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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

 What else have you written?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

 Do you create an outline before you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Describe a typical day.

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

Do you have any pet projects?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My biggest peeve is: Dishonest or fake people

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

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

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

 

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think—”

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

“What do you want?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re not at lunch.

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

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

https://cmichellejefferies.wordpress.com

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

‪@cmichellejeffe1

You may purchase Descending here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

Tell us about your writing community.

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

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

Definitely start writing a couple decades earlier!!

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

What makes you laugh?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cal swore under his breath. “Get Raj.”

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

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

A long silence followed. “Copy, Seventeen.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

They would micro-leap again to begin the attack.

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

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

Cal initiated.

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

Cal said, “Fire at will.”

Sasha opened up, and the Gatling cannon rumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KODAK Digital Still Camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

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

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

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

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

Pacific Book Reviews

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

Hollywood Book Reviews

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

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

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

Tell us about your writing community.

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Licensed professional engineer.

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

Changing the past is dangerous.

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

More like words of wisdom. Three things:

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

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

– Surround yourself with people you care about.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: air.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

FAREWELLS

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

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

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

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

Caroline stopped at a nondescript door marked INCINERATOR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bastards were watching.

They should be here. Not me.

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

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

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

But Caroline was not so fortunate.

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

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

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

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

Now she was dead.

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

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

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

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

Evidence. And an insurance policy.

The world had to know what they had done.

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

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

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

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

Almost all evidence.

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

This was a funeral.

And she was the only one who had come.

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

She knew too much.

And those who knew too much became liabilities.

Liabilities, well, they disappeared—like Amy.

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

Their Genesis participant was gone.

The world had to know the truth.

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

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

Social links:

Website:         http://www.DanGrantBooks.com

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

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/DanGrantAuthor

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

 

Book online sales links:

Amazon (print & e-book)

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

Barnes & Noble (print)

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

IndieBound (print)

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

Tattered Cover (print)

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

Kobo (e-book)

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

Smashwords (e-book)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

 What are you working on now?

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

 What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

Why do you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Describe a typical day.

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

From Chapter 4 of A Forgotten Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visitors can follow Larry here:

 Website:        http://www.larryallenonline.com

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

To purchase A Forgotten Legacy, click here:

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

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

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

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

Hunted and desperate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who informed you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In which countries are your books in print?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter One

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

Back then, somebody would’ve waved back.

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

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

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

“Yes, ma’am. Captain, if I could—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can follow Claudia Gray at the following:

Website:         http://www.claudiagray.com

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

Twitter:          @claudiagray

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

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

You can purchase her books here:

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

And he is framed as a terrorist.

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

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

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

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

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

How did the two of you come together?

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

Why do you write?

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

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

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

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

Do you have any pet projects?

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

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

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: books

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

My biggest peeve is: willful ignorance

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

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

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

Albatross Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

Closer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book online sales links:

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

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

Social links:

MacAvoy:       https://ramacavoy.com/

Palmer:          https://nancypalmer.net

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

Twitter:          @moonsownsister

 

 

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

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

The book can best be described this way:

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

Book One of the Fate and Fire Series!

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Describe a typical day.

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

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

What makes you laugh?

Watching baby goat videos.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

My biggest peeve is: Narcissism.

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

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

Scales Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To follow her on her social links:

Website:        www.amitygreen.ink

Twitter:         @amitygreenbooks

Tumblr:         AmityGreen

Pinterest :     AmityWrites

Instagram:   Amity_green

You may purchase Scales here:

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

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

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

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

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

Hell hath no fury as a demon caged . . .

To catch evil, takes evil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

In the Year of Our Lord, 1716
Jamaica

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

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

Holy mother of God . . .

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

No, not a hero.

A pagan god.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As well as their casket.

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

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

Even his own mother, and probably his wife.

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

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

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

 

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

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

Uri describes Noblesse Oblige’s premise as follows:

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

What else have you written?

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

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

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

Describe a typical day.

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

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: cheese!

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What matter?” The Princess asked suspiciously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Readers can follow Uri here:

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

Blog:               http://dndkids.blogspot.com

You can purchase your copy of Noblesse Oblige at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yet …

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

Triploidy, the third installment in the Archon Sequence.

What else have you written?

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

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

Singularity

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes.

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

Why do you write?

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

My wife Kathrin and I are serial wirehaired dachshund adopters.

Do you have any pet projects?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

Prologue: The Tunguska Event, June 20, 1908

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

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

As one is doing now.

* * *

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

But they can, just barely, detect its approach.

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

Trailing a plasma column of cerulean blue, it descends.

* * *

Book online sales links:

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

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

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

Vurdalak:                     http://vurdalak.com/

Website:                      http://billdesmedt.com/