Review: Bands of Mourning

Bands of Mourning

by Brandon Sanderson

Reviewed by JMD Reid

B00R697BC8.01.LZZZZZZZIt is the day of Wax and Steris’s wedding, and he is not ready to remarry. The wounds of being forced to kill his first wife for the second time still haunts Wax. His marriage to Sterris is one of political and economic necessity. But Wax has promised to marry her, and he will grit his teeth and get through the ceremony.

Of course, nothing ever goes right around Wax. When a kandra shows up needing Wax’s help and the nearby water tower collapses and floods the church in the middle of the ceremony, another adventur has begun. In New Seran, a kandra has almost been killed after coming across the location of the Lord Rulers bracers, the Bands of Mourning. Reputed to be the source of the Lord Rulers inhuman powers, they are coveted by all, including Wax’s devious uncle and the nefarious group he works for.

Not wanting to help Harmony and the kandra after their betrayal, but unable to resist the urge to hunt his uncle down and recover his kidnap sister, Wax joins the group. Accompanied by his disreputable friend Wayne, the intrepid constable Marsai, his fiancee Steris, and the kandra MeLaan, Wax heads off on an adventure that will change everything for the people of Elendel.

Bands of Mourning was a rollercoaster ride. Brandon weaves almost every pulp story in existence into this tale from Westerns (including a classic train robbery), detective story, and more (I don’t want to spoil this one). Wax and his group have never faced such danger as they try to dicover what the mysterious Set, the shadowy organization bent seizing power in Elendel. The characters have grown and changed, but Steris really shines. In Alloy of Law I did not like her. I wanted Wax to end up with Marsai. But the last two books, especially this one, shows just how great a match she is for Wax.

But there’s more than just Wax’s love life in this book. So much happens. Just when you thought you understood how Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy works, Brandon throws curve balls. MeLaan and Wayne continue to entertain, and it’s great seeing how far Marsai has come from the first book where she blushed at everything (though she does have her occasional blush).

The stakes only grow higher in this book, setting the stage for the final book in the Mistborn Era 2 series, The Last Metal. This book packed some emotional wallops. There were times I was at the edge of my seat, my stomach twisting in disbelief at what was happening.

If you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn, and the Cosmere, you will eat this book up. And if you’ve never read Brandon Sanderson, you are missing out. Pick up the first Mistborn book (this is not the place to start) and fall in love with one of the modern masters of Fantasy.

Bands of Mourning is available from Amazon.

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Poem – Frozen Fence

Frozen Fence

by J.M.D. Reid

Summer’s sun shining bright
Driving back morning chill
Steam rises from frozen fence
Curling and dancing
Heat and cold do war
Summer’s clash against Winter’s grip
Ice melting, frost vanishing
Small victory for Summer’s sun
But night approach signals Winter’s counter
The seasons clash and beauty made
in steam rising from frozen fence

Written on my porch as the sun rose the morning of December 30th, 2015 are remarking upon the steam rising off a my fence.

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Holiday Story Hop

12316547_1082152235149168_1254456753972741155_nThe Grotesque’s Favorite Season

by JMD Reid

The grotesque enjoyed winter. It was his favorite season. He perched atop the Gothic cathedral, forever frozen in stone, gazing down at the square before the church. His eyes never closed. For centuries he had watched.

The grotesque didn’t mind forever watching over his church. He was proud to perch, carved from Oise limestone, giving him that cream-gray warmth weathered dark in the crevasses by his centuries of watching. His face was shaped into a fierce beast, his mouth open and bristling with jagged teeth, his hands ending in sharp claws, and his wings half-open as if he were at any moment about to spring down and defend his cathedral.

It was his duty.

The grotesque embrace his duty. He was no gargoyle, which he was often mistaken for in these days. He was a guardian, not a fanciful drain spout jetting from the side of the cathedral. His job was not to protect the stone but the soul of the building.

He was one of dozens forever frozen on the cathedral. He was right over the entrance, crouching on a ledge on the mighty steeple.

From here, the city itself was laid out to him. He could see it all. He had watched the buildings come and go, rising and falling as the humans forever changed and reshaped their world, erasing the past for the future.

But the grotesque remained.

He watched the ebb and flow of humanity coming and going, the fashion slowly changing year by year. He witnessed great festivities, terrible plagues, wars, funerals, weddings, christenings, revolutions, surrenders, and more. Every facet of humanity had at one time passed beneath him.

The seasons ebbed with the year, bringing cold rains, blustering winds, beating warmth, and fluffy snow. It was too cold for the drenching rains that every year ate away at his form, blunting his sharp edges and wearing away at his flesh. He hated the rain.

But he loved the snow.

The snow transformed and made everything beautiful. It hid all the ugly vagaries of the world beneath blankets of undulating whites.

As the year drew to its end, the snow became more common. The attitude changed. The holiday seasons had arrived. The gargoyle enjoyed watching the pageantry and spectacles. The mood seemed somehow lighter despite the cold gripping the city. Children played and romped while indulgent parents watched. Revelers sang in the night.

He could never partake of the celebrations. But he could watch.

Vicariously, he enjoyed the fellowship, brotherhood, and companionship the holidays brought. Gifts were exchanged, families reunited, hope burgeoning for the coming new year. The grotesque hoped they all appreciated what they had.

Freedom. Family. Joy. Hope.

All things he would never know. He was a grotesque. A statue carved by men dead almost a millennium. A soulless thing content with his purpose.

Winter was his favorite season, even if the snow sometimes built up on his head and robbed him of his ferocity.

Check out Tim Hemlin’s Story for links of other short, Christmas tales.

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Review: Burning Doors

Burning Doors

by Renee N. Meland

Reviewed by JMD Reid

B00W7GV018.01.LZZZZZZZIn the wake of an economic collapse in the United States and a plague that devastated Europe, the world is a darker place. Crime is rampant in the US, particularly juvenile crime. Cain lives in fear of his abusive father, waiting for the day that the Parental Morality Act is passed. But it doesn’t come fast enough, and he beats his father to death with a pipe.

Forced to flee to the streets, Cain is plunged into the underbelly of third-world America. His life is aimless until a priest takes pity on Cain and gives him shelter. When Cain wants to return the favor to a younger boy, he finds himself embroiled with a sixteen-year-old madam of a brothel/drug dealer.

Maureen is strong, ruthless, and beautiful. Cain can’t help his attraction to her even as he is repulsed by her business. But when one of Maureen’s johns gets violent, she’s forced to defend herself. The only problem, the dead man is a corrupt cop.

I wasn’t expecting Burning Doors to be a prequel to the Extraction List. It follows the life of Cain and shows how he becomes such a ruthless, yet caring, man. The man who would help a young girl and her mother escape to safety. It’s a tragic tale and while I had hoped for a continuation of the story, I found myself caught up in the story. This is a bleak look at society’s crumble.

Burning Doors is available from Amazon.

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Halloween Story Hop

The Halloween Story Hop

halloween-storyhop

Helpless

Thanks to Lynette Creswell for allowing me to participate. When you’re down with my story, click here to head on over to her blog and check out the thirteen other Halloween shorts!

The door opened.

