PARANORMAL CRIME WRITER DAZZLES WITH MULTI-ERA ANTHOLOGY

witchee pooFresh off the Carnival of Parahorror in Buffalo, N.Y., author Susan Lynn Solomon couldn’t fly higher. Not only did she sell a ton of books, but she got to road test her brand new Turbo Charged 5.0 liter RT racing broom. Okay…some of this is not true — the broom blew a spark plug and wouldn’t fly — and Susan, with her dry sense of humor, would be the first to NOT point this out. Likewise her character Emlyn Goode who is a modern day witch coming to terms with her newly inherited power.

 

It was my great pleasure to read and review THE MAGIC OF MURDER and BELLA VITA in 2016. Now it is my additional pleasure to spotlight an amazing new anthology as well as the author that sparkles behind it. Ready, Susan?

 

 

1.

Your anthology VOICES IN MY HEAD covers so many different eras. From whence comes the historian, sociologist, and sage, and how long did it take you to complete the collection?

 

How long did it take to complete the collection of “Voices In My Head Stories…? Hmm. Leave it to you, my friend, to ask the hardest question first. At my very advanced age, it’s hard to remember back that far. Fact is, dear heart, these days it’s hard to remember what I ate for lunch yesterday. Maybe if I spread out my tarot cards… Sorry, got lost for a second in the research I’ve done for the next Emlyn Goode Murder Mystery.

 

Okay, I wrote the first draft of “Mystery of the Carousel” about 12 years ago. A friend asked me to do a story for the museum in what used to be Herschell’s Carousels and Amusements Factory.  I’d been playing with the story on and off since then—just couldn’t seem to get it right. Then, last year I figuratively pulled it out of my drawer while searching for my notes on another story. After reading the first page, I recalled an article on PTSD I’d recently read in the newspaper. “Oh,” I said to my bedroom wall (my bedroom is where I do my writing), “is THAT what this story is about?” Working late into the night, two days later the story was finished.

 

Ah, and “Witches Gumbo”. About 10 years ago I was trying to write a romance for a short story competition. Short? Right. The competition limited the word count to 3,000, but the story kept growing and growing until it slid into the novella stage. It was about a woman—a descendent of a Louisiana bayou witch—who’d been hurt and was afraid to love again. She was using her distant relative’s writings to get past her fear. Not terribly original, but hey, I was reading Nicholas Spark’s books at the time. Anyhow, I brought the story to my writer’s group one evening. After I received comments on it, Trudy Crusella, who was moderating our group at the time, told me that while the writing was good, she was more interested in the back story set in my mythical Bayou Lafit. Happily, I listened to her. A lot of research into witchcraft, the nature of bayous and the use of language by people who lived there at the time, and I had a story. I can’t begin to thank Trudy enough. Seven years ago (and a lot of rewriting later) “Witches Gumbo” became my first published story.

 

As to why these stories take on their historical settings… I have no idea. The places and people—what they do and say… I suspect those characters jabber away in my head all night, because when I wake up, they’re sitting near my computer, yelling at me to listen to them.

 

AND THIS JUST IN…

mandm-126x150-126x150

 

2.

In his assessment of you as writer Gary Earl Ross touts you as a “devilishly clever tour guide who puts us in touch with the ‘rhythm of our lives’.” Did you know you were doing that?

 

Aw, Gary’s just being kind to a frail old woman… And me, Devilish? Why, A.B., who could think such a thing… cackle cackle. All I’m doing is telling fantastic lies… What? Aren’t we authors just professional liars?

 

Okay, okay. I’ve been around a while, gone places and done things—for some of which my mother would have beaten me with a spoon. Once upon a time I was a campus radical, then a music business attorney, and then I spent some years as a contributing editor and page designer for an art magazine. What underlies my stories, whether realistic or more fantastic, is what I’ve seen. And heard. People I’ve met, and the fixes they, like I, have gotten into. You might want to again read “Kaddish”, the last story in Voices In My Head” to see what I mean. “Kaddish” is blushingly close to autobiographical, and tells more about me than I usually let on.

 

So, in essence, the journey I want to lead a reader on is actually… my life. Of course, I’m never sure if I’m motivated to warn people about sinkholes in the road, or to teach them how to cause those sinkholes.

 

3.

We’ve been friends for only a short time, but I know from our delightful conversations that you find it challenging to say anything in under 500 words. (She said it first *laughs*) Would you say that writing VOICES was more challenging than your longer pieces?

 

This is too true. People have noticed I even have trouble saying good morning in less than 500 words. Fortunately, I wasn’t limited to a word count in “Voices In My Head”. Well, in all but one of the nine stories, that is. That story is “Second Hand”, which was initially written for a flash fiction journal that had an 800 word limit. 800 words! Aaargh!

 

The story was easy enough to write—different names, but the characters are my sister, Robin, and I. And the story is true… uh, more or less. See, I’d just finished researching witchcraft for “Witches Gumbo”, and I’d decided that the material I’d read made sense. I mean, witches are caretakers of the earth, and they know the herbs to mix and chants to sing to make things come out as they desire. Also, they get to worship a beautiful goddess instead of an old man who wants to smite you (and there are a lot of things for which I could’ve been smited). Need I say it? I decided I would become a Wicca, and practice witchcraft. I went out and bought colored candles, and a double bladed knife with runes carved in the handle (I had the herbs I’d need in my spice cabinet). That summer I visited Robin in Florida, and while driving around one day we passed a second hand store that had a cauldron in the window. This was the last tool I needed. When Robin asked why we had to stop at that shop, I made the mistake of telling her. That’s when she grabbed me by the collar, pulled me back into her car, and explained in words I’d understand why I was the last person on earth who should know how to do such things.

 

So, writing the story. My first draft was about 1,200 words. I spent two days cutting and moving sentences, and finally got it down to 817. After another day, it was 809 words, and no matter what I did, I just wouldn’t get any shorter. Damn! As I recall, I sat in my room, screaming at my computer, and threatening to beat it with a spiked heel if it didn’t get rid of those last 9 words. Right then I swore a mighty oath I’d never again try to write a piece of flash fiction.

 

4.

Identity is a feature of your work. What comes after we figure everything out?

 

A better question, A.B., is what happens after I figure everything out. I think the world is safe, though. I doubt I ever will.

 

But, good catch there, my friend. Much of what I write IS about trying to understand who I am, and what it is I’m meant to do. I don’t have an answer to that, so I keep searching. And my search keeps leading me to more stories… or, at least, more voices jabbering in my head.

 

5.

You visited the Carnival of the Parahorror recently. How’d that go?

 

Ah, the Buffalo Central Station. What can I say that the Ghost Hunters program hasn’t already said? To paraphrase the old song: Ghosts to the left of me, demons to the right, and here I am, right in the middle…

 

This is an incredible venue. Marble floors and walls, high ceiling, and crowds of people as much into the paranormal as I. I loved meeting other writers, and talking to everyone about my work—even sold a few copies of my books. What could be a better way to spend a long weekend…?

 

I just hope a ghost hasn’t followed me home—I already live with a ghost, and she gets rather jealous.

 

6.

And you also released Bella Vita on the heels of Magic of Murder. Tell us about those and when, if ever, did you sleep?

 

Sleep? What’s that? Who can sleep with all these characters constantly yammering at me, and demanding I tell the world about them?

 

Bella Vita CoverAnd yes, my latest release is “Bella Vita”. I didn’t set out to write this as the follow-up to “The Magic of Murder”, though. In fact, I was more than half done with “Dead Again”, the novel that was supposed to be the follow-up. At the same time, I was working on a short story called “Smoker’s Lament”. Yes, I’m a smoker, and yes, the story is about some havoc I almost caused. I won’t say more about it, because it will be published in an online journal this fall, and it’ll be more fun if people read it then.

 

Anyway, in the middle of this, my publisher, Solstice Publishing, put out a call for short stories focused on the summer solstice. To my ears, this sounded like a dare—something I’ve never been smart enough to turn down. Besides, the narrator in “The Magic of Murder” is an author who’d just learned she’s directly descended from a woman whom the Salem witch trial judges decided should dangle from a tree limb. Since I was heavily into murder mysteries at the time I wrote this novel, I decided it would be fun to annoy my narrator by dangling a murder in front of her.

 

To accomplish this, I gave her a neighbor and dear friend who was a Niagara Falls police detective. Then, I killed the detective’s partner. So, when Detective Frey’s partner was discovered in a frozen alley with eight bullets in his chest, he swore vengeance. But Detective Chief Woodward had forbidden him or anyone else on the detective squad to work the case. Emlyn Goode, my narrator, knew Roger would disobey his boss, which would cost him his job and his freedom. Because she cared for him more than she’d admit, she needed to stop him. Desperate, she could think of but one way.

 

41ZsodZxIJL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Emlyn had recently learned she’s a direct descendent of a woman hanged as a witch in 1692. She had a book filled with arcane recipes and chants passed down through her family. Possessed of, or perhaps by a vivid imagination, she intended to use these to solve Jimmy’s murder before Roger took revenge on the killer. But she was new to this “witch thing,” and needed help from her friend Rebecca Nurse, whose ancestor also took a short drop from a Salem tree. Also in the mix was a rather hefty albino cat (Elvira detests being called fat). Rebecca was not much better at deciphering the ancient directions, and while the women and the cat stumbled over spell after spell, the number of possible killers grew.

 

Then, to keep people at the edge of their seats, I set it up so the women had to quickly come up with a workable spell, because, when Chief Woodward’s wife was shot and a bottle bomb burst through Emlyn’s window, it became clear she would be next on the killer’s list.

 

So, “Bella Vita”. Since the history of the summer solstice all the way back to the ancient Greeks, Romans, and certainly the Druids, is filled with the practice of magic, and with the characters in “The Magic of Murder” already talking to me, it was as if Solstice Publishing called out, “Susan. Susan! Wake up and kill somebody else!” I mean, how could I refuse?

 

In this short story (well, short for me), a car burns in the parking lot behind Bella Vita Hair Salon. The corpse in the front seat has a short sword pushed into his ribs. Beneath the car is a cast-iron cauldron filled with flowers. This seems to be a sacrificial rite Rebecca Nurse had been teaching Emlyn Goode. But is it? The corpse has been identified as George Malone, and earlier on this summer solstice day, he and his wife had severe argument. Could it be that Angela Malone murdered her husband? Prodded by Elvira, the overly-large albino cat that wants the case solved so she can get some sleep, to Rebecca’s dismay Emlyn again dips into her ancient relatives Book of Shadows to find the answer before her friend and neighbor, Detective Roger Fry, can.

 

Both stories have received 5-Star reviews, and people tell me that once they start reading, they can’t stop. This makes me smile, because I can’t stop writing about these characters.

 

Oh, and by the way, the Bella Vita Salon is where I have my hair done, and the women who run the salon are front and center in the story. Fortunately, they like what I wrote, so I’m still allowed to go there.

 

7.

And Emlyn Goode is making a comeback?

 

Absolutely. I mentioned earlier that I was in the middle of the next Emlyn Goode story when I wrote “Bella Vita”. This new story, which I call “Dead Again” is finished—five drafts finished. The story is about— No, let’s wait until it comes out. Right now I’ll only say that Gary Earl Ross, who was kind enough to edit it for me thinks this novel is better than the first.

 

And now that “Dead Again” is in its final stages, I’ve begun work on the next in the Emlyn Goode Murder Mystery series. This one will be titled “Writing Is Murder”—well, it is, isn’t it?

 

8.

Any last words, dear mistress?

 

Oy, this sounds like a call for my obit. Well, then I write because I must—can’t think of anything I’d rather do. The people I create have become friends… well, most of them, and I can only hope those who read their stories like them as much as I.

 

Thanks, doll. Let’s dive in to VOICES IN MY HEAD.

 

Voices In My Head CoverIn The Magic of Murder, Susan Lynn Solomon let readers laugh at the antics of an albino cat and a witch. Now, in nine short tales she takes a serious look at relationships and their impact on characters who confront their pasts.

A young soldier returns, changed by his war. A young British girl faces the people of her town after parental abuse. An older man who as a teenager fled his hometown, returns when his childhood girlfriend begs a favor. A radical of the ’70s leaves the cemetery after her mother’s funeral, searching for where her life will lead.

In these stories and five others, Solomon explores the persistence of memory and the promise of hope.

 

 

Praise

 

Susan Lynn Solomon is a writer’s writer.

Suzy, as she is known to her friends, is a person driven by an inescapable need to tell stories. She can no more give up imagining characters and circumstances than she can give up air or food. She writes at a furious rate, producing novels and stories that captivate and delight. Her imagination is what sustains her, and we, her readers, are the better for her obsession.

Like all gifted writers, Susan is a universalist, unburdened by the curse of being able to tell only one kind of story. She gets an idea, then decides upon the best way to discharge that idea, the best characters, the best settings, and the best narrative voice to attain maximum effect. If reading is a way to slip into other times and places and faces from the relative comfort of an armchair, she is a devilishly clever tour guide who can take you to surprising places and surprising connections. In the nine tales in this book, she dazzles us with journeys into the unexpected and its impact on people we feel we already know.

