27 September 2014

Proust Your Protagonist with K. W. Taylor

RedEye-2014
Meet Sam Brody, the protagonist of K. W. Taylor's
hit urban fantasy The Red Eye.

Presenting

Sam Brody

Today's interview is with someone who is no stranger to interviews--radio talkshow host Sam Brody of the hit late-night series The Red Eye. I'm turning the tables on Sam by asking him the questions, especially since I keep hearing this weird rumor about him being a dragon-slayer, which sounds like something he'd debunk on his own show. Maybe he'll give us the scoop; maybe not. 

Kristina: It's great to have you here, Sam.

Sam: Thanks for having me.  Listen, I've got quite a bit on my plate at the moment, so I hope you don't mind if I just blitz through these.

Kristina: No problem, I understand. Just so you know, though, some of these are of a personal nature--

Sam: It's all right. I don't avoid the tough questions on my own show; I'm fair game for yours.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The lowest depth of misery is knowing something is irrevocably screwed up and you’re totally unable to do a damn thing about it. Misery is seeing my ex with another guy, seeing the face of unfathomable horror and knowing it could slice me to ribbons in two seconds flat, or having somebody I care about be in danger. Can I do something about some of that stuff? Yeah, a little. Maybe even a lot. The danger stuff, I’m getting better at. The emotional stuff…not so much.

Where would you like to live?
I’d like to live in a safe world free from monsters, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night. Silly me, I thought I did live in a world like that, but apparently not. Barring that, I guess I see myself retiring somewhere sunny with a beach…unless people like me don’t get to retire, that is.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I’ve seen glimpses, but only just that—glimpses. Brief. Fleeting. The smile on my producer Heather’s face when I’ve done something good. The first-morning drag on a cigarette (I know, I know, I’m trying). The point where coffee cools off just enough that you can drink long and deep without burning your tongue. Simple pleasures. God knows my life is more distinct-lack-of-pleasure these days.

The quality you most admire in a man?
All the stuff I’m not, basically. Hard-working, teetotaling, clean-living, and easy to get along with. So basically my boss, Jon, but so help me, I will go to my grave denying I admire him.

Concordia-2014
If you can't get enough of Sam, check him out
in The Red Eye's prequel, The House on Concordia Drive.
The quality you most admire in a woman?
A woman can earn my eternal admiration by telling me when I’m being an ass. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop, but I’ll admire her honesty.

Your favorite virtue?
Not being a homicidal demon-type thing helps. Humanity helps. These days, as long as you’re not a ghost, a dragon, or a shapeshifter, everything else really is a virtue.

Your favorite occupation?
Of all the hats I wear right now, I still like my radio gig best, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It gets me out of the house without making me get up early, and it provides a nice cover for my recently-acquired side gig. I must admit the whole “podcasting” fad has me a little worried, but so long as the radio station keeps me employed and doesn’t ask too many questions about my all-too-frequent injuries, I’m good.

Your most marked characteristic?
I get a lot of eyerolls whenever I say something I think is especially hilarious. Apparently not everyone agrees that I am, in fact, the funniest man alive.

What do you most value in your friends?
Anybody who’s known me longer than about five minutes is going to have to be really excellent at forgiveness.

What is your principle defect?
For most of my life, I had no idea about a lot of the darker parts of the universe almost solely because while I have my problems, getting riled up and angry isn’t one of them. Apparently certain gifts don’t really present themselves if you can’t be bothered to summon up some righteous anger. So, unlike a lot of people I know—my father, for example—I actually need to work on increasing my anger.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
The greatest misfortune would be to die trying to save someone and still fail. I don’t care so much if the universe decides to off me, but if it takes me out with someone I care about, that’d be the worst.

What would you like to be?
Right more often than I’m wrong. I’ll let you know if that ever happens.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My buddy Steve is pretty chill. He’s a good friend and a decent guy, and those are few and far between in this world. Lot of heroism in grilling a good hamburger and never screwing anybody over.

Who are your favorite heroines?
My producer Heather is a true heroine, and I love her for it. So is a really brave lady named Jenny Chan. Only had the pleasure once, but she showed me what it means to stand tall in the face of real adversity, the kind that lives in your house with you and can scar you for life if you let it.

What is it you most dislike?
Mornings. Sunrise. Alarm clocks. Being at the airport while it’s still dark out. Basically anything that has me anywhere before noon.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Tact. Tact would be really useful a lot of the time. Really, anything related to not just blurting out exactly what I’m thinking. Might still be married if I had that gift.

How would you like to die?
At this point, it would be pretty satisfying in the heat of battle. If I have to go out, might as well be with my boots on.

