Category Archives: SCIENCE FICTION

Q and A with bestselling supernatural thriller author Jeff Mariotte (by David Lee Summers) #amreading #thriller #horror

Jeffrey Marriotte, bestselling supernatural thriller and horror author

Jeffrey Marriotte, bestselling supernatural thriller and horror author

Jeffrey J. Mariotte is the bestselling, award-winning author of fifty novels, including supernatural thrillers Season of the Wolf, Missing White Girl, River Runs Red, and Cold Black Hearts, horror epic The Slab, thriller The Devil’s Bait, and the Dark Vengeance teen horror quartet.

He also writes occasional nonfiction, short fiction (some of which is collected in Nine Frights), and comic books, including the long-running horror/Western comic book series Desperadoes and graphic novels Fade to Black and Zombie Cop. With writing partner Marsheila Rockwell, he has published several short stories and a novel, 7 SYKOS. He has worked in virtually every aspect of the book business, as a writer, editor, marketing executive, and bookseller.

Jeff Mariotte and Marsheia Rockwell (writing partners and life partners)

Jeff Mariotte and Marsheila Rockwell (writing partners and life partners)

I’ve known Jeff for several years and was delighted when he agreed to answer a few of my questions.

DLS: When people see an author’s name, they often see it as a “brand”, knowing what kind of story they’ll get. You’ve written in several genres from science fiction to weird westerns to horror. How do you define the “Jeff Mariotte Brand”?

JM: I’m convinced that writing in different genres has been harmful to my career, because readers tend to like a writer who stays put, who delivers basically the same thing book after book. Once you’re well established, you can switch around–like Robert B. Parker eventually turning to the occasional western after writing a ton of mystery books in different series. But shifting around before your “brand” is established seems like a bad move, career-wise.

51GoUOdHOiLThat said, I don’t see how I could have done it differently. I have to write what I’m moved to write at any given time. I’d get bored writing the same series character over and over. I haven’t calculated out the wisest career path, but have written the books that felt like they needed to be written as they came along. I’m true to myself, if not to market considerations. My agent might prefer it the other way around, but I am who I am.

I hope that readers know that when they pick up one of my books, they’ll get a compelling, suspenseful tale that’ll keep them turning the page; they’ll get well-written and engaging stories populated with characters they’ll believe in and care about. Regardless of genre, I try to always write books that will brighten a reader’s day and life, that entertain and maybe inform and enlighten. My books are generally optimistic, even when they venture into dark places, and one of my central themes seems to be the idea that there’s magic in the world, if only you know to look for it.

DLS: Who was your greatest writer influence/inspiration when you started? What are some books of theirs you would recommend?

thejealouskind-198x300JM: I was a bookseller for years before I got published, so I was reading pretty extensively in my preferred genres–horror, mysteries, thrillers, sf, fantasies, westerns. Consequently, I had (and have) a lot of inspirations. Some have changed over the years, and others have been consistent. In the early days, I was strongly inspired by Robert E. Howard (particularly his Conan stories), the aforementioned Bob Parker (his Spenser novels), Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe) and Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer). At the same time, I’ve often been inspired by writers as varied as Stephen King (The Stand, The Shining, On Writing), William Goldman (Marathon Man, Boys and Girls Together) and Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose, Recapitulation, Wolf Willow). More recent influences include James Lee Burke (any of his books, but especially the Robicheaux novels). That’s a pretty male-centric list, but I could also add in works by Joan Vinge, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, Laura Lippman, Barbara Kingsolver, and plenty of other talented women, as well as one of the best writers I know, Marsheila Rockwell.

DLS: You recently married your writing partner, the talented Marsheila Rockwell. How do your collaborations work? How does collaborating compare to writing solo?

JM: Funny you should mention that…

xena-olympiaWe collaborate very well, almost seamlessly. We have different strengths–she’s a poet and her command of language is beautiful, while I’m a stronger plotter, for instance–but when we work together, our strengths complement each other, and by the time we’re finished with a story, we usually can’t tell who wrote what. We try to start with a solid outline so we know where we’re going and what each other’s vision of the overall story is (and because we both come out of a tie-in writing background, we’re used to working with outlines). Then we trade off–scene by scene, chapter by chapter, whatever works at the moment and for any given project. On the first book of the Xena: Warrior Princess trilogy we’re working on, we had a relatively tight deadline and had to be writing different chapters simultaneously, which was a little awkward. But we smoothed it all out, and it came out well in the end.

As for the difference between collaborating and solo work, it is a different beast. A solo story or novel is one person’s vision, and everything in it, good or bad, is a reflection of that one person. A collaboration is necessarily a shared vision. I’ve written a lot of comic books and graphic novels, and because I don’t draw, those are always collaborations. And I’ve collaborated with other writers, too. So it’s not new to me. It does feel more natural with Marcy, and we work together better than I have with anyone else. Ideally, the result of a collaboration is a book or a story one writer couldn’t have written, because each participant brings different skills and life experiences to the table, and that’s what Marcy and I get when we write together. The fact that I get to be married to her is icing on the cake.

DLS: What insights have you gained from owning a bookstore that can help writers be more successful and stand out from the crowd?

Image: Slate.com

Image: Slate.com

JM: I think the experience of working in bookstores, managing them, and being an owner of one, has made me less ready to jump on board the e-book train. I think printed books are an ideal marriage of form and function–they don’t require a power source, they don’t break down or become corrupted, they’re always there when you want to read and you can save your place with a bookmark or a piece of paper or a paper clip or whatever’s handy. At the same time, I have a more realistic view of the book business than some people, who seem to think that Amazon is the only bookseller that matters. The truth is that printed books still far outsell e-books, and other outlets still sell more books in the U.S. than Amazon does, so if a writer focuses all of his or her efforts on Amazon, he or she is leaving a lot of potential sales on the table.

