J Tullos Hennig on Writing, Books, and her release ‘Summerwode (The Wode: Book Four)’ (Author Interview/DSP Publications GUEST POST)

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Summerwode (The Wode #4) by J. Tullos Hennig
D
SP Publications
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu

Sales Links:

DSP Publications
Kobo
Barnes & Noble
iBooks
Amazon

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host J. Tullos Hennig here today. Welcome, J. and thank you for sharing something about yourself and your writing!

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~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with J Tullos Hennig ~

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

Research has a role in every genre. It has to; nothing can be created in a vacuum. We need some verisimilitude to latch onto, be it with our own cobbled-together universes or a world with a firmer attachment to ‘reality’. We’re all beholden to some sort of history, however intrinsically flawed or truthful. And living life can be its own research, as much as perusing a library’s closed stacks.

So what can you say but yes!—and embrace it?

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Genre was a LOT less specific when I was young, but it was a factor. I loved other worlds and times, history and anthropology, devoured mythic tales and legends, preferred stories where animals were individuals (because in a lifetime of working with them, they are), and was an nerdy Speculative Fiction fan way before it was pop culture cool.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

No, though I had a very short stint of romance reading as a teenager. As I said above, I’m a Historical and Speculative reader to the bone. I do enjoy epic stories that include romantic themes. And write them, natch!

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

I always offer sage to the three Marys: Mary Stewart, Mary Renault, and Mary O’Hara. And especially recognise the Chickasaw storyteller known as Te Ata.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

For me, as a writer, if I’m not immersed then the writing isn’t working. And of course it hurts. Again, what can you say but yes? Amazing things are winnowed from pain AND joy.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

Hmm. This question alone has spawned tomes of rhetoric—not an easy thing to answer in a few sentences. I was around when the “Mary Sue” thing got started, and one thing seems plain in that experience: “Mary Sue” has become a fannish pejorative that has gone wildly off its original course. As a result, women are often the ones feeling the brunt of the harshest judgments. All this, when the original plaint had as its source a complaint about lazy writing and juvenile characterisation.

The thing is, in any well-crafted story a writer has to mine one’s own experience to inform their characters. But well-rounded characterisation, whatever its source, is a skill learned over time and practice. So baby writers often fail… should fail, because if we don’t, we don’t learn. But when you put something out for public consumption before it or you are ready…?  Well. Consequences. And everyone seems to be getting less, not more, tolerant of what doesn’t fall into their own set of expectations.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

Neither, really. I prefer to read and write what I term a “satisfactory” ending. I want the immersive experience, both for my readers and when I read. If I’m lucky enough to experience that immersion, I don’t get terribly picky about what those feelings are. To quote James Joyce: “First you feel… then you fall.”

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

Living in a small house, it’s space-wise and convenient to have a e-reader filled with titles. But I don’t prefer it. I like the feel and smell of paper books. The idea that someone can whisk my books away and into the ether on a whim, or that my reading relies solely on a source of external power—well, its worrisome. And unappealing. But convenient, no question! And I can markup files in an e-reader, where I refuse to mark in my books.

Where the technology goes from here, I wouldn’t dare to guess, save that I imagine audio will play a bigger role than ever.

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

I think about the cover artist and whether their style speaks to the story. I do consider myself blessed in that I’m able to have input on my covers through DSP Publications. My former experience with publishing houses serves to remind me that not all authors are so fortunate.

What’s next for you as an author?

I’ve a lot of projects in the wings. The main one I’m shopping now is culturally based more on my grandmother’s Choctaw/Chickasaw people than my grandfather’s U.K. heritage; a different voice, to be sure, but one underserved and vital.

But as to ‘thisnow’, as the denizens of the Wode say, I’m amidst SUMMERWODE’s release, and working on the final book in the series, WYLDINGWODE. All of the Books of the Wode are dense, character-driven, and immersive. If you’re quite strict about your Romance tropes, they mightn’t be your cuppa. But if you’re up for a good old-fashioned, epic Historical Fantasy with a goodly dose of magical realism, then the Wode might be for you!

Thanks for hosting me on your blog!

COVER BLURB for SUMMERWODE

The Summer King has come to the Wode…
Yet to which oath, head or heart, shall he hold?

Once known as the Templar assassin Guy de Gisbourne, dispossessed noble Gamelyn Boundys has come to Sherwood Forest with conflicted oaths. One is of duty: demanding he tame the forest’s druidic secrets and bring them back to his Templar Masters. The other oath is of heat and heart: given to the outlaw Robyn Hood, avatar of the Horned Lord, and the Maiden Marion, embodiment of the Lady Huntress. The three of them—Summerlord, Winter King, and Maiden of the Spring—are bound by yet another promise, that of fate: to wield the covenant of the Shire Wode and the power of the Ceugant, the magical trine of all worlds. In this last, also, is Gamelyn conflicted; spectres of sacrifice and death haunt him.
Uneasy oaths begin a collision course when not only Gamelyn, but Robyn and Marion are summoned to the siege of Nottingham by the Queen. Her promise is that Gamelyn will regain his noble family’s honour of Tickhill, and the outlaws of the Shire Wode will have a royal pardon.
But King Richard has returned to England, and the price of his mercy might well be more than any of them can afford…

~ ~ ~ ~

 

EXCERPT from SUMMERWODE:

“You look proper fetching in those breeks.” This from Much, behind Robyn and just inside the drawn-back pavilion entry.

“I wish I could say the same for you in that Templar’s tabard.” Marion had lingered with him.

Silence.

Then, “Why didn’t you say anything?” If the wretched tone in Marion’s voice set a crack in Robyn’s heart, Much’s answer shivered it into anger.

“Marion, you knew it was temporary, me being banished, like—”

“It must run in your bloody Order,” Robyn growled, just loud enough and with a glare toward the pulled-back pavilion flap. “Bein’ so reticent, like, with sommun as shares your bed.”

Within the entry, Much had his mouth open, about to make some retort. He thought better of it and shut it with an audible pop.

Marion let out a curse that could have scorched the pavilion’s fabric.

“You’d best start talking, man, and keep on,” Robyn muttered, though to which Templar, he was uncertain.

Another silence, then more conversation—this low, unintelligible. Robyn grinned—no pleasant expression—and crept closer, ready to lob another volley should it be necessary.

He halted. Frowned. Cocked his head and snuffed the air, turned sharp eyes upon the drifting smoke; previously aimless, it sucked backward, then curled forth.

The soldiers began to appear, then, silent and armed to the teeth, akin to phantoms in the wisps of murk and sun. Despite any impulse to duck back into the pavilion and hide, a dull fascination kept Robyn there, watching the men pass with ranks doubling, tripling, all parting like water around the surrounding pavilions.

The odd lull receded and filled itself with a singular rhythm; Robyn realized it was the dull tap… tap… of sword against shield, timing the tread of heavy boots, the clink and thap of chainmail against leather, the heat and menace of determination.

Some of them were Templars.

They were converging upon the gatehouse. Just a stone’s throw away, the army—and it was one, no question there—stopped.

There was a grind and clank from the main gate. A small door revealed itself, creaking outward from the great one’s leftmost corner. The waiting army angled forward—slight, but there—and a shaky voice issued from the three-sided gap. A rich baritone echoed in answer, bouncing off the gatehouse door.

Robyn knew that last voice. With a tiny skip and step forward, he confirmed said recognition: the tall, white-clad Commander of Temple Hirst with—of course—his most trusted bodyguard. Both of them standing in the bloody front of the battle line. Hubert was speaking to the one who was hiding behind the little door, and Gamelyn stood beside him, holding the Templar’s banner, with shoulders squared and russet-gold head bared beneath an abrupt shaft of the inconstant sun.

That same bit of sun spilled upon the gatehouse tower. It illuminated, through a tall and bloody narrow opening, a figure lurking behind the thick, curved wall. The odd combination of sun, smoke, and shadows betrayed a glint, here and there, wielded within. Likely a crossbow.

Eyes narrowing, Robyn kept his gaze upon the arrow loop, shrugged the longbow from its place athwart his shoulders, and fingered a flax string from its pouch at his belt.

Whatever Hubert was saying, the man at the door wasn’t having it, not a bit.

The sun making its play for Gamelyn’s bright hair slid behind a bit of smoke, and the gatehouse went dark.

Robyn stepped his bow with a soft grunt of effort, slipping string over horn tip, and kept eyeing that arrow loop. The sun crept back; one shaft of light in particular kept dancing, above and behind, to backlight the crossbowman in the upper gatehouse. Pulling a quintet of arrows from his quiver, Robyn set to knotting three in his hair.

“What is it?” Marion came up beside; he spared a swift glance. Much was nowhere in sight, and her eyes were swollen, but the look in those eyes dared Robyn to so much as mention it. And—he smiled—she carried her own bow, strung and ready.

“Hearken where our Summerlord bides.”

Marion’s eyes widened, and her pale eyebrows did a dance, one up and the other down. But all she said was “Aye, well, no wonder Much lit out like he were afire” and drew several arrows from the quiver at her hip.

Robyn loved his sister.

“Y’ canna chain t’ wind,” he quipped. “Such wishes are for Christians and rich men.”

She smirked.

“There’s more’n one bloody crossbow sighting our lovely Templars. Two there on the hoarding, one… nay, two”—he could see another now, moving into position behind the second loop—“in t’ loops, and… bloody damn!”

This as the smoke stalled upon a breeze and the gatehouse went into shadow.

With a breathy paean to the wind, Robyn drew several arrows from his quiver, slow and sure. “You’ve the lighter bow, Mari. Best cover the ones up top.” He pushed, light and ready, into his grandda’s longbow as she nocked and fisted her own arrows. “I’ve marked those buggers behind the loops; do they so much as twitch, I’ll have ’em.”

“Who let this…?” A cry rose from within the walls and garbled into more shouting. The man at the door whirled angrily, then lurched sideways with a yip and disappeared. Several of the front-line soldiers leapt after as the door was heaved shut—one ran into it with a curse.

More shouts, with one from behind the wall that left no doubt. “Shoot!”

And everything went to hell.

Crossbows discharged. Lances flew. The ground troops dove left and right, wrenching their shields atop them like turtles ducking into their shells. The Templar banner alone remained upright, sprouting from a ceiling of shields as, from the wall-walk—and more, from those damned dark arrow loops—the bolts kept coming.

Marion loosed once, then again. With a shout, a man fell from the hoarding and crashed into a brace of the waiting shields, an arrow in his throat. Robyn danced sideways, watching another quarrel spring from the loop; he loosed a desperate shot, chance and trajectory alone. It slid between the narrow lintels as if greased, and there was a yelp. Had he hit? No way to tell; instead he took aim at the other loop. Whoever was stuck in up there—they weren’t the normal dusted-off clot handed a crossbow—kept loosing bolts with unerring efficiency into the soldiers below….

And still no sign of Gamelyn, though the piebald banner flew, obdurate. The shields below it were beginning to resemble hedgehogs. Robyn’s heart clenched to quivering in his breast, forced tight his breath.

Surely he’d know, if….

L’arbalète!”

The throaty bellow made Robyn start; indeed, ’twould have brought the cows in from a hundred-acre field. Save that all the cattle here were English, and that was definitely Frankish talk.

More shouts resounded against the high bailey walls. A burly, bright-haired man fair exploded from the fancy crimson pavilion a stone’s throw west, still spewing Frankish.

It was answered by a round of cries—“Pour le roi!” “Du roi!”—and a mass of crossbowmen poured from behind the pavilions, rushing the gatehouse.

Roi? That was their talk for a king…. Robyn fisted two more arrows, all the while eying the man who still bellowed like some Frank bull. King Richard? Nay, that was unlikely. His tent was big and fancy, but the man wasn’t dressed to match. His fair hair bore no crown, was tied back all haphazard, its gingery cast picked out by a shaft of breakthrough sun. He’d an even ruddier complexion, with cheeks and nose that seemed more too much wine than too much sun, and a bit too much around the belly, as well, for some warrior king.

Still.

Something in him required pause; a pure vitality slapping at Robyn’s face like sand in a whirlwind. And the man’s bellow would stir an army from sloth to ambition, at that.

Robyn shook it off with a curse, aimed another arrow for that far loop, and hissed the wind-breath from entreaty into desperate command. Marion too was waiting, arrow to string, for another of the topmost bowmen to show themselves….

Sun rippled over the gatehouse, backlight and satisfaction and, as if similarly conjured, a rush of crossbow- and pikemen converged from behind the crimson pavilion. One of them was yelling, in Anglic: “Archers! We need more crossbows!”

Marion picked off the last of the wall crossbowmen.

But Robyn saw only the two forms, backlit behind those arrow loops. With a half-breathed snarl, he loosed; one, then immediately another.

And just like that, no more arrows came from the loops.

About the Author

J Tullos Hennig has always possessed inveterate fascination in the myths and histories of other worlds and times. Despite having maintained a few professions in this world—equestrian, dancer, teacher, artist—Jen has never successfully managed to not be a writer. Ever.

Her most recent work is a darkly magical & award-winning historical fantasy series re-imagining the legends of Robin Hood, in which both pagan and queer viewpoints are given respectful voice.

Social media links:

JTH Website

Musings blog

(You can subscribe to my newsletter at either the Musing blog or main site—you’ll receive the first and earliest notification on all updates and news, plus a gift: several short stories seldom seen in the wild.)

Bookbub

Goodreads

The Wode Facebook Page

JTH’s profile on Facebook

Twitter
or @JTullosHennig

In Our Contemporary Spotlight: Don Travis on The Bisti Business (guest excerpt)

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The Bisti Business (A BJ Vinson Mystery #2) by Don Travis
D
SP Publications
Release Date: March 21, 2017

Available for Purchase at

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Also available for purchase in paperback at DSP Publications

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Don Travis today.  He’s brought an excerpt from his latest BJ Vinson mystery, The Bisti Business. Welcome, Don.

Excerpt from The Bisti Business

BJ Vinson Hosts Lt. Eugene Enriquez for Brunch at Eulelia’s in Historic La Posada Hotel

BJ’s not above asking his old partner at the Albuquerque Police Department for help when he needs it.

BJ knows his new client is trouble right off the bat. In Don Travis’s The Bisti Business, the confidential investigator accepts the assignment to locate the missing gay son of a homophobic multi-millionaire Napa Valley Wine mogul because as a gay detective, he has sympathy for the college kid and his traveling companion. So he sets off to find two young men traveling New Mexico in a bright orange Porsche Boxter. The first thing he does is turn to his old partner at APD for some help. How? By feeding him brunch, that’s how. The following scene comes toward the end of Chapter 2 of the book:

Gene Enriquez, my old partner at APD, had recently made lieutenant, and he sometimes chaffed at the rein the promotion put on his fieldwork. When I called he indulged in some bellyaching about being swamped but agreed to meet for a cup of coffee at Eulalia’s in the La Posada on Second and Copper, a short walk for each of us.

The central core of my building opened onto an atrium soaring through all five levels. As the elevator doors parted on the ground floor, my eyes automatically swept the waxed tiles. A year ago, a man had died on those hard clay squares when he went over the railing after attacking me on the landing outside of my office on the third floor. Sometimes I still saw smears of blood on the floor, but it was an illusion. The blue-black terra-cotta was scrubbed spotless and polished to a high shine.

I exited the building and headed east on Copper, pausing to say hello to the Sidewalk Society, nine life-sized bronzes by the Santa Fe based sculptor, Glenna Goodacre, that were grouped on the corner sidewalk outside the Hyatt Regency. After greeting the cast figures almost daily for the past few years, I had reached a few conclusions about them. The young woman with a briefcase was said to be an up-and-coming CEO, but I’m convinced she was a 1950s lawyer. The construction worker and his foreman, who sported a battered, old-style broad-brimmed hat, represented the thirties or forties. It had taken me some time to tumble to the fact the statues reflected different time periods in Albuquerque’s more recent history.

Gene yelled for me to wait for him as he strode briskly across Civic Plaza. “You always talk to statues?” He was a little breathless after running to beat the light change at the intersection. A stocky Hispanic with regular, pleasant features that seem vaguely Polynesian, Gene always appeared slightly frazzled; a consequence of dealing with the Albuquerque Police Department, a wife, and five kids on a daily basis.

I accepted both his hand and his ribbing. “Every time. Get some of my best answers from them.”

“I keep expecting one of the rookies to arrest the kid.” He motioned to the bronze of a teenager with a skateboard.

We entered the La Posada by the north entrance and stepped into another world. The interior was done in Spanish Territorial with aged wood copings, corbels highlighted in scarlet and turquoise, and heavily carved lintels. Nichos, small shelves in the white plastered walls, held carved wooden santos and ornate Mexican tinwork. This hotel had once been part of the Hilton chain—Conrad’s first in New Mexico, as a matter of fact—but had been recently sold, yet again, and was scheduled for a makeover in the near future.

Gene and I selected a heavy oak table stained ebony by the passage of time, and claimed a pair of sturdy straight-backed chairs padded in green and gold. We spent a few minutes bringing one another up to date on our lives.

After making a brunch of the restaurant’s éclairs and a wedge of superb lemon meringue pie dribbled with chocolate, Gene was through chitchatting. “Okay, so what do you want?”

“What makes you think I want something? Can’t I call a pal without having an ulterior motive?”

“No.”

I pretended to think for a moment. “Okay then, I’ve got a client looking for his missing son and the kid’s traveling companion.” In less than two minutes, I’d briefed him on the situation.

“So they’re like that, huh?” He wiggled his hand back and forth, a gesture that was supposed to convey something. Gene knew me too well to be sensitive about my sexual orientation.

“You mean are they gay? Yeah, I’d say so.”

“And you want to get in their hotel room.”

“Seems a logical place to start since one of their fathers hired me to represent the family.”

“These two, they’re emancipated, right? Adults.”

“Both are twenty-one, according to Alfano.”

“Hmm. Alfano gonna file a missing person’s report?”

“He will if you think it’ll help.”

“Naw. We’ve got enough to do without looking for a couple of kids who’ve run off to play hanky-panky. But if they strayed across the border into Arizona, they might be cooling their heels in some county sheriff’s jail as we speak. They take that shit seriously over there.”

“Possible, but not likely. They could be in real trouble, Gene. Alfano keeps a tight rein on his boy, and the fact he’s looking for him is troubling.”

“Maybe the colt got out of the family pasture and is feeling his oats. But okay, have the old man file a report, and I’ll see if I can get us inside the hotel room. Unofficially.”

I picked up the tab to see what kind of damage Gene had done to my pocketbook. Anthony P. Alfano’s pocketbook, actually.

Gene caught me peeking at the check. “Come on, you can afford it.”

“Maybe so, but it’s not my expense, it’s my client’s, and I don’t know how picky he is.”

Gene Enriquez is a good detective and a smooth talker, at least smooth enough to get us access to the room occupied by—or held in the names of—Orlando Alfano and Dana Norville. There was little to see. The pair had taken their traveling bags with them, leaving behind nothing personal except for two bundles of clothing destined for the laundry, the only sign they intended to return. One set of duds was expensive Abercrombie & Fitch, the other bundle was GAP. It wasn’t hard to figure which clothes belonged to what dude.

The breast pocket of one shirt held a carefully folded Chamber of Commerce brochure extolling the virtues of El Moro’s Inscription Rock and the Ice Caves near Grants. A rumpled pair of trousers—the expensive ones—gave up a not-so-neatly folded tourist road map of the state.

The bell captain remembered the two men asking his advice about the Enchanted Circle in the Taos area. They had specifically asked about white water rafting along the Taos Box.

The clerk in the gift shop remembered the pair because, she blushingly admitted, they were both so handsome. Shortly after checking in, they had picked up several pamphlets from her, expressing interest in the Turquoise Trail, a fifty-mile National Scenic Byway up Route 14 to Santa Fe studded with quaint, historic villages. Orlando and Dana had been especially curious about Valles Caldera, the thirteen-mile wide crater of an extinct volcano south of Los Alamos, the Atomic City. Unfortunately, they also asked about Lincoln County and Carlsbad Caverns to the south and east, as well as Mesa Verde and the Bisti Badlands in the northwest corner of the state.

As we drove back downtown, Gene agreed to put out a bulletin on Orlando Alfano’s Porsche, an orange 2008 model Boxter S, California vanity plate LANDO 06. The kid probably got his undergraduate degree that year.

“A buggy like that’s bound to have a navigational system with a GPS satellite signal,” Gene said.

“A 750 Plus Magellan. The old man has his attorney contacting the company to get the present coordinates. They’re touchy about giving out such information, and Alfano is bound to have more clout than I do. The way I read this guy, he’ll have everyone from the governor on up calling the company if he can’t buy the data from them.”

“You do attract a certain type of client, don’t you?”

*****

About The Bisti Business

Although repulsed by his client, an overbearing, homophobic California wine mogul, confidential investigator B. J. Vinson agrees to search for Anthony Alfano’s missing son, Lando, and his traveling companion—strictly for the benefit of the young men. As BJ chases an orange Porsche Boxster all over New Mexico, he soon becomes aware he is not the only one looking for the distinctive car. Every time BJ finds a clue, someone has been there before him. He arrives in Taos just in time to see the car plunge into the 650-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge. Has he failed in his mission?

Lando’s brother, Aggie, arrives to help with BJ’s investigation, but BJ isn’t sure he trusts Aggie’s motives. He seems to hold power in his father’s business and has a personal stake in his brother’s fate that goes beyond familial bonds. Together they follow the clues scattered across the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area and learn the bloodshed didn’t end with the car crash. As they get closer to solving the mystery, BJ must decide whether finding Lando will rescue the young man or place him directly in the path of those who want to harm him.

About the Author

According to custom, I’m supposed to tell you something about me. That won’t take long. Born an Okie, I took a roundabout journey to my adopted home in New Mexico… which shows up in all her glory in all my stories. Texas Christian University gave me my education, the US Army contributed foreign travel (Germany) to my experience, Colorado gave me my first permanent job before transferring me to Albuquerque. When earning a living monopolized my time, I turned to painting to satisfy a creative urge. Did okay at it, but that craft didn’t scratch the itch I was feeling. Penning short stories seemed to do that. After selling around sixty of them under a pseudonym, I turned to writing novels. Zozobra is the first to see the light of publication, and Bisti is the second. A third BJ Vinson novel, The City of Rocks, is scheduled for release on July 18, 2017. The first draft of a fourth in the series, The Lovely Pines, now rests on my OneDrive.

I do a weekly blog about my writing and recounting some of my personal peccadillos on dontravis.com. I am a member of SouthWest Writers and give back to the community by teaching a free writing class at Albuquerque’s North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center.

Here are some links to me and my writing:

Blog: dontravis.com

Email: dontravis21gmail.com

Facebook: dontravis

Twitter: @dontravis3

Many thanks to Stella and Melanie at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for permitting this guest post. And a tip of the hat to DSP Publications for bringing out the book.