Monday, October 31, 2011

Manic Monday with Bob Stewart

Today I have the pleasure of talking with Bob Stewart. Bob is the author of four nonfiction books and has reported news events for popular magazines like PEOPLE, TIME, LIFE and LATINA. He worked such national stories for PEOPLE as the Oklahoma City bombing, the Branch Davidian standoff, the murder of Tejano singer Selena, the murder of students at schools in Pearl, Mississippi, Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Columbine in Denver, Colorado and the execution of Karla Faye Tucker. And now, he has his first fiction title with Novel Concept Publishing.

JET: Can you tell us about why you wrote your most recent book – Hidden Evil?

Bob: Reared in Texas I had heard rumblings of occult power, but generally it was the superstition generated by well-meaning people who want to insure good health, happiness or wealth; a rather benign practice that involves candles, herbs or ritual. It wasn’t until People Magazine assigned me to report on the sacrifice/murder of a college student on Spring Break on the South Texas border that I came into contact with the evil side of the occult. I had never heard the words Santeria or Palo Mayombe, until then. As I stood amid a number of fly-covered graves, when I visited the death shack on a desolate rancho in Mexico, I discovered an evil as ancient as any practice during Biblical times. Hidden Evil is my way of drawing attention to this culture flourishing in the halls of the rich and the powerful as well as humble adobe shacks. While it is fiction, many of the incidents and rituals used in the book are based on fact.

JET: What drew you to the thrillers/horror genre?

Bob: That’s simple. Two authors – Dean Koontz and James Patterson, who not only write beautifully but tell spellbinding stories. One of these days, I’d like to shake their hands. Perhaps Koontz’ incredible book, The Watchers, influenced me the most. As to why thrillers? I’m a sucker for the “stranger in a strange land” theme of a man or woman being thrown into circumstances beyond their abilities to control, but somehow they discover the strength to fight on.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Bob: Retaining belief in myself. No one ever told me I couldn’t write or deliberately tried to discourage me (that I know of), but agent rejections that pile up or no answer at all, tend to wear on your soul and sometimes self-doubt creeps in. I subscribe to the old saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And finally, my favorite story about perseverance is one about Academy Award winner George C. Scott. When approached by a young actor who inquired if he should continue to try to break into acting, the feisty Scott replied, “No!” Stunned, the actor stammered when asking why that was Scott’s answer; obviously, he was looking for a warm fuzzy. “If you have to ask me, then you shouldn’t do it. Acting is something you do because you have to.” I think his advice applies to writing.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Bob: The hours spent in rewrite. That’s when the creative juices flow and the tenor of the piece is shaped. Each word is tested, each definition considered, each scene polished until it’s a sparkling gem. I know many writers like the original creation of the piece. That’s hard work and not my favorite. One other moment I savor is the reaction of Beta readers as they critique my writing.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Bob: Richard Halliburton, a great travel writer who disappeared in the 1930s trying to sail a

Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean. He wrote Royal Roads to Romance, one of my favorite books. I read all of his works as a teen. There are too many to name them all, but Walter Farley’s Black Stallion’s series was filled with glorious adventure, (Mrs. Childs read us a chapter each day in third grade), Richard S. Prather’s cynical Miami detective Shell Scott and Mickey Spillane’s tough guy Mike Hammer were my introduction to the detective “noir” style of writing. I didn’t read many of the classics, with the exception of Alexander Dumas. Classics have little action, and adventure is what this country boy desired.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Bob: After studying for the ministry three years I realized I wasn’t cut from the right cloth. I like writing English essays, so I went to work at the college newspaper and discovered my real love. I went to work in a rough and tumble time when a kid green behind the ears could mix it up with the pros and learn more in the school of hard knocks than the halls of academia. You can no longer do that. Also, it taught me to ask for the most difficult assignments.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Bob: A lot of my research was on the job. I was on the site at the parade shoot-out used in the beginning of the book. I visited the killing shack of a Palo group. I once found a ritual for Ochosi in a cemetery and mentioned it in the book. Like a character out of a book I’ve met people at midnight by the railroad tracks and once, when covering a mob-related story, a DA told me to carry a gun and I checked my automobile for bombs each morning.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Bob: Well my favorite will always be the one I wrote about my wife. The reason it’s my favorite is rather obvious. Hidden Evil comes in second.

JET: Any advice for the novices out there?

Bob: Not much really. Just write. Get in that chair, turn on the computer and write. It’s best to set a time each day and if the muse has abandoned you that day, then write your name over and over and eventually the words will flow. As a journalist I had to write something every day whether I was sick, depressed, or worried. Don’t use the excuse of writer’s block. As for me. When I’m writing on a project I get up about five and work for three or so hours. For my first book – while I was employed at a newspaper --- I’d go to bed at 9 p. m. and get up at three a.m. so I could get in the three hours before going to work.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with: Paper or Plastic?

Bob: Plastic – it’s reusable

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Bob: Steak – Seriously, you ask a Texan that?

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Bob: Beach

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Bob: Country, but my favorite is classical which I play when writing.

JET: Angels or Demons?

Bob: Angels

JET: Paper or Digital?

Bob: Digital

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Bob: Neither; okay, then the Cheesy B

JET: Salty or Sweet?

Bob: Salty – I’m a diabetic so I can’t choose sweet.

JET: Top 10 best seller or Unknown Back Shelf Find?

Bob: Top 10. Don’t have time to search the back shelf

JET: Sword wielding ninja or Gun toting momma?

Bob: Sword wielding ninja

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Bob: A couple of projects.

A good friend and I plan to tackle a novel about the Texas border. Tentative title is Border Town and tells the story of a Texas Ranger, a deputy sheriff and a commander on the Mexican side of the border.

I’m working on a rather tough project – untitled as of now – about a pedophile who matches wits with a special woman whose daughter disappeared several years prior to the opening of the story. The mother is now a victims’ rights advocate for the City of San Antonio. (Much of the material comes from a ‘how-to’ manuscript discovered in a pedophile’s cell in Louisiana in which he outlines how to kidnap and torture a child.) He stalks funeral homes looking for victims.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Bob Stewart and his work at the following places:

Until next time,



Friday, October 28, 2011

Dishing it up with P.J. Jones

Today, I have the joy of dishing it up with PJ Jones!

PJ sits in front of a computer most of the day, writing, deleting, then writing some more, until her butt is numb and her brain is fried. Prior to becoming a full-time chair warmer, PJ Jones not-so-enjoyed a short stint as a journalist and then seven agonizing…eh blissful years as a high school English teacher.

JET: Thanks for joining me today PJ. Can you tell us about your new book, Driving Me Nuts!?

PJ: First off, THANKS J.E. for hosting me on your blog. I have a new release this month, Driving Me Nuts!, but it’s a dark comedy, NOT a parody like Romance Novel.

Smella Rosepetal must find a millionaire husband to finance her baby’s heart transplant. She flies home to her deputy father’s ranch in Pitchforks, Texas, where she falls in love with Deadward Forest, a wealthy environmentalist vampire.

When a deranged murderer is on the loose in Pitchforks, killing romance heroines, Deadward assumes Smella would be safer without him. Smella turns to her childhood friend, Snake Long, for comfort. But Snake doesn’t have the money to save her baby, so Smella places herself in peril in a desperate hunt for a rich husband.

Time is running out for Smella’s baby, and she must escape the Australian Outback, then face down Flabio, an overweight and disgruntled, aspiring cover model, plus enraged vampire wives and their homosexual, vampire, cowboy husbands, a jealous were-gerbil, James Bond, a drunk rodeo clown and Smella’s strange boyfriend who wants to drain her blood, yet is repulsed by her smell.

JET: What drew you to romantic parody?

PJ: I wrote Romance Novel when I was seriously ill. This was my form of comic relief. After getting lots of fan mail and great reviews, I decided to try my hand at a few more parodies.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

PJ: Finding a publisher with a twisted enough sense of humor. When that didn’t work, then figuring out how to do it on my own.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

PJ: Getting great fan letters and reviews from some well-known romance review sites.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

PJ: I loved the classics, especially George Elliot’s The Mill on the Floss.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

PJ: When I was nine and started my first magazine subscription, The Dirty Toilet Water Book. I had one subscriber.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

PJ: I rode on a Greyhound bus from Las Vegas to El Paso mostly to character watch. After being stranded in El Paso due to a snowstorm, I vowed to NEVER AGAIN ride a bus! Although, I did meet some interesting characters. I remember the bus picked up a man right after he was released from prison. We talked for about two hours before we reached his hometown. I was the first person he spoke to outside of prison in three years. My main character, Ruckus, in Driving Me Nuts! is loosely based on him.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite?

PJ: My favorite has to be Driving Me Nuts! This book is more from the heart. Funny yes, but there are some pretty deep moments. The struggles of my main characters as they found their way back to sanity, reminds me of my own journey back to health after suffering from a serious illness.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

PJ: Always strive to improve your craft. If you’ve been rejected countless times by editors or fail to final in writing competitions, take the comments made by the editors/judges to heart and learn how to strengthen your writing skills.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with: Paper or Plastic?

PJ: I bring my own reusable bags to the supermarket.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

PJ: Steak!

JET: Beach or Mountains?

PJ: Tough decision but I’m more of a sunshine beach gal. I love to go skiing or sledding every now and then, but I’m always up for swimming.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

PJ: Right now, country, but it depends on my mood. I really love good classic rock when I’m feeling like a baaad girl.

JET: Leather or Lace?

PJ: Leather.

JET: Angels or Demons?

PJ: Can’t a nice girl play naughty, too?

JET: Paper or Digital?

PJ: Digital

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

PJ: Definitely cheesy!

JET: Twilight or True Blood?

PJ: Uhhhhh….Dodging tomatoes but NEITHER!

JET: Coffee or Tea?

PJ: Green tea with honey. I’m a dork, I know.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

PJ: I am taking a break right now and focusing on promoting my current books before I plunge into my next novels. I have a short Christmas story coming out in an anthology with my peeps, The Indie Eclective. I also plan to write another comedy and another parody this spring.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about P.J. Jones and her work at the following places:

Next week, I have Bob Stewart on tap talking about his new novel Hidden Evil.  I'll be picking a name from the folks that comment next week and giving away an e-copy of Bob's book to the winner next Friday! 

Don't forget to swing in and say happy Halloween to Bob and I!

Until then,

Monday, October 24, 2011

Manic Monday with John D. Rhodes

My Manic Monday Guest today is John D. Rhodes, author of Mr. Memory.

John has been writing for nearly 30 years but only now, thanks to modern technology and Amazon, have he been able to publish some of his work. He has written well over 40 short stories and 4 full length novels.

His work tends to live in that part of the universe where things are very similar to our reality, but with a tinge of the strange, an off kilter reflection, a mix of sour and sweet. This is not science fiction or horror but a fantasy fiction where things are not quite what they seem, animals can talk and sometimes the hero is not and the villain is, and just maybe there is a happy ending for some of the characters.

So without further adieu...

The Boss

I have somebody who is responsible for making sure I do the things I’m supposed to do at work (yes proper regular work where I receive a salary, for now anyway, and I don’t mean until I strike it rich as a top selling author; these are unstable times I’m afraid). This person is ‘The Boss’.

Now I’m not an anarchist, I fully understand that in some cases there does need to be an individual in most organisations who carries the burden of this role. And I have to confess that I am indeed an individual who has underlings who I manage (though if you were to ask these dear people they may disagree from several standpoints). I only do this you understand in order to earn more than they do to enable me to keep my family to the level of luxury to which they have now, I’m afraid, become too much accustomed to.

Yes we have television and a computer and even, goodness a fridge freezer! Every now and then we even venture out in the car (a modest thing that I free wheel down hills) and visit local parks and er.. parks (they are the best way to sample the fresh city air you know and, as long as you don’t visit a cafĂ©, quite inexpensive).

But what makes a good boss? In my many years of subordination I have served many ‘bosses’. Some where fastidious in their authoritarianism and clearly enjoyed the fear they tried to instil (though most of these only succeeded in bring a tear of mirth to my eyes and providing good fodder for my future literary works). Some were so supportive and full of energy that if I could replicate one percent of their management skill I’d never even give this writing thing a thought! The best ones are the ones who listen and actually make changes (if they like your ideas that is – some have perfected a way of smiling and nodding and sleeping all in one).

The ‘Boss’ – what does it mean to you? And while you ponder that I hear mine calling – tea is ready, I have the beds to make, the toilet to clean and the scullery to scrub before bed time, chat soon I hope!

To find out more about John and his book, check out Mr. Memory here on Amazon!

Swing in on Friday when I’m dishing it up with P. J. Jones!

Until then,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dishing it up with Harper Alibeck

Today I have the pleasure of dishing it up with Harper Alibeck.

Harper is a former history professor who has published eight books and whose work has appeared in 17 others. She’s also a National Book Critics Circle member, with reviews published online and in academic journals. Her interests turned toward contemporary and historical romance - but with a twist. Read her new book, "Legs".

JET: Can you tell us about your latest endeavor?

Harper: I'm actually working on the prequel to Legs right now, titled Unfinished Business. The prequel focuses on the two main characters from the 1910s, Lilith and James, the people Seth and Jill keep dreaming about.

JET: What drew you to contemporary and historical romance?

Harper: I taught college-level history for 17 years, and I love Latin America, but haven't seen too many romances set there. I live blending contemporary and historical (with a touch of paranormal) as I have in Legs.
JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Harper: I have three. They are my children. Raising three boys is the biggest joy in my life, but definitely my biggest obstacle!

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Harper: When readers write to me to gush about how much they love the reincarnation(ish) element in Legs.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Harper: Madeline L'Engle, John Updike, Danielle Steel, Richard Wright, and whoever wrote those “Choose Your Own Journey” books in the Scholastic catalog!

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Harper: When I was very young, but I really hate this question, because I think saying “I knew I was a writer from the time I was 6 and published my first story in a school newsletter” is cute, but it's not when I knew I wanted to be the right kind of writer. Writing because you have a story is really, really great. But writing because you want to tell your story in a way that has universal appeal and that helps you connect to something inside other people – once I figured that out, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Harper: I asked my husband to help me with, um, research on how to make love to someone in a full leg cast. He refused to break his leg LOL, but did offer to rent a cast from a medical supply store. All in the name of “research.”

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Harper: Years ago I wrote a historical biography of Leif Ericksson for an educational publisher. Definitely my favorite!

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

Harper: READ. Read, read and read some more in your genre. It's as important – if not more important – than writing.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with: Paper or Plastic?

Harper: Paper

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Harper: Steak

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Harper: Beach

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Harper: Rock!

JET: Leather or Lace?

Harper: Leather

JET: Angels or Demons?

Harper: Angels

JET: Paper or Digital?

Harper: Digital

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Harper: Horror!

JET: Twilight or True Blood?

Harper: True Blood

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Harper: Coffee!

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Harper: The prequel to Legs, and then a spinoff from THAT. Lilith visits a sexologist in the prequel, to understand why some of her sexual anatomy is behaving in ways that are, well, similar to Jill's in Legs (you have to read Legs to understand Jill's unique sexual...fluidity).

Dr. David Burnham has become so interesting to me as a character as I write him that I've created a series of novellas about him. The first is “The Sexologist's Curious Case of Saline Liquor.” I'm planning to publish the prequel, then Dr. Burnham's first story next.

And thank you!

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Harper Alibeck and her work at the following places:

Thanks for stopping in!

Until next time,



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Novel Concept Publishing Release: The Lost Girls by Jason Halstead

The Lost Girls, by Jason Halstead

The only thing hotter than the summers in Phoenix is the temper of a police detective who can’t figure out why young girls keep disappearing. Katalina Wimple is that detective. Her obsession with the missing girls makes her the best person for the job, but it also serves as a refuge from the problems in her own life.

Battling her own demons offers coincidences impossible to ignore. Rescuing the missing girls will require Kat figuring out how much coincidence is too much, as well as fighting her desire for what she can’t have.

The Lost Girls is a 60,000 word mystery / detective novel with a dose of sci-fi mixed in for flavor


Panic hit me again, stealing my breath better than a dozen shots from his taser would have. I was going to be imprisoned again and abused. Raped, beaten, whatever. Last time that happened the sick bastard professed love for me and said he only wanted to show me how good it could be. He didn’t understand he was forcing me and that I hated it and hated him. This time there’d be no mercy, or no pretense of it. They’d fuck me over and over and in every way they could. I’d be broken and bleeding and still they’d go on. I’d seen cases where that happened, now it was my turn. It was my destiny, I’d dared to think I’d escaped it all those years ago but now it was just going to be that much worse.

“Knock that shit off. I said I ain’t going to fuck you. I take my women willing,” he said, then slammed the door shut. Through the door I could hear him call me a stupid bitch again.

Somehow, in spite of the situation and the incredible lack of trust I should have had, his words calmed me a little. It was a psychological trick and I knew it. I wasn’t any safer but I was panicked and desperate and willing to believe anything. It was one of the steps towards the condition where a kidnapping victim can actually switch their allegiance over time to their captors. I’d never understood before how that was possible. I knew terror and fear from my youth, but I’d gone the other way, from loving my captor to hating him with every cell in my body. Now I began to understand how somebody could let themselves be tricked into going the other way.

I realized the bag was wet from my tears. I’d been whimpering as I tried to control my sobs. Now I was beginning to regain control, but every move I made just made my body hurt worse than it already did. I focused again and switched my eyes into heat sensing mode. They switched over and I immediately felt a little better. I could see a little bit through the hood. Craning my neck around I could make out my captor climb into the driver’s seat.

The van fired up, the engine roaring with the sound of a bio-diesel. I craned my neck around some more but saw little. When we started moving things changed. I could occasionally feel some warmth on my otherwise cold skin. Glancing in that direction rewarded me with an occasional pink glow of residual heat imparted by the sun coming in through the windows. I was sure it was the front windows, a van such as this wouldn’t have any rear or side ones.

We drove for what seemed like hours until I thought to call up the HUD in my eyes to display a clock. From that point on thirty minutes passed. Based on my captor’s comments about me being heavy and no comments about anything else, I guessed he didn’t have a clue about my enhancements. It gave me hope that I might have a chance to make it out of this. Or if not, at least I’d go down fighting.

The vehicle stopped, eventually, and I was plunged into darkness again. Even the residual heat was fading, which meant we were out of sun. I braced myself just in time. The door beside me opened and rough hands grabbed my ankles. I was yanked across the cold metal, scraping my back and shoulder but not bad enough to cut the skin. The pain helped me take my mind off the unknown, and that kept me from freaking out.

“Nice job Buddy,” I heard a new voice say, followed by a harsh laugh. I didn’t know if Buddy was his name or a title. “Maybe you never seen a woman naked before but they’re supposed to have two tits!”

The others joined in, laughing at the expense of the guy who’d captured me. I couldn’t make out how many people there were but it was enough to push the pain away and make my panic flare. It didn’t just start to rise either, it hit me full on and made me cry out in the most pitiful and embarrassing way. I even heard myself begging and pleading with them. My voice was so soft and weak, saying things like, “Please don’t hurt me! Let me go, I won’t tell anyone.” And the thing was, I believed if I just begged hard enough they’d let me go and everything would be all right. I just had to let them know they were right. I needed them. Real men, all of them – only real men could make me happy. That was what was wrong with me, wasn’t it? If I just accepted it everything would be okay.

“This ain’t just some chick I picked up,” Buddy said. “This is that blond chick’s sister. Said her name’s Katy.”

“Pictures showed her having a full rack?”

“Stuffed her bra,” Buddy said.

“Fuck!” Someone swore, a new voice. “She’s no use to us. Kill her and dump her out in the desert.”

My breathing changed. I’d been taking in enough breath to beg and plead, but now I started breathing faster. In a few minutes, if I lived that long, I knew I’d start to feel all tingly as I flooded my body with oxygen. If only I could just open my mouth and beg them to use me. I could think, why couldn’t I make my lips move?

“Might need her to keep the blond in line,” Buddy suggested.

“What the…let me see her.” Great, somebody else wanted to check me out. Maybe I was damaged goods but if the other parts worked fine they might still have a use for me. Maybe they thought they could still fix me. That’s what all men wanted, to fix me and prove I wasn’t broken. That I could appreciate a man. Or men, in this case. If only I’d learned it before none of this would have happened. I deserved it, I suppose. I deserved the harsh lesson. I knew these guys were going to overlook my disfigurement for at least one go round. I had to perform well enough so that my body wouldn’t be dumped in the desert. “Holy shit, I know this bitch!”

The voice sounded faintly familiar. My breath caught in my throat as I strained to hear more.

“This bitch tore Jerry’s dick off and she ripped out Manny’s throat. This bitch is strong!” I knew the voice now, I’d dubbed him Pussylover at the time. He was the one that got away the last time I’d been given another opportunity for a lesson I’d failed to learn.

“Don’t look so tough to me,” another man said.

“She’s fucking heavy for being a midget,” Buddy retorted. In any other situation I’d have come unglued at being called a midget. I was short and petite, but I wasn’t that short!

Something clicked in the back of my head. Pussylover really was an idiot. He had no idea I’d been upgraded, he just thought I was really strong. And if they didn’t know about my enhancements, I had an advantage. Maybe not against four or five of them, or maybe more, but if I could stop them from putting a few larger caliber bullets in me then I might have a chance. But then what? Another time and another place I’d be in the same situation. I’d be a victim again. All women were victims, this was just one more proof of it. This seemed like it might be time for me to stop fighting it and accept it.

“I thought Dusty shot her?” I didn’t know who that voice came from.

“He did. She’s been shot and blown up, but still she lives.” I stiffened. I didn’t know who spoke, but I clearly recognized the voice as belonging to a woman. “Remove the hood.”

The drawstring was loosened and the hood was yanked off. I stared around, my eyes adjusting instantly to the lights overhead that flooded the receiving dock of the abandoned building I was in. It was similar from the one I’d broke into a couple of weeks back. I had no idea where I was but, given the seven men with New Earth Order gang colors on, I guessed that I was back in the same area. The woman was Tricia Daniels, long red hair flowing and her business style suit tailored to make her look like a few thousand bucks. I’d finally found the head of the snake.

“Boys, this here is Katalina Wimple. She’s a detective for VDI that works on special cases,” Tricia said. She stared at me the entire time and her next words with delivered with a cold smile directly for me, “You should have gotten that boob job, maybe we could have used you after all.”

“She’s a cop?” one I hadn’t yet heard said. I scanned everybody, flipping rapidly through the different vision modes to check them out. Five of them were carrying pistols, as evidenced by the cooler gun shaped spots on their bodies. The three others I assumed had knives at least, although with Tricia I was clueless. I didn’t peg a sexy higher class lady to dirty herself with a firearm. Then again, I wouldn’t have figured she’d be caught dead hanging out with the lowlifes that were around her.

“Throw her in with her pretend sister,” She commanded. “Let them say their goodbyes.”

Buddy picked me up, grunting as he did so, and carried me past the leering others to an opening in the wall. A sliding door covered it, but it was up. He barked for somebody to come help him. I was able to see several doors down the wide hallway. I also detected a faint odor I couldn’t quite place. It smelled earthy and musky.

One of the other guys hurried over and fished some old fashioned keys out of a pocket. He tried a couple until he found the one that fit, then opened up the extra wide door. Light flooded into the room, making Skyler gasp and squint at the sudden brightness. I landed heavily on the floor, where the odor was stronger.

“Katy!” She gasped, tipping herself over and rolling and inching her way towards me. She was similarly bound. She didn’t stop until her face was next to mine. She kissed me repeatedly, whispering things to me and telling me how glad she was to see me and how scared she was and how she knew we’d be okay now.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say being there with her and seeing her still alive didn’t lift my spirits. I think fresh tears even rolled down my cheeks but with Skylar there I couldn’t tell who’s eyes were leaking. I smiled and tried to roll over, without too much success. Just being able to see again had pushed the terrors back. Seeing her relit the fire inside of me fully. Away from the men, with Skylar, I began to remember that I wasn’t in a dark basement. I wasn’t a prisoner. Well, okay, I was a prisoner, but I wasn’t his prisoner.

“I’m not a victim,” I whispered.

“What?” She asked me, snapping out of her own psychoses.

“Roll your back up against mine,” I said. My story was my story, not hers. I hadn’t meant to say it aloud but at least she hadn’t understood me. “We’ve got to get these things off.”

About the Author

Jason Halstead is a science fiction and fantasy author who spends his daytime hours as an IT Manager in the automotive industry. In his spare time, Jason enjoys spending time with his wife and two children, writing, and powerlifting.

Stop by his website at to see his latest project.

Other books by Jason Halstead

Monday, October 17, 2011

Manic Monday with J.R. Tomlin

Welcome to another Manic Monday installment! Today, I’ve got J.R. Tomlin on board. J. R. is a published author of Historical Fiction with two novels set in the medieval Scotland. She has also co-authored fantasy adventures. Although she was born in Texas, she was reared in part in Edinburgh, Scotland by her grandparents. Scotland's amazing history has always fascinated her. In particular, she has always loved the heroism of the men and women who fought for freedom in the Scottish Wars of Independence and chose to write about them. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and now lives in the US Pacific Northwest.

So without further adieu, here’s J.R. on the intriguing subject of sword fighting:

There is nothing better than a sword fight: lots of blood and sweat and drama, right? I absolutely agree as long as it has at least a passing resemblance to a sword fight. Unfortunately, in novels a lot don't. Either they are so detailed, often with inaccurate silly-sounding details, that they're boring or they're so vague no one can possible visualize it because the writer knows nothing about sword fighting.

Since I write medieval historical novels and medieval fantasies, this is something I've given a lot of thought. Sword fights should be fun for the writer and the reader. Exciting. You may leave out some of the details but you should know what is involved.

First, a sword is involved. Well into the late renaissance people did NOT use epee type weapons, those thin little swords used in fencing. This is not how sword fighting was done for most of history. The epee evolved from the smallsword of the late 17th century into the dueling sword of the 18th and 19th centuries. They were good for dueling because, quite frankly, it was much harder to actually kill each other. You could draw blood without necessarily killing someone and ending up on trial or in exile. And these are not good weapons against most other swords.

I hear someone saying, your female character has to use an epee because a longsword is too heavy for a woman to pick up, much less use.



The typical medieval longsword weighed two to two and a half pounds on average. So you mean to tell me that women can sling around thirty pound kids, heft 50 pound bags of wheat or flour, but cannot pick up a two pound sword. Even two-handed swords were not all that large. The antique claymore known as the Wallace Sword said to have been used by William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge is 4 feet 4 inches long and only weighs 6 pounds.

Now swinging a sword is tiring. Don't get me wrong. But it is certainly something that a woman can learn and do. To win against a larger, stronger person with longer reach, a sword fighter uses a somewhat different technique than a larger fighter, moving in close.

I should say that in my historical novels women don't use swords because they were rarely taught to, although there were exceptions. In fantasies, of course, we can make our own rules.

That still leaves the issue of making a sword fight interesting to read about. I think of it as resembling writing about sex. Sometimes you put in a lot of details and sometimes you don't, but what always matters is how the character feels about it and how they experience it.

Sometimes your character may be in a battle frenzy and barely aware of anything except the swing of the sword. Or perhaps aware of every dart of their opponent's eyes. Or coldly calculating their next move. What they won't do is jump around and do fancy moves. Real sword fights were fast. They were deadly serious business. Someone was often dead within seconds.

You don't need a big vocabulary to write one. Various schools of fighting made fancy terms, but who would understand them? Parry, dodge, and riposte will about cover it. As hilarious as the Wesley and Inigo Montoya sword fight was in Princess Bride, unless you want people to chuckle at your sword fights, that's now not to write one. A sword fighter's feet belong on the ground and save the fancy moves for showing off. Bleeding dead on the ground doesn't count as showing off.

Folks, you can find out more about J.R. Tomlin on her blog:

You can buy her books at the following links: 

Freedom's Sword:

A Kingdom's Cost:

Talon of the Unnamed Goddess:

Laying the Odds:

Friday, I’ll be dishing it up with Harper Alibeck.
Until then,

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dishing it up with Sibel Hodge

Today, I have the pleasure of dishing it up with Sibel Hodge. Sibel is an author of chick lit romances and mysteries (with the odd thriller thrown in). In her spare time she’s Wonder Woman! Sibel has proven not once, but multiple times that Romance can be funny, exciting and rather crazy at times. You’ll love her quirky characters and the situations they get themselves into.

JET: Can you tell us about Be Careful What You Wish For?

Sibel: Be Careful What You Wish For is the second book in my chick lit mystery series. Think Janet Evanovich meets Gemma Halliday…

Armed with cool sarcasm and uncontrollable hair, feisty insurance investigator Amber Fox is back in a new mystery combining murder and mayhem with romance and chicklit…

Three deaths.

A safety deposit box robbery.

The boxing heavyweight champion of the world.

Somehow, they’re all related, and Amber has to solve a four year old crime to find out why.

As she stumbles across a trail of dead bodies and a web of lies spanning both sides of the social divide, it’s starting to get personal. Someone thinks Amber’s poking her nose in where it’s not wanted, sparking off a game of fox and mouse – only this time, Amber’s the mouse.

Amber’s forced to take refuge in the home of her ex-fiancĂ©, Brad Beckett, and now it’s not just the case that’s hotting up. So is the bedroom…

All Levi Carter wanted to be was the boxing heavyweight champion of the world, but at what cost?

All Carl Thomas wanted was to be rich, but would his greed be his downfall?

All Brad Beckett wants is to get Amber back, but there’s a reason for the ex word.

Be careful what you wish for…you might just get it.

JET: What drew you to romantic comedy?

Sibel: I think my personality dictated that I write chick lit. I’m fun-loving and I’ve always loved to make people laugh. I’m a big fan of screwball comedy so my books have a lot of quirky, slapstick comedy in them.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Sibel: Getting people to notice your books. Considering there are over 900,000 books on Amazon Kindle, it’s pretty daunting. Unless you’re very lucky, it won’t happen overnight. I think patience is the key, and it takes a lot of time and effort to market yourself and your books.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Sibel: Seeing my books on sale for the first time. It was scary, exciting, rewarding, and mind-blowing all in one.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Sibel: When I was younger I read things like Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers series. But are far as influences on my writing; that would have to be authors like Sophie Kinsella, Janet Evanovich, Marian Keyes, and Catherine Alliott.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Sibel: Ever since I was old enough to scrawl my first word, which was Halibaaaaa, I knew I wanted to write books. OK, so the word didn’t actually make sense, and it might take a little longer for me to actually string a whole sentence together, but that didn’t put me off. I was going to write books and no one would stop me…

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Sibel: I worked for the police for ten years so I actually use a lot of my experiences in my chick lit mystery series. But the most interesting and scary facts were when I was researching for my novella, Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave. It was inspired by the story of victims’ of human trafficking. It is estimated that 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year – 80% of these are women and girls. (Source: U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report: 2007) - pretty scary, huh? But even scarier is that it’s going on right under your nose. Trafficked is about as far away from chick lit as chocolate is from the moon, but I wanted to raise awareness in a subject that is all too often forgotten about.

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

Sibel: Aw, that’s so hard. They’re all my babies and I love them in different ways. Nope…I just can’t choose!

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

Sibel: First off, they need to make sure their work is as good as it can be. You need to hire a professional editor – this is a must! After I wrote my first novel Fourteen Days Later I sent it off to two literary consultancies and the Romantic Novelists’ Association to be critiqued, and had it edited professionally, because I didn’t have a clue how to actually write a novel! I’d never done any creative writing courses, I just knew I wanted to write. Yes, it costs money, but if you’re serious about writing, you need to know what you’re doing right or wrong to improve your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

You need to read as much as you can so you can recognize good writing.

A good cover and blurb is essential for hooking a reader. When I put up my first two books through Amazon I had covers that I’d made with a Lulu cover creator. They were OK, but they could have been better, and I’ve since published them with new covers. The cost of getting a cover done can be cheap or expensive. I now get my covers from places like iStock Photos and cost around $50 dollars to produce, but it’s definitely worth it.

Authors should definitely read blogs like Writers Guide To Epublishing:
And join forums for authors and readers like Kindleboards:
The ebook Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran is a must read, too:

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten...starting with…Paper or Plastic?

Sibel: Paper

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Sibel: Tofu

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Sibel: Beach

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Sibel: Neither!

JET: Leather or Lace?

Sibel: Both!

JET: Angels or Demons?

Sibel: Angels

JET: Paper or Digital?

Sibel: Oooh, digital!

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Sibel: Cheesy B Rated Horror

JET: Twilight or True Blood?

Sibel: True Blood.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Sibel: It used to be iced coffee, now it’s green tea.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Sibel: Thanks so much for having me! I’m working on my fifth chick lit novel called The Baby Trap. When Gina turns 33, her body clock starts ticking in her ear with annoying persistence. The only problem is, having a baby isn’t as easy as she always thought. As Gina becomes more and more obsessed with the B-word, her quest to conceive takes her on a rollercoaster journey and threatens to destroy her marriage. Because it’s about a couple going through infertility problems, it’s obviously got a good dose of sadness mixed in with the humor. A lot of it is based my own experiences with infertility.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Sibel Hodge and her work at the following places: her Website, her Blog, or her Facebook page.

Next week I’ve got J.R. Tomlin and Harper Alibeck on tap! Swing in and say hi!

Until then,



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hidden Evil by Bob Stewart

Novel Concept Publishing, LLC announces the release of HIDDEN EVIL by Bob Stewart.

HIDDEN EVIL is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords.

In an upcoming interview, Bob shared what prompted him to write HIDDEN EVIL

“Reared in Texas I had heard rumblings of occult power, but generally it was the superstition generated by well-meaning people who want to insure good health, happiness or wealth; a rather benign practice that involves candles, herbs or ritual. It wasn’t until People Magazine assigned me to report on the sacrifice/murder of a college student on Spring Break on the South Texas border that I came into contact with the evil side of the occult. I had never heard the words Santeria or Palo Mayombe, until then. As I stood amid a number of fly-covered graves, when I visited the death shack on a desolate rancho in Mexico, I discovered an evil as ancient as any practice during Biblical times. Hidden Evil is my way of drawing attention to this culture flourishing in the halls of the rich and the powerful as well as humble adobe shacks. While it is fiction, many of the incidents and rituals used in the book are based on fact.”

The rest of my interview with Bob Stewart will be available on Halloween. In the meantime, here’s a first look at HIDDEN EVIL:

HIDDEN EVIL by Bob Stewart

After a drug-addled teenager turns the annual Battle of Flowers Parade into a bloodbath, Majorette Cindi Neff - photographed blood covered and screaming beside the body of a dead classmate - becomes the media symbol of the tragedy, and the object of cult leader Juan Otero’s obsession.

Soon after his burial, the gravesite of Cindi’s dead classmate is violated and Deputy Sheriff Nancy Neff, an expert in Afro-Caribbean religions, is called to the scene. Minister Luke Oeding, a representative for the bereaved family, joins Nancy in the investigation into this unimaginable crime.

In a deadly chess match of good versus evil, they plunge into the world of the South Texas drug cult and come face to face with Palo Mayombe, the darkest of the hidden religions. When Cindi Neff is kidnapped, Nancy and Luke race to save her from the clutches of the malevolent cult before she is sacrificed in an Easter Sunday Palo Mayombe ritual.

Bob Stewart’s new novel, HIDDEN EVIL, is ripped directly from today’s headlines about drug smuggling on the Texas border. This puts a face to the horrors that we seem to see daily on the evening news. Deeply-disturbed characters, facing what they see as a black future, turn to drugs and the occult and what follows…human sacrifice. It's a tale that begins with a Columbine-style massacre and ends on Easter Sunday in a classic battle between good and evil. I don’t read vampire or werewolf novels simply because I don’t believe they exist and it’s a bit difficult to conjure up any kind of delicious fear by pretend monsters, but these folks are real and quite possibly living on my block… so, yeah… it pushed my fear button. After I read it, I slept with the nightlight on for a week. Get this book. It’s truly scary and it’s damned fine writing and story-telling.” Les Edgerton Author of Hooked, Just Like That, The Bitch, The Rapist and others.

Excerpt from HIDDEN EVIL:

Book One-Chapter One

A mixed blessing. That’s how Nancy Neff viewed chaperone duty. Within a few minutes she would join a dozen other band parents, all loaded with water and supplies. But, only one of them would be carrying a gun, tucked away in a fanny bag, under a backpack filled with white shoe polish, Band-Aids, water, and Gatorade.

Her only regret when she volunteered for this duty was that she could not watch Cindi strut her stuff as lead majorette. She felt foolish at the thought. Andy had never seen his daughter twirl a baton or heard the appreciative applause in a packed football stadium, never looked into her emerald green eyes, the same color as his, or taught her how to dance or gave her first date grief.

“She’s not going to be allowed to date until she’s 45, and then when the ol’ boy shows up it’d better be with three tickets,” he said one night while feeling the child kick in her bloated belly.

She gave her standard reply. “I’m sure she’ll want you to go with them.”

This bit of nonsense had become a ritual on the rare nights he was home.

“Better yet. When he shows up I’ll be cleaning my service revolver. No. Better yet. I’ll get my shotgun and be putting shells in it when she escorts him into the living room to meet me. Maybe I’ll be wearing my uniform and badge and pistol.”

They laughed at the vivid image of a nervous teen before an armed stern officer of the law before Nancy said, “No. You won’t do that.”

“Yes I will. Just you wait and see.”

On the day Cindi was born, he was denied the joys of parenthood, except for one brief moment, and then he saw only the blue eyes that all babies are born with. Sometimes the guilt overwhelmed her. Why had she been allowed the privilege of the child and Andy had been denied?

The regret was compounded by sixteen years of guilt and longing for what might have been, never for what could be. How could she exist in any other reality? Her love remained in the past. Cindi was all that made life bearable. Cindi was her happiness and her future. She rarely dated, and these men quickly discovered that there was no room for anyone else; just the ghost of the past and the reality of the present.

“You would think after sixteen years I could start over,” she muttered aloud, taking the Broadway exit off Interstate 35 near downtown San Antonio. “Maybe even resurrect my life, or what’s left of it.”

* * * *

Luke Oeding looked around. The Harringtons were late. No surprise there. He came early to hold a place for them so they’d have a good view of their tuba-totting son after they helped the band with last-minute details. Luke claimed a good spot along the curb at an intersection in front of The San Antonio Light, and across the street from the WRW-TV platform.

He breathed in the ambiance of the parade. Cotton candy, hot dogs, sausage on a stick, and fajitas mingled with the sharp odor of spilled beer and body odor. Music, laughter, crying children, and vendors hawking everything from food to fiesta folderol wrapped him in a festive buzz.

Sun sparked golden diamonds off bass horns and baritones and French horns as students paraded down the street in a calliope of colors, red and blue, black and yellow, green and brown, all accented by thousands of freshly polished white shoes.

Again, he looked around for the Harringtons, and checked his watch.

The cool fall morning was already giving way to a sweltering heat that would soon wilt the students in woolen uniforms.

“Mommy, I can’t see. That man’s in the way.”

From the mouth of a child.

“Hush.” It was a serious whisper.

Luke turned to look down at a woman holding a tiny child, delicate and blonde. Bittersweet memories washed his soul as he stepped back and gestured toward the space in front of him. “Why don’t you step in front of me, then the child can see.”

Luke hushed her protest with a raised palm.

“That’s one of the privileges in being tall. You can see over everyone.”

She hesitated, looking up at him.

“Please. We don’t want the child to miss the parade.”

“Thank you.”

She stepped forward and stood on the lip of the curb in front of the crowd.

“That better?” Luke asked.

“Much. Thank you, again,” she said.

The child looked up showing dimples with a grin. “Thank you.”

Luke felt his gut clinch and the old familiar demon churn when he locked into her innocent eyes. The shy smile reflected a past he fought daily to forget.

With a sigh he closed his eyes, shoving the past back into its God-forsaken realm. He forced a grin, patted her on the head, then looked up to see the Harringtons across the street. Good, they made it in time to see Ron.

Thankful to refocus, he waved.

Pop… pop … pop…

It sounded like a string of firecrackers: sharp reports out of sync with the rhythmic cadence of marching bands parading through downtown San Antonio.

Luke shook his head. Fireworks were outlawed, but kids loved to break rules.

Pop… pop … pop. The woman grabbed her daughter’s hand and began to push backward. He stepped out of her way, offering a smile.

“Don’t worry. It’s just some…”

Pop! Pop! Pop… pop…pop pop-pop-pop

Luke swiveled to see one of the pops rip open the chest of a hefty police officer directing traffic. He pitched backward to lie sprawled, unmoving.

“Pancho!” Another officer bolted into the intersection only to tumble the last few feet, blood gushing from both legs.

Riding the rising crest of chaos a piercing scream spun Luke back to the fear-stricken woman.

* * * *

Nancy heard the frantic words every lawman fears.

“Officer down! Officer down!” The dispatcher guided everyone within radio range to Broadway and Nogolitas, the staging area for high school bands.

Nancy was only a few blocks away, dressed in her band chaperone’s outfit of blue jeans and a new blood-red bowling shirt with the white Rough Rider mascot on the back.

Now she wished she had on her deputy sheriff’s uniform as she slammed the accelerator to the floor and toggled the siren.

* * * *

In blind terror, Cindi tripped over a bass drum. She no sooner hit the hot pavement than a fleeing fellow student kicked her in the stomach. Gasping for breath and fighting nausea, she rolled over to push up only to have her hand crunched by another student. She collapsed head down, her cheek sliding along the searing pavement.

Her good hand flew to the raw flesh. What’s Bill going to think when he sees my face?

Paralyzed by heaving gasps, her hand throbbing, her face now hamburger meat, Cindi felt strong hands behind her, scooping her upward.

“I’ve got you Cindi, nothing’s going to happen to you,” a calm voice whispered in her ears. “God’s watching.”

She recognized Ron Harrington’s distinctive tenor. The husky tuba player used his bulk to block for her as she struggled to stand. Cindi was almost on her feet when she heard the wet smack of lead ripping into flesh. Ron crumpled atop her, shoving her to the pavement; his wounded body now her prison, and her shield.

She could barely breathe from the weight of the big teen as his life-blood oozed out and trickled down her cheek. She spit out the warm, salty taste that dribbled into the corner of her mouth and retched, finding relief in the bitter bile that washed away the coopery taste of human life.

Terror crashed into sensory overload as Cindi struggled to be free of Ron’s bulk and to spot the shooter. Splayed face down on the pavement, and trapped beneath more than two hundred pounds of slack weight, she could only move her head to one side, her vision knee-high. Movement caught her eye. Her lungs nearly exploded with fear. In the distance the killer strolled down the street toward her.

Tommy Alexander!

Through the haze of blood-blurred eyes, Cindi watched Tommy spray the retreating red-and-white clad band members with a machinegun. Then, he turned it onto the stunned crowd.

* * * *

The nervous woman’s scream morphed into a throaty gurgle. Luke caught her before she fell, swung her up snug against his chest, and started to run. A thin shriek stopped him.

“Mommy! Mommy. You hurt my Mommy.” Her voice trilled terror in upper register. He turned to see her standing paralyzed at the sight of him holding her mother like a rag doll.

Luke closed his eyes in disbelief. He forgot the little girl!

“No! No. I didn’t hurt her. Come here, honey,” he coaxed the child toward him, his rumbling bass barely concealing his fear.

He would not mess up this time. This time no one would die. Gunfire continued in the background, a few bullets slapping too close.

The little girl took a halting step forward before retreating at the horrible sight of her mother hanging limp in his arms.

“Pumpkin.” Luke said, then hesitated, the word bittersweet in his mouth. He was stunned that he used the term of endearment. He had not uttered it in years; but, it rolled out easily, subconsciously.

“Pumpkin. You have to come with me,” Luke said softly, gingerly stepping toward the child. He saw blood in her platinum hair.

“Does your head hurt?”

She shook it side to side.

“Come.” Half command, half plea. “You have to come with me. Your Mommy needs help. We need to take her to the doctor. Right now!”

When the child hesitated, he commanded, “Look at me.” When the tearstained gaze met his, he continued. “I have to get your Mommy to the doctor and I can’t leave you here. It isn’t safe.” He relaxed his grip and extended a long finger for the child to grasp. “Hold my hand and I’ll get you and your mother to where it’s safe.”

The child’s wide eyes clutched at Luke’s heart like a molten vice grip.

“Promise?” she asked.

Luke swallowed deeply. For a moment, he toyed with an assortment of answers. “Yes,” he whispered, offering confidence he did not feel. “Yes. I promise.”

Despite the pandemonium surrounding them, Luke concentrated on her eyes-silently willing her to take his hand. The crowd surged backward, trampling upon itself, leaving Luke and the child exposed.

Chunks of lead slammed into the street sign only a few inches from Luke. He didn’t notice. His deep, bass voice coaxed the child forward as he inched toward her. She took a few tentative steps until she gingerly took his extended finger. Adobe exploded, concrete chunks filled the air, and the child shrieked.

“Don’t let go! Look at me.”

Rocky shrapnel peppered his face with tiny fragments. Ignoring the blood dripping down his face, Luke began to walk backwards, all the while talking to her. He existed in a false island of quiet amid the chaos of death, living in the narrow confines of the moment.

* * * *

It took only a few seconds for Tommy to empty the automatic weapon. He tossed the machinegun aside, and pulled a pistol. Cindi watched him scurry toward her, leaving more death in his wake. He paused over a moaning musician to deliver a coup de grace. The victim’s head dissolved in a spray of pink mist. Two steps and he stood over Ron Harrington, who weakly raised a hand to ward off the pending assassination.

The repercussion from the blast snapped Cindi's head into the pavement. Blood, bone, and tissue puffed into a frothy crimson ball, its residue settling like a filmy blanket over her head and shoulders.

“Why are you doing this?” she moaned. The two had been innocent sweethearts in the fifth grade. Tommy had always been a good friend. Startled at the sound of her voice, she mentally commanded her quivering body to remain still as she held her breath, and went limp. Tommy rolled Ron’s body from over her, the dead weight of his meaty arm caught hers, pulling her onto her back before his lifeless body was pushed clear. In a vacuum of terror, she lay prone with her eyes closed – playing dead.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Manic Monday with Nancy Fulda

Welcome to another Manic Monday. Today I have the pleasure of having Nancy Fulda chatting about the connotations associated with the words we choose as writers.

Nancy Fulda learned to read under the auspices of the little boy across the street. She was three at the time; he was not much older. Since then, her writing has earned a Phobos Award, the Vera Hinckley Mayhew Award, and the Jim Baen Memorial Award.

Nancy has published stories in some of the most prestigious magazines in speculative fiction, including Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and Jim Baen's Universe. Her nonfiction has appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons. She lives in Germany with her husband and three children.

A Demon by Any Other Name by Nancy Fulda

Words are funny things. They can be pernicious and slippery, especially when they are the building block of your trade and there's no way to predict whether your readers will interpret them the same way you do. I've seen the verb 'leer' applied to lecherous old men and innocently flirtatious teenage girls; clearly its meaning fluctuates with each writer.

Worse, some words are burdened by history. The word 'priest', for example, carries centuries of connotations, not all of them flattering. The word 'demon' will never completely escape its satanic origins, and will for that reason evoke powerful antipathy in some readers. Vampires, fairies, werewolves, sorcery; they are the bread and butter of mainstream fantasy fiction, and yet speculative fiction writers are shackled by the very words that give our stories life. I cannot write about deities without first separating the gods inhabiting my fictional world from the God reverenced in ours. I must also distance myself from the thousands of fictional gods encountered by my readers in thousands of novels available in bookstores around the world. In short, before I can communicate meaningful ideas through a historically-burdened word, I must first tear down large portions of what the reader thinks it means.

Software developers would describe these words as 'overloaded', which is a fancy way of saying they can take on multiple meanings depending on context. If my fictional rendition of the word closely parallels one of the meanings my reader is familiar with, I'm on reliable ground. One or two well-chosen details can guide the reader to the proper context, and the story can proceed apace.

If my fictional creatures don't fit conveniently into a mold -- if for example my vampires are a little bit like Stephanie Meyers and a little bit like Anne Rice's -- then I have wandered into enemy territory, and each wrong step may trigger a communication landmine.

What's an author to do?

Sometimes it's best to just grit your teeth and bear it. The emotional atmosphere provided by overloaded words can be extremely effective. Sometimes, however, it's best to let the reader build new connotations from scratch.

I first noticed this technique applied in Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion series. In it, her gods are called 'gods' and her demons are called 'demons' -- no surprise there. Her priests, however, are called 'divines'.

Being an avid Bujold fan, I had read Curse of Chalion at least three times before I realized what she had done. Once I caught on, I stared at the page for three full minutes, admiring her genius.

Bujold's divines are priests in every objective sense of the word. They act as messengers between their gods and the populace. They receive divine inspiration and lead holy rites. But if Bujold had actually used the word 'priest', I would have initially imagined either stoic, elaborately robed priests of a Catholic flavor or sword-and-sorcery style mace-weilders ready to do battle, neither of which matches the tone of Bujold's book. A master author like Bujold could have filed away at my preconceptions, of course. But since, in addition to being a good rollicking adventure, Curse of Chalion is also a theological treatise, Bujold's purposes were far better suited by building off a clean foundation.

Bujold used a similar technique in her Sharing Knife books, in which a creature that could easily have been described as a demon was called a malice instead. Other authors do it, too. Peter Brett's demons are called corelings. Amanda Hocking's Trylle are a cross between elves and trolls. The list goes on, but my key point is that instead of creating a fictional terminology, each of these authors appropriated real words (or orthographically similar approximations thereof).

Don't get me wrong. Fictional languages a la Tolkien are beautiful and well-respected in fantasy. Please do not interpret this as a diatribe against Klingon, Pravic, or any other invented lingua. But sometimes, you need to dissociate yourself from a word's history without constructing an entire culture or making your readers feel like they need a dictionary just to keep the characters' roles straight. In these situations, co-opting an existing word offers your readers a memorable substitute for the historically-burdened one. The objective meaning of the word transfers easily; the connotations stay behind.

To find out more about Nancy, please visit her at her website: In the meantime, here’s a quick look at her book DEAD MEN DON’T CRY:

Joseph Rannen is dead, and no one besides Morgan Kimball seems to believe he wasn't a traitor. With greedy Earth warships hovering overhead, Kimball has twelve hours to produce evidence that his friend and mentor was murdered, preferably without jeopardizing the colony's safety.

This whodunit mystery set on a distant colony planet was a finalist for the Writers of the Future Award. It is also included in the collection DEAD MEN DON'T CRY: 11 STORIES BY NANCY FULDA.

Thanks for swinging in today. Don’t forget I’m dishing it up with Sibel Hodge on Friday.

Until Then,

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dishing it up with Christine Butler...

Today I have the pleasure of dishing it up with Christine Butler. Christine was born in a Naval hospital in Virginia, and while she was staring into the doctor's eyes as he marveled at her exceptionally long umbilical cord, all she was thinking was , 'I need to write this stuff down so I don't forget it.'

Hey, believe what you want, that's her story and she’s sticking to it! As soon as she could pick up pencil and paper and get those stories and poems out of her head, she was doing it.

Her poor parents used to receive letters under their door when she was mad at them, explaining in great detail why she was so angry and how wonderful it would be when her rich parents came to take her away.

She never did find those "other" parents, and is so happy with how things turned out, because she has an awesome, if not slightly unhinged, family.

Christine currently reside in South Carolina with her four children.

JET: Can you tell us about Birthrights?

CB: Birthrights was the first book in The Awakening Trilogy. The second book in that trilogy, Revelations, is my most recent release. The trilogy follows two women (Caislyn Vadoma and Jaxon Delaney) in their early twenties as they discover hidden truths about themselves. They also find out that they are the center of a prophecy that has factions of other than humans hell bent on destroying them. All of this happens as Caislyn searches for her parents who were kidnapped in the beginning of book one.

Throughout the trilogy, the girls will learn more about themselves, their powers, and the prophecy that has them on the run. While Birthrights gives you the introduction to the alternate world in which they live and the characters themselves, Revelations drops you right into the heart of the story. Without giving away too much I will say there's a lot of love, action, and loss in Revelations. There are definitely darker moments, and a crisis of consciousness for both of the girls as their expanding powers are put to the test.

JET: What drew you to urban / paranormal fantasy?

CB: It's funny you ask this because I just answered this question for my kids today when they asked why I write what I do. Ever since childhood I would loose myself in my own little fantasy worlds with unicorns, faeries, and all the other sweet little magical creatures. By the time I was in second grade I took a trip to the local library in Baltimore, where some librarian who was definitely not paying attention, allowed me to check out Christine by Stephen King. Yes, I admit, I checked it out because the title was my name, but I thought the premise sounded cool too. I mean, who doesn't want an evil car named after them. Anyway, Mr. King introduced me to a very dark world. I was hooked after that. I still loved my magical beings, and at the same time I loved the dark, edgier side of things. Anne Rice became one of my favorite authors in high school for that very same reason and then I moved on to Laurel K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and a slew of other very talented authors who were writing about the worlds that I grew up creating in my own mind. It is by far my favorite genre for the simple fact that it's magical - so anything can happen - and anyone can be more than human.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

CB: I am my own biggest hurdle. I am an idea person! I come up with ideas all the time, getting to the finish line is the problem. (Don't worry - the ending to the trilogy is already there) Actually, I worked with a partner for Birthrights and it became the first full length novel that I was able to complete. I found it helped to have a cheerleader or a slave driver (depending on what was needed each day) to push me to finish. Now, I have an amazing support system that has helped to see me through my projects and give me those encouraging nudges when I need them.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

CB: My favorite moment actually has less to do with the books and more to do with the people I have met along the way. I mentioned that support system... I actually did a book review for a fabulous author, Patria Dunn Rowe. After I finished the review I wrote her about the formatting problems in her e-book. We started talking back and forth via e-mail exchanging everything from tips and tricks to links to new places that promote authors, and then we were talking about our lives. A friendship developed that I absolutely cherish. Patria and I talk nearly every day. We encourage each other with our latest ventures, I've helped her with book covers, and we're discussing a joint poetry venture when things slow down a bit for the both of us. I also ran into a great guy, Steven Novak, who designed my logo/banner for my Moonlit Dreams website. He's so amazingly talented it's scary! He invited me to come hang out with some other authors at the Literary Underground and I am oh so thankful, because they are a great bunch of people - and beyond talented!

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

CB: I think I already covered this one in a previous question, but I can expand a bit... Stephen King, for reasons already addressed. Anne Rice, for making being one of the first to make vampires something more than just a blood sucking monster. She gave her creations so many dimensions that you really didn't want to stop reading about them. Not to discount her Mayfair Witches stories, because those blew my mind when I first picked them up. I read a lot, in different genres though and I have to say that S.E. Hinton, who as a woman, wrote so aptly from a boy's perspective and Madeline Le'Engle who wrote the most amazing fantasy books ever have had their place in shaping where I want to go with my own writing too. There were many influences on my writing growing up.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

CB: I have always wanted to be a writer. I was writing my own stories and poems since early childhood. I grew up a military brat in a family that hopped from coast to coast every few years. To make matters worse, I was also painfully shy. So, I would lose myself in my own worlds. As soon as I learned how to write - the stories, poems, and everything else came flowing out. I took a few detours in life, and as I said before I was never one to finish larger projects. I could have been the flash fiction queen in my teen years if the world wide web had been as popular then as it is now!

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

CB: Hmmm... this is a tough one. I have undiagonsed/self diagnosed ADD. So, when I go to research I end up with a million and one tabs open in my Internet browser, because I will literally see something shiny on a page, click and then be off on some crazy clicking tangent. I have learned some of the most useless information from randomly clicking on links that I see. But every once in a while, I find a gem! The location of the Irish cottage where Caislyn and Jaxon end up in Birthrights was alive and well in my head when I wrote about it. It wasn't until I started working on Revelations that I actually went to look for the "town" nearest where the cottage was located. While I was searching, I actually found a rental cottage in Northern Ireland that was identical to what I was seeing in my head, down to the shutters on the house, the stream outside, the landscape. It was too perfect to be real, and I have vowed that one day - I will go stay in that cottage myself!

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

CB: While I love The Awakening Trilogy, I have to say my short story series, The VooDoo Follies. Okay, before you harp on me about the difference between short stories and novels, let me explain. The VooDoo Follies are six short stories, when put together in the compilation they become a novel. So, it qualifies! :) Anyway, I had this crazy idea for a story about a teenage zombie (from the zombie's perspective) one day when I was in the shower. Yeah, I know, who thinks of zombies in the shower? Me! Anyway, this story came at me out of nowhere when I was working on Revelations. So, when an idea hits me that hard, I put down everything else and go for it. When I started thinking about how the zombie was made my entire story changed into one of a teenage voodoo priestess in training and how she keeps screwing things up. (zombies still play their part - it's voodoo after all) So, my 16 year old daughter was the inspiration behind the main character, Seraphine. They are both walking accidents, but so loveable that people just laugh and keep on loving them. I wanted to put that into a character, because it's so endearing. The story just sprang forth from there. With a 16 year old in the house, I am privy to many a teenage drama so it wasn't hard to put a paranormal spin on it and the story became a labor of love for me. I am finished with the series now and the paperback compilation will be available in mid- October! I do miss Seraphine though, so I may bring her back in another series, later on down the road.

JET: Any advice (from a writer’s standpoint) for the novices out there?

CB: Get a support system! I started this thing with a writing partner who was too busy to help out with all the other things that needed to be done outside of the writing. There's editing, formatting, book cover design, promotions, websites, the list is never ending and I was one person trying to do it all. It was daunting and I nearly threw in the towel early on. Then, I started meeting people. Now, if I have a question, or concern, I can talk to other people who have been through it. Sometimes I even learn an easier way to get things done. I have people who will take a look at the stuff I write and give honest feedback. Everyone needs a good support system!

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with: Paper or Plastic?

CB: Plastic (for the handles) I know - I'm a horrible person, but I can carry more groceries that way!

JET: Steak or Tofu?

CB: Steak

JET: Beach or Mountains?

CB: Depends on which personality is out to play that day. ;) I love them both, but since I like warmer waters I'll go with the beach.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

CB: Rock

JET: Leather or Lace?

CB: Leather

JET: Angels or Demons?

CB: Both please!

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

CB: I'm a huge fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, so cheesy B rated horror any day!

JET: Twilight or True Blood?

CB: True Blood

JET: Coffee or Tea?

CB: Coffee in the mornings, tea at night

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

CB: I am wrapping up The Awakening Trilogy and hopefully will have the third book, Incarnations, ready for publication by December of this year. It was originally slated for February 2012, but it has flowed out so smoothly, I have high hopes for an early release! Then, I am moving on to a Steampunk story I've had brewing on the back burner for a while. It should be a lot of fun!

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog.

CB: Thank you for having me!

JET: Folks, you can find out more about Christine Butler and her work at the following places:

My main website and the home of Moonlit Reviews (Christine's book review blog)

The Awakening Trilogy Website:

The VooDoo Follies Website:


Next week I have Nancy Fulda and Siebel Hodge on tap. Have a great weekend!

Until then,