Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (contains spoilers!)

Too long.

Too many explosions and slow motion running bits.

Not as funny as the first one.

Awkward scenes with Robert Downey Jr. in drag.

Gratuitous naked Stephen Fry scene. (And I like Stephen Fry: he played Jeeves! But no. Just... NO.)

Sherlock's childhood nickname.

Despite all of this, I enjoyed the movie a lot. Some parts made me want to groan, or I thought were all wrong, but other parts made me laugh out loud.

I enjoy this series reboot of Sherlock Holmes: action-y, fast-paced buddy films that show a more vulnerable and neurotic side of Holmes than many people dare.

I love Jude Law as the perpetually exasperated but still loyal and caring Watson.

I adored the gypsy woman who featured in this film and thought she was so cool!

I loved the way the film used the Falls in the confrontation between Moriarty and Holmes, twisting it and making it its own.

And I loved the ending!

I do think this movie strayed slightly at times from buddy films and into "we hint at more," which I didn't really like. This could just be my interpretation, however, and I was able to ignore those (possible) bits and enjoy the movie as a buddy film. Though sometimes I had to try quite hard.

The teenage girls in the seats behind me giggled when Holmes and Watson "had" to dance together, but I wanted to grind my teeth. It seemed completely historically inaccurate that two men could dance together at a political function and use it as cover to inconspicuously converse and spy! (If anything, they should've been standing on the sidelines drinking punch.)

Obviously there were other historical inaccuracies as well, but mostly they felt like stretching a point to create a steampunk effect, not completely ignoring history.

Would I recommend it? Not unless you liked the first, and in that case, don't hold your expectations quite as high.

For the third film, I certainly hope it won't be longer, even more special-effects oriented, etc. etc.

I predict that, following canon, Watson's wife will have died (natural causes?), and he will be grief-stricken. Holmes reappears, hijinx ensue while they track down and try to avoid being killed by Moran. And explosions. Lots and lots of explosions.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free Ebook Contest

"The Space Station Murders," by A. M. Roelke

So, my SF/mystery/buddy story novella "The Space Station Murders," by A.M. Roelke (20,000 words) came out in May this year. I'm allowed to give out several promo copies per year for contests. I haven't done a lot of that so I'd like to catch up now.

I'll give out THREE copies, drawing to be held on Dec. 27. I'll pick who gets it with a random number generator, no favoritism or special answers needed. Just comment and let me know you want a copy. If only three people comment, each will get a copy.

If you win, I'll need your email address so I can send you a copy in one of these three formats:


*edit* Very sorry! I had said RTF but actually it's PDF. The other available formats are correct. :)

(This is my email address, if you'd rather not post yours publically: amroelke AT You only need to email me if you win! If you'd rather post your email for quicker correspondence, that works as well. It's really up to you.)

I'd suggest, before commenting, that you read the two reviews to see if the story interests you: The Space Station Murders--on Amazon (Reviews here.)

Or read the beginning of the story here: The Space Station Murders--from the publisher (Excerpt here.)

Or, you can read the review that compares me to Robert Heinlein.

P.S. If you're a book reviewer and would rather have a review copy than enter a contest, just contact me about who you are and where you'd post a review. I'd also need you to let me know your email address and which format you'd prefer (of the three I have available).

Friday, December 9, 2011


* MuseItUp just accepted my Young Adult Christian Fantasy story The Girl and the Dragon. :D

* I completed NaNoWriMo 2011:

I didn't get as much written on my latest (romance) project as I wanted to, but I did get something written. Also got through the crucial scene that's held me back from finishing my SF/detective novel for several years now.

* And I have cover art for my YA fantasy romance novel, Watch Over Me:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why I love NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo gets you writing. Since the focus is on getting a set number of words, not "perfect prose," you're encouraged to just write and save the editing and self-doubting for later. This is a huge thing for most authors, so any tool to help you do better about getting the words down is a pretty big deal.

NaNoWriMo is for everybody. You can be a published novelist; you can be a fourteen-year-old trying your hand at writing for the first time. Everybody is welcome. I especially like that this applies on the forums, as well. People are busy writing, and the forums are only open part of the year. This leaves less time for any one group of "special" people to take over the forum. Everyone is, literally, welcome!

NaNoWriMo makes November one time of year when it's cool to be a writer. Well, that one's just my opinion, of course. :-) But it's cool to be able to talk about your writing with people who have the same goals and value the same things.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

YA fantasy romance novel

image from Lajla Borg Jensen @

Watch Over Me, by Alice M. Roelke

On a grasslands world, a hero's daughter falls for a shape shifter -- the one man she can never have.

When a shape-shifter attacks 15-year-old Meri, a mysterious guy named Porse comes to her rescue. He’s also a shape-shifter—the friend of the Meri’s hero, the dead freedom-fighter Balile.

Porse tells Meri that she is really Balile’s daughter, and the current ruler wants her dead. Porse brings her to a town hidden from danger in the midst of the grasslands.

There she grows up, making friends and meeting her only living relative.

She also inherits her father’s blue sword—and falls increasingly in love with Porse, the one man she can never have.

Coming as an ebook from MuseItUp Publications in 2012.

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Product Promotion

Wow!! I received an awesome review for "The Space Station Murders" from Rochelle's Reviews:

She compared me to Heinlein, if you can believe that!! :O

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

writing updates


* Updates to my profile on the NaNo website. (AliceWrites)

* Received edits from my editor for Those With Guns, my SF/action short story that will be published by Muse It Up next year.

* did more writing on my Regency romance!

* working on a post about my YA/fantasy novel that's coming out next year. I found the perfect image to use, but needed to contact the photographer on first. :)


* received two turn down notices, one for a short story, one for a novella

* created a Livejournal account: I'm in general more comfortable on this platform, so I hope it will help me do more blogging and promo.

Coming Soon:

* A drawing for a free copy of my SF / Mystery novella, "The Space Station Murders." Stay tuned! :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Interview with John M. Whalen, author of "Jack Brand"

Who do you think would like your book? (Or alternately: Please tell prospective readers why they’d like your book.)

Fans of westerns and fans of space opera should find Jack Brand of interest. The novel is a blend of both genres, basically being a story with a western plot but set on another planet. Jack Brand, though living in the 22nd Century, and a former US Army Ranger who fought in the Great Terror War, finds himself on a primitive planet that actually resembles Arizona or New Mexico than anything else. The plot concerns his search for his sister, who was kidnapped by Tulon Nomads, a gang of bank robbers. Brand led his tactical squad, which included his sister, into an ambush. He survived but his sister was taken. He spends seven years on this wild, desolate planet searching for her.

What is your favorite thing about your story?

