In Which I Try Not To Be Awkward

I did an interview of sorts recently, with the delightful Mr. Brian Aiello. It’s a fun conversation in which we ramble about awesome writerly things and I try to sound like I know what I’m talking about. If you’d like to listen to it, the link is below. You can learn more about Brian Aiello and his podcasts Origins and Mirage on his website, bryanaiello.com

A Conversation With M. L. Moos

Winter’s Thaw

          Icicles shot up from the wet snow as Tabor let out a frustrated growl. He glared at the frozen spiderweb clinging to the pine tree, its chittering music filling the forest clearing, mocking his pain. He scraped his hands down his face and through his shimmering silver hair.

          He had weeks; weeks to get his first contribution for the Water Festival to work. Fists planted on hips and he took a few deep breaths. Kiel would have had the whole forest sparkling by now, but then Water Song had come more naturally to his best friend. Everything came more naturally to Kiel. Tabor’s chest squeezed as he remembered the Fire Fae explosion that had killed him three years ago. The anger and bitterness still gnawed at him.

          Tabor had to get this right. For Kiel’s sake.

          He took another steadying breath as he picked out a new patch of pine tree to practice on. He paused, then whistled out the Water Song command for the hundredth time. Nothing happened. His flexed arms crossed. Then delicate drops of dew began to collect on the needles, dripping down and connecting to form a watery imitation of a spiderweb.

          “Yes!” He pumped a fist in the air in victory. With a quiet crack the spiderweb froze. His arm fell. His lips pinched. With a roar he stomped around the clearing smashing every infernal frozen spiderweb he’d made that afternoon. More icicles shot up in his wake, obeying his rumbling commands.

          “Looks like winter likes you.”

          He stumbled, then spun around the clearing until he spotted a wisp of red Fire Fae hair peeking out from behind a tree. His eyes narrowed.

          “What would you know about it? Spark?”

          She flinched at the slur and the wisp disappeared. He smirked. Fire Fae didn’t belong in the snow anyway.

          “I just noticed the snow tends to follow you.”

          Tabor frowned. Sure enough, it had started to snow again. He hadn’t heard the flakes’ tinkling melody over the booming of the icicles.

          “Wait, have you been following me?”

          After a moment, the wisp reappeared. “The Water Fae fascinate me.”

          Tabor’s hands curled into fists and he marched across the clearing. The scrawny Fire Fae girl cringed when he came around the tree. She couldn’t have been more than eight or nine, with so much bushy red hair he could hardly see her face. Had she even gone through metamorphosis yet?

          “And what exactly do you find so fascinating about us?”

          Two piercing blue eyes bored into him through a curtain of curls.

          “What? I think I deserve to know why you’re watching me.” He swiped a hand at the annoying flakes swirling around his head. A smirk flashed behind the red fluff. He glared and it disappeared.

          “All I know of Water Fae is what I’ve heard. I wanted to know if it’s all true.”

          His glare softened with concern. Had the Fire Fae been blaming Kiel for the explosion?

          “What have you heard?”

          The girl crossed her arms and jutted her chin out. “No better than what you’ve heard of us.”

          The twitchy smile growing on his lips froze. “What would you know about it? Have you even morphed yet?”

          “What does my metamorphosis have to do with it?”

          Tabor looked her up and down. “Not a thing.” With a growling purr, he sang icicles up from the snow to pin the girl’s clothes to the tree behind her. She tugged at them as panic widened her eyes. She was trapped and at his mercy. “Some of us don’t need to hear things to know what Sparks are like.”

          She flinched at the term again. “My name is Felicity.”

          “I don’t care, Spark. See some of us have first hand experience of the damage your kind cause.”

          She sneered. “And I thought some of you might be understanding.”

          “Oh, I understand plenty.”

          “Yeah? And what is it you understand?”

          He growled again and a new spike rumbled up to point at her middle. “I understand that a Spark killed my best friend.”

          She stared through red curls, then smiled wearily. His chest squeezed. Why did he feel like he’d just lost?

          “So it was you,” she whispered.

          “What was me?”

          “You’re the one who convinced the Guerri to punish the Fire Faerie.”

          Tabor crossed his arms. “Of course they punished him. He needed to be brought to justice.”

          Her chin fell. As her face disappeared behind red curls, he again felt the twinge of an argument he’d lost.

          “I take it no one told you what happened after he was exiled.”

          How did a pre-morph kid know so much about all this? He waited for her to continue. After a long pause, blue eyes reappeared through all that red.

          “The day after we left the village, I found my father in a creek, impaled on a spike of ice. It was the middle of summer. I was five years old.”

          Tabor’s stomach clenched.

          “Apparently someone didn’t think exile was enough punishment for an accident.”

          Tabor swallowed the bile rising in his throat a few times. For three years he’d shut out everything but the mourning. For three years he’d allowed his heart to freeze over. For three years he’d thought of nothing but his own anger. Only now did it occur to him to see it from another point of view. With a quiet purr the spikes melted away, setting the girl more firmly back on her feet.

          “I, uh …”

          She tugged on her now damp shirt, digging her toe into the snow. “Yeah.”

          The snow hushed its tinkling. The nearby creek paused its low warble. Even the trees, whose Earth Song he could sense but not hear, seemed to hold their breath. But how could he just let go of three years of anger and hate? His prejudice may have been proven unwarranted, but his best friend was still dead.

          “Who was it? Who killed your father?”

          She swept a hand through her curls and for the first time Tabor saw her face clearly. Sunken cheeks, clenched jaw, and blazing blue eyes reflected all his hurt and bitterness.

          “I don’t know. I’m only eight. Who’s gonna believe an eight year old spark?”

          Her glare seared his skin, burning away the edge of his anger. He growled a melody and swiped at the flakes collecting in his hair. The snow between them compacted with cracks and rumbles until a tiny flame made of ice sat at the girl’s feet.

          “I believe you. Felicity.”

          After a tense moment, she bent and lifted the sculpture in her small hands. She blinked a few times. The tiny smile that stretched her lips softened the harsh light in her eyes. He found himself smiling back.

          “Thank you.”

          “You’re welcome.”

          “I guess the Water Fae aren’t all bad.” She winked.

          He chuckled. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

          They nodded their goodbyes and he watched her disappear into the forest, vowing to ensure her family was cared for. It’s what Kiel would have done.

          As he returned to the clearing and the one frozen spiderweb he hadn’t smashed, he sighed. The world had made a lot more sense when he’d first made it. Water Fae were good, Fire Fae were bad. Now he was wiser, but more confused. He blew out another sigh and closed his eyes to refocus on making spiderwebs. At least those were still simple.

          Felicity’s soft smile floated up in his mind and he whistled out the command one last time. The dew and snow surrounding him answered, but he kept his eyes shut and continued whistling. The music grew and grew, melodies and themes layering on top of each other until the whole clearing crescendoed and Tabor ran out of breath. The music continued, though a bit subdued and he took a nervous breath before opening his eyes. His jaw dropped.

          The entire clearing sparkled and shone with so many watery spiderwebs, Tabor had no hope of counting them all.

Meet Sam Baker

This week I’d like to introduce you to another good friend, Sam Baker. She is the author of the novel Variant Wars and editor and contributor for the anthology Winter Neverland.


There are many things they call the Variants…diseased, dangerous, cursed. But it’s not all true. The Pures have attempted to eradicate the Variant people for nearly a century. After the first three Variant Wars, the Variants are barely surviving in the unforgiving world of theirs. The inhuman things they can do strikes fear in the hearts of the Pures. And now, some anti-Variant groups like the Patrol have vowed to exterminate the Variants. How far will the Variants go until they stop trying? How long with they fight to defend their people? These are the raw truths of the Variant Wars. This is what the people must do to protect their family and friends in the face of disaster. No one will survive without cost, and some may not survive at all. This is the story of the Fourth Variant War. This is the story of its prisoners.

Sam Baker is a science fiction author with an interest in post-apocalyptic worlds. Her books also take on many aspects of the fantasy and dystopian genres. In her stories, she focuses on unfortunate conflicts of humanity and what her characters must do to survive their grim realities.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on?

I’m an author trying to make it in this world, trying to share my work and help other authors along the way. I’m also a college student surviving off of coffee, bagels, and a fear of finals.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I first fell in love with books before I could read. My dad read The Lord of the Rings to me when I was a kid, and I was instantly hooked.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

One of my favorite books that I read as a kid would probably have to be The Three Musketeers because it’s full of action and companionship.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

One of the books that has changed me the most is Big Fish by Daniel Wallace. This book taught me that it’s okay if your life seems mundane because the stories you tell can be as creative and magical as you want. And in the end, you’ll likely be remembered for the stories you leave behind, fictional and true.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was Oliver Twist.

My current favorite book would have to be The Road.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I would have loved to meet Shel Silverstein because his poetry fueled much of my childhood (and adult) imagination.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I first knew I was a writer before I even knew how to write. I loved creating new stories as a kid. I would tell my mom my stories and have her write them down for me before I knew how to write.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

My first ever story was about two kids who got stuck on a pirate ship and had to try and survive their journey across the sea.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

The most difficult part of my writing journey was admitting to myself that writing was something I needed to do. Once I came to terms with that, writing was freeing in a way.

The most enjoyable part of my writing journey is when I get to know my characters on a deeper level with each page written. I also really enjoy talking to other people about my writing and hearing their different theories about how the story is going to continue on.

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

I don’t know if I received this advice or realized it myself. But my best writing advice is to write every day and write everything down (even if you think it’s stupid). These two things have helped me immensely.

11. Tell us about you current project and any others you’re working on.

I have a few projects I’m currently working on. I’m in the process of revising my book Variant Wars: The Prisoners in preparation to release the second edition re-print of it next year. Another project that I’m excited to announce is that I just finished writing an anthology of winter themed short stories with five of my close author friends. Our anthology Winter Neverland is currently available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

(J Douglas Burton is one of the contributors to the anthology and you can find his interview here.)

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I have a love for film. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m usually spending time with my cats and watching movies.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

Given the opportunity, I would become an instant expert in Neuropsychology because it was once my career goal (before writing thankfully took over my life).

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

I know it’s not possible, but I’d love to visit Ancient Rome. Their culture is so fascinating.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

The best way to contact me would be through Twitter @SamBakerWrites. I also have a website, SamBakerWrites.com that I update occasionally with writing tips or news about what’s going on in my life. And for those who love snail mail, my PO box is listed at the bottom of my website!

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support!

Thanks for telling us a little about you! I can’t wait to get my copy of Winter Neverland!

If you’re interested in reading Sam’s books you can find them both on Amazon and Winter Neverland at Barnes and Noble as well.

Variant Wars Amazon

Winter Neverland Amazon

Winter Neverland Barnes and Noble

Meet Jesse S. Smith

This week I have the privilege of introducing you to my good friend, Jesse S. Smith. He’s the author of adventurous novellas The Battle Of Hillsboro and Rise Of The Pagans.

battle-of-hillsboro-cover

Unwilling to settle for lives of quiet mediocrity, a group of local young men decide to take matters into their own hands. They hatch a plan to conquer the world, beginning with a certain small town. Putting their plan into action, they launch a series of heists to fund their army. This suspenseful action adventure is a page-turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Jesse-S-Smith-mlmoosauthor-375px

Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, Jesse S. Smith earned his Bachelor’s degree in English from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Smith’s first two published works were short stories printed in the college literary arts magazine.

Smith’s most popular work to date, The Battle of Hillsboro, is an action-adventure heist caper novella, self-published in 2009 and currently available through Amazon.com. In addition to Hillsboro, Smith has also written nine full-length book manuscripts; two other novellas; a number of short stories; and a 19,000 word epic poem in unrhymed pentameter. Of those, two of the books have been self-published: Principles for a Self-Directed Society (out of print) and Rise of the Pagans (available on Amazon.com). The rest of Smith’s writings remain unpublished at this time. Smith is currently editing two rather lengthy novels, which he hopes to get traditionally published through a professional literary agent.

Smith presently resides in Oregon with his wife and two children.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Hi, my name is Jesse. I live in the great state of Oregon. I love trees, chess, and dystopian
science fiction. I have led a varied and interesting life. Currently I am editing two lengthy
novels, and I’ll say more about them in a bit!

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

Books have always been a part of my life. I can’t really remember the time before I learned to read. I do remember that even in elementary school I was a voracious bookworm.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

“Tales of King Arthur” by James Riordan and “A Wonder Book” by Nathaniel Hawthorne are books from my childhood that directly influenced the projects I’m currently working on, *mumble mumble* years later.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

I think in my twenties I had an unhealthy sympathy for Nicholas Urfe, the protagonist in “The Magus” by John Fowles. Nicholas is a guy who makes some poor choices. He also travels halfway around the world to work as a school teacher in a remote location where he doesn’t speak the language. In my mid-twenties I did basically the exact same thing.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

I am almost always reading multiple books at the same time. I recently finished re-reading “A Game of Thrones” (the first one) by George R.R. Martin; and at about the same time, I finished reading “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer-Bradley. Picking one favorite book is difficult, but if you haven’t read “White Noise” by Don DeLillo, go grab a copy. The prose is exceptional; the world view is spot-on; and the satirical presentation is in some ways almost eerily prescient.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I would like to talk with Ovid and Sir Thomas Malory, to learn the real reasons why the one was exiled and the other imprisoned for life. I would love to discuss philosophy and current events with Don DeLillo, John Irving, and John Fowles. But more than anything it would be fun to just hang out and party with Michael Chabon, Russell Banks, and Hunter S. Thompson.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I was a writer before I could write. When I was very little, I would insist on putting felt tip marker to paper and recording important events, immediately after they occurred. When I was in the third grade my grandparents gave me my first journal for my birthday, and from then until college I wrote in my journal several times a week.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

My very first stories were illustrated fan-fiction retellings based on The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars, and The Neverending Story. My first original story was called “Jesse’s Adventures.” It was a third-person sci-fi adventure story about a kid who acquires a rocket ship and flies into outer space with his friends, where they battle evil aliens and the mean kids from school. I started writing that in the fourth grade and continued adding episodes all the way through seventh grade.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

a. Being a writer is often a thankless vocation. Friends and family have generally been… less than encouraging. But the most difficult part of my writing journey has been the crucial step of finding an audience and a publisher who will help me connect with that audience. I’m still working on that.

b. Over the past year I’ve been very fortunate to connect with fellow writers on Twitter. That has been a rewarding, gratifying experience. You know how people get nostalgic for the Paris cafés of the 1920’s and early 30’s, where Gertrude Stein and Anaïs Nin and Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos and Henry Miller and many others would all sit together drinking coffee (or something stronger) and talk about writing all day and night? In some respects, I think today’s “Writer Twitter” community has the potential to be regarded in the same way by literature lovers of the future. There are some fantastic people here, doing amazing things, and supporting each other with encouragement and ideas. Keep it up, you guys!

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

I am such a rule-breaker when it comes to writing advice. I use adverbs constantly (see what I just did there?) including adverbs to modify “said.” My sentences are overly long and convoluted. My writing tends to be a lot of “telling” and not a lot of “showing.” I think the advice that stays in my head the most often when I’m writing is: imagine you’re writing a letter to a good friend, and write the novel to them. That way, you have an audience in mind as you write, and with any luck, at least one person will enjoy reading it when you’re finished!

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

I’m currently editing two novels. Both of them are reimaginings, and both of them are in the 150,000 word long range. The earlier Work In Progress is based on Arthurian legends. I finished the first draft in August of 2016, and have rewritten large chunks of it since then; but it still has a ways to go. My newer Work In Progress is based on Greco-Roman mythology. I began writing the first draft in September of 2016. I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in July; that accounted for about a quarter of the total length. There are still a couple of gaps in the storyline, but I essentially completed the first draft almost exactly a year after I began it; which is pretty fast, for me.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I have many interests! I am fascinated by science; and I have strong opinions about current events (don’t get me started); and I enjoy photography, and movies, and my family. Like pretty much every other guy I’ve ever met, I consider myself a pretty decent guitar player. When I was in 6th grade I wrote an introductory monograph on computer programming in BASIC. (Yes, I really am that old.) Through a convoluted series of life choices, this eventually led to my work as a web developer, coding in server-side and client-side object-oriented programming languages.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

If I could suddenly become an expert at something, I think I might like to suddenly develop social skills. No, seriously, I’ve read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” something like six times, and yet that objective eludes me…

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world? Where would you go?

I have traveled quite a bit. I lived two years of my life overseas: one in Scotland, the other in Egypt. I have taken quick spins through continental Europe, India, Nepal, and Thailand. I would still like to visit Ireland someday; because Ireland has its own unique and fascinating culture, including a rich folklore and great music. But more than anything, having been to many places, I think I have discovered that there is nothing, literally nothing in the whole world, better than sitting on a tropical beach with a cold mixed drink. More than anywhere else, that’s where I would want to go: a tropical beach.

15. How can people connect with you?

The best way to connect with me is on Twitter! I’m @JesseSmithBooks. Say howdy to me there! I also have this writerly website: jessesmith.me

And to top it off, you can see my self-published books from my Amazon Author page, here: www.amazon.com/author/jesse-smith

I have some other websites and social media accounts, but those are the most important.

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

If you have actually read all of this, then you are a champion! It’s been great talking to you. If you are a writer, be sure to follow @mlmoosauthor and talk to her about her author interview series!

Thanks for sharing a bit about you and for the shout out! It’s greatly appreciated (yes, I like adverbs too). And I can tell you, you’re much more sociable than you give yourself credit for. I can’t wait to read more of your stories! Especially the one inspired by Arthurian legends!

If you’d like to read Jesse’s books, you can find them on Amazon.

The Battle Of Hillsboro

Rise Of The Pagans