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

 

 

DAMN! THE PAST—AGAIN!!!

Yesterday, I broke my own rule by indulging in a little memory lane traipsing.  I don’t normally do this as I stubbornly cling to a self imposed ethos that demands attention be paid to what’s ahead in lieu of what can’t be rewritten.

I’m not Gatsby: I leave the past to sociologists, historians and novelists (chuckle).

What's this? A novel?
What’s this? A novel?

The last bit about novelists is probably why I fell off the wagon. That, or a certain nagging sentimentality that’s been trying to get into my psyche since hitting the half century back in March.

madmen

NixonThe first thing I did was opine on Face Book and Twitter about the end of Mad Paul LyndeMen and of how much this incredibly stylish show impacted me. Not to contradict myself: it wasn’t the style…or the odd nomenclature of the culture…or the social ambiguities that we, today, find so astonishing, that grabbed me, but the realization that I was actually born to that era. Let’s be clear, I was a kid, but I did have eyes and ears. I grew up watching Nixon defend the war (his broadcasts always interrupted the Paul Lynde

show, which irritated me to no end) and my country’s enigmatic, larger than life Prime Minister Pierre PETTrudeau rage against the pequiste separatist movement in Quebec. Heck, I remember the lunar landing in 1969 if only for the fact that I watched it in my grandmother’s living room against a background sound and aroma of sizzling German doughnuts—kreppels—boiling up in the big pot on her kitchen stove.

It was a good time…for me at least.

DAD

Dad

Watching Don Draper twist and turn on the AMC show week after week, I wondered if grownups had it as rough as portrayed. I don’t mean the men and women who went to war—war’s awful at all times—or the marchers who put their lives at risk for something as basic and necessary as human rights equality; I mean the regular civvies born between the wars who’d made it and got the picket fence.

I wouldn’t know. I was born to that fence. But I was also born to plug in the wall record players, pellet guns with real pellets and neighborhood bullies who preyed on the small, awkward and buck toothed because it was expected and they could. I got my revenge: bully lived in a white clapboard house and there was no shortage of crab apples on crab apple trees to pelt his house with…and also, I had a big brother who gladly dispatched anyone who got in my face—you could do that back then.  My dignity was rescued from crass stupidity.

You could do a lot of things back then. Watching the Joan Harris character on Mad Men cope with sexism and exclusion reminded me of a time in the distant Eighties when grown men made sucking noises when pretty girls walked by. That I was fifteen —and obviously so— didn’t seem to bother them, but it sure as hell bothered me. I’m glad that’s gone, and I’m glad I won’t be reminded of it every Sunday night.

Bidding adieu to Mad Men took me to another place I hadn’t been for many years: 1979, a great year for many reasons—my braces came off, my disco moves were rad, I smoked my first cigarette and fell in love with Robert De Niro. Gritty realism in cinema had been de facto since Clute, but nothing prepared me for the august beauty and sheer power of The Deer Hunter. Released just four years after the war and probably meant to compete with Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (which I also liked) there was something about the nuanced performances in Deer Hunter that kept me watching and rewatching for many years. The set pieces, the dialogue, the unconventional “real people” look of the actors sharpened my senses to everything around me. Appreciate your time it seemed to say, because it doesn’t last. The future takes it away.

deer hunter cast

I know the ending where the mourners gather in the bar after a major character funeral and sing God Bless America was seen as a controversial move by some. I didn’t feel that. Not the first time I saw it, or indeed yesterday when I viewed it again. It reminded me that I always need something to believe in and as long as I have that, I’ll be able to press on, hopefully with great joy.

If the future steals the past, does the present arm us for that unseen thing in front of us?

That’s another discussion for another day.

In the meantime, I will focus on what needs doing: there are weeds to be pulled out back, and a sleepy old cat that needs his lunch; the truck tires could use some air and…

What? David Letterman’s last show is tonight???

I have history with that show.

I think I’ll watch Kimmel.

Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, I am

A.B. Funkhauser

Let’s stay above it.

UPFRONT AND PRESENT: AUTHOR SUSANNE MATTHEWS

The Authors Susanne MatthewsToday, the blog welcomes romance author and fellow Ontarian Susanne Matthews. Educator, visionary, novel crafter, Susanne tackles her storylines with a view to a journey. From first page to last, her characters move and we, the readers, are transformed with them. Welcome Susanne.

The White CarnationThe last person disgraced reporter Faye Lewis wants back in her life is Detective Rob Halliday, the man she blames for ruining her career and breaking her heart. But when she finds an old friend murdered, he’s the one she calls.

For the past year, Rob and his team have been hunting the Harvester, a serial killer who ritualistically murders new mothers and vanishes with their infants. What Rob doesn’t need is another case, especially one involving his ex-fiancée.

Then Faye is assaulted, and Rob realizes the cases are connected. She may hold the answers he needs to find the elusive killer. But the more they investigate, the more complex the situation becomes. Can they set the past aside and work together, or will the Harvester and his followers reap another prize?

Excerpt from: The White Carnation

After more than four hours of hobnobbing with the rich and not so famous, Faye was hot, tired, and exasperated. The engagement tea had been even worse than she’d imagined. Clowns—they’d had clowns—and she hated clowns. You never knew who was behind that pasty white makeup. What kind of adults used a kiddy theme for their engagement party? Alright, so the groom’s family was in the home party décor business. What difference did that make? There had to be hundreds of themes more suitable to the occasion.

