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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your most recent release.

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

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

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

What was the inspiration behind it?

The poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you tell us about your path to publication?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

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

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

What motivates or inspires you?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee

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

My biggest peeve is: poor grammar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.”

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

Human,” she whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sephana could only stare vacantly ahead, mouth agape.

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

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

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

 

You can follow M. L. Spencer online here:

Website: http://mlspencerfiction.com/index.html

Twitter: @MLSpencer1

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/m.l.spencer1/

And you can purchase her books here:

https://www.amazon.com/Darkstorm-Rhenwars-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MT77SK9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Awash in Autumn, the Queen Reflects

 

Every day is the same and yet different.

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

“Pumpkin spice latte?”

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

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

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

“You’ll see,” Tony says.

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

Emily ponders it, then sips it.

Antlers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awash in Autumn, the queen reflects.

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

 

You can purchase it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Yonders-Grateful-Other-Fanciful-Feasts/dp/1933846518/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462473599&sr=8-1&keywords=blue+yonders%2C+grateful+pies

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 7 – Interview With Quincy J. Allen

Quincy J. Allen catches your eye as quickly as his writing catches your inner ear. “I have a mohawk. Your argument is invalid,” says his website. I encountered him at Sasquan in Spokane, Washington last August where he was working the WordFire Press booth around the corner from mine. He’s an imposing man, but genial from the outset and I’m sorry I was as busy as I was or I might have taken time to sample his work while I was there. Fortunately, WFP asked me to feature him. Now that I’ve read some 1000-Headshot1of his stuff—as you will have the opportunity to do at the bottom of this page—I intend to read more.

He’s a cross-genre author, has been published in multiple anthologies, magazines, and one omnibus. His first novel Chemical Burn was a finalist in the RMFW Colorado Gold Contest. He made his first pro-sale in 2014 with the story “Jimmy Krinklepot and the White Rebs of Hayberry,” included in WordFire’s A Fantastic Holiday Season: The Gift of Stories. He’s written for the Internet show RadioSteam, and his first short story collection Out Through the Attic, came out in 2014 from 7DS Books. His latest novel Blood Ties, Book 1 in The Blood War Chronicles, was made available in print on November 1st, 2015, with Book 2 due out early in 2016.

He works as a Warehouse and Booth Manager by day, does book design and eBook conversions by night, and lives in a cozy house in Colorado that he considers his very own sanctuary—think Bat Cave, but with fewer flying mammals and more sunlight.

I asked him to give us the gist of Blood Ties and he describes it this way:

Clockwork Gunslingers • Chinese Tongs • An Epic Quest

THE BLOOD WAR CHRONICLES When assassins jump half-clockwork gunslinger Jake Lasater, he knows the Chinese Tong wants to finally settle an old score. Unfortunately, Jake has no idea the Tong is just the first milepost on the road toward a destiny he refuses to believe in. With his riding partner Cole McJunkins in tow and his ward Skeeter secretly hidden away, Jake squares off against a deadly clockwork mercenary from his past and a troop of crazed European soldiers who want him dead. Add an insane Emperor with knowledge of Jake’s past and a mysterious noblewoman who desperately needs his help—and Jake is faced with a whole mess of trouble, with no end in sight. Blood Ties launches an epic saga that spans worlds and threatens the human race itself.

Please give us an idea of the book’s history and its future.

Blood Ties has been about 6 years in the making, from initial short story to committing to and writing the first book of six in the series. As I’ve written elsewhere, it starts off as Old West steampunk, but it turns sideways pretty quickly, and by the end, it’ll be full-on epic fantasy with a clockwork gunslinger at the helm.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

Well, that’s a longer answer. The Reader’s Digest version is that this was a lifetime in the making, starting with westerns on Saturday morning television, and Rooster Cogburn, and James West, and Josey Wales. It grew with readings of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. With the idea for a protagonist congealing in the aftermath of a MileHi Con in 2009 where I met the local steampunk organization.

