The Write Stuff – Monday, November 23 – Interview With Will Hahn

Will Hahn is one of many authors I’ve had the privilege to meet through the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network. Among them, his writing stands out as especially crisp and refined. Will has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will 6 web-FSFWill didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). His current epic is Judgement’s Tale; part one, Games of Chance, part two Strength of Conviction and part three, Reunion of Souls came out in 2014. Part four, Clash of Wills, was released on May 1, 2015.

I asked Will to give us a sense what Clash of Wills is about. He described it this way:

As the heavenly portents align, a mystic portal to the Hopeward opens again, letting a few goodly souls enter the prison where a comrade was marooned and evil beyond measure has laid a trap. For the heroes, it is not enough to uncover danger—wit and skill can carry them to its presence, but resolve and sacrifice are needed to defeat it. If it can be defeated. The challenge is often to choose one wrong over another, to accept the consequences when only the one prize most dear can be saved.

Treaman and his adventuring party discover just how quickly fame and fortune evaporate, once back in the clutches of the Percentalion; three miserable refugees of that chaos-cursed land will die unless the star-gazing preacher Alaetar can beat back the monsters at their heels.

And Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, faces an undead thane of ancient times; he must decide whether the only friends he has ever found will live, or if the Lands will again suffer the curse of Despair when facing the… Clash of Wills

Can you tell us a bit more about it?

In “Judgement’s Tale” the fate of the entire Lands of Hope falls into the path of a lone, determined orphan youth from beyond its borders. The liche Wolga Vrule has been plotting his escape for centuries, after which he will conquer the Percentalion,  Hope’s central kingdom. Vrule has an Earth Demon, Kog on his side, and has laid his traps with care. Solemn Judgement, on the other hand, is an orphan youth brought to this strange land by his father who died as they hit the shore. He studied long and hard without any guidance from his hosts; they took pains to hide his true power from him. Judgement simply wants to do the right thing by his friends, though this quest looked perilous from the start even in their ignorance of the true threat. But really, what chance could he have…

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

In chronicling this tale, I came to realize that events happening many leagues away, involving another group of heroes, were actually part of the story. So I wrote them in and at first all was well. The last third of the book, however, covers events occurring in several distant places, all on the same night of the year (more precisely, the same thirty-six hour period). I found it very hard to arrange the chapters to my liking, but thanks to the wizardry of word processing I could shuffle them like cards until I found the order I wanted. It was hard work, but in the end very satisfying.

What other novels have you written?

The focus of my chronicles to date has been around the start of the Age of Adventure, which sages put somewhere between 1995-1996 ADR (the calendar of the Lands of Hope). That’s when the events of Judgement’s Tale take place, and the actions of Solemn Judgement among others cause the end of the Age of Emptiness preceding it. My other chronicles to date have looked at the years 2001 and 2002 ADR: the former in The Plane of Dreams and the latter in the Shards of Light series (of which I have two novellas written to date). I also have smaller tales available today (referring to events in the earlier days of legend), and a free Compendium of information about the Lands on my website for those who like to geek out on the details.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I have two immediate projects. The sequel to Judgement’s Tale which concludes the saga of the Percentalion is The Eye of Kog, and I am drafting on that like a madman. I also have begun the third book of the Shards of Light series, called Perilous Embraces, which is probably the toughest challenge I’ve had since I began to chronicle this world. Both are about halfway done, but the former is twice as long so it’s getting the attention right now.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Almost everything in the Alleged Real World is a threat, frankly. Time demands come from everywhere, the home-office is full of noise, and I am easily distracted.

But far and away the biggest danger is cats. We have five right now (I blame my lovely wife), and they take turns jumping in my lap. There are days at a stretch where nothing gets done. It’s an epic struggle, I assure you!

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

Finding the time. That towers over every other consideration, and it comes down to lack of discipline (which I dress up with a lot of “trusting my muse” nonsense). If I peck away for five minutes, tops, I find myself writing rather smoothly at least 90% of the time and I’m in the groove. And what comes off the keyboard is pretty polished, in the right order, etc. most of that time. Very rarely—as recently with my WiP—do I hit a rough patch where the writing is really slow. It’s just that I don’t get back to it. But even at worst, the story sits and gels waiting for me to return. Put another way, it’s always on my mind.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a day-job dilettante, able to work from home on a flexible schedule which is a great blessing. I can crab all I want about slow progress on the chronicling, but that other job pays the bills. And since my daughter was home-schooled, the three of us have been together the whole time which is a great treasure. She’s off to college this fall, but still living at home! We stick with a winner around here.

Describe a typical day.

I’m up at 4:30 AM. Not because I’m an early riser, but because those darn cats will just start ripping furniture if they’re not fed. Then a quiet time until around 8, when I tackle the most urgent tasks at work and perhaps slip in some writing. The middle of the day is very choppy—homeschool is a misnomer, you need to drive all over for this lesson, that tutoring, etc. I also try to get up and walk around a bit so I don’t turn into that guy at the end of the evolution chart, the one marked “something went wrong”. In the evening, the ladies like to see reality shows and contests, while I sometimes sneak off to peck away some more. If I get my way, I go to bed absurdly early. But then I read.

I am the servant of a couple of cats and they have their own schedule as well. What motivates or inspires you, not necessarily as regards your writing?

It’s always been heroism that draws me. I don’t read the paper when some dope set a building on fire—I wait for the article a week later where they catch him. I love sports because the exertion and determination echoes heroic quality (and we all make heroes of sports stars, don’t we, and even movie stars). My taste in film, TV, and books all leans that way, and it was all I looked for when I studied history. Why stick your neck out? How many people against you is too many? What makes folks persevere (and how can I get me some of that)?

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

Simple, I compare to those around me. I live in a house with two cancer survivors. So the next time I fall behind on a project for work, or my shoulder hurts, or I wish I had enough money to buy something but don’t… it takes maybe three seconds to realize how good I’ve got it. The worst day always ends, and if my lovely wife and miracle daughter can do it, so can I.

Do you have any pet projects?

2015 is the Year of Local Presence for me. I have books coming out in paper now, thanks to my awesome publisher Katharina Gerlach. I toured the local library to give seminars, and there’s a book fair coming up. If I break in to the local papers or radio, I’ll consider it a true success (they’ve been hard!). Outside of that, I always have audiobooks to do (I love speaking the chronicles myself, and started on the second book in Shards of Light but need to get back to it). Not sure I can refer to the upcoming books in my mind (two novels and two novellas) as “projects”, more like “sentences”! But I’ll take my lumps like a man if I can just make progress.

I like to finish each interview with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … Cut-up. I hope!

The one thing I cannot do without is: My lovely wife Dorie. I would lock myself out of the house without her. Some days, she does it for me! But she always lets me back in later.

The one thing I would change about my life: I wouldn’t forget to apply for super-powers until it was evidently too late. I’d love to be like The Atom in the old DC comics.

My biggest peeve is: Anonymous bile. What’s the point of instantaneous communication if the only thing we do is blast-dehumanize anyone who disagrees with us?

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: My miracle daughter Genevieve Celeste, who encountered autism and leukemia and is at university now to study instrumental and vocal music performance. Boom, baby. That’s epic.

Thank you for spending time with us. I’ve been wanting to feature your work for some time now.

After the following excerpt from Clash of Wills, I’ll be providing social and book buy links for those who’d like to learn more about Will or purchase his work.

LoHI_JT_CoW_webAt the end of the pillared way, two stone arches stood on the left and right edges of the mesa, evidently leading to a drop and death in the chasm below. Between them, the rock floor rose several more steps to a dais twenty paces wide. There stood a tall robed being, in decayed dark robes bearing a scepter in his skeletal right hand.

His hood was back and the head was completely hairless. Not bald; the crown of his head looked as if it were no more a home for human hair than a marble bust. All his skin was dark and wizened beyond years, beyond parchment or wood; even the age-folds had flattened and died long ago. The eyes, as the three came closer, were strangely unremarkable, small and hard to see. In a moment, Cedrith realized they were only pupils, moving on stalks no longer covered with white vitreous jelly. Noseless, earless, lipless, the face was barely able to grin, which it did constantly. The teeth inside were small and horribly stained, but solid enough to clack with every movement of his jaw.

His frame was almost impossibly tall; standing on the dais he looked full seven feet high. The robes, richly decorated once with cloth-o-gold, seed pearls, silken swaths and hanging jewelry, had faded with the immense passage of time to look like soiled burlap. Under the bottom hem, the feet must still have been partially shod, but as he strode eagerly to the edge of the dais, the sound of his pace–a mixture of leather and bone and flesh–was horrible to hear. The scepter in his right hand was the only clean, undecayed facet of his entire appearance; black wood or iron with a flanged metal top, projecting wicked spikes to the outside while within an egg-sized gem reflected all the darkest hues of the rainbow.

He spoke, and both Cedrith and Natasha gasped at the shock of it; the sage fell to his knees and elbows, lashed with pain to hear a voice that should never speak. With desiccated lips, dried throat-chords, and just a nail-thin worm of a stump where his tongue should have been, the monstrous lord of evil yet spoke with perfect elocution, in powerful, dusty tones that reverberated as if they emanated from one side of him. It was all wrong, violently off, and Cedrith quietly murmured, begging him to stop with every word.

“You cannot imagine, I assure you, how very long I have awaited this moment. I am mortified–hah, yes! mortified indeed–not to have been able to come forward as would suit a proper host. But the rules, you see, are quite constraining. Still, you are here, at last, and destiny will be served. That is, indeed, the most important thing.”

Website: http://www.williamlhahn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheLandsOfHope?ref=hl

You may purchase his books at:

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/William-L.-Hahn/e/B0057RBIO8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/will-hahn

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WillHahn

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 9 – Interview With Josh Vogt

WordFire Press of Monument, Colorado has graciously allowed me to interview a number of its authors, many seasoned, some in the process of debuting their work. In the process, I’ve been learning that, with WordFire, “debut” does not necessarily mean “unseasoned.” In fact, this week’s featured debut author, Josh Vogt, is a publishing world veteran. He has been published in dozens of genre markets with work covering fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. He also writes for a wide variety of RPG developers such Paizo, Modiphius, and Privateer Press. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, is a tie-in to the Pathfinder roleplaying game. WordFire Press has also launched his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). He’s a member of SFWA, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and a Scribe Award finalist.

Josh-8194-2 - smallerI first met Josh in August at WorldCon in Spokane and found him to be at once engaging and intelligent, likeable to say the least. A quick glance inside his books reveals a brisk writing style and atypical, engaging characters. Also atypical of The Write Stuff’s usual line of suspects, Josh is releasing two debut novels this year. When I asked him to tell us a bit about each, he provided these two insights:

Forge of Ashes, Sword and sorcery (RPG tie-in):

A female dwarven barbarian returns home from war to discover her family in disgrace and her mother missing, presumed dead. Monsters, magic, and mayhem ensues as she risks all to fix the situation.

Enter the Janitor, Urban fantasy:

A janitor working for a supernatural sanitation company must track down a fledgling demigod before it’s corrupted or destroyed, all while training a rebellious new employee whose fluctuating power could trash an entire city.

Please tell us about this year’s releases.

I had quite an interesting debut year as an author, as I had two books come out in the same month from different publishers. As they were almost simultaneous, I treat them as my “collective debut.” Technically the most recent was Enter the Janitor, which launched during Denver Comic Con. It’s about janitors (and other sanitation workers) employed by a supernatural sanitation company that keeps the world clean and safe—be it from sewer monsters, magical muck, or trash golems.

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

Well, urban fantasy is a somewhat crowded genre these days. It can be hard to make a story stand out or seem unique. Aside from taking the idea of supernatural sanitation, I feel that by emphasizing the absurd humor, it can provide a fun, entertaining (and unique) experience for readers.

PZO8526Tell us a bit about Forge of Ashes.

This is my first media tie-in novel, based on the Pathfinder roleplaying game. Set in the fantasy world of Golarion, it features a female dwarf as the main character. She’s been away from home for a while and returns home to find a bit of a family disaster waiting for her—and with anger issues and an identity crisis already looming over her, she’s not best equipped to handle things in the healthiest manner.

What else are you working on?

Lots! I’ve currently got the second Cleaners novel in production and it should be out later this year. Then I’m getting into the draft of the third in the series. I’m also working on a Pathfinder novella, a possible middle grade scifi tale, and other RPG tie-ins. Plus a number of short stories and plenty of other novel ideas brewing. Oh, and I’m taking on a new job as a full-time editor for Paizo (the publisher of Pathfinder)!

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

It’s a job that requires you to be a little insane and obsessive in your persistence. It also involves a lot of sitting (though I try to work at a standing or treadmill desk to balance that out). Oh, and it can do terrible things to your finances and work/life balance…sometimes causing you to have none of either.

A number of my site’s visitors are aspiring authors. What can you tell them about your path to publication.

I had a moment of clarity in college where I realized I wanted to be a career writer and author. At that point, I launched into learning how to improve as a writer, researching how to get published, going to conventions, and connecting with other writers. I also started writing. A lot. And I started submitting stories, getting rejection letters, and trying to constantly improve.

Honestly, that all went on for several years before I made my first short story sale. I wrote during lunch breaks, in the evenings, over weekends…anything I could do to reach a professional level of writing. So just picture a “Cool Writing Montage” and let it play for a while. It’ll be far more entertaining and probably have a better soundtrack.

Eventually, I wrote Enter the Janitor, got an agent, and started shopping it around. It didn’t sell for a while, and the agent and I amicably parted ways for various reasons. But in the meantime, I’d also become a freelance copywriter, making a living solely off my writing. I got into freelancing for some RPG companies, connected with Paizo, and sold them a couple short stories. At that point, my editor, James Sutter, asked if I wanted to pitch a novel to them. And thus Forge of Ashes was born, becoming my first contracted novel. Enter the Janitor found a home with WordFire Press later that year, and things continue to evolve in exciting ways since then.

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

For me, it’s finding the tone of the story and the character voices at the beginning. Once I’m about 10k words in, I usually hit it and it flows better from there. Then I have to go back and rework the beginning based on that.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Since college, all of my jobs have been either publishing, journalism, editorial, copywriting, or freelance writing. Only the context has changed. I love being able to make a living from my passion.

You’re a fortunate man. Very few can make that claim. Can you tell us what a typical day is like?

There is no such thing.

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

A belief in hope, and that people have inherent value. A love of exploration and the weird and the strange. And the constant desire to grow and learn new things.

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

I give myself time to recover, try to avoid beating myself up for getting knocked down (counter-productive, no?), and then remind myself what my real priorities are. Then I start working toward them again.

Before we take a peek at Enter the Janitor, let’s take a stab at a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a… person with very good taste in books and video games.

The one thing I cannot do without is: My nervous system.

That would pose a problem.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d start writing earlier and read even more widely.

I’d like to thank you for sharing your time with us and for the following sample of your work.

For those visitors who’d like to learn more about Josh, or are interested in reading more of his work, you’ll find social and book purchase links at the bottom of the page.

 

Enter the Janitor

UfG0VEcPKvjI8B2Q16bhu9lkvb0ohZTtvoTq2y-mQUMBen pushed his squeaky-wheeled cart out of the elevator and into the underground lot of HQ’s office complex. Dani walked by his side, her gaze darting to every dark corner as if checking for monsters.

They ambled between rows of identical white vans until they came across one which might’ve been white in a previous lifetime. Mud splatters, rust, and flaking paint covered the paneling, and it wouldn’t have looked out of place on someone’s front lawn alongside plastic flamingos and beer cans.

Dani stared at it in faint horror. “I thought we were supposed to maintain a clean image.”

He patted the side. “Mebbe all the rest like to waste time sprayin’ their vans down every time it gets a speck of dust on the bumper. Me? So long as it gets me where I gotta go, it’s all the fancy-shmancy wheels I need.”

“Still, shouldn’t you take better of your company car?” she asked. “I mean, that thing looks half-fossilized. What’s Francis’ ride? A white stretch limo?”

“When you reach his level, limos are beneath you,” Ben said. “So unless your new powers include teleportation, you’re gonna just have to enjoy the ride.”

She stood back as Ben slid the van’s side door open. It rattled aside to reveal built-in metal shelving that held all manner of buckets, cleaning fluid, bottles, extra mops, bundles of rags, and other cleaning paraphernalia. A regular janitorial treasure chest.

She perked up. “Got any gloves in there?”

He scrounged across one shelf until he came up with a pair of yellow rubber gloves and tossed them her way. As she tugged them on, he levered the cart into an open space at the back and locked the wheels in place.

“Why janitors?”

He glanced back. “Eh?”

“Why janitors?” Dani repeated. “If the Cleaners are some big magical society, why not act like it? Why hide behind this corporate front? Wouldn’t it be better to take on an image people respect more? Like law enforcement. Or superheroes.”

“First off, you really wanna go ’round wearin’ tights and capes? Or seein’ me in ’em?” He chuckled at her grimace. “Second off, if you think about it, janitors, maids, plumbers … all sortsa cleanin’ folks have been keepin’ the world from turnin’ into one big ball of mud since people started figurin’ out that sleepin’ in their own filth ain’t exactly the brightest idea. Mebbe politicians and military folk look like they’re the ones with all the say-so, but we’re the ones that keep things runnin’ from the ground up, whether they know it or not.”

“Still, isn’t it a little on the low end of the totem pole?”

“If you look hard enough, there’s plenty to be proud of.” He grinned. “You just gotta think like a janitor.”

“I wasn’t aware janitors did much thinking.”

“That sorta mindset is gonna get you in a lotta trouble.”

He rummaged around the shelves until he came up with a dusty-brown cleaning jumpsuit which zippered up the front, and a pair of black rubber boots. These he handed to Dani. “Get changed.”

She held the suit doubtfully. “These are way too big for me. And I am not changing clothes in a garage.”

“Fine. But that piece you’re wearin’ right now dissolves if taken outta HQ, so I guess you’re ridin’ shotgun nekkid.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You’re joking. I know you are.”

An engine started in the distance as they stared each other down.

At last, her glare turned pleading. “Please say you’re joking.” When he remained silent, she stalked around to the other side of the van, calling out, “You try to peek and I’ll break your nose.”

Ben waited as groans of disgust and shuffling evidenced her attempts to change without falling over. A squeak of surprise was followed by Dani running back around, now wearing a hot pink jumpsuit. She plucked at the waistband and arms, which were just loose enough to give her free range of motion. Otherwise it fit perfectly.

“What the … this thing shrunk! And changed color!”

“One size fits all ’round here.”

She craned her neck to study the outfit from all sides. “But why pink?”

“It switches to the wearer’s favorite color.”

“I don’t like pink.”

“Accordin’ to the suit, you like it a lot.”

“How do I change it?”

He briefly shut his eyes. When he opened them again, his dusty blue jumpsuit had turned forest green. “Just a mental command. ’Course if you get too distracted or knocked unconscious, it’ll revert back. Pink’s nothin’ to be ashamed of.”

 

Website:                              JRVogt.com

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

Twitter:                               @JRVogt

You’ll find Josh’s books at:

http://www.amazon.com/Enter-Janitor-The-Cleaners-Volume/dp/1614753180/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1431709208&sr=8-1

and

http://www.amazon.com/Pathfinder-Tales-Forge-Josh-Vogt/dp/1601257430/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431707452&sr=8-1&keywords=forge+of+ashes

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 26 – Interview With Peter J Wacks

Peter Wacks headshotToday, I have the pleasure of featuring WordFire Press’s managing editor and best-selling author, Peter J. Wacks. I was introduced to Peter earlier this year during Portland, Oregon’s Rose City Comic Con and have since learned he is truly a multi-faceted individual. His graphic novel, “Behind These Eyes”, which he co-scripted with Guy Anthony de Marco and Chaz Kemp, was nominated in 2013 for the Bram Stoker Award®. His first two novels, Second Paradigm, a sci-fi mystery thriller, and Bloodletting, an epic fantasy and Part 1 of the Affinities Cycle, which he co-authored with Mark Ryan, were both released earlier this year. In addition to his publishing endeavors, he created the international bestselling Cyberpunk CCG (Collectable Card Game), and has also been an actor and a TV producer.

coverOn or about November 15 of this year, WordFire Press expects to release Peter’s steampunk adventure, The Dandy Boys Mysteries, which WFP describes as follows:

The Vengeance universe, originally published in the Penny Dread Tales, begins here with a young Friedrich Von Helsing, who will eventually grow to fight the supernatural alongside the mysterious Brotherhood.

In the stylings of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and Jonathan Polidori’s The Vampyre, this Victorian adventure follows Friedrich and his band of four friends, as these five young scholars debunk the supernatural in 1839. What starts as an innocuous set of adventures studying conmen, mages, Romani curses, and mad scientists leads them down a dark path to true occult.

 

Peter, before I will give our visitors a taste of Dandy Boys, I’d like to spend some time showcasing you as a writer. Would you please tell us something about your earlier work?

 My proudest novel was Second Paradigm. It was the first novel I published, and though it is the oldest example of my work, I accomplished something with it that I’m not sure I could duplicate these days. With Second Paradigm I created a story that can be read in any order, and still delivers Build Up, Conflict, Resolution, in order. The story itself is a time travel story, which did make it easier to lay out a nonlinear plot.

You’ve piqued my curiosity. Time travel is a difficult subject. Would you care to discuss some of the awards you have won?

I have been lucky enough to find my work nominated for a couple awards. The two big nominations were “Behind These Eyes”, a horror graphic novel which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, and Interface Zero 2.0 a gaming setting which was nominated for an Enny. I also wrote a preface for the 2015 Writers of the Future anthology which was turned into a short film. An interesting side note: Second Paradigm, which I mentioned before, landed me a guest speaking appearance with a chapter of Mensa – since no one before me had broken Aristotelian plotting with true nonlinear “reorganizable” storytelling.

Do you have any other books in the works?

Right now is a very exciting time. I just coauthored a novella with Kevin J. Anderson for the TV show Heroes Reborn (which I love!) I have two series on the way from Baen Books: one a multi book joint world alt-history/fantasy with Eytan Kollin, Walter Hunt, Eric Flint, and Kevin J. Anderson, the other an Urban Fantasy about an everyday P.I. who gets caught in a world of the supernatural. I have 4 other titles in various stages of shopping/signing, but I don’t want to get to far into those until I have more details on the releases.

Very exciting indeed! What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Intense. I prefer to go at a slower pace, but stick at it for a solid 8 hours, if not more. I do this 7 days a week, unless I have conventions or other appearances-at which point I get as much time as I can in.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I do both. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I pants (fly by the seat of my pants.) It really depends on how busy I am when I think of the story. If I have a bunch of other stuff on my plate, I’ll outline just so I can save the idea. (I have 227 draft outlines for books in my “to do” folder.

That’s great! Then we’ll be hearing from you for some time to come. I’d like to delve a little deeper, if I may. I’ll start by asking why do you write?

I know it may be cliché but I can’t not write. The people around me notice that the longer I go without writing the more of a grumpy jerk I become. It is just how I am wired.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

That is a rough question. I know that I care a LOT more about digging into every layer of my characters than I did 10 years ago. They have become friends in a way that they didn’t used to be, even if I think they are jerks. I think a larger part of evolution though is that I have gained confidence. There are people out there impacted by my stories, even if I don’t have the notoriety of a headliner author, and that gives me confidence that the sacrifices of following a creative life (like I have a lot of choice – I don’t think there is anything else in the world I want to do) are worth it.

