The Write Stuff – Monday, August 1 – Interview With Mercedes M Yardley

An earlier guest, Horror Grand Master Michael R. Collings, introduced me to Bram Stoker award winning author, Mercedes M. Yardley. Her writing displays an interesting mix of timing and suspense. Her prose is crisp, clean and offers tantalizing hints at what is to come pages after. And while each page propels the reader forward, nothing about the writing seems forced. There’s almost a nonchalance in her style that I admire. This is how she describes herself:

image(94)Mercedes M. Yardley is a dark fantasist who wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. She was a contributing editor for Shock Totem and currently works with Gamut, a groundbreaking new neo-noir magazine. Mercedes is the author of many diverse works, including Beautiful Sorrows, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love, Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Tale of Murder and Whimsy, and the Bone Angel Trilogy. She recently won the Bram Stoker Award for her story Little Dead Red. Mercedes lives and works in Las Vegas, and you can reach her at

Tell us about your most recent release.

My most recent release is a novella titled “Little Dead Red.” It’s a modern retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and it’s exceptionally dark. It’s something that could actually happen. It’s about predators and prey, about little girls who are stolen and the guilt and grief of their mothers. I do believe it’s the darkest thing I’ve ever written.

The Wolf is roaming the city in this Bram Stoker award winning tale, and he must be stopped.

Grim Marie knows far too much about the wolves of the world, a world where little girls go missing. After all, she had married one before she/he showed his claws, and what that wolf did to her little girl was unforgiveable. Grim Marie isn’t certain if she can ever forgive herself for putting her Little Aleta in harm’s way.

When Grandmother becomes ill, Aleta offers to take the bus through the concrete forest to Grandmother’s house to bring her some goodies. She knows the way. What could possibly go wrong?

In this modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf takes to the city streets to capture his prey, but the hunter is close behind him. With Grim Marie on the prowl, the hunter becomes the hunted.

Wolves pad through the darkest kind of fairytale: one that can come true.

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

My biggest challenge with LDR was the subject matter. It has to do with sexual abuse and the fallout from that. So not only was I dealing with the loss of a child, but I was dealing with the loss of a broken, abused child. I wanted to treat it as respectfully as I could without shying away from it. It was a balancing act. Too often abuse and the aftermath are used as plot devices without giving the situations any real weight. I wanted to avoid that.

Many choose avoid the tougher elements, but doing so can be interpreted as invalidating the victims’ experiences, be they parent or child. I’m glad you chose not to. Have you written any novels?

I wrote a dark fairytale with a high body count called Pretty Little Dead Girls. It’s very whimsical and dear and quite deadly. It’s my favorite thing I’ve written because it was just so much fun. I also wrote a novella titled Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love. Think streetwise Romeo and Juliet meets Stephen King’s Firestarter. It’s the most explosive love story. My debut novel was an urban fantasy titled Nameless: The Darkness Comes. It’s about a girl who sees demons but everybody simply assumes she’s crazy. It deals with themes of mental illness and suicide while also being snarky and humorous. It’s the first book in the BONE ANGEL trilogy.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

“Little Dead Red” won the Bram Stoker Award in May for long fiction, and that was absolutely thrilling. Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu won the Reddit Stabby Award, which was super cool. The award is a long, medieval type of dagger. Reddit seldom agrees on anything but I was so pleased they agreed on this.

What else are you working on?

Right now I’m finishing up book 2 of the BONE ANGEL trilogy. After that, I dive directly into book 3. I’m also working on three separate novellas, and only one can officially be announced. That novella is titled Skin of the Bear, Bone of the Witch and it goes along with the Heroes of Red Hook anthology which is being put out by Golden Goblin Press. I’m really looking forward to it. I also have six short stories in the works, so I’m staying busy.

Boy! I’ll say. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Writing is very much a part of my everyday schedule, which means that it’s as haphazard as everything else. I wake up, get the kids ready for the day, play with the stray cat outside, and then write for 15 minutes. I clean. I write for 15 minutes. I check emails. I write for 15 minutes. If writing is going well, I’ll reset my alarm and write for another 15 minutes. That seems to be about the time span I get before the kids fall apart/the house starts on fire/my mind wanders/Demogorgons attack. It also helps me focus. If my alarm is set, I know I have a set amount of time to write and I know not to waste it. In fact, I’m doing this interview with the use of a timer. When my 15 minutes is up (I have about 40 seconds left), it’s time to switch laundry and make breakfast for the kiddos.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I sold my first short story for twelve dollars in 2008. I started with short stories instead of novels, and that was a good choice for me. I learned how to query and submit. I learned markets. I learned to follow guidelines, act professional, and clean up my work. After a bit, I joined Shock Totem Magazine, and that was such a valuable experience. Sitting on the other side of the desk helped me thicken my skin and see that rejections weren’t personal. I put out my first collection of short stories, and then a novella. Then suddenly two novels back-to-back, which I wouldn’t suggest. It’s important to give yourself time between each release to breathe. I was exhausted by promotion and it affected my writing. I eventually left my publishing company and joined another company that was a better fit. I signed a five book contract with them, and I have two books left to complete my contract. I couldn’t be happier. Things have changed so much in eight years!

Why do you write?

I write because I don’t have a choice. I tried to not write, and it withered my soul. Writing is how I process things. It’s thinking with my fingers. As a person, I tend to be quite scattered and distracted. It’s like chasing a roomful of light. Writing helps me condense and define everything around me so I can experience it better.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve learned how to get out of my own way. That’s my evolution.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

My home life is insane. There are five of us in a teeny, tiny house. We have backyard chickens. We have two rabbits. We have a turtle that violently hates all humankind. We now have a gorgeous stray cat who would live inside our home if my husband wasn’t deathly allergic. My home is full of movement and laughter and frustration and love. There are always toys out. There’s always something delicious baking in the oven. I think it’s a happy place.

What motivates or inspires you?

I’m inspired by hope. I see the one dandelion struggling to push itself through the cracks in the concrete and I identify with it. I see people with nothing left in their souls or gas tanks, but they manage to put one foot in front of the other. They even manage to make beautiful things. It makes me want to grab their hand and walk with them. We’ll keep each other moving. There will be something stunning and worthwhile at the end of the journey.

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

You just do it. You just stare at the ground and keep going. My mother told me once that our family isn’t smart enough to know when to fall to the ground and give up. We keep getting up and taking that beating. I think it’s one of our best traits.

What has been your greatest success in life?

My children are kind. They impact the world in a positive way. I couldn’t ask for more success than that.

Before I give you a peek at “Little Dead Red,” Meredith has consented to finishing our interview with a Lightning Round, just for fun.

 My best friend would tell you I’m a …


The one thing I cannot do without is:

Coke Zero.

The one thing I would change about my life:

Eliminate depression.

My biggest peeve is:

Use of the word “retard.”

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

David Bowie. Mmm.

Mercedes, I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am that you joined us. After the prologue from “Little Dead Red,” which follows immediately, those of you who’d like to learn more about this wonderful author, or purchase her books, can do so with the links at the bottom of this post.


12304491_10154323484953356_8963194180658884448_oLittle Dead Red


            Once upon a time, long long ago, somewhere before her second divorce, Marie had smiled. She had simply been Marie then, and occasionally even Happy Marie, and that was a kind and gracious thing. Marie knew of the dangers of the world, but Marie also knew of love and laughter. Marie knew of her tiny little girl, Aleta, who used to hop around on one foot to see if she could keep her balance, and stuck her naughty fingers into Marie’s jam, and would ask for a bedtime story even when it was nowhere near bedtime.

“It doesn’t have to be a bedtime story, dear,” Marie would say, and her eyes would twinkle. Smiling Marie. Happy Marie. “A story told at any other time is simply a story.”

Aleta, who had dark eyes like her mother, and dark hair like her mother, and it refused to be tamed and combed, also like her mother’s, would say, “But bedtime stories are the best. Won’t you please tell me one, Mama?”

Marie often had things to do. There were dishes to be put away and dinner to be cooked and text messages to send to her husband, who seldom came home anymore. There were bags to be packed and an escape to be planned, but this made her smile, too. In fact, it made her nearly happier than anything else ever had, except for her sweet daughter.

“Of course we’ll read. Which one would you like?”

Aleta usually wanted stories about brave soldiers and clever girls and terrible, terrible monsters. Marie made her voice deep and heavy for the monsters, scary and dark, and Aleta snuggled next to her in horrified delight.

“I’m going to EAT YOU,” she cried as a troll or a wizard or a wolf.

“Don’t eat me all up!” Aleta would shriek.

“Yes, I’m going to eat you all up!” Marie would scream, and then she’d chase her daughter around the house, kicking over her husband’s ash trays and piles of unpaid bills and pieces of her broken dreams. Then they tumbled to the floor together and Happy Marie would smile and whisper that good always won, and clever children outwitted monsters and witches, and she would never, ever, ever let Aleta be eaten all up.

Until, of course, the day Marie discovered monsters were not only real, but had been feeding on her little Aleta without her knowing. Aleta had been eaten all up, for years now, and Marie was never Happy Marie again.






Book buy link:


The Write Stuff – Monday, July 4 – Interview With Jody Lynn Nye

Jody Nye Head ShotIt seems that the list of quality sci-fi and fantasy authors is endless and I know I can never read all of them, but when a name starts cropping up at every turn, it eventually grabs my attention and makes me take a more serious look. That’s how I discovered this week’s guest, Jody Lynn Nye. Not only is Jody one of the marvelous authors WordFire Press publishes, but because of the genre I read, Amazon keeps recommending her. Lacking the time to actually pore through a book, I downloaded an audio copy of Advanced Mythology and found myself caught up in the story almost at once. What’s more, since many of the authors I know speak highly about Jody as a person, I was especially glad when she consented to an interview. We’ll begin by getting to know her. Then, at the end, we’ll take a peek at two of her works.

Before breaking away from gainful employment to write full time, Jody worked as a file clerk, book-keeper at a small publishing house, freelance journalist and photographer, accounting assistant and costume maker. For four years, she was on the technical operations staff of a local Chicago television station, WFBN (WGBO), serving the last year as Technical Operations Manager.

Since 1987 she has published over 45 books, some in collaboration with top talents in science fiction, including Robert Asprin, Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and John Ringo. She has also published more than 150 short stories, many with a humorous bent. Since Asprin’s passing, she has continued two of his series, Dragons and the Myth-Adventures. Her newest series is the Lord Thomas Kinago books (Baen Books), humorous SF space opera. The most recent is Rhythm of the Imperium.

Over the last twenty or so years, Jody has taught in numerous writing workshops and participated on hundreds of panels covering the subjects of writing and being published at science-fiction conventions. She has also spoken in schools and libraries around the north and northwest suburbs. In 2007 she taught fantasy writing at Columbia College Chicago. She also runs the two-day writers workshop at DragonCon, an annual convention held every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. She and her husband, Bill Fawcett, are the fiction reviewers for Galaxy’s Edge Magazine.

I really enjoyed Advanced Mythology. What inspired you to write about computer-literate elves attending a modern day university?

Adv MythIt came from an instance at my university library. In the carrels in the stacks, you could hear whispering voices even when the levels were empty, in the late hours of the evening. I know that they came from the librarians talking near one of the intakes for the air ducts, but it was such a mysterious sound. With writers, all manner of curiosities become “What ifs?” The whispers made me think, “What if someone was living in the basement of the library?” Then I wondered who it could be, what were they doing there, and why didn’t anyone else know about them? Since my mind often turns to fantasy, the source of the whispers became little people, and they live in a library because they prize literacy and culture, and the building is very much underused and underpopulated even during the busiest study seasons. It wouldn’t be that difficult for them to take over a section that had fallen out of memory and set up a home.

It is a joy to find a book about elves and magic interwoven with so much of the real world. You appear to have an insider’s knowledge of the workings of an advertising agency and are obviously well-versed in computer technology. You also are somewhat acquainted with the philosophers Nietzsche, Hegel, Aristotle and Socrates. That’s an interesting combination. Would you care to fill us in on your background?

I love learning, books, and libraries. I read endlessly. I enjoyed the philosophy courses I took in college, but I’ve always been an autodidact. If a subject interests me, I’ll research it. I also pick up bits and pieces of information like an intellectual magpie. My collection is eclectic. I ask questions of people with interesting jobs and hobbies. You never know when a fact or an experience will come in handy. Really, everything will be of use sooner or later.

As for the advertising agency, I took an advertising course in college, and my mother had a close friend who worked for one of the major agencies. When I needed to know the ins and outs of how one operated, I reached out to her. She put me in touch with a friend at an agency, who let me hang around for a few days. Several of the people in Advanced Mythology are real employees of that agency. The same goes for computer technology. I know a little, but I also know friends who design computers and computer games, repair or build computers, and toy around with technology in all forms. If I don’t know something, I ask. I don’t mind saying that I don’t know something.

How much of your experience with the gaming company your husband, Bill Fawcett, owned comes into play?

Plenty. I saw the way the Mayfair employees interacted, how they begin the design of a new game, how they work out the rules and interactive gameplay until they have a winning product, how they support a product line, how they interact with customers and players. I wrote role-play game materials for Mayfair in the mid-80s. My experience with game mechanics led to me being chosen as a writer of Pern and Xanth game fiction on the Crossroads choose-your-own-adventure project that Bill brought to TOR Books. I had the fun of explaining to Anne McCaffrey how a probability tree worked, and giving her a short but humorous mini-adventure using one of her characters to illustrate. She loved it.

What spawned the name Uhuru Enterprises? (For those who haven’t yet read Advanced Mythology, this is the name of a business in the book.) This isn’t the Star Trek spelling, but rather the Swahili one. Does it have something to do with Keith’s roommate, Doug’s, African heritage?

“Uhuru” means peace in Swahili. Yes, Doug’s heritage was the reason that they (or rather, I) chose the word. It’s also one that a reader might have encountered before, and if they haven’t, they should have.

Advanced Mythology is a fun book for the reader, but I’m wondering what about it makes you want to get up each day and add to the story? In other words—I know the things that drive me to write—what’s in it for you as an author?

Stories tend to kick me out of bed in the morning. If I wake up thinking about the plot and where I have to go from where I left off, I know it’s working. When I’m deep into a book, I really don’t stop. I just sleep long enough for the toxins to leach out, then get up and go back to it. I love the way it feels when a story is going together well. I would (and do) write even when a story is not yet commissioned because I have to. The plots are too compelling not to get down on paper, or in a computer file. I have a note app on my iPhone where I type in ideas that come to me late at night and a recording app that I can speak into if I get ideas in the car. Writers have to write. I’ll always have more ideas than I will have time to write, and more written work than I’ll ever have time to publish.

I also love my characters. Keith Doyle is an immensely positive person. He is outgoing in a way I wish I was. He loves to get involved in a project, and he cares deeply for people. He’s braver than he thinks he is, and more talented in magic than he ever dreamed. Shona Taylor (Taylor’s Ark series, soon to be reissued by WordFire Press) is resilient and intelligent, good at her job, deeply in love with her husband, loyal to her friends, and curious about what’s out there in the universe. Lord Thomas Kinago (the Imperium series published by Baen Books) is absurdly overprivileged, but he has a good heart and is eager to take his friends and relatives along for the ride on each new adventure. I love world-building. I do just marginally less work on creating my characters’ environments for a short story as I do for a novel. I find myself thinking what other stories could be taking place in those universes, away from my main story lines.

MythFits_coverMyth-Fits, the latest in the series your friend, the late Robert Asprin began, just came out and it’s already earning five star reviews. How many more have you planned? And for your impatient readers, when is the next likely to appear?

I’m very happy with the response Myth-Fits is getting. I could tell by the faces of the people coming by the WordFire Press table at Phoenix Comic Con at the beginning of June that they remembered the series with great affection. I’ve been told so many times that the Myth-Adventures books came along when people needed them. They’re so positive and funny that they take the sting out of bad times. I’ve always said I intend to be the anodyne to the evening news. My own work also tends to be on the humorous side. There will always be books of Significance and Angst in plenty, but they aren’t the ones a reader turns to when they’re feeling down. There’s a saying that if the book you want to read doesn’t exist, maybe you had better write it yourself. I’m doing that. At the moment, I don’t know when more Myth will appear. I’ve got two plotted out ready to go, as well as another in Bob’s Dragons series that has also been left in my care. (And, sorry, Phule-fans, there are no more Phule’s Company books planned at this time.)

