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.

<~>~<~>~<~>

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

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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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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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Author Interview: Nancy A. Nation

I had the pleasure of meeting with sci-fi/urban fantasy author, Nancy A. Nation, to ask her a few questions about her writing and what inspired her series. In this interview, ‘Kelly’ is written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Nancy’ is written by Nancy A. Nation.

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Pushing open the door to the cafe, Kelly looked around, finding it to be a quaint little place. She smiled as she went up to the counter. “Just hot chocolate with whip cream, please. I’m waiting to meet someone.” After chatting a little with the woman behind the counter and coming to learn a bit more about this place, Kelly finally got her order and went to a table in the corner but near the front window. She sat facing the door, so if her interviewee, Nancy A. Nation, came in, she would see her.

After sipping on her drink then deciding to just wait and let it cool down, Kelly heard the chime of the door opening, and she lifted her gaze to see a woman enter. The woman matched the picture Kelly had seen, so she rose to her feet. “Nancy?” When Nancy looked her way, Kelly greeted her with a smile and reached out her hand to shake. “I’m Kelly. Thank you for meeting with me. How are you doing today?”

“I’m fine, and you?”

Kelly smiled. “I’m quite well. If you’d like to order something, you may, and then you can join me over here, so we can chat.” She motioned to the table she had been sitting at.

Nancy sat down, “Thanks.”

Kelly sat down as well and smiled once more. “So, Nancy, tell me a bit about yourself. Obviously you’re a writer and you’ve published several books, but when did you develop the interest in writing?” She tilted her head to the side as she listened.

Nancy ordered a hot chocolate when the waitress stopped by their table. “I’m a snowbird. When we came to Arizona, I didn’t have a lot to do. I saw a sign in the local library about getting your story published through a writing class. So I said, why not?”

“Well, I’m glad you took that chance. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here, and that would be unfortunately.” Kelly smiled then sipped on her hot chocolate. Putting down her mug, she asked, “So what kind of stories do you write?”

“I chose science fiction just because I feel it gives me more freedom to move the characters. But also I didn’t want to write non-fiction and have someone come after me. When I began writing in nano two years ago, I came into urban fantasy.  It’s a way to mimic today’s issues.”

Kelly had to smile. “I totally understand that–about not wanting to write non-fiction and have someone come after you. There’s much more freedom, in a way, with sci-fi and even fantasy. You can address today’s issues, but in a more…roundabout way without fear of being attacked by people.” She nodded, understanding this greatly. “So, you said you wrote sci-fi, but now you’re writing urban fantasy…do I understand that correctly?” She furrowed her brows. “Or you still writing both genres?”

Nancy’s hot chocolate came, and she stirred it some with a  spoon.  “I have written both. I have six in a series that is sci-fi and during NaNoWriMo month, I have been writing the urban fantasy. The series in in third person, and the urban is in first person. Just a way to be flexible. Since I still feel new to the writing game, I try different methods.”

“I really like that. Staying flexible works quite well and is really good for strengthening all kinds of skills in the craft of writing.” Kelly nodded. “So, how long have you been writing? You’ve written quite a few books already, yet you said you feel new to the writing game.”

Nancy took a sip of the delicious hot chocolate and looked over at Kelly. “I started the writing class in 2011, published the first book in 2013. By then I knew how to self-publish. I have been writing three books a year because my readers want to know what the next story is going to be. I feel new because I’m always learning something new in the craft. My mother said you will learn something new every day, and she was right.”

“No matter how far advance as a writer, you will always learn something new…actually, this applies to life in general to.” Kelly smiled then took another sip of her drink. Setting it down, she focused on Nancy. “Okay, so which book of yours would you like to focus on? I’m afraid we only have time for one although I’d personally love to hear about everything!” She grinned at her.

Nancy smiled and began, “Might as well as talk about my latest, ‘The Pottery Sale’. This urban fantasy takes place in a real town in Idaho. This is a sequel to the first urban book I wrote in 2015, Where did they go?  I had to make sure in The Pottery Sale that the reader was informed as to what happened in the previous book. The Pottery Sale is about an ordinary housewife/widow that is bored with her normal routines until her gnome friend takes her into another world.”

Kelly raised her brows, but then she smiled widely and set her elbow on the table and her chin in the palm of her hand as she listened. “Oh, this sounds like a grand adventure! Can you tell me more of who and what they encounter? Without spoiling it, of course.”

“Well, I show two worlds. My heroine takes up pottery that somehow becomes associated with the drug world. Hobs, her friend, finds a fantasy land in the same building the bad guys are using. When a few people die at the Pottery shop, Susan runs for her life and Hobs saves her. The land of Bailory is your typical fairyland that has a wicked witch. This land is a combination of Norse spirits and local Indian ones The two worlds come together when Susan and Hobs saves the day.”

“That sounds fascinating!” Kelly smiled widely as she sat back in her chair. “A bit complex too, and that’s great! So, where did you get the idea for this story? You mentioned you did it for NaNo, but what inspired you to shift from sci-fi to urban fantasy?”

Nancy took another sip of her hot chocolate, “I don’t really know, it just came to me unlike my other tales that have some basis in real news stories. I was writing’ Where Did They Go?’ for NaNo, and it just seemed boring for me. As soon as I had my character walk into another world, I finished it in 11 days. I finished ‘The Pottery Sale’ in 16 days. It’s like I’m watching a movie with specific characters in a certain location. The characters take off and do their thing. I just relay their story.”

“You finished it in 16 days??” Kelly raised her brows. “That’s fantastic! So will there be more to the series?”

“I hope so, but now I have been thinking of what to do for my next sci-fi adventure. I’m still waiting on my readers to proof ‘The Pottery Sale’.”

“Well, I hope it goes well for you. Now though, we actually have little time, so why don’t you tell me about your sci-fi series? What is it about?”

Nancy finish her drink and set the cup on the table. “My sci-fi series has many arcs. Basically how we may live in the future 300 years from now. The first book, Similar but not the same, is about first contact with a species of people that want to be our friends. From there, humans travel with them to another planet and back again. A take off in the same time with the same characters is a detective story and the murders he solves traveling to Mars and the Moon.” She took a deep breath. “I always put a moral tone into my books that expresses how greed can destroy. You see examples every day in the newspaper.”

“So like a homicide detective but in space?” Kelly smiled, her eyes brightening as she thought on this. “I’ve got to say, that is quite unique. I like it a lot! Of course you said there are other arcs to it as well, so it must be very complex, but that detective story…gotta be interesting.”

For a moment, she checked the time on her phone and frowned. “Our time is almost up, but tell me, what is your favorite thing about writing? What makes you keep coming back for more?”

“Writing is relaxing for me and helps get those pesky irritations off my chest. I want to thank you for doing this interview with me. As soon as you post it I will post on my blog. I want to add at my age, I have to write as much as I can.”

“You are doing quite well. Keep up the good work. It’s certainly been a pleasure to meet you and to hear your story. I can’t wait to see which character you will have me interview.” Kelly smiled then rose to her feet. She reached out her hand to Nancy. “Thank so much for meeting with me. I hoe you the best with all your writing endeavors! Keep writing, and keep publishing!”

“Thank you, have a good day.”

<~>~<~>~<~>

Nancy A. Nation’s novel ‘The Pottery Sale’ is available online. You can find it along with her other books at the following links. Be sure to follow her on social media too!

Similar:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HL2I084     

Deflection:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PD8LW56

Crossroads:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E9N6FPW                                                     

Found:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015Y0OS1M

Return:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EP2C47U

Desert:     https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LZ43IQU

Where:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B019S493BU   

Pottery (soon):  https://www.amazon.com/Pottery-Sale-What-Beneath-Urban-ebook/dp/B01N49IECN   

Social Media:

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/anationauthor

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorANation   

Blog:  www.bloggingwrites.weebly.com 

Blog: www.anationbooks.wordpress.com     

Website: www.anationauthor.com

Amazon group page:  http://www.amazon.com/A-Nation/e/B00SUHXM6E    

Smashword group page::  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ANation

Author Interview: Laura Hart

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Laura was written by Laura Hart.)

Kelly sat at the edge of the pool and admired the picturesque waterfall in front of her. All around her were forest trees muting any chaotic lifestyle, but sun shone through this clearing, and a breeze passed through as well. Barefoot, Kelly stirred her toes in the water and smiled. It was lovely here—just an absolutely relaxing place for a chat. All she had to do was wait for Laura to show up.

Laura smiled as she headed towards her favorite place to relax and let her creative juices flow, a waterfall tucked nicely inside a thick forest.  She was meeting Kelly here, and wasn’t sure what to expect, but any anxiety about the unknown was overshadowed by the charm of the beautiful day. 

As she approached, she saw Kelly sitting and waiting.  She straightened her posture and walked towards the water confidently.  “Good morning, how are you today?”

