Character Interview: Dave D’Alessio’s Forest

I ventured into the world of FANTASY/HUMOR author, Dave D’Alessio’s, story ‘The Yak Butter Diaries’ to meet his character, Forest, and asked him some questions. In this interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Forest’ was written by Dave D’Alessio.

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A light snow fell the night before, and for long stretched the prairie was nothing more than a white sheet. It did not snow heavily this far south, and the warmth of the sun rising to the east suggested that the blanket would not last long.

The road was empty. People around here had hunkered down for the winter, living off what they had stored, and what they hunted, and what they could draw from their herds. During the winter here people kept each other warm inside. They had plenty of traveling to do once the spring muds had hardened up, driving their herds north to the great stockyards of Chikasa.

It was noon and the snows had started to turn to slush. In the distance, there was a herd of dark shapes standing quietly. Shaggily furred, with large faces and curved horns and strong shoulders: these must be the musk oxen the city was known for. A solitary bull, head up, kept an eye on the herd, and also, it had to be said, the traveler. It was the wrong time of year for the cows to interest him, but as far as he was concerned they were his cows, and no one was going to take them away without a good head butting.

The cows, more sensible by far, pawed at the ground, turning up tufts of prairie grass. Many were accompanied by a calf or two, each less than a year old, their spindly legs barely able to hold up their stately shoulders.

A man was with them. He wore a fringed leather jacket that looked plenty warm enough for the weather, and soft leather trousers, and a flat, broad hat that he took off and waved. “Howdy!” he shouted. “Town’s thataway!”

The town was indeed thataway. It was a good town, a happy town. It sprawled across the prairie willy nilly, houses built wherever the builder felt best building them, daub smeared on wattle, with a good, warm straw roof atop. Smoke rose from each, a fragrant, pungent smoke that made it clear the people knew which end of the musk ox was in, and which was out (in much the same way that big city folk claim, against all evidence, to know which end is up). Happy children played in the street, and here the riches of the town first could be seen, for the toys the children played with, the geegaws and fozwazzlers, had been made in the workshops of Wenyork, many days travel to the north, or even brought across the great ocean Wenyork sat upon. The men and women carried steel knives and kitchens were lined with copper and iron pots, despite the fact that no one could see a mine or smelter or tinker for miles.

One man watched the playing children, a tall, lean man with a broad smile across his leathery face. He looked up. “Howdy,” he said. “I’m Techs, the headman here. Are you lookin’ fer someone special, or just lookin’? Either way’s good.”

Kelly took a look around at everything, and she set her gaze on the man. “I’m looking for someone named Forest. Could you direct me to him?”

“Figured,” Techs said, amiably. A child’s ball skittered near his feet, and he flipped it back with a twist of the ankle. “This time of year he’s about our biggest attraction. Come on along.” He turned and strode off, clearly knowing his way around the randomly constructed streets.

Kelly furrowed her brows as she followed him through the streets. “What do you mean biggest attraction?”

Techs grinned and clarified. “He ain’t from around here. And then he’s his daddy’s boy. That Tamosan Acorn…he was a strange one.” He looked back at her, and added, “No offense but you to be a pretty strange one yerself, and you know about them birds and feathers and such.” He tipped his broad, flat hat to a passing woman and said, “Mornin’, ma’am.”

Kelly was a little confused but smiled. “Well, I’m not from around here either, but I was told to find Forest to ask him some questions. Don’t worry though, I won’t be hanging around too long. Just long enough to have a chat with him, and then I’d be leaving”

“Sure.” He led the way through the twisting paths, chatting amiably about such esoteric topics as differences in preparing roasted bean broth between cities along the Great Ocean and extinction rates among musk ox predators. “And we’ll never know fer sure, since they’s dead,” he concluded at the door to one hut. He raised his voice. “Howdy, you all. Anyone home?”

The hut was constructed much like the others, although the snow in front of the door, what was left of it by now, had been carefully brushed away. Like the others, it was made up of interconnected domes, rooms for cooking and sleeping and entertaining, typically. Unlike most of the others, a fourth, larger dome was connected. “That there’s the buttery,” Techs said. “His daddy built that.”

A hide drape…from the look of it a musk ox hide of a faintly bluish tint…opened up. The man pushing it aside said, “Howdy, Techs. What’s up? Want some hot broth?” He took in the guest and added, “You look like you could use something warm. Come on in.”

Kelly nodded as she followed him inside. “Are you Forest? I was told I could find you here. I’m Kelly. I’m not sure if you were expecting my visit though.”

The man called Techs waved amiably and ambled off as the man led her inside. “Yes, I’m Forest, this is Bethan, and our little girl, Singa,” the man said. He stood out from the others of the town in small ways that the woman did not. Like the other villagers she was very lean, her skin burned dark, and her hair blond and curly. Her eyes were bright, clear, and happy, and she smiled straight white teeth. He was, well, not quite like that. He seemed rounder, somehow, not fat, but rounder at the joints and rounder in the face. He seemed naturally darker of skin, not sun burnt but naturally the color of roasted bean broth with a lot of milk in it, and his short-cropped hair was black and straight. The others seemed athletic, while he appeared graceful as well. And his smile seemed crooked, somehow, as though he’d been fed oddly early in life. “Kuuky’s around here somewhere, too,” Forest added, peeking through the door flap. “I think he’s gone to get some water from the well.”

The hut, for being a daub and wattle hut, was remarkably clean and nicely appointed. Furniture was simple, most just rugs and cushions scattered across the floor, but the rugs and cushions were clean, well-made, and attractively patterned with geometric shapes in primary colors. Clean whitewash on the walls brightened the room. Again, many of the objects scattered around the room informally had a foreign look to them, as though they had been made elsewhere. One, a doll figure of a man with grotesquely padded shoulders caught Forest’s eye. “My dad brought that back from Chikasa,” he explained. “It’s a game they play there.” He pushed the doll into his daughter’s arms. Typical of a child that age, she promptly threw it across the room.

Kelly smiled at the small family. She nodded specifically toward Bethan. “My niece’s name is Bethan. She’s wonderful.” She smiled at her then set her gaze on Forest, watching as he dealt with his child. “So this place seems to be a ‘everyone-knows-everyone’ kind of place, and outsiders are quite obvious. Has that made your life easier or difficult?”

Bethan smiled at the implied complement. “Thank ‘ee,” she said, snatching up little Singa before she could hurtle into the fragrant fireplace. As for Forest, he just shrugged. “For me, no. I love it here. I must have been one when Daddy brought me here, something like that. I’ve never lived anywhere else that I remember.” He glanced to his wife and she said, “Don’t ask me. I don’t remember those days any better than you do.” Forrest waved his hand toward the west, toward the high ground barely visible on the horizon to the west. “Daddy carried me down from out there, and I’ve never seen a reason to go back.”

“So you’ve never left?” Kelly lifted her brows then glimpsed out the window to the horizon. “You’ve never ventured too far?”

“North,” he said immediately. With Bethan holding down the child fort, he got up to pour mugs of fragrant liquid from a pot hanging over the fire. “Want some roasted bean broth?” he asked, handing a mug to Bethan and taking one for himself. “North,” he repeated, “and east to the ocean. Every spring we run the muskies up to Chikasa, trade em up for food and such, and run that over the hills to Wenyork.” He shook the kettle, swirling it. “It’s good Wenyork bean,” he offered. “We make out pretty good working the triangle route for trede.”

“I’m good, thank you.” Kelly declined politely. “It’s definitely beautiful countryside. And it looks like you are very happy here…all of you.” She smiled at the family before setting her gaze on Forest. “Yet I understand that your father isn’t your birth father but rather adopted you. Do you know what happened to your birth parents?” She furrowed her brows.

“I told him,” Forest recalled. “I musta been thirteen, something like that. I told him, ‘You’re not my father, but you’re my daddy.'” He pulled up a cushion, sat on it cross-legged, and blew across his mug. “He helped my mama birth me. She died, and he carried me to the nearest town and took care of me. As for my real father, I don’t know him, I don’t want to know him, and if I meet him I’ll probably punch him in the eye.” “You could hit him with your stick,” Bethan suggested, smiling to indicate she was joking, but he answered seriously, “Do-se-d’oh is for self-defense. If I want to hurt someone personally…” He rubbed his hand across his knuckles and laughed. “But I ain’t gonna see him, so it won’t come up.”

“I don’t blame you for your hostility toward him even though you’ve never meant him, but have you ever simply wondered ‘why’ he wasn’t there? Why he left?” Kelly looked at him. She hadn’t been invited to sit yet, so she didn’t sit. She wasn’t sure what the customs were of this place, but she knew to wait until she was invited rather than simply presuming. “I’m good friends with some siblings that were adopted, and they’ve always had questions. Not because they are unhappy or discontent in their life. They just want to know why. Has that ever plagued you?”

Forest leaned back on his cushion and stretched out his legs. Jokingly, Bethan pushed him aside. “Make room for someone else,” she said, still hanging on the the squirming little girl. Forest pulled his legs back and said, “Take a load off, Mary…Sorry. I know your name is Kelly. It’s a line from an old song.” He smirked to himself. “My daddy couldn’t sing at all…Him I miss. He headed off north a couple years back and no one’s seen him since, not even in Chikasa.” He pulled his legs in and wrapped his arms around them. “You know who I’d like to see? My godmother. But all I know about her is that he name was Mother Nanaw, she gave me my baby name, and she owns a couple donkeys.” He glanced toward the west and asked, “There a lot of ladies that own two donkeys that way?”

Kelly sat finally and furrowed her brows, a little uncertain what he was asking. “Neighbor’s family owns donkeys, but not me or anyone I know other than that.” She shook her head, but then she set her gaze on Forest. She realized he didn’t answer the question she had asked, and she would let it slide–for the moment. “Why did your daddy leave?”

Forest sighed, probably unconsciously. “He was raised by monks, you know?” He voice is quieter. “They send him out down the mountain to find his place in the world…That’s what he was doing before he found me, looking around the world for his place. Man, the stories he used to tell. I think half of us here didn’t believe any of them. Then a couple days before the wedding, a stranger come to town and gave him a walking staff and a pot. It had real yak butter in it,” he said as Bethan reached out to take his hand in hers. “That told him it was time he was on his way again. ‘Now you have your place,’ he told me, ‘and I must find mine.'”

Kelly frowned as she leaned forward.  “But if he was here with you, had a life here, wouldn’t that be his place?”

Forest shrugged. “I guess not. Everyone here thought he was a little strange, so maybe you could say he had a good life in the wrong place.” He thought back, eyes looking away to nowhere. “He used to get up every morning, to meditate and practice his do-se-d’oh, when a regular fellow would have just stayed in the sleeping furs. And he set up the buttery.” He laughed. “We made out good with that. They give us great trades on musky butter, don’t they. After that cow butter they get in Chikasa, they can’t get enough of the musky butter…But dad always said yak butter was better.” He fell silent for a second and said, “Maybe once you’re raised on something, a substitute just isn’t right, if you know what I mean.”

Kelly nodded. “But you’ve settled in quite well, it seems. Even though you too are a bit different, it seems you’ve found your place.” She smiled at him. “So do you wonder about him? Where he is now? If you could tell him anything, what would it be?”

Forest glanced over to Bethan, but she wasn’t looking. Sometimes a mother has nothing better to do than fuss with her daughter. “I think about him all the time,” he said in a quiet voice. “I mean, I’ve talked to old Kuuky. He’s like sixty, and he says you never stop missing your daddy. When he is?” He shrugged. “We went outside that night, out in the dark after the wedding. I asked him where he was going, and he tossed his staff in the air, and in came down pointing north, and he said, ‘North.'” He thought back to day night. “It was pushing fall, so north was not best way to be going that time of year, but the stick pointed north, so north he went. He was like that.” He shrugged his shoulders. “If you see him, tell him he’s welcome back any time. Maybe it’s not his place, but he’s welcome to put his feet up for a while.”

Kelly nodded as she smiled. She thought about the course of the conversation and determined that this was a good stopping point. “Well, I would stick around to ask more questions, but I have elsewhere I need to be, and I think I’ve imposed on all of you for long enough.” She rose to her feet. “Thank you though for agreeing to meet with me and for answering my questions. It was delightful to chat with you.”

Forest got up to his feet, standing politely for the guest. “Sure, you, too,” he agreed. “Want a pot of butter for the road? It’s good musky butter, fermented for three months. Real good on a stack of flat cakes or a porridge.”

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to take it with me where I’m going, but thank you.” She smiled at him. “I’ve got to get going. May all of you have a wonderful day. And thanks again for the meeting! Take care of yourself.” She nodded to them before heading out.

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Dave D’Alessio’s novel, ‘The Yak Butter Diaries’ can be found on Amazon. Also, be sure to follow him on social media for more updates on his work!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N202JXA

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Dave-DAlessio-595586537188347

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-W.-DAlessio/e/B0070GLS9E

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dalessio_dave

Character Interview: Rishika’s Fiona

Today I met Rishika’s character, Fiona, from her MYSTERY/ROMANCE novel, ‘The Captured’, and got to ask her a few questions. In this interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me while ‘Fiona’ was written by Rishika.

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Fiona entered a coffee shop in norther fresco California and ordered her coffee. She saw it was raining. Fiona got her coffee and went to sit and took out her laptop to start working.

Coming out of the rain, Kelly pushed her hood off her head and looked around. She saw Fiona sitting at a table with her laptop, but before going to her Kelly went to the counter, ordered some hot chocolate to ward off the chill from the rain. Once she received her order, she went to the table. “Are you Fiona?” When Fiona lifted her gaze to her, Kelly smiled. “I’m Kelly. Thanks for meeting with me. How are you doing today?” She sat across from her.

Fiona smiled at Kelly. “I am fine.”

“Good.” Kelly nodded. “So I hear you and some friends of yours went to Europe. Where exactly did you visit?” She tilted her head to the side before taking a sip of her drink.

Fiona was happy. “I went to the museum and did some shopping.”

“I mean, Europe is a big place, lots of different countries. Which countries did you visit?” Kelly sat back in her chair.

Fiona touched her head. “Actually we went to Greece and we did some shopping we stayed in a hotel next to the beach and visited the world best museum.”

