Daran Handshaw’s Actaeon Stops By To Visit With The Pukah

Daran Handshaw’s Actaeon Stops By To Visit With The Pukah

“We are born in the shadow of fading memories and fallen dreams, living our days within the decaying bones of an age long gone.”

When the Engineer, Actaeon, arrives at Pyramid in the heart of Redemption, nothing goes according to plan. Mysterious raiders pursue him relentlessly across the shattered remains of the ancient metropolis, and the leaders of his homeland pay no heed to his ambitious ideas. Meanwhile, deep beneath Pyramid, a deadly creature stirs. And, when Actaeon meets a skilled young Knight Arbiter with brilliant blue eyes, he starts down a path he could never have imagined.

The vast, fallen city of the Ancients is home to a new people who face the constant struggle to find resources needed to survive in the dangerous ruins. For the Engineer, however, Redemption is a treasure trove of technology, opportunity, and answers. But his unique skills make him a target for those who would use his talents to achieve their own dreams of power and control.

In his endless quest for the truth, will Actaeon discover the fallen city’s greatest secrets? Or will he share the same fate as the Ancients of whom nothing remains but a whisper?

One thing is certain: in Redemption, everything comes with a cost.

Welcome back everyone.  Darran, welcome back to you as well.  Who’s this gentleman with you today?

  • Actaeon steps forward and leans upon his halberd. “Good day to you, fine lady. I am Actaeon Rellios of Shore. And what, may I ask, is your name?”

Welcome Actaeon. ::Bows politely:: I am known as “K.” or “Pukah” depending who is speaking. I answer to both.

May I inquire where Rellios of Shore is?

  • Actaeon grins. “Well, I am speaking, so you can tell me your preference given that knowledge. And Rellios of Shore is right before you. Rellios is my family’s name, you see. I am from Shore, which lies at the southern edge of Redemption, it is a Hold of the Raedelle Dominion. I grew up there, in the town of Incline. You have not heard of it?”

I am afraid not. I don’t get to get out and travel as much as I wish. Is it hard to get to, Redemption?

  • Actaeon appears intrigued. “Quite fascinating, Lady K. I have not met anyone from outside the city before – at least not anyone that was not trying to kill me. Redemption is the ruined city of the Ancients. On the west it borders the sea and on the east it borders hostile tribal lands. It would be quite difficult and dangerous to make it there from without, I would imagine. Might I ask where you are from?”

A little world called “Earth”. With that much destruction, I am led to believe you are not a native to Earth, are you?

  • “Curious. So you are from a different world? Or perhaps a different location in the same world as I. I have not heard of this Earth, but I should like to know more. Those who live in Redemption arrived through portals that opened up nearly a century ago. Could this ‘Earth’ have been an origination point for those people?”

Possibly. Do your people consider themselves to be human, or is there another term for your race, or species?

  • “We are most certainly human, though for some I am sure that is debatable, ” he says with a chuckle. “As far as I can tell, the vanished Ancients were human as well. Why do you ask? Are you human? Do you know of other races?” He leans forward, eager to know more.

That I do, and I have met others from other worlds who are not human.

You mention portals – that brings up another question for me. Is there magic in your world?

  • Actaeon laughs at that question. “Well, some would call it that. The technology that the Ancients have left behind – the artifacts. Many in Redemption are convinced they are magic. Some worship these artifacts while others seek to destroy them, convinced that they led to the destruction of the Ancients. They are not magic though. Their function has an explanation, though sometimes it is beyond our understanding. It is one of my driving goals in life, to understand more about the truth behind such artifacts.”

We have a few pieces of technology like that here as well.

Actaeon, one last question, then I’ll let you go home. Hypothetically, if you could achieve your heart’s desire, what would it be?

  • “You do, Lady K? I should like to examine them if you can spare any.”

Actaeon takes a long moment to think about the question before replying. “My heart’s desire – such a strange concept that an organ which pushes lifeblood through the body would have a desire. I understand your metaphorical meaning however. My greatest desire has always been to find the answers to many problems. You see, I am an Engineer by trade. I wish to discover the truth behind a great many things: