Author Interview with @BenjamHope! #gothic #steampunk #Victorian #alchemy

Today I’m excited to present Benjamin Hope, author of The Procurement of Souls. As a fan of alchemy, the premise of his novel intrigued me, and after reading the first chapter, it’s definitely on my to-be-read list!

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

I’m from Hertfordshire, just north of London, in the UK.

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

Good stories immerse the reader in their world. In order to do this most effectively, I think narratives need to have strongly imagined characters through which the reader can understand and experience this world. By strongly imagined, I mean characters who develop and grow through the arc of the story; who are fallible in one way or another; and who have a strong sense of purpose, a goal to achieve (and even better if this shifts or changes along the way!), and problems to overcome. In this way, characters not only allow the reader to connect more personally to the story but also drive the pace forward and craft the shape of the plot.

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

I’ve always been inspired to write, even as a very young boy. Although, my first attempt at a full-length novel came when I was about 18 – it was a disaster! I was trying to write with somebody else’s voice; to emulate an author rather than allowing my own natural style develop. It wasn’t until later on, after I truly felt that I had found my voice that I came up with a seed of an idea for The Procurement of Souls. It kept on resurfacing, like an itch that wouldn’t be scratched until I finally put fingers to the keyboard and started getting it down. I can’t say what the inspiration was exactly, only that I have always loved history and fantasy-sci-fi and I suppose those loves combined into an initial idea kept growing until I had the bones of my first novel!

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

Well, I have a full-time job and an 8-month-old baby, so more recently I’ve been fitting it in as and when I can – lunchtimes, weekends, evenings, etc. I’ve also been on shared parental leave in Berlin for the last couple of months (with my wife’s work) and I’ve been very fortunate to have my mother-in-law with us too, which has enabled me to get cracking with my sequel in between changing nappies!

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

It’s not so much a quirk as an interesting circumstance, but my wife is an opera singer and so travels a lot with her profession. This means that I’m quite often a mobile writer! The Procurement of Souls was written in London, Madrid, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin! In fact, I finished my first draft of PoS in a smoky café in Vienna – I felt like Hemmingway!

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

My debut, The Procurement of Souls, had its official launch on 1stJuly. It’s a Victorian-gothic-steampunk crossover about the exploits of two opposing bio-alchemists.

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

The fact that finishing a complete first draft of a novel is only the beginning of the journey! When you get there, it’s an amazing feeling and one that every writer should be proud of, but then comes the re-writes, the overhauls, the re-jigs, the additions, the exclusions, the copy-editing etc. As an indie author, you are reliant on a huge amount of self-discipline and of course it’s exceptionally hard to be objective with your work – you quickly become ‘snow-blind’ to the words on the page – both in terms of content and technical accuracy and without access to, or the means to employ, a professional editor, the ability to ensure all aspects of the narrative is a good as it can be, is a real challenge. I am a self-confessed perfectionist and to ensure that The Procurement of Soulsreflected the very best of me, I turned to a number of people I knew who could objectify my work, provide that much needed brutally honest feedback and eliminate any technical errors too. 

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

Procurement of Souls Benjamin Hope Cover Art slim.jpgI think it’s best to start at the beginning, so here’s chapter 1!

*CONTAINS EXPLETIVES*

The whites of two wide eyes were all that could be seen in the splinter of light that passed through the crack in the swollen doorjamb. Dr Weimer observed in silence the blind panic that radiated from them as they darted one way and then another, desperately trying to place themselves. The fear was pungent. Smells like he’s soiled himself, he thought with distastebefore throwing open the door and illuminating the room with such a contrasting brightness that the man in the chair audibly gasped.

‘Mr Wade,’ Dr Weimer began as he stepped inside, ‘you must forgive the enforced and abrupt manner in which we make one another’s acquaintance. I dare say that having a bag thrust upon one’s head unexpectedly is most unpleasant and disconcerting.’ His tone was saccharine; sugared with false sincerity. ‘But unfortunately, you hold in your possession something I require. Something important. Something personal.’ He smiled at him, his fat lips parting obtusely and revealing a row of white but stubby teeth, spread with almost uniform gapping in a blood-red gum, before pushing his circular glass frames further up the bridge of his nose with deliberate precision. ‘Nevertheless, this is the situation we find ourselves in.’ He moved a little closer towards him and noticed with curiosity and self-acknowledged satisfaction how the man visibly shrank at his advance.

