Q&A with Jack Dann

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Welcome yet another guest from our friends at Satalyte Press… Jack Dann!

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Jack Dann and friendWhat were you like at school?

I had ADHD. That should just about cover it.

Were you good at English?

Yes.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Well, I’ve been writing for close to forty years. My ambitions are as they always were: to keep writing, to keep living in those created worlds, submerged in what is probably a waking dream.

Which writers inspire you?

So many. Where to begin? Fitzgerald, Salinger, Borges, Dutourd, Gene Wolfe, Brian Aldiss. If you were to ask me who is inspiring me right now, I’d say Patrick O’Brian: his Aubrey/Maturin series of novels is astonishing.

 

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Well, I wrote a novel about Leonardo da Vinci entitled The Memory Cathedral, a ‘secret history’ in which Leonardo actually gets to bring his inventions to life. The novel was #1 on the Australian Age bestseller list.

What are you working on at the minute?

I’ve just finished an alternate history novel about Gnostics and the renaissance, and I’m ‘thinkin’ about the next book.

What’s it about?

I’ve been researching Benjamin Franklin’s life. Have some ideas for a historical novel…

What genre are your books?

Science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, historical, and contemporary.

What draws you to this genre?

The idea determines the genre.

How much research do you do?

A lot. I believe research drives plot and is a major driver for verisimilitude.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

Yes, High Steel, with the late Jack C. Haldeman II.

When did you decide to become a writer?

High school dream…that I nursed into reality.

Why do you write?

It’s a way of being in the world, a way of thinking and seeing.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

Full.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I try to write in the AM, but it depends on how and whether the outside world intrudes.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?

I try…and usually fail.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

No. If I do 500 words every day, I figure I’m doing okay.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

Computer.

Where do the your ideas come from?

They are everywhere. Ideas are the easiest part of writing.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

A combination of both, actually.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Doing it!

 

What is the easiest thing about writing?

Being finished.

 

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

It’s a tough call, as there is so much ‘noise’ out there. It’s difficult to get above it. Only advice I might give, which probably won’t be helpful is (a) sell your work to a commercial publisher that has the wherewithal to promote your book and (b) use social media as best you can. Re social media: don’t publicize yourself daily: give your followers other interesting material to read, so that when you have something to promote, they’ll look at it.

*****

A great big thank you to Jack for being on the blog this week! Please be sure to follow him and check out his work!

Website: http://www.jackdann.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jack.dann2

Twitter: @jackmdann

Lnkedin: Jack Dann

 

WIP Wednesday: Virus

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And one last look at our WIPs for the year… Den of Thieves #3 will be out just in time for Christmas this year! This time its our boy Rudy who is going to get his shot at finding love… or is it going to find him?

*****

Since everyone had left, the room had become only quiet, the only sound he could hear was the hum of the computers and the fans. For a brief moment Rudy wondered if this had been The best idea for him.

 

He gave himself a shake. What was he thinking. Did he really want the rest of the team to find out that he was getting all weirded out because he was all alone in the office? He already had enough problems trying to convince the gang that he was in feet ready to be given more responsibility. The definitely did not need something like this to add fuel to The proverbial fire.


‘Alright’, he thought cracking his knuckles, ‘Time for me to get starting on a few things and then perhaps I might be able to get in some quiet time on the big screens.’


He had been secretly waiting for a chance to use the massive meeting room screens to play a new game he had become obsessed with in the last few weeks. It worked wonders on his own personal computers but it wasn’t the same until the dragons were almost as tall as you were.

With that in mind he sat down at his bank of computer screens and set about getting all of the different programs he had designed to monitor the incoming communications.

 

Watching the code scroll across the screen was comforting. If there was anything that he understood in life it was the jumble of characters that made up computer code.

He turned up the music he had playing in the background to drown out the sound of the heating system coming on. The sound of Metallica echoed through the emptiness.

 

It was a few hours later when he finally looked up from his work. The monitoring systems were in place and had been tested several times before he had allowed them to take over. He had hopes that this would help them in the future with all of the things that they tended to have going on. He just needed to prove that the system worked and this break had been the best time for him to test the theory without interrupting anyones day to day work.

 

Once he was sure everything was running as he wanted it he booted up the latest version of Dragon Quest and left it to load up on his own while he went to go and find himself something to eat

 

Getting up, he did some stretching and then Rudy made his way through the office into the lunch room.

 

Opening the fridge he realized that no one had cleaned it out in a while. There was a slightly sour smell to it that he hadnt smelled when he had dropped off his food earlier. Whatever it was that was making that smell was certainly getting worse and not better.

 

He did not want to spend the next week and a half with that smell brewing so he decided that he would get to cleaning it out. He popped a microwavable dinner in the microwave and grabbing a garbage back from the cupboard under the sink he set to work.

 

By the time he was finished and had loaded the dishwasher up with any tupperware containers he had encountered the smell had all but disappeared and he found himself feeling good.

 

Adulting 1, Video Games 0. He smiled to himself.

 

They had a cleaning lady that came in once a month to take care of things and reality was that she proabbaly would have been in over the holidays at some point but he didnt want to leave that mess for her to deal with.

 

He pulled his dinner out of the microwave and walked back across the office with the bag in one hand and his dinner in another.

 

As he passed by his desk to drop off his dinner, he quickly logged into the game so it could finish loading before he got back from taking out the trash.

 

Rudy stepped out the back door into the cool night air suddenly wishing he had tossed his jacket on before stepping outside. The bitter wind whipped his hair and sent his bangs into his eyes. The gentle snow that had been falling earlier had picked up in earnest since the others had left and an inch of accumulation covered the ground and everything as far as the eye could see.

 

The street lights shining off of the snow cast an eerie glow about the street. Not a single person was anywhere. Being that the office was in an industrial area the majority of the people who might have been there ahd already gone home for the night if not for the rest of the holidays.

 

Rudy couldnt blame them. Holidays had been a fun time in his family. Big dinners and family get togethers for weeks on end. Endless amounts of food and drink. Cousins had been running about playing together while the adults sat and talked, the women together discussing the latest receipes and hair styles, the men discussed their tools and cars. It was a good time in his life and being one of the older cousins he tended to lead the way into mischief a lot of the time.