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

 I do not. But I do. My “day job” is as the managing editor of a publishing house, so when I’m not writing… I’m still reading and analyzing story. The oddity in my life is that my writing actually pays most of my bills; and my “day job” is something I do because I love the people I work with and find it rewarding.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m a single Dad and it is one of the most rewarding pieces of my life. My kiddo doesn’t feel like she comes from a broken home, she has adopted the attitude that she is luckier than most kids because she has 3 parents that love her. But – the only piece of my life as “big” as being a writer, to me, is being the best Dad I can.

If you don’t find this next question too intrusive, what do you consider your biggest failure?

Friendships. I am so busy with writing and being a dad that I rarely have social time to check in on my friends. I feel like I fail those around me by not being available, but they still stick around, being amazing people and checking in on me to make sure I haven’t been sitting in front of the keyboard, glassy eyed, without eating for the last 36 hours. And then they feed me when they discover that, in fact, I have been.

Thank you for sharing your time with us and thank for your candor. Obviously, your readers learn something about you from your work, but your responses here reveal much more about your humanity—something I believe is essential for creating a strong reader/writer bond.

 As we close, before I provide a sample from The Dandy Boys Mysteries and provide links to where our visitors can follow you and purchase your books, I’d like to close with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is:                                Unwind time with my daughter.

The one thing I would change about my life:                 The number of hours in the day. We need to move the planet a bit, get up to a nice 36 hour day.

Hah! My sentiment exactly. My biggest peeve is:         Having to sleep.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:                  My kiddo. She is the awesome.

For those of you who have stayed with us to the end—and how could you not have? Great responses, Peter—here is the excerpt you have been waiting for:

Journal One
The Gypsy Curse

Entry One

 

In April of 1838, Cambridge University issued advanced degrees to several individuals of note. This was done in recognition of the completion of their studies and exemplary performance, as well as their keen insights and application thereof to the problems thus presented by the world.

The honorarium was attended at the newly founded Thomas Graham House headquarters of the Royal Society of London, located on the outskirts of Cambridge. Though Graham had been a fellow for only two years, great things were expected of him as a chemist who more than rigorously applied the Socratic Method to his studies.

Among these so laureled were the founding members of The Fellowship of Adventurer Scholars for the Revelation of Mythology and the Advancement of Natural Philosophy. The Fellowship was a bold venture, one which would cast aside such methods which found men of science cloistered in musty rooms, and would instead embolden its Fellows to embrace the very Spirit of Discovery.

Musty rooms could, as some had said, only contribute to the knowledge and study of musty rooms, while the world beckoned from outside the windows, enticing the inquiring mind to dissect and study its many wonders.

While the Fellowship did aspire to become a branch of the Royal Society, it was by no means intentioned to be constrained by the guiding vision of those notable gentlemen; rather, it sought to show that the empirical methods of these great explorers of the mind were better suited for examinations of the natural world.

Founded, as it was, by those more … youthful in nature, The Fellowship embraced travel and exploration. The body of the Fellowship of Adventurer Scholars consisted of Niles Byron, the eldest son to Lord George Gordon Byron; Dominic William Weyland, the youngest son of the noted industrialist Thomas Weyland; William Owen Wilson of the Oxford Wilsons; Rufus Emmerson, whose father had acquired a small fortune as the principle financier of the Weyland Industrial Consortium; and Friedrich Von Helsing, of house Helsing, who was himself second in line to a small barony in northern Germany.

Each of these men were of the highest caliber, as defined by the mind if not by blood, and disciplined with their time and intellect, bringing both to bear on the problems that so willfully accosted the good men and women of The Emperor’s.

While the exact nature of their introduction is unknown, it is common knowledge that these gentlemen shared several interests and associations while attending the King’s College, and that they could often be found in each other’s company. Despite their disparate social statuses, their shared intellectual and literary interests led them to engage in regular symposiums of the true Greek fashion.

In addition to such shared interests, the disciplines which these men mastered contributed greatly to their collective venture, as if the fates themselves had guided their interests toward that which would best accommodate their quest for truth in a darkened world; but perhaps even their philosophies at this time were not sufficient to dream of all the things in heaven and earth. Though the world may be a stage, and the Adventurer Scholars were but players, the ideas they pursued were, to them, the very parchment and ink with which the great playwright scribbled the tragedy of the world.

Niles Byron had, at that time, received his degree in matters of the Law. The discipline which was intended to prepare him for the affairs of his estate had instead provided the Fellowship with the ability to deftly maneuver the many difficulties of the world’s changing political spheres. It also allowed them a certain ease of passage through customs points, for in a world of imperial rule, the force of law could compel compliance more swiftly then could a blade, just as the badge of citizenship could defend better than any shield. And were one to find themselves in such a place as rejected these authorities, then the quick wit of the esquire could be called upon to lubricate the most insurmountable of obstructions.

Simultaneously, the title of Medical Doctorate, which had been bestowed upon both Rufus and Wilson, granted the coterie many tangible investigative insights, as well a certain degree of universal social acceptance. For who does not value the man who can heal all ailments and address even the sicknesses of the soul? Having two such fine exemplars of the field in their company could only further the prestige of the Fellowship and contribute to their study of the human phenomena which so captivated their interest.

It was the analytics and theoretics of Natural Philosophy—obtained by both Weyland and Helsing—which rounded out the group’s skills and provided a firm methodology for what followed.

If you’re looking to follow Peter, you may do so here:

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Twitter:          www.twitter.com/peterjwacks

Website:         www.peterjwacks.net/

 Buy Links:     www.wordfirepress.com

www.amazon.com/Dandy-Boys-Mysteries-Vengeance-Book-ebook/dp/B014WWE5SE

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 12 – Interview With Nancy Kress

I was introduced to Nancy Kress by my previous guest, Mike Resnick, this past August at the WorldCon book launch party that WordFire Press was throwing for his newest release. The guestroom where the party occurred was growing increasingly crowded as Mike led me through the throng of partygoers toward an attractive brunette seated on a couch against one of the walls. When he told her about my interview series, she smiled and immediately gave her email address to this stranger standing before her, assuring me she would be delighted to participate. I could see I was interrupting her conversation with the woman seated next to her, so I thanked her as best I could and made myself scarce. To this day, I wish I had had a better opportunity to get to know her. This then, is your chance and mine to acquaint ourselves with one of the all-time masters of sci-fi and fantasy.

Nancy KressNancy Kress is the author of thirty-three books, including twenty-six novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the novel Probability Space. She often writes about genetic engineering and is perhaps best known for the Sleepless trilogy, beginning with Beggars In Spain, a complex look at the intersection of genetic engineering and national economics. Most recent works are the Nebula-winning Yesterday’s Kin (Tachyon, 2014) and Best Of Nancy Kress (Subterranean, September, 2015). Her work has been translated into more than two dozen languages, including Spanish, French, German, Croatian, Danish, Hebrew, and Klingon.

In addition to writing, Kress often teaches at various venues around the country and abroad; in 2008 she was the Picador visiting lecturer at the University of Leipzig. Currently, every summer she teaches Taos Toolbox, a two-week intensive writing workshop, with Walter Jon Williams.

She describes her most recent release, Best Of Nancy Kress, this way:

This collection holds twenty-one stories, written over nearly forty years and representing the best of Nancy Kress’s fiction. Three of these stories have won the Nebula, the Hugo, or both, and another four were nominees. They include time travel (“And Wild For To Hold”), hard SF (“Shiva in Shadow,” “Margin of Error”), alien planets (“Flowers of Aulit Prison,” “My Mother, Dancing”), trenchant satire (“People Like Us”), near-future extrapolation of current technology (“Someone to Watch Over Me”), explorations of social movements (“Beggars in Spain”), and unclassifiable (“Grant Us This Day”). The gorgeous cover, representing Anne Boleyn in “And Wild For To Hold,” is by Tom Canty.

The stories were chosen by Kress herself, who says: “The stories in this book try to do different things. Some, such as ‘People Like Us,’ are predominately idea stories. Some, like ‘Laws of Survival,’ are mostly interested in what a character would do in an impossible situation. Some, like ‘Unto the Daughters,’ were written because I enjoyed writing the voice. At least one, ‘Casey’s Empire,’ is a comment on writing science fiction: why, how, and at what cost one may become an SF writer. I picked the stories that are my personal favorites.”

The Best Of Nancy Kress received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, which called it a “sparkling and thoughtful collection…Kress has a gift for focusing on the familiar and the personal, even in the most alien settings.”

Nancy, thank you so much for agreeing to honor us with your presence. You’ve been writing for nearly forty years and have almost one book still in print for each of them. In addition to your many Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction novels and novellas, you’ve written numerous short story collections so I am compelled to ask, how do you keep your writing fresh?

Writing evolves. My first three novels were fantasy, the first heavily influenced by Peter Beagle (a fact mentioned by every single reviewer of the book). Then I moved on to more traditional fantasy, before deciding I’d like to write a science fiction book. I did some thrillers, some space opera, and, increasingly, hard SF based on emerging science. The disadvantage of this is that, unlike some other genre writers, I have not built a “brand” with a coterie of faithful followers sure that they will like the next book because they liked the last one. The advantage is that it does keep writing fresh to always be trying something new. And, of course, with hard SF, there is always new science to draw on.

I enjoy Beagle’s writing, as well. Many writers specialize in either non-fiction or fiction. Some choose to write almost exclusively novels or short stories. I, for one, feel I need novel-length works to develop my themes, yet you seem to thrive in virtually every writing environment there is, including non-fiction. While many of your books are for adults, your 2013 novel Flash Point targets a YA audience, something that requires an entirely different mindset. I don’t mean to sound disparaging—far from it—you’ve earned my greatest respect. Nonetheless, I have to ask how is this possible?

I think some writers are natural novelists; some are more effective at shorter lengths. I’ve experimented with all of them, and my conclusions are two: First, my favorite length for science fiction is the novella. It is long enough to develop an alternate world but short enough that only one plot line is needed, which lets the writer drive that one on through for maximum punch. Second, I think I am a better writer at short lengths than at novel lengths. All my awards except one are for short fiction. As for Young Adult books—Flash Point was also an experiment, but not one I will repeat. I didn’t really understand fourteen-year-olds when I was one, and the teenage culture now is not something I think I can successfully appeal to.

Many of your works delve into areas that require great technical expertise, for example genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Yet, as far as I can tell, before your writing exploded, you transitioned from being an educator to working in advertising. What do you read to develop the knowledge base required for your books?

I wish I had a scientific education! Had I known when I was young that I would turn into an SF writer, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I hold a Masters in English. To write about genetic engineering, I research on-line, attend lectures, and pester actual scientists with questions. My best friend is a doctor; she goes over my work to check that I have not said anything egregiously moronic.

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient for better or for worse. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal moments?

The first turning point for me came with the writing of the novella “Beggars in Spain,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula and which would never have been written without a jolt from writer Bruce Sterling. At a critique workshop we both attended, he pointed out that my story was weak because the society I’d created had no believable economic underpinnings. He said this colorfully and at length. After licking my wounds for a few weeks, I thought, “Damn it, he’s right!” In the next thing I wrote, “Beggars in Spain,” I seriously tried to address economic issues: Who controls the resources? What finances are behind what ventures? Why? With what success? My story about people not needing to sleep, which I’d actually been trying to compose for years, finally came alive.

Another big turning point for me was deciding to make my two biothrillers, Oaths And Miracles and Stinger, as realistic as possible. That meant a lot of scientific research. My reward was having both scientists and FBI agents tell me, “I believed every word you wrote.” Very satisfying.

Would you be good enough to describe your path to publication?

I began with three short-story sales to SF magazines. That convinced an agent to look at my first novel, without making any promises of representation. But she liked the book, and so she took me on.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing an SF series based on my novella “Yesterday’s Kin,” which won the 2014 Nebula. Aliens come to Earth—but they are not as alien as we think, and they bring both great tech and bad news. When I finished the novella, I felt that the immediate story was done but not the greater implications. A three-book series will come out from Tor over the next few years.