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

Writing the first one was fairly straight-forward, and that got split into books one and two. The problem has been the crazy-busy convention season, driving the truck for WordFire Press doing the setup at convention as the booth manager this past year left little time for writing. That continues to be the greatest challenge I face from a writing productivity perspective.

What other novels have you written?

Chemical Burn was my first published novel, and the sequel to Blood Ties, entitled Blood Curse, is slated to be out in the spring of 2016. I have three other novels that are partially written. One is written in the same world as the Blood War Chronicles and follow a young Jesuit priest excommunicated for the murder of a bishop. He becomes a demon hunting witch. The second is about a young girl who discovers she has mental abilities that are taboo in her culture, and has to rely upon them in order to rescue her father from airship pirates. As the story progresses, she discovers a secret that will shatter the strictly theological society she was raised in and set the stage for returning to the stars. The third is military science fiction, combining powered armor and psionics. At the help is a tactical genius bent on avenging the murder of his parents. He then discovers ancient technology that will allow him to fight the society that created his parents killers.

So, I have a lot on my plate.

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

Sporadic these days. I have the WFP book design stuff I do, Inventory Management for WFP, booth management, book design for my own clients, management for a small author marketing company with my girlfriend as partner and graphic artist, and a pretty strong Destiny video game addiction. It’s hard to balance that all.

Tell us about your path to publication.

That’s a long story tool but the framework is a straight line. It started with getting laid off from the IT industry. I then discovered I could produce anthologies myself, moved to writing and publishing my first novel, and then working the convention circuit here in Denver. I met the right people and it gets complicated from there.

Life is complicated, but sometimes adversity leads to opportunity. It seems to have done so in your case. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I continue to improve my craft. I was just talking with a few folks recently about the differences in prose between Chemical Burn and Blood Ties. When I’m all growed up, I hope to be a really good writer.

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

Only that Blood Ties is worth taking a gamble on. I’m a newer author, but this series will be one hell of a ride by the time it’s finished. And if you do read it, all I ask is that you leave one review on Amazon and then tell your friends. Readers are my greatest allies, and without you I won’t be able to get where I need to go.

I’m sure the excerpt you’ve provided is compelling enough to convince our visitors to purchase a copy.

Now that we’ve talked about you, the writer, I’d like to provide a glimpse of another side of Quincy J. Allen. Will you describe a typical day?

Coffee (a must). Go through my to do list and prioritize what’s left on it, including working for WFP, working for my own clients, trying to keep up with social media, market my books as much as I can, and get in a few runs on Destiny.

 Would you care to share something about your home life?

Like a lot of authors, I have a very supportive partner, Kathryn, who is also a working partner. We’ve got a rather pleasant and reclusive little existence in Denver, Colorado, and we’re working towards snowbirding between this house and something in either Costa Rica or Roatan… tropical and humid with scuba diving and deep sea fishing.

Roatan sounds appealing, especially this time of year. That said, what motivates or inspires you?

Music. Hell, I make my own soundtracks (sort of) for my books, can point to specific scenes in novels that were inspired by certain songs, and use music to keep going throughout the day. You can check out my playlists at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6cN7Zoi63khjYtdemFMx9Q/playlists

What else?

That’s an amalgam. I guess I’d have to say movies and music and Robert Heinlein and Julian May and Stephen Brust and Zelazny and Clarke and Laumer. My brother is in there, and certain characters I’ve been exposed to. I think I also have to say Firefly. That’s a complex question, and the answer is all over the place.

Before I share some of your work, let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: music.

The one thing I would change about my life: being able to write full-time.

My biggest peeve is: willful stupidity.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: my home.

Thanks Quincy for taking time out of your difficult schedule for this interview. Since I’ve begun interfacing with WFP, I had several glimpses just how jam-packed that schedule can be.

