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ABOUT NANCY JARDINE Nancy Jardine lives in the fantastic ‘castle country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband of many years. She spends her week making creative excuses for her neglected large garden; doesn’t manage as much writing as she always plans to do since she’s on Facebook too often, but she does have a thoroughly great time playing with her toddler granddaughter when she’s just supposed to be ‘just’ childminding her twice a week.
A lover of all things historical it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat Publishing.
A peculiar invitation to Heidelberg embroils Keira Drummond in the search for a mysterious collection of extraordinary jewels once owned by a Mughal Emperor; a hoard that was last known to be in the possession of Amsterdam resident, Geertje Hoogeveen, in 1910. Who among the progeny of Geertje – hitherto unfamiliar third cousins brought together for the quest – can Keira rely on? Distrust and suspicion among them is rife.Which one is greedy, and determined enough, to hire thugs to tail her… and worse… as she travels to Vienna and Minnesota? Can Keira even trust Teun Zeger – a Californian she is becoming very drawn to – as they pair up to unearth the jewellery? As they follow a trail of clues, will they uncover the full collection before the hired gun kills them? Details remain furtive and undisclosed until danger and death forces their exposure. And who harbours the ultimate mystery item that is even more precious than the Mughal jewels? Greed, suspicion and murder are balanced by growing family loyalty, trust, and love. Excerpt Rochester – thief in the night – 412 During the night Keira woke suddenly, though had no idea what had disturbed her. Teun wasn’t in the bed beside her and didn’t seem to be in the en suite bathroom either, since the door was open and the light was off. The door to the corridor was open, however, and dim light from the hallway window gave a soft moonlit illumination. As silently as she could, she rose from the bed, yanked on the panties and top lying discarded on the floor, and then tip-toed out into the corridor. Ignoring the squeaks from loose floorboards, she made her way along to the staircase. There was the faintest sound coming from downstairs, as if someone closed a door down below her. What was Teun doing? The jewels? Was he doing something downstairs with them? Retracing her steps, she scurried back to Teun’s side of the bed. Feeling her way across the surface of the nightstand, she located the velvet boxes. For some strange reason a sigh of relief escaped her. Whatever he was doing didn’t include the jewels; she knew that, having made sure the jewellery was still inside both boxes, and no stray pearls having dropped on the floor. Adam? Was it Adam who was unwell and she’d not heard him? Guilt made her embarrassed as she crept back out of the bedroom. How mercenary she’d been thinking of the jewellery before Adam’s welfare. Speeding her way down the stairs, the breath whooshed out of her as her foot left the bottom step. A muffled whimper was all she managed as someone tackled her to the floor, before a heavy body pinned her down. What the hell was happening? Face bent onto wooden floorboards, she struggled her way free, kicking her legs wildly. Before she could cry out, a hand cuffed her mouth. “What are you doing?” Teun whispered in her ear, his arms tightly clasping her, though he did take his hand away from her mouth. He rolled over with her now on top of him, prostrate, his chest heaving into her back, his arms now a protective clutch. His breathing was so loud at her ear, it deafened. “Teun?” “What the hell are you doing, Keira?” “What am I doing?” She forgot to whisper. His hand clamped her mouth again, but not so forcibly. “Shhh…” She felt like a punch bag, but realized immediately Teun had thought she was someone else. “Is Adam okay?”
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Nevermore – A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe
Genre: Dark Fantasy
I'm thrilled to have no other than David Niall Wilson as my special guest today and to fnd out a little more about him and 'Nevermore'. Make yourself comfortable, let the slave-drone mix you something sparkling, and let's get started!
HL: Tell us a little more about yourself , with three things not many people know about you.
DNW: I've been writing seriously since the mid 1980s. I published my own magazine in the late 1980s, early 1990s called The Tome. I served for twenty years in the United States Navy, where a good number of my stories and novels were written. I have 31 books out now, including novels, licensed novels, short story collections and one book titled "American Pies" that is about – well – baking pies. It's also something of a memoir. Three things:
1)I occasionally tear up during emotional movie and television scenes, and even when reading books, if the story is that good.
2)I'm a member of a motorcycle "club" – Tiburon MC – formed in Rota Spain and could write horror stories about the initiation.
3)I have visited a Bodega in southern Spain and tasted Amontillado – I don't care what Poe says, it is one of the nastiest varietals of sherry available.
HL: Wow - that's an awful lot of books - and I'm with you on the 'tearing up' I'm just the same! So whatcomes first: theplot or the characters?
DNW: I'm not sure this is a question with an apples or oranges kind of answer. I often start with nothing more than a clever title. My first collection is centered around a story titled "The Fall of the House of Escher." That story began with characters and the plot developed as I wrote.
Many of my stories and novels now take place in the fictional cities and universe I've been slowly creating for them. In these cases, a lot of the characters existed before the plot came along. This is almost always true of series works, like my DeChance Chronicles, or the novels of the O.C.L.T. In situations like that, you already know who the main characters will be – and the only characters remaining are those they will interact with in that particular story. These works are generally borne of a plot and then adapted to the existing world and characters.
That said, I am a character driven author. I have always been able to put myself into the minds and thought patterns of those I create. I believe this is the most important thing about characterization – if you can't imagine how your character would react to the plot at hand, it will never ring true. You might think of the plot first, in other words, but to bring the plot to life you have to filter it through the characters. Sometimes this process changes a plot irrevocably.
HL: What a fascinating answer - and I so agree about the characters. *sigh* mine change the plot all the time! :) Tell us about your latest release and what you think readers will enjoy about it
DNW: My latest novel is Nevermore, a Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe. It's an alternate history, as well as a dark fantasy, proposing an identity for Lenore, a reason for the poem The Raven to be written, and tying elements of fantasy, mystery, romance and intrigue into a single storyline.
I think people will fall in love with Edgar and Lenore. At least, I hope they will. Fans of my work will recognize the swamp witch Nettie, and will smile as my character, Donovan DeChance, waltzes in at one point in the novel, setting up the next book and tying Nevermore in as a sort of book 4.5 between Book IV of the DeChance Chronicles, Kali's Tale, and Book V (in progress) which has the working title of A Midnight Dreary.
HL: Oh, it sounds wonderful, I've just downloacerd 'Nevermore and am so looking forward to reading it - and I love alternate history and dark fantasy, so I know I'll love it, and I'm sure other readers will too! If someone were to play one of your characters in a movie, which character and what actor would it be and why?
DNW: I like to play casting director in my head, and have written some screenplays and TV proposals. I could get too deeply into this question, so I'm going to give you a more obvious answer. The character I'd most like to see portrayed is Donovan DeChance. Any of three actors would work for this part, all for similar reasons, and all with an absolutely different outcome. I'm not going to choose them because they physically resemble the character, but because I have never been disappointed in any character they have portrayed, and would love to see their interpretation. Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., and – of course – Johnny Depp. Donovan requires a mix of old-world sophistication and humor. He's a book collector, a mage, an investigator when it's called for – and a very resourceful man. He's also been alive since the mid 1800s, and has seen a lot of life – both good, and bad.
HL: Great cast line-up! :) I'd certainly want to see the film if it happens! What have you learned about writing since you were published that surprised you the most?
DNW: I'm afraid that this won't be a very positive answer. The thing that has surprised me the most about writing – which I consider an art – is that the business of writing has very little to do with art. Most of our great literary talents have succeeded despite the system set up to publish and promote them, not because of it, and I shudder to think how many very talented, passionate authors have been pounded into drudges and hacks, spilling out what "sells" instead of what they are compelled to create.
I have played that game myself, and though I've always tried very hard to maintain the same level of quality in my work, whether working in the White Wolf World of Darkness, or with the characters of Star Trek and Stargate, I have always been aware that precision and style are not art.
I've been working a long time on a book about writing, and about my life. If it's ever published, it will be titled "Writing What Hurts," and that's the most important thing, to me. If what you are working on does not in some way move you – if you aren't caught up in it, loving it, sometimes hating it, dying with your characters, living and loving in their lives – you are just going through the motions. Sadly, to make a living writing, it has long been necessary to please agents and editors before yourself, and in this process we have – I think – lowered the expectations of readers to a point where a lack of heart in the writing doesn't cause a stir, as long as the formulas are familiar, and the constant barrage of marketing tells them what is good.
Thank god for the exceptional – Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Caitlin Kiernan, Kathe Koja – authors who refuse to be told what to write.
HL: That is so very true, David. Now let's change tack a little and talk some more about your writing process. Do you listen to music when you write and if so, what kind of music – or do you find it distracts you?
DNW: Nothing distracts me. I served in the Navy on a number of ships. If I had not developed the trick of compartmentalizing my mind, I'd never have written a word. On board a ship there are very few places you can go to work where there won't be at least a few others around you – constant noise and distraction.
I love to listen to music when I write. I have written a crazy number of words to the music of Concrete Blonde, Depeche Mode, Siouxie and the Banshees, Ten Inch Men, and scores of others. I play guitar, and sing a little – music has always been a large part of everything important in my life.
HL: What a fascinating answer - and speaking personally, I just love to listen to the guitar! What is your personal definition of success?
DNW: Since I consider myself a storyteller, success to me would be for my stories to be read, experienced, and loved. Sure, I would like to be comfortable, and I'm happy that I can provide for my family, but what I wouldn’t' give to be walking down the street and see someone with their nose buried in a book – and to realize it's one of mine. I mean, I've seen sales numbers, know that hundreds of thousands of people have actually read my words, but the feedback in this profession is incredibly sparse until you reach rockstar status, at which point you probably need to move somewhere private. Us "in-betweeners" live for the times our words reach others.
HL: I think most writers, if they writer for the love of story telling, would certainly agree with that. If you were an animal, which one do you think you would be, and why?
DNW: A Raven, or a very large crow. I have always been drawn to these birds – Corvids of all sorts – but ravens most of all. Even before the movie "The Crow" made it cool, I was up on the folklore and legends surrounding these guys. Both Donovan DeChance and Edgar Poe are accompanied by them in my books…
I love their darkness, their mystery, the intelligence that they are not supposed to have – and the notion that when all of this is done – this life – one of them will be there to carry me on to whatever comes next.
HL: What a wonderful concept, I think birds of all species have far more intelligence that many people give them credit for. I see you are also a fellow animal lover, I think we can learn so much from the creatures which share our planet. So - Many authors relate their characters to people they know. Is this the case with your characters and do you see yourself in any of them?
DNW: There is a lot of me in a great number of my characters, but none of them would be based directly on that one framework. I study people. I draw characters from the bits and pieces I see and hear around me. My novel The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature – for instance. There are characters in there loosely based on local people – speech patterns, habits – it's how I build the stories, one character at a time.
More often than I steal entire characters, you'll find me using names. Most of my co-workers ended up in my sci-fi novel The Second Veil – A Tale of the Scattered Earth, and off and on I drop colleagues, other authors, etc. into books. I don't think any of us could create a real character to save our souls if we didn't have life spread out all around us, the shoppers in Walmart, the guys hanging out at a bar, our friends and co-workers, all dealing with life and on display for us to memorize, revise, and put to use.
Thank you so much for taking time to visit and take part in this interview. It’s been a thrill having you here and learning more about you and your writing. I wish you even greater success, now and in the future.
ABOUT DAVID NIALL WILSON
David Niall Wilson has been writing and publishing horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction since the mid-eighties. An ordained minister, once President of the Horror Writer’s Association and multiple recipient of the Bram Stoker Award, his novels include Maelstrom, The Mote in Andrea’s Eye, Deep Blue, theGrails Covenant Trilogy, Star Trek Voyager: Chrysalis, Except You Go Through Shadow, This is My Blood, Ancient Eyes, On the Third Day, The Orffyreus Wheel,and Vintage Soul – Book One of the DeChance Chronicles. The Stargate Atlantis novel “Brimstone,” written with Patricia Lee Macomber is his most recent. He has over 150 short stories published in anthologies, magazines, and five collections, the most recent of which were “Defining Moments,” published in 2007 by WFC Award winning Sarob Press, and the currently available “Ennui & Other States of Madness,” from Dark Regions Press. His work has appeared in and is due out in various anthologies and magazines. David lives and loves with Patricia Lee Macomber in Hertford, NC near The Great Dismal Swamp with their daughter Katie and occasionally their genius college daughter Stephanie and their sons Bill, Zach, and Zane who are all serving in the United States Navy. They own a ridiculous Pekingese named Gizmo, a spaz of a Cocker Spaniel named Callie, their not-so-vicious cats Sid and Mew, a pair of crazy cockatiels named Tiki Kowalksi and Gypsy, and a never-to-become-a-coat chinchilla named Pook Daddy. David is CEO and founder of Crossroad Press, a cutting edge digital publishing company specializing in electronic novels, collections, and non-fiction, as well as unabridged audiobooks and original print editions. Visit Crossroad Press at http://store.crossroadpress.com
About Nevermore – A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe
On the banks of Lake Drummond, on the edge of The Great Dismal Swamp, there is a tree in the shape of a woman.
One dark, moonlit night, two artists met at The Lake Drummond Hotel, built directly on the borderline of North Carolina and Virginia. One was a young woman with the ability to see spirits trapped in trees and stone, anchored to the earth beyond their years. Her gift was to draw them, and then to set them free. The other was a dark man, haunted by dreams and visions that brought him stories of sadness and pain, and trapped in a life between the powers he sensed all around him, and a mundane existence attended by failure. They were Eleanore MacReady, Lenore, to her friends, and a young poet named Edgar Allan Poe, who traveled with a crow that was his secret, and almost constant companion, a bird named Grimm for the talented brothers of fairy-tale fame.
Their meeting drew them together in vision, and legend, and pitted their strange powers and quick minds against the depths of the Dismal Swamp itself, ancient legends, and time.
