In The Enigma Dragon the CATS team has assembled with a singular goal, to discover the source of North Korea’s missile supply. What was your inspiration for the setup to this story?
It’s odd, but we started this story way before this subject rose so much in the forefront of our political focus. However with our acquaintances who have escaped from that country and with our reading, it seemed relevant. Sadly perhaps, a bit too real for our comfort zone.
My favorite member of the CATS team is Jamie. I found myself lost in the tale of loss and despair described in Jamie’s chapter. What were some these you tried to capture while creating this character?
We have many friends in Ireland’s Emerald Isle and honestly enjoy the tales told by each of them. As with all people, our Irish friends have lost loves, conquered adversity, tried isolation, and would give anything to help a friend or even a close acquaintance. It’s the spirit of the people we like the most and we wanted Jamie to give that multi-dimensional lens. When we introduced him in The Enigma Gamers – A CATS Tale, which was the first of that spinoff group, we had him as a controversial character who we did not think would last. Then something happened and he took on a real aspect and who now is totally a part of our character universe. We love him even more in this tale and we’re glad you highlighted him, thank you.
This sets up the novel to deliver some very entertaining scenes. What was the funnest thing about writing this novel?
All our stories are fun to us or we wouldn’t even bother writing them. The funniest portion was building the cape which Summit used in his disguise. Burkey was, and still is, a talented seamstress and had so much fun taking the idea of the cape and crafting it into words. We are thinking about creating a shop-online product, but time may be a prohibitive in mass production.
How do you decide on the titles of your books?
That is really a “Chicken or the Egg” question, to be honest. We do have some criteria we always follow. The Enigma portion is due to the early beginning of computers with the World War II encryption device: The Enigma Machine. Our heroes began with stealing a copy of the machine as they also helped smuggle the device from Poland to England. The other is a matter of the book’s focus and our own puzzle element. When we finish The Enigma Chronicles the final puzzle element will become clear.
Do the vast amounts of information and technology available hold humans hostage? Does analog communication create a vulnerability?
The political climate in the world is unnerving. North Korea is running missile tests, but where are they getting their deadly supplies? Meanwhile, terrorists are hiding in plain sight, using American technology that is out on display in libraries and museums for the world to see, but are using analog methods to gather and assemble their information. No internet searches equal no red flags which lets the bad guys believe they are operating undetected. But the Cyber Assassin Technology Services (CATS) team is on the job. As Juan and Julie Rodríguez send their operatives out across the globe to track down these foot soldiers also known as Analog Information Mules, they’ll discover the horrible potential treats, and learn about each other along the way.
Mike and Marge control ePETRO, an oil shipping business with offices in London and New York, but they don’t have the same business goals in mind. Marge intends to sell the North Koreans uranium in addition to oil obtained illegally from the government sanctioned Middle East. But Mike may have other plans, mainly, keeping the profits of these sales for himself. Then there is the mysterious Steven Christopher, who oversees the AIMs, and is working several angles behind the scenes. Steven is the only one trusted by both Marge and Mike, but why?
The CATs team has feet on the ground, with Ernesto and Tyler following two women through Washington, D.C. as they visit the Smithsonian looking for nuclear fusion processes and down the Texas coast where a dangerous package makes its way onto a ship bound for Asia. Jamie, an Irish man with a heartbreaking past, joins the team in Texas and finds not only a new job, but acceptance. George and Summit travel across Asia following the oil and some suspiciously mislabeled furniture. After a rocky start at being paired up, Mercedes and Brayson head to Panama and are watching a previously known Dark Net data center, but Mercedes is soon extracted to help out in D.C. She quickly becomes embroiled in Steven Christopher’s world. Brayson is left behind alone in Panama and, still recovering from a lost love, learns that he can’t truly be a part of the team until he has forgiven himself.
While Juan stays with Quip and his supercomputer ICABOD, tracking his team members and relaying constantly updated information at the team’s nerve center, Julie heads to London. Julie finds herself in the center of all the trouble as she goes undercover in the ePETRO offices. When Julie disappears, Juan drops everything to find her. Quip loops his wife EZ, a Unified Communications expert, to help monitor and control the CATS team movements so that operatives can find the culprits in their different theaters of operation.
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H.A.L.F. Origins follows Tex and Erika while they’re running for their lives against a deadly alien virus that is spawning an epidemic around the globe. What was the inspiration behind this idea and how did it develop as you were writing?
The idea of an alien virus was part of the H.A.L.F. storyline from the very beginning of my planning back in 2010/2011. But I planned that the Conexus (the “aliens” behind the virus) wanted to wipe out humans so they could take over the planet. That idea changed a bit when I had the later idea of introducing the M’Uktah, predator aliens from across the galaxy. The addition of the M’Uktah altered how the virus would be used. In general, as I developed the story, I kept looking for ways to make life more and more difficult for my characters! So in book three they are beset with the obstacle of both a virulent virus and alien predators trying to devour the population.
The story is fast paced and throws readers into the deep end of the action. How do you balance action with storytelling to create such a captivating novel?
Novels have lots of “moving parts” and finding balance between the elements is perhaps the greatest challenge. Action, character development, setting, plot, pacing, theme, dialogue, character arc–these and more are all part of the process. Having a fabulous content development editor helps a lot. Alyssa at Red Adept Editing has provided early feedback on all of the H.A.L.F. novels. She is great at helping me see ways to improve pacing, etc. Some of it though is intuitive, but intuition seems to improve with more writing experience. 😉
I enjoyed watching Tex and Erika’s relationship grow throughout the story. Was there story organic or did you plan it in advance?
I did not originally plan for Tex and Erika to end up together. When I wrote book one, I assumed that Erika would end up with Jack and that Tex as their relationship “complication.” But that’s now how it ended up and so yes, what transpires between Erika and Tex was organic. Writing their relationship was the most satisfying part of the writing process of this series.
This is book 3 in the H.A.L.F. series. Are you moving on to other stories or are you going to continue to develop this universe you’ve created?
I am finished with the H.A.L.F. stories and do not intend to write more about Tex or Erika (or Jack and Anna). I’m currently focused on development of an entirely new project that will be epic fantasy.
I may, however, write some shorts or perhaps a serialized story set on the planet of Uktah, the world of the alien predators from the H.A.L.F. series. There has also been interest by screen writers and producers in developing H.A.L.F. for television, so I’ll be working on that as well in the coming months. H.A.L.F. may show up on the small screen some day. 🙂
And I’m introducing a new writing challenge for the writing community called PENuary that will debut January, 2018. Inspired by Inktober, I’ll be writing a minimum of 20 minutes per day from a one-word writing prompt for each of the 31 days of January. I’m inviting other writers of all skill levels to join in this endeavor. You can read more about it here. I’m hoping that I end up with 2-3 cool ideas out of the 31 day challenge.
A deadly alien virus spawns an epidemic. Predators attack Europe. And a clandestine organization conspires to profit from chaos and forge a New World Order.
In this heart-pounding finale of the award-winning H.A.L.F. series, Tex, Erika and the rest are in a race against time. They fought for their lives. Now they battle to save our species.
Tex and Erika are fugitives and running for their lives. But when Tex falls gravely ill, a Navajo healer is his only hope for survival. Tex emerges from the ordeal changed in body and mind and with vital information: how to stop the predatory M’Uktah from overtaking the human population and destroying those he has come to love.
Erika Holt seeks a respite from the constant threats to her life but she’s not about to give up. As she and Tex launch a mission to shut down the intra-galactic highway used by invaders who prey on humans, she grows closer to her troubled half-human companion. But what about her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Jack?
Jack Wilson, with his friend Anna Sturgis, is on a mission of his own. He’s determined to destroy The Makers, an illuminati-like organization behind the H.A.L.F. program. It’s time to put an end to their schemes for world domination. Complicating matters, an anti-viral that could save millions from an alien virus has been stolen. As both alien and human forces line up against them, the destiny of all mankind is hand the hands of these young warriors. And time is running out.
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The Guardians of Eastgate is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, adventure, and romance as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
The genre-crossing was both intentional and organic. I knew I wanted to write a fantasy-adventure, but I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to include romance. Some of my favorite books are fantasy-romance. However, I knew I didn’t want to narrow my audience by going into erotica.
I liked the way romance was handled in novels like Twilight, The Hunger Games and the Divergent series: it was present, but it wasn’t the main focus, and it wasn’t explicit. These were not books I would have to worry about my kids reading as teens, for example. Writing romance in this way left them accessible to teens all the way through to adult. So, I knew that if I did include romance, I would want to handle it in this manner. The Guardians of Eastgate is rated as Young Adult, but I wanted it to be accessible to teens and older adults as well.
I didn’t make the final decision to include romance until I was writing their interactions, however. In fact, I wouldn’t really call it a decision. Rather, it felt like the natural progression of the relationship between the characters. So, in this way, it was organic. The way I see it, their relationship is complicated (due to their histories), yet also inevitable due to their personalities and shared histories.
As for the adventure part, well, what is fantasy without adventure, really? I am a huge fan of Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings was required reading in my Advanced Literature class in high school. At first, I found his writing tedious, and had to wade through it. By the time I was done, though, I was thoroughly hooked and grateful for all those details. There is no way I will even try to compete with Tolkien, however. I loved his world and character building, but knew that I would not want to take on writing on that grand a scale, especially for my first novel.
One reason for this is knowing that, in our time, people work a lot and have many scheduled activities for themselves, their kids, etc. Because of this, I purposely kept my book on the short side for a novel, and made my chapters short as well. However, after feedback from some of my readers who basically said they enjoyed the story, but would have liked to see more of certain elements, I am now considering doing a revised and expanded second edition.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
My favorite character is my main character, Maelona. However, I did not find her easy to write for. She is a very subdued character who, for a large portion of the story, is denying or ignoring huge parts of herself due to guilt from past events. So, how do you reveal a character’s personality through their dialogue and actions when they so tightly control their actions and emotions? I knew I wanted to use the third person narrative, which took revealing her character through inner monologue off the table. I didn’t want to switch to the first person though, as I wanted readers to feel the distance she creates for herself partly through the distance the third person provides. It is a complicated mix, and it was difficult to find the right balance. I did enjoy trying to find that balance, though.
I probably like Blaez and Gareth equally. Blaez, however, though not as tightly wound as Maelona and more emotionally open, is also calm in actions and words, so revealing his character was also tricky at times. Gareth was perhaps the easiest to write for, as he is cheeky and wears his heart on his sleeve, as the saying goes.
Maelona is a seer champion tasked with protecting the realm and is the first line of defense when evil rises. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
Maelona is essentially driven by her guilt over what happened at the crater of sorrows (which we find out about when she tells Blaez the story). She blames herself for what happened and she feels extreme guilt and an intense sense of loss over the accidental death of someone close to her.
Her father was a powerful seer who took his responsibilties to the seer people, and to the entire realm, very seriously. He believed, as did most of the seer people, that his race’s “advantages” over the other races gave them the responsibilty to watch over the realm and all its peoples (kind of like that “With great power comes great responsibility” line in Spiderman). They believe, essentially, this was what they were created for, and they continued to believe this even after their people were persucuted and hunted out of fear. In a sense, Maelona is an overachiever because she is always trying to make up for the loss of her father. However, she also had to work harder to fill his shoes because she is denying the most powerful parts of herself, parts she considers to be dangerous and that she is afraid of losing control over.
With this new mysterious and serious threat to the entire realm, however, she will need these most powerful parts of herself. Her letting go of her tight contol on her emotions and opening herself up to her new friends, and especially her new love, mirrors her letting go control of those “scary” parts of herself. This is why the romance between Maelona and Blaez ends up being so important. It is her relationship with him that allows her to stop holding back those pieces of herself that scare her; to take a chance on those parts because the potential gain is worth it. It is her relationship with him that allows her to begin accepting herself, all of herself, for who she is.
What is the next story that you’re writing and when will it be published?
I am already 40,600+ words into the second novel of the series. I haven’t settled on a name yet, but it will focus on the Seer guardian of Southgate. Between finishing the first draft, self-editing and revising, having beta readers look at it, then sending it off to the editor for a few rounds of revisions, etc. etc., I don’t expect it to be published until late winter, early spring.
I have also decided to do a second edition of The Guardians of Eastgate because I will be re-doing the cover. I have hired a visual artist to do the book covers for the rest of the series and I want them all to be uniform. Due to reader feed-back, I am considering expanding on the interior narrative as well. You can check on my website or social media accounts to stay updated on whether or not I will expand the story, and when the second edition with the new cover (and possibly extended storyline) will be released.
Maelona Sima is one of four seer champions tasked with protecting the four keystones from being breached by evil forces, thus leaving an immeasurable magical force free to be used against the realm’s inhabitants. Yet Maelona is more than a seer. She is unique in her world, and she is the best hope of survival for the people of Sterrenvar…the very people who once hunted down and killed many of the seer people out of fear and mistrust.
Protecting the keystones is the first line of defense against the evil sorcerer who wishes to enslave the realm. Can Maelona, the guardian of the keystone at Eastgate, and her friends Blaez, a wolf shifter, and Gareth, a human prince, bring together their peoples to save Eastgate from destruction in this first book of the Seers series?
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by Don Templeton
Characters. The heart and soul of good fiction. Character decisions and actions should dictate plot development, not the other way around.
The first thing I do with a character is visualize that character. The best way to do this is find a representative picture of your character. I pick a movie or TV personality to represent the character. Once I can “see” a character, “hearing” the character is easy for me.
I use Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method to get my character skeletons fleshed out on paper rather than following Syd Fields character creation process. Both are very similar. I’ve found Randy’s process to get to the core of a character essence instantly.
The first step is to write a one-page dossier which deals with 7 key points:
- Ambition (what the character wants abstractly)
- Story Goal (what the character wants concretely)
- Conflict (what prevents the character from reaching the goal)
- Epiphany (what the character learns, how the character changes)
- A One Sentence Summary (think of this as the character’s logline)
- A One Paragraph Summary (expand the logline to one paragraph)
Now, let’s do this for a character. This is what my dossier on Special Agent Mallory Hammond looks like for the forthcoming GREEN MAJIK adventure, Splatterpunk. You are getting a sneak preview into Mallory’s continuing story line in the next novel. Hope it makes you want to read the first one now.
Agent Hammond’s ambition in #2 is the same as it was in #1: To expose the underground cult she knows is operating all over the world.
Her story goal is to hold the alligator farm long enough to get one of the fry specimens out for her squid expert to examine.
The source of Mallory’s conflict in this tale is the FBI hierarchy, Homeland Security and the mysterious Men In Black from MAJESTIC.
Mallory’s epiphany in this adventure is the cult she is pursuing has infiltrated the government at all levels.
The One Sentence Summary: Mallory Hammond finds her investigation under literal siege when Homeland Security arrives to take over and silence her with national security.
The One Paragraph Summary: When DHS shows up being led by a MIB and attempts to seize the investigation by force, Hammond uses the Hostage Rescue Team like infantry to form a blockade and temporarily put the aggression into a stand-off while she gets one of the fry specimen prepped for smuggling out in an ice cooler brought by the boys to house the PBR in. She has Fender send her state police as escorts to ensure they get out without being ambushed by black ops. She goes to see the squid expert Fender has located. She takes the fry specimen to Dr. Donovon West of Miskatonic University located in Arkham, Massachusetts.
There are two more steps in the Snowflake Method to fully flesh out the character. I do the next step fully and the final step partially.
Take your paragraph summary of your character’s story line and write a full page, page and a half treatment which tells the entire story arc of the character inside your novel.
This is what the treatment looks like:
Special Agent Mallory Hammond receives an urgent phone call from BRAD FENDER. The shit has hit the fan. The Director is under siege from Homeland over her little monster hunt. Homeland is en route to her location, whatever she has to do to get the evidence out she better do now. Hammond hangs up on him and starts deploying the HRT to hold a line and prevent the invaders from getting access to the farm house. She enlists Ronson and Gage to assist her in snagging one of the specimens. It is a harrowing experience getting that damn squid out of the tank and into a small shipping crate filled with sea water. When the three emerge back outside lugging the shipping crate, the rest of the HRT are blockading the Homeland Security convoy. The black Suburbans are filled with MIB agents. The squid gets stowed in the trunk of Hammond’s GSA sedan. Then she goes to the skirmish line and meets the MIB in charge: MR. ADAMA. A terse exchange. The MIBs back out of the drive to allow Hammond and the HRT to exfil. Hammond goes directly to the airfield. At the airfield, she gets on a commercial flight with the squid to fly directly to Arkham, Massachusetts.
The campus of MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY. Fender is blowing up her phone again. She was suppose to fly back to D.C.! Prior to the balloon going up, Fender had found her squid expert, one DR. DONOVAN WEST of the Miskatonic Oceanographic Institute. She tells him he’s just going to have to hunt her down and hangs up. Then she drops her FBI issued smart phone into a fish tank and proceeds to turn Dr. West’s conceptual universe upside down. Dr. West has been in touch and go negotiations with a producer from Animal Planet for a reality TV series featuring his expedition to find a live giant squid in the wild. After seeing the squid fry and hearing Hammond’s tale about what was found in Louisiana – his TV series idea takes a quantum leap. He rudely excuses himself to call the producer – get the hell out here with cameras now! When the cameras burst onto the scene, her first instinct is to punch aqua danger boy’s lights out. Dr. West is something of an orator and quickly points out the insulating advantages she might have transferring her investigation from the FBI to Animal Planet and his reality TV show. And, yeah, Mallory Hammond sees the advantages immediately as well.
A cultist hit team tries to take back the avatar. Mallory Hammond engages in a blistering gun battle and foot chase with the hit team, flanked by a daredevil Animal Planet cameraman. The intense footage is aired immediately along with the earlier taped testimony of Hammond’s detailing how the squid fry was taken into custody. Now the FBI witch hunt to drum Hammond out of the bureau has hit a sensational snag – the TV series is an instant mass phenomenon. Mallory Hammond is now the bureau’s biggest PR asset.
The final step is to create a full blown character biography detailing all the usual stuff: name, rank, serial number, hair color, ethnic heritage, birth day, birth place, schools, all that down in the weeds detail. I don’t get wrapped around the axle about the character biography. When I have everything I’ve just revealed, I know everything I need to know to start writing.
In other words, I now know what to write.
For the sake of covering all the bases, use this link to download a character biography template from me.
The next installment is going to wrap up this discussion of all my secret plotting methods. See you there.
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The Crown Princess’ Voyage is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, history, and romance as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I did always want to hit a variety of notes since the 2006 zero draft of the first book in the series, The Gift-Knight’s Quest, that was meant to be more of a mystery. That sort of multi genre crossover continues here, as more of a natural follow-up. I also felt that I needed whichever elements would tell these characters’ stories in the most complete way.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
You see it more in the next book, maybe, but I liked writing Jan’s branching-off point. He is this purely obedient, trustworthy guard for about a book and a half, then he becomes his own character with his own plot thread and nothing is quite the same. I like a few of them but he springs to mind quite easily.
The background and backstory of the characters is very detailed. Did you do a lot of research to maintain accuracy of the subject?
I let my knowledge from various studies and other books just synthesize, I decided what naming conventions and characteristics each culture featured, and it became more of an effort to keep it consistent. Especially character names which have been changed before. I think a lot of research just casually occurred on the internet over time, but also came out of my secondary Bachelors degree in Social and Political Thought which had components of anthropology and history.
What is the next book in the Gift-Knight series that you are working on and when will it be published?
I have an official third book of the trilogy which was written in 2011. However, I must revisit it, because I need it to be the caliber of The Crown Princess’ Voyage or possibly better, in order to feel right about how the trilogy is closed out. You might be intrigued to know that this past November, I decided I liked Alathea enough to write her a book. This last project is meant to be stand-alone and tell her full story from late childhood to the start of “Trilogy time”. Including a revisit of scenes you have now already witnessed through Rheb’s eyes or otherwise. Keeping it fresh without contradicting what you have already read will be a challenge but I look forward to it, when I get back to it. Book 3 will become a priority.
The Crown Princess’ Voyage is the second book in the “Gift-Knight” series of fantasy novels. It continues the story where The Gift-Knight’s Quest leaves off, developing familiar characters while introducing new ones, and showing you more of the fantasy world illustrated in Steven Sandford’s original map. Chandra’s been pushed to her wits’ end trying to keep the peace in Kensrik, the world’s largest empire; trying to spare the lives of subjects who don’t necessarily want to be ruled, who have difficulty viewing her reign as legitimate. For all her efforts, they may just banish her from Kensrik and embrace uncertainty.
Except it’s not just Kensrik facing a new and dire threat, one to whom the past conspirators threatening Chandra were mere puppets. No one has any idea what’s about to hit them, and no place in the world will be safe.
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The Fool’s Truth follows Cordelia as she’s running from a dangerous marriage and finds herself wrapped up in a perilous mystery. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
A great question and what’s most interesting is, the opening scene in which a young mother comforts her crying daughter while calmly stepping around a dead body, came to me long before I started writing The Fool’s Truth. I had this image of a woman escaping into her mind, blocking out the tragic scene before her and acting as if nothing had happened. I jotted down that first passage years before the idea for the book started to germinate. I knew it was the beginning of a good story, it just took a while for the right characters to develop for the telling.
Originally, I thought the story would be Rebekah’s because her witch-like hermit character came together in my mind first. I loved defining her complicated choice (or need?) to live a secluded life. But as the narrative began to form, it became clear that Cordelia had to be the book’s protagonist. As a desperate mother on the run, her storyline would tie together the other characters, each with their own dark secrets.
Cordelia is an intriguing character. Was her back story something you always had or did it develop as you were writing?
I’ve always wanted to write a character named Cordelia, but had to wait patiently for the right story. When I began pulling together the plot and characters for The Fool’s Truth, I felt Cordelia was a good fit for the protagonist’s name. Although I always start with a rough story outline and ideas about who the characters are, writing is such a fluid craft and it’s essential the characters remain adaptable. So Cordelia’s story had to evolve as the story developed. I’ve never personally known someone who has been in such a desperate situation, so I had to delve deep into my imagination.
What experience in your life has had the biggest impact on your writing?
Strangely enough, my passion for writing fiction sprang from the eye opening exercise of composing my own obituary. I was a hospice volunteer for many years, and the obituary assignment was part of the volunteer training program. And from that experience a buried desire to write a book surfaced. I tentatively ventured onto this new path by establishing a Legacy Story program to honor and preserve the heritage of some fascinating hospice patients who were soon to leave the world. It has been the most meaningful experience of my life thus far, and it both inspired and encouraged me to fulfill a newly perceived longing to create and shape unique fictional characters with their own remarkable stories to tell.
Cordelia ends up stranded in the backwoods of Maine, hidden by a hermit living off the grid who takes an obsessive interest in her daughter. How did this plot twist develop and why choose Maine as the backdrop?
So many threads had to be woven together to form the plotlines of the novel, however that development was pivotal to the story and came early in the drafting of the book. Because Rebekah emerged early as a significant character, her secluded farm became the ideal spot to strand the desperate Cordelia. I’ll stop there so as not to give away the motivations of either of these two central characters.
As for why Maine? It’s a beautiful and diverse state, both in its land and seascapes, but also in the people who call Maine home. It is also a state of many unique small communities and I thought it would be fun to create the fictional town of Murphy, Maine. But this question has caused me to pause and recall that the story was actually coming together on a road trip my husband and I were making through the state on our way to Prince Edward Island. I now have to think that trip may have influenced my decision to set the story in Maine, especially since it conveniently borders Canada, which is where Cordelia had hoped to find refuge.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that book be published?
There are two books I can tell you about today. First is The Lighterman’s Curse, which is currently out on submission with my agent. The story follows overly trusting Cassandra Mitchell’s quest to save her beloved family home in the fictional Cap Cod coastal town of Whale Rock. The Bluffs is a stately Victorian and legacy from her great-grandparents whose shocking demise still haunts the town, and perhaps the house itself. While Cassie deals with the emotional and financial fallout of divorce from her dream-weaving husband, a young nomadic couple wander onto the property and into life, offering welcome companionship and the answer to her problems. Until they vanish, leaving behind no clues and rising evidence they were not who they said they were.
Finding herself in the middle of a battle for control of the investigation between the local police chief and the information-keeping FBI agent who suddenly shows up to investigate the missing couple, Cassie tries to unravel the mystery herself. But she becomes distracted by the eerie sounds and scents of The Bluffs, which have now reemerged with a heightened sense of warning. And she accidentally uncovers some long hidden details about the century old curse cast upon her great-grandparents. The Lighterman’s Curse blends mystery, romance and a touch of paranormal to tell two interwoven tales of the Mitchell family legacy, one taking place in present day time and the other beginning in the late nineteenth century.
Also in the works is a novel I’m collaborating on with my husband. It returns me to my Midwestern roots and begins with a stunning deathbed confession that leads to the convergence of a disparate trio: an apathetic middle-aged New Yorker, a Midwestern thirty-something journalist and a young woman eager to escape her mundane existence in rural Pennsylvania where recently discovered skeletal remains have rocked a community.
On the run and desperate to flee the country with her toddler daughter, Cord Richmond can only turn to one person for help – lifelong friend and once lover, Ramon Alvarez. Their reunion reawakens long suppressed feelings, but once again their timing is off, as they must hastily chart a course for her escape.
A reckless detour in those carefully laid plans leaves Cord stranded in the backwoods of Maine, hidden by a hermit weaver living off the grid. With no means of communicating with the outside world, the need to craft a new plan intensifies when the peculiar woman takes an obsessive interest in her daughter.
Complicating matters further are the local sheriff and a nosy reporter, both with ambitions for uncovering the truth, each with his own private reason for taking refuge in the remote rural village of Murphy, Maine. She contemplates a risky strategy to flee her confinement, but is she desperate enough to enter the depraved world of a recently paroled convict with a long history of brutality?
Cord’s folly is the catalyst for dark secrets unraveling, placing her and her daughter in grave danger. She deeply regrets having lied to the one person who might be searching for her. Meanwhile, Ramon seeks to resolve the unsettling truths Cord has concealed from him. If only he could find her.
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The Poetic Heroic is a story about two brothers that live very different lives. What was your process in creating their duality? Did you always know that the brothers would be set against one another?
Beathabane and Cruelthor, the two brothers focused on in The Poet Heroic, were from the beginning set up to be one good twin, one bad twin. I’ve always thought twins make for great characters because of all the different ways you can explore nature/nurture, personal choices, etc. With these brothers in particular, I wanted to write this story to show how their personal war started – they were at one time loving brothers. It’s the choices they make that diverge their paths so drastically.
There are many plot lines that you’re juggling in this story. I always liken multi-strand plot lines like Pulp Fiction for some reason. How hard was it for you to keep track of the plots and still complete a full story within 82 pages?
I guess I don’t really see it as multiple plots, for some reason. In my head, it’s all just one story being told in different chunks, different steps along Beathabane’s journey. In a short book like this, I find HOW the story is told to be almost as much fun as WHAT story is told. It somehow felt natural to tell it this way, but I especially liked book-ending the story with a quick scene from the future, which gives some hints as to how Beathabane’s later life turned out.
In my experience fantasy novels are long epic stories. The Poetic Heroic accomplishes so much in only 82 pages? Was the short length by design or did you have a different plan?
This short is very much a character prequel to The Kota, the first book in my main series (THAT is my epic). In the series, Beathabane is a minor character. He’s important, but he’s not there very much. So for The Poet Heroic, I wanted to flesh out his story just enough to explain how he became who he became in the main series. The length was very purposeful, because it’s a teaser to the main series. Some things that might seem unanswered in The Poet Heroic are purposefully left a bit mysterious because you learn more in the main books. For people who’ve read the series first, there are things in The Poet Heroic that are “Ah-Ha!” moments, but I think it works both ways.
When is the next book in the series coming out and what can your fans expect in the next story?
The Kota Series has 4 main novels, and in that way the series is complete. But I always wanted to flesh out some characters who didn’t get a lot of time in the main series. That’s where the Kota Shorts come in – they’re companion stories to the main series. The Poet Heroic is now my second Kota Short, and The Woman of the Void (about Beathabane and Cruelthor’s mother) is the first, but you can read them in any order. I have a LOT of Kota Shorts planned, and probably next up will be a story from one of the other planets in the Kota story-universe.
Your loved ones lie to you; your enemies tell the truth. Who would you trust? Born a telepath, Vale Olander knows he is not his father’s favorite son. Living in the shadow of his charismatic twin brother, Vale must find his own place in his father’s Dominion empire. But when Vale encounters a team of rebels, his world flips upside down. He must make a choice. Will he remain loyal and serve his brother? Or will he stand on his own and risk everything?
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