Two things. I like Jack Brand as a character. He’s in the tradition of both the western cowboy hero, and the space western hero, such as Flash Gordon. The novel has a wide scope, so the story takes him from the desert to an underwater city inhabited by strange beings who live in the sea. There is also a love story. Brand meets an adventuress named Christy Jones who pops in and out of the plot, in the usual boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and . . . well I won’t tell if he actually gets her back again. The subplot adds a nice texture to the story, I think.

Do you remember how long it took you to write? How about to edit and find a publisher?

It took about 18 months to write. It began as a single short story and was first published on the Pulp and Dagger fiction webzine. Then I subbed it to Raygun Revival and they accepted it. The first story ended with it being revealed that Brand is on a search for his sister. I realized then it was unfinished so I sent in a follow up story, before the first one was published that resolved the main plot point. That got accepted. Then I suggested to the Overlords of Raygun that the story had a lot more potential and asked if they wanted more. Raygun at that time, in what I call its Golden Age, ran serials. One of their serial writers couldn’t meet his deadlines, so I sort of began to fill in for him. I wrote a dozen stories, all chronologically connected to fill the gap between the first and last story. It turned out to be quite a saga. Regarding publishing, Double Edged Publishing, which was behind Raygun was going to publish it, but that fell through when the man running disbanded the company. It hung in limbo as the Overlords tried their best to get the book out but finally, I withdrew it and subbed it to Pill Hill Press. They bought it in a heartbeat. The book came out in a matter of weeks. It’s selling well.

What is your favorite type of book to read? Do you have any favorite books or authors?

I read a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs in my younger days and am now re-reading him on Kindle, where a lot of his work is now free. He is a classic story teller. No one can deny that the ending of “The Gods of Mars” reveals that Burroughs was some kind of genius when it came to describing action and finding suspenseful plot twists. And I defy anyone to find a better opening sentence than the one that appears in “The Monster Men.” I’m also a fan of Leigh Brackett. I don’t read as much as I used to, but mostly I read the classics and Raymond Chandler.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?

Favorite film is “Comanche Station” directed by Budd Boetticher, written by Burt Kennedy and starring Randolph Scott. Next is “The Wild Bunch.” But I like a lot of movies. The Marx Brothers, any Charly Chan flick, Tarzan movies, Samurai, Ingmar Bergman films. Bergman was an inspiration for “Where There Be No Dragons,” a short story I sold to the Tower of Light Webzine. Biggest influence on my writing comes from Stirling Silliphant, who created the “route 66” series on TV back in the sixties. I always wrote stories, from the time I was 10 years old. But Silliphant’s work really made me want to be a writer. “Jack Brand” is dedicated to him.

Can readers contact you?

Sure. Go to, the publisher’s website. I have a page there and a link to my email. Or just email me at

Please share a synopsis or blurb, and a brief excerpt from your book.

Across the desolate planet Tulon moves a solitary figure. Jack Brand, former officer in the Tulon Security Force, is on a search. Seven years ago, he led a tactical squad that included his sister, Terry, into a deadly ambush in the desert. The Wilkersons, a Nomad gang who robbed a Trans-Exxon payroll, wiped out four members of his unit, kidnapped Terry, and left Brand for dead. Brand recovered from his wounds, and swore he would never leave Tulon until he found his sister. Over the course of his search, the ex-lawman travels from desert wasteland to steaming jungles, from a city at the bottom of the sea to a domed city run by alien gangsters. Along the way, Brand meets a gallery of exotic characters, meets the love of his life, and survives the barbaric planet through quick wit, fast reflexes, and the Electro-Pistol holstered to his hip...


The book you hold in your hands has been compiled from a series of stories found in various and sundry on-line publications that were in existence in the late 22nd Century. The publisher of this work, after diligent research and study, asserts that the stories, while presented as fiction, actually recount the exploits of an individual who actually lived around the time of the Great Terror War.

Not much is known about Jack Brand other than what is presented in these stories. That he served as an Army Ranger during the War and upon the war’s conclusion traveled to the planet Tulon to work for a paramilitary organization known as the Tulon Central Security Force is, by now, common knowledge. But why he quit the Security Force and roamed the Tulon desert for years has not been known until now. These tales present the true account of a portion of Brand’s life as far as the facts can be determined.

The tales were written under a pseudonym by an unknown author who since has vanished in the mists of time. One of the tales purports to be a true account of one of Brand’s adventures told in his own words. This may be the case, since another of the stories, the last in the book, was written by one of Brand’s acquaintances, a bounty hunter who is said to be the last person to see Brand before he left Tulon and vanished from sight. The author of that story may have set down Brand’s words as he dictated them.

There are authorities who believe that all the stories were written by this individual, one Cody Benson. Whether this is true or not, the editors cannot say. Whatever the case, assembled together for the first time, with careful editing sufficient to provide continuity, we present the story of Jack Brand: The Search.

The Editors
Old Tarzana, Calif. AD 2439


2197: Year One of the Big Shutdown

Tulon Station

“Come on, before they change their minds,” the man said.

The woman looked up at him and then at her Tulon captors. The man had put a laser-sighted electron rifle, three thermo blankets, six pairs of Krylor boots, and a case of Thompson Synth-whiskey down on the table. He was a tall man, lean and hard looking, dressed in a blue tunic, dark grey pants, and knee-high Krylor boots. An electro-pistol was strapped to his leg in a Velcro holster. The Tulons, six of them, dirty, smelling of foul living, and dressed in their customary desert garb, stood nodding their heads, thinking what a good deal they had made.

She got up from the floor where they had kept her chained to the wall. The man took her by the arm and led her out of the hut into the hot desert sunlight. They walked to his Hover-Jeep. He let her open her own door and got in behind the wheel.

The leader of the Tulons and one of his men came out of the hut and stood there looking at them, as he started the vehicle. She was afraid, the way he looked at her. She felt the Jeep lift up and then they were moving. She could not take her eyes off the rear view mirror on her door. She watched the Tulons recede in the distance, praying they did not get into their vehicles and come after them. After what she’d endured the last two weeks, she could not face that again.

Finally satisfied they were not in pursuit, she let out a sigh and sat back in the seat. She looked over at the man who had bartered for her.

“Thank you for getting me out of there,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am,” the man said, keeping his eyes straight ahead.

“Who are you?”

“Brand, ma’am,” he answered.

“How did you find me?”

“I heard the Tulons had a woman captive,” he said. “They’re usually willing to give up a captive, even a female, in exchange for things they really need.”

She smiled ruefully.

“I guess a woman’s life isn’t worth very much on this planet,” she said.

“No, ma’am,” he said. “Nobody’s life is worth much here anymore. This is an oil-rich planet that made the most of the Earth’s dependency on fossil fuels. But now they’ve found an alternative fuel source back on Earth. The oil fields are shutting down. There’s a feeling of panic in the air. The Tulons have to try to exist anyway they can.”

She looked at him carefully.