Kelly looked up and smiled when she saw Laura. She rose to her feet to shake her hand. “Hey! I’m doing great. How about you?” She motioned for Laura to sit near the water’s edge if she’d like.

Laura sat as she answered, “Couldn’t be better,” as she looked around.  She kicked off her shoes to toss her feet in the water in a similar manner to Kelly’s.  She smiled, with a bit of a questioning look to see what kind of questions were in store for her.  A handful of birds stirred above them and it took her attention for a moment while she waited.

As they relaxed, Kelly smiled, “So, Laura, tell me a bit about yourself. What is it that you do? Are you a full-time writer, or do you have a day job?”

“Ah, it would be so lovely to be a full time writer,” her eyes went to a dreamy state for a moment.  “I would love to just set up right here and spend my days lost in my worlds.”  She wiggled her toes and let the current run between her toes a minute.  “But, alas, I have a full time job and am a full time mom also.  I’m blessed, though, because my children are now old enough to participate in brainstorming and love to contribute when I have the time to create.”  Her eyes lit up as she thought of her kids and her passion working together.  “Of course, as they get older, my hope is that I’ll have even more time to write.”  She laughed a little, nervously.

“Wow, full-time mom and have a full-time job?? How do you even have the time to write??” Kelly raised her brows. She highly admired parents, especially mothers, who wrote. She knew it couldn’t be easy.

“It’s a group effort sometimes.  My kids are 14 and 6.  When they know I am sitting down to write, they do what they can to join in.  They help me build characters, and give me names and scenery descriptions.  My most recent work, my 14 year old is even drawing pictures to go along with it.  We could spend our time watching tv or face down in tablets, but bonding over creating this book is priceless to me.”

Laura thought, she had other works that the kids aren’t part of.  Those have been in the works since before kids were part of her life at all, and she was sure some day she would work on them in detail again…but during this phase of her life, she felt a different piece made more sense to fit into her life, even if she didn’t get to write daily, or even every week, consistently.

“How about you, Kelly?”  She knew this was an interview, but she always felt awkward if she wasn’t learning about the other person also.

“Oh, I’m not married—don’t have any kids.” Kelly shook her head with a smile. “Hopefully one day, but not yet. So have you always been a writer? Or did something more recent spark the urge for you to write seriously?”

“Writing has always been part of me, since I was little.  I remember in elementary school going to Young Authors, and then taking a story I wrote as a child and revising it and growing it to make another Young Authors trip in middle school.  My nose was always in a book … which was a problem only because when I read, I am gone to the world.”  She blushed a little, she remembered how more than once, her mom would have to physically pull a book from her hands to get her attention.  “The biggest problem with being a reader like I am, however, is when you have small kids, reading goes on hold.  It becomes a luxury.”  It was true, she had read so much less because she was afraid of missing things with the kids.  What if they needed her and she was so zoned out they got hurt, or lost?

“I don’t think writing will ever leave my blood.  And I’m thrilled when I get feedback from my children’s teachers about how their voice is great, and how they are reading ahead of their grade levels.  My 14 year old is even in her advanced placement English class.”  Her pride was showing through, and while her kids may never write the same way, Laura knew she was influencing her kids at least a little in that way. “I’m sorry, I know this is about writing, but the kids are such a big part of that now for me.  They inspire me, and help me.  And because of them, one day I’ll even finish what I will consider my masterpiece.”  A branch cracked overhead and she turned a bit to see.  It seemed as if it was simply the wind breaking some dead wood. “Of course, a masterpiece, that’s subjective right?”

Kelly smiled when she heard Laura say all this about her children. “You know, I have to say, I’m glad to see how involved your children are in with your writing. You hear a lot of writers who are parents kinda…get frustrated because they don’t have their time to write. The two lifestyles don’t seem to mix. But you seem to have good handle on that, so good for you. When I get married and have kids, I hope to handle it similarly to how you do.” Kelly locked eyes with Laura and smiled once more.

Then she cast her gaze to look at the waterfall in front of them. “Okay, so…I’m sure you’ve written a lot of stories, but which one would you like to talk about?” She glimpsed back at Laura. “Unfortunately we only have time to hear about one.”

Laura shook her head, “Just remember, when you do have kids, they just like to be involved and heard.  Even if you can’t really use what they give you, they will remember being part of the process and the time with you.  And once in a while, they will surprise you with the most perfect solution to a problem you may not even know you had!”  She fidgeted a little, focusing for a moment on the water.  “As for the story to speak about, I think the one I am working on the most right now is best.  The work is called ‘Hope in Darkness’. It’s just the fairy book when we refer to it in our home.” She cringed a little.  Titling her works was always a challenge.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So…I’m guessing it has something to do with fairies or fairytales?” She raised her brows but then smiled encouragingly. “What’s it about?”

She nodded, “Yes, fairies, but there’s a little bit of a twist.  The environment we have set up has a world on many planes.  There are gods who can travel between planes.  One plane had its world set up by a group of gods, who ended up killing each other, save for one who still resides there.  The gods who died still have their essence in that plane, and each god’s essence and magic core spawned into a set of fairies.” Whenever she has delved into her world, she always waits for the odd looks like she’s lost her mind a little. “Anyhow, these fairies can die, and as they die a new one spawns at the source of the god power that they are created from.  The only way to get rid of them completely is to kill the entire set of fairies at the same time, which also destroys the god power associated with it.”

She started to wonder if she was getting to deep in the world creation, but carried on anyhow. “So each of these factions of fairies works pretty independently of each other, and are pretty oblivious to how the other groups carry on in their day to day.  One of these groups ends up inadvertently pulling a human back from the earthen plane which starts the story.” She took a deep breath, glancing at Kelly to see if she was giving the information Kelly was hoping for.

Kelly listened closely to everything and nodded as she kept up with it. “Sounds complex, but you’ve got a good world there!” She offered Laura a warm smile. “So, who are the characters? Their agendas? Conflicts? Struggles?”

Laura’s smile was a little devious at this point, as she went to start on about her characters in specific.  “Tim is our human,” she paused and pondered a second, “but he might not stay named Tim.  I think the kids were changing that.”  She shrugged, it wasn’t important in the long term.  “Anyhow, this human had a rough life.  He grew up with his grandmother after his father killed his mom and went to prison.  Tim lost his grandmother just before he finished high school, and is a very dark individual, he carries a lot of pain with him.”  She felt a little guilty at just how much heartache she was putting this person through, especially by the end of things but she would keep some secrets.

“Tim is completely out of place and lost in the new world, and because of the selfish nature of the fairies, they don’t pay a lot of attention to him either.” She shifted how she was sitting some, turning more towards Kelly and getting more enthusiastic about the conversation. “And, around this time is when we meet the remaining god on this land, currently just called Darkness.  Darkness is so named by the fairies and keeps pretty much to his own castle keep tucked in the rocky mountainside.  The world makes him sad, and he wants to destroy it and begin over with a new creation cycle.”

Kelly listened and tilted her head, trying to keep up with all this. “Is Darkness the antagonist?”

Laura nodded and tilted her head some, “Yes, and no.  You see, Darkness does not have evil motives.  Initially we are setting the book up to see the fairy point of view, get to know the world we are exploring.  Once we get to Darkness, and Tim gets to meet him and learn about him, we will find that Darkness has a lighter name and is a kinder soul.  His brothers and sisters were the other gods who fought among themselves and killed each other.  Darkness never joined those fights and only wanted peace.  We will find that he hurts, and every day on this world that he built with his siblings pains him, and he wants to start over to end the pain … he views the fairies as beings who are blocking the gods from being at rest and wants them gone, as well.  We will start to feel for him, and, as evil as I may be as setting it up this way, I want to make both sides likable and have people torn as to how they want things to end.” She realized that she had been doing some rambling, and it was getting close to the end of their time together. “I’m sorry, I know I ramble on a bit.  Do you have any other questions you wonder about before we have to go?” She was a little sad that other responsibilities of her day would pull her away from the waterfall as well.

Kelly shook her head. “Laura, stop worrying so much about what others think of your story. Don’t worry whether or not they’re going to like it or that you’re rambling or so. I enjoy hearing writers ramble about their creation. I like watching their eyes light up as they talk about their stories. Now though, before we go, what inspired this story? Your children? Or something else?”

“It was something else.  We had some trouble in the family and hard times.  I was in a dark place, and one morning, and I know this may sound crazy to some, but I had a visit from a friend.  She was a friend that meant a lot to me, we had been friends since we were born, almost literally but she passed on a couple years ago at a very young age.  Anyhow, I can’t tell you how I knew that morning that she was there with me, but she was.  And when she left, and I woke fully for the day, the story arch was nearly fully formed.  And my kids are helping fill in the details, and I credit that friend for bringing me inspiration in a dark time.” Tears started to form at the corners of her eyes, but she was smiling.

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “I’m glad your friend inspired such a story for you and that your kids could help fill-in the blanks. Now, complete the story, title it, publish it, and let me know, so I can help share it with the world.” With that, she rose to her feet and offered Laura a hand up. “It was a pleasure meeting with you, Laura. I can’t wait to see which character you’ll have me meet.”

Accepting Kelly’s hand, she rose and shook Kelly’s hand in return before gathering her shoes from the bank.

“It has been a very nice visit, thank you very much for meeting me all the way out here.  I will keep you posted as the book comes to full reality.”

She smiled at Kelly and thanked her again, before she started on her way back to home.  She was going to have to think long and hard about the character; she had thus far thought about having her meet Darkness, but something else started tickling the back of her mind.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Laura Hart’s story ‘Hope in Darkness’ is not yet published, but you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: www.twitter.com/artamishia

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

Character Interview: N. R. Tupper’s Kai

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Kai was written by N. R. Tupper.)

The overhead lights flickered before finally giving way to the bright light shining through the open shutters. Kai Brecken shivered as she paced the length of the HOPEBRINGER’s bridge. Why had she agreed to this? Battus, she hated this place. Everything about it brought back memories she’d rather not dwell on.

As soon as she entered this ship of demons, she lifted the shutters, opening the windows so sunlight could flood the space. This light was the only comfort this room could provide and Kai didn’t intend to deny herself that.

Outside the windows the blue and green beauty of Egeria still took her breath away, but she knew what waited outside. She knew the danger this beautiful little planet harbored.

As ideas went, this wasn’t one of her favorites.

She continued to pace as she waited for the interviewer to arrive.

Since this wasn’t her first time visiting the HOPEBRINGER, Kelly knew what to expect and dressed in a casual manner. She was much more was a bit more at ease. She knew there was something in the ship, but she didn’t know what exactly, but she made her way to the bridge and cleared her throat to get Kai’s attention. When the woman spun around to look at her, Kelly offered her a smile as she approached her. “Hello, Kai. I’m Kelly. Thank you for meeting with me.” She glimpsed around their settings. “So what history do you have with this ship?” She looked back at Kai for an answer.

Right to the questions. Typical of an interviewer, Kai supposed. She studied the thin wisp of a woman before her and shoved her hands into her pockets. Not that she didn’t want to shake the woman’s hand but it hadn’t been offered and Kai had no idea what traditions this particular woman came from. Some people shook hands, some didn’t. One thing Kai was good at was adapting to whatever culture she was facing.

The question made Kai look around. The history she had in this place wasn’t exactly a history she cared to explore. “My crew and I spent a brief time in this ship. Used it to escape an unpleasant situation. It’s not… my favorite place.” She didn’t return Kelly’s smile. Not that she wanted to be rude, but she didn’t particularly feel like smiling and she’d given up on trying to fake it when she didn’t feel it.

Sensing how her warmth wasn’t really accepted, Kelly nodded and tucked her hands behind her back as she meandered around the bridge. “I understand you rescued each crew member, and that’s how you got your crew. How did you start that endeavor of rescuing such people?”

Kai watched Kelly, blue eyes following the woman closely.

The thing was, this woman didn’t seem a threat so Kai wanted to trust her, but it wasn’t easy to trust. Not even when her instincts told her to. “I didn’t rescue them. They’ll tell you I did, but I didn’t. I merely helped them rescue themselves. Tucker hadn’t needed rescuing, just guiding. Mallik definitely wasn’t the sort to need a hero. Haydn too. If anyone could claim they were ‘rescued’, it was Uri but she didn’t think asking to be given a slave and then freeing that slave was necessarily a ‘rescue’. You spoke to them then? My crew?”

Kelly smiled and shook her head. “Not exactly. I’ve merely heard this. But helping or rescuing…what were you doing when you first encountered the first individual you helped?” She raised her brows as she continued to roam the bridge, her skimming over the desks.

“Surviving,” Kai murmured. When she met Tucker she’d been with the pirates. She’d just been inducted into the Masked Princes, but of course nobody knew. It was bizarre walking amongst those people and them not knowing who she ‘was’. They still didn’t know, not even Tucker. “Tucker was working for the pirates. A good kid, too honest for his own good. He made a mistake, I intervened. He says I saved his life but I didn’t… I really didn’t. After that he started following me around and next thing I knew he was my right hand man.” Kid. Right hand kid. He wasn’t a man. Not even now.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. She took a seat and swirled it around to face Kai. “And who was after that?”

“Mallik. Then Bristol and with Bristol came Haydn and then Uri. That’s the order.” The questions irritated her, though she wasn’t sure why. Well, she did. She didn’t like talking about how they met. She didn’t like being painted like a hero because she just wasn’t. She crossed her arms over her chest, “My crew are a team. We’re a unit. We’re… a family. How we started doesn’t matter. What matters is, we’re together and we’ll always be together. They’d die for me, I’d die for them.” She immediately regretted her tone. “Sorry I just… I don’t like being here…”

“Well, is there someplace else you’d like to go? It’s not like I chose this as our meeting place. I just came here because I was told you would be.” Then that made Kelly think. “Did you choose to meet here?”

“No,” Kai said quickly, “no, no. No. Who would want to be here?” She waved her hand towards the windows, “You know what’s out there! Or… they didn’t tell you?” She shook her head, “It doesn’t matter. Let’s just get this over with. They said if I answered your questions, you’d help me find my sister.”

Kelly opened her mouth to correct her but then decided otherwise. Kai wasn’t trusting her yet, and if Kelly revealed she didn’t know anything about her sister, Kai might get up and leave immediately. That wouldn’t do.

So, she decided to shift topics. “I understand you don’t trust me, and you may not like talking about yourself, but I’d like you to consider this as your one and likely only opportunity to be true to yourself. You can talk honestly with me. I have no one to tell. After today, you won’t see or hear from me again, so you can trust me. Can you do that?” She raised her brows.

Kai closed her eyes with a sigh. Then she nodded, “Yeah. I can do that.” What did it matter if she was honest? It was true, she’d never see this woman again. And it wasn’t like her crew would read the interview when it came out… well, she didn’t think they would. “Sorry.” She ran her hand over her hair and shook out her shoulders to try and relax.”Right. So. Okay. Mallik, she definitely wasn’t rescued. She was with the pirates, like we all were. Thing is, she liked getting into fights. I just happened to be there, I helped, and uh… now she says I saved her life. I didn’t. It was just a simple bar fight. Bristol, she was different. She, uh, she got herself in a real bad situation. The thing is, she’s way too gentle. Way too… pretty. A pirate named Garis had taken her as a…companion. She wasn’t too happy about it but didn’t know how to get away. I talked to Garis, convinced him it was in his best interest to leave her be. It was safer after that for her to stick with me, so she did. Haydn had just escaped from the Alliance when I met him. He was still pretty sick, actually. The pirates would have ate him alive, but Bristol, she found him and she begged me to help. So we took him in and he just became one of us. He’s a badass though, not weak. Not even a little. And Uri was a slave. When I left the… pirates,” she wasn’t willing to say she’d been a Masked Prince, that was too much, “I asked for a gift. They said I could have anything, so I asked for Uri. And that’s how I got my crew.”

“Nice, so what do you all do? I’m assuming it has nothing to do with the pirates, but you’re a crew, so you have to do something.” Kelly sat back in her chair to listen.

“Transports,” Kai answered, “it’s… you know, a living. And when you’ve got a record like we do it’s hard to get other work. Right now we’re trying to earn a ticket, so we can get the bigger jobs. The dream is to be fully independent, no more pirates, no more jail time.” Kai had ceased her pacing. She stood near one of the consoles and finally leaned back to sit on it.

“At least you have something, and you have people you can trust.” The next question Kelly wanted to ask might get Kai to shut down again, but she had to breach it. “What happened between you and your family? And I’m not talking about your crew. Why are you so distant from them?”

Kai visibly stiffened at the question.  She didn’t like talking about it. She licked at her lips and shook her head, “I left them,” she said quietly, “I left them and… you know, they won’t talk to me.”

“Family doesn’t just not talk to one of their own. Trust me, I know. I’ve got a large family and totally understand all the complicated dynamics of a family.” Kelly was thinking of her five sisters and four brothers. “Why did you leave them?”

Kai shook her head, “I was 13. I was a kid. I wanted… things they didn’t want to give me. So I ran away. And, I’ve tried to contact them but they won’t listen. Family shouldn’t just not talk … but they have cut me out so completely… I don’t even know if they’re alive anymore.” Which is why she’d agreed to this interview. She needed to know if her sister was alive… if she was okay.

“It hurts when they cut you off like that, and I completely agree with you that they shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry they did.” However, Kelly wasn’t about to let it go. “Tell me about your parents. Before you left, what were they like?”

“My mother is… was… a gentle woman. She had a rebellious streak but she didn’t show it much. My father was a dick. He didn’t think much of women, really didn’t think much of pirates, he would absolutely hate me now.”

“And siblings?” Kelly raised her brows, leaning forward, resting her forearms on her knees and clasping her hands together.

“Lily is the older of my sisters,” Kai smiled as she spoke, “She’s a real dreamer. She always had her nose in books. She’s the one I thought for sure would find me.” Her smile faded. After a moment she continued, “Dayli was just a baby when I left. But she was a funny kid, always laughing and doing that funny dance toddlers do. You know what I mean? Like, she could feel music in a way we can’t and she’d just jiggle her little body however she could. It was cute… funny. I miss that.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard these fond memories, and she nodded. “Did either of your sisters ever teach you anything–something you may not have realized but have carried with you all this time?”

“To dream,” Kai said quietly, “to always dream. To chase your dreams. To not be afraid…”

“And were you afraid of something at home?” Kelly asked quietly.

“Yeah,” Kai nodded. She sighed and pushed away from the console. This was odd, talking so openly, sharing her true feelings. It wasn’t anything she would normally do. Not even with her crew. “Can we change the subject?”

“Sure, we can change the subject, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go back to that topic,” Kelly forewarned her as she eased back in her chair. “So what happened after you left your family? Where did you end up?”

“I hitched a ride on a transporter and they sold me to the pirates. I spent the next twelve years with the pirates, right up until I gathered my crew and we decided to go our own way.” Kai rubbed at her arms,  “You know, people say the pirates are bad. I grew up being told how evil they are but they aren’t. They took care me, a scared lost kid and sure they were rough and at times scary but they gave me the chance nobody else would.”

“Were you with a specific pirate crew? Or did you float around several crews?” Kelly tilted her head as she observed Kai.

“I moved from ship to ship. Just whoever needed, whenever they needed me. I was a bit of a specialist. I had specific… skills. So if a crew needed those skills, they sent me that way.” That was how she earned the interest of the Masked Princes. “You understand, I can’t talk too much about that. I wasn’t exactly involved in the most… legal activity.”

“Kai, do you have any idea the kind of people I talk to? Several of them were/are serial killers, others are plotting to take over the world, and then there are thieves, and don’t forget the demons, and so on and so forth.” Kelly looked at Kai and shrugged. “You doing illegal work doesn’t really bother me. I’m not here to judge you. Just want to get to know you, and no, I’m not going to let you skim topics.” With that, she crossed her arms because she could be stubborn too. “What specific skills did/do you have?”

Demons? Was this woman nutty? It wouldn’t surprise Kai if she was, although demons might just be some kind of euphemism or title. Her ‘skills’ were not exactly something she was proud of. “In the course of my… training, the pirate who took me on discovered I had a particularly good eye. He trained me to shoot. Special weapons, special circumstances…”  That was a part of her life she really didn’t like discussing. It’s not as if she was proud of how she’d climbed the ranks, or how she’d made a name for herself. Ruthless killer was not the title she wanted to embrace.

“And they made you kill.” Kelly nodded as she came to understand this. She softened her voice. “Do you recall the first kill you had to make?”

“They were not good people,” Kai said firmly, “every one. I made sure of it.” It was how she made it okay, in her head. She wasn’t killing the innocent, or the good. She only killed people who didn’t deserve to live. She was hating this. Every moment of it… but at the same time it was almost a relief to speak it all out loud. She hadn’t told anyone any of this before.

“Still you took people’s lives.” Then Kelly paused as if she realized. “Is that why you don’t feel like you should ever be called a ‘hero’? Because you killed people?”

“I’m not a hero,” Kai repeated firmly, “I won’t ever be a hero.” She paced the length of the bridge, pausing near the windows to look out at the stunning view. She whirled, pinning her gaze on Kelly, “Do you know where she is? My sister? Lily?”

“I understand you don’t like the weight of the title of ‘hero’, but you seem firmly against it—moreso than most people. Why is that?” Kelly asked, knowing she was completely ignoring the question Kai asked.

“Do you consider yourself a hero?” Kai asked. “I’m just a normal person. I’m just some chick who’s out there doing what I can to survive. There’s nothing hero about that. But people keep trying to put that title on me and it’s stupid. I’m just Kai. I’m just me. Everytime I do something good they say: Oh, you’re a hero. No. I”m a human being. I did the human thing, the right thing. I do wrong things too. I’m not some idol. I’m not some statue. I’m just me.”

“And are you happy with who you are?”

Kai paused at that. She hadn’t been asked that question before. She wasn’t sure how to respond. She didn’t answer quickly. She chewed over the question a long while before finally shaking her head.

“Why don’t you like who you are?” Kelly asked softly as she leaned forward, her eyes locked on Kai to catch any and everything she might not actually say.

“I left them behind,” Kai said softly, “I left them behind… I didn’t care what it would do to them, I didn’t care how it would hurt them… I only thought about me and I left them behind.” And now she couldn’t reach them, she couldn’t contact them and she was so scared they weren’t okay.

“If you could go back in time and change it all, would you?” Kelly watched Kai then pressed. “Would you *really* change anything?”

That was the hard part. Because as much as she protested, she knew her presence had changed five very important lives. If she hadn’t left her family, she wouldn’t have met them. “You can’t go back, Kelly the interviewer. You can only go forward.”

Kelly tilted her head to a side, observing the dodge of the question. This time she would let it slid. “So, tell me, who’s Hawthorne?”

Kai’s cheeks turned ever so slightly pink. She coughed, “What? Where did you hear that name? Why are you asking?”

Kelly chuckled when she watched her reaction. “Because I know things. Otherwise I wouldn’t be good at my job. You didn’t mention him as part of your crew, so who is he?”

Freaking Hawthorne. He just had to show up everywhere, didn’t he? She sighed, eyes rolling to the ceiling for a moment, “We met him here. He’s a sneaky Rebel spy. About as trustworthy as a clown. If he’s talking, he’s lying. Far as I can tell.”

“Really? Because I know you don’t think that. You blushed and you smiled when I mentioned his name, so what’s up with that…or would you like me to draw my own conclusions?” Kelly had to smile.

“He’s an idiot!” Kai said quickly, “but he’s useful and…” she paused, coughing softly, “Look. I’m not dead. He’s got good abs… that’s all. That’s it.” She couldn’t even admit to herself that she might like him. He was useful and he worked with them. That’s all.

“Uhhum.” Kelly didn’t sound convinced, but she decided to shift the topic as she sat back in her chair. “You said you met him here?” She looked around at their surroundings. “Describe that meeting to me.”

“We were stranded here together. He was injured, seemed harmless, so we helped him and he helped.” Sort of. In the end he hadn’t been that useful but Kai was a sucker for helping people who needed help.

“Why do you always help people? I mean, that’s great and all, but…can’t it be exhausting?” Kelly raised her brows as she folded her arms. “Why are you so driven to help others?”

“Aren’t you?” Kai snapped, “Don’t you help people when they need it?”

“Sure, but I know why I do it. I’m asking you why you do it. Do you even know why?” Kelly raised her brows.

Kai frowned. It was on the tip of her tongue to say it was the ‘right thing to do’ but that wasn’t it. She did lots of things that weren’t the ‘right thing’. “When I needed it, there were people who helped me. I’m just returning the favor.”

“Do you feel that it balances out the wrong you’ve done in life…with all the different lives you’ve taken. Does it somehow clear your ledger of the blood?”

This woman…Kai’s eyes narrowed. She sniffed, arms crossing yet again. She was just about at her limit. She’d had enough with this truth business. “There is no ledger,” she murmured. But maybe it was true. She hadn’t thought about it before, she just did it… she just helped those who deserved to be helped. She hadn’t considered why she felt compelled to do that. She knew she wasn’t a good person. She knew what she was capable of. But she also knew she didn’t want to be ‘that’ person. Not anymore.

Kelly could tell Kai was beginning to clam up on her again, but they still have some more time left. Kelly intended on using every moment. She leaned forward to lock eyes with Kai. “What are you most afraid of?”

“Spiders,” Kai said with a shrug. And then, and she wasn’t sure why, she answered truthfully, “Hurting people I love.”

“Can you ever forgive yourself for hurting your family?”

Kai’s brow furrowed, her eyes closing for a brief moment. “Could you?”

“It’s not about me, Kai. This is about you.” Kelly shook her head. “You made your choices. Bridges have been burned, but forgiveness is always possible. It might not be easy, but it’s possible. And if I may say so, I don’t think you’ve forgiven yourself for your past actions. Instead, you’ve run from them. Sure, you tried once to reach out to them, but that burned you…and, in a way, justified your excuse never to go home. Yes, they should forgive you as well, but I’m talking to you–not them. If you ignore and suppress it, it will eventually rear its ugly head, and it will be for too strong for you to handle, and it will utterly break you.”

Was this a counseling session? Kai turned away, breathing in deep and letting it out slow as she forced herself to refocus. /Focus, Kai./ “I’m going to find them,” she turned back, “and you’re going to help me.”

Kelly shook her head. “Yeah, I hate to tell you this, but whoever told you that I knew anything about your family–specifically your sister–lied to you. I know you don’t like the Alliance and you despise ‘Comrades’. I knew about Hawthorne, and that your crew thinks of you as a hero. But that’s about all the info I was given prior to this conversation. I’m sorry to disappoint you.” And Kelly braced herself although she wasn’t afraid of Kai.

Anger burned hot in her veins. Kai clenched her hands into tight fists and shook her head, “Oh man…”  Somebody was going to pay for this one. But instead of being angry she found herself letting out a soft laugh, “Well, I should have known. Can’t trust anyone to tell the truth. I should have known better.”

“I’m really sorry about that. I wish I had some info because I would love to help, but…I don’t know anything.” Kelly sighed as she rose to her feet. She knew their time was almost up, but she still had time for a few more questions. “You fight so hard to find her. Are you hoping to restore what you’ve lost with your family?”

“No, I don’t have any interest in what I had with them before. I want to keep her safe. That’s all. If I find her, and Dayli and they’re okay, that’s enough. I just need to know they’re okay. And if they can’t forgive me, maybe they’ll at least let me know they’re safe.” Because if they weren’t safe…well, she would make sure they would be.

Kelly considered her for a moment–so many questions still in her mind, but time was short. She tried to think of what to say. “You may be trying to save them, but when you find them–and I’m confident that you will–don’t push them away, don’t shun them because you don’t like yourself. They are your flesh and blood, and sisters have a very unique bond. I pray you find forgiveness and that you learn to forgive them as well.” With that she straightened and cast Kai a smile. “Well, my time is about up. I will leave you, so you don’t have to put up with my pestering questions, but thank you for answering them.”

Kai nodded, “You’re all right, Kelly interviewer but no offense… hope we don’t meet again.”

She headed for the exit, “Want me to walk you out?”

“I think I can find my own way. Thanks. You take care!” With one final smile, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

N. R. Tupper’s novel, TYR, is now available. Be sure to follow her on social media as well for more updates!

Book: getbook.at/TYR

Twitter: www.twitter.com/nrtupper

Website: www.nrtupper.wix.com/nrtupper

Author Interview: N. R. Tupper

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Nert was written by N. R. Tupper.)

One thing Kelly had to say about her interviews, sometimes they took her to the strangest of places, she mused as she wandered through the broken down hunk of metal spaceship that still floated through space. She had come in prepared with a spacesuit, but the readings indicated sufficient oxygen to breath, so she removed her suit helmet. Apparently whatever the reason was for this place to be abandoned, it wasn’t the oxygen. Still, a chill ran down her spine.

She walked passed the walls, which leaked with a damp but sticky liquid, but no, she wasn’t about to touch that. And overhead the lights flickered.

Then she heard footsteps behind her and spun around, setting her flashlight on the individual. And she tensed. “Nert Tupper? N. R. Tupper?” When Nert nodded, Kelly sighed in relief and drew near to her. “I’ve got to say, you’ve picked an…interesting place to meet.”

Dressed in jeans, a Doctor Who t-shirt and a thick brown sweater Nert didn’t fit in at all. She looked more suited to a farm than a spaceship. Kelly approached and Nert’s chubby features changed to a bright smile. The smile was like a switch that changed her face from neutral and almost sad to bright and welcoming. “Yup! It’s one of my favorite places, just be careful, okay? There are… things in the vent. They aren’t exactly friendly. We’ll be safer up at the bridge. It’s this way.” With a wave, Nert headed back down the hall to a set of doors not too far away. The doors opened with a ping as Nert approached, revealing a large elevator car.

Kelly followed after Nert. What had she gotten into? But she had to say, this was better than visiting Hell for an interview which she’d done. Still, it had creepy vibes to it. However, to keep her mind off that, Kelly proceeded with questions, “So, Nert…why this place of all places? I mean, why is it your favorite place? The quiet?”

“Oh no! Not at all!” Nert laughed as the elevator closed behind them. They must have been moving but it was impossible to tell as the numbers on the elevator panel changed, leading them up to the 47th level. “This is the HOPEBRINGER. She’s the center of pretty much everything that happens in my series. The main trilogy, and the prequels. Initially she was humanity’s hope but in a way she becomes humanity’s doom.”

Ping! The doors opened, revealing a large, open, almost sparse room that, judging by the Captain’s chair and huge viewscreen dominating the far wall, must have been the bridge.

“We’ll be safe here. Generally they don’t come up here.”

“That is so very comforting…” Kelly wasn’t convinced, but she trusted Nert, so she smiled and took a look around the bridge. She had to admit, it was amazing up here. Such sights never ceased to amaze her. She turned back to Nert. “Okay, so tell me a bit about yourself. Are you a full-time writer, or do you have a day-job?”

“I have a day-job, a night-job and I write full time in that I’m always thinking about it. It’s hard to turn that part off. Any quiet moments, when I’m scanning grocery items, or scanning documents, I’m plotting and imagining. It’s a real problem.” Nert moved to the Captain’s chair and plopped down with a happy sigh. She ran her hands lovingly over the arms of the chair. “I’ve always wanted to sit here. Please! Have a seat at one of the consoles, unless you want to explore?” There were six consoles, three on each side of the Captain’s Chair. “But, yeah, writing has always been my passion but I always lacked the courage to share my work. This will be the first time I’m offering my full manuscript to anyone but my closest, most dearest friends.”

Kelly gifted her with a warm smile as she meandered around the bridge. “Well, I’m quite honored you’d share anything with me. Thank you.” She bowed her head but then lifted it again to smile at Nert. “So, you’ve always been writing, but was there ever a moment that really urged you on to take writing seriously? Or did you always take it seriously?” She raised her brows as she traced her fingers along a console.

“Honestly? Probably an early mid-life crisis. The thing that always held me back was feeling like writing was a childish passion, a foolish dream… and then one day I woke up and I just thought: Nert, you’re turning 30 next year. It’s time you start living the life you WANT, as opposed to the life you got handed to you. And so I started writing this story and it has consumed my life ever since.”

Kelly had to grin. “Well, I’m glad you’ve had that realization and are writing seriously now.” Finally she turned to face Nert fully and leaned back against a console. “So, tell me about one of your stories. What’s it about?”

“One of them? Haha. Oh gawd. Well, the one that’s coming out in May follows Kai Brecken. Honeslty, Kai was an accident. I never planned her. I had the story and I had the back story and I had no idea who would tell the story because I knew the real main character couldn’t. Then when I sat down to right Kai just popped onto the page and there she was…Ultimately her story is one of forgiveness, family, love. But it’s surrounded by all this action and space dragons. I think people will appreciate that at it’s core this little action story is really a story about the love of family, both blood and chosen.”

“Is it a science fiction story or what genre?” Kelly asked as she gestured to their surroundings, which she assumed belonged to one of Nert’s stories.

“I honestly call it science fiction but I’ve been told by betas that it’s more space fantasy. I’ve spent my whole life reading science fiction but I’ve never been one of those people who worries about labels and specifics. I just like what I like. So, anyway, space fantasy. Let’s say, space fantasy.”

Kelly shrugged. “I’d call it science fiction too, for what it’s worth, but okay, space fantasy works too.” She smiled as she pushed away from the console to pace some more. It helped her think. “So, you said it’s a story about forgiveness, family, and love, but…but that’s all pretty general—though important.” Kelly looked back at Nert. “What’s the plot? The characters? Their conflicts? What is forgiveness necessary for the story?”

Nert pushed her toe into the floor to make the chair spin.  “I mean, that’s so hard to answer. It’s a trilogy you know! I don’t want to give too much away!” She called as she spun faster and faster. Finally she forced the chair to a stop and with a laugh sunk low in her seat, “Dizzy. Um… I guess… so, Kai is the character telling the story and she’s a badass, but she did something that separated her from her family and ultimately hurt her family and she’s doing her best to reconnect with them. She initially worked with pirates but wants to do her own thing so she’s gathered this crew and they take a job transporting goods to Egeria — a newly terraformed Alliance owned planet. When they arrive at Egeria they find an Alliance secret that could change the course of humanity’s relationship with the Sarlek. At this point Kai has to choose between saving her crew, and saving humanity. Anyway. The real key character of the story is someone she meets along the way. I don’t want to name names, but this other character is a mother who, a long time ago, was separated from her children. The family part comes in that these two women are both desperately trying to find their family. All while not realizing they’re surrounded by a new family. I’m probably explaining this bad! I have no idea how to talk about it without spoiling things.”

Kelly had to laugh. “Totally understand the spoiler idea. Don’t want the readers to be spoiled too much, and explaining a trilogy is never easy. You’ve done well.” She reassured her with a smile as she lowered into a chair and leaned forward. “So tell me about Kai. What’s she like?”

“She’s… amazing,” Nert smiles as she speaks, her expression softening, “I wanted her to be a hero people could appreciate, but I also wanted her to be human. I find, too often, female heroes these days tend to be either too weak, or too over powered. Kai isn’t either of those. She’s human. She doubts herself, she second-guesses herself, she worries a LOT, she obsesses about the past and her mistakes but ultimately she’s strong because when she has to make a decision, she does it. She’s impulsive, but she’s not afraid. She’s intelligent, but her own self-doubts stop her from being cocky. She’s loyal, to a fault. She’s cranky, snarky, hilarious without knowing it. She’s just… human. And like humans, she’s a study in contradictions. I know some people don’t like her, because she is constantly second guessing but I think there are very few people in this world who don’t second guess themselves and ultimately I wanted a human character, not an unrealistic heroine.”

Kelly paused for a second, tilting her head as if listening and focusing on something else before looking back at Nert and shaking her head. “Sorry. Tornado warning at my place in real life. I know time moves differently here than in real life, but I just tried to get my cats. Anyway, thankfully the storm has passed, so…what were you saying? Oh yes, your character being human and realistic. So in that case, what has been your greatest struggle to make her realistic?”

“Making her realistic was easy. It was balancing her insecurities and her abilities that was hard. At one point I had her doubting herself WAY too much and it didn’t make sense that she had done the things she did and could do the things she can do. Figuring out the balance between insecurity and strength was hard. I think we all have hidden strength, sometimes without knowing it, and I wanted to pay homage to that with this character. I think we are, all of us, a little bit like Kai.” Nert tilts her head, “Tornado, eh? We don’t get those here. Sounds scary.”

Kelly shrugged. “Tornados are the norm for Texas at times, but it’s okay.” She smiled at Nert. “So, you kinda mentioned what inspired this idea, but what exactly triggered it?”

“It started with a little dragon boy named Kip. He started popping into my head ages ago but I kind of dismissed him because I wasn’t into fantasy. As the years went by he kept popping into my head and… in searching for his story, I found the story of his parents and the story of his parents led me to this. As to what triggered him? A little game called Breath of Fire. I was completely enamored with the shape shifting dragon concept and it just got this little human-dragon Kip in my head. He’s adorable, by the way. Real quiet, real gentle… and ironically, I still haven’t figured out what /his/ story is but he’s spawned all these other stories.”

Kelly furrowed her brows as she heard this, and she leaned forward, clasping her hands together. “But how did you get from there with a dragon to here with space fantasy?”

“It all comes back to here, the HOPEBRINGER.” Nert answered with a laugh, “Because I don’t write fantasy, I tried to think of ways to make a fantasy that wasn’t a fantasy and I thought what if I have science fiction characters meet a fantasy world? Then I can have my cake and eat it too. And so the HOPEBRINGER was born and she brought my science fiction characters to a fantasy world but that wasn’t the end of it, because I still wasn’t telling the right story. And eventually the HOPEBRINGER led me to Kai and her crew and the story she wanted to tell. I don’t know, it’s so hard to pinpoint any exact moment when anything came together because it was such a long, gradual process. It was my first time trying to write a full length novel and my first time trying to write fantasy so it was a very long learning process.”

“Well, it is possible to write a fantasy/science fiction story. That’s what I do with my novel.” Kelly offered Nert some hope then glimpsed around at the ship again. “What’s the backstory of the HOPEBRINGER?”

Nert grins at that question, her eyes twinkled with amusement. Overhead something banged loudly in the vent. Nert’s eyes raised upwards. She shrugged and focused her gaze back on Kelly. “It’s the Titanic of space. A giant terraforming beast that humanity sent to strange new worlds. It ends up on an alien planet far from human reach. Nobody knows how, it’s this huge mystery. But, some of its crew survived and forged a new life on the alien planet. Hundreds of years later Kai and her crew find the ship, only it’s no longer occupied by humans. Instead, it has some nasty new inhabitants that aren’t too interested in sharing.”

“Ah nice…” Kelly tried not to shiver at the thought, but she could only imagine what Nert created to occupy this ship. “I have so many questions I’d like to ask about the story and the backstory, but, I know, spoilers.” She sighed and sat back in her chair, frowning as she tried to think of another question. When she thought of it, her eyes lit, and she smiled as she looked back at Nert. “Okay, so what’s your favorite thing to write about the story?”

“Oh the characters! I love them! Maybe that’s a bit narcissistic but I love doubting Kai and sneaky Hawthorne and silly Tucker and badass Mallik. I just love them all so much. And it’s hard, because I have so much more I want to share about them and their lives but this first novel is a fast-paced action and it’s hard to slip in all the stuff I wish I could slip in! I can’t tell you how many scenes I deleted because they slowed the story down. It’s painful, really. And still I have people telling me I should take MORE out because backstory isn’t important but man! I love the backstory! I love these kids so much! And yes, they are my kids.”

“Hey, do what you feel is right. You know the story better than anyone else.” Kelly made sure she had Nert’s attention when she said this, but then she went on, “And what’s the most difficult thing you’ve found to write with this story?”

“It’s not in the first novel, but in the third novel there’s this thing that… it was really hard to write, really hard to do even. I tried to think of other ways to end the story but it had to end this way and… well, I’m jumping way ahead because that’s the third book. In the first novel, I think the hardest thing was finding the perfect balance of world building and pacing. I wanted this to be fast-paced and sometimes world building can slow things down. So I had to learn how to show just wanted needed to be shown just when it needed to be shown. Just enough so the reader wasn’t lost but not so much that the reader was bogged down.”

“That’s quite a delicate balance indeed.” Kelly nodded but then offered Nert a smile. “But I’m sure you’ve mastered it well.” Then she sighed because she knew what time it was. “Our time is almost up, so I’m going to have to be going soon, but before I leave, what’s something you would like your readers to walk away with after they read your story? Something they’ll remember?”

“Dragons in space are amazing?” Nert laughed, “No, I’m kidding. I think the thing I want them to walk away with is; love the people you love with all your heart and take care of them. Ultimately, that’s the only thing in life that matters. The people you make family are so, so important and the time you have with them is short, so make every second count… but also, dragons in space are amazing.” Nert stood from the chair and held out her hand, “Thanks for meeting with me. I really appreciate it.”

Kelly grinned, shaking Nert’s hand as she stood too. “Dragons in space are pretty awesome indeed. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. This was fun. I’m looking forward to whichever character you’ll have me meet!”

“Oh, me too!” Nert laughed, “and, uh, don’t take anything personally, okay? My characters can be a bit… distrusting of strangers.”

Kelly smirked at this. “That’s totally fine! I’m used to that. It will be fun! However though, I’ve got to go. You take care, okay?”

“Have a great day! And, just… uh… be careful on your way out. See you!” Nert waved with a grin

Kelly smiled, taking note of the warning, but then headed out

<~>~<~>~<~>

N. R. Tupper’s novel, TYR, is now available. Be sure to follow her on social media as well for more updates!

Book: getbook.at/TYR

Twitter: www.twitter.com/nrtupper

Website: www.nrtupper.wix.com/nrtupper

Character Interview: Audra Brown’s Tommy

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Tommy was written by Audra Brown.)

The octagonal cage was set up in a large cave, surrounded by rows of classic muscle cars in various states of repair, and illuminated by an undulating red-orange light that emerged from the complex pattern of lines that ran across the smooth ceiling and walls. Characters from the slew of worlds and stories by Audra Brown were about to be placed inside to vie for the chance to represent the group in an interview.

Cass Elkins, the most concrete and complete of the crew had been ported from a delicate situation involving two cougars and the interrogation of a traitor. She was in a mood, hatless, covered in cougar guts, and holding a large bowie knife.

Josey Jackson came in holding a glass of Scotch in one hand and her magical light-whip in the other. It was assumed that the vampire head that rolled across the floor came in with her.

Axel Nightblade and her arm-length dragon had obviously been in the middle of a meal. They were both chewing the meat off a greasy bone and the smell of burnt flesh, fermented grain, and a proto-plumbing civilization accompanied their arrival.

Myra Belle Murdock, her sword Chuck, and her revolver, Harry, were all dripping zombie ichor and in the middle of a three-way argument regarding whether a slingshot or a toilet seat was a better zombie killing tool.

Erik Wolf dropped out of a faculty meeting and immediately found a corner where he could stare at the more conspicuously battle-ready in fear. His sweater-vest was red or he really would have looked out of place.

A few more characters, slightly less defined, still appearing as broad-brushstrokes, continued to arrive until it became clear that it was a good thing the ring was far larger than regulation. A Las Vegas Vampire-Hunter, a corporate magician from another earth, a good ‘ol boy Brand Inspector, cold-as-ice getaway driver just out of the joint, and a passel of other troublemakers who were itching to have their story written.

Just outside the chaos, a soft, southern drawl commented, “Just like a bunch of protagonists, always in the middle of some conflict, terribly unreliable, their plans just never work out.”

Thomas Jefferson Lee, ante-bellum anti-hero, bowed slightly and held out a repurposed vehicular bucket seat for the Muse. “Welcome to the subterranean car collection and lair of Josey Jackson, the pyromaniac’s pyromaniac.” He looked like the sandy-haired, blue-eyed, wannabe gunslinger in many an old Western movie—the one that usually died. “Would you be interested in any sort of snack or beverage? I personally find that watching a battle such as this inevitably brings about a certain thirst.” His fangs flashed in a roguish smile and he politely waited for her answer.

Kelly took in her surroundings. Her own character, the assassin Vixen, was intrigued by the fighting and wanted a part of it, but Kelly refused to allow her to accompany her. Maybe next time. Instead, this time, Kelly sat next to Tommy and shook her head at his question. “I”m fine, thank you.” She smiled at him. “So…what are you all? Vampires? Or what exactly?”

Tommy seated himself and shrugged. “I’m a vampire, my dear Josey is mage possessed of the fiery magics. Mages tend to think of themselves as the main players. In all honesty, most vamps are not nearly as interesting or well-adjusted as me–explains why Josey hasn’t tried to kill me lately.” Tommy scratched his smooth chin. “But this world is full of monsters, human-ish and otherwise.”

Kelly nodded, grasping a bit of this world. “So when exactly were you turned?”

Tommy’s expression remained the same, but his eyes seemed to pale, losing color and warmth. “Before the war. I made the mistake of out-shooting someone significantly older. Neither of us took it well.”

Kelly noted the subtle change in his eyes but pressed on. “Which war? I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of wars.”

His eyes cleared a little. “The war between the states.”

She nodded and smiled. “See? There’s been plenty of wars between now and then. So, what was life like before you turned?” Then she added, “And I’m sorry if my questions make you feel uncomfortable, but…just yesterday in another interview I made this big bad guy cry, so….take with it what you will, but I promise to try and be nice.” She smiled at him.

Tommy smiled. “Life was hard, of course, but I was quite suited to the times. To be quite honest, I was a killer. Fast with a gun, and fast to seize an opportunity to demonstrate.”

“But did you have any siblings? What of your parents?” Kelly raised her brows as she settled back in her chair, relaxing into the conversation.

“I suppose. My inclinations and talents caused me to depart at what would now be deemed a tender age. My mother and father were farmers, I think. It was very slow and very boring. I recall four younger siblings, all quite plain. Don’t remember what they were called.”

“Interesting.” Kelly mused. She could tell he wasn’t being open to her, and that was okay. She’d let him take things at his own pace, but she continued with the questions. “So, when was the first time you met a vampire….or a mage and such?”

He laughed and it was hard to tell what specific emotion it conveyed, but it was not generous. “When i killed him, the vampire, not that I knew that name back then. He took it far too personally, came back for me, killed me.” Tommy’s eyes turned cold again. “And made a wager that my soul was dark enough to take on the curse.” Tommy realized that he was probably looking a bit feral and took a breath. “My first mage was a ornery red named Dragonne who helped me kill the bastard who had the gall to not die when I shot him.”

Kelly had to laugh. “It’s really annoying when dead people just don’t stay dead, isn’t it?” She chuckled, shaking her head but became serious once more. “So how was your transition from human into vampire?”

“Painful, I’m sure. But after the requisite fumbling around, not knowing what the hell was happening, I took to it quite well. It takes a certain kind of soul to fall to the curse at all, a devil inside. Some don’t know their own darkness before they are turned.” An expression of smugness crossed his face. “I was already quite the good friend with my darker side. As the one who made me said before he died, I was well-suited to be a vampire.” He shrugged. “The term was new, but at that point, a label meant little..”

Interesting take on this, but Kelly had to tilt her head to a side and furrow her brows, curiously. “You keep mentioning your darker side. Yes, you’ve seen war and such, but what made you so dark before you were even a vampire?”

“Well, back then, a man had his reputation. Mine was as an unrepentant, but quite accomplished gun-fighter. It’s not all like the movies either. I certainly enjoyed a good contest of shooting skill, but I killed for money, for favors, and for my own amusement. I was good at killing and who doesn’t like doing something that they do well?”

Kelly nodded at this. It made sense. “So, you’re good at killing. Do any of the kills ever stick with you? Or do you just kill and forget?” She observed him as she asked this.

He smiled, tight-lipped, and his eyes remained the same cold blue. “You want to know if I have any regrets. No, I don’t regret a soul I killed, but I’m not the devil himself. There were times…” He glanced away, into the past. “Women, children, folks who weren’t a challenge or a job, but the victims of pointless ravaging. There were times when it seemed like they shouldn’t have suffered. I remember those rare sheep that struck me and inclined me to get them some revenge on the men who did them in.”

Tommy looked at the Muse. “I doubt that I cared, but I liked getting them their revenge.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “And who are you today?”

“I don’t know. That’s the fun of the moment. I’m still a bastard, I’m sure.” He gestured to the cave of cars. “I like automobiles and I keep busy with mercenary work–and I watch the plans of men and mages go awry, sometimes I even help them along in that respect.”

“And how did you meet Josey Jackson?” Kelly lifted her brows and glimpsed back at the fighting still going on before looking back at Tommy.

Tommy chuckled, ignoring the increasingly brutal brawl as he recollected. “I met the woman when she tried to kill me the first time.” There was a smugness as he told the story, but also a respect, a reservation. “Luckily, we were interrupted.”

“Sounds like a lot of people try to kill you. What did you do to warrant her wrath?” Kelly had to smile.

“Nothing personal. Someone put a number on my head and she took the contract. I’m a vampire, she had no qualms about collecting.”

“So…” Kelly folded her arms and looked at Tommy. “Who’s Harry “Iceman” Claibourne?” And she watched him for his reaction.

Tommy’s eyes lost all color and he hissed. Recovering momentarily, he said, “Excuse me for a moment, ma’am.” There was a blurred sound as Tommy disappeared with unnatural speed for a few seconds. He returned a moment later holding a green glass bottle full of dark liquid.

“A ruthless, lying bastard who should’ve stayed dead.”

With a casual backhand, he knocked the neck off the bottle and drank the blood. “The Iceman is perhaps the man I’d love to kill most in this world, but at the moment..” He punctuated his vehemence by throwing the bottle against the cage wire where it disintegrated in to a spray of tiny shards. “…it is not an opportunity available to me.”

Kelly observed him but had to tilt her head to a side. “Yet another person who should have stayed dead?” For killing people as an occupation, Tommy’s kills didn’t seem to stay dead. That much complicate things, but Kelly didn’t want to go into that. Instead, she focused on the subject. “So why is he on the top of your To-Kill list?”

Tommy seemed reluctant to answer, clamming up almost as fast as he’d come unglued. But after a a furtive glance at one of the cage combatants, he shrugged and said, “I suppose it has to do with his utter betrayal of more than one generation of my friends—and my own trust. Or perhaps he just rubs me the wrong way. Probably both.”

“And he killed Jack Dragonne,” Kelly pointed out, not backing down when Tommy glared at her. She nodded and leaned forward. “Who was Jack to you?”

“Jack was my responsibly—and curse that devious son-of-a-bitch—he grew up to be interesting, powerful, and fun to be around.”

Kelly wasn’t sure if he was talking about Jack or Iceman, but unfortunately she didn’t have time to dig much deeper. She merely smiled at Tommy. “Our time’s about up, so I’ll be leaving you alone soon. You won’t have to put up with my pestering questions anymore, but you seem to take Jack’s death so personally, and you don’t strike me as the kind of guy who cares too much about others–at least not on the surface. So why do you feel responsible for Jack?”

“I don’t have many friends, never have. Jack’s father helped me kill the one who killed me. In return, I promised to keep an eye on Jack. My word is one thing I don’t take lightly.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “I’m sorry your word was forced to be broken, but I’m certain you’ll get your revenge soon enough. Now though, my time is up. Thank you for this chat.” She rose to her feet then offered him a smile. “And thanks for answering my questions.”

Tommy rose and almost bowed, gentlemen of the past that he was. “I cannot say it was a pleasure, Ma’am, but it was amusing. Adios.”

“Goodbye.” And Kelly bowed her head to him before straightening and leaving. That was an interesting conversation.

<~>~<~>~<~>

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!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/429-Yuma-Fire—Hire-Episode-ebook/dp/B01M0DHFO0

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/

Author Interview: Audra Brown

(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!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/429-Yuma-Fire—Hire-Episode-ebook/dp/B01M0DHFO0

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/

Author Interview: Rachel Lemons

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Rachel was written by Rachel Lemon.)

Kelly found a nice quiet corner in the coffee shop and took a seat facing the door. It had been a very long week for her, so she enjoyed getting to relax for a bit. Of course, she was here on business, but she had great job—chatting with fellow writers—and she couldn’t wait to see what today’s interview would bring.

After sitting there for a while working on her computer, the door chimed, and Kelly looked up to see a woman enter the shop. Since Kelly was the only other customer, it was easy to find her, and Kelly smiled her greeting and rose to her feet. “Rachel Lemons?” She reached out her hand to shake Rachel’s. “Hi, I’m Kelly. It’s wonderful to meet you. If you’d like to go and order a drink, you may, and you can meet me at this table over here.” She motioned back to her table.

“It’s nice to meet you too, Kelly,” Rachel said with a smile. “I’m going to get my drink, and I’ll be right there.” She walked over to the counter and ordered a mocha frape without so much as needing to look over the menu. It wasn’t long before her order was filled, and she took her drink with a grateful sigh as she sat down with Kelly.

Kelly smiled when she came over and sat down. “So, how are you doing today? I trust you’re well.”

“I am,” Rachel replied, taking a sip of her mocha. “This should help wake me up,” she added with a sheepish laugh. “How are you, Kelly?”

“I’m quite well actually! Thanks for asking. So, tell me a bit about yourself.” Kelly rested her elbow on the armrest of her chair, leaning onto it. “What got you interested in writing?”

Rachel grinned, and her eyes seemed to look beyond the confines of the coffee-shop. “I’ve always been writing. Ever since I was old enough that I knew how to read and write. I remember writing down my first book when I was only five. It was about my favorite of my stuffed animals,” she recalled.

Kelly smiled when she heard this. Many writers were born writers—although not all—but Kelly loved meeting each of them. “So you’ve always been writing. What kind of stories do you like to write?”

“When I was little, I wrote stories about the adventures of my stuffed animals. When I became a teen, however, I shifted into the genre that is my passion now. High fantasy,” she told Kelly.

“Why did you make the shift?” Kelly tilted her head, curious. “I mean, exploring genres are great and everything, but did something about high fantasy specifically catch your interest?”

“Well,” Rachel began, “I didn’t write for a while during my childhood. Things were… difficult, during that period of my life. I first fell in love with high fantasy when I saw the Redwall TV series, and started reading the genre. Something about it just clicked, and in a few years, I was writing it.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So is that what you write now?”

Rachel nodded as well. “Yes, that is what I write now.”

Kelly smiled. “Wonderful! I always like a good fantasy tale. Tell me about a story of yours.” She leaned to listen because she was eager.

Rachel grinned. “Would you like to hear about the story I’m writing now? With some luck and hard work, I hope to make it be the first thing I publish.”

“Certainly!” Kelly bobbed her head. “What is this story about?”

“It’s complicated,” Rachel warned Kelly. “But I’ll do my best to summarize it in a way that makes sense. One of the gods betrayed his king, and was meant to be exiled for his betrayal. Instead of being banished, however, the Evil One’s followers drew him into the physical world. He was greatly weakened, and slumbered for thousands of years as he regained his strength. He has awoken at last, and a young woman will be granted the powers of a goddess so that he can be stopped in his conquest of the physical world.”

“There’s a great deal more involved, of course, but that is the bare bones of it,” Rachel added.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “What is a great fantasy novel without being complicated anyway? I like the sound of it!” She grinned at Rachel then shifted to sit back in her chair to hear more. “So, who are the main characters involved in this story? What are their conflicts or struggles?”

“Thank you!” Rachel beamed. “The young woman who will have to stop the Evil One is Seluna. She’s a unique type of mage called a Listener, with a pet cat she speaks to telepathically. Her best friend, Orlena, has known her since they were both very young children. Orlena and Seluna will lose everyone they know at the beginning of the story, and will be seeking vengeance as they uncover the truth of Seluna’s destiny as well as her heritage. Along the way, she’ll meet the elves. One will become her mentor. His name is Lord Baelatean. Baelatean’s son, Ilroiner, will fall in love with Seluna. The elven princess, Faeleana, will become like an older and wiser sister to Seluna. She has some serious romance drama with the elven men.”

Kelly chuckled. “Oh, this sounds quite interesting indeed. Now though, this Evil One…is he the main antagonist? Or is there another?” She tilted her head to a side, observing Rachel.

“The Evil One is the main antagonist,” Rachel affirmed, “and he has a great many servants who will serve as lesser antagonists. His most powerful servant, an undead man named Hathetur, will be the one responsible for the destruction of Seluna’s village. She will want revenge on him because of this. And further down the line of the story, she will discover that she is royalty. Her uncle, Emperor Alivar of Lineor, is basically a puppet of the Evil One. She will need to change the political situation in the Empire, and probably usurp his throne, in order to save the Empire… let alone the rest of the world.”

Kelly shook her head when she heard all this. “Wow, like you said, it’s complicated!” But she grinned because she preferred complex stories anyway. “So, what gave you the idea for this story?”

“The story has been building, changing, evolving, and growing, ever since I first met my main characters. I was sixteen years old when I first wrote a novel with Seluna, Ilroiner, Lord Baelatean, Hathetur, and the Evil One. The other characters have been added as the story has developed,” Rachel explained. “The first spark of an idea, however, came from being exposed to my literary hero for the first time. J.R.R. Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings. I had been dabbling with writing high fantasy before then, but it never got anywhere until I discovered the Lord of the Rings and fell hopelessly in love.”

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “Ah, those wonderful books, but what exactly about the Lord of the Rings sparked the idea in you?” She furrowed her brows.

Rachel blushed a bit. “The elves,” she admitted. “Those goddamn sexy elves. The elvish men are so attractive. And the race as a whole simply entranced me. I had to delve into my own version of them. They compelled me to write with them.”

Kelly chuckled. “They are hot! Well, I certainly can’t wait to read your book if those elves are based at all off of the ones in Tolkien’s books. I bet they’re awesome!” She grinned at Rachel. “All right, so what has been the most difficult thing for you to write in this story?”

Rachel laughed, “Thank you! Now…the most difficult thing to write in the story? Emotionally difficult, or physically difficult? By physically, I mean writer’s block or having a hard time coming up with ideas.”

“Either or.” Kelly shrugged, settling back in her chair again.

Rachel thought for a moment. “Well, the most difficult emotionally has been right at the beginning. I’ve written with Seluna so long that I feel like I know her, although she likes to keep her past to herself sometimes. I had to kill off her family and friends. Nearly everyone she had ever known, and feel her pain as I wrote it. That was brutal. Her grief was so strong I almost forgot it wasn’t my own grief when I wrote that. The hardest physically has been figuring out what in the world will make her have to leave the elvish kingdom of Telnur and start her journey to save the world after the destruction of her village. I have ideas, and they make sense, but I’m still not sure of them,” she added.

“Wow…isn’t it amazing how real the story can become?” Kelly shook her head as she pondered over this. “And what has writing this story taught you—about writing, about life, or about people…it could be whatever.”

“It’s taught me that everyone is complicated. Even the ‘simple’ people that seem to be easy to figure out at just a glance. It’s taught me that no one is above corruption, no matter how good they may seem. It’s also reminded me that writing isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s hard. Really hard. Sometimes it hurts. That’s when you know it’ll be worth reading,” she answered.

“That is important to remember—always.” Kelly nodded as she took this in. It was a reminder she actually needed, so she smiled at Rachel. “So, is this book a single book or is it part of a series?”

Rachel smirked. “I know you write fantasy, too, Kelly, so I think we could both say this is going to have to be a series. It’s too complicated for a single book. Especially since I can be a bit long-winded at times. Or, more accurately, my characters are long-winded. They love making dialogue.”

Kelly laughed. “That’s true, isn’t it? But a series is awesome! It means more brilliant stories!” She cast Rachel a grin. “So what was the title of this book again? And you said it hasn’t been published yet, correct?”

“I wish it were published,” Rachel laughed and then sighed wistfully, “but alas, I need to finish writing it first. It’s called the Whispers of Fate Series, though the title could be changed when it’s closer to being published. I plan to make a career of writing, and this will be my debut.”

“That is fantastic! I hope you the very best with it. It sounds like it has a lot of potential!” Kelly gave her a reassuring smile, but then she looked at the clock on the wall and noticed the time. She frowned, looking back at Rachel. “Unfortunately our time is about up, but I’m glad we were able to meet up. This was fun! Love hearing about your story.”

“Thank you very much, Kelly!” Rachel smiled. “It was wonderful being able to talk with you. Especially about this.”

“Of course! I love chatting with writers about their stories!” Kelly smiled, rising to her feet. “You will keep me posted on your progress, right?”

“Yes, I will!” Rachel smiled enthusiastically. “I’m going to be writing more today, in fact.”

“Fantastic! I won’t keep you any long then. I must be going anyway. You take care, all right?” With a final grin to Rachel, Kelly went on her way.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Rachel Lemon’s novel ‘The Whispers of Fate’ is not yet published.