Friday, October 19, 2012

Q & A with freelance editor Lindsay Murdock, owner of Murdock editing

Lindsay Murdock, editor of Murdock Editing, runs a company committed to helping authors who have completed manuscripts but know they need a boost to get from the slush pile to the YES pile or to prepare their manuscripts for flawless self-publishing. After working for literary agencies as a reader and manuscript evaluator and later as an editor for several publishing firms, she decided to start a company to work directly with authors to polish and prepare their manuscripts for the big time.

What is it that drives you to do what you do?
Wow. Okay, that’s quite a question to start with! I do share my story on my website, but I’ll give a short run-down here.
I like my authors (and I know their agents do too!). I like working with my clients to shape their characters and stories. I like being able to take a manuscript that would clearly not make it out of the slush pile at a big agency and help the author turn it into something that gets attention. You can’t always do that as an agent. Agents make money on commission, so if the book doesn’t sell, they don’t get paid. And in the publishing world today, that means most agents can only really afford to take on clients who have manuscripts that are at least 80% ready to go.

Once upon a time in a land not so far away (actually, my first agency job was at a firm only a few miles from my current office), I worked as a literary agent’s assistant. My job was to sort through all of the queries, picking out only the very best and most likely to be what my agent was looking for. I requested those few partials then had to send simple form rejection letters to the rest. It seems cruel, but that’s all we could do—every day another batch of 50-100 queries arrived in the mail.
Of the partials, I was told to read the first ten to twenty pages. If the manuscript didn’t grab me right from the start, another rejection letter went out.

Once we got to the full manuscript stage, I read it through and completed an evaluation, then wrote an evaluation report for my agent, either recommending that he take a read through himself, or that we send out yet another rejection letter.

In the second two stages, I was already close enough to the manuscript that I could, more often than not, have told the author exactly what he was doing wrong—and exactly what he needed to do right to make his manuscript ready to sell. But by then we’d moved on to trying to find the next manuscript—the next book that might actually bring money into the firm.

And that is why I do what I do. That is why I’m not a literary agent. Because when a manuscript comes to my door, or an author contacts me about fixing up his or her manuscript, I don’t have to turn anyone away. I don’t have to send out rejection letters just so I can move on to the next big thing. I have the opportunity to sit down, read the entire manuscript, and provide the author with the tools he or she needs to realize his or her writing dreams. Would I make more money as an agent? Probably. But would I give up the relationships I have with my authors? Or the sense of accomplishment I get when I receive the signed early reviewer copy editions of a book that was languishing under the author’s bed before I stepped in and helped guide her journey to publication? Absolutely not.

As a graduate of BU you were able to offer valuable insight on the campus and surrounding area for my novel. What was your college experience like? Did you participate in any extracurricular activities or sports? Any entertaining stories you’d like to share?

Oh lord, the college years! I loved BU. It’s not quite your “typical” college experience – our campus was the city, and we didn’t even have a football team. Reliving those college days through your manuscript was a little bizarre. You’d mention a pizza place, and I’d know exactly what the tables looked like and how that cracker-pizza-crust tasted. So much fun for me.

As for extracurriculars, I’ve never had the coordination to play sports, but I was (but of course) an editor at the Daily Free Press, the campus independent newspaper. I’ll save my entertaining stories for another time.

Have you always lived in the Boston area? What are some of your favorite places that you have visited?

I grew up in Pennsylvania, but my mother’s family has been in Boston for as long as anyone can remember. I came up to Boston for college and fell in love with the city. Left for a few years for publishing jobs in NY, but made my way back here as soon as I could.

My favorite place I’ve ever visited, is, by far, Prague. Most beautiful city I’ve ever seen.

What genres do you personally enjoy reading the most? Who is your favorite author all-time? Why? Who are some of your current favorites?

My favorite genres to both read and edit (right now – this changes every few years) are fantasy, YA, thrillers, and mysteries. I honestly don’t have a favorite author of all time – I read constantly, even when I’m not editing. Thank God for the Kindle – my books were already taking up half my bedroom, my office, and almost my entire storage space before they invented that. I can tell you a few of the books recently that make my top ten for the year: Gods Behaving Badly, The Dog Stars, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Flowertown, Shine Shine Shine, Gone Girl, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, and Miss Peregrines’s Home for Peculiar Children.

When you aren’t editing what do you like to do for fun? Any favorite hobbies or TV shows?

I absolutely love to cook. Right now I’m making homemade Mexican turkey soup using leftovers from last night’s roast turkey dinner. I knit (just scarves, I have yet to graduate beyond straight lines). My favorite TV shows are Walking Dead, Downtown Abbey, Law and Order, and Doctor Who.

Any pets in the Murdock household these days? Do you consider yourself more of a dog person or cat person? Any cute pet stories you’d like to share?

Oh, I’m definitely a cat person, but don’t tell the sweet dog I grew up with. I have one cat, but I live in a neighborhood with a huge feral cat population. When I first moved in some five years ago, one of them had a litter on my porch. I fed and raised them and found them homes. Apparently cats talk, because since then, EVERY YEAR a new litter shows up on or under my porch. How do they know?

 What do you remember about your first client?

My first client was an amazing woman. It was her first novel, and it was my first time branching out as a freelancer. I think we found each other on craigslist. I didn’t charge her anything – I just wanted to get my feet wet and see if this was really something I could and wanted to do. We ended up working together for almost two years. I was probably only 22 at the time. That novel didn’t get published, but we both learned so much, and her second novel (which I also edited a couple years later) did find a publisher and did well. One of the proudest moments of my life.

What are some of the challenges you routinely face when working with clients?

The biggest challenge is always finding the right path to the next draft or revision plan. I can and do point out all the spelling and grammatical errors – but it’s the big stuff – plot, character development, tension – that’s much tougher to fix. Working with clients to make sure they stay the course and don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater out of frustration is my number one goal post-editing. It’s hard work!

How do you choose your clients?
I’m not the right editor for every book or every author, and I’m the first to admit that. All of my possible clients go through my ringer before I start working with them whether they realize it or not – I make sure that we’re on the same page via e-mail or phone and I ALWAYS do a sample edit. After so many years on the job, I’m usually able to get a good sense of if an author and I will work well together after a day or two and that sample edit. If not, I simply won’t take the project, no matter how many hours or dollars are involved. I love my job, and I want my clients to love working with me. If I don’t think we’re a good match, I’ll recommend one of my colleagues. Have I ever been wrong? Yes. And honestly, in those cases, I’m quite frank with the author and do everything I can to match them up with a better editor for the job, even if we’re half-way through.
I strongly believe that the writer-editor relationship is vital to the success of a manuscript.
How can someone determine if they need to hire an editor?
For the long answer, go here and here. It might be time to seek an editor’s help if:
§  You’ve edited and edited and edited. Then rewrote. Then edited some more. Then queried. Then read a book on making your first pages snazzier. Then queried. Sent in a few partials. And nothing is happening.
§  You’re getting back suggestions and comments on your partials (or fulls) in your agent-rejection letters, which is great. Except none of them seem to agree on what is actually wrong with the manuscript, you disagree with half of them, and some of them don’t even sound like they’re about your book. And you have no idea what to do about any of them.
§  You ARE a writer. You know it in your soul. And you’ve finally finished your first manuscript. But you’re also a mom, a wife, a lawyer, a friend, a student, a family-chauffeur, a cook, a dog-walker, and about a million other things. You know your manuscript isn’t perfect or ready, but you also don’t know where to begin when it comes to editing or rewriting (or, if it’s a second or third draft, what to do next). You need someone to take that stack of paper (and you) and act as editor, writing coach, motivator, teacher, friend, and, to some extent, task-master.
§  You ARE NOT a writer. You know THAT in your soul. But you’ve got something very important to say, and you want to say it in book form.
And that was the short answer!
If they decide to hire an editor, what should they do next?
Well, you can check out my blog series, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Hire an Editor,” parts I, II, and III.
But, again, the short answer: Do your research. You’ll find plenty of editing companies advertising online. Ignore the “big guys.” Chances are, they’re farming your work out to folks who have no experience in the industry whatsoever. Focus on smaller companies where you can learn about the editor’s experience. Pick someone who has experience in your genre. And then ASK QUESTIONS. Keep in mind YOU are doing the hiring here. Any editor worth his or her salt will be happy to answer all of your questions and provide references. As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t just hiring someone to paint a wall – this has to be a person you’re comfortable working with for the long haul. Listen to your gut.
Why Choose Murdock Editing?
Chad, you’re killing me here :) Really forcing my hand on the bragging front. Alright, so, here are my six selling points.
§  Personal attention. I recognize that my clients are important and unique, with stories to tell, and I make it my mission to work with writers to make sure that those stories get heard.
§  Experience. My editing and evaluations are based on years of experience in the publishing field. I continue to work with top agents and publishers and draw upon everything I learned in newspaper, book publishing, and academic editing positions, plus years of freelance work.
§  One editor. Corporate editing services farm your work out to inexperienced editors. I work directly with you at all times on everything, from proofreading to proposals. No subcontractors, no students, no interns. Just me.
§  Knowledge. I read a book a week to keep up-to-date on the latest and greatest and pride myself in keeping abreast of who is buying what and why. I know how to get your manuscript where it needs to go.
§  Tech savvy. Working with a self-publishing or e-book service and need help? I’ve worked with a number of companies, big and small, and I can help you navigate the process from beginning to end.
§  Success. My clients see results—and requests!
What services do you offer?
·         Manuscript Evaluation (my specialty and the premier service)
·         Substantive/Developmental Editing
·         Proofreading
·         Copy Editing
·         Proposal Packages: Query Letters and Synopses
·         Classes
·         Consulting
My personal testimonial from working with Lindsay:
Hiring Lindsay was by far the best decision I’ve made in my writing career. I’d spent almost five months editing my first draft on my own, utilizing feedback from friends and family, and thought I had it as close to perfect as I could make it. It makes me laugh just saying that now.

With Lindsay’s guidance I wove in sub-plots and additional scenes that completely transformed my book, adding much-needed depth to the central conflict and building up tension toward the climatic ending.

Lindsay helped me overcome technical flaws in my writing and forced me to confront issues that I knew needed improvement going in (the beginning was too rushed, things were far too easy for the main character).

She offers candid, constructive advice with improvement suggestions that go far beyond just marking up a manuscript and is a meticulous fact checker. She will challenge you to make your own writing better, and sometimes that can be frustrating, but if you’re open to her suggestions and push yourself the end result will blow you away.

She is quick to offer words of encouragement and point out things you are doing well, and unlike a lot of freelance editors, she will continue to work with you long after she has sent across her evaluation. I truly view her as a partner in the development of my novel.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Blog with Molly Dean, Author of The Twilight Garden

After studying at Newcomb College in New Orleans and at the London Polytechnic, Molly became a full time freelance journalist and photographer, and published over 80 articles in magazines like Fine Gardening, Victoria, Petersen’s Photographic, Flower & Garden, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Country Living, and American Horticulturist. Many of her credits are listed on her web site: Molly’s first love, though, is writing fiction. She has completed three novels for teens and tweens, including The Twilight Garden. She lives in the northeast Georgia mountains with her husband, her granddaughter, and a number of cats.

Twitter: Molly Dean@mollydean1

The Twilight Garden:
Ten-year-old Daniel Weston, son of a high-powered Atlanta attorney, expects to be bored spending the summer with his aunt and hated cousin Sabrina in the rustic mountain cottage belonging to his great-aunt Delilah. Instead, he finds himself enmeshed in intrigue: why is Delilah in Ireland searching for a missing granddaughter, and for what reason has the girl disappeared? Daniel also doesn't bargain for a blossoming friendship with feisty, adventure-loving local girl, Kat McDougal.

Kat shows Daniel his great-aunt's 'twilight garden,' a special place flaunting pale, fragrant flowers and silvery foliage. The garden, which has been allowed to grow wild, has a curious appeal. Things are "different" in the garden, magical.

Against the backdrop of night meetings at the garden, Daniel and Kat try to solve the mysteries involving the people that surround them. But Daniel, grappling with the shock of his parents' recent separation, starts to wonder what he can count on and if he can believe anything about anybody.

Can these two children find their place in an adult world even as they realize that they have no one but themselves to lean on?

Excerpt from The Twilight Garden:  
The old man cleared his throat, unfazed. “Then I move to my more important news. Brace yourselves.”
“Oh, Lordy.” Kat said under her breath.
“I was correct in my assumption about Delilah. She is most definitely in the area. I saw her in the woods...just after dark.” He gestured behind him, and they both stared up into the trees.
“But it doesn’t make any sense,” Daniel insisted. In situations like this, Daniel’s father got a headache, and Daniel himself felt one coming on. “You can ask my aunt. Great-Aunt Delilah’s in Ireland in a town called Kiltimagh. We have an address, phone number, everything.”
“And besides...even if she had come back, what would be the point in sneakin’ and lurkin’ around her own property?” Kat said. “Why not just knock on the front door, and say, ‘Howdy, folks, I’m home’?”
“Spoken by two brilliant young people with fine, logical brains.” The colonel’s voice was prickly. “The problem is that Delilah and logic do not always go hand in hand. And you forget the most important point. I did, in fact, see her. She was wearing a gray cardigan. Delilah always favors gray. Says it helps her to fade into the background where she can watch and observe.” His voice had started to quiver. He sounded as if he might fall asleep at any time.
“Bet she never said anything like that,” Kat said. “And it seems mighty hot to be wearing a cardigan. Well, if she was watchin’ and observin’ like you say--she would have seen me, Cary, and Daniel eating fried chicken. Where were you then, colonel?”
“Under cover among the great debris pile in the woods.”
“What great debris pile?” Daniel asked. But nobody answered him.
“Ah me, it’s been quite a day,” the colonel said. “Pleasant evening, though. Quite stimulating. Just look at those stars. Makes one think of the gods, the old sky gods. And just look at that fine big oak yonder. They say all the trees are dying. We must save them...we must save them all.”
His voice rasped like an old foghorn, and Daniel gave him a glance. He got the uneasy feeling that the colonel in all his ancientness might suddenly die sitting in the chair. Daniel was feeling very small, surrounded as he was by darkness, people whose movements didn’t make sense, and the colonel’s talk of witches, sky gods, and dying trees. Great- Aunt Delilah’s way of life, he thought. His mysterious great- aunt who might actually be somewhere close by if Pepperidge were to be believed. And, if that were the case, she wasn’t looking for Maggie Dell at all. Sometimes he wondered if he could believe anybody about anything.

  Links to purchase:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's write-Along Wednesday!!

Each Wednesday I will post the beginning of a scene, then each of you can leave a comment to continue the story from there. Be sure to read all of the comments before posting as they will build on each other. Only rule is to keep the comments PG rated. Let's see where the story takes us!!

I continued to lie in bed, waiting for Aaron to “surprise” me with the breakfast he’d been preparing for the last forty minutes. Of course, given my hyper-acute hearing and overdeveloped sense of smell, his sweet gesture was rather futile. Surprised or not, no one had ever served me breakfast in bed before. Major points for my defense lawyer, wild-as-hell lover, very human semi-boyfriend.
The embers of an all too familiar pain ignited inside my chest. Aaron and I could never marry. Hell, we couldn’t even date out in the open. His very life depended on the pride never discovering we were anything more than co-workers. You’d think my high six-figure salary, doctorates degree and the sizable fortune I’d amassed would provide me with a certain degree of freedom. But as a Desert West Lioness I literally belonged to Sareph—the pig-headed Alpha of our pride who I loathed with ever fiber of my body. Not that that mattered. On my twenty third birthday—just over a year from now—I’d  have to walk away from everyone and everything I knew, move in to his Dallas mansion and surrender myself completely to him, letting him breed me at will like a prized mare. It was enough to make stepping in front of a bus sound tempting.
I was so lost in thought that Aaron made it to the side of the bed before I noticed. He lowered the tray over my lap and pressed his syrup coated lips against mine. “Morning, sleepy head.”
Letting out a theatrical yawn, I stretched my arms out above my head and opened my eyes. I didn’t have to fake my ear to ear smile. “Oh my God, Aaron! How sweet!”
Between the large stacks of pancakes and Blueberry waffles there was more sugar on the plate than I’d voluntarily eat in a decade, and not a sausage link, strip of bacon or anything resembling meat in sight. I picked up my fork and dug in anyway. I’d almost polished off the waffles when my iPhone vibrated on the nightstand.
Aaron started to hand it to me then flashed a devious grin, spun away from the bed and hit the call button. “Katlin’s boyfriend speaking.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It's write-along... Friday??

Each Wednesday (or Friday in this case :) ) I will post the beginning of a scene, then each of you can leave a comment to continue the story from there. Be sure to read all of the comments before posting as they will build on each other. Only rule is to keep the comments PG rated. Let's see where the story takes us!!
“You’re sure about this?” I glanced yet again at my loving husband sitting behind the wheel of our broken down Volkswagen Jetta, part of me hoping for a last minute reprieve.  
“Out,” He ordered with a smile. “You know how proud I am of you. And you didn’t bust your ass for the last three years to become a chef just to keep working here.”
I leaned across the seat and planted a steamy kiss on his lips. All thoughts of my pending resignation evaporated as he deepened our embrace, his mouth and tongue doing magical things to my throat. 
“Mmm,” I mumbled, arching my neck to give him unfettered access. When I reached up to unbutton my blouse he pulled away.
“Be good, Jessie. We have to meet at the bank to sign the lease in an hour.”
I gave him my best pouting face but he just snorted. Begrudgingly I climbed out, waved goodbye and headed in to see my psychopath of a boss.
Cooley’s office was in the very back of the building, sandwiched between the utility closet and our server room. In the six years I’d worked here I’d never seen his door open, so I was more than a little surprised to find it slightly ajar. Giving it a quick knock, I gathered my nerve, opened it further and stepped in.
The room was dark with the exception of the slight glow cast from his computer monitor. It looked like he was out cold, slumped unnaturally forward across the keyboard. Being a chain smoker who weighed close to four hundred pounds, it wasn’t inconceivable that he’d finally had the big one. Hell, given his steady intake of the golden arches it was a miracle he’d lived this long. But the irony of this happening today of all days wasn’t lost on me.
When I took a step toward Cooley’s desk the office door slammed shut. I wheeled to find Marilyn—his secretary for almost twenty years—glaring at me. Her feral eyes and blood spattered face sent shivers down my spine.
“You weren’t supposed to be here today,” she growled, flashing the jagged blade gripped in her right hand. “I’m sorry, Jessie. You were always so nice to me.”
My brain had just registered the past-tense of her words when I felt a sharp burning pain in my stomach. I staggered back a step and peered down at my abdomen in shock. I’d never even seen her arm move, but the knife was buried up to the handle. The crimson stain rapidly spread across my blouse as Marilyn took me in her arms and lowered my limp body to the floor. After   thoroughly wiping off her prints, she curled my fingers around the knife handle and laid it gently at my side. Wanting even more damning evidence, she reached my left hand across to Cooley’s arm, intent on having me scratch him. Only the sound of the front door opening stopped her.
“Jessie?” My husband called out tentatively. The sound of his voice penetrated the numbing haze that was enveloping me. I had to find a way to warn him.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Q & A interview with Jeff Gonsalves, author of "Fork in the road to Apocalypse"

I sat down with Jeff Gonsalves recently for some informal Q&A regarding his latest novel, "Fork in the road to Apocalypse", and an assortment of other topics. Hope you enjoy learning more about this extremely talented author.

·         Which character do you identify the most with? Charlie or Elliott? What do you have in common with each?
o   I can relate more to Charlie, since he is a caring uncle to Elliott. As an uncle myself, I’ve learned to accept the quirks in my nephews/niece’s personalities, and come to cherish them for their uniqueness. But as an authority figure, I must also try to guide them so they can function within their peer group. That’s Charlie’s most difficult task: to help Elliott fit in without compromising his inherent uniqueness. His task is extremely difficult because Elliott’s repressed anger manifests itself in a frightening psychic ability that can distort even what Charlie thinks is real.

·         Who is your favorite author all-time? Why? Who are some of your current favorites?
o   My favorite author is James Lee Burke, a Southern mystery writer. He is very skilled at writing detailed descriptions and vivid characters. As for other authors, I read a ton of non-fiction focusing on true-life experiences, such as Doctors Without Borders, Child Soldiers, prison camps in Russia and North Korea, and the juvenile justice system.

·         How long did it take you to write The Subnorms and Fork in the Road to Apocalypse? What was the hardest part for you? Do you start out with a detailed outline or use more of a free flowing style?
o   It took me about a year to write each book. The hardest part is always making sure I don’t repeat what I’ve seen in movies or read in other books. I try to create fascinating characters, relentless action, and bizarre landscapes. I never write an outline, but rather create scenes in a linear fashion. It’s important to me to have an ending that is both satisfying for the reader, as well as logical.

·         I’ve found that everyone’s path to getting their first novel published is quite unique. What was your experience like overall? What were some of the highlights (and lowlights)?
o   My first novel was published by Bainbridge Books, an imprint of Trans-Atlantic out of Philadelphia. I was thrilled when I got the phone call from an editor there, but after I signed the contract I was contacted by an editor from Simon and Schuster, a much large and formidable publishing house. I was grateful to find a publisher, but a little dismayed that I could have sold my book to one of the “big guns”.
o   The experience was great--the staff at Bainbridge were very patient and supportive. Unfortunately, they didn’t like the ending, so it was changed to what I believe is a much more generic conclusion. I also am embarrassed by some profanity in the book that attempts to make it “edgy”, but doesn’t really jibe with my “squeaky-clean” ethics. Haha

·         The devastating, sometimes fatal treatment of “agendas” in your novel seems to parallel what cancer patients face with radiation in some ways, where the cure sometimes seems worse than the disease. Did your work as an RN play into these scenes at all? 
o   Absolutely. Your analysis is very insightful. I work with children on an oncology ward, so I see amputations, altered skin pigmentation, flesh burns from radiation, and surgical scars. Not to mention vomiting, pink urine, and kidney failure from chemotherapy. To me, many mutations happen for a reason, so I tried to make the “subnorms” in my book develop mutations that help them survive. For example, a girl with leukemia forms a second skeleton to provide functional bone marrow. And the psychic abilities aren’t random--they’re linked to the host’s fears and insecurities. So in a nutshell, I can appreciate the torment associated with a treatment that might cure someone, but can have delayed effects that are just as damaging as the initial disease. I wanted to stay true to what I see kids suffer through in the hospital.

·         Where did the idea for the subnorm series come from? How are things coming on the third installment?
o   I’ve always enjoyed sci-fi, and wanted to create an interesting twist on the theme of mutations and psychic talents. Basically I wanted to make the victims of subnorm racism human, not superheroes. They don’t band together but try to cope with their stressors as individuals. My newest book is finished. It begins when mutations are just surfacing in society. Jaden, the protagonist, is a fourteen year-old boy who can age his surroundings when stressed. He gets captured and thrown into a detention facility with a group of other dangerous mutant children. This leads to a powder keg situation in which Jaden must fight for survival, like Ralph in Lord of the Flies.

·         Knowing firsthand the challenges of trying to write steadily while maintaining a full-time day job, I’m curious how you manage the conflicting demands for your time. Any tips or stories you’d like to share?
o   Nothing too profound; simply allocate time for writing and stay consistent. Sometimes it’s hard to sit down and write, but once you’re finished, you’ll be glad you did. And when momentum builds and the plotting becomes easier, everything falls into place and the process becomes satisfying. Then the writing doesn’t seem like such a chore.

·         I thought that the way you presented the supernatural abilities was really unique, where they serve a purpose for the genetically altered person but are still viewed as anything but a gift (given the work of the Genetics Bureau). Any clues as to how this conflict may play out as the series progresses? I could see the mutants rallying together to fight their oppression or the government realizing that their abnormalities could serve a greater purpose.
o   I still like the concept of the subnorms fighting to survive as confused, terrified individuals, so I don’t know if there will be a mutant uprising. The government will start finding ways to “use” the subnorms’ psychic abilities, however, at great cost to the subnorms’ collective conscience. This will happen in part two of my next book. The protagonist will have to decide whether he will use his psychic talent to harm others or refuse and suffer the grueling “cure”.

·         I know your hobbies include playing basketball and other sports as well as weight-lifting, volunteering in the Big Brothers program, playing the electric guitar, and writing. Did you play any sports in college? Any stories about bands you’ve been in you’d like to share?
o   I am a basketball junkie. I play at least three times a week, but wasn’t good enough to play in college. I actually improved just playing one-on-one with friends who were better than me. I learned from them. I also enjoy tennis, golf, and listening to progressive rock music. I played electric guitar when I was younger, and would like to create an album of instrumental music when I can actually hold a note!

Author Bio:
     Jeff Gonsalves was born in Dublin, California under the watchful eyes of his parents. Strange premonitions (such as an ultrasound image of the umbilical cord snaking up his left nostril) foretold that he might be born with warped DNA, or at the very least, a wacked-out brain. They expected a third eyeball or a second gibbering mouth, but were relieved when he was born semi-normal.
     Over the past twenty years, Jeff has lived in California, Colorado, and the eerie caverns of his own imagination, but he would be perfectly content pitching a tent and residing permanently on a basketball court. His hobbies include sports, weight-lifting, volunteering in the Big Brothers program, mangling electric guitars, and writing. Fork in the Road to Apocalypse is the second novel in a science fiction series that currently includes five additional books. His first novel, The Subnorms, was published in 2001 and earned a favorable review from Kirkus, who called it “graphic, energetic, and packing a dizzying emotional wallop”.
     When he isn’t writing, Jeff works on a pediatric floor at a large metropolitan hospital. Jeff also enjoys progressive rock music and attributes his irreparable brain damage to listening to too many Top 40 bands when he was younger. He still has nightmares of hearing “Bluebird” by Anne Murray blasting from the speakers of his parents’ neon-orange Scirocco as a child. Maybe full frontal lobotomy will help.
     Currently, Jeff is writing a new novel to follow Fork in the Road to Apocalypse, which SciFi Books called, “fast, brutal, and darkly rewarding”. A concurrent project is Diary of a Disturbed Psych Aide, in which Jeff details true stories from his five years working in a mental ward. Here’s the link:

     Elliott Andersson is a disturbed young boy with a dangerous psychic talent. His mother believes that he can make a victim’s worst fears materialize in times of stress, so she keeps him locked in her house for days at a time. In a fit of desperation, Elliott transforms her home into a fiery vision from Hell, drawing the government’s attention. A frantic chase results in the crippling of federal agents and detainment of Elliott in a maximum-security seclusion tank.
     Elliott’s uncle Chuck is an operative working for the Genetics Bureau, the agency that has subdued his nephew. His job is to interrogate mutants to see if they possess lethal psychic abilities. When Elliott is imprisoned, Chuck embarks on a moral roller-coaster ride, uncertain whether to protect his nephew or society. His nonchalant attitude masks an innate desire to save Elliott at all costs–even if it means leaving casualties in their wake.
     An interrogation proves that he can alter reality, and the government decides to evaluate Elliott for use in military combat. Frightened, but with a strong will to survive, he resists the hands twisting him into a weapon. He is reeling on the brink of despair when his uncle forms a band of renegade soldiers to smuggle Elliott out of the Genetics Bureau.
     After this daring escape attempt, Chuck and a group of aberrants board a skim-cruiser headed into an uncharted wasteland. Pursued by the military, an android stalker, and a vengeful government agent, their only hope is to reach a leper colony that may not exist.
Shadowing every victory is the suspicion that Elliott cannot control his psychic ability, and is unconsciously using it against the people he loves most.
     Chuck must determine whether Elliott can be saved, or whether his psychic ability must result in his own termination. But at whose hands?

Book Excerpt:
I arrived at my sister’s duplex in ten minutes. Elliott’s agenda had detonated like a nuclear warhead, laying everything to waste. The lawn had been replaced by a volcanic ulcer of lava, neon orange and rippling sideways. Steam sprayed out of the fire hydrant, hovering in a scalding fog over the magma. The driveway was scorched black, paved with charred cinderblocks. His illusions seemed so realistic I found myself stumbling back even after a sludgy wave of lava failed to scorch my shoe.
Ash coated the roof, as if dozens of corpses had been cremated there. Withered trees trailed smoke into the sky. Flowers in the garden became hands clutching fistfuls of air, their wrists submerged in mud. Scarlet light spilled out the windows as though the duplex had been converted into a forge.
Perhaps the most striking feature was a monstrous, forked tongue protruding beneath the garage door, flailing like a bullwhip.
Elliott’s doomed, I thought, reeling on the threshold of Hades.
The air around the house was hazy, singed by heat. The odor reminded me of
burnt waffles, which is what Velma had told Elliott “Hell smelled like”. Amazingly, my nephew was now capable of olfactory hallucinations. He could produce scents to accompany his illusions.
Defying his horrific mirage, I tiptoed across the lava, greasy fumes puffing up to liquefy my vision. Tortured banshees wailed in my ears, hinting at condemned souls torn apart in the netherworld. With each step, chunks of scree belched up and became stepping stones so I wouldn’t plunge into the inferno. On the other side, a sooty beach washed up to the front door. The sand was littered with razored shells waiting to mutilate my feet. A raven perched on the duplex's gutter, a lock of Elliott’s hair pinched in its beak. Beside it rested a nest made of bones, its pink, squalling bird fetuses eaten alive by maggots.
The living room, too, had been warped by Elliott’s raging psyche. Contrasting the childish panorama of Hell, it was transformed into a mortuary. The windows were colorful stained glass, fashioned with images you would see inside a church. The brown carpet was now a plush purple, the sour odor replaced by incense. A flickering TV flashed images of veiled widows mourning the deceased. Watching them turn to face the screen, their faces were identical. Each bore the stern countenance of Ms Horner, a schoolteacher who disliked Elliott because he was an “aberration”. Organ music groaned from a radio, casting a pall over everything.
In the center of the living room sat a coffin on an oval dais, a red satin cloth drawn over the casket. Massive holes had been gouged in the lid, the way Elliott might render a plastic box containing his pet lizard.
Chilled, I stepped forward and heaved open the lid. Inside, Velma lay cloaked in her wedding gown, a frilly, white, moth-eaten dress. Shovelfuls of dirt smudged the gown, as though gravediggers had tried to bury her with the coffin unsealed.
Velma’s hands were crossed over her chest, clutching a vidpager. She gazed up at me through jittery eyelids. Her face looked grisly, powdered with mortician’s attar.
“I can’t move,” she sobbed.
“Shhh, take it easy.” Tears crept down her cheeks. “What happened?”
“Elliott got mad because I wouldn’t let him play with a neighbor boy. He created the burning bush, and I told him to stop. He threw a tantrum, screaming that he was a bad boy and was going to Hell.”
“Where’s Elliott now?”
“A military patrol came by and saw my lawn on fire, so they smashed down the door. Elliott slipped out the back. He jumped on his bike and tore off down the road.”
“He’ll be okay, sis.”
“The guards had rifles.”
“They won’t hurt him. They’re instructed to contain a juvenile, not gun him down.”
“I’m afraid I’ll never see him again, Chuck.”
“You did your best. Calling me took incredible courage. Elliott can’t be allowed to alter reality every time he gets frustrated.”
Velma tried to smile. “Does all this look familiar to you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Remember when mom died? It was an open casket, and Elliott got to view the body.”
Suddenly I remembered. Elliott had grown so distraught he made the corpse’s eyes flip open and its mouth wheeze. I had to usher him out of the parlor before he made his grandmother clamber out of the coffin and lecture us on how poorly she had been groomed. In his rage, Elliott had molded the living room into an exact replica of the funeral chapel.
“Can you get up?”
“No. I’m paralyzed.”
“Are you feeling pain anywhere?”
“Just my chest. Sharp stabs like angina. But I can’t reach over to see what’s wrong.”
Fear gripped me. I wanted to hurl the radio across the room and hush the dreary organ music.
“I’m lifting you out, okay?”
“Don’t hurt your back.”
I pulled her from the casket, laying her gently on the floor. She was stiff as a board.
“May I?” I motioned to her bosom.
“Go ahead. There isn’t much to see, anyway.”
I lifted Velma’s gown and studied her abdomen, seeing nothing abnormal. But when I tugged the hem up, dread filled me. Dimpling Velma’s breasts were cancerous lumps the size of golf balls.
Snatching my vidpager, I requested an ambulance.
“What the hell are those?” she exclaimed.
“They’re not real. It’s an illusion created by Elliott’s fear of losing you. They’ll go away once he calms down.” I replaced the gown and smoothed the wrinkles with trembling fingers.
“Then why did you call an ambulance?”
“Precautionary. Just stay here and wait for the medics.”
“You’re going after Elliott?”
“Yes. I’m going to find him and bring him home.”
“Tell him I love him,” she whispered.
I hurried away. Looking back, I saw her eyes beginning to close, acting out a charade concocted by a master magician.

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