Today’s Featured Author – Charles O’Donnell

Author Charles O’Donnell visits my blog today promoting his novel, Shredded: A Dystopian Novel, which came out earlier this year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Last year I retired to write full-time after thirty-five years in engineering and manufacturing—three and a half decades during which almost all of my writing output consisted of technical standards and email. While my career did require a certain facility with language, neither plot nor character development earned me any praise. Not a total loss, though—dealing with people from diverse cultures in all manner of situations gave me insight into human nature, which I try to bring to my writing. And the time I spent in faraway locations such as China and Italy inspired the settings for The Girlfriend Experience and Moment of Conception.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

My list of inspiring writers is long! I tend toward more literary works—Inferno, the one by Dante, not the one by Dan Brown, was a favorite when I was a teen, as were The Odyssey and Moby Dick; later A Clockwork Orange and more recently Freedom and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen made an impression. But it wasn’t until I started reading Dan Brown, John Grisham, Ken Follett and others that I thought I could write a book of my own, perhaps a story as exciting as a Dan Brown thriller if not as literary as Jonathan Franzen. When I got the idea for The Girlfriend Experience about eight years ago, I wrote the first chapter and I was hooked.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

If you had asked me when I was four years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d have said “author,” although at that age I pronounced it “Arthur.” Through grade school, middle school and high school I wrote stories, both for school and for myself, and then I took forty years off to earn a living. I never actually considered myself a “writer” until one day, when attending a writing workshop at a local college, I asked the workshop leader what advice he would give to a non-writer who wants to write. He said, “Well, first, if you’re writing, then you’re a writer.” On that day, I awarded myself the title of “writer” retroactively to age four.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

As much as possible! A writing instructor once told me “I write to erase myself in the creative act.” For me, that means allowing myself, sometimes forcing myself, to explore every aspect of every situation in my novels, whether or not the result of that exploration makes it into the final draft. Since the author reveals to the reader what he or she thinks about the world, the act of writing forces the author to actually think about the world, often with surprising results. I think that’s what makes writing such an intensely personal experience. The hazard, of course, is that the author, by injecting his or her viewpoint into the story, may intrude on the reader’s experience, rather than leaving the reader alone with the narrative. Avoiding that intrusion is one aspect of writing that I find most challenging—one wrong word, one ham-handed exposition, one preachy moment, and the spell is broken.

Please tell us about your current release.

Shredded: A Dystopian Novel went live in April, 2017. This is my first full-length sci-fi novel, set in the not-too-distant future, a time when almost all human activity takes place in Virtual Reality and privacy is nonexistent. It’s the story of Grace, a recovering drug and sex addict who’s managed to stay clean for four years since being shocked straight, having lost custody of her son Dylan to her sister Donna. She’s determined to get herself respectable, to win Dylan’s respect, but also to regain control over her life, never again to become a slave to her addictions.

One day Grace discovers that her life data—words, images, and events recorded indelibly in the Worldstream—have been woven into a lifestream, a full-immersion VR experience. It goes viral, with millions of perverted stream riders are getting their thrills reliving Grace’s sordid past. The thought of her life being invaded by strangers offends her need to be in control, but worse than that, Grace discovers that Dylan is experimenting with riding lifestreams, and is only days away from stumbling onto the past that Grace has so carefully kept from him.

Grace finds a shredder, an expert in the ways of the Worldstream, to remove her lifestream, deleting every last bit of her life data since the day she was born. Her life will be hers again, but she’ll be outside of the Worldstream, a non-person, cut off from Dylan and everyone else she cares about—and she can never go back.

What inspired you to write this book?

Technological and social trends seem to be toward a society in which we interact less and less with one another in person, while paradoxically sharing more and more intimate details of our lives with utter strangers. At the same time, with the rapid development of augmented and virtual reality, we may be only years away from virtual experiences that are indistinguishable from real life. Might we see a future, not too far off, in which the virtual world is the venue not only for leisure, but also for work and social interaction? And in such a world, how would we protect our privacy, when all of our actions, words, perhaps even our thoughts, enter the virtual reality stream? While I’m excited about the possibilities, I fear the side effects. Shredded is my exploration of the promise as well as the hazards of these trends, which seem unstoppable.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

I really enjoyed writing Grace—generally speaking, I enjoy writing female characters more than male characters. In The Girlfriend Experience, it was Gina, the call girl who gets tangled up in a web of espionage; in Moment of Conception, it was Ronni, the brilliant and beautiful political operative. Grace is the first female lead character in any of my books, and I’m happy with how she came out—she’s strong, complex, and likeable. All that said, if I had to pick a favorite in Shredded, it would be Raúl, the cynical Worldstream master. I put a lot of myself into him.

The only characters I dislike are the ones that I’ve written as unlikeable. Andrew, Donna, and Joan from Shredded fit that description. But I don’t dislike all my unlikeable characters!

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

In chapter 35, “Empathy Setting,” Grace has reached an impasse in her attempts to shred her life. Seemingly out of options, Grace makes arrangements for the distribution of her belongings after her death, and records a final message to Dylan. Climbing to the roof of her building, she approaches the edge, contemplating her own destruction. Grace’s tortured conversation with herself, imagining the impact that her death will have on Dylan, is a portrait of a woman determined to master her own fate, who nevertheless is at the end of her rope.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

Shredded is the first book of a planned three-book series. Shredded tells Grace’s story, from the time she discovers that her life has been hacked to the time she resolves that crisis. The second book, with the working title of Shade, continues Grace’s story as she navigates through the secret world of the Shade, outlaws who have cut themselves off from the connected world. In the third book of the series, we can expect Grace to reassert herself in the connected world to champion the cause of personal liberty and the right of individuals to choose what to share and what to keep private.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Just based on the number of times I’ve read it, that would have to be A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. I read it for the first time when I was nineteen, and I read it again for the fourth time last September. But the book that made the deepest impression on me was Moby Dick. I’m still not sure why, other than the brilliant writing and visceral imagery, and I’ve only read it once, but when asked to name my favorite books, Moby Dick is always at the top of the list.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m working my way through the canon of virtual-reality-themed fiction, starting with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, both of which I enjoyed but found a little too tech-heavy. I’m reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer, in the same genre but distinctly more literary than either Ready Player One or Snow Crash.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I’m the eighth child from a family of fifteen. Whenever I mention that fact, the reaction is astonishment followed by a long and predictable list of questions. I have them printed out, with answers, citations, and cross-references, on a handy laminated sheet.

Book Blurb

How do I erase my existence from the mind of God?

Grace, a civil servant with a sordid past, wakes up one morning to find that she’s a viral sensation: her life has been hacked, woven into a lifestream, a full-immersion, 3-D, virtual reality experience. Knowing that she’s powerless to keep thrill-seeking stream riders from reliving her life, fearing that her teenage son, Dylan, might stumble upon her explicit lifestream, Grace finds a shredder, an expert in the ways of the Worldstream, the infinitely detailed record of every event, person, and thing. He’ll erase her lifestream and all of her data since the day she was born. Her life will be hers again, but she’ll be outside of the Worldstream–and she can never go back.

About the Author

Charles O’Donnell writes thrillers with high-tech themes in international and futuristic settings. His works include The Girlfriend Experience, an espionage thriller and the first book in the Matt Bugatti series; Moment of Conception (Matt Bugatti #2), a political and medical thriller; and Shredded: A Dystopian Novel, a cautionary tale about the potential for technology to either augment reality or to replace it entirely, and about the erosion of privacy in a world in which everything is shared online, and nobody reads the terms and conditions. 

Charles recently retired from a career of thirty-five years in engineering and manufacturing to write full-time, drawing on his years of experience leading technology teams in many countries on three continents to create compelling settings in faraway lands.

Charles lives with Helen, his wife and life partner in Westerville, Ohio.

You can find out more about Charles on his website.

You can purchase Shredded on Amazon.

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Today’s Featured Author – Michael Bayer

Today I welcome another Texas author, Michael Bayer, to my blog. Michael released his debut novel, The Absconded, in November.  You can purchase it on Amazon.

Interview

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I always had an artistic side.  I tried to draw, but I never could get on paper to match what was in my head.  I played the violin for a few years in grade and middle school, but my high school didn’t have an orchestra, so I needed something new to do.  Then I had an assignment to write a scene using the ten or twenty vocabulary we were learning that week.  I still remember my English teacher’s exact words after I read it aloud, “Herm, that was beautiful.”  I’m pretty sure that was the seed that started it all.

Over the years I would get complements for my writing, usually term papers in college and grad school.  Whenever any writing was needed for work, I would jump at it.  It would take over twenty-five years before I could do anything beyond that, but that’s where my wife comes in.  When we moved to Texas for her career, she insisted I start writing full time.  Just when I thought I couldn’t love her any more, she shoulders the financial burden so I can pursue a dream.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I know some people say it’s the moment you start writing, but for me it was when I pressed the publish button and it became available for anyone to purchase.  It had taken a little over three years to get to that point, but felt so good when I finally clicked that button, though with some trepidation.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I started a short story, but that was mainly to keep my writing skills up while I was working on the nuts and bolts side of self-publishing.  The downside to doing it all yourself is the need to step away from your writing to work on the business side of it.  Sometimes I can jump right back in to writing, but most of the time it takes a couple of days to get back into the flow of the story.  But I’m happy to say I’ve started the sequel to The Absconded.  It starts off a few months after book one ended and is a continuation of the story.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I write full-time, but not the full eight hours a day I’d like to.  By the time I get my wife off to work and daughter off to school, it’s almost 9:00 AM and I haven’t even had my breakfast yet.  Which is fine, because I’m not hungry until around 9:30 AM anyway.  Once that’s done, it’s off to the word mines!

I tend to write in bursts.  Thirty minutes of staring or pacing followed by ten minutes of furious writing, followed by on the fly editing, re-wording, deleting, doubting and occasional cursing.  When I’m really stuck, I go and spend time with my bearded dragon.  He’s a good listener but doesn’t hold back his opinions.  This all goes on until about 3:30 PM when it’s time for me to pick my daughter up from school.  That’s when I worry about making dinner.  I rarely do any work in the evening, unless I have an inspired idea.  I’ve learned that if I don’t write it down almost immediately, I’ll forget it.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

There are two things I love about being a writer. The first is when someone reads a scene or a chapter, and completely gets what I wrote.  They have a clear image in their head of the characters and settings.  It’s not easy putting what’s in your head onto the page, but when that happens it’s magical.  The second is when someone tells me how much they love a character.  To have spent so much time crafting and giving them a personality, mannerisms, quirks and a history is not easy, but so satisfying to hear someone, other than me, say how much they love that person.

The worst part is deleting scenes.  The Absconded is about 107,000 words and that was after I trimmed about 35,000 words.  There were scenes I spent weeks writing, and absolutely loved.  But in the end, they didn’t serve the story and slowed down the pace, so they needed to go.  It was rough, but in the end I was glad.  The story was much better, much tighter.  Whomever said you must be prepared to kill your darlings was right.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

The Absconded was written flat out.  I had been trying to write it for about ten years, so when I was finally able to dedicate myself to writing, it just came pouring out.  That’s why I needed to trim 35,000 words from it as well.

Unfortunately, I am not having the same experience with the next book.  While I came up with the basic idea for book 2 (and book 3) while editing The Absconded, I needed to outline the story and character arcs.  That took about three months, but once done it felt great to start writing those people again.

How did you come up with the title?

I’ve always liked the sound of the word, absconded.  It’s a fancy word for stealing and would always conjure up images of Ocean’s Eleven and Mission: Impossible type heists.  It’s also similar to abducted, but with a big difference.  You abduct a person, but abscond an object.  Having someone think of a person as an object, a thing, is quite unnerving to me.  You haven’t just taken away their humanity, you don’t even acknowledge it.  Right off the bat, it sets the tone of a person, or in this case an entire alien race.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

More than you think based on what’s described in the book.  I read all I could on theoretical physics and scoured NASA and other websites for space travel, living in space, and long distance expeditions.  Now I had to apply that to an alien race and decide how they would resolve those issues.  And this became an interesting rabbit hole for a couple of months.  How would an alien species design their ship?  What would be a priority to them?  Now I had to create the alien’s history and how they evolved because culture determines priorities, so that required researching different cultures on our planet.  Once all that was decided, building their ship was easy.  Well, on paper it was easy.

Another rabbit hole was designing the alien’s biological research area and procedures.  You’re abducting aliens, but how do you know they aren’t contagious to you?  I needed to create a combination quarantine/medical research facility and all that encompassed, but make it alien and believable.  And place it on a ship where real estate is at a premium.

Very little of the technical aspects are explained in the book, but I’m hoping to describe at least some of it in to the sequels.  It was a lot of fun and I’d like to explain some of the science and logic behind the tech, but only if it pertains to the story.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

The Absconded is the first in a series.  How many books in total remains to be seen, but I was thinking of at least three.  It took me a couple of months to plot it out and have everyone’s character arcs.  I don’t have a firm title for the second book, but it picks up about three or four months after the end of The Absconded.  The survivors of the first book (yes, I am being coy for those who haven’t read it) are now in limbo.  They’re all far from home and some are wondering whether they have a home to return to while others are searching for their purpose, their function in life.  Everyone’s definition of home and purpose is different and the story is their journey to find it, all while being hunted by the aliens who originally captured them.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

The hardest scenes were describing the settings on the ship, specifically where all of the aliens that have been collected are kept.  Making it foreign, yet similar, was a challenge and required quite a few re-writes.  My first attempt was pages of settings and descriptions and was boring, almost to tears.  Thankfully I was able to find right balance of action, character and setting.  I think the first year of writing was finding my voice, my style.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I need a dedicated place to work.  Someplace I can go and my mind says, “Okay, playtime is over.”  My wife’s work requires a lot of conference calls, so it made sense for her to use the home office.  Once she closes the doors, she can tune out the rest of the house.  Since we never use our formal living room, I converted it into a second office.  It has a desk and an old sofa, but that’s just so the cats can hang out in there while I write.

But I could easily pick any spot and label it my work area.  What really matters to me is getting into the right frame of mind for what I’m writing, and that requires music.  Lots of music.  I have about 60 GB of music on my computer (about half of my CD collection) and there’s always something playing when I’m writing.  If it’s an action scene, I need a song to give it a cadence and rhythm.  If it’s a character scene, then it needs to be appropriate for the scene.  Even when creating a character one of my first decisions is what type of music would be appropriate for them, what type would they like, and I listen to that incessantly while creating their history and description.  For me, music is more important than where I write.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

In addition to music, my writing is fueled by green tea.  Dragonwell, to be specific.  On average, I have five cups a day.  Anything else I snack on is whatever I find in the kitchen.  It ranges from an apple to carrots to chocolate cake.  But the tea is required and sometimes supersedes lunch.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m reading two books at the moment.  Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli.  I like keeping abreast of science and this is a great refresher on the basics of Einstein’s theory of relativity and other advances in physics.  It also goes into the history that led to the discoveries and theories.  I find it fascinating how one little observation, a moment of curiosity can lead to a discovery that reshapes how we view the world and universe around us.

The other book is Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  Mexico City has banned vampires.  Just think about that for a moment.  That means vampires are so ubiquitous and intelligent that you can ban them from a city.  That says a lot about the world of the novel and immediately caught my attention.  I’m only a couple of chapters in, but the world building and characters have me completely hooked.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

First up is Tom Clancy.  He made technical jargon and events utterly fascinating.  He described the explosion of a nuclear bomb in vivid detail, both the physics of it and how it affects the environment, and made it riveting.  He also managed to juggle so many characters in his novels and I never was confused.  I would love to know how he managed that.

Second would be Aaron Sorkin.  He’s a master of writing conversation.  The first few seasons of the West Wing are fantastic.  He made smart people with opposing view points arguing so engrossing.

Book Blurb

abscondedUnfortunately for Scott, aliens exist.  Snatched from Earth, he finds himself added to their collection of creatures gathered from throughout the universe.  His cage is a window to the wondrous varieties of life, and the atrocities that can be inflicted upon it.  Atrocities that are clues of what awaits him.

Nearby is Kaliria, a furred being that’s equal parts wild and wily.  A long, torturous captivity has filled her with a righteous rage.  She spends her days alone, simmering in her cramped confinement, pining for the fields and forests of her world.  Pining for companionship.

While happenstance makes Kaliria and Scott neighbors, it’s desperation that makes them allies.  In order to survive, they must overcome each other’s language, culture and mistrust, all while keeping their interactions hidden from their captors.  And if they succeed, there’s still one more obstacle to surmount — escaping an alien ship traveling through space.

About the Author

michael-bayerbwMichael C. Bayer lives in North Texas with his family consisting of two humans, two reptiles and four felines. At the urging of the humans, he quit his job to follow a life long dream. He combined his love of science, knack for telling tall tales and decades of daydreaming, and began to write. The Absconded is his first novel.

You can check out Michael’s Facebook page (a work in progress) or check out his Amazon Author Page.

You can purchase The Absconded on Amazon.

Excerpts from Books Released in 2016

In 2016, I hosted 52 authors on my weekly Featured Author spot (to sign up for 2017, contact me) and quite a few more authors for book tours or new release announcements. Since I hope many people received new tablets or e-readers this past holiday season, I thought I would post some excerpts of the books that came out in 2016.

I have sorted them by genre and included just the first few paragraphs of the excerpt. If it intrigues you, read more by clicking the link. A link to purchase the book is included with the rest of the excerpt. Please enjoy! (And if you are an author and want to be featured, please let me know!)

Fantasy

Elves: Battle at Baader Hill by Danny Williams

Aken slipped out from behind the hedge. He felt naked as only intermittent darkness cloaked his movement. He wondered if going in a straight line would be better or trying to sneak to the objective by going from shadow to shadow. Just then a figure moved out from the hedge and he came face to face with a mercenary. But the flickering firelight revealed him to be a boy about his own age. Fear and surprise glistened in his face. For a moment Aken thought he recognized him as one of his school friends “Kill him!” buzzed Merlin’s voice in Aken’s head.

Aken’s sudden reaction to Merlin’s orders to draw his sword prompted the other boy to action. He pulled his own sword and swung it overhand in an attempt to cleft Aken in twain. Fortunately, Aken was quick to mostly block the blow with his own blade which caught Aken on the top of the head with enough force to draw blood. The pain was sharp and at the same time terrifying because there was someone at arm’s length trying to kill him. Aken swung his sword in a clumsy arc that glanced harmlessly off of the boy’s padded shoulder. Blood trickled down Aken’s face from the cut on his scalp; his breath was heavy and fast. Aken blocked another wild swing from the boy and countered with a slash that counted. Aken had swung this sword hundreds of times in practice and it had never felt like it did when the sword cut through actual flesh. The boy let out a scream as the blade cut into his neck, but not deep enough. Aken knew that all the commotion was sure to flush the other mercenaries. (To read more, click here.)

The Circle of Candles by Jessica Rowan

circle-of-candlesGrey wasn’t a young dog. That’s not to say that he was old, certainly not, but he frequently nodded off in front of the television, his joints ached a little more than he would have liked and he definitely preferred to sleep uninterrupted through the night. None of this would stop him from protecting Amy, of course. Nothing would ever stop him from protecting Amy.

So when this not-young but certainly-not-old dog was roused in the middle of the night, he felt just a little bit grumpy. He pulled himself up out of his basket to pace the attic room, tail moving low and slow. He pressed his nose to the wooden floor and sniffed back and forth, casting a furtive glance at the bed. Amy was fast asleep as usual, her tousled hair escaping in blond curls from the top of the duvet, her breathing deep and regular. (To read more, click here.)

Paranormal Romance

Ariel: The First Guardian by Sydney Scrogham

I never wake up and think today’s the day I’m going to get dumped.

February wind chills my shoulders, and I tug the pink and blue patterned quilt snug around me and keep walking. The quilt is soft under my fingertips, smoothed from years of rubbing in my mother’s absence. One of the pink polka dot squares is frayed and flapping free.  I could wear a coat, but it’s a jab against my father to sneak out in just a quilt. He thinks he can control me, but he can’t. He especially can’t control who I’m going to meet. Ryan, a.k.a. saintly pastor’s kid, is the first human being to make me feel like I’m made of more than slime.

The trail under my feet is brown and well-worn from countless walks to the river.  Yellowed grass struggles to survive on either side of my path. My knee-length floral print dress ripples around my legs and my exposed skin prickles where the wind bites. I hate flowery anything. Just seeing my reflection in clothes so feminine puts cinderblocks in my lungs. But this was mom’s hand-me-down. I wish she could’ve met Ryan. He’s reserved his whole day for me today. I can’t stop the stupid smile that smooths over my mouth. Maybe I’ll get kissed for the first time—but do I really want that? (To read more, click here.)

Romance

After the Pain (Latter Rain Series Book 1) by Adrienne Thompson

ATP2_smMy tea cup rattled on its saucer at the sound of his voice. I didn’t dare look up at him as I set the cup down and forced myself not to rush to him and wrap my legs around his waist.

“Thank you, August. Want some tea?” Ms. Dorcas asked.

“Yes, ma’am, I’d love some,” he replied, and then he did something that made my entire body stand at attention; he sat right next to me on the loveseat. From that point on all I could do was sit there and remind myself to breathe as my body temperature began to slowly rise. I shoved my unsteady hands under my thighs and fixed my eyes on the floral-patterned rug beneath my feet. I could smell his sweat, a scent that was beginning to become both familiar and appealing to me, and though I kept my eyes away from him, the image of his face dominated my thoughts. (To read more, click here.)

Science Fiction

Hero, Book 1 of The Hero Rebellion by Belinda Crawford (Book 2 came out in 2016)

It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.

The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.

Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon. (To read more, click here.)

No Net by Noah Nichols

NoNetFCTo her, the glow of the screen was intoxicating. Undeniably addicted, she was glued to her phone almost like an infant would be to its mother’s breast. Anyone who became attached to their device of choice simply couldn’t detach the way a child could. It was a phenomenon that truly overtook the lives of the vast majority.

Twenty-eight-year-old Scott Hadaway was presently being ignored by his mildly younger wife, Gwen, who was comfortably tucked in bed, blissfully unaware of anything in three-dimensional space. Digitally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, her entire being belonged to the black mirror.

“I just don’t understand how you constantly have to have that thing right up to your face,” he said angrily. (To read more, click here.)

Suspense

Jilo by J.D. Horn

“Thank you, Pastor,” Jesse’s mama said, placing her hand on his shoulder. Pastor Jones looked at her, Bible still held high, seeming to deliberate whether or not he should shrug her off and carry on. “I do so appreciate you coming out today,” May added in a sincere tone. Jesse knew his mama, though, and despite her calm demeanor, he knew she’d heard enough. The preacher had been given more than enough time to speak of wheat and chaff and wise virgins with well-trimmed wicks. The look on her face was the one she used when placating anyone in authority—usually the buckra, but occasionally one of their own. “We need to be getting the babies and the old folk out of the sun before one of them falls ill.”

The young man searched her face for a moment, then acquiesced. “Thank you, sister,” he said, taking a step back from the head of the grave. (To read more, click here.)

A Flash of Red by Sarah K. Stephens

afor-front-cover-comp-high-resAnna’s heart skipped a beat in a wave of involuntary fear. There were only two eggs in the refrigerator.

Five minutes before, Anna came down the stairs, perfumed and fully dressed, ready to begin her day. She would make pancakes for her husband, who was still asleep in their bedroom. She would wash fresh raspberries to put on top. She would lay the table with care. All of this to set a pattern of comfortable predictability for Anna, ensuring the day would unfold in a way she could control. But now, everything was skewed by yet another ordinary situation somehow turned inexplicable in Anna’s life. Or at least she preferred to see these blips in her daily horizon as having no reasonable explanation, because the most reasonable explanation of all was unacceptable.

She’d checked last night before going to bed–everything she needed was there. A full carton of eggs, their twelve white orbs nestled neatly in the divots on the side of the refrigerator door. Anna always took them out of their cardboard container after returning from the grocery store and moved them lovingly to their designated place. So where had they gone? (To read more, click here.)

Historical Romance

The Judas Pledge by Margaret Brazear

Her plan was put on hold indefinitely when one morning a messenger arrived on horseback asking to see Richard.  The man seemed to be in a panic and Bethany ordered refreshments for him, but he refused to tell her his message; that was for His Lordship’s ears only.

A few minutes after he had gone, Richard came to join his wife in their bedchamber where she sat on the bed, wondering why the messenger had been so secretive. Her heart sank when she saw he was buckling a sword at his waist.  He strode across the room and took her face in his warm hands, then they dropped to her shoulders and he lifted her to her feet.

“King Edward is dead,” he announced. “Jane Grey has been proclaimed Queen in London.” (To read more, click here.)

Historical Novel

Trade Winds to Meluhha by Vasant Davé

trade windsSwells higher than a man’s height rocked Captain Paravar’s ship. His sailors sniggered as Sam sat at the base of the mast, gripping it like a child hugging its mother. Although he was used to the howling desert winds, he had never heard such ominous rumbling every time the lightning stabbed the darkness. The waves slapped the vessel whose woodwork screeched eerily, making Sam wish he could shut his ears just like his eyes.

Had fate saved him from execution only to drown him at sea? (To read more, click here.)

Young Adult

Ignominy – Chapters of Chargin by MRoyale

Chagrin – The intense feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or disconcerting events.

When Mr. Aggressive met Ms. Passive (Ace and Ms. Phoenix), it was an all-out get-down-with-ya-bad-self smoking and drinking, do-not-tell kind of party. Soon thereafter, Roxie was born. She was a tiny, sick looking baby at the time of birth. See, Ms. Phoenix hardly ever took care of herself during her pregnancy. How could she?  Especially with all of the mental, emotional, and physical abuse she tolerated from Ace. She barely ate and never took her prescribed prenatal vitamins. She refused to receive the proper medical care she needed when she was pregnant. Ms. P seemed to be hiding bruises and ugly black eyes, under huge designer sunglasses, from all the doctors—knowing that they would alert authorities. Soon thereafter, an unplanned Alex was born. (To read more, click here.)

Today’s Featured Author – Adam Thielen

Please welcome author Adam Thielen to my blog. His debut novel, Visceral, came out in July. You can find it on Amazon. It is on Kindle Countdown as of today.

Interview

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I actually started writing before I was a teenager.  My first original story put to paper (well digital paper), was written as a Sophomore in high school.  I continued writing short stories through college, but then gave that up to attempt a novel.  It took several tries and over a decade of projects before finishing Visceral.  I don’t really consider myself a writer.  Maybe once I’m successful.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I don’t think I could write without doing some form of planning.  I at least have to write out a list of significant developments.  For Visceral, I wrote a list of events, even a few blurbs to remind myself what I was doing.  For my next project, I will be doing a more formal outline.  It’s no good getting halfway into a book and being unsure where to go next.  That being said, I wasn’t able to stick entirely to my list.  It had to evolve as I wrote what the characters would actually do in the situations presented.

Please tell us about your current release.

Visceral is a straightforward story with a large mix of supernatural and cyberpunk elements.  Most of the focus is on dialogue and action rather than narration or description.  There are four protagonists, each with a kind of specialty.  Circumstances bring them together, and what starts as a somewhat simple job turns into a fight against multiple adversaries.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m a big fan of cyberpunk, especially in the gaming world.  I also wanted to contribute to vampire fiction something closer to the comic book and movie character “Blade” to counter all the “Edwards”.  Those familiar with role-playing video and tabletop games will see a lot of familiar themes.

How did you come up with the title?

Visceral is how I want the scenes to be conveyed to the reader.  Some are violent, some a bit gory.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I had to do a little information technology research, but that’s been my day job for a long time.  What I really needed to research was the Old West.  I made several errors in my initial draft with how I treated the region depicted around the year 1900.  You get used to a lot of cliches from Westerns, and if you look into the actual history, you find that much of the United States did not fit those molds.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

No.  However, most character traits, expressions, and voice were pieced together from experiences with others.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

Tamra.  She’s black, she’s a woman, and she’s a badass.  But not like a Chuck Norris badass.  She doesn’t shoot the wings off of a fly, or flip kick anyone (sorry), but she’s confident, competent, smart, and willing to do what is needed.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

Confession: I had to Google ‘black moment writing’.  As soon as I read it, I knew what it meant.  It’s sort of a cliché in movies and TV, and I try to avoid using it.   There are times of peril though.  Early in the story, one of the characters calls it quits and it seems like the band is breaking up.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

I’m working on a prequel novella that will feature two of the vampires twenty years prior to the events in Visceral.  It’s going to be more exposition and brooding noir, and a little less action and blood.  I hope after that to write a sequel to Visceral taking place twenty years after it that will be written in a similar style as the world continues to evolve.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

There are scenes where Taq, a powerful mage, enters the Ethereal plane, a place that is much different than the physical world, and it was difficult to describe it in a way that was effective and clear.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

Taq is the mage, and I’m always the mage. I want magical or super powers.  It’s the type of character I always choose when playing a game, and most of my stories feature a magic user of some type.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

Foundation’s world created by Isaac Asimov.  Space travel, robots, mental powers, what is not to love?

Book Blurb

visceralWhen the vampire council sends its enforcer Matthias to investigate a suspicious young nightstalker, he discovers that her attempts to turn a human mage have resulted in a deadly fiend.

With time working against him, Matthias seeks help from a talented but reckless young mage and a mysterious neuro with her own agenda. But the more they discover about the fiend, the more they threaten to unearth secrets that the powerful will kill to keep buried.

Enter a world transformed by a great economic collapse into a corporatocracy governed by executives, their boards, and appointed councils. A world where man has learned to exploit the ethereal plane to subjugate the laws of nature. Where vampires have emerged to carve a place within civilization. A world ripe for the taking by those with the right resources.

Visceral is a dark and gritty delve into a cyberpunk world that does not give you a chance to catch your breath. Filled with action, dark satire, and occasional humor, Visceral is a fast-paced urban fantasy taking place in the near future, present day, and even the old west. With a climax both satisfying and appalling, this urban fantasy jaunt will sate your lust for blood.

About the Author

adamAdam Thielen was born and raised in a dusty Kansas town. He started writing at an early age, and would finish his first novel two decades later.  His writing is inspired by movies, television, tabletop games, and video games. He holds a degree in Philosophy and earns a living in the IT field.

You can purchase Visceral on Amazon.

 

Today’s Featured Author – Jerry A. Young

Today, please welcome author Jerry A. Young. His latest book, Natural Enemies, came out in July.

Want a free copy? Click here to see if you have won a copy of his  e-book from Amazon.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and now live in Westerville, a small suburb of Columbus. After travelling the country on business, I am now retired and enjoying staying close to home.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I really got into reading hard science fiction right out of high school. After about three trips in a row to the bookstore and not finding the type of book I loved, I started writing my own. That was the first draft of “Natural Enemies” which is the book I wish someone else would have written for me to read.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Well my characters wouldn’t be nearly so witty if not for me lending them my sense of humor. So they all have a little of me, but mainly the secondary characters are based a lot on some of the characters I have known, either well or just met them briefly and remembered them as being interesting.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes Natural Enemies is the first book in a series or trilogy titled “Evidence of War” and I am about six chapters into the second book, titled Bonded By Fire. Also working on the third book in my “Jack Barrett Mystery” series.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

In a writing class I taught years ago at OSU I advised my students that the only person whose opinion about your writing you should listen to is the editor or agent who is currently considering it. If they reject it, forget them and go to the next one.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I don’t outline, I just create an interesting first scene or premise and an interesting character and start following them. I often don’t know how the book will end exactly, only generally, and I’m finding my way to the end just like they and the readers are. But I can’t write the first word until I have a title!

Please tell us about your current release.

Natural Enemies was just published on July 13 on Amazon KDP Select. It is about first contact between humans and aliens in space in the year 2081. As difficult as that first contact will be, it is greatly complicated by the experiences of both races prior to making that first contact. All they have found in their explorations are the ruins of planets destroyed by some species from space. So they are armed and mistrusting. Complicating that even further is the alien’s resemblance to an ancient, natural enemy from our prehistoric days!

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

In the summer I write in my summer office, which is a table set up in the garage. My little dog Topper guards me against the passing joggers and solicitors. In cold weather my office is in the basement which we have finished.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

My all time favorite book, in fact the only book I have read more than once, is “Ringworld” by Larry Niven.

What book are you reading right now?

I can’t read fiction while writing fiction, so I stick to nonfiction, historical books. Right now I am reading Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. For any writers looking for inspiration to set up their writing space, I highly recommend looking at her webpage!

Book Blurb

youngBy late in the 21st century the invention of the Gravity Drive has made faster-than-light travel possible and inexpensive. But as humans explored the planets circling the stars around them, they soon discovered civilizations which had been wiped out. At first assuming they had destroyed themselves, they soon made the chilling discovery they had instead been destroyed by invaders from space.

Now Earth had two choices: arm themselves for protection, or retreat to our own planet and hope we wouldn’t be noticed by these marauding aliens. Choosing the first course of action, defensive installations and bases were installed in near orbit, the moon, and throughout our own solar system. Huge warships called Star-Guardians were also constructed. But one Star-Guardian, named “Ambassador,” was set aside for peaceful contact. Staffed with experts in all endeavors of human knowledge, it is commanded by Admiral Claude Hooker. Should contact with an alien race occur, it is the job of the “Ambassador” and it’s crew to first try to establish peaceful relations.

In 2081 a Restan ship named the “Tandew” discovers the human mining colony on Tau Ceti 3. These aliens are also wary of their first encounter, having also discovered the ruins on worlds they’ve explored and come to the same conclusion.

Will the “Ambassador” be able to intercept this alien ship and offer peace before other humans attack them and start the war they both fear, yet expect?

And when human and Restan meet, what will be their reactions when they see an ancient, natural enemy from the time when both preyed upon the other?

About the Author

Jerry A. Young is the author of four non-fiction books for children, including MOVIE MONSTERS FROM OUTER SPACE and MYSTERIOUS MONSTERS: REAL OR UNREAL? by School Book Fairs.He has also published several articles in local and national magazines.

E-books include “The Alien of Applewood Lane,” a mystery/suspense book for children, and the adult mystery/suspense thrillers “Unturned Stones” and “Uncommon Enemies.” Recently released the new science fiction novel “Natural Enemies, First Contact: 2081.”

Current projects are another adult mystery/suspense novel, “Unkept Promises” and for children, “Return of the Alien of Applewood Lane.”

Jerry lives in central Ohio with his wife and little dog Topper. Jerry may be reached directly by email. You can also follow him on Facebook.

You can purchase Natural Enemies on Amazon. Or click this link and see if you have won a free copy of Jerry’s book.

Today’s Featured Author – Belinda Crawford

Please welcome author Belinda Crawford to my blog. Riven, the second book in her The Hero Rebellion series, will be coming out in September. Today she is sharing an excerpt of Hero, Book 1 of The Hero Rebellion. You can purchase Hero on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

Excerpt

It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.

The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.

Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon.

She’d seen all the holotours, interrogated all of the guides, but she’d never thought the city would be so… there wasn’t a word big enough to describe it. Surrounded by its sprawling mass of satellite ‘burbs, Cumulus City rose thirty thousand feet through the atmosphere, an endless patchwork of grey and green connected by the silver threads of bridges and the restless movement of the skylines.

Below, spires shot planetside and massive generators kept the city and its ‘burbs aloft, while giant tethers prevented it from drifting with the winds.

The city was her ticket, her chance, to see Jørn, to explore the planet’s surface without minders or gadgets or her mum looking over her shoulder. She rubbed the dull plasteel bracelet wrapped around her wrist. Or so she hoped.

She breathed deep and hugged her bare arms against the chill as freedom came closer and closer on the horizon.

‘Hero.’ The Lamb, the latest in her bevy of minders, stood in her peripheral vision clutching a heavy coat, the wind flattening her white-blonde curls against her head. Her mouth was pulled tight and her big green eyes were wide, almost swallowing her face. The way she eyed Fink looked to Hero as if she were waiting for him to flash his fangs and pounce, and she held herself like one of the old Terra creatures Hero had named her for, stiff and tense, leaning away from the ‘pard as if the extra millimetre would save her if he did. A brave lamb, wary but not scared.

Hero wondered at where Tybalt –butler, tutor, substitute parent – had found someone who didn’t quake before six-hundred kilograms of genetically engineered ruc-pard, bigger at the shoulder than Hero was tall, and twice as long. This woman wouldn’t be as easy to get rid of as the others.

‘Hero, you need to come in.’ Determination gathered on the Lamb’s face, in the firming of her jaw and the tiny crinkle at the corner of her eyes. When she stepped forward, Hero let herself be mildly impressed.

Fink flipped his thick, hairless tail, letting it land with a solid thwack on the deck not two feet from the tips of the woman’s shoes.

The Lamb stopped, her gaze locked on Fink.

It was hard to tell which characteristic people found most intimidating about him. It could have been the teeth, the claws, the sheer six-legged bulk … or it could have been the reputation: the stigma of a species mixed in a lab by not just a crackpot but The Crackpot—Woolsey.

They’d all been crackpots back then, those first-gen colonists, but Woolsey had topped them all. No one else would have thought to mix a little bit of rat with a little bit of leopard and a whole lot of alien to create something big and strong and scary enough to walk the surface with impunity.

Hero wished she could be like that: big and strong and scary instead of just strange and small and special. Old Terra, how she hated being special.

Book Blurb

HeroCenturies ago, humans colonized Jørn, a lonely planet on the far side of the galaxy. Arriving in five great colony ships, they quickly settled the surface only to discover, after a few short years, that the planet was killing them. The culprit, a native spore, carried on every wind to every corner of the globe.

Genetic engineering, blending DNA from Earth and Jørn species, saved their crops and livestock, but for humans there was no cure. Instead they took to the skies, turning their colony ships into cities that floated above the spore’s reach.

Hero Regan is special, and not in a way she likes. She hears voices, voices in her head that other people can’t. Surrounded by butlers, bodyguards and tutors, insulated from the outside world, her only solace is Fink, a six-hundred-kilogram, genetically engineered ruc-pard. They share lives, thoughts, triple-chocolate marshmallow ice-cream and the burning desire for freedom.

Their chance comes when Hero is allowed to attend school in Cumulus City. Here, along with making unexpected friends, Hero discovers she is an unwitting part of a master plan set into motion by the first colonists, a plan she must either help or foil if she’s ever to attain the freedom she craves.

About the Author

BelindaBelinda is a geek. She loves Star Wars, Dr Who, spaceships and girls who kick butt. When she’s not writing books or playing Guild Wars, she’s on a horse named Wombat or wrangling a small herd of cats.

Riven, the second book in The Hero Rebellion, is due out this September and Belinda’s currently hard at work on the third and final installment in the series.

You can find out more about Belinda on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Hero on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.

Today’s Featured Author – Noah Nichols

Today I welcome author Noah Nichols to my blog. Here is an excerpt from his book, No Net, released in January 2016.

Excerpt

APP 1 – Truths Of The Past

To her, the glow of the screen was intoxicating. Undeniably addicted, she was glued to her phone almost like an infant would be to its mother’s breast. Anyone who became attached to their device of choice simply couldn’t detach the way a child could. It was a phenomenon that truly overtook the lives of the vast majority.

Twenty-eight-year-old Scott Hadaway was presently being ignored by his mildly younger wife, Gwen, who was comfortably tucked in bed, blissfully unaware of anything in three-dimensional space. Digitally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, her entire being belonged to the black mirror.

“I just don’t understand how you constantly have to have that thing right up to your face,” he said angrily.

Gwen shot him an annoyed look. “That thing? It’s called a DroPho MaxX, babe. And besides, you should know by now that it’s the only way I can really decompress from a soul-crushing day at work.”

“So you’d rather decompress in the social media realm than with me, your husband?”

“You’re creating a confrontation for no reason and I don’t really see why, to be honest.”

“That’s the problem!” he yelled. “You don’t see it, but I feel it. I feel it every single day and night, and I have for years now. It’s suffocating to see someone you care about suffocate themselves.”

Gwen’s body language changed from relaxed to defensive. “What are you even talking about right now? I’m not suffocating myself at all; I check my messages and talk to friends online. It’s a normal thing people do!”

Scott chose his next words carefully. “The normal thing people used to do back in the day—like my dad always goes on about—consisted of actually talking to each other and finding simple joy in that. They didn’t complain in a status update about something uneventful that no one really gives a shit about, not excluding your so-called friends.”

“Yeah, I know; your dad never stops talking about ‘back in the day.’”

“At least my dad’s grounded in reality! He knows what it was like to live a real life and be content with less rather than discontent with more!”

Choosing to sidestep her husband’s defense of his father altogether, Gwen elected to dispense a little bit of wit: “Scott, listen to me. I am sure my friends really do want to know if I thought a movie was terrible or if my meal at a particular restaurant was mediocre. Those are both life-altering situations, all right?” she said sarcastically.

“I fucking hate when you’re like this,” he said, feeling helpless.

“Hey, you’re the one that got on my ass about absolutely nothing! Are we going to do this every night from here on out? I’d like to know now so I can act like I have a headache well in advance,” Gwen stated.

“Don’t you remember what it was like for us? It wasn’t like this before, not even close. We had drive, energy, passion. These days, all you want to do the second you get home is bury your head in that damn phone and bask in any shred of attention you manage to acquire.”

She gave it nearly a minute before responding like a politician. “I do remember how it used to be; but things happen, unfortunately. That familiar aura of cold reality hits like blunt force trauma as emotions slowly flicker like some backwoods hotel sign…” Gwen paused, evidently to recharge her thought process. “We definitely aren’t old by any stretch of the imagination, yet you can’t deny that we aren’t teenagers anymore. Puppy-dog romance always diminishes. I’m not saying anything new; I’m just telling the truth.”

“The truth is that our marriage has deteriorated like a highway road,” he said flatly, but frankly.

“How so, exactly?” Gwen asked in bemusement.

“If you carefully look at what has happened between us, you’re just not here anymore. You are a shell of what you once were-now almost fully gone and soon to be extinct. Your excitement primarily stems from a random bing, ding, or whatever the hell else emits from that thi-sorry. Before you correct me, I know it’s not just a thing to you. It’s called the DroPho MaxX and in my humble opinion, it’s whack!”

Clearly exhausted from the verbal back-and-forth and simply wanting to go to bed at this point, Gwen decided to put her phone aside on the nightstand and turn toward her man, letting her eyes hone in on his as their hands clasped together gently. As the hushed, melodious instrumental of Saving Words For Making Sense by The Six Parts Seven began to play through their wireless Bluetooth speakers as a complimenting backdrop, she spoke with sentimental conviction in her voice: “I love you, Scott, and I’m deeply sorry. To tell you the truth, I don’t think of myself as some kind of unfeeling robot, but I will freely admit that I can get a little too caught up in pointless activity on the Internet at times.”

“Well, I appreciate you coming to grips with it,” he said with an authentic smile.

She continued. “And since it does upset you greatly, I promise to cut down considerably from this moment forward.” Scott studied her like a cop would a suspect in an interrogation room. He was trying so hard to believe what she had said, but in all likelihood, she was probably just wanting to end this monotonous exercise in marital unhappiness. Tomorrow morning or maybe in the afternoon, if she attempted to prove something to herself or to him, the same exact argument would occur between them-a vicious cycle and a depressing struggle. The world had seemed to be a lot easier to understand before all of the distractions became the main attractions. What started out as a life convenience had now turned into an actual way of life for most people.

Book Blurb

NoNetFCWhat would you do if the Internet mysteriously vanished? NO NET is the ambitious novel that explores how little or how much people care about the beloved World Wide Web. Spanning across 20 APPs with a hearty assortment of varied characters, this fictional tale begs you to just take a moment and think about how deep we’ve all been sinking in a digital quicksand…

About the Author

Noah Nichols is just your normal, everyday introvert that is wanting to make something of himself before his time is up. His debut full-length cautionary tale No Net is a valiant attempt to open eyes and turn heads in a desensitized world full of plastic people. He has had short stories published on 101 Words and Fewer Than 500 in the past. Born in Ohio in the year 1982, he has went through life like so many others have; in a constant internal struggle to find that ever-elusive true calling. However, once he found it shining like a fiery beacon on May 23rd, 2015, he hasn’t looked back. Writing is now without a doubt, his love, his drive, his mission. True till death.

You can purchase No Net on Amazon.