The Write Stuff – Monday, January 16 – Interview With Brooks Wachtel

As I continue to feature WordFire Press authors, I never cease to be amazed by both their writing acumen and their impressive backgrounds. This week’s guest, Brooks Wachtel, is no different. Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead, a detective historical novel, may be Brooks Wachtel’s first novel, but he is no stranger to crafting stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning writer with a long resume in television and film. Mr. Wachtel spent his youth as a “Navy Brat” traveling the world. While attending Hollywood High and in college, he produced several student films. One, a forty-five minute Sherlock Holmes spoof was the first film ever shot at Hollywood’s famed “Magic Castle.” Wachtel co-created, executive produced and co-wrote many episodes of the hit series DogFights for the History Channel. He also wrote and produced many History Channel documentaries, including episodes of Defending America: National Guard and The Coast Guard. Additionally, he has written The Great Ships, Search and Rescue, The Royal Navy and Fly Past, which won the Cine Golden Eagle Award. Wachtel also wrote and co-produced an independent documentary feature illustrating the history of his famous alma-mater, Hollywood High School. All rights and royalties were donated to Hollywood High to help fill the school’s scholarship funds. His latest documentary project, Silver Tsunami, which he co-wrote and co-produced, details the calamity of the massive and aging baby-boomer demographic. In addition, Wachtel has written more than 100 produced episodes of television fiction, with shows as diverse as Fox’s live-action Young Hercules (starring Ryan Gosling), to animated hits like PBS’s Liberty’s Kids, Tutenstein, Heavy Gear, Spider-Man, X-Men, Robo-Cop and Beast Machines: Transformers. For younger viewers, he has penned episodes of the pre-school hits, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Rainbow Fish. His script for Tutenstein won an Emmy Award. Wachtel has written several live-action features, including Goddess of Death, which he also directed. Wachtel serves on the Steering Committee of the Animation Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild, as well as teaching screenwriting at UCLA Extension. He is also a performing magician member of Hollywood’s Magic Castle.

When I asked Brooks to give us a sense of his new book, he characterized its premise as follows:

Lady Natasha (Tasha) Dorrington, an emancipated and brilliant detective in 1906 London, is drawn into a deadly mystery involving an ancient pagan curse and a diabolical scheme to plunge Europe into a devastating war.

Will you please tell us more about it?

My most recent release is also my first novel, Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead.

The book chronicles the adventures of Lady Natasha “Tasha” Dorrington, a fast-thinking, hard-fighting and very sensual leading lady. The story takes the reader from fog-bound Edwardian London to a remote island in Scotland, where a terrified man is taunted by the power of a thousand year curse closing upon him.

Tasha finds herself embroiled in a much larger game. She has been lured to the island to play a life and death contest with Deirdre, the brilliant leader of an ancient and sinister cult who plots to plunge the world into war. The prize between these powerful adversaries is no less than civilization itself – and the life of Tasha’s daughter, held hostage by the cult.

The novel is also elegantly illustrated in the fashion of the original Sherlock Holmes stories as they appeared in the Strand Magazine.

I’ve been a television writer for more than three decades with over a hundred produced episodes in animation and live-action as well as documentaries, but “Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead” is my first step into prose. However, even that step had its launch-point in script-writing.

What was the inspiration behind it?

Before Lady Sherlock was a novel, it was a screenplay. The idea came about as the confluence of several of my favorite interests.

First, I love writing strong female characters. I became known for this with my television writing and often was the pick to do episodes which featured the female leads (e.g. An episode I wrote for “Young Hercules” featured the Amazons). I also have a love of history, especially the late-Victorian-Edwardian era. Fitting comfortably in that era is another interest of mine: Sherlock Holmes. Add to that, growing up a military-brat (or more properly, Naval Dependent) gave me an appreciation of ships, sea-power and its place in history.

I decided to combine these interests; history, naval, the supernatural, Holmes, powerful female characters, in one story. The story has a basis in real history as H.M.S. Dreadnought and the naval race and political collision between Britain and Germany which that ship help set in motion are a part of the book.

Making my main character a woman—a very capable, confident woman—in a particularly chauvinistic era would be fun and offer story and character opportunities that a male lead would not. There would be so many circumstances and attitudes, which would simply not exist for a man, of that era, that she would have to overcome. She’s a character equally skilled with women’s rights—and lefts. There’s a lot of humor in the book and much of it is the collision between a witty, smart woman who will not easily tolerate chauvinistic attitudes.

The character also had a visual inspiration. My friend, actress Tanya Lemani George had a wonderful look that I thought would be a great image for a feminine take of Holmes. She is the model for the cover and many of the interior illustrations.

Originally a screenplay that never sold—alas—but worked wonderfully as a writing sample, the script landed me lots of television (and screenplay) assignments. When I reread it several years later, I felt it was too good a story to languish in a drawer and only be seen by a few producers and story-editors. As I reacquainted myself with the script, I felt it had the makings of a novel. I’ve been writing scripts for decades and was looking for something new. Little did I know what vast changes lay ahead…

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

I have had two Emmy Award nominations and one win. My Emmy Award was for the animated series “Tutenstien.” An episode of the History Channel series “Fly Past” titled “The Cutting Edge,” which I co-wrote with Cynthia Harrison, received the Cine Golden Eagle Award.

While “DogFights” did not win any awards, it is a huge favorite in the aviation community. When I visited the Palm Springs Air Museum – which is one really superb enterprise – I discovered they are running excerpts from the series that show some of the aircraft they have on static display in action. When I visited Vancouver a few years ago and explored the Royal Canadian Navy Museum, one of the docents informed me that a World War One episode of “DogFights” is used by history classes at her university.

Episodes of “Liberty’s Kids,” a series about the American Revolution (with Walter Cronkite doing the voice of Benjamin Franklin) are used as an educational tool in elementary schools.

In fiction writing, I have worked on many series which are fan favorites. I wrote several episodes of the X-Men animated series, including the conclusion to the “Dark Phoenix” saga and, continuing in the Marvel Universe, the Spider-Man series I worked on is still fondly recalled. It was fun to be a part of the Hercules-Xena universe by scripting for “Young Hercules,” starring a very young Ryan Gosling.

One thing that always brings a smile is when twenty-somethings I meet find out I wrote episodes of “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” it always gets a very enthusiastic and happy response.

“Silver Tsunami,” a documentary I co-wrote with my often writing/producing partner, Cynthia Harrison-Wallach, dealing with the challenges the vast baby-boomer demographic will present to the world won several film-festival awards. Here’s the link to the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LJqt6fj8uI

Thanks to youtube most of my career is now online. If I ever need to review a show I wrote, no matter how vintage or obscure, chances are it will be posted.

There is a promotional video for Lady Sherlock, narrated by yours truly. The character inspired composer David Raiklen to write the wonderful theme which scores the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o39owXZHrRs

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

I suppose, like most of us, we just force ourselves to get back into life and work. I’ve had some losses in the last few years—my mother and brother passed away within four days of each other—and it hit me hard. There are still days when I am down and don’t feel like doing anything… and sometimes I don’t. Then there comes that time when life and work beckon and you simply start. Friends, and I have some wonderful ones, help a lot. But ultimately we all just find it in ourselves to place one foot in front of the other and continue on the journey.

What has been your greatest success in life?

That depends on the definition of success. Professionally, receiving an Emmy Award was certainly a high point. Co-creating, co-exec producing and writing “DogFights” was a professional highlight, as was getting to interview some of the amazingly heroic aviators and pilots whose amazing exploits we brought to life in the series.

One other success about “DogFights” that was important to me: at the time we were the only WGA covered series on the History Channel. I was proud to help several writers get the credits they needed to join the Guild.

But perhaps I treasure my friendships: the people that you are there for and are there for you, most of all. I have been blessed with some wonderfully caring people in my orbit. And I am exceedingly and always grateful for them.

Who or what has been your greatest inspiration?

I was about to answer with some literary or other notable or some book or film… but on reflection, perhaps it was, after all, my parents. They gave me the values and perspective that I think define me in the most important ways.

Lastly, what is the one thing you cannot do without?

Good friends, music, books, finding outlets for creativity.

Before I provide our visitors with online links where they can follow you or purchase your book, I’d like to give them a taste of Lady Sherlock: Circle of the Smiling Dead. Here is an excerpt:

Before Ian could halt the gig, Tasha—like Ian, soaking wet from the cold rain—leapt to the road, peering ahead to the ruins. Above the rain and fierce wind, they could hear the eerie chanting of more than a dozen voices.

“Utter fool that I was to desert him!” yelled Tasha over the din. “Look!”

The ruins odd appearance was even more distorted by the ferocity of the storm. The ancient shrine was torch-lit and full of black-robed people standing on various levels of the rocks. There were eighteen in all: nine men and nine women; every one of them wore masks that mimicked a goat’s heads with exaggerated horns. The torches were sheltered from the elements by alcoves cut into the dolmens. They created a harsh contrast of flickering red light and dancing black shadows that that exaggerated the malevolent atmosphere. Some sort of ceremony was transpiring, and the gathered all gave voice to a rhythmic chant. The horns of the masks turned in unison to the altar stone, where there was erected a black-robed effigy of an ancient demon-god, with crescent-moons on the robe and flaring horns protruding from the distorted goat-like animal skull that formed the sinister head.

From the roadway, Tasha and Ian scrutinized the proceedings in front of them.

“I don’t see McGloury!” yelled Ian.

“They have him. Depend on it!” said Tasha bitterly, as she drew her revolver and dashed to the ruins as fleetly as the mud-soaked ground would permit. Ian followed close behind.

Two masked men dragged a live goat to the altar. The robes of the effigy parted as Deirdre, in her priestess robes and bearing an ornate mask, emerged in flowing white with a crescent moon dangling near her breast. She raised a crude stone dagger and with one accurate stroke, slit the animal’s throat left to right. The chanting abruptly stopped and, save for the rain—the wind had died down—there was silence. Deirdre addressed the assembly in a disguised whisper. She pointed to a dolmen and motioned, “Come here.”

Tasha and Ian stepped from behind the towering monolith, weapons in hand.

Deirdre, with a bend of her finger, bid them forward.

Tasha boldly marched in, but Ian, his eyes darting from place to place, followed nervously. They reached the altar, and he pointed his revolver at Deirdre. “Up with your hands … ma’am.”

He was ignored, even by Tasha. She was focused on Deirdre—who, with her face concealed and her voice disguised, Tasha failed to recognise from their meeting at the Hermes. But she had put enough together to ask, “Deirdre, is it not?”

The priestess nodded.

Tasha nodded in return. “We meet at last.”

Deirdre’s smirk was just visible under the lower part of the mask. The cult members burst into laughter. Ian scowled at the masked faces made hideous by the malicious hysterics that surrounded them, but Tasha kept her eyes on Deirdre. The priestess raised her finger and the laughter stopped.

“We’ve met before,” came the mocking reply from behind the priestess’s mask.

“When?” There was no answer. “Where is McGloury?” Again no answer, just Deirdre’s maddening half-smile behind the ornate mask. “You are already responsible for two murders,” continued Tasha.

“Three,” Deirdre whispered. “Now four.” At once there was a vicious howling and human scream from the direction of the cliff. Tasha spun to see, indistinct through the storm and distance, the blur of a dog lunging for the throat of the vague shape of a man. That shape screamed again.

“McGloury!” yelled Tasha as she sprang into action.

She heard Deirdre’s mock sympathetic taunt. “Help him. You never fail.”

As Tasha and Ian raced toward the cliff, Deirdre, unmoving and regal, removed her mask, revealing her luminous eyes. Somewhere, faint in her throat, was a chuckle. “The cleverest woman in Europe.”

At that moment the “cleverest woman” was aiming her gun at the dog, but hound and human were intertwined as they struggled toward the cliff, making a clean shot impossible. She was too late. The battle ended as man and beast tumbled over the precipice, their screams and howls vanishing with them. Tasha stopped and staggered as if she’d been physically hit. Her mind screamed in protest as she bolted toward the cliff. Then the muddy ground crumbled under her feet and she slipped over the edge. She plummeted only for a second—Ian grasped her arm and, painfully, pulled her back up.

Tasha’s normal reserve was gone; she was desperate and fighting back tears. She had failed. Her client was dead.

If you’ve enjoyed Brooks’ writing and would like to read more, here are links to purchase his book, as well as ways you can follow him online.

Book online sales links:

Amazon                      https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Sherlock-Circle-Smiling-Dead-ebook/dp/B01LYDJTJL

Barnes & Nobel        http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lady-sherlock-brooks-arthur-wachtel/1124734777

Kobo                           https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lady-sherlock

Smashwords              https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/669578

iBooks                                    https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/lady-sherlock/id1162237016

Social Links:

Lady Sherlock Blog:            http://ladysherlocknovel.blogspot.com/

Lady Sherlock FaceBook Page:      https://www.facebook.com/TheLadySherlock/

Lady Sherlock FaceBook Fan created page:         https://www.facebook.com/groups/321693048210287/

Lady Sherlock Youtube promotional video:         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o39owXZHrRs

(Please note: Brooks Wachtel’s headshot was taken by Steven Sears)

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 2 – Interview With Anthony Dobranski

dobranski-photoI am so glad to start off 2017 by getting to know WordFire Press author Anthony Dobranski, who is currently writing a historical thriller based on real people and real events. Apparently, there are no bounds to what this talented writer can do. A native of Washington DC, he lives there now. Anthony studied English at Yale and made his first career at AOL working in Europe and Asia-Pacific. WordFire published his debut novel, The Demon in Business Class, on October 26, 2016. He describes his book this way:

An international modern day fantasy —

A demon-possessed spy trying to start the next global war falls in love with a psychic trying to stop it.

A shady powerbroker forces Zarabeth Battrie into a secret plan to start the next global war, giving her a demon that lets her speak all languages. But the people now trying to kill Zarabeth might know more about her job than she does.

When hallucinations drive Gabriel Archer to violence, a steely investigator shows Gabriel his repressed psychic powers. Recruited to help a visionary corporate leader turn others from evil, Gabriel struggles to master his own senses, and his doubts.

When Zarabeth and Gabriel meet by chance in Scotland, their brief passion becomes a fragile, troubling love, until the demon’s betrayal drives Gabriel away. Before Zarabeth’s cruel vengeance can destroy the visionary’s plans, Gabriel must stop her — but for both to survive, neither can win.

With witches, gangsters, prophets, cultists, and two angry angels, The Demon in Business Class is an edgy modern-day fantasy set around the world, on the uneasy ground where the worldly meets the divine.

Tell us about your most recent release.

The Demon in Business Class is an international modern-day fantasy, about a demon-possessed spy trying to start the next global war, who falls in love with the psychic trying to stop it. It’s a hybrid-genre book, with corporate thriller elements, a central star-crossed romance, and stylized language. It’s my first novel.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

My career before writing was at the internet service AOL, during its heyday, going overseas for months at a time to help launch editions in Europe and Asia-Pacific. I got to see the world, and to see how it is changing in our globalized era. Cultures rub against each other uncomfortably, in multiple dimensions, of nationhood and class and wealth, old and new. Societies on both sides of both oceans have been destabilized, some by new poverty, others by sudden and unequal wealth. People fear loss, fear the other, crave older certainties.

Fantasy cuts to the heart of culture, highlighting its hidden assumptions. I wanted to write a book that did that for our time, the way Jekyll and Hyde does for Victorian England or The Master and Margarita does for Stalin’s Soviet Union.

How I achieved this was its own, different inspiration, or at least a powerful motivation. Writing about our time is different from writing a book set in our time before escaping it, like Lev Grossman or J. K. Rowling. I also didn’t want to just bring a modern sensibility to a traditional fantasy world like A Song of Ice and Fire. I wanted a fantasy that came out of 21st century Earth, and I had the fervor of a convert, taking a great gleeful joy in bending and reworking as many genre norms as I could. Neil Gaiman blazed the trail I walked, for sure, but I walked a lot of it with Chuck Palahniuk.

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

The biggest was the style. I needed to evoke the crisp and often acid language of businesspeople, which is a kind of armor, yet still have it express doubt and fear and desperation, without ever sounding highfaluting. It’s a tall order, and I had to let go a lot of my “literary” airs – these are not people who drop allusions to Austen, or who really spend a lot of time expressing their interiority.

I did it by writing and throwing out writing, mostly. I tossed my first 400 pages and started over, wrote a thousand pages and cut half of that. I constantly read my work aloud – I built myself a standing desk so it was easier to breathe and talk! Always looking for leaner rhythms and tighter phrasing. Oh, the flocks of darlings I killed. When my editor told me I had to add a chapter, I have to tell you, it was quite the strange moment.

Hah! That would have thrown me for a loop as well. What else are you working on?

My novel-in-progress is a post-climate-change sci-fi tale set in a war-ravaged Budapest, working title The Cooperative Spiders. It was my NaNoWriMo winner in 2015, based on a short story I wrote, based on a dream. It’s gender-bending yet oddly genteel and Old World — think of it as Wes Anderson loosely adapting a Samuel R. Delany novel. Compared to Demon — which is rooted in real-world places and secret histories — Spiders is a freeing experience, since all that seems to stick to it is craziness.

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

 10a-12p, 2p-5p, weekdays. I have a family and I do cons, so weekends are basically out.

Tell us about your path to publication.

It’s not one any sensible person would follow, and I only discuss it to give hope to those like me who feel they’ve painted themselves in corners. I did everything wrong. I dove straight into a passion project with almost no understanding of the industry or market. I had no smaller works published. I sent out blind queries to both literary and fantasy agents and got form letters in return. I felt like I was living on crumbs. I woke up New Year’s Day 2015 crying. My resolution was, in one year I would feel more like a writer than I did that moment, whatever it took.

My writing-group colleague Wayland Smith had been to Superstars Writing Seminars, a business-focused seminar in Colorado Springs, and spoke well of it. Actually, he gushed, and Wayland doesn’t gush. So, I signed up. One morning at the seminar I met a writer and editor named Vivian Caethe. Demon intrigued her! She brought me to Peter J. Wacks of WordFire Press. I didn’t get the feeling it intrigued him at all, and when he asked me for ten pages I figured it was his favor to Vivian. Seven months later, Kevin J. Anderson, who owns WordFire Press, sent me a Facebook message inviting me to submit the whole manuscript.

Kevin also asked for a marketing plan — and it was clear he was throwing down a gauntlet.

Let me circle back and say that, other than my brief bright moment with Vivian, I first found Superstars incredibly depressing. It’s a professional seminar, so it skews to people with an obvious shot at making money, to series writers, to genre-mainstreams. They might as well have started every lecture saying, “Hey Tony, this one doesn’t really apply to you either.” By the time of the celebratory dinner, I was very low in spirit, really ready to chuck the whole enterprise. James Artimus Owen gets an acknowledgement in my book solely for the hours he spent talking me off the ledge of my discouragement, in deep, personal terms.

The techniques, though, are still applicable, and by the time Kevin wrote me, I had given them some months of thought. I had also read a great book about business called Mission in a Bottle, by the founders of Honest Tea — it’s a comic book, so it’s wonderfully accessible. Bringing an unsweetened high-end iced tea to market in a Snapple and Lipton world was akin to my taking my older-but-newer kind of fantasy to the mainstream fantasy market. I didn’t need to pretend to mass appeal; I needed to appeal to people left behind by all the other writers seeking mass appeal. Time and time again, Honest Tea made their difficulties into strengths, their bugs into features that other manufacturers couldn’t copy without violating their brands. I would do the same.

I gave Kevin eight single-spaced pages of multi-year marketing plan: about the market, about hybrid genres, about the slow building of literary cred, about modern bookbuying, about WordFire’s current stable and how I fit in it – which was to say, as an outlier, and how that meant a new audience WordFire didn’t really have. I even had the synopsis of Spiders – not a sequel, but enough to show I had more for Demon’s audience, maybe enough to build a tiny, quirky brand.

I got a contract.

My entrée to WordFire was equally circuitous, so it’s clear that they recognize talented odd-balls! Why do you write?

It’s not simply that I’m a highly verbal person, and a hugely analogical thinker. I suspect it’s something deep and simple involving how I understand the world. When I go to other countries, I buy local fiction. One of the few “eureka” moments I’ve had involving writing was Samuel R. Delany’s note in Dangerous Visions about how science fiction let him unite “the disparate and technical with the desperate and human.” I read that in eighth grade and it still rings true now.

I grew up with an inadvertently secret history. My parents came to America from Poland in 1961, having survived WWII and Soviet domination well enough to escape them. After they did, they didn’t really talk about their pasts, didn’t really want to. They couldn’t know this gave me a great discomfort, a sense of unrootedness and not belonging in America, in ways I was too young to understand or express, save in my love for Mr. Spock.

I think Edith Hamilton’s Mythology was the first time I had both a complete cultural history and an understanding you could discuss the world in real ways through the manifestly unreal and impossible. Now they’re tied together in my head. Perhaps if my parents had told me about their lives sooner, I would have been a historian.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

Because of my traveling AOL career, I really only started having a home life rather late in life. I married in my early forties. My wife and I met at the dog park, so animals are a big part of our lives, and my wife is on the board of our local shelter. I’ve always loved live theater, and we try to get out to new plays as often as we can. Washington is a huge theater town, with dozens of companies, from scrappy to plush. I served on the boards of two DC theater companies for many years, and as a volunteer script reader for one, until children and novels overwhelmed my volunteer time. Reading twenty scripts a year is fantastic dialogue training, by the way!

“Winter is coming” holds no menace to this avid skier, only joy.

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

Sourly, then wryly. As Samuel Beckett wrote, “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” But failing better is different from failing bigger. I try to look at what went wrong and see if it ever could have gone right. Sometimes, it couldn’t have, and my eager ignorance baked in the failure I should have avoided.

Do you have any pet projects?

I have a small side-project, derailed by Demon’s launch, which I plan to pick up next spring after the next draft of Spiders. It’s a serial thriller novella called The Scientists and The Spy, about the secret WWII military work done in my own Washington DC neighborhood by the scientists at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology). It’s very different from my usual – all-ages audience, historical fiction – but it turns out evoking the past is worldbuilding too. Plus, the research is a hoot!

Thank you, Tony, for taking the time to share with us. Before I present our visitors an excerpt from Demon, I’d like to finish with my customary Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m… not nearly as good a drinker as I like to believe.

The one thing I cannot do without is… a myth that I had to stop indulging long ago.

The one thing I would change about my life is… to worry even less about what I’m “supposed” to do.

 

For those of you who’ve been waiting, here is an excerpt from The Demon in Business Class:

dobranski-demon-coverIn the fake-oak-paneled conference room, Zarabeth Battrie found a dozen others standing. All looked wilted and worn, with bunched shirts and bowing ankles. The plastic tables were gone, the plastic chairs stacked in the corner. More people arrived but no one unstacked the chairs. A herd instinct, Zarabeth decided, to keep a clear path for fleeing.

A natty beige man in a crisp blue plaid suit came in, pushing a low gray plastic cart with stacks of documents. If the standing people surprised him, he didn’t show it. With practiced ease he lowered the room’s screen, plugged in his power strip. Someone passed the documents around but no one spoke. In the silence, Zarabeth felt anxieties around her, about money, status, children, groping her like fevered predictable hands. Too intimate, these people’s worries in her skin when she didn’t know their names, or want to. She shook them off, pushed through to the front so as not to stare at men’s backs all meeting.

Projector light bleached the natty man while he talked through slides of sunsets and bullet points, with the real news a seeming afterthought. Her office and two others were merging with Optimized Deployments, in Boston. A great move. Efficiency for all. The animated org-chart realigned over and over, three squares gone and Optimized’s no bigger. Reorganized like a stomach does food.

People asked tired questions, their hot worry now clammy hope. The natty man smiled no matter what he said. Yes, redundancies. Jobs would move, details to work out. All would be well and better.

He left to spread his joy. The room lights rose.

Zarabeth’s boss, Aleksei Medev, slouched in the corner like someone had whacked his head with lumber. His unshaven olive skin hung gray and limp. With all eyes on him, he straightened.

“A very challenging time,” he said. “We’re sending reports to justify—to guide the transition. Client work is secondary.”

Zarabeth was in no hurry to fill out Aleksei’s useless reports. Nothing she had done in the last two months justified keeping her employed, she knew that. She went out the broken fire exit to a stand of pine trees behind the parking lot. She lit a cigarette, paced in the shade.

Once, Zarabeth Battrie had traveled the country as an Inspiration Manager, connecting the best people at Straightforward Consulting to an in-house knowledge network. She had good instincts which managers to flatter, which to cow, which to sneak past. It surprised her how much she understood when she finally got her quarry to talk their special arcana, over morning jogs, lobster lunches, steak dinners, midnight hookahs with shots of tequila. Later, on airplanes, she’d think of those and other conversations, watching the pieces fit together in this strange unity and balloon, her world growing with a drug-like jolt. To let her do that, week in, week out—taking off, landing, on the move, on her feet—had been the greatest praise.

On Valentine’s Day, it had evaporated without explanation. Zarabeth had been reassigned from downtown Washington to Reston, in the Virginia suburbs, to do public-relations grunt-work for industry trade groups. Aleksei Medev, still shiny then, had put his feet on her new desk and spun a great tale, core knowledge toward a turnkey marketing solution, select team deep study. At least she got an office with a door.

Zarabeth had visited Boston twice in her old job. Optimized had smart people and kept them by being greedy. They would suck the money from her division like marrow from bone. Everyone fired, no matter how they danced.

Doubt ate through her like some parasite come to lay its eggs. She pinched the cigarette’s cherry to burn it off with pain. Six years at this firm would not end this week.

You may follow Tony on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram as ADobranski.

His website is: www.anthonydobranski.com

You can purchase The Demon in Business Class ebook at: https://www.amazon.com/Demon-Business-Class-Anthony-Dobranski-ebook/dp/B01MFG0ARS/

 If you are interested in following his progress on his historical thriller, The Scientists and the Spy, you may do so here: http://www.foresthillsconnection.com/category/style/sci-spy/

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 29 – Interview With Ramón Terrell

R_Terrell_030513_0129_webIt was my good fortune to run into Ramón Terrell at Sasquan—WorldCon’s 2015 incarnation—last August at the WordFire Press book launch party for Mike Resnick. A genial and easygoing man, I warmed to him immediately. I’ve been trying to feature him ever since, but one thing or another always got in the way. He is a prolific author with a rich imagination and always seems to have multiple irons in the fire.

Tell us about your most recent release.

I actually have two books releasing at the same time, this year. One, Hunter’s Moon, with Wordfire Press, the other, Out of Ordure, from Tal Publishing, my own label.

Hunter’s is the direct sequel to Running from the Night, and is the second book in the Hunter’s Moon series that take place in Vancouver BC. Without giving too much away for those who haven’t read the first book, let’s just say things are out of control. After the events of Running from the Night, it’s a miracle that Jelani and his friends are still alive. The Eldest Hunter, Yako, is under pressure due to the interference of a certain powerful woman, which has complicated his life in the vampire world. Top that off with random vampires in the street who can smell Saaya’s halfblood scent all over him, and Jelani’s life continues to plummet. Lots of action, sprinkles of humor, and camaraderie and loyalty of two best friends. Jelani’s steadfast devotion to protecting his friends, even if it means the forfeit of his own life, may just be the one thing keeping himself and his friends alive.

FairyCover-text copyIn Out of Ordure, we follow the adventures of Ordure Engineer Fairy, Fecanya, and her three coworkers, a Bloom Fairy, a Garbage Fairy, and the every bubbly Sugar Fairy. Fecanya hates her job (can you blame her?) and would like nothing better than to go on vacation. Permanently. This is one sassy fairy, and I think you’ll find her sarcasm and antics to be quite a riot. Her uptight satyr therapist, however, begs to differ.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

For Hunter’s Moon, I would have to take it back to the first book. Running from the Night was a relentless story demanding to be told. I had no intention of writing a vampire story because they were everywhere at the time. But the story became so insistent, I practically had to promise it that I would write it once I was done with the project I was working on.

51RqGPUlOsLOut of Ordure came about from a day in the woods. I was out hiking with my wife and her friend, and we came across dog… “leavings”, and I went into a rant about people not cleaning up after themselves or their pets. Then I mentioned the *insert expletive that rhymes with hit* Fairy must have been working overtime. We laughed, and I just kept going. Eventually both of them said I should write a story about it. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because I’d never written humor and wasn’t sure I could. After a couple of months of my wife rather insistently asking if I’d started the fairy book yet, I finally did. This little novella was a blast to write, and I think readers will find it quite funny.

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

My biggest challenge with Out of Ordure was confidence. I’d never written humor and was unsure I could. Comedy/humor is not only subjective, but also a little more technical in some ways. It’s quite easy to fall flat on your face. In the end, I just sat down and wrote a page, passed it to a few author friends to see if this would work. The end result became Out of Ordure, and I’m quite enamored of my sassy little Ordure Engineer Fairy friend.

What other novels have you written?

There are two more books that follow Echoes of a Shattered Age: Legends of a Shattered Age, and Heroes of a Broken Age. This is the Legend of Takashaniel Trilogy. My vampire series, Hunter’s Moon, begins with Running from the night, and is followed by Hunter’s Moon, Darkness of Day, and Revenire. Wordfire Press is currently re-publishing these five books. Lastly is Unleashed, the first book in the Saga of Ruination.

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

The Hunter’s Moon series is currently in early works for a television series. Although I can’t say much about it at this time, the process is ongoing. I hope to be able to speak more about it in the coming months. Sadly, that’s all I can say about it.

Most authors dream about something like this, but few ever see their dream materialize. You’re one of the fortunate ones. What else are you working on?

I am coauthoring a new set of books with amazing author Peter J. Wacks, and also will begin work on a YA series set in the same world as the Takashaniel books. You can look for that one to appear some time this year.

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

I go to the coffee shop in the morning around 8:30 a.m., write until 12:30 p.m., then meet my wife for lunch. I then return to the coffee shop an hour later to write until about 5:30 p.m.. I sometimes work at home afterwards, but only if I’m really pushing for a deadline.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I do now. For Echoes I did not, because I didn’t know how. I would have gotten that book done much quicker had I employed an outline to stay on track. Now, I outline every book, beginning to end. The story and characters evolve and things change and go in different directions, because it is a living thing, but the outline is the guide to keep things on track and for readily available details.

Why do you write?

Same reason why I breathe. Well, maybe not quite so essential for sustaining life, but it’s a close second. I write because I can’t not write. When I’m not writing, I get antsy. I can’t rest. I already have more story ideas than I could write in a few lifetimes, and they’re only getting more crowded. The stories and characters have lives that must be recorded. Writing is a creative love that is shared only with acting. I write because I love it, and because I must.

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

If you like fun and adventure, camaraderie, and sweeping tales of diverse characters, enter my sandbox. I’d love for us to play together.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes. I’m also an actor, and have appeared on Arrow, Supernatural, iZombie, Minority Report, and I am one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in the show Once Upon a Time. I’m also in the hilarious hit web series Single and Dating in Vancouver.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I have the most supportive and loving wife a guy could dream of, and two awesome cats that occasionally drive me nuts. To have a warm, dry, comfortable home to share with my amazing wife and two awesome cats is a blessing bigger than anything I could have hoped for.

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

I ask my self one question: Would I be happy doing something else if I gave up today. The answer is unthinkable. You pick yourself back up and keep going. You learn your craft. You do the work. You do lots of the work, and I mean a LOT of the work. This is my career, my job. There is no such thing as giving up because I’ve failed. Failure is a verb, not a noun. I learn from failure, cast it aside, and succeed.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Deciding after years of telling myself I couldn’t do it, and that it was too late to pursue my dreams. Deciding that I didn’t want to just “settle”, and that it was okay to achieve more, and that I deserved more, as long as I was willing to work for it.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

My parents and my brother are my biggest inspirations. My mother was the most loving mother a son could have. She worked hard, tolerated no excuses, and “co-ruled” the house with a firm and loving hand. My father was a big gentle soul yet as strong as a mountain. He also took no excuses, worked hard, and taught us to be hardworking men that do what we must to get the job done and see our responsibilities met. My brother was my closest and best friend before I had any true friends. He was the person I looked up to, and still do. Childhood social life wasn’t much fun for me, and my brother was always there, occasionally letting his much younger brother hang out with him and his friends. I’m forever grateful to them all.

Thank you so much for taking time away from your busy schedule to join us, Ramón. For those of you who have dropped in to acquaint yourselves with this fine, emerging author, here is an excerpt from Hunter’s Moon, after which you will find links that will help you connect with Ramón online, as well where you may buy both of his new releases and others he has written.

Hunter’s Moon

Humans. An oblivious species. So caught up in their daily lives, and working so hard to dull their senses to everything around them, that they almost always failed to intuit danger when it was right in front of them. Animals were different. The lower on the food chain an animal lives, the more wary they are. But even predators gave Remy a wide berth. Not humans.

Humans.

So fragile, so clueless. So easy. Not all, though. No. He had walked through crowds of people, even receiving the occasional flirtatious grin from a passing female. Remy had always thought it rather humorous; like a deer smiling at a passing lion. Some few actually shied away from him. On rare occasions, a human would glance at him with nervous eyes, knowing he was trouble but not really knowing how or why.

And then there were his current targets. Despite his firm belief that Yako’s skills were lacking, evidenced by his failing to dispatch two humans, Remy still had to grudgingly admit that these two were more careful and more alert than most. Remy had always enjoyed toying with his prey. Oftentimes he would walk right by them, making kindly eye contact. Then he would walk by them again, on another street, then another, causing his target to become disconcerted, then panicked. The increased rush of blood flow gave it a more tangy, sweet taste.

The one named Jelani and his friend, Daniel, were somewhat…different. Remy had thought to play his game with them, and walk by on the street. Maybe he would even wink at them. Despite the fact that they were more wary, knowing someone was after them, they had reacted unexpectedly. One of them, Daniel, had noticed Remy as soon as he was within ten feet of them, and alerted the other. They both had stolen several glances at him and moved to the other side of the sidewalk, all the time keeping an eye on him.

Remy had to admit he was at least a little impressed. In the middle of a crowd of people walking on that sidewalk, they had felt something out of place about him and moved to avoid contact. The Hunter had chosen to continue on and not give any show of recognition. There would be time enough for a little reunion.

He lifted his head and licked the blood from his lips. In his iron-like grip, a woman twitched uncontrollably. He glanced down at her with pale red glowing eyes. With a mind infinitely more focused than that of a frazzled human psyche, he managed to glean valuable information in bits, piecing them together into something resembling coherency. To be fair, he couldn’t imagine anyone maintaining any kind of order to their thoughts and memories when being unexpectedly attacked.

“And what shall I do with you?” he hissed, though he knew she was beyond hearing. He had studied every person who worked in the department with one of his targets. There were twenty two in total. This woman -Claire, her name was- had unfortunately been quite taken with the one named Daniel for over three years. After half a year of dating, they had mutually agreed to remain friends. Lovely Claire, here, had never quite gotten over her attraction to him. Apparently, Daniel loved the snow, hated the rain, enjoyed video games and watching movies at the theater, as well as going for walks with his fiancée, Wen.

Remy smirked at her. Through the memories embedded in the cells in her blood -blood he now had in his body- he could feel the envy toward the other woman as if it was his own. Remy never understood how humans could become so devastatingly taken with one another to the point of depression when things didn’t work out. There were over a billion of them walking the earth. Vampires accounted for a very small part of that population. Perhaps a shaquora could relate. Being a pureblood, Remy had no understanding of this aside from whatever information he gleaned from his occasional feedings.

“And what do I do with you?” he repeated, playfully tapping the poor woman on the nose with a finger. He had brought her to the crossroad, as vampires called it. He hadn’t drained her to the point of death, but had not fully injected the vampiric essence that would seek to re-create her.

Remy rarely re-created a human, having no love for the hated turned vampires who had little, or no control over the thirst, and reveled in their newfound abilities. Shaquora were the primary reason Hunters were necessary. The woman convulsed, and Remy gently stroked her sandy brown hair.

To connect with Ramón online, go to:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ramon.terrell

Twitter:  @Ramon__Terrell

To purchase Out of Ordure, Hunter’s Moon or Ramóns other books:

https://www.amazon.com/Out-Ordure-Fairies-Ramon-Terrell-ebook/dp/B01JVGB084/

https://www.amazon.com/Hunters-Moon-Ramon-Terrell-ebook/dp/B01JWZ1AKM/

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Ramón+Terrell

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 18 – New Releases by Quincy J Allen & Dave Butler

This week, The Write Stuff breaks away from its customary author interviews to showcase new releases from two former Interviewees, Quincy Allen, featured on December 7, 2015, and Dave Butler, whom we met on January 4 of this year.

1000-Headshot1Quincy describes Blood Curse, published by WordFire Press on June 2, 2016, as a Western Steampunk Epic Fantasy with a clockwork gunslinger destined to stop a demon apocalypse that could wipe out two worlds. It starts in the old west and pretty quickly morphs into fantasy (magic and dragons in the world) and finally becomes epic fantasy where a number of factions all must work together to stop the apocalypse.

A ruddy sun has set on the gauntlet that nearly killed Jake, Cole, and Skeeter in San Francisco. Storm clouds loom on the horizon, promising the inevitability of an airship battle with the nefarious Colonel Szilágyi. Blood Curse, the second book in the Blood War Chronicles, drops Jake and is friends into the middle of a war between the Free Territories and the Empire of Texas. In the shadow of warships, mechanized infantry, and spies, he discovers a world he couldn’t possibly have imagined and begins to understand what fate has in store for him. Jake doesn’t want that destiny, but his growing feelings for the Lady Corina Danesti lead him down a path of death and destruction on a scale that could encompass worlds.

The Blood War Chronicles series is set for six books, and WordFire Press, Quincy’s publisher, has already signed a gaming contract that will reach out to dozens of countries. There’s artwork already available and a website that should go live in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes open! Here is where you can find Blood Curse on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Curse-Book-War-Chronicles/dp/1614754322/

Take a quick peek inside:

1625CoverJake eyed Brewer. “Cromwell’s committed himself. Either he takes the city or he writes these bastards off. And the gates are the key. You said it yourself. He has a large ground force south of the city and heading this way.”

Brewer nodded, giving Jake an appraising eye. “That’s what I’ve been told. And their air support has beaten the hell out of the Dragun. She’s still holding her own, but so long as she has to defend herself, she can’t tear into the ground forces. She’d make quick work of them otherwise. A bunch of our other ships went down in the first pass, taken from above. We have a contingency plan, but they’re holding off on that for some reason.” Brewer chewed on the end of his cigar as he thought about what Jake was saying. He took a long pull on the cigar and blew the smoke up into the air. Finally, he relaxed. “What did you have in mind?”

“Ghiss and me, with a little help from Cole and that there Thumper,” Jake nodded to the rifle Cole leaned against, “will be your right flank. I want you and your people to hit that south side with everything you got. Crash vehicles into the barricade … melt your barrels if you have to. I want you to make as much noise as possible, but keep your heads down. Just keep their attention on you without risking any lives.” Jake looked at Ghiss and Cole. “We’ll take care of the rest.”

Brewer looked at Jake like he was loco. “Just the three of you?” He gave out a great guffaw. “You’re out of your damn mind!”

Ghiss spoke up. “Oh, I agree, Mister Brewer. By all accounts I believe we all are. However, our sanity, or lack thereof, does not change the simple fact that, provided a proper distraction, we are fully capable of tearing those men to pieces.”

Brewer looked the mercenary up and down, noting the pistols and their cables. He’d seen enough energy weapons to know the things probably wouldn’t run dry … at least not for a while.

“It’s still just the three of you,” Brewer finally replied, his voice filled with doubt. “And there has to be at least forty or fifty of them … plus that assault unit.”

“You let me worry about the armor,” Jake said with more bravado than he felt. “And there’s four of us, actually,” he added. His smile was overflowing with all the confidence he could muster. He hooked a thumb behind him, pointing through the gap at the Brahma. “We’ve got Lumpy.”

Brewer leaned over slowly and looked at the bull who was busily licking his nose.

“You’ve got Lumpy,” Brewer said in a flat tone, blinking his eyes. He kept puffing on the cigar. He looked back at Jake who kept smiling.

Jake gave Brewer a sly wink. “And you’ve got nothing to lose,” he added, “except a bit of ammunition.”

Brewer thought about it and nodded slowly, realizing that he had almost no risk aside from the ammo, and they had plenty stored around the city. It was enough to put the man’s decision over the top.

“Alright.” Brewer looked over his shoulder. “Billy, pass the word and get on the talkie. We leave eight defenders here to guard the hospital. Every other fighter who can still carry a weapon meets at the southern position in ten minutes.”

“Sir!” the boy shouted and dashed back into the warehouse.

“You better be right,” Brewer said, turning back to Jake. “For your own sake.” He stepped over to a stack of crates near the gap in the barricade. He pulled out two chaingun drums and handed them to Cole. “Here, you’ll need these. They’re full.”

“Thanks,” Cole said, hefting them, and then started swapping out the drums.

“Y’all better get ready,” Brewer said. “In about twelve minutes all hell’s gonna break loose.”

Jake nodded. “We’ll wait about thirty seconds after you start shooting before we hit ’em. I’ll give you a high sign from inside their barricade if we make it, then you and your people can come in and take back what’s yours.”

Brewer held out his hand. “Good luck.” He shook hands with Jake, Ghiss, and Cole. “You’re gonna need it.” Without another word, he walked back into the warehouse.

… … … … …

Butler 2Dave Butler, whose scientific romance, City of the Saints, was also published by WordFire Press, just landed a contract with Knopf Doubleday. His most recent release, The Kidnap Plot (The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie), a steampunk fantasy, hit the shelves on June 14, 2016. It’s available in your favorite bookstore right now. Or, if you’re thinking about purchasing The Kidnap Plot online, here is the Amazon link:

http://amzn.to/28S1NDM

He describes the story this way:

Charlie is a reader. He’s not allowed outside the house, but then one day his father is kidnapped, and Charlie has to launch a rescue mission. This is a story about matriarchal warrior pixies, heartbroken lawyer trolls, fantastic steam-powered devices, and a hero with a secret even he doesn’t know.

Dave has composed a filk song for the book. you can listen to it here:

https://youtu.be/xilOU5JCKaw

 

The Kidnap Plot’s first 500 words follow:

Chapter One

 

Butl_9780553512953_jkt_all_r1.indd“Charlie Pondicherry ain’t got no mum!”

Charlie cringed. There would be a rock. There was always a rock.

“What are you talking about, Skip? Charlie Pondicherry ain’t even got a dad! Charlie Pondicherry’s a toenail fungus; that’s why he’s always got that goop smeared on him!”

Skip, Mickey, and Bruiser followed Charlie down the Gullet. Charlie was sure the three boys had just waited in the alley for him to come out. Charlie’s shoulders slumped.

He hunched down lower over the basket of dirty laundry he was carrying. Sooner or later, there would be a rock.

“A fungus . . . ha-ha! A fungus!”

Whack!

That was the rock. It hit Charlie between the shoulders. He stumbled, but kept his feet.

He wanted to turn and stand like a ship’s captain, letting the pirates have it with both pistols . . . but he’d soil the laundry. Plus, they outnumbered him three to one, and any captain knew those weren’t great odds. Charlie gritted his teeth and hoped they’d give up.

The steam clouds that surrounded Lucky Wu’s Earth Dragon Laundry were just ahead. Behind him he heard the sucking sound of the other boys’ feet in the mud.

“Where you going, fungus? Get him, Bruiser!”

Bruiser grabbed Charlie by his jacket and shoved him against the brick wall. Charlie gripped tight with both hands and managed not to drop any of the laundry.

“You got any brass, fungus?” Mickey sneered. Mickey had ears like jug handles and teeth too big for his head. He spat when he talked.

Charlie glared at the bigger boy. “Do I ever have any money?” Charlie’s bap—his dad, the other boys would have said, but Charlie’s father was from the Punjab in India and insisted Charlie call him Bap—never gave him money.

“What you think we are, stupid or sumfing?” Skip shouted. Skip had a loose lower lip that flapped down and almost covered his chin. Also, Skip smelled terrible.

“Stupid or sumfing!” Bruiser echoed, and he laughed. Bruiser was a big boy, with man-sized knuckles.

“Going to Fathead Wu’s again, yeah?” Mickey spat. “What, you ain’t got a bit of brass to pay old Fathead?”

“Are you an idiot?” Charlie snapped. He was shaking, but he might as well speak his mind; whatever he said, he was going to get punched. “I always go to Wu’s. And I never have any money.” Charlie wished he were bigger. He’d pound Mickey and his friends flat. Maybe then Bap would let him out of the shop more. “Clock off!”

“How many times we gotta teach you this lesson?” Skip jeered.

Bruiser pressed Charlie against the wall with one hand and balled up his other fist. His big hand hung in the air like a wrecker’s ball.

Charlie laughed. “You’re slow learners, I guess.” He smirked to distract them from his hands while he shifted his grip on the basket and made a fist inside one of his bap’s shirts. He was Captain Charlie Pondicherry, priming his pistols.

Bruiser didn’t know when the joke was on him. “Slow learners, ha!”

Mickey looked at Bruiser, irritated.

Charlie threw the basket of dirty laundry at Bruiser’s face.

“Huh?” Bruiser shouted, and swung his fist—

Charlie ducked—

and pow! Bruiser’s fist plowed right into the top of Mickey’s head.

“Ow!” Mickey staggered back.

Charlie hurled his fistful of shirt at Skip’s face and turned to run, but the shirt missed and Skip knocked Charlie down.

Charlie hit the mud in a rain of dirty laundry.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Awash in Autumn, the Queen Reflects

 

Every day is the same and yet different.

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

“Pumpkin spice latte?”

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

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

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

“You’ll see,” Tony says.

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

Emily ponders it, then sips it.

Antlers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awash in Autumn, the queen reflects.

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

 

You can purchase it here:

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

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, January 18 – Interview With Alan Dean Foster

You can imagine my delight when WordFire Press asked me to interview the legendary author, Alan Dean Foster, about his two new books, Star Wars – The Force Awakens and his long-awaited original novel Oshenerth. Equally pleasing, I found Mr. Foster both easy to work with and prompt in his responses.

Author and friendAlan Dean Foster’s work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western, historical, and contemporary fiction. He has also written numerous non-fiction articles on film, science, and scuba diving, as well as having produced the novel versions of many films, including such well-known productions as “Star Wars”, the first three “Alien” films, “Alien Nation”, and “The Chronicles of Riddick”. Other works include scripts for talking records, radio, computer games, and the story for the first “Star Trek” movie. His novel Shadowkeep was the first ever book adaptation of an original computer game. In addition to publication in English his work has been translated into more than fifty languages and has won awards in Spain and Russia. His novel Cyber Way won the Southwest Book Award for Fiction in 1990, the first work of science-fiction ever to do so. His sometimes humorous, occasionally poignant, but always entertaining short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines as well as in original anthologies and several “Best of the Year” compendiums. His published oeuvre includes more than 100 books.

The Force Awakens CoverI understand that you spoofed the audience at the Star Wars Celebration 2015, Del Rey panel, where it was announced you would be novelizing the movie. Will you give us a recap of what you did?

The notion was mutually developed by Del Rey and myself. We thought it would be fun for the audience if, instead of my simply appearing on the stage with the other panelists, they announced that they were still looking for someone to do the novelization. They then opened the floor to questions.   As was prearranged, I was called upon first, whereupon I (as a presumed stranger) offered to write the book, as I was “familiar with the characters and setting”. After some easy back and forth, they said, “Okay, you can do it”. Whereupon I was introduced. The audience loved it.

After Michael Arndt, the original screenwriter, left the project and J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took over, the movie was put on a production fast track. Since it wasn’t until April 9 of 2015 that the above announcement took place and the book’s release had to coincide with the movie release, how much time were you actually given to complete the book?

Three months. I finished it in less than two. That’s just the way I write, whether it’s a novelization, a spinoff, or an original novel.

It’s not surprising, then, that they selected you. How satisfied are you with the result?

Quite, although as with any work, one always wishes for the opportunity to do another polish.

Was there any sort of collaborative process between yourself, Abrams and Kasdan, or were you just left on your own?

Making even a small film with no expectations is a 24/7 task. Making something on the nature of Star Wars is a 25/7 task. Directors, producers, writers, actors are completely focused on and absorbed in the making of the film. Even if they wished to participate in the development of what is at base an ancillary product, the time simply is not available. So yes, I was left on my own, albeit with input from my editor at Del Rey, Shelly Shapiro, and the Star Wars story group.

How much access to the screenplay and production materials were you given?

I had a full screenplay. I requested, and was provided, with as much in the way of production material as Lucasfilm/Disney was able and willing to provide. This consisted primarily of still shots of characters in costume, sets, and props.

Did The Walt Disney Company exercise any sort of supervisory role?

As will be the case with all Star Wars-related material in the future, the Star Wars story group vetted everything I submitted.

Because your “Pip and Flinx” series is as rife with both the intergalactic populace and dry humor one finds in the Star Wars saga, I thoroughly expected your distinct writing style would bleed over into Star Wars – The Force Awakens. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find your book sounds exactly like George Lucas. Was it difficult to take on his voice?

When doing a novelization, I try to stay as true to the work of the screenwriters as possible. I’m doing a collaboration, an expansion…not a revision. Over the decades I’ve had to assume the “voices” of many other writers, most notably that of Eric Frank Russell in my expansion of his novella “Design for Great-Day”. It’s very flattering when readers feel that the expansion is a seamless development of the original writer(s) style.

While on one hand, a novel can take a reader inside a character’s head and provide background in ways a movie cannot, but on the other lacks a movie’s visual cues, there are inevitable differences between the way each tells the story that raise certain questions:

 In many instances, your book provides much more detail than the movie does, for example the exchange between Rey and Unkar Plutt concerning BB8 or, much later on, when Finn and Statura were talking about Starkiller Base, its weaknesses and capabilities. Are these your embellishments, or were they in the original screenplay but lost on the cutting room floor?

Those are mine, as are a fair number of similar bits of expansion in the novel. If you don’t provide such material, then you as a collaborator are not doing your job and the reader is not getting their money’s worth when they buy the book.

Where do the character or cultural backstories included in your book—that I suspect could not have been part of the screenplay, for example as pertain to Poe and Finn—come from?

I take what there is in the screenplay and develop the material further, attempting to envision what the characters themselves would say if they were present to fill in the blank spaces in their own backgrounds.

Oshenerth CoverI’d like to switch to something else that I suspect is much dearer to your heart. As long ago as 2009, I saw references on your website to a trilogy of your own creation titled Oshanurth, but never saw the work materialize. Now I learn that WordFire Press has published it with the revised spelling Oshenerth. Are you excited it’s finally in print and why has it taken so long?

Legacy publishers are less and less willing to take on material that doesn’t fit into pre-conceived (read: pre-sold) slots. I think the fact that Oshenerth takes place entirely underwater might have caused some hesitation on the part of assorted editors…though there was one who wanted to publish it immediately, only to have it rejected by the conservative owner of the company.

What was the inspiration behind the story?

I’ve been an avid diver for more than 30 years, fascinated by the ocean and its life. I always wanted to incorporate what I’ve seen and experienced underwater into a full novel. I’m especially fascinated by cephalopods.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about it?

One of the main characters, a cuttlefish, is based on an encounter I had with two of them off the coast of Blupblup Island, northern Papua New Guinea. Watching them communicate with color changes (white means danger in cuttlefish talk, by the way) as well as watching them watch me, I could not help but be taken by their evident intelligence.

Will you eventually release the full trilogy and, if so, when may we expect to see volumes two and three?

Oshenerth is a fully stand-alone work. As to continuing it, time and readership will tell.

As I calculate it, over your writing career, you’ve produced more than two books a year. What is your writing routine?

Rise around 7 am, read international and national news on the web, do research, write something, have lunch, go to gym or do the shopping, write some more. Write something every single day.

Just for fun: I understand you used to be quite the world traveller. While my own travels have provided many unique experiences, one of yours really caught my attention: You’ve actually cooked and eaten a piranha. I have to ask (1) how did that come about and (2) what did it taste like? Please don’t tell me it tasted like chicken.

You’re safe. Piranha broiled in a pan with a little butter, salt and pepper, and spices to seasoning, tastes just like fresh-water trout.

Yum! Thank you so much for agreeing to participate in my author interview series. Before I close with an excerpt from Oshenerth, I’d like to attempt what I call a Lightning Round, since it often produces unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… talkative

The thing I’m most proud of is… getting a tooth from a live great white shark

The one thing I cannot do without is… iced tea

The one thing I would do over is… travel even more.

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… Chuck Jones’ work.

And now, a quick taste of Alan Dean Foster’s original work, Oshenerth:

Chapter 1

As soon as he had the sleek, toothy slayer cornered, Chachel knew the shark was going to use magic. He was not worried. The heavy spear of pure white bone that he held had been shaped and carved by Fasalik Boneworker himself from the massive, scavenged lower jaw of a dead rorqual. You could slam it against rock and the shaft would not shatter. Furthermore, he had surprised the shark from below while it was busy patrolling the mirrorsky. Now it was trapped between the waterless void above and reef wall behind.

Cradling the spear under one arm and aiming it with the other, Chachel adjusted the strap that held the woven patch over the socket where his left eye had once resided and swam forward. The webbing on his left foot and the fin growing from the back of his calf fluttered in perfect synchrony with the artificial counterparts that occupied the space where his right leg was missing below the knee.

Above and in front of him, the blacktip’s eyes darted nervously from side to side as it searched for an escape route. If the shark made a dash for it, Chachel was ready with the spear. If it began to spout time-honored shark sortilege, the hunter’s well-honed vocabulary contained a clutch of stock counterwords. The gills of trapped shark and merson alike pulsed furiously, flushing water and extracting oxygen as they strained in expectation of the coming confrontation.

A powerful, yard-long tentacle slithered over Chachel’s taut left shoulder.

“Watch for a combination of teeth and talk. It may try to attack and invoke at the same time.”

Chachel nodded tersely. He knew that Glint was only trying to help. But it would have been better if the cuttlefish, who was as big as Chachel himself though not nearly as heavy, had stayed back out of the way. The last thing a hunter needed at killing time was to feel crowded.

Then the blacktip charged.

To anyone who has never seen a shark strike, it can be said that the great fish does not actually appear to move. One moment it is swimming lazily, and the next it is somewhere else, as if no water in-between has been transited. Some mersons called it wish-swimming: wish you are another place, and without a single kick or flick of a tail you find yourself therewith transported. After all, to catch something as fast as a fish, the shark must be faster still. Couple this intrinsic speed and ferocity with traditional shark magic, and surely an intended target has no chance to escape at all.

But Chachel was ready for the charge. Ready physically, because over the years he had pushed and worked his body to compensate for the loss of his left eye and right leg. Ready mentally, because he had laboriously learned the appropriate counterspells and protections. And ready emotionally, because he liked killing. He especially liked killing sharks because it was sharks who had taken his eye and the lower half of his right leg. It was sharks who had killed his father and mother in the same unanticipated pitched battle.

It was always sharks.

Visitors who would like to better acquaint themselves with Alan Dean Foster, or purchase his books, may do so via the following links:

email:                  adf@alandeanfoster.com

Oshenerth via Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Oshenerth-Alan-Dean-Foster/dp/1614753806

Star Wars – The Force Awakens via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Force-Awakens-Star-Wars/dp/1101965495

Website:                                             http://www.alandeanfoster.com/version2.0/frameset.htm

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The Write Stuff – Monday, January 4 – Interview With David Butler

There is no shortage of interesting authors in the WordFire Press stable and this week’s guest is no exception. Just when I thought the interview was on a predictable track, David Butler threw something at me from out of left field and I realized he is as unusual as are his story lines.

Friendly DaveDavid Butler is a lawyer by background and works as a corporate trainer teaching business acumen to employees of large international companies. He writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, superhero, and even horror stories, for adults, young adults, and even middle readers. His large press debut will be The Kidnap Plot (Knopf, June 2016).

Will you tell us about your upcoming WordFire Press release?

WordFire Press is about to release its edition of City of the Saints, a steampunk adventure novel set in the American West in 1859. It’s like an episode of Wild Wild West amped up by Nikola Tesla, with secret agents Sam Clemens (in his amphibious steam-truck, the Jim Smiley), Edgar Allan Poe (armed with a canister of flesh-eating scarab beetles), and Captain Richard Francis Burton (for Her Majesty, of course) facing off over which side in the looming war between the States will control the Kingdom of Deseret’s airship technology and phlogiston guns.

City of the Saints is also available in audiobook.

What other novels have you written?

My big press debut will be The Kidnap Plot (Knopf, summer 2016). This is book one of The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie, which is an action-adventure steampunk fantasy tale about an unusual boy who sets out to rescue his kidnapped father and discovers astonishing things about the world… and about himself.

Other novels with WordFire Press include Rock Band Fights Evil, which is a serial about a damned rock and roll band. The lead singer is Satan’s son, fallen out with his dad over the fact that the son’s lover is in hell and dad won’t release her; the guitarist sold his soul to the devil and was tricked, gaining amazing prowess… with the tambourine; the drummer is an outcast fairy, and so forth. The band’s plan to recover what they’ve lost is to steal a fragment of Satan’s hoof and use it to blackmail Old Scratch… but they have to get to it before any of Satan’s rivals do. Rock Band #1 is Hellhound on My Trail.

Crecheling is the first in a science fiction trilogy about a society that initiates its youth into adulthood by making them commit murder. When Dyan learns this horrible truth, she refuses, and learns the price you pay for choosing not to bear the guilt your society wants to put on you. It’s got sort of a Firefly feel in that it’s a horses and monofilament weapons in the desert setting.

Do you have any other books in the works?

The thing I’m writing right now is Urbane, which is the sequel to Crecheling. Dyan, having broken with the System in which she was raised, now re-enters it by stealth to try to rescue the woman she has learned is her mother.

In addition, my agent (Deborah Warren of East/West Literary) is currently showing a black powder epic fantasy novel called Witchy Eye to editors. Later in the year, Deborah and have another middle reader series and a young adult realistic thriller to take out as well. So it’s exciting times around here.

So I would say! Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Loneliness. Delusions of grandeur. Depression. Navel-gazing. Despair. Disdain. A sense of entitlement. Believing your own marketing. Doubting your fundamental awesomeness. Obsessing over commas. Losing the ability to read for pleasure. Failing to take in enough spiritual sustenance, and becoming barren. Forgetting that the world is bigger than books. Forgetting that stories are the only guide for making our way through the world.

It’s a given there are very few, if any, overnight successes in the publishing industry. Will you tell us something about your journey?

This is a long and tangled tale, so I will try to abbreviate it.

The first thing I wrote was a trunk book. That’s how it goes. But with the second book I wrote, I picked up a big name agent. I was sure I had it made. But the agent went one round with editors and got no bites. When I sent him a second manuscript, he could only rarely make time to even look at it, and never sent it out. Almost one year after offering to represent me, he dumped me, copying his lawyer on the e-mail.

In the meantime, I had co-written things with my wife, Emily. Shortly thereafter, she picked up an agent. She’s still represented by him—Steven Chudney. The first thing of ours he sent out went several rounds and didn’t get picked up. The second thing was a re-shaped version of the manuscript that had originally garnered me representation… and it sold!

So hurray, we were going to be published! Except that the publisher in question was Egmont. And after Emily went through the entire editing process, Egmont pulled the plug on its US operations, and the book was orphaned. Both those co-written books (and the series planned to follow them) are with Steven, being seen by editors today, and Emily continues to work on other projects.

In the meantime, I had starting self-publishing. This got me into conventions and onto panels, and that was a good thing. And then in early 2014, I got picked up by another agent—Deborah. She sent The Kidnap Plot to one editor on a sneak preview basis, Michelle Frey at Knopf, and Michelle went for it.

I’m going to unveil the cover art to The Kidnap Plot soon, via my mailing list. It’s by a very talented guy named Kenard Pak. Readers can sign up for my mailing list at: http://davidjohnbutler.com/mailinglist/

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

Setting it aside, writing the next one.

I know that one. Tell us something about your “other” job.

I’m trained as a lawyer, but I don’t currently practice. By day, I teach business acumen to employees of large companies.

Describe a typical day.

My typical day really varies. If I am not on the road, I start by hitting the gym and then I go into the office. If possible, I try to write in the evenings, or at lunch. If I’m on the road, then I’ll write in airports, or on the plane (if I’m lucky enough to get upgraded—frankly, airlines should be ashamed of the ridiculous cattle car nature of their main cabins, in which it is impossible to get any reasonable amount of work done). I often write in hotels, either having arrived there from the airport, or after a day of teaching client employees the different between an income statement and a statement of cash flows.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m married, with three kids (the oldest is in junior high) and four chickens. We play lots of board games around here, and make music—piano, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and lots of odd little instruments. Our house is a rambling old affair on the side of a mountain, with snakes under the steps and a severed head hanging in the tree.

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

You have to fill yourself with substance. You have to understand who you are and what you’re doing and why and know that there will be obstacles in your path. That won’t make picking yourself up easier, but it will make it possible. Your most basic skill as a human being is knowing how to stand back up again.

What has been your greatest success in life?

My kids. They’re creative, clever, hard-working, and good-hearted, without thinking much about the fact that they are those things.

Nicely put. Before I let our visitors sample City of Saints just below, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: A good book to read.

The one thing I would change about my life: I would have started owning it earlier.

My biggest peeve is: Politics in social media.

David, I’d like to thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. At this point, I’d like to share an excerpt from your work.

From City of Saints:

CoverOnly300DPI“And magic!” he cried and, reaching into his canister, he pulled out a handful of the brass scarabs and scattered them across the laps of Burton, Fearnley-Standish, and their female companion.

“Aagh!” shrieked Fearnley-Standish, and would have jumped from his seat if Burton hadn’t restrained him with a hand on his arm.

“Arjuna’s bow, man, they won’t eat you!” the explorer snorted.

Then Poe saw their female companion’s face and froze. She was short and dark, all straight lines and grace, and though he would have recognized her through any disguise, she wore none.

It was Roxie.

Robert, you didn’t mention … but then, of course …

She smiled at him, the polite and slightly flirtatious smile of a woman who is casually attached to another man but conceals within her a voracious, insatiable wolf. She didn’t recognize him, obviously, but then it had been years, and Poe was proud of the verisimilitude of his false nose. Within his breast a desire to seize her in his arms, sweep her to his chest and devour her mouth with his warred against an equally strong urge to pull his pistol from inside his jacket and blow out her vicious, wicked, conniving brains.

“Well, man!” Burton snapped. “Get on with it!”

He felt stunned, his vision out of focus. He floated, lost. Then, in the sea of passengers’ faces under flapping parasols, he saw the physiognomy of his accomplice, the haggard dwarf Jedediah Coltrane. Coltrane was mouthing something to Poe, a nervous look on his face; Poe’s professionalism reasserted itself and he tore his eyes away from Roxie’s.

Stepping back, he raised both hands about his head, one of them holding the cylinder by its lid, and cried out in a loud voice, to be sure that the entire deck could hear him. “Behold the incantations of Thoth! Behold the power of Hermes Thrice-Greatest! Behold the might of the Egyptian priests, able to reach through the curtain of death itself and command the obedience of the inanimate and the damned!”

When he was sure they were all watching him, he waved his empty hand in a great circular flourish over the scarabs, carefully thumbing the recall button inside the canister’s lid. “Nebenkaure, panjandrum, Isis kai Osiris!” he shouted.

The clocksprung beetles sprang instantly to life. With a great chittering and clacking, each metal bug rolled upright, oriented itself, and then began its trek. From the laps and boots of Roxie and the Englishmen, from the bench they sat on and the floor beneath them, the brass beetles swarmed in a great mass towards Poe.

He raised his hands, stood still, and laughed as diabolically and mysteriously as he could as the bugs climbed his clothing, laughed when he felt the first brass legs touch the bare skin of his neck, laughed with his whole chest and belly as the scarabs detoured around his head and crawled up his left arm, kept laughing as they swarmed ticklishly about his fist and dropped one by one into their native canister, and then, for effect, stopped laughing at the exact moment in which he slammed the canister shut.

The spectators went wild.

“That wasn’t Egyptian,” Burton said sourly, but the passengers all about him applauded, and a few whistled or whooped in excitement.

Coltrane clapped along with the crowd, shooting shrewd appraising looks at the people around him. Sizing up the marks, Poe thought. The man had the ingrained instincts of an inveterate carny. The little boy with the loop of wire stood stiff as a statue, his eyes so wide they threatened to swallow his face.

“They’re scarab beetles, Dick,” Fearnley-Standish pointed out.

“I meant the words,” the darker man growled. “Pure higgledy-piggledy. Nonsense. Arrant balderdash.”

“My name is Doctor Jamison Archibald!” Poe announced. “Tonight, at seven o’clock by the Captain’s watch, in the stateroom, for the very reasonable sum of two copper pennies, any passenger may see exhibited and explained these and other marvels, visual and auditory. See the uncanny hypnotic hypocephalus in action, stealing the souls of men! Witness the muscular terror of the dire Seth-Beast!”

“Will children be admitted free of charge?” inquired a plain-faced, reedy-voiced, gray-wrapped matron in a blue prairie bonnet, clutching under her bony wings a trio of similarly undernourished-looking brats.

“My dear madam,” Poe stage-whispered, meeting her eyes over the rims of his spectacles, “the things I have to display are dark and terrifying apparitions; the stuff of nightmares. Children will not be admitted at all.”

Those of you who’d like to know more about David Butler can connect with him at the following links:

Website:         http://davidjohnbutler.com

Twitter:          @davidjohnbutler

Facebook:      http://facebook.com/dave.butler.16

City of Saints is scheduled to be released in paperback on January 15, 2016. Once that happens, you will be able to find book buy links at http://wordfirepress.com

You may purchase it immediately as an ebook at http://amzn.to/1TQwqrf

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 21 – Interview With Kevin J. Anderson

Few sci-fi or fantasy authors are as legendary or prolific, or have spent more time paying their success forward to up-and-comers than this week’s guest, Kevin J. Anderson. No other I am aware of owns his own publishing house, and I think you’ll agree, if anyone was ever born to write, it was this man.

KJA photoKevin started writing at age eight. A magazine accepted one of his manuscripts two years after he had entered high school and he received the first monitory payment for his writing in his high school senior year and sold his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., at age 25. In addition to creating his own Saga of Seven Suns series, his Nebula Award nominated Assemblers of Infinity and dozens of others, he has co-authored numerous works that include Star Wars, X-Files and Dune spin-offs. Not content with those accomplishments, he has written several comic books and authored novels delving into the histories of such super heroes as Batman and Superman. It can be said that Kevin has expanded and enriched the fabric of the genre at large. To date, fifty-two of his works have become best-sellers and there are more on the horizon.

Kevin, you are noted for writing complex epic tales told from multiple viewpoints. Do you have any other such books in progress, especially your own original works?

Oh, I always do! Right now I am finishing up my last edit on Navigators Of Dune with Brian Herbert, our grand finale in the Schools of Dune trilogy, and then I will turn immediately into polishing up Eternity’s Mind, the last book in the Saga of Shadows trilogy (which is set in my popular original Seven Suns universe). It is full of characters and storylines and much mayhem—like a Game of Thrones with planets. Obviously, dealing with such a big story and large cast of characters is exhausting. Wrapping up both of these big trilogies at once is making my brain tired!

An intriguing device you employ is the insertion of real world cultural and musical references into some of your tales. The Saga of Seven Suns’ Ross Tamblyn is a tad too similar to cinema’s Russ Tamblyn to be coincidental, as is his Blue Sky Mine to Midnight Oil’s identically titled song—I give a nod and a wink to Chairman Wenceslaus. At first, I thought you were just having fun with your readers. Then, when I found Clockwork Angels rife with Neil Peart’s lyrics and subsequently learned it evolved as a collaboration between the two of you, I wondered if there wasn’t something more that led you to use them. Would you care to expand on this?

Honestly, Ross Tamblyn is just a coincidence. I had developed the whole Tamblyn clan, and didn’t much think of the resonance. The Blue Sky Mine, though—you nailed it, and I didn’t think anyone would remember! Music is quite an influence in my work however, most predominantly the music of Rush, with lyrics by Neil Peart. My very first novel, Resurrection, Inc., is entirely based on my own vision of the Rush album “Grace Under Pressure” and because of that I got to know Neil quite well personally. We have collaborated together and inspired each other in small ways, but we really pulled out all the stops when Neil asked me to novelize their new concept album, Clockwork Angels, a novel that became a New York Times bestseller and a multiple award winner. We liked the universe so much, we adapted that story to a graphic novel and then just branched out to a new companion novel, Clockwork Lives, which I personally think is the best book I’ve ever done.

IMG_3001You do a lot of your writing and plotting while hiking. Is this a useful method for writers?

 

When I’m out in the big spectacular Colorado IMG_3018landscape, it frees my mind to think up big ideas. If I go far enough out, I can walk for hours without seeing anybody but the characters in my head. I am a storyteller, and I dictate as I walk… and when I can walk in a landscape like that, there’s no better office in the world.

 

ClockworkAngels_Ebook.pdfI have to congratulate you on Clockwork Angels’ hardback edition, from its striking cover and the beautiful end papers, to the wonderful illustrations and the subtle use of color printing to enhance the appearance of its pages. How pleased are you with the final result and how did it come about?

 

I couldn’t be more pleased, and Clockwork Lives is just as striking a book with its embossed leatherette cover, marbled endpapers, color printing, line art illustrations by Nick Robles, who did all the artwork for our graphic novel. I had shopped the original Clockwork Angels around to my primary publishers in the US, but even though I’ve had over 50 bestsellers and Rush is one of the biggest-selling music groups in history, they just didn’t get how ClockworkLivesone could do a novel connected to an album. But the Canadian publisher ECW (who had released Neil Peart’s non-fiction books) was very enthusiastic, and they really showed off what they could do. Even though Clockwork Angels became a bestseller, Neil and I never had a second thought about handing them Clockwork Lives, and they certainly outdid themselves. I have also edited an original anthology, with John McFetridge, for ECW titled 2113 and is filled with stories by major authors, all of them inspired by Rush songs. That one comes out in April.

On a more personal note, a mutual friend tells me you’re a big fan of IPA. Care to talk about this particular passion?

Over the past two decades, high-quality microbrew beer has become just as popular as good coffee in the US. I shudder to think of the swill we used to drink (both beer and coffee!) I am a big fan of both. My tastes in the microbrew beer have really focused in on the extra-hoppy India Pale Ales (named because in the British Empire, the kegs of ale being sent around Africa to India had to use a lot of hops as a preservative so the beer would remain good throughout the voyage). The other advantage of drinking an IPA is that it’s so bitter most other people don’t like it, so that way people don’t raid my stash in the fridge!

 

 

Hah! I love IPA and I like that strategy enough I may have to adopt it. Our friend also told me you wrote a book telling Mormons how to write about beer.

Not actually a book, just a talk to other writers. I viewed it as an alien contact scenario! While I’m not a Mormon, I have a LOT of LDS writing students, have lectured at BYU and many Utah conferences as well as being a writer-in-residence for a Utah writing retreat, where I was the token non-Mormon. I made the point that writers need to know about various things, to put the information into their creative repertoire. For instance, I told them, how many of you are experts in opera, or classic jazz? Nobody raised their hand (heck, I don’t know anything about opera or jazz), but they all agreed that it might be useful information to write a character who likes opera or jazz. Same thing, I explained some basics about wine and beer to people who had absolutely no experience in social drinking… not to convince them to try it, just so they would have a better understanding. I compared different kinds of beer to bread (Coors Light = Wonder Bread, Guinness stout = dark Russian rye, my hoppy IPAs like sourdough or a tangy caraway rye…) They seemed to find it useful. Like I said, writers should know about other cultures… and I have learned a lot about theirs, too!

 You promote aspiring writers, especially as centered around NaNoWriMo and have compiled several books to help them succeed. Please tell us about your work with Storybundle.com.

I’ve always believed in paying it forward. I had some very major mentors when I was a new writer (namely, Dean Koontz and Terry Brooks) and I want to do the same. I have given countless workshops at science fiction conventions over the past 20 years, and each year my wife and I run the high-level Superstars Writing Seminars, which focuses on the business of writing.

As an offshoot of my workshops and lectures, I have written several books on writing and published them through my own house, WordFire Press. (Yes, I’m a publisher, too.) Each year for NaNoWriMo, I have worked with storybundle.com to but together a “bundle” of writing books, The Nanowrimo Writing Tools bundle—this year, we have 25 titles on all aspects of writing craft, careers, and business, for a name-your-own-price (minimum bid of $25 for all 25 books). Storybundle is an innovative way of distributing books, mostly by indie authors—a grab bag of eBook titles for all platforms. I have a good working relationship with storybundle and have done many bundles for them. In fact, right now I have a Holiday Fantasy bundle running as well as a really big “bundle of trilogies” so you get as much reading material as your eyeballs can handle, for a very low minimum bid. All of these bundles go down at the end of the year, though, so if anybody’s interested they should check out http://storybundle.com to see what’s available.

Life as a publisher and life as an author offer differing rewards and place different demands on one’s life. A glance at your published works and accompanying release dates shows a not unexpected decline in frequency of your own books since you launched WordFire Press. How do you strike a balance between the two and keep one from overwhelming the other? For that matter, how are you able to maintain a personal life?

11813523_10153000233128244_5094300587170526367_nWhat’s a personal life? Actually, the key to that question is that my wife and I are both writers and we are the co-publishers of WordFire Press…so our LIVES are wrapped up in what we do. We live and breathe writing and publishing, so that’s pretty much all we do. It’s a little more nuts than you think, though, because the frequency of my book releases hasn’t actually declined—I had five books out in 2015, five books out in 2014, and I should do the same for 2016. At this very moment, I am doing Navigators of Dune and Eternity’s Mind simultaneously, both of them 600+ page manuscripts. I wish I could slow down a little!

WordFire Press began by republishing high-demand out-of-print books, including your own extensive backlist. Over the years it has expanded its directions by featuring new works by bestsellers and award winners such as Alan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, Frank Herbert, John A. Pitts, and Mike Resnick. Now, it also boasts a stable of rising new talent. How have you discovered these up-and-comers?

I’ve done a lot of work in the field with many other authors over the years, and I have a pretty good reputation. Even big-time authors are hungry for the experience that they can be involved directly in the process as a partner. Our newer authors often come from the ranks of people I’ve worked with, writing students, award-winners from the Writers of the Future, people who have the spark that makes me think they can hit the big time.

Is WFP looking toward any new publishing directions you’re free to discuss?

Publishing is an old business with a lot of established traditions, but a lot of those have gone out the window with the warp-speed changes in technology. From our inception, WordFire threw out the “it’s always been done this way” model and looked at it from a fresh, objective eye. Maybe we can try this, or this, or this. Sometimes it doesn’t work, other times it blows us away. Distributing our books through Storybundle or Humble Bundle generates a lot of sales for the included authors, but that’s not something traditional publishers even consider. We feature our authors and autograph and sell a lot of physical books directly to fans at pop-culture shows, which is also something most big publishers don’t do. At present, though, we are growing and expanding so quickly that my main objective is to keep all the gears turning smoothly.

WFP maintains an active presence at major cons across the country each year, not only selling its books, but also providing readers with an opportunity to meet many of its authors. Would you care to enumerate some of the venues where readers can connect in 2016?

These big comic and pop-culture shows are huge venues, and they feature media celebrities for fans to meet. We present our authors in the same way: As actual celebrities for fans to meet. And for an average fan and reader, even someone with one or two books published seems like a celebrity. A very abbreviated list of places we’ll be in the coming year includes Miami Supercon, Planet Comic Con (Kansas City), Pensacon (Pensacola), Emerald City Comic Con, Dallas Comic Con, DragonCon, Salt Lake FanEx, IndianaCon, C2E2 (Chicago), Phoenix Comic Con, Denver Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and enough others to make my head spin.

Thank you, Kevin, for agreeing to participate. I shall remain ever grateful. I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… The most-fun workaholic he’s ever seen.

The thing I’m most proud of is… My own novels—and the published novels of my writing students, so I must have been teaching them right.

The one thing I cannot do without is… My imagination

The one thing I would do over is… Hmm, that’s the good thing about writing: you can always edit your past drafts as much as you like.

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… My demanding cats, whose cheerful need for attention trumps any thought of deadlines

Visitors can follow Kevin at the following social links:

 Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/TheKJA

Blog:                           http://kjablog.com

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

Some Book Buy links are as follows:

Amazon:                    http://www.amazon.com/Kevin-J.-Anderson/e/B000AQ0072

WordFire Press:        http://wordfirepress.com/our-books/

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

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

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

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

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

Clockwork Gunslingers • Chinese Tongs • An Epic Quest

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

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

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

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

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

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

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

What other novels have you written?

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

So, I have a lot on my plate.

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

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

Tell us about your path to publication.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Would you care to share something about your home life?

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

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

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

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

What else?

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

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

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

The one thing I cannot do without is: music.

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

My biggest peeve is: willful stupidity.

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

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

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

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

“Jake!” Cole screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Qi!” he screamed.

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

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

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

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

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/Quincy_J_Allen

Book purchase links:

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

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

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

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

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, November 9 – Interview With Josh Vogt

WordFire Press of Monument, Colorado has graciously allowed me to interview a number of its authors, many seasoned, some in the process of debuting their work. In the process, I’ve been learning that, with WordFire, “debut” does not necessarily mean “unseasoned.” In fact, this week’s featured debut author, Josh Vogt, is a publishing world veteran. He has been published in dozens of genre markets with work covering fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. He also writes for a wide variety of RPG developers such Paizo, Modiphius, and Privateer Press. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, is a tie-in to the Pathfinder roleplaying game. WordFire Press has also launched his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). He’s a member of SFWA, the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers, and a Scribe Award finalist.

Josh-8194-2 - smallerI first met Josh in August at WorldCon in Spokane and found him to be at once engaging and intelligent, likeable to say the least. A quick glance inside his books reveals a brisk writing style and atypical, engaging characters. Also atypical of The Write Stuff’s usual line of suspects, Josh is releasing two debut novels this year. When I asked him to tell us a bit about each, he provided these two insights:

Forge of Ashes, Sword and sorcery (RPG tie-in):

A female dwarven barbarian returns home from war to discover her family in disgrace and her mother missing, presumed dead. Monsters, magic, and mayhem ensues as she risks all to fix the situation.

Enter the Janitor, Urban fantasy:

A janitor working for a supernatural sanitation company must track down a fledgling demigod before it’s corrupted or destroyed, all while training a rebellious new employee whose fluctuating power could trash an entire city.

Please tell us about this year’s releases.

I had quite an interesting debut year as an author, as I had two books come out in the same month from different publishers. As they were almost simultaneous, I treat them as my “collective debut.” Technically the most recent was Enter the Janitor, which launched during Denver Comic Con. It’s about janitors (and other sanitation workers) employed by a supernatural sanitation company that keeps the world clean and safe—be it from sewer monsters, magical muck, or trash golems.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Enter the Janitor and how did you overcome it?

Well, urban fantasy is a somewhat crowded genre these days. It can be hard to make a story stand out or seem unique. Aside from taking the idea of supernatural sanitation, I feel that by emphasizing the absurd humor, it can provide a fun, entertaining (and unique) experience for readers.

PZO8526Tell us a bit about Forge of Ashes.

This is my first media tie-in novel, based on the Pathfinder roleplaying game. Set in the fantasy world of Golarion, it features a female dwarf as the main character. She’s been away from home for a while and returns home to find a bit of a family disaster waiting for her—and with anger issues and an identity crisis already looming over her, she’s not best equipped to handle things in the healthiest manner.

What else are you working on?

Lots! I’ve currently got the second Cleaners novel in production and it should be out later this year. Then I’m getting into the draft of the third in the series. I’m also working on a Pathfinder novella, a possible middle grade scifi tale, and other RPG tie-ins. Plus a number of short stories and plenty of other novel ideas brewing. Oh, and I’m taking on a new job as a full-time editor for Paizo (the publisher of Pathfinder)!

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

It’s a job that requires you to be a little insane and obsessive in your persistence. It also involves a lot of sitting (though I try to work at a standing or treadmill desk to balance that out). Oh, and it can do terrible things to your finances and work/life balance…sometimes causing you to have none of either.

A number of my site’s visitors are aspiring authors. What can you tell them about your path to publication.

I had a moment of clarity in college where I realized I wanted to be a career writer and author. At that point, I launched into learning how to improve as a writer, researching how to get published, going to conventions, and connecting with other writers. I also started writing. A lot. And I started submitting stories, getting rejection letters, and trying to constantly improve.

Honestly, that all went on for several years before I made my first short story sale. I wrote during lunch breaks, in the evenings, over weekends…anything I could do to reach a professional level of writing. So just picture a “Cool Writing Montage” and let it play for a while. It’ll be far more entertaining and probably have a better soundtrack.

Eventually, I wrote Enter the Janitor, got an agent, and started shopping it around. It didn’t sell for a while, and the agent and I amicably parted ways for various reasons. But in the meantime, I’d also become a freelance copywriter, making a living solely off my writing. I got into freelancing for some RPG companies, connected with Paizo, and sold them a couple short stories. At that point, my editor, James Sutter, asked if I wanted to pitch a novel to them. And thus Forge of Ashes was born, becoming my first contracted novel. Enter the Janitor found a home with WordFire Press later that year, and things continue to evolve in exciting ways since then.

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

For me, it’s finding the tone of the story and the character voices at the beginning. Once I’m about 10k words in, I usually hit it and it flows better from there. Then I have to go back and rework the beginning based on that.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Since college, all of my jobs have been either publishing, journalism, editorial, copywriting, or freelance writing. Only the context has changed. I love being able to make a living from my passion.

You’re a fortunate man. Very few can make that claim. Can you tell us what a typical day is like?

There is no such thing.

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

A belief in hope, and that people have inherent value. A love of exploration and the weird and the strange. And the constant desire to grow and learn new things.

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

I give myself time to recover, try to avoid beating myself up for getting knocked down (counter-productive, no?), and then remind myself what my real priorities are. Then I start working toward them again.

Before we take a peek at Enter the Janitor, let’s take a stab at a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a… person with very good taste in books and video games.

The one thing I cannot do without is: My nervous system.

That would pose a problem.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d start writing earlier and read even more widely.

I’d like to thank you for sharing your time with us and for the following sample of your work.

For those visitors who’d like to learn more about Josh, or are interested in reading more of his work, you’ll find social and book purchase links at the bottom of the page.

 

Enter the Janitor

UfG0VEcPKvjI8B2Q16bhu9lkvb0ohZTtvoTq2y-mQUMBen pushed his squeaky-wheeled cart out of the elevator and into the underground lot of HQ’s office complex. Dani walked by his side, her gaze darting to every dark corner as if checking for monsters.

They ambled between rows of identical white vans until they came across one which might’ve been white in a previous lifetime. Mud splatters, rust, and flaking paint covered the paneling, and it wouldn’t have looked out of place on someone’s front lawn alongside plastic flamingos and beer cans.

Dani stared at it in faint horror. “I thought we were supposed to maintain a clean image.”

He patted the side. “Mebbe all the rest like to waste time sprayin’ their vans down every time it gets a speck of dust on the bumper. Me? So long as it gets me where I gotta go, it’s all the fancy-shmancy wheels I need.”

“Still, shouldn’t you take better of your company car?” she asked. “I mean, that thing looks half-fossilized. What’s Francis’ ride? A white stretch limo?”

“When you reach his level, limos are beneath you,” Ben said. “So unless your new powers include teleportation, you’re gonna just have to enjoy the ride.”

She stood back as Ben slid the van’s side door open. It rattled aside to reveal built-in metal shelving that held all manner of buckets, cleaning fluid, bottles, extra mops, bundles of rags, and other cleaning paraphernalia. A regular janitorial treasure chest.

She perked up. “Got any gloves in there?”

He scrounged across one shelf until he came up with a pair of yellow rubber gloves and tossed them her way. As she tugged them on, he levered the cart into an open space at the back and locked the wheels in place.

“Why janitors?”

He glanced back. “Eh?”

“Why janitors?” Dani repeated. “If the Cleaners are some big magical society, why not act like it? Why hide behind this corporate front? Wouldn’t it be better to take on an image people respect more? Like law enforcement. Or superheroes.”

“First off, you really wanna go ’round wearin’ tights and capes? Or seein’ me in ’em?” He chuckled at her grimace. “Second off, if you think about it, janitors, maids, plumbers … all sortsa cleanin’ folks have been keepin’ the world from turnin’ into one big ball of mud since people started figurin’ out that sleepin’ in their own filth ain’t exactly the brightest idea. Mebbe politicians and military folk look like they’re the ones with all the say-so, but we’re the ones that keep things runnin’ from the ground up, whether they know it or not.”

“Still, isn’t it a little on the low end of the totem pole?”

“If you look hard enough, there’s plenty to be proud of.” He grinned. “You just gotta think like a janitor.”

“I wasn’t aware janitors did much thinking.”

“That sorta mindset is gonna get you in a lotta trouble.”

He rummaged around the shelves until he came up with a dusty-brown cleaning jumpsuit which zippered up the front, and a pair of black rubber boots. These he handed to Dani. “Get changed.”

She held the suit doubtfully. “These are way too big for me. And I am not changing clothes in a garage.”

“Fine. But that piece you’re wearin’ right now dissolves if taken outta HQ, so I guess you’re ridin’ shotgun nekkid.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You’re joking. I know you are.”

An engine started in the distance as they stared each other down.

At last, her glare turned pleading. “Please say you’re joking.” When he remained silent, she stalked around to the other side of the van, calling out, “You try to peek and I’ll break your nose.”

Ben waited as groans of disgust and shuffling evidenced her attempts to change without falling over. A squeak of surprise was followed by Dani running back around, now wearing a hot pink jumpsuit. She plucked at the waistband and arms, which were just loose enough to give her free range of motion. Otherwise it fit perfectly.

“What the … this thing shrunk! And changed color!”

“One size fits all ’round here.”

She craned her neck to study the outfit from all sides. “But why pink?”

“It switches to the wearer’s favorite color.”

“I don’t like pink.”

“Accordin’ to the suit, you like it a lot.”

“How do I change it?”

He briefly shut his eyes. When he opened them again, his dusty blue jumpsuit had turned forest green. “Just a mental command. ’Course if you get too distracted or knocked unconscious, it’ll revert back. Pink’s nothin’ to be ashamed of.”

 

Website:                              JRVogt.com

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Twitter:                               @JRVogt

You’ll find Josh’s books at:

http://www.amazon.com/Enter-Janitor-The-Cleaners-Volume/dp/1614753180/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1431709208&sr=8-1

and

http://www.amazon.com/Pathfinder-Tales-Forge-Josh-Vogt/dp/1601257430/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431707452&sr=8-1&keywords=forge+of+ashes