War? In Mystery of the Carousel, she explores the link between a veteran of the Great War and the carousel on which, as a child, he imagined great battles. Incest? Where better to explore its devastations than early 19th Century England in Maggie’s End? Magic? Witches Gumbo takes us to Bayou LaFit and a powerful comeuppance. Mystery? Try The Holmes Society for a new take on amateur sleuthing. Death? Kaddish shows the unavoidable bond between death and identity.

In these and the other stories that comprise the voices in her head, Susan Lynn Solomon opens our minds, and the rhythm of our lives, to the voices in her heart. Enjoy.

 

Gary Earl Ross

Professor Emeritus, University at Buffalo

Author of Nickel City Blues and The Mark of Cain

 

Excerpt:

The 9th life in Crisis: Kaddish

 

Pellets of snow stung my cheeks. I bent into the January wind, and reached for my brother’s arm. He glanced at me from the corner of his eye. For a moment I thought he might brush my hand from his sleeve.

“It was nice,” I said.

Linda, his wife of three years, leaned across him. “What was?”

“What the Rabbi said about Mom.” My chest tingled as I recalled the eulogy. “The only time she made her family cry was when she died—that was nice, wasn’t it, Robby?”

“Robert,” my brother corrected me in a voice as stiff as his shoulders. He stroked his moustache, then flicked snowflakes from his black hair, so flecked with gray it belied his age. Next month he would be forty-three.

“It was nice,” Linda said. She pulled her knit hat so low over her ears she nearly knocked the glasses from her small nose.

“I suppose,” Robert said. “But, he didn’t know her.” He drew his coat tight around his broad frame. “For a few bucks, he probably says the same thing about everyone.”

“I wish Phil were here,” I said. “He knew Mom.” Rabbi Bentley and his wife, Deborah, were old friends.

Robert shrugged. Who officiated at our mother’s funeral made little difference to him. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Mom—he and Linda had cared for her, seen to her every need during the nine months cancer gnawed at her lungs. But, for my brother, this rite—anything to do with religion—was merely to be endured.

“At least the guy kept it short.” He shook my hand from his arm, and wound his scarf around his neck.

Linda frowned at him. “Did you remember to ask the rabbi to come over and lead the prayer tonight?”

“Did you?” I said.

His eyes straight ahead, Robert’s lips tightened. It was as though I’d accused him of a breach of etiquette.

We were walking along the narrow road cutting through the heart of the old cemetery. To the left and right paths bent off, curled around a city of mausoleums, and ran through arches erected by burial societies named for the shtetls—the villages in Eastern Europe—in which our grandparents had been born. Beyond the arches were tall headstones which in the spring would be adorned by neat flower beds.

At the end of the road we passed through an iron gate, and into the chapel’s parking lot. I waved goodbye to my two surviving aunts and the cousins who’d braved the snow, and dropped my eyes when I received no more than half-hearted nods in return. This was the price of being the family outcast.

With a sigh, I pulled a set of keys from my purse. As I unlocked the door of my car, I called to my brother, “Is there anything we need? I can stop at the market on the way.”

We would sit shiva at Robert’s house, and I suspected he might not have bought enough food and drink for the relatives and friends who would stop by in the next seven days to share memories of our mother. Hosting this ritual wasn’t my brother’s choice: our father had passed away two years ago, so the obligation for shiva and gathering with a minion of nine other men to say Kaddish—the Jewish prayer for the dead—was wrapped as tight as the scarf around his neck. He was the only son.

“We’ve got plenty,” Linda said.

“And people always bring food,” Robert added, then muttered, “As if I can’t afford to feed them.”

Linda smacked his arm.

“Okay, then,” I said, “I’ll just stop at home to get what I baked.”

They didn’t hear me. My brother’s car was already exiting the lot.

 

***

The large colonial house in Roslyn Heights was by no means a mansion. Still, it announced to passersby a successful man dwelt within. My brother had become what my parents wished for their children. I, on the other hand, had been unable to do something as simple as make a marriage work.

What might have been a full stadium parking lot greeted me when I turned onto Robert’s street. Even his circular drive was jammed. A quick glance informed me my eight-year-old Saturn wouldn’t fit into the only small space, so I parked around the corner. Balancing two trays of noodle pudding—when I was a child, Mom had taught me Grandma’s kugel recipe—and fighting a wind that tried to rip off my coat, I made my way down the block. When I opened the front door, it seemed as though I’d walked into a cocktail party.

I saw no torn lapels, no covered mirrors or crates to sit on. I heard no soft-spoken remembrances of a woman’s life well-lived. Instead, laughter pealed from the large square living room, dining room, down the hall and up the stairs. Bottles clinked on glasses. Someone was playing the piano. My brother had made this an Irish wake.

Robert circled the corner from his den. He’d changed from his suit into a tan corduroy jacket, jeans, and oxblood penny loafers. His cheeks were red—they would get that way after only two drinks. He glanced at the trays in my hand. He glanced at my old wool overcoat. Speaking to the glass of tequila in his hand, he said, “Glad you could make it, big sister.” He didn’t reach out to take the trays I held.

Had I the desire, or at the moment the strength to point out his ill manners, he would have claimed he was being ironic. My brother had difficulty differentiating irony from sarcasm. He hadn’t always been this way. It’s just that he had little tolerance for failure, and a failure was how he viewed me since my divorce.

Mom had also thought me a failure—with good reason, I supposed. “You and Ron can work it out,” she’d told me the day I showed up at her house, suitcase in hand. “Your father and I always worked things out,” she’d told me each time I visited her at Robert’s house during her illness. Tied to a marriage which had gone sour, I had an affair, and moved out. The judge gave my ex custody of our daughter. Mom was again terribly disappointed in me, embarrassed in front of her friends. It had never been different: I’d been a hippy in college, a rebel, a nomadic wild-child disappearing who knew where, sleeping with who knew whom, and getting arrested in Birmingham and in Chicago. “No wonder you can’t get along with your husband,” she’d told me.

I’d lost my temper then. “Guess people are right when they talk about the apple and the tree,” I’d snapped. “After all, you named me for Dad’s great-aunt, and she got burned by the Tsar’s army for causing trouble.”

Unlike my brother, I recognized sarcasm when it bounced out of my mouth. I’d heard Mom crying when I stormed out my brother’s house a few weeks before she died. Though he never said it, I’m sure Robert blamed me for our mother’s death—he believed I was the reason she refused treatment which might extend her life by maybe a year.

Nights I sat alone in my apartment, I blamed me, too.

 

 

 

About the Author

 

Susan Lynn Solomon PhotoFormerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney and a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Art, Susan Lynn Solomon now lives in Niagara Falls, New York, where she is in charge of legal and financial affairs for a management consulting firm.

After moving to Niagara Falls she became a member of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Writers Critique Group, and since 2009 many of number of her short stories have appeared in literary journals, including, Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in a Writer’s Journal short romance competition), Ginger Man, The Memory Tree, Elvira, Going Home, Yesterday’s Wings, and Sabbath (nominated for 2013 Best of the Net by the editor of Prick of the Spindle).

Her latest short stories are Reunion, about an individual who must face family after undergoing a transgender operation, appeared in a recent issue of Flash Fiction Press, Captive Soul, which was included in Solstice Publishing’s Halloween anthology, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, Volume 1, and Niagara Falling, about a man returning to his hometown, which was written for the Solstice Publishing anthology, Adventures in Love.

Susan Lynn Solomon’s Solstice Publishing novel, The Magic of Murder, is available at Amazon.com, and Bella Vita, a short story written for Solstice Publishing’s Summer solstice anthology, continued the adventures for the characters from this novel.

Now, a collection of her short stories, Voices In My Head, has been published by Solstice and is available in both Kindle and paperback editions on Amazon.

 

Links:

 

https://youtu.be/_58_goH7sU0

http://www.susanlynnsolomon.com

https://www.amazon.com/Voices-Head-Susan-Lynn-Solomon-ebook/dp/B01FURPIZE/ref=sr_1_1?s=dig ital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1463655784&sr=1-1&keywords=voices+in+my+head+susan+l ynn+solomon

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01FURPIZE

http://www.facebook.com/susanlynnsolomon

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-solomon-8183b129

 

Thank you, Susan, for your enthusiasm and artistry. You are my Wicca ‘go to’ person!

— ABF

 

 

HAPPY LABOR DAY WEEKEND ONE AND ALL! The Blog returns Tuesday, September 6th with special guest Raymond Chilensky, whose topical F.I.R.E. Team Alpha series will surprise and scare while making you think…

 

 

 

 

A YEAR IN REVIEWS

Saying goodbye to the grey days of January, I thought it fitting to shine a light on some bright spots from 2015. Writing, as many of us know, is an organic thing that grows with time and practice. It also helps enormously to get lost in the work of others from time to time. Among the blogging, tweeting, blip ad campaigning and working on the all too important WIP, it was a joy to check in with others and hear what they had to say. From 2015, my reviews:

 

A LIFE IN TECHNOCOLOR

Reviewed February 4, 2015

debauched croppedHAREM BOY’S SAGA III: DEBAUCHERY by Young is an exotic, honest and incredibly frank retell of a young man’s journey into self awareness. From 1960s Malaysia, to England, Monaco, Greece and then Japan, Young morphs from wild child teen to thoughtful young adult by way of mentors, lovers and set pieces that are as much a part of the landscape as the characters themselves. This is not a work of fiction: it is the author’s life and he examines it with surgical precision. Young’s appreciation for history and philosophy is clear as he draws on examples from antiquity to reflect on love lost and regained and the impacts that accompany each experience. Reader’s questions are answered throughout the book by means of correspondence between the author and a behavioural scientist in 2012, lending additional commentary from the boy now well into the second half of his life. At 648 pages, Harem has it all: romance, separation, disappointments and tremendous joy. Young as triptych moves between worlds ancient and modern, pop and pedantic, cautionary and rewarding. Caveat to the reader: prepare to binge read.

http://www.amazon.com/Debauchery-Harem-Boys-Saga-Book-ebook/dp/B00N2FRQMA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1454270411&sr=1-1&keywords=Debauchery+by+young

 

5* KUDOS FOR DIANA HARRISON’S ALWAYS & FOREVER

Reviewed December 23, 2014

 

forever croppedDiana Harrison weighs in mightily on the question “what happens when we die?” with Always & Forever, a modern tragedy redemption tale. Set in contemporary England, Always & Forever teen mom Callie has a new life to look forward to with baby Ollie and first love Jon. But this life is not to be. Regaining consciousness in the boot of a speeding car, she is a body, cold, her skin, chafing against the black plastic she is wrapped in mashed against the inhospitable nub weave of automotive upholstery. Creepy, charming, evocative and enraging, Harrison’s text takes us on Callie’s harrowing journey from hospital morgue to funeral to startling revelations that those left behind might not be up for the challenges ahead. The reader can only hope for better things. As a murder victim, unacknowledged and unavenged, she must bring her killer to justice; as a mother and lover, she must find peace for the child and the man she holds dear. Crisp prose marked by insightful and sometimes humorous segues give Always & Forever a vital, human quality that keeps the reader on point and on the hook. Kudos to Diana Harrison for a deft and sensitive treatment of a harrowing “what if?”
http://www.amazon.com/Always-Forever-Diana-Harrison-ebook/dp/B00OKZI7X8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1454270455&sr=1-1&keywords=Always+and+Forever+by+Diana+Harrison

 

5* PRAISE FOR RACHAEL STAPLETON AND THE TEMPLE OF INDRA’S JEWEL

Reviewed December 23, 2014

indra croppedRachael Stapleton’s Temple of Indra’s Jewel crackles with a vitality I’ve not seen since E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Centred on the adventures/misadventures of Sophia Marcil, a sexy librarian who divides her days between spirited time travels and harrowing investigations into “murders most foul”, Stapleton’s heroine is engaging, funny, and unapologetic in her pursuits. If she isn’t having sex, Marcil dreams about it. As a modern day woman in love with a hunky Irishman, or an 18th century princess of Monaco pursued by suitors either odious or dreamy, Marcil has a great time and so does this reader. Rarely have I come across a writer less self-conscious than Stapleton who’s breezy, in your face style tells it like it is. It’s not all fun and games. Indra has a dark side with abusive villains that have no compunction about pushing people off cliffs or depriving them of their eyes. This is the first in a series. Can’t wait to see what Sophia and Stapleton get up to in the next installment.

http://www.amazon.com/Temple-Indras-Jewel-Rachael-Stapleton-ebook/dp/B00FGPCLWE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1454270513&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Temple+of+Indra%27s+jewel

 

 

THE CURSE OF THE PURPLE DELHI SAPPHIRE BY RACHAEL STAPLETON

Advance review February 2015

curse croppedThe second instalment in Rachael Stapleton’s sprawling Temple of Indra Series, The Curse of the Purple Delhi Sapphire finds time-travelling erstwhile librarian Sophia Marcil celebrating her engagement to hunky Cullen O’Kelley. Trouble is, her engagement ring contains a centre stone that’s all too familiar—a purple sapphire from a suite of cursed jewels. Once on her finger, the ring takes her from Ireland to Toronto to England and back again. At various times occupying the body of a child, a malevolent teen and a heinous villain, who continues to track her and the jewel from the first book, Sophia is forced to think and act on her feet, with a little romance in between. Colorful and layered, Curse co opts an astonishing cast with shifting time frames and multiple points of view. The villain, nasty as ever, makes a dramatic entrance, spilling blood and driving this reader to wonder if the wretch will finally get what’s coming to him. But first, I had to figure out who he was masquerading as in the present. Plenty of twists, a sprinkle of humor and a whodunit with a surprising ending, Curse reminds me of great old story-telling, but with a fresh and vital voice. Hello again, Miss Stapleton.

