Debbie: Morning Ladies and Gents. Seems we’ve stepped into the cyber fantasy world and landed ourselves on a magic ship in the middle of a storm. Laura, I hope you took your Dramamine, it’s pretty darn rough out here. Oh and sorry, not a coffee shop in site.
Laura: Took the Dramamine before we left the dock, so I’m good. I’m very excited to talk with Helen about her book, Windmaster. And yeah…you’d think a ship like this would have a measly coffee maker. Oh wait…did you say magic ship?? Hmm. Maybe I need to do a chant like our characters did in that paranormal we just finished writing!
............One, two, hey ship I’m talkin’ to you
............Three, four, there’s no coffee and I need more
............Five, six, I’d love a good chocolate-coffee mix
............Seven, eight, whipped cream on top sure would be great!
............Nine, ten, When the mug’s empty, please fill it again!
(holds out hands) Nothing.
Debbie: (shaking head) You freaking fool. If it were that easy, everyone would be making up rhymes for things they want. What you need to do close your eyes say picture the totally hot guy you want to fall in love with you in your head and say three times, “There’s no one like him, there’s no one like him, there’s no one like him” Click your heals and voila…(opens eyes) Well, damn!
Laura: (laughs) And you call me the freaking fool! Women around the world would be doing that chant if it really worked. At least all I asked for was a cup ‘o Joe….you, on the other hand, were asking for Joe himself. Which do you think is easi—
....Look out! Here comes a wave! Hang on!!!!
Debbie: Whoa! Those waves are getting a might bit gnarly. LOL, like my beach talk. Too bad we’re not on the beach. Then the cup ‘o Joe and Joe would be a heck of a lot easier to conjure up, cuz let me tell ya, this new single life sucks. If the storm gets worse we may be in need of rescue, and I’m not talking that hooded guy with the staff that likes to follow us around.
Laura: Good gosh, I hope not! He’s really starting to creep me out. Course, with a story like Helen’s, there’s no telling what might be out here…in the water…deeeeep under the water…or even up there in those black clouds. (shivers)
Debbie: Is Helen on this boat somewhere?
Laura: Wait, you drag me out here to do an interview, I almost drown from these huge waves, and you don’t even know if she’s on the boat??
Debbie: Well, I assume she’s here, feels just like the ship from her excerpt and I told her we’d be happy to meet her on a boat. Of course this wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but hey, we’re always up for an adventure. Right?
Laura: Uh, sure. Course, you neglected to mention that enormous dragon above the boat….
Debbie: Uh, yeah, not quite sure what that’s all about either. (straps on life vest)
Laura: So, you get the only life vest... (nods) I think I'm beginning to understand the nature of this relationship....
Debbie: Wait, (waves) there's Helen over by that hunky wizardly looking dude.
Laura: Awesome! Maybe the dragon is his and he can call the beast off before it thinks were marshmallows and roasts us!
LAURA: Hey, Helen! Whew…got a little tense there, but so glad you found us!
DEBBIE: Who found whom?? Hi Helen, ummm this is…quite the ship you’ve written about here. Can’t wait for you to tell us about it. But first, have you always wanted to be an author?
HELEN: I inherited a love of reading from my grandmother and that translated into the flip side of the coin, writing. Recently I cleaned out the source notes, travel clips of now defunct events, and unused photos. What was kept was memories, and a large pile of non-fiction material that forms the perfect research base for helping me plan the itinerary when I take people to worlds of imagination or to the Old West.
LAURA: Nice resource for sure. I see from your bio that you were a feature-story writer and correspondent. What story did you write that stands out most in your mind today?
HELEN: The first story that popped into my mind was a Pennsylvania airshow that was known not only for its aircraft, but a military vehicle rally. It was my first overnight assignment without having my other-half along. Remember back then digital cameras didn’t exist, let alone be as omnipresent as they are now. At something like an airshow, you basically got one attempt to capture an image. Talk about pressure. Anyhow, dressed in battle fatigues (sans mark of rank) and with a press badge hung on my belt, three pens and a small steno pad in my pocket, I drove to the airfield gate, where I was promptly stopped by a sentry.
....After identifying myself, he telephoned ‘headquarters.’ A few minutes later, a soldier rode up on a restored WWI bicycle with my ‘orders.’ At that point I knew things were going to be interesting. Per orders, still in uniform, I mustered with the reenactors and rode in a vintage jeep as part of the caravan of military vehicles.
