Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Recipe Wednesday: Anna K. Lanier

This will be the last Recipe Wednesday. I will probably come up with something else to do. In the meantime, welcome Anna K. Lanier.

Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me today. In my novella A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE, Tessa Jones is a cook for a ranch. In one scene she’s going to bake a cake. The cake doesn’t actually get baked because of an emergency and the hero is none too happy that she’s left his house with the oven on. However, I decided that if she were to have baked the cake, Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake is what it would have been. This recipe is one of 27 recipes I’ve included in a FREE pdf companion cookbook for A GIFT BEYOND ALL MEASURE. The cookbook will be available for downloading on my website, www.aklanier.com December 8-31, 2010.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake



1 (18.25 oz) plain devil's food cake mix

or devil's food cake mix with pudding

1 (21-oz) can cherry pie filling

2 large eggs

1 tsp. pure almond extract


1 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup whole milk

1 cup (6-oz pkg) semisweet chocolate chips


Place a rack in the center o the oven and preheat 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 9x13-in baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place the cake mix, cherry pie filling, eggs and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down as needed. The batter should look thick and well blended.

Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing top with rubber spatula. Place pan in oven. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed with your fingers and just starts to pull away from pan (30-35 minutes).

For the glaze, place the sugar, butter and milk in small saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil, about 10 minutes. Boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in chocolate chips. When the chips have melted and the glaze is smooth, pour it over the warm cake so that it covers the entire surface. The glaze will be thin, but will firm up as it cools. Cool cake 20 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Serves 20.

ExcerpTuesday: Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Excerpt – “Emberling” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, from the anthology, Dragon’s Lure, Dark Quest Books

In the morning twilight, the ember oaks still glowed the faint red of banked coals where the sap ran close to the surface. Sleepy and confused, six-year-old Camirel clutched the pouch newly hung about her neck as she followed Papi and Mam through the forest. All around them a pack of embrils, giant dragon-like lizards that lived in their valley, kept pace, houghing and growling in agitation.

“I don’t want to go with Ro’fo,” Cami muttered. Her voice trembled and she fought against the frown tugging at her face. She was frightened and she did not understand. Today was her birthday. They were to have breakfast in the garden. Mam and Papi were to tell her stories all morning long. Instead they hurried through the forest. She stopped and stared up at her parents. “Please, I don’t want to leave.” Tears brimmed in eyes the color of coal ash but did not fall. She could not keep her lip from quivering.

Papi stopped, but did not turn. Instead he stood with his legs braced and a thicket scythe clutched in both hands as if he were ready to clear saplings. His shoulders shook. Mam spun around and knelt before Cami, face red and swollen and her eyes bright, but dry. “You must, my little emberling…you must. Brother Rolfo is waiting for you so you must hurry…the brethren do not wait well.”

“But why?”

Mam worried her lip and her gaze darted among the trees and back. “Camirel, I need you to trust me, I need you to go for a while so I’ll know you’re safe.”

Cami lost her battle with the frown. “I’m safe here. The dragon will keep us safe.”

Her father tensed but did not turn.

“You know there are no more dragons.” Mam’s words were both bitter and sorrowful.

“Then you’ll keep me safe with your magic.”

Her mother groaned and Papi glanced over his shoulder, looking fiercer than even the embrils. “We have no time for this, Bayel…Listen to your mother, child, now.”

Mam shushed him and took Cami’s hands, unfolding them from the pouch. “It is like our secret paintings,” she said, her face gone pale, her voice strained, “the way we hide special things in the picture so only certain people can find them…do you understand?”

Cami liked painting with Mam, but she still did not understand and shook her head, her frown deepening. One tear escaped down her cheek.

“We must hide you, daughter. You are one of the special things. Draigbyr is not secret anymore, so now you go to Mabet, where only the right people may find you.”

Book Blurb

Here There Be Dragons!

What is the deal with virgins?

Why would a dragon want to swallow the moon?

Is a bed of treasure really to be desired?

At long last, a collection that delves into the lore on what lures a dragon. We bring you nineteen tempting tales of draconic wonder—along with the lyrics to two classic and much-beloved songs—certain to broaden your understanding of these legendary creatures that have fascinated mankind throughout time and across cultures.

Trek across a dragon’s dream space in C.E. Murphy’s Perchance to Dream…Take wing in Misty Massey’s Flying Away Home…and the burning question in Vonnie Winslow Crist’s Weathermaker…got milk? Everything you wanted to know about dragons, but no one has survived to ask…

With stories by John Grant, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Patrick Thomas, James Chambers, Misty Massey, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Mike Penncavage, C.E. Murphy, Hildy Silverman, Bernie Mojzes, Randy Farran, C.J. Henderson, Claire Stephens McMurray, Robert E. Waters, D.C. Wilson, Jean Marie Ward,

Keith R.A. DeCandido, Anna Yardney, Jeffrey Lyman, James Daniel Ross, and David B. Coe, this is a tome you are sure to treasure!


Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over fifteen years. Her works include the urban fantasies, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She has edited the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, and No Longer Dreams, and has contributed to numerous other anthologies and collections, including Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, So It Begins, Space Pirates, Barbarians at the Jumpgate, and New Blood.