Wade felt his throat constrict at this sudden and disturbing entrance. Panic took a slightly firmer grip and he tried pressing with all his strength against the back of the chair, to no avail.

His mind clutched at words to try to rescue himself from the situation. ‘Alright, alright, I’ll do whatever you want. Just untie me and I’ll promise to –’ but he felt his voice catch, his mouth dry to gravel. He simply couldn’t seem to keep his sense of dread in check. He’d been in precarious situations before but this whole scenario seemed different. The moment he’d been taken and heard the purr of that woman’s accented voice in his ear, it was clear this was out of the ordinary. This man too; the smell of the place – acrid and chemical – was all wrong. He cursed inwardly for not keeping his cool. It was normally him doing the intimidating, yet his pulse continued to spiral higher as sweat pooled at the nape of his neck and thoughts of what this could be about flickered across his mind’s-eye like a flip-book. ‘Listen,’ he implored, ‘listen. I don’t know what it is you think I have but if you untie me, I promise to help you. I have connections. You just need to untie me first and –’

He was cut off with a single word. ‘No,’ the man said, savouring the roundness of the vowel before continuing. ‘That won’t be possible, I’m afraid. After I explain our situation further, I happen to know you’ll be rather less obliging of my needs. Untying you would be entirely counter-productive.’

Wade snorted a number of times in quick succession. Why him? Why now? It had occurred to him that this could be some vengeful intimidation strategy being exacted upon him by some enemy or other. God knows there were plenty of those. Somebody he’d cheated maybe? Perhaps a harbour-master from one of the dock sites he’d failed a run for? But although a good number of possibilities came to mind, not one seemed to fit this particular glove and looking up at this piggy-eyed psychopath in his pristine white apron, illicit goods and aggrieved dockers appeared to be the least of his worries. No, this was something different and strange: it sickened him to the gut. And as he looked wildly around for some hope of an escape, he thought he began to connect a number of the dots.

A surgeon’s operating table stood in the middle of the room with a tray of instruments waiting next to it. Beside that, a tangle of transparent tubes articulated with rubber joints led to a brass-coloured sphere the size of a carriage with a dozen or so pistons sticking out at a diagonal on either side. Bile rose in his throat.

‘What is this? What are you – a doctor? A surgeon? What do you want from me?’ Anxiety had forced his larynx so far up that the words barely squeaked out. He pulled upwards desperately with his wrists to try and loosen his manacles. ‘I… I really have nothing… nothing worth taking.’

‘That you know of, Mr Wade, that you know of. We all have something worth giving. You need to calm down or you’ll cut your hands to shreds. It’s surgical wire, not yarn; I don’t want you bleeding out.’

‘But… but what could you possibly need me for? I’ve told you, I have nothing to my name, I’m just a… a… nobody.’ He frothed at the mouth a little.

The doctor’s eyes narrowed tightly to slits. ‘That’s precisely why you’re here. You’ve no family either from what I’m told?’

‘Wha-what? No! I don’t – I – fuck! Please! Don’t cut me open! Don’t take my organs, I –’

‘Mr Wade, nobody is going to cut anybody open. What possible use could I have with your organs? I’m not some vulgar anatomist looking to advance his expertise. We shan’t be on the table today. What I want is much more valuable than that.’ He walked abruptly behind his chair and unlocked the wheels. ‘And it’s time to start the preparations.’

Wade’s chair took a sudden jerk backwards and he came face-to-face with his tormenter. He felt the floor slip away beneath him and heard the grumble and squeak of the casters as he was wheeled beside the bed.

‘Now, I should warn you that you may feel a certain degree of discomfort, Mr Wade. It’s perfectly normal. I just need to support your neck a little.’

Mr Wade screamed. Something was clamped suddenly about his thick neck, rigid and tall, pulling his vertebrae fully erect. Cold steel pressed against his skin and held him there unnaturally straight. His hands squirmed despite himself, the wire cutting into more flesh. He had been rendered absolutely useless, and despite his muscular, bullish frame, he was quite at this malefactor’s mercy: a pathetic fly wound tight in the spider’s web.

