Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Interview with sci-fi author Jon Del Arroz

Fiction writer Jon Del Arroz is here today and we’re chatting about his sci-fi space opera, The Stars Entwined.

Jon Del Arroz is the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction. He is a multi-award nominated author, popular blogger, and journalist. His Steampunk novel, For Steam And Country, became a #2 Amazon bestseller in category. 2018 marks his triumphant return to space opera with The Stars Entwined, a novel about love and war. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Welcome, Jon. Please tell us about your current release.
The Stars Entwined is a space opera about a human military internal affairs investigator named Sean Barrows who gets wrapped up in spy games as a war escalates with the alien Aryshan empire. On the flip side we have an alien starship commander Tamar, who is freshly minted in her duties and trying to prove herself. There’s intense personal conflict when they meet, which you can probably glean a little of what happens based on the title, but I’ll try to keep it mostly spoiler free. Once the two main characters meet, most readers tell me it’s very difficult to put the book down.

What inspired you to write this book?
I really wanted to capture the feel of some of the great space operas in the 90s like Star Trek: Deep Space 9 or Babylon 5. The character moments in those are what made them epic, because there was so much emotional turmoil that it really connected people to these universe-spanning conflicts. It also stems from my love of Lois Bujold and Elizabeth Moon’s character driven space opera book series. For me, it’s all about characters you can love and root for, and a lot of modern fiction is so dark with characters who are hard to relate to. I wanted to do something where you feel good about caring for the characters, and I think I accomplished that.

Excerpt from the Stars Entwined:
This is one of my favorite scenes from the book, which is in chapter 5. It’s pretty self-contained as Sean is investigating a string of attacks on Palmer Station, including a starship disappearing from dock. Here he’s trying to figure out how someone could have managed that, and go through the motions to get into the mind of the criminal. It gets a bit crazy as he unexpectedly finds he’s not alone out there.

“I checked again. You’re the only person scheduled outside of the airlock for another hour. We should report this.” Reyna sounded concerned. It did nothing to ease Sean’s nerves.
Sean tugged at his tether, and he floated back toward the station. Either a maintenance tech was out in a pressure suit without clearing the records, or someone was sabotaging the ship exactly in the manner he imagined happened with the Hong Kong. Sean wasn’t prepared for a confrontation with the latter. His counterpart obviously had far more experience with zero-g, moving without a tether like an old pro.
The other figure thrust from the hatch, speeding toward him. That ruled out a maintenance tech. No, this person meant to attack.
The two pressure suits smashed together, knocking Sean off course. The intruder grappled Sean and brought his thrusters to full strength. They sped toward the station.
            Sean flailed, glancing back toward the growing Palmer Station. He was about to get smashed into the hull. The impact would crack his pressure suit and release his atmosphere. The prospect of vacuum crushing his head made him gasp for air. If he survived this, he swore he would never go into space again.
            Sean tugged at his tether, pulling all of the slack toward him. The attacker looked down at Sean’s not-so-sly attempt to free himself and grabbed onto his arm, ripping Sean’s hand away from the tether with considerable strength. Inhuman strength.
            At that moment, Sean remembered his own suit’s thrusters. “Stupid, should have used those to begin with.”
            “Used what?” Reyna asked through the comm.
            Right, Reyna. “Not talking to you, again. Sorry! Ah, contact security. We’ve got a saboteur out here.”
            “A what? Are you okay?”
            “No time! Find me some back up!” With his other hand free, he set his thrusters to fire at full capacity.
The attacker adjusted thrust to match, but their velocity toward the station had already slowed. Two equal forces from both pressure suit thrusters canceled each other out with no friction to tip the balance. The prior momentum carried them toward the station, but it wasn’t fast enough to smash Sean’s suit open.
Sean bounced against Palmer Station’s hull like a rubber ball. “Ugh!” Something popped in his shoulder. Pain flared all the way down his arm. At least he didn’t hear the hissing of decompression.
Their trajectory shifted away from the station, both suits still engaged in full thrust toward each other. Momentum was the only difference. A second wave of pain shot through Sean’s spine, sending an unnatural jolt all the way up through his neck. While he was focused on his injuries, the attacker gripped his shoulders hard.
A surge of adrenaline jolted him like a crystal drive entering FTL. Pain didn’t matter if the alternative meant breathing vacuum. He couldn’t die. Not now.
Sean focused all of his strength and chopped at his assailant’s arms, dislodging both of the other man’s hands from his suit’s collar. He fought hard for control of the grapple, squirming to dodge the grip. His back throbbed and pain pulsed with each labored breath into his lungs.
The longer the fight went on, the more Sean would be at a disadvantage. The attacker was so strong, so fast. The attrition of pain would overwhelm Sean soon enough.
In a last-ditch attempt to free himself, Sean curled up his legs, using his feet as pincers against his assailant’s torso. He twisted the attacker’s direction, and by default the trajectory of the thrusters. Then he gave his best kick to the attacker’s thigh.
If the fight had occurred in gravity, his maneuver would have done little to impact the outcome, but momentum meant everything in space. When Sean set his enemy into motion, the thrusters took over. The two separated and veered off in opposite directions.
Sean took advantage of his freedom by adjusting his own thrusters to give him a push back toward the station’s cargo bay. He grabbed onto the lifeline and tugged until it was tight. Go, go, go! If his assailant could catch him again, Sean would never make it.
His shoulder burned, but he peered back over it, stretching the muscles and tendons anyway. His body protested, shooting deep pain all the way up his spine. He needed to gauge his assailant’s position.
            The attacker was in his peripheral vision, nearly a hundred meters away. The distance between them would be insurmountable at this juncture. He’d lucked out.
The attacker disappeared behind the Avery, and a moment later, gravity tugged on Sean. He’d moved much closer to the cargo bay than he realized. Before he could react to slow his thrusters, the bay’s gravity plates sucked him in.
Sean tumbled to the floor, and his suit thrusters cut out upon detecting the gravity field. All he could see was the nauseating, spinning view of the floor and ceiling of the cargo bay. His body jolted with each additional roll. The impact knocked the wind out of him, leaving him unable to cry out. He skidded across the docking bay floor and crashed hard into the wall.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on getting my steampunk series (of which the first, For Steam and Country, was out last year to a lot of success) out to a trilogy this summer. Most readers have been sending me email and the like demanding those, so I’ll deliver! I’ve finished the first sequel, and am in the middle of book 3.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably in 2009-2010 when I started releasing a web-comic that got me a few thousand readers. I’d toyed with things before, done a lot of writing-based roleplaying on the internet, but that was the first time a lot of people were reading my work and it made me drill down and become more serious.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Yes in that I put full time hours into it. No in that I do other work full time also. I don’t sleep is the answer to the follow up question. But I force myself to write several hours a day. I do it when I first wake up, on my lunch break, an hour after work, a couple hours after the kids go to bed. Just get it in wherever I can and pretty much don’t do anything else. I quit video games, hobbies, and hanging out with people for the most part (sorry friends!) because this is my calling. Once you do something for 21 days it becomes a habit, and I’ve been keeping this frantic pace for over a year now. I have to in order to come out with several novels a year plus a short story every month for my Patreon subscribers.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
To me writing quirks are bad because they are repetitive things that happen that stand out to readers and pulls them out of the immersion. I find in my first drafts I have too many “did” words in there. For instance I’ll be in a paragraph that starts: Well, he did say writing quirks were bad things because it pulls them out of the immersion. Which I’ll have to revise to: Well, he said writing quirks were bad things because it pulls them out of the immersion. But I find quirks change. Once you notice them you intentionally stop doing them, or at least I do. So it’s always finding the next one before readers do.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A congressman. Now you couldn’t pay me to be a politician!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
This book has been in the works for more than 17 years. I’ve rewritten it several times because I wanted to get it just right, and I’m really proud of the hard work, I think it shows. If you love great characters, this book is for you. Even non-science fiction readers have told me they connect with it which is awesome. I hope you’ll check it out!


Thanks for being here today, Jon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Interview with writer Eddie K. Wright

My special guest today is Eddie K. Wright. We’re chatting about his memoir, Voice for the Silent Fathers.

During his virtual book tour, Eddie will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

First time author Eddie K. Wright is a fitness trainer, Yoga instructor, spiritual motivational speaker and an inmate at a federal prison. His personal transformation upon realizing the Universal laws and love of life, supports his conviction in his "Gangster to Guru" book series. The premier release Voice for the Silent Fathers details the struggle and inner conflict with being the parent of a homosexual child in the day, and a known connected gangster at night. Overcoming his "No son of mine" mentality, by realizing the true meaning of unconditional love wasn't easy, but his deep insight, heartfelt honesty, and 'laugh to keep from crying' attitude, makes for a humorous read for anyone touched by this issue which means it's for everyone!

Welcome, Eddie. Please share a little about your current release.
Voice for the Silent Fathers is about the difficult relationship between me and my son. I was a teenage parent with a young son that spoke like a girl, whose favorite color was pink and had a mother who was the epitome of baby mama drama. I was no angel either as my criminal lifestyle is sprinkled throughout the story. This memoir is character driven and will take you on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish.

What inspired you to write this book?
I can claim to be the top leading expert in this field since as of June 2016, when Voice for the Silent Fathers was released, it was and to my understanding currently the first book written by a father of a homosexual son. It's a topic that fathers don't discuss and I know how important the father/son relationship is. I was inspired to let my son know what I was dealing with emotionally, the struggles that I was having to find the right answers to questions I didn't want him to ask since I didn't want a gay son.

Excerpt from Voice for the Silent Fathers:
Introductory Chapter Excerpt:

Was there anything I could do to stop my son’s homosexuality? When did I know my son was gay? What made him that way? I've witnessed the desperation in the eyes of fathers, from all walks of life, who have pulled me aside, away from listening ears wanting to know the answers to these frequently asked questions, agonizing the possibilities that their son might be gay.
Mothers seem to be more liberal about their sons decisions to choose what makes them happy in life and most importantly "who" they share their lives with, but for fathers, nine times out of ten the topic is taboo, especially the fathers who I've met in Federal prison, or on the opposite end of the spectrum working with celebrities in the entertainment business.

I can tell you first hand, I never thought I would write a book and never a book on a topic like this, but life is funny that way. I found myself raising a son at 18 years old, still a kid myself, with a baby boy headed down that taboo highway. I was confused, frustrated, and angry at the world. "Why me?" I often thought in those early days... Why has life thrown me this crazy curve ball?

Back then it wasn't so easy to talk to my friends about my son’s odd behavior, something's you just didn't talk about it. So I struggled alone, doing everything I could to stop the unstoppable.
This book is the "Voice of the Silent Father” for those going through the same thing I went through; and this is my story:

I was raised by my single white mother in the suburbs of Suffolk County, Long Island along with my sister Luvina who's three years older than me. Our African American father played a limited role in our lives, moving back to Rochester New York, when I was two months old.

Visiting with my father a few weeks out of the summer wasn't enough to make a big impact, let me correct that, it wasn't enough to instill the positive impact a young black male needs.
I wanted the type of dad that all of my friends had, taking them to Yankees games, and throwing the football around, but my father never made much of an effort to be interested in my life, which looking back to those early days definitely a contributing factor for me turning to the criminal lifestyle.

I promised myself that I would be the father I needed instead of the father I had. But who would have thought that fatherhood would inflict me with a catastrophe that would have me second guessing that promise.

My son Drew was born September 20th 1990. I don't know if homosexuality is a biological or mental condition. I never thought Drew grew up making a conscious decision to be gay, in the way other kids are making plans to be firemen, police officers, or doctors.

When I would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would tell me all the normal kid choices and never straight out said "Dad, I want to be a gay ballerina dancer!" but as a father with a keen street intuition I sensed something was having a premature influence affecting Drew.

At a very young age he started sucking his teeth and rolling his eye's copying his mother. He would alter his voice to imitate a girlish tone and it would get on my nerves with every word spoken like the gayest stereotype on TV. This was when he was still very young, a toddler and I avoided paying too much attention to these signs for fear of re-reinforcing those flamboyant behaviors.

Around others, especially the women in Drews life, I was depicted as "Mr. Macho"... The bad guy who was "over-reacting" when I addressed and attempted to correct certain mannerisms that couldn't be ignored.

My "Gaydar" was active watching all his behaviors for a "Gayness Alert!" which would make me rush in like the heterosexual swat team to stop whatever he was doing and make it more boyish.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Next, I'm releasing The Evolution of a Gangster Turned Guru, which is a journey of my spiritual transformation over the last 13 years of being in prison.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
At the end of my third year of incarceration, I wrote a letter to a Chaplin, who read that letter to his congregation of over 2,000 people. He then asked me to write his Christmas Eve service. It took about 20 minutes to read and he read that letter over 11 times at different events, with life changes responses.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
One of the blessings of being in prison is that I do have time to write full time. I still have days when I get so busy that I might skip a day or two out of the week. I dedicate from 11:30 until 3:00 Monday thru Friday as my writing time. Other than writing, I spend at least 2 hours working out , an hour meditating and from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm, I'm making cheese cakes or pizza's to sell so I can support myself and then call it the day.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My writing quirk is that I use my bed as my desk and always have a cup of steaming hot black coffee close by.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be and became a gangster. I loved the movies like Scare face and the Godfather as a young teen. My younger childhood years, I loved Robinhood, always rooted for the Indians or the outlaws in cowboy movies. It was a struggle for my single mother, so I guess I really wanted to be rich and I saw the best way for me was to be a gangster.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My main focus is spiritually self-helping my readers. As much as I tried to attempt to change my son from being gay, I realized that the change had to come from within. That's the solution to all of our difficulties and challenges we face.

Voice for the Silent Fathers will make you laugh out loud, drop a few tears, you'll hare me at times but love me in the end and find that you made a new friend. Thanks again!!


Thanks for being here today, Eddie!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

New interview with author Douglas Wells

Writer Douglas Wells has come back for a visit and today we’re chatting about his new contemporary literary fiction, How We End Up.

Douglas Wells is an award-winning author who was born in Seattle, Washington. His father was an officer in the U.S. Army, and by the time Douglas finished high school he had lived in Hawaii, North Carolina, Texas, Okinawa, South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of South Florida and has taught English and Literature at several colleges.

Douglas has a unique interest in and perspective on the tragic, comical, and the redemptive in his characters. TouchPoint Press released his novel, The Secrets of All Secrets, on May 12, 2017.

The Secrets of All Secrets received the Literary Titan Silver Award on August 4, 2017, was a Finalist in the 2017 Independent Author Network’s Book of the Year Awards, and was a Finalist in the 2018 Amelia Island Book Fest and Expo Book Island Literary Award.

His new novel, How We End Up, released by TouchPoint Press on March 20, 2018, received the March Literary Titan Silver Award, and the following are comments from reviewers:
“Suspenseful…Nothing can prepare you for this tale as you find out how these characters ‘end up.’ Thought-provoking and intelligent.”

“If you only take one suggestion this year on what to read.  Read this!”

“This story forces us to transcend the pages of the book. A true masterpiece.”

“This book has it all.”

Douglas is a Professor of English at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Florida. He is the father of two grown sons, and he lives with his wife and two cats in Panama City Beach.

Douglas, welcome back to Reviews and Interviews. Please tell us about your newest release.
Jackson Levee, a professor, saves young twin girls, Hadley and Haley, from drowning. He soars to literary fame by writing about the incident and from media attention. The twins mature into troubled young women. Jackson’s success leads him to a job at an esteemed university where he meets and marries LaVeda, with whom he has a happy marriage, but his ascendant star falls soon thereafter. Hadley marries a womanizer then realizes she is gay. She sinks into alcohol and drug abuse. Haley suffers from depression then begins an ill-fated affair with her supervisor. She later marries an army reservist who is horribly wounded in the Iraqi War and whose PTSD threatens everything. Through twenty-five years, Jackson’s, Hadley’s, and Haley’s recklessness in sex, love, marriage, and life produce wild and horrific results. Through it all, they struggle to realize their destinies and find balance.

What inspired you to write this book?
I used to walk the beach in a park near my house. The park gets numerous visitors, mostly families, and I would frequently walk by young children playing in the surf. This area is known for its rip currents, and there are always news stories about people being caught in one and having to be rescued. It occurred to me that one day I might have to jump in after someone, particularly a child. Fortunately, I never had to. It got me thinking, though, about how these rescues are often called “miracles,” but the story stops there. It did not, of course, tell us the aftermath, so I began formulating a story that shows us how the characters were brought together by the rescue then what happens to them over a long span of time. People marvel that the girls’ lives were saved and at Jackson’s heroism, but it’s only for a brief moment. We live with them as their ensuing lives ironically often spin out of control, and we stay with them until they “end up.”

What’s the next writing project?
I’m working on a novel in which the central character leads five different lives, all separated from the others.

What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or the biggest challenge with this book)
In reference to the novel I’m working on, I have to keep the character’s lives separate but somehow work in an oblique reference to the others. I think I’ve found a way to do that, but I’ll have to judge how it works out.

If your novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?

I usually know where in the novel I will have to do some research, but I wait until I reach that particular place in the story then I pause to investigate. A good example from How We End Up is the part when Haley’s husband is sent to Iraq. I researched the environment he would be in, what his duties would be, and similar details. I’m pretty sure I got it right. At least some readers have told me so.

What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
I work at a small desk where I have a view of my backyard and the canal beyond it in which boats pass by. I insist on working where I can see out a window. Better to stare at trees, birds, squirrels, and boats than at a wall.

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
For fiction, I’m reading a literary novel by Taylor Larsen called Stranger, Father, Beloved. I alternate that with a biography of John Cheever. I went through a phase of reading all of Stephen Hawking’s books, two books on the Civil war, and my next book to read is John Le Carre’s Legacy of Spies. My reading choices are eclectic.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Just that I hope they will read How We End Up. I think it speaks to the experiences many of us have as we ramble through life.

Thank you for coming back to Reviews and Interviews!
Thank you for the opportunity.