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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your books?

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

Why do you write?

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

How do you overcome writer’s block?

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

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

Describe a typical day.

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

Would you care to share something about your home life?

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

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: coffee.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

“Another satisfied customer?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Woman over in Seton Falls Park, apparently.”

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

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

“Depends.”

“On what?”

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

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

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

I grinned. “Thanks.”

 

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

Web site: DeCandido.net

Blog: DeCandido.wordpress.com

Facebook: fan page at Keith R.A. DeCandido

Twitter: @KRADeC

Instagram: krad418

 

You can purchase a copy of A Furnace Sealed  here:

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

You can purchase a copy of Mermaid Precinct  here:

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

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 4 – Julie Frost Interview

This week’s featured author, Julie Frost, grew up an Army brat, traveling the globe. She thought she might settle down after she finished school, but then she married a pilot and moved six times in seven years. She’s finally put down roots in Utah with her family—six guinea pigs, three humans, a tripod calico cat, and a “kitten” who thinks she’s a warrior princess—and a collection of anteaters and Oaxacan carvings, some of which intersect. She enjoys birding and nature photography, which also intersect. She utilizes her degree in biology to write werewolf fiction while completely ignoring the physics of a protagonist who triples in mass. She writes other types of fiction, too, on occasion, from hard science fiction to space opera to secondary-world fantasy to urban fantasy to horror. Sometimes she mixes them. Her short stories have appeared in too many venues to count, including Writers of the Future 32, Monster Hunter Files, Enter the Aftermath, Stupefying Stories, Planetary Anthologies, StoryHack, and Astounding Frontiers. Her novel series, “Pack Dynamics”, is published by WordFire Press. In her words, she “whines about writing, a lot, at http://agilebrit.livejournal.com/, and you can visit her Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.com/Julie-Frost/e/B00WAK2UQU/

I asked her about her urban fantasy, Pack Dynamics: A Price to Pay, published by WordFire Press in August, 2018. Julie described its unusual premise as follows:

Six months after a case gone bad infected him with lycanthropy, private eye Ben Lockwood hasn’t just come to terms with his new condition—he’s embraced it. The animal inside lets him just be instead of dwelling on past horrors, and he frequently sleeps better as a wolf. Ben thinks he’s fine… until a couple of supernatural law-enforcement agents inform him that if he wolfs too much, he’ll forget his humanity, and that will leave them with a mess to clean up.
Then one of those past horrors comes roaring back into Ben’s life. Rutger Ostheim, enraged by the death of his family, breaks out of prison to seek vengeance. He’s aided by a ruthless businessman with slippery ethics and a separate grudge, who has taken the werewolf nanotech to new and awful heights, determined to sell it to the highest bidder… no matter what they want to use Berserker Virus Murder-Wolf tech for.
However, when Ben is given the opportunity for some payback of his own, he may find his inner demons to be a far graver threat than a tech-enhanced werewolf nearly twice his size.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

It’s a fun, action-oriented tale about vengeance and what happens when you let it consume you.

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

I am not a natural novelist, and Book One (Pack Dynamics) basically wrote itself. People were screaming for a sequel, but it took me a long time before I figured out that I’d seeded the next story in the first book by mentioning a brother of the bad guy, and by basically handing the lycanthrope nanotech to Alex’s business rivals. After noodling how those two elements could come together, I had my plot.

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

Urban fantasy is fairly dominated by female protagonists and first-person narrative. While I have no objection to lady protags, I’m a weirdo who prefers the guys. This probably dates back to my early reading habits–I loved the Hardy Boys, but Nancy Drew left me cold. Most of the books I devoured in my youth were boy-and-his-dog and boy-and-his-horse stories, and I’m thinking that kind of stuck. Most of my fiction features male main characters.

I also (in general) prefer to read and write in first person, but the Pack Dynamics novels just… don’t lend themselves to that. Third person allows me to delve more deeply into the other characters’ motivations and emotional states, along with all the action that my putative main character doesn’t know about.

What was your path to publication?

So there I was at Salt Lake ComicCon, shooting the breeze with Peter Wacks and Ramón Terrel after dinner. Peter was the acquisitions editor at WordFire, and he was talking about his urban fantasy, and Ramón was talking about hisurban fantasy, and I was thinking “this is right in my wheelhouse.” So I took a breath and said “So, Peter, this is where I ask you about your acquisitions process.” He said, “Pitch me your book.”

Well, I had an elevator pitch for the thing, but I hadn’t hauled it out in awhile. I took a couple of seconds to drag it to the forefront of my brain, put on my best radio-announcer voice, and said, “A private eye with PTSD—” and he said, “Stop. Send me a chapter.” Turns out he was a private eye for a year or so, and also works with a PTSD charity, so I hit two of his buttons in five words.

The next day, I was hanging out at the WordFire booth shooting the breeze with Larry Correia—we’ve been friends since right after his first Monster Hunter novel was published. He asked me if I knew Kevin J. Anderson, and I said I didn’t, and so he waved Kevin over and said “Hey, Kevin, this is Julie Frost, she’s awesome.” And Kevin said something about Peter telling him about me, and Larry said, “When her book hits your slush pile, move it to the top.” Kevin asked him if he’d blurb it, and Larry said, “Of course.” “Book bomb?” “You bet.” I nearly fell through the floor.
And then at LTUE (a Utah writing symposium) the next February, I was offered a contract. WordFire has been very, very good to me.

What are you working on now?