517h-yJ7q3LDLS: Not only do you write in your own worlds, you’ve written novels and stories for Star Trek, NCIS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and other franchises. How does “playing in someone else’s sandbox” compare to creating your own world?

JM: I love writing my original novels, and will always want to do that. Creating my own characters and involving them in situations entirely of my own devising is the ultimate creative experience. But it’s also a blast to be asked to write novels about characters I love, like Conan, Xena, Spider-Man, Superman, and great TV shows like CSI and NCIS: Los Angeles. I get to tell stories in beloved fictional universes, and get paid for it–nothing wrong with that!

The skills that are called on are the same. I have to create characters, plot stories, write in an engaging and entertaining manner. And the truth is whether I’m writing in an existing fictional universe or my own, I have to be consistent and true to the rules of that universe as it’s been developed. So the main difference is that in tie-in work, I have to try to capture voices that were devised by other writers (and sometimes actors). Fortunately, I’m pretty good at that.

DLS: If someone wanted to try their hand at writing and selling a novel in the world of a popular franchise, what would they need to do? How should they start?

tied-in1JM: They could start by visiting the website of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, IAMTW.org. There they can find out a lot about the nuts and bolts of the tie-in business, and maybe find out about licensed fiction lines they didn’t even know existed. The organization has also released a book by its membership that contains more details about the trade.

Typically (although there are exceptions) to write a tie-in novel, you have to have had at least one other novel professionally published. Publishers have already invested a lot of money to acquire a license, so they don’t want to risk more by hiring a writer who hasn’t proven the ability to write a publishable book. And there’s often competition for tie-in gigs, so if it’s a choice between a writer with a solid track record and an unknown new writer, the established pro will have the advantage. So the best thing a writer can do is write a good book, get it published by a reputable publisher, then approach the publisher of the licensed fiction line of interest and say, “Hey, I wrote X and I’d sure like to pitch you something for your Y line.”

DLS: In addition to writing novels, you’ve written and edited comic books. How are writing comic books similar and different than writing novels or short stories? Do you collaborate with the artist ahead of time, or create any kind of storyboard in addition to writing?

200px-Desperadoes_A_Moment's_Sunlight_TPB_coverJM: As I mentioned above, because I don’t draw the comics, each one is a collaboration, start to finish. I write the script before the artist draws it, so while I’m writing it I’m only speculating about what it’ll look like at the end of the process. Usually what I’m seeing in my head is not much like what comes out on the page. From the very beginning of my career, I’ve had the good fortune of working with some amazing artists, whose work on my scripts has blown me away.

Ultimately, the skill sets the writer brings to the table are similar. You need to tell a story that’s worth telling, that’s interesting and surprising and suspenseful and is hopefully enlightening in some way. The differences are in the techniques and the outcome. In comics, you have to be willing to stand back and let the art tell the story. The writer makes up the story (in most cases), and puts it down in a script that no one will ever see, but the artist is the one whose interpretation of the story ends up being what the readers see. The writer has to let the artist do that job, and keep the words to a minimum so they don’t get in the way of the art.

I don’t try to direct the artist to any great extent. I tell them what has to be in each panel to make the story work, but leave it to them how the panel is composed, how the different panels fit onto the page, etc. I’ve worked, as an editor, with writers who don’t trust their artists and do sketch layouts for them. Fortunately, in most cases, the artists I’ve worked with are far better at that than I would be.

DLS: What kind of research did you do writing the comic book biography of Barack Obama? Did you get to interview the President or did you work from other resources?

515tE967FAL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_JM: That project was fascinating, and required vast amounts of research. I didn’t get to meet or speak with the President (though I’d still love to). I wrote it during the 2008 campaign and the first few months of his presidency, so at the time there weren’t even any books about him other than the two he wrote himself. Obviously he was a well-known public figure, but what had been written about him was mostly journalism coming out on a constant basis, along with a few more in-depth magazine pieces. I read his books and every article about him I could get my hands on, and watched him on TV whenever possible to get a sense of his voice. The scripts were vetted by lawyers, and I had to have every fact triple-sourced, and had to be able to show where every line of dialogue came from. The project was originally three separate comic book issues that were collected into a single hardcover book, which was actually the first book-length biography written about him.

DLS: I sense a certain passion for small towns on the southern border of the United States in your writing. What captivates you about those places in particular?

JM: Borderlands of all kinds are fascinating to me. I have written a lot about the US/Mexico border, but I’ve written about other borders, too–my Age of Conan trilogy, for example, was largely about the border between the Aquilonian Empire and the Pictish lands–which is kind of a parallel to Hadrian’s Wall, where the Roman Empire ended and the wilderness began. Other borders in my fiction include borders between our world and another (or many others). Borders are where different people with different interests and backgrounds intersect. There’s natural drama in that. Along our southwestern border, there are of course political issues, issues of crime and punishment, and the story of the human race–which is the ongoing story of migration–all of which are rich territory for fiction.

51QsIKsEYWLDLS: Tell us about your latest novel.

JM: The new book is 7 SYKOS, a collaboration with Marsheila Rockwell. It’s kind of a science fiction/horror/thriller hybrid. Basically, a meteor has brought a spaceborne virus into the Phoenix metropolitan area, which has the effect of turning those infected into raging lunatics hungry for brains. It’s incredibly virulent and there’s no known cure or vaccine. In order to keep it from spreading throughout the nation (or the world), the military has fenced off the Valley of the Sun, and nobody is allowed in or out. But everyone knows that’s only a temporary solution, so if something more permanent can’t be figured out soon, the Valley’s going to be nuked out of existence. Trouble is, the only way to come up with a fix is to get enough of the meteor to study, and nobody can get to it. But it turns out that the unique brain structure of psychopaths makes them immune to the virus. So they can go into the quarantine zone, to look for pieces of the meteor. And all they have to do is agree to perform an essentially altruistic act, learn how to play well together, and survive the onslaught of thousands of Infecteds who want to eat their brains. Nothing to it, right…?

DLS: Sounds amazing! Thanks for the wonderful and informative interview!

Connect with Jeffrey Mariotte online: website, facebook, twitter
Connect with Marsheila Rockwell online: website, facebook, twitter

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

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Filed under amreading, Best-selling authors, Bestselling Authors, CRIME MYSTERY, CRIME THRILLER, CULTS, DARK MYSTERY SERIES, DETECTIVE, FUTURISTIC, HORROR, HORROR BOOKS, PARANORMAL MYSTERY SERIES, PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE, PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER, REVOLVING BOOK, SCARY BOOKS, SCARY MOVIES, SCIENCE FICTION, science fiction thriller, STEAMPUNK, SUPERNATURAL, SUPERNATURAL THRILLER, SUSPENSE THRILLER, THRILLER, THRILLER FICTION

Zombies, Bram Stoker Awards, and author Joe McKinney #horror #scifi #amreading #amwriting

Author Joe McKinney is serious about zombies. Image: moonbooks.net

Author Joe McKinney is serious about zombies.
Image: moonbooks.net

In our ongoing series THE BOOK THAT HOOKED YOU at the Lachesis Publishing Daily Blog we feature Q and As with established and successful authors who tell us about the books and authors they love as well as telling us about the books they are working on.

Today’s Q and A features Joe McKinney, the multi-talented and a Bram Stoker Award winning author (multiple times) of horror fiction, science fiction and crime thrillers. Joe McKinney is based in San Antonio where he is a sergeant for the San Antonio Police Department where he helps to run their 911 Dispatch Center. He has been a homicide detective and a disaster mitigation specialist. 

$_35200px-Sc48Take us back to when you first discovered horror and science fiction. When did you become a reader? How old were you? What were some of the books that made an impact on you?

JM: My gateway drug was Stewart Cowley’s SPACEWRECK. An absolutely beautiful book. Every page featured a full size colored painting of some eerie, abandoned spaceship. There was a two or three page short story to go with each painting, and I would spend hours going through them. I must have read that book a thousand times. I think I was seven when I first found that book, and after that I went into Robert Heinlein’s juveniles. My favorite of those was SPACE CADET.

51lQEI1IcrL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_bl_26_ebookimg-swan-song_134432244231Tell us about a few of the authors who inspired you, when you first started in your own writing career?

JM: One big inspiration was Lee Thomas. We met at a convention in Dallas shortly after I published my first novel, and we’ve been friends ever since. Lee has been through just about joy and nightmare the publishing world can throw at an author, and he was a tremendous mentor. As to authors who inspired me, I’d have to point to Robert McCammon. His early works were amazing takes on classic horror tropes, like vampires and zombies and werewolves. But after that, he went into these fantastically lush novels like Boy’s Life and Swan Song that set the bar impossibly high. When I write, I push myself to try to be that good.


51XeozUmMVL._UY250_
51zJ3HUbaCL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_You write horror, science fiction, and crime novels. Tell us what draws you to those three genres?

JM: You know, I think the genre finds you and not the other way around. It’s like water finding its own level. You end up in horror because you have to be there. I’m a pretty upbeat guy most of the time, and I try to have a great deal of fun in everything I do, but when I write, it just ends up going to dark places. I wish I could give you a better answer than that, but that’s about the size of it.

Image of Joe McKinney perpetualpublishing.com

Image of Joe McKinney perpetualpublishing.com

You’re a police supervisor in your “day job”. How does your very challenging police work impact your writing?

JM: Well, police work has colored my entire writing career. Not only because a lot of my characters tend to be cops, but also my approach to characters. In fact, I think it’s impossible to underestimate the influence it’s had on my writing. You can’t do this job without it changing you in a fundamental way. Maybe that’s where the dark stuff comes from.

51JOK-Blf7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Tell us about a book that you’ve read recently (past year) that blew you away (can be from any genre).

JM: That’s easy. 14 by Peter Clines was an amazing science fiction adventure story with a crazy Lovecraftian turn at the end. A young man is looking for a cheap apartment in the heart of LA. He finds one, but after he moves in, finds one odd quark of the building after another. Any one of them wouldn’t amount to much, but when taken in their totality, they add up to a mystery with shades of a government conspiracy and cosmic horror. Trust me, one of the best times I’ve ever had between the covers of a book. I also loved The Martian by Andy Weir and Ready Player One by Earnest Cline.

What is the coolest thing a reader has ever said (or done) for you?

JM: I once wrote a magic typewriter story called “Writing for Exposure.” A fan of mine enjoyed it so much he found a 1939 Underwood typewriter, completely restored it, and sent it to me as a gift. It has a special place of honor on the shelf in my office.

510hvfHPSeL._SX296_BO1,204,203,200_You’ve won the Bram Stoker Award twice now – tell us about your books that won and how you feel about being on that illustrious list?

The first time I won was for my novel Flesh Eaters. That’s the origin story for my zombie series, The Dead World. You can probably tell from what I’ve written above that I’m a huge Robert McCammon fan. Well, he was one of the presenters for the award, and when I went up to the stage to receive it, McCammon leaned in and whispered, “Great job, Joe. I love your book.” I nearly fainted right there. To this day, that remains one of my finest writing moments ever.

51QLxzTbdLL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_Tell us about your latest release THE DEAD WON’T DIE (part of an ongoing series) Tell us about the book and the series.

JM: The Dead Won’t Die is Book 2 in my new zombie series, The Deadlands. It’s been thirty years since the zombie apocalypse, and only little pockets of humanity have survived. One of those communities is a place called Arbella. Arbella has not only survived, but thrived, and now they are getting so big they need to expand. The trouble is, nobody knows what’s out there. So, one of the up and coming members of the community, First Deputy of the Constabulary Jacob Carlton, organizes an expedition to go explore the Deadlands. In the first book Jacob and his friend Kelly Banis barely survive their encounter with the nomadic communities that wander the Deadlands. They are rescued by a super advanced society called Temple. The Dead Won’t Die takes us into a vast conspiracy that is threatening to destroy Temple from the inside out. Fun stuff, with tons of zombie action thrown in to boot.

THE-RETREAT-both-coversWhat are you currently working on and when can we expect it to be released?

JM: I’m currently finishing up Book 3 in a series that I’m writing with Craig DiLouie and Stephen Knight. My installment is called Die Laughing. The series takes place in the present day, along the Eastern seaboard. A new disease called The Bug appears on the scene, and it turns its victims into unspeakably cruel and viscous killers. The disease victims are called Klowns because they cannot control their laughter. It’s how they process pain, both their own and their victims. A battalion of light infantry is in Boston when the series starts, tasked with protecting the populace. But they never had a chance, and now they are in full retreat. The first book was about getting out of Boston. The second book was about the rolling gunfight that got them to Philadelphia. That’s where I pick it up.

You’re a writer of horror and crime and sci-fi. What truly scares you?

JM: Well, snakes and heights. But those are just things that give me the creeps. When I think about things that truly terrify me, I think about Alzheimer’s disease. I watched my grandfather die of that, seeing his mind taken from him just scared me to death. Now that I’m older, the fear is even stronger.

Bonus: What is your “go-to” snack when you’re writing?

JM: Popcorn. Definitely popcorn.

limbus-inc-coverJoe McKinney is the San Antonio-based author of several horror, crime and science fiction novels. His longer works include the four part Dead World series, made up of Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead, Flesh Eaters and The Zombie King; the science fiction disaster tale, Quarantined, which was nominated for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in a novel, 2009; and the crime novel, Dodging Bullets. His upcoming releases include the horror novels Lost Girl of the Lake, The Red Empire, The Charge and St. Rage. Joe has also worked as an editor, along with Michelle McCrary, on the zombie-themed anthology Dead Set, and with Mark Onspaugh on the abandoned building-themed anthology The Forsaken. His short stories and novellas have been published in more than thirty publications and anthologies.

Connect with Joe McKinney via is his website, on facebook, twitter, @JoeMcKinney and you can email him at joemckinney2033@gmail.com

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Filed under Best-selling authors, Bestselling Authors, CRIME, CRIME THRILLER, DARK PARANORMAL ROMANCE, DARK URBAN FANTASY ROMANCE, FICTION, HORROR, HORROR BOOKS, Lachesis Publishing, SCIENCE FICTION, science fiction thriller, SUPERNATURAL, SUSPENSE THRILLER, THRILLER, Zombie Thriller

The Top Five Moments In My Writing Career by Greg Ballan (thriller author)

Greg Ballan

Greg Ballan

Every writer has those special moments that mark his or her career. Whether big or small, they mean something special and will stay with them forever. Here are Greg Ballan’s Top 5 Happiest Moments of his Writing Career.

1. I glanced over at the clock on my monitor, it was three in the morning. I’d been wrestling with a database for work nearly five hours and getting nowhere. Saturday night (Actually early Sunday morning) was the only real quiet time I could find in our noisy household of two teenagers, a live in Mother-In-Law and a toddler that was on a reverse sleeping schedule. The stress of managing work/ home and adjusting to another child plus trying to find some motivation to finish a manuscript I’d begun was starting to weigh me down. After my horrible experience with a previous publishing enterprise, and the endless waiting to hear back from a publisher on my submitted manuscript continually had me on edge. I was at the point of throwing in the towel and giving up on writing completely.

41fXU5f2QSL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_I was mentally exhausted and my eyelids felt like 400 grit sandpaper. I’d tackle this project after I grabbed a few hours of sleep. Out of habit I checked my E-mail one last time and there it was, sitting in my in box; that e-mail from LBF Publishing that I’d been waiting for yet dreading since I’d put all my hopes into this one basket. My mouse arrow hovered over that e-mail for a good thirty seconds as I worked up the courage and finally made that all important double click. My heart was beating like a trip hammer as the email opened, there were the words I’d only dreamt about. YES! LBF loved my story, they loved the setup and the concept. This final sentence was “Great job!” I felt fifty pounds of gloom melt off my shoulders and a sense of real pride, a publisher found merit in my work. I forwarded the e-mail to a few close associates who’d supported and encouraged me, telling them my dream had come true. A minute later I got an e mail back from my dear friend and author, Ed Williams. Congratulations you’re going to be a published author. I am so proud and happy for you.” I still have both e-mails and will never delete them. I value my friend’s wisdom. His guidance and encouragement was vital in making my book a success and the kind words of praise from Jackie, the publisher at LBF was the shot in the arm my sagging confidence needed. This was truly the happiest moment in my writing career – the night my manuscript was accepted by a real publisher. All the headaches and prior battles evaporated, I had taken the first step on what was to become a fantastic journey I’m still travelling.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 1.15.00 PM2. The slight May breeze cooled the nervous sweat pouring from my scalp like a fountain. What in the hell was I doing at a Romance Writers convention? I had no business being here. I was about to meet my publisher face to face and some well known authors. I was a writer, yes, but not in league with the ladies I’d be meeting let alone meeting the people who actually brought my work to life.   I walked into the hotel and slowly walked up and down the corridor, “Greg?” I heard someone call out. My stomach lurched a bit, and I turned, it was Leeann Burke, my publisher.   I took a gulp of air, walked over whispering prayers, “God! PLEASE don’t let me make a jackass of myself or say something totally stupid,” which I have been known to do on occasion. I made it through the introduction without sounding like a moron . . . score one for me! I met Joanna D’Angelo, who was just as nice in person as in her e-mails. My mind puts voices to people as I read their e-mails, I had created a light, lilting tone for Joanna based on our back and forth e-mails and I was pleased to see I had come very close to her actual voice. We all boarded a shuttle and headed off to have dinner. Me, in the company of the Editor in Chief and CEO of Lachesis Publishing plus two very successful well published authors.

Despite my nerves the evening was amazing! Leanne and Joanna were simply spectacular; and talking with Hannah Howell was amazing. I was finally able to relax and enjoy the great company as we all laughed and conversed over several topics and Joanna served as the referee never letting the topics get too controversial or serious . . . I’ll never forget her catch phrase when things got potentially political; “Cats . . . let’s talk about cats!”   I had a wonderful evening and actually felt like I belonged. I felt like a real writer for the first time and that moment of realization was something I’ll always treasure. I also managed to grab a ‘selfie’ with Leanne on the way to dinner.

Viking warrior by michaeldaviniart

Viking warrior
by michaeldaviniart

3. I’d spent three years working on the “Lost Sons” (Viking warrior) project, my boldest undertaking so far, and an attempt to move beyond the characters of “Hybrid.” Lost Sons is a complex tale of intertwining characters and motivations, a character study of human nature embedded within a Science Fiction tale rather than the flat out action of Hybrid and Hybrid: Forced Vengeance. I wasn’t sure how my test readers would react to such a different type of story. I sent out the five hundred pages to my fifteen person test group and waited. After two days I got my first e-mail; “OMG! I Love this so far.” A few days later four other people weighed in on the story, all positive.  After a month of back and forth with my test group I had received favorable responses to my attempt at creating a ‘George R. R. Martinesque’ tale of depth and complexity. I took a risk and stretched my creative muscles and was rewarded by positive feedback from a very diverse and discerning group of readers.   I needed the validation and the reassurance that I could spin a complicated yarn that would make a reader pause and contemplate alternate possibilities in the evolution and development of humanity. I took a step out of my comfort zone and was rewarded with a well received story that will eventually make its way to the reading public.

hybrid-24. I was invited to be the guest of honor at a book club.   A family friend had recommended my second novel as the chosen read for his group. Since I lived in the next town over he decided it would be a huge bonus to have the author of their book in attendance. I graciously accepted the invitation; anyone who’d purchased twenty copies of my book at one time deserved an in-person thank you.

I arrived a bit late due to a case of nerves and found a crowd of people crammed around a long table, all with copies of Hybrid: Forced Vengeance. The books looked like they’d been through a war . . . littered with yellow sticky notes, curled covers and well worn bindings. This was a serious crowd! My friend had gone all out even serving my main character’s favorite foods which happened to be my favorites. I was seated at the head of the table and these people treated me like I was a celebrity. I spent a few minutes autographing books, shaking hands and even getting a hug or two. The book discussion began and I was amazed at how different people interpreted the saga of Erik Knight and what motivated him to act.   I listened intently as I scarfed down all of my favorite foods. I happily provided insight to the story as well as  my motivations for different scenes in the book and engaged each question that came my way. The group was thrilled to actually get the answers and insight from the author, something that usually didn’t occur during a book club meeting. Three hours passed quickly and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people who considered themselves ‘Fans’ of my work. I once again shook hands and exchanged some more hugs. I looked over at my friend and his wife – who were smiling from ear-to-ear. They said this was the best book club in years. I was glad for them but even happier for me; I saw firsthand how my words and tales had an impact on readers and how much deep insight the written word could invoke in people. I drove home feeling really good about the story and would always remember that night where I was a pseudo celebrity.

hybrid-500x7245. This is probably the most important moment for me personally as a writer, the completion of Hybrid: Armageddon’s Son. I take great pride in finishing another tale of Erik Knight but this story had a more personal significance. This story was a tribute to my father. I’ve made no secret that the character of Erik Knight is based on me in my early twenties and the character of Martin Denton is based on my father, James Ballan. I lost my father when I was twenty-four years old, he died suddenly and I never got the chance to tell him how important he was in my life or how honored I was to be his son. There’s a scene in Armageddon’s Son between Erik and Martin where they admit that they have a father and son type of relationship. Erik says the things to Martin that I wish I would have been able to say to my dad before he passed. In a way the scene is a tribute to my father and allows me the chance to say the things to my dad I never got to say when he was alive. There’s never perfect closure when a family member passes but in the dialogue between these two men who’ve shared so much, have such contrasting personalities yet complement each other, is my way of honoring my father. Seeing this scene in the pages of a book will be me paying a long lasting tribute to the man who taught me so much and will, without a doubt, be the happiest moment I’ll ever have as a writer.

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Q and A Tuesday (Round 2) with David Lee Summers (horror/parnormal and science fiction author)

S FALL COVEROur Round 2 Q and A  is with Lachesis Publishing author David Lee Summers. David has written several horror and science fiction novels for Lachesis including The Pirates of Sufiro which is free, and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.

What was your favourite book as a child and why?

Two books stand out for me from my childhood. The first is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I was captivated by the lush illustrations and the simple, yet evocative language. The Wild Things scared me as a kid, but Max impressed me by taming them and becoming their king. The other book is Pecos Bill: The Greatest Cowboy of All Time by James Cloyd Bowman. It was the first chapter book I remember reading. I loved the fact that it was a fantasy set in the Wild West. It included elements from the stories my mom, dad, uncles, and aunts told me about homesteading in New Mexico, but ramped them up and made them even wilder. Really, I think this book more than any other laid the groundwork for me learning how to adapt stories from my life into science fictional or even horrific settings.

Who was your favourite teacher growing up and why?

My favorite teacher was Elfriede Mayor. We called her “The Frau.” She taught both high school German and journalism. In her German class, I learned a love of language and words. I also discovered the original Grimm Fairy Tales and learned they were much darker than I thought. In her journalism class, I learned to express myself and write regularly and how to do a word count.

One time, I wrote an editorial criticizing the school’s policy of covering natural areas with blacktop. The school board actually wrote a letter demanding an apology. The Frau stood beside me and said I owed no apology, that I had presented a fair criticism and supported my opinion. I never forgot that lesson in democracy and standing up for my opinions.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Why?

When I was about eight or nine years old, my parents bought me the book The Trouble With Tribbles by David Gerrold. It told the story of how Gerrold wrote and sold the episode of the same name to Star Trek. At the time, I liked making up stories and writing them down. Gerrold showed me it was possible to do that for a living. I was hooked by the idea.

Who in the writing/publishing world do you admire and why?

This is a difficult question because there are so many people I admire, but if I have to pick just one, I’ll go with Ray Bradbury. He spent years in the library reading great works, then used the lessons from that time to become a great writer in his own right. He transcended genre and defies classification. He wrote poems, short stories, novels, plays and screenplays. He used whatever medium worked best for the story he wanted to tell. He went from an unknown, penniless writer to one of the best known, best loved writers of all time. When I first met him in 1983, he was literally one of the nicest people I ever met. Even as a teenage kid who’d barely written anything, he made me feel like a peer. What’s more, he had a great family life and raised four daughters. He helped many other writers get started in the world and he always supported other writers. When my story “The Slayers” appeared in Realms of Fantasy Magazine, he wrote me a note congratulating me. Ray Bradbury is the person who comes to mind not only when I think of the kind of writer I want to be, but the kind of person I want to be.

Tell us about your daily writing routine – what do you typically do every day?

My “day” job is operating telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory. This is a job I do from sunset to sunrise for six nights out of every fifteen, hence the reason “day” is in quotes! When I’m on duty at the observatory, writing is irregular, especially during the long nights of winter. However, when I’m off duty, I try to spend quality time writing.

On a typical writing day, I wake up and have breakfast and coffee while checking my email. I then shut that down to avoid distractions and write for a couple of hours. From there, I’ll take a walk to get some fresh air, clear my head, and think about the next scenes. When I return home, I typically write for a couple more hours, then break for lunch. After lunch, I may run errands, or catch up on social media. If I have time before my wife and kids get home, I’ll usually get in one more afternoon writing session. Evenings are for family. We share dinner and often enjoy a good science fiction show or even a scary movie.

What is your favourite snack or guilty pleasure food that you (may or many not 😉 indulge in when writing?

My writing day always starts with a steaming mug of black coffee beside me. It’s a critical part of my writing process. I also like to snack on nuts when I write. Cashews are a particular favorite. I also love habanero almonds. A square of chocolate often serves as my reward for a successful writing day.

HEIRS OF THE NEW EARTH COVERWhat does “writing voice” mean to you? Describe your own writing voice.

“Writing voice” is the way a writer puts words together to present a narrative. For some writers it’s informal and fun as though they’re sitting in the room chatting with you and relating a story. For others, it can be more gothic and poetic, as though they’ve picked each word with the utmost care. Because of my background writing papers in astronomy, I think my writing voice is clear and direct. Many have described my writing voice as similar to Ernest Hemmingway’s, which I take as a great compliment.

What do you want to accomplish in the next five years in your writing career?

We live in a multimedia world and I’d love to see my works transcend the printed page and move into audio books or even visual media of some sort. Over the next five years, I would love to learn more about what I can do to turn that dream into reality. In addition to that, I plan to complete my Clockwork Legion steampunk series for Sky Warrior books and hope to complete my Wilderness of the Dead horror series for Lachesis.

It’s the season to give thanks. What are you thankful for?

I am thankful for publishers such as Lachesis Publishing that have believed in me and published my books. I am thankful to my family for standing by me and supporting me, even when times have been difficult.

piesPumpkin pie or Pecan pie?

As someone who loves to munch cashews and almonds, and as someone who lives in one of the great pecan growing regions of the United States, I have to go with pecan pie.

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

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The Big Bang Theory of Sci-Fi Books: Beyond the Geekery by David Lee Summers

Geeky DaveI have a degree in astrophysics and operate telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.  I have collected science fiction memorabilia ever since Kenner announced its “Early Bird” Star Wars action figure set in 1977. I collect comic books and eagerly await each new season of Doctor Who. In many ways, I bear more than a passing resemblance to Dr. Sheldon Cooper and his friends from The Big Bang Theory.

That said, I’ve been married for twenty-four years. I have two beautiful daughters. I love to cook and go on hikes. I travel whenever the opportunity permits. I own a house and deal with all the responsibilities of keeping it up. Yeah, I may be a geek, but in many ways, I’m also a pretty ordinary middle-aged guy. It’s that ordinary guy who is going to do his best to tell you why science fiction appeals to him.

I’ve already mentioned the year 1977. That was a pretty magical year for me. It was the year Star Wars came out.  We all remember how the movie only appealed to nerds and geeks. Only tech-savvy people went to see it and it went on to relative obscurity.

Oh, that’s not what you remember? Well neither do I!

NovelsWhat I do remember was finally reading a novel written for adults. It was the novelization of Star Wars and I read it because Star Wars was cool and I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved how the novel gave insights into the characters’ thoughts and presented details that weren’t in the movie. It gave me a hunger for more science fiction books. At that time, the other big name in science fiction was Star Trek and I noticed the writing credits in big bold letters at the opening of every episode. There were names like Harlan Ellison, David Gerrold, Norman Spinrad, Jerome Bixby and Theodore Sturgeon. I found out many of these people had books at my local library. I began to read them and a whole new world opened up for me.

What I soon learned was that although it was called “science fiction” and much of it was set in the future, surprisingly little sci-fi actually dealt directly with science. Most of the stories talked about what would happen to people if certain things in the world did or didn’t change. It was a way to imagine what people would be like under different conditions. Sometimes those stories were scary when the author imaged a future where evil dominated the land. Sometimes those stories were fun when they imagined whole new pioneering adventures among the stars. Sometimes the stories were titillating if they imagined a whole new sexual morality. What can I say? I was a preteen boy and this was the disco era, baby!

Sure, there were some pretty geeky books out there, too, which featured stories that would tell you how to build a starship or give you mind-numbing detail about how the orbit of a planet affected the plot.  Admittedly those stor9780441810765_p0_v1_s260x420ies appealed to the Sheldon Cooper in me, but the other stories are the ones I still remember because they appealed to the ordinary guy. Growing up in Southern California during the cold war, those books imagined a future where the air was cleaner, people appreciated each other because of their differences, and Russia and the United States didn’t have missiles aimed at each other.  And, you know what?  Most of that optimism has borne out over the years.

Okay, I don’t have a flying car. That disappoints me . . . greatly. But you know what? Given the way people drive, that’s perhaps not such a bad thing.

pirate-of-sufrio-500x724Here’s another interesting fact.  It’s not the scientist in me that writes science fiction. Every time the scientist tried to write a book, he failed. What inspired me to write my first successful science fiction book was a novel by Robert A. Heinlein called Time Enough for Love.  In it, settlers move across an alien planet in a wagon train to start a new life.  I realized that was the story my mom used to tell about her grandmother moving from Illinois to Texas at the end of the nineteenth century.  Being a scientist might allow me to imagine how characters could get to a planet, but the real drama came from the human stories all around me. I could pull from the stories of my grandparents and my daily life. I could draw from history and imagine different futures. It’s once I made that leap and realized that science happens mostly off the page that I could sit down and write a story that people cared about reading. That first novel was The Pirates of Sufiro. (Which you can get for free right here). It was inspired by stories of New Mexico homesteaders, farmers and miners battling for territory, and dangers presented by unstoppable forces such as the weather.

The best science fiction, like the best literature, is about our hopes and our fears.  It looks at the past and imagines where we might be going. The best science fiction is about people like you and me. Give it a try. I’m guessing you’ll find a book you love.

Connect with David online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

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Hybrid: A science fiction thriller with a good dose of scary!

hybridToday’s Sneak Peek is the science fiction/suspense thriller Hybrid by Lachesis Publishing author, Greg Ballan (Book 1 in the Hybrid series)

What it’s about:

Erik Knight, a small time private investigator, always knew he was different from everybody else. Keener senses, heightened awareness and an enhanced physical strength that could be called upon by his sheer will.

Erik becomes involved with a team of high profile investigators and local police trying to locate a girl who was kidnapped in the middle of a playground amongst dozens of adults and children. None of the adults saw anything and what the children claim to have seen is too far fetched to be believed. The search evolves into a full-scale manhunt into the dark and desolate woodlands of the Hopedale Mountain.

After a lethal encounter and a fatality, Erik, the investigators and police realize that what they’re dealing with isn’t a man and possibly isn’t of this world. What they’re dealing with is a sentient evil that has an appetite for young children.

EXCERPT:

“Erik!” Shanda whispered in alarm. “Something’s here, stalking the girls. I can’t see it, but I can sense it.”

Erik looked throughout the park grounds, focusing his vision, but he couldn’t see anything. Fifty yards away, the children played unaware of anything but their innocent fun. Erik walked quickly over to where the party was, Shanda following close behind him. As he closed the distance he noticed that his daughter was staring at something and pointing. Erik looked in the direction she was pointing and saw a patch of darkness. His mind shrieked with panic and he ran toward his daughter, screaming for the other girls to leave the park area. The girls looked at the direction Brianna was pointing at and froze. They were terrified, frozen into inaction.

After a quick sprint, Erik was beside his daughter. Several of the other mothers had gone to their children as they all pointed out the closing patch of darkness.

“Get your children back!” Erik commanded. “It wants your children.”

Mothers and children were panicking. Children were crying with fright as the afternoon sun seemed to dim and the temperature in the park suddenly dropped twenty degrees. Brianna hadn’t moved since Erik came by her side.

“What do you see, honey?” he whispered.

Brianna’s eyes were transfixed on the corner of the park. Her finger still pointed in that direction. “It’s a tall man, I think. I can tell that it wants me. It’s calling to me, Daddy. I’m scared. Please don’t let it take me. I can tell it wants to take me.” She screamed in mindless terror.

Erik reached behind his back and pulled his Ruger from its place of concealment. He wrapped both arms protectively around his daughter, his gun pointing in the direction of her finger.

“Bri, point me in the right direction. I won’t let it hurt you. No one is taking you anywhere.”

She gently guided his hands so that the pistol was aiming at the heart of the dark anomaly.

“Daddy,” she whispered, “it’s coming right for us.”

“Go back with Shanda and the others, now!” he told her.

“Daddy, I don’t want to leave you.”

“Go, honey! Please,” he whispered. “Shanda!” Erik shouted, breaking the eerie silence. “Take Brianna.”

Shanda came up quickly and took Brianna. “I can just barely see it, Erik; it’s just like you described. It stopped when you pulled the gun. All the children can see it, but the parents can’t. All they can see is the darkness, and they can feel the cold.”

From behind them, the ponies were shrieking in panic.

“All right, you two, get back!” Erik stood up. He holstered his weapon and began walking toward the darkness.

“I know you’re there!” Erik called out to the inky darkness. “Maybe you can hide from them, but you can’t hide from me!” Erik focused his eyes; concentrating his extra senses on the darkness as he continued forward. Slowly he saw the man-like figure materialize. The figure had stopped its approach and assumed an aggressive stance. Erik paused a scant twenty feet from it and assumed a basic combat stance he used in Kung Fu.

“You can’t have the children!” he shouted, his voice booming above the silence, challenging the being of darkness. “You can’t have my daughter or any other child here.”

The thing responded with silence. Erik finally saw the blood-red eyes looking right through him. He could feel the hatred, the sheer malevolence; yet, now he also felt desperation, a hunger that was beyond his ability to define. The hostility threatened to overwhelm him. Erik fought his own emotions, fought down his own fear and doubt. He knew he couldn’t defeat this thing physically, but he would not let it have his daughter or any other child there, not while he drew breath.

Like what you’ve read? You can get Hybrid right here.

To read some of Greg’s musings visit his writing page on facebook, for several short stories and pithy takes on yard work and homelife.

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Star Born by Ann O’Bannon (science fiction / romance)

STARBORN-COVERTUESDAY’S REVOLVING BOOK is the science fiction romance STAR BORN by ANN O’BANNON.

RT Reviews Top Pick! “…an incredible story with staying power.”
Buy at the following locations:
amazon

Nook
Kobo
All Romance E-Books
Lachesis Publishing

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
After surviving an out-of-body experience, Major Karen O’Reilly leaves her heart in the hands of a handsome alien on the other side of the cosmos. The Allied Nations of Earth send her on a mission into deep space and it happens again. Only this time, she learns how to tap into the power of the universe and develops an unearthly ability.

Commodore Caradoc Rimon’s fate was sealed when his father’s medallion materialized out of thin air, binding him to a star born sprite. Unable to resist her allure, he begins to questions his sanity -is she flesh and blood, or spirit born? Could Solomon’s legend be true?

Discover the true meaning of freedom, experience the magic of astral planing, and share in the destiny of these two star-crossed lovers who bring to fruition a spirited legacy born of the stars…

Q and A with Ann O’Bannon:
Ann O’Bannon is our guest author today. Yesterday, we posted a sneak peek of her science fiction romance, Star Dust. Ann has another science fiction romance with Lachesis, called Star Born. Her books forge ahead into the future of space travel and reflect on what could be, but always with a powerful love story at their core.

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer and why?

I never really wanted to be a writer, it just happened. My daughter used to leave unfinished stories lying around the house. They were good, so I showed her how to plan an outline in the hopes that she would finish them. As parents, aren’t we supposed to lead by example? I started to write what I loved: Science fiction with a romantic element, and the characters came to life in my head and demanded I tell their story.

Describe your favorite place to write?

When I wrote the first three books, I wrote them at night, when my children were sleeping and there wasn’t a sound in the house. I think the setting set my muse free.

What would I find on your desk at this very moment?

As I write these answers, I have a ledger, a pile of bills & receipts that need to be posted, a bundle of mail, and a huge box of seeds that still need to be planted. Oh, it’s also 6:00 am, and I’m having coffee before getting started with my day.

What is your tea/coffee beverage of choice when you’re writing?

Hot chocolate, but sometimes a snifter of 20 year old Port.

What do you love to read?

Futuristic romances, especially when they are set in the stars.

What is some good advice you can give to an emerging writer?

Welcome helpful criticism, not just flattery. It’s tough, but don’t give up.

What do you do after you finish a book? Do you celebrate or take a nap?

Breathe a sigh of relief.

You have written science fiction romances for Lachesis. What attracts you to science fiction?

There are no boundaries with science fiction. The only limitations are what is true to science, otherwise you are free to create your own worlds, races, lifestyles and beliefs.

You’ve written two books in your richly woven Star Born the Shimuran Legacy series so far. Where did the idea for this series come from and how did you approach the research?

The first book, Star Dust, took place in our own galaxy therefore I had to do a lot of research into our solar system. In the second book, Star Born, we travel beyond what we know, so creativity took over.

What are you working on next?

The third book, Star Burst, is already written. I wrote all three books before I had a grasp on the art of storytelling. In the process of getting the first two books ready for publishing, I grew as an author, and the stories became more complex. Star Burst’s story line is intact, but the book itself needs to be re-written. All the editing did a number on my brain, and curbed my creativity. Writing became a chore, not a joy. I hope to capture that joy again so that the remainder of the saga can be told.

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