Have you found it difficult to work on such a long-established series?

Not really. I was a fan of the books long before I met Bob. He was one of my husband’s best friends, and became one of mine long before we thought of working together. I respect the series, and I adore the characters. Bob’s world-building for the first book in the series, Another Fine Myth, was so comprehensive that neither of us have ever fully plumbed its depths. At the head of chapters in which Skeeve is present (a bit of trivia) are quotes that purport to be by famous people. The characters are all “demons,” which is just short for “dimensional travelers.” The magik system is well-thought out, relying upon force lines in each of the dimensions. Where force lines are scant or absent, the denizens rely upon technology instead. Aahz’s dimension, Perv, has a reputation for questionable behavior and bad tempered inhabitants. It’s also one of the few that use both magic and technology. Even after having written several books in the series, I enjoy rereading the earlier ones. The stories are episodic in that what has come before does affect the subsequent tales, but the gang returns, like Sherlock Holmes to Baker Street, to its intradimensional tent in the Bazaar at Deva (where Deveels come from, you know). What Myth fans respond to is the humor, the painful puns, and the unbreakable friendship between the characters.

Myth-Fits is the 20th novel and 21st book in the Myth-Adventures series. In it, Skeeve, Aahz and the others are on a mission to retrieve a mystical object called the Loving Cup from a fabulous resort dimension called Winslow (the name is not a reference to the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy,” but to the stuffed toy dinosaur that belongs to the artist most associated with the Myth-Adventures, Phil Foglio). The job is not as easy as they were told, and other magicians seem to be on the cup’s trail. I also bring in the conclusion to an ongoing story arc that has been building for several books.

What else is on the horizon?

I’m working on a new SF series. It’s still very much in the planning stages, so I won’t go into too much detail now. Alongside that, I’m working on a YA science fiction series with Travis S. Taylor. We just turned in the first one to Baen Books. I’m having fun working with Travis. Both of us have done numerous solo books and collaborations with other people, but we’ve never had a chance to work together or to write YA before. I’m also hoping to go back and add to some of my other series, in all my copious spare time.

Would you care to share a bit about your “other” life?

My husband and I just celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. We have a cat and many nephews, nieces, godchildren and unofficial godchildren whom we like to spoil. We enjoy travel, good food, SF movies and television, and both of us read endlessly. Our house is furnished in Early Book. Every room but the laundry room has bookshelves or magazine holders at hand. I’m a keen cook and baker. I make specialty cakes, and I tend to cater my book signings and writing workshops with lots of homemade goodies. Some of my other hobbies are calligraphy and illumination, photography, medieval and Renaissance history, beginning knitting, intermediate crochet, freelance research, and nipping in and out of social media. I thought I’d hate Facebook, but it’s like a back fence to lean over in the morning to share a cup of gossip with a friend.

For readers who are wishing to obtain autographed copies, or who would simply like to exchange a few words, what Cons or other events are on your agenda over the months ahead?

I keep a calendar on my website, I’m on Facebook as Jody Lynn Nye, and tweet @JodyLynnNye. Here are my scheduled events before the end of the year:

LibertyCon 29, July 7-9, 2016

Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel, Past GoH

Chattanooga, TN

For more information, visit the website at

Gen-Con Writer’s Symposium, August 4-7, 2016

Indiana Convention Center

100 S. Capitol Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46225

For more information, visit the website at

DragonCon, September 2-5, 2016

(Also DragonCon Writers Workshop, Sept. 1 &2)

Peachtree Hyatt

Atlanta, GA

For more information, visit the website at DragonCon

New York Comic Con, Oct 6-9, 2016

Javits Center, WordFire Press booth

New York, NY

For more information, visit the website at

ConStellation 34, Oct 14-16, 2016, Guest of Honor

Four Points by Sheraton

Huntsville, AL

For more information, visit the website at

WindyCon, Nov 11-13, 2016

Westin Lombard

Lombard, IL

For more information, visit the website at

Thank you so much for sharing your time with us! What follows are brief blurbs and samplings from Advanced Mythology and Myth Fits, after which are Jody’s social media and book buy links.

Advanced Mythology:

Keith Doyle has made it to graduate school! In between classes and hanging out with his magical friends, the Little Folk, he has a new job as a copywriter for PDQ advertising agency, working on a campaign for a revolutionary electronic device. His plans for the party to end all parties on Hollow Tree Farm are coming along nicely. Things are not so rosy for the Little Folk. They’re being haunted not only by malevolent spirits passing through their cellar, but a Big Person who has discovered Keith’s supposedly well-camouflaged invitation to all creatures magical. Keith finds himself in danger trying to keep out of the hands of the industrial spy to protect not only the trade secrets of his client’s firm, but his friends and their home. Can Keith’s ingenuity and his limited magic keep the elves from being revealed to the world? Will the party ever take place? Will Keith ever get his hands on one of those wonderful devices?


“Hello?” Keith called as he walked down the cellar steps. “Come out. I won’t hurt you.”

He heard a rustling, then realized it was footsteps coming from upstairs. Half a dozen people saw him go into the basement. Most likely a sizeable group was gathering, wondering if he was going to be walking back up there under his own power. Of course he was, Keith thought firmly.

The small windows high in the wall between the lanterns were dark. Sunset was long past. Keith should have felt tired. Instead, he experienced a rush of energy brought on by the possibility of experiencing something new. Human nature was a funny thing, Keith thought. He was likely to get thoroughly roughed up, even killed, but his steps were light. … Keith preferred his chances with something out of the unseen world…. Keith felt his way along the walls, sensing the spell that protected the house. It was a version of the charm that ran all the way around the property: more thorough but less powerful, and smooth as plastic under his fingertips. Not completely; he sensed rather than felt jangling edges where the charm had been disrupted. An answering tingle ran down his spine. It had broken through again. Was it here now?

The sound of crackling answered him. He suddenly realized that he was casting a deep shadow that danced against a wall suddenly lit in orange. His spine still tingled, but it was growing very warm, too. Slowly, Keith turned around. Hovering in the air at eye level was a ball of fire about the size of a cat. It had small black eyes that glared unblinkingly at him.

“Hi. I’m a friend of the owners. Who are you?”

Wham! An invisible cannonball hit him in the stomach, propelling him the short distance to the wall. Another knot of force met him there, and sent him sprawling across the room.

“Hey, wait, I’m friendly!” Keith protested, picking himself up. The poltergeist, or whatever it was, had uncoiled like a snake, and was swimming toward him in the air. He threw up his hands to protect himself. Quick as lightning, the streak of fire was behind him. Another kick sent him back the other way. He rolled to a halt against the wall under the stairs. Reaching up, he grabbed hold of the newel post and wrapped his arms around it. The next kick hurt, but he managed to hold on. “Stop! Why are you doing this? Look, my friends are nice people. You’re scaring them. They haven’t done anything wrong. All they want to do is live here. Look!”

He hooked one elbow in between the treads of the staircase. With one hand he started drawing illusions. Enoch might have taken off points for technique, but under the circumstances his images were pretty good. First he showed the village the way he remembered it first: everybody sitting down to dinner in the basement of the library. …Then, he created a really detailed image of the farmhouse sitting on its hilltop, surrounded by a glow. The elves, looking much happier, started farming and gardening and building little houses. The fire creature didn’t let up. Once it discovered it couldn’t throw him around anymore, it started ramming him with its nose, burning his shirt and pants in patches the size of Keith’s fist. … Keith ducked, covering his face with both arms, but he didn’t let the image die.

“Wait, you’ve got to see more! This place is very important to them. They’re really nice to be around.” The one thing he vowed not to do was hit back. He had an idea that that was what got Holl and the others in trouble with the creature in the first place. No matter what it did to him, he’d respond with more information. It was his only chance to break through. If this didn’t work, the elves would have to keep from doing magic here forever. Keith was determined to make peace. “See? The Master is my teacher. He’s great. He’s taught Big People as well as little people.” He showed the Elf Master with the mixed class on Sundays, showing many of the students who had passed under his hands: Lee, Teri, Dunn, even Karl Mueller, who’d turned out to be a rat, and told the monster what they’d been able to accomplish because of their education. “Lee’s a newspaper writer now. Teri designs clothes—oof!” Keith didn’t dodge fast enough to miss the next pass. The snakelike tail whipped him in the cheek.

“Hey!” he exclaimed. “That hurt! You’re not listening to me!”

…Wherever the little monster shot off to in the room, Keith had a picture waiting there for it: Enoch carving lantern screens, Dola babysitting Asrai, Keva kneading bread. Each showed one or more of the elves engaged in a peaceful, productive occupation.

… Keith had to jerk his head back to avoid being smacked in the face by a wave of fire. It threatened to pin him against the wall. He wiggled out from behind it, only to be met by another wave. He ran across the cellar, meaning to take shelter among the barrels, and plunged directly through another that sprang up in the center of the room. It shed little heat. The creature meant to scare him, not hurt him.

“Oh, so you’re not so bad after all,” Keith said. “But I’m not budging.”

He kept up the picture show, making visuals out of vivid memories. He had to grin at the recollection of Enoch trying to parallel park his car, his head barely showing over the edge of the steering wheel, concentration written all over his dour face. A powerful blow in the chest knocked Keith over backward. He found himself on the floor, looking up into the bright black eyes.

“Hi,” Keith said. “Forget it. I’m not going anywhere. You might kill me, but you won’t outwait me.” He squeezed his eyes shut as the flames came closer and closer to his face.

“Not the ssssame,” came a sibilant voice from inside the flames.

Keith’s eyes flew open. It could talk! “As who? Not the same as who?”

Instead of answering, part of the creature seemed to dissolve into a haze as the rest of it gathered in a loop. Within the confines of the circle, a picture formed in flame. Keith recognized the elves, faces drawn in hair-thin lines of fire. “They fight and flee. You sssstay. Ssssuperior.”

“Me? Superior? Compared with them?” Keith asked, getting used to the hissing voice. “No way. I’m just more stubborn.”


Business is slow for M.Y.T.H., Inc., and its president, Bunny, is getting nervous that the company might not meet its quarterly goal. So when a job comes in that’s worth an absurd amount of gold—and also happens to take them to Winslow, the most luxurious vacation resort in any dimension—the team jumps at the opportunity to recoup some cash and maybe catch some R&R.

Only, magician Skeeve has an unsettling feeling that this mission might be trickier than it seems. Someone in Winslow is messing with the magic lines and working hard to ensure that the M.Y.T.H. crew gets nowhere near the powerful relic that they’ve been hired to find. And as the mysterious manipulation turns deadly, Skeeve, Bunny, Aahz, and the rest of their partners find themselves in a race not only to finish the job but also to escape paradise alive…


A cheerful female in white shorts and a bandanna top rushed over to me and handed me a parchment scroll.

“What’s all this?” I asked her.

“It’s simple. Find all the items on this list by midnight tonight and win a prize!”

“Big deal,” Aahz said, holding up his hand and beckoning. A waiter appeared out of thin air and presented him with a bucket-sized goblet sloshing with beer. He glugged down half the brew, and let out a sigh of pleasure. “What do we get? A t-shirt? No, thanks.””

“No, sir!” Campfya said. “Winslow only offers attractive prizes to our honored guests! One hundred gold pieces!

Bunny’s big blue eyes shone. “A hundred gold pieces?”

“Yes, Miss Bunny!”…

“We’re overqualified,” Aahz said, with a yawn. He handed the empty pail to the server, who promptly vanished. “But it might be entertaining to shellac the competition while we’re waiting for the cup to turn up.”

“So you will enter?” Servis asked. His face creased in a delighted smile.

“Yeah, why not?” Aahz said. “What are we looking for?”

Campfya handed us a blue-tinted parchment and a large white sack. I unrolled the scroll and read down the list.

A handful of Troll fur

A Deveel’s hoofprint

A Klahdish expression

Two ounces of pink sand

A blank look

Some blue air

A pair of dice

Dragon breath

I skimmed down. I wasn’t sure what a few of the items were, but I was sure the others would know. Then I read the final entry:

The Loving Cup

“What?” I demanded. I pointed to the final item. “Why is this on the list? It’s one of a kind. That’s supposed to be ours! We’re waiting for it to be delivered.”

Servis looked at the list. His kindly brows drew down.

“Oh, my. That wasn’t on the original list. There should be only twenty items. I have it here.” He reached into the air and pulled a purple-rimmed scroll out of nothingness. “You see? – Oh, my courteous aunt, it is there! That’s not right!”

“How many groups are on this scavenger hunt?” I asked.

“About a hundred and fifty,” Servis said. He looked worried, but no more worried than I felt. “Someone has tampered with the list!”

“But who?” I asked.

“Your girlfriend,” Markie said, in a flat voice.

“She’s not my girlfriend!” I exclaimed. But the expressions on my friends’ faces told me they didn’t believe me. …

“Who wants to hold the bag?” Aahz asked.

“I will,” Bunny said at once. “We ought to divide up the list.”

“In a minute. First, number one,” Tananda said. She beckoned to Chumley to hold up his arm. The big Troll cringed.

“But, Little Sis, it hurts when you do that!”

“I’ll try to keep it painless,” she said. Chumley held still with admirable patience while his sister plucked a sizeable pinch of fur from the back of his arm and placed it in the bag. A check mark appeared beside the first entry on the scroll.

“Another easy one,” Aahz said. “Dragon breath. I can’t believe they want a dose of halitosis. They must mean fire.”

“But Gleep’s fire will just burn the bag up,” I pointed out.

“Gleep!” my dragon agreed.

“Piece of cake,” Aahz said, with an expansive sweep of his hand. “Remember when I taught you to levitate? Same thing.”

I frowned. “How could it be the same thing?”

“To lift yourself off the ground, you use magik to push against it. The same principle applies here. Take some magik out of the force line. Picture it forming a globe with one arc still open. Like a hollow ball with a hole in it. Imagine all the force pushing inward. Got it?”

“I think so,” I said.

It was easy enough to pick up a small quantity of magik from the wavy blue force line that ran beneath our feet. In my mind, I shaped it as Aahz directed. It formed a bubble about the size of my fist, pale green in color, right in front of my stomach. I nodded.

“Good,” Aahz said. “Show me where it is.”

I held my hands on either side of the globe.

Aahz turned to Gleep.

“Can you breathe into that?” he asked. “Without causing a massive house fire or giving Skeeve a hotfoot?”

“Gleep!” my dragon protested, hurt in his large blue eyes. But he flared his nostrils and took a deep breath.

I turned my face to one side as Gleep exhaled a narrow stream of bright golden fire directly toward me. The heat was unbelievable, but to my delight and amazement the force bubble absorbed it all.

“Close it, kid!” Aahz bellowed. I turned back to look. The lance of dragon breath bounded around inside the globe, trying to find a way out. A tongue of flame licked out of the one place on the bubble that faced my dragon. Swiftly, I pinched the opening shut. The fire kept ricocheting around, drawing patterns of red light against the magikal surface.

“That’s one neat piece of magik!” I said, turning the small orb over and over. “Thanks, Aahz!”

“It’s nothing special,” Aahz said, with a shrug. “Just doing my job as an instructor. Looks like you still need continuing education, if you never worked out that you can use magik to press against other substances or itself for other purposes on your own.”

My face grew as hot as the bubble.

“Maybe if you explained that in the first place, I would have known it!”

“Some people figure it out without being told! I didn’t realize your aptitude was so low you never tried to experiment!”

“You always stressed how dangerous it was!”

“You won’t know how to minimize the danger if you don’t try!”

“Boys, boys,” Tananda said, putting a hand in each of our chests and shoving us away from one another. “Let’s get a move on. There are a lot of things to find!”

“What about a Klahdish expression?” I asked. “What does that mean?”

Aahz shrugged. “Same thing as a blank look, is my guess.”

“What?” I asked. Suddenly, a pink haze covered my face. It moved outward and shrank to an oval the size of my hand. In it, I could see my own reflection. My mouth was open and my brows were high up. Two check marks appeared on the list.

“Perfect,” Markie said, gleefully. “Just don’t let anybody else get you to make that face, and we’re ahead of the game. And don’t let your dragon breathe fire anywhere else, no matter what.”

Book online sales links:

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Twitter: @JodyLynnNye



The Write Stuff – Monday, June 20 – Interview With Ken Scholes

I couldn’t be happier than I am to feature this week’s guest, Ken Scholes. I had been trying to corral Ken for two or three months, but several events got in the way and many of the questions I had prepared for him were based on flat-out misconceptions. In order to get around these issues and present something both cogent and revealing, we arranged to get better acquainted over lunch at a restaurant near his home. As a result, much of what follows after his bio reads like the recorded conversation it actually was.

