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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

Excerpt from The Halfblood War:

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK LINKS:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 24 – Nancy Palmer & R.A. McAvoy Interview

This week’s guests are the writing team of R.A. “Bertie” MacAvoy and Nancy L. Palmer. R.A. MacAvoy published her first novel in 1983. All others she has published since then can be found online, along with awards she has won or for which she was nominated.

She studied various martial arts, starting at the age of eleven, but is no longer any sort of lethal weapon. She has raised and educated ponies and horses and been educated by them. She dived the waters of the Pacific Ocean, which was an experience as close to being in outer space as she is likely ever to know. She has been married to Ron Cain longer than she has been publishing books.

 

Nancy L. Palmer tells stories in words and pictures, and has done so as long as she can remember. She has looked carefully at small things and carelessly at large things until she’s quite certain there’s no difference really, and no space between them either.

They have recently published two novels through WordFire Press: Albatross, which was released in October, 2017 and which we will be featuring today, and Shimmer, which was released in January of this year.

Ms. Palmer, who has elected to speak for this duo, sent me this description of Albatross:

 

Accused of being a terrorist, a fugitive physicist takes flight in a gritty future world where the government has gone insane.

Rob MacAulay has followed the flight of seabirds all his life, as well as the elusive nature of quantum field theory. He is a brilliant physicist, famed for solving the Unity Theory, a tall, gentle man with glasses and a tweed jacket.

And he is framed as a terrorist.

Now, on the run from the police and under the steamroller of politics, MacAulay is on a flight of his own. As the EU fractures around him, MacAulay learns that his scientific reputation means little when the world is out to get him.

Thomas Heddiman, technical consultant with the police, finds himself both running with the fox and hunting with the hounds as he pursues MacAulay. But the tall, gentle physicist is an odd bird…and capturing him doesn’t go as planned.

Nancy, what do you want readers to know about your book?

When Bertie and I began working on this book, certain political events seemed more like sinister whispers of dark potential, rather than circumstances we would actually be facing so direly here, now. But frankly I suspect Bertie of having more than one prescient bone in her body; she led the book down the dystopian path. Of course, she might say it’s more accurate to say she followed the story down the path. But there was a great deal of urgency in writing this book; this urgency has only grown since its completion.

When a writer talks about big issues, it’s sometimes necessary to come at them sideways. And often, these big issues are better understood through scaling down and looking at them through the lens of the personal. That’s what we’ve done here.

How did the two of you come together?

I read my first R. A. MacAvoy book while I was still in college. I was blown away by her willingness to embrace difficult subjects, her ability to craft a sentence, her observation skills and her knack for finding just the right words to express those observations. Readers may find themselves returning to certain books again and again over the years, and that was definitely the case with me regarding Bertie’s works. While I wouldn’t claim to write like Bertie, I do believe that her works were formative in my own writing style.

Years later, we met via a mutual harping friend on social media. I was blown away when she asked me to help with Albatross. It was a challenge, but a wonderful experience. Bertie always quotes Thomas, “Don’t thank me,” when I express it, but I have to say I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with her. And I’m glad that we stayed friends through the process!

What was your path to publication?

We were actually turned down for representation by an agent due, he said, to the presence of a homosexual relationship in the book. He said that nobody would buy such a thing. (Which I found confusing; I was working in a bookstore in 1990 and we sold a LOT of The Vampire Lestat. But, you know, not everybody lives in this century.)

Meanwhile, the urgency of the story was weighing on us. Rather than waiting and going through traditional channels, we self-published. Then I happened to meet Kevin J. Anderson of WordFire at a convention. I knew his work, and was really interested in what he was doing with WordFire. Bertie and Kevin knew each other from back before Bertie took her hiatus. We sent Albatross to WordFire’s Acquisition editor, and there we had it. Much editing and flinging of electrons back and forth across the country, and we had our improved and honed manuscript and the sequel ready for publication.

And now we’ve got audiobooks! I love our narrator; you really need to hear him!

What are you working on now?

At this moment, I have a couple of short stories incubating. Basically stretching my muscles as a break from the multi-volume urban fantasy series I’m working on. And I’ve read part of a story Bertie was working on, but I’d lay even money that it won’t stay a story. The novel is really her milieu. She’s GOOD at short stories, despite being new to the form. But this particular work seems to want to expand, in my opinion. Of course, that’s what she said about the last story of mine that I showed her, too. “This wants to be a book.” And when Bertie MacAvoy is your writing partner? You’d do well to trust her. So I’m working on that.

What else have you written?

Bertie has written some very influential books, including Tea with the Black Dragon and The Book of Kells. I think that the books in the Lens of the World series were underappreciated; I’d like to see those brought before a larger audience. I love The Grey Horse… but really, it’s hard to go wrong with a MacAvoy book. I recommend visiting her website and working through her bibliography!

I came from a strong oral storytelling tradition in West Virginia. I started revising fairy tales in elementary school, for spoken word telling. I’ve written stories to tell at storytelling events and conferences, which is fun and really trains you to listen to what you’re writing. Poetry I’ve written, but never even tried to publish: it’s too raw and emotionally open for me to want to expose it in public. But I do think it’s good practice for understanding the weight of words.

I’ve written many, many short stories, some of them published in literary journals a couple of decades ago. Novels stuck in drawers; you know the type of bad writing that you have to get through to become a better writer. A couple of ghostwritten things that I’m contractually forbidden to name. I took some time off to home educate my fantastic son, but have eased back into the interlocking worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy as he became more independent.

What is your writing routine?

Bertie and I are an interesting team. We both have serious physical limitations. We’re fortunate in that we seem to be on an alternating schedule: when one of us is at low ebb, the other is at high tide, and so we carry on. Our work together is made possible by the wonder of e-mail and Dropbox. Otherwise we’d have paid our combined weights in postage, flinging manuscripts back and forth! Our routines seem to consist of WRITE WHEN YOU ARE ABLE. And then edit when you are able. Weirdly, my editing chores seem to time out most often to when I’m traveling, so most of my editing is done at a table in the shade, poolside, at some hotel or other.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

Generally, no. For the new series, though, I do have an outline. There are many characters and lines of action weaving in and out. I’m recovering from a traumatic brain injury last year and I can’t keep these threads straight without help.

Why do you write?

Generally, because some character has come up and started telling me their story, and won’t leave until I write it down. Seriously, the characters in my head are very real people to me. At least as real as the folks I went to high school with and lost touch with. Not trying to say that my classmates don’t exist outside my mind! But my experience of them, now, doesn’t exist outside my head. Think about it: my classmates exist, for me, as memories… a series of thoughts and connections in my brain. That’s what my characters are, too… and I’ve been in touch with the characters more recently.

Sometimes a story will come to me as a question. For example, the last story I sold was prompted by my waking up in a very old bed and breakfast in Georgia, with the impression that a woman in old-fashioned clothing was standing by the foot of my bed, pointing out the window. When I awakened fully, there was nobody there. But I wondered: if there had been a figure there, who was she? Why would she be there? What was she trying to show me? And then a minor character (well, I thought she was a minor character; plainly she disagreed) popped into my head to ask those questions and find the answers.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Creative procrastination. I draw, paint, or sit down and practice my harp. Similarly, I overcome artist’s block by writing. It’s a really convenient way to trick your brain into doing something creatively constructive.

The worst block, for me, comes when I’ve had to face doing something bad to a character. It’s hard. I care about these people. But conflict, and resolution (or failure of resolution) of conflict is an important part of an effective story. So, yeah—I have to throw bad things at people I like. Sometimes that’s very upsetting. So I recover by painting something absolutely silly, or brightly colored, to give myself a bit of reprieve.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am also a mixed-media artist. My first writing publication came in elementary school; my first art sale not long after. I think that creative disciplines feed each other. Many writers are also musicians or artists or dancers or weavers; many in those other disciplines find themselves drawn to write. A visual artist friend of mine has been creating illustrated haiku every day this year. I don’t believe you have to choose one over the other. You may devote more time and energy to one, but a second or even third creative pursuit can bounce your energy into new and exciting directions.

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

I’ve survived a number of tough things in my life: abuse, neglect, homelessness, poverty, hunger, familial loss, cancer, chronic illness. I’ve had a lot of wonderful things, too: a creek to play in, mountains to climb, good friends, the ability to express myself, people who love me and whom I love, and some of the best dogs in the world. (And some of the best-but-most-annoying cats.) The opportunity to be a positive force. Periods of strength and peace. I have honed the daily practice of focusing on those positive things. To put my thoughts toward what I CAN do, rather than what I cannot. It’s really hard sometimes. But for me, changing that focus makes the difference, gives me the ability to direct what energy I have in a positive direction.

Do you have any pet projects?

I’m working on a frame story for a series of videos to help provide encouragement and possible structure to creative people working despite having an invisible illness. Chronic illness can be very isolating, and really compounds when in conjunction with writing and visual arts, which are typically pretty solitary pursuits. As humans, we need connections. Solitude can be good: loneliness tends not to be. It contributes to depression, which many in our community are fighting as a corollary of their illness.

And it can be very frustrating to be in the middle of a project and *wham* find yourself completely incapable of continuing. I think it might be helpful to be more visible in that experience… I’m something of an introvert, but I know that knowing someone GETS my experience has really helped me in the past, so I’m willing to open myself up that way, to help somebody else feel less alone. That if I can get through it, maybe they can too.

But I’m no self-help guru. So anything I make is going to be weird and colorful, and probably have fairies and spaceships. And tea. And kittens, definitely kittens.

Thank you, Nancy, for your time. I’m only sorry that circumstances prevented Bertie from participating. I’ll conclude with The Write Stuff’s traditional Lightning Round, after which I’ll present an excerpt from Albatross, followed by your book buy and social links. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: magnet for lost, injured, and orphaned animals.

The one thing I cannot do without is: books

The one thing I would change about my life: chronic illness

My biggest peeve is: willful ignorance

The person I’m most satisfied with is: my amazing son, Atticus

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

Nobody in the history of this planet has ever seen the world through your eyes, or spoken with your voice. If you want to tell your story, tell it. If you want to sing a song, lift your voice. If you want to make a thing, make the thing! Creativity is in our nature.

Albatross Excerpt:

Thomas himself was already by the café, though not yet at the table he had selected. That particular table, offering visibility on three sides and cover at the back, had not yet become vacant. He was waiting like a falcon waits in a tree for that table, although his tree was merely a public bench. He was not wearing his neutral camouflage today, because his fleece jacket and leather shoes were gone: disappeared. Up in smoke. He wore a grey sport jacket and office-wear pants and his feet were pure American: shining mesh running shoes with sky-blue trim. At ten minutes after nine the table emptied and he swooped down into a chair before the waiter could clean it off. The waiter looked meaningfully at the single man taking up a table for four.

“People will be joining me,” Thomas said, in what he considered a calm, unthreatening voice. The waiter backed off as if burnt. He put a cup of coffee before Thomas and left him unbothered.

Time passed. The café was now empty. Thomas looked out toward the street, his head unmoving, his eyes focused on everything. It was twenty-five after when a tall figure approached along a small street that broke into two streets around the café. He watched the man come straight toward him, stepping on long legs, his arms hanging at his sides. He saw Rob MacAulay coming towards him for the second time, and it was as strange an experience as it had been the first time.

Rob saw Thomas Heddiman in full. The gray figure was so still, sitting there. Like a painting, so still. Unmovable as fate. Looking straight at Rob. His narrow eyes were brightened to amber by the morning sun, his hair polished almost white. No expression in those eyes. No emotion. Perfect waiting. Instead of causing fear in Rob, that face made his heart beat slowly.

Thomas himself saw Rob come toward him back-lit by the morning. He saw the large eyes only half-open, the triangular face so mild. He approached the outdoor tables and began maneuvering among them, never looking away from Thomas.

Closer.

The fugitive’s face was so pale under that dark hair, all white but for two wind-chafes under the cheekbones. His mouth was closed. Unsmiling, but soft. The intimacy of his presence was unbearable.

Then MacAulay was there, and he put his large hands carefully on the table. It seemed he would sit down across from Thomas.

To prevent this, Thomas rose. “Follow me,” he said, and he flipped a few bills on the table, catching them under a salt shaker. He did not look to see if Rob followed.

He led around the café to a parking garage, which was on a sharp hill slant, and from this angle it seemed to descend straight into the ground. Light footfalls behind were the only sound Thomas heard as he opened the heavy door to the garage stairwell.

The stairs were steep and the light dim after the morning sun. Thomas stepped firmly down. He did not look back.

He heard Rob MacAulay behind him, walking close and in the same rhythm. With such long legs Thomas thought it would have been natural for MacAulay to go down slowly, two steps at a time, but he did not. He paced him exactly.

Down one level. Down two. On the third level the light was out and they moved together, feeling their way. On the fourth and deepest level his rented car was parked, and Thomas pushed his way into the garage, hearing nothing behind him.

Orpheus and Eurydice, he thought, and still did not turn.

Book online sales links:

Wordfire:       http://wordfirepress.com/books/albatross/

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Albatross-1-R-MacAvoy/dp/161475554X

Social links:

MacAvoy:       https://ramacavoy.com/

Palmer:          https://nancypalmer.net

Instagram:     https://www.instagram.com/moonsownsister/

Twitter:          @moonsownsister

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, September 10 – Marie Whittaker Interview

Marie Whittaker is an award-winning essayist and author of urban fantasy novels and horror stories. She has enjoyed working as a truck driver, bartender, and raft guide, and now works as assistant to Kevin J. Anderson. Writing under the pen name Amity Green, her debut novel, Scales: Book One of the Fate and Fire Series, was released in 2013, and her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. Marie is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association and keeps steady attendance at local writer’s groups. A Colorado native, Marie resides in Manitou Springs, where she continues to produce works of urban fantasy and enjoys renovating her historical Victorian home. When not writing, she spends time hiking, gardening, and trying to quit wasting time on social media. A lover of animals, Marie is an advocate against animal abuse and assists with lost pets in her community. Petrichor Press released the hardcover edition of Scales on August 30 of this year.

The book can best be described this way:

How does Tessa, an orphan from Austin, Texas, cope with being transformed into a living, breathing gargoyle? By rolling with change, learning to control new abilities, and using super powers to help the less-fortunate and vanquish evil. A sickly childhood under the care of a rotten gaggle of nuns is all Tessa knows, until studying in London confirms the gut feeling that there is more to her beneath the skin, and ultimately, beneath the scales. A Celtic demigoddess has fused her existence with Tessa, and much to Fate’s delight, mayhem ensues as Tessa struggles to embrace her new existence as a gargoyle with strong goddess tendencies. Ancient, magical creatures, Fate in human form, escaped fae, and fellow gargoyles of questionable motives keep Tessa on her toes as she does the unthinkable to protect and save lives. Tessa’s inner conflict grows with the body count. Is killing still a sin if it’s done in the name of greater good?

Book One of the Fate and Fire Series!

What do you want readers to know about your book?

I have always loved gargoyles and jumped at the chance to write about them when I got the idea to write a shapeshifter series.

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

The story concept came to me while I was studying in London. That part made research easy. I fell for London the same way the protagonist did.

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

Being a fan of shifter books, one can tire quickly of werewolves. I wanted to write something different, so gargoyles are my shifters.

What was your path to publication?

After the short story version was sold and added to an anthology, I finished up writing Scales in 2012 and pitched the book at a convention. I received 6 requests to read the full manuscript, which was the same amount of times I pitched it. The book was published for the first time in 2013. This is a rerelease, including a gorgeous hardcover.

What are you working on now?

I’m nearly finished editing the third book in the series, which is titled Soul Count.

What else have you written?

The Witcher Chime, which is a horror novel. A very scary one.

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

I am an award winning essayist and The Witcher Chime was a finalist for an Indie Award in 2017.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I am a lop-sided mix of Pantser vs Plotter. I’m trying to outline more as I start new books and it is paying off.

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

I am very near completion on my first ever collaboration with my writing partner, Ty Hadley. He is brilliant and a very good friend of mine. It has been a great experience, although the book has been stalled by life events here and there. We are ecstatic to be finishing this book and can’t wait to start pitching it.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

I write largely based on my own life experiences. Most of my short stories are dark psychological stories that deal with a social issue in Nowhere Town, USA. I’ve been through some rough times. For me, there’s nothing that packs a bigger punch than writing from the wound. Taking a character down a dark path and then helping them triumph is something I can relate to, and greatly enjoy.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am personal assistant to Kevin J. Anderson and I am also Co-Director for Superstars Writing Seminars.

Describe a typical day.

I am a morning person so I’m up early, working out and drinking coffee, then taking care of my fur babies. After that, I do my work for Kevin and try to be freed up by around 1:00 each day for yard work or housework. After that, I write and edit my work-in-progress and do at least one type of book promotion. The rest of the time in the day is spent with my family. Hopefully I get to hike with my guy at least twice a week. I’m usually in bed by 10:00, if not earlier.

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

By thinking about the things I’ve already made it through. I consider adversity a way of building character.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t wait until you think you’re good enough. Trust yourself and jump in!

What makes you laugh?