Oh, gosh, so many things. I’m expanding a novella called “Joy Shall Be in Heaven,” about a Guardian Angel to serial killers, into a novel. It’s Nachi’s job to be the conscience of killers and try to talk them out of doing terrible things, but he can’t mess with Free Will, and he’s never had a success with any of these guys in thousands of years. It’s wearing on him, justa little.

I wrote a short story called “Cry Havoc” about a werewolf alpha who loses his pack to hunters. He’s supposed to be their moral compass, but now that he’s lost them, he doesn’t have anyone left to be a moral compass for, so he goes off the rails a bit and starts slaughtering his own way through the hunters. And then he finds out who the actual architect of his loss is, and we close on him and the last hunter standing deciding to go after that puppet master together. Those two guys tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You know this is a novel, right?” So I’ve got that one outlined and am scribbling madly on it.

I’m also putting together a collection of Pack Dynamics short stories. Short fiction picked me, not the other way around, and so the characters in the novel keep running off and having smaller-sized adventures. I’m hoping to release that in mid-February at LTUE.

And then there’s the short I’m staring at for the Baen Adventure Fantasy contest, too, about a sorceress who creates orcish werewolf soldiers for the orc king. A rival sorcerer is unhappy about being ousted, and wackiness, as they say, ensues. I’ve barely started that one.

I’m also in the noodling stages of the third Pack Dynamics novel.

What else have you written?

I’ve had over forty short stories published in various places. The latest was a Pack Dynamics short in the Crazy Town anthology, and the one before that is a first-contact story in Fantasy for the Throne where the aliens come and accidentally abduct a werewolf. I wrote a riff on the song “Big Bad John” by Jimmy Dean (1961—I’m amazed at how many people have never even heard of this classic) where John is a werewolf in an asteroid mine, published in To Be Men. And one where the God of War and the Prince of Peace conspire to thwart the Father of Lies in Planetary: Mars. Yes, I used Jesus as a character, and I don’t even think I’m going to Hell for it!

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

“Cry Havoc,” mentioned above, won 3rd Place in the Writers of the Future contest in 2015. And my story “Give Up the Ghost,” about a spaceship crew hired to take a graveyard to the edge of the system and space it, won second place in the DragonComet contest last year. The dead are not as quiet as my crew would like.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I used to be an inveterate discovery writer. Then I decided to do my own January (because November is a stupid month for it, for me) version of NaNoWriMo with short stories rather than a novel, and I knew that if I didn’t outline them, I’d crash and burn. So I sat down with the seven-point plot structure and outlined seven stories. I ended up writing five of them across 53,000 words, and deemed that experiment a success. I still don’t always outline a short (sometimes they really do write themselves), but most of the time I do.

I’ve found that the seven-point structure is just a little inadequate for a novel if I just do it for one arc, so I modified it a bit for Pack Dynamics 2—I outlined Ben’s arc, and the villain’s arc, and the contagonist’s arc, and then did character arcs for all of them too. It made the actual writing process so much easier.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

If I get stuck, it’s usually because something is wrong with the story. So I have to sit down and figure out exactly what that is and how to fix it. Sometimes it’s because a story takes me in an unexpected direction and I’m fighting it instead of just letting it be what it wants to be. My secondary-world fantasy, for example, tends to go “funny” for some reason, and I didn’t want the story I’m writing for the Baen contest to be funny. However, I’ve recently decided that the story is what it is, and if Baen doesn’t want it, someone else will.

But, not always. Sometimes (like now, in my Guardian Angel novel) it’s just a matter of not wanting to spend a lot of time in a serial killer’s head, with a protagonist helpless to do anything but sit there and watch him be a terrible person. Oh, ha, see, writing this out has just made me figure out what my actual issue with it is…

Sometimes, all I have to do is write a blog post about how stuck I am, and it magically un-sticks me. And sometimes it’s just a matter of sitting down and forcing it, fifty or a hundred words at a time. And when I go back and look at the words I grind out versus the words that flow, I can’t tell the difference.

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

Figuring out exactly where I want to publish. The publishing world is in a weird sort of flux right now. Back when I started, self-publishing was the Kiss of Death; now you have people making a six-figure income from it. The pace of Big Five publishing is positively glacial, and I don’t have the patience for that kind of thing, I don’t think—especially at the slow pace I write novels. That being said, I probably would not say no to someone who threw a giant advance at my head. I love WordFire and the fact that they get me great editors and covers and I don’t have to worry about those things. Going fully indy would be a little terrifying, I think, but I’m open to the possibility. I’m also open to the possibility of going traditional all the time. I’ll probably stay this weird sort of hybrid, though, where I go small press for the novels and indy for the short story collections.

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

Collaboration is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I think the absolutely essential element for a successful collaboration is for both people to be on the same page as to what the story needs. I used to do a lot of online text-based roleplay (and most of it is still up, and you can read it if you know where to look), and it was basically online improvisational collaborative storytelling. My main partner, Aspen Hougen, and I played out a ton of scenarios that went really really well—so well that she and I eventually wrote a post-Armageddon short story together starring a couple of demons we created, called “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse,” which was published in the Enter the Aftermath anthology.

I also collaborated with Bryan Thomas Schmidt in a story for the Monster Hunter Files anthology called “Huffman Strikes Back.” He asked me to write the fight scene in that story, and the first iteration was “Too Easy, Drill Sergeant,” and the next one was too over-the-top difficult. Bryan helped me to find the balance between the two-—and that’s what the best collaborations do. You push each other to be better.

