Saturday, March 31, 2012

When Medicine Is Forbidden: An interview with dystopia writer David Kubicek

Today I'm talking with David Kubicek about his dystopian story of illegal medicine, A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY.
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1) Please tell us about your book.

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY is set in a desolate future where medical doctors are illegal, and Healers who practice such primitive and superstitious methods as bleeding and chanting are the norm.  Hank is a doctor who practices medicine only for himself and his family. His fear of losing  everything he’s worked for has estranged him from the Underground, the loose network of physicians that tries to help people who have lost faith in the Healers. Then late one evening a 16-year-old girl named Gina knocks on his door. She has a secret of her own and the power to destroy Hank’s life if he doesn’t come with her and make her seriously ill father well. But there is one catch  Gina’s father is the brother of a Healer who could send Hank to prison for the rest of his life.

2) Can you tell us a little about how conventional medicine becomes illegal in your setting? 

Two things happen to cause society to turn away from conventional medicine:

  • A large number of people must be willing to reject science and embrace unscientific, popular folk beliefs.
  • A catalyst such as the nuclear war in my story disrupts society, and when civilization is rebuilt those unscientific, folk belief people emerge as the majority, which suppresses and oppresses the minority.

I believe a society like this could exist, given the right catalyst. A few examples of the kind of thinking that could lead to such a thought shift are conspiracy theories about aliens having set up a base on the dark side of the moon, the belief that the world is flat, and the belief that men did not land on the moon but in a desert somewhere on Earth. None of these ideas are supported by any hard scientific evidence, yet many people believe them. What if a war happened, and these people became the majority?

3) Did this book require you to do any research on the practice of medicine?

This story was originally written in the mid-1980s and published in 1987 in a magazine called Space and Time. I revised it—including a new beginning and a revamped ending—for this new release. I didn’t do any specific research, but I was inspired to write it after reading some magazine articles and a book about problems with the medical profession and how health care is administered. For the current release I did a little research, aided by some life experience. For instance, the oxygen generator mentioned in the story is a real piece of equipment. We had one for my mother when we were caring for her.  

4) Given the furious political debate over health care and, to a lesser extent, the continuing clash over the very nature of what sort of medicine (science-based, empirical, traditional, et cetera) should be practiced, books with health care as a central theme are going to naturally be associated with some of these debates. Did any of these continuing cultural and political discussions influence or inspire your book?

The two things that inspired my book were 1) The high cost of medical treatment, and 2) The medical profession’s dehumanizing approach to treating patients.

The high cost of medicine has been an ongoing problem for years. Most of us, unless we have really good jobs and exceptional insurance, are one catastrophic illness away from bankruptcy.

The medical profession’s increasingly dehumanizing approach to treating patients is more subtle and more insidious. It can take the form doctors not sharing information with the patient (this is the kind of arrogance Hank refers to when he says the old time doctors “thought of themselves as gods”). It can take the form of a doctor who is supposed to discharge a patient at a certain time, but leaves town without making arrangements for another doctor to discharge the patient (that happened to me). In a case I read about, a woman, for philosophical reasons, wanted to give birth at home. The family engaged the services of a midwife and took all the necessary precautions, but when she went into labor the authorities took her to the hospital against her will.

Although these issues weren’t the burning reason I wrote A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY, they certainly were skittering around the edges of my mind while I rattled away at the keyboard. The story isn’t a treatise on the sorry state of the medical profession or a warning of what could happen if we don’t mend our ways. It’s a personal journey of characters interacting in a world that is out of kilter.

I’d like to point out, however, that this story isn’t a scathing indictment of our current medical system. I still have faith in the medical profession and medical professionals. Remember that in the A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY, the doctor is the hero and the Healer is the villain.

5) Dystopian settings allow the exploration of controversial issues by providing distance from the current socio-political context. At the same time, that same distance somewhat undermines its ability to directly comment on those issues. Could you share your thoughts on these ideas and what difficulties you found in balancing such issues?

I view dystopian stories like all literature: they give you things to think about, but the stories won’t change anything or be catalysts for change. I’ve never had trouble making the connection between a dystopian story and the real world issues that could cause it to come about. Maybe that’s why I like dystopian fiction so well. In FAHRENHEIT 451, for instance, it’s clear to me that Ray Bradbury was concerned that declining interest in reading and increased dependence on television would lead to a desensitization of the citizens. When you factor in video games and the internet (YouTube, anonymous cyber bullying, etc.), much of what Bradbury feared has come to pass (all except wide-scale book burning; fortunately that’s still a little farther down the road).

In my fiction (usually) I focus on the characters rather than the society as a whole. What kinds of choices do they make given the restrictions of their societies? How do they interact with one another?  And I hope that within their interactions the readers will find a nugget of truth that will help them to be a bit kinder, a bit more thoughtful, or will inspire them to say “This can’t continue and it must be changed.”

As a character in another of my stories says: “Revolutions start by one man speaking his mind.”

6) Can you tell us briefly about some of your other work?

IN HUMAN FORM is a science fiction/literary novel about an android, built by the last survivor of an alien spacecraft crash, who loses her memory in a house fire and forgets that she is an android. The few townspeople who have learned her secret lead her to believe she is human, with disastrous consequences. This is the first novel in a trilogy; I’m currently working on the second book.

THE MOANING ROCKS AND OTHER STORIES is a collection containing 14 of my best stories from the science fiction, horror, and mainstream genres. I’ve included notes telling how each story came to be written. This collection includes the original version of A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY.

“Elevator” is a stand-alone Twilight Zone-like short story about a man’s claustrophobic nightmare. Not recommended for folks who are nervous about riding elevators.

Two of my earlier books—THE PELICAN IN THE DESERT AND OTHER STORIES OF THE FAMILY FARM and OCTOBER DREAMS, A HARVEST OF HORROR—are out of print, but copies usually can be found on Amazon.



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Thanks, David.


If you'd like to see more from David, please check out his website http://davidkubicekblog.com, his twitter at  http://bit.ly/hGcjOU, or his Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/hFwJ7u.


A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY is available for purchase at Amazon.


In addition, David is running a little contest with a giveaway of a $25 Amazon Gift Card as a prize. Please see his March 29 Meet and Greet at http://www.vbtcafe.com/ for details.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Bit of Scotland, A Bit of Montana: An interview with historical romance author MK McClintock

Today I'm talking with MK McClintock about her western historical romance, GALLAGHER'S PRIDE.

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1) Tell us about your book.

Without giving you the standard back-cover blurb…GALLAGHER'S PRIDE is a historical western romance with adventure, some humor and enjoyable characters who are also flawed (yes, you get the happy ending). There is also the revenge element found in true westerns, so it’s a nice combination. Brenna Cameron, our ‘heroine’ is a Scottish lass who finds herself in the wilds of Montana. Ethan Gallagher and his family are respected cattle ranchers who have their own scores to settle. The Gallagher siblings are all educated, hard-working and share the same hatred-a hatred that mirrors Brenna’s, though on a different level and for different reasons. There are some surprises and some laughter throughout the book. You’ll also get death and love, beautiful landscapes and rough land – a lot of elements went into this book.

2) What inspired this book?


I imagine what often inspires readers – write what you want to read. I enjoy a genre that seems to have branched out into a number of sub-genres, but I still wanted to read historical western romances in a more original form. The inspiration behind the story came from my time in Scotland and my life in Montana and a way to combine the two into a genre I enjoy reading.

3) Scotland and Montana are two places that one doesn't typically associate with each other. You mentioned spending time in both places, but is that the main reason why you chose to include both of these places in your story?

Good observation and you’re right, though I do know a few Scottish who have made their way to Montana. I included both simply because I love both places. Scotland is a gloriously beautiful country and the Highlands had a mysterious and wild feel to them. The people I had the pleasure of meeting were kind, hard-working and amazing storytellers. It’s also a country with a fascinating history. Montana is considerably younger than Scotland, but in some ways similar. While in Scotland people I spoke with about my home were fascinated with the American west, still in this day. They asked about cowboys and Indians and the way of life-I think some were disappointed that we lived modern-day lives, but the fascination was still there. What it comes down to is that both places are dear to me and I wanted both to have a home in the story.

4) What's the allure of Scotland? Even people with zero Scottish blood seem enamored of the country.


There is a mystery about Scotland and a deep, sometimes dark history. The castles around almost every corner, the ruins, the royalty, the wars and even movies like Braveheart – all of these elements combine to paint a fascinating image and energy that draws one in. I remember feeling that energy the moment I stepped foot onto Scottish soil. Like so many countries whose history have spanned centuries, there is a sort of magic in the air. Scotland has also been portrayed as not only a barbaric country, but also a romantic one through movies and stories-both are strong elements. I will say that I believe the real Scotland is far more beautiful and interesting than anything portrayed in fiction or on screen.

5) What, for you, defines the perfect romance hero?


Personally, I prefer a hero with flaws. Perfection is overrated, especially in a hero. Yes, the element of a strong, capable character is essential to any hero, but I’d rather have a hero who shows us their less-than-perfect side. He doesn’t get everything right. He might occasionally take a beating and he might even make mistakes-he’s human. I also don’t care for cookie-cutter heroes, meaning the same hero written over and over. I’d rather see a personality, whether charming or gruff, so long as he’s an individual.

6) What defines the perfect romance heroine?

The same elements for the hero, at least in my mind, are essential to the heroine. I do enjoy a heroine who has to be rescued by our hero-that’s a part of the adventure and romance, but she should also be strong of character. I enjoy a heroine who knows her own mind and doesn’t necessarily define her life by the hero but rather allows him to complement who she is as an individual.

7) It's no secret that romance, as a genre, has gotten steadily steamier over the years. Indeed, a few notable romance sites have even stated they are realigning their "heat" scales to better reflect that reality. Others have noted that the rise of certain specific sub-genres, such as the so-called "Bonnet books" (Amish/Mennonite romance) may be a reaction by certain segments of the romance reader population who are disappointed by a lack of cleaner offerings. Can you share your thoughts on all this?

I do agree that romance books have indeed gotten steamier, but at the same time, even erotica was written hundreds of years ago; It’s just become more accessible and more accepted. I’ve also noticed that ‘heat’ scales or content ratings have been placed on blogs that offer reviews (mine included) to warn readers about the level of steamy content. The main problem I see with this, is that one person’s opinion of minor steam content may be completely different from another’s opinion, so it’s not always easy to judge a book by those steamy-meters. The sub-genres have definitely seen a rise, especially Christian-romance sub-genres because some readers want a guarantee of a clean book and they know that certain authors will always deliver that. I do believe that the population of readers looking for cleaner offerings will continue to grow and possibly faster than authors realize.

Personally, I choose a book for the story. If the steamy content isn’t overdone or doesn’t take away from the story, then I generally don’t think much about it. In GALLAGHER'S PRIDE, the scenes are merely implied and that was a personal choice as an author. The other books in the series will be just as clean even though books wouldn’t be considered one of these cleaner sub-genres, because I believe some readers are looking for clean books without the religious element. The good news is that there are enough readers who are either willing to span the entire romance genre, regardless of content, or who prefer a specific sub-genre and have found enough authors who have filled that need.

8) Can you give us a bit of insight into the future of this series?

There are four more books planned for the Montana Gallagher series, each telling the story of another family member. The next book is about the second Gallagher brother, Gabriel, and a woman from New Orleans. The third will be the story of their sister, Eliza Gallagher. I can’t tell more than that without giving too much away. The fourth and fifth books are planned out (covers and all), but again at this point, those stories are being kept under wraps. I will say that the protagonist from the first book doesn’t go away and storylines from the first book are picked up in the others, though each book has a unique romance and a new adventure.

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Thanks for stopping by, MK.

If you'd like to see more from MK, please visit her at http://www.mkmcclintock.com.

GALLAGHER'S PRIDE is available in print and electronic form at Amazon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Magic's in the Blood: Guest post by Marion Sipe

Today we have a guest post from author Marion Sipe about her fantasy, A SIGN IN BLOOD, which is free today on Amazon.

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Hello all!

I'm Marion Sipe and today I'm here at Unnecessary Musings (Thank you, J.A.!) to talk about my epic fantasy novel A SIGN IN BLOOD. I worked long and hard on it, sometimes despairing of it ever being finished, but mostly I loved every minute of it.

I really enjoyed writing these characters and discovering over the course of the story (and its many edits, revisions, and drafts!) how exactly they related to one another and the world in which they live. Most of the characters in A SIGN IN BLOOD don't quite fit anywhere, and Liral and Sadin or no different. Liral is supposedly a queen, but all her life she's been called 'slow' and told that she is incapable of ruling. Liral's mother has always been a larger-than-life figure, adored by her people and respected by the Factors and Factrixes. After her mother's—suspicious and quickly hushed up—death, Liral has been like a shadow in the court, under the thumb of the Factors' Council and unable to break away.

Sadin, on the other hand, is Full Rank Clergy, a respected and high position which allows him much more freedom than most among his people ever experience. Yet, he's haunted by the memory of one brother's death and the other's abandonment of him. Though his still-living brother, Bastian, is a priest at the same temple, the two of them have never been close. Sadin tells himself that he doesn't need his family, and that the temple and its clergy have become his family, but the anger still simmers just below his surface.

Both of them have position, status, but neither is happy, or safe. They both belong within their constructed worlds, and yet they don't. They both desperately want control over their own lives, but the methods they'll use to achieve that are very different indeed. I enjoyed writing both of them because neither is straightforward. There's a lot of complexity and emotion, often hidden or repressed, and neither of them is entirely aware of their own motivations.

Liral's world is very different from Sadin's, until they collide and both of them have to decide who to fight for, and who they will make their enemies. It made writing these characters very fun. They both surprised me now and then, and sometimes I wasn't even sure what one or the other would decide until it came time for them to make the decisions.
And both have to fight quite a lot. And, well, both get their butts kicked occasionally… Okay, so they get their butts kicked fairly often, but neither Liral nor Sadin has ever been a one to give up easily. Will that be for good or ill? 

 Go grab a free copy and find out!

To learn more about Marion Sipe, A SIGN IN BLOOD, or her other works, visit Visions and Revisions.

Religious Dystopia: An interview with author Randy Attwood

It's been said that one should shy away from discussing certain topics such as religion if one wants to avoid controversy. Today I'm talking with author Randy Attwood, who seems to have decided to confront such  controversy head-on with his religiously and politically charged dystopian story, RABBLETOWN.

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1) Please tell us about your book.

The title, RABBLETOWN: LIFE IN THESE UNITED CHRISTIAN STATES OF HOLY AMERICA, pretty much explains everything. The religious right has won. The Pastor President and Pastor Governors rule with a Bible in each fist and the computer in your hovel.

2) What inspired this book?

Years of watching evangelical churches gaining increasing power in the political field: Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, for example. Ed Meese once said when he was Attorney General under Ronald Reagan that the freedom of religion didn't mean freedom FROM religion. Oh-oh, I thought. This is not good. It was starting to sound as though religion was becoming a litmus test for whether you were a good citizen or not.

3) What is the fundamental theme you explore in this book?


Power corrupts. And absolute religious power corrupts absolutely.

4) Your setting posits that a particularly extremist form of fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity takes control of the United States. How does that happen in your story?


Perhaps it's time for an excerpt from the book. A history teacher is speaking:

Great strides had been made by Christians in winning elections to the U.S. Congress and state legislatures after the devil Muslims attacked our country in 2001. Our country came to its senses and recognized that the Islamo-fascist-communist-socialists wanted nothing more than the eradication of Christianity. Good Christians woke up and gained vast political majorities. There were a few hold-out areas that still elected liberals who claimed to be Christian, but of course you couldn’t be both, and there were even a few Hebrew people elected from districts that had high Hebrew populations and that was becoming more and more intolerable. The problem was that there were so many old line denominations that still had liberal leanings that the evangelical leaders realized they needed to consolidate their power into one true Christian church. They started their meetings with much prayer and worship on March 25, 2007, and asked God’s direction. On April 1, the Holy Spirit descended into the body of President Jerry Falwell I, who, it turned out, was in the last year of his life on this world, and God spoke. He wanted them to form God’s Church of the Evangels and he wanted all Americans to have a chance to convert to that true church. Those who did not would be an abomination to the Lord. All the leaders present recognized the voice of the Holy Spirit and fell to their knees and all instantly joined the newly-formed church. The Great Conversion had begun...

5) Religion is one of the most fundamental aspects of human society, yet also one of the most divisive. Did you ever worry about the controversy that can come into delving so thoroughly into religious themes? Some Christians may read your book and become offended, for example.

The religious right has offended me for decades. I think other Christians will relate and take to RABBLETOWN just fine. The recent barbaric measures in many state legislatures requiring women seeking abortions to be raped by a sonogram probe is offensive to me, and I think to many Christians. My book shows the logical outcome of the religious right's approach. In RABBLETOWN, if you are a woman and married and fertile and not pregnant, you will be artificially inseminated--art pregged. The whole Rush Limbaugh slut-debacle shows that some Christians need to face the consequences of their extreme positions.

6) Why did you choose to set your story so far in the future?

George Orwell's 1984 had a tremendous impact on me when I read it in high school. I wanted to write a novel about what life would be like in 2084. After many starts and stops and stalls, RABBLETOWN resulted. At one point, I had written myself into a corner. I gave up on the book for many years. But I returned to it after realizing that the character Bobby, who had a remarkable memory for Bible verses, was my savior in this story. And that I should let him make miracles. Bobby became a way of showing that the teachings of Jesus can show us again the way to our better natures. One reviewer now calls herself a "Bobbyite." RABBLETOWN is not a cynical sarcastic portrayal of right-wing Christianity, but a reminder that redemption is very much through the teachings of Jesus.

7) You have a rather large body of work. Can you tell us about some of your other work? Do you have any particular unifying thematic concerns or subject matter focus?

I have written since I was in my 20s and I'm now in my 60s. I had very little publishing success, and, quite frankly, admitted defeat. I told myself that I had written as well as I could, given what talent and discipline I had. But each work was unique to itself. Nothing fit easily into any genre (though RABBLETOWN is considered a dystopia). I had always been against self-publishing, but I did have an agent for one work, SPILL, and editors at two houses urged my agent to urge me to epublish. So I did, and then thought, well, why not epublish everything. I have now 13 works live with two more soon to come that will fit into the suspense/thriller genre. The ability to epublish has meant that my work has gone from my filing cabinet to the digital realm where people can find it. The most gratifying thing to me is that this work has connected with many people in a meaningful way. More detail can be found at this blogpost:

http://www.randyattwood.blogspot.com/2011/08/reflections-from-aging-writer.html

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Thanks, Randy. 

You can find more from Randy at http://www.randyattwood.blogspot.com/.

RABBLETOWN is available for purchase at Amazon.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Girls should be killing the vampire next door, not dating him: An interview with author Janine McCaw

Today, I'm talking with Janine McCaw about her tale of family women and supernatural dangers, HELENS-OF-TROY.


1) Tell us about your book.

There's a lot of love and teenage angst in HELENS-OF-TROY, but it's not anything like Stephanie Meyer's books, because let's face it, it's NOT okay to love a vampire. When Helen senses that Ellie's supernatural powers are about to present themselves to the world, she realizes she need help dealing with it, even if it means moving back in with her own mother, Helena. The three LaRose women are about as different as you can get. Ellie's friends call her Goth-Chic, Helen is highly educated but super uptight, and Helena gives Dolly Parton a run for her money, if you get my drift. When children of Troy begin to be found murdered, the LaRoses know more than they are willing to admit about the crimes.


2) What inspired this book?

The title came to me first. I then wondered who the Helens were and what they did. I watch a lot of the paranormal shows on television, so it evolved to three kick-ass demon killers, maybe because I live in Vancouver, where all the best supernatural/sci-fi shows are filmed (Supernatural, Fringe, The Secret Circle, Sanctuary). It's in the air I breathe.

3) Why did you choose to explore the dynamics of three generations of women in this book?

Times are tough. A lot of parents are seeing their children move out and then come back home for economic reasons. In the Helens' case, the need is less about the money and more about the fact that despite their ages, they all need babysitters. They all need each other. Their paranormal gifts are genetic, passed down mother to daughter since the beginning of time. There's a lot they have to teach each other, as they struggle to live normal lives. I also wanted to write a book that could be enjoyed by different age groups. There's a little bit of the Helens in all of us, depending on our own age.

4) The book has been described as "The Gilmore Girls meets Buffy The Vampire Slayer." Both of those shows are well-known for witty dialog. Was dialog something you spent a lot of effort on developing during the writing process?


I write the dialogue first. It's easier for me than the descriptive narrative. The Helens are all very boisterous in their own way, and sometimes I had to tell them to shut-up. I work with a lot of young people, and sometimes the things they say make me laugh and shake my head. The character Ryan gets a lot of his salty speech from them. Dialgoue is about talking and listening. Helen talks but doesn't listen. Ellie listens but doesn't do what "the Helens" want all the time. Helena, who doesn't seem to be listening ever, is really the most tuned-in of all.

5) Which Helen is your favorite and why?

I love all my children equally.

6) What, to you, do vampires represent thematically?

You're supposed to love the boy next door. Not the vampire next door. I like my vampires dark and brooding and well…creepy. If I were Helen, wanting to protect Ellie, I'd lock her up. Helena, on the other hand, would be more likely to say "have you met those nice Winchester boys staying at the motel down the street?" Both ways would ultimately protect Ellie, but one would be a hell of a lot more fun than the other. Demons are to be killed, not welcomed into the family. They are never to be trusted. They are people who won't stay dead. They have issues.

7) Do you have any sequels in the works?

Well, Helena has plans for a nice Thanksgiving dinner alone with her girls. You just know that's not going to happen. Uninvited guests show up just before the turkey hits the table, and not just at Helena's. It's called "HELENS-OF-TROY: NIGHTMARE ON JACEY STREET" and it will be a lot of fun, if you don't mind a few body parts along with your gravy.

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Thanks, Janine.

You can see more from Janine at her author website www.helens-of-troy.com.

HELENS-OF-TROY is available for purchase at AmazonSmashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Why should an omniscient being fear a wolf? An interview with paranormal thriller author Greg Kiser

Today I''m talking with Greg Kiser about his paranormal thriller INSYTE.


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1) Tell us about your book.


It’s Tampa Bay, Florida and the year is 2020. Ex-Navy SEAL Mitch “Double” Downing discovers how to tap into the internet with his mind. His new inSyte provides transparent access to the sum of all human knowledge recorded since hieroglyphics.

If knowledge is power, Mitch just became the strongest man in the world.

But inSyte has ideas of its own as the software exposes a politician’s “divine” plan that will unwittingly slaughter millions of people. Is killing the man the only way to prevent Armageddon? The politician’s daughter would probably disagree. And she happens to be the love of Mitch’s life. Losing Kate would be too damn much collateral damage.

At the center of the conflict is a wolf-like killer who will stop at nothing to murder the ex-Navy SEAL. And Mitch must come to grips with inSyte’s dark side – a dominating addiction that soon controls his thoughts and places him on a steep slide to self destruction.

2) What inspired this book?

I was in a business meeting in 1999 and the customer asked me some questions and they weren’t quite important enough for me to fire up my laptop (which took about 5 min in those days) so I said I’d get back to him.

It struck me that it would be nice to have access to the info on that laptop unbeknownst to the customer. That would be sort of cool, make me seem pretty smart.

As time went on, I realized that’s really inevitable with the internet. There are glasses you can buy today - so called visual headgear – that let you watch content on your iPod. Maybe while you’re on a plane.

Obviously you can also view info on your smart phone. Let’s say voice recognition software improves and the glasses get smaller. Say the glasses become contact lenses. You get the picture. It’s just a matter of time before you can get online anytime, all the time, and you’re doing searches based on a question asked of you. Or just by thinking about something. So you would search the net the way you search your memory. That’s the high concept and from there I developed the conflict to make the book (hopefully) interesting.

3) The very organization of our societies, our habits, our social interaction patterns have developed over the ages based on one fundamental limitation: our inherent lack of omniscience. Your story upends that. Was it difficult to develop a story that could across this fundamental metaphysical paradigm shift and still maintain the tension necessary for a good thriller?

Interesting question. My high concept was the ability to tap into the internet with your mind. So you can surf the internet the way you peruse your own memory today.

Try to remember the lyrics to a song. Might take a few seconds, then you remember. You find that information in your brain, obviously. Sort of a local hard drive, to use computer terms.

Now imagine you’re transparently tapped into the Global internet 24x7. Now try to remember the lyrics to a song. They’re there instantly. Feels like you found them in your brain, just like before. But you didn’t. You found the words on a server in Germany. Doesn’t matter, all transparent to you.

OK – so I had the high concept. To your point... now what? I mean, you have to have conflict, right?

Yes, the transition was difficult but finally I created a moral dilemma between the protagonist, the ‘monster’ Cheslov, and a local politician who thinks he has a direct connect with God. Next – ratchet up the tension at every opportunity. I made my protagonist an ex-Navy seal so he could pretty much deal with anything. Made Cheslov part wolf, paranormal. Then went into detail explaining how screwed up the politician is, he’s hooked on drugs due to his wife’s death, etc. Keep ratcheting up.

Then I created an outline – and wrote, wrote, wrote to fill in the outline. Didn’t worry about adjectives or effect or the best dialogue or even grammar/punctuation.This is all a hell of a lot of work and was the hardest part of writing the novel.

But once I had the first draft I set it aside for about 2 months. Then I picked it up and read it. And read and read and read. Every time I picked it up and read a chapter, I thought of better ways to describe things. I watched TV at night or listened to the radio during the day or read the paper in the morning and always, constantly, I gained ideas on how to improve my character’s dialogue, how to enhance a scene, how to polish, enrich, entertain, grow, connect.

The initial draft took 3 months to write. Then finishing the novel took another 3 years.

Oh – and don’t let ANYBODY read that initial draft. It will suck, indeed.

4) How did you technical background influence your plot and setting?

I’m a Director at Cisco. I’ve been in the high tech industry for 25 years. I think technology is wonderful. I made the point in the book and I believe this, that technology drove the production we saw in the 90’s. When PCs hit the mainstream, that was a paradigm shift that drove productivity off the scale.
Imagine trying to do business without spreadsheets or word docs or power points? Barbaric.

I think INSYTE – i.e. the ability to be online ‘invisibly’ - will drive similar boosts in technology. Due to the increased access to information. It will allow decisions to be made more quickly. No more – “I’ll have to get back to you on that”.

I think we need to be careful with technology, the point I also made in my book – that there’s a downside to everything. 
 
5) Given the politician sub-plot, one can't help but be reminded of Stephen King's THE DEAD ZONE. Did King's work have any influence on you?

You know something, you’re the first person to ask that question and you’re absolutely right! I read THE DEAD ZONE in the early eighties when it came out. I loved the book and I loved the dilemma his main character , Johnny, has re the politician Greg Stillson (I think I have those names right). I remember thinking the moral dilemma for Johnny was so beautifully solved when he was able to derail the politician’s future without actually killing the man. Of course, the outcome was not so good for Johnny himself. But somehow I knew that’s what Johnny preferred.

So when I was trying to develop my conflict for INSTYTE, I definitely remembered some of the conflict from THE DEAD ZONE. Of course, my character Mitch has no qualms about taking out the trash the way Johnny did. ;)

Stephen King is one of my favorite writers. If you look closely, you’ll also see similarities between Randall Flagg (THE STAND) and Cheslov. I read THE STAND in 1979 and never forgot the way King described Flagg as a man who was so evil and yet likeable and charming. Same could be said of Thomas Harris’s great character Hannibal.

6) Do you have a sequel planned?

Yes. I have some great ideas on where to take the technology and he characters. I’ve written an outline. But what I was saying above in question 3 about the hardest part of writing the novel? That’s the part I haven’t started yet.

7) Other than sequels, what works do you have in the pipe for the future?

I’m more of a ‘let come what may’ sort of guy. I don’t think about writing ideas so much as I think about enrichment ideas. I’ll hear a conversation, someone expressing themselves in a certain way and I’ll make a mental note because I think the discussion is real and would make good dialogue in a book. I’ll hear someone describe something and I’ll make a mental note that it’s colorful and would read well. That sort of thing. Shameless ;).

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Thanks, Greg.

If you'd like to see more from Greg, you can check out his website  (http://www.gkiser.com/gk/HOME.html) and blog (http://gregkiserinsyte.blogspot.com/)

INSYTE can be purchased in physical form or electronic form at Amazon.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Pain of Loss: Shabdaansh

Writing chum Matt Posner brought this short film (about ten minutes), Shabdaansh, by his friend Rishi Verma to my attention.

In it a writer faces his own worth nightmare, the loss of the ability to understand words. While this film of course has special resonance with authors (and indeed readers), I think the fundamental theme of losing access to one's defining gifts and traits is an interesting one and, especially with the ending film, the question of how we deal with them is perhaps even more important to consider.

The film can be viewed at this YouTube link.

In addition, those interested in discussing it on another place can also check out the Goodreads group, ROBUST.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vampires Who Don't Hang Out in Rural Washington: An interview with paranormal romance author Uzuri Wilkerson

Today I'm talking with Uzuri Wilkerson about her upcoming vampire paranormal romance, SWEET.

1) Tell us about your book.

SWEET is paranormal fiction set in modern-day Boston. Celia is a bartender at a hip bar-and-lounge downtown. She enjoys living life in the moment. Her current goal is to save up for a vacation with her boyfriend. Everything seems fine until she witnesses a man stabbed in the chest. Her simple life that is usually only complicated by her inability to find parking in front of her building soon becomes very complicated. Now she has to face the reality that her boyfriend is not entirely indestructible, confront her fears about the future of her relationship, and learn about her own mysterious abilities she had never bothered to think about before.

2) What inspired this book?

The Twilight movie was being advertised on television and I was surprised to find that there was a new vampire series I hadn’t heard of before. I read the books and thought I can do this. It was one of the easier ways that I have found inspiration. I always carry a notebook where I jot down ideas and quotations that come to me throughout the day. I usually refer back to the notebook when I need motivation. For this novel, I wanted a story set where I live involving a conflicted main character dealing with relationship issues like everyone else—except in this case, one of the complications is that the guy is a hundred years dead. There’s nothing too lovey-dovey, though. There is a turf war going on around them, which becomes a distraction as well.

3) Vampires are very popular, but that very popularity has led to a lot of competition. What sets apart your book from others in the genre?

SWEET takes place in an urban, inner city locale. A lot of stories take place in small or rural towns or in the early 1900s. There is also no set power system in my story. There are “areas” run by one lead vampire but no hierarchy, at least not with vampires…

4) Even in more modern times with more positive portrayals, they are still typically depicted as blood-suckers that are barely on the edge of self-control. What’s the continuing appeal of vampires?

I think it has a lot to do with them being secretive, superhuman beings. There’s also the sexiness of them. The exchanging of fluids. The “glamour” they use to entice and disguise themselves. Mysterious borderline dangerous characters usually intrigue people. They want to know what makes them tick. I tried to portray a range of characters and the challenges they faced with their existence.

5) Can you tell us what went into creating your male and female leads?

SWEET mainly centers around Celia and Victor. I wanted Celia to be strong-willed and opinionated but to also have a silly, relaxed side. She likes Victor but not when she’s forced to think of the future. That makes his “otherness” and her own mortality too real.

I wanted Victor to be handsome, of course, and smoldering. I always picture Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon with his angular, dark features. Victor holds onto his humanity by living and interacting with humans. But he is also old enough to be aware of the curse of his immortality. He’ll never have kids or feel the sun on his face and yet he still craves those things.

These attributes came about during the course of writing. As author Tess Gerritsen once described in a seminar I attended, I am more of a “seat-of-the-pantser” when it comes to writing. I sit at my computer and let the words come to me. Only when I am blocked do I revert to the “planner,” who has to look at her notes and outline what needs to happen.

To that end, when this story first came to me, I only had an image of a female main character talking to a hunter who was trying to stake her boyfriend. In this original vision, the main character didn’t know her boyfriend was a vamp and didn’t believe the hunter. I had the scene clear in my head: the two were in a park, under a tree, next to a park bench. It was nighttime and a small breeze rustled the green leaves of the tree. The story developed and evolved from there.

6) You have a background in screenwriting. Did this influence your novel at all?

Studying film helped me to see things visually. I try to be as vivid as possible to ensure that the readers see what I see. It’s a challenge sometimes but that’s the process I try to maintain. I only moved away from screenwriting and back to novels because I have more control and freedom when it comes to how much direction I have over the characters and scenery. There’s no fear of stepping on anyone’s toes because it’s just me and the input of my editors as opposed to producers and an entire film crew.

7) With all the world building involved in this story, sequels are easy to imagine. Do you have any planned?

This has always been a series to me. After finishing SWEET, I didn’t want it to end because I enjoyed the characters and there was more to add on and more that needed explanation. The problem I encountered was the direction of the series. I had been working on the fourth book when I found a publisher but I had been battling constant writer’s block with that story. I knew I needed an ending. Who cared about baby showers and how many drinks Celia served if none of that was about her development? I didn’t want it to drag on.

Having an end point also forced me to think about what was relevant to the big picture. I need those kinds of restraints because I have a tendency to be long-winded while writing. I had to scrap some of the minor characters as well as a few events that weren’t pertinent. I think that may be the hardest part of being a writer: finding the discipline to just stop. Stop editing. Stop nitpicking. Stop changing miniscule details. Leaving the series open-ended was why I had writer’s block halfway through. Now I have a focus and a goal.

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Thanks, Uzuri.

To learn more about Uzuri Wilkerson and to stay up-to-date on upcoming novels and contests, visit www.uzurimwilkerson.com. To enter and get a chance at winning a $25 VISA gift card, visit www.azizapublishing.com for the SWEET contest details.

SWEET can be pre-ordered from the publisher at www.azizapublishing.com.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Suffer the Children: An interview with contemporary YA author Sheila Welch


Today, I'm talking with Sheila Welch about her contemporary YA novel, WAITING TO FORGET.

1) Please tell us about your book.

Here's a brief description:

Wait. Wait. The word echoes his heart beat as twelve-year-old T.J. sits in a waiting room, wondering if his unconscious little sister, Angela, will ever wake up. Their adoptive parents are with Angela in the Emergency Room while T.J. struggles with memories of the difficult life they led with their birth mother, who often lied because it was easier than telling – or facing – the truth. But now he doesn't feel as if he belongs with Marlene, who insists on calling him Timothy, or Dan, who seems to want a more responsible son. Back and forth between then and now, T.J.’s story unfolds – until the past catches up to the present. And T.J. is faced with his own truth.

WAITING TO FORGET is a realistic, contemporary novel for readers ages ten to fourteen. It explores the emotional turmoil that results when children live in an unstable environment, are placed in foster care, and eventually are adopted. The story begins and ends in a hospital and takes place all on one day.

2) What inspired this book?

My husband and I have seven children; six were adopted and most of them joined our family when they were already of school age. Their experiences before we met them were often difficult and sometimes traumatic. Although we wanted to provide a better life for them, their memories and loyalties to their past lives made this an extremely challenging task. Our children are all adults now, but they definitely inspired me to write this book.

3) What is the fundamental theme your book explores?

I suspect every novel has more than one theme or underlying truth. WAITING TO FORGET is fundamentally about the loss of trust and the power of hope. It also explores the complex role that truth and lies play in human interactions. But if I could ask T.J. to tell me the basic point of his story, he might say, “Keep hoping. Give yourself a chance and cut others some slack.”

4) There has been some some controversy in YA and MG circles about thematic darkness. Though you do not dwell in some of the more unfortunate possibilities that can exist with kids in the foster system, especially compared to some other foster care narratives such as WHITE OLEANDER, your story isn't exactly light fare. Did you have any concern about such aspects when you were writing your story?

Although my characters spend time in foster care, those years are covered in just a few chapters in the book. T.J. and Angela's worst days are with Billy, their mother 's boyfriend, and the story includes realistic darkness and violence that have caused a few adult readers to question the age of the intended audience.

While writing the story, I was determined to create an honest portrayal of my characters' lives. During the revision process, I began to consider how readers might react to such an intense account. Fortunately, I found the right editor who suggested I soften some scenes and have others happen “off screen,” and most adult reviewers recommend it for ages ten and up.

5) Voice is paramount in YA work, and even more so in a story like this. Did you find it challenging to manage TJ's voice?

I chose to tell T.J.'s story in third person, although I wanted readers to feel as if they were – to some extent – inside his head. Third person, limited point of view affords a small measure of distance, granting T.J. a degree of privacy. I didn't feel that he was ready to share his whole story. If I'd written it in first person, T. J. would have been an unreliable narrator, and that label didn't seem fair to my character. My editor, my oldest son, and my critique group offered good comments that helped me develop a consistent “voice” in this novel.

6) Your book has a slightly unusual structure. Could you comment on that and tell us a bit about why you decided on that structure?

As a reader, I have enjoyed books with unusual structure such as Avi's NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH, Godden's TAKE THREE TENSES: A FUGUE IN TIME (which I read as a teenager and still remember), and Van Draanen's FLIPPED. My novel is concerned with the past and how it has shaped the present, so it made sense to tell the kids' “now” story with extended flashbacks, using T.J.'s Life Book to help clarify the switches in time.

7) If you had the power to reform our foster care system, how would you change it?


My knowledge of the foster care system is based on what I learned from our children when they opened up and talked about the lives they'd had before we met them. I also did research for this book. But the emphasis of my novel is on the unique circumstances that led to the kids' placement in foster care temporarily until they were adopted. While I'm sure the foster care system is not perfect, I don't feel I can offer informed suggestions for reform.

8) Can you briefly tell us about your other work?


My first short story was published in 1983, and I've been writing and illustrating ever since. I enjoy creating work for a wide range of ages; my published stories and books are for beginning, middle-grade, and young adult readers. I am now revising a novel, IN A SOMETIMES PLACE, for middle-grade children, and I have several picture book projects that are looking for publishing homes.

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Thanks for stopping by, Sheila.

WAITING TO FORGET is available from the publisherAmazon, and Barnes and Noble.

If you want to see more from Sheila, you can follow along her blog tour. For details, please see: http://makingconnectionsgroup.blogspot.ca/2012/03/waiting-to-forget-blog-tour-schedule.html.


Friday, March 16, 2012

The Hedgehog's (or maybe the ant's) Dilemma: An interview with KJ Hannah Greenberg

Today I'm talking with author, academic, and National Endowment for the Humanities awardee KJ Hannah Greenberg about her anthropomorphic animal-centered short story and flash fiction collection, Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things.



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1) Please tell us about your collection. What sort of genres and tones does it include?

Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things is an assemblage of brief and briefer fictions about sentient hedgehogs, biker lizards, intergalactic entrepreneurs, and the like. This book allows folk to cautiously stretch their considerations of how they treat themselves and others. Since it’s less daunting to cheer on warring sugar ants than to confront bosses, to hope for the success of a Tuna Olympics contender than to give advice to adolescent children, or to think up salutations for a space cowboy than to properly word a greeting to new neighbors, this work concentrates on critters.

As such, this collection covers an array of narrative styles including: absurdist, dark, literary, mainstream, pulp, quirky, realistic, and surrealistic. What’s more, whereas most of the elements of Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things could be rubriced as “speculative fiction,” a significant minority belong in the “fabulist,” “magic realism” or “women’s fiction” categories.

2) Why did you choose to focus on tales of anthropomorphic animals?

The world of pretend is neither calorie laden nor bound by chemical side effects. Additionally, it’s fun to dance, even vicariously, with imaginary beasts. “Playful” beats “rueful” when navigating.

3) Do you have a favorite story in the collection?

I have several favorites; “Illusionary is the Hedgehog’s Strength: An Allegory,” “Kelev Liked to Suck the Marrow Best,” “Squamata’s Rumble: Certain Results of Biker Attitude,” “The Martian and the Potter,” “Nest Eggs and Cryptids,” “Guess my Vocation,” “Sugar Ants,” “The Inheritance of the Meek,” and “Not an Imaginary Figment.” Mothers don’t have to pick only one child.

4) What's your favorite animal? Is it featured in the collection?

My “brand” has been associated with a hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs. However, I adore the sweet spots of most beasts, real or mythical, webbed, scaly or bipedal.

5) Shorter fiction forms present their own challenges compared to longer works. This collection contains both short stories, a more conventional short form, and flash fiction. Can you speak to some of the differences between short stories and flash fiction, along with their advantages and disadvantages?

Flash is a lot like poetry in that a writer has to do his or her business in a brief span and be done with it. As well, readers can make time for quickie fiction even when they lack the resources to commit to a novel. As per conventional short stories, they are the cogs that spin literature. Many merits of narrative are adjudicated according to the traditions of short story writing.

6) You were a National Endowment for the Humanities awardee and a professor of rhetoric, communication theory, and many related topics. How does this background inform your fiction writing?

Save for a few bits of fiction in which characters are academics, or in which academic settings matter to plots, I’m not sure that my scholarship imprints on my creative writing. At most, my professional history evidences my long standing love of word play.

7) Can you briefly speak about some of your other work?

I’m eclectic. I am equally fascinated with rail guns and with whales. I’m as likely to write a dark fantasy as I am to shape a treatise on the impact of convergent media on women’s social status. I publish poetry, essays, and short fiction, and magazine columns and newspaper blogs. I’ve written novels and have seen one of my musicals produced, too. My rhetoric diverge among parenting, religion, other writers’ publications, and social movements. My poetics cover nature, relationships, heritage, and alien communities. I strive to keep my writing fresh and spent a lot of time researching almost everything I compose.

Past books include: Oblivious to the Obvious, Wishfully Mindful Parenting (humorous essays), A Bank Robber’s Bad Luck with His Ex-Girlfriend (poetry), and Conversations on Communication Ethics (academic works). Supernal Factors (poetry) is forthcoming, this summer. Soon, too, I hope to bring out The Lion and the Serpen t(a novel), The Ill-Advised Adventures of Jim-Jam O'Neily (short stories), Word Citizen (essays), and Not a Popinjay (poetry). Given the size of my hibernaculum and given the degree of hunger of the hedgehogs therein, I need to continue to produce and to publish.

Thank-you for letting me share a glimpse into my world. I hope your readers enjoy Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things.

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Thanks for stopping by.

If you'd like to learn more about her, please check out her website: http://www.kjhannahgreenberg.net/

Information about the collection can be found here: http://www.bardsandsages.com/greenberg 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mr. Beard's Regency Tour Day 17: Smooth Roads and Criminals: The Turnpike System

This is part of my continuing series on Regency England and Georgian England. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please check out my archive here.

A modified form of this entry originally appeared on the English Historical Fiction Authors Blog where I am now an official contributing member. Although I focus on Regency and later Georgian England, the EHFA blog covers the entirety of English history. I encourage you to check it out.

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Everybody likes to complain about roads. When I moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, the first thing I did was complain about the "horrid bumpy roads" of the Midwest. Sure, it's a bit unfair to be too critical given climate conditions of my current home region, but we all need something to complain about, right? I, like many people, just take it for granted that quality roads should be available to me.

Perhaps quality roads and easy of transport seem not all that worthy of special attention. Many ancient civilizations, after all, had developed fine road networks. At the dawn of the Georgian age, however, the quality of many roads in England left much to be desired.

First, let's take a step back and consider many roads prior to the 18th century. During this period, the resources and funds for road maintenance were maintained mostly at the parish level. Paving of any form certainly was limited outside of most cities. 

The mostly parish-level support system was adequate for making sure various local roads were decent, but the system didn't do much to maintain the quality of distant roads and the intermediate roads connecting various far-flung locales. The net result was a haphazard system of road improvements of varying quality. A sort of transportation-centered tragedy of the commons. Wheeled travel was often unpleasant and dangerous. Rugged road conditions and holes could easily lead to accidents. As my fellow EFHA compatriot Katherine Pym noted recently, there were reported cases where holes on some roads were large enough to swallow up a cart. That's a rather severe pot hole!

Inclement weather only made things worse and England is far from an arid country. It was somewhat difficult to drive a coach through a muddied mess. Riding a horse was more practical, but not necessarily comfortable or practical depending on one's circumstances. Horses don't like huge wagon-sized holes either.

Ironically, economic improvements, along with the accompanying transportation of heavier amounts of goods, also contributed to wear and tear on many a poor-quality road. Even if the Georgian-era traveler ignored the poor quality of the roads and the difficulties associated with weather, there also was the unpleasant issue of highwaymen. The increase in traffic and trade travel, particularly in the environs of London, hadn't been lost on the criminal element. The lack of an organized police force, let alone anything akin to a highway patrol, only contributed to the problem. A swift, mounted criminal could waive a pistol and demand that someone, “Stand and deliver!” often with impunity despite the threat of execution or transportation to Australia.

Things began to turn around for the often poor, sad, and unsafe roads of England at the beginning of the 18th century because of the Turnpike Acts. Following up on earlier parliamentary acts, in 1696, the first Turnpike Act was enacted, the first of many to follow.

So what were these Turnpike Acts, why did they have to pass so many, and what did they have to do with road quality and highwaymen? These acts established Turnpike Trusts. These trusts were granted the responsibility of taking care of a certain portion of a road, but also granted them several legal tools to do this, including two of particular importance: the right to collect tools and to control access on roads through the use of both gates and men. The name itself comes from gates’ designs that involved pike-like constructions on crossbars that could be rotated, though not every tollgate necessarily had such a design, and now, of course, the turn has evolved into just a general term for toll room.

The trusts each could handle their various roads and road sections as they saw fit, so many would farm out the actual administration of the trusts to other enterprising people. These sort of trust subcontractors, as it were, could then do their best to efficiently run the trusts for a profit.

In the early years of the system, the various turnpike roads weren’t necessarily all that better maintained than before, but techniques advances lead to general quality improvements, particularly in the latter half of the 18th century, which, in turn, fueled a massive expansion of the system, with a general slowing of expansion with the coming of the 19thcentury. Although there were nearly one thousand trusts in place by the end of the Regency, and thus the tail end of the Georgian era, in 1820, it’s important to note that the majority of roads in England were still maintained by parishes and other local entities. That being said, many major important roads were under the control of turnpike trusts.

While the trusts, in general, contributed to road improvements that helped reduce transport times and the general quality and safety of travel, they also improved general security. Although there were other contributory factors, the rise of the turnpike system, particularly on high traffic roads, greatly contributed to the decline of highwaymen. The presence of so many guarded gates made post-robbery escapes far more difficult. It wasn't as if they couldn't avoid the gates, but a combination of inconvenience and just more watchful people being about helped complicate the logistics of the crime and escape.

Although, like so many things, the decline of the turnpike system was multi-factorial, the most fundamental contributory factor was the rise of a more efficient and swift means of mass transit: the railroads. By the end of the 19th century, a stronger central government, municipalities, and county councils took down the gates and took over the responsibility of maintaining the roads. Only a smattering of smaller private roads, tolled bridges, tolled tunnels, and the newer M6 Toll remain as the descendants, direct and indirect, of the extensive system that once covered tens of thousands of kilometers.

Page 77 of The Emerald City

My friend Cindy Borgne tagged me for the lucky 7 meme. The meme sounded fun (kind of variation on the Six Sentence Sunday I used to participate in), and so I decided to do it with THE EMERALD CITY.

The abbreviated version:

Go to Page 77
Copy down the next 7 lines.

These lines turned turned out to be the main character, angry teenager Gail, having a conversation with a teacher about how she's adjusting to her new school:


“I have it under control. A lot of time life sucks. It isn’t about hoping bad things never happen. It’s about learning to handle those bad things. Wait long enough, the wind will change. The only thing we can control is our reaction. What people hate today, maybe they love tomorrow.”

A Father From Another World: An interview with YA sci-fi author Debbie Brown

Today, I'm talking with Debbie Brown. Please note she a is different author from Debra Brown the historical fiction author I previously interviewed.

Our latest Debbie Brown is here to talk to us about her YA sci-fi adventure, AMETHYST EYES.

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1) Tell us about your book.

AMETHYST EYES is a YA adventure covering 15-year-old Tommy as he is forced to go live with his estranged father after an accident claims his mother’s life. The catch here is that his father is not from Earth and Tommy is expected to live onboard his father’s ship. We have a teen having to deal with the loss of his mother, unanswered questions about his father not being present, the pressure of adapting and fitting in to a life nothing could have prepared him for. Oh, and then there is the legend of the amethyst eyes…

2) What inspired this book?

I had written the first chapter (minus the flashback) as a writing assignment ten years before I wrote the book. I was not aiming for a sci-fi theme. I had read a lot of sci-fi throughout elementary school, but after having received a STAR TREK novel as a gift I became obsessed with the books, reading everything I could get my hands on. I loved the human interaction found within.

3) What is the main theme your story explores?

I guess the main theme would be personal growth or family.

4) Can you tell us a little about what went into developing the characters of Tommy and Jayden?

Honestly, they came to life on their own. There are very few forced or created details. I literally sat back and let them go, writing what unfolded before me. Writing the first draft could be compared to the first time anyone reads the book. I didn’t know any more than the reader did until I saw it and then wrote it.

5) What sort of challenges does writing a science fiction story present?

The first would have to be the technology. I didn’t want to borrow what had already been created, and I didn’t want to invent something that just couldn’t be. The transporter, made famous by STAR TREK, has actually come to be with scientists succeeding in transporting quantum spin information.

The second would have to be life. Creating different people with different abilities, rules, values, living arrangements, food and such…although this could apply to fantasy writing as well.

6) Do you have a favorite line from the book you'd like to share?

Two, actually, 1) Tommy asks his father to tell him a little about his time spent with his mother. In the scene the parents are talking, getting to know one another and Emma realizes Dthau-Mahsz (Thomas) cannot go home, so she says “Then I guess you’ve left the city, too.” It refers back to her decision to leave her city life behind and embrace a more basic and natural way of life in the mountains.

2) The doctor’s comment when he finishes his initial examination of Tommy (following the car accident). “He has been sewn, stapled and screwed back together!” He slammed his hand down on the console. “And badly too!”

7) Do you have any sequels planned?

I am working on the prequel right now, telling the story of his parent’s time together. I am about half-way through. Afterwards I do plan on writing a second and possibly a third book in the series since there are still avenues to explore.

8) Can you tell us about any other projects you have planned?

For now, I’d like to write. I am in the midst of an advanced writing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature, which has me writing another YA sci-fi adventure. The first draft is to be completed by the 16th of March.

I hope I can allow my writing to take more place in my life. I have done a lot of things over the years and it gives me an interesting bag of knowledge to rummage through and use in my writing.

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Thanks, Debbie


AMETHYST EYES can be purchased at:


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Amethyst-Eyes-Debbie-Brown/dp/1462050158
Chapters Indigo: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Amethyst-Eyes-Debbie-Brown/9781462050154-item.html?ikwid=amethyst+eyes&ikwsec=Home

Powell’s: http://www.powells.com/biblio?show=TRADE%20PAPER:NEW:9781462050154:18.95
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/amethyst-eyes-debbie-brown/1105283804
SONY Reader Store: http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/debbie-brown/amethyst-eyes/_/R-400000000000000563319



If you want to see more from Debbie, you can find her at:

Facebook Book Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amethyst-Eyes/169207996492385

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5370747.Debbie_Brown
Blog:  http://amethysteyesauthor.blogspot.com/
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaSQLuUkHeo
Email: amethysteyes01@yahoo.ca

For as long as she can remember, Debbie has been creating stories in her head. She hated to go anywhere without a pen and paper, just in case. As a graduate of the Institute of Children's literature, while pursuing yet another writing course, she finds herself doing what she loves . . . learning and writing. The course gives her an excuse to just sit down and write. Over the years she has worked as a nurse, a teacher, a martial arts instructor and a CIC officer in the Canadian Forces. Her hobbies have varied from woodworking, to auto-mechanics, with music, painting, karate, holistic medicine, gardening and camping thrown into the mix. Let's not forget reading. Debbie's perfect cure for a long winter's night is curling up in front of a fire with a good book while snowflakes drift slowly past the window. Never having been much of a city girl, she lives with two of her four children, her husband Jean-Pierre and their pets in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec. She couldn't imagine life without the beauty found in the trees, mountains and lakes that surround her. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Dangerous Task of Writing a Sequel: A Guest Post By Chrystalla Thoma

I am above all and foremost a reader – have been since I learned to read, and even before that, when I blackmailed my parents into reading to me every night before falling asleep. Such a long addiction and deep love of stories can only mean that I’m a demanding reader. I can’t stand clich├ęs. I frown at wooden dialogue and flat characters. I can’t abide plot holes and bad prose.


See how difficult I am? But I think we all are, when it comes to something we truly love.

As luck had it (or fate, or just natural predisposition), I ended up a writer. Since then, I find myself divided between two opposite camps – on the one hand, I am the creator, the founder, the writer, and on the other I am the world’s most demanding critic.

No wonder I feel I’m going crazy some days.

Series are a particularly touchy topic for me. I love them. Since I’m an escapist and want my books to be thick as bricks so that I can lose myself in them forever, series accomplish this to the utmost degree: they allow me to be lost in a greater world.

But series are tricky to write well. Very often, the first book is amazing, but midway through the second book things go awry and by book three you want to strangle the author – not so much for the waste of money, but for the destruction of the magic.

Cue dramatic music: I decided to write a trilogy (Elei’s Chronicles). I wrote the first book, Rex Rising and released it last summer. Meanwhile, I began working on the second book, Rex Cresting.

Cue percussion. Stress. Fear. Insecurity. Will my second book deliver? Will the third?

As a result, I pestered my friends and beta readers (critiquers) for months with questions such as “is this too melodramatic”? “Is this a good sequel?” “Is this crap?”

I swear, I’ve never felt such stress and angst about writing a story. First books are easier: you set up the characters, the premise, the conflict, the world. But the second book has to follow through and develop those characters more, bring the conflict to the next level, give hints as to the resolution that is coming in the final book.

I now sympathize with all writers who write series. A marvelous idea can degenerate in the second book and fall to pieces. Wonderful characters can step over that thin line that turns them from likable to disagreeable. The writer walks a tightrope.

And have I succeeded with my second book?

Too soon to tell. Besides, I’m too close to the book to be able to see it critically right now. I have done my best. Now it’s up to the readers to tell me whether it fulfilled promises made in book 1 or not.

Let’s hope it has.

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Thanks, Chrystalla.

Chrystalla lives in Cyprus with her husband and her hoards of wild books. She writes fantasy and science fiction and is now starting a non-fiction book about the dragons of the world. She is interested in parasites, ecology, Indian recipes, love in all forms and medieval music, not necessarily in that order. She is currently writing Book 3 of the dystopian sci-fi YA series, Elei’s Chronicles, and a gay sci-fi novel with androids and lots of mayhem.

Mayhem, in fact, is her middle name. You’ve been warned.

Chrystalla is all over the internet:

Blog: http://chrystallathoma.wordpress.com
Amazon profile: http://www.amazon.com/Chrystalla-Thoma/e/B001JOWZCC
Twitter: http://twitter.com/chrystallathoma
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Chrystalla-Thoma/117863861560579
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4397966.Chrystalla_Thoma
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Chrys

Elei’s Chronicles series (YA dystopian science fiction):
Rex Rising (on sale this week for .99 cents)
Rex Cresting Rex: Equilibrium (coming summer 2012)
Also: Hera (a novelette set in the world of Rex Rising)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hell in Michigan: An interview with paranormal romance auhtor Andrea DiGiglio

Today I'm talking with paranormal romance author and screenwriter Andrea DiGiglio about her paranormal romance, FINDING ALICE.

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1) Tell us about your book.

FINDING ALICE is a story about a young woman who chooses to continue a secluded life from most of society, mostly due to her condition of extreme empathy. As all humans do, she eventually finds companionship in some locals and her entire reality is altered from it instantly. Quickly, Fallen Angels emerge to protect her from the wrath of God they had created. Choosing a side isn't the issue for Alice, she only hopes to survive it all.

2) What inspired this book?

I wanted to write about a strong woman who faces all challenges with intense bravery and strength. I also wanted her love interest to be supportive but equally strong, and above all, no outrageous love triangles. The rest just came to me honestly, though I do have a enormous infatuation with Fallen Angels.

3) There are a lot of paranormal romance titles on the shelves. What sets your story apart from others?

From what I have read and heard, I am the first to address God's feelings about what Fallen Angel's really did.

4) How did your Michigan background influence the setting? Were there specific aspects of Michigan that you felt compelled to include?

The city Hell in Michigan seemed too perfect not to use and I am proud of my state as a whole. Max's Bar, does not exist as far as I know. As for the "field" (I don't want to give too much away), I did in fact visit a field in Hell, MI that resembles what I described in FINDING ALICE.

5) Angels and fallen angels are creatures that have been deeply embedded into the religious and mythic fiber of Western society for thousands of years. Do you think that makes them more difficult to write about than something like vampires, which despite their current reputation, didn't have much penetration as a major creature until relatively recently?

No, I think it makes it easier at least for me. I think people are more likely to believe that an angel or fallen truly exists and therefore can quickly get lost in a novel.

6) You have a screenwriting background. Did that influence your novel writing process at all?

In a sense yes, meaning if I can't see it in my head playing out like a film I will never be able to write it. My writing itself, no. I had to research and retrain myself to write my novel correctly.

7) If you were casting a FINDING ALICE movie, who would you want for your leads?

You with the tough questions! I would say Ian Somerhalder for Cole. And Alice? Honestly, me. Mostly because I have been dying to play a role like that. It's the reason I started writing screenplays in the first place well over a decade ago. If I had to choose someone else, I would choose Danielle West.

8) This is book 1 in the Alice Clark series. How many books do you have planned for this series?

I am currently planning on three, but you never know. I swear Alice has a mind of her own.

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Thanks, Andrea.

If you want to read more from Andrea, please visit her at http://www.andreadigiglio.com/.

FINDING ALICE is available in both physical and ebook format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.