I came awake as the malevolent gaze swept over me. I was in bed, lying on my side. I could see the doorway and the Shadow standing within it. The thing was darker than black, a pool of emptiness in vaguely the shape of a man.

Red eyes burned as they looked at me. I was a bug to the Shadow. I was a little insect for him to squish. Terror seized me. I tried to move, to flee before the gaze. But my body wouldn’t obey. I was paralyzed by his gaze.

A great weight settled on my chest. My heart screamed. I struggled to move my mouth and cry out. I tried to force words out anyways. I could breath, but I couldn’t make my vocal cords work. The air rushed out as panic claimed me.

And the Shadow watched.

Why? Why does he come for me? Why does he stand there with those burning eyes? Those eyes glowed with red hatred. The Shadow despised me. He wanted to consume me. He just had to enter the room, walk two steps, and he would be at my bed.

Move. Why won’t you move?

My body refused to obey. Every part of me felt weighted with lead. I fought as those eyes burned into my soul. I struggled to kick off my blanket. I didn’t want to be helpless. I wanted to drive the Shadow away.

Stop haunting me, demon.

Shadow didn’t care. I could struggle all I wanted to. I was at his mercy. He could swallow my soul at his leisure.

My jaw moved. With a herculean effort, I formed a word and cried out, “Go…away…”

My words came out strangled. It was such a tiny amount of defiance against the Shadow, but it gave me hope. If one part of me could move, then so could more of me. My limbs moved an inch. My blankets surged. I clawed at the lead weighting me down. I ripped them free from my limbs.

In an explosion of movement, my jerked up and threw off my blankets.

The Shadow was gone. My bedroom door was still closed.

The sleep paralysis attack was over and the nightmare fled. I could move again. My heart raced. Sweat drenched my body.

Wasn’t real,” I muttered to myself. It was the same thing I told myself after every attack. “It’s just a natural phenomenon. My body messed up when I woke up. The part of my brain that was supposed to tell my body it was okay to move had messed up. The Shadow was just a dream. A nightmare. It wasn’t real.”

Right?

The Shadow couldn’t have really been there staring at me with such hatred.

Scientist claimed sleep paralysis, while not fully understood, was a natural phenomenon. And that it was only a coincidence that most people who suffer from it claim to see dark figures during their episodes. Some even think that sleep paralysis attacks were responsible for legends of demons and, in more recent times, alien abductions.

I could believe that theory. There was a part of me that wondered if the Shadow was a demon. I tried to fight that part of me with my rational mind. But ration did not exist during the attacks. When in the grips of sleep paralysis, I was beyond such logical thoughts. They were not a bulwark against the Shadow.

Sleep eluded me. I was afraid that the Shadow would turn. That I would again be helpless while he stared at me. I gave up. I started my day, the fear worming through my belly. I had no one I could talk to. It would only sound crazy.

The Shadow wasn’t real. He couldn’t do anything to me. My rational side of my mind offered argument after argument my other half rejected.

The next night, I couldn’t sleep. Fear gripped me. What if he came again? What if I had another attack? I was scared of sleep. If I didn’t fall into my dreams, the Shadow couldn’t open the door and afflict another episode of sleep paralysis.

It was so stupid. There was no Shadow. He was just a dream. I kept telling myself that. I wasn’t haunted by a demon. I wasn’t. Exhaustion finally claimed me. I fell into sleep.

The Shadow did not come.

The next night, the fear was still there but dwindling. And on the third night, complacency slipped in. I never had attacks that often. There were often months between them. I didn’t need to worry so soon. I could forget my fear. I didn’t have to worry about being helpless for a while.

I fell into sleep. Dreams passed, merging from one half-remembered melange of images to another.

The door opened.

My eyes opened. I was on my back. The Shadow was above me. He hovered in the air, his eyes burning with hatred. Fear seized me. The Shadow had never entered my bedroom. He had never passed beyond the door. He never profaned my room with his presence.

What changed?

The Shadow reached down for me.

My body was covered in lead. I was encased in it. Every inch of me was weighed down. I struggled to breath as I fought to move. I could only stare helpless as he reached for my soul. I tried to throw up bulwarks of rationality before me. The Shadow wasn’t real. He wasn’t reaching for my soul. There was nothing there that could hurt me.

The Shadow didn’t care about such logic. He ripped rational thought to shreds.

Those inky fingers drew nearer. I fought against my body. I screamed impotent rage in my mind. I just needed to break free. If I could get one part of me to move, I could escape. I concentrated on my legs, urging them to move. I tried to flex my toes.

Nothing obeyed me.

It’s just a dream. It’s not real. Please, God, it’s not real.

The fingers were only an inch above my face.

You’re not real. You’re just a figment of my imagination.

The Shadow seemed to laugh, But what if I am real?

The fingers touched my soul.

Thanks again to Lynette Creswell and Valerie Hemlin for inviting me! Click here to head on over to her blog and check out the thirteen other Halloween shorts! It’s a great collection of Indie authors!

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Interview with Autumn M. Brit

51w0Olv36sL._UX250_This week, I got to delve into the wonderful mind of Autumn M. Brit. She’s one of the many delightful indie authors I’ve discovered since embarking into the world of self-publishingShe has two series under he belt, a Fantasy series called ‘Rise of the Fifth Order’ (a wonderful series) and a dystopian future series Friends of My Enemy (on my TBR list).

First, let’s get to know Autumn with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

I’m a practical girl so the first two books would be one on botany and the use of any and all plants found on the island. I want to know what can be used to make fiber like linen and rope strength as much as poisonous or not! The second book would be Wilderness First Aid. You know, just in case!

But the last book… that is a tough one. My first thought was the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, but I think I’d like a book I hadn’t read. If I can stretch the rules a bit, I’d love to the a compilation of all books in the Guin Saga. It looks so fascinating! I love heroic fantasy and at 130 books … well to have time to finish it I’d have to be stuck on a deserted island. Hopefully by the time I reached the end I’d have been rescued … or made myself a sailboat. 😉

How thick would a 130 book anthology be? Well, it would definitely keep you busy!

What animal best describes your personality?

If I can choose any animal: dragon. Totally a dragon. BUT my husband likes to limit me to ‘real’ creatures. sigh. In that case, my totem is an owl. And that really does suit me. I tend to be quiet and observe. And owls (like dragons) have no major predators and are amazing hunters. I like that they are a traditional magical creature too, being a night hunter. It grants them the mythos of being able to fly between the spirit world and our world, which is probably why they are often selected as familiars for wizards and witches. An owl is also the symbol of the goddess Athena and her Roman incarnation Diana. Can’t go wrong when you choose something representing the goddess of war and wisdom!

What do you mean dragons aren’t real? Next, you’ll say there aren’t elves!

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

This one is hard because I love to travel and there are so many places I want to go. In the last year I crossed off two of the top journeys on my list: hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu and Alaska. I really want to go to Iceland, preferably in the winter where I can soak in a hot spring and watch amazing auroras. And I’d really love to see a good meteor shower anchored in a sheltered lagoon off a sand spit of an island one day. Somewhere you can watch stars fall all the way to the horizon. And I’d love to hike a really long trek. The AT would be nice of even the PCT, but there are some really cool journeys in Nepal and Mongolia that are less well known and would be incredible. So this didn’t really answer your question, because I’m not sure I can choose between those three. I’m thinking I’ll make my way to Iceland first, but you never know!

Soaking in a hot spring and watching nature’s beauty painted across the sky! Nice!

Are you a cat or dog person?

Well when I was younger, I had cats. But my family also had one dog throughout my childhood. I wanted a dog as a hiking companion when I was in college, but of course couldn’t sneak one into my dorm. So when I met the man who became my husband and then met his Cairn Terrier … well I just knew I’d do anything to be with that dog! So as an adult, I’m a dog person.

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

I love history and so this one took some thought. There are so many interesting people who have lived! Buddha would be awesome. Or Confuscious? Hmm … As a final decision though, I’m going to say Sappho. I admire her poetry, or at least the few fragments we have remaining of it. What has endured is her amazing legend as one of the most famous poets of antiquity. So I’d love to hear more of her poetry – from her! – and about her life. Can you imagine learning what legends she holds of what the world was like before 600 BCE? And really, how could you not want to meet the poet who wrote:

Although they are
only breath, words
which I command
are immortal

What a great quote! I see why you like her.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

Living! That may seem like a tossed off answer, but I’m serious. I love life and the adventure/journey of it. I’m never bored and even on the horrid days I know there will be a balance of amazing ones. I joke that even if I had a thousand years, life would be too short. I want to fill it with so much and get frustrated by the limitations of body (which thankfully isn’t so bad at the moment!) and money/society. Why on earth do I have to earn a living? I want to see sunrises all over the world, taste food from every culture, and share a smile with strangers. I want to write amazing tales that inspire others to do the same. I want days with my family to really enjoy being with them. Everything always feels so rushed, because we don’t have a thousand years and we do have to earn a living, and you end up missing some of the best moments running to the next thing. I guess that I’m passionate about smelling the flowers on the way.

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

Because I can’t draw the ideas I see in my head. But I can write them pretty well. Honestly I was on track to be an artist and even have my BA in Studio Art – but it is also in English. I’ve picked away at writing while in high school and college, but didn’t get serious until I was 35 when I realized I got a lot more enjoyment out of writing than I did drawing. And then I stumbled into the epublishing aspect and that gave me an outlet (selling artwork is not that easy!).

I love the challenge of writing. Crafting a comprehensive story is only the first part. I get into subtleties such a hidden clues in chapter headings to word choice based on a character POV. Writing, and by that I mean everything from creating a story, writing it, and editing it to high polish, stimulates my brain like nothing else. I write first for me, because I love trying to write the best story I can and because I love delving so deeply into the characters and plots of what might have only been a ten minute daydream. When I hear back that someone loved it to, or picked up on a tiny clue buried in the prose … oh it is so awesome!

I know what you mean. I was speaking to a beta reader on my second fantasy novel, and was thrilled when she made noticed foreshadowing I planted!

 

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

I’ve tried both ways. I wrote Born of Water with a very general idea that could have been summed up in three sentences. And I immediately got lost and bogged down. So then I rewrote it with a pretty detailed map. But spending months working on an outline to then write it for real is a VERY slow process. And I like the writing part. And I don’t have a lot of writing time.

So now I’m a bit of a hybrid. I have a pretty clear idea of major events in a novel and know how it will end (usually – I’ve had characters make decisions that created a whole new book, but that is another story. The VERY end of that one did resolve how I expected. Sort of.), but I have no idea what is going to happen in each chapter when I sit down to write. Instead, I keep things flowing and guide my pace for tension and action by doing quick sentences under at least the next three chapters, though sometimes I’ll have half the book mapped out with quick notes including POV, major point/action of chapter, and how it should end. As I write and edit, I’ll keep side notes of things that feel off or need to be added in. I’d almost call my writing method layering. I write out the main story, add in subplots and other details missed, make sure timelines match up and that clues for later actions are there, and then work on word use. I’m not sure it is the system I’ll always stick to. If I were a full time writer and not trying to maximize the bit of time I get each day to write, I might develop a whole new system! But this seems to work to keep the idea flowing while it is fresh and then adding critical depth when I’m in a more editorial mode.

Your trilogy Rise of the Fifth Order are imaginative fantasy. What attracted you to writing speculative, genre fiction?

Because that is what I read when I was a teenager! I wouldn’t say I set out to write epic fantasy as my first book or even really thought about it while I wrote the Rise of the Fifth Order. I was really writing a story that would be one I would have loved to have read. Only when I was done to I realize that I needed to pick a genre and really got into the nitty gritty of what types of fantasy are out there. After I dipped my toe in the self-publishing world, I realized that having an idea of what beast I’m planning on writing is nice to know before I get going, even if it is a mishmash of several genres. The beauty of the indie publishing world is that you can have space dragons eating zombies if you’d like. I haven’t gone quite that crazy yet, but I keep trying to write stories I love. And my first reading love was epic fantasy. 🙂

I have a feeling, “Because that is what I read when I was a teenager!” is at the root of most Fantasy and other Speculative Fiction authors choice on subjects.

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Rise of the Fifth Order come from?

The idea stemmed from the combination of two random ideas oddly enough. I had this story idea that was going no where in my head of an executive who was a dryad (could turn into plants, specifically a potted on in her office) at a conference and sees a young woman like herself, which is rare. But that is as far as the idea had grown before wilting. It just went nowhere. And at the same time there was this massive painting of a Mediterranean village  in the bathroom at my office. One day wondering what life was like in that painting combined with a woman with elemental powers who sees a young girl like herself, but different and Born of Water started to grow.

The rest of the story is more difficult to explain. I finished Born of Water knowing the story didn’t end, but not knowing where it went. That is a mistake I avoid now when I right a series! I finish the whole thing first because there are definitely things I’d tweak in Born of Water to set up everything for book 2 and 3 better. But I didn’t have this first series planned and when I sat down writing Rule of Fire I only had a vague idea everyone had to go back to Lus na Sithchaine. Except they got into a fight on the Steppes and then ran into Tam again and Ria decides to leave with Zhao, and of course the whole point of the story is finding out who this man who used to be the Curse is… Rule of Fire is the first book where I really let the characters lead the way. They sorted out what was going on and when writing fell off, it was usually because I had a plot hole I had to solve before I could continue. That is how I realized what Elantha’s price for sending Sinika to Minna really was: it was a plot hole that needed answering. I knew Sinika would go after the Kith because that was an unresolved conflict from the previous war. The Church of Four Orders would never let their only defeat last. And I knew that balancing the spheres would be important but not be the whole solution, just bring about the resolution. Rule of Fire and Spirit of Life flowed into each other really well and that is how I want to write series from now on! But I can only say the inspiration for the second two books came from the characters reacting to what had happened in the first book and Born of Water came from a very strange place.

What is your favorite character from the Rise of the Fifth Order?

Am I allowed to choose? I feel like a parent and you shouldn’t have a favorite. 🙂

I think I relate to Darag the best. He could be represented by an owl too! I do like Niri and her voice flows naturally for me. Khodan, Ty, and Zhao are harder for me to get into their heads, but when I do it snaps into focus and I can write their voice quite well. Ria in Born of Water was nearly impossible for me to write. I wasn’t very fond of her and thought about chucking her off the boat. But since the whole point of the story was saving her life, I couldn’t let the Curse eat her. And I’m glad I didn’t as I really like who she becomes in Rule of Fire and love writing her (and Zhao’s!) perspective as the different creatures they become (the dragon scene was the easiest one for me to do – I really should be a dragon). Sinika was always a challenge because he didn’t let me in on his thoughts. He outwitted me even as I wrote and I seriously worried he’d win. He still might. I’m working on a new series… And I totally skipped Lavinia, who is a very good character but easy to overlook at times.

I often joke that my favorite character is the one whose voice I’m writing in at the time, because I see the world through their perspective and want to relate it the best I can. I think I’ll leave my answer at that.

I understand you’re writing a sequel series to Rise of the Fifth Order. Could you tell us something about it?

I did just hint at that, didn’t I? lol. Yes, I’m writing a new trilogy called Games of Fire that begins six months after Spirit of Life ends.

I really thought I was done with the characters and world of Myrrah when I finished Spirit of Life. I was working on my near future dystopian series Friends of my Enemy and was quite in love with the characters and story line despite no magic! But the characters from the Rise of the Fifth Order kept popping in my head. And with good reason. They might win, but not necessarily in the best circumstances for everyone.

Darag, Laireag, and Zhao are hurting from the death of Beite. The forest is in tatters. Sinika is being held prisoner in the same Temple housing the Sphere of Fire, Ria is trying to create a new affiliation out of the Church of Four Orders to include Spirit Elementals, which of course isn’t going to be easy. There is a lot going on right there, but it wasn’t a story and certainly not a trilogy, so I tried to ignore the voices in my head – at least theirs as they were making it hard to write about a non-magical near future war. I eventually had to confront them and demand they tell me a good story or shut up. Oh and they did. I think I totally missed the point of their world or what they started with the events in the Rise of the Fifth Order!

So yes, the story does start up again based on those little problems listed above. But it is really so much more, a deeper thread that goes all the way back to the beginning of the world of Myrrah and the first war. The spheres are just a part of it. Little clues that I didn’t even know I’d put into the Rise of the Fifth Order become incredibly important in Games of Fire.

Book 1, Spark of Defiance, is written. I’m starting book 2, the Fire of the Spheres and hope to finish that his fall. Book 3, as yet unnamed, will hopefully be written in the early winter while I edit book 1. I hope to release all three in 2016 with the first in the spring.

Well, I can’t wait until 2016!

What do you find most challenging about being a self-published author?

Finding the time for everything. I love, love, love to write. And I actually really like editing too. And I like to read and the marketing isn’t too bad. But I’d like to be more social on social media. And I’m taking a marketing course, but I haven’t found the time to implement some of the suggestions. I feel like I’m holding myself back because there just isn’t enough time to do it all. I have side projects like working on a non-fiction book on tips to writing better fantasy. And I want to offer author services like covers or character sketches or even CreateSpace formatting (which I oddly like doing now that I’ve finally learned how!). But ack, time! My 1 to 1 ½ hours of writing time a night has been squeezed to death and something has to give at some point soon. Thankfully winter is coming and I can curl up next to the woodstove and not feel so pulled to also want to spend time with family, hike, kayak, camp, motorcycle, etc. If I can figure out the bills and marketing, I’m going to try to become a full time writer or at least shift into a part time job. That is my goal and the only thing that makes the complete insanity of everything I’ve got going on right now seem worthwhile. Heck, this fall will also see the launch of Born of Water as an audio book with a really awesome narrator Jerry Villegas. Hearing something you’ve written spoken by someone with an amazing voice and who is great a catching nuances is an experience every authors should have! But thank goodness most of the work is on his plate, because I would never be able to fit it in if I were the lead!

Being a self-published author and taking it seriously as a career often means you are running a full time writing/publishing job while working a full time job and juggling a family and life. It is hard. Things are going well enough that I am hoping to move more towards writing as my main career, but while I’m making that switch and getting all those pieces in place, it is really stressful to keep up with everything. And that kinda sucks.

That is amazing advice!

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

Three things: Take yourself and your work seriously, write more than one book, and if you are going to write a series write the whole thing first and then launch the books three to four months apart.

What I mean with take yourself seriously is to treat yourself like a serious author from day one, and that, I hope, means providing quality. Get your work edited. Get a good cover. Work on your novel until it shines. Don’t throw a story up on Amazon and expect people to flock to it and love it and you’ll be rich and famous. That rarely happens and the best chance of it occurring is if the packaging looks great and the product is unbelievably awesome. I totally thing being a self published author is worth all the effort, but it does take effort.

And the advice about writing more than one book is simple: you get so much better with each novel you write. Whether or not you publish them, keep writing. Your prose will get better, how you tell a story will get better. Reading is great, you can learn from that, but there is nothing better than practice. Practice writing a lot!

And the last advice on launching a series of books back to back is because it is the best way to build a fan base. In today’s day and age, no one wants to wait more than a year for the next novel. I saw my sales jump when the Rise of the Fifth Order series ended because all the books were available. People who love epic fantasy love to read and most people go through all three books in less than a week. It took me more than three years to write. That just doesn’t work out well. So if you want writing to be more than a hobby, if you want a career, get all those books lined up, edited, and ready to go and launch them all within a few months. Heck, put book 2 and 3 out on pre-order at the same time you release book 1 if you can. Let people know you are serious about being an author and providing a complete tale that will rivet them.

And I guess one last piece of advice that goes along with that: if you want to make this a career, keep a writing schedule or writing goals. You should write or edit every day, even the lack of inspiration days when the writing feels horrible. Work isn’t always fun, but writing is more often than not thankfully. But if you want to have fans you have to commit to creating fresh material every year. So get writing!

Now that we’ve gotten to know the amazing Autumn Brit, you can find out more information about her amazing books!

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Autumn is a best selling author in fantasy, epic fantasy, and war – not all on the same series though! She is the author of the epic fantasy, adventure trilogy on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. Her newest series is Friends of my Enemy, a military dystopian/ dark fantasy tale laced with romance. Friends of my Enemy will be released in full in 2015 and will be quite the story full of strong characters, tight plots, and lots of action. Meanwhile, she is working on a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, set in the same world as the Rise of the Fifth Order. If she stops goofing off and enjoying hobbies such as hiking, motorcycling, and kayaking, she may even be able to release the first book in 2015 too.

Stop by her website and blog to learn more about the worlds of her books at www.AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Author.Autumn.Birt or more frequently on twitter @Weifarer.

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Review: Darkblade Assassin

Darkblade Assassin (Hero of Darkness 1)

by Andy Peloquin

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Voramis is a city where every vice can be experienced and every sin indulged. In the dirty back alleys where the beggars eek out a painful existence and the perfumed corridors of the nobility stalks the Hunter. An assassin so feared, whispers of his almost demonic powers are heard in every alehouse and whorehouse.

The Hunter is a man without a past. The first thing he remembers is walking into Voarmis already carrying his dreaded dagger—Soulhunter. The dagger whispers in the Hunter’s mind, begging him to kill. His soul drenched in blood, the Hunter struggles to keep whatever threads of his humanity he can.

Everything changes when the Hunter kills a noble in bed with the Bloody Hand, the powerful syndicate that controls crime of Voramis from the shadows. The Bloody Hand are tired of the Hunter’s interference. They want to make an example of the rogue Hunter and show the citizens of Voramis just who controls the city. And those the Hunter care for will pay for his mistakes.

Darkblade Assassin is a fast paced, dark tale of revenge and redemption. The world the Hunter lives in is stained with filth, but moments of beauty emerge, whether its the orphan girl pushing her wheelbarrow of flowers or a young mother holding her child. Andy Peloquin keeps you reading the the hurtling plot, adding twists and turns as the Hunter carves a bloody path through the city.

The Hunter is a fascinating character. A man of with a thirst for blood that wars against his own nature at all turns. He exists only as a series of disguises, never letting even those he cares for to see who he truly is. His desire to protect the unfortunate dregs of Voramis is at odds with his dark soul.

If you’re a fan grimdark fantasy or just an exciting, fast-paced plot you’ll enjoy the dark world of the Darkblade Assassin!

I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

You can buy Darkblade Assassin from Amazon. Check out Andy Peloquin’s website, connect on Linked In, follow him on Google Plus, like him on Twitter @AndyPeloquin, and like him on Facebook.

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Interview: Poppy Reid

11853927_1654184644868390_889607995_nThis week, I had the pleasure to interview Poppy Reid. Despite us sharing a last name, I had never met Poppy before I joined twitter last year. She’s a great, supportive author and helped me out a lot by editing my short stories. She also wrote a really great fantasy book The Blood of the Fallen

First, let’s get to know Poppy with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

I assume you mean books I’d want to read, as opposed to huge tomes I can use to make a fire or island survival guides. I’d probably take ‘Outcast’ by Josephine Cox because I love the drama and romance. Another drama I love is Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. After those two I’d probably be thoroughly depressed so I’d have a fun book as a pick-me-up – probably “Is it just me?” by Miranda Hart. It’s more of a biography than a novel, but it’s so funny!

Yeah, the last thing you’d want is to be depressed while stranded on a desert island!

What animal best describes your personality?

I’ve never heard that question before! I suppose I’d say a squirrel, because they hide their food to prepare for winter. I’m fairly decent at planning ahead.

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

There are hundreds of places I want to go. Right now my dream is to travel the world. I’d love to visit New Zealand one day – go kayaking, skydiving and hiking on the gorgeous islands.

New Zealand is a beautiful place!

Are you a cat or dog person?

Definitely a dog person. I used to be scared of dogs as a kid but I love them now, I can’t see one without squealing and wanting to pet it.

Right!

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

Probably Martin Luther King. He was a great inspiration to many.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

Travelling. It’s my dream to travel the whole world, working, earning and writing as I go. I might start next year!

Good luck with that! I could never do that, I would get too stressed about the details!

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. If it rained when I was at school and we couldn’t play outside, I’d be curled up in a corner writing a story. When I got my first computer (a huge, heavy old thing without internet that used to belong to my mum), I’d sit in my room for hours and hours working on the Fire Princess series (which unfortunately got lost after we moved house). I’ve always written, and always enjoyed it.

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

I have pages and pages of notes, comments and highlights on my computer. Sometimes I come across an ancient version of a book I’d written and laugh at the old – and sometimes terrible – ideas I’ve had. I don’t plan every little detail but the basic story, notes on characters and a timeline is on a separate document as a reference.

I have a hard drive full of stuff I wrote back in the late nineties when I was in high school. It’s dreadfully hilarious.

Your novel Blood of the Fallen is a sword-and-sorcery Fantasy. What is your favorite part about writing Fantasy?

I absolutely adore fantasy. It’s completely limitless. You can create an entirely new universe with its own rules, its own hierarchy, its own laws. You can control the magical elements, the weaponry, the creatures and the people. Fantasy is definitely my favourite genre for those reasons.

I think we’re on the same page!

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Blood of the Fallen come from?

I’ve always been kind of a hopeless romantic, enjoying romantic books and movies. I always wanted to create something like that but didn’t fancy focusing on just a romance book. Since I love fantasy, I created the world of Theldiniya and developed the relationship between two people whose love could never be accepted by others – something I experienced when I was younger, and wanted to incorporate into my first book.

What has been the biggest obstacle you faced when you self-published your novel Blood of the Fallen?

Formatting! I didn’t enjoy having to sort out the front cover, page numbers, page size, etc. It was a massive pain in the butt.

Oh, yes. The joy of formatting. I’ve only had to do shorts, I can only imagine an entire novel.

I understand you are living abroad in Japan. What is it like to live and work in a foreign country?

If you enjoy being considered exotic, working in Japan is a lot of fun, if a little challenging at times. Once you’re over the homesickness and craving your country’s food (it took six months to stop fantasizing over sausage rolls) you start to get used to it and really feel at home. Japan is a great country in many ways – it’s safe, clean, the people are polite and it’s an entirely different culture. I did get a little culture shock when going back to England for a week, though – I forgot to tip the taxi driver (tipping isn’t done in Japan) and felt really bad about it afterwards.

I’ve always wanted to return to Japan, well Okinawa. I was there at a really young age, too young to remember it outside of my parent’s home videos.

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

First of all – write every day! Even if it’s nothing to do with a project you’re working on. Read a lot, especially friends’ and acquaintances’ work. Enjoy what you do – don’t think of it just as a way to make extra money. Get people to read your work and take criticism well. I actually wrote a small piece on being a writer on my blog which answers this question. Click here to check out Poppy’s Article!

Yes. Learning to take criticism is important. We are usually blind to the faults in our work until someone points them out.

Now that we’ve gotten to know Poppy a little bit, let’s check out an excerpt from her novel, Blood of the Fallen.

A1c9ZO68mEL._SL1500_Theldiniya has been torn apart by two hundred gruelling years of war, both sides forsaken by their ancient gods. One last desperate strike by the Tyrans has prophesised doom for their people, yet, undeterred by the Seer’s cataclysmic predictions, a clan of Tyran warriors have moved east to attack a small Elven village. The Seer turns to Villid, his last true friend, in hopes that he will help protect the Elf Seer and save the Tyran people. When Villid is framed for a crime he didn’t commit he finds an unexpected ally in Aya, an Elf girl, forcing them to rely on each other to survive. In such turbulent times an unlikely friendship is formed between those who once would have been enemies…

You like that one?” Shade suddenly hissed. “The one in green? You want her, do you, Tyran?”

Villid didn’t respond. He glanced round. The Tyrans had now completely surrounded the square, well-hidden in the shadows, waiting for the order to attack. Here and there he thought he saw the hilt of a sword, or a movement from one of the soldiers. The Elves round the tables, however, were oblivious to their hunters. Villid could see women and children sitting, eating, clapping and smiling at the beautiful dancers in the middle. He didn’t like this at all. Battles and arenas were one thing, but the slaughtering of the innocent?

The music had reached its climax and was starting to slow down, and then the dancers were entwined round each other, their arms outstretched, still and silent, smiling down at the crowd. All too soon their performance had ended. Villid knew it – the moment would come any second.

“Shade,” he whispered desperately. “We… we shouldn’t…”

“I tire of this,” Shade interrupted, as several of the Elves started to get to their feet and applaud the dancers. “This is it. So what was the one you wanted, six-one-twenty-seven? That one in green?” and he took aim with a long, sharp dagger from his belt.

It was like an instinct. Villid slammed as hard as he could into Shade’s shoulder, throwing him off his aim. The blade cut through the air as fast as lightning…”

If you want to read more (and you should, Blood of the Fallen is a great read!), you can pick it up from Amazon and Amazon UK!

Poppy Reid was born in Wick, Scotland and grew up in various parts of England before going to York St. John University to study Linguistics. She now resides in Nagano, Japan and works as an English teacher. Poppy adores writing, and has written several books and a numerous amount of short stories and informative articles online.

 

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Interview: Tim Hemlin

AtMyDeskTIMI had the pleasure of interview Tim Hemlin. I’ve gotten to know his wife over the last year on social media, and she introduced me to her husband’s writing. The Wastelanders was a fantastic dystopic Sci-Fi novel. In fact, you can check out my review of his novel here! Now let’s get on with the interview!

First, let’s get to know Tim with some fun, quirky questions!

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three books would you want with you.

Right away I’m going to cheat a little because my first choice is a handsome hardback composite put out by the The Library of America—Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick. The novels include The Man in the High Castle, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (which the movie Blade Runner was loosely based on) and PKD’s masterpiece, Ubik. Philip K. Dick is one of my favorite sci-fi writers and has been a huge influence on my work. The other two books I’d take are War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and The Complete Poems and Plays by T.S. Eliot. I’ve read Eliot since college and still enjoy his work. As for Tolstoy, I love his shorter works so maybe by being stranded on a desert island I’d finally get through War and Peace.

Nice. I thought about War and Peace for my answer. It’s long and I’ve never had the time to read it, so a desert island seems the perfect place!

What animal best describes your personality?

Bear. He’s strong yet introspective and he also has healing powers. And on occasion I’ve been accused of being grouchy . . .

If there was one place in the world you’d love to visit, where would it be?

I’ve always wanted to go to Paris. In particular, Paris 1922. I’d love to hang out with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot, Stein, Picasso, Joyce, Pound . . .

Are you a cat or dog person?

I lean more towards dogs. I have two dogs—a Westie and a Shi Tzu—and a cat. The dogs are so happy to see me walk through the door in the evenings and they appreciate the attention I give them. The cat will bite my toe at night if I roll into his space at the end of the bed.

If you could have a dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

John Adams. Any man who claims “that one useless man is called a disgrace, that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress” would make an interesting dinner companion.

I have never heard that one. It maybe my new favorite quote to one of my favorite founding fathers.

Now that we got the fun questions out of the way, let’s get down to the brass tacks!

Besides writing, what are you passionate about?

At the top of my list I’d say running. I’ve completed a number of marathons, half-marathons, 25 & 30Ks, and I’d someday like to tackle an ultra. Running is a type of meditation for me and in that way it compliments my writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on a story, gone for a run and come back hot, sweaty and excited because I’ve had a breakthrough. I also enjoy swimming, biking and fly-fishing. I guess when I’m not writing I like to be active, though I do read a lot. To paraphrase Stephen King, you won’t have the tools to be a writer if you’re not a reader.

The outdoors was never my thing, but I can get down a read a book with the best of them.

 What drew you to the craft of writing?

Since high school I’ve known I wanted to be a writer. I enjoy word play and for the longest time I wanted to be a poet. I even studied with Charles Simic and MeKeel McBride at the University of New Hampshire. Then I discovered the work of John Gardner (Grendel, October Light, The Sunlight Dialogues) and similar writers and gradually made the transition to writing novels.

When writing a novel, are you a detailed planer or do you fly by the seats of your pants?

Fly by the seat of your pants sounds so capricious, yet that’s mostly what I do. Robert Frost said no tear for the writer, no tear for the reader. I take that to mean a writer must invest himself in his work and be willing to bear his soul through his characters and the world they live in. I do this best when I give my characters the freedom to speak to me and show me what’s going to happen next in a book. If I don’t give my characters that freedom I often write myself into a corner and then have to backtrack to find out where I went wrong. That’s not to say I don’t have a general idea of where I’m going in a story, but even that can change. When I wrote The Wastelanders I felt sure I knew where I was going with it. And then the time-witch appeared and changed everything—for the better. She kicked that novel into another gear.

I recently learned the term “pantser” from Janna Kaixer to describe the more adventurous writers. I definitely only have the loosest of outlines when I write.

Your novel The Wastelanders is a sci-fi thriller. What attracted you to writing speculative, genre fiction?

The Wastelanders came about because of my concern for the environment. I feel it’s my duty, in the words of Dr. Jonas Salk, to be a good ancestor so future generations can enjoy nature as much as I have. Yet in the novel I also deal with power, political corruption and mass movements and cite often from that unique, American blue-collar philosopher Eric Hoffer. I like stories that mine for feelings and explore complex themes. There’s nothing like being immersed in PKD’s Ubik, Frank Herbert’s Dune or Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five (all big influences on my work). That’s not to say I don’t also enjoy lighter reads. The young adult novel I recently completed is less complicated than The Wastelanders in that it’s more direct. It’s a love story and a coming of age story that focuses on good versus evil, and I’ve loved every minute I’ve spent with those characters.

Your characters almost seem alive in your head. You live, breath, and die with them, and spill all the joy and pain onto the page.

Inspiration is such a fascinating phenomenon. Where did the inspiration for the Wastelanders come from?

You’re right; inspiration is a fascinating phenomenon. It’s the Muse handing you the key that unlocks the right door to that perfect world. I mean wanting to write a book because I’m concerned about the environment is one thing, but that’s a theme, not a story. Themes are just mannequins. Characters, plot, and setting are the clothes that dress them. So where did the inspiration for The Wastelanders come from? It came from Dune, from PKD, from Slaughter House Five, and from some of the idiot politicians we have today who manage to get voted into office. And just when I was about to lose hope in humanity, inspiration came from young love, from old love, and from the good heart of an enigmatic gunrunner.

The Time Witch’s sections definitely had a surreal, PKD vibe.

What is your favorite character from the Wastelander?

My favorite character is a toss-up. Bear is the enigmatic gunrunner who has prescient abilities and is indomitable. On the other hand, the time-witch took hold of my imagination and ran with it. I’m fascinated with the concept of time, time travel, and “bending” time. This all came out in her. It’s been pointed out to me that this is incongruous with sci-fi novels, though I strongly disagree. As Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Playing with time is a fun story technique. I’ve always enjoyed stories with those angles was happily surprised when I came across it in your novel. And transhuman abilities have always been a staple of Sci-Fi. No one questions Dune as Sci-fi with all its prescient

I understand you have a Young Adult novel in the works called Son of the Kitchen Witch. I would love to hear a bit about the plot.

Son of a Kitchen Witch is a coming-of-age young adult urban fantasy with a large dose of the paranormal, adventure and a touch of romance. Seventeen year-old Bobby Hawthorne has always known his overprotective mother is a witch. However, he never understood the depth of her powers until he learns the truth about his father’s death and the ancient group of fanatics determined to hunt down and kill every last witch on earth.

As if being a high school student isn’t already hard enough, Bobby and his best friend, Angelina Dellapicallo, struggle to understand the emerging secrets of white magic in the wiccan community, secrets strictly guarded by Bobby’s mother and her friends. The unexpected appearance of his spirited grandfather, though, sets in motion a series of events that sweep the young teens down a dangerous path, one inhabited by an ancient evil that threatens not only Bobby and Angelina but the wiccan community as well.

Pixies can’t stop the hellhounds . . . but they have sounded the alarm . . . and the magic users must respond . . .

Sounds like a fun read! I can’t wait to read it.

Last, do you have any advice for a new or aspiring author?

Write. Write. Write. It’s like a runner preparing for a marathon. You don’t just wake up one morning and run 26.2 miles. You put in those training miles first, and the more you put in the better (most likely) your race results. I don’t know if you recall, but recently you and I had an exchange about how bad our first efforts at novel writing were. Well, it’s those horrible efforts that never saw the light of day that lead to the books that are now out on the market. I’d also suggest picking up Stephen King’s On Writing or one of Natalie Goldberg’s books—Writing Down the Bones or The Wild Mind. They have great advice and good exercises for beginning writers. And read. I think it’s a cop out when writers say they don’t read because they don’t want to copy that author. Reading is part of a writer’s heritage. Own it.

To a new writer who has just completed a book I say get out of the house and go to a conference. Join a writer’s group. Get an author’s page on Facebook. Join Twitter. Join online book clubs. Start a blog. Mine is on Word Press at timhemlin.com. Review other writer’s books. Make an author’s page on Amazon. Look into the Indie scene. There are a ton of resources for independent writers. Use them. It’s a lot of work, but so was writing that novel. And don’t you want people to know about it and read it?

Some great advice! Write, write, write! That’s what everyone says, but it’s the truth. It’s been great talking with you Tim. He’s a great guy.

Now that we’ve gotten to know Tim a little bit, let’s check out an excerpt from Tim’s novel, The Wastelanders.

wastelanderSet in the future of America where climate change has driven the citizens of the US to live in “bubbles” cities protected from the harsher, outside air. They survive thanks to the Cartel, a huge company that provides water through desalination.

When the Water Cartel’s #23 desalination plant explodes, Deputy Bernie Hawke finds himself under surveillance by Home Sec authorities. They suspect he knows the whereabouts of his son, Joey, who a year earlier had gone missing from the civilized society of the bubble to the Wastelands. Believing Joey carried out the attack, the Home Sec agents show Bernie video of his son inside the city’s bubble. Convinced of his son’s innocence, Bernie puts his sleuthing skills to work and backtracks his son’s footsteps to a shady bar on the edge of the Rim, the land that borders the Wastelands. Bernie knows government agents are tailing him. What he doesn’t expect is an attempt on his life. Inadvertently, Bernie cuts down a Rim guard and once again finds himself interrogated by the irascible Agent O’Hare.

CHAPTER 11

Bernie Hawke shivered. He sat in the fussy little concierge’s fussy little office. Every instinctual bone in his body had told him to run. Only a Herculean effort overcame that urge. Now as he listened to the jowly O’Hare and dealt with iron-spine Crisp, Bernie was glad he’d not panicked.

O’Hare, who’d been speaking with one of his officers, pulled up a chair across from Bernie. The office held little more than a cheap metal desk, a handful of chairs, a black synthetic-leather couch and the flags of Texas and America. The obligatory picture of President Litz hung on the wall behind the desk. The rest of the walls were empty except for a pair of cutter mounts and the video-cams. Old-fashion ceiling tracks held the lighting which could be dimmed or brightened. O’Hare had tried them bright. Now they were dim.

I told the little pixie to find us a pot of good coffee even, by God, if he had to go back to the Bubble to get it,” O’Hare announced.

You know why I’m out here,” Bernie stated. His head swam from lack of sleep.

All in good time, lad. All in good time.”

Why are you here?” Bernie persisted.

O’Hare winked as though they were the best of friends, old warriors who looked after each other. Pure political bullshit, Bernie thought. Yet, curious. Home Sec had jurisdiction everywhere in the country—hell, they believed they had jurisdiction anywhere in the world—but this was Rim guard territory—the sub-czar’s domain. And Bernie had killed one of their own.

The fussy concierge entered the room with a silver tray and coffee service which was as incongruous with the setting as raincoats in the dessert. “Jamaica Mountain Blue,” he explained, hands shaking as he set the tray down on the desk.

O’Hare half listened as his men came and went.

Very rare, now that it’s only grown in bio-houses. And raw sugar. And cream. Anything else, sir?”

Aye, laddie,” O’Hare said while accepting a cup of coffee. “Who is it that allows this stinking brothel to operate outside of the Red Courtyard?”

The fussy little man paled.

Speak up, man, my coffee’s getting cold.”

Why, sir, we’re not a—”

Mind your words carefully,” O’Hare warned. “While my boys were printing the air we caught many an interesting shadow.”

Bernie watched the concierge swallow hard. The infrared-like dust captured energy images, downloading them to cell cams. In Bernie’s circles it was known as filming ghosts. Judging from the exchange between O’Hare and the concierge, it was obvious not all of Home Sec knew about this fine establishment. Someone allowed it to operate below the radar.

Aye, think about it, lad. I’ll be getting back to you. Be gone now. Mind the front desk.” O’Hare turned his full attention to Bernie as the concierge backed out of the room. “As you said, Deputy Hawke, I’m aware of your reason for being on the Rim, but why is it you’re in this stinking place?” The old cop gestured for Bernie to help himself to some coffee.

Bernie obliged and poured a cup, black. “Pure coincidence.”

I’m to believe that?”

What do the air-prints show?”

O’Hare stirred another cube of sugar into his coffee, tapped the side of the cup with the spoon and tasted. “Aye, it is good.”

O’Hare.”

Patience, lad.”

I haven’t had enough sleep to be patient.”

And why is that?”

Would you like me to spell it out for you?” asked Bernie. He sipped his coffee, too, but hardly tasted it.

Oh, would you be so kind?”

Bernie tossed out a finger with each point. “I came looking for my son. I have doubts that he was involved in the bombing. I wanted to hear his story with my own ears. I’ve not been able to locate him.”

Even in the wilderness?” O’Hare asked.

Yes, I did leave the trails. I walked the bayou. Anyone with half a brain would suppose a person trying to make it to the Wasteland would first travel the bayou.”

O’Hare took another sip and then asked, “You didn’t happen to meet anyone else out there, now, did you?”

Not a soul, unless you count the ’gators and mosquitoes.”

Yes, we’ve matched your cutter.”

Of course you have. And you’ve looked at the air-prints. Since emotion was high, you’ve detected images confirming my story. By the way, I thought printing old images was doubtful. Were you bluffing our fussy little friend?”

O’Hare set his cup down on the desk. “Not quite, lad. As you said, emotion runs high, here. And then when you combine it with an abundance of activity, they may produce a blurred ménage, but the intent is clear enough even for a Rim guard to understand.”

So what did looking at my cutter—time-matching it—tell you?”

Aye, lad, you fired in self-defense at your assailant.”

The heavy way in which O’Hare responded triggered a reflex in Bernie’s training. He knew the routine, the alternating between direct and circuitous questioning. O’Hare, playing again good-cop, came at him all folksy and from the sly. Bernie had expected Crisp at any moment to barge in and briskly take over. Now he wasn’t so sure. “Something else happened tonight,” Bernie said. “Isn’t the killing of a Rim guard bad enough?”

Normally I’d agree.”

But?”

Try the killing of two Rim guards, lad.”

Bernie leaned forward. “Two? Hey, I was only assaulted—”

O’Hare raised a hand. “Take a guess where they found the other guard?”

The woods.” As Bernie spoke he knew in his heart Joey had been involved in the killing. Damn if that didn’t nail the kid’s coffin. Of course, he didn’t express his suspicions to O’Hare.

Now, I’m willing to believe you’re incredulous reaction,” O’Hare told him.

Bernie said nothing.

However, the sub-czar has a different idea.”

The sub-czar?”

Disagreeable fellow by the name of Rex Fielder. I’d admit that to no one but a brother of the law.” He paused.

They think that since I was in the woods I killed the man,” Bernie said.

Aye, lad.”

All they had to do was look at my cutter—”

We both know that can be covered with a good cleaning.”

I haven’t had the time.”

We found no air-print evidence you did so in your room, that is true. And if you had been cleaning it, you’d probably be dead.”

Bernie picked up his cup but then set it down without drinking. “So what are they saying? That I resisted arrest?”

They might’ve, had they gotten here first and erased the air-prints. Fortunate for you, lad, we had you under the eye.”

Yeah, my lucky day. They’re saying something. What is it?”

According to the Rim guards mouthpiece it was an act of blood.”

An act of blood? You mean the two men—”

Brothers, lad. Brothers.”

Bernie stared dumbly off into space. Brothers? On one level it sounded perfectly logical. Joey kills the Rim guard during his attempt to escape and then his brother sets out to take revenge on…he shook his head. No, this was all too tidy.

What is it, lad?”

Bernie looked up. Crisp had entered the room as though he kept a baton sheathed in his ass. “It doesn’t make sense.”

O’Hare eyed him carefully. “Why is that, now?”

What time was the guard in the woods killed?”

A glint as though a burst of adrenalin entered his gaze. “The official time hasn’t been released.”

But the official motive for the attempt on my life has,” said Bernie.

It appears so.”

Crisp stopped behind O’Hare and stood in icy silence.

The time frame,” Bernie thought aloud. “The time frame is too close.”

O’Hare replied by pouring himself more coffee.

That’s why they haven’t—and I’ll bet won’t—release the time of the first guard’s death. It won’t align with the attack on me.”

Seems mighty coincidental the two dead are brothers.”

The attack on me was planned ahead of time,” Bernie continued. “What happened in the woods was a random act.”

Be careful, lad. You’re wading into dangerous waters. To charge the company with conspiracy—”

How else would you explain it?” interrupted Bernie.

An act of blood.”

The official word. Of course, you would eat whatever crap they put on your plate. But don’t you find the taste bitter?”

The coffee cup in O’Hare’s hand shook slightly as he took a sip. Rage flushed his cheeks and Crisp remained as rigid as the word of God. For a full minute neither said a word.

Come on, O’Hare, this isn’t an investigation, it’s a pill being shoved—”

Deputy Hawke,” the old agent cut in, voice low and harsh. “I’d suggest you mind your words. Unless you can offer evidence confirming this outrageous notion that’s found its way into your head then you’d be far better off accepting the results of the official inquiry.”

Bernie let out a short laugh, the kind accompanied by a faint grin. “Mind my words? Why? I have nothing more to lose, O’Hare.” An echo, he realized, of what he’d told Graham’s daughter at the pub. Instead of revisiting the litany he said, “What else can I lose? My freedom? Well, let me tellyou something, lad, I’ve been in a cage for a long time now, I just didn’t know it. Anytime a man’s afraid to speak his mind, he’s looking at life through iron bars.”

Crisp stirred and appeared ready to speak but O’Hare raised a hand. “A rousing speech, lad, the very kind, if spoken outside these walls, that might transform those metaphorical bars into the literal. Were that to happen how would you go about quenching the fire in your heart?”

Bernie said nothing.

O’Hare set his cup down and stood. “When you’ve had your fill of this surprisingly good coffee, you’re free to go.”

Free?” Bernie sounded suspicious.

Aye, lad. Self-defense in an act of blood is justifiable. You know that.”

What’s going on here?” asked Bernie.

The sun’s rising, Deputy Hawke. A new day. As my dear old mother used to say, ‘Looks like another hot one.’ She loved the heat, God rest her soul. But we know better, don’t we? We know how hot it can get, especially on the Rim. We know when to dive headstrong into it, and when to seek shelter in the shadows. At least I do, Deputy Hawke. I pray for your sake, lad, you do too.”

If you want to read more (and how could you not, The Wastelander is an amazing book), you can pick it up from Amazon.

And don’t forget to check out Black Silence, the short story the reunites the characters and may serve as an exciting prelude to the Wasterlanders upcoming sequel!

BlackSilenceA ghost from the past . . . A girl lost in the Wastelands . . . Bernie Hawke missing . . .

Can the enigmatic Bear join forces with warrior-priest Joey Hawke, and Caballito, the legendary descendant of the ancient Running People, in time to rescue them? Or will they fall prey like so many others to the black silence of the Wastelands?

You can pick up Black Silence from Amazon!

Tim is a marathoner, a former English teacher of 22 years who is now utilizing his master’s degree in counseling by working as a high school counselor.  However, it’s his passion for the environment that sparked his need to write The Wastelanders, a dystopian-clifi published in both e-book and paperback by Reputation Books. He also has a short story, Black Silence, introducing a new character, Caballito, who appears in the sequel to The Wastelanders available through Amazon.

Recently the Muse has kindly allowed him to tap into that creative magic and pen a young adult urban fantasy titled Son of a Kitchen Witch. a coming of age story with a good v. evil backdrop.  It is currently with his agent, Kimberley Cameron of Kimberley Cameron & Associates Literary Agency.

His current WIP is the sequel to The Wastelanders which should be completed in spring of 2016.

In the 1990’s Tim published a series of culinary mysteries through Ballantine Books and has recently gotten the reversion rights. He is planning on reissuing them through an elite new publisher, La Nouvelle Atlantide Press out of New Orleans. This series is set in Houston, Texas. The Neil Marshall series includes If Wishes Were Horses, A Whisper of Rage (nominated for a Shamus Award), People in Glass Houses, A Catered Christmas (the one he most enjoyed writing), and Dead Man’s Broth.

Tim has recently appeared on BBC UK The Big Film Review w/ Sudip Baduri film critic.

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