Friday, September 29, 2017

Interview with T A Sorsby author of Left Behind

Today I'd like to welcome T A Sorsby.  Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself.

I’d describe myself as a moderately alternative, passionately nerdy bloke in his mid-twenties. I’m engaged, just bought my first house and my day-job is in a pharmacy. My book is called Left Behind, and is an undead-themed action/horror title, with a heavy emphasis on characters and their interactions, not just gore. But you know, that’s there too.

T A, what got you into writing?

Perhaps not directly, but video games certainly got the ball rolling. The main culprit was probably Heroes of Might & Magic – a fantasy themed strategy game about commanding armies of various thematic factions, like Conan-esque Barbarians or Sylvan Forest types.  I played the third and fourth games a lot, and still revisit them. They sparked an interest in mythology and history, and made learning about such things more fun than school could. Knowing about all these great monsters and legends from world culture then inspired me to start writing stories of my own. How that manifested into writing Left Behind is a mystery.

That's interesting, but when you think about it video games really are just interactive stories, or at least a good portion of them are.  Will you share a short excerpt from your novel.

This part is from early on in Left Behind, where the characters see their first zombie.

We must have only been driving for ten minutes when we came to a roadblock. It wasn’t military, not a checkpoint. It was a crash, with one of the cars still pouring steam from under the bonnet. One car straddled across both lanes, the other two had somehow crashed into it, making it a sandwich of sharp metal.
                Neville rolled his sedan to a stop maybe ten yards back and unbuckled, while I did the same. It was the sort of thing that makes you want to get out and have a look. As we straightened up, a foul smell caught our attention. We glanced at each other over the roof, making sure we were both smelling it.
                You don’t forget that smell. The rotten, clinging scent of death. Scrub all you want, trim your nose hairs, and put on some of Neville’s powerful aftershave, but that smell’s only going away once you’ve gotten used to it. Someone had died in that crash. Died bad.
                I moved closer. The nearest car had both its doors on one side open, and I could see dark brown stains – blood – on the seats. It looked like there were two people in the back, one unconscious man, and a woman trying to rouse him. Or so I thought.
                ‘Hey, you okay?’ I asked.
                I wish I hadn’t. The woman’s head snapped towards me, her hair covered in blood and grime, obscuring her face. She kept rheumy eyes on me while she crawled backwards out of the car…when she stood up, that’s when I could see her properly.
                From her chin to the top of her nose was a mask of fresh blood and bared teeth. But her teeth weren’t showing because of some animalistic gesture…her top lip was torn away, just gone.
                She staggered towards me and reached out with both arms, taking in a ragged wheezing breath and letting out a low moan. The moan carried everything dark; pain, hunger, sadness, and it struck a chord right at the base of my spine that froze my feet for a second. I stared into her eyes, white and glassy, and felt my throat tighten.

As a fan of zombies, I really enjoyed that.  It gives us just a taste.  I am curious to know what happens.  Neville better get out of there, or figure out how to kill one quick.
Since you started on this journey, have you been given any helpful advice?

My writing tutor told me to always “Show – Don’t Tell”. It’s advice I pass on to everyone, from Twitter hashtags to doing critique on DeviantArt. Don’t tell me how someone’s feeling – show me! Have your characters slam doors, stare into the distance, or wipe away a single dignified tear. Paint me a picture, in words.

Simple but powerful words, what great advice.  Can you tell us a little bit about your main characters
They’re an eclectic bunch of people, and I tried to give them all the development time they deserved. I also tried to turn traditional character associations on their head. The main character isn’t your typical “audience association everyman”, the teenage girl isn’t a tagalong-kid-liability, and the police character doesn’t take charge of the group. Every story, no matter how original, has a few familiar tropes. I just aimed for the more interesting ones.
I also gave every character their own unique voice. Damian speaks with what in our world would be a slight Patois accent, and Laurel’s dialogue often incorporates aspects of Aussie slang – or at least, my attempt at it. I’ve also been told that Lucile’s southern-American drawl is pretty good, but so far I haven’t been fortunate enough to have more than a few American readers.

Is this a stand-alone novel or part of a series?

Left Behind will be part of a series. There will be at least one more full length novel, though most likely two. I’m also working on a short story set alongside Left Behind, from the perspective of an important character who didn’t get much page-time.

What brought about the idea for your book?

Basically: shouting at people in horror movies. “Don’t go in there alone! Why haven’t you brought a flashlight? Grab a bloody weapon!” – That sort of thing. I wanted to write a story where the characters were more believable – they think their actions through, try to play it smart. It doesn’t always work out, but I think it makes them more relatable than other characters in the field. I faced the problem however, of where to set it. If it was in the USA, firearms would be too readily available, while in the UK, firearms would be too difficult to get their hands on. I took this as an opportunity to blend a few western cultures together, and create an entirely fictional setting.

What was your biggest challenge when writing? Did you have any writer’s block?  If so, how did you work your way through it?

My biggest challenge was finding motivation to continue. I started writing Left Behind when The Walking Dead was still a comic series, not a major TV phenomenon. My story was more a tribute to the now late George A. Romero, but after TWD hit the screens, I think people began to get a little zombie-fatigue. It made me wonder if it was worth carrying on in such an undead-saturated market. But then I thought – how many fantasy series are out there? Hundreds. If your work’s good, there’s no reason it can’t stand out from a crowd.
I, as I’m sure everyone does, also suffered from writer’s block. I think the advice that helps me get through it is remembering that every first draft is utter crap. You need to write your way through it, even if what you’re writing is garbage. When you find your voice again, when you’ve broken through the block, go back and re-write the dud passages. I don’t get stuck half as much as I used to.

Iagree sometimes you just have to push through, a lot of times as I continue to write inspiration strikes and I can go back and fix those sections that I was less than thrilled with.  What are your hobbies aside from writing, if any?

Board and tabletop games are a big hobby of mine, particularly anything with a social/co-operative element, like Dungeons & Dragons or Dead of Winter. My fiancée and I don’t go out to the pub so much anymore, but we like to have people around for a game or two. I actually used to write for a website called Geek Pride, doing board game reviews, but I had to drop my commitment there to focus on my fiction.

In your novels, which character is your favorite?

That’s a really tough call! I can say my favorite character arc to write was definitely Morgan’s though. If Left Behind was an 80s movie, you’d expect her to be the standard child character, someone there to burden the rest of the cast, get in the way, and probably need to be rescued before the end. But she’s smart, fierce, determined, and she gets her time to shine.

Which is your favorite book?

Currently, it’s a novel in The Dresden Files series called Changes. You see the titular hero, Harry Dresden, at both his most powerful, and his most vulnerable. The supporting cast are fantastic as well, essentially comprising of an Avengers-like setup from some of the series’ most entertaining and engaging characters. I’m a huge fan of the series in general, but Changes has to be my top pick.

Since you wrote in this genre, do you think you will ever write in other genres?
Most definitely. I wasn’t drawn to write horror because I like horror novels, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. I’ve read a fair way into the Anita Blake series, but I’m not sure if that counts as horror beyond a certain point. I just ended up writing horror because, well, what other genre do you put the shambling undead in? Somehow it worked, and people told me they were tense when reading it, or couldn’t read before bed. It’s hard for me to tell how frightening a scene will be because I know how it’ll end. I’m really a fantasy author in disguise. Don’t tell anyone. Eventually I hope to write something more in that arena, but Left Behind, and the rest of the Suburban Dead series, will have to take priority.

Thanks so much for sharing with us today T A.  Find out more about T A Sorsby and Left Behind at these links:)
Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Interview with Daccari Buchelli author of Phoenix

Today we'd like to welcome Daccari Buchelli author of Phoenix!
Daccari, tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, I’m Daccari. I’m a native Englishman that’s always been fascinated by books. I started writing short stories from the age of eight after my English teacher showed one I had done for class.  Since then, I have been in love with the craft.

What got you into writing?

Following a primary school English project,  I discovered my passion for writing short stories, which progressed into full length novellas by the time I turned fourteen. During my teen years, I practised writing novellas in the thriller and speculative fiction categories, all of which have yet to be re-written and published into a collection I’m aiming to produce in the near future.
I find that every story enriches our lives in some way and I’ve been determined since childhood to fill my head with as many of them as possible.

Share a short excerpt from your novel, Phoenix:

'Darius, can you feel that?'
A tingling sensation seeped into her bones. It pulsed through her, prickling the hairs on the back of her neck.
'Darius, something feels wrong.'
Violetta turned and was surprised to find Darius facing away. His tall frame appeared to have frozen beside her much loved tree, his face turned up toward the sky.
'Brother? What's wrong? Tell me.'
Violetta followed her brother's gaze.
Darkness stole over her. Violetta could see the storm a mile off and it showed no signs of letting up. She flinched as she felt something hit her face. Water? Darius began to stir, but Violetta's eyes remained fixed on the sky. She had heard of rain. It was said that the Air Realm was frequently visited by such cool showers, but never had she heard of a storm in the Flame Realm. At least, not since the Almighty Storm of the Ancients.
Violetta felt her courage flee her. She let out a high-pitched squeal; a reaction to the hands that had forced themselves around her arms.
'Shh, it's just me.' Darius stroked the golden waves of her hair. 'We must get inside. Understand?'
Violetta gazed into her brother's dark eyes. She nodded.
'Good, we haven't got long before the storm hits.'
Violetta dove toward Jork's ball. She trapped it between her wrinkled skirts, gathering it up in her slender arms. The rain gathered speed.
'Darius, I've got it!' she squealed. Silence greeted her. 'Darius? Where are you?'
Violetta could hear raised voices in the distance. They were muffled, likely from inside the secret passage they had used to get down here.
'Darius?' She spotted a limp shape stretched across the lap of her tree. 'DARIUS!'
Something struck Violetta hard in the shoulder, lifting her clean off the ground. Her mouth formed a silent scream as she flew through the air, clinging tight to Jork's ball. To Violetta's surprise, she landed on her feet.
Violetta's vision swam, her shoulder screaming in agony at a chunk of ice that had pierced the flesh. She glanced about, searching for Darius when something else zipped past her ear. Violetta tried to put thoughts of the pain aside. She gazed above her, where the sky had become a blinding white.
Violetta's fingernails dug into her ball and the agony she felt appeared to diminish. Her eyes snapped down to her shoulder, which only moments ago had been spiking with pain.
'That's not possible,' she gasped.
Violetta's skin was pale and smooth, not a cut or scratch anywhere in sight. Her eyes wandered down to Jork's ball, before flocking back to the pale skies above. This had to be a dream. The sky here wasn't white. It was a bright and beauteous blue, always.
Remembering how Darius had been struck, Violetta returned her gaze to her tree.
Her legs carried her over to him, aching with the sudden chill. Violetta was unsure of what she was going to find. She drew close and saw the tree's tangled roots embracing Darius. His mop of dark hair was slick with the rain, his eyes only just glazing over.
Violetta knelt down and gasped at the sight of her brother's chest. A large needle of ice had speared his flesh, spilling ruby liquid around its edges. A banshee's wail exploded from her.
All sound escaped Violetta's world. The edges of her vision darkened, leaving her only with eyes for her brother.
'Good Lord, Prince Darius!'
Clarisse's harsh voice cut through the silence. The elderly nursemaid sprinted past, her cold stare fixed on the limp form of their Realm's heir. She bent down to examine the prince's wounds, shooting an angry scowl Violetta's way.
'Just what did you think you were doing?' she snarled.
 The veins in her forehead began to rise, as though attempting to escape from their fleshy prison.
Violetta's face was devoid of emotion. She could do little more than stare when a startled scream sounded nearby.
'My boy!'
'Mother?' Violetta got back to her feet. 'Mother, ice is coming down from the sky. We must go. Darius said-'
Violetta locked eyes with her parent. Tears ran afresh down Queen Isobel's face as she raced through the rain to reach her child. Her golden curls, which were usually pinned atop her head, now hung loose and trailed limply down her back.
No-one noticed the shards of ice soaring past. Violetta wanted to run. She wanted to warn her mother before it was too late, but her body felt like it had frozen in place. She strained against her fear with all her might.
'Mother, we must go! Now!'
The queen darted across to the great oak tree. She scooped up the body of her only son, wailing against his dark mop of hair.
The despair in her voice matched the feelings that stirred within Violetta.
Queen Isobel refused to part from her son. He lay there, still as stone, his flesh growing colder by the moment. Violetta would remember this day for the rest of her life. She clung tight to Jork's gift and prepared to race, to grasp hold of her mother, when another shard shot out of the darkness. A struggling scream filled the air. It was a scream that would haunt her forever.

Wow, what a great selection!  It is full of action and suspense and leaves us on the edge of our seats.  
When you pick up a book which do you prefer: print books or ebooks?
Print books will always have a special place in my heart. I love the smell, the feel of the pages turning between my fingers, and that satisfying click when you break in a new spine.

I totally agree.  Daccari, can you tell us what you're working on?

I’m currently preparing the second book of The Peradon Fantasy Series for publication, as well as re-drafting my first to be published Thriller novel, entitled See. See follows seventeen year old Evylia Wilde as she navigates a world of high-school crushes, strange clairvoyant abilities, and a deadly secret.

What is something not a lot of people know about you.

What few people may know about me is that I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at aged 20 and sometimes find it difficult engaging with new people. However, one aspect of this is my having highly trained senses, which come in handy when creating particular images in a reader’s mind.

Is this a stand-alone novel or part of a series?
Phoenix is Book One of The Peradon Fantasy Series. Four novels are scheduled for this collection, with the sequel in its editing stages, and the third book slowly being planned as we speak.

I am a big fan of series.  One book is never enough for me.  When you are writing what is the easiest part of the writing process? What is the hardest?

Everyone is different when it comes to what they find easy and difficult in regards to writing. For me, the easiest part is allowing your mind to drift into strange new words and to describe what it is you see in your mind’s eye. What is perhaps most difficult for me is negotiating the social aspects of book writing such as dialogue and character relations. This is due to my having been born with Asperger’s Syndrome as I must work a lot harder to determine the correct means of body language and self expression that appears between characters in varying scenarios.

Who designed the artwork for your cover?
The cover art for Phoenix was designed by a rather talented graphic designer that I found online. We have since worked together on several projects and I would highly recommend him to anyone looking for an affordable and professional cover (See link below, in Links section.)

That's great.  Covers are the first thing a reader sees.  Finding one you work well with is critical.  What brought about the idea for your book?

When I first began drafting Phoenix, I had recently suffered a devastating break up. The person I had been seeing had appeared sweet at first, with a kind heart. Then, after time began to pass, they seemed to transform into someone else.

First, it was like another personality was bleeding through the mask they had created, then it began to take over. This is how I came up with the infamous yet charming Emperor Ryore. He is a tortured soul who wants to feel love, but is only able to feel obsession. Violetta's story is in part the journey I went through to learn that not everything is as it seems and that each of us is stronger than we might initially believe.

Daccari, do you have any last words for me?

Thank you for having me. It’s been an honour.

Find more about Daccari and her book at all these great sites.
Happy Reading!!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Interview with Athina Paris author of When Dani Smiled

1   Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and went to school in Mozambique. Living my formative years in the confines of strict convents and boarding schools, I escaped by dreaming of faraway exotic places, and it created a deep curiosity about life and people. Feeling the need to liberate my inquisitive mind from conformist restraints, I took refuge in libraries and bookstores, leading to an avid interest in reading, storytelling, and a lifelong obsession with the written word and books.
At age fourteen, I joined my family: father, mother, and a younger brother in South Africa, where I continued my schooling. Now able to read English, I quickly went through most of the classics, discovered ancient civilizations, and became fascinated with various mythologies; a love I have kept to this day. After my father left the family, I went to college to study Interior Design, but the pull of my true calling took me into Creative Writing. I followed that with Scriptwriting.
Raised in a culture where meddling is a synonym for ‘caring’, I became a spectator of human nature. Quiet and shy, I preferred recording conduct, rather than participate in what I call ‘familial mass hysteria’, building a treasure-trove of relationship observations from which I eventually drew backgrounds for the characters in my novels.

What got you into writing?

I had a wild imagination while growing up and often fantasized about other worlds, especially dreaming about great princess escapes and hero rescues. I loved reading and the new worlds were exactly what I was looking for in my getaways. I would also sit reimagining and ‘fixing’ the plots; it was then I realized that what I really wanted to do was tell my own stories.

That's great.  A lot of writers know from a young age that this is what they want to do. Share a short excerpt from your novel.

She gazed at her Jack Russell sitting on Mrs. Brown’s windowsill, glad the kind woman had offered to look after the little rascal whenever she was out. She tapped the glass and there was an instant pricking of ears and wagging of tail. She smiled at the furry face staring back at her, ‘Coco, go play.’  Instead, Coco hopped around, pawed the pane, and licked it. Poor Mrs. Brown, another slobbered window to clean.
       Coco had been a gift from Sams, and generally, she regretted accepting anything from him, because every time she did, he felt entitled to some part of her life. She was convinced Sams was a freak of nature, because he was that one thing so many men wanted to be but were not, and she could not remember a time when he had not been number one at just about everything he had put his mind to throughout their school years. As far back as she could recall he had always been good-looking, smart, charming, and excelled at sports, especially rugby. A lot of idolatry had flown around that school. He thrived on it, she found it disturbing.
       Her heart dropped as she reached her car, there was a deep dent and crack on the Beetle’s front bumper. She peered at it, poked it, gave it a kick then looked around; trying to find someone who might explain it, but there was no one in sight. Now, when exactly did this happen, here, or at some parking lot? Her father had bought it just two months previously.
       ‘Ugh,’ she uttered. It was a new car with a scar and she with no idea how it had been inflicted. She felt like crying but what would that accomplish? She should have known then that this was not to be a normal day but ever the eternal optimist she set forth into it as if it were an adventure.
       The damaged bumper returned her thoughts to Sams. Once, when they were still learning how to drive, he had taken his mother’s car without permission and gone over to her house. She hated it when he turned up unexpectedly because he was constantly looking for things she did not intend giving him.
       He sort of kissed her... She labelled it sort of, because she had been unresponsive. However, when he forced his tongue into her mouth, she became responsive, by pushing him away and locking herself in her bedroom. Sams did not understand or accept rejection easily and left in a huff. She should rephrase that, he tried to leave in a huff but proceeded to scratch a long ugly line all the way down the car’s side as he drove past the gate, so instead, he left in a furious mood.

Athina, do you have any helpful advice that you have been given that you can share with us?

The most helpful advice. Write with your heart, edit with your mind, and never lose sight of your dreams.

What are you working on presently, Athina?

I am working on a family saga. In book one, ‘All I Ever Wanted’ will cover two modern-day families, who have been feuding with each other for sixty years, but fate crosses their path once again. Book two, will be about the beginning, and how the feud came about.

     That sounds very interesting.  I like books that switch from different perspectives.  I think it really gives more to the story. Is When Dani Smiled a stand-alone novel or part of a series?

It is a stand-alone novel, but I see all my stories as part of something. I write about young women with ideas and fledgling careers. They find and create chaos in their own lives, and it is the journey of figuring out what to do, overcome, and who to let into their lives that creates the story.

1   What is the easiest part of the writing process?  What is the hardest?

When the ideas come thick and fast, it is easy to not move for hours, to become engrossed in writing and nothing else matters. But the hardest is when you realise you have created plot-holes and now must either change, delete, or add, for things to make sense again. Sometimes, it takes a while to make things fit.
I agree, when you get going sometimes with speed comes some inconsistencies.  I always advise new writers not to be afraid to rewrite if the need arises. What brought about the idea for your book?

‘When Dani Smiled’ is based on a young woman’s fashion designing college days. I used to listen to the stories she told, and knew that I would use it as the basis in a future book. Of course, everything in the story did not happen to one particular person, I just gave the main character all the combined troubles she mentioned throughout her three years at college, then added Sams’ obsession, and Dani falling in love with the heir of a prestigious fashion house.

1      Is there something you learned from writing your first book?

Yes, perseverance is key. And a lot of editing. A story is never ended until it is published, because there is always something to add, delete, or change. One just has to know when to let go.

       Athina do you have aby hobbies aside from writing?

As I come from an Interior Design background, I love beautiful things, so I have taken up art. My favourite is Acrylic Pour Painting. And I am trying out furniture flips.

Interior design?  That would come in handy around my house.  I am so bad at picking out colors.  Many times I have to repaint because one a room is done, I am not happy with it. Athina, do you think you will ever write in other genres? I know some authors just stick to one area.

Definitely, and I am incubating a fantasy. I have worked and reworked scenes in my head already, and put down on paper parts of it.

2     What advice would you give someone who is considering publishing? Should they consider traditional or self-publishing?

I see a distinction between traditional, indie, and even between self-publishing and vanity publishing. We would all like to be traditionally published, but the industry is not ready for the avalanche of writers that the world has become. In the end, the decision is the writer’s alone, and if they wish to keep trying until they are accepted by the big five, by all means.
Otherwise, going indie may be the solution. Many indie publishers maintain as high a standard as any traditional publisher, and those are the ones new writers should look for.
Self-publishing on the other hand can mean anything from terrible to excellent, so it depends on who is involved in the process. If one only wants to publish fifty copies of grandpa’s war adventures for family purposes, self-publishing is the way to do it. But, if possible, have the work edited by a professional. It is the atrociously badly written and unedited works that have given the industry such a bad name, and why people and bookstores resist self-published books,

Thanks so much for sharing with us today.  You can find Athina at all the great sites below.
Happy Reading!!


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Interview with J L Hill author of Pegasus: A Journey to New Eden

 Welcome J L!

J L is a  native New Yorker, born and raised in the Bronx, James L Hill spent his adolescent years in Fort Apache, the South Bronx 41st precinct during the 60’s, during a time when you needed a gang to go to the store. Raised on blues, soul, and rock & roll gave him the heart of a flower child. Educated by the turmoil of Vietnam, Civil Rights, and the Sexual Revolution produced a gladiator. Realizing the precariousness of life gave him an adventurous outlook and willingness to try anything once, and if it did not kill him, maybe twice.

12 years of Catholic education and a couple more in college spread between wild drug-induced euphoric years, which did not kill him, gave James a unique moral compass that swings in any direction it wants. A scientific mind and a spirit that believes nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough guides his writings. He enjoys traveling to new places and seeing what life has to offer.
James began writing short stories and poetry back in his early years, and in his twenties, he moved on to novels. He worked in the financial industry and later earned a degree in computer programming, his other love. James has a successful career as a software engineer designing, developing and maintaining systems for the government and the private sector. He has been programming for nearly forty years in various languages.
After years in the computer world he returned to his first love, unleashing the characters in his head. Still a hopeless insomniac, he feels free to pound out plots. James L Hill is a prolific storyteller writing crime stories, fantasies, and sci-fi, with a slant on the dark side of life.
The next step on his journey naturally led to the business of publishing. He started RockHill Publishing LLC not only to publish his own work, but to give others access to the literary world. His computer background and experiences in word processing give him insight into what it takes to create good books.
The Emerald Lady is a pirate/mermaid adventure/love story set in the Golden Age of Pirates and the first novel in the fantasy Gemstone Series.
Pegasus: A Journey To New Eden, his science fiction deals with the emotional effects of technology, and answers the question, “How do I feel about nuclear war?”

SS: What got you into writing J L?

J L: I started writing at a young age. We used to buy comics, Marvels, and after reading them, I would write what I thought the next installment of the story should be. Then I started writing my own stories and tracing the characters from the comics. I guess I thank Stan Lee for sparking my writing interest.

SS: Would you be will to share a sample with us from you book?

The start of another twelve-hour work day was nothing to look forward to, Zack thought.
‘Welcome to the Twenty‑first Century’ the old sign on the work station greeted him, as usual, and the shuttle ride from the U.S.I Colony 5 was as quiet and boring as always.
As he passed by the U.S. Space Defense Station, he ruminated, “what a waste of time. An hour in flight, another half to suit‑up, and now they have me doing antennae work. Nearly ten hours of checking circuits… something a computer can easily do in one.”
But as far as the Company was concerned, his time was cheaper than computer time. After all, they did not pay him. At least he would see Zuri on this trip, as she was working a split; one of the beauties of being a free worker, none of the straight twelve-hour work days. Zack almost envied her position with the Company, because although her ties were nearly the same as his, the Company did not own her, as it did him for the next seven years.
Welcome to the Twenty‑First Century, what a joke.”
All the hopes and dreams of Utopia people had had, evaded them still, some fifty years past its start. People had traded their freedom, religion, and self‑esteem for the promise of a bright and glorious future. But now, instead, that future was like looking at the sun through black glass. Not as bright as one would want, and if you stood looking long enough you would surely go blind. Zack had already gone blind to his situation. All that mattered now was marrying Zuri, and settling the colony.
And why not,’ he thought, ‘that means freedom, the end of my contract with United Space Industries.
The Company was the biggest and the best, and if anyone could start a colony around another star, they could. Also, ten years of room and board was better than any other company was offering. He signed up, also knowing ten years would be impossible to endure, if not for Zuri. In retrospect, five years dis­tance from Earth was not nearly far enough, but he settled for it anyway.
United Space Industries was the first to conquer space. They saw the endless void as a place to grow unchecked; and still unhampered by political constraints, they redefined the meaning of automation the way information had been redefined by the computer. That new definition was the Space Spider, and as their name implied, they spun webs in space.
The body consisted of a laser fusion reactor connected to appendages that secreted crystal steel frames, or poly-plastic streams that they wrapped the framework in, forming great cocoons. Additionally, space spiders could synthesize compounds in various states. One spider, for example, could lay a conduit and the wires that filled it. And they were fast, incredibly so, thanks to electromagnetic propulsion.
Mag-pulsars were volleyball-style spheres filled with liquid nitrogen and a super conductor core. The hexagons comprising the outer shell, were composed of electromagnetics that could be toggled on and off and their strength varied, dotting the spider’s body, some large, some small, to drive the spiders in any direction. Every spider had two gigantic mag-pulsars, one on top and one on the belly, but they didn’t drive the spider, their job was to create the enormous pressure inside the fusion chamber that produced temperatures as hot as the surface of the sun.
On Earth, maglev-made cars and trains travelled at bullet speeds, in space, the spiders were a hundred times faster. Speed was a necessity, as the materials they extruded solidified instantly in the cold darkness of space.
Always on the pioneering front, U.S.I. developed breeder spiders, which were sent to the asteroid belt. There, they used the plentiful materials to build other huge spiders; the kind they needed to manufacture metropolises. To U.S.I., bigger was best in the void. The Company topped the Fortune 500 with their Space Spider in 2023, before Zack was born. They had been growing unabated ever since.
Zack knew why. Business had a much simpler language than politics, religion, or even science. To a company like U.S.I., there were only debits and credits. U.S.I. took jobs that increased profits and eliminated unnecessary losses.
The United States struck the first deal. During debates over death sentence for terrorists, Congress tried to side‑step the issue by granting U.S.I. permission to build U.S. Penal Colony I. The colony was a giant cocoon type, designed to hold a hundred thousand Lifers.
It was run entirely by robots and monitored from Earth stations. It was a hot issue, which only got hotter. Originally, only terrorist, hijackers, or repeat serious felons were supposed to be imprisoned there, but as riots flared up in the early decades, the distinction faded. More and more people were banished to the colonies a hundred thousand miles out in space.
The prisoners were on their own once processed. The colony was totally self-sufficient; solar panels provided energy and farming decks provided food. Even if prisoners didn’t work the farms themselves, robots and automated systems kept them producing ample supplies of nourishment. The joke shared by the inmates was, “it’s a Garden of Eden in the middle of Hell.”

SS: When you are reading which do you prefer, ebooks or print?

J L: Print books are easier on the eyes. They are a bit more convenient if you need to put them down and pick them back up later too; all you need is a bookmarker or give the page a dog-ear fold. I know e-readers have bookmarking abilities but a lot of times you forget to click the feature. Also, I am never worried about my book at the beach or the pool, not just because of water damage, but theft too.

SS: Have you been given any helpful advice, J L?

J L: Oh yes, writers’ groups are very helpful. We share ideas about many things from story plots and themes to marketing and publishing tips. I go to book fairs and part of the reason I go is to meet my audience. The other reason is to network with authors and discuss what is going on in their world.

SS: I agree, I have joined a few writers' groups and they are great to bounce feedback off and get advice, share things that work and don't work. J L can you tell us what you are currently working on?

J L: I am working on book two in the Gemstone series called The Ruby Cradle. The Gemstone series is a trilogy of historical fantasy. I published The Emerald Lady in 2015 and it has received good reviews and is generating excitement as my first fantasy novel. The Ruby Cradle will be a sort of prequel to that book. The Emerald Lady is a pirate/mermaid adventure love story set in the golden age of pirates. The Ruby Cradle will take us back to the war between dragons, mermaids, and men during the middle ages; the age of castles.

SS: I love trilogies!  I like a prolonged story and the way it develops, and yet its not so long I give up waiting to see if it will ever be finished. Can you tTell us a little bit about your main characters?

J L: PEGASUS: A Journey To New Eden has only a handful of characters. It is a dystopian future where the two main characters find themselves alone in a post-apocalyptic world. Unlike other Sci-Fi’s of this genre, Zack and Zuri are not struggling to survive. Pegasus, the starship they are on, provides everything they could ever need. Zack is a black man who traded his freedom for a chance to colonize another planet far from Earth. He would not be able to go through all of it if not for his fiancée, Zuri.
Zuri is a strong and capable woman, who has been on her own for most of her life. The daughter of an African diplomat from the United States of Africa, she had to live a nomadic life. She would like no more than to settle down with Zack and build a family, community, and peaceful world. But in the world they live in, peace is not something that is easily obtained.
Maybe the third most important character in this story is Pegasus. The ship has an A.I. that monitors and controls all life onboard. Zack and Zuri struggle to take control of the ship that was launched with only them on board. The ship’s Artificial Intelligence does interact with them like in so many other science fictions, but you get the feeling that it has its own agenda it needs to keep; it helps them and responds to their needs, as long as it does not conflict with its own.

SS: How did you decide on what to title each book?

J L: Of course, the title should reflect what the book is about, either the theme or its characters. PEGASUS was easy to name. Pegasus is the symbol of wisdom and inspiration. This book, although a dystopia, is meant to inspire people to search for a greater future through wisdom. We have the technology to create a Garden of Eden here on Earth, if only we are wise enough to put it to good use. The idea that we can fly away from our problems on a magical and mystical beast is what leads to despair and ruin.

SS: Is this a stand-alone novel or part of a series?

J L: All my series are made to be stand-alone novels. I believe you should wrap up a story within its own telling. The difference, at least for me, between a series and a stand-alone novel is that in a series the story flows directly from one book into the next. Such as in the Gemstone series or my Killer Series, the adult crime novels that takes place in New York City around the seventies and eighties.
PEGASUS is a stand-alone, but there will be other books based on this same timeline. I have plans to write Penal Colony One which is the first space colony built and mentioned in PEGASUS. And naturally, I think people will want to know what happens after Pegasus, so there is a follow up story to come.

SS: What is the easiest part of the writing process? What is the hardest?

J L: The easiest part is coming up with ideas for plots and storylines. PEGASUS was originally written back in the 80’s during the Reagan years. When the SALT treaties were going on, I was asked if I worried about nuclear war. My answer was Pegasus. No matter how bad life would get, we would not destroy the Earth intentionally, because we had no place else to go. I also saw a world where governments would become weaker, just as international businesses became stronger. Today, globalism has a firm grip on society.
The hardest part is developing characters. Imagining what people will do and how they will act is a real challenge. If you want your story to live, you have to populate it with actual people. People are complex. You can’t make them two dimensional, a bad guy who is totally evil or the hero who is without a single fault. And people need reasons behind their actions, and be consistent and true to their nature. Your story will fall flat if your villain, for no apparent reason, switches sides and saves the heroine. The same holds true if the hero, at the end, commits a deed that is totally wrong. As a writer, you have to build character.

SS: What was your writing process like?

J L: I spend a good amount of time plotting and thinking about the story and people involved. Sometimes it takes years to develop a story. I usually know how it will begin and how it will end, it is the in between stuff that eats up so much brain power. I must be able to see it in my head, like watching a movie, before I write a single word. I guess that is why people have said my books will make great movies.
I often start with just a title, it is the spark. Then I get to know who my characters are and how is this going to affect their lives. I’ll write a one or two-page synopsis, then a more detailed chapter by chapter break down, and after that a character outline with all the main people, including physical descriptions.
Once all that is done, I’m off to the races. I will keep all the different documents open as I write the story and update each as necessary. Sometimes, characters you didn’t plan on creep into the story or a minor player takes on a major role. I write a few chapters then go back over from the begin to make sure I am still on track. Or if the story has changed, they don’t contradict earlier parts.
Having said all that, The Emerald Lady was written in a completely different manner. I wrote that book as part of NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) a yearly competition to write a novel of 50,000 words or more during the month of November. Naturally, with only a month to write the first draft there was no going back and forth. I liked that process too, and started The Ruby Cradle during last year’s NANOWRIMO. However, November has become a very busy month for me with the Miami International Book Fair taking up a week in the middle.

SS: Wow, that is interesting, most writers I know come up with the title last or midway through.  You are the first author I have interviewed that comes up with the title first.  Since you wrote in this genre, do you think you will ever write in other genres?

J L: I am a multi-genre author. I enjoy writing science fiction, fantasy, and crime novels. Each one has a different tone and style. My crime novels are adult oriented so I write those as J L Hill. I don’t want someone who reads my science fictions or fantasies to be put off by the language and situations in my crime novels. I will one day like to tackle horror stories, I’ll probably have to do it as J L Hill.

SS: What advice would you give someone who is considering publishing? Should they consider traditional or self-publishing?

J L: Try all three. With Traditional publishers, it will take a long time for new writers to get published. But if you are willing to invest the time, do your homework. Make sure what you have written is what the publisher is putting out. Read their latest releases, you must fit the mold, they are not going to step outside their comfort zone no matter how good your book may be.
Second, there are Indie publishers, of which I am one. We are smaller houses that will take a bigger swing at new writers. With the publishing world going heavily into On Demand printing, we can take the chances the big boys won’t. Indie publishers put out a few titles a year, less than ten, but each gets personalized attention. Still, do your homework, make sure your work falls into their categories. One more advantage to indie publishers is that they may have a wider range of genres or are willing to step out on a limb with you if your book is good.
Lastly, there is self-publishing. Nothing wrong going down this avenue, especially if you want complete control of your work. It is quick, no one to convince your work deserves to be in print. I strongly advise finding a good editor, and listening to them. As the saying goes, “a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client,” so too, “a writer who does all his own editing misses many mistakes.”
I would also caution against companies that claim to be self-publishers, but are vanity publishers. If a company will publish anything you send them without any kind or minimal editing (just enough so they are not sued) for a fee, it is a vanity publisher. They do nothing for you that you cannot do for yourself, and for a lot less money.
Thanks so much for the interview.  Don't forget to check out J L Hill at all these great sites.
Happy Reading!!