Interview with Alan M. Clark

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1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. ClarkOkay, this is exciting, people! I am privileged to have as my guest this week, Alan M. Clark, author of the new historical thriller, The Door That Faced West. In this extensive interview, Alan discusses his work as both an artist and author, and provides some interesting background on his new novel. As a bonus, Alan shares some of his illustrations with us—two of which have never been seen publicly!

Hi, Alan. Welcome to the show. It’s great having you here.
A pleasure. Thank you for the invitation.

You are blessed to be both an amazing writer and artist. How long have you been writing and drawing, and which came first?
Thank you for the praise! The answer depends on what you mean, I suppose. For the art, painting and drawing—I’ve been aware of a desire to produce art since about age five, so over fifty years now, but I didn’t think about doing it professionally until my teens. I was lucky to have parents who never discouraged me from considering a career in art. Even so, I went to art college largely to put off for another four years what I thought would be a life in some sort of work I’d do to make money but for which I’d have no real feeling or pride.

I didn’t expect to have a reasonably good business sense that would see me into a life of creative pursuits, but that’s what I had and what happened. Again, I’m lucky. Here’s a link to one of several galleries of my artwork on my website: http://bit.ly/1rj7Hiu

Concerning writing, I started creating fiction in high school, mostly for fun, doing it with friends. Sounds like a gateway to some sort of addiction, doesn’t it? Well, perhaps it was. The collaborations were a lot of fun. We laughed a lot, reveled in weird imaginings, but, like the artwork, I didn’t really believe I had a future in it. Still, I kept at it because I loved it. As an adult, I’ve had several groups that met to share creative process. The members of the groups have been a variety of people with different creative pursuits; writers, graphics artists, painters, photographers, song writers, poets, comic book artists, etc. We shared unfinished work primarily, talking about the processes of our individual creative endeavors. We collaborated some. I was getting good responses for the writing I presented to the groups and started submitting short fiction.

In 1995, I made my first professional sale to a paperback anthology, More Phobias, edited by Martin Greenberg, Wendy Webb, Richard Gilliam, and Edward E. Kramer. Since then, I’ve been more deliberate about getting my writing to an audience and it’s grown. Now, I’ve had four collections and seven novels published. Here’s a link to information about most of my fiction: http://bit.ly/1rj8ksa

Being creative, I imagine ideas come to you in all sorts of ways. When something strikes you, do you typically see it first as an image, then a story? Or does it happen the other away around?
As you suggest, ideas come to me several ways, usually not a clear picture as an image or story. In two-dimensional visual art, I get a rough image that isn’t a composition. If the idea is good, if I like what I see in my mind’s eye, I still have to work at presenting it as part of a composition that includes the rectangle of a picture plane.

In storytelling, it’s the emotional environment that comes first. I develop characters that struggle against the circumstances of their lives, the people in their lives, even those they love, and the conflicting emotions that the characters, themselves, experience. I like working with characters that are emotionally conflicted because they are more like real human beings. They make mistakes they have to live with or struggle to amend. The decisions they make often cause them pain, create conflict with others, alter their core values and motivations, take them in surprising new directions, ultimately change who they are emotionally. The rest: the setting, the time period, the genre, is all just window dressing.

It constantly surprises me when people ask where my ideas come from. Over the years I’ve learned there’s no answer to that. So where do your ideas come from?
Experience, life, free association, the subconscious soup, from practicing the use of imagination, exercising that “muscle” by using it frequently. My blog is called the “Imagination Fully Dilated” Blog. The title comes from a series of anthologies I helped edit. The anthologies are of stories based on my artwork by writers from all over: Ramsey Campbell, Poppy Z, Brite, Jack Ketchum, F. Paul Wilson, and many others.

When I had to come up with a title for the series, I tried to give a sense of how I felt about the process of developing ideas. I thought of an eye, the mind’s eye, that can grab what we know, what we have in the way of experience, and recombine it in new ways to project possible futures, scenarios involving action and conversations, great vistas, curious mechanisms, alien worlds—but not just for fantasy, for practical function of necessity as well—hell, the whole of human invention.

So what prevents us from inventing what we want at a moment’s notice, at least within the imagination? Complacency, lack of urgency, laziness, fear of failure, fear of success and having to maintain that success? Okay, so those are some of the things that have gotten in my way. But imagine a mind’s eye that isn’t lazy, afraid, self-conscious and self-absorbed, one that dilates freely to allow in more experience, more ideas, more color, more light! The title appealed to me also because there’s something of birth in the idea of an organ dilating, opening, not just to let in, but to give forth, to allow to come into existence the products of our creativity.

So, I sound a little crazy, but all of this just to say that I think that if you exercise your imagination, just as with the muscles of your frame, it will be there for you when you need it. Perhaps your mind’s eye opens more freely with use. It seems that way to me.

Your new book, The Door That Faced West, is a work of historical fiction and a thriller, with a healthy dose of violence. What drew you to the Harpe Brothers?
I grew up in Tennessee and learned over time about the history of the State. It has a wild and wooly past. Interesting stuff. I’d read about the Harpes long ago and was fascinated by their story. They are some of the earliest American mass murderers. Perhaps they were serial killers. They were at least spree killers. Over the years their story has stuck with me, but particularly one aspect that most seem to overlook. With the three wives they shared between them, these men lived on the trail in the wilderness of very early Tennessee and Kentucky for months at a time.

It’s difficult to imagine today how foreboding that wilderness must have been and the myriad dangers that existed there. The Harpe brothers killed primarily to gain supplies since most of their victims did not have much money. For extended periods of time, that’s how the group of five survived. It must have been extremely rough living. Yet when the wives got separated from the men at one point, they traveled over one hundred miles to the agreed upon rendezvous. That seems extraordinary to me. What must these brutes have been providing the women that they’d be willing to do that, I wondered. One was the teenage daughter of a minister. How had a young woman, who presumably had some sort of spiritual upbringing, ended up with such dangerous men, been party to forty or more murders from which she benefitted materially, and decided they were worth sticking with despite great hardship?

What history tells us is that when finally the wives were separated from the men for good, they were tried and acquitted. One never remarried and lived out her life working on a plantation. The other two remarried, had children, and lived the rest of their lives in ways that were unremarkable. One of the latter two was the minister’s daughter. I wondered how she’d handled all that emotionally. That became the emotional arc of the novel. The story is told from her POV. The Harpes were extremely violent and while that’s fascinating, it’s not something we aren’t familiar with in serial killer drama. But her story set within the context of their deeds and the early American frontier—as I said, that seemed extraordinary to me.

Did you find it difficult to capture the mood and character of the period? I’m thinking specifically of the way people spoke, the idioms they used.
I like history and have a pretty good sense of when things came into existence in human experience, society and technology. I worked in a living history museum after college, a replica of the first settlement of Nashville called Fort Nashboro. I told of the history of Tennessee to tourist for several years and read a lot about the time period in the state. Tennessee had its first permanent settlements of those of European descent in the 1700s.

I have a sense of how people spoke in that time. In creating dialogue for the characters, I’ve made a compromise between giving a feel for the period and making the language accessible to the audience of today. If I’d really stuck with the sorts of language construction the Harpes and their wives might have used, I’d have tried the patience of many readers. My goal was to tell a good tale, not adhere so strictly to history that my readers might not relate to the characters. I think the flavor of the period I’ve provided helps put the audience there.

You grew up in Tennessee, a state with its own rich history. Do you feel a real connection to it’s past? If so, how does that affect your writing?
I do like Tennessee history, but perhaps no more so than that of other parts of the world. I’ve been writing about Victorian London quite a bit for my Jack the Ripper Victim series. My historical fiction novel about the life of Catherine Eddowes, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim is the first novel in the series. The second novel about the life of Elizabeth Stride should come out later this year. Victorian London is endlessly fascinating.

Can you tell me who some of your favorite writers and artists are?
Writers: Kurt Vonnegut, Joe Lansdale, William Faulkner, Simon Clark, Phillip Jose Farmer, Patrick Suskind, Bruno Schultz, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice B. Sheldon).

Visual artists: Max Ernst, Leonardo da Vinci, Rick Berry, Richard Powers, Johannes Vermeer, Roberto Matta, Robert Williams, Phil Hale, Gerald Brom.

Thank you, Alan. I wish you the greatest success with your book, and I look forward to chatting with you again.
Thanks. I enjoyed it.

Alan’s Illustrations

1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. Clark

Interior illustration for the novel, The Door That Faced West.

1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. Clark

Interior illustration for the upcoming novel, Say Anything But Your Prayers: The Life of A Ripper Victim.

1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. Clark

Interior illustration for the novel, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim.

About The Door That Faced West
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the two murderous Harpe brothers, loyal to one another but violently at odds, go on a year-long killing spree in the American frontier, dragging with them the three wives they share between them; women who form a triangle of dependency, loyalty, jealousy, hatred, betrayal, and love.

“It is not hyperbole to say that Alan M. Clark’s The Door That Faced West left me absolutely stunned. A thoughtfully haunting blend of historical fiction and thriller, this is one of Clark’s best works to date, across any medium. Simply amazing, and undoubtedly one of the best books you’ll read this year.”

—Brian Keene, bestselling author of The Rising and Ghoul

 1x1.trans Interview with Alan M. Clark

Paperback
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About the Author
Alan M. Clark obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. He is an artist, author, publisher and founder of The Bovine Smoke Society, Bovine Smoke West and The Creative Process Committee. He currently resides in Eugene, Oregon with wife, Melody.

You can find more information about Alan at www.alanmclark.com and on Facebook.

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Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

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Once read, never forgotten.

EXPERIENCE THE ULTIMATE BATTLE OF GOOD VERSUS EVIL. THE BATTLE FOR SOULS HAS BEGUN.

The Dracula Chronicles is a new and exciting series adding a fresh dimension to the Dracula legend, which combines the real historical Vlad Dracula with a new and different version of Dracula the vampire. The series has been released in two arcs, one that follows Dracula the man and the other following Dracula the vampire. It is written in a style that is both literary and cinematic, that places you there in the thick of the action always.

The books are historical novels of Gothic horror; religious corruption; political intrigue; tragedy; war; dark paranormal fantasy; and deep romance. The premise is built around Creation and the divide in Heaven that results from Lucifer’s jealousy of the creation of man. This leads to the First Great War of the Angels and Lucifer’s eventual expulsion from Heaven with all those who sided with him. The annihilation of the angels continues, but rather than destroy Lucifer, God agrees to a truce. By its terms, Lucifer can contest the soul of every living being as long as he does not interfere with their free will. Should he control more souls than God at any time, he can ascend again to Heaven and cast God and the angels out. He would then have a free hand to destroy all mankind.

Lucifer turns man against God with ease. God responds by sending his prophets one after another to bring man back to the path of righteousness. It seems to be merely delaying the inevitable and in one last effort to thwart Lucifer, God sends his son made man. In giving his life on the Cross, Jesus wipes away man’s sins. This leaves Lucifer back to where he was at the beginning and means he has to start again. The Catholic Church is born on that fateful day in Jerusalem as Christ’s church on the earth. Lucifer then believes if he can destroy this great icon of God, he can turn man against God once more. He searches for over a millennium for the one who can lead his assault on God. The Crusades give him renewed hope, and he is sure the conflict between Christian and Moslem will provide the one he seeks. When this does not materialise, he turns his attention to the Balkan region where this conflict is renewed with Ottoman expansion into eastern Europe. He finally identifies the second son of Vlad Dracul as the one he can manipulate into achieving his ends. God has prepared for this event, and in the very moment that Vlad Dracula draws his first breath, so does another child sired by Dracul, though born to a gypsy woman. This child, Andrei, is blessed by the angels and bestowed with great powers as a balance to the evil about to be unleashed upon the world.

THE VLAD DRACULA ARC
The Vlad Dracula arc … Books #1 to #5. Set in the 15th Century Balkans, this arc brings to life in its entirety the world in which the real historical Vlad Dracula lived. It follows his loves; his triumphs; his many great tragedies; the betrayals he endures; and his great struggle to survive his many perils and secure the autonomy of his sovereign nation, Wallachia, which is sandwiched between the mighty Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The books introduce you to all the great players of the period, their political machinations, and their great conflicts set within the battle between Christianity and Islam. They follow Lucifer and his schemes to manipulate the young Vlad Dracula into seeing through his great plan. Replete with references that are Biblical and drawn from the writings of the Kabbalah, The Dracula Chronicles also introduce a new vision of Hell and take you on a journey you will never forget.

THE BOUND BY BLOOD ARC
The Bound By Blood arc … Books #6 to #10. This arc begins with Dracula’s last great battle at Snagov in 1476. Despite winning yet another great victory, his enemies mortally wound him with arrows. He orders his men to take him to the chapel at the nearby monastery so he can die on holy ground. To his great chagrin, it is Lucifer who comes to claim his soul. The Dark One speaks of his great vision, and of how he has chosen Dracula as his instrument to bring down the Catholic Church. He bites into Dracula’s neck and then gives him his own blood to drink. In doing so, he creates a monster, superhuman and immortal, who can live through the ages and help him win the battle for souls.

