SFFSat The Last Goodbye

BLS Mockup4cThe Last Goodbye ~

Thank you for joining us today for the final installment of Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday. More than a web ring of tasty snippets of the latest work of indie SF/Fantasy authors, Sci-fi Fan Sat has been a home for me, a sounding board, and the place where I met colleagues who became my best friends. Without the authors and writers featured here over the years, THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES wouldn’t be the same and might never have seen the light of day. A heartfelt thanks to Laurel Kriegler, our illustrious leader and editor extraordinaire for bringing us together in a positive, supportive environment. This Saturday tradition has been the launch pad for my books, and the books of many gifted and talented authors like Cary Caffrey, TK Toppin, Pippa Jay, Patrick Stutzman, Heidi Ruby Miller, TM Hunter, Peter Vialls, SA Check, Gayle Ramage, Misa Buckley, Aurora Springer, and so many more.

BWC SOVRAN'S PAWN - FINALBWC HERO'S ENDIt seems only fitting to leave you with a snippet from the same scene, from the same book that brought me to SFFSat to begin with five years ago. BARRON’S LAST STAND was always THE book I was writing. SOVRAN’S PAWN and HERO’S END just happened to be the backstory. Thanks to Laurel’s encouragement and that of the SFFSat crew, I wrote those first and am just now getting back to the book that started it all. So for my last trick, here is a snippet from BARRON’S LAST STAND in which Bo Barron finds that her estranged husband, Blade Devon has stowed away aboard her ship. In five years, the scene has undergone some revisions from it’s first appearance, but here it is as it will appear in the upcoming release.

“Hello, my love.”

The smooth, familiar, baritone voice hit her like a plasma storm, taking all her defensive systems offline. Her lungs felt as if the hull had been breached and all the atmo had blasted out into the vacuum of space, leaving her helpless to do more than stare into eyes the same shade as the bluestone of the Gallis Highlands where she’d grown up.

A slow, rakish smile softened his stern features.

Hell no!

Her heart pounded in time with the cycling engines. She wasn’t some twitter-pated fangirl who would melt under his megawatt, crooked little, bad-boy smile. That ship broke grav five years ago. He did not get to swagger back into her life as if nothing had happened.

She squeezed the trigger.

Blue energy flashed from the muzzle and struck him in the thigh.

He grunted in pain and reached for his wound.

Bo tightened her grip on her blaster and set her jaw. “Keep your hands where I can see them!”

 

Thank you for sharing these last five years with all of us. God Bless.

Advertisements

Saturday Snippet: Taking Out The Trash

Welcome to Science Fiction Fantasy Saturday. Just in time for Christmas, snippets of ten to fifteen sentences or less are yours for the reading…and yes, it is snowing on my page.

This little snippet comes from BARRON’S LAST STAND. Bo and Blade are back in action and taking on a hit team.

***

BLS Mockup4cBo snatched the com-set from around his ear and spun, kicking Kres hard in the chest. He stumbled backwards, his arms windmilling wildly as he struggled to regain his balance. Unfortunately for him, he ran out of roof first. The back of his legs hit the low wall, giving gravity the win in this contest. With a screech, he flipped backwards over the railing and plunged headlong towards the sidewalk below.

Resisting the urge to race to the edge and make sure he was dead, Bo contented herself with the sickening thunk of flesh against pavement as confirmation that the trash was effectively taken out.

Wasting no time, she dove for the rifle on its tripod and settled into position. Closing one eye, she peered through the scope. Her stomach twisted. Crosshairs settled over a slim little boy with dark hair and a happy grin. Bo tapped her com implant.

“Barron to Devon.”

“Yeah, Bo?”

“The roof is secure.”

“Understood.”

***

10833692_10152898735596489_1030819852_nThat’s the last snippet for me this year. Merry Christmas to you, and wishing you a Happy New Year, too. Thank you for making 2014 a great year. Look for my new short story collection of Bo’s adventures BARRON: A NEW HERO RISES coming soon.

If you’re interested in reading more about Bo, you can pick up your ebook copies of SOVRAN’S PAWN and HERO’S END for Nook and Kindle at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

If you’d like to read a sneak peek at BARRON’S LAST STAND you can find the first chapter at the end of HERO’S END and here on my website.

In case you missed them, here are some other SFFS snippets from BARRON’S LAST STAND

No Such Thing As A Free Ride
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part II
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part III
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part IV
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part V
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part VI
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part VII
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part VIII
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part IX
No Such Thing As A Free Ride – Part X

Portrait of a Crime Lord – Part One
Portrait of a Crime Lord – Part Two
Portrait of a Crime Lord – Part Three
Portrait of a Crime Lord — Part Four
Stowaway
Stowaway Part Two
Stowaway Part Three

Why I Self-Publish

“What do you do?”
“I’m an author.”
“Oh? Who is your publisher?”
“I am.”

 

Promo 1991
1991 – While everyone else’s promo pics at the time came from Glamour Shots, I set up a photo shoot with a real photographer.

I wrestled long and hard with myself about going the self-publishing route. I’ve been in the business a long time (since 1987) and it was hard for me to get past the self-pubbed stigma. Personally, I couldn’t shake the reminder of “Vanity Press” publishers that were the bane of the writer’s existence back in the day.

For the low cost of around $3,000 way back when, you could send your manuscript to a publisher (printer really) who would slap a lame cover on and send you back a slick-looking, but completely amateur product. There was a certain type of person who did that. They were considered by the reputably published as no-talent, wannabe hacks who couldn’t get published any other way.

Vanity press publishing was the kiss of death to any hope of having a “REAL” writer’s career. If you mentioned in a cover letter to a publisher that you’d self-published previously, I’m pretty sure they would laugh cruelly and toss your submission — unread — into the return pile, if not the circular file, depending on whether you’d included a return SASE, (that’s Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope for you whipper-snappers.)

It was a brutal industry with high and demanding standards. I got out of the publishing industry in 1999 and threw myself headlong into my television career out of financial necessity. I knew I could rely on a steady paycheck in television. Freelance writing can be an iffy proposition, especially when you’d rather devote your full attention to fiction and not articles about dogs, apartment living, and dating. So I only wrote to supplement my paycheck on occasion.

In the time I was out of publishing, Amazon rose from a novelty online bookseller to the mega-giant of publishing that it is today.

“E-books will never take off,” I said. “They’re a passing fad. People who read love physical books, not to mention the screens are hard on the eyes.”

I’ve never been good with investments either. Self-publishing surged and I resisted. Several friends encouraged me to look into it. I used to brag that I’d been rejected by some of the finest publishing houses in the industry, which is true. Del Rey, Avon, Tor, Ballantine have all rejected my early manuscripts. (Re-reading them now, I can’t blame them.) I stubbornly clung to my old-school ways. Self-published means you’re not a “REAL” writer and you can’t get published any other way.

Ten years rolled on. I was content to remain in retirement from publishing. I’d married and was raising a family at long last. Promo PicOne day, a friend emailed me one of those fun chain letters in which the sender has answered a bunch of questions and spammed their friends with them and now it’s your turn to replace their answers with your own and spam your own friends. One of her answers lit a spark inside me.

“I wish I could meet Darien Roarke for the first time all over again…”

Outside of my local RWA chapter and the slush pile readers, only a precious handful of friends had ever read any of my fiction. She was my biggest and most devoted fan. I had a manuscript she hadn’t read, so I sent it to her. I hadn’t touched it in ten years. She gave me the kick in the butt I needed, and I started rewriting with an eye towards publishing once again.

I looked into e-publishers and small houses figuring I’d be most likely to find acceptance there. Angela James of Harlequin’s Carina Press put out a submission call, so I put my rewrites aside and took the backstory notes and knocked out a novella to send to her. I never sent it. During the process of writing, I did a lot of research into small press e-publishers, and finally, into self-publishing itself. What I learned changed my perspective completely.

Ultimately, I chose to self-publish the novella which became SOVRAN’S PAWN because:

  • BWC SOVRAN'S PAWN - FINALIt offered me more creative control over my brand,
  • I wouldn’t feel pressured to compromise my core values to satisfy a publisher
  • Looking at the smaller publishers from a publisher’s perspective (I edited and published a lifestyle magazine in my youth) I knew that if my sales didn’t meet their expectations, I could be dropped like a hot rock. Nothing personal, it is the ONLY way they could make their numbers work. High turnover is the only way to quickly build a back catalog and visible presence among customers. Keep what sells well and drop what doesn’t pay the bills. Never mind the fact the burden for marketing and networking was squarely on the author’s shoulders and not the publisher’s. I also knew that no publisher would believe in my series as much as I did, and wouldn’t feel as driven to market it. And lastly,
  • The quality of editing in far too many of the smaller press e-books that I was reading would NEVER have made it over the transom let alone out the door back in the day. Having aspired to being published by the lofty, “big” houses with their exacting standards, I wouldn’t allow my name to be associated with a publisher who turned out less than quality work. If there are editing errors in my books, they are solely MY responsibility, but I can promise my readers that I have done everything possible to turn out the best quality product it is within my ability to produce. I couldn’t guarantee the same from some of the smaller e-publishers whose books I was reading.

If I hadn’t had so much experience in the industry already under my belt, I may not have opted to go the self-publishing route. As it was, I knew what was involved before I started. I had done the writing, editing, layout, design, art, and marketing before. I couldn’t see where a small press or digital first publisher could do anything for me that I couldn’t do for myself. I knew that I could turn out a product that was at least as good as any digital first publisher, if not better than most.

I’m old school. Quality and integrity are of paramount importance. I want readers to know that if they pick up a book with JC Cassels’ name on it, I am providing them with the best book it is within my power to produce, technically as well as creatively. Smaller press e-publishers couldn’t guarantee that, not from the quality of products that I’ve seen out there.

FloppyDiskFor me, the biggest learning curve was unlearning everything I knew about traditional publishing. It’s not the same industry it was back in the late 80’s. On one hand, that’s good for authors who write outside the mainstream. On the other, the ease of self-publishing has relegated some damn fine authors to a different kind of slush pile in which they vie for readers rather than publishing contracts.

Ultimately, I believe a quality product will find its niche in the marketplace. The current environment means authors, self-pubbed or otherwise, just have to work harder to get the attention of readers slogging through the virtual slush pile on Amazon. This means to succeed, you can’t skimp on editing or packaging. The longer you can hang in there, and the more quality books you can get OUT in front of readers, the more likely you are to survive, self-pubbed or otherwise.

So when I’m asked who my publisher is, and I answer that I am my own publisher, I do so proudly. I bring nearly thirty years experience in the publishing industry, several awards for excellence in writing and editing, and a reputation for high standards and a quality product. It doesn’t get more professional or reputable than that. Arcana Double Cross Cover2

Oh, and as for my friend, the book she was referring to in her email is ARCANA DOUBLE CROSS in which I introduced Darien Roarke as the gambling alias of the one and only Blade Devon. It is a much darker, grittier story and more of a “James Bond in space” than a romantic adventure. As for the manuscript I sent her to read, the backstory notes for that became SOVRAN’S PAWN and HERO’S END.  The “new” manuscript I sent to her is still being rewritten and will be released under the title it has always had:  BARRON’S LAST STAND.

Who Is The Real Blade Devon?

From the first moment he stepped out onto a sheet of wide-ruled, three-hole notebook paper on November 4, 1984, Blade Devon commanded center stage. Until that moment, Bo Barron had a love triangle going with two other men: Lee Trager, a tall, dark, and handsome casino owner (and a bit of a pretty boy,) and Alec Barclay, a sandy-haired, hot-shot pilot with an inability to commit. When Blade Devon swaggered across the page, Bo (and I) sat up and took notice.

Blade Devon AvatarWhere Lee was cultured and refined, and Alec was clean-cut military to the core, Blade was scruffy, rumpled, unshaven, his blond hair a little too shaggy and his manners less than gentlemanly. Bo and I quickly learned that his appearance and demeanor weren’t because of a lack of upbringing or not knowing better, rather were borne of fierce independence and a desire to face life on his own terms. In other words, he really couldn’t care less. He was a Bad Boy.

Only intended as a peripheral character, Blade had been introduced as a joke. (With a name like “Blade” who could take him seriously? His “real” name at the time was Wilbur Homer Wartwhistle, but no one would surrender to the dangerous mercenary Wilbur Homer Wartwhistle, so he adopted the name Blade, in homage to his predilection for bladed weaponry.)

The joke was on me.

Bo spent less and less time with her two love interests and more in the company of the hard-drinking, two-fisted mercenary. All the more intriguing, Bo and I learned that the man had secrets upon secrets. Like peeling an onion, we’d pull back one layer after another, only to discover that there was so very much more to this character than either of us anticipated. Before we realized, Bo and I were smitten and the other men were relegated to the dusty old files for dredging up later. Bo had found her soul mate.

(Lee Trager returns as Blade’s antagonist in ARCANA DOUBLE CROSS. Time on the back burner and losing Bo have twisted him and turned him into a bit of a sadistic villain. Alec has mutated and split, finding his way into the characters of Royce, Jaden, and Edge.)

The question keeps coming up, “Who is Blade based on?”

That’s a tough question to answer. Blade’s earliest inspiration can be found in Errol Flynn’s autobiography MY WICKED, WICKED WAYS which had been re-released the year before Blade’s birth…and yes, I read it. I was smitten with Flynn from an early age. The swashbuckler with the lopsided smile, the easy charm, and wisecrack for every dangerous situation – how could I not fall for him? And then, with the other book, the one claiming Flynn had been a Nazi spy…well, who doesn’t love a good swashbuckling actor-adventurer-spy?

But Flynn bears no resemblance to Blade physically…or does he?

“Her gaze traced the curve of his brow, his high, prominent cheekbones, the line of his jaw – not quite as square as his brother’s, but longer – to the barest hint of a cleft in his chin. He laughed at something the interviewer said, showing a pair of matched dimples that sent Bo’s innards into a barrel roll.” – HERO’S END

“Who is Blade based on?”

Let’s revisit 1984, shall we?

Dystopic, post-apocalyptic sci-fi was all the rage. At the top of the heap was the quintessential anti-hero, struggling to get along in a world gone mad, carrying the loss of his wife and child, battered and bruised, wild-eyed and dangerous, with cold blue eyes that had seen too much and a beautiful face buried under dust, sweat, and blood. That could only be MAD MAX, THE ROAD WARRIOR, Mel Gibson in his earliest, glorious breakout role. Yes, there is an element of Mel Gibson as Mad Max buried deep in the heart of Blade Devon. In fact, Blade owes his blue eyes to Gibson.

Also in 1984 were the Los Angeles Olympic games. The US Men’s gymnastics team was the first US squad to win the Olympic team gold medal. Bart Conner, Tim Daggett, Mitch Gaylord, Jim Hartung, Scott Johnson, and Peter Vidmar were celebrated heroes that summer. Conner, at 26 (Blade’s age in SOVRAN’S PAWN) was the old man of the team and had come back from surgery to repair his torn bicep, to win two gold medals, one with his team, the second with a perfect 10 on the parallel bars. A bit of each of them found their way into characters, ideas and stories.

1984 also saw the television mini-series THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII based loosely on the 1834 novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Canadian actor, Duncan Regehr portrayed the gladiator-slave Lydon. Regehr would go on to play Errol Flynn in the television adaptation of his autobiography. Can you see where I’m going here? Tall, beefy, square-jawed, ripped Regehr provided a good model for the body type of Blade Devon. (Regehr also provided inspiration for another character in a stand-alone novel that is as yet, unfinished.)

It was about this time that BLADE RUNNER hit cable. I can’t talk about the conception of Blade Devon without giving a nod to Rutger Hauer, who also solidified his tall, broad, blond, influence with the 1985 release LADYHAWKE. I like to think Blade’s ruthless edge comes from a combination of Hauer’s portrayals of Etienne Navarre and Roy Batty.

England’s Prince Charles admitted in an interview around then that he’d had aspirations of being an actor. His brother, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, served in the Falklands War and is considered a bit of a daredevil. Sound familiar?

Each of these men, in some way contributed to the original vision of Blade Devon.

“Yes, but WHO is Blade based on?”

Since 1984, Blade has absorbed bits and pieces of other men, other characters and other roles, including the likes of Val Kilmer in WILLOW, Sean Bean in SHARPE’S RIFLES and Nathan Fillion as – well, you know.

“Who did you originally cast as Blade?”

Maybe there is one man I envisioned playing the role of Blade Devon in the imaginary movie I’ve made in my head. Then again, maybe there isn’t. Perhaps he is nothing more than an amalgam of traits and features that fell into place at the right time to create someone completely new. Perhaps that’s why he captures people’s imaginations.

The beautiful thing about creating a character like Blade is letting my readers offer their idea of who is playing the character. I have been surprised and pleased by the suggestions offered up. My favorite came from Amy Kolan, who confided that she saw Blade as Chris Hemsworth.

Who?

I’d never heard of the Aussie actor at that point. Of course, I’d seen him as James Kirk’s father in STAR TREK, and I’d seen the trailers for THOR and THE AVENGERS, and even passed through the room while my kids watched THOR, but I hadn’t paid him any attention. I didn’t get a chance to see THOR for myself until a couple of weeks ago. Out of curiosity, I recorded it. When my husband and I had a quiet minute, we sat down to watch. Partway through, I told my husband that Hemsworth had been suggested as a potential Blade.

“I’m not sure I see it,” I said. “I’m not sure he’s pretty enough.”

Gobsmacked, my husband sputtered. “Not pretty enough? This guy IS Blade!”

I have to admit that the roles he’s played are roles that Blade would have played. He does have a maturity, solidity and swaggering-self-confidence-on-demand that screams Blade Devon. Given my husband’s reaction, (and Hemsworth’s performance in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN,) I am perfectly comfortable endorsing Hemsworth as a suitable Blade Devon.

“But who is your original inspiration for Blade Devon? Whose face do you see in your mind’s eye when you write him?”

012714_1950_9.jpgThat, my friends, is something I’ll never tell. Only one other person on the planet can say with any certainty whether anyone in particular wears the face I consider Blade Devon’s, and that person has sworn to take the secret to the grave. Other than this list of hunks, heroes and Hemsworth, that’s all you’re going to get.

I promise you, your imagination will serve you far better than sure knowledge of the truth.

***

Who did you cast in the role of Blade Devon when you read SOVRAN’S PAWN or HERO’S END?

Reader Meet Writer

1072683_599862616712713_677350003_o (1)Join me at the Reader Meet Writer Author’s fair at the Thomas County Public Library on Saturday, August 17 from 10 to noon. I’ll be signing copies of SOVRAN’S PAWN. I look forward to seeing you there!

Thomas County Public Library
201 N Madison St
Thomasville, Georgia

(229) 225-5252

The End Is Nigh… Hero’s End, That Is

ImageFirst, I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to ask about the upcoming sequel to SOVRAN’S PAWN. It’s taken a bit longer to crank out than expected because the plot is a bit more complex than the first book in THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES. I’ve been weaving in plot threads that will be explored in the companion series THE MERCENARY ADVENTURES OF BLADE DEVON and in the final book of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES series, BARRON’S LAST STAND.

The old saying goes that the devil is in the details, and I’m inclined to believe it. The details have been giving me fits as I’ve been cross-referencing jewelry, clothing color, conversations, and making sure that a tiny little fact, off-handedly tossed out in Chapter One and referenced in Chapter Fifteen, coincides with the major plot point it sets up in BARRON’S LAST STAND.

Just last night, I realized that I’d cut a scene that contained pertinent details referenced in later chapters, a short story and at least two other books later in the time line. 

As my husband says, “It’s enough to make a mad dog chew his chain.”

In the end, I hope my readers think it’s worth it.

Very soon I’ll hand off HERO’S END to my editor, Laurel Kriegler, for her final polish. When final edits are done on her end, I have the formatting to tend to and the proof copies to preview. My proofreader, Jessica Kramer, will go over the proof copy with bulldog tenacity and she’ll call me with a dozen corrections or more. Then and only then will HERO’S END go to print.

Some of you have asked about pre-ordering a copy. As soon as I have the copy (and page count) complete, I’ll have a better idea of paperback pricing. I’ll post a pre-order link here at that time. 

Not to worry, I’ll scream it from the rooftops so everyone hears about it.

Thank you again for all your support and encouragement. I look forward to bringing you more adventures from my favorite Interstellar Man of Mystery and the Scourge of the Seventh Sector.

Update: Hero’s End

I’ve been very quiet on the blogging front lately and for that I apologize.  I’ve been making extensive rewrites and revisions to HERO’S END.

Once I had the book nearly completed, I sent the draft to my editor and friend, Laurel Kriegler. There was something about the story that really bothered me. It wasn’t coming together as I’d hoped. Laurel pointed out that some of the plot holes I was finding would be covered by adding two subplots and two more point of view characters.

SOVRAN'S PAWN is now available on SmashwordsShe and I both felt that I’d rushed my fences with SOVRAN’S PAWN, releasing it before I’d worked out all the kinks in the plot and story. I promised myself that I’d take my time with HERO’S END, giving my readers the very best of my effort. That has delayed publication, but I really feel that the story will be the better for having taken the extra time.

I hope readers will appreciate the added insight into the new POV characters, the expanded view of the BLACK WING CHRONICLES’ universe, and the deeper exploration of Bo and Blade’s characters and their pasts.

HERO’S END is in the final drafting stage now and we are going over each chapter, polishing and perfecting it. If my children cooperate with my writing schedule, I’ll be able to announce a release date soon.