Please tell us about yourself!
Odd facts: I spent three years as a volunteer victim advocate for a local police department, helping people cope with the aftermath of violent crimes. It was a great experience, and a valuable resource as a writer, but I’ll skip the details. Noelle and I had a chance to work for Wizards of the Coast on an internal Forgotten Realms reference project and I worked as a mapper on the Realms Atlas. That led to a night out with the WoTC design team during GenCon that year. Things get strange when a dozen amazingly creative people get hammered and the boss isn’t around.
Home. Favorite place to visit would have to be Las Vegas. It’s so quintessentially American – money, privilege, bread and circuses. An entire city built on false hope and poor math skills. Every building—every brick—in the city, every one, is all that remains of someone’s dreams of wealth and success, and people still come. Millions of them, every year, year after year, because hope is stronger than reason and logic and math and reality itself. How can you not admire that?
What is your favorite song?
Too many to narrow down, But Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man is one of the top ones.
(Taking a quick moment to listen to the song online.) Ah ha! YES! I know this song. Very inspirational! So now, please tell us… when and why did you begin writing?
In grade school, right after I finished my first 1,000 word short story. It was a piece of Pern fan fiction and to date I’ve been successful in making sure no one but my mother ever reads it.
What influences your writing?
Music, coffee, world events, games… anything can serve as inspiration under the right circumstances.
Coffee is my very good friend as well! So delicious and motivational. What do you do when you're not writing?
That would be when I’m sleeping, so I’m probably dreaming, flouncing around, snoring, and fighting with the dog over the covers.
I live with a very large German Shepard mix. He would love to fight me for the covers if he got a chance! Thankfully, he now has his very own, super comfy, orthopedic dog bed. What do you look for when you sit down to read for fun?
Memorable characters, an inspiring vision, command of the language, and an involving story. You don’t need epic storylines, mass slaughter, or indecipherable intrigue to tell a story people will remember all their lives; Dr. Seuss did it with nothing more than, “A person is a person, no matter how small”.
Of course, Dr. Seuss was the greatest writer in the history of the English language, so your results may vary.
If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you say to them?
There was a guy named John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American aviator who died in 1941 while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He wrote this little poem called High Flight…
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."
He was nineteen when he wrote that, and he did it in the cockpit of a Spitfire flying over Wales. I don’t know what I could say to him that would mean anything, but, as long as we’re dreaming, I’d love to see what he comes up with after a ride in an SR-71 and a couple of days looking out the windows of the International Space Station.
Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
The Land Beyond all Dreams is the sequel to Life With a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend. Our narrator, David Fraser has a world of trouble on his hands. Well, more like three worlds of trouble…
His mother is dying of lung cancer. His employer’s experimental weight-loss drug is turning people into flesh-eating psychopaths. And Ingrim Thain, an undead necromancer, has murdered the program’s research director and taken over his body. If all that weren’t enough, a cat with working thumbs just moved into David’s house.
Thain doesn’t even want to be enemies—he offers David wealth and power beyond anything he’s ever known. He even offers to cure David’s mother and spare those he loves from the coming war. All Thain wants is for David to stay quiet about the drug’s side effects.
Do the right thing and his mother dies. Do the wrong thing, and his mother lives while billions of others die.
For David, the solution is simple. Thain’s appetite for conquest endangers not only Earth, but Rose’s world and every other world Thain learns about. Thain must be stopped.
But how is he going to kill someone whose will has already proven stronger than death itself?
Okay, now for an excerpt from "The Land Beyond All Dreams":
The vet tech’s name tag said, ‘Robin’. She took her stethoscope out of her ears and said, “Mr. Fraser, this cat shouldn’t be alive.”
“Oh, good,” I said. “If he’s dead, I don’t have to pay for shots, right?” I gave her the most obnoxious used-car-salesman smile I could muster. “Do you think a zombie cat would be enough to get me on Letterman?”
“He’s not actually dead,” Robin replied. “Not completely, anyway.”
“So he’s only mostly dead.” I shrugged. “Well, that’s good, because otherwise I’d be stuck with going through his pockets for loose change, and he doesn’t have any pockets.”
The tech put her stethoscope away and backed out the staff door to the exam room. “Please stay here,” she said. “I’ll get Dr. Byers to come in and talk to you.” She pulled the door closed behind her, leaving Rose and I alone with our temporary (and only mostly-dead) cat. For his part, Thirteen folded his paws under himself and began doing a great impression of a meatloaf.
“Why are you teasing that poor child?” Rose asked. “She’s already terrified of Thirteen.”
“I don’t like doctors who think they know everything,” I said. “I had to deal with people like that over and over again when Mom first got her diagnosis. All these doctors telling her what she was doing wrong and how long she was going to live, talking about treatment protocols as though she were a small variable in a huge, static equation. It took her a year to get the team she has now together. It may just be for pain management, but they treat her like a person instead of a case number. They don’t agree with her decision, but they respect it and take care of her.”
A middle-aged woman wearing Hawaiian scrubs with a red bow tie and mismatched suspenders festooned with buttons came through the staff door. She smiled and said, “Hello. I’m the Doctor. I hear we have a zombie cat today. That’s just fab, I’ve got to see this.”
I smiled-for real, this time-and asked, “Just, ‘the Doctor’?”
“The one, the only, and the best,” she replied. “At least until Dr. Warren gets here at noon. Then I’m the best but not the only. So, let’s see this big fella.” She coaxed Thirteen into a sitting position and listened to his chest. She pressed on his hips, shoulders, and stomach, looked at his teeth, and waved a light in his eyes. She did a double take looking at his paws and pulled one up to get a better look. Thirteen grabbed her finger, but she didn’t jump or pull away. She got a closer look and shook her head. “I hope your friend here is fixed, because we are in for a world of pain if his physical characteristics enter the general feline population.”
That got a response. Thirteen backed away from Dr. Byers, making a wailing, full-throated battle cry. His claws came out with an audible ‘snickt’, poised and ready for slashing.
Rose snickered. “I think that’s a ‘no’ on becoming a eunuch. Can’t say I blame him.”
“Doc, I doubt your liability insurance is up to the damage he’ll do to this place if we try to have him snipped. How about a general wellness check and nothing else?” I looked at Thirteen and asked, “Will that work for you?”
He retracted his claws and settled down, but his tail was still lashing and his eyes were locked on the doctor’s hands.
Dr. Byers held her hands up in surrender. “We don’t do anything without the customer’s consent. Just a wellness check it is. Let’s start by checking for a microchip.” She took a hand-held scanner out of a drawer and passed it over Thirteen’s back. She paused, tapped a few buttons, and shook her head before smacking the side of the scanner.
I said, “You know, Doc, percussive maintenance is something best left to tech support professionals. You have an IT person around somewhere?”
“No, but we have Lisa.” Dr. Byers opened the staff door and called out, “Lisa, could you come here a minute? The chip scanner is on strike again.”
A redhead with sleek, narrow-framed glasses and more hair than Rose and I combined leaned into the room. “Are you using the AVID or the Trovan? The AVID has issues with the old Home Again chips.”
“The Trovan, and that’s not the issue. I’m getting a signal. Have a look.” Byers handed the reader to Lisa and stood back.
“Hmm…” Lisa flipped a few switches, tapped a button, and said, “I think I’ve got it. The chip may just be really slow to power up. Let’s see what we’ve got.” She studied the readout for a few seconds more before shaking her head. “The coil is powered up, but the chip itself is fried. All I’m getting off of it is garbage.”
Byers asked, “What would cause that?”
“Physical damage to the integrated circuit, but anything that could damage the chip would leave scars on the animal.” Lisa set the scanner down and donned latex gloves. “Let’s see if we can find anything.”
She reached for Thirteen and a small key fob dangling from her watch started shrieking. Lisa pulled her hand back, muttering, “That’s not good.” She took her watch off and pulled a leather case out of one of the pockets on her lab coat.
“Angry cat detector?” I asked.
“No,” she replied. “Personal radiation detector.” She took a device the size of a box of breath mints out of the case and plugged it into her phone. “And this is an analyzer/dosimeter that came out in Japan after the Fukushima release. Yeah, there’s an app for that.”
Lisa placed the detector next to Thirteen and the radiation graph on her phone display started spiking up. She watched it until it settled down to a steady range and tapped the median line. “Your friend is giving off about two millisieverts an hour. That’s about as much as getting a mammogram every fifteen minutes.”
“No wonder he felt odd,” Rose muttered. She cleared her throat and asked, “Is that level dangerous to us?”
“The annual safety limit for people who work with radioactive materials on a daily basis is five hundred millisieverts. A year living with him will put you over three times that. If you want him as a pet, I suggest you buy some lead underwear.”