Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Introducing urban author Todd Deshawn Daniels

Todd Deshawn Daniels, Sr., was born and raised on the east side of Detroit. He is active in politics and addressing the social issues that affect urban communities.  A natural poet, he began writing books in 2000. He’s My Damn Husband is his first novel.  

Look for more releases in 2014.

John and Angie have been married and madly in love for five years. As in all marriages, they have their ups and downs. Faced with the adversities and struggles in her marriage, Angie is fighting to remain strong to keep both her marriage and her sanity intact.



John screamed at his wife as she walked out the front door with her suitcase. John and Angie had been arguing about the affair Angie had with Tim. John had become suspicious of his wife’s behavior and began spying on her. Angie had been acting distant toward him. She began displaying signs of moodiness, she was squirmy when John touched her and showed all of the classic signs of a cheater.

Everything became an issue for her. She created false fights in order to be upset with her husband. This change in behavior did not go unnoticed by John. When Angie began coming home from work and going straight to the shower, there was no doubt in John’s mind, he knew in his gut what was going on. He just couldn’t prove it.

Read the first three chapters free on Amazon

Connect with Todd Daniels:

Twitter: @babytoddsb34

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Solace in the Dark: Poems by Scott Burkett

A Father’s Legacy 

Restlessness ruling the mind
Brings darkness to the soul.
Many transgressions resurface
Burning, like embers of coal.

The sins of the father passed forward
Plaguing the life of his son
Misery’s a constant companion
Peace is a battle he will never have won.

Looking to mythical deities
The son seeks answers from above.
Peace is rare and fleeting
His soul becomes void of love.

The passage of time continues
Bringing naught but worry and woe.
His search is filled with disappointment
And his soul becomes a dark hole.

Happiness scarce and life filled with burden
His journey becomes an ugly, detestable task.
Still onward he trudges, facing the days
Hiding his pain with a see through mask.

As he soldiers onward from one day to next
His thoughts become muddled and dark.
He thinks of the end ahead
As he hopes death hits its mark.

Failure has followed throughout his life
Hope is a memory leaving fast.
He realizes he must endure to the end
For the legacy has been passed.

Passing By

Two old men on a bench sat waiting
For what they did not know.
Life moved quickly past them
Running to and fro.

Their faces weathered by the sun
Wrinkled to the core.
Their days spent pondering life
On a bench by the store.

Wives and families gone before them
Each left with naught but time.
Lifelong friends they were
Bonded by blood, sweat, and grime.

They each took turns speaking
Observations kept in trust.
Ignored by life speeding past them
Wisdom of ages blown away with the dust.

As the days rushed quickly past them
They knew the time drew near
When one left the other
To face the world with fear.

The heat passed to chilled
The seasons quickly gone.
The two old men sat waiting
Patiently looking, talking, waiting for his own.

Day by day they waited
With wisdom to impart.
But none stopped to ask
Or take their words to heart.

The time drew finally near
The end it came upon them swift.
Each took his wisdom with him
The world losing age’s gift.

About Scott Burkett
Scott Burkett was born and raised in Alabama, the son of a Methodist minister. With three brothers, one younger and two older, his childhood was often spent roaming nearby fields, fishing, hunting and doing farm work for his parents landlord. The family moved often during his childhood and teenage years due to his father being relocated from one church to another. Quite often the family lived very close to or below the poverty level making for many hard times. After graduating high school, he joined the military and served as a medic, assigned to an infantry company with the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Ky. For many years, Scott worked as an over the road driver for several trucking companies located in the southeastern United States. He has three children, Heather, Brittany and Brian, and one grandson.

In 2006, Scott completed his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Jacksonville State University and currently resides in Las Vegas, NV where he works as an emergency room RN.

Connect with Scott: 
Twitter: @ScottBurkett5

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

O4S Trivia: Book III

Confession time: Book III is totally our favorite book of the series.  Maybe it’s just because it’s only been a year since we finished it and the afterglow hasn’t worn off yet.  Or, more likely, it’s because Coyote and I are big fairy tale geeks, and Book III has all the elements—magic, royalty, fantastic beasts, romance.  If I never write another thing, I’ll always be proud to have co-authored Where Flap the Tatters of the King. 

So because of how I feel about this book, this post is a little longer than the previous two.  Also because Book III is freakin’ long (over 330,000 words).  It was a labor of love.  

So it seems only fair to make this little behind-the-scene commensurate, yes?


1. Christophe
In many ways, this book began with Christophe.  Going into it, we knew a few things: that the setting would be a world of geomancers, under occupation by Starry Wisdom; that the world would have some sort of resistance movement underway; and that someone involved in the resistance would have to help transport Clayton and Alyssa from the Order’s HQ into the Book III world. 

For a short time, we just had this nameless freedom fighter person.  Coyote and I kept making “Viva la resistance!” jokes from the South Park movie.  That led to us referring to the freedom fighter as “The Mole.”  

Then we were like, “Hey, why don’t we just call him Christophe?” 

We imagined what that character would look like and be like all grown up—small, dark, intense, irreverent.  Which . . . later on, we realized was pretty much Robert Downey, Jr.  (Hey, Robert, if you’re reading this, we’d love for you to play Christophe in a screen adaptation.  Just sayin’.  And if you do, will you wear the Tony Stark beard, pretty please?)    

Having this French character actually made sense.  It was a world under occupation, after all, like Nazi-occupied France.  So then we thought, what if the world’s culture was French? 

As for Christophe’s personality, he started out more like the South Park character—bitter, sarcastic, angry at God.  In his case, it wasn’t because his mother tried to abort him, but because, with all the bi and gay guys in Corbenic, he had to fall for the lone straight one.   

Incidentally, Christophe’s last name, Ecarteur, is the French term for bull dodger, or bull leaper. 

Because Christophe does love him some bull.  By which I mean, he's a bullshitter, as well as a lover of bull men.  Also, he’s a bit of an artful dodger type.

It wasn’t until later, when we introduced Madeline as a character, that we toned him down because we thought—really, how bitter can you be when you have a Madeline in your life and in your bed? 

Now Christophe is our favorite character in the whole series and we can no longer imagine life without him.  Nor do we want to. 

2. It’s All Greek to Me
Another thing we had a vague notion about going into Book III—we wanted to draw upon ancient Greek culture for the society.  I know that sounds odd, what with the French and the Resistance, but bear with me: we knew the setting would be approximately equivalent to Paris or London, circa 1900, the fin de siècle/Edwardian period.  Which meant the society would be incredibly uptight where women are concerned.  Yet, the suffrage movement was alive and well in that time period in England and the US.  We wanted to reflect all these things in the book.

Well, the ancient Greeks had a ruthless patriarchy in which women were viewed as property.  The Greeks took it so far, they believed that the truest, purest love could only exist between men, because only men could be equal.  We also thought of the ancient Greek tradition of man/boy love, and the homosexual relationships encouraged among the soldiery in Thebes and Sparta.  The man/boy tradition had the erastes, the “lover,” and the eromenos, the “inspirer,” respectively.  In Corbenic, since relationships are encouraged between boys of the same age, we decided to call them inspirers.  It’s encouraged in Corbenic for a variety of reasons—social, political, but also because Corbenic is a society steeped in magical tradition.  Mage men who are so attuned to each other, mentally, physically and spiritually, can only wield more powerful magic.

The Corbenese king’s honorific is “Your Wisdom.”  Corbenic values knowledge above all things.  We thought a Platonic philosopher-king was appropriate.  Throughout the series, we refer to our magic-users as mages, from magi, meaning “wise.” 

The Corbenese origin story, the Tale of the Four Mothers, refers to three brothers, Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon, who all fall in love with the same boy.  This is an actual Greek legend, and Minos did, in fact, exile his brother. 

We also wove in a lot of Greek mythological beasties: the minotaur, the phoenix, the chimera and Scylla. 

"Goat.  Lion.  Snake.  Smushed."

The herm that the team encounters along the road to the capital?  Those originated in Ancient Greece—they symbolized various deities, and were posted at crossroads and as boundary markers.  They were always associated with Hermes, the god of roads and luck.  The phallus, apparently, was sacred to Hermes.

Very sacred.

The number four was also sacred to Hermes, so they were four-sided.  

Jack the Ripper’s alias in this book is Lord Hercule Haides, both first and last names references to Greek mythological figures. 

The Omphalos, the magic well, the heart of Corbenic, is also from Greek mythology.  As mentioned in a previous post, it means, “navel.”  It is the source of Corbenese power.  In mythology, the omphalos were stones marking the center of the world, located at Delphi.  The Pythia, or Oracle, inhaled vapors from them to make her predictions.  So, naturally, Alyssa can’t go near the one in Corbenic, as it stands at the center of an enormous ley line/dimensional convergence, which just fucks her shit up.  The omphalos is also associated with wombs and feminine imagery, hence it echoes the stone grotto where Kate had her vision in Book II.  It also parallels the Blue Room, the round ritual chamber beneath the Great Lodge of Corbenic.  Finally, the omphalos is associated with the Holy Grail and Arthurian legends.  More on that in a bit.

Back to the Greeks—we used a lot of Greek surnames for the noble and royal houses of Corbenic—Sarpedonne (from Sarpedon), Bassarides, Hephaestion, Argyros, Nereus, Asklepios.  Our thinking was, a Greek surname indicates the more ancient families of Corbenic.  French names are more recent.   

But just for the record, the name Janus is Roman—so named for the two-faced god of doorways.  

Because, what else would you name that two-faced bastard?

A lot of other Greek ideals/values are incorporated into Corbenese society as well, such as the emphasis on hospitality and being a good guest, the honor culture, and the taboo against kinslaying.  

3. The Fisher King Legend
In Arthurian legends, the Fisher King is a custodian of the Holy Grail.  He is connected to his land, so when he is wounded, the land around the castle suffers.  In the stories, he is always wounded in the leg or the groin.  King Henri Sarpedonne is wounded in the thigh.  All the kings of Corbenic are bonded to the land—as he is wounded and imprisoned, the land suffers under a terrible winter.  The wound in the groin area also indicates impotence, and Henri is very concerned about his lack of grandsons to carry on the family line.   

Sometimes, the old King is called the Wounded King, and his son is the Fisher King.  We give a nod to that by frequently having Prince Leopold dine on humble meals of fish and doing everything he can to keep his people from starving.  Leo is also an expert sailor and fisherman.  While not technically impotent, Leo was symbolically neutered by the Grand Master, since the Grand Master inflicted intense sexual trauma on him as a boy.  Also, Leo is regarded (erroneously) as a “bull man” in Corbenic—a man who is not sexually attracted to women at all. 

The name Corbenic comes from Castle Corbenic, the name of the Fisher King’s keep, which housed the Holy Grail.  Frequently, the Holy Grail is described as being carved from emerald.  Emerald is one of the big symbols of the Corbenese Empire.  As alchemists, they subscribe to the principles handed down from the Emerald Tablets of Thoth, or Hermes Trismegistus.  Leo mentions that the chimera at Four Mothers guards “the emerald chalice, one of the great treasures of my ancestors.”   

The Maiden of Corbenic with the Holy Grail

The characters Geoff and Chretien are named for Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes, both major contributors to the King Arthur legend. 

4. The French Connection
If we borrowed a lot from the Greeks, we also borrowed a lot from French history.  As mentioned, the setting was meant to suggest Nazi-occupied France and the Resistance forces.  Another notable grab from history was the Order of the Garter, which was started by King Edward III.  While dancing at a court ball, a lady’s garter slipped down her leg.  Edward retrieved it, and when the people freaked out about it, he calmly responded with the now-famous phrase, Honi soit qui mal y pense.  (“Shame on him who thinks evil of it.”)  When Alyssa loses her garter at the ball, Leopold gives the shocked courtiers a very similar response.  And, of course, garters are very important to this storyline.

France, being a Catholic country, also figured heavily into the world of Corbenic.  The Prince is “Keeper of the Sacred Heart.”  The Great Lodge and the Grand Master are very Catholic in style.  

A lot of the phrases we have the Corbenese use are actual French phrases, e.g., calling the teacher’s pet a “blue-eyed boy.”  We also injected the lower classes and peasantry a great deal of Creole and New Orleans culture and we tried to reflect that in their language as well, e.g., repeated use of the phrase, "you bet." 

There is a lot of French influence on Kansas/Missouri history.  Coyote and I being from KS and MO, we thought it fitting to include in our books.  Remember, in Book I, Rene Whitefeather had French as well as Indian blood. 

5. The Women’s Movement
Coyote and I are feminists.  If you’ve ever read this blog before, you already knew that about me.  We are deeply committed to gender equality.  It’s a sad comment on modern society that, as we were writing this book, we would occasionally wonder, Are we going over the top with the misogyny?  Should we tone it down a little?  Then we’d turn on the news to hear the latest debates about abortion and contraception, or horrible rape cases and human trafficking, and we would feel vindicated—if anything, we figure we didn’t go far enough. 

I’ve already mentioned the women’s suffrage movement was going strong in 1900.  The women of Corbenic are fighting for the rights to an education—it is believed that an educated woman might go mad.  I heard somewhere once that educating girls was like pouring water into a pair of shoes—it wastes the water and ruins the shoes.  Nice, eh?  That’s very much the Corbenese attitude.  When you consider that magic is part of the general curriculum in Corbenic, no wonder the man got to keep a sister down.  The women are also fighting for the right to own property, for financial independence, and the right to testify.  In Corbenic, rape is not even considered a crime.  Even Elizabeth Bathory and Katarina, usually so brutally self-sufficient, find trouble in this world of men. 

Education, Property, Testify.  Geddit?

Lady Susan Lamprise, the character who leads the Red Garters, the woman’s movement in Corbenic, was so named because of lazy Susans.  Supposedly, in centuries past, orphanages had a lazy Susan type device where mothers could drop off unwanted children anonymously.  Our Lady Susan, of course, wanted her child desperately, despite the fact that she was raped.  Because of her status as a “fallen woman,” she became what is known in Corbenic as a “copper bride.”  As in pennies on the dollar. 

Alyssa being knighted is one of the big moves forward in the Corbenese women's movement.  We had been struggling with an appropriate way for the Prince to honor her for saving his life, when Coyote introduced me to the manga, Hellsing.  When I saw Sir Integra, I knew immediately that nothing less than a knighthood would do.  

I’m sure you’ve seen that picture floating around the Interwebz-- "Harry Potter fans want to go to Hogwarts.  LoTR fans want to go to Middle-Earth.  Game of Thrones fans—er . . . no, thanks.  Nobody wants to go to Westeros."

I’m in no big hurry to go to Corbenic.   

6. Geomancy
Geomancy, in many ways, is at the heart of the O4S series.  The word geomancy is from the Greek, “foresight by earth.”  In Arabic, it’s il-al raml, “the science of sand.”  The Greeks borrowed the term and turned it into “Rhamplion,” which, incidentally, is the name of a province in Corbenic. 

In the O4S-verse, geomancy assumes that all planets (and, indeed, dimensions), have a life force which manifests in ley lines—the mystical veins of a world.  If you can tap into that power, you can do all kinds of cool stuff, like open transdimensional gates, or travel instantaneously from one point to another within the same world.  As far as anybody knows, the Corbenese geomancers are the best damn geomancers anywhere.  Period.  They’re so good, their royal family is jacked right in to the planet’s ley lines and life force. 

We called the resistance movement in Corbenic the Sablists, from the French word for sand.  We figured a world of geomancers would call themselves “sand men.”

The Shield Chart that gets referenced repeatedly in the book, most notably, the little group of witches that the team encounters on the way to the capital, and in the skylight in the throne room at Four Mothers, looks like this:

It was used in divination techniques.  Spread out a copy of the Shield Chart, cast sand or stones over it, and decipher the patterns.  Obviously, the Corbenese have taken it to the next level.

The figures on the Shield Chart are called Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces.

The four figures in the top right-hand side are called—you guessed it.  The Four Mothers.  Hence, the name of the royal palace in Corbenic.  Don’t you love that a patriarchal world’s source of power comes from feminine symbols?

7. No Dragons
Way, way back, when Coyote and I first started writing together, we had a good-natured argument.  He is a traditional scifi geek—comic books, Star Wars, Star Trek, RPGs, cons, all of it.  Ipso facto, he loves dragons.  He has giant dragon tattoos on each forearm (which are, admittedly, pretty fucking cool).  But I think that dragons, like many other fictional beasties, are way, way, WAY overused. 

So the argument basically went like this:

C: Dragons?
L: No dragons.
C: Just a few dragons?
L:  No!  No dragons!
C:  How ‘bout just a dragon?

It’s become a standing joke between us.  Because of it, I wrote The Ice Dragon for him and his family as a Christmas gift one year.  In Book III—the Starry Wisdom patrols ride snowmobiles.  Brand name?  Ice Dragons.

Also, that’s how we got this exchange between Leo and Alyssa:

“Please don’t go into that room.”
She turned her head sleepily.  “Why not?”
“Because there is a chimera inside.”
She shot straight up out of the covers, wide awake now.  “A chimera?”
“Well, technically, the chimera.”
Her eyes widened.  “You have a chimera here?”
He sighed.  “Oh, dear.”
“That is so cool.  You guys have everything—fairies, mermaids, a chimera . . . Dragons?”
“Dragons,” she said eagerly.  “Do you have dragons here?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.  Dragons are mythological.”

So, no dragons in Corbenic.  Sorry. 

But you do get mermaids, fairies, and ehlems.  (Ehlems are an alchemically mutated strain of fairy, which we totally made up.  The name ehlem came from a Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns called Lisa a “liberal midget.”  We started referring to those little beasties as “liberal midgets,” which we abbreviated to LM’s, el-em.  Ehlems.)  

You also get Garthim, which we cribbed from Dark Crystal. 

Are you sensing the pop cultural influence on our work?  Because, yeah.  We like our movies and cartoons. 

8. Kansas City Shout-Outs (Yes, there’s a few)
Corbenic is all about the bulls and minotaurs.  In addition to all the statues around the capital, most of the noble houses and the provinces, when not given a Greek name, frequently have names from a breed of cow, or something related to bovines—Auroch, Parthenais, Tarentaise, etc.  Ecarteur is a bull-leaper, as I mentioned.  The royal family’s symbol is a bull.  As mentioned in the past two O4S posts, KC is a cowtown.  And a barbecue town.  Which—Alyssa mentions seeing a barbecue joint in the capital called Arzelia’s.  This is a reference to Arzelia Gates, one of the founders of Gate’s BBQ in Kansas City. 

Nellie Belle's - Alyssa tells the General that Carcosa has a place that makes hamburgers and "the best sand puppy pie you ever tasted."  Nellie Belle's is a diner in Claycomo (a suburb of KC) that services the Ford plant.  It operates out of a pink trailer.  They serve my favorite burgers in town. 

Corbenic has lots of fountains.  KC has more fountains than any other city in the world except Rome.

KC is known as the “Paris of the Plains.”  That French connection again.

The capital is like the emerald city—white stone, green glasses, and even green lanterns.  I’m not from Kansas, and I get very irritated when people assume I am.  But Coyote is from Kansas.  So I feel totally justified in making Wizard of Oz references. 

The Red Garters sing a song about the Lady of Marais des Cygnes—this is a reference to a river in Kansas near where my husband grew up. 

Master Healer Carondelet - named for Carondelet Medical Center, a Catholic hospital here in KC.

Lady Tuileries - named for a strip mall up the street from an apartment I used to live in.

The obligatory Jesse James references - Alyssa sings "The Ballad of Jesse James" at the Bassarides estate. 

9. Parallel Characters
In all of our books, characters tend to mirror each other.  In Book III, two such characters are Christophe and Jack.  They’re both small, unimposing, but handsome men.  They’re both well-dressed.  They both hide in plain sight.  And they both have very special relationships with working girls.

Clayton and King Henri have a lot in common—they’re both leaders.  They’re both single fathers to an only child, to whom they are very close.  An argument could also be made for Clayton and Leo—again, both leaders, both very politically savvy.  They’re both verbose.  They even look alike—tall, thin, clean-shaven, dark-haired.  (Well, Clayton was dark-haired before he went gray.)  No wonder Alyssa digs Leo.  

Alyssa and Madeline were another pair where we saw distinct parallels, as well as Alyssa and Leto.  All three women had horrific childhoods.  Madeline and Leto were used physically, while Alyssa was used mentally.  All three were given up by their parents.  All three have had, for various reasons, a lot of sexual partners.  

10. Stephen King Shout-Out 
We always manage to work in at least one.  When Alyssa is telling Michael what worlds she's traveled to, she mentions Eluria-- from the Stephen King short story, "The Little Sisters of Eluria," part of the Dark Tower opus.  

Bonus: If you can stand just one more inside joke . . .
My husband always gets to read the first draft of our work.  As he was reading Book III and he came to the part with the Bassarides, he said, “The Bassarides are liberal bankers who champion literacy?  So they’re like the Jews of Corbenic?” 

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

Motifs & Symbolism
The Cover – Violet for royalty, with smoky swirls to suggest air.  Corbenic is “a kingdom of air.  Men and swords.”  Air is the element associated with words and intellect.  In the Tarot, it is associated with swords and conflict.  The silver bull seal is for the royal house. 

Bunnies – the book opens with a rabbit hopping out of the way as Clayton, Alyssa and Christophe arrive from St. Matthew’s Field. 

Water – Corbenic is a world with lots and lots of water—oceans, rivers, canals, snow, rain, ice, and a magic well.  The Corbenese love their baths, the noble houses have the most luxurious lavatories imaginable.  We wanted Corbenic to stand in sharp contrast to Carcosa.  Corbenic is hyper-civilized and fertile where Carcosa is savage and barren.  Corbenic is full of magic while Carcosa is just doing what it can to hold itself together. 

Sri Yantra – appears in both the floors of the main entry hall of the palace as well as the ball room. 

Phoenix – incorporated into the Tale of the Four Mothers, the Corbenese origin story.  It is the symbol of Atymnius, the first Sarpedonne’s inspirer. 

Minotaur – bull men everywhere in this story—the sentinel standing on the bluffs overlooking the city, the giant statues guarding the throne room, and then Leo himself, the bull man. 

Pomegranates – Jack’s persona as Lord Haides required a heraldic symbol.  So of course he would chose a pomegranate, associated with Akhenaton, Isfet, chaos and madness.  He reverts to his old tricks by luring streetwalkers with an offering of fruit.  Akhenaton himself, as usual, shows up and has himself a glass of pomegranate juice.  A pomegranate also shows up—it’s the first thing Alyssa really accepts from Leo.  Those two have a very Hades/Persephone thing going.  Not because she’s some little ingénue, but because there’s always this slightly dangerous edge to their relationship, almost dom/sub.  

Once she’s accepted his hospitality, she cannot leave his kingdom.    

Colors – this is a violet and emerald world, for the most part, but silver and gold have significant symbolism in Corbenic as well.  The Corbenese consider silver the active, masculine metal, and gold the passive, feminine metal.  The various Corbenese lords have colors that match them—the Bassarides are scarlet, black and silver, of course, for the foxes that they are.  Christophe and Lord Haides both are partial to wine and gold colors.  Janus almost always wears something yellow—beware (false) Kings in Yellow. 

Names Alyssa – Greek, for the alyssum plant; a- “not,” lyssum, “insane.”  The one lucid Oracle.  Related to the name for Alice, and we tip our hats to Lewis Carroll whenever we can.  (Did you catch the hookah-smoking caterpillar in the bazaar?)  Also related to the name Elissa, Arabic for “wanderer,” which our girl certainly is.  Calderon is a Spanish surname, from the Latin, “cauldron.”  We had assigned her the element of fire, since she has a fiery temperament.  It’s also perfect for an alchemist’s love interest, Atymnius to Leo’s Sarpedon.

Clayton – in this book, he is known to the people of Corbenic as Lord Hornbeam, a literal translation of his surname, due to the very precise translator devices the Corbenese have.  

We used several occupational surnames.  The Grand Master is Perseus Vitrier-- Vitrier meaning "glazier," which implies that the Grand Master rose from humble beginnings.  This is why there are blown glass pieces in his office, and the reason for the nickname, "gaffer."  Chretien, a musician, has the last name Trouvere, which means "trobador."  Which is what Chretien de Troyes was.  

This, of course, is just a taste of what went in to the making of Book III.  This will be the final trivia post for a while—at least until Book IV is finished, which is at least a year away.  

As always, feel free to comment or leave questions below. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Katy Krump: Author of the Blue Dust Trilogy

I was a teacher before almost losing my sense of humour (and mind) and deciding I needed to devote myself to the thing I loved most-- writing. I became a full-time television scriptwriter for children, entered a nationwide scriptwriting competition and was selected to be on the writing team of a popular South African soap. I also worked as an advertising copywriter, wrote radio ads and jingles, educational textbooks and readers...anything to keep the wolf from the door. Basically, I’m constantly writing, books and TV scripts and if not that then plotting, planning and scheming how to take over the world. In 2000, I embarked on a new journey, crossing the galaxy to settle on a new planet or as some like to call it 'Immigration,' and am now a proud possessor of a maroon Intergalactic Wayfarer Permit and have come to love the aliens I mix with daily.

In 2012, I was lucky enough to be signed to Ghostly Publishing, one of the UK’s largest indie publishers. The first two Blue Dust books, Forbidden and Destiny, were released in 2012 and 2013. Forbidden was nominated for the Costa book awards in 2013. The final book, Insurrection, is due for release in November 2014. A third book, Drippy Face, a fantasy for children, was released in 2013 too, and this year was picked up by Nickelodeon and CBBC who are both interested in adapting it and making it into an animated TV series or film. I’m waiting…

11 Questions for Katy

1. Tell us about the Blue Dust Trilogy.  What inspired you to write it?

Blue Dust follows the life of Qea, a girl who doesn’t belong anywhere. She comes from a distant galaxy where she is considered ‘Forbidden.’ Born third into a world where, due to overpopulation, the law allows only two children, Qea has had an awful and traumatic life. Her world is ruled by warlords and when she betrays one of them, she’s sent to Earth to hide. There she meets Adam, who challenges everything she’s ever been taught about herself. By allowing him into her life, Qea puts them both in danger. The series was really born out of my own struggles as an ‘alien.’ I immigrated to the UK from South Africa 14 years ago and found it all quite traumatic. I started a blog about living on a new planet as that’s what it felt to me, and that morphed into Blue Dust.

I’ve also always loved thrillers and once as a child came home from school to find the house deserted. They hadn’t been abducted by aliens although I kind of wished they had, instead they’d been shopping which was far too boring and mundane for me. I never forgot that feeling though and would spend endless hours making up stories about what could have happened to a family that mysteriously vanished. I took that thought and ran with it. I love science fiction based on strong characters and it’s the relationships that drive my writing. Qea is an unusual character, bereft of any real human emotion, and it takes Adam, an Earth boy, to bring out the humanity in her. Blue Dust: Forbidden introduces Qea and Adam and the strange world she comes from, while Destiny continues the story as she chases her destiny. More of her early life is revealed in Destiny and her past catches up with her once more. I‘m busy with Insurrection, the final book in the trilogy, where I hope all the questions will be answered…but you never know…my characters have a way of doing things I didn’t plan, so who knows how it will all end. Despite the planning and months of working on it, they still do things I wasn’t expecting. The books deal with alienation and self-discovery…and tell you what to do if you’re abducted by aliens. It’s packed with action and strange alien worlds and touches on the issues that all teenagers face.

2. How much of the book is pure fiction and how much is rooted in real events, or even autobiographical?

Most of it is pure fiction, but the bits about how hard it is to fit into a ‘new world’ are all based on my own experiences. Adam is a compilation of every teenage boy I ever knew. Qea is not me…apart from loving to swim.

3. Which of your character(s) do you identify with the most?

Probably Qea in that she’s independent and loyal. I don’t think I’m as brave or detached as she is though. I suppose I identify with Adam too, he’s got aspects I admire and hope I reflect, too.

4. Why did you become a writer?

I had to. It’s one of those things that’s always been with me. I remember being about six and announcing to my family that I was going to write a book. I borrowed my dad’s old green typewriter and wrote a very bad book about an otter. At school I felt most ‘human’ when I was writing something, so it’s obviously something I was born with, or inherited from long distant ancestors. My great-grandfather was a wonderful writer, so it’s in the blood.

5. What’s your writing routine like?  Do you have a special place where you write, a favorite pen, listen to a particular type of music, etc.?

I work in my ‘office,’ which is a corner of the lounge. I like noise-- either the TV or music. Late at night, I put the radio on – Golden Oldies – and that always inspires me. I keep a notebook next to my bed because inspiration often strikes late at night, so I have to get up and write it down before it disappears into sleep. I also have a habit of writing notes on the backs of envelopes and scraps of paper…I then spend hours trying to find the right one.

6. Do you stick to just one genre, or do you write in multiple genres?  Why?

My first book, When Killers Cry, is a political thriller set during the days of Apartheid in SA, where I grew up. I need to work out the things that I witnessed, I suppose, like a lot of white South Africans. Writing children’s TV is fantasy and I loved being able to put words into a donkey’s mouth, so fantasy has always been something I enjoy-- writing like that made my soul sing, and gives my imagination a chance to soar, there are no limits or boundaries, what more could a girl want? I’ve stuck to fantasy/sci fi for a while but still write adult fiction. I’m working on a historical novel set in both 1820 and 2000 at present, as well as TV and film scripts for children.

7. What’s your favorite medium—novels, short stories, flash fic, etc.?  Why?

I love writing novels and rhyming books for younger children. I’m working on a rhyming book about snot. There’s something very special about writing TV scripts, though. I read all the dialogue out loud and have been accused of being ‘nuts’ by family members. I also pace them out as a TV script is very specific about time, so I ‘do’ all the actions as well.

8. What are your favorite books/authors?

I have a very eclectic taste in my reading. The book I love most at the moment is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I love thrillers– Jo Nesbo, Christina Lackberg, Karen Slaughter, John Grisham, Dick Francis, Deon Meyer, but I also love Jane Austen, Dickens, Emily Bronte and writers like Kate Atkinson, Zadie Smith, Alexander McCall Smith. I think I’ve taken inspiration from everyone I’ve read to date. It’s interesting how, while reading, I’ll suddenly find a word I love and I’ll then make sure to use it in my own work. It’s a fine balance between writing my own stuff and reading the works of other great writers. John Creasey, a very prolific writer who has now sadly gone out of fashion, was my first introduction to crime fiction and really inspired me to start writing. Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton were my very early inspirations, instilling a love of reading and writing that’s never gone away.

9. What books are you reading right now?

I’m reading Trackers by a South African writer, Deon Meyer, as well as D-Day by Anthony Beevor and Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

10. Are there any emerging authors that you’re excited about?

I’m always excited to find a new author. Some of the Ghostly Publishing authors like Ben Gavan and Leyland Perree and Neil Trigger are great.

11. Do you have a work-in-progress you’d like to tell us about?

Insurrection, the final Blue Dust book, is in the works. I’m really enjoying writing it, but I want it to wrap up the saga perfectly and not leave any loose ends, so I spend a lot of time referring back to the first two books. I recently read the Divergent trilogy and was so enraged at the ending in the final book (like most reviewers I read) that I decided not to kill my main characters…or should I? Sometimes a character has to die, well, it’s a war so people are bound to, but who, that’s the question!

About the Blue Dust Trilogy
Qea (Pronounced Kee-ah) is a girl with an unusual history. She comes from a distant galaxy where warlords rule the law and corruption is rife, so she must become hard to survive, but here on earth a young man will change her heart and risk her life, changing it forever.

All teenage girls keep secrets and Kerry Johnston is no exception. More than anyone else she knows how to lie, for ‘Kerry’ is an alias and her life is a nightmare of secrecy, violence and fear. In reality this overweight, limping teenage girl is Qea, a Forbidden child from the Qarntaz Octad, sent to Earth to hide from the warlord she has betrayed. Born third into her family in an overpopulated world where surplus offspring are Forbidden and killed or delivered as fodder for the malevolent Inquisitors, Qea has spent her life in hiding. As she and Adam are taken captive, they’re whisked back to the place of her nightmares, the Octad, where they must fight to survive and Qea must discover whether or not her love for Adam will make her human, or if she’ll sacrifice him for her own sake.

A dark force is coming. Following on from the epic first novel, Blue Dust: Forbidden, Destiny continues the saga of Qea, a fugitive renegade whose mission it is to free the oppressed children of the Qarntaz Octad. This book explores even more of Qea's back story and has some startling revelations about her personal life as well as exploring even more of the fantastical Blue Dust Universe.

As Adam and Qea get separated, Qea is forced into befriending some of the fearsome otherworldly tribes that inhabit The Octad. Together with a mysterious hooded boy, they face a new, rising evil, finding themselves imprisoned in the imposing "Citadel," a place made almost entirely of glass, which brainwashes the captive children to carry out the will of the sinister Primax.


Book 1: Forbidden

‘Adam! Adam!’ she shouted, but her voice was trapped in the glass orb and all her shouting did was echo alarmingly, bouncing off the glass shell and hitting her in blows that were almost physical.

Qea sat down, put her hands over her ears and waited for the din to stop, then, very carefully, so as not to make any sound, she stood and looked out into the void. She stifled the panic and tried to slow her breathing. Surely it couldn’t end like this, trapped in nowhere, suspended for eternity? She wondered if she would be fed or if she’d just be left to starve slowly until she was gone forever.

Then it started; a wheezing, whining, sucking sound that slobbered through the still air and bumped against her globe, which swung slightly. The sound soaked into every fibre, filling her with the kind of fear she’d only ever felt once before. It slurped and gurgled and dreading what she’d see, Qea lifted her head and turned towards the origin of the noise.

About three metres away was another glass globe and inside she could see a small figure. Outside, attached to the glass with rapacious lips and a drooling ravenous mouth, was the glimmering brown-black shape of an Inquisitor. It was suctioned on to the glass, its sinewy limbs wrapped around the globe, encompassing it totally. Even inside her own globe, Qea could smell decaying flesh. A high pitched scream pierced the silence as the Inquisitor hoovered up the life-force of the figure inside the globe, which began to fade, it’s colours lessening until it was nothing but a puddle of grey liquid slumped on the bottom of its orb.

The Inquisitor swelled, its body thickening, filling out, nourished by its victim. It flew upwards, strength renewed and swooped down to peer into the other globes. Its eyes swept across Qea too, and for a moment it hesitated and its shape shifted slightly, the cavernous eyes boring into her and she waited for it to start sucking the life out of her too, but instead it inclined its head, as if in acknowledgment of a greater foe, and flew off, leaving her cold and bewildered.

Book 2: Destiny

It was a fortress or castle of some kind, constructed from dense blue-black glass, and colossal, towering up into the heavens and stretching back further than the eye could see. In the upper reaches Qea could make out rectangular slashes and for an instant imagined she saw a face watching them. She studied the structure and at first thought it was floating, but as they got closer she saw that it was balancing on thick shards of glass, huge twisted claws that cupped the Citadel like giant hands holding it up to the heavens for approval. Only it was dark, evil and surely no benign being would look down on it with favour. Silent, subdued figures scurried in and out of the jaw-like doorway, passing by the group of prisoners without so much as a blink.

Through the gaping maw they went, into an enormous rectangular courtyard. Everything here was angular, every shape straight and rigid and cold. There were no pretty ornaments or carvings, no flora or vegetation of any sort, simply ice-cold walls of glass rising up on every side. Inserted into the walls twenty metres up, was a glass platform, a kind of rampart on which Qea could see guards patrolling. In an alternating pattern, facing inwards and outwards, the guards gazed out over the city and surrounding countryside or scoured the inner courtyards for signs of danger.

A movement caught Qea’s eye in the far corner, a boxy shape sliding upwards. A lift. Inside were shadowy shapes but the lift was too far away for her to see any details. Their guards herded them into the centre of the courtyard, physically arranging them into a line, as if they were children.

Book 3: Insurrection Will Qea defeat Primax or will her insurrection be over before it’s even begun?

Connect with Katy Krump
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