publication?

We were actually turned down for representation by an agent due, he said, to the presence of a homosexual relationship in the book. He said that nobody would buy such a thing. (Which I found confusing; I was working in a bookstore in 1990 and we sold a LOT of The Vampire Lestat. But, you know, not everybody lives in this century.)

Meanwhile, the urgency of the story was weighing on us. Rather than waiting and going through traditional channels, we self-published. Then I happened to meet Kevin J. Anderson of WordFire at a convention. I knew his work, and was really interested in what he was doing with WordFire. Bertie and Kevin knew each other from back before Bertie took her hiatus. We sent Albatross to WordFire’s Acquisition editor, and there we had it. Much editing and flinging of electrons back and forth across the country, and we had our improved and honed manuscript and the sequel ready for publication.

And now we’ve got audiobooks! I love our narrator; you really need to hear him!

What are you working on now?

At this moment, I have a couple of short stories incubating. Basically stretching my muscles as a break from the multi-volume urban fantasy series I’m working on. And I’ve read part of a story Bertie was working on, but I’d lay even money that it won’t stay a story. The novel is really her milieu. She’s GOOD at short stories, despite being new to the form. But this particular work seems to want to expand, in my opinion. Of course, that’s what she said about the last story of mine that I showed her, too. “This wants to be a book.” And when Bertie MacAvoy is your writing partner? You’d do well to trust her. So I’m working on that.

What else have you written?

Bertie has written some very influential books, including Tea with the Black Dragon and The Book of Kells. I think that the books in the Lens of the World series were underappreciated; I’d like to see those brought before a larger audience. I love The Grey Horse… but really, it’s hard to go wrong with a MacAvoy book. I recommend visiting her website and working through her bibliography!

I came from a strong oral storytelling tradition in West Virginia. I started revising fairy tales in elementary school, for spoken word telling. I’ve written stories to tell at storytelling events and conferences, which is fun and really trains you to listen to what you’re writing. Poetry I’ve written, but never even tried to publish: it’s too raw and emotionally open for me to want to expose it in public. But I do think it’s good practice for understanding the weight of words.

I’ve written many, many short stories, some of them published in literary journals a couple of decades ago. Novels stuck in drawers; you know the type of bad writing that you have to get through to become a better writer. A couple of ghostwritten things that I’m contractually forbidden to name. I took some time off to home educate my fantastic son, but have eased back into the interlocking worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy as he became more independent.

What is your writing routine?

Bertie and I are an interesting team. We both have serious physical limitations. We’re fortunate in that we seem to be on an alternating schedule: when one of us is at low ebb, the other is at high tide, and so we carry on. Our work together is made possible by the wonder of e-mail and Dropbox. Otherwise we’d have paid our combined weights in postage, flinging manuscripts back and forth! Our routines seem to consist of WRITE WHEN YOU ARE ABLE. And then edit when you are able. Weirdly, my editing chores seem to time out most often to when I’m traveling, so most of my editing is done at a table in the shade, poolside, at some hotel or other.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

Generally, no. For the new series, though, I do have an outline. There are many characters and lines of action weaving in and out. I’m recovering from a traumatic brain injury last year and I can’t keep these threads straight without help.

Why do you write?

Generally, because some character has come up and started telling me their story, and won’t leave until I write it down. Seriously, the characters in my head are very real people to me. At least as real as the folks I went to high school with and lost touch with. Not trying to say that my classmates don’t exist outside my mind! But my experience of them, now, doesn’t exist outside my head. Think about it: my classmates exist, for me, as memories… a series of thoughts and connections in my brain. That’s what my characters are, too… and I’ve been in touch with the characters more recently.

Sometimes a story will come to me as a question. For example, the last story I sold was prompted by my waking up in a very old bed and breakfast in Georgia, with the impression that a woman in old-fashioned clothing was standing by the foot of my bed, pointing out the window. When I awakened fully, there was nobody there. But I wondered: if there had been a figure there, who was she? Why would she be there? What was she trying to show me? And then a minor character (well, I thought she was a minor character; plainly she disagreed) popped into my head to ask those questions and find the answers.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Creative procrastination. I draw, paint, or sit down and practice my harp. Similarly, I overcome artist’s block by writing. It’s a really convenient way to trick your brain into doing something creatively constructive.

