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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

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

Why do you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your writing community.

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

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

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

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

What makes you laugh?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Sushi

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

My biggest peeve is: Cynicism.

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

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

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

Minotaur excerpt:

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

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

“But outside—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minos II growled: “We knew this already.”

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

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

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

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

You can purchase The Minotaur here:

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

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

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

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

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

Ron describes Typhoon Time this way:

The Hunt for Red Octobermeets Timeline.

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

###

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

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

###

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

How far will you go?

Will you create a new Holocaust to prevent another?

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

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

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

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

A couple of scenes are loosely based on his story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

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

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

Calgary Herald #1 Bestseller.

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

Ten Honorable Mentions in the Writers of The Future Contest.

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

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

Why do you write?

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

Tell us about your writing community.

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

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

What motivates or inspires you?

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Time

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

My biggest peeve is: Stress

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: Family

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

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

 

Excerpt:

Atlantic Ocean

April 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone tapped on Martin’s shoulder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A rumble shook the vessel. Martin gulped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The image flickered.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/RonSFriedman

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

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

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

 

You may purchase his book here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sam describes Posing for Picasso as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes you laugh?
Toilet Humour!

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

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

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

Posing For Picasso excerpt:

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

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

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

You can purchase Posing For Picasso here:

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

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The Write Stuff – Monday, March 12 – Interview With Kevin Coolidge

It’s been a while since I’ve found a self-published author who interests me. Almost always, I interview authors from traditional publishing houses. It was with pleasant surprise, then, when I stumbled onto a novella that drew me in instantly with a premise that was both original and amusing, then learned it was a self-published work.

Its author, Kevin Coolidge, resides in Wellsboro, just a short hike from the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. When he’s not writing, you can find him at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, an independent bookstore he runs with his wife, and two friendly bookstore cats, Huck and Finn. He’s currently the author of eight children’s books, and one almost grown-up novella, Operation Ragnarok, the one I’ll be talking about today.

 

The book’s premise:

We are all just killing time, until time eventually kills us. We go through life knowing death is waiting, but not knowing what comes next. I don’t have to wonder any more, because I died.

Operation Ragnarok is a fantastical adventure with comedic elements about a group of gamers going through a mid-life crisis. Instead of the proverbial little red corvette, they decide to steal a Viking longship from a museum, and accidentally release an ancient evil. It’s a story of friendship, sacrifice, and unleashing Hel on Earth…

Operation Ragnarok: think Night at the Museum meets The Big Bang Theory with a touch of Stand by Me vibe. Great for those who love mythology, gaming, and geek culture, but none of these needed to enjoy this fast-paced tale. If you’ve ever rolled the dice, though, you need this book.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

My book is about a group of middle-aged gamers stealing a Viking longship. A copy of Operation Ragnarok is onboard a real Viking longship, The Draken Harald Harfarge. It’s a modern Viking longship that has crossed the Atlantic and toured the United States, sailing through the Great Lakes and along the East Coast. I was able to board the ship at Oswego, New York. I decided it was in good hands, and so I didn’t try to steal it.

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

I got the idea from an article about a museum in Denmark that will build you a genuine Viking longship. I wished I had the funds for such a ship. I thought to myself, a real Viking would steal… I mean pilfer… such a ship.

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

The fantasy genre can take itself pretty seriously. I wrote Operation Ragnarok to be fun. I’m serious about my writing, but the writing doesn’t always have to be serious, and it’s short! I love George Martin’s, Game of Thrones, but it’s a commitment.

What was your path to publication?

I had a great idea for a movie about friends, Vikings, and the end of the world. So, I wrote it, but then what?  What do you do once you write a screenplay? Well, unless you are connected or incredibly lucky, not much.

After letting the script sit in my desk drawer, I decided to novelize my own screenplay and seek an agent. It ended up being a novella, and writers without a large body of work seldom manage to get novellas published.

So, I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and published it with the help of my supporters. An artist friend did the cover art, I changed the name from The Vikings to Operation Ragnarok, and I was ready.

What are you working on now? I’m working on the follow-up to Operation Ragnarok which is named Code Name Cthulhu. I’m also working on my eighth Totally Ninja Raccoon book, which is part of my children’s series.

What else have you written?

I’ve written a picture book of how my first cat came to live with me, called Hobo Finds a Home. I grew up a dog person. So, people always ask how I ended up with a cat. I’ve written seven books in my children’s series, the Totally Ninja Raccoons.

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

My Totally Ninja Raccoons have been “Story Monster Approved.” The award is for books both approved by adults and the children they are meant for.

What is your writing routine?

I work at the bookstore during the day, and seldom have time to write at work. I close the store with my wife, go home, eat supper, and then come back to the store to write. It’s quiet. I’m surrounded by books, and our store cats. A writer needs a cat. I guess you can have a dog, but the stipulation is that you’re an outdoor writer. I usually write a scene or chapter, and then need to let the book breathe and see where it goes next.

Do you create an outline before you write?

My method is to write an outline with sample dialogue, and scenes, and then re-write adding scenes and more descriptions. I don’t always follow it, but I find I get the most writing done when I do this.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

The best way I have found is to just write, even if it’s crap and I’m unhappy with it. I always expand and cut during revisions. I find I mostly add than cut.

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

I think my biggest challenge is getting to the next level. My children’s series is becoming known and loved locally, but it’s a pretty rural area. I need to break out of my hometown.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I own a bookstore with my wife. I work there as a bookseller and book buyer. I also have started giving presentations to schools as an author, and believe me, talking about writing is a different skill set than writing.

Do you have any pet projects?

I’m working on a children’s picture book called Molly, the Dog with Diabetes. It’s for all the people and animals in my life with diabetes.

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

I’d have started writing earlier. I started in 5th grade, and wrote off and on during high school, but didn’t write much through my 20s. I didn’t start writing in earnest until my mid 30s with a book review column for my local paper.

What are some of your favorite authors?

Joe Haldeman, John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss, Robert Heinlein. I grew up on classic science fiction, and still read a lot of the genre. My latest children’s book, The Totally Ninja Raccoons Meet the Little Green Men, has a first contact scenario.

Thanks, Kevin, for sharing your thoughts with us. Before I share an excerpt you’re your novella, as well as your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. Please answer in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… funny guy

The one thing I cannot do without is… reading material

The one thing I would change about my life… my bank account

My biggest peeve is… small talk

The thing I’m most satisfied with is… my haircut

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

I believe we’re all natural storytellers. It’s how we connect to the world and each other. If you feel you have a book or a song in you, then do it, even if you only share with friends or family.

Operation Ragnarok excerpt:

We are all just killing time until time eventually kills us. Today I celebrated my forty-sixth birthday. Yippee, I’m one day closer to death. It’s a little morbid, but it’s true. No one gets out alive. Death awaits us all. What comes after? I’ve spent many a night thinking about just that.

Should I expect the white, fluffy clouds and the Pearly Gates of the endless jokes and cartoons? Is a pleasant Afterlife only available to those of the Judeo-Christian faith? Will there be virgins? Does it matter? Is sex even allowed in Heaven?

There are so many hang-ups about doing the deed on the Earthly plain that I can’t imagine the situation improving once I shuffle off this mortal coil. What types of intercourse would be acceptable? Would it be missionary only? Is a hummer out of the question? What about breasts? Heaven doesn’t sound so great of there aren’t boobs. I’m not sure I’m interested if I never see a nice pair of sweater puppies again. What’s the point?

People keep yakking about the definition of traditional marriage and whether it’s a sin for two people of the same gender to tie the knot. I don’t know, and I couldn’t care less. I only know I’d end up getting screwed, lose half my stuff, and pay alimony, regardless of whom I married.

I was forced to attend Sunday school, and the only lesson I took away was that I should avoid apples and serpents, which brings up another point. How about meat? My doctor told me to cut down on the amount of saturated fats, and eat more fruits and vegetables. Of course I’d have to eat more fruit and veggies if I cut down on meat! I’d have to fill the empty void of my stomach with something—like beer—since there wasn’t enough protein and fat to fill it.

Is there beer in heaven? If Jesus could perform the miracle of water into wine, then there damn well better be an ice cold beer waiting for me. Yup, if I can’t get a nice T-bone steak done medium well with a greasy side of curly fries and a cold brew, then I’m not sure about the whole concept of “paradise.”

I guess you could say I’ve thought about it a little bit. Who hasn’t? When my friend Tom, the preacher, says our loved ones are in a better place, are they really? Everyone agrees, because we want it to be true. I want it to be true, but is it?

We go through life knowing death is waiting, but not knowing what comes after. We pretend that one day we’ll march up to Saint Peter, stroll through those Pearly Gates, pick up a harp, and commence to be bored shitless for eternity. Our final reward awaits, whatever it is, but sometimes it’s not as far in the future as you want. Death doesn’t wait. Now I don’t have to wonder any more, because I died.

***

The sages say, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Mine started with just a single click. This is an epic tale full of danger, adventure, friends, a wolf the size of a bull moose, and fear—lots and lots of fear—and it all started on my living room couch.

My name is Kevin, and I’m an English teacher. I love teaching. I love molding young minds, inspiring hope, igniting imaginations, and fostering a love of learning. I love helping kids learn to think for themselves. Of course, it isn’t always like that. In fact, it seldom is. I strive to generate passion. I often fail.

Teaching is frustrating as hell. I should be working on my novel, or reading, but after a long week of wrestling with bureaucrats, listening to poor excuses from students, and struggling to be politically correct, I’m exhausted.

