The Write Stuff – Monday, February 4 – C. S. Ferguson Interview

I asked this week’s guest, C. S. Ferguson, to tell us something about himself. This was his response:

I live in the Pacific NW with my wife, two sons, a cat who thinks she’s a dog (she plays fetch), and a dog who thinks he’s a cat (he stalks and pounces). I enjoy camping, diving, swimming, lifting weights, reading, and just about anything that can act as a creative outlet.

I more or less spend all day every day studying or creating. I’m constantly outlining new novels and writing them, drawing things, painting, designing tabletop games, or studying whatever interests me at the time. Mythology. Anthropology. Military history. Ninjas. Pirates. The histories of various pop culture phenomena, like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Typical guy stuff, I suppose. I have no a social life (99% I on the I-E continuum) so I have a lot of free time to do these things.

I prefer science fiction and fantasy because of the creative freedom afforded in the more speculative genres. How else could I write a story about a mute psychic special agent chasing a group of washed up space pirates trying to bribe their way through an FTL jumpgate during an interplanetary civil war?

WordFire Press released his latest science fiction release, Devils & Black Sheep, on January 23 of this year. Its premise is as follows:

In the distant Heracles system, at the edge of explored space, the last pirates of the once-infamous Crimson Star fleet are trapped. Civil war has broken out between the seven systems of human space and the jumpgates that supply interstellar travel are closed down to all but official traffic. The pirate leader, retired university math professor Tybalt, is desperate to escape the system and attempt an experimental cure for the degenerative condition that got him fired from the university. Their pilot, corpulent ex-gangster Falstaff, clings to the hope that he can reconstitute the pirate fleet and return them to their former glory. Their surgeon, ascetic psychic Tamora, has grown disillusioned with their lifestyle and wants to return home to her monastery and a simple life of meditation. Their enforcer, retired military android Nicodemus, never found further employment except as a janitor until a law enforcement agent approached him about infiltrating an infamous pirate group. He has spent years sabotaging their efforts and is nearly ready for the endgame that will bring down the last of the Crimson Star pirates for good.

Soured by the Bureau recently moving him from active status to a support role, legendary but aging lawman Neil Tesso wants to reinvigorate his career and convince his superiors to return him to active status with the elite Spacetrooper raid teams. With the increased pirate activity in his home system and the growing civil war, the Core government on old Earth threatens martial law. Desperate to avert the arrival of the insidious Inquisitors and the suffering that follows and seeing an opportunity to convince his superiors of his continued worth despite his age, he pursues the pirates with zealous determination.

What neither side knows is that among the Crimson Star’s most recently pirated cargo is a crate of almost immeasurable value.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

That it exists. After that, I’ll let the book tell them everything they want to know about it.

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

I set out to write a story about people who think, instead of people who constantly act and react. That was my diamond-hard core of intent. I hope it’s apparent.

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

It would be astonishingly arrogant to claim that my work stands out. There are a lot of fantastic authors with a lot of fantastic ideas. That said, I’m more interested in thinking characters than action characters, and am more interested in the bungled mistakes people make than in their perfect decisions. So I guess I write stories about non-badasses, which is different.

What was your path to publication?

I submitted the first 10k words for consideration. About a month later, I got a reply asking for the whole manuscript. I submitted that, and a few months later the manuscript was selected for publication. The publisher assigned me an editor, and we collaboratively tumbled down the sharp corners over several months. The whole process from query to published novel took about a year and a half.

What are you working on now?

Gamewise, I’m working on a narrative role-playing system with campaign settings for D.J. Butler’s Rock Band Fights Evil urban fantasy series, Quincy J. Allen’s Blood War Chronicles western steampunk fantasy series, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of Seven Suns space opera series.

Bookwise, I’m writing a sci-fi series about angels having lost Armageddon and being forced to integrate demons into their society. It’s told mostly from the angelic point of view, from an ensemble cast. The central theme is Nietzsche’s Warning.

What else have you written?

A whole lot of NaNoWriMo novels.

What is your writing routine?

The first thing I do is create characters. I write them out as an upbringing, achievements, traumas, personality, and goal. Then I imagine those characters telling me their story, and I write down the outline for the story that they would tell me. When I write, I aim for ~10,000 words per day. I dislike editing, so I write finished prose from beginning to end. When the manuscript is complete (complete and finished are different things), I do global searches for words I don’t like and find a better way to say them.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes, but my outline is quite loose. Sometimes the characters derail my outline and the story takes a different direction than intended, though. Pesky things, characters. They never do what they’re told.

Why do you write?

I can’t stand not to. Take away my computer and I’ll write stories by hand. Take away my paper and I’ll scratch stories into the dirt with a stick. I keep a notepad by my bed because I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night having dreamed a scene, or a character, or even an entire new story. I’ve dictated a story outline into my phone while grocery shopping. I’ve also typed one into my phone while at a rock concert.

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

Balancing work with family. I tend to get lost in projects and become an absentee husband and father. I schedule an hour a day with each of my kids and with my wife to make sure I don’t become a total stranger.

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

I love collaborations. I sent out a request for short fiction submissions for a game I was working on, and that’s how I started down this path. I met a lot of great writers who submitted a lot of great stories. I bought the best ones for the game, and those authors got excited and introduced me to their friends and collaborators. It grew from there. The best thing you can do for your career is be competent and cooperative. If you are, collaborators will actively seek you out.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

I’m a boring person. Anything I’ve done, thousands of other people have also done. But I try to capture the experience in my writing. I’ve stood at the top of the highest peak for a thousand miles in every direction and watched the clouds sail past beneath me; I’ve writhed in agonizing pain and truly doubted whether I’d live long enough to make it to the emergency room; I’ve stood in the middle of a desert and wondered at the vast sea of sand extending to the horizon in every direction; twice, I’ve held a seconds-old newborn in my trembling hands and cried because I knew I wasn’t up to the job. Life is experiential. So I try to see what the character sees, feel what they feel, and describe the experience.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m a game designer, digital and tabletop.

Describe a typical day.

Wake up 5:15 a.m, leave for gym at 5:30, lift weights from 5:45-6:45, back home by 7:00, clean up, eat breakfast at 7:15. Check email (10 minutes or two hours, depending on the day). Phone calls (also 10 minutes or two hours, depending on the day). Second breakfast at 9:00, brunch at 11:00, and lunch at 1:00 p.m.. By afternoon, I’m caught up on contacts and ready for nuts and bolts work. Writing. Drawing. Reading. Background research. Market studies. I eat again at 3:00 p.m. and break from work at 3:30 to play with my kids. Diablo with Dad is a thing in our house. I play an hour of multiplayer Diablo with each of my kids, and I make it a habit of ruining it by turning the whole thing into a series of life lessons. “We defeated Belial on Torment! High Five! Now, how do you think it would work out if you faced Belial as a level 1 character? Life is like that. You can sit around in town and stay a level 1 character forever, or you can go out, take some risks, get bloodied up, get stronger, level up, equip better gear, and go farther than any level 1 character could even dream of going. But if you just stay in the safety of town, you’ll live your entire life as a level 1 character.” Eat dinner at 5:00, then return to work. I stop at 7:00 to eat supper with my wife, and we watch one episode of whatever show she wants together. Then I work until 9:00, at which point I clean up again and go to bed around 9:15. Repeat, seven days a week. Saturday and Sunday mornings are for chores and errands instead of phone calls, but I still occasionally field a call.

What motivates or inspires you?

Watching documentaries about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and about World War 2. Those were iron men.

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

Ignore it. 90% of adversity is imaginary. Nothing in my life is hard. Omaha Beach was hard. This? This is nothing.

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

I believe that kind of thinking is a pitfall of self-defeat. We make the best decisions we can, given the information we had at the time. Sure, there are things I could have done better. But that assumes I had different information than I had at the time. I didn’t, so if I was in the same position all over again, I’d make the same decision.

What is your greatest life lesson?

I believe that life lessons are experienced, not taught. My life lessons would be meaningless to anyone who hasn’t experienced my life.

What makes you laugh?

When my cat paws at my face in the middle of the night because she wants under the covers with me.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Stephen E. Ambrose, Antony Beevor, Robert Bloch, Philip K. Dick, Adam Makos, Andre Norton, Jeff VanderMeer, A.E. van Vogt, Kurt Vonnegut.

Thanks so much for sharing your time with us. Before I present our visitors with an excerpt from Devils & Black Sheep, followed by your book buy and social links, I’d like to conclude with a customary Lightning Round. In a few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

 The one thing I cannot do without is: A happy wife.

 The one thing I would change about my life: Nothing

My biggest peeve is: People talking loudly

 The person I’m most satisfied with is: My wife

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

 Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Select Start

Excerpt:

He turned and looked at Leer. The officer was motionless, a skeletal game piece, a mute specter of a secret policeman whose mind Staff could only guess at.

“The silent treatment,” Staff said. “More silence. How do you get anything at all out of your detainees, if you stand there and stare at them? I’ve got bunny slippers that are more intimidating than you are.”

He snorted and looked away from the officer.

An odd sensation trickled into his mind, again. His mind became cold, as if something had been poured into his brain, icy, flowing, snaking along each crevice and dripping into mental caverns that he didn’t know existed. He clenched his teeth and groaned against the pain, but it didn’t help. He tried to blink away the discomfort, focus through the wavering, twisting images in front of his eyes. It didn’t work.

“Drugs?” he gasped. “Really? ISB isn’t happy with their secret police interrogation tactics, you have to resort to drugs, now? You’re pathetic.”

A frigid lance of pain stabbed through his mind and shot down his neck, and he curled in agony.

I will kill you, Staff thought. You’re Number One on my list, when I get out of here. You’re done. I will crush you, and I will laugh in your face as you fade to black. But most of all, I’ll stab you straight through that stupid mask.

Pounding pressure stomped through his head, but the cold sensation faded and Staff fell back onto the bed. The wraithy officer remained mute and still as a tombstone.

“Okay,” Staff said in between panting breaths. “That one was special. I liked that. Do it again.”

He focused his body on relaxing, each limb in its turn, and waited for the chilling sensation in his head. But it didn’t come. Instead, the sinister officer reached up with a long-fingered hand and triggered the handcuffs. They snapped open with an ominous ring and fell to the floor.

Staff launched himself out of the bed in a blur of motion, his face curled in a mask of rage, his hands reaching for Leer’s throat, that thin, skeletal neck that he was certain would snap like a stick in his grip. Leer stepped aside, the subtlest twist of body, and Staff smashed into the wall. Veteran of a hundred brawls and boarding actions, he was back on his feet in a blink and lunged at the officer again. Again, Leer took a single step away, and Staff crashed into the bed that, a moment ago, had imprisoned him.

“You’re a fast little bastard,” Staff said. “But all I need is one hit, and you’re going down. You’re dead. I may look fat, but I’ve got a hell of a lot of muscle underneath it.”

He’s fast. Damn fast. I need to take him seriously, wear him down, play the long game. I’m not as fast as I used to be in my younger years. Or in my leaner years.

Meaty fists held up on either side of his face, Staff took a steadying breath and settled into a fighting stance, high on the balls of his feet, every joint loose and ready to move. He expected his silent opponent to do the same. But Leer stood straight and tall, hands dangling loosely at his side, feet flat on the floor.

This guy’s an amateur.

One hammer-like fist shot out at Leer’s mirrored mask, and Staff smiled in anticipation of the victory. Leer stepped back, the slightest motion, but enough to stop outside of Staff’s reach. Still, the gaunt officer was infuriatingly balanced, in perfect posture, upright and absent any lean or tilt. Twice more, he jabbed out at Leer, and twice the officer stepped away.

I’ve got you now, Staff thought when Leer put his back to the wall. Nowhere to run, you dodgy little bastard. And if you’re a witch, I’ll kill you and everyone you know with my bare hands.

His next punch sailed through empty air as Leer stepped aside, almost before the fist began to move. He lunged in for a powerful tackle, arms spread wide to grab the officer and pull him to the ground … but Leer stepped aside and twisted away with the speed and grace of a swallow in flight, and once again Staff slammed into the ground empty-handed. And Leer’s arms remained at his side, having not yet moved since the melee started.

Those of you who would like to follow C. S. Ferguson online can do so here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/darth.ferguson

You can purchase a copy of Devils & Black Sheep here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07N1XV16J

 

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 17 – Christopher Ruocchio Interview

A new and powerful voice has risen among us. Christopher Ruocchio’s epic novel, Empire of Silence, is on a par with Allan Moore’s Jerusalem and Frank Herbert’s Dune. The first in a series, Empire gets underway with all the deliberation of a mile long freight train and builds to a logical, well conceived ending. Be forewarned. This is no blast-em-to-smithereens space opera. While there is physical violence enough for those who require it, the subtle threat of the ever-present Inquisition lurking in the background, threads tension through the story in a way swords and phase disrupters never can. The Chantry, whose Inquisitors are sure to be feared, like all religious fanatics, are perforce blinded to possibilities beyond their belief system. The fundamental posit that founds their beliefs is that humans are the universe’s sine qua non, all the while denying the possibility of any other intelligent race or species.

