Monday, March 16, 2015

Spark by Atthys J. Gage

1. I write because… it's cheaper than psychotherapy.

2. If I were your favorite cookie, what would I be?  
Well, last time I answered this question, I said oatmeal raisin, but I was mistaken. My wife's chocolate chip cookies are unparalleled. I don't know what I was thinking earlier.

3. Plotter or pantster?
I plot. Extensively. Before starting a new novel, I chart it out, chapter by chapter, scene by scene. For my current novel, I had nearly forty pages of notes. Then, when I'm actually writing, I mostly ignore them.

4. What is your favorite type of character to write about and why?
I favor strong women. In five books out of six, my protagonist has been female, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I'm not sure why that is. I like it when women don't wait for men to save the day. I like it when the damsel rescues herself. Even if it's as simple as a girl not waiting for the boy she likes to ask her out, that takes real bravery.

5. Hamburgers or sushi?
I love both for different reasons. I like sushi for its delicacy and variety, all the scents and the flavors. I also like the ritual of preparing the little dish of soy and wasabi, using the chopsticks. I like burgers for the pure pleasure of eating high caloric, savory meat. I have nothing against vegetarianism, but there is something viscerally satisfying about eating, well, viscera.

6. Name three things on your desk.
Tax papers (still unfinished), a copy of Joanna Russ's Picnic on Paradise, a magnifying glass (it’s amazing how print keeps getting smaller and smaller as I age).

7. What books have influenced your writing style?
There are so many books to name. To Kill a Mockingbird. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The Book Thief. I'm a great admirer of Samuel R. Delany's many books. I love Jorge Borges. I've read every novel and story Nabokov wrote. They've all influenced me.  Directly or indirectly, every book I've ever read has influenced me.

8. Tell us a little about your book.
Spark is a tiny entity of uncertain origin. He's pure energy, like a sentient speck of stardust. He (pardon the use of the masculine pronoun) has psionic abilities. He can influence matter and link psychically with others. One night, he follows high school sophomore Francy MacMillan home from basketball practice...

9. What advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?
If you love the writing, write. If it becomes a chore, stop—because, really, the odds are heavily against writing ever becoming a career or even a significant source of income, even if you do get published (sad to say). But if that's reason enough to make you stop, then you probably shouldn't be writing anyway.

10. What is next on your writerly horizon?
Next up is to finish the editing on Flight of the Wren, which Lycaon will be publishing in the near future. I hope to be guest blogging about that very soon. It's another YA title, but very different from Spark, a much darker and more dangerous story. I think folks are going to like it.

Top 5 favorite movies

La Strada, Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane, The Philadelphia Story, City Lights.  (Wow, is that random. All items subject to change without notice on any given day.)


Unexplained corpses? An unearthly visitor? One game between her team and the playoffs? Yeah, it’s been that kind of day for Francy Mac.

People are dying downtown, their bodies shriveled away to almost nothing. The police are mystified and outrageous rumors are flying. Fifteen year-old Francy Macmillan listens, but says nothing. It isn’t a comfort knowing that no matter how far-fetched the theories, the truth is even stranger. 
For Francy, the truth wasn’t very hard to find. It followed her home from basketball practice one night, a floating bauble of light that speaks inside her mind and shares her thoughts and her feelings. Is it an alien wanderer fallen from some distant star? Or a shard of some divine entity? Whatever it is, Spark seems to like her.
But as their friendship grows, a disturbing fact emerges: Spark knows who is responsible for those deaths. With Spark’s help, it is up to Francy to stop them. Spark leads Francy into a strange alternate reality, along with her friends: beautiful Echo with the dragon tattoo; moody Brooke with the wicked jaw; and Owen Owens, the boy with the fascinating eyes who may just get around to kissing her one of these days—assuming the world doesn’t end first.

Snap! The air cracked like a cap pistol. Something bright flew across the room.
I wheeled around with my hand still full of hair.
"What the..."
It flared orange then red—a bright floating fleck of light. I watched it swirl, slowly stirring the air, rising like an ember from a campfire.
I dropped my hairbrush. My hair was on fire! I grabbed my head with both hands, pawing through my hair. "No, no, no!"
But I couldn't feel anything burning. Everything was normal. I checked in the mirror. Nope. Not on fire. Not even a little.
I turned around again. The fleck hovered at eye-level now. It wasn't orange any more. It was blue. I leaned in a little closer. It blinked white, then blue again.
"Okay, this is..."
But really, I couldn't think of a word that fit. I circled it in slow, careful steps. It stayed still, dangling in the air. I reached out a finger. The fleck flashed silver and spiraled upward, before settling at eye level again. Reflected in the dresser mirror, a second fleck performed the same maneuver.
"What are you?" My voice quavered a little. I wasn't scared exactly, but I could feel my heart beating pretty fast. I leaned in closer. "What were you doing in my hair?"
It made a tight vertical loop, pulsing green, blue, and then green again.
"Why are you doing that?" I kept asking it questions like I thought it could answer. I guess I was really talking to myself. I pushed my lips out and blew, just gently. The fleck flickered in the tiny draft, but it didn't blow away. If anything, it drew a little closer. I had the sudden impulse to run downstairs and get a jar from the kitchen and see if I could catch it, but I didn't do that. Instead, I put my hand out. The fleck danced in until it was barely an inch above my open palm. I braced myself and watched it settle into my hand. It was cool and tiny on my skin.
"Hey," I whispered. "What are you?"
It glowed and I heard a sound, low and metallic. Bonk.
"Was that you?"
There was a chirp, and then a low warbling hoot like when you blow air over the top of a bottle. None of these sounds came in through my ears. They were just there, sounding inside my head.
Again, it went bonk. That seemed to be its favorite. A click, a whistle, a little wooden pop. Far-off thunder rumbled. Quiet at first, it rose up inside me, getting bigger and louder. The sound swooped up into a squeal then dropped even faster to a sub-woofer grumble and faded to silence.
"Is this supposed to mean something?"
It made a soft chugging noise, like a little toy train. The whole time, the thing just sat there glowing in my palm.
"I don't think we're getting anywhere."
It rose into the air until it hung just a few inches from my nose. I stared. It glowed blue, flashed silver, and then paled to dull violet.
"It's okay," I said, and this time I was totally talking to myself. "This isn't really happening. It's a dream. I'm dreaming. A dream about a little fleck of light that floats around, making strange noises..."
Then, it flared bright crimson and flew straight into my head.
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Atthys Gage is a writer and musician with a lifelong love for myth, magic, and books. His second real job was in a bookstore. As was his third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. Eventually, he stopped trying to sell books and started writing them. After studying classics at Haverford College, he developed an interest in the ways that ancient stories influence modern storytelling, and has always had a fascination for that cloudy borderline between the normal and the paranormal. He lives on the coast of Northern California with his long-suffering wife, strong-willed children, and several indifferent chickens.

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