I don’t remember not being able to read. I’ve always loved it, and I love stories in all their forms. I enjoy a good movie. Cracking a cold beer and catching an old flick helps me to relax after my interaction with the public school system. I mean, I love my job, and treasure my students, but sometimes the bureaucracy causes me to forget that.

So, this story began as I was power-lounging on the couch my ex left after the divorce. She didn’t want it. It’s ugly, huge, and heavy. It’s one of those sleeper sofas, and uncomfortable as hell, but I didn’t have to move it again. I had just finished a scrumptious dinner of Salisbury steak, courtesy of Chef Hungry Man.

Those of you who’d like to follow Kevin online can do so here:

www.wellsborobookstore.com

https://www.goread.com/author/kcool1969/

https://www.facebook.com/The-Valhalla-Project-1778840839006497/

https://www.facebook.com/The-Totally-Ninja-Raccoons-304166750003748/

You can purchase his books here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31362738

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The Write Stuff – Monday, February 26 – Interview With Hilary Benford

In addition writing to sci-fi, Hilary Benford writes historical fiction. Born and raised in England, educated at London and Cambridge Universities she taught French in England and English in France. She eventually moved to California to take up a teaching post in a private school, intending to stay for a year or two and look around at the States. She says her mother told her when left, “‘Whatever you do, don’t marry an American!’ No animus against Americans, but wanted me to come home. Of course, I married an American and am still in California.”

Her first publication was the 1980 winner of the Hugo Award, Timescape, co-written with her brother-in-law, Gregory Benford. “Part of the deal with Simon and Schuster, when I agreed to take my name off Timescape, was that they agreed to buy a historical novel I’d started.  I signed a contract for two books and worked with David Hartwell, the famous editor. He requested some changes in the time sequence, which I made (reluctantly).  I was paid the advance and then Dave was fired from Simon and Schuster and the project was shelved and the rights reverted to me. But I kept the advance!

“A few years back, I came upon the old manuscript, thought I could do something with it, OCR’d it to my computer and finished writing it. This was published by WordFire Press in 2016 as Sister of the Lionheart. I had always been fascinated by Joanna Plantagenet, daughter of Henry II of England and the wonderful Eleanor of Aquitaine, favorite sister of Richard the Lionheart. Mentions of her cropped up everywhere from the murder of Thomas Becket to the 3rd Crusade and other famous moments of the 12th century.

“The first book deals with her earlier life, her family, her years in Poitiers at the Courts of Love, her marriage at age 12 (asked her father for a King, young, French-speaking, preferably handsome!) up to the moment when she talks her brother into letting her accompany him on crusade.

“The second book is about the rest of her life as a strong-willed grown woman, making her own decisions, and was also published by WordFire Press in 2017, as Joanna Crusader.

“I am currently back to science fiction and working with my brother-in-law Greg again, on a time travel novel (or novella) about Jane Austen.”

I asked her to describe Joanna Crusader, and this is her account:

Recently widowed, Joanna, sister of Richard the Lionheart, accompanies her brother to the Third Crusade. The book opens with a storm in the Mediterranean in which Joanna shows her mettle, causing the ship’s master to exclaim that she is “truly the sister of the great Lionheart!” Time and again, Richard rescues Joanna from dangerous situations, first in Cyprus (where Richard stops to marry Berengaria of Navarre) and later in Jaffa where Joanna is trapped by Saracens. The Crusaders retake Acre after a lengthy siege but Richard was never able to liberate Jerusalem. He proposes that peace might be achieved by marrying Joanna to Saphadin, the brother of the great Saracen leader Saladin. Both sides agree to this, but when Joanna hears of it, she explodes in a Plantagenet rage and refuses in no uncertain terms. At the end of the Crusade, Joanna actually visited Jerusalem (Richard never did) and met Saladin himself. True historians will be shocked that I sent someone to the Crusade who never went there in order for Joanna to have an affair with him, that never happened in real life. I explained it all in an afterword. I just could not resist the story it made.

Joanna and Berengaria return to France to find that Richard has been captured and held hostage for ransom. Along with his mother, the two women work to raise the money to free him.

Joanna, highly eligible, marries for love, at a time when that was a rarity. It is far from happily ever after though. Things go badly wrong when she finds that someone is trying to have her killed.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Well, first, that Joanna Plantagenet had an amazingly eventful life, lived with all the principal characters of her age and participated in so many famous events, and yet no one really knows anything about her as a person. Most people have never heard of her.

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

This is the story of a life, so the plot is a given. But beyond that, I see an arc: there were two basic options open to women in that age, marriage or the convent. Joanna must have been a great admirer of her mother (the first book, Sister of the Lionheart, opens with an incident which may have been Joanna’s earliest memory, of an attempt to kidnap her mother, who shows herself to be indomitable). So I have Joanna’s first ambition as a desire to become a Queen, like her mother. She achieves that and finds that she is more of an ornament to the court than a mover and shaker. Then she tries love, with first a romantic affair, then a marriage, and that turns to disaster. Finally, she turns to what had been advised her from the beginning—the Church. She can find peace only in a love that will never betray her.

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

My writing may be different for several reasons. First, I am English (not sure how much difference that makes). Second, I have a degree in French language and literature, and that included medieval literature. So, especially in the first book, I was able to quote from works that were popular in Joanna’s time. She loved the Chanson de Roland and in Poitiers, she actually meets and talks to the very popular Chrétien de Troyes who wrote Arthurian epic poems, among others. Third, I have been to all the places where Joanna lived, from Fontevrault to Poitiers and Toulouse in France, to Palermo in Sicily and Acre (modern-day Akko) in the Holy Land. Fourth, well, I’m a woman, writing about a woman and I think I can enter into her feelings to some degree (though not the desire to become a nun!).

What was your path to publication?

I have to thank my brother-in-law Greg Benford for this. I have no agent and had tried submitting my manuscript to various publishers with no success. Greg suggested I try Kevin Anderson and I met with him on one of his visits to the Bay Area and he agreed to take it on. We signed a contract for both books on the spot!

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on another book (or it may end up as a novella) with Greg Benford. His concept, mostly my writing. It is a time travel theme and is set in excerpts from Jane Austen’s diary. Greg thought I could more easily capture Austen’s voice and in fact it’s great fun doing it. Basically, an American from the 2300s comes back to Jane Austen’s age to bring her futuristic medical treatments and keep from dying young. He ends up marrying her. She lives a long life and becomes the most prolific and famous of all 19th century writers, even turning to SF novels after she learns of her husband’s life in the 24th century.

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

Timescape won several awards: the 1980 Nebula, 1980 Best Science Fiction Award and the 1981 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. I like to think that I brought a lot to what is generally considered Greg’s best novel.

What is your writing routine?

I don’t really have one. Some days I’ll write a whole lot, others nothing at all.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Absolutely. In detail.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Not my problem! If anything, I suffer from logorrhea. Give me a subject and I’ll trot out half a dozen pages for you within minutes. But how and when to stop??

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Many friends have told me that my second book is better than my first, so I hope I’ve evolved creatively.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

No other job at the present time (but lots of travel).

Describe a typical day.

Coffee and the New York Times crossword. Can’t start the day without that. Breakfast and then find anything to put off doing useful things. Eventually settle down and write but also have to practice the piano, go for a daily walk, get some exercise, cook 3 meals a day, do some gardening, plan our next trip—retirement is so busy that there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

What makes you laugh?

Almost everything these days. If I didn’t laugh, I would cry.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I like Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel, Elizabeth Peters (secret vice: Georgette Heyer) and of course Jane Austen.

Thank you ever so much for participating in The Write Stuff and for adding your delightful sense of humor. Before I provide our guests with an excerpt from Joanna Crusader, I’d like to conclude this interview with a traditional Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Chocolate

The one thing I would change about my life: I would not develop diabetes 2.

My biggest peeve is: People who talk too loudly in restaurants

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: Has to be my husband, Jim Benford.

Finally, would you care to leave us with a parting thought? As a ghost in one of my dreams said to me: “Don’t sweat the small stuff”.

 

Excerpt from Joanna Crusader:

But Raymond was looking seriously at her. “Would it be presumptuous of me to say that seeing two such beautiful ladies here in this filthy place is like finding roses blooming on a dung heap?”

“Yes, indeed, sir,” she said, lifting a hand to stop him, “it is presumptuous.” Then, smiling, yielding, “But pleasing, too. Like cool water in the desert—there, there’s one for you. God knows it is as hot as the desert here. I think we shall be in need of many compliments to keep our spirits up in this dreadful place!”

“I stand ready, my lady, to express my admiration whenever you should need it, or to hold up your glass, which should serve the same purpose.”

“I fear I should not continue to believe you, day after day, as my skin grows more sunburnt and my temper more irritable.”

“My lady, I could find enough new compliments for many days to come and after that, knowing you better, I would surely know new attributes to praise.”

She laughed then. “I mistrust you already. What do you say, Berthe?”

“Why, I say that he speaks so well I hardly care whether what he says is true or not. Besides, it’s the intention that counts.”

“Ah, but what is the intention? I think I mistrust that more than the words.”

“My lady,” he protested, “no intention other than giving you pleasure and speaking my true thoughts, I swear it.”

Joanna knew she should not be encouraging him like this. The daughter, sister, widow of Kings, she should not stoop to flirt and exchange banter with a King’s vassal. But the pleasure was heady, almost irresistible, whether because she loved to hear him speak in the rich, warm langue d’oc, or because it was the kind of talk that took her back to her childhood in Poitiers, or because Raymond himself was undeniably attractive. She felt she should leave, and she wanted to stay. As a compromise, she shifted their talk to less personal matters, hearing an extra loud cheer from one of the tents.