 

He took a deep breath. This would be the third christmas in a row he wasnt going to be with his family. While he had mostly gotten used to the idea it still managed to sting around the holidays.

 

Rubbing his arms through his sweatshirt he headed back into the building the way that he had come. Making sure the door was pulled tight behind him he made his way back to his bank of compter screens, switched everything over to the conference rooms screens and then settled down on the couch in that room to spend the next few hours playing Dragon Quest.

 

Teaser Tuesday: Dragon Twins

teaser tuesday

So we will take one last peek in on Jade before we take off for the month…

*****

She tried to look out the window, but all she could see was a bleak bit of daylight oozing in between the heavy, dark curtains. It was the only amount of light that shined in the room. She looked down to see what was holding her to the chair now that her eyes had grown accustomed to the dim light. She was tied to the chair by a thick, braided rope. Try as she might it was impossible to loosen it even the slightest. As she struggled she almost gagged on the rag they had stuffed in her mouth.

 

The sounds of her retching must have gained the attention of her captors.  A man suddenly appeared at the doorway.  He was a short Asian man about five-foot-six, much shorter than she. His hair was neatly trimmed and he was wearing pleated dress pants with a crisp white button-down shirt.

 

“Ah…So you are awake now.” The man had a quiet and soothing voice, unlike the harsh barking the other men had spat at her. “I am sure you have a lot of questions. From what I have heard you are a very bright girl and bright girls always have questions.”

 

Jade just stared, not daring to move even when the man approached her. He was close enough now that she could smell the cologne he was wearing. “If I remove this awful rag from your mouth will you promise not to scream?”

 

Jade nodded. He reached out and took the gag out of her mouth. She sat there not moving a muscle. “There, that’s better. Now you and I can have a quiet conversation.”

 

Jade said nothing, just watched as he walked back around the coffee table and sat down in the big armchair across from her. “Now what questions do you have for me, bright child?”

 

Jane still remained silent, not fully trusting her voice. She did not want to show this man how afraid she was. She was afraid for her life and for the lives of her parents. She could almost imagine what her mother was doing right at that moment. And her father would be raging at anyone who would listen and even to those who wouldn’t. Hong Chu had a way of making people listen to him no matter what.

 

“Oh, come now, child. Surely, you are not a mute. You must have some questions for me.”

 

“Who are you? And why have you brought me here? What have I ever done to you?” she demanded, hoping her voice would not betray the knot of fear resting in the pit of her stomach.

 

The man laughed. “Oh good, so you do have a voice! And some very intelligent questions to go with it! Very good. I will make you a deal: I will answer your questions one at a time. But for every question of yours I answer, you will answer three of mine as I have many more questions for you than you have for me. Although I think that my answers will create more questions from you, but for now that is the way it will be. Fair enough?”

 

Jade stared at him for a moment. Was this guy crazy or something? Was this all he wanted to do? To play twenty questions with her? If that was the case then he could have just asked her out for coffee. No, she decided. Except there was something else. She knew that the longer she played along with him the less of a chance there was for him to do something to hurt her. That meant there was a better chance that she would be found and rescued. She nodded her agreement.

 

“Good. Shall we start with one of your questions first? Or one of mine?”

 

“Who are you?” she demanded again.

 

“I am Ling Chong. A Chinese businessman. Now my turn. I want to know about—”

 

“How do I know that you are telling me the truth? You could be lying to me for all I know.”

 

“That is another question; however, for the sake of putting your mind ease I will answer it. The simple answer is there is no way to know if I am telling you the truth or not. I could very well be lying to you as you say, but the only solution to this is you will just have to trust me.”

 

Jade laughed. “Trust you? You had me taken against my will from my home and brought to you in the middle of nowhere. I am supposed to suddenly trust you? You are crazy if you think I am going to trust you.”

 

“That of course is your prerogative, my dear. The way I see it, though, you have no choice but to trust me. Just as I will have to trust you to tell me the truthful answers to my questions. Some of the questions I will already know the answers to. However, those will serve as my test to see if you are being truthful with me. I wouldn’t advise lying to me. I don’t like liars, which gives you another reason to believe that the answers I give you are truthful because I detest liars. I certainly wouldn’t want to be one myself.”

 

A man entered the room, bringing with him a small, silver tray with a tea service for two on it.

 

“Tea?” Ling asked once the man had left the room with a quick, neat bow to Ling.

 

“I can’t very well drink it when I am tied up like this now can I?”  

 

“Ah. That is another very good point as well. One that I really should have picked up on before I asked for tea to be brought to us. What are we going to do about this?”

 

“Well Ling, if that really is your name, you said that I have no choice but to trust you. Don’t you think in all fairness that you should trust me as well? I mean it’s not like I am going to be able to go anywhere when you have this place probably crawling with your goons with those needles.”

 

“I regret you having to go through that, but under the circumstances I didn’t think you would willingly go quietly and I desperately required your presence.”

 

“Why?”

 

“My dear, that is another one of those questions that will have to wait until after you have answered three of my questions first.”

 

“All right, fine. Let’s get this over with.”

 

“I will make you another deal. You promise to behave yourself and I will untie those ropes so that we will both be able to enjoy the tea together while we have our little chat.”

 

“Okay. I won’t do anything to you or try to escape.”

 

He walked over to the chair and untied the ropes. When he was done, he returned to his chair and poured each of them a cup of tea. He slid hers across the side table located beside his chair.

 

Jade took her cup and gingerly sipped the steaming brew. It was green tea and it tasted delicious.

 

“Now, shall we start with my questions?”

 

“Go ahead.” She was becoming uncomfortable with this whole question and answer period with a man who was obviously not playing with a full deck.

 

“First question. I want you to tell me about you: who you are and all of that stuff. I know your name but I want to know you.”

 

Sincerely Me…

sinsundaySo I thought since I have interviewed hundreds of authors over the years on this blog, that you would enjoy hearing me answer some of the questions I have posed to them over the years.

Each week I will answer one or two questions, if you want you can leave your own questions for me in the comments and I will try and answer them in a future blog post!

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

Funny enough I was just having a discussion about this a month ago with a fellow author.

I said long ago and far away (read 10 years ago) when I started writing my books, there was no time for me to plot things out, or make notes. Everything just tumbled out of me, but as I have aged (read gotten old) I have had to think things through and write down what I am thinking more and more to ensure I dont lose a piece of something somewhere. It is a horrible feeling to know you had a transition/scene/chapter sorted out and boom you cant for the life of you remember what it was but youre sure that it was absolutely perfect.

So to answer the question, I was a pantser when I started but I am leaning more and more towards being a plotter/jotter.

Q&A with Satima Flavell

q & a

Another guest from down under… please give a cold dead welcome to the lovely Satima Flavell!

*****

Satima mug shotWhat were you like at school?

Like most kids with more of an interest in the arts than in sport, I felt like the odd one out. I had lots of imaginary friends but few real ones.

Were you good at English?

Yes. Usually in the top three in my class.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Since I am now of retirement age plus a few years, my ambition is to stay alive long enough to get a few more books published!

Which writers inspire you? In the order I read their works: Enid Blyton, Mary Stewart, Elizabeth Goudge, William Shakespeare, Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, Bernard Cornwell, Juliet Marillier, Glenda Larke, Karen Miller, Robin Hobb, Guy Gavriel Kay, Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie. Easy to guess I’m a historical fantasy writer, isn’t it?

So, what have you written?

My first publication was a poem in The Guardian (then ‘The Manchester Guardian’) when I was seven. I can still remember it:

Go to sleep, my little one, go into dreamland

Elves and gnomes and fairies too

Will all be there to welcome you

So go to sleep my little one, go into dreamland.

In late primary and early high school I used to get pocket money writing for a kids magazine called Chucklers Weekly. I won prizes for writing during my high school years, and in adulthood, although I held a variety of jobs, (I’m the only person I know who’s been both a ballet teacher and a pig farmer) I never stopped writing, even if it was only in a diary. Then when I was in my forties a friend recommended me to Adrian Kenyon, editor of Music Maker magazine, and I made a part-time career of writing reviews of dance, music and drama performances. From there I was ‘head-hunted’ by The Australian, and then I was picked up by Dance Australia to write reviews and features. But I got to the age of 53 before the fiction muse started nudging my shoulder.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

It happened like this: after a marriage breakdown, I decided to travel, so I went to the USA and thence to the UK, where I got a rather tedious and strenuous job as executive housekeeper in a hotel. I was exhausted by the end of the day, but my mind was still alert. One evening, as I was about to flop down in front of the TV to watch East Enders and Coronation St, a sentence popped into my head. It went ‘To be left a widow at the age of twenty-one may sound like a tragedy, but to be honest, I felt relieved by Reyel’s death’. I grabbed pen and paper, turned off the TV, and started writing about a young woman who led an adventurous life travelling around her world. It took me seven years to finish that book, and by that time I was back in Perth, Australia and able to get to classes and workshops at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, where I had the privilege of being coached by a plethora of brilliant writers, some of whose names are in the list of my ‘influences’ above. I also attended conventions and joined critiquing groups, and eventually I had a book worth publishing – The Dagger of Dresnia.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Queen Ellyria, the elvish widow of an ordinary mortal king, is confused and vulnerable after the death of her husband, King Fairstad. Ellyria and Fairstad had three sons, identical triplets, and Fairstad decreed that their kingdom, which encompassed three islands, should be divided among the trio at his death. Ellyria, in her anxious and confused state, is tricked into a deadly bargain by a Dark Spirit – and thereby starts a trilogy! Being elvish, Ellyria has magical ability, but my mortal women readers will relate to her problems with her children and with running a household as well as trying to second-guess her enemy’s schemes.

What are you working on at the minute? Books two and three. Book two, The Cloak of Challiver, should be out early in 2016 and book three will follow in 2017, all being well.

What draws you to this genre?perf6.000x9.000.indd

My favourite stories have always been historical and/or fantastical. You have only to see my list of influences to see what I mean. At least 50% of my reading is historical fantasy, and the other 50% tends to be non-fiction, including a lot of history.

How much research do you do?

As much as needed to stay true to my historical period. The trilogy is set on an imaginary world, but the island kingdoms resemble the British Isles in the late C12, Earthside time.

When did you decide to become a writer?

When I was seven. I wanted to be ‘Children’s Authoress’ like Enid Blyton. Of course, I also wanted to be a ballet dancer!

How do you relax?

As a former professional dancer and ballet teacher, I never want to stop dancing. I attend fitness and dance classes whenever I can, usually two or three times a week. I still teach one class a week, to dancers of about my own age. We have fun! I also love going to SF conventions and other writers conferences, where I love taking part in panel discussions. And because writing is such a solitary occupation, I make sure I find time for catching up with friends over a nice cup of coffee! And a cake. Don’t forget the cake!

*****

Thanks so much Satima for joining us this week! Please be sure to follow Satima and check out her work!

Website: satimaflavell.com.au

Blog: satimaflavell.blogspot.com.au

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/satimaflavell

Twitter: @satimaflavell

Lnkedin: Satima Flavell

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Satima-Flavell/e/B00JN4GIDC

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8138282.Satima_Flavell

WIP Wednesday: Once Burned

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This is going to be my summer romance, and should be out around August if everything works out! Im not so sure about the title just yet but this one seems fitting for the moment. I hope you enjoy!

*****

Deep breath. Head high. You can do this.

 

The silent mantra kept playing over and over again in her head.

 

Nothing about this month was going the way that she had envisioned. The month before had ended poorly and everything was just compounding as the month dragged on.

 

Raegan hoped starting her new job today was going to be the start of the uphill swing she so badly needed in her life right now. If not her, for her son Greg. He really was the one who really needed the stability in his life.

