Interview with artist & writer, @sophilestweets! @18thWall @DWMtweets @DrWhoOnline @WhovianLeap @bbcdoctorwho #DoctorWho #DoctorWhoIsLife #DrWhoArt #DoctorWhoFanart #DoctorWhoMagazine #Tuesdaybookblog

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In today’s edition of Time And Relative Developments In Stories, I sit down with the very talented artist and writer, Sophie Iles, whose work has appeared in kOZMIC Press’ Children of Time: the Companions of , The Time Travel Nexus and multiple charity works.

Welcome!

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

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The British Part! I grew up in Slough in the United Kingdom, a name those may recognise as the town the Original UK series of The Office was based. I have also lived in Bristol (The location of St. Luke’s University in the more recent Series 10, and where I believe in Big Finish, Alex, Susan’s son lives in The Earthly Child) and quite a few other locations including Cardiff, Aylesbury Milton Keynes and Chesham.

I’m currently back in Bristol and enjoying this artistic and creative part of the UK.

Question 2) When did you become a fan of Doctor Who?

formackenzie_2I became a fan of Doctor Who very late. I was 19 when I discovered Doctor Who for what it was. Doctor Who was something in the UK you grow up with, even during its wilderness years. You all know about the Daleks, you all know your parents hid behind the sofa. But in 2005 that became less nostalgia and more prominent to a child’s intake of sci-fi. It just wasn’t something you could easily ignore.  Personally, I somehow succeeded in doing into my late teens.

I had been a fan of everything and anything I could get my hands on as a child–Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to name a few. But I didn’t think I was geeky enough for Doctor Who. Boy, was I wrong.

By the time I was at university, I was lovingly nicknamed K-9 by a friend, and curiosity got the better of me. By the end of that year I became a fan just in time to watch David Tennant regenerate, my first episode being The Waters of Mars, and I’ve not looked back since…

Question 3) Who is your Doctor?

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I always find this a tough question because there isn’t a Doctor I dislike. I love them all for their own qualities and what they bring to the role.

I think the moment they announced Peter Capaldi, however, I was completely hooked. I loved the idea of Peter playing him. I was reminded of William Hartnell, who seemed cranky and abrasive at first but was soothed by his supportive companions. I hoped this would be the case for his character too, if they went down that route. By the time Peter’s three years were up I didn’t want him to leave.

He had been there for me through four house moves, a family death, and multiple life issues. When I met him in London to sign my Series 9 DVD I able to tell him how important his Doctor meant to me.

He just smiled gratefully and said “Isn’t that what television’s for?”

I will never forget that, and I will always see him as my Doctor because of it.

Question 4) Congratulations on recently being featured in the Doctor Who Magazine! It is unfortunate I cannot get the magazine where I live. How did that opportunity for you come about?

formackenzie_5Honestly, It was as much as a surprise to me as anyone! I have been actively drawing scenes and characters from the recent Classic Doctor WhoTwitch, at least one drawing a night. A few weeks ago, I was asked if one of my pieces could be used on the Doctor WhoTV to blog about the wonderful reactions to the Twitch shows. You can find the link here!

I didn’t expect that however to extend to the Magazine itself. I didn’t know if this was due to someone emailing in regards the piece, or if it was the editor’s choice to illustration the Galaxy Forum page. Either way I was beaming from ear to ear when I found out!

Question 5) You have drawn a number of Doctor Who pieces. What has been your favorite and why?

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It’s a difficult question, mostly because every recent piece is my favourite. It’s often for different reasons. Sometimes I prefer the original drawing over the finished piece, sometimes it’s the colouring.

I think, just because of the sheer scale, my most recent piece is my favourite.  It’s all of the Doctors together. It took considerable time and effort to produce to a high standard (I mean, 14 figures fully drawn isn’t the easiest thing in the world) but it was worth every second.

I also think my London 1965 piece might be my second favourite. I had been trying to simplify my designs for a long while, and it was then I really caught that essence when I drew Ian and Barbara against the brick wall. Luckily in both cases lots of people seem to agree!

Question 6) I always find it intriguing to learn about an artist’s technique. Can you share a bit about what goes into drawing a piece like this? Time frame? Skill? Software used?

In terms of what I draw, some of my favourite artists/designers/creators are listed below. I highly recommend all of these people as inspirations.:

  • Quentin Blake
  • Hergé
  • Ronnie Del Carmen
  • Vera Brosgol
  • Bill Watterson
  • Pete Docter
  • Pascal Campion
  • Nick Sharratt
  • Glen Keane

When it comes to process: both of these pictures were created the same way. There’s a rough I draw. In the case of Ian and Barbara, I drew them in my sketchbook at work, looking at old pictures of the show. Most of my main issues with drawing is posing and gesture and making sure that’s clear. I’m always learning and practicing and understanding so my sketchbooks are incredibly rough. Once that’s done I take a photo and put it into Adobe Photoshop when I get to my computer at home. I’m also fortunate enough to have a Cintiq. This is like a tablet, except is actually a separate screen I can draw straight onto. This way I ink and tidy up my sketches in black, before then using layers to colour behind. I usually colour drop straight from pictures I’m referencing, or if there are some colourisations. Then, adding shadow, lighting (and if necessary a background).

For the Ian and Barbara picture, I didn’t really want to add all the detail of a brick wall, so I decided to use a texture layer and implied it instead, which I think for the style works quite well.

I can draw straight into the computer, but I really like drawing in my sketchbook too as it feels like a more organic process.

Question 7) I understand you are also a writer. When did you start writing?

I have always wanted to be a writer. I actually wrote this statement on a primary school worksheet I had found a few weeks ago, which made me beam with pride. I think it started with my nan. She was a wonderful storyteller who would tell me Greek myths and legends from a very early age, and I would read all of her strange books regarding fables and legends. I’ve always been drawn to storytelling, whether through illustration or writing.

I didn’t really get into writing until I entered my last year of university. I wanted to find a way to make sure my story worked for my animation courses short film module and a friend suggested I join their Drama Society’s creative writing group. I wrote short plays for the university, which were performed. Though it was a slow start from there, I never stopped coming up with ideas for dramas. I just wasn’t very good at completing them.

It was being part of 18th Wall Productions that gave me the courage to start submitting to their short story submissions and getting involved in writing. I love to get involved in creating stories and believable characters, and I love the idea that I get to– as a writer– share emotions and worlds with someone else. Wherever that’s a world we think we already know, or a new one.

Currently I’m working on quite a few writing projects, submissions and some of my first original works, so I can finally truly consider myself a writer.

Question 8) You have written articles about Doctor Who for 18thWall Productions and The Time Travel Nexus. Can you elaborate on what these are and why you chose the subjects you wrote about?

Just under three years ago, I was sort of thrust upon, without knowing at the time, the founders and CEO of 18thWall Productions. It was just a casual chat about Doctor Whoand other interests, but they clearly saw something in me that I hadn’t seen in myself.  One of the highlights of last year was being able to meet a lot of those related to 18thWall at LI Who 5, which was almost just as exciting as being in America itself.

The-Racoonteur-Roundtable-Logo-1600X1600Professionally, I was a guest on one of their discussion sections on their podcast The Raconteur Roundtable, which was an amazing experience as it also meant I was able to ask Big Finish’s Scott Handcock questions as part of their team, a link to which you can find here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/raconteurroundtable/2017/06/28/rr-13–the-bard-on-gallifrey–scott-handcock-big-finish-productions

It then led to for a small time helping run their blog, talking with their writers and editing their posts. It was around then they asked that if I had something I wanted to write about they would happily like to know what and see if it would work for them. I offered watching the Classic Doctor Who Series and talking about it as a series of articles, with some fresh perspective as someone who didn’t know the Classic Series very well. They loved the idea.

At the end of last year, The Time Travel Nexus also contacted me and asked if I wanted to write something for Peter Capaldi’s send off, something which I was happy to do and to draw something for it. I don’t think I would be where I am now, writing and drawing so publicly, without their constant support and guidance.

Question 9) What inspired you to create the short story for kOZMIC Press’ Children of Time: The Companions of Doctor Who?

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I’ve always wanted to write something for Doctor Who in a way that wasn’t just a review. A few of my friends had mentioned to me that there was someone looking for writers for this charity anthology. Even though all of my favourite companions were already taken, I decided to apply to see if Rigsy was a possibility. Rigsy was the first male companion who’d really felt like part of an adventure since Danny Pink, and even then, I didn’t count Danny as a companion. Rigsy was also the companion to the companion, as Clara played the Doctor’s role in that episode, proving she could handle the adventures on her own without her alien friend. I always felt that more could be done with Rigsy, and I always wanted to know what happened to him. This was my chance to write something!

At first I was just a placeholder, as they were hoping to get someone else involved in Rigsy’s creation, but I was ecstatic when they asked if I was still interested. I had a month to write something, but as the condition was positivity about the character I just wanted to share ideas on the Rigsy we never got to know. We knew he was engaged and had a daughter, so I decided to look at it from her perspective– a look at someone who loved him dearly. So, with the idea of wanting to commemorate the life of Rigsy and his life’s work, something the Doctor suggested would be great, I had her write the foreword to a book about his life as a famous graffiti artist.

I also offered to draw some illustrations for the book, including illustrating my own. I was very proud of the drawings I gave them. I am particularly fond of an illustration of the Brigadier and his daughter Kate and his grandson Gordon Lethbridge Stewart on a polaroid. It fits the writing (by Hilary Hertzoff) that went with it very well.

Also, the charity it supported was Furkids, Georgia’s Largest Animal Rescue and No-Kill Shelter which I was glad to be supporting. You can find a link to this book here!

Question 10) Do you have an excerpt from any of your writing you’d like to share?

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This is from an upcoming release with 18th Wall Productions, in an original anthology from the story “A Single Wolf, Grey and Gaunt.”

He couldn’t really be a ghost, Timmy thought. His form seemed solid, unwavering against the waves as the tide tried to come in. Lancelot didn’t quite seem real. as though you could easily step through him if you looked at him in a different light. Perhaps it was because it was dark. Timmy wasn’t sure.

That hadn’t however stopped him from rushing forward with the stick in his jaws, head held high before placing it at Timmy’s feet.

“You want to go again, huh?”

The dog heeled, his head held high. Not a sound left from him. Timmy laughed, this large boyish sound bubbling from his chest.

It surprised him. When was the last time he’d laughed?

Question 11) You’re currently putting together a Doctor Who fanzine. Can you tell my readers more about this project and how they may be able to participate?

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Well, due to the success of Twitch, and the love discovered for Ian and Barbara, I had an idea. I couldn’t help thinking how lovely it would be to share some art and stories about these two much loved companions for everyone to see in a printed format. I put out some feelers to see if anyone was interested in supporting this and it sort of exploded on social media, so I decided to make it official.

So anyone out there reading this who wants to contribute, yes, I’m looking at you! If you love Ian and Barbara and want to share stories or illustrate about what happens to them in their lives, why don’t you submit?

I’m looking for stories and artwork within three major stages of their lives: Life before the TARDIS, the times during their adventures, and then after they get to London 1965. I’m looking for small stories about their lives, or full scale adventures. As for the art, I’m looking for some art to highlight these moments in their lives. Also, it doesn’t have to be shippy, if you see them just as friends that’s more than alright, this is about the characters, not their romance!

We will be donating the funds made to Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s largest breast cancer research charity. The donations will be given in loving memory of Jacqueline Hill, who would have been 89 this year in December.

It’s all very exciting really. I’m looking for submissions from August 15th to close in October 1st.

All of the details you could possibly need can be found here:

Question 12) What can we expect from you in the future?  

I have a few plans in the future. When Twitch is over I intend to try and draw as much from the New Series as possible, including the spin offs and any of the Big Finish dramas, as there’s really so much to explore. As well as that there are also other aspects of the Doctor Who extended universe to look into, particularly the works of the  wonderful Obverse books, and then delving into Faction Paradox.

One of the exciting projects I can talk about is I’m helping with the cover art, art indents and a short story for a Sarah Jane charity anthology. The official announcement is coming soon!

There’s some other really exciting writing projects I can’t talk about just yet that’s coming up that I want to pitch for / currently writing and drawing for. I’ve been talking to some cool people about some artwork for some more charity anthologies on the way. Lastly there’s two big Doctor Who conventions that I’ll be attending before the end of the year where I will be selling my artwork here in the UK. And I will be continuing to do this throughout the next year.

In other words, watch this space!

Question 13) How can others find out more about you and your work?

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I’m on most social media sites these days. Trying to be active on all pages is difficult but I’m mostly found on Twitter with the handle: @sophilestweets

I am also available on my website www.sophieiles.co.ukFacebookInstagram and Twitch on occasion!

Thank you again, Sophie! Fans, please make sure to check out her social media, art and books! And if you’d like to be part of Time And Relative Developments In Stories, follow the instructions below!

How You Can Participate!

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Author Interview: Caytlyn Brooke @caytlyn_brooke #ya #interview #scifi #contemporary

To celebrate the recent release of her new book, Wired, I’m sitting down with award-winning author, Caytlyn Brooke.

Welcome!

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

Caytlyn_BHC_WebHello! My family is from English decent and I have the freckles and pale skin to prove it. I have lived in six states, but currently reside in the Southern Tier of New York where camouflage is the epitome of fashion and everyone drives a Ford F150.  I’m working on convincing my husband to move south to the beach, but for right now I’m enjoying rolling hills and cornfields.

 

Question 2) What do you think makes a good story? 

It’s amazing how much thought and planning goes into creating a story. My favorites, in both what I read and write, are stories that make you feel as if you’re right there running alongside the characters. Description is the biggest thing for me. I want to be able to picture everything and everyone as if I’m watching a movie. I enjoy books with a fast-paced plot that make it impossible to put down. I especially love cliff hanger endings! I know many readers who like deep, complicated plots that make you think and analyze, however that’s not me. I don’t have a lot of time to read, so I prefer exciting stories with an immediate hook that aren’t afraid to jump right in.

Question 3) What inspired you to write your first book? 

Dark_Flowers_C_Brooke_FCI’ve wanted to be a writer since third grade. I loved when my teachers would assign a prompt and let our imaginations go wild for half an hour. My friends would barely craft a paragraph and I’d be on my fifth piece of paper. Growing up, I was obsessed with fairies, goblins, nymphs, you name it. If it involved any mythical creature I was hooked. It was out of that love that I created my first novel, Dark Flowers. Every little girl dreams that she finds fairies in the woods, dreams that she dances with them and is invited to be one. I took that idea and layered it with a touch of darkness. I’m a big fan of the Grimm Brothers and enjoy taking innocent stories and twisting them to keep my readers on their toes. Not every story has a happy ending and in Dark Flowers I changed the beautiful fairies everyone is familiar with, to sinister creatures that will make you rethink walking alone in the woods.

Question 4) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? 

Trying to find time to write is a job in itself! I have two small children and a full time job so most of my writing gets done on my lunch break and at ten o’clock at night after I get everyone to bed. As you can imagine with that schedule it’s pretty slow going so I taught myself how to type pretty fast. Most nights I’m up past midnight writing, but I love it. I feel bad for my husband because he waits up for me and my, “I’ll be done in ten minutes” always turns into another hour and a half.

Question 5) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 

Hmm an interesting writing quirk. I guess that all my novels originate from my notebook, old school pen and paper. I always keep a notebook by my bed because most of my story ideas come from my dreams. As soon as I wake up I jot down the idea or image and then expand upon it from there until I have a solid concept. Then, I just start writing. Rather than create an outline and detail step by step what will happen, I just sit down and let my mind wander and craft the story as I go.

Question 6) Tell me about your latest book. 

Wired is a mix of YA contemporary/scifi.

Question 7) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book? 

Wired_Caytlyn_BrookeOne of the most surprising things I learned after writing Wired was how spot on my imagined world was! I started writing this novel three years ago and back then cell phone usage and dependency was annoying, but nothing to the degree it has reached today. In the slightly futuristic world I created, people have iJewels which are essentially Smart Watches. I remember last year hearing my co-workers talk about how they had to have the new Apple Smart Watch and my eyes bulged. It was exactly like the technology from my book! Wired focuses on cellular device addiction and when Maggie isn’t “connected” she experiences the same withdrawl symptoms as a drug addict. Come to find out, people are actually going to rehab for cell phone addiction and there is even a term called Nomophobia that explains the intense fear and anxiety people have if they become separated from their phones. I wrote this book because I noticed an unhealthy dependency people were forming with their phones and now it’s actually coming true. Maybe this means I’ve predicted the future?

Question 8) Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

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I look around at everyone seated. All of them are staring at me blankly, colorful Vertix H2’s all implanted successfully on their necks. It’s like they’ve been brainwashed. My heart rate speeds up as fear grips my stomach. “I want to leave,” I whisper, pushing back further in my chair, but the feet are stopped and when I turn around, another rep is staring down at me.

“It’s an incredible experience,” Brad says, his smile growing wider. “And you’ve already paid for it. Just try it. If you still don’t like it, we will give you a twenty-five percent refund.”

I can feel the rep behind me grip the back of my chair and I realize he’s sliding me forward, back to the table. The copper device still whirs in my hands, the green light seeming to grow brighter and brighter. A cool breeze grazes my neck and I stiffen as the rep pulls my hair away from my neck, depositing the heavy bulk onto my chest.

“Have fun,” he whispers in my ear before stepping back.

Brad is still staring at me, waiting for me to follow his instructions. With shaking hands I lift the copper Vertix to the back of my neck, wincing as the searching sensors brush my fingers. It’s going to be fine, you’re going to be fine, I tell myself over and over again as I breathe steadily through gritted teeth. Just do it for a minute, then they’ll let you go.

The device slips from my sweating fingers and lands with a solid thud onto the back of my neck. Involuntarily, my hands grip the smooth edge of the table and I close my eyes, anticipating the sharp pain I witnessed everyone else endure to make the connection. The bug-like legs dance atop my skin, settling into place. Then, without a sound, the sensors still and then plunge into the soft skin on either side of my spinal cord.

My eyes flash open and my fingers stiffen into claws as a burst of pain washes over me. I can feel the sensors inside my body, reaching, reaching for some unknown destination. A moment later, all four seize upon my brain stem and the Vertix H2 deepens its hold. My vision blurs and the eerie blue up lighting spins and swirls as the Vertix infiltrates my brain.

The connection has begun.

Question 9) What can we expect from you in the future? 

More books! I have several in the works, including a YA fantasy trilogy that I’m super excited to release next year. My other novels revolve mostly within the fantasy realm with mermaids, trolls, and witches and all border on the darker side. You can also check out Dark Flowers, if you’re into creepy fairies and muggy swamps. 

Question 10) What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 

DI4oQC2VAAEfEEpThe best money I ever spent as a writer was when I went out to South Dakota last year for the Literary Classic Book Awards. Dark Flowers won the silver medal in the YA Horror category and I was invited to attend the awards ceremony. I didn’t win a cash prize, but I was able to tour the Black Hills of South Dakota, wear a pretty gown, and meet a fantastic group of authors from all over the country. That was such a fun experience and I’m hoping I get the chance to go out there again.

Question 11) How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter at the links below. Some days I have some fun things to say:

https://www.facebook.com/Caytlyn-Brooke-659444394222760/

https://twitter.com/caytlyn_brooke

You can also find me at my publisher’s website www.bhcpress.com to learn more about me http://www.bhcpress.com/Author_Caytlyn_Brooke.html and http://www.bhcpress.com/Books_Brooke_Wired.html

Thanks for having me!

 

#Interview with #author, @bawrites! #MattSmith #MG #steampunk #dystopian #DoctorWho #DrWho #doctorwhoislife

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Next up is author B.A. Williamson with an exciting middle grade book that is on my to-be-read list. He’ll be talking about how #DoctorWho and #MattSmith inspired his book — The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray!

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

interview1.pngI hail from a quaint little neighborhood on the east side of Indianapolis.

Question 2) When did you become a fan of Doctor Who?

I became a fan in college, when I went home on spring break and my Dad was watching this strange show. Some fat green Vogon-like aliens had just destroyed Big Ben, and they farted a lot, and came from a planet with a funny name. When he told me what it was, I remembered seeing a whole shelf of classic Doctor Who tapes at the local library while I was growing up, but I never touched them, a decision I now painfully regret. Tom Baker would have vastly improved my childhood. As it was, I watched a little with my Dad while I was home, but I didn’t become a fan in my own right until I saw David Tennant’s first episode with the Sycorax.

Question 3) What do you think makes a good story?

Desire+Obstacle. Your character has to want something, and want it badly, no matter how small it is. There needs to be things standing in the way, obstacles that match the character’s level of desire. If your character doesn’t have a clear driving goal, we lose interest. I also think a story should have something to say, beyond just beating the bad guys. Doctor Who has infinite storytelling possibility, but it touches on some of the deepest topics that any form of literature can approach, which is something science-fiction has always been particularly suited to.

Question 4) Congratulations on the publication of The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray! Tell me a little bit about your book.

interview5.pngGwendolyn Gray faces an overwhelming battle every day: keeping her imagination under control. It’s a struggle for a dreamer like Gwendolyn, in a city of identical gray skyscrapers, clouds that never clear, and grown-ups who never understand. She’s a plucky little redheaded outcast that would be perfectly at home in the TARDIS.

But when her daydreams come alive and run amok in The City, the struggle to control them becomes as real as the furry creatures infesting her bedroom. Worse yet, she’s drawn the attention of the Faceless Gentlemen, who want to preserve order in The City by erasing Gwendolyn and her troublesome creations.

With the help of two explorers from another world, Gwendolyn escapes and finds herself in a land of clockwork inventions and colorful creations. Now Gwendolyn must harness her powers and, with a gang of airship pirates, stop the Faceless Gentlemen from destroying the new world she loves and the home that never wanted her—before every world becomes gray and dull.

If that sounds like the plot of a Doctor Who episode, well, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Question 5) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book? 

interview6Seeing how your own characters can take on a life of your own, and do things that surprise you. When you’re writing, and you get really in the zone, stuff comes out that feels completely independent, and I have no idea where it comes from. Which then became a theme of the book in and of itself, and I spend a lot of time exploring the nature of imagination and creation, and how it can be a type of magic on its own.

Question 6) I understand that Doctor Who has played a significant role in your writing. Can you elaborate on that?

It tremendously influences the type of story I want to tell. Those are the stories I love, and I wanted to emulate those somehow, I wanted to tell a world-hopping portal fantasy. When I was looking at how to craft a tale of an imaginative kid bouncing between worlds and solving her problems with wits, not weapons, I went and studied some of the best Who episodes. I looked at their structure, how the Doctor eventually prevailed in spite of overwhelming obstacles. I looked at how the best episodes deliver a strong message, not in a preachy way, but one that was at the center of a fantastic adventure story and compelling characters. And of course, every adventure involves a lot of running.

Question 7) Turns out, our books both have something in common — Matt Smith! Any specific characteristics of him can be found in your characters?

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His short attention span and tendency to babble. His childishness comes through in Gwendolyn, because Gwendolyn is herself a child. But there’s also a weight of sadness there: these actions have consequences, and the characters have to feel those deeply, but always choose to go on.

Question 8) Who is your Doctor?

David Tennant, always and forever. Particularly, The Christmas Invasion, Blink, The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, The Beast, Tooth and Claw, the Cybermen invasion, and the Master’s Return. I don’t think the show has ever been better than his first two seasons.

Question 9) What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The beginning. Figuring out what the story is and where it’s going. And every time you start, you never completely know what’s going to happen or how it’s going to turn out. Starting a new story is like taking a leap off a cliff, and it’s just as terrifying. I always have an ending in mind, but parts of the journey are still huge blanks. You just have to trust yourself, your skills, your voice, and let it go where it will. But it’s never an easy step for me.

Question 10) What would you say is your interesting quirk?

I like to dress in costume for my book events. The narrator in the book is a bit of a character in and of itself, and I like to become something like that character. It comes from my theatre background, I suppose.

Question 11) Do you have an excerpt from the book you’d like to share?

Sure! Here’s one that’s particularly Who-vian. Gwendolyn lives in the City, a dystopian place where creativity and ideas simply don’t exist. It’s not “the way things are done.” Picture a mid-century modern future straight out of Mad Men with the social structure and values of Mr. Banks from Mary Poppins. Gwendolyn’s imagination just made one of her classmates grow actual rabbit ears, and while running from the consequences of that, she has just discovered a major secret and some strange artifacts on the Edge of the City, a place no one knew existed. Now she has her first run-in with the villains of our story. It’s a very Who sort of scene- creepy baddies, sudden rescues by mysterious new friends from other worlds, and plenty of running.

interview2.pngGwendolyn sprawled on the sidewalk, nose to toe with four polished black shoes. Above the shoes were crisp grey pants, and above that were twice-buttoned jackets with black ties pinned smartly to white shirts. The men both wore black bowler hats, and they had no faces.

Let me be clear: they had noses, yes, and mouths as well. Likewise eyes and ears, all in the right place and amount.

But Gwendolyn could not have told you what they looked like.

Looking at them was like trying to picture the face of a friend you haven’t seen in years. The men stood plain as day in front of her, but the faces underneath those bowler hats slipped from her mind like eels, as though her eyes saw something terrible, and refused to tell her brain what they had seen. Most people have never seen a man with no face, but let me assure you that it is a sight so unsettling that it puts goosebumps on your eyeballs.

A white-gloved hand reached down. Gwendolyn thought it meant to help her up, but it picked up the book instead. The man’s eyes examined the gleaming title, and the gloved hands flipped through the colorful illustrations.

Gwendolyn snatched up the gem and snuck it in her pocket.

The man turned to his comrade. “This is a very interesting book, Mister Five.” he said. His voice was a high-pitched whining monotone, crisp and proper. The voice she’d heard in the Headmaster’s office.

“Very interesting indeed, Mister Six,” replied the other, his voice identical to the first. He leaned in slightly, ever so slightly, to examine the book.

Gwendolyn got to her feet and put on her precious-little-girl voice, all sweetness and light, the kind you use when you want a second helping of dessert. “I’m terribly sorry, sirs. I wasn’t watching my way.”

Slowly, ever so slowly, the two men’s eyes turned from the book toward Gwendolyn. Their heads cocked to the side and stared at her, faces instantly dissolving in her memory.

Gwendolyn shuddered. “If you will accept my polite apologies, I will take my book and be on my way. Mother will be quite cross if I am late.”

The men ignored her. Carefully, ever so carefully, their hands flipped through the book as though the pages were covered in muck, and they didn’t wish to dirty their white gloves.

“Where did you get this book, my dear?” said Mister Five.

“Uhh…” Gwendolyn stammered, “it’s mine, and I would like it back now, please.”

“This is a very unique book, little girl. And my partner and I… collect… things such as this,” said one of the men.

Gwendolyn again felt the gut-wrenching sensation of being caught, as she felt earlier with the Centrals, but these gentlemen made Cecilia and her gang seem positively fluffy. “I’m sorry sir, but it is mine, and it is not for sale. I must insist that you give it back. Please?”

“What do you think, Mister Five?” one of the men whined eerily.

“She has seen the book, Mister Six, and would appear to have been reading it quite intently,” said the other, examining the edges of the pages. “And unless I’m very much mistaken, and I seldom am, Mister Six—”

“-No, indeed, Mister Five—”

“-this girl is not where she should be.”

“Most assuredly not, Mister Five. The Edge is not permissible to the citizenry; particularly children. Most particularly not to children so particularly… strange.” Gently, ever so gently, his gloved hand reached out and caressed a lock of Gwendolyn’s fiery hair.

Gwendolyn flinched. The man’s brief touch made her skin want to crawl off her bones, into bed, and under the blankets. She slapped his hand away, but Mister Six didn’t react.

“You are correct, Mister Six,” said Mister Five. “She has seen The Wall, and this book, and who knows what else. She is also certainly the one causing these unacceptable… changes. No, no, no, I’m afraid we really have no choice,” droned Mister Five.

Mister Six’s hand reached up slowly, ever so slowly, to his black bowler hat. “I agree completely, Mister Five. These changes simply must be dealt with.” His tone turned sweet, dripping more venom than honey: “Girl. Might I draw your attention here, to my lovely hat?”

He took off the hat and turned it toward her, like a magician showing that his hat is indeed empty. But instead of a rabbit, a pinpoint of light came out of the hat’s black interior. Gwendolyn’s gaze was locked in place.

Cold light poured out of the hat. It was just like a Lambent; but one more potent than any she had ever encountered. Her eyes burned but she could not look away. With an awful shock, she found she could no longer move. Any thoughts of running or escaping faded. She could feel her mind slipping away, drawn toward the light, drowning in it.

“Perfectly done, little girl. It doesn’t hurt.”

He was wrong. It did hurt. Her head felt like it would split in two. The searing pain brought her back to her senses. “No!” she shouted, and reached forward to knock the hat away.

Mister Six stepped easily out of reach. “The girl resists, Mister Five.”

“Indeed she does, Mister Six. She is stronger than anticipated. Increase the power.” The light doubled in brightness. She held up her hand to block it, but it didn’t help.

Her hand… she could see right through it. It was vanishing before her eyes, disappearing like a puddle on a hot day. She felt disconnected from her body, her arms and legs as far away as yesterday’s dream. She felt like a glass of water being poured into a swirling drain. Her thoughts, normally so fast she couldn’t control them, began to slow. She felt… less.

Mister Six’s mouth curved upward slightly, ever so slightly. “Yes, this will only take a mo—”

“Look out!”

Someone collided with the faceless man, and hard. Mister Six was knocked to the street, his hat rolling away, and the book skidded down the sidewalk. Senseless Gwendolyn was grabbed by a pair of rough hands and pulled down the street like a rag doll.

“Move your feet, or I’m leaving you!” came another voice, a girl’s. Gwendolyn shook her head as the volume on her senses was turned back up.

And for the third time that day, Gwendolyn Gray was running away.

She noticed several things all at once. She noticed a very peculiar looking boy, about her own age, running beside her. She noticed a bright red jacket and a long yellow scarf that fluttered behind him. He grinned recklessly, holding his flat and checkered newsboy cap. He held up a red book. “Here! You dropped this. Clumsy.”

Gwendolyn took it, noticing that her hand was solid and whole again. She noticed the girl pulling her other hand wore a complicated-looking set of goggles on her head, all dials and lenses. Her shimmering blouse was not quite green, not quite blue, but was somehow both at once underneath a coppery-orange vest. She looked back at Gwendolyn and gave her arm a fierce tug. “Quit staring at me and run!”

She did, pushing her feet as fast as they would go. They sprinted through the deserted streets. The Mister Men followed effortlessly, seeming almost to float over the ground.

Suddenly, Gwendolyn noticed some scattered pedestrians in shabby clothes. Gwendolyn must have run all the way to the beginning of the Outskirts. People gaped at the wild children who would dare run through The City’s streets, but the Mister Men passed by without so much as a glance from the Cityzens, and the sparse crowds moved mindlessly aside to let them through.

Gwendolyn turned to look behind, but the Mister Men never grew any closer or farther away. “I can’t… keep running… like this!” she gasped, her satchel banging against her side with every step.

“Quick! This way!” The boy shouted.

“Sparrow, wait!” the girl said, but the boy ducked into an alleyway. The girl groaned and pulled Gwendolyn in after him.

It was a dead end.

The boy spun around. “Oh. Never mind. What now, Starling?”

“What? Not again! This was your idea!” She groaned. “Fine. Take her! I’ll catch up.” She pointed at something down the alley, then pushed Gwendolyn at the boy and started patting the pockets of her pants. The girl was nothing but pockets from the waist down. Her black trousers were covered in them, and she wore crisscrossing belts full of dangling tools and gadgets. Gwendolyn wondered if she needed all those belts to hold up such heavily laden pants.

The older girl pulled a copper sphere from a pocket on her thigh and twisted the two halves, winding it up. She leaned out of the alleyway and tossed it into the air just as the Mister Men came around the corner. The sphere whirred, clicked, and then exploded with a loud SNAP!

The alley entrance was instantly filled with orange smoke. One of the men stumbled out of the cloud, but the girl shoved him back in. She pulled her goggles down over her eyes and flipped a lens into place. “Go! I’ll lead them away and circle back!” Then she plunged into the fog.

“Come on!” the boy said. He pulled Gwendolyn down the alleyway and studied the wall at the end. “Now, what was Starling pointing at?”

Gwendolyn noticed a fire escape above them, old iron ladders and walkways bolted to the side of the building. “Do you think she meant that?”

“Oh, yeah. Good call.” The boy shot her a toothy grin, one that was altogether too cocky for their present situation. He jumped up and pulled the ladder down. “Ladies first.”

Gwendolyn hesitated. “Uh… I’m not climbing over you in this skirt. I’ll thank the gentleman to go first.” It was a good excuse, but truthfully she just wanted to see if it would hold his weight.

The boy’s jaw dropped, taken aback. “I didn’t… That’s not… I would never…”

A loud crash came from the smoke behind them.

“Just climb!” Gwendolyn shouted, though she was glad to wipe that smug smile from his face. She had the presence of mind to stick the book in her bag.

He scrambled up the ladder, but was already grinning again, and gave her a wink. “Be careful, girlie. Wouldn’t want to tear that precious skirt of yours.”

“Just worry about yourself, little boy, and when you fall, try and avoid my head.” Teasing him was an easy way to hide how terrified she was.

The fire escape held, and they reached the roof. They crossed to the other side and looked down. The sheer drop to the street below made her eyes swirl. A twelve-story fall is not the sort of story you’ll ever get to tell.

“What now? There’s nowhere to go!” Gwendolyn said.

“Nowhere to go? Please. I have a plan. Well, we have a plan. Um . . . Starling will have a plan. Any trouble down there?” he asked the goggled girl, who was clambering over the edge of the roof.

“Yes. And all of it is your fault. But I bought us a few moments. Now take one of these.” The girl produced a collection of objects from another one of her pockets and tossed something to each of them.

Gwendolyn caught it. It was a miniature umbrella, bright pink with purple spirals on it, not much larger than her hand. It was the same sort of umbrella your parents might put into a tropical drink on the beach when they’ve left you and your sister at home with relatives. Gwendolyn frowned at it, but she opened it with a crinkly pop.

“When I say so, jump,” said the older girl, approaching the edge of the roof.

This was too much, even for Gwendolyn. “Jump? We’ll be smushed!” She glanced at the pitifully small umbrella in her hand.

The boy rolled his eyes. “You wanted a plan. Maybe you should ask them about it,” he cocked a thumb at the Faceless Gentlemen, who had just appeared on the roof.

“This is a most inappropriate way for young children to act, Mister Five.” said the man on the left, his face slipping from Gwendolyn’s mind like water through her fingers.

“Most inappropriate indeed, Mister Six. They will have to be dealt with immediately. These sorts of… intrusions… cannot be tolerated,” the other replied. They strode across the roof toward the children, each step in perfect unison.

Gwendolyn looked down at the punishingly solid sidewalk. She glanced at the boy, and got another infuriating wink. For someone saving her life, he was certainly not impressing her. “Isn’t there another way?”

“Of course there is another way…” droned Mister Five. His hand reached toward her in a gesture that absolutely failed to be comforting. “Come with us.” His voice took on the sickly sweetness of cough syrup. “Your parents must be worried sick about you. No little girl should be out this far. Just what would your mother think?”

“What indeed, Mister Five. We will take care of you, girl, and see you home safe. We will explain everything to your parents, make all your problems… disappear. We might even allow you to keep that little book. The Status Quo will be preserved. All will be well. After all, you cannot trust such dreadful children as these.” His white gloved hand waved toward her brightly colored companions.

You and I might be able to spot the lie these men told, but we are not the one’s teetering over the edge of a fatal fall. Gwendolyn hesitated. What would Mother think? She would certainly not approve of any of this dashing about, nor of her two rescuers. But her parents had also never seen anything like these men, and she wasn’t certain they’d approve of them, either.

The boy put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s us or them. Now or never.”

She took a deep breath and looked over the side. She had to do it. She couldn’t turn back now. She would imagine she was brave, even if she felt like throwing up.

“Then I guess it’s now,” she whispered. She squeezed her eyes shut, gripped the umbrella, bent her knees-

“Sorry, girlie, time’s up!” The boy gave her a shove, and Gwendolyn fell with a shriek. The older girl followed, leaping from the roof.

“So long, chaps!” The boy tipped his cap to the Mister Men, showed them a very impolite finger, and jumped.

Question 12) What can we expect from you in the future?

More Gwendolyn! I’m currently working on The Fantastical Exploits of Gwendolyn Gray, and where the first one features a trip to a Steampunk world, this time she’ll find herself trapped in the land of the Fae.

Question 13) How can others find out more about you and your work?

The book itself is on Amazon and Goodreads. The website is gwendolyngray.com, but I’m probably most active on the Facebook page, facebook.com/gwendolyngraybook. Twitter is my social of choice, but you can find me pretty much anywhere @bawrites. I’m always happy to chat, particularly about the book!

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Author Interview: William Schlichter #Tuesdaybookblog #scifi #horror #authorinterview @BHCPressbooks

Today I’m fortunate to present William Schlichter author of Sci-fi and horror.

Hi, William, thanks for agreeing to this interview!

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

William_Schlichter_BHC_WebI’m from Missouri. I’m originally from an hour south of St Louis, and now I call Springfield home.

Question 2) What do you think makes a good story?

Strong character driven stories, quick moving, and short chapters or breaks.

They need to bring forth an emotion in me. I want to care about what happens to the characters. I must care about the characters.

Question 3) What inspired you to write your first book?

Star Wars.  I was three and a half years old and my parents took me to see Star Wars at the drive-in. It’s my earliest full memory and I knew after watching this spectacle I didn’t want to be Han Solo or a Jedi I wanted to create those kinds of stories.

Question 4) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I teach high school and college so during the school year I write when I can.  I write in my creative writing class when the students write in class. But I have a daily goal of a 1000 new words.

In the summer, I get up and write as close to a 1000 words as I can then swim a mile, go to the gym and finish my thousand words.  Now, if the Muse flows I’ll keep going and I will drain the well. I finish a story idea; if I don’t it plagues me. Demanding to be written down.  I will edit older works after my 1000 words. I read. Riding the bike at the gym is a great time to read and since I travel I listen to a lot of audiobooks. 

Question 5) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

The story flows throw me much like a movie and I paint a picture on the page like a movie.

Question 6) Give us the title and genre of your latest book.

400_Miles_W_Schlicter_C2No Room in Hell: 400 Miles To Graceland –  a post-apocalyptic horror/thriller. Not your typical zombie adventure.

Question 7) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

I didn’t write the first No Room in Hell to enter the mass market with a zombie book because it was a popular bestselling subject. I wrote the story one to cover events no one else covers in all the zombie books I have read or watched and two I wrote the main character as the nameless figure. It was a challenge to write this character. A challenge I gave myself and based on feedback readers liked it or thought it was an interesting approach.  It reaffirms a writer must know the rules before breaking them but when a rule is broken and it works it is rewarding.

Question 8) Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

The opening of SKA due out in 2018:

SKA_William_Schlichter_Web“That’s a lot of money—do you want me to do something for it?”

            Even on my limited salary, a Jackson wasn’t a grand gesture. I’ve bought books costing more. The girl was messed up, and not just for thinking the twenty dollars I handed her was worth her doing something, but she had a hospital ID bracelet and a red medication allergy band on her wrist.

            She asked me to watch her bag while she went and bought cigarettes—one of those plastic clothing bags hospitals give out. She’d be back, then I could take her someplace.

            Despite her haggard appearance, her round face was pretty. Hospitals tend to fatigue people. They want you to rest, but constantly wake you up to check your vitals.

            Returning with a green pack of smokes, she bubbles with excitement. The cheap pint she tried to hide might have helped. The seal already busted. She didn’t notice me observing her slip it in the hospital bag. If I wasn’t convinced she was an addict, I knew now. Curiosity overtook me. Stirring overwhelmed me. The sexual ones were obvious, at least to me, but something deeper wanted me to keep this girl.

 Question 9) What can we expect from you in the future?  

Enter_the_Sandmen_W_Schlichter_FC_WebMy next novel is a standalone thriller SKA: Serial Killers Anonymous where a collection of serial Killers form a self-help group in order to curb their urges. They examine their acts and one in the group is not who they pretend to be.

The third book in my sci-fi series The Silver Dragon Chronicles: The fifth Planet will continue to follow the crew’s exploits as they attempt to stop the Sandmen.

And my dark and gritty zombie apocalypse series No room in hell will see book three as well. I have a working title but it might give away the shocking twist at the end of book two.  Just know no one is safe.

Question 10) What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 

The gym, travel and Stephen King’s On Writing.

You can’t write without your health or experience the world, even if you only travel to the adjoining state. Changing your comfort zone makes all the difference, and of the dozens of books about how to write I’ve read or bought, his is the one I quote to my writing students the most.

Question 11) How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

http://www.bhcpress.com/Author_William_Schlichter.html

https://twitter.com/wmschlichter

https://www.facebook.com/wmschlichter/

https://www.instagram.com/wschlichter

Book Spotlight: The Vault by Brian Harrison #newrelease #Tuesdaybookblog #Tuesdayteaser #familylife #contemporaryfiction

The Vault

Why would a multibillionaire create a customized vault that is controlled by watch mechanics inside and have a self-destruct mechanism inside to destroy the billion dollars worth of artifacts inside?

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Simple, because he can.

On paper, Sam Montgomery is your typical eccentric philanthropic pharmaceutical billionaire whom has literally mailed five dollars to everyone in the US so they can “pay it forward.” But what people didn’t know when made a rare public appearance was that he was announcing he had leukemia. And more shocking was that when he said, “I’d rather die than give my sister the opportunity to save my life,” no one even knew he had a sister.

Elena Diamante nailed the sit-down interview – at his small home on the tiny island of Antikythera in Greece. She was only planning on getting the scoop about Sam and his apparently estranged sister but she was also going to be the first journalist to see inside Sam’s custom-made vault. It was built using watch mechanics, so it was completely self-sustained, and only opened once a year. It was even rumored that if it were ever tampered with, everything inside would be destroyed in a custom acid.

Come to find out for Elena, there would be one item inside Sam’s vault that could save his life, or end it even quicker, it was just a matter of whether or not the vault would open in time.

The vault explores Sam’s family dynamics and how they inspired him to become the successful man he is. The story is also told using Sam’s own family photos growing up, as well as text messages and Facebook/Twitter. There are even hyperlinks within the novel as “Easter Eggs” for those readers that want to explore even more of Sam’s personal life, further blurring the lines of fact/fiction.

Author Interview: Drea Damara

Today I’m fortunate to present Drea Damara author of Beyond Farwin Wood – A Blinney Lane Novel.

Hi Drea, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

Question 1) What part of the world do you come from?

DSCN1140-cropped-2North Central Illinois, born and raised.

Question 2) What do you think makes a good story?

A world people can connect with and characters with interesting problems.

Question 3) What inspired you to write your first book?

I liked how books could transport me as a child and wished that if I fell asleep with a book open, I would wake up in the world of the book. I incorporated that wish into my first novel.

Question 4) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Crazy. It’s an obsession really. When you HAVE to write, HAVE to get it out, you just spend every waking moment pouring it out to get it down and bring it to life. I spent about twelve hours a day for a week writing the complete draft of my first novel. Once I had the story complete in my mind, I felt I need to type it all up so the characters could breathe.

Question 5) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I imagine my stories like films in my mind, complete with their own soundtrack. I create a playlist for each novel and repeatedly play it while I am writing the story. It helps inspire me and generate creativity.

Question 6) Give us the title and genre of your latest book.

Beyond Farwin Wood – A Blinney Lane Novel #2. It’s a bit of everything, but mostly a supernatural fantasy.

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Question 7) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

I never imagined I’d be getting research tips from witchcraft groups, but I wanted to make that element of my story authentic so I did a lot of reading on a helpful witchcraft group’s page about natural remedies and spells.

Question 8) Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

From Beyond Farwin Wood:

14407622_917100808393739_45413150_nValerie couldn’t believe they were still reminiscing over names like two old-timers on a Sunday afternoon.

“Ahem,” she said, clearing her throat.

Ranthrop peered at the sky in thought. “No, it was Luther Ritchie, I think. Definitely a Ritchie though.”

“Hey!” she said, slapping each man’s chest. “I don’t care if it was Lionel Ritchie or Luther Vandross! Where are the boats?”

Varmeer fingered the crest on his tunic, his expression crumpled. “M’lady? The boats are just on yonder side of the pier. The men are readying them now. We know you mean to make haste.”

Valerie looked around, making sure she hadn’t missed a real vessel. All she found were the rustic concoctions of floating logs, two of them now with sails unfurled. Men continued loading the bundles of tents onto them.

“Those are not boats!” She jerked her thumb in the direction of the pier as she turned to face her guides.

Ranthrop stared at her like he was trying to solve algebra problems. Finally he queried, “Lady Valerie, I can assure you those are boats. Do your seafaring vessels in Blinney look so different?”

“Different?” she asked in a shrill voice. “Those are what homeless trappers take up river in a western movie, not something you take out into open waters full of sea monsters!”

Varmeer and Ranthrop exchanged befuddled looks. Wringing her hands, she paced back and forth. She had to think of Franci and not sea monsters. Franci and not timbers cracking beneath her feet or water sloshing around her ankles. Franci and not drowning.

Ranthrop gave his friend a telling look. “Varmeer, would you leave us please?”

Varmeer nodded, casting a curious glance at Valerie. When he was out of earshot, Ranthrop took her by the shoulders, halting her.

“The crossing troubles you, m’lady?”

“Troubles me? I’m terrified!”

Ranthrop noticed the uneasiness in her pretty gray eyes. It was different than what he’d witnessed on their way down the mountain.

“I can’t swim.”

His anxiety at her state burst like a bubble. He chucked as he tapped the underside of her chin with his index finger. “Is that what has you twisted? Have no fear. You won’t need to swim.”

“Why does everyone think that’s supposed to make me feel better? It’s still water. I can’t walk on it. Anything could happen.”

Question 9) What can we expect from you in the future?  

A baby to start! My current and first pregnancy has delayed my next book release, No Death For the Wicked – A Trinity Missions Novel #2.

51s4+ltetcLIt’s the second instalment to my spy thriller series about a female covert operative and a reclusive mercenary. I am a “genre-jumper” so I don’t like to be boxed in, writing only one type of story. I am big into emergency management and hazard mitigation, so I’m excited about a utopian sci-fi I have planned. I try to contribute to BHC Press anthologies when I can, as well, because they have some awesome collections and concepts that I am proud to be a part of. My Blinney Lane fans continue to humble me with their support and demands for more, so I am not ruling out a third instalment of Blinney Lane just yet 😉

Question 10) What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 

My writer’s desk. Ironically, I don’t always write at it, but it was a right of passage for me – something I promised to get myself when I reached one of my writing goals. So it signifies the success of my journey. I bought matching shelves for it where I dedicate space to books by other authors that I have been given, purchased, and reviewed. The only people as great as readers are writers and I’ve been blessed to meet so many wonderful fellow literary voices. It’s a nice reminder to know we have been a part of each other’s journeys.

Question 11) How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

My author website is www.dreadamara.com and forgive me for my nesting period and baby registry addiction, as it has fallen a bit to the wayside. However, I try to keep up with my blog JustAGirl with all kinds of literary and life tidbits: https://dreadamara.wordpress.com

 

Author Interview: Mary R. Woldering #Tuesdaybookblog

Today I’m fortunate to present Mary R. Woldering author of Children of Stone.

Hi Mary, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

10014489_228282274027119_1981351165_oQuestion 1) What part of the world do you come from?

The United States

Question 2) What do you think makes a good story?

Strong characters and their interaction with each other

Question 3) What inspired you to write your first book?

I don’t recall. I just wrote a story when I was about 14.

Question 4) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Chaotic and full of distractions, but I manage.

Question 5) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

No idea what you would consider interesting or a quirk. I do a lot of research & Googling.

Question 6) Give us the title and genre of your latest book.

Opener of the Sky – Book 3 of the Children of Stone Series.

Question 7) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

That I have very few readers. I think the story is a great one and so do my few readers, but news of the tale is just not spreading.

Question 8) Do you have an excerpt from your current work you’d like to share?

Sure! I preceded it with the blurb.

Children of Stone Book 3 – Opener of the Sky

I had grown fierce and hard
Thrilled by death, torture, blood…
the madness of it when I tasted its warm saltiness
A warrior god.

… from the poem Howl by Mary R. Woldering (as told by Raemkai-2012)

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Marai, a former shepherd, who discovered a fallen ‘star’ and was gifted with amazing abilities by the unearthly Children of Stone, has been separated from those he loves.

Turned sojourner, he begins a desperate mission to find them, but the spectre of wickedness and corruption is never far behind and his journey to wisdom becomes even more uncertain.

While Opener Of The Sky, the third book in the Children of Stone series, is the continuing story of Marai’s magical search for his companions, it is also the story of Maatkare Raemkai, a sadistic shape-changing warrior-prince, whose twisted relationships once propelled him into power, then nearly destroyed him.

Through sorcerous manipulation of the women Marai loves, he has planned his own revenge. The sojourner Marai is just in the way.  Will he be too late to save those he loves or will he welcome them in victory?

In this excerpt from Sokor and Khmenu, Ariennu and Naibe attempt an escape from the clutches of their captor Prince Maatkare one day away from the king’s palace. He, being part wolf/dog tracks them, manipulating them into the very temple where he offers sacrifices. He’s intent on teaching them both a lesson.

(Reader’s note. Ariennu is nicknamed MaMa and Naibe is called Baby, but they are not mother and daughter.) 18+

 

Ari stared at Maatkare Raemkai as he chatted, noticing Deka sat next to her prince oblivious to the surroundings. She had done the same thing in Little Kina Ahna when everyone had lived with Marai.  That much of her personality had not changed. For Ari, Maatkare was much more interesting.

So good looking though. He was even fun to drink with last night before it got to be too much; watching him show off for his men. Ariennu mused, a slight smile on her lips. Maybe not the worst idea in the world, except having to share him. And whatever he did to Naibe this afternoon was uncalled for, knocking her out like that.

She paused, tucking in her thoughts, when she saw the prince glance her way as if he had heard every one of them.

The signal to Naibe was a yawn.

Ari leaned to a servant.

“Where is your privy? My friend and I need to…”

The servant glanced at the priest who spoke to the prince.

Maatkare, his eyes glimmering a little in recognition of something, motioned for an older guard to follow them. He raised a forefinger, then lowered it in a quiet but mystical gesture.

Don’t be gone too long, ladies. His thoughts whispered as he pulled Deka a little closer.

The shaded stall with an open half wall provided just enough room for a person to squat. After a moment, Ari rose and gestured to Naibe that it was her turn:

I’m going to cover myself and stand over you. If you just concentrate on getting to the king and not being seen, I think it’ll work.

She wrapped the prismatic illusion around herself like goddess Nut’s mantle, hugging Naibe up into her arms and slipping away past the guard who paced just a few feet away.

As soon as she reached the causeway to the river, she let Naibe down and dropped the illusion. The two women gasped and then caught their breath, shrinking back into the shadow. Once there, they tried to get their bearings.

“Do you think he saw which way we went?” Naibe whispered.

“No, but we have to keep moving down the river. I’m sure the guard has already told…Oh Goddess…fast. The bastard knows already.”

Ari stopped and crouched with Naibe as guards with bobbling torches erupted from the gate to priest’s house.

“Bring him out here. Stupid bastard let them run off.”

Prince Maatkare.

Storming by.

He whirled as two men dragged the guard who had been set over the women out to the wall near the water in the causeway channel.

Naibe and Ariennu crouched lower, wrapping secrecy around themselves.

“Highness. They used sorcery. Gone in a flash.” The guard pleaded, then accepting his fate, whispered: “Have mercy…”

“I do have mercy on you, because you have served me well.” The prince replied. “And I have mercy on your children.”

The shup sound of a blade striking hard into a body was followed by a groan. A shadow drifted over the three figures who supported the fourth, followed by a snapping sound. It meant the man’s neck had been broken in a quick gesture of mercy.

Ari clapped a quick hand over Naibe’s mouth to keep her from squealing aloud in horror.

“Take our unfortunate old friend to the open edge of the water. He has been given a message for Lord Sebek. What you men will know” the hand gesture again, as if he was imprinting the men with a different story, “is that as he was chasing the women, slipped at the muddy bank and the crocodiles got to him before we could. I will write a message to his family of his noble deeds in my service and award them his pension. Be careful of the crocodiles yourselves. They can be keen on those who break the rules or bear tales.” He grew silent as the guard’s body was carried away.

Ari faded herself into the color of the wall. She couldn’t make out everything the prince was doing but it seemed to be additional ritual gestures, followed by the spiritual howl of a wolf-dog. It grew in piercing volume overtaking Ari’s heart and filling her heart with uncustomary terror.

Naibe’s mouth opened in a silent cry.

Maatkare stopped, as if he noticed, and sniffed the air.

For a moment, Ari thought she recognized the flash of shiny fang teeth in an eerie grin but realized it was an image of warning he had conjured up so that he would appear as a beast before her eyes.

I know you are near, ladies. I can smell your scents. Because you decided to run away, you now see a little more of how I am. I will find you before dawn. I hope the chase will leave me feeling less upset by that time. The prince’s thought voice was calm and unruffled, just as it had been when he spoke to the unfortunate guard. He moved back up the causeway, scenting and searching for them.

As soon as Ari saw he was far enough away to appear the same size as a shabti doll, she silently grabbed Naibe and darted around the perimeter of the priest’s home and into the first entrance they could find that didn’t seem to be part of the building complex.

The path became a shrouded tunnel.

Ari saw two sentries at the open gate entryway.

Another temple, maybe? She thought, hurtling by the men with Naibe in tow. The sentries stirred as if they sensed something, stared at each other, then they closed the gate behind the women who were still moving deeper inside the passageways. Ariennu relaxed, her image becoming visible. She waited with Naibe in the dust and dark, while they caught their breath.

“Killed the guard, the bastard did, just to teach us a lesson. He set the whole thing up, because he knew we were up to something. I don’t even think N’ahab would have done that, goddess curse his soul.” Ari spat at the ground, then pulled Naibe to the left branch of the path when they came to a division.

The new hallway was close and torch lit with paintings on the walls. At intervals there were more paths and arched hollows that became other tunnels, but Ari was certain they would find the way out of the other side at any moment.

A right then another right then a left. Um. She paused to stroke the stone in her brow, hoping to clarify any message her Child Stone transmitted.

Where am I supposed to go? Damn. I’m going to get us lost. She froze. City of the Dead, Sokor. A Labyrinth, and I led us both in here.  She turned to Naibe. “Let’s just try to be calm and quiet. They will help us. They just have to.”

“Um, Ari…” Naibe paused, her hand staying the older woman’s hand. “You do know where you are going don’t you?”

“I just know we have to go deeper in. I can still feel his thoughts, Babe. He’s looking around down here…tracking us. He can smell us. If we keep moving in where the burial boxes are, there are enough of them and dust in the twists. I want his nose confused over what he thinks he smells. He can’t stay past dawn. Sooner or later he’ll have to give up on us and keep moving up the river. He’ll have to leave us.  Then we can get out and get down the river to Our Father Menkaure. If he’s going to keep showing me how he is ‘Prince Dangerous’ and killing people over nothing, we’re not safe. I’ll curse my own soul if I ever let some man kill me, whether he was glorious on his couch or not.”

“I didn’t like it, Ari.” Naibe admitted, just above a whisper.

“No? Really? I thought he was one wild hump! That El of his knew how to seek out every single part in my belly and womb like it was made for it. Mmm…Mmm…I wish I didn’t have to get away. I’m getting another itch for it, just thinking about it working me.”

Ari turned every way she could, realizing the underground complex must have been huge. So far she hadn’t found any two passageways that looked alike.

“With me, he put up a wall over his soul instead of becoming open to me. Devils came out of his eyes the more I sent up my loving to him. He just sucked it out and still gave nothing back. It was as if he was broken and couldn’t love me like a normal man. He could give the pleasure twice over to fill in that missing part and I was screaming for it, but then I couldn’t stop thinking of my Marai and how much I missed the real love he had for me…and then I couldn’t breathe. I fainted.”

“No I saw everything he did when you first came in. Read it off your stone when you were crawling around the cabin floor all shocked. Bastard choked you hard enough to end you and then painted night in front of your eyes…said he would drink your heart for saying Marai’s name to him.” Ariennu stopped walking and sat by the wall where five corridors branched out in the dark.

Now which way? She asked herself.

Naibe shuddered as if she wanted to gag in worry.

Ari she tapped the nearly imperceptible rise in the middle of her forehead just at the top of her nose. “Come on little one… some help here. Show me those little balls of light Marai told us about that led him in the dark to your boat of wonders so long ago, if this is still real…”

“It’s alright MaMa.” Naibe petted Ari’s shoulder.

“Still my fault we’re having to run like this. We should be at the palace soaking in asses milk, not having to get away from someone who’s no better than a slave master.” She saw the small lightened area in one of the corridors. “There. That way. I see those lights, I think. We have to go.” Ari got to her feet and pulled Naibe up.

After a series of twists and turns and more walking, the elder woman slowed, realizing the lights might have been an illusion born of her own fatigue.

 

Push on if you must

Or stay

Or go this way

 

A voice exploded just under her brow. It was louder than the usual whisper-like singing to which she had become accustomed.

“Finally! Ouch, damn. Naibe, watch your step, there’s something back here. I thought it was a wall but there’s something out in front.” She murmured, then felt the lid of a low stone box with some carved object on top.

A Stone box. It’s like my dream when I saw Marai lying dead in that black box somewhere. She felt for the edge for a moment but realized the box in her dream had been plain and slick to the touch. This one was smooth but not as finely polished

“I can feel a draft coming over the top so maybe it’s in front of a hall that leads us out of here the back way.” Ari couldn’t see much in the dark until she paused and became calm enough for her eyes to switch into a kind of night vision.

In the back, a niche containing a platform for offerings. Something furred, broken and wet with gore lay in the dish. Her hands leapt up away from whatever it was as if they had been lightning struck. Atop the lid was a carved image. She felt the shape: Animal. Legs, haunches, muzzle and upright ears of Wepwawet as Guide of the Dead.

She gasped, realizing the irony of the place she had entered with the younger woman. The prince’s words from late last night rang in her ears.

 

I’m the Lord of the Dead by the Blood of Aset…the Lord of the Dead

 

She remembered the revelry of the party, and the way a very drunk Maatkare cried out his howling lament about his ill-fated marriage to the king’s daughter. Women always tryna put a collar on me.

That was the moment she knew she had to get him away from the king’s private area and onto his boat.

Well damn me she thought.

Ari suddenly realized the prince was here on more than business. This was a centering and safe place for the disciples of Wepwawet who presented as a wolf/dog.

He must be from the wolf school with all his skill with a bow, the howling, the…Oh goddess…shape shifting that’s so fast no bones bend or skin stretches…he just is. I led us both to his safe space…He came here to cleanse himself? Our dinner host was his witness while we were cleaning up?

Ariennu sensed something wasn’t right in the tonality of the Children’s voices. Sounds like a man imitating…like…She tensed, all the hair on her arm rising as she heard the great wolf/dog’s panting approach to the opening of the chapel.

The sound of his clawed feet tip-tapped on the hardened earth floor of the path. The panting merged into an evil titter; breathing in the dark; a faint growl that grew stronger and more threatening.

 

Push on if you must

Or stay

Or go this way

Either way leads to pain

You see, I know what they sound like,

Your little friends

These voices in your crystal eye.

 

The black furred hand/paw touched her arm just before it faded into illusion.

“MaMa!” Naibe cried, panting. “He’s finding us. Hide!” Naibe ran around the stone box. This time she grabbed Ari and hid in her cloaking arms. The women clung to each other, wide-eyed and silent. Before the shroud of silence covered them, Ari saw the silhouette of a black wolf/dog thin like smoke. In its place, Ari thought she saw a gold armlet flashing in the slight available light of a distant torch.

Oh. He’s here? She hardened her resolve, crouching and ready to fight.

In the distance, the women heard a faint scampering snapping, growling, yodel-howling, circling and finding the way.

They’re coming Ari. Dogs…He has power over dogs. He’s sending dogs. Naibe grabbed Ariennu harder, as if it would help her gain more invisibility.

I know Baby, I know…the elder woman listened silently for a long time as the sounds circled, grew louder and finally paused outside the room where they had become the most confused.

Footsteps.

Maatkare stood in the doorway, golden wrist and arm bands glimmering in ambient torchlight.

“I know what you tried to do.” He began to pace, trying to seem thoughtful “Maybe I would have done the same thing too if I had been in your situation. But now you’ve caused a good man to die, because you outwitted him with your little trick.”

The sound of dogs growling grew louder.  His thought voice growled too, half human half dog as if he had become one of them.

Easy brothers…he started, then spoke aloud “Perhaps I should let them come at you. They are my trick, Red Sister. See if you like it.” Maatkare’s dark hand swept the air in front of him. Ari sensed an almost-whisper.

Suddenly, black ravenous shadows emptied past him around his torso and over his shoulders; into the chamber pouncing, snarling and biting. Ariennu felt herself knocked back hard by the weight of several animals standing around and towering over her. She shrieked angrily, struggling against their bodies.

“Call them off! Damn you!” she swung, kicked and shoved, but accomplished nothing.

 

“You’re afraid…tsk, tsk…fearless Lady Ariennu…worried by some puppies.”

 

“Am not…get them off me…”

 

“About to soil yourself, you naughty ka’t” he chortled, toeing the threshold and gesturing. “Just a very small sample of what I can do, if you come to annoy me.”

Puppies?  Ari froze, her eyes clearing a little.

The clawing and biting beasts had become gregarious, yipping puppies. They frolicked happily about her prone body then left, heading past the prince and out the doorway as they vanished.

It had been a magnificent illusion.

 

Question 9) What can we expect from you in the future?  

The last 2 books in the series Book 4 “Heart of the Lotus” and Book 5 “The Lake of Memory” plus some spin-offs in other time periods including a Steampunk Crime novella “Miss Hattie and the Hoppers” and an autobiography of sorts. There are other plans in other times and places.

Question 10) What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? 

Createspace covers. They are very professional looking.

Picture2

Question 11) How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mary-R.-Woldering/e/B00OND7QMU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard

Website:  Palace intrigue, murder, madness, confusion, bizarre twists and plot turns…dangerous hookups, evil geniuses, punk sorcerers, traitors…

https://www.maryrwoldering.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChildrenofStone

Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/ChildrenofStoneNovels?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

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