Imagine that snooty little bitch thinking she was the help—it might be the society page, but press was press. Thank God she wasn’t one of them anymore. Sure, the money, clothes, and bling were nice—although Faye wasn’t penniless, she did have to pinch the ones she had—but at least she had a valid reason for getting out of bed each day. Hopefully, Abigail and Reginald would be happy, but she wouldn’t count on it. If ever there was a marriage arranged in the boardroom, that was it. Imagining that couple on their wedding night as they completed the merger made her laugh out loud in the car. Miss Ice Cube wouldn’t possibly warm up enough for Mr. Icicle to penetrate in the first place … clowns or no clowns.

She slapped the steering wheel in frustration. The drive from Wellesley to Beacon Hill seemed interminable, and more than once, Faye cursed inept drivers who didn’t know the least little bit about driving or where they were going. She hated being late, and thanks to overlong speeches and bad traffic, she would be.

“Tourists,” she grumbled when a sudden exit off the highway almost caused an accident. “Too bad GPS doesn’t come with idiot-proofing.” When she eventually got off the I-90 and onto the side streets, she spotted a parking space on Marlborough only half a block from Mary’s family home, a neighborhood she remembered fondly from her youth. Well, at least the parking fairy’s on my side.

Glancing at the heavy gray clouds on the horizon, she cursed. It would rain soon, and she’d forgotten her umbrella in her desk. This jacket needed to be dry-cleaned, and she’d already blown this month’s budget for that. Grabbing the white carnation with the rainbow ribbon that her secret admirer had left on the windshield this morning, she got out of the car. That flower was the only bright spot in her otherwise dismal day. As always, there’d been no card. The individual flowers, their stems tucked in micro-vases that held the precious water they needed, arrived on a more or less regular basis. This was the fourth—no, the fifth one. Sloan had joked about the first one.

“Maybe O’Malley learned you hate roses.”

Jerk!

She was convinced her secret admirer was sweet and maybe a little shy. For a while, she’d thought Jimmy might have been leaving the flowers for her, but he’d been out of town on assignment the last two times. At least Mr. Mysterious wasn’t some crazed stalker sending her death threats. It was good to know someone still admired her, and if the only romance in her life was a carnation four or five times a year, so be it. Her crushed heart wouldn’t be in any danger that way. She usually took the flowers home, but this time, she’d give it to Lucy Green. Why not? The woman deserved a bright spot in her day, too.

The neighborhood hadn’t changed much. Did someone ensure that the geraniums in the window boxes looked exactly the same from year to year? Was a gardener paid to fluff the petals just so? The geraniums she’d hung on her tiny balcony had more than one dead bloom that needed removing. These? Not one.

The Greens lived in a unit on the top floor of a renovated brownstone. As she walked toward the building that had practically been her second home, Faye tried to let go of her frustrations and think of the simpler, happier days when she’d lived just a few blocks away. That had been fifteen years ago; Faye had been sixteen when her life had changed forever. She’d been the fun-loving one, the one people sought when they were down.

“Forgive me. I’m sorry.” God, she hated those words, the last ones her father had penned. She’d trusted him to love her and protect her, but he’d let her down. After one too many bad financial decisions, instead of sticking around and trying to fix things, Dad had taken the easy way out and left her and her mother to pick up the pieces. “Trust no one but yourself” was Faye’s mantra. Sadly, she’d forgotten it four years ago when she’d met Rob, and look at what had happened.

Today, her career was on life support and her heart was broken into so many pieces, she doubted it would ever be whole again. Sometimes, the easy way out didn’t look so bad. Maybe she was more like her father than she thought. She’d certainly made a few bad decisions of her own.

About the author:

new picture of meSusanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. She’s always been an avid reader of all types of books, but always with a penchant for happily ever after romances. In her imagination, she travelled to foreign lands, past and present, and soared into the future. A retired educator, Susanne spends her time writing and creating adventures for her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.

Follow Susanne on her:  Website    Blog    Facebook page    Twitter @jandsmatt

Amazon author page    and    Goodreads author page

Proustian Questionnaire Image BIG
What are your thoughts on muses and do you have one? 

Muses are an interesting breed. Since I’m a pantser, I have to have a muse, otherwise, where would the stories come from? I can’t describe her, but she’s real. She enjoys tormenting me at night—giving me all kinds of great ideas that keep me from sleeping—ideas that disappear when I finally do, and even if I write down some key idea, that doesn’t make sense the next day. But, essentially, she’s kind, and shows up when I need her most. Since a lot of my books are suspense novels, she’s got to be the one with the experience, right?
Characters have a great capacity to love, yet they’re starved. Why do you think this happens in fiction and in real life? 

Love can be a scary thing. If you love someone deeply, you have to lay it all out there, and when you do, you can get hurt.  I think in many ways people are afraid to love. As a writer, I torture my characters, make it hard for them to find love because in real life, finding love and keeping it is a struggle. If it comes too easily, it’s not necessarily going to last. We value what we work hard for.

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

Yes, absolutely. No matter what torment my characters undergo, in the end, things will work out for them.
What would you like to be remembered for?

I’d like to be remembered as someone who made a difference in someone’s life. If they enjoyed reading one of my books that would be great.

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

William Shakespeare. I’d like to know how he’d feel knowing that those plays he wrote by hand have been immortalized. I’d also ask him why he created two such weak men as Hamlet and Macbeth. Even King Lear was powerless.