The worst block, for me, comes when I’ve had to face doing something bad to a character. It’s hard. I care about these people. But conflict, and resolution (or failure of resolution) of conflict is an important part of an effective story. So, yeah—I have to throw bad things at people I like. Sometimes that’s very upsetting. So I recover by painting something absolutely silly, or brightly colored, to give myself a bit of reprieve.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am also a mixed-media artist. My first writing publication came in elementary school; my first art sale not long after. I think that creative disciplines feed each other. Many writers are also musicians or artists or dancers or weavers; many in those other disciplines find themselves drawn to write. A visual artist friend of mine has been creating illustrated haiku every day this year. I don’t believe you have to choose one over the other. You may devote more time and energy to one, but a second or even third creative pursuit can bounce your energy into new and exciting directions.

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

I’ve survived a number of tough things in my life: abuse, neglect, homelessness, poverty, hunger, familial loss, cancer, chronic illness. I’ve had a lot of wonderful things, too: a creek to play in, mountains to climb, good friends, the ability to express myself, people who love me and whom I love, and some of the best dogs in the world. (And some of the best-but-most-annoying cats.) The opportunity to be a positive force. Periods of strength and peace. I have honed the daily practice of focusing on those positive things. To put my thoughts toward what I CAN do, rather than what I cannot. It’s really hard sometimes. But for me, changing that focus makes the difference, gives me the ability to direct what energy I have in a positive direction.

Do you have any pet projects?

I’m working on a frame story for a series of videos to help provide encouragement and possible structure to creative people working despite having an invisible illness. Chronic illness can be very isolating, and really compounds when in conjunction with writing and visual arts, which are typically pretty solitary pursuits. As humans, we need connections. Solitude can be good: loneliness tends not to be. It contributes to depression, which many in our community are fighting as a corollary of their illness.

And it can be very frustrating to be in the middle of a project and *wham* find yourself completely incapable of continuing. I think it might be helpful to be more visible in that experience… I’m something of an introvert, but I know that knowing someone GETS my experience has really helped me in the past, so I’m willing to open myself up that way, to help somebody else feel less alone. That if I can get through it, maybe they can too.

But I’m no self-help guru. So anything I make is going to be weird and colorful, and probably have fairies and spaceships. And tea. And kittens, definitely kittens.

Thank you, Nancy, for your time. I’m only sorry that circumstances prevented Bertie from participating. I’ll conclude with The Write Stuff’s traditional Lightning Round, after which I’ll present an excerpt from Albatross, followed by your book buy and social links. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: magnet for lost, injured, and orphaned animals.

The one thing I cannot do without is: books

The one thing I would change about my life: chronic illness

My biggest peeve is: willful ignorance

The person I’m most satisfied with is: my amazing son, Atticus

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

Nobody in the history of this planet has ever seen the world through your eyes, or spoken with your voice. If you want to tell your story, tell it. If you want to sing a song, lift your voice. If you want to make a thing, make the thing! Creativity is in our nature.

Albatross Excerpt:

Thomas himself was already by the café, though not yet at the table he had selected. That particular table, offering visibility on three sides and cover at the back, had not yet become vacant. He was waiting like a falcon waits in a tree for that table, although his tree was merely a public bench. He was not wearing his neutral camouflage today, because his fleece jacket and leather shoes were gone: disappeared. Up in smoke. He wore a grey sport jacket and office-wear pants and his feet were pure American: shining mesh running shoes with sky-blue trim. At ten minutes after nine the table emptied and he swooped down into a chair before the waiter could clean it off. The waiter looked meaningfully at the single man taking up a table for four.

“People will be joining me,” Thomas said, in what he considered a calm, unthreatening voice. The waiter backed off as if burnt. He put a cup of coffee before Thomas and left him unbothered.

Time passed. The café was now empty. Thomas looked out toward the street, his head unmoving, his eyes focused on everything. It was twenty-five after when a tall figure approached along a small street that broke into two streets around the café. He watched the man come straight toward him, stepping on long legs, his arms hanging at his sides. He saw Rob MacAulay coming towards him for the second time, and it was as strange an experience as it had been the first time.

