Writer’s Ink: Mark A. King

mark-a-kingI “met” Mark A. King on the Flash! Friday weekly flash fiction contest, and quickly came to look forward to the pieces of writing he submitted each week. He had (has) a way with words that sort of wrapped around my imagination, and it was a treat to get to co-judge with him for the same contest for a few months.

Since those days, Mark has started the Flashdogs, a group of writers with some awe-inspiring skills, as well as published several anthologies of flash fiction. Just this month, he’s released his very first novel, Metropolitan Dreams, and I’m thrilled to be able to share it with you.

Mark is stopping by my website to say hello and intrigue you with his plans for post-apocalyptic world restructure. Just because a genie is involved doesn’t mean it’s easy…

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1.) Go ahead and sum up Metropolitan Dreams for us in three sentences (because that’s always fun).
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In the aftermath of a violent crime we follow the connected stories of an injured nightclub bouncer, an ageing crime-lord, a conflicted police hacker, a traumatised Tube-driver, and a vulnerable twelve-year-old girl as they fight for survival, purpose, and redemption in the fractured city of London. Along the journey we discover lost rivers, abandoned underground stations, mysterious forces, and angels (perhaps).
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2.) What first pulled the idea for Met Dreams into your head? Where did you find the seed of your idea, and what made it grow into what you now have on your pages? Ten years down the road, when you’ve made your millions and have topped every international best-seller list, what will you look back on as being the inspiration that began this adventure?

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I’ve always had a fascination with major cities–how they can be tourist friendly during the day and turn into completely different places at night. There are so many things hidden in places and within people. I wanted to set the tale in London, not just because it was where I was raised, but also because there have been so many fantastic SF/Fantasy stories based in the city that I felt like I owed it to myself to start there. Many of the ideas were formed or experimented with in flash fiction competitions, and a significant number of ideas can have their history traced back to Flash! Friday (which my fellow judge and kind host today knows only too well) or The Angry Hourglass. It is fair to say that these competitions were like fuel that fired the engine of story creation. I’m so very thankful to Rebekah Postupak who dedicated so much of her time and energy to the community. There were many fine writers there, too, who not only inspired with their writing, but also their spirit and encouragement, for example Tamara Shoemaker. 🙂
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*Editor’s Note: Aww, thanks!
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3.) Name your favorite character in the book, and tell us what made that character so special/difficult/fun/annoying/challenging to write.

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This is a really hard question. Metropolitan Dreams, like a city, is told from the points of view of many characters. While most books have one or two main characters, Met Dreams has many. Will they know if I’ve picked a favourite? What if they then won’t do what I want them to do in future?
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*Editor’s Note: My characters NEVER do what I want them to do. They are like willful children. If you discover the secret of making them obey, please let me know. 😉
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Okay, I’ll risk it. Cal McKinley. We find him suffering from trauma and self-doubt from the very early stages of the book. He is a Tube-driver who has witnessed a death and is struggling to cope with it. Cal starts to experience unusual events, and he is not sure if he is suffering from a mental illness/disorder such as PTSD. As the story progresses, it becomes clear to Cal that not everything is as it seems. As he progresses through his journey of discovery, he gets to meet many interesting characters and visit some unique locations.
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4.) What are some of the challenges you’ve faced–and overcome–to take your story from your computer and put it out into the big, wide world of readers? What were your fears/concerns, and what were you looking forward to? Is anything like you hoped or dreaded?
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There are too many to count. The English school system was not interested in teaching grammar to school children when I was younger. Despite the fact that I seem to have coped fairly well without it, it has always been something I have been very ware of, and I knew full well that I needed to seek a great deal of help to write a novel. This is where Emily June Street came in. However, it would be unjust to say she ‘just’ helped in this aspect. A great editor–and Emily is one–will tease out central plots, act as a voice of reason, and even help with last minute adjustments to story continuity. Emily has been a blessing. If you can find a wonder editor like Emily (or Tamara), then I would urge you to do so.
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*Editor’s Note: I bow to Emily’s far superior skills. Absolutely agree. She is truly the best there is.
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I was very nervous about sending the draft to Emily. When it left the walls of my e-mail server, it was like sending a child beyond the city gates and having no idea what might become of them.
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Few of my friends knew about my writing, and the entire thing has been one long journey of slowly letting go and facing the fears I have.
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5.) And, because you did it to me, here’s payback. Think fast, put your first impulse answer:
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London or Paris?
London (I couldn’t really say anything else, could I?  🙂 )
Book or Movie?
Book.
Peanut butter or Marmite?
PB – although I do have an allergy to peanuts, but I’d rather that than Marmite.
Disney World or Universal Studios?
This question should be disallowed. Can’t I pick one park from each?
Universal because of Islands of Adventure, or Harry Potter, if I had to choose.
A pic of Disney on our trip Dec 2010, to balance this out a bit.
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London Tube or double-decker bus?
Tube – have you been on a double-decker?
*Editor’s Note: Yes, in both London and Dublin. One thing was for sure: it wasn’t boring… 😉
Mountains or Beach?
This question is really not fair. I choose both. I’ve attached a picture where my family are from. The picture is on the Atlantic coast, a straight line all the way to the East coast US (apart from some rugged islands where they recently filmed Star Wars).
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Instrumental or W/ Lyrics?
Probably instrumental.
Cats or Dogs?
Dogs.
Twitter or Facebook?
Twitter.
Early bird or Night owl?
Umm. Early bird.
Tolkien or Lewis?
Tolkien.
Dragons or Hippogriffs?
Dragons, of course.
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6.) Say the world has ended in a colossal explosion, and you and three others are the only survivors (who apparently now live on an alternate planet). You have the chance to rebuild it, but all you have among you is a train ticket, a ball of steel wire, a dusty old lamp that may or may not include a genie inhabitant, and a piece of Ever-Last gum. How would you proceed? (New world must be built. I look forward to seeing what you do with this). 😉
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This is possibly the hardest (and strangest) question I have ever been asked!
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I’m assuming the three others would be my wife and two children. 🙂
I’ve also assumed I can’t ask the genie for unlimited wishes. That would be cheating. You normally get three, right?
I’d ask for the world to be returned to the way it was.
I’d ask for more equality and justice in the world (I’m not asking for much, am I?).
I’d ask the genie where they would like to go, and I’d gift them the train ticket to that destination.
I’d craft a gift for the genie from the steel wire, lamp, and gum and wish him/her a wonderful life of freedom and happiness. And I’d remind them that they should remember my gift the next time they think about doing something mischievous (it might remind them that bad things happened before, and it might help to avoid them becoming captured again).
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This is a tale of two cities.

Darkness and light.

Sinners and angels.

In the daylight, London sparkles, beckoning tourists, optimists and dreamers from across the globe. The sunlit city weaves together the lives of repentant crime-lords, altruistic nightclub bouncers and resolute detectives.

In the darkness, London festers, drools, tempts and corrupts. It is a world where the desperate are lured, the weak are exploited, and good men wrap themselves in the blanket of criminal rewards. In the seething streets, the hissing underground stations and lost subterranean rivers, the metropolitan dreams of ethical hackers, desperate criminals and traumatized Tube-drivers unfold.

Maria, a vulnerable twelve-year-old from Kerala, India, has travelled half the world in search of her past and hopes for the future. Within hours, violent chaos engulfs her. Maria is tracked, hunted and pursued—she can rescue the city, but first she must save herself.

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Mark is one of the founders of FlashDogs, a global community of talented flash fiction writers. His flash fiction stories have been published in a number of anthologies and magazines. Mark was born and raised in London, works in Cambridge, and lives in Norfolk, England.

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Giveaway Winner

I sent out my very first newsletter last week, and in that newsletter, I gave away not one, not two, but THREE whole books to one lucky recipient on my newsletter list. Want to join? Message me with your email and I’ll add you!

Newsletter recipients will be the first to get news about prizes, discounts, and giveaways, so sign up if you haven’t already!

Today, Colin U. is the lucky winner of my YA post-apocalyptic trilogy, Guardian of the Vale (a series very near and dear to my heart). Congratulations, Colin! I hope you enjoy the books! Feel free to leave reviews on the sites of your choice and to recommend the books to others!

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Did you know that for independently published authors, word-of-mouth is still the best way to reach others? It’s how I found all my favorite stories–from people who knew my tastes and recommended books to me. 🙂

If you haven’t already, you can follow me here at my website, on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Have a merry Christmas! 🙂

Embrace the Fire (Heart of a Dragon Book 2) by Tamara Shoemaker

PalidensReviews on Twitter reviewed Embrace the Fire, and I just love what she had to say about it! This little jewel especially: “I was a little concerned that book two would follow the path that so many second books do, of just being a “filler” for the conclusion. Not so!!! Embrace the Fire contains it’s own surprises and twists that I promise you, you didn’t see coming. And the ending???? I cannot believe that it is true. I won’t. I will hope and dream and…..okay, seriously, it better not end this way!!! I need book three!”

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Okay, I must admit, I finished reading this book very quickly but I got busy and forgot to publish the review. Sorry!

Embrace the Heart (Heart of the Dragon book 2) is AMAZING! Seriously, I loved the first book and I was a little concerned that book two would follow the path that so many second books do, of just being a “filler” for the conclusion. Not so!!! Embrace the Heart contains it’s own surprises and twists that I promise you, you didn’t see coming. And the ending???? I cannot believe that it is true. I won’t. I will hope and dream and…..okay, seriously, it better not end this way!!! I need book three!

Be warned, if you haven’t read book 1, there are spoilers ahead.

Kinna is determined to rescue her brother, but she also feels the growing need to start a revolution.

Of course, she is betrothed…

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Kindle the Flame (Heart of a Dragon #1) by Tamara Shoemaker

PalidensReviews offered a FANTASTIC review of the first book in my Heart of a Dragon trilogy, Kindle the Flame. I love it so very much. Check out the review, and then click on the link at the bottom to grab your copy! 🙂

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Wow! Tamara Shoemaker has done it again!

I saw that Tamara Shoemaker had a new series out, a fantasy series at that, and I decided I had to give it a try. From the first page, I was hooked! I have read other books by this author and loved them, but I wasn’t too sure about her writing in the fantasy genre. Let me say, I am speechless! This book is amazing! I stayed up very late and read until I couldn’t hold my eyes open anymore. Without further ado, let’s get to the story.

The story is told from four different persons POV. First is Kinna, a member of the Pixiedimn, who’s assigned Pixie, unfortunately, detests her. Kinna is facing the Trials and is dreading what is going to happen if her Pixie does not behave. But Kinna’s story is just beginning, and her Pixie is the least of…

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Writer’s Ink: Margaret Locke

Today, I have with me fellow author extraordinaire and hilarious friend in real life, Margaret Locke. I’ve interviewed Margaret at her previous book releases for A Man of Character and A Matter of Time, and I always love her responses, so I was super excited to have the chance to talk to her about her new release (tomorrow!!) of A Scandalous Matter.

I love many things, but high among them is history, romance, and wit, and Margaret supplies these in spades. Come see what she has to say about the making of A Scandalous Matter!

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TS: Give us a three-sentence synopsis of A Scandalous Matter. To make it interesting, be sure to include the words love, time, and bonnet in your answer.

ML: Scarred by scandal, Amara Mattersley time travels from Regency England (bonnet and all) to present-day Virginia, to pursue her dream of a full education and desire for independence. Not love. But when she finds herself entangled with very sexy and somewhat befuddling computer science professor Matthew Goodson, complications ensue.

How’s that? 😉 (*Editor’s Note: Perfecto. I admit to wondering where you were going to stick the bonnet in your synopsis. Well done.) 🙂

TS: You write time-travel romances, among other things. Tell us about your decision to place your book in Charlottesville, Virginia. Did you travel to Charlottesville to research your setting? What were some of your favorite places you include in the book that you walked through in real life?

ML: Charlottesville felt a natural choice, because:

  1. I went to grad school there, so the area was familiar, and
  2. I fell in love with my husband there, so C’ville = love.

But though Charlottesville and UVa were familiar, the familiarity dates to the 1990s, so, uh, yeah, I had to head across the mountain from the Shenandoah Valley to see what’s changed—and what’s blessedly stayed the same.

Ironically, I never went into the Colonnade Club Pavilion in my grad school days (perhaps because it’s a place intended for faculty, and I was too chicken to encroach), so when I stumbled across it and dared enter, you bet I soaked up every bit of the interior, and was sure to weave it into A Scandalou467212_Gs Matter.

I also included bits about the Fashion Square Mall, driving along Orange Barrel Road (technically called 29/Emmet, but it was covered with orange barrels for construction when I lived there, and my mom always referred to it then as Orange Barrel Road. The name stuck.), and walking the Ped Mall, but it’s UVa and particularly the Lawn and Academical Village that always call me back, time and again.

Sadly, the UVa Rotunda has been closed for the past two years for renovations – and to be accurate to the time setting of A Scandalous Matter, that little tidbit made it in there, too.

TS: What was one of the most difficult things about writing this book? Was it harder than A Matter of Time (which is more of a traditional Regency romance, although not completely) or A Man of Character, which is also set in Virginia?

ML: Harder? Yes and no.

Yes, it was harder, in that I wrestled with the plot and where things were going to go (and what was going to happen once they got there) quite a bit more than my first two books – in part because I started this book as a NaNoWriMo (*Editor’s note: that’s National Novel Writing Month–the month of November where you scramble like crazy to crank out 50,000 words in a month’s time) book last fall and therefore wrote most of it in thirty days. While simultaneously preparing to launch A Matter of Time. In other words, I was crazy.

I pantsed (rather than plotted) far more of the story than I would have liked and agonized over all of it. As I joked with friends, this was “the book that would never end” – the original first draft clocked in at nearly 117,000 words! I did manage to shave 10,000 words off of that, but still, the story definitely had a life of its own. An Energizer Bunny life that wanted to just keep going and going and…

No, it wasn’t harder, in that I was back writing about the present, which meant less research. Kind of. I did spend a lot of time looking up words to try to ensure Amara was speaking, at least at first, like a woman from 1813 England. It’s amazing how many modern idioms sneak in when I’m not looking!

TS: One of the things I admire about your characters is their ability to carry out effortless and witty back-and-forth banter. Do you create dialogue based on conversations you’ve had in real life, or does the conversational portions flow naturally from your mind into your manuscript?

ML: Oh, goshoh-these-photographers-1430111, that’s a kind assessment. I love you. (*Editor’s Note: Why, thank you! I love you, too!) 😉

It’s been my ultimate goal to create dialogue in the vein of Julia Quinn, who writes some of the best, most hilarious banter around. I will admit, there are a few bits I’ve included from real life, but much of it is just my brain going, “Hey, that’s kind of funny!” as I write. It’s nice to know others think I’m witty, too. Because my husband never finds me as humorous as I want him to. The rascal. I’ll, uh, admit that a few of his and my exchanges made it into A Scandalous Matter – points to you if you can guess which ones. (*Editor’s Note: Verbal exchanges or… Um, I’ll pass, thanks!) 😉

TS: Do you have someone who inspires you for certain characters? For instance, is there a Matthew out there that you could look at and put parts of him into the story, or an Amara?

ML: Are we talking physically, or more internally/personality?

Physically, Matthew Goodson was originally based off of Matthew Goode, the British actor who’s quite fetching in that slightly geeky way I adore. A fierce, unsmiling Jennifer Lawrence was the physical model for Amara Mattersley (I say unsmiling, because Ms. Lawrence looks much different when she smiles, and that’s not how I imagine Amara).

But personality/temperament-wise, uh, well, Matthew does share a lot of traits with my husband. Hey, they say write what you know. But Matthew’s also a blend of other people I’ve known, just as Amara is. In fact, Amara started out merely as the idea of someone opposite of Cat and Eliza. I wanted someone bolder, someone more confident in and desirous of her sexuality, because neither Cat nor Eliza are like that in most ways. Some of Amara’s emotionality and struggles with wanting independence versus accepting love probably reflect my best friend from college’s and my own struggles and conversations about that very topic, way back in the day.

TS: You now have three books in your Mattersley family series. Are you planning to continue creating stories based on this family, or will you branch out into other romance series soon? Will all of your books have a paranormal (time-travel and magical) element, or will you write straight romance at any point?

ML: Both! And all!

Most of Deveric’s siblings from A Matter of Time will, at some point or other, get their own stories – and those will be pure Regencies, without the magical aspect (*gasp*). Some of the Mattersley siblings will find themselves in my new Put Up Your Dukes series, featuring (surprise surprise) dukes and their foibles in life and love (including Grace Mattersley, whose story comes in The Demon Duke, my fourth book and first in this new series. James Bradley and Morgan Collinswood, my beloved sidekicks from A Matter of Time, also need their own tales!). Other Mattersleys not messing around with ducal folk will be part of the Matters of Love series, again straight-up historical Regencies without magic.

But will the Magic of Love series end here? I think not. For one thing, there’s a character in A Scandalous Matter for whom several beta readers have already demanded a story, as well as one from A Man of Character who deserves a happy ending, I do think. And I can’t let go of Cat for good, can I?

TS: Quick answers: don’t think more than a second about any of these.

Tea or Coffee?: Tea. Not that I really drink it, but I do fancy Earl Grey, I’ve discovered. Plus, tea is quintessentially British, is it not?

2917182-p-MULTIVIEWDress Boots or Sneakers?: Dress boot? What the heck is a dress boot? (*Editor’s Note: See pic for details.) For style, I’d go with those, as I’m imagining the smart little Victorian-esque heeled boots we wore in the 80s (no, Madonna did NOT invent them – she just made them popular again). But for comfort, and I’m all about comfort, well, sneakers.

Siri or Cortana?: What the heck is Cortana? (*Editor’s Note: Come, my dear, and allow me to instruct you in the differences between Apple and Microsoft.) Siri – because she’s got the best answer for what’s 0 divided by 0.

Sweaters or Sweatshirts?: Sweater, unless the sweatshirt has an open hem. I don’t like sweatshirts whose bottom hem curls halfway up my belly.

Cadbury or Hershey?: Give me all of it. Right now.

Twilight or 50 Shades?: Twilight. Though I read both series. I was a total Twi-Mom (Team Edward) – though I admit I wouldn’t want my daughter thinking many elements from the Twilight book were to be idealized as far as relationships go. Uh, same for 50 Shades, actually. huzzah-3

Frozen or Tangled?: Tangled. Because I love Flynn Ryder. 

Austen or Bronte?: Austen, of course. Not that Bronte is bad. It’s just that Austen is so good.

Cats or Dogs?: CATS! Cats! Give me all the cats! And maybe one Golden RetrTamaraShoemaker-300dpi-3125x4167iever. But CATTTTTSSSS!

University of Virginia or James Madison University?: UVA. Can’t beat Mr. Jefferson’s university.

Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton?: Jefferson. Not that he was a perfect man, by any means, but I became obsessed with him and Monticello at the age of nine – and look where I ended up! Plus, it’s possible he might have been a bit Aspie, which makes me like him all the more.

Harry Potter or Mark of Four (oh Mortal, beware, for the ground on which thou treadest has most rapidly turned to quicksand…): There is no quicksand here. The obvious answer is BOTH! GO READ THEM NOW!

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A SCANDALOUS MATTER

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Independent, spirited Amara Mattersley may live under scandal’s shadow, but at least the nineteenth-century Regency society judging her is familiar. That’s all about to change when she finds herself in twenty-first-century Charlottesville, Virginia–and locking horns with one very befuddling, very male, UVA professor.

Computer science professor Matthew Goodson has no time for love–no time for anything, actually, but his quest for tenure and his obsession with the screen. The last thing he expects is to get side-swiped by this adorably odd British miss. Yet something in her calls to him, pulls at him, in a way unknown–and uncomfortable.

Can the past and the present blend together into a mutual future? Or will old wounds and new complications sabotage any chance at a twenty-first century happily ever after?

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Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person. She is the author of A Man of Character, A Matter of Time, and A Scandalous Matter.

Margaret loves to interact with fellow readers and authors! You may find her here:

Website: http://margaretlocke.com

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