Author Visit: Terry Newman

Terry Newman is a brilliantly funny author, and he’s British. He has a new book out and he agreed to stop by and talk about it.

B: So, what are you drinking?

T: Mine’s a pint of Harvey’s best, which is brewed in Lewis, in East Sussex, which is where I live. It has a distinctive maltiness that produces a full rounded satisfying mouthful of pure beer joy. What are currently tippling?

B: I have huge respect for someone with an in depth knowledge of their beer. I’ll have to try that one. As for me, when I can find it, I’m fond of Theakston Old Peculiar. A blacksmith (half Guinness, half Smithwick’s) is my go to otherwise.

T:I knew that you’d had some time in the UK and I’d heard and you’d developed a liking for Theakstons. However, I’ve never heard of Smithwick’s or a ‘blacksmith’ before – he says to his consternation.

B: I spent over a year in Cumbria and adore the real ales, though Theakston was always my favorite. I really miss that stuff. BTW for those who don’t know, Terry and I met though the Harper Voyager Digital Initiative.

T: Yes – your book ‘The Stolen’ was the first by the HV writers that I read. I thoroughly enjoyed it to – even if I had to scrap something that I was writing!

B: What are friends for? Your book ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ was a Kindle #1 Bestseller. I admit my deep and continuing jealously over that. You must have been delighted?

T: Absolutely! I’m not quite sure what it was doing in the Epic Fantasy category mind, as it’s ‘classic’ dwarf detective fantasy. But to see your book outselling Tolkien and Martin – albeit briefly – well it’s wonderful, not to mention a little surreal.

B: A well-deserved honor. I love how you blended noir, fantasy, and comedy together. Now, your latest book ‘The Resurrection Show’ is science fiction, a departure for you?

T: Not really. I have always written, and enjoyed, both. The two books have a lot in common mind, both having a degree of humour and satire to them. The main difference, as you will see on the cover, is that this is written by Dalter T Newman. My co-writer is David Alter, a wonderful composer and songwriter. The whole project is based upon a fantastic collection of songs written by David, and performed by an excellent band he put together, dealing with big subjects like religion, humanism and intolerance.

B: Sounds like a source of comedy gold to me?.

T: Exactly! My brief initially was to help develop these songs into a fully interactive, all singing and dancing (maybe), stage show – one with a satirical, funny Pythonesque flavour! Our baby just grew and grew though and forced its way out in this form first – in a totally non-alien way!

B: For the record, I’d buy tickets to that show. Are we going to get to hear the music?

T: I really hope so. All the tracks are recorded. It’s just a case of finding the right outlet – and then getting the stage show on.

B: There’s a stage show? Really?

T: Oh yes! Everybody just has to have a stage show these days! So it’s sort of the book of the stage show to be. It’s set 2099 where the world is one big reality show – jammed packed full of god-bots, prayer clones, singing ecologists, a confused New Puritan, and the technologically resurrected Messiah!

B: Seems a little on the nose. Clearly one for the Bible Belt then?

T: Absolutely! Anything you can tell us about your new book – I’ve seen some intriguing hints.

B: Well, this is supposed to be about you and your new book, but I’ll share some tidbits, since we’re friends. It’s fantasy western, set in the US right around the end of the American Civil War. Elves fought with some of the Native American Tribes (the Lakota specifically) against westward expansion. They were winning too. Until the humans hired the dwarves to help, and they brought along iron war machines (tanks). Not only did it turn the war, but the elves were almost entirely wiped out. The main character is a survivor of that battle, and as you can imagine she holds a bit of a grudge.

T: Elves and Native American’s fighting together! That is totally cool! Hopefully there is a good guy dwarf in there as well somewhere. Dwarves get a lot of bad press. I loved your recent Sarah and Bambi story btw. It reminded of some classic short stories of my youth – which is a good thing! Any more plans for these characters? I’d love to see a ‘Bambi and Sarah Save the World’.

B: Thanks! I’m trying my hand at stories that are absurd, but still make you have some feels. Yeah, I loved having a badass character named Bambi. I wasn’t planning on more stories with them, but I never rule anything out. What’s in your future? Any more science fiction or fantasy ahead?

T: I’ve just sold a science fiction audio play, which is rather cool. In the mean time I’m looking for a new home for the next two Detective Strongoak novels – both now written! And an exclusive for you, provisional title for book 2 is ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’.

B: Congratulations! Let me know where to find that and when it’s available! I’m sure you’ll find a home for Nicely. You can’t keep a good dwarf down. In the mean time, good luck with ‘The Resurrection Show’ – great cover by the way.

T; I thank you. Yes, we managed to get hold of a top illustrator call Tom Morgan Jones (friend of a friend) and David and I both loved his slightly manic, inspired penmanship!

B: I understand you and David have something else in common.

T: Yes – he’s a cardiologist and my scientific area of research was cardiac function – you could say there’s ‘a lot of heart’ in this book.

B; You could, and I love a good pun, but it’s probably not a good idea.

T: Excellent point – my round I believe?

B: This is my imaginary pub, I have an imaginary bar hand to pour the pints and they’re all free!


You can find Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf here and The Resurrection Show here. If you want a good laugh and a good story, I highly recommend them. You can also follow Terry on Amazon, Twitter, and his website (which also includes his script work) at www.drtel.co.uk. All things Nicely Strongoak can be found at www.nicelystrongoak.com

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D. Lieber Interview

I’ve talked before about how much of a struggle it can be to find an audience and get word out about your book. It’s even harder if you’re an indie author. I crossed paths with D. this year and spoke to her after a panel I was on. She impressed me enough that I decided to invite her here for an interview to ply her with ridiculous questions and maybe even talk about her upcoming book, Conjuring Zephyr, which comes out June 23rd.

First, welcome to the pub, D. What are you drinking?

Irish breakfast tea with two lumps of sugar and a little milk

Going easy, huh? Fair enough. Next question is an easy one. What is your biggest fear? As in utterly, entirely debilitating fear. The kind of thing that would send you into a whimpering fetal ball, and if someone knew about, would provide an excellent source for blackmail. Or, I suppose you could say what your protagonist’s biggest fear is instead.

Kai’s greatest fear is that others will discover she isn’t as confident as she pretends to be. Mentally, she is sure she can fulfill her quest while not giving her true identity away. But even when a person is absolutely sure, societal consensus affects everyone. The entire world as she knows it says what she’s trying to do is impossible. Going against that, anyone would have doubts. Of course, on the hiding her sex front, she’s completely in over her head. She walks in thinking she is totally prepared, and she is so wrong. In life, I find situations of forced spontaneity, where you have been thrown into the unknown and nothing is what you thought it would, have the most possibilities of unexpected happiness. But, if Kai is going to accomplish her quest, she must be bold and confident to convince herself and others. If someone else was to discover that it’s all bravado, would she have the strength to believe in herself?

That’s rhetorical, right? Cause I’m the one asking the questions here. Your book is set in an underground society. Are you intentionally aiming for the Morlock fans of fantasy, or is that just a happy coincidence?

To be honest, I had to look up what a Morlock was. The setting came to me very early on in the writing process, but it was only as a means to an end. The concept of rebuilding after an apocalypse was perfect, because it gave me a chance to explore how a small group of modern humans might reorder society if given the chance. The fact that these humans were led by scientists provided a magnifying glass into scientific culture, particularly examining why I think science is stuck. Though if I had to choose a book that made me love the underground setting, I would say Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Normally I’d criticize your lack of knowledge about H.G. Wells, but you pulled out the Jules Verne card, so it’s all good. You’ve said there is some “adult content” in your book. Are you at all concerned that addressing topics like choosing a good life insurance plan, applying for a mortgage, and managing your 401k will turn off some younger readers?

This question made me laugh aloud. Yes, there is adult content. There are tons of adult readers who read young adult books, because they have fun storylines and don’t take a lot of effort to enjoy. You work all day, and you just want to read for enjoyment, but that War and Peace on your shelf is pretty intimidating. My writing style is at a young adult reading level, and I think younger readers would really enjoy my story. That’s why I always give a disclaimer. Readers are good at self-censorship. If someone feels uncomfortable, he or she will just put down the book. While that may be the case, I don’t want anyone to feel unprepared. The primary drive of the story is the fantasy aspect, but there’s also a love story, a real love story not the censored, practically platonic love stories of young adult fiction. The adult content is important, and not just so readers feel the relationship is real. We live in a society where sex is either something we whisper about, like it’s shameful, or something that’s used to entice consumers out of their money. Why is that? Every person living is the product of a sexual act, so why do we treat it like it’s not a part of everyday life? I’m as affected as anyone else, so I wanted to challenge myself and my readers to see sex for what it is: normal and natural.

For the record, I was the product of immaculate conception, but let’s move on. Okay, here’s a serious question, probably the only one. Cowboy Bebop, best anime series ever, right?

I haven’t watched that one, because I don’t like the animation style. But, I’ve heard good things. I love anime. It’s common for me to spend an entire weekend sitting on the floor in front of my television, trying to get through a whole series on Crunchyroll or Hulu. It’s interesting to me how some people sneer at reverse harem stories (a female protagonist and many male characters), but they don’t even blink at harem stories (a male protagonist and many female characters). I wonder what that says about us as a society. One of my beta readers told me he thought Conjuring Zephyr was a story about every woman’s fantasy. I laughed at how little he knows about women. I would say it’s only human to want others to find you attractive. However, do women (or men) really want all their friends to declare love to them? I don’t think so. Quite honestly, I think it would be horrifying. These are people you care about. Why would you want them all to love you in that way? How bad would you feel to reject someone you care about, but don’t want to be with? On the other hand, there are situations in Conjuring Zephyr where Kai is sexually responsive to people she may or may not be in love with. Again, that happens in real life too. Man, real life is messy. Conjuring Zephyr has just enough messiness to be believable, but none of those dangling loose ends that life so often leaves us. In any case, I love reverse harem stories. I think my favorite reverse harem anime is probably Ouran High School Host Club.  I love how clueless Haruhi is. She’s so smart and so oblivious at the same time. If you have ever seen a reverse harem anime, you will recognize a lot of the character archetypes in Conjuring Zephyr.

Let’s pretend I’m familiar with those particular anime series and move on. Your main character in the book disguises herself as a boy to enter a prestigious all-male magical university. Was this a way to subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) speak to gender roles in modern society?

I don’t think I was subtle at all. However, I don’t force social commentary down my readers’ throats. It’s there, but it’s under a healthy dose of storyline and character development. Terrenus is a society where men and women are not even close to equal. While I feel modern society can be like that, I also feel we have come a long way. Terrenus is extreme, but there are still people who have strict gender-role lines today. Women are still dealing with having to prove that they are equal in intelligence to men, and men are struggling to live in a world where they aren’t afforded the luxury of openly feeling human emotions. Our society is a wreck. I would love to think we’re all trying to do our part to make it better for future generations, but I know that isn’t the case. Still, for those who care, it’s important to talk about these issues. Writers have always been key players in societal change. Even sweetened with entertainment, we all have to do our part to make people think, question, and learn. In Conjuring Zephyr, Kai is fighting strict gender-role guidelines. While the rules have been that way for a long time, Terrenus is in a time of flux, which is why some characters are more accepting of Kai’s presence. But really, it’s the male characters who are pushing the limits. Each male character is unique, proving that there isn’t just one way to be a man. Our society puts a lot of pressure on men to be strong and brave. They are told to look and act a certain way, just like women are. My male characters show how courage and strength come in many shapes and sizes, and I hope modern men will feel more comfortable loving themselves. I also hope they see that reaching down to pull women up to an equal level is in everyone’s best interest.

That was a well worded response, so I have no witty retort. Next question, heads or tails?

I always choose tails.

Sorry it was heads, mostly because it was a two-headed coin. However I’ll remember your answer should a coin toss ever come up again. What are your thoughts on tofu and its role in the slow degradation of civilization?

I love your questions. They keep me on my toes. Tofu is one of those foods I want to like, but I just can’t force myself. I’m gagging just thinking about it. Yeah, yeah, it’s supposedly good for you and has been around for centuries. I would love to visit Japan one day. I almost applied for a job in Tokyo a few months ago. I hear it’s lovely, and the people are really nice. But I would starve to death. As for its role in the slow degradation of civilization, it’s definitely got an evil agenda. Everyone should prepare for the worst. Beware of anyone who says he or she likes tofu. They’re already under its influence.

I’m glad to see there are others out there who recognize the existential threat tofu poses to us all! Gelatinous cubes of fermented evil. On a lighter now, what kind of research did you do for this book? For example, did you take a trip to the Artic to see what it would be like to experience an ice age?

Most of my research for this book was in physics. With any sci-fi/fantasy story, you have to establish laws of physics. While you can pretty much make up whatever you want, you do have to be consistent. There were devices I wanted to have, but I had to figure out how they worked. Of course, I also had to think about what kinds of things an underground society would need, and how I would provide those necessities. I was nearly bashing my head against the wall trying to get the light generator to work. With some help from my husband and younger brother, who are both total physics nerds, I managed to satisfy even their pedantic standards.

Sounds like the Arctic trip might’ve been easier, but who am I to judge? What three books (aside from mine of course because that’s just a given) would you take with you if you had to live underground? And yes, you can also bring a book light.

Is there a handbook for how to survive underground? Because, that’s the first on my list. My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo, so that has to come with. My third choice is probably Pride and Prejudice, because I never get tired of reading it.

A pragmatist, I can respect that. I suggest The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, because, you know, Morlocks live underground and might provide some insight. Is this book a standalone or part of a series? I did say there was probably only one serious question.

As of right now, it’s a standalone. But, the end leaves a lot of room should I decide to revisit Terrenus.

Leaving room for a sequel, I didn’t realize you worked in Hollywood. What else are you working on?

I have two books in the editing phase right now. The Exiled Otherkin is pretty close to completion. It’s about a half-fae who is exiled from Faerie to the steampunk human realm. The protagonist, Ember, takes a dangerous job on an airship, and tries to maintain her apathy as a helpless and naive human follows her around. Faeries, pirates, and traveling players meet in this steampunk fantasy adventure as Ember tries to cope with feelings long forgotten and a past that pursues her while balancing new friends and lovers. Unlike Conjuring Zephyr, this world has complete equality of the sexes. Intended Bondmates is the other novel in editing, but it was just sent to my beta readers for first-time review. It’s about a society where fae and werewolves have signed a treaty to protect fae from vampires and werewolves from humans. Essentially, the fae magic werewolf territory into Faerie, so werewolves don’t have to worry about humans. In exchange, every werewolf pup is assigned one fae child to protect until the faeling grows into his or her full magic, since fae are vampires’ favorite snacks. Runa, a werewolf, is forced to return to the bondmate she had abandoned in light of tragic circumstances. The book revolves around her trying to keep him alive while rebuilding their relationship.

I’m very glad to see you spelled “faerie” correctly, 712 bonus points for that. Those sound intriguing, be sure to stop back by when they’re available.

D. writes stories she wants to read. Her love of the worlds of fiction led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.
When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, crafting, watching anime, Korean television or old movies. She may also be getting her geek on while planning her next steampunk cosplay with friends.
She lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John), retired guide dog (Samwise) and cat (Yin).

You can preorder Conjuring Zephyr direct from the publisher here. On June 23rd the paperback and ebook will be available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Added bonus, if you preorder it now you can use the promo code PREORDER2016 to receive a 10% discount.

You can find D. at her website on Facebook, or Goodreads. Thanks for stopping by, D. and for keeping a sense of humor.

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Retreating underground to escape a devastating ice age, humans build a new society. When magic is discovered and harnessed for survival, the citizens of Terrenus establish theories and principles of how to use it.
Kai Stephenson is determined to prove magical principles aren’t set in stone. Having lost her younger brother in a tragic accident, she will ensure such accidents never harm anyone else. She enrolls at the most elite university to gain the knowledge she needs to achieve her goal. Overconfident that living as a boy at an all-boys university will only be a minor inconvenience, Kai is convinced her classmates will never discover that she’s a woman. After all, women aren’t capable of higher forms of magic, and her boyish figure certainly doesn’t hurt her disguise.
Hiding her true identity becomes a problem when her new friends start to awaken her repressed sexuality

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Beth Cato Interview

Beth Cato is a fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author, maker of deliciously evil treats, and a Nebula award nominee for her novella, “Wings of Sorrow and Bone”. Her latest story in her Clockwork Dagger world, Final Flight, came out April 26th. If you’re looking for exceptional story telling (Nebula nomination!!!) or you enjoy steampunk, you can’t go wrong. Beth was nice enough to stop by the pub and answer some questions.


Welcome, Beth. First question is easy. What are you drinking?

Right now, I am partaking of my afternoon brain-boost of Grape Crystal Light with Caffeine. In terms of harder stuff, I love a sweet apple cider, vodka mix, or even some scotch.

I suppose scotch is an acceptable substitute if you can’t find any decent Irish whiskey, but moving on. Your novella, Wings of Sorrow and Bone , was nominated for the Nebula. Have you come down from the high yet of that nomination?

Not really, no. It feels even more unreal after having read the other novella nominees. They are extraordinarily good. I’m the geek hanging out with the cool kids.

We’re all rooting for you, and just hope you don’t forget about your friends when you’re famous and we start crowding onto your finely tailored coattails. Speaking of fashion, your Clockwork Dagger series is set in the Steampunk genre, do you have a special love of Victorian era history, or is it the steampunk genre in and of itself? It’s the hats and goggles, isn’t it?

I do like a fine hat, no argument there! I love steampunk because of how it straddles lines of history, technology, and magic, but the ultimate love—the one behind everything—is for historical fiction. I was a hardcore Laura Ingalls Wilder fanatic as a kid, and loved reading about the Civil War and the pioneer west. Both of my steampunk series (Clockwork Dagger and my new one, starting with Breath of Earth) are inspired by or set in the Edwardian period. I guess I like writing my steampunk mixed with some dieselpunk.

Sure, I can totally see how Little House on the Prairie can lead someone to a love for Steampunk… Anyhoo, your “Bready or Not” series on your blog is a compendium of delicious sweets and treats. Tell the truth, your cakes, cookies, and such are all part of a nefarious plan to take over the world, right?

You figured me out, Bishop. That’s actually a kinder motivation than I am usually afforded. My husband takes most of the goodies to his work, where his peers have accused me of trying to murder them with diabetes.

Your victory will be sweet indeed, and if you need a character witness I can be bought for a regular supply of cookies. Delving into your books, the protagonist of the Clockwork Dagger books is Octavia, a healer. Most fans of RPGs and other games usually see the healer as a support character. What made you want to put one front and center? Did you have any pitfalls along the way you had to deal with?

I wanted to make a healer my protagonist for that very reason. I always favored the healers/white wizards/priestesses when I played RPGs. I always wanted to see that character class as a main character in novels, and it just doesn’t happen. Healers are seen as weak–a convenience to keep the burly heroes alive–but best kept out of the action. That’s because there are some understandable pitfalls in writing that kind of character, especially if they tend toward nonviolence as Octavia does. How do they stay alive when people are trying to kill them? How do they fight back? How do they cope with the emotional aftermath? I had to strike the right balance, granting Octavia strength, savviness, and agency, even as she ardently believes in the sanctity of life.

That was a great answer, and I have no witty retort, so I’ll change topics. White chocolate: delicious treat or confectionary abomination?

Delicious treat for sure! It’s fabulous paired in cookies with macadamia nuts, and it’s a miracle shortcut in creating super-easy microwave fudge. It lends such smoothness when it’s melted down and mixed into dough. White chocolate deserves a lot more respect.

Mad respect for the white chocolate. Do you have any rituals when it comes to writing (music, quiet, wearing lucky socks, eating churros) or do you just sit and let the magic happen?

I don’t hold many rituals when it comes to my writing (beyond the standard blood sacrifices). I really need to be in my office, at my desk, with peace and quiet. My cat is usually snoring in her Amazon box nearby. I’m not one of those people who can tote around a laptop and write in coffee shops or wherever. That would be a nightmare scenario for me!

Do you prefer goats or chickens? Never mind, another time. How much planning do you do for a new book? Do you take endless notes and outline, or do you wing it and let the story unfold as you write it? Or something in between?

I’m a hardcore plotter. I create extensive outlines, and spend months and years researching. That’s been especially true with my new series, which takes place in an alternate history of 1906. My accumulated typed notes on Theodore Roosevelt alone are 8 pages, single-spaced, and I’ve read a few more books I should cull notes from.

On the topic of Teddy Roosevelt, what’s your favorite mythical creature?

Any sort of magical horse. Unicorn, pegasus, variations thereof.

Ah the majestic beauty of the fabled cornisus. So, Final Flight will be the third short format addition in this series. Do you find them easier to write than novels, or do the stories you’re telling just seem to fit in that range?

Final Flight is a long short story—about 8000 words. My two other Clockwork Dagger ebooks are The Deepest Poison, also a long short story, and my Nebula-nominated novella, Wings of Sorrow and Bone, which comes in at about 27,000-words. Wings is the only novella I have written and it was definitely an unnatural length for me to write. I’m used to doing either short stories or full-length novels!
That said, Final Flight was an excruciating story to write. I had a hard time getting into Captain Hue’s head and the story just didn’t click. Critique readers helped me immensely.

You just like saying “Nebula-nominated novella” don’t you? Can’t blame you, the alliteration alone makes it fun! What are you reading right now?

I just finished up another research book: Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream by Gregg Jones. A fascinating read about an ignored and shameful part of American history.

It’s always nice when you enjoy your research materials. You live in Phoenix Arizona. During the month of August, what precautions do you take to keep from bursting into flames when you step outside?

Avoid going outside, or summon Mole People to burrow deep within the earth to grant me access to places.

Oh, Mole People Uber is the best, isn’t it! They always bring those little bottles of water and are so friendly! For the fans of the Clockwork Dagger series, will there be any more stories in it?

Final Flight is the last one planned for now, but I’m totally game to write more stories and books in the world!

Anything else on the horizon we should know about and go preorder right this very minute so we don’t miss out when it’s released?

Yes! Breath of Earth! It’s out on August 23rd. Geomancy and mythological creatures in 1906 California. It’s dark, intense, and I hope, somewhat educational about what really happened in history.

I look forward to checking it out. Thanks so much for stopping by and good luck in your plans of world conquest through diabetes induced homicide. Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

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Stacey Berg Interview

Stacey Berg is a writer with Harper Voyager Impulse and a scientist. Her novel, Dissension, came out March 15th in ebook, the paperback came out yesterday. As one of the newest members of the HVI family, I invited her here to the pub to talk about her book and ask her utterly irrelevant questions.


Hi, Stacey! Welcome. First question, what are you drinking?

Thanks Bishop. Nothing yet, but it’s going to be beer. Probably the Karbach Weekend Warrior tonight.

I suppose a pale ale is acceptable since it’s a craft beer. Dissension is a science fiction story set in a world where clones are tools of the government to oppress the unhappy populace. How much of this is autobiographical?

I haven’t managed to clone myself, if that’s what you mean. Although like everyone else I would find having one pretty handy when the days get busy!

Actually, you’d be surprised how annoying they can be, especially when you get above seven and the personalities start to degrade—um, so I’ve heard. Seriously though, your main character, Echo Hunter 367 is a soldier genetically designed to only focus on duty in a dystopian type world. What came first? The character, the story, or the world? Or did they all evolve together?

In this case the world and character came first, then the story. I had a very strong image of a woman in the desert, a kind of soldier, protecting another woman, some kind of runaway who was her prisoner. The dynamic between them was clear to me right away: the soldier determined to do her duty no matter what it required; the prisoner, wryly admiring her captor’s skill.  That gave me a hint of story: I pictured the two of them facing some unseen enemy together, and gradually switching roles, until the duty-bound soldier wanted only to set the prisoner free, and the prisoner realized that she could run no longer and had to face her destiny. This bit ended up not being the main plot, but it’s an important part of the backstory.

That sounds like a really interesting scene, I can see why you found it so compelling. Now you’re a medical researcher in your day job, how much of that knowledge fed into the story?

I think my science background helps, the same way doing detailed world-building before you start writing helps: a lot of what you have doesn’t make it directly into the story, but it gives you a solid foundation underneath the bits that do, and it makes the story feel richer. In writing Dissension it was useful for me to know some basics about cloning and genetic recombination, but the story is driven by the characters rather than by the science-y part of the fiction. I just needed to have enough understanding to make certain things plausible, and to avoid distracting mistakes.

Nice that you were saved the time of researching based on your existing knowledge. Speaking of which, is this book just a test to see how people will respond to cloned soldiers so that you’ll know the effects when you release your own in a bid to conquer the world?

There are some, shall we say, drawbacks to the cloning methods in the book. It ends up being a low-volume process. My women are pretty badass, though. It wouldn’t take too many of them to conquer the world if that’s what they set out to do. Fortunately they’re made to protect us instead.

Yes, here for our protection…Well, let me be the first to welcome our new badass women overlords. On a related note, cats or dogs? Hint, it’s a trick question, the answer is marsupials.

Hmmmm, does that make it wombats?

It was actually wallaby, but I’ll give it to you because your choice is almost as adorable as a wallaby. You’ve written a couple of short stories, is this your first published novel?

Yes, this is my debut, and I’m incredibly excited to have it out in the world!

Well congratulations! I’m sure I speak for every single other person in the world when I say we’re delighted to have your book in it. In terms of writing, you’ve also blogged about issues of diversity, how important do you think it is for a book/story to have a diverse cast?

It’s important for readers to have acknowledgement that people like them exist. Every book doesn’t have to have a diverse cast, and a cast doesn’t have to represent every kind of person to be diverse. But “books” in aggregate should be diverse. If you read a dozen or a hundred books about future humanity and don’t encounter a single person like you, you begin to think that there’s not a place for you out there. On the other hand, if you see all kinds of people, you get an idea that there could be room for you too.

I couldn’t agree more, and I think readers enjoy a story much more when they can relate or connect with a character in it. I’m going to guess you think it’s a good thing that more diverse people are getting stories published (I would agree) but what do you think of those of us with higher levels of privilege (straight white cys males) having more diverse casts in our books? Is it a good thing, or should that be left to people of specific groups to write their own stories?

I think we all should be free to write whatever we can imagine. If you take write-what-you-know to the extreme, we’d all only be able to do autobiography (and most of us wouldn’t be able to do aliens).  However, diversity isn’t just about the kinds of characters in a story. Writers from different backgrounds are likely to see different stories as important to tell. The more diverse our authors, the richer our book world will be. Regardless of our backgrounds, though, creating different characters, trying to get into the heads of people who are not like us and to see the world through their eyes, seems like a good step towards breaking down the barriers that make someone else “other.”

That’s a really concise and eloquent argument for diversity, and I’d like to reserve the right to quote that in the future. I am curious though, you said “most of us wouldn’t be able to do aliens.” Just most? Is there something you’d like to share with the class? Or perhaps it’s better if you didn’t say anything since they’re probably watching right now, so let’s move on. Do you have requirements for writing such as listening to music, absolute silence, bonobo monkeys playing ukuleles behind you, or can you write under any circumstances?

Concentration is my one requirement. It has to be quiet in my head, but if it is, it doesn’t matter too much what else is going on as long as no one’s talking directly to me. I don’t listen to music much, but I think that’s because I usually write early in the morning. That said, I listened to a lot of Imagine Dragons and Muse while writing Dissension. I guess Radioactive, Demons, and Madness pretty much set the mood!

Preaching to the choir! When the insane radioactive demons get loose it really—oh wait, you meant the songs, didn’t you? Yes, of course, me too. Next topic, you live in Houston Texas, do you have puffy tacos there?

Puffy tacos are really a San Antonio thing, but we can get them here.

I find your lack of enthusiasm about tacos quite disturbing, but I’ll let it pass because you’re building an army of badass women soldier clones. What would you do for a Klondike bar?

Almost anything. Of course Klondikes are a ’Burgh thing, I used to get them at Isaly’s.

Almost anything? So we finally learn the ultimate goal of your clone army. How many books do you think will be in the Echo Hunter series?

Right now the plans are for two. The world the books are set in is on the cusp of change though, so who knows what might happen?  It could be up to the readers!

Always good to keep an open mind. What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Ancillary Mercy, interspersed with a Modesty Blaise graphic novel. (For anyone who hasn’t read Modesty Blaise, you should get one of the novels or graphic novels right this minute. They’re about a woman who’s kind of a female James Bond, and the stories are incredibly entertaining).

I loved the Ancillary series, a really great concept. I’ll have to check out the Modesty Blaise graphic novels. Do you have any plans for other books or stories?

I’m in the middle of writing the second Echo Hunter 367 book, so I haven’t had much time to think about what’s coming next. I have a very enticing idea for another novel percolating in the back of my brain, but it’s not ready to come out and face inspection yet.

I understand, can’t take the cake out till it’s done cooking. I mean you can, but then it’s runny and how likes runny cake? Anything else you’d like to declare?

It’s been great to be here, thanks for having me! Enjoy a nice quiet pint.

It was a pleasure. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your hypothetical plans for world domination. Good luck with the sequel and I hope sales are fantastic.

Dissension is available in ebook or paperback now, and you should totally go buy it. Remember, she has an army of badass women soldier clones, and she can make more!

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Dissension

For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.

When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.

Interviewed by SF Signal

I was recently interviewed by SF Signal, a Hugo award winning magazine. It was a fun interview, which you can probably tell from the length. The interviewer, Carl, was great and I’m proud to say he was rather taken with The Forgotten. He and I talk about how I got published, and some deeper points to my novels you might not know. It’s definitely worth checking out. While you’re there, browse around, you don’t win Hugo awards for having a mediocre magazine. Among other things, you can read some of the other interviews Carl has done

[GUEST INTERVIEW] Bishop O’Connell (AN AMERICAN FAERIE TALE) on Compelling Characters, Publishing and (of Course) Faerie Tales

New Author Adventures Interview: Nicole Peeler

I was lucky enough to join Nicole on a panel at the New York Comic Con in 2014 and we got to chatting a bit during out signing. When not a super cool writer, she’s and associate professor at Seaton Hall where she directs their MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. Her Jane True series follows Jane True (spoiler alert) as she deals with life as a selkie. Her most recent book, Jinn and Juice, is the first book in a series about a cursed jinni living in Pittsburgh. Dr. Peeler’s bio expressly states that she also lives in Pittsburgh, but is neither cursed, nor a jinni.

Welcome to the pub, Dr. Peeler. What are you drinking?

A Blood and Sand, sir. One of my favorites.

I have to say, that’s remarkably fitting.
Now, your bio says you live in Pittsburgh but are neither a jinni or cursed. Me thinks thou doth protest too much. Jinn and Juice is actually a cleverly disguised autobiography, isn’t it? It’s okay, I promise not to try and get any wishes out of you.

Ha! You’ve caught me. It’s all true. Although now I will have to kill you…

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.
You graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston U, and got your Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, right? Did you set out to make everyone of your students feel instantly inferior upon meeting you, or did that just happen as a happy coincidence? As a follow up, do you assign your own books as required reading, and are you open to bribes to assign other author’s books?

I don’t need my credentials to make students feel inferior as I have mastered the art of the Academic Stink Face. And I do not assign my own books, although I do have my students read one of my short stories. As for bribes, expensive whisky may get you somewhere. No promises though.

We’ll talk after this interview.
For the main character in your award winning Jane True series, you made her a selkie, a creature of Celtic myth that is a seal in the water and a human on the land. What inspired you to make this choice, a pretty wide divergence from the norm?

I knew I wanted to write a non-kickass heroine who could show how “normal” women are sill pretty kickass, even without ninja chopping enemies in the face. A selkie was perfect, obviously. Plus the myths are always super sad so she came with a built in backstory, which is always handy.

Convenient and profound all in one. Nicely done, Doctor.
Do you have any requirements for your writing process: silence, music, a foppish hat with a large feather, a team of contortionists performing an intricate tumbling routine, penguins serving you blue M&M’s, etc?

Nope. I’m a professional, son. I just git ‘er done.

And right now there is an author weeping into a bowl of blue M&M’s at being called unprofessional. *slides bowl of blue M&M’s away*
One would assume that being a professor, that you’re very structured in your writing. Is that the case? Do you outline meticulously, or are you a seat of your pants kind of writer?

I’m very structured, although I’ve learned to be less so as I’ve gotten more experienced. It’s funny, all the pantster friends I started out with have become more structured, and all us plotters have become less rigid. I think we all have to find our own personal sweet spot between productivity and creativity, especially if we’re writing popular fiction.

Excellent Buddha-esque answer.
You’ve been published now for about six years, is that right? What bits of wisdom would you share with new writers like myself?

Don’t take yourself too seriously; we’re all just storytellers. Social media is a quagmire and doesn’t make you a bestseller, unless you’re willing to continually stuff its insatiable maw with your own flesh. Instead of worrying about stuff you can’t control, keep writing. Listen to feedback; other people are your audience. That sort of thing.

I think that might be the best description of social media I’ve ever read. That really needs to be on a mug or something.
Does it annoy you to constantly be asked for advice?

Only when it’s really someone asking me to tell them “the secret” and they don’t want to hear that a lot of work is the secret.

Yeah…but we both know what the secret really is.
What would you say are the best parts of being a published author? Were any of those things the best part when you first were published, or has it changed over time? What would you say has been the single best moment thus far?

I still get a kick out of seeing my book on shelves, although the first time is really magical. And the biggest thrill has been becoming friends with people I really admire and have fangrrrled over. That’s rad.

I’m glad to know the excitement of seeing your book on a shelf doesn’t get old.
Your book, at least the Jane True books, have some incredibly steamy moments. Does your mother read your books?

Yes, AND she is super pervy about Anyan, especially. It’s horrible.

I’m so very sorry. Thanksgiving must be a delight for you.
Current favorite manly eyecandy?

Tom Hardy for sure. Mad Max was everything I’ve ever wanted in life.

Really? I liked him better as Handsome Bob in RocknRolla.
You’re an award winning author, seemingly respectable (I promise not to mention the burlesque knife routine); do you still geek out when meeting other authors, or have you reached a point where you see them all as colleagues?

OMG I still totally geek out, but within reason. I never want to lose my ability to get excited, you know? On the other hand, you do have to pull your shit together so you can actually talk to the person without humping their leg.

Whew, I’m glad I’m not the only one who ever—You were be facetious, weren’t you? Damn.
What is the best comment you’ve gotten from a fan (in person or electronic)?

“THESE BOOKS ARE JUST PORN.”

That still cracks me up, not least because if this person thinks my books are porn, I can’t imagine her reaction if she ever saw actual porn.

Please allow me to apologize on behalf on my grandmother for that.
You posted a blog piece debunking common myths about published writers (viewable here and worth a read). In it you talk about how much you enjoy teaching and that you wouldn’t want to give it up even if you did make crazy good money from your writing. How do you strike the balance between writing, day job, and a life in general?

I work really hard when I’m working, but I also prioritize taking care of myself and nurturing my relationships. If that means I can’t write four books a year, I’m fine with that. I’ve also gotten better at saying “no,” to myself as well as to others. I also have really great people in my life who forcibly remove my own head from my ass, if need be.

It takes a good friend to help in undoing a cranial-rectal-inversion.
You seem to be a big fan of Write or Die, what mode do you work on? It’s kamikaze, isn’t it?

Dude, Write or Die is the absolute BEST. I write all my books in it and can’t recommend it highly enough. And yes, obviously Kamikaze mode.

I’ll hold on to that answer in case you ever need to plead insanity at a trial.
What are your plans with the series? Anything in the works that might interest readers?

Right now I’m working on Something Completely Different. And world domination, naturally.

Well naturally and good luck to you on that, and thanks for stopping by, Grand Lord Peeler.

Nicole’s the author of truly excellent books including: Tempest Rising, Tracking the Tempest, Tempest’s Legacy, Eye of the Tempest, Tempest’s Fury, Tempest Reborn, Jinn and Juice, as well as short stories and novellas. You can find her online at her urban fantasy emporium.

 

New Author Adventures Interview: Tim Lees

Tim Lees is a British native, recently moved to the US. He’s the author of two books: The God Hunter, and Devil In The Wires. Like me, he was plucked out of obscurity and hurled into a new kind of obscurity when Harper Voyager selected him from its open submission window.

Hi, Tim. Welcome. What are you drinking? Understand as a Brit, your choice of pint will heavily weigh my lasting opinion of you. No pressure.
Ginger lychee mojito, please. Thanks very much.

 I had no idea you were a bond villain.
Right then, moving on. In your books, the storyline revolves around the idea of harvesting the latent psychic energy left behind in ancient worship sites (and eventually the Gods themselves) and using to it create real power; electricity. However, your main character also deals with the daily grind of being a corporate underling; paperwork, inept supervisors, etc. Are you really just a socialist/communist/anarchist/botanist looking to convert others to your ideas in attempt to form an underground army with the plans to bring down the capitalist structure?
Yes. But I hide it well.

Do you? Or is it a clever ruse, and you’re writing this book in hopes of distracting others from your real goal of forming exactly the company in your stories that will one day rule the world with an iron-fisted control on the energy market?
You mean we don’t already?

Do you have an IPO planned?
Okay, now that the easy question is out of the way, here’s a really tough one, and don’t try dodging it. Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea?
Absolutely.

Well played, sir. Well played.
Next question: science fiction has a long tradition of making social commentary; condemning wars, warning about the certainty of invading aliens who will destroy us if we don’t win the war against them, warning about the certainty of robots/AIs who rise up to destroy us if we don’t win the war against them, to life in a giant submarine would be awesome. Is there any deeper message to your books?
I don’t think you can have a book without some kind of deeper message, since its content is bound to reflect the author’s views and experience, whether he knows it or not. There are some deeper messages there – I could even suggest an allegorical reading for the last one, but I won’t, because it would sound really bad – but I don’t believe in preaching. I’d rather entertain people, and maybe make them think a bit. Let them come to their own conclusions.

I think I agree with you entirely. The entertaining makes the message easy to get across. What are your plans for the series? How many books are you thinking about?
 I have one more in my head at the moment, still a bit underdeveloped, but it’s coming along. I’m told HarperVoyager are keen to extend the series and, lo and behold! I am suddenly inspired to do the same! Amazing, isn’t it?

Absolutely remarkable coincidence! Such luck! Now, as a new author, what would you rate as the top three experiences thus far? Assuming of course getting the publishing deal and seeing your book in the flesh are numbers one and two.
 I’m not really a new author. I’ve published a lot of short stories, two collections, and the novel Frankenstein’s Prescription (Tartarus Press). But this is my first experience with a major publisher. My previous work was with the independent press, and the thing I learned there is that your exposure is likely to be limited. Some good reviews, but, unless you’re very lucky (or have lots of friends) not much in the way of sales. With a major publisher, you get noticed more. That said, my first book with them, The God Hunter, was a little slow to take off. (It’s doing pretty well now.) They got behind it and, after first asking my permission (yes, really) put the e-book version on special offer, just to get the whole thing going. I’m impressed; I had imagined that, in the tough world of big boys’ publishing, anything that immediately failed to make money would be junked. Not so, at least in this case.
The editing process has also been very important. It’s had me tearing my hair out at times, but I think my writing since has been stronger for going through that mill – knowing what to leave out, what to make clearer, and so forth. I may be busy crafting sentences and scenes, but the editor sees the book as a whole, and if it starts to flag at any point, she (in this case) can spot it where I may not.
I should say, the editing was mainly a matter of cutting. It hurt, but I’m in favor of it – if you can say the same thing in half the space, you’ll probably say it better.
I am also now entirely bald.

Ah, so you’re experiencing things from both sides. And I’m very sorry about the baldness, but the wig is excellent. Very natural looking….How do you deal with/react to bad reviews? If you have none yet, let me know and I’ll provide you with some.
The “bad” reviews I’ve had tend, I think, to be from people who are expecting something different. The God Hunter has a lot of comedy in it and the publisher’s blurb mentioned Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens. So I got a thumbs down from a Pratchett fan for, well, not being Terry Pratchett. (I would like to assure everyone that I am not now, nor have I ever been, Terry Pratchett.) Someone put up an Amazon review of Devil in the Wires complaining that it was too gruesome and they were now desperately trying to forget it. But they gave it five stars, so I’m not sure if that’s a bad review or not.

Well, in fairness, I’d give you a thumbs down for not being Terry Pratchett as well. You’re a nice guy, but you clearly aren’t Sir Terry. But enough about your shortcomings in being Terry Pratchett. Your book almost straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy, the harnessing the power of Gods, but in a scientific society where there is no magic. Was the genre bending intentional? Or did it come about as a consequence of the story as it evolved?
Are you trying to suggest I don’t know what I’m doing?

No, of course not……

Actually, there are all sorts of things in there: comedy, horror, adventure, etc. But my notion was that, having thrown in something utterly fanciful, it should then be explored in a logical, “realistic” fashion. Note I put “realistic” in quotation marks.

So you’d call your book more magical realism, then. I think that’s a fair assessment.
If you could, what one author would you meet, and would you hug them or punch them? Understanding of course that this document could well be used against you in the future to show premeditation and intent, should charges be filed.
There is the old line about being wary of meeting your heroes. But if you fancy a punch-up, I’m game.

So then it’s someone you’d punch and you’re refusing to give a name for your own legal sake. Prudent choice. Do you feel the need to correct Americans who call it soccer?
We call it soccer, too, you know. There are two kinds of football (real football, I mean): rugby, or “rugger”, invented at Rugby School for the brutalization of the English upper class, and Association Football, or “soccer”. I’m not sure why that was invented, though there are rumors it began with a bunch of Anglo-Saxons kicking a Viking’s head around. That would certainly make the World Cup more interesting, anyway.

What’s not to love about a sport designed to physically assault the upper class? I think I heard that about soccer as well. You know, it would make the World Cup more interesting, and might even get some more Americans watching. Lastly, because I’m a philosophical kind of guy, if you could go back to any point in your life and give your younger self any single piece of advice, at what age would you meet yourself and what would you say? Or would you just mess with him and tell him he’s the only hope to turn back an alien/robot invasion that has decimated the human race?
Now, you know I’m not allowed to talk about the alien invasion. That would be like discussing my superpowers or my secret identity, wouldn’t it? And please don’t call me “Clark” in public any more. You know it embarrasses me.

I’m very sorry, Bruce.


 

Thanks, Tim, it’s been fun. *give secret handshake* Good luck on your books and/or plans for corporate domination of the energy market.

Tim’s books are available in paperback or ebook pretty much everywhere. They really are excellent stories with an interesting story line. If you’re looking for a thriller with great dry humor, you’ll love these books. You can also find out more about Tim and send him adoring fan mail via his website https://timlees.wordpress.com/

“It’s a perfect circle, Chris. The god receives his audience, the grid receives the power—and we light up Chicago.”

After the perilous retrieval of a long-dormant god from Iraq, Chris Copeland—professional god hunter and company troubleshooter—is about ready to quit his job. But his employers at the Registry have other plans…plans to build a power facility on the shores of Lake Michigan. Adam Shailer, a rising star at the Registry, thinks he can cage the god, drain its energy, and power the city.
It’s Chris’s job to make sure nothing goes wrong. And at first, everything seems fine. Great, even. But when ecstatic devotees start leaving human sacrifices on the beach near the god-house, it quickly becomes clear that the god is not as contained as the Registry would have everyone believe. The devil’s in the wires, and there’s no turning back now.

Devil