Posted by Susan Jean Ricci on Friday, November 4, 2011
I'd like to welcome the fabulous Mike Cooley, author of The Crystal Warrior and other fiction. He's also a writer of lyrics and prose, an author you should get familiar with, like through his work, and the way a writer appreciates.
First, I'd like to open Mike's interview with an excerpt from The Crystal Warrior. After reading the first several pages of this unique voyage into another universe, I found them to be so profoundly interesting/disturbing, I put off eating my dinner and feeding the dog so I could read more! So, please, read on...
Larissya was holding her dying grandmother in her arms when she felt it. The lump in her left forearm was moving! She looked up weakly and smiled. “It is time, Larissya,” she whispered, and handed her the blade.
“What are you saying?” Larissya asked, looking down at her ancient, gnarled face.
“You must remove the crystal,” Althea answered. “It must be removed while I live. It must be removed now. Hurry, before the others arrive.”
Larissya looked at the antique qualarm blade, its handle wrapped with a golden band. The lump under Althea’s skin was glowing and restless. It had been there since Larissya could first remember—since her childhood.
“They’re coming,” Althea said, her voice echoing off the walls of the small, dark cave. The shadows jumped and flickered wildly in the glow of the small fire. The air was warm and smelled of burning wood, animal skins, and death. Her eyes begged Larissya to do it.
Larissya gritted her teeth, held her grandmother tightly, and began. The dark-edged, golden-banded blade cut through her skin as if it were parchment; she made no sound. Her eyes were shining with gratitude, worry, and love. Through the blood and sinew, Larissya saw it: the stone, the crystal, the unknown. It was a pale, ghostly color, the shape of an eldrach egg.
Althea grabbed the crystal and ripped it out of her bleeding wound with her right hand. She grimaced momentarily at the pain, then held the crystal up triumphantly. “Now you,” she said, looking first at the crystal, then into Larissya’s green, widening eyes.
“Cut your left arm: to the bone,” Althea said, holding up the glowing crystal. “You must have this—to survive.”
“But wh—why?” the girl asked, fear finally working its way up her spine. “What, what do you mean?”
“There’s no time,” Althea said weakly, as the shine started to drain from her cerulean eyes. “Quickly, or die.” She pointed at the blade.
Larissya tried to control her fear, and cut, deeply. The pain was terrible and brought tears to her eyes. There was blood everywhere; her leather armband fell to the floor of the smoky cavern as the blade severed it. She kept cutting until she saw bone, shiny with blood. She felt like she was going to black out. The blade fell from her grasp and clattered to the stone floor of the damp cave.
“Now, now, now!” Althea said, as the last of her blood pooled at her granddaughter’s feet. She tried to hand Larissya the crystal, but was too weak.
Larissya took the crystal from Althea and pushed it into her wound. Pain shot up her left arm into her shoulder, neck, and brain. Her vision blurred. She felt the crystal start to vibrate and move. It crawled into her skin like a living thing, oozing its way to the surface of the bone. The moment Larissya thought the pain could not get any worse, the rock grabbed onto her bone and began drilling. She screamed in agony, and thought she would throw up. The pale blue glow of the crystal deepened and began to pulsate as a distant drumming filled her ears.
“I am going, child. May the crystal serve you well. They will be here soon; I love you. Run,” Althea whispered softly, as her body went slack. “There are five more—” she said, as her spirit left her.Larissya cried and covered Althea with the skins of animals, as she would have wished. She wrapped the gash in her arm with some leather and tied it tight. The pain was diminishing quickly. She didn’t know what to do or where to go. For the first time in many years, she was alone. In the cave at the top of Hazot Mountain, Larissya hid her head in her arms and wept.
* * *
Now without further ado, here's Mike:
Sue: I was about to ask you to share what it is that rocks your world, as a writer and lyricist, (and I still am) but that was before I read the beginning of The Crystal Warrior. Please share any research you may have done prior to writing this thoroughly enjoyable story, or if conjuring up tribes, warriors, and savage animals just came naturally to you while composing the story:
Mike: I didn’t do a whole lot of research since I set the story on another planet, which allowed me the freedom to make everything up. I did do an awful lot
of work on the back-story, most of which is not revealed in the novel itself. The novel begins 500 years after a cataclysmic event, so I had to have a pretty
good idea about what happened back then in order to shape the events of the story as it unfolded. I have a very vivid imagination so the savage animals, and other characters sprang to life fairly easily. Keeping track of that many characters was the difficult part.
Sue: Although I haven't finished the book, I'm already hoping there's a sequel; if so, when will you be releasing it?
Mike: Yes! The sequel is called Crystal Origin and I’m working on it now. I’m about 1/3 of the way done. It picks up right where the first book left off and goes in a new and exciting direction. More of the back-story is revealed--including things that happened before the first book. It’s fun being able to expand on the characters (the ones that lived through book one anyway).
Sue: We all have ways of sneaking in time for our writing pursuits, when we have a family and day jobs. How do you manage to get your writing sessions in? (Like, do you ever sleep?)
Mike: I don’t sleep much. I usually write between 10:30 and Midnight, although sometimes I write during the day on weekends or during lunch. It is difficult finding the time. And not being too tired to concentrate once I do find the time. I tend to work on multiple projects at a time so I don’t really have a problem with writer’s block (I just switch projects if I’m not feeling it on one).
Sue: Please tell us what makes your soul soar during the writing process, and at what stage? Also, share with us what you like the least about putting a book together, if anything?
Mike: When the words flow out faster than I can type them and the characters do something unexpected. That makes me feel so great. Or when I’m driving and a critical plot point just comes to me out of thin air. The part I like the least is probably the promotional aspect. I’m not really fond of advertising myself. But it’s a necessary evil.
Sue: I see the realism of that old cliche', Music Calms the Savage Beast, in many ways, because it's true. Sometimes I need to hear some songs from my ITunes Library, or listen to some good old rock music on a classic vinyl station, just to ease the stress of a bad writing session. You revert to your music; you play instruments, you write lyrics. Tell us how this relaxes you, and makes you better at your craft:
Mike: Music takes me to another place. A place where reality is thin. Often when I listen to my recordings I can’t figure out how I did things. It’s almost like channeling at times. And the way I write lyrics is somewhat like automatic writing. I listen to the music over and over on headphones (usually just drums, rhythm guitar and bass) and I let the rhythms and melodies bring out the words. After the words are done I play lead guitar (always improvised on the spot) between the words. I think writing lyrics and poetry makes me so much better as a writer of stories, because what you don’t say is so important in poetry, and every word counts. I think that’s why I just naturally avoid expository lumps. They make no sense to me. Music is about flow. Find the flow. Stay in it. So is story writing. It’s all about the flow.
Sue: I'm sure your story, Traditional Publishing is My Bitch, is not only a good rant about trad vs indie, but meant to lend insight to authors at various stages of their careers, simply because we now have choices. Has your work ever been rejected by traditional publishers/agents, and if so, tell us what you learned about that aspect of the industry.
Mike: Yes! I had many short stories rejected by various magazines including Asimov’s. I got tired of waiting six months just to hear from them. And I got tired of getting rejected for reasons like “too SF for us” or “too Fantasy for us.” Many of my stories do not fit neatly in one genre. But I’m not willing to change the stories to comply with artificial boundaries. I learned a lot from getting rejections. And I really don’t let things like that bother me or slow me down.
Sue: What book marketing efforts have you found to be most effective for you?
Mike: So far I think that having a book or two released for free has helped the most. Once people read something I’ve written, some of them actually buy another one. I also think twitter, facebook, and blog tours are helping by providing more exposure to my books.
Sue: Would you ever consider entering The Crystal Warrior, or any of your other books, in a self-published story contest, like The Writer's Digest Self-Published Books contest?
Mike: Haven’t really considered doing contests, although I did enter a contest on Chuck Wendig’s blog (with my flash story Hot Steel). I didn’t win, but I got some really nice comments from other writers, which was nice. If I had to pick a writing prize I covet the most it would be the James Tiptree Jr. Award. Followed by the Phillip K. Dick award and the Hugo. I’m mostly genre-oriented (science fiction and fantasy).
Sue: What's next for Mike Cooley, in the big picture?
Mike: Working on three things right now: Book Two (Crystal Origin), A travelog about my trip to Egypt (Before The Revolution – 13 Days In Egypt), and Fade Away (a Lovecraft influence horror story). And some music here and there….
I'd like to thank Mike for taking the time out of his busy schedule to visit with me today. For further information regarding Mike's other work, please visit these websites:
Book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Crystal-Warrior-Legend-Crystals-ebook/dp/B004RPZRMK/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_4
Book on Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/47994
Thanks so much, Sue!
Mike, it's been a pleasure!