The Write Stuff – Monday, February 27 – Interview With M. L. Spencer

While most of my interviews over the last two years have focused on traditionally published authors, I’m still delighted whenever I come across a self-published author who is winning awards and garnering acclaim. This week’s guest, M. L. Spencer is one such and I’m pleased to introduce you to her and her work.

M.L. Spencer fell in love with fantasy fiction in the third grade when she read the entire Chronicles of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever series by Stephen R. Donaldson. She went on from there to read every fantasy novel she could get her hands on. Her favorite authors are Robert Jordan, Stephen King, and Frank Herbert. Throw some David Eddings in there for flavor, and that mix pretty much describes up her series The Rhenwars Saga.

 She describes her most recent work, Darkstorm, this way:

When Merris Bryar stumbles across a secret meeting in the forgotten passages beneath Aerysius, she has no idea the harrowing sequence of events her discovery will set into motion. Merris discovers that deep below the city of the mages, forces of chaos are hard at work boring the Well of Tears, a gateway to the Netherworld.

Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a conspiracy of darkmages have resorted to harnessing the powers of Hell to save their legacy. The only mages who can oppose them are Merris and her mentor, Sephana Clemley, along with their protectors, Braden and Quin Reis: two brothers with a turbulent past and a caustic relationship. But both Braden and Quin are compromised, harboring terrible and tragic secrets.

Will Braden and Quin be able to protect Sephana and Merris long enough to stop the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they fall victim to the darkmages’ sinister manipulations and join their conspiracy?

Tell us about your most recent release.

Darkstorm is the prequel to The Rhenwars Saga, Spencer’s darkly epic fantasy series that chronicles the turbulent battle between two conflicting ideologies of magic and the moral imperatives that drive them.

In Darkstorm, Merris Bryar stumbles across a secret meeting where she discovers that forces of chaos are hard at work boring the Well of Tears, a gateway to the Netherworld. Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a conspiracy of darkmages have resorted to harnessing the powers of Hell to save their legacy.

Darkstorm is an exploration into two conflicting moral philosophies: deontology and consequentialism. The main character, Braden, is inflexible in his morals, while his brother Quin is constantly compromising himself. Braden adheres to deontological moral ethics, or duty ethics. The darkmages they face obey consequentialist moral ethics, in which the end justifies the means. If taken too far, both of these moral philosophies can be used to justify actions that most would deem immoral. Because of this, it is often difficult to tell who is “good” and who is “evil.”

What was the inspiration behind it?

The poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

That’s a very interesting and unexpected response. Will you tell us what was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how you overcame it?

Being a prequel, Darkstorm was written after Book Two of The Rhenwars Saga, Darkmage. Trying to create an entire plot out of a backstory was both thrilling and challenging, as many elements were already fixed and could not be changed or adapted to fit the new story.

I’ve already hinted about the awards that you’ve won. Would you care to expand?

Darkmage, Book Two of The Rhenwars Saga, won the IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy in 2012. I was also awarded First Place Prose in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration.

A bit about your time spent writing: What is your work schedule like when you’re exercising your craft?

I am a full-time biology teacher, so I write around my job. While working, I write nights and weekends. While on break, I write all day and night. I am quite obsessive with it.

Will you tell us about your path to publication?

After writing Darkmage in 2002, I tried to market it to agents and publishers but was met with only rejection. Not a surprise – the manuscript at the time was 230K words and I was not able to consider splitting it. So it sat in my closet for almost ten years. Then I dug it back out for a rewrite. Once again, I tried to market it without success and finally self-published Darkmage in 2011.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Definitely! I leave small details of individual scenes to chance, but I like to have a well-honed plot going in.

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

The most powerful challenge I face is trying to balance writing with my other commitments. I write obsessively and find it hard to pull myself away. It is often hard for me to stop plotting in my head and sit back and enjoy life. I have such a busy mind that always wants to be problem solving!

What motivates or inspires you?

Good people who go out of their way to help others for no better reason than because it’s the right thing to do.

I like that response. Before I conclude our discussion with an excerpt from Darkstorm, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m an… introvert

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee

The one thing I would change about my life: I would have majored in creative writing

My biggest peeve is: poor grammar

I’m right there with you on that one. The person I’m most satisfied with is: my husband

I’d like to thank you, M. L. Spencer, for taking part in my interview series. Those of our visitors who would like to follow you online, or purchase your books can do so on the links that follow this excerpt from Darkstorm.

Glancing at Braden, Sephana quickly produced another glow of magelight at their feet. To this he added his own, a golden-amber shade that mingled with Sephana’s mist, became a churning fog of roiling colors. The magelight trailed ahead of them through the opening in the wall, illuminating a dark chamber just ahead.

Through the glowing fog they walked hand in hand, their shadows cast in tormented display upon the walls to either side.

As they stepped into the chamber, Braden pulled up short.

Sephana shivered, feeling as if a cold wash of water had been poured over her head, running down her neck and trickling down her back.

The room they entered was just as dark and wet as the rest of the warren of passageways they had traversed. On one side of the floor was a large slab of granite, waist-high. It had the look of a table or altar, hewn from a single slab of rock. A foul, dark liquid oozed down its sides, congealing on its surface.

To the other side of the chamber was a circular well made of staggered granite blocks.

It was toward the stone table that Braden moved first. He paused beside it, eyes contemplating the rough surface. Slowly, he extended his hand and dipped a finger into the dark liquid pooled on its surface. His finger came away coated with thick, coagulated blood.

Sephana recoiled with a gasp. The sheer amount of blood was appalling. It collected on the surface of the table, running in thick rivulets to the floor. She was standing in it. The blood had mixed with the water at her feet, rendering it impossible to tell how much there actually was.

She shook her head and whispered, “Animal sacrifice? To what purpose?”


Braden’s voice was empty and hollow, completely drained of all emotion. The sound of it chilled her heart. He lifted something from the floor next to the slab of rock. It took Sephana a moment to recognize the object in his hand: a thick iron shackle anchored by a heavy chain to the side of the granite block.

Human,” she whispered.

She covered her mouth with her hand as Braden cast the chain away from him, repulsed. The iron shackle slapped hard against the slab with a sharp ring of metal.

Sephana flinched at the harsh sound. Braden hardly seemed to care if anyone heard. With a grimace of contempt, he wrenched himself back away from the altar, swinging around to face the well. He stalked across the floor toward it, kneeling down beside the granite ring. His hand rose, tracing over a series of vile-looking markings that were carved into the well’s rim. They looked more like claw marks raked into the stone by some ghastly creature than any language Sephana knew.

She crept up beside him and observed Braden’s study of the gruesome marks.

“I want to go,” she insisted, voice quavering.

But he didn’t act as though he even heard her. He was kneeling beside the well, inching his way slowly around its circumference, eyes and fingers exploring the hideous markings all around the rim.

At last, Braden finished his scrutiny of the well’s texture and pushed himself to his feet. His gaze remained fixed on the sinister markings, stare narrowed in thought. He brought his hand up to his face, absently stroking his thumb over the whiskers on his chin. He rested his other hand on the well’s cover, a thick slab of granite stone.

“This is a portal,” he said finally. His voice was cold and dispassionate. Utterly flat. He didn’t look up at her; his eyes remained captured by the cruel markings of the well’s rim. “They’re boring a gateway to the Netherworld. And they’re using human sacrifice to finish the job.”

Sephana could only stare vacantly ahead, mouth agape.

“They call it the Well of Tears,” Braden continued impassively, indicating an inscription set into the very base of the well itself. “If they succeed—if this gateway is ever opened—then more than just Aerysius will be in danger. They will unleash the powers of Chaos across the world.”

The sound of a loud, metallic crash rang out across the chamber. And then another noise: a distant thundering sound, low and throbbing, echoing up from the depths.

“They know we’re here,” Sephana gasped.


You can follow M. L. Spencer online here:


Twitter: @MLSpencer1



And you can purchase her books here:

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 13 – Interview With Travis Heermann

In addition to being the second author I’ve featured this year with award-winning screenwriting credentials appended to his curriculum vitae, this week’s guest is also the second collaborative writer I’ve featured throughout. You will soon see that this multifaceted man is diversely proficient.

Freelance writer, novelist, award-winning screenwriter, editor, poker player, poet, biker, roustabout, Travis Heermann is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the author of The Ronin Trilogy, The Wild Boys, Rogues of the Black Fury, and co-author of Death Wind, plus short fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines such as Apex Magazine, Alembical, the Fiction River anthology series, Historical Lovecraft, and Cemetery Dance’s Shivers VII. As a freelance writer, he has produced a metric ton of role-playing game work both in print and online, including the Firefly Roleplaying Game, Battletech, Legend of Five Rings, d20 System, and the MMORPG, EVE Online.

He enjoys cycling, martial arts, torturing young minds with otherworldly ideas, and zombies. He has three long-cherished dreams: a produced screenplay, a NYT best-seller, and a seat in the World Series of Poker.

In 2016, he returned to the U.S. after living in New Zealand for a year with his family, toting more Middle Earth souvenirs and photos than is reasonable.

His latest release, Death Wind is a horror western. It came out from WordFire in August and debuted at Dragon Con. To give you a sense of it:

Between the clouds lurks an evil older than man…

In 1891, in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre, awful nightmares and bizarre killing sprees shake the uneasy peace between the frontier town of White Pine and the Lakota on the nearby reservation.

Pioneer doctor Charles Zimmerman finds himself at the forefront of the investigation and uncovers a crawling horror the likes of which he could not imagine.

With the help of an orphaned farm girl, a smart-mouth stage robber, a beaten-down Lakota warrior, a beautiful medicine woman, and Charles’ estranged father – the aging town marshal – Charles must save not only the down of White Pine but also the starving Lakota from an ancient, ravenous evil.

I’m a fan of mixed-genre work. Will you tell us more about it?

Death Wind is a Lovecraftian horror western, co-written with jim pinto. It just came out in September from WordFire Press. It’s a story about hunger, greed, and oppression, and the people who feed on those dark impulses.

What was the inspiration behind it?

We wanted to write something neither of us had ever seen before, and we both liked the idea of doing a horror western, as fans of both genres. Obviously Lovecraft was an inspiration but also tons of great western films like Unforgiven, Tombstone, True Grit, and Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, plus the HBO series Deadwood, which contains some of the most phenomenal writing we’ve seen.

I myself grew up on the Great Plains, maybe a couple hours’ drive from the imaginary locale where we set the story, so there are doubtless experiences and impressions from my life that found their way in there.

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

The biggest challenge was that a novel and a feature film are not the same length. When I finished outlining the novel from the screenplay, I had only about half the length I needed. This turned out to be a great boon, however, because I had the opportunity to fill in the characterizations and backstory of the Lakota characters. The result is a much richer story.

What other novels have you written?

I’m also the author the Ronin Trilogy, a historical fantasy series set in 13th century Japan, Rogues of the Black Fury, a military action fantasy novel in the vein of the Black Company, and The Wild Boys, a young-adult supernatural thriller. I’ve also got a growing body of short fiction out there.

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

Death Wind is the novelization of a screenplay that jim and I wrote first. In 2012, the screenplay won Grand Prize in the screenplay contest at the CINEQUEST Film Festival in San Jose, CA, as well as 2nd place at H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu Con—L.A. the previous October.

So we knew the story had some legs. From there, adapting the story to novel format was a no-brainer. The screenplay hasn’t been produced, but maybe if the novel is a success….

Since jim is primarily a game designer, we’re also kicking around the idea of turning it into a GM-less roleplaying game.

What else are you working on?

Right now I’m working on a feature-length, contemporary drama screenplay and some short stories that are in various stages.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I fall somewhere on the spectrum between pantser and outliner. With Death Wind, we had no idea where the story was going to go when we started. It was a really organic process, working in tandem on the story at the same time. A lot of time, we would take turns writing scenes, brainstorming the next few scenes as we went.

The ratio between outlining and pantsing has been different with every novel I’ve written, but the way the process most often looks is that I have the beginning, the idea, the characters, and I often have a rough idea of the ending (but not always). Writing scenes sparks ideas for more scenes down the road, so I rough those out, a few sentences maybe, and then write toward them.

Why do you write?

Because it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be, deep down, even though I’ve taken sidetracks on other careers.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’m much more conscious (and maybe self-conscious) than I was when I was just starting out. Back in my 20s, I just wrote, and I didn’t worry about whether it was any good, whether it was too much like X or Y. I just did it, and I told what I thought was a fun story.

Nowadays, I’m much more conscious of the fact that I am an artist, producing something that I want to have value for my readers. I still want my readers to enjoy it, but I also want it to have a little heft. Not in the George R.R. Martin/Robert Jordan-doorstop-book kind of way, but in that I have something to say. The world is more screwed up now than it’s been in decades, and I might have something to say about that. If I don’t make them feel something, if I don’t nudge them just a little, I haven’t done my job.

While this attitude makes me take my work more seriously, it can also be paralyzing, so the trick is to balance fun with thinking about what the story is really about.

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

The discipline to produce new words consistently, daily. Life is full of a million distractions, any of which is easier to face than the blank page. Life stuff, errands, jobs, family, all that stuff can force writing into the cracks of time, when it should be opposite.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I write full time, but that’s a mix of fiction and freelancing for a variety of clients. I also teach science fiction literature part-time at the University of Nebraska Omaha. This would be difficult, as I live in Colorado, but thank the web gods for virtual commuting.

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

What motivates me is the drive to have a real writing career. Writers who don’t write don’t have careers. I didn’t embark on this incredibly difficult—but rewarding—path just to stop half way.

My inspirations come from people, from history, and from nature, probably in that order. Humans are this wildly unpredictable species that can do incredible things, acts of poignant kindness, fly to the moon itself. And we can also shoot somebody because their skin is the wrong color.

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

You have to be a glutton for punishment to even consider jumping into the publishing industry. My personality is this strange mix of cynicism and optimism. The cynic in me is rewarded all too often by being right about something—especially over the last year of election season—which often depresses the hell out of me. But ultimately something in me will click and I’ll be able to get past it and move on, hoping that something good might happen. Maybe this time, my work won’t be rejected. Maybe human beings aren’t always awful. Maybe I’ll find a freelance client whose first instinct isn’t to try screwing me over. It’s the optimism that this time I’ll be wrong that keeps me going.

Do you have any pet projects?

I don’t screw around with projects. If I’m working on something, I’m working on something.

Let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… pretty cool guy.

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee.

I’m beginning to notice most authors say that. The one thing I would change about my life: I would have gotten out of destructive relationship much, much sooner.

My biggest peeve is: willful ignorance, the kind where you show someone the truth, over and over again, and they stick their fingers in their ears. La la la la la can’t hear you!

 That’s something I’m also hearing more. For those visitors who have stuck it out this far—I mean how could you not? This is one fascinating man!—here is an excerpt from Death Wind, followed by Travis’s social and book buy links:

Marshal Hank Zimmerman adjusted the brim of his old felt cavalry hat, so faded that it almost looked Confederate gray, and squinted into the midday sun, scratching the grizzled stubble along his jaw. His horse stamped and fussed about being reined up so harshly. A few rocky buttes and stands of brush and cottonwood were the only irregularities in the endless sea of grass.

Except for the lone, distant figure silhouetted on a hilltop, a figure moving unsteadily.

Hank turned his horse toward the figure.

Beyond it, in the distance, the brooding outline of a larger, tree-crested butte loomed, Sentinel Hill.

What was somebody doing so far from town or homestead, on foot, and this close to the reservation? Relations were tense with the Sioux after what had happened in December. The Army gave them a good beating, but the homesteaders and even some of the folks back in White Pine were still nervous about another uprising. All that wild dancing they were doing last year, days of it at a time, gave white folks the shudders.

The wind whipped over the grass and tugged at his hat, forcing him to jam it tighter on his head. His eyes were still sharp, even at his age, and he kept them on the figure. A lone man, no hat, a white man, carrying something in one hand.

Then the figure collapsed out of sight.

Hank spurred his horse to a canter, keeping track of the small impression in the grass where the man’s body lay. Reaching the spot, his reined up and dismounted, cursing his stiff old bones as his boots hit the sod. A slow, steady ,metallic, rhythmic clicking reached him from where the man had fallen.

He approached, hand on his Colt. On the wind, he smelled blood, and his shorthairs spiked like a porcupine. The man lay on his face. Hank rolled him over, and drew back.

A horrid groan escaped the man’s blood spattered face, like a man already reaching for the hereafter. He clutched an empty revolver, thumb and finger cocking and squeezing the trigger in rhythmic succession. His abdomen was a crusty wet mass of caked blood. Clots of brain and skull clung to his face and stubble.

The man’s eyelids fluttered, and Hank recognized his face.

“Oliver McCoy! That you, boy?”

Another groan, barely intelligible. “Marshal?”

“It is. You gutshot?”

A faint wheeze came back. “Yeah.”

Hank peeled his eyes and swept them around the area, pulling his six-gun. “What happened?”

Oliver’s broken, raspy voice forced Hank to lean in. “Camped. Ferrell. Crazy. Crazy. Killed ever’body.” His free hand snatched Hank’s coat. “Saw god!”

Hank clutched Oliver’s hand and tried to pry it free. Even gutshot, the kid was stronger than he looked. “What the hell?”

The whites of Oliver’s eyes blazed. “God! Saw the face of a black god!” Then Oliver’s eyes rolled back, and his head lolled.

Hank grasped the empty pistol and found Oliver’s fingers glued thick around it with dried blood. “Christ!” Prying it away, he thrust the pistol into his pocket, blood and all, then looked down at Oliver with a swell of pity. He knew what a gut wound was. He knew what bleeding out looked like. He knew all too well that getting Oliver help was nearly impossible.

His thumb tickled the hammer of his Colt. One shot, through the head, would end Oliver’s misery, like shooting an injured horse or a man too far gone from Confederate shrapnel. One quick shot. His hand shook a little, seeing creased blood funneling over Oliver’s lips, down his neck. Hank remembered all too well what young wounded faces looked like. Thirty-five years and he still remembered.

Common sense fought with common decency. They were miles from anything. White Pine was half a day’s ride. Oliver would never make it.

“Dammit to hell.”

But Hank was going to try today.

He eased the pistol back into his holster. “Pain in the ass.” In one swift motion, Hank slung Oliver over his shoulders. He approached his horse, knowing this boy should have been dead hours ago. “I’m gonna get your stupid ass to a doctor, son.” As he reached for the reins, the horse shied away. “Christ, Daisy, settle down! He ain’t gonna hurt you.” He reached for the reins again, but the mare shied back again. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

As his hand reached again for the bridle, the animal bolted for the nearest horizon.

He could do nothing but watch the horse’s rump grow smaller with distance. Who was the horse’s ass now?

“Son of a bitch.”

The McCoy boy was already getting heavy.

In a heartbeat, Hank took stock of his situation. Nothing to see in any direction except the grim gray butte of Sentinel Hill and those thunderheads in the distance. No way he could get back to White Pine now, not carrying a gutshot man. The White River Agency was the closest habitation. His jaw tightened at the thought of going among so many redskins, but he wasn’t going to change his mind now about saving Oliver’s life. It was a few miles to the reservation, but whatever was keeping Oliver alive might just kill him in the next hour. If was going to go, he had better get to it.

“Well, Oliver, how do you feel about walking?”


Follow Travis here:

Web Site:



Twitter: @TravisHeermann




You may purchase his books here:


Barnes & Noble



Baen Library

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 30 – Interview With Aaron Michael Ritchey

I love it when an author merges multiple, entirely disparate genres into one, since the resulting book has the potential to take the reader down heretofore untraveled paths. This week’s featured interviewee, Aaron Michael Ritchey, did just that when he decided to combine several, apparently unrelated themes.

Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of five young adult novels and numerous pieces of short fiction. In 2012, his first novel, The Never Prayer, was a finalist in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold Conference. In 2015, his second novel, Long Live the Suicide King, won the Building the Dream award for best YA novel. His epic sci-fi western series, The Juniper Wars, is available now through WordFire Press. The second book, Killdeer Winds, was on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for September of 2016. Aaron lives in Colorado with his wife and two stormy daughters.

This is how he describes Killdeer Winds:

By 2058, both the Sino-American War and the Sterility Epidemic have decimated the male population. Electricity does not function in five western states. Collectively, they are known as the Juniper. It is the most dangerous place on Earth.

Cavatica Weller and her sisters have one chance to save their family ranch—a desperate cattle drive across a violent wasteland.  Having escaped from Denver, the Weller family now has to face the Juniper’s worst outlaw, the Psycho Princess.

Meanwhile, an inhuman army still dogs their every step. The mystery deepens—who is the lost boy Micaiah? Why would the richest man on Earth spend billions to find him? And will Micaiah’s secrets tear the Weller sisters apart?

Tell us about your most recent release.

The Juniper Wars Series! It’s a young adult, steampunk, biopunk, science fiction/western family drama epic about three sisters on a post-apocalyptic cattle drive. Why pick a genre when you can do all of them? It’s been described as Little House on the Prairie meets Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ll take that as a compliment.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

I was on my bike, cycling home, and listening to the song “Dead Run” by 16 Horsepower, which is a band that manages to combine goth and country music. And I realized I so wanted to do a western along the lines of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Series. As the story formed, I realized I wanted to add some family drama. The show, Supernatural, does a great job of showing the interesting conflicts of a dysfunctional family. I put it all into a blender, hit puree, and out came The Juniper Wars. Bam.

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

It’s a six-book series, my friend. That’s six flippin’ books. That’s a whole lotta focus for years on end. And I had to keep it fresh. Funny, I’ve been working on the fifth and sixth book in the series, and I keep finding myself wanting to end the main character’s emotional arc. Problem is, you start ending character arcs, you end the book. If everyone is getting along, you lose that fire of conflict. Compare the last few seasons of Supernatural to the first few. The show has far less of an edge (however, season 10 did give us the high school musical episode). And so I have to keep the Weller sisters all kinds of messed up to keep it interesting. The best part of a series, though, is that I get to show how completely traumatized my characters are after facing down death time and time again. It has this weary, jaded, cynical, bruised and broken feel to it. It’s about how I feel as a novelist after nearly twenty-five years of writing books.

I honestly believe that we do not begin to fully develop as writers until we have at least a couple of decades under our belt. That’s a lot of hours and a lot of inward exploration, so I have to ask why do you write?

I write because I like stories more than I like real life. Put another way, I understand real life more because I write stories. How wonderful that I can create a world where there is poetic justice, dramatic irony, and happy endings. I can control death, illness, depravity, and love. Life is life because that whole fate business is out of our control.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I used to care what everyone thought. I’d ponder every little bit of criticism for months on end. And I’d chase edits. Now, I’m caring less and less. If you don’t like it, read something else. I imagine at some point I’ll swing the other way. I write every day. Some of it is bound to good no matter what the haters think.

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

Writers, especially novel writers, need to be contrary creatures. The most challenging thing about long works of fiction is that you have to keep self-doubt at bay for months, if not years. I’ve been working on The Juniper Wars Series now for seven years, and for most of that time, I had no idea if anything worked or not. Then I had people who read it, and wanted me to change a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to change. And I had to stick to my guns, sometimes literally. In the end, I snarled at the universe, saying, “This is how I’m writing it. This is the book I’m writing. If you don’t like it, I don’t care. I am doing THIS and I’M DOING IT THIS WAY!” Contrary. I had to become contrary to write books. And mildly/dangerously anti-social.

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

Don’t pick up my book if you don’t want to feel. I mean that. This is a warning. A lot of science fiction/fantasy writers are far more Rush than Meatloaf, which fine, but I’m like Meatloaf. I’m like Bat Out of Hell epic, and yeah, I like over-the-top emotions. My characters cry and scream and gnash their teeth in the darkness, and those are during the good times. No, really, I write from my guts. I had a critique group who criticized me saying there was too much crying in my novel. I went home, wondering if they were right. I have a wife and two stormy daughters. After about a week, I added more crying.

Good for you! Frankly, I find all-action books that don’t touch my soul are akin to drinking a can of near beer or a cup of decaf. I don’t see the point. Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have daughters. My daughters have big, huge, amazing souls. If my life were an X-MEN comic, my daughters would be the powerful mutants that need to be kept in a coma so they wouldn’t destroy the universe. I suggested to my wife that we keep our daughters sedated and she said we’d tried that. My daughters laughed at Benadryl, and Codeine had no effect on them. But do you know what? I’m glad I have powerful big-spirited daughters. This world needs more women warriors.

What motivates or inspires you?

I really like doing difficult things. I know, that sounds kind of dramatic and badass, and while I am very dramatic, I am not at all badass. The writing game is this impossible thing, and I like that it’s so hard. It’s the hard that makes it good. I truly believe I am destined to fail, that I will die nameless, and not one person in a million will have read anything I have written. And strangely enough, that motivates me. It’s the Alamo, baby. It’s Helm’s Deep. It’s Game of Thrones, standing on the parapets of Castle Black and looking out over the Wall at the hordes of hell. It’s a losers game. And do you know what? I’m going to do it. I’m going to write books until I die. And if I fail? Oh, well. “Night gathers and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.”

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

I call three different people and tell them what is bothering me. I tell the same story three different times. It really works. Then I go write books.

That’s a very unique and interesting approach. I must try it some time.

Now, before I give our visitors a taste of Killdeer Winds, 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 … a whole lotta work.

The one thing I cannot do without is: stories.

The one thing I would change about my life: is my angsty inner life.

My biggest peeve is: my angsty inner life.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: Not much, but I will say, holding my published books in my very own hand, my name on the cover, my own ISBN, that rocks so very, very hard.

Yup! That definitely rocks. I’d like to thank you, Aaron, for gracing my website with your no-holds-barred replies. We’ll close with an excerpt from Killdeer Winds, followed by links where readers can purchase a copy and follow you online:


Chapter One

Certainly the Juniper is a dangerous place, but not because of outlaws, rustlers or stray bullets. No, the real dangers are the wind, solitude, and a drifting mind. When in doubt, I stay in my house and count my money. I never get lonely that way.

—Robert “Dob” Howerter

Colorado Courier Interview

August 3, 2057


The Cuius Regios were coming. I didn’t know it then, but the Regios were on their way and we didn’t have the guns to stop them.

The pain from my gunshot wounds barked like a dog on a distant neighbor’s porch. I sat on the floor of the strange room, my back against the bed. I couldn’t move. The Christmas issue of Modern Society magazine lay on my lap. The perfume of a cologne sample wafted from the glossy pages. Micaiah, cleaned and groomed, smiled at me on the cover.

But his real name wasn’t Micaiah. It was Micah Hoyt, son of the richest man on Earth. His father, Tiberius “Tibbs” Hoyt, was CEO and general jackerdan-in-charge of the American Reproduction Knowledge Initiative, otherwise known as the ARK. Tibbs Hoyt had hired an army to find his son, and we had the bullet wounds to prove it.

The foot soldiers were known as the Cuius Regios, and their commanders were the Vixx sisters, who could heal almost any wound, which sounded suspiciously like genetic engineering, however unlikely. I’d kept an eye on the popular science websites and hadn’t seen anything close to creating actual people with enhanced biology.

The idea scared me, scared me deep. How could we fight such a soulless army?

But why would Daddy Hoyt send in troops to retrieve a son who didn’t want to be found? Then again, if you give a rich man a cause, he can turn a family feud into a world war.

Before I’d gone unconscious, Micaiah had wanted to run away to protect us. Was he gone? That opened a floodgate of questions. Was Pilate still alive? Had Wren run away for good ’cause of what I’d done to her? And did my oldest sister Sharlotte still have us bound for Wendover, Nevada with our herd of nearly three thousand cattle?

First things first, I slid the magazine underneath the mattress, not sure what I would do with the information, but it felt dangerous in me. As did the pain from my gunshot wounds, barking like a dog on a distant neighbor’s porch.

I stood, moved to the window, and used my right arm to pull open the yellow curtains. My left arm throbbed as I held it to my belly. From the second story of the house, I saw our tents below—our chuckwagon dominated the front yard. Mama and I had fixed up the Chevy Workhouse II with an attachable ASI steam engine, and then found a long trailer for it to pull. We called the whole thing our chuckwagon. Next to it sat the old Ford Excelsior that had saved our lives. Cattle and horses meandered around outbuildings, barns, and hay sheds. I recognized a few of our horses—Elvis, Taylor Quick, and Bob D. Two of our best cows, Charles Goodnight and Betty Butter, stood in the strange yard, chewing cud. To my right rose a ridge of pine trees and craggy rock.

I searched the skies for the Moby Dick, the zeppelin that we’d hired to re-supply us and scout. There was no sign of it, but then Sketchy, Tech, and Peeperz might still be trying to find us after the blizzard.

Green grass pushed up from wet soil, which meant I’d been unconscious long enough for the snow to melt. Might’ve been a day. Might’ve been a week. Someone must’ve dribbled water into my mouth and then cleaned me up afterwards. Dang, but I hoped it was family that had done the work to keep me alive.

Out of the corner of my eye, something flashed in the distance—sunlight off a cast-off hunk of metal, or some bit of chrome, or a mirror, something, southeast of the house. The blinking stopped. Something didn’t feel right about it, but I had other things to worry about.

Like where I was and who owned the house.

Book online sales links:

Killdeer Winds (The Juniper Wars Book 2) – Amazon

Killdeer Winds (The Juniper Wars Book 2) – Barnes & Noble

Killdeer Winds (The Juniper Wars Book 2) – Kobo

Killdeer Winds (The Juniper Wars Book 2) – Smashwords

Social Links:

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 16 – Interview With Brooks Wachtel

As I continue to feature WordFire Press authors, I never cease to be amazed by both their writing acumen and their impressive backgrounds. This week’s guest, Brooks Wachtel, is no different. Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead, a detective historical novel, may be Brooks Wachtel’s first novel, but he is no stranger to crafting stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning writer with a long resume in television and film. Mr. Wachtel spent his youth as a “Navy Brat” traveling the world. While attending Hollywood High and in college, he produced several student films. One, a forty-five minute Sherlock Holmes spoof was the first film ever shot at Hollywood’s famed “Magic Castle.” Wachtel co-created, executive produced and co-wrote many episodes of the hit series DogFights for the History Channel. He also wrote and produced many History Channel documentaries, including episodes of Defending America: National Guard and The Coast Guard. Additionally, he has written The Great Ships, Search and Rescue, The Royal Navy and Fly Past, which won the Cine Golden Eagle Award. Wachtel also wrote and co-produced an independent documentary feature illustrating the history of his famous alma-mater, Hollywood High School. All rights and royalties were donated to Hollywood High to help fill the school’s scholarship funds. His latest documentary project, Silver Tsunami, which he co-wrote and co-produced, details the calamity of the massive and aging baby-boomer demographic. In addition, Wachtel has written more than 100 produced episodes of television fiction, with shows as diverse as Fox’s live-action Young Hercules (starring Ryan Gosling), to animated hits like PBS’s Liberty’s Kids, Tutenstein, Heavy Gear, Spider-Man, X-Men, Robo-Cop and Beast Machines: Transformers. For younger viewers, he has penned episodes of the pre-school hits, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Rainbow Fish. His script for Tutenstein won an Emmy Award. Wachtel has written several live-action features, including Goddess of Death, which he also directed. Wachtel serves on the Steering Committee of the Animation Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild, as well as teaching screenwriting at UCLA Extension. He is also a performing magician member of Hollywood’s Magic Castle.

When I asked Brooks to give us a sense of his new book, he characterized its premise as follows:

Lady Natasha (Tasha) Dorrington, an emancipated and brilliant detective in 1906 London, is drawn into a deadly mystery involving an ancient pagan curse and a diabolical scheme to plunge Europe into a devastating war.

Will you please tell us more about it?

My most recent release is also my first novel, Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead.

The book chronicles the adventures of Lady Natasha “Tasha” Dorrington, a fast-thinking, hard-fighting and very sensual leading lady. The story takes the reader from fog-bound Edwardian London to a remote island in Scotland, where a terrified man is taunted by the power of a thousand year curse closing upon him.

Tasha finds herself embroiled in a much larger game. She has been lured to the island to play a life and death contest with Deirdre, the brilliant leader of an ancient and sinister cult who plots to plunge the world into war. The prize between these powerful adversaries is no less than civilization itself – and the life of Tasha’s daughter, held hostage by the cult.

The novel is also elegantly illustrated in the fashion of the original Sherlock Holmes stories as they appeared in the Strand Magazine.

I’ve been a television writer for more than three decades with over a hundred produced episodes in animation and live-action as well as documentaries, but “Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead” is my first step into prose. However, even that step had its launch-point in script-writing.

What was the inspiration behind it?

Before Lady Sherlock was a novel, it was a screenplay. The idea came about as the confluence of several of my favorite interests.

First, I love writing strong female characters. I became known for this with my television writing and often was the pick to do episodes which featured the female leads (e.g. An episode I wrote for “Young Hercules” featured the Amazons). I also have a love of history, especially the late-Victorian-Edwardian era. Fitting comfortably in that era is another interest of mine: Sherlock Holmes. Add to that, growing up a military-brat (or more properly, Naval Dependent) gave me an appreciation of ships, sea-power and its place in history.

I decided to combine these interests; history, naval, the supernatural, Holmes, powerful female characters, in one story. The story has a basis in real history as H.M.S. Dreadnought and the naval race and political collision between Britain and Germany which that ship help set in motion are a part of the book.

Making my main character a woman—a very capable, confident woman—in a particularly chauvinistic era would be fun and offer story and character opportunities that a male lead would not. There would be so many circumstances and attitudes, which would simply not exist for a man, of that era, that she would have to overcome. She’s a character equally skilled with women’s rights—and lefts. There’s a lot of humor in the book and much of it is the collision between a witty, smart woman who will not easily tolerate chauvinistic attitudes.

The character also had a visual inspiration. My friend, actress Tanya Lemani George had a wonderful look that I thought would be a great image for a feminine take of Holmes. She is the model for the cover and many of the interior illustrations.

Originally a screenplay that never sold—alas—but worked wonderfully as a writing sample, the script landed me lots of television (and screenplay) assignments. When I reread it several years later, I felt it was too good a story to languish in a drawer and only be seen by a few producers and story-editors. As I reacquainted myself with the script, I felt it had the makings of a novel. I’ve been writing scripts for decades and was looking for something new. Little did I know what vast changes lay ahead…

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

I have had two Emmy Award nominations and one win. My Emmy Award was for the animated series “Tutenstien.” An episode of the History Channel series “Fly Past” titled “The Cutting Edge,” which I co-wrote with Cynthia Harrison, received the Cine Golden Eagle Award.

While “DogFights” did not win any awards, it is a huge favorite in the aviation community. When I visited the Palm Springs Air Museum – which is one really superb enterprise – I discovered they are running excerpts from the series that show some of the aircraft they have on static display in action. When I visited Vancouver a few years ago and explored the Royal Canadian Navy Museum, one of the docents informed me that a World War One episode of “DogFights” is used by history classes at her university.

Episodes of “Liberty’s Kids,” a series about the American Revolution (with Walter Cronkite doing the voice of Benjamin Franklin) are used as an educational tool in elementary schools.

In fiction writing, I have worked on many series which are fan favorites. I wrote several episodes of the X-Men animated series, including the conclusion to the “Dark Phoenix” saga and, continuing in the Marvel Universe, the Spider-Man series I worked on is still fondly recalled. It was fun to be a part of the Hercules-Xena universe by scripting for “Young Hercules,” starring a very young Ryan Gosling.

One thing that always brings a smile is when twenty-somethings I meet find out I wrote episodes of “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” it always gets a very enthusiastic and happy response.

“Silver Tsunami,” a documentary I co-wrote with my often writing/producing partner, Cynthia Harrison-Wallach, dealing with the challenges the vast baby-boomer demographic will present to the world won several film-festival awards. Here’s the link to the trailer:

Thanks to youtube most of my career is now online. If I ever need to review a show I wrote, no matter how vintage or obscure, chances are it will be posted.

There is a promotional video for Lady Sherlock, narrated by yours truly. The character inspired composer David Raiklen to write the wonderful theme which scores the video.

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

I suppose, like most of us, we just force ourselves to get back into life and work. I’ve had some losses in the last few years—my mother and brother passed away within four days of each other—and it hit me hard. There are still days when I am down and don’t feel like doing anything… and sometimes I don’t. Then there comes that time when life and work beckon and you simply start. Friends, and I have some wonderful ones, help a lot. But ultimately we all just find it in ourselves to place one foot in front of the other and continue on the journey.

What has been your greatest success in life?

That depends on the definition of success. Professionally, receiving an Emmy Award was certainly a high point. Co-creating, co-exec producing and writing “DogFights” was a professional highlight, as was getting to interview some of the amazingly heroic aviators and pilots whose amazing exploits we brought to life in the series.

