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

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

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

 

The book’s premise:

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

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

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

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Do you have any pet projects?

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

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

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

What are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is… reading material

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

My biggest peeve is… small talk

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

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

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

Operation Ragnarok excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.wellsborobookstore.com

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

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

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

You can purchase his books here:

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

SaveSave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

Absolutely. In detail.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Describe a typical day.

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

What makes you laugh?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Chocolate

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

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

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

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

 

Excerpt from Joanna Crusader:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is much rejoicing in the camp tonight.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is the girl?” Raymond asked.

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

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

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

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

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

 

You may purchase Hilary’s books here:

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

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

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

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

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

Today’s featured guest is Digital Fiction Publishing’s author, Liz Colter. Due to a varied work background, Liz has harnessed, hitched, and worked draft horses, and worked in medicine, canoe expeditioning, and as a roller-skating waitress. She also knows more about concrete than you might suspect. Liz is a 2014 winner of the international Writers of the Future contest and has multiple short story publications to her credit spanning a wide range of science fiction and fantasy sub-genres. Her novels, written under the name L. D. Colter, explore contemporary fantasy and dark/weird/magic realism, and ones written as L. Deni Colter venture into the epic fantasy realms she grew up reading and loving. I asked her about her adult contemporary fantasy, A Borrowed Hell, and she cited its underlying premise:

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

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

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

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

What are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Dogs

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

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

A Borrowed Hell Excerpt:

“He’s here,” a woman said.

July opened his eyes.

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

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

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

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

“How did I get here?”

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

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

“I don’t understand,” July said.

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

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

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

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

“Where is everybody?”

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

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

 

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

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

Social Media Links:

Website:                     http://lizcolter.com/

Twitter:                      @1lcolt

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

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

 

SaveSave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

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

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Caffeine

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

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

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

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

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

 

Griffin’s Feather excerpt:

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

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

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

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

A griffin ran free in southern Texas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Twitter:                                  https://twitter.com/jtevans

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

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

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

 

Book online sales links:

Amazon (UK) (Canada)

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

Signed Copies Directly from J.T.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is this episode’s premise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, I just have to find the TIME!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please tell us more about it.

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

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

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

What was its inspiration?

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

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

What other novels have you written?

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

What else are you working on?

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

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

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

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

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

Why do you write?

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

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

What has been your greatest success in life?

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

What do you consider your biggest failure?

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

Do you have any pet projects?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indomitable excerpt:

“Who the hell are you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter: @JBGarner_Writes

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

You may purchase his books at these locations:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A tense thriller…recommended.” –Booklist

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

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

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

Amazon describes the book’s premise this way:

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

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

Please tell us more about it.

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

What was its inspiration?

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

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

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

What other novels have you written?

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

What else are you working on?

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

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

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

Tell us about your path to publication.

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

Why do you write?

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

What motivates or inspires you?

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

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

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

What has been your greatest success in life?

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

Do you have any pet projects?

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

What has been your greatest inspiration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jaguar excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hungry.”

 You can purchase Bill’s books here:

https://www.amazon.com/

His Facebook link is:

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

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 20 – Interview With Bryan Thomas Schmidt

This week’s guest, Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and Hugo-nominated editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. Especially known for his knowledge and passion for space opera, his debut novel, The Worker Prince received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online and include entries in The X-Files, Predator, Joe Ledger, Monster Hunter International, and Decipher’s WARS, among others. As book editor for Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s WordFire Press he has edited books by such luminaries as Alan Dean Foster, Tracy Hickman, Frank Herbert, Mike Resnick, Jean Rabe and more. He was also the first editor on Andy Weir’s bestseller The Martian. His anthologies as editor include Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek, Mission: Tomorrow, Galactic Games, Little Green Men–Attack! with Robin Wayne Bailey, and The Monster Hunter Tales with Larry Correia all for Baen, Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, Beyond The Sun and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for various small presses and Joe Ledger: Unstoppable with Jonathan Maberry for St. Martin’s Press.

