Category: Guest Post


Occupational Hazard Excerpt

And we are back with an excerpt from Occupational Hazard. This one is from chapter 18, so it’s a taste from a little further into the book than we usually get. It’s pretty cool to jump right in though. Enjoy!

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CHAPTER 18

“Here’s JBJ.”

 

Mick is already there when I arrive at the Giambini residence.

“Al, thanks for joinin’ us. I know you know Mrs. Giambini here. And this here’s JBJ.”

Slouching on a dining room chair is this skinny fellow with a blank, sullen stare and bored and distracted look. This is the person that earlier in the day Mick spent considerable time describing to me. I think to myself, “This is going to be mighty interesting.”

We know that the less JBJ knows about our situation the better, so Mick and I simply tell JBJ that in order to help someone from the neighborhood we need him to get us certain information about Gilbert.

We ask JBJ what his daily duties are.

JBJ says, “I ain’t tellin’ youse fuckin’ shit until youse tell me what the fuck’s in it for me.”

Mrs. Giambini gets up from her chair, dashes across the room to JBJ and gives him the traditional Italian mother’s smack to the back of his head, causing his head to almost hit the table in front of him.

“Heh, ma, what the fu—!”

Mrs. Giambini screams, “Scustamad e merd!” Loosely translated, “You selfish shit!” but the way Italian mothers typically shout it makes one feel deeply ashamed and miniscule.

“Junior! When this man (pointing to Mick) says jump, you jump. When he says crawl, you crawl. And when he says nothing, you go to him and ask, ‘What can I do for you to repay you for all the things you done for me and my family?’ And besides the help he gave your father, your uncle, your aunt, don’t forget who got you that lawyer when you got caught selling drugs in high school. He also stopped that facimm who let you buy liquor when you were only 15.

“And we don’t even know all the people he talked to for you, for them to give you another chance even after all the bad stuff you done.

“‘What’s in it for me?’ you ask. Oo gotz! You got the nerve to ask. Mick over here never asked that disgraziada question when we needed help. He did not have to lift a finger, but he did and he did and he did and he did. NOW, he asks for a little help and you act like he’s asking you to sacrifice your life. Va fa gool!”

JBJ says, “Okay, okay, Ma, sorry, but I’m worried about this job. What if I get fired ‘cause of what these guys want me to do?”

Mick jumps in, “JBJ, you got the job ‘cause of Carlo. Carlo is term limited out at the end of next year. So, ain’t no way you gonna be there long anyways. And I ain’t never gonna ask you for help if I ain’t gonna have your back if helpin’ me hurts you. Gabbish?”

JBJ seems to get what Mick’s saying and nods to show his assent.

“Now you’re gonna tell us whatcha normally do at the office and we’ll tell you how you can help. And during the time that we need your help, which’ll be for a month or so and maybe longer, you ain’t doin’ nuttin’ that’ll get you fired and you ain’t gonna quit either. Gabbish?”

Again, JBJ nods his head.

We learn that JBJ was basically a gofer for Gilbert. He would run both business and personal errands for him. His duties include reminding Gilbert of appointments on his calendar and keeping Gilbert’s cell phone charged. His desk is located right outside Gilbert’s office and the door to Gilbert’s office is generally kept open, except for certain calls, when Gilbert would order JBJ to close the door. That demand is always given when Gilbert got calls from the mayor or Stillman, whom JBJ said is a “fuckin’ snob.”

The initial assignment we give JBJ is to make a note of any contacts or calls with the 312 area code on Gilbert’s cell phone log. For the time being, we assume and hope that Gilbert would not use his work phone for his dirty tricks involving Mary.

We ask JBJ what would happen if someone noticed his looking closely at Gilbert’s phone while it iss being charged. He says, “They ain’t gonna say shit, ‘cause Gilbert has me programmin’ his phone to add different apps and shit. And if he’s got his door closed or is outa the office, I play all sorts of games and do other crap with his phone and everyone sees me do it and ain’t gonna think nuttin’ of it.”

JBJ did tell us the night we met that Gilbert was in Philadelphia the day of the call to the reporter, but that his train would have been in New Jersey at the time that call was made from downtown Philly. This meant that if Gilbert was truly on that train, Gilbert could not have made the call to the reporter, but we already assumed that Gilbert would have had one of his cronies make the call.

Mick would tell me later, “Jimmy Cavello’s brother-in-law, Max, works for Amtrak. I’ll get the ticket info from JBJ and have Max check to see if it was scanned by the conductor, so we know whether Gilbert was on that train. I once saved Max from gettin’ his throat slit. He was in a bar he had no business bein’ in. Lucky for him, I was walkin’ by or it wudda been bye-bye for Maxie. The guy who was gonna cut Max is still singin’ ’em high notes.”

JBJ also told us that Gilbert was in Philadelphia supposedly to attend some conference. However, as JBJ overheard Gilbert tell some colleague over the phone, Gilbert had no intention to attend any of the conference. Instead, JBJ reported that Gilbert said, “In the immoral words of Mick Jagger, I am going there to ‘make some girl.’” Apparently, Gilbert’s ulterior motive in being in Philly was to seduce some woman who was attending the conference. …

We instructed JBJ to see what he can learn about that lady. He told us that night that he was sure that Gilbert had gotten “lucky” with her, because on the Monday morning after the conference Gilbert came in, uncharacteristically, grinning from ear to ear.

JBJ said, “He’s mad always. He ain’t nuttin’ but a mean prick.”

Then added, “I know her name’s Margaret.”

I said, “Wait! That’s his wife’s name.”

JBJ responded, “No! His wife’s Margie and from the way he talks on the phone with this Margaret, ain’t no fuckin’ way in hell could she be his wife, ‘cause he’s always real nasty to his wife.”

As we left this initial meeting with JBJ, I asked Mick what he had done for the Giambini family other than what Mrs. Giambini said about how he had helped JBJ.

Mick says, “JBJ’s dad’s name is John Giambini Senior, but for some reason everybody calls him Frank. Anyways, I helped the old man when he got sick. Had my guys get him to and from his doctors’ appointments. When this one doctor wasn’t payin’ proper attention to him, I had a conversation with the doctor and adjusted his attitude toward Frank. And when I found out a male nurse mistreated Frank, Pedro had one of his guys make sure the nurse never made that mistake again.

“Then there’s the uncle, one of ‘em degenerate gamblers. Died without two pennies to his name. I made sure he had a proper wake and burial. His poor widow was left destitute. Rather than have her go to the poor house, I put her in one of my apartments and she’s never been happier.

“Al, hear me out, ‘cause this here too is a lesson for you, though I gotta say you already know this, proof bein’ how you helpin’ Mary and little Roger. Who knows, maybe this runs in our family? Anyways, if somebody needs help and I can help, I help ‘em. If I need help and someone can help me, like JBJ now, I expect that they will help me. It ain’t in any way even Stevens, ‘cause that ain’t how I like to be, but this is the way things is: We help each other anyways we can. Nobody keeps count who’s done more for who. You never know whatcha’ll need, when you’ll need it, so it ain’t the kinda thing you cudda keep track of anyways.”

As we both go our separate ways, we both agree that this twerp JBJ just may turn out to be an ace up our sleeve.

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Guest Post: Alex S. Avitabile

I told you all I had I nifty guest post for you today. Especially given that it’s NaNoWriMo month, I find that there’s some really good advice in part one here. As a bonus, there’s also an excerpt from Occupational Hazard coming up tomorrow for you all. Enjoy!

Part I:  The Story about writing Occupational Hazard

The story that would over time become Occupational Hazard was originally conceived in the mid-90’s.   I would jot the ideas down and plot out different scenes and write dialogue, many of which would eventually prove worthless and would never make it into the book.

In 1999 or so, I would sit down for a timed half-hour a day for a number of days and wound up with 55 double-spaced pages, which pretty much set up the story and would serve as the content for what would eventually become Occupational Hazard’s first nine chapters.

However, my law practice and other responsibilities precluded me from my doing any significant follow-up to those pages until after I retired and signed up for a novel writing course.

I drew upon the story I had started for the content for assignments for that writing course, and both the instructor and I liked what I wrote, and that was enough to prompt me to pick up from where I had left off, fix it up and then work on figuring out and writing the middle and the end of the story.

Over the years, I suffered from writer’s block, primarily fueled by (1) wanting to write the whole thing in one fell swoop, which would leave me frozen, immobilized from the impossibility of doing that, and (2) insecurity from the fear of failing.

To overcome these debilitating forces, I had to take a leap of faith into the unknown, trusting that I would be able to tap the source of inspiration, whatever that is.  I also had to trust that by moving a step at a time, everything would eventually come together.

And ideas did come to me and I did manage to proceed systematically toward the finish line, to my great surprise and relief.  I can only guess that once I retired from the practice of law, my mind was relieved from the many matters that consumed it while practicing law and it was now free to intently focus on figuring out the succeeding steps of the story

I firmly believe that if I can write a book, anyone else can.  I urge those who want to write, just do it!  Finish you story! Then let the chips fall where they may.

Part II:  Some particulars about Occupational Hazard itself

There is no question that imagination was a huge factor in writing Occupational Hazard.  But the book also benefitted from my personal experiences, values that are important to me and wordsmithing that I like to engage in.

There were quite a few incidents from my life that were incorporated into the story.  Most were the initial inspirations that my imagination then ran with.  However, the story about Jackie Pintero in Chapter 17 was an accurate account of an encounter I had with a classmate, whose name was changed to spare that person embarrassment.  Also, Mick’s way of dealing with insects, set forth in Chapter 14, is my proven method of successful extermination.

And many of my characters were inspired by people I know, but only as a starting point, for my imagination would take over and complete the profile.  For example, while someone I know was the model for Gordon Gilbert, the model was no way as nasty or devious as Gilbert.

Writing the story also permitted me, among other things, to stress values that are important to me, like the importance for men to respect woman (Chapter 11), or the importance for us to help one another (throughout the book, but in particular Mick’s speech at the end of Chapter 18), or the value of diversity and of not sticking to “our kind” (throughout the book, but especially in Mick’s speech about “our kind” in the last chapter).

I like to wordsmith and in several spots in Occupational Hazard I work in particular phrases of note.  Some are risque in nature, so I will leave those to the reader to find.  But an obvious example is in Chapter 20, as the phrase in question is also the title to that chapter.

The excerpt from Chapter 18 includes two sentences that I think are good examples of how to speak volumes with only a few words and thereby engage the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks.  Here are those sentences in which Mick states certain ways that he had assisted JBJ’s father:

When this one doctor wasn’t payin’ proper attention to him, I had a conversation with the doctor and adjusted his attitude toward Frank. And when I found out a male nurse mistreated Frank, Pedro had one of his guys make sure the nurse never made that mistake again.

After reading these sentences a reader will wonder how that doctor’s attitude got adjusted and what mistakes were committed by the nurse and what happened to ensure they are not repeated.

Go to Occupational Hazard’s website, www.AlandMickForte.com, for more information about the book, me and other issues related to the story.

Thank you,

Alex S. Avitabile

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Alex S. Avitabile Bio:
Like his characters Al and Mick Forte, Alex S. Avitabile grew up back in the day (i.e., the ’50’s and ’60’s) on the then “mean streets” of South Brooklyn–present day Carroll Gardens. For the past some thirty years he has lived within walking distance of his original “hood,” which is now less mean and more gentrified, about which Alex is not so sure that’s a good thing.

Alex retired after practicing law for thirty-four years, and Occupational Hazard is his first published work of fiction. Alex is presently working on the second installment of the Al and Mick Forte series, which he hopes to publish in 2019.

Guest Post: Nita Round

Hey all, I’m excited to bring you a guest post from Nita Round author of the Touch of Truth series. Enjoy!

As an author, it is always lovely to be able to share how our stories come together. So many thanks for inviting to say a few words. As a reader, I’m always fascinated by the processes that bring a story to life too. This brings us to “Raven, Fire and Ice,” which is the first in the Touch of Truth series.

The world is a post-apocalyptic future. It’s this world, but not quite. Think steampunk, a Victorian-fuelled fantasy where airships travel the world and horse-drawn carriages clatter across cobblestone streets. The clang of industry fills the air with the smoke and smell of progress. In this world, the veil between the ordinary and the extraordinary is thin enough to be transparent, and the paranormal is, well, not so unusual any more. Our main characters are three very strong-willed characters, and they function together in a way that makes them more than the sum of their parts.

It amuses me when I say this is a series, because I’d never anticipated writing anything more than a standalone novel. Here we are though, book two, “Raven, Sand & Sun,” should be released December this year (2018) and I am about two-thirds of the way through book three, “Captain, Ice and Floe.” I smile because I never envisaged a series when I started writing, in fact, I didn’t think that it would be this genre at all.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’d just published my third novel with Regal Crest and I wanted a few weeks off. No writing, maybe a bit of reading, nothing more. On an online forum about writing, the exercise of the week involved writing the perfect, ie most eye-catching, opening first line. They decided this exercise would have a maximum of 10 words. I’d commented on other first lines as I thought of my own. This is what I wrote:

 

Blood. Blood everywhere.

 

Nothing else. Just that. We had quite a discussion about those three words, but as far as I was concerned there was no story. It was just an opening line. I forgot about it for a few days. In fact, I didn’t think any more of it until it was time for my writing group get-together. At the writer group, we usually take something to read out. I had nothing in mind, but I looked at those three words and wondered if I could turn them into something. A thriller maybe, and so at the last minute I wrote:

 

Blood. Blood everywhere. Fresh blood.

Once white walls, smeared from floor to ceiling with shades of wine and scarlet.

Blood, and bandages.

Red on white.

Eight little shower heads, standing in a row.

The blood fell in tiny noisy drops.

 

 

A very bloody start. I had a title too, “A touch of madness.”

This is when a writer’s best friend steps in, her character. Enter Lucinda Ravensburgh, and she said. “No. I am not doing a modern thriller.”

“Who asked you?” I mumbled.

“Well go on, see how far you get without me.”

Nowhere as it turned out, and after a couple of days I gave in. “All right, what do you want?”

“Ahh,” she said, “I want a tower. Not one of those small squat things. I want a big one. The biggest in the city.”

“And what city would that be?” I asked. I made notes of course because I’m the secretary and PA of the characters.

“Mid-Angle, of course, don’t you know anything?”

Apparently not, but I let her have her way because in the end the story came together and our Lucinda, Miss Ravensburgh herself, did not let me down.

“And by the way,” Lucinda said, “we’ll not start the story with that line about blood everywhere, that’s just too much. You can start by telling everyone a little bit about me and the tower. Not too much though, I’d like to save some surprises for later.”

And that’s exactly what I did.

Guest Post Hank Quense

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today from Hank Quense, author of the Zaftan Troubles series of sci-fi/fantasy novels. Today, he’s provided us a totally non-fictional interview courtesy of Margaret Hammerhead and the Faux News Network. Enjoy!

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Faux News Network Interviews Author Hank Quense

 

My name is Marcia Hammerhead and I’m the literary reporter for FNN.  Once again, my boss insists that I interview a scribbler of fantasy and science fiction stories. My boss KNOWS that I prefer epic poetry and literary works and that I despise genre fiction.  But, here I am about to interview Hank Quense who has penned yet another novel despite the lack of success of his previous works and his apparent lack of talent.  Mr Quense, tell us what trash you are about to unleash on the unsuspecting reading public.

Hank Quense: Hi Martha. Thank you for the warm welcome.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha.

HQ: My new series, Zaftan Troubles, consists of seven ebooks and describes what happens when an alien explorer ship discovers Gundarland, a world populated by humans and fantasy creatures.  The zaftans are a vicious race who believe treachery and assassination are social skills.

MH: Good heavens!  You mixed science fiction and fantasy together?  Have you no shame?

HQ:  The two genres work well together.

MH: What’s the point of writing such a mishmash?  Are you indecisive to the point you can’t chose a single genre?

HQ: The point is entertainment and satire.  And the mixing of genres was a conscious decision, Margaret.

MH: Martha, not Margaret. Tell us about the characters?

HQ: In the first four books, the main characters are MacDrakin, a dwarf miner and Leslie Higginbottom, a constable.  The two have a budding relationship that is torn apart about the appearance of the aliens and their explorer robots.  The government orders Higginbottom to protect the robots while MacDrakin declares war against the robots and the aliens.

The next three books occur many years later when the Gundies (as they’re called) confront the zaftans in outer space.  The two main characters are Sam, an android with an organic brain and Klatze, a young zaftan naval officer who is determined to succeed using her ability rather than murder.

MH: What!  How can you write this nonsense?  Do you do drugs?  Booze? it is not possible to come up with this stuff without using some sort of stimulants.

HQ: Sorry, Marcia. I don’t do that stuff.  My stories come from unstimulated brain.

MH: This has to be some sort of anti-genius.  It should be declared illegal.  I suppose the novel uses the obsolete technique called plots?

HQ: It sure does.  The series has a number of plots and subplots.

MH: Did it ever occur to you to write stories about normal, human people, the kind of stories that comprise true literature.

HQ: Nope.  Sounds too boring.

MH: You said this series has seven ebooks in it.  I hope that’s the end of it.  I shudder to think that still another of your books will test our sanity.

HQ: Right now, Martha, Im working on books 8 through 10 for the Zaftan Troubles.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha. The very thought of you continuing this rubbish is giving me a headache.  I can’t stand any more of this genre trash.

HQ: Thanks for the great interview, Martha.  Good-bye.

MH: It’s Marcia.  Roll the wrap-up music.  I need a drink.  Where’s my bottle of merlot?

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Author bio: Hank Quense writes humorous and satiric scifi and fantasy stories. He also writes about fiction writing and self-publishing. He has published 18 books and 50 short stories along with a few dozen articles. He often lectures on fiction writing and publishing and has a series of guides covering the basics on each subject.
He and his wife, Pat, usually vacation in another galaxy or parallel universe. They also time travel occasionally when Hank is searching for new story ideas. To learn more, visit http://strangeworldspublishing.com/wp/.
Hank recently published Books 1 and 2 of his 7-part satirical fantasy series, the Zaftan Troubles, about an advanced alien species who steal resources from other worlds for profit. They’re available on Amazon:
Book 1: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F8352QC/  and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F883MW9  and the rest of the series is scheduled to publish later this year.
You can see the video trailer here: https://youtu.be/NHMJ_XRzrtI

Survive Blog Tour

Hey all, the house keeping post is going to be a bit postponed this week. Today, I’m happy to host my stop on the Survive blog tour and with it a guest post from the author, Stephen Llewelyn. He’s going to talk about one of his protagonists here, so I’ll give him the board. Enjoy!

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Hi Lauren,

Thank you for your interest in my book.

Five things about Tim

There are three main protagonists in ‘Survive’, Captain James Douglas, Commander Jill Baines and Tim Norris.

I have chosen to write about Tim as he is a complete outsider; he is young, has no power or reputation but soon finds himself in a position of trust and importance well beyond his years.

Love of natural history and dinosaurs

Rather obvious this one. Tim and I share a wide-eyed wonder of how everything works, so from that perspective at least, I see some of myself in Tim.

Resilience

Starting at the beginning, Tim Norris is a sixteen year old school leaver. Orphaned at the age of two, he was fortunate enough to be adopted by a young couple, Drs Ted and Patricia Norris, both low earning scientists. Tim’s adoptive father was a metallurgist with a fascination for the history of life on Earth. He shared this passion closely with Tim for the next ten, fairly happy years. Unfortunately, Tim then lost the only father he had ever known to an industrial accident at the age of twelve. This heartbreaking disaster made the world a much darker and lonelier place for Tim and Patricia and because of it he becomes at once closer to his mother and more introverted. Eventually, Patricia, through hard work and dedication, wins a placement on the Mars Mission. Tim follows her career avidly, so that he can share fully in the life of the only person he has left. He encourages her to take the position, so that they can leave all the pain and overcrowding behind to be part of something vital and exciting. They leave Earth full of hope, but a terrorist attack directs their hopeful future into a terrifying past. During the journey back to Earth, Tim has a long heart to heart conversation with another teenager onboard named Rose. He explains how the loss of his parents and later, his adoptive father, have affected him. From this it is clear to see how and why someone so young could become pessimistic. However, Tim is not ruled by pessimism. Despite being poor and, it has to be said, unlucky with most of his parents, he knows he is blessed with his adoptive mum. Furthermore, it may well be a catastrophe which sends the USS New World back in time, but Tim wouldn’t have it any other way…

Intelligence and awkwardness

Tim has exceptional amounts of both, although new friends help him to slowly overcome the latter with varying levels of success. His brilliant mind becomes a resource aboard the New World as Tim spearheads a ‘Cretaceous Living’ educational programme to help people to adapt to their new reality. It is, of course, all too easy to build a protagonist who is brilliant at everything; Tim on the other hand, is not physically impressive or cool in any way. In fact, he is fairly hopeless in some respects, social awkwardness to name but one. Girls send him into a blushing panic and throughout the book he has to learn how to have friends because it’s all new to him. As for romance, I believe that any man who reads the appropriate passage within the book will be reminded of the first time he ever put his arm around a girl and, depending on how well it went, will either smile ruefully at the memory or put his head in a bucket! Tim’s lack of confidence is probably not helped by his new best friend, Woodsey; who has far too much. Aside from being accused of speaking like a textbook – textbooks being his only friends up to this point – Tim also has the misfortune of being spotted by Woodsey on both occasions where he realises that he likes a girl and just maybe one might like him too.

Courage

Tim’s poor start may have made him a little pessimistic and lacking in confidence but when it really matters he is most certainly no coward. Just speaking out in a room full of adults and very senior staff takes enormous courage for this young man. Tim had made a career out of being unnoticeable at school, and he finds it hard to push himself still. However, it just so happens that with the new reality the crew are thrown into, Tim’s knowledge and even opinions become very important to everyone. Although he feels and is very junior, when the ship is in peril just before the New World attempts to land on the old world, the very old world, Tim refuses to hide away from the action. He will not be separated from his mum, although who is looking after whom becomes a little blurry.

Humility

What has always been a hobby, albeit a passionate one, for Tim is now serious currency aboard the USS New World. As the only person with the slightest inkling about what the crew will face when/if they manage to land safely, Tim very quickly comes to the notice of the senior staff. Suddenly he is included in meetings and decision making processes beyond anything he could have dreamed of. Even his young contemporaries are genuinely interested in what he knows and keep up a constant barrage of questions, banter and playful insults. This new ‘rock stardom’ could easily turn a young lad’s head, but Tim has known so much loss in his young life that he remains grounded and enjoys his new standing with surprising humility and gratitude. However, he is a teenager and so with a little help from his new friends, he still manages to find trouble. For years it was just Tim and Patricia and they have a close and touching relationship; as with his adoptive father, she is the only mother he has ever known. This places her in an ideal position throughout the book to berate him for getting into trouble with Woodsey and to destroy his teenage world by attempting to proudly hold his hand when he tries to speak up in a meeting!

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Author Information

Originally from Dudley in the West Midlands, Stephen Llewelyn works in construction.  Years spent digging into the foundations of ancient buildings, steeped in a vivid sense of the past, inspired his research into palaeontology and, in turn, shaped his inventive science fiction trilogy.  Llewelyn lives with his wife and their four dogs in the mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales.  The cover design for Survive features a line drawing of a Giganotosaurus skull by Hannah Armstrong, a young artist who died in tragic circumstances; Llewelyn plans to donate a percentage of royalties from the sale of Survive to the charity, MIND, in Hannah’s memory.

Website: http://www.stephenllewelyn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephen.llewelyn.142

Hey all, I’ve got something awesome for you today thanks to Patrick Canning. This is the first chapter of his novel Cryptofauna. I’ve got most of the chapter under a cut for space, but this one is a lot of fun, so enjoy!

Cryptofauna cover

1

St. Militrude’s

Jim grabbed a can of root beer for his suicide. He wasn’t particularly big on sassafras or licorice, but drink choices were limited. The tap water at St. Militrude’s Home for the Insane and Elderly was notorious for its eggy flavor. Mellow Yellow was tasty, but the potassium citrate was known to have undesirable drug interactions. Coke was the obvious front runner, except one of the residents had recently thrown every last can of it off the roof in protest of an earlier bed time.

 The conciliatory can of root beer jostled with the rest of the supplies on Jim’s janitorial cart as he pushed it down St. Mili’s labyrinth of hallways, mercifully quiet during the small hours. A jacket was the next item on the grisly scavenger hunt, because nobody wanted to die cold.

Perhaps surprising to some, a bleak occupation in a bleak setting wasn’t the catalyst behind Jim’s decision to end his life. He wasn’t bitter or depressed; he wasn’t heartbroken or mad at the government. Jim had simply made the classic mistake of thinking about it all too much. He’d always been of the suspicion that if one gave it too much thought, it being the why of it all, those thoughts would inevitably lead to suicide, or at least an absence of reasons not to do it. He’d gone in search of meaning and come up short, and this was pro-level stuff he was contemplating. The defeated janitor would’ve done well to stick to simpler, less fatal issues like why the bee makes honey or why yellow traffic lights were curiously but definitely getting shorter.

Jim trudged into the depths of the coatroom, battling a standoffish daddy long legs for nearly a minute before emerging with his white winter parka. He laid the poofy-bag-ofmarshmallows jacket atop the root beer, and pushed his cart to the last stop: the pharmacy.

Because of his plentiful experience with cleaning up other people’s messes and an affinity for his boss, Nurse Gail, Jim had elected to go by pill overdose. It was clean, quiet, and showed respect for the party that was to discover the body.

With an extensive roster of patients in desperate need of daily medication, St. Mili’s pharmacy was a Mecca of dozens of drugs that, when taken in excess, resulted in reliable death. Jim unlocked the mother of all medicine cabinets, perused its dizzying supply of amber bottles, and plucked the relatively obscure and verbally intimidating dikatharide olanzapine. Conventionally used to combat the dreaded tag team of paranoia and psychosis, the drug didn’t cause nausea (again, he really wanted this to be an easy clean up) and with its high levels of liver-busting haloperidol, a successful overdose was all but guaranteed.

Jim parked the supply cart in front of his bedroom door, sandwiched between the king-of ambient-noise boiler room and a storage closet that no one used because a) the door was jammed, and b) it smelled like a wet dog chewing black licorice.

Inside his bedroom at last, Jim locked the door and set the lamp on dim, considering. He sat cross-legged in the center bouquet of his flower-patterned rug, donned his marshmallow jacket, and opened his forced compromise can of root beer. The angry sound of freed carbonation joined a faint rendition of “O Canada” from a dementia-plagued geriatric on the floor above.

Making what he assumed would be his last choice, Jim decided to put liquid in before pills as opposed to the other way around (a traditionally benign but of course hotly-debated topic among the unpredictably opinionated residents of St. Mili’s). He sipped some root beer, and lifted the pills to their manufacturer-unapproved destiny. It was at this moment, in a statistically improbable stroke of luck, that the knob of Jim’s locked door quivered.
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Guest Post: A.M.Bochnack

As mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve got a guest post for you all today from A. M. Bochnack. She’ll be talking about what lead her to writing Fortitude Rising. I rather enjoyed reading this and I hope you do as well. Enjoy!

The Lifeline of Writing

For me, writing is a vital lifeline. Without it, I would not survive. Without it, I would not exist. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a little girl. Long before I ever had a clue how to formulate a sentence or structure a book, I was imagining far off worlds and amazing characters that would show up at my doorstep any minute and save me from my reality.

By the time I hit middle school, I was writing poems and short stories. I wrote a new poem almost weekly, practicing my rhyming and letting my emotions lead me through each stanza. I made up new characters all the time and imagined where I would take them and what magical abilities they would possess.

And then something unspeakable happened. I listened to an adult. By this point, I was in high school and it was time to think about college. I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up and, of course, I said an author. The same adult laughed at me and told me I had to reconsider. Aspiring authors were rarely successful, they said, and I would most likely starve for the rest of my life. I was devastated, and heart broken. Writing was all I ever thought about. I didn’t have anything else and I didn’t want to do anything else with my life.

Struggling for an answer to adulthood and college, my favorite teacher told me I excelled at science and encouraged me to pursue a career in science instead. So, I put away my pen and paper and headed down a new path.

For over twenty years I didn’t write a creative word. Nothing. Not a single story or poem. Instead I was a scientist and I told myself repeatedly that I did not have a creative bone in my body. Nope, it was all facts backed by data in my new life.

This held me over for a while. I was content working hard, making a name for myself in my field. I equally love science and the pursuit for knowledge. It was (or is, I should say) a great fit for me. But every time I finished reading a book, my days of dreaming up characters would seep to the surface of my mind and I would think about writing again. These characters nagged at me, forced me to think about them and create worlds for them to live in. I would make random notes to myself in the form of journal entries but that was the limit. I wasn’t creative, I couldn’t write. I was a scientist.

The more the characters nagged at me, the less content I was with my life and career. I tried to ignore them, but they were persistent. It took me several years before I finally decided to act on it. In early 2015, I bought a few books on how to structure a novel and my life began again. The thing is, nothing in life is easy. No career choice will result in an instant success. I didn’t wake up one day a successful scientist, I had to work at for over ten years before I achieved the level of success I was looking for. Some choices may take longer than others to achieve the same level of success as another, but success is always possible if you’re willing to do the work required.

I sometimes let myself wander down the dangerous path of what if’s. What if I never listened to that adult and I pursued writing instead of science? What if I had a degree in English literature instead of environmental sciences? What if… what if… what if… Would I have been a successful author a decade ago? These are dangerous questions that will never do me any good, so I must let it go.

The beautiful thing about life is, it’s never too late to try something new. As long as we’re breathing, we should be trying! I published my first novel, Fortitude Rising, earlier this year at the age of forty-three. Twenty years later than I planned on when I was a little girl. I could focus on the fact that it took me so long to do it, but I’m not. What’s important is that I finally allowed myself to be true to me and I did it!

If you too have been dreaming up characters and thinking you want to write a novel or short story, my advice to you is to stop thinking and start doing. I’m still a scientist, but I’m also a published author and it feels amazing! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And there’s a lot to be gained by following your dreams.

 

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Author Bio:

A.M. Bochnak is a dreamer. With her head in the clouds or her eyes turned to the stars, she spends countless hours imagining new adventures and far off worlds for which to travel. When she isn’t dreaming, she writes science fiction and fantasy with her focus on epic fantasies, apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. Fortitude Rising, a sci-fi dystopian fantasy, is her first published novel. She is an American author, born and raised in southern Ohio and now lives in Gainesville, Florida. www.ambochnak.com

 

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Debut Novel: Fortitude Rising, Volume One of the Magical Bond Series

Ebony Hunter has spent her entire life isolated on an island institution run by her father, Dr. Daniel Hunter. When Connor Vance and his group of outsiders are brought to the institution, they cause her to question everything her father has ever told her about the world. But who’s telling her the truth? Her father or the outsiders?

Just when she starts to open up to Connor Vance, he admits that he and his companions are on a mission to kill her and her life-long friends. Connor’s mission to kill her is halted when he realizes Ebony is a pawn, albeit a powerful pawn, in her father’s game. They must join forces and work together if they ever hope to escape the clutches of the true enemy, Dr. Hunter and Vivian Way, a political reformist.

To find the truth, and hopefully earn her freedom, Ebony must overcome her fears and embrace her magical powers. Her life depends on the trust of people she hardly knows as the battle for control of her powerful magic escalates between her and her father.

Through her journey of self-discovery, she finds friendship, love, and a strength she never knew she possessed. Everyone around her is taking sides in the struggle for power, and the lives of everyone she cares about are on the line as the tension rises in this sci-fi dystopian fantasy. Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DCF1XCP

Guest Post: D. S. Smith

Alright, I’ve mentioned this blog tour before, but today’s the day my post goes live. This one’s about the inspiration behind Unparalleled. Enjoy!

Unparalleled coverThe inspiration for writing Unparalleled came to me during a visit to the zoo. I had been toying with the idea of writing a science fiction novel after reading other works in this genre. I was especially impressed by Michael Crichton’s novel, Timeline. In this story, a group of scientists are sent back in time to medieval France.

 

I loved the way Crichton crafted this story, using a combination science and technology with history and malevolence to create a gripping tale of conflict and wonder. As I strolled around the zoo, head buzzing with ideas for a tale of my own, I came across the tiger enclosure. A group of people gathered at the fence watching a keeper throw meat to one of the animals. The tiger did not seem interested in the scraps being thrown, but it did seem very interested in the source of food.

 

I marveled at the fact that the keeper and the tiger were only separated by a chain fence and a moat circling the enclosure. I imagined the carnage that would take place if the fence were to suddenly disappear, or what would happen if someone was dragged from the past, like a character from Timeline, materializing at the other side of the fence, face to face with one of these magnificent yet lethal beasts. The idea for a story started to take form and that night I wrote the prologue for Unparalleled.

 

Unfortunately, life got in the way of writing and the first few hand written pages of what was to become my first published novel were shoved into a shoebox and stored in the loft.

 

Ten years past before the creative juices started to flow again and the story progressed beyond the prologue. I had just finished reading ‘The Time Travelers Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger. I enjoyed the way she used science fiction to create a love story with a modern day twist of Shakespearian conflict. I decided to use a similar method, not so much to create a love story but to try to place every day characters with real emotions into extraordinary situations. Situations that make them question everything they have ever understood about their existence and the world they live in.

 

Unparalleled is as much about the human condition as it is about the science fiction. It turned out to be a very different story to the one I thought of all those years ago. The whole novel stems from the original prologue which gained its own momentum as one idea lead to another. I hope the pace of the novel keeps the reader interested while the underlying plot, based on real science, leaves them wondering, what if…….

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You can find Unparalleled here or here.

Hey all, sorry for going radio silent again. Odd week. It’s Friday the 13th and I figured what better time to treat you all to an excerpt from a book that, as I hear it, does some really cool stuff with werewolves. The author, Dan O’Brien is re-releasing his entire bibliography, so if you’re interested this could be an awesome time to check him out. Either way, enjoy!

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Synopsis: A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesotan town. There is talk of wolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, resourceful and determined FBI agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and an ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could imagine.

An excerpt from Bitten:

THE CREATURE crashed into the sides of its space. Tearing broken, rusted objects from the shelves, it threw them to the ground in angry fits of rage. Tears streamed down its face and the guttural whimper that echoed in the oversized shed was the only shred of humanity that remained.

With each mashed piece of its life, it plunged deeper into madness; closer to the monster it was slowly becoming. The light of the day had all but faded. Reaching out and grasping a light bulb that hung dimly at the center of the shed, it crushed it, allowing the shards to rip apart its hands.

Blood dripped on the work table and the partial husk of Wayne Joyce’s mutilated face. It had stretched out the flesh, drying it and coating it with deer oil. Its cries were crocodile tears; there was no emotion left except rage, hatred. Remorse and guilt long since disappearing into the abyss that was its mind.

The winds howled.

It responded.

Black thread, spooled with a sharp needle, sat beside the human mask. It reached down with one of its mangled hands, lifting the needle and then the flesh. Pressing against its skin, it drove the needle into its own face, drawing blood and an angry snarl. Each time through, there was a growl and a pool of blood. The task was complete: the flesh attached to the monster.

Little folds lifted from its face. The wind whipped against them, drawing its attention. Reaching out to a staple gun, it pressed it against its face. The creature drove thick steel staples into its face, flattening out the macabre mask.

The table was a massacre.

Leftover pieces of the trophies it took were lifeless artifacts of its ascension to death-bringer. Reaching out for the long claw of torture it wore as a glove, the creature groaned. Language was lost. More and more, it felt like an animal, a creature meant to destroy everything.

The rage built like steam. It coursed through its veins, polluting every aspect of humanity that remained. The moon would rise soon––full and omniscient. That would be the moment of its ascension.

It would be its masterpiece.

 

If you love supernatural fiction, a good mystery, and a fun story, then you’ll want to give Bitten a look. Releasing in July as well is the follow-up novella, Drained. The third novella in the series, Frighten, will be released in early 2019.

What readers are saying about Bitten

“Bitten is an extremely well-balanced and engaging novel. It contains mystery, suspense, horror, romance, and best of all – a creative, genre-bending twist on werewolf mythology. The story is quick-paced and dark without being too heavy or overdramatic. The protagonist is a strong and courageous FBI agent who is able to assert herself without casting aside her femininity. She reminds me of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum…. If a sequel follows, I will definitely read it.”

“Author Dan O’Brien left his mark with Bitten. I’ve now read three books by O’Brien, but BITTEN is by far my favorite. It not only showcases his literary skills, but leaves the reader wanting more. What else could an avid reader ask for?”

Get it today on Kindle!

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Dan O’Brien has over 50 publications to his name––including the bestselling Bitten, which was featured on Conversations Book Club’s Top 100 novels of 2012. Before starting Amalgam Consulting, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an international magazine. You can learn more about his literary and publishing consulting business by visiting his website at: www.amalgamconsulting.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AuthorDanOBrien.

Mad Cat Franz and the Bomb cover

For me there has always been something a little weird about books. That someone you’ve never met, who may even be long dead, had an idea for a character, a place, a scene, a story form in their mind and translated it into lines of squiggles on pieces of paper. Years later you come along and pick up those pieces of paper and decipher the squiggles and in your mind the images re-form. You may say, well duh-huh stupid, that’s writing and reading! This I know, but there still seems a little magic involved.

Personally, an idea for a novel can quite literally trigger from anything at all. Something seen, heard, read, an event, a feeling experienced, a comment, a joke, an injustice particularly, a silly fact, a conversation overheard. There’s no end to the list really. Also this trigger can provide the missing links to let you chain together any number of ideas you’ve been carrying around for some time into a workable synopsis.

The idea-spark for my latest novel Mad Cat, Franz and the Bomb came from a quip, too vulgar to repeat here, made by a good friend of mine when he deranged a line from the musical Oklahoma. For some bizarre reason it combined with an image I’d had in my head for years that goes like this.

It’s a beautiful summer day and you’re sat at the beach gazing at a calm sea when you notice something moving in the water close in front of you. As you watch, the surface of the water is broken by the top of a blond head, a forehead appears, eyes, a face, shoulders until the figure of a German World War Two pilot in uniform steadily walks up out of the water bone dry. The beach is crowded but no one else sees him. Only you.

In the novel the ‘you’ concerned is a teenage girl, Catherine McEvoy, also known to one and all in the small seaside town as Mad Cat because as a young child she insisted she had three invisible friends who tormented her horribly. Franz is the German pilot and the Bomb in question, which maybe real or not, is used as a metaphor for what is happening to Cat.

The other main characters are two retired gay actors, Teddy and Perry, who are as good as family to Cat. Perry is calm and loving while Teddy is profane and raucous and also, in the story, dying. That these characters are polar opposites allows for the injection of humour at regular intervals to prevent the story becoming too sad or introverted. This wasn’t a conscious, contrived device on my part as the two characters occurred naturally alongside the initial idea, but I did find I enjoyed them as I wrote their scenes and so their interjections became more frequent as the story unfolded.

The world building for the novel was relatively easy given the geographical setting of the story. We’re all familiar with such small, seaside towns and the one I describe is an amalgam of a few I am familiar with. The houses and rooms are imagined to reflect the characters who live in them and are assembled with as much of an eye for detail as possible to try to bring them alive. It wasn’t as if I had to envisage a dystopian future world and I admire writers who are capable of that type of imagination.

I read somewhere Stephen King will sometimes begin writing a novel or short story with no idea how it will end and just let it continue not knowing where it will take him. Just writes. Amazing. Being a mere mortal and old school in comparison, as soon as I get the initial story idea I pretty much know most of the beginning and always the ending and much of the arc leading from one to the other, though as the story develops it can go off at tangents I hadn’t originally thought of at all.

This being in many ways three stories woven and linked together around the central character Cat, made keeping the events and scenes in the arc fluent a little complicated, rather like juggling at times. Also there was quite a bit of historical research involved which can be laborious but it does sometimes uncover unthought-of pearls that enrich the story. I shouldn’t say this but it also looks like you know what you’re talking about!

And as for characters, well, they can cause a real problem. I’m lucky in that they mostly come fully formed right down to the sound of their voice and their clothes  and once they are realised they are fixed as firmly as something ghastly you’ve seen and can’t un-see. Some very occasionally require a little polishing to make them, hopefully, memorable for the reader.

The problem being invariably when writing, other characters will appear which are great but ultimately not right for the particular story and so you have to, as Faulkner says, “…kill all your darlings.” That can be a tough call sometimes to know if it is the right decision or not and the upshot is you end up with a disgruntled mob in the back of your mind grumpily waiting to be employed in their own yarn. Likewise a scene you’ve written can be really on the money but it jars in the context of the overall story. You read and re-read looking for any excuse to include it but eventually and however reluctantly, you admit it just has to go.

Mad Cat, Franz and the Bomb is in essence a ghost story and the three invisible friends who torment Cat as a child I saw as perhaps, the horrid spirits of Victorian children who once inhabited the house where she lives. The concept of invisible friends is interesting to me too in that, in young children they are tolerated but in adults it’s labelled as delusionary or schizophrenia, which is something I explore in the story too. So are they real or is Cat indeed going mad as everyone believes?

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Bio of Tony McAndrew:

Having what little education thrashed into him by nuns at the convent caned out of him by grammar school, Tony kept a promise to himself to begin writing when he finished doing tedious stuff like working full time. After a wander through psychiatric nursing, the Met Police and almost thirty years as a frontline paramedic the time seemed about right. He still works now and again in Primary Care somewhere in Wales and lives happily on the Gower indulging in writing, reading, talking with friends, drinking beer and floating in the sea with his wife.