“There is much rejoicing in the camp tonight.”

“Indeed. The siege is as good as over in the minds of most of them. But little enough rejoicing in the tents of my dear cousin the King of the Franks and his kinsmen. I wager he is biting his knuckles right now.” He laughed sardonically.

Joanna was shocked. “He is your liege lord.”

“I only say what any of us there could plainly see. And he was not the only one to show his pique. Duke Leopold of Austria was none too pleased. Nor Burgundy, I think, nor Flanders. If it comes to that, there is little love between the King your brother and myself. I speak plainly so that you can know I do not dissemble in other matters either.” He smiled teasingly at her, but she was not to be drawn in again.

She knew that Richard had taken vengeance in Toulouse for certain attacks on Poitevin merchants and pilgrims passing through there. He had in fact taken eighteen castles and the town of Cahors by the time Raymond’s father’s appeal had reached the French King.

“But now we are here, we must all put our personal differences behind us, must we not? It doesn’t matter whether we are Franks or English or Poitevins, but only that we are Christians fighting infidels. And surely if my brother’s coming will help that cause, we should all rejoice because of that. It will help. I am sure of that.”

“Yes. No doubt of that. King Richard’s reputation will put heart into the Franks and others. His reputation is deserved. I know that only too well! He is a great warrior, your brother. I have little cause to love him, as I say, but I have the greatest admiration and respect for him.”

“I was so proud when he landed today,” Joanna said, glowing.

“He looks every inch the King, certainly. No wonder my poor cousin is jealous! Yet Philip has his qualities. Less showy than King Richard’s, to be sure. But he has a good mind, he thinks, he plans.”

“Richard has clerks to do that for him. But who can win his battles for Philip?”

“You laugh at it but I have heard that among the Saracens, it is considered impolitic, rash, even foolish, for a ruler to fight in the front ranks of his men. They say that if he is killed or wounded, then all is lost, but if he directs the battle from a safe place, then it little matters how many men in the front ranks die, the battle can still be won.”

“You talk of infidels. Of course they have not our sense of honor or shame. What kind of leader would lead from the rear? That is not sense, but cowardice. But they know no better, being without the True Faith.”

“I think they do have honor. I have heard many tales that prove it. As for faith, theirs is not the True Faith, but they certainly believe it is. They are as willing to die for their God as we are for ours.”

She looked at him with narrowed eyes. “What you say sounds dangerously like heresy to me. They have resisted hearing the Word. They have fought consistently against the servants of God in God’s own land. They have defiled the holy places, stolen the Wood of the Cross—would you defend these infidels?”

“Against your eloquence? Never. You have convinced me. But I think, when you stare at me like that, you could convince me of anything.”

He had lapsed back into his flirtatious manner, evidently abandoning his defense of the Saracens. He smiled at her and his eyes went over her head to Berengaria’s tent. Joanna turned to see where he was looking. In the entrance to Berengaria’s tent, the girl Beatrice stood watching them, with a sly, knowing expression on her face.

“Who is the girl?” Raymond asked.

“That is the daughter of Isaac of Cyprus, a traitor and rogue whom Richard defeated.”

“Ah yes, whom he put in silver chains.” Raymond looked amused. “And the girl is here with you?”

“With Berengaria,” Joanna said shortly. “She is a sullen, vicious girl.”

“But pretty enough, in all conscience. Yes, you are right. She looks sullen. And how she stares at us! Perhaps she is jealous of your beauty as King Philip is of your brother’s?”

“You are absurd! She hates me only because I remind her of Richard who imprisoned her father. Come, it is late. I must take my leave of you and prepare for tonight’s feast.”

 

You may purchase Hilary’s books here:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Hilary+Benford

Barnes & Noble:       https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Hilary+Benford/_/N-8q8?_requestid=974741

Follow Hilary Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/hilary.benford

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The Write Stuff – Monday, February 12 – Interview With Liz Colter

Today’s featured guest is Digital Fiction Publishing’s 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 is a 2014 winner of the international Writers of the Future contest and has multiple short story publications to her credit spanning a wide range of science fiction and fantasy sub-genres. Her novels, written under the name L. D. Colter, explore contemporary fantasy and dark/weird/magic realism, and ones written as L. Deni Colter venture into the epic fantasy realms she grew up reading and loving. I asked her about her adult contemporary fantasy, A Borrowed Hell, and she cited its underlying premise:

Lost in a barren alternative world, July Davish has two options: Confront his hellish past or be trapped there forever.

Fate has dealt July a lifetime of nothings; no happy childhood, no lasting relationships, and now, no job. His mantra of perseverance has gotten him through it all, but faced with losing his home, he finally sets foot on the same road of self-destruction the rest of his family followed.

An accident changes everything. When two colliding cars send him diving from a San Diego sidewalk toward safety, he lands somewhere far from safe—in a bizarrely deserted version of San Francisco. Though he wakes in his own reality, he continues to pass out, dragged back to that strange world each time. July is willing to do anything to end his world-hopping, right up until he learns the price: reliving a past he’s tried his whole life to forget. He’s not sure his sanity can take it. Not even to get back to his own world, a woman he’s falling in love with, and a life he finally cares about.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

A Borrowed Hell is my debut novel, a contemporary fantasy for adults with heavy literary themes. Think Neil Gaiman’s American Gods meets Philip K Dick’s The Adjustment Team (the story on which the movie The Adjustment Bureau was based).

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

Nothing specific. I love tortured hero stories (don’t we all?) and set out to write one. I’ve written four novels and many short stories, but this book ended up having the most real characters I’ve ever written. For me, it feels like July and Val could walk out of the novel and show up on my street.

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

The book ended up having much stronger literary themes than I expected when I set out. I think that succeeding more than I expected to in accomplishing my tortured hero storyline and creating realistic characters, I ended up with a novel that feels a little slipstream between fantasy and literary.

What was your path to publication?

A bit convoluted. I think the slipstream aspect of this book coupled with an unusual length (longer than a short novel, but slightly under standard length), on top of being a debut novel, made this a hard-sell as a large press title. It did well in open calls and contests, but I decided to submit it to a newer small press that opened, and it was picked up by them and published in March, 2017. Unfortunately, the press changed its publishing model and closed to outside authors in October. Happily, Digital Fiction Publishing picked it up right away, and so the second edition, shiny new cover and all, was released in ebook at the end of 2017 and the paperback has just become available.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m neck-deep in a challenging set of books—a loosely-connected series of contemporary fantasies about gods from various cultures. The first one (Greek mythology based) is being shopped, the second (based on Maya religion and myths) is very nearly in final draft, and the third is in the planning stages.

What else have you written?

I’m thrilled to announce that my epic fantasy novel, The Halfblood War, has recently been acquired by WordFire Press. The novel is in pre-production at this time, and should be coming out sometime this year. It’s a stand-alone novel that contains everything I love most about epic high fantasy: terrifying and powerful fae, romance, and war.

In addition to my four novels, I’ve also written many short stories. I have a published works page at my website with links to many of them. The newest one coming out will be in the WordFire Press anthology Undercurrents: An Anthology of What Lies Beneath.

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

I had the honor of being selected as a winner in the international Writers of the Future contest in 2014 for a short story I wrote, and am currently an active SFWA member. I’m also flattered that, though nominations for the award have not yet been announced, A Borrowed Hell has been suggested to the Nebula Recommended Reading List.

What is your writing routine?

Daily. As close to full-time as possible. I was able to give up my day job when my elderly mother moved in with my husband and me, which she did, in part, for me to have more writing time since I was already making professional sales. A win-win for us both. There are commitments associated with that and with, well, life in general, but I look at writing as a job and I’m pretty much butt-in-chair all day, every day when I have unscheduled time.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool pantser. Outlining just isn’t a tool that’s in my writer’s toolbox. Maybe I’ll acquire it someday, but I doubt it. On the other hand, I’ve never seen pantsing and plotting as black and white options. Both approaches have big gray areas for most writers. Even the people who outline in the thousands of words have to let go of the outline at some point and wing it, or the book would be nothing but an outline. In the same way, most pantsers have some level of plotting going on, even if it’s at a scene-by-scene level as they get there. For me, I begin with atmosphere (dark, humorous, gothic, whatever), then get an idea of the main character, sometimes a theme early on, and then an opening. While all that’s coalescing in my head, a sense of the story arc usually comes to me with some idea of where the story will end. At that point I start writing. In fact, at that point I have to start writing because the words of the opening start coming to me.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I don’t believe in insurmountable writer’s block. Yes, there are days where it’s hard to get going and days where the ideas feel like they just won’t come. When it’s just a day that the words aren’t coming to me easily and I want to keep procrastinating, it’s usually just a matter of buckling down to it. I need to turn the internet off and turn my voice recognition program on. Once I start dictating and forcing words to happen, all of a sudden that dam breaks and it starts to flow and I have 1000 new words. The harder problem is when the struggle goes on for multiple days in a row or a couple of weeks at a time. If I hit a long stretch of trouble, it usually means I’ve taken a left turn in my story when I should have gone right. I go back to my reverse outline (the list of scenes I’ve already written) and try and analyze what’s not working or where the story went off the rails. Usually I’ll see the problem and have to do some rewriting before I move forward again. If I can’t see it, then sometimes a beta reader can. I find a word goal per day when I’m writing new material is invaluable. I don’t let myself stop for the day until I reach that goal.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

I’m actually glad I started writing later in life because I feel that my life experiences in general, and some of the more specific and unusual things I’ve done in particular, definitely enhance my writing. I have a pretty rich background to mine from including some of the things listed in my bio, like Outward Bound instructor, field paramedic (I worked a year and a half of my five years in downtown San Diego), firefighter intern, concrete dispatcher, athletic trainer, draft horse farmer, and ten years of waitressing. Even though I rarely write directly about any of those things, I can draw on the diverse knowledge base it gives me in things like medicine, sports from a sideline perspective, horses and harness, first responder protocols in a variety of agencies, and outdoor travel and camping.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I love that my husband and I both enjoy rural living. I’m someone that can’t get too much quiet (as long as there’s at least one other person in my life) and can happily stay on our bit of acreage days at a time with no desire to leave. It’s a lifestyle very conducive to writing.