http://www.amazon.com/Curse-Purple-Sapphire-Temple-Series-ebook/dp/B00SNAF018/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

http://www.amazon.com/Curse-Purple-Delhi-Sapphire-Temple-ebook/dp/B00SNAF018/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454334246&sr=8-1&keywords=curse+of+the+purple+delhi+sapphire

 

VEILED SECRETS BY JOSIE MONTANO & ARCHIE FUSILLO

Reviewed December 28, 2014

veiled croppedSnobby teen Lia and regular bloke Nick have one thing in common: an Italian heritage that takes them from comfortable homes in Australia to a quaint hillside village outside Rome. Traveling with elderly grandparents and surrounded by a bevy of noisy, kind hearted relatives, it is apparent that there is more to the landscape than pasta and piazza’s. Lia and Nick–about as related as tigers and giraffes–are bound by history, whispers, and a mysterious wooden box secreted under an ancient altar. But how real is this bond? And what will they do with it once confirmed? A collaborative effort, Veiled Secrets gives authors Josie Montano and Archie Fusillo a platform from which to impart stories culled from their shared Australian-Italian heritage. This is done seamlessly while maintaining clearly defined boundaries between the protagonists’ points of view. A charming fish out of water tale accessible to all ages.

http://www.amazon.com/Veiled-Secrets-Archie-Fusillo-ebook/dp/B00R3B1DKA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454334433&sr=8-1&keywords=VEILED+SECRETS+BY+JOSIE+MONTANO+AND+ARCHIE+FUSILLO

http://www.amazon.com/Veiled-Secrets-Archie-Fusillo/dp/1625261748/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

 

A GREAT READ FOR YOUNG PRETEENS

Reviewed April 11, 2015

elohim croppedFor young teens, RISE OF THE ELOHIM, SPIRIT OF IRIS took this aged reader back to sunny days under the backyard apple tree with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. At a steady 243 pages, the reader becomes a witness on the Isle of Iris, part of the Mares Realm that makes up Oceania, an archipelago of united islands, each on its own unique for language, customs and species. With the shadow of The Dark Ones, an ancient threat marked by malevolent Tyrants committed to destroying Oceania ever present, the future is entrusted to The Guardians, great watchers tasked with training subsequent generations of protectors. Under the tutelage of Master Mako, young Zach, an Algean delivered into his care, faces an onerous task: The Dark Ones are returning and he may be the only one who can stop them. But the road to becoming Elohim—a Shining One preordained by prophecy—is not a given. A coming of age story reminiscent of tribal folklore, a young man must endure physical, spiritual and emotional trials in order to claim his birthright and make the world right. The first in the series RISE OF THE ELOHIM CHRONICLES, author Rochford’s style is crisp, clear and easily understood. Illustrated.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Rise-Elohim-Spirit-Iris-ebook/dp/B00NP58LEY/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

 

AN AMERICAN CLASSIC

Reviewed September 19, 2015

context of loveHappy, happy, happy goes the melding of two souls. Whether in song or dreams, the lust for life carried in the “bony rib cages” of the young wails out like a shiny muscle car thrown in reverse in 1970s Cleveland. How awesome is that? Pretty awesome if you were there. If you weren’t, here’s your chance. IN THE CONTEXT OF LOVE, written by American author Linda Sienkiewicz takes readers of every generation on a poignant ride through heroine Angelica’s pimply coming of age to the stark revelation in her later life that something got missed along the way. Part family drama, part quest journey, but always deeply introspective, CONTEXT examines the human condition: Who we are? Where we come from? And, most saliently: How much of that really matters? Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters: From virulent intolerance to tacit acceptance, and, finally, a fractured peace, CONTEXT will make you love the grit, sweat, and graffiti that covers its industrial landscape, perhaps all the more, for the promise Sienkiewicz makes on the last page.

http://www.amazon.com/In-Context-Love-Linda-Sienkiewicz-ebook/dp/B00ZRYEYN8/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

 

AT LAST, A FEMALE PROTAGONIST WHO ROLLS ON HER OWN

Reviewed September 18, 2015

ave croppedAVELYNN by Marissa Campbell is already an auspicious debut thanks to kudos from New York Times best seller Susannah Kearsley. Not only does it feature high stakes heroics set against insurmountable odds in 9th Century Saxon England, but it takes the uncommon approach of setting the female protagonist down amidst a wild band of Viking marauders that she conquers, not just through sex, but through visceral, physical chutzpah with a broad sword. Travelling the length and breadth of the land in search of justice, Avelynn is made real because she gets dirty, bleeds, suffers failures and fights back. She is not the stuff of Marvel Comics people, but a real flesh and blood woman of the kind not seen lately in fiction or on HBO. A pagan priestess, she relies on spells and potions to assist her in her quest, but there are no dragons, merlins or otherwise supernatural beings to get her out of a jam. It’s all her in a rich tapestry of details that set this readers sense’s alight: I could smell the fires at night. For those who like a good fight, check out AVELYNN.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Avelynn-Novel-Marissa-Campbell/dp/1250084989/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454271889&sr=8-1&keywords=Avelynn

 

A FITTING HOMAGE TO A TIMELESS CHARACTER

Reviewed January 17, 2016
sea croppedPicture a man of means, self-made, industrious and a leader of men. He appears well-read, appreciates the finer things life has to offer, and fearlessly faces down his enemies in a battle at the ballot box to democratically win and hold his constituency’s top position. He is not a business tycoon, nor is he a marrying man of models. Rather, he is author David K. Bryant’s Captain Flint, brought to life on the pages of TREAD CAREFULLY ON THE SEA, an incredibly rich and vivid adventure novel for all ages.
Anyone familiar with 19th century gentleman writer Robert Louis Stevenson will recognize his words in David Bryant’s own. That’s because Bryant’s prequel to Stevenson’s TREASURE ISLAND picks up seamlessly where the Scotsman left off:
“Nothing unnerves sailors more than knowing that there is something they don’t know. It’s probably to do with the vicissitudes of the sea. When you are constantly threatened by your environment you are scared of it. You may love the life at sea and the freedom it brings, along with the camaraderie that comes from living in the small enclosed world of a ship. You may be fascinated by the things you don’t know, like the nature of the creatures who live below the waves and when the next storm will blow. You may even love the dangers but you are frightened, too, especially when you’re calling brings with it the frequent experience of seeing comrades die.”
— Tread Carefully On The Sea (p. 300). Solstice Shadows. Kindle Edition.
Elegant, fluid writing dotted with generous bon mots of merry making courtesy of “not ready for Disney” characters Pew and Long John Silver kept me glued to pages that painted pictures of “…Jamaican orchids, blue lignum vitae, red poinciana, yellow hibiscus and orange heliconia, all set before six large star-shaped fern leaves” and all for comely lass Jessica on the day of her 21st birthday. Alas, it is not to be as the governor’s daughter is kidnapped by Flint and crew in an effort to prove again, that he, and only he, is fit to rule the waves.

It is to Captain Flint that I kept returning. He is fascinating, on the one hand demanding that I side with him, on the other recognizing that I cannot because, by his own deeds, he deserves his fate.

For readers who love a character that takes control, look no further than the pages of TREAD CAREFULLY ON THE SEA, remembering to take in the hibiscus even as the sheets snap against a fraught wind on a roiling sea.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Tread-Carefully-Sea-David-Bryant/dp/1625261411/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

 

EVEN THE STRONGEST HEART NEEDS AND ASSIST

Reviewed September 18, 2015

cottage croppedSTONE COTTAGE by Maighread MacKay is a seminal read for anyone who has loved and lost and struggles to move on, not just in this life but in the next. When Annie wakes to find herself alone in her cottage save for a sleeping child upstairs that does not wake, and a faithful dog that never needs feeding, she is left with one, and only one, concern: the whereabouts of her husband Will. Decades later, a contemporary woman will ask the same thing, but in a different context. The search is the universal in all our lives; what we look for, why we look and what we ultimately do with results of our finds is a core focus in MacKay’s work and bears closer examination on a second read. That the author weaves two parallel plots in different historical frames seamlessly is a joy for this reader, as I am as committed to history (what comes before) as I am to the now and what shall come later. MacKay’s devotion to detail –how the cottage looked in its heyday, and how it looks as it reemerges through restoration—is not just a clever metaphor, but a thrill. If you like vivid imagery, visceral introspection, and satisfying conclusions, STONE COTTAGE is for you.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Stone-Cottage-Maighread-MacKay-ebook/dp/B01452HED4/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

 

Thanks for the words, guys! Keep at it!!!

 

From Humor to Horror: The Mortician and Her Charge

A fellow scribbler recently asked if I’d thought about working in other genres and I had to take a moment before answering. After a couple of slugs of coffee, here’s what I said: Anything’s possible, but do YOU consciously sit down and say ‘I’m going to write a romance today’?

It’s true that we have an idea what we are about on the page after a few false starts and a meme or two. But if you’re like me, you give your characters a wide berth and let them do the driving.

The tale of halting mortician Enid Krause and her charge, the badly decomposed Jurgen Heuer (read ‘Heuer’ as in ‘lawyer’) for me was a platform from which to launch some stories about what it’s like to be a funeral director in the space of a few precious days. The minutae, the stuff we as directors take for granted, like getting the flowers from visitation suite to church to grave without the family and mourners seeing us do it, became a subject of intense interest for some readers. The fact that the work was so physical, along with the long hours often spent waiting for something to happen seemed to be a jump point for discussion as well.

That HEUER went from conversation piece about an atypical job to an award winner under the HORROR category in this year’s PREDITORS & EDITORS reader poll did not surprise readers, but it did surprise me in the best possible way.

HEUER LOST AND FOUND is many things to me: it is a platform from which to rhapsodize about things near and dear, but it’s also a staging point for exploring complicated grief, guilt, addiction, false love, false starts, and, yes, embalming while under the influence of all of the above. Most exciting to me, was that I was able to present difficult and often horrific subjects under the umbrella of gonzo fiction; that is to say: by making the tough accessible through humor.

I’d like to thank my publisher Summer Solstice, a line division of Solstice Publishing, for believing in what I was trying to do. Solstice gave me the courage to press on through the hard slog that is editing and promoting. Most importantly, they gave me what I needed to keep creating NEW WORK. Thank you Melissa Miller, Kate M. Collins and K.C. Sprayberry for keeping me on task.

Preds and Eds thank youThe PREDITORS & EDITORS Reader’s Poll is my first award and as such my most precious, not just for the validation it gives me personally (shades of Sally Field at the Oscars back in 1985 dogged me, but only for a moment) but for the acknowledgement that the book and characters are MORE than they appear. What seemed incredibly funny to some, mortified others and vice versa. Tissue boxes, I’m told, were reached for in the closing chapters, while others cheered for Heuer, a “strange and complicated” character, to succeed in spite of his sometimes odious behavior.

Will I try another genre? Most probably, but only if the characters allow me to do so. If HEUER LOST AND FOUND has taught me anything, it’s that everything is subjective at all times.

Thank you one and all for your tremendous support on the journey. I am incredibly grateful.

Adult, unapologetic and wholly cognizant,

I am

FUNKHAUSER SIGNATURE

NEXT UP:  SCOOTER NATION Releasing March 13, 2016 through Solstice Publishing

 

Biography

IMG_20160104_121131A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it. Her debut novel HEUER LOST AND FOUND, released in April 2015 after five years of studious effort, has inspired four other full length works and over a dozen short stories. SCOOTER NATION, her sophomore effort, is part of her UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series. Funkhauser is currently working on POOR UNDERTAKER begun during NaNoWriMo 2014.

 

HEUER LOST AND FOUND

Heuer Lost and Found - PrintUnrepentant cooze hound lawyer Jürgen Heuer dies suddenly and unexpectedly in his litter-strewn home. Undiscovered, he rages against God, Nazis, deep fryers and analogous women who disappoint him.

At last found, he is delivered to Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home, a ramshackle establishment peopled with above average eccentrics, including boozy Enid, a former girl friend with serious denial issues. With her help and the help of a wise cracking spirit guide, Heuer will try to move on to the next plane. But before he can do this, he must endure an inept embalming, feral whispers, and Enid’s flawed recollections of their murky past.

Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/heuerlostandfound

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-C5qBpb0Yc

 

 

PRAISE

“Funny, quirky, and sooooo different.”

—Jo Michaels, Jo Michaels Blog

“Eccentric and Funny. You have never read anything like this book. It demands respect for the outrageous capacity of its author to describe in detail human behavior around death.”

—Charlene Jones, author THE STAIN

“The macabre black comedy Heuer Lost And Found, written by A.B. Funkhauser, is definitely a different sort of book!  You will enjoy this book with its mixture of horror and humour.”