Today, we are discussing his most recent release, The Exodus (Saga of Davi Rhii Book 3), the concluding volume in his epic space opera trilogy published by WordFire Press this September. It is described as follows:

The tyrant Xalivar is dead, and yet the Vertullians are weary of the persecution against their people. They have decided to leave the Borali System and start over somewhere else. But the attacks begin again, first by space pirates, and then by something more. When large numbers of officers from the Borali Alliance military disappear, High Lord Councilor Tarkanius is forced to ally with Davi Rhii and the Vertullian leaders. Once again, they have to face a threat that might destroy them all. Can ancient enemies ever live in peace?

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

The small press that published the first two books went out of business shortly after launching the second book, which had little press and success compared to the first. It had been several years since I wrote either so I had to go reread, and, in the process, decided my writing level had advanced enough that both needed revisiting and revising in order to match whatever I would write as the final novel. I did new passes on both, involving revision on The Worker Prince and major replotting and revision on The Returning, book 2, and then wrote this one, so it was a bit more involved of a process than just one book.

What other novels have you written?

Two unpublished epic fantasies and a near future police procedural which is being marketed by my agent. I have several others in proposal and development stages as well.

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

Mornings and late nights are for writing. Mid-day to afternoon are for editing and PR stuff. Meals in between as well as emails and social media. Rinse and repeat.

Do you create an outline before you write?

It depends. For the first book, usually not, unless it is required, such as with a tie-in novel or story. With original pieces, usually I outline a few scenes ahead and keep in the back of my mind key scenes and turning points as well as character arcs.

Why do you write?

I can’t not write. I have stories to tell, things to sell.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

My skills, knowledge, and interests certainly have as well as my knowledge of genre and storytelling tropes and types. Beyond that boring answer, I do less drafts as I incorporate from draft one many elements I used to have to go back and work on individually, and as a result, writing is easier and more fun and satisfying from the start than it often was in the beginning, of course, back then I didn’t know how bad my prose was…so maybe that is just my bias at looking back.

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

Finishing. It is great to think it up, start it. But seeing it through is most important. Finishing that first draft. Until you have that foundation, nothing else can happen. It is key. The foundation for everything else.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a full time freelance editor of anthologies, novels, and short fiction.

What motivates or inspires you?

Injustice in the name of justice. We have too much of that now. Tolerance is worth nothing if it only applies to you, and there has to be a give and take to living together that gets lost in the shuffle a lot these days. I think we need to work on that to salvage our sense of community and belonging to and with each other. A lot of my stories revolve around those ideas.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Founding a non-profit and leading leadership training teams in Ghana, Brazil, Mexico and more. Then writing and editing novels and anthologies in collaboration with some of the writing heroes who inspired me growing up.

Thanks, Bryan, for taking time to share with us. Before I show our visitors a sample from The Exodus, as well as your online social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … Stubborn, determined bastard.

The one thing I cannot do without is: My dogs. They are my loves.

The one thing I would change about my life: I would start earlier with my creative focus. Because I am still struggling to build audience and financial stability after 8 years and it would be nice to be a bit further along in some ways.

My biggest peeve is: People who assume things about you off one sentence or two without taking time to find out the truth.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My latest project, whatever that is at the moment.

The Exodus

The Xanthian’s fist struck Farien’s jaw like a hammer, twisting his head back and to the right as he shifted his body to cushion the blow, then launched a strike of his own. The Xanthian merely chortled at the weak effort, and Farien wondered how his team had gotten off mission so fast.

“I don’t think this is what Lord Aron had in mind when he sent us to locate supplies,” Tela muttered from beside him as she ducked the swinging arm of the Xanthian’s companion, a Tertullian pilot who looked alarmingly like a steroid-enhanced version of Farien’s old friend, Yao.

Farien winced at the memory, but he knew she was right. It was the first combat any of them had seen since the engagement off Tertullis six months before. At least then they’d been in fighters, not face to face with their enemy. “Let’s just wrap this up before Matheu gets back, all right?” he replied.

