Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick and Treat: A Freak Snowstorm and Author Interview With Marcus Clearspring

Happy Halloween! Here in SCentral PA, USA, we were greeted with 8 inches of heavy wet snow yesterday. Since the trees are still laden with leaves, that coupled with the snow caused branches (and wires) to come down all over the place. I've had the joy of being without power for 18 hours now. And so, REN3 peeps, I've been reading stories sporadically but not leaving comments so as to get through as many as possible with limited battery power.  :-((  No telling when I'll be back in full swing - a stay at a motel outside the area is likely if power isn't restored soon. As for the fridge - well, that could be kinda spooky when I finally open it....

But enough of my travails. Next in our series of author interviews is Marcus Clearspring, author of Emma Meets the Walkabout Gnomes and IT whiz. You may remember Marcus as the creator of the Next Blog buttons for the A to Z Challenge back in April. Marcus not only donated a copy of Walkabout Gnomes for our REN3 prize bundle; he also did a set of buttons for REN3 as well. (Unfortunately, I've still got gremlins on my blog page and couldn't for the life of me get it to accept the code. Nothing to do with Marcus' handiwork.)

Without further ado, here's the interview with Marcus.

1. Tell us about the book you are donating.

"Emma Meets The Walkabout Gnomes" is a short magical story about a
young girl who meets a group of gnomes in the park after school.
Before she knows it, she's standing on a bench on one leg, holding an
umbrella and learning not to take everything too seriously. Later, the
gnomes give Emma some advice on approaching the boy at school she's
too embarrassed to talk to.

Read it with an open mind, cast your expectations of gnomes and kidlit
aside, and you might be surprised.

2. Why are you donating a book to this blogfest?

The blogfest sounds like an interesting experiment in writing short
fiction. The participants and readers of this blogfest may think
outside of the literary boundaries established by the publishing

3. Can you think of a genre, which is currently out of your comfort
zone, but intrigues you enough to take up the challenge of writing in

I don't really have a genre. I just think up a story, which may fit a
genre, or not. I'd like to write a thriller, with social and political
themes, and some form of laugh-out-loud comedy. Something farcical

4. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I've always been fascinated by language and the creative aspects of
computing. After studying Linguistics and English Literature, I
currently develop web applications. I made the "blog-hopping" buttons
for this blogfest and the A-Z Challenge.

I'm also starting a project to teach literacy to adults using
smartphones, tablet PCs and the web.

5. What are your views on Self-publishing vs Traditional publishing?

One reason I self-published the short story I donated to this
blogfest, was because it didn't fit any market categories. I also
realised, after a good year of pondering, that traditional publishing
was not for me, no matter whether the book would fit commercial
categories or not. That's why I had been so hesitant to send anything
to agents. I realised what would happen in the unlikely event that I
did get an agent, or even a publisher, and decided it was not what I

One good reason to self-publish is when your work is not commercial
enough for a publisher. Not finding a publisher does not mean the
writing isn't any good, although it may. The only thing that's sure is
that publishers cannot predict a market at the given time. There are
plenty of books which agents and editors say they really like, but
which are not financially viable for them to publish.

Here's a question for you I've been considering for some time. Why do
most authors seek recognition from publishers? Musicians have audience
feedback telling them whether they played well. They don't require a
music executive to say they are "proper musicians". Why is reader
feedback online, and in person at signings and live readings, not
sufficient for writers?

And so, dear readers, feel free to respond to that last question, leave feedback, and by all means, check him out on my "featured authors" page for more info including where to purchase Emma Meets the Walkabout Gnomes.

As for me, I'm off the air for now. Until next time....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Brilliant Little Fire - A Tale Of the Town of Renaissance, Conclusion

Part 1:  Joseph
Part 2:  Anna
Part 3:  Aaron
Mayor Joseph Grey wiped the sweat from his face and cast a final glance over the town of Renaissance.

“Ladies and gentlemen: a hearty good morning to you, and welcome to Ashefallen Day!”

He pushed the plunger. A series of deafening thunderclaps rolled over the valley as the buildings exploded or caught fire, one by one.

The townspeople broke into applause.

“Renaissance is that brilliant little fire that burns within us all, that lives only for those moments when we reach perfection.”

Anna reached for Aaron's hand. “That's beautiful.”

“Not mine. The quote is from Richard Bach, and the name was Jonathan, not Renaissance. But it seems fitting.”

“Will would have loved it. And the fact that he died on Ashefallen Day.”

They had carried his body home, and placed it in his favorite chair before joining the crowds on the edge of town. What remained of Will would drift slowly over Renaissance, the place which he had helped to create so many times through the years.

“Excuse me,” came a voice from behind them. “What's going on? Is everyone mad? Has the Sickness come here as well? Is that why you're burning the town?”

Anna turned to face the distraught looking woman.

“Ah, another stranger among us. You are welcome. No, there's no sickness here; you will be perfectly safe. Today is Ashefallen Day, which we celebrate every five years. You see, long ago, survivors came together to build a town. Neighbor cared for neighbor, everyone shared what they had, worked together, suffered together. They shared a vision of a community which would be close-knit, loving, self-sufficient. And it was so for a while. Even in the old world, the same phenomenon was observed; disaster brought out the best in everyone. But sooner or later selfishness and greed, crime and politics, bigotry and hatred came to call and then moved right in. The same thing happened here. And so it was decided that our town would be destroyed every five years and then rebuilt. The fire cleanses and the spirit renews. We are unlimited in our visions of the future; the town can be redesigned exactly as we choose, and each of us is entitled to a new beginning as well. What you see before you is the formation of yet another clean slate.

Welcome to Renaissance.”


Word Count: 397
Prompts:  Misfortune accepted
                 New arrival in town

Thank you to co-host Stuart Nager for suggesting "Ashefallen" as the name of the holiday. 

To all of the various participants - and readers - involved in the Rule Of Three writing project:  thank you for your interest, your efforts and your time.

Now will come the hard part as the four hosts read, discuss, talk, email, Skype, and create the shortlist of winning entries. Keep watching for more info, updates and announcements.

I hope you have enjoyed your visits to Renaissance  :-)

Until next time....


Monday, October 24, 2011

Interview With Alex Cavanaugh

Hi all! Please welcome Alex Cavanaugh, author of CassaStar and the soon to be released follow-up CassaFire!
Releasing Feb 2012 - watch for it!

Alex was one of the authors kind enough to donate an ebook as part of the Rule Of Three prize package. That book is Cassa Star, and you can read more about it on my "featured authors" page.

Many of you also know Alex as one of the hosts of the annual A to Z challenge, as well as various other blogfests, and creator of the Insecure Writer's Group. He is probably best known, however, for his unfailing support and encouragement of other bloggers and writers. As one of my earliest followers, I owe him a debt of gratitude for supporting me and helping me to believe in myself. Thank you, Alex.

Without further ado, here's a short interview and more info on his books. Enjoy!

Tell us about the book you are donating.

It’s my first book, CassaStar, a science fiction space opera/adventure that came out a year ago:

To pilot the fleet’s finest ship…
Few options remain for Byron, a talented young man with a troubled past and rebellious attitude. Slated to train as a Cosbolt pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth and begin a new life. Much to his chagrin, Bassa, the toughest instructor in the fleet, takes notice of the young pilot. As war brews on the edge of space, Byron requires a navigator of exceptional quality to survive. Bassa must make a decision that could well decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission that may stretch their abilities to the limit? 

And I’m happy to say the sequel, CassaFire, will be out on February 28, 2012!

Why are you donating a book to this blogfest?

Because you and the other hosts rock!

Can you think of a genre, which is currently out of your comfort zone, but intrigues you enough to take up the challenge of writing in it?

I’d like to write commercials… Seriously, I’ve always enjoyed reading fantasy and would like to try it one day. The world building aspect is daunting though.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m known as Captain Ninja Alex to my blogger buddies. I enjoy movies, music, science fiction, tech toys, books, and gaming, and that tends to be what I blog about. I also host a lot of blogfests. Not what you’d expect from an author, but that’s how I roll. Oddly enough, I have a large Ninja Army that seems to enjoy it…

What are your views on Self-publishing vs Traditional publishing?

Whichever works for the writer! I’ve seen a lot of my friends here go the self-publishing route and enjoy success. That may one day be the norm.

You can visit Alex at his blog to find out more about him, to join the Catch Fire party, or sign up for the Insecure Writer's Group.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Brilliant Little Fire - A Tale Of the Town Of Renaissance (Pt 3)

Part 1: Joseph here
Part 2: Anna here

Part 3:  Aaron

Aaron made his way up the hill toward the two figures. The first rays of the sun felt pleasantly warm on his back; later, he knew they would cause his wounds to itch and burn. He cautiously approached the elderly couple on the hillside and raised a hand in greeting.