Best-NKressOn September 30 of this year, Subterranean Press is releasing The Best Of Nancy Kress, a collection of twenty-one stories written over thirty-five years. I’m really pleased about this.

If there is such a thing, describe a typical day.

I am a morning writer. I wake up early (very early, and it’s getting worse as I get older), drink coffee while puttering around for an hour or so, and then write. If fiction doesn’t get written by noon, it doesn’t get written. In the afternoon, after a walk with my husband and the dog, I do research, email, edit student manuscripts if I am teaching just then, social media—all the non-writing things that go with being a full-time writer. Evenings that we are home, I read. Of course, all this changes with the of actual life. But that’s the basic template.

I’m no stranger to rising early to write. I understand the morning routine very well. Would you care to share something about your home life?

I live in Seattle with my husband, writer Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle. I’ve been here in Seattle for six years now, having moved from upstate New York to marry Jack, and I love the city. It’s beautiful, temperate in climate (unlike Buffalo, where I grew up), and culturally rich. Also, there is a large SF community here.

What inspires you, not necessarily as pertains to your writing?

Narrative and science both inspire me. I get the narrative from books, movies, and some TV. I love movies and go often. The science I must seek out. In addition, I play a fair amount of chess, but I can’t say that inspires me because, alas, I’m not very good at it. When I was younger, I didn’t think you could really enjoy something you were bad at. Turns out I was wrong.

Which authors do you enjoy—sci-fi and otherwise—and why?

My favorite author is Jane Austen: not an intuitive choice for an SF writer. But her satire on how humans behave is just as fresh, funny, and true today as it was during the Regency. Out of genre, favorites include Somerset Maugham, Anne Tyler, Philippa Gregory, Karen Joy Fowler. In SF and fantasy, a diverse group: Ursula LeGuin, Bruce Sterling, Connie Willis, George Martin’s Game Of Thrones, Daryl Gregory, Fred Pohl. Some new, some old.

I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… Over-organized, always wanting to know “what is the plan?”

The person I’m most proud of is… My two children.

The one thing I cannot do without is… Coffee.

The one thing I would do over is… You don’t really expect me to answer that in public in any significant way, do you?

Hah! No. I guess I don’t. The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… My husband. He has a wonderful dry sense of humor. My two children.

Nancy, thanks once again for joining us, most especially for your thoughtful replies. (I also need to find a copy of one of your works in Klingon. What an item that would be!)

Those dropping in for a peek can learn more about this wonderful author via these links:

Website:         www.nancykress.com

Twitter:          @nancykress

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/nancy.kress.9

You may purchase her books here on Amazon:               http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=nancy+kress&sprefix=Nancy+Kress%2Caps%2C206

Or through her Amazon author page:       http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Kress/e/B000AQ4SK2/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1444280027&sr=1-2-ent

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 28 – Interview With Mike Resnick

This week’s guest, Mike Resnick, is one of science fiction’s undisputed titans. He’s won 5 Hugo awards and holds the record for 37 nominations. He’s won a Nebula Award, 10 HOmer Awards with 24 nominations, as well as too many other US and foreign awards to mention here. Wikipedia credits him with 66 novels—Mike claims 76 and he can prove it— and 26 short story collections. He has edited 41 anthologies, written 10 non-fiction books and 261 pieces of short fiction. He wrote the plot for “The Fiend from the Forgotten City,” a 1974 Conan the Barbarian comic, and with his wife, Carol Resnick, has co-edited Resnick’s Library of Worldwide Adventure: 5 non-fiction collections of travel tales from various authors. That series was preceded by 9 books in Resnick’s Library of African Adventure that he edited on his own. If all this wasn’t enough, he’s sold a short story collection to Russia, edited an anthology for Italy, has sold 8 short fiction pieces abroad, and 8 novellas as stand-alone novels overseas, all in addition to what I’ve noted above. And the list keeps growing.

Mike at 2012 Writers of the Future ContestI had the pleasure to meet Mike Resnick—he’ll tell you right away “Mister” is some other guy—this past August, in Spokane, Washington at the WordFire Press WorldCon book launch party for the re-release of his novel, The Outpost, first published in 2001 by Tor Books. I’m not sure what I expected, perhaps an unapproachable celebrity, but to my delight I discovered that Mike is an all-around nice guy. He’s warm, generous and immediately welcoming, not the least bit distant. When I told him about The Write Stuff, and asked if I could feature him, to my surprise and accruing respect, not to mention gratitude, he immediately agreed. After telling me how he’d like to introduce me to his daughter, the award-winning sci-fi author, Laura Resnick, for an interview, he looked across the room and said, “There’s Nancy Kress. Come. Let me introduce you to her.”

Mike, Despite your monumental legacy, I am emphatically not going to ask the tired, old question: where do your stories come from? All authors know that the stories choose us. Instead, as one of many who have produced only a handful of works, I am compelled to ask, how do you keep your writing fresh?

I think the true answer to that is that I simply love writing. I suppose the more acceptable answer is that I alternate serious fiction with humorous fiction with non-fiction, and that two or three times during a novel I’ll take a few nights off (my typical working day is 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM, when no one rings the phone or knocks on the door) and write a short story, then go back to the novel totally refreshed.

I think it’s a given that heroes are often not as either legend or society portrays them. The Outpost’s premise suggests that, when modesty does not prevail, they may not even be as heroic as they perceive themselves. Why is this?

If you didn’t see them perform their heroic deeds, there’s every likelihood that they were exaggerating or fantasizing. And most people who are capable of one or two acts of daredevil heroism are not capable of constantly repeating those acts. Which is okay. I’d rather read about Conan or the Gray Lensman than live next door to them.

As our visitors will see, by the excerpt at the end of our conversation, The Outpost is a tongue-in-cheek yarn and dry humor pervades it. Other writers might have chosen scathing criticism in telling the same tale. You obviously believe wit and irony are more effective tools. Why so?

Probably because I don’t hate or resent the heroes of our space operas, nor am I contemptuous of them. I find them kind of endearing, symbols of my long-ago youth. And because I am both fond of them and totally disbelieve most of what they’re supposedly capable of, I find humor is the best way to deal with them. (My bibliographer tells me that I’ve sold something like 130 humorous stories, more even than my late friend Bob Sheckley, who was the king of all SF humorists.)

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal ones?

Santiago was my first national and international bestseller; it’s the book that put me on the map. Kirinyaga has picked up 67 major and minor awards and nominations to date, and enhanced my prestige in every country I sell to (29 at last count). “Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge” has won more awards all over the world – here, Spain, Japan, Croatia, France – than anything else I’ve written, and just sold to its 24th market.

You certainly deserve the wide-spread recognition.

I’d like to look back to the time before you began writing sci-fi. Most of your followers are unaware of your early writing career. A friend of yours, whom I met at WorldCon, whose name I am embarrassed to say I do not remember, said he knew you back in those old Chicago days and told me about some of your earliest writing efforts: “adult” novels. How did you make the break from those into more serious work?

A lot of us served our apprenticeships in the “adult” field—me, Bob Silverberg, Barry Malzberg, maybe a dozen other science fiction writers, a couple of mystery Grandmasters (Laurence Block and Donald E. Westlake)—a bunch more. It was a place where you could make a lot of money while you were learning how to write.

There came a time, 200+ four-day novels into my career, that I decided if I wrote one more 96-hour novel or one more 6-hour screenplay, my brain would turn to putty and run out my ears. We were breeding and exhibiting collies at the time—we had 23 champions between 1968 and 1982, almost all of them named after science fiction books or characters—and I figured, well, if Carol and I can take care of a dozen or so happy, healthy collies and I can still grind out this multitude of books, maybe we should invest in a kennel. Clearly it was the one other thing we could do without re-training. So we spent a year looking all over the country, and finally bought the nation’s second-biggest luxury boarding and grooming kennel in Cincinnati. We bought it in 1976, hired and trained a staff of 20, and by 1980 it was practically running itself, and I began writing what I wanted to write, and at a reasonable speed. (Well, reasonable for me or Silverberg or Malzberg; fast for anyone who hadn’t come out of the same field.)

When the writing out-earned the kennel five years in a row, we sold the kennel in 1993, but elected to remain in Cincinnati.

Now that should amaze some of our visitors.

My wife, Toni, acts as the first set of eyes for my books, so I was pleased to learn that your own wife, writer Carol Resnick, who co-authored two of your movie scripts, has contributed to many of yours. Would you care to expand on her contributions?

She was Carol Cain until we married in 1961; she’s been Carol Resnick ever since, and that’s the only name she uses. The only writing she’s signed her name to is a couple of screenplays we co-authored. She’s also co-edited a line of true-adventure reprints with me.

I discuss every idea with her before I sit down to write, and she’s my first reader and my line editor. When she says it’s ready to go, it sells 100% of the time.

If there is such a thing, describe a typical day.

I wake up at about 3:00 in the afternoon, go downstairs to my office (the house was built to our specs back in 1986; 4000 square feet, but with only two bedrooms…plus two libraries, a large office, and a greenhouse). I check my e-mail, answer what has to be answered immediately, and then, somewhere between 4:30 and 6:00 PM we drive out to one of our usual restaurants for dinner (well, it’s a dinner menu, but it’s my breakfast). We come home, watch the news (which we’ve recorded while we were out), I do any editing or proofreading I have to do, and I read submissions to Galaxy’s Edge, which I edit. I check e-mail again—I do a lot of business overseas, and they’re just waking up and getting to their offices between 8:00 PM and midnight here. About 10:00 PM I’ll sit down and start writing. Usually I’ll take a break about 1:00 AM, and as often as not we’ll drive out to Applebee’s or IHOP or similar for a snack. Back by 2:00, and write til just about sunrise. I go to bed about 6:00, read my Nook for maybe an hour, and then go to sleep until midafternoon the next day. I know it doesn’t sound wildly exciting, but it is wildly satisfying.

What inspires you, not necessarily as pertains to your writing?

Helping new writers, collaborating with them to get them into print, buying from them for my anthologies and/or for Galaxy’s Edge. Over the years I’ve “adopted” maybe 20 of them. (Maureen McHugh calls them “Mike’s Writer Children”.) I should add, with fatherly pride, that my real child, Laura, has won awards in romance, travel writing, and science fiction (the Campbell) and probably outsells me these days.

Which authors do you enjoy, sci-fi and otherwise?

In science fiction: C. L. Moore, Bob Sheckley, and Barry Malzberg are probably my three personal favorite. Elsewhere: Damon Runyon, Joe Heller, Nikos Kazantzakis, Raymond Chandler, Ross H. Spencer, Sara Gruen, Steven Suskin, a bunch more.

I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. Before I share an excerpt from The Outpost, in as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… dependable.

The person I’m most proud of is… Laura.

The one thing I cannot do without is… Carol.

The one thing I would do over is… watch my blood sugar. (I went blind in one eye back in 2003 due to diabetes. I see just fine with just my left eye, but I’d like to know I had a spare in case I needed it.)

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… listening to self-important fools pontificate at conventions or workshops.

That response makes me laugh! Thank you so much for sharing your time with us. I’ve been an avid follower for years and I suspect more than a few of today’s visitors are as well.

 At the bottom of this page, right after this excerpt, visitors will find a few links to Mike’s books and website.

 From The Outpost

The OutpostNow, you people don’t know me, so you don’t know that I ain’t much given to exaggeration, but take my word for it: the Dragon Queen was the most beautiful female I had ever seen in a lifetime of admiring female critters of almost every race and species.

Her hair shone like spun gold. Her eyes were the blue of the clearest lagoon. Her lips were a brilliant red, and moist as all get-out. And one look told me that if she was a typical Dragon Queen, then Dragon Queens made Pirate Queens look like schoolgirls from the neck down.

She’d been poured into a skin-tight metallic dress. She had breasts that just out-and-out defied gravity, and the tiniest waist, and smooth, silken thighs, and I tried real hard not to pay much attention to the fact that she was toting even more weapons than I tended to carry myself.

“Have you got a stiff neck?” she asked after a couple of moments in a voice that was a little bit harsher than I expected from someone that beautiful.

Well, that wasn’t quite where I was stiff, if you catch my delicate and subtle meaning, but I assured her that my neck was just fine.

“Then look at my face,” she commanded.

I did so, and suddenly spotted something I’d missed the first time around, which was that she was wearing a golden tiara, and smack-dab in the middle of it was the biggest, most perfect ruby I’d ever seen.

“Miss Dragon Queen, ma’am,” I said, “I hope it don’t embarrass you, but I have to declare that you are unquestionably the most beautiful woman I have seen in all my wanderings across the length and breadth of the galaxy, to say nothing of its height and depth.”

“You may call me Zenobia,” she said, and now her voice was more like a purr than a snarl.

That didn’t surprise me none, because I’d met eleven Pirate Queens in my day, and eight of them were called Zenobia, and I figured that if you were an exquisitely-built young woman possessed of unbridled lust and an overwhelming desire to conquer the galaxy, Zenobia was the name that just naturally appealed to you.

“It’s a name fit for a Dragon Queen,” I assured her.

She stared at me through half-lowered eyelids. “You interest me, Catastrophe Baker,” she said. Suddenly she snapped to attention, which produced an effect most men would pay good money to see. “But first, to business. You stole thirty pounds of my plutonium. I want it back.”

“What does a pretty little thing like you need with enough plutonium to blow up half dozen star systems?” I asked.

She smiled. “I plan to blow up half a dozen star systems,” she said.

“Just for the hell of it?” I asked, because you never knew what Pirate Queens might do when they felt irritable, and I figured Dragon Queens weren’t much different.

“There are six warlords out here on the Rim. As my first step in the conquest of the galaxy, I plan to assimilate their empires.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?” I said. “Hell, assimilating empires is something I’ve always had a hankering to do. I think we should become partners.”

“You’re hardly in a position to make demands!” she snapped.

I held up my hands. “You mean these things?” I asked, indicating the manacles. “I just let them put ’em on me so I could meet you. There ain’t never been a chain that could hold Catastrophe Baker.”

And so saying, I flexed my muscles and gave one mighty yank, and the manacles came apart. Four or five of her bodyguards—did I forget to tell you she had a small army of bodyguards?—jumped me, but I just leaned down, straightened up, and sent ’em flying in all directions.

She stared at me, wide-eyed, and I could tell that she was torn between yelling “Off with his head!” and “Off with his clothes!”

“I may have even more uses for you than I thought at first glance,” she said at last.

“Then we’re partners?”

“Why not?” she said with a shrug that went a lot farther and lasted a lot longer than your standard shrug.

“Well, if we’re partners,” I continued, “I’d sure be interested in knowing why you’re a Dragon Queen rather than a Pirate Queen.”

“And so you shall, Catastrophe Baker,” she said, walking over and taking me by the hand. She smelled good enough to eat. “Come with me.”

 

Website:         www.mikeresnick.com

You may join his Listserv through his website.

Facebook:                              https://www.facebook.com/mike.resnick1

Amazon POD & ebook buy links:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_12

B&N POD & ebook buy links:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Mike+Resnick?_requestid=168160

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 14 – Interview With Anne Hillerman

This week, I am pleased to feature a talented creator of both non-fiction and fiction works alike. In theory, I could have met Anne on several occasions while I lived in Santa Fe, but fate conspired against it. Whether I marked the date of a book signing incorrectly or weather made the roads impassable, we never connected and I’ve been the poorer for it. I have met a few of her friends, even interviewed one—Lisa Lenard-Cook—this past January. And while each one attests to Anne’s open personality, I’ve only had the pleasure of her acquaintance through social media. In addition to her non-fiction works, she has chosen to continue in her revered father’s footsteps.

anne_fogelbergAnne Hillerman is the author of the New York Times best-selling Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock with Wings. Her stories continue the popular Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee mysteries series created by her father, Tony Hillerman. She is currently at work on the third book, again featuring officer Bernadette Maneulito as a crime solver. Anne’s novels have been honored with the Spur from Western Writers of America and the New Mexico-Arizona book award for best mystery and best book of the year. Before writing fiction, Anne wrote several non-fiction books including Tony Hillerman’s Landscape: On the Road with Chee and Leaphorn.

Anne is a founding director of the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference held annually in Santa Fe. She began her writing career as a newspaper reporter, and continues in journalism as restaurant critic for the Albuquerque Journal. A New Mexican since the age of three, she lives and works in Santa Fe with her husband, photographer Don Strel.

This is how she describes Rock With Wings:

Navajo Tribal cops Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito, and their mentor, the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, investigate two perplexing cases in this exciting Southwestern mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Spider Woman’s Daughter.

Doing a good deed for a relative offers the perfect opportunity for Sergeant Jim Chee and his wife, Officer Bernie Manuelito, to get away from the daily grind of police work. But two cases will call them back from their short vacation and separate them—one near Shiprock, and the other at iconic Monument Valley.

Chee follows a series of seemingly random and cryptic clues that lead to a missing woman, a coldblooded thug, and a mysterious mound of dirt and rocks that could be a gravesite. Bernie has her hands full managing the fallout from a drug bust gone wrong, uncovering the origins of a fire in the middle of nowhere, and looking into an ambitious solar energy development with long-ranging consequences for Navajo land.

Under the guidance of their mentor, retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, Bernie and Chee will navigate unexpected obstacles and confront the greatest challenge yet to their skills, commitment, and courage.

Please tell us more about it.

This new mystery featuring Bernadette Manuelito, Jim Chee, and their mentor, Lt. Joe Leaphorn, is set in Monument Valley and the country near the little Navajo town of Ship Rock, N.M. The book is structured as two parallel stories with separate crimes taking Chee and Bernie in different directions. Among the elements included are movie making, a mysterious car fire, a tight-lipped suspect with a trunk full of dirt and a questionable grave that might or might not be just a movie prop.

This newest release, as well as Spider Woman’s Daughter, which preceded it, continue a thread begun by your father. What was the biggest challenge you faced following in his footsteps and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was and still is living up to the expectations of the fans Tony Hillerman’s work garnered during his 30 years of writing the Navajo mystery series. He created and brought to life  Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. Many have enjoyed Dad’s books through several re-readings and I knew they had high standards for anyone who would presume to continue these stories.

I overcame my hesitation by writing the best books I possibly could. Because Dad had never used Bernadette Manuelito as a crime solver, and because he had gradually been developing her into a more major character, I decided that telling the stories from her point of view would give me a way to continue the mysteries while giving the series a new voice.

Please list your other works for our visitors.

Spider Woman’s Daughter (novel) and Tony Hillerman’s Landscape (non-fiction), both published by HarperCollins.  Ride the Wind  USA to Africa  (Rio Grande Publishing) about a ballooning adventure.  I also two wrote two non-fiction books Gardens of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Flavors, both published by GibbsSmith Publishers and unfortunately out of print. I also wrote several travel guides, now outdated, and a book of solar energy projects for children.

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

Yes, Spider Woman’s Daughter was honored with the Spur Award and the New Mexico Book Award.  Tony Hillerman’s Landscape was honored with the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association Award. The Library of Congress created a video of me speaking there last summer for the National Book Festival.  Here’s a video interview in connection with the release of Rock with Wings: http://reportfromsantafe.com/episodes/view/304/anne-hillerman-author-rock-with-wings/

What are you working on now and do you have an ETA for its release?

I am at work on the third novel in the new series, not yet named. My deadline for manuscript submission is January, 2016. Wish me luck!

I do! I’m pushing back an identical deadline to March, so I understand the pressure you face. That aside, do you find there are occupational hazards to being a novelist as opposed being to a non-fiction writer?

No, but I have been surprised at the popularity of my new series, and am very thankful to my Dad’s fans. As a nonfiction writer, I was happy but basically unknown. With fiction,  I’m getting the opportunity to balance my need for quiet time to write with my need to be a promoter and respond to generous invitations to come and talk about my Dad and my books. It’s different!

Tell us about your new series’s path to publication.

My non-fiction book about Tony Hillerman and the places he loved came out almost a year to the day after my father died. During the book tour for that book, so many people told me they missed the characters and asked if Dad had another unpublished manuscript to continue the saga. He didn’t, but I realized that I missed the characters my father created as much or even more than his fans. So, I figured I would try writing one and see what happened. After I got my mother’s blessing, I contacted Dad’s long-time editor at Harpercollins to see if there might be any legal problems, copyright issues, etc. with my writing a novel using Dad’s characters. She said no, and added that she’d be glad to take a look at whatever I came up with. I wrote the book, she looked at it, liked it, gave me a bunch of good ideas on how to make it better, and offered me a contract for two books. Then, because of the wonderful fan response, Harpercollins offered me a three book contract following the publication of Spider Woman’s Daughter. I’m now at work on the first book of that package.

In the publishing world, it’s nice to have some security. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I am the co-founder of the Tony Hillerman Writers’ Conference, held each November in Santa Fe http://wordharvest.com/hillerman-writers-conference/  I serve on the boards of Western Writers of America and New Mexico Press Women. I’m also a wife, mom, sister and niece.

What motivates or inspires you?

A road trip, especially to somewhere in our expansive southwest, always inspires me. I love live music from opera to bluegrass.  I enjoy working in the garden where you can see things change and grow.

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

Sleep usually helps along with prayer and a conversation with a friend. A brisk walk or a sweaty trip to the gym are good, too.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My Dad and my Mom inspired me with their passion for good books and good writing and their enormous kindness and generosity. I miss them every day, but I am grateful for the lessons they taught me.

Thank you for spending time with us. Before we read a sample from Rock With Wings, with your permission 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 a… complicated person.

The one thing I cannot do without is: space.

The one thing I would change about my life: A few more years with my parents.

My biggest peeve is: People who criticize a book without reading it.

Boy! Do I know that one, but I’ll save it for another time. Instead, let’s enjoy the following excerpt from Rock with Wings (P 274).

harpercollins-rockOfficer Bernadette Manuelito has been assigned to give a talk to the Farmington Rotary.

Bernie parked in the restaurant lot, noticing that it was nearly full. She picked up her backpack, double-checking to make sure her notes were there. She put on a bit of lipstick, squared her shoulders, and walked in to the room where the meeting would be. She felt as almost as unsettled as when she’d met Chee’s relatives for the first time.

The sixty-something woman at the door in the gray business suit introduced herself as the program director and the person Bernie had talked to on the phone. “We’re so glad you could join us. You’re younger than I expected. Have you met our president?”

“No, ma’am.” Younger than expected? That didn’t sound like a good thing….

(The excerpt picks up with Bernie’s talk.)

“Ladies and gentlemen,  yá’át’ééh. Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me here today. And for the free lunch.” A few of the attendees chuckled. Good.

“This is the first time I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of our department.” She looked up from her notes. “I thought I would start by explaining that if you want to be on patrol with the Navajo Nation police, you have to enjoy driving. Each officer who works on our force is responsible for about seventy square miles of reservation land. That’s about twice the area of Grand Rapid, Michigan. Or think of it this way: the whole country of Liechtenstein is only sixty- two square miles.”

People in the audience smiled. She relaxed a little, looked at her notes for the next point she wanted to make, and kept talking. “In the rest of rural America, there are about three officers for a thousand civilians. Out here, when our department is fully staffed, there might be two of us for that same population. But I’m not complaining. I love my job, and I like to stay busy.”

