News and Nostalgia

First, a bit of exciting news: I have finished the second draft of Cold Blood, and it’s now with my beta readers for review. Usually, it’s during this stage that I write the first chapter of the next book, which I just finished the other night. I am very happy to almost be finished with Cold Blood, as it’s the only thing I’ve written so far that has given me actual nightmares. Just by my admitting that, I’m sure those who know me can figure out the particular subject matter fairly quickly! Those who don’t, feel free to guess! 

Next, a bit of nostalgic news–I just realized that it’s the second year anniversary of the release of New Blood, the first book in the Vampire in the City series. As to how many years it’s been since I actually wrote it–probably around six! It was originally written in a composition notebook and then hidden away in my desk for a few years. Then, in 2010, when I was getting rid of the desk to fit a bassinet into my bedroom, I found it. In 2011, after I had (marginally) adjusted to being a new mom, I typed it onto my computer, and finally let other people read it. The response was good, so I went ahead and published it. And today, almost four books out, I couldn’t be happier with where this little series has gone!

Promotions in the Indie Book Community

A little while ago, I wrote on this blog about how I didn’t want to review books, because critiquing others on their writing makes me uncomfortable. My thoughts on that have not changed; however, I have decided to get more involved in doing book promotions for other people. 

As a self-published author, I find it extremely emotionally draining and time consuming to promote myself in any way. And to be honest, my natural inclination to sit in my writer’s cave writing and not talk to anyone. So to suddenly have to talk about myself and ask other people to read what I write is a stretch for me. Because when it comes down to it, I like being alone in my cave and writing. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be much of a writer! Plus, my cave has a coffee maker. So when people help me out by promoting my work in any way, whether it be writing a review, linking to my blog, or retweeting, I am extremely grateful.

Doing the author interviews and excerpts for Urban Harvest was really gratifying for me, and I thought I would start doing some more things like that in the future, to help out other independent authors who may even be as bad at promoting themselves as I am. And giving back to the community is always a good thing anyway! In fact, if you’re an indie author who is reading this, I encourage you to come out of your writer’s cave as well–maybe we can even help each other!

Author Interview: Nevermind

By now, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, is available on Amazon.

The only author I haven’t interviewed here is myself. But since that strikes me as a little bit crazy, I’m just going to share an excerpt from my story in the anthology. Originally, I wasn’t going to write a story about vampires, since I’m always doing that in my Vampire in the City series. But as it was coming together, I realized there were no other stories about vampires, and that made me sad. So I wrote this story to fill the proverbial gap.

Vampires of the G Train

Deciding that keeping him talking was the best strategy, she asked, “Are you going to turn me into a vampire?”

The man looked surprised. “No. Why? Do you want to be a vampire?”

“Sure. I mean, it sounds so interesting.”

“I guess it’s pretty cool,” he admitted. “Even though I’m kind of new at it.”

“What do you like best about being a vampire?” Claire asked.

“Besides the blood?”

Claire gave the generally accepted hand gesture for hurry it up.

“Well, doesn’t everyone want to live forever and stay young and beautiful?” he asked.

Claire tilted her head to the side and gave him a questioning look.

“I mean young,” he quickly amended.

Then what Claire had been waiting for happened. With a lurch, the train finally started moving again.

The man frowned. “Must be on some kind of a switch or a timer.”

But Claire didn’t want him to notice what was happening with the train, so she said, “What’s your name, anyway?”

“It’s Harold.”

“Do people call you Harry?”

“No.”

“Anyway, Harold, I’m Claire. So, can you tell me what it’s like being a vampire?”

“Well, I’m new at this,” Harold admitted.

“You said that. How new? Like are you less than a thousand years old or something?”

“I was just turned about a week ago. As I was saying, you are meant to be my first kill.”

“Me, specifically?” Claire asked. “Or just any idiot who wandered into the train alone at night?”

“Not you specifically,” Harold said, almost smiling.

Claire suddenly had an idea. “How about I bring you over my boyfriend’s apartment instead? He’s much bigger than me, and that means more blood for you.”

The man shook his head. “I’m not supposed to get off the train.”

The G train had just pulled into a station, and the doors dinged open.

“Well, that works out for me,” Claire said. She managed to twist around enough to land a pointy elbow in his inner thigh before jumping up and leaping off the train. Unfortunately, something caught her mid-leap.

Harry had caught her around the waist and pulled her back into the train as the doors closed.

“Good try. I’m not letting go of you again.” He sat back down and pulled her beside him. Then he yanked her head to the side until her throat was by his mouth.

To read the rest of my story, buy your copy of Urban Harvest today!

Author Interview: Laurie Treacy

Laurie Treacy is one of the authors in the urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m so happy to have her featured on my blog for an interview.

What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?

As a writer, I like the possibilities presented by the paranormal genre, not knowing about the unknown, about ‘otherworldly’ creatures and realms. What a creative playground for writers to play in! 

What prompted you to write this story?

“Wished Away” was originally a short story I wrote in 2012 titled “Scarecrows and Sunflowers” to enter into a competition. I didn’t win, didn’t expect to, but I wanted to explore the short story format. What I discovered was I liked creating shorter pieces. When I read the call for submissions for Urban Harvest, I thought “I can do this. I’m a New Yorker!” My favorite place in the city is the banks of the Hudson River, especially the Metro-North station at Riverdale. Many an hour I’d spent there and I’d also walk down to Spuyten Duyvil. There was my setting. While researching for another story, I discovered the urban legend of Henry Hudson’s “ghost ship.” There was the foundation of my urban lore. The Scarecrow story was still in my mind so I opened the file and began thinking. Ghost ship. Riverdale. The word “wish” popped into my mind. I was intrigued and a new story began to take shape. Within a few days I had my first draft of “Wished Away.”

What other things have you written/are you writing?

I wrote a paranormal New Adult short story, “Powerless,” which will be included in the Stalkers anthology edited by Cynthia Shepp and Rene Foslom. I also wrote an adult paranormal short story “Just One Bite,” which will be part of the In Vein vampire anthology, edited by Jodi Pierce. Both anthologies are expected to be published later this year. I am also writing two Young Adult novels, a paranormal, Strays, and a fantasy, End of Silence, finishing up my YA paranormal, Everlast, besides other works-in-progress.

Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven? 

My writing is definitely character-driven. On my blog (www.laurietreacy.com) I call myself “The Story Channeler.” I feel like Theresa from TLC’sLong Island Medium, except I hear the voices of characters telling me their stories. I’ve learned whenever characters begin speaking or images pop into my mind, I grab paper or my laptop and get it out. It could be a page or two or even longer, but those spurts of inspiration can lead to short stories or novels. I let the characters take the lead.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

Much like baking, the plot rises out of my stories during my writing. I do like to roughly outline first and then I will go back and plot the story.

Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?

I don’t have one particular mentor. I regard inspiration like a sponge seeking water. I am inspired by the books I read and love. As a frequent conference attendee, I am fortunate to meet many in the industry, listen to them talk about their own journeys and that inspires me. I am also inspired by images, pictures, paintings, and by nature. Many times I stop driving to capture a picture of something because it speaks to me. I never know when I may need that picture for creating a particular setting or as the catalyst for a story idea.

When and how did you first become interested in writing?

I wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid. Growing up in New York City, I spent many summers in the public library, lost in books. I still have two books I began writing when I was in the sixth grade (of course, both were Young Adult stories, one paranormal, one contemporary romance). In college I was very active with the school newspaper and literary magazine, majored in Journalism, and won some writing awards (I won an award from Columbia University for my Bruce Springsteen record review which was really cool).

Writing schedule?

I try to block out some hours in the morning but that doesn’t always work. I will say whenever inspiration strikes, I do pay attention so you may find me writing while waiting for my daughter at dance or while my son is practicing soccer. I need to write where I can see the outdoors and make sure I can listen to the playlist for that particular work.

What’s next?

I’m really looking forward to Nanowrimo this year. I have a title and story outline all ready to go. I’m excited ever since I was inspired by an urban exploration I went on. It will be a New Adult paranormal.

Anything else?

I’m a member of the SCBWI. I love to write YA and read a lot of books in this market. I’m also an active book blogger at Reader Girls, a blog I started in 2009. I get to meet many wonderful authors, publicity people, and other readers as well as discover new and exciting books.

Follow Laurie at:

Website: www.laurietreacy.com and www.readergirlsblog.com

Twitter: @llt806 and @ReaderGirls

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reader-Girls/101996519841548

Bloglovin’: http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/3766750/the-character-channeler and http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/3467855/reader-girls

The following is a short excerpt from Laurie’s story in Urban Harvest.

Wished Away

I haven’t hung out with Colton in a few years. He was always quiet and intense. He still seems the same way. We stick by the lone Amtrak track. We both know we’re trespassing but shrug it off. Colton laughs. “Do you hear it?”

He tugs me towards the river bank as a school of clouds pass in front of the moon. We hear voices. Stopping before the land slopes down, he draws me beside him. His arm slips around my shoulder. “Close your eyes. Clear your mind of everything. Listen.”

I do. We’re wasting our time, but I shut my eyes and don’t complain. Keeping my mouth closed comes easily living with my father. I like being around Colton. My mind turns into a smart board on Monday mornings.

Within seconds, they barge in. Voices. Sounds. Lots of them. At first muffled, then clearer.

“Captain!”

“Set sail soon.”

“Collection!”

Accented voices.

Then shuffling. Hurried steps. Climbing. Huffing from heavy lifting.

What the hell is this?

My heart races as I scan around.

The area is empty. But I can almost feel a presence of something big, something looming ahead. The waves are faster here as they crash against the bank, spitting froth onto our boot tips.

Colton’s grip tightens as I’m tucked in beside him. “Do you believe, Maire?” he asks, his tone excited.

“Um, kinda.”

He shakes his head. “No, you need to believe. Look again.”

I want to dismiss him as weird. I can’t. Something is going on.

To read the rest of Laurie’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon

Author Interview: Tara Hill

Tara is one of the authors in the (extremely!) soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m so happy to have her featured on my blog for an interview.

What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?

The paranormal genre really gives me a lot of room to let my imagination go free.  It not only includes fantasy, but also mystery and unexplained occurrences as well.  You can say something happened and the paranormal genre naturally allows that strange and wonderful event to take place in the world that you’ve created.   

What prompted you to write this story?

I was on the train going into the city, listening to music on my MP3 player.  I was thinking about the project, wondering what I should write about when Josh Groban’s song, “The Bells of New York City” came on.  I immediately stuck it on loop and kept on listening to it for the whole ride.  Music often helps inspire my writing.  The song is about a grey, snow filled night in New York City.  At the time, I worked down near Wall Street so naturally Trinity Church’s cemetery came into my mind.  Then in my head, I got an image of a man from the late 1800s walking down those streets and I just went from there.   

 What other things have you written/are you writing?

I have written articles as the New York Paranormal Examiner for Examiner.com.  I have also kept a blog called Gay Family Life in which I talk about what it was like to grow up with a gay parent during the 1990s.  I currently write articles as a Yahoo Voices contributor.  I am working on building a collection of short stories, mostly about ghosts.  I also have written a novel that I am hoping to find an agent for and to get published someday.  It is a ghost story that talks about the importance of brotherhood and how love can last from one lifetime to the next. 

Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven?

A little of both, actually.  Usually the main character will introduce themselves to me first.  Then they tell me about the situation that they are in.  I guess really the character is in charge of my writing.  

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

I usually have an idea of what direction I want the plot to go in, but ultimately there are some twists and turns as the story progresses.  I have found that it doesn’t work well if I try to force something too much, so I just wait for my inspiration to lead me down the right path. 

Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?

I have several.  Some of my favorite authors are J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Amy Tan, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, Mitch Albom, and Charles Dickens.  My favorite book of all time is The Hobbit.  I like writers that create other worlds for their characters to go into or create odd situations for their characters to encounter in reality. 

When and how did you first become interested in writing?

My family raised me to love books.  They took me to libraries and bookstores, they read to me every night, encouraged imaginative play, and had discussions with me about what I was reading. One day, I was in a bookstore pretending to be Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I was actually reading a novelization of it as I was walking through the store.  Being something of a tomboy, Belle was the one princess character that I really identified with because she loved to read. Then suddenly, I stopped and looked up at the walls of books. Turning to my mother, I told her that I wanted my name to be up on those shelves someday so that everyone could read my stories.   

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I tend to write for one to three hours at a clip.  I don’t really keep a strict writing schedule.  Instead, I just write my heart out every time I sit down at the computer and try to make sure that I find time to do this at least three to four times a week. 

What’s next?

I’m going to keep on writing more short stories and see if I can get them published. I’m also pretty sure I have another novel that is almost ready to bloom, but I don’t think I’m ready to start it yet. Also, I need to focus on getting a literary agent. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I have created two Facebook pages, one to help showcase my online work as a writer and another called Ghost Fanatic to share my interest in ghosts.  You can also check out my Twitter page, @TaraTheresaHill.  I’m really excited about the Urban Harvest anthology.  This is my first official story publication.    

The following is a short excerpt from Tara’s story in Urban Harvest.

Don’t Be Afraid

Every night, I rise just as the twilight ends and night descends around the city. Walking through the old cemetery, I wander to the front doors of the church. Old Trinity Church welcomes me long after the last visitor’s steps have faded into the sounds of the bustling streets. Walking the long aisle, I always stop at the altar to pray. Only this night will be different. This is All Hallow’s Eve, the one night of the year when the veil between the Spirit World and the Living is thinnest. Every year at this time, I go back to the old neighborhood hoping to find the one that I lost.

Having said my piece, I exit the church and start the long, lonely walk. The city is busy with people and spirits roaming about. Another gentleman and lady from my time nod their heads as I pass by. I tip my hat in return, but there are plenty of spirits from all walks of life and eras here. If the Living only had the sight, they would see souls of people from modern times all the way back to the ancients who first walked the land. All gather together sharing ideas and helping to influence the ones on the physical plane when they can. Most come and go as they please, but others are stuck here on the Earth. I should know because I am one of them. While people use the terms interchangeably, the real difference between a ghost and a spirit is that a spirit has the ability to shift between the two realms at will.

How I died is not important. I do not really remember it being different from any other day. I seemed to wake up just as I always did. Actually, it was a lot like waking up from a nap. I opened my eyes to find myself fully dressed even though I thought I remembered having gone to bed the previous night. I was sitting in my study, only the shades were drawn and the windows were closed. I had always liked to have them open even during the coldest days so that a bit of air could get into the room. Standing up, I walked out into hallway and toward the center of the house. That’s when I heard the weeping. It was a sad sound that shuddered up and down as it came to me from across the hall. Astounded at the noise, I still swept forward to find the source of it. My hand stopped at the parlor door, which was wide open for a viewing. Everything was draped in black and candles burned all about the room amidst the overwhelming perfume of flowers.

My wife and our grown children sat in the parlor, surrounded by friends and other members of the community. The grandbaby sat on his mother’s lap, his fingers stuck in his mouth to soothe himself. They all wore black and grey. Shaking my head, I looked toward the raised dais in the back of the room. All conversation was lost on me for the moment; I had to see for myself to make good their words.

Walking over to the coffin, I stared down at the remains of the body that I had only recently occupied. There was the strong, square jaw, the jet black hair laced delicately with grey at the temples, the broad shoulders and wide chest. I had been in the peak of health for a man in his sixties. What had happened? Surely someone must know. 

To read the rest of Tara’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon in just a few hours!

Author Interview: Sean Sakamoto

Sean Sakamoto is one of the authors in the (very!) soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m so happy to have him featured on my blog for an interview.
 
What do you like about writing in the paranormal genre?
 
Albert Camus famously said, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” If that’s true, and I believe it is, then paranormal, or any speculative fiction, is an even greater lie through which we can tell an even greater truth. I love the freedom to create any device to get at the heart of a story, and genre frees me to do that. If I need to explore how blind optimism can be dangerous, then I can create a virus that causes optimism and wreaks havoc upon the world. If I want to explore the sheer terror of being stopped and frisked by uniformed police, why not show my city under occupation by aliens who can grope my mind and broadcast my secrets? Genre, and specifically paranormal, give me a language for going deeper into the horror, adventure, or hilarity of the human condition.
 
What prompted you to write this story?
 
In my story, Ghosts of New York, 8 million ghosts are released from a rotten seam of rock in the dig for the second avenue subway line. Every New Yorker gets one ghost, and that ghost tells the truth about them to everyone nearby. I wrote this story because I often feel like I’ve got a ghost on my shoulder that whispers my worst fears into my ear. “Your writing sucks. You have no imagination. Everyone knows you don’t belong at this party. You’re getting too old for this kind of fun.” ad nauseum. One way I have found to get on with living my life despite these nagging doubts is to admit that some of them are true. My worst fears are true, and once I’ve been honest about it, I have nothing left to hide. Yes, I’m no Shakespeare. Yes, I’m getting old. Yes, I’m usually not the brightest guy in the room. That’s fine. Once I embrace the truth, as unflattering as it is, it has no power over me. I wanted to imagine a way for all New Yorkers to confront this, and have it literally play out. I wanted to take the power away from the ghosts that whisper in all of our ears.

 
What other things have you written/are you writing?
 
I was recently the story editor and associate producer on Star Trek: Secrets of the Universe. It aired on History, and it was a look at the science of Star Trek, and a glimpse behind the scenes and on the set of Star Trek Into Darkness. I’m also writing an apocalyptic novel called Rictus, about a pharma virus that jumps the lab and infects the world with blind, relentless optimism.
 
Do you consider your writing character-driven or plot-driven?
 
I consider my writing idea driven, and then it’s up to me to make the plot fun enough, and the characters interesting enough to keep the reader interested. Ideally, nobody would spend any time at all pondering the idea behind my writing because the story is too much fun. I’m not trying to lecture or teach anyone anything, I just find that some kind of overall idea to explore is how I find my way into a story and then I need to tell it well enough that readers have a great time with it. Ideas are what get me writing, but my purpose is to entertain. 

 
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
 
I plot ahead of time. I usually have a shot list of scenes that will get me to the end, and then I write my way through each scene. If the story is thin, I’ll add some scenes to help connect the major points, or flesh out a character. I have to work out the plot before I write because I find it too confusing to tell the story and work out where it’s going at the same time. That feels like multi-tasking to me, and I’m easily frustrated. If I feel like I don’t know where my story is going, I can easily become overwhelmed and get lost on the internet in full retreat. I need to break my story down into discrete steps and small goals to keep myself focused and prevent panic.

 

Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?
 
I enjoy the podcasts Starship Sofa, and The Functional Nerds. Those are both great for keeping up with stories, ideas, and TV shows that are good. I’m always looking for more sources, especially for independently published fiction. I attended Viable Paradise, a Science Fiction and Fantasy writing workshop and I learned a ton while I was there. It really helped me understand how to write science fiction and fantasy for an audience and I’d recommend applying for anyone who wants to spend some time with great writers and editors and learn about the work.
 
When and how did you first become interested in writing?
 
When I was a kid, I remember sitting with a neighborhood friend and making up stories to pass the time. I was probably 13 or 14 and I realized then that I wanted to be a writer. I loved being able to let my mind run, and I loved the feeling of being in a new place that was being invented word by word. Since then, I feel most comfortable when I’m reading a story and it takes me over. I love the feeling of immersion in a world that was utterly constructed by an author. I seldom feel that way as a writer, but that is a feeling I want to provide readers. When I first became interested in writing, it was because I thought I had a lot to say and I wanted people to pay attention to me. 
 
As I’ve grown, that has changed for me, thankfully. Now I want to give people something. I’ve shifted my internal focus from me to them, and I think my writing has improved as a result. It’s wonderful to be part of a conversation whether as a reader or a writer, and that’s all I’ve really wanted I think.
 
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
 
I have time to write in the mornings, but I often squander it. I find it hard to focus, and I’m easily distracted. I’d love to bring more discipline to my schedule. I don’t have a favorite place to write, but I am thinking about finding one. I’ve got a great son, and wife, and a busy life, so I make time to write when I can. When I have to write something professionally, as I did with Star Trek: Secrets of the Universe, then I work every chance I get. But with my own projects I’m less disciplined.

What’s next?

I’m rewriting Rictus, which I hope to finish by Spring. I’m also co-publishing a series of speculative fiction with Saif Ansari called Slipstream City. In our first volume, Tales from Other New Yorks, we had stories set in New York City. Our next volume will contain stories on the theme of Occupied New York. The stories will all be speculative fiction, all exploring some aspect of life in New York City under occupation. The stories could be set in any time with any aspect of occupation that the author wants to explore. I’ll have a piece in there about New York City under alien occupation, with mind-probing checkpoints and the measures that ordinary citizens take to resist this dismal life. It should be fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other writers come up with for the anthology.
 
Anything else you’d like to add?
 
I want to thank Donna for putting this together. I hope we feed some people with the proceeds of this book. I’m very excited to live in a time when interested readers and writers can put together a book around ideas that excite them and connect on a kindle, or any e-reader. This is an amazing time for fiction and I feel lucky to be able to read so much great stuff nowadays. 
 
 The following is a short excerpt from Sean’s story in Urban Harvest.
 
Ghosts of New York
 

“Hey, loser! Outside already? Why not noodle on your guitar for a few hours at home and call yourself a musician?” The words were a whisper, but their meaning was loud and clear. Bill, a man in his late 30s, winced into the insults and kept walking down Grand Street, heading to the Delancey Street station.

“Great isn’t it? That moment of optimism before the coffee wears off?” The mist hissed as it formed into an oblong face inches from Bill’s nose.

“Morning, Spork,” Bill said. The mist ignored him, as usual, and continued its tirade.

“Going to an interview, eh? This is gonna be good. I wonder how long it’ll take ‘em to figure out you’re completely useless?” The voice came from a misty figure that hovered in the air, floating backward as Bill walked. It breathed its misty words just inches from his face. Bill called the ghost “Spork” because its forehead bulged like the back of a spoon and the wisps of mist that made up its head tapered into points like the tines of a fork.

Bill sighed. “Just…go back in that hole you came out of!” he shouted. A woman walked by, caught his eye, and gave a wary look of sympathy before she quickly passed him; a big-nosed wisp hovered by her side.

Bill wanted to pretend that Spork wasn’t striking a nerve, but he just couldn’t fake it this time. The morning coffee kick was just running out, as Spork had predicted. The bright future buzz that Bill relied on to get him out of the apartment was fading into the mid-morning crash, and he needed to stay happy for his first job interview in months. It was a perfect time for Spork, the ghost that haunted him, to show up. Perfect for Spork, anyway. Not so good for Bill.

“Are you going to tell them about the arrest?” Spork hissed into Bill’s face. The sprite’s breath was a cool mist with the musty smell of a subway tunnel on a damp day. Six months ago, Bill would have taken a swing at Spork, but it never mattered. None of the sprites ever reacted to anyone, aside from a moan when someone smiled. But that didn’t happen much anymore; smiles were in short supply. But talking to them? Useless, like yelling at a cloud. They just kept doing whatever they were doing, oblivious. Only, unlike a cloud, they tormented the people of New York City.

 To read the rest of Sean’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon this Sunday (tomorrow)!

Author Interview: Laura Wenham

 Laura Wenham is one of the authors in the soon-to-be released urban fantasy anthology, Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, and I’m very happy to have her featured on my blog for an interview.
 
Your story, Coexistence, is about dragons who live under NYC. What prompted you to write this story?
 
The idea for my story began when I got my first job in Manhattan and walked every day past manhole covers that were constantly emitting streams of steam and smoke.  At first I largely thought how inefficient the steam heating systems were to be losing so much heat. Then, as I kept walking past them, I thought all of that smoke would make a good cover for dragons hiding underground.  Then I began to wonder how much evidence you would need to support the idea of underground dragons and what the likely reaction of the rest of society would be if a scientist claimed to have discovered dragons under Manhattan.  I couldn’t figure out what might cause a scientist to seriously research this until the various steam pipe explosions began happening in Manhattan. Like the character in my story, I walked right past the hole left by the explosion  in front of NYU’s library, which made quite an impression on me. 
 
What other things have you written/are you writing?
 
I have folders full of stories and poems and songs on my computer. I am very good at coming up with interesting ideas and very bad at figuring out where the plot and characters want to go. I am currently working on two different short stories. One of them is based on the idea that we become able to communicate with our dark-matter doppelgangers and the new rich tourist activity is not traveling into space, but instead meeting their doppelgangers in a room sealed by plasma to keep the universe from exploding – until one of the dark-matter  doppelgangers is murdered after the meeting and the detectives on our side of the universe have to figure out the motive without access to any physical evidence. The other story is about these tiny kangaroo-like robots that are built to be used for surveillance of enemy terrain (http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/tiny-jumping-robot-finds-room-for-a-tail). When the military figures out a way to also have them radiate to increase the enemy’s feelings of fear,  an anti-war group decides to make them broadcast feelings of peace, make them self-replicating, and releases them in the US, with wide-ranging results. I am also trying to write down the amusing anecdotes of my 2.5 year old son’s daily adventures. 
 
Do you have a writing mentor or inspiration?
 
I am extremely grateful to the members of the Mom’s Writer’s Group at the Midshore Mothers’ Center (http://midshoremotherscenter.org/) who, when I described my story idea to them, patiently encouraged me to actually finish and submit it. I would also like to thank my various friends who read the final draft for mistakes, particularly Preston Ray, whose edits were extremely helpful in decreasing my word count without losing content. 
 
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
 
With a 2.5 year old, my writing time is limited – which is why I value the free write time we have as part of the Mothers’ Center group as well as late nights in bed typing (sometimes incoherent) story ideas on my iPad. 
 
What’s next?
 
Our Writer’s Group starts up again in early October, so I intend to keep working on the two stories I mentioned above (as well as the several ideas I will probably come up with between now and then). 
 
Anything else you’d like to add?
 
I love the idea of writing anthologies and donating the profits to charities, particularly when they are local, meaningful charities such as City Harvest. Not only am I now a published author, but as I encourage my friends and family to buy the anthology on Sunday because I want them to read what I wrote, I also do so knowing that they are helping out a great cause! (And I have to confess I am terribly curious about and anxiously waiting to read the other stories in the anthology!)
 
 The following is a short excerpt from Laura’s story in Urban Harvest.
 
Coexistence

I knew I had to have an excess of proof in order to not be seen as another Bigfoot or Loch Ness Monster hunter. I spent months, and then years, creating the most thorough maps of the NYC underground. During this time, I became increasingly oblivious to events on the surface. The friend whose apartment I had been using moved during one of my long periods underground. When I resurfaced to shower and pick up my unemployment checks, I was very surprised to knock on his door and meet a nice Asian couple who had no idea who I was. My belongings, and one of my few remaining connections to the surface world, were gone without a forwarding address.

I can’t explain the patterns I saw without my data, which the FBI confiscated when they arrested me. It’s probably collecting dust in an FBI basement now, but back in the spring of 2014 with everything right in front of me, I thought I had developed enough of an understanding of the markings that I was considering altering them to attempt communication with my theoretical life forms. Before I could do anything, however, the decision was taken away from me.

I was camping in a small open area formed by the intersection of two of the marked tunnels when I saw it. This was not a small tube worm or hydrogen-sulfide breathing scorpion. Emerging from the smaller tunnel was what I would best describe as an earth dragon. Not a winged creature like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon, but instead similar to a large worm-snake with a scaly covering of rock in every earth-tone imaginable.

As the dragon stretched to pull itself out of the tunnel, I could do nothing but stare in awe. The tangled asbestos fibers were clearly from a pelt that covered the dragon’s ventral side. As it emerged fully into the room, I realized it had a “head” end which had circular shiny, almost polished areas, and a “mouth” area which had shiny white crystals inside, while its “tail” end came to a sharp point. It was, I would find out later, on the smaller side for a dragon—but at the time the fact that it was probably three feet around and six feet long was impressive enough. 

 To read the rest of Laura’s story, check out Urban Harvest: Tales of the Paranormal in New York City, available from Amazon this Sunday!