Rob saw Thomas Heddiman in full. The gray figure was so still, sitting there. Like a painting, so still. Unmovable as fate. Looking straight at Rob. His narrow eyes were brightened to amber by the morning sun, his hair polished almost white. No expression in those eyes. No emotion. Perfect waiting. Instead of causing fear in Rob, that face made his heart beat slowly.

Thomas himself saw Rob come toward him back-lit by the morning. He saw the large eyes only half-open, the triangular face so mild. He approached the outdoor tables and began maneuvering among them, never looking away from Thomas.

Closer.

The fugitive’s face was so pale under that dark hair, all white but for two wind-chafes under the cheekbones. His mouth was closed. Unsmiling, but soft. The intimacy of his presence was unbearable.

Then MacAulay was there, and he put his large hands carefully on the table. It seemed he would sit down across from Thomas.

To prevent this, Thomas rose. “Follow me,” he said, and he flipped a few bills on the table, catching them under a salt shaker. He did not look to see if Rob followed.

He led around the café to a parking garage, which was on a sharp hill slant, and from this angle it seemed to descend straight into the ground. Light footfalls behind were the only sound Thomas heard as he opened the heavy door to the garage stairwell.

The stairs were steep and the light dim after the morning sun. Thomas stepped firmly down. He did not look back.

He heard Rob MacAulay behind him, walking close and in the same rhythm. With such long legs Thomas thought it would have been natural for MacAulay to go down slowly, two steps at a time, but he did not. He paced him exactly.

Down one level. Down two. On the third level the light was out and they moved together, feeling their way. On the fourth and deepest level his rented car was parked, and Thomas pushed his way into the garage, hearing nothing behind him.

Orpheus and Eurydice, he thought, and still did not turn.

Book online sales links:

Wordfire:       http://wordfirepress.com/books/albatross/

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Albatross-1-R-MacAvoy/dp/161475554X

Social links:

MacAvoy:       https://ramacavoy.com/

Palmer:          https://nancypalmer.net

Instagram:     https://www.instagram.com/moonsownsister/

Twitter:          @moonsownsister

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 10 – Marie Whittaker Interview

Marie Whittaker is an award-winning essayist and author of urban fantasy novels and horror stories. She has enjoyed working as a truck driver, bartender, and raft guide, and now works as assistant to Kevin J. Anderson. Writing under the pen name Amity Green, her debut novel, Scales: Book One of the Fate and Fire Series, was released in 2013, and her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Marie is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association and keeps steady attendance at local writer’s groups. A Colorado native, Marie resides in Manitou Springs, where she continues to produce works of urban fantasy and enjoys renovating her historical Victorian home. When not writing, she spends time hiking, gardening, and trying to quit wasting time on social media. A lover of animals, Marie is an advocate against animal abuse and assists with lost pets in her community. Petrichor Press released the hardcover edition of Scales on August 30 of this year.

The book can best be described this way:

How does Tessa, an orphan from Austin, Texas, cope with being transformed into a living, breathing gargoyle? By rolling with change, learning to control new abilities, and using super powers to help the less-fortunate and vanquish evil. A sickly childhood under the care of a rotten gaggle of nuns is all Tessa knows, until studying in London confirms the gut feeling that there is more to her beneath the skin, and ultimately, beneath the scales. A Celtic demigoddess has fused her existence with Tessa, and much to Fate’s delight, mayhem ensues as Tessa struggles to embrace her new existence as a gargoyle with strong goddess tendencies. Ancient, magical creatures, Fate in human form, escaped fae, and fellow gargoyles of questionable motives keep Tessa on her toes as she does the unthinkable to protect and save lives. Tessa’s inner conflict grows with the body count. Is killing still a sin if it’s done in the name of greater good?

Book One of the Fate and Fire Series!

What do you want readers to know about your book?

I have always loved gargoyles and jumped at the chance to write about them when I got the idea to write a shapeshifter series.

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

The story concept came to me while I was studying in London. That part made research easy. I fell for London the same way the protagonist did.

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

Being a fan of shifter books, one can tire quickly of werewolves. I wanted to write something different, so gargoyles are my shifters.

What was your path to publication?

After the short story version was sold and added to an anthology, I finished up writing Scales in 2012 and pitched the book at a convention. I received 6 requests to read the full manuscript, which was the same amount of times I pitched it. The book was published for the first time in 2013. This is a rerelease, including a gorgeous hardcover.