‘Forgive me,’ continued the doctor, ‘just a precautionary measure to ensure the tubing doesn’t shatter mid-journey. It’s imperative your oesophagus remains in one piece.’ He unhooked a length of tubing from the stand and held one end up to the bare light. An evil metal barb, like the tail of a stingray, flashed as he turned it slowly in his gloved hand. ‘Now listen, you’re an exceedingly large man and I would suggest that the stiller you are, the easier this will all be and the fewer accidents we are likely to have. Open your mouth please, wide.’

Wade’s eyes took on the appearance of twin new moons crossing each other’s orbits as the metal end came towards him.

‘Your mouth, Mr Wade.’

A spike of pain burned unexpectedly at his side forcing him into an involuntary gasp and in that instant the end of the tube found itself secreted at the back of his mouth. He tasted the cold tang of metal briefly on his tongue before it passed back and slipped down into his throat and further still. He gagged to no relief. His tongue lolled inadequately to one side.

The doctor put the scalpel he’d been holding back on the table. ‘Now take slow steady breaths. You will manage that if you remain calm.’

Down the tubing went, like some uninvited serpent, all the way until he felt it in the pit of his belly. The doctor held the other end up vertically above him and with a curt nod looped it through a fine wire coil dangling from the ceiling.

‘Well, we’re in place and anchored at your core. So, let’s begin.’

The syringe was not like anything Wade had ever seen before. For one thing, the needle was curved, and flexed at the touch.

‘We need to introduce the antithesis of what we require in order to act as a lure. It is the simplicity of opposite attraction.’ The doctor held the syringe a little higher and squirted a touch of the scum-coloured fluid into a kidney-shaped tray. ‘Human brain to be precise, mixed with a unique compound of my own design – the cerebrum is quite dead you see and just what we need to draw our target out.’ He depressed the plunger, introducing the liquid steadily into the tubing. This he unlatched from the wire loop and secured the opposite end to a panel at the bottom of the brass sphere behind them. Mr Wade blinked violently in protest, his teeth vibrating against the glass. His mind swam. What was he talking about? What did he mean? Surely, he would realise he had the wrong man.

Suddenly a terrible cramp grasped at him somewhere near the pit of his stomach. For a second, he had the notion that he might soil himself. The cramp grew. He felt an excruciating wrenching of something pulling apart; could actually feel involuntary movement in his abdomen. A tearing was faintly audible. ‘Sthh-sthh’ he hissed with his tongue on the tubing.

He could feel the doctor’s eyes upon him, observing. His apparent composure was chilling, as he stood, hands formed into a cage at his chest, simply watching. And then a peculiar stillness came over him too: an emptiness and sensation of release, much like the feeling after vomiting. Was this it? Would he let him go now? His eyes searched sideways for an answer.

‘The calm before the storm,’ noted the doctor.

A crippling, violent spasm shot through Wade’s body, radiating from his centre so that, despite the length of glass-tubing inside him, he stretched out awkwardly against his wire restraints, his frame rigid as steel. He couldn’t breathe, not at all. He tried to suck in air. His lungs burned. Blood rose to the surface, covering his skin in raised veins and capillaries: worms of red, threatening to burst at any moment. I’m dying, he thought. This is it.

An audible popsounded from within him, the noise making even the doctor jump slightly. Wade’s body slumped as far as it could in the chair and then movement shook the tubing. Something viscous issued from his mouth along the length of glass. Pink, yellow, plum, red, green: its colour seemed to morph as it moved rapidly towards the brass sphere, like light refracted through water. It gave off a haze or glow that bathed the room in a peculiar tint before disappearing again inside the machine.

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

Benjamin Hope midshotI’m currently busy writing the sequel to The Procurement of Souls. It’s called A New Religion and I won’t give too much away about the plot except to say it features more steampunkesque inventions, a host of new characters, and a few familiar faces along the way! I also have plans for a collection of gothic-influenced cautionary fairy-tales. I released one for World Book Night this year, The Rookery at Smeaton Abbey, which you can read on my website here. I have also sketched out the bare bones of a full-length cautionary fairy tale. So, with the addition of my regular blogging and book recommendations, there’s lots going on but I am focusing my energies on A New Religion at the moment, which should be set for publication in 2019.

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

Well, The Procurement of Soulsis my debut so I’m yet to experience that joyous moment but I did treat myself to a new laptop a few months ago. As I said earlier, as I travel a lot, it’s important that I have something reliable and portable, so that I can write wherever I am.