What is your present state of mind?
Is “irrevocably damaged” a thing in the DSM? It’s probably called something fancier there, but yeah. That.

What is your motto?
Live and let live. Unless the other thing wanting to do the living is a sixty-foot-long flying and fire-breathing dragon. Then live and let die really painfully.

~*~

Image (c) K .W. Taylor
K.W. Taylor’s debut novel The Red Eye marks her fiftieth publication credit (Alliteration Ink, 2014).

She has short stories in the anthologies The Grotesquerie (Mocha Memoirs Press, 2014), 100 Worlds (Dreamscape Press, 2013), Sidekicks! (Alliteration Ink, 2013), Touched by Darkness (Etopia Press, 2012), and Once Bitten, Never Die (Wicked East Press, 2011), as well as many print and electronic magazines. Taylor’s two short novellas, The House on Concordia Drive (Alliteration Ink) and We Shadows Have Offended (Etopia Press), were released in 2014 and 2011 respectively. 

Taylor serves on several panels for local, regional and international literary grant awards and writing contests, and she is a student in the innovative Writing Popular Fiction MFA program at Seton Hill University. Taylor teaches college English and Women’s Studies in Dayton, Ohio, where she lives in a restored nineteenth-century home with her husband and the world's most rambunctious kitten. When not writing, Taylor enjoys yoga, doing crafts badly, and collecting board games. She blogs at kwtaylorwriter.com.


21 September 2014

Proust Your Protagonist with Nick Trevano

Meet Col. Scott Columines, the protagonist of
Nick Trevano's thrilling sci-fi hit, Advenae.

Introducing

Colonel Scott Columines

I'm pleased to have another exciting guest on my website today!  Colonel Columines  took some time out of his busy schedule to let me interview him via his company's long-range comms.   He works with some very high-tech equipment, being in the military and all, and I knew the technology I had (Skype, ha!) wasn't exactly meant for outer terrestrial communication. Anyway,  when we finished our chat he kindly forwarded me the transcript of our interview  to share with you. Enjoy.

Kristina: I don't understand how you managed to set this up, but thank you so much for agreeing to let me interview you! My questions, you'll find, are a little out of the ordinary, which probably suits you just fine.  Please introduce yourself!

Columines: My name is Colonel Scott Columines. I am currently with the Earth expedition to maintain the outer terrestrial outpost of Coalire. I’ve been with the military for about 16 years and I’ve seen a lot of action during that time. I don’t have a wife or girlfriend and honestly with the way things are going at the outpost, I don’t see any of that happening anytime soon.

Kristina: If I'm the first female you've spoken to like this in a while, then can I  say I'm flattered? (laughs) I mean, my interview questions are kind of personal...(unintelligible) Uh, right. Anyway.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Being unable to help. Unable to do anything. Like you’re just stuck somewhere while the world falls apart around you and there isn’t a thing you can do to even try to stop it.

Where would you like to live?
Oh wow. I haven’t thought about that in a long time. I think if I ever had the chance to have a place of my own that wasn’t on a military base, I’d do with somewhere maybe out west. Wyoming maybe. My friend, Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Beck, he owns a ranch in Nebraska and we always go out riding when I visit. It’s just really nice to be out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to worry about. I think I’d like to have a chunk of land out somewhere with just myself and nothing else around me.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Having food in your belly, a roof over your head, and being alive and safe.

The quality you most admire in a man?
Anytime he’s unwilling to give up. And that goes beyond just soldiers. Whether he’s defending his home or just willing to go the extra mile in life, that’s what can make the difference in how something turns out.

The quality you most admire in a woman?
Honesty. Don’t tell me one thing when you mean another. I like straight answers and I’m never going to figure something out if you’re going to be cryptic about it. If there’s a problem, tell me. Whether it’s good or bad, just let me know. You’re not going to hurt my feelings - trust me. I’ve been shot at.

Your favorite virtue?
It’s kind of a toss-up between honesty and loyalty.

Your favorite occupation?
Mine. (laughs)  Really though, I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t like it. Even on the bad days, I mean...that’s just a part of it. But if I had to choose a different occupation: chef. Just the way they’re able to pick out different foods and spices and know how to put them together just right - that impresses me. That and I love food.

Your most marked characteristic?
That I don’t stop. I guess that’s what people would probably say about me. I don’t know how to stop. Just always have to get the job done. No matter what it is that I’m doing.

What do you most value in your friends?
They’re always there when I need them. I must have done something right in my life because never once have I had a friend flake out on me.

What is your principle defect?
Not knowing when to stop? (laughs) Probably that I don’t want to lose the connection I have to my men. That’s why I’ve skipped promotions in the past. I didn’t know how it would effect my connection to them and once that’s gone... I mean what’s the point in commanding them if I don’t even know their names? Then I’m just some smug bastard in the back room telling them to go out and die while I sip coffee and read the newspaper.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
If the Alliance of Order fell apart. Christ, that would be a mess.

What would you like to be?
What I am now.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Lieutenant Colonel Sharp Jackson. I always wondered who the hell would name their kid Sharp, but he’s one of the men who helped keep the world from falling apart before the Alliance of Order got put together. You’d have to pick up one of his biographies to get the full story, but it’s a damn good story. Ever since hearing that, I knew what I wanted to do.

Who are your favorite heroines?
Holy shit - my mom. I’m pretty sure she must have had a cape somewhere hanging in her closet for all the stuff she did for me. She was always going down to the principal’s office because I was getting into fights with older boys when they were picking on someone smaller than them. I got my ass kicked a lot, but because I was the one starting it, I’d get in trouble. But she knew. She always had everything ready to go when it needed to be. Always made sure I was in the right place at the right time. That woman could run a field hospital with her eyes closed and just her pinky finger.

What is it you most dislike?
People who fuck over other people. And I don’t mean by accident. I mean real, intentional shit that will fuck someone’s life or get them killed.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
If I could paint that would be pretty fantastic. I feel like that would be a great way to relieve stress. Just...making something good. Unfortunately I can’t draw or paint for shit.

How would you like to die?
A lot of people think dying on the battlefield is glorious and all that. It’s not. It’s messy and terrible. I want to die of old age. In my house. Just one day I’m there and the next I’m not.

What is your present state of mind?
I’m in a good place. I guess that’s kind of surprising given everything that’s happened. But I mean, if I dwell on it what good does that do me? I’m just going to end up wallowing in self-pity and depression and that’s just not how I operate.

What is your motto?
Don’t back down. Although these days I might have to add in: Don’t go in blind.


~*~


Cederblad 51 (cc) by J Schulmann555 via
Wikimedia Commons
About Advenae: Stepping onto a planet four worlds away from Earth is routine for Colonel Scott Columines. Outerterrestrials who call themselves the Kajla have graciously built an outpost for the arriving humans—yet when the Earth expedition arrives, their hosts are nowhere to be found.

With no clues to follow, the Earth group continues on with their original intent; exploration. Unfortunately, the universe is not a place that can quietly be explored. The Taregot invade and destroy any planet within their reach, seeking to eliminate all organisms they deem inferior—and Columines’s team makes the mistake of bumping into them.

Humanity just went to the top of their list.

About Nick TrevanoNick Trevano goes hiking and camping whenever possible, owns a wild dachshund with a brain the size of walnut (without the shell), and thrives on insanity and general mayhem.



16 September 2014

I write fantasy and I'm worried white privilege will infiltrate my books. Part Two.


Esmeralda from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame pretty much cemented my love for gypsies.
This was before I knew anything about the Romani or cultural appropriation. Source
Please take a moment to read part one if you haven't already. Thanks.

Once upon a time, I fell in love with a stereotype.


I was ten years old and learned of gypsies the same way I learned about magic--through fiction. But the fiction I read tied magic and gypsies inextricably together, as though one could not function without the other. I branched out into nonfiction and realized with delight that gypsies were real (!!) and that their magic was real, too.

Of course, I picked the wrong nonfiction books to read when I made this discovery. Fortunetelling for Fun and Profit was my gypsy-magic bible at the tender age of 10. When I was 11, I took it a step further and dressed up as a "gypsy" for Halloween. At age 12, I saw Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the movie theater, and BAM! My heart was forever lost.

Holy crap, Esmerelda!  She was the first Disney character I wanted to be. This was a different level of infatuation compared to what I held for other Disney ladies. I wanted to be pretty like Princess Aurora and Princess Jasmine, all the while possessing the sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit (I know, I was too young to be thinking about such things)...but as soon as I saw Esmeralda, she seemed to encompass all of it. I wanted to be her. She was a gypsy, and I loved gypsies; she was a dancer (I was a dancer!); and she was beautiful, brave, sexy, just, and kind.

I was so taken by her that shortly after I saw Hunchback I wrote my own musical with gypsies. *sighs* I took it very seriously, too. My musical A Gypsy's Tale was going to be the best thing I ever wrote, better than all my earlier plays, and I would do the research and spend hours composing music and lyrics with MIDI software. And then the show would sell out in seconds to audiences who gave unending standing ovations. Forgive me, I was twelve.

I abruptly hit reality during research. I was looking for books besides Fortunetelling for Fun and Profit to learn more about gypsies, and my local library had a huge, old hardcover photobook about them. I borrowed it to research costume ideas and instead of seeing laughing bohemians in colorful clothes running around with violins and tambourines--

--I learned that "gypsy" is an offensive word. I learned that "gypped" came from gypsy, and that it is also a really offensive wordI learned gypsies weren't descended from Egypt, but India. I saw photos of vardos pulled by vanner horses. I saw images of happy families, and I did see my many-skirted dancers and violinists, but I also saw poverty, exclusion, and expulsion. I saw the words porajmos and gadje for the first time.  I saw the Romani.

Croatian Sinti and Roma with their children in 1941.
CC-licensed from the Deutsches Bundesarchiv.
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2004-0203-502,
Bei Agram, kroatische Sinti und Roma-Frauen und Kinder 
It was a true moment of cognitive dissonance, and I couldn't handle it.  Because once upon a time, I fell in love with a stereotype, and when you fall deeply in love, it's hard to move on. I'm glad I was smart enough to shelve my gypsy musical so it could never see the light of day (it would've been the most unintentionally offensive thing on the planet). And then I walked away from gypsies for a long time...until fifteen years later, when I enrolled in Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction program.

All of a sudden I was tasked to write a novel. I always wanted to write novels, but I was "the playwright," and novels were a completely different thing altogether. I never really attempted one before. I didn't even know what I wanted to write when I started the program, so I reflected on why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. And it had to do with the very first things I ever read--fairy tales, fantasy, magic, and...gypsies.

I didn't overtly plan to write a story with a gypsy-like/Romani-like culture. It was one of those whimsical things that pop up out of nowhere right when you're drafting; the moment when you surprise yourself with something wonderful. Somehow it appeared when I started writing the first chapter of The Name and the Key, and it stuck. The majority of my characters would be from this culture--including the leading characters.

All the while I became very nervous about my somewhat-like-reality-but-not-really-real fantasy culture. First of all, I was a white person writing non-white characters. Second, I couldn't call these characters gypsies, because I didn't want to write gypsies. I loved Esmeralda, but I didn't want an Esmeralda and a gypsy Court of Miracles to pop up in my fiction. I also didn't want to write anything that would be considered offensive by real Romani. I know I'm gadje, but I didn't want to be that kind of gadje: the white, privileged, ignorant author who contributes to the unending cycle of cultural appropriation. I wanted to do the Romani justice and make these characters seem like actual Romani...

But then an entirely different issue cropped up. There were things I wanted the characters to do that the Romani simply would never do, because it violated Romanipen and very strict codes of purity. For example, my lead characters, Lily Camlo and Andresh Camomescro, would not be allowed to be alone together, or express physical love (even in the awkward early stages of first kisses and holding hands) unless they were married, period. Except they would hardly be allowed to marry in the first place.

Andresh and Lily are meant to be together.
The Name and the Key (c) Spikie
Lily has a Romani father, but a gadje mother, and in an already extraordinary circumstance, the family would be considered polluted because gadje do not possess Romanipen. Lily would therefore also be gadje, and Andresh would simply not be allowed to have anything to do with her, unless he faces total expulsion. That means cutting himself off from his family and especially his father, whom he loves deeply and would never want to leave. This sort of thing--running off with an outsider--just didn't happen in the past.

I had to come to terms with the idea that I couldn't write my characters as gypsies or Romani, because in the end they have essences of both. I couldn't call my characters gypsies because they were more than the stereotype, and possessed shades of actual Romani culture. But I couldn't call them Romani because they didn't truly possess Romanipen. And above all, my world is still fictional. It is a world like Earth, but isn't. Gypsies and Romani are of this Earth and have no business in my story.

The best resolution I could make, then, was to refuse to give them a name.

I've provided details for the reader to draw their own conclusions about the cultural basis for these characters, and when they are referred to at all, it's with general terms: wanderers, travelers, itinerants, rovers, tribes, clans, companies, and so forth.

There might have been a better way to handle this, but I'm not certain of what it could be, given my own limitations as a writer. Even if I drop hints or give allusions to what culture these characters belong to, readers are going to name it in their minds, anyway: "oh, these characters are gypsies!" ...although it's my greatest hope the reader will not default to the pejorative name white outsiders created, and think something more along the lines of, "oh, these characters are kind of like the Romani!"

I've written a trilogy where the vast majority of characters are Asian, with a sprinkling of Arabic, African, and European cultures mixed in. To be even more blunt about it, very few characters in this trilogy are white. And I want my fantasy novels to be like this, because the world is like this. Ultimately, I want my readers to pick up my novels and find something of themselves in them.

I hope that through my research and (continuing) education I will have the sense to recognize when my own cultural assumptions, borne of white privilege, have made their way into the writing. When I shared this discussion with some of my Seton Hill classmates, one of the issues that popped up was the idea of knowing who my audience is. And although part of me is writing for my own enjoyment, in the end, I'm writing for you.

Whoever you may be.


14 September 2014

I write fantasy and I'm worried white privilege will infiltrate my books. Part One.

When you think of characters in the fantasy genre,
is this what you see?

From The Lord of the Rings,
The Fellowship of the Ring
(Source)
This is a two-part post my brain's been struggling to put together for a while, because it's tricky subject matter and I have no easy answers for any of it.  You see, I write fantasy: the genre of the impossible, where there is potentially no limit for what the author can create and what the reader can envision.

I am a world-builder. I like to create characters and nations and cultures and throw them into a universe where magic is real, and the tangible and intangible coexist. The worlds I create, however, are simply variants of our own.

I use Earth-like worlds because my own imagination is limited when it comes to innovative world creation. I just don't have the capability to build a Middle Earth or an Arrakis. I grew up with stories that took place "Once upon a time in a far-off kingdom" or "Once upon a time, long ago." The world of fairy tales and myth didn't need to be more complicated than that. It was always easier for me to insert myself into the realm of "once upon a time" because it was familiar enough that I didn't feel unwelcome or uncomfortable with being a part of it. I still operate with this idea in mind as I write my own fantasy.

At its core, I am "writing what I know." But there are issues even with this. You see, I don't want to contribute to the line of fantasy authors who also wrote what they knew, which ended up being worlds with predominantly white characters based on European, feudalistic history. I don't want a world where non-white characters are packaged as stereotypes, or thrown in to add an "exotic" flavor to the otherwise same-old, same-old. But it's been like this in fantasy for a long time, even when there are exceptions to this rule.

I have to be honest and acknowledge this: I come from white privilege:
White privilege [...] is a term for societal privileges, [...] that benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white[s...] in the same social, political, or economic circumstances. [note 1] The term denotes both obvious and less obvious unspoken advantages that white persons may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice.[1] These include cultural affirmations of one's own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely.[2] The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one's own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.[3][4
(Source: Wikipedia)
I emphasized in bold the sections of Wikipedia's definition that I think applies to not only real-life situations, but what also filters into fiction. This doesn't speak for all works of fiction, nor all authors, but I think it's safe to assume that even well-meaning white authors fall into the trap of "marking others as different or exceptional" when they write from their own "normal" worldviews. I personally make the mistake of assuming the universality of my experiences; I also am sometimes oblivious to the advantages I have, even when I try to be socially conscious.

I am worried that writing what I know--a world lived through the lens of white advantages--will negatively affect my writing. I want to write fantasy that includes major characters who are outside of my own personal experience and cultural history. I'm also worried when I create such characters, I'll unintentionally resort to cultural appropriation and stereotyping (which I think is another consequence of writing from privilege).

This has been on my mind since I started writing my thesis novel, The Name and the Key, in 2010. What started initially as a single-volume fantasy has morphed into a trilogy I've continued to work on when I've had the chance. This trilogy, The Worldwalker Chronicles, features main characters who are based off of the culture of the Romani, which are perhaps more famously (and pejoratively) known as gypsies.

Every time I've worked on the series I've had to pause and consider that I'm writing as both a gadje and a person of white privilege. How do I do justice to culture well outside my own experience, but also do justice to my own story?

This is a larger issue that I'll go into when I discuss Part Two. To tide you over until then, here are some great articles I recommend that defines these issues better than I've been able to:

Please feel free to leave comments; however, I reserve the right to delete anything I deem offensive or unproductive to the conversation. Thanks for reading!


11 September 2014

Proust Your Protagonist with novelist Lawrence C. Connolly

Meet 27-year-old Samuelle Calder, a protagonist in
Lawrence C. Connolly's masterful novel, Vipers.

 Presenting

Samuelle Calder

Kristina: What do you picture when you think of West Virginia? There's the state slogan "Wild and Wonderful," which in three words aptly describes the state that represents Appalachia for many. 

When I ran into Sam in Coalwood, I couldn't help but remember my times in West Virginia when I was a little girl visiting my aunt and uncle. The state defines the great outdoors for me... and honestly, Sam does, too. Talking to her was like going home, in a way. You'll see what I mean in our interview. 

Thank you, Sam, for answering these probing questions. 

Samuelle: Yeah, no problem. I don't really talk to a lot of people, but you seem all right enough.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Dependency. A lot of people today think they’re free, but they’re not. So many are tied down in ways they don’t even realize. I mean, there are the obvious ties of family and work. But there are also the deeper, more pervasive ones that come from being on-grid, using (I would say misusing) technology in ways that put you on everyone’s radar. Cell phones that broadcast your location, scan cards that track your buying habits, zip codes that allow government and corporations to determine everything about you—race, income, political affiliations. I have no time for such miseries. I believe in living free, off the grid, completely self-reliant. 

Where would you like to live?

Right where I do now, in a 300 square-foot cabin deep in the woods of West Virginia, off-grid and over a mile from the nearest paved road. There’s a stream for washing, a well for drinking, and a patch of cleared forest where I grow all the vegetables I need to get me through the year. And of course there’s the deep forest full of rabbit, turkey, pheasant, and deer. 

The cabin is powered by a waterwheel built by an Austrian company that specializes in off-grid hardware. It generates enough juice to run a pair of LED lamps, a laptop computer, and a few low-energy appliances. In winter, a wood stove gives me all the heat I need, and a bank of batteries ensures a reliable power reserve when the stream freezes over. All my stuff is top-of-the-line. That takes money, which I have. I don’t work often, but when I do the pay is good. 

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

Living off-grid, hidden like a viper under a rock. You’ll never know I’m there unless I come for you, and then you’ll never know what hit you.

Your favorite occupation?

The one I have now, I suppose. I’m a professional shooter, specializing in long distance. My marks never see me. They don’t even know I exist, but they know my work, all right. Most of what I do is what my employer calls “sending a message” or “message shots”—a bullet through a window, surgically placed near someone’s elbow or just to the left of the gilded frame of an antique mirror. I never really find out what the shots are for, or what agreements or concessions my messages help along. Those things aren’t my business. And I mind my business.

What is your principle defect?

I don’t usually talk about this, but you’re catching me at a vulnerable time. See, things have been happening. Bad things. 

I guess you want me to be specific, right? So here it is. My mother used to have visions. She spoke in tongues, communed with angels, wrestled devils. Sometimes she would rave for hours . . . and other times she would sit stone still for days at a time, staring into space, talking to spirits. 

I couldn’t wait to get away from her and escape the madness. But it’s followed me. Lately I’ve been having visions, hearing angels.

You asked about my principle defect. It’s madness. It’s in my genes, and it’s the one thing I can’t hide from.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?

Ending up like my mother. 

What would you like to be?

Left alone. Completely alone. Away from people. Away from angels.

What is it you most dislike?

People who make assumptions. 

A few years ago, before I went off-grid, I signed up for survival training in Colorado. It turned out to be a kind of weekend warrior thing. I was the only woman, and everyone there made assumptions about who I was, what I was, what I could and couldn’t do. 

I showed them. That’s all. Let your imagination take it where you want. But I showed them.

Who are your favorite heroines?

Kentucky Grace. That’s her real name, but she goes by Tucky. She was a farm child from southern West Virginia who struck out for San Francisco during the Summer of Love, hitchhiking west. She got as far as far as Nashville. That’s where she hooked up with a rock band in a VW microbus that was heading the other direction. They hit it off, and by the fall of 1967 she was living in a farmhouse commune on the western edge of Pennsylvania, 2,500 miles from Haight-Ashbury. She bloomed there, put down roots, never left.

I met her while on the run from the crap that went down in Colorado. I was in a pretty low place, and she took me in, taught me self-reliance, got me off the grid.

She’s the mother I should have had.

Who are your heroes in real life?

My mother used to take me to hear travelling preachers, guys who would blow into town, rent a fire hall, preach the Word, and leave with a trunkful of donations. 

One was different from the others. He wore a tailored suit and hand-tooled boots, more like a country singer than a preacher, the kind that sings songs about forbidden things. 

I remember imagining he might come down off the riser and ask me to be his apostle. You know, ask me to be his Peter, or maybe his Thomas—though I would never doubt or deny him. And I wouldn’t need the light of the Holy Spirit to make me a true believer any more than I would need to be a man to be counted among his closest followers. 

Crazy stuff, right? But here’s something crazier. I was maybe twelve when my mom took me to hear him preach. Haven’t seen him since. Haven’t even thought about him for a long, long time. But lately I get the feeling that he’s somewhere close. Not standing behind me or anything like that, but somewhere in the next county, or maybe the next state. And I feel like he’s getting closer. Maybe it’s just my mother’s madness taking hold, but I’m telling you . . . I think he’s coming for me.  

Your favorite virtue?

Self-Reliance.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

Invisibility.

How would you like to die?

Alone . . . and sane.

What is your motto?

One’s company. Two’s a crowd.

~*~

Image (c) Lawrence C. Connolly
Samuelle Calder is the one of the central characters in Lawrence C. Connolly‘s contemporary fantasy novel Vipers: Book Two of the Veins Cycle. The other books in the series are Veins and the forthcoming Vortex (debuting November 4). She appears in both of those books as well.

Want to get to know another protagonist in the Veins Cycle? Meet Axle!

This week (September 5-10), the ebook edition of Veins is on sale for 99 cents at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Fantasist Enterprises

Fasten your seat belts, and enjoy the ride!






06 September 2014

Proust Your Protagonist with author Lawrence C. Connolly

Meet Axle, the protagonist of
 Lawrence C. Connolly's thrilling novel, Veins.

Introducing 

Axle

Kristina:  My guest today is someone I met at random, actually. I was passing through Windslow, and of course, like clockwork, something in my car has to break down whenever I drive through Pennsylvania. AAA had to tow my car to the shop, and that's how I met Axle! He's not that much younger than me (only 27) and, as you might've guessed, a mechanic. His hobbies involve fast cars, and he--

Axle: Please don't make this interview sound like some sort of dating show.

Kristina: (laughs) Oh, right. Sorry. Let's get down to business with some soul-searching questions from Marcel Proust. 

What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?
When I was eighteen, my great-grandmother died alone in her bed while I sat watching television in the next room. We lived in a trailer. It was a small place. I was maybe ten feet away from her when it happened. I could have been there for her, but I wasn’t. That hurts, and I try not to think about it too much. Mostly, I try not thinking about the way she died and what I saw when I finally went to check on her. 

As much as possible, I try not to let misery into my life, but when it comes, it’s usually from realizing that I let someone down.   

Where would you like to live?
When I was a boy, my great-grandmother taught me to ride the sprit wind. I took her hand, and we flew—first through the air, then through time until we came to an ancient mountain. A village lay in the hollow of that mountain. It was inhabited by people who called themselves the Okwe.  The word means “people,” and that’s how they regarded themselves, as the people of the earth—caretakers of the spirit powers that lie deep within the veins of the world.

The Okwe lived in longhouses constructed of bent poles, overlaid with shingles of flattened bark. I’m sure they had their share of challenges, but I think I would rather live in a house of poles and bark than a singlewide trailer of aluminum and vinyl. 

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I like fast cars. I know that’s a contradiction, given what I just said about wanting to live in an Okwe village. But until I master the spirit wind, driving fast is the best way I know to get away from all the things that want to tie me down and hold me back.

The quality you most admire in a man?
Loyalty.

The quality you most admire in a woman?
Wisdom.

Your favorite virtue?
Freedom.

Your most marked characteristic?
None of the above.

Your favorite occupation?
When I was a kid, I dreamed of owning a car shop. That was before I realized what a nightmare running a business can be. 

These days, I’ve been thinking that the best occupation is no occupation at all. That might sound crazy, but there’s a guy who lives outside Windslow. His name is Maynard Frieburg. He calls himself Bird. He’s the sole heir of the family that operated the Windslow Coal Mine before it closed down. He’s rich as hell and doesn’t need to work, and he spends his days doing whatever he wants.

If I were Bird, I’d work on cars all day and not worry about running a business. That would be my favorite occupation. 

What is your principle defect?
I’m too willing to dismiss praise and too ready to trust people who don’t have my best interests at heart.

My great-grandmother once told me I was destined to be a caretaker of the earth. She believed that I would show people the way to a simpler life, one in which people lived in balance rather than opposition to the natural spirits of the earth. I never believed her. Now it might be too late.

Yesterday I met a guy named Spinelli. He wants to rob Bird. Seems that there’s this girl who did bookkeeping for the Frieburg estate, and she knows where Bird keeps his money. Spinelli says it’s a perfect heist, but only if he and his partners can make a fast getaway. That’s where I come in. 

Spinelli wants my Mustang for the getaway car, and he wants me to drive. He says it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, a no-lose proposition. The money I make driving getaway will get me out of debt and still leave enough to renovate my shop.

The heist is set for next week. I think I’m going to do it.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Having something go wrong next week.

What would you like to be?
Independent.

Who are your heroes in real life?
I don’t think I have any.

Who are your favorite heroines?
My great-grandmother. I used to call her Yeyestani. It’s an Okwe word. It means “teacher.” I wish I’d listened to her more.

What is it you most dislike?
Thinking what Yeyestani would say if she knew I was considering driving for Spinelli. 

What natural gift would you most like to possess?
I’d like to be able to ride the spirit wind whenever I want. You might think that’s more of a supernatural gift, but I’m sure the ancient Okwe would have felt otherwise. For them, spirit flight was as natural as walking.

If I could ride the spirit wind right now, I’d take off and rise above all my troubles. I’d fly back in time and check on Yeyestani before she died. Then I’d fly into the future and see if trusting Spinelli really is the smart thing to do.

How would you like to die?
Happy.

What is your present state of mind?
Conflicted.

What is your motto?
I’ve never really thought of that, so I’m not sure I have one. But if I did it would probably be something I said to Spinelli yesterday. He was talking about the things I could do if I had a few thousand dollars to spend on renovating my shop. So I said to him, “If is a big word.” And he didn’t seem to understand, so I added: “If I had wings, I could fly. Know what I mean?”

So maybe that should be my motto. If I had wings, I could fly.

But since I don’t, and since the spirit wind hasn’t been blowing for me lately, it looks like I’ll be driving getaway next week. 

~*~

Image (c) Lawrence C. Connolly
Axle is the protagonist of Lawrence C. Connolly‘s contemporary fantasy novel Veins: Book One of the Veins Cycle. The other books in the series are Vipers and the forthcoming Vortex (debuting November 4).

Want to get to know another character from the Veins Cycle? Meet Samuelle!

This week (September 5-10), the ebook edition of Veins is on sale for 99¢ at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Fantasist Enterprises

Fasten your seat belts, and enjoy the ride!

02 September 2014

Proust Your Protagonist with Rachell Nichole

Meet Chase Masters, the protagonist of
Rachelle Nichole's newest erotic hit, To Sir.
Presenting 

Chase Masters

Kristina: Hi, Chase! Welcome to my site, and I want to give you a special thanks for being my guest. You're my very first interview using the Proust Questionnaire, you brave soul.  

Chase: Hey, Kristina. Thanks so much for having me by today, and for, um, asking me such probing questions, I guess. First I think a bit of an introduction is in order. My name is Chase Masters and I’m a Dominant and the owner of The K Club, a local hot spot for all your kinky needs, in the city of Spartan, NV. I hope my answers are up to snuff. 

Kristina: I think as soon as you mentioned you were a Dom, you got everyone's attention. I'm sure your answers will be just fine. Here we go!

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 
Being out of control. Misery is not being able to impose my will on myself or my sub. I hate it. It makes me unbearable. Just ask my best man, Dusty. He’ll tell you I’m impossible when things go to hell and I have no sub to help me take the edge off. 

Where would you like to live? 
Right here in Spartan, NV. This is my home, and while things have been rocky here as of late, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. 

What is your idea of earthly happiness? 
A well-matched mate. I know how incredibly lame it is to say something like “you complete me” but that’s how I feel about two people who are perfectly matched. If I can find and hold onto that person, I’ll be at peace, no matter what else happens. 

The quality you most admire in a man? 
Honesty. To himself and others. 

The quality you most admire in a woman? 
Same as in a man. Why should it be different because a person is female? 

Your favorite virtue? 
Honesty. 

Your favorite occupation? 
Dom, of course. Though club owner and Dungeon Master come in as close second and third. 

Your most marked characteristic? 
Physical? Probably the eyes. I’ve heard them described as penetrating. Character trait? My dominant personality. It’s been implied that I’m overbearing. 

What do you most value in your friends? 
Their friendship and loyalty to me. 

What is your principle defect?
Liz would say my pigheadedness. Dusty would probably say the same. Myself, I think it’s my perfectionism. I’m not happy when the chaos of life has me in its clutches. 

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes? 
Losing the home and club I’ve worked my entire adult life building. 

What would you like to be? 
Batman? ’Cause, honestly, who the fuck wouldn’t want to be Batman? 

Who are your heroes in real life? 
My best friend and brother, Dusty. The man has reserves of strength others, including myself, can only dream of. 

Who are your favorite heroines? 
Cate Blanchett, Lady Godiva. And Liz Clark. 

What is it you most dislike? 
Hypocrisy. 

What natural gift would you most like to possess? 
Kindness. 

How would you like to die? 
I don’t like to think about it, really, but if I had to choose, in my sleep, quietly and unaware. 

What is your present state of mind? 
Pensive, and tired. These questions have made me think far too much for such a late night. 

What is your motto? 
Live your life, not anyone else’s. 

Kristina: Wow, Chase! Excellent job with these questions. I definitely look forward to getting to know you better!

Chase: Again, Kristina, Thanks so much for the invite to come by today. Readers, if you haven’t had enough of me (as if that were possible) you can get more here

~*~

Image (c) Rachell Nichole
Rachell Nichole is a contemporary erotic romance author, who loves writing sexy romances about memorable characters who have to fight to hold on to love.

Rachell holds two undergraduate degrees, one in Professional Writing and the other in French. She also received a Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. 


Rachell lives in New York with a mountain of books, a loving family, and an invisible cat who loves to snuggle.


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