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

Solidly in the present at least half the time. Since I write historical romance too, I guess 25% of the time I’m in the past. The other 25 % I’m thinking of the future and planning out what I need to do.
What informs your writing most? 

Not quite sure what you mean by this. If you’re asking about my inspiration, then it’s events in the news. I’ll see an article and research various aspects of it until I find a story notion—that’s where the muse kicks in.
Growing up in the Seventies, school kids were encouraged to think globally and act locally. Have you ever flirted with this philosophy? 

Growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, the world was a smaller place. I might dream globally, but I was firmly rooted at home. That really hasn’t changed. I have lots of friends around the globe now, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, but I tends to stay in my own corner of the world.
Guilty pleasures: we all have them. What is yours?

Cheesecake and red wine
Your greatest victory? 

Selling my first novel, Fire Angel. It was a dream come true.
Tell us about the one that got away. Person, place or thing. 

I had a chance to go to Woodstock in 1969, and I turned it down because I didn’t like the idea of having to sleep in a tent. I was 19.
What are some of the overriding themes in your work? Do you have a favorite? 

Good wins out in the end is the overriding theme. I don’t like to see women diminished or minimized in any way. True love always shines in the end.

Who do you admire and why? 

Nora Roberts. She has always been one of my favorite authors and I aspire to be as good as she is one day.

My daughter, Angela, because she has faced adversity and overcome it. She has four young children, and has raised them on her own while working full time. She’s my hero.
Are writers fully formed works of art or works in progress?

A work in progress for sure—one that gets better all the time.

Thank you for dropping by Susanne and much success with THE WHITE CARNATION.

Tomorrow: Author Raegyn Perry showcases LAVENDER FIELDS and muses her way through the Proustian Questionnaire

RP musing

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Heuer Lost and Found Banner 540 x 200

THE FUNKHAUSER ROAD SHOW, DAY 4:  HEUER: WHAT KIND OF NAME IS THAT? Mythical Books, http://www.mythicalbooks.blogspot.ro/

Blog Tour brought to you by:

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Roxanne Rhodes, President and CEO
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Bewitching Book Tours is geared towards the new author, the ebook author, the small and independent press author, and the mid-list author- the author who doesn’t have a huge marketing budget but wants the most bang for their promotional buck.

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.

Bewitching Book Tours specializes in paranormal romance, urban fantasy and paranormal erotica book tours though we tour almost all fiction genres including horror, YA, NA, and all the romance sub-genres (contemporary, historical, thriller, suspense, etc).

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Bewitching Book Tours offers readers the chance to discover new books while getting behind the scenes information about authors, books and characters.

Join us for a virtual book tour -you can read author guest blogs, interviews & book reviews and exclusive excerpts, listen to radio interviews, and participate in chats with the authors- all from the comfort of your home.

And there are always chances for readers to win prizes; free books, gift cards, prize packs, Kindles and more. New tours start every Monday.
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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/

new picture of me

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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 for Authors

Roxanne Rhodes, President and CEO
Roxanne Rhodes, President and CEO

Bewitching Book Tours is geared towards the new author, the ebook author, the small and independent press author, and the mid-list author- the author who doesn’t have a huge marketing budget but wants the most bang for their promotional buck.

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.

Bewitching Book Tours specializes in paranormal romance, urban fantasy and paranormal erotica book tours though we tour almost all fiction genres including horror, YA, NA, and all the romance sub-genres (contemporary, historical, thriller, suspense, etc).

Bewitching for Readers

Bewitching Book Tours offers readers the chance to discover new books while getting behind the scenes information about authors, books and characters.

Join us for a virtual book tour -you can read author guest blogs, interviews & book reviews and exclusive excerpts, listen to radio interviews, and participate in chats with the authors- all from the comfort of your home.

And there are always chances for readers to win prizes; free books, gift cards, prize packs, Kindles and more. New tours start every Monday.
http://www.bewitchingbooktours.com/

 

LOVIN’ THE VAMPIRE: MARIE LAVENDER

 The Authors Marie LavenderRomance author Marie Lavender takes the chair with a view to SECOND NATURE, the first in her BLOOD AT FIRST SIGHT SERIES. Energetic, prolific and with a love for NOW and dark chocolate (see Proust Questionnaire) she radiates positivity. Maybe vampire relationships can work? Welcome, Marie.

 

SECOND NATURE

SecondNature-final cover

She never expected it…
Desiree Edwards has a problem. She’s been attacked, kidnapped and forced to get along with a vampire of all things. It’s something right out of the story books she reads, or her worst nightmare. But, sometimes he’s not the monster he appears to be. He seems so humanlike that she can’t help it when her emotions betray her, when her body betrays her. To make matters worse, she finds out more about herself than she ever wanted to know.
She was unlike any other…
Alec has a problem. The animal in him wants Desiree. But, so does the man. The more he learns about her, the harder it is to deny what he wants. But, he’s a freak, and she’s just a human. The two species don’t mix that way. Then an old enemy surfaces and Alec is forced to make a choice. His life or hers.
Can Alec’s soul be saved by this unique human? Or will it be far too late?

Purchase Links

Universal Amazon:  http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00Q7FWIWA

Publisher:  http://solsticepublishing.com/second-nature/

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/second-nature-marie-lavender/1120879883

CreateSpace link: https://www.createspace.com/5131233 

Book Trailer

http://youtu.be/CaD_-pJ0fE8

Book Excerpt

He chuckled. “You’re amusing, Desiree. I knew I liked you the moment I saw you, as soon as I heard your voice.”