The woman's lined face broke into a smile.

“Good morning, Aaron.” She beckoned him closer, and he seated himself on the wet grass.

“Have you recovered from your flogging?”

Aaron felt his face flush, and yet there was nothing but an inquisitive look on Anna's face. The ways of Renaissance were still a mystery to him; all crimes were punished by public whippings, painful and humiliating, and yet afterward the perpetrator was treated as a member of the community once again, as though nothing had happened. Some took it as a blood baptism, a chance to start over with a clean slate. Others, who could not or would not change their behavior, sustained beating after beating until they were either incapacitated or died. Still, it was a system that seemed to work. His scars would remain as a reminder to himself, and everyone else, that he had both erred and paid his dues. Today would be a new beginning, to do with as he chose.

“I'm sorry,” he muttered to her, still feeling embarrassed. A newcomer to the town, he'd crept through a window in their cottage a few days before and stolen things that he'd needed; food, a blanket, a lantern. And one thing he hadn't needed; a leather bound book he'd found lying on the table. The Decline and Fall Of the Roman Empire. A touchstone from the old world, where life was nothing to him but an opportunity to drink, chase girls, and drag himself to boring lectures every day. A careless existence, until it had been swept away in a matter of days along with the bodies of his dead mates. He fancied a whiff of those long ago funeral pyres was tickling his nostrils.

Anna shifted her position, laying her husband Will's head in her lap and kissing him gently on the cheek. He was deeply, irrevocably, asleep.

“I would have given those things to you, had you asked,” she said sadly. “However, it's done, and so we move on.”

“I wish I could, you know, make things up to you both.”
“It isn't necessary for us. But it is, perhaps, for you. And so there is something that you can do.”

Aaron descended from the hill, the lifeless body of Will Mentzer draped tenderly in his arms. At the edge of town, he stopped.

“Go on, Aaron,” she urged. “There's nothing to be afraid of. He died a peaceful, natural death and that will be obvious.”

“It's not that,” he said miserably. “I can feel the blood on the back of my shirt. I hate the idea of everyone staring at me, knowing.”

“Dear boy, nearly everyone in Renaissance has flogging scars.” The rumble of Mayor Joseph Grey's voice reached them from the loudspeakers.
“Even the Mayor.”

Prompt:  A relationship strengthens
               A secret is revealed
Word count: 526
Character #3:  Aaron Hiestand

Click HERE for conclusion

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Author Interview: S L Pierce

One of the prizes for the Rule Of Three blogfest/writing project is a bundle of e-books graciously donated by the authors. It was fairly difficult to generate a short list of writers to query, especially since I wanted to satisfy several objectives:  choose great books, provide a selection from different genres, and introduce one or two authors who may not be as well known among the blogfest crowd. The hosts of the Rule Of Three have been taking turns presenting these featured authors. The first interview, with Talli Roland, was with Damyanti at Amlokiblogs . The second, with Faith Mortimer, was with Stuart at Born Storyteller.

Today I'm hosting S L Pierce, author of 4 thrillers who has kindly agreed to donate copies of her books The Hate, Secrets, and The Devil's Game.

1. Please tell us about the book you are donating.

I am donating a copy of each of my books. The Hate is a book of two gritty short stories. Definitely not for the gentle-hearted. Secrets is a technothriller/mystery with a very strong female lead set in Silicon Valley. The Devil's Game is a psychological thriller that asks the question 'What if your stalker had a stalker?'

2. Why are you donating a book to this blogfest?

Well, of course, it's a great way to introduce people to my writing but I know there is nothing I enjoy more than receiving a free book. Especially if it is one I might not have picked up on my own. My sister happened to be at a bookstore around Christmastime where an author was signing her book. She picked me up a copy and it turned out to be a fantastic book I read in two days. On my own, I would never have picked that book. Giveaways are a great opportunity to try something you might not have otherwise.

3.Can you think of a genre, which is currently out of your comfort zone, but intrigues you enough to take up the challenge of writing in it?

Well, I'm a sucker for a really good romance novel though I prefer thrillers. I've often wondered if I could do a romance justice. It could be fun to try.

4.Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I spent ten years in college earning a PhD in Engineering. I had this great fantasy of what life would be like once I started working. Well, as I'm sure most of you know, reality is much different. I think I fought my own instincts to please others. So now, I'm doing what I love, writing!

5. What are your views on Self-publishing vs Traditional publishing?

I only know the self-publishing side, which has been great, but obviously has it's challenges. However, from what I've read, traditional publishing has it's own issues. I know that the feedback I've had as an indie writer has encouraged me to keep at it. Much more than all the rejections from traditional publishing.

You can find more information either by checking out her site at Amazon or by going to my "Featured Authors" page tab at the top of my blog.

You can also find her on Twitter:  @piercebooks

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Brilliant Little Fire - A Tale Of the Town Of Renaissance (Pt 2)

(Part 1:  Joseph is here. )

 Part 2:  Anna

“It's time” said Anna, watching as her husband brought a spoonful of porridge to his lips with a shaking hand.

His face went slack for a moment, then lit up with joy.

“Goin' to see the grandchildren!” he exclaimed, waving his spoon in glee.

Anna's heart contracted painfully.

“No, Will, I'm sorry. You remember, today we're going for a little walk. Up the hill, to have a picnic. The air will do you good.”

“A little walk”, he repeated doubtfully, and then resumed prospecting for raisins in his bowl.

Anna had already labeled their boxes MENTZER FAMILY and placed them outside the door. The first rays of dawn entered through the kitchen window, illuminating the hand-hewn beams of their cozy little cottage. The joins were a little crooked, and a few deep cuts in the wood hinted at the lack of expertise in construction. Still, those flaws had names: Levi Lapp, Andy McElroy, Dustin Craley, Joseph Grey. Men who sweated and swore and laughed as they raised building after building, conjuring a town and planting it in the dust and ashes of another. It was wrong to cling to something as ephemeral as a house, however; if there was one thing which she had learned, it was that life could take everything from you at one fell swoop. Everything.

Draping a warm woolen blanket over Will, she led him outside into the chill morning. The town was waking up and swirling in mass confusion; twice they were nearly knocked over by neighbors scurrying this way and that, calling after children, rounding up scant belongings, and chasing down dogs who gamboled about with tongues lolling in glee. Once upon a time, these same neighbors would have stopped and lent her a hand; but not now. They were all consumed with their individual dramas.

The couple made their way slowly, painfully up the treacherous hillside. The Main Gauche glimmered in the mist, reflecting the light like a mound of the daggers for which they were named. Spreading her own coat on the grass, Anna helped Will lower himself to the ground. He drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around them; a tear slowly rolled down his cheek.

“Want to go home,” he whimpered.

Anna wondered which home he meant. The one below? Or the one they'd left behind in the old world, now decaying among the ruins of a once thriving city. It didn't matter, really; all that mattered was the Here and the Now.

“Soon,” she murmured, stroking what was left of his hair. She held him closely and sang a nursery rhyme, one of the few ways she'd found to soothe him.

“Ring around the rosy...”

Prompt:  One character lies to another (there will be no picnic today).
Word count without title:  455
Character #2:  Anna Mentzer

Click HERE for Part 3

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mind and Machine - Nonfiction

If you haven't already seen it in the news, here's the breakthrough; quadriplegic Tim Hemmes was able to move a robotic arm - with his mind.

Hemmes is part of an experimental program at the University of Pittsburgh. Although the program is in its very early stages, the fact that a human can move an object simply by thinking about it has enormous potential for the future.

Here's the simple breakdown on how it works. Although you aren't conscious of it, before performing an action like raising your arm you "think it" first. Neurons instantly fire in a unique pattern that sends the command down the spinal cord and along the necessary pathways to the limb. Muscles contract, and you perform the movement. Therefore, "thinking" a movement and visualizing it in your mind produces a neuron pattern, which can be accessed by a Brain Computer Interface, which converts that neuron pattern into signals to move a robotic arm. It's essentially a way to bypass the severed/damaged spinal cord and hook the brain and an outside device together.

It's still in the experimental stage, and there are plenty of obstacles to overcome, as well as fine-tuning down the road. One of the goals is to figure out a way to restore a sense of "touch" when using a robotic limb. But for now, Tim Hemmes seems happy with his accomplishments so far. He and his girlfriend had met after the accident which paralyzed him; for the first time in seven years, he was able to reach out and touch her.

"Definitely the tears were flowing," he said. (Quoted from AP article; see link below)

Read More On Mind Control and Touch

Read More On Tim Hemmes (AP News Release)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Interview With Author Faith Mortimer By Stuart Nager

Several authors were kind enough to donate books as prizes for the Rule Of Three winners. Today, fellow host and writer Stuart Nager has posted an interview with author    Faith Mortimer . You can read the interview on Stuart's blog Born Storyteller . His other blog, Tale Spinning, is where he posts his fiction writing - and he has a new "side story" about Renaissance there as well. (As one of the hosts, he is not eligible for any prizes; and as creator of the town of Renaissance, he retains the right to add multiple stories as we go along.) However, as a participant you SHOULD NOT post multiple storylines/entries for the week for Renaissance/REN3; one post, per week, per person/link please. Otherwise, there will be too much confusion for judges and participants. Questions? Tweet me @ficflash or email me via my profile.

Thank you to all of our participants and readers for a great start to the Ren 3 blogfest. I also ask for patience from my longtime and devoted followers who are not participating; the organizing/reading/judging is taking up a HUGE chunk of my time, and so I haven't been able to read and comment on many of your blogs as I normally do. I haven't forgotten you, and ask for your patience.

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

BTW, if you are looking for Part 1 of my entry for REN3, then "A Brilliant little Fire"  is here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Brilliant Little Fire - A Tale Of the Town Of Renaissance (Pt 1)

A Brilliant Little Fire

Part One:  Joseph
Mayor Joseph Grey removed the last traces of office; the ceremonial hat and badge would be handed to his successor, and he would be free to pursue whatever new path he chose. Five years had gone by swiftly. The town which they had constructed was everything he had envisioned; neat, tidy homes, a clapboard school for the handful of children, even a universal church for those who felt the call of a Greater Power.

Yes, it had been a good run, but the time had come to put an end to it. At first, building the town had brought the Tragedy survivors together, giving them a sense of community and of purpose. Starting anew had allowed them to move beyond the horror of past lives, exorcise their own personal demons, and begin the process of forgetting. But lately, he'd seen the signs of rot setting in. People began to bicker over property lines and water rights. Those who were gifted with their hands dressed up their homes, inciting jealousy in their neighbors. Last week there had been a vulgar spat between two women over a pew in the church – when the sanctuary was half empty! He shook his head in disgust.

A dog-eared photograph hung on the wall by his front door; a woman, with the wide glowing smile of a child. He remembered the long nights in the old world as he waited for death or the dawn, whichever arrived first. The fevered sparkle in her eyes and the feel of her hand in his as she slipped away forever. Taking the photo down, he hesitated between the pile of items he'd chosen to keep and those consigned to destruction. I will remember you, but your things must go; if we cling too long, then the dead become more real than the living and Renaissance becomes a ghost town. He dropped it on the discard pile.

The notices would be nailed to each and every door at six o'clock the next morning; every resident would have one hour to collect whatever they could carry and move on, if they chose.

At seven o'clock, Mayor Joseph Grey would light the fire which would burn Renaissance to the ground.

Prompt: A sense of impending doom.
Word count without title: 366
Character # 1 - Mayor Joseph Grey

Click HERE  for Part 2

Monday, October 3, 2011

Do You have Zombie Insurance? - Public Service Announcement #2

Public Service Announcement #2

For Public Service Announcement #1 "Wear Clean Underwear", click here.

Just a reminder that the following types of insurance are available:

Zombie Insurance
Available through The Zombie Apocalypse Insurance Company (ZAICO). Provides comprehensive insurance for a class 3 zombie outbreak. Includes arms and ammunition restocking, home repairs, incineration of dead un-dead (most homeowner associations frown on rotting corpses lying in the yard for longer than 24 hours) and re-location of you and your family to a zombie-free zone (if there is one).

Post Rapture Pet Insurance
Eternal Earth-Bound Pets provides certified atheists (guaranteed to remain on earth after the Rapture) to look after any pets left behind.

Alien Abduction Insurance
Provided by the UFO Abduction Insurance Company. New! Frequent flier endorsement. "Don't leave Earth without it."
Immaculate Conception Insurance
Available through Goodfellow Rebecca Ingrams Pearson (GRIP). I'll let you figure that one out on your own.

Because sometimes, we all need a little extra piece of mind - or maybe, just a mind. This has been a public service announcement, brought to you by Flash Fiction.   (@ficflash)