He spotted his pilots—Virun, Jorek, Os and Ria—squaring off against other bar patrons nearby and wondered why he’d been so quick to jump in and try to save their asses. After all, they’d started this foolishness.

“He insulted Ria,” Os had claimed, when Farien and Tela came running at the sound of the commotion.

“I can take care of myself,” Ria had growled back, sending a Xanthian flying with a punch from her fist. Her foe flew across the bar top, shattering glass as various liquors splattered then pooled out in her path from their broken containers. Patrons scattered.

The two young pilots had just joined them, and to Tela they looked like kids. Inseparable, Os was blond, bulky, chubby, and short, while Ria was tall and thin, with dark red hair stretching halfway down her back making her appear far more feminine and frail than anyone who dared tangle with her would discover. Their flying skills rivaled anyone else in the squadron and their fierce loyalty to and competitiveness with each other drove them to excel far more than Farien’s orders ever would.

The dimly lit bar was crowded and the raging techno music had cut off mid-chorus when the fight broke out. Now groups of patrons lined the bland, wooden walls, making bets as they cheered on various participants, like gamblers choosing their champions at an Old Earth cockfight. The bartender and waitresses also stood in a group, watching with dismay as their workplace became a shambles. Other than smashed tables and chairs, broken glass and spilled drinks, Farien barely noticed a difference. With its creaky worn floor and unpainted, undecorated wood-slate walls, the bar had been nothing to brag about from the beginning, but still, shack or not, some people did come to consider their workplaces like second homes.

“Do you think they’ll make us pay for this?” Farien wondered again to Tela, as they stood back to back, preparing to repel yet another attack from the Xanthian brute and his Tertullian sidekick.

“They started it,” Tela answered as she planted a foot and reared back with her fist, launching it toward the Tertullian.

Farien echoed the move and both struck their opponents at the same moment to little effect. “If we don’t find a way to finish it, none of that will matter. What are these guys made of?”

“Your nightmares,” the Tertullian said with a laugh as he and the Xanthian swung their own fists, and Tela and Farien bowed and ducked, trying to avoid them. Pain shot through Farien’s right shoulder as the Xanthian’s fist grazed him, but Tela swung clear, untouched yet again.

“For a woman, you’re way too good at this,” Farien muttered.

“What? Women can’t fight?” Tela laughed. “You’re starting to sound like Davi.”

Actually, it had been a misunderstanding that caused a deep tension between Tela and her fiancé for several months, but they’d worked it out. “I thought you’d settled that,” Farien replied as the Xanthian rushed forward and got him in a choke hold. The brute dragged Farien backwards on his feet as he punched him in the lower back from behind.

“Feel free to prove it on this big guy,” Farien choked out as he struggled to free himself.

“You’d rather fight the one that looks like Yao then?” Tela asked as she and the Tertullian circled, each trying to anticipate the other’s next move.

“I was trying to take it easy on you,” Farien said again as his hands pulled at the Xanthian’s sweaty bluish-gray skinned arm and his back raged with pain from the continuing blows. “These guys don’t fight fair.”

 

Those of you who would like to learn more about Bryan, can do so here:

Website/Blog:         www.bryanthomasschmidt.net
Twitter:                      @BryanThomasS
Facebook:                  https://www.facebook.com/bryanthomass
Goodreads:               https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3874125.Bryan_Thomas_Schmidt

You may purchase The Exodus here:

https://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Saga-Davi-Rhii/dp/1614755582/

https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-exodus-bryan-thomas-schmidt/1127080518

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/747162

SaveSave

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 6 – Interview With Brian Lee Durfee

This week’s featured author, Brian Lee Durfee, is an accomplished artist and writer. Raised in Fairbanks, Alaska and Monroe, Utah, he has created illustrations for Wizards of the Coast, Tolkien Enterprises, Dungeons & Dragons, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust (Denali National Park) and many more. His art has been featured in SPECTRUM: Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art #3 and Writers of the Future Volume 9. He won the Arts for the Parks Grand Canyon Award and has a painting in the permanent collection of the Grand Canyon Visitors Center-Kolb Gallery. Brian is the author of the The Forgetting Moon and The Blackest Heart, volumes one and two of The Five Warrior Angels series, published by Simon & Schuster’s SAGA Press in August 2016. Brian lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The jacket copy from The Forgetting Moon describes the book as follows:

A massive army on the brink of conquest looms large in a world where prophecies are lies, magic is believed in but never seen, and hope is where you least expect to find it.

Welcome to the Five Isles, where war has come in the name of the invading army of Sør Sevier, a merciless host driven by the prophetic fervor of the Angel Prince, Aeros, toward the last unconquered kingdom of Gul Kana. Yet Gault, one of the elite Knights Archaic of Sør Sevier, is growing disillusioned by the crusade he is at the vanguard of just as it embarks on his Lord Aeros’ greatest triumph.

While the eldest son of the fallen king of Gul Kana now reigns in ever increasing paranoid isolationism, his two sisters seek their own paths. Jondralyn, the older sister, renowned for her beauty, only desires to prove her worth as a warrior, while Tala, the younger sister, has uncovered a secret that may not only destroy her family but the entire kingdom. Then there’s Hawkwood, the assassin sent to kill Jondralyn who has instead fallen in love with her and trains her in his deadly art. All are led further into dangerous conspiracies within the court.

And hidden at the edge of Gul Kana is Nail, the orphan taken by the enigmatic Shawcroft to the remote whaling village of Gallows Haven, a young man who may hold the link to the salvation of the entire Five Isles.

You may think you know this story, but everyone is not who they seem, nor do they fit the roles you expect. Durfee has created an epic fantasy full of hope in a world based on lies.

Tell us about your most recent release.

The Blackest Heart, Volume 2 of The Five Warrior Angels, is coming out on June 5, 2018.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

The epic fantasies of Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, George R R Martin, and even the westerns of Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove)

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

I only had eighteen months to write book two. I had my whole life to write book number one.

What other novels have you written?

The Forgetting Moon, Volume One of The Five Warrior Angels.

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

It is for sale at every Barnes & Noble in the country and on Amazon.

What else are you working on?

Now I am working on book number three. Its title is, The Lonesome Crown, Volume Three of The Five Warrior Angels.

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

I have a full time job at the State Prison in Utah so I write in the evenings and weekends.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I wrote one very long epic horror novel first. Sent query letters out to one hundred different New York agents and got one hundred rejection letters back. When I finished my fantasy novel I only targeted the six best agents in New York that dealt with epic fantasy. I got offers of representation from two of those agents. I signed with my agent and he got me a three book deal with Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press.

Do you create an outline before you write?

A very vague outline. But yes, I do have one for the entire series.

Why do you write?

Because I love it!!!!!

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

When I wrote my horror novel, I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Now when I read it, it hurts my eyes. I reckon I have just evolved as a better writer.

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

Some days you don’t want to write but you plow ahead anyway. Other days you are dying to write and you cant escape your day job.

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

You won’t be bored reading my novels. And pay attention to EVERYTHING in the story. It all matters.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a Sergeant at the Utah State Prison. I’ve worked in the mental health Unit, Gang Unit, Intake Unit, and now, in programming, I run all the prison libraries and teach creative writing courses to the inmates.

Describe a typical day.

Work at prison. Write in the evenings. Watch football on Sundays!

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I am very OCD about my book collection. Over three thousand books. Most signed. And all in mint condition.

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

Movies and great TV shows inspire me. I love The Sopranos and The Wire and epic shows like that. I love epic movies like Braveheart and Dances With Wolves.

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

I’ve always realized I hit the cosmic lottery by just being born. Everything after that is Amazing.

Do you have any pet projects?

Yes. I put on a mini Comic Con at the State Prison with my writer friend, James Dashner (The Maze Runner). I hope to do it annually with more writers and guests each year.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Stephen King, Motley Crue, and the Oakland Raiders.

Brian, Thank you for taking time to participate in my author interview series, The Write Stuff. Brian elected to submit an excerpt from The Forgetting Moon. Before I give our visitors a taste of it, I’d like to take a moment for a Lightning Round, because of the insights it often provides. I encourage you to stay with us after the excerpt, so I can provide social and book buy links.

 My best friend would tell you I’m … the smartest person they know!

The one thing I cannot do without is… The Oakland Raiders. I am seriously obsessed with football. The world stops during a Raiders game.

The one thing I would change about my life: I would have started working at the prison when I was twenty-one because I could be retired by now.

My biggest peeve is: anyone touching my book collection!

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: I reckon book number two, The Blackest Heart. It is KILLER!!!!!!

The Forgetting Moon excerpt:

Trust is fleeting, while betrayal is timeless. Alas, life is crowded with lies. So be bloody, be brave, be happy. For at the end of every tale, nobody is who they seem to be…

 

Book of the Betrayer

Prologue

Shawcroft

15th day of the Fire Moon, 985th year of Laijon

Sky Lochs, Gul Kana

 

In her panic, the woman had fled with the boy to the very edge of the glacier, a thin boning knife buried hilt-deep in her back. All that remained of her passing—a broad bloody smear that led over the lip of the ice to the loch waters five hundred feet below.

The small boy, kneeling alone on the precipice of the ridge, stared up at Shawcroft with big calf-eyes, piercing green orbs that gaped wide and vulnerable against the seemingly bottomless drop beyond. The boy wore roughspun breeches, soft woolen boots, and a crude elk-hide coat fit for a child, his tiny hands bare and red from the cold. Wisps of blond hair fluttered in the crisp breeze. Perched against the sunlit backdrop of the loch and the lofty, snow-covered mountains, the child appeared the very essence of innocence and purity. No more than three years old, if that. And despite the horrific injuries of the woman who had carried him this far, there was not a drop of blood on him.

All his life a soldier for the Brethren of Mia’s cause, and Shawcroft’s heart had never ached more than it did now.

“Don’t move!” he called out over the deafening roar of the mammoth glacial river thundering somewhere far below. The sharp ridges of the surrounding crevasses and crags and heaps of ice magnified the immensity of the roiling water’s thrum. He could feel the glacier shifting under his leather boots as he carefully moved forward, knowing the ice could shear off at any moment and send both he and the boy plummeting to a violent, crushing death. Struggling not to stare at the red trail of blood that had led him here, Shawcroft stuffed his gloves into the buckled front closure of his fur-lined tunic and adjusted the cloak around his chest, longsword a barely noticed weight in the baldric looped over his shoulder.

As he reached forth and helped the child from the edge, the plunging barrenness of the spacious air beyond seemed to pull at him with an immense, near-irrepressible force as he heard the hollow clomping of the two beasts coming up behind him.

The boy’s small hand in his, Shawcroft turned and blinked against the stark brilliance of the maze-like landscape he’d just travelled through, beautiful in its own way, a hard-edged white beauty that tore at the eyes and scoured them raw. And shimmering darkly, two shadowy forms materialized out of that opaque brightness and glided toward him.

He knew what they were.

Bloodwood assassins…………………….

Book online sales links:

https://www.amazon.com/Forgetting-Moon-Five-Warrior-Angels/dp/1481465236/

 https://www.amazon.com/Blackest-Heart-Five-Warrior-Angels/dp/1481465252/

Website:         https://brianleedurfee.weebly.com/index.html

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/brian.l.durfee

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 23 – Interview With Michelle Cori

This week’s guest, Michelle Cori, lives in the Rocky Mountains, when she isn’t traveling to the next Comic Con. Currently, she spends her time running a bar and telling tales over drinks or in the form of novels and comics. During the day, she works as a Production Manager in publishing.

She shares her life and home with her teenaged son, and two crazy min-pins named Harvey Wallbanger and Honey Bunny. Traveling, bourbon, hard ciders, record shops, tea, old book stores and good ales are some of her other pastimes. She has a love for Flash Gordon, Highlander, Star Wars, Dune, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and comic books.

The Kind Mosiac:1, Convergent Lines, which was released as a trade paperback in Spring 2017, is Michelle Cori’s first published book, but several are to follow. Currently she has works in progress in Gothic Horror, Urban Fantasy, several short stories, a comic series, an illustrated adult picture book and middle grade series.

Often, she can be found writing at various coffee shops around the country.

She describes Convergent Lines like this:

Thirteen families.

Human-fae hybrids who have existed alongside

humanity for thousands of years. With long lives

and magic they shaped the world.

 

Until a curse … or rather, curses …

 

Longing for freedom, Grayson Penrose finds himself

dreaming of the past, searching for something he lost,

but hating his empty life. He wants nothing more

than to be left alone. But fate has other plans for him.

 

Placed in the path between human and supernatural

nations, with his curse lifted, only Grayson can

carry the burden of his dying race.

 

Tell us about your debut novel.

The Kind Mosaic:1, Convergent Lines is my first published book. I called it a gothic horror because while it is differently urban fantasy, it has a darker narration. As I wrote it I was re-watching the original Twin Peaks, David Lynch had announced he would do another season 25 years later just like the end of the series said. Throw in the show Salem, and the Hannibal TV series and you can see where I was at the time. I’ve also had some compare it to Stranger Things, too. Part of the book takes place in the late 80s, early 90s. The book isn’t gory or all that scary, it has the feel of the old gothic horror or noir genres.

Convergent Lines is my origin story for witches. It’s targeted for adults. There is little objectionable in the first book, but it will get darker as the series goes. My world draws from paganism, Norse, Celtic and Egyptian mythology. I want to explore the darker sides of those worlds as they apply to witches.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

I have a “note from the author” in Convergent Lines about this.

This story came into being in a rather unusual way. In middle of 2015 I was preparing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’d been planning to write the second book in another series; I rough outlined the book and went to bed.

That night, as I slept, I had the most vivid dream of this boy who could walk through mirrors and anything he drew would come to life. But he was troubled, he hated his life and had lost the only person he’d cared about. I woke up remembering the whole dream and all through the next week I thought about him. Then I dreamed of him again; this time he told me more of his story. Intrigued, I outlined the rough draft (mainly world building) of his tale and over the next week he showed me his world.

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

I’m a bit different from many authors. My background is in art directing and publishing. I had a couple of publishers interested in my book, but after thinking long and hard I decided I wanted to do what I do for so many others, myself. I self-published Convergent Lines.

The cover, chapter head illustrations and a custom tarot deck (one of the cards is at the back of the book the others are used for marketing), are done by me. I hired an editor, and used proofers. The end result is something I’m proud of.

In the end, it was too hard to hand off decisions about the cover and art to someone else. I also wanted control over the speed my books come out. My two urban fantasy books I will self-pub, the middle grade I will probably get an agent and shop publishers for.

What else are you working on?

The follow-ups to Convergent Lines. These are the two books in-between Convergent Lines and Deluded Lines. The follow-ups are called Side Lines: Kador’s Curse and Side Lines: Fae Tales. Kador’s book is almost to first draft and will be around 65K words. Fae Tales are a collection of 16 tales from the Kind’s fae world which are related to the families.

I also have a mid-grade book I hope to get back to early next years. It is called Saint Wellinghouse’s Discoveries: UNICOM. It’s a little like Goonies, two young friends searching out one of their crazy great grandfather’s inventions.

I hope to get to work on a comic book my son thought of. I’d like to co-write it with him. I also have what I call an adult picture book almost written, then I’ll start the illustrations. The focus is Krampus.

I also have another urban fantasy series called the Forgotten Ones. I have the first two of the three books to first draft. Next summer I’ll focus on those and have them come out every three months.

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

I do most of my writing at night. The hours I keep bartending lead to me being a night owl. Kevin J Anderson, my boss and best-selling author said once in a seminar, “It’s impossible to find uninterrupted time to write.” I raised my hand and he said, “I know you don’t have uninterrupted time.”

I replied, “Nobody bothers me at one a.m.” He laughed, and conceded my point. Jim Butcher later in the same seminar said he is a late-night writer.

So, I get up usually around 10:30 a.m. Go to the bar for a couple hours and order supplies, do paperwork. I then will hit up a coffee shop and do a couple hours of work for WordFire Press. By about 4:30 I come home to hang out with my son. We will eat and maybe watch TV, if he doesn’t have a D&D or MTG game planned. He will want an hour or two to play online games, so I go back and finish WordFire stuff then start into my writing. Two days a week I bartend, those days I usually don’t get any writing done. Saturdays, I give over to me, to do what I want. If I need to run errands or shop I do. But Saturday nights are all about writing.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I do a really loose outline, most of it is research I need for the book. Earlier in my writing career I tried to do outlines, but I would run into the problem of trying to make a character do something which didn’t work. Then my focus would change to adjusting the outline. It interrupted my writing.

Now, I do my research and write down a few things that need to happen, or any foreshadowing. The only exception is the opening. I will try writing the first chapter a couple of times, from different points until I have the one. I like getting into the story and seeing where it will lead. Many times, I’ve been surprised by a scene and a character that wasn’t a major character but turns into one.

There were two things in Convergent Lines which surprised me. The first was a character from one of my other series decided she would like to make a splash in this book. She wasn’t planned in the series she appeared in either. There was also Grayson’s companion which is introduced about halfway through the book. I didn’t know he would come along, nor play an increasingly important role. The other part that surprised me where the two big events at the climax. I know that sound weird, how can the person writing the story knowing the beginning and the end be surprised? I knew what I needed to happen at the ending, what I didn’t know was how to make it happen. The night I wrote the big climax was during NaNoWriMo 2015 at my favorite coffee shop. It was around midnight as my hands flew across the keys I was shocked, intrigued and couldn’t believe I would let that happen. Seriously, I wondered where it came from, never did I imagine that would happen.

Writing without a rigid outline is much more enjoyable for me, as the author.

Please tell us about what you do when you’re not writing.

I have two other jobs, well, three. I’m a single mom of a fourteen-year-old teenager. I love being his mom. Me discovering I was pregnant with him is what started my journey into writing. I’d been an Art Director for years, and I was burnt out. I needed a new creative outlet.

I manage and bartend at a bar in Salt Lake City, Utah. Yes, there are bars in Utah and no it isn’t the easiest thing to do in Utah. But I do have the best customers, especially regulars.

My other gig is as WordFire Press’s Production Manager. A press owned by best-selling authors Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. My background and first college degree was in graphic design and illustration. In the late 90s I was a Production Manager for the largest independently owned and run newspaper. So, I have been in publishing for a long time. It’s been fun working with legendary authors, best-seller and new authors in the ever-changing publishing industry. A great job and experience to a new author like myself.

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

My first love was music. I’m classically trained, with more than twelve years of playing, and about seven in jazz. I took college music theory in high school, and have an extensive vinyl collection. I adore jazz, blues, some old R&B, classic rock, classical and so many forms of music. I can go from Mozart to the Police, then move on to Led Zeppelin. Right now, I’m stuck on Junior Wells with Buddy Guy. My first real job was working for Digitech and DBX (guitar and music equipment), for five years I worked with other musicians and some rock stars.

Music is my number one influence and inspiration. Christopher Walken once said, “I think in music.” I knew what he meant, because that is exactly what I experience. Many of the stories I write are inspired by what I imagine a song is about, or a memory connected to a song. I pick the music I write to very carefully, because I use the tempo for the pacing.

Do you have any pet projects?

Yes, or it might be better to say I will. Reading programs for kids is near and dear to my heart. Being a parent I experience the frustration of a parent trying to help a child which struggled to read. I want to help others, especially because of the resources I have access to now.

My upcoming middle grade project and the comic series are the first steps into this. Once these projects are farther along, I hope to work with kid cons at comic cons, visit elementary schools while I travel, to work close with a couple of children’s reading charities and to possibly start my own.

As a child, I loved to read and found it a wonderful escape, which grew with me into adulthood. It also lead me to writing. I’d like to pass that on.

Thank you, Michelle, for agreeing to participate in The Write Stuff. To conclude, I will make one brief statement which I would like you to complete in as few words as possible:

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: I look around at my life and wonder how I got so lucky.

Before I show our visitors an excerpt from Convergent Lines, I would like to point out that it was just released in hardcover on October 17, to be followed soon after in eBook format. Those of you who are interested in following Michelle online should also note I will provide social links as well as book buy links immediately after the excerpt.

The Kind Mosaic:1, Convergent Lines

As I walked through the door, I began to say the undoing spell again. Any electronics nearby would be fried, including the video feed. Just inside the door, I found a second door with STAIRWELL printed on it. I needed to go down; I opened it and ran down the stairs. After considering where they would hold Hilda, I concluded she would be in cold storage. This would probably be in a basement, away from the public parts of the Coven House. I had reached the landing between the flights of stairs when I heard a door above me open and the sound of footsteps and creative cursing. I pressed myself against the wall to wait them out.

The upper door clicked closed, and I ran the rest of the way down. To my relief, there wasn’t another keypad. The lack of real security surprised me. While humans might not find dead bodies valuable, the Kind had different ideas on the matter, especially the darker side. At the door, I stopped, opened it, and peered out into a dark hall. Darkness and silence greeted me. Out into the hall I went. Security would be doing a sweep after they barricaded the door I had come through, so I didn’t have long.

It would take too long to check each of the several doors lining the hall. I needed to find cold storage. The fifth door on the left had a plaque, as I got closer I could see COLD STORAGE engraved on it. I stopped and listened. Nothing. I pushed, but found it locked. Kneeling to be level with the lock, I pulled a pen out of my pocket. It’s my favorite pen and doubles as a wand focus for me. With the silver tip touching the lock, I forced my will and said, “Unlock.”

I heard the tumblers move. I stood and pushed again just as I heard someone in the stairwell. I hurried into the room and looked for a place to hide.

The room could have come out of a TV morgue scene. On the wall to my right was the large cooler with several small latched doors for bodies. In the middle of the room, several stainless-steel roll-around tables sat empty. To the left was an open closet door.

I rushed into the closet, which turned out to be filled with cleaning supplies, and closed the door with a little click. I got into the corner behind the door.

I held my breath as I heard two voices nearing.

“Damn security system, do we need to look through every room?” a male voice said.

“You know the protocols.”

“Was this door unlocked?”

“I don’t remember. We’ll lock it on the way out; don’t forget or we’ll hear about it tomorrow morning.”

“Yeah. Did you check the closet?”

“No, I’ll get it.”

The doorknob rattled and the door opened. I held still hoping my cape would help if he saw me. A large flashlight beam shone in the dark corners of the closet.

“There’s nothing in there.”

“I told you there’s no point. How long between when the malfunction happened and when we got there? A minute, maybe a little more? Who would want in this creepy place?”

“Yeah, yeah, but we have a job to do. Come on, let’s finish this. I want to continue with our game.”

“Sure. But you’re locking the door.” I heard the door open and I relaxed … and my foot bumped the mop bucket. Smack! The mop handle hit the floor.

“Damn it! What was that?”

“I don’t know. It came from the closet.”

One of them returned, pointing the flashlight beam at the floor. “It’s a mop handle.” The man walked into the closet, knelt, and picked up the mop, as he stood, he backed into the door causing it to open wider, concealing me further from view.

“Nothing to worry about. Let’s go.”

I heard the door squeak open and the key in the lock, locking me in with Hilda. It took my heart a long time to quiet itself. I waited almost five minutes before moving again.

Despite the risk, I turned on the lights. There was no way I would be alone in the dark with Hilda. My skin crawled at the thought of what I planned. I hoped they hadn’t taken her clothes and things away from her yet, or this might get messy.

 

Paperback:     https://www.amazon.com/Convergent-Lines-Kind-Mosaic-Michelle/dp/1545450307/

Hardcover:     https://www.amazon.com/dp/1948090007/

Facebook:      www.facebook.com/michecori
Twitter:          @michellebcori