For those who would like to read more of her work, you can find Anne’s books at:

http://www.collectedworksbookstore.com/anne-hillerman

To keep up with Anne online:

Website:          http://www.annehillerman.com

Facebook:        https://www.facebook.com/anne.hillerman

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 31 – Interview With Jake Needham

While many of my interviewees are known to me, I stumbled upon this week’s guest on the Internet—on Twitter, to be precise. I suppose it was his his tag line that grabbed me. “Author of eight best-selling crime fiction novels set in Asia. ‘He’s Michael Connelly with steamed rice,’ says The Bangkok Post.” Curiously, I found, he is virtually unknown on his home turf, so I decided to look him up. Wikipedia describes him as “an American novelist and screen writer. He is known as one of the best-selling English-language authors in Asia.” http://bit.ly/1Faq2mv I hope what follows will pique your curiosity enough to investigate his work. He describes himself as follows:

Author in BangkokJake Needham is the author of eight popular international crime novels. He is a lawyer by education and has held a number of significant positions in both the public and private sectors where he took part in a lengthy list of international operations he has absolutely no intention of telling you about. He became a screenwriter following a series of accidents and coincidences too ridiculous to be believed and started writing crime novels when he realized how little he really liked movies and television.

Mr. Needham has lived and worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok for the last twenty-five years. He, his wife, and their two sons now divide their time between homes in Thailand and the United States. You can read excerpts from all Jake Needham’s novels as well as his “Letters from Asia” at his web site: www.JakeNeedham.com.

His published works are as follows:

The Big Mango, Marshall Cavendish Ltd, 400 pages. ISBN 978-9814276603 (2011)

The Ambassador’s Wife (Inspector Tay novel #1), Marshall Cavendish Trade, 364 pages. ISBN 978-9814328173 (2011)

Laundry Man (Jack Shepherd novel # 1), Marshall Cavendish, 352 pages. ISBN 978-9814361279 (2012)

Killing Plato (Jack Shepherd novel # 2), Marshall Cavendish, 352 pages. ISBN 978-9814361262 (2012)

A World of Trouble (Jack Shepherd novel # 3), Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd, 356 pages. ISBN 978-9814361514 (2012)

The Umbrella Man (Inspector Tay novel #2), Half Penny, 382 pages. ISBN 978-6167611198 (2013)

Needham, Jake. The King of Macau (Jack Shepherd novel # 4), Half Penny Ltd, 342 pages. ISBN 978-6163359087 (2014)

Needham, Jake. “The Dead American” (Inspector Tay novel #3), Half Penny Ltd, 305 pages, ISBN 978-6167611228 (2014)

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I asked him to provide a summary of his most recent release and he described it this way:

They steer a tight ship in squeaky-clean Singapore. No dissent, no opposition, no criticism. It’s like an entire country run by Walt Disney. Disneyland with the death penalty, somebody once called it.

A young American software engineer hangs himself in his Singapore apartment. At least that’s what the police say happened. Emma Lazar, a writer for the Wall Street Journal, thinks otherwise. She thinks Tyler Bartlett was murdered to keep him quiet, and the Singapore police are covering it up.

Emma Lazar asks Inspector Samuel Tay to help her investigate the young man’s death. Tay is a senior inspector in the elite Special Investigation Section of Singapore CID. He’s pretty much the best investigator the Singapore police have, but Tay’s father was an American and from him Tay inherited a strong streak of American individualism that has made him an outsider in relentlessly regulated and tightly wound little Singapore. That’s mostly why Tay has been placed on leave. Tay shot a man and everyone knows it was self-defense, but Tay’s enemies have seized on the incident and are trying to get rid of him once and for all.

Tay really doesn’t want to get involved in helping Emma Lazar with her story. It certainly won’t help him get his job back to challenge the government’s official narrative about the death of Tyler Bartlett. But the writer’s determination tickles his curiosity, and…well, the truth is he’s bored and she’s beautiful. So he does it anyway.

Learning that Tyler Bartlett’s death was no suicide is easy enough for Tay. What is far more difficult is finding out what the young man knew that made him worth killing. When Tay realizes both his superiors on the police force and the faceless men of the Internal Security Department are working behind the scenes to keep him from finding out, he becomes more determined than ever to discover what, and who, is behind Tyler Bartlett’s murder.

Of course, there’s a problem there. If Tay does find out, doesn’t that make him worth killing, too?

Will you please tell us about it?

The third book in my Inspector Samuel Tay series, The Dead American, was released at the beginning of this year. Sam is a cop in the elite Special Investigations Section of Singapore CID, but he’s also something of a reluctant policeman. He’s a little overweight, a little lonely, a little cranky, and he smokes far too much. The whole truth is he can’t even remember why he became a police detective in the first place, but he hasn’t quit. Because he’s very, very good at what he does.

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

None, really. If you’re going to write a novel, you just sit down and write the damn thing. Why make it any harder than it already is by agonizing over it?

What other novels have you written?

The Inspector Tay series is up to three books now: The Dead American, The Umbrella Man, and The Ambassador’s Wife. My other series character is Jack Shepherd, an American lawyer who took a job in Bangkok on something of a whim and has lived in Asia ever since. So far there are four books in that series: The King Of Macau, A World Of Trouble, Killing Plato, and Laundry Man.

My stand-alone novel is called The Big Mango, and it’s the only one of my books for which the film rights have sold. Maybe there’s a message for me in that…

What else are you working on?

Right now I’m in the final stages of editing the fourth book in the Inspector Tay series. It will be out this fall and is called The Girl In The Window.

After that will come the fifth book in the Jack Shepherd series. It’s scheduled for the middle of 2016 and is called Don’t Get Caught.

Tell us about your path to publication.

Very, very weird.

I had practiced law for a couple of decades, doing mostly international corporate work, and I found myself involved in a complicated corporate merger. To get the deal closed, I had to buy a piece out of the transaction myself because no one else wanted it. That was a very modest little Hollywood production company that was making cable TV movies.

Since I was stuck with the company, I did my best to make it profitable, and I tried to focus it more tightly on what I thought it could do well. To accomplish that, I dashed off an outline of the kind of movies I wanted the company to try to make and a copy of that outline accidentally got sent to one of the cable TV networks the company worked with. Several weeks later, that network called up and asked me to make it for them.

Make what? I asked them. The movie you wrote that treatment for, they said. And that, girls and boys, is how I became a screenwriter.

I wrote screenplays for quite a few years for American television after that, but eventually I came to realize how little I actually liked American television. That was what goaded me into trying to figure out how to write novels instead. My first book was The Big Mango and, without thinking very much about it, I gave it to a regional publisher in Asia because they liked it and wanted to publish it. Although The Big Mango was only distributed in half a dozen countries where almost no one spoke English, and it was only available in English, it still sold well over 100,000 copies and eventually became something of a cult book among foreigners living in and visiting Asia. That was when I figured I’d better start taking this novel writing thing seriously, and I guess it’s worked out pretty well for me.

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

I really hate to hear writers moaning about how painful and wrenching it is to write a novel. Look, we all chose this profession. If somebody finds the demands of it are too much for them, I recommend they go out and sell real estate or something. But for God’s sake stop telling everybody how difficult it is to write.

You show up every day and you do the job. That’s all there is to it. You write 2000 words a day for sixty straight days and you end up with a respectable first draft. It’s hard work. John Gregory Dunne called writing a novel “manual labor of the mind, like laying pipe.” My experience is that a lot of people who talk a lot about writing and whine about its challenges simply don’t have the stomach for actually doing it.

I agree. The old saw is that most people who say they would like to write a novel really mean they would like to have written one. Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Both as a reader and a writer my test of a novel is its credibility. Does it feel real, at least real enough to pull me in and hold me for 300 pages or so? I work very, very hard to get the details in my books right, and nothing pleases me more than hearing a reader say that they used one of my novels as a guidebook to Bangkok, or Singapore, or Hong Kong.

If a character in one of my books leaves the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong to walk to the Star Ferry and I tell you that he turns left when he walks out the front door of the hotel, you can bet that’s exactly how you get from the Mandarin Hotel to the Star Ferry. Make book on it.

Describe a typical day.

Maybe it’s my background as a lawyer, but I live a discouragingly regular life. When I’m writing, I go into my study around nine, work for three or four hours, break for a half hour or so and eat a sandwich at my desk, then work another three or four hours and knock off about five so I can go for a long walk with my wife.

I show up every day and I put in my eight hours at the factory. That’s how I get the job done.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

Aey and I have been married for almost 25 years. She’s a graduate of Oxford University, a prematurely retired concert pianist, and a former magazine editor. We have two sons, one of whom is a fashion photographer and the other is in his last year of studying economics at university. We have a penthouse apartment in Bangkok and a 230-year-old house in Virginia built during the Revolutionary War and we’re back and forth between them two or three times a year.

Mr. Needham chose to take a pass on my customary “Lightning Round” of questions, and for that I forgive him after bringing such refreshing candor to this page. After diving into Chapter One of The Dead American, I will provide you with links to help you follow this intriguing author.

 THE DEAD AMERICAN

 CHAPTER ONE

 SAMUEL TAY STOOD in his tiny garden and squinted at the sky. The sun was a flickering smudge and the caramel-colored air smelled of earth and rot. Singapore, the diminutive island state known for its blue skies, dazzling sunlight, and green environment, was drowning in crap.

According to Channel News Asia, the Singapore Pollutants Index stood at a record high. Schools were closed, the armed forces had stopped training, and McDonald’s was suspending delivery service. When Tay heard that last part, he knew this was really serious.

Before now, Tay had no idea Singapore even had a pollutants index, but for weeks now it had been the only thing anyone talked about. Every television channel was broadcasting warnings that breathing the air was hazardous to health. Were they telling him not to breathe at all, Tay wondered, or merely urging him not to breathe any more than absolutely necessary? Unless it was one or the other, he didn’t see what good the information did him.

Heavy smoke from slash and burn agriculture in Indonesia had plagued Singapore for decades, but this was the dirtiest air Tay had ever seen. Blinking stung his eyes and breathing burned his throat. Yesterday he walked up to a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Orchard Road for breakfast and at least half of the people he saw on the streets were wearing white surgical masks over their mouth and nose. The city looked like it had been taken over by an antisocial cult. Maybe the surgical masks helped you breathe, maybe they didn’t, but Tay thought he would rather choke than join the crowd he saw wearing them.

The bell outside his front gate rang and Tay stopped contemplating the foul air. He also stayed right where he was. A year ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated to go out and open the gate. He was an inspector in the Special Investigations Section of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Singapore police. When his doorbell rang, it was always important. A year ago, he would have answered without a second thought.

But a year ago the world was a very different place. Mad men had not yet blown up half of Singapore. Tay hadn’t yet caught a homicide case that appeared to have nothing to do with the bombings, until it did. And he hadn’t yet shot a man and been put on administrative leave. He had been quickly exonerated and returned to duty, of course, but then eight months later he had been suspended again. CID’s new commanding officer decided the first investigation of Tay’s actions had been incomplete. He ordered a new investigation and a new suspension for Tay until the second investigation was concluded.

Tay had not been all that surprised. There were senior officers in the Singapore police force that had been trying for years to get rid of him. Presented with the best opportunity to force him out they might ever get, they weren’t going to give up without making a fight of it. The incident should have been a simple case of a police officer defending himself and another officer. That’s probably what it would have been if he had fired once. Or even twice. Ten shots made for a somewhat more difficult conversation, even if the first review panel had done their best to ease past that problem.

The bell outside the gate rang again. Tay considered the possibility it was a personal visitor who had nothing to do with his job, but he thought that was unlikely. Off hand, Tay could think of only one person not involved with police work who had rung his doorbell in the last few years, and that was Cindy Shaw. Cindy was either a widow or divorced. Tay didn’t know which, and he didn’t want to know. She had made her interest in him so plain and pursued it so embarrassingly it had become a major preoccupation of his life to avoid her at all costs. Cindy lived two doors north of him on Emerald Hill Road and Tay had made a habit of taking a quick glance at the road outside his gate before going out just to make certain he didn’t run into her by accident. Some neighborhoods had angry, snarling dogs people had to avoid whenever they left their houses. His neighborhood had Cindy Shaw. He would have preferred angry, snarling dogs.

Tay pondered the two rings of his doorbell and asked himself again whether he was going to answer it. He cocked his head and studied the dirty brown sky. Somewhere up there he found the answer written on the smog.