One other success about “DogFights” that was important to me: at the time we were the only WGA covered series on the History Channel. I was proud to help several writers get the credits they needed to join the Guild.

But perhaps I treasure my friendships: the people that you are there for and are there for you, most of all. I have been blessed with some wonderfully caring people in my orbit. And I am exceedingly and always grateful for them.

Who or what has been your greatest inspiration?

I was about to answer with some literary or other notable or some book or film… but on reflection, perhaps it was, after all, my parents. They gave me the values and perspective that I think define me in the most important ways.

Lastly, what is the one thing you cannot do without?

Good friends, music, books, finding outlets for creativity.

Before I provide our visitors with online links where they can follow you or purchase your book, I’d like to give them a taste of Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead. Here is an excerpt:

Before Ian could halt the gig, Tasha—like Ian, soaking wet from the cold rain—leapt to the road, peering ahead to the ruins. Above the rain and fierce wind, they could hear the eerie chanting of more than a dozen voices.

“Utter fool that I was to desert him!” yelled Tasha over the din. “Look!”

The ruins odd appearance was even more distorted by the ferocity of the storm. The ancient shrine was torch-lit and full of black-robed people standing on various levels of the rocks. There were eighteen in all: nine men and nine women; every one of them wore masks that mimicked a goat’s heads with exaggerated horns. The torches were sheltered from the elements by alcoves cut into the dolmens. They created a harsh contrast of flickering red light and dancing black shadows that that exaggerated the malevolent atmosphere. Some sort of ceremony was transpiring, and the gathered all gave voice to a rhythmic chant. The horns of the masks turned in unison to the altar stone, where there was erected a black-robed effigy of an ancient demon-god, with crescent-moons on the robe and flaring horns protruding from the distorted goat-like animal skull that formed the sinister head.

From the roadway, Tasha and Ian scrutinized the proceedings in front of them.

“I don’t see McGloury!” yelled Ian.

“They have him. Depend on it!” said Tasha bitterly, as she drew her revolver and dashed to the ruins as fleetly as the mud-soaked ground would permit. Ian followed close behind.

Two masked men dragged a live goat to the altar. The robes of the effigy parted as Deirdre, in her priestess robes and bearing an ornate mask, emerged in flowing white with a crescent moon dangling near her breast. She raised a crude stone dagger and with one accurate stroke, slit the animal’s throat left to right. The chanting abruptly stopped and, save for the rain—the wind had died down—there was silence. Deirdre addressed the assembly in a disguised whisper. She pointed to a dolmen and motioned, “Come here.”

Tasha and Ian stepped from behind the towering monolith, weapons in hand.

Deirdre, with a bend of her finger, bid them forward.

Tasha boldly marched in, but Ian, his eyes darting from place to place, followed nervously. They reached the altar, and he pointed his revolver at Deirdre. “Up with your hands … ma’am.”

He was ignored, even by Tasha. She was focused on Deirdre—who, with her face concealed and her voice disguised, Tasha failed to recognise from their meeting at the Hermes. But she had put enough together to ask, “Deirdre, is it not?”

The priestess nodded.

Tasha nodded in return. “We meet at last.”

Deirdre’s smirk was just visible under the lower part of the mask. The cult members burst into laughter. Ian scowled at the masked faces made hideous by the malicious hysterics that surrounded them, but Tasha kept her eyes on Deirdre. The priestess raised her finger and the laughter stopped.

“We’ve met before,” came the mocking reply from behind the priestess’s mask.

“When?” There was no answer. “Where is McGloury?” Again no answer, just Deirdre’s maddening half-smile behind the ornate mask. “You are already responsible for two murders,” continued Tasha.

“Three,” Deirdre whispered. “Now four.” At once there was a vicious howling and human scream from the direction of the cliff. Tasha spun to see, indistinct through the storm and distance, the blur of a dog lunging for the throat of the vague shape of a man. That shape screamed again.

“McGloury!” yelled Tasha as she sprang into action.

She heard Deirdre’s mock sympathetic taunt. “Help him. You never fail.”

As Tasha and Ian raced toward the cliff, Deirdre, unmoving and regal, removed her mask, revealing her luminous eyes. Somewhere, faint in her throat, was a chuckle. “The cleverest woman in Europe.”

At that moment the “cleverest woman” was aiming her gun at the dog, but hound and human were intertwined as they struggled toward the cliff, making a clean shot impossible. She was too late. The battle ended as man and beast tumbled over the precipice, their screams and howls vanishing with them. Tasha stopped and staggered as if she’d been physically hit. Her mind screamed in protest as she bolted toward the cliff. Then the muddy ground crumbled under her feet and she slipped over the edge. She plummeted only for a second—Ian grasped her arm and, painfully, pulled her back up.

Tasha’s normal reserve was gone; she was desperate and fighting back tears. She had failed. Her client was dead.

If you’ve enjoyed Brooks’ writing and would like to read more, here are links to purchase his book, as well as ways you can follow him online.

Book online sales links:


Barnes & Nobel




Social Links:

Lady Sherlock Blog:  

Lady Sherlock FaceBook Page:

Lady Sherlock FaceBook Fan created page:

Lady Sherlock Youtube promotional video:

(Please note: Brooks Wachtel’s headshot was taken by Steven Sears)

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 2 – Interview With Anthony Dobranski

dobranski-photoI am so glad to start off 2017 by getting to know WordFire Press author Anthony Dobranski, who is currently writing a historical thriller based on real people and real events. Apparently, there are no bounds to what this talented writer can do. A native of Washington DC, he lives there now. Anthony studied English at Yale and made his first career at AOL working in Europe and Asia-Pacific. WordFire published his debut novel, The Demon in Business Class, on October 26, 2016. He describes his book this way:

An international modern day fantasy —

A demon-possessed spy trying to start the next global war falls in love with a psychic trying to stop it.

A shady powerbroker forces Zarabeth Battrie into a secret plan to start the next global war, giving her a demon that lets her speak all languages. But the people now trying to kill Zarabeth might know more about her job than she does.

When hallucinations drive Gabriel Archer to violence, a steely investigator shows Gabriel his repressed psychic powers. Recruited to help a visionary corporate leader turn others from evil, Gabriel struggles to master his own senses, and his doubts.

When Zarabeth and Gabriel meet by chance in Scotland, their brief passion becomes a fragile, troubling love, until the demon’s betrayal drives Gabriel away. Before Zarabeth’s cruel vengeance can destroy the visionary’s plans, Gabriel must stop her — but for both to survive, neither can win.

With witches, gangsters, prophets, cultists, and two angry angels, The Demon in Business Class is an edgy modern-day fantasy set around the world, on the uneasy ground where the worldly meets the divine.

Tell us about your most recent release.

The Demon in Business Class is an international modern-day fantasy, about a demon-possessed spy trying to start the next global war, who falls in love with the psychic trying to stop it. It’s a hybrid-genre book, with corporate thriller elements, a central star-crossed romance, and stylized language. It’s my first novel.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

My career before writing was at the internet service AOL, during its heyday, going overseas for months at a time to help launch editions in Europe and Asia-Pacific. I got to see the world, and to see how it is changing in our globalized era. Cultures rub against each other uncomfortably, in multiple dimensions, of nationhood and class and wealth, old and new. Societies on both sides of both oceans have been destabilized, some by new poverty, others by sudden and unequal wealth. People fear loss, fear the other, crave older certainties.

Fantasy cuts to the heart of culture, highlighting its hidden assumptions. I wanted to write a book that did that for our time, the way Jekyll and Hyde does for Victorian England or The Master and Margarita does for Stalin’s Soviet Union.

How I achieved this was its own, different inspiration, or at least a powerful motivation. Writing about our time is different from writing a book set in our time before escaping it, like Lev Grossman or J. K. Rowling. I also didn’t want to just bring a modern sensibility to a traditional fantasy world like A Song of Ice and Fire. I wanted a fantasy that came out of 21st century Earth, and I had the fervor of a convert, taking a great gleeful joy in bending and reworking as many genre norms as I could. Neil Gaiman blazed the trail I walked, for sure, but I walked a lot of it with Chuck Palahniuk.

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

The biggest was the style. I needed to evoke the crisp and often acid language of businesspeople, which is a kind of armor, yet still have it express doubt and fear and desperation, without ever sounding highfaluting. It’s a tall order, and I had to let go a lot of my “literary” airs – these are not people who drop allusions to Austen, or who really spend a lot of time expressing their interiority.

I did it by writing and throwing out writing, mostly. I tossed my first 400 pages and started over, wrote a thousand pages and cut half of that. I constantly read my work aloud – I built myself a standing desk so it was easier to breathe and talk! Always looking for leaner rhythms and tighter phrasing. Oh, the flocks of darlings I killed. When my editor told me I had to add a chapter, I have to tell you, it was quite the strange moment.

Hah! That would have thrown me for a loop as well. What else are you working on?

My novel-in-progress is a post-climate-change sci-fi tale set in a war-ravaged Budapest, working title The Cooperative Spiders. It was my NaNoWriMo winner in 2015, based on a short story I wrote, based on a dream. It’s gender-bending yet oddly genteel and Old World — think of it as Wes Anderson loosely adapting a Samuel R. Delany novel. Compared to Demon — which is rooted in real-world places and secret histories — Spiders is a freeing experience, since all that seems to stick to it is craziness.

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

 10a-12p, 2p-5p, weekdays. I have a family and I do cons, so weekends are basically out.

Tell us about your path to publication.