Watching baby goat videos.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jonathan Maberry, Anne Rice, Karen Marie Moning, Mercedes Lackey, Sherrilyn Kenyon, William Shakespeare, Jim Butcher, J.K. Rowling, Steven King, and Jack Ketchum.

Thank you, Marie, for taking the time to share with us. Before I provide my sites visitors with an excerpt from Scales, followed by your social and book buy links, I’m hoping to persuade you to participate in a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: Sweet nerd girl.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Peanut butter.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d trust myself more.

My biggest peeve is: Narcissism.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: My kids. They grew up to be amazing humans.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with? Scales is the first book in a series where a disadvantaged orphan comes of age and becomes a superheroine in the first three books. We need more superheroines, so I decided to create one. Her name is Tessa and she is my favorite of the characters I’ve written so far. I didn’t want to leave her after just one book, so story has potential to become a long series of adventures.

Scales Excerpt:

There’s no event in life that will deliver a paradigm shift faster than someone trying to kill you. I felt I’d aged a lot in the last couple of weeks. Fun teenage years playing volleyball by the lake and deciding what I wanted to be when I grow up, gone. Kaput. Replaced by days of thinking about keeping myself and my best friend safe and free, and having my heart broken for the first time, while juggling a new life between being a human and a gargoyle.

Who’d ever think a gargoyle could cry? Or breathe for the matter. At least it was without physical pain. My body healed when I transformed at dusk the night before and then I’d slept the entire next day, waking up a couple times for water and then going back to bed. When I woke again I’d changed and slept crooked on one wing, which was far worse than waking with a stiff neck. I lay in the huge, over-stuffed bed in my latest prison wishing I was back in Austin with Brea, chatting over Skype about boys and new clothes. I’d had enough of the UK. The email I received from Professor Douglas that day had turned from the biggest blessing in my life into the biggest curse.

And my best friend was involved, lost somewhere in the vast, confining unknown of an insane man’s domain.

I remembered the day last summer when I felt my life was going to change. Substantially.

I laughed through my tears, causing bit of clear mucus to spray into the air from my snout. Guess it’s safe to say it was a change for the worse. Crying was going to help nothing, but it made me feel better. I wiped my snout on a scaly forearm and rolled upright.

It was time for Plan B, which would hopefully go much smoother than Plan A. I was ready to escape my room to search for Brea, find her and fly her back to the bookstore. My tail twitched at my feet. I wasn’t emotionally recovered from the outcome of Plan A yet. Someone had tried to kill me. That, or they wanted to hurt me really bad. Scenarios twisted through my mind. I could have broken my neck on those murderous stairs.

I rose from my bed, stretching my wings so far the span made the boney tips scrape along one wall, gouging into the plaster. A small, childish grin formed as I watched paint chips and dust fall to the plush carpet.

In the library, the tile floor was cold even through the thick skin of my clawed feet. Moonlight glittered outside. Dew-laden fog gave way to a crisp, clear night. I opened the window and inhaled fresh air, closing my eyes, just breathing, trying to steel myself for my first, solo flight. Moonglow reflected through the trees, iridescent and silver. I leaned out, feeling the sill against my chest plate. The second my snout crossed the plane into the night air, electricity blasted my face like a hammer.

I coughed blood into the air. The cold tile pressed up on my side, as if the floor had risen up to meet me. The room went red around me and faded.

To follow her on her social links:

Website:        www.amitygreen.ink

Twitter:         @amitygreenbooks

Tumblr:         AmityGreen

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You may purchase Scales here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G9N923Y

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 13 – Uri Kurlianchik Interview

This week’s featured guest is Israeli author, Uri Kurlianchik. He has written primarily for tabletop role-playing games but recently turned his attention to fiction. His work in the gaming field was published by WotC, Paizo, Mongoose and others. His fiction includes the modern fantasy story cycle “Tales from an Israeli Storyteller,” the space opera, Noblesse Oblige, released by WordFire Press on July 27, 2018, and several fantasy and horror stories published in various magazines and anthologies, including the British urban fantasy story cycle “The Red Phone Box.” When not writing, Uri is raising the next generation of geeks by instructing tabletop and board games to kids in schools and community centers. When not doing either, he sleeps.

Uri describes Noblesse Oblige’s premise as follows:

In a universe where corporate scions hold aristocratic titles and wield near absolute power over the masses, a young princess embarks on a mission of mercy to find a new home for the refugees created by her father’s latest war on the edge of the solar system. To her dismay, an invitation to an isolated planetoid that could serve as the perfect home for the exiles turns out to be a ploy by the infamous Baron Von Schmidt to add yet another outrage to his repertoire: a depraved auction where the item on sale is her royal highness and the bidders are the who’s who of the system’s worst scoundrels!

With only enemies in sight and no way to call for help, the young princess has no choice but to rescue herself. This will not be easy.

Her foes include: a Chinese pirate queen, Russia’s foremost duelist, a corporate samurai, a Venusian mafiosi, expert French poisoner twins, a floating Swiss banker of unimaginable wealth and weight, and a British gentleman who happens to be a pterodactyl.

Her arsenal consists of: vague memories from classes she mostly slept through, a pile of gadgets for which she’s never read the user manual, and an unruly ferret.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

It’s a story about a Princess who needs to rescue herself from a parcel of rogues while marooned on a faraway planetoid. It’s equal parts Dune, James Bond and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… if they were all written by a drunk Victorian (that’s actually how a friend described the prose in the novel). The Princess does have a name, but I keep forgetting how to spell it. It appears somewhere in the book, however, so not to worry.

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

Oh yes! The whole thing started online as a random late night chat with a friend. We just started throwing ideas back and forth and ended up discussing many people who didn’t exist and events that never happened. We talked for hours, but vampires that we are, we had to retire before the sun rose. However, I got so excited about the small mythology created in the conversation that the following evening I copy+pasted it into Google Docs and used it as a guideline for a short story which kept getting longer and longer until it reached its organic conclusion. There was never an outline or a plan of any sort, just rogue thoughts doing their best to outsmart one another.

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

The scope of this novel is intentionally very small. It covers a period of just 24 hours (almost in real time) and takes place entirely in and around one mansion on an isolated planetoid. At the same time, we keep getting hints about the greater setting and famous denizens thereof through cultural references and conversations between the characters. However, these are just hints. It’s possible to understand the context of the novel from them, but it’s also possible to be very wrong…

What was your path to publication?

Once the book was completed (something I never really planned for since I worked on it irregularly at best) I thought I might as well shop it around because I felt the result was a fun read and because this is what you do when you have a completed manuscript. An editor friend kindly offered to go over the manuscript and fix language and continuity issues. Without her assistance, I doubt the novel would be publishable. I sent the manuscript to several publishing houses that published stuff I liked. Eventually, the good people of WordFire Press liked the novel and chose to publish it. The rest is history.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a sequel for Noblesse Oblige. It’s still told from the POV of the Princess but it’s wider in scope and sheds light on some of the “mythological” characters mentioned only in passing in the first book. Also, since this time the Princess is on an adventure of her own choosing, she’ll hopefully be a little less outraged all the time, and we’ll get to see her nicer side. No guarantees though. You know how these aristocrats are…

My other project is a novel about four Jewish kids and a Bedouin girl who deal with all sorts of magical creatures as well as mundane dangers in the hills of Samaria as they try to help their giant friend to discover what happened to her children. The whole book is an ode to the view I see each time I raise my eyes from the screen and look into the distance. It burrows some elements from Jewish and Islamic folklore, but mostly it’s just my imagination running wild in the landscape before my eyes.

What else have you written?

I started as a writer for tabletop RPGs and have written many articles and adventures, mostly for the science fiction game Traveller and the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons. Fiction-wise, I have self-published “Stories from an Israeli Storyteller.” It’s a cycle of short stories in various genres ranging from lighthearted fantasy to rather bleak horror. Each story explores a different location I like in Israel. The plots are entirely fictional (you don’t meet many golems or efreeti in the desert these days) but the geographic details are precise enough to make each story useful as a guidebook to the location in question. I have also written several short stories, mostly horror and dark fantasy, including a couple of stories to a very unusual urban fantasy story cycle called “The Red Phone Box.”

What is your writing routine?