Christopher Ruocchio is the author of “The Sun Eater”, a space opera fantasy series from DAW Books, as well as the Assistant Editor at Baen Books, where he co-edited the anthologies “Star Destroyers” and “Space Pioneers”. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, where a penchant for self-destructive decision making caused him to pursue a bachelor’s in English Rhetoric with a minor in Classics. An avid student of history, philosophy, and religion, Christopher has been writing since he was eight years old and sold his first book, Empire of Silence, at age twenty-two. “The Sun Eater” series is available from Gollancz in the UK, and has been translated into French and German.

Christopher lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. When not writing, he splits his time between his family, procrastinating with video games, and his friend’s boxing gym.

I asked him to describe Empire of Silence and he provided this:

Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of “The Sun Eater” series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives—even the Emperor himself—against Imperial orders.

But Hadrian was not a hero. He was not a monster. He was not even a soldier.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe starts down a path that can only end in fire. He flees his father and a future as a torturer only to be left stranded on a strange, backwater world.

Forced to fight as a gladiator and navigate the intrigues of a foreign planetary court, Hadrian must fight a war he did not start, for an Empire he does not love, against an enemy he will never understand.

Your style of writing, Christopher, is like a signature. Your unique choice of words, your frequent eschewal of traditional sentence structure, as well as the cadence of your prose, impart a greater surrealism to an already surreal story by removing the telling several steps from the ordinary. Was this a deliberate strategy, or simply a byproduct of your obvious love of language?

Is my sentence style non-traditional? It’s extremely hypotactic, with a lot of subordinate and dependent clauses, but I didn’t think there was anything unusual about it. I’m an extremely auditory person. I can remember virtually anything I hear after one or two exposures. I’ll remember a random snap from a conversation my friends were having in the other room without me days later, and so when I write it’s always out loud, and I check my writing out loud when I’m done. Good prose has to sound good, or it’s bad prose. Insofar as my prose is surreal, I made a conscious effort to make sure Hadrian doesn’t understand everything that’s happening around him. He’s not very technically minded, which allows the technology to feel a bit more magical, for one, but there are also events happening (especially later in the books) that are meant to defy human understanding in any event. So it’s best to write in such a way that hints at more, and to let the dark corners of your imagination fill in the rest.

Hadrian and Valka’s discussion about the Umandh while they were visiting the alienage at Ulakiel yields, not only an alien quality to the setting, but also emphasizes how un‑Earthlike these characters are. While most science fiction authors struggle to describe the strangeness of a person or place, you build an otherworldly scenario through your prose and dialogue. Is this a deliberate strategy, a happy accident, or merely this reader’s perception?

In a certain sense, the prose is dialogue. It’s first person, and everything here is Hadrian speaking with you, the reader. One of the things we modern people are really bad at is getting our heads around just how different people used to think about things in the Middle Ages and in classical antiquity. A lot of us are so thoroughly materialistic and rationalistic in our thinking that when we encounter someone who is, say, deeply religious, we almost think that they’re insane—when in reality they’re representing a mode of thinking that was far more common for most of human history than the way we think now. Hadrian’s tendency towards pattern recognition, to latch on to sounds or symbols and to see them as a through line that gives his life meaning (for example, when he experiences bright lights he connects them to the supernova he tells us he will cause at the end of the series, as if they’re omens of what’s coming), is very like the way a medieval or a classical Roman might have thought. Being somewhat religious myself, I find that symbolic way of thinking about the world a more reasonable and meaningful way to view existence in the first place, and I think the loss of it is something the modern world got wrong. So if Hadrian and his countrymen feel alien in this way, it’s because their cultural worldview has more in common with these older ways of thinking than ours does.

Empire of Silence is a story that is sometimes felt more than it is recounted. From Hadrian’s thoughts on the night before he steps into the Colosso, to the scene that takes place at the palace barbican in Chapter 49, more is inferred than stated outright. How much time do you spend revising and editing to get these scenes right?

Empire of Silence was actually completely rewritten after I sold it to DAW books (except for about the first dozen chapters or so), so the rewrites were fairly minimal after that. I do reread everything aloud before I send it in for copyediting, and I use that phase to sand down the rough edges, so to speak. But it’s always been my observation that many people are too afraid to say what they really mean, or are too embarrassed, and so there’s a good deal of side-stepping and beating around the bush. But really, this sort of conversation by implication-and-inference is less a product of revision and more a consequence of how I communicate in the first place, or at least reflects my personal theory about communication.

In the course of the conversation between Hadrian and the Cielcin commander in the chambers at Calagah, you reveal an understanding of socio-linguistic dynamics—how language springs from a culture and how the very structure of the language can impart layers of meaning above and beyond the mere words of the conversation itself. Will you tell us about how you acquired this knowledge?

I have a quibble with your question, if I may. It’s not that language springs from a culture, rather it seems to me that culture springs from the language. That’s something most modern linguists seem to get exactly backwards. They’ll talk about how language shapes perception (the Japanese have one word for both blue and green, and so it’s not uncommon to see a Japanese child use a green crayon for the sky), but then they’ll say people consciously manipulate the language to control populations, which is the precise reverse of the premise that language shapes perception. It’s foolish. Languages are almost Platonic forms (though they certainly change, despite the effort of we editors to keep grammar fixed in place). But languages are more long-lived than any individual human is, and they shape us  individually to a far greater degree than any individual shapes or controls language. We are its  creatures and not the masters of language at all. That’s why God is sometimes called the Wordthe Logos, in the Christian and Stoic traditions.

As for how I got interested in this sort of thing: because I hated linguistics classes in school. Linguists these days are all sophists. They espouse this postmodern ethos wherein there is no objective, higher meaning and words may mean whatever you want them to mean. They’re like Syme in Orwell’s 1984, who understands that if you replace the word bad with ungood, you destroy the ability of people to conceptualize bad as a concept on its own. Syme is certainly correct, but modern linguists seem to have taken him as a model for emulation, not an object lesson in how not to act. My interest in the subject came out of this conviction that my classmates and I were being ill-served by our instructors, who seemed more interested in advancing their private agendas than pursuing truth.

You recently told me you were outlining the third book in the series. Are your outlines detailed, or written in broad brush strokes?

The outline for my second novel, Howling Dark, ran about 60 pages long. I think it was more useful as a writing exercise than a reference material, because as I wrote the book I found I hardly looked at it, so the outline for my third novel only ran about 20 pages—just long enough to get the boilerplate for each chapter down, although there were certain parts that ran longer than others. Having written the outline, I find my thoughts are now ordered enough to get the book written with only the occasional glance back at the outline, which leaves me enough room to improvise where and if necessary, too!

 The Rod Serling quote in Chapter 10 caught me off guard. At what point in its creation did you decide to ground your story with real world, Earthbound references?

Probably in my senior year of high school. I’d been writing a  novel since I was about 8-years-old, and like the Ship of Theseus slowly changed out parts as I grew up. It began as an epic fantasy novel, heavily inspired by the cartoons I was watching at the time, and slowly changed. Around the time I got into college it properly became a science fiction novel, and the world moved from a secondary world to our far future. But I’ve always been a bibliophile and a classicist—as well as a science fiction/fantasy fan—and so it was natural to work in these references, ranging from the momentary Easter egg, like the Serling quote, to the overarching: The arc of the whole series is inspired by the Gothic migrations and Attila the Hun’s invasion of Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries. I’ve been utterly mystified by some reviewers on this score. One accused me of “stealing” a line from Doctor Who “like we wouldn’t notice!” Which was baffling because I had hoped people would notice the reference and be in on the joke with me. Literature is intertextual and referential by nature, after all! As for Serling, no one is surprised when someone references Shakespeare in these far future settings, but I thought Serling might surprise someone.

How did you find your publisher? Are you agented, did you submit to them directly, or did they find you through your relationship with Baen Books?

By brute force! I spent about 10 months finding an agent, racked up just over 50 rejections and nearly threw the book away. I had gotten down to the end of my list of reputable agents and decided to let the last couple queries I had play out while I started a new story. Fortunately, one of those agent was Shawna McCarthy, who took me on. I in fact tried very hard to minimize any advantage my then-internship with Baen Books might have given me. I didn’t show Baen my work for the whole first year I was with them for fear that I’d come across as unprofessional trying to worm my way into a deal I hadn’t truly earned. I didn’t want to be accused of nepotism, or of having gotten published by dint of some unearned privilege. This story is the culmination of my short life’s work (there’ll be other culminations later on, I’m sure), and I wanted to do it right, even if that meant rotting in the inboxes of half a hundred agents.

How did the story come to you?

I have lived with one version of this story or other for so long that I can’t really answer this question. Hadrian himself only fully formed when I was about 18, but the Cielcin and the threat they represent had menaced earlier versions of the story for far longer, when Hadrian was a different character with a different name. There was a time when this battle played out in a medieval kingdom, and it was the threat of a flood and not a destroyed sun that Hadrian’s precursors held over the world. Hadrian was called Caelan then, and the Cielcin were the Qorin. It was a high fantasy story in those days, not science fiction at all.

But really, the question of where this story comes from is the question of why I started writing, and the answer to that is this: my friends as I played make believe as children. They would be characters from shows like Dragon Ball Z  or Inuyasha, which were popular at the time. I was Batman. As we moved through grade school, our characters sort of individuated, and became their own thing. Soon there was nothing of Batman left at all, and my hero character grew and grew by layers and degrees. My friends left to play football, but this character—who began as Batman and became Hadrian, but who as I say had many names and incarnations—stayed with me, and I had to do something with him. Eventually, after throwing out a nearly-finished draft for the 80th time, I sat down and sort of sketched Devil’s Rest and the city of Meidua out in a scene or two, and the final Hadrian stepped out.

What else do you want readers to know about your book?

It’s a response to Frank Herbert’s Dune. I’ve taken hits from a few readers for being too much like Herbert’s book because of the byzantine galactic empire or the religious injunction against machines, but here’s the thing: Frank Herbert’s ethos for the Dune series can be summed up where Pardot Kynes says: “No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.” Frank Herbert is, at the end of the day, a skeptic about the virtues of heroism. Paul’s actions save the Fremen from the Harkonnens, but his actions result in the deaths of billions and the destruction of the Fremen way of life as water comes to Arrakis. He paves the way for his son’s 4500 year reign, and the series’ “Golden Path” is a plan to liberate mankind from hero worship and god-kings for the rest of time. I’m neither so libertarian nor so skeptical of heroes. Where Paul Atreides is a response to the naïve heroes of pulp fiction (your Buck Rogers and your Flash Gordons—and even Luke Skywalker if you want to be anachronistic, but accurate), a deconstruction, Hadrian is a response to Paul. Like Paul, Hadrian’s actions are terrible, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be the wrong thing to do (even if they tear him apart to do them). Modern people like to say that good and evil are matters of opinion—that they don’t really exist. That’s nonsense. Hadrian’s story is one of embracing the precepts of heroism that got playing straight by someone like Luke or Flash despite the horrific consequences of things like war and empire embodied in someone like Paul. And for me to do that, for me to enter into a dialogue with Herbert, the book has to share traits to invite comparison in the first place. If I’d written urban fantasy instead, no one would think to look to Dune for the other half (or third) of the conversation. So don’t be fooled by the sword fighting shields. Thematically, Empire of Silence and The Sun Eater generally are about as far removed from Dune as it gets.

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

I’ve not won any awards as yet, nor do I especially expect to. I am being considered for the Compton Crook Award for best new writer, and I suppose I’m eligible for the Campbell in the same light—as well as the Hugo, Nebula, and Dragon. I would be honored to be nominated, of course.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’ve worked for Baen Books now for the last 4 years (1 of those as an intern). I’m their Assistant Editor, but don’t let the title fool you: I mostly do digital marketing, social media, PR and the like. If you email Baen with a question or complaint, I’m usually the one fielding it. I do some production work, some jacket copy, backads, and so forth, but I want to stress I don’t do acquisitions, so if anyone catches me at a signing trying to sell their book to me, I’m sorry in advance. But it’s been an educational experience. Its helped me get a better understanding of how publishing works, which I hope has made me a better editor towards Baen’s authors and a better author towards DAW. It’s also been a great boon. I have to travel to conventions for my day job, which has allowed me to reach more shows and readers than I might have done on my own. I’m very grateful to Toni Weisskopf and to everyone at Baen. It’s been a great experience and I’m looking forward to doing it for a while yet!

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I don’t know that it would be very interesting. I live with two roommates—friends from grade school—and will for another year. It’s time to buy a house and finish growing up. I’m very nearly as young as authors come (I’m 25), but I already feel like there are things I should have done years ago. My teachers and professors all told my generation to rebel and question “the Man.” In their day, I guess that meant free love and psychedelics, but since a lot of my generation seems to be doing just that, I figure I’ll rebel by marrying the girl I love and starting a family. I don’t think that’s what my professors had in mind, but I don’t think they realize that they’re “the Man” now. The world’s upside down.

Hadrian draws. Hadrian fences. Do you as well? If so, please elaborate.

I used to draw, but not very well. My uncle is a professional artist/industrial designer, and I really looked up to him as a boy (and still do!), and tried to learn to draw like him. But alas, I was frustrated by failure and rather than push into visual design, I made the lateral move to writing and that’s worked out pretty well so far. As for fencing: yes! I was a pretty avid fencer from about Grade 5 to Grade 11, when I had to start working nights and weekends as a bus boy and waiter, and I’m afraid the fencing gym has since closed down, and Raleigh doesn’t have another one at the moment. I was mostly a sport fencer, but I’m competent in Italian-style rapier (no master, by any means), with a smattering of Polish saber and some longsword. My father used to make fun of my lightsaber fighting antics as a small child and said I should learn to do it right, so I did. As it happens, I now take boxing lessons from the same man who taught me to fence, Wes Caudill. Wes was where I got Hadrian’s preference for fighting barefoot (something I’ve always refused to do myself), and there’s a little of him in Sir Felix and especially in Pallino.

Thank you, Christopher, for taking the time to share. Before I provide an excerpt from Empire, followed by your social and book buy links, I’d like to end this interview with a Lightning Round, because of the insights the answers frequently provide. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: bit of a madman, I expect.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Music. I’m a big hard rock/metal fan. Bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Blind Guardian. My favorite musician of all time is the late Ronnie James Dio. I actually own—and this is the truth—Dio’s bed. I bought it from his estate sale.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d spend more time on physical fitness. Boxing twice a week is great, but I should do something every day.

My biggest peeve is: People attacking J.R.R. Tolkien’s reputation. There was an article going around about how another writer thought Tolkien was a racist because of the way he treated the orcs. That opinion is so ludicrous as to be almost illiterate, and anyone who holds it gets a black mark from me.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: Most satisfied is a weird way to put it, but I love my girlfriend, Jenna, very much. At the time of writing, I just took her to the airport after a week long visit, and I miss her terribly. I feel very lucky to have her in my life.

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

Science fiction is in a weird place right now. There’s a lot of infighting, writers attacking writers, editors attacking writers, writers attacking awards. You’ve got the awards attacking writers back and worst of all, you’ve got writers attacking fans. I can’t fathom why any creator would attack his or her fans. It’s insane to me. One thing I learned from the aforementioned Ronnie James Dio is that you don’t do that. You don’t spit at your fans. I’m extremely grateful to the few fans I have thus far, and I’d be honored if any of you reading this who haven’t checked out my work might take a look. Empire of Silence really is my love letter to our genre, and I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Thanks for having me, Raymond.

Excerpt:

Light.

The light of that murdered sun still burns me. I see it through my eyelids, blazing out of history from that bloody day, hinting at fires indescribable. It was like something holy, as if it were the light from God’s own heaven that burned the world and billions of lives with it. I carry that light always, seared into the back of my mind. I make no excuses, no apologies, no denials for what I have done. I know what I am.

The Scholiasts might start at the beginning, with our remote ancestors clawing their way from Old Earth’s system in their leaking vessels, those peregrines making their voyages to new and living worlds. But no. To do so would take more volumes and ink than my hosts have left at my disposal, and even I—who have had more time than any other—have not the time for that.

Should I chronicle the war then? Start with the alien Cielcin howling out of space, their ships like castles of ice? You can find the war stories, read the death counts. The statistics. No context can make you understand the cost. Cities razed, planets burned. The countless billions of our people ripped from their worlds to serve as meat and slaves for those Pale monsters. Families old as empires ended in light and fire. The tales are numberless, and none of them is enough. The Empire has its official version: one which ends in my execution, with Hadrian Marlowe hanged for all the worlds to see.

I do not doubt that this tome will do aught but collect dust in the archive where I have left it, one manuscript amongst billions at Colchis. Forgotten. Perhaps that is best. The worlds have had enough of tyrants, enough of murderers and genocides.

But you will read on, tempted by the thought of reading the work of so great a monster as the one made in my image. You will not let me be forgotten, because you want to know what it was like to stand aboard that impossible ship and rip the heart out of a star. You want to feel the heat of two civilizations burning and to meet the dragon, the devil that wears the name my father gave me.

So let us bypass history, sidestep the politics and the marching tramp of empires. Forget the beginnings of mankind in fire and in the ash of Old Earth, and so too ignore the Cielcin rising in air and from darkness. Those tales are elsewhere recorded in all the tongues of mankind and her subjects. Let us move to the only beginning that I’ve a right to: my own. Born the eldest son and heir to Alistair Marlowe, Archon of Meidua Prefecture, Butcher of Linon, and Lord of Devil’s Rest.

No place for a child, that palace of dark stone, but it was my home all the same, amid the  logothete-ministers and the armored peltasts of father’s service. But father never wanted a child. He wanted an heir, someone to inherit his slice of Empire and to carry on—not as a man—but as an extension of our family. He named me Hadrian, an ancient name, meaningless save for the memory of those men who carried it before me. An Emperor’s name, fit to rule and to be followed.

Dangerous things, names. Perilous. They begin our shaping, for better or ill, guiding us by the hand or by opposition. I have lived a long life, longer than the genetic therapies the great houses of the Peerage can contrive, and I have had many names. During the war, I was Hadrian Halfmortal and Hadrian the Deathless. After the war, I was the Sun Eater. To the poor people of Borosevo, I was a myrmidon called Had. To the Jaddians, I was Al Neroblis. To the Cielcin, Oimn Belu, and worse things besides. I have been many things: soldier and servant, captain and captive, sorcerer and scholar and little more than a slave.

Interested readers can find Christopher online here:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheRuocchio.

You can purchase his book here:

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Empire-Silence-Eater-Christopher-Ruocchio/dp/0756413001/

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, November 19 – Nathan Dodge Interview

This week’s featured author, Nathan Dodge, began writing as a teen, completing several novels, all, in his words, of questionable quality. During the next decades, he wrote spasmodically, in the meantime earning a BS in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University and MSEE and PHDEE degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. Although he continued to experiment with writing, mainly science fiction, Nathan served as an engineer and engineering manager in the industry for two decades before joining the University of Texas at Dallas faculty. He retired in 2014, although he still teaches half-time. He won several teaching awards at UTD.

Nathan began writing seriously in 2012 and has attended seven Superstars Writing Seminars. He has a story in the Purple Unicorn Anthology with daughter Sharon, a short story sale to Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, and recently sold the a book series of young adult science fiction stories to WordFire Press. He and Sharon will soon release an anthology of SF stories entitled, To the Stars, on Amazon.

In his spare time, of which there is surprisingly little, he loves weight lifting, hiking in Colorado, and solving crossword puzzles with wife Faye Lynn.

This is the premise of his WordFire Press release, Shadow Warriors, Book 1 of the Shadow Warriors series:

Cal’s father is drinking himself to death over the passing of his wife. He has lost his job and spent himself into complete bankruptcy. Their home is posted for foreclosure. Letty’s parents started out poor, but the business they founded has made them rich. Now, though, they fight all the time, and it’s driving Letty crazy. Tony has lived on the street for months with his prostitute mother, but he woke up this morning to find her dead, OD’ed on drugs. Ophelia is the daughter of a billionaire, but her father died mysteriously and now her stepmother is plotting to take all her inheritance. Sasha lives in a foster home with an abusive family that feeds him scraps and threatens that if he complains, they will send him to jail.

All five have terrible personal problems—and then one day, they wake up aboard a spaceship, kidnapped. They must train as the crew of a galactic fighter to defend the very civilization that has abducted them. The enemy is a predatory, unstoppable enemy that threatens the entire galaxy, including their home planet Earth. Either they successfully train to become a capable fighter crew, or they will die in battle. A gripping new adventure series in the spirit of Ender’s Game!

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Shadow Warriors is a Young Adult space opera, about five teens who are kidnapped and forced to train as a fighter crew in a galactic war. The underlying theme is family. The five protagonists have never had close  family relationships, or if they had, they didn’t last for long. Thrown together in training, they are first hostile and angry, but quickly learn the value of close relationships. The real theme of book one is that family is where you find it, not necessarily just the group of individuals that are your blood kin.

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

None other than that I wanted to write a “cracklin’-good” story. However, the characters, themselves very independent, took me where they wanted the story to go.

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

I think my characters spend time exploring relations and learning the meaning of family to a greater degree than in many stories. But in addition, I believe that the story is a fun and exciting description of the beginnings of an epic galactic battle that will span five books.

What was your path to publication?

I spent nearly four years learning my craft after I finally started writing in earnest, with only one novel submission, which was rejected. I submitted MANY short stories, with a remarkable rejection rate, selling only one story in the Purple Unicorn Anthology with my daughter, and one story (a contest win) to Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge.

I shopped Shadow Warriors only to Baen’s Toni Weisskopf, which she rejected. Not surprising, since Baen doesn’t really do much YASF. I then sent it to Dave Butler at WordFire, more requesting an evaluation of where I should send it than really making it a submission, but Dave recommended that WordFire sign me to a contract. Since that time, WFP has agreed to publish all five books.

What are you working on now?

My first book series was a dystopian SF trilogy, which I have never finished. I am writing the third book now as I have time. It is slow going, as I am re-editing my other four Shadow Warriors books and getting ready to submit to WFP. The second book is already in process, and I hope to send in the third before Christmas.

What else have you written?

Two volumes of the dystopian trilogy, another YASF novel called The Freedom Conspiracy about a teenager living on the moon, and a novel about the first intelligent android, called I, One. It is currently submitted to a publisher other than WFP.

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

Not a lot of writing honors. I have previously received two honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contests, and just this week I received a Silver Honorable Mention for a story in the latest contest.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I ALWAYS complete a thorough, chapter-by-chapter outline before I write a single word of a novel. That is due entirely to Dave Wolverton (Dave Farland), who trained me well!

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve become a far more “complete” writer over the last six years. I’m better at dialogue, character evolution, and scene description. I still struggle, and I still, from time to time, change character point-of-view in a chapter or scene, which is a real no-no. To quote the famous painter, Degas (modified for writing rather than painting), “Writing fiction is really easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”

Tell us about your writing community.

My writing community is the Superstars group, and I am friends with many of them. I would say without fear of contradiction that the writers in that group are all great folks, and I feel close to all of them. I have only collaborated with daughter Sharon, also a writer and Superstar. I think it’s hard, but frequently worth it.

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

Definitely start writing a couple decades earlier!!

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t waste a single day! Our time on Earth is limited, and we need to make the most of it!

What makes you laugh?

I must confess to enjoying ironic jokes of most types. I love the TV show “Big Bang Theory,” which almost always gets a few belly laughs. And sadly, I often laugh bitterly at the attitudes and prejudices of many of our public officials at all levels.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Have you got an hour? Robert Heinlein, first of all, closely followed by Kevin J. Anderson, Dave Farland, Brandon Sanderson, J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan. So you see, I like fantasy as well as SF, but I usually write SF. I also love Nora Roberts’ Eve Dallas murder mysteries written under the name of J. D. Robb—which are also really a mild science fiction.

Before I present our visitors with a Shadow Warriorsexcerpt, followed by your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: Good guy basically, but can be grouchy if irritated, and not very tolerant of stupidity.

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee in the morning! Or almost any time of day!

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d take a few more chances, and start serious investing a bit sooner.

My biggest peeve is: Traffic in general. And also, how many BAD drivers are out there!

The person or thing I’m most satisfied with is:

Person: My wife, and the way she has encouraged me to be a fiction writer. Even though she doesn’t like fiction!

Thing: My exercise routine, which has served me well for over 30 years.

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

My favorite thought is a saying which I think of as applying to us writers, but can equally be for anyone who wants to lead a satisfied and useful life. It has credited been to sayings as far back as Confucius, although the earliest modern attribution is to something published in the “Princeton Alumni Weekly” in 1982 which quoted a Professor of Philosophy named Arthur Szathmary, who himself attributed the words to an unnamed “old-timer” who was not identified. That is: Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. I think I’ve been able consistently do that. I loved being a computer systems engineer and manager, and I fell in love with teaching at UTD. I probably love writing even more. I can truly say that I’ve NEVER had to “work.”

Excerpt:

 As they got their bearings, Tony sang out, “Formation sighted, sir. They are about to enter the system where we blasted the four ships last week.” He scratched his head. “They are very widely dispersed. It’s an unusual spread, approaching the planet. It stretches back in a cone-shaped formation nearly a thousand kilometers long.”

“Makes them harder to engage,” Cal observed. “They’re also probably looking for their four scouts. Opi?”

She raised her head from the portable. “We’re headed into an ambush, sir. They used this exact formation ten years ago and caught two dozen Warrior ships off-guard. Only one survived. We’re about to be trapped like foxes by the hounds.”

Cal got the point. They were preparing to attack; he had to move fast. He called out, “Red Seventeen to unit leader.”

A moment later, Valin’s voice snapped through their speakers, “Seventeen, Lead here.”

“Sir,” Cal said, “Our planner’s spotted a potential ambush.”

They could hear the sneer in Valin’s reply. “Seventeen, this is real war. Follow my lead, that’s an order.”

Cal almost screamed in frustration. “Lead, requesting permission to leap with engines hot.”

It took precious seconds to generate sufficient leap power. Going in “hot” would mean keeping leap power at maximum.

“Negative, Seventeen,” Valin said. “Form up for attack. Lead out.” The comms snapped off.

Cal swore under his breath. “Get Raj.”

In a few seconds Raj came on line. “Red Seventeen, Green Lead here.”

“Sir,” Cal almost shouted, “Opi’s spotted a trap. Heads up!”

A long silence followed. “Copy, Seventeen.”

“Go in engines hot, sir!” Cal persisted. “Warn your ships!”

Another long pause left Cal sweating. Then Raj said, “Roger that, Seventeen. Green Lead out.”

Cal blew out a sharp breath. “Everybody hold your breath.”

“I hope we’re wrong,” Opi muttered, “but I don’t think so.”

They waited in silence, Cal shifting uncomfortably in the pilot’s seat as though this were their first training exercise.

Shortly, Valin transmitted the signal to advance. Cal triggered Tony’s plotted leap, and a stretch of deep space lay before them. Silver dots scattered across their long-range displays.

They would micro-leap again to begin the attack.

Surveying their targets, the trailing section of the scout column, Cal identified about twenty ships. He and Red Eleven were closest, with the rest of the Red ships spread along the rear of the column.

As the Shadow Warrior ships appeared, Cal counted down, marking their attack points and exchanging target data with his fellow pilots. In seconds, Valin’s voice came through their comms, “On my mark. Three, two, one, leap.”

Cal initiated.

Directly ahead lay a Horde ship, with two more to port a few kilometers farther away.

Cal said, “Fire at will.”

Sasha opened up, and the Gatling cannon rumbled.

Under cover of its racket, Tony said softly, “Jump engines still hot, sir.”

The ship ahead disintegrated as they swept past. The other two moved directly ahead as Cal fired thrusters. He could see their blast cannons sparkling to life as Sasha fired again.

One ship exploded as the other fired at them, its weapons a combination of particle beam and laser blast, sparkling red as it crossed the gap to their ship. Their shields glowed red, absorbing the blast, and Sasha continued to fire. Sasha felt no contact from the beam, but the lights dimmed momentarily as the shield generator sucked power to absorb the energy of the blast.

Red Seventeen’s projectiles penetrated the skin of the enemy vessel, and the energy beam lit it up. Sasha had already targeted several other more distant ships.

Concentrating on tactical, Letty gasped. “Cal, ships coming in from six directions! Lot and lots of ships, maybe hundreds! Must have been hidden behind the planet.”

Watching the long-range display, Tony yelled, “Holy crap! She’s right, sir. Coming in from all over the place.”

Cal toggled his com line. “Red Unit, Red Seventeen! It’s an ambush! We’re in a trap!”

Valin’s angry voice came back. “What trap? What—?” He strangled into sudden silence.

Cal could identify at least twenty ships, the new type, small, fast, and sleek, zeroing in on his own.

“Bringing her about!” he warned the others, and leaned on the directional controls. “Sasha, you’ve got a straight shot.”

Thrusters flared and roared, and the ship swung toward the attackers. Sasha opened up, spraying bullets ahead as the ships came in. This time, Sasha felt buffeting from all the energy blasts as multiple ships began firing.

“Captain, we can’t take this beating long!” Sasha yelled. “Our shields are not going to last at this rate.”

Author Website:       https://www.nathanbdodge.com/

Amazon:                    https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Warriors-Nathan-B-Dodge-ebook/dp/B07J2SRYZ2/

Baen Books:              https://www.baen.com/wf201810-october-2018-wordfire-press-books.html

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 22 – Larry Allen Interview

Starting with this post, I am resuming my practice of interspersing interviews of promising self-published authors between the traditionally published ones. At the suggestion of publicist Beverly Bambury, I begin by introducing Larry Allen.

When not working on his latest science fiction novel or short story, Larry Allen consults for the electronic engineering and embedded computing industries. He spends his recreational time flying light airplanes, long-distance bicycling, traveling, and of course voraciously reading. On rare occasions he has been observed taking the Polar Bear Plunge. He prefers cats to dogs, and lives with his wife on Cape Cod.

We’re focusing today on his novel, A Forgotten Legacy. This is how Larry describes it:

After eleven months of ship’s time, the Endeavor finally made orbit around its destination world. One of the most complex machines ever built, it had performed its mission flawlessly until a shipboard disaster wiped out the entire crew, save for one man. Mission specialist David Frey is alive and in good health, but his narrow specialty leaves him woefully unprepared for what he faces marooned over an unknown world and light-years from home.

Two years ago, Greg Parker was atop the world: a beautiful home, a loving wife, a senior position in a successful business, and a direct line to the man at the top. But that was two years ago. Now he drives a tired, rusty sedan to a job in a call center, and comes home to a shabby apartment and a note saying Holly is working late… again. But Greg is in for a surprise, one that will change is life in a way he can’t begin to imagine.

For Christopher Bishop, the world is not enough. The high-tech empire he founded a generation ago dominates global commerce, the company a household name everywhere. And yet, something eludes him, a secret he’s been searching for the last thirty years.

A Forgotten Legacy is the tale of how their lives converge, and how Greg Parker responds when he finds the opportunity of a lifetime within his grasp.

Written by an engineer and pilot, A Forgotten Legacy will be a compelling read for science fiction fans, as well as those who just want to enjoy an entertaining, suspenseful adventure.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

A Forgotten Legacy was intended to be an adventure beginning in the most improbable place; the story of an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances. My intent in writing it was give my readers a fun romp, not to teach a deep lesson or make a point, except perhaps that when life hands you an opportunity, make the most of it.

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

I don’t know about a story, but definitely a lesson: Be bold. Take chances. You’re more powerful than you imagine yourself to be.

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

If you asked that question forty years ago, the answer would have been “it isn’t.” But today, it may almost seem vintage; in the style of the classic science fiction masters. There are so many authors out there today teaching important lessons and making important points, that I think there’s room for just having fun, visiting places that you can’t ordinarily go, and seeing ordinary people stretch to something new.

What was your path to publication?

I opted for independent publication, because my writing isn’t mainstream. Traditional publishers need to cater to a common denominator to make their bottom line. I have no such restriction. Independent publishing provides me with a degree of freedom difficult to achieve in the commercial world. I’d much rather reach for a small, interested and interesting audience than a large, generic one.

 What are you working on now?

Another novel: The Sixth World. Without giving away too much, it’s a story set on a future Utopian earth, in which the protagonist discovers a deeply buried fatal flaw in that society; one that makes its eventual collapse inevitable. In addition to making some observations about our own world that I hope my readers will find thought-provoking, I’ll also be taking them to some pretty interesting new places. It’s out with beta readers now, and I hope it will be released early next year.

 What is your writing routine?

Early morning. I can’t recommend this for everyone, but my muse definitely speaks the loudest just after sunrise. It’s also the time least susceptible to interruptions and distractions. I try to do my work on a laptop NOT connected to the internet, because that can be one of the biggest distractions—I step away from my work to research a minute detail, and half an hour later I’m watching a YouTube video on how to milk a giraffe. Better to avoid the temptation altogether—factual errors can be fixed during editing.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Not an outline so much as a synopsis—something that might evolve into a blurb, or back cover material. But it’s not a strait jacket—very often a story will veer off in a direction all its own. And that’s fine.

Why do you write?

Well, I’d like to claim it’s to entertain my readers, or that I’ve got an important message to deliver. But I think my primal motivation is different. I was once diagnosed by a psychologist as someone who needed an audience. Well, if you’ve got a somewhat private personality and you need an audience, your only real choices are to either commit a heinous crime or write. I chose the latter. And I hope that when I do so, I’m able to entertain my readers and perhaps deliver a message of some importance as well.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Change tactics. There’s a saying that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Well, it’s also the definition of perseverance. That said, a logjam, writer’s block, whatever you want to call it, can be overcome by shifting tactics. If you’ve been pantsing, try outlining for a while. Or vice-versa. Take a good look at your characters, and work on their biographies and background for a while. If they’re well-enough defined, they’ll almost write the manuscript for you. I’ve also made good use of the Oblique Strategies card deck. This isn’t a plug; there are versions of the deck that are in the public domain. It was created by a musician and an artist, but I’ve found it to be very effective in catalyzing the written word as well.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

In real life, I’m an electrical engineering consultant, specializing in embedded systems—the microcomputers that control everything from telephones to refrigerators to arcade games to missile simulators. You’ll see some of my career experience in A Forgotten Legacy, and hopefully I’ve gotten all the technical details right.

Describe a typical day.

There is no typical day, so I’ll describe an ideal day: Up at roughly six AM. Quick bike ride to the beach (assuming it’s summer), an equally quick swim, and then back home for a shower, some breakfast, and picking up where I left off on my latest writing project. Two to three hours there, and then to the relatively mundane work of satisfying my consulting clients. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to isolate and fix the bug I’ve been chasing for the last several days. If I’m extremely lucky, it won’t be a bug that I created. Break for a late lunch with my loving bride, and then back to consulting work. If it’s Monday, I’m off to meet with my writers group, where they’ll be critiquing my science fiction and I’ll be critiquing their YA and cozy mysteries. Evenings spent reading, fiddling with the computer, or burning my fingers with the soldering iron while working on one project or another. Little or no television. Life’s too short for it.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

Well, striking a balance between a wide variety of interests and managing a successful marriage can be a challenge. I’m fortunate to have a spouse with a good sense of humor, an affection for weirdness, and zero willingness to suffer in silence—if I screw up she’ll let me know. That can be uncomfortable, but it also keeps things from ever getting too far off track.

Thanks, Larry, for sharing your thoughts on yourself and your work. Before I present A Forgotten Legacy’s excerpt, followed by your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a: Man of honor. Old fashioned, maybe, but without it, what else matters?

The one thing I cannot do without is: My memories. They’re the sum of what I am.

The one thing I would change about my life: Extend it. I can’t die; I’ve got stuff to do.

My biggest peeve is: Lack of self-confidence. In others, and especially in myself.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: I think I exist in a state of continuous marginal dissatisfaction.

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

The thought is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s not mine, but I’ll share it anyway. “Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.” Of course, knowing what you’re doing helps, too, but you can learn along the way. Drop everything and start doing it now.

 

From Chapter 4 of A Forgotten Legacy

It wasn’t that much longer before the shuttle entered the atmosphere, deployed its descent shroud, and began to decelerate. Not long after, it was in a steep aerodynamic glide, descending toward a billowing cloud deck.

“This must be some of the weather the science team was talking about,” Dave mused. “They said the large areas of water would result in much more robust cloud formation. Look at the size of…”

They entered the first cloud, and it was as though a giant hand had slammed against the bottom of the shuttle. With nothing but white visible through the window, the effect was even more unnerving. Ellen let out a brief shriek, as Dave uttered a subdued “wow…” and they both cinched up their harnesses. The shuttle pitched to the left and then dropped so rapidly that their bodies strained against the belts. The rate of descent continued to increase, wing surfaces twitching as the autocontrol system struggled to keep the shuttle upright and descending at a survivable speed.

Another bang, accompanied by a brutal shove against the seats, but this time accompanied by a chime and a blinking indicator ‘Autocontrol limits reached – disengaging’. Dave almost broke his finger stabbing the Engage button as the battering continued. At once, the shuttle was pounded by… something—what looked like a blast of gravel-sized ice pellets. There was an enormous, overpowering flash of light, accompanied by a lurch to the left. The left wing dipped and the shuttle flipped completely over, and then somehow righted itself. The ice-pelting continued, now with larger chunks. A crack appeared in the right window. The ship continued to descend, both its passengers holding onto whatever they could. Three of the status indicators on the panel turned from green to red, but the shuttle managed to hold together.

And then the vibration ended, even as the shuttle began being pounded by torrential rain. Ellen stared out the window in front of her, a look of resignation on her face. But her thoughts were interrupted by a rapid beeping, accompanied by a voice message: “Alert—prepare to engage manual control.” The rhythmic thrumming of the engines was audible, but just barely, over the sound of the rain.

Dave peered out his window, struggling to see anything through the downpour. “Can’t see a damn thing.” The shuttle continued to descend, even as the mechanized voice prompted “Alert—manual control, thirty seconds.”

At that instant, the shuttle broke out of the clouds into a dark, rainy sky with nothing but forest below.

Dave wiped a bead of sweat running into his right eye and surveyed the warning indicators on the instrument panel. The shuttle continued to buck and lurch in the remaining turbulence of the storm, but nothing on the screens suggested imminent disaster.

“Okay, we’ve lost backup communications, ground proximity radar, and primary cooling. But the engines are healthy, and we’re holding pressure. We haven’t lost anything mission-critical; we’re still on plan. Go ahead and start flying the search pattern while I get the computer loaded for the return trip. If we don’t hear anything, I want to be ready to head back up as quickly as possible.” He released his grasp on the controls, as Ellen began flying from her side, and began rubbing his hands together to relieve the numbness. He winced, realizing his grip had been nearly enough to deform the metal.

Ellen turned into the first leg of the search pattern as she eased up on the throttles, aligning their position with the route on the display.

Just as she did, the shuttle began dropping like a stone. Even in the safety harness, Dave’s head brushed against the ceiling. Ellen slammed the throttles forward; in an instant, they heard the engines spinning up, fighting the downdraft. The nose tipped up, and just as the shuttle began climbing, there was a wham as it lurched to the right while beginning the climb. Instinctively, both of them gazed out the side window to see a three-inch tree branch protruding through the wing surface.

“Something’s not right,” Ellen shouted, tugging on the controls. “I think that branch jammed one of the linkages. I’m going to try to put it down in that clearing over there,” she added, gesturing to a gap in the trees ahead.

As it loomed into their field of view, Dave’s last thought before the impact was that the clearing really didn’t look big enough.

Visitors can follow Larry here:

 Website:        http://www.larryallenonline.com

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/people/Larry-Allen/100010705326550

To purchase A Forgotten Legacy, click here:

 Amazon:       https://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Legacy-Larry-Allen/dp/194126803X

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 8 – Claudia Gray Interview

This week’s guest is New York Times best-selling author Claudia Gray, an American writer of paranormal romance and young adult fiction, best known for the Evernight series and her Star Wars novels, Star Wars: Lost StarsStar Wars: Bloodline and Leia, Princess of Alderaan. She is not the least bit shy about telling you this name is a pseudonym. In fact, this is the first declaration on both her website and Goodreads author page where she states at the outset her real name is Amy Vincent. When asked about her pseudonym and her life, she says, “I would like to say that I chose another name so that no one would ever learn the links between my shadowy, dramatic past and the explosive secrets revealed through my characters. This would be a lie. In truth, I took a pseudonym simply because I thought it would be fun to choose my own name. (And it is.) So far, in life, I’ve been a disc jockey, a lawyer, a journalist and an extremely bad waitress, just to name a few. I especially like to spend time traveling, hiking, reading and listening to music. More than anything else, I enjoy writing. I write novels full-time, absolutely love it, and hope to be able to do this forever. My home is in New Orleans, is more than 100 years old, and is painted purple. In my free time I read, travel, hike, cook and listen to music.”

We begin our exchange with a discussion of the initial volumes of the Defy the Stars series: Defy the Stars and Defy the Worlds. Here is a brief description of Defy the Worlds’ premise. (Please note that the third volume of this series, Defy the Fates, is in the final stages of the publishing process.)

Hunted and desperate.

Abel only has one mission left that matters: save the life of Noemi Vidal. To do that, he not only has to escape the Genesis authorities, he also must face the one person in the galaxy who still has the means to destroy him. Burton Mansfield’s consciousness lives on, desperate for a home, and Abel’s own body is his last bargaining chip.
Alone in the universe.
Brought back from the brink of death, Noemi Vidal finds Abel has not only saved her life, but he’s made her into something else, something more. Not quite mech, yet not quite human any longer, Noemi must find her place in a universe where she is utterly unique, all while trying to create a world where anyone—even a mech—can be free.
The final battle between Earth and the colony planets is here, and there’s no lengths to which Earth won’t go to preserve its domination over all humanity. But together, the universe’s most advanced mech and its first human-mech hybrid might have the power to change the galaxy for good.

The moment in Defy the Stars, when Abel demonstrated sensitivity to Noemi’s dilemma about how to deal with Esther, caught me off guard—one sign of a superior author. Do you remember how the solution came to you?

In all honesty, I don’t remember when Abel’s solution for Esther’s “burial” came to me. That may be one of those things that seems to spring from the character himself. Abel had always had a deeper emotional life and sensitivity, but that becomes so much stronger as soon as he meets Noemi—for many different reasons. And it was important for Noemi to start thinking of Abel as more than a machine very early in the story. The readers know it before she ever encounters him; if she didn’t start to catch on soon, it would be easy to hold her in contempt. Abel’s suggestion here gives her an immediate reason to do that.

Both Defy the Stars and Defy the Worlds are filled with numerous religious references—Zoroastrianism and Catholicism, for example. How much time have you spent studying the religions you deal with?

Probably not as much as I should? Well, Catholicism is the faith I was raised in, so that one at least I have covered. As for the others, I wanted to make it clear that these are the religions we know…and yet not entirely. Centuries have passed between our time and Defy The Stars, and every religion changes over time. Plus, these religions are almost all represented on Genesis, an entirely different planet that has been developing its own culture for at least the past hundred years. So there probably are some differences between our reality and what’s in the Defy The Stars series—but that’s by design.

When you set out to write this series, did you do so with a conscious attempt to involve your young adult readers in both philosophical and spiritual matters?

No, that wasn’t my intention. I’m a big believer in story and characters coming first. Any “message” should emerge organically from the writing process. If I’d sat down to teach young readers something about religion or philosophy, the result probably would’ve been a seriously dull book.

Both plots are concerned with the natural of humanity: at what point might a bio/machine hybrid’s sentience make it human and how might its humanity evolve? Was this question something that arose during the course of your writing, or was it what drove you to write?

Abel’s nature was the origin of the story, really. Or, more specifically, it was what I wanted to see in the movie Prometheus, and didn’t, and then decided—well, if Ridley Scott doesn’t want to tell that story, I do! I was intrigued by the idea of a being who does have programming and inner laws to obey, but who has true personhood as well. How much free will does this individual have? Can they be held responsible for their actions? Getting a robot into this situation, and pairing him with someone who had every reason to doubt him, gave me a central conflict to build the story from.

Your earliest successes with the Evernight and Spellcaster series all involved the paranormal. Then, when you launched the Firebird series with A Thousand Pieces of You, you took your readers in a different direction, one that approached science fiction, albeit not the hard sci-fi of your Star Wars novels. Why did you choose to move away from a genre that was garnering certain success for something slightly chancier?

I wish I could tell you I had some well-developed theory as to why I should shift from paranormal fantasy to scifi. Really, it comes down to the fact that I had a scifi idea. Alternate universes—that story grabbed me from the get-go. I would’ve followed wherever it led. But since I—like most fangirl types—love scifi and fantasy and always have, it didn’t feel like that much of a leap.

The way your plots abruptly shift makes me wonder: are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a plotter. If I don’t know where I’m going, I can’t get myself excited about taking the trip.

How were you chosen to write Leia, Princess of Alderaan?

Well, I’d written the first new canon novel about Princess Leia, Bloodline, which dealt with the character at a later period in her life. People were happy with it, so that led them to ask me to do LPOA. It’s been a real privilege to get to spend that much time telling Leia’s story.

Who informed you?

I think Jennifer Heddle emailed me? Or maybe it was Michael Siglain… but I think it was Jen. If you’re talking about finding out I’d get to write my first SW novel, that definitely came from Michael Siglain via email. My agent called me while I was pumping gas, and said, “Did you see this email?” I said, “What email?” She said, “The one that says STAR WARS.” My afternoon was made!

I can imagine. Can you tell us something of the process, from first notification to the completed book?

The word comes that I get to write a book! I learn what their prompt is for it—the hook, the central concept of the story they need told. From there, I develop the story. The plot really is very much mine to invent, which gives me a lot of freedom. I come up with an outline, which I then submit to my editor and publisher. They come back with thoughts and suggestions, both just in terms of crafting the narrative and in making sure that my story is going to fit into the developing canon. Once the outline is approved, I can begin writing.

I notice you’re planning to attend the Humbook Fest in Prague, Czech Republic. Are you excited about it?

Yes! As I write this, it’s about one week before I’ll leave for Prague. I’ve never been to the Czech Republic before, so I’m thrilled to have the chance to go. This book festival seems to be a wonderfully run event that will give me a chance to meet readers I’d never have been able to talk with otherwise.

Since I suspect that you don’t speak very much Czech, I am compelled to inquire if you will be a panelist.

…You know, I’m not sure? They haven’t said I’ll be on a panel, but they haven’t said I won’t. Forgive my not being sure, but I actually just got home from a long trip (pure vacation) and have only just begun pulling myself together to focus on the events ahead. I imagine there will be some kind of setup where I get to talk with readers, even if it’s just before a signing.

In which countries are your books in print?

I’ve never put together a list. Maybe I should! I know they’re in France, Germany, Russia, England, China, Japan, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Columbia, Poland—you know, I should stop listing, because then it will seem like I’m leaving someone out! It’s amazing to me how broad a reach the books have (especially Star Wars).

How do you spend your time when you’re not either writing or attending literary conventions?

When I’m not writing or attending literary conventions? I love movies, I read a lot, I’m learning to cook, I really enjoy board games, and I do a fair bit of traveling. Though right now it feels like maybe too much traveling!

I’d like to that you, Claudia, for sharing your thoughts with us. Before I close, I’d like to try a Lightning Round because of the unexpected insights it sometimes provides. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: …a very silly person, sometimes.

The one thing I cannot do without is: my dog, Pierre.

The one thing I would change about my life is: I’d be more organized and disciplined.

My biggest peeve is: the way restaurants in the US put tons of cheese on EVERYTHING.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: my dog. Again. He’s just the best.

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

There’s no such thing as learning how to write books. You have to learn how to write each individual book as it comes along.

Boy! Do I agree with that! The following is an excerpt from Defy the Worlds, after which I provide social and book buy links for those who’d like to learn more about Claudia and purchase her work.

Chapter One

Noemi Vidal walks through the two long lines of starfighters in the hangar, helmet under one arm, head held high. She doesn’t wave to her friends, like she always used to—until six months ago.

Back then, somebody would’ve waved back.

Chin up, shoulders straight, she tells herself, taking what comfort she can in the familiar smells of grease and ozone, the hiss of repair torches and the thump of boots on tarmac. If you want them to see you as a fellow soldier again, you act like one. You don’t back down from mech fire, so you won’t back down from this.

But Earth’s warrior mechs only aim at the body. Noemi has shields for that. The distance between her and her fellow squadron members aims at her heart, for which no protection has ever been invented.

“Vidal!” That’s Captain Baz, striding across the hangar with a dataread in her hand. She’s wearing her uniform, a dark-patterned hijab, and the first smile Noemi’s seen all day. “We’re putting you on close-range patrol today.”

“Yes, ma’am. Captain, if I could—”

Baz stops and comes nearer. “Yes, lieutenant?”

“I wanted to ask—” Noemi takes a deep breath. “You haven’t put me on Gate patrol in months. I’d really like to take on a shift sometime soon.”

“Gate patrol’s the most dangerous gig there is.” Baz says it matter-of-factly as she scans through her dataread. Everyone on Genesis knows that the Gate ties them to Earth and the other colony worlds on the Loop, holding one point of a wormhole in place and making instantaneous cross-galactic travel possible. It also makes possible the war that’s devastating their world.  “Most pilots would be glad to stick a little closer to home.”

“I’m willing to share the danger.” More than willing—by now, Noemi’s very nearly desperate. Defending Genesis is what gives her life meaning. She hasn’t been allowed to truly defend her world for months, not since her return.

It takes Baz a few long seconds to answer. “Listen. That day’s going to come, all right? We just have to give it time.”

The captain is on Noemi’s side, which helps a little. That doesn’t mean Captain Baz has it right. In a lower voice, Noemi says, “They won’t trust me again until I’m pulling a full load.”

Baz weighs that. “Maybe so.” After another second’s contemplation, she nods. “We’ll try it.” Her voice rises to a shout. “Ganaraj, O’Farrell, Vidal’s with you today! Let’s get up there, people—gamma shift’s ready to come home.”

The other two pilots stare at her from across the room. Noemi simply heads straight for her starfighter.

She’s going to earn their acceptance the only way she can: one flight at a time.

Wait and see, she tells herself. Soon they’ll like you just as much as they did before.

She figures it shouldn’t be hard. They never liked her that much.

You can follow Claudia Gray at the following:

Website:         http://www.claudiagray.com

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

Twitter:          @claudiagray

Tumblr:         http://claudiagray.tumblr.com/

Pintrest:         https://www.pinterest.com/realclaudiagray/

You can purchase her books here:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Claudia-Gray/e/B001JRZGQ6/

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, May21 – Interview With Charles Gannon

Dr. Charles E. Gannon’s award-winning Caine Riordan/Terran Republic hard SF novels have all been national best-sellers, and include 3 finalists for the Nebula, 2 for the Dragon Award, and a Compton Crook winner. The fifth, Marque of Caine, is forthcoming in January 2019. His epic fantasy series, The Broken World, is forthcoming from Baen Books. He collaborates with Eric Flint in the NYT and WSJ best-selling Ring of Fire  series, and has worked in the Starfire, Honorverse, Man-Kzin, and War World universes. His other novels and short fiction straddle the divide between hard SF and technothrillers and have appeared through various imprints and in various magazines. Much of this work includes collaborations in the Starfire, Honorverse, Man-Kzin, and War World universes. He also worked extensively in game design and writing, as well as being a scriptwriter and producer in New York City, where his clients included the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and PBS.  Other credits include many short fiction publications, game design/writing, and scriptwriter/producer in New York City.

A Distinguished Professor of English and Fulbright Senior Specialist, his book, Rumors of War and Infernal Machines, won the 2006 American Library Association Choice Award for Outstanding Book. He is a recipient of five Fulbright Fellowships and Travel Grants and has been a subject matter expert both for national media venues such as NPR and the Discovery Channel, as well as for various intelligence and defense agencies, including the Pentagon, Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy (CNO/SSG and ONR), NATO, DARPA, NRO, DHS, NASA, and several other organizations with which he signed NDAs.

Charles, I’ll start out by asking you about the wizard behind the curtain. Caine’s Mutiny is exceedingly complex. What tools do you use to keep track of the characters, the various species’ techno-sociological idiosyncrasies, and the story’s multiple plot lines?

Well, I certainly depend upon spreadsheets. Without them, I could not keep track of the most complex, but easily missed, challenge of writing in the Caine Riordan series: the timeline. Even leaving out the protagonist, if you consider the number of major characters engaging in activities at great remove from each other, and not at the same moment in time, there are certainly a lot of moving pieces to keep track of. Making sure that they are not in two places at once, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, does require a little bit of calendar work.

I’m fortunate enough to have fans and readers who come forward to help with various other challenges. My friend and fellow 1632 author Rick Boatwright massaged a whole bunch of my notes into something like an integrated writer’s reference for the Consolidated Terran Republic. Another astounding project was undertaken by Mark Gutis, who created an alphabetical compendium of the entire series and the unusual places people and objects populate it.

But a lot of the tracking involves old-fashioned memory, particularly when it comes to how various plots and motivations evolve over the course of the series.

As I read, I found myself increasingly fascinated by the behavior of the exosapient, Hkh’Rkh. For example, one character, Yaargraukh, felt “his eyes retract behind their protective folds, then under their bony ridges,” to represent misgivings over something he had been told, and later “clacked one set of opposable digits, releasing his adjutant from the submissive posture”. Are these entirely products of your imagination, or did you draw upon real world human or animal behavioral parallels?

The exosapients of the Caine Riordan books are products of observationally informed imagination. I’ll unpack that: while I don’t usually take something directly from terrestrial examples, I let the constants of animal and human behavior inform various  exosapient actions and traits. For example, consider the way creatures signal threat/aggression, or the expression of amusement, and you might find some likely parallels. Possibly even inevitabilities. Some examples:

In the case of threat and aggression, it is difficult to imagine a creature which would do so by curling up into an unnoticeable ball. That is not an arbitrary behavior. It transcends speciate differences because it is the creature’s practical attempt to remain undetected by physically limiting visual signature. Attempting to appear smaller, less noticeable, and vulnerable is arguably one of the most certain and clear ways to signal a desire to avoid rather than engage in conflict. Conversely, therefore, aggression displays in almost every terrestrial species involve one or more of the following features: an attempt to make oneself seem larger, loud noise, violent movements, posture that is clearly preparatory to a strike, and the baring of teeth.

The latter is a particularly rich source of potential confusion, since logically therefore, a human smile would appear to be a threat display. Many other species presume that is exactly what it is until it is explained to be almost the opposite: a reflex that indicates amusement.

The expression of amusement in another species is also something I derive from a basic observational constant: that the experience of amusement usually depends upon surprise. Specifically, amusement arises when a being says or does something that is not expected, or is in some way contrary to logically productive activity. The typical human response to this is what we call laughter. Fundamentally, it is a spasmodic muscular reflex. To put it another way, laughter may follow from a very complex series of revelations, reversals, and surprises which are all cognitive, but the signifying reaction—laughter—is involuntary: a muscular reaction to the stimulus we call amusement.

How does this impact my creation of amusement reactions in other species? It tells me that if an exosapient is capable of the same kind of amusement that a human is, surprise is once again integral and inherent to that experience. Consequently, the exosapient’s expression of amusement will also be involuntary, not voluntary, and therefore will reflect an uncontrolled and/or spasmodic property in its physical expression of amusement.

The Arat Kur also display a curious set of relational posturing and dominant/subservient interchanges between an officer and its inferiors. Would you care to elaborate on how you developed their hierarchical thinking and attendant behavior? It appears you have more than a little earthside anthropological education to aid in your depiction of this species.

Most of my developmental processes are informed by an interdisciplinary approach (anthropology is one of many). In the case of the Arat Kur, their hierarchy and social patterns actually evolve out of their dawn of intelligence origins. Starting out as subterranean, they had huge resource limitations when it came to protein. Consequently, they became trappers. That started as an accident, resulting from opportunistic finds of dead animals that had fallen into pits. That led the Arat Kur to take the natural step of seeing if there wasn’t some way to encourage those accidents to become a little more frequent.

The logical impact on their population was profound growth. The more successful they became at wielding their new skills and tools, the more profound that population growth became. In short order, they had completely obliterated whatever modest subterranean competition they had. That left their potential growth unchecked.

This is a moment when zoology and animal behavior plays at least as large a role as anthropology. Any social creature with an independent consciousness cannot afford to have unchecked population growth. The consequences are well known to us and reprise the grim roles assigned to the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. However, the Arat Kur also realized that their profound population growth also provided them with innumerable opportunities to expand their resource base and dominate their environment.

So how does one avoid the disastrous consequences of population growth while retaining the benefits of it?

The answer is the same one we observe in a considerable number of human societies: preprogrammed and even rigid hierarchical organization. The larger the society becomes, the more control it requires in order to keep it from melting down in response to internal stresses, or crumbling under its own incorrectly balanced weight. That is the origin of the seeming rigidity of the Arat Kur, who are physically and temperamentally far more suited to a highly regimented social order than human beings are. As evinced in the novel, Trial by Fire, they have little tendency towards internecine strife. What has not yet been shown is how their means of reproduction are completely detached from territorial or property control. As such, they find communal coexistence, even in a clearly defined and somewhat rigid hierarchy, far more amenable than humans ever could. Indeed, in the same way that the Arat Kur are comforted by enclosed rather than open spaces, they take comfort and pride in the identity that comes from the role and caste that define them as individuals.

How did you become involved with SIGMA and what can you tell us about the advisory role you play with intelligence and defense agencies?

Oddly, I became involved with Sigma before Sigma even existed per se. When I was conducting research for my dissertation on speculative fiction, I contacted Jerry Pournelle to ask some questions about his work with the Citizens Advisory Council and their/his book Mutual Assured Survival. That became the start of our friendship. That was in the mid-90s.

About 12 years later, I had reason to revisit the entire topic of the influence and  exchange that existed between writers of hard military science fiction and defense agencies and contractors. By this time, Sigma existed, largely having grown up out of a number of core participants from the CAC. My friend and fellow science fiction author Bud Sparhawk was on Sigma, so I asked him if he could contact Sigma’s organizer and chief cat-herder, Arlan Andrews, with the view to my interviewing some of the members. A few weeks passed. I figured that I was going to be turned down, but in fact, when the reply finally came back, it was to invite me to become a member of Sigma myself. So you might say, I became the topic of my own research.

Since then, both under the aegis of Sigma or independently, I have been a consultant or workshop participant at most of the major three- and four-letter defense and intel agencies inside or just outside the DC beltway. At this point, the only armed service I have not worked with the Coast Guard.

My role is mostly to provide the kind of blue sky and braintrust speculation that such organizations are really not equipped to initiate internally. These days, it’s rare to find any defense or intelligence agency committed to in-house technology projections that reach out more than five years or so. Most are now down to an even closer horizon  than that. The exception has been the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, which is a direct report to the SecDef. Their mandate is essentially deep future speculation/projection, so I’ve been involved with over half a dozen of their in-house projects, either inside the five-sided squirrel cage itself, or those that are facilitated by external organizations like MITRE.

In a 2015 interview with Brad R. Torgerson, you listed a number of research sources you used to project the cost of exploring interstellar space, stating you kept your figures on the conservative side until 2040, which you declared “a reasonable fulcrum point.” Why that year in particular?

I think there’s a little misunderstanding about what I was saying in that particular response to Brad. Although I was using the decade by decade economics projection spreadsheet to look at space spending, that really was not the sole or even primary focus of the larger exercise. And certainly it’s not as though there’s any built-in presumption that any nation was looking to allocate resources to interstellar travel throughout all the years leading up to the Caine Riordan series (2105 start). Quite the contrary.

Rather, what I was doing was projecting world population and DGP growth according to CIA World Factbook and Almanac stats, using what’s called a Kondratief Wave effect to built in period variation in growth, rather than (highly dubious) straight-line modeling. Using what were standard budgeting benchmarks from the 1990s, I then projected forward the dollar amount of each decade’s total GDP output that was earmarked for space. The change after the 2040s occurs because of linked social and technological changes: specifically, advances in power generation, drive efficiency, and permanent orbital / lunar construction sites. Together, these factors made the cost of more ambitious projects lower, in the same way that any developed infrastructure makes bigger follow-on initiatives not only more possible but more economical. Ultimately, in the Caine Riordan series, when events conspired to prove that supra-luminal travel is in fact an engineering possibility (in the mid-2080s), that told me how much economic progression and investment in space had already accrued. That, in turn, gave me a legitimate starting place from which to project how much budget was available to devote to the achievement of the drive itself. It also reduced the cost of building the ship which would be furnished with the drive, since prior achievements reduced the total expenditures required. In other words, a lot of subsystems were available off the shelf, rather than requiring special new construction and research.

Do you have an ETA for the Broken Worlds trilogy? Can you provide teasers, e.g. is it set on this world or another al la Middle Earth? Anything else about it?

I can’t tell you the actual publication date of the Broken Worlds trilogy with any authority, I can tell you that I should be writing the first book by this fall. I suspect that it will be slated for publication sometime in 2020, but that is pure guesswork. The series is not set on this world, although readers will immediately detect some tantalizing echoes and resonances of Earth from various periods and locations. Those are quite intentional within the informed reality of that world. In other words, if you see parallels to Earth cultures, that is not because I am simply plugging in some easily accessible (and tired) terrestrial tropes. They are there for a reason. And that reason is part of the genre-subverting core of this trilogy.

The world on which this trilogy begins, known as Arrdanc, is indeed a broken world. However, almost none of the inhabitants are cognizant of the contradictions which exist all around them and under their feet. The story focuses on the protagonist, Druadaen, who, by dint of chance and birth, stumbles across these cracks in the apparently seamless and well integrated social and physical reality in which he lives.

How did your collaborations with Eric Flint and Steve White come to be?

I want to start by saying that I cannot imagine being more fortunate in a pair of collaborators than having the pleasure to work with Eric Flint and Steve White. Both partnerships developed from earlier acquaintances that rapidly became friendships.

In the case of Steve White, we began meeting over bourbons at conventions in the tidewater region, where I listened to his laments about his then-collaborator’s inability to complete the Starfire novel that ultimately became Extremis. It was mostly rewritten from the ground up. It was a great experience and the first novel I ever wrote.

At roughly the same time, I met Eric on a panel at Lunacon and wrote him a novella which he accepted immediately even though he wasn’t sure where he could use it. Before I had a chance to really do anything more, he, too needed someone to jump in on a novel. And on pretty short notice. That novel became Papal Stakes and I have since completed two other novels in the Ring of Fire series.

Are there any other projects in the works that you’re free to discuss? Any future collaborations, perhaps?

The sixth and seventh novels of the Caine Riordan series are already contracted, and Toni Weisskopf has accepted the outlines for novels eight and nine. She has also accepted two more novels in the Consolidated Terran Republic universe which feature other major characters as protagonists. One, Misbegotten, is mostly centered on Riordan’s son, Connor, and is the story of his development as a young naval officer in the midst of Earth’s transition to a more integrated set of armed forces. And if you know anything about my books, you know that that will not be an easy or pleasant transition. At all. There’s one other character in the book that I don’t want to give away here, because that would just be way too big a spoiler.

The other book in that universe is titled Triage and will be a collaboration with Eric Flint, who’s now going to be playing in my sandbox for a change! Keep an eye out for the Ktor villains you love to hate!

I can’t reveal a sekrit projekt that I am in the process of finishing for another very well known series. I can say that it’s  a considerable stylistic departure for me, told in first person.

After writing the Eddie Cantrell sequel this summer, Eric and I will embark upon what may be the most epic single project in the ring of fire Universe to date. Tentatively slated for writing next year, it is essentially what you might call the world at war. Without giving away any outcomes, the series is currently at a major historical tipping point. That point is defined by whether or not the Ottomans continue their advance, are held fast in a durable stalemate, or are driven back from Austria and the Balkans. Suffice it to say, that when readers get to the end of this book (or two-book dyad), they will have a lot more answers to that question.

There is another Ring of Fire book that I am now completing with Robert Waters entitled 1637: Calabar’s War. It is set in South America and the Caribbean. The title character is in fact drawn from a fairly famous (and in some people’s view, notorious), historical figure from Brazilian history.

In the very near future, the first anthology set in the Caine Riordan universe will be coming out through Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press. The anthology is titled Lost Signals and is mostly written by fellow professionals who also happened to be fans of the series, many of whom approached me about doing such a project years ago. For a variety of reasons, Toni Weisskopf and I decided that this project was probably not right for Baen, since its very structure would probably make brick and mortar stores like Barnes & Noble’s gaze askance at it. Not to give too much away, it’s called Lost Signals because the overarching conceit is that there are a variety of news stories presented as brief bits of IINS wire copy. Then, each piece of fiction shows the real truth behind each piece of wire copy. Those are the invisible truths that gives the book its title: Lost Signals.

You just returned from New York’s Heliosphere, a new event in the Greater New York area, where you were the Guest of Honor. Will you tell us a little bit about it and what you discussed with attendees?

Heliosphere was an absolute blast. I was there for its first iteration in 2017 as a special guest. I guess I didn’t repel anybody that strongly, because they reached out again and made Eric Flint and I the guests of honor for 2018.

It’s an extremely well-run convention, not too big, but growing consistently. It is also where we held this year’s 1632 Minicon, an annual event that enables fans of the series to gather with the major authors of the universe and to ask them questions and get glimpses of coming events that have not been revealed elsewhere.

I would recommend anybody who can get to the con to go. Heliosphere is a great weekend.

If your followers care to conduct a face-to-face with you, where can they find you over the remainder of this year?

My activities for the rest of the year include Balticon on Memorial Day weekend, then Fyrecon in Utah, where I have been invited as a master guest. What that means is that I teach extended seminars on practical writing topics. Fyrecon is primarily a gathering of  hopeful, journeymen, or more advanced professionals, first and foremost. And I am honored to have been asked to be one of the master presenters.

After that I share the guest of honor spot with my old friend and gaming companion Jane Lindskold at Congregate in South Carolina.

