Tag Archives: Author Interview

Interview at Ellenbooks

There’s an elite group . . . and I don’t say that lightly . . . of authors who manage to balance life on the road with writing. I was honored when Ellen Behrens, an outstanding author and fellow RVer, asked to interview me for her blog. Please click the link below and stop by to say “howdy”. While you’re there, check out Ellen’s delightful series, Rollin’ RV Mystery series!

Fellow RV Novelists: Deb Sanders

Advertisements

Who’s Your Favorite Leading Lady?

Author Beverley Bateman is talking about heroines during the month of May at her blog. I was honored to be interviewed about this voluminous topic even though we barely scratched the surface. Please join me as I discuss my favorite heroines! I’d love to hear about your favorites . . . and why you think these ladies are top notch!.C’mon over and leave a comment!

http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/

 

Interview: JT Sawyer, Author of “First Wave” – A Post-Apocalypse Novel

First Wave Banner 851 x 315

It’s not often I highlight an author with such an imposing bio – so today is a special treat.  J.T. Sawyer is a survival expert who not only writes thrillers based on a post-apocalyptic world but also includes information on his website that might help you endure a real-life disaster. Keep reading because after the interview, I’ve included an exciting excerpt from Book One of the First Wave series.

You’re about to meet a most fascinating man . . . J.T. Sawyer.

I’m intrigued by the premise of your First Wave series – a man emerges from a wilderness, off-the-grid trip only to find the world infected by a biogenetic virus. It’s even more relevant since the Ebola threat headlines our news almost daily. How do you feel about the eerie connection of your story to current events? Is there anything you would change about the plot if you were writing it today?

First, thanks for having me on your blog, Deb! I had been mulling over the idea for this story for several years and published the first book in January of this past year so the timing with the current Ebola outbreak is indeed bizarre. Over the years, I’ve had numerous ER doctors and even a few epidemiologists in my survival courses and have been able to pick their brains about the threats humans have faced with pandemics. The insightful book, The Great Influenza, by John Barry was also helpful in understanding the global ramifications in the 1918 virus that swept the globe. All of this figured prominently into the plot of my books as well as too many late nights watching zombie flicks as a teenager eons ago.

As a survivalist guide and teacher, I’m sure you’ve encountered some interesting situations. Tell us about one incident that left its mark on you –  an experience you’d rather not repeat. (We all have a tale to tell. I suspect yours is much more intriguing than most!).

Well, I’ve had close encounters with bears, a puma, scorpions, and even flash floods but the most harrowing event in recent years was the time I poked my head into a small prehistoric cave to look around. Due to the excitement of exploring, I wasn’t paying much attention as I crawled through the narrow entrance only to hear the loud rattle of a snake off to my right. Slowly turning my headlamp, I saw an immense Diamondback Rattlesnake coiled on a ledge beside the entrance, about sixteen inches from my head. My exposed neck felt like it had a bulls-eye painted on it. Despite the desert heat, I’m pretty sure I have must have had a frost-bitten expression.

My future was in the scaly hands of, what I prayed was a seasoned old-timer who was more interested in packrats than a woefully unaware traveler. His agitated rattling continued and I spent ten (or maybe it was sixty?) minutes performing a Tai-Chi like extraction from the interior. His rattling only slowed once my shaken form was back outside in the sunlight. I collapsed on the nearby ledge, gulping in the fresh air.

My hiking partner, who was coming up the trail, asked why I was so pale and suggested that maybe I was low on water. I remember feebly sputtering out the words, “Me, not thirsty.” My friend and I still joke about that day since I ignored my own advice about not sticking your head or hands where you can’t see!

OMG . . . I’m still shuddering, part laughter, part terror. So glad it was you and not me!

Zombie apocalypse aside, what do you consider the most probable instigating factor for a SHTF event . . . an EMP/terrorist attack, a solar flare similar to the Carrington event, invading forces from a foreign entity, civil war or other? And why?

My formal academic background is as an anthropologist and it seems like humans throughout history have mostly had their numbers reduced through either disease or warfare. Yes, a meteor could pulverize our planet or something else environmentally catastrophic could occur but I would venture to say that it would be something of human construct.

I think there would be more concern with the hysteria and panic-buying of supplies associated with the potential threat of something (pandemic, rumor of an EMP, etc…) than an actual widespread disaster. The fact is, we, in western society are used to a certain level of comfort and so I see the threat of that lifestyle being disrupted of greater concern, short-term at least, than an actual catastrophe. For instance, there are many, many other threats to worry about besides Ebola but if a few more people get infected in the U.S. that could create this wave of panic-buying goods (and creating ripple-effects in the supply chain) along with people staying at home from work/school. So, my point is not to downplay the current concern with Ebola, but the human social dynamic has, historically, always been more of a chaotic variable than the actual disaster itself.

I was very pleased to see a page on your website www.jtsawyer.com listing items for a “bug-out” bag and offering suggestions on disaster preparedness. You also mentioned you’ve trained both military and community groups in survival techniques. Which do you enjoy the most – government or private sector – and why?

I always give priority to the military when they contact us. The men and women in our armed forces are some of the finest warriors I’ve ever worked with and they are highly motivated to learn the skills we teach so they can add another tool to their arsenal for getting back home. That being said, those courses are physically intense and we are often out in grueling weather for weeks on end. I only do a handful of those each year and the rest of our schedule is devoted to offering fieldcourses in practical skills to the general public. I like the balance of teaching both.

Okay, I have to ask this . . . indulge me.  When you chose your pen name, did it have anything to do with Tom Sawyer? I noticed the “T” and “Sawyer” and wondered if there was a connection. If not, how did you choose your name?

I am a fan of the show LOST and enjoyed the complex character of Sawyer (and his snarky attitude) the most. The “T” is from my first name, Tony, and my wife suggested the “J” to round things out. Though, I have to say, I am a sucker for the adventures of Tom Sawyer and anything penned by Twain.

You’ve spent many years testing survival skills under extreme geographical and weather conditions. But when you’re not trying to keep yourself or your clients alive, where do you like to hang out for fun? Mountains? Desert? Beach? And what attracts you to the area?

I can’t get enough of the Southwest. Where I live in Flagstaff, I can be in the mountains, canyons, or desert within an hour. Plus there are endless prehistoric ruins and caves peppering the landscape. I am in heaven. I originally grew up in Michigan and love the North Woods in the Fall but ever since I started teaching survival courses in the desert back in 1988, I’ve found where I belong. I believe we all have our physical birthplace and then the other setting or environment that we were born to. I found the latter many years ago and the love affair is still going on. My wife jokingly refers to the Grand Canyon as “Tony’s mistress,” and I reckon that’s the case at times.

Ahhh…I completely understand. I was hooked by the lure of the Southwest years ago. Hoping to migrate back there in the next year or so. 🙂

Could you share some of your future projects? Will there be more installments to the First Wave series or are you working on another novel with a different story line?

I have a fourth book that I am working on the First Wave series that will be out in late winter. It will focus on the hero Travis Combs once more and the broader picture of the pandemic.  It will be a longer book and reunite him with some of the characters in the story.

Besides that, I have just finished the first book in a new post-apocalyptic series about a female Secret Service Agent who finds herself in over her head when the world unravels from a deadly virus.  I’ve also got two non-fiction narrative books nearly done that assemble many personal stories from life-on-the-trail over the last twenty years. My teaching season just ended so I will be immersing myself back into navigating through the keyboard jungle for the next six months until I head out again.

Last question . . . if you had a magic rock which could transport you to any time in history, where would you go and why?

Since I was about eight years old, I have digested everything I could find on the Apaches and the Southwest. I would sure like to go back in time to the 1870s or so and get a glimpse into the indigenous people and their traditional lifeways before it was largely curtailed. There were a lot of interesting players here during that period. Most people are familiar with Geronimo but he was really a lesser figure in the broader picture. Apaches like Victorio, his sister Lozen, Cochise, and others, not to mention the US Chief of Scouts, Al Sieber, were all pivotal figures in the unfolding of Arizona’s early history.

