Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Infusing History Into Pulse of Heroes: A Guest Post By A. Jacob Sweeney

Today, we have a guest post by A. Jacob Sweeny as part of the VBTC Romancing Your Darkside Book Tour.

She's going to talk to us about infusing history into her paranormal romance, Pulse of Heroes.

In addition, she's giving away a copy of Pulse of Heroes. Just leave a comment and we'll use random.org to pick a winner. You'll be receiving a physical copy, so the author will be contacting you for a shipping address.

Now on to the guest post:

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There was never a question about infusing history into Pulse of Heroes, as the entire idea for the story began with me wanting to bring ancient history back to life. My intention first and foremost was to bring the subjects of what most people today think of as legends into our modern reality, since the bulk of these tales have their roots in actual historical events. And this was to serve as the backdrop of my romance and very real coming-of-age story of 17-year-old Michelle. The immortals in my novel are the story tellers, and through them we get to learn about so much. Below, an example:

Elliot, our main immortal character, served in the military under King David’s command. Now most people are probably familiar with the legend of how David as a boy toppled the giant Goliath with a small sling shot. Whether this ever happened or not, perhaps we’ll never know. However, as I study archaeology and participate in actual excavations, I get to see firsthand how legends and history collide as we discover more and more. And this to me is the most exciting thing. I wanted to share this with people who would never dream of picking up a history book, let alone a field report from an ancient site. I will give you another example.

I had the unique privilege to actually excavate in the hills of Judea on a site that has been dated to the proposed time of King Saul (David’s predecessor) and King David. It overlooks the valley where the Philistines would meet the Israelites in battle. It also marks the exact place where David and Goliath’s story is said to have taken place. On a clear day one can see the outlines of the cities of the Philistines, now also active archaeological sites, from this hilltop (it is a royal pain in the behind to climb up that long steep pathway every day). The encampment was clearly constructed so as to have an unobstructed view of every side of the great valley as a military vantage point.  The Goliath story might be legend, but the Israelite encampments are not. Knowing this gives the Goliath story a whole new dimension.  I was there. I dug and lifted the broken dishes that these fighting men used to eat their dinners. They were every bit as real as we are today. Just last year, a carving of the name “Goliath” was found in one of the Philistine ruins. Suddenly, the name Goliath itself gains a new reality. We don’t know which Goliath, but the name was evidently used by these people. Another clue pointing to David’s existence has been found carved into a victory stele (a large stone) by Hazael, King of Damascus, or by one of his sons. The inscription is in Aramaic and commemorates victories over local ancient peoples including the Davidic Kingdom. The bracketed areas below denote missing fragments which have been filled in by recognized biblical and ancient near-East text experts.

5: And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from [the] seven[...]
6: of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed thou[sands of cha-]
7: riots and thousands of horsemen (or horses). [I killed Jeho]ram son of [Ahab]
8: King of Israel, and I killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin]g
9: of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned]
10: their land into [desolation........................]  ( Courtesy of Wikipedia)

This is what I wanted to share with my readers. I wanted to spread knowledge around. And if the reader is interested, all they have to do is search further.

So far I have received nothing but compliments with regards to the way I weave short historical tidbits into the main plot of Pulse of Heroes. The real history also provides a basis for the existence of the immortal characters. I have noticed that many people do not enjoy “high fantasy”, and yet historical reality is just as fantastic. As the saying goes, “Truth is indeed stranger than fiction”!

If anyone is interested, right now there is a continuing discussion on the Pulse of Heroes Facebook page about the historical elements of the novel. You should come check it out - it’s on the left side under the “Discussion” tab.

Thank you for having me here!

A Jacob Sweeny.


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Thanks for stopping by.

Check out AJ's site at http://www.pulseofheroes.com/.

Remember, if you want to be entered for a free chance to win a copy of Pulse of Heroes, just leave a common (preferably with some sort of e-mail address so we can contact the winner).

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Battle Was Over Before It Started

I'm going to have to abort my Super Short Story Challenge project. It was dependent on a few other things in my life working out to free up slightly more free time. Those things did not work as expected. It's nothing serious, but I will have significantly less free time over the next several months than I anticipated. Alas. I may try to revisit this in 3 months. Oh well. I'm still doing plenty of other writing.

Fantasy with a Greek Twist: Author Interview-Parrisha Martelly

Today, I'm talking with Parrisha Martelly, author of the YA paranormal fantasy, Fox.

1) Tell us about your book.

Every year, Pandora's Box calls out to one corrupted being on the planet and drives its victim, named the Chosen, to insanity until they open the box. If they don't open it by January 1st of the next year, they die. Fox centers around a group called The House of Lords, whose job is to protect this artifact from the Chosen who seek to open it. In the story, this year’s Chosen has captured the Leader of The House of Lords, and his daughter, Fox, goes on a journey to find him.

2) It's 2011, yet stories with links to ancient Greek mythology still resonate with readers. Why do you think this is?
I think Greek mythology holds an air of intrigue. It contains fascinating people, mythical creatures, legends, and heros. Sometimes, it’s nice to have an escape from what we deem the “norm”. Fox contains light Greek mythology that becomes more prominent as the series goes on.

3) Your story mixes both elements of different types of supernatural beings and elements. How did you go about doing your world building?

World building was particularly difficult. It’s very important to be consistent within your own world and to understand what is and isn’t possible. It took a lot of brainstorming. I had to decide on things that wouldn’t seem to be a big deal, but would have had a huge impact on how the story played out. For example, is there electricity? How would electricity impact other aspects of the world? The world itself went through a variety of changes before I was finally able to settle on the environment that I wanted to create.

4) Fantasy, by its very nature, involves the unreal. What do you think is most important in getting a reader to suspend disbelief and accept such settings?

There are a couple of things that are important in this regard. First, I think having realistic characters is key. We may not be able to understand a character’s life (I can’t even imagine protecting an object that could cause the ultimate destruction of the world!), but we can identify and empathize with emotion. I think staying consistent within the world that you have built is critical.

5) When you wrote this book were planning on a sequel?

I wrote this book over the course of four years. I wasn’t intending to write a sequel at first, but over time, I realized that it would take more than one book to tell this story. I wanted the reader to see the characters develop through different points in their lives.

6) What was your inspiration for this book?


One night, I was sitting on my bed with my new laptop and exploring different applications. I opened up Microsoft Word, intent on writing a poem, but ended up writing a scene between two men, Levictious and Smitten. Levictious had just found his old friend Smitten, who had been in hiding, and tried to coax Smitten for information on the man he was running from. This man was said to have unspeakable power and had never been seen by the eyes of man. That scene is not in the novel today, but it was the idea that sparked the rest of the story.

7) What inspired you to write? 

Reading good books probably helped spark my imagination. Writing exercises in school, particularly telling stories, was always fun to me. Both of my grandfathers were writers, so I think I inherited their passion for writing. :)

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Thanks, Parrisha.

Check Parrisha's book out at Amazon or visit her at her web site at http://www.parrishamartelly.com/.

She's on blog tour this week, so if you're interested in seeing more from her, please check out her schedule at http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/631404.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #19: A Very Tortured View of Labor and Frontier History


Please check out other samples from participating Six Sentence Sunday authors at  http://www.sixsunday.com/.

For today's Six Sentence Sunday, I'm flipping back to my YA urban fantasy WIP, Osland. Here, we see the oft-confused Lydia Wray offer her rather fanciful theory to the main character, Gail, on why cell phones don't work on their Seattle boarding school campus:


“But there’s a rumor that a hundred years ago some Indians killed these striking union guys, so now the union guys are ghosts and haunt the school blocking cell phones.” Lydia blinked. “Not Indians. I mean not like Leandra. I mean Native Americans.”

How do you even respond to something like that? 


Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday #10: Always Be Prepared

Welcome to #SFFSat – Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday - a chance to post snippets from a piece of speculative fiction. Want to join in? Check out the site and links to other great speculative fiction authors at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday and follow the hashtag #SFFSat on Twitter.

I decided to put up another snippet from my MG superhero story, Woodland Girl and the Mechanic.


For reference, the Woodland Girls are basically a Girl Scout-type organization in the story (they sell fudge instead of cookies, though).




“We caught a mobster the first night out!” Maria said. “Lucky! I wish there was a criminal catching achievement pin. I have my advanced criminology pin, but that’s just for doing fingerprinting. Kind of dumb mobster if you ask me. What was he doing in an alleyway robbing some old guy? Aren’t all the mobsters all like millionaires from selling drugs and making shop keepers pay them money so they won't break their windows?”

Fingerprinting? What kind of stuff did they expect normal Woodland Girls to be doing?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Super Short Story Challenge Matters

I've decided that due to Six Sentence Sunday, Monday will be my official Super Short Story Challenge day. I've yet to receive any genre suggestions for next week! Come on, give me an idea, otherwise I guess I'll just make a big genre chart or something, I suppose. :)

I already wrote the cyberpunk entry in my head for Monday. It will be interesting to see how long it takes.

The Poetry of Lyrics: An interview with Mike Cooley

Today, we have something a bit different: an interview with Mike Cooley about his poetry/lyrics collection End Of The World Love Songs.

1) Tell us a little about your collection.

My poetry collection is called End Of The World Love Songs. The poems themselves were all originally songs I wrote and recorded for a variety of one-man-bands from 2004 to 2010. I’ve written about 300 songs over that time period, and the book contains 93 of the most poetic. The title comes from the themes I explore, which cover a lot of different areas but often focus on love and loss.

2) While lyrics are poetry, they are poetry meant to be paired with music. Are you worried that the lyrics will lose any of their impact without the music? I noticed you've made much of the music that goes with the lyrics available.



Great question! Yes, I was very worried about that. For one thing, the syntax and punctuation of the original lyrics was set up to allow me to sing the songs properly (often with hyphenated words for phrasing and the like). And since I remember the songs, I can kind of hear the music as I read the words. I went through and tried to change the punctuation to make the words flow better for readers that have never heard the music (which was a challenge). I also eliminated some of the repetition that occurs in the actual songs when I transcribed them into poetry.

I came up with the idea to post the music for all the poems by accident. But since I had all the music already recorded I figured it would be a good bonus for people reading the book to be able to listen to the song behind any poem that they were particularly fond of. However, I did run into a problem finding all of those songs, so I’m not done posting all 93 yet. Soon I hope to have all of them posted on my blog. Once all of them are up I plan to also post a ZIP file that contains the entire soundtrack (in order of appearance in the book).



3) Is there a general thematic thread that links the collection?

In a way, the theme that links the collection is my life. I was writing a couple of songs a week during those years, and they were often reflective of my emotions at the time. Those were challenging years for me, so many of the songs have a dark edge to them. And since the songs come from different bands, they have different levels of intensity. The poems that came from Divergent Future (my first band) for instance are different than the ones from Gotham Steel (my Metal Band).

Within the collection some of the poems comprise an album, and the album would often have a story arc or theme. The most obvious example of that is my album Robots of Dawn. That album has a complete story arc. I didn’t choose to put the poems in the book in the order that they appear on albums, but for that album, the poems would be: Robots of Dawn, If You Want To Live, Machine Dreams, Dust, New Skin, She Stands At The Precipice, Resurrection, I Will Find You, So We Meet Again, and Brave New World.

I have considered putting those poems, in particular, in that order for the next revision. Or, perhaps, explaining how the poems fit together in an appendix.

4) Why did you open with "She Stands With the Precipice"?


I opened with that one because I think it’s one of the best poems in the collection. And I love the song. It means a lot to me.

I can’t really listen to the song without getting emotional.

5) Why did you close with Crystalized?

Because it’s about hope, and transcending the troubles of life, and becoming something greater.

6) What does music mean to you?

Music is part of me. Without music I have no doubt I would not be here today. It saved my life. I’ve met so many friends through music. So many geniuses that lay their heart and souls on the line. It’s a lot like writing. It is writing really. Just a different channel. A different toolset.

7) What does poetry mean to you?

I’ve always loved poetry and short form writing. Saying something powerful in just a few words fascinates me. Even in my fiction I think *the words I don’t say* can be just as important as the words I do say. I WANT the reader to have to imagine, and to have to interpret, and to have feelings that are unique to themselves when they read my words.

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Thanks for sharing, Mike.

End of the World Love Songs is available at Amazon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Post by Kristie Cook: Why we need the escape of paranormal romance

Today, we have a guest post by Kristie Cook as part of the VBTC Romancing Your Darkside Book Tour.

She's going to talk to us about why readers need the escape of paranormal romance.

In addition, she's giving away an ebook copy of her paranormal romance novels, Promise and Purpose. No fancy contest requirements, just leave a comment and we'll use random.org to pick a single winner for both books.

Now on to the guest post:


Why We Need the Escape of Paranormal Romance


Paranormal romance has been around for decades, experiencing highs and lows along the way, but the genre seems to have experienced an explosion of interest in recent years. The Twilight Saga may have played a significant role in grabbing readers who had never read the genre before and made them lifelong fans, but there are a number of series and authors who could have played the same part. I think timing has had a huge impact – when and where our world was when Twilight came out and where it still is as readers continue to devour paranormal romances and contemporary fantasies.

With everything going on in our world, from wars, famines and natural disasters to failing economies, job losses and loss of homes, people are living in survival mode. Our minds are constantly running at full-speed, working overtime to ensure our families stay afloat. Problems bombard us from all sides, but solutions are often out of reach or even non-existent. We don’t know what to do but just keep going as best as we can.

We can’t afford the money and/or time to take much-needed vacations, but the need for escape is even greater than ever. So we escape into fiction – books, movies and television. And many are finding that they want their escape to be just that – a removal from the current world, from normal daily stresses and from having to use our brains too much on genres that require intense focus.

With paranormal romance, we get problems that may be somewhat similar but also different than our everyday human ones. We also get main characters who eventually solve those problems, a relief when we can’t solve our own. We swoon over alpha males because we want someone else to take care of us, although we know in the real-world we’d never put up with their arrogance and control. We take the role of the strong, independent heroine who does things we’d never bring ourselves to do in real life. And we lose ourselves in the heat of the passionate moment.

I love writing this genre because I love reading it. All of these elements come together in stories I wish were written, but they’re not, so I write them. I’ve always enjoyed the foundation and rules of our real-world setting combined with the freedom to incorporate the impossible from the fantasy world. And I’m a sucker for romance and the sexual tension and heat that comes along with it.

Some may say paranormal romance is frivolous or a guilty pleasure. But, really, what’s wrong with a little guilty pleasure, especially in our lives today? Escaping to the insanity of a fantasy world helps to maintain our sanity in our own world. After all, at least we’re not dealing with overbearing, control-freak partners, creatures who want to suck our blood or rip out our throats during sex and villains who can wipe out all of humanity in a half-second. It helps to make our own lives more bearable and we can all use every bit of help we can get right now.

What do you think? Have touched on any of the reasons you read paranormal romance? Do you have anything to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Thanks, Kristie.

Remember to leave a comment for your chance to win  Promise and Purpose.

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Kristie Cook is a lifelong, award-winning writer in various genres, from marketing communications to fantasy fiction. She continues to write the Soul Savers Series, with the first two books, Promise and Purpose, available now and the third book, Devotion, coming February 2012. She’s also written a companion novella, Genesis, coming October 2011.

Besides writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, traveling and riding on the back of a motorcycle. She has lived in ten states, but currently calls Southwest Florida home with her husband, three teenage sons, a beagle and a puggle. She can be found at:

Author's Website & Blog: http://www.KristieCook.com


Series Website: http://www.SoulSaversSeries.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKristieCook
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/kristiecookauth
Tumbler: http://www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/kristiecook
Google+: https://plus.google.com/102746226001674797330/posts

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guest Post: Julie Dawson-The fascination with vampires

Today, I'm hosting Julie Dawson author of the paranormal thriller, A Game of Blood.


Before we get into her blog post about the reading public's continuing fascination with vampires, I'd encourage you to check out Operation: Backpack. This charity effort is giving e-books in exchange for a donation that goes to ensuring homeless kids have school supplies.



Now onto our guest post:

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Vampires have, in a way, been a part of my life for a very long time.

My first official memory of vampires (besides the Count from Sesame Street), is an old black and white silent movie who’s title I have long forgotten.  I remember it was a Saturday afternoon.  My dad, who at the time was working the night shift, was taking a nap on the couch.  My sisters and I decided to watch TV.  As the oldest, it was my job to make lunch.  So I got lunch together and we all sat on the floor around the TV and settled on a vampire movie.  

Now Monica was only three or four at the time, so she wasn’t really sure what was going on in the movie.  She was just happy to be in the same room with the big sisters I think.  But it got to the scene where the courageous vampire hunters enter the vampire’s lair, throw open the casket, and drive a stake through its heart.  

In retrospect, I should have seen it coming.  Poor dad, oblivious to the danger he was in, slept flat on his back on the couch.  Monica picked up a fork on the coffee table and looked at it curiously for that half a moment that feels like an eternity.  She then looked at the TV, looked at dad, and stabbed him in the chest with the fork.

Tomes have been written on the vampire mystique.  It seems like every six months there is a new book released on the history of vampires in literature.  I suppose I could go on about how vampires represent the desire for immortality, the fear of death, suppressed sexuality and all of that.  Those things are all true in part.  But perhaps the biggest reason why the vampire motif remains so potent is that vampires reflect the worst aspects of humanity, and by vanquishing the vampire we somehow exorcise those negative traits from ourselves.

Though the nature of vampires changes slightly from region to region and century to century, at the center of its black heart is a parasite that feeds off the living to artificially extend its own existence.  Other classical monsters, such as werewolves and trolls and goblins, traditionally have something in their lore that gives them a purpose in the natural order (even if they are themselves unnatural).  They are things that lurk the dark places, reminding humans that there are places they should not go and things they are not meant to know.  But the vampire doesn’t hide in the dark places and wait for us to stumble upon it.  It comes into our cities and homes.  It infiltrates our societies in order to better hunt us.  It is the lord on the hill who has the power of life and death over those in his domain, and is willing to exercise it for personal gain.  It is the succubus that lures men into temptation and then drains the lifeblood from their bodies.  It invades our world, and then kills us and those it considers a threat.

I was just reading an article about a couple of teenage boys who were attacked by a black bear while out camping.  The boys escaped with minor injuries.  The response was to go hunt down and kill the bear.  The bear, though in its natural habitat, was a threat to humans who wanted to use the habitat for their own enjoyment.  So we killed it.  We didn’t care that it served an important role in its ecosystem.  We didn’t care that it was a healthy specimen that would pass on strong genes to future generations.  No, it interfered with our ability to enjoy its woods.  Therefore, it had to die.  

When we look at the vampire, this behavior is what we really see.  Our own willingness to kill and destroy for our own pleasure.  We see the worst in us:  our greed, our vanity, our pride, our willingness to sacrifice future generations for our own immediate wants.  The vampire traditionally has no reflection.  It is, quite literally, incapable of self-reflection in regards to its actions.  Its lack of empathy the result of it’s relentless focus on fulfilling its own desires.  But while it cannot see itself, we can see ourselves in it.  The act of destroying a vampire, therefore, becomes cathartic.  

One of the things that bother me about the popular portrayal of vampires is that it denies these negative aspects.  We have vegetarian vampires now, by the gods!  I think this reflects the hardening of the “me” mentality.  In the past, even if we were careening toward selfish destruction, we had the sense to reflect and ask questions.  We might ultimately make the bad decision anyway, but at least we stopped and thought about it.  We were willing to address it.  But the fact that so many modern vampires are nothing more than sexy, eternally young models with pale complexions signifies that we have stopped even carrying about self reflection.  We have moved so far into the real of narcissism that we cannot even wrap our heads around having to pay a price for our desires.  The notion of having to make a terrible sacrifice to achieve immortality or eternal beauty has become alien.  

That said, however, I don’t think the vampire-as-monster is ready to be pushed aside just yet.  There has been, particularly in the last couple of years, what you could call an “anti-Twilight” crusade to return the vampire back to its actual horrific roots.  I half expect to start seeing “NO SPARKLING VAMPIRES! GUARANTEED!” labels on movies and books soon.  I think horror fans have had just about enough of the fluffy vampire love and are ready to return to the parasite-sucking-the-blood-from-the-helpless.  

One of the things I tried to do with A Game of Blood is portray how the vampire reflects us, and how we have to confront our personal demons in the process.  Mitch Grogan and Darius Hawthorne are flip sides of the same coin.  As Mitch gets pulled deeper and deeper into Darius’ world, he struggles with himself as much as he struggles with Darius.  Darius’ world is seductive, after all.  It is a world full of wealth and power and influence and leisure.  But it is also a world where teenage girls are seen as playthings to be raped and tortured, where children are left orphaned in order to cover up evidence, and where employees that become liabilities are simply killed without any more thought than one would put into throwing a disposable cup into the trash.  Mitch’s battle with Darius is just as much a battle for his own humanity as it is a battle to stop Darius from continuing his homicidal ways.

And that, ultimately, is why the vampire motif still matters.  Because we look into its cold, dead eyes and see the worst in ourselves.  The horror of the vampire is not in how much blood it spills, but in how easily we can become the monster and not even realize it.  

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Interesting in Julie's horror take on the vampire? Why don't you check out Game of Blood:

What would you do if a 300 year old vampire decided that you would make the perfect Van Helsing for his own twisted game?

A series of bizzare kidnappings leads detective Mitch Grogan to the home of the wealthy and eccentric Darius Hawthorne. What he discovers there unleashes a chain of events that not only threatens his life, but also his sanity. Grogan finds himself caught up in a deadly game with a three hundred year old vampire looking for a worthy adversary. But how can a burnt-out cop with a crumbling marriage compete against a centuries' old immortal with unlimited resources and supernatural powers?

More than boredom drives the cunning Hawthorne, however. His attempts to push Grogan to the breaking point are more than cruel entertainment. They also serve as a test to see whether or not the mortal is ready to help him hunt an even more deadly foe: one that would see the whole world burn to remove the vampiric corruption from it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Super Short Story Challenge Genre #1: Cyberpunk and a fantasy review

Thanks to Random.org, cyberpunk has been selected as the genre for my first Super Short Story Challenge Story. My story, in a lightly edited form, will be up Sunday evening.

So, in the meantime, I'm taking suggestions for next week's story.

After you've left a genre/story suggestion, why don't you stop by Good Book Alert and check out my review of the fantasy Ard Magister.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #18: Choices, choices

Please check out other samples from participating Six Sentence Sunday authors at http://www.sixsunday.com/.

For today's Six Sentence Sunday, I continue with my Regency paranormal romance WIP, A Woman of Proper Accomplishments. For reference, a soul breather is a person with the rare ability to literally breathe life into inanimate objects:


Appreciating the handsome face of her rescuer was far preferable to letting her thoughts return to the disturbing memory of the masked criminal.

She could not help but compare Captain Southward to Mr. Morgan. The clean-shaven captain possessed darker hair and lighter eyes but presented less height. Her nose detected no hint of any eau de cologne unlike during her encounters with the more broad-shouldered Mr. Morgan. The militia officer's movements lacked the inherent grace and dignity of the soul breather but exuded a certain raw presence lacking in the gentleman. Though unclear if it was an artifact of his current profession or a more inherent aspect of the captain’s character, she could not deny the appeal.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday #9: Not Quite Hero Material

Welcome to #SFFSat – Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday -  a chance to post six sentences from a piece of speculative fiction. Want to join in? Check out the site and links to other great speculative fiction authors at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday and follow the hashtag #SFFSat on Twitter.

This Saturday, I'm going to take a break from Mind Crafter to offer a snippet from a temporarily shelved (but still fun) project, Woodland Girl and the Mechanic, a middle-grade superhero story:

 "Jersey Devil fights crime without powers,” I said.

Maria rolled her eyes. I wished she made a mask where I couldn’t see her eyes.


She rose from the ground surrounded by a faint blue haze. "Jersey Devil isn’t even real. Second of all, Jersey Devil, even in the comics, spent seven years training with kung fu masters in China and three years with acrobats from the Cirque de Lune.” She sighed. “Jared, you have trouble just running the track in gym."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Short Story Super Challenge

Partially inspired by Dean Wesley Smith and partially inspired by my own desire to challenge myself and do some weekly writing that isn't connected to any of my novel WIPs, I've decided to start my own weekly writing challenge. Basically, I'm going to solicit suggestions on a genre/type of story to write and produce one short story per week based on that general prompt (or just pick my own if no one wants to suggest one).

I don't plan to post them to any place yet other than my blog, but maybe after I've written a collection and edited them, I can slap together an anthology and upload it to Smashwords or something.

So, I'll take votes or suggestions for my first story (target date: August 28th). I'm willing to write anything except erotica. If there's no clear winner, I'll just pick one at random. Once we get going, I'll figure out some more formal rule about having to wait a certain number of weeks before repeating a certain genre/type of story. I suppose I should start requesting genre/story suggestions in the middle of the week in general. Maybe Wednesdays.

So, what do people want to see?


Author Interview with Science Fantasy Author Jolea Harrison - Chosen

Today I'm talking with science fantasy author, Jolea Harrison, about her book Chosen.


Tell us about your book. 

Chosen is the first in a series, called The Guardians of the Word, and is about the journey of a young man to discover who he really is. He’s a twin – the less outgoing, less confident of the two. When he’s thrown, quite literally, into Hell, he has to figure out fast how to endure, relying only on his own wits, so he can save the soul of his ancestor, whose survival is key to keeping the world from falling to evil. On a larger scale it’s about good and evil and what throws the universe out of balance when one side, the Gods or the demon, gains more power than the other. 

This is the first book of a planned seven-part series. Did you always intend for this to be a series? 

No, but I realized quickly that the story wouldn’t be told in one book. I kept trying, but I couldn’t stuff it all in. 

"Science fantasy" means different things to different readers and authors. What does it to mean to you? 

The next writer or reader may think of it as something else entirely, but to me science fantasy is the combination of fantastical elements – in the case of Chosen, several of the characters are telepathic, others have the ability to change shape, there are dragons and wraiths, Gods and a demon – meshed together with science fiction elements like space flight and technology. Star Wars is a science fantasy story. There are laser swords and Jedi Knights capable of picking a spaceship up out of the water with the power of their mind. 

Although there's a long history of cross-over between the science fiction and fantasy genres, there are also more than a few readers uncomfortable with such mixtures. Why did you choose to genre mix, and how do you feel it enhanced the kind of story you were trying to tell? 

I think rigidly sticking to one genre and specific definitions of genre can be limiting to both reader and writer. When I started this book, all I thought about was writing a good story, not what category it would fit into. I knew what I liked to read about, what I liked to see in my head. I knew I had to have some element of technology and space flight in it, and I knew that there would be the fantasy elements with the Gods fighting off the evil demon. 

What inspired you to write this book? 

I was heavily influenced by Tolkien growing up - to the point of performing in a couple adaptations of the Hobbit. It was great fun! I also grew up loving the future Star Trek presented and I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I have a light saber. I have a few real swords on my wall too. I wanted to tell a story with both elements. Underneath all that, I had the story of this conflicted, uncertain boy in my head, and how he comes to find himself. Some of it isn’t especially pleasant for him. 

Some authors define everything about their characters in advance. Others start writing and find that the characters "take on a life on their own". How did the development of Dynan flow for you? 

I’m not much of a planner outside the basic storyline. I’m finding Dynan along the way, just like he is. 

You have six other books to write, so you'll busy for a while, but, after that, do you have any other series planned? 

Actually, they are already written. I’m in the editing and rewriting phase, so I may be less busy sooner than I think.  I don’t have immediate plans to start another book, but if I do, I’m going to try to keep it to just one.

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Thanks for stopping by, Jolea.

Chosen is available at Amazon.

Jolea's blog is at http://jm-harrison.com/

She's also available on Twitter as @Joleab and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JoleaMHarrison?v=wall.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shadows from the Grave, Blog Tour and Author Interview T.L. Haddix

Today, as part of a blog tour for her new romantic suspense book, Shadows from the Grave, part of her Leroy's Sin sins, I have an interview with author T.L. Haddix.


Please tell us about your book.

Shadows from the Grave is the third book in the Leroy's Sins Series.  It's Romantic Suspense, but not sweet, sappy romance.  Here's the description:

When it comes to murder, the past is never really dead...

For ten years, Chase Hudson has carried the weight of his college girlfriend’s unsolved murder on his shoulders.  When a ghost from the past comes calling, Chase’s friends and family become the targets of a serial killer who’ll stop at nothing to make Chase suffer. Can Chase convince the authorities of his innocence in time to catch the real killer?

Annie Jameson-Tucker has been burned more than once.  Afraid to get her heart broken again, she is careful to keep her lovers at a distance… until Chase Hudson manages to slip inside her walls.  Will she let him stay, or will her insecurities destroy their chance at happiness?

You have several "Leroy's Sins" books. How does this one fit in with that series?

The series is set around the fictional Ohio River town of Leroy, Indiana, a small town that has more than its share of problems.  SFTG is the shorter of the three books by far, coming in at around 95,000 words, versus 135,000-145,000 for the first two books.  It ties up a storyline that was briefly touched upon in the second book, Under the Moon's Shadow.  It's also the second story of a Hudson sibling, the Hudsons being one of the families featured prominently in the series.  Speaking more generally, SFTG continues the Leroy timeline, and we get to catch up with characters from previous books and see how they're doing. 

Romantic suspense can be difficult to pull off due to naturally conflicting tones associated with the respective elements. Did you find it difficult to strike a balance in this book?

Yes and no.  When you're writing RS, you're really telling two stories that have to intertwine naturally.  Aspects of the romance influence aspects of the suspense and vice versa, and they have to play off each other in a logical, natural way in order for the story to flow well.  Falling in love is hard for a lot of people - you have two individuals who are separate beings that have to come together into a single unit.  There are conflicts involved in that, no matter how sincere or how deeply in love the people involved are.  To add in a mystery that has to be solved, you're really throwing some big hurdles at the main characters.  I think that is where having well-developed characters pays off big-time.  If the people whose stories you're telling are solid, tying all the elements together is a lot easier than it would be without the extensive character development. 

The idea of serial killers often frightens people even more than actual supernatural monsters. Why do you think that is?

Very simple.  Serial killers are real.  They're your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers.  They're that handsome guy who winked at you in the produce aisle, or that nice old lady who takes care of elderly people in her home.  They are the true unknown, they are unpredictable to the general public, and they are the monster in the closet. 

What do you think will appeal to readers about your leads?

I think its how easy it is to relate to them.  There are facets to Chase and Annie, even to the bad guy here, that people can look at and say 'Oh, yeah, I have felt that before' or 'I know someone just like that'.  Also, hopefully readers will appreciate their flaws, that they are fallible.  They make mistakes.  They aren't perfect Barbie and Ken cut-outs.  They're going to fight, to argue, but they're also going to make up, to forgive, and hopefully grow and learn. 

How do you come up with the ideas for your novels?

That is the one question I have the hardest time answering.  The best I can do is say "it's just there".  It's the way my brain works - instead of being able to compute difficult mathematical equations or have a vast knowledge of how chemistry works, I can create worlds.  Gosh, that sounds a little arrogant, but in effect, it's what I do.  I make up people and places, and write about their lives, how they interact.  How they respond.  I'm also full of useless trivia, which comes in very handy when writing.

What inspired you to start writing?

I've always wanted to be a writer, always, but it's a dream I had buried for a long, long time because it wasn't realistic, I couldn't help support the family by doing it.  In 2008, I lost my job as a medical transcriptionist, and at loose ends with very few options on the table, I figured "why not?".  I closed my eyes, took the plunge, and now three years later, I have three finished novels under my belt, with one about fifty percent through the first draft.  It's something I've dreamed of since I was a little girl, and I can't begin to tell you how it feels to have accomplished it. 

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Thanks for stopping by T.L.

T. L. Haddix is the author of the Leroy's Sins series, stand-alone romantic suspense novels which are available in both print and e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  She lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband and three cat-children, and is hard at work on the next installment of the Leroy's Sins series.  You can contact her at www.tlhaddix.com, through www.facebook.com/tlhaddix or at www.twitter.com/tlhaddix.

T.L. is currently on blog tour. Please check out her other stops at the Positively Published! Virtual Book Tours Goodreads group.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Indie Book Bonanza

So, I've had quite a few indie authors (whether small press or self-published) featured on my blog. So, I wanted to give their books another chance to shine. There's something for everybody, I think. Please look below and check out some of the work of these authors. If you are interested in their guest blogs and/or interviews, just enter their names in my search box (yeah, yeah, I'm too lazy to set up all the links). I don't think a single book on this list is more expensive than six dollars (and most are cheaper than that). Most of these are e-books, but several do also have print editions. Note, though, if you don't have an e-reader you can download e-reader software for all popular formats and every major operating system.

Now on to the list:

Chrystalla Thoma, Dioscuri (YA paranormal)
Cindy Borgne, Vallar (YA sci-fi)
Cyrus Keith, Becoming Nadia (Sci-fi thriller)
Debra Chapoton, Edge of Escape (YA suspense)
Helen Hanson, 3 Lies (Contemporary Thriller)
Kane, Aleron, (Vampire horror)
Katherine Hanna, Breakdown (Post-apocalyptic drama)
Katrina Parker Williams, Trouble Down South (African-American historical fiction anthology)
Kelvin O'Ralph, LS: The Beginning (YA paranormal romance)
Kevin Villegas, Sunwright Chronicles (Fantasy)
Lindsay Downs, Emily Cahill, CID Part 1 (Military Mystery/Suspense)
Marion Sipe, A Sign in Blood (Fantasy)
Michael Shean, Shadow of a Dead Star (Sci-fi mystery)
Shawn Maravel, Severance (YA paranormal romance)
Tamara Rose Blodgett, Death Whispers (YA paranormal)
Tiphanie Thomas, Heart Stealer (Contemporary romance)
Victorine Lieske, The Overtaking (YA sci-fi romance)
Zachery Richardson, Chronicles of the Apocalypse (Urban Fantasy)

All links are Amazon, but most of these books are also featured at other popular e-vendors.

Also remember to check out Good Book Alert for indie (small press and self-pub) reviews.

Virtual Book Tour-Guest Blog: Zachery Richardson-Author of Chronicles of the Apocalypse:Revenge,Everything is Nothing.



Today, I'm hosting urban fantasy author Zachery Richardson as part of his Virtual Book Tour for his urban fantasy book Chronicles of the Apocalypse: Revenge, Everything is Nothing. Click on the graphic above to check out the rest of his blog tour.

Today, Zach is going to share with his thoughts on books and Hollywood.

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Books & Hollywood: An Author’s Dream and Nightmare

Before I get into this, let me say that I am an avid lover of Hollywood. Though I’m an author by trade, I was raised on more movies than books. This was largely due to my ADD, but that’s another story for another time. I love movies, and the only industry that gets even half as much of my money is the video game industry. And because of the love I have for you, Hollywood, we need to have a long talk about how you treat authors.
Specifically, you need to adapt our material more faithfully.

Don’t get me wrong; you’ve done great work before. Lord of the Rings and the Twilight Saga are the best book-to-film adaptations I’ve ever seen. With Rings, you took an enormously detailed world and managed to not only capture the richness of the world, but you condensed and streamlined the narrative in such a way that one could (and I would) make the argument that the films are largely better than the books, particularly if
we’re talking about the extended cuts. Even more faithful to the original novels are the Twilight movies. Sure, there wasn’t nearly as much history or detail to the world, but the books themselves were big and seemed to scream “massive cuts incoming!” You stayed truer to the source material with those books than I ever expected. And sadly, there’s a reason for that.

Eragon.

I thought about adding Harry Potter to the list, but though I have many problems with the film series, they are small and the films have remained genuinely faithful to the source material. I can’t say the same for Eragon. Seventy-seven documented changes were made from the book to the film and most of them are significant. Six characters that play important roles in subsequent books were cut out of the film entirely. Still others have their personalities changed significantly, and of the other changes, forty-three of them were made to the plot itself, and many of those changes directly contradict events in later books! Because of this, the film not only bombed at the box office thanks to bad reviews and terrible word of mouth from fans of the book but also made it virtually impossible to adapt Eldest, the second book in the series. Had the movie been truly faithful to the source material, it would have allowed Hollywood to adapt the other novels as well, and most likely create a film series on the level of Lord of the Rings.

As both an author and a lover of film, I would dearly love to see my novel, Chronicles of the Apocalypse: Revenge, Everything is Nothing, brought to life on the silver screen. With its brisk pace, numerous action scenes, and story of both revenge and redemption, I feel like it would be a great candidate for a summer blockbuster. But I know Hollywood’s track record with books, and it’s filled with more Eragons than Twilights.

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Check out Zach's book (available both in print and electronic formats) at his website here:

"When you sacrifice the lives of your wife and children to prevent the world's most powerful clan of assassins from unleashing the Apocalypse, what does that make you? And what do you do when you learn that it was all in vain? For Jin Sakai, that sacrifice turned him into a mere shell of a man, filled only with guilt and hatred. When he learns that it was a sacrifice made in vain, he instantly sets out on a violent one-man war to tear the assassins' clan down around their ears. After all, who better to destroy them than the man who brought them together?

Things soon turn down a darker path as Jin uncovers the disturbing truth behind his family's sacrifice; a truth he was never meant to learn. Undone by the revelation, Jin is consumed by doubt and confusion and very nearly loses his life. It is only later when he meets Leah Lawson, a woman who overcame her own dark past, that his doubt and confusion vanish and he begins to see a path that will not only lead him to his revenge, but to his redemption.

Unfortunately, there is far more going on behind the scenes than Jin realizes. Forces are at play that have been manipulating the course of his life ever since he was born. By setting out on his quest for vengeance, Jin unknowingly cements his destiny as one of the key warriors in the apocalyptic war that’s brewing just beneath the surface."


You can also find him on YouTube.

Thanks for sharing, Zach.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Author Interview: Lindsay Downs on Emily Cahill, CID Part 1

Today I'm interviewing Lindsay Downs, who specializes in military-themed mysteries and romantic thrillers. We're discussing her mystery novelette collection, Emily Cahill, CID Part 1.

Tell us about your collection.

For those not familiar with that particular unit, they’re the Army equivalent, only better, to the Navy NCIS.

The stories:

"Final Mission"

After being seriously wounded in a copter crash in Iraq, Sgt. Emily Dahill meets her new partner as she embarks on her new Army career as a CID agent. Who could this new partner be?

"A Body in the Snow"

Emily and her partner, Dakota, cross bullets with their most determined foe. Who will survive?

"Right Place, Wrong Day"

On leave to hang with friends Emily gets the surprise of her life.

"Dog on Fishing"

When it comes to knowing how to fish, and catch the big ones, never underestimate your partner. He might surprise you.

Your book is focused on military characters. How did you bring verisimilitude to your depictions of military characters? Many stories are notorious for their laughably incorrect depictions of military personnel?

As we all know or should know the military isn’t a joke. It’s serious and so I try to impart that feeling onto my readers. When the characters are in uniform I work hard at making them believable: what they do, say and how they act. There have been several movies made over the past ten or so years that are so totally inaccurate as to make them laughable. Not to mention there’s at least one show on a major network where the characters, solve the crime, but are constantly bickering or harassing each other. Totally unprofessional, both in the field or workplace.

What made you choose to develop Dakota, the dog, so much? What does that bring to some of these stories that they otherwise may have lacked?

 
Dakota is not just a dog. He’s a collie from the great Kebi’s first litter. Highly intelligent, intuitive but still able to have fun if the situation warrants it.

I wanted a different twist to my stories. Not that I don’t put enough twists and turns in already. With Dakota he can help take the story/investigation to a different, quite frequently a comic, level. After all, collies have a different, sometimes strange, way of doing things.

Most authors will partner two people but I wanted something unique. Someone that would stand out in the readers mind. I first introduced a collie, Kebi, in my romantic thriller, Target Identified. She was partnered with Alison and in the end was instrumental in the rescue of her father and fiancée. So with the Emily Dahill, CID stories I decided to expand on the role of the collie.

Do you feel the continued involvement of the United States in multiple overseas engagements might influence reader’s perceptions of your characters? Did you ever have any concern about writing about characters who have experience from such recent conflicts?

Let me start out by saying I support the women and men of the United States military. So much of what we hear on TV and read, either in the paper or on line, is only about the negative events involving our troops, the removal of Osama Be Laden aside. When do we hear the good our troops do for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Not often enough, if at all. As far as my readers perceptions being influenced, that I can’t answer. I will do my best to portray, Emily, her team and the soldiers in the most favorable light I can, unless they are the criminal.

How did you come up with Emily Dahill?

The short answer, the vivid imagination of a writer.

For the long answer you’d have to go and read all my books. There aren’t that many, yet, so no whining. In each one you’ll find the heroine is a powerful, not in strength but character and conviction, individual. Strong, independent yet at the same time caring. But, hurt someone she loves and watch out.

I developed the same traits in Emily. With that in mind, the next step was to find where she belonged in the Army. I have a minor character, Special Agent Thaddeus Dahill, CID, in Target Identified, and thought wouldn’t it be great if he had a daughter who followed in his footsteps. To give her a human quality, I gave her a fear of helicopters.

She is a constantly developing and evolving character. In each story you, the reader, will learn a little more about her. How she works. How she thinks. And her all important, especially to her team members, axioms of safety and preservation.

What got you started writing fiction?

I started writing with an eye toward being published in 2006, and got my first contract in 2008, and haven’t stopped.

What authors have influenced you?

I really couldn’t say that I’ve been influenced by any author in particular. I tend to read a wide variety of genres and authors.

Anything else you want to share with us?

I am in the process of working on Emily Dahill, CID Part 2. If things go according to plan, the book should be out in six to nine months, but in publishing, some things never go as planned.

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Thanks for sharing, Lindsay. Of course, as an Air Force veteran I think I'm honor-bound to insist that the OSI is better than both the NCIS and the CID.

You can find Emily Cahill, CID Part 1 at:

Astraea Press
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Bookstrand

For the next six months, all proceeds from the sale of her collection will be donated to the Japanese tsunami victims.

If you're interested in a virtual author signing on your e-book (ah, how things have changed so quickly), please visit http://kindlegraph.com/authors/ldowns2966.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday #17: Marriage Priorities in 1811 England

Please check out other samples from participating Six Sentence Sunday authors at http://www.sixsunday.com/.

For today's Six Sentence Sunday, I return to my Regency paranormal romance WIP, A Woman of Proper Accomplishments. Here, the protagonist's mother is making it clear what she considers important in a potential husband:

“Do not be such a silly girl,” her mother said. She waved a hand and then pointed toward the door. “Men exist to trouble women. If you seek perfection from a husband, you should put yourself on the shelf. There is not a perfect husband in the world, but there is a handsome one downstairs worth two thousand pounds a year.” She smiled.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday #8: This is what we call a tongue lashing


Welcome to #SFFSat – Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday -  a chance to post six sentences from a piece of speculative fiction. Want to join in? Check out the site and links to other great speculative fiction authors at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday and follow the hashtag #SFFSat on Twitter.
This six is from my fantasy WIP, Mind Crafter:

The protagonist has just angered her empress during a conversation about the protagonist's place in story's society. I'm cutting into the center of her tirade:

". . .I will rip off my chains, and I will rip off the chains of millions if I have my way. You acquiesce to yours and act as if being bound makes you superior. It is disgusting and unbecoming an intelligent woman. Your arrogance is laughable and your delusion pathetic. A barbarian child is your superior. At least they understand a slave’s life is no true life."













Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Good Book Alert Review: Shadow of a Dead Star

Over at Good Book Alert, I review indie author Michael Shean's cyberpunk mystery, Shadow of a Dead Star.

Author Interview: Laura Yirak

Today, I  interview author Laura Yirak, who is just finishing up a children's book series project: The Adventures of Be Boo & Dolly, Indoors, Outdoors, and Seasons.  



1) Tell us about your upcoming work.

The Adventures of Be Boo & Dolly, Indoors, Outdoors, 
and Seasons will be out soon! It is a children’s series for 2 to 5 year olds. Be Boo is a little blue dragon with green eyes and Dolly is a little pink doll with pink hair and a very pink dress. Be Boo is a little mischievous and always up to something and Dolly is always there to help him. Together they both learn lessons through joint problem solving.

2) A variety of cute beings populate children's books. You've chosen a small dragon and a doll for your work. Why did you chose those?
 
One night I was putting my two year old daughter to bed and I asked her if she wanted me to tell her a story. She said yes, and I asked her what about? She replied with a dragon and a doll. I have been telling the stories over and over for a year and she loves them.

3) Children's books present an unusual challenge for the author in that artwork is such a pivotal part of the experience. Can you tell us a little bit about your collaborative process with the illustrator?
 
Daren Challman is the illustrator. He is extremely talented and is very good about checking the character designs over with me and making tweaks as needed. His use of color and his designs are unique and very eye catching. I am happy with his work and am looking forward to the final product.

4) We live in an age where even toddlers play video games now. Why do you think it is important that young children read?
 
This series is illustrated in cover only. I have set it up this way so that the child can imagine as the parent reads, or the older child can read alone. The imagination is an important skill to develop and I am finding that my daughter loves it just as much as her fully illustrated books. She likes to tell me stories now after I tell her about Be Boo and Dolly.

5) You write both child- and adult-targeted books. What challenges did writing this book present that weren't present in your previous work?
 
I found this series easier to write than my first novel simply due to length. I plan on adding to the series as well as adding to my adult fiction line-up.

6) How do you see the rise of e-reading affecting children's books?
 
I’m sure that children’s books will adapt well to the e-reader, I could even imagine that that they may come out with e-readers for children. As far as the physical book, I think it will hold for the time being.

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Please check out Laura's blog at http://dreamsofdiamondsauthor.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Friends, I have a few . . .

My friend Cheryl awarded me one of those blog awards. Part of the idea is to pay it forward by mentioning their blog, so I'll go ahead and do that: http://cherylanneham.blogspot.com/.

Now, I head back to work.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

No Six Sentence Sunday

I'm swamped with some day job-related matters this weekend, so I won't be posting my six this week. I'm going to make an effort on Tuesday to visit the the other people participating in http://www.sixsunday.com/.

See you next week!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday #7: What is life?

Welcome to #SFFSat – Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday -  a chance to post six sentences from a piece of speculative fiction. Want to join in? Check out the site and links to other great speculative fiction authors at Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday and follow the hashtag #SFFSat on Twitter.

This six is from my fantasy WIP Mind Crafter. 

Fouang cleared his throat, obvious irritation in his face--no doubt angry over being made to wait.

Tua resisted a snort. She would make him learn his place. 

“Do you know what living is, Vice Minister?” she said.

“I am no philosopher. I would say living is not being dead.”