 

She thought she had that with Randy, but as it turned out that wasnt the case. Everything had started out perfectly with them but…

 

she let the thought trail off. There was no time for those thoughts today. She

had to get her head in the game and make sure she was at the top. She could not allow the past to infect her future too.

 

She had been out of work a few weeks and today was the day that she started a new job. She had always loved cars as a child growing up but had been told by her father that there was no way that she would be able to do a job with cars as that was mans work and not a place for women.

 

So Raegan had done what any decent daughter would do to appease her parents and went to school and learned business administration

 

That worked well for her for many years. She moved up the ranks in various companies over the years and enjoyed her job immensely. Until the recession hit, the layoffs started and job availabilty slowed to a grinding halt. The few jobs that there were, were highly sought after and the list of people wanting to apply for them was long.

 

She didnt have time to sit back and hope that the right job with the right pay would come along. She had a son to support and a roof to keep over her head. The mess that Randy had left in his wake had almost drained her savings and she was out of time.

 

That was how she ended up where she was today; walking into the local auto mechanics for her first day at work.

 

Raegan still smiled when she remembered the look on the owner, Joey’s, face when she had walked in to apply for a job posting they had in the local newspaper. The skepticisim on his face was clear. He didnt think she could do the job but he was as desperate to find someone after his last new hire walked out the week before and the backlog, littering the shop, was far greater than he could afford to have.

 

So she found herself with a job again. One where she would have to start right back at the ground and work her way back up again. She was ready for a challange and it would give her a chance to focus on something else other than her personal life falling apart.

 

She took another deep breath and got out of her car. She had parked down the street so she could give herself a little bit of quiet time before she went in.

 

The cold early spring air made her shiver as she walked the half block. She should have worn a warmer jacket she thought as she opened the door to the shop and walked in.

 

Joey was there with another short bald man, who looked old enough to be her father. Both watched her as she undid her jacket and tried to keep her cool composure.

 

“Come on you can put your jacket in the office. “ Joey said motioning towards the shops office.

 

It was small and papers cluttered every available flat surface.

 

“Now you said you were pretty decent with tools right?” he asked once she had hung her jacket up.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Ok good. I have a few things for you to do. Show me what you have and then we can figure out where you can go from there.”

 

They walked back into the shop just as a second man walked in and dumped his helmet and coat on a workbench. He was tall and lean. Her heart did a flitter when he looked at her with piercing blue eyes through a mess of dark blonde hair.

 

“Nice of you to join us Cole.” Joey said giving him a stern look.

 

“Sorry” Cole mumbled and turned back to the bench and started rummaging around in the tools looking for something.

 

“Alright, anyways guys, this is Raegan. She says she is pretty decent with tools and wants to give it a shot working here.”

 

Both men looked up from what they were doing and looked at Raegan curiously.

 

“I know you both will be nice to her and give her a chance to show you what she can do.” Joey said putting a hand on her shoulder and guiding her towards the other man, “This here is Frank, he does most of the oil changes we do around here, he can show you what to do. We have a lot of cars coming in today so you will have to be quick on your toes.”

 

“Its ok Im a fast learner. I will keep up.” Raegan said, hoping he wouldnt hear the nervousness in her voice but rahter the confident front she was trying to maintain.

 

Frank stared at her for a moment almost as if he didnt know what to make of her.

 

“Well I guess I had best better get to it. We have a lot to take care of today, been running behind for the last few weeks and its been driving me crazy. I was hoping that Joey would hurry up and hire someone to help me out. I guess that would be you then would it?”

 

“I guess that would in fact be me.” Raegan smiled and tried to sound reassuring.

 

Teaser Tuesday: Dragon Twins

teaser tuesday

Alright now that’s two kids in trouble… Shall we send in Stan to figure things out?

*****

“Glad to see you guys are in a good mood this morning. It is still morning isn’t it?” he said as Stan and Jane settled into their chairs.

 

Stan looked at his watch. “For another four minutes it is, sir.”

 

“I thought I told you guys to get here in the morning.”

 

“Well sir—”Jane started.

 

“We did, sir. It’s still technically morning. We did exactly as you asked. Be here in the morning,” Stan finished for her with a smile.

 

“Somehow I thought I would see you both in here a bit earlier than this.”

 

“All work and no sleep makes shitty detectives, sir.”

 

Tony said nothing and gave Stan a look that said he was walking a line between humorous and insubordination.

 

“Let’s get down to the reason I wanted you in here today.”

 

“And here I thought the reason you wanted us here was just because you missed us so much.”

 

“Stan! Shut up all ready!” Jane hissed.

 

“Stan, while it’s nice to see that you are indeed well rested and somewhat back to normal—well normal for you—can we please dispense with the usual nonsense that comes flying out of your mouth? This case is involving a very prominent man both here and in Beijing, and his family. We can’t afford any fuck ups on this one. Got it?”

 

“You said prominent man and his family. Who are they?” Jane asked before Stan could open his mouth with another comment.

 

“Chu is a businessman. He owns an entire chain of supermarkets over here and in Beijing.  He also owns a number of other successful ventures including various restaurants, clubs, and other smaller businesses.

 

“He is a very wealthy man and is also known as a very powerful political ally in Beijing. This is why he moved his family over here. We offered him something that he could no longer get over there and that was anonymity. That anonymity was enough to protect his family as far as he was concerned. “

 

“Until now,” Stan said finishing Tony’s thought.

 

“Yes, until now.”

 

“So, what do you want us to do? Check out all of his business associates and find out which one of them might have a grudge against him? A big enough grudge that they would kidnap his daughter and kill his housekeeper?”

 

“That would generally be the long and short of it.”

 

“Yes, sir. I thought that was what you were going to say, but we are homicide detectives not hostage negotiators. Wouldn’t this be better handled by those guys?”

 

“You, Stan, have proven to me on more than one occasion that homicide detectives are not just about catching killers. Instead, they are also trying to save lives in the process.”

 

Stan knew he was more than likely referring to the Lily Macklin case during which he had almost single-handedly brought down an entire cult and the cop that was covering for it. And in the process he saved Lily Macklin’s life.

 

“Yes, sir. Except in those instances we didn’t know that there was a hostage. Now we do—”

 

“I don’t want to hear it, Stan. You and Jane are more than equipped to handle this case. I have already told the mayor that you will be making it your highest priority. He has assured me that you will be able to have all the help that you need in solving this case.”

 

“Well that is a comforting thought,” Stan said looking over at Jane to see what she was thinking. She was lost in her own world, reading her notes from the night before.

 

“Not only that but apparently when the mayor called this morning to offer his condolences and his support, he was told that the Chus specifically requested that you two remain responsible for this case.”

 

“Really?” Stan said shocked. They hadn’t really done anything out of the ordinary to warrant such a request.

 

“Yes. Apparently you made a good impression on them. They think very highly of you both, said something about good hearts or something like that. The mayor wasn’t exactly sure what they meant and he only gave me the translation.”

 

“They probably said they felt that we had good chi. And it doesn’t mean heart but rather something akin to soul or essence. You get my point,” Jane said without looking up from her notes.

 

Stan chuckled softly. That was Jane for you, little miss know it all.

 

“Anyway, the fact of the matter is there is no way that you guys can turn the case down even if I would let you.”

 

“Okay, you want us to go through all of their business associates and then what? There have got to be more than a few that are less than pleased with our prominent businessman. We can’t put tails on them all.”

 

“I am fully aware of that fact and all I am asking you to do is find the ones that might have the capabilities of doing such a thing and tailing—”

 

The phone rang. “Chief Di Organza,” Tony said picking it up. Tony listened for a moment and then said, “Yes, I’ll send them right over.”

 

Stan looked at Jane as Tony hung up the phone.

 

“Here’s the deal. Apparently there was another attempted kidnapping last night about a few hours later. Same basic circumstances. Only thing that is different is that this was a foster parent and a ward of the state. There are no immediate connections we can make with this family to Chu’s. I need you guys to go figure it out. The kid, a Julian Chan, is at number two precinct. Go down and talk to him. See what you can dig up.”

 

Stan got up and turned to leave with Jane right behind him.

 

“Oh and Stan? Try not to scare the poor boy away. Be nice to him,” Tony said as they were leaving his office.

 

“I am always nice.”

 

“Not to me you aren’t.”

 

“That’s because it’s you chief.” Stan flashed him a big grin before he slid out the door.

 

Stan and Jane headed back down to the parking garage. They took his car to the precinct where Julian Chan awaited them.

 

Sincerely Me…

sinsundaySo I thought since I have interviewed hundreds of authors over the years on this blog, that you would enjoy hearing me answer some of the questions I have posed to them over the years.

Each week I will answer one or two questions, if you want you can leave your own questions for me in the comments and I will try and answer them in a future blog post!

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Where do the your ideas come from?

Real life, sadly. (Honestly I wish I had no fodder for my books, as that would mean that no one lost their loved ones to something senseless)

Being that I write murder mysteries and romantic suspense, I spend a lot of time researching killers, murders, forensics and different techniques used in solving crimes.

I watch a lot of True Crime documentaries, I read a lot of true crime books and I read the local news.

Then I put my own spin on things and make sure those responsible have a chat with Lady Justice.

Q&A with Tony Shilitoe

q & a

Please give a cold dead welcome to this weeks guest…. Tony Shilitoe!

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Author Shot 2013What were you like at school?

For much of my school life, I was the bright nerd who could do every subject and topped every class from Grade 3 to being Dux of the school in my final year. So I had very few friends and quite a few unpleasant experiences. My first ever publication was a poem in the school’s Year Book magazine when I was in Grade 3, and I made sure I had something published in the magazine every year thereafter because it was such a buzz to see my name in print. The only popularity redemption I had at school was a physical spurt of growth and a sudden magical improvement in coordination that saw me become a sports jock in my final two years with football, athletics and basketball – so I became everyone’s worst nightmare: an athletic nerd. No one likes the kid who’s good at almost everything.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I’d like to say “…to be able to write a novel that touches the minds and hearts of millions of people” – and at the deepest level that is my ambition, but my genuinely practical one is simply to generate enough income from writing to be able to live a good life as a fulltime writer. I’d like writing to be my work.

So, what have you written?

In 1992, Pan Macmillan Australia released Guardians, Book One of Andrakis, giving me the honour of becoming the second Australian, after Martin Middleton, to be legitimately published in the adult Fantasy series genre. Since then, I have published in Fantasy, Young Adult/Teen and SciFi genres.

Fantasy Novels:

The Andrakis Trilogy: Pan Macmillan 1992-3 – Guardians – Kingmaker – Dragonlords This series was republished in 2006 by Altair Australia, and are now remastered and available from 2015 as The Waking Dragon, Maker of Kings and The Dragonlord War through Amazon, as ebooks and hard copies.

The Last Wizard: Pan Macmillan 1995 This work was shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel 1995 in the inaugural Aurealis Awards. It’s currently being remastered for an Amazon release.

The Ashuak Chronicles: HarperCollins Voyager 2002-3 – Blood – Passion – Freedom Blood was shortlisted for Best Fantasy Novel 2002 in the Aurealis Awards.A Solitary Journey

Dreaming in Amber: HarperCollins Voyager 2006-8 – The Amber Legacy – A Solitary Journey – Prisoner of Fate – The Demon Horsemen The series is currently available in ebook format through Kobo

Fantasy Stories

Tales of the Dragon – an anthology of stories: Altair Australia 2006 and re-published on Amazon in 2015 as ebook and hard copy versions

Other stories have been published in various anthologies as follows:

‘The Mother Anger’, ‘Honour’, ‘Virtual God’ and ‘The Sculptor’ were published in issues of Altair magazine between 1999-2001.

‘Assassin’ was published in Harbinger magazine in 1999.

‘The Book of Lore’ appeared in Fantastic Worlds HarperCollins anthology ed Paul Collins in 1998.

‘The Lure’, a script monologue based on a character from the Andrakis series was included in the Solo Spots anthology ed Tugwell and Starke published by Oxford Uni Press in 1998.

‘The Innkeeper’ was published in Dream Weavers, ed Paul Collins, and released by Penguin in 1996.

Young Adult/Teen Novels

Joy Ride: Wakefield Press 1999

Caught in the Headlights: HarperCollins/Angus and Robertson 2003 The novel was listed in the 2003 Children’s Book Council awards as a Notable Book for Older Readers and subsequently appeared on several Premiers’ Reading Award lists.

In My Father’s Shadow: Amazon 2015

TDreaming in Amber Originalhe Need: Amazon 2015

Additional Publications

‘Jammin’ – teenage short story: published in the AATE anthology The Girl Who Married a Fly in 1997

‘Hope’ – SciFi short story: published in the anthology Out of the Dark ed Robert N Stephenson in 2015, available via Smashwords in eformat or hard copy.

I’ve tried blogging and I suck at blogs. I’ll try again sometime.

4. What are you working on at the minute? I have several projects on the go, in no particular order:

An apocalyptic Sci Fi for young adults: completed and in final editing, to be published this year by Satalyte

A new Fantasy trilogy – book one completed in draft and a third of the way into book two, but I haven’t approached a publisher yet

A Sci Fi exploring cyborgs, implants, genetic engineering, enhancement drugs – my current main focus as a new piece of writing

A literary project, focussing on men coming back together on an Easter Long Weekend houseboat trip to plan playing in a Masters Games event, but exploring all of the issues and challenges and problems they each face

And I’m working on resurrecting my writing reputation and ability to work as a writing professional to a point where either I can self-publish, or a publisher is willing to invest Dragonlord War Frontsignificant money in my work, and fulfil my writing ambition.

How much research do you do?

Research is a crucial part of writing, especially if you are using ‘real’ or ‘realistic’ elements in the story. For example, to include a sea voyage and sailing ships in fantasy novels I’ve had to do a combination of reading about old time ships and the equipment, construction and terminology, and then actually clambering aboard a sailing ship to get a feel of what happens – everything from how ropes are tied to the sensation of constant motion beneath a sailor’s feet. I’ve worn armour and wielded swords to supplement what I’ve read. For world-building I’ve studied geography, economics, and politics, as well as observed the world around me, and added that to the process. I’ve fired guns, and researched their capacities to inflict damage. I made an appointment with my doctor to ask him what would be the actual effects of a character having an armed lopped off in battle – physical, psychological, infection risks, rate of recovery etc.

When I began writing, I remember hearing an absolutely crucial piece of advice: ‘Never write about something you don’t actually know about, either through first-hand experience or through researching first-hand experiences. Readers who have those experiences will call you out.’ Because I create female characters, my wife, daughters and close female friends pre-read my drafts to ensure the characters have credibility and are not simply male interpretations of feminine characters.

Research is everything.

BloodoriginalWhy do you write?

I write because:

(a) I love to entertain people

(b) I love to share my ideas

(c) I love to guide and teach

(d) I love to give voices to people who might not otherwise have that opportunity

It may sound cliché, but I have to write – it’s a drive at the core of my being, and has been from as long as I can remember. I wrote poetry and song lyrics, and created comics throughout primary and high school, and into university. I drafted my first novel in my twenties, but only broke into professional writing in my late thirties with the Andrakis fantasy trilogy.

My family knows that if I’m away from writing longer than a couple of days I become morose, depressed. I’ve tried to abandon writing twice because of the frustration in not having enough time to work the business or being able to engage with the writing networks that I need to a part of, but both times I couldn’t do it. I substituted creative writing with workplace writing – which quickly lost my interest.

I have to write. It’s who I am.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

I write part-time, sporadically, because so far writing doesn’t pay, and I have too many middle-class and family financial responsibilities, meaning I need to work full time. When it looked like I was going to be relatively successful, several years ago, even then as an Australian writer, with sales and promotion confined to the Australian market, I was only able to generate around $10,000 a year from writing. To write fulltime I’d have to have one of these things happen:

(a) receive an amazing first advance and a publisher willing to heavily invest in my work to ensure I generate a credible income from writing

(b) be published internationally so that my market is infinitely larger than in Australia, meaning enough sales might generate enough income to sustain you

(c) have a sponsor/spouse/partner who can support me while I pursue my artFreedomoriginal

In 1993, I took six months leave from work and wrote two novels (The Last Wizard and Joy Ride). In 2015, I took four months leave and wrote three novels (All We have, The Need, In My Father’s Shadow). Both experiences showed me that, given the chance to be a full time writer, I’d revel in it.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

I write on a computer, and I couldn’t achieve what I do any other way. I drafted my first novel in pencil – 40,000 words – but when I realised what it would entail to edit and redraft it I gave up on the project. I bought a typewriter and drafted the first ten chapters of what would eventually become the first book in the Andrakis trilogy, but also realised that a typewriter didn’t simplify the editing and drafting process, and as a person working fulltime in teaching I simply did not have the time to work that way. So I invested in a computer in 1988 – $4000 second-hand back then; a massive amount of money – but it enabled me to write, draft and edit the Andrakis trilogy, the sale of the first book to Pan Macmillan effectively defraying the investment in the computer.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I really like this question because I’ve never considered it. So…

The art of story-telling fascinated me from early childhood because I grew up in a rural community where oral stories were part of the cultural milieu and entertainment. I read voraciously, anything and everything, and loved the ability of writers to engage my imagination and teach me of worlds far beyond my farming district. I never realised how much scifi and fantasy I’d read until I started adding my reading experiences to Goodreads in recent times. I also realised how much influence on my concept of stories, characters and adventure that works like The Three Musketeers, Fahrenheit 451, Macbeth, The Day of the Triffids and The Catcher in the Rye actually had.

I loved comics. My family had a strong sense of humour. So I created mini comics for my friends at school, based on the Mad magazine and Archie comics style of humour, publishing them by hand and handing them around.

I have no idea why I gravitated to poetry as young as eight, but I think it was the attraction of word and sound patterns, and the need to say something significant with a brevity of carefully crafted words. I had a poem published almost every year in our school magazine. So, by the beginning of university, I’d already envisioned I would write one amazing anthology of poems and then, like Keats, die tragically, my ideas and passion left to the ages. Gratefully, for readers and myself, that didn’t eventuate. Instead, my creativity was consumed by interminable essays, and then by the first years of English teaching that sucked the creative soul out of me.

In My Father's Shadow CoverPragmatically, poetry as an art form had no future for me because it was a narrow, competitive field and poets made little or no income from their art in Australia. I had a single poem published in a BHP/FAW anthology in 1977. That was it. I plastered the back of a door with rejections.

As an English teacher, I was introducing and reading novels to my students, and while the classics are amazing there seemed to be a dearth of contemporary teenage novels in the schools, so I started tinkering with writing a teenage novel, and wrote some 40,000 words in pencil. I still have that first effort in a drawer – it’s really quite terrible, but it serves as a reminder that professional writing is not a magical talent but an artisan’s skill, something that must be honed with practice and experience. Iwas writing very brief prose and poetry pieces as comprehension and story-starter activities for kids in my classes, and I’m sure that was helping me develop a craft. I also struck up friendships with practising writers at English conferences and workshops – Oodgeroo Noonuccal, Robert Cormier, Colin Thiele, Peter McFarlane and Rory Harris for example – and glimpsed what was possible in the world of writing. I liked what I saw.

Like poetry, writing for teenagers was diverted, before it took hold on my creative interest, by another influence in my creative development – the game Dungeons and Dragons, to which I was introduced in 1979 by teaching colleagues. The game ultimately consumed endless hours, not just in the playing, but I took on the role of creating games – a vast world with cities, towns, dungeons, denizens and citizens through which the different playing groups I coordinated could roam and grow as characters. All up, over a period of almost ten years, I created well over a hundred original game scenarios. What I didn’t know was that I was also creating the setting and key characters for my first fantasy series. Several gamers

asked if I’d consider writing stories based on their adventures in my dungeon scenarios, but in the end I created a fictional character, Andra, and pitted him against a key NPC from the scenarios, A Ahmud Ki. The Andrakis fantasy trilogy took shape.

Role-playing in D&D, and acting for eight years in local amateur theatre, enabled me to develop sensitivity toward characterisation and dialogue, plot shaping and timing. Marking student work as an English teacher sharpened my editing skills. Wide reading, especially reading outside my personal areas of interest, expanded my comprehension of what attracts readers, and I watched many, many movies that improved my creative concepts of visualisation, scene change and timing.

By the time I submitted my first novel for publication, aged 35, I think I’d been lucky enough to have had a range of creative experiences that significantly enhanced my ability to write and tell a story.

Creative development doesn’t stop with the first publication, of course. Every new project begins from a base of learning from the previous project: Were the characters believable? Did readers relate to the characters? What was the critical reception like? What could have worked better? Did I take too long to get the readers in? What is too long or too short? The questions are as many as the words printed. I’ve been lucky enough to remaster my first set of novels for re-publishing on Amazon, thirteen years after their first release, and it was both humbling and scary to see how far my writing skills have come since 1992. Yes, I made changes – none to destroy the original story, only ones to slightly improve the writing. The other evolution for me is more about not being locked into a genre, but in being able to create the story I want to tell. The easiest path would be for me to focus on fantasy, since that’s where I’ve had the most success, but I have so many other stories I want to tell in other genres I can’t just be locked into one. I’ve grown beyond one form of writing.

Do you ever get writer’s block?

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block? I hate the term ‘writer’s block’. It’s a term bandied about to explain away reasons why a writer isn’t able to write. I’ve never had writer’s block. Either I have a really good idea, and I can write about it, or I don’t have a good idea and therefore nothing to write. Writer’s block is really someone simply saying, ‘I don’t have a good idea to write about’.

I suspect people who often claim writer’s block are also the free form writers, people who start a book without a clear concept of where it’s going to go. I can’t start any project without it having a purpose and a potential destination. To me, that’s equivalent to closing your eyes and getting on a plane at an airport without knowing where it’s going to land – or even if it is going to take off, let alone land.

Do you want to avoid writer’s block? Simple. Plan your writing. (a) Start with concept notes – the key idea for even writing the story, the characters who’ll play central roles, the causes of conflict for and between them, the possible resolutions or outcomes, the consequences.Maker of Kings Front

(b) Talk about these concepts with other people you can trust to engage. Listen to their comments and reactions, and make adjustments to your concepts if you deem them necessary. (c) Then think about how the story will end. What is the credible or possibly inevitable destination point of the tale you are going to weave? Can you make it a twist, something logical but not predictable by readers? Make notes on how the story will end, but remember that when you’re actually writing it might alter or become necessarily different to the original plan. (d) Sketch the plot, the key events, the points of conflict, the moments you really want to include. How much detail you put into these plot moments is entirely up to you. The point is you are planning a structure to the storyline and therefore reducing the likelihood of reaching a writing moment where you go ‘I have no idea where to go now’ – cue ‘writer’s block’. (e) Consider your plot sequence and rearrange it until you’re convinced you know what to include in the story. This is not an essential part to starting, but I’ve found it useful. (f) Write. Make changes as you go. Worst case scenario – stick to the total plan. Yu know you have a destination to reach, and you have waypoints in the plot sketch. Use them to keep you going. Tick them off as you reach them to keep you inspired.

All of the crucial artisan elements – tense, point of view, dialogue, description – can be edited and altered at any point in the process, and may even be changed again when your manuscript is with a publisher.

Do I have times when I need to wander off, pat the cat, have coffee, sleep on it? All the time. Writing is a creative process and creativity requires reflection, thinking, postulating, discussion, scribbling, distractions – time for ideas to take form and gel. This isn’t writer’s block. This is the creative process.

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

Editing is a complex and self-deluding process. I’m an English teacher of many, many years, I’ve professionally published in excess of two million words, I’ve proofed and ghost-written books for other writers: I think I’m allowed to say that editing is one of my core skills. However, I’ve also learned that editors, even the best ones, are not fool-proof. One of my novels was meticulously edited, by seven professional people, across twelve drafts, and still three errors remained in the final copy. They were very minor, in a work of 150,000 words, but there is always a reader who will spot them.

As an English teacher, I teach all students to employ at least two additional editors before submitting final essays or pieces. As the writer of the work, we can sometimes read over errors because we know what should be there, but we don’t see what actually is there. It’s important to have at least two competent and critical editors who have no creative attachment to the work read it carefully.

I like to think that an editor who edits my work can concentrate on structure and characterisation issues, and spend very little time pondering grammatical and spelling accuracies because I do try to meticulously edit my work before it goes from my desk. But I’m not perfect. No one is.

As an interesting minor observation, I remember arguing with one editor over a single word in an entire manuscript. The word was “sussuration” to describe the distant sound of ocean waves on a beach. The editor was opting for a more common term – I can’t remember what it was. “Sussuration” remained. Editors are not always right, but they are great friends to writers.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

This is the biggest question for writers in this century, and I won’t pretend to answer it here because that’s a dissertation waiting to be written.

The digital publishing revolution, initiated by Apple iBooks, Amazon and associated online self-publishing opportunities for writers in the past decade, have broken the publishing market open, and publisher reaction to it has ranged from ‘It won’t change what we do,’ through to ‘We need to get control of it.’ Big publishing companies, with enormous vested asset interest in cornering markets and maximising investor profits, are the places the few lucky writers who make it with them can earn big money. As long as people buy marketed books, and pay to see and hear big name authors made popular, the big publishers will survive. This was part of the corporate strategy for the last part of the C20th and was at its height when Borders and similar big chain stores flourished this century. Physical chain stores have collapsed because of the online publishing revolution, but that just means the big companies will re-adjust and sell product online. There’s no coincidence that big publishers are always keen to franchise books by their stable of big name authors into blockbuster movies and tv series.

As the gatekeepers to published work, the big publishers had very little legitimate competition, except at the local level where some indie publishers, like Wakefield Press in Adelaide, might publish niche books of little market interest to the big publishers. For writers who could not break into the big publisher field, the only viable outlet was to pay a printing house to self-publish their books: vanity press as it was derogatorily and deliberately labeled. The presiding view perpetuated by the successful writing community was that if you couldn’t luck into the 0.02% of writers who presented manuscripts to the big publishers and were accepted, and chose to self-publish, you were vain (and your work unworthy by association). Basically the status quo was: established publisher = legitimate publishing, self-publishing = illegitimate publishing.

The potential winners in the current digital revolution are twofold: independent publishers and unknown authors. Independent publishers can now spend minimal set up to actively publish and market their wares: digital publishing software and a web site, some social media involvement, and physical attendance at events, and they are underway for a fraction of the cost that old-school printing houses had to outlay. Indie publishers can offer publishing services to more writers than ever before, and give them greater exposure on an international level than ever previously possible. The proliferation of indie publishers is significant for at least two reasons: (a) they open opportunities to a great many more writers to publish (b) they provide a richer feeding ground and sorting house for the big companies to identify and employ

potential big name writers from the field of unknown writers. Unknown authors can now publish their work through Amazon and a host of Indie publishers with less of the stigma generated in the vanity press days, and they have a very tiny chance that their work might be spotted by a big publishing house and picked up.

I doubt the bigger publishing houses will suffer much, although they are likely to close ranks and invest in the blockbuster writers and take far less interest in start-up and lesser writers because they can leave that part of the industry to the new Indie houses. There will be changes that affect aspects of the industry – but I suspect the big houses will simply shed what they consider extraneous in the digital environment.

Some of the great writers in literature literally self-published their work before the bigger publishing houses created their monopoly on the industry and determined who would be published and who not. The change I’m hoping for in this digital revolution is that maybe some great writers will be discovered because now they can self-publish again without the fake stigma applied to the old vanity press system and the restriction to becoming published based purely on profitable sales figures.

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Thanks a whole lot to Tony for sharing with us on the blog this week! Be sure to follow him and check out his works!

Website: http://www.tonyshillitoe.com.au

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonyshillitoe/

Twitter: @tonyshillitoe

WIP Wednesday: Dark Horse I: Ruin

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As I have been sharing a lot of Only the Willing lately I thought I would let you have a peek at some of the other books coming out this year! Dark Horse I: Ruin is the start of a Stan Brookshire spin off trilogy. Enjoy!

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Morrigan wiped the tears from her cheeks. It wasnt the first time in the last two days that she had found tears falling from her eyes as she tried to mend the pieces of her broken heart. She had told herself over and over again that it wasnt worth her tears that she was far better off this way bu no matter how hard she tried, no matter what she told herself it did not change the way that she felt.

 

She missed him and wished she knew a way to bring him abck.

 

Eric had walked out of their apartment two days before. He hadd said that he was going to the store for a pack of cigarettes and he had not returned since.

 

At first she had been worried. They had been going theough a rough patch and she was worried he had dome something irrational but that had been quickly put to rest. A few hours after he walked out.

 

One quick phone call to a friend informed her that he was in fact safe and sound at another friends home on the other side of the city. That call had also brough the crushing reality home to her as well. He wasnt going to be coming home to her and he did not want to discuss it with her either.

 

She had begged and pleaded with ehr friend to help. As it turned out the friend did not wal to get involved and if morrigan could please not all bak ever again.

 

Every door she had reached for she found slammed in her face or she was met with sympathetic but useless words.

 

No one would help. No one was willing to tell Eric he was wrong or question his decision.

 

She was almost completely alone.

 

The one bright spot in her life was her son Matthew. Just over a year old he was the apple of her eye. The reason she got up in the morning. He was the reason she kept fighting to hold her world together when everythign threatened to pll it apart.

 

Every morning sicne Eric had left she had forced herself out of bed, forced herself to keep up with the routine she had set out for Matthew. Matthew didnt deserve to suffer for the problems she was having, she had decided. He deserved only to have the very best
Truthfully however the routine was a great source of comfort for her as well. Each movement, each task was one that she had done countless times before. One that her body knew by rote and it allowed her to eep herself just busy enough to keep her from thinking too much.