Ken Aug 2014For those who don’t know him, Ken is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed author of five novels and three short story collections. His work has appeared in print for over fifteen years. His eclectic background includes time spent as a label gun repairman, a sailor who never sailed, a soldier who commanded a desk, a preacher (he got better), a nonprofit executive, a musician and a government procurement analyst.  He has a degree in History from Western Washington University. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Ken makes his home in Saint Helens, Oregon, where he lives with his twin daughters and plays gigs at his local Village Inn Lounge. You can learn more about him by visiting

Although he’d been turning out stories for many years prior, 2009 was when the publishing world stood up and took notice. His debut novel, Lamentation, earned high praise—“Ken Scholes mixes wildly beautiful imagery with the sharply visceral; the profoundly mythic with the profanely human. These keenly observed stories of faith, love, and loss will resonate in your bones.”  ~ Tina Connolly—as have his subsequent books. Followers of The Psalms of Isaak series that Lamentation began, may feel sorrow when the saga concludes sometime in 2017 with the release of volume number five, entitled Hymn, but also joy over its completion. Until then, his readers will have to content themselves with Ken’s short stories… an entirely pleasurable task, to be sure. At the interview’s end, we will take a look at part of that collection.

Several obstacles kept us from getting this interview out of the blocks as soon as we had intended. Most recently, you were out of town at the end of May. As I understand it, you were teaching a class.

I was at MisCon in Missoula, which is a science fiction and fantasy convention that runs every Memorial Day weekend from Friday through Monday early afternoon. It’s much like OryCon or the others here locally, but what I like about it is that it’s small and intimate and a lot of fun. Kevin J. Anderson was there along with Jim Butcher. Pat Rothfuss made an appearance. J. A. Pitts was there, as well as Peter Orullian and Rhiannon Held. It’s just a nice gathering of science fiction and fantasy writers. There were a ton of us. While I was in town, I did my Muse Management and Production in the Story Factory Workshop the day before the con started, so I offered a Con discount and I think maybe a dozen to fifteen people spent the day with me learning to write short stories.

You’ve told me you intend to write a book dealing with PTSD. That’s quite a departure from your usual fare. Would you care to tell us what inspired it?

I’ve had complex PTSD since early childhood. We factor probably age two is when it was fully in place for me. So it’s been a lifelong struggle that I wasn’t necessarily aware of having until my kids were born and my parents died all in a mad rush over about fifteen… eighteen months of my life in my early forties. Ultimately out of that experience, not only did I try out a bunch of other things for PTSD like medication, EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy, I also discovered Dr. Eugene Lipov’s use of the stellate ganglion block—a nerve block for pain—and its effect on PTSD by rebooting the amygdala and turning off the panic signal. So I go into Chicago as needed for an injection to the C3 ganglia nerve cluster. It’s a normal pain treatment. It’s used in pain centers all around the country. It’s just not been authorized for PTSD yet by the FDA.

And what do you intend to include in the book itself?

In the book, I’ll be talking about my experience with Lipov’s work on the stellate ganglion block. I’ll be talking about my other experiences around PTSD: tips and tricks for living with PTSD, staying the course when it comes to finding the best path for treatment of PTSD, but certainly advocating at this point—because I’ve now been in remission for close to eighteen months—advocating that the people look to what he’s doing as a first line. There’s nothing invasive, other than an injection. There’s no ongoing medication. It’s a shot of anesthetic that shuts down the PTSD.

You’re involved in a lot of social issues and you’re now planning on using your kick starter books to address them. Do you want to tell us something about the book or books in that series and what you hope to accomplish in the near future?

Sure. I’ve been doing a lot of thought on how to expand my life in the direction that it needs to go in, now that I’m divorced and don’t have that second income supporting this writer. So one of the ventures I’m looking at is beefing up my indie pubbing presence. And in the midst of thinking about all of that, I suddenly realized that there really doesn’t appear to be an e-book publisher out there with a specific focus just on doing good: a social justice approach to publishing. For instance, I’ve had Walking Bear Media as a DBA for several years and have done very little with it, other than a few indie pubbed collections. And now I am looking at a team of writers coming together, both allies and transgender people, to address the bathroom laws issues that are cropping up in North Carolina and other parts of the country. So I am looking at a model, now, where a group of authors or creatives would come together to donate various bits of their art, whether it’s essays, blog posts, short stories they’ve already sold. I wouldn’t be looking for any real fresh material, other than maybe supporting essays. But primarily, I’d be looking for folks of passion who care about a cause, willing to offer up something that’s a reprint. Put it all together along with a plan for what they want to do that’s good out of the proceeds of that anthology, and then leverage a $2.99 book through Amazon’s Kindle, so that at a dollar fifty of that’s going back in. If you are familiar with the Amazon model, you get about two dollars back on a $2.99 book. So having three quarters of that go directly to whatever cause they’re wanting to work on seems like a good starting place. I’m hoping to do a few of those. We’ll start with the transgender bathroom laws anthology, and then we’ll see what we can do in the quarters ahead.

Can you talk a little bit about the METAtropolis book that you wrote with Jay Lake and maybe discuss a little bit about his passing?

The Wings We Dare AspireJay was involved with the initial METAtropolis, which was the brainchild of John Scalzi and Steve Feldberg over at Audible and they invited Jay along with a group of other writers. And then John Scalzi bowed out for various reasons and Jay took on editing that project for the second version which was METAtropolis Cascadia. At that point, he invited me in, along with a couple of other writers. And when I did that, I thought that it would be fun for Jay and I to connect our stories together, since we were best pals and we lived in within close vicinity of each other. So, he and I both worked off of each other. And he and I used the character and the setting from his first METAtropolis story, which I think was called “In the Gardens of the Night,” that dealt with a character named Tygre Tygre and a security officer named Bashar. I took that story and expanded it and set it later. I dropped in new characters, mixed with the Bashar character, to write the novella “A Symmetry of Serpents and Doves.” He then took the world that he had created in that first novella and did a story interconnecting with mine called “The Ball Dancers.” He put his at the beginning of the anthology and mine at the end of the anthology, and it did well. The anthology had an all-Star-Trek cast with various stories—mine, his, Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Karl Schroeder, Tobias Buckell and I think Elizabeth Bear. I can be missing some names. But anyway, the second one went on to win an Audie Award.

And then for the third one, because Jay’s health was declining, he asked me if I would co-edit it with him. So we did METAtropolis Green Space together. And, out of that, we decided that, because we had so much fun at the last round, we would tighten the stories up even more so. And so this time around, he wrote the first novelette which was called “Rock of Ages.” And then, I took his novelette and added to it, creating a second novelette that basically stood alone, but finished out his story, and called it “Let Me Hide Myself in Thee,” referencing back to the old hymn, “Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee,” also bringing in the same characters.

So we had five novelettes and novellas set in the same universe, using the same characters, but we had not been able to find a print market for the entire METAtropolis Cascadia or Green Space projects. So volumes two and three lived on in audio, but nobody wanted to do a print version of these books. Then, Jay and I packaged it together with the five pieces, each written under our own individual names—three by him, two by me—and Kevin J. Anderson picked it up at WordFire. We were really fortunate in that we wanted to get this done and into Jay’s hands before cancer got him. And we managed, I think, by about two weeks. We put a copy of the book into his hands and two weeks later he was gone. It’s our first and only book together and I’m proud of it. Oddly enough, it’s not sold really well, but I’m hoping that it will pick up some steam as people start to hear more about it.

You recently finished the first draft of Hymn, the fifth and final volume of The Psalms of Isaak series. The series has taken several years to complete. Will you tell us about your journey?

I started the Psalms of Isaac with a short story that I wrote in 2005, and that short story evolved into the novel, Lamentation, which I wrote in 2006 over a mad rush of about six and a half weeks on a dare from Jay Lake and my wife at the time. It came together fast and everybody loved it instantly. It went out and landed the first agent that touched it. It went out and landed the first publisher that touched it. The publisher, Tor, loved the book so much that Tom Doherty said, “Hey, get all five of these.” I was about halfway into the second book when all of this happened. I came home from that experience and my mother died within just a few weeks of coming home from this whirlwind Cinderella trip to New York. So, we instantly were challenged around productivity and I found myself writing through major losses all the way up until this book, Hymn, the last book in the series. My mom died halfway into Canticle. I finished Canticle, and my nephew died while I was starting the revision process of the second book. I was halfway into the third book, Antiphon, when my father died. I was at the tail end, as I remember, as I typed the last sentences of Antiphon, while Jen and the girls were in the hospital right after they were born. I managed to get Antiphon done and then, at that point, I did not come around to finishing Requiem until 2012. That was a long, long gap. And, of course, that was during the time that I was dealing with PTSD at its worst. It was 2011 that I first discovered the block and I went off to Chicago to experience Lipov’s magic cure, so to speak. It’s great having a mad scientist in your pocket.

Of course, sales suffered as a result of Hymn not being written and Requiem not being written and turned in on time. But at the same time, I had such a splash front end, with world rights and foreign publications, that we were able to earn out my advance rather quickly. I had an advance against all five books and we had earned that out by the time the second book was in paperback. So we did well in that regard. However, it’s still not been a big money maker and sales have gone down with each book. My tardiness on the books has not helped that process at all, but the hope is that now it’s done—it’s ten years of my life that I’ve poured into this by group of people, these characters, the problems they’re solving—now that it’s a complete package, Tor can push it, I can push it. Now that it’s finished, more people may be inclined to pick up and start a new series.

Thank you so much for giving us all a glimpse into the often not-so-simple life of a writer. I, for one, am glad I persisted and cornered you.

For our visitors, here is an introductory blurb, followed by a very short story from Ken’s most recent work:

Blue Yonders CoverScholes’s third Imagination Forest collection which he released in August of 2015 (after Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars, and Other Unusual Suspects) continues exploring the limits of speculative fiction in seventeen short stories whose genres include playful fantasy and SF as well as edge-of-your-seat suspense. Scholes revels in the offbeat and surreal, marrying otherworldliness with very real human fears and concerns, and his stories are all the richer for it. Curious characters abound, including “The Starship Mechanic,” about an alien mechanic fascinated with the holdings of a San Francisco bookstore, and a cat-woman trying to escape her former owner in “A Chance of Cats and Dogs.” The collection has a distinctive rhythm, with the novella-length standout piece, “A Symmetry of Serpents and Doves”, bookended by shorter vignettes. Scholes’s work is considerably inventive, and this collection showcases his versatility as a writer.


Awash in Autumn, the Queen Reflects


Every day is the same and yet different.

Emily goes to him on her lunch break, her eyes flitting over him and away quickly though she knows he knows.  And Tony smiles and asks her what she wants but she always wants the special — his special — and he always adds magic to it.

“Pumpkin spice latte?”

Her eyes are on him.  They are away again.  “Please.”

Then, small talk.  But the best conversation of her day.  Concluded by the flourish of his art in the foam and money changing hands.

What magic be today?  She looks a the foam and her eyebrows furrow.  She doesn’t recognize the tiny image.

“You’ll see,” Tony says.

She sits in the park on a bench in the gray October day.  She eats her sandwich first.  Then her apple slices.  Only after does she consider the latte.

Emily ponders it, then sips it.


She smiles and closes her eyes.  He’s never done antlers before.

It is warmer in the clearing; she stands in it in her gown, the crown heavy upon her head.  In this place, she is a queen.  And the world is on fire around her, the leaves blazing autumn red and yellow, orange for as far as her eye can see.  Her feet itch to run the leaf carpet but she waits for Tony, wondering how he will come to her in this place

He snorts as he runs into the clearing, scattering leaves with his hooves as he tosses his antlered head.  He prances around her, then sets off east and she follows.

She runs after him, feeling the crown grow lighter upon her brow as she picks up speed.  When she reaches him, she leaps and mid-leap, she lands upon his back and seizes hold of his neck.

They run the forest now, dodging fallen branches and racing through alternating shafts of sunlight and shadow.  He carries her for hours before the trees fall away and they run old pastures gone to grass, leaping the fallen stone walls that occasionally intersect them.  The sun is low in the sky behind them, the sky shot through with red, when she bids him stop beside a burbling creek.

There, she stretches out upon her stomach to drink her fill while the stag stands beside her doing the same.

Crickets are singing and she sees the forests that surround them in the distance blazing with glory beneath a crimson sky.  Emily sees the meadow taking on the same glory.  And the white hide of her friend, Tony.  Last, she looks at her own arms washed gold and red in the setting sun, and closes her eyes.  Glory shining everywhere about me and upon me, Emily realizes.

Awash in Autumn, the queen reflects.

When she opens her eyes again, there is just enough time to walk back to the motel and re-stock her cleaning cart.  She drinks the last of her latte and when she walks past Tony’s espresso stand she looks away and smiles when he winks at her.


You can purchase it here:


The Write Stuff – Monday, April 25 – Interview With Charles David Carpenter & D. W. Jones

For the first time since I launched my interview series, I’m featuring two authors at once. Charles David Carpenter and D. W. Jones have co-authored a YA fantasy series. Rather than my introducing them, it’s simpler if I allow each one to fill you in on his own background.

CHARLES_WEB_115Charles D. Carpenter: Welcome to my mind’s eye view of the world. Besides being a writer, I am an actor and martial artist who was born and reared in sunny Southern California. Yes, I am the rare native who was actually born here. See, we do exist.

As a martial artist, I have learned how to fight people. As an Angeleno, I have learned how to fight traffic. Traffic is tougher, by far. I attended California State University Northridge, but my father instilled in me my love for writing. My family has always said, “Before he could talk, he could write.” Thank you, family.

My love and passion is writing novels. To be very specific, fantasy novels. Although, D.W. and I have written various works together in differing genres, fantasy is the genre that moves my heart.


206D.W. Jones: Spending my formative years in Washington, D.C., I know about cold. I was accepted into the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts in high school and several years after graduating from Northwood High, I made my way to Los Angeles, where I have lived for the past ??? years. So now, I know about sunny and warm. Um, sunny and warm is better.

Stories of daring adventures in faraway places with action and romance helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the streets, inspiring me to dream bigger and reach farther. Those stories still inspire me today.

In 2005, I joined creative forces with Charles David Carpenter and began collaborating on various writing projects, including the very successful original comedy series for the Internet called CAN WE DO THAT?

Like night and day, we are two uniquely different authors who came together to form what we feel is a dynamic writing team. After several screenplays, TV pilots and commercial copy we embarked on writing our first novel series.

hd-bk-sos-copy-880x1024They have completed the third book in the series entitled Storm of Shadows, and they describe it this way:

Humanity teeters on the edge of chaos as war looms imminent and natural disasters strike the world of Tarune. The Necromancers, knowing their time is running out, intensify their plot as they close in on the Pride. As Velladriana struggles to control her growing powers, the blossoming emotions between she and Corwyn threaten to tear them apart. Only time will tell if hope will survive.

Tell us about your most recent release.

CDC: Before I do that, I want to take a moment to thank you for your EXTRAORDINARY patience, as well as for honoring us with this invitation to your interview series. We are huge fans of your work and are humbled by this consideration. So, thank you! Now, on with the show. Storm of Shadows is the third novel in series. It is difficult to give too much comprehensive detail about this novel without compromising the surprises waiting for you in the first two books. That having been said, I am really proud of this installment. I guess I’d say I have pride in this Pride. Anyone? Hello…is this thing on?

DWJ: Unfortunately for us, it is. Anyway, the action is fast paced as the world of Tarune heads to the brink of a war between both human and supernatural forces.

CDC: That, though, is just the backdrop. It is the interpersonal relationships and how they are developing that we truly love about this book. For us, characters and their motivations hold the true heft and power of any story.

DWJ: These characters are real. Their lives and needs are real. As such, the world they inhabit is real. A lot of surprises await the characters we hope you have come to love… and hate.

What was the inspiration behind your series?

CDC: For me, the original inspiration behind these books was to create a world in which people could immerse themselves and feel safe. You see; I was bullied as a kid. I didn’t have many friends in this world, so I sought them in other worlds. Most specifically, I found them in the pages of the novels that allowed me to escape my tormentors. Now, not to worry, I got through it and have a rich and bountiful circle of friends today, but those books did help me through some dark times. So, my inspiration was to create a world that would allow any child going through what I did to find a magical place of solace.

DWJ: Also, we have a lot of voices constantly talking, singing, chanting and squabbling inside our respective minds. Writing lets others hear those voices, too.

What other novels have you written?

CDC: We have written the first two installments of the series: Quest for Elderstone and Tides of War.













Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

CDC: Actually, Quest for Elderstone is currently required reading for Diversity and Social Justice in Counseling class and Internship in Clinical Mental Health Counseling for the Department of Counseling at Johns Hopkins University. I think that is pretty darn cool.

DWJ: As a matter of fact, we will be the keynote speakers there for a symposium on bullying at the end of the month.

That is seriously cool! How did that happen?

CDC: Quest for Elderstone was discovered by a doctor named Marsha Boveja Riggio and she reached out to D.W.. Her complete title is Dr. Marsha Boveja Riggio, LPC -S (DC & MD), NCC, President, Maryland Association of Marriage & Family Counselors Executive Director, Maryland Counseling Association, Board Member, William V.S. Tubman University Foundation.

When D.W. told Dr. Riggio about the books we had written, she had the idea of using the books for her classes, as she is constantly looking for new client cases for her students to analyze and conceptualize as part of their clinical development.

She read the books herself and loved them. She said she was not really a fantasy fan, but our books touched her on a number of levels, and now she is very interested in exploring the genre.

Quest for Elderstone seems to be a successful integration. The characters give the students strong archetypes with well developed life histories for reference. Dr. Riggio may be adding the other two books as required reading, as well.

As I said, this is seriously cool, as well as an unexpected reader base. What else are you working on?

CDC: Along with the fourth and final novel in series, we are writing several short stories based on the characters we have introduced in the series. Corwyn, Reese, Dolthaia, most of the Companions of the Pride, in point of fact, will have eventual origin stories about them.

DWJ: Also, we will give origin stories on the different character classes and groups unique to our world, like the Oslyn and Weavers, to name a couple.

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

CDC: When we are involved in the heavy lifting of the writing, meaning we have set the basic, loose outline and chatted at length about the world’s development, writing is best accomplished by setting aside hours in the morning. D.W. and I have schedules that are a bit more flexible than most. Personally, if I can keep my mornings clear, attacking the novel after a super early workout gives me a feeling of true accomplishment.

DWJ: The most important thing, though, is to put your proverbial butt in the seat and write something everyday.

Do you create an outline before you write?

CDC: We loosely outline. Since there are two of us, we need to be on the same page. We know the basic direction of where we want to take storylines and plot twists. That having been said, we really do allow the characters and the stories to speak to us as we go. It lets the life of the world grow on its own.

DWJ: Sounds artsy-fartsy, I know, but it really does gives us some interesting twists and turns in the creative process.

Why do you write?

CDC: Same reason I breathe.

DWJ: Wow, that is the shortest answer he has ever given. It is the truth, though.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

CDC: Writing is a collaborative art form. People talk about the lonely life of the writer. Well, it may be true that it is a solitary endeavor but, at some point, you need other people.

DWJ: Developmental editors, copyeditors, beta readers; you need help. We have learned to listen to others and openly accept and utilize their input and critiques.

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

CDC: Yes, this is a story about real people. Some of their powers and abilities may be unique and unusual, some may not even be completely human, but their motives and desires are the same ones that drive us all. We didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. We just wanted to paint it our own color. From teens to adults, I truly feel this series has something for everyone.

DWJ: Also, check out our site, We have great gear, from shirts to beanies to hats, which we think you will really like. We want your experience in the world our Necromancers inhabit to be immersive and interactive. The books are just the beginning…

Do you have another job outside of writing?

CDC: Acting.

DWJ: Entrepreneur.

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

CDC: It’s not how, but how often. We will all fall at some point, most likely at many points. We all make mistakes. The biggest mistake would be to stop getting back up. DWJ: We are here for each other in that way. Everybody needs a hand.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

CDC: My wife, daughter and son.

DWJ: My son.

Before I provide our visitors an excerpt from Storm of Shadows, as well as book buy and social links, I’d like to thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedules to participate in The Write Stuff. It’s been an honor to have you aboard. I’m sure our visitors are curious by now, so here is a taste of Storm of Shadows:

Zara was somber as she looked out across the rolling landscape of the Locksdale Foothills. Here, so close to the border between Canodria and Medioc, the two great armies assembled for war. This beautiful countryside would bear the full brunt of the destructive might of both kingdoms. Neither would be foolish enough to willingly wage battle on the scorched earth of the Kerathic Plains. No, it would be this rustic setting, as well as the Flat Lands to the south that the war would ravage. The peoples of these lands would suffer, and many innocents would die. It was a morbid proposition.

The sweeping beauty of the land always made her reflective. The many canyons, gullies and undulating hillocks of the terrain often made her contemplate settling there when her time as a Herrod was done. The Flat Lands had their own subtle charms: windswept bluffs that opened onto vast savannahs leading to the shore. But something about the Foothills of Locksdale always held her heart.

That thought so burdened her soul at this moment.

She focused attention from the landscape and back to the situation at hand. The sounds of battle preparations filled her ears. Had she her way, only the sounds of music, reverie and song would ever reach her ears. As a Weaver, that was her passion. There were songs here, of course, but they were different. As the battalions marched past, the horns would blast, and the soldiers would sing. Theirs, though, were not songs of beauty. Theirs were rousing, bawdy songs of glory in battle and of crushing their enemies.

From her position on the wide hilltop, to her left, she watched the gleaming armor of thousands of men marching down into the large, open flat below. Banners streamed in the wind, and sunlight glinted off armor forged by the finest smiths in the southern kingdom. To her right, cavalry marching six abreast moved into their positions. The soldiers set up camp. They dug latrine trenches and erected tents in neat, tight columns. They had set the horse lines and put feed stations into position. They fortified the positions of the ballistae, which hundreds of heavy beasts of burden pulled.

The songs of war, she thought sadly as a particularly boisterous contingent of archers marched past. “What a sad refrain they do make,” she whispered aloud.

“Mistress Herrod,” a small voice behind her called. “My Lady?”

Zara saw Danth, a young boy, approaching her. He could be no more than seven winters, or perhaps eight. His eyes were brown and sparkled with the cheerfulness of youth. His smile was wide, with a large gap where his two upper front teeth used to be. He wore a doublet of brown leather much too large for him with the Cougar of Canodria emblazoned in red on the chest and a motley colored jester’s cap that slumped over his thick eyebrows.

“Yes, Danth.”

“King Forlmorlaine wishes to see you now,” he said with a smile.

He always seemed to smile. He was obviously well pleased at having so important a task as to call the Herrod of the South to have audience with the king.

“Lead the way,” she said with a grin, her smoky voice sweet and comforting.

The boy ran back toward the large tent erected as the king’s residence while on the march. Supported by three 20-foot tent poles, the huge burgundy canvas structure looked regal indeed in the final light of day. The golden rays of early sunset had broken through the clouds, sending rich yellow beams across the fields. The royal tent was bathed in it. The banners of Canodria blew majestically in the breeze from each tent pole, and several other banner stands had been set about the field.

Smaller tents of multiple colors surrounded the main royal lodging, the mobile residences of the nobles and generals that comprised the upper echelon of the army’s ranks. Cast in the dramatic rays of the sun, the scene had quite a noble and heroic feel. It evoked images of the tales of battles of long ago. For those Weavers who excelled at composing battle hymns, it would strike a most inspiring vision. For Zara, whose tastes leaned toward love and nature, the scene rang far more of melancholy than majesty. Where others would see future glory, she only saw inevitable death.

Those of you who are interested in keeping up with these authors can find them here:




Twitter:          @charlesdavidcar

Twitter:          @writerdwjones

You may purchase their books at:

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 11 – Interview With Matthew Pallamary

Author PhotoMatthew Pallamary is an author who writes in multiple genres and seems to do everything well. Ray Bradbury praised his collection of horror stories, The Small Dark Room of the Soul as well as his historical novel dealing with shamanism and, as pervades much of his work, spirituality, Land Without Evil, saying, “Bravo! More!” Three of his works were award winning finalists in the International Book Awards: Cyber Christ in the Thriller/Adventure category, A Short Walk to the Other Side, his collection of short stories, and Eye of the Predator in the Visionary Fiction category. He’s written a memoir and edited a biography, both of which have received notable reviews. He’s also written a science fiction novel entitled Dreamland and a dark novel entitled Night Whispers.

Matt’s work has appeared in Oui, New Dimensions, The Iconoclast, Starbright, Infinity, Passport, The Short Story Digest, Redcat, The San Diego Writer’s Monthly, Connotations, Phantasm, Essentially You, The Haven Journal, and many others. His fiction has been featured in The San Diego Union Tribune, for which he has also reviewed books, and his work has been heard on KPBS-FM in San Diego, KUCI FM in Irvine, television Channel Three in Santa Barbara, and The Susan Cameron Block Show in Vancouver. He has been a guest on the following nationally syndicated talk shows: Paul Rodriguez, In The Light with Michelle Whitedove, Susun Weed, Medicine Woman, Inner Journey with Greg Friedman, and Environmental Directions Radio series. He has received the Man of the Year 2000 from San Diego Writer’s Monthly Magazine and has taught a fiction workshop at the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference for twenty five years. He has lectured at the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Conference, the Getting It Write conference in Oregon, the Saddleback Writers’ Conference and numerous others. He is presently Editor in Chief of Mystic Ink Publishing.

Your endeavors are so varied, it was difficult to decide where to begin. Since spirituality is at the core of everything you do, I am focusing on Land Without Evil and your shamanic approach to writing and teaching others how to write.

Over the years, you’ve made several trips to the Amazon rain forest. How did these trips feed Land Without Evil and your writing courses?

Land Without Evil coverI took an honors course in anthropology titled “A Forest of Symbols – Orientation and Meaning of South American Indian Religions” which is where I learned of the actual Guarani story of the Land Without Evil, which is what the book is based on, so I actually wrote and published the book before ever going into the jungle. Prior to that course I was researching the lycanthropy mythos, (Werewolves), for my novel Eye of the Predator which led me to shape shifting. The jungles of South America have the strongest shape shifting traditions and these were tied to visionary plants. I have had a lifelong fascination with altered states and shamanism and one of the things that struck me the most through my research in anthropology was the fact that shamanism is based on experiential knowledge. You can read textbooks about it for the rest of your life, but you will have no real conception of what it is and what it entails. You can’t learn much of anything about it by watching or observing native people performing rituals. The only way you can truly learn is through direct subjective experience, which means taking part in the rituals and ordeals to learn first hand what the teacher plants have to teach you – if you prove you are worthy.

Phantastic Fiction Front Cover IBW WinnerYou’ve been teaching writers for a quarter of a century, packing the house I might add. And now you’ve translated your courses into a book. Without giving away all of your course’s or Phantastic Fiction’s teachings, will you provide one or two salient points that might encourage visiting authors to explore the rest of what you teach?

In the shamanic world view, absolutely everything is energy. When we write and create we are manipulating energies on multiple levels and we are working in-depth with our subconscious, so we are in essence manipulating energy, whether it is plotting, pacing, dialogue exchanges, emotions, punctuation, and many more variables. Additionally, the shaman’s descent into the underworld where he experiences death, dismemberment, and rebirth in order to become a “man of power” is exactly what happens on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, which is the essence of story that has been around in this transformational process since prehistoric times, long, long, before the written word came into being.

How is it being received?

It’s been an eye opener for many people as it gets as far into the roots of what a story is as possible. These time honored concepts are deeply embedded in the psyche of humanity and have much to teach us about ourselves. Aside from its esoteric aspects, I have been blessed by the “wisdom of the masters” through all my years of being with the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and the Southern California Writers Conference where I was mentored and really adopted into the writing family of Ray Bradbury, Charles Schulz, Barnaby Conrad, Chuck Champlin, a leading L.A. Times Film Critic, and Paul Lazarus, former Vice President of Columbia Pictures as well as many others. They have all passed on and I find myself one of the few keepers of the wisdom and tradition they blessed me with, so I am also passing on much of what came from them.

Like all of your work, Land Without Evil has garnered high praise. In addition to the wonderful plaudits, it’s been made into a play. And now, I’ve heard rumors there’s something greater waiting in the wings. Would you care to elaborate on this new development, touching on key points of the book’s journey?

There was some interest from a producer in making Land Without Evil into a film, so I have written the script, but things appear to have come to a standstill there. What I am very excited about now is that Land Without Evil is being translated into Spanish. In the Lonely Planet Travel Guide under Paraguay, they say that if you want to learn about the history of Paraguay, read Land Without Evil, and it was listed as the top fiction pick on the Paraguayan Embassy web page. It’s a huge part of Latin American history, so I think it will find a good audience in Spanish.

Whose idea was it to have it translated? Yours or your publishers?

It was my idea to get Land Without Evil translated and I have been trying to make that happen for some years now.

What can you tell us about your translator?

Through  a service called Babelcube I found Rosina Iglesias who works in Spanish Administration as a civil servant.

Are you able to participate in the translation process? If so, how and to what extent?

She also asks me questions from time to time when she has them regarding certain parts of the book.

Shifting the focus from your work to you as a writer, what is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

 On an uninterrupted day, I like to hit it first thing in the morning after the first cup of coffee and morning email/business/posting chores are done, straight through until afternoon. After a bite and a break I hit it again until dinner time around 7:00.

It’s all about the discipline.

Indeed it is. Do you create an outline before you write?

I do, but it’s a bit different than what many might think. I have a chapter that goes into detail about it in Phantastic Fiction.

Why do you write?

Because I have to.

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

Fighting daily procrastination.

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

My work is quite varied. I have ten books in print. Land Without Evil is a historical novel. I also have two short story collections that are science fiction/horror in the Twilight Zone tradition, a memoir about my shamanic studies that ends in the Peruvian Amazon. Two science fiction novels, two nonfiction books, one about perfect form and motion, and the other about writing, and two novels that are thrillers, one of which is horror.

About your “other” life, do you have another job outside of writing?

I edit, critique, teach, and guide people toward publication.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I am a nomad.

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

By understanding that everything is transitory and nothing is permanent. I have been through some extremely challenging ordeals in my life and have learned the art of flexibility. It didn’t kill me and yes it made me stronger.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Land Without Evil show posterThe Land Without Evil show!

There is not enough space to go into how Land Without Evil was made into a play. But, for those who are interested, you can find the complete story here:

That said, what do you consider your biggest failure?

I’ve had many, but I am still alive, so the game is not up yet.

Do you have any pet projects?

I am presently collaborating on a book about the history of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference which is now in its 43rd year.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

I’d have to say Ray Bradbury. But the biggest of all time was my Mom, who was my very best friend. She left the planet about twelve years ago.

Before I present an excerpt from Land Without Evil and provide your book buy and social media links, I’d like to finish as I usually do with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a …

 Bit crazy and eccentric.

 The one thing I would change about my life:

 I would have made different relationship and financial decisions if I had any inkling of where they might have gone, but then again, I may not have learned what I needed.

 My biggest peeve is:


 The thing I’m most satisfied with is:

 My writing and the craft that goes with it.

Now, without further ado, Land Without Evil:


Avá-Tapé gazed up at the crescent moon looming high above. He felt the weight of the humid rain forest air hanging thick and still, and the presence of the trees pressing in on him. Firelight flickered at the edge of the clearing, darkened from time to time by the formless shadows of the dancers, led by his father.

Rattles shook and a new round of chants rose into the starlit sky as each syllable took wing and fluttered through the darkness like the cry of night birds.

Like Avá-Tapé, most of the tribe huddled around the fire watching the men dressed in feathered headdresses, armbands, and anklets dance as one. Their movements kept a rhythm that gave meaning to the unseen forces between the beats of time.

Avá-Tapé’s round face made him look younger than his sixteen harvests, but his dark, almond-shaped eyes missed nothing. He sat straight and alert, his long arms and legs coiled, ready to spring into the dance with the others. While he watched the pageantry unfold, Avá-Tapé pondered what his father had taught him. Chaos. Order. Destruction. Thoughts that held fear for the white people, but were everyday parts of his father’s world. He sighed remembering how important he had felt helping the Christian priests with their sacraments. His chest grew tight as the two realities fought for possession of his heart.

His father, Avá-Nembiará, had become the most powerful holy man of their people by the force of his visions. Most of the people now called him Nandérú, “our father.” In front of whites they called him paí, the solitary one who lives between man and the gods. Some whispered that Tupá, the son of gods, spoke through Avá-Nembiará.

Two men tossed another log on the fire, showering the night in a flurry of shimmering sparks. The tempo of the chants increased and the dancers quickened their pace. Flames jumped higher.

Avá-Nembiará’s voice rose above the rest, its tone full of yearning. Avá-Tapé shivered and watched his father’s dance become erratic, his movements larger and wider, until Avá-Nembiará threw his whole being open like the wings of a butterfly embracing the sky. A moment later, his steps grew fitful and jerky until he dance-staggered out of step with the others, keeping a rhythm only he could hear.

The chants and dances of the others faded until Avá-Nembiará remained alone clutching a feathered rattle, swaying before the fire, his handsome angular face impassive, short black hair flattened against his sweaty forehead.

Fire glow highlighted the brilliant colored feathers of his headband, reminding Avá-Tapé of the lights above the heads of the Christian saints in the pictures the whites had shown him. Light from the orange flames caressed the sweaty sheen of his father’s muscled form as if infusing it with new life. Swirling patterns washed over Avá-Nembiará’s dark features, illuminating his glazed eyes and changing expression.

Avá-Nembiará sank to the ground and tilted sideways, then straightened as though pulled upright by the head. His normally sharp eyes became unreadable hollows that glinted in the flickering light. Other than the fire’s crackle, the clearing remained silent and still. No wind. No bird or animal cries. No sound from the awestruck tribe.

Avá-Tapé held his breath, expecting flames to burst from his father’s chest… until Avá-Nembiará spoke. His words and voice were those of another.

“The time of destruction has returned. The Earth is old. Your tribe is no longer growing. Your world is bloated with death and decay. I have heard the Earth cry out to our Creator-Father. ‘Father,’ it says, ‘I have devoured too many bodies; I am stuffed and tired; put an end to my suffering.’”

“Tupá,” someone whispered.

“The weight of your faults has made your souls heavy and holds you from magic flight. You eat the food of the whites and live their ways, not the ways of your ancestors. The growing weight of your faults has brought you to the end of the world through the fleeing of the light. The bulk of your errors will soon block it. The sun will disappear and there will be nothing for you to do on this Earth. This will be the moment of the ará-kañí. This will be your last day. The last time that you shall see this world.”

Spiraling patterns from the fire accented his features as he spoke. Sometimes the calm face of Tupá and the sweep of his grand language dominated; other times the tenseness of an all too human expression came back amidst strange words. Avá-Tapé looked around at the faces of the people. Some showed the same intensity, some fear, others concern. The older men’s expressions revealed acceptance.

“You do not have to fall to the crushing weight of techó-achy,” he continued. “You can free yourself from the weight of your faults, lighten your bodies, and reach perfection by abandoning the food and the ways of the whites. You must journey to where you can dance until your bodies rise above the earth and fly across the great primeval sea to the Land Without Evil.”

A murmur rose from the crowd.

Ywy Mará Ey, a paradise of abundance and wealth. True immortality awaits you there. You do not have to die to enter. It is a real world that lies in the place where the sun rises. Only dancing believers dwell there. To find paradise you must…”

The clearing came alive with the soft rustling of robes fluttering like the wings of bats as Father Antonio rushed forward brandishing a cross, followed by a mob of black‑robed Jesuits. “I exorcise you, Most Unclean Spirit!” he bellowed, dark eyes blazing. “Invading enemy! In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He made the sign of the cross, causing the people to scatter into the forest. Avá-Nembiará looked up at the priests, his expression dazed and unfocused.

“Be uprooted and expelled from this creature of God.” Father Antonio’s hands moved deftly as he made the sign of the cross again. “He who commands you is He who ordered you to be thrown down from the highest Heaven into the depths of Hell. He who commands you is He who dominated the sea, the wind, and the storms. Hear, therefore, and fear, Satan! Enemy of faith! Enemy of the human race! Source of death! Robber of life! Root of evil and seducer of men!”

Satan? Confusion swept through Avá-Tapé. Tupá spoke through his father. Not Satan!

Avá-Nembiará shook his head and glared at the Jesuits. His features hardened. He rose, standing tall in the firelight, his headdress backlit by flames. His shiny skin glowed orange as if it held a life of its own, in stark contrast to the dark formless robes of the priests that seemed to swallow light. His father looked every part the Holy Man. Avá-Tapé felt a surge of pride swell in his chest.

One of the priests looked over, his glare pinning Avá-Tapé. “Begone!” the man shouted.

Avá-Tapé didn’t move. Father Antonio started speaking Latin and making elaborate movements around Avá-Nembiará while Father Lorenzo sprinkled him with holy water. Avá-Tapé stood on trembling legs, wanting to run, but willing himself to stay.

When the priest started toward him, Avá-Tapé ran to his father’s side. Father Antonio continued his rituals and Latin chants while thrusting the cross at Avá-Tapé and his father. Avá-Nembiará put his arm around his son, grunted, and pushed his way through the black robes. The priests let out astonished gasps, and Father Antonio stopped his invocations.

Avá-Tapé walked into the darkened forest at his father’s side, leaving the muttering priests alone in the clearing.

 *          *          *

To learn more about Matt or to purchase his books, you may do so here:

 Social media links:









 Book online sales links

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 28 – Interview With Jim C. Hines

Jim-WFC-FullJim C. Hines’ writing is so varied, it makes him a difficult author to label. His first novel was Goblin Quest, the humorous tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Actor and author Wil Wheaton described the book as “too f***ing cool for words,” which is pretty much the Best Blurb Ever. After finishing the goblin trilogy, he went on to write the Princess series of fairy tale retellings and the Magic ex Libris books, a modern-day fantasy series about a magic-wielding librarian, a dryad, a secret society founded by Johannes Gutenberg, a flaming spider, and an enchanted convertible. He’s also the author of the Fable Legends tie-in Blood of Heroes. His short fiction has appeared in more than 50 magazines and anthologies.

Jim is an active blogger about topics ranging from sexism and harassment to zombie-themed Christmas carols, and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012. He has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Masters in English, and lives with his wife and two children in mid-Michigan.

Every now and then, an author breaks new ground. In today’s publishing world filled with thematic repetition—galactic conquest, defeating a dragon, an evil wizard—it’s refreshing to encounter something untried. When he introduces us to Isaac Vainio, a libiomancer, in his Magic ex Libris series, he takes us onto untrodden soil. I asked Jim to tell us about Revisionary, his latest release and the fourth in the series. He describes it as follows:

RevisionaryWhen Isaac Vainio helped to reveal magic to the world, he dreamed of a utopian future, a new millennium of magical prosperity. One year later, things aren’t going quite as he’d hoped. An organization known as Vanguard, made up of magical creatures and ex-Porters, wants open war with the mundane world. Isaac’s own government is incarcerating “potential supernatural enemies” in prisons and internment camps. And Isaac finds himself targeted by all sides.

It’s a war that will soon envelop the world, and the key to victory may lie with Isaac himself, as he struggles to incorporate everything he’s learned into a new, more powerful form of libriomancy. Surrounded by betrayal and political intrigue, Isaac and a ragtag group of allies must evade pursuit both magical and mundane, expose a conspiracy by some of the most powerful people in the world, and find a path to a better future.

But what will that future cost Isaac and the ones he loves?

Will you tell us something more about it?

This is the fourth and final (for now) book in the Magic ex Libris series, which is based on the premise that a small number of people can reach into the pages of books and pull out the objects described in the story. As long as they physically fit through the book. Isaac Vainio is a librarian and libriomancer from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and an unabashed fan of all things magical. He’s very enthusiastic, which tends to get him into trouble, and very bright, which helps him to get back out of it again. Also, he has a pet spider who can set things on fire.

I am intrigued by your Magic ex Libris series and find the concept of a librarian being able to draw magic from a book, or step from a taxi that had been skirting Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere only to emerge from a pizza delivery truck in our nation’s capitol both enticing and delightful. Will you fill us in on how that concept came about?

The seed of the series was planted at a convention in Chicago many years ago, when an editor asked me to write a short story that took Smudge the fire-spider from my goblin books and brought him into the real world. So I had to figure out how to set that up, which led to a character who could pull things out of books.

The story was published in Gamer Fantastic, but the idea had so much more potential. Imagine all the things, good and bad, you could create with our collective literature. So I fleshed it out, added more characters like Lena the dryad and Johannes Gutenberg and more, and just ran with it.

I’ve been looking at the other books you have written. I must say it’s rare that someone’s book blurb brings me to laughter, but Goblin Hero’s description did just that. How much fun did you have producing your Goblin Quest series?

Jig and Smudge and the rest were great to write about. I’m a long time D&D player, and this series was a chance to go back and mess with some of those old tropes, to change up the traditional stories, and to just really play. I really enjoyed the characters, and the goblins in general. It’s one of the reasons I’ve gone back a few times to write shorter stories in that world.

I was delighted when Gregory Maguire spun off the 1939 the movie classic, The Wizard of Oz, with his Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Now—and I admit I am frightfully behind the reading curve—I encounter your princess series where you expand on Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. What was the spark that ignited that series?

Those books began when my daughter was a lot younger, and was going through a princess phase. A lot of the toys and merchandise she collected showed these characters as pretty, but… not much else. Some of the movies did a decent job of giving the characters strength and agency. Others, not so much.

So I decided to go all out and write a series that turned these traditional fairy tale princesses into action heroes. Snow White would get her mother’s magic mirror and be the sorceress. Sleeping Beauty and her fairy gifts of grace would become the ninja/assassin character. And Cinderella would receive an enchanted glass sword from her mother’s ghost.

Basically, I wrote it because I wanted more stories like this to be out there for my daughter and everyone else.

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

It depends on the day. I quit my full-time day job last fall. Before then, I wrote every day on my lunch hour. Now my schedule is a lot more flexible…and at times, a lot more complicated. Some days I’ll put in four hours or more at the keyboard. Others I’m running kids to doctor appointments and dealing with calls from the school and chasing after the dog who got through the gate in the back yard again.

Most writers will envy your new situation. Why do you write and when did you first realize you were a writer?

I write because I enjoy it. I love inventing stories and sharing them with people. There are days when it’s frustrating or painful trying to get the story in your head onto the screen, and it’s just not coming out right. But then there are the moments when it comes together, or when you come up with a clever twist or idea, or you hit on something powerful. Those moments are amazing.

Plus I like fantasizing about swords and magic and robots and all that other cool, shiny stuff.

When did I realize I was a writer? That’s hard to say. I toyed with writing a bit as a kid. Started doing it more seriously toward the end of my undergraduate degree. To some extent, I started to really feel like a writer after my first fantasy novel Goblin Quest came out.

And then there are the days when I still don’t entirely feel like A Real Writer. Like I’ve been playing a trick on the world for 20+ years and having a blast with it, but sooner or later someone’s going to catch on.

You have blogged about some unfortunate incidents pertaining to sexual and racial harassment at several Cons. I think these occurrences are appalling and I applaud you for calling attention to them. Would you care to discuss this?

There’s so much to discuss, but in short, this stuff happens. At cons, at schools, at workplaces, and more. For a long time, there’s been pressure not to talk about it, but that’s one of the reasons it keeps happening. I’m encouraged by the shift I’ve seen in some areas to say no, we are going to talk about it, we are going to let people know this behavior is not acceptable, and we are going to take steps when and if it happens.

Please give some mention of your work as crisis councilor, especially as the Male Outreach Coordinator at Michigan State University.

I spent a total of about five years volunteering at the Listening Ear crisis center in East Lansing, working on the phone hotline for all kinds of crisis calls, as well as working in (and at one point, helping to coordinate) the sexual assault counseling program. In another position, I worked as the Male Outreach Coordinator for Safe Place, the domestic violence shelter and program at MSU.

A lot of that second position involved outreach and education, talking to men about consent and power and abuse, things a lot of guys may not be that aware of. It’s hard to solve a problem when a large number of people won’t even acknowledge the problem exists.

It was intense work at times, but also very powerful and eye-opening. I certainly learned a lot about the world that I hadn’t seen growing up.

Would you care to share how your work led you to write Goldfish Dreams?

Basically, Goldfish Dreams was a mainstream novel I wrote about rape and recovery, based on some of the things I learned and experienced during my time at Listening Ear. It’s not based on an actual person or anything like that. But it was a way for me to take all of those stories I’d heard and turn them into something I hope is both honest and, ultimately, hopeful.

Do you have anything else in the works you are free to discuss?

A few short stories, and a new three-book humorous SF series I’m writing for DAW (who published my fantasy books).

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

A sense of wonder, and wanting to share that sense with family, friends, fans, and anyone else who’d like to get some.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

We have a cat who likes to wake me up in the morning by jumping onto the bed and licking my scalp. It’s a bizarre and disturbing way to wake up.

I always conclude each interview with what I call a Lightning Round, because it often yields unexpected insights. Answer as many as you care to in as few words as possible.:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is:                    Insulin.

The one thing I would change about my life:       Fewer chronic illnesses for me and my family.

My biggest peeve is:                                                 Coconut.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:        Mister Rogers.

Before I provide links to your books and social media, I’m going to insert an excerpt from Revisionary:


of the

Joint Committee on Magical Security

before the

U.S. House of Representatives

and the

U.S. Senate

Chairman: Alexander Keeler


U.S. House of Representatives,

Committee on Magical Security



Derek Vaughn, Louisiana

Tammy Hoeve, Michigan

Timothy Hoffman, Ohio

Anthony Hays, Colorado

Susan Brown, Florida

Elizabeth Garcia, Oklahoma

John Senn, Nevada


U.S. Senate,

Committee on Magical Security



Alexander Keeler, Illinois

Kenneth Tindill, Rhode Island

Mary Pat Clarke, Maryland

Kent Childress, Oregon


Testimony and Questioning of Witness Number 18: Isaac Vainio


The CHAIRMAN: This hearing will come to order.

It’s my privilege and honor to welcome the members of the Joint Committee on Magical Security, as well as the witnesses who have been called to testify as we help to shape the future of this great nation during this time of worldwide turmoil and conflict.

Mister Vainio, thank you for taking time from your work with New Millennium to join us today.

Mr. VAINIO: Your invitation made it clear I didn’t have a choice.

The CHAIRMAN: Do you affirm that the testimony you will give before this committee is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Mr. VAINIO: Aren’t I supposed to be sworn in on a Bible?

The CHAIRMAN: For security reasons, no books will be permitted in the chamber during your testimony.

Mr. VAINIO: Don’t worry, I’m not about to try libriomancy with a Bible, or any other religious text. Gutenberg might have been able to handle that kind of intensity and belief, but—oh, sorry. Yes, I do so affirm.

The CHAIRMAN: Thank you. You may be seated. Mr. Vainio, would you please—what is that?

Mr. VAINIO: His name is Smudge. He’s a fire-spider. He’s perfectly safe as long as he’s in his cage. Don’t go poking your fingers in there, though. He’s my service animal. My lawyer advised me this was permitted under disability law.

Mr. CHILDRESS: You have a service spider?

Mr. VAINIO: He senses danger. Like Spider-Man. Having him around helps me with some…anxiety issues. It’s been a traumatic few years. I have a letter from my therapist if you’d like to see it.

The CHAIRMAN: That won’t be necessary. For the record, please state your history and current role with the organization known as the Porters.

Mr. VAINIO: I’ve been a member of the Porters—intermittently—for about seven years, working to protect the world from magical threats. I’ve been a cataloguer, field agent, and researcher. Ten months back, I helped to found the New Millennium project in Nevada, where I currently work as Director of Research and Development.

The CHAIRMAN: Ten months. That would be shortly after you announced the existence of magic to the world.

Mr. VAINIO: Correct.

The CHAIRMAN: You constructed New Millennium in the United States. You yourself are an American citizen, born and raised in Michigan. Are you loyal to this country, Isaac?

Mr. VAINIO: How do you mean?

The CHAIRMAN: There are hundreds of you libriomancers scattered throughout the world, and thousands of other creatures. Vampires and merfolk and werewolves and bigfoots and Heaven knows what else. What assurances does this committee have that you won’t turn against the United States of America? How do we prevent people like you from selling your abilities to the highest bidder?

Mr. VAINIO: Maybe you could start by not treating us all like potential criminals and terrorists.


Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to tell us about yourself. Those visitors who would like to learn more about Jim or purchase his books can do so here:





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The Write Stuff – Monday, February 29 – Interview With Laura Resnick

Last August at Sasquan, at the WordFire Press book launch party for Mike Resnick, the author promised to introduce me to his multi-award-winning daughter, Laura, for an interview. I’m pleased to tell you he’s a man of his word. I was equally pleased to find, after reading her work—something I should have done long ago—that her prose is crisp, compelling and filled with the dry, cutting humor I and many other readers enjoy.

Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, whose releases include Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, Polterheist, The Misfortune Cookie, Abracadaver, and the upcoming Goldzilla. She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made multiple “Year’s Best” lists. She began her career as the award-winning author of fourteen romance novels, written under the pseudonym Laura Leone. An opinion columnist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at

I asked Laura to tell us about her most recent release, Abracadaver, the seventh in the Esther Diamond series. She describes it this way:

R.I.P. = Reanimated, Infernal, and Pretty damn dangerous

Struggling actress Esther Diamond, whose year got off to a rough start (what with incarceration, unemployment, and mystical death curses), finally catches a break when she’s hired to reprise her guest role as prostitute Jilly C-Note on The Dirty Thirty, a TV crime drama about depravity and corruption in the New York Police Department.

Esther’s ex-almost/sometime boyfriend, NYPD’s Detective Connor Lopez, who hates that show with undying passion, vows he’ll never forgive Esther for convincing her narcissistic co-star to add verisimilitude to his performance as a morally bankrupt cop by shadowing Lopez on the job. But Esther’s fellow thespian is her best bet for keeping an eye on Lopez 24/7—and, more to the point, on Lopez’s new partner, Detective Quinn. Esther and her friend Max, a 350-year-old mage whose day job is protecting New York City from Evil, suspect Quinn of being involved in the latest mystical mayhem to menace Manhattan—where corpses suddenly aren’t staying quite as dead as they should.

While Max and Esther try to determine what Quinn’s role is in the supernatural reanimation of the deceased downtown, a part-time mortician courts Esther, and a dangerous foe with deadly intent changes everyone’s dinner plans one cold winter night…

When did you start writing and, more important, when did you know your were a writer?

When I was 24 years old. I read a book called How To Write A Romance and Get It Published by Kathryn Falk (publisher of Romantic Times Magazine), and I thought that writing a short novel about two likeable people who fall in love might be something I could do. So I gave it a try. I got hooked, and as soon as I was done, I started writing the next book, and then the next after that.

A friend, who is a best-selling romance author, has used a pen name throughout her career as an admitted strategy to insure that any success she received was not due to her prominent New York family. When you wrote as Laura Leone at the outset of your career, was this a similar consideration, or was it just a way to keep both genres’ readerships distinct?


When I sold my first romance novel to the Harlequin/Silhouette all those years ago, they had just instituted a policy whereby all new writers were required to use a pseudonym when writing for them, and we could never use the pseudonym anywhere else without their permission. Obviously, this meant that if a new writer built a readership while writing for them, she would thereafter face a choice between continuing to write for this company no matter how dissatisfied she was with the terms and payment, or else, upon switching to another publisher, losing her audience by having to start all over under another name. Various individual writers and organizations opposed this policy over the next decade or so, and it was eventually abolished; but back when I first signed with Harlequin/Silhouette, the choice presented to new writers like me was that I could agree to write under an exclusive pseudonym or I could forget about selling books to them. So I took the pen name Laura Leone and sold them about a dozen novels over the next five years. (This wasn’t a tough decision for me, since selling books mattered to me more than what name I used; and when I left, H/S released my pseudonym to me, so I have control of it.)

However, I was still writing for H/S and bound by the terms of that clause back when my dad and the legendary anthologist Marty Greenberg invited me to write a short story for one of their sf/f anthologies. I saw no reason to fight with H/S to try to get the use of my professional name (Laura Leone) for one sole short story in another genre, so I just wrote it under my real name, which seemed simplest. If I had known at the time I would eventually write fantasy novels, I would have chosen a different name, since there has occasionally been some confusion about there being two Resnicks in the genre. (For example, after my first fantasy novel, In Legend Born, was released, I kept hearing that Laura Resnick was Mike Resnick writing under a female pseudonym.)

To what extent has your father nurtured your career and how much has he stood aside? 

Around the time I was writing my 8th romance novel, my dad and the late Marty Greenburg started inviting me to write short stories for some of the anthologies they were producing together. I don’t know whether I’d ever have ventured into sf/f if not for that. It wasn’t something I had my eye on, and I initially just viewed the short stories as a refreshing change of pace from writing romance novels back to back to back. But it led to more sf/f people inviting me into more anthologies, which ultimately led to my writing sf/f novels. Pop subsequently also acquired my travelogue, A Blonde in Africa, for a nonfiction imprint he was editing at the time; it’s a book that might not have gotten published otherwise. Most recently, he asked me to write for his new e‑mag, Galaxy’s Edge, and I recently sent him a story for that, which will appear later this year. So, as an editor, he’s certainly given me plenty of work. Apart from that, he occasionally introduces me to editors (or interviewers!), or tells me about work opportunities, and if we talk business, he gives me advice or feedback based on his decades of experience.

With all that said, please describe your path to publication.

While living in Sicily years ago, I read Kathryn’s Falk’s How To Write A Romance Novel and started working on one. I wrote it by hand in notebooks, then typed it on a manual typewriter. Then I spent 24 hours on a train to Rome, which was where the nearest English-language library was, and got some addresses from a copy of Writer’s Market, so I could start submitting the book proposal to editors and agents via trans-Atlantic mail. All the literary agents I queried turned me down, but a young editorial assistant (with whom I am still in contact) asked me to send her the rest of the book. She was tired of doing office grunt work, and the way to get promoted to an editing position was to find a new writer in the slush pile whose book the company would buy. So she championed my manuscript through the multiple readings involved in acquiring a new writer, keeping me informed by mail. I was back in the US when they finally made an offer on the book the following year, and I published about a dozen books with them over the next five years. And like so many other writers who started there and are having long and busy careers, I learned a lot about my craft at H/S.

No matter an author’s success, I believe there is always the thought of the greater work inside that has yet to emerge. Does that ever nag at you, and what do you do to address it?

What nags at me is the question of whether any of my work will ever become popular enough to make me financially secure.

Coming at this from a different angle, does winning an award, such as the John W. Campbell, serve just to validate your work, or can it leave you daunted—as in, “what do I do now to surpass this?”

An award is very gratifying. It can also be an excellent addition to your résumé.  But I  believe that assigning any more weight than that to an award is illusory. Also counter-productive. If I worried about validation from awards or about how to surpass this-or-that milestone, then I’d freeze with anxiety and couldn’t keep writing book after book after book… which is what a career writer does. And then—GOOD GOD, MAN!—I’d have to go find a job.

Hah! “Who would want to do that?” asked the man with a day job. You’ve postponed Goldzilla, the eighth book in the Esther Diamond series, until later this year. For your eager fans, do you have an ETA?

I didn’t postpone Goldzilla, I just wound up being very, very slow on this one, which happens sometimes. I’ll post the release date front-and-center on my website as soon as I know it.

What do you love most about Esther and what, if anything, about her do you hate?

I love that she’s full of try. Esther is not always enthused about confronting challenges, but she never gives up, quits, chickens out, or freezes. I don’t think I hate anything about her, though I know from readers that there are things about her that exasperate them.

On an entirely different note, I noticed that in 2006 you wrote several articles for the Associated Press while serving in Jerusalem as a journalism intern. That caught my attention, because in 1972 I interviewed for the post of stringer photographer with Marcel Castro and Hal McClure, AP’s bureau chief, at the Mariv Building in Tel Aviv. This compels me to ask, did you write those articles in Hebrew, or were they for AP’s English-speaking audience?

The Associated Press is an American news service and publishes in English. I don’t speak Hebrew, but it didn’t limit me much, since The AP’s work is conducted in English. And since many Israelis speak English, I got sent out on a lot of stories, handled the phones often, and delivered a lot of copy despite not being a Hebrew speaker. (This is an an intern, though. Regular staffers needed to know Hebrew.)

I appears you haven’t abandoned journalism altogether. Will you tell us a little about the op-ed column you write for Nink?

Nink is the monthly journal of Novelists, Inc. (, an organization of career novelists. I’m allowed a lot of latitude with my column, so I research and opine on a wide variety of topics related to writing professionally: the Amazon-Hachette negotiations of 2013, the ongoing problems writers are having with reversion clauses in publishing contracts, the HarperCollins lawsuit against Open Road Media, the flow of successful writers leaving traditional publishing to self-publish, the Authors United letter urging the Department of Justice to investigate, imposter syndrome, fan fiction,  ebook pricing, and the pressure on introverted writers to be social media extroverts.

Is there such a thing in your life as a typical day and, if so, how does it unfold?

Not really. I’m always striving for a life in which there is such a thing as a typical day, since I suspect that having more routine and structure would make me more productive.

Would you care to share anything else about your home life?

I volunteer for the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) a small group that does big work—last year alone, we placed 350 cats in adoptive homes, after rescuing them from kill shelters or the street. So my home life includes the 3 madcap cats I adopted, which is how I first encountered C.A.T, as well as whatever kittens or cats I’m fostering at the time. If anyone would like to know more about us, here’s out website (where we welcome donations): And here’s a link to the eBay site where we auction donated goods to raise funds for our fosters’ medical bills:

I wish more people would care for their neighbors, both human and animal. What you are doing speaks well for you.

I always finish my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, because the answers often provide unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Sleep; if  I go more than 3 nights without enough sleep, I am barely functional.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d write more prolifically, which would resolve a number of other things I’d like to change.

My biggest peeve is: People who are inconsiderately noisy—drivers who blare their stereos, neighbors who bellow right outside my window, people who talk in the cinema or theatre or opera, people yammering on cell phones in libraries, people thundering up and down hotel corridors at 2am, etc.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My friendships. I am very fortunate to have the friends I have.

Thank you, Laura, for agreeing to prticipate in my The Write Stuff interviews. Before we close, here is an excerpt from Abracadaver, after which, those of you who would enjoy learning more about Laura Resnick or would like to purchase her books will find the appropriate links.

Abracadaver coverExcerpt from Abracadaver, the 7th Esther Diamond novel, by Laura Resnick

Actress Esther Diamond questions a colleague who’s shadowing an NYPD cop whom Esther and her friend Max suspect is involved in mystical mayhem.

While Nolan had been talking, Max had been scribbling on a notepad in his elegant, archaic handwriting. Now he pushed his notes over to me. I saw he’d made a list of questions he wanted me to ask Nolan.

I read them, then gave Max an uncertain look. He nodded encouragingly. So I sighed and dived in.

“So,” I said into my cell phone, “have you guys entered any churches or houses of worship today?”

“No,” said the actor. “Well, not yet.”

“Does Detective Quinn appear to avoid them?”

“Huh?” Nolan sounded puzzled. “No. We just haven’t had any reason to—”

“Does he exhibit any ritual behaviors?”

“He chews on a pen sometimes. He says it became a habit when he quit smoking.”

Probably not the sort of ritual Max meant.

“Have you observed him encountering any dogs or other animals?”

“No. Not many people are out walking their pets in this weather. Why?”

“Has he appeared violent or menacing at any point today?” I asked as casually as possible.

“Uh, no . . . but that’s something I’d like to see. It could give me some background i—”

“Have you noticed any odd smells or odors in his presence?”

“What kind of odors?” Nolan sounded perplexed.

I made a gesture to Max indicating I needed more information, then I read what he quickly jotted down. “Excrement? Rotting flesh?”


“Sulfur? Decay? Putrescence?”

No.” Nolan added, “Jesus, Esther, I’m eating.”

I moved on to the next question. “Have you observed any peculiar changes in his eyes?”

“Whoa, does Quinn have a drug problem or something? Is that what you’re getting at?”

“I’m just worried about him,” I said, which was not entirely untrue. “He, um, doesn’t look after himself.”

“Yeah, that’s obvious. Have you seen his posture? It’s no wonder he talks about aches and pains. I should make him an appointment with my chiropractor.”

“He talks about aches and pains?” I prodded, meeting Max’s gaze.

“Yeah—in fact, about an hour ago, he kind of doubled over for a few seconds when he got this stabbing pain in his stomach. I think something’s wrong with his appendix. But, you know, that could be referred pain from his heart. My cardiac doctor tells me—”

I held the phone away from my ear as Nolan prattled on, and I relayed this information to Max, who looked gratified.

“Recurrent, unexplained pain like that is another common sign of demonic presence,” Max said, keeping his voice low. “The evidence is mounting to the inescapable conclusion that Detective Quinn is oppressed.”

“Oppressed?” When Max started to explain, I said, “Wait, not now. Is there anything else you want me to ask Nolan?”

“Find out where they are now,” Max instructed. “This could be an opportunity for us to confront Quinn.”

When I held the phone to my ear again, Nolan was still talking about cardiac stuff. I interrupted him. “You said you’re having dinner? Where are you righ—”

“Whoops, not any more,” said Nolan. “Quinn is waving at me to get up and come to the register. I guess we’re paying and leaving.”

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“A funeral in Chinatown.”

“What?” I blurted.

“It’s for that tong boss who flew off a balcony last week.”

“You’re going to Joe Ning’s wake?” I asked shrilly.

Max’s eyes widened and our gazes met.

Chen’s Funeral Home. Quinn. And a body in a casket.

The last time Quin had visited Chen’s, a corpse suddenly climbed out of its coffin.

“This is gonna be great,” Nolan enthused. “Loads of texture, a tong boss’s wake, authentic underworld characters . . . Jackpot.”

“Nolan, listen to me very carefully,” I said. “You mustn’t let—”

“Gotta go, Esther.”

I sighed heavily and set down my phone in frustration when I realized he’d ended the call.

“So that’s what it wants,” Max said, rising to his feet.

I rose, too, and followed him to the coat hooks by the door. He started donning his heavy outerwear. I grabbed my coat, since I gathered we were going to Chen’s Funeral Home now.

“Max, I still don’t understand. What exactly does the entity want?”

“It wants a cadaver!”

“A corpse?” I said with a frown. “A dead body?”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “That game is afoot!”

* * *




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The Write Stuff – Monday, February 15 – Interview With Jason Fry

PORTjasonfry_084 4%22x6%22If you are a Star Wars fan, you already know that the release of Star Wars – The Force Awakens makes 2016 a milestone year. Die-hards, however, know full well that Star Wars has never gone away except, perhaps, on the silver screen. This week’s guest, Jason Fry, is one reason why. He has written more than 30 books and short stories set in the Star Wars galaxy, as well as The Jupiter Pirates, a young-adult space fantasy series. He also co-writes Faith and Fear in Flushing, which is a blog about the New York Mets. He spent more than 12 years at the online arm of The Wall Street Journal, serving as a columnist, editor, and blogs guru, among other things. Besides fiction, he writes about sports, music, genealogy, travel, history and anything else that interests him.

While The Write Stuff normally focuses on a single work by an author—occasionally two—because Jason’s work is so varied, we’ve chosen to discuss three: Rey’s Survival Guide, The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections, and The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra.

Please tell us something about each of these.

I had two books come out on the same day, which was kind of fun—Rey’s Survival Guide and The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections were both “day and date” books tied to the theatrical release of the new Star Wars movie.

tfa-csFor Incredible Cross-Sections I supplied the words to accompany Kemp Remillard’s gorgeous cutaway illustrations of vehicles from the movie. That seems like a fairly straightforward assignment, but the real work to be done was figuring out what the focus of that material should be. I decided it should be context for those vehicles’ roles in the Star Wars galaxy. What were they built to do, and how were they modified from that purpose? How had their designs evolved? Or, in the case of a specific craft like the Millennium Falcon, how had various owners changed them?

I found that approach more interesting than a hard-science engineering deep dive. For one thing, Kemp’s illustrations and the labels had already checked that box pretty effectively. But beyond that, Star Wars is fundamentally fantasy, not hard sci-fi, and while that kind of detail is satisfying to a certain subset of Star Wars fans, I think ultimately it’s not the best fit for the saga.

rsgRey’s Survival Guide is a manual for surviving on Jakku, written in Rey’s voice. I enjoyed that project because it was a unique way to try and tell a story. We didn’t want a diary or memoir – though Rey does recount some of the events of The Force Awakens. But at the same time, we wanted the reader to get a sense of Rey as a person and of how her odd upbringing had shaped her. So the challenge was to tell a story “between the lines,” if you will.


