Sci-fi catches up with today’s world to become a modern day thriller in The Janus Code

It is my pleasure to have my friend, Judy Loose with us today on Author Interview Friday. I love the tag line to her book – which always gets eyebrows raised at book events.  “What if the ultimate computer firewall protection turned out to be the ultimate computer snooper?”

Tell us when you first knew that you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

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I started making up stories practically when I started talking. I started writing them down when I learned to write.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I had a teacher in high school who made me write a 2000 word essay every time I acted up in class. He was meticulous in his grading and editing of what I wrote.

I took an adult-education writing course at the age of fifty, which got me back on track with writing after not writing anything except business and technical for many years. Most of the members of that class ended up on a writers critique group that stayed together many years. Critique groups and writers groups have been very helpful in keeping me writing and hopefully doing it well.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

My first published novel, The Janus Code (self-published on Create Space in August 2013), was written in 1995 as science fiction or speculative fiction. Technology has caught up; much of what I predicted in the novel is happening today. So I dug out the manuscript, rewrote it for today, and published it.

Shortly after taking the adult-ed. writing course, I started publishing poetry and short stories. I wrote five complete novels before trying to publishing one.

Do you always write in the same genre?

No, I write across various genres and I use two different author names. The Janus Code is an international tech thriller published under my maiden name, J.C. Ferguson. The next novel I plan to publish, Mangrove Madness, is a humorous female PI adventure that I have sent to publishers as Judy Loose. One of my unpublished novels is a romance, one is women’s fiction.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

I believe it would be on the mystery or thriller shelf.

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

I have another novel, Mangrove Madness, which has been with an agent and a couple of publishers for a long, long time with no answer as to whether or not it will ever be published. I found my agent by sending out many (close to 100) query letters. My agent contacted the publishers.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route this time in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

One of the reasons I decided to self-publish is because of the length of time it takes to get a response from traditional publishers. I decided to use Create Space after researching the options and listening to the stories other authors tell of their experiences in self-publishing. To me, Create Space is the easiest, most flexible, and least expensive way to self-publish. I would recommend using them to any author.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

I wrote The Janus Code in third person past. I do switch POV for different stories. I like to write in first person present (Mangrove Madness for example). I have not yet written a novel with multiple points of view. Maybe I’ll try it with my next one.

What does  finding your “voice” mean to you and how did you find yours?

I think “voice” has to do with a writer’s personality and view of the world. I’m not sure I could say how I found mine. I just start writing and the characters in my stories take over.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?

I write from beginning to end and then go back and fix what doesn’t work, editing many times. Structure? What’s that? The books seem to be coherent when I finish. The closest thing to structure that I use is  –  try to make every chapter end so that the reader wants to continue with the next chapter.

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Building the story is the fun part. All those other things that come after (for me at least) trying to write a synopsis, query, outline, summary for the back of the book, a tag line, etc., are difficult for me. I still have problems with a 30-second elevator speech for The Janus Code, and I know the book inside and out.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

I’m a lousy marketer, so I’m not the one to ask. I need to hire someone to market my book. I have a friend who is a great salesperson and she does some marketing for me. I build websites, so I have a few that I created to promote my book.

www.judyloose.com

www.jcferguson.net

www.januscode.com

www.amazon.com/author/jcferguson

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I fly by the seat of my pants when I write. I may not have the slightest idea where I’m going when I start writing. I guess that makes me a “pantser.”

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Just sit down, write, and keep writing. Don’t look back. You can always go back and edit or fix after you’ve finished.

Was there a mistake you made in your writing process you could share with us?

My biggest mistake was not bothering to publish what I wrote for a long time. I think it was because I hated the thought of marketing. Don’t wait. It’s such a thrill to see your book in print.

What in your background gave you insight for writing your current book?

The Janus Code plot is based on technology. I worked in the high-tech industry, designing, installing, and managing computer systems and IT departments for 30-plus years. Even though I dropped out of the industry to work for myself a number of years ago, I still work with computers every day. I stay current with technology out of necessity. I try to write so that anyone, even those with NO computer savvy, can follow the story and don’t feel overwhelmed by techy talk.

Another aspect of the book is its international flavor. I have visited or lived in all the locations in the book. I love to travel.

I based the protagonist in the book on a friend who was bi-polar (although the character took on his own completely different personality as I wrote).

Please share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite?