But I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had a fiction collaboration go wrong (some of the roleplay ones did, and gah, the drama). I’ve heard some horror stories, so I think it’s really important that both authors know what they want out of the thing right up front so there are no misunderstandings later.

Do you have any pet projects?

“Joy Shall Be in Heaven” is a kind of pet project. My faith is a big part of my inner life, and while I don’t want to bludgeon people over the head with it, I think I can tell stories that incorporate it without being preachy.

The non-writing pet project for 2019 involves birds. Last year, I had a goal of photographing 200 Utah bird species. I ended up with 231 (which is exactly half of the birds on the Utah list, which incorporates a bunch of species that only show up in the state occasionally). This year, I’m taking that project nationwide, with the goal of 500 species in the US and Canada. At the time of this writing, I’m already at 122 across two states (Utah and Texas). But January generally starts with a bang (I got 91 Utah species in January last year), and then the rest of the year tapers off because you’ve already gotten the easy ones.

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

I’d be more organized in general. Some things, I’m very organized about (you should see my bird spreadsheets; they are a thing of beauty), but the rest of my life… not so much. I have a lot of clutter I should do something about, but then I stare at it and get paralyzed by the scope of the thing instead of breaking it down into small bites and just doing it.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I joke that I want to be Jim Butcher when I grow up, but I’m not really sure how much of a joke that is. His stories are amazingly brilliant, and he’s so gracious and funny and such a great teacher. I really do want to be more like him. I love Larry Correia’s books and the fact that he’s turned this monster hunting thing (which is silly on paper) into such a huge franchise, and that he’s branched out into other things that are just as good if not better. The way Rob Thurman writes the relationships between brothers and best friends is beautiful. Carrie Vaughn’s “Kitty” universe is one of the best things ever; it’s so nuanced and intricate. And there are so many others (we could be here all day), but I’ll also mention Patricia Briggs, Gail Carriger, Faith Hunter, and Anton Strout.

I have to say, Julie, this is one of the more enjoyable interviews I’ve ever conducted. (And as I approach my 120th interview over the course of six years, that’s saying a lot!) Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Before I present an excerpt from Pack Dynamics: A Price to Pay, followed by links where visitors can purchase it and follow you online, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: my family.

The one thing I would change about my life: be more organized.

My biggest peeve is: Hollywood writers who do not do basic research.

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

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

The choices you make determine the life you lead. Never give up, never surrender.

 

Excerpt:

Ben’s stomach lurched.

He considered his lycanthropy to be a feature, not a bug. In his line of work, being hard to kill was an asset. The case of PTSD he’d brought home from Afghanistan was easier to wrestle when he could lose himself in the animal and just be for a while. It slowed the wheel hamster, and he was still himself as a wolf, just … simpler.

This scene was a nasty reminder that not all werewolves dealt with their condition as well as he did.

Not that he could say that to Spence. As far as Ben knew, he was unaware of the wilder side of Los Angeles and would probably rather keep it that way. Someone handed Ben a pair of blue disposable gloves, and he pulled them on before crouching beside the body, not touching anything just yet.

A set of four somethings—Ben was betting claws because his own were two inches long and sharper than they had a right to be—had ripped down diagonally from left shoulder to right hip, tearing through the shirt and into the flesh beneath, exposing organs.

“This is a hell of a mess,” Spence said. “Witness heard screams and called 911, but by the time we got here, this was all that was left. No ID on him. What kind of weapon does that?”

“The kind I wouldn’t want to encounter in a dark alley,” Ben answered, which wasn’t a lie. Whatever wolf had done this was bigger than him, which wasn’t difficult, if he was being honest, and had slaughtered this man with ruthless efficiency. But hadn’t eaten—

Ben staggered a little when he realized what his nose had been telling him without consulting his brain. Their killer wolf was a female.

He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his forehead. “So that’s awesome,” he muttered.

“Ben?” Spence said. “You all right?”

Ben took a breath. “As all right as I ever am. Sometimes it hits me wrong. You know.”

Spence nodded. Ben had once had a spectacular meltdown at a house where a guy had cut his girlfriend’s throat. Nobody had warned him, and that one pushed his Bad Buttons. “You need to sit down somewhere?” Spence asked.

“No, not this time.” Ben straightened and settled himself. “Those are some nasty wounds. I’d be interested to hear what your ME has to say.”

“What I have to say is that scruffy little PIs have no business at my crime scene,” the perpetually grouchy medical examiner said, pushing past him.

“Happy to see you too, as always, Schmidt.” Ben stepped out of his way. He knew what had killed the man and didn’t need a doctor to tell him.

“It looks like an animal attack,” Dr. Schmidt said. “See the punctures on his hands? He probably tried to fend it off and got bitten for his trouble. That being said, no dog can do that much damage, not even a pit bull. I’ll know more when I get him back to the lab.”

“What do you think, Ben?” Spence said.

“I think you were right to let me in on this one, is what I think.” Ben’s mouth pulled to one side as he pushed his hair up out of his face with the back of his wrist. He wondered how much he could or should say. “Might want to check and see if anyone reported an escaped bear tonight.” He held up a hand. “It’s not the way I’d bet, just covering bases.” Frowning down at the body, he said, “I’ve seen some spiked brass knuckles do damage sort of like that. There’s knuckle armor, with claws at the ends. Or maybe Freddy Krueger is in town and this guy pissed him off somehow.”

Ben needed to find the perp before the cops did. It would be way less awkward all around. He hoped like hell she’d had a good reason for this. “Keep me read in, if you don’t mind, Spence. Thanks.”