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

I’ve always been a very self-motivated, goal-oriented person. It’s why I’ve had such a variety of careers. Learning a new thing that fascinates me will also motivate and inspire me to work insanely hard to achieve that learning/skill.

What are some of your favorite authors?

Reading Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers, and China Mieville in particular in the past decade probably inspired the single biggest change in my writing since I began writing more than 15 years ago. Discovering their work was eye-opening, and was the inspiration that lead me to leap from writing epic fantasy into literary-leaning magic realism and weird. I cut my teeth in my teens and twenties on Kurt Vonnegut, Gene Wolfe, John Crowley, and Ursula Le Guin. Immersing myself again in magic realism, contemporary fantasy, and literary genre writers has definitely influenced the direction I want to take with my own writing.

Thank you, Liz, for taking time to share with us. Before I give our visitors a sample from A Borrowed Hell and links to your book and social accounts, I’d like to finish with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m: Not a night owl

The one thing I cannot do without is: Dogs

The one thing I would change about my life: Lose the sugar addiction.

My biggest peeve is: Flies. Commercials. Or coat hangers sticking together. Maybe cooking. No, wait – phone solicitation! Okay – being interrupted when I finally hit my writing groove for the day.

A Borrowed Hell Excerpt:

“He’s here,” a woman said.

July opened his eyes.

The first thing he saw were buildings jutting high into the foggy sky, forming a tall, jagged skyline that matched nothing on the San Diego coastline. He sat with his back against a rough, brick wall. Across the street rose the unmistakable pyramid shape of the Transamerica building in San Francisco’s financial district. July’s mind struggled with the incongruity. He should be five hundred miles to the south, squashed like a bug under a three-thousand pound Prius. The last thing he’d seen before opening his eyes here had been a close-up of the car in mid-roll.

Maybe he was dead. The thought was too uncomfortable to contemplate.

A man squatted next to him. Smudges of dirt stood out in grey-brown streaks against his dark skin. He wore faded green fatigues — the jungle kind that had preceded the desert kind — and an olive green T-shirt covered with dirt and holes. His hair lay flat against his head in small, tight plaits, and a single, bone-colored bead decorated the end of each braid.

“Hey there,” he said. His smile was genuine, wide, and natural. It was the smile of someone at ease with himself and his surroundings. July found it reassuring in this place where nothing else was.

“How did I get here?”

The man shrugged. July looked to the woman standing behind the man. She shrugged.

Woman may have been a stretch; she looked more a girl, ultra-thin and waifish. Her worn blue jeans sported gaudy sequins at the frayed hems, and her long T-shirt emphasized her skinny legs. Dish-water blonde hair hung lank on either side of her face. Her eyes held a hunted look.

“I don’t understand,” July said.

“Then best to just move on,” the man said, standing and stretching. “Come on.”

He and the young woman turned from July and began walking. July pushed to his feet, still finding no pain or injuries. He looked the other direction, down the length of the empty business district. Empty. The wrongness he had been feeling crystallized. Not only was he in the wrong city, but the city itself was wrong. Other than the two people walking away from him, there was not a car or a person in sight.

The pair receded at a steady pace. Panic prodded July to jog after them. He wanted to believe this was a dream but couldn’t, everything here felt too visceral. The man and the young woman walked side-by-side taking up the center of the sidewalk; July caught up to them and walked behind.

The silence of the city hung heavy around him, the slap of shoes on concrete loud in the unnatural quiet. It brought to mind old Twilight Zone episodes of people thrown into muted, artificial environments, but everything around him confirmed the reality of his surroundings. He could feel the breeze ebb and gust against his skin, heard the rustle of a candy wrapper crunch underfoot. He saw low clouds drifting above, and smelled warm brick, paved road, and the odor of the two unwashed people in front of him.

“Where is everybody?”

The young woman looked back at him without answering. The man answered without looking back. “They’re around.”

A dozen questions formed in July’s mind but none of them made sense. He let the silence take him. Chinatown lay empty and quiet only a couple of blocks to his left and Telegraph Hill just ahead. The Embarcadero must be to the right. They were walking through perhaps the most quintessential square mile in the city; places that would normally be some of his favorite to visit. They climbed steadily for twenty minutes or so until they reached Pioneer Park, where a tall, whitewashed cylinder dominated the grassy knoll. A sign near the parking lot announced it was Coit Tower. It looked like a lighthouse had gotten lost and wandered into the park for a rest. He found it as eerie as the rest of the deserted city.

 

Those who would like to follow Liz online or purchase her book can do so through the following links:

Amazon Book Buy Link:     https://www.amazon.com/Borrowed-Hell-L-D-Colter-ebook/dp/B078FZRX51

Social Media Links:

Website:                     http://lizcolter.com/

Twitter:                      @1lcolt

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

Newsletter Signup:  http://ow.ly/owre303brf7

 

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The Write Stuff – Monday, January 22 – Spotlight on J.T. Evans

J.T. Evans arrived on this planet and developed into an adult in the desolate, desert-dominated oil fields of West Texas. After a year in San Antonio, he spent a year in the northern tundra of Montana. This year-long stint prepared him for the cold (yet mild compared to Montana) climate of the Front Range of Colorado.

He has thrived in The Centennial State since 1998 with his lovely Montana-native wife and rapidly growing son. He primarily pays the bills by developing interactive voice recognition systems. Like most writers, he dreams of earning enough income via publications to drop the Day Job and prosper. His debut urban fantasy novel, Griffin’s Feather, was released in October of 2017.

J.T. rekindled his love for writing with his discovery of the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group in 2006. He was the president of the organization from January 2009 to January 2013. Even though he’s no longer part of the CSFWG, he has continued writing and expanding his knowledge of the business and craft.

J.T. is also a member of Pikes Peak Writers, which he joined in 2008. J.T. was elected the vice president of PPW in January of 2013, and stepped into the role of president of PPW in September of the same year. In April of 2017, he resigned from the role of president.

When not flinging code at the screen or throwing words at the wall, he enjoys role-playing games, home brewing, Cub Scouts with his son, but dislikes anything related to long walks on the beach. His favorite genres to write in are fantasy and urban fantasy, but he writes the occasional science fiction or horror short story.

J.T. once held 13 different jobs in a single year, and at the age of 15, his right arm was amputated in a violent car wreck. Don’t worry. He’s become more stable in the job area, and the arm was successfully reattached shortly after the car crash.

Today, we’re discussing J.T.’s urban fantasy, Griffin’s Feather, published by WordFire Press on October 29, 2017. He describes the novel’s premise this way:

Marcus Barber is an immortal Roman Centurion who works as a bounty hunter for the deities of the ancient world while living in modern-day San Antonio. In this fast-paced adventure, Marcus must recover an escaped griffin for Nemesis (Greek goddess of vengeance) while trying to rescue a kidnapped ice pixie of Cailleach before she melts in the southern Texas heat. If he fails at either task, Nemesis and Cailleach will battle over who owns him for the next few centuries. While embroiled in these two tasks, one of his mortal clients calls up Marcus and demands he find a missing mistress. This mistress and Marcus have their own past… a distant past that Marcus must reconcile with before his supernatural deadlines whiz past.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

I had more fun writing this novel than any other work I’ve done. I think the enjoyment I had really shines through in the prose, story, and characters. I typically write to music with headphones on to drown out the rest of the world. At one point, I was so engrossed in the story I was telling, I didn’t notice that my playlist had ended. My wife popped her head into my office and asked what music I was dancing in my chair to. That’s when I realized I danced, not to music, but to Marcus’s story that unfolded before me.

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

I think the seed of my idea was that I really enjoy shows about skip tracers (also known as bounty hunters) because there is the thrill of the hunt against the most dangerous prey, humans, but typically without death involved at the end of the day. One day, I decided to write a little something about a bounty hunter, but I wanted it to be urban fantasy, not real life. This led me down the path of creating Marcus who is an immortal Roman Centurion who works as a bounty hunter for the deities of the ancient world. Things pretty much fell into place from there.

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

Most urban fantasy protagonists wield some form of supernatural power that can get them into and out of trouble. Marcus’s only non-mundane power is to return from the dead, but when he does so, he’s weak as a newborn, starving, and in pretty rough shape for several weeks. This means his ability to return to the living realm isn’t much of an advantage on the tight deadlines he finds himself facing. He has to use millennia of experience, his wits, his stubbornness, and his driving desire to avoid failure to press forward in his missions.

What was your path to publication?