“You almost sound sorry for them.”

“They’re victims as much as anybody else. It’s the big corporations that are to blame. First it was the oil companies, now it’s the Digital Atomic conglomerates. Everyone’s at their mercy now.”

“I’m sure it’s not as drastic as you make it sound, Mr. Brand,” the woman said. “They’ll be a gradual transition.”

“They call it the Big Shutdown around here.”

“I’ve heard that term,” she said. “A little melodramatic, isn’t it?”

“Is it?”

“It will take several years to convert completely,” she said. “In the meantime, though the demand for crude oil will diminish, there will still be a need for it for some time to come. This planet and its people will have time to adapt and adjust.”

“Sounds like the kind of propaganda the conglomerates put out.”

“Don’t be so critical, Mr. Brand,” the woman said. “I’m sure, at least, that one of those conglomerates, as you call them, will be grateful to you and make your rescue of me well worth your while. As Senior Vice President of the Interplanetary Development Division of Virtual Fuel, Inc., my company will see you’re handsomely rewarded. They must have posted a reward for my return.”

“I wouldn’t know, ma’am.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“There isn’t much in the way of communication out here,” Brand said.

“Then how did you know I’d been kidnapped?”

“I said, I’d heard they’d taken an Earth woman captive. I didn’t know it was you.”

“And you risked your life without knowing anything about me?”

“I know what the Tulons do to their female captives,” he said. “For a couple of weeks they would have kept you alive for their own satisfaction, but eventually, being short of food, they’d have killed you. I couldn’t let that happen to any Earth woman.”

“I see,” she said. “I thought you knew who I was. I’m Myra Steele. My father is Jessup Steele, CEO of Virtual Fuel.”

“Pleased to know you ma’am,” Brand said. “How did you end up way out here?”

“I was on a private transporter on my way back to Tulon Central to catch a shuttle back to Earth. I was here closing down one of the fuel development sites Virtual acquired from Trans-Exxon last month. The transporter crashed. The pilot was killed. Those savages found me wondering in the desert. I tried to tell them who I was, and that they could collect a lot of money, if they contacted my father. They just laughed. They have no phones, no radios. They said they didn’t care about money. They treated me like a slave. They—”

She suddenly was unable to talk, as the memory of the last two weeks flooded over her. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“Best not to talk about it,” Brand said.

They rode in silence for a few minutes, as the Hover-Jeep glided smoothly over the flat, arid landscape. “Where are we going?” she asked, after she’d pulled herself together.

“There’s a relay station not too far away,” he said. “We can stop there. I brought along a change of clothes for you. You can get cleaned up. Then it’s a long trip out of the desert to the Transport Center. You can catch another ship back to Earth.”


“Tulon Station,” Brand said.

She looked through the Hover-Jeep’s dirty windshield and saw a small, silver, dome-shaped building ahead that looked totally abandoned. Brand pulled up in front of it and cut the power. The Jeep sunk down on the sand with a muffled whirring sound and they got out. The sun was still high in the sky, and temperature was close to one hundred Fahrenheit. Brand opened the Jeep’s trunk and lifted out a canvass sack. He tossed it to her.

“There’s a fresh tunic, pants, and some sandals,” he said. “You can go in there and change. There won’t be any water inside, but I brought this.”

He lifted a ten-gallon can out of the back of the vehicle and carried it to the station. He pushed the stainless steel door open, and saw a scorpio-pede skitter out into the sand on its hundred legs. The place was a mess inside. It had once been a café, where oil workers stopped on their way to and from drilling sites. But now all the windows were gone, the tables were overturned, broken dishes lay shattered on the lunch counter. Brand went back into the kitchen and came out carrying a stainless steel pot.

“You can wash in this,” he said, pouring water from the ten-gallon can. “I’ve got food in the Jeep. I’ll bring it.”


A half hour later, she sat at one of the tables, drinking water from a cup and chewing on the Synth-Steak bar Brand had given her. She was dressed in the clothes he brought, which amazingly, fit her perfectly.

“How’d you know my size?” she asked.

“Didn’t,” he replied. “Just lucky.”

She looked over at him, as he sipped water from the tin cup he held in his gnarled hand. She judged he was in his late thirties, maybe older. It was hard to tell. His face was lined and creased, weather beaten, and there were flecks of grey in his dark brown hair.

“Where are you from, Mr. Brand?” she asked.

“Back on Earth, originally from Utah,” he said. “I came here twenty years ago during the big oil boom. Worked for Trans-Exxon.”


“Little bit of everything.”

“When was the last time you were home?”

“Never been back,” he said.

Her eyebrows went up in surprise. “Where do you live?” she asked.

“I got a small place out near Leedsville.”

“Must be a harsh existence, living out in this desert.”

“Harsh,” he said, “but clean.”

“But surely you must miss civilization,” she said. “What could possibly keep you here?”

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of roaring engines outside. Brand got out of his chair and she followed him to one of the windows. She saw three land rovers. Unlike Brand’s Hover-Jeep, these were old fashioned four wheelers with combustion engines. But like the Hover-Jeep they ran on gas and oil. On Tulon gas was free and there was plenty of it.

Three men got out of the rovers. They were big men, with electro pistols strapped to their legs. They wore denim pants, boots. Two wore tank tops and one wore no shirt at all. All three had scarves tied around their foreheads, Apache style.

“Who are they?” she asked.

“Trouble,” Brand said.

The door opened and the men came into the station. The man with no shirt came in first. He was bald, muscular, and his bright blue eyes looked surprise when they fell on Brand. The other two followed him, and all three stopped when they saw her and Brand standing there. The man with no shirt looked Brand up and down.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he said. “Brand. I thought that was your Hover-Jeep out there. Fancy running into you. Fancy that.”

“Hello, Dancer,” Brand said. “I might have known it would be you.”

Dancer looked at her now, his eyes devouring her inch by inch. When his eyes finally got to her face, he grinned.

“Ms. Steele,” he said.

He looked back at Brand.

“Should have known you’d beat me to her.”

He looked back at the men behind him.

“Boys, meet Jack Brand,” he said. “Every body just calls him Brand. We go back a long ways. Don’t we, old buddy?”

“That’s right,” Brand said. “But I don’t recall that we were ever buddies.”

“I guess that’s true enough,” Dancer said. “Matter of fact, you were the one mainly responsible for that time I spent in Tulon Prison.”

He turned to the men with him.

“See, Brand here worked for The Tulon Central Security Force,” he said. “Seems somebody made off with a Trans-Exxon payroll, And everybody knows Trans-Exxon owns the security force. They sent ol’ Brand out and he arrested me for it. But I told ‘em I never had nothin’ to do with that robbery.”

“You were found guilty.”

“They never found no money. If I did that job, what I do with the money?”

“There was evidence. Your fingerprints. And the bullet from your gun matched the one found in the payroll guard.”