 

If you would like to purchase Pack Dynamics: A Price to Pay, you can do so here:

Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GSL7NWK/

You can follow Julie here:

Website: https://agilebrit.livejournal.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julie.frost.7967

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 18 – A. J. Mayall Interview

By day, A.J. Mayall works in the indie publishing field and has quality checked nearly half a million manuscripts. He lives in California with his husband and his best friend. An avid gamer, A.J.got his writing start in the gaming industry with a focus on community events and content. As an LGBT author on the autism spectrum, he feels it is his duty to write diversity into his works, to ensure that readers have new and varied worlds to enjoy. The rumors that he is a menagerie of hive-minded sentient spiders wearing a human suit are sheer fallacy and should be ignored.

Today, we’re focusing on his latest release, The Art of Madness (The GearWitch Investigations), an urban fantasy published by WordFire Press on November 15, 2018. Its premise:

Phoenix McGee became a detective to show the world he was mature and reliable, capable of running his own life and business.

It’s just a shame he can’t adult his way out of a paper bag.

Being attuned to the clockwork nature of the universe and able to bend the fundamental laws of reality comes with the bonus that his powers don’t show up under any scans, leaving him in a loophole where he can use his powers without legal restriction… or protection.

On the verge of losing everything, he takes on a simple case of suspected adultery, something to keep the lights on and the creditors at bay. Little did he suspect his life would become a chaotic whirlwind of false leads, uneasy alliances, mob ties, and a woman who punches with a sedan.

Bodies pile up as he struggles to keep things normal for himself and his assistant, Suzette DiMarco. Phoenix will need his wits if he plans to solve the case and save himself, his livelihood, and everyone around him… because cosmic powers don’t pay the bills.

What do you want readers to know about your book?

There is more to come after it, and much to come before it. Also, I made a point of having my work pass the Bechdel Test. A world with diversity as a focus point, an urban fantasy without all the grimdark overcast.

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

This is an idea I’ve had for the better part of 2 decades, a wide spanning non linear saga. The Art of Madness is the entry point, but it is NOT the beginning of the tale.

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

I’ve noticed a lot of urban fantasy authors go for more Noir inspiration, and I take mine more from comic books and graphic novels. I like worlds where you don’t have to hate the world to be the hero.

What was your path to publication?

As I work in indie publishing, I first did this on my own, but went with Wordfire Press to give me more time to write.

What are you working on now?

The next book in the series, The Always Machine.

What else have you written?

I have been in a couple anthologies, and the majority of my work was done for video games.

What is your writing routine?

I livestream the majority of my writing on Twitch, and I use dictation software.

Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes, I have every book broken down into chapters, with chapter breakdowns.

Why do you write?

Because I failed at being a ballerina. To be fair, I love storytelling, and with my job I can help others tell THEIR stories, but I have my own worlds in my head that I need to get out.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

To quote Jim Butcher, “I don’t have a muse. I have a mortgage.”

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Story Structure and understanding the nuances of mythos was something I struggled with in the beginning, and now it’s sort of how I operate.

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

Getting the time needed to write.

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

I’m all for collaboration, and I think building communities is something that should be essential basics for getting in the industry

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

Being on the Autism spectrum means having a different perspective on a lot of things, so to me hearing people react to how I just see things is what inspires and enriches.

Do you have another job outside of writing? I am currently a Vetter for Smashwords, an indie e-book publisher

Describe a typical day.

I wake up, head downstairs, turn on the computer and proceed to vet about 200 to 250 manuscripts a day. When I’m done, after about 8 hours, I spend some time with my household, and then at the end of the day I do my livestreaming, which is both gaming and writing.

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

I was an autistic gay teen in the Bible Belt during the 80s and 90s, I dare you to throw something harder for me to survive.

Do you have any pet projects?

Currently I’m just wanting to get the GearWitch Investigations done, but I have things lined up for later, a cozy mystery and a story like Breaking Bad meets Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

What is your greatest life lesson?

Always have a Plan B. Life can throw you a curveball at anytime so make sure you have a way out should you need one.

Who are some of your favorite authors?Jim Butcher, Terry Pratchett, Dan Wells, R. R. Virdi

A.J., thank you for shining light on the author behind the words. Before I present an excerpt from  The Art of Madness, followed by your book buy and social links, I like you to attempt a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a: good sounding board.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Personal space.

The one thing I would change about my life: Being born shorter. I hate being 6’5”.

My biggest peeve is: Anything troublesome.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My friendships.

Excerpt:

“We have a case!” Phoenix exclaimed as he opened the front door to McGee investigations, raising his hand for a high five.

“About damn time, McGee,” said Suzette DiMarco, his assistant, confidante, and best friend, passing him by as she entered and leaving the hand hanging.

The slender, six-and-a-half-foot-tall redhead shrugged with a grin, sliding his hands into his pockets. His attire was simple: a white t-shirt, slightly baggy jeans, well-worn sneakers, and a little too much hair gel.

She had met plenty of guys like him in her brief stints as a model. Looking at what she was wearing, it was hard to imagine her on a catwalk; the high-collared gray dress was practically dowdy. Her appearance was only modernized by her thin-framed glasses and her hair in a haphazard bun.

Phoenix thought she resembled what angry librarians claim their final form to be.

“Come on. We’ll have a new investigation beyond the weekly insurance claims. Husband suspects an affair.”

“Oh, so you might be ruining a marriage? I’m in.”

Phoenix scowled, trying to lighten the mood, “We might save it, you know. At the very least, we could maybe make a new ad from a happy customer.”

Suzette looked at him, nonplussed.

“I’m still not giving you a high-five, not before my coffee.”

In his twenty-three years, Phoenix McGee had learned a few things. One: No matter what life handed you, try to find the positive. There were already plenty of people who were dark and dour in his line of work. Two: A friendly smile and a bit of wit could fix nearly any situation. Three: Suzette can’t be held responsible for manslaughter if it’s before her morning gallon of coffee.

“Fine, be that way. The client will be here in a few hours. Once we get his paperwork filed, put it to my B pile, after the insurance cases. We need to keep the lights on, after all. I’m certain your grandmother will understand.”

“I hope so. She’s been messaging me about when you’ll pay her back for the loans on this place.”

He looked around the office. Filing cabinets were half-extended out, plastered with sticky-note reminders about bills.

“When are you seeing her next?”

“Tonight,” Suzette said, pouring herself a cup of coffee. “Dinner at the hotel.”

“Tell her about the new case, and the insurance companies still need to cut me a check for last month. I’m not letting her take this place.”

“Will do, boss.”

He checked the time. It was nearly seven, which meant Genesis would have just opened up the combination bookstore and coffee shop across the street.

“I’m grabbing celebration donuts, Suzette, anything you want?”

“Bearclaw,” she said, sipping her coffee as she settled in for her day behind the desk. After a moment, she smiled, breaking her usual unimpressed expression. “Go celebrate your case, but keep it cheap.”

He scowled as he walked to the door.

“What? I do your banking, McGee. Until the checks clear, you need to keep a tight budget. You know, like a functional adult.”

“I’m a functional adult. Look at me. I’m running a business, I have my own place. I’m adulting fairly well. Hell, adultery is my specialty.”

“Adult, my ass. You sleep with a stuffed animal.”

“You leave Bouncer out of this.”

Suzette pointed to the door, chuckling, “Don’t forget my donut, you goddamned manchild.”

“I always thought of myself as more of a ‘rascal’,” he said, opening the door onto the streets of Rouge Mal, leaving McGee Investigations, and quickly crossing the street to The Books of Genesis.

He heard the familiar ring of the bell over the door as he entered, calling out to his friend and neighbor, curious what color her hair was today. When he turned to face the counter, he paled.

Two robbers had guns pointed at the rainbow-haired woman behind the counter. Genesis trembled.

Phoenix sighed, “And here I thought the morning was going so well.”

Those of you who would like to follow A.J. online can do so here:

Twitter: @ArbiterFabulous

Twitch: twitch.tv/Pound0fFlesh

You can purchase  The Art of Madness here:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

What are you working on now?

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

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

What else have you written?

A whole lot of NaNoWriMo novels.

What is your writing routine?

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

Do you create an outline before you write?

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

Why do you write?

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

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

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

Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration.

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

What life experiences inspire or enrich your work?

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

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m a game designer, digital and tabletop.

Describe a typical day.

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

What motivates or inspires you?

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

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

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

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

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

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

What makes you laugh?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

 The one thing I would change about my life: Nothing

My biggest peeve is: People talking loudly

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

He snorted and looked away from the officer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This guy’s an amateur.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 21 – Paul Kane Interview

Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over eighty books, including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts,The Mammoth Book of Body Horror andPain Cages(an Amazon #1 bestseller). His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, plus IMATS Olympia and Celluloid Screams in 2017, as well as being a panelist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications editor, he is currently serving as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network primetime television, and his audio work includes the full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, starring Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge), and the Robin of Sherwood adventure, The Red Lord for Spiteful Puppet/ITV narrated by Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint). Paul’s latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequels to REDBlood RED & Deep RED—the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell and Before (a recent Amazon Top 5 dark fantasy bestseller). He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan and his family. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

When I asked him to describe Arcana, Paul provided this:

Welcome to an alternate world where magic really exists, and where those who practice it are hunted down by a police division called The M-forcers. But some groups are fighting back! Callum McGuire is a new M-forcer who once worked the quiet streets of London (England’s capital is now Chelmsford, scene of the original Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins’ greatest victory). An orphan, Callum’s been brought up to believe all magic is evil. But the more he sees of The M-forcers’ cruel methods (implemented by General Nero Stark, and his second-in-command Sherman Pryce), the more he begins to question whether or not they are right. And when he unwittingly encounters a member of the rebel group called Arcana, he’s introduced to their world and realises that nothing will ever be the same again. Join award-winning and bestselling author Paul Kane (the sell-out phenomenon Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, the Hooded Man series and the bestselling Before) as he shows you a kind of magic you’ve never seen…

What do you want readers to know about your book?

Arcana is basically a book about the underdog, about people who are in a minority fighting back against a crooked system. It’s about how power can corrupt and how easily people can be controlled or the truth manipulated. I think that’s an important message, especially when you look at the world around us and what’s happening in it currently. Genres like SF, Dark Fantasy and Horror have always been a way to comment about things like that indirectly and this book is no different. At the same time it’s also got action, suspense, excitement and romance, so hopefully it ticks a lot of boxes for readers. I had a ball writing it and I think that comes across when you’re reading it.

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

I think with Arcana I was trying to give readers who enjoyed books like the Harry Potter series something to move on to afterwards. There’s even a line in the novel where it’s referenced, that in another universe people who use magic like Harry are hailed as heroes. It’s also very much influenced by my love of Clive Barker’s book Cabal—famously filmed as Nightbreed—The X-Men, and even Dune. They’re filled with outsiders who are just trying to survive, but at the same time are forced by pretty serious events to stand up and be counted. Of course, in Cabal and Dune you also have the messiah aspect which I’ve carried across into Arcana, a legend that one day someone will come along to liberate the downtrodden, and it might not be whom you were expecting. As a fan of the more imaginative genres and as a writer, I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider myself, especially growing up. I didn’t really discover my ‘tribe’ until I started going to conventions and met other fans and writers. That’s really when I started to feel at home and accepted, I suppose. So Arcana is very much about that, drawing on those feelings.

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

I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer that. I’m probably too close to it. But people seem to like what I do, which makes me very happy. I’ve been compared in reviews to some amazing writers like Stephen King, Robert McCammon and, of course, Clive. It’s incredibly flattering and more than a little daunting. But I also like to think that, the same as with all writers, my writing’s unique to me. We all go through different things that we bring to the table in our fiction, have different experiences and points of view, which is one of the reasons we appeal to some folk but not others. There’s a point in a writer’s career where they find their own voice, though, and the influence of other fiction – though it still remains – lessens to some extent. That happened to me when I wrote a tale called ‘Eye of the Beholder’, one of my Controllers stories which is being reprinted in March, in The Controllers, a collection from Luna. It was a character study really, about a woman’s life from start to finish and how it was being messed about with by those pesky Controller creatures, but when I’d finished it and read it back I just thought to myself—yes, this is you. This is what your writing’s going to be like from now on. The main character just came alive in a way that none of the others had done before, and that’s when I knew I was on the right track basically.

What was your path to publication?

In general? I started writing stories when I was in my teens, but they weren’t very good. At university, I took a module in Professional Writing, which led to a career in journalism. But I’d still kept up with the fiction and having my articles and reviews published gave me the confidence to start sending some of my stories off to small press magazines. Some were accepted, some weren’t, but I carried on and in 2001 a number of them were gathered together in my first collection, Alone (In the Dark),published by BJM Press. And it all just stemmed from there. In this instance, with Arcana, I’d heard that Kevin J. Anderson had set up a publishing company and thought this book would fit with the kind of thing he was putting out. I’ve known Kevin for some time, so I thought it would be okay to sound him out about Arcana, and at least ask if he’d be willing to have a look. He was happy to and passed it on to Dave Butler at Acquisitions who loved it, and the rest is history. It’s a tough one because, like a lot of my fiction, it doesn’t easily fit into one category or another. Yes, it’s Dark Fantasy, but there are also elements of Horror, SF, Crime… Thankfully the people at WordFire got where I was coming from with it, which is a gift to an author. My experience with them has been a delight, I have to say—from edits to cover design. I couldn’t be happier with the finished product, and I’m over the moon that they’ve decided to bring it out as a limited hardback as well as paperback and ebook.

What are you working on now?

Several things at the same time, as always. My wife Marie—who’s an excellent writer and editor in her own right, which is how we met—and I are just putting the mass market crime anthology Exit Wounds to bed for Titan. That features stories by the likes of Lee Child, Val McDermid, John Connolly, Dennis Lehane, Jeffery Deaver and Dean Koontz, and is out in May. Writing-wise I’ve just finished a couple of shorts that I owed, one a seaside horror and the other another entry in my Life Cycle spin-off series about a female werewolf called Diana; the rest were collected last year in a publication from Black Shuck Books. I’m also going through edits on a novella for PS that’s crept into short novel territory. It’s a monster story, a siege story, and my homage to the old horror books from the 70s and 80s.

What else have you written?

Oh, so many things! I celebrated 20 years of being a published writer a couple of years ago with a “Best of…” collection released by SST called Shadow Casting. That contained stories which have been filmed, won awards or were just reader favourites, so I think that’s a good starting point for anyone wanting to check out my fiction. I’m probably most associated with the Hooded Man mass market books, though: a post-apocalyptic take on Robin Hood set within Abaddon/Rebellion’s Afterblight Chronicles. That led to quite a few other PA books, such as The Dead Trilogy– one story of which was filmed by Lionsgate/NBC for their primetime TV series Fear ItselfThe Rot and my latest YA novella Coming of Age, as P.B. Kane. I’m also known for my association with the Hellraiser mythos: books like The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell—in which the world’s greatest detective meets the Cenobites—the anthology Hellbound Hearts, co-edited with Marie, and most recently an audio drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab.

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

Quite a few of my books have been bestsellers, including most recently the novel Before. I’ve been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award several times, have won the Editor’s Choice Dead of Night award, the Skaadi, the Karl Edward Wagner Award for my work on conventions, and the film of my story Life-O-Matic won best short at the LA Independent Film Festival Awards, the London Independent Film Awards and the Wayward Film Festival, plus it won the Silver at the Spotlight Horror Film Awards.

What is your writing routine?

I try to keep office hours, though that’s not always possible, especially if I’m juggling a few jobs at once. A number of times recently, for example, I’ve put in a full day’s work writing then spent the evenings editing stories for an anthology that’s due in. But one of the benefits of this kind of work is that you can do it at home, which is handy at this time of year when it tends to snow quite a bit. At least I don’t have to drag myself out of the house to go to work! I also don’t know from one week to the next what I’ll be doing on any given day. You can try and plan it, especially if you’ve got a big job like writing a novella or novel, where you need to set aside some days in a row; I average about 3,000 words a day on a good day, so in theory it should only take a couple of weeks, working Monday – Friday, to get a draft done of a novella. But then things crop up all the time, like today, for instance, I had a book come back to go through that’s due out soon and I’ve got to put aside what I’m working on to do that because it’s time sensitive. Or you might get invited to an event you don’t know about yet, which is always nice—or have signings and launches to organize or go to. I’m definitely not complaining though, because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I’m a big believer in planning, yes. I’ll sit and work out an outline, or even chapter breakdown for a novel, before I start anything. I have to know where I’m heading or where I’m going to end up before I even set off on the journey. That doesn’t mean things can’t change along the way, and they always do, so I try to stay flexible. I think it comes from having to plan essays at uni and articles back when I first started writing and getting paid for it. And particularly when I have to do any work for hire or tie-in stuff, because publishers usually like to see outlines and breakdowns when you do that kind of thing before they commission you.

Why do you write?

I don’t think it’s something you can even explain, it’s just something you have to do. If you’re a writer you’ll do it no matter what, even if you’re not getting paid for it. There are times when things aren’t going right that I think about quitting altogether, but I don’t think I ever could. Then when things get back on track again, I don’t even want to! I was telling stories by drawing or with my toys before I even started writing, so I think it’s been in me right from the start. It’s also a way of processing the world around you, life and what’s happening in society like I was saying before about Arcana. If you’re a writer you can’t sit and watch what’s going on every day and not want to write about it, say something about it in some way. Of course the other answer is that it’s my job and how I pay the bills, and I’m very glad it is. I can’t imagine doing anything else now.

Tell us about your writing community and thoughts on collaboration.

I love being a part of the writing community. As I mentioned before, I felt like I’d come home when I found my “tribe”. I think getting out to events and meeting other writers is so important, because it’s quite a solitary job sitting at your keyboard tapping away. It’s also nice to know that people’s experiences in the industry, the highs and the lows, are all quite similar. We all have our insecurities and problems, no matter what level we’re at. Marie and I are actually running StokerCon™ in 2020 – www.stokercon-uk.com– and those kind of events are always fun to do. We’ve run or been involved in several FantasyCons, World Horror, World Fantasy, Alt.Fiction and various HWA UK events like our scripting day or the “Partners in Crime” day about crossover fiction. In terms of collaboration, I’ve only written a couple of things with other writers. The last one was a collaborative novella with bestselling author Simon Clark, Beneath the Surface, which worked well. But I should really do more, because I thoroughly enjoy the collaborative process. I think that’s why I like working in script form, for TV, films, comics, theatre and audio, because I like seeing what other people do with the material.

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

It’s difficult. As I say, there are times when I feel like quitting as I’m sure there are with a lot of writers. My wife Marie gets me through those times in all honesty, and gives me faith that things will work out. Mostly it’s just a case of hanging in there until the upswing comes around again.

Do you have any pet projects?

I do. My BA and MA are in film, so my pet projects tend to be connected with that medium. For example writing about the Hellraiser movies in Legacy was a bit of a labour of love for me, and I have a follow-up of sorts out now full of interviews with the creatives who worked on those films: Hellraisers from Avalard Books. I have a couple of other non-fiction film books in the pipeline that I’m fitting in around other projects, one of which I’ve been working on for a couple of years now, but I can’t really say too much about those. My other dream projects revolve around films being made from my scripts. I’m lucky enough to have had a few shorts made from those, and have a couple more on the horizon including The Torturer, which is being directed by Joe Manco at Little Spark Films. I’ve written features too, but have yet to see one get made—so that would be a huge buzz for me.

What is your greatest life lesson?

To just keep going, keep trying. Patience and perseverance are big ones in this line of work, you just won’t get anywhere without either of those.

What makes you laugh?

I’m lucky enough to have written comedy, one of my early collections gathered together a lot of those tales: FunnyBones. And I realised from the reaction to it that comedy is so subjective; different things tickle our own funnybones. But I do love the classics like Monty Python, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses, Seinfeld, Frasier… At the last HWA event, both Mike Carey and Joe Hill were recommending The Good Place to us and I’m slightly obsessed with that show now. If you haven’t seen it, then drop everything and watch it immediately! And of course Marie cheers me up all the time, especially if I’m getting a bit too serious. We make each other laugh a lot, and I think that’s one of the keys to a happy marriage, or just a happy life in general.

Thanks, Paul, for taking the time to share with us. Before I provide our visitors with an excerpt from Arcana, as well as your social and book buy links, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m: Her husband.

The one thing I cannot do without is: My wife.

The one thing I would change about my life: More hours in the day.

My biggest peeve is: Stickers on book covers.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My marriage.

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

Just thanks to everyone who keeps buying the books, I’ll keep writing them if you keep picking them up!

 

Excerpt:

Callum looked around at the paintings that hung there. He didn’t know much about art, but bet they were worth a tidy sum. One showed a ship in a storm being battered about on the waves. Another had a knight in armour on a white charger, fighting a red dragon that was breathing fire.

“Cute,” said Gibson when he saw it.

“So, what exactly are we doing here?” Callum asked as they approached another receptionist.

“All in good time,” was the only answer he’d give. Gibson stepped up to the desk to talk to a woman who could have been a clone of the one downstairs, except for her blonde hair. “Mr. Temple, please.”

The secretary looked at him, puzzled. “He’s in a meeting … with a client.” It was exactly what they’d been told before.