Nothing in my life has any semblance of a routine and writing is no different. I write whenever I feel like it, which is usually very late at night when it’s cool and quiet and my brain is tired enough to stop resisting the flow of ideas but not so tired as to muddle my writing. I don’t force myself to write unless I have deadline. I think writing should be fun and spontaneous. It shouldn’t be a chore.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I didn’t do it for my first novel, which got me in a pickle a few times. I ended up having to rewrite big chunks of the novel when I realized that the direction I was headed into wasn’t feasible and again when I decided to change an important detail about the setting. This wasn’t the least bit fun. My current projects both have plot outlines, though only in the vaguest terms because I still want to be able to surprise myself from time to time. I also wrote short but expansive setting bibles to help avoid inconsistencies. Lastly, I have a little notepad where I write down any cool idea that comes to mind, a creative diary of sorts. This can be anything ranging from a cool plot development to a funny line or even just a cool sounding name.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I never write until I’m intellectually exhausted. Instead, I stop right at the most exciting part, when I’m just burning with the desire to write some more. This way, the momentum of the previous session carries me to the next session. I find that when I write until my mind is empty it’s much harder to go on writing the following day.

Secondly, as the excellent fantasy writer Steven Brust once said, you need to invent some lie that helps you to go on writing and stick to it until your novel is done. In my case, the lie is that I am not going to write a whole novel. I’m only writing to kill time and can stop anytime I want without any consequences. It’s just mindless fun, like watching TV or reading a comic book. By constantly repeating this lie to myself, I’ve already finished a couple dozen stories and adventures, two gaming books, a story cycle and a novel. It’s far easier to start writing when you know it’s just to pass the time then when you feel like you’re doing important work and better do it right or else.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

As someone who lives in the Middle East, the news are full of villainy, heroism and the touch and go drama that can inspire anything ranging from bloody horror to epic fantasy. Sometimes, you can look out of the window and see stuff exploding in the sky as if you’re living in an episode of Star Wars or Babylon 5…

Traveling is another great source of inspiration. I daresay there are few locations in Israel I haven’t visited yet and almost everywhere I go I find a small fragment of a story, a trace of something fantastic (or terrifying!). Go to enough places and you have enough fragments to construct an entire tale. When I go abroad I usually try to stay with people rather than sleep in hotels. I don’t do this just because I’m a cheap bastard (well not onlybecause of that) but also because spending some time with people from a different culture can really help you see the world from a different perspective. This is a huge part of what writing fiction is all about: trying to see a different world through different eyes for a while.

Then there’s gaming. Yes, it’s all made up, but since it involves so many people from diverse backgrounds, some games create experiences that are far greater than a sum of their parts. While there are very few things more obnoxious than someone telling you about their character at length or describing the minute details of their campaign setting, some game scenes have enough drama and emotion to inspire excellent literally scenes as well.

Describe a typical day.

I wake up at the crack of noon, hastily dress so I won’t be late for work. I drive while holding the steering wheel in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Usually there will be some good audiobook in the background. After 2-3 groups, my work day is over and I can start the “me” part of the day. The majority of it will be spent in my garden with my laptop. It always starts with my intention to work on one of my novels, but often leads to hours of pointless surfing and chatting. Sometimes feral cats or hyraxes come to keep my company. At some point I will take a break to watch some good show or walk around town for an hour or so.

I go to bed just as the distant muazzin summons the faithful. I hardly ever see my neighbors, but I am very well acquainted with their white bunny and their black dog.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

The top of my fridge is a shrine of sorts. It contains little deities from Japan, China, India, Siberia, Russia, Nepal, Norway, Egypt, and of course dread Cthulhu. I think this may have attracted a domovoi spirit because I have no other way to explain why things disappear and reappear in my home at random. Right by the door to my house there’s a lovely ricinus plant. It provides shade in the summer and peace of mind in the winter. I don’t have any pets, but I get along very well with all manners of small animals. These include parakeets whom I almost, but not quite, trained to eat out of my hands.

Thank you so much, Uri, for sharing your story and imparting your delightful sense of humor to this page. Before I provide our visitors with an excerpt from Nobless Oblige, as well as your social and book buy links, I’m hoping to entice you to participate in a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: cheese!

The one thing I would change about my life: Eat less, exercise more.

My biggest peeve is: Stalin apologists. Never forgive. Never forget.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: My girlfriend is pretty cool. She’s the best traveling companion in the world.

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

If you get invited to a small planet at the edge of the solar system by a famously eccentric baron, don’t go. It’s bound to be a part of some nefarious plot!

Excerpt:

The Princess wrinkled her nose and turned away. She was surrounded by the sort of people one hopes to go through life without ever seeing outside of sensational newscasts or feverish dreams. While the guests she’d met so far had at least some tenuous claims to aristocracy, the same could not be said about the last and least of the guests – a venerable Chinese woman in a gown of seemingly living butterflies and an obese Italian man smoking a thick cigar while framed by two belles, one albino and one Afro-Terrestrial, their doped expressions a testimony to the ill effects of opium.

Von Schmidt followed her gaze and proceeded with his round of uncalled for introductions.

“This delightful lady, very wellpickledfor her age, which puts many of the rocks outside to shame, is the infamous pirate Chang Shih Feng, an admiral in the Fleet of the Thousand Butterflies. Her dress consists of a thousand ersatz butterflies with wings as sharp as razors. With a single word she can reduce a roomful of unshielded people to bloody ribbons or upgrade her dress into the latest scream in orbital fashion.

“Across the room, with two gorgeous women by his somewhat less gorgeous sides, is her sworn enemy, Don Vincenzo Calzoni. It is said that for all her flagrancy, Madam Chang has a soft spot for defenseless young maidens and would castrate anyone who would dare to take advantage of a young woman of any creed. Calzoni, on the other hand, has made quite a fortune by taking advantage of such young women, as well as boys, beasts, and various artifices unsuitable for civilized discourse due to being subjects of deviant intercourse.

“I hope you are flattered that two sworn enemies are willing to peacefully share a room just to bask in your royal presence, especially since both of them command private armies to match those of numerous smaller Terrestrial states, though, it must be said, not even a minor threat to your father’s fleet, or even the Old Brigade.”

“Overjoyed,” the Princess said with the expression of a person informed that their upcoming execution will be performed by a panel of award-winning executioners and that each artifice of murder would be lovingly handcrafted by a troop of celebrated Dutch artisans. “You could have saved considerable time by simply saying ‘a pirate and a pimp.’”

Von Schmidt clapped once, raising quite a few eyebrows, and laughed heartily. “This is true, oh yes, quite true! I will save time then – a scoundrel, a villain, a thief, a charlatan, an assassin, a radical, a libertine… well, that would be me of course, and a princess! My dear lady, if you feel yourself so much above this choice extract of the villains of the system, should we get to the matter at hand?”

“What matter?” The Princess asked suspiciously.

Von Schmidt turned away from her and spoke as loudly as one could without appearing emotional. “Ladies, Gentlemen. I’m so glad that most of you could make it. May I offer a moment of silence for our friends who did not survive the arduous journey?”

“No need! They already very silent!”  Madam Chang interjected. Several people laughed uneasily.

“I admit-a to a-nothing!” Calzoni laughed alone.

“Must we suffer this vulgarity for long, dear Jean?” Jean asked in a sensual voice that sounded as if it was leading to a yawn but never quite got there.

“It is a sad truth that the possession of some rare jewels is worth suffering the company of apes,” the other Jean replied in an identical voice.

“Apes are apes, though they speak with a rummy French accent.” Professor York misquoted the old poet and addressed Von Schmidt directly. “If one doesn’t care to spend the entire afternoon wiping blood and brain matter off the walls, one is dashed well advised to start with the proceedings already!”

Von Schmidt bowed his head slightly. “Indeed, my dear professor, let us waste no more time on banter and get to the auction.”

“What’s for sale?” the Princess asked uneasily.

“Why, you are, of course.” Von Schmidt answered cheerfully.

Readers can follow Uri here:

Website:         https://www.facebook.com/Urikson

Blog:               http://dndkids.blogspot.com

You can purchase your copy of Noblesse Oblige at:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Noblesse-Oblige-Uri-Kurlianchik/dp/1614756643/

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 30 – Bill DeSmedt Interview

This week’s featured author, Bill DeSmedt, describes his life this way:

I’ve spent my life living by my wits and my words. In my time, and as the spirit’s moved me, I’ve been: a Soviet Area expert and US/USSR exchange student, a computer programmer and system designer, a telecommunications consultant, an Artificial Intelligence researcher, a son, a husband and lover, a father and grandfather, an omnivorous reader with a soft spot for science fiction and science fact, and now, Lord help us, a novelist. I’ve tried to pack as much of that checkered history as I could into my Archon Sequence technothrillers, beginning with Singularity.

My previous writing credits include an unconventional two-part attempt to marry the fields of cognitive psychology and software engineering for the journal DataBase Programming & Design, a chapter on artificial intelligence in foreign language learning for Melissa Holland’s Intelligent Language Tutors, a beginner’s guide to natural-language processing for the Proceedings of the 1997 Computer Game Developers Conference, and a treatise on storytelling as a tool of military command for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The publication of Singularity marks the first time I’ve committed an act of fiction.

