Mercedes Fox ~ Author

My Writing Blog

Category: Author Interview (Page 2 of 65)

Meet Author Alyse Nennig

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Alyse Nennig

Alyse Nennig is a full time health care professional living in rural Wisconsin with her farmer husband, five rambunctious children, and energetic black lab. She usually writes when the kiddos are sleeping but takes notes anytime an idea comes to mind. Her favorite genres are paranormal romance, crime, fictional history and mystery but if the story is interesting then genre doesn’t matter.

Book sample:  Never Again, Book of Origins Volume One

Genre: Paranormal Romance/Erotica

Synopsis:  All vampires were once human. Who says they can’t be again?

Carrying invisible wounds from a tragic childhood, Hannah Jacobs doesn’t allow herself to fall in love – until she meets John Trott. Sexy as hell, charming, and sensitive, she immediately finds herself drawn to him and, within days, giving him her heart. Twice broken, John effortlessly makes her heart whole again, except Hannah’s buried fear threatens to shatter it once more as dangerous circumstances reveal dark secrets.

One is a vampire and the other a vampire hunter, making a relationship impossible as they’ve been labeled natural enemies throughout history. A witch’s journal, however, tells a much different tale. Centuries old it holds a dark and troubled past with a cure and prophecy, giving Hannah and John a future.

But, it’s one they’ll never see…if she has a shattered heart.

Sample:  Ringing….ringing….ringing….”Hi John. Checking in are we?” asked Price.

“Good morning to you too, Price.” I answered halfheartedly.

“Uh oh, you don’t sound too enthused. Have you talked to Hannah yet like I advised?”

“Yes, I did. We met for coffee yesterday, but didn’t have the opportunity to buy any.”

“What happened?” Price asked with concern in his voice.

“Well…we, ah, linked hands and then something strange happened to both of us. I’d rather not get into detail right now, but, needless to say, we spent the entire day and night together. She only left a little while ago to get ready for work.”

“And now you have to suffer with a painful heart until you see her again, am I right?”

“Completely, and I can’t take anything to numb the pain because you know what happens.”

“Yes. I remember you tried that in the sixties and seventies. Not one medication or narcotic worked. Your blood just diluted everything; same for the alcohol. You tried so hard to get drunk during Woodstock but it barely affected you.” Price said, reminiscing to when he was a child and my secret was under the care of his father before being passed to him.

“And some would say that is an advantage, but not if you are drinking to numb the pain.” Sighing heavily, we both let brief silence linger before I continued. “Have you found anything in the books yet?”

“I haven’t translated much else but found a lead on another book. There’s just one problem. I called the college library in Virginia I traced it to and they haven’t been able to locate that book for over a decade. It was last checked out and returned by an Andrew Jacobs but, since it was technically returned, they couldn’t say he still had it. It was deemed lost in the system.”

“Price, did I really hear you say the words Virginia and Jacobs?” I asked skeptically.

“Why? Is there something I should know?” Price asked, sounding more hopeful than he did before.

“Hannah is from Virginia and when I researched her parents deaths the names that came up were….” I paused for a second, almost not believing what I was about to say. “They were Penelope and Andrew Jacobs.” And then dead silence ensued.

“Do you think she knows – ?” Price began.

Quickly interrupting his train of thought, I retorted “no….well, I don’t know. Maybe. She hasn’t given me any reason to believe she would.”

“Okay, let’s forget I asked. But if these two Andrews are one and the same then let’s say for arguments sake that somehow he still had the book. With him dead his belongings would resort to Hannah. Is there any chance she would still have it in her possession?”

Letting this hypothetical talk sink in I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. Knowing that this missing book could hold the key to a future with Hannah I told Price where to

find her.

“Price, you will find Hannah at the Jefferson Memorial Library this morning. I think she is done at noon but you best leave now in case you do find it. Chances are she has the book or at the least knows its whereabouts. She may have had a hard life with her father but based on how she talked about him this morning she loved him and wouldn’t just let everything go. I am positive she has kept some things to remember her parents by.”

Stunned Price said, “Now I think I am hearing things, though it could be my getting older. Did you say Jefferson Memorial Library?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I know you don’t believe in coincidences but how about fate or destiny because I am already there,” he answered.

“You must be joking. Tell me you are joking, Price.” I snapped at him.

“Before you called I was already coming up to the library entrance. There is a reference for a student’s paper I need to crosscheck before entering a final grade. Like I said, maybe it’s fate or destiny. Maybe we are meant to look inside that book. Otherwise why would Hannah and I be in the same place at the same time?”

“You are probably right, as usual. Well, when you get inside look for a woman with deep chestnut hair, big sea blue eyes, and a heart shaped face. She will be the most beautiful one there,” I advised Price, smiling as I did so. Just the thought of her was making my heart go wild but at least it didn’t hurt.

“Alright, I will try to be tactful but depending on how much she knows I can’t promise anything. You know, if we are lucky she would have tucked the book away on a shelf that rarely sees visitors. A library this size would be the perfect hiding place for a book you don’t want found.”

“Yes, I suppose it would. Well you best get in there and be careful on approaching her. Her past is something she doesn’t openly share with others.”

“I see. But, ah, she did with you?” Price softly asked, not sure if he should have in the first place.

“Yes, she did. But I will give you details after you get that book. I need to know what our options are,” I replied.

“Okay, I won’t press you further but don’t sit by the phone waiting. I will call you after I’m done here. Bye John.”