Into the 16th Century, wherever the Catholic Church is harmed or loses its influence, Dracula is there behind the scenes to propagate it all. He involves himself with Machiavelli; Martin Luther; in the Italian wars between France and Spain; the Borgias; Henry VIII and the Tudor dynasty; and many more.

At the same time his brother, Andrei, takes up the fight against him and arms the Church with the knowledge of how to counter him. In resurrecting Dracula’s legitimate brother, Radu, from the dead so as to exact retribution against him, Dracula and Lucifer have unleashed a powerful enemy who has joined the battle against them.

PREQUEL—THE LAMB OF GOD

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

This is a prequel to For Whom The Bell Tolls and the entire The Dracula Chronicles series. It offers a taste of what is to come, giving the background of the concept, the Crucifixion, and the night of the births of Vlad and Andrei.

If you subscribe to my blog, link below, I will send you a free download of this prequel. You can also hear an audio version, narrated by myself, on my website and on my YouTube channel.

BOOK #1—FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

“A war rages on around us every day. The struggle to save all mankind. The ultimate evil.”

All is well in Heaven until God creates man. Lucifer’s jealousy leads to the First Great War of the Angels. Hundreds of thousands of years on, the feud simmers beneath the surface. It plots the course of history as we know it today. Both sides manipulate the major players through the centuries to seek an advantage over the other.

The battle for souls has raged since the truce that followed the First Great War. God has struck the ultimate blow and sacrifice to gain the advantage, and defeat Lucifer. As Lucifer stands at the foot of the Cross that drains the last ounce of life from Christ and eradicates man’s sins, he realises that his work must begin anew.

In time, he comes to understand that his only chance to win this battle will be to destroy the institution of the Catholic Church to turn man against God. He searches for more than a millennium for the candidate to see his plan through to an end, and finally discovers the one that can cast that final blow.

On a cold night in December, 1431 in Sighisoara, an old gypsy woman delivers a prophecy to the great Vlad Dracul. She tells him he is about to sire two sons, one an angel and the other a devil.

He returns to his fortress just as his wife bears him a son, whom he names Vlad. In the very same moment across the country on the border between Transylvania and Hungary, a gypsy girl gives birth to another son, Andrei. The die is cast. The twin souls are born. The young Vlad Dracula becomes the instrument of the forces of Darkness. To balance this, the baby Andrei is blessed by the angels and bestowed with awesome powers.

This is their story.

AMAZON REVIEWS—FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
“I never thought a man could be capable of writing with such sensitivity and emotion.”

“Beautifully written with great story lines, the author does not hold back in his descriptions of many brutal acts of violence (save for a very long and tastefully done sex scene).”

“The relationships between father and son, the son and his captors and the individual characterisations are way beyond what a fantasy/paranormal book might offer. The writing is of literary class.”

“FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS differs from Shane K.P. O’Neill’s BOUND BY BLOOD sagas in that it takes place years prior to Dracula’s vampiric existence, but this in no way diminishes the power and intensity of its read. Events unfold with the depth of a historical epic.”

BOOK #2—THE PATH TO DECAY (Release date March 20, 2014)

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

“The path we walk, is the path to decay. The only way to live, is to die.”

The great Vlad Dracul is dead, fallen in battle, and his throne gone. His son, the young Vlad Dracula, is consumed with grief and a need for revenge. All alone in the world, he keeps his promise and returns to Anatolia. There, he takes a commission in the Ottoman army. On the fields outside Kosovo Polje in Serbia, he is handed his first opportunity to strike back against the men who killed his father.

He has grown into the ultimate fighting machine, and is feared by one and all. This path to decay, as described by his father, is the one he chooses to follow. Lucifer guides and watches over Dracula, but also deepens his hold over him. As time passes, though, his enemies build in every quarter, and they strive to bring him down.

With nowhere left to turn, how will Dracula avenge his family? How can he hope to win back his throne? As he faces one tragedy after another, these events mould him into the man who will be spoken of for centuries to come. A man who lets nothing stand in his way in his pursuit for revenge, and the throne that was his father’s.

 

PREQUEL—BIRTH OF THE MONSTER

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

This is the prequel to Bound By Blood, and the vampire arc. It takes you to Dracula’s last triumph on the battlefield, and his last moments as a mortal man. While he lies dying in the chapel of the monastery at Snagov, Lucifer comes to claim his soul. The Dark One speaks of his vision in destroying the Catholic Church in his quest to win the battle for souls, and creates Dracula the vampire.

BOOK #6—BOUND BY BLOOD

1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula Chronicles

A new edition of this and the next book is currently with my copy editors, and will be released and re-launched with new covers in the summer.

“A war rages on around us every day. The struggle to save all mankind. The ultimate evil.”

As his moment of death looms Dracula suffers the ultimate betrayal. The champion of the Catholic faith in Eastern Europe realises it is Lucifer who is coming to claim him. However, Lucifer does not want his soul.

Instead he bites into Dracula’s neck and then offers his own blood to drink. Dracula suffers his mortal death, but he re-awakens. Immortalised with Lucifer’s blood coursing through his veins, the two are bound by blood for eternity. Lucifer has groomed him for this day and lays out the task before him.

Dracula is to destroy the institution of that which he has championed for so long. By bringing down the Catholic Church he can undo the Crucifixion and turn man against God once more. If he succeeds then Lucifer will ascend again to Heaven and signal the end for all mankind.

AMAZON REVIEWS—BOUND BY BLOOD
“This story is a powerful and sweeping epic. The language, the settings, the characters … they all exude Classic.”

“If you are looking for a vampire novel that is rich in detail, with historical facts, legends and folklore weaved in and splashes of gore and a bit of romance, this is for you.”

“This book will stimulate your imagination as it entertains you. Bound By Blood is among the best vampire novels I have read.”

About the Author
1x1.trans Shane KP O’Neill—The Dracula ChroniclesShane KP O’Neill developed a fascination with Dracula from an early age. Like many others he was enthralled by Christopher Lee’s portrayal of him on the big screen. It was in his late teens that he discovered Dracula the man and the love affair began from there. An avid lover of history, he studied the period in which the real historical Vlad Dracula lived, 15th Century Balkan, for many years. It followed from there then that with his love of writing he would always choose Dracula as his subject. He built a concept and premise where he could accommodate both Dracula the vampire and Dracula the man.

Away from writing, the author has a wide range of interests. He reads a lot of books from a wide variety of authors, though his main interest lies in the horror genre. His love of books is matched only by his love of the countryside and of course, his family. As an added note, he has lived and travelled all over the world. He has a love for all things historical, with a particular fascination for medieval Europe. Anywhere he travels, he likes to search out locations with an historical interest and will always hunt for the ruins of an old castle before heading to the beach.

You can find Shane at www.draculachronicles.co.uk, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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So You’re An Author

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By Khalid Muhammad

1x1.trans So You’re An AuthorI am very pleased to welcome Khalid Muhammad, author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office. In this occasional series, Khalid discusses what it means to be an indie author, responsibilities you didn’t even know you had, and tips on creating a powerful marketing presence. In this first article, Khalid covers the basics of the author platform.

So you’ve written your masterpiece – 90,000 plus words, formatted and cover designed, and you’re just getting ready to publish it to the world’s hungry eyes … when all of the sudden fear grasps you and you start to wonder, How will people know? and What if they don’t buy? Yes, we’ve all been there, whether traditional or self-published—that moment that makes us turn ghost white wondering how people are going to find out about our book. That moment when we realize that no matter what the publisher does to promote it, we will have to brand ourselves and market our books. Oh, the horror!

About a decade ago, before the social media and the Internet became like food for everyone, marketing a book would mean buying advertising space, getting on popular radio shows and begging local and regional newspapers for reviews of your book. That all changed with the digital generation, where with the right tools, you can spend very little and get huge results. That’s if you know how to use the right tools.

This new series is designed to help authors of all shapes and experience understand how to select and use the right tools to build their brand and market their books to the largest possible audience.

The Author Platform
Let’s start with the basics. There are things that you must have as an author in today’s digital world, if you even hope to achieve a modicum of success. Those things are:

  • An author website
  • A Facebook page for either your book or yourself as an author
  • A Twitter account
  • A Goodreads author account

I know, not rocket science right? Actually, it is. The four things above are essential to any author, not having any weakens your efforts and limits the access that potential readers have to your work. This is what I call the proverbial “author platform.” Each piece of the platform caters to specific groups of readers and all work closely together to deliver what we call in the marketing world a strong user experience, but I’ll go into that later.

Remember, as an author, you need to create an inviting place for potential readers to come and get to know you. You also have to take into account that the attention span of some readers has slimmed down to 30 seconds. Oh yeah, and some will want to read more about your writing before they buy your book since you’re not a recognized name. And there are hundreds of other things you must take into account about the characteristics of your potential audience than you realize that you can’t do on any single platform alone, which is why there are four parts.

The one thing that you need to focus the most on is your author website. This is the central nervous system of your entire marketing efforts. If done wrong, you will not achieve the success that you could potentially have. If done right, you will have a fantastic platform that will feed all of your other tools with content that engages and encourages readers to want to buy your book.

We will be covering each of these points in detail over the course of this series. My objective is to help you build the pieces that will showcase your work and drive traffic to sell your book. If you have questions, please do reach out to me in the comments here or via any of my social media pages, which are listed below.

1x1.trans So You’re An Author

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About the Author
When people talk about Khalid Muhammad, they talk about an entrepreneur who has helped others build their dreams and businesses. They talk about a teacher, who is dedicated to his students, both inside and outside the classroom, and they return the dedication tenfold. Now, they talk about the author, who has written a fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller about Pakistan, the politics, the Army and terrorism.

Born in Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley, educated and raised in the United States, Khalid returned to Pakistan almost 17 years ago and fell in love with his country.

You can find more information about Khalid and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

1x1.trans So You’re An Author

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2014 ABNA—I Made The Semifinals!

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Photo Courtesy of Elyse Patten via Creative Commons
1x1.trans 2014 ABNA—I Made The Semifinals!Yeah, that’s right—I’m doing the happy dance. I learned this morning that my zombie novel, Tell Me When I’m Dead, was selected as a semifinalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror category! Next up, April 14th, which is when they choose the quarterfinalists. Wish me luck, bubbe.

By the way, you can go here to see a complete list of the semifinalists. Best of luck to all the other writers. Looks like I am in very good company.

1x1.trans 2014 ABNA—I Made The Semifinals!

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Let There Be Blood

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By Tina Traverse

1x1.trans Let There Be BloodAaron Brooks is the star of the highly successful TV show, ‘Let There Be Blood.’ He attends glamourous parties, wears the finest clothes, and can have any woman he wants. Aaron Brooks has the world at his fingertips.

Every night, he is tormented by the same reoccurring nightmare. Every day he tries to forget by immersing himself into his work and celebrity obligations.

When he is reunited with his estranged best friend, his life settles into comfortable normalcy. Aaron’s torture subsides. Then his cast mates start being murdered around him. The nightmares aren’t over. They’re just beginning.

Let There Be Blood was born from an idea on how I was going to attract followers to my blog, Writers on the Wharf, which promotes not only my work, but my fellow authors. I decided to promote my blog by hosting a blog series, where I would post a story I would write, and post one chapter at a time once a week for a month. Kinda like a TV miniseries, except with words.

I normally write erotic thriller suspense and figured this would be a good theme for my series. The plot was inspired through my friendship with an actress who is friends with a well-known actor. In between taking acting classes, working and family life, she hosts a fan page for her friend where she spotlights his professional life. This sparked an idea. What would happen to a person if the price of fame became too much?

I wanted to write a story that went beyond the all too common celebrity break downs were they go wild with drugs and alcohol and reckless behaviour as their methods of coping with the pressures of sudden celebrity. I wanted to explore an extreme reaction to the pressure. Let There Be Blood was born.

The story centres on an actor of an insanely famous YA television show who has survived a traumatic event and suffers from nightmares. He has to push past the trauma in order to fulfil his celebrity obligations. The actor finds peace when he is reunited with his estranged best friend and soon the nightmares die away, but not for long. He discovers that his demons are not going to be so easily abandoned.

What happens to my main character is dramatic and extreme because I wanted to show that a celebrity’s life is not all glamour and is never easy. The series met with positive feedback and I decided to turn it into a novel to reach a wider audience.

About Let There Be Blood
Here is an excerpt:

Aaron stepped out the shower feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. He slipped underneath the sheets and before long he fell into a deep sleep.

The sweet smell of fresh-baked cookies beckoned him to the kitchen. The promise of warm gooey chocolate and cold milk made it hard to resist. He glided barefoot towards the kitchen, where his mother would have set a plate filled with cookies and a glass of milk on the counter for his afterschool snack. He loved to sit and talk to her as she diced up the vegetables for supper. This was his favorite time of day; just him and his mom alone, talking.

He called her name as he neared the kitchen, but was met with silence. He called again and again, with no answer. Frantic, he searched the house with no luck. He wandered back into the kitchen and slipped on something warm and wet, catching himself on the counter. Looking down, he saw a large pool of blood and his mother and father lying in each other’s arms, a bullet hole in their foreheads.

Hysterically screaming, he fell onto his parents’ bodies and wrapped himself in their lifeless embrace. Closing his eyes to stave off the burning tears, he heard a faraway voice calling to him.

“Aaron, please help! Help me, Aaron, I need you!” Looking up Aaron saw his best friend standing naked before him, her hands tied behind her back and blood pouring from between her legs.

Aaron sat up in bed, covered in sweat, with Martina still begging for help echoing in his ears. Thirteen years, and his mother and father’s senseless deaths still haunted him; two years after the living nightmare, Aaron could not erase his wife’s voice from his mind. It was a vicious, endless torment that served as punishment for the sin of his neglect.

1x1.trans Let There Be Blood

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About the Author
Tina Traverse fell in love with writing at the age of eight when she wrote her version of the bible story, “The Good Samaritan,” for a homework assignment. This love grew into a passionate affair and has been ongoing for thirty years; and there are no signs of it waning. Though, she admits, when she was pregnant with her son Christian, the affair cooled.

Tina’s desire to write came calling once again when she needed to find a way to cope with heartbreaking news. Christian was diagnosed with autism in 2010. Her method of coping was to write a story about his journey called “Forever, Christian.”

Tina likes to joke that a girl can only write about real life for so long without jumping back into the world of make believe. She loves to venture into the world of the supernatural; vampires and witches are her favourite! Tina enjoys all sorts of vampires but admits that she is fascinated with the modern romantic vampire (think Twilight and The Vampire Diaries). She is currently working on a vampire series based on her first published book, Destiny of the Vampire, and has other projects in the works.

When Tina is not at the computer creating her exciting, magical worlds, she is kept on her toes by her two sons, Christian and Brandon. Sometimes the author manages to curl up in her favourite chair with a good book.

You can find Tina at writersonthewharf.wordpress.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Cocoa Island

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By James Amoateng

1x1.trans Cocoa IslandCocoa Island is an action thriller set in a fictional African nation that has just gained independence.

Paul Tetteh is a young university professor who is also a secret agent. One of his colleagues, Dr. Adam Smith, is the leader of a secessionist movement that eventually boils over into an armed insurgency. In order to complete his plan for an armed takeover of the government, Smith has devised an unstoppable chitin tank that will be key to his victory. However to isolate chitin in a manner that will enable him to weaponize it, he needs the assistance of Professor Benjamin, an older biochemist who is another of his and Paul Tetteh’s colleagues at the university.

The situation becomes urgent when Smith kidnaps Paul Tetteh along with Professor Benjamin. Now Tetteh must free himself and stop Smith, who takes counsel from a strange veiled priest who also serves as a government cabinet minister. It all comes to an explosive crescendo on an abandoned patch of land in the Atlantic—Cocoa Island.

One day, years ago, whilst in college, my brothers and I were discussing the 2nd world war in the house. My paternal grandmother who had come to visit us, was sitting down quietly, listening intently. Then she suddenly budged in.

“Shitler koo no?” she asked.

Meaning, “is it about Hitler’s war?” Unfortunately my grandma could not pronounce the name Hitler properly.

We said yes, and she joined in the conversation. We were suddenly taken aback by the knowledge and insight she had about that war. She said, at that time she had given birth to my dad and his younger brother and my dad had just started schooling. She used to bring bananas and kente cloth from the village to sell to the white people.

She then proceeded to give a long narrative about the British arresting Germanic speaking people suspected to be aligned to Hitler and putting them on display in cages. This went on throughout the war and long after. The talk then among the locals was that, some Nazi war criminals had actually come to live in the Gold Coast and the British were always on the look-out.

This is the idea which later on I decided to use in this story. Indeed whilst researching into the subject, I came across Hannah Reitsch, Hitler’s private pilot, who settled in Ghana after independence. The first president Dr. Nkrumah, tasked her to set up the first aviation school in Ghana. A lot of Ghana’s earlier pilots were trained by her.

The next point I want to discuss is the conflict situations that happen across the African continent. They all seem to have certain common factors. Firstly, there are some politicians and academics who give some ideological and philosophical meaning to them—be it ethnocentrism, or some social sentiments about things going wrong. Some of these people may be within the opposition but, sometimes surprisingly, they are within the highest echelons of government, plotting with the opposition.

The second factor is about resources to propagate the conflict. They usually resort to exploiting local resources, either mineral wealth, or agricultural resources like cocoa, coffee, timber and so on.

The third condition is external. Usually, a neighboring country comes in to either, actively or passively support the opposition. Sometimes these neighbors do so not for any particular gains, apart from supporting their brothers across the border, who may be of the same ethnicity. You just have to look at the artificial borders created by the colonial authorities, where cousins were divided, part under one colonial authority and the other under another. Sometimes it is simply because the neighboring country simply does not have the capacity to patrol her borders effectively. Of course some neighbors would do so for profit. Then there are other external forces from further afield like Europe and America, who may get involved for ideological reasons or for profit.

When all these factors come together, one needs a spark, some tinder to light the fire. At times, this comes in the form of something as innocuous as two people from different ethnic groups fighting over a fowl, or some land dispute, or some difficult economic situation, and there is total mayhem.

I have tried to package all these into the novel. The idea of a biomaterial tank is not far-fetched. A number of scientists believe that is the way to go in future, when all our mineral resources are depleted. Already biofuels are in use.

They were in a small stuffy room in the block Dr. Darko had shown as the chemistry laboratory. Adam Smith was seated at his desk on which lay many books of organic chemistry. Dr. Tetteh had been summoned the next morning by Dr. Darko to see the boss of the establishment. Paul Tetteh, very anxious, had dressed hurriedly and followed Darko. They had entered the building and gone along a corridor at the end of which was a room. Dr. Darko had knocked in a particular rhythmic fashion which Paul Tetteh knew was a password. The door had been opened by a tall mulatto.

So great was Paul Tetteh’s surprise at seeing this tall mulatto with the narrow face, an aquiline nose and wearing those brown rimmed spectacles, that stood at the entrance of the room for well over two minutes with a gaping mouth. Adam Smith and Darko stood smiling at him. Then Smith broke the silence.

“I see you are very surprised to see me here, Paul.”

“Good God, Adam. Why shouldn’t I be? This is the last place I dreamed of seeing you,” Paul responded.

“I see. Maybe you think I am out of place in this,” Adam continued.

“Well, I don’t know what to think. I did not know that you had anything to do with this establishment,” Paul said.

“I see,” again Smith smiled. “I am sure after my explanations you will know my part.

“And are you the boss here?”

“Well, something like that,” Smith answered.

“The voice I heard at the airstrip. You were the one,” Paul charged.

Smith just stood there and smiled.

At this point Darko left the two of them. Since he arrived here, it had been two days of constant dreaming for Paul Tetteh. Dreaming realities was what he termed it. The events looked like a dream yet they were true; his kidnap, the firing squad, and hacking of human meat to feed the animals. That was still on his mind when he went to sleep and he had a nightmare in the night. Now the latest was the discovery that his closest colleague, Adam Smith, was leader of all these people. Up till now, he had not heard anything about Professor Benjamin whom he had come to seek. Was he perhaps wrong after all?

1x1.trans Cocoa Island

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About the Author
James Amoateng currently lives in Kumasi, Ghana. A Dental Surgeon and lecturer by trade, James’ hobbies include reading and playing soccer on Sunday mornings. James has been writing for about 35 years and has an anthology of poems, Lamentations from Sikaman, to his name.

You can find James at sbpra.com/jamesamoateng, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Hinting at an Age Long Gone

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By Ian Hutson

1x1.trans Hinting at an Age Long GoneI was incarcerated in a dozen very different schools as a child, and one of them was run by hippies. We attended the classes we felt like attending, generally did whatever we pleased and were encouraged to loosen our orange and purple Paisley pattern bandanas and expand our own minds. Ye gods, it was awful. Forget spelling they said, forget grammar and punctuation, just get those precious ideas and stories down in green crayon on recycled hand-laid ninety-percent hemp paper.

It didn’t seem to matter that thereafter no-one could decipher a word of it. I once dipped the school Tarantula into an inkwell and then set him free in the stationery cupboard. By the time the caretaker had recaptured him Mr. Creepy-Crawley had garnered two gold merit stars and a favourable mention in the school’s creative-writing hall of fame.

Language is a code and codes, like recipes for soufflé, have structure and format for a reason. The reason that they have structure and format is so that someone who has never met you or been in the same elementary spliff-rolling class on the rubber mats in the library building can understand what it is that you were trying to say.

The word “bring” is not the same as the word “take,” “couple” is not a rational number and quite frankly, without a properly formed phrase or adverb you might as well just Eat Fresh from a tin or Drive Safe in Ralph Nader’s Chevrolet Corvair.

It pains me to say it, and I do love my sitar and my quilted evening “smoking” kaftan, but the hippies were entirely wrong in these matters.

A commercial editor recently told me that his first action on any manuscript is to remove any and all italics from the text. When I asked what he used instead to change the inflection of the little voice in the readers’ heads, his eyes remained lifeless and his lips remained silent. He simply didn’t understand the question.

Had I not remembered an urgent need to go home and shampoo my parakeet I might have pressed him on other items of apparently non-essential punctuation and grammar. Question marks perhaps. or capital letters indicating the beginning of a sentence. Perhaps this “professional” editor also held prejudices against full stops and commas and paragraphs in particular parakeets’ bottoms require careful use of a proprietary medicated conditioner so one should always wear rubber gloves to avoid undue avian familiarity.

Statistical analysis might indicate that the spaces used between words constitute a veryinefficientuseofpreciousasciicodeandinternetbandwith, but I’d rather we retained that luxury.

What, I hear you ask wearily, has prompted this tirade? Nothing in particular. I’ve always been a boring old stickler for correct as possible language, make it as can we. I border on the 0CD (ouch, did someone just substitute a zero for a letter “O” there cozzit duzzunt mattah?). As rants go it’s very probably linked to just how comfortable I feel in my current work-in-progress, an anthology by the name of The Cat Wore Electric Goggles.

See? Even we duddy-fuddies sometimes slavishly follow new-fangled modern trends by putting capital letters where they really shouldn’t be.

This anthology, due out in springtime 2014, is a collection of science-fiction stories with a dated, nineteen-fifties flavour to them. All references to “nuclear” become “atomic” and “space ships” become “rockets,” and the construction itself includes sentences much, much longer than a tweet. The paragraphs run to more than a couple of lines and the plots hail from an age predating Hollywooden’s unhealthy preoccupation with prepo$terou$ LPG-fuelled explo$ion$, a blazing gun in every hand and an unspecified terrorist threat to the unquestioned establishment status quo around every box office corner. The individual titles in the anthology range from “The Maharaja of Mars” to “The Curse of The Mandarin,” and that should give you some inkling as to the contents. My goodness me, do I ever feel at home in this anthology, and I wasn’t even a twinkle in my Father’s Far-Eastern Cold-War diary during the first nine years of the nineteen-fifties, let alone born. Incidentally, it was a difficult birth because I refused to leave my typewriter behind or go easy on the carriage-returns during labour.

Is there a point to this blathering, I hear you cry as you reach for your computing mouse. Well the first point is to ask you to insert your own question mark into the previous sentence, should you think it needs one. There are plenty of spare question marks lying around, some folk sprinkle them everywhere? The main thrust, however, is as I said earlier—that the hippies were wrong. All of the characters in my anthology would have known so at a glance. The chaps and memsahibas adventuring within these stories may have possessed the imagination of a tapeworm, but they could tell you so on paper without forcing you into the clutches of Google Translate, Google Best Guess or Google Beats Me, and they had measurable attention spans.

Language isn’t the enemy and imagination is in no way constrained by it. There is, as yet, no charge for or tax upon the use of words or punctuation so why not go wild? Stroll around the museum of English (be that original English, US English or Global English), pick a few priceless words from the dusty displays and throw them into your work.

Be a rotter, be a bounder, be a cad. Be brave, be bold, be uggered.

Sharpen your chisels once in a while.

Be a writer, not a sound-biter.

Oh dear—those all read like sound-bites. What I mean to say is; you’re not in a maths class, you don’t always have to pare your language down to the lowest common denominator. Love the tools of your trade, relish diversity and carve the occasional Hollywooden script editor-annoying flourish. Language is a living, evolving beast—but there’s really no need to kill it stone dead and bury the remains before you move on to the next generational fad.

End of rant.

Chin-chin.

P.S. While I do the best that I can, I offer no guarantees or apologies in re my own grammar and punctuation and, accordingly, I hereby offer my throat to the wolves.

1x1.trans Hinting at an Age Long Gone

About the Author
Ian Hutson was born in England and has lived in peculiar places as diverse as Hong Kong and The Outer Hebrides in Scotland. He stands in awe of folk who write heavy, complicated plots since all of his writing is intended, mostly, for giggles. His favorite hats are the “smoking” cap, the tweed cap and the pith helmet, but he only wears one at a time.

Ian was thrown out of the British Civil Service, thrown out of several multinational corporations, and now works as an Edwardian photographer by day and a scribbler by night. His latest anthology, The Cat Wore Electric Goggles, is due to be published in the spring.

You can find Ian at dieselelectricelephant.wordpress.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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The Iron Writer Challenge

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By B.Y. Rogers

1x1.trans The Iron Writer ChallengeThe Iron Writer Challenge was created in February 2013 as a way to have fun while improving one’s writing skills. The concept is simple yet can be confounding. Every Thursday four authors are invited to compete in a writing challenge. Each author writes a five hundred word story utilizing four elements. The elements are not announced until the challenge begins. Their stories are due four days later. The following Thursday, the same day the next challenge is posted, the stories for the previous challenge are posted on the website and available for voting. Voting remains open for one week.

The winners of each challenge are invited to compete in a quarterly tournament; Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. There are sixteen writers per tournaments, comprising the challenge winners and second place finishers to round out the field.

The sixteen writers are ranked and placed into four brackets. The challenge rules apply: five hundred words, four elements, four-day deadline.

The winners of the four brackets then compete in a final round, where one champion is declared.

Every May, the quarterly winners are invited to compete in an annual tournament where a champion is crowned.

Additionally, The Iron Writer offers two other non-competitive ‘challenges’. The Weekend Quickie is meant to be a practice challenge. Every Saturday a Weekend Quickie is posted, comprising of an image prompt, an object and an emotion. Submissions are posted in the comment section. The Iron Writer Rely is a collaborative effort, where a short story is written by several authors, with a single theme.

Other programs are in the works, particularly an Apprentice program for high school and college age writers.

The objective is this. When an author writes a scene for their novel, every word in every sentence, in every paragraph, in every scene, in every chapter is important. As Faulkner said, we must be willing to kill the little babies. When you have to write a five hundred word story, utilizing four elements, every word must be carefully chosen. Taking an Iron Writer challenge focuses on achieving and making concise writing a habit. Your writing will get better, but only if you are serious.

A Feedback area is available on the website. If a writer desires and craves feedback, take the challenge (weekly or the weekend quickie) and add it to the comments in that section. But expect harsh, honest, objective criticism.

The Iron Writer is not for the faint hearted. We take writing seriously.

You can find B.Y. Rogers on Twitter, and you can learn more about the Iron Writers Challenge on his website at theironwriter.com.

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Coins in the Fountain

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By Judith Works

1x1.trans Coins in the FountainOne evening after I finished the last of the Italian expat stories stacked up on my bedside table I said to myself: “No one has had my experiences. They all write about vineyards and old farmhouses. I lived in Rome.” So the next morning after I poured a second cup of coffee I sat down in front of my laptop. The screen was blank and so was my mind until I thought back to that first day in our Roman apartment when I could hear my husband screaming “Stop that!” I had rushed into an empty room to see him hanging out the window yelling at a group of nuns who were dumping garbage behind our apartment. Well… yes, it seemed that there was a story to tell. No rural idyll, but the story of life in Rome and a job working for the United Nations. A story with plenty of weird adventures (like falling in the subway and getting arrested by the carabinieri) and wonderful times eating, drinking and laughing with new friends. A story of traveling around Italy and even travel to some of the places the UN works to provide humanitarian assistance. A story of running away in middle age to join the circus (the Circus Maximus in Rome, that is).

As a lawyer I spent my career writing in dull passive legalese. To tell a story I had to change my thought process entirely – become a story-teller instead of an arguer trying to prove some arcane point. That was a challenge. Another challenge was to shape the story. My husband and I had two stays in Rome, the first for four years and the second for over six. Should I deal with one or throw them both in; did my husband mind having stories told about him; how should I depict some of our more exotic friends and acquaintances? Should I talk about the difficult times or only write about the best? Should I begin at the beginning or at the end and look backward?

It took well over a year to get the stories down and more time to get rid of the ones that were uninteresting. Then I had to overcome the trepidation attendant with showing the work to anyone. So I started with my husband. As he read along he would say, “No, that’s not the way it was – it happened like…” Discussion followed. Who was right? Each problem was settled until I showed it to my daughter who knows Rome well. She would say, “But you forgot…” More revisions!

Now it was time for a critique group. Every other Monday we went at it. “I don’t understand this?” “What do you mean by that?” Or, best, “Yes, that’s exactly the Rome I saw.”

Finally I had a completed manuscript. It told the story of an important period in my life and marked the exciting finale of my working career – a summing up one might say. I had clarified some events and contemplated the meaning of others to reflect on the meaning of it all.

Being an unknown author, I decided to take a chance and just put the book on Amazon for e-readers, a decision I have not regretted. Readers and travelers love Italy for good reason. With the ability to price the book at a modest level I have attracted many more readers than I could have hoped for, earned many new friends who have written me about their own Italian dreams and adventures.

About Coins in the Fountain
Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of Coins in the Fountain:

“Hey! What are you doing? STOP that!!”

I sprang up from the floor where I was lounging on a deflated air mattress and rushed into what was supposed to be our dining room in the echoing, still-empty apartment. Why was Glenn shouting? I found the answer when I saw my normally mild mannered husband hanging out the window yelling at a group of nuns in their crisp black and white habits as they dumped wheelbarrows filled with garbage onto the open space behind our building. They looked up briefly. Then, paying no further attention to the outraged foreigner, they finished their work and swished off toward an unseen convent.

It was Saturday morning. To our great surprise, I had gone to work for a branch of the United Nations a month earlier. We stayed in a hotel on the Aventine Hill for the first two weeks after our arrival in Rome and then in a new colleague’s apartment for another two weeks while he was back in California. Now, at the unsettled beginning of the second month of a planned four-year stay we were tired and cranky from sleeping on the living room floor on a bed of flattened cardboard cartons that originally held an air mattress, a few dishes, pots and pans, two folding chairs, an old card table and some clothes. These items comprised our air shipment, meant to tide us over until the shipping container arrived by sea a couple of months later. The air mattress we hoped to use over the cardboard had slowly and irreparably deflated, paralleling our naïve enthusiasm for the whole adventure of a move to romantic Italy.

We had been desperate to find a home. The hotel was expensive and my settlement allowance was running out. The American Embassy located apartments for its staff, but my new office offered no assistance. The rental agents we contacted from newspaper ads had nothing satisfactory to offer, nor did the few ads on an office bulletin board. Word of mouth eventually led us to another agent, a disagreeable American who made her living finding apartments for greenhorns like us with minimum effort on her part. She insisted that we take the bus to the apartments she suggested, leaving us scrambling to find buildings in unfamiliar locations and waiting until she drove up at her leisure and parked her car on the sidewalk. Worse, after she signed us up we began to hear stories that circulated in the gossipy expatriate community that was welcoming us. One story in particular made us especially cautious about the woman: Several years before our arrival Marge invited a client for lunch at her own apartment that was filled with cats and their untended litter boxes. After a microwaved meal of Fettuccine Alfredo, she announced that she had an appointment and left, locking him inside. He was trapped with the cats. After waiting an hour, he managed to signal a neighbor on an adjoining balcony who reluctantly let him climb over the railings to escape an unknown fate.

We weren’t subjected to such dramatic events but then Marge hadn’t shown us anything livable either with her numerous dark and dilapidated suggestions. At the point when we were getting agitated she finally produced an attractive solution that we later heard was yet another apartment where she had resided. Our proposed new home had large windows on both long sides of one wing of a small building…. Best of all, there were two balconies on one side and a sunny terrace opening off the master bedroom and living room on the other. The outdoor spaces were the real attraction for migrants from our cloudy home near Portland, Oregon…

Early fall, it was still hot. I tried to focus on a remark by the ancient Roman orator Seneca: “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” Well, I always wanted to have a change of place, and now my wish came true. But sometimes mental exhaustion was a more common sensation than new vigor as my brain tried to get organized to meet the dramatic change in my life.

Our nights were spent lying awake on the floor contemplating my job, the antics of the nuns and the difficulties of getting settled. Packs of incessantly barking dogs left behind when their owners went on vacation provided a background to our thoughts. Adding to the noise, eerie sirens like those in World War II movies split the night air. We squirmed on the flat, sweaty air mattress while considering our decision-making skills – deciding to leave secure jobs for a flight into fantasy. Mamma mia! What had we done to ourselves?

1x1.trans Coins in the Fountain

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About the Author
Life was routine until mid-life when the author decided to get a law degree. After graduation a chance meeting led her to run away to the Circus (Maximus) – actually to the United Nations office next door – where she worked as an attorney and entered the world of expat life in Rome. Now retired, she continues to travel, having fitted in over 100 countries in between many journeys to Italy where she always tosses a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure another visit. While her suitcase is cooling off she writes for several on-line magazines, blogs, and volunteers for arts and literary organizations. She has just completed a novel about expatriates set in Rome.

You can find Judith at www.coinsinthefountain.com, at alittlelightexercise.blogspot.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office

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By Khalid Muhammad

1x1.trans Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the OfficeHe had always hated these pretenders to Islam. Becoming a Hafiz at a young age and because some unknown seminary in Pakistan had ‘educated’ them, these fools called themselves maulanas, mullahs and imams. Their entire knowledge of Islam came from the mouths of those who also couldn’t understand Arabic beyond what was written in the Holy Quran. They make good cannon fodder for our wars, too stupid to know what jihad really means.

When the world hears Pakistan mentioned in the media, the first thought is terrorism, which sadly has become part of our national narrative since 9/11. But Pakistan is so much more than the narrative that is presented around the world – it is home to a wonderful, talented people that want nothing more than peace in their country, with their neighbors and respect in the international community of nations, but are deceived by its own “leaders,” whether political or religious.

Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office takes you behind the headlines into the events that created today’s Pakistan. It is a tough look at a nation in conflict from the eyes of a young man, Kamal Khan, who is looking for his own identity and place in society. Kamal is raised in privilege, but leaves it all behind as a man to serve his nation. Once in that environment, finds himself embroiled in a complex narrative that shifts with the fiery speeches of their anointed political and religious leaders.

There are a number of motivations behind my story. First, and probably the most important motivation, was to share the Pakistan that I know with the world. The narrative that has become commonplace about my country is that it is a failed state with many players in the power corridor, but that is not all that Pakistan is. My Pakistan is a country that struggles with inept governments more interested in themselves rather than the people who elected them. It is a country whose people are extremely talented and patriotic but unable to take advantage of any opportunities because the country is run like a fiefdom rather than a nation. It is a country in search of its identity, much like Kamal, that is trapped amidst power plays from internal and external forces.

Secondly, I grew up reading spy thrillers filled with the exploits of CIA, MI6 and KGB agents. While reading all of these stories, I always wondered why no one had ever written about Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI, and the challenges they face every day. Geopolitically, Pakistan is host to numerous intelligence agencies working within its borders, a public secret here and the ISI holds its own against all of them. It’s routinely demonized by foreign nations, and much of that is because it is so good at what it does.

The backdrop of terrorism does make telling the story easier, but to paint the mosaic of the complexities I had to move backwards to the 1990s so that the reader could understand what happened to create the image of the country as it is today. It’s also a little bit of what I wish had happened rather than what really has happened. In my story, as in real life in fact, the people of Pakistan are the underdog against so many powerful forces, it’s a miracle we still exist. That we do is testament to our resilience as a nation, no matter what you read in the international press.

About Agency Rules
Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office is a fast-paced, action packed story that will keep you guessing all the way to the end. I hope that, as a reader, you will experience that Pakistan that I fell in love with when I moved home from the United States after 25 years. You will feel your heart wrench with Kamal’s when he is stationed in Karachi, Peshawar and buried deep inside the terrorist camps. And, hopefully, you will cheer him on, because he is the Pakistani that you don’t see in the media – smart, driven and motivated to do good for his family, fellow citizens and country.

A comparison to works by LeCarre has been made by a fellow reader and while I would hate to imply that there are obvious similarities I will say that the two authors have certainly the same admirable competence in strong plotting, vivid characterisation and atmospheric style.

Pakistan and its people are often misrepresented in the Western world and I loved how the author managed to bring in a whole spectrum of characters, showing again a complex picture instead of resorting to simple stereotypes or clique; all the while also highlighting outside interests in the country and the internal struggles. While the story moves at a fast pace with compelling writing the author also raises many points about the country’s current state of affairs. It shows a writer with a sharp and thoughtful mind who knows also about diplomacy and international politics – just like any good spy thriller writer should in my opinion.

A good thriller with substance. Very recommendable.

– CHRISTOPH FISCHER, AUTHOR OF THE THREE NATIONS TRILOGY

I thought that this was going to be quite a difficult read for me because on top of the plot complexity of a spy novel there would be the unfamiliar names and places because it was set in Pakistan. So I started off with my laptop beside me open to Google Maps and Wikipedia only to discover that the story was delivered in such an easily digestible way that I hardly had to refer to either. There were a lot of unfamiliar names of people and places at first but they started to sort themselves out as the plot advanced, leading in to a fascinating world of secrets, lies, subterfuge and scandal, not to mention gangs and bribery and corruption reaching right to the top of the government.

– KAREN PRINCE, AUTHOR OF LOST KINGDOMS OF KARIBU

1x1.trans Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office

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About the Author
Khalid Muhammad is the author of Agency Rules—Never an Easy Day at the Office. You can find more information about him and his novel at agencyrules.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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