—Diana Harrison, Author ALWAYS AND FOREVER

“This beautifully written, quirky, sad, but also often humorous story of Heuer and Enid gives us a glimpse into the fascinating, closed world of the funeral director.”

—Yvonne Hess, Charter Member, The Brooklin 7

“The book runs the gamut of emotions. One minute you want to cry for the characters, the next you are uncontrollably laughing out loud, and your husband is looking at you like you lost your mind, at least mine did.”

http://teresanoel.blogspot.ca/2015/05/heuer-lost-and-found-unapologetic-lives

“The writing style is racy with no words wasted.”

—David K. Bryant, Author TREAD CAREFULLY ON THE SEA

“For a story centered around death, it is full of life.”

—Rocky Rochford, Author RISE OF ELOHIM CHRONICLES

“Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Heuer is not a likeable man, but I somehow found myself rooting for him. A strange, complicated character.”

—Kasey Balko, Pickering, Ontario

Raw, clever, organic, intriguing and morbid at the same time … breathing life and laughter into a world of death.

—Josie Montano, Author VEILED SECRETS

LINKS

Website: www.abfunkhauser.com

Scooter Page: https://abfunkhauser.com/wip-scooter-nation/

Podcast:  http://mhefferman.ca/author/podcasts/episode-3-an-interview-with-a-b-funkhauser/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook: www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound

Publisher: http://solsticepublishing.com/

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1FPJXcO

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/abfunkhauser

Email: a.b.funkhauser@rogers.com

Audio Interview:

Interview Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2yhaXfh-ns

Interview Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoPthI1Hvmo

 

 

TIME TRAVELING TRIPLETS, TELEKINESIS AND K.C. SPRAYBERRY

Multi genre author K.C. Sprayberry stops by the blog to discuss her latest YA, PARADISE LOST BOOK 2 THE ULTIMATE PARADOX, with a little help from her characters who compare her to ‘mom’. Welcome K.C. Talk to us about Paradox 2.

 

Book CoverParadox Lost Book 2: The Ultimate Paradox is about triplets (DJ, Matt, and Elisa) that are also time travelers. DJ and Matt are typical brothers, shutting out their sister, but not for the typical reasons. They sense that she’s not really supposed to be with them, so they’re giving her the cold shoulder.

While in most ways, these teens seem very typical, they also possess incredible talents. Not only are all three strong telekinetics, they also have other talents, such as spellcasting, healing, thought reading, telepathy, and a whole host of other skills. They’re about to finish their education when the story began in book 1, but that derailed quickly when it became clear that a legacy foretold two centuries ago is now about to come true.

DJ, the eldest of the trio, has to run for his life after being convicted of his dad’s murder. Only Dad is still alive, but seriously injured, in another time. Matt is a ghost, having been killed in a Rogue attack in Mexico, but he’s not the kind of guy that sits back and does nothing just because all the other ghosts tell him that’s what they do now. Elisa is a captive at Beaufort School for Visionary Studies and she’s not taking that sitting down. Her captors soon learn that she’s not someone they should ever mess with.

DJ, Matt, and Elisa try to go on their own path, thinking that is the best way to solve the problem. That only delays them in their quest, until all of them are reminded that together they’re a force to be reckoned with and then they have to get past a few stumbling blocks before they’re ready to combine forces.

 

Paradox Lost: The Ultimate Paradox releases January 15, 2016!

 

Welcome to book two of a series much like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

 

If you had the chance to read Paradox Lost: Their Path, you came to know DJ, Matt, and Elisa, and discover the path destiny has laid out for them. In Paradox Lost: The Ultimate Paradox, these triplets each have to make their way through a series of obstacles and prepare for a showdown with Rogues.

This new story brings out new information about the Sullivans and the destiny none of them was aware would be theirs to claim, along with several big surprises.

 

Book Blurb

 

The past changed the future …

                                    . . . the future must salvage the past.

 

Falsely accused of murdering his father, DJ faces a terrible penalty. That’s the least of his worries—Uncle Toby and his army of Rogues are bent on tearing history apart, and DJ and his allies have to stop them any way they can. But only a True Neutral can save their world, and The First, his family’s ancestor, is long dead. His brother Matt was killed by Toby’s actions, and his sister Elisa is fighting her own demons.

The past created by their uncle needs to be uncreated into what it was meant to be. And these three teenagers, triplets and direct descendants of The First, must learn to ally with each other to correct the errors made real in the past.

And the Gateways reveal themselves as something no one ever suspected….

 

Pre-order now!

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01AATE9UW

Author Bio

author photoBorn and raised in Southern California’s Los Angeles basin, K.C. Sprayberry spent years traveling the United States and Europe while in the Air Force before settling in northwest Georgia. A new empty nester with her husband of more than twenty years, she spends her days figuring out new ways to torment her characters and coming up with innovative tales from the South and beyond.

She’s a multi-genre author who comes up with ideas from the strangest sources. Some of her short stories have appeared in anthologies, others in magazines.

 

 

Website/Blog/Twitter links

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/KC-Sprayberry/331150236901202

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kcsowriter

 

Blog: http://outofcontrolcharacters.blogspot.com/

 

Website: www.kcsprayberry.com

 

CHARACTER INTERVIEWS

 

DJ Sullivan

  1. Introduce yourself to our readers. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?

 

Lucas Till as DJ Sullivan croppedI’m Dennis James Sullivan XI. Call me DJ. Everybody does. I’m the oldest of triplets. We’re pretty astral with our powers. Not just telekinesis and telepathy but other stuff. My big thing is the ability to use brute force when I’m out helping my dad. That’s why Matt died instead of me. Kind of sucks. I could have… well, maybe I couldn’t have stopped those boulders. We’ll never really know that.

Anyway, lots of strange things have been happening to me. My uncle, Toby, wanted to have my powers bound but my posse helped me out of that tight spot and we’re now in hiding. That doesn’t sit well with me. Like Matt, I’m a take action kind of guy, but unlike him, I also need to think about stuff before I do it. And all of these powers are scaring me a lot. Like who doesn’t know about the True Neutral. I sure don’t want all that responsibility.

 

  1. What do you think about the author? Tell us everything. We want to know.

 

Nice lady. A lot like Mom. Matt will probably say that too. We think alike too much. This person understands us, lets us be ourselves. Love that. She’s even giving me time to think about Lexie, my girl. Well, she might be my girl, if everything works out all right.

 

  1. What are your feelings about this story?

 

It’s a good story. Real. What we face with Rogues right now. Rogues are Travelers who don’t like the rules and aren’t willing to follow them. They do what they want. The whole personal gain thing doesn’t seem to have caught up with them yet, but it will. See, we can’t do anything that will help us out of a tight spot, unless it’s to help humanity. That’s why I haven’t been able to go back to that place in Mexico, before Rogues attacked, and bring back my aunts and uncles… and Matt.

 

  1. How do you feel about being a character in this book?

 

Hey, don’t get me wrong. Sure I’m down about losing most of my family, but being in this book, letting the world learn about Travelers? Fantastic! We’ve been doing this for so long and it’s time ordinary humans learned about us. It’s totally cool going back in time, or even seeing the future—and I want to do that so bad one day. First, though, we need to clean up this Rogue problem.

 

  1. What do you see in your future? (No spoilers please!)

 

More of the same until we have all Rogues taken care of. But that’s cool. No problem there. See, Matt and I would have been in Repairs if this whole Rogue War thing hadn’t gotten in our way. Repairs is where Travelers go fix problems that have come up. We would have even got to work with TES (Traveler Enforcement Squad) to stop other Travelers from changing history. Now I’m not sure what I’ll do once we finish here. Sure would like to have a lot more adventures.

 

  1. Is there another Paradox Lost book in the future? Will you be part of it?

 

A few more. That’s what Matt and Elisa keep telling me. Sure hope they don’t include that whole True Neutral thing. I’d like to have a normal life for a while, as normal as Travelers can have.

 

  1. Say a movie producer comes knocking. What actor/actress would you want to play you and why?

 

Someone wants to make a movie about Travelers? Cool. Totally cool. Who would I want to play me? Let me think. There’s this guy. Just did a movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past a few years back. Lucas Till is his name. Yeah, he’d play me really well.

 

Matt Sullivan

  1. Introduce yourself to our readers. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?

 

Stefano Masciolini as Matt SullivanYo, Matt here. Yeah. That’s right. The guy that died in the first book is coming on strong in this one. I get to tell my own story, and let me tell you, I’m not gonna hang around wherever the cosmos has stuck me and cry about being dead.

I’m the middle triplet, the one that is always on the go, always thinking up new pranks. Now, though, I’m the guy with a mission—to help my brother and sister kick some Rogue ass. First, though, I have to figure out how to get away from this prison without walls where I’m stuck, and that’s going to take quite a bit of work. Turns out that whole personal gain thing I’ve lived with all my life and didn’t think much about? Well, around here, it’s huge. You want to use someone for something, you run into this invisible wall that knocks you backward. Can’t get through it. But I’ll figure out how to get out. You can bet on that.

So, you want to know more about me, do you? I’m pretty much a what you see is what you get sort of guy. No sitting around discussing things in committee for me. Action—that’s where I’m at. Let someone else handle all the discussions. I’ll be out there teaching those Rogues a lesson they won’t ever forget.

 

  1. What do you think about the author? Tell us everything. We want to know.

Awesome lady. Kind of reminds me a lot of my mom. You know the type. Family first, kick the backside of anyone that hurts them. Herself last. She’s pretty cool the way she lets me take the lead instead of shoving me into a corner while Elisa and DJ get to have all the fun.

 

  1. What are your feelings about this story?

 

This story is intense. All our lives DJ and me (oh yeah, and Elisa) have had to live with this legend about the True Neutral. We’ve all heard over and over again how The First made this prophecy that someday, someone would get all the powers Travelers have. Crazy if you ask me. Some of those powers will be the direct opposite of others, but that’s the way it is. Anyway, like who wouldn’t want to be this person in total control? But not me. No way. I’m not a give orders kind of person, and besides, nobody would listen to me. But the story, especially the parts when I get to see my girl, Dixie, great.

 

  1. How do you feel about being a character in this book?

 

Love it. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. People need to know what Travelers really can do, and why we can’t sometimes. They also need to know all about personal gain. That’s pretty important. It’s kind of like this—we can’t go save you from messing up your whole life because you’re about to be in more trouble than you thought possible. That was your choice. You have to pay that price.

 

It’s kind of like what happened to me when I begged to go with my dad in book 1. That wasn’t what I wanted, and I sure don’t like the consequences, but I figure I’ll somehow get used to this prison without bars. Maybe.

 

  1. What do you see in your future? (No spoilers please!)

 

Well… you mentioned no spoilers. Not much I can tell you except that there will be another book soon. Other than that, I’ll probably go back to that prison without walls, until it’s time to break free again.

 

  1. Is there another Paradox Lost book in the future? Will you be part of it?

 

Oh yeah. At least two. More if I can help it. I love the adventures, even as a ghost. Definitely going to make sure there are more books.

 

  1. Say a movie producer comes knocking. What actor/actress would you want to play you and why?

 

An actor playing me? Really? Definitely Stefano Masciolini. Dude might be Italian, but he looks exactly like me. And he’s into all the action and kicking major butt thing.

 

 

Elisa Sullivan

  1. Introduce yourself to our readers. Where do you fit into the story? What should we know about you?

 

Sophie Turner as Elisa SullivanMy name is Elisa Sullivan. I’m a Traveler. That means that I get to travel through time on these really great Gateways. And I can talk to them. Not many Travelers think Gateways are sentient, but they are.

I’m a triplet, the youngest one. Our family is part of this kind of scary but totally awesome legacy, where one of us is supposed to become the True Neutral. Only no one really knows when that will happen. And everything about Travelers, especially Sullivans, is connected to the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fires in San Francisco. There’s a huge world out there, but we can’t seem to get past the ‘original event’ and figure out that a lot of people need our help. Sure hope that happens soon, ‘cause I think I can find places where we can do a lot of good.

 

  1. What do you think about the author? Tell us everything. We want to know.

 

She’s great. I like how she makes me so strong, but also lets me be afraid. That’s real, how most girls will react in the situations I face. And she doesn’t make me into some wimpy crybaby. But that whole screaming thing? Yeah, I do need to learn how to tone that down. A lot. Got to hear myself as a little girl doing it. Wow! That really hurts the ears.

 

  1. What are your feelings about this story?

 

It’s a fabulous story, full of adventure and intrigue. My awful uncle doesn’t realize that I’m the one person he never can control. He tries, though. Has since I was a little girl, but I don’t like Toby one bit and I’ll never do anything he wants.

 

  1. How do you feel about being a character in this book?

 

I love it. Well, there are times when I’m not so sure, but mostly it’s a lot of fun. Can you imagine being able to hide from everyone on plain sight or sneaking around as a spirit and then going back to your body? And traveling through time, seeing all those great places. Riding in Gateways is a blast.

 

  1. What do you see in your future? (No spoilers please!)

 

Oh, a lot more adventure. My brothers—all Travelers—will learn that I won’t sit in the shadows any longer. I am as good as Matt and DJ, and I won’t let anyone stop me from being part of their adventures!