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

I’ll go back to Rey’s Survival Guide, since I think I’ve summed up Incredible Cross-Sections pretty well. A lot of the challenges with that book stemmed from the unavoidable fact that I had to write it before seeing the movie.

You get a sense of a character from the script, the description, images and what the character does as the plot unfolds, of course. Those things were helpful. But that’s not the entirety of a character—not by a long shot. Rey’s a wonderful character—my favorite Star Wars character since Han Solo—but so much of what we’ve responded to about her comes from Daisy Ridley’s remarkable performance. And I couldn’t draw on that to write the book.

Now couple that with the fact that Rey has, essentially, no backstory. We don’t know who her parents were or where she came from. She doesn’t know who they were or where she came from. She’s not just a blank slate but an erased one—a cipher to us and to herself.

That was difficult, but it was a challenge I warmed to precisely because it was so difficult. So I looked for ways to give the reader a sense of who Rey was by how she reacted to things, by how she discussed people and places and objects in her life, and by figuring out what she wouldn’t talk about.

Fortunately, I had some help. The folks at Lucasfilm who had seen the movie were able to help steer the book in the right direction, and I’m grateful to them. But I still had my fingers crossed when I finally got to sit down in the theater—and two hours later I breathed a sigh of relief that the Rey I’d written fit the Rey I’d seen on-screen.

That would certainly have been a nail-biter. What other novels have you written?

For openers, there’s Servants of the Empire, a four-book series of young-adult novels tied to the Star Wars: Rebels TV series. That series follows Zare Leonis, who’s a minor character on the show. Zare and his sister Dhara are both loyal supporters of the Empire, but Dhara vanishes from the Imperial Academy on Lothal. The Empire says she deserted, but Zare doesn’t believe that – and he learns the Empire kidnapped her. But why? He decides to enter the Academy himself to find out what happened to Dhara and save her if he can.

I don’t just write Star Wars—I’m also the author of the Jupiter Pirates young-adult space-fantasy series from HarperCollins. Jupiter Pirates is set in the 29th century, when Earth’s colonies in the outer solar system have broken away and are in a state of cold war with the mother planet. The series follows the adventures of the Hashoones, a family of pirates turned privateers who are based on Jupiter’s moon Callisto.

The Hashoones operate their pirate ship as a family – the mother is the captain, the father is the first mate, and the three children are midshipmen. They have to cooperate, working together as a crew under dangerous conditions, but they’re also competitors—the captaincy of the family ship is passed down from one generation to the next, but only one sibling can be captain.

The first book in the Jupiter Pirates series, Hunt for the Hydra, came out in December 2013. The second one, Curse of the Iris, is out in hardcover and comes out in paperback in May. The third book, The Rise of Earth, will be out in June. And there will be two more to come!

What else are you working on?

Unfortunately, I can’t talk about the Star Wars books I’m working on now because they haven’t been announced by Lucasfilm or their publishers. But I’m pretty excited about them and hope readers will be too.

I’m also working on a Jupiter Pirates short story that I’ll put up for free on as soon as it’s ready. And I keep playing with ideas for some big, ambitious novels I’d love to get to. I’m busy, which can be exhausting but is a lot better than the alternative when you’re a professional writer.

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

Depends on how many balls I have in the air at one time, how close I am to deadline, etc. Some days are a relatively measured march forward, while others are defined only by when I’ll have to collapse into bed and sleep for a few hours. (It’s best not to have too many days like those.)

I usually wake up by answering email, scanning the news and seeing what’s new on my frequented sites. I like to start writing by mid-morning and write until my kid gets home and finishes his homework and/or my wife comes home. How much I get done during that time depends wildly on what the project is and how well-defined it is in my head. I once wrote a 30,000-word novella in four days. I’m proud to say I did it; I also hope I never have to do it again.

Hah! I’ve produced a lot, but that tops everything. Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes. And I am a HUGE convert to outlining and/or writing a treatment first – planning instead of plunging.

Writers should find a process that works for them instead of following someone else’s blueprint. But having worked both ways, I’ll definitely evangelize for planning. My treatments are really detailed – sometimes too detailed – but there are huge benefits to that.

Most importantly, outlines/treatments will let you see plot holes, false starts, sagging character arcs, overly complicated narratives and the like before you plunge into writing the book itself. If you go down a wrong path, it’s a lot less painful to discover that on page 4 of a story treatment than on page 140 of a manuscript.

The other benefit is that because I write really detailed treatments and road-test them with editors and trusted readers, I can usually write the actual book very quickly. That four-day sprint I mentioned above could not have happened without all the work that had happened first.

Last bit of preaching: I think some writers dislike and/or fear treatments because they feel they’re straitjackets. But they’re not—they’re blueprints for the house, not the house itself. I’ve never had a book come out exactly like its treatment, and that’s good. You always change your mind about some things, see different possibilities, etc. The difference, to me, is that a treatment makes those zig-zags easier to navigate and results in a better book. You’re making improvements on the fly instead of improvising fixes.

Why do you write?

When I was a kid I told everybody I was going to be the starting shortstop for the New York Mets. When I turned out to have no athletic ability whatsoever, writing was my reluctant Plan B.

Ha ha. (Though that’s true.) I’ve always loved thinking up stories and sharing them with other people. Writing lets you dream onto the page, and sometimes what you come up with resonates with people who picked up your book. Which is really pretty miraculous, if you think about it.

Sometimes I wish I was a financial wizard, a genius programmer or something more lucrative and stable than being a writer. But I’m not wired for any of those things—I’m wired for dreaming up stories and sharing them as best I can.

And you know what? I know financial wizards and genius programmers, and they say: “It’s so cool that you get to write Star Wars.” And they’re right. I’m insanely lucky and I try not to forget that.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve gotten much better at streamlining and strengthening plots and at being true to the characters in my stories. Some of that has come from working with superb, generous storytellers and editors at Lucasfilm, Disney, HarperCollins and other places. But it’s also come from simply putting in the work. I’m a better writer now than I was two years ago, let alone twenty, in part because I’m older and I’ve lived more, but also because I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words in that time.

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

Putting your butt in your seat and doing it. It is so much easier to not write than it is to write. There are errands to run, papers to organize, household stuff to clean, plans to make, mental rabbit holes to disappear down—all of which suddenly become urgent when it’s just you and a blank page. And we haven’t even mentioned the Internet, that marvelous and terrible curiosity/procrastination machine.

One thing that helps me is I spent years as a working journalist, with deadlines as clear and present dangers. If you’ve got a story due at 5, the paper isn’t going to hold the presses because the muse hasn’t flitted down to alight on your shoulder and whisper into your ear. You do the best you can with what you have and get the work done—and then you do the same thing again the next day. That was excellent training for when I was finally ready to write fiction.

Yes, you need inspiration to create good work. But the inspiration emerges from doing the work. We all want an idea to arrive fully formed and then bring it to happy fruition, but that rarely if ever happens. You have to fight for it. All that writing advice about summoning the muse is well-intentioned, but I suspect it does writers more harm than good. Waiting for the muse is a recipe for talking about writing instead of writing. If you’re going to succeed as a writer, you have to be your own muse.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m out of shape despite the fact that my desk is 20 feet from a treadmill. This is a problem that I need to address, not so I look better in my clothes (though that would be nice) but so I produce better work.

Writing is mental exercise, yes, but that exercise takes a physical toll. I find when I’m in good physical shape that I am able to put in a longer writing day, I’m more disciplined during that day, and my writing and storytelling are both sharper. And yet this is a lesson I’m constantly having to relearn, because exercise is the first thing I jettison when I get overburdened, stressed, etc.

I don’t mean you have to run five miles a day or have a six-pack or a certain BMI—that’s not it at all. But I think the writing life is more physical than we imagine and writers would do well to remember it. Starting with me!

That’s an interesting perspective and it has me eyeing my elliptical. What motivates or inspires you?

The world is just an amazing place. It can be horrifying and depressing and infuriating, yes, but it can also be astonishing and inspiring and heartbreakingly beautiful. In all those cases, it’s because the world is full of stories.

Here’s an exercise I like to do as part of school visits: I take a copy of that day’s newspaper (an actual physical copy), tear it into single pages and pass those out to the kids. Then I tell them to find something on whatever page they have—even if it’s the classifieds—and use it as a jumping-off point for a story. Give what they read a twist, or let one thought lead to another, and come up with something. Inevitably, they dream up great things—surprising and wonderful stories.

You can do that just walking down the street. Keep your eyes and ears open and be curious and ask yourself questions and you’ll come home with more story ideas than you can ever be able to write.

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

You just keep going, I suppose.

When I get low, I remember that everything ever written has had its rabid detractors, that every writer has written things that didn’t work, and that we’re all fallible and make mistakes—some of them ones we’ll brood about forever. It can feel like you’re the only one that’s happened to, but it happens to all of us.

There are people who think To Kill a Mockingbird is a terrible book. There are Coen Brothers movies that don’t work. And everyone has some ill-advised remark or teenage humiliation or missed opportunity that haunts them when it’s 4 a.m. and they can’t sleep. You feel alone in these things but you’re not.

Just keep going. Learn from your mistakes as best you can. Accept that you’ll make more mistakes, vow to correct them, and forgive yourself for them. Know that luck plays a role in things and you can’t control that. And then get on with it. It’s all you can do.

Do you have any pet projects?

I make custom baseball cards. Not for stars, but for the marginal players who never got a card, or who played briefly for one team but only got a card with some other team. I make them to look as much as possible like the actual cards of a given year, down to the photos and the design and the stats on the back and the little accentuate-the-positive facts about the players.

When I make one of those that’s authentic enough, I get a little moment where I can be taken by surprise and think it’s “real”—that someone really made, say, a Benny Ayala card in 1976, and I just never got one buying packs at the drugstore or trading cards during recess.

That makes me really happy, in ways I struggle to articulate. I suppose it makes me feel like in a ridiculously small way I’ve made the universe a more ordered and complete place—more like it should be. I find that soothing. And even though sometimes I’m aghast at the time I didn’t spend writing, I think it’s good that to work different creative muscles.

Thank you so much, Jason, for taking the time to drop by. Before I share an excerpt from Hunt for Hydra, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a … stubborn, infuriating SOB. But one who’s got your back.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Baseball

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d have my hair back or the higher metabolism of my youth. I’ll take either, thanks.

My biggest peeve is: Winter. The northeastern U.S. is a 400-year-old scam. We should all move to California.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: I’m not wired to ever feel truly comfortable or happy and I’m learning to accept that. Sounds like a weird thing to be satisfied with, but I’ve wasted so much time trying to change it, and I have better things to do.

Excerpt from The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra:

jp1The firing ahead of them had stopped. Tycho looked at his schematic and realized this was where Carlo’s group had gotten lost. He turned on his lamp and saw they were in a narrow room with two ladder wells instead of the maze of passageways shown on the schematic. Pistols and a knife were spinning slowly through the air.

Tycho signaled to the retainers, and they kicked with their hands and feet until they reached the wall, where they locked on to the metal, the magnets in their gloves clicking faintly. They shut off the lamps and began to work their way around the perimeter of the room in the darkness, lifting their hands and feet one at a time and clanking along the wall.

“I think I know what modifications they made,” Yana said over Tycho’s headset. “In about five meters you should reach a short passageway leading to the quarterdeck.”

“Tycho, Ironhawk’s boarding party has entered the Hydra,” Diocletia said in his ear.

The members of the boarding party reached the spot Yana had told them to aim for, but instead of the emptiness of a passageway, their fingers found the outline of a sealed door. Tycho and four retainers—Higgs, Tully, Croke, and Laney—turned on their lamps and took up positions on either side of the door, with the last retainer, Chin, clinging to the ceiling like a spider. They shut off the lights, and Tycho thumbed the door control. Nothing happened.

“Break it down, Mr. Croke,” he said.

“Tycho!” Yana said urgently. “Dad says another gang of Hydras got behind them—they’re headed your way!”

Tycho spun, lifting his gloves off the walls too quickly. His upper body began to float, and he hurriedly felt for the wall again. He pulled out his earpiece and could hear yelling. The voices were getting closer.

“Enemy coming at us!” Tycho yelled. “Look to your rear! Tully, shut off that cursed light!”

A laser bolt struck high on the wall near Chin, dazzling Tycho’s eyes. He heard the thump of the Hydras kicking off the walls of the passageway to hurl themselves through the air in zero gravity, screaming as they came. Another laser blast gouged the decking below Tycho’s feet.

Just like the simulator, Tycho reminded himself, trying to force himself to breathe. But of course it wasn’t anything like the simulator. Wounds here were real, and those who died stayed dead.

“There’s too many—they’ll gun us down!” Higgs screamed, firing his carbine at the oncoming pirates. His eyes were huge and wild. In the sudden light from the shots, Tycho saw Chin windmilling his arms, trying to reestablish contact with the wall. Tully was fumbling for his blaster.

“Higgs! Chin! Tully!” Tycho yelled. “Stand your ground! STAND YOUR GROUND! You are Comets, men, and you will defend crew and country!”

Tycho drew his pistol, reaching behind him to press the magnets in the glove on his free hand against the wall. Short, controlled bursts, he thought.

Then the pirates were among them, screaming and firing. Flashes of laser fire lit up the darkness, giving Tycho crazy, jumbled glimpses of Comets and pirates firing, yelling, tumbling away from the walls. Carbines cracked and thudded, and a spear of laser light zipped by Tycho’s ear, close enough to scorch his skin and fill his nostrils with the smell of burning hair. Someone smashed into him, sending him spinning in the zero gravity, and he fumbled for the wall, his pistol jerking in his hand as he fired again and again, screaming at the top of his lungs.

Then Croke was gripping his shoulder, mouth close to his ear.

“Easy, Master Hashoone,” he said soothingly. “It’s done.”

Croke had turned his headlamp on. Five of Mox’s pirates were still and silent, floating through the air. So was Chin, hand still clutched to his throat, eyes empty. Higgs was hugging his arm to his side, teeth bared in a grimace.

“Tyke!” Yana was yelling in his ear. “What’s happening?”

“We lost Chin, but we’re all right,” Tycho said, gasping for breath.

“Acknowledged,” Diocletia said. “You need to keep moving.”

Tycho shut his eyes for a moment, trying to force his hands to stop shaking.

“Aye-aye,” he said. “Proceeding to the quarterdeck. Mr. Croke, I need this door open.”

For those of you who would like to learn more about Jason Fry or purchase his books, you may do so though the following links:

 Jason Fry’s Dorkery (his term, not mine):

Twitter: @jasoncfry

Jupiter Pirates official site:

Faith and Fear in Flushing:


Book Buy Links: 



Hunt for the Hydra:

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 1 – Interview With Michaelbrent Collings

MbSeriousMediumEveryone dreams of becoming a best-selling Indie author, but very few make it, let alone to the very top of the heap. That is why I am particularly pleased to have been introduced to this week’s truly gifted and definitely prodigious writer, Michaelbrent Collings, who—for the moment—has stepped away from his usual works of horror to write a YA epic fantasy, The Sword Chronicles.

Michaelbrent Collings is an international bestseller and one of the top indie horror writers in the U.S. He writes horror, sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, and YA and middle-grade books. He is also a produced screenwriter who has written movies for Hollyweird, though in his dark and painful moments he admits he has never “done lunch” or engaged the services of a waxer. Larry Correia, New York Times bestselling author of Monster Hunter International and Son of the Black Sword, has this to say about Mr. Collings latest work, “Epic fantasy meets superheroes, with lots of action and great characters. The Sword Chronicles is dark yet hopeful, and very entertaining. Collings is a great storyteller.”

Michaelbrent describes his book this way:

She is a Dog – one of the many children and teens across the empire of Ansborn who have been sentenced to fight in the arenas. There they fight in battle after battle until they die for the sport of the people of Ansborn – an empire built atop the peaks of five mountains.

But one day she picks up a knife… and everything changes.

She discovers she is a Greater Gift – one of a handful of magic users with powers so great they have only two choices: to join the Empire as one of its premier assassins, or die as a threat to the Empire itself.

She is no longer a Dog. Now, she is Sword. And she will soon realize that in this Empire, not all is what it seems. Good and evil collide, and she can never be sure whom to trust – not even herself.

She holds life in her hands for some. Brings death by her blade to others.

She is a killer.
She is a savior.

That is one compelling lead-in. Will you tell us something more?