It’s not one any sensible person would follow, and I only discuss it to give hope to those like me who feel they’ve painted themselves in corners. I did everything wrong. I dove straight into a passion project with almost no understanding of the industry or market. I had no smaller works published. I sent out blind queries to both literary and fantasy agents and got form letters in return. I felt like I was living on crumbs. I woke up New Year’s Day 2015 crying. My resolution was, in one year I would feel more like a writer than I did that moment, whatever it took.

My writing-group colleague Wayland Smith had been to Superstars Writing Seminars, a business-focused seminar in Colorado Springs, and spoke well of it. Actually, he gushed, and Wayland doesn’t gush. So, I signed up. One morning at the seminar I met a writer and editor named Vivian Caethe. Demon intrigued her! She brought me to Peter J. Wacks of WordFire Press. I didn’t get the feeling it intrigued him at all, and when he asked me for ten pages I figured it was his favor to Vivian. Seven months later, Kevin J. Anderson, who owns WordFire Press, sent me a Facebook message inviting me to submit the whole manuscript.

Kevin also asked for a marketing plan — and it was clear he was throwing down a gauntlet.

Let me circle back and say that, other than my brief bright moment with Vivian, I first found Superstars incredibly depressing. It’s a professional seminar, so it skews to people with an obvious shot at making money, to series writers, to genre-mainstreams. They might as well have started every lecture saying, “Hey Tony, this one doesn’t really apply to you either.” By the time of the celebratory dinner, I was very low in spirit, really ready to chuck the whole enterprise. James Artimus Owen gets an acknowledgement in my book solely for the hours he spent talking me off the ledge of my discouragement, in deep, personal terms.

The techniques, though, are still applicable, and by the time Kevin wrote me, I had given them some months of thought. I had also read a great book about business called Mission in a Bottle, by the founders of Honest Tea — it’s a comic book, so it’s wonderfully accessible. Bringing an unsweetened high-end iced tea to market in a Snapple and Lipton world was akin to my taking my older-but-newer kind of fantasy to the mainstream fantasy market. I didn’t need to pretend to mass appeal; I needed to appeal to people left behind by all the other writers seeking mass appeal. Time and time again, Honest Tea made their difficulties into strengths, their bugs into features that other manufacturers couldn’t copy without violating their brands. I would do the same.

I gave Kevin eight single-spaced pages of multi-year marketing plan: about the market, about hybrid genres, about the slow building of literary cred, about modern bookbuying, about WordFire’s current stable and how I fit in it – which was to say, as an outlier, and how that meant a new audience WordFire didn’t really have. I even had the synopsis of Spiders – not a sequel, but enough to show I had more for Demon’s audience, maybe enough to build a tiny, quirky brand.

I got a contract.

My entrée to WordFire was equally circuitous, so it’s clear that they recognize talented odd-balls! Why do you write?

It’s not simply that I’m a highly verbal person, and a hugely analogical thinker. I suspect it’s something deep and simple involving how I understand the world. When I go to other countries, I buy local fiction. One of the few “eureka” moments I’ve had involving writing was Samuel R. Delany’s note in Dangerous Visions about how science fiction let him unite “the disparate and technical with the desperate and human.” I read that in eighth grade and it still rings true now.

I grew up with an inadvertently secret history. My parents came to America from Poland in 1961, having survived WWII and Soviet domination well enough to escape them. After they did, they didn’t really talk about their pasts, didn’t really want to. They couldn’t know this gave me a great discomfort, a sense of unrootedness and not belonging in America, in ways I was too young to understand or express, save in my love for Mr. Spock.

I think Edith Hamilton’s Mythology was the first time I had both a complete cultural history and an understanding you could discuss the world in real ways through the manifestly unreal and impossible. Now they’re tied together in my head. Perhaps if my parents had told me about their lives sooner, I would have been a historian.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

Because of my traveling AOL career, I really only started having a home life rather late in life. I married in my early forties. My wife and I met at the dog park, so animals are a big part of our lives, and my wife is on the board of our local shelter. I’ve always loved live theater, and we try to get out to new plays as often as we can. Washington is a huge theater town, with dozens of companies, from scrappy to plush. I served on the boards of two DC theater companies for many years, and as a volunteer script reader for one, until children and novels overwhelmed my volunteer time. Reading twenty scripts a year is fantastic dialogue training, by the way!

“Winter is coming” holds no menace to this avid skier, only joy.

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

Sourly, then wryly. As Samuel Beckett wrote, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” But failing better is different from failing bigger. I try to look at what went wrong and see if it ever could have gone right. Sometimes, it couldn’t have, and my eager ignorance baked in the failure I should have avoided.

Do you have any pet projects?

I have a small side-project, derailed by Demon’s launch, which I plan to pick up next spring after the next draft of Spiders. It’s a serial thriller novella called The Scientists and The Spy, about the secret WWII military work done in my own Washington DC neighborhood by the scientists at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology). It’s very different from my usual – all-ages audience, historical fiction – but it turns out evoking the past is worldbuilding too. Plus, the research is a hoot!

Thank you, Tony, for taking the time to share with us. Before I present our visitors an excerpt from Demon, I’d like to finish with my customary Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m… not nearly as good a drinker as I like to believe.

The one thing I cannot do without is… a myth that I had to stop indulging long ago.

The one thing I would change about my life is… to worry even less about what I’m “supposed” to do.


For those of you who’ve been waiting, here is an excerpt from The Demon in Business Class:

dobranski-demon-coverIn the fake-oak-paneled conference room, Zarabeth Battrie found a dozen others standing. All looked wilted and worn, with bunched shirts and bowing ankles. The plastic tables were gone, the plastic chairs stacked in the corner. More people arrived but no one unstacked the chairs. A herd instinct, Zarabeth decided, to keep a clear path for fleeing.

A natty beige man in a crisp blue plaid suit came in, pushing a low gray plastic cart with stacks of documents. If the standing people surprised him, he didn’t show it. With practiced ease he lowered the room’s screen, plugged in his power strip. Someone passed the documents around but no one spoke. In the silence, Zarabeth felt anxieties around her, about money, status, children, groping her like fevered predictable hands. Too intimate, these people’s worries in her skin when she didn’t know their names, or want to. She shook them off, pushed through to the front so as not to stare at men’s backs all meeting.

Projector light bleached the natty man while he talked through slides of sunsets and bullet points, with the real news a seeming afterthought. Her office and two others were merging with Optimized Deployments, in Boston. A great move. Efficiency for all. The animated org-chart realigned over and over, three squares gone and Optimized’s no bigger. Reorganized like a stomach does food.

People asked tired questions, their hot worry now clammy hope. The natty man smiled no matter what he said. Yes, redundancies. Jobs would move, details to work out. All would be well and better.

He left to spread his joy. The room lights rose.

Zarabeth’s boss, Aleksei Medev, slouched in the corner like someone had whacked his head with lumber. His unshaven olive skin hung gray and limp. With all eyes on him, he straightened.

“A very challenging time,” he said. “We’re sending reports to justify—to guide the transition. Client work is secondary.”

Zarabeth was in no hurry to fill out Aleksei’s useless reports. Nothing she had done in the last two months justified keeping her employed, she knew that. She went out the broken fire exit to a stand of pine trees behind the parking lot. She lit a cigarette, paced in the shade.

Once, Zarabeth Battrie had traveled the country as an Inspiration Manager, connecting the best people at Straightforward Consulting to an in-house knowledge network. She had good instincts which managers to flatter, which to cow, which to sneak past. It surprised her how much she understood when she finally got her quarry to talk their special arcana, over morning jogs, lobster lunches, steak dinners, midnight hookahs with shots of tequila. Later, on airplanes, she’d think of those and other conversations, watching the pieces fit together in this strange unity and balloon, her world growing with a drug-like jolt. To let her do that, week in, week out—taking off, landing, on the move, on her feet—had been the greatest praise.

On Valentine’s Day, it had evaporated without explanation. Zarabeth had been reassigned from downtown Washington to Reston, in the Virginia suburbs, to do public-relations grunt-work for industry trade groups. Aleksei Medev, still shiny then, had put his feet on her new desk and spun a great tale, core knowledge toward a turnkey marketing solution, select team deep study. At least she got an office with a door.

Zarabeth had visited Boston twice in her old job. Optimized had smart people and kept them by being greedy. They would suck the money from her division like marrow from bone. Everyone fired, no matter how they danced.

Doubt ate through her like some parasite come to lay its eggs. She pinched the cigarette’s cherry to burn it off with pain. Six years at this firm would not end this week.

You may follow Tony on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram as ADobranski.

His website is:

You can purchase The Demon in Business Class ebook at:

 If you are interested in following his progress on his historical thriller, The Scientists and the Spy, you may do so here:




The Write Stuff – Monday, August 29 – Interview With Ramón Terrell

R_Terrell_030513_0129_webIt was my good fortune to run into Ramón Terrell at Sasquan—WorldCon’s 2015 incarnation—last August at the WordFire Press book launch party for Mike Resnick. A genial and easygoing man, I warmed to him immediately. I’ve been trying to feature him ever since, but one thing or another always got in the way. He is a prolific author with a rich imagination and always seems to have multiple irons in the fire.

Tell us about your most recent release.

I actually have two books releasing at the same time, this year. One, Hunter’s Moon, with Wordfire Press, the other, Out of Ordure, from Tal Publishing, my own label.

Hunter’s is the direct sequel to Running from the Night, and is the second book in the Hunter’s Moon series that take place in Vancouver BC. Without giving too much away for those who haven’t read the first book, let’s just say things are out of control. After the events of Running from the Night, it’s a miracle that Jelani and his friends are still alive. The Eldest Hunter, Yako, is under pressure due to the interference of a certain powerful woman, which has complicated his life in the vampire world. Top that off with random vampires in the street who can smell Saaya’s halfblood scent all over him, and Jelani’s life continues to plummet. Lots of action, sprinkles of humor, and camaraderie and loyalty of two best friends. Jelani’s steadfast devotion to protecting his friends, even if it means the forfeit of his own life, may just be the one thing keeping himself and his friends alive.

FairyCover-text copyIn Out of Ordure, we follow the adventures of Ordure Engineer Fairy, Fecanya, and her three coworkers, a Bloom Fairy, a Garbage Fairy, and the every bubbly Sugar Fairy. Fecanya hates her job (can you blame her?) and would like nothing better than to go on vacation. Permanently. This is one sassy fairy, and I think you’ll find her sarcasm and antics to be quite a riot. Her uptight satyr therapist, however, begs to differ.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

For Hunter’s Moon, I would have to take it back to the first book. Running from the Night was a relentless story demanding to be told. I had no intention of writing a vampire story because they were everywhere at the time. But the story became so insistent, I practically had to promise it that I would write it once I was done with the project I was working on.

51RqGPUlOsLOut of Ordure came about from a day in the woods. I was out hiking with my wife and her friend, and we came across dog… “leavings”, and I went into a rant about people not cleaning up after themselves or their pets. Then I mentioned the *insert expletive that rhymes with hit* Fairy must have been working overtime. We laughed, and I just kept going. Eventually both of them said I should write a story about it. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I’d never written humor and wasn’t sure I could. After a couple of months of my wife rather insistently asking if I’d started the fairy book yet, I finally did. This little novella was a blast to write, and I think readers will find it quite funny.

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

My biggest challenge with Out of Ordure was confidence. I’d never written humor and was unsure I could. Comedy/humor is not only subjective, but also a little more technical in some ways. It’s quite easy to fall flat on your face. In the end, I just sat down and wrote a page, passed it to a few author friends to see if this would work. The end result became Out of Ordure, and I’m quite enamored of my sassy little Ordure Engineer Fairy friend.

What other novels have you written?

There are two more books that follow Echoes of a Shattered Age: Legends of a Shattered Age, and Heroes of a Broken Age. This is the Legend of Takashaniel Trilogy. My vampire series, Hunter’s Moon, begins with Running from the night, and is followed by Hunter’s Moon, Darkness of Day, and Revenire. Wordfire Press is currently re-publishing these five books. Lastly is Unleashed, the first book in the Saga of Ruination.

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

The Hunter’s Moon series is currently in early works for a television series. Although I can’t say much about it at this time, the process is ongoing. I hope to be able to speak more about it in the coming months. Sadly, that’s all I can say about it.

Most authors dream about something like this, but few ever see their dream materialize. You’re one of the fortunate ones. What else are you working on?

I am coauthoring a new set of books with amazing author Peter J. Wacks, and also will begin work on a YA series set in the same world as the Takashaniel books. You can look for that one to appear some time this year.

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

I go to the coffee shop in the morning around 8:30 a.m., write until 12:30 p.m., then meet my wife for lunch. I then return to the coffee shop an hour later to write until about 5:30 p.m.. I sometimes work at home afterwards, but only if I’m really pushing for a deadline.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I do now. For Echoes I did not, because I didn’t know how. I would have gotten that book done much quicker had I employed an outline to stay on track. Now, I outline every book, beginning to end. The story and characters evolve and things change and go in different directions, because it is a living thing, but the outline is the guide to keep things on track and for readily available details.

Why do you write?

Same reason why I breathe. Well, maybe not quite so essential for sustaining life, but it’s a close second. I write because I can’t not write. When I’m not writing, I get antsy. I can’t rest. I already have more story ideas than I could write in a few lifetimes, and they’re only getting more crowded. The stories and characters have lives that must be recorded. Writing is a creative love that is shared only with acting. I write because I love it, and because I must.

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

If you like fun and adventure, camaraderie, and sweeping tales of diverse characters, enter my sandbox. I’d love for us to play together.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes. I’m also an actor, and have appeared on Arrow, Supernatural, iZombie, Minority Report, and I am one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in the show Once Upon a Time. I’m also in the hilarious hit web series Single and Dating in Vancouver.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have the most supportive and loving wife a guy could dream of, and two awesome cats that occasionally drive me nuts. To have a warm, dry, comfortable home to share with my amazing wife and two awesome cats is a blessing bigger than anything I could have hoped for.

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

I ask my self one question: Would I be happy doing something else if I gave up today. The answer is unthinkable. You pick yourself back up and keep going. You learn your craft. You do the work. You do lots of the work, and I mean a LOT of the work. This is my career, my job. There is no such thing as giving up because I’ve failed. Failure is a verb, not a noun. I learn from failure, cast it aside, and succeed.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Deciding after years of telling myself I couldn’t do it, and that it was too late to pursue my dreams. Deciding that I didn’t want to just “settle”, and that it was okay to achieve more, and that I deserved more, as long as I was willing to work for it.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My parents and my brother are my biggest inspirations. My mother was the most loving mother a son could have. She worked hard, tolerated no excuses, and “co-ruled” the house with a firm and loving hand. My father was a big gentle soul yet as strong as a mountain. He also took no excuses, worked hard, and taught us to be hardworking men that do what we must to get the job done and see our responsibilities met. My brother was my closest and best friend before I had any true friends. He was the person I looked up to, and still do. Childhood social life wasn’t much fun for me, and my brother was always there, occasionally letting his much younger brother hang out with him and his friends. I’m forever grateful to them all.

Thank you so much for taking time away from your busy schedule to join us, Ramón. For those of you who have dropped in to acquaint yourselves with this fine, emerging author, here is an excerpt from Hunter’s Moon, after which you will find links that will help you connect with Ramón online, as well where you may buy both of his new releases and others he has written.

Hunter’s Moon

Humans. An oblivious species. So caught up in their daily lives, and working so hard to dull their senses to everything around them, that they almost always failed to intuit danger when it was right in front of them. Animals were different. The lower on the food chain an animal lives, the more wary they are. But even predators gave Remy a wide berth. Not humans.


So fragile, so clueless. So easy. Not all, though. No. He had walked through crowds of people, even receiving the occasional flirtatious grin from a passing female. Remy had always thought it rather humorous; like a deer smiling at a passing lion. Some few actually shied away from him. On rare occasions, a human would glance at him with nervous eyes, knowing he was trouble but not really knowing how or why.

And then there were his current targets. Despite his firm belief that Yako’s skills were lacking, evidenced by his failing to dispatch two humans, Remy still had to grudgingly admit that these two were more careful and more alert than most. Remy had always enjoyed toying with his prey. Oftentimes he would walk right by them, making kindly eye contact. Then he would walk by them again, on another street, then another, causing his target to become disconcerted, then panicked. The increased rush of blood flow gave it a more tangy, sweet taste.

The one named Jelani and his friend, Daniel, were somewhat…different. Remy had thought to play his game with them, and walk by on the street. Maybe he would even wink at them. Despite the fact that they were more wary, knowing someone was after them, they had reacted unexpectedly. One of them, Daniel, had noticed Remy as soon as he was within ten feet of them, and alerted the other. They both had stolen several glances at him and moved to the other side of the sidewalk, all the time keeping an eye on him.

Remy had to admit he was at least a little impressed. In the middle of a crowd of people walking on that sidewalk, they had felt something out of place about him and moved to avoid contact. The Hunter had chosen to continue on and not give any show of recognition. There would be time enough for a little reunion.

He lifted his head and licked the blood from his lips. In his iron-like grip, a woman twitched uncontrollably. He glanced down at her with pale red glowing eyes. With a mind infinitely more focused than that of a frazzled human psyche, he managed to glean valuable information in bits, piecing them together into something resembling coherency. To be fair, he couldn’t imagine anyone maintaining any kind of order to their thoughts and memories when being unexpectedly attacked.

“And what shall I do with you?” he hissed, though he knew she was beyond hearing. He had studied every person who worked in the department with one of his targets. There were twenty two in total. This woman -Claire, her name was- had unfortunately been quite taken with the one named Daniel for over three years. After half a year of dating, they had mutually agreed to remain friends. Lovely Claire, here, had never quite gotten over her attraction to him. Apparently, Daniel loved the snow, hated the rain, enjoyed video games and watching movies at the theater, as well as going for walks with his fiancée, Wen.

Remy smirked at her. Through the memories embedded in the cells in her blood -blood he now had in his body- he could feel the envy toward the other woman as if it was his own. Remy never understood how humans could become so devastatingly taken with one another to the point of depression when things didn’t work out. There were over a billion of them walking the earth. Vampires accounted for a very small part of that population. Perhaps a shaquora could relate. Being a pureblood, Remy had no understanding of this aside from whatever information he gleaned from his occasional feedings.

“And what do I do with you?” he repeated, playfully tapping the poor woman on the nose with a finger. He had brought her to the crossroad, as vampires called it. He hadn’t drained her to the point of death, but had not fully injected the vampiric essence that would seek to re-create her.

Remy rarely re-created a human, having no love for the hated turned vampires who had little, or no control over the thirst, and reveled in their newfound abilities. Shaquora were the primary reason Hunters were necessary. The woman convulsed, and Remy gently stroked her sandy brown hair.

To connect with Ramón online, go to:


Twitter:  @Ramon__Terrell

To purchase Out of Ordure, Hunter’s Moon or Ramóns other books:ón+Terrell


The Write Stuff – Monday, August 15 – Interview With Emma Newman

rsz_emma_newman2Award-winning paranormal urban fantasy author, Laura Resnick, my guest on February 29th of this year, introduced me to this week’s featured author and I couldn’t be happier. Emma Newman is a masterful story-teller, every bit on a par with such greats as Nancy Kress and Mary Doria Russell. She writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. She won the British Fantasy Society Best Short Story Award 2015 and Between Two Thorns, the first book in Emma’s Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the BFS Best Novel and Best Newcomer 2014 awards. Her first science-fiction novel, Planetfall, was published by Roc in 2015. Emma is an audiobook narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast “Tea and Jeopardy” which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs. She blogs at and can be found as @emapocalyptic on Twitter.

A-Little-Knowledge-coverHer latest book, entitled A Little Knowledge, was released on August 2nd of this year. (Visitors please note: You will find Emma’s book buy and social links at the bottom of this interview.) It is the long-awaited return to Emma Newman’s popular Split Worlds series in which dynastic families feud across the ages, furthering the agendas of their supernatural patrons. Innocents are protected by monsters and the beautiful ones are not what they seem. The Split Worlds is an urban fantasy setting with a dash of noir, fantastical magic, evil faeries, and people just trying to drink their tea in peace.

I initially read her short story, “The Unkindest Cut”, which is a part of the anthology Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales From Shakespeare’s Fantasy World. It left me so impressed that I immediately dove into Planetfall, an unusual and highly-compelling tale about a colony of terrestrials who have settled on another world.

Your readers were undoubtedly on tenterhooks as they awaited A Little Knowledge’s release. Will you kindly provide as much about it as you can?

A Little Knowledge is the fourth in the Split Worlds series and readers have had to wait a while for it as the series changed publisher. The Split Worlds series really has to be read in order, starting with Between Two Thorns, so I can’t say too much about the fourth book without risking horrible spoilers. The series as a whole is quirky British urban fantasy involving evil Fae, mad sorcerers, feminism and lots of tea and cake.

This is a chicken/egg question and requires some preface:

I am fascinated by how flawed many of Planetfall’s characters are. It certainly makes them more human. Ren/Renata in particular is a counterpoint of strength versus weakness, certainly one of the more emotionally fragile and vulnerable characters I’ve encountered in a science fiction novel. Did you set out to portray her as such before you began, or did her particular condition evolve as the story progressed? This is also to ask if you are a plotter or a pantser. That is to say, do you outline before you begin, or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

I see this as two very separate questions, because having an idea of who your character is before writing a novel could apply to both plotters and pantsers.

So, about Ren. The entirety of the novel was built around her, which is very unusual for me. Usually there’s a question I want to answer, or a world that grows in my mind and few characters maybe, all growing together. With Planetfall, my drive was to sensitively and hopefully accurately portray the experience of a particular mental illness (which I won’t name because it’s a huge spoiler). Thoughts about the disorder and how to portray it led to critical decisions about the setting and then when I read an article about using 3-D printing to build a moon base, it all suddenly clicked into place. Not only did I just know, instantly, that Ren should be a 3-D engineer, I knew the book had to be set on a colony on a distant planet. Then lots of other things I’ve been wanting to explore for years (such as the intersection between religious faith and science) folded into it all nicely.

As for whether I am a plotter or pantser, I am a combination of the two. I usually have a good sense of the beginning, middle and end, critical plot points and some character and story arcs when I start to write a book. I then plan about five chapters or so ahead, just with bullet points and then write those scenes. If things change as I write, that’s fine. At the end of that planned section, I evaluate where things are going in line with the broader ideas of the book and then plan the next chunk in more detail. This technique is very similar to something called the “agile method” of coding big projects like complex websites. The idea is that as you can never accurately predict every single factor at the start of the project, it doesn’t make sense to make a comprehensive plan at the start and try to stick to it no matter what. Instead you do it in phases and adapt to any changes as you go along. When it comes to writing a character driven novel, I can try my best to predict what will happen, but sometimes when I get to a particular point that assumption just doesn’t feel right anymore, I adjust and carry on, like an “agile” coder. I feel I get the best of both worlds; the planning aspect enables me to minimise the need for major re-writes and allows me to manage multiple interwoven threads like in the Split Worlds. The “seat of my pants” aspect keeps the story details fresh for me – if I knew every single thing that happened in a book before I wrote it I would get bored. Sometimes writing a book is as much about finding out how it all works out in the end, as it is about completing the project.

That makes a great deal of sense, and it also validates many of the techniques I employ as I assemble my own work. Returning to Planetfall, the virtual software interface you employ throughout the book makes me wonder at your non-writing background. Do you write code or are you a gamer?

Both! Well, I used to code (I am horribly rusty now but I used to be pretty comfortable around html, MySQL and PHP) and my first proper job out of university was in information architecture and user interface design for websites. So yeah, experience in that field was definitely mulched down and grew into some aspects of the user interface in Planetfall. I am also a keen gamer—not just tabletop and live action roleplaying but also console games. I think it was my professional experience that was a greater influence of the two, that and my degree in Psychology.

That helps explain Planetfall’s protagonist. That said, no one writes characters as complex as yours without considerable life experience and a long reading list. Would you care to touch on some of the events and/or books that helped shape your work?

I think all life experiences, all books read, all films watched—everything—gets chucked in the mental compost heap and then characters, plots and settings grow up like mushrooms from it.

For some characters, I can still detect a hint of what was rotted down to make them. Cathy in the Split Worlds series does draw a lot from my own rage, but she and I are very different in personality. As for Ren in Planetfall, there is an overlap between her mental illness and the generalised anxiety disorder that I live with that I could base an aspect of her behaviour on, but again, we are more different than similar. Readers have said that the descriptions of her anxiety and a scene involving a panic attack were hard to read because they rang so true. There was a reason for that!

I am impressed by the way you reach out to aspiring authors, especially the Resources page of your website. Was someone equally kind to you while you were still in the initial stages of your journey, or have you done so because of an early absence of help?

Neither! I just like to help people. I didn’t really have a mentor when I was an aspiring writer and in some ways I think that was a good thing. It forced me to find my own way, which is what I think every single writer has to do. However, once I became published I kept hearing the same questions and the same incorrect assumptions. The Writer’s Rutter on my website shares some of the things I’ve learned, but very much with the caveat that what works for me might not work for anyone else.

That’s very much the reason why I run my workshop on overcoming the psychological barriers to writing. I got so fed up with reading interviews with writers who’d say that being a successful writer was all about sitting down and writing. For some people (I suspect most actually), there are all sorts of reasons why that might be very difficult. Being able to help people work through that is something I find very rewarding.

You are a contributor to Monstrous Little Voices: New Tales From Shakespeare’s Fantasy World. Regarding your story, “The Unkindest Cut”, who approached you to participate and what made you decide to expand on the Prospero theme?

David Moore, the editor of the anthology, mentioned he was thinking about putting it together at a convention years ago. I enthused about the concept and he remembered that, getting in touch once the project was underway. I was so thrilled to be asked, as it was a challenging brief. Not only did we have to riff off Shakespeare’s world and characters, we also had to interlink the stories.

The Tempest was one of the first plays that came to mind because I saw an amazing performance of it at the RSC when I was a student. I thought that Prospero was such a memorable figure that it would be fun to play with him and one that readers would enjoy too.

I wish I could attend this year’s LARP. Alas, not enough notice and too far away. I’m sure that by the time you can respond to this, it will have transpired. When did you start holding them and will you please share a bit about this one?

This question implies it’s a regular thing! The Split Worlds Masked Ball LARP was a one off event and it was a huge success, I’m very relieved to report. Readers can find pictures from the event on my website.

I’ve been a keen role-player and GM for many, many years and planned to run it with my best friend. Sadly she passed away and I thought I’d never be able to do it. Then a wonderful person called Katie Logan got in touch, asking if she could run a LARP in the Split Worlds universe and it took off from there. The ball was set between books three and four, with forty of the players playing characters from the novels and the short stories, and thirty-six more created for the event. It was held in the Guildhall in Bath. Everyone really went to town on their costumes and it looked amazing. I NPCed one of the characters from the books, as did my husband, and whilst it was incredibly stressful, time consuming and highly pressured, I am so very glad we did it.

I want to thank you so much, Emma, for taking time to share with us. Readers should know that, with her extremely busy schedule, we’ve been jostling for months to get this out to you while she’s been working hard to get A Little Knowledge published. Knowing, from personal experience how much of one’s time this kind of endeavor requires, I remain eternally grateful that she got back to me so soon after publication date.

For those of you who have enjoyed meeting Emma—and I have to ask, how could anyone not?—here are the links I promised earlier:


Twitter:          @emapocalyptic



Book Buy Links:

Kindle (

Kindle US (

Paperback (

Paperback USs (

Book depository:

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:

Advanced Mythology


Barnes & Noble:



Barnes & Noble:

Social Media Links:


Myth website:

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: