Friday, September 29, 2017

Batman

Truth be told, I was in grade school when one day I just decided that Batman was my favorite super hero. At the time, I didn't think much of anything of it. I was just a kid. I might as well have been stating that my favorite color was blue (it isn't) or that my favorite shoes were flip-flops. It was just a mere statement, a declaration. The question came to me one day "Who is your favorite super hero?" And I thought, well, I should pick one. I loved all super heroes and I never really thought about WHY Batman was my favorite. I just decided that he was. I don't know if I claimed him as my favorite first, or if he became my favorite because of that declaration, but to this day Batman is my absolute favorite super hero. And as I think on it, here is why:

Character Development: Batman has a beautiful character ARC. As a child he sees the murder of his parents which in return sets in motion this need to seek justice and vengeance for the terrible criminals that wrong others. He is dark, mysterious, but above all just a guy trying to do good in the world. He has a hero complex. And at the end of it all he can't bring himself to kill someone because of his good nature.

Comic Book Feel: I love comic books. But what I really love about this particular comic book hero is how dark it is. I mean, it has Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane. I feel like this is such a clever and key ingredient into the world of Batman. It explores an area that other comic books simply do not. And it adds that darker element to it.

Side Characters: I personally feel like Batman has the most memorable side characters. Love Alfred. Love Vicki Vale. Love Commissioner Gordon. Heck, I even love Dick Grayson if he's not Chris O'Donnell. (No offense to Batman Forever because I really DO like that movie, just not a fan of Robin).  But each character adds something to the story. And I will be honest with you, not ALL side characters in stories do. But each main side character in Batman is very distinct and brings something to the overall story.

Villains:  Batman has the best villains ever, in my opinion. They are crazy and wild and different. Unlike other comic book villains.

Batman Music: From ALL of the movies, I LOVE the soundtracks. I could listen to Kiss From A Rose On the Grave by Seal over and over again. In fact ages ago, when that movie came out, that was my favorite song. It could be the worse of the Batman movies and I still love the music. Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer, of course, being my favorite composers. All of it is good. I'm a huge music lover and I love how dark Batman music can be, especially in The Dark Knight.
So, the point of this post isn't just to tell you about Batman and to let you know that he's my favorite. Even though he IS my favorite and I'd be happy to talk about him all day. The point is we find inspiration in so many different places of life and for different purposes. Batman inspires me for my writing. I want to write complex characters like Batman. Some stories I want the same dark feel that Batman has. I want to create those side characters that make the story have depth and meaning.  I want to make villains that are memorable. I want to explore topics that perhaps others haven't before. I want to hear music that makes the story leap off the page.

But Batman doesn't just inspire my writing. As silly as it sounds, he's a good guy to look up to. I mean, What Would Batman Do?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Mark Engels

I am very excited to welcome Mark Engels on the blog today! Mark is the author of Always Gray in Winter, a clever and creative tale about a werecat named Pawly. Be sure to check out Mark's website for some really neat artwork that was inspired by Always Gray in Winter!

Tell me about yourself:
As a boy growing up, I geeked out over trains and electronics. Main reason why I work now as an electrical engineer designing and commissioning signal and communications systems for railroads and rail transit agencies across the United States. But I’ve been a member every bit as long in various anime, manga and anthropomorphic fandoms. So I came to enjoy creative endeavors too—role playing games, acting, and, of course, writing. I was born and raised in Michigan, never far from the shore of one or another of the Great Lakes. Kept that trend going through moves following college to Minnesota and Indiana. Today my wife and son and I make our home in Wisconsin along with a dog whom I have to shove aside on the sofa whenever I sit down to write.
After having several articles published in rail and transit industry trade magazines, I somehow got it into my head to take up writing genre fiction. My writer’s group memberships include Allied Authors of Wisconsin, one of the state's oldest writing collectives, and the Furry Writer’s Guild, dedicated to supporting, informing, elevating, and promoting quality anthropomorphic fiction and its creators.

What first inspired you to start writing?
One night testing signal systems on a rail transit job site, my book's main character showed up and began slashing away at my subconscious. Without even doing me the courtesy of introducing herself. Jerk.
I tossed and turned all day long at the hotel trying to ignore her. Soon enough she told me her name was Pawly, and yes, she was indeed a werecat. One who makes a very convincing argument with fangs and claws, by the way! She wanted out of my head, and the only way I knew I could let her was to tell the world the stories she was sharing with me little by little. So I caved and began writing.

What encouraged you to keep going and get published?

My first task in writing Pawly’s story was to come up with an outline. It was HUGE. So much so that friends and fellow anime/manga fan fiction writers I sent it around to look at all but begged me “please don’t try to cram all this into one book.” They did tell me the story had legs, though, told me it was fresh and frenetic and forceful.
So I kept at it for a year or so until I had a draft manuscript. Then I joined a real-life writers group and realized just how much I had yet to learn about writing craft. Another year went by between implementing their useful critiques and the self-editing I was doing myself (after reading books on the subject.) But I knew I had a much better story than when I’d first started, knew I’d told it in a much more accessible and engaging way.
Until I started query agents and submitting to editors, that is. Racking up nearly ninety rejections—was the problem with my craft or with my concept? Because though I was eager to improve my craft, my concept was non-negotiable. The modern day remnant of an ancient clan of werecats torn apart as militaries on three continents vie to exploit their deadly talents—I had decided at the very beginning that’s what I was going to write about or I wasn’t going to write at all. One fine day I checked the Furry Writers’ Guild web site to find several new entries on their novel markets page. I queried a couple of them, including Thurston Howl Publications. After comparing offers from two markets, I signed with THP. Whose signed contract allowed me to join the Furry Writers’ Guild as a full member. And to check another item off my bucket list.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar?

A lynx, of course, whose eyes are thought to see all things (which comes in handy while reviewing construction plans and specifications, let me tell you!) And because they’re muscular furry packages of pure badassery topped off with tufted ears.

What do you find most challenging has an author?

Identifying and solidifying my authorial intent. By that I mean figuring out not only what I was doing but why I was doing it. I came to learn the hard way the book I had in my heart to write may well not be the book any one person had in their heart to read. Going back to my werecat concept, it became clear when agent and editors posted “no vampires, no werewolves” in big bold print within their submission guidelines what they were really saying was “no shifters of any kind.” I concluded they didn’t want to read such a story in this post-Twilight world in which we live, that they believed the reading public wouldn’t either. The paranormal romance imprints were still taking shifters, though. Only trouble was they rejected my paranormal sci-fi thriller too. Why? Not enough romance, natch.
So I had a decision to make. “Trunk” my novel and write something else? Oh, no no no. Pawly, brandishing fangs and claws, wasn’t about to stand for that. My writer tweep Hannah R. Miller (@HRuthMiller) boldly proclaims on her Twitter profile “I didn't write these stories to become an author. I became an author to tell these stories.” From that point on my main consideration for agents or editors at publishers was are you going to help me get my story to its audience or aren’t you? That’s what prompted me to research novel markets via the Furry Writers’ Guild web site in the first place. And you know what happened afterward.