“Oh, okay,” said Gibson, then made his way past into the foyer. The receptionist got up to stop him, but the policeman brushed her aside, reading the names on the doors to see which one belonged to Temple. He opened it and burst inside.

A tall man with pinched features wearing an immaculately cut suit rose from his desk, while the woman—middle-aged, wearing a black dress and hat with a veil—turned around in her leather seat. Surrounding them, on almost every wall of the room, were rows and rows of books.

“What’s the meaning of this?” shouted the man, who had to be Temple.

“Sir, I tried to stop them,” offered the receptionist.

“That’s right, she did,” Gibson confirmed. “But we kinda insisted.”

“It’s all right, Gloria,” Temple told her. “Go back to your desk.”

Gloria did as she was told, casting both Gibson and Callum a dirty look as she went.

“Now then,” Temple said, “I demand an explanation for this!”

Gibson walked further into the room. “What was the lure, Mr Temple? Was it boredom? Is that how you got into it?”

Temple frowned.

“Someone with your kind of money; drugs and drink not cutting it for you anymore?”

Temple’s distressed client looked up at him, seeking some sort of explanation.

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about, Officer. What I do know is that I can have you pulled up on charges at the drop of a hat. Let’s see, intimidation for a start, breaking and entering, abuse… Who’s your superior?”

“Does the name Zola Bates mean anything to you?” Gibson demanded, eyes narrowing. That certainly wasn’t his boss.

Temple appeared to think about this for a moment, then shook his head.

“Oh, come on—let’s cut the bullshit, shall we? We pulled Zola in a couple of weeks ago. She gave up all of her clients.”

“I’m afraid I still don’t—”

“We’ve been on to you ever since. You’ve been consorting with the wrong kind of people, Temple. You think nobody knows about your visits to the back room of that wine bar on Avon Street. But we have the rest of your lot, mate. And I’m here to take you in.”

“You have no right to—”

“Your fancy lawyer talk won’t save you this time. We have all the evidence we need.”

“This is absolutely preposterous,” announced Temple, rounding the desk, hands balled into fists. “What’s going on here, some kind of witch hunt?”

Gibson smiled. “Yes, that’s right. That’s exactly what this is.” The smile broadened. “I’m here under Section 27 of the James I of England Act, Temple.”

Then he pulled the canister from his belt and sprayed Temple with the liquid. Gibson aimed for the eyes first, and Temple howled, rubbing them with his knuckles. Then Gibson sprayed lower: into Temple’s mouth, covering his suit with the liquid. The smell was strong, even across the room.

Gibson then took a box of matches from his pocket and struck one.

Temple opened his eyes. “Oh sweet Heaven, no! Please…” His hands were clasped together.

“No good praying, I doubt whether He’ll help you now,” Gibson spat. Then he tossed the match. The little wooden stick seemed to spin over and over in slow motion. Callum watched it turn, the yellow, blue and white flame flickering as it did so. When it collided with Temple’s chest there was a fraction of a second’s pause. The next moment the lawyer himself was engulfed in flames. They spread all over the area Gibson had sprayed, down across his trousers, up into his face. The female client put her hands to her mouth, but that didn’t stifle her scream; though it was nothing compared to Temple’s cries while his flesh bubbled and seared. As Callum watched, shielding his face from the heat, the material of Temple’s suit stuck to its owner. Temple staggered around a little, then fell over. The plush carpet beneath caught fire too.

Callum looked around and saw an extinguisher by the door. He grabbed it and was about to move forward, when Gibson stopped him.

He shook his head. “Not yet. He’s still alive.”

Temple’s client was up out of the chair now, and seconds later out of the door. Callum couldn’t say that he blamed her. The sight of Temple’s eyeballs melting in his skull wasn’t exactly appealing. When the lawyer’s head dropped back and his arms—which had been reaching out even as he writhed on the floor—finally went slack, Gibson finally nodded for Callum to put out the fire. Wincing, the young officer sprayed the man, and the flames died down as suddenly as they’d sprung up.

Callum stood back from the blackened mess that had been a human being just a few minutes ago. Only the white of Temple’s teeth shone out, as what was left of his lips were pulled back over them.

“Best way for sparkies to go,” said Gibson from behind him. “Old-fashioned, but effective.”

Callum turned to face his partner, who was still smiling. He could think of nothing to say.

“You see, we’re the real knights on the chargers. They’re the dragons.” His smile faded. “And we fight fire with fire.”

If you’d like to follow Paul online, you may do so here:

Website: http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk

Twitter: @PaulKaneShadow

Instagram: @paul.kane.376

You may purchase Paul’s books here:

Amazon UK POD: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Arcana-Paul-Kane/dp/1614759448/

Amazon UK Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07MC142BR/

Amazon US POD: https://www.amazon.com/Arcana-Paul-Kane/dp/1614759448/

Amazon US Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MC142BR/

Books2Read: https://books2read.com/u/b5r9N6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 19 – Nathan Dodge Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you want readers to know about your book?

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

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

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

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

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

What was your path to publication?

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

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

What are you working on now?

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

What else have you written?

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

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

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

Do you create an outline before you write? 

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

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

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

Tell us about your writing community.

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

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

Definitely start writing a couple decades earlier!!

What is your greatest life lesson?

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

What makes you laugh?

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cal swore under his breath. “Get Raj.”

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

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

A long silence followed. “Copy, Seventeen.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

They would micro-leap again to begin the attack.

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

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

Cal initiated.

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

Cal said, “Fire at will.”

Sasha opened up, and the Gatling cannon rumbled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 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:

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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/