Dancer grinned.

“Fancy that,” he said. “Well, what’s the use goin’ over all that after all this time? The main thing is that now you got a chance to make it up to me, Brand. A chance to wipe the slate clean.”

“How’s that?”

“Simple,” Dancer said. His eyes shot over to the woman. He grinned. “Just hand her over to us and let us take her in for the reward Virtual Fuel is offering. You do that I might let you walk out of here.”

“Just like that.”

“They’re offering a sizeable amount for this woman,” Dancer said. He started to move to the side and the men behind him spread out on his right and left. “A million Universal-Creds. Seems her old man owns the outfit. He’s so worried about her, price is no object.”

“A million, huh?” Brand said.

“That’s right,” Dancer said, his eyes fixed on the woman. He licked his lips. “Funny thing, too. He’ll pay the million even if it turns out she’s dead. Just wants to know for sure, I guess.”

“I’ll give you one chance,” Brand said. “Turn around and get out of here, while you still can. Don’t make me have to kill you.”

Anything else you’d care to share?

Absolutely. I am thrilled to be able to announce that I have just signed a contract with Science Fiction Trails to write the first novel featuring a new character that I’ve been writing about lately. Mordecai Slate is a monster hunter in the Old West who has been featured in about half a dozen stories published in various print anthologies put out by Pill Hill Press and Science Fiction Trails. There have been three stories published so far and more scheduled to come out later this year and early next. The novel, “Rio Muerto,” will be out Summer 2012. Slate is an interesting character, far different from Jack Brand, but one I’m having fun writing about. He seems to be pretty popular with readers too.

Thank you for your time, and best of luck with your book! :)

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Small Business Deal

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Landreth Seed Co

The oldest American seed company, that once sold seeds to George Washington, may go out of business. I read an article in the newspaper about it, and looked it up online.

I'm going to buy their catalog to support them, especially after reading this: We could have this catalogue printed overseas, and the printing costs would be 1/4th the costs of printing the catalogue in the United States, but we are not going to take American business overseas.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Peaches In Winter: my first romance novel -- accepted!

Peaches In Winter

I started a romance novel in 2007. At first I was just writing it for my own fun. I certainly didn't think there was any market for the old fashioned tale I was having fun writing. (It's set in the 1950s.)

I wrote about a grumpy author who gets really depressed in the winter and doesn't like to leave his house, and can't get any writing done during winter.

His publisher hires a secretary, sight-unseen (only requirement being that she's cheerful!), and thus the grumbling Jake meets Betty Ann.

She annoys him on many levels, but he soon finds himself drawn to the cheerful, chattering farm girl who can't even type properly, but somehow brightens his days. She's an amazing cook, and somehow, he finds he can start writing again after all--but only when she's around.

Despite her cheerful nature, Betty is dealing with her own issues, having been jilted by her fiancé, and losing her last job because her boss tried to sexually harass her. Though she works hard to be professional, she finds herself drawn to Jake, and really appreciates how he makes her feel better about being who she is.

The story is definitely a "sweet" or "traditional" romance. I finally came up with the name Peaches In Winter, which I thought fit the season and the fact that the heroine came from a peach farm and it's her favorite fruit.

I wasn't able to finish it for a long time, because I thought I'd better write it as a Christian romance so it might have a market. That was the only market for sweet romances I was aware of at the time. However, it just didn't work for me. The story is about the characters, and too much spiritual content just felt 'off' to me. When I finally took out most of it, leaving in only a couple of things that felt natural to me (i.e., the heroine prays before she eats, or for people she's concerned about), then I was able to finish it this year.

I'm so very happy that I was able to write the story I wanted to tell--an old fashioned story--without trying to change it for what I thought the market would bear. It makes me feel happy inside. I'm so glad I wrote it from my heart instead of trying to conform to either modern or religious 'rules' for romance writing.

The thing I like best about my story is that both my characters have flaws, but I really like them both anyway. As I was writing them, I was rooting for them. The more honestly I tried to show they were both imperfect, the more I liked them both! Maybe it's just me, but if a character is too perfect, it annoys me. But at the same time, I wrote them as people I could like and respect, with their own moral codes.

My story ended up shorter than most print romances. I sent it to my publisher, Muse It Up Publications.

To my surprise (and of course, my pleasure!), they ACCEPTED it!

I can still hardly believe I'm now a romance author, or that the story I started for fun a few years ago will actually be read by other people.

It'll be out next August, as an e-book. It's 33,500 words.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Story Acceptance, and British Spam

I like Ethereal Tales. It's a small magazine published oversea, in Britain. I was so pleased to have my story features in it a couple of years ago. I got a contributor's copy, and boy am I proud of it! It's a lovely little issue.

Unfortunately, Ethereal Tales is going out of business. Their last issue will be published soon. I'm fortunate enough to have been accepted again for the last issue with my story "A Cat's Prerogative."

This is a story I wrote more years ago than I care to count, and edited and tried to rework a lot. I'm pleased to find a home for it, because I'm fond of this short, SF, cat-centered story. (It's also been rejected more times than I care to count!)

Maybe my last edit brought it up to the mark. Maybe I just finally found the right market for it. Either way, it's a special feeling to find a home for one of my 'babies.' (I know, they're probably not supposed to be my babies...but sometimes they are.) :)

On a somewhat different note, Ethereal Tales gave the option of signing up for an email address on their site where readers could contact authors. I signed up, and never heard from one reader. But I have started to get spam forwarded from it pretty regularly.

Perhaps there is something I could do to stop it, but I haven't bothered. Because to be honest, I enjoy it. It's British spam, advertising things like a special trip on the Orient Express. Honestly, it makes me feel more cultured just reading it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Missing, Assumed Dead, by Marva Dasef

Missing, Assumed Dead
Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets.

by Marva Dasef

I'm Kameron McBride. Call me Kam. When I earned my degree in Computer Science, and got my first job as a systems analyst at a major software company in Seattle, I figured all I had to do is keep my eyes peeled for Mr. Right. Not that I was in any rush to get married, but I didn't want to miss something good while I was busy building my career.

Just one minor little detail. Well, make that two. Dad died. That just about killed me. He was always my best bud. Mom and I soldiered on, though. Then Mom started feeling bad, really weak. The doctor diagnosed her with multiple sclerosis. She got treatments, but MS doesn't have a cure. So she got weaker and weaker until she couldn't walk around anymore. She went from a cane to a walker to a wheelchair. But she kept herself busy with genealogy. I don't see the appeal myself, but it makes her happy.

Any thoughts of even getting a date went out the door. Don't get me wrong. I love my mom and don't resent a single second of the time I spend taking care of her. After all, she took care of me and sacrificed a lot to get me through college.