What is your favorite thing you've had to research for your novels?

Oh, geez. That’s like asking a pet owner with a houseful which one is their favorite. Uhm, all of them? So it was with me and my novel series. Oh, let’s see…Polish-American culture and cuisine. Poland’s Bia?owie?a Forest. Maritime lore and legend the world over. Life as a serviceman (or servicewoman) afloat and ashore in the US Navy, the US Coast Guard and the US Merchant Marine. RV bodies fitted out onto a truck chassis. Traditional Korean marital arts. All of these things inspired the creation of my characters and the world they live in, werecats forced to live their lives alternately in the shadows and in plain sight.

What did you edit out of 
Always Gray in Winter?

Though my book is told in third person past tense through the eyes of numerous POV characters, before there were even more! Several prereaders felt they weren’t spending sufficient time in any one character’s head and ended up not caring about any of them. Though writing from all those myriad POVs was helpful for my better understanding my mains and my supporting cast, I rewrote a number of scenes into the one character’s POV I felt most important to the story at that specific point.
Like the car chase outside of Szczecin in which Jakub helps Dory and Niko escape the pursuing authorities was originally written from the POV of the young man driving the overturned truck, for example. Some of my best writing which my prereaders thought completely unnecessary. In the end that entire scene ended up going into “cold storage.” Unlike what Stephen King advocates, I don’t “kill my darlings.” But I reserve the right to put them on ice indefinitely. Whether or not I thaw them out later, who can say?
There was a lot more in my early drafts expositing the burgeoning relationship between Dory and Milda. But I ultimately decided such a subplot took away from the main plot too much. It bogged the story down with information unnecessary to move the main plot forward. Or to help us to know the feature characters like Pawly better.

What was most challenging about taking the scene/scenes out?

That uneasy feeling the reader will miss out on part of the story? That I was second-guessing my creative vision by taking stuff out? That I was filing down all the jagged edges of my story which made it winsome and wacky and wonderful, turning it into something round and rote and routine? I think any writer acting on feedback about what worked and what didn’t for a particular reader faces these same dilemmas. That’s where I believe being discerning about what feedback I took in and from whom really paid off. I came to trust their judgements to point out my blind spots, made so much easier because I knew they “got it.” And got me. I knew their suggestions would help me tell the best story I could. Taking sufficient time (sometimes weeks or even months) to stir over their advice and figure out the most effective manner in which to apply it, I believe I managed to do just that.

Tell us more about Pawly in Always Gray in Winter:
She had come so close. So close to exorcising the demons of her past, those which had taken her father from her. For he was the reason she and her twin brother Tommy had joined the Navy, why they had ventured forth into the world despite their Affliction’s effects on them. Now the same man Pawly believes murdered their father has set his sights squarely on her, her family and her lover. She first runs to protect them, but they end up rallying to her aid instead. After having come to rely on herself—and only herself—she comes to accept her dependence on them. And realizes just how much they all depend on her, too.

How did you craft Pawly into what she is?

Equal parts Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter franchise and Nene Romanova from the anime Bubble Gum Crisis 2040. Seasoned with more anime flair in the form of Megumi Morisato from Ah My Goddess! and Ryo Hayakawa from Princess Nine. But Pawly’s anthro form? Homage to Steven A. Gallacci’s lyncean gal Dr. Elaki Kalakahaii from his cornerstone-of-the-genre spacefaring epic Erma Felna, EDF.

What made you choose the setting for 
Always Gray in Winter?

Though I grew up in a Detroit-area Polish neighborhood, working on railroads crisscrossing Chicagoland allowed me to come to love the area. So I figured that Pawly’s family would make their way to an ethnic neighborhood like Jefferson Park after fleeing Cold War-era Poland. Though Pawly and Tommy were born in Virginia nearby their father’s Navy base, the family returns to Chicago right after Pawly learns that she’s…now, now, you’ll just have to read my book!

Where did the idea for Always Gray in Winter come from?

From the outline for a different story, actually, one featuring an all anthro cast. When I couldn’t use it for the purpose I had originally intended, I re-cast some of the characters as human. To help resurrect my original storyline the remaining characters became werecats, their struggle driving the story’s conflict—hostages in their own bodies and societal outcasts forced to hide in plain sight on account of their Affliction.

What authors inspire your writing?

Steve Gallacci, Stan Sakai, Reed Waller/Kate Worley, Hiroyuki Morioka, Sheryl Nantus, Brian Jacques, Robert C. O'Brien, Gene DeWeese, Ken Akamatsu, Yukito Kishiro, Kenichi Sonoda, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Ken Wolfe, Watts Martin…
…among others, that is.

What are some tips you could give other aspiring writers?

“Cast not your pearls before swine.” Discern just whom you should entrust your work and your fragile ego to. And especially to whom you shouldn't. Feedback on your work is crucial to help you improve, but take care to seek out good feedback from quality people. Avoid those who coddle you and those who beat you down. A critique partner, a beta reader, each member of your writer’s group—think of them like you would a coach or a teammate. You depend on them to identify and reinforce what you do well, to call attention to what you don’t, to suggest resources and strategies to address same.
And for the love of what is holy, do not take any one person’s success story as gospel. What worked for “them/there/then” may well not work for “you/here/now.” The same is true for whatever advice they may give you. I believe it’s in one’s best interest to solicit and take in feedback, but what they act on—and what they don’t—needs must be filtered through one’s authorial intent like I mentioned earlier. I’ll sum up with Bruce Lee’s wise words: “adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own.”

What are you working on now? Can you tell us a little about it?

I’m back with my series outline, crafting the next book to tell Pawly’s story. A prequel actually, describing life for Pawly and her family while she and Tommy were Growing Up Werecat. Mawro and Hana, too, had to come from somewhere. Readers will learn their origins in this book as well. I’m about two thirds of the way through my draft and expect to finish up sometime around New Year’s.
From what I’ve been able to tell working with my outline, I’ll need at least one more book beyond that to tell the story I set out to tell—three in all. Whether I’ll need a fourth depends on just how much family backstory I want to show influencing Pawly’s present day. Stay tuned.

Can you leave us with an excerpt from 
Always Gray in Winter

Sure!

Four down. [Pawly] sniffed at the air, recognizing a familiar stink. Worry. One to go, I'll bet!
She hopped atop the third story railing with an indulgent chuckle and leapt across the alley. Body tight to the building beneath the shooter's position, her wannabe captor would have to lean over the edge to sight her in. That would take time, more than she planned to give him. This would end. Now.
Pawly took hold of the railing and twirled her body upward to close the gap between them. The weathered metal creaked in response to her acrobatics before it failed spectacularly with a tinny ping. She cursed and catapulted herself away from the wall with her legs. Forty feet above ground and losing altitude fast. Along with her confidence.
"Everyone around you will die, Pawlina," boomed Blaznikov's mocking voice in her mind. It had done so every day since her and Lenny's detachment was torn to shreds. "Just like when you--"
A sharp pain accompanied the explosion from her memory while the sniper's dart bored into the base of her neck. Pawly bit her lip to stifle a squeal and reached out toward a downspout an instant too late. She slammed headlong into the brick wall and tumbled like a rag doll to the concrete below. Cats fled in all directions from the stand of trash cans she upended, screeching in anger at having had their late-night snack so rudely interrupted.
With a long groan, she propped herself up to one knee. The damned streetlight at the end of the alley taunted her, spinning no matter how much she squinted.
No! Gotta keep moving! Mom, Tommy...Lenny...
Her arms hung from her torso as if made of lead. Gravity soon won out, and Pawly collapsed into a pile of refuse face first. She turned her head and smirked toward the hissing cat closest to her. "Thorry ta crath yer party, cuth," she said before passing out.

More about Mark Engels:
Boyhood interests in trains and electronics fostered my career as an electrical engineer, designing and commissioning signal and communications systems for railroads and rail transit agencies across the United States. Along the way I indulged my writing desire by authoring articles for rail and transit industry trade magazines. Coupled with my long-time membership in anime, manga and anthropomorphic fandoms I took up writing genre fiction. Growing up in Michigan, never far from my beloved Great Lakes, my wife and I make our home today in Wisconsin with our son and a dog who naps beside me as I write.

I am a member of Allied Authors of Wisconsin, one of the state's oldest writing collectives. I also belong to the Furry Writer’s Guild, dedicated to supporting, informing, elevating, and promoting quality anthropomorphic fiction and its creators.

Author Links:

Book Summary:

A distant daughter. A peculiar device. A family lineage full of secrets. When werecat Pawlina Katczynski finally resurfaces, her location previously unknown to anyone close to her, the reunion is short of welcomed. Instead, she finds herself thrust tooth and nail—tooth and claw—into a feud between opposing werecat clans as her family and their enemies reignite a battle that has raged for years. Always Gray in Winter invites the reader to join the feud and see if blood is truly thicker than water...


Thanks so much to Mark for letting me interview him! I look forward to seeing what creative future works Mark will share with the world! Be sure to leave your questions or comments below! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, September 22, 2017

My World With Hypothyroidism

This isn't a topic I normally talk to people about it, but I know a lot of people suffer from it and I want to take a moment to tell you that you're not alone. If you suffer hypothyroidism. If you think you may be but are unsure. This post... it's for you.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism almost two years ago. It came on slowly, so slowly neither me nor my husband recognized the signs. I will say it was very debilitating and it effected me deeply. It infected many pieces in my life. And there were signs. Oh boy were there signs. But I missed them. And I will tell you this, it's very easy to miss the signs of hypothyroidism. That's partly why I am writing this to you.

First it effected me with my after school duties during a program called Extended School Day. I was so exhausted it was hard to get through the two hours. Sometimes I nodded off working the door duty, buzzing in parents to come and pick up their children. The buzzer would ring, and I would lift my head up to allow the parents in. But then I would nod off again as I attempted to work on projects for the classroom. I blew off this tiredness, telling myself it was stress from my job. I'm a special education teacher, and during this time I had one student that was most challenging for me to help. I figured it was just mental exhaustion and I would go home each evening to watch tv and fall asleep on the couch. This was my norm for months. And I didn't catch it. This was the first sign I should have noticed that something was amiss. And the exhaustion? It didn't just happen all at once. It was gradual. I just slowly became more and more tired. It was so gradual that I didn't realize it. And I've read that this is pretty common.

The next sign? I used to love reading. I still love reading. But as the exhaustion took root, I began falling asleep whenever I read. I used to be the kind of girl that would stay up late reading a good book. When I got home after work I would pull out my book and read on the couch. It was my favorite passing time. But suddenly I had a hard time focusing, I couldn't get through a chapter without falling asleep. It took me ages to read a book when it used to only take me a week at most. To this day, even on medication, it's challenging for me to focus on a book. It usually takes effort on my part to make myself sit down and read something. And even then, I'm antsy. Always moving, always shifting. I have to reread segments, or I'm distracted with checking my phone all the time. I just can't seem to concentrate. But I want to read, so I make it happen. Eventually I get into the story and the distractions seem to go away. But for at least twenty minutes and sometimes over an hour, my mind is everywhere but on what I am reading. I thought this would go away with medication for my thyroid, it did not. It's like part of my brain was altered and I know it's something I probably will always have to live with, that lack of focus and concentration. Hypothyroidism has changed me.

Because of the exhaustion I didn't want to do anything but fall asleep to the tv. Several of my favorite tv shows I missed what happened in them because I had been too exhausted to stay awake and watch them. This may not seem like a big deal, but for a girl that LOVES Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Supernatural, The 100, and the Blindspot, it was a big deal. I would have to watch episodes over and over again because I couldn't manage to stay awake through them.

Another sign I should mention, placing items where they don't belong. I don't know how many times I managed to put an opened, partially eaten cat dish can in the pantry instead of the fridge, or an empty cat dish in the fridge instead of in the sink. Items would show up where I wouldn't remember putting them. This is a huge sign that something is wrong and that you might have hypothyroidism. You forget where you put things and you put things in places that don't make sense. This is scary, because if you aren't remembering things then how do you think you'll remember to turn off the iron after doing your hair in the morning? Or turning off the burner after you make dinner? Luckily that never happened to me, but if this is happening to you, don't wait to get it checked out.

My driving suffered during this time too. In fact I made husband nervous whenever I drove. My processing rate had been significantly lower. It would take me awhile to realize a car was coming so I couldn't turn. Or I would be so tired I would be struggling to stay awake on the drive home. Again, this is a dangerous situation to be in, so don't wait for a second if this is happening to you. If you find yourself unable to process and you find that your thinking rate is slow, it's a sign of hypothyroidism.
All these signs, and still it took my nails detaching from my fingers for me to finally realize something was wrong. It started with my middle fingers on each hand. The nails first started to discolor at the tips then slowly it lifted to about halfway down the nail. Then the rest of the fingers followed. Only my thumbs stayed the same. This was a very obvious sign that something was wrong. So finally, after nearly seven months of dealing with this, I went to the doctor. Turns out I had hypothyroidism, iron deficiency and low levels of vitamin D.

And still, two years later on medicine, with some adjustments as to dosage, I still struggle. I struggle with weight gain and losing weight. I struggle some days with feeling just exhausted. My levels are fine, so it must not be a problem with my thyroid. That's what I'm told anyways. But I will tell you this, it most likely is it. Hypothyroidism changes you and the medicine is not a 100% fix. Some days will be better than other days. You'll feel great some days while other days you feel at your very lowest with energy and enthusiasm. Focus and concentration? I'm not sure I'll ever get that back, not like I used to. But there are things that help me focus. Music for writing. Turning off my phone if I am reading. Taking walks, or taking a bath to help quiet my mind. I still fall asleep to movies, especially on Friday nights. I think when you deal with hypothyroidism, by the end of the week you are just spent. I've realized it's okay to take a nap if you need it. It's okay to fall asleep early on Friday nights after a week of teaching. It's okay if you wait to write your book on the weekends. It's okay to read a chapter of a book a night.

I have hypothyroidism.

And it's OKAY.

We make adjustments, we adapt, and we do the best we can. If you feel the same way I do, you don't have to feel guilty or ashamed if things take time like it does for me. Do the things you love, but do them when it suits you, when you have time for it, when inspiration strikes. It's okay if things take a little longer to finish. Make goals, make lists, those are great too. Take the time to tell the ones you live with, or if you need to, the ones you work with so that some understanding from others is taking place. This will help you tremendously. Husband understands why I'm tired some days, and he helps me with chores around the house because of it. Or he'll make dinner if I'm too tired to cook. It's important they know how it still effects you every day. Don't be afraid to share this with those you love, because I know they will understand and help you. Remember,  hypothyroidism, even on medicine, will be a daily battle. So don't forget the most important part of dealing with hypothyroidism.

It's okay to take care of YOU!

Friday, September 15, 2017

G.S. Wright

Are you a fan of horror, sci-fi, or fantasy? Do you enjoy fast- action packed thriller? G.S. Wright, author of Spilling Blood series, Apocalypse Witch series, and Hungry Gods series, gives us this and so much more! I am really excited to share with you more about G.S. Wright. Be sure to check out his website, social media, and of course the exciting novels he's written! G.S. Wright is such an inspiring author and has such a talented, creative mind! I look forward to seeing what G.S. Wright has in store for the literary world!

Tell me about yourself:
Hello! I’m G.S. Wright (aka Garth Wright), and I’m a writer in Southern Idaho. When I’m not writing, I return to reality and visit my incredibly patient family to let them know I’m still alive. I also play a mean (yet amateurish) ukulele.

How many books have you written?
Since 2013, I have self-published eight novel-length books (as G.S. Wright), four of which are collections of serialized stories. I’ve written another four or so that are in various stages of editing that I’m not happy enough with to reveal to the world. I have no idea how many other stories that I am working on.
But! I also have a handful of other pen names which have three full length books amongst them, and maybe around 80 shorter works, averaging between 5,000 to 30,000 words.

What’s the best way to market your books?
I’m maybe a little unconventional with marketing. I’ve spent too much money on Facebook advertising, I’ve used countless book newsletters, and who knows what all? Anyway, nothing is more beneficial than being active socially and writing more books.
Being on Social Media is about being discoverable. A writer doesn’t need to shove his books at the world. If you interact with me on Social Media, you’re going to know that I’m a writer. If I have value, either through content or as an online friend, then you’ll likely look at my books, or visit my blog at least once. It’s about living a visible (and thus discoverable) life. You don’t have to be a celebrity, you just can’t hide from the world.
Granted, that’s not as fast as spending advertising dollars. But geez, I hate to admit it, but I’m a lousy advertiser. I can’t even bring myself to study it long enough to be successful at it. Which brings me to my favorite way to market:
Just keep writing. You might do great with your single title, and I’d be happy for you, and a little jealous. But every title you write boosts your visibility, especially if you always write in the same genre. If you’re like me and can’t write in a single genre, you have to write a lot more. And if you do book signings, multiple titles are a game changer. It’s the difference between earning coffee money or earning (at least) enough for rent/mortgage/car payment.
One last thought on marketing – take pride in your book cover. I don’t know about you, but I won’t buy a book that looks like the author slapped it together with their own photographs and limited Photoshop skills. There’s plenty of options to create a great looking book, even without spending a fortune. Any marketing will fail when you’re trying to sell an unprofessional-looking book.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I once was very fond of Google, but I have found Pinterest is incredible to learn just about anything. Articles can be neatly organized, and saving pins allows you to save your research logically in a fashion that works for you.
When I first start a new project, I’ll spend maybe an hour or so researching ideas. Otherwise, most of the research is saved for when I’m actually writing, as my thoughts are realized. I think I’m researching something new almost daily, but I try to limit the time so I can get back to writing.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
If I’m writing genre fiction, I’ve completed a full-length book within a month. Otherwise, my more passionate books – like Broken Things and Soul Sister – have taken up to six months. I can write a 50,000-word book usually in two weeks, but my muse rarely gives me all of the secrets and plot twists on my schedule that makes my work stand out. She reveals the details to me over weeks and months, which I find extremely frustrating.
That’s why I have so many projects going at once. If I don’t have the details I want for one story, I move on to the next and allow the other ideas to ferment in my mind. And I never know all of the details until I finish the first draft. That’s when the muse reveals the final crucial details to the story.
Regardless of all of that, I’m still trying to develop my craft to where I can write 50,000 words in a week. I am not there yet, but it’s a goal.

Have you ever had writers block? What do you do to overcome it?
Cursed writer’s block. I usually try to overcome it by having a solid outline in place before I even start. Writer’s block comes in when my story deviates from my original vision. As I mentioned above, my muse holds out details, and when she dumps all new incredible details on me, I’ve got to go back for complete rewrites, which always leads to deviating from the outline.
So to avoid writer’s block, I like to have a second project to turn my attention to, allowing my mind to dream up answers to whatever problems have crept up from deviating.

What is your favorite thing about writing?
As much as I love storytelling, I think I like capturing emotion the most. I find nothing more satisfying than hearing that someone experienced the same feelings that I felt when I wrote a scene. I love creating meaningful art.

What do you find most challenging about writing?
Hands down, making time to write. If you want to be a writer, all you have to do is write, and yet this is an era of distractions. You have to remind yourself every single day that this is what you want to do. It requires commitment and forming habits.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?
The first trap is that writing is actually hard. Like anything you want to be good at, it takes practice. Every piece of writing you do grows your strengths as a writer, and that’s one of the main reasons to not spend the rest of your life working on and/or editing a single project. If you want to get better, you have to separate yourself from your earlier works. You must always study the writing craft.
Also, you’re only a writer as long as you are writing. If you finish a book, you’re an author, and that’s great, if that’s all you want. If you want to be a writer tomorrow as well, you’ve got to do it again and again and again.
Also, there’s the fear of judgement. That often hits when you’re about halfway through your first draft, and it gets worse as soon as you publish. You open yourself up to people who are going to judge your writing.
Also, if you’re only writing for money, you’ll likely get discouraged quickly. The money is only a bonus. You’re creating art.

What do you wish you could tell your younger writer self?
Study story structure and study the craft of writing. It will also make life easier if you memorize these winning lotto numbers…

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I think the most difficult thing for me about characters of the opposite sex is whether or not I have managed to avoid stereotypes. It is, however, like any writing, going to get better. Writing about the opposite sex is about observation and listening. A spouse or friend of the opposite sex can easily provide perspective. Definitely read books written by the opposite sex. If you’re a writer, you’re always exploring what’s going on in someone else’s head anyways.

Can you tell us about your Spilling Blood series? Can you give us an excerpt from one of the episodes?
Spilling Blood is a fourteen-episode serial broken into three seasons, with each season also collected in a complete novel. The heroine is a nineteen-year-old girl who’s been chosen to be the eternal companion of the selfish and lusting Gnasher. She’s not the weak-willed victim they expected, and the series follows her growth and struggles as a creature of darkness.
I’ve always been a fan of the vampire genre, heavily influenced by movies from the 80’s (primarily Lost Boys and Near Dark), and by authors Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite. I wanted to keep true to the feel of that era, with the horror and elements of a Gothic novel, rather than contemporary vampire romance. I think I’ve actually read too much vampire literature overall, and it’s all influenced the Spilling Blood World.
EXCERPT
Emily opened her eyes to the darkness of her grave. Everything was silent. She could hear nothing, not her heartbeat, not even her breathing. She tried to sit up, smacking her head into the coffin lid.
She sucked in stagnant air and screamed, “Help!”
The coffin muffled her voice. It sounded dull and… dead. She scratched at the wood, splinters burying themselves into her fingers and tearing off her nails. Despite the intensity of the pain, she barely noticed as she tore frantically at the old wood.
Dirt poured into her face, choking away her cries, turning to mud against her wet cheeks. It sifted in, filling in about her.
Don’t leave, stay with us.
She paused. Had she really heard something? She forced herself to breathe. Her body rebelled, refusing to do it naturally. The voice hadn’t been real.
She went back to digging. Her arms burned with the exertion, she could hardly feel her fingers. She struggled to dig, the earth fought back.
Stay, the voice said, stay with us.
No, she’d really heard someone else. She strained her ears, listening for any other sound. She could hear digging. The sounds came from each side of her, nails clawing through wood and earth, coming toward her. She wasn’t alone.
A high-pitched laugh filled her grave. It carried through the earth, more in her head than in her ears. Female laughter.
We’re so lonely. So cold. Let us hold you.
“NO!”
Keep screaming… we’ll find you.
Emily slapped her hands over her mouth, but as the scrabbling tore through the brittle wood of the coffin, she already knew it was too late. Withered fingers broke through, and cold, emaciated arms wrapped her.
Emily screamed and choked on dirt.
END EXCERPT

What is the name of your newest novel and can you tell us more about it? 
I’m releasing my newest novel next week, and it’s a bit different. It’s called Died for You, and it’s a Zombie Horror Romance that takes place five years into the apocalypse.
It’s a story about love, loss, betrayal, and new beginnings. It’s also about the zombie apocalypse. There’s not many books where you can find a disturbing mix of spicy romance, dark humor, and the terror of the risen dead, and this book fills the void that you never knew existed. It’ll be fun.



And before you go, is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I don’t know, I feel like I’ve shared too much for one article! For a complete list of my novels, visit my website at GSWright.com. I love visitors.

Thank you for the great questions and the opportunity to share my work. :)

More about G.S. Wright:


G.S. Wright is a horror, sci-fi, and fantasy writer who mixes in the fast-paced action of the thriller novel, bringing you intense fiction guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Regardless of genre, you'll find absorbing stories that will pull you in with realistic heroes and loathsome villains, and give you chills that will keep you up at night... turning the page.

G.S. Wright is an author in Southern Idaho. He writes. A lot. All the time. Sometimes he watches movies, plays guitar, or sleeps. He has a beautiful wife (who keeps him from starving) and three children that he is failing to raise as ninjas. He also has a zombie survival plan.

Author of the sci-fi thriller Broken Things, the haunting paranormal novel Soul Sister, the dark fantasy zombie apocalypse series Hungry Gods, the vampire horror serial, Spilling Blood, and the sci-fi steampunk serial Apocalypse Witch.

Author Links:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Lilac Mills

Today I am excited to introduce Lilac Mills. Lilac has three published works out right now, all of which look adorable and charming. I was reading through the reviews of Elephant and Pinky Moon and it sounds like it's a delightful and funny read. Definitely the kind of entertainment I could use right now. Check out my interview with Lilac, plus be sure to check out her awesome website and her charming novels!
Tell me about yourself:
I'm married, with one adult (more or less) daughter, and work full time in an administration role, as well as trying to make my way as a writer.
What first inspired you to start writing?
Like many people, I'd dabbled with the idea of writing a novel for years. On several occasions, I'd even got as far writing the first chapter, or scribbling down a half-formed plot. But that's always as far as I ever got, until my little dog died. I have no idea where it came from, but one morning, after days of thinking I could hear her claws clicking on the tiles in the kitchen, or thinking she'd just walked into the room, I woke up with a virtually complete idea for a story in my head. And that's how I came up with Under the Cherry Tree.
Are you a cat or dog lover?
Dog definitely, though I've also owned cats. There's just something about a dog which appeals to my need to be worshipped!
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
A bit of both, really. I cherry pick (excuse the pun!) the traits of various people which I think will work for a character, and I might use a snippet of one person and a smidgen of another, until the character fits in with what the story line needs. I didn't actually realise I'm doing it, until my mother pointed out she could see herself in one of the character in Under the Cherry Tree, and again in Elephant and Pinky Moon, though I honestly swear I never ever knew my mother had been known to dance on tables and flash her knickers when she'd had a few too many gin and tonics!
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
I can't point to one, because I've read thousands of books over the years and many have stuck in my mind for a raft of different reasons. I was reading books aimed at adults (no, not those kinds!) in my very early teens, and one writer who still stands out for me now is Joyce Stranger. I was very into animals then, and the way she wrote about the fictional lives of wild animals blew my mind away, but I daren’t go back and re-read any of hers, just in case they’re not as good as I remember them being.
Tell us a little about your plans for the future. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?
I hope to have at least twenty books under my belt by then. With three published this year and hopefully more next year, I should be well on my way to achieving my aim. I’ve got so many stories in my head, that I need to get them all down on paper, so to speak, and at the moment, the ideas are coming faster than I can write. Long may that go on!
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
That question isn’t as easy as it sounds, because I like most of them, even the baddies, because they’re fun to write. If pushed, I’d say Flossie out of Elephant and Pinky Moon, but if you ask me next week my answer may well have changed.
Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
Scribophile is great for honing one’s writing skills. It can be a bit of a time-suck, and I’ve been known to lose whole days to it, but the reactions, critiques and suggestions of other writers to my own work has been invaluable to me. I don’t use it much now – not because I don’t have anything more to learn because I do, but because I have a good team of beta readers who soon let me know if the standards of my work have slipped!
What do you love most about the writing process?
The idea, which sometimes hits me like a lightning bolt, and other times sneaks in through the back door and catches me unawares; starting writing (that first chapter is always so exciting!) and writing the last few words, when I can kid myself that the novel is actually finished.
If you could spend time a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Flossie – I’d want to go on holiday with her, maybe skiing? I reckon she’d be good at that!
What are some tips you can give other aspiring writers?
Keep at it. Every writer I know feels like giving up at some point in their manuscript. If you don’t finish it, it can never be published.
Tell me about your book: Elephant and Pinky Moon. 
Nina is a slightly uptight, set-in-her-ways teacher, who has little else in her life apart from work. Flossie, her grandmother, has just lost her husband, yet her joie-de-vivre far outweighs Nina’s. Flossie doesn’t want Nina to miss out on life, so she sets herself the target of teaching her granddaughter just how much fun life can be. She also tries to set Nina up with anything in trousers, much to Nina’s disgust
Where did you get the idea for your book?
My husband is to blame for the title (you’ll have to read the book to find out its significance) and once the title was in my head, the idea developed from there. I knew it was going to be a chick lit, so the outcome was rather inevitable, but the bit in the middle was more of a mystery until I’d written it.
What inspired you to keep writing it?
I’d written a full-length novel before – I knew I could do it again. My husband actually suggested writing might similar to killing someone - it gets easier each time you do it! I don’t know if it gets easier (and I’m talking about writing, not killing – though dispatching the odd character or two is quiet liberating), but the fact that I’d done it before, kept me going.
Can you leave us with an excerpt?
Can you leave us with an excerpt?
Of course I can! Here you go…
Flossie was already seated in a corner booth in Marks and Spencer’s cafe, with a pot of tea in front of her. As soon as she saw Nina she called 'Coo-ee' to a waitress, who smiled and brought a coffee for the new arrival. Nina dumped her bags on the floor and dropped into a chair with a harried sigh.
‘It’s official,’ she announced. ‘I hate shopping.’
‘Show me what you’ve bought,’ Flossie said, and Nina bent down to retrieve the first thing which came to hand – a swimming costume.
She soon sat up straight again when Flossie produced a miniature bottle of vodka and poured it into her tea. ‘Gran,’ she hissed, ‘what are you doing?’
‘Drinking my tea,’ the old lady said, a picture of wide-eyed innocence.
'Put it away, you’ll get us thrown out!’
‘Don't be such a wuss,’ Flossie replied, sucking up her tea with relish and smacking her lips.
Nina had difficulty getting her head around the fact that her eighty-four-year-old, frail grandmother had just called her a wuss, and that she carried vodka in her handbag and was brazen enough to flash it in the middle of an M&S coffee shop, without even batting an eyelid.
Her grandmother was a secret lush.
‘Want some?’ Flossie asked, waving the half empty bottle.
‘Put it away,’ Nina repeated, scanning the cafĂ© like a spy expecting an ambush. ‘I’m sure they’ve got to have a license or something if they intend serving alcohol.’
They’re not serving alcohol,’ Flossie pointed out. ‘I’m serving myself.’
Nina sighed and looked away when a couple on a neighbouring table gave her a dagger-like stare. Anyone would think she had some control over what her grandmother did. She snorted and thought, ‘I wish!’
She’d forgotten she was still holding her one-piece, until Flossie jabbed a finger at it and asked, ‘What do you call that?’
‘A swimming costume, Gran.’
‘It looks roomy enough to fit a horse inside. Did you pick up the right size?’
‘Yes, thank you.’ Nina was indignant; there was nothing wrong with her costume.
‘Bit old-ladyish, innit?’ Flossie slipped the now-empty bottle into her voluminous bag.
‘Not at all. I like it!’ Nina changed the subject. ‘Did you manage to alter the name on the booking, or do I have to take all this back for a refund?’ Nina relaxed a little now the vodka was hidden away.
Flossie blinked owlishly. ‘What name?’
‘My name, remember? You were going into the travel agent to change the booking from Grandad’s name to mine.’ Please don’t let her really be losing her marbles, Nina prayed silently.
Her grandmother looked relieved, as if her memory had suddenly come back. ‘Oh that,’ she waved a hand airily. ‘All done. Nothing for you to worry about.’
‘What about the rooms?’
‘Booked. As I said, nothing to fret about, all sorted.’
‘Shall I check the paperwork, just to make sure?’
‘I’m perfectly capable of sorting it out myself,’ Flossie said, sitting straighter in her seat and doing a Queen Victoria impression. Nina could tell she wasn’t amused.
‘Okay, if you’re sure...?’
‘I am. Now, let’s not hear any more about it. Show me what else you bought, and I’ll show you mine,' Flossie commanded.
Nina glanced around, not certain she wanted to drag any more of her purchases out, especially since Flossie had been so dismissive of her swimming costume. Her grandmother had no such qualms, producing a huge pair of knickers and holding them up for the whole world to see.
‘Look, they’ve got a pretty bow on them,’ Flossie announced.
What are you working on now?
I’m just doing the final edits on a Christmas story, And a Sixpence for Luck, and it will be out at the end of September.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?
If anyone would like to join by beta or Advance Reader Team, just let me know.
You can find me at www.lilcamills.com, on Twitter @lilacmills or Facebook
You can purchase Elephant and Pinky Moon on Amazon US or Amazon UK
Book Summary:


Twenty-eight-year-old Nina lives a quiet, unassuming life, happy (ish) with her job, maybe not quite as happy with her non-existent love-life (but no one can have everything, right?) and content to trundle along with her nice, predictable daily routine.That is, until Nina is persuaded to accompany her octogenarian grandmother on a beach holiday to Turkey.Nina envisages sedate walks along the promenade, afternoon naps by the pool, and bingo in the evening. What she actually gets is too much vodka, adult games of "pin the tail on the donkey" and dancing on a bar whilst flaunting her knickers - and that's just her gran!



More About Lilac Mills:


Lilac spends all her time writing, or reading, or thinking about writing or reading, often to the detriment of her day job, her family, and the housework. She apologises to her employer and her loved ones, but the house will simply have to deal with it!
She calls Worcester home, though she would prefer to call somewhere hot and sunny home, somewhere with a beach and cocktails and endless opportunities for snoozing in the sun…
When she isn’t hunched over a computer or dreaming about foreign shores, she enjoys creating strange, inedible dishes in the kitchen, accusing her daughter of stealing (she meant to say “borrowing”) her clothes, and fighting with her husband over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher.

Friday, September 8, 2017

I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight: Hidden Citizens

Music has and always will be such a huge part of my life. Since I was 10 I had played the piano. There's something about music that I feel in my very bones. And when I write my stories it's as equally important for me to find the music that matches the tone. It breathes my stories into letters, words, sentences. With any story I write, my music takes me beyond the mere pages I'm typing on. It takes me to the world I am creating.

So, to me, music is key in writing a good story.

So let me tell you about this gem I stumbled upon. Music for my dark comedy was very hard to find. For the longest time the only music that would work was Danny Elfman's Dark Shadows. It was creepy, and odd, and strange, yet had an uplifting quality to it that was perfect for my dark comedy. Then one day I had been inspired to make a cheesy playlist for my dark comedy. Songs like Backstreets Back and Shot Through the Heart. Older, great songs that were perfect for my story. When you read it, you'll understand why these songs were perfect. When I searched for I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight, I stumbled upon something that spoke to me unlike any other music I have I heard before.

Before I get into this awesome sounding tunes, you should know I have always been a fan of Epic trailer music. Love it. I loved it BEFORE I used it to write my epic fantasy and science fiction tales. In fact, ever since the whole music therapy incident happened, it's been my jam in the car. If you saw me nodding my head to a beat sure enough it would be Epic music I was listening to.

So, back to where this takes me now, this amazing music I stumbled upon. Hidden Citizens takes popular songs and makes them Epic. Songs like Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran, and It's a Sin by Pet Shop Boys, and Hazy Shade of Winter by The Bangles. Then there's I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight by the Cutting Crew. Hidden Citizen's does a rendition of that song that is so magical, I'm not even sure how to explain it. Here I was, searching for cheesy old tunes and instead I find something that calls to me unlike any other music has. No, really... I have obsessively been listening to Hidden Citizens for over a month now. I try to listen to other music but it doesn't tug at my heart and soul like Hidden Citizens does.

And that song, I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight, it is the only one of their songs that doesn't at all fit with my dark comedy. Which is kind of ironic, because I feel like the traditional version of the song is pretty much my theme song for my dark comedy. But the version by Hidden Citizens, when I listened to it for the first time, a scene from my sequel to Star Drifter instantly came to mind. It fit perfectly with my story and now that song is the portrayal of emotion that Jaxsen feels in one particular seen. And every time I hear that song I seen that one scene play out over and over again. And the feeling? It's magical.

So what is it about Hidden Citizens that makes them so worthy to note? It's their ability to transform these popular songs into something otherworldly. The pure transcendence of lyrical beauty. It's not just how epic the scores are, it's the emotion behind the voice with it's rise and fall of momentum. Hidden Citzen's has created raw emotion at it's finest.

And their music? It calls to me.

Check them out, maybe they will call to you too!


#FindYourMuse

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

E.J. Bancesco

Today I have the honor of hosting E.J. Bancesco! He's an architect from Chicago that has a love for writing. Both his novels are set from his place of birth, Romania. His latest novel, The Scarf, is about a teenager that finds himself entangled in the Romanian Underworld of 1967 where he begins to discover there's more to his great nation and unravels truths about himself. E.J. is now working on a new title, which you can read the first chapter at the end of the interview.

Tell us a little about yourself:
I was born in Bucharest, and have been in the US for 34 years. As an architect travel worldwide for work. Once a year I spend a month with my mother and by brother’s family in Romania. These return-visits are the both the groundwork and the reason for my two published novels. In the US I studied advance painting at SMFA in Boston from 1998 to 2003.
I cook.

What inspired you to start writing?
Reading, without a doubt. Each amazing work of fiction I read stirred my imagination but awakened my critical thinking, as well.
Reading and the incredible strangeness of a certain place in the world. I will mention that in the answer to your next question.

How do you write? Do you plot? Or do you just go for it?
There is a point of departure for all my stories and it exists on the map of the world, in my memory, and of course, in my imagination. In its physical being it’s a riverside village in northeastern Romania; in memory is the cradle of my first life-lessons (triumphs, tragedies, etc.)
In my imagination it is the stage where everything my mind can fathom becomes a story.
And to finally answer your question: that point in the universe offers the plot—the layout of the story. Then comes the writing. So writing follows the plot until—we all hit that weird point—the writing takes off from the plot, and the poor plot must follow.

What are the first 5 things you do to prepare yourself for a day of writing?
First, I read a few paragraphs from the novel currently on my night table; then skim over old photos (related to the story); re-read what I wrote on the previous session; inevitably get caught in correcting some of that. And then of course, research as needed.

How long have you been writing for?
Since the high school years.

What was the first story you've ever written about?
The village I mentioned before, was unique in that several prominent aristocratic families had their estates there before the last king of Romania abdicated in 1948. I cannot imagine anything more fascinating for a teenager than manor halls haunted by the ghosts of the past. That’s what I wrote about when I started to fancy myself as a storyteller.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Keeping a handle of the story structure.

What is something you wish you could tell your younger writer self?
Write and read everyday and do not dare call yourself a writer. Learn the craft!
This is something it took decades for me to absorb. I could have written many novels if I knew that knowing how to write is a craft and not a pastime.

How many stories have you written?
 4 novels, of which 2 are published, one is lost, and one is on my writing table now.
Before all that, I wrote several stories that are now lost.

Do you have any tips you can give other aspiring authors out there?
Read. Not what appeals to you as a person, for the person you are is not a writer yet. You must enter the high sphere of thinkers and creative artists and while that is never guaranteed, it maybe attainable via extensive reading—and understanding—of the most important writers in history.

Which authors inspire you most?
Tolstoy, Chekov, Emily Bronte, John Fowles, Anita Bruckner, Jules Verne, Scott Fitzgerald, Proust … too many to mention.

Tell us about your most recent work? Can you share an excerpt with us?
It’s a novel. Working title is Moon bites

Here is a chapter:
CHAPTER 1
Cecilia had everything in that envelope: cash, train tickets, a pair of house keys, written instructions, advice, rules and warnings.
There was no point in protesting, for she was here handing me my walking papers, which meant, Vadim had given his blessing.
She must have told him that I couldn’t be trusted to live in Bucharest without supervision for three months, not after what I’d done last November. He may have suggested a summer camp, to which she replied maybe, maybe not, and perhaps reminded him that I would never thrive in a structured situation like that. Doubtless, Vadim recognized the truth in that, because he knew that disobedient wouldn’t begin to describe me. He may have demanded to hear more options, for although he had always shirked from knowing too much detail about my life, he had to have assurance of my general safety and wellbeing when decisions were made on my behalf. The distance he kept from me, as I later understood, was the life vest he had to wear while riding the wave of political favor.
So she promised him she will handle this. And as such she obtained his leave to do what she thought was best. Still, I am almost certain that he held her responsible for any undesired consequences. She—and this I know for certain—smiled right through his cautioning, hardly able to dull the sparkles of triumph in her eyes.
And so, here I was on that Friday in mid-June, glancing in the vestibule mirror once more, seconds before Cecilia Milescu would come to dispatch me to a realm I wouldn’t have—in a million years—imagined so complicated and scary, so marred with baleful history.
When the doorbell rang, I smiled at my reflection in the vestibule mirror and ruffled my hair before opening the door.
“Madame Milescu. Please, come in.”
“Good morning, Andrei!”
I let the imposing woman by, and gulped the perfumed air she brought in.
“You were talking to yourself, weren’t you?” She said. “Just now?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I mumbled, watching her calves as she strode into the dayroom.
She looked around as if she hadn’t been there only a week before. “There’s dust, everywhere. Again. And you haven’t changed the water.” She pointed to the flowers on the dining table. Then she pulled a chair, sat down and placed her white, lacquered purse on the table before her. Her light wool ivory deux-piece with pale ochre trim and buttons conveyed her the deceptive air of a well-off housewife with modest imagination and a dull outlook on life. “They’ve wilted,” she added eyeing the flowers again, reproachfully.
I remained standing in the doorway. “Sorry,” I said. “I’ll remember next time.”
“Next time, next time…”
“Madame Milescu—”
“What?”
“I…” I faltered.
“What is it, Andrei?”
“I—I am in love with you.”
Her expression hardened. Moron, I castigated myself as blood rushed up to my cheeks. Fuckup. Stutterer.
“Your enthusiasm is seriously misplaced,” she said. “Each time I correct one of your slip-ups you invent a new one. When am I going to—”
“Madame Milescu—”
“Sit down in front of me, Andrei.”
I complied, keeping my eyes down.
“I’m going out of town,” she said.
“For how long?” The blood ebbed from my cheeks.
“Until school starts in September.”
“The whole summer?”
“Yes. But we won’t leave you here all by yourself.”
“Are you taking me with you?”
“No. You’re going to Hatmani.”
“Hatmani? What the fuck’s that?”
“Language, Andrei,” her warning came sharp, and yet, a hint of amusement flew across her face. “Hatmani is a village.”
“Does he know this?”
“Victor? He demanded you leave Bucharest, yes, but—”
“But he can’t know where you’re sending me.”
“You know it. See?”
“But I’ve never been to a village,” I protested. “What am I going to do there for three months? Are you putting me to work on a cooperative? Is this punishment for what I just said?”
“Andrei—”
My chest tightened with suspicion. “Are you sending me again to some home for boys in the deep country?”
“Stop it.” She massaged her forehead with her perfectly manicured fingers; the flash of her cherry-bright nails sent a hum of desire through my veins.
When she spoke again her tone was softer. “You’ll stay with a very nice and caring elderly lady. Her name is Maria Asavetei.”
“But why are you sending me there?”
“You need new experiences.”
“What experiences? Cleaning stables and learning all about dung?”
“Spending the summer in nature instead of staying here alone in this swelter.” That’s what. I promise you, once you’ve seen Moldava you’ll always want to go back to—”
“Who is Moldava?”
“Don’t cut me off. Moldava is the most beautiful river in the country. With the whitest, finest sand beaches north of the seashore.”
“So where is he taking you this time?” I said, unable to keep the reproof from my voice.
She blinked. “I don’t like your tone, but since we’re in agreement with the Hatmani proposition…”
Agreement? You hypocrite, I revolted inwardly. You’re both a couple of fucking dictators.
“…with the Hatmani proposition,” she repeated, “I will tell you.” A rare sparkle of girlish glee lit up her hazel eyes. “Victor and I are going to America with the Prime Minister,” she announced triumphantly. (On June 26th in 1967, President Johnson met with Prime Minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer of Romania.) “For two weeks. We will spend two weeks in America.”
“Two weeks?” I exclaimed. “And you’re sending me to the Middle Ages for an entire three months?”
“Two weeks there,” she said faking a rueful smile, “and then to West-Germany. Also work delegation, too. After that Victor’s taking me to Sochi until September—for vacation.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Will be a busy summer, Andrei. It can’t be helped.”
I was speechless. She unclasped her purse and drew out a bulging letter-size envelope.
“Don’t trash the money,” she said brightly. “Make it last, for you’ll have no more until you’re back in Bucharest, in autumn. Here.” She pushed the envelope toward me. “There’s a round trip train ticket inside, keys, and your instructions. You leave Saturday night. And make sure you purchase and pack everything on the list.”
“What list?”
“Read the letter, Andrei. I must leave, now.”
Headed for the door, she turned and gave me a surreptitious smile: “You’ll find this summer most educational. Be obliging with your host and polite with everyone. And I’m warning you—don’t fight.”
She smiled, or thought she’d try, but instead she barred her teeth, looking less friendly than a menacing wolf.
“Don’t worry,” I hurried to reassure her.
Her grin softened. “Watch yourself with those village girls,” she added, “or any others you might encounter, will you? Precaution, yes? For if you do something that leaves a mark you know where you’re going in September.”
After she’d left, I pondered the meaning of her last sentence until my mind numbed.

More About E.J. Bancesco
E.J. Bancesco Author Picture

E.J. Bancesco is a practicing architect, an accomplished fine artist, and a passionate writer. Born in Bucharest, Romania, he and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1983 and now reside in Chicago, Illinois.
Adrift is his first novel, published by All THings That Matter Press (http://www.allthingsthatmatterpress.com/) in July, 2016.
His second novel, The Scarf, was released in August, 2016, by Hyperborea Publishing (https://www.hyperboreapub.com/)
Author Links:
Book Links:
I simply loved interviewing E.J. Bancesco and hosting him on the blog today! Be sure to check out more about this great author.  Thanks for stopping by! Questions or comments, feel free to leave them!