What are you working on now?

I’m nearly finished editing the third book in the series, which is titled Soul Count.

What else have you written?

The Witcher Chime, which is a horror novel. A very scary one.

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

I am an award winning essayist and The Witcher Chime was a finalist for an Indie Award in 2017.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I am a lop-sided mix of Pantser vs Plotter. I’m trying to outline more as I start new books and it is paying off.

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

I am very near completion on my first ever collaboration with my writing partner, Ty Hadley. He is brilliant and a very good friend of mine. It has been a great experience, although the book has been stalled by life events here and there. We are ecstatic to be finishing this book and can’t wait to start pitching it.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

I write largely based on my own life experiences. Most of my short stories are dark psychological stories that deal with a social issue in Nowhere Town, USA. I’ve been through some rough times. For me, there’s nothing that packs a bigger punch than writing from the wound. Taking a character down a dark path and then helping them triumph is something I can relate to, and greatly enjoy.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am personal assistant to Kevin J. Anderson and I am also Co-Director for Superstars Writing Seminars.

Describe a typical day.

I am a morning person so I’m up early, working out and drinking coffee, then taking care of my fur babies. After that, I do my work for Kevin and try to be freed up by around 1:00 each day for yard work or housework. After that, I write and edit my work-in-progress and do at least one type of book promotion. The rest of the time in the day is spent with my family. Hopefully I get to hike with my guy at least twice a week. I’m usually in bed by 10:00, if not earlier.

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

By thinking about the things I’ve already made it through. I consider adversity a way of building character.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t wait until you think you’re good enough. Trust yourself and jump in!

What makes you laugh?

Watching baby goat videos.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jonathan Maberry, Anne Rice, Karen Marie Moning, Mercedes Lackey, Sherrilyn Kenyon, William Shakespeare, Jim Butcher, J.K. Rowling, Steven King, and Jack Ketchum.

Thank you, Marie, for taking the time to share with us. Before I provide my sites visitors with an excerpt from Scales, followed by your social and book buy links, I’m hoping to persuade you to participate in a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Peanut butter.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d trust myself more.

My biggest peeve is: Narcissism.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: My kids. They grew up to be amazing humans.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with? Scales is the first book in a series where a disadvantaged orphan comes of age and becomes a superheroine in the first three books. We need more superheroines, so I decided to create one. Her name is Tessa and she is my favorite of the characters I’ve written so far. I didn’t want to leave her after just one book, so story has potential to become a long series of adventures.

Scales Excerpt:

There’s no event in life that will deliver a paradigm shift faster than someone trying to kill you. I felt I’d aged a lot in the last couple of weeks. Fun teenage years playing volleyball by the lake and deciding what I wanted to be when I grow up, gone. Kaput. Replaced by days of thinking about keeping myself and my best friend safe and free, and having my heart broken for the first time, while juggling a new life between being a human and a gargoyle.

Who’d ever think a gargoyle could cry? Or breathe for the matter. At least it was without physical pain. My body healed when I transformed at dusk the night before and then I’d slept the entire next day, waking up a couple times for water and then going back to bed. When I woke again I’d changed and slept crooked on one wing, which was far worse than waking with a stiff neck. I lay in the huge, over-stuffed bed in my latest prison wishing I was back in Austin with Brea, chatting over Skype about boys and new clothes. I’d had enough of the UK. The email I received from Professor Douglas that day had turned from the biggest blessing in my life into the biggest curse.

And my best friend was involved, lost somewhere in the vast, confining unknown of an insane man’s domain.

I remembered the day last summer when I felt my life was going to change. Substantially.

I laughed through my tears, causing bit of clear mucus to spray into the air from my snout. Guess it’s safe to say it was a change for the worse. Crying was going to help nothing, but it made me feel better. I wiped my snout on a scaly forearm and rolled upright.

It was time for Plan B, which would hopefully go much smoother than Plan A. I was ready to escape my room to search for Brea, find her and fly her back to the bookstore. My tail twitched at my feet. I wasn’t emotionally recovered from the outcome of Plan A yet. Someone had tried to kill me. That, or they wanted to hurt me really bad. Scenarios twisted through my mind. I could have broken my neck on those murderous stairs.