It’s an epic fantasy about a young woman who is raised to be a Dog – one of many teens and children all over the Empire of Ansborn who fight in an arena, over and over with no hope of release. One day she discovers she has a magic power granted to one in a million people in the Empire, and she has to choose between a life as an assassin for the Empire, or a life as a revolutionary fighting to overthrow it. It’s a tough choice, because the people she loves and admires the most are her fellow assassins, but she grows to understand the Empire might not be the good thing she has been taught it is. It’s a lot of fun, because I don’t just like to write books where the bad guys have redemptive qualities, I like to write books where you really aren’t sure who the bad guys are for most of the read.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

My need to eat. This is my job, so before I write anything there’s a pretty strict vetting process to figure out if there’s an audience for it, and if the audience will react strongly to this particular idea. In this case, both were a yes, so boom.

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

I had a narrow window to write it. It clocks in at something like 140,000 words, and I finished it in three weeks. I usually write very fast, but this was pushing it a bit. And how did I overcome it? I slept very little and was very cranky every day.

What other novels have you written?

That’s a short question with a long answer. I’ve written close to 40 novels in the last five years. Some of the popular ones are The Haunted (paranormal horror), The Loon (monstery goodness), The Colony Saga (a zombie apocalypse that moves so fast and hard it would give Michael Bay a heart attack), RUN (sci-fi thriller), and – of course – The Sword Chronicles: Child of the Empire

Tell us about your path to publication.

Ha! I wrote a book called RUN and shopped it to literally every publishing house and agency in the U.S. And if you had rolled me into their offices covered in gold dust, they wouldn’t have touched me. A few months after the last rejection, I put the book up on Kindle (“Hey! It can’t hurt anyone, right?”). A few months after that, it was the top-selling horror and sci-fi title on Amazon, and one of the top hundred products in the Kindle store. Not just books, but products. Out of all the blogs, crosswords, etc. etc. blah blah blah, RUN was in the top hundred. This did me the huge disservice of convincing me I knew what I was doing, so I wrote fifteen more books and had nothing like the same success. It took about twenty books before I started making serious money (i.e., enough to live on).

Happily (hence the “Ha!” at the beginning of this), I’ve fielded offers by numerous traditional publishing houses since then… and had to turn them down because I’m making more money on my own than they can offer me.

Good for you! Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

I’m actually a screenwriter as well as a novelist. Several of my scripts have been produced (and, through the magic of Hollywood, amazing scripts were turned into meh movies), and I’ve been reviewed and/or featured by everything from mom-and-pop blogs to The San Francisco Book Review to NPR. To my knowledge, only three or four (out of many dozens) pro reviewers have given my books the thumbs down, which is nice.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Nope. Well, I’m a husband and a father, but if I call either of those a “job,” my lovely wife wails on me with dirty diapers until I recant.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I am deeply in love. I have a wife I adore, and who has inexplicably stayed with me for over a decade of marriage. I have kids who inspire me – both to do better and to be better – and who constantly make me laugh. I am a blessed guy, and will be such whether I’m a world-famous writer or a guy who digs latrines with his mouth.

What motivates or inspires you?

I could say it’s my family, and that would be true. I could say it was the enjoyment I feel when creating, and that would be true.

Both are nice. How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

I could say it’s my family, and that would be true. I could say it was the enjoyment I feel when creating, and that would be true.

But let’s be honest here: some days it’s all about the Diet Coke.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Continuing to live. Which (for once!) isn’t a silly answer. I have major depressive disorder with psychotic breaks and suicidal tendencies. Some days it’s not about word count, it’s about the number of breaths I manage to take. And in my coherent moments, I understand that breathing in every time I breathe out is quite enough of an achievement – and one to be proud of.

Before I share some of your writing with our visitors, 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 … … love machine.

The one thing I cannot do without is: … my ability to shoot lasers out of my left eye.

The one thing I would change about my life: … the fact that I can only shoot Gummi Bears out of my right eye.

My biggest peeve is: … people who ask what my biggest peeve is (HOW DARE YOU!)

Thank you, Michaelbrent, for taking the time to share something about yourself and your writing. For those who would like to learn more about this author or purchase his books, I have provided links for you to do so right after the excerpt below:

Here, for your enjoyment, is an excerpt from The Sword Chronicles:

SwordChronicles433x653 The girl woke from the Dream of the Man and the Woman, and she woke as she always did: boot and water.

Many people curled in as the boot kicked them, tried to avoid the water.

These were the ones who would die fast.

The girl had learned quickly. Had learned that if you curled in around the boot it didn’t hurt any less, but it meant you weren’t face up to receive the water. A bucketful to the face, and if you kept your mouth open you could drink. She guessed that that water was fully a tenth part of what she would get each day. And it was clean. Water they were given in the trough was often foul, muddied with clouds of dirt and perhaps worse.

But the water that woke them… it tasted good.

We won’t waste bad water on torture. No, never that.

That it was a torture there could be no doubt. Because all was torture for those in the kennels. All was death for the Dogs.

Trainer walked among them, being handed bucket after bucket by Assistant, dropping a bucket on each of the twenty or so Dogs that slept in this kennel.

“Get up, Dogs!” he shouted. “Another beautiful day to die!”

I won’t die today, thought the girl. But she gave no voice to the thoughts.

There was no point. Speaking never brought anything but pain.

A good Dog was silent unless spoken to. And even then, silence was often best.

The girl stood. Stretched. Never could tell when a fight was coming, so it was best to be loose.

“Get up!” Trainer shouted. He was a beefy man, thick in the middle, with broad scars that crisscrossed his chest and back. The girl wondered – not for the first time – if Trainer had once been a Dog. And told herself – not for the first time – to get that thought out of her head. It was implicit hope. It was the idea that she might one day leave this place.

But there was only one way to leave this place. And she refused to leave that way.

I’ll stay forever – I’ll die – if it comes to that.

“I said, get up!” Trainer’s voice, never far from a roar, now rose to a shriek.

A moan came from a small pile of skin and bone, seemingly bound together only by the loose rags that passed for clothing in the kennel. Trainer prodded the pile with his foot. Another moan. But no motion.

Trainer gestured. Assistant – as wiry and thin as Trainer was thick and muscular – held out a sword.

The girl looked away. She knew what was next. Had seen it before. Had no wish to see it again.

There was the particular noise of sword cleaving flesh. A gurgle.

The pile of rags and skin and bone had refused to get up. And a Dog who resisted training, who refused orders, would earn no coin and was good for nothing.

Trainer tossed water on the next Dog. Some of it washed the blood on the floor toward the drain set in the middle of the kennel. That drain was where they pushed their nightsoils, the rare bits of food that were too rotten to eat.

And it had drunk its fill of blood. As it had done before, and as it would do again.

“Rise and shine,” shouted Trainer as the last Dog – the last still-living

Dog – struggled to his feet. “It’s another love-er-ly day!”

He laughed.

The blood had washed away.

The day was begun.

As promised, here are Michaelbent’s social links:


Writing Advice Blog:

Facebook Fanpage:

Twitter feed:

Book online sales links:










The Write Stuff – Monday, January 18 – Interview With Alan Dean Foster

You can imagine my delight when WordFire Press asked me to interview the legendary author, Alan Dean Foster, about his two new books, Star Wars – The Force Awakens and his long-awaited original novel Oshenerth. Equally pleasing, I found Mr. Foster both easy to work with and prompt in his responses.

Author and friendAlan Dean Foster’s work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He has also written numerous non-fiction articles on film, science, and scuba diving, as well as having produced the novel versions of many films, including such well-known productions as “Star Wars”, the first three “Alien” films, “Alien Nation”, and “The Chronicles of Riddick”. Other works include scripts for talking records, radio, computer games, and the story for the first “Star Trek” movie. His novel Shadowkeep was the first ever book adaptation of an original computer game. In addition to publication in English his work has been translated into more than fifty languages and has won awards in Spain and Russia. His novel Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990, the first work of science-fiction ever to do so. His sometimes humorous, occasionally poignant, but always entertaining short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in original anthologies and several “Best of the Year” compendiums. His published oeuvre includes more than 100 books.

The Force Awakens CoverI understand that you spoofed the audience at the Star Wars Celebration 2015, Del Rey panel, where it was announced you would be novelizing the movie. Will you give us a recap of what you did?

The notion was mutually developed by Del Rey and myself. We thought it would be fun for the audience if, instead of my simply appearing on the stage with the other panelists, they announced that they were still looking for someone to do the novelization. They then opened the floor to questions.   As was prearranged, I was called upon first, whereupon I (as a presumed stranger) offered to write the book, as I was “familiar with the characters and setting”. After some easy back and forth, they said, “Okay, you can do it”. Whereupon I was introduced. The audience loved it.

After Michael Arndt, the original screenwriter, left the project and J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took over, the movie was put on a production fast track. Since it wasn’t until April 9 of 2015 that the above announcement took place and the book’s release had to coincide with the movie release, how much time were you actually given to complete the book?

Three months. I finished it in less than two. That’s just the way I write, whether it’s a novelization, a spinoff, or an original novel.

It’s not surprising, then, that they selected you. How satisfied are you with the result?

Quite, although as with any work, one always wishes for the opportunity to do another polish.

Was there any sort of collaborative process between yourself, Abrams and Kasdan, or were you just left on your own?

Making even a small film with no expectations is a 24/7 task. Making something on the nature of Star Wars is a 25/7 task. Directors, producers, writers, actors are completely focused on and absorbed in the making of the film. Even if they wished to participate in the development of what is at base an ancillary product, the time simply is not available. So yes, I was left on my own, albeit with input from my editor at Del Rey, Shelly Shapiro, and the Star Wars story group.

How much access to the screenplay and production materials were you given?

I had a full screenplay. I requested, and was provided, with as much in the way of production material as Lucasfilm/Disney was able and willing to provide. This consisted primarily of still shots of characters in costume, sets, and props.

Did The Walt Disney Company exercise any sort of supervisory role?

As will be the case with all Star Wars-related material in the future, the Star Wars story group vetted everything I submitted.

Because your “Pip and Flinx” series is as rife with both the intergalactic populace and dry humor one finds in the Star Wars saga, I thoroughly expected your distinct writing style would bleed over into Star Wars – The Force Awakens. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find your book sounds exactly like George Lucas. Was it difficult to take on his voice?

When doing a novelization, I try to stay as true to the work of the screenwriters as possible. I’m doing a collaboration, an expansion…not a revision. Over the decades I’ve had to assume the “voices” of many other writers, most notably that of Eric Frank Russell in my expansion of his novella “Design for Great-Day”. It’s very flattering when readers feel that the expansion is a seamless development of the original writer(s) style.

While on one hand, a novel can take a reader inside a character’s head and provide background in ways a movie cannot, but on the other lacks a movie’s visual cues, there are inevitable differences between the way each tells the story that raise certain questions:

 In many instances, your book provides much more detail than the movie does, for example the exchange between Rey and Unkar Plutt concerning BB8 or, much later on, when Finn and Statura were talking about Starkiller Base, its weaknesses and capabilities. Are these your embellishments, or were they in the original screenplay but lost on the cutting room floor?

Those are mine, as are a fair number of similar bits of expansion in the novel. If you don’t provide such material, then you as a collaborator are not doing your job and the reader is not getting their money’s worth when they buy the book.

Where do the character or cultural backstories included in your book—that I suspect could not have been part of the screenplay, for example as pertain to Poe and Finn—come from?

I take what there is in the screenplay and develop the material further, attempting to envision what the characters themselves would say if they were present to fill in the blank spaces in their own backgrounds.

Oshenerth CoverI’d like to switch to something else that I suspect is much dearer to your heart. As long ago as 2009, I saw references on your website to a trilogy of your own creation titled Oshanurth, but never saw the work materialize. Now I learn that WordFire Press has published it with the revised spelling Oshenerth. Are you excited it’s finally in print and why has it taken so long?

Legacy publishers are less and less willing to take on material that doesn’t fit into pre-conceived (read: pre-sold) slots. I think the fact that Oshenerth takes place entirely underwater might have caused some hesitation on the part of assorted editors…though there was one who wanted to publish it immediately, only to have it rejected by the conservative owner of the company.

What was the inspiration behind the story?

I’ve been an avid diver for more than 30 years, fascinated by the ocean and its life. I always wanted to incorporate what I’ve seen and experienced underwater into a full novel. I’m especially fascinated by cephalopods.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about it?

One of the main characters, a cuttlefish, is based on an encounter I had with two of them off the coast of Blupblup Island, northern Papua New Guinea. Watching them communicate with color changes (white means danger in cuttlefish talk, by the way) as well as watching them watch me, I could not help but be taken by their evident intelligence.

Will you eventually release the full trilogy and, if so, when may we expect to see volumes two and three?

Oshenerth is a fully stand-alone work. As to continuing it, time and readership will tell.

As I calculate it, over your writing career, you’ve produced more than two books a year. What is your writing routine?

Rise around 7 am, read international and national news on the web, do research, write something, have lunch, go to gym or do the shopping, write some more. Write something every single day.

Just for fun: I understand you used to be quite the world traveller. While my own travels have provided many unique experiences, one of yours really caught my attention: You’ve actually cooked and eaten a piranha. I have to ask (1) how did that come about and (2) what did it taste like? Please don’t tell me it tasted like chicken.

You’re safe. Piranha broiled in a pan with a little butter, salt and pepper, and spices to seasoning, tastes just like fresh-water trout.

Yum! Thank you so much for agreeing to participate in my author interview series. Before I close with an excerpt from Oshenerth, I’d like to attempt what I call a Lightning Round, since it often produces unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… talkative

The thing I’m most proud of is… getting a tooth from a live great white shark

The one thing I cannot do without is… iced tea

The one thing I would do over is… travel even more.

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… Chuck Jones’ work.

And now, a quick taste of Alan Dean Foster’s original work, Oshenerth:

Chapter 1

As soon as he had the sleek, toothy slayer cornered, Chachel knew the shark was going to use magic. He was not worried. The heavy spear of pure white bone that he held had been shaped and carved by Fasalik Boneworker himself from the massive, scavenged lower jaw of a dead rorqual. You could slam it against rock and the shaft would not shatter. Furthermore, he had surprised the shark from below while it was busy patrolling the mirrorsky. Now it was trapped between the waterless void above and reef wall behind.

Cradling the spear under one arm and aiming it with the other, Chachel adjusted the strap that held the woven patch over the socket where his left eye had once resided and swam forward. The webbing on his left foot and the fin growing from the back of his calf fluttered in perfect synchrony with the artificial counterparts that occupied the space where his right leg was missing below the knee.

Above and in front of him, the blacktip’s eyes darted nervously from side to side as it searched for an escape route. If the shark made a dash for it, Chachel was ready with the spear. If it began to spout time-honored shark sortilege, the hunter’s well-honed vocabulary contained a clutch of stock counterwords. The gills of trapped shark and merson alike pulsed furiously, flushing water and extracting oxygen as they strained in expectation of the coming confrontation.

A powerful, yard-long tentacle slithered over Chachel’s taut left shoulder.

“Watch for a combination of teeth and talk. It may try to attack and invoke at the same time.”

Chachel nodded tersely. He knew that Glint was only trying to help. But it would have been better if the cuttlefish, who was as big as Chachel himself though not nearly as heavy, had stayed back out of the way. The last thing a hunter needed at killing time was to feel crowded.

Then the blacktip charged.

To anyone who has never seen a shark strike, it can be said that the great fish does not actually appear to move. One moment it is swimming lazily, and the next it is somewhere else, as if no water in-between has been transited. Some mersons called it wish-swimming: wish you are another place, and without a single kick or flick of a tail you find yourself therewith transported. After all, to catch something as fast as a fish, the shark must be faster still. Couple this intrinsic speed and ferocity with traditional shark magic, and surely an intended target has no chance to escape at all.

But Chachel was ready for the charge. Ready physically, because over the years he had pushed and worked his body to compensate for the loss of his left eye and right leg. Ready mentally, because he had laboriously learned the appropriate counterspells and protections. And ready emotionally, because he liked killing. He especially liked killing sharks because it was sharks who had taken his eye and the lower half of his right leg. It was sharks who had killed his father and mother in the same unanticipated pitched battle.

It was always sharks.

Visitors who would like to better acquaint themselves with Alan Dean Foster, or purchase his books, may do so via the following links:


Oshenerth via Amazon:          

Star Wars – The Force Awakens via Amazon: