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Sunday, April 17, 2016

AUTHOR JAMES AUSTIN McCORMICK HORROR, FANTASY & SCI-FI WRITER

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing James Austin McCormick, another of my co-authors of the new Sci-fi and Fantasy anthology, Reality Glitch - 11 exciting stories from 11 authors from around the globe. This is the second interview of the series.

James is a college lecturer from England and a fan of all types of speculative fiction, most notably science fiction, horror, and sword & sorcery fantasy. Whenever possible, he tries to blend these elements in his own writing.

H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Edgar Rice Burroughs were his first writing inspirations. More recently, James is inspired by Frank Herbert and Clive Barker, whose works, he says, he never grows tired of re-reading.

James lives in the rainy city of Manchester with his wife and two young daughters, the eldest of which is something of a budding writer herself.

Welcome James. I'm very happy you're here. Let's get to it, shall we?

Tell us, other than your excellent short story contribution to Reality Glitch, what is your most recent work? And can you tell us a little about it.

My my recent work is titled, Dragon: The Tower of Tamerlane (the third book in my science fiction series, Dragon)

After the death of the Tuolon Ambassador Lagua and the failure to bring the non-humanoid worlds into the Alliance, Sillow and Brok’s long partnership is finally at an end. Now a reluctant solo agent, Sillow is called upon to undertake his first mission, investigate the Tower, a high-tech prison complex along with the oligarch who runs it, a mysterious nobleman who calls himself Tamerlane.
Seeking evidence to prove Tamerlane is responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, Sillow quickly uncovers the sheer scale of his plans, a lethal military strike on all four humanoid home worlds.
Caught and imprisoned however, the Sylvan finds himself helpless to warn the Alliance of the coming danger. All the while, something has been evolving, growing stronger inside the Tower, something intangible yet far more dangerous than Tamerlane ever could be, a being implacably opposed to all life in the galaxy. And only Sillow has any chance of stopping it.

Sounds exciting! What else are you working on?


At present I’m writing a sort of steam punk fantasy. I’ve always enjoyed mixing genres but I’ve not tried anything like this before. It’s very slow going especially as it keeps evolving and forcing me to constantly revise, but it’s also great fun.

What other novels have you written?

I write a lot of short stories but my longer works tend to be between twenty to sixty thousand words, so novellas up to short novels. I’ve six novels/ novellas out to date and these cover horror, fantasy and science fiction.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Pacing. To deal with this I sometimes set out the plot points as if it were a screenplay (for example, the inciting incident, plot point/turning points 1 and 2 and also break it into three acts).

What are you planning on writing in the near future?

Without doubt more Dragon novels. So far these have been fast paced, action orientated and somewhat comedic in tone. I feel however that the next one needs to have a harder edge and a darker tone than previously. It’s something I’m figuring out at the moment.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I’m a college lecturer and teacher trainer. I taught abroad for many years but I’ve been working at a college in my home town for over ten years now.

What motivates or inspires you?

Escapism. I write mostly speculative fiction and the more I can create my own landscapes, worlds, characters and back stories the more I enjoy it.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Having the courage to pack in my supermarket job and go to university when I was in my mid-twenties. Many people at the time told me I was making a mistake but it was something I knew I had to do. It was the best decision I ever made.

And I'm certain your fans would agree with you. Okay, now comes the part of the interview where I ask three quick questions and hope for three quick replies. Ready?

My best friend would tell you: I’m a worrier. I work hard at not being one, and normally I do a reasonable job at it, but the natural tendency is always there.
  
The one thing I cannot do without is:
My morning cup of Earl Grey tea. I allow myself one caffeine drink a day and I wouldn’t be able to get going in the morning without it.

My biggest peeve is:
I tend to have more of these as I get older but queue jumping is close to the top of the list.

James has been gracious to give us an excerpt from his most recent work, Dragon: The Tower of Tamerlane.

“Take a good look Drake,” the guard said as the craft closed on the gigantic, ornate structure resting between frozen mountains. “This is the end of the line for you. I hear Tamerlane wanted you personally.” The man grinned, splitting his ugly face in half. “Which ain’t good for your scrawny ass, believe me.”
The prisoner remained indifferent to the mocking tones or indeed the attempt to scare him, but then Darius Drake was a most unusual figure. Small and malformed, his owlish eyes nevertheless exuded an absolute, unshakable confidence, a haughty detachment that often unnerved those around him. The guard was one of them. It was partly for this reason he felt compelled to say something to the perfectly silent prisoner who’d got so deep under his skin.
Drake regarded the structure below. The closer they came, the more like some bizarre, oriental tower it appeared. After some moments he turned his watery gaze back to the guard. There was no aggression, no challenge, just a cool contempt.
The smirk crumbled from the other man’s lips. “You be taking those psycho eyes off me freak,” he warned, lifting his rifle.
Drake blinked impassively back, his wrinkled, wizened features unreadable.
Those damned eyes, the man thought. He couldn’t stand them anymore. He moved forward, stopping the rifle butt an inch or so in front of Drake’s face.
The little man didn’t flinch.
The guard’s knuckles whitened around the weapon and for a moment he looked as if he might use it. Then he sneered. “You ain’t worth it. Little cripple like you.” He shook his head, sitting back down. He made a point of avoiding the prisoner’s eyes.
A derisive snort made him whirl round, a large blue vein bulging in his neck. The guard stared at a powerfully built, buxom woman with long auburn curls that fell to her shoulders. She was a striking sight, and as he was aware, she’d caught him more than once ogling her during their half day’s journey to Tamerlane’s prison complex. One of her shoulders and arm was completely cybernetic yet the metal was so smooth, so perfectly formed it seemed almost like a bodily adornment rather than an artificial appendage. A thin silver line ran across one of her cheeks whilst above it the eye glowed with an artificial soft ruby light. That eye was mocking him.
“You got a problem?” he snarled.
The woman sneered. “Real tough guy, aren’t you Kerry? Bet all the ladies are real impressed by you.”
     The guard’s nostrils flared. “Shut your bitch mouth.” Narrowed eyes swept over her. “Look at you, Titanya, the Pirate Queen. Least that’s what they call you, ain’t it?” He slid along his bench, moving towards her. “Well, you don’t look so noble to me. More like a slattern.” He placed a gloved hand to her throat. “Don’t look so damn tough, neither.”

Great! James, I want to thank you for the excerpt and for the interview.

Here are a few ways to connect with author James Austin McCormick:

Book online sales links

You can connect with James on Twitter: Jimbomcc69

Or on his Facebook Author Page: 






Monday, April 11, 2016

AUTHOR K S FERGUSON TALKS ABOUT "REALITY GLITCH" AND MORE

I’m delighted to present the first in a series of interviews with my co-authors of the new Sci-fi and Fantasy anthology, Reality Glitch - 11 exciting stories from 11 authors from around the globe.

Today, I’m joined by K S Ferguson who lives in Washington State. K S has published one critically-acclaimed novella, Puncher's Chance (co-written with James Grayson,) which appeared in the June 2006 edition of AnalogScience Fiction and Fact, America's longest-running science fiction magazine. She's since completed another five novels. She enjoys writing suspense and murder mysteries in futuristic and fantasy settings, and occasionally writes fiction in the guise of technical manuals for unfinished software—otherwise known as help documentation.

Welcome K S.

Hi Gerard

I’m happy you’ve agreed to this interview. Let’s get to it.

1) So, tell us about your most recent release.

My latest release is “A Moment of Madness,” my contribution to an anthology with 10 other international authors. The work is titled Reality Glitch.

My last novel was Undercover Madness, the second book in the River Madden series. River Madden is a hapless schizophrenic with the uncontrolled ability to fracture dimensional barriers. He works for Dimension Protective Services, a cooperative organization comprised of members from the human dimension, a dimension where Raptors are the dominant intelligent life form, and another dimension where Neanderthals are dominant.

2) Sounds very Sci-fi. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book, and how did you overcome it?

Writing River Madden is what I do for enjoyment between writing my other two series. River is a strange and crazy character who goes on wild adventures. He has a wry sense of humor and a talent for finding trouble. My greatest fear was that after writing the first novel and then taking a break to write another book, I wouldn't be able to find his unique voice again. But it flowed onto the page the same as it did the first time. I have no idea where his voice comes from. My other works sound nothing like his stories.

3) Tell us what else are you working on.

Family Owned, the third novel in my SF mystery series. Here's the description of the series:

The year is 2040. Earth recovers from a flu pandemic that killed a third of the population and left another third crippled. Jump gates allow travel between worlds, but the handful of galactic colonies are run by mega-corporations more concerned with profits than people.

Rafe McTavish, self-made man, believes it's possible to be a capitalist corporate executive and a humanitarian. Kama Bhatia, the love of his life, computer genius, and corporate spy, challenges him to prove it. Together they unmask greed-driven murderers less concerned about body count than with crushing their competitors.

4) What other novels have you written?

Two novels in my futuristic Rafe and Kama mystery series, two novels and a short story in my River Madden series, and the first novel in my Hellhound series, which features a supernatural PI and is set in 1968, No Place Like Hell.

5) Here’s a question I normally ask mystery writers, but I know your books, even though they're Sci-Fi adventures, fall into this vein, as well. How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

You do mean in my books, right? Because I've entertained the idea of sending a pipe bomb to more than one member of upper management at some of the corporations I've worked for. So far, I've been able to resist the temptation.

In my books, an appalling number. Sometimes they're the primary victim, and sometimes they're collateral damage as the hero closes in on the villain, and the villain gets desperate. I've even done in the occasional likable secondary character. But I never kill kids or dogs. I don't need the hate mail.

6) Speaking about “other” jobs you’ve worked at, do you have another job outside of writing?

I do the occasional project in the computer industry. Sometimes that's technical writing or editing. Occasionally it's project management or production work. I'm not fussy.

7) Let’s talk about motivation. What motivates or inspires you, and this doesn’t necessarily have to apply to your writing?

I find motivation and inspiration in trailer music. (That's the epic music written to accompany movie trailers.) Like the blurb or opening of a good book, the music has to communicate the promise of what the work contains, and it has to make an immediate and memorable emotional attachment of the viewer/listener to the movie, all in a minute or two. The best composer in the trailer business are absolute geniuses. I frequently select a piece with the same emotional content as the scene that I'm writing and put it on loop. It helps me to find the right words to convey what I want the reader to feel.

8) Any pet projects you’re working on at this moment?

I've spent the last couple of years exploring 3D art creation, and more recently, I've dipped into 3D animation. I hope to ship an animated trailer for Reality Glitch. I used what I've learned to create the Reality Glitch cover.

And you’ve created a great cover (featured here) and a terrific trailer, which can be seen in my last blog. Okay, three quick questions for you for three quick answers. Ready?

1)      My best friend would tell you I’m a …

            A champion for the underdog.

2)      The one thing I cannot do without is:

            My morning cup of tea.

3)      The one thing I would change about my life:

            I would have started writing sooner.

K S has graciously allowing us a sneak peak at her short story “A Moment of Madness,” which you’ll find in Reality Glitch.

Heat melted the soles of my sneakers until they oozed and slipped across the metal surface of Dodo's new transdimensional platform. Sweat poured down my face and dampened my back. I wasn't one of those brave guys who thrived on danger. Why, oh why, had I agreed to go for a test drive of the little white Raptor's latest invention? All I wanted was to get home alive.
"The coolant system chirp-caw-clack does not work as expected, River Madden," Dodo squawked, referring to whatever had broken in her own dino language. She hunched low over the mushroom-shaped control console in the center of the eight-foot diameter flat metal plate that carried us through D-space, the demon-filled void that existed between dimensions. The little Rap looked like she might collapse from heat stroke any second.
I could barely hear Dodo over the chanting of the Neanderthal ex-priest pyromaniac who stood at the outer edge of the platform. His mop handle rang against the floor in time to his magical intonation, the mop's string head waving and dancing a crazy jig. I'd dubbed the teenage Nean Flash, an acronym for his fancy formal title, and it had stuck.
In response to Flash's spell, a wall of blistering flame crackled around our flimsy conveyance, separating us from the dangers of D-space, a place where intelligent creatures of all stripes went gibbering drooling mad without a Nean's holy protection. I'd seen what lay in the void beyond the flames and returned sane. Well, at least as sane as I was when I went in. Being schizophrenic, my sanity was often in doubt. But without shielding, my Rap and Nean companions would have their minds broken in a million unrecoverable pieces.
Just my luck that the only Nean able to travel with me on board could only conjure fire. Why couldn't the insolent kid make a soothing light wall like the rest of the priests? No, the kid had to make our shields into a towering inferno that barbequed us to a crisp.

Many thanks to K S Ferguson for the interview and for allowing us a peek at her story.

Reality Glitch: There are cracks in reality… sparking mysterious events, allowing spirits to enter from the other side, or sending us to strange places we never knew existed. Take the journey… if you dare.

Reality Glitch has a publishing date of April 20th, 2016. You can pre-order you Kindle edition on Amazon: http://goo.gl/MxQDTW
Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy

To learn more about K S Ferguson please log onto her Website: http://www.ksferguson.net  
  





Thursday, April 7, 2016

REALITY GLITCH - 11 INTERNATIONAL SCI-FI & FANTASY AUTHORS IN ONE COLLECTION

I’m excited to announce the release of Reality Glitch, a short story anthology by 11 Sci-Fi & Fantasy authors from around the globe, including yours truly, Gerard Bianco from Maine.

Reality Glitch will be released on April 20th, 2016. A highly-entertaining collection of eleven stories certain to keep you turning pages. These are tales of the weird, the uncanny, and the unnatural. A terrible future, a broken past, a world splitting apart, mysteries in time, secrets of the dead, other worlds, alternate dimensions, 

There are cracks in reality… sparking mysterious events, allowing spirits to enter from the other side, or sending us to strange places we never knew existed. Take the journey… if you dare.

Buy it now on Amazon: http://goo.gl/7fiy82


Saturday, April 2, 2016

JEAN FLAHIVE - A MAINE AUTHOR, PASSIONATE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION

I’m here today to interview Maine author, Jean Flahive, to talk, among other things, about her novel, Railroad to the Moon. If you haven’t already read this book put it on your “To Read List” - it’s a must for anyone who loves stories relating to Maine history and the Civil War.

Hi Jean!

Hi Gerard.

Great to have you here. Let’s get right to the interview, shall we?


1)      Please tell us about your most recent release.

Railroad to the Moon is the story of a runaway slave living on a small farm in Maine. When the Civil War ends, he returns to his homeland to search for his pappy. His journey south, however, is bittersweet. While committed to returning to Maine, Elijah is filled with conflicting desires. In a chance meeting, Elijah befriends Oren Cheney, the founder of Bates College in Maine, who works tirelessly to solve his dilemma. Weaving historical realities into a work of fiction, this is a tale of friendship, loyalty, and a solemn promise. The novel sheds light on Cheney’s lifelong commitment to the abolition of slavery and his remarkable actions to create access to education for emancipated slaves.


2)     What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book, & how did you overcome it?

Over the years, people who read Billy Boy asked me to continue with Elijah’s story. Elijah was my creation, and while I was very ‘attached’ to Elijah and anxious to bring him back, I wanted a Maine historical figure to weave a plausible story around. I searched long and hard for such a person. I nearly gave up until I discovered the most remarkable man whose real story was a perfect fit for my runaway slave.

3)      What else are you working on?

A children’s book manuscript was recently picked up by a publisher and we are in the midst of fine-tuning and selecting an illustrator.
     
4)        What other novels have you written?

Billy Boy, The Sunday Soldier of the 17th Maine was my first novel. A historical fiction, the story is based on a true person, Billy Laird, a mentally challenged young farmer who mustered in the Civil War.

5)      Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

At the book launch with my first novel, a reviewer purchased a copy and it suddenly hit me that someone would actually read the book and publicly comment on it. I gasped as the realization hit me. The stranger looked at me and said, “What did you expect? You’ve just bared yourself to the world.” Fortunately he gave me a great review. So I guess it’s angst I go through whenever a book is released.

6)    What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

I think it’s critical to achieving an authentic voice with the characters we create or write about. I searched for a long time to find the right voice for a Maine historical figure, a Freewill Baptist Minister. I knew I was on unfamiliar ground, but in time I met a wonderful pastor who thoroughly embraced this historical figure and gave me the authenticity I was seeking.


7)    What are you planning on writing in the near future?

I’m really enjoying writing children’s books that shed light on fascinating people or shedding light on lesser known pieces of history.

About your “other” life:

1)      Do you have another job outside of writing?

Although retired, I occasionally write grants for non-profits. I write grants pro bono for MacCanDo, a track and field club for inner city, at-risk youth in San Francisco. Over the years, many of these kids who never experienced after school programs, have gone on to compete in the National Junior Olympics.  How could I give up on them?


2)     Would you care to share something about your home life?

It’s nice to slow down after a long career in higher education. I still rise early but now I either write or read and ease into the day. I take a brisk walk or casual stroll on the beach. Our home life is peaceful except when I’m pushing my husband’s vintage Saabs around the yard or down the street. I wish he had smaller toys. But we like to celebrate the day’s end with a glass of wine and an all too often a fresh baguette.


3)     What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

Even at my ‘senior’ age, I do not wish to stand still in life. I want to be engaged, productive.  I ask myself, “Did I do good today?”

4)     How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

It’s easy to become immobilized when you are experiencing great distress, but I learned the only way out is through. I worked hard to teach myself to critically think and to problem-solve as a way to get to ‘the other side.’

5)     What has been your greatest success in life?

This would be an easy answer if I had children, but since I’m ‘barren’ of my own, then my published works are my success. At least with my books, I like to think I’m leaving a small footprint behind.

6)     What do you consider your biggest failure?

I’m one of those individuals who needed a mentor at a tender age, but lacking that, it took me a long time to find my way. I feel as if I lost some productive years.


7)     Do you have any pet projects?

Beaches are a treasure drove for me. I use my ‘gatherings’ to make crafts. Our house is littered with driftwood trees, sea urchins, sea glass and wall-hangings made from shells and scraps of washed up fishermen’s netting.


8)    Who/what has been your greatest inspiration?

My mother was a natural writer, and she loved to wordsmith my high school essays. We used to argue over the best verbs or adjectives to use. She died too young, unaware that she had triggered in me the love of writing. Fortunately, my husband inspired me to write my first novel—he even gave me the story. He continues to ‘find’ stories for me.

Here are a few quick questions that will shed some light on the person behind the author persona:

1)      My best friend would tell you I’m a …  good listener, a little on the quiet side
2)      The one thing I cannot do without is:   bakeries
3)      The one thing I would change about my life:   They say youth is wasted on the young. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the wisdom that comes with age and be 30 again?
4)      My biggest peeve is:   The politics of ‘No

5)      The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:  My loving husband, of course!

Thank you, Jean. Great interview!

Here’s a bonus: Jean has graciously sent us an excerpt from Railroad to the Moon.

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
 If there's shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want
 a taste of freedom, keep going.”
                                                           Harriet Tubman
September 1863
          The bloodhounds were close, their hoarse-ringing bays shattering the quiet stillness
of the forest. They would overtake him soon. He shot a glance in either direction and ran deeper into the woods, toward the nearby ridge. Branches lashed his face and arms. He stumbled, catching a bare foot on a protruding tree root. He fell hard onto the ground, but fear drove him to his feet.  He fled down the steep embankment weaving his way through the jagged outcroppings. When he reached the bottom, his eyes panned the narrow ravine for a place to hide.  Then he spotted the hounds running along the ridge. They found his trail down the rocky embankment. A rifle cracked the air, its bullet splintering into a tree only inches from his head. No time to hide. He scrambled up the ledge to the other side.
Sweat trickled down his back and he winced in pain, his wounds from the last whipping splitting open from the unrelenting chase. Water, he must find water to lose his scent and the bloodhounds. 
          He reached the top of the ridge, gasping, inhaling huge gulps of air. A deer spooked in front of him and disappeared into a narrow opening through dense thicket.  He followed the small doe, hoping the deer path would lead him to her watering hole. 
          The path opened onto a clearing, leaving him exposed to the slave catchers and the dogs. Frantic, he ran along the clearing’s edge, eager for the cover of the woods. 
Bear scat.
He leaned over and touched it. Warm.
The bloodhounds bayed behind him. They had reached his side of the ravine, and soon would break through the woods. Too close.
He pushed his bare feet into the bear scat and using his hands, smeared it up and down his legs.  He ran into the copse of trees and then stopped, fearful the hounds would hear him crashing through the woods.  He hid behind a thick oak, hoping the scat would disguise his scent.   The hounds entered the clearing.  Massive, powerful beasts with long heads and wrinkled skin.  Two slave catchers came into view.  Then a third man emerged from the thicket, his broad chest heaving, his shirt soaked with sweat.  Buckra!  No!  The brutal overseer who had lashed him repeatedly since he first arrived at the Fowler plantation. 
The bloodhounds reached the scat. Black noses feverishly sniffed at the ground.
Shouts.
“It’s scat!  They’re sniffing the dang bear scat!”
“Confound it!  Git ‘em moving!”
The handler urged his dogs forward. But they continued to circle the scat, noses to the ground. 
“Why them hounds circling this here scat?”
          The handler glanced down. The bear scat had been disturbed. “Your darkie stepped in it is why. Thought he might lose the dogs. Confused ‘em for a moment, but their heads are up. Picked up his scent again.” 
          Stories of runaways torn to pieces by bloodhounds unleashed his adrenaline. Panicked, he ran wildly, his arms and body snagging branches, the dried limbs snapping noisily like cracks from a rifle.      
The dogs breached the forest. It was over.
Purposefully he dropped to the ground, curled into a ball, his arms protecting his face. Terror welled in his throat.
Howling, the hounds circled him.
          Then a voice, familiar, frightening. He opened his eyes. It was him.
Buckra. A horrifying grin wormed across his face. “Bet you thinking them hound dogs was going to tear you to pieces.”
A long, sharp blade flickered in his outstretched hand. “That’s for me to do.” 
          “No, suh! No! No!”     
          His body shook; his arms flailing at the air.
“Elijah!  Elijah, it’s me, Jamie. Wake up!  It’s only a nightmare.” 

Here's Jean's Bio and links to where you can find her book:

Jean Flahive, who lives in South Portland, Maine, has had a lifelong interest in the Civil War and Maine history. Following a long career in higher education as a dean of students and adjunct instructor, Jean worked as a grant writer for numerous non-profits. She's the author of two Maine historical fictions, Billy Boy, The Sunday Soldier of the 17th Maine, and Railroad to the Moon, Elijah’s Story and co-author of two children’s books, Remember Me, Tomah Joseph's Gift to Franklin Roosevelt, which won the Moonbeam Gold Award for Best Multi-Cultural Children's Picture Book in 2009, and The Galloping Horses of Willowbrook, which was a finalist in the 2012 Maine Literary Awards. All of her works shed light on what she calls the ‘lesser known stories of Maine history.’

Latest Title: Railroad to the Moon, Elijah’s Story
Publication Date: 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction

Online sales links:

Website:  www.jeanflahive.com