I rose from my bed, stretching my wings so far the span made the boney tips scrape along one wall, gouging into the plaster. A small, childish grin formed as I watched paint chips and dust fall to the plush carpet.

In the library, the tile floor was cold even through the thick skin of my clawed feet. Moonlight glittered outside. Dew-laden fog gave way to a crisp, clear night. I opened the window and inhaled fresh air, closing my eyes, just breathing, trying to steel myself for my first, solo flight. Moonglow reflected through the trees, iridescent and silver. I leaned out, feeling the sill against my chest plate. The second my snout crossed the plane into the night air, electricity blasted my face like a hammer.

I coughed blood into the air. The cold tile pressed up on my side, as if the floor had risen up to meet me. The room went red around me and faded.

To follow her on her social links:

Website:        www.amitygreen.ink

Twitter:         @amitygreenbooks

Tumblr:         AmityGreen

Pinterest :     AmityWrites

Instagram:   Amity_green

You may purchase Scales here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G9N923Y

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 27 – Sherrilyn Kenyon Interview

Defying all odds is what #1 New York Times and international bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon does best. Rising from extreme poverty as a child that culminated in being a homeless mother with an infant, she has become one of the most popular and influential authors in the world (in both adult and young adult fiction), with dedicated legions of fans known as Menyons—thousands of whom proudly sport tattoos from her numerous genre-bending series. Since her first book debuted in 1993 while she was still in college, she has placed more than 80 novels on the New York Times list in all formats and genres, including manga and graphic novels, and has more than 70 million books in print worldwide. Her current series include: Dark-Hunters, Chronicles of Nick®, Deadman’s Cross™, Black Hat Society™, Nevermore™, Silent Swans™, Lords of Avalon® and The League®. Over the years, her Lords of Avalon® novels have been adapted by Marvel, and her Dark-Hunters® and Chronicles of Nick®  are New York Times bestselling manga and comics, and are #1 bestselling adult coloring books. Keep your eyes peeled. Her books are soon to be hitting both the big and little screens by the same group that specializes in turning beloved literary series into major movie franchises.

I first met Sherrilyn Kenyon at her Night At Sanctuary Dragonsworn Party at the 2017 iteration of Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. After waiting at the end of a line of fans that wound around much of one of the Hyatt Regency’s larger event rooms, I eventually had the opportunity to introduce myself. Although she had been chatting and posing for pictures with each one in turn for over an hour, by the time I reached her I found her to be open and welcoming to the point I might as well have been the first person she had spoken with. It is my great pleasure to introduce her to those of you who are not yet familiar with her work, though by this point I’m probably speaking to only a few dozen.

Today, we’re discussing her recent release, Deadmen Walking, which can best be described as follows:

Hell hath no fury as a demon caged . . .

To catch evil, takes evil.

Enter Devyl Bane—an ancient warlord who has absolutely no love of humanity.  Yet to return to the human realm as one of the most notorious pirates in the Spanish Main for the sake of vengeance, he makes a bitter bargain with Thorn—an immortal Hellchaser charged with battling the worst monsters the ancient gods ever released into our world. Monsters and demons Bane himself once commanded against Thorn and the humans.

For eons, those demons have been locked behind enchanted gates…which are starting to buckle. Now, Bane, with a vicious crew of Deadmen at his command, is humanity’s last hope to restore the gates and return the damned to their eternal prisons.

But things are never so simple. And one of his biggest vexations, aside from keeping his crew from killing each other before they have a chance to save humanity, is the very ship he sails upon. For Mara, the Sea Witch isn’t just a vessel, she’s also a woman born of an ancient race Bane helped to destroy. And sister to the possessed creature who is one of the worst of those trying to break through to claim his soul, and retake the world.

Mara’s innate hatred of him makes the very fires of hell look like a sauna—not that he blames her. Centuries of war and betrayal divide them. But if Mara can’t find the humanity inside the Devyl and the Devyl can’t teach Mara to embrace her darker side for the good of their crew and the world, the two of them will go down in flames and take us all with them.

Join Captain Bane and his crew of Deadmen as they hold the line against the damned who prey on those who sail the high seas.

