The Write Stuff – Monday, May 13 – Seanan McGuire Interview

When I introduced myself to Seanan McGuire at this year’s Superstars Writing Seminar’s VIP dinner in Colorado Springs and asked if I could interview her, she agreed, saying, “I’d love to be interviewed, but you will have to PM me, because I don’t remember this sort of thing.” I didn’t understand her then, but I believe I may understand the reason behind her answer now. I don’t believe she could have written Middlegame, her most recent work, were she grounded in the banal, in things like appointments and schedules and remembering to contact people who are better left to contact her.

It’s not without good reason so many readers have become enamored of her work. I was off balance and shaken the moment I read Middlegame’s opening sentences. After the first chapter, I settled in. Just when I’d grown comfortable with the story’s direction and thought I understood its characters, Seanan reached into my chest and tore out a piece of my heart, causing me to put down the book and gather myself before plunging in again, this time with a renewed need to know and a degree of desperation behind that need. Writers rarely move me to that extent, but then most storylines don’t resemble a stroll through a mine field.

This is what TOR.COM Publishing has to say about it:

New York Times bestselling and Alex, Nebula, and Hugo-Award-winning author Seanan McGuire introduces readers to a world of amoral alchemy, shadowy organizations, and impossible cities in the standalone fantasy, Middlegame.

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.

Thank you, Seanan, for agreeing to participate in my author interview series, The Write Stuff. Good books arise from an author’s soul and personal experiences, and Middlegame is an exceptional book. Whenever I feature an author of note, I try to determine how the book in question did so. I also like to put my website’s visitors in touch with the author’s heart. The questions that follow should reflect that.

The book felt, in many ways, autobiographical. At one point, you write, “Smart kids get put on a pedestal by parents and teachers alike, and the rest of the class gather around the base of it throwing rocks, trying to knock them down.” Was this assertion based on personal experience, and, if so, would you care to elaborate?

It was a bit, but it’s not really something I want to talk about. The book is my talking about it. That’s all I can handle.

You’re quite the wordsmith, but I suspect you’re more well-rounded than Roger. How much of Roger are you? How much Dodger?

I’m more Erin than either one of them. I don’t have any connections to profound cosmic forces (that I’m aware of, anyway).

A well-written book touches the writer as much as it does the reader. When you were writing the passage that’s intended to break people’s hearts, were you able to push through, to keep on writing to its conclusion, or did you have to take breaks in order to regain your composure?

That part came very much from life. I wrote that whole sequence in a day. I had to. If I’d stopped, I’m not sure I would have been able to start back up again.

Next, I have to ask if you cried when you were writing how things got mended.

No.

Middlegame kept me running to the Internet to find the meaning of terms like alkahest and haruspicy. Have you read any books related to alchemy, theosophy or perhaps Helena Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, possibly the works of Aleister Crowly for some of your inspiration? How much time have you spent studying the Tarot?

Quite a lot of time. I used to do readings, but for this book, I studied an enormous amount of material on and about alchemy, and focused on the contents of my folklore library to the exclusion of all else.

You suggest that L. Frank Baum’s Oz books are allegories somehow tied to alchemy, rather than being political in nature as has been traditionally accepted. This is the first time I’ve heard this assertion. Would you care to elaborate?

I feel like Middlegame is me elaborating, at great length, on this assertion, which is made by fictional people in the context of a work of fiction.

From the title, which imparts a theme, through the first several chapters, chess and chess competitions play a major role. Do you play? If so, do you compete or have you competed?

No.

Will you be taking readers farther down the Improbable Road any time soon?

That depends entirely on how well Middlegame is received. If people enjoy it, I would very much like to continue down the road.

Despite the fact you’re so well suited to writing fantasy and sci-fi, have you ever considered writing something radically different in order to stretch yourself?

I really thought that this book was me doing something radically different in order to stretch myself. It’s not like anything else I’ve done before.

How excited are you that the Wayward Children series is coming to television?

Very.

How much a part of its production are you allowed to be, or do you care to be?

Not much. This isn’t my job. I need to focus on writing books and getting stuff done.

Would you care to elaborate on what Wikipedia describes as your “affinity for poisonous reptiles”? Are there poisonous reptiles you’re especially drawn to? What about your website’s claim that you enjoy “long walks through swamps”?

I’m a big fan of vipers and poisonous toads, which are often found in swamps. I wrote my website, so that claim is entirely correct. I like walking through swamps. It’s soothing.

Someone posted about your performance of “Saving Ourselves” with the filk group, Wicked Girls, on YouTube: “I have a friend obsessed with Seanan’s books who linked me this song and I find it absolutely beautiful. Seanan has a very lovely voice. If she had an album I would pay for it.” I was surprised to learn you have produced several. Are they selling well? Do you have plans to market them more widely?

The sound is called “Wicked Girls Saving Ourselves”; I’m part of two filk groups, Lady Mondegreen and Dead Sexy. I have five albums out so far, and they’ve all sold so well that they’re currently out of print. I’m not really planning to market them more widely than I already have, since there’s no record label involved, and we’re already at the limit of what I can handle on my own.

Thank you, Seanan, for taking the time to share with us. I always conclude my interviews with a Lightning Round because of the unexpected insights the answers provide. Before I provide our visitors with an excerpt, as well as a link where they can follow you and purchase your books, in as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Diet Dr Pepper.

The one thing I would change about my life: I want a new spine.

My biggest peeve is: the patriarchy.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: the existence of cats.

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

I should probably sleep more.

 

Excerpt:

 

Failure

TIMELINE: FIVE MINUTES TOO LATE, THIRTY SECONDS FROM THE END OF THE WORLD.

There is so much blood.

Roger didn’t know there was this much blood in the human body. It seems impossible, ridiculous, a profligate waste of something that should be precious and rare—and most importantly, contained. This blood belongs inside the body where it began, and yet here it is, and here he is, and everything is going so wrong.

Dodger isn’t dead yet, despite the blood, despite everything. Her chest rises and falls in tiny hitches, barely visible to the eye. Each breath is a clear struggle, but she keeps fighting for the next one. She’s still breathing. She’s still bleeding.

She’s not going to bleed for long. She doesn’t, no pun intended, have it in her. And when she stops breathing, so does he.

If Dodger were awake, she’d happily tell him exactly how much of her blood is on the floor. She’d look at the mess around them. She’d calculate the surface area and volume of the liquid as easily as taking a breath, and she’d turn it into a concrete number, something accurate to the quarter ounce. She’d think she was being comforting, even if the number she came up with meant “I’m leaving you.” Even if it meant “there is no coming back from this.”

Even if it meant goodbye.

Maybe it would be comforting, to her. The math would be true, and that’s all she’s ever asked from the world. He knows the words that apply to this situation—exsanguination, hypovolemia, hemorrhage—but they don’t reassure him the way the numbers reassure her. They never have. Numbers are simple, obedient things, as long as you understand the rules they live by. Words are trickier. They twist and bite and require too much attention. He has to think to change the world. His sister just does it.

Not without consequences. That’s how they wound up here, on the other side of the garden wall, at the end of the improbable road, at the end of everything. They never got to the Impossible City, and now they never will. The King of Cups wins again.

The King of Cups always wins. Anyone who tries to say he doesn’t is lying.

The gunfire from outside is louder and less dramatic than he expected, like the sound of someone setting off firecrackers inside a tin can. Firecrackers never did this sort of damage. The walls are thin and getting thinner. The bullets are chewing the concrete away, and the people who followed them down the improbable road will be inside soon. Erin can’t hold them off forever, no matter how hard she tries.

Dimly, he realizes he doesn’t want her to hold them off forever. If this is where it ends for one of them, let this be where it ends for both of them. Let this be where it ends for good. No one—not even him—walks the improbable road alone.

He grasps Dodger’s shoulder, feeling the solidity of her, the vital, concrete reality of her, and shakes as gently as he can. “Dodger. Hey, Dodge. Hey. I need you to wake up. I need you to help me stop the bleeding.”

Her eyes stay closed. Her chest rises and falls, her breathing getting shallower all the time.

There’s so much blood.

He knows the words. Shock; fatality; the brutally simple, brutally accurate death. She’s leaving him again, forever this time. Going. Going. Gone.

“Don’t do this to me.” His own injuries aren’t as bad as hers. He took a single bullet to the upper thigh early on in the battle. It was through and through, missing the major arteries, and Dodger was still alert enough to help him with the tourniquet. There’s still a chance he could lose the leg if he doesn’t get proper medical attention soon. Right now, that doesn’t seem important. Maybe he’s in shock too. Maybe he deserves to be. “You can’t. You can’t go. We’ve come too far. Are you listening? You can’t go. I need you.”

Her eyes are closed. There’s so much blood.

There’s one thing he can do. Maybe the only thing. Maybe it was always the only thing, and they’ve been building toward this the whole time. It feels like failure, like running back to the garden, and he doesn’t care, because her chest is barely moving, and there’s so much blood, there’s so much blood, and it doesn’t matter that he knows the words, all the words, for everything. The numbers are taking her away. He can’t reach them without her.

“I can’t do this alone. I’m sorry. I can’t.”

He leans in until his lips brush the seashell curve of her ear. There’s blood in her hair, turning it tacky and clinging. It sticks to his skin, and he doesn’t try to wipe it off.

“Dodger,” he whispers. “Don’t die. This is an order. This is a command. This is an adjuration. Do whatever you have to do, break whatever you have to break, but don’t you die. This is an order. This is—”

This is her eyes opening, pupils reduced to black pinpricks against the gray of her irises, until she looks like she’s suffered a massive opiate overdose. This is gold sparking in the gray, brief and bright, as the Impossible City tries to call her home. He feels the gold in his own bones respond, reaching for the gold in Dodger’s, yearning to reunite.

This is the sound of gunfire going silent. Not tapering off; just stopping, like the world has been muted.

This is the world going white.

This is the end.

We got it wrong we got it wrong we got it wrong we got it wrong we

 

You can find all of Seanan’s social links, as well as links to purchase her books here:

https://publishing.tor.com/author/seananmcguire/

You can find Middlegame on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HF2ZK75/

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 18 – Keith DeCandido Interview

The first thing you should know about this week’s guest author, Keith DeCandido—for the uninitiated, his surname is pronounced DeCANdido… so alright, this is the second thing—his books are fun. The third thing you should know: so is Keith.

Keith R.A. DeCandido is the author of more than fifty novels, as well as a ton of short fiction, comic books, and nonfiction in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and superhero genres. Some of it is in one of the thirty-plus licensed universes he’s worked in, from Alien to Zorro; others are in worlds of his own creation, taking place in the fictional cities of Cliff’s End and Super City or in the somewhat real locales of New York and Key West.

I’m breaking form in this interview. While I usually focus on one book and one book alone, today I’m featuring two: Mermaid Precinct and A Furnace Sealed.

Mermaid Precinct is the fifth novel in my high fantasy/police procedure series—kind of Law & Order meets Lord of the Rings. The setting is a medieval-style city-state with humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and wizards all living side by side, but the main characters are detectives who solve crimes named Danthres Tresyllione and Torin ban Wyvald. This novel features the death of the legendary Pirate Queen, a high-profile murder that has unexpected repercussions that extend all the way to the king and queen.

A Furnace Sealed is an urban fantasy set in New York City, the first in a new series featuring Bram Gold. Bram is a Courser, a for-hire hunter of monsters and supernatural creatures—if you need a unicorn wrangled, a dangerous ritual stopped, or a bunch of werewolves kept in line, Bram’s the person for you. Immortals keep turning up dead, and binding spells become unraveled all over town. Bram must find the links between these events before it leads to the destruction of the city.

What do you want readers to know about your books?

A Furnace Sealed was inspired by working for two years in the Bronx for the U.S. Census Bureau. It got me to explore parts of my home borough I hadn’t been to before, and also got me thinking a lot about the history of one of NYC’s forgotten parts, where I’ve lived most of my life. Mermaid Precinct is the first “Precinct” book in five years, and I’m jumping the timeline ahead a year. Among other things, that time jump will establish two new precincts in Cliff’s End, Manticore Precinct and Phoenix Precinct, which gives me two more novel titles to use…

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

Mermaid Precinct is simply the next book in the series, and one that enables me to do a pirate story for the first time in my career. A Furnace Sealed grew out of a desire to do a New York City story that deals with a part of the city other than Manhattan south of 125th Street, which is usually all anyone thinks of when they imagine the Big Apple. The Bronx is particularly underrepresented in fiction.

What was your path to publication?

Unique. I was working as an editor for the late Byron Preiss, a book packager. We were putting together a Spider-Man anthology in 1994, and we had the thing mostly filled, but we needed a Venom story for two reasons: 1) It was 1994, and Venom was by far the most popular member of Spidey’s rogues gallery at the time and 2) Venom was on the cover of the book. We had sent six different proposals to Marvel, which were all rejected. Finally, we asked Marvel for a premise—they gave us a one-sentence pitch. We were past the eleventh hour at this point, so my co-editor, John Gregory Betancourt, and I wrote a story based on that premise. And that’s how I got my first short story sale, in the most non-replicable manner possible…

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a short story set in the “Precinct” universe for an anthology called Release the Virgins! After that, I’m collaborating on a novel with David Sherman, and I’ve also got a game tie-in to write—can’t say what game yet, as it hasn’t been announced. And there are more “Precinct” and Bram Gold books to write…

What else have you written?

A ton of stuff. As I said, I’ve written more than fifty novels and about a hundred pieces of short fiction, plus all the comics and nonfiction. Recent and upcoming work includes the Alien novel Isolation, which will be out from Titan in January 2019; the prose trilogy Marvel’s Tales of Asgard, novels featuring Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three; the Orphan Black coffee-table book Classified Clone Report; short stories in Aliens: Bug Hunt, Altered States of the Union, Baker Street Irregulars, Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, Limbus Inc. Book III, Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom and Liberty for All Benefitting Planned Parenthood, Nights of the Living Dead, They Keep Killing Glenn, TV Gods: Summer Programming, The X-Files: Trust No One, and two of the V-Wars anthologies; and nonfiction for Tor.com, kOZMIC Press, ATB Publishing, and my Patreon.

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

Just this past year, I received a Best Short Story Award from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers for “Ganbatte,” my story in the Joe Ledger: Unstoppable anthology. The IAMTW also favored me with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009, which is handy, as it means I never need to achieve anything ever again.

What is your writing routine?

BWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH! “Routine.” That’s funny…

Do you create an outline before you write?

Always. I started out doing tie-in work, and an outline is required for licensed fiction, as the plot has to be approved by the copyright-holder before you can write a single word. That habit has carried over into my other fiction, as I find it’s much easier and smoother to write the book if I already know the plot.

Why do you write?

I can’t possibly not write. I’ve been doing it since I was six, I can’t imagine any circumstance under which I would stop. (Actually, I can imagine a few, but they’re all really awful, so I don’t particularly want to dwell on them.)

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I remind myself that I have this eating habit I can’t kick, and my landlord insists we pay the rent once a month whether they need it or not…

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

All of them. Seriously, inspiration for writing comes from all around me. There are no life experiences that don’t inspire and enrich my work.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m a full-time freelancer, so I have lots of jobs. I write, I edit, I teach martial arts to kids, and I do any number of other things as long as they pay me.

Describe a typical day.

Not really possible, as no days are typical. That’s why I love being a freelancer.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

My wife is also a full-time freelancer, so we’re both home together a lot. We’ve been living together like this for eight years now and—excepting an eighteen-month period when she had a contract job out of the house—that’s been our normal. We’ve been living together most of every day for all this time and haven’t killed each other, so it must be true love. It helps that we also have really affectionate cats.

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

A friend of mine, Marco Palmieri, once said, “Pessimism is a misuse of imagination.” I love that phrase. I prefer to be optimistic and happy, as being sad is depressing and being happy tends to have a cascade effect on other people. Better to smile at someone than frown at them. I’m lucky in that I don’t have any problems that prevent this from happening—I’m fully aware that depression is an issue for many, and I’m fortunate not to suffer from it, as it’s debilitating. I choose to be happy because that makes life better.

What is your greatest life lesson?

It’s not worth getting worked up about the opinions of people whose opinions you don’t respect.

Thanks, Keith, for sharing your thoughts with us. Before I present an excerpt from A Furnace Sealed, followed by links where readers can follow you online and purchase your books, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few word as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d have more money.

My biggest peeve is: that I don’t have more money.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: my homemade tomato sauce.

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

I am firmly against the entire notion of the “guilty pleasure.” If something gives you pleasure, and nobody is getting hurt as a result of your enjoyment, then you shouldn’t feel even a little bit guilty about it. Everybody likes something and nobody likes everything, and it’s stupid to feel guilty about liking something even if lots of other people don’t.

 

Excerpt:

Downstairs was Ahondjon’s magick shop. The man himself wasn’t in—his nephew Medawe was, and he was talking on the cordless phone.

He waved at me as I came down the metal stairs. The place was dank, lit only by crummy fluorescent lights, since there weren’t any windows.

“Nah, he ain’t here,” Medawe was saying. Unlike his uncle, he was born in the Bronx, so he didn’t have Ahondjon’s thick west African accent. “It’s Sunday, he’s in church. … Nah, I ain’t telling you what church. … What, you telling me you found Jesus now? Bullshit. Just gimme the message, I’ll let him know when he gets back. … I don’t know when, I ain’t found no Jesus, neither. ’Sides, you know how he likes talking to folks. Could be hours. … Yeah, well, fuck you too.”

Shaking his head, Medawe pressed the end button on the phone.

“Another satisfied customer?”

Medawe snorted. “Yeah, somethin’ like that. What’cha need, Gold?”

“I need to talk to Ahondjon. He really in church?”

“Hell, no. Only time his ass goes into a church is to deliver their holy water.”

I blinked. “Wait, churches buy holy water from him?”

“They do if they want the shit that works.”

“Well, I hope his holy water smells better than his talisman to stop a unicorn.”

Medawe frowned. “What, it didn’t work?”

I smiled. “It worked fine.” Then I remembered how Siri described it. “When I activated it, it smelled like a moose fucking a dead octopus.”

“Yeah, well, you want shit that works, it’s gonna stink.”

I thought about reminding Medawe about what Velez had said, then decided it wasn’t worth it. Besides, Medawe was just the hired help—Ahondjon was the one who put the talismans together, so if I was gonna get them to not stink up the place, I’d need to talk to him.

“Still,” I finally said, “I’ve had some complaints. The first being from my hooter.” I pointed to my oversized schnozz.

Medawe chuckled. “Look, I’ll pass it on, but you know my uncle.”

“I do indeed.” I also noticed that Medawe hadn’t actually answered my question about when Ahondjon would be back, which led me to think he either didn’t know or couldn’t tell me.

Whatever, I had a binding spell to stop. “Hey, I wanna double check, what would the components be if you wanted to cast a binding spell on a loa?”

That got me another snort from Medawe. “A thing’a lipstick so you can kiss your ass goodbye. Who’d be stupid enough to do that?”

“Woman over in Seton Falls Park, apparently.”

Shaking his head, Medawe said, “Well, there’s lotsa binding spells, but if you want to bind a loa, you’re gonna need an Obsidian candle, thick rope, a red ribbon, and sandalwood.”

I winced. Except for the candle, that was stuff you could get over the counter anyplace. Hell, you could probably get all that at Target. “Does it have to be an Obsidian candle, or can any black candle do it?”

“Depends.”

“On what?”

“If you want the binding to work or not.”

Ask a stupid question… “Yeah, okay, thanks, Medawe. And tell your uncle—”

“Moose fuckin’ a dead octopus, you got it.”

I grinned. “Thanks.”

 

If you want to follow Keith DeCandido online, you can do it here:

Web site: DeCandido.net

Blog: DeCandido.wordpress.com

Facebook: fan page at Keith R.A. DeCandido

Twitter: @KRADeC

Instagram: krad418

 

You can purchase a copy of A Furnace Sealed  here:

https://www.amazon.com/Furnace-Sealed-Adventures-Bram-Gold-ebook/dp/B07NBKDKQ9/

You can purchase a copy of Mermaid Precinct  here:

https://www.amazon.com/Mermaid-Precinct-Keith-R-DeCandido-ebook/dp/B07N1X49J2/

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 3 – C. Michelle Jefferies Interview

C. Michelle Jefferies is a writer who believes that the way to examine our souls is to explore the deep and dark as well as the shallow, to manipulate words in a way that makes a person think and maybe even second guess. Her worlds include suspense, urban fantasy, and an occasional twist of steampunk. When she is not writing, she can be found on the yoga mat, hand binding journals, dyeing cloth, and serving ginger tea. The author and creator divides her time between stories, projects, and mothering four of her seven children on the wild and windy plains of Wyoming.

Today we’re discussing her YA science fantasy, Descending, published in May of this year. Its premise is as follows:

All he wants is to fly.
Ashby Standing has it all planned out: Prove his ability to captain a starship in the simulator, then enter the Star Captain Academy a year early, skipping another hellish year of being bullied at school. When a new street drug proves fatal, taking the life of Elija’s son Nicolai, Noble has no choice but to step back into his role as an agent for Trinity, in spite of his age and his other duties, including coordinating a twenty year celebration for the colonization of Caledonia. After losing Arial, Lyris is hyper-focused on making sure all of her children are safe and protected, even if it skirts what is legal or moral. Everything converges into a complicated mess as moral obligations, desires, and egos battle for dominance and for some, descending into the depths of dark is the option that seems the best choice.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

This book is a pondering of the story of the Prodigal Son. Getting into the depths of why he left, what he did while he was gone and what happened when he returned home. And what about his family? How did they react when he returned? Did the father truly embrace his son after everything he did? Was it easy to adapt to normal life again? And, what if the sins of the son were bigger than just gambling his fortune away?

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

Interesting question. I had a teenage son at the same time I was writing this who became involved in the world of drugs. I wrote Ashby’s story as I witnessed my own son’s downward spiral. I got to feel what Ashby’s parents were experiencing in real life. I got to see inside the court process, the jail, attempted recoveries, and relapses. I became very intimate in the emotions a parent goes through as they try to help a child who doesn’t want help.

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

I weave an eclectic mix of old and future into my stories. Floating shuttles and keys on key rings, Artificial Intelligence in the home and a box of old fashioned stationery. I like both the future and the past and imagine that even with futuristic advances, we still crave the security of older things.

What was your path to publication?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but took several years off to raise my children. When I came back, I spent a handful of years getting to know the world of writing again, practicing drafting, revising and editing. It was early 2012 when I signed a contract with a small press to produce the book Emergence. It was released October 31, 2012, Halloween, my favorite holiday. That book did fairly well and I received my rights back on it in May of 2016, and ended up re-releasing Emergence as Latent in March of 2017. I am now a hybrid author publishing both with small press and under my own imprint, Meraki Books.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a new series which is YA science/fantasy. It is a huge turn from my futuristic suspense novels. I have several ideas that go with this trilogy, such as coloring books, board games, and a field guide as well. It will be a fun change for me.

 What else have you written?

I have two series that I have published. The Chrysalis series and the Ashes series, of which Descending is the first book. I have two writing workbooks, one on story structure and outlining, and one on how to structure a series, and two middle grade books that teach manners to children using fairies and dragons as main characters.

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

Back in 2012 I seemed to be on a roll. I took third place in a first chapter contest, first place in a song writing contest, won a publishing contract with a small press, and was a nominee for writer of the year in a local guild. Things happened, jobs changed and we moved and I took some time off from intense involvement in the writing world. Now I am back and ready to dive in again.

What is your writing routine?

My routine is probably anything but routine. I try hard to write during the day when my youngest is in school. Most of my drafting, revisions and editing happens during school hours. But I plot and world build best when I’m a little tired and the internal critique/editor is asleep or at least less aware. So for me, when I am not writing I am plotting. That’s something I can do with a pen and paper. And in all actuality, I am a better plotter/structure/detail person on paper with a pen. There’s something that happens in my brain creatively, when I sit down with a notebook in my lap.

 Do you create an outline before you write?

I do not outline like most people imagine outlining. I use story structure and that helps me create a story skeleton which I use as a blueprint for writing. At the most I use maybe 2-5 sentences to describe a future scene and go from there. It keeps me in line as I work toward the resolution of the story, but it also gives my characters a bit of room to wander a little. That way I am not lost in the middle of the story, and the story flows more organically for me which reduces the chance of writing stilted prose.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Writer’s block is a mean sucker. It can suck the life right out of you. Make you miserable. When I get writers block I start what a friend calls “just for funs”. It’s writing that is just fun. No one ever sees it, no one gets to judge or critique it. It can be 100 years in the future, or in the past, or scenarios that could never happen in the book. If that doesn’t work, I work on a non writing craft project. This year, I am redecorating my house as an alternative to writer’s block.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I teach community education classes at the local college. I am also fascinated by old creative processes, like old book binding, making paper and ink, dyeing fabric, and making soap and lotion. A lot of my free time is making other types of projects.

Describe a typical day.

My daily routine starts by getting the kids off to school. Then I sit down and do the business side of writing: answering emails, marketing, budgets and other things. Then about midmorning I sit and try to draft words. If that doesn’t work I revise or do other creative things like make book covers. If there’s nothing writing wise to do, I work on other creative pursuits. After school ends I try to spend time with my kids and husband. But, even when I am not writing the worlds in my head keep demanding my attention.

Do you have any pet projects?

I am particularly interested in feudal Japanese crafting. I am in the process of learning to make washi paper, ink sticks, and use indigo dye for fabric, paper and soap. One of my dreams is to make a bound book from scratch, from tanning the leather, to spinning the thread.

When I am not crafting, I volunteer to cook at the soup kitchen. We take food donations and make a hot lunch every weekday for the needy and homeless. We average about 60-70 people a day, especially in the winter time when it is very cold in Wyoming.

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

I would have not stopped writing just because I had kids, I would have at least gone back to school to take every English grammar and composition class I could take. I wouldn’t have re-started so late in life.

Thank you, Michelle, for taking the time to share with us. Before I present my site’s visitors with an excerpt from Descending, followed by links where they can purchase it and your online social 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: dedicated to my craft whatever it is that day.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Starlight mint candies

The one thing I would change about my life: Wouldn’t have quit college

My biggest peeve is: Dishonest or fake people

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: The bookshelf with my books on it. It shows how hard I worked at being a writer.

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

Don’t be afraid to suck at first. Learn to love revision, because that’s where the beauty of the story is. Just keep going, writing, revising, editing, and trying to be awesome.

 

Excerpt:

Someone slammed hard into Ashby Standing’s shoulder, forcing his chest into the cold metal of his locker as his cheek smashed into the chevron shaped vents at the top.

“Nice balance, four eyes, maybe you should get your ears checked as well,” Ashby’s personal bully, Mitchell, said. Laughter erupted from the students within hearing range. Ashby adjusted his glasses, more annoyed with their constant presence than the other student’s antics. The bully continued down the hall toward the science labs.

“What a freak,” another student whispered as they passed.

Ashby pushed himself away from the door and brushed his fingertip over the sensor to open his locker, then proceeded to place his books on the shelf and exchange his morning class notebooks for the afternoon ones. He was glad that Mitchell had moved on instead of making a bigger deal out of something.

“Ash!” Doran’s voice echoed off the metal. Ashby cringed at the nickname. He hated the burned and fire jokes that often came with it. Still, his eyebrow raised as his triplet brother, Doran, bolted down the hall toward him, followed by a few people in the far distance. Doran almost never called him Ash. Unless it was important.

“Ash!” Doran pulled some object from his satchel.

Ashby sighed. Doran never learned. It seemed Ashby was forever doomed to be dragged into all sorts of problems by his brother.

“Oh no, absolutely not,” Ashby countered. “Dad said I didn’t have to help you.”

Doran panted as he shoved a black ball into Ashby’s hands. “Remember when I said that I thought the coaches were altering the dantu puck weight?”

“I think—”

“This is the proof.” Doran met Ashby’s gaze with a certain pleading. “Please. Ash. I need your help.”

“What do you want?”

“Hide it. Put it in your pack, no one is ever going to suspect you.” Doran begged.

Ashby put the ball on the shelf in his locker behind the large physics workbook, then set his English book on the top to hide it from sight.

“Mr. Doran Standing, what do you think you’re doing?”

Doran looked over his shoulder. “Shit.” And he ran past Ashby and around the corner.

“Language, big brother,” Ashby whispered as he slung his pack on his shoulder.

“Wait, hold on,” the principal said as he slowed to a stop next to Ashby. One of the other teachers continued to follow his brother.

Ashby turned and raised an eyebrow. “Me?” He looked over his shoulder. Doran was gone from sight.

“We need to search your locker,” Mr. Davis said.

“Why?” Ashby shut his locker door and looked at the principal, folding his arms. The man was totally annoying, completely ignoring anything that happened to Ashby unless he suspected that Ashby was causing trouble. “According to the school’s bylaws, my locker is my personal property as long as I am using it and school is in session.”

“We have reason to suspect that you have received contraband from your brother, Doran.”

“Contraband?” Ashby actually laughed. “Um, no. Not without a warrant and my father or our lawyer present.”

“Grab him,” the principal said and Ashby was yanked backward his arms pulled behind him.

“You can’t do this. I’ve done nothing wrong, and you have no proof,” Ashby shouted. “Get off me!”

“Open his locker,” The principal said to his assistant. He nodded, turned to the locker and produced a master key card. “Search it.”

“This is a violation of my rights. I am assured the security of my possessions and information. It’s in the Caledonian planetary charter.” Ashby growled.

His locker door was pulled open. His pack ripped from his shoulder and hit the floor, where one of the coaches bent over and started to search it. Ashby cringed, his tablet was in there. They were going to break it for sure.

Ashby? Are you okay? His triplet Eiden’s voice echoed in his head. While Eiden being deaf had nothing to do with their ability to speak into each other’s minds, it certainly made it easier to communicate. Your heart just about jumped out of your chest.

I’m fine, little sis, he answered. She was way too sensitive for her own good sometimes.

You’re not at lunch.

I had to finish something for physics. He lied, the dull ache beginning in his chest. If he told her the truth she would for sure go to their dad and then who knows what havoc would ensue. He was enough of an outcast without his father flinching at everything that happened to him.

Those of you who would like to follow Michelle online can do so here:

https://cmichellejefferies.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/CMichelleJefferiesAuthor/

‪@cmichellejeffe1

You may purchase Descending here:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CTQF48K/

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 1 – Liz Colter Spotlight

Today’s featured guest is WordFire Press 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 has followed her heart through a wide variety of careers, including farming with a team of draft horses, and working as a field paramedic, Outward Bound instructor, athletic trainer, and roller-skating waitress, among other curious choices. She also knows more about concrete than you might suspect. Her novels written under the name L. D. Colter explore contemporary and dark fantasy, and ones written as L. Deni Colter venture into epic fantasy realms. She’s an active SFWA member with multiple short story publications, and her debut novel, A Borrowed Hell, was the winner of the 2018 Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy.  I asked her about her recent epic fantasy novel, The Halfblood War, and she cited its underlying premise:

A sweeping story of love and war, prejudice and acceptance…

Tirren, heir to the ruler of Thiery, has raised his half-Elven son in a land that hates and fears the Elves, but his son’s struggle for acceptance is only one source of Tirren’s pain. The other is his unfading desire for Yslaaran, the Elven woman who eighteen years ago captured him in a spell, seduced him, and vanished. She returned only once more—to hand him his infant son.

When a neighboring ruler attacks the land of Thiery, Tirren rides to battle with his half-breed son at his side. Learning of the war, Yslaaran fears the conflict will unravel her long-laid plans for the boy. If she doesn’t interfere, he could die before his time, but if she reveals her hand by meddling, her own people could rise up against the humans they despise and trap the land between two deadly enemies.

The fate of two races hang in the balance, but only Yslaaran knows that both humans and Elves risk a future more devastating than war.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

This is a classic, Western European-based fantasy, like the ones I grew up reading and enjoying. While I love the new directions epic fantasy is taking, and while I may write something in the future that’s more of a departure as far as setting and culture, for this novel I poured into it everything I’ve loved over decades of reading epic fantasy. It’s a stand-alone novel, but packed with terrifying and powerful elves, romance and war, and the halfblood offspring of humans and elves who are caught in the middle of the conflicts.

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

I’ve always loved the old stories and ballads of capricious fae: the fairy queen who abducted Thomas the Rhymer, or the one who wooed Tam Lin away from his mortal lover (according to scholars, both may be the same story but separated and changed by a few centuries). I also love the Celtic stories of the light and dark fae courts, and creatures so bound to their natures that they can hardly be judged by mortal standards of morals and behavior.

What are you working on now?

I write epic fantasy as L. Deni Colter but also contemporary/dark fantasy as L. D. Colter. Currently, L. D. Colter is neck-deep in a challenging set of books—a loosely-connected series of contemporary fantasies about gods from various cultures. Meanwhile, L. Deni Colter is planning a set of epic fantasy books about a court executioner.

What else have you written?

I’m thrilled to announce that my novel, While Gods Sleep (written as L. D. Colter) has also just released. The cover quote by Walter Jon Williams describes it as “The pleasures of Greek mythology mixed with the dark undercurrents of contemporary fantasy.” My debut novel, A Borrowed Hell (contemporary fantasy from L. D. Colter) was published by Digital Fiction Publishing at the beginning of 2018.

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

A Borrowed Hell was the 2018 winner of the Colorado Book Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy from Colorado Humanities, and in 2014 I was selected as a winner in the international Writers of the Future contest for my short story “The Clouds in Her Eyes.”

Excerpt from The Halfblood War:

Chapter 1

“It’s too soon to risk it,” Erimar said.

Tirren stood, anticipating the rest of the objections his father would raise. It was an old argument but past time to revisit it. He paced to the library’s hearth and leaned an elbow on the fireplace mantle. “We’ve held off an extra year already. What will more waiting accomplish? It won’t alter my son’s heritage.” The heavy, gray stone of Thiery Hold seeped cold into his arm, despite the fire. Outside, a chilly, spring rain pelted the leaded windows with a sound like small pebbles hitting the thick glass.

“He would have more time to mature,” Erimar insisted.

“He’s seventeen,” Tirren said, striding back to the middle of the room, his volume increasing, “a year into his manhood.” Escalating this would accomplish nothing. He took a breath and began again. “The more we emphasize his differences, the harder we make this for him. Chayan has enough to overcome already. He has to be ready to be Beodan by the time he’s twenty, to be Bealdor when you and I are gone.”

“Gods, Tirren! Don’t you think I’ve thought of that every day since that woman brought him to us?”

That woman. Erimar had never once referred to Chayan’s mother by name.

Tirren had intentionally steered the conversation away from Yslaaran, as much for his own sake as to avoid his father’s bitterness, yet even the harsh and impersonal invocation of her triggered memories: His first sight of her through the open gate of the Hold eighteen years ago, as she stood at the edge of the woods that Winterfest night. A woman, nearly of a height with him, wearing a single, flowing gown that had shimmered in the dark like opals, so different from the layered, high-cut dresses of Heshan women. Her thick, red hair loose, spilling down her back to her hips. He asked if she was well, titling her “Iden,” as her graceful elegance bespoke a highborn woman. He hadn’t realized at the time how much he debased her.

Tirren dragged himself from the memories. “I’m sure you’ve thought of her daily.” He didn’t bite back the resentment that seeped into his words. Unfair of him, he knew, to criticize his father’s objections to her when he’d never reconciled his own conflict at loving the woman who stole his will and his seed for reasons he’d never understood. Leaving him with the complications of Chayan’s heritage heavy on his shoulders.

Their ancestors watched the argument even now, from tapestries covering the stone walls of the library. Men paused forever in the bloody battles that had won Thiery in the Conflicts, and paved the way for it to become the wealthiest of the four regions comprising their country of Hesh. Tirren’s father would have continued the family’s strong line, but his wife’s frail body had given them only one child. And Tirren had failed more grandly still; one bastard child, born to the Elven woman who abducted and seduced him eighteen years ago. A halfblood heir for a land that hated and feared the Elves.

“Don’t twist my meaning, Tirren. You know I love Chayan. I’ve raised him as my grandson despite his blood and his illegitimacy. But to let him travel the region, see the people, meet with the councils. We have no way to know the effect it will have.”

“We’ll never know if we keep him prisoner in the Hold.”

“Prisoner?” His father snorted. “Chayan has never been kept in the Hold and you know it. I’m saying we can’t let our plans outrun our caution.” His father stared into the fire. “The two of you are all I have,” he said, quietly.

In nearly twenty years since Tirren’s mother died, his father had never remarried, pinning his hopes on his son instead. Tirren had failed him there as well. He had been twenty-two the last time he saw Yslaaran, that following Winterfest eve, when she brought Chayan to him as an infant. At thirty-nine, he still couldn’t bear the thought of another woman. His obsession with her was wrong, and guilt plagued him for it, but year after year the feelings refused to fade.

“I know we are,” he said at last. “And I know the part I’ve played in that.”

BOOK LINKS:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FZ7496L/

Barnes and Noble (paperback): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-halfblood-war-l-deni-colter/1129191339?ean=9781614756620

Barnes and Noble (Nook): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-halfblood-war-l-deni-colter/1129191339?ean=2940161670965

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-halfblood-war

 

Author website: https://www.lizcolter.com/

Newsletter signup: https://mailchi.mp/bc969529fd5b/4tnr6lc28f_ldcolter

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 27 – Sherrilyn Kenyon Interview

Defying all odds is what #1 New York Times and international bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon does best. Rising from extreme poverty as a child that culminated in being a homeless mother with an infant, she has become one of the most popular and influential authors in the world (in both adult and young adult fiction), with dedicated legions of fans known as Menyons—thousands of whom proudly sport tattoos from her numerous genre-bending series. Since her first book debuted in 1993 while she was still in college, she has placed more than 80 novels on the New York Times list in all formats and genres, including manga and graphic novels, and has more than 70 million books in print worldwide. Her current series include: Dark-Hunters, Chronicles of Nick®, Deadman’s Cross™, Black Hat Society™, Nevermore™, Silent Swans™, Lords of Avalon® and The League®. Over the years, her Lords of Avalon® novels have been adapted by Marvel, and her Dark-Hunters® and Chronicles of Nick®  are New York Times bestselling manga and comics, and are #1 bestselling adult coloring books. Keep your eyes peeled. Her books are soon to be hitting both the big and little screens by the same group that specializes in turning beloved literary series into major movie franchises.

I first met Sherrilyn Kenyon at her Night At Sanctuary Dragonsworn Party at the 2017 iteration of Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia. After waiting at the end of a line of fans that wound around much of one of the Hyatt Regency’s larger event rooms, I eventually had the opportunity to introduce myself. Although she had been chatting and posing for pictures with each one in turn for over an hour, by the time I reached her I found her to be open and welcoming to the point I might as well have been the first person she had spoken with. It is my great pleasure to introduce her to those of you who are not yet familiar with her work, though by this point I’m probably speaking to only a few dozen.

Today, we’re discussing her recent release, Deadmen Walking, which can best be described as follows:

Hell hath no fury as a demon caged . . .

To catch evil, takes evil.

Enter Devyl Bane—an ancient warlord who has absolutely no love of humanity.  Yet to return to the human realm as one of the most notorious pirates in the Spanish Main for the sake of vengeance, he makes a bitter bargain with Thorn—an immortal Hellchaser charged with battling the worst monsters the ancient gods ever released into our world. Monsters and demons Bane himself once commanded against Thorn and the humans.

For eons, those demons have been locked behind enchanted gates…which are starting to buckle. Now, Bane, with a vicious crew of Deadmen at his command, is humanity’s last hope to restore the gates and return the damned to their eternal prisons.

But things are never so simple. And one of his biggest vexations, aside from keeping his crew from killing each other before they have a chance to save humanity, is the very ship he sails upon. For Mara, the Sea Witch isn’t just a vessel, she’s also a woman born of an ancient race Bane helped to destroy. And sister to the possessed creature who is one of the worst of those trying to break through to claim his soul, and retake the world.

Mara’s innate hatred of him makes the very fires of hell look like a sauna—not that he blames her. Centuries of war and betrayal divide them. But if Mara can’t find the humanity inside the Devyl and the Devyl can’t teach Mara to embrace her darker side for the good of their crew and the world, the two of them will go down in flames and take us all with them.

Join Captain Bane and his crew of Deadmen as they hold the line against the damned who prey on those who sail the high seas.

Sherrilyn, although I’ve been interviewing authors for several years and have been enjoying fantasy for more years than I can count, the number of books and their creators has become so vast that I am constantly making new and delightful discoveries. Although I had heard numerous mentions of you and your multitude of books over the years, I am a little embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until Dragon Con 2017, at the Night at Sanctuary Dragonsworn book launch party where I purchased a copy, that I had my first opportunity to explore one of your worlds. I was immediately taken by how quickly its story developed, and now I’ve found that Deadmen Walking is no exception.

While the rate at which each story unfolds makes it obvious you’re a natural story teller, it still makes me wonder how long does it take you to bring a typical book from inception, by which I mean concept, to its conclusion?

It depends on the book. If it’s the size of Styxx or Stygian or Born of Legend, which is the size of three or four regular novels, it obviously takes me longer than a single novel. But a “regular” novel, which for me is still usually longer than a “typical” book takes about nine months from start to finish.

What kind of editorial/developmental team do you work with that allows you to turn out so many polished works so quickly?

Just me and my editor and the characters. So far that seems to work.

As I began reading Deadmen Walking, it wasn’t long before I found myself running into unfamiliar terms which I quickly learned were not the author’s inventions: words such as linstock and plat-eyes. While the dictionary quickly explained the former, I had to go online for the second and was quickly drawn into the Gullah culture of the American South and the West Indies. How much time do you spend doing research and where do you turn for this information?

I grew up with it. I was very lucky to be exposed to a lot of different and varied cultures very young, Gullah being one of them. I love that I can now share that with others because I think it’s a beautiful culture that others don’t get exposed to as a rule and it’s one I think people would enjoy if they knew it was there. Plus I’ve always been drawn to learning. I was that kid who carried the huge tomes around in school that the other kids would stare at with a frown. I was so nerdy the librarians would even let me check out reference books and I was one of the few kids who knew what inter-library loans were as far back as middle school.

You mix numerous mythologies in a way nobody else seems to: Greek, West Indies, Irish, Nordic and others. When did that concept first come to you?

Birth, LOL. Again, I think it’s because I have a mixed heritage and grew up a bit scrambled that it comes naturally. I was around such a cross-section of the world being at Fort Benning that to me the world and cultures naturally intersect and interact so it’s only natural that my world would too. Right now, my friends are wonderfully mixed, as is my family. So why would my fictional world be any less so? I love to learn languages and culture, and when you look at civilization historically you can see how they blend together whenever they come together in places like Greece, Egypt and ancient Persia and Carthage and Rome. So when I’m building a world, to make it believable, I turn to what I’ve learned from history and anthropology.

The book jacket states that both the Chronicles of Nick® and the Dark-Hunters® series are about to become “major motion pictures.” Is there anything more you can tell us about this at this stage of the game?

I’m hoping to have something I can say very, VERY soon. But I can’t say it right now. Sorry.

I have read the speech you once gave about your beginnings in Appalachia, the difficulties you overcame to become published, then dropped by your agent, only to return against all odds with the Dark-Hunters® series. Now that you have achieved more success than most writers ever hope to, are you ever plagued by doubts as to what the future holds in store? I mean no disrespect. I admire you and what you have achieved. But I also understand the human condition and the fears that lurk in the back of all our minds regardless of our situation.

All the time. The one thing I’ve learned in my life is that neither failure nor success is ever permanent. The higher you climb, the more people there are who are trying to knock you off the peak, which is very sad, but sadly true. I’ve never been the kind of person to judge my success by someone else’s but far too many people do that. However, you have to keep going and you can’t give into the naysayers, even when that naysayer is you. Fear will paralyze you, so be fearless in all things. It’s what I tell my boys daily. We do this because we love it. Life is not for the meek. You greet each day with a smile and with steely resolve because this is all we’ve got and we’ve got this. Whatever it is, you can overcome. No matter the mountain, it can be climbed. You just focus on the next step and before you know you’ll be over it. As Churchill said, when in walking through hell, keep walking.

With the time you put into writing, do you find any time to read? If so, which authors do you enjoy and why?

Not as much time as I’d like, but I do get to read some. Right now my faves are Madaug Kenyon, Elicia Hyder and Quincy J. Allen.

From what I’ve already learned about you on my own, I understand how much family means to you. Since we’re speaking about the time you need to devote to your writing, would you care to give us a peek into your home life? How hard is it for you to create time for your family?

Not at all. My boys are always my first priority and they know it. Day or night. My youngest always jokes that even if it’s 2 A.M. I’ll stop writing to go make Raman and talk about his problems or just life in general. Or my son in Japan can call at 5 A.M., my time or his, I’ll pick up and chat as long as he needs me to. There’s always time to write and there’s always time for my boys.

What do you like to do when you have time to spend with your children?

When they were younger, we’d game, and make things. Drawings, cookies, ginger-bread houses, sock monkeys. And of course, I’d take them with me to Dragon Con and other conventions. Now that they’re older, they go to more conventions and help out at the booth. We cook more, but now together and they ask for advice on their books. We laugh a lot. Have fun.

Now that you have become financially independent, do you have any plans for your life apart from writing?

My life has never really changed. Work hard for my kids. Be true to my fans and do the best for my characters as I can.

If your fans care to meet you this year, where can they do so?

The panels and signings. We also have a booth where I pop in and out. But usually the panel and signings are the best places. However, never hesitate to stop me if you see me. I’m there to meet people and am happy to chat, so long as I’m not rushing to a panel 😉 But then we can walk together and chat.

Thank you so much for sharing your valuable time with us. I am especially appreciative since you responded to my interview request while you were chin deep making preparations for the Stygian book launch party. I would also like to inform those readers who will be in the Atlanta, Georgia area when this interview goes live, you will be at Dragon Con—which runs from August 30 through September 3—and there is still time to meet you and purchase a signed copy of Stygian.

To get into the party, which will be held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, at 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia on August 30 at 7:00 p.m. and purchase a signed copy of Stygian for $30click on this link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr… To purchase a signed copy and over $100 of swag for only $45.00, click here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr…

Immediately following is an excerpt from Deadmen Walking, after which visitors to this site will find a link to Sherrilyn’s website.

Excerpt:

In the Year of Our Lord, 1716
Jamaica

“Way I hear tell it that one’s so bad, he whups his own arse thrice a week.”

Eyes wide, Cameron Amelia Jack burst out laughing at the unexpected comment she overheard above the raucous tavern voices and music. Until she caught sight of who it was directed toward. That sobered her quick.

Holy mother of God . . .

There was no way to miss that giant mass of human male as he swept into the crowded room like the living embodiment of some ancient hero.

No, not a hero.

A pagan god.

At least six and a half feet tall, he towered over everyone else there, and had a shoulder width so great, he was forced to turn to the side to come through the doorway and stoop down lest he decapitate himself. A feat he accomplished with a masculine grace and swagger that said he’d done it enough that it was habit from years of experience.

Which made her wonder how many times as a boy he must have whacked his head afore he learned to duck like that.

With a quick swipe of his massive hand, he removed his black tricorne hat and tucked it beneath his arm, exposing a thick mane of unbound, wavy sable hair that gleamed in the dull candlelight. He held a set of rugged features that appeared chiseled from stone— in perfect masculine proportions.

Never in her life had she beheld his equal in form, strength or grace, but it wasn’t just the unexpected sight of him. He possessed that raw, commanding presence that was unrivaled by king or commander. An air of noble refinement that was offset with an aura of bloodthirsty intolerance, cool indifference and utter ennui.

He was lethal. No doubt. Beguiling. More than that, he was an enigmatic study of warring contradictions that quickened her heart a lot more than she wanted to admit to anyone, especially herself.

In a festering den of inhospitable inequity and evil, this man reigned as its supreme emperor. And while his two companions were dressed in brightly colored brocades— like the other vain occupants of the room, he wore a somber black wool coat, and breeches with plain brass buttons and an unremarkable, dark brown waistcoat. Even his cotton shirt and neckerchief were as black as his hair and boots. The only color on his body was the blood-red hilt of barbarian-styled cutlass. And a flashing ruby signet ring on his pinky that caught in the light.

But for his fierce swagger, deadly demeanor, and the firm hand that stayed planted on the hilt of that sword, he could easily pass for a respectable man. Nobleman even.

Until one met that cold, dark, intelligent gaze that saw everything around him to the most microscopic detail.

She could literally feel him tallying the strengths of everyone in the tavern and sizing them up for their every weakness of character and physical flaw . . .

As well as their casket.

He was exactly the kind of unnerving male that caused her and Lettice to draw straws on his entrance back home in Black Swan to see which of them would be stuck for the night waiting on his table.

And Cameron always cheated to make sure she wasn’t the one left with it. Something that would bother her conscience a lot more but for the fact that it was Lettice’s father who owned the Swan, and while Nathaniel Harrison would guard his daughter’s reputation and well-being, he wasn’t nearly as circumspect with hers. Especially when placed against his need for profit. He’d sell all but his daughter for that.

Even his own mother, and probably his wife.

Not wanting to think about that, she scowled at the men flanking the newcomer. His companions were much more the typical pirate or privateer fare one would expect to find in such a sordid place. The one to his right had a mane long brown hair, he wore tied back in an impeccable queue, well-trimmed beard and eyes so light and merry a blue, they glowed in the dim light. Each of that man’s fingers held an ornate ring— no doubt plunder from some unwary ship he’d raided. Still, he seemed amicable enough.

While many Caribbean pirates had a tendency to pierce their earlobes, this one had chosen to place a small gold hoop in his left eyebrow, just off its arch. His elaborate burgundy and black coat was widely cut at the waist— in the latest fashion craze. And where the beguiling and dangerous captain had chosen a plain black neckerchief to wear, this pirate’s cravat was stark white silk, and trimmed in layers of decadent lace.

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s website: https://www.sherrilynkenyon.com/

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, May 7 – Interview With Christopher Katava

Christopher Katava was born and raised in the northwest edge of Los Angeles. Living near a park with a magical small stream and an abundance of open space provided him a deep appreciation for nature and led him to start writing, by his account, some pretty bad poetry at a young age. He has managed to improve in that department, but his main focus is writing short, slice of life fiction and full length novels covering many different genres. His first three completed manuscripts include, high fantasy, urban fantasy, and a near future psychological thriller. Christopher’s life path has shown him glimpses of a spiritual unity and respect for all life. He has developed a special bond with the big cats after having the opportunity to give educational tours where he shared the risk of extinction these majestic animals face. He currently lives in the Colorado foothills where he plays a never ending game of tag with his collection of muses and hopes to one day live near a stream again.

His most recent release, Rise of the First World, a sword and sorcery high fantasy, was published by WordFire Press on April 4thof this year. He describes its premise as follows:

For Iain, village life wasn’t too exciting until a sudden change in climate forces him to cross the sea in search of a new home for his tribe. There he discovers the strange and mystical creatures from his childhood stories aren’t only real, but are more beautiful and terrifying than imagined.

Alone and plagued by a bitter sense of loss, he is drawn into a maze of interwoven worlds where everyone he meets seems to have their own agenda for him. But battling dragons and an evil sorcerer aren’t his only problems. He must discover the one attribute the Hue-man tribes possess that can save them from extinction.

A fierce woman warrior, a mysterious Seraphim, and Iain’s own desire to overcome his past provide the best chance of survival. Even then, Iain is confronted by the risk that those he trusts the most may be plotting the destruction of his people and the Rise of the First World.

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

Good question. I feel every author is unique because everything from their word choices to character description is based in their personal life experiences. For me, I don’t like the blatancy of duality so I live my life from a rather zen perspective. I’m drawn to the archaic forms of magic and relationships formed through honor, personal responsibility, and respect. That comes through in my stories.
Personally, I don’t like comparisons to other writers because they rarely go beyond the surface. Nonetheless, comparisons will still occur and in regards to other authors I will have to leave any perception of similarities or differences to those who choose to read my books.

What is technique for crafting a story? Do you create an outline before you write?

Hello. My name is Christopher Katava and I’m a pantser. I’ve tried to outline. I’ve told myself I’d change. I’ve sought professional help, heard lectures, and read blogs about how wonderful life is for those who outline. But, when I return to my desk and I’m alone, the old habits grab hold of me. With trembling hands I reach for the keyboard determined to make different life choices, to plot out the story beginning to end with in-depth character backgrounds and detailed geographical maps.  But alas, I find myself once again succumbing to temptation and asking my characters, “So, what do you want to do next?” In retrospect, this is probably the same reason I decided not to have kids.

Why do you write?

A while back a friend asked me to create a talk regarding morality in fiction because she said I had a knack for presenting spiritual wisdom through my writing without preaching. That got me looking into the history of the written word. I felt a deep kinship with those who carved their messages into stone one mallet strike at a time, those who transcribed the sacred texts by candlelight one sweep of the quill at a time. Writing was so much harder then. It was reserved for the most important messages. Economy of words was essential. Times have changed, but to me the value of the written word and the message it conveys is the same. With humanity seeming to be at a spiritual crossroads these days it feels vital to continue planting seeds in the hope the utopian world can become the reality.

Writing provides a creative outlet to talk about the science behind the magic, the connection between all living things, and a path where humanity can elevate to a higher way of relationship. I write because I want to provide a positive message in a fun, engaging format that others can relate to and perhaps even be inspired by.

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

I feel the greatest challenge for any new writer is getting noticed. There are many pathways to overcome this, but for me it all started with joining a good writers group with people who are serious about becoming authors. Surrounding myself with like-minded individuals was essential. From there, going to local conferences and networking with others was the next step. I’ve found that as long as you can be genuine and considerate the connections you make will open opportunities for you. Allow me to repeat that last part. Opportunities will open for you. What happens after that is entirely up to you.

In all aspects of life the greatest challenge is always balancing the desire to push against the resistance while being aware the results may never achieve the vision of success. There are no guarantees and you have to continually swim against the tide.

What motivates or inspires you?

On one hand, nature is my inspiration. I find its beauty, its power, even its cold indifference to the survival of humanity calming. From the other viewpoint, the grace of soul contact moves me daily. Both of these seemingly divergent inspirations are linked through a correlation to the duality of perception. Within nature it is the interplay between light and shadow. Stillness and movement. In soul contact it is the spectrum of higher and lower frequencies. God and man. We humans are penned into a duality paradigm where we fixate on one over the other. Where all this coalesces is at the point of the observer self. The presence of duality sparks within me, a drive to stand in the third point in creation. That, as they say, is my happy place.

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

This is an ever-present challenge for me. What helps me the most is the awareness that no matter what’s happening, it is only a moment in time. Good and bad are constants in the world. As I’ve grown older I’ve gained the broader viewpoint that reminds me life isn’t always one or the other. Each experience, each moment, is insolated by our emotions regarding what we feel at the time. Above those emotions is a steadily flowing river reminding me there are rapids and there are shallows, but what remains steady is the rivers journey to the sea.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t expect anything from the world around you. It doesn’t owe you anything but it will constantly pull at you. Everything you desire to do, or be, or possess must come from within. Being as fully present and honest as possible in every situation will help keep you from getting lost in the expectations of others.

Thank you, Christopher, for taking time out of your schedule to share with us. Before I present our guests with your novel’s excerpt and links to where they can follow you or purchases your book, I’d like to conclude with a traditional Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following questions:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a: Deep soul.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Oxygen

The one thing I would change about my life: Nothing. I’m the way I am for a reason.

My biggest peeve is: Ignorance, and slow left lane drivers.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: Self. It is where all else begins.

 

 Chapter One

 

Wind whipped Iain’s hair, pulling at the leather knot keeping the long strands out of his face. Far below, white-capped swells thundered against the steep cliffs. Vibrations shuddered through the ground beneath his feet. Wave after wave tumbled towards the dismal island, taunting him with their freedom to travel.

Iain closed his eyes with a heavy sigh, wishing the waves to carry him across the rolling sea to the forbidden mountains of mystery beyond the horizon.

Even obscured by the cloak of darkness as they were, Iain knew the far-off lands well from the maps his father had made. That same man who since forbade any of the tribe from setting foot upon the distant territory.

It was safe enough for him to cross the sea and bring back a Sune-Tara mate, but after claiming what he wanted, to say it’s too dangerous for any other to do the same I cannot understand. What did he see or learn that could make such a giant among men seek shelter upon this island and say it is enough?

Iain felt his mother’s eyes upon him and couldn’t help but smile. She was far away, back at their house, but Iain learned long ago, there was nowhere he could go where she couldn’t see him. That was just one of her gifts. From the stories she told, the ability was not uncommon among her people living at the edge of the Endless Forest beyond the sea.

The stories gave him knowledge and entertainment, but his dreams fed his restless desire more than anything else. Out there in the darkness was a land where creatures of legend still roamed. Where tribes like the Sune-Tara practiced the ancient magical craft and where the spirits of those swept away when the sea rose up to cover First World still lingered. Held fast by their hunger to return and rule the realm of man, they laid in wait amongst the shadows. There was the home Iain had only glimpsed in visions.

Another heavy sigh escaped and he turned, making his way across the uneven growth of thick peat grasses. Up above, Luphin, Goddess of the Night Orb, aided his trek by casting a gentle glow between silver-tinged clouds scurrying across the sky. She walked low to the horizon this night, but Iain didn’t fear meeting her, for she was still half dressed. The storytellers said, only when her cloak has been drawn tight and she’s disappeared from the sky should men keep a wary eye, for that is when she has taken the form of a beautiful young maiden, determined to find a mortal mate. So powerful was her beauty, no man could resist her temptations and he would be driven mad when she left to give birth to another point of light in the darkened sky.

Iain picked up the pace, knowing Ral would soon rise to give light to the land. If he didn’t sneak back into the house before the dawning, his father’s guards would surely catch him. Troubling enough he knew there would be a lecture coming on the morrow from Elsbeth, his mother. He certainly didn’t wish to endure one from his father, Karoc, as well.

Distracted while plotting out what he would say, a flicker of movement nearby caught his eye. Dropping at once into a crouch, he sidled into a small hollow. Offering up a silent prayer to Ault, Lord of Wind, Iain asked for Luphin’s glow to be obscured by the clouds. Relieved when the land was plunged into shadow, he peered into the darkness, searching for the source of movement.

I dare not delay for long.

There, not far off, a robed figure headed directly towards the paltry hiding place. Iain took stock of his options. He had a knife as a last resort, but preferred avoiding conflict if possible. If he was seen by anyone from the village, word would surely get back to his father and that was bad enough, but if it was a spy from across the water he would have no choice but to battle.

Focus on the breath. Summon the Melding the way Mother trained you.

Iain’s intuition directed him to merge with the land, become one with it. He flattened out as best as possible and opened his senses. The smell of dew soaked grass. The ground shedding the last of the warmth gained from the day. Croaking frogs in a nearby mud hole set an unsteady rhythm.

Surrender to soil and sky.

 

Those who are interested can follow Christopher here:

Website:         christopherkatava.com

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/chriskatava

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/tony.katava

You Can Purchase TheRise of First World here:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BX9JQ98

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

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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, September 11 – Interview With LJ Hachmeister

This week’s guest, L.J. Hachmeister, whom I first met at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Washington, is a remarkable woman in every sense of the word. She writes and fights—although she tries to avoid doing both simultaneously. She is a surgical nurse and also a musician. After winning the WEKAF world championship in double-stick fighting and achieving a second black belt in Doce Pares Eskrima, L.J. decided to take a new approach to world domination and focus on her literary career. With a head full of intergalactic battles, strong female protagonists, and demonic forces bent on breaking out hell, she created the universe and series, Triorion. After the success of the first four books in the Triorion series, L.J. penned the parallel novel series, Shadowless, which takes place in the same universe, but features new characters, settings, and a terrible evil that threatens to consume the entire world.

Though she has yet to decide whether to use her powers for good or evil, L.J. continues to teach the next generation of Filipino stick-fighters while writing in multiple genres, including science fiction/fantasy, LGBTQ+ fiction, and romance. As a self-published author, her books have sold well enough and acquired a large enough readership to admit her into the ranks of authors who sell their books at nationwide Cons through Bard’s Tower, a distributor who only admits authors like Kevin J. Anderson, Larry Correia, Jody Lynn Nye, Jim Butcher, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Claudia Gray and those on a par with them.

Today we’ll discuss Reborn – Part II, the fourth book in the Triorion series. L. J. describes the novel this way:

With the Alliance Fleet scattered and the Motti’s Dissembler weapon laying waste to the last habitable worlds, Jetta Kyron faces one who will use this time of strife and suffering to seize power over the Starways. With death at her heels and the powers of an ancient evil at her fingertips, Jetta finds herself tumbling down a path she swore she would never take. The fourth installment of the Triorion series pits Jetta against the most fearsome enemy of all.

Reborn – Part II concludes with an epic intergalactic battle, each of the triplets deciding how they’ll use the ancient evil inside them, and some of the biggest secrets of the series finally coming to light. Although there are three books left in the series, Reborn – Part II provides a satisfying ending that gives you the answers you’ve wanted since book one, but also leaves room for the adventure to continue.

For those of you who haven’t yet picked up the other books in the series, it’s about triplet siblings who unknowingly possess the power of an ancient evil, and are coerced into military service. Most of my readers describe it as Ender’s Game meets Stranger Things. The books in the Triorion series are fast-paced, character driven, and will keep you guessing all the way to the end as to who these kids really are, and what they’re truly capable of.

What was the inspiration behind the Triorion series?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to have my own universe and heroes, and create my own adventures. I still have some of the short stories I wrote in the Triorion universe from 1987/1988. It started out as something fun and silly, but eventually grew into a means of catharsis for some of the experiences in my own life.

What was your biggest challenge writing this, the fourth volume, and how did you overcome it?

Book four wraps up the first half of the series, so I had to make sure that I didn’t leave any loose ends. However, since I’m continuing with book five, six, and seven, I had to give enough to the reader so that they wanted more, but didn’t need anything else to enjoy the first four in the series.

What are the titles of the first three, and can you tell us about your other work?

Triorion: Awakening (book one), Triorion: Abomination (book two), Triorion: Reborn – Part I (book three), Shadowless – Volume One, and another novel that will never see the light of day. I’m also working on a romance novel that is a prequel to Awakening, tentatively entitled, The Laws of Attraction.

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

I have a teaser trailer for the series uploaded to YouTube, a musical score, chapter illustrations, and exclusive series illustrations that you can check out on the series website, www.triorion.com

What else are you working on?

My first romance novel! I’m only three chapters away from finishing it. I’m extremely excited about this work since it challenged me to write outside my comfort zone, but it still takes place in the universe I’ve established. It also gives hints as to the conclusion of the entire Triorion series, as well as introduces a critical character that will help the triplets in book six and seven.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I do now! When I first started writing, I’d just wing the entire story, but I ended up writing myself into corners, and/or create huge plot holes. I find that outlining the general points of the book as well as determining the ending helps in so many ways, especially for efficiency. Now that I outline, I can manage two novels a year, even with a fulltime job.

Why do you write?

Honestly, when I was growing up, there wasn’t much else to do in the suburbs of Illinois, and I’ve always enjoyed creating new worlds. Now that I’m older and can look back on what I wrote, and what I am writing now, I realize that I’ve worked out so many of my problems or concerns through writing, and I’m very grateful to have discovered and utilized this outlet.

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

Everything I put in my novels is drawn from my own personal experience in one form or another. I think reading about the human experience is important; it forges connections, can help you understand more about yourself or other people, and help mitigate that feeling of loneliness and disconnect we all feel at some point in our life.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes. I’m an RN at a surgical center, and I also co-own a graphic design company with my wife. I stay pretty busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And why is that?

I enjoy being in a caring profession, and being able to help others when they’re often at their most vulnerable. Nursing keeps me grounded, appreciative, and I have always loved the bonds of the medical community.

I’ve learned that you and your wife are dog people. Would you care to tell those of our visitors who are similarly inclined something about them?

Our dogs are 3 and 6, both female mutts. The younger one is sassy, sweet, and a cuddler. The older one is a border collie mix and obsessed with playing fetch. She’s also a sweetheart, rarely barks, and only cuddles right before bed.

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

I read a lot of survival and near-death experience stories. What those folks have shared about their experiences and insights gives me hope, and has helped me keep going even when faced with my toughest challenges.

In addition to being a world class fighter and world class author, it has come to my attention you also play the drums. I have to ask (1) are they traps, (2) are you part of a band and (3) what kind of music do you lean toward?

I play a Mapex seven-piece drum set. I generally stick to progressive or alternative rock, but enjoy jazz, experimental, and all other types of music. I am in the band, “Wolfgirl.” We’re currently on a break, but you can find our first music video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN9iIJ-tieU

Clearly, the video tells the story of how “Wolfgirl” came together.

And now I need to thank you, L. J., for taking the time to participate in The Write Stuff. Before I give our visitors an excerpt from Reborn – Part II, as well as social links where they can follow you, I’d like to close with a traditional Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a… frozen yogurt maniac

The one thing I cannot do without is: My family

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d give myself a functional ACL so I can play soccer again.

My biggest peeve is: people who wear their outside shoes in the house

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: my awesome drum set.

 

Reborn – Part II excerpt:

Jahx never told his sisters about his secret trips to room 311. If circumstances had been better, Jaeia might have understood, but Jetta would have only given him grief. Sneaking off became exceedingly difficult, and as often as wanted to go, his family, particularly his sisters, kept a close watch on him. And no unattended four-year-old went unnoticed, especially on Fiorah.

He chanced upon room 311 the day they moved into community housing. While Galm comforted Lohien in their squalid new apartment, promising her their situation was only temporary, Jaeia covered for her siblings so that Jetta and Jahx could explore the housing project and look for vending machines and discarded air conditioning units that they could possibly fix.

“Hey, look,” Jetta said, nudging him.

Putting down his collection of plastic bottles, Jahx followed Jetta to the last apartment on the third floor.

“Do you feel that?” Jetta said, her hand hovering above the doorknob.

Jahx didn’t have to say anything.

“Are you scared?” she asked. She hadn’t intended to sound so peevish, but she, like the rest of them, suffered the hunger pangs of three bellies.

“Jetta… Maybe not this apartment.”

But arguing with his survivalist sister got him nowhere.

“It wouldn’t be right,” he emphasized.

Jetta ignored him, testing the lock. Nimble fingers and safety pins did the trick in seconds.

Please, Jetta.

With a quick glance over her shoulder, his sister checked the hallway to make sure they wouldn’t be seen. Aside from the screams of the arguing couple two doors down, the rest of the place felt like a tomb.

Everyone else is either sleeping off benders or making back alley deals, Jetta reassured him.

Driven by need and disgusted by his own poverty, Jahx followed her in. (Stealing is wrong,) his conscience whispered, (especially from 311.)

The place was cobwebbed and blanketed in dust. Cockroaches, surprised by their appearance, skittered toward their hiding places as they tiptoed to the kitchen.

Check the pantry. I’ll check the fridge, Jetta spoke across their connection.

Jahx wavered, feeling the heavy pull in the adjacent room. (This is wrong. We will only find death here.)

Jahx! Jetta emphasized, making his brain rattle.

Careful not to disturb the nesting spiders, Jahx searched through empty tin cans and food boxes. The place had already been picked clean, probably by some other launnies or scavengers in the same situation.

Skucheka,” Jetta whispered, despondent at their failed mission.

They both jumped as a growling croak came from the next room, rising in pitch. Grabbing her brother, Jetta yanked him toward the door.

“Jetta, wait—”

His sister, stronger and determined, dragged him out into the hallway and back to their new place, not listening to his protests, knowing only the fear that charged her reaction.

“Hey—what was that?” Jaeia asked as Jetta and Jahx caught their breath in the entryway.

“Don’t know. Waste of a trip. Nothing in there but crumbs,” Jetta said, opening her hands to reveal a few stale cracker bits.

The three of them stared at Jetta’s open hands, salivating at the laughable prize. Jetta’s anger and embarrassment throbbed in Jahx’s chest as she divided the cracker bits and distributed them to her siblings.

“Things will get better—I promise,” Jetta said, closing her hand into a fist. “I won’t let Yahmen destroy this family.”

That night Jahx couldn’t sleep. Maybe it was the new apartment, the itchiness of the cots, the sonorous snoring of his uncle or the rats scurrying inside the walls. Or maybe it was something else. Something he had escaped in apartment 311.

I have to go back.

Without disturbing them, Jahx looked inside his sisters’ dreams. Jaeia travelled to somewhere unfamiliar, a green and yellow landscape with only one sun. It wasn’t the first time he had seen such a place in her mind, and he delighted in taking an observer’s viewpoint when he had the chance. But now was not the time.

Jahx turned to Jetta. Curled up in a fetal position against the wall, Jetta slept fitfully as usual. Jahx put a hand on her shoulder, trying to draw his sister away from the pain and terror that plagued her sleeping mind. Unable to soothe her without waking her up, he withdrew, giving her one last look before slipping out the front door.

He waited until the underhanders were done with their hallway drug deals before making his way to the last door on the third floor. The drunk wadded up in the corner gave him a confused once-over but fell back into his bottle, singing a maudlin drinking song.

Walking on his tip-toes, Jahx let himself inside 311. Even in the middle of the night, the Fiorahian sunlight streamed through the shredded drapes, giving rise to new shadows and creeps. He noticed the smell this time, probably because his sister’s will was not stifling his senses. Sour and dewy—like decomposing waste.

A desiccated whisper tickled his thoughts. Who are you?

The moan that followed stripped the gumption right out of him. He turned on his heels to flee when a bony hand, reaching up into the thin rays of light in the adjacent room, caught his eye.

Jahx held his breath. One of the long-nailed fingers curled at him.

Come here.

Those who would like to learn more about L. J. Hachmeister can do so here:

Website: www.triorion.com

You may purchase her books here:

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

 

 

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The Write Stuff – Monday, August 28 – Interview With Christopher Husberg

I first met Titan Books author, Christopher Husberg, at Emerald City Comic Con in March 2017 where we were sold and signed books at Bard’s Tower. The next time I ran into him was at a bookstore in Salem, Oregon. He and author, Dave Butler, whom I interviewed here in January of last year, were on a combined book signing tour. Chris had just completed the second novel in his series, the Chaos Queen Quintet, and having purchased a copy, I thought this might be a good time to feature him, since the quintet it was part of was finally rolling.

Christopher Husberg grew up in Eagle River, Alaska. He now lives in Utah, and spends his time writing, reading, hiking, and playing video games, but mostly hanging out with his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Buffy. He received an MFA in creative writing from Brigham Young University, and an honorary PhD in Buffy the Vampire Slayer from himself. He writes dark epic fantasy novels. The first novel in the Chaos Queen Quintet, Duskfall, was published in 2016. The third installment, Blood Requiem, will be published by Titan Books in 2018. Chris describes Dark Immolation like this:

A new religion is rising, gathering followers drawn by rumors of prophetess Jane Oden. Her sister Cinzia—once a Cantic prieste—is by her side, but fears Jane will lead them to ruin. For both the Church and the Nazaniin assassins are still on their tail, and much worse may come.

Knot, his true nature now revealed if not truly understood, is haunted by his memories, and is not the ally he once was. Astrid travels to Tinska to find answers for her friend, but the child-like vampire has old enemies who have been waiting for her return. And beyond the Blood Gate in the empire of Roden, a tiellan woman finds herself with a new protector: one who wants to use her extraordinary abilities for his own ends…

Please tell us something more about it.

Dark Immolation is book two in the Chaos Queen Quintet, and just came out in June. The CQQ is a dark epic fantasy series, and the first book, Duskfall, came out last June (and we’re planning on producing a book a year, each June, until the fifth and final book comes out in June 2020). While Duskfall was an action-adventure fantasy thriller with hints of horror, Dark Immolation features a somewhat slower burn. It’s slightly more introspective, addressing belief and identity, but has its share of action and intense (and, yes, horrifying—it’s what I do!) scenes as well.

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

This may sound strange, but before Dark Immolation I’d never written a sequel! I approached DI with the same process and expectations that I do with any other novel or story, and that was actually a huge mistake (I’m channeling Gob there, obviously). The first draft of DI got out of hand very early because I tried to balance my discovery-writer tendencies to pursue every last tangent I came up with while still trying to follow through with and make good on some promises I made in Duskfall. Well, that was impossible. It was a rough process, and combined with some other things going on in my life at the time (both good and bad, but all distracting), this was a very difficult book to write. Fortunately I have an incredible agent who had a few very helpful conversations with me (basically, he lit a fire under my ass), I had help from some very astute and thorough beta readers, and I have a brilliant editor that helped me tie up many of the loose ends of the novel. I’m incredibly happy with the final version of Dark Immolation. I think it’s a pretty great book, and I’m so happy to have it on shelves. I hope all of you enjoy it, too.

What other novels have you written?

The first novel in the Chaos Queen Quintet, Duskfall, came out last June! Read that one first! This is definitely a series you’ll want to read in order.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work? There is a pretty awesome book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_zxjkHT6uM

And Duskfall has been nominated for the Morningstar Award (the David Gemmell award for Best Debut Fantasy), but unfortunately lost to another fantastic book, Steal the Sky by Megan O’Keefe.

Second place is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when one considers the level of competition in a contest like this. Turning to your life as an author, what is your work schedule like?

Well, it often depends, but here’s the basic rundown of my daily schedule.

5:30 AM – wake up, work out, get ready for the day, etc.

6:30 – write

8:00 – breakfast

8:30 – write

10:30/11:00 – walk

11:30 – write

1:00 PM – put my daughter down for a nap

1:10 – write*

3:30 – wrap things up

* My daughter doesn’t always take a nap, so this segment doesn’t always happen.

That isn’t always the schedule. When I’m approaching a deadline, it’s a lot more writing and a whole lot less other stuff. Right after I finish a project, there’s a bit more free time in there. But, generally, that’s the schedule I stick with, and it works pretty well for me. While I do enjoy a solid block of writing time when I have the opportunity, I’ve found value in learning to adapt my work schedule to whatever is available, and right now these 1.5-2 hour writing spurts are getting the work done, and that’s all I can ask.

It’s nice to be able to write full time. Not many can manage it. Tell us about your path to publication.

I went the traditional route! While I’ve always been very open to self-publishing, I figured I’d try to go the traditional route first, and it has worked out for me so far—in large part because I landed a phenomenal agent.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I prefer to say that I structure my story before I write. That means that I look at typical archetypes and story structure tropes, and figure out which of those I’m going to be most in line with while working on any given work. That often changes partway through a project, but I do like to have a general road map. It’s like if I were to take a road trip from NY to LA, and said I’d hit maybe Chicago, Denver, and Las Vegas along the way, but I’d be open to doing whatever worked best in between (and, in truth, to cutting out any of those major milestones and replacing it with a better one, if that’s what the journey called for). I think some people like to plan out their novels the way some people plan out road trips, i.e. every stop and every hour of the day planned, and I don’t generally work that way when it comes to writing. Every writer is different, and for me, part of the fun of writing is letting the story develop into something organically.

At this point, I have to laugh. You see, I use that very analogy myself, but driving from LA to NYC instead. What motivates or inspires you?

I once heard Dan Wells say something along the lines of if he writes for 8 hours straight during a day, he can write 2000 words, but if he plays a video game halfway through the day, he can write 4000. I find that’s true for me. Taking breaks is an essential part of my writing process. I like to take a walk just about every day, and I honestly consider that walk work, even if I’m just listening to music or a podcast. I know my brain is running through ideas and scenarios in the background, and I often come up with some of my greatest ideas while walking.

I also find value in playing a video game partway through the day. (Dota 2 is my game of choice.) This seems to work similarly to the backburner principle I described for my walks. If turn the spotlight away from the creative side of my brain for a while and focus on something else, often when I come back to that creative side, it’s come up with something completely awesome.

What has been your greatest success?

That’s easy. I’d like to say the publication of my first book, but the truth is a lot more simple: a happy marriage to an incredible person, and a delightful child. No matter what the future brings, I can say with confidence that those have been my greatest successes, and I treasure every moment I get to spend with those people.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Joss Whedon, and mainly his work on the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I style myself a Buffy scholar; I’ve seen the complete series at least seven or eight times, and seen many episodes upwards of twenty or thirty. I’ve read criticism on the series and the writing, I’ve read philosophical takes on the series, I’ve studied its structure and development and background. I think it’s a phenomenal text that does amazing things, and stories like it are in large part why I write.

Thanks, Chris, for taking the time to chat with us. Before I present my site’s visitors with an excerpt from Dark Immolation, at the end of which I will provide your social links, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: My laptop

The one thing I would change about my life: Nothing

My biggest peeve is: People who don’t use turn signals when driving

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: Myself! I’m a flawed, broken work in progress, and I think that’s pretty great.

Dark Immolation excerpt:

“My lord, it is time.” Urstadt’s voice was soft but clear from the hallway.

“Just give me a moment,” Daval said, excitement flowing through him. Surely Urstadt would be even more excited than he; this was her plan coming to fruition, after all.

Daval dressed. The large dark-green robe with the oversized hood commanded a different type of respect than his decorated clothing, clothing that befitted his position in a high, noble house. As Lord Amok, Daval had great power and respect. But as the new Tokal-Ceno, Daval had something more.

“My Lord,” Urstadt greeted him as he exited his chamber.

Daval nodded to her, smiling. As always, Urstadt wore her half-armor: steel cuirass and faulds, each plated with a thin layer of rose gold, and matching gauntlets and greaves. She wore a suit of micromail—a recent invention of the imperial smithies, both lighter and stronger than traditional chain—beneath the plate. In one arm she carried her helmet, a barbute of the same rose-gilded steel, etched to make the face of the helm look like a skull, accented by black gems near the eyes. The contrast was odd; Urstadt looked somewhat feminine in her armor, but the skull contrasted sharply against the rose gold. Of course, when Urstadt had been promoted to Daval’s guard captain, he had granted her whichever armor she desired. In fact, since the suit had been finished, Daval couldn’t think of a moment he had seen his guard captain out of armor. She slept in the bloody set for all he knew.

At Urstadt’s waist was a short sword, scabbard and hilt also of rose gold, but her preferred weapon she carried in one hand. Her glaive—a poled weapon with a curved blade on one end— was an inelegant, ugly thing, taller than she was with a dented, dark steel blade and scarred, blackbark handle. Some laughed at and derided Urstadt’s rose-gold armor; but her glaive, and her skill with it, was not something to jest about.

“Tell me everything,” Daval said, as they walked down the hall. “How goes our little example?”

“Well enough,” Urstadt said. “House Farady took the bait.”

Daval nodded. He knew they would. The potential power they might accrue by undermining Daval’s fish trade would have been irresistible. House Amok, of course, was one of the high houses for many reasons, but first and foremost for commerce. Fish and other fruits of the sea had been their specialty for hundreds of years, but as time passed the Amok lords had sought other sources of income, from the marble quarries near the western coast to the logging beastmen on the Cracked Horn, the northeast peninsula of Roden. But, by striking the Amok fishing industry, a tiny house like Farady could shake the very foundation of House Amok.

But a shaken foundation was not a broken one, which was why he and Urstadt had orchestrated the whole thing.

Urstadt led Daval to the cells below the keep. Unlike those in the imperial palace, Castle Amok’s dungeons were very modest: a few cells below ground, near the wine cellars. Not particularly high-security.

They didn’t need to be. They were generally only for holding other nobles, soon to be released on negotiated terms. A certain level of comfort was expected. Daval was not surprised to see Darst Farady lounging on a cot with a smirk on his face in one of the cells. Two other men sat in the cells on either side of Darst, but he was obviously the leader.

“The great Lord Amok himself.” Darst grinned as he saw Daval approach. “I’m honored by your accommodations.”

Daval bowed to Darst, watching the young man through the iron bars. Darst did not move from his lounging position on the cot, one leg up, the other dangling over the edge, one arm curled behind his head in a makeshift pillow.

“I trust you’re being treated fairly?” Daval asked. Despite Darst being only a stripling and of a house significantly less powerful than Amok, Daval wouldn’t skimp on formalities. He must not give any impression of skirting the law.

The young man—perhaps no older than Daval’s daughter— shrugged. “Fairly enough, I suppose. When will I get out of here?” Daval took a deep breath. “I can’t be sure, my Lord. You were caught attempting to set fire to my property.” Darst laughed. “You surely can’t blame me. Given the rumors about your warehouse, you had to expect trouble of some kind.”

Daval sighed. “We did, of course. Which is why you were caught.”

“I don’t think you have any witnesses who actually saw us attempt this alleged arson,” Darst said. “So, considering the fact that no damage was done, I’d think being held a day or two in your cells would be sufficient punishment, wouldn’t you?”

In times of peace, this was often the way light disputes were settled between houses. The offending party was held in the injured house’s dungeons for an agreed-upon amount of time, and then released without further prosecution. If the offense was severe, a formal trial might be held, but such instances were rare. House representatives settled most disputes through informal negotiations.

This was not peacetime, however. Daval could not be so lenient. And, of course, their plan dictated he act otherwise.

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