Thanks for letting me pick your brain today, and a big note of gratitude for sharing your expertise on survival and preparedness skills.

Thank you, Deb. I sure appreciate your interest and wonderful questions.

Take care,

JT

WOW! Did I not tell you JT Sawyer is a fascinating man? His First Wave series is also intriguing and to prove it, I’ve included an excerpt. It’s a series you’ll not want to miss. Make sure you add it to your Christmas wish list! And if you can’t wait, just click on the Amazon link below. 🙂

First Wave

Travis Combs Thrillers

Volume 1

JT Sawyer

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction, zombiesFirst Wave New Author WEBSITE USE

Publisher: JT Sawyer

ASIN:  B00IHQAYYQ

Number of pages: 192

Word Count: 57666

Cover Artist: Melody Simmons

Book Description:

Special Forces veteran Travis Combs just wanted to forget his weary years of leading combat missions while taking an extended rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.

As he and his group complete a 22-day trip on the Colorado River, they find the world has unraveled from a deadly pandemic.

Now, he has to show his small band how to live off the land and cross the rugged Arizona desert, while evading blood-drinking zombies, gangs of cartel bikers, and a rogue government agency.

Available at Amazon

EXCERPT:

Prologue

August 26, Ten Days before the Pandemic

Doctor Robert James Pearson lowered the silver-rimmed glasses on his nose as he gazed at the clear vial before him. His technicians in the research lab next to his office had gone home for the day. The only noise came from the hallway outside, where he could hear the comforting footfalls of security personnel doing their evening sweeps in the high-security facility on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He stroked his thin gray goatee while marveling at the precious substance in the vial.

After thirty-eight months of toil in his lab, his research for the Department of Biodefense was complete. The viral load he and the other scientists had perfected in the modified avian flu strain had passed the initial series of animal testing and the antidote was ready to use, if necessary. They had painstakingly taken the original 1918 virus and magnified its replication capabilities. This super virus dramatically increases the onset of necrotizing bronchiolitis while instigating diffuse alveolar damage. The subject will typically perish from internal hemorrhaging within twenty-four hours of exposure, he had proudly stated in a recent briefing to his funders.

The Biodefense officials had assured him that his research in neurophysiology and virology was critical to arriving at an antidote before terrorists could complete their own strain of the new virus. Now, over three years later, he could wrap up this voluminous project and resume his work at Stanford. Pearson was part of a six-man group of researchers who conferred through daily videoconferences, comparing research data. They were the brilliant minds behind the resulting antidote that could potentially save millions of lives.

As he pondered the accolades he would receive from his contemporaries in the scientific community, the landline phone on his desk rang, jolting him back to the present. Very few calls ever came in on this phone, and he picked up the receiver, squinting his eyes and tensing his lower lip.

The trembling voice on the other end was his colleague, Doctor Emory from Chicago. “Are you alone?”

“Yes. It’s a little too quiet in here, to be honest,” Pearson said. “Only the security guards and maintenance staff are around at this hour.”

“There isn’t much time. You need to leave now,” the other man said hurriedly. “Take your notes, laptop, and the vaccine with you. Somehow, the virus has been unleashed in Europe. Soon it will be on our doorstep.”

Pearson interrupted his friend’s hurried exclamations. “What are you talking about? How do you know?” said Pearson, clutching the phone and thrusting his shoulders forward over the edge of the wooden desk.

“That new agency we met with last week…and that woman…they came to my office looking for me a few hours ago. They killed my assistants and took everything.” He paused, his breath racing over the phone. “I escaped, but the others…they’re coming for us all. Get out of there now. You have to disappear. Go to your fallback location.”

“Wait, what…what do you mean….why would they….” Pearson paused, and his eyebrows scrunched together as he heard the sound of muffled gunfire coming from the hallway. His eyes darted to the brown door leading into his small office. He tried to dismiss the noise as a janitor’s cart tipping over, or another sound—anything other than what he had heard. Then the rhythmic pattern of gunfire shuttered through the hallway again as he heard people shriek and collapse to the floor.

Pearson’s face looked frostbitten as his world constricted. He placed the phone down and grabbed the vials of vaccine from the desk, along with his laptop, and thrust them into a compact metallic briefcase. He could hear the password keypad being activated for the exterior lab wall across from his office, and the sound of a woman’s voice issuing commands. The familiar swishing sound of the first set of air-locked lab doors opening followed next. With a white-knuckled grip on the briefcase, he pried open his office door to see three armed men and a woman with a black vest enter the lab. The first series of doors closed behind them.

Pearson swung open the office door and bolted in the opposite direction, heading for the stairs. His tan blazer fluttered like a cape as he ran down the stairs to the emergency exit. He entered the security code, and the pressure-sealed door opened to a dimly lit parking lot. After the door slammed, he stopped and turned around, then activated the biohazard alarm for the building. He didn’t wait to see if his actions were successful in sealing the intruders inside as he sprinted for his black Volvo. As Pearson sped towards the security gate, he could see the door ajar on the checkpoint booth. The security guard, a portly man he had greeted each morning for years, was lying face down atop a blood-sprayed console.

As he raced away, he kept waiting for the roar of police sirens heading to the facility, but there was only the expanse of the lonesome desert road enveloping his car. On the seat beside him was the silver briefcase containing the vials of vaccine.

His constant furtive glances in the rearview mirror matched his racing thoughts. If the virus could be contained in Europe then there might still be hope of preventing it from turning into a catastrophic pandemic. But how long had it been? If quarantine was unsuccessful, then widespread fatalities would commence within two weeks. He reflected on the recent meeting that Emory had mentioned. That icy-eyed woman with the neck scar said her employer would be overseeing vaccine distribution in the event of a bio attack. How was she involved? What was she doing at the lab?

Twelve miles later, the remote two-lane highway ended at a T-section as the last glimmer of sunlight streaked across Pearson’s pale cheeks. The faint lights of vehicles driving on the interstate could be seen in the distance. A hundred yards down the road, a green sign indicated Albuquerque to the east and Flagstaff to the west. Reluctantly, he edged towards the west entrance ramp. This would be the safest direction for now, and perhaps offer a chance to salvage humanity’s future.

Chapter 1

Travis Combs was brushing flecks of sand from the side of his face as he sat up on his thin bedroll by the shoreline of the Colorado River. He turned and looked over to his left, where the rest of the passengers were still sprawled out asleep. To his right, the rafts were tethered to a row of cottonwood trees alongside the camp kitchen and coolers. Even with the sun having risen an hour ago, the inner walls of the Grand Canyon were painted in an orange-and-red hue, silhouetted against an indigo sky.

The morning silence was penetrated by the voice of a canyon wren, whose melodic song floated down the cliffs. The last few days had been quiet, with very few rafters on the river. The warm night had hardly required entry into his sleeping bag, and Travis had slept in faded khaki shorts and a cotton t-shirt that was nearly threadbare in the shoulders. His faint black beard was well groomed—one luxury he afforded himself on this trip.

As he stood, he caught the movement of three bighorn sheep making their way up an incline a few hundred yards away across the river. The clamoring of their small hooves on the rocks echoed off the canyon walls. All my years of rappelling cliffs and traversing mountains around the globe and I could never walk with that kind of grace, he thought.

Travis rolled his shoulders around in an effort to loosen them up. At thirty-four, too many airborne jumps and arduous missions in third-world settings had taken their toll on his otherwise fit body. He had achieved the rank of staff sergeant in the 5th Special Forces before serving the last three years as a SERE instructor, teaching others the skills of survival and evasion. Now, with his discharge a few months behind him, it was time to unwind and live without a schedule, and with no one to command.

AJTbout the Author:

JT Sawyer is the pen name for the author who makes his living teaching survival courses for the military special operations community, Department of Homeland Security, US Marshals, FAA, and other federal agencies throughout the US.