Sherrilyn, although I’ve been interviewing authors for several years and have been enjoying fantasy for more years than I can count, the number of books and their creators has become so vast that I am constantly making new and delightful discoveries. Although I had heard numerous mentions of you and your multitude of books over the years, I am a little embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until Dragon Con 2017, at the Night at Sanctuary Dragonsworn book launch party where I purchased a copy, that I had my first opportunity to explore one of your worlds. I was immediately taken by how quickly its story developed, and now I’ve found that Deadmen Walking is no exception.

While the rate at which each story unfolds makes it obvious you’re a natural story teller, it still makes me wonder how long does it take you to bring a typical book from inception, by which I mean concept, to its conclusion?

It depends on the book. If it’s the size of Styxx or Stygian or Born of Legend, which is the size of three or four regular novels, it obviously takes me longer than a single novel. But a “regular” novel, which for me is still usually longer than a “typical” book takes about nine months from start to finish.

What kind of editorial/developmental team do you work with that allows you to turn out so many polished works so quickly?

Just me and my editor and the characters. So far that seems to work.

As I began reading Deadmen Walking, it wasn’t long before I found myself running into unfamiliar terms which I quickly learned were not the author’s inventions: words such as linstock and plat-eyes. While the dictionary quickly explained the former, I had to go online for the second and was quickly drawn into the Gullah culture of the American South and the West Indies. How much time do you spend doing research and where do you turn for this information?

I grew up with it. I was very lucky to be exposed to a lot of different and varied cultures very young, Gullah being one of them. I love that I can now share that with others because I think it’s a beautiful culture that others don’t get exposed to as a rule and it’s one I think people would enjoy if they knew it was there. Plus I’ve always been drawn to learning. I was that kid who carried the huge tomes around in school that the other kids would stare at with a frown. I was so nerdy the librarians would even let me check out reference books and I was one of the few kids who knew what inter-library loans were as far back as middle school.

You mix numerous mythologies in a way nobody else seems to: Greek, West Indies, Irish, Nordic and others. When did that concept first come to you?

Birth, LOL. Again, I think it’s because I have a mixed heritage and grew up a bit scrambled that it comes naturally. I was around such a cross-section of the world being at Fort Benning that to me the world and cultures naturally intersect and interact so it’s only natural that my world would too. Right now, my friends are wonderfully mixed, as is my family. So why would my fictional world be any less so? I love to learn languages and culture, and when you look at civilization historically you can see how they blend together whenever they come together in places like Greece, Egypt and ancient Persia and Carthage and Rome. So when I’m building a world, to make it believable, I turn to what I’ve learned from history and anthropology.

The book jacket states that both the Chronicles of Nick® and the Dark-Hunters® series are about to become “major motion pictures.” Is there anything more you can tell us about this at this stage of the game?

I’m hoping to have something I can say very, VERY soon. But I can’t say it right now. Sorry.

I have read the speech you once gave about your beginnings in Appalachia, the difficulties you overcame to become published, then dropped by your agent, only to return against all odds with the Dark-Hunters® series. Now that you have achieved more success than most writers ever hope to, are you ever plagued by doubts as to what the future holds in store? I mean no disrespect. I admire you and what you have achieved. But I also understand the human condition and the fears that lurk in the back of all our minds regardless of our situation.

All the time. The one thing I’ve learned in my life is that neither failure nor success is ever permanent. The higher you climb, the more people there are who are trying to knock you off the peak, which is very sad, but sadly true. I’ve never been the kind of person to judge my success by someone else’s but far too many people do that. However, you have to keep going and you can’t give into the naysayers, even when that naysayer is you. Fear will paralyze you, so be fearless in all things. It’s what I tell my boys daily. We do this because we love it. Life is not for the meek. You greet each day with a smile and with steely resolve because this is all we’ve got and we’ve got this. Whatever it is, you can overcome. No matter the mountain, it can be climbed. You just focus on the next step and before you know you’ll be over it. As Churchill said, when in walking through hell, keep walking.

With the time you put into writing, do you find any time to read? If so, which authors do you enjoy and why?

Not as much time as I’d like, but I do get to read some. Right now my faves are Madaug Kenyon, Elicia Hyder and Quincy J. Allen.

From what I’ve already learned about you on my own, I understand how much family means to you. Since we’re speaking about the time you need to devote to your writing, would you care to give us a peek into your home life? How hard is it for you to create time for your family?