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The Janus Code

By J.C. Ferguson

Traffic was light but steady through the Schwarzwald at two a.m. Headlights cut the black ribbon of the Autobahn at a steady speed of two hundred and forty kilometers; flashing each time they approached other vehicles that moved quickly out of the path.

Maurice Vivant drove the Lamborghini Gallardo on instinct, his body an extension of the controls, his conscious mind barely aware of the wheel in his hands or the pedals beneath his feet, leaving him free to review and strategize.

–  –  –

A dark Mercedes blocked Maurice’s path in the high-speed lane, drawing his attention back to the road. He swerved into the slower lane, pulling ahead and around. The other car picked up speed, moved to his right, matching pace. Maurice peered at the Mercedes but couldn’t see the driver through the tinted windows. He imagined the driver as his opponent, taunting him. Maurice stepped hard on the gas and the Lamborghini leaped ahead. When the lights faded in the rear view mirror, he dropped back to the original two-forty.

–  –  –

Lights approached from behind, snapping him out of his reverie. He had crossed the border into Switzerland, slowing to accommodate the curves through the Alps. He increased speed to stay ahead of the oncoming lights, but they continued to gain. Allowing the other car to overtake him, he played with the driver on the mountain bends to see what he was made of, forcing him to stay in the oncoming traffic lane as they moved into a series of sharp turns. The view of approaching cars would be obstructed for several miles. He glanced at the vehicle to his left, recognizing the Mercedes that had raced him on the Autobahn.

Adrenaline pumping, he concentrated on the road and watched for the flicker of approaching lights. A glow appeared on the roadway, warning of a car around the bend. The Mercedes swerved into his lane, bumping the side of the Lamborghini. In the oncoming lights, Maurice caught a glimpse of the other driver, grinning at him, as the heavy Mercedes pushed the lighter car sideways. In the shock of recognition, he lost control. His car jumped to the right, front tire exploding as it dropped off the edge of the pavement.

He pulled hard on the wheel, but the gravel held the blown-out tire. Still speeding forward, the Lamborghini crashed through the guardrail and flew over the embankment, spewing gravel and vegetation as it launched into air. Time suspended for Maurice. The thrill of flying down the mountain into the black night consumed him, and he laughed out loud at this last challenge.

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Ever want to dance in the Outback? Let S.E Gilchrist take you there.

Sue Gilchrist

Hi Joanne. Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today. I’m a big fan of Florida, having visited my brother and sister-in-law in the Keys a few times. I hope to get back there someday and do more touring of the US.

A little about me: I’m Australian, live in the beautiful Hunter Valley of NSW and have three wonderful children in their twenties and two dogs. I love bushwalking, kayaking, swimming and am interested in the environment, astronomy/science and animal welfare.

Writing has long been a passion for me, borne from an insatiable love of reading and books.  I also love sci fi, history and fantasy/mythology and longed to read a book which combined both romance and these elements.  So I guess it was a natural progression to end up writing a story that I’d always wanted to read.  In January 2009 I experienced a bit of an epiphany. I decided either take my writing seriously or stop doodling with bits and pieces of stories. I took it seriously, joined writing organizations, attended writing seminars, workshops and bought bookshelves of how-to books.

After starting a couple of contemporary romances, I put them to one side and began a sci fi / space opera romance. This book ended up being 100k words and took around two and a half years to finish. I wrote my first ever love / sex scene in this book, it was my first single title and garnered me my first placement in a writing contest. Legend Beyond the Stars came third in the RWAustralia Emerald Contest in 2011. I also received an awful lot of rejections with this story when I started to submit, I shelved it for a while and went onto write other stories. I re-visited it in July 2012 and did a re-write. That version was then accepted by Escape Publishing (a digital imprint of Harlequin Australia) in September 2012 and was e-published in January 2013.

Since that time, I’ve had two short stories published with Escape Publishing (both continuing on in the Darkon Warriors series), a post-apocalyptic, erotic short story published by Momentum Moonlight (a digital imprint of Pan MacMillan Australia). I’ve also indie published two erotic novellas, both pre-medieval novels with a touch of magic set in Ancient Britain. I’ve recently been awarded a contract for my second, sci fi single title of the Darkon Warriors series, Star Pirate’s Justice, and given a release date of February 2014.

In late October, I indie published my first contemporary rural, Australian romance, Dance in the Outback. I will also indie publish in November a short erotic novella, Storm of Fire, set in a post apocalyptic world.

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As you can see, I don’t restrict my writing to any particular genre. My stories are written in either third person or first person but I’ve never tackled present tense and can’t see myself doing so. The individual stories and the characters tend to dictate the heat levels (hot to sweet / sensual) and also from which perspective I write. I dread writing a synopsis and endure editing. My usual pattern is to start with an idea and then the characters come to me. I’ll write about three chapters, while the time the story is percolating inside my head. Then I sit down and write an outline of the external storyline, do detailed character sheets and GMC’s. I always know how I want the book to end before I start.

For anyone starting on their first manuscript, I recommend join a writing organisation, undertake courses or if dollars are tight, borrow how-to books from your library. I can’t stress how important it is to find like-minded people; I’ve made some wonderful friends through my writing. They’ve provided motivation, inspiration and support and I believe my road to publication would have been a lot longer, and certainly a lot less fun, if I’d never met them.

Thank you very much for joining me here today. I’d like to leave with a short blurb about my current release and an extract which I hope you’ll enjoy.

BLURB: Years ago Melanie Black was rescued from a burning house by her best mate and fellow foster child. When he begs for help, she can’t refuse. Melanie takes off to an Outback cattle station to supervise his children, while her friend and his wife use a second honeymoon to rekindle their romance. Out here, there isn’t a mall in sight. It’s hot and swarms with flies and yet, her soul tells her she has finally come home.

Station owner, Dirk Tanner, can’t believe his eyes when his brother-in-law’s ‘friend’ alights from the plane. She’s far too pretty, distracting and has brought pampered pets with her! Then he recognises her as the do-gooder who gave his ex-wife advice on ‘living her own life’. No way will he allow Melanie to meddle in his sister’s affairs too.

Both soon realize pre-conceptions can be wrong and a near brush with death reveals their true feelings for one another. But will this newly forged love be strong enough to overcome their painful pasts? Or will Melanie’s dream of belonging be reduced to ashes.

Extract from Dance in the Outback © S. E. Gilchrist 2013

Frowning, Dirk stroked his chin as he stared out over the parched land that stretched endlessly to the horizon, paying no attention to the awkward silence that had fallen over their small group. Bloody hell, I’ve still got those fences to check not to mention the homestead bore. He shot an exasperated glance up at the sun now beginning its descent.

“Aunty Melanie, over here,” hollered Tammy in such a high voice she could have been auditioning at the Sydney Opera House.

A dozing black cockatoo rose shrieking from its perch on a large mulga tree beside the runway. The huge bird flapped his long glistening, black wings and circled above their heads displaying the brilliant crimson-red feathers of his under tail.

The mutt in the dog carrier yapped hysterically.

Startled from his ruminations about what could be causing the bore’s engine to misstep and his ears ringing from the racket, Dirk swung back towards the plane.

The pilot was handing down the few steps of the plane, a young woman who exuded an aura of warmth and gentle energy. Dirk noted with disbelief the fatuous look on Tom’s face and the faint noises of encouragement he made to the woman as if she attempted a hazardous climb from the summit of Mount Kosciusko.

Dirk couldn’t blame the young pilot for his obvious interest. Even from this distance, Dirk could see how shapely her legs were beneath the short skirt of her buttery yellow sun-dress fluttering in a teasing dance against her thighs.

His hands fisted involuntarily and he heaved a resigned sigh as Tammy danced off again.

The woman raised her head and directed a sunny smile towards them before turning away.

Unease prickled along the length of Dirk’s spine.

Something about her…no, he must be mistaken. He was certain he’d never met the ‘family friend’ before.

The woman spoke to Tom who then began to enthusiastically haul more luggage from the interior of the plane. Tammy reached her and the woman scooped the young girl into a big hug. Then, hand-in-hand they strolled across the red dirt, faces turned towards each other, chatting as if they had all the time in the world.

“Catherine, how lovely to see you again. And there’s my darling Anabelle,” the woman called out. Her voice as thick and smooth as treacle slid over Dirk’s senses. “Tammy, be a sweetheart and let poor Muffin out of her carrier before she becomes traumatised.”

“Okay, Aunty Melanie.” Tammy ran off to fumble with the latch of the dog carrier.

An unearthly yowl split the air. “Oh poor Mister Gibbs,” crooned the woman bending down. The movement caused her honey blond curls to bounce and glow in the bright sunlight.

With an effort, Dirk wrenched his stare onto the box she carried; another animal carrier.

For the love of…not another pampered pet. My dogs are going to go ape-shit. Dirk directed an irritated glare at the woman. Their eyes met and all the air wheezed from his lungs as he received the shock of his life.

Her.

He stood and gaped, vaguely aware his sister was introducing the ‘family friend’ but the words flowed over him like the background noise of waves on a beach. All he could think of was the last time he’d seen this woman.

Sure, it had been years ago but he’d never forgotten that day — the day that had marked the end of his marriage.

Thank you Suzanne, for your interesting promo of Dance of the Outback and your other works.  Readers,  here are the links for you to buy her books, I know you will want to jump right on that.

LINKS:
Website – http://www.segilchrist.com

Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/S-E-Gilchrist/e/B009F6LGXA
Twitter – @SEGilchrist1
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SEGilchrist
F2F writing group – http://hunterromancewriters.wordpress.com/

The evolution of writing with “Seeds” author Robert Messier

I can’t tell you pleased I am to have Robert Messier with us today on Writing Under Fire for Author Interview Friday. Robert and I are close friends and critique partners. We have struggled and sweated through countless revisions on our WIP’s and I think I am just as excited as Robert about SEEDS making its first appearance as an e-book on Amazon. This story begs to make the top seller list. Robert has a unique style and insight into his writing that I have rarely seen. How he manages to combine sci-fi, fantasy, mythology and history and even prophecy into one cohesive compact story amazes me. It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Robert Messier. Please take the time to read this great work of art in SEEDS.

Robert Messier

Robert: Thank you Joanne. It is a pleasure to be here and thank you for the kind words.

Joanne: Let’s get straight to the questions. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get you started?

Robert: When I was 14, I would write silly adventure stories for and about my teen friends called “The Born Losers” which was popular. I also felt inspired to write epic poetry tales similar to “Beowulf, Conan the Barbarian and Homer’s Greek myths”. This again was popular with kids but not so with my English teacher Mrs. Keating. LOL

Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

Robert: I took a class for creative writing and was voted top writer in class at Edison Community College in Florida for my short stories. I majored in English at Nassau Community College in New York and wrote for Think Magazine with both articles on magic and epic pagan poetry devoted to Goddess worship. For personal reasons I ended my association with the magazine.

Joanne: How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?

Robert: I was fortunate the editor of Think magazine attended my class when I was teaching about “The Power of Music” in a New Age bookstore called The New Moon and immediately wanted to feature me as a writer. As for my first book 100 Years of Thrillers and Chillers, this took three years of handwritten re-writes before learning to type my manuscript and sending it to Rose Dog Books and it got published almost one year later.

Joanne: Do you always write in the same genre?

Robert: No, I just write whatever inspires me at the moment. I like diversity.

Joanne: Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

Robert: Of the three books I have written, two are easy to categorize but “Seeds” combines numerous genres but since it begins and ends science-fiction I suppose it falls in Science Fiction.

Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house?

Robert: My first book was produced by Rose Dog Books, a self-published division of a Dorrance Publishing house in Pittsburgh. For now, Seeds will be available as an e-book on Amazon but at some point I will attempt to get an agent and publish it traditionally because (I don’t want to brag- but) it is a very special story. My third book will not be available until it is re-worked with reggae recording artist Frank Carroll to promote The Unknown Guitarist. It will be a music e-book dedicated to musicians from around the world that are relatively obscure guitar virtuosos.

Joanne: Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indi publisher to a colleague?

Robert: I met an author who had her book self-published by Rose Dog and so I chose them hoping to gain credibility as an author but this method is expensive.

Joanne: Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

Robert: I like writing in a narrative style but I have not always written in this method…

Joanne: What do you think writers are talking about when they say “finding your voice?”

Robert: I think this is meant to mean is…to write about your passions because if what you are writing is passionate to you then it will excite your reader also. That is what “voice” means I think. LOL.

Joanne: For you, what is the hardest part of the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query, marketing?

Robert: Marketing is far and away the hardest part of being a writer.

Joanne: What marketing techniques do you use to promote your books?

Robert: An author must learn computer marketing techniques such as blogging to reach an audience because traditional publishers now expect the author to promote his own work. Talent is no longer enough. Luck and computer generated promotional skills are required for success. This is the new reality of publishing. On some level it is more difficult to be a successful writer today than in the past. That said if you love to write hang in there but know there are a million other writers to compete against who want success too.

Joanne: What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Robert .If you really believe in your manuscript and abilities as a writer then find a method of publishing that works for you. Whether self-publishing, e-book or traditional publishing with an agent. I’m still exploring all these methods to see what works best.

Joanne: What is the overall premise or theme to the book we are promoting today?

Robert: Seeds is the quest for humanity’s evolution and place in the universe. It is a story of love and growth, history and myth with interesting main characters that evolve along with the world.

Joanne: Can you share a few paragraphs of SEEDS with us?  Also, where can readers purchase the e-book?

SEEDS cover from website

Robert: SEEDS and my other book, 100 Years of Thrillers and Chillers can be purchased on from my Amazon Author page at http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Messier/e/B00ER50IFG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

If you are not into sci-fi fantasy don’t be afraid to read further because many genres are covered in the 32 chapter novella. It evolves. LOL

SEEDS

CHAPTER ONE: THE GARDEN

STORY BY LUCY

Jesse has always been the optimist, thought Lucy.

Watching my brother skillfully navigate our crystal starship down towards the green vegetation and lush flora of the young planet, I felt apprehensive but naughty. This was a mission of observation but Father required some action. Large flocks of birds of various shapes and colors scattered and flew off at our approach. Jesse loved to observe Father’s seeding projects first hand. Our beloved scientist Father called these new worlds the Terraforming Project, but this was one of those worlds that made me wish I had stayed home with Mother.

Ages ago Father discovered this small planet rotating in space lifeless, just another large rock in the universe. It had volcanic activity and great deal of hot carbon monoxide gas caused by excessive meteor showers and other cosmic debris. The planet was a prime candidate for seeding life forms in all its bio-diversity. This would be a test subject for Father’s atmospheric projects to induce and sustain life because of its proximity to its sun. This planet also had the ability to maintain an ocean which could act as a nursery for the development of new life, plants and animals including the humanoid species for which our Father is so fond of.

But this world is so boring. If it wasn’t for Father’s psychological experiments on growth I would never choose to come to this planet at all but I am Father’s favorite child and I did not want to disappoint Him.

I looked outside the viewport of the starship still lost in thought. Last time we were here Jesse formed a bond with these aliens and was eager to see them again. These beings were so unlike the life-forms on the fiery, gaseous world of Tartarus. The humanoid creatures of this world were infantile in mind and weak in body and they just seemed so damn lazy and stupid. All they seemed to do was eat, sleep and shit. Not much different than the animals and the lower life forms. They could not change their shape at will or thrive in extreme conditions. They are limited in intellect and physical form. What is so special about the human beings?

“Did you hear me Lucy? I said it’s time to go!”

Despite Father’s wishes of non-interference, Jesse insisted on communication with these inferior beings. As we approached a clearing in the garden, we could see two people eating fruit naked amongst the trees. Jesse transformed himself into a likeness of the man but since I had nothing but contempt for these lazy creatures I chose to transform into a slithering beast and watched from some bushes.

The man embraced Jesse and they walked off in the distance talking. The female of the species had stayed behind and fell asleep under Father’s experimental tree and since our Father asked, I was obliged to do something about it. Another seed needed to be planted to stimulate growth and quite frankly I did not want this species to become immortal. They are not deserving of the gift. These beings were only flesh and blood. No more, no less. They are not like us at all.

As our starship prepared to leave this world, my good natured brother quips, “I can’t wait to tell Father the Good News. He will be pleased to know the experiment was a success. The human beings had not eaten the fruit from Father’s tree and I for one am hoping Father will let us return to this world someday Lucifer, because there is potential here.”

I hated to be called by my formal name as I smiled in response to Jesse.

“My dearest little brother Jeshua”, I teased, “Wherever you go I will follow.”

In the blink of an eye, our crystal starship quietly flashed into space and we were gone.

Beta reader needed

Okay readers. Calling on all your knowledge out there. A very dear friend of mine has written what I believe to be a most amazing story. The problem? I don’t know what I am talking about. This story is far out of my realm of understanding that I fear I may be giving him all wrong advise. It is what I call modern mythology or a form of sci-fi/ fantasy/ with a lot of historical elements. It is a novella of about 25k words.
He needs a beta reader to take a look-see before he starts querying to agents. If anyone out there would like to be his beta reader, for free, I might add, please email me or leave a comment here. You would be expected to sign something protecting his story from someone stealing it— although I know none of you would really do that. Would you? Help please.