Bill’s novel, Singularity, released by WordFire Press on June 23, 2018, takes its terrifying premise from an actual occurrence termed by scientists the Tunguska Event.

TUNGUSKA, JUNE 30, 1908: The most catastrophic impact in recorded history rocks the Central Siberian plateau, flattening thousands of square kilometers of ancient forest and sending shockwaves around the globe, yet leaving behind not a shred of evidence as to what caused it.

Could the culprit have been, as Albert A. Jackson IV and Michael P. Ryan Jr. theorized in the pages of Nature, a primordial black hole? Earth’s encounter with such a fantastic object—smaller than an atomic nucleus, more massive than a mountain, older than the stars—could account for all the phenomena of the Tunguska Event.

All, save one: An infalling micro-hole should have burrowed unhindered through the solid mantle of the earth, bursting up out of the North Atlantic hours later with as much multi-megaton force as the original impact. Absent any trace of such an “exit event,” the Jackson-Ryan hypothesis was swiftly consigned to the dustbin of astrophysical history.

And yet …

110 years after Tunguska, maverick cosmologist Jack Adler is researching a new and improved scenario: What if there was no exit event because the black hole itself never came out? What if it fell into orbit around earth’s core instead? What if it’s still down there, tunneling through the lithosphere, slowly consuming the planet?

Unfortunately, Adler’s not alone in his surmise. A renegade Russian oligarch is plotting to capture the orbiting micro-hole and expose what lurks at its heart: a naked singularity—a gravitational point-source powerful enough to warp space and time itself.

Now only a rookie government agent and the ueber-consultant she’s drafted into helping her are standing in the way of a world-spanning conspiracy aiming to reshape the future by rewriting the past.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Kip Thorne, Nobel-prize-winning theoretical physicist and close collaborator with the late Stephen Hawking, had this to say about Singularity:

“Bill got the vast majority of the physics right, which is highly unusual—especially in a book that is such a good read.”

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

It took a lot of books to make this one. But this one started with a TV program. Perils of couch-potatohood, I guess.

It was years back, a rainy Saturday afternoon in mid-summer. I was sitting around watching a rerun of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, Episode IV: “Heaven and Hell”—the one that deals with meteor and cometary impacts.

So, about midway through, Carl gets around to the Tunguska Event. And from there to the Jackson-Ryan hypothesis: that the Event was a collision between the earth and an atom-sized black hole. And then he’s off refuting J&R, citing the standard missing exit-event objection—namely, that the black hole should have cut through the earth like a knife through morning mist, and come exploding up out of the North Atlantic about an hour later, wreaking all manner of havoc in the North Atlantic sea lanes. Never happened. QED. And, next thing you know Carl’s gone on to Meteor Crater in Arizona or some such.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting there, staring at the TV. “But, Carl,” I say to myself, “What if the damned thing never came out?”

Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then. The idea wouldn’t leave me in peace. It kept rattling around in my hind-brain, gradually accreting mass as more and more pieces from my personal history fell into place: my background in Sovietology, my career as a consultant, just enough physics to glimpse what the successors to the KGB might want to do with a captive black hole… Over the next couple years, that one minuscule germ of an idea grew into a plotline.

Finally, on an equally rainy Saturday over a lost Memorial Day weekend, I sat down at the word processor, and Singularity began to write itself!

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

I can’t presume to speak for other authors, but I do feel an obligation to my readers to try and keep the science as accurate and understandable as possible—to get, in Kip Thorne’s words, the “vast majority of the physics right.”

What was your path to publication?

Arduous. Right up there with sausage and legislation as one of those things regarding which you don’t want to know how they come about.

What are you working on now?

Triploidy, the third installment in the Archon Sequence.

What else have you written?

Dualism, the second book in the Archon Sequence. All the rest to date has been non-fiction for various corporations and government agencies—oh, yes, a series of blogs on artificial intelligence and related topics for Huffington Post and LinkedIn.

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

Singularity

Singularity was also named to the following “Best of 2004” lists:

  • Barnes & Noble Explorationseditor Paul Goat Allen’s Top Ten Novels of the Year
  • com’sBest Books of 2004 list in not one, but two Categories—Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror and Mystery/Thriller
  • SFSignal’s Year in Review: The BestList and “John”’s List of “Top X favorite genre books read last year (Where X is 5 or less).”

What is your writing routine?

See: http://www.kylecassidy.com/projects/sfwriters/

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes.

Then I stick it in a desk drawer and never look back.

Why do you write?

Initially, it was the inciting incident of the Carl Sagan broadcast (see above). Thereafter, I became intrigued by my protagonists themselves—I wanted to explore the evolution of their relationship, assuming such a thing is even possible nowadays.

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

I’d have to say my marriage to Kathrin. We’ve been going at it for decades, and it’s always reminded me of Thornton Wilder’s line in Our Town:

“Once in a thousand times it’s interesting.”

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a senior ontologist at semantic search firm NTENT, Inc.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

My wife Kathrin and I are serial wirehaired dachshund adopters.

Do you have any pet projects?

In my copious spare time, I’ve been working to create MetaLang, a knowledge-based, language-independent, end-user authorable conversational agent technology suite. MetaLang agents employ natural language processing and knowledge representation and reasoning capabilities to hold up their end of a conversation. Rather than parroting canned responses, or matching wild-carded patterns, a MetaLang agent relies on its “mindset”—the totality of the memories, beliefs, opinions, and knowledge comprising its simulated personality, based on Minskyesque frames populated from a homegrown, mid-sized (~12K concept) ontology—to extemporize like a human improvisational actor across a broad spectrum of instructional, entertainment, and customer-service interactions.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

David Brin, James Morrow, Larry Niven, Robert Pirsig, and Vernor Vinge

Thank you for taking the time to share with us. Before I present an excerpt to our readers and provide your book buy links, I’d like to engage in a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Intellectual stimulation.

The one thing I would change about my life: Pretty much nothing.

My biggest peeve is: The sad yet increasingly undeniable fact that nothing can defeat logic but ignorance.

The person I’m most satisfied with is: Marianna Bonaventure.

Excerpt:

Prologue: The Tunguska Event, June 20, 1908

The remnant had sailed the empty spaces between the stars since time began. Had journeyed far, far in space and time from its birth at the beginning of all things, far from its forging in the primal fires of Creation.

There was no destination on this voyage, though there were occasional ports of call. Here and there throughout the void tiny orbs circled their parent primaries, huddled close against the cold and the dark. Most such solar systems were bypassed without incident. Still, every once in an eternity, some unlucky world would chance to swim out into the remnant’s path.

As one is doing now.

* * *

In this, the summer of 1908, there is no science or technology anywhere on earth that might avert the impending catastrophe. Heavier-than-air flying machines have only just begun their conquest of the skies, while space flight remains but a distant dream, the exclusive province of visionaries like Jules Verne and Herbert George Wells. The controversial theory that the entire physical world might be made up of tiny particles called ‘atoms’ is still waging an uphill battle for scientific acceptance, against the strenuous opposition of influential physicist-philosopher Ernst Mach. It will be another fifteen months before a young Albert Einstein will leave his safe berth at the Bern patent office and devote himself fulltime to generalizing the theory of relativity he first broached a mere three years ago. For all the secrets that nature has yielded up in the two centuries since Newton, the scientists of earth still stand helpless before the threat posed by the remnant.

But they can, just barely, detect its approach.

In the main physics lab at Germany’s Kiel University of Applied Science, beginning at six in the evening on June 27th and continuing over the following two nights, Professor Ludwig Weber has been observing faint but regular disturbances in his magnetometer readings. After ruling out streetcar vibrations and Northern Lights, he concludes that a powerful magnetic point-source must be nearing the earth from somewhere out in space. But when Weber points the observatory telescope at the likely region of night sky, he sees—nothing.

What could be close enough and charged enough to interfere with the magnetic field of the earth itself, yet remain invisible to the most sensitive instruments early twentieth-century optical technology can muster? This is the question that confounds Weber throughout the evening of June 29th as he watches the magnetic disturbances grow in strength. He is still wrestling with the riddle when, at 1:14 on the morning of June 30, 1908, the frenetic jitter of his magnetometer needle comes to a sudden dead stop.

* * *

Six time zones to the east of Kiel, far out on the Central Siberian plateau, there yawns that vast, silent emptiness known as the Stony Tunguska basin—three hundred thousand square miles of watershed, peopled, even in this eighth year of the new century, by fewer than thirty thousand souls. Here, in this land of expatriate Russian frontiersmen and nomadic Evenki tribes, there are no telescopes, no magnetometers, precious little technology of any kind. Here in Tunguska, nothing but a dying shaman’s vision has foretold the remnant’s coming, and nothing more than the naked eye will be needed to witness its arrival.