Then I got the letter. Talk about weird. Some guy I'd never heard of disappeared seven years ago, and he was declared dead. Strange enough, but even stranger, I was named as the executor of his estate.

I wanted to shuck it off, but Mom told me the man was related to my father. Seventh cousin, twice removed or something like that. She said I had to go. She wanted anything having to do with the family, you know, photos, birth records, stuff like that.

So there I was, driving through the gawdawful foresaken wilds of eastern Oregon, trying to find some bump in the road town called Rosewood. Of course, I got lost. Who wouldn't? Every chunk of scraggly sagebrush looks like the next, and they don't seem big on road signs.

Lucky for me, a Deputy Sheriff found me sitting out in the middle of nowhere. We had a minor little disagreement at first. He wanted to shoot me. But I forgave him for that when I looked into those baby blues. Ahem. Right. Anyway, here's a brief description and excerpt.

Back Cover:

When Kameron McBride receives notice she’s the last living relative of a missing man she’s never even heard of, the last thing she wants to do is head to some half-baked Oregon town to settle his affairs. But since she’s the only one available, she grudgingly agrees.

En route, she runs afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem...accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when the probate Judge tries a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.

Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.

And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.


The sky had turned a deeper blue as the sun continued its trip behind the mountain ridge. The shadows lengthened on the east side of the scraggly shrubs. The faint hum of a car engine drew her eyes southward. “Good, I could use some directions.” But she was alone on an otherwise empty road. Maybe the approaching vehicle held a friendly soul, but it could just as well carry a serial killer.

Using her shirttail as a hot pad, she gingerly took hold of the door handle again and climbed back into the car. Goose bumps rose on her arms when the still blasting air conditioning hit them. She turned on the emergency flashers then opened the glove box, looking for something to use as a weapon. “Ah ha!” Kam pulled out a two-inch canister. “Pepper spray? Crap, just hair spray, but that shit burns eyes. Better than nothing.” She tucked it between her right thigh and the console to hide it from view, her finger ready on the button.

The vehicle grew larger and revealed itself to be a Ford Expedition SUV painted Oregon green. The lights on its roof flashed blue and red for a moment then went off. “A cop. Excellent.” On the other hand, she’d heard of guys who decked out their rides to look like cop cars.

The SUV pulled up behind her and stopped. After a long pause, the door opened. A man in khaki climbed out and walked forward. He stopped behind the car and wrote something, probably the plate number, on a pad. Aviator glasses hid his eyes, but the rest of him looked pretty good. Tall. Well, maybe not too tall. Slim and dark, just how Kam liked them. Watching him approach, she wondered idly how he managed to keep the razor-sharp creases in his uniform in this heat.

When he reached her side window, he gestured for her to roll it down. Kam cracked the window a couple of inches. She noted the badge and the Smokey Bear hat. “I don’t think I was speeding, Officer.”

The man chuckled, showing fine smile lines at the corners of his full mouth. He had great teeth. “No, you weren’t, but I wondered if you might be lost. A lot of people get themselves turned around out here.”

Kam gave him a rueful grin. “Yeah, lost isn’t the half of it. I’m looking for Cork Hill Road.” She hoped he was the real deal, but she sure as hell wasn’t opening her door. Tin badges were easy to buy on eBay.

“License and rental agreement?”

“Sure.” She opened the center console and pulled out the papers with her left hand, then shoved the rental agreement through the two-inch opening. She couldn’t figure out how to extract her license out of her purse without letting go of the spray.

“Your license?”

“Why don’t you just direct me to Cork Hill, or if that’s too hard, how about Rosewood.”

“I’d be happy to, miss, but I really do need to see your license. Paperwork, you understand.”

Kam released a deep breath breath. She stretched her arm across her body trying to reach her purse on the other seat. She grabbed the strap and pulled it toward her. It slipped out of her left hand. She automatically lifted her right to grab it. “Shit!”

Instantly, the officer’s manner changed. The smile disappeared, and he took a step back, pulling his gun from his left-handed holster. “Drop the canister out the window,” he ordered. “Do it now.”

Kam squeaked and threw her hands up. The canister flipped out of her hand and flew at the windshield. It bounced back and landed in her lap. “Now what?”

“Pick it up and push it out the window. Slowly.”

“You already said that.” She picked up the spray with two fingers and dropped it out the window. “Hey, I don’t know if you’re a real policeman. Anyone can play cops and robbers.”

“Please step out of the car. Use only your left hand to unlatch the door and keep your right hand where I can see it.” The barrel of his pistol never wavered from her torso.

“Take it easy. I’m opening the door.” He stood outside the reach of the door’s swing. Kam decided she’d rather fight outside the car, than be shot inside it. She got out with her hands still raised.

“Now move to the rear of the vehicle,” he ordered. When Kam obeyed, he took a step forward, never taking his eyes off her, knelt, and picked up the canister. Straightening, he glanced down at the canister then back to her. The corner of his mouth twitched as he re-holstered his pistol. “Sorry, but…hairspray?” He took off the aviators and smiled.

Twitter Handle: @Gurina
MuseItUp Author page:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Interview with Yvonne Anderson, author of "The Story in the Stars"

Who do you think would like your book? (Or alternately: Please tell prospective readers why they’d like your book.)

This story would probably appeal most to fans of soft SF and space adventures (Star Wars) or fantasy (Tolkien), because it's a little bit of both: it's a fantasy played out on the backdrop of space. However, some of my writer friends who never read that sort of thing enjoy it too. Even the romance writers love it--despite the fact that there's no mushy stuff in it.

What is your favorite thing about your story?

I enjoy creating my own little world and being allowed to live in it every waking moment! But that's from my perspective. From the reader's point of view, I think they enjoy visiting that fantasy world with me, meeting some fun characters and seeing familiar personalities reflected in them. But since these characters are in an alien world, you never know what to expect, so there are surprises around every corner. Often, even I'm surprised.

Do you remember how long it took you to write? How about to edit and find a publisher?

I wrote the first draft about five years ago. I don't recall how long that took, but probably about a year and a half. I originally wrote it just for my own fun; I had no intention of every showing it to anyone, and I wasn't in any hurry to get it finished. After completing the first draft, though, I realized it was something I wanted to share with the world, and I've revised it several times, trying to make it presentable. Risen Books contracted it in January of this year, which was four and a half to five years after I started.

What is your favorite type of book to read? Do you have any favorite books or authors?

I like books with depth, that make me think, that raise interesting questions (even if I don’t agree with their premise) or that teach me something I never knew before. I don’t like formulas, I do like surprises. I like subtlety. I like humor. I like stories that resonate in my mind long after I’ve put them down.

Favorites? I have a hard time picking favorites of anything -- colors, foods, authors, books. I enjoy too many things to narrow it down.

Anything interesting in your past you’d care to share? Like have you ever worked as a rodeo clown, for instance? :)
I'm a very boring person and always have been. Probably the most interesting thing in my past is, in the early 1980s my husband and I had a mini-farm and raised enough of everything for our own use and sale that, bottom line, we ate for free. That's not to say it wasn't a lot of work, because it sure was. And there was also a considerable investment. But when we added up the cost and then subtracted the gain at the end of the year, we spent nothing for groceries but toil, sweat and tears. (The tears were mostly from the kids, who told their grandparents we worked them like farmhands. I think they'd have preferred we were rodeo clowns.)

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?

Ha! I don't pick favorites, remember? But in this case, it's not because I enjoy so many things -- fact is, I don't much care for movies or TV. In fact, I don't even know how to operate a TV anymore, they've gotten so complicated. But when pressed to choose a favorite, I usually say the original TV miniseries "Lonesome Dove."

Can readers contact you?

You can find me at my blog,, or email me: yvonneanderson @ (leave out the spaces from the email address, of course).

If you were alive in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., did you have any hairstyles that now make you cringe?

I was alive in all those decades, and my hair always made me cringe. Still does, in fact. With three cowlicks, it does what it pleases no matter how I try to make it behave. Shaving it off might be a solution, but I don't want to look like a Cephargian pirate.

Please share a synopsis or blurb, and a brief excerpt from your book.


The inhabitants of the planet Gannah are known as bloodthirsty savages who once tried to conquer the galaxy. Now a plague has ravaged the planet and only one survivor remains, a young woman named Dassa.

Pik, the doctor from the League of Planets assigned to her case, hates everything Gannahan and wishes every last one of its people had died. Bereft of everything she’s ever known, Dassa clings to her God and the story he has written in the stars. He has given her an assignment: to return to Gannah and replenish it with a new race of people. But she must first overcome the prejudice of the entire galaxy and recruit her de facto enemy, Pik, to help her.

Brief excerpt (1st page):

Dassa trudged through the Ayin Forest across a crusted snow, her weary steps fueled by the nearness of her goal. Soon, she told herself. Soon this will all be over.

On much of the planet Gannah, winter was drab as an old faded photo, but the foliage in Ayin boasted the colors of a prism and the trees kept their leaves until spring, when the new growth pushed them aside. The frosty forest pulsed with color as Dassa quickened her pace despite her exhaustion and the steepness of the slope.

Labored breath billowing like smoke from a puffing firedrake, she crested the ridge and cast her gaze into the valley below.

A warm rush of delight coursed through her weary body. There it was. Home, the comforting outlines of the domed green roof barely discernable through the trees. Revived by the sight, she hastened down the hill across the sun-spangled snow.

She smiled as the round, two-storied house came into view. It was no mansion, like her childhood home. It couldn’t compare to any of the seven provincial palaces from which her father, the toqeph, reigned as the ruler of all Gannah. But she could think of nowhere she'd rather live than in this yellow stone cottage at the edge of the forest with her husband, Rosh, and their two boys.

Nor could she imagine a more perfect late-winter's day. Gannah's volatile temper was unusually mild that afternoon, with the sun smiling down from an azure sky and breezes caressing with a mother's gentleness. And today, this most beautiful of days, she, Atarah Hadassah Hagah Natsach, would finish her quest and be made Nasi.

Thank you for your time, and best of luck with your book! :)


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview of A. M. Roelke, author of "The Space Station Murders"

Today we are interviewing...that's right: me. A. M. Roelke, author of "The Space Station Murders."

Yes, I'm interviewing...myself...!!

*pauses for gasps of shock and horror*

Who do you think would like your book? (Or alternately: Please tell prospective readers why they’d like your book.)

You might like my book if you’d enjoy a quick read that combines mystery in a SF setting with humor, drama, and buddy elements.

What is your favorite thing about your story?

I like that it’s a buddy story. I also like that it deals with the inner things the main character is dealing with, even though the story is pretty fast paced. (Well, it’s only 20,000 words. It has to move quickly to get the whole story in.)

Do you remember how long it took you to write? How about to edit and find a publisher?

I think it was about a month or less. It took much longer to edit, as I went over it a number of times. Eventually I sent it to the new publisher, MuseItUp Publications, which had accepted Terri Main’s mystery/SF book, Dark Side of the Moon, and they accepted it!

What is your favorite type of book to read? Do you have any favorite books or authors?

I like mysteries a lot. Obviously I also like science fiction—and more rarely, fantasy. I like lots of different sorts of books, including YA and some nonfiction, but somehow it trips me up trying to pick favorites—because there’s so much I seem to leave out if I have to pick favorites.

In mystery I love hardboiled works like those by Raymond Chandler, as well as cozy mysteries. I’m always finding new authors I like, but I still like most of my old favorites, too—such as the book I loved as a child, The Runaway Robot, by Lester del Rey. And I love Diana Wynne Jones’ children’s fantasy books. I’m really sad that she’s gone now and will never publish more.

Anything interesting in your past you’d care to share? Like have you ever worked as a rodeo clown, for instance? :)

I’m really rather dull. But once I sang karaoke to a song that I’d never heard the whole way through. It happened at an amusement park, and there was almost no one watching. I picked “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and only realized partway through that I’d never heard the song all the way through before, and so didn’t know which ways to sing the later notes.

My brother and I also sang a duet, and that worked much better, as we knew the whole song. I’m not sure I’d have been brave enough to attempt either song, if it had been more crowded or I’d been in a less silly mood.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?

Right now I’m into CI-5: The Professionals. I also like Starsky and Hutch, and Life on Mars (the American version—haven’t seen the British one), and enjoyed the short-lived Raines a few years ago. My favorite currently airing shows are Psych and White Collar. I’m also looking forward to the return of Rizzoli and Isles. All of these favorites mystery shows, you may notice!
My favorite movies are Frequency, Casablanca, and It’s A Wonderful Life. :D I also like The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, and Arsenic and Old Lace.

Can readers contact you?

Yes. :)
EMAIL: AliceRoelke *AT*

If you were alive in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., did you have any hairstyles that now make you cringe?

Not really. I used to wear a really long ponytail, but I didn’t like it. Everyone used to say to me, “No! You can’t cut your hair!!” But I finally put my foot down and got my hair cut, and I found myself much more confident and comfortable once I did.

Please share a synopsis or blurb, and a brief excerpt from your book.


“A grieving ex-cop. A crowded space station. A killer on the loose.”


Herb Molloy went so far downhill after his partner died that he’s now an ex-cop living under one of the space station’s artificial beautification bridges.

Into his barely getting by life comes trouble and friendship. Trouble in the form of murders on the space station—his fellow homeless people targeted, picked off one by one. Friendship in the form of station newbie Zack Ives, who doesn’t know enough to look after himself yet... and who wants to investigate the murders.

Herb reluctantly agrees to help him, and the two step into danger’s path to solve... The Space Station Murders.

Mini Excerpt:
“You seen any papers since you got here?”

The kid shook his head, a blank look on his face. “Too busy and didn’t have the money.”

“Well, let me give you a clue, then. Somebody’s been offing homeless people, and if you’re not careful, you could be next.” He watched the kid’s eyes widen. “Don’t hang around alone. Stay in travelled areas, avoid dark alleys. That’s usually where the bodies are found.”

“Bodies?! How many has he killed?”



“The cops are working on it. But it’s always a dark spot, usually near a trash heap and a busted light, so the victims won’t be found till morning.” He cocked a finger at the kid. “Do your job-hunting in the open and get back here before dark. This is a safe spot.”

“Yeah, I know. They told me—that lady, Dolores?—she says there’s an ex-cop here. Says he keeps them safe. I bet it’s that old guy with the harmonica.”

Herb smiled to himself. “Look after yourself, kid.” He got up and started towards town.

You can read a longer excerpt on the publisher’s page, here:
Or download a sample for the Kindle, here:

Anything else you’d care to share?

Yeah. My dad teasingly said my story is “Mickey Spillane in space,” but I think he’s wrong! Sure, the main character is tough (sometimes too tough for his own good), but I don’t really think he’s really Mickey Spillane-like.

Thank you for your time, and best of luck with your book! :)

You are SO welcome!! :P

~A. M. Roelke~ "The Space Station Murders"
SF / Mystery novella ~NOW AVAILABLE! ~

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Interview with Travis Perry & Mike Lynch, authors of The Crystal Portal

Please join me today for an interview of Travis Perry & Mike Lynch, authors of The Crystal Portal.

Who do you think would like your book? (Or alternately: Please tell prospective readers why they’d like your book.)

TP: Well, I’d like to think this story will have universal appeal, but I did have a certain type of reader in mind—a young enthusiastic fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy, who is open to Christian message in a story—a stereotypical Chronicles of Narnia reader. That’s the kind of person I was from perhaps age 12 through 20…well, I’m over twice twenty anymore, but as a matter of fact I still am that sort of person.

ML: I think Travis pretty much hit the demographic we're shooting for. The only thing I would disagree with him is that a person without a Christian background wouldn't like the story. Yes, there are those elements in the book, but it's not an in-your-face kind of thing. This is a fun adventure story that takes the reader on an exciting journey of discovery into a crystal world, filled with all sorts of interesting characters. I believe people with all kinds of background will find something to enjoy in it.

What is your favorite thing about your story?

TP: Other than it blows my mind that it’s actually in print? Hmmm, it’s hard to say. I think I like my characters more than anything else. I’ve thought about them for so long that they seem like real people to me, especially Zachariah, Lehkahn, 9.06, and Agata.

ML: Piggy-backing on what Travis said, it comes down to the characters for me. The mark of a good story is that the main characters all come from very different backgrounds, but they also have very distinct personalities. Sometimes they are able to overcome their differences, other times they are the source of their problems. Whenever you have compelling characters, which I believe is the foundation of The Crystal Portal, it always makes for an engaging story in my opinion.

Do you remember how long it took you to write? How about to edit and find a publisher?

ML: Since Travis is the one who actually wrote The Crystal Portal, I'll give this one to him.

TP: I started the story back in 2006. About a third of it I wrote in a few months, but then I got stuck in a big way and didn’t know how to move forward. I kept writing bits and pieces, but progress was painfully slow until 2009, when I realized my problem with the story was I was focusing mainly on the actions of the heroes and not paying enough attention to the villain, Sargon, and his plans. Once I started thinking of the plot in terms of the villain’s actions, the rest of the writing went pretty quickly after that.

At the beginning of 2010, once the story was finished, I realized the writing was not doing a good enough job of matching the way I’d imagined the tale to be. I had self-edited, but it wasn’t good enough. So I looked for a co-author to help me get it into shape.

Mike Lynch volunteered for the job. It took us about a year of e-mailing back and forth (plenty of life events interrupting in the meantime) for us to finish. I’ll let Mike talk about finding a publisher.

ML: Okay, I'm back. After Travis and I finished retooling the entire story, we wanted to send it to some people we know who are authors themselves. I have published a few books of my own, and I have found that you always need an objective pair of eyes to help you point out problems in the story we may have missed, things like inconsistencies in the narrative, extraneous elements that really need to go, or sentences that need tightening. One of the people I sent a copy of the manuscript to was Grace Bridges. She absolutely loved the story, and offered to publish it on the spot. I had forgotten that she started her own publishing company, Splashdown Books, a couple of years back, and thought it was perfect for her audience. I was utterly amazed at how easy this was. In my previous publishing efforts, I was accustomed to months and months of rejection letters, working on re-writes, and slowly accepting the possibility we may never find a publisher for the book. I am happy to say this wasn't the case for us.

What is your favorite type of book to read? Do you have any favorite books or authors?

TP: I enjoy reading history, science fiction, and fantasy more than anything else, probably in that order. As I get older I’m more and more interested in classic works of all kinds—within the last year or two I read a collection of writings about Socrates, some John Milton, and Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I think all these works have in common a window into people who think and act in a way fundamentally different from the way I am—I find that fascinating.

Growing up my favorite authors were “the big three” of classic Science Fiction, Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke. I still read those guys from time to time. Citizen of the Galaxy was my favorite Heinlein novel. To a lesser extent I enjoyed Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and I have a strong desire to have the effect as a writer that C.S. Lewis had.

ML: This might surprise you to hear, but I was not much of a reader growing up. Movies and television were more my genres of choice. Since I am a visual learner, I have always been drawn towards that medium. With that said, I would have to say my favorite writer of all time is Rod Serling when he did The Twilight Zone. The stories he told were very compelling, especially when he took the hot button issues of his day and masked them under the guise of science fiction. The original Star Trek series did the same thing in some episodes.

Anything interesting in your past you’d care to share? Like have you ever worked as a rodeo clown, for instance? :)

ML: I've actually lived a pretty mundane life, not many exciting stories to tell. I learned how to ride a unicycle when I was in high school. I was also placed under arrest for camping on private property, but nothing came of it except a warning from the police officer never to do that again. I haven't. When I was on a missions trip in the former republic of Yugoslavia, I almost drowned. It was my fault for going out too far from the beach and exhausted myself swimming back. If a couple of people didn't pull me out, I wouldn't have made it. A friend of mine is producing a movie through Warner Brothers, and I was able to go onto the movie lot a few weeks back watch a pre-screening of the film. One the actors I got to meet was Stephen Baldwin. Other than that, just the usual boring life stuff. Travis, on the other hand, has experienced some things most of us could never imagine.

TP: From most people’s point of view I’ve had a pretty colorful past. I’ve lived in a log cabin, been trampled by horses and was dragged on my face with a foot caught in a stirrup, lost a finger in a childhood woodcutting accident, witnessed first-hand a gruesome firearms accident (my sister survived), been in dozens of smaller accidents, including an extremely hard landing on my fifth jump at US Army Airborne school (was on crutches for months), was the lead witness at a murder trial, have deployed to United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and now Afghanistan as an Army Reservist, have hunkered down in a bunker under rocket fire, was arrested due to a clerical error and thrown into the Denver county jail for twelve hours, interrupted a church robbery, used a gun to stop a man from beating his wife (she was a neighbor screaming at the top of her lungs and the police didn’t show up until long after I did), have calmly defended my faith before an abusive college professor, helped capture a man wanted for interstate drug trafficking, am a proud father of six, and I speak at least a little of eight or nine languages—depending on if something counts as a language or a dialect.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?

TP: The Lord of the Rings movies are some of my favorite movies, but Apollo 13 is another I’d say I adored. My favorite TV series was Star Trek Deep Space 9, even though some of the episodes I admit were not very good. My favorite characters in the series were all Bajoran or Cardassian and I really enjoyed the interactions between these two races.

ML: I'm actually something of a movie buff, and have so many favorites. It would be impossible for me to narrow down the field below fifty. For TV, I would say the original Star Trek, Lost, Babylon 5, The Twilight Zone, Speed Racer and Gilligan's Island.

Can readers contact you?

TP: Sure.

ML: My e-mail address is:

If you were alive in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., did you have any hairstyles that now make you cringe?

TP: In the early 80’s I had a bowl cut and my hair was thick—it was pretty close to the “Dorothy Hamill” look. Wouldn’t want to return to that…

ML: My hair was pretty bushy when I was in high school, but hey, it was back in the 80s. Everyone wore their hair on the long side then. Now, I keep it pretty short, but not quite at the level as Travis'.

Is there anything else you’d like your prospective readers to know? (If not, I’ll just delete this question.)

TP: I hope to make a whole series of “Portal” books. The next one I’d like to call “The Dragon Portal.”

ML: As I mentioned before, I have some other novels I've written. If anyone is curious about those, the best place to check them out is on my website (

Please share a synopsis or blurb, and a brief excerpt from your book.


A time-travelling warrior elf on a manhunt for an evil genius.

A state-of-the-art robot from New Los Angeles.

And a carpenter's son from first-century Israel.

Entering the Portal, they join forces with a princess of the Sapphire Monarchy

to defy their power-mad adversary.


"This is how it should be," Sargon said, a sinister grin pushing against the corners of this mouth. "How it should have been from the beginning, just you and me." He extended his arm holding the canterole and passed it in front of the portal. A bolt of lightning shot out of the arched opening and struck Lehkahn in the chest.

Zachariah jumped back when the bolt blinded him momentarily, as though all the energy of the sun and been released in a single, massive burst. "Lehkahn!" he called out at the same instant. When no answer came, his fear seized control of him and he dropped down to the ground, his face planted against the stony surface. If Sargon had any intention of finishing him off, he would at least make it as difficult as possible.

It didn't take long for his eyes to re-adjust to the dark. Between his panic-fueled breaths, his eyes darted about, looking for any sign of movement. A dozen cubits away from him, he watched as the Lord of Balal lowered the now-glowing canterole to eye level. His piercing glare was illuminated by the shining blue gemstone as it crackled with power. A look of satisfaction spilled out of his gaze, one that brought a chill to Zachariah.

“This place is pulsing with power,” he said to no one in particular. "Can you feel it?" The Lord of Balal then raised his hand again, and from the portal lightning leapt forth once more toward Lehkahn.

He had dropped to his knees after the last jolt, but recovered just in time and thrust his golden sword forward. The blade somehow absorbed the dazzling bolt of power, though Lehkahn still cried out in pain—maybe from the earlier wound to the chest.

Sargon stood above him, triumphant. “There has always been just one possible outcome to the conflict that has defined us for so long. It is the only one there will ever be." He raised the canterole a third time, as if to strike.

Thank you for your time, and best of luck with your book! :)

Thank you for giving us chance to share our story with you and those who follow your website.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Me and My Heart

So the doctor told me I have a mild heart condition that should cause me no concern whatsoever: ‘mitral valve prolapse.’ There are some symptoms associated with it, and often none whatsoever. Many people have it and are never diagnosed. It’s usually not dangerous. Stress can make the symptoms worse.

There is occasional chest pain and a scary heart-thumping involved in it from time to time for me. I never knew the name or that there was a name—I thought everyone had that sort of thing—but it used to be much worse when I was younger. (Occasional dizziness when I stood up, and fairly common scary heart thumping moments.) That was back before I gave up caffeine, and stopped eating sugar and chocolate most of the time. From what I’m reading on the subject, stopping those items definitely helped lessen my symptoms.

Anyway I’ve been thinking about this MVP, because my chest has been hurting and pounding recently. I think it’s been the emotional stress, plus possibly the heat. (It got hot here very quickly, early in the year, and the heat is not easy for me.)

I sort of feel dumb for thinking about it, because my sister DOES have a serious heart condition, and here I am thinking and feeling concerned about this mild thing that I have.

But I can’t feel how she feels. I can only feel how I feel. And when my chest starts to hurt or pound a lot now, instead of just dismissing it and feeling annoyed, complaining a little and taking some aspirin if it hurts badly enough, I think about what it means—a heart condition—and I feel... vulnerable. Frightened.

Yesterday my chest hurt for most of the day. Just last week, my heart was pounding rapidly because of the stressful time I was having. I could barely seem to calm it down all day.

It just...makes me think, you know? To think about how emotional pain triggers physical pain for me, so often. I’ve never really thought about it in those terms, but it’s true. When my chest starts to ache a lot, there’s usually an emotional reason mixed in with whatever is physically going on. In the same way, crying both emotionally and physically hurts me. It doesn’t seem to affect everyone that way, but it does me. Both are reasons that I avoid watching disturbing news stories or emotionally intense movies whenever possible. For me, both hurt. Both take a physical toll.

I want to do what the doctor said and not worry about this mild heart condition. I also want to be even more careful about chocolate, because the last time I had some, just recently, my chest ached for days afterwards, and now that I’ve put it together that that’s the reason why, I don’t think it’ll be worth it to me anymore to eat chocolate, even once in awhile.

I even see a few repercussions in my writing. People who’ve critiqued my work sometimes tell me that I use descriptions of hearts pounding in distress too often. And I know that in my reading and writing, things to do with the heart, a feeling of vulnerability in the heart, always resonate with me for some reason. I guess maybe now I know why. My body knew something I didn’t know; that vulnerability was something I identified with.

And I wrote about hearts pounding scarily in distress because I experienced it.

I wrote...from my heart.

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