Where to begin? When I first came across Bryan Fields and his book, Life with a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend, I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting title.” But I had a lot going on with my book, so I didn’t give it much more attention than that. A few weeks later I saw the cover of the book. Most book covers at Muse It Up Publishing are outstanding, and Bryan’s is no exception. There’s a saying about not judging a book by its cover, but really, why else does a book have a cover if not to catch a readers attention… and hold the pages together (but in the world of eBooks we’ve conquered that problem). After seeing the cover, I looked at the book a bit closer and decided I needed to read it some day.
While this was going on with me, Bryan had his own life to deal with. While I admit I know very little about his life (more now that I’ve conducted this interview), I did see a post he made on Facebook about how he had a blog stop lined up and the host backed out for… well, for his or her own reasons.
After seeing this, my brain started working. Always a dangerous event, but sometimes it leads to interesting results. I decided to contact Bryan to see if he wanted to participate in a blog post where I read his book and ask him some questions (some are even about the book). He agreed, and here it is. Right now I’m feeling like I came out ahead. I got to read a good book and I got a new post for my blog. So, if you please, leave Bryan a comment so he can get something out of this as well.
Oh, and at the end, read on for a glimpse of Book 2: The Land Beyond All Dreams.
Did you set out to write three books into a single volume, or did it just happen, the way writing often has a mind of its own?
Rose showed up in a dream I was having about life after high school. I had no idea who she was, but I knew she was a dragon and she was keeping herself fed by dining on… well, people whose absence made the world a better place. I stumbled to my computer at 4:00am and got the details down. When I actually woke up the next morning, I started writing an outline as soon as I’d had some coffee.
The first two sections of the book started as short stories. I wrote the two of them in eight or nine hours total, all in one weekend. Everything was right there – why the dragons were here, how the connecting spell worked, what the obvious issues were for dragons living on Earth.
I initially submitted the two short stories to an anthology, but they were rejected for having inappropriate content. I was overjoyed, frankly. My beta readers had said the stories were too short, so I was in the process of rewriting them as novellas.
The third section didn’t come together quite that fast, but it was still much faster than almost anything else I’ve written. It’s a little different from the first two since it was plotted out as a longer story.
The characters in your book really embrace geek culture. Can you relate to them?
David is a guy I would have hung out with in high school and played D&D with. Well, other than my being twenty years older than he is. I tried to make him someone geeks in general could relate to. He’s done conventions, he’s a tabletop, console, and MMO gamer, he’s been in the SCA, and he works in IT. He pretty much ticks all the boxes.
Rose was a little different. The challenge with any non-Human is to make them alien but not so alien they become unrelatable. I wanted her to feel like someone any reader could have a relationship with. She gets into all the stuff David likes and embraces it. I think that’s what makes her relatable – who doesn’t want a romantic partner who makes an active effort to embrace the things we like to do?
Have you ever gone to a festival in costume?
Yes. Conventions, too. I never really caught the costuming bug, though. I did try learning to sew and discovered I couldn’t stitch a straight line following a chalk mark. I could never picture how the pieces fit together, either.
I noticed many literary quotes as I read, from Shakespeare to Thomas Harris. What are some of your favorite quotes from literature?
Hmm, so many good ones to choose from. I have to go with a few from Richard Bach:
“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”
“If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.”
Actually, here’s one more – one your readers should carve on their livers:
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
Rose said, “No one can take the sky from me.” Is that a Firefly reference?
What’s the air speed velocity of a swallow?
African swallows are non-migratory and don’t travel north of the Zaire region. European swallows, on average, have a cruising speed of 11 meters/second, or 24 MPH.
And Assyria had four capitals: Ashur (Qalat Sherqat), Calah (Nimrud), Dur Sharrukin (Khorsabad), and Nineveh.
I’m pretty sure I noticed a Mythbusters reference in there. Who’s your favorite Mythbuster?
Actually, there are two: Cutting through a gun barrel and the hwachas used in book three.
I’m partial to Jamie. I like the way he approaches problems and breaks them down for their builds.
It’s hard to not like Jamie. He does give me a full-blown case of moustache envy though.
You write some pretty detestable characters. Have you created any characters you hate, or is there something you like about all of them?
I try to find something likable in all the characters, just to keep them from becoming caricatures. I try to base the Human villains on real people, or at least the actions of real people. The stuff the HOA does, for example, all came from real events.
I’ve only written one character I’ve hated. How was your working relationship with Randall?
I was glad to see him go. He was an amalgam of some real jerks, like the armed guard who would start cleaning his .357 if he didn’t like the way the D&D game was going. One time he finished cleaning the gun, reloaded it, and set it on the table pointing at the person he was angry with. That’s not an exaggeration – I was one of the people sitting downrange from him.
This book makes me question if I should like elves and unicorns… it’s the whole cat thing. Do you like them? (Elves and unicorns I mean, not cats.)
I do, but for story reasons, they had to be that way. What is one Human to a creature that thinks in terms of entire biomes? How can you expect mercy from someone who views the Black Death the same way we look at a bug zapper?
It’s hard and unpleasant to get into that headspace, but once you do, Smith and the other unicorns make perfect sense.
I’m currently on the last act of David & Rose’s third book. We meet some elves from a different world, and they’re much more fun to have around.
On that note, what’s next for your characters?
The second book, ‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’ has already been picked up by MuseItUp and is in the editing process. I’ve been working on the third book, and am almost to 70,000 words with it. It takes place at a comic/scifi/gaming convention in Las Vegas. Vegas is really Rose’s kind of town, I have to say.
‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’ is very much the story of David’s maturation into a full-blown Hero. He discovers the new weight loss drug his employer is testing may be causing episodes of psychotic violence and cannibalism. He becomes a whistleblower and accepts an early retirement offer, but soon finds out the drug prototype was contaminated.
A plane-travelling necromancer named Ingrim Thain has added a cocktail of his own to the drug prototype, trying to trigger episodes of murderous rage in the test subjects. He offers to cure David’s mother of her terminal cancer and shower him with wealth, if only David will look the other way. That leaves David in a tough position, because his mother only has a few weeks to live.
Most of the characters from the first book are back. We have more fights, bigger and more brutal battles. We get to see more of Rose’s world. We meet lizard men, Pack Rats of Ginormous Size, and naked Dwarf women with neatly knotted beards. And we learn why you should never ask a Dwarf to do you a Kindness.
My favorite new character is Thirteen, a cat who moves in with David and Rose. He has thumbs and takes his coffee black, two sugars.
‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’ should be available this summer.
‘The Land Beyond All Dreams’ Preview: Contents subject to change prior to publication
ONE: Cat, In Hat
The inevitable zombie invasion of Earth began at dawn on the day of the Mayan Apocalypse, and the herald of the End of Days was a cat in a hat.
Well, sort of.
Before anyone gets excited, it was just a cat wearing a hat. And there is no ‘Mayan Apocalypse’; just the calendar rolling over, like a car’s odometer. I wouldn’t say the cat in question was really a zombie, either. He’s more of a living mummy.
But other than those few quibbles, that was how it was. Cat in a hat. Zombie invasion. Mayan calendar. “Hark, the Herald Zombies sing, “Time to start the brain munching…”
Just before dawn on the 21st of December, 2012, about twenty of us gathered at the top of Red Rocks amphitheater. We were there to drum, dance, and sing up the sun, welcoming the start of the New Year and the 14th bak’tun.
As a rule, Denver doesn’t have white Christmases, the notable exceptions being the blizzards of 1982 and 2006. Nor do we tend to have white solstices, but today we did and the predawn hours in late December were damn cold.
Rose was the only one dressed for dancing, but we clapped and cheered her on through five or six songs about the sun or sunrise. Being a Dragon, Rose was immune to the cold and could have danced the rest of the morning; the rest of us mere Humans were ready to leave far sooner.
With the sun well up and everyone ready for coffee and breakfast, we walked back to the upper parking lot. Our cars were just as we left them.
Well, sort of.
“What the frak?” Ember pointed towards our car. “When did you two get a cat?”
“We don’t have a cat,” I said.
Ember moved to the side and pointed again. The rear passenger door of our Range Rover was partially open, giving us a good view of the seat and the cat perched on it. “Something tells me you do.”
“Pretty sure we don’t.” I knelt and pulled the door open, while Rose peered over my shoulder. The space that was supposed to be empty was unquestionably occupied by a highly factual feline. I stared at him for a moment, but he showed no signs of Cheshiring off anytime soon. I had no idea what to say, so I stuck with the incredibly obvious. “Huh. It is a cat.”
Rose said, “In a hat.”
The cat flicked his tail. He was wearing a worn leather drover’s hat and the faded, cracked remains of a sky blue leather collar. Bright green eyes peered out at us from under the brim of his hat. A jagged scar pulled his lip up into a permanent sneer and a dried stem of catnip dangled through his exposed teeth. He looked to be little more than bone and thin, worn-down flesh. Whatever color nature gave to his fur had long-since bleached away, leaving him an irregular patchwork of brown, grey and tan, mostly due to the dirt and sand encrusting his fur.
I looked around and asked, “I don’t suppose he came up here with one of you?” All around the circle, people shook their heads. I stepped back and opened the car door all the way. “Sorry, buddy, but this isn’t your ride.”
Ember snickered. “Oh, yeah, that’s telling him.”
The cat stayed where he was, staring out from under the brim of his hat. The catnip stem twitched, and nothing more. I started trying to think of places where I could get my hands on a water pistol.
Rose stepped up and tapped me on the shoulder. “Let me try,” she said. I moved aside and she knelt to look the cat in the eyes. “We’re not the right family for you,” she said. “See if someone else here will take you home.” I know cats don’t understand English, but with the magic of the imperative form, that shouldn’t matter.
The cat started to stand up, shook his head, and settled back into position. Rose tried again, speaking Draconic this time. The cat flicked an ear at her.
Rose sat back on her heels. “I don’t think he’s an ordinary cat. Maybe we should give him a chance.”
“Fine,” I said. “He gets a chance. But not here. Let’s get into town and get some breakfast. I’ll buy him some chow and we can toss around theories. Starting with how he got a locked car door open.” I looked at the thin layer of snow and frost covering the parking lot, crisp and clear and even. Our footprints and tire tracks were obvious, but the area was singularly devoid of cat prints. It didn’t prove anything, but it was something else to consider. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve caught a cat teleporting.
Miriam asked, “Is he wearing any tags or anything?”
“I don’t see any,” I said. “I’ll try to check his collar.” He didn’t look hostile or feral, but I still took my time and watched for any sudden change in demeanor. The only identifying mark I found was the faded remains of the number ‘13’ embossed on his collar. He tolerated the search, but made it clear he didn’t like to be touched. At least he agreed to move to a blanket-lined box long enough for us to drive over to the diner.
The cat breezed past the ‘Service Animals Only’ sign and hopped up on the window ledge next to our table. The waitress flipped to a new ticket and asked who was paying for his breakfast.
I looked at the cat and asked, “Scrambled eggs and sausage?”
He nodded. He stuck one paw out and tapped the window ledge twice.
“Two of each?” I asked.
He nodded again.
The waitress’ name tag said ‘Retta’. I smiled at her and shrugged. “Two eggs, scrambled, with two sausages cut up and mixed in. Put it on our bill.”
Retta looked at the cat. “You want anything to drink, honey? Milk, water, soda, hot coffee?”
The cat shook his head, then flexed one paw and tossed his head back.
“Six bucks for a shot of Jack,” Retta said. “You going to pay for that, too?”
“Sure, why not.” I shook my head at the cat. “You’re an expensive date, buddy.”
“A shot of Jack Daniels in a saucer coming up.” Retta looked at me and added, “Don’t you be letting that cat drive home after this.”
“Not a chance,” I said. “He lost his license for catnip abuse.”
Once our food was delivered, the cat polished off his breakfast and started nosing around, collecting leftovers and bringing them back to his plate. I looked him over as he made short work of a blueberry pancake and said, “Pretty clever, cat. You picked the biggest bunch of suckers you could find. What’s the next step in your master plan?”
The cat ignored me and went back to looking out the window. Around us, the conversations went on, eventually turning to our hopes for the New Year and the new age of the world. Somewhere in there, the cat sat up and started pawing at the fogged-over glass. I glanced over, but it looked to me like any of the ‘finger-painting cat’ videos you can find on the Internet. He finally got tired of it and sat down, leaving the window covered with an abstract pattern of lines and whorls.
“That’s pretty cool,” Ember said. “Think he’ll hold still while I get a picture of it?”
“You know cats,” I said. “Give it a shot.”
Ember skipped the usual cell phone camera and pulled a Nikon out of her purse. She took half a dozen shots and the damn cat posed like a furry Van Gogh for all of them. She scratched the cat under his jaw and asked, “What are you going to call him?”
Rose said, “Lunch.”
“Don’t be mean,” Ember said. “Was there anything on his collar?”
“Just the number thirteen,” I said. “It’s not the greatest name in the world, but we could use that. What do you think, cat? Once for yes, twice for no.”
The cat looked at Rose and then back to me. “Mrow.”
I nodded. “Thirteen it is, then.”
Where can we buy a copy of your book?
And if someone wants to contact you, what are your links?