Not at all. My boys are always my first priority and they know it. Day or night. My youngest always jokes that even if it’s 2 A.M. I’ll stop writing to go make Raman and talk about his problems or just life in general. Or my son in Japan can call at 5 A.M., my time or his, I’ll pick up and chat as long as he needs me to. There’s always time to write and there’s always time for my boys.

What do you like to do when you have time to spend with your children?

When they were younger, we’d game, and make things. Drawings, cookies, ginger-bread houses, sock monkeys. And of course, I’d take them with me to Dragon Con and other conventions. Now that they’re older, they go to more conventions and help out at the booth. We cook more, but now together and they ask for advice on their books. We laugh a lot. Have fun.

Now that you have become financially independent, do you have any plans for your life apart from writing?

My life has never really changed. Work hard for my kids. Be true to my fans and do the best for my characters as I can.

If your fans care to meet you this year, where can they do so?

The panels and signings. We also have a booth where I pop in and out. But usually the panel and signings are the best places. However, never hesitate to stop me if you see me. I’m there to meet people and am happy to chat, so long as I’m not rushing to a panel 😉 But then we can walk together and chat.

Thank you so much for sharing your valuable time with us. I am especially appreciative since you responded to my interview request while you were chin deep making preparations for the Stygian book launch party. I would also like to inform those readers who will be in the Atlanta, Georgia area when this interview goes live, you will be at Dragon Con—which runs from August 30 through September 3—and there is still time to meet you and purchase a signed copy of Stygian.

To get into the party, which will be held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, at 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia on August 30 at 7:00 p.m. and purchase a signed copy of Stygian for $30click on this link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr… To purchase a signed copy and over $100 of swag for only $45.00, click here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr…

Immediately following is an excerpt from Deadmen Walking, after which visitors to this site will find a link to Sherrilyn’s website.

Excerpt:

In the Year of Our Lord, 1716
Jamaica

“Way I hear tell it that one’s so bad, he whups his own arse thrice a week.”

Eyes wide, Cameron Amelia Jack burst out laughing at the unexpected comment she overheard above the raucous tavern voices and music. Until she caught sight of who it was directed toward. That sobered her quick.

Holy mother of God . . .

There was no way to miss that giant mass of human male as he swept into the crowded room like the living embodiment of some ancient hero.

No, not a hero.

A pagan god.

At least six and a half feet tall, he towered over everyone else there, and had a shoulder width so great, he was forced to turn to the side to come through the doorway and stoop down lest he decapitate himself. A feat he accomplished with a masculine grace and swagger that said he’d done it enough that it was habit from years of experience.

Which made her wonder how many times as a boy he must have whacked his head afore he learned to duck like that.

With a quick swipe of his massive hand, he removed his black tricorne hat and tucked it beneath his arm, exposing a thick mane of unbound, wavy sable hair that gleamed in the dull candlelight. He held a set of rugged features that appeared chiseled from stone— in perfect masculine proportions.

Never in her life had she beheld his equal in form, strength or grace, but it wasn’t just the unexpected sight of him. He possessed that raw, commanding presence that was unrivaled by king or commander. An air of noble refinement that was offset with an aura of bloodthirsty intolerance, cool indifference and utter ennui.

He was lethal. No doubt. Beguiling. More than that, he was an enigmatic study of warring contradictions that quickened her heart a lot more than she wanted to admit to anyone, especially herself.

In a festering den of inhospitable inequity and evil, this man reigned as its supreme emperor. And while his two companions were dressed in brightly colored brocades— like the other vain occupants of the room, he wore a somber black wool coat, and breeches with plain brass buttons and an unremarkable, dark brown waistcoat. Even his cotton shirt and neckerchief were as black as his hair and boots. The only color on his body was the blood-red hilt of barbarian-styled cutlass. And a flashing ruby signet ring on his pinky that caught in the light.

But for his fierce swagger, deadly demeanor, and the firm hand that stayed planted on the hilt of that sword, he could easily pass for a respectable man. Nobleman even.

Until one met that cold, dark, intelligent gaze that saw everything around him to the most microscopic detail.

She could literally feel him tallying the strengths of everyone in the tavern and sizing them up for their every weakness of character and physical flaw . . .

As well as their casket.

He was exactly the kind of unnerving male that caused her and Lettice to draw straws on his entrance back home in Black Swan to see which of them would be stuck for the night waiting on his table.

And Cameron always cheated to make sure she wasn’t the one left with it. Something that would bother her conscience a lot more but for the fact that it was Lettice’s father who owned the Swan, and while Nathaniel Harrison would guard his daughter’s reputation and well-being, he wasn’t nearly as circumspect with hers. Especially when placed against his need for profit. He’d sell all but his daughter for that.

Even his own mother, and probably his wife.

Not wanting to think about that, she scowled at the men flanking the newcomer. His companions were much more the typical pirate or privateer fare one would expect to find in such a sordid place. The one to his right had a mane long brown hair, he wore tied back in an impeccable queue, well-trimmed beard and eyes so light and merry a blue, they glowed in the dim light. Each of that man’s fingers held an ornate ring— no doubt plunder from some unwary ship he’d raided. Still, he seemed amicable enough.

While many Caribbean pirates had a tendency to pierce their earlobes, this one had chosen to place a small gold hoop in his left eyebrow, just off its arch. His elaborate burgundy and black coat was widely cut at the waist— in the latest fashion craze. And where the beguiling and dangerous captain had chosen a plain black neckerchief to wear, this pirate’s cravat was stark white silk, and trimmed in layers of decadent lace.

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s website: https://www.sherrilynkenyon.com/

 

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

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

Uri describes Noblesse Oblige’s premise as follows:

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

What else have you written?

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

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

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

Describe a typical day.

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

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: cheese!

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What matter?” The Princess asked suspiciously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readers can follow Uri here:

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

Blog:               http://dndkids.blogspot.com

You can purchase your copy of Noblesse Oblige at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet …

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

Triploidy, the third installment in the Archon Sequence.

What else have you written?

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

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

Singularity

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes.

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

Why do you write?

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

My wife Kathrin and I are serial wirehaired dachshund adopters.

Do you have any pet projects?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

Prologue: The Tunguska Event, June 20, 1908

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

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

As one is doing now.

* * *

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

But they can, just barely, detect its approach.

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

Trailing a plasma column of cerulean blue, it descends.

* * *

Book online sales links:

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

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

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

Vurdalak:                     http://vurdalak.com/

Website:                      http://billdesmedt.com/

 

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

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

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

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

As of this morning, 124.

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

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

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

In the Shadow of the Cross is my fifth collection.

What is different about this collection from your others?

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

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

What kind of stories are featured in the collection?

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

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

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

Why do you seem drawn to short fiction?

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

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

Why did you decide to pull this one together?

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

What do you mean by that?

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

How can people get copies of your collection?

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

What do you have planned in the future?

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

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

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

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

“I’m back, Bill.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

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

“Finally!”

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

Bill was straightening up from picking something off the floor.

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

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

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

“Bill, get back to work,” she said.

He looked at her, and his mouth contorted.

“Sports,” he said.

He spoke again. “All Sports.”

“All Sports Emvee Pee.”

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

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

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

“Proud!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer spun around to see Kate.

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

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

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

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

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

#

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

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

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

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

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

“I understand.”

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

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

“Come with me to the back room.”

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

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

He nodded slightly.

She shifted and stood in front of the female.

She slipped a green band onto her wrist

“Keep this hidden. Do you understand?”

Jane/Jennifer nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

Why do you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

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

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

Describe a typical day.

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is… competition.

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

Prologue

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

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

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

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

Damn.

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

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

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

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

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

Closed casket, of course.

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

Maybe, just maybe …

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

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

Nothing happened.

Nothing fucking happened.

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

Website:         www.donaldjbingle.com

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

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/donaldjbingle

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

You can purchase Wet Work here:

Amazon:        http://a.co/1qni4lH

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

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

PRINT:           http://a.co/2il1eWS

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

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

This is how Jean describes herself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How awesome was that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s life like for Jean Rabe these days?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: dogs

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

My biggest peeve is: prejudice

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

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

Neinte.” Benito shook his head.

“Then what is he worried about?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non è un problema,” Benito called after him.

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

“So what did Santiago mean—”

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

 Buy links:

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

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

 You can follow Jean here:

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

Website:         www.jeanrabe.com

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

Twitter:          @JEANR

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

 

 

 

 

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