 

First, though, we have to get through the third book, and kick some major Rogue butt. I’m really thinking I need to deal with Miranda. She really pisses me off with that “wittle baby” thing she’s always doing. I’ll show her who is a baby. (pauses for a minute.) Or maybe not. Is that personal gain? Can I get in trouble for that?

 

  1. Is there another Paradox Lost book in the future? Will you be part of it?

 

Current plans are for at least one more Paradox Lost book, possibly two. Who knows what the future holds? This trio of young adults seem to like the action.

 

  1. Say a movie producer comes knocking. What actor/actress would you want to play you and why?

 

For Elisa? Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones. She’s an actress that has to overcome numerous obstacles. I can see her reveling in the role of Elisa, the child no one accepted, felt as if she shouldn’t have been there.

 

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/2dzY5Z0qOrY

 

Social Media Links:

 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/KC-Sprayberry/331150236901202

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kcsowriter

 

Blog: http://outofcontrolcharacters.blogspot.com/

 

Website: www.kcsprayberry.com

 

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5011219.K_C_Sprayberry

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005DI1YOU

 

Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KcSprayberry/posts

 

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/kcsprayberry/boards/

 

Manic Readers:

http://www.manicreaders.com/KCSprayberry/

 

AUTHORSdB:

http://authorsdb.com/authors-directory/5230-k-c-sprayberry

 

 

ROMANCE AUTHOR GILLI ALLAN TALKS ABOUT HER NEW RELEASE AND HAS A GO AT THE PROUSTIAN QUESTIONNAIRE

It’s with great pleasure that I welcome multi talented artist, author Gilli Allan to the blog. As her biography suggests, the road taken was not a direct one, yet it yielded amazing results. A woman after my own heart. Welcome Gilli.

Biography

P1010802 - Copy (2)Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.

She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.

Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal.

 

FLY or FALL

Cover FOFEleanor – known as Nell – thinks of herself as a wimp.  Even though her life has not been easy, she clings to the safety of the familiar. Married young and dependent on her teacher husband’s wage, Nell has stayed at home, in Battersea, with her children and her increasingly invalid mother.  Following the death of her mother the family’s fortunes suddenly change.  Trevor, is wildly enthusiastic about their ‘move up in the world’; he plans to give up teaching and move house away from London.  Nell, however, is gripped by a nebulous fear of some unknown disaster waiting to trip them all up, but her husband, steamrollers her objections.

Now in her early thirties, and living in an unfamiliar landscape away from old friends, Nell feels cast adrift.  She is increasingly aware that Trevor is no longer the man she married, and their young teenage twins, Jonathan and Juliet, are grumpy and difficult. The women she meets, Felicity and Katherine, seem shallow and promiscuous. The new house is unwelcoming and needs modernisation; she’s thrust into a continuing chaos of rubble and renovation.  Patrick, one of the men working for the building firm, is infamous as a local Lothario, but he doesn’t make a pass at her. At first she’s grateful – she’s not that kind of woman – but her feelings towards him grow increasingly confused and ambivalent.

When Nell takes a bar job at the local sports club, she is exposed to an overheated atmosphere of flirtation and gossip. Influenced by her new friends and the world in which she now moves, she begins to blossom and to take pleasure in the possibilities which seem to be opening up for her. She meets and forms a deeper friendship with the quirky, new-age Elizabeth, a very different character to her other friends.  As Nell begins to enjoy herself and to become enthusiastic about her life, it seems her husband is on a downward trajectory, on the opposite end of a cosmic seesaw.  When she is pursued by a beautiful and enigmatic young man, called Angel, she is tempted into behaviour she would never previously have imagined herself capable. The earthquake, felt as a tremor of apprehension at the start of the story, rumbles through her life and the lives of those around her.  When the dust settles nothing is as she previously understood it.

FLY OR FALL follows the dismantling of all of Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code. Unwelcome truths about her friends, her husband, her teenage children and even herself are revealed.  Relationships are not what they seem. The hostility between brothers is exposed and finally explained. And the love that blossoms unexpectedly from the wreckage of her life is doomed, as she acknowledges the hair’s breadth between wishful thinking, self-deception and lies.

By the conclusion of FLY OR FALL everything has altered for Nell, the woman who doesn’t like change. But she has rebuilt herself as a different person, a braver person, and she has embarked with optimism on a totally transformed life, a life that offers the chance of love.

Deep into her book tour, Gilli took time to answer The Proustian Questionnaire…

Proustian Questionnaire Image BIG

What are your thoughts on muses and do you have one?

 

I don’t have an external muse as in an ideal or mythical individual who inspires me.  In my understanding, the muse is more associated with visual artists or poets.  But I will try to answer this by offering a fictional muse.

When I was fifteen I read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  I can’t now say whether this confirmed in me a predilection I already had, or was the original spur to the direction of my writing. The main protagonist of the story, Rodion Raskolnikov, is an impoverished student with a Napoleon complex. Believing that greatness in an individual elevates him above the normal constraints of humanity, Raskolnikov murders a couple of unpleasant, money-lending old crones, partly to steal from them and partly to prove his theory. If he is great, he can do this without guilt or remorse.  But extremes of guilt and remorse then pursue and torture him for the rest of the book.

I have never written about an axe wielding hero who feels impelled to prove his superiority in so drastic a fashion! But I have always been fascinated by the tortured or damaged hero. Over and over again I have given my main male protagonist guilt and pain from some unresolved misdeed or loss in his past.  Raskolnikov has a lot to answer for.

Characters have a great capacity to love, yet they’re starved. Why do you think this happens in fiction and in real life?

 

A lot of people are self-defeating when it comes to love.  I know I was when I was young.   At heart I think I was frightened of a relationship with a real, flesh and blood man, so I only ever set my sights on men who were unavailable to me. They were either gay, already engaged or married, or were womanisers who already had a bevy of more sophisticated, glamorous and experienced girlfriends.  Added to this, I only ever fell for men who were very attractive and, despite being asked, refused to go out with those who fell short of my ideal, so I further limited the options open to me.

In fiction it is far more interesting to follow characters who fail to find love until the final pages – to follow their ups and downs, and their travails. If they meet near the beginning of the book, realise they are in love and consummate their passion straight away, where is the story?

 

Without giving spoilers, would you say you’re a “happy ending” writer?

 

I already had two books mainstream published when I joined the Romantic Novelists Association (the British equivalent of the Romance Writers of America).  The RNA is a broad church; it covers a very wide range of women’s fiction from historical, through category romance and chick-lit, to erotica.  Even though the membership writes in a wide variety of different traditions, it is very clear that the great majority of readers – and writers – of romantic fiction prefer the ‘Happy Ever After’ resolution to a story.  Readers can feel cheated, and even become angry (and leave bad reviews!) if they are disappointed.

When I started out, my understanding of all this was pretty close to zero, but I wanted to be published. In my first book, Just Before Dawn, I followed many of the tropes of romantic fiction – including the HEA. Because I found a publisher swiftly for that book, I blithely felt ‘let off the leash’ when I came to start my second novel. In Desires & Dreams I simply wrote the story that was unfolding in my imagination, and I’m afraid I killed off my hero.  I still say there was no way he could have survived. To stay true to the story and the characters, he had to commit suicide. But it was not an entirely doom laden ending.  There was the strong implication that my heroine would grow, and become more independent and proactive about the direction her life was taking.  I still defend my belief that that book WAS a love story and, more importantly … my publisher loved it!

Since those days, and knowing what I now know, I have never been so cavalier.  I do not write the flurry of confetti and wedding bells type of ending, and my stories might not resolve exactly as every reader wants them to, but they are upbeat and offer the chance of future happiness.

 

If you could dine with any historical figure living or dead, who would it be and why?

 

I write contemporary relationship fiction, but I’ve always been fascinated by Richard III. He would be my guest and I’d feed him a dose of truth drug in his dinner so that I could get the ‘once and for all’ low-down on what really happened to the princes in the Tower.

Past, present or future? Where does your mind dwell?

 

Although I have a good visual memory, my memory is poor for facts and figures, names and dates. I don’t dwell much in the past. I envy those who can call up the detail of past adventures, and match faces to the names of old schoolmates, teachers and colleagues.  I recall the headline facts of my life and, of course, there are individuals who stand out, but I can’t relive past events in any detail.  That is one aspect of ageing I’m quite looking forward to. I hope to be able to call up passages from my life that at the moment are lost to me, or are only an impressionistic blur.

I do sometimes worry that I wish my life away. I don’t absorb and enjoy ‘the now’ sufficiently.

So I have to admit that I am always thinking to the future. What if….? What next….?   Supposing…?

What informs your writing most?

 

The best way I can answer you is to try and explain why I write what I write.   When I first started down this road, I was driven by the desire to write the story I wanted to read.  I was ten and ‘my book’, written in a small form notepad, copiously illustrated, was only a few pages long.  In my teenage years YA books did not exist and writing the book I wanted to read was the driving force that continued to impel me.

Now I read across a range of genres and I can find lots of books I enjoy – but there is still a gap (fortunately a narrowing gap) in women’s fiction.  I enjoy contemporary fiction with a developing love story at its heart, and this is what I write, but I need something broader and more involving than the central relationship.  In my own writing I try to honestly reflect the world I live in. Relationships are not straightforward – there are problems and issues which can challenge the most committed relationship.

To paraphrase the original blurb from my book TORN, I like to face up to the complexities, messiness and absurdities in modern relationships.  Life is not a fairy tale; it can be confusing and difficult. Sex is not always awesome; it can be awkward and embarrassing, and it has consequences. You don’t always fall for Mr Right, even if he falls for you. And realising you’re in love is not always good news.

In the Seventies, school kids were encouraged to think globally and act locally. Have you ever flirted with this philosophy?

 

I’m not much of a joiner and I can’t say I was particularly active in any way. I was aware very early of the ecological problems the world faces, and the over-use of the world’s resources. On the local level, I hate litter and have been known to pick it up when I’m on a walk and bring it home to dispose of.  I’m tolerant and broadminded and hate religious, sexual or race prejudice.  I stood with a crowd outside the South African embassy in London once, to protest against apartheid and wouldn’t buy South African produce.  I supported Women’s Liberation but never actively campaigned for it.

Guilty pleasures: we all have them. What is yours?

 

When I was young my guilty pleasure was definitely pickles. Preferably pickled onions or the sour ‘cocktail’ type gherkins. And mustard pickle came in a close second behind those two. Pickles were a guilty pleasure because I would help myself to whatever was in the larder when I was at home on my own.  I would even concoct what I called a pickle mess – a helping from every jar of pickles, sauces, vinegar, mayo and ketchup. Sounds revolting now, but I liked it.

Reading the books of Ethel M Dell – English Edwardian lady novelist, who is arguably the first ‘romance writer’. They are very very funny.

Through my young adulthood I was always trying to lose weight.  I don’t have a very sweet tooth, but the moment I embarked on a diet I instantly craved doughnuts – all varieties – cream, jam, custard et al.

Now, I suppose, it is alcohol. I am always trying to drink a little less and feel vaguely guilty when I don’t stick to the new regime I’ve set myself.

Your greatest victory?

 

Having my son. I lost two babies before he arrived. So that was a momentous event, one I had to work at – a surgical intervention, a long period of hospitalisation and then living very quiet life.

Second to that is having the first novel I ever completed, published.

Tell us about the one that got away. Person, place or thing.

 

Different aspects of the ones that got away appear in every one of my books. More than that I’m not prepared to say.

What are some of the overriding themes in your work? Do you have a favorite?

 

I think this is answered in the above questions.

Who do you admire and why?

Nan, Pops & my mumAn impossible question.  I could name so many, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Emily Pankhurst, but they all sound a bit pious.  So I’m going to plump for my own ‘cockney’ grandmother, who we all called Nan.  Louisa Jane Routley was a small woman, but she was feisty and she was determined; in other words, a force to be reckoned with.

Born into a working class family in the east end of London, she wasn’t from a totally impoverished background but she had a poor and humble beginning in life.  She was her father’s only child; he died in the Boer war before her birth in 1899 and her mother then married his brother. Nan’s memories of her stepfather were of a man who became violent and abusive when drunk. She had several younger half brothers and sisters.

She was fourteen, when her eighteen year old boyfriend, Jim Kelsey, went to fight in WW1.  He was fortunate to be wounded badly enough to be invalided home from the Somme, but not so badly he didn’t make a full recovery. After recuperating, he spent the rest of the war in Ireland. They married and doubtless at her instigation, my grandfather (Pops) joined the Post Office – a respectable white collar job.  This was the beginning of their move up in the world. They married and had two daughters – the eldest, my mother – and moved house twice, to finally settle in the respectable outer London suburb of Orpington. She was the only one from her generation in the family, to manage this step up out of the class she’d been born into.

Nan’s incredible drive, energy and ambition were something to admire. Her house was always spotless.  Pops loved his garden, and Nan cooked, pickled, bottled and made jam. My salivary glands still respond when I think of her steak and kidney pudding and her apple pie. She was widowed when she was only in her 60s. Although devastated by the death of her quiet, kind, and dependable husband, she went on to live another 35 years, until she was nearly 104, still in possession of her faculties and of her fiery and indomitable spirit.

Are writers fully formed works of art or works in progress?

 

Definitely works in progress, I also believe that writers are born not made. In my view, having been put on this earth with the impulse to write is not the same as being a good writer. You may have the embryonic instincts and drive to tell stories, but you have to work at your craft. I know I am an immeasurably better writer now than I was when I had my first book published.

For more Gilli, check out her LINKS:

http://twitter.com/gilliallan  (@gilliallan)

https://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR

http://gilliallan.blogspot.co.uk/

Books:

If you want it, I’m including the link to

TORN MyBook.to/gilliallansTORN (universal) or

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Torn-Gilli-Allan-ebook/dp/B00R1FQ1QE)

FLY OR FALL- myBook.to/GilliAllan (universal)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fly-Fall-Gilli-Allan-ebook/dp/B00XXZJ43S/

REALIZING A DREAM: AUTHOR RIVAL GATES

The  Authors Rival GatesMichigan born Ontario raised author Rival Gates has a foot in two countries and two worlds. His first novel, QUEST FOR THE RED SAPPHIRE, Book 1 of the Sapphire Chronicles, had its genesis in a young man’s dreams, becoming a reality in adulthood as a finished work under the auspices of Solstice Publishing. Rival owes his determination to supportive family members, but the drive to realize the written word is wholly his own. QUEST fuelled an imagination for years, but it has sparked a career that will span many years to come. Welcome, Rival.

QUEST FOR THE RED SAPPHIRE, BOOK 1

Cover2

General Linvin Grithinshield was used to enemies trying to kill him on the battlefields of the medieval world of Lavacia.  Now he has the fear of being killed anytime, anywhere.  He thinks he is summoned home from the goblin wars to oversee the family merchant empire after his father’s disappearance; and for a while he is right.  Then his mother is assassinated and Linvin’s true purpose is revealed.  He must seek out and find the all-powerful Red Sapphire and claim its might before the murderers find it…or him.  With new dangers around every turn in an ever-escalating spiral of violence, he must prove himself worthy of the gem and lead his party to success against insurmountable odds.  To fail would mean death for far more than just him.  The world, itself, could fall into permanent shadow and darkness.

 

Excerpt 1

Linvin was still. He closed his eyes and tried to put aside the events of the day. At last he spoke, “My life makes no sense to me. There I was, growing up with my parents and then out of nowhere my father tells me, ‘I must send you away, son. You are destined for something greater than the life I can provide. The greatness in your future lies down a separate road than I must travel. To prepare for that, I must send you to the greatest teacher you could have, Sedemihcra.’”

“‘You will be trained to be a soldier, a commander and a leader of men. He will also train you to use your mind to solve problems that force alone cannot solve. He will set you on the right path. When the time is right and your training is complete, I will send for you to return home.’”

“I asked him what was at the end of my path. He had such passion in his voice as he told me, ‘One day you will make an unrivaled difference in the lives of others. The weak, the helpless, the oppressed; all will one-day look to you as their champion. They will be counting on you. I will be counting on you.’”

“‘To send you away is the hardest thing I have ever done. Your mother is against this but the time has come for you to begin your training. There is so much at stake, son. You will have the chance to stand up to tyranny, oppression and all the evils of the world. That task will fall to you alone. You can rise to the challenge or turn your back. If you do turn away though, millions of people will suffer. Terrible storms are on the horizon. You are the only shelter the people will have. So you see my son, that is why you must go.’”

Anvar sat his stein on the rail and began to pace. “Your parents agonized over the decision and your mother was indeed set against the entire idea, but in the end, your father would not defer. He sent you away because he knew that you needed training.”

Linvin finished his ale and refilled the great vessel. “I had many years to ponder those words as I grew up in Valia. It never made sense to me but I had to trust my father’s judgment.”

“So here I am at last, summoned home to fulfill my destiny. As it turns out, I am destined to be a merchant or politician and marry some cold, greedy woman who comes from the right family. I will settle down, make more money and be a proper member of society.” Linvin’s tone had been sarcastic and his movements, grandiose.

He approached Anvar in a combination of frustration and anger. “So, dear uncle, best friend of Dirk Grithinshield, is this the life for which my father sent me to be trained?”

QUEST FOR THE RED SAPPHIRE is on sale on Kindle for .99 and can be bought at  http://amzn.to/1npYd0S 

BIOGRAPHY

Rival Gates Suit Enhanced(2)_peI was born in Port Huron, MI and was the youngest of four surviving children.  At the age of five my Father took a position as a magazine editor in Toronto, Ontario Canada.  We moved to a large city just outside Toronto called Mississauga.  The different cultures and demographics to which I was exposed formed many of the ideas for my story.

When I was thirteen, my Father’s declining health forced him out of work and our family struggled.  It was at that time that I decided to channel my negative energy into a constructive purpose.  I set out to write a short story about a magical gem called the Red Sapphire.  My brothers teased me that such a stone was simply a ruby.  That irony was part of the attraction for me.  After all, who would be writing about a Red Sapphire?  Years went by and we moved down to my Father’s home town of Harrow, Ontario on the shores of Lake Erie.  It was a drastic change from city life and I found myself retreating more and more into my ever growing story.  By age fifteen I had a two-hundred page hand written manuscript.

Advancing from high school to college at Michigan State University there was little time for writing and the project sat in a drawer in my parent’s home.  In spite of my lack of attention to writing, every night I would fall asleep working out details of the book and the series to follow.

I met a wonderful woman at Michigan State who agreed after graduation to become my wife.  As we started our family I began a career in retail management and sales.  For over twenty years I excelled in the field and even incorporated some of my knowledge into the book.  I hold my position in the greatest esteem.

While I rewrote the story several times on my computer, I did not attempt to publish it until the longest supporter of my writing, my Mother, became terminally ill.  She told me the last time I saw her how proud she was of the story I had created and made me promise to publish it and share it with the world.  With the loving support of my wife, our three children and the help of the good people at Solstice Publishing, I am fulfilling that promise.

When my Father (ever the editor) read the book, he told me how proud he was and that somewhere he knew my Mother was equally proud.  I present to you the first part of the saga which is my life’s work, “Quest for the Red Sapphire.”  May it bring you as much joy to read as it has brought me to write.

Rival Gates

LINKS

Web Site: http://www.rivalgates.com/

Blog: http://www.rivalgates.com/blog

http://rivalgates.tumblr.com/

Facebook: Author http://on.fb.me/1qqrjiB

Series: https://www.facebook.com/thesapphirechronicles

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rivalgates1

Buy Links for “Quest for the Red Sapphire”

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1npYd0S

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1mSIAkT

Purchase “The Sapphire Crucible”

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1lGfOVN

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1n8o0yN

Goodreads “Quest for the Red Sapphire”

http://bit.ly/1u1DJxN

Goodreads “Sapphire Crucible”

http://bit.ly/ZqUav3

Excerpt 2

Linvin looked into the darkness but only saw the swaying trees in the night’s sky. “That wolf sounded close,” he noted.

“That was no ordinary wolf,” Rander commented.

“What is so unusual about that wolf?” Linvin inquired as he found his bow and arrows.

“Remember those predators I was telling you about before?” Rander asked. “That’s one of them. You can tell from the low howl. Up here, we call them Trogoandras Wolves.”

“What is so special about those wolves?” Anvar asked.

“Well, to start with, they are the size of a full grown human. Their claws can effortlessly cleave flesh from bone. They have powerful jaws that can snap your thigh in two, like a twig. Inside their mouths, are two rows of teeth. The outer set is for tearing and shredding while the inner ones are for grinding.”

“They have been the bane of loggers and farmers.

You see, for all of the creature’s strength and power, Trogoandras have one flaw. Their legs are disproportionately short for their body. Most of the prey out here is long legged and too fast for them to run down, so they hunt in packs. One will mark a target and call for the pack to assemble. Then they will corner the herd they are tracking and attack. They are reasonably intelligent and crafty hunters, few escape the net of death they drop on their victims.”

“With the ax men driving away the herds from these woods, Trogoandras have set to devouring stock and as necessary, people.”

“They attack people?” exclaimed Linvin as he placed an arrow on the string of his bow.

“Sure do,” said Bander. “Lost two friends in the last month to ‘em. Can’t run as fast as deer, ya’ know. Out a control, them Trogos are.”

“I shouldn’t worry for now,” Rander told his cousin. “That was only one Trogoandras we heard. They seldom attack alone and will never come near a campfire without a pack. As long as we keep the fire going through the night, we should not have anything to fear.”

Proustian Questionnaire Image BIG

What are your thoughts on muses and do you have one?

I have known people who had them and found them instrumental in their art.  It has never been an avenue I have taken as my ideas flow from within.  If you read the lyrics to the Pearl Jam song “Black” you will see the downside when the muse is gone.  I like to look inward for inspiration.

 

Characters have a great capacity to love, yet they’re starved. Why do you think this happens in fiction and in real life?

Often times fiction reflects a writer’s experiences in the world.  There is a huge difference between a person’s capacity to love and the right opportunity to do so.  Love is like a butterfly passing by.  It doesn’t happen often and it is illusive when it is near.  But if you are lucky enough to get your hands on it, you have something special, indeed!

Without giving spoilers, would you say you’re a “happy ending” writer?

Most of the time I am a “happy ending writer.”  I think the books and movies with sad or distressing endings are fine, but I rarely want to read or watch them again.  This life throws enough negative things our way.  We seek entertainment to lose ourselves in another story and I think most people want to finish it happy.

 

What would you like to be remembered for?

Aside from my writing, I would like to be remembered for the lessons I have taught my children and hopefully for being a good father and husband.

 

If you could dine with any historical figure living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would love to dine with Marco Polo and hear firsthand about all his wondrous adventures.  

Past, present or future? Where does your mind dwell?

My mind is usually looking to the future as I am a compulsive planner.  I reflect on the past and draw inspiration from there but I use that inspiration to plan for the future.

What informs your writing most?

I would have to say my imagination.  I dream up different scenarios I think would be cool and then I find a way to fit them into my work.

Growing up in the Seventies, school kids were encouraged to think globally and act locally. Have you ever flirted with this philosophy?

It governs my charitable contributions.  For example, hunger is a terrible thing worldwide.  But before I send my money overseas I would rather feed the hungry in my city. 

Guilty pleasures: we all have them. What is yours?

In a word: Doritos

Your greatest victory?

My greatest victory was publishing my first book.  My father wrote for his whole life and never accomplished that.  So far I have published two with more to come.

Tell us about the one that got away. Person, place or thing.

There was a girl in college I had asked out the same week I asked out my wife.  It just so happened my wife was available earlier in the week and we went out.  I knew right then that she was the one for me and I cancelled the other date.  The other girl and I stayed friends throughout college.  She went through a slew of really bad boyfriends and at one point asked me to leave my girlfriend (now wife) to be with her.  I couldn’t do that.  So she moved on after graduation and I never heard from her again.

What are some of the overriding themes in your work? Do you have a favorite?

One of my favorite themes is if you rush into a situation, it will almost always end badly.  If you think it through, the answer is always there.

Who do you admire and why?

I admire the great artists of the past who were often unappreciated in their time but continued to do what they loved even without all the tools we have at our disposal these days.

Are writers fully formed works of art or works in progress?

Writers are definitely works in progress.  We are like water.  We bend around our surroundings and pick up characteristics of them.  Writers change their styles over time and vary quite a bit on different pieces.

 

Thanks Rival, and best of luck with the series. Rival can be found on Goodreads. Be sure to add him to your MY BOOKS list.

Tomorrow: Educator and incurable romantic Susanne Matthews talks about THE WHITE CARNATION and more http://www.mhsusannematthews.ca/

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THE FUNKHAUSER ROAD SHOW; BLOG TOUR, DAY 3: Spotlight, Saph’s Book Blog, http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com/

Blog Tour brought to you by BEWITCHING BOOK TOURS

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Bewitching Book Tours aims to offer just that by pairing authors and their books with targeted book bloggers and readers who enjoy the types of books the authors write.

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The Blog Welcomes Author Malay A. Upadhyay

I’ve only known Malay for a short while, but I can already tell you that this guy thinks DEEP. Like my favorite existentialists, Malay commits his fiction to the belief that individuals have the power to alter their existence but with unusual consequences. What lies beneath the surface is something that we, as human beings, cannot but help to toy with. In Malay’s case what lies beneath, what can be found just behind the curtain, is not one but two or more possible realities. The question always, is which one is the better one?

About the author

Malay A. Upadhyay grew up in the Eastern provinces of paradoxical India. It was a childhood of anomalies – a different spacetime, where he could not understand a friend’s passion for books on one hand even as he wrote for school elocution on the other. Recently back to contemporary Earth, he conceived many of the techno-economic ideas described in his book – Kalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea – at Bocconi University in Milano. His Blog of a Fly subscribes to the elusively effervescent, ephemeral connection among beings across space and time. That is after all, a belief that underlies every piece of literature ever written.

The Book In His Own Words

Every choice we make leads to its own unique consequence. To Cover - Kalki Evianchange the consequence, therefore, one must travel back in time to change the choice. But what if such change, instead of altering our future, simply created another – one that came to exist simultaneously with our world?

This is a story of how one such moment of love led to two parallel futures; a story of how your choices have an impact far beyond the world you know; a phenomenon that we had sensed, and wished for, all along. Set in Italy, while one timeline scales a city of the future where not just people but also things like money evolve, the other cradles itself in an amalgamation of contemporary Europe with ingredients of a new age. Step by step, the story embarks on a journey in a parallel world that we all live in but rarely see.

Q & A

What inspires you to write?

Experiences, and the ideas they generate to understand how things around us function on different levels. I try to learn something every day and what I write intends more to document these than to simply entertain with a good story.

Do you listen to or talk to to your characters? (You aren’t alone 🙂 How do you interact with your characters while you are writing?

Certainly. My characters are a mix of three things: an overview to begin with, an inspiration from people I know, which gives them a shape, and their reactions which begin to unfold in each scene and situation as the story progresses, for it lends a level of detail that you could not have imagined at the beginning.

What advice would you give other writers?

There is no specific rule or method to go about a story. It just needs diligence for as long as it takes to write, and a balance of thought – to ensure that you go with the flow without losing sight of where you are going.

How did you decide to publish your books?* What influenced your to publish with a publisher or go the self-publishing route? 

I researched a bit to understand how the process of submissions works. I was lucky to have found an agent – Emerantia Antonia Parnall-Gilbert of Gilbert Literary Agency – who was receptive of new authors and clearly told me how arduous the path was going to be, and the risks involved therein. I will simply suggest new authors to be patient in their search and analysis of online information, to check how the submission process works with publishers in the country they wish to publish in, and to verify publishers/agents by checking them in any of the renowned literary database.

What do you think about the future of book publishing?*

In the medium-term, I think it will strongly be determined by the digital innovations in place. Whether as a mix of sounds, imagery, weblinks or simply the way books are read, both the phenomenon of internet-of-things and the evolution of mobile gadgets will determine how ebooks change. However, the traditional paperbacks would continue to hold fort, albeit with changes in how they are discovered in online and offline stores.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I blog as a Fly. That’s one! The other is my habit of taking incessant notes as and when ideas arrive, most of which happen during a re-enactment of conversations that characters may have in the story.

What inspired the book?

The futuristic ideas for Kalki Evian came to me during my time at Bocconi University in Milano. However, I am more drawn towards subtle romance in any story. That is primarily because I find it to be the most natural form of conduct between characters. It lends the strongest incentives to their actions and gifts a sense of beauty to any plot under any circumstance. It is also what makes the characters human, and the story, regardless the genre, have a soul. That is how the plot took shape.

The Excerpt

Nothing gives me greater joy than being able to shine a light on the work of others. Writing takes time; getting it out there: much more.

Malay A. Upadhyay: Kalki Evian – The Ring of Khaoriphea

To those who ceased to trust their instinct
just because everyone told everyone else
that no one did.

Foreword

Hypothesis #1: Every choice has its own unique
consequence.
This would imply that at any given time, the choice
we make leads us on an entirely different path from the one
that any other would take us on. It is like driving a car. Once
we turn right at any junction, all roads on previous left turns
cease to matter. And that right turn takes us on to a new
junction with a new set of turns, each with its own choice of
left and right, and so on. None in particular is better or
worse. It is just different. And these paths may even meet
later on.

Hypothesis #2: Time travel could be possible at
some time in the infinite future.
Time is a dimension like any other; only somewhat
beyond our understanding. The day we evolve enough to
comprehend exactly how it works, we may be able to travel
in time and return to a junction/event that occurred in the
past – our own, or maybe someone else’s.

If we combine hypothesis #1 and #2, it would
indicate that at least someone may have travelled back in
time to warn Caesar of an oncoming conspiracy, or
persuaded Hitler’s father to allow his son to become an
artist, or simply changed something in their own past. In
each instance, that change would involve going back to an
event, and may result in an altogether different set of affairs
to consequence. In other words, the second path – one
different from that which we took initially – could come
alive.
That said, we do not yet seem aware of any such
changes to our known history. Brutus continues to
exemplify treason rather than honour. Hitler remains the
author of Mein Kampf. And our life remains dotted with
specific, unchanged events just as we remember them.
These two points mean that as a consequence of any
active and influential time travel, one or more parallel
realities must come into existence, somehow unknown to us.

Hypothesis#3: We do not yet know how to time
travel.
That is a gap that exists . . . in common knowledge
as per common beliefs. But then, news from many unknown
corners of this world remains obscure.

Hypothesis#4: The relativistic view of time and
space shows a warping of the spacetime plane, audience to
the disparities in distance and time travelled with changes
in velocity.
General relativity is Einstein’s brainchild, whose
applicability to this case shall be assumed to be
hypothetical.

Malay A. Upadhyay: Kalki Evian – The Ring of Khaoriphea

Chapter 1
“Is this where she falls?”
“Two miles further south.”
“Then,” the former hesitated but asked with hope,
“is this where we save her?”
Wind blew perfectly in accordance with fresh traces
of floating memory that lay in the latter’s mind. The man
smiled. Significantly taller and older than the inquiring
other, he stood with a sparkle in his eyes, unmoved and
unblinking and gazing ahead under the faintest crease of
brows that stood in striking contrast to the amused pair
ordained by one to his right and to the tense pair of a third
who stood behind him, looking up, awaiting a sense of their
plan.
It was pitch dark on a brazen land. Clouds usually
decorated the sky at this time of the year but they had
arrived today in galore, witness to a moment of particular
significance that bore a perfect sense only to the one who
had stood there without a twitch of muscle for over an hour.
Metal cape was a rather unusual coat to adorn those heavy
shoulders, but he wore it as if he had journeyed from a
battlefield. The younger, chubby individual who
accompanied him – Bree was his name – would have
vouched that he had. The graphene, fashionably
complimented his neatly combed silver hair. Uniform white
stubble graced his cheeks, save for three short creases on the
upper end of his cheekbones. Together, it all directed one’s
focus to his sharp eyes that he relied upon to speak out more
than words could. Even under the dark shade of that
evening, his face glowed not through a visible shine but
through a perceptual radiance. Drizzle marked their borders,
illustrating the elder’s stern body language, with his hands
neatly folded at the back and fingers clasping on to each
other. Two in particular seemed to gently toy with a ring on
one of his thumbs. Bree’s younger pair of shoulders,
meanwhile, heaved under his heavy breathing. They bowed
smoothly on to fleshy arms that hung parallel to his thick
legs positioned with utmost care to stand beside but half-astep
behind the pair in boots – as if to conform to the latter’s
authority.
As the first drops began to trickle from above, the
metal-clad almost allowed himself to smile again – one
fairly invisible to any who could see him. For, the sound of
rain had been perfectly tuned to a faint rumble on the metal
rails far in the distance, reflecting a coherence that was
nothing short of little verifications that he belonged there in
that moment.
The third – a doctor and the one with the questions
initially – had heard the rumble too. He tried to stab his sight
through the darkness to find its source. The effort had
brought about a spark of excitement from within his
exhausted body. His shoulders were straighter, the dressing
sharp. Only a little pouch hung across on a thread-like string
and repeatedly bounced off the waist in constant attempts to
fly under the wind.
The little smile on the elder’s face waned amidst
continuing sounds of those drops on metal as he spoke,
unflinching still, “Any issues?”
The task that the doctor had been sent for not many
moments ago had drained sufficient proportion of his
energy. He quickly gathered his breath to reply, despite
having had enough time since his arrival, as if all air had
stalled in his lungs during the anxious moments that had
recently passed. “The information was precise. I reached
just in time to warn them. Such carelessness . . .”
“It wasn’t beyond the norm, doc,” Bree spoke with
an almost juvenile amusement, “It was an inevitable
consequence of a long chain of cause and effect that
perceivably began with a pack of milk.”
“Milk?”
“Yes, and some superstition.”
“I believe that is simply a misnomer for
carelessness,” the doctor quipped.
“It is one for precisely the opposite. Whether
superstitions have any viable meaning is trivial. They are
always true – not because they work but because they make
us believe they do. It’s a belief that often runs stronger than
even any other faith. In this case, it was one that pertained to
spilt milk – a bad omen in these parts of the world. But that
story is quite unworthy of this moment and is rather
irrelevant.”
“How can it not be relevant, Bree?”
“Because subtle chains of cause and effect are too
complex to decipher for an individual mind. There lies no
beginning to such stories, no matter how many millennia
one traverses back in time. The only matter of relevance
then is to know that life is always, and exclusively, what it
turns out to be . . . nothing more, nothing less and certainly
nothing different.”
“That explains your persistent sense of adventure,”
the doctor replied in an implied jest under a very serious
face. “What’s with the tweed cap?”
“My sense of adventure needs props, much like your
little pouch” Bree replied, contrasting his comfort in the
situation with the other’s panic.
Two large bags lay almost kissing his wet feet. The
doctor pointed at them, “I prefer mine to those!”
“Aah, yes. I would help if I could, doc. Sorry to
spoil an otherwise perfect evening . . .”
It was then that the heavy voice intervened once
more. “Perfection is a matter of perception,” the elder said,
“and there’s much left in this evening. She’s here.”
The other two looked out into the distance. A yellow
ball of light shone hazily through the heavy curtain of rain
in the dark but was intensified by a deafening horn riding on
a sudden screeching on rails that stabbed through the space.
A red light in that area was never part of the itinerary for the
train but that order stood defiant, facing the speeding frame
of metal and forcing it to apply its brakes, perhaps unaware
of the catastrophe that may follow for the souls seated
inside. The distance, though, had worked in the train’s
favour as the driver sprung into action the instant the red
light had come into view. The screech was unsubmissive,
the shock unavoidable, but the tracks lay embedded within a
slight cavernous stretch on the land. As short hills rose on
either side of the tracks, the slopes might just cushion the
near-fatal consequence that was soon to be. And so the train
slid more than sped in those last few hundred metres with a
wave of scream and confusion rippling along her entire
length. The last few coaches bounced off but followed
helplessly under the dual force of a roaring engine in front
and the waves of elevated earth on the sides. Things rattled,
tilted, inverted, shook, bounced and broke – all within the
perceived parameters, all except one.
“Make the call,” was the command. Bree sprung into
action. He closed in the fingers on his left hand and gently
rubbed the tips of the three-fingered glove he was wearing,
with his thumb. As the tips illuminated under the charge, it
seemed to the doctor as if light had stuck itself to them, for
the thin spot of illumination stretched in between as the
fingers moved away. Soon, the gluey spot of light turned
into a ray between his forefinger and the little one. It
broadened to produce a thin film on his palm, which
immediately came alive with embedded blue lights. Bree
tapped on the virtual phone.
The three scanned past the rough muddy terrain
under the leadership of the pair of feet that seemed to
outline two steps in advance, a finality of objective as to
where they intended to land. As the three approached the
only coach with a door thrown open, the anticipation on the
doctor’s face gave way to a flush of subdued panic.
Secluded from the air of shock that prevailed around the
train, someone lay unconscious, stained in red.
The victim was pulled to the other side of the slope
as his rescuers got down to business; two inspecting the
immediate wounds while the other stared at his bloodsmeared
face.
“You knew he would fall out?” the doctor asked in
haste.
“Yes,” the elder replied, his eyes fixed on what lay
before him.
“How? What of the others?”
He asked with a calm blink of those eyes, “What
would you say, Bree?”
The man climbed a few feet on the slope and began
to scan the coaches with his naked eye. At length, he replied
with eyes strained on those opaque walls, “Injuries
sustained throughout but I see a conglomeration at only two
places, both in the dismounted coaches. No deaths though,
just urgent movements and significant shock.”
“How long is it before the others arrive?”
“Half an hour for the emergency services; quarter
more for the media. In two, the area should be swarming.”
“Are we in position?”
Sweat was beginning to work its way, softening the
crisp hair of the one nursing the body. The doctor’s words
then, were those of unparalleled concern, “His heart beats
slow.”
“But beats still . . .”
“Yes. But did you check him? Is it him?”
“To every detail,” was the definitive reply. The mass
of metal heaved with the elder’s shoulders as he bent over
the body and analysed it comprehensively with a blank stare
that defied any form of indifference it may have been
ordinarily reserved for. This one belonged to a trance. The
body lay spread out with one palm clenched on to nothing in
particular. The man held something in his fist, something
that had been dear enough to have extracted every inch of
endurance in him to keep it within his grasp even through
the painful – and seemingly endless – course of his fall from
the train. The elder looked at that fist as though he could
conjure the invisible piece in his own imagination. “Hope,”
he uttered softly and blinked. The name had proclaimed
itself louder in its rarity.
He stood up and spoke, with the usual heaviness
back in his voice, “Prepare the cart.” The doctor pulled one
of the bags and dropped inside a miniature stretch of metal
wound on two small rods. He placed the bag on the ground,
stretched it wide, and began tapping on his wrist band.
Streaks of blue shone and faded where he touched it, and the
bag began to twirl from within. Inside, sand-like particles
ran over each other as they encapsulated the little piece he
had dropped inside. Once the rendering was complete, he
took out the object, poured more of the particles, and tapped
a few more times. Gradually, more and more particles
joined in to form a large replica of the tiny object.
The doctor then turned back to the other sack and
dropped another piece. The routine followed and out came a
flat board. He then placed it near the body, and stuck a
charge underneath. It slid seamlessly and activated itself.
Another push and the two boards stuck together as the air
was sucked out from between them. He then dug into his
pouch to extract a metal frame that he attached under the
contraption. A few wrist-taps later, it lit blue immediately
and the light spread along the borders of the board as the
entire mass began to float few inches above the ground.
He looked up once done. Bree was smiling. The
doctor guessed, “Electro-permanent magnets, I suppose.”
The reply was almost instant and familiarly amused,
“Not bad for an expert in biology.”
“The problem when you focus too much on one
subject,” the doctor countered, “is that you lose your grip on
the rest.”
“Unless the rest begin to converge . . .”
Bree had left a cryptic possibility free to implant
itself in the other’s mind and was aided conveniently by the
elder’s interruption to march forward.
The two men pressed charges near their torso while
the doctor climbed on his contraption. With soles lifted
inches above, the three began to move with the body. Many
minutes passed before they came by a small instalment, few
miles away from the railroad and everything else. The site
of commotion had been left far behind and only ghostly
whispers of the breeze continued, sans the drops of rain and
their clinks on metal. The doctor questioned, all thoughts
relegated in the face of a larger lump in his throat, “You
took a risk.”
It was as if the metal-clad elder had been
anticipating it. His words nearly overrode those of the
doctor’s, “One that saved some two hundred lives; perhaps
more.”
“You facilitated one accident to prevent another.”
“It was a necessary risk.”
“Enough to justify this?”
The reply came almost immediately once again, but
the voice was far gentler and had come from behind them.
“Any act has its consequence. Every act changes the world.”
Those broad shoulders turned to face the source of
the sound with an unmistakable constriction in the pair of
eyes above, as if in attempts to fashion a smile. A woman,
dressed in a silhouette sharply accentuated by a short cloak
that covered her head, came towards the three from around a
little tent. She was nearly as old as the elder but carried a
significantly warmer gaze. Her hair was wavy and grey and
seemed to rest on her shoulders with the softest touch,
fashioned with streaks of silver in the front locks.
She looked at the body that lay on the board, and
sighed. A welcoming look then followed on to the man who
sat upon it. The doctor ignored the warmth of that attention
that lay bestowed through seconds of concern. He addressed
the elder again, though with slight hesitancy, “I can’t . . .
just . . .”
“What happened?” Bree asked as if charged with
managing the doctor’s conundrums for the evening.
“Nothing,” came the desolate reply, followed by a
more professional concern, “A hospital would have been
more appropriate . . .”
“That wouldn’t be necessary. We can trust each
other on this,” replied the elder. His words were calm but
bore a striking directive towards haste.
“How . . .” an argument attempted to ensue but
gulped itself down its bearer’s throat, switching instead to a
taunt, “Are you really willing to watch this lad die?”
The elder did not speak. His eyes expressed a
strange concoction of pain and calm as he was helplessly
diverted to the lifeless body that lay in front. That entrapped
chunk of oxygen in his lungs was measured immediately by
the recently arrived. She spoke on his behalf, with a smile
that was an answer in itself, “Of course not. That is why we
have you here.”
“But how do you know I will save him?”
“Because if you had not already done that, we would
still be human.”

Chapter 2
The eyes opened gradually. Light had not entered
them for an age, or at least the brain had ceased to process it
so. Any part of the world, then, should have been a beautiful
vision to come across, but all he saw were streaks of blue
running across in mid-air against a plain white background.
Everything was hazy except these sharp blue characters, and
a crystal clear voice of a woman, as if programmed to
initialize the moment he woke up.
“Welcome. Default settings now active. Visuals
confirmed. Data status, basic. Volume level: aligning . . .
aligning . . . aligning. Saved. Thank you. Your world is at
your service.”
The streaks and the sounds faded as the background
came into clearer view – a lone glass frame stood on a white
stretch of the wall, with the words: One hand washes the
other; both get clean. His pupils narrowed in trying to read
it carefully, and immediately, little edges appeared out of
nowhere to focus on the text. There they waited, and
shivered with the confused movement of his pupils.
Fidgeting to get the little blue edges away from his sight, he
shook his head and blinked as he moved. The visuals
hanging in mid-air twitched, lost focus and tried to target
something else on that otherwise bland wall. He resisted but
to no avail and then held his eyes static on the frame,
waiting. Nothing happened. With eyes beginning to burn, he
blinked once more with a perplexed gaze fixed at the wall.
The projection of little edges joined together over the frame
and gently faded away to display a copy of that text in blue,
somewhere in the empty space, followed instantly by the
words: Curaçaon proverb. Origin: Former Caribbean. He
blinked again, and they disappeared.
“I’ve been waiting to see them. . .” It was a different
voice, equally gentle but so much sweeter. He held still,
expecting to see another series of obstructions, until
footsteps sounded somewhere to his left. He turned to find
white flat-soled shoes crisscrossing their way to him,
carrying slender legs that rose up to partially visible fingers
holding a tray, followed higher by a sparkling white shirt
sprinkled towards the top with fluffy locks of hair bouncing
around a young slyly smiling face. Their eyes met, and the
books would have spoken of an emotional concordance. But
the blue edges appeared again. Unable to draw his sight
away, he quickly blinked. The projections displayed one
line of text after another: Friuli, Fridgeon. F, 25.
Permissions denied. Possibly 1st.
“Fri-uli-,” he muttered.
“Those eyes,” she interrupted matter-of-factly, “I’ve
been waiting to see them.”
“Huh?”
“Although now the perplexity seems equally
catchy.”
“Uh-I’m . . . sorry,” he said with weak, broken
voice, continually blinking and shaking his head to ward off
the information displayed.
“You will get used to it. If you want it stopped, just
tell it so.”
“Tell what? Tell whom?”
“Your brain. The password’s right beside you.”
He turned to his right. A table lay at about his height
with a little white card embossed with an alphanumeric code
that was barely visible. He strained once again as the edges
appeared, and managed to read out the letters: QIn45.
Nothing happened.
She corrected him, “It is one word. They confused
with the caps. Sorry for that.”
He uttered it accordingly. The edges disappeared and
nothing followed, drawing his eyes to move all around the
room as if they had been let loose to absorb his
surroundings. They stood wide open in anticipation of the
source of what he had just seen. He fell back on his pillow,
already exhausted under the stress.
“You should rest,” Friuli spoke, smiling still. “Or
you won’t be able to handle it.”
“Handle what?” He enquired.
She waited, looking directly into his eyes, letting
him absorb her tease of curiosity, and then answered, “What
we have done to your world.”
The pupils changed shapes again. He was nervous.
“You?”
“We the people, Qin. Welcome back, and good
morning.”
She walked out and the room fell back to a white
stretch of space. He rose to look at himself, strapped and
bandaged in a long robe. But there was no plaster, stitches
or even pain. How long had he been there? The simplicity of
that query dragged his thoughts back to the dreadful night.
Nothing came back perfectly but in his blur, he remembered
a sudden shock, a muscular effort, a short flight, a series of
scratchy rollovers, and a determined fist. Attempts to think
further strained his nerves as exhaustion overtook a bit
more. Sleep dawned and he closed his eyes with troubled
relief. The images came back in view, but differently so: a
girl breathing heavily . . . he saw himself scream and run
away . . . a train came into view shortly after, and with it
came a feeling of uncontrollable rage. And then there was
shock, a muscular effort, a short flight, a series of scratchy
rollovers, and that determined fist.
It felt chillier and the surface his skin touched felt
rougher than it appeared. He woke again and quickly got off
his bed. His feet dragged and stumbled on their way to the
wash basin. The water was a respite but felt nearly numb
when it splashed against his face. He looked up in some
irritation to find a long stretch of glass, in the centre of
which stood a man many years older than him.
“Wh-,” he jerked back in surprise. “Who are you?”
he asked, feeling misled into believing it was glass. But the
figure mimicked him to produce an unwelcomed realization.
He looked down at his arms, closely and in disbelief. They
looked larger, and older. He tried to take a closer look at his
reflection. It was him, much older than he could remember.
His fingers slowly crawled towards the mirror but the
moment he touched the glass, more words rolled out, this
time displayed firmly over his own reflection, without a
sound: Welcome. Four more words appeared beneath as he
half-muttered what he saw: News, Weather, Sport,
Emergency. But by the time he pronounced the first of
those, the characters disappeared and were replaced by a
statement in bold: Etna wakes up, and puts everything else
to sleep, followed by more texts highlighting the headings
of various articles on the day. He nervously read them while
trying to shake away the text on glass until he found a little
series of icons beneath. He tried each with different results.
A familiar voice read out the text at one, one translated it all
in different languages, one changed the pattern of the text, a
fourth stuck to his fingers and ran along as they moved,
highlighting all text that came in its way, while another
switched to a different screen that began to ask for his
identification. With his head splitting, he drew away and
shouted, “Stop it!”
Everything vanished, and he stood there, alone, in
silence and decades older than he remembered. “The card,”
he thought, and uttered, “Qin45.” A beep sounded as he
took a deep breath, focussed on his reflection and blinked.
Texts appeared again, seemingly in mid-air, but they had no
mirror image. He strained further until he noticed little blue
streaks on the reflection of his pupil. The image was
startling, but his focus was immediately drawn away on to
the text itself: Permissions denied. He tried again, to a
similar result.
He would have screamed again, this time to an
audience extending far beyond the bounds of his room. But
with those very first steps that went backwards without any
direction or intent, carrying a lost mind and a panicking
body, the sweeter voice returned, “I told you to rest.”
He turned in anger to face the face he could not help
being intrigued at. He fought the diversion and addressed
her sharply, the intensity of his voice increasing with each
word, ‘Rest?! You tell me where I am. You tell me RIGHT
NOW!”
“Anger won’t help you, Qin,” she spoke softer still.
“You know this better than most people. Nor would
restlessness, or even solitude.”
The last word hit him as hard as his confusion had,
for it ran on inconvenient memories that came back
distinctly. He breathed again and asked, simply but sternly,
“Where am I?”
“I would tell you right now, but please spare a
thought to this: you are alive. And if you can remember
anything, it was quite unlikely.”
He did realize the fact, for if nothing else, he did
remember an excruciating pain that he had shut his eyes
amidst. He remembered, if nothing else, that more painful
had been his final regret that had stormed out from within
all illusions of uncertainty and righteousness, as he lay in
seclusion, smeared in his own blood and clenching on to
what felt most dear in that moment. I didn’t see, he had
thought as his grip had tightened over a ring. And then, it
had all gone blank.
The nervousness marginally waned as the breathing
normalized but he was restless still when he asked, “Why do
you keep calling me that?”
“Calling you what?”
“Qin, you said.”
“Aah, but that is what we have had registered here.
Is that not right?”
Qin thought for a while but could not explain his
agitation under the severe headache. He exclaimed in agony,
“I . . . don’t know.”
Friuli enquired, “Do you remember anything?”
“Only vaguely. Bits and pieces, but it’s too
difficult.”
“It will come back. You need rest.”
“What is all this, these screens? And what the hell is
on my eye?”
“So you activated it again?” she asked, walking up
to help him back to his bed.
“I had,” he said guiltily, feeling much easier with her
very first touch. “. . . switched it off.” He continued, as he
looked at the smooth stretch of her fair skin, “Couldn’t take
it.”
“You have been in a coma for quite a while, Qin.
Things have changed as they always do with time. So it is
not that the world is upside down now but as you can see,
there have been a few developments. What you see are
automated projections designed to assist you with any
information you need in real time. Some you can switch off
while others are ingrained in the objects.”
“But why on my eye?”
“On your eye is nothing spectacular. Most have it.
As to why we put you in such a shock with it, I extend both
my apologies and my sympathy. These were orders,
intended to help you accommodate with what has come to
be. Quite naturally, you wouldn’t have allowed the
implantation once you woke up, given that you are still,”
she hesitated, “a bit old school.”
“This thing is implanted?!” He asked with a sudden
high pitch.
“Well, of course it is. Is it really that bad a thing,
considering how bad your eye was after that fall?”
“H-how bad was it?”
Friuli gave a gentle smile as she tucked the sheets
around him, never taking her eyes away from his. She
whispered, pointing to the whiteness of the entire room,
“Let’s just say all white is better than all black.”
He knew panic would not help things. He was just
too oblivious at the moment. Friuli walked around his bed,
setting the table straight, replenishing it with fresh water and
taking a good look at everything else.
“The water-,” Qin said, under subtle hiccups,
“doesn’t taste . . . very well. It doesn’t taste at all actually.”
“Well, I guess it’s absolutely pure then! I’ll put that
on record for the maintenance staff,” she mused, and spoke
with greater sincerity, “Sleep Qin. Get your energy back.”
As she approached the door, he interrupted again,
almost shaking in his voice, “Quite a while,’ you said. How
long is that?”
Friuli stopped to take a heavy breath. Few seconds
passed in silence before she answered with a decisive effort,
“Twenty three years.”

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