Thursday, January 31, 2013

And The Secret Ingredient Is WHAT!?: A Kindle All-Stars Interview With Matt Posner

The Kindle All-Stars Carnival of Cryptids interview week continues! The anthology has been released earlier than anticipated at Amazon.

The Kindle All-Stars are a select group of authors from around the world who donate their work in the name of charity. All profits from Kindle All-Stars anthology are donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Today, I'mm talking with Mat Posner, who contributed the story "The Paring Knife" to the anthology, a dark satire on modern competitive cooking shows.

1) Please give a brief blurb for your story.

In a mysterious future, underground cooking show The Paring Knife has the flesh of mysterious animals for ingredients. Who will win the contest? Who will be peeled away (and attacked by knife-wielding children)? And will announcer Bruce ever stop insulting his sister?

2) You actually feature, in a way, multiple creatures in your story. How did you decide what to feature?

Mostly, I wanted to use cryptids that wouldn't be represented in other stories. But the one, skunk ape, was a natural for a cooking show because the stench would be a challenge for the chefs to deal with.

3) The cryptids are, in a way, less of a central focus in your story given that it's more a dark satire of competitive cooking shows, and arguably even Food Network's Chopped, in particular. Do you think that not having the cryptids would radical alter the themes of the story, or do you think they are vital for what you're trying to convey?

I think the cryptids are necessary for the reason that Bernard highlighted in his introduction. This show has removed a sense of mystery from the world. The unknown, amazingly fascinating animals are now nothing more than grist for the consumerist mill.

The challenge for a cryptid-based anthology is not to have every story be about a person stalking a cryptid or a cryptid stalking a person. I'm relieved that I was able to come up with something different. If I hadn't been able to, I might not have been able to produce anything for KAS 2.

4) One major stylistic difference between your story and the others in the anthology is rather noticeable, in that you've written it as a television transcript rather than as a conventional short story narrative. Why did you decide to approach your story in this way, and is this an off-shoot your previous stylistic experiments with scripts inserted into narratives featured in some of your previous works?

I didn't think a standard narrative form would work for this story, because although it has characters and conflict, its primary source of drama is the same as shows like Chopped -- who will win? There are subtexts, of course. As far as other writing in this format, there's a chapter written in film script format in my third novel, and I do often think cinematically, although the screenplay is not my native format. I wrote plays as a young child before I wrote fiction. I like to tell a story through dialogue; I always have.

5) Please give us a brief overview of some of your other works.

I've been publishing the School of the Ages series of novels and short stories since 2010, about a magic school in New York City. I'm also the co-author, with that gem of a human being Jess C. Scott, of Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships. Everything is at Amazon; my novels are also for Nook; and Teen Guide is available everywhere in all formats. In India, School of the Ages is available exclusively from Times Group Books.


Thanks, Matt

If you'd like to see more from Mat, please check out his previous interview about his School of Ages series and his website

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Carnival of Cryptids Day 2: The Jungles Are Not a Place For the Arrogant: Introducing Jeff Provine

The Kindle All-Stars Carnival of Cryptids interview week continues! I originally said it would be out on the 1st yesterday, but I've heard it may be available for sale as soon as later today. Again, a reminder:

The Kindle All-Stars are a select group of authors from around the world who donate their work in the name of charity. All profits from Kindle All-Stars anthology are donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

I'm only interviewing four of the authors, so there's even more cool experiments in style and cryptids from a variety of authors in anthology (which, I'll be reviewing this weekend).

Today, I'mm talking with Jeff Provine, who contributed the story "Where is Captain Rook?" to the anthology, a slightly subversive take on the great jungle adventurer genre of old.

Jeff Provine was born May 2, 1984 (thus sharing a birthday with Catherine the Great and The Red Baron), in the wide, open plains of Oklahoma. He grew up a Country Boy on the old family farm, running barefoot through creeks and climbing trees. All the while he seemed to like best making up stories, writing them down as soon as he learned to hold a pencil. Carefree childhood days gave way to education, and Jeff graduated high school with two diplomas: one from the Oklahoma Bible Academy and the other from Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics. In his senior year, he began writing Celestial Voyages: The Moon, which would be published as his first novel at the tender age of 18. Jeff attended the University of Oklahoma, getting a Professional Writing degree (He was going to write anyway, so he might as well study it). Jeff spent a year abroad at the University of Hertfordshire, just north of London, England, and spent several months traveling and writing. He is currently a lecturer in Composition and Mythology and works remodeling his home and writing in every spare moment.

1) Please give a brief blurb for your story.

River-guide Joao Paulo Nativo recalls the story of famed Amazon explorer Captain Rook's final adventure, hunting the elusive giant ground sloth, believed to have been extinct for thousands of years but known to tribes as Mapinguari, the fetid beast.

2) While far from an expert on all legendary beasts, I am genuinely surprised when I run into one I'd never heard anything about before, such as the creature in your story. Why did you decide to feature this creature, and how did you come across the legends concerning it?

I've been fascinated by the mylodon, and its bigger brother the megatherium, ever since first seeing them in the back of one of my dinosaur atlases as a kid. Then I heard a little blurb on the History Channel about a band of conquistadors supposedly fighting one (the natives said arrows just bounce off it; the Spaniards laughed until their own musketballs bounced, too), which pretty much sealed the "awesome cryptid" deal for me. When I heard of a cryptid anthology for charity, I knew exactly which cryptid to feature. Most of my research was online, digging through various cryptid websites, an old Brazilian newspaper article about a rash of Mapinguari attacks on cattle in 1937 (coinciding with a drought), and an online copy of the 1896 Orchid Review that gave descriptions of real-life adventurer and orchid-hunter Charles Fosterman to provide a feel of exploring the Amazon.

3) You've gone for a very classic jungle horror/mystery approach to your creature here. What attracted you about that particular style of engaging with your creature?

What interested me most about the pulpy classic jungle story was that there were actual explorers like Fosterman and Percy Fawcett who saw strange things no one has been able to prove. I was expecting to set my story earlier in the '20s, but once the legend popped up about Mapinguari hating water alongside the drought and the attacks in the 1930s, I had to make it closer to WWII. Why I wanted this time period overall was to give a hint of historical while fairly modern (we still use many of the same handguns developed even before then). The arrows of the natives and the musketballs of the Spaniards supposedly bounced off the creature's hide, which fits the "dermal ossicles" of the mylodon, bits of protective bone grown like armor plates inside the skin. The question I wanted to ask was, what if someone shot it with a .45?

4) Should we parse any of this story with a socio-political subtext, or is that just reaching on my part?

My story's definitely got its share of socio-politics. Originally, I was just going to have leather-jacketed Indiana-Jones types shoot the mylodon and then find out it had magic powers. As the story was rewritten, though, it became clear that it wasn't interesting enough. Instead, I wanted to look at the socio-political situation of Brazil and changed the protagonist to the mixed-race guide who saw the best and worst of living on the edge of civilization. It discussed a good deal of imperialism with the Great White Hunter getting in over his head and then losing it. Perhaps my favorite line in the story is about Mapinguari's powers over the rain to end the drought as well as potentially reaching to Europe to cause a war to bring back the Rubber Boom. Who's really controlling the world then?

5) Please give us a brief overview of some of your other works.

My first major project was Celestial Voyages, a trilogy of steampunk about interplanetary expeditions in 1900 with ant-men dwelling in caverns in the Moon, treelike Venusians who take "knowledge is power" literally, and Martian greys living on a world that has long past its prime. Currently, I'm at work on my webcomic about a magnet school, The Academy, and This Day in Alternate History, a blog taking events of a particular date and twisting them, such as "What if Will Rogers had survived his plane crash?" I've also released an ebook, Dawn on the Infinity, about a fourteen-year-old girl kidnapped by inter-reality pirates with zombies, hackers, vampires, robots, fairies, spaceship battles, and trolls, oh my!


Thanks, Jeff.

If you would like to learn more about Jeff, please check him out

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Two-Fisted/Six-Gun Alt Reality Meets Lovecraftian Menace: Introducing William Vitka

As a perusal of my old Magical Mondays segments might indicate, I've more than a passing interest in various mysterious monster beasties and their related legends. Thus, I was very excited to hear about the second upcoming Kindle All-Stars Anthology project: Carnival of Cryptids. The anthology is scheduled for release on February 1st.

The Kindle All-Stars are a select group of authors from around the world who donate their work in the name of charity.  All profits from Kindle All-Stars anthology are donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

This week I'll be interviewing four of the Kindle All-Stars who contributed to the Carnival of Cryptids and reviewing the anthology this weekend.

Today, we're starting off with William Vitka, author of "Six Gun Diplomacy" and an NYC-based journalist and author. He's written for, Stuff Magazine, GameSpy, On Spec Magaine, and The Red Penny Papers.


1) Please tell us about your story. 

A human town is haunted by monstrous natives who dwell in the waters off their shores. Two diplomats arrive in an attempt to establish peace between the species … But it all goes very wrong, very fast.

2) What went into designing the cryptids/monsters featured in your story? Though the tone is obviously quite different, would it be incorrect to say there's a bit of Lovecraftian literary DNA in there, as it were? 

Yeah, you could argue that there's a touch of Lovecraft in all of my fiction. Not in terms of tone, as you noted. Lovecraft was my first introduction to Horror fiction. In fact, I can still remember my old man reading The Colour Out Of Space to my brother and I when we were younger – I think I was 9 or 10. Why he thought this was suitable bed time material, I'll never know. But I'm quite glad he did read it to us.

As for the creature design, it seemed logical because of where and when I wanted to tell the tale. I love huge tentacled beasts (Thanks, Lovecraft). Hence our Kraken. Then I wanted to make things even worse. Hah! The best part is that The Kindle All-Stars lets me get away with all that. I wanted to tell a story not just about monsters, but also about a place and a time. An alternate Galveston felt right. Especially since it was the site of the devastating 1900 hurricane. There are more than a few allusions to the storm and even the founders of the city. Lafitte, for example. The history of Resilient takes its cues from the real history of Galveston … To a certain extent, at least.

3) You have a lot of elements here, horror, steam punk, and alternate universe travel. When you were writing the story was there a particular aspect or element you were more concerned with coming across than the others?

My primary concern with writing is: Does it feel possible? Or at least real within the world you're presenting to the reader? I always want my writing to sound like it's some crazy insanity we're telling each other at a bar. Dialogue, action and characterization are always at the forefront of any story. Elmore Leonard's novels are the best teacher for this. Hell, you can go from writing shit dialogue (which is a goddamn plague in Horror and SciFi) to great if you read enough of Leonard's work.

But as for the particular elements in Six-Gun, no. I wasn't concerned that one would overshadow the other. The only reason I wasn't, I think, is because I tried to make sure all of the characters treated it nonchalantly. Time travel? Sure. Alternate Earths? Okey dokey. Cross-species Squidmen? All in a day's work. Jack, Catarina and The Collective are cogs in a bigger universe. They're in their own stories as well. I've written an entire novel about their past and their rise as heroes. My biggest concern with Six-Gun was that the universe itself stayed intact.

4) Part of the mystique of cryptids, one could argue, has to do with their typically mysterious nature. In your story, you've approached the mystery from a different angle, with the "creatures" far less inscrutable than they might have been in a different type of story. Please tell us a bit about your thought process in that regard. 

'Supernatural' explanations are bullshit. In fact, they're not explanations at all. If you've got a monster, a really great monster, and you end your story with something along the lines of: The monster was a ghost the whole time because at one point 300 years ago a girl was sad and she killed herself but now we're gonna have cake because we found the lost jewels that make her happy again … Then I'm going to be pissed off as a reader. You aren't telling me anything. And you've been lying to me the whole time I've been studying your words. My characters and my monsters always, always have some kind of traceable biology and physiology. If I, as the author, can't actually explain what's going on in my story, then I shouldn't be writing it. Thus: "Six-Gun Diplomacy" adheres to its own internal logic.

5) Jack and Catarina are engaging characters who happen to be visitors to the particular setting of this story. Are they characters you've developed for other works and/or do you intend to use them in other works? 

They're two kids from Brooklyn who had to grow up very fast. I mentioned above that they're the stars of a separate novel. Along with Jack's brother, Caleb Svoboda. All three have appeared in their own short stories. And I found them all engaging. So I said to myself: You've got three humans who are Super Heroes, in a way. You better explain that. Their origin story is called EMERGENCE. The cover is being worked on as we speak!

6) Please give us a brief overview of some of your other works.

My first novel, INFECTED (, is about what a journalist would do during the apocalypse. So, far, it's gotten 5-stars across the board. Cherie Priest and Jonathan Maberry endorsed it. It's been a thrill, and everyone should just go buy it! THE SPACE WHISKEY DEATH CHRONICLES ( is a collection of my stories. Several of which feature Jack and Catarina. They're all part of my weird universe building. 

Of course, I have to mention Kindle All-Stars #1 (, because that's what started my wild relationship with all the awesome authors involved.

Thanks, William.

If you want to find more from William Vitka, please visit

Carnival of  Cryptids is available at Amazon.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mr. Beard's Regency Tour Day 22: The Handsome Master of Acids: Sir Humphry Davy

The original version of this post appeared on the English Historical Fiction Authors Blog.

Often when thinking about the late Georgian Era and the Regency Period, it’s easy to fixate on the many cultural and political changes that occurred. Controversial and charismatic men like Lord Byron challenged social mores, and decades of war, in the form of the Napoleonic Wars, presented an ever-present additional stress to a country that was already undergoing rapid change due to industrialization partially facilitated by many other legal and social changes, such as land reform.

Sometimes lost in discussions of aspects of the period such as industrialization is that the late Georgian Era was also a time of impressive scientific progress. It is easy, in the light of modern genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and control of nuclear power to be dismissive of the achievements of these “natural philosophers” who set the stage for the massive advances in science and technology that define the modern human condition such as Sir Humphry Davy.

He was born into a respectable, though untitled and not particularly wealthy family in 1778 in Penzance. As a young child both at home and school, he quickly demonstrated above-average intelligence, concentration, dedication, and attention to detail, all traits that would serve him well. He also had the fortune, while as a student, to have as an early mentor one, Robert Dunkin. Though Mr. Dunkin’s background was more business than anything, he had a keen interest in many areas of burgeoning interest in natural philosophy, and, in particular, inculcated in young Sir Humphry the principles of the experimental method and exposed to him devices such as the Leyden Jar (a sort of primitive capacitor that can store static electricity) and other apparatuses that would kindle an interest in electricity and exploring the principles behind electrochemistry. He would remain friends with and discuss scientific principles with Mr. Dunkin even after leaving his tutelage.

After the death of Sir Humphry’s father in 1794 (he was fifteen at the time), the boy was apprenticed to a surgeon. This proved fortuitous for his growing interest in chemistry, as it gave him a ready supply of reagents with which to experiment, not, if some of the anecdotes and statements of the time are accurate, with the greatest attention to personal safety.

A chance encounter with Davies Giddy, a member of the Royal Society, led to Sir Humphry’s introduction to a number of men of science and engineering. He was given the chance to experiment in more dedicated and well-equipped laboratories and exposure to certain electrochemistry phenomenon that were being actively explored at the time, such as the galvanic corrosion (due to the copper and iron construction) of floodgates in the city of Hayle. Though there was initially some resistance by his surgical master (who wanted Davy to stay as a surgeon in Penzance) Davy would eventually leave Penzance with Dr. Thomas Beddoes, a physician and writer.

In 1798, Sir Humphry joined the Pneumatic Institute, a research center founded by Dr. Beddoes to study the medical applications of newly discover gases (particularly oxygen and hydrogen). Well at the Institute, Sir Humphry spent a particular amount of time studying nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas), but, unfortunately, the potential as anesthesia seems to have escaped him (as it would many others) for several decades. Again, while at the Institute, he continued to not always practice what would we consider modern safe experimental practice and nearly killed himself more than once in the pursuit of knowledge. Indeed, in later years, he damaged his vision due to an accident with a laboratory acid experiment.

He also published several scientific studies and continued his intense work into electrical conductors and galvanic electrochemical reactions. In addition, he had the time to establish connections with a variety of men of influence, both scientific and otherwise, including James Watt (the Scottish master of the steam engine whose work was pivotal to the industrial revolution) and poet and philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

With the establishing of the Royal Institution, a major multi-disciplinary research organization in London, Sir Humphry made the move to London and, as it were, the big time. His youth, handsome looks, and dramatic public lectures that included flashy chemical demonstrations quickly turned his lectures into a popular event. He also qas not one to downplay the perceived importance of his own work, as can be seen from this excerpt from an 1801 lecture on galvanism:

“The relations of galvanism to the different branches of physical science, are too numerous and too extensive to be connected with the preceding details; and, although in their infancy, they will probably long constitute favourite subjects of investigation amongst philosophers, and become the sources of useful discoveries…

The connexion of galvanism with philosophical medicine is evident. The electrical influence in its common form, as excited by machines, has been employed with advantage in the cures of diseases; in a new state of existence it may possibly be possessed of greater and of different powers.”

For several years, Sir Humphry explored electrochemistry and gas chemistry. Among other things, he was the first to isolate magnesium, potassium, boron, and barium. Although he did not discover chlorine (that honor belongs to the Swedish chemistry Carl Scheele), he gave the substance its current name and also proved several important facts about chlorine, such as the fact that pure chlorine contains no oxygen, would have important impacts on the formation of acid-base chemistry.

In 1812, his various contributions to science had earned him a knighthood (thus he finally actually become Sir Humphry). He married and along with his wife traveled to the Continent in 1813. He was also accompanied by his assistant, a man who would go on to be another pivotal figure in science, Michael Faraday. Unfortunately, in later years, Sir Humphry's ambition and suspicion would cause him to have a falling out with Faraday (who, among other things, he accused of plagiarism).

During the next couple of years in Europe, he received a medal from Napoleon (yes, that Napoleon) for his scientific work, demonstrated iodine was an element and proved diamond was pure carbon.

When he returned to England in 1815, he worked on a number of projects, including improved coal mining lamps with wire gauze that would not leak gas into the environment, which, unfortunately may have inadvertently lead to increased mine-related deaths by encouraging workers to probe more deeply into areas of mines they would have previously avoided due to safety concerns.

He also expanded on his acid-base theories to classify acids as substances with metal-replaceable hydrogen groups and bases as substances that formed water and a salt when combined with an acid. These definitions are not as specific as the more modern Lewis and Bronsted-Lowry Acid-Base definitions but were useful enough to help facilitate a considerable amount of brilliant electrochemistry and acid-base chemistry in the decades after Davy’s death.

For those of you unfamiliar with chemistry, please note that the number of realms that electrochemistry and acid-base chemistry touch are vast. Indeed, for the latter, proper understanding of acid-base chemistry is critical for everything from understandings of drugs and biochemistry to industrial manufacturing. Obviously, Sir Humphry did not fully develop our understanding of this area, but he made very important contributions to the areas for others to build on.

In 1819, his continued contributions to science were recognized by the awarding of a baronetcy (an inheritable non-peerage title, unlike knighthoods which are non-inheritable non-peerage titles). It should be noted this put him above, at the time, higher in honors for science work than even the master of physics, Sir Isaac Newton.

He died in 1829 from a heart problem. Although Sir Humphry’s name is less recognizable to many than someone like Michael Faraday, his work was important and influential and echoes even today in the twenty-first century in a wide variety of applications ranging from hybrid cars to sensor design.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Space Pirates, Princesses, and a multi-galaxy federation: An Interview With Science Fiction Author Erik Martin Willén

1) Tell us about your book.

NASTRAGULL: Pirates is a sprawling science fiction epic in the classic style of such masters as E.E. "Doc" Smith, Isaac Asimov, and A.E. Van Vogt, spiced with an edgy modern sensibility. Action-packed and thrilling, it combines elements of military SF, traditional space opera, dystopian sci-fi, and the sociological explorations of writers such as Ray Bradbury and Ursula K. LeGuin. At heart, though, it's a love story -- the tale of two literally star-crossed lovers, and their herculean efforts to move heaven and Earth (sometimes literally) to find each other again and again as circumstances rip them apart.

2) What inspired this book?
What really inspired me to finally write this story was when my younger sister Sofia died from Lupus at the age of 24. This is a story that I've kept coming back to since I was very young. But I never had the patient to write the entire story. At first I finally wrote several parts as screen plays for the motion picture, but what got me writing “seriously” was when Sofia died.

3) Please tell us a bit about your main characters.

Hundreds of characters populate the universe of this novel, though by far the most important are the two main characters, Alec and Alexa. Alec, the Heir Apparent; Young Alec af Hornet is the son of one of the
leaders of the Nastasturus Federation, a more-or-less democratic,human-dominated polity that spans several galaxies. Alec lives in a universe populated not only by humans but also by hundreds of other species of exotic aliens, hybrids, and human-based transgenics, where history can be coherently traced back tens of thousands of years. His is a vibrant, even violent milieu, with thousands of planets and cultures constantly striving to achieve the upper hand in commerce, warfare, and life in general. Quarter is rarely asked, and less often given. Every possible political system and mix of cultural mores has been tried, and universal war has knocked most of the inhabited planets back down into barbarism at least once.

Alec is very much a product of thousands of generations of evolution within this harsh setting. A clever, resourceful young man, he knows what he wants, and is both intelligent and strong enough to get it...usually. He can be as ruthless and cruel as necessary, but this hard-edged facet of his personality is offset by a deep-seated integrity and a firm sense of right and wrong. He also has a strong sense of justice and a penchant for
vengeance, which occasionally overrides his moral imperatives -- as pirate king Zuzack, and others, discover to their pain and sorrow. Alec's is a dominant personality, and he is rarely able to give way on
anything he truly believes in. A passionate individual, Alec is a steadfast friend and tender-hearted lover; but his passion can also transmute into a relentless determination to achieve whatever goals he sets for himself. He's also a natural-born tactician, able to plan and strategize as easily as most people draw breath. As a cadet at military school, he combined these talents to bring a quick end to a local brushfire war, and earned the brevet rank of General as a result. 

As the story opens, he's on his way back to his home planet, Tallas, to graduate and attend officer training school, so that he can fully earn his brevet rank. When the transport he's sharing with his cadet squad is taken by pirates, Alec proves that he's a consummate actor as well, pretending to be cowed by
his captors (to the disgust of his compatriots) until he can manage to escape; only his strong sense of self and desire for revenge help him survive the brutal treatment at the hands of his captors. When he does
manage to escape, with Alexa's help, he rescues and takes with him the former Captain of his transport, Nikko Behl -- along with an emperor's ransom of loot, which he claims as salvage. Later, he proves his leadership skills by recruiting a personal army, leasing a Marengan frigate, and taking off to rescue his captive friends before the pirates kill them -- or worse, eat them.

Alec also has a talent for making enemies, as he proves when he mutilates Zuzack in reprisal for brutally murdering one of his friends and mistreating Alexa, before making off with one of the largest fortunes in the known universe. This sets Zuzack and his brother, Horsa, after Alec and his crew in an obsessive chase that results in a space battle in which millions of people -- most of them innocent civilians -- are killed. Alec also manages to hunt down Alexa, who has been sold to Zoris af Sun, a depraved "artist" who wants to kill Alexa slowly during a cannibalistic ritual -- thus earning Zoris' everlasting enmity as well. During that battle and rescue, Alec is able to hold his own and save his crew by making use of experimental technologies from both Nastasturus and Florencia, a neighboring federation, in an astounding manner that, perhaps, no one else alive in the universe could match.

As the story progresses, Alec becomes aware of an odd voice inside his head that seems to be trying to communicate with him. While he's convinced that he isn't mentally ill, he has no way of what it's trying to tell him. Physically, Alec is young and fit, a fairly standard young human male, if somewhat handsomer than most. He does, however, display a physical trait that was thought to have been eradicated from the human genome thousands of years previously: he has dark blue eyes, a defining characteristic of the terrifying Silver Guard who helped bring civilization low in the last Universal War. Those who know him well believe that it's just a random mutation, but there are tantalizing secrets that Alec af Hornet is not precisely what he seems. And when he falls into the hands of the vile Zoris af Sun, all bets are off...

Alexa, the Pirate Princess; Alexa, a dark-haired, golden-skinned beauty, was sold into slavery by her siblings when she was a young child. Considering the trauma she's been through since, she has little recollection of where she came from or who she was before; all she knows is that her siblings hated her. From the moment that she fell into the hands of the pirate Zuzack and his evil shipmates, she's been violently degraded and mistreated -- while simultaneously being groomed as one of Zuzack's adopted daughters.

Given her background, Alexa is unsurprisingly mercenary in nature: she looks after herself first, her friends second, and that's about it. This uncomplicated world view serves her well until she encounters Alec. For the
first time in her life she falls head-over-heels in love, and it's clear that the feeling is mutual. Despite being under the constant eye of Zuzack and his minions, she and a friend, Nina, help arrange his escape.
In a sense, Alexa is a rough, uncultured female version of Alec. Though physically and mentally strong -- much more so than most -- she lacks the moral compass that usually guides Alec's behavior, and is capable of some truly appalling behavior. She enjoys life when she can, and however she has to...even if that doesn't fit with the cultural traditions of the rest of the universe. She's also remarkably lusty; though to her, sex is little more than a tool and a way to have a little fun. This often puts her crossways with Alec, who considers sex an expression of his deep love for her. It takes him a long while to realize that her reaction to sex is a survival
mechanism that kept her from going insane during the long years of rape and mistreatment after her family sold her into slavery.

Alexa does have some level of morality beyond that which she requires to survive; for example, she refuses to go through with the cannibalistic ritual which would have made her a full member of the pirate crew, and she reats her own slave, Nina, more as a sister (and sometime lover) than as property. But above all else, Alexa is adaptable, at least to the brutal, unpredictable life of the pirate. She does what she has to in order to
survive, whether that means killing someone in battle, or acquiescing to the depraved advances of her adoptive "father." She does stand up for herself when she's capable of doing so, and won't take crap off anyone if she can avoid it; but she's still flexible enough not to shatter herself on the will of anyone physically or politically stronger than she is. This doesn't mean that she isn't willing to get her own back whenever she can arrange it, however.

Ironically, Alexa's adaptability is tested by civilized society. While she's grateful for her rescue, she finds it difficult to fit in -- and to understand what it is, precisely, that Alec and others expect of her. She leaps wholeheartedly into the concept of freedom when Nadia explains it to her, making some terrible mistakes when she tries to assert her personal sovereignty...mistakes that nearly destroy what she's found with Alec more than once. At heart Alexa is still a scared, hurt little girl, so from the outside, her behavior seems erratic at best; but one thing she can never be is tamed, and it's this, among other things, that inexorably draw her and Alec together, over and over again.

4) Please tell us a bit about how you approached your universe/world-building.

I allow for my imagination and creative thinking to take control and I never hold back when I write. I try to avoid what other authors or film makers have created in the past, however, sometimes that can be a challenge. My goal is for the reader to see pictures while reading, through my writing while using their own creative imagination.

5) Please tell us about your literary influences.

What or perhaps whom has influenced my writing most are several great authors (in no particular order) such as; Bernard Cornwell, Simone Scarrow, Stephenie Meyer, Wilbur Smith and Robert Jordan. There are several more but these authors have definitely influenced my work.

6) This book is the first in the series. How many books will be in the series? Please tell us a bit about them.

I've already written the second and the third novel and the complete outline for the entire story. There will be 10 books in this series. The story will take a few different “turns” and on the last paragraph and sentence of part ten the entire story will be combined as one? It’s very different and, I don’t know of any other author who has tried this approach when writing a story with several different episodes.

7) Where can readers learn a bit more about you and your book?

For now the readers can learn more about me and my writing on the Amazon,
Good Reads and ask David – well of course your blog. Eventually I will write
more information about the story development and some about myself in the
future. The book is available on kindle and in January (2013) it will also
be available on paperback.


Thanks, Erik

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Facing Evil Cloaked in Righteousness: An Interview with Historical Fiction Author Anne Sweazy Kulju

Today, I'm talking with Anne Sweazy Kulju about her historical tale of perseverance in the face of a very personal form of evil, The Thing With Feathers.

She's also doing a giveaway for a Nook Book Glowlight e-reader, so please make sure to click on the link after the interview and enter.

1) Tell us about your book.

The Thing With Feathers  a tightly paced story about a young girl in big trouble, in 1927 Oregon. Blair lives on a sparsely-populated area of the coast, she is just sixteen, and she’s pregnant. Life would have been scary enough, but her father is also the town’s fire-and-brimstone Baptist preacher…and he’s Blair’s rapist.

When the youngest son of a wealthy dairy farmer helps Blair, the preacher turns out to be pretty unforgiving, and he spends the better part of three decades reigning hell down upon the farmer’s family, their friends, and anyone else who might oppose him.

As with all tragic heroes, Blair must ultimately save herself. The story has its humorous moments, its heart-ripping times, and several bitter-sweet love relationships. It was written with a design to remind folks there is always hope, even when things seem in their darkest hour, or “in the chillest lands.”

2) What inspired this book?

A vintage photo of a young girl, found during restoration of my 1906 Victorian farmhouse (which is also the setting for the story).

3) When dealing with historical settings, there certainly are a lot to choose from. What was it about turn-of-the-century Cloverdale, Oregon that attracted you?

It seemed to be the time-period when the photo was taken, but it was also the time when Clyde Hudson, a famous Oregon photographer, the man credited with bringing radio to the coast, and from all accounts a wonderful human being, was in his prime. I modeled my hero, Sean Marshall, after him. The fact that I lived in his house made it pretty easy to nail the setting.

4) What primary themes does this book explore?

While there’s breath, there’s hope.
Practice forgiveness.
God expects us to fight for our lives, fight for survival.
Universal-Justice--a belief that when man’s justice fails, which it often does, one should trust God to right the wrongs. *There’s a warning that His justice might take a bit longer than we hope. We should be patient with that.

I hope I succeeded in conveying plenty of Christian themes throughout. I wanted my good characters to be genuinely good people, and I believe they are. At the same time, they had to be realistic--so, my goodness, they’re not Saints; who among us, is?

5) You've described this book at times as a saga. What does that mean to you, and how did it affect the writing of this book?

A saga is merely an epic constructed of prose instead of poetry. Both are written about famous or heroic men and women. The Thing with Feathers is a saga, because it’s prose which follows the trials and tribulations of the same group of heroic men and women, over a period of decades.

I’m not sure the genre distinction did affect the writing of the book, at all. The double-duty genre wasn’t really something I was conscious of while writing. Once I have covered the research well enough for me to “live in my story,” I concentrate on the characters and their respective genuineness, almost to exclusion, because they move my story forward.

6) Do you have an excerpt you'd like to share?

Sure. I really love my Preacher Bowman character. Boy, he’s evil! I set out to create a real bad guy, and I believe I succeeded; Bowman seems to possess not a single, saving, Grace. Here’s one of his scenes:

He’d done this once already this week. He knew it was dangerous. He wasn’t rattlebrained; he might be reckless… But he’d weighed the chance he’d be recognized against the incredible number of firefighting men who came from all over the south, west and further, and swarmed the town of Tillamook. He then considered the propitious number of whores who had descended upon the town in response to all those men. Finally, the squalid room he’d rented was on the opposite side of town, about as far as one could be from the downtown strip, and Bowman was satisfied he would remain unnoticed. Not even Welby knew where he was at the moment. Get a radio so I can contact you whenever I need to. Let the boy keep his pa’s gifts, or plan to replace ’em yourself. Don’t go celebratin’ without my permission…(chug) you ain’t respectable, you ain’t worth a box a‘ hair to me…” he wagged his head from side to side as he silently mimicked Otis Welby in a most unflattering way. A slow smile stretched feline-like across his narrow-lipped maw. He took a good long pull on his brown jug, looked sideways and saw the whore was watching him. Then he took another long chug, that time splashing a little on his mushrooming midsection. He hated Otis Welby. The man had been ordering him around--intimidating him--ever since the Tjaden wedding. Four years of extortion, that’s what it was.

He looked her way again and the whore quickly averted her eyes. But he’d seen enough to know the woman was a little fearful of him. Bowman liked that. It made everything so much more exciting. Tied with her hands to the iron headboard, face down, Bowman had promised her she would not be hurt, but he could see she did not entirely believe him. Yes, there was that fear, that trepidation…my God, how he’d missed that… “Have you ever heard of the Marquis de Sade, my dear?” he asked.
7) Please tell us a bit about your writing background.

A bit is about all that I can tell you about my writing background. I started writing by the seat of my pants following an auto accident that left me with serious injuries. I don’t have an MFA--I don’t even have a B.A., in English. So, I can’t claim any educational background.

As for practical experience, I never worked at a newspaper or magazine. I did a little writing, of newsletters, correspondences, that sort of thing, for a small utility company in California. It’s where I learned to proofread and edit my work. I found it amazing how quickly one could ascend the proverbial corporate ladder, when one could write well. Apparently, I could write well. But, I never wrote anything creative until I was well into my thirties.

I wrote three novels while recovering from injuries, surgeries, and what-not. The first two novels were pretty darned good, I thought, considering neither had received an even cursory edit-job. But, the third was atrocious. I wanted to make darned sure it never saw the light of day as a work ascribed to me, at some future time when I just knew I would be an accomplished author of literary fiction…so I burned it in my woodstove. There was no internet. There were no copies. I saved only a single chapter, which I reworked into a short story of horror fiction called “Not Quite Dead.” That story and another one, “The Party Favor” were included in the anthology Agony in Black. Besides those two short stories, I recently took Honorable Mention in The Source Annual Fall Fiction Contest for my humorous short-short story, “The Dog Sniffer-er.” I also self-published a recipe and local history book for my Bed & Breakfast Inn, but that was decades ago.  So, to be completely candid, I had zero creative writing education, and not a whisper of professional writing in my background--in fact, I never even wrote so much as a short story, before I wrote three novels--two of ‘em good!

I know some authors would hide (or pad) a writing background as thin as mine. But I’m hoping the truth inspires other would-be authors, who I know are out there, to go after a publishing contract. There are so many folks who know in their hearts they can write, but they shrink from going after a writing career because they have no professional standing. I’ll admit, it’s intimidating; I don’t know that I would have done it, if Fate, or whomever, hadn’t interfered and taken my life in a new direction. The truth is, if you can write and you are willing to put in the hard (marketing) work that ALL publishers expect from their unknown authors, you can do it. Whip those ever-important (one-page!) query letters into shape and start submitting your best work to publishers who accept online submissions. A simple internet search can tell you top ones in the country, and a query placed at a professional platform, like LinkedIn, will tell you the ones to stay away from.

8) Please tell us about your other work.

Thank you for asking about my current works. My final edit for Bodie went back to the publisher several weeks early; it took only ten days to incorporate minor changes, additions and the ever-important deletions, which gave my manuscript a nice polish. I have written the promotional copy (back cover trailer), and I would appreciate hearing what you think of it (plus, it will tell you about the book):

“Bad Whiskey, Bad Weather, Bad Men…” BODIE, in the California
desert, was the deadliest town in America’s history.

Lara and Lainy survived foster care and all its horrors, but the experience left them incomplete in that they had no knowledge of the people they came from. Unknowingly, until now, each of them has had a reoccurring dream for more years than they can remember—the same dream. When the girls are regressed by a therapist anxious to publish their story, they learn shocking details about themselves, an unsolved murder in Bodie, California, and a massive cover-up. They want to investigate--but a mining executive can’t allow the “Dream Sisters” to go poking around Bodie, anymore than he could allow the therapist to go public and threaten his thirty-five million dollar deal. Are the “Bad Men from Bodie” really dead? Join Lainy and Lara as they dig up shocking secrets in Bodie. This book is based on a true story--the authors own!

As for my WIP (work-in-progress), Grog Wars, I have to admit, the other manuscript’s final edit has taken precedence. But with only the final type-setting read-through to go on Bodie, I am looking forward to getting back to my protagonists, Burke and Lily. This one is Historical Fiction/Adventure about the first German lager-brewers to come to the Pacific Northwest. It’s a journey which sweeps across three continents, by traveling barely-seaworthy vessels or the savage-infested Oregon Trail, during the four years from 1848 to 1852--a most dangerous time to be a Portlander. I have a short broadcast promotional copy I can leave you with--I hope it piques your interest:

Before there was a Civil War….

They called them Brew Wars, in Milwaukee;  they were the feared River Wars, in Chicago. But in Portland, Oregon, Shanghai Capital of the World, they were the notorious Grog Wars. Brewing here can be murder…

Thank you so much for the interview. I had fun with your questions; I hope your readers enjoy learning some things about me and my books!


Thanks, Anne.

If you'd like to see more from Anne, you can visit her at her website, / or find her at any of the following places:

On January 4th, she'll be guest blogging at the Wise Words Book Blog.

The thing with feathers can be purchased at Amazon.

If you're interested in entering the giveaway for the Nook Book Glowlight, please click here: