(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Audra was written by Audra Brown.)
Atop a mesa in New Mexico. How was it possible to even get up here, Kelly wasn’t sure, but that was the perks of being a Muse. Someone said they wanted to meet somewhere specific, and she made it happen. Audra Brown said she wanted to be in a stone tower atop a new Mexico mesa, and here Kelly waited with the sun beating down on her.
She squinted, lifting her hands to shield her eyes as she looked around at the barren land. She had to admit, it was lovely here. A little hot, yeah, but still gorgeous. She bet the sunrises and sunsets were breathtaking as well.
Suddenly a portal rippled near Kelly, and she turned to see it open and a woman on the other side of it. Kelly reached out her hand to her. “It’s perfectly safe.” And she pulled her through. “Audra Brown? I’m Kelly. You said you wanted to be atop a mesa, and well…I decided to save us a hike by having a portal open. Hope you don’t mind.”
Audra accepted the hand and stepped out onto the dusty stone floor of the outlook atop the tower. “I am not a fan of walking either.” Audra pushed the black cowboy hat a little farther back on her head before re-situating it back where it had started, low and just a little crooked. The rest of her attire was pretty plain except for the Apple watch on her wrist and the Desert Eagle on her hip. “Welcome to my thinking spot, Madame Muse. Here, you can see everything, but it doesn’t even know you exist, much less that we’re watching.” Audra pointed down off the side of the mesa. In the far distance a snaking line of movement that was the Interstate ran along, busy and unknowing. I ain’t the biggest fan of standing either,” Audra said. gesturing to a bistro table near the edge of the tower-top. She pulled out a steel flask and fell into a chair. “Care for some espresso? Just made it fresh before I headed here.”
“Nice, thanks.” Kelly took the offered espresso. “So Audra, tell me a bit about yourself. When did you first become interested in writing?”
“Well…” Audra grinned and leaned back in the chair. “Officially, I took to it seriously when I decided to take a terrible Creative Writing class in college. However, upon later inspection, I found little stories and starts that I have no memory of, but clearly wrote when I was quite a bit younger. I’d say always, I was just slow about noticing.”
“Most writers tend to have written all their lives without being aware of it, but something triggers them to become serious about it,” Kelly pointed out as she eased back in her chair and smiled at Audra. “You said you got serious when you took a Creative Writing class. What about that class urged you on?”
“It made me sit down and write a whole couple of stories and without having any idea what I was doing, the prof thought it was rather good, called me ‘Hemingway, if Hemingway wrote westerns.” Audra downed a bit of espresso and laughed once. “Won a $75 prize with it and decided I was better at it than I would have guessed. Been hooked ever since. I also had made the mistake of reading way too much as a kid. Was already getting bored with too many books. Writing seemed like a good solution.”
Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Reading too much is never a mistake! And I’m glad you discovered your writing ability! So you write westerns? Is that all? Or have you branched to other genres too? Though westerns to pretty cool too!” Kelly smiled at her as she leaned back in her chair to hear what Audra would say.
Audra leaned forward and pusher her hat up a little. “I write all over the place. Not-Romance is about as specific as anything. I’ve got short stories all over the genres and as of now, I’ve got a Thriller that I plan to self-pub soon, a classic fantasy I co-wrote that’s probably gonna go that way too, two Urban fantasies in-progress, and several heavily hashed-out works that I just haven’t let myself start writing yet. Got everything from a traditional mystery to an epic epic of speculative fiction that is neither fantasy or scifi, but somewhere in-between. Dune-style, I hope. Oh, and I write a weekly column for some newspapers on my Adventures in Agriculture. Putting out an edited collection of those too.”
“Woah! That’s quite a lot” Kelly widened her eyes, but then grinned and shook her head. “I have no idea how you keep everything straight! But all those stories sound fantastic!” Now she leaned in. “Which story of yours would you like to talk about? Tell me what it’s about.”
Audra leaned back again, forcefully enough to slip one of the feet into a gap between stones. It rocked back and sideways and she jumped up before it could spill. “I love ’em all, but the Thriller’s next on the publishing slate, so that seems like a good place to start. She put the chair back in a stable spot and sat back down, taking care to be more deliberate than sudden. “Anyhow, it’s called ‘Tough Target’ and it’s about a badass rancher who is in desperate need of cash in order to keep the ranch. Some sneaky folks are looking for badasses under the guise of a Reality TV show, and she gets recruited and plans to win the big cash prize. Incidentally, it’s mostly a ruse and before it’s all said and done, there are betrayals, killings, terror, and tragedy. It gets bad enough that the money is the least of her worries.”
Audra leaned forward and scooted the chair again. “Darn it,” she said, jumping up again. “If I’m gonna talk about my work, I guess I’ll just stand. Can’t sit still when I get all revved up about writing. Anyhow, it’s a fast-paced adventure on the surface with a nice, dark thread of psychological drama underneath.”
Kelly chuckled as Audra rose to pace, and she settled back in her chair to observe her. “So I’m assuming this story takes place in more modern time, right? With Reality TV and all. Still, it sounds quite intriguing. Tell me about some of the characters–their struggles and conflicts.”
“Yeah, I consider it to be set in that ambiguous nowish near future that a lot of Thrillers occupy.” Audra paused and leaned back against the outside wall of the tower, silhouetted against the emptiness. “The protagonist, Cass Elkins, is trying to run a ranch that she inherited, but a drought has made it pretty much impossible. She’s straight-up frontier stock. Self-sufficient, misanthropic, tougher than two bags of nails, and her hobbies are martial arts and marksmanship. She wants nothing more than to be left alone and run the ranch, but that just ain’t in the cards.”
“On the other side is a sneaky fella who, in the darker sides of espionage and acronyms, they call “The Cowboy.” He’s on a recruitment drive and knows about and is pulling more strings than anybody has a right to. He has a job for Cass, can’t hook her by being honest. So, he tricks her into one thing and then another until she’s headed in the direction he needs her to go. He manipulates Cass by putting one of her few friends in danger, and it works, but if she ever gets wind of what he actually did, it ain’t gonna go over well…” Audra started walking again, waving and gesturing as she described the other characters. “There’s Bobby, he’s a bored rich kid with a fast car that the Cowboy recruits about the same time as Cass, bit of a contrast to her. There’s Wallace and Dobbs, older associates of the Cowboy with their own skillsets.”
She stopped again. “Then there’s Maksim, son of a Russian mobster who is trying to make it on his own. He’s working as the local expert/middleman for a band of bad guys up to no good. He’s the main face of the plot that the Cowboy is trying to stop and quite an interesting character caught between a lot of forces.”
Kelly nodded as she took all this in. “Sounds like quite a cast of characters!” She grinned at Audra, but then she happened to look at her watch and frowned. “Our time’s about up. Can’t believe it’s been an hour already! However, tell me this. What inspired you to write this story?”
“I love a good thriller/adventure, but the trope seems to be that badass characters have to have some sort of really traumatic story and usually military or similar backgrounds. I wanted to write about the character that was badass, just because that’s what they liked to do. So, that’s the origin of Cass Elkins and her adventures.”
“I gave her bits of my own experience as a martial artist, rancher, and marksman, but Cass is much more disagreeable, and I’m way too lazy to get half as much done as she does. But the premise is based in reality, that’s for sure. I wrote a story that I hadn’t read before and wanted to read myself.”
Audra walked over to Kelly and stuck out her hand. “Much as I enjoy being by my lonesome, I always hate to see a good conversation go. It was a pleasure visiting with you. If you’re ever in my neck of nowhere, stop by for an espresso.”
Kelly rose to her feet and shook Audra’s hand as she smiled. “It was my pleasure. Thank you for meeting with me. I enjoyed this conversation. Keep me posted on your progress, all right? Sounds like quite a tale! But I’ve gotta go. Take care, Audra!” With a wave, Kelly opened the portal, smiled back at Audra and stepped through.
The eBook of Audra Brown’s novel, 429 to Yuma – Fire-for-Hire Episode 1, is scheduled to be released this week on November 12th. The paperback won’t be released until sometime in December. Be sure to follow her on social media for more updates!
Publisher’s site: 2epublishing.com (for signed copies, wholesale inquiries, etc…)
Social Media Links:
Author Website: www.al-brown.com
Twitter Handle: https://twitter.com/thegreenninja24
Facebook Author Page: facebook.com/toughTarget
Instagram Handle: https://www.instagram.com/caffeinated_polymath/