He has over 25 years of experience testing long-term survival skills in the desert, mountains, and forest.

http://www.jtsawyer.com

https://www.facebook.com/JTSawyerbooks

https://twitter.com/authorjtsawyer

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight & Interview: Karen Lopp – “Effie’s Outlaw”

UPDATE: Wow!!!! It doesn’t get any better than this!!!

Karen Lopp is hosting a GIVEAWAY! 

Prizes are: 

Grand prize -1 Custom made throw 
 
4 – $5 amazon gift cards
Entering is soooo easy! Just click on this link and complete the form.
And for those of us who have anxiously awaited Effie’s Outlaw release, here’s the “buy” link:

***

I love Historical Westerns. Love to read ’em. Love to watch movies about that era. Love to visit the places where it all started.  So naturally, I loved the opportunity to indulge in a fun conversation with author Karen Lopp who writes Historical Western Romance. And you’ll love the spotlight on her latest release, “Effie’s Outlaw” that I included after my interview .

Effies Outlaw Button 300 X 225

MEET THE AUTHOR:  Karen Lopp

As a transplanted Oklahoman, it is my extreme pleasure to welcome another native “Okie” to my blog today. I’m sure Karen will agree that Oklahoma provides a rich heritage which lends itself perfectly to her chosen genre, Historical Western Romance.

Karen, your bio reads you are ” . . . drawn to the courageous lives of the women who lived through the hardships of the past and triumphed.” I’m immediately reminded of the Pioneer Woman statue in Ponca City, Oklahoma. What do you find most inspiring about the women of that era?

The resilience that was required in their everyday lives. I really admire how they stepped up and took on many tasks that we, today would balk at. They not only kept the house going, they often assisted with outdoor chores and often had to be the doctor, bookkeeper, and gardener.

I’ve heard that you often draw on your family’s history to influence your writing, and especially your grandmother. Can you give us an example?

My grandmother grew up on a farm and married a farmer. They lived through the depression and one story she wrote down has stayed with me for years and reminded me just how good we have it. At one point she only had the means to purchase one piece of material for a new dress. She mistakenly cut it out wrong. Instead of giving up, she simply flipped the half of the material to the wrong side and made a two-toned skirt.

You currently reside in New Mexico, another enchanted land with a colorful heritage. What do you like most about the history of this state and do you plan to incorporate any of it into future books?

The green chilies of course. The smell of them roasting is wonderful and always let me know fall is in the air. My novel, Shotgun Bride is set in the northern part of New Mexico where I lived for a short space of time. And yes, adding some of the heritage of New Mexico into future books has been something I plan on doing. 

What projects are you currently working on?

I have another western that is mostly completed. Still trying to come up with a great title. I also have a completed romantic suspense that I have farmed out to beta readers.

I understand you have an ongoing competition with your father to see who can grow the tallest Hollyhocks. J Share some gardening secrets with us!

LOL, in my soil there is very little that will grow. Roses and hollyhocks do wonderful in this ground but little else does. So for here, we use a raised bed and imported soil to grow vegetables. So, I wish I had some good tips but in this high, dry desert climate, only  a few things will grow.

I found the most scrumptious gluten free recipes on your blog. Special diets require a LOT of research and taste tests. Trust me, I know. So I have to ask . . . how do you balance family, gardening, cooking and writing?

Special diets do require a ton of work. Much more than I bargained for when I was diagnosed with celiac.  And living in a rural area the options at the store are very limited and forget going out to eat. So I do have to make time to cook every meal which takes time management. My children are out of the house now, but my daughter also has it so we try to help each other with new recipes and ideas. We try to make items in bulk and premix what we can. This saves a lot of time. Other than that, I make myself sit and write event when the house is in chaos with dirty laundry, a sink full of dishes and weeds that need pulled in the garden. When I take a break from writing, that’s when I address those chores. 

And now for some fun . . .

You’ve found a magic stone with the power to transport you to any time, any place. Where are you going and why? (Since I know you love the Old West, pick a different time period.)

I would go back to the founding of America. There are so many people I’d love to meet and just sitting and listening to the debates would be fascinating. 

Thank you, Karen, for sharing a bit of your life with us. I’m looking forward to reading “Effie’s Outlaw”, as I know my readers will, too!

EFFIE’S OUTLAW by Karen Lopp

EffiesOutlaw2_850.1

Genre: Historical Western Romance

Publisher: SoulMate Publishing

Cover Artist: Devon

Book Description:

Boston heiress, Effie Sheridan, takes matters into her own hands when her fortune is being stolen. The last thing she expects is to be kidnapped by a gang of train robbers. Forced to pretend to be an outlaw’s lover to stay alive, she questions her sanity when she is drawn to the gruff, yet charming bandit who risks everything to save her.

U.S. Deputy, Alex Marshall is mad enough to spit nails when the beautiful, city-bred girl lands in his arms. Unable to abandon her to the cruelties of the gang, he searches for a way out of the responsibility. But her courage and sweet kisses begin to chip away at the bitterness inside his heart and he must choose between revenge on the gang that slaughtered everyone he loved or redemption for saving a women he can never have.

Excerpt:

“He can’t discover who I am.”

Something indefinable in the tone of her voice scared the hell out him. “And just who are you?”

A long minute passed before she glanced up. Tight lines edged her eyes. He tucked her hair behind her ear.” I need to know what I’m up against.”

“Get me out of here, tonight,” Was the only answer she gave him.

Lips compressed, he took her hand and stalked to their campsite. Maybe if he opened up a bit he could coax something out of her.

Reclined on the grass beside Grace, Alex locked his hands behind his head and stared at the sky. “My real name is Alex. What’s yours?”

She fiddled with her skirt and avoided eye contact for several minutes. “Effie.”

“That wasn’t so hard was it?” Alex rolled to his side and propped his head on his hand.

Grace hugged her knees. “No.”

“Now, tell me what has you so spooked.”

“I can’t.”

Alex curled his fingers tight. “Why not?”

“I don’t trust you much more than I do Ben.” She hugged her knees tighter.

That stung. “Haven’t I tried to help you?”

“You rob people for gain don’t you?” Sarcasm laced her accusation.

He sighed at the tangle of lies he was embedded in. “Not really.”

Effie scowled down at him. “Then what motivates you to steal?”

Alex doubted she could ever understand the loss of loved ones in a brutal mass murder. She’d never understand his need for revenge so he could ease the pain in his heart. It would be useless to try and explain it to her.

“Gives me a little excitement.” He added another lie to his list of deceptions.

“I don’t believe you.”

Alex jerked up, he wasn’t a knight in shining armor and he couldn’t afford for her to guess his real reason for being in the gang. “Keep your secrets then, but don’t blame me if you find yourself in a bind.” He marched off.

Let the sheltered city girl stew over his warning, he told himself. Memories of his family reminded Alex he still hadn’t discovered who pulled the trigger that fateful day, and Effie’s presence hindered his efforts. Alex was almost tempted to give her to Ben and let him figure out what to do with her.

Light but noisy footsteps followed him. He spun around. “What?”

“Please Alex, don’t be angry.”

“You want my help, my protection, with no concept of the consequences. I’m not some hired hand you can boss around. Dangling false promises of money under my nose won’t work. I take you away and I can never show my face around here again.” He thrust a finger at her. “You have no idea what that costs me.”

Hands balled on her hips, Effie glared at him. “Then you should never have brought me here.”

Guilt washed over him and he snapped. “Why don’t you hustle on down the hill and tell Sam you’d rather be his. Solve my problems.”

Effie threw herself at his chest and fisted his shirt. Panic bleached her face. “No!” she cried out, fear heavy in the one word.

Damn, the girl made him feel like a bastard.

About the Author:

karen lopp

Steeped in a rich family history, Karen Lopp has always been drawn to the courageous lives of the women who lived through the hardships of the past and triumphed.

A transplant from Oklahoma where she grew up on a farm just one mile away from where her great-grandparents settled in the land run, Karen now lives in the enchanted land of New Mexico and has a running competition with her dad on who can grow the tallest hollyhocks. Books and tales of ancestors were staples in her life and she fell in love with history. Enthralled with the short stories her grandmother wrote and passed down, she took the plunge (with encouragement from hubby and kids) into the world of writing.  Her inspiration comes from research into her family tree and their interesting lives.

http://karenlopp.com

http://karenlopp.wordpress.com

http://twiter.com/karen_lopp

http://facebook.com/authorkarenlopp

http://pentrest.com/karenlopp

http://goodreads.com/karenlopp

Author Interview: Nick Kelly & CONTEST!!!

 Catwalk Messiah Button 300 x 225

CONTEST: 

 Tour wide giveaway includes: 

10 ebook copies open internationally

 5 physical copies open to US Shipping

 ENTER by clicking this link: 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ba112f367/

**************************************************************************************

INTERVIEW with author Nick Kelly:

Sometimes I meet talent and think, “Wow! This person has their s**t together. Look at everything they’ve accomplished.” And then they amaze me even more by adding to their growing list of achievements.

Nick Kelly is such a person.

I could say “author” Nick Kelly, since I’m focusing on his recently released novel, Catwalk: Messiah but that hardly covers the extent of this man’s ability.

Nick, your bio on the Horrorview.com website describes you as a musician and writer. Digging a little deeper, I discovered you are also a lifestyle coach/trainer and public speaker. How do you manage to juggle all your many hats? And what drives you to keep multi-tasking?

Thanks, Deb. I appreciate the kind words. I think everything I do is born from music. My love of the stage, and telling stories, and making people laugh…all of it goes back to spending half my life on stage as a musician. I’ve expanded that to coaching and training people on everything from entrepreneurship to online safety. I simply find something that I find fascinating and share it with as many people who will listen!

Your tag at Horrorview is “Catwalk”. How did you come up with the name? Should I assume the lead character in your book, Leon “Catwalk” Caliber, exhibits some of your personality traits?

The Catwalk character existed long before I joined the staff at Horrorview.com. I became the indie film (and book) guy over the last few years, so I get to view and read the works of many unknown authors and filmmakers. It’s a great gig.  Cat and I share a number of personality traits, though I’ve never been a hitman. We share a love of motorcycles and driving fast, loud music, cutting edge technology, and the Pandora’s box that is human potential. I think he’s some of my traits to the absolute extreme.

You’re published in comic books and other types of media. Why write a book? How does your approach to writing a book differ from a comic book?

I grew up on comics. Back in Philly, my grandfather (for whom I’m named) owned a trucking company and a recycling business. He would bring us tons of comics, including Star Wars, The Uncanny X-Men, and The Amazing Spider-Man, to name a few. Comics were a passion my whole life (and still are). Catwalk’s first appearance was in a comic titled Independent Voices 3 which launched on September 11, 2001. It failed miserably in the States, because it was a violent story made public at a time when we were all reeling from a violence we’ve never experienced before. The comic actually serves as a prequel to the book.

Writing a comic can be very different from writing a book. I find my process to writing a novel is very comic-like. I visualize everything. I storyboard. Even writing books, I still write as if the ultimate product will be a comic or a movie.

Catwalk: Messiah has been described by reviewers as dark, futuristic, sci-fi, dystopian, steampunk . . . even detective noir. How much research was involved in world building, and what made you decide on a cybernetically enhanced main character for your post-apocalyptic tale?

I think the universe introduced in the Catwalk stories is a distinct, if pessimistic, possibility. Think about everything we do with our smart phones – which are so much more than phones, let’s face it. Technology advancements in the next decade are bound to lead to expanded nanotechnology and potentially cybernetics, and that is an amazing thing. Think about how different life could be for a wounded veteran if the technology could replace a limb and give him back full use of an arm or a leg.

The Catwalk tone is all about telling the story set in that realm. He’s a super-charged private eye working in a realm where technology is not just acceptable, it’s stylish. Think Bionic Man meets Phillip Marlowe.

This is the first book in a series. How many installments do you envision? What can we expect from Book Two?

I actually wrote Book Two (“Catwalk: Lineage”) before Book One, but it wasn’t an acceptable origin story. It expanded the universe too much. So, I went back and wrote this one to introduce Cat to the world. I have the first four books basically finished up, with a skeleton in place for Book Five. Book Two is going to introduce some very fun new villains who I think fans will enjoy. One is based on my older brother. Is that dark and subliminal somehow? Is it wrong to put your anti-hero against a crime lord you based on your brother? I’ll let the readers comment on that.

You are currently co-authoring the Urban Samurai series with wife, Stacia, as “NS Kelly”. How does that work – two authors living under the same roof and contributing to the same project? How do you resolve creative differences?

Stacia has her own series, The Goddess Chronicles, beginning with “Phyxe: Goddess of Fire.” Her series are more fantasy and romance. With the Samurai series, starting with “Ichi”, we sort of meet in the middle. Her lead character is a 1,000 year old samurai, and my character is a homicide cop who needs to see everything in black and white, who believes nothing supernatural until he gets attacked by a demon.

Writing together has been a really fun experience. We approach the writing process very differently, but we challenge one another well, and the criticism is always constructive. We’ve worked together at a number of different jobs, so we know how to get along in a professional environment. Plus, the plotting sessions in the hot tub are a nice plus.

(Stacia and I actually joined fellow authors Phillipa Ballentine and Tee Morris to discuss this topic. Check out the podcast: http://www.theshareddesk.com/2013/07/23/episode-24-collaborating-couples-wbtr/)

And now, what can you tell us about “coaching those new to the entrepreneur’s lifestyle?” How did coaching and speaking evolve from the many facets of your world? Also, please feel free to include websites, contact information, etc for any readers who wish to learn more about your services.

Most of us have been educated on what it takes to be a great employee, but not to be a successful business owner. Stacia and I not only write together, but we also are business partners in a health and wellness business. She is a holistic health coach with a Ph.D. I jumped on board when our product line added a healthy, all natural energy drink (see: exhibit A. “musician”).  As we’ve grown our business, I’ve embraced training folks on what it takes to build a business, gain self-confidence, and help build their brand.  I’m scheduled to speak for a “Steps to Success” event on September 28th in Fredericksburg, VA. Anyone can attend and simply reach out to me for an invite. I’m happy to do virtual one-on-one coaching also via Skype (Nicholas.a.kelly). My site is www.nickkelly.com, I’m @Nick_Kelly on twitter, and I’m on Facebook as facebook.com/NickKellyAuthor. I love meeting new friends in the virtual world, so please don’t hesitate to hit me up!

Thank you, Nick, for joining me today. It’s been such a pleasure!

NOTE TO READERS:  I’ve included a Spotlight on Catwalk:Messiah following this interview. Also, Horror fans will enjoy the musings from this witty, talented and profound man at http://www.horrorview.com/. I encourage you to check it out!

 

Catwalk_messiah_coverart_AmazonCatwalk: Messiah
Leon “Catwalk” Caliber Series

Book One
Nick Kelly

Genre: Sci-Fi

ISBN: 978-0-9852837-5-9 

Number of pages: 249

Word Count: 70,266 

Cover Artist: Heidi Sutherlin 

Amazon

 

Book Description:

Nitro City, 2033.

Leon “Catwalk” Caliber left his cop job in DC behind, heading to the City of Angels to earn a living off the grid. He took a few odd jobs that called for his particular skill set – extortion, espionage, and the occasional hit – and managed to carve out a niche for himself among the Downtown dwellers.

All the changed when a new breed of MetaHuman cyborg appeared on the streets with explosive violence. Cat’s quiet existence is sent into turmoil when he finds himself right in the crosshairs. He must evade the assassin squads sent by a vengeful pimp, uncover the origin of these mysterious new mechs, and keep the cops off of his tail. Simple enough, except that the cybernetic technology that powers his body threatens to sever his humanity at any moment. Can the killer with a conscience find a cure, solve the case, get the girl, and live to see another day?

Short Excerpt:

“Okay, Sweetie, open your eyes.”

Leon “Catwalk” Caliber takes a long drag off of his cigarette. The voice on the vidscreen triggers the same sick taste in his throat as the first time he pressed the play button. The series of events on-screen remains the same: the awkward smile of the girl in the frame, the sweet and self-absorbed tone with which the man just off-camera delivers his dialogue, the slight, excited shaking of the camera as she looks up at him. Once again he asks the young girl which hand holds the coin, even though only his left hand is extended. She’s nervous. Her shoulders are pulled up, and her arms are tight to her body. She shifts to accommodate the tight fit of her school uniform. She blushes, the ghost of Shirley Temple, complete with pigtails and storybook innocence. She giggles and touches the back of the man’s gloved hand with a finger. She’s correct.

It’s the right hand that wields the bone saw.

Catwalk stops the recording. The glass next to him is empty, the bottle of bourbon almost the same. The dull glow of the paused recording is the only light in the loft, save a few blinking sensors from the bay that hosts his motorcycle and gear. He stares mutely at the image on the screen. He already has the rest of it memorized. The girl survives for another two minutes and 17 seconds. She doesn’t suffer long. Thank whatever God she believes in that she doesn’t feel what happens next. This killer doesn’t keep his victims alive along. He saves the mutilation and sex acts until after they’re dead. He doesn’t get off on torture, just the rush of ending a life … even that of an eight-year-old girl.

Cat takes a hold of his whiskey tumbler, mindlessly raising it to his lips. The lack of liquid distracts him from the screen. The video was an unexpected test. Someone hoping to remain anonymous had paid a deposit for his services. The instructions were simple. Watch the video. Find the killer. Get vengeance for the victims. Get proof. Get paid.

His yellow eyes return to the screen. His lips curl into a sneer. After watching the recording once, he was willing to do the job for free. That feeling amplified each time he watched the girl die. Cat chuckles out loud. He’s curious at his reaction. This chit never bothered him before. Why now? Why her?

He stands and walks away from the screen. He needs a break. He stands and stretches. The muscles along his arms and sides are sore. His legs and spine don’t protest. They’re hard-wired into his nervous system. Thanks to modern cybernetic technology, he can leap from the sidewalk to the top of an apartment complex, and outrun most of the commercial vehicles on the market.

The benefits aren’t without a curse. His immune system has never quite solved the riddle of his experimental cybernetics. Treatment is painful and expensive. He could use the money this job would bring in.

Catwalk stands in front of one of the windows, listening to the endless clamor of sirens, screams and gunfire in the distance. He’s chosen a nasty part of Downtown. It’s dangerous, but it’s very private. As a professional hitman, that’s worth the risk.

Running his hands through his jet black hair, he ties it into its customary ponytail. He looks over his shoulder at the custom-crafted, armored helmet resting on the counter. The triangular yellow cat’s eyes stare back at him. Cursing under his breath, Cat walks toward the helmet and the armored motorcycle behind it with cold intent.

There’s work to be done.

About the Author:

Nick KellyNick grew up on sci-fi, horror flicks, Dungeons and Dragons, good music, and recycled comic books. He has been published internationally as a comic book author and musician. He’s spent over half his life on stage from New York to Las Vegas. He is outspoken, supportive, and willing to take a good kick to the ribs for the right cause. When not touring the world, Nick lives at home with his blushing bride (and co-author), Dr. Stacia Kelly, their son, and a rotating roster of cats and dogs.

www.nickkelly.com

www.facebook.com/NickKellyAuthor

twitter @Nick_Kelly

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00BQD7J2W

Meet The Author: ANN GIMPEL

Alpine Attraction Button 300 x 225 (2)

Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist who practices in a very isolated area high in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago.

Read on after the interview for more information about “Alpine Attraction”, Ann’s latest paranormal romance that has readers begging for more!

Thanks so much for your kind words, Deb, and for hosting me on your blog. I really appreciate the research you did to come up with your interview questions. Seriously. It means a lot to me that you cared enough to personalize this interview.

Ann, I read the bio on your website (www.anngimpel.com) and one of the things you said intrigued me. “I ski, I hike, I climb, and on a good day, I’m the alpha female of a wolf pack.” Could you elaborate about your “wolf pack” and how you maintain alpha female status?

Sure. Just as soon as I pick myself up off the floor where I’m rolling around laughing. I have three arctic wolf hybrids. We started with one about twelve years ago. Then we bought a female and, yup you guessed it, puppies can along a couple of years later. We only had one litter. It was such a success, I didn’t want to tempt fate a second time around. Anyway, hybrid number three is the puppy we couldn’t bear to part with. Wish we could have kept all eight.

The gang is getting old now. They’re twelve, ten, and eight. This may be the twelve year old’s last season in the backcountry. We’ll see. I’m not sure he can carry a pack with his food anymore.

My “alpha” status is a joke. The female thumbs her nose at me. Always has. The boys have me wrapped around their little paws. They spent yesterday at the vet for a chronic skin problem and were uncomfortable enough after punch skin biopsies I let them spend the night on our bed. Even a king bed gets a bit crowded with two adults and a couple of hundred pound plus hybrids.

After digging a bit further, I discovered you hail from Mammoth Lakes, an area I’m very familiar with and visited often when I lived in northern California. It’s very rugged, and yes, isolated. Do you ever suffer from cabin fever in the winter? How do you endure months of snow without going slightly crazy?

I love the Eastern Sierra. It’s been twelve years since we moved here and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. True, it’s not for everyone. LOL! In fact, it’s probably not for most people. When I still had a day job, I ran the mental health and alcohol/drug programs for Mono County. I can’t tell you how many staff people the County went through. Either people discover this isn’t their cup of tea, or their spouse rebels. Anyway, it’s a special place, but you need a sense of adventure and a healthy dose of self-sufficiency to live here.

It is isolated. There’s nowhere to shop. (We have one grocery store.) There are wonderful music festivals in the summer, though. And living at 8000’ is great for physical conditioning. I burn about a third more calories simply breathing than someone living at sea level. Means I can eat more!!!

I don’t mind the cold months, maybe because I’m a skier. I adore curling up on one of the living room couches and watching the fire burn in the woodstove. There’s always something to do year round here. In winter, I shovel a lot of snow—and ski. Summers we hike, backpack, trail run, and generally enjoy the riots of wildflowers dotting the meadows.

I feel incredibly fortunate to live here. See, I like the isolation and the clean air and no crime and seeing people I know wherever I go. It’s sort of the best of how life used to be when I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, with an added dash of the most incredible scenery in the world.

I like the fact you blend ecological themes into your stories. What do you consider the most important environmental issue today and why?

For me, it’s global warming. I understand what a hot button topic that is and that many in positions of power think it’s not “real.” Nonetheless, all the new coal-fired plants in China (and other countries) take a toll. As so other things like the planes we fly in and the cars we drive. We’re all interconnected. That plastic bag we use and discard within minutes of coming home from the grocery store will go into a landfill somewhere. The effect is cumulative. We live in a throwaway society. Eventually, we’re going to run out of room to throw things.

I could go on for pages about this, but I think I’ll step off my soapbox. If each of us did just one thing every day to help our planet, it would be a much healthier place for everyone.

I keep a copy of “Heroes & Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes” by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders at my desk. As a clinical psychologist, I’m sure you’ve become adept at twisting and blending archetypes. What is your favorite hero – and heroine – archetype, and why?

Awk! I could write books about that. Your readers would fall asleep.

My favorite listing of hero archetypes comes from Carol S. Pearson. Out of her list of Innocent, Orphan, Warrior, Caregiver, Seeker, Destroyer, Lover, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Sage, and Fool, my favorite is the Magician.

Let me tell you why. The following is a direct quote from Pearson’s Awakening the Heroes Within.

“The power of the Ruler is to create and maintain a prosperous and peaceful kingdom. The power of the Magician is to transform reality by changing consciousness. Good rulers know the state of their life reflects and affects the state of their souls, but they cannot heal themselves. Without the Magician, who heals the wounded Ruler, the kingdom cannot be transformed.”

In olden times, Magicians often served as advisors to Rulers. If a kingdom was inhospitable, they could and did work alone.

Over time, magicians have held names such as shaman, witch, sorcerer, healer, fortune-teller, priest, bard, doctor, psychologist, or marketing wizard.

Every single one of my stories has a character playing the Magician archetype. I don’t plan it that way, but my Muse makes certain the Magician shows up to wave his/her wand and move the characters forward. Story arcs are about how characters change over the course of a story. Magicians are catalysts for those changes.

You’ve enjoyed such an interesting life. I’m jealous! LOL Tell us about one experience that helped define who you are today.

It’s not a single experience, but mountain climbing has helped define who I am. I’m not the most coordinated soul, so I’ve had to stretch myself on many peaks, overcoming fear and my klutziness. The things it’s taught me are simple:

  1. Problems become manageable when chunked into small pieces.
  2. The question isn’t whether I’ll make the summit, but whether I can take another step. One step follows another and, at some point, the summit appears.
  3. Focus is a matter of drawing your attention into the moment. It’s a Zen concept. There are places where if you look very far either up or down, you get so frightened, it’s paralyzing. So, I’ve learned to focus my concentration in a very narrow space and ignore the exposure around me.
  4. Success is a matter of perseverance. When you chip away at something, even something that looks impossible, eventually you find a way to succeed.

You’ve written quite a few novels and short stories. I think every author has one character who stays with them and seems more “alive” than others. Which character was that for you, and why?

That would be Lara McInnis, the psychic psychologist who’s the protag in my Transformation Series books, Psyche’s Prophecy, Psyche’s Search, and Psyche’s Promise. I picked her because, unlike my romance heroines, Lara isn’t larger than life. She struggles with the same hopes, fears, and disappointments we all do. Her imperfections make her impossible not to bond with as she’s faced with things she doesn’t understand. Elements outside her control force Lara out of her comfort zone. She struggles with anger and resentment that she has to change anything about her life.

The Transformation Series books are not romances. They’re urban fantasy in a world reviewers have described as “disturbingly real.” Lara doesn’t get an HEA ending. She does learn a lot about herself, though, and she discovers she’s stronger than she would have thought possible.

 I was happy to read about your affection for wolves. What draws you to them, and what can society learn from the pack?

Wolves have a highly evolved social order. By that I mean they have rules they live by. And principles. Everyone in the pack understands them. Some dogs are much the same. We had German Shepherds before we had the hybrids and if there was ever a breed with behavioral traits hardwired in, it would be them. For example, GSD rule number one is “never leave your master’s side because you can’t protect him if you do.”

The shepherds had a pecking order just like the hybrids. For the most part, they’re content with their place in the pack. Every once in a while, though, they take a stand if there’s something they feel strongly about.

If there’s one message society could learn from wolves/dogs, it would be how to be content with the hand you’ve been dealt, rather than constantly whining/wishing for something more or different than what you have. The second message is standing up for your principles and protecting your own. We could borrow a page from them and I think we’d be happier as a result.

Ann, it’s been my pleasure to host you today. I’m excited to read “Alpine Attraction” and wish you the best of luck with your new release.

And it’s been a pleasure to be here, Deb. Thanks again for asking such interesting, in-depth questions. This interview took me quite a while to think about and answer.

Alpine Attraction

Alpine_Attraction

By Ann Gimpel

Publisher: Liquid Silver Books

ISBN: 978-1-93176-193-2

Release Date: 5/20/13

Tina made a pact with the devil seven years ago. It’s time to pay the piper—or die.

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Independent to the nth degree, Tina meets everything in her life head-on—except love.

When an almost-forgotten pact with the devil returns to haunt her, Tina knows she has to go back to the Andes to face her doom.

Caught between misgivings and need, she signs on as team doctor for one of Craig’s expeditions. Though he was once the love of her life, she pushed him away years before to keep him safe. Even if he doesn’t love her anymore, there’s still no one she’d rather have by her side in the mountains.

Trapped in a battle of life and death, passion flares, burning hot enough to brand their souls.

Excerpt:

Prologue

 A heavy weight jammed Tina McKenzie against her mattress. I’m dreaming, her sleep-saturated brain insisted. The pressure doubled and then tripled. Her eyes snapped open, but her bedroom was inky black. She couldn’t see a thing. Breathing became a struggle. Her physician-trained brain panicked. She writhed against an invisible mass lying on top of her. It pushed back.

A burnt odor with overtones of something dead and rotten invaded her nostrils. It smelled like the cadaver lab but without formalin. An insidious cold seeped into her bones. Whatever held her down was freezing her from the inside out. Her heart stuttered. Breath clogged in her throat, unable to move past her squashed larynx. How long could she live without oxygen before she sustained brain damage? A few minutes at best. Her mind shied away from what was happening. The thing in her bedroom wasn’t human. It couldn’t be; it wasn’t breathing. Shit. I’m going to die here.

Her body thrashed against her unseen assailant, but she couldn’t budge it more than an inch or so. No point wasting energy screaming. She lived so remotely, no one would hear her. She tried to raise her arms; they were pinned against her sides. A flickering white haze fractured her vision. People don’t die in dreams.

I’m not dreaming, another inner voice chimed in.

“No, you are not dreaming.” A guttural voice sounded deep in her mind. Accented, it reminded her of… Understanding slammed home and left her reeling. It wasn’t possible. Shivers cascaded down her body. Her blood turned to ice.

“Good,” the voice continued. “You remember me.”

“What?” she sputtered, struggling to get words out. “You can read my thoughts?”

“Of course.” A quiet chuckle. “You made me a promise, doctor. You had seven years. They are nearly expired. Consider yourself fortunate I was kind enough to remind you.”

“Y-you tracked me down?” Her teeth chattered uncontrollably.

The chuckle morphed into a laugh. “I have always known where to find you. Did you delude yourself you were invisible here in the United States? Blood for blood, doctor. You owe me.”

As quickly as it had come, the pressure on her body vanished. Tina shot to a sitting position and sucked air until her oxygen-starved body quit shrieking. She wanted to scream—to curl in a ball and howl—but she was afraid if she gave in to hysteria, she’d never get herself under control again.

Even though common sense told her the danger had passed, she couldn’t stop shaking. Once she thought her legs might support her, she tottered to the window, grasped the light-blocking drapes, and shoved them aside. Medical school and residency had destroyed her natural sleep-wake cycle. She’d installed the room-darkening shades in an attempt to normalize it, except it hadn’t worked. She still was awake until very late; most nights she struggled to get four hours of sleep.

She gazed out the window, frosted from cold. It must have frozen last night. The sky in the east had a pearlescent cast. Dawn. It would be a sunny autumn day in Leadville, Colorado. Too bad the sun wouldn’t percolate into her soul. Tina wrapped her arms around herself. She was so cold she wondered if she’d ever get warm again.

Think, she commanded herself. There’s got to be a way out of this.

Yeah, like what? Years had passed since she’d entered into what she’d always considered a pact with the devil. The further away she’d gotten from that nightmare in the Andes, the more certain she’d become she’d never have to keep her end of the bargain.

Tina walked slowly to her dresser. She tugged the ragged, sweat-soaked T-shirt that doubled as a nightshirt over her head and stood surveying her chilly bedroom. For once in her life she was unsure what to do. Gooseflesh rose, a visceral reminder of her nakedness. She pulled black sweatpants and a top out of a drawer and put them on, followed by half socks and her running shoes. She picked up her iPhone to consult its calendar and then dropped it back onto the top of the dresser. She knew what day it was: October 15th. In two months and ten days, her time would be up.

Adrenaline shot through her. Her stomach roiled. Bile burned the back of her throat. She strode down the hall and stopped in the kitchen long enough to pour water and beans into the coffee maker and set the timer. Tina let herself out the back door. Her jogging route was always the same: eight miles and two thousand feet of gain. It took a little less than ninety minutes. She did it every day she was home despite the weather. In winter it took longer because she used snowshoes.

Tina turned to glance at the buff-colored, turn-of-the-century, two-story farmhouse she called home. It had been in her family for ages. A few miles out of town, she’d always considered the location perfect because no one bothered her. Wind blew the last of the leaves off the aspen trees. She considered returning to fetch a hat, but didn’t want to go back inside. Her house wasn’t hers anymore. The thing—mountain spirit or shaman or whatever the fuck he was—had invaded her territory. It felt sullied. Unclean. I’m going to have to get over that.

Problem was she didn’t believe in the paranormal. She was a scientist, goddammit, trained to believe in what she could see and feel and touch, in what was illuminated under her microscope when she worked in an Emergency Room. Her experience nearly seven years before had been so surreal—she’d relegated it to high altitude hypoxia.

Tina ran hard. Sweat slicked her sides. Her breath came fast. She’d buried the memory of what happened in Bolivia. It came roaring back with a vengeance, almost as if it resented the hell out of the subterranean prison she’d confined it to at the very bottom of her psyche.

* * * *

Tina struggled against wind that wanted to flatten her, or worse, blow her off Illimani’s long summit ridgeline. She was by herself. Twenty-two hundred vertical feet separated her from her camp on the edge of the glacier. “At least I can still see,” she muttered. “And I got the summit.”

She glanced at her watch, illuminated in the beam of her headlamp. One in the morning. Normally, she would have waited until then to start climbing, but wind shrieking like a banshee had made it impossible to sleep. She’d set up her camp at eight p.m. and headed for the mountaintop without stopping to think too hard. She wanted Illimani’s summit. It was the second highest peak in Bolivia and a huge massif with five separate highpoints.

And now I’ve done it.

Careful, a different inner voice cautioned. Ninety percent of climbing accidents happen on the way down.

A vicious blast of wind buffeted her. Tina slammed one of her ice axes into the snow to anchor herself to the mountain. As if her inner voice had been prophetic, clouds descended, obliterating what had been a clear sky in a matter of minutes.

What the fuck? She peered through impenetrable muck. “Shit,” she spat. “I can’t see.” Surely the clouds were a momentary event. They’d pass by, especially in this wind. They had to. Minutes ticked by. Visibility eroded even further. She took a steadying breath and then another. No sat phone. No radio. No one even knew where she was. Yeah, I broke a bunch of really important rules.

This peak was supposed to be easy, one of her inner mavens whined.

Oh shut up.

“Got to pull myself together.” Tina spoke out loud to calm herself. She visualized where she’d been on the mile-long ridge. She’d passed the false summit so she had to be close to the lip that dropped off a fifty-degree cliff. Her heart thudded against her ribs. She panted from more than the twenty thousand foot altitude. She tried to swallow, but dry throat tissue grated against itself. Stooping, she gathered some snow in a glove, made a ball out of it, and placed it in her mouth.

Another blast of wind was so intense she planted her other axe. “Get going,” she instructed herself. “Now.”

Moving by feel, one painstaking step at a time, Tina worked out a rhythm. She probed the snow ahead with an axe. If it held, she moved down to it and stopped. To counteract the vertigo from navigating through thick fog, she counted steps. Her first guess was it wouldn’t take more than five hundred to reach the edge of the ridge. On three fifty-six, one of her axes punched through into open air. Tina threw her body backward, gasping. This was how climbers died. By getting cocky and making bad decisions.

She got to her feet; her legs shook. She shoved an axe into the snow and a chunk fell away. She moved a few degrees to the right; more snow flaked off. By the time she’d inscribed a forty-five degree arc, she knew she had to be at the end of the ridge. Tina fumbled at the hardware belt hanging from her waist and got an ice screw. She threaded it carefully into what felt like firm snow, clipped in a carabineer, and ran her rope through it. Next came a breaker bar attached to her harness so she could rappel down the steep part.

Her breath came fast. She moved more by feel than anything else. Her headlamp beam was weakening and she didn’t have fresh batteries. She tossed out a silent prayer to the god who took care of climbers, double-checked her rope and attachments, and turned to face the slope. Her ice axes dangled from her wrists; her crampon points bit into the snow. She backed down until she felt the slope steepen and then moved the hand that would control her descent out to the side. Her other one gripped the rope over her head to steady her descent.

The minute she put her full weight on her anchor, it ripped out of the snow. The rope, worthless now that it wasn’t attached to anything, hung through the breaker bar. An end whapped her in the face. Holy Christ. I’m falling…

She flailed her axes like a wild woman; one connected with something and held. Tina slammed in the other and her front points. She screamed. Wind ripped the sound away as soon as it left her throat. Fright balled her stomach into a burning knot. One of her crampon front points slipped.

Can’t stay put. Got to move down. No point in going up. Nothing solid to rap off of. Thoughts of falling to her death pounded through her head. To keep from going mad, she lectured herself.

“Move one thing at a time. Three solid points of attachment before I move anything. Test everything. Then test it again… Okay, let’s go.”

Finally, the angle of the slope eased. Her rope had been nothing but a pain in the ass, dangling from the breaker bar attached to her harness. She’d stabbed her front points through it time and time again. She let herself move a little faster. The edge of the glacier was the most welcome thing she’d ever found. She tugged the rope free and tried to coil it, but her hands shook so badly she couldn’t. Tina dropped the rope into the snow, sat on it, dropped her head into her hands, and cried. She was a long way from safety, but the sheer relief of being off the steep face was overwhelming.

The wind hadn’t let up at all. Though not as bad as it had been on the ridge, it was still gusting at forty or fifty miles an hour. She unbuckled her pack and forced herself to eat an energy bar, washed down with water from the bottle stashed in her parka to keep it from freezing. Her headlamp flickered. She shut it off.

Tina shivered. She was still a thousand feet above her camp and she had to cross a glacier riddled with crevasses. The transit would be child’s play on a sunny day; a night like this one, with near zero visibility, turned it into a deadly game of Russian roulette. If she’d brought a sleeping bag, she would have stayed put for what was left of the night.

She wasn’t even certain exactly where her camp was. She hadn’t thought to set wands to mark her route. She didn’t have a GPS with her. Tina struggled to her feet and buckled her pack into place. She’d made a series of neophyte climbing errors, beginning with assuming clear weather would last the next twenty-four hours. She’d badly underestimated Illimani. The mountain was laughing at her.

Tina thought about laughing back, but didn’t want to tempt fate. Besides, she didn’t feel much like laughing. She flicked her headlamp back on and checked her compass to make sure she wouldn’t descend the wrong side of the mountain. Back to counting steps, she contained her fear as best she could. The glacier wasn’t particularly steep, but…

A brutal chop of wind sent her sideways. She planted both axes; the snow beneath her gave way. Tina tumbled into blackness. Aw shit, it’s a crevasse, a crevasse, a crevasse, echoed in her mind. She crashed through two snow bridges. The third one held. She was afraid to breathe. Afraid to do anything to weaken her fragile hold on life. In the feeble beam of her headlamp, she glanced upward. Fifty feet. I fell fifty feet. Thank God nothing’s broken.

Snow bridges were always thicker at their ends. She moved ever so cautiously until she was right next to the smooth inner ice wall of her tomb. She slung an axe into the ice. It bounced off. She tried again. Same result. She kicked with her front points. After many attempts, she was sweating and panting. “Goddammit,” she shrieked. “Fuck.”

“Got to get hold of myself,” she muttered. “If I don’t, I’m as good as dead.”

Tina shut her eyes. If she couldn’t climb out with her tools, maybe she could pound in ice screws. They had threads. She wasn’t certain she had enough to make it all the way out, but she’d freeze to death if she didn’t keep moving. It was very cold in the crevasse. Colder than it had been out on the glacier.

It took a long time to twist the first ice screw in. The second one was easier. Using screws, carabineers, her rope, and jumars, she made it about twenty feet from the snow bridge when her headlamp died. “Shit.” She pounded impotently against the ice. “I can’t believe I was this stupid. Shit. Fuck. Damn it all to hell.”

I can curse all I want—I’m going to die here.

She hung limply in her harness. Her sweat-damp body shivered. The doctor part of her wondered how long it would take to die. Freezing to death was a lot like going to sleep. She wasn’t certain what time it was, but it couldn’t be much past four. Dawn was at least two hours away. Maybe she could hold on, but she didn’t think it likely.

A putrid smell filled her nostrils. It got even colder. “Human woman,” sounded deep in her mind in a strangely accented voice.

“Who said that?” Her neck twisted from side to side, but she couldn’t see a thing in the blackness.

“I offer you a chance to live.”

“How could you possibly do that?” Am I losing my mind? Hypoxia? Harness cutting off my wind?

“If I rescue you, you will return to me and live out your days with me in the Cordillera Real. You must give me your word.”

“Huh? What do you mean return? I’m already here.” Tina’s brain felt wrapped in cotton batting. None of this made sense. Maybe she was already dying and her mind was playing tricks on her.

“You will have seven years in your human world. Once it is over, you must return to me. Do you agree?”

What the hell? “Um, sure. If you can get me out of here, go for it.”

“Unlatch that thing holding you to the wall.”

Fear sluiced through her. Her hands tightened on the rope. “Not on your life.”

A macabre chuckle filled the icy hole under Illimani’s glacier. “No, doctor. It is not my life but yours.”

She started to ask how he knew she was a doctor when a high-pitched whistle bounced off the crevasse walls. The infernal screeching stabbed ice picks into her brain. Cold air closed around her. It smelled like a charnel pit, ripe with things dead long enough to rot. Her ice screw popped from the wall; she made a grab for the rope and closed her arms around it. Air currents jockeyed her upward and out onto the glacier.

Tina blinked. The thick cloud cover was gone. Between an almost full moon and a sky full of stars, she could see without her lamp. She started to coil the rope, but the same insistent air pushed her. “Okay, okay.” She held the mass of Perlon against her chest and staggered down the glacier. It was easy to avoid the crevasses now that she could see where they were.

Her mind rebelled at what just happened. Maybe she’d died in the crevasse or maybe she hadn’t fallen into one at all. Maybe she’d hit her head when she’d fallen off the ridge, had a seizure on the glacier, and this was a postictal state. She shook her head sharply, willing a return of rational thought.

“We are not done, doctor. Stop there.”

Tina tried to keep moving but her feet were mired in place. A glowing form took shape next to her. She stared up at it and gasped, surprised she had any adrenaline left to react. This isn’t possible. It can’t be happening. The thing was over seven feet tall; it shimmered so brightly, she couldn’t look directly at it.

An unseen force yanked one of her arms away from her body. The rope fell in a pile at her feet. Bright light descended; it cut through her jacket and the clothing beneath. She tried to twist her body away, but couldn’t. Blood welled and dripped onto the snow. Golden light enveloped her.

“What are you doing?” Terror skittered along her nerves; it made her shake uncontrollably.

“You made me a promise, doctor. I am sealing your word with a blood bond. Seven years. If you break your vow, I will kill you.”

Tina opened her mouth to protest, to tell the thing it hadn’t told her everything before she’d agreed, but the pulsating light vanished. She turned in a circle to make certain she was alone. Blood dripped from her arm, staining the snow crimson. Her tent shone pale yellow in the moonlight not a hundred yards away. She staggered to it, uncertain what had just happened to her.

I can’t think about this now. If I do, it will drive me mad. Inside her tent, she stripped off her jackets and long underwear. She flicked on a lighter and took a look at her arm. It needed stitches, but they’d have to wait. She was just too tired. As a stopgap, she doused her arm with Betadine, wrapped it with a pressure bandage, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

* * * *

Tina glanced around. It took a moment to orient herself. She was still about a mile-and-a-half from home. Colorado sunshine shone warmly on her, but she was chilled to her bones.

After leaving Bolivia, she’d returned to the rental house she shared with Craig Robson in Denver. He’d been guiding clients in Antarctica, so she had the house to herself. At first, she’d thought that was good, but the harder she tried to make sense out of what had happened to her on Illimani, the more tangled things got. She wondered if she were having a late schizophrenic break, or if she’d truly traded away her humanity in a pact with the devil.

Craig had blown through their front door one day in mid-January with a huge smile on his face and a ring in his pocket. Tina grimaced and forced herself to run faster. It was hard to think about the day Craig asked her to marry him. There’d been no way she could be his wife. She had no idea what she’d gotten herself into in Bolivia, no inkling of what the ramifications would be. The whole thing was too weird to even try to explain and she was frightened she’d put Craig at risk if she told him anything. Even without Bolivia, she’d had other reservations as well. She hadn’t been ready to marry anyone—not then, and not in the years since. The look on his face when she’d turned him down still haunted her.

She slammed into her house, blowing hard. Usually, she cooled down. Today she was too edgy, nerves jangling with tension. Maybe she should put in another few miles… Tina poured coffee into an oversized mug and slugged some back. It burned, but its bitterness tasted good. She savored it and waited for the blast of caffeine to hit.

Cup gripped in her hand, she forced herself into her study. No more running today. She had things to do. Reaching down, she booted up her computer. There was no getting around it. She had to go back to Bolivia. If she didn’t, she had no doubt the next supernatural visit would mean her death. Better to die on her feet in a direct confrontation than pinned to her mattress.

The Microsoft menu scrolled across the screen. She brought up the Internet and typed in the URL for Craig’s guiding service. If she got really lucky, he’d have a trip to Bolivia planned in the next couple of months. She wanted to see Craig one last time before she faced whatever had hauled her out of the crevasse and threatened her this morning in her bedroom. She’d signed on as team doctor for his expeditions over the last couple of years, but they’d never talked about anything personal. This time she’d gird her courage and apologize.

AnnGimpelAbout the Author: 

Ann Gimpel is a mountaineer at heart. Recently retired from a long career as a psychologist, she remembers many hours at her desk where her body may have been stuck inside four walls, but her soul was planning yet one more trip to the backcountry. Around the turn of the last century (that would be 2000, not 1900!), she managed to finagle moving to the Eastern Sierra, a mecca for those in love with the mountains.

It was during long backcountry treks that Ann’s writing evolved.

Unlike some who see the backcountry as an excuse to drag friends and relatives along, Ann prefers her solitude. Stories always ran around in her head on those journeys, sometimes as a hedge against abject terror when challenging conditions made her fear for her life, sometimes for company.

Eventually, she returned from a trip and sat down at the computer. Three months later, a five hundred page novel emerged. Oh, it wasn’t very good, but it was a beginning. And, she learned a lot between writing that novel and its sequel.

Around that time, a friend of hers suggested she try her hand at short stories. It didn’t take long before that first story found its way into print and they’ve been accepted pretty regularly since then. One ofAnn’s passions has always been ecology, so her tales often have a green twist.
In addition to writing, Ann enjoys wilderness photography. She lugs pounds of camera equipment in her backpack to distant locales every year. A standing joke is that over ten percent of her pack weight is camera gear which means someone else has to carry the food! That someone is her husband. They’ve shared a life together for a very long time. Children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out their family.
www.anngimpel.com
http://anngimpel.blogspot.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/anngimpel
http://www.facebook.com/anngimpel.author
@AnnGimpel (for Twitter)