For those visitors who’ve hung around to sample Quincy’s writing, here is a sample from Blood Ties, Book 1 in The Blood War Chronicles. At the end, you’ll find Quincy’s social links as well as links to purchase his books.

1600Cover The trooper’s chaingun spun up, but Jake picked up the whine of a second chaingun somewhere closer to the bridge. From behind a stack of crates at the water’s edge, Cole stepped into view, chaingun in hand.

“Jake!” Cole screamed.

Jake was already diving away from Ghiss as he watched the chaos unfold. Most of Szilágyi’s men had heard the second chaingun and, like amateurs, were turning to see what it was without bringing their guns around. Szilágyi had obviously heard the sound of the second chaingun, because he dove to the side. He seemed to be considerably better at math than his own man with the chaingun, or maybe the man didn’t hear Cole’s weapon over his own. He merely stood there like a Greek statue with a mean grin splitting his face.

A flash of gunfire erupted from the man’s weapon, and although Ghiss was already moving, Jake saw sparks fly from those skeletal limbs as several rounds hit home. That’s when Cole’s burst took Szilágyi’s man in the back and turned the poor bastard’s chest into a crimson blossom. The chaingun flew from his arms as he went down. Cole swept left and right with the chaingun, chewing up the pistol-wielding assassins. Several managed to turn their pistols and get shots off, but they missed Cole.

Cole, however, didn’t miss them, and they dropped in heaps with chunks torn out of their bodies.

That’s when Jake spotted shadows moving towards them from further up along the channel near the second bridge.

“Cole!” Jake shouted. “On your left!” Jake heard a clank from his right and turned to see the nearest assault unit cutting into the upper cockpit of Qi’s digger. A horrible scream filled the night. Blood poured out and ran down the top of the digger. Then the claw lifted and pressed into the plate covering of Qi’s cockpit.

Jake heard Cole’s chaingun cook off again in short bursts, followed by an occasional scream from the men approaching. Jake’s eyes were riveted on the digger.

The hydraulics of the massive claw screamed as they bit slowly through the black cockpit cover. “Qi!” Jake shouted. He yanked his pistols and unloaded them at the Confederate unit, the rounds sparking harmlessly off the cylindrical hull. Both pistols clicked empty. “Qi!” he screamed again and charged forward just as the digger’s arms pressed up against the assault unit.

“Jake, stay back,” Qi yelled through the machine’s speakers. The cockpit opened as she pushed. She peeked out the top to avoid getting cut in half. Jake saw her close her eyes, raise her hand, and begin making short, swift motions with her fingers, and he could see her muttering something.

The free claw rose up, ready to crash down up her. Her eyes shot open and her hand stretched forth. She pointed at the machine leaning over her and yelled a single, incomprehensible word. A ball of flame shot forth from her finger and grew impossibly large in the short distance it took to travel from her hand to the assault unit.

Both machines were caught in the ensuing explosion, blowing Jake back with the force of the blast. From his back he watched the assault unit rise up into the air, rotate slowly away from the digger, up and over, to crash heavily on its back. Jake could see a melted, slag-edged hole about a foot in diameter in the cylindrical cockpit.

“Qi!” he screamed.

Jake knew the smell of charred flesh, and it filled the air. Miraculously, Qi was still alive and seemed to be unharmed. He tore his gaze away from the ravaged assault unit to focus on four men in black running between several stacks of crates toward the digger with upraised swords. One of them was well ahead of the others and angling straight for Qi.

“God damn it,” Jake muttered, realizing that he was out of options.

Website:                     http://www.quincyallen.com/

Facebook:                  https://www.facebook.com/Quincy.Allen.Author

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/Quincy_J_Allen

Book purchase links:

Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Ties-Book-War-Chronicles/dp/1614753350/

Kobo:                          https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/blood-ties-68

Nook:                         http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-ties-quincy-j-allen/1122789262?ean=2940151072113

Smashwords:             http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/584817