....That was not the only time I felt I was in another era. Now to set the scene which will explain the eeriness. You are standing beneath the wing of a B-17 bomber, surrounded by men and women in uniform. The music being broadcast over the loudspeakers stops mid-note. “Pearl Harbor has just been bombed,” echoes over the tarmac. Even after the crowd of thousands realized it was a replay of a broadcast from December 7th, 1941, they remained in attentive silence, many rubbing goose bumps from their arms. As a side note, I had a similar reaction years later when I stood on the boardwalk near where I live and saw the twin towers shrouded in smoke.
DEBBIE: Wow, I know I just got goose bumps all over!
LAURA: OMG! I’ve seen documentaries on the history and military channels where people recount how it felt to hear that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I just can’t imagine what that could’ve been like. I was however out in California when 9/11 happened. My husband and I were up in the air, flying over Gilroy in our R22 helicopter when they called us on the radio and told us to land immediately. It wasn’t until we were on the ground that we learned what had happened. After that, there were no airplanes in the sky…I’m sure anyone who lives near an airport can tell you how bizarre that is!
DEBBIE: Have you ever taken real world events and incorporated them into your stories?
HELEN: Writing fantasy, incorporating the real world can be difficult. Sword fights and dragons soaring overhead aren’t part of most people’s everyday life. That said, I believe a secret to a good fantasy is the world must be real to you and the reader. So I base things like settings on places I’ve been or researched.
....Sometimes, the real world unintentionally collides with the fictional. Several months ago I wrote a scene for my current work-in-progress which involves the villain and unwilling shark-bait. Of course, I did have a hard time explaining to my husband that I wrote that chapter four months prior to the Jaws movie marathon the was watching on television.
....Another case where the real word and fictional overlap. In Windmaster, after being forced to run a gauntlet, the hero, appropriately dressed or is it undressed (use your imagination), is in a dungeon. Several months after Windmaster’s 2011 release by Burst Books, a television commercial caught my interest. If someone had read the book they would immediately recognize the prisoner in the dungeon—Lord Dal.
DEBBIE: So maybe you’ve got a touch of psychic ability you are subconsciously tapping into. That would be cool.
LAURA: (nudges Debbie) So, that dragon up there just might be hers! (turns back toward Helen) I also saw on your bio that your mom was a coal-miner’s daughter and your dad a flight engineer. What a great difference in backgrounds, what was your childhood like?
HELEN: I grew up on a farm so there are the simpler aspects of a rural life, including a pony, running through the fields, and training the family dog—a collie—to herd sheep. Like a coal-miner’s daughter, I developed a self-reliance and learned to drive every vehicle on the farm at a young age. Ever try to coax a recalcitrant bull back into the pasture when you’re dressed in high heels and cap and gown. Grab a bucket, clang it to signal dinnertime, and listen for the sound of hoofs. The trick worked to get me to graduation on time.
....One influence my father’s career had on me was that I always wanted to fly, both in the atmosphere and beyond. When still in grade school I knew the instrument panel of an old Constellation (I still have a picture of one of the tri-tailed cargo planes in my research drawer.) In high school I took the interest in flying to the next level, although it ended up my brother earned his private pilot license not me.
....A different aspect of my childhood directly related to my father’s professional life in aviation, I learned my numbers and how to read (at least the words add/delete/replace) by updating manuals.
LAURA: Yes! I so love flying, too! I’ve been in planes, but I have to admit I have a special fondness for rotorcraft. I like how I can stop and hover in midair if I want. lol But it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (snort) Next to working with Debbie, that is—she can be quite the taskmaster!
DEBBIE: Me? You’re the one with the whip, it’s all that caffeine you ingest daily. Sheesh, so Helen, you talk about contrasts in your personality... What do you think are your two biggest contrasts?
HELEN: There are two sides to my personality—the controlled, logical side that would make Mr. Spock proud, and the dreamer. Logic allows me to program the intricate steps of a computer program or write a user’s manual. The other side is a freewheeling sprite who soars with dragons. One of the problems I had breaking into fiction was editors’ beliefs that non-fiction writers can’t create fiction. While it is true that not all authors can cross between truth and fantasy, my logical side complements the emotional one, enabling to create smooth-flowing, fast-paced stories with characters you want to know.
....Careers in both technology and history are other reflections of the contrasts in my personality. I’ve designed computers and been involved with a history museum. I would say the final way to illustrate the contrasts of my Gemini sign is my tastes in reading which mirror the genres I write in. Louis L’Amour answers the call to my western soul. And Anne McCaffrey, Barbara Hambly and E.E. Doc Smith encourage my flights of fantasy.
DEBBIE: Sounds to me like the perfect combination for some truly awesome stories.
LAURA: Yes, it does. What was your inspiration for Windmaster?
HELEN: When I needed a short story for a writing class, photographs of sailing ships taken during a vacation in New England provided the idea for Sea Falcon. Images of a tropical island and mountains that had lain hidden in my files gave me the ports of call. Add in some pictures of horses I sold and frames, and the fantasy Windmaster was born.
LAURA: Wonderful mental imagery! Pictures always help when trying to describe things in words. Debbie and I do that, too, for our stories. Let’s shift from setting to characters for a moment. What is your favorite characteristic or ability of your heroine, Ellspeth?
HELEN: She is a natural leader. The crew of Sea Falcon would die for her, and she would do anything to protect them, including giving up her ship.
LAURA: So, if you could use three words to describe this story, what would they be and why?
HELEN: Love conquers magic. As far as explanation. The practice of magic extracts a severe price on those who wield it. Even for one as powerful as the archmage Lord Dal, casting a spell while aboard a ship sailing in deep water means risking death. For Captain Ellspeth, to have magic means giving up her ship, her crew, and the sea. Beyond that I won’t say more without a spoiler alert.
LAURA: “Love conquers magic.” (sigh) So very romantic.
DEBBIE: Ah yes, there is always a price for using your gift. At least that’s what I’m told, lol.
Can you share with us any upcoming stories or releases?
HELEN: With two releases, 2012 portends to be a wild, roller coaster ride. Coming in June from Burst Books, Windmaster Legacy—more of the tale of the silver-haired sea captain Ellspeth and the dark-haired archmage, Lord Dal.
....And a teaser to the even nearer future. Coming in May the romance fantasy, Dragon Destiny. The awakening of his dragon soul twin Llewlyn brought Branin the freedom of flight and near-eternal life, but not happiness. Both are the last of their kind and have waited millennia for their mates. The red-haired firebrand, Lady Broch of Ky’port is more than willing to fulfill that position—with or without Branin’s willing cooperation. When a faint thought impinged on Branin’s mind, hope for an ending to eons of loneliness soared. Plagued by doubts because no signs of a dragon shifter’s birth have been seen, Branin searches for the mysterious girl he only knows by the name, Anastasia. All that stands between their happiness is destiny—and Broch.
DEBBIE: Wow, sounds very exciting!
LAURA: Yeah, very cool! (nudges, Debbie) Okay, is it time? I sooo want to ask her our question and see if she can survive it! It’s a tough one for sure!!
DEBBIE: Helen, we like to as a whacky question at the end of our interviews. It’s kinda become our signature. LOL See Laura hopping up and down over there? She’s about to bust to ask ours to you. (turns to Laura) Sooo…go ahead, Laura. Ask away.
LAURA: WooHoo! Okay, Helen, here we go…
....You walk into a saloon and order a drink. Someone behind you says, “You ain’t from around here.” When you turn around, you find everyone in the bar is pointing a gun at you. All you have is a ballpoint pen and a Bic lighter. What do you do?
HELEN: Take a deep breath and gush, “Oh my god, it’s you. It’s really you. I was in the front row at the Fourth of July concert on the beach. I just loved how you performed Gary Owen.” And while the person is standing there confused, offer the pen to him. “Please sign my shirt,” and start singing whatever tune comes to mind. If he doesn’t knock you down, light the Bic and as you wave it like a drunken fan at a rock concert, back out of the room still singing.
DEBBIE: LMAO, now that’s original, what do you think Laura? Does she survive?
LAURA: WOW! That is original. I say she gets extra point for no one getting hurt and double points for the use of fire! Bonus points for going karaoke in a crowd of strangers. LOL
DEBBIE: Awesome, thanks for talking with us, it’s been a great learning experience!
LAURA: Absolutely! Please come back with your next release. We’d love to have you back!
HELEN: Thank you for having me. It’s been fun.
Debbie: Okay, Laura. How the heck do we get out of here?
Laura: No clue. But at least the dragon left. Though I suppose it could’ve given us a lift outta here…if it didn’t eat us first. (glances around) And the storm is looking worse!
Debbie: I know! (whips out cell phone that, of course, has service in the middle of this fantasy world) “Hey Colin, Laura and I are in a bit of a jam here. Anway you guys can come rescue us?”
Colin: For you two, anything. I’ll get the coordinates from your cell and the guys and I will be there before you girls get yourself in any more trouble.
Debbie: (turns to Laura) Colin, Bobby, and the guys are on the way.
Laura: Woohoo! (gives Debbie a sly look) Seems like your magic spell that you said when we got here worked after all! Hey, maybe my spell did, too, and the guys will bring me some coffee!
Debbie: Since I wrote Colin, he knows better than to bring you coffee. BUT, I suppose you might stand a chance with Bobby since we wrote him together. I think he likes you better anyway since you let him go to the gun range and get lucky.
Laura: LOL (points) Look, there they are! And not a moment too soon…there’s that hooded guy out in the boat. How hasn’t his tiny boat swamped in this weather??
Debbie: I don’t know. I don’t want to know! Ever since we used his service in the interview with Shelia Stewart, he’s been dogging us. Gives me the creeps. (looks up) Oh my, Zeke is repelling down to us. Look at those thighs, that firm as—, um butt! Lets go!
....Windmaster is a romance-filled, action-packed fantasy described by readers as a fascinating story that will keep you up all night turning the pages. Revenge set Ellspeth, captain of Sea Falcon, on the path to her destiny, but prophecy controlled the journey. Despite his insolent attitude, she is attracted to the dark-haired dockworker she hires to help unload the vessel’s cargo. When the supposed dockhand reveals he is Lord Dal, the last member of the Council of Wizards, and her passenger, Ellspeth breaks a cardinal rule—fraternizing with the paying customers. Bringing him back from near-death releases Ellspeth’s latent powers and threatens her captaincy. For to have magic she must give up the sea.
....Dal has his own reasons for Ellspeth to embrace her powers. In accordance with an ancient prophecy, Dal allows Ellspeth to be handfasted to him without her knowledge or consent. However, the prophecy doesn’t state whether she will return his love. A likelihood threatened as the deception is unveiled and Dal is captured and stripped of his powers by fanatical clerics bent on ridding the world of magic and those who wield it.
....Trapped within the Oracle’s Temple and marked for sacrifice, Ellspeth must choose between her own survival, saving the future of magic... or love.
....Heavy sheets of rain obscured the horizon. Crashing waves broke on the Falcon’s bow and flowed over the deck. Ellspeth’s summons brought the three passengers to the wheel. “This isn’t normal weather for the Aberden Sea,” Ellspeth shouted. Her voice barely rose above the roaring water. “The wind is chasing around in circles, widdershins. It’s not natural.”
....“No, it’s magic,” Dal shouted back. “Voan and Jesmen are healers. Their powers can’t help.”
....“Then, m’lord, m’lady, thank you for your attendance. Your quarters ll be the safest place for you right now.” Ellspeth’s eyebrow arched in question as Dal made no attempt to leave.
....“With your permission, Captain, I’d like to stay. I promise to keep out of the crew’s way. Unlike the others, I’m used to fighting.” Too focused on saving her ship to wonder at the relief she felt at the wizard’s offer, Ellspeth merely nodded approval. She moved aside to make room for him at the rail, their shoulders almost touching.
....A long silence started to grow. Wind-driven rain grabbed at their clothes and plastered wet hair to their heads. Ellspeth started as Dal laid a hand on her shoulder. His long arm pointed just off the Falcon’s starboard rail. “Look over there!”
....Ellspeth’s gaze followed the wizard’s gesture. Before her eyes, one of the thick walls of rain twisted into a circle. The revolving column sucked water skyward, throwing it high into the air. Faster and faster it rotated. In seconds its color changed from the light gray of a cloud-filled morn to the black thunder-filled summer storm. A second column formed alongside the first—then a third—then a fourth. Desperately Ellspeth searched for a path away from the danger. “Can you do anything?” she yelled at Dal. “If one of those spouts hits the ship, it’ll swamp us.”