Next on my roster is Libertycon, where I am one of the guests of honor, this time by dint of being the master of ceremonies. I look forward to getting together with the many friends and readers that I am fortunate to see there every year.

Then it is on to being one of the Guests at Dragoncon, which is always a huge amount of fun and a complete madhouse.

Finally, my last solid commitment for the year is at  the ever-excellent and reading-focused DC area con, Capclave.

To give my site’s visitors a better feeling for Charles Gannon, the man (as opposed to Charles Gannon, the author), would you care to share something about your home life?

My home life is a very rich one but often so hectic that it’s hard to get the writing done on schedule. I have four children ranging in age from 11 to 21. Inasmuch as my wife works in an executive position well away from our home, I’m almost always the guy on the other end of the phone when any given domestic wrinkle or crisis comes through. But I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Thank you, Charles, for taking time out of your schedule to share with us. Before I present my site’s visitors with an excerpt from Caine’s Mutiny, followed by the links where they may follow you and purchase a copy, I’d like to conclude with a traditional Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a: brother from another mother.

The one thing I cannot do without is: time to write.

The one thing I would change about my life: increase the time available in which I can write.

My biggest peeve is: People who ostensibly take pride in being part of our Democratic Republic and then don’t stop to examine evidence and claims carefully, and/or who forget that if there is no courtesy in discourse, soon there will be no discourse left at all. At that point, people tend to start shooting—or worse.

The person(s) I’m most satisfied with is/are: my children.

Excerpt:

Riordan stood. “Sergeant Fanny, secure both the mouth of the cave and your present six. I’ll be there in two minutes.”

“You, sir? Coming out here?”

Riordan felt all three pairs of eyes on the bridge upon him. “I say again, I will be joining you. Hold the creepers in position, out of sight. I want two of the personnel you have covering the cave to swap out their lethals for suppressive rounds. Low juice feed, high rate of fire. And gas grenades for your tubes. If possible, we are going to keep this from turning into bloodshed. Keep me updated. Riordan out.”

“Sir—” started Sleeman and Solsohn.

“No time,” Caine interrupted. “And no time to equip a Know-It-All rig.”

“Even so, sir, protocol in this situation—”

“Does not encompass the variables here. Of which, one is paramount.” He was already at the ready locker just beyond the valve to the bridge. “Who here speaks Hkhi?”

Silence.

Riordan grabbed a duty suit already fitted with a ballistic liner. “I speak about four hundred words. That’s probably at least three hundred ninety-nine more than they’ve heard from a human so far. So if there’s a chance to talk our way out of a fight, this is the moment. Once blood is spilled, it becomes an Honor issue. Finding a way back to a parley would be difficult and highly unlikely.”

“Yeah, I heard about that crap,” Karam muttered. “Scuttlebutt is that once Honor is involved, they become bushido bear-aardvarks beating their horse chests and making much ado about nothing.”

Caine pulled a CoBro 8mm liquimix rifle out of the ready-rack. “It’s life and death to them, Karam. Talking to them, rather than shooting at them, in the next five minutes could mean the difference between getting our people out of here peacefully, or going to war. But if if comes to shooting, I’m going to need to know if our suppressives will work, Dr. Sleeman.”

“Right. I’ll get on the research. With the eye that’s not watching the sensors.”

“Commodore,” Duncan murmured. “Protocol says you must be wearing an armor shell—a cuirass, at least—before you—”

“Major, you are correct to quote the regs. I am exercising commander’s privilege to disregard due to extenuating circumstances. And if those circumstances become more extenuating than we hope, you are in charge of Pullerin the event of my—my prolonged absence. You will also inform Major Rulaine that he is brevetted to lieutenant colonel and to carry on as the mission CO.” Riordan grabbed a helmet, moved toward the ventral bay.

Duncan cleared his throat. “Good luck. Sir.”

“You save that luck, Major. This situation is well in hand,” Riordan lied with a smile, then resumed his short jog to the bay.

***

Through the combo goggles, Turkh’saar didn’t look different from any other biogenic world. The outlines of the plant life were so repetitive in form as to be interchangeable and there was no color, not even of the corrected variety. Since the atmosphere on Turkh’saar was an unknown as far as humans were concerned, Riordan was running with a sealed helmet, the filtration set on maximum. The fact that other humans had already been operating here didn’t prove much. For all he knew, they were using filter masks. But, glancing at the Huey again, Caine was coming to doubt that more and more.

The rest of the team showed up as blue triangles on his HUD display, located just ahead, three aiming into the cave, three aiming outward, one hunkered down in the center. Riordan headed for that central triangle, overrode the voice-activation of his tac-set, made sure the external speaker was on. “Coming in on your six,” he said quietly.

The external audio pick ups crackled as Fanny responded. “We see you, Commodore.” If he noticed that Caine was not armored to protocol, he didn’t say anything.

Riordan crouched low as he approached, staying well out of the threat-cone defined by the cave mouth. He took a knee next to where Fanny was keeping his attention divided between the two fire teams. “Sitrep, Top.”

“No movement in the cave, sir, but when our audio pickups are on max gain, we get what sound like voices.”

“Human or Hkh’Rkh?”

“Too faint to say. This cave probably goes back a way. Forty meters, probably more. No further thermals, but we can see inside the first ten meters or so: abandoned sentry posts, noncombat load dumped all over the place. Everyone left in a hurry. Funny they didn’t take these two helicopters.”

“Not if they heard Puller. They probably figured us for Hkh’Rkh and that we’d shoot them out of the sky the moment they took off. What have the creepers found?”

“Solid rock in there, sir. If I send them in further, we’ll lose line of sight and have to resort to broadcast. And that might not be much better. Creepercam shows us what look like some sharp switchbacks. That’ll baffle-block the hell out of their weak broadcast units.”

Riordan wasn’t about to try a blind advance into a cave for which he had no ground plan. “Top, who’s your best with comms and remote ops?”

“Lance Corporal Somers, sir. Head and shoulders above the rest.”

“Okay. When we go in, she’s going to keep one creeper advancing so that it remains just within LoS of our point man. I don’t want to send them an automated greeting card in advance, but I’m not about to charge in there blind, either.”

“And if they tweak to the creeper?”

“Then we’ll have already closed to within ten meters or so.”

“That could get messy, sir. Hand grenades?”

“That’s our last recourse, Top. I’m here to talk to the Hkh’Rkh, not splatter them.”

You can follow Charles Gannon on his website: http://charlesegannon.com

You can purchase a copy of Caine’s Mutiny here: https://www.amazon.com/Caines-Mutiny-Riordan-Charles-Gannon/dp/148148317X

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The Write Stuff – Monday, April 9 – Interview With Ron S. Friedman

Ron S. Friedman is a science fiction novelist and a short story writer, a Calgary Herald #1 Bestseller Author and a Best Short Fiction finalist in the 2016 Aurora Awards, Canada’s premier science-fiction and fantasy awards. In his day job, he works as a senior Information Technologies analyst. During the Gulf War he served as an NCO in the Israeli Air-Force Intelligence.

Ron’s short stories have appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, Daily Science Fiction, and in other magazines and anthologies. Ron co-edited three anthologies, and he received ten Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future Contest. Ron is a Quora most viewed author in Space Exploration, Astronomy and Planetary Science, with over a million views. His first novel, Typhoon Time, a time-travel thriller, has been released by WordFire Press. A time travel project goes awry when a nuclear submarine goes back to 1938, resulting in Hitler gaining a nuclear weapon.

Ron came from a family of Holocaust survivors. Part of his fiction was inspired by the experiences of his grandfather during WWII. Originally from Israel, Ron is living with his loving wife and two children in Calgary, Alberta.

Ron describes Typhoon Time this way:

The Hunt for Red Octobermeets Timeline.

A nuclear submarine led by a Holocaust survivor, travels back in time to 1938 in an attempt to prevent WW-II.

###

MARTIN RICHER, a pacifist history professor specializing in pre-WWII Germany, has two passions in his life: history, and opposing nuclear weapons. That is why he feels torn when he finds himself traveling back in time to 1938 aboard a nuclear ballistic missile submarine.

When ERIC SOBOL, a terminally ill holocaust survivor billionaire, learns about the existence of a wormhole leading from present days to 1938, he decides to do everything within his power to change the past.

###

A modernized Russian Typhoon class nuclear submarine, manned by twenty-first century multi-national experts, and equipped with the best civil and military technologies money can buy, jumps the time barrier and appears in 1938.

Eric’s plan to stop the war falls apart when a saboteur steals a nuclear warhead and hands it to the German War Navy. As the crippled Typhoon is ambushed by a U-boat wolf pack and barely escapes the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee, Hitler contemplates how to use his newly acquired weapon to make all of Europe fall to the Third Reich.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

World War II was the most devastating war in history, with countries destroyed, cities leveled, and with a total of over 60 million people killed, including 418,000 Americans. During the Holocaust, 9 million people were systematically murdered in industrial methods, including 6 million Jews, and others such as gays, Slavic, Romani and disabled people. Even someone like Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be spared.

If you, the reader, had a chance to prevent the war, would you take it?

How far will you go?

Will you create a new Holocaust to prevent another?

This is the main dilemma the main protagonists face when they take a nuclear submarine back in time to 1938.

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

I would like to speak about two items under this umbrella.

The first issue is personal. I came from a family of Holocaust survivors. My grandfather was a Polish Jew who served as a lieutenant in the Polish army. In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland from the west, while the Soviet Union invaded from the east. My grandfather’s infantry battalion was sent to stop the advancing German panzers… It didn’t end well.

A couple of scenes are loosely based on his story.

The other issue I would like to discuss is the German resistance to the Nazis. In 1938, a number of high ranking German officers plotted against Hitler. In our history, later, many of those conspirators were executed following the failed July 20 1944 plot. I wanted to ensure the Germans in the story are presented as three-dimensional complex characters.

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

The intention. The time travel mission is well planned, focused and goal oriented.

In many WWII alternate history and time-travel stories I read or watched, something happens by mistake and history is taking a new course. The characters are reacting to the events as they fold.

Unlike those, in Typhoon Time, the time travel mission is well planned in advanced. Eric, the person in charge, knows very well what he is doing. He recruits a nuclear submarine, hires the best scientists and engineers to the task. And he purchases the best equipment money can buy. Only then, they travel back in time to 1938 with a clear intention to stop the war.

Unfortunately, even the best plans can fail. Well… it’s not really unfortunate. At least not for me, the writer. Because, if everything works according to plan than we have no story.

What was your path to publication?

I faced many challenges. The biggest one was the language barrier. I immigrated to Canada from Israel in 2002. English is my second language. When I started to write stories, and submitted them to magazines, I got rejections in the form of: “You are not a native English speaker. It would be best for you to choose another hobby.”

The thing is… I’m not a good listener. So, I ignored that advice and I continued to write. My first story was published in Daily Science Fiction in 2011. Since then I published 14 short stories.

When I finished Typhoon Time, I submit it to a few publishers. Granted, it was rejected, and in one case it was lost in the slash pile.

In late 2014, I decided to self-published it. But before I did, I heard of a writer’s workshop David Weber was leading at VCON. I registered to that workshop and submitted the first three chapters, just to get a few tips from David before self-publishing it. David liked it, and he asked to read the entire manuscript. The rest is history.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a sci-fi novel that takes place on Titan, after Earth goes through an apocalypse. Mad-Max in space.

What else have you written?

I published 14 science fiction short stories in various magazines and anthologies. My story Game Not Over was selected by Mike Resnick, and has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge in 2015. My name was listed right besides Robert Heinlein. Can you imagine that for an emerging writer?

You can find a link to that Galaxy’s Edge issue here: https://www.amazon.com/Galaxys-Edge-Magazine-Predestination-Tie-ebook/dp/B00RKM2Z3G/

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

Typhoon Timeis an Amazon.ca #1 Bestseller in Time Travel.

Best Short Fiction finalist in the 2016 Aurora Awards, Canada’s premier science fiction and fantasy awards.

Calgary Herald #1 Bestseller.

Quora most viewed author in Astronomy and Planetary Science with over a million views.

Ten Honorable Mentions in the Writers of The Future Contest.

What is your writing routine?

I write for an hour or two every day. I do have a day job and a family, which makes it challenging to commit more than that. A large portion of my writing is posting on Quora.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

When I wrote Typhoon Time I didn’t write an outline. The story developed organically.

Lately, I started to spend more time on planning the plot and the characters. The recent stories I published were outlined. The novel I’m currently working on has an outline.

Why do you write?

Creativity. I want to do something creative, and I feel writing is the way to share it. I also used my writing experience as a tool to improve my written communication skills.

Tell us about your writing community.

I belong to a writing group in Calgary called IFWA (The Imaginative Fiction Writers Association). I’d been a member of IFWA since 2005.  I think writers should support each other rather than write in solitude, and IFWA had been a great source for support, both as a critique group and for social writing related events.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m senior Information Technologies analyst with over 20 years of industry experience. What one learns in the computer industries could be a great material for science fiction stories.

In the late 1980s early 1990s I served in the Israeli Air Force as an Air-Force Intelligence analyst. I guess some military experience could be helpful when writing MilitarySF.

What motivates or inspires you?

The future. I think we are now at the start of a new era in human history.