Griffin’s Feather was the fourth novel I wrote. I consider the first three to be my “practice trilogy” that will never be published in their current form. I’m actually working on a completely fresh rewrite of the first book to see what I can make happen there. I’ve tried the “get an agent” route through query letters and met many editors and agents at conferences. Making friends with people in the industry is what led to WordFire Press requesting the novel. I was hanging out at WorldCon (2015) with the acquisitions editor, just chatting. He asked about what I was writing at the time and I told him about Griffin’s Feather. He was immediately interested and requested the novel. One thing led to another, and Kevin J. Anderson approached me at WorldCon (2016) to make an offer on my novel.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on two things at the moment. I’m querying a sword and sorcery novel to agents, and while I wait for responses to those query letters, I’m actively rewriting (from scratch) the first novel I ever wrote. The story, characters, plot, and world are strong in my first novel. However, the mechanical execution of the story is lacking. I’m a much better writer now than I was then, so I’m hoping a fresh take at the words will lead somewhere.

What else have you written?

I have a handful of short stories published in various anthologies along with one non-fiction piece about the night my arm was amputated in a car wreck. Lists of those anthologies can be found at my web site.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

Absolutely! I even outline short stories. The only things I don’t outline are my improv exercises that I do to get my brain in gear and get the writing juices flowing. Before I start in on a novel (and many of my short stories), I have to know the opening scene and the ending scene. Then I outline the steps to get from A to Z. If I ever try to write by the seat of my pants, I feel like I’ve just screamed, “Road trip!” and jumped in the car without knowing where I’m going. It just doesn’t feel right to me.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’m not as nice to my characters as I used to be. I used to be very protective and precious about my protagonists. It took me a while to learn that readers love it when characters get beat up, thrashed about, and torn down before overcoming the odds. It’s no fun for a reader to experience a character that can handle anything, do anything, and never really faces true obstacles while going through their adventures.

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

This has been a challenge for me, on and off, through my career: making the time to write on a regular basis. I have weeks where I write daily. I have weeks where I write sporadically. I tend to get 3-4 days of writing done each week, but I need to really buckle down and increase that to 5-6 days a week. That’s all on me to make happen, though.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

I’ve been doing martial arts (on and off) since I was 13. I’ve practiced pretty much every major martial art, and probably a few more esoteric ones. I’ve done punching/kicking martial arts. I’ve done grappling/submission martial arts. I’ve done unarmed and armed martial arts. I was also raised around firearms and know them quite well. The decades of combat experience I have really helps me out when it comes to describing physical conflict of any kind. I’ve always received high praise for my fight scenes, so this has freed me up to focus my improvements in other areas (like dialogue) that need to be shored up.

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

Honestly, I’m too stubborn to quit. I set goals for myself, ensure they are realistic (yet challenging) and press forward to get to those goals. I set a goal of having a novel published within ten years of restarting my writing career. I managed to do it in eleven. For that year gap between my goal and the actualization of that goal, I was a real pain the butt to be around. I was moody, down, angry, and generally not a nice person. Friends and family talked some sense into me, and I managed to get over it. If I find myself stalled or “dead” on a project, I typically write about a dozen pieces of flash fiction in an improv manner. This helps kick me back into gear, and I never know what form of exciting ideas I’ll get from the improv stories.

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

I’ve made myself quit writing several times throughout my life. I quit at ages 10, 15, and around 22. If I’d stuck with things from that young age and pressed forward, I can’t help but think how far ahead I’d be of my current self in my writing career. I don’t look back too deeply on those times, though. I’ve managed to accumulate plenty of life experience, and maybe that’s what I needed to get to where I could seriously buckle down and start writing again.

What are some of your favorite authors?

This is a rather lengthy list, and I know I’ll leave some out… so I’ll just stick with two: Terry Brooks and Carol Berg. I picked up my first “adult” book at age 7. It was Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and that set the stage for a lifelong love of the fantasy genre. I especially love Carol Berg’s works because of the interesting characters and plot developments she manages to spin. Both of these authors are great studies for anyone wanting to delve into the fantasy genre as a writer.

Thank you so much, J.T., for spending time with us. Before I present our visitors with an excerpt from Griffin’s Feather, as well as your book buy and social media links, I’d like to conclude this interview with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Caffeine

The one thing I would change about my life: I wouldn’t have quit writing at a young age.

My biggest peeve is: Personal insults during any kind of debate.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: My son. He’s a great human being, and will be a wonderful man.

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

Grab your dreams, don’t let go, and keep them close as you travel through life. If a dream escapes, that’s okay. There will be replacements ones. Just keep dreaming and achieving!

 

Griffin’s Feather excerpt:

I stared at the Rorschach patterns of the piss stains on the wall of my motel room in an effort to ignore the busted springs that could only be generously called a mattress. I turned my head side-to-side trying to find some semblance of art or pattern in the yellow-on-smoke-stained-white. I’d slept in more comfortable ditches during my time as a Roman Centurion almost two-thousand years ago. I’d also squatted over better smelling holes while in the field than the emanations coming from the mattress when I shifted my weight.

Accepting the discomfort without complaint like a good soldier always does, I turned to the television. The twenty-four-hour news crackled from the flickering screen. I hated the modern news, but I couldn’t find any other channels on the damn thing. The newscaster shifted her tone from fake sorrow about some natural disaster to the even more false happiness as she moved on to an “on the lighter side of the news” story.

Her lips moved, and the words fell from her face. “As you can see in this home video, someone glued feathers to this lion’s head and set it loose during the Strawberry Festival in Poteet, Texas. The animal doesn’t seem to be in any distress, but local authorities have asked citizens to call animal control if the festooned feline is spotted.”

The news puppet chirped her words, and a blurry video captured a few seconds of a large lion bearing feathers leaping a fence and vanishing from sight.

A griffin ran free in southern Texas.

]The mythological creature walked on the feet of an eagle but had the body of a lion. In addition to the eagle claws, a griffin also sported the head and wings of the majestic bird.

]Mortals had a strange way of lying to themselves when it comes to supernatural happenings. It was as if their fragile minds couldn’t handle proof there is something greater and more powerful than them sharing this world. Those who saw and talked about the truth of things were labeled as “crazies” or “kooks” or “religious fanatics.” I usually kept my mouth shut, and my eyes opened to avoid the stigma of someone bereft of their senses. This was true even around those I considered close friends.

I shook my head and put away one of my father’s journals I had been reading. His neat handwriting, precise words, and terse phrasing let me know the events of his life, but without much in the way it impacted him emotionally. His written words always brought back memories of my childhood with him. He wasn’t especially cold or distant, but he had a hard time getting close to me and my mother. Was he immortal back then? Did he know it? Is that why he vanished when he did?

I’ve never known why, but my gut told me finding my father was the path to figuring out who I really was. He’d obviously been gifted, or cursed, with the same immortality I’d grown accustomed to. I thought he had the key to unlock the answers I’ve always sought. Even if he didn’t, it would be nice to see his face again. To hear his voice. Is he proud of me? Have I done well in his eyes?

I looked around the ratty motel room surrounding me. What would he think of me now?

Shaking my head to clear them of sentimentality, I prepared for an Ancient to appear. Some Ancient was going to have me fetch the griffin. I just knew it. When something strange happened in my neighborhood, they always showed up. I was the bounty hunter for the Ancients, after all. The only lingering question I had concerned which Ancient would appear and claim ownership of the griffin.

 

If you’ve enjoyed reading this passage, here are links where you can follow J.T. Evans online and purchase his work:

Website/Blog:                        https://jtevans.net/

Facebook:                              https://www.facebook.com/jtevans.author

Twitter:                                  https://twitter.com/jtevans

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram.com/jtevans.author/

Goodreads:                            https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3519020.J_T_Evans

Amazon Author Page:          https://www.amazon.com/J.-T.-Evans/e/B00AG3TR6O

 

Book online sales links:

Amazon (UK) (Canada)

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

Signed Copies Directly from J.T.

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 8 – Spotlight on Kevin J. Anderson

Most of you know Kevin J. Anderson’s massive epics. Here is a take you may not yet be familiar with. Larry Correia has this to say about Kevin’s lighter side, “A good detective doesn’t let a little thing like being murdered slow him down, and I got a kick out of Shamble trying to solve a series of oddball cases, including his own. He’s the kind of zombie you want to root for, and his cases are good lighthearted fun.”

For those of my site’s visitors who are unfamiliar with this series’ protagonist, will you tell us something about Dan Shamble?

I’m certainly best known for my big SF and fantasy epics, like the Dune novels with Brian Herbert, my Saga of Seven Suns, my Terra Incognita trilogy, or the big new fantasy, Spine Of The Dragon.

But Dan Shamble is something different entirely: short, funny, even ridiculous comedy mysteries in a world where all the monsters have returned and are just trying to live their everyday lives in the Unnatural Quarter. Dan Chambeaux (everybody mispronounces it “Shamble”) was a human detective working in the quarter, because even vampires, werewolves, and ghosts still have divorces, bankruptcies, business deals that go sour. But he was killed on a case, shot in the back of the head in a dark alley…but in this world, he came back as a zombie. And now he’s back from the dead and back on the case. His first order of business was to solve his own murder (in Death Warmed Over). He has a politically incorrect cop as his Best Human Friend, a beautiful bleeding-heart lawyer as a partner, and a ghost for a girlfriend. They solve crimes with mummies, necromancers, ghouls, vampires, werewolves, and even more unusual suspects.

How did he originally percolate up from the depths of your subconscious mind?

I enjoy zombie movies, and particularly a fan of the Walking Dead…but it’s so grim and horrible. I felt it was time for the zombie equivalent of Spaceballs. Sometimes you just want to be funny, even silly. This is a spoof, filled with all the wonderful clichés of all the monster movies I used to watch. I carved out time in my writing schedule and wrote my first novel in the series, Death Warmed Over, as a complete surprise to my agent, a labor of love. I just published the fifth novel, Tastes Like Chicken, and over a dozen short stories, as well as a crossover comic with Dan Shamble and Kolchak the Night Stalker.

Between 2012 and 2014, you produced four installments. Since then, it’s been just over three years since you turned out the last one. Why the hiatus?

The series was originally published by Kensington Books and they came out without much fanfare, though the fan base steadily built up and I got a lot of fan letters. And besides, they were just so much fun to write. But Kensington decided to discontinue the series after the fourth novel, Slimy Underbelly. In the meantime, I kept writing new Dan Shamble short stories that have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and I got the rights back to the original first novels. I rereleased them in my own editions through WordFire Press, published the first collection of Shamble short stories, Working Stiff… and I kept promising that I would get around to writing the next novel on my own time. But fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), my own writing schedule was so full of contracted books (which I get paid for), I couldn’t scrounge the time to write a new book that I would publish through WordFire. But the fans kept writing me letters, nagging me, and I finally cleared the decks for three weeks this summer and wrote the whole thing, Tastes Like Chicken.

What is this episode’s premise?

Dan Shamble, zombie P.I., faces his most fowl case yet, when a flock of murderous feral chickens terrorizes the Unnatural Quarter. Also in the caseload, Dan deals with the sinister spokesman for Monster Chow Industries, a spreading contamination that drives vampires berserk, a serial-killer demon from the Fifth Pit of Hell, a black-market blood gang led by the nefarious Ma Hemoglobin, a ghost fighting a hostile takeover of his blood bars… and a cute little vampire girl who may, or may not, be his daughter.

With his ghost girlfriend Sheyenne, his bleeding-heart lawyer partner Robin, and his Best Human Friend Officer Toby McGoohan, Dan Shamble is back from the dead and back on the case. The feathers will fly as he goes face-to-beak with the evil peckers.

How long does it take you to get from Page One to The End when you’re turning one out? I ask, because these are no mere forty thousand word, just-under-the-wire novels. With the exception of the half episodes, each one is a three hundred give-or-take-a-few-pages book.

These are still short novels, 60-80,000 words (my big epics are more like 200,000 words!) Well, they seem quick to me at least. I can do one of the short stories in a day or two. Writing Tastes Like Chicken took me two weeks, and then another three weeks to edit it several times.

Now that you’re releasing Tastes Like Chicken, do you believe we can expect to hear more from Dan in the reasonably near future?

Absolutely. I’m finishing up a new short story right now for Pulphouse magazine, and another new one was just published in Jonathan Maberry’s anthology Hardboiled Horror. I just got the rights from Kensington to do an omnibus edition of books #3 and #4, Hair Raising and Slimy Underbelly. So that book will be called, appropriately, The Hairy Slimy Zomnibus. I will be releasing the second collection of Dan Shamble short stories in November, and I already have the idea outlined for the next novel.

Now, I just have to find the TIME!

Might I ask if something else bizarre is lurking, trying to become the premise for another series?

I just sold Spine Of The Dragon and two more epic fantasies to Tor for another giant series. And I’m working on an idea for another series in the Seven Suns universe, and I just sold a new high-tech thriller Doomsday Cascade with my coauthor Doug Beason… so I have a full plate right now.

Something cool for your readers, though: If you sign up for my KJA readers group (it’s free), I’ll send you a free copy of the Dan Shamble Working Stiff collection, some other free stuff, sneak previews, and updates. https://eepurl.com/hazu

For those of you who are yearning for more, here is an excerpt:

Some monsters are friendly. You learn that while working as a private investigator in the Unnatural Quarter, where you never know what size, shape, species, or temperament your clients might come in.

Some monsters want to live their daily lives without undue hassles, just like anybody else.

Some monsters even eat cookies and are adored by children nationwide.

But some monsters eat people. They’re vicious, violent things that deserve to be called monsters.

The demon Obadeus fit into that last category, without question. And McGoo—Officer Toby McGoohan, beat cop in the Quarter and my best human friend—had tracked Obadeus down before he could murder again. I was along for backup, moral support, and, if necessary, a diversion.

Serial killers are bad enough, but a bloodthirsty demon serial killer, now that’s not a good thing at all. Obadeus’s death toll now stood at nineteen, and since demons can be a little OCD about round numbers, we knew he would strike again just to make it an even twenty.

Fortunately for us, although not for his numerous victims, a monster with so much enthusiasm for killing isn’t very good at covering his tracks. Some supernatural psychologist or monster profiler might speculate that Obadeus wanted to be caught, deep down inside. I had a different theory: he was just too lazy to clean up his messes.

We had tracked the demon down to his lair, which Obadeus called his “man cave.” The place reeked. The walls were decorated with dripping blood and flayed skin or pelts from his victims, both human and unnatural. I didn’t envy the crime-scene cleanup team, or the landlord who would have to make the place ready to rent again, after McGoo and I took care of this creep. At least Obadeus wouldn’t get his cleaning deposit back, so there was some justice in the world.

The big demon bolted from his blood-soaked lair just as we arrived—which was a lucky break, because McGoo and I didn’t exactly know how to arrest a serial-killer demon from the Fifth Pit of Hell. I had no idea where the pits of hell fell, on a scale of one to ten, but pit number five must be a nasty place if it had spawned something like this.

Obadeus was ugly, with a capital U-G-L-Y. He had a leathery hide with knobs, warts, scales, and leprous patches, a face full of spikes and tendrils, triangular pointed ears, and a jaw that extended all the way to the back of his head filled with enough fangs to keep an orthodontist in business for life.

“Ick,” McGoo observed. “He makes vampire bats look cute.”

Whether Obadeus was insulted, or enraged, or just shy, he spread his thorny wings and lurched toward the door of his lair, where the two of us happened to be standing. Letting out a roar that sounded like a cow caught in a barbed-wire fence, Obadeus charged past, knocking both of us aside like bowling pins, and smashed out the door. He ran off into the streets.

“We must be scarier than I thought,” I said as the demon fled. “He could have torn us limb from limb and sipped our entrails through a straw.”

“Law enforcement carries great weight.” McGoo drew his Police Special revolver, and I pulled my .38, which I considered to be just as special, even though it didn’t have the word “Special” in its name. We set off after Obadeus in hot pursuit.

It was the dead of night in the Quarter, which meant the streets were busier than at any time of day. Though the monster’s great wings got in the way as he bounded out among the pedestrians, they also generated a tailwind for him as he flapped them, giving him a boost as he ran.

“Make way!” I shouted. “Killer demon on the loose!”

Readers who are interested can purchase Tastes Like Chicken here (click image):

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 18 – Interview With J. B. Garner

I am closing out the year with WordFire Press author, J. B. Garner. J. B. was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 1, 1976, the youngest of three children. While he was still in his early years, the family moved to Peachtree City, Georgia. His parents always encouraged his creative side and J. B. began writing and drawing from early on. Although considered talented by his teachers, he never fully applied himself and bounced through high school and into college at the Georgia Institute of Technology. During his freshman year, his father died without warning. Grief and lack of purpose caused J. B. to drop out of school. If not for a few close friends, he says, he might have dropped out of life as well. Taken in by his friends and given a second chance, J. B. matured, applied himself, and finally, after over a decade of hard work, is now back to doing what he loves the most: writing.

His varied interests include fantasy, science-fiction, gaming, professional wrestling, and all manner of media consumption. All these interests form the core of his novels, leading to a mix of genres such as superheroes, urban fantasy, steampunk, sports, and litRPG.

Today, we are focusing on his debut novel, Indomitable. J. B. describes it as follows:

Irene Roman never wanted to be a hero. She was a scientist living an otherwise normal life, and that was enough for her. One fateful evening, though, Irene discovers a betrayal that undermines everything—one event that, in the blink of an eye, changes not only her life but the future of the entire planet.

Now the world is inhabited by people with powers and abilities far above those of mortal humans. The repercussions of superhuman battles on the Earth are great and terrible. Lives are shattered, communities destroyed, and mankind’s destiny is plucked from its grasp. At the center of it all is Irene, who not only is one of two people on the planet who knows the cause of this unbelievable change, but she is one of the few people who may be able to stop it. The only problem is the only other person will do anything in his vast power to keep the world in its terrible altered state.
Who dares to claim the right to choose humanity’s fate? What price will Irene pay to be the hero she never wanted to be? In the end, will Earth return to the safety of the mundane … or will it remain in the chaos of the superhuman and the supernatural?

Please tell us more about it.

To get a grasp of The Push Chronicles, imagine what would happen to our nice, normal world if you woke up tomorrow to a world suddenly filled with people possessing superhuman powers and acting like they had stepped off the page of a comic book. Imagine the chaos and destruction that might cause. If you can do that, then imagine if you were the only person in the world who knew how it happened, you believe you know how to fix it, no one believes you, and you were among those who didn’t get a gift of superpowers. What would you do to try to save the world?

That question and how Irene Roman, the protagonist, answers them form the central story of The Push Chronicles. Faced with this monumental event in history, knowing its cause, and feeling in part responsible for it, she is forced to walk among titans, pretending to be one of them with only a few strange quirks of the altered reality around her to aid her quest, and try to convince the world’s new heroes to save the world from themselves.

In essence, it’s a deconstruction, a reconstruction, and a celebration of superhero comics wrapped into one package.

What was its inspiration?

The biggest inspiration for The Push Chronicles was naturally comic books. I’m a long-time fan of the superhero genre, growing up reading comics and still staying connected to them in my adult years. The resurgence of the superhero in movies and television has only rekindled a passion that never left.