Here in Tunguska, the morning of June 30th has dawned bright and clear, scarcely a wisp of cloud in the sky. By seven, the sun has been up for hours, banishing the chill of the brief subarctic summer night, promising another sweltering noontide. Herds of domesticated reindeer, lifeblood of the Evenki nomads, are already grazing on new shoots in the thickly-forested taiga. Dense veils of mosquitoes swarm the pestilential bogs of the Great Southern Swamp. The living world goes on unchanged, just as it has for centuries. All this despite the shaman’s warning.

Perhaps no one finds more comfort in the very ordinariness of this fine summer morning than a young Evenki herdsman by the name of Vasiliy Jenkoul. For today Jenkoul must tend to his father’s southern herds. And that will mean riding down the long Silgami ridge, directly into the Tunguska heartlands.

Directly into the lands where—to believe the shaman’s deathbed prophecy—on this morning, the great god Ogdy, Old Man of the Storms, will send forth his thunderwinged minions to visit death and destruction upon the clans of the Stony Tunguska.

* * *

7:14 A.M. The forest falls silent. Even the ceaseless susurration of the Great Swamp’s insect life fades. Far off in the southeastern skies, clearly visible in broad daylight, a bright blue star appears.

The remnant is close now. Four hundred miles out and a hundred miles up, just beginning to brush the lower edges of the ionosphere. The resulting shockwave fluoresces in the ultraviolet. Thickening atmosphere absorbs the radiation and re-emits it at longer wavelengths.

Trailing a plasma column of cerulean blue, it descends.

* * *

Book online sales links:

Amazon paperback:    https://www.amazon.com/Singularity-Archon-Sequence-Bill-DeSmedt/dp/1614756252/

Amazon ebook:           https://www.amazon.com/Singularity-Archon-Sequence-Book-1-ebook/dp/B07DZ4S6TR/

Links to your website, blog and any online social accounts:

Vurdalak:                     http://vurdalak.com/

Website:                      http://billdesmedt.com/

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do you write?

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

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

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

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

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

What motivates or inspires you?

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

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Oxygen

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

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

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

 

 Chapter One

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I dare not delay for long.

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

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

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

Surrender to soil and sky.

 

Those who are interested can follow Christopher here:

Website:         christopherkatava.com

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/chriskatava

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

You Can Purchase TheRise of First World here:

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

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 23 – Interview With Alex Singer

Alex Singer lives in coastal Connecticut with her wife, two cats, and far too many books on Greek mythology. She is author of the ongoing webcomic, Sfeer Theory, as well as the illustrated novella, Small Town Witch. Her work has appeared in Fairylogue’s Valor Anthology, Empyreome Magazine, and Crossed Genres Magazine. Her YA Cyberpunk, Sci-fi/Fantasy novel, entitled Minotaur, was published by WordFire Press on March 3, 2018. This is its premise:

A futuristic retelling of Icarus, Theseus, and the Minotaur in a city run by artificial gods.
As daughter of the royal architect, Ikki set out to discover a new world the day she flew her homemade bi-plane up beyond Crete’s artificial sun. Instead, she crashed her plane and found herself on trial for a crime she didn’t commit. She is exiled to the Labyrinth—the city’s ever-shifting mechanical core—and she has seven days to find her way back out. If Ikki can escape in time, she will be declared innocent by the gods of Crete. But no one has ever returned.
Lost among the moving walls and pursued by a diabolical engine large enough to shake the floors, she soon realizes there is a reason that no one has escaped the labyrinth. Determined to clear her name, Ikki’s only hope for salvation lies in the very thing that is hunting her: a fearsome beast known only as the Minotaur.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Minotaur is a retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur starring a gusty female Icarus. It straddles a line between sci-fi and fantasy—a world where the Greek gods are recast as AIs managing a enclosed world. The big thing I want to get across is that it’s a story about being a truthseeker. And a girl who’s a truthseeker. I was a girl who asked a lot of questions growing up, and that’s a really hard thing to be. Boys are often encouraged to be bold inquisitive, girls are expected to behave. So I wanted to do a story about a girl who was bold and inquisitive to a fault. I wanted her to have the strengths and flaws afforded to a male protagonist. I wanted to tell a story about a girl who couldn’t really be shut down, and how that can get her into trouble as well as out of it!

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

I’ve always loved Greek mythology, but especially the monsters in Greek mythology. There was always something so tragic about monsters in Greek mythology. So often there was this aspect of them being lonely, misunderstood creatures who are victims of circumstance as much as anything. Medusa, the Minotaur—they’re tools of some higher power’s punishment, but they’re still suggested to be fully sentient, reasoning beings. That’s a pretty raw deal from their perspective. So I guess I always sympathized and wanted to save these creatures from their narratives. That’s what I set out to do with Minotaur. I took two characters that meet very messy ends in their original myths (Icarus and the Minotaur) and made them the protagonists, rather than the footnote to someone else’s story (Theseus).

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

I’m bad at sticking to one genre.  It’s hard for me to stick to just sci fi or fantasy conventions. Combining genres in new and interesting ways is fun. Small Town Witch was a combination of fantasy and film noir. Sfeer Theory is fantasy steampunk with influences from American and British history.

Minotaur jumps between sci-fi and fantastical elements a lot. There’s gods—but they’re AIs. There’s machines—but they’re operated by Gods. There’s a minotaur—but he’s a genetically engineered monster. My friends have been referring to it as ‘greco-punk’—a word I like a lot!

What was your path to publication?

It’s been a pretty windy path! I haven’t really gone through conventional channels. I’ve written a few novels now but I’m very bad at sticking to one genre. I really enjoy shifting between sci-fi and fantasy. I’ve published a few short stories and there but most of my work has been in webcomics. I met my long-time creative partner, Jayd Ait-Kaci, as a freshman in college. Our first webcomic, Salad Days, was started when I was 19—it didn’t last very long. Our next one, Sfeer Theory, has published on and off for nearly 10 years. We’ve racked up quite a few independent titles, included Small Town Witch, our illustrated magical noir novella. I was promoting Small Town Witch at Connecticon when I pitched Minotaur to WordFire Press.

What are you working on now?

More Sfeer Theory! Along with the next in Ikki’s adventure. I’m also experimenting with serialized fiction—something you see a lot in webcomic format but still hasn’t yet found its way back to mainstream publishing. Which is a shame because so many great classic novels were once published in serialized form.

What is your writing routine?
I take the train from New Haven to New York a lot—visiting family and commuting. The train’s a great way to have an enforced period of time to write. The stretch between New Haven and Stamford is how most of Minotaur got done. Besides that, my wife keeps teacher hours, so I find getting up a bit early to get a few pages done is often a nice way to get my mind focused for the day. A little bit here and there regularly is the steadiest way to complete anything. I usually aim for about 2K a day at my best. 1K is acceptable when you’re busy. But the key thing is I try make a habit out of it—a bit like going to the gym. This is something doing a few goes at NaNoWriMo has taught me.

Do you create an outline before you write?
Depends on the story! I don’t write out traditional outlines, but I do often try to figure out what the last scene of my story is going to be before I write it. I think a key thing in any narrative is figuring out your starting point and endpoint. Once you know where you need to go, the middle isn’t quite as daunting. I’ve written novels where I’ve started with the last scene first.  I wrote Minotaur almost entirely chronologically. I didn’t have an outline, but I knew what I wanted the last scene to be—so I powered through in order to get to write it!

Why do you write?

Because I’ve got a thousand worlds in my head and I need to get some of them out of there. For me though, I really love sharing stories and ideas, and I find putting a narrative to them is the best way to communicate those ideas. That’s part of why I love sci-fi and fantasy in particular, the real world can be an exhausting place—fantasy and sci-fi a good way to create the world you wish you could see more of. I don’t believe in escapism, but I think idealism in sci-fi/fantasy is worth it sometimes. There are so many ideas that came out because someone saw or read about it in a sci-fi/fantasy novel. (R2D2 was the inspiration for Roombas, for example). I think that extends to social issues as well. So I like to tell stories because I like to hope for better things.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Read. And read a lot. A good book is the best way to get excited about writing again. Sometimes I fall back on my favorite authors to calm my mind down and remind myself how much I love words. Diana Wynne Jones is one of them. Ernest Hemingway is another one. Both of them have very clear styles that are very refreshing. Sometimes I just need to be reminded how a sentence gets formed, and Hemingway especially was an expert at that.

My other solution is to find a very patient friend and talk out my stories.  Conversation and collaboration is a good way to solidify an idea in your head. I sometimes find explaining a plot or situation out loud helps me get past whatever was causing it to stall in my mind.

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

Self-promotion! Authors are generally an introverted people, and I’m no exception. Going to conventions and promoting my work is hard. I love talking to fans and hearing what they have to say about my work, but it takes a lot of courage! You have to talk yourself up before you can really sell what you do to other people, and that’s a huge leap of faith.

Tell us about your writing community.

I come from webcomics, and collaboration is part of what’s gotten me to where I am. I think some of my favorite ideas are the ones I’ve come up with while talking with friends about collaborative work. It’s a great energy to channel, and I’m lucky I’ve had friends and loved ones who’ve willingly lent me an ear.  My creative partner Jayd Ait-Kaci, who was always willing to bat ideas around for me. And my wife, Valerie, who has often helped me come up with some terrible pun to justify an entire short story.  I think community is a really important part of the creative process. I like reading other peoples stories, seeing them create their characters, watching them find narratives that suit those characters—and sending whatever encouragement again!

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

My grandfather was my biggest influence growing up. He was really supportive of my creative influences. He was also just a really cool guy. He was trained as a spy in World War II, and he wrote political thrillers. His novel, The Parallax View, had a film adaptation done by Warren Beatty. It had a bit of a cult following—but I never knew about that for years. Mostly he always sat by and listened to me tell stories about dragons. They weren’t very good stories about dragons, but he was always willing to hear them. He also once very gently told me to use less adverbs, something I appreciate as an adult.

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

Just get back up! If I get rejection one short story I’ll send two more out that day.

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

I’d have started submitting short stories for publication sooner! I let my fear of rejection hold me back for a long time. I used to share my stories only with my friends, I wish I’d been bolder sooner. I might’ve gotten more rejections, but I’d also have been putting myself out there sooner!

What is your greatest life lesson?

Don’t fear rejection. Don’t be afraid to fail at things. Someone might not like one story you submit, but it doesn’t mean it’s not good or it’s not a story worth telling. Even successful people fail sometimes. It’s not worth holding yourself back. Living in fear of other people’s judgment is living half a life.

What makes you laugh?

My wife Valerie. She’s good at saying something ridiculous to get me out of myself when I’m having the inevitable artistic angst. Octopus videos help, too.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Diana Wynne Jones, E.M Forster, Ernest Hemingway, and Leo Tolstoy

Thank you Alex for taking the time to share with us. Before I show our visitors an excerpt from The Minotaur and provide your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a customary Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Sushi

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d have more time to write!

My biggest peeve is: Cynicism.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My books/comics. I’m amazed I’ve gotten this far.

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

Be sincere. Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there about what you like. The best stories come from a place of emotional honesty, and if you hold yourself back, your reader can tell. So you may as well love what you do wholeheartedly, and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself a little bit.

Minotaur excerpt:

 “Blue,” said Ikki. “I told you this. Blue. It’s blue. It came through in the feed didn’t it? You have the recording! You saw what I saw!”

Tierce frowned, very slightly. “No,” he said. “I’m sorry. I haven’t seen anything like that in my life. Everyone knows the sky is chrome.”

“But outside—”

“And outside it is the color of horrible deadly toxins,” finished Tierce primly. “This is something we all know. Certainly, Your Majesty, I heard the girl’s theory about this.”

He wont even look at me! thought Ikki, she started to step forward, but the captain grabbed her arm.

“And I was aware she had built a flying machine, but I had no notion that she would use it like this. Certainly, she decided to do so; it was on her own volition. I would never have thought it was possible to fly above the Helios lights. I told her as much.”

“But you said you’d be curious if it could be done!” cried Ikki. “Stop telling them only half of the story. You were there, I was talking to you. I’m not lying.”

Tierce gave a labored, sympathetic smile. “I understand that’s how you might feel, but just because you want something to happen doesn’t mean everyone else automatically agrees with you. I’m sorry for this misunderstanding, I truly am.”

Ikki wanted to punch him. She wanted to drag him down and strangle him. The captain pulled her back.

“I don’t believe you,” she said. “Tierce, the footage. You have it. What did you see?”

“Yes, what did you see?” asked King Minos.

Tierce turned his back on Ikki and held his hands out, gloved palms up. “Nothing, your majesty,” he said. “I saw nothing. I can see how what she says is awfully troubling, though. I know Ikki. She’s stubborn. If there’s something she really believes she won’t ever let it go.”

“Tierce—” started Ikki, and then the captain struck her across the face. He wore metal gauntlets over his huge, meaty arms. If he’d really wound one back he could have easily killed her. As it was, a light flick from his wrist left her head ringing. She fell to her knees, feeling the new pain hot over her right cheek.

“Show respect,” said the captain. “You are speaking to the House of Minos.”

“I know that,” whispered Ikki. He’d hit her. He’d really hit her.

“As you see,” said Tierce. “Stubborn.”

Minos II growled: “We knew this already.”

Minos III said: “I stand by my original verdict.”

“I’ve got one better,” said Tierce, “The Minotaur.”

Those who would like to follow Alex online can do so here:

Website:         https://alextsinger.weebly.com/
Twitter:          https://twitter.com/sfeertheorist

You can purchase The Minotaur here:

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.com/Minotaur-Mechanical-Myth-Myths-Machina-ebook/dp/B07B6GGLHM
Kobo:              https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/minotaur-17

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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, March 26 – Interview With Sam Stone

Award winning genre writer Sam Stone began writing at age eleven after reading her first adult fiction book, The Collector by John Fowles. Her love of horror fiction began soon afterwards when she stayed up late one night with her sister to watch Christopher Lee in the classic Hammer film, Dracula. Since then she’s been a huge fan of vampire movies and novels old and new.

Sam’s writing has appeared in many anthologies for poetry and prose. Her first novel was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. Like all good authors she drew on her own knowledge and passions to write it. The novel won the Silver Award for Best Horror Novel in ForeWord Magazine’s book of the year awards in 2007.

In September 2008 the novel was re-edited and republished by The House of Murky Depths as Killing Kiss. Sequels, Futile Flame and Demon Dance went on to become finalists in the same awards for 2009/2010. Both novels were later Shortlisted for The British Fantasy Society Awards for Best Novel and Demon Dance won the award for Best Novel in 2011. Sam also won Best Short Fiction for her story Fool’s Gold which first appeared in the NewCon Press Anthology The Bitten Word.

In 2011 Sam was commissioned by Reeltime Pictures to write a monologue for their talking heads style Doctor Who spin-off, White Witch of Devil’s End. She was also co-script editor with David J Howe. White Witch, starring Damaris Hayman, was released on DVD to much critical acclaim in November 2017 by Koch Media as part of boxset called The Daemons of Devil’s End. Sam also edited and wrote a story in the novelisation inspired by the drama for Telos Publishing also called The Daemons of Devil’s End.

Other works include official Sherlock Holmes stories for Constable and Robinson and Titan. Sam also wrote a Dorian Gray story for Big Finish’s successful series, The Confessions of Dorian Gray.

Sam was commissioned by Telos to write several sequels to her hugely successful steampunk novella Zombies at Tiffany’s. The audio rights to Zombies At Tiffany’s were subsequently bought by Spokenworld Audio and were made available for download in Halloween 2013. In January 2015 the first novel of her new post-apocalyptic trilogy, Jinx Town – Book 1:The Jinx Chronicles, was published by Telos and was been followed by Book 2: Jinx Magic in 2016. The third and final book in the trilogy, Jinx Bound is planned for release sometime in 2018.

The rights for Sam’s latest novel, Posing For Picasso, were acquired by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s publishing house, Wordfire Press, in 2016. The book was released in January 2018 and is a crime supernatural thriller. Four top crime writers have given endorsements for this standalone novel, including Peter James who says that it is “A powerful mix of the supernatural and police investigation”.

An eclectic and skilled writer Sam also has a BA (Hons) in English and Writing for Performance and an MA in Creative Writing, which means that she is often invited to talk about writing in schools, colleges and universities in the UK. Sam is also frequently invited to appear as a guest at literary events, conventions and Comic Cons in the UK, USA and Canada.

Sam describes Posing for Picasso as follows:

It was Annabel, and something was wrong with the features … He thought he saw a triangle, not an irregular jigsaw shape after all. And it was missing from her face. As if a sharp pastry cutter mould had been stamped through her skull.

Someone is killing young girls in New York. Horrific murders where the bodies are being mutilated and parts harvested for unknown reasons. Detective Jake Chandler has a mystery on his hands, and even though there seems to be a connection to the Russian artist Avgustin Juniper, Juniper himself seems innocent and as confused as everyone else as to what is happening.