The blood drained from her face. Oh my God. He had been that close when he was stalking her? That was eerie. She thought back to the festival and remembered that feeling of being watched. Natalie had brushed it off, but Desiree had sensed something was wrong. “What if … I had seen you?” she managed weakly.

“You didn’t.”

“But what if I had? Would you have given up your pursuit of me? Would you have lost interest?”

“No.”

“But why?”

“You don’t see your appeal at all, do you?”

She went silent. She honestly didn’t know what to say.

They entered a garage, or at least that’s what she thought it was. He turned the car off and got out. When he opened the passenger side, he caught her foot just in time before she nailed him.

His eyes narrowed. “Play nice, sweetheart. I don’t have to be easy on you.”

“You’ve certainly proven that already.”

“You haven’t seen anything yet.” He grasped her body and jerked her out of the seat.

With the bright lights of the garage over them, she had a better look at him now. Alec was very tall, with wide shoulders and defined muscles that she could see through his black tee shirt. He had black hair that sprung over his head in spiky layers. His eyes were dark, almost without color, with such a hypnotic quality to them that she had to blink. He towered over her and the hard look in his eyes didn’t help any.

She shivered. But, that was his intention, wasn’t it? To keep her off-balanced and afraid? “You’re doing this because I know too much,” she said as she stood before him, even though she was still bound. She firmed her lips for a moment. “Take me back now and I won’t say a word to anyone. I swear. This never happened.”

Author Bio

Mariepic2Bestselling author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 19 other books. 2014 BTS Red Carpet Review Nominee. Finalist and Runner-up in the MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 50 Authors on AuthorsDB.com. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published twenty books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, fantasy, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. Lavender just released Second Nature, a paranormal romance/urban fantasy, in December of 2014. She released Magick & Moonlight, a romantic fantasy, back in March of 2014. Upon Your Honor, released last April, is her second historical romance. Her current series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series and The Blood at First Sight Series. Feel free to visit her website at http://marielavender.com/ for further information about her books and her life. Marie is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

A list of her books and pen names are as follows:

Marie Lavender: Upon Your ReturnMagick & MoonlightUpon Your HonorSecond Nature

Erica Sutherhome: Hard to GetMemoriesA Hint of ScandalWithout YouStrange HeatTerror in the NightHauntedPursuitPerfect GameA Touch of DawnRansomLeather and Lace

Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other RamblingsRamblings, Musings and Other ThingsSoulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things

Author Links
http://marielavender.com/
http://iloveromanceblog.wordpress.com/
http://marielavenderbooks.blogspot.com/
http://marielavender.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/marie.lavender.58
https://www.facebook.com/MarieAnnLavender
https://twitter.com/marielavender1
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MarieLavender/posts
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/marie-lavender/27/187/10a
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6938764.Marie_Lavender
http://authorsdb.com/authors-directory/1578-marie-lavender
http://www.pw.org/content/marie_lavender
http://amazon.com/author/marielavender
http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00Q7FWIWA
http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00JTKTODG
http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00IRKN5P2
http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00I0D9LQ8
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJu8HjRVYCFOqcIoX6ZxdqQ/videos

“A true man does not need to romance a different girl every night, a true man romances the same girl for the rest of her life.”–Ana Alas

Proustian Questionnaire Image BIG

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

Life is my muse. I think that as writers, or at least for myself, we go through experiences, garner knowledge and store it. All of that jumble in our consciousness simmers for awhile and then the muse spits it back out into random ideas, seeds that have the potential to be so much more, stories to be told.


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

It is true that as people, we could probably be kinder, love all human beings more and respect them. We are all human, capable of numerous flaws, with the ability to make mistakes or turn it around and make things right, to carve out a piece of happiness for ourselves. The truth is that those decisions are up to us, and how we look at life within our power. That outlook can color our beliefs in ourselves, and in love. Are people starved for love? Perhaps they are, yet I imagine a lot of their avoidance of love has to do with trust, trust in themselves and other people. Breaking through those barriers is key to finding a deeper understanding of others and opening ourselves up to love.

I think a character is three-dimensional when you give them the ability to love, show them living it on the page and yet still portray the endless array of human emotions in the story. As for seeing starved characters in fiction, if I read a book and I find a character isn’t fully developed, I still see great potential. The author has the opportunity to bring that character to fruition, to delve deeper, to get to the core of the character and discover their hard truths, however heartbreaking and wonderful.

And perhaps the reason why the character is starved is also about trust. It takes a great deal of trust for a writer to relinquish some of their power in order to let a character step into the story and shine in his or her glory. It takes courage to resist the urge to direct everything. As writers, we think we’re in control, but we’re not, not really. We’re along for the ride on this crazy journey of character development. Once a writer starts to truly listen to a character and the story that needs to be told rather than the one he thinks “should” be told, he will never be lost again.


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

I am a firm believer in happy endings, or at least a hint of them. I love reading and writing romance novels, and those usually require an HEA.


What would you like to be remembered for?

I just hope that I have made an impact with my books, that a character will have touched a reader to the point that they will remember him/her for years to come.


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

I’d like to have dinner with Jane Austen. I think she would be quite fascinating to see in person. Based on her prolific books and from what I know about her history, she had great talent and a quick wittedness that I think would lend itself to good dinner conversation.


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

While I do think of my goals for future, I am mainly in the present with occasional thoughts about my past.

What informs your writing most?

Meeting new people, having new experiences and learning as much as I possibly can about different subjects helps to shape my writing.


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

Of course. I have definitely considered volunteering for charities. I already donate to several. But, I think the best thing we can do to honor this philosophy is to lend a helping hand however we can. For now, my efforts are virtual as I offer guest slots on several of my blogs and I try to help my fellow authors out whenever possible. Locally, we can do more by helping out in our own cities. Even just doing a favor for your neighbor or helping a stranger out now and then is a good start.


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

One word…well, all right, it’s two.  Dark chocolate.

Your greatest victory?

Probably getting my first book contract. I can’t even describe how exhilarated I felt when I read that email for the first time, and found out a publisher wanted to publish Upon Your Return.


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

In a past life, I had briefly entertained being a music performer. Fate did not see fit to have that happen, and I think I’m better for it because writing is my true calling.


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

Some themes are love, honor, survivalism, the importance of family, strength and hope. I think I tend to write a lot about strong characters who endured some major traumas in life, and how they rose from the ashes to attain their goals. So, the survivalist theme resonates for several characters.


Who do you admire and why?

I admire my fiancé for his beliefs, and the way he pursues his dreams fearlessly. I am so proud of him.


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

Whether you’re born with ability to write or you learn it somewhere along the way, I believe we all have room for improvement. We should seek to better ourselves, to develop our skills and cater to our writing careers the way you’d groom yourself for any other career. So, yes, we are, in a sense, still works in progress.

Thank you Marie Lavender for taking care of my site today. Be sure and include Marie on your authors to read list!

Rival Gates Suit Enhanced(2)_peTomorrow: Rival Gates, Author of QUEST FOR THE RED SAPPHIRE, Book 1 of The Sapphire Chronicles. http://www.rivalgates.com/

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DAY 2: FUNKHAUSER GETS BEHIND THE SPIRIT OF HEUER ON Author Rachael Stapleton’s The Mysterious Ink Spot, http://rachaelstapleton.blogspot.ca/

TAKING CHARGE: AUTHOR JOHN DEBOER

The Authors John DeBoerThe page welcomes John DeBoer, our first guest in a spotlight series that will cover the site in tandem with the Blog Tour. Today, John offers up two selections from his authorial archive and boldly tries on the site’s Proustian questionnaire. Eureka! Thank you, John.

THE BOOKS…

Get the Picture

Get the pictureJack Lansing, M.D. is a widower who’s now ready to get on with his life when a chance meeting with a beautiful young woman changes everything – but not in the way he hopes. After a one-night tryst with the enticing vixen, the unsuspecting surgeon finds himself the target of a powerful U.S. senator, organized crime, and a figure from his past he’d long forgotten – all because he succumbs to the charms of a woman he can’t resist, despite the predicament she has put him in. Beginning in Jack’s once-peaceful beach town, a deadly game of sex, money, and retribution plays out to a thrilling conclusion.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

The Sincerest Form of FlatteryFormer surgeon Jack Lansing, M.D. has become a bestselling mystery writer. At a book-signing event he meets an old colleague who, unbeknownst to Jack, has carried a grudge against him for thirty years. Then murders start popping up in and around Jack’s peaceful beach town – murders that mimic the plots in his books and make him a suspect. Jack must convince the police and the FBI of his innocence while trying to solve the mystery himself. Because, realizes, he and his wife could be the killer’s final victims. It is a chilling tale of twists and turns worthy of Jack’s imagination. But this time he doesn’t know how it will end.

Proustian Questionnaire Image BIG

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

A: I hesitate to invoke Greek mythology to explain what overcomes my “thinking blocks,” but perhaps there is a Muse-like feature we all carry in our brains. All I know is that when stuck thinking of an idea for my next book, or trying to figure out what my character will do next in the one I’m working on, I always manage, though it might take days or even weeks, to have that Eureka! moment. So far.

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

A: Love makes the world go around, as they say. Some have it, others don’t but want it. It’s the human condition. I’ve written novels in which the journey to attain love is part and parcel of the story, but in other novels of mine, an abiding love is already present and provides the foundation, the support, for the protagonist’s struggle with conflict. So I don’t think a character, or a real person, for that matter, needs to be always searching for it.

Q: Without giving specifics, would you say you’re a “happy ending” writer?

A: Yup. That’s me. My story conflicts all get resolved in favor of the good guys.

Q: What would you like to be remembered for?

A: Irrespective of career accomplishments, I’d like to be remembered as a good person.

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

A:  I’d like to have dinner with Yogi Berra. His unintentional wit has always amused me, and he seems like a genuinely funny guy. I think our senses of humor are compatible. And I love Italian food!

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

A: Well, I have a long past, the results of which, especially my family growing up and aging, I continue to see in the present. And this naturally leads to musings about what the future has in store for them. I suppose I dwell in the present – have to write and promote those books! – but I can’t escape thinking of what preceded the now and what lies ahead.

Q: What informs your writing most?

A: Reading . I’m a voracious reader of books in my genre, and seeing what works in them and what doesn’t makes me a better writer for it.

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

A: I assume this question is meant to inquire whether global events affect what I do in my home town. Two of my novels – one published, the other being written – have international aspects, and attendant author points of view, but other than that, I don’t think I’m in the position to respond in a meaningful way to foreign situations. All I can do is use the power of persuasion to sway votes for those who do have the power to effect change in the world for the good.

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

A: Junk food. Not the sugary, dessert-like goodies, but those other snacks that go very nicely with an adult beverage. I’ve never met a chip I didn’t like!

Q: Your greatest victory?

A: Getting my wife to marry me!

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

A: Linda Anderson. I was smitten with her in junior high school. Alas, it was unrequited puppy love, and I never got the chance to see if it would bloom, because my family moved away, and I never saw her again. Are you still out there, Linda?

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

A: I try to have different themes in my novels, but the overriding driver in my stories is what is common to all thrillers – the triumph of the good guys against sinister forces.

Q: Who do you admire and why?

A:  Professionally speaking, I, of course, admire the stars of my genre – DeMille, Connelly, Iles, Crais, Child, etc. But I don’t know them as people; I’m not even on their Christmas card lists. The one person I admire the most, and forgive me for getting a little mushy here, is my wife. Not only has she put up with me all these years, her constant effort to do the right thing and her innate ability to put all those she meets at ease, not to mention her work ethic, are what I find most admirable.

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

A: Ha! I can only speak for myself, but my experiences with other writers, and learning about the early struggles of those writers now at the top of their profession, leads me to the conclusion that we’re all works in progress!

THE BIOGRAPHY

After graduating from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, John L. DeBoer, M.D., F.A.C.S. completed a surgical residency in the U.S. Army and then spent three years in the Medical Corps as a general surgeon. Thirty years of private practice later, he retired to begin a new career as a writer.

When not creating new plot lines for his novels, Dr. DeBoer pursues his interests in cooking, films and film history,  politics, and the amazing cosmos.  Though he’s an avid tennis player, his yet-to-be-fulfilled goal is to achieve a level of mediocrity in the frustrating game of golf.

The father of two grown sons, he lives with his wife in North Carolina.

 LINKS

http://www.amazon.ca/Sincerest-Form-Flattery-John-DeBoer-ebook/dp/B00W23X3CK/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1429530507&sr=8-2&keywords=John+DeBoer

http://www.amazon.ca/Get-Picture-John-L-DeBoer-ebook/dp/B00VKYI2VY/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1429530586&sr=1-3&keywords=John+DeBoer

http://www.amazon.com/Get-Picture-John-L-DeBoer-ebook/dp/B00VKYI2VY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1429530682&sr=8-2&keywords=John+DeBoer

http://www.amazon.com/Sincerest-Form-Flattery-John-DeBoer-ebook/dp/B00W23X3CK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1429530682&sr=8-3&keywords=John+DeBoer

Thanks for taking the chair, John. Tomorrow: Romance author Marie Lavender talks SECOND NATURE, BLOOD AT FIRST SIGHT, Book 1 in a series. 

Mariepic2

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Heuer Lost and Found Banner 540 x 200DAY 1: FUNKHAUSER TALKS SOME NON FICTION http://shylawolff.blogspot.com/

Can a fly interview a rat? Malay Upadhyay thinks so. Funkhauser doesn’t argue.

It was with great pleasure that I appeared recently on fellow Solstice author Malay Upadhyay’s blog AUTHORZ & CHARACTERZ in support of the upcoming release of HEUER LOST AND FOUND. Photo - Malay UpadhyayYou may recall that Malay was featured here recently to promote his work Kalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea. Like yours truly, Malay has no problem whatever assigning qualities magical and mystical to humble creatures. In that spirit, he endeavoured to interview me IN CHARACTER; in this case as the incomparable Rat, whose influence in Heuer’s funeral parlor exceeds what one might normally expect. Reproduced today…

Interview with A. B. Funkhauser

Hallo, guyz! Today we are going to teeter around a deathly zone – a fine line between thiz and that world. Az our ezteemed guide, we have A. B. Funkhauser, a funeral director cum wildlife and clazzic car enthuziazt from Ontario, Canada.

Zhe takez uz through her debut novel, Heuer Lost And Found – which combinez Adult, Paranormal and Dark Humor in a fiction – az a rather unexpected creature.

Fly: Welcome, Mz. Funkhauser. I zee you are in a different mold today.

AB: You bet, Fly. Rats have a nasty reputation, but there’s more to me than good looks and an above average competency in Latin. We are clean, clever and very friendly, which is why my life and death in HEUER LOST AND FOUND is celebrated favourably by most of the characters.

Fly: That’z awesome! If it’s any support, flies get a bad rap too. But here we are in a funeral parlor. What’s new?

New Funkhauser ShotRat: Silent. More than usual. The guys – Enid and her manager, Charlie – are trying to make ends meet because deaths have been few and that has robbed them of their payroll! Heuer’s death, while hard on Enid, was the first death call in weeks. He really saves the day.

Fly: I find a zcary zenze of irony in all this! But let’z talk about the novel. Heuer Lost & Found beginz with the death of Jürgen Heuer. How did your alter ego come by that idea?

Rat: It was in the winter of 2010, and after a long day at the funeral home she looked down the long hall joining the director’s office to the back door leading three steps up and out into the parking lot. The back door on the cover is a more than accurate representation of it. It’s from a real funeral home, you know? Anyway, a thought occurred to her at that moment: What if a slightly life-challenged mortician tripped over her man shoes and landed squarely on her posterior, only to learn that someone she once knew and cared about had died, and that she was next on the staff roster to care for his remains? Freaky, no? But there it is Ad infinitum

Fly: Tell uz about Heuer?

Rat: Beyond a word rhyming with “lawyer,” Heuer the lawyer is a very conflicted man. Intensely private, heElevator - Copy craves recognition, but doesn’t want anyone to get too close. When he finds my shattered body on the floor of the Wisteria Slumber Room, he approaches, commenting on the exceptional beauty of my fur. At that moment, he recognizes beauty in an unlikely thing. I found this particularly charming about him. I must confess, however, to being more than a little put out when he confronts my murderer. I had great hopes for moral redress; instead, he takes pity and tries to help her. What can I say? Ecce homo.

Fly: That’z exciting. Where can the readerz get accezz to theze?

Rat: Through Amazon.com .ca .co.uk Bookgoodies and the publisher www.solsticepublishing.com. Here are some buy links:

Buy Link (United States)

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Heuer-Lost-Found-B-Funkhauser-ebook/dp/B00V6KLAMA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1427367625&sr=1-1&keywords=heuer+lost+and+found

Buy Link International (Country specific Amazon sites)

Book Goodies: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B00V6KLAMA

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25232328-heuer-lost-and-found?from_search=true

Direct buy presale link (United States): http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=A.B.%20Funkhauser&search-alias=digital-text&sort=relevancerank

Also, information will be posted as it becomes available on her website www.abfunkhauser.com and her author page on Facebook www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound. I believe she posted a most excellent profile of your alter ego there, Fly. (laughs)

Fly: Zome inspiration that. What would you zay haz inzpired A.B. Funkhauser in real life?

Rat: She has an amazing support group—her family, her writer’s group The Brooklin 7, and pretty well everyone she comes into contact with, from friends at the grocery store and local coffee house to the lady who helps her with her printing at Staples. She also maintains close connections to friends and work colleagues in funeral service, a business I must say that can easily be misunderstood with little effort. She believes in the work, and through writing has tried to shine a light on it.

Fly: And any author or artizt can vouch for how important thoze things are. Working as a funeral director, what iz Mz. Funkhauser’z take on life?

Rat: 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. She celebrates it daily, from simple chores to writing new chapters. And she loves the outdoors. It’s been a long winter here in Canada. She needs to get outside and roam.

Enid - CopyFly: In the ztory, we have Enid on one zide, who lozez zomeone important to her – Heuer – without a chance to zay a final goodbye. On the other zide, we have Heuer whose ztory, and in zome way, life itself unfoldz after hiz death. In a zingle ztroke, you introduce uz readerz to both our greatezt fear and our greatezt wizh!

Take uz through thiz experience with regardz to getting zecond chancez in life. Which perzpective would you zay you lean more towards in real life?

Rat: The first thing Funkhauser got rid of after her thirtieth birthday was the idea that all she had in front of her was second chances. She decided instead to roll with the idea that it’s all a continuum…good days, bad days, successes and failures. She refuses to see the end. She sees the next day and all the promise that comes with it. On a micro level, if she suffers less than three disappointments in a day, it’s been a pretty amazing day!

The character Heuer in life goes through the motions of working and acquiring “stuff”. His house is literally packed to the ceiling with ‘treasures’ signifying a life in progress. But there is no real human contact. He avoids his neighbors wherever possible, does not have a spouse or significant other, and lives through what he sees on the television and in old photos. After death, being found is prime to him because his objects can’t call for help, and there is no one out there looking for him.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Enid. She has done everything her society expects of her: she has a career, a spouse, family, friends and hobbies. But her life is changing. Her eyesight is blurred; her step, less sure footed. “There is unfinished business here,” Heuer says, and it’s to that business that the book turns; so not so much a second chance, but a recognition that the drama and comedy are still continuing.

Fly: That anomaly iz a work of art! I have to bring up a literal one at thiz point, though – The Lamp. Very much living, myzteriouz and absolutely fascinating! Care to introduce uz to it?

The Lamp embodies the spirit of the funeral home matriarch who died decades before. Anchored to the floor by her griffin’s feet, she can travel in the minds of others, but cannot leave her place in the dusty, cramped funeral home basement. There is a parallel here; that her domicile closely resembles Heuer’s and that their predicaments are similar. It was inevitable that the two should become allies, although their relationship is a strained one.

Fly: And you embody one of them?

More Heuer, I think. As I said earlier, rats have a bad rap owing to history and human malfeasance. The same is true for Heuer. He carries with him the sins of his father. Just by being born, he is convinced that he is bad, and rather than try to overcome it, he embraces it in his twenties. The tragedy for him is that his life is a lie and all the angst that ruled him in life was completely without merit.

Fly: Alright, don’t say anymore! I can barely control my urge to flip through the pagez right till the very end. When doez the book come out?

Rat: It hits all the AMAZONS April 23, 2015. Presales began March 26, 2015.

Fly: Time to mark our calendarz then. For now, we make do with the preview. Thank you, dear Rat, for your attendance today.

Rat: You can call me ‘The’. That’s my first name.

Fly: Really?! Mine too! Damn, what are the chances??Rat

Rat: (laughs) That’s my point, dear friend. You and I share the same hang-ups. Of course we’d align. Amicitiae nostrae memoriam spero sempiternam fore.

Fly: The Fly, mind you. It’s time to get out of the funeral parlour! And to all the readerz, enjoy the excerpt from Heuer’z pozthumouz world!

Happy living,

The Fly

It's happening April 23, 2015
It’s happening April 23, 2015

 AN EXCERPT FEATURING “RAT”

Rat should have seen it coming. He was a rat after all and therefore genetically predisposed to a shorter life. As such, he should have taken better care. But tender concern for his friend obscured his view, and this deprived him of a rodent’s perfunctory need to avoid detection.

Mrs. Emmy Shawson-Cooke-With-An-”E” late of The Springs by way of Baycon Hill had died quietly in her bed in her ninety-sixth year. Owing to her advanced age, her family decided that a little-more-than-this-side-of-nothing was required to get her on her way as quickly as possible. To that, arrangements were concluded between Teddy Shawson-Cooke-With-An-”E,” her great nephew and heir, and Charles Emerson Forsythe, funeral director extraordinaire.

“I’m very sad to hear of your great aunt’s passing,” Charlie said somberly, for he liked Emmy very much. A wealthy woman, she was a doyen, a neighborhood fixture, raising funds for world wild life, Christian children and Ethiopian famine relief. But she was more than just money. At the heart of her was a genuinely good human being who said what she meant, and acted on her commitments. In the early years, she was a constant fixture at Weibigand’s, resplendent in a magnificent suite of emeralds that Charlie never tired of commenting upon. “I bring in the business, don’t I Charlie?” she would say through cherry lips under a pillbox hat. Indeed she did, and Charlie encouraged her familiarity. Both shared a special bond. Even after her (some said) forced relocation to the nursing home in The Springs, she never failed to fire off emails to her Charlie to make sure he was okay. And Charlie always visited her on her birthday and at Christmas.

Emeralds? Rat was barely two years old and so had never met Emmy Shawson-Cooke. But he knew well enough about gemstones and other things too, and so it was to this that he turned his attention as he repositioned himself inside Charlie’s monk strap Prada slip on. They were in the front office, Rat’s favorite room by far. It faced the street, was pleasantly lit, and with its high coffered ceiling, offered stunning acoustical advantages. Charlie was reminiscing with Teddy about the gemstones: They sparkled blue at their centers, spanning outward only to be confined devilishly in beveled frames of seawater green. Spectacular—like the Bering Strait meeting the Caribbean Sea. Emmy’s late husband Cecil joked that they could shame Tsars and tease laughs from stone.

“I beg your pardon,” Charlie said noticing Rat beneath him. It was Charlie’s habit to remove his shoes in mid-afternoon to promote better circulation, but they were in the way now under the large desk and he took care not to disturb the Weibigand mascot as he moved the shoes off to one side.

Teddy Shawson-Cooke shifted from haunch to haunch, his incredible heft straining the pound for pound capacity of the Faux Toscano Victorian Rococo wing chair he was sitting on. Forsythe, sensing the man’s discomfort, did his best to speed up the meeting. Emmy had prearranged her funeral and Teddy was undoing as much of it as he could because, he said, “there was no one left” and “doing her up for nothing was just plain stupid.” Truth was, Teddy had the power to add the money saved from a cheapo funeral to his aunt’s estate, from which he could pay himself as executor.

Charlie smiled down at Rat who, in an act of implicit trust, dozed off in his shoe.

“Allow me, if you will, to think out loud,” Charlie said, in anticipation of what Teddy wanted to serve up next. If the meeting went on much longer, Emmy’s casket choice would be undone too and no one at Weibigand’s—Charlie most all—could bear to put Emmy into anything less than the mahogany she’d paid for years before. “Your great aunt put her faith in us to carry out her wishes. I understand where you are coming from, but I must insist on the single night of visiting she paid for.”

Shawson-Cooke, in saying nothing, red-flagged Charlie, and he picked up speed. “Now the emerald suite. I trust she will be wearing it, as always?” Teddy replied that it was “long gone” save for the ring which, he hoped, “found its way out of the nursing home before someone else got to it.”

Down on the floor below, Rat dreamed of Carla and, more particularly, her less than utterly no-good spouse Danny Blue—a musician in a band that had, in the space of two years, eroded the family fortune on protracted road trips through northern Canada. Designed to boost the band’s profile and hopefully springboard them into other gigs in Manitoba, the latest tour had bogged down south of Parry Sound and Danny Blue had forgot to come home. The issue at hand was money. Plain and simple. And in dreams, Rat searched for a solution.

Thank you Malay for your kind hospitality. All the best to you and much success for Kalki Evian.

Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Bookgoodies. Check out my review on Goodreads.
Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Bookgoodies. Check out my review on Goodreads.

Radio Funkhauser, Part Deux

The nascent author discusses funeral parloring, Six Feet Under, lasting friendships and never looking back in part 2 of her first ever radio interview for 102.7 FM Whistle Radio Stouffville. Woot! Woot!

FIRST RADIO INTERVIEW

Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a faraway galaxy, I worked in politics. It was an amazing world peopled with amazing speech makers, luminescent scribes, and ambitious policy makers jostling to get the words out.

Which is why there’s a little thing called ‘media training’. Broadly defined, media training encompasses everything from elocution to breathing to physical deportment. Perspiration was a “no, no” — Richard Nixon debating Kennedy back in ’60 cemented that — as was the exclamatory pause “um”. Um was anathema, and as I watched politicians prep from debates, I picked up a thing or two…

Good thing, because it’s my turn now. Last month, I talked up HEUER LOST AND FOUND with Charlene Jones on 102.7 FM Whistle Radio Stoufville. It was a privilege to have been given the opportunity.

“Don’t say “um,” I kept saying to myself, “for cryin’ out loud DON’T.” And I didn’t, thank gawd.

Scheduled to air March 24, I just had to share a “sneak peek”.

The Interview

HEUER LOST AND FOUND available April 23, 2015. Advance orders begin March 26 at Amazon.com.

solstice publishing

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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