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

You can check out my website, www.benjamin-hope.com where you can find out about my latest work and read my regular blogs about the writing process. You can sign-up to my mailing list there, follow me if you’re a WordPress user, or follow me on Twitter or Instagram @BenjamHope.

The Procurement of Souls is available as a paperback or eBook (in most formats) from your local Amazon and most online bookstores.

Quick links:

USA Amazon

UK Amazon

Procurement of Souls Benjamin Hope Cover Art slim.jpg

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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)

Picture1

 

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.

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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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Author Interview: Claire Buss

Today I’m fortunate to present Claire Buss author of The Rose Thief.

Hi Claire, thanks for agreeing to this interview!

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

I’m from the UK, just moved to Southend-on-Sea sAuthor Pico I’m looking forward to being inspired by living next to the seaside!

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

I think a good story needs to capture the reader’s imagination so either a wondrous setting, imaginative storyline or characters that you can really connect with. Ideally all three in one book if possible. What I enjoy the most about reading is forgetting that I am turning physical pages because I am so swept up in the story world.

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

Gaia Raven CoverMy first book, The Gaia Effect, was the result of taking part in a local book writing competition. I saw free writing workshops available at my local library and thought that would be a great opportunity to get back into writing. The workshops led to entry into the Pen to Print Book Competition with an opening chapter. I was fortunate enough to become a finalist in January 2015, all I had to do was write the rest of the book by August 2015! It was an amazing experience and I am so proud of The Gaia Effect, the first of many books I hope.

Tales from Suburbia jpgMy second book, which I released in July 2017, is called Tales from Suburbia and is a collection of short stories, plays and blog posts that intermingle my own personal experiences as a mum, the peccadillos of suburbia and the perils of social media. The subject matter varies from social observation to the humorous reflection of toddler life. Burying my Baby is heartbreaking. One, Two, Cha Cha Cha is hilarious. This collection is full of human foibles and folly and is both amusing and empathetic.

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

I am a stay-at-home mum so it can be difficult to juggle set writing times, it’s better if I try to remain flexible and jump on any and all opportunities to write. I often manage to get an hour in first thing as my little boy is a very early riser, between 5 and 6am usually. He watches Fireman Sam and I work on my latest project. When I am writing first draft I do sit down with a 1000 word daily target in order to make sure I get the book out of my head and onto paper. It’s a case of doing as much as I can, when I can.

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

Hmmm, well I am a touch typist so I don’t have to look at my fingers when I’m typing which my husband finds highly amusing. I never plan, I’ll have a vague outline of the story – only about five lines or so – but absolutely no idea who is going to do what or how we will get from the beginning to the end. I think that’s why I enjoy writing so much because I have no idea what’s going to happen next.

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

My latest book is called The Rose Thief, it’s a humorous fantasy set in a world where magic exists and humans live alongside fae folk.

Ned Spinks, Chief Thief-Catcher has a problem. Someone is stealing the Emperor’s roses. But that’s not the worst of it. In his infinite wisdom and grace, the Emperor magically imbued his red rose with love so if it was ever removed from the Imperial Rose Gardens then love will be lost, to everyone, forever. It’s up to Ned and his band of motley catchers to apprehend the thief and save the day. But the thief isn’t exactly who they seem to be, neither is the Emperor. Ned and his team will have to go on a quest defeating vampire mermaids, illusionists, estranged family members and an evil sorcerer in order to win the day. What could possibly go wrong?

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

I am always surprised at being able to string words together. I think because I don’t have a writing plan and never know what’s going to happen back, it’s always impressive reading the first draft for the first time and thinking, wow, I wrote this!

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

 The Rose Thief Cover 1           Ned’s train of thought was disturbed by a blood-curdling scream coming from the direction of the Black Narrows. This in itself was not unusual. Most sounds down the Black Narrows were of the screaming persuasion. It wasn’t a place you visited after dark. Or in the middle of the day. Or ever, unless you were one of the unlucky hundreds who happened to call it home. There was no immediate response so the screamer tried a different tack.

            ‘It’s Two-Face Bob! Eee’s been murdered!’

            That did the trick. Soon the Narrows were filled with onlookers – some brought a stool and a beverage, the forward thinkers of Narrow society – others got stuck in the crowd. The murder alarm had started bonging in the thief-catcher’s office and seeing as the spell that ran the alarm had a bad habit of growing ten decibels a minute, it seemed to Ned to be a good idea to get away from that and investigate. Thief-Catchers were not required to investigate all murders, most were covered by The Guild of Inhumers. There was a monthly newsletter outlining who to look out for. As long as the correct paperwork had been logged and a receipt issued, everyone knew where they stood. They might not like it but at least they knew about it. The murder alarm somehow knew who had receipts and who didn’t. It was spell casting beyond Ned’s blocked ability, he couldn’t even manage the volume control.

            There was a bit of shoving and muttering as Ned pushed his way through the ranks. He didn’t have to look too hard to find the murder scene, all he had to do was follow the curious crowd. A fair number of the shifty looking men in nondescript clothing had come to make sure Two-Face Bob was actually dead. Certain people owed certain things and if his death were true, life had suddenly become a lot brighter. It only took one look to know for certain. One of Two-Face Bob’s faces stared lifelessly at the smog-ridden skies above, both eyes missing. The other face, which incidentally remained on his head, attached to his body, had eyes popping, mouth open as if to scream and a terrified look of fear and shock frozen in place. Someone had clearly taken a violent dislike to Two-Face Bob. Looking down at the separated visages of Two-Face Bob, Ned felt a flicker of unease surge in his stomach. It could be because he hadn’t eaten in the past twenty-four hours. Or it could be because Two-Face Bob had been to see him less than five minutes ago, claiming intel on the Rose Thief. Ned didn’t hold much weight with coincidences. The viciousness of the attack was unusual for the type of murder usually committed in Roshaven. Put that together with Two-Face Bob’s extensive protection system of both magical and mundane origin and it was obvious.

            ‘He’s been ripped apart by a wraith,’ Ned muttered under his breath.

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

I have a short story in the new Inklings Press anthology, Tales from the Underground and one in a brand new anthology called Quantum Soul – both of which should be out by the end of 2017. I shall begin writing the sequel to The Gaia Effect in January 2018 and I have plans to revisit the world of The Rose Thief with some additional stories. I also have a techno-western, a re-imagined fairy tale, a possible multi-book series as well as a second short story collection and a book about my book club. Lots more to come!

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

So far, the best money I’ve spent is to have the cover of The Rose Thief designed by a proper artist who is talented and knows what he’s doing, the wonderful Ian Bristow.

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

You can contact me via Facebook – www.facebook.com/busswriter – or twitter – www.twitter.com/grasshopper2407. I also have a website – www.cbvisions.weebly.com where you can find the sign-up link to my newsletter, the latest news, and other social media links.

Author Interview: Stephanie Ayers #Tuesdaybookblog

Today I’m fortunate to present Stephanie Ayers, author of The 13: Tales of Illusory.

Hi Stephanie, thanks for agreeing to this interview!

11224037_860439547360338_7629373995538696974_oQuestion 1) What part of the world do you come from?

I call the east coast of the United States home. I live in Virginia, closer to Washington, DC, though I crave a home in the mountains. 

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

To me, a good story is well-told with vibrant images that play like a movie in my head as I read. To me, it’s when I’m reading and the whole world disappears… that is good story.

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

I have been writing as a child. My dream to be famous started with writing, then singing, then acting, then singing, and I have found it most peaceful to write. The inspiration behind my first published book was a publisher’s admission that she loved it after I wrote a blurb to it. It began as a serial on my blog.

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

Honestly writing takes a back seat right now as we work on building our publishing house up. I’ve been doing a lot of focus with graphics, but writing is still instrumental to all I do. It must be creative, and that is a successful day.

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

Hmmm… some would say love stories with a twist, but my writing quirk is probably more along the lines of all the headless or beheaded characters in my stories.

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

The 13: Tales of Illusory is a collection of short horror stories.

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

I’m always surprised by people’s interest. I’m in my own little world, just being me, so when people step up, it’s always the biggest surprise. It’s also a surprise how well received my book cover is.

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

Sure…this is from Wade, Haunted:

The 13

The front door of the white house opened with a squeak that made Wade’s heart skip a beat. His eyes closed, and the dusty silence of the long empty house accosted him. Nothing disturbed the air, not even the buzz of appliances. Sensing the vacancy, he opened his eyes. A photo album s

 

at on the rickety coffee table just beyond the front door. His stomach clenched. Hesitant eyes searched the room as he moved towards the table, noting the crumbling paint on the walls and broken bricks of the fireplace, but he switched direction at the last minute. Despite the dead silence, he needed to know there was no one there. His feet carried him through a small opening and into the kitchen.

Cobwebs crowded dark corners, and a spider web covered the base of the sink. The stale odor of disuse exuded from the refrigerator as he opened it. Nothing there but more cobwebs. He coughed and closed it. A glance out the window showed him a yard filled with unruly weeds and tall, browning grass. He followed a short hall to a closed door. Inside the closet a few musty jackets hung on metal hangers and dust coated the floor.  

A short staircase with an ornate brass bannister loomed opposite the closet. He ascended, the ominous creaking and sighing of the steps disturbing the silence. Wade’s heart plunged to his belly. He raced to the top looking over his shoulder every other step. Once he reached the top, an open foyer looked down into the front room. With bated breath he investigated the rooms behind him and found most of them empty. He flipped the light switch in the bathroom out of habit, and a pasty white face stared at him from the mirror. Startled, he jumped and his heart quickened, until he realized it was his reflection.

Wade’s fingers trembled as he turned the knob of the last room, and the door opened without noise. Rose pink covered the walls, and gold-framed landscapes of mountains and sunsets hung on either side of an elaborate oak dresser. A large gold headboard disappeared behind a yellowed rosebud coverlet. A layer of age and abandonment coated everything. He shut the door, a sense of intrusion replacing his dread, and moved to the railing. The album winked up at him from the coffee table, drawing his attention. His curiosity aroused, he worked his way to the front room.

A cloud of dust exhaled from the couch as he sat. His hands quivered as he opened the cover; he took his time pouring over each page. Pictures of a handsome family rose from the pages. A sincere-faced father draped an arm across each son’s shoulders. A beautiful woman stood beside him, cradling an infant in her arms. As their story unfolded, the family appeared less and less, until only pictures of the woman remained. Loneliness seeped from her eyes, and he wondered what had happened to them.

With his eyes in a half-squint, he concentrated on the surrounding room, searching for a clue. A dark stain on the wall near the baseboard caught his attention. Hot breath blew against his neck. He turned and startled. The woman from the pictures sat next to him. Her ruby lips pouted coyly. Her blonde hair twisted seductively down her body, drawing attention to her full breasts. They pressed against her tight top as she leaned forward, teasing Wade with her closeness.

“What brings you here, lover?”

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

I have a holiday children’s story and two fantasies in development, along with another short story collection and a few stories I’d like to flesh out and use in a collaboration with my best friend and writing partner, A.L. Mabry.

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

Getting copies of my books and smelling that new book smell when I open the box.

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

I’m all over social media. The absolute best way is to follow my blog or my author page.

Most of my other haunts are with the handle “theauthorSAM” and I’m on Instagram as my graphic’s page, OWS Creative Studios. You can also contact me through OWS Ink and find out about any new books by subscribing to the newsletter

Author Interview: A.D. Trosper #FridayFeature

Today I’m fortunate to present A.D. Trosper, author of both epic fantasy, and fantasy/paranormal romance.

Hi Audra, thanks for agreeing to this interview!

Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure to hang out with you.

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

Profile picThe western hemisphere. Specifically, the western half of the United States. I’ve lived in Washington state, Oregon, California, Oklahoma, and Kansas. I currently reside in a tiny town, without so much as a stoplight, out where central Kansas starts to bleed into western Kansas.

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

Great characters that you care about. A good setting is wonderful as well, but building a beautiful world is a waste if it’s populated by characters that readers don’t care about.

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

Unveiled Cover Final 8-4-2017My husband. He’s the one who kept encouraging me to write, the one who kept telling me I could do it. Between his cheerleading and my love of dragons, my epic fantasy series was born.

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

I work best in barely controlled chaos, so there is no particular schedule. I may not write anything for a couple of weeks, and then spend the next week after churning out almost ten thousand words a day.

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

I keep most of the story, the various backstories, and the various substories, in my head. I write down notes about characters like name, how they look, and where they are from. The rest of it is all filed away in a very messy records room in my head.

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

Betrayed Cover Final 8-4-2017 smallerMy latest book is Betrayed. It’s a fantasy/paranormal romance and the second in my Raven Daughter series in which a young woman finds out there is more to her than she realized. She was supposed to be a reaper, but her heritage makes her so much more than that and a lot of people aren’t pleased about it. 

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

How to make Napalm B. I had no idea that was even a thing until I accidentally stumbled across a youtube video while researching something else. My curious, writerly mind of course had to watch the video, because as a writer, once you realize there is a new thing you don’t know, you have to learn it or it will drive you crazy. Or at least it would me.

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

Absolutely. This is a scene from Betrayed:

The man stepped from the shadows and walked toward us. Or maybe he glided, it was so graceful. Black hair hung to his waist in a straight, shiny fall. Though Caius had always seemed perfection of the human form to me, this man could almost make Caius seem average. Almost.

His height held my attention when he came to stop a couple of arms lengths away. He had to be head and shoulders taller than Caius, which made me feel absolutely shrimpy. Caius inclined his head slightly. “Hades.”

I nearly choked and my heart rate jumped into a gallop. Hades? As in the Greek god, Hades? I couldn’t help the tremble that started in my knees and worked its way up my body. Sentinels and demons wanting me dead weren’t enough? Now I had a god after me too? If he wanted me dead, I was screwed. Not even Caius could defeat a god. Without realizing it, I had reached out and snagged a handful of the back of Caius’s shirt. I didn’t know why, only that I needed some connection to keep the sudden terror at bay.

In my fear, I had missed part of the conversation.

“…relax, Caius.  I’m not here to kill you.”

“Maybe not, but there are very few I trust these days.” Caius shifted, putting me behind his back a little more.

“Now, Caius, is that any way to behave with an old friend?” Hades said smoothly and moved to where he could see me better. My trembling increased under the weight of his black eyes. “I merely wanted to get a look at the one who has everything in chaos. Shame on you for hiding her heritage.”

I glanced up at Caius’s face. I could only see the side, but if the tension in his jaw was any indication, he wasn’t pleased to see Hades. I couldn’t blame him. I did envy his calm as he faced someone who could obliterate him. Or maybe he wasn’t completely calm, but he seemed more pissed than scared. I would take that too. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any anger in myself to latch on to. Only quivering fear. Then again, I was facing a kind of devil.

Hades expression became one of affront. “I am not a devil.”

I stared at him in shock. Could he read my mind?

“Yes, I can.” He glanced at Caius. “Does she really believe all of that forked tail and pitchfork stuff?”

“She was raised in the mortal world, with all of their stories.” Caius’s voice was still guarded as he moved his arm back to block me a little more. I place my other hand on the rock hard muscle of his forearm.

“Oh yes,” irritation flashed across Hades’s face, “those.”

He took in Caius’s stance and me tucked behind him and raised a perfect eyebrow. “Protective aren’t we?”

“We share a partial bond, what happens to her happens to me.”

“Except death.” Hades held up a finger. “That you would survive.”

A growl rumbled low in Caius’s chest and I could feel the vibration in his arm.

“Just a correction of your statement, nothing more.” Hades smirked and turned his attention back to me. “Such a little thing to cause so much trouble.”

Heat flared on Caius’s skin when Hades walked around him, reached toward me and hooked one of his long, perfectly manicured, nails under my chin, forcing me to look into his black eyes. I fell into them, drowning in their dark depths as they filled the world around me. My hand tightened on Caius’s arm until my nails dug into his skin.

“Enough.” Caius’s command was sharp.

Hades chuckled and suddenly the world was normal again. He gazed down at me with interest. “She’s fantastic. I can’t wait to see her grow into her powers.” He placed his finger against his lips as he regarded me. “I won’t even have to wait that long. Your blood is maturing her faster.”

Okay, terrified I may have been, but the way he continued to talk about me like I was a show dog started to irritate me and I welcomed the spark of anger that welled inside. It helped to balance the fear.

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

I have several books either in the works or planned. I will be writing the third and final book of the Raven Daughter series next. After that I have a 4th book in my epic dragon fantasy to write, one more book and one novella to write for my Bound series, and a couple of stand alone books that are also waiting in the wings to be written.

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

Buying Word 2010, lol. That is my go to for writing. I’ve tried Scrivner and a few others, but Word just works best for me. I think it’s because it isn’t highly organized.

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

You can find out more about my books, read my blog, sign up for my newsletter, and learn more about my books all at my website: www.adtrosper.com .