“Very nice.” Kelly smiled. “And you went with Olivia, Isabella, Gerry and Bernard, right? How do you know them?”

Fiona laughed. “Well, I knew them since childhood and they are my best friend it was so nice going out with them.”

“That’s wonderful! It’s not often childhood friends stick around. So I”m glad you all have.” Kelly nodded. “So I understand you met Jacob, but did you meet him on your travels?”

Fiona frowned. “He follows me everywhere I go, and interferes in my life. I couldn’t enjoy so much.”

“But how did you meet him? Surely he hasn’t been following you all your life…or has he?” Kelly tilted her head to the side, furrowing her brows.

Fiona nodded her head and sitting down in her sofa. “Oh well, he has been following me but since then he has stopped.”

Kelly lifted her hand to rub her forehead. She was trying to get a specific answer, but Fiona wasn’t answering it. “Okay, so when did he start following you?”

Fiona grinned. “Well since the day he died”

“And when did he die? Did you know him before he died?”

Fiona made a sad face. “He died last year, and I did know him very well before he died.”

“I see.” Kelly nodded. Finally an answer she was looking for. Kelly sat back in her chair. “What was he like before he died?”

Fiona stared at Kelly. “He was a very handsome man and very caring and loving he used to understand me very well.”

“And suddenly when he dies, he becomes a stalker ghost?” Kelly frowned. “Why do you think that is?”

“Well, he didn’t like me meeting my friends, and he used to get angry with them.”

“I see.” Kelly nodded. “That’s never a good thing.” She shook her head. “So has he stopped bothering you yet? Or is he still following you around?”

Fiona gave a angry look. “Well, he sometimes follows me. He captured one of my friend.”

Kelly raised a brow. “How did this happen?”

“When we were on a hotel in Greece going down for breakfast, we saw Bernard missing”.

“And he’s still missing?”

“Oh no, he got back because I told Jacob to send him back.”

Kelly shook her head, trying to keep track of everything. “I see…so, Jacob issues aside, let’s talk about sometime else.” Kelly smiled at Fiona. “I hear you’re attending university. What are you studying?”

“Fiona smiled back. “Well I am studying business studies.”

“Are you planning on opening your own business? If so, what kind of business?” Kelly took another sip of her drink. She had forgotten about it.

“Oh yes I am trying to open a bpo and  be settled in my life.” Fiona was content.

“I see.” Kelly nodded. “And what gave your the inspiration to open that? Or was it something you always wanted to do?”

“It was my dream and to fulfill my family wish.” Fiona jumped up and down talking about this.

“That’s always a good thing.” Kelly smiled. “Well, I hope you the best. Are you hoping to travel more though?”

Fiona smiled and said. “Yes I am planning to travel to France and Australia and more.”

“Fantastic! Will your friends be accompanying you too?” Kelly took another sip of her drink.

Oh Fiona was happy and said, “Oh yes they will be traveling with me,”

Kelly smiled as she set her drink back down on the table. “That is fantastic. So, tell me about your family a bit. Do you have any siblings? Are you really close to your family?”

Fiona smiled. “My family lives in Russia, and I am very close to them, I am their only daughter.”

“Russia??” Kelly lifted her brows. “How did you end up here? I mean, I think it’s great! But it’s a bit away from Russia.”

Fiona laughed. “Well I am a very independent girl and I wanted to go to California fresco. It is great to be here.”

“So how long have you been here? You said your friends and you have been childhood friends, but are they back in Russia too? Or did you grow up here? I’m not sure how that works…” Kelly furrowed her brows, a little confused.

“Oh well they were in Russia, and they all flew down with me to California. I have been here for 2 years.”

“I see.” Kelly nodded. That made a bit more sense. She sat back in her chair, pondering what to ask next. “So, what do you like about here that’s so different from Russia?”

Fiona sipped her drink and said, “Well, I like the environment and people over here it is better, Russia we don’t get friendly people.”

“Well, it’s quite cold in Russia, so…that could take the warmth out of people.” Kelly chuckled, shaking her head. “So does your family ever come to visit? Or do you go to Russia to visit?”

Fiona laughed and said, “I don’t go to Russia. They come to visit me, and I feel more comfortable when they come.”

“Very nice.” Kelly smiled with a nod but then frowned. “And do they know about the whole….Jacob situation?”

“Oh yes they know about the whole scenario with Jacob. They were so scared to loose me.”

“I can completely understand. Must be very frightening.” Kelly shook her head. “I’m glad you’re okay though…and your friends.” She smiled at Fiona then noticed the clock behind Fiona and saw the time. She frowned and looked back at Fiona. “Our time is almost up, so I will have to be going soon. However, before we go, another question: will Jacob be leaving you alone now? Or does he continue to show up on occasion?”

“Oh well, he will come back to me on occasion and will want to take all my friends though.”

“Well, stick together, and do whatever it is you have to do to get rid of him. I’m sorry you have such a problem. It’s unbelievable.” Kelly shook her head then sighed. “What do your friends think of that situation? Of Jacob? Are they angry with him? Scared of him?”

“They will kill him for sure. They wont leave him alone.”

“Interesting.” But how do you kill a ghost? Kelly wondered, but their time was up, so she sighed and rose to her feet. “Well, Fiona, unfortunately our time is up, and I have another obligation to attend. However, thank you for meeting with me and for answering all my questions. It was nice.” She smiled at her.

Fiona smiled back and said, “My pleasure, and have it was nice meeting you as well.”

Kelly smiled once more. “Have a wonderful day!” With that, she bowed her head to her and then headed out.

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Rishika’s book ‘The Captured’ is now available on Amazon. Be sure to follow her on Facebook for more updates on her books.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Captured-Rishika-Mirchandani-ebook/dp/B06XMQM7HX

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rishika-1824114947871007/

Author Interview: Dave D’Alessio

For this interview, I ventured into a sci-fi convention to ‘meet’ with FANTASY/HUMOR author, Dave D’Alessio. After finally locating each other in the crowd, we sat down in a quiet corner and talked about his book. As always, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Dave’ was written by Dave D’Alessio.

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Kelly parked her car and started at the crowd going into the sci-fi convention. She had to admit, she’d never been to one of these in her life, so this was new. The only question was, how was she going to find her interviewee in this mass of people? “I’ll be dressed as Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart,” he had told her, At least that narrowed it down…to the cosplay people.

Getting out of her car, she sent Dave D’Alessio a message letting him know she had arrived. She decided to get through the crowd and find a quiet place and let him find her. Otherwise she’d spend all her time here lost, and that wouldn’t be beneficial.

Once she found another place, she sent him another message, letting him know her location, and then she began to watch people as this was a wonderful opportunity for that.

A man in a green commando sweater and a tan beret with a UNIT badge pinned to it made his way through the gang, stopping once to admire a young lady in a purple cadet’s uniform and carrying a katana. “She’s here every year,” he explained. “Once someone asked her if this was just a bunch of people playing dress-up games and she recited the program to him from memory. Poor guy was dying.”

When Kelly heard this, she laughed. “Oh, that’s hilarious. You must be Dave D’Alessio.” She rose to her feet and extended her hand to shake his. “Great cosplay. Is this a good place to hang out? Or do you know someplace quieter?”

“Dave” took his beret off and put it down on the. “Now I’m out of character, so, yes. You must be Kelly. It’s nice to finally meet you.” He looked around the floor and then up into the air, as though visualizing the floor above. “We could look for an empty panel room, but people here are pretty cool. They won’t take pictures without asking permission, and they’ll leave us alone. That’s the rule. Cosplay is not consent.”

“That’s a pretty good rule to have. As long as we don’t get interrupted too much because an hour time is really not that long.” Kelly shook her head, and the two of them sat down. She glimpsed around at the crowds then looked back at Dave. “I tend to avoid these events because of the terrible headaches I get, so it’s nice to actually experience it.” She smiled at him. “I want to ask you about your life as a writer, but first I’ve got to ask, how did you get involved in cosplay?”

He rubbed a hand over his bald head, clearly older than most of the others. “I started coming here to listen to the writing guests. The first year I came they had Brandon Sanderson, Leona Wisocker, and Michael J. Sullivan, and they blew my mind. Sanderson is a really giving guy, and just took over the panels and made sure we got lots of great information. But in between I saw how cool everyone was with everyone else, so it seemed like a fun way to participate to get into character. Last year I came as Doctor Who #2 and got hooked up with my new friends in the Connecticut Whovians, so I guess it worked.” He smiled and ran a hand over his bald head.

Kelly smiled. “Sounds like a lot of fun. I’m glad you get to participate like that. Now though, let’s talk about your life as a writer.” She shifted in her seat to turn to look at him more fully, and she smiled at him. “When did you first become interested in writing?”

“High school,” he said immediately. “But I didn’t do much with it for years. Too busy having jobs.” He laughed. “But in 2007 a friend of mine from playing online RPGs, Jennifer Lautenschlager, told me about this NaNoWriMo thing. ‘You’d like it,’ she said, so I tried my first one starting on November 7th. Man, that book sucks!” He laughed again. Stuff just seemed to crack him up all the time.

Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Well, NaNoWriMo is always supposed to be a rough draft, so…” She gave a shrug but smiled at him. “But that was when you became interested in writing once more? How have you progressed from there to here?”

His eyebrows went up. “Good one,” he said. “Let me see…By 2008 I was ready for NaNo, so I was really excited to start. And I found a local group, the Fairfield County Writers Group, and they meet year-round, so even when we’re no NaNoing, we’ve got something going on. I  got my first published short…well, no, second. I got one out in the 1980’s…I got my second published short story out of a game we played at one meeting. Have you seen Rory’s Storycubes?” He takes an aging iPhone from his OD green pants. “I’ve got the app here if you haven’t.”

Kelly shook her head and looked at his phone as he showed her the app. She furrowed her brows. “So what exactly does it do?”

He fired up the phone and tapped the icon. “There are nine dice here, nine d6, and they each have different pictures on each side. So you roll them and try to make a story from the imagery…” He shook his phone and the cubes danced. “There’s um…keyhole, flashlight – that was one of the one’s I got that time – clock…I’m not sure what that is, a rainbow maybe…the scales of justice, or maybe just scales…” He poked at the screen, moving dice around. “I dunno…moon…It’s a way of generating visual prompts. The symbols can mean whatever you want them to.”

“Very interesting.” Kelly nodded. “I’ll have to look up the app once we’re done.” She smiled, sitting back in her seat. “So is that how you came up with the idea for your book? Or were you inspired some other way?”

“You mean this book, The Yak Butter Diaries?” Of course he had a copy. He took it from his backpack and riffled through the pages. “This was my 2014 NaNo project and I wanted to do something other than another space opera. So I made a list of things I thought people think make the world go around…you know, love, money, stuff like that. I threw it to the group, too, and they came up with some doozies. So, then I created a character, a sort of naif, and had him react to those things. It’s the journey of discovery,” he finished naming one of the seven basic plots.

Kelly looked over the cover of the book and nodded then had to smile at Dave’s simplistic way of describing the book. “Well, there’s a lot of stuff for sure. Who exactly is the main character? Tell me a bit about the story world you created.”

He grinned again. “Tamosan Acorn,” he said. “I was watching Yojimbo and there’s the one scene where the geishas come out and play the shamisen, but I couldn’t call him shamisen because I couldn’t spell it. And Acorn because he’s a founding brought to the monastery at the top of the Temple of Enlightenment, and the monks name all the foundlings ‘Acorn.'” He fingered a curving road on the cover of the book, leading into, or away from, the mountains. “The monks teach that each person has to find his own place in the world, so they send him off to find his place.”

“And so the story is about him finding his place in the world?” Kelly lifted her brows, looking back at the book. It sounded intriguing for sure.

He nodded. “Yes. It’s a bit of an allegory, so he runs into people in isolated villages who have their own view of the world, you know, that the world revolves around…Oh, sport, in one place, or fitness in another.” He smacked a hand across his mouth. “Sheesh, I actually said ‘allegory,’ and almost came out with ‘weltenschauung.’ That would have been a killer.”

Kelly laughed. She appreciated Dave’s sense of humor. “So, was there anything in the book that surprised you when you wrote it? Don’t need any spoilers! But…I’m curious.”

“I know the answer to that is supposed to be yes,” he said, “But the truth is I had that list of places, and I laid them out ahead of time, so I knew what he was going to run into.” He though back two-and-a-half years to the first draft. “The only rule I had was that he had to have a crock of yak butter and a staff, and for most of the book his friend Singhan, to get him out of trouble. Sometimes I caught him using one or more of them with a little more ingenuity than I would have shown.”

“Why did you have those requirements though?” Kelly furrowed her brows. She noticed the bold digital clock on the wall and saw their time was nearly up, but she turned her attention back to Dave to hear his answer. They still had a little more time.

“I caught you,” he said, looking at the clock himself. “Got a panel at 1 myself. Why those? Well, I wanted yak butter, or I couldn’t have called it The Yak Butter Diaries. I just thought it was suitably absurd. And as for his staff, well, he’s a monk so he needs a staff, and as for Singhan, I needed someone to tell the jokes. Tamosan is not an especially funny guy.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Well, all of that makes sense. Now, is this the first of a series, or is it a standalone book?”

“Standalone,” he said immediately. “Part of it was an experiment…I mostly write space operas, so I have one series of seven books plus a prequel and sequel. I’m working on a alternative history trilogy that turned into a quadrilogy, got a new series of what I call space light opera, comic space operas inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan plays…I just wanted to write something that stood on its own for a change. That’s why I self-published it,” he added. “They others I’m looking for agents and publishers for, but,” he held up the book, “This is so unlike what I normally write, except for the jokes, that it didn’t make sense to keep it with the others.”

Kelly smiled. “Well, it sounds like a wonderful experiment, and I really wish we had the time to talk more about your other work! But maybe another time! For now though, I need to get going, but I’ve really enjoyed this chat. Am quite curious how the character interview will go.” She rose to her feet with a smile. “Thanks for meeting with me and for answering my questions!”

Dave got up as well, and gave a polite half-bow. “Thank YOU! This was fun.” He looked around. “You’ll get out okay, right?” A giant Groot cosplayer walks by, twelve feet tall.