Some of the greatest future revolutions will involve Genetic Engineering, Artificial Intelligence and Space Travel. I’m trying to promote those topics in my writing. Some of these revolutions were seeded in the 20st century. Some, during World War II. We want to make sure to learn from the past in order to navigate to a better future.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Persistence. If I may quote Tom Alan’s character from Galaxy’s quest: “Never give up, never surrender.” If you want to be successful in something, do it and don’t be afraid to fail. And if you do fail, try again. And again.

Thank you, Ron, for taking time to share. Before I present our visitors a Typhoon Time excerpt, as well as links where they can follow you and purchase your book, I’d like to conclude with a customary Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m: Hard working and honest.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Time

The one thing I would change about my life: No idea.

My biggest peeve is: Stress

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: Family

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

Thank you for reading the interview. I hope you’ll enjoy reading Typhoon Time.

 

Excerpt:

Atlantic Ocean

April 13, 2018

Oh shit oh shit oh shit. Professor Martin Richter fiddled with the frayed fabric of the fresh bullet hole in his tweed jacket. How did Eric Sobol convince me to join this lunacy?

Alarms sounded. Dim, red light flooded the control room. Crewmen rushed to take their positions. Russian syllables rolled from the speakers all around as the Typhoon-class submarine prepared to enter the wormhole.

Martin looked to Vera Pulaski for a translation, and so did Steve T. Stiles and Eric Sobol. Of the four Americans who were invited to the control room, Vera was the only one who spoke Russian.

“They have detected a bomber on an interception course,” she said. “The captain gave the order to dive. We have less than four minutes.”

This is a mistake, thought Martin. I’m not the adventurous type. What was I thinking when I signed up for this suicidal experiment?

Martin always knew himself as the kind of person who remembered historical events. He could recount when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He could recall the date Dr. Albert Schweitzer won his Nobel Peace Prize and when the demonstrators toppled President Mubarak from office. So, even if he forgot certain dates once or twice, he could still claim to be a person who was passionate about history.

But describing himself as a peaceful, non-adventurous sort, while standing on the bridge of a nuclear submarine about to enter a wormhole in a desperate attempt to violate the laws of physics and travel back in time?

Evidently, that specific self-assessment will now have to be revised. I can’t really claim I’m not a militaristic risk-taker, in the same way that Marcus Junius Brutus couldn’t claim that stabbing Julius Caesar on the Senate floor wasn’t like him. I guess, deep down, I’m not exactly who I thought I was.

A strange buzz filled the control room as a new image appeared on the main screen. A black and blue sphere, surrounded by dark clouds and electrical sparks filled the monitor. The way the dark sphere spun, devouring the ocean in its path, was both awe-inspiring and horrifying.

Cold sweat trickled down Martin’s forehead. He could barely stand up straight. What are our chances of surviving the wormhole? He didn’t think they were attractive.

“I’m scared,” Vera whispered. Her voice quivered.

Martin stared at her in silence. He was probably more terrified than she was. Mechanically, he lifted his shaking arm and put it around her shoulders.

“Don’t worry,” he said to comfort Vera. His mouth was dry. He cleared his throat. “It’ll be over soon. In a few seconds, we’ll cross the 1938 threshold.” He doubted he convinced her. He didn’t convince himself either.

Someone tapped on Martin’s shoulder.

Martin flinched. He nearly had a heart attack. Thank God Vera had been there to support him.

“This is so wicked!” He heard Steve’s voice. He turned and saw a grin spread across Steve’s face.

“Have you ever seen anything so cool?” Steve pointed at the wormhole image. “The first dudes in history to travel back in time. Boy, that’s what I call a thrill.”

Martin wondered if Steve had lost his mind. They were staring at certain death, and Steve found the prospect exciting?

“Hey, look.” Steve stepped closer to the monitor.

The sphere was now clear of smoke and electrical discharges. Caribbean water slowly poured into the rupture like honey into a bowl. The inside was black. Was Eric successful after all? Could this bubble really lead to 1938 Earth, or was the wormhole’s dark entrance their death sentence?

“That’s a good sign.” Steve stared at the monitor. “The submarine’s propulsion should work on the other side.” He made the victory sign with his fingers. “Let’s rock ’n’ roll!”

A rumble shook the vessel. Martin gulped.

As the submarine began to submerge, Martin held his breath. The crew seemed nervous.

The dark blue globe grew bigger. Then, the monitor turned black. Martin tensed. He forced himself to breathe; in, out, in, out …

“We’ve just crossed the threshold,” Steve announced. “Do you feel anything?”

“I feel like I’m about to throw up,” replied Martin, gazing at the black monitor.

“I mean the smooth motion.” Steve shrugged. “I wonder if it’s normal. I expected some kind of rumble or shake, something more … grandiose.”

The image of the Caribbean Sea slid back to the center of the screen. The operator must have turned the camera backward. They were looking at Earth from the inside of a wormhole.

“What’s that?” Back on the contemporary Earth’s side of the wormhole, something white was entangled with the rear cable line which fed power to the ultra-capacitor on Eric’s yacht. The same yacht that had brought them to the submarine and carried all the scientific equipment which made time travelpossible.

The image flickered.

 

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

Website:                     https://ronsfriedman.wordpress.com/

Amazon Author Page:          http://amazon.com/author/ronfriedman

Goodreads:                https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6979231.Ron_S_Friedman

Quora:                       https://www.quora.com/profile/Ron-S-Friedman/answers?sort=views

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

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/RonSFriedman

LinkedIn:                   http://ca.linkedin.com/pub/ron-raanan-friedman/a/904/770

Google+:        https://plus.google.com/u/0/?tab=wX#102514383771529750251/about/p/pub

SFWA speaker’s Bureau:    speakers.sfwa.org/profiles/ron-friedman/

 

You may purchase his book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Typhoon-Time-Ron-S-Friedman-ebook/dp/B07B7J2BJF/

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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 14 – Interview With Cat Rambo

Photo Credit to OnFocusPhotography

A number of irksome matters have cropped up recently that have limited my time and made my life increasingly stressful. In days like these, all I want to do when I’m finally home is curl up with a well-written story that will transport me far from my day-to-day circumstances and revitalize me. Cat Rambo’s delightful short stories are perfect for this and it’s a large part of the reason I invited her to join us. To say her writing is quirky, unique and imaginative is not to describe even “half-et” of what makes it so enjoyable, since her language often blurs the boundary between poetry and prose. I am privileged to have her share her thoughts with us, here, on The Write Stuff, especially because her work is acclaimed by so many of science fiction’s and fantasy’s finest. Nancy Kress, for example, has this to say: “Cat Rambo’s stories never go where you expect them to. They twist and turn and end up in strange places—sometimes very strange indeed. Both the stories set on the Earth we know (or think we know) and those set far away will surprise and delight you.”

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches atop a hill in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is an Endeavour, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee. Her popular online school, The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, has been in existence since 2010. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see http://www.kittywumpus.net

Cat, as we begin our conversation, I’d like to focus first on your December 2016 Hydra House publication, Neither Here Nor There.

From time to time, you write something that either makes me laugh outright, or else at least chuckle. For example the phrase, “given that fireflies are easily bullied”, from your story The Toad’s Jewel, or when Ionna, in the story Karaluvian Fale, asks, “Who created the official position of a Whatsit for me?”, to which Kara replies, “Well, I had long needed a Whatsit”. Are you by nature somewhat of a comic in your daily life? 

I have always loved wordplay and jokes, and always will, I think. My spouse would probably tell you that I am both easily amused and prone to silliness, but since he is the same way, it’s a good match because we are always telling or playing jokes to or on each other.

While stories from your other collections have a distinctly earthly feel, like those in Altered America, which are explicitly stated to be so, the ones in Neither Here Nor There are entirely, to my mind at least, extraterrestrial. As one who has never written short stories, but rather novels, I feel compelled to ask if you deliberately set out to write a collection of stories with a common theme over a period of time, or do you anthologize works from stories created over the years because of their similarity?

I don’t set out to write a collection, but because I write so many short stories – over 200 so far – they tend to accrete and get published as groups organized by theme. With Altered America, I’m returning to the same setting repeatedly, which happens more with my fantasy settings (Tabat and Serendib are both cities with multiple stories, and the former even has two novels so far) than my science fiction, although there too I have some places, like TwiceFar Station, that I return to repeatedly.

It’s interesting as a writer to come back to a setting repeatedly for a number of reasons. One is that it becomes clearer and clearer in one’s head and begin throwing off possible side stories. Another is that you can develop the location over time and have the events of one story affect what’s happening in other stories set in the same location or with the same characters.

Although you write prose, your phrasing smacks of poetry: “Jack-knife sudden” and “velvet folds as soft as a baby’s earlobe” from your story Love, Resurrected. In addition, your stories are sometimes non-linear, often alluding to, but skipping over events in a manner uncharacteristic of prose. This compels me to ask, even though I can find no evidence you’ve ever published any, do you write poems as well? If so, might I persuade you to share one?

I do write poetry as well, and won a couple of college contests when I was an undergraduate. I don’t write it much anymore, but here’s a sonnet from 1999, when I first moved out to PNW:

The sky's larger here, and closer somehow.
Lost in its enormity, I hardly miss you at all.
That ache's become a kite, flying low
in and out of clouds, in and out of sun,
poised high, string a melancholy thrum.
Sometimes its shadow falls across my face,
But I've grown used to that phenomenon
as I move in and out of shadow, in and out of sun.

All those poems say 'If ever I loved you' - but if?
Surely there's no question there, it's when,
when I loved you, and all the if is if
the box is sealed, if the string is tied and delivered elsewhere
or whether it sits close at hand, lid askew,
with all those painful longings showing through.

Your stories are distinctly yours, by which I refer not only to the lilt and flow of your writing, but also to the unexpected twist at their conclusions. Still, at various times when I read them, a passage will momentarily call to mind an author like Poe or Jacqueline Carey. Which of the countless ones whom you’ve read have influenced you most and why?

So many! I have always been a reader. Non genre people that have influenced me: John Barth, Willa Cather, Geoffrey Chaucer, Grace Paley, Gilbert Sorrentino. In the genre: Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Lord Dunsany, Robert Heinlein, Zenna Henderson, P.C. Hogdell, R.A. Lafferty, Ursula Le Guin, Joe Lansdale, Rachel Pollack, H.P. Lovecraft, Andre Norton, Cordwainer Smith, Theodore Sturgeon, Thomas Burnett Swann, and Jeff VanderMeer. To name a few.

Why? Because they are not afraid to experiment and at the same time not afraid to reflect life as it is. Because they love and respect language as much as they love this world and writing in it.

In June of this year, you visited Cuba and met Cuban science fiction author, Yoss. Will you tell us how this fortunate encounter came to be and elaborate a bit on both him and your time together?

I was lucky enough to be part of a family trip and when I knew I was going I asked around a little. The SF community is much smaller than one might think and a mutual friend introduced us via e-mail. Yoss and his wife came out to lunch with us and we had a great time talking about what the Cuban F&SF publishing scene was like. He plays with a band, so at one point he pulled out his harmonica to demonstrate and played a few bars, much to the astonishment of the tables around us. He was so much fun! I had prepared by reading his book Super Extra Grande; I’ve got another of his lined up on my Kindle now and hope to read more in Cuban F&SF in the future.

How long have you been playing/using Habitica and do you think you will continue to incorporate it into your day-to-day life?

I had made an account a while back but hadn’t really done much with it until after talking with two of the founders at the Nebula conference this year. I have found it very handy for dealing with my tendency to get distracted and it’s been helping me achieve my daily word count so I foresee continuing to use it.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have a cat named Taco and like to roast my own coffee beans with a hot-air popcorn popper.

I see you’ve stepped up to the plate again to assume another year as SFWA’s president. Are you one of those individuals who find that added responsibility increases your productivity? How much does it impinge on your writing?

I find it eats up vast amounts of writing time if I let it, which was my main hesitation in agreeing to run for a second two-year term. By the time this term is over I will have spent five years total in SFWA office, and will be happy to let someone else steer the boat for a while.

SFWA has taken some nasty hits online over the years, yet you’re still actively involved. Without delving into the negative—I’ll leave the tawdry side of interviewing to others—what is it about the organization that keeps you so involved? Why do you recommend joining it to qualified authors?

SFWA keeps me involved because of the community of professional writers it represents. While it works hard to support, defend, inform and all of that, it also pulls a group together that is like none other in the world. Why do I recommend it? Because it has a tremendous amount of resources to offer and is well worth the membership fee. Beyond that, because they will make connections and friends there that cannot be made elsewhere.

Is there another Cat Rambo collection coming any time soon?

I’m currently looking at my backlog of science fiction and wondering the same thing myself. No matter what, there will be a mini-collection soon for my Patreon backers.

It is my habit to conclude my interviews with a Lightning Round because of the unexpected insights the answers sometimes provide. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you… I’m a person with a killer smile.

The one thing I cannot do without is… books!

The one thing I would change about my life is… I would make it easier to visit my friends.

My biggest peeve is… mean people.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is… I’m pretty fond of most of the aspects of this nifty planet we find ourselves on.

 

Readers can purchase a copy of Neither Here Nor There on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Neither-Here-Nor-There-Rambo-ebook/dp/B01MQWD1GZ/

You can follow Cat via social media at any of the following:

http://www.kittywumpus.net

http://www.patreon.com/catrambo

http://www.twitter.com/@catrambo

https://www.instagram.com/specfic/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1014253.Cat_Rambo

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