She is a member of The Garden State Horror Writers, the New Jersey Authors Network, and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail, badassfaeries, darkquestbooks), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com or www.badassfaeries.com.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


This is my cover for my December 15 release, Incendiary. I'm pretty happy about it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Authorsday: Suzanne Tyrpak

1.What drew you to the subject of Vestal Virgin?

About seven years ago (before my divorce, when I had some expendable income) I traveled to Rome with a group of writers. I fell in love with Italy, Rome in particular. A travel book I read contained a short blurb about vestal virgins; it mentioned they were sworn to thirty years of chastity and, if that vow were broken, they would be entombed alive. That got me going! Plus, on a tour of the Coliseum, a guide pointed out the seats designated to the vestal virgins—the six priestess of Vesta were educated, and therefore powerful, at a time when most women weren’t even taught to read.

2. Did you encounter any obstacles in researching the book?

I traveled to Rome twice, and on my second trip I hired a scholar who specialized in the year I’m writing about, A.D. 63-64, to give me a tour of the Forum. One of the most useful books I found was History of the Vestal Virgins of Rome, published in 1934 by T. Cato Worsfold. I also wrote to Colleen McCullough, and she was kind enough to write back. She gave me the name of an out-of-print book that I’ve used a lot, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic, by H.H. Scullard. I have shelves of books about Roman history and Paul of Tarsus—hardly anything is written about vestal virgins—but that gives me quite a bit of leeway. After all, I’m writing fiction.

3. How many rejections have you received?

I have a file folder full of them. I used to keep them nailed to the wall, but that got too depressing. Once, I attended a conference for historical writers and (without looking at my manuscript or listening to my pitch) a well-known agent told me, “No one wants to hear about Rome.” I thought that was odd, since H.B.O. was running their Rome series at the time. Maybe she didn’t have cable.

4. Why did you pick the publisher who ultimately published your book?

Oh, well…that would be me! Vestal Virgin will be published mid-December on Kindle and Barnes & Noble. Why self-publish? Aside from the fact that I’m a bit of a control-freak: I’ve had two agents and have had a couple of traditional publishers interested in Vestal Virgin. A few years ago, I decided to do a rewrite, but I was going through a divorce and got off-track. Recently, my good friend, Blake Crouch, suggested I try ePublishing, and I put out a short collection of short stories, Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction). It’s been selling well, so I’ve decided to publish a novel.

5. What was the best writing advice someone gave you?

That’s easy, Terry Brooks:

Write, Write, Write; Read, Read, Read; Write, Write, Write—Repeat.

6. If you have a day job, what is it/

For years, I worked in radio—sold and wrote advertising. About ten years ago I made a change so I could focus on my writing. Now I do freelance P.R. for a local science museum and I work in Customer Service at an airline, which allows me to fly for free or cheap—and passengers provide lots of character studies.

7. What’s your favorite food?

I love to cook, especially when I have someone appreciative to cook for (which, I’m happy to say, I do). My favorite dishes are Mediterranean. I love melding flavors, using fresh ingredients, and making food from scratch. I cook Italian (natch), Greek, Egyptian, East Indian—and I tend to like spicy foods. I often feature food in my writing.

8. Where would you like to travel?

Sign me up for Italy any time. I’ve been to Egypt and Greece, doing research for my novels. I visited India a couple of years ago and stayed in an ashram. I would like to travel through Eastern Europe, now that it’s opened up. I hear Berlin is great, and I’ve been meaning to get to Prague. Nearly got to Ireland this year, but put that on hold—I love to travel, and I’d go most anywhere.

9. What would you like to learn that you haven’t?

I’ve been taking Tango lessons on and off, (oh yeah, add Argentina to my list of destinations) and I would like to have time to really practice and get good. I love that dance; it’s soooo sexy. I’m into Tantra, and I’d love to explore that more with a partner. (You asked!) And…this is big: I’d like to be able to format my own books for ePublishing. That may have to wait for another lifetime—geek is Greek to me.

10. What authors do you admire?

Any author who completes a book. It’s a big deal to finish a book. Otherwise, I love the classics. I’ve read all of Shakespeare twice and studied ancient Greek theater in college. I love to read about everyday life at other times. Favorites include: Jane Austen, Henry James, Edith Wharton. Especially love D.H. Lawrence. I read a lot of suspense and thrillers. Ruth Rendell is a favorite, Tess Gerritsen, Blake Crouch, Richard Harris, Elizabeth George. And I read lots and lots of psychology books—guess I’m trying to figure it all out. Right now my Kindle is loaded with indie authors, and now that my book is finished, I plan to read them.

Thanks for asking, Chris!

Bio: Suzanne Tyrpak has published short stories in Arts Perspective Magazine, the Mota 9: Addiction anthology, CrimeSpree Magazine, and the anthology Pronto! Writings from Rome (along with notable authors including: Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth Engstrom, Terry Brooks and John Saul). Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers awarded her first prize in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest, and Maui Writers awarded her third prize in the Rupert Hughes writing competition. Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction), a collection of nine short stories about dating, divorce and desperation (all that good stuff) is available on Kindle for .99 cents. J.A. Konrath says the stories are, “Pure comedic brilliance.” Red Adept says, “the writing style was terrific.”