I sincerely thank Mr. Needham for taking time from his busy writing and touring schedule to introduce us to his growing number of works. I hope the American public will soon come to recognize him as the Asian people have done. If you’d care to learn more about this no-nonsense writer, here are a few links to The Dead American:

 Amazon          http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NREOKMA

iBooks             https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-dead-american/id974767595?ls=1&mt=11

Nook               http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1121380321?ean=2940046618662

Smashwords    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/525446

 Other links are:

Website           http://jakeneedham.com

Facebook         https://www.facebook.com/Jake.Needham

Twitter             https://twitter.com/JakeNeedham

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 17 – Interview With T. M. Franklin

Today’s guest and I share a brief history dating back to early 2014. I met T.M. Franklin at Page 2 Books in Burien, Washington in February of that year at my very first book signing. Leland Artra of the Fantasy Sci-fi Fantasy News Network (#FSFNNet) had organized the event and several genre authors turned out. I liked her from the start. She is as open and engaging as the books she writes and I hope you grow to share my opinion.

TMFranklinT.M. Franklin writes stories of adventure, romance, and a little magic. A former TV news producer, she decided making stuff up was more fun than reporting the facts. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days. MORE was well-received, being selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, as well as winning the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards. She’s since written three additional novels and several best-selling short stories… and there’s always more on the way.

She describes MORE, the first volume of her eponymous series, as follows:

Ava Michaels used to think she was special. As a child, she fantasized about having magical powers… making things happen. But Ava grew up and eventually accepted the fact that her childish dreams were just that, and maybe a normal life wasn’t so bad after all.

Now a young college student, Ava meets Caleb Foster, a brilliant and mysterious man who’s supposed to help her pass Physics, but in reality has another mission in mind. What he shows Ava challenges her view of the world, shaking it to its very core. Because Caleb isn’t quite what he seems. In fact, he’s not entirely human, and he’s not the only one.

Together, the duo faces a threat from an ancient race bound to protect humans, but only after protecting their own secrets—secrets they fear Ava may expose. Fighting to survive, Ava soon learns she’s not actually normal… she’s not even just special.

She’s a little bit more.

Trilogy-transparentEven though we’ve led our readers into this visit with a summary of MORE, one that characterizes the series, I’d like you to tell us about your most recent release.

My most recent full-length release is TWELVE, the third book in the MORE Trilogy. It’s an adventure about a girl who discovers she’s more than a little bit specialand there’s a group of people who see her as a pretty big threat. In TWELVE, we finally get the answers about who exactly she is, and where she fits into this strange, new world she’s discovered.

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

The biggest challenge was tying up all of the plot points and keeping track of the HUGE cast of characters in TWELVE. We have good guys and bad guys, Race and Guardians and TWELVE and humans… and they all have an important part to play. It was important to me that the story satisfy readers who’d enjoyed the first two stories. I really didn’t want to disappoint them.

As far as overcoming it, it was just sitting down and getting the words out—telling the story I set out to tell, and plenty of discussion with my editors who’ve worked on the trilogy along the way. We all had the same goal in mind, so that really helped.

What other novels have you written?

In addition to the three books in the MORE Trilogy, and a few short stories, I’ve written a light, YA romance called How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You. It’s about a quirky boy who makes lists for everything he does. He’s not part of the in crowd, and he’s okay with that because he believes he has a lot to offer. So he sets out to win the heart of Ainsley Bishop, and of course he makes a list to do it.

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

MORE was a finalist in the Kindle Book Reviews Best Indie Book Awards and won the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards in the Suspense/Thriller category.

What else are you working on?

I’m currently working on several projects. The next one will be a serial branching out from my short story, Window—which told the story of a girl who got visions of the past, present, and possible future through the picture window in her house. I’ve had several readers ask for more of this story, and I’m working on it.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Caffeine addiction.

Hah! You can say that again. How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

Fictional people? I think maybe half a dozen? Real people—none yet.

I hope you’re not working on it. That said, have you ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

Nope, although I have been known to agonize over it in some cases.

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

Balancing the story you want to tell with the story that readers want.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m happily married and have two grown boys—the youngest of which is starting college in the fall, so I’ll soon be an empty-nester. Well, except for my crazy dog, that is.

What motivates or inspires you?

Everything! Music, nature, books, movies, talking with people—inspiration is all around us!

What has been your greatest success in life?

My kids.

What do you consider your biggest failure?

I don’t really consider failures as failures. They’ve all led to where I am today and I’m pretty happy now, so I wouldn’t change a thing.

What a nice outlook on life! Since MORE sets the stage for your trilogy and draws the reader in, I’d like to share an excerpt. However, before I do, I’d like to finish this interview with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: family.

The one thing I would change about my life: work more efficiently.

My biggest peeve is: arrogance.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: my life. I’m happy!

How wonderful you can say that!

 I’m reading MORE as you read and I’m eager to share it with my visitors. Ms. Franklin’s works are deceiving easy reads—something young readers will appreciate and adult readers will enjoy—and she knows how to intersperse action with moments of quietude, all the while insinuating tension to keep the pages turning.

 Chapter 4

A man—a huge man—stood before her, mouth twisted in rage. He towered over her, at least six and a half feet tall, his shoulders wide, and arms banded with muscle. Shaved close to his head, his dark hair shadowed his skull, and his intimidating appearance was only enhanced by the jagged scar running down the right side of his face, from forehead to chin. He didn’t wear a coat, only a tight, black shirt and fatigues, black boots on his feet, and a wide leather belt with a mean-looking gun holstered at his hip.

It couldn’t be. But it was.

It was him. The man from her nightmares.

Ava scrambled back, but he reached out in a flash, gripping her upper arms and lifting her up so her toes barely brushed the ground. One hand slid to her throat, and he held her easily, pulling her closer to his frightening face.

“Please,” she begged, the word catching as she fought to breathe.

The man’s glare tightened, and Ava stared in morbid fascination at his mismatched eyes—blue and green—odd and vividly terrifying. She struggled, reaching for her pepper spray, only to have it slip from her fingers as she kicked out at the man.

He responded by laughing humorlessly, flipping her around and banding one arm around her torso. His grip was like iron, and she could barely breathe.

“Please,” she said again, dizziness closing in. “I can’t,” she gasped.

A press of metal to her temple transformed her fearful trembles into horrified shudders. She had no doubt. She was going to die. Her eyelids fluttered shut in defeat as he cocked the gun, the loud click echoing off the trees.

Then, a flash of black, a gust of wind, and suddenly she could breathe again. The man’s grip loosened, but he didn’t release her.

“Damn you,” he growled. “Stay out of this!”

Ava pushed him, her efforts in vain, as he hitched her up in response, tucking her under his arm like a bag of groceries. She kicked her legs, flailing desperately as the man spun about, pointing his gun into the darkness.

“Show yourself, you coward!”

The same flash of black, another blast of wind, and Ava fell to the ground, her head cracking on the concrete. She curled onto her side, moaning, lifting a hand to the back of her head, and squinting in shock at the blood that came away, streaking across her trembling palm.

Low grunts and the crack of bone on flesh floated on the air toward her, muzzy with her disorientation. She tried to focus, but could only make out two dark figures exchanging blows. Ava tried to sit up, but collapsed back onto the icy ground, overcome by a shock of dizziness and nausea.

Suddenly, the two dark beings seemed to meld into one, and in the next moment, she felt herself floating. She blinked; a face took form above her briefly, the features cast in shadow.

“Do I… do I know you?” she mumbled, fighting for consciousness.

“I’ve got you,” a low voice replied, and Ava nodded as a cool palm stroked her forehead, and the darkness consumed her.

If you would like to follow T. M. Franklin, or purchase her books, these links will help you:

 Facebook:      http://www.facebook.com/TMFranklinAuthor
Twitter:          https://twitter.com/TM_Franklin
Email:                        TMFranklinAuthor@gmail.com

 Amazon U.S. – TinyURL.com/MORETrilogy

Amazon UK – TinyURL.com/MORETrilogyUK

Amazon Canada – TinyURL.com/MORETrilogyCA

Amazon Australia – TinyURL.com/MORETrilogyAU

Barnes & Noble – TinyURL.com/MOREBandN

iTunes – TinyURL.com/MOREiTunes

Kobo – TinyURL.com/MOREkobo

TWCS – TinyURL.com/MOREtwcs

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 3 – Interview With AR Silverberry

Before I was published, I felt as if I were the only author in the world. These days, I belong to a seemingly endless circle of authors of demonstrable talent such that each time I turn around, I find that yet another of my acquaintances has won several awards and writes with great originality. Having said this, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to A. R. Silverberry. If you have not yet sampled his work, you should.

Author Photo 2 198x300When I asked Mr. Silverberry to give us his writing biography, not one to go on about himself, he gave this succinct reply:

A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. The Stream is his second novel.

I find his premise for The Stream vastly intriguing:

What if your world was six miles wide and endlessly long?

After a devastating storm kills his parents, five-year-old Wend awakens to the strange world of the Stream. He discovers he can only travel downstream, and dangers lurk at every turn: deadly rapids, ruthless pirates, a mysterious pavilion that lures him into intoxicating fantasies, and rumor of a giant waterfall at the edge of the world. Defenseless, alone, with only courage and his will to survive, Wend begins his quest to become a man. Will tragic loss trap him in a shadow world, or will he enter the Stream, with all its passion and peril?

Part coming-of-age tale, part adventure, part spiritual journey, The Stream is a fable about life, impermanence, and the gifts found in each moment.

Will you tell us how this unusual book came into being?

Funny how it came about. I was working on the sequel of my first book, Wyndano’s Cloak, when I was gripped by the idea for another story. I had been having a conversation where I used the metaphor of a stream. I kept thinking about that metaphor. In a few hours, the character of a small boy, alone, defenseless, trying to understand the ways of the world, sprang into my mind. I saw images of him confronting the challenges we all face in life: love, loss, pain, losing your way. The next morning, I put aside that sequel and started writing. It pretty much tumbled out of me and didn’t let go until it was done.

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

I knew almost nothing about boats and sailing. My knowledge of surviving in nature was just as scant. Here’s a short list of some of the things I needed to learn and integrate into the novel: the flora and fauna of the riparian wilderness, the technology available to the primitive people occupying the Stream—knife making, basketry, boat building—and the mainstays of their diet and how it was prepared. In other words, I had a huge learning curve.

Have you written any other novels?

Wyndano’s Cloak (2010) and its prequel, unpublished and living in one of my dresser drawers.

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

Yes! Both books have gotten awards. Wyndano’s Cloak was a Benjamin Franklin Award Gold Medal winner. To date, The Stream has snagged four honors: Shelf Unbound Notable Book in the category of Literary Fiction, Eric Hoffer Award Finalist in General Fiction, Finalist for the da Vinci Eye (for the book cover), and Finalist for Foreword Reviews Indie Fab Book of the Year Award.

What else are you working on?

I’m working on a dystopian sci-fi trilogy. I don’t like to say too much about unpublished projects. You never know how they’ll turn out, or if they’ll turn out! Case in point: the prequel mentioned above. I think about it from time to time, wondering if I can resolve cure the ills that plague it!

I certainly understand. Sometimes you can talk all of the energy out of a project. Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

If you’re personality is not suited to it, the long, solitary hours might be an issue. Fortunately for me, I can get engrossed in my writing for much of the day, and wonder where the time went.

Tell us about your path to publication.

That prequel was written purely on intuition. Translation: I didn’t know beans about writing. I submitted it to agents. All five rejected it, but one was kind enough to critique the positives and negatives about the book. Her feedback was quite helpful, and spurred me to learn about the craft by reading books and taking courses. When Wyndano’s Cloak was completed, my editor (I kid you not, a Finalist for a Pulitzer!) encouraged me to submit it to agents. In fact, after I told him I wanted to self-publish it, he wrote to an agent, without my knowledge, and told her about it. Talk about a vote of confidence! It was wonderful that he was so passionate about the story, but I wanted total artistic control of publication, and went that route.