The other big inspiration may sound a bit stranger. I’m a big tabletop roleplaying gamer and in my younger days, I was a big fan of the TORG game world from West End Games. It was a setting about alternate realities that were invading Earth, creating areas where reality itself was overwritten and people were altered by it. That idea of how realities could insinuate and take over each other fascinated me.

What other novels have you written?

I’ve written an eclectic variety of other novels, all coming from my wide range of interests and whims. The Songstress Murders is a fantasy-steampunk-LGBT-romance-film-noire-murder mystery. Rune Service is an urban fantasy/comedy that stars a bearded Dwarf lady who works at a convenience store. My other multi-book solo series—my passion project, you could say­—Three Seconds to Legend, is a blending of family drama, martial arts action tropes, a pinch of Greek mythology, and modern pro-wrestling.

What else are you working on?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Rune Service titled Once in a Blue Rune. Yes, all the titles in the series will be puns involving the word “rune”. Rune Service was probably the book I most enjoyed writing and I’m having about as much fun penning the sequel. Hopefully, it will be out before the end of the year.

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

As a full-time writer, I do my best to maintain a ‘traditional’ eight-hour workday. I wake up around eight in the morning, grant myself an hour to wake-up, grab a bite to eat, and get my morning coffee. From there, I try to maintain something a good friend of mine suggested and that’s a 40-20 ratio of work to rest. The fact is that, being self-employed and working from home, distraction abounds. The idea behind the ratio is to keep those distractions at bay by giving into them in a limited, timed fashion.

From there, midday is lunch and as long as I reach my set goals for the day, I usually can start to dial back work by dinnertime. Of course, working with people in other time zones, countries, and work habits means that I might have to talk to someone, look at art, or confab on an edit at all sorts of hours. That potential to lose off-time at any moment is one of the prices you have to pay to be an author.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

Yes, well, a vague one. Most will tell you that the two main paths to novel planning are ‘architects’, the folks who write out detailed outlines, and ‘discovery’, the writers who essentially follow their instincts and write as their muses demand. I consider myself something of a hybrid of those two styles.

I like to start with a rough outline, a very general series of points, and some more detailed notes on characters, the world, and especially character motivations. From there, I write in a more ‘discovery’ style, letting events flow organically in the rough outline I have, updating and fleshing out the outline as I discover more things about the characters and their actions. This occasionally leads to some pretty big changes to the outline, but that’s part of the fun for me in writing, finding out those moments where a character shifts the course of the story.

Why do you write?

I need to express myself creatively, I always have. I wrote when I was younger for that reason and I managed to scratch that itch in an imperfect fashion during my adult years through roleplaying, group storytelling in essence. However, none of that has quite compared to the novel writing I have done over the past few years and nothing has satisfied me so much as this.

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

Finishing. They say that everyone has a book in them to tell and that’s not wrong. However, while it’s easy to start writing a novel, almost everyone I know has fragments of an attempt squirreled away somewhere, so few finish. To finish a novel is something worthy of the feeling of achievement it brings, even if you never intend to publish it.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Nope. Though I have worked plenty of different jobs in my time, from factory work to work on construction cranes, my full-time devotion is now writing.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Finishing my first novel. It was the first time I had completed something so, well, big and it helped cement in my mind that I could do this, that I had a real shot at being an honest-to-God author.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

The time in my life when I was so swallowed by self-doubt and depression after my father’s death that I let my relationships with so many friends and family fell apart. While I eventually grew enough as a person to set most of those right, that time still represents lost years, years I could have shared with more people and made their lives and my own better.

Do you have any pet projects?

So, if you haven’t noticed, I’m an avid consumer of all kinds of media, including anime and manga from Japan. That inspired me to start a peculiar little pet project combining my feelings and experiences as both a writer and editor with the “magical girl” genre of anime into a light novel—a form of short novel with added illustrations—focused on a clash between a magically-empowered writer and editor. Yes, it’s strange but it’s still being worked on. Might even be published early next year!

I’d like to thank you, J.B., for taking the time to share with us. Before I present an excerpt from Indomitable, and provide some social and book buy links, I’d like to attempt a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… hobbit. Lives in tight, dark spaces, loves to eat, normally quite friendly, with a hidden reserve of resolve.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Coffee. Well, coffee and a creative outlet.

The one thing I would change about my life: Exercise. I would have never have stopped being active after my life of factory work.

My biggest peeve is: Nitpickers. Can’t stand ’em.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: My big brother.

Indomitable excerpt:

“Who the hell are you?”

I couldn’t blame the officer for his attitude. His partner was gushing blood, he was pinned down by an apparently homicidal superhuman, and some crazy woman in a motorcycle suit and a mask came sliding in out of nowhere. It didn’t help that I had Rachel yelling in my ear, wondering if I had been shot. Frankly, I was shocked that the police hadn’t started shooting anyone in a mask on sight, just to be safe.

“Look, officer,” I said, raising my hands, still on my back, “I know you have no reason to trust me but I’m here to help.” It was obvious this man had seen plenty of action and frankly didn’t look impressed. “Do you have a choice right now? We can both be pretty sure you don’t have backup coming and the only way your friend is going to make it is if you can get her to a hospital.”

“I can’t leave these people to get picked off by some maniac up there. At least now he’s—” the officer, Officer McDaniels from his name tag, was interrupted as another projectile ripped through the top corner of the police cruiser’s top “—shooting at us instead of those folks over yonder.” At this rate, there wouldn’t be a car that could drive anyone anywhere in a few more moments.

I took a deep breath and looked McDaniels in the eye. “Okay, how about this? I’m going to go out there. If he shoots twice in a row at me and I’m not dead, will you take that as a sign that I can keep him from killing anyone else long enough for you to save this woman’s life?”

I could tell that she was fortunate to be holding on as it was. She must have only been nicked by whatever this crazy was throwing down at us and, even then, it had torn a horrific wound through her side.

McDaniels looked torn for a long second before he spoke. “Deal.” I took one last fortifying breath and started to stand. “You’re crazy but, still, good luck, lady.”

I nodded and rose to my full height, reminding myself that no matter what this Pushed guy was doing, it wasn’t entirely real. The real world didn’t have people flying or throwing jets or made of fire. That’s when I felt the impact into my right shoulder.

The pain radiated out along my nervous system like wildfire and, snap, just like in the office and the graveyard, my mind and body hit that zone. Time, at least my perception of it, slowed, pain became simply a series of indicators instead of crippling agony, and every muscle in my body was primed and ready.

Even so, whatever hit me was forceful enough to send my unbraced body into a twisting spiral, flung off my feet. I landed in a heap on the pavement but I was already in motion, pushing myself back up a split-second after I hit. As I reoriented, testing my arm as I moved, I could see McDaniel staring at me with his mouth agape.

There was something lodged in my shoulder but a glance told me it was only a sharp shard of rock, no more than two inches long. It would be messy to clean and probably bleed horribly later, but at the moment, the rock itself was jammed in so good it was staunching the bleeding. Nothing I couldn’t handle, not in this state I was in.

Without realizing it, I had been counting the time between shots. That subconscious count informed me that the sniper hadn’t shot any faster than once every twenty seconds. As I pushed off into a full sprint, I figured it was theoretically possible I could make it to the building before he shot one of those rocks into my skull, not that I would let that stop me.

I had only one thought, one focus right now, to stop this man before anyone else died. I ate pavement in rapid strides. Exactly at twenty seconds, another sonic boom shattered the last remaining windows in the apartment building as a street light to my left was blown neatly in half. I hit the front doors, now just metal frames with a few hanging shards of jagged glass, and burst into the front lobby.

If you would like to follow J. B. online, you may do so here:

Blog: https://jbgarner58.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @JBGarner_Writes

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

You may purchase his books at these locations:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076G9JS93/

http://www.baen.com/indomitable.html

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/754076

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/indomitable-j-b-garner/1119566587

 

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 4 – Interview With Bill Ransom

This week’s featured author, Bill Ransom, is a writer who, after modest but solid literary beginnings, has had varied, impressive achievements.

His first publication was a short story in a literary magazine; the second was a poem in a different literary magazine. He studied American Minority Literature and Old and Middle English for two years on an NDEA Title IV fellowship at the University of Nevada, Reno. Poetry publications in literary magazines and anthologies led to participation in an NEA pilot project with the Poetry in the Schools program in Washington State. His first poetry collection, Finding True North & Critter, was nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

Bill received an MA from Utah State University—27 years and six books later—in Theory and Practice of Writing with minor in Folklore, specifically Folk Medicine. He founded and directed the popular Port Townsend Writers’ Conference for Centrum, an arts foundation in Port Townsend, Washington, now entering its 45th summer. He appeared in An Officer and a Gentleman and The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (Robert Altman, CBS). Through his friendship with Frank Herbert, he co-authored the trilogy now known as The Pandora Sequence, also available from WordFire press individually as The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect, and The Ascension Factor.

Learning the Ropes (Utah State University Press), a hybrid collection of poetry, short fiction and essays, was billed as “a creative autobiography.” Three of his short stories from this collection were selected for the PEN/NEA Syndicated Fiction Project, often called The Pulitzer Prize of the Short Story: “Uncle Hungry,” “What Elena Said” and “Learning the Ropes.” These appeared in the Sunday magazine editions of major newspapers around the country with a circulation of ten million. Blue Begonia Press published The Woman and the War Baby, another hybrid (multi-genre) collection dealing with multi-generational war experiences.

Bill received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, one in poetry, one in fiction, and residencies at Centrum, an arts foundation in Port Townsend, WA. WordFire Press e‑published the Pandora books and his solo novels Jaguar, ViraVax and Burn. Most recently, in October of this year, WordFire re-released these three novels as trade paperbacks.

When I asked him about his chosen genre, Bill replied, “I’ve never made up my mind about any species of writing.”

Today, we are focusing our attention on Jaguar. Reviewers have had this to say:

“A helluva good book.”—Science Fiction Review.

Jaguar is a psychodrama with the emphasis on story and characterization, not effects… Ransom, best known for his collaborations with the late Frank Herbert, has written an intense and intriguing tale that will keep you riveted to the pages.”—Jeff Scott Smith, Rave Reviews

“A tense thriller…recommended.” –Booklist

“A helluva good book!” –John Dalmas, Science Fiction Review

“Every page of Jaguar is a cliffhanger!” –Sandra Morgan, Fiction Forest

“A powerful, scary tale of the dark side of the human mind.” –Jane Toombs, Scribes World (5-star)

Amazon describes the book’s premise this way:

In waking life, he is a combat vet with a mysterious sleep disorder, confined to a VA hospital bed. When he sleeps, he roams the plains of another world, invading the minds of the people as they dream and forcing them to do his will. They call him . . . Jaguar.

In both worlds, there are those who know the Jaguar’s secret. They are learning to link their minds across the void between worlds, following the dreampaths the Jaguar created—all the way back to where his body lies helpless . . . an easy target for their justice.

Please tell us more about it.

Jaguar is actually a re-release that came out first as an Ace mass market paperback in 1990 and remained in print for two decades. Kevin and Rebecca resurrected it first as an e-book, following the release of the Herbert/Ransom The Pandora Sequence, and then as a trade paper edition in September, ’17 with a new, gorgeous cover.

What was its inspiration?

The earthquake in Puyallup, Washington in April of 1949 was half of the inspiration. My volunteer work as a medic and firefighter training instructor in the Guatemalan civil war was the other half. I was four, on a sidewalk taking apart a broken clock my grandfather had given me to get me out of his way. My cousin was playing with chalk. Suddenly, nightcrawlers came out of the ground and into the lawn. My grandfather usually got them to come out at night by putting a bare electrical cord into the ground with two nails, but this time Grandpa was back in his saw-filing shop. Then the sidewalk rose up and shook itself out like a blanket, and the power poles started coming down, and adults went crazy. I got home from a particularly tough stretch in Guatemala one night in the early ’80s, couldn’t sleep, and decided to write my daughter something of a memoir. When I got to the nightcrawlers, suddenly they were foot-long bugs with nearly two-foot wings (set of 4), like flying ants (termites, with those yellow bellies) that come out every August, only much, much bigger. The story started to unfold from there and I never got back to the real memoir.

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

I wrote it during the time that Frank Herbert and I were working on the Pandora stories, and my challenge was to stop worrying about what critics would say after my work with Frank, comparing me with Frank. Frank’s advice: “Worrying what other people might say before you’ve written the book never filled a blank page. And afterwards? Never read reviews.”

What other novels have you written?

ViraVax and Burn, both manmade viral catastrophe stories perpetrated by the “Children of Eden”, a fundamentalist religious group determined to return the Earth to its original, Eden-like state. Minus those pesky other religions, in the process. The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect and The Ascension Factor were co-authored with Frank Herbert. I ghost-wrote the originating story, “Songs of a Sentient Flute,” for Frank—details of how that transpired and how it became The Pandora Sequence are revealed in the three-novel omnibus edition from WordFire Press: The Pandora Sequence.

What else are you working on?

One genre novel, one mainstream novel and a long and increasingly longer sequence of short fiction.

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

Mornings, feed cats, coffee, no conversation, no music with lyrics, phone and internet off. Closing on the end of a novel, the last few weeks are write, coffee, toast, nap; repeat; repeat with shower; repeat, etc.

Tell us about your path to publication.

Literary magazines for short fiction and poetry. Poetry happened to get popular.

Do you create an outline before you write?

No. That’s what rewriting is for. I don’t worry about writing in order because I know I’ll put it in order later. Usually taking off from some real incident that then gets the “what if” treatment, as in the nightcrawler example above.

Why do you write?

I like having written, as I liked breaking records in track—the grind to or to train is not always fun, often painful. After a few delicious moments of having written comes the ominous question of “what now?” and that inevitable blank page.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I worry very little about first draft, and I very much enjoy revising, especially at the sentence level.

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

Intrusion by the rest of the world. Saying “no” to friends, family and fun gets old. By the time you’re finished and are looking for human contact, they’re long gone. Ditto relationships—people can tolerate abuse, but not being ignored.

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

I write multiple point-of-view novels, which expects a different kind of attention from readers than a straightforward narration. No witness in court sees “the truth,” but taken collectively, witnesses can reveal “a more complete truth” to jurors. Multiple point-of-view allows that.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I retired as a Dean of Curriculum at The Evergreen State College about six years ago. I still do work, but I hope never to have a “job” again.

What motivates or inspires you?

Acts of kindness and compassion, perhaps coming from my medic background, touch me mightily. Oblivious is easy, and all too prevalent.

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

I hope to be an example of courage and determination for my three grandchildren. Moving on to something new helps—building, gardening, travel.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Getting several children out of grave danger; resuscitating three infants and numerous old people.

Do you have any pet projects?

Currently assisting daughter and her husband in building a home on some property we have in common. Framing is my contribution.

What has been your greatest inspiration?

Hyphenated-American writers now offer us readers our greatest literary riches.

Thanks, Bill, for taking time to share with us. Before I present our visitors with an excerpt from Jaguar and links where they can purchase it and follow you online, I’d like to conclude with a brief Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m sarcastic, beware.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Well, air first, then….

The one thing I would change about my life: Never have to go before audiences again.

My biggest peeve is: All genres are not equally respected by writers in other genres. And what’s a non-genre writer, anyway? “Mainstream?” “Literary?” “Important?” There you have it.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: I love my daughter a lot.

 

Jaguar excerpt:

When the rolling stopped, Rafferty woke up squashed in place with the blanket over his head. He was pinned so tight his chest and back felt like they met. He could move his left arm and his head.

He worked the blanket across his face and saw that he was lying on the ceiling of the car. His head was lower than the rest of him and the back seat had popped out to wedge him in. Gurgles and gasps came from the front seat. He called out but the noises only came farther apart and finally stopped. The roof of the car beneath him was littered with shards of broken glass, incense butts and pink plastic hair curlers.

Rafferty could hardly breathe with the seat jamming him in so tight. He tried to shove it away but it wouldn’t budge. He panted tiny, burning breaths from the effort and a lot of small black spots in front of his eyes melted into one big one. He wasn’t really asleep, he hadn’t caught his breath yet, but he knew he wasn’t getting out of there.

When he knew he couldn’t get out he had to go to the bathroom. He beat on the back of the seat but that made the spots come back so he started crying but that hurt, too. Outside, the familiar rasp and tick of those bright bugs played against the metal of the car. By the time Rafferty had wet himself, the inside of the car was crawling with them. They didn’t bite or sting, they just crawled over him with their stickery feet.

He was wedged inside there with them for three nights before he ate the first one. It wouldn’t get out of his face and he could barely bat it away. He caught the bug by the root of its wings with his free hand, shook it once and popped it into his mouth. His lips were cracked, his tongue and throat swelled dry from thirst.

What happened between Rafferty and the bug was purely some kind of reflex, Uncle explained that later. Rafferty kept hold of the wings and spat out the legs because they were long and skinny and they stuck in his throat. He lost count of the nights after that, and thought of the rest of the bugs that he ate as corn-dogs. A scattering of wings and legs tilted in the wind under his head, little bronze-petalled flowers with dark brown stalks. He learned not to smell the incredible stench that rolled in from the front seat, and he learned to live with the mice.

Rafferty slept with the scuttle of feet across his face, learned that crying only made his throat worse, learned that sometimes there was no border between waking and dreams.

He woke up crying in one dream because the boy in his dream was crying. Rafferty watched him climb up and down a ladder outside a ratty-looking building with vines choking its sides. In another dream, the boy called his name, and it was so clear that Rafferty woke up with a start and said, “Here. I’m here.” His voice was raspy and sore in his throat from his crying.

He had a lot of dreams, but they were strange and felt like they belonged to somebody else. He always woke up exhausted, with a pounding headache and he would sleep then without dreaming for awhile.

Out of a dream of drinking from the well behind the dream boy’s grandparents’ house, Rafferty heard the heavy crunch of footsteps and the clatter of gravel against the side of the car.

“Verna!” a hoarse voice shouted, a male voice. “Verna?”

Someone pulled glass out of one of the windows in front.

“Oh, no,” the voice whispered. Then it coughed a couple of times, and gagged.

When the man sat down outside the car and slumped against it, Rafferty listened to everything as though he perched on a tree limb above the whole broken scene.

Rafferty knew this: if he didn’t speak, the man would leave and he would die there. He knew that without knowing much about death except for the brittle creatures that he snatched from the seat-back and stuffed into his mouth. That, and what his senses told him about Verna in the front seat.

He remembered he wanted to say, “Thirsty,” but what his throat managed to hiss out was, “Hungry.” The word sounded like the struggle of dry wings against steel. He repeated it, louder.

“Hungry.”

 You can purchase Bill’s books here:

https://www.amazon.com/

His Facebook link is:

https://sites.google.com/site/billransomauthor/