“Good bye.” Ending the phone call several emotions ran through me at once. I was elated at being so close to this book Price says could be the key to everything, but was also

apprehensive about what it will tell us. Most of all I feared that Hannah may know about the world I was born into, making me wonder if she would accept me for who I am no matter our

feelings for each other. I suppose we shall find out soon enough.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? Around Halloween of 2014 a co-worker asked me to read the short story she bought because she didn’t like its ending and wanted my opinion. Liking many of the same books as her I read it and completely agreed with her. It was a good story but not at all what we expected. In hearing us complain about it my second co-worker joked that if we didn’t like how it ended we should rewrite it. Thinking it would be fun to create my own world instead, soon after I began work on the prologue for Never Again. People I knew loved it so I kept writing and now I’m trying to see if others will love it too.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? Unless it’s something for kids I usually need relative silence. I’d become too distracted to think if it’s something I’d pick for myself.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? I use a little of both. I at least have a plot decided on within my first chapter but for me a full outline is too restrictive. If I get an unexpected idea from life or from what I’ve already written I’d rather see where it takes the story than scratch it because it doesn’t fit the outline. After all, sometimes the best things in life are unexpected so why can’t that be true about writing.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website? I use Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations. I love working with her. Visit her at

Where do your ideas come from? The book in the series, the characters and the back story all come from my likes and dislikes, my life experiences, my friends, and my family tree to make Hannah and John’s world feel real. Everything else in the series can be connected to anything, from music I love and books I’ve read to something someone said to me. Sometimes I even get an idea from my kids’ bad behavior!

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? I struggled with writing a book description. It sounds like a silly problem to have after completing 27 chapters but the happy medium between saying too much and saying too little eluded me. I had drafts upon drafts varying in length and approaches but my beta readers and I felt nothing worked, so I took a mental break. Upon revisiting my drafts I reworked the one with the most promise and wrote a fresh one. Then I let my beta readers go to work again and ended up combining the two. It was because of them that I was able to keep Never Again on track for publication.

What is the current book you are promoting? Never Again, Book of Origins Volume One

What is your next project? Family Again, Book of Origins Volume Two. As Hannah and John’s story continues they travel to Bohemia to find the cure’s last ingredient. An encounter with the original vampire, however, leaves Hannah in Bohemia and John back in New York. While separated Hannah decides to pick the brain of her captor and discovers a misunderstanding over 800 years old.

Many thanks Alyse for sharing! For more about Alyse, her work, and getting yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Facebook / Goodreads / Pinterest / Amazon / CreateSpace

Meet Author Leslie Hauser

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Leslie Hauser

Leslie Hauser teaches middle school English and history. She is a Midwesterner at heart—born in Cincinnati, Ohio—but currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with her dog Mr. Darcy. Her debut YA novel Chasing Eveline releases July 2017.

Book sample:  Chasing Eveline

Genre: YA contemporary

Synopsis:  Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never find joy in the present.

Why do you write? I’ve always had imaginary stories swirling in my head. In fact, when I was younger, I had two imaginary friends: People and Kikibrumbrum. And no, I cannot explain those names. J But that was the start of all the characters, places, and plotlines that I’ve created in my mind. I combine that desire to imagine new lives with my need to express my own thoughts, opinions, and experiences, and the result is a novel or a story or even a poem!

How long does it usually take you to complete a book? It’s difficult for me to write a little here and there. Because I immerse myself in the story when I’m writing, I need large chunks of time. Since I’m a teacher, I’m lucky to have those large chunks of time during the summers. So I’ve been able to draft two novels so far in about five weeks each and a third coming in a few months! I treat it as a full-time job, working from around 8-3 each day. After that, it enters several rounds of editing and a round with beta readers before I’m ready to shop it around. Everything other than the drafting I can do while I’m working, so there’s no timeline for that.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? I will always have a playlist for a novel. It includes music with lyrics along with instrumental music. I don’t listen to the music when I’m drafting, but as I edit each section, I do. The songs help me create a mood, and they inspire me. Certain songs now will remind me of my novels.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? Oh, I need an outline! And it follows a very specific path. First, I outline in my head. I walk around with the story brewing in my mind for weeks or months, if necessary. I need to create a basic movie for how I want the plot to unfold. Then I map out the story on Post-it notes. Each chapter gets a Post-it note, and the chapters are divided into a beginning, middle and end. This helps me hit a high point in each chapter, which keeps the story moving and helps maintain a sense of drama. It keeps me from having chapters that serve no purpose. Only after I’ve mapped out the entire story do I begin writing. Of course, things may change as I go, but I need to have a set plan—a set of directions—before I can begin. Otherwise, I feel too overwhelmed.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? Jasper Fforde wrote the Thursday Next series, which begins with The Eyre Affair. I would describe it as a literary Nancy Drew book. It’s so creative and such a great concept. I wish I could have thought of it and written it. The books are fast-paced and so much fun to read.

What do you read with? (Kindle, Nook, iPad, iPhone, physical book) Physical books only! My sole experience reading an eBook came with reading some ARCs recently. It was my first attempt, and I kept trying to reach inside the screen to grab the page. J I love folding down corners of pages where I make connections, and I can only do this with a physical book. Plus I love bookshelves!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? I read advice all the time about sticking with it and not giving up. And now I understand why I see that advice everywhere. It’s true. There’s a lot of rejection that comes with trying to get published. You can’t let it stop you. (You are allowed one day to binge on cupcakes!) I could have given up on Chasing Eveline a while ago, but I knew I had a great story and it just needed the right person to connect with it. And patience paid off! I also would advise not having your heart set on a certain path to publication. I thought the only way to go was to secure an agent then get a publishing deal with a major publisher. That didn’t happen for me. Instead, I stumbled upon the chance to connect with a smaller indie publisher. It has turned out to be a fantastic experience, and I get to see my dream of having a book published come to life. If I hadn’t been willing to change my course, this wouldn’t be happening.

What is the current book you are promoting? Chasing Eveline is my debut YA contemporary novel. It releases July 11, 2017, from Pen Name Publishing. It’s about sixteen-year-old Ivy who sets out to reunite 80s Irish rock band Chasing Eveline. This group was her mom’s favorite band and the only remaining connection Ivy has to her mom since she left two years ago. It’s a novel full of hope and laughter and lots of awkward teen situations. So. Much. Awkward!

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special? Ivy’s special gift is her determination. She’s been dealt a pretty crappy hand—having her mom just disappear on her. It would be easy for her to give up on people and think the worst, but she doesn’t. She’s determined to keep her memories of her mom alive, and she’s determined to see her plan through to the end. She definitely struggles with keeping the faith, but there’s always that glimmer still there inside her heart that keeps her hopes alive.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why? I love Ivy, but I really have a soft spot for Matt, her friend and partner in crime. His story sort of took on a life of its own as I wrote the novel. He has his own coming-of-age arc, and it was fun to watch him grow throughout the novel. He’s the goofy boy friend (not boyfriend) who is so much fun to have around.

What is your favorite movie or TV show? My favorite movie is Hoosiers. Second place is Sliding Doors (with Gwyneth Paltrow). That movie is so unique.

My favorite TV show of all time is Gilmore Girls. Lots of second place finishers: Friday Night Lights, Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Nashville, New Girl, Vampire Diaries (Damon!) and 24. I love a good teen drama, but I also enjoy watching cop shows and comedies.

Do you have any fur babies to brag about?  Mr. Darcy! He is my best friend 🙂

How can readers discover more about you and your work? You can find out all about me, what I’ve written, and read my blog at my web site: I love visitors!




Many thanks Leslie for sharing! For more about Leslie, her work, and getting yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest / Amazon / Instagram

Meet Author Alex Avrio

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Alex Avrio

Alex Avrio is an author of fantasy short stories, novellas, and novels. The first two novels in the swashbuckling Merchant Blades mercenary fantasy adventure series are now available to buy. Her previous dark fantasy novella, the Dreaming Demon, is also for sale on Amazon.

The third novel in the Merchant Blades series, The Hidden Dragon, is due for release in late 2017.

Alex was born in Nottingham, UK, to Greek parents. She has lived both in Greece and England where she returned to study for an MBA at the University of Kent. She also has a PhD in e-business strategy management from the University of Kent. Alex has been writing stories from an early age and, after concluding her PhD, she decided it was the time to try to become a professional writer. Alexandra currently lives with her husband and their two cats in Newcastle upon Tyne, a place so far up north that if you go any further you’re south again. She would love to share with you her love of fantasy and adventures. She also has a book, bingo and dessert habit to fuel, so please help by buying her books!

Book sample:  The Alchemist’s Box – Fantasy Adventure

Five years ago she would have run him though with her saber. Now she must trust Kapitan Maximillian Jaeger, enemy in the recent bitter war, with her life. The mercenaries’ simple job: to retrieve the mysterious Alchemist’s Box from the neighboring Duchy of Pella.

But in Pella, a curse of a thousand years has resurfaced.

Where are all the court dignitaries? What does the Alchemist’s box contain that is worth killing, or dying, for?

Can Regina and Jaeger put the war behind them and work together to save everyone in the Duchy before it’s too late?

If you use a Pen Name why did you choose it? Alex Avrio is a pen name. I use it because most people can’t pronounce my Greek legal name. After going through a few ideas, I chose Alex Avrio because it’s short, memorable, and easy to pronounce. Avrio is the Greek word for tomorrow, so I like to think that it implies that I have a writing future.

Why do you write? Writing is like breathing to me. I can’t not write in the same way that I couldn’t not breathe. I have so many stories I would like to share with my readers. I just can’t type fast enough.

When did you decide to become a writer? I guess I always wanted to be a writer. I have recently plucked up the courage to start writing full time. I finished my PhD and thought that what I really wanted was to be a writer; it was now or never really, so here I am.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book? It depends on the book. Some are easier to write that others. Books are live entities, each one with its own distinct personality. Sometimes they are similar: a series of books is like a family, each sibling similar but different, or they can be wildly different from each other. I’d say on average it takes about six months to finish a first draft. Then it goes through rewrites, beta readers, editing, and then to a professional editor before it’s ready to be unleashed into the wild.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? I write during the day. I wake up, take my (very large) cup of coffee and sit down to write. I normally stop for lunch (and ‘cuddle the cats’ breaks) and finish around six in the evening.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? I have lots of playlists that help me get into the writing groove and various mood lists. My Enigma playlist is among my most valued writing tools.

What have you written? I am the proud author of the Merchant Blades series. This fantasy adventure series includes The Alchemist’s Box, Lose a Princes Lose your Head, and I’m currently writing the third book in the series, The Hidden Dragon.

I have also written a dark fantasy novella, The Dreaming Demon, and various other short stories. I have another novel about three quarters finished, with the working title Miss Silk and the Tomb of Menkare. This is an ambitious project and will be a real epic, with three parallel storylines from three different time periods spanning around 15000 years, which will all hopefully seamlessly intertwine to create something special. This one’s going to take a little longer to write and polish, and so it’s taken a bit of a back seat to the Merchant Blades series at the moment.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? Each book is a different entity, so it needs a different approach. Having said that, I have found that the ‘writing from the seat of my pants’ approach works best for me. I have an idea of the key points in the plot, so at the start I know roughly where I want it to be at different parts of the book, and that’s about it. I start writing and then I often get surprised by what my characters get up to. More than once I’ve started writing a scene and when the characters start talking they’ve said completely different things to what I originally had in mind, taking the novel in a different direction. I find that this flexibility keeps my writing fresh, and I have to finish writing the novel to find out how it ends! It’s like reading a book, only I have to write it to see what happens next.

Any advice for aspiring authors? Read a lot, write a lot, and don’t give up.

What is the current book you are promoting? I’m currently promoting The Alchemist’s Box, as it’s the entry to my Merchant Blades series. It’s a fast-paced quest-type fantasy adventure, with a strong female lead character, Captain Regina Fitzwaters, and a gritty leading man, Kapitan Maximillian Jaeger. They fought on opposite sides in a bitter war that finished several years earlier, and now they are both members of the Merchant Blades mercenary guild. They get thrown together on a quest to retrieve the Alchemist’s Box, and must try to work together, which doesn’t prove easy. They think they are over the war, but they still harbor deep-seated grudges that makes it a challenge to work together. They must battle through, trying to avoid getting killed by foes both human and magical, while trying not to kill each other!

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser? I’m currently writing book three of the Merchant Blades series, working title The Hidden Dragon. Regina has to take Max back to her home in Merrovigia to meet her somewhat dysfunctional family. As usual, Max’s Eressian charm does nothing to smooth over the difficult relations between the two Empires. You’ll meet a lot of the characters from the first two books again, as they get sucked into both political intrigues and tackling more magical monsters!

Who is your favorite character in your book and why? That’s like asking me who my favorite child is. I like all of them. At the moment I especially enjoy writing about Regina Fitzwaters and Maximillian Jaeger. Regina is a clever and independent woman trying to wade through all the sexism and favoritism in her world. Max has good lines and is hard done by but still tries to do what he thinks is the right thing.

Do you have any fur babies to brag about? We have currently two cats, Sooty and Ray. They’re litter brothers but they’re quite different. Sooty is super cuddly and sits on my shoulders when I write (it’s more comfortable than it sounds) while Ray is more reserved. They’re both writing cats in training. We had a silver tabby, Mickey who sadly passed away last year. He was an excellent writing cat and helped me write my first book.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing? You shouldn’t have asked that! I have a lot to say on the subject, as its related to the topic of my PhD. Deep breath. Here goes.

I think traditional publishing is considered by many to be the ‘proper’ way of doing it and traditionally published authors are considered ‘real’ authors. While traditional publishing will be with us for a long time, and the delight of the smell of a freshly printed book isn’t going anywhere, times are already changing. Thank goodness for that! In my opinion traditional publishing has far too many gatekeepers. Agents, people who wade through the slush piles, more people who read what has been selected by the first round of readers. Then there are trends and fashions that the publishers consider, what they think people will buy. Even then, if your book miraculously makes it through all the hoops, it has a small window of opportunity to make it. Bookstores have limited space on their shelves; if the book isn’t selling over a period of about six weeks they send it back to make space for one that might do better.

We have all heard the stories of how now famous writers amassed piles of rejection letters. Makes you wonder that seeing as writers such as J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and James Patterson received dozens of rejections, what chance do the rest of us have?

Now, with the thriving self-publishing market, an author stands a good chance of bringing their work to the public without having to jump blindfolded and backwards through fiery hoops.

Personally, I think that’s wonderful, for readers and authors alike. Traditionally published books often take years to reach the bookstore shelf from authors’ keyboard. Most ‘traditional authors’ release maybe one book per year, and it can be a pain waiting for the next book from your favourite author to come out. No more. Self-publishing can help to fill this gap. What’s your poison? What do you love to read? You can find whatever genre and subgenre you enjoy reading, a plethora of authors, and they tend to publish far more often, some even five or six books a year!

For authors it’s great news as well. They write the story the want to tell and can immediately put it out there for the readers to find. No jumping through hoops any more, no receiving hundreds of rejections. What’s more, the financial terms are better and the author gets to keep most of what they make.

Self-published authors need to be careful to ensure the quality of their work, making sure that they put out the best version of their work that they can. One of the problems with self-published books these days is the editing. Poorly edited books risk giving self-publishing a bad name. Sometimes, in their enthusiasm to get a book out, authors put out work that could do with a few more rounds of editing. Books full of typos and grammar mistakes. I understand that not everyone can afford professional editing (which I highly recommend, by the way – it’s an expense that pays for itself). If paying a professional editor isn’t an option, authors need to find trusted family members or friends prepared to take the time to beta-read thoroughly, to spot typos and grammar mistakes, and provide brutally honest feedback – these types of friends aren’t always easy to find, but are essential, as after a while when you read your own manuscript typos become invisible. A fresh pair of eyes does wonders.

What do your readers mean to you? The readers are the life and soul of books! I like to think of my readers as very special friends.

How can readers discover more about you and you work? You can sign up to my newsletter at All people who sign up to my newsletter will shortly receive a free Merchant Blades short story, set between books 1 and 2 of the series. My website also hosts my blog where you can find out my latest news between newsletters, and you can also read for free some of my flash fiction stories there.

Many thanks Alex for chatting with us! For more about Alex, her work, and to get yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / CreateSpace / BookTrailer / YouTube

Meet Author M. J. Lau

Halo! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author M. J. Lau

M.J. Lau was born and raised in York, PA. He has spent much of his adult life pursuing his dual goals of being a teacher and an author. He has been teaching English in Lancaster County for the past five years and is now an author with the publication of his first novel, The Buried Few.

Book sample:  The Buried Few

Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopian

Synopsis: Imagine a future where over-ambitious wars leave a generation of Americans without parents. Imagine the remaining citizens doing their best to raise grandchildren, cousins, or neighbors as their own. Imagine every child being overseen by the government, a paper trail following them from birth to adoption and beyond.

Now imagine being involved in none of that… until you find a baby, abandoned but alive, in a park. Daniel Allingham, a computer security specialist, is faced with just such a decision. Despite his efforts to wash his hands of the whole problem, he finds himself — and those close to him — further and further entrenched in a struggle against a relentless government agent.

While the personal, technological, and political issues grow more and more complex, the heart of the matter remains deceptively simple: a child, a man, and the lengths to which he’d go to set one thing right in a world of wrong.

Excerpt:  CHAPTER 1:  Lost and Found

“There you are…”

Three hours of staring at a screen and Daniel had finally isolated it: the bug in the code that kept letting government info leech out to some foreign server.  He worked up a patch in a few moments, but sent a dozen of his latest beneviruses through before sealing the wound; they would track the stolen data and turn it into jumbled pictures of kittens.  Daniel wanted to smile at himself for that, but he was still salty about there being a hole in the first place.  He had built that firewall only six months ago, and someone already managed to batter their way through it.

His head felt hot.  He rubbed the back of his neck, and his hand wandered instinctively to the tiny nodule behind his ear.  Was that bump always there?  Was it something vital, like a lymph node or a salivary gland or a Eustachian tube?  (Is that even in the ear area? He’d have to Wiki that.)  He wanted to avoid thoughts like tumor or clot, but the more he tried to keep those ideas away, the more they teased the fringes of his mind.  Whatever it was, it stirred up something deep and heavy inside him, but he couldn’t put it into words.  Or rather, he couldn’t condense it down from the thousands of words that ricocheted around his head any time he tried to make sense of it.

When Daniel first noticed the lump a few days ago, the droning of his office suddenly became muted.  The buzz and clack of computers faded out, his co-workers pantomiming conversations.  He turned his head and thought he heard the faintest sound, like when it’s so quiet your ears catch something on the farthest horizon of noise, and you wonder if you heard your name, or if someone just breathed too loud, or if there was really any sound at all.

He snapped back to the moment, scanning the dim, cavernous office area again, the blank faces of a hundred computer screens staring back at him.  Only his nondescript corner was faintly luminous, the soft blue light glowing like a child’s tablet under a sheet.  He shook his head in annoyance at himself; he knew no one else was there now. The noise was in his mind.  He had to stay focused on his work.  And what exciting work it was: improving network security for every business bigger than a car wash.  It paid all right, and he had enough rank to have some flexibility about where and when he did his work, but still, the day-to-day of it was hardly stimulating mentally.

At least he knew he would always have a job – everyone wanted more and more virtual safety measures, from the government to grocery stores.  Normally he just crunched code and collected the paycheck, regardless of the client, but this job was different.  When he was tasked with improving the encryption for the local Collection Agency, he was torn about mentioning a conflict of interest.  The rules didn’t outright say he shouldn’t do the job, and he figured half the guys in the department would be equally conflicted, so it might as well be him.  Besides, he wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the client records, so there wasn’t a legitimate reason to recuse himself.  Still, how could he resist a quick glance at his own info?  It wasn’t like he’d see anything he didn’t already have a right to know.

OK…this should only take a second.  He searched for his data number, and his screen became filled with dates, contributions, regular selections.  He was due for another contribution any day now; better this way than the alternative, he figured.  What a humiliating situation: a year ago, his whole life seemed to be right on track.  Now he found himself stuck in this program, probably forever.  At least he had the career he wanted, even if it meant working on things like this every once in a while that reminded him of –

A vibration shot up his thigh, spurring him to his feet.  Prickling with sweat, he retrieved his phone from his pocket and checked the message: “First Saturday Creator Mixer – Heywood Resort 9p-2a.  Drinks, DJ, Prizes – Guaranteed Connect!  Register ASAP!” His thumb declined the offer.

Exhaling, Daniel laughed at himself and put his fingers under his glasses to rub his eyes.  He needed to get away from all this.  He smoothed the hair down at the base of his neck, consciously stopping himself from feeling for the lump, which of course made him think about it and set the thought-storm churning again.  Weary and irked, he shut his computer down, slid his papers in his courier bag, and took the long walk down to the lobby.  The guards down front weren’t in their usual sociable mood when they did their standard security checks, and Daniel wasn’t much up for banter either, so they all just slogged through the motions.

Stepping outside, Daniel paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the brightness.  Daylight always made him self-conscious; he was hoping it would be dark by the time he left work.  Daniel sported the stooped frame, undefined midsection, and sallow complexion requisite for his field.  His black-rimmed glasses were fashionably retro, and his only nod to nonconformity was his lip ring, along with everyone else.

His lenses darkened after thirty seconds, but the sun still glowered faintly behind the tree line of Mordecai Park.  The fields and playgrounds across the street seemed like a distant world, a place forgotten behind the sea of concrete and waves of driverless cars before him.  He stepped up to the curb and summoned a vehicle to pick him up.  When he felt the warm afternoon breeze, though, Daniel decided to forgo the ride and reacquaint himself with an old habit.  It had been months since he’d taken that shaded path through the park, back when he took walks all the time with–

“Excuse me, could you hold this?” a woman asked, holding a large bag up to his chest.

Daniel looked over the heavily burdened woman, and then shook his head into the present.  “Of course, yeah,” he said, gripping the handles.  “Oh, I didn’t–” he cleared his throat.  “Go ahead,” he said, gesturing toward the waiting car.

He felt deeply relieved to have his hands occupied, because he felt completely awkward standing there, watching this woman slowly positioned her very pregnant person, one angle at a time, near, beside, and then into the idling vehicle.  He tried not to stare at her red cheeks, the strain on her face, her quick breathing.  She waggled her fingers at him.  His heart raced.  He forced a smile: “No, thank you, I’m walking.”

“My bag?”

His membership to self-contempt renewed itself.  “Right.  Sorry,” he said, handing her the bag and then closing the door for her.   He waved to her to complete the awkwardness trifecta.

He drove his fists into his pockets and crossed the street hurriedly, then replayed the last two minutes over and over in his head a few times.  He was never a distracted person before, but ever since he lost Renee… no, he wasn’t going to bring that up again.  Just push that thought to the back of your mind, Daniel.  Right back there by that weird lump – he sighed heavily.  He was not going to win this battle.

Not that he would truly put Renee out of his head if he wanted to – that’s probably why his jerk brain kept bringing her to the surface.  Still, he asked himself, what was the point?  What conversation could he ever have with her that he hadn’t had a hundred times already, just like this?  It seemed strange that he could still have so much to say to her, after how much talking they’d done on evenings just like this, strolling through the park, or eating dinner at home, or fighting after he washed her dry-clean-only jacket.  He laughed in spite of himself.  During better times, he would consider that a sign of their bond; now such thoughts were fresh lye in old wounds.

As the path began to slope up, the sounds from the playground began to carry from the top of the hill ahead.  Daniel looked up and saw children running around in the distance, little creatures climbing and tumbling and laughing.  Daniel thought of the crowds of parents inevitably watching soccer matches and couples cozied up on benches just over the hill.  He decided to cut left through the woods to avoid even the possibility of such sights.

Suddenly, a series of beeps resonated from his pocket.  Daniel pulled out his phone and automatically punched in his data number.  His SafCom app indicated that he wasn’t taking his usual route home and offered to redirect him.  He entered his override code and set the maximum delay – fifteen minutes – before it would check for his coordinates again.  He rolled his eyes at the need for such safety precautions, but felt comforted that someone, if only a device, showed concern for his whereabouts.  They had a joke at the office: If you ever felt like no one cared about you, just let your SafCom warnings go unanswered.

He ambled down the path into the thickest part of the woods – or as close to woods as you can get in downtown San Francisco.  Once he reached a fully shaded stretch, Daniel felt a surge of relief.  A faint dampness eased around him, and the cooler air loosened his muscles.  He began to remember why he used to love coming to the park in the first place – the daily walks always unknotted the worries of the day, and the sight of other people, even from far away, used to make him feel less alone.

Around the towering trees he felt so small, like he was a boy again, and more than once he let his boyishness possess his gait as he wandered around the trees.  Once fall came, he would gather a small pile of leaves with scuffing footsteps until his shoes were buried, and he would pretend he was a tree growing out of the ground, ageless and wise, unable to be uprooted.  Lost in the daydream, he only vaguely remembered a world going on outside the surrounding trees.  Everything beyond a few feet seemed muted in a calm and timeless way.  Muted?  Daniel thought.  Wait a minute… where did all the sounds go?

His eyes searched their peripheries.  His fingers fluttered at his sides.  He didn’t even hear his inner monologue.  Slowly cocking his head to the side, he tried to pick up the distant trills of children’s laughter and stock encouragements from half-attentive parents, rhythmic jogging banter and the quarrelsome tittering of birds.  Instead, he heard only the faint keening of silence, like a TV left on with nothing on the screen.

He looked up at the trees arching above him.  The breeze that had been stirring the branches faded.  The subtle chafing of the foliage had stopped.  The sun knifed around the thick limb above him, streaking out at angles but somehow still stinging his eyes.  He raised his hand reflexively, stepping back into the crunch of leaves behind him.  The sound startled him, but then just as quickly calmed him, since he momentarily feared he had gone deaf.

He looked down at the leaves enveloping his shoe, and he smiled to himself unconsciously.  He kept his foot planted there a lingering moment, admiring now the stillness of the air, and enjoying the embrace of the quiet woods.

Just then, Daniel heard a faint noise, like a stifled cry.  He paused and looked toward the sound, but saw only trees, leaves, grass.  A breeze moving through branches.  Maybe a kid fell at the playground.  He shrugged it off.

The lilt of a birdsong drifted through the air as Daniel resumed walking.  After a few steps, he heard it again: a half-whimper pierced the silence, sounding closer than before.  Daniel held his breath.  Waited.  Nothing.  The quiet clutched at his chest—where was the sound?  He looked uphill through the trees toward the clearing; he could make out people flying kites and walking in twos and reading on benches, only they seemed farther away than before.  Much too far to match the nearness of that last quivering whine.

Daniel swallowed hard.  He stepped off the path, toward the noise.  He reached a clearing where a breach in the canopy let some light filter down to the thin underbrush.

A choked gasp.  He froze.  From seemingly nowhere, he heard a staggered sob—the unmistakable staccato cry of an infant.

That was not some voice, he told himself.  That was not in your head.  Daniel’s skin tingled, and the cool air made his throbbing skull ache.  He heard a struggling breath, and a longer, more ardent wail.  His heart began to hammer in his chest.  He looked around, but nothing was close enough to match the intensity of the sound.

Hunched over, Daniel crept across the clearing, feeling completely ridiculous.  Another cry rose up, higher pitch and nearer yet.  He shuffled his feet violently through some leaves, thick around the nearby trees, but turned up nothing.  The sobbing gained momentum now, muffled but steady.  Every way Daniel looked or moved, the crying grew closer, more impassioned.  The gasps came in ragged pulls.  The silences between stabbed deeper at him every time.

Sliding to a stop, Daniel could now feel the ground beneath him trembling with the forcefulness of the crying.  He unslung his bag and fell to his knees.  Clutching at leaves in wild fistfuls, he cleared the ground and clawed at the dying grass and damp loam near the foot of a towering birch tree.  The crying sounded so close it seemed on top of him.  Or that he was on top of it.

Raking at the soil with his fingers, he created a few shallow furrows in the dirt.  He soon formed a hole, gouging at the earth with each shuddering cry.  He worked on widening the fist-sized hole, scratching against the edges.  He caught a fingernail on a hair-thin root, tearing the nail half off his middle finger.

He cursed through gritted teeth, shaking his left hand vainly to dispel the pain.  He clamped his hand against his right side with his arm, his mind racing.  Another SafCom warning beeped from his pants, trilling relentlessly this time.  He fumbled for his pocket, grasping clumsily for the edges of his phone.  Another cry shook the ground at his knees. The phone fell free from his side, and he tried frantically to enter his code with his off-hand.  He failed twice, sending the beeps up several octaves.  Panicking, he ripped the battery off the back and tossed the parts aside.

The cries continued, but he was barely getting anywhere.  He needed to dig faster.  He rifled awkwardly through his bag for something he could use.  What was he going to dig with, his laptop?  A highlighter?  He threw the bag aside in frustration.  It landed near a mossy log, where he then spotted a sturdy, pointed stick.  Daniel seized it and began hacking at the ground.  The edges grew by choppy degrees, now as wide as a cabbage, now as deep as his forearm.

Must. Dig. Faster.

One vicious swing struck at an awkward angle. Daniel pitched forward and quickly caught himself.  He stopped for a second, trembling from his frenzied state.  He didn’t hear anything coming from the ground now.  What if I gouged too hard and hurt whatever was crying?  he thought.  Wait… do I really think something is underground?

He held his breath a moment.  He wanted to make sure the wailing hadn’t stopped.  That he wasn’t hearing it just because it was etched in his thoughts.  Just then, a quaking breath was drawn, and a desperate shriek reverberated up through the hole.  Daniel threw the stick aside and dug back in with his hands, unflinching as more soil went black with his blood from every scoop.

Soon the dirt began to feel looser beneath his fingers.  He clawed across the bottom of the elbow-deep hole, and the rich, dark soil moved in telling clumps, as if there were space just beneath.  Daniel forced his fingers through like a blade and drew back a mass of loose earth, the ground breaking all around his hand into a small cavity below.

He looked into the dim opening, straining to make out its secrets.  Nestled in the black and crumbling recess beneath the tree, it was just barely visible—pink, warm, and impossibly alive:  a naked and utterly transfixed baby boy.

Why do you write? I write for many of the same reasons as everyone else – to get something off my chest, to organize my thoughts, to explain, to entertain.  I’m a teacher, so I write a lot for my job, and I try to impress upon my students that writing is a life skill, not a specialized art that only a select few people actually perform.  Ultimately, I am most driven to write because writing helps me feel like I matter, like I have a voice, and that I can make an impression on the world if I just put my thoughts out there and connect with others through my stories.

When did you decide to become a writer?  I’ve thought about being a writer since I was about 14, when my high school English teachers started to notice I had some talent with words and encouraged my creative flourishes, however misguided, when I wrote for school.  I wrote for fun, too, but mostly for my own amusement, like comics about my day.  Once, I wrote – and attempted to film – a movie with a friend right after graduating high school, but we never completed it.  In college, I wrote several short stories, poems, and even a historical research article that were all published; several poems won prizes, and I earned a writing scholarship for my academic work.  So the thought of becoming a writer has been bouncing around my head for about twenty years, but only recently did I actually decide to commit to becoming a writer rather than just thinking it would always be some unfulfilled dream.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  Considering that I’ve only completed one book, and it took me five years (off and on) to do so, my average isn’t looking very impressive right now!  I do have several other novels started, though, and I project that I will finish my second book within a year, and perhaps produce more books at a roughly annual rate.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  My stories usually start out when I get an idea and just start running with it.  I eventually hit a point where I either lose steam or realize the story needs more coherence for me to continue.  That’s when I start mapping out the plot and trying to connect the random dots I sketched out.  I’m frequently surprised by how I manage to tie together various scenes or concepts that weren’t necessarily related initially.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website? I used to find a graphic designer for my book cover.  I went with a woman named Angie (pro_ebookcovers) who had a lot of positive reviews and reasonable pricing.  I gave her my “vision”, chose the images I wanted her to incorporate, and provided examples of existing book covers that captured the general style I was going for.  She was very accommodating, did as many revisions as I asked for, and produced all the files I need for the print book and the Kindle edition.  It was a very fun process!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?  Yes – read this article by Hugh Howey:

What is the hardest thing about writing?  Finding the time!  I did have moments when I wasn’t sure how to wrap up a scene or plot thread, but mostly I just had too many other priorities demanding my attention.  I’ve learned to make time for the important things, and writing (usually) makes the “important things” list.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?  I don’t have a specific favorite movie, but some of my favorites include Fight Club, The Departed, The Big Lebowski, and The Princess Bride.  My favorite TV show is LOST.  The writing was phenomenal (for the first five seasons, anyway)!

Which writers inspire you?  My favorite current authors are Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, and Junot Diaz.  Shakespeare will always be the greatest, in my mind.

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser?  My next novel will be part of a fantasy series.  It involves a family that has magic in a recently conquered empire where magic-users are now being hunted down.  I also recently started drafting a book with my son, based on this really interesting plot we developed during a car ride.  We were batting around the idea of kids being trapped in a video game, which they enjoy at first, but then realize they can’t escape!

If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast?  Great question!  When I was writing this book, I often saw it in my head as a movie, so I think about this frequently.  My gut answer is that I’d prefer to have mostly unknown actors and actresses, based on their fit for the role rather than on star power.  But, just so future casting agents have a general idea, here are some suggestions: Daniel would be played by John Cho (of “Harold and Kumar” fame).  Gozzum would be Mahershala Ali.  I would really want to get the female roles right, because they’re the most interesting, in my opinion; Renee would be someone cool and edgy like Cameron Esposito.  I’d like to see if Q’orianka Kilcher could handle the intensity of Tenebre.

What one person from history would you like to meet and why? I am a HUGE history fan, so this is a question I ponder a lot.  I tend to lean toward the obvious – Julius Caesar, Jesus, Shakespeare – but whenever I hear about some unfamiliar historic event, I usually want to go back there meet the people involved.  Recently, I’ve wanted to meet Enrique of Malacca, Magellan’s slave during his circumnavigation of the globe.  Magellan gets all the credit for sailing around the world, but it’s arguable that Enrique crossed every line of longitude (i.e. circled the globe) before the end of the voyage.  Either way, he traveled to exotic places and saw so many lands unspoiled by modernity – just hearing about his experiences would be incredible.

If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?  End global warming so there’s still a world for my future grandchildren to enjoy.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?  Is there any living writer who doesn’t wish they had come up with Harry Potter?

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?  You have to make time to write.  Nobody is going to carve out that time for you – you have to do it for yourself.

What are some of your favorite books and why?  My favorite books include The Catcher in the Rye, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  The main quality they all have in common is a unique, dynamic voice.  Each book is instantly convincing, and spellbinding the whole way through.

Tell us something unique about you.  I’ve moved more than anyone I know… 26 times!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?  Yes – thank you for taking this time to interview me.  Authors need to support each other, and I appreciate you helping me reach new readers!

There ya have it folks! Many thanks MJ for coming by! For more about MJ, his work, and to get yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon

Meet Author JM Sullivan

Hola! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat featuring author JM Sullivan

J.M. Sullivan is a Science Teacher by day, and an author by night. Although known to dabble in adulting, J.M. is a big kid at heart who still believes in true love, magic, and most of all, the power of coffee. If you would like to connect for a healthy dose of sparkle and positivity, you can find her on Twitter or Instagram @_JM_Sullivan

Book sample:  Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles

Genre: YA Dark Fantasy (Retelling)

Synopsis:  Ever since the outbreak of the Plague, life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll, it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure, will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.

Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumor about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking

Excerpt:  “Don’t come out ’til morning,” he growled, piercing her with his golden gaze. Another animalistic screech sounded through the streets. The momerath were close. The boy glanced over his shoulder anxiously and grabbed the door handle. He tensed his arm to swing it shut.

“Wait!” Alice cried, realizing her voice sounded more than a little frantic. A million thoughts ran through her mind—Whose car is this? Why did you bring me here? Where are you going? Why are you leaving me here? These questions and more clashed into each other, demanding an answer. The winning query spilled out before she could stop it. “Who are you?”

The boy flashed her a sly grin and tightened his grip on the door. “I’m Chess,” he said. “Welcome to Wanderland.”

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  I like to do a little bit of both—I believe the official term (at least as far as NaNoWriMo is concerned), is Pantser. While I don’t like to fly completely by the seat of my pants, my process is nowhere near as detailed as some of the planners that I know. I start with a general outline, where I put my basic plot (beginning, middle, end) and then I split it into chapters. These are more for structural purposes than anything as I always end up adding, cutting, and moving a few sections once I get to work. It isn’t a perfect method and I’m sure it would drive both Planners and Pantsers bonkers, but it works for me, so I’ll keep it! 😉

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website?  Although I got to give some input and contribute to my cover design, I am definitely NOT the one who made the beautiful cover for Alice. The credit for that goes entirely to my Editor in Chief, the amazing Miss Dionne Abouelela (you can find her on Twitter @girlvscity). She has designed all of the covers for our ‘class’ of 2017, and they are all AMAZING. Just like her. J

What is the current book you are promoting?  Oh I’m so glad you asked! Basically all of my free time right now is going into promoting and preparing for the launch of Alice. She debuts May 16 which is now officially less than a month away and I am so excited! Dionne (aka WonderWoman) and I have so many great things planned, I just can’t wait.

If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast?

Alice: Chloe Moretz

Dinah: Logan Browning

Red Queen: Jessica Chastain

Chess: Asher Book

Nate: Alex Pettyfer

Matthew Hatta: Orlando Bloom

Dr. Waite R. Abbott: John Malcovich


What is your next project?  Right now I actually have a few projects in the works. I just finished drafting and am now entering the editing stages of a different retelling, which is a SciFi version of Peter Pan that I’m really excited about, The Neverland Transmissions (working title). But I haven’t forgotten Alice! When I’m not busy working on Peter, she’s getting lots of attention while I draft the sequel for The Wanderland Chronicles.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? Wicked, hands down. First off, it’s a retelling, which is totally up my alley, AND it got made into a Broadway musical! How cool is that?! I love the storyline and the idea, I would have loved to have been the one to put my own spin on it.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Well, for those who don’t know already, I would love to share the Twitter game I run called #AuthorConfession. It’s is a daily game where authors answer questions about their writing, their WIPs, and themselves using the Author Confession Hashtag. Each month, I make up a different set of questions that we go through together, answering one prompt per day. I love it because it’s a great chance to meet other writers and see what they are working on and find more great books to read! So if you’re a reader or a writer on Twitter and you haven’t already, check it out! You can visit my profile or #AuthorConfession to learn more! MF: I’ll be checking this out.

How can readers discover more about you and you work? Follow me on Social Media! One of my favorite things about being an author is all the incredible people I’ve met in the reading and writing community! Please come say hello!

There ya have it folks! Many thanks JM for sharing! For more about JM, her work, and to get yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Website / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / Instagram / YouTube

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