Description of Vestal Virgin (to be published mid-December on Kindle and Barnes & Noble)

Tess Gerritsen says, “Her writing is pure magic.”

Elissa Rubria Honoria is a Vestal Virgin--priestess of the sacred flame, a visionary, and one of the most powerful women in the Roman Empire. But when the emperor, Nero, brutally executes her brother, Elissa's world begins to crumble. Vestals are sacrosanct, sworn to chastity on penalty of death, but Nero holds himself above the laws of men and calls himself a god. He pursues Elissa, engaging her in a deadly game of wits and sexuality. Or is Elissa really the pursuer? Determined to seek to revenge, she stumbles on dark secrets and affiliates herself with a strange religious sect call Christians, jeopardizing her life and the future of the Roman Empire.

Monday, November 22, 2010

ExcerpTuesday: Cris Anson

Landscaper Giselle Sheridan is too busy to take up the Cougar Challenge during planting season. But when she walks into CPA Conlan Trowbridge’s office, tax questions are forgotten and her growl comes roaring out. Oh yeah, they’re both ready for some hot and heavy sex. Her long-time foreman also has designs on her, in more ways than one. When Giselle faces some hard decisions, will she ultimately be able to keep the heat?

Excerpt from ADDING HEAT

Copyright © 2010 by Cris Anson

Could he be any more goody-goody than thinking a bicycle ride was an appropriate first date?

The dimple in his smile as he waved hello didn’t catch her interest this time. She was angry that she’d been hoodwinked. No, that wasn’t fair. It was her own fault she’d misunderstood.

But oh lord, when he walked to the back of the truck, her eyes popped at the finest, tightest, roundest ass she’d ever seen. Come to think of it, his thighs were more muscular than she’d imagined when she’d seen him in loose-fitting dress pants at the Senior Center.

And his belly. It was concave under the spandex. His clothes looked painted on, and every step showed the flex and flow of his muscles. Not an ounce of fat. Anywhere. She could just imagine the type of woman he probably dated. No way was she in anywhere near the shape of those twenty- and thirty-somethings with hard bodies and unlined skin who rode in biking marathons.

He looked like one of her employees, young and buff and…

“You might get a little warm and sweaty in those jeans,” Con said as he rolled out one of the bikes and leaned it against the porch railing. “And you might want to wear sneakers.”

Was this guy really a nerd? Or was this his way of trying to impress her?

Okay, she’d show him. Without a word Giselle marched back upstairs and a few minutes later walked back out wearing a brand-new outfit she’d bought for wintertime exercise at a health club she never got around to joining—tight, mid-thigh, spandex workout shorts and sports bra that lifted her ample breasts and maximized her cleavage. The get-up showed a fair amount of skin between garments and she was gratified that his mouth actually dropped open as he rolled the second bike to a stop.

“Is this better?” she cooed. And smiled at the instant bulge his molded shorts couldn’t hide.

Instead of turning to hide his erection, as she’d expected a goody-goody to do, his eyes shot lightning bolts and he strode purposefully toward her.

“I’ve wanted to do this since the moment I laid eyes on you,” he murmured as he cradled her head between his palms. His mouth touched hers and all hell broke loose inside her.


Cris Anson feels you’re never too old to enjoy romance. She loves writing older woman-younger man stories. That’s why she jumped at the chance to join the Cougar Challenge authors and wrote ADDING HEAT. She has also written five erotic romance novels and several shorter works for Ellora’s Cave, as well as two romantic suspense novels for their Cerridwen Press imprint. You can find Cris at these locations:

Tempt the Cougar blog http://temptthecougar.blogspot.com/?zx=72a26a2564d8d5ad.

Website www.crisanson.com

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/people/Cris-Anson/1106215816?ref=search

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Authorsday: J. R. Lindermuth

J. R. Lindermuth lives and writes in central Pennsylvania . A retired newspaper editor/writer, he is now librarian of his county historical society where he assists patrons with genealogy and research. He is the author of eight novels, including four in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series, and has published articles and stories in a variety of magazines, both print and on line. He recently signed a contract with Oak Tree Press for a novel in their new Western line. He is the father of two children and has four grandsons.

When an out-of-state reporter is found murdered in the restroom of a disreputable bar the tendency to violence spirals in the rural Pennsylvania community of Swatara Creek, and the investigative trail keeps bringing Dan ‘Sticks’ Hetrick and his team back to the family of a wealthy doctor who has come back to his hometown in retirement.

See reviews and excerpt at http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/chapters/BeingSomeoneElse_JRLindermuth.shtml

Q. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
A. I think the desire was always there. I remember making up stories as I played with toy soldiers as a boy and coming up with scenarios for cowboy and Indian games with friends. My grandfather was a story teller and my Dad had a good library. I think both further stimulated my imagination.

Q. How long have you been writing?
A. I’m not sure just when I began committing my stories to paper. I recently found an old school notebook which contained some early (embarrassingly bad) examples. I know my output expanded greatly after my parents gave me a typewriter in high school. I began sending stories to magazines and actually got encouragement from a few kind editors. But it would be much later until anything was accepted.

Q. How did you pick the genre you write in?
A. My genres are mystery and historical fiction, both generated by my early taste in reading. I grew up reading the tales of Poe, the adventure stories of Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London and the mysteries of Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr. Though I now read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, my favorites remain mysteries and thrillers.

Q. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
A. I’m definitely a pantser. I generally know where I’m going with a story, but if I have too-defined a road map I’ll get bored before I get there. My outlines are so brief no one else could follow them—usually just a scattering of words as reminders and to keep me focused.

Q. What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?
A. My first completed novel was The Spartans, a sort of Cain and Abel tale set during the French and Indian War in Pennsylvania . Fortunately, it was rejected by every publisher to whom I submitted. But elements of that novel—much changed and moved to a later period in history—made it into Schlussel’s Woman, my first published novel.

Q. What was the best writing advice someone gave you?
A. I’ve said this elsewhere, but I still believe it. Early on I wanted to be an artist. I wrote Thomas Hart Benton and asked his advice. He replied with one word: Paint. I believe the same applies to writing. We learn best by doing.

Q. What place that you haven’t visited would you like to go?
A. There are many, though Africa would top the list. Why? To see the place where man began. To see the great herds before they are completely exterminated. To see the places where some of my heroes walked.

Q. What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?
A. With a generous supply of today’s antibiotics, the Renaissance period, especially in Italy and England . Can you imagine a more interesting period in history than this when man was shaking off the fetters of superstition and questioning everything?

Q. What do you do when you are not writing?
A. I like spending time with family, reading, drawing, walking—especially in the woods and mountains around my home, listening to music, watching good movies.

Q. What would you like to learn to do that you haven’t?
A. Play some musical instrument, though I doubt I can do it. I love all kinds of music—from classics to the blues, from folk to early rock. Unfortunately, I can’t even play the radio without getting static.

Being Someone Else (July 2010), Whiskey Creek Press
Watch The Hour (April 2009), Whiskey Creek Press

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Authorsday: John Grant

How long have you been writing?
Since the early 1980s. I began my career in the late 1960s in book publishing, becoming an editor/editorial director before eventually being "downsized" from a company that was far from London – i.e., far from where, to an even greater extent than now, UK publishing was all happening. I had a small child, and thus no wish to move back to the big city. The options open to me were (a) writing and (b) freelance editing, both of them pretty precarious occupations, so I decided to try doing both and see which one turned out best. In the event, both strands of my new career took off simultaneously, and I never quite had the nerve to drop one or the other. The result was a couple of decades of gross overwork.

More recently, since I moved here to the States, the freelance-editorial aspect of my life has dropped off considerably – I don't have the bits of paper that US editorial managers like – but I've picked up a lot more ghosting work. Also, until a few years ago I was, even though based here, commissioning the books for the UK fantasy-art imprint Paper Tiger and being a general US stringer for that company.

How did you pick the genre you write in?

I don't know that any longer I write in such a thing as a genre – and certainly I don't write in just a single genre. I used to think of myself as a fantasy/sf writer (at least, when I wasn't writing nonfiction, which represents some two-thirds of my output), but I'm not so sure that's true any longer. Some of my stories definitely do still fall into standard categories, sort of – for example, my story "Memoryville Blues", which Pete Crowther and Nick Gevers recently bought for The Anthology Formerly Known As Postscripts, could easily be thought of as horror or urban fantasy – but a lot of other pieces tend to be a bit more confusing, especially when I'm playing with what people regard as genre tropes. My most recent novel, Leaving Fortusa, seems to have created exactly this confusion: it's kind of a series of linked cameos on dystopian/If This Goes On themes, which are normally thought of as being in the province of sf, but . . . well, as a friend put, I really threw everything in. The result really belongs to no genre at all – in my opinion it's a mainstream novel in the sense that, say, John Barth's novels are mainstream. Some of the reviewers got this. It was quite amusing watching others fail to do so. Then again, my Ed McBain homage The City in These Pages, while in essence a cosmological fantasy taking the form of a police procedural, got a very favorable review in one of the crime/mystery venues. My story "The Life Business", which appeared in the recent Gerard Brennan/Mike Stone-edited anthology Requiems for the Departed, is a psychological thriller, yet at least one of the crime-fiction reviewers has read it as a fantasy. And so on.

A quite different example would be "The Lonely Hunter", a novella that's coming out next year. Although this reads (I hope!) as if it were a fantasy and maybe also as a literary murder mystery, in the event it's really a mainstream story about writing, about imagination, and about wish-fulfillment/self-delusion. I love it to pieces! As it's coming from PS Publishing, who're more normally associated with dark fantasy and the like, it'll be interesting to see what readers make of it.

It's maybe no surprising that these days I'm reading a lot more translated fiction than I used to. Many of the authors working outside the anglophone cultures are far less worried about this whole genre business than we are. Where, for example, would you classify something like Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind? At the moment I'm reading The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez; the US publishers have tried to present it as a quirky murder mystery (and, to judge by the review quotes, many of the reviewers have tried to jam it into that mental category too), but that seems to me to miss its point(s).

What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?

The first novel I started writing was when I was about seven. It was called The Ghost of Horror Mansion, and I was maybe a dozen handwritten pages into it – representing some 15 whole chapters, you understand – when it all began to seem too much like hard work. My first full novel I wrote in my teens, and sadly the title is now lost to me. I do remember it was all angsty and acned and "clever", and that about 95% of the way through it dawned on me that this was all godawful. I finished it for the sake of being able to say I'd finished it, but I never looked at it again and somewhere along the line it found the landfill of its dreams.

My first actual published novel was The Dark Door Opens, which was the first in a series of 12 I wrote as a companion series to Joe Dever's Lone Wolf game books. I'd published a bunch of nonfiction books by then, of course, but at most a handful of stories, so when I was commissioned to write these novels it was a bit of a jump in at the deep end. At the time I never thought that, 25 years later, those books would still be around. As it is, Joe and I are expecting their latest reissue – from DarkQuest – sometime soon. (They were due to start reappearing this past spring, but there've been delays.)

What do you know now that you are published that you didn’t know pre-published that you wish you knew?

How difficult it is to make a living doing this.

How many rejections have you received?

About a billion, I should think – and that's even before you start counting the ones I got in my teens, when I was busily beavering away writing short sf stories that mercifully never saw the light of day. As soon as I finished one – and that was quite often, because 2000 words was in those days a major epic as far as I was concerned – I'd send it off to the magazine New Worlds, whose staff were inordinately kind and encouraging in their rejection letters. I used to keep a collection of those letters, from Mike Moorcock et al., in a hardback binder, which unfortunately I lost over the years: I'm sure it'd have been of interest to some scholar somewhere to see quite how generous these good people were with their time. Anyway, back from New Worlds the stories would eventually come, and so off I'd send them at once to the other Brit spec-fic mag that was running at the time, Science Fantasy (later Impulse and SF Impulse). This meant that to my collection of kindly rejection letters I could now add similar ones from the likes of Keith Roberts!

There were giants in those days, I tell you, and most of them rejected a few stories of mine at some stage or another along the way . . .

What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?

I used to really, really, wish I could visit the wonderful hi-tech future we all thought was coming down the line – flying cars! 3D television! starships! jetpacks! inexhaustible sex robots! What was there not to love? Nowadays, alas, I don't think we have a future.

What is the one thing your heroes would do that you wouldn’t?

My heroes and heroines do all kinds of stuff that I wouldn't. When I'm writing a piece of fiction, one of the first things that happens – sometimes it's the first, even before the story idea occurs to me – is that the focal character pops into my mind. There's then a period when I'm trying to get into that character's head, find out what makes them tick – become that character, in a sense . . . which can be a bit frightening for those around me, depending on the character! (Obviously the setup's not quite that simple, because most stories will have more than one focal character, but this is the gist of it.) I think it's because of this way of progressing that I most often write in the first person.

Later, when I'm writing the story, really it's a case of my following that character to see what s/he does – and often these are things I'd never dream of doing myself. For example, I'm a very convinced pacifist, yet some of my characters can be pretty violent. To stick with the obvious, there are different romantic/sexual attractions too, especially when my focal characters are female or, as in one story, male but gay. I suppose one of the big attractions of writing fiction is to find out what it would be like if you were a completely different person.

Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

A bit of a mixture, really. As I say, it's usually a matter of my characters taking me along for the ride, so my fiction can go some pretty unexpected places – unexpected to me, at least. That said, I generally have a fairly clear idea of the end of the story before I begin writing, so it's not an entirely unguided process. I think, though, that if it ever became a matter of just following a preconstructed skeleton – a sort of paint-by-numbers exercise – I'd do something else instead. Even when I was writing those old Lone Wolf novels, where necessarily a good deal of plot had been worked out in advance, I was still allowed to introduce fairly centrally a few loose-cannon characters so that I never quite knew how I was going to match up the fiction to the pre-existing plot.

One of the more minor of those characters was a parody S&S barbarian warrior called Thog the Mighty. By a very complicated process, he gave his name to the Thog's Masterclass feature of Dave Langford's newszine Ansible.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm due to deliver by the end of the year a nonfiction book called Denying Science, which Prometheus will publish next fall. It's proving to be an immense labor, for the very good reason that science denialism has been reaching a kind of crescendo in the past few years, with the USA at the forefront. People don't like the fact that science says we've got to change our ways in a hurry or climate change is basically going to put an end to our civilization PDQ, so, rather than take constructive action, they convince themselves there must be something wrong with the science – just like there had to be something wrong with the science that told us smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease. It's all very kindergarten. Of course, climate change isn't the only field in which people are busily denying science: we have the anti-vaxers rejecting the science that demonstrates conclusively there's no connection between vaccination and autism; there are the people who'll swear blind AIDS is exclusively a "gay plague" and anyway a manmade virus; there are the creationists and the IDiots, as ever busily denying the science of evolution; and so on and on and on. You even get state governors, for purely political reasons, denying scientific evidence in order not to pardon wrongfully convicted prisoners, as happened – disgustingly – in the Cameron Todd Willingham case a few years back. And then there's . . .

In what I laughingly describe as my spare time, I've just finished doing an extended essay on time-travel literature for a scholarly book on sf subgenres that Keith Brooke's putting together for publication next fall by Palgrave-Macmillan, The Sub-Genres of Science Fiction: Strange Divisions and Alien Territories, and I've been asked to do all the art entries for the massive new online third edition of the Clute/Nicholls (now Clute/Nicholls/Langford) The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, for whose second edition I was dogsbody editor 'way back when. I'm making notes for a book on failed predictions of the end of the world and a big encyclopedia of film noir; trying to finish a short story; and spurring my agent on to sell a "for children of all ages" bedtime book called The Velociraptor who Came for Christmas, fabulously illustrated by Chris Baker.

You've won two Hugos, a World Fantasy Award, a Locus Award and a bunch of others. Any recent developments on the awards front?

Under my real name, Paul Barnett, I ran the fantasy-artbook imprint Paper Tiger for a while, and for this work I was lucky enough to earn a Chesley Award and a nomination for the World Fantasy Award. I suppose I should add that just recently the title of my 2008 novel The Dragons of Manhattan won the Meager Puddle of Limelight Award – an annual piece of fun organized by writer Jon Gibbs.

Actually, I say The Dragons of Manhattan came out in 2008, but that's really just the year of its book publication. I originally wrote the novel as an online serial for the (alas, now deceased) international journalism site BlueEar. I had to produce a new piece of text, short or long, for them three times a week until the book was done, and so devising a structure for the novel that could accommodate those times when I was up to my eyes in other things proved something of a challenge. Then, once the book was finished, it was bought as a three-part serial – novella-sized parts – for the fiction magazine Argosy, which sadly folded after just one episode. And then finally came the printed book.

But I digress . . .

Author Bio:

John Grant is author of some 60 books, including novels like The World, The Far-Enough Window and most recently The Dragons of Manhattan and Leaving Fortusa. His Dragonhenge, illustrated by Bob Eggleton, was shortlisted for a Hugo in 2003. His first collection, Take No Prisoners, appeared in 2004. His anthology New Writings in the Fantastic was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award. In nonfiction, he has coedited with John Clute The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and written all three editions of The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters. Among recent nonfictions are Discarded Science, Corrupted Science and Bogus Science. His website is at www.johngrantpaulbarnett.com.

Book Blurb: since Dragons has just won Jon's award ...

The supposed leaders of a nation remarkably like today's America hope the populace never discovers who’s really in charge – ancient shapeshifting dragons that regard our species' survival as an item somewhere near the bottom of the agenda.

Sacked editor Norris Gonfalcon and femme fatale Jasmine Frimhalt investigate the apocalyptic schemes of the most powerful of all the dragons, Buster Maltravis, pillar of Wall Street. Aided by a depressive arms fetishist with fundamentalist convictions, an investigative journalist with Attitude, a self-styled “panhandler’s panhandler” and a pair of implausible virgins (as bait), Norris and Jasmine head for an inevitable showdown upon whose outcome depends . . . something.

Monday, November 8, 2010

ExcerpTuesday: B. A. Binns

B. A. Binns is the pseudonym of Barbara Binns who writes to attract and inspire old and young alike with stories of “real boys growing into real men…and the people who love them.” PULL is her debut young adult novel, told from the POV of its seventeen-year-old protagonist, David. David struggles with the loss of his mother, responsibility for his younger sisters, and a deepening attraction to the forbidden: Yolanda Dare, better known as “The Dare.” Yolanda belongs to the school’s bad boy, a young man who threatens both David and his younger sister.

Please visit the author on line at www.babinns.com


No girl has ever made me feel like holding her in my arms and making her smile and--

And nothing. This is The Dare. Malik’s girl. And I can’t let myself feel what I’m feeling.

She takes a long slow deep breath and looks like a scrub that’s just missed the game-winning free throw as she turns toward the door. “I need to get inside and mix,” she tells me.

I take her arm and guide her back into the kitchen. Thank God it’s empty again. Some slow song is playing and soft music flows through the room. Instead of letting her go, I say, “Dance with me.”

Her breath catches. She stands motionless, like she’s waiting for an echo.

So I try again. “Dance with me.”

The coat drops to the floor and she moves into my arms and it feels--right. Usually I dance with taller girls, girls who rest their head on my shoulder or kiss my neck while we slow dance. Usually there’s no head against my chest, right where my heart beats. And usually I don’t feel this tightness in my body. Not just the boner. Yeah, that’s getting painful and needy, but there’s something else going on. I want more. Even though going after more of her could destroy what I have right now.

I pull Yolanda tighter, and breathe in the scent of her hair. My heart pounds like a pile driver when she looks up at me. Her lips are so close, full and red. If I just bend a little more…

She suddenly stiffens. Her eyes flare when she pulls herself from my arms and steps back.

I feel like part of me’s missing. Like I have only the tiniest part of what I need. How could this happen? She’s all wrong for me. She’s Malik’s Dare.

I thrust my hands in my pockets to keep them from shaking.

This time when Yolanda heads for the door to the dining room, I let her leave.

My father’s voice streams through my head. No real man lets a woman tear him down.

My teeth clench and in my mind I scream, Shut up. But his words remain and I know I can’t be a real man. Not and let myself be torn this way. I don’t know how it happened. But I’d do anything, give anything, to keep Yolanda Dare with me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Authorsday: Leslie Wheeler

My guest today is Leslie Wheeler.  See what she has to say.

Q: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?A: I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school. Before that, I toyed with the idea of becoming a ballerina, but gave up because I was just too clumsy. Writing, on the other hand, is something that has always come easily to me, and that I enjoy doing.

Q: How did you pick the genre you write in?

A: I picked the mystery genre because I felt I needed the discipline involved in writing a mystery. The first novel I ever wrote was an 800-page historical novel that was long on incident but short on plot. As a result the book didn’t hold together very well, and I was never able to find a publisher. This experience made me realize I should try a genre where there’s a distinct beginning, middle and end, and where the writer must plant clues and build to a climax. Having this kind of framework has helped keep me more or less on course during for the long haul of a novel.

Q: Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

A. At the risk of contradicting what I’ve just said about my need for discipline, I admit I’m more of a seat-of-the-pants writer. I start with a general idea of the story’s beginning and end. I also decide who the hero, the victim, and the villain will be—in that order. But beyond that, I don’t have a clear sense of how my story’s going to play out, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Nor do I know who all the other characters will be. As Joan Didion once said, “I write to find out what I’m thinking.” I’m the same way, and this is what makes fiction writing fun for me. I love it when a character simply appears on the page, or something happens that I didn’t expect. I enjoy being surprised, just as I hope my readers will be surprised. That’s the upside of what I call the “discovery process.” The downside is that when a character or scene comes to me toward the end of the book, I have to backfill.

Q: What drew you to the subject of MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT?

A: The first book in my series, MURDER AT PLIMOTH PLANTATION, deals with the dark side of Pilgrim history, particularly the Pilgrims’ relations with the Native peoples. These relations turned out to be much more complicated and conflicted than the stories I’d learned in school about helpful Squanto and the happy Thanksgiving feast the Pilgrims enjoyed with the Indians. In MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT, I continue to explore this theme of the often troubled relations between the white settlers and Native peoples. This time, I focus on the Mashantucket Pequots of Connecticut (called the Dottagucks in the novel), a tribe that was all but exterminated in the seventeenth century, but managed to achieve remarkable success some 300 years later with the establishment of the Foxwoods casino complex.

Q: What’s your writing schedule?

A: I try to get started as early in the morning as possible, because this is when I do my best work. Why? Because I’ve just woken up and am still close to the dream world of my unconscious. My mind is also relatively free of the worries and concerns of the day ahead, so I’m better able to engage with my characters. I’ll work for a couple of hours, then take a break. Or if I’m really on a roll, I’ll work most of the day until my brain feels like it’s stuffed with cotton, my body is twisted in knots, and I know it’s time to get some fresh air and exercise.

Q: Who is your greatest cheerleader?

A. My biggest fan is my son. My first mystery novel was published when he was in fifth grade, and he sometimes accompanied me when I did weekend events. He also made a point of taking the book along on a weekend retreat sponsored by our church and displaying it prominently. Later, when he was a bit older, he started going on research trips with me—to a reenactment of the Gettysburg Battle for the second book, and to Mystic Seaport, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, Foxwoods, and the Mashantucket Pequot-sponsored powwow, Schmetizum, for the current book. For his first book report in eighth grade, he chose to write about my novel, MURDER AT GETTYBURG. Needless to say, he gave it a glowing review. He tells everyone, including me, what a wonderful writer I am, and often asks how my writing’s going. He loves it when I share my ideas for the new book I’ve started.

Q: What’s your favorite food?

A. My favorite food is the artichoke. In part, this has to do with the fact that I grew up in California where artichokes are plentiful and inexpensive. It may also have something to do with the amount of the mayonnaise I consume. But a big reason is the eating experience itself, which is somewhat like reading a mystery. You start with the tough outer leaves (opening chapters, usually involving a murder), move on to the delicate inner ones (the investigation), and finally you reach the choke (the climax). Once that difficult, prickly part has been taken care of, you reach the succulent heart (conclusion), your reward for all the hard work of peeling away the various layers.

Q: Where do you write?

A: I do most of my writing in my third-story study, a former attic that has been converted into one large room. I think of it as my eyrie, because it has floor-to-ceiling windows that face south and look out onto a yard with a large maple tree. Beyond the yard is a quiet side street of older houses that look like they belong to an earlier century. The room has wall-to-wall carpeting, which blocks out the sound from below, and when I close the door, I feel I’m in my own private world. After years of being an “itinerant” writer, moving from room to room, as the demands of the household dictated, I’m grateful to have this “room of my own.”

Q: What was the hardest scene of MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT to write?

A: The hardest scene–or rather scenes–were the climatic ones, which take place on a sailboat in the midst of a storm. In these scenes, my heroine, Miranda, and her friend not only have to deal with the storm, but with two villainous characters. I find action scenes in general difficult to write, but these scenes were especially difficult because they include several important revelations in the form of dialogue or internal monologue. So I had to figure out ways for bits of dialogue to occur while a lot of other things were going on—in other words, find relatively quiet spaces for my characters to talk in the midst of a howling storm.

Q: What was your favorite scene to write?

A: My favorite scene to write was a phone conversation between my main character, Miranda, and her love interest, Nate. In this conversation, both characters have things they don’t want the other to know: Nate, that he fell asleep behind the wheel and was nearly killed; Miranda that she got whacked on the head pursuing a homeless woman Nate has told her to leave alone. Because they know each other well, each picks up on the fact that the other is hiding something, and gets the other to ’fess up. After a brief and humorous exchange about their respective war wounds, Nate repeats his advice to leave homeless woman alone. “Are you telling me what to do?” Miranda quips. “It’s good advice,” he says. “Mine wasn’t?” she counters. I liked writing this back-and-forth, because while it’s about serious matters, it also has its light-hearted moments, and shows the genuine affection these two characters have for each other despite their very real differences.

Author Bio: An award-winning author of books about American history and biographies, Leslie Wheeler now writes the Miranda Lewis “living history” mystery series. Titles include: MURDER AT PLIMOTH PLANTATION, MURDER AT GETTYSBURG, and most recently, MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, serving as Speakers Bureau coordinator for the New England chapter. She has also begun a new career as a contributing editor of Level Best Books, which publishes annual anthologies of short crime fiction by New England authors. Leslie divides her time between Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Berkshires.

Book Blurb: In MURDER AT SPOUTERS POINT, the grisly murder of a yachtsman, allegedly by a local Indian, rocks a seacoast town. It also severely tests the loyalties of a white woman, Miranda Lewis, and her Native lover, because the victim is the fiancĂ© of Miranda’s good friend, and the prime suspect is a close friend of her lover’s. Miranda’s quest for the truth not only puts her at odds with Nate and her own friends, but plunges her deep into the victim’s past—a web of secrets, lies and betrayals—and ultimately to a life-and-death struggle with a crazed killer.

Monday, November 1, 2010

ExcerpTuesday: Phillip Thomas Duck

Temptation plus opportunity equals trouble…

How well do you trust your partner?

“Fidelity anthropologist”, sexy decoy to most, Victoria Frost will discover the answers you seek…

The night it all begins to change for Victoria Frost is no different than usual. She spends it seducing another woman’s husband. Handsome, charming, intelligent, any woman would be attracted to Benjamin Kingston. Victoria eases up beside him and lingers there like too much perfume. And that quickly, for him, his wife is forgotten. The ensuing conversation is an erotically-charged game of cat and mouse. Where will it lead? In EXCUSE ME, MISS hurtling events and richly drawn characters collide in a sexy story of betrayal, the desire for loyalty, and the consequences of unfaithfulness. One woman’s determination to uncover the truth for badly broken wives instead unleashes a host of personal dilemmas, and in the end the truths she discovers are mostly about herself.

Excerpt from “Excuse Me, Miss”

THE NIGHT IT ALL began to change for me was no different than most. I spent it in the usual fashion, seducing another woman’s husband. The seduction took place at LOOK, an art gallery in Jersey City, New Jersey. Close enough to New York to carry some of the same sounds and smells, but a touch less frenetic. The art gallery immediately drew me in with brick walls painted chocolate, gypsum plaster walls painted a light cream, and a hint of cinnamon and vanilla in the air. Muted lighting, low key. I almost didn’t feel the usual pangs of guilt for what I was about to do.


I spotted Beverly Marie Kingston’s husband by a painting that took up most of a cream-colored wall. Age forty-five, but he looked a decade younger, the benefits of three days each week at an LA Fitness. He was cloaked in black slacks and an attention-seeking lime green shirt. Expensive leather shoes, Piaget timepiece, a diamond-encrusted platinum bracelet on his right wrist. He sipped at a glass of ginger ale, my favorite soft drink as it turns out, letting his shirt sleeve snake up his arm with each sip so all of the attractive ladies in attendance could catch the gleam of his jewelry and put two and two together: wealthy and content spending that wealth on a variety of gaudy and unnecessary items. What many women foolishly considered a good catch.

I headed his way.

When I eased into his personal space he glanced at me briefly but casually went back to admiring the art. There’d been a slight hitch in the gesture, though, and so I knew he was in play. I lingered there beside him, like too much perfume, before moving on. But even after I’d stepped away I wasn’t completely gone from his imagination. His mind was fixated, I’m certain, on the beautiful stranger in the form-fitting, red dress and three-inch heels. That quickly I’d become the muse in all of his fantasies. That quickly I had his nose wide open. I had experience with his type, so I knew this as fact.

I found my way to an admittedly eye-catching sculpture and stopped there contemplating

love at first sight. As I expected, Beverly Marie’s husband sidled up next to me a moment later

with his lies carefully thought out.

Author Bio:

Phillip Thomas Duck has written several traditionally published adult and YA novels. “Excuse Me, Miss” is his first foray into the self publishing ebook world. He resides in New Jersey with his daughter.

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Email – ExcuseMeMissPTD@hotmail.com