“Yep, I’ll find my way!” She saw the tall cosplayer and shook her head. That must have taken a lot of work. But then she looked back at Dave with a smile. “Have a great day!” With a wave and a smile, she headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Dave D’Alessio’s novel, ‘The Yak Butter Diaries’ can be found on Amazon. Also, be sure to follow him on social media for more updates on his work!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N202JXA

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Dave-DAlessio-595586537188347

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-W.-DAlessio/e/B0070GLS9E

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dalessio_dave

Author Interview: Rishika

In this interview, I met with Rishika, who’s from India, and listened as she told me more about her MYSTERY/ROMANCE novel. ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Rishika’ was written by Rishika. 

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Kelly stirred her hot chocolate as she sat at a table in the coffee shop, lost in thought. She’d had a long week so far, and her own writing was giving her trouble, so she was mentally trying to untangle the knot of her story.

Suddenly she heard someone clear their throat, and she jerked out of her thoughts and looked up to see a young woman standing there. Kelly completely dismissed all her pondering for another time and rose to her feet with a smile. “I’m sorry, I was in a different world, mentally. Are you Rishika? Please, have a sit.” She motioned to the chair across from her at the table and sat down too. “How are you doing today?”

“Hi Kelly, yes I am Rishika. I am doing great. How are you doing.”

Kelly smiled at Rishika. “I’m doing well. So tell me a bit about yourself. When did you first become interested in writing?”

“Well I am an English teacher for the past eight years.. I have done my child psychology. I always had an interest to write stories. Since I was in school.”

Kelly nodded. “Were you always writing? Or was there a moment when you suddenly decided to get serious about writing and publish a book?” She tilted her head to a side then picked up her hot chocolate to sip on it.

“I always used to write short stories. And then I thought after some time I want to write a book, which suddenly one day I did start to plan.”

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “Writing an actual book is much different than writing short stories. Which do you prefer to write? Novels or short stories?”

“I prefer writing an novel now a days.”

“I don’t blame you.” Kelly grinned at her. “I prefer writing novels over short stories too because it gives you the opportunity to really explore more. Now then,” she sat back in her chair, regarding Rishika, “you’ve published a book recently. What is it about?”

Rishika smiled at Kelly. “My book is about mystery/romance. Four friends and my main character, Fiona, falls in love with a guy who turns out to be bad, and dies with an accident. When suddenly he comes like a ghost for her and takes revenge against her.o Oh also Fiona friends protect her from the ghost named Jacob.” Rishika sips as glass of coke.

Kelly furrowed her brows when she heard this. “So…she falls in love with this guy, but he’s bad, and then he dies, and his ghost comes back for revenge…? Do I understand that correctly?” Then she leaned forward, setting her elbow on the table and her chin in the palm of her hand, very curious. “Why would he want revenge? Or can you not tell me because that’d be a spoiler?” She smiled at Riskika.

Rishika laughed. “Yes Kelly, you are correct. Well because she doesn’t want to marry him, and he used to hit her so badly.”

“He used to beat her up? I totally don’t blame her for not wanting to marry him.” Kelly shook her head then sat back in her chair. “So what gave you the idea for this story?”

Rishika laughs again and sips more coke. “Well I watched a lot of movies and the,n suddenly I got an idea about the book”

“So did the characters just jump out of nowhere and say ‘hey, write my story!’ or did you sit down and have to plan everything?” Kelly tilted her head to a side then reached for her drink again.

“Oh, the characters came to my mind when I started to write. Well I had to plan everything. The day I started to write this story for NaNoWriMo.” Rishika was happy.

“So you wrote this for NaNoWriMo?” Kelly lifted her brows, and a smile came to her face. “Which year? What it your first NaNo to participate in?”

Rishika smiled and said, “I wrote this in 2012, and I really enjoy doing NaNoWriMo every November.”

“NaNoWriMo is quite a fun challenge.” Kelly smiled, setting her drink on the table once more. “When did you first discover it? Was it in 2012?”

“Oh yes it is a fun challenge for me. Well I did the save date of this when I wrote my story.”

Kelly smiled. “That is fantastic! I’m glad you’ve participated in NaNo. Was it easy for you? Some people find it hard to reach the 50,000 word mark in 30 days.”

“Oh nooo. At first it was not, but I had the energy to sit and write this story day and night.”

“That’s good. It’s a lot of hard work, and you seemed to have accomplished what you set out to do by writing the book and publishing it, so great work with that!” Kelly gave Rishika a grin. “So, this book of yours, what is it called?”

Rishika frowned and said, “The book is called ‘The Captured’.”

Kelly furrowed her brows when she heard that. “And why is that the title?”

Rishika gave a confused look at Kelly. “Because I always had that title since I wrote the book, and my antagonist gave me a good title.”

“But is the main character held captive during the story? I mean, it’s a great title. I’m simply trying to understand how it fits the story.” Kelly gave Rishika an encouraging smile.

She smiled back and said, “That the main character is captured at last by the. End of the story.”

Kelly nodded slowly, still trying to understand. “The main character is captured at the end of the story?”

“Yes by the ghost Jacob.” She frowned

“I see.” Kelly nodded then furrowed her brows. “And is there going to be a sequel then? Will this be a series of books?”

“Oh yes it will be a sequel in the upcoming year.”

“Fantastic!” Kelly grinned at her. “And do you have that already planned out? Have you begun writing it yet? Or were you waiting to publish this book first?”

“I will be writing the next part soon, everything is planned out but still needs to do a lot of planning for the series.”

“Do you have any idea how long this series will be?” Kelly lifted her brows.

“Oh well it will be long more than 20.” She grinned.

“More than 20??” Kelly’s brows rose even higher in surprise, and then she smiled. “That’s amazing. Will it be surprising the same characters? Will the ghost issue be resolved? Or will the ghost be a character throughout the series?”

Rishika told Kelly, “Characters will be the same no changes at all. At the end the ghost thing will be solves out.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Well, if this book is going to be over 20 books long, I hope the characters do evolve some because that’s just the natural way things happen, but I know you’ve got a good idea of how you’re doing this.” She smiled at Rishika. “Now, you said you’re an English teacher? Do your students know you’ve published a book?” She tilted her head to a side as she smiled, just imagining how proud those students must be to have a Published Author as their teacher.

She smiled and said, “Yes they know it will be published, and they are very keen to read it.” She smiled back and was on cloud nine

“That is wonderful. Good for you!” With another smile, Kelly then glimpsed at the clock on the wall and saw the time. She frowned and looked back at Rishika. “Our time is almost up. But is there anything you would like potential readers to know about you and your book?”

“I would like to tell all the readers to enjoy my book and have a great time reading it and hopefully will give them the another series book 2 soon. The Captured book 2 will be out soon by end of the year. Until then enjoy the book one with a smile on your faces.”

“I hope they enjoy it too! Now though, I need to get going. Have another meeting to attend. However, I hope you the best with the publication of this book, and may it do well.” Kelly smiled as she rose to her feet, grabbing her purse and slipping it onto her shoulder. “And good luck with writing of book two! Thank you for meeting with me and for answering all of my questions. I’ve enjoyed our time together!”

“Thanks a lot Kelly.”

“Have a good day!” With that, Kelly waved and smiled then headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Rishika’s book ‘The Captured’ will soon be available. However, you can follow her on Facebook for more updates on her books.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rishika-1824114947871007/

Character Interview: Melissa E. Beckwith’s Rhiannon

Fantasy author, Melissa E. Beckwith, invited me into her story world to meet with her character, Rhiannon Kossi. This gave me the opportunity to sit down with the young woman originally from modern day Montana who found herself in a whole different world when she was trying to discover what happened to her mom. She learned a lot more than she ever expected, and this interview explores a bit of it. ‘Kelly’ is written by me, and ‘Rhiannon’ is written by Melissa E. Beckwith. Enjoy!

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Rhiannon Kossi watched as Flath and Teo brought out a table and sat it in a sunny spot of the small opening.  Tim followed behind them carrying two chairs then quickly ran back to camp to bring some refreshments.

“Thank you, boys!” Rhiannon called and smiled up at Flath

“Anything for you, your Highness.”  Flath gave a ridiculous bow then stood up and smiled at her.  A soft summer breeze ruffled his blond hair, his golden panther earring glinting in the sunlight.  She leaned in and kissed his lips.  “Do not linger too long, Greannmhor, we must be on our way north soon,” he said then turned and left to help the others pack up the camp.

Rhiannon walked over to the table.  Tim had put out some hard bread and a little cheese and some sliced apples.  There was a jug there she knew held some kid of dark liquor and two wooden cups.  Rhiannon sighed, no silver tea service here, she thought.  She hoped Kelly would not mind.

Nervously she walked around the table and picked things up then mindlessly sent them back down.  She thought it was odd that The Muse would want to interview her, but ever since she got taken through that darn Tree of Jur and brought into this world, nothing made sense. Oh well, what harm would there be in giving an interview?  Queen Baobh already knew she was in Beaynid with the rebellion and was now on her way north to Ventra, to her people, the Archigos.

Rhiannon looked through the trees for any sign of Kelly, The Muse, and so far, saw nothing.  She turned her face up to the warmth of the sun and took a deep breath.  Soon she would face the Archigos.  Would they even accept her?  With her eyes closed she listened to the sound of the camp being packed away.  She heard men’s relaxed voices and horses off in the distance.  Song birds sung joyfully in the boughs of trees as squirrels scolded each other.

Suddenly she heard soft foot fall coming towards her and Rhiannon opened her eyes.  There was a beautiful young woman standing in front of her with a knowing smile on her face.  She could only be Kelly, the Muse.

Rhiannon held out her hand in greeting, “Hello, Kelly, it’s nice to meet you.”

Kelly smiled as she shook Rhiannon’s hand, but she also gave her a respectful bow at the same time. “So, what am I to call you? ‘Your Majesty’? ‘Empress’? People with titles can be finicky with how others address them.”

“Oh, well, you  can just call me Rhiannon, really.  I’m not sure how all that will go when we finally reach Ventra,”  Rhiannon laughed nervously, “I’m not the Empress yet, right?”  Rhiannon motioned over to the table.  “Here, please set down.  You’ve probably traveled far.  I mean, we are out in the middle of the Alba Forest.”

Kelly followed Rhiannon to the table and sat down. Then she glimpsed around, taking in her surroundings. “It’s quite a pretty place here. How do you like it compared to Earth?” She glimpsed back at Rhiannon.

“It’s different, that’s for sure.  Every decision I seem to make is either life or death.  And I’d kill for a bubble bath right about now,” Rhiannon snickered. Just then Luna, Rhiannon she-wolf trotted up and lay at Rhiannon feet.  “Please don’t mind, Luna.  She comes and goes as she pleases.”  Rhiannon smiled and petted her wolf’s furry head.

Kelly smiled at the beautiful wolf. “She’s lovely. However though, before we start talking about life here and how you’re adjusting, tell me a bit about what life was like back on Earth for you. Where did you work? Did you get a degree? I’m just curious to see how that life may have helped prepare you for this life.”

Rhiannon looked out over the forest basking in the summer sun trying to remember her life on the ranch.  Then she suddenly remembered she hadn’t even offered Kelly anything to eat or drink.  Please forgive my manners.  Would you like something to eat.  I’m afraid we don’t have anything very fancy here.  But we do have some strong liquor.” Rhiannon smiled nervously and cursed herself for not being more outgoing.  How would she ever lead a nation of warriors if she can’t even keep herself under control during a cozy interview with a friendly woman?

Rhiannon quickly poured two cups for her and Kelly and then she took a quick drink.  The liqueur burned her throat and warmed her body.   “Okay, back to the question.  Sorry. I grew up on a cattle ranch.  My father, Peter was a ranch hand working for Daniel Foster.  My childhood was pretty normal.  I went to public school, and though I was mercilessly teased for having darker skin and being the tallest kid in class, I liked school.”  Rhiannon took another drink trying to bolster her confidence.  Why was talking about her childhood so hard?  She started talking again, “I didn’t want to go to college, though  I just stayed on at the Ranch.  Eventually, Daniel’s son, Matthew, and I fell in love and we were engaged.”  Rhiannon smiled at the thought of Matthew and wondered how he had taken her disappearance.

Kelly leaned forward, setting her chin in her palm as she was curious. “And what happened between the two of you?”

Rhiannon was brought back to the present by the sound of Kelly’s voice.  “Oh, well over the winter I started having these really vivid nightmares.  I could really understand them but slowly I just started to feel numb about Matthew.”  A sad look darkened Rhiannon’s face.  “After a while I broke up with him and moved off the ranch.  I started waiting tables.  God, I hated that.”  Rhiannon shook her head and frowned.  “Finally, in the spring I had had enough and called my father and told him that I wanted answers about how my mom died.  I knew all those nightmares had something to do with her.”  Rhiannon shook her head and sighed.  She quickly took another drink from her wooden cup.  “My father finally said he would tell me everything, so the next afternoon I showed up at his cabin but he was missing!”

“And you went to look for him but somehow ended up here,” Kelly assumed with a nod. She furrowed her brows though as she thought back this some more and sat back in her chair. “And now you’re the leader of a rebellion on an entirely different world. How did that happen?” She chuckled, bewildered at the thought.

Rhiannon looked over at the men still breaking down camp.  She saw Flath busy at work and smiled affectionately at him.  She looked back over to Kelly and smiled.  “Well, Flath is leading the rebellion.  He and his men have been fighting Queen Baobh for over a year now.  But I guess me and my Archigos Warriors are their only chance.  That’s why they are taking me north.  I’m not sure if they will even accept me, but I guess they have to…”  Rhiannon’s voice trailed off.  Then she pulled the neck of her tunic open and showed Kelly the bright, red diamond-shaped birth mark over her heart.  “This is supposedly the Mark Of The Empress.  I don’t think they will have a choice since I am the daughter of Sernia, their Empress that was killed when I was six.”  Rhiannon sighed, “But I’m still nervous about being accepted.  The stakes are so high.  Flath and the Rebellion can’t win without the help of the Archigos.”  Rhiannon had a sad look on her face as she looked at Kelly.

Kelly considered Rhiannon for a moment, and then she leaned forward, locking eyes with her. “Going from being a nobody to being an Empress is a massive change. Are you ready for that?”

Rhiannon laughed softly, bitterly.  “No way.”  She shook her head.  “I don’t want it.  But I’ve seen too much here.  I’ve discovered who I am and what my purpose is in all this and it is as The Empress of Ventra.”  Rhiannon ran her hand through her long dark hair and leaned towards Kelly, looking into her eyes.  “I was told about about a prophecy,”  she began.  I didn’t want to believe it.  I fought not to believe it.  But I can’t fight it any longer.  I must take my place in this prophecy and bring an end to Baobh’s rule.”

“But how do you expect people to believe in you and to follow you when you have nothing to show for it?” Kelly lifted her brows as she sat back in her chair. “I’m merely asking these questions to get you to think, so when the time comes, if others ask the same questions, you will have a ready answer. But truly, these people have dealt with their current ruler for quite sometime now. You’ve a complete stranger. What knowledge do you have of the ways of the court? Or all the traditions and rituals of this land?  Has Flath or someone sat you down and given you a crash course?”

Rhiannon’s laugh was bitter again.  “Living here has been a crash course.  I don’t know anything about the way of the court, and even if I learned about things in Sona Tuath, I’m sure things are much different in Ventra.”  Rhiannon shook her dark head.  “All I have as proof of who I say I am is this birth mark,” she put her hand over the birth mark on her chest.  “and the memories I know have of my mother, their empress, and how she was killed by Baobh.”  Rhiannon took a deep breath and patted Luna’s head for reassurance.  “I suppose the Archigos will train me in the ways I need to know to rule their nation.”  Rhiannon got an unfocused look in her dark eyes as she pictured what it might look like in Màrrach, the capitol city of Ventra.  “The problem will be getting them to agree to come down here and fight with rebellion.  You see, the Suens and the Archigos hate each other.”  Rhiannon gave Kelly a direct look.

“Ahh…” Kelly nodded. “Sounds like you have quite a few complications ahead of you. Okay, so…to understand correctly, is Flath Suen? And you technically Archigo? I’m sorry I don’t know the terminology. Consider this a mini-crash course for me.” She smiled at Rhiannon. “I need to understand a little better, so I can ask the right questions.”

Rhiannon laughed and gave Kelly a warm smile.  “Yes, I am, so I’ve been told constantly since I arrived in this world, an Archigos.”  Rhiannon looked back over to Flath who was in an animated conversation with Tim and Teo.  She looked back over to Kelly.  “And Flath is a Suen, yes.  There in lies the rub…”  Rhiannon’s voice faded away.

“Because you and Flath have feelings for each other?” Kelly raised her brows.

A huge, bashful smile crossed Rhiannon’s face.  She almost blushed.  Oh, come on, she thought.  You’re almost 30, what is wrong with you, acting like a school girl. She looked back up to Kelly, still smiling.  “Yes.  I have quite fallen for the rebellion’s leader.”  She laughed quietly.  “The Archigos will have a hard time accepting him, but they won’t have a choice.  After this war is over he’s going to come up to Ventra and help me rule.”  She lifted her chin, almost in defiance, then thought her self silly.  Kelly didn’t care.  She must be practicing for when she had to face the Archigos.

Kelly regarded Rhiannon for a long time, seeing the defiant look on her face. “Want my personal opinion? Marry him before you become Empress. That way the court won’t have any say in who you marry. Once you become Empress, your life is no longer your own. The people and court will dictate what you will and will not be allowed to do. You may think you will be the most powerful person in the land, but…” Kelly shook her head. “You are a stranger. All you have is a birthmark and memories–which may or may not be induced by some magic user. You need them to trust you. So before all that happens, if you and Flath love each other, marry him before all the royal requirements come into play.” But then Kelly shrugged and smiled. “Of course, you may do it however you see fit, but…knowing how royal courts can be…just because you and a few people believe you are the rightful ruler, doesn’t mean everyone will have the same opinion…especially if they’ve been ruled by another by some time.”

Rhiannon took another drink from her cup and set it down slowly, thinking about just how true Kelly’s words were.  She wondered if Flath would marry her now, before they went to Ventra?  She sighed.  It did look so hopeless.  Kelly was right, all she had was this birth mark.  Would her cousin, Shankee, who had been ruling as the proxy empress for twenty-four years even accept her?  Rhiannon looked up at Kelly and smiled.  “You are very wise, Muse.  I think you’ve seen much.”  She smiled.  “You have given me a lot to think about, for sure.”  She lifted her head and laughed, “even more to worry about, too!”

“I’d rather you know the possibility that are ahead of you instead of having you go in with blind confidence.” Kelly shook her head. “Of course, if you marry him now, the court may demand you annul the marriage before allowing you to take the crown. But on the other hand, if you don’t marry him before you take the throne, they would demand you marry other suitors, and if you insist on Flath, they may want you to abdicate your throne. It’s a tricky situation you’re in. If you can get the two different races to come to an agreement and not hate each other so much, then you have a chance.” Kelly then tilted her head to the side. “How do you plan on accomplishing that anyway?”

Rhiannon shook her head.  “It sounds hopeless, doesn’t it?”  She frowned a little, thinking.  “Well, most of the hatred for the Archigos comes from the Seuns within Sona Tuath.”  Rhiannon swept her arm across the opening.  “Out here, further from the castle people seem to be more tolerant.  But I figure that if the Archigos finally rid Beaynid of their despised queen, they will feel enough gratitude to at least start feeling less hateful towards their neighbors to the north.”  Rhiannon took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Now the Archigos might be a whole different story.  I have no idea how deep their hatred of the Suens goes.  I will have to asses the situation once I get there.”  Rhiannon shook her head.  That seemed like a lame plain, even to her.

“Do you have any idea why the hatred is there?” Kelly lifted her brows.

“Luckily it’s not a long standing hatred, so perhaps there is hope.”  Rhiannon looked out over the forest as a flock of starlings flew overhead.  She slowly gathered her thoughts.  Finally she started talking again.  “After Baobh killed my mother and took her necklace, The Necklace of Verna, so that she could take the throne of Beaynid, the Archigos descended upon Sona Tuath seeking vengeance.  However, with the power of the necklace and the help of Lord Rull, the mighty Archigos were slaughtered.  But not without taking most of the men of Sona Tuath down with them.”  Rhiannon shook her head.  “Even though they were not happy with Baobh, they never forgave the Archigos for that war.”  Rhiannon smiled sadly. That is what I have to overcome.

“Well, since it isn’t longstanding, as you said, it should be a bit easier for you to unravel, but you’re gonna have to sit down and talk with them and not let them leave the table until they’ve resolved their issues. That…that’s not going to be a fun conversation.” Kelly grimaced. She knew how complicated it was with such discussions in her own family, and that wasn’t even royalty or members of a court. She did not envy Rhiannon for what she would have to do.

“However, on to another topic,” Kelly smiled. “How did you meet Flath anyway? And what about him has you so…taken?”

Rhiannon immediately seemed a smile, all thought of bloody wars behind her.  “I had just escaped Baobh’s men, the ones that pulled me through the Tree of Jur, and was wondering around lost when Teo found me.”  Rhiannon turned and pointed over to a stocky man in his late thirties with a shock of bright red hair and a bushy red beard.  She turned back to Kelly.  “Teo took me to Flath who thought I was spy,”  She laughed and shook her head.  “He didn’t know what to do with me.  He took e to the Prophecy Keeper, who happens to be Teo’s mother, and that’s where we learned of the prophecy that says I am supposed to be the one to bring ruin to Baobh.”  Rhiannon got a sad look on her face again.  “It was then that Flath decided he needed to take me to the Archigos so that I could be trained and hopefully lend help to the rebellion.”  Rhiannon leaned in and looked into Kelly’s eyes. “But by that time we were already in love.  However, I still have to go and do my duty,” she said in a forlorned voice.

“Unfortunately duty does take precedent over love at times, and that is difficult. However, if the two of you are committed to one another, and are always honest with one another, you can make it work.” Kelly gave Rhiannon a hopeful smile. “Now though, what about your father? You haven’t found him yet, have you? When you do, what are you going to do? I’m sure you will have many questions, but…he did take you from here to Earth for a reason. Do you forgive him for not telling you everything? Or is that still difficult to accept?”

Rhiannon got a faraway look in her dark eyes.  finally a tear slipped down her cheek.  “I do forgive my father.  He was doing what he thought was right.  He was trying to protect me from Baobh.”  She sadly shook her head.  “We have not been able to rescue him.  Baobh still hold him in her dungeons, hoping to lure my to Sona Tuath.  The only hope I have of seeing my father again is if the Archigos help to overthrow Baobh.”  Rhiannon smiled again.  “And then we will have a reunion and I will finally get to ask all those questions that I wanted to.”  Suddenly Flath called out to Rhiannon, “hurry it up, Greannmhor, we must leave soon!  Looks like the weather is turning.”  Rhiannon waved him away in a dismissive manner.  “Sorry about that, Kelly.  Go on.”  She smiled warmly at the woman.

Kelly looked up at the sky and saw clouds were beginning to gather. She could also tell the time of her interview was coming to a close, so she knew she had to wrap it up.

She smiled at Rhiannon. “Flath is right. I’m going to have to go soon anyway, but one final question, do you miss the simplicity of your life back on Earth? Would you trade one for the other? Or are you very content with the new life you’ve found here?”

Rhiannon looked out again over the Alba Forest and mindlessly stroked Luna fur. Finally she sighed and spoke.  “I do, at times, miss the care-free life I had on the ranch.  But I’m part of something so much bigger, now.”  She looked into Kelly’s eyes.  “I have to avenge my mother and help the people of Beaynid who suffer under Baobh’s rule.”  She got a little smile on her face, then.  “And then there’s Flath, of course.  I’m so thankful I met him.”  She laughed.  “I know, sappy.”

Kelly shook her head with a smile. “Not sappy at all.” But then she sighed and rose to her feet. “I must apologize, but my time here has come to an end. I need to be leaving. However, I appreciate you taking the time the talk with me and answer all my questions. I hope you the best with all your endeavors.” She smiled at her.

Rhiannon stood with Kelly and smiled.  “Thank you for your time, Kelly.  You gave me a lot to think about, and hopefully I’ll be more prepared when I do meet my people in Ventra.  Have a safe journey, friend.”

“And you as well.” With that, Kelly bowed to Rhiannon and then turned and went on her way.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Melissa E. Beckwith’s novel, ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’ can be found on Amazon here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Empress-Ventra-Rhiannon-Fantasy-Romantic-ebook/dp/B01NBNZ6VJ

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Website: http://www.melissaebeckwith.com/

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Author Interview: Melissa E. Beckwith

I met with FANTASY author, Melissa E. Beckwith, today and had a lovely chat with her. I got to know a bit about the author behind ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’. It’s always nice pull back the veil and understand the mind behind the book. As in every interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Melissa’ was written by Melissa E. Beckwith. Enjoy the interview! 

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The door chimed when Kelly opened it and stepped into the coffee shop. She looked around and saw a young woman sitting at a table with a laptop in front of her. Kelly smiled but didn’t go to her right away. Instead, she went to the counter and ordered some hot chocolate.

Once she received it, she turned to the table and went to it. “Melissa Beckwith?” Kelly raised her brows then held out her hand to shake. “I’m Kelly. Thanks for meeting with me.” She saw down at the table across from Melissa. “How are you doing today?”

Melissa took a slow sip from her strong coffee. “I write full-time now that the kids are out of the house.  I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful husband who pays the bills and let’s me just worry about my writing.”   Melissa’s lips curved into a huge smile at the thought of her husband of almost thirty years.

“That is fantastic! You are truly blessed.” Kelly grinned at her and wrapped her hands around her mug. “So, when did you first become interested in writing?”

Melissa cocked her head to one side, her long, brown hair falling over her shoulder. With a nostalgic look on her face, she answered, “I started telling stores as far back as I can remember.  Even before I learned how to read, I “wrote” stories in the form of picture books.”  Melissa chuckled softly, “I went through a lot of crayons.”

Kelly’s grin grew. “I was like that too! Did pictures because I didn’t know how to write, but had so many stories in my head!” She shook her head, still smiling, remembering those memories, but then she focused on Melissa once more. “Now a lot of writers have had a love for writing since they were children, but it wasn’t until years later that they actually became serious about writing. Was that the case for you? Was there a specific time when you suddenly just woke up and decided, ‘I am going to be a writer!’ Or did you know since you were a child that you were going to be a writer?” Kelly tilted her head to a side as she watched Melissa.

Melissa looked over Kelly’s shoulder with an unfocused look in her blue eyes.  She finally spoke.  “I always wanted to be a writer.  When I was young I told everyone that I was going to be an author when I grew up.  But some how when children start to grow up they lose that abandon and start getting self conscience.”  Melissa looked at Kelly, a serious expression on her face.  “I was not encouraged as a child to write, in fact I was discouraged.  In my family, people didn’t do that sort of thing seriously.  So I grew up, got married right out of high school and had three kids right away.  I just got busy raising kids and didn’t write much.” 

Melissa took another sip of her coffee and looked down at the floor as if she were wrestling with a decision.  Finally she took a deep breath, apparently making a choice and started to speak to Kelly again.  “I have bi-polar, and it has haunted my life for a very long time.  So much of my life was spend in deep despair.”  Melissa peered deeper into Kelly’s eyes, wanting to say the right words.  “Last summer was one of those times.  However, I just finally made the decision that I would get serious about my writing once and for all.  I had these two finished novels waiting to be edited and published, and darn it, that was what I was going to do.  I pushed aside my crippling self-doubt and just went for it!”

Kelly nodded as she listened to Melissa, and she leaned forward, locking eyes with her. “I am really sorry your family wasn’t supportive of your dreams, but I am glad you circled back round to it, and have managed to write and publish a book.” She smiled at her then sat back once more. “So, tell me about your book. What is it about?”

Melissa leaned back in her chair and took another drink of her hot coffee, her smile returning to her face.  “The Empress of Ventra is really about self discovery and overcoming self-doubt….with a little thread of romance thrown in, just to keep things interesting.”  Melissa laughed and looked out the window.  The sun had hesitantly come out and started to melt the light snow that was clinging to the ground.  She looked back over to Kelly. “Rhiannon Kossi had questions about her past. The answers she received took her to another world and changed her life forever. Suffering from vivid nightmares, she is sure that she’s been lied to about her childhood. Seeking the answers to long forgotten questions, she is mysteriously taken from her quiet, simple life on a Montana cattle ranch and thrust into a new, violent world where she is forced to either fight or die. In her quest for answers to her past Rhiannon must accept hard truths that will forever change the course of her life…that is, if she can stay alive.”

Kelly stared for a long moment. “Wow. That sounds…rather complex.” Then she smiled. “But interesting all the same. I want to ask more about the story and the characters, but I’m afraid if I do, it’d probably spoil it for the readers.” Kelly frowned. That was the part of her job she hated, but then she smiled again. “So, Melissa, how did you come up with the idea for this book? What inspired it?”

Melissa threw her head back and laughed, a couple people near the two looked over for a second but then went back to their conversations.  “I had a dream!”  Melissa smiled and nodded her head.  “It was a very long time ago, about 1999 or maybe 2000.  I had a dream of a woman who gets sucked into another world and has to to all sort of things to stay a live.  Of course over about 16 years I finally polished up the story and wrote it down.”

Kelly grinned when she heard this. “Don’t you just love it when stories come to you in dreams? It’s crazy! You said this was over 16 or so years ago? And you stuck with it all this time? Good for you! Now, there are a lot of other writers who have become discouraged because it is taking them years, maybe decades to write their story. Since you have experience with that, what advice would you give them to persevere?” Kelly remembered her hot chocolate and drank so more. She was so drawn into the conversation, she had forgotten about it.

Melissa scratched an itch on her nose and cocked her head to the side again while she thought. “Well, I spend most of that time learning about the craft of writing,” she said slowly.  “It’s not as easy as it seems to produce a quality, marketable story.  So I would tell new writers to educate themselves as much as they can on the craft of writing well.  Also, read A LOT in the genres you want to write in.  Study the tropes and what readers want.” Melissa stopped and took a sip of her coffee, then started up again.  “And don’t give up.  It takes a long time to learn all this stuff and become good at it.  I would advise all writers to just keep writing everyday.  Give yourself little goals, like 100 words a day, then when you easily meet that goal everyday your self-confidence will grow.  Also, network, talk to other writers.  Writing can be a lonely job, but when you find others who share you passion it’s not so bad, then.  You can learn a lot from your fellow writers.  Just don’t give up.  Never give up.  It’s never too late.  Finish that manuscript, even if you think it’s garbage, do it anyway.  Always finish.  That is another way to build self-confidence.”

Kelly nodded, grateful for her words. “Very true. Thank you.” However, she glimpsed at the clock on the wall and saw the time. She looked back at Melissa. “Our time’s almost up. Have about ten minutes left, so a few more questions. What was your favorite thing about your story as you wrote it?”

Melissa fidgeted a little in her seat trying to get comfortable. “Well, it was very refreshing to write about a strong woman.  I have never considered myself anything resembling strong of independent, so it’s been fun writing Rhiannon.”  Melissa laughed.  “I guess she’s like my alter ego.  Also, it gets more into it in the second book, The War of the Gypsy, but it was quiet refreshing to create a kingdom in which women ruled and men had to follow.”

Kelly smiled. “That is refreshing to see. I’m glad you’ve completed it and published it. That wasn’t easy, and you have done well. Unfortunately though, our time has come to an end, and I have elsewhere to be.” She rose to her feet and reached her hand out to shake Melissa. “However, it was wonderful to meet you and to hear about your story. Keep writing, okay? And keep publishing. You’ve got this.” She smiled warmly at her.

“Thank you, Kelly for spending time with me this morning.”  Melissa grabbed Kelly’s warm hand and shook it.  She smiled up at the woman.  “Be careful out there, there are some crazy drivers in Indiana!”  Melissa laughed.

Kelly chuckled. “Ah, my dad grew up in Indiana, so I’m a bit familiar with it. You have a good day, Melissa! Take care!” With a wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.

Melissa waved and had a content, happy look on her face.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Melissa E. Beckwith’s novel, ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’ can be found on Amazon here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Empress-Ventra-Rhiannon-Fantasy-Romantic-ebook/dp/B01NBNZ6VJ

Social Media

Website: http://www.melissaebeckwith.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_E_Beckwith

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelissaEBeckwith/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/M_E_Beckwith/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-e-beckwith-Author

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109438403164764731559

Character Interview: Nan Sampson’s Charlie

Over the last year or so, I’ve interviewed many of Nan Sampson’s characters. One of those characters was Charlie. If you would like to read the first interview I conducted with him, you can find it on Nan Sampson’s site here: https://nansampsonauthor.com/2015/07/30/an-interactive-character-interview-meet-charlie-mccallum-from-my-ellie-gooden-mystery-series/. 

In this interview, I was able to catch up with Charlie and see how life was treating him. As always, ‘Kelly’ was written by me while ‘Charlie’ was written by Nan Sampson.

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Charlie McCallum sat in one of a pair of broad, chintz-covered, wing back chairs in front of the fireplace in the study of the Birches Inn, crossing one leg over the other and vice versa, drumming his fingers on the arm of the chair.  He ran long fingers through his mop of curls, which had grown overlong during his recuperation from his broken leg.  He really needed to find a place in Horizon to get it cut—maybe Per, his new landlord of sorts, could recommend a barber.

The Birches Inn was a lovingly restored Queen Anne Victorian that sat on a hill just outside the small, southwestern town of Horizon, Wisconsin.  Once the home of a mining baron, it was now the premier place to stay in the county for tourists, wedding parties, honeymooners and even the occasional temporarily displaced local.  Filled with period antiques and seamless replicas, it was genteel, elegant, and yet homey and comfortable.  He loved the place—the lace curtains, the damask wallpaper, the oriental rugs, the rich, mahogany furniture and best of all, the pocket doors.  If he ever had a house, he wanted one with pocket doors.

The study today was lit by firelight and table lamps, the pale winter sun shining ineffectually through the windows.  Outside, snow covered the ground, decorated the birches and aspens that graced the property, and the temperatures were closing in on zero again.  The study, however, was toasty warm and delightfully cozy.  It was the perfect setting and he’d asked Arabella, who owned the Inn with her husband Seth, for private use of the room today.  Since tourists this time of year were few and far between, she’d readily agreed.

He’d met his anticipated visitor, a woman named Kelly Blanchard, once before, at her little shop.  That had been almost a year ago, back when Ellie had first moved to this little one-horse town.  It had been the strangest meeting he’d ever had. 

And now, here he was, meeting with her again, and much like the previous time, he wasn’t really sure why.  But he didn’t mind.  Their conversation had been fun and, in a way, incredibly helpful in terms of his relationship with Ellie.  In fact, without Kelly’s advice, he might not even have a relationship with Ellie.  Not that Ellie was ready yet to admit they had one, but hey.  Baby steps.

He grinned, scrubbed his finger through his curls then stood to pace, trying to keep his hands off the plate of chocolate chip cookies he’d asked Arabella to bake.  Tit for tat, he thought.  Kelly had served him cookies last time, it was proper he return the favor.  His stomach fluttered nervously as he waited.  What on earth, he wondered, would they discuss today?

Kelly entered the inn and was grateful to get out of the cold. She was a Texas girl for a reason! But she did enjoy the occasional snow. The woman at the front directed her to the study, and when Kelly pushed open the door, she smiled at the warm and cozy atmosphere. “Now this is a place I could spend forever in,” she smiled at Charlie when she saw him there. She headed over to him with a plate of chocolate chip cookies she had made just for this meeting, but then she noticed the cookies already on the table. Kelly laughed. “I made these for you because I knew you liked them from our last meeting. Guess great minds think alike. But still.” She placed them on the table and shook Charlie’s hand before sitting down across from him. “So, Charlie, how have you been since our last chat?”

“Aw, you’re so sweet!  Thanks!”  He still remembered the taste of those chocolate chip cookies from their last meeting.  “I’ll save yours—I know they’ll be better, even though Arabella does a bang up job.”

He sat nervously, then stood up again almost immediately to pace.  “Things are good.”  He gestured down at his leg, which was finally cast-free.  “Leg is healing well.  I still limp some around Ellie, just to yank her chain.”  He paused.  “Oh, wait, you probably didn’t hear about that.  I broke my leg in November.  And Ellie nearly got herself shot.  One of her college friends was murdered and Ellie had to jump in to investigate.”  He shook his head.  “Girl needs to learn to wait for back up.”

“Hold up.” Kelly lifted her hand. “First off, was this another murder Ellie has solved? And secondly, she almost shot herself? How? And…how did you break your leg.” Then Kelly paused, realizing she had asked a lot of questions. She chuckled, sitting back in her chair. “And answer those in whatever order you want.”

He grinned, grabbed one of Kelly’s cookies. The things were like crack.  “Maybe I should start from the beginning.  Ellie came back to Chicago in November—she and Kate were going to meet up with their old college friend, Lacey.  But before the three could get together, Lacey turned up dead in an alley.  No one, not even me, believed it was a random street crime, so Ellie hired me to help her investigate.  In the end, we identified the killer and Ellie cornered them.  The killer had a gun, and before I could get into a position to help her, nearly shot Ellie.  As I raced to help, the killer fell and knocked me down a flight of stairs, resulting in me being laid up for eight weeks.”  He grinned.  “So just to keep my hand in the game, so to speak, I decided I’d recuperate up here in Horizon.  Gotta keep an eye on that girl.  I’m staying at her neighbors house, officially, since Per had a spare room, but I try to spend every waking moment in her cabin.  Worming my way into her affections.”  A chuckle.  “And I’m growing on her.  Like fungus!”

Kelly chuckled at his last statement, but she shook her head. “Hate to say this, but it almost sounds like Ellie attracts murder. It’s a bit dangerous to be her friend.” However she shrugged and grinned at Charlie. “But that’s why she has you there at her side.” She winked then leaned forward, took a cookie off the plate and met Charlie’s gaze. “So how are things progressing between the two of you?” She lifted her brows as she sat back in her chair and ate the cookie.

He stared out at the snow for a moment.  “Um…I liken it to the growth of a glacier.  A little progress everyday.  While it’s happening it’s hard to tell, but if you stand back and look at the big picture, you can definitely see the change.”  He rubbed his jeans, watched the fire dance.  “We’re getting somewhere.  Not sure where exactly, but somewhere.  I just need to be patient.”

“And how are you doing with needing to be patient?” Kelly tilted her head to a side. “Do you consider yourself a naturally patient individual, or is that a trait you need to strengthen?”

“Well, I’m not Yoda.  But I guess I’m more Yoda than Han Solo.  Ellie would be Han.  She needs to charge off in a direction—any direction—to feel like she’s getting somewhere.  I’m okay waiting.  One day she’s going to realize we’re an “us”, and it will have happened so gently and so naturally, she won’t feel the need to rail against it.”  He grinned.  “Meanwhile, living with her, around her, certainly isn’t boring.”  He leaned back in his chair.  “But hopefully she won’t trip over another body before spring.  I can’t remember ever being this cold.  And I’m a Chicago boy!”

Kelly tried not to laugh when he said what he said about Yoda and Han, but finally she cracked a smile. “Well, Charlie, gotta tell you somethin’. If she’s Han, then you need to be Princess Leia. Just forgo the whole golden bikini thing, okay?” Kelly laughed but then forced herself to regain her composer. “Okay, okay, I know that’s not what you meant, but just had to say it.”

He laughed, hard.  “So glad you’re one of my tribe, Kelly!”  He glanced down at himself.  “But hey, you don’t think I could pull that outfit off?  Have I gained that much weight?”

Kelly laughed again then tilted her head, giving him a thorough look. “Well, maybe you could pull it off. If you did, there would have to be pics for proof!” She grinned at him, but then shook her head still chuckling. “Okay, but back to the questions! What do you think of Ellie’s habit of stumbling upon dead bodies, and she’s not even a detective or anything. I mean…isn’t that a bit…odd?”

He paused, his expression darkening.  “Ellie…Ellie’s a magnet for shit like that.  I mean, I want to say it started with the murder of her parents.  God, what a horrific crime.  But really, based on stories I’ve heard from Kate about some things that happened back when they were in college and first learning about “the Craft”, it seems like dark stuff—woo-woo creepy stuff—has been following her around for a long time.  So the fact that dead people harass her, or that she stumbles over fresh corpses at the drop of a hat, at some level doesn’t really surprise me.  Death and tragedy seem to follow her around like Erik the Red.”

Kelly frowned. “It’s just odd…to me. But at least she has you there.” She smiled at him. “Are you still working for the police?”

He ducked his head, looked away.  “Um, no.  No, I’m freelancing now.  I got my Private Investigator’s license over the summer.”

This caused Kelly to furrow her brows, and she leaned forward. “What happened that caused you to leave the police?”

“It…the…the job just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.  Dan says I’m just being a flake, a spoilt prima donna.”  He gave a shrug.  “Maybe he’s right.  Maybe I’m just better off working for myself, doing my own thing.”

Kelly narrowed her eyes, and she regarded him for a long moment. “By all the ‘maybes’ you’re saying, it sounds like you’re not convinced yourself. Leaving your job like that isn’t something you just wake up one day and decide to do. It’s a decision that takes time to process and think through before committing to it. Did something trigger it? Did justice not get served on a case?”

He jerked upright, met her eyes, looked away again.  How did she do that?  “It wasn’t a knee jerk decision, I’ll tell you that.  As for justice…”  His tone became bitter.  “Well, apparently justice is a subjective thing.  Contrary to what I’d always been taught, it doesn’t apply equally to all people.  Whore, junkies, minorities, all those disenfranchised folks at the bottom, they don’t get justice unless it fills a quota or it helps someone’s political ambitions.”  He stood, paced back to the window.  “Hell, it isn’t even just the poor who get the shaft.  Look at Ellie.  Her parents’ were solid upper middle class and their murders were never solves nor will they be unless someone like me…”  He pressed his lips together, shook his head before finally turning to face her again.  “I still support the Force.  There are damn good cops, damn good men putting their life on the line every day.  But justice, the kind with a capital J?  Looking for that these days is like going on a snipe hunt.”  He shrugged again.  “So I got out.  Now I can give justice to people on my own terms, or at least kill myself trying.”

“And justice is supposed to be blind, but sadly it isn’t.” Kelly shook her head, but she leaned forward, intertwining her fingers as she locked eyes with Charlie. “But is it right for you to take justice in your own hands? You may be right on all accords, but…there’s a very thin line between the vigilante and the villain in all spheres of life.”

He clenched his jaw, forced himself to relax.  “Look, I’m no vigilante.  When we cornered Lacey’s killer, I had a cop buddy of mine with us.  He did the Law and Order thing.  I don’t intend to be judge and jury.  But I want like hell to make sure the alleged criminal gets to trial.  That’s all.  I just want to give Truth the chance to be spoken.  What happens after that is in the hands of the system.  I still believe in the system.  Just not some of the people who fancy themselves in charge of it.”

Kelly stared at Charlie for a long moment. She could feel his irritation with her questions, but that only probed her to dig deeper. When she spoke, she spoke with a soft voice. “What was the case that has troubled you so much? Is it Ellie’s parents’ case being unsolved and that is troubling you because you are getting closer to Ellie? What was the case that finally made you take that step?”

He sighed.  She wasn’t going to give up.  And maybe, just maybe, he was ready to talk about this.  “No, it wasn’t Max and Serena Gooden’s murders, although I haven’t given up on that case.  I have the files and one day…”  He ran his fingers through his hair.  he felt sweaty, nauseous.  “There was a young girl.  A young Asian girl.  Fifteen.  She was turning tricks in around Chinatown.  I knew her from working the beat there, knew which pimp she worked for.  I’d even tried to talk her into getting out, getting her into a shelter, but sometimes these kids can’t see the forest for the trees.  Anyway, she turns up in a dumpster near Ravenswood area—hell and gone from her normal haunts.  She’d been raped, strangled and tossed into a dumpster behind shop like a piece of trash.”

He paused, swallowed.  Felt the lump in his throat, the bile rising.  “There were no wits, very little in the way of physical evidence, at least in the official file.  My partner and I worked it hard for three weeks, but every day that passes, more cases pile up on your desk and she was just a girl, just a low class run-away hooker.  She didn’t rate. So we had to let it drop.  Officially.”  He glanced up at Kelly.  “But I couldn’t.  I knew her.  She was a sweet kid.  So I kept digging, on my off time.  And eventually I turned up a witness, someone who’d seen her getting out of a fancy car and heading into a building on the arm of a man.  A very well-placed man.  I took the evidence to my superior…”  He fell back against the chair.  “Well, you can guess what happened.”

“He told you to drop it, and you couldn’t, so you left the force,” Kelly guessed, but allowed him to confirm this or correct her.

“Basically.  I tried going over his head, to the DA, but got shot down there too.  The guy was untouchable.”  He rubbed his face.  “The hell of it is that I’ll bet money this wasn’t the only girl this guy killed.  And I can’t do anything about it.”  Outside, snow was falling again.  A white blanket, covering over the ground.  Hiding all the defects in the landscape.  “So yeah.  I left.  I suppose that makes me a coward, part of the problem.  But I just couldn’t face it.  Plus, by doing what I did, I’d pretty well screwed my chances to advance anyway.”

“Charlie, it doesn’t make you a coward.” Kelly shook her head. “You hold to a higher standard than most people, especially when it comes to justice, and when other people won’t adhere to your standard, you have to move on. It is better to do that than to compromise and lower your standard because if you did *that*, years from now you would look in the mirror and not recognize the man you have become. But standing firm on what you believe, *that* takes strength.” She gave him a reassuring smile then sat back in her chair. “However, have you thought about encouraging Ellie to get her PI license too? I mean, she’s the one who keeps stumbling upon the dead bodies. You two might as well be a team.”

He grinned but shook his head.  “Oh, no.  No, no, no.  I want Ellie to stay a civilian.  She’s a great business woman, and she makes a mean latte, but law enforcement would drive her absolutely crazy.  She’s not exactly a rule-follower.  Even as a P.I., there are a ton of rules to follow.  Besides.  Her getting a PI license would just mean she’d get into even more trouble.  And I don’t think I could take that.” He considered a moment.  “Besides.  We’re already a team.  She just hasn’t realized it yet.”

Kelly laughed at that then reached for another cookie. “Fair enough, and true, I would say you two make a good team.” She smiled at him and broke off a piece of the cookie to eat while she contemplated her next question. Once she had swallowed, she asked, “Now though, you are a PI, so you have other cases than just Ellie’s, right? Have you taken a break from all of that while your leg heals, or how does that work?”

He blew out a breath.  “To be honest, paying cases are hard to find.  I’ve been kind of coasting since I broke my leg.  I mean, it’s not like I’ve actually moved up here.  Not for real.  Most of my stuff is still at Dan and Kate’s – I’m sort of between formal addresses at the moment, since apparently being a PI doesn’t really pay very well and I lost my lease.”  He scanned the room, the book cases, looking anywhere but into Kelly’s penetrating gaze.  “I’ve sort of been helping the local Chief of Police out with a couple of things.  And once in a while I get tagged by a friend of mine who works for the Feds.  But really, at the moment, I’m on, um, oh, let’s call it a sabbatical.”

“And are you enjoying this sabbatical? or are you going stir crazy yet?” Kelly smiled at him.

“God!  Stir crazy doesn’t even cover it.  Especially now that the leg feels better.  So I had Kate send up some of my files – the ones from Ellie’s parent’s murders.  I know if I keep digging I can turn something up, despite how long it’s been.  But I’ve got to do that on the sly.  She’d kill me if she knew what I was doing.”

Kelly furrowed her brows. “She doesn’t want you looking into that?”

“You gotta understand, Ellie is a really private person.  And she has this thing about law enforcement.  They totally bungled the case and put her through hell over it. Because I used to be a cop, I’m sort of painted with the same brush.  If she knew I were looking into it—without her permission, without her asking me to – she’d probably break my leg on purpose.  And leave me out in the snow to freeze.”  He gave a rueful grin.  “She’s got a temper, our Glenda Goodwitch.”

This made sense to Kelly, so she nodded, but it only brought up another issue. She set her chin in her palm and raised her brows. “And what are you going to do when she does eventually find out because she will.”

“Ah.  Heh heh.  Yeah.”  He rubbed his hands on his jeans.  “That’s, um, going to be interesting.  I’m hoping I can find a good time to spring it on her.  Some nice, quiet moment.  After she’s had two or three mojitos maybe.  Or has been sedated for surgery?”

“Yeah, I can totally see you randomly saying something like, ‘Hey, will you marry me? Oh and I’ve been looking into your parents’ case…’ Not sure which of those statements would surprise Ellie the most.” Kelly shook her head, chuckling at the thought.

“I think either might be lethal!”

Kelly gave him a wicked grin. “Well, I guess you’ll just have to wear a bulletproof vest and stay a safe distance from her when you break the news. Hopefully she’ll be stunned for a moment, giving you enough time to get a little of a headstart to run away.” Then Kelly sat back in her chair. “But anyway, you will figure out what to say when the time comes. Hopefully you can tell her yourself rather than her finding out and confronting you. That would be bad.”

“Yeah.  That’s the plan.”  He sighed.  “Pretty sure the guy who wrote the book on relationships never counted on an Ellie Gooden.  She’s unique.  But I can’t imagine spending my life with any one else.”  He glanced up at Kelly.  “I’m sunk.”

Kelly smiled when he said this. She liked that he knew who he wanted to spend his life with but that he wasn’t forcing Ellie into a relationship. “Just be patient, Charlie. You’ve done well as far as I can tell. When the time is right, you’ll be able to tell her what she means to you, and I really hope both of you the best.” Then Kelly glimpsed at the clock on the wall and sighed. “Well, my time here is about done.” She looked back at Charlie and smiled as she rose to her feet. “It was great chatting with you again. Thanks for agreeing to meet with me.”

He stood as well. “No, the pleasure was mine.  I, uh, I haven’t talked about the thing… the reason behind my resignation, with anyone before.  I really appreciate you listening.  And uh, you were right.  About the fine line between vigilantes and villains.  I’ll keep that in mind, especially when I find the a-holes who killed Ellie’s parents.”  He stuck out his hand.  “So.  Thank you.”

Kelly shook his hand and smiled. “It was my pleasure. And some time another, you’re gonna have to be honest with Ellie. Honesty is very important with any relationship. For now though, I need to go. Enjoy the cookie!” With one more smile and a wave, Kelly turned and headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Nan Sampson’s third novel in her Coffee and Crime series, ‘Forest Outings’ is now available. You can find it, along with the other books of her series, at the following links:

Amazon Link to Restless Natives, Book 1 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:  https://www.amazon.com/Restless-Natives-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01EQTOTOS

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Amazon Link to Office Heretics, Book 2 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:

https://www.amazon.com/Office-Heretics-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KXW537Y

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Amazon Link to Forest Outings, Book 3 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6W6LCK/

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Website:  http://nansampsonauthor.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/nansampsonauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/NanSampson

GoodReads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8386474.Nan_Sampson

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Nan-Sampson/e/B00LSWJ4Z6/

Author Interview: Nan Sampson

For this interview, I actually met with an author who I’ve interviewed several years ago. Since then she has released a few new books, so I thought I would check up with her. Her name is Nan Sampson, and she writes MYSTERY. If you’re interested in her first interview, you can find it here: https://meetingwiththemuse.com/2015/07/08/author-interview-nan-sampson-bach/. However, this interview we discuss her mystery series and get caught up to date. As always, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Nan’ was written ’Nan Sampson’.

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Kelly dusted off shelves in her Muse Shop as she waited for the timer for her cookies to go off. A few minutes passed, and she heard the timer sound, so she put down the dusting cloth and went to the kitchen in the back of the shop to pull the cookies off the cookie sheet.

She had just finished plating the hot cookies on a plate when she heard the door to her shop chime. Taking the plate, Kelly made her way back to the front and she smiled widely when she recognized Nan Sampson. “Nan!” Setting the plate of cookies on the kitchen, Kelly went to Nan and embraced her then pulled back. “You’re just in time! Just finished baking some cookies.” She turned back and grabbed the plate. “Care to sit at that table and chat?” She gestured to a table near the front window. “Afterwards, you’re welcome to meander about the shop. So how have you been?”

Nan grinned.  “Oh, my gosh.  I could smell the cookies out on the sidewalk.  I’ll bet they draw a lot of customers inside!”  She took a seat at the table and smiled warmly at Kelly.  “I’ve been great!  It’s so good to see you again!”

“It’s great to see you as well! By all means, have cookies!” Kelly sat down across from her and took a fresh cookie too. “So, before we talk about your writing and books, catch me up briefly. How have you been in life? Everything going well?”

“Gosh.  It’s been…an interesting year.  The day job has been particularly demanding, I suffered a rather ridiculous fall that took me down for about eight weeks, and my teenager is, well, a teenager.  But really, on the whole, we’re blessed to have the life we live.”

Kelly winced when she heard about the fall. “You doing okay though? I mean, after the fall? That can knock anyone back for a bit. And yeah, teenagers will be teenagers!” She chuckled, shaking her head.

“I’m good.  The broken nose was just humiliating and the broken hand has mended.  The real damage was to my pride!  Sooooo embarrassing as it happened at work!  The trick now is getting back to my publishing schedule.  I had a rather ambitious schedule back in September and the fall sort of… forced me to revise that.” Nan grabbed a cookie off the plate and savored it.  “OMG, these are so good.”

Kelly smiled. “Glad you like them! And on the bright side, at least you can write about having a broken nose!” She shrugged. “Okay, so, catch me up on your writing endeavors. You’ve recently published another book. Is this the second or third one of the series? I think when I last interviewed you, you had just released the first book. I’m not sure how far behind I am.”

Nan relaxed back in her chair.  The atmosphere of the shop was so beguiling.  You couldn’t stay anxious here.  “I’ve just released the third book in the Coffee and Crime series titled ‘Forest Outings’.  I think it’s my favorite so far.  I’m STILL in draft mode on the Steampunk novel, as well as the first book in a space opera trilogy.  Those were supposed to get finished in November and December respectively, but now will get pushed back until late spring.”  Her stomach fluttered.  It felt so odd talking about ‘her’ novels.   She was proud of what she’d accomplished, but sometimes talking about her own work felt a bit like bragging, which she’d been raised to believe was rude.

“Well, I hope you get to publish those steampunk and space opera books. I’d love to hear about them. However, I think we need to focus on the book you have published. Since it has been a while since our last interview together, remind me again, what is the Coffee and Crime series about? And how has it progressed since Book 1?”

Nan eyed the plate of cookies, then mentally shook her head.  Maybe later.  “The Coffee and Crime series features marketing manager turned coffee shop owner Ellie Gooden.  In the first book, Restless Natives, we see her moving from Chicago to a small town in southwestern Wisconsin to open her shop, The Sacred Caff, and getting embroiled in a murder.  Book Two, Office Heretics, has her returning to Chicago for a visit and to help solve the murder of an old college friend.  And Book Three, Forest Outings, takes place back in Horizon, Wisconsin, where a dear friend’s son is accused of murdering a colleague from Madison.  There is an element of the paranormal in the series—Ellie frequently encounters the shades of the dead— and then there is the ongoing mystery of who killed Ellie’s own parents, which won’t be resolved for quite some time.”  She plucked nervously at the hem of her flowing purple Boho blouse.  “Why does it never sound as interesting when I say it aloud as it does when I’m writing?”  She looked back up, gave Kelly a grin.  “Haven’t quite perfected my elevator speech yet.”

Kelly laughed when she heard Nan’s last statement. “I know. Summaries never sound as good as we come up with in our head once we say them aloud, but you’ve done well. Don’t worry.” She sat back in her chair, smiling at Nan. “Now, are these books surrounding the same original murder from the first book? Or was that was solved already and Ellie just got roped into solving yet another murder?” She tilted her head, curious.

“All separate and unrelated murders.  Each one gets solved by the end of each book.”  Nan laughed.  “Just call her Jessica Fletcher of the midwest! Pretty soon, people will run when they see her coming, knowing someone is going to die.” She considered.  “I guess that’s a trope of amateur sleuth mysteries.  You have to suspend disbelief there.  I mean, most cops don’t see as many murders as these amateur sleuths do.  But that’s also part of the fun!”

Kelly nodded. “She’s not an actual police detective though, right? That’s what makes this whole series interesting. But she has Charlie with her, right? And he’s with the police? I can’t remember the details!” She shook her head, chuckling. It had been about two years since she interviewed Nan last, so she was rusty on the details.

“No, she’s no cop.  She can’t stand the cops, after the way they bungled the investigation into her parents’ murders.  And yes, Charlie is there, although he’s a P.I. now.”  She couldn’t help grinning.  “Is it bad for a writer to have favorite characters?  I mean, as a parent, you can’t have ‘favorite’ children, but Charlie has got to be my absolute favorite character ever.  I love the sparks between he and Ellie.  Not just the romantic ones, but the snappy patter.  They’re oil and water and yet they work so well together.”

This caused Kelly to grin, and she leaned forward, setting her forearms on the table. “So, how have the characters evolved over the last few books? Have they surprised you? Are they what you expected? Or a bit of both?”

Nan took another cookie off the plate and bit into it before she even realized what she was doing.  Dang magic cookies.  “Oh, the relationship between Charlie and Ellie definitely heats up over the course of the series.  That’s another fun element, that romance.”  She pursed her lips, thinking.  “Originally, during the inception, Charlie was just a one-off, a bit part.  I had envisioned Ellie taking a different path in her relationships.  But leave it to Charlie—he can worm his way into anyone’s heart.  That really surprised me.  And the way Ellie is growing…I hadn’t anticipated some of what is happening.  Especially the way things are starting to go with the riddle of who killed her folks.  It’s evolving and morphing, but in such a great way.  As a writer, you gotta love it when the work takes on a life of its own!”

“Yes, when the story takes a life of its own, and all you can do, as the writer, is hang on for dear life—that’s the best.” Kelly grinned then took another cookie and sat back. “So this third book, was it just the next natural step for the series? Or did something specific give you the idea and inspire it? If that makes any sense.” She shrugged and ate the cookie.

That made her stop and think.  “You know, I don’t really know where the idea for Forest Outings originated.  There’s a certain pattern, or rhythm I’m working towards in the series, where the books take place alternately in town or someplace else.  So I knew I needed a murder in town, but I just wasn’t ready to kill off a townie yet.  And I had just read an article about some eco-warriors doing some tree-sitting in California, and then things just kind of jelled.  The next book, however, which doesn’t have a tile yet, will take place in the Wisconsin Dells and was inspired by a trip a couple of friends and I took up there for a mini-writing retreat.  We all got plot ideas from that trip!”  A movement from one of the shelves caught her eye.  Something had scurried or slithered or flittered or something.  She wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if it had been the Golden Snitch, there were so many fabulous curiosities in the shop.  Focus, Nan, focus.

“Sounds like a wonderful time.” Kelly smiled. “So, you said you have another book already in the wings. Any idea how many books will be in the series, or will you just see where it takes you?” She lifted her brows.

Nan giggled.  “Oh, I have so many ideas in the wings, the inside of my head looks like the skies over O’Hare!  As for this series, I have no particular number in mind.  I’ll let the series take me wherever it wants to go.  As long as readers are still enjoying them and I’m still having fun writing them, I’ll continue.”  She took one final cookie.  “But there are so many other things I want to write too.  We’ll just have to see where the journey takes me.”  She brushed crumbs off her ample bosom and onto a napkin, thinking her bosom would be less ample if she could just stop eating cookies!  Oh, what the heck.  Life was short and these were magic cookies anyway.

Kelly saw Nan’s conflict and grinned as she scooted the plate of cookies toward her. “Enjoy them.” She smiled. “However though, in addition to this series, you want to write and publish other series! How are you going to split your mind with all those different stories? I can’t even imagine doing that!!!”

Nan thought briefly.  “Actually, it’s not really that hard.  I have a different set of musical tracks I end up associating with each series, each world I create.  Music is hugely important to my creative process.  So when I want to get “into” a particular world or character, I just play that set of tracks and BAM, I’m there.  And to be honest, I’m kind of ADHD.  I can only really concentrate on one book for about two months straight.  So I do a two month draft process, set the book aside to, um, ferment,” she chuckled, “and either start the draft of something completely different, or work on a revision of something I’ve already drafted.  I usually have about three WIPs going at any given time, in various stages of either drafts, first pass revision (the hard one), or outlining.”  She rubbed at her temples, grinning.  “And people wonder why I can’t remember where I’m supposed to be most days.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Well, I am glad you can manage that because I know I couldn’t. Fantastic for you!” Then a clock on the wall chimed, and Kelly looked up at it then frowned. “Our hour is up.” She looked back at Nan. “Unfortunately I need to get back to work, but I’ve really enjoyed catching up with you.” She smiled as she rose to her feet. “If you’d like, you’re welcome to take a look around. Be careful though. Got plot bunnies lurking that like to jump out and bite people.”

Nan stood, thrilled at the opportunity to rummage around in the shop.  She reached out a hand to Kelly.  “Thanks so much!  I loved catching up with you as well, it’s always a blast talking with you.  And remember, O Great Muse, if you’re ever in Horizon, Wisconsin, stop into The Sacred Caff for a cuppa.  Ellie wold love to treat you!”  Then, abruptly eschewing a handshake in favor of a brief, heartfelt hug goodbye, she let Kelly go about the rest of her day and headed straight for the shelf where she’d seen movement earlier.  Plot bunnies beware, she announced mentally, Nan was on the hunt for inspiration!

<~>~<~>~<~>

Nan Sampson’s third novel in her Coffee and Crime series, ‘Forest Outings’ is now available. You can find it, along with the other books of her series, at the following links:

Amazon Link to Restless Natives, Book 1 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:  https://www.amazon.com/Restless-Natives-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01EQTOTOS

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Amazon Link to Office Heretics, Book 2 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series: 

https://www.amazon.com/Office-Heretics-Coffee-Crime-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01KXW537Y

book-2

Amazon Link to Forest Outings, Book 3 in the Coffee & Crime Mystery Series:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6W6LCK/

book-3

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website:  http://nansampsonauthor.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/nansampsonauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/NanSampson

GoodReads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8386474.Nan_Sampson

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Nan-Sampson/e/B00LSWJ4Z6/

Character Interview: Arthur David’s Blackmail

I had the opportunity to sit down with Arthur David’s fictional secret agent, Blackmail, from his sci-fi spy thriller novel ‘Agents of the Third Party’. I learned some things about her agency, The Third Party, as well as her own motives to work for them. 

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BlackMail sat on a stone bench that was out on her estate. It was still a little crisp outside in New York at this time of year, but not so bad that she felt the need to be inside. Water babbled through a fountain behind her, the sound helping to calm her. Trees surrounded the yard, each flanked by heaters keeping the bats that live there warm throughout the year.

She tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for an interview to start that she shouldn’t be having. The Party didn’t look nicely on anyone that gives out information on them, but she was going to do it anyways.

“Ma’am, a car has arrived at the front gate.” Alfred’s voice seemed to come from nowhere, just as it always did. “The occupant claims to have an appointment with you, shall I allow her in?”

BlackMail toyed with the idea of having Alfred send her away, she really shouldn’t be doing this. She felt like she should have some record though. She had been witness to too many agents who had died, the world never knowing what they had done for good or bad. She wasn’t looking for fame, just for someone out there to know that there were things happening, there were people making the world better.

“Alfred, let her in. I’ve kept her out there for too long already, and we really don’t have the time to waste. And make sure Jade doesn’t come around or that Kelly is here, this meeting is private.”

“Yes Ma’am. I’m opening the gate for Ms. Kelly right away. How shall I keep Jade away?”

“I really don’t care Alfred, lock her in her room if you have to, just keep this private.”

“Right away Ma’am. Excelsior!”

BlackMail got up to her feet trying to hide the smile Alfred’s last exclamation brought. He always reminded her of her great-grandfather, and he had always made her smile. She composed herself as the car with Kelly silently drives up to her fountain, lights along the driveway directing the automated system to a spot to park at.

Once Kelly parked and climbed out of the car, she looked around, taking in the sight of the estate. Then she saw a woman a little ways off, so Kelly dug her hands into her coat pockets and headed her way. “I’m assuming you are the one they call BlackMail? Thank you for meeting with me. Quite a place you have here.” She glimpsed around before looking back at BlackMail. “Is this something from your family or does the Party just pay their top agents that well?” She smiled as she asked this.

BlackMail smiled back at Kelly and glanced around her estate. “A little bit of both. My family was already very well off before I joined The Party. The Party certainly does take care of its agents, and there have been a few missions that have been pretty lucrative to me personally.”

“I’m sure.” Kelly nodded as she continued to approach. “So, was your family in politics or so? Or just….wisely invested?” She then sat on the bench across from BlackMail and observed her.

“No, my families money…” BlackMail laughed as she thought on where they got started “My family came into money thanks to my great-grandfather. Not a politician, though he did have a run in with politics. Nothing overly bad, more of the knee jerk reactions politicians have to things they don’t understand. He was a very creative man, and he turned that into a fair amount of wealth. He wasn’t always the best at managing it though. However the rest of the family was able to take what he had given them and turned it into much more.” BlackMail gestured around at the garden around them, “They had no idea, my family, what I would end up doing, what that wealth would ultimately help finance.”

“Interesting.” Kelly leaned forward, clasping her hands together. “So do you help finance The Party? Or just your own missions and side projects?”

BlackMail laughed softly for a second. “Oh no, The Party is well financed without me. As I said earlier, they take care of us pretty well. It’s an organization of global reach, interests spread out all over the world in just about anything you can imagine. The Party likes to have its fingers in everything, from the mundane such as entertainment, companies that specialize in computer science and security, Travel, banks and everything in between. I know none of that sounds particularly threatening, but The Party is involved in defense contracts, weapons, and scientific research for curing disease, to the worst of new weaponry. My wealth, really is just for me.”

Kelly smiled as she nodded. “At least you have it and can do whatever you will with it.” With that, she sat back and considered BlackMail for a moment. “I was informed you joined The Party at age 18, so what was life like before you became an agent? Do you have any siblings to speak of? And what of your parents”

BlackMails eyes unfocused for a moment as she thought back to the days before The Party.” Life was normal, I guess. I’m not really even sure what that means anymore. I grew up with my older sister, and my mother and father. My parents weren’t much for flashing our wealth around. You wouldn’t know it from my home now, but we grew up in a 3 bedroom house, with Toyotas in the driveway. They wanted us to know how it was to live like everyone else. Sort of. I mean, we had the latest things, traveled around the world. But nothing outwardly screamed ‘Filthy Rich’.” BlackMail paused a moment to catch her breath and gather her thoughts before continuing. “They, they’re all gone now. I’m the last one in my family. I don’t really see that changing any time soon. Very few agents live to be old or to have families.” A grim smile flickered across her face replaced with a bit of sadness, “My family tree will probably end with me. Thats why, ” BlackMail nodded towards her estate, “I built all this, have all the things I do. There won’t be anyone for me to pass it on to. I might as well enjoy it.”

Kelly frowned when she heard that. “And you’re happy with that. Happy to work so hard all your life and do all the deeds that you must do only for your name to perish with you when you die, for your wealth to go to someone you don’t know, and for you to be forgotten in history? Is it worth it?”

“Am I happy with it? I don’t know that I’m happy with it, I’ve come to terms with it I think. I know that everything I’m doing is for the greater good of humanity, for the betterment of the world. My life, my happiness is a small price to pay for the good that will come from it all.” She sighed and took a deep breath. “I asked you here, because we, Party agents, have done so much, changed the world in ways no one knows. The Party prefers is that way, but I wanted someone to know we exist, that we were here and we changed the world. I can live with that, I can die with that. My old partner, Aurora, taught me that. She died for those ideals, its the least I can do.”

“I understand that, yet you are not Aurora. Do you held firm to those ideals?” Kelly raised her brows as she observed BlackMail. “And please, be honest with me…and with yourself. I just want the truth because this may be the only time you will be able to truly be honest.”

“Those ideals have been my entire life. Even as a child, my parents would take us traveling. I saw the world, the incredible natural beauty and wonder of humanities genius.” BlackMail turned away staring off into the distance at the New York skyline, “But they didn’t shield us from the harsh realities of the world. Poverty, hunger, sickness were everywhere we looked. These things should not exist, not when we can fix them, not when we have the ability to ease or erase that suffering. My work with The Party will help to end all of that.” She turned back to Kelly “It’s a small price to pay. My life, one that may not have appeared to be one of privilege, yet very much was. To dedicate the rest of it, however long or short it may be, to that. It’s something I think that would have made them all proud. It’s something thats made it all worth it.”

“But do you think it’s truly possible…to accomplish what The Party wants to accomplish?” Kelly leaned in. “Yes, while it is good not to want hunger or poverty or sickness, and it would be nice if those didn’t exist, there are other evils that exist within each one of us that…if we have the ideal, someone will become discontent, and it’s a very slippery slope from that to full out war especially if the wrong people have the power.”

“Oh, I understand the evils that exist in us very well. We aren’t a charity, Party agents aren’t running around feeding the hungry or taking care of the sick. Assassination, sabotage, blackmailing, those are the tools we tend to employ. I told you earlier that The Party has its fingers in many pies, that isn’t done for money. Entertainment allows us to shape the attitudes of the public. Computer software and security. You put our systems on your computers and phones, and give The Party access to everything about you.” BlackMail gestured out towards the NewYork skyline, now filled with green growing along the sides and tops of the skyscrapers. “None of what you see out there happened by chance. America’s politicians didn’t suddenly see the light for fighting climate change and pollution. Some very dirty information suddenly appeared and would have made its way to the media. Some of that was because they were genuinely dirty, some was manufactured by Party Agents. All true, but things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.  We work hard to curb the evils and excesses of those in power, and we do not always do so nicely. When the wrong people have the power, we try to work with them, reign them in, put them on the right path. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and then new people get the power.”

Kelly nodded as she came to understand. It reminded her of another agency she’d heard of from a TV show but couldn’t recall the name right now, but it made sense to her now. “I understand better now.” She sat back on the bench. “So, I understand Aurora brought you into The Party, but how did you come to meet her?”

“She and I had been very close for as long as I can remember. Growing up she had just been there, an ever present part of my life. Until she wasn’t anymore. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her, or what I would have become. Actually it would likely have ended up very similar to this. The Party seeks out its agents, not the other way around. It’s hard to apply for an agency you don’t know exists. Usually once The Party decides it wants someone, they end up working for them one way or the other. They most likely don’t even realize it. All those pies The Party has its fingers in. So even without Aurora, I would probably have ended up here anyways. Though I don’t think I’d be quite the agent I am now without her.”

“Are you saying that that the Party wanted you, so they sent Aurora to be a part of your life and gradually inform you about the Party and at the right moment bring you into it? Or what exactly? I mean, was she always an agent the entire time you knew her?”

“No, we grew up together. Both kids. I’m not really sure how or when she became a part of The Party. I don’t know when The Party became interested in me, if it was as a child or even earlier due to my families wealth, or later on in high school when I excelled to the top of my class. It may have been some combination of everything. I’m not in recruiting, though apparently I am now a trainer and a mentor.”

“Ah, I see.” This made sense to her now. “And your mentor was someone named Muse? What can you tell me about Muse? What was it like training under Muse?” It was odd asking these questions for Kelly because oftentimes she was considered the Muse, but Kelly dismissed this and looked to BlackMail for answers.

“Harsh. My first ‘mission’ Muse sent me on sent me into a random rundown shack of a house in the middle of nowhere. Supposedly, someone there had managed to develop a cure for HIV. It looked more like a meth lab then a facility for curing disease. But in I went to find the secret formula. God, actually talking about it makes it sound like a bad movie plot.” BlackMail pulled back her sleeve to show off a scar along the underside of her left arm. “I got this in that shack, when Muse caused it to collapse on top of me. It  was made of something that wouldn’t kill me when it fell on top of me, but it didn’t feel good either. When I managed to crawl out, she congratulated me on my death. That wasn’t the last time I ‘died’ under her tutelage. But it was designed to make me think and keep me cautious. To keep me from rushing in without thinking. It was necessary, it’s kept me alive. Earlier I told you most agents don’t live long enough to retire, Muse is one of the few who has.”

When Kelly heard this tale, she lifted her brows. “Well, she certainly sounds like a rough mentor. And you’ve said she’s survived long enough to retire? And the fact that you’ve survived longer than the average age of agents shows that Muse’s methods probably helped prolong your life. I’m assuming you’re teaching Jade similar things?”

“A friend, and fellow agent, Doomsday helped me set up her first mission. Sent her out onto a boat owned by a company with information on The Party. It was her job to find and destroy that information. She did fairly well, but ended up jumping out into the water in January, not a very good idea, and then I shot her.” BlackMail smiled at the reaction she received from that. “Not literally shot her, though Doomsday nearly did. Well not really though, he’s a marksman, he doesn’t miss. I made it very clear that she had died on her mission. She wasn’t happy with me. Doomsday wasn’t thrilled with my training exercise either, but he let me do what needed to be done.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this, and she shook her head. “I’m guessing that, ‘you die on your first day of training’ isn’t on the contract you sign when you sign up.” She smiled although she suspected The Party didn’t have any actual contracts like that, but still, her point was made. “So what is like, being on THIS end of training?”

BlackMail made a sound of frustration. “Aggravating. Jade listens, thinks about what I tell her. She was pretty mad that first night I killed her. But she took it, learns, grows. But she’s still headstrong, questions me on everything, wants to know why we’re doing what we do. She can’t take an order and simply follow it.  I’m very proud of her. She’s going to be a great agent someday.”

Kelly smiled at the obvious admiration BlackMail had for Jade. “But has she taught you anything in return? You know how students tend to accidentally teach their masters something while being taught.”

“She’s certainly given me a new appreciation for what Muse went through with me. And to never underestimate her. She’s surprised me more then once particularly during some of our sparring sessions,”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Sounds like she’s going to be an incredible agent for sure.” Then Kelly paused, considering the course of their conversation, and then she smiled because she knew her next question. “So, tell me, why is Zenith so annoying?”

BlackMail rolled her eyes at the mention of Zenith’s name. “Aside from him constantly inviting me over or trying to sleep with me. I’m surprised he hasn’t tried the inducer yet. Well no, that would have repercussions he would not enjoy. Zenith hands me my assignments, checks on me, assigned Jade to me. It gives him an inflated sense of worth I think. Unfortunately I can’t get a new contact, and I can’t kill him, ago I’m stuck dealing with him. Fortunately he’s only annoying.”

Kelly chuckled. “Well, at least you can take you anger out when you have to kill an assignment or something.” She shrugged. “Now, our time is almost up, but I’ve been curious. ‘BlackMail’ is your codename, but what is your real name? Or does it have no meaning to you anymore?” She locked eyes with the agent.

BlackMail returned the stare with the muse, “It doesn’t matter anymore. BlackMail is who I am now. The person I was before is gone. Very little of who she was remains. I’ve embraced this life, it’s really all I have anymore and all I’ll ever be.”

Kelly nodded. She had expected that answer. “Well then, BlackMail, this conversation probably hasn’t gone the way you expected it to, but I do appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.” Kelly rose to her feet. “And thank you for answering my questions. You sound like you have had a very interesting life. Be careful out there. Survive long enough, maybe you’ll be able to retire.” She smiled at her.

BlackMail smiled back as reaches out to shake her hand. “Nothing ever goes the way I expect. We’ll see what the future holds for us all.”

Kelly nodded. “And so we shall. Take care of yourself.” With that and a final smile, Kelly headed for her car.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Arthur David’s book ‘Agents of the Third Party’ is available on Amazon. Don’t forget to follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Agents-Third-Party-BlackMail-Beginning-ebook/dp/B01N7OR766 

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Blog: https://arthurdavidblog.wordpress.com

Author Interview: Arthur David

In this interview, I met with sci-fi spy thriller author, Arthur David, to discuss his new book ‘Agents of the Third Party’. This is our meeting. ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Arthur’ was written by Arthur David.

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Night had come, and Kelly came to the observatory where Arthur David asked her to meet him for the interview. She gazed around at the clear view of the night sky this place offered, and she smiled. It reminded her a lot of home, living in the country with millions of stars overhead every night without the pollution of too much light. She’d never been to an observatory although she always wanted to visit one, so this would be interesting.

Stepping into it, she found the massive chamber empty of people. “Hello?” She called out, and then she passed through, going out back where she found someone looking through a telescope. Kelly smiled. “Arthur David?” When he looked up at her and straightened, she reached out her hand. “I’m Kelly. It’s great to meet you. How’s the view out there?” She motioned to the stars?

He took her hand smiling then glanced up towards the stars. “Its wonderful, still one of my favorite sights. I never get tired of looking at the stars.” He motioned towards his telescope, “Would you like to take a look, its an incredible view.”

“Sure.” Kelly smiled as she stepped up to the telescope and took a look. “Wow…it is stunning.” After a moment of searching the stars, she finally stepped back and smiled once more at Arthur. “So, is this a hobby of yours?”

“Yes, I’ve always been fascinated by space and the stars, ever since I was a child.” He turned around to take in the night sky as well as the large telescopes around them. “As a seven year old, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Most kids want to be firefighters or police or something. But I knew I was going to be an astronomer.” He smiled somewhat sadly, “That didn’t quite happen, but that love I knew, it never went away.”

“I’ve always loved the stars too, but…couldn’t pass astronomy class.” Kelly chuckled as she shook her head, thinking back to her college days. “However, it’s a wonderful hobby to have. Now, I know we’re here to talk about your writing and such, but every writer comes from a different walk of life. I’m always curious what those are. So, are you a full time writer, or do you have another job?”

“Writing is another hobby though another one I truly enjoy. It’s something to help pass the nights when its raining, or I’ve decided it’s just to cold to be outside. In real life during the day I work in retail, selling wireless phones and products.” Arthur waved his hand towards his telescope and kits with various eyepieces and cameras, “It’s not nearly as glamours or exciting as the worlds I build on the computer screen, or as bright as this makes the nights sky, but it does pay the bill and keeps the family fed. It’s been a better job then I ever would have imagined it could be.”

Kelly nodded as she looked up at the night sky. “At least it’s something.” She smiled at him. “So, when did you first become interested in writing?”

Arthur’s eyes lost focus for a moment as he thought back to when he really started doing some type of writing. “Back in high school I suppose. It wasn’t something I really had taken up as much as I do now, but I remember taking those prompts in English, and spinning stories of previous lives. I had entered into a contest to create a TV screen play at one point in high school as well.” Arthur laughed for a second at the memory of it, “It had been based pretty heavily on a book I had read, and probably wasn’t very good. But it was an old early attempt.”

Arthur took a moment to breathe and stretched his arms out behind him before continuing. “It wasn’t really until later though, while in college, that I really started to take up writing, A friend of mine had been writing something, and had ended up encouraging me to do so as well. It wasn’t really anything I had considered before then. But I took her up on it, and my first book was born.”

As he said all this, Kelly watched him and had to smile. Every author she spoke with had the same look on their face when they were thinking back to how they came to where they were as authors and what brought them to this point. “And from there you started writing more seriously then?”

“I started writing different things, I found a site, worth1000.com that held at the very least, weekly writing contests which I really enjoyed. They were pretty small stories, maybe eight hundred words and no real prize other then pride I suppose. But that site really helped by giving me other prompts that I might not have written on otherwise, and helped to develop me with help from the great community that it had. I found NaNoWriMo from there as I looked for other writing contests and communities.” He laughed for a second thinking of the various stories he had penned on that site, “Writing as been an off and on hobby for me for a long time. Something I do between the stars, reading, and everything else that comes up in life.” Arthur grinned as another memory crossed his mind, “Not to mention the most important things, trying to pass on and grow those same types of passions with my own children and of course taking care of my somehow very patient and understanding wife.”

Kelly smiled when she heard all this. “Certainly sounds like you have your hands full. However though, I heard you’re publishing a book soon? Or have published a book? That means you’ve come far with your writing. Telling about me about this book. What is it about?”

He laughed a little, “That’s a story in and of itself. When I wrote my first book, the one my friend got me to start, I realized that it was missing something, it wasn’t the whole story and needed something more. So I started a second book, that took place before the first. The Star Wars prequels were still coming out at the time, so I figured, hey if Lucas can do it, so can I. Only I’m releasing them in order.” Arthur took a moment to breathe and gather his thoughts before continuing. “This one, about to be released in a few days, the prequel of sorts, revolves around a woman BlackMail. She’s a secret agent in the year 2047 but for a shadowy organization called The Third Party that doesn’t belong to any particular government or organization but is bent on changing the world for its vision of the future. They do have some lofty visions, the end of war, hunger, poverty. However its a very ‘End justifies the means’ group as they don’t really worry about how or who may get hurt for their vision of the future.”

“Third Party…that’s interesting. Could be taken several different ways. I like it.” She grinned at Arthur. “So, you said it focuses on BlackMail? Is she discontent with the Third Party? Is she realizing things are not what they seem? Or why exactly is she the focus of the story?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she observed Arthur.

“The funny thing about that name, is it was meant to be a place holder. One of the most difficult things I do, agonize for long periods, is come up with names for things. So glad I let my wife name the kids, They would be ten before I managed to decide on one.” Arthur laughs then shakes his head slightly to get back on track, “I think it works out well though since they really are the third party to things happening. But in this story, BlackMail is considered one of, if not, the top agent for The Party. She gets tasked with training a young woman, Jade, who they believe is talented enough to be just as good of an agent, if not better, then BlackMail. BlackMail isn’t discontent with The Party, and she knows she doesn’t know the whole story, she doesn’t want to, thats not how it works. Even for a secret agent its best not to know everything. The story instead focuses on a mission BlackMail and Jade take on that does end up changing both of them. If that change is good or bad” Arthur grins a bit, “Well you’ll have to read it to find out.”

“Very intriguing story for sure.” Kelly nodded as she let her mind wrap around everything he had said. “It certainly sounds like it has a lot of potential!” Then she briefly checked her phone and frowned. “Our time is almost up. Can’t believe how much time flies! However…” She pocketed away her phone again and looked back at Arthur. “What is something, if anything, you’d like your readers to take from the story? Something they’d remember long after they’ve read it?”

Arthur furrowed his brow as he thought on Kelly’s question. “If anything I just hope people enjoy it. I’m not looking to make any kind of deep statement or anything with this book. I certainly have my own thoughts and ideas on most things in the world, many of my friends can attest to how I think on politics and such, probably much to their annoyance. ” He laughed, “But none of that is really on display in the book too much, well maybe a little in The Parties ideals, though I would never agree with their methodology.” He paused, taking a moment to breathe before continuing. “Like I said, I really just want it to be something people enjoy and find entertaining. I was always annoyed back in English class dissecting books looking for deeper meaning. Can’t a book just be fun? If someone enjoys reading it and has fun in BlackMail’s world, thats all I really want.”

“I’m sure people will enjoy it. And I hope you the best. Now though, unfortunately it’s time for me to head out. It was really wonderful to meet you.” Kelly shook Arthur’s hand then gestured to the telescope. “And have fun gazing at the stars.” She smiled at him. “You take care, okay?”

“It was great meeting you too, Kelly. Feel free to come back any time, and always look up at night. There’s a whole universe above us. Have a good night, Kelly, I look forward to hearing more from you.”

“And you as well!” With a wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Arthur David’s book ‘Agents of the Third Party’ is available on Amazon. Don’t forget to follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Agents-Third-Party-BlackMail-Beginning-ebook/dp/B01N7OR766 

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