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

Making it all hang together. The early drafts of Wyndano’s Cloak had too many themes. I spent six months pondering which one to focus on, and drove everyone around me crazy as I agonized over it. Thematically, The Stream was easy, though. I knew what I wanted to say, and that guided the process.

Having the courage to cut and pair down to the most essential things is another challenge. Case in point is the excerpt at the end of this interview. I love the way the scene turned out, but I decided not to include it in the book for pacing reasons, and because I found other ways of conveying what I needed. Think of it as bonus material for people who want more about the Stream.

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

If you like adventure, suspense, and fantasy, along with unforgettable characters, you’ll enjoy my books.

Describe a typical day.

Roll out of bed between 6 and 7 AM. Pet and feed “freelance household beast” (credit goes to the poet, Pablo Neruda). Write until 9. Take a long walk. Jot down story ideas on notebook. Head to work. Listen to audio book (currently One False Move, by Harlan Coben). See clients afternoon into the evening. Listen to audio book on the way home. Read at night. Sleep. Dream.

I’m eager to share a sample from The Stream with our visitors, but before I do, let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a …

Caring individual.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

My piano.

My biggest peeve is…

Intolerance.

Thank you, A. R., for taking the time to share with us. Here is the sample I promised:

Stream Small Cover 2If Wend had stopped to think about it, he would have realized that his family, searching for fruit, nuts, and roots, never ventured far from either shore, that travelers never sailed upstream to tell tales of what lay ahead. Except for tacking and voyages of a few miles, his family never ventured upstream either. When he’d asked his father why, he was told, “It’s a law.” Wend must have looked blank because his father told him to jump as high as he could. Wend jumped, and after his feet landed on the ground his father said, “Now jump as high as the top of the mast.” Wend had laughed and declared that no one could do that.

“Why not?” his father asked.

“We come down first,” Wend replied.

“It’s a law,” said his father. “And it’s a law that we go that way.”

His father pointed downstream.

If Wend had thought of these things, he would have understood that everyone was tethered to the stream and could only go in one direction. People stopped from time to time, working at abandoned foundries to smelt metal for anchors, chains, and knives, cutting trees to build or repair boats, living in villages, taking over deserted houses like creatures that move into another animal’s shell. They never stayed long, always returning to their boats, always going with the current, always traveling downstream.

For those of you who would like to stay in touch with A. R. Silverberry, here are a few links:

 Website                    http://www.arsilverberry.com

Blog                            http://www.arsilverberry.com/blog

Facebook                https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-R-Silverberry/122991764395051

Twitter                     @arsilverberry

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 20 – Interview With Lauren Lynne

I first met YA Contemporary Fantasy author, Lauren Lynne, through the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network, #FSFNNet, a hangout for authors and readers of these genres. Time passed and our friendship grew until one day I chanced to read her Facebook bio and learned we are neighbors, living within a few miles of each other. It didn’t take long before we found a chance to do a face-to-face over coffee at a Starbucks located midway between our homes. I found her to be such an enjoyable lady—certainly an enjoyable, intriguing author—and decided I needed to introduce her to you. Here is how she describes herself:

Author 9I’m author Lauren Lynne. The good side of growing up is that you can write whatever you want. The downside… now I can’t read it without my glasses! I have the soul of an adventurer but the heart of a coward when it comes to danger, yet I’m drawn to all things action-adventure, so this particular genre was a natural fit. You won’t find me bungee jumping, cliff diving or doing parkour because, well… I’m a klutz… so I write it. Think of me as an armchair adventure hound. I create characters who are much braver, tougher, more graceful and athletic than I will ever be. When you dream, dream big!

I love working with students who have a thirst for knowledge. I write for young adults because they are the age group I most love to teach. I grew up in a house where reading was expected, anticipated and enjoyed. I want to pass that joy on to my students. I do not write alone, but pull in my boys for real life teenaged insight. I also listen to my students.

I am a native of the Pacific Northwest, with its vivid and varied panoramas. When I’m not writing, I can be found spending time with my family, working with students, reading, gardening or hiking around Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge or the Oregon Coast with my camera. I am also a graduate of both Oregon State and Portland State universities with degrees in education and science. Writing is my passion and I want to share my love of it and reading with you.

Lauren has written a Young Adult contemporary fantasy action adventure series called The Secret Watchers. Today, we’re showing off book four of the series, Perceptions, published May 26 of last year. Here is its description:

Marlo finds a missing watcher and now it’s up to Lucie and Owen to go undercover to pull her out, if she’s even still alive. They find themselves thrown into the world of human trafficking and are afraid they won’t make it out alive. Caged, drugged and confused, they lose sight of their mission. Then they must face the truth about darkness and light – or is it all just shades of gray? How will they save someone else if they can’t even save themselves?

Sometimes you have to do truly repugnant things for the greater good but then what does that make you? What do you become if you are just as malicious as the dark watcher you are supposed to be saving everyone from? White Eagle says that power is power, but Owen has absorbed dark watcher gifts. He can feel himself morphing and he’s pretty sure he’s nowhere near good anymore.

What will two damaged watchers do now? Are you still good if you’ve been consumed by darkness? Owen will have to figure that out before it’s too late. He meets a mysterious stranger who has an interesting offer. Owen can’t decide if it’s worth the risk but it becomes more and more appealing as he is used again and again by both sides and now that he’s actually killed someone, who will save him?

I asked Lauren to describe the rest of the series and to tell us what else is on the horizon.

I have now written five books in The Secret Watchers series; four are published. Book five will be the end of Owen’s story but readers will see him again. Thanks to demands of loyal fans, there will be a new, as yet untitled, book and possibly series in the world of The Secret Watchers. I have just begun work on a book with a female protagonist discovering who she really is. What is her secret power? Stay tuned to find out.

This December will be the final release in The Secret Watchers series. Protagonist Owen Ryer will be graduating from high school and he will face the greatest evil he has known while battling the darkness that has taken root inside him. I am also working on my first dystopian. This was not something that I planned to write. I was hijacked by a muse and decided to go for it. It has been both fun and challenging.

Do you find there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

For me, time is the greatest challenge. I still need another job so that I can pay the bills and I am part of the famous sandwich generation where I both help out my parents and my kids.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I would guess that there are as many paths to publication as there are authors. In lieu of writing a ton of query letters I chose to self-publish. That does not mean that if the right offer comes along I will turn it down. I wanted my book in the hands of readers. I did quite a bit of research and finally selected BookBaby who happens to be a local company.

How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

So far I have only done away with bad guys but hold onto your seat because in Destiny that will change.

Describe a typical day.

I love it when people ask me this question! I would love to build some routine into my life. I have not had that for the last ten or so years. I am working on it! At this very moment it is summer so I am neither teaching nor tutoring. I do some technical editing and I am helping my parents get their old house ready to go on the market. I try to look at Twitter and Facebook every day and respond to friends and fans. I do a little marketing (like answering this interview) and I try really hard to squeeze in some writing. I am looking forward to the day when I can dedicate more time to my craft.

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

I am a Tigger at heart. One of my greatest assets/curses is that I see the best in everyone until they prove me wrong. If someone is going to find a silver lining it’s me! It’s raining? Great, it’s watering my flowers! Most people love my books but the first few ugly, mean or unfair reviews hurt my feelings. Now, I know that everyone has a right to their opinion and I don’t have to agree. I still celebrate and cherish every four and five star rating and each awesome review.

What has been your greatest success in life?

My kids will always be my greatest blessing. They are turning into wonderful people that I am proud of, but when I am gone, my books will live on. I will have left something behind. I will never know how many student lives I touched or how deeply but I will always have the books I authored and the feeling that I have left a positive mark that will remain.

Before we share an excerpt from Perceptions, I’d like to finish with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a…

person who is too nice. I need to stand up for myself more.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

GPS or a good map. I have a terrible sense of direction.

The one thing I would change about my life:

A little more money so that I could dedicate my time to writing.

Boy! Wouldn’t we all? My biggest peeve is:

Intentionally mean people.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is:

Where I am today. I am happy in my life and have some flexibility. I have people who care about me and people to care about. What more could you really want? Oh, yeah, GPS

It’s wonderful you can say that. I wish more of us could. Before we close, here is a sampling of Lauren’s writing:

eBook Cover PerceptionsI turned and growled to the newbie watcher, “Who are you? And why are you spying on us?”

He gave us a defiant look, twisted and tried to drain White Eagle, who caught his wrist before his hand connected and snapped it back. “Answer him.” His voice was filled with menace. White Eagle can be an imposing guy when he wants to be.

The young dark watcher raised one side of his upper lip in a snarl making the scar by his mouth pucker.

“Who sent you?” I queried, giving him my best scowl.

“You don’t scare me. I’m not telling you anything!” he sneered.

I squinted at him, deep in thought. Did I have the stomach for this? Did I have it in me to be cruel? Could I torture him for information and still live with myself? If I did, I would be no better than they were. Where was the line and should I cross it?

A slow smile spread over his unshaven face where a scraggly beard showed in uneven patches. “You won’t do it. You don’t have what it takes. You won’t do what has to be done to get what you need. You’re… moral,” he said with disgust like I’d personally offended him. “You’re weak. The good guys usually are. They follow the rules. They can’t do what needs to be done!”

“Shows what you know!” Lucie came out of nowhere to deliver a perfectly executed upper cut to his jaw. Skater dude sagged in White Eagle’s grip, semiconscious as we all turned to stare at Lucie.

“What?” Lucie asked defensively. “We didn’t have all day. Somebody go get the van and let’s take him somewhere we can really question him.”

Mom snapped out of it first, reached into White Eagle’s pocket for the keys and sprinted off.

“Lucie dear, if you’re feeling upset from the proceedings maybe we should talk and not… um, take out our aggressions on others,” Sarah said with quiet dignity.

Lucie smiled at her, a rather sick smile that came nowhere near her eyes. “And I don’t think we should assume he isn’t dangerous. Until we know who he is and what he wants… I consider him a threat.” She shook out her hand as she spoke.

“Did you hurt yourself?” I asked with a huge grin.

A real smile broke across Lucie’s face. “I failed to make ‘good fist’. Sorry, White Eagle.”

Sarah rolled her eyes but White Eagle grinned at her and shifted his limp load that was just beginning to moan softly. I brought Lucie’s hand to my lips. “You gonna need medical attention?” I asked her, still smiling.

Lucie didn’t even get to answer. Mom screeched around the corner, narrowly missed the dumpster, and stopped inches from White Eagle’s elbow. To his credit, he neither blanched nor dropped his load. He did slowly raise his eyes to give Mom a dirty look through the windshield and then looked significantly at his elbow and then back to her. She grinned, shrugged and hopped out of the van. “So where do we stow him?” she asked indicating the limp skater.

I popped open the back and rummaged in the compartment where we kept our supply of zip ties, clips and Velcro. We zipped up our guy and tossed him unceremoniously into the back. Sarah pulled a Taser out of a locked compartment and then chose a seat near our now thrashing captive. “You behave or so help me, I’ll zap you,” Sarah said in one of the meanest voices she employed.

He gave Sarah a long look, then stopped flinging himself around, sensing her seriousness. He subsided into a sullen silence. Mom and White Eagle had a brief, silent argument over the van keys. He finally sighed and relented, making Mom jump up and down in a brief happy dance as she giggled.

“Some things just aren’t worth it,” he huffed under his breath as he plopped into the seat next to mine.

For those of you who would like to learn more about Lauren and purchase her books, here are some helpful links:

 Author Website         http://laurenlynneauthor.com/

Series Website          http://thesecretwatchers.com

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

Facebook                    http://facebook.com/LaurenLynneAuthor

Twitter                       http://Twitter.com/LaurenLynneYA

Goodreads                  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5808133.Lauren_Lynne

Pinterest                    http://www.pinterest.com/laurenlynneYA/

Google+                     http://plus.google.com/+LaurenLynne/about