Once, upon a shoreline dreary, there was a tree. This is her story.
The room was low-ceilinged and deep. Smoke wafted from table to table, cigars, pipes, and the pungent aroma of scented candles. Laughter floated out from the bar, separated by a low half-wall from a small dining area, where the bartender regaled the crowd with a particularly bawdy story. In the corners, more private conversations took place, and at the rear, facing the Intercoastal Waterway beyond, the door stood open to the night, letting the slightly cooler air of evening in and the sound and smoke free.
The smoke prevented the illumination from a series of gaslights and lanterns from cutting the gloom properly. Smiles gleamed from shadows and the glint of silver and gunmetal winked like stars. It was a rough crowd, into their drinks and stories, plans and schemes.
Along the back wall, facing a window that looked out over the waterway and the Great Dismal Swamp beyond, a lone figure sat with her back to the room. Her hair was long and light brown, braided back and falling over her shoulder to the center of her back. She was tall and slender with smooth, tanned skin. She was dressed for travel, in a long, floor length dress that covered her legs, while allowing ease of motion. The crowd swirled around her, but none paid her any attention.
She paid no attention to anything but the window. Her gaze was fixed on the point where an intricate pattern of branches and leaves crossed the face of the moon.
There was a sheaf of paper on the table, and she held a bit of chalk loosely between the thumb and index finger of her right hand. She formed the trees, the long strong lines of the trees, the fine mesh of branches and mist. Her fingers moved quickly, etching outlines and shading onto her sketch with practiced ease.
A serving girl wandered over to glance down at the work in progress. She stared at the paper intently, and then glanced up at the window, and the night beyond. She reached down and plucked the empty wine glass from the table.
“What are they?” she asked.
The woman glanced up. Her expression was startled, as if she’d been drawn back from some other place, or out of a trance. She followed the serving girl’s gaze to the paper.
Among the branches, formed of limbs and leaves, mist and reflected light, faces gazed out, some at the tavern, some at the swamp, others down along the waterway. They mixed so subtly with the trees themselves that if you were not looking carefully, they seemed to disappear.
“I don’t know,” the woman said. “Not yet. Spirits, I suppose. Trapped. Tangled.”
“You are a crazy woman,” the girl said. There was no conviction in her words. She continued to stare at the sketch. Then, very suddenly, she stepped back. She stumbled, and nearly dropped her tray.
The woman glanced up at her sharply.
“That…face.” The girl stepped back to the table very slowly, and pointed to the center of the snarl of branches. The tip of her finger brushed along the lines of a square-jawed face. The eyes were dark and the expression was a scowl close to rage.
“I’ve seen him before,” she said. “Last year. He…he was shot.”
“Can you tell me?”
The girl shook her head. “Not now. I have to work. If I stand here longer there will be trouble. Later? I must serve until the tavern closes, a few hours…”
The artist held out her hand.
“My Name is Eleanor, Eleanor MacReady, but friends call me Lenore. I’ll be here, finishing this drawing, until you close. I know that it will be late, but I am something of a night person. Can we talk then? Maybe in my room?”
The girl nodded. She glanced down at the drawing again and stepped back. Then she stumbled off into the crowded tavern and disappeared. Lenore stared after her for a long moment, brow furrowed, then turned back to the window. The moon had shifted, and the image she’d been drawing was lost. It didn’t matter. The faces were locked in her mind, and she turned her attention to her wine glass, and to the paper. The basic design was complete, but there was a lot of shading and detail work remaining. She had to get the faces just right – exactly as she remembered them. Then the real work would begin.
Even as she worked, her mind drifted out toward the swamp, and toward her true destination. She didn’t know the exact location of the tree, but she knew it was there, and she knew that she would find it. She didn’t always see things in her dreams, but when she did, the visions were always true.
A breeze blew in through the open window, and she shivered.
The face she was working on was that of an older man. He had a sharp, beak of a nose and deep-set shadowed eyes. The expression on his face might have been surprise, or dismay. His hair was formed of strands of gray cloud blended with small twigs and wisps of fog as she carefully entered the details.
There were others. She’d counted five in all, just in that one glimpse of the swamp. She thought she could probably sit right here, at this window, and work for years without capturing them all. How many lives lay buried in the peat moss and murky water? How many had died, or been killed beside the long stretch of the Intercoastal Waterway? She tilted her head and listened. The breeze seemed to carry voices from far away, the sound of firing guns, the screams of the lost and dying.
She worked a woman’s features into a knotted joint in one of the tree’s branches. The face was proud. Her lip curled down slightly at the edge, not so much in a frown, as in determination. Purpose. From the strong cheekbones and distinctive lines of the woman’s nose, Lenore sensed she’d been an Indian. How had she come here, soul trapped fluttering up through the sticky fingers of the ancient trees?
Around her, the sounds of revelry, arguments of drunken, belligerent men, clink of glasses, full and empty, and the sound of a lone guitar in a far corner surrounded her. She felt cut off – isolated in some odd way from everyone, and everything but the paper beneath her fingers. Now and then she paused, reached out for her glass, and sipped her wine.
No one troubled her and that in and of itself, was odd. A woman – an attractive woman – alone in a place like the Halfway House was an oddity. She should have been a target. She was not. A few men glanced her way, but something about her – the way she bent over her work, the intensity of her focus – kept them away. She worked steadily, and one by one, the others drifted out the doors, some to rooms, others to wander about with bottles and thoughts of their own. Eventually, there were only a few small groups, talking quietly, the bartender, and the girl.
There was nothing more she could do. She had drawn an eerily accurate recreation of the trees over the waterway, and of the five faces she’d found trapped in their branches. She sensed things about them but knew little. She did not need to know. She knew that she had to set them free, to allow them to move on to the next level. Something had bound them – some power, or some part of themselves they were unwilling to release. They did not belong, and though she knew that most of the world either ignored, or did not sense these things at all – she did. All those trapped, helpless beings weighed on her spirit like stones. She was fine until she saw them, but once that happened, she was bound to set them free. It was her gift – her curse? Sometimes the two were too closely aligned to be differentiated.
She rose, drained the last of the wine in her cup, and gathered her pencils. She tucked the drawing into the pocket of a leather portfolio, careful not to smudge it. Soon, it would not matter, but until she’d had a chance to finish her work, it was crucial that nothing be disturbed.
The girl, who had been busy wiping the spilled remnants of ale, wine, and the night from the various tables and the surface of the bar, wandered slowly over.
“I’m in the corner room,” Lenore said, smiling. “The one farthest in on the Carolina side.”
The girl nodded. She glanced over at the bartender, then turned back.
“I will come as soon as I can.” She glanced down at the portfolio. “You have finished?”
Lenore nodded, but only slightly. “I have finished the basic drawing, yes.”
“He was a bad man,” the girl said. “A very bad man. I have never seen him there – in the trees – before tonight. I don’t like that he watches.”
“After tonight, he will not,” Lenore said, reaching to lay her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “But I’d love to know who he is – who he was. I seldom know the faces I’ve drawn. You saw him – in my drawing, and in the trees. Most see nothing but branches.”
“I will come soon,” the girl said, turning and hurrying back toward the bar.
Lenore watched her go, frowned slightly, and then turned. She had to exit through the front door and follow a long porch along the side of the building where it turned from the saloon in the center to a line of rooms on the Carolina side. There were similar rooms on the Virginia side, but her business was in the swamp, and the corner room gave her a better view of what lay beyond.
As she made her way to her room, she heard the steady drum of hooves. She stopped, and turned. A carriage had come into view, winding in from the main road that stretched between the states. It was dark, pulled by a pair of even darker horses. She stood still and watched as it came to a halt. Something moved far above, and she glanced up in time to see a dark shape flash across the pale face of the moon. A bird? At night?
She glanced back to the carriage to see it pulling away into the night. A single figure stood, his bag in one hand. He glanced her way, nodded, and then turned toward the main door of the saloon. He was thin, with dark hair and eyes. It was hard to make his features out in the darkness, but somehow she saw into those eyes. They were filled with an odd, melancholy sadness. As he passed inside, it seemed as if his shadow remained, just for a moment, outlined in silvery light. Then it was gone.
Lenore shook her head, turned, and hurried to the door to her room. She fumbled the key from her jacket pocket, jammed it into the lock, and hurried inside. She had no idea why the sight of the man had unnerved her, but it had. And the bird. If she’d woken from a dream, she’d have believed she was meant to set him free…but she was very, very awake, and though her fingers itched to draw – to put his image on paper and tuck it away somewhere safe, she knew she could not. Not now – not yet. There was not much time before dawn, and she still had work to finish – and a story to hear. The stranger, if she ever returned to him, would have to wait.
She lit the oil lamp on the single table in her small room, opened the portfolio, and laid the drawing on the flat surface. There was a small stand nearby, and another bottle of wine rested there. She had two glasses, but had not known at the time why she’d asked for them. Another vision? She poured one for herself, and replaced the cork.
Moments later, there was a soft rap on the door. When she opened it, the girl stood outside, shifting nervously from one foot to the other and looking up and down the long porch as if fearing to be seen.
“Come in,” Lenore said.
The girl did so, and Lenore closed the door behind them.
“What shall I call you?” she asked, trying to set the girl at ease. Something had her spooked and it would simply not do to have the girl bolt without spilling her story.
“Anita,” the girl said shyly, glancing at Lenore. “I am Anita.”
“I’m glad to meet you,” Lenore said, “and very curious to hear what you have to say about the man you saw in the trees. I see them all the time, you know. In trees, bushes, sometimes in the water or a stone. It’s not very often that I meet another who is aware of them – even less often that I have a chance to hear their stories.”
“It is not a good story,” Anita said. “He was a very bad man.”
Lenore smiled again. “He’s not a man any longer, dear, so there is nothing to fear in the telling. Would you like a glass of wine?”
The girl nodded. Lenore poured a second glass from her bottle and handed it over. “Sit down,” she said. “I still have work to do, and I can work as you talk. It will relax me.”
“I will tell you,” Anita said, perching lightly on the corner of the bed, “but it will not relax you.”
“Then it will keep me awake,” Lenore said, seating herself at her desk. “Yo see, I don’t just see those who are trapped, I have to undo whatever it is that has them trapped. I won’t be finished until I’ve freed them all.”
The girl glanced sharply over, nearly spilling her drink. u
“Maybe…maybe it is best if this one stays.”
Lenore pulled out her pencils, and a gum eraser.
“We’ll leave him for now,” she said. “There are four others, and I can only work on one at a time. Tell me your story.”
Anita took a sip of her wine, and nodded. “His name is Abraham Thigpen. He died about a year ago but I remember it like today…”
Lenore listened, and worked, rearranging branches, shifting the wood slightly, picking the strong woman’s face to release from the pattern first. Anita’s voice droned in the background – and she faded into the story, letting it draw her back across the years as she carefully disassembled her drawing, working the faces free.
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I'm delighted to welcome Starla Huchton to the Flight Deck today, and to feature her new release 'Maven' - and how about that stunning cover?
Before we get to the interview, let's find out some more about this intriguing Young Adult SF Romance, I must say it sounds amazing. And don't forget to read all the way through and to enter the rafflecopter contest.
Since losing her parents at 14, young prodigy Dr. Lydia Ashley has focused on one thing: an appointment on the Deep Water Research Command Endure. Now 21, she’s about to realize that dream, but nothing is how she imagined it would be. Her transitional sponsor forgets her, her new lab is in complete chaos, and, as if that weren’t enough, she’s about to discover something so horrific it could potentially destroy all life on the planet.
Daniel Brewer, a noted playboy and genius in his own right, may be exactly what she needs… Or he may make everything worse.
Has she finally found a puzzle she can’t solve?
It hadn't been a lie. That last glass of champagne was probably a mistake. Lydia stared out at the shifting colors of sunset. Even if this little scheme didn't work at all, maybe it would clear her head some. She rested her hands on the stone railing of the balcony, watching the waves break over the sand.
"Gorgeous." Daniel's voice made her tighten her grip on the rail.
Lydia didn't look at him. "You don't see many sunsets under water," she said. "I'd almost forgotten how lovely they were."
He walked over and leaned next to her. "I wasn't talking about the sunset."
She hoped the changing light hid the pink in her cheeks. "Hmm. Your hypothesis lacks evidence to back it up, since clearly I wasn't attractive enough for anyone to actually invite to this thing."
Daniel winced. "Uh, yeah. About that..."
That was not the response she'd expected. "What, Daniel?" She looked at him accusingly.
He straightened and took a step back. "I may or may not have threatened to sever certain personal entertainment feeds for anyone that asked you."
Lydia stared at him, stupefied. "You... you threatened to disconnect their porn?"
"Well, if you want to be crass about--"
"Why would you do that to me, Daniel?" she yelled at him, shoving him, hard. All the rage she had been bottling up the last two weeks exploded out of her. "All my life, all of it, I have been too smart, too young, too intimidating, too... something, to be dated by anyone. The few times I was asked out somewhere, it ended with some guy asking me for a term paper or test questions so he could get a better grade or evaluation or something. And now, when I'm finally someplace welcoming, at an age where I'm not just a kid anymore, you decided issuing a threat to anyone who might even think of dating me is a good idea? What the hell, Daniel? Why? Why would you do that to me?" Lydia's eyes stung, but she would not cry. She. Would. Not.
Daniel's face was a mixture of fear and guilt. "You didn't hear them talking. I figured, anyone that would value porn over the chance at an evening with you, well, no one like that deserves you. I... I couldn't stand the thought of anyone else with you, Lydia."
She closed her eyes and turned away. "Then why not ask me yourself?"
There was a pause before he spoke. Whatever he had to say, it had better be good. "For one, I didn't want to cancel if my father decided I needed other arrangements. I thought if I waited until Friday morning and he hadn't pulled me by then I'd be safe. And for two..." His voice faded and she glanced at him.
"Well?" she prompted.
He swallowed, then exhaled in frustration. "Honestly, you scare the crap out of me, Lydia. I've never... I mean, you're the first and last thing I think about every damn day. I'm physically ill when I think I might not ever be the kind of person you deserve to be with. You make me want to be better at everything I do. I'm terrified whenever I screw up because I think I might never get the chance to kiss you even once, and if that were true I... I don't know if I could deal with that."
Of all the things he could have said to her, she couldn't imagine any of them being more perfect. Maybe it was all the champagne, but her anger evaporated.
He touched her bare shoulder. "Lydia, I'm sorry. I--"
She didn't let him finish. The word "sorry" had barely left his lips before hers were on them. It had taken every ounce of courage she had, but she had done it.
Daniel didn't respond for a moment. She thought maybe she had made a mistake, but his hand on her neck, and the other sliding around her waist eased her fear. His lips were warm, parting against hers. She thought she might actually melt at the sweet sensation. Her fingers dug into the fabric of his jacket, pulling him closer. Daniel's tongue tickled her own, encouraging her. The embrace grew heated very quickly and she didn't think she could stand much more.
Out of breath, she broke away. Unsure if her legs would hold her, she set a hand on the railing for support. She couldn't meet his eyes, anxious about what she might see there. He set his own hand over hers, entwining their fingers.
"Seems I was wrong," he whispered in her ear.
"Wrong?" Surprised, she looked up at him.
His empty hand touched her chin. "Well, now that I've kissed you, I'm not sure I can stop."
Lydia smiled. "And who's stopping you?"
He kissed her again, gentler this time, his mouth brushing her skin as lightly as the breeze coming off the ocean. At this, she came undone and lost any feeling in her feet. She laughed as he caught her. It was positively mortifying, but she couldn't care less. If it landed her in his arms, she would consider never walking again.
About the Author:
Starla Huchton released her first novel, The Dreamer's Thread, as a full cast podcast production beginning in August 2009. Her first foray went on to become a double-nominee and finalist for the 2010 Parsec Awards.
Since her debut, Starla's voice has appeared in other podcasts including The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, The Drabblecast, and Erotica a la Carte. She is also a voice talent for Darkfire Productions, and narrates several of their projects, including The Emperor's Edge series, This Path We Share, and others. Her writing has appeared in the Erotica a la Carte podcast, a short story for The Gearheart, and an episode of the Tales from the Archives podcast (the companion to Tee Morris and Philippa Balantine's Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series), which garnered her a second finalist badge from the 2012 Parsec Awards.
Her second novel, a Steampunk adventure entitled Master of Myth, was the first place winner in the Fantasy/Science Fiction category of The Sandy Writing Contest held annually by the Crested Butte Writers Conference. Maven is her third completed novel and the first in a planned series of four, being released under the name S. A. Huchton.
After completing her degree in Graphic Arts at Monterey Peninsula College, Starla opened up shop as a freelance graphic designer focusing on creating beautiful book covers for independent authors and publishers. She currently lives in Virginia where she trains her three Minions and military husband.
S A Huchton
HL: Welcome. Make yourself comfortable, help ourself to a drink of something refreshing from the repli-bar, and tell us a little more about yourself , with three things not many people know about you.
1. I love watching people play video games. I don't play them much myself (outside of a few story/puzzle games), but I have actually tried to talk my husband into playing them more often so I can watch the stories unfold!
2. I spent over five years in the US Navy, and was not stationed on a ship for any of that time. To be fair, I did spend four years in Keflavik, Iceland, where I met my husband and two of my children were born, so it's not like I wasn't plenty busy.
3. If you had told me five years ago that I would be writing romance, I'd have called you crazy. It didn't occur to me until I was nearly thirty years old that maybe I would be good at it and/or enjoy it!
HL:Wow! It's amazing what one learns about fellow authors on the Flight Deck! :) What comes first: the plot or the characters?
SA: Every book is different for me. In the case of Maven, the setting and the characters were the first to emerge. The first book I ever wrote was based on the idea of what happens to a dream when someone isn't dreaming it. I'm typically a pantser and fill in the details as I go. However, I've just started a new project where an entire 2-book idea hit me full in the face, characters, plot and all (hello, sexy superheroes!). So, it's a mixed bag with me. Inspiration is everywhere!
HL: Oh I couldn't agree more about inspiration. Tell us about Maven, and what you think readers will enjoy about it
SA: Maven is probably something a little different for a lot of people. It's categorized as New Adult SciFi Romance, but this tends to cause hesitancy in some readers. They get worried that SciFi means aliens or too much explanation of technology, but that isn't what they'll find in Maven. Above all else, it's a New Adult story (set only forty years in the future) about two young people learning to function in the world beyond childhood and adolescence, and exploring what it means to love another. Every bit of science within the story is explained on a level anyone can understand, as I myself am not a scientist. I love the ideas science puts forward, but not so much the math and complex explanations behind it. What readers will find in Maven is enough information to understand what's going on in the plot without being overwhelmed by terminology. I love the idea of entertaining while maybe imparting a little knowledge. Maven will give you a sense of the fantastic while still keeping your feet on the ground. Or, under water, as it were. :)
HL: I can certainly relate to much of what you say abovel As a SF Romance writer myself, I have to admit I'm no scientist or mathematician either, but researching just enough to make the plot plausible and not drown the reader with facts is part of the fun isn't it. I'd love to know - if someone were to play one of your characters in a movie, which character and what actor would it be and why?
SA: I actually had to think about this one a long time. In the end, I narrowed it down to one of two Emmas to play Lydia: Emma Watson or Emma Stone. Brains are a requirement when it comes to portraying my heroine, and either of those two ladies would be a good fit. And I pretty much love anything they've ever been in ever.
For Daniel, I took to Google and searched around for a good casting match there. What I found actually surprised me. I ran across a picture of a young Jensen Ackles and my jaw dropped. While he's a bit too old to play him now (as Daniel is only 22), Jensen's appearance and mannerisms are really really close to what I envision for Daniel. So, I guess if you could bring someone from the past into the future for such a role, that would be my pick. This really did surprise me as I haven't watched Supernatural since the first season. And I always preferred Jared Padalecki on that show anyway. So there's that.
HL: Great choices! Do you have a support system? Do you have a writing community? What valuable lessons have you learned from them?
SA: My support system seems to expand on a daily basis. I started out with a group of folks in the Second Life game who were all participating in NaNoWriMo. While I don't play any more, some of those connections still persist today, including someone who's become my "creative sounding board" and first line of defense in everything I write. When I dipped my toes into the realm of podcasting fiction, I was suddenly surrounded by a whole troop of authors who were ready and willing to offer every piece of advice they had. Really, I can't thank those folks enough for all the support they've given me in the last four years. Some of them have become great friends of mine, and are endlessly giving of their time. Within the last year I've started making connections in the Romance, YA, and NA communities of writers, bloggers, and readers as well. The indie author support in these groups of people has been astounding! There is a constant extension of helping hands reaching out wherever I turn. In everything from the mechanics of writing, to the navigation of blog tours and cover reveals, I've learned so much from them I can't even begin to list it all. I have to make mention of the SFR Brigade as well, as they're also incredibly supportive of authors within the SciFi Romance genre and help each other at every opportunity.
HL: Oh, that's interesting, I'm a member of the SFR Brigade as well, and as you say, the support of other authors is amazing and so valuable. What sort of research do you do for your books and what’s your favourite source of information.
SA: Given the contents of this book, I definitely did a lot of research. I mined the web for information on everything from UEFA soccer schedules to Hawaiian hotels to marine microorganisms to computer security technology. But I think my favorite method of finding the information I needed for my fiction was the conversations I had with friends and contacts working in professions associated with some of the topics I hit on in Maven. My husband has his undergrad in microbiology and his masters degree in computer science, so a lot of my info came from him. However, my Twitter timeline is full of all sorts of interesting people, so I used that for sources too. In order to have the story make sense and not confuse anyone, I needed to be sure I understood the science myself, and these conversations were instrumental in that. My notes probably look like lesson plans for kindergarteners, but, really, I had to make it simple. Because I'm more inclined to art and music than science and math, it was a challenge to condense the ideas into something a reader could easily wrap their head around without any prior experience. I figured, if I could get a handle on it, anyone else could too. HL: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
SA: While I love both Lydia and Daniel, I think if I were to befriend any of the characters in this book it would be Cordellia Orietti (Cordy for short). Especially after working on books two and three (which are complete and coming soon) and what's in store for her in book four, I absolutely adore her spunk and sass. She has a no nonsense attitude and is both a loyal friend and fierce defender of those close to her. Cordy works in the Administration department on the Endure, but what you learn about her as the story progresses in the later books really shows that there's more to her than being a paper pusher. She's proof that you can be a girly girl and still kick some butt when the situation calls for it. It doesn't hurt that she's pretty smart in her own right as well. HL: She sounds a wonderful character. I love girly heroines, who can still 'kick butt'! :) Where can readers connect with you?
SA: I am all over the web, but here are a few places people can find me:
HL: Fantastic! Sadly time has run out and I have to return you to Earth. Thank you so much for taking time to visit my blog, it’s been a thrill having you here and learning more about you and your writing. I wish you much success now and in the future.