Archive for the ‘science fiction’ Category

Check out a brand new series on the Lachesis Publishing blog called AUTHOR TO AUTHOR:

David Lee Summers interviews best-selling science fiction and horror author Gini Koch, author of the hugely popular cross-genre science-fiction/paranormal/romance/comedy ALIEN series.

DLS: You’ve written under several pseudonyms including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch. You’re clearly not hiding your identity when you use a pseudonym. What do you see as their purpose? Authors often build brands around their names. Do you build a new brand identity for each pseudonym or do you see these as subsidiaries of the Gini Koch brand?

GK: I write under pen names because my voice changes. I believe that your name is your promise to your readers. As Gini Koch, I write fast, fresh, and funny fiction. So, if you pick up something from Gini Koch, you expect to laugh a couple of times at least. But being funny is hard work and I don’t feel like doing that all the time. So my other pen names allow me to write in any way I want, changing my voice along the way, which is a lot more fun for me.

I write horror as J.C. Koch, I write SF/F/Paranormal as Anita Ensal and Jemma Chase, and I write novels set in the Old West and dystopian future fiction with an Old West flair as A.E. Stanton. G.J. Koch is the closest to Gini Koch – that’s the name I write the Alexander Outland series under. I think G.J. is a little funnier than Gini, but that’s kind of for readers to decide.

I look at the other pen names as subsidiaries, yes, because they’re all me, and they’re all coming from my mind. Most of the time these days I byline anything from the other names as Gini Koch writing as (say) J.C. Koch. It lets my readers know it’s me, but me writing in “that” voice, so they know more what to expect.

DLS: Who was your greatest writer influence/inspiration when you started?  What are some books of theirs you would recommend?

GK: I firmly feel that anything you’ve ever read will influence you – good, bad, or indifferent. However, I’d say that the writer who influenced me the most when I started writing was Terry Pratchett, and I’d recommend any and all of his Discworld novels.

Other influences would be O. Henry, Arthur Conan Doyle, Madeleine L’Engle, Dave Barry, P.J. O’Rourke, Clifford D. Simak, Robert Silverberg, and, possibly most of all, Robert Benchley. I’m sure the moment I send this I’ll remember other authors who were inspirations, but these will do for now.

DLS: The Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Kat series is now up to fourteen books with the release of Alien Nation.  Obviously sales factor into keeping a series going, but did you write the early novels with the idea that this could be a long-running series?  Will the series run indefinitely or is there a plan for it to end after a certain number of books?  Do you have an ending in mind if the series should come to a conclusion?

GK: I see almost all story ideas as series, and some of them I can see running for a really long time. When I’m writing an Alien novel, I normally “see” the next few books ahead. So, for example, when I was writing Book 5/Alien Diplomacy, I could “see” Alien vs. Alien, Alien in the House, and Alien Research. I might not know what’s going into which book, particularly smaller subplots and supporting characters, but I know where the series overall is going.

I don’t know that I can honestly say that I planned for such a long-running series, though I’m thrilled that’s been the case. In the first few books, I was aiming for Book 10/Universal Alien. All the books were, for me, aiming for that novel. Once that was done, now all the books are aiming for Book 20. So, hopefully we’ll get there. I’m currently contracted through Book 17, so here’s hoping!

DLS: You’re not only a prolific novelist, but a prolific short story writer.  Aside from writing to a shorter length, do you approach the two forms differently?  If so, how?  Do you think all writers should hone both skill sets?  Why or why not?

GK: I actually do approach short stories differently from novels. I’m an extreme linear writer. I start with the title, then the first line, and when I get to the end…I stop. I don’t outline novels because if I did, if I knew everything that was going to happen, then I wouldn’t bother writing it, I’d already know and have lost interest. So, if something surprises you in one of my novels, good, because it surprised me, first.

For short stories, however, I outline those in my head. I see what I want happening, and then I write. Usually the story changes a bit from my internal outline, but I know what’s going to happen. For whatever reason, knowing how a short will end doesn’t ruin the surprise for me. This is probably because I’m a natural novelist – it’s easy for me to write novel length. But short stories are much harder for me, so I plan them out much more. So far, it seems to be working.

I do feel that, as an author, you should learn to write in as many lengths and genres and styles as you can manage. It increases your odds of selling. But this is an artistic pursuit, and everyone does their art their own way, which is as it should be.

DLS: What do you see as the role of social media in an author’s marketing repertoire? What social media platforms do you prefer?

GK: Right now social media is where it’s at. It’s free, but it costs your time, which is not free. However, it’s a great way to meet and interact with readers and fans, and, frankly, as with having a website and a blog, being on Facebook and/or Twitter are kind of the baseline.

I like Facebook and Twitter a lot, am still basically useless at Instagram, though I keep on trying here and there, and I love Pinterest, but boy, is that the time suck if you’re not careful. But it’s so much fun, too. And I can show off my covers, do boards where I show who I think the characters look like or could play them in that movie/TV show that, sadly currently, only exists in my mind, share jokes, and then some.

DLS: In addition to social media, you put a lot of effort into getting out to conventions and festivals, and you often have an amazing dealer’s table set up.  You’re an author with a big publisher and books in the stores. Why do you go the extra mile to have this kind of presence?

GK: Because you don’t stay an author with a big publisher and books in stores unless you’re out there, pressing the flesh, so to speak. My personal viewpoint is that until you’re a household name – as in, if you go to any grocery store and say your name, people would know who you are even if they don’t read – you’d better be working. And part of the work that goes into being a successful author is going to live events, meeting readers, connecting with fans, speaking, sharing your personality, and so forth.

I happen to enjoy people – unlike what seems like three-quarters of the authors out there, I’m not an introvert – and I enjoy going to events. I love running the yap, I love meeting people, I love sharing my books with new readers and discussing plot points and characters with existing fans, and so on. So going to live events is work that I truly enjoy. But even if I hated it, I’d still do it, because it dramatically affects my sales and my readership, always in a positive way.

DLS: Tell us a little about Alien Nation. What else can we look forward to in the coming months from Gini Koch (or any of your other “secret” identities for that matter)?

Well, Alien Nation is about what happens when word of how well Earth’s repelled interstellar bad guys spreads, and many alien races head for our planet, looking for help from the person who’s been saving the day for a long time now – Kitty. In addition to the usual hijinks for Kitty & Company, we also see the end of some major villains, which was nice for me and the characters. Well, not those villains, but everyone else.

Alien Education/Book 15, releases May 2, and Aliens Abroad/Book 16, releases in December. I’m also planning to have The Alien Collection, which will be a collection of all my Alien series short stories, both previously published and some new, out this year, as well as a collection of my short horror stories, writing as J.C. Koch. I’ll be in several anthologies – Unidentified Funny Objects 6 from UFO Press, Submerged and All Hail Our Robot Overlords! both from Zombies Need Brains, and, finally, the long-delayed MECH: Age of Steel, again writing as J.C. Koch, from Ragnarok. Alexander Outland: Space Pirate, writing as G.J. Koch, gets a mass market re-release in June, which is pretty exciting. I’ll also have an audio release, The Legend of Belladonna Part One: Natural Born Outlaws, writing as A.E. Stanton, coming from Graphic Audio. So, lots ahead for 2017 and beyond!

Gini Koch writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series. Touched by an Alien, Book 1 in the Alien series, was named by Booklist as one of the Top Ten Adult SF/F novels of 2010. Alien in the House, Book 7 in her long-running Alien series, won the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award as the Best Futuristic Romance of 2013. Alien Nation, released in December 2016 and won the Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll for Best SF/F Novel of 2016. Book 15, Alien Education, will release in May 2017, with Book 16, Aliens Abroad, coming December 2017.

As G.J. Koch she writes the Alexander Outland series and she’s made the most of multiple personality disorder by writing under a variety of other pen names as well, including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch.

Gini also has stories featured in a variety of excellent anthologies, available now and upcoming, writing as Gini Koch, Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, and J.C. Koch. Writing as A.E. Stanton, she will have an audio release, Natural Born Outlaws: The Legend of Belladonna Part 1, coming from Graphic Audio in 2017.

Gini is an in-demand speaker who panels regularly at San Diego Comic-Con, Phoenix Comicon, and the Tucson Festival of Books, among others. She’s also been part of the faculty for the San Diego State University Writers Conference, Jambalaya Con, the Desert Dreams Writers Conference, and the James River Writers Conference, among others.

Prior to becoming a full time author, Gini spent over 25 years in marketing and advertising, first in small- to mid-sized direct marketing firms in Los Angeles, and then with IBM, and she was a social media maven before it was cool.

Reach her here: www.ginikoch.com, faceboook, and twitter

David Lee Summers. David is the author of more than thirty sci-fi and horror fiction novels and short stories including his latest horror novel THE ASTRONOMER’S CRYPT for Lachesis Publishing. Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

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Prolific Fantasy and Sci-Fi Author Robert E. Vardeman

Robert E. Vardeman is the author of more than 100 fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as numerous westerns under various pen names (Jackson Lowry, Karl Lassiter). He’s written gaming tie-in novels such as Dark Legacy for the Magic: The Gathering series and he wrote the Star Trek novels The Klingon Gambit and Mutiny on the Enterprise.  He was nominated for the prestigious Hugo Award in 1972 and he named Albuquerque’s science fiction convention Bubonicon.  The convention is named because even to this day, there are occasional cases of Bubonic Plague in the area.  Fortunately, it’s easily treated by modern antibiotics!

Not only has Bob Vardeman succeeded with traditional, mainstream publishing but he has a long track record of working with small presses and even self-publishing.  His short story collection Stories from Desert Bob’s Reptile Ranch which spans more than thirty years of writing was published by Popcorn Press. I’ve been honored to be featured in a few anthologies with him, including the forthcoming Straight Outta Tombstone anthology from Baen Books.

Bob is a longtime resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in materials engineering. He worked for Sandia National Laboratories in the Solid State Physics Research Department before becoming a full time writer.  I caught up with Bob at this year’s Bubonicon in Albuquerque.

DLS: As I understand, you started out working in the Solid State Physics Research Department at Sandia National Labs before becoming a writer. How has your background in physics and materials science influenced your writing?

REV: While we call it science fiction, what we enjoy most is actually technology fiction–how science affects our lives (and our characters’ lives).  Science moves so fast these days, other than trying to avoid simple mistakes, what I learned back in the days of yore is outdated.  Bell’s Inequality, which changed so much, came 15 years after I quit working at Sandia.  Nano tech meant ICs then. Hubble and soon Webb space telescopes open the universe to dark matter and energy.  I read about new discoveries but mostly I don’t understand them.  Instead, I try to put it all into a technology framework and figure out what the effect will be on our lives.

DLS: How did you get started writing? When you started writing for fanzines, did you have an idea that you wanted to be a professional author?

REV: I’m one of the exceptions to the “I always wanted to write” rule.  I never did.  I wanted to be a nuclear physicist and more or less ended up there, though X-rays and RTGs were as close as I got.  I had a few months between quitting Sandia and going to UC Berkeley where I had been accepted to work on a PhD (in ceramic engineering) when I visited my good buddy Geo. Proctor.  Geo. was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, had a couple novels and short stories printed and had always wanted to be a writer.  He suggested we coauthor a story.  Why not?  We did, it sold. (and we never got paid–the magazine folded before publication).  Over the years this story sold twice more with the same result.  Ironically, the title of the story was “A Killing In the Market.”  I enjoyed the process, wrote a fantasy proposal and sent it out.  It sold.  I was faced with finishing the book or going to Berkeley, so I postponed school by a half year.  In that time I sold two more novels and decided this was more fun than designing materials for rocket throat liners.  As it turned out, this was a good decision on another front.  The prof who would have been my adviser died of cancer 2 years after I would have begun.  Such a tragedy easily could have derailed my dissertation, research and career.

DLS: You’ve written under several pseudonyms including Karl Lassiter and Jackson Lowry for westerns, your science fiction has appeared under your own name as well as F.J. Hale and Edward S. Hudson, and I could go on.  Authors often build brands around their names.  Why have so many pseudonyms?  What kind of work do you put into building a brand for each new pseudonym?

REV: The sf pen names came about to keep from competing with myself.  One month I had three titles, out, two fantasy and an sf book.  Publishers loathe such self-competition.  The shift in western pen name from Karl Lassiter to Jackson Lowry came about for the same reason.  When I switched publishers, the new one insisted on a different name to keep from supposed promotion of titles from a competing publisher.  In a way, this was good.  Lassiter did more epic, long form novels while Lowry does short stories, lighter westerns and weird westerns.

DLS: Not only do you have several pseudonyms, but you’ve run the gamut from publishing with New York houses to publishing with small presses to self-publishing.  Why work with such a range of publishers?

REV: It took me a while to figure out that I would be terrible doing repetitive assembly line work.  After a few minutes, I’d be changing how Part A fitted into Part B.  Keeping with one genre (and publisher) is like that.  New challenges, new ideas, “what if” always beckons and not necessarily in the same field.  I am prolific and varied ideas flow constantly (I am aware of the difference between constant and continuous, alas–the ideas flow constantly).  It takes a lot of ink and electrons to keep up.

DLS: Tell us about the Empires of Steam and Rust series. I thought this was an especially innovative approach to self-publishing where several authors write in a single world and help each other market their works.  How can we learn more about the books in the series?

REV: Shared worlds aren’t too uncommon, but I decided on a different approach.  The basic steampunk framework could be applied in myriad ways–all suggesting myriad authors could contribute.  The idea of “holes” into a world consumed by rust gave a world lacking in oxygen and the possibility of invasion from (and into) it.  Rather than being the editor for all this, I let trusted authors use the framework to tell stories in their own way and bring their readers to the world.  Hopefully that story interests their readers to look at other writers working in the same framework.  Each author is responsible for story, editing, publishing, cover, marketing, everything.  And the individual author collects 100% of the revenue from their own work.  No charge for use of the world.  Entries so far have been strong and interesting and varied.  I look forward to writing more myself in the world and hope other authors ask if they might join the fun (send me an email to inquire).

DLS: Your career started before we’d heard of things like Twitter and Facebook.  How has the world of book marketing changed now that social media has come on the scene?  How do you fold social media into your own book marketing campaigns?

REV: I coined the term VIPub a few years ago. Vertically Integrated Publishing.  Indie authors have to do it all, think up the idea, write the story, edit it, get a cover, publish and promote. It all rests on the author’s shoulders.  This is overwhelming if you try to do whatever is currently hot in social media since it is a moving target and changes in 6 months (or less).  In a talk David Morrell said 10% of a writer’s time ought to be spent on promotion.  The question arises as to how to allocate that time.  From all the possibilities, I say pick three that interest you most.  Twitter or Facebook or blogs or Instagram or…whatever else is out there.  I have a website I update periodically (www.cenotaphroad.com) and an online store (www.robertevardeman.com).  I do post fun stuff on facebook every day and link it with Twitter.  I have let blog writing lag since I can’t do it all.  One element that is the author’s and no one else’s is a mailing list.  Self-selected fans are the greatest.  (Sign up for mine via my website or online store)  I only send out the n/l when a new book is available or other publishing info comes to light.  I don’t like getting inundated so hold down frequency to make each one special (and give special offers of free books, etc)

DLS: What can we look forward to in the coming months from Robert E. Vardeman, or your other identities for that matter?

REV: One novella I am especially excited about is “Jupiter Convergence” in the new anthology Rockets Red Glare.    A weird western short story, “The Sixth World”, is forthcoming in the Baen anthology Straight Outta Tombstone.  The final volume in a Jackson Lowry weird western trilogy, Punished, is due out in November (#3: Bayou Voodoo joins #1: Undead and #2: Navajo Witches).  I am returning to work on an sf book with a different take on first contact and have a major project mapped out set on the moons of Jupiter.  And when I get a chance, I have a really strange detective novel in synopsis.  Final mention is one of my pen names, Dana Fox.  Burning Man Anomaly is joined by a 3-author follow-up Aztec Automaton Anomaly with a 3rd title being sketched out now set in a haunted 1930’s Texas luxury hotel slated for release in 2017.

Connect with Robert E Vardeman online via his website, on facebook and on Twitter.

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

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You can purchase David Lee Summers’s books at Lachesis Publishing, on amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and iBooks.

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

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Jeffrey Marriotte, bestselling supernatural thriller and horror author

Jeffrey J. Mariotte is the bestselling, award-winning author of fifty novels, including supernatural thrillers Season of the Wolf, Missing White Girl, River Runs Red, and Cold Black Hearts, horror epic The Slab, thriller The Devil’s Bait, and the Dark Vengeance teen horror quartet.

He also writes occasional nonfiction, short fiction (some of which is collected in Nine Frights), and comic books, including the long-running horror/Western comic book series Desperadoes and graphic novels Fade to Black and Zombie Cop. With writing partner Marsheila Rockwell, he has published several short stories and a novel, 7 SYKOS. He has worked in virtually every aspect of the book business, as a writer, editor, marketing executive, and bookseller.

Jeff Mariotte and Marsheila Rockwell (writing partners and life partners)

I’ve known Jeff for several years and was delighted when he agreed to answer a few of my questions.

DLS: When people see an author’s name, they often see it as a “brand”, knowing what kind of story they’ll get. You’ve written in several genres from science fiction to weird westerns to horror. How do you define the “Jeff Mariotte Brand”?

JM: I’m convinced that writing in different genres has been harmful to my career, because readers tend to like a writer who stays put, who delivers basically the same thing book after book. Once you’re well established, you can switch around–like Robert B. Parker eventually turning to the occasional western after writing a ton of mystery books in different series. But shifting around before your “brand” is established seems like a bad move, career-wise.

That said, I don’t see how I could have done it differently. I have to write what I’m moved to write at any given time. I’d get bored writing the same series character over and over. I haven’t calculated out the wisest career path, but have written the books that felt like they needed to be written as they came along. I’m true to myself, if not to market considerations. My agent might prefer it the other way around, but I am who I am.

I hope that readers know that when they pick up one of my books, they’ll get a compelling, suspenseful tale that’ll keep them turning the page; they’ll get well-written and engaging stories populated with characters they’ll believe in and care about. Regardless of genre, I try to always write books that will brighten a reader’s day and life, that entertain and maybe inform and enlighten. My books are generally optimistic, even when they venture into dark places, and one of my central themes seems to be the idea that there’s magic in the world, if only you know to look for it.

DLS: Who was your greatest writer influence/inspiration when you started? What are some books of theirs you would recommend?

JM: I was a bookseller for years before I got published, so I was reading pretty extensively in my preferred genres–horror, mysteries, thrillers, sf, fantasies, westerns. Consequently, I had (and have) a lot of inspirations. Some have changed over the years, and others have been consistent. In the early days, I was strongly inspired by Robert E. Howard (particularly his Conan stories), the aforementioned Bob Parker (his Spenser novels), Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe) and Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer). At the same time, I’ve often been inspired by writers as varied as Stephen King (The Stand, The Shining, On Writing), William Goldman (Marathon Man, Boys and Girls Together) and Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose, Recapitulation, Wolf Willow). More recent influences include James Lee Burke (any of his books, but especially the Robicheaux novels). That’s a pretty male-centric list, but I could also add in works by Joan Vinge, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, Laura Lippman, Barbara Kingsolver, and plenty of other talented women, as well as one of the best writers I know, Marsheila Rockwell.

DLS: You recently married your writing partner, the talented Marsheila Rockwell. How do your collaborations work? How does collaborating compare to writing solo?

JM: Funny you should mention that…

We collaborate very well, almost seamlessly. We have different strengths–she’s a poet and her command of language is beautiful, while I’m a stronger plotter, for instance–but when we work together, our strengths complement each other, and by the time we’re finished with a story, we usually can’t tell who wrote what. We try to start with a solid outline so we know where we’re going and what each other’s vision of the overall story is (and because we both come out of a tie-in writing background, we’re used to working with outlines). Then we trade off–scene by scene, chapter by chapter, whatever works at the moment and for any given project. On the first book of the Xena: Warrior Princess trilogy we’re working on, we had a relatively tight deadline and had to be writing different chapters simultaneously, which was a little awkward. But we smoothed it all out, and it came out well in the end.

As for the difference between collaborating and solo work, it is a different beast. A solo story or novel is one person’s vision, and everything in it, good or bad, is a reflection of that one person. A collaboration is necessarily a shared vision. I’ve written a lot of comic books and graphic novels, and because I don’t draw, those are always collaborations. And I’ve collaborated with other writers, too. So it’s not new to me. It does feel more natural with Marcy, and we work together better than I have with anyone else. Ideally, the result of a collaboration is a book or a story one writer couldn’t have written, because each participant brings different skills and life experiences to the table, and that’s what Marcy and I get when we write together. The fact that I get to be married to her is icing on the cake.

DLS: What insights have you gained from owning a bookstore that can help writers be more successful and stand out from the crowd?

Image: Slate.com

JM: I think the experience of working in bookstores, managing them, and being an owner of one, has made me less ready to jump on board the e-book train. I think printed books are an ideal marriage of form and function–they don’t require a power source, they don’t break down or become corrupted, they’re always there when you want to read and you can save your place with a bookmark or a piece of paper or a paper clip or whatever’s handy. At the same time, I have a more realistic view of the book business than some people, who seem to think that Amazon is the only bookseller that matters. The truth is that printed books still far outsell e-books, and other outlets still sell more books in the U.S. than Amazon does, so if a writer focuses all of his or her efforts on Amazon, he or she is leaving a lot of potential sales on the table.

DLS: Not only do you write in your own worlds, you’ve written novels and stories for Star Trek, NCIS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and other franchises. How does “playing in someone else’s sandbox” compare to creating your own world?

JM: I love writing my original novels, and will always want to do that. Creating my own characters and involving them in situations entirely of my own devising is the ultimate creative experience. But it’s also a blast to be asked to write novels about characters I love, like Conan, Xena, Spider-Man, Superman, and great TV shows like CSI and NCIS: Los Angeles. I get to tell stories in beloved fictional universes, and get paid for it–nothing wrong with that!

The skills that are called on are the same. I have to create characters, plot stories, write in an engaging and entertaining manner. And the truth is whether I’m writing in an existing fictional universe or my own, I have to be consistent and true to the rules of that universe as it’s been developed. So the main difference is that in tie-in work, I have to try to capture voices that were devised by other writers (and sometimes actors). Fortunately, I’m pretty good at that.

DLS: If someone wanted to try their hand at writing and selling a novel in the world of a popular franchise, what would they need to do? How should they start?

JM: They could start by visiting the website of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, IAMTW.org. There they can find out a lot about the nuts and bolts of the tie-in business, and maybe find out about licensed fiction lines they didn’t even know existed. The organization has also released a book by its membership that contains more details about the trade.

Typically (although there are exceptions) to write a tie-in novel, you have to have had at least one other novel professionally published. Publishers have already invested a lot of money to acquire a license, so they don’t want to risk more by hiring a writer who hasn’t proven the ability to write a publishable book. And there’s often competition for tie-in gigs, so if it’s a choice between a writer with a solid track record and an unknown new writer, the established pro will have the advantage. So the best thing a writer can do is write a good book, get it published by a reputable publisher, then approach the publisher of the licensed fiction line of interest and say, “Hey, I wrote X and I’d sure like to pitch you something for your Y line.”

DLS: In addition to writing novels, you’ve written and edited comic books. How are writing comic books similar and different than writing novels or short stories? Do you collaborate with the artist ahead of time, or create any kind of storyboard in addition to writing?

JM: As I mentioned above, because I don’t draw the comics, each one is a collaboration, start to finish. I write the script before the artist draws it, so while I’m writing it I’m only speculating about what it’ll look like at the end of the process. Usually what I’m seeing in my head is not much like what comes out on the page. From the very beginning of my career, I’ve had the good fortune of working with some amazing artists, whose work on my scripts has blown me away.

Ultimately, the skill sets the writer brings to the table are similar. You need to tell a story that’s worth telling, that’s interesting and surprising and suspenseful and is hopefully enlightening in some way. The differences are in the techniques and the outcome. In comics, you have to be willing to stand back and let the art tell the story. The writer makes up the story (in most cases), and puts it down in a script that no one will ever see, but the artist is the one whose interpretation of the story ends up being what the readers see. The writer has to let the artist do that job, and keep the words to a minimum so they don’t get in the way of the art.

I don’t try to direct the artist to any great extent. I tell them what has to be in each panel to make the story work, but leave it to them how the panel is composed, how the different panels fit onto the page, etc. I’ve worked, as an editor, with writers who don’t trust their artists and do sketch layouts for them. Fortunately, in most cases, the artists I’ve worked with are far better at that than I would be.

DLS: What kind of research did you do writing the comic book biography of Barack Obama? Did you get to interview the President or did you work from other resources?

JM: That project was fascinating, and required vast amounts of research. I didn’t get to meet or speak with the President (though I’d still love to). I wrote it during the 2008 campaign and the first few months of his presidency, so at the time there weren’t even any books about him other than the two he wrote himself. Obviously he was a well-known public figure, but what had been written about him was mostly journalism coming out on a constant basis, along with a few more in-depth magazine pieces. I read his books and every article about him I could get my hands on, and watched him on TV whenever possible to get a sense of his voice. The scripts were vetted by lawyers, and I had to have every fact triple-sourced, and had to be able to show where every line of dialogue came from. The project was originally three separate comic book issues that were collected into a single hardcover book, which was actually the first book-length biography written about him.

DLS: I sense a certain passion for small towns on the southern border of the United States in your writing. What captivates you about those places in particular?

JM: Borderlands of all kinds are fascinating to me. I have written a lot about the US/Mexico border, but I’ve written about other borders, too–my Age of Conan trilogy, for example, was largely about the border between the Aquilonian Empire and the Pictish lands–which is kind of a parallel to Hadrian’s Wall, where the Roman Empire ended and the wilderness began. Other borders in my fiction include borders between our world and another (or many others). Borders are where different people with different interests and backgrounds intersect. There’s natural drama in that. Along our southwestern border, there are of course political issues, issues of crime and punishment, and the story of the human race–which is the ongoing story of migration–all of which are rich territory for fiction.

DLS: Tell us about your latest novel.

JM: The new book is 7 SYKOS, a collaboration with Marsheila Rockwell. It’s kind of a science fiction/horror/thriller hybrid. Basically, a meteor has brought a spaceborne virus into the Phoenix metropolitan area, which has the effect of turning those infected into raging lunatics hungry for brains. It’s incredibly virulent and there’s no known cure or vaccine. In order to keep it from spreading throughout the nation (or the world), the military has fenced off the Valley of the Sun, and nobody is allowed in or out. But everyone knows that’s only a temporary solution, so if something more permanent can’t be figured out soon, the Valley’s going to be nuked out of existence. Trouble is, the only way to come up with a fix is to get enough of the meteor to study, and nobody can get to it. But it turns out that the unique brain structure of psychopaths makes them immune to the virus. So they can go into the quarantine zone, to look for pieces of the meteor. And all they have to do is agree to perform an essentially altruistic act, learn how to play well together, and survive the onslaught of thousands of Infecteds who want to eat their brains. Nothing to it, right…?

DLS: Sounds amazing! Thanks for the wonderful and informative interview!

Connect with Jeffrey Mariotte online: website, facebook, twitter Connect with Marsheila Rockwell online: website, facebook, twitter

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

TURN UP THE SUMMER HEAT WITH 2 science fiction/suspense thriller Hybrid FORCED VEGEANCE ON SALE FOR .99 CENTS EVERYWHERE! BUT WAIT YOU CAN ALSO GET HYBRID (BOOK 1) FOR .99 CENTS TOO! GET BOTH! FOR .99 CENTS EACH. by Lachesis Publishing author, Greg Ballan 

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE at LACHESIS PUBLISHING.

You can also get HYBRID  and HYBRID FORCED VENGEANCE  at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and kobo.

HYBRID AND HYBRID FORCED VENGEANCE:

Erik Knight is a small time private investigator with big time supernatural powers. In HYBRID he searches for a kidnapped girl. In HYBRID FORCED VENGEANCE he’s assigned to protect the daughter of a the French President.

To read some of Greg’s musings visit his writing page on facebook, for several short stories and pithy takes on yard work and homelife.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

Ray Bradbury

In May 1983, I was 16 years old and a junior at San Bernardino High School in California. One of my best friends, Rodney King, was a senior at Pacific High School across town. Rod told me that Ray Bradbury was scheduled to give a presentation at his school. I was on San Bernardino High’s newspaper and persuaded my teachers to give me permission to report on the presentation.

On the morning of Ray Bradbury’s talk, Rod picked me up and we drove to Pacific High School. We were walking across campus, when the principal stopped us. She saw I was carrying a tape recorder and asked if we were reporters from other schools. I confirmed I was. She then said, “Mr. Bradbury is having lunch in the library, would you care to join him?” Of course, we leapt at the opportunity. There he was, the man himself! Ray Bradbury in the library talking to teachers and administrators. He seemed pleased to see some students there as well and we joined in the conversation.

David Lee Summers’ signed copy of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Once we finished lunch, we adjourned to the auditorium where Bradbury spoke and answered questions about his work. Afterwards Rod and I went up to him to say goodbye and thank him for talking to us. He pulled us aside and said, “I’m going out for cocktails with some of the teachers after this. Would you care to join us?” Of course we agreed and spent another hour with him. It was truly a magical day. I remember he told the story of how he came up with the story “The Veldt” from The Illustrated Man. He read some of his poetry. He encouraged us to read and write every day. All of that has remained with me over the years. Sadly, these were the days before everyone carried a cell phone much less invented he word “Selfie,” so I don’t have a picture with him, but he signed my copies of Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I treasure to this day.

I next had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bradbury about two years later when he spoke at California State University at San Bernardino. That was a brief visit and he signed a copy of Dinosaur Tales for me. What I most remember is that when I stepped up to him in the autograph line, he immediately recognized me, stepped around the desk where he was signing, and gave me a hug.

I didn’t see Mr. Bradbury again until early 1995. At that point, I was living in Tucson. He came out to speak at a writer’s workshop held at the University of Arizona. I attended with my wife, Kumie, and my friend, William Grother. He gave a wonderful presentation over lunch where he told us a person should read a short story, a poem and an essay every day. “Imagine how much you will learn,” he said. He also told us about his experiences in Ireland, writing the Moby Dick screenplay for John Huston. Again, I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Bradbury. He gave me and Kumie hugs and we left him to speak to other fans.

A couple of years later, I saw a copy of Green Shadows, White Whale, book of collected Ray Bradbury’s stories about working for John Huston in Ireland. I remembered his stories from the workshop so fondly that I immediately bought the book and read it right away.

About that time, I was also reading submissions for a magazine I was editing called Hadrosaur Tales. Three stories in a row that described a knight climbing a mountain to slay some hapless dragon. I found myself asking, “Isn’t there a fresh way to tell this story?” I thought of Ray Bradbury in Ireland, writing Moby Dick. The question occurred to me, what if teams of people flew out in airships and hunted dragons? I wrote the story of a young man named Rado who joined such a crew. Rado was named for Ray Douglas Bradbury. When the story was published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, I sent Mr. Bradbury a copy and told him the story of how I came up with the idea. He wrote back a few days later and said how much he enjoyed that day in 1983 at Pacific High School, how proud he was of me, and that “The Slayers” was a “fine story.”

Ray Bradbury in 1978 (The Paris Review)

If you’d like to hear Ray Bradbury speak, my friend Gloria McMillian recently pointed me to a YouTube video recorded in 2001, the year my story was published in Realms of Fantasy. In it, he gives terrific advice and tells many great stories from his years as a writer. You can watch it at: here.

Back in 1983, Ray Bradbury told the story of visiting a carnival when he was a child. A man called Mr. Electrico strapped himself into an electric chair. With lightning arcing all around, Mr. Electrico pointed a lightning rod at the young Bradbury and said, “live forever!” That’s the moment Ray Bradbury decided to be a writer, so he could live forever.

That day, Ray Bradbury pointed at me and said, “Live forever, submit your stories now!” I have lived by that ever since and now it’s my turn to point to you. “Live forever!” 

You can purchase David Lee Summers’s books at Lachesis Publishing, on amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and iBooks.

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook.

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THIS WEEK’S DEAL OF THE WEEK is the science fiction/suspense thriller Hybrid by Lachesis Publishing author, Greg Ballan (Book 1 in the Hybrid series). 

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE at LACHESIS PUBLISHING.

You can also get Hybrid  at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and kobo.

What it’s about:

Erik Knight, a small time private investigator, always knew he was different from everybody else. Keener senses, heightened awareness and an enhanced physical strength that could be called upon by his sheer will.

Erik becomes involved with a team of high profile investigators and local police trying to locate a girl who was kidnapped in the middle of a playground amongst dozens of adults and children. None of the adults saw anything and what the children claim to have seen is too far fetched to be believed. The search evolves into a full-scale manhunt into the dark and desolate woodlands of the Hopedale Mountain.

After a lethal encounter and a fatality, Erik, the investigators and police realize that what they’re dealing with isn’t a man and possibly isn’t of this world. What they’re dealing with is a sentient evil that has an appetite for young children.

EXCERPT:

“Erik!” Shanda whispered in alarm. “Something’s here, stalking the girls. I can’t see it, but I can sense it.”

Erik looked throughout the park grounds, focusing his vision, but he couldn’t see anything. Fifty yards away, the children played unaware of anything but their innocent fun. Erik walked quickly over to where the party was, Shanda following close behind him. As he closed the distance he noticed that his daughter was staring at something and pointing. Erik looked in the direction she was pointing and saw a patch of darkness. His mind shrieked with panic and he ran toward his daughter, screaming for the other girls to leave the park area. The girls looked at the direction Brianna was pointing at and froze. They were terrified, frozen into inaction.

After a quick sprint, Erik was beside his daughter. Several of the other mothers had gone to their children as they all pointed out the closing patch of darkness.

“Get your children back!” Erik commanded. “It wants your children.”

Mothers and children were panicking. Children were crying with fright as the afternoon sun seemed to dim and the temperature in the park suddenly dropped twenty degrees. Brianna hadn’t moved since Erik came by her side.

“What do you see, honey?” he whispered.

Brianna’s eyes were transfixed on the corner of the park. Her finger still pointed in that direction. “It’s a tall man, I think. I can tell that it wants me. It’s calling to me, Daddy. I’m scared. Please don’t let it take me. I can tell it wants to take me.” She screamed in mindless terror.

Erik reached behind his back and pulled his Ruger from its place of concealment. He wrapped both arms protectively around his daughter, his gun pointing in the direction of her finger.

“Bri, point me in the right direction. I won’t let it hurt you. No one is taking you anywhere.”

She gently guided his hands so that the pistol was aiming at the heart of the dark anomaly.

“Daddy,” she whispered, “it’s coming right for us.”

“Go back with Shanda and the others, now!” he told her.

“Daddy, I don’t want to leave you.”

“Go, honey! Please,” he whispered. “Shanda!” Erik shouted, breaking the eerie silence. “Take Brianna.”

Shanda came up quickly and took Brianna. “I can just barely see it, Erik; it’s just like you described. It stopped when you pulled the gun. All the children can see it, but the parents can’t. All they can see is the darkness, and they can feel the cold.”

From behind them, the ponies were shrieking in panic.

“All right, you two, get back!” Erik stood up. He holstered his weapon and began walking toward the darkness.

“I know you’re there!” Erik called out to the inky darkness. “Maybe you can hide from them, but you can’t hide from me!” Erik focused his eyes; concentrating his extra senses on the darkness as he continued forward. Slowly he saw the man-like figure materialize. The figure had stopped its approach and assumed an aggressive stance. Erik paused a scant twenty feet from it and assumed a basic combat stance he used in Kung Fu.

“You can’t have the children!” he shouted, his voice booming above the silence, challenging the being of darkness. “You can’t have my daughter or any other child here.”

The thing responded with silence. Erik finally saw the blood-red eyes looking right through him. He could feel the hatred, the sheer malevolence; yet, now he also felt desperation, a hunger that was beyond his ability to define. The hostility threatened to overwhelm him. Erik fought his own emotions, fought down his own fear and doubt. He knew he couldn’t defeat this thing physically, but he would not let it have his daughter or any other child there, not while he drew breath.

Like what you’ve read? You can get Hybrid right here at Lachesis Publishing or on amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and kobo.

To read some of Greg’s musings visit his writing page on facebook, for several short stories and pithy takes on yard work and homelife.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

 

The Mayall 4 Meter Telescope

The WIYN 3.5-Meter Telescope

By day I’m a mild-mannered writer of science fiction and horror. By night, I operate the Mayall 4-meter telescope and the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory outside Tucson, Arizona. These two telescopes have contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe. They’ve played a role in the discovery of dark matter, the large scale structure of the universe, dark energy, planets outside the solar system and much more. Working with these telescopes has also done much to inspire my writing.

 

Giant Star Spot K.Strassmeier, Vienna, NOAO/AURA/NSF

For many years, I specialized in observations of spotted binary stars. Spotted, in this case means that they have spots, like sunspots, only much larger. In some cases the spots can take up over a third of the star’s surface. Binary means that two stars orbit each other. These are very active, violent stars and I visit such a system in the opening scenes of Children of the Old Stars.

I’ve spent many nights at Kitt Peak pointing telescopes at globular clusters. These are great spherical clouds of ancient stars that orbit our galaxy. In fact, the “old star” part of my “Old Star/New Earth” series gets its name from these stellar groups, which in my novels prove to be the home of an ancient and powerful life form. The series’s overall storyline was inspired by taking one of the deepest images of our galaxy’s center and imagining a way for humans to get there and see it firsthand.

Maria Mitchell Observatory

Before working at Kitt Peak, I spent a summer working at the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket Island, off the Massachusetts coast. Nantucket was once the center of the American whaling industry and is home to many proud, old families. What’s more, the novel Moby-Dick opens on Nantucket Island. When I imagined a character who would sail off into the unknown frontiers surrounding our galaxy and at its heart, I immediately looked to a man born and bred from a long line of Nantucket sailors and you’ll find the island featured prominently in The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth.

Not only does work at an observatory inspire my science fiction, but it has a way of inspiring my horror as well. At one time, one of my co-workers used to joke that those of us who operate telescopes were the vampires of the mountain because you never saw us before sunset or after sunrise. She was also a fan of vampire fiction who introduced me to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire. Because of that, I began to ask what if a telescope operator really was a vampire? That line of questioning led me on the path to writing my novels Vampires of the Scarlet Order and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.

Haunted hallway? Photo by David Lee Summers

Lest you think vampires are the scariest thing you might encounter at an observatory, we do have our share of ghost stories. There are tales of the rocking chair in the 4-meter lounge that rocks all by itself. Last winter police reported getting a 911 call from the observatory. When the telescope operator on duty checked the number, it came from inside a locked, empty elevator. Just a month ago, the breaker to the kitchen tripped mysteriously. The breaker is located in one of the spookiest hallways in the building, where I often feel someone is walking right behind me. Now, all of these stories actually have rational explanations, but the shivers these tales induce helped me to create The Astronomer’s Crypt, the first of a horror series that I have written for Lachesis Publishing.

MilkyWay Over KPNO: P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Writing is a passion and a calling for me, but I’m grateful for my career in astronomy. Even if I were to leave it, I’ve seen wonders and had experiences that will inspire many books to come.

You can purchase David Lee Summers’s books at Lachesis Publishing, on amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and iBooks.

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow Lachesis Publishing on twitter.

Image: www.newlovetimes.com

Let me apologize in advance to any Romance Novelist who may be upset over my obvious lack of perception and understanding of your genre and the topic, overall.  When this topic was suggested to me, my initial reaction was to laugh out loud and roll my eyes.  Clearly my publisher had made THE WORST choice to tackle this subject.  I am far from a ‘Love Guru’, how could I pontificate and comment on this topic with any shred of credibility? Like any quest for knowledge when one finds oneself lacking, approach those around you and gather a data set from a diverse population; which is what I spent three days doing.

Image: surfingbird.ru

I asked several colleagues of varying ages and gender their definition and opinion of romance and if he/she was familiar with romance novels.  The results from the male gender were pretty much what I expected. They all vehemently denied any knowledge or familiarity with the genre beyond the occasional “My wife has one or two on her nightstand and no I’ve never picked one up.”  When I pushed for a definition of ‘Romance’ I was taken aback by how guarded the men became.  I got suspicious looks and raised eyebrows and arms almost always folded indicating I’d crossed into uncomfortable body language territory. I swore anonymity yet still wasn’t able to crack that guarded man wall of secrecy. One guy went so far as to question my manhood for even broaching such a topic. It seems that Romance, in the data set available to me, is something not discussed among my gender. Upon reflection I admit that the topic has NEVER come up in conversation when I’ve been socializing with other men at any type of gathering.  The topics have been work, sports, some fantasy football league, and often trashing some politician or even talking about house projects. Conversations at my rod and gun club are limited to fishing, deer hunting, crossbows, rifles etc., but never in my 52 years have I been exposed to guys discussing romance. Okay, message received. Bros don’t discuss ‘Romance’ with other bros lest they lose their male membership card. If there are men discussing romance and the like, I’ve been missing out on those discussions. Could it be me, the type of hobbies and the people I spend time with?  Quite possibly . . . but I deliberately spoke with as diverse a group as possible. My conclusion is that men don’t want to talk about it, at least with other men, especially a writer trying to gain some insight.

Image: http://cordeliahsuphotography.tumblr.com/

The women I spoke to varied in age and, once I explained I was writing a blog, they were more than willing to indulge me in their opinions of romance and why they read romance novels.  The one single comment I heard from each women was that the book they were reading was incredibly well written and compelling. The second most common answer was the novels were a wonderful escape from the mundane of the daily drag of work, kids and reality. I got that, it was pretty much the same reason I read science fiction and graphic novels; for a diversion and an escape from the stress and anxiety of the daily grind. As far as explaining and defining romance, I could sense a bit of hesitation.  I was given great anecdotes from several people but the detective in me wanted a real time answer. What about today, what defined romance for them today?  I got a great deal of rolled eyes and laughter. One funny answer was simply her boyfriend not farting under the sheets at night. One woman my age was much more concise and how shall I say. . . critical with her answers.  I’ll call her ‘Kim.’

It’s Fabio! Image: www.chicagogluttons.com

Kim has been married for several years and has four kids, we talk a lot at the gym while waiting to get on various equipment.  We were using the elliptical trainers and chatting to pass the time when I decided, why not broach the topic and ask her a few questions?  At least she couldn’t run away. I worked up the nerve to segue our light banter from griping about being winded to romance. To my surprise and delight Kim was very direct and honest with her replies. After fifteen years of marriage, changing diapers through four children and having a husband more excited by his new Callaway driver than by her, she began looking for something to fill the void.  She added that her husband was a good man who worked hard and was a great father, but he’d rather spend time his free time at the driving range than having a romantic dinner or a date night.  A friend in a local church group loaned her a copy of a particular steamy romance novel with a real hunk on the cover. She laughed as she recalled the book cover hunk was Fabio.  I remember that name, some big, long-haired blonde guy with huge pecs and biceps. If I remember he also did margarine commercials.  She enjoyed the novel immensely and admitted to getting all hot and bothered by the intimate scenes and the passion found within the pages of that book. From then on Kim decided to spend her evenings and down time with a romance novel tucked in her purse and has become ‘best friends’ with the works of Victoria Dahl and Vivian Arend. “When the kids are in school and he’s at work, I like to curl up under a blanket with a hot cup of cinnamon tea and escape into another world of intrigue and passion. I know it’s never going to happen to me, but it’s nice to pretend and be swept up.” I asked Kim to define ‘Romance’.  She laughed for a moment looked over at me as we were both dripping with sweat.  “Well it’s certainly not this.”  I laughed at her wit and repeated the question.  Kim slowed her pace and took a deep breath, “Greg, if you have to ask me that question and really don’t know the answer I feel sorry for you.  You have the same affliction infecting my husband and a lot of other men.” I winced a bit at the sting of her retort but she then rewarded me with an answer, “Romance is the non-physical acts of love two people show for each other, it’s the little things that make certain somebody feels special, desired and cherished by their partner.”

Kim cranked up her pace and told me to chew on that for awhile, she put on her earphones and got back to her quick pace.  After another twenty minutes pondering, Kim finished her workout, she looked over at me and could tell I was still smarting from her remark.  “I didn’t mean to insult you; if I did I’m sorry.  You’re a nice guy, Greg and I figured you could handle the reality check.”

Image: www.pinterest.com

I left the gym with Kim’s point blank response echoing in my head.  I stopped at my favorite coffee haunt and thought more about Romance.  Were we men, as a gender, all negligent husbands forcing our spouses to seek attention or gratification within the pages of some writer’s imagination?  I reflected back on the first time I fell in love, the way my heart skipped a beat, how my mind was solely focused on her, I knew her scent, every curve of her face and longed just to hear her voice and be with her.  I remember the dates, the long walks and picnics and the hand holding. I recall carrying her across a large puddle because she didn’t want to get her new boots wet and how she giggled as I waded through the ankle deep water carrying her.  I remember showering her with flowers not because I just wanted intimacy, but I loved to see her smile and the delightful squeal she made when she was happy.  I remember spending hours under the hood of her mom’s beat up station wagon and shelling out my own money on car parts not because I had to, but because I knew it was important to her and I knew it would make her happy.  That was romance, that was how I showed her I loved her. It wasn’t the words, it wasn’t the physical joining, it was the gestures and deeds I made when we were together that let her know I cared.  I made her feel special and important and I got love, affection and companionship in return.  Romance is the non-physical acts of love we show our partners.

Image: slism.com

I knew it all along but lost the meaning over the years. I remembered the feeling of falling freshly in love and the natural high that came along with it, the heart skipping a beat, the electric jolt caused by a single touch of a fingertip.  I remembered romance, what I did because of love, the small and large selfless deeds I never thought twice about when I was younger but confess, balk at doing now, or do with a grumble under my breath. Working on my mother in law’s car isn’t always done happily, and often I catch myself rolling my eyes at the thought of stepping out of my comfort zone and expressing myself or my feelings. I often hear the words but fail to listen. I looked back over a litany of self-failings over my iced coffee and wondered what that drop of moisture was rolling down my cheek. How does it all change? Does life and time really have such an impact? What changes in relationships that kill or cool the romance?  What goes wrong?

I’ve never read a romance novel. But I know from those I’ve spoken with that it’s more than just sex; it’s the excitement of discovering a new love, a new connection. I’m sure the male character does all the right things, slays the dragon, conquers the evil or is just there for the support needed or just to listen. I assume that’s the appeal more than the steamy scenes that cause one’s heart to flutter and forms beads of perspiration on the brow. Again that’s my conclusion based on dipping my toe into a pool I’ve never swum before. I believe it’s the crafted tale, the developed characters and story telling complimented by romantic gestures, the non-physical acts of love, that make the eventual physical bonding so powerful and intense (Also a gifted writer behind it). It’s not just the buff, shirtless guy on the cover; it’s the deeds done in the relationship not just inside the bed sheets that have the appeal. I think.

Image: warosu.org

So how does romance work after years of marriage, several kids, two careers, soccer practices, yard work and a “Dad Bod” versus “Six pack abs”?  I honestly just don’t know. Maybe after years together it’s no longer about the grand gestures, maybe the small things have just as much meaning. Maybe making sure the toilet seat is down, emptying the dishwasher and putting away the laundry are just as important as carrying someone across a large puddle or doing a brake job on a car. Perhaps the simple daily acts of consideration can communicate wordlessly what men, myself included, may have forgotten or neglected to do over time. I’m not saying bringing home flowers and candy more than once a year on Valentine’s Day isn’t appreciated but perhaps the simple, yet helpful, gestures go further to prove love is still alive and the fire hasn’t tuned to ashes.  A simple action is worth more than a thousand words . . . even if those words are ‘I love you.’ Showing you care is always better than saying you care. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what romance is all about.

I’m just a Science Fiction writer out of his swim lane, but I think I get the point.

Greg Ballan is the author of the science fiction thrillers Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vegeance. You can purchase them both at Lachesis Publishingamazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and kobo.

Connect with Greg Ballan on facebook and YouTube

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Hybrid: Forced Vengeance by Greg Ballan

Reviewed by David Lee Summers

I grew up watching superhero TV shows and reading comic books, so you might expect me to be a fan of superhero fiction. Unfortunately, superheroes have rarely translated well into short stories or novels for me. I either find the stories shallow translations of comic books or I find that the author tips the scales too much in the other direction and spends so much time on probing the superhero’s psyche that they forget to give us the action and fun that makes the genre special. That said, Greg Ballan’s Hybrid: Forced Vengeance  has shown me that a superhero novel can be just as thrilling as the best comics and movies while adding the depth and complexity we’ve come to expect from great fiction.

An alien called Jakor has combined the DNA of a detective named Erik Knight with that of his own race, the Espers. Knight can essentially transform into a metallic being with super strength and telepathy. Bullets can hurt him, but they’re not fatal. What’s more, he possesses an Esper staff with the ability to transform into swords, shields, and other useful items. As Hybrid: Forced Vengeance opens, Knight is on a mission for the U.S. Government in Saudi Arabia. While there, his pregnant wife Shanda is apparently killed in a car crash. While still grieving for his wife, Knight is sent on a new mission. This time, he must protect the daughter of the French president from an assassination plot.

Once Knight goes overseas, we learn that Shanda did not die after all. She’s been taken to Area 51 in the Nevada Desert so the military can take her newborn, study the child, and try to make more malleable super soldiers than the willful Erik Knight. Shanda turns out not to be the only captive of the story’s villain, Colonel Ross. It turns out the government also holds an alien called Gray from a race called the Observers. Ross hopes that Gray will give him the secrets to a flying saucer the government shot down years before.

Through the course of the novel, Knight gets caught up in a web of intrigue, suspense, and government conspiracy. Ballan introduces us to many characters, each with their own agendas. Most important of all, Hybrid: Forced Vengeance never forgets to be a fun-filled, action-packed ride. At times, Ballan threatens to go over the top with some of the situations he presents, but superhero stories are supposed to be morality plays that pit the best heroes against the worst villains in the most extreme circumstances. Hybrid: Forced Vengeance  delivers just that.

Erik Knight takes an honored place alongside my favorite superheroes from the comics. I can’t wait to join him for another adventure.

Greg Ballan is the author of the science fiction thrillers Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vegeance (and the upcoming Hybrid 3) You can purchase them both at Lachesis Publishingamazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and kobo.

Connect with Greg Ballan on facebook and YouTube

David Lee Summers is a multi-published science fiction and horror author. You can purchase David Lee Summers’ books at Lachesis Publishing, on amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and iBooks.

Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.

 

Like our Lachesis Publishing page on facebook. Follow us Lachesis Publishing on twitter.