So why is Juniper painting all the murdered women, and what is stalking the artist? Something wants to return … something which was also known to Pablo Picasso … and only Chandler can stop it.

What do you want readers to know about your book?
Posing For Picasso is a book that feels as though it is a long time in the making. I first had the idea for this story in 2013. I love art and artists and the premise I originally came up with for this story was based around Picasso’s unique style – Crystal Cubism. Picasso was a brilliant artist, capable of realist art as well as the stylist work he later became famous for. I wanted to explore why his style might have changed. And the idea came to me that perhaps his model actually looked like that and he really painted what he saw. From there I developed a story set in modern times, with a back story of Picasso’s experiences.

Aside from the plot, is there a story behind it?
The theme of this novel is very much about loss—the loss of a loved one, the loss of one’s self through obsession, and the loss of immortality. Through this we have underlining explorations of morality in which our protagonists have to make choices to sacrifice themselves or someone else. There’s also an element of an artist being driven to create their art… having something “riding on their back” so to speak and pushing them to create, even though they themselves might have no memory of the actual creation process. This theme was in part inspired by a visit to see Clive Barker’s home in Los Angeles where we saw some of his incredible paintings and sculptures and heard stories of Clive’s amazing work ethic and his drive to create. I take inspiration from all over the place when planning and writing my books…

Why is your writing different from other authors in this genre?
I believe that all writers are different. We all bring our own unique experiences to any subject matter. I like to try different genes and mix and merge them whenever it feels right. I also always have an underlining point I’m trying to make in a story—whether the reader is aware of it or not, I know it’s there. I’m also not afraid to tackle dark issues, and I often have a cast of characters that are central and important to the story, not just one main person.

What was your path to publication?
I wrote my first novel, Killing Kiss, as my Master’s Degree dissertation. I was working as a high school English Teacher in the UK but I had since my early teens, always wanted to be a novelist. When I had completed the book and obtained my Masters, I didn’t know what to do with this shiny complete body of work that I was very proud of, and so, knowing nothing about the industry, I ended up going down the self publishing route. Then the book was submitted to ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards and I won the Silver Award for best horror novel. From there, I signed my first three book deal with an independent publisher. It was a roundabout route to being published, but it all turned out well in the end!

What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on my first straight thriller. There will be no supernatural elements at all in this.

Are there any awards or honors you’d like to share?
As mentioned earlier I won the Silver BOTYA Award with ForeWord Magazine. I was also the first women in 31 years to win the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2011, as well as Best Short Story that year too. The best “award” though is when people buy and appreciate my work!

What is your writing routine?
I very much treat my work as a job (but I’m fortunate in that I love it!). I wake up in the morning, have a cup of tea and I’m straight to work. I write all day, breaking for meals until about 4-5pm depending on how it’s going. I think I’m somewhat unique in that I can write an average of 5-6,000 words a day when I’m writing a novel. This is because I’m a fast typist (I work straight onto my laptop) but also because I don’t get hung up on tweaking. I just write and aim to finish, knowing that the finished novel will then be easier to edit and improve afterwards.

Do you create an outline before you write?
I wrote outlines for the first two books in my Jinx Trilogy—Jinx Town, Jinx Magic—and in some ways it made it easier to write the novels. However mostly I like to fly by the seat of my pants and just write. Especially with thrillers. However I do plot them all in my head. I’m always working because even when I’m not writing I’m thinking about the plot and the twists and turns I want in it. I always know the end of my books as I’m writing the opening—just not always the route by which we’ll get there. This to me makes the journey more fun, and less predictable. Often when I plot who will be the bad guy in a mystery I’m writing I often don’t decide until the end who it is. I hate predictable endings!

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?
My childhood plays a great part in a lot of things I write because it wasn’t a very happy one. I think the darkness in my writing comes mostly from my beginnings. As a child I spent a lot of time alone, reading to keep the outside world out. My imagination began there: I’d daydream better times. Nowadays, travel, people, food and especially my husband David, and my daughter Linzi, all inspires me. One of the lovely aspects of being a writer is that I can go to conventions and meet amazing people. It sometimes feels like a dream, and at others that this is normal. But it is enriching and I feel privilged to be in this position because I love people and I’m very sociable.

Would you care to share something about your home life?
I am married to David J. Howe—my soul mate—and we’ve been together for 10 years. I have a grown up daughter who no longer lives at home. She’s a beautiful girl and is a singer/songwriter called Linzi Gold. She seems to have inherited my storytelling gene as many of her songs tell tales. Check out her album at www.linzigold.com! We have two bengal cats called Leeloo and Skye and I’m well on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady.

What is your greatest life lesson?
I learnt to stand up for myself.

What makes you laugh?
Toilet Humour!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love Anne Rice, Stephen King, Mary Higgins-Clark, Sidney Sheldon, Dean Koontz. Peter James, Paul Finch.

Thank you, Sam, for spending time with us. Before I share a Posing For Picasso excerpt, followed by your social media and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round.

My best friend would tell you I’m: amiable.
The one thing I cannot do without is: My laptop.
The one thing I would change about my life: More financial security perhaps …
My biggest peeve is: Terrible drivers!
Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?
I hope everyone enjoys Posing For Picasso… it’s something of a departure for me as supernatural crime isn’t something I’ve dabbled in before… But initial reader feedback has been excellent!

Posing For Picasso excerpt:

A stifled sound, almost a cry, came from the bedroom. Juniper froze, startled, but also because he was unsure what he had heard. Maybe Annabel had turned off the radio beside the bed. Maybe it was the groan of the shower as the stop button was pressed. This old building often emitted sounds that Juniper had learned to live with but that sound, he couldn’t quite place.
Juniper put the paint brush down on the table beside his easel. Then he walked down the narrow corridor, past the empty, dark bathroom and opened the door to the bedroom.
The bed was empty. Annabel was on the balcony outside, or at least that was what he thought. There was a shape there, strangely dulled, not illuminated at all in the street lights.
“I’m back!” he called.
The shape moved. Juniper knew that eyes watched him. The hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood up.
“I hope you missed me …” Avgustin said. His voice was soft, teasing.
A prickle of anxiety crept along his spine as Annabel didn’t answer. A peculiar lethargy consumed his limbs. He stopped in the middle of the room as overwhelming tiredness swept over him. His eyes dulled, as though he was wearing sunglasses in the dark, but he could still make out a second shape. And this one he knew without doubt really was Annabel. Juniper blinked. He forced his arm to move, rubbed a softly clenched fist into one of his eyes. There was a blur, a flurry of movement and then a dull thud: a sound that would replay over and over in his head.
The tiredness began to leave him. It was as though some miasma had enclosed his body, but now the fog was clearing. Juniper crossed the threshold onto the balcony. The whole space was lit up now, not only by the streetlight below, but also by the side light on his wall outside.
There was no one there.
He experienced a sense of confusion and then the sounds of hysteria floated up to him as though he were waking from a drug induced sleep.
He staggered to the railing, every step forced the paralysis farther away, and his eyes cast downwards, into the street below.
It was hard to make sense of what he saw at first. A weird shape in a robe. A twisted body—arms and legs at painful angles. And a face turned upwards that was somehow incomplete.
Four stories up, Juniper could not make out all of the detail and so he later told himself that his hysterical mind had created this bizarre image. It was as though something was gone—like a jigsaw puzzle awaiting its final piece. A part that had been lost. No! Stolen.
But it wasn’t a puzzle that lay below him. It was Annabel, and something was wrong with the features that had inspired him. He thought he saw a triangle, not an irregular jigsaw shape after all. And it was missing from her face. As if a sharp pastry cutter mold had been stamped through her features.
“Annabel!” he screamed.
Below a man looked up and shouted. Juniper didn’t understand his words. They did not make any sense at all because what the man was saying was wrong. Impossible.
“It was him!” shouted the man. “He threw her over.”
Darkness swamped his vision again. Tears seeped like black rain. Juniper was blind. His heart a cold mass that hurt beyond endurance but still somehow continued to pump blood through his icy veins. He slumped to the ground and he stayed there until the uniformed police arrived to take him away.

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

Website: www.sam-stone.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/samstonereal
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SamStoneReal

You can purchase Posing For Picasso here:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Posing-Picasso-Sam-Stone/dp/1614756228/
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Posing-Picasso-Sam-Stone/dp/1614756228/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

Absolutely. In detail.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Describe a typical day.

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

What makes you laugh?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: Chocolate

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

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

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

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

 

Excerpt from Joanna Crusader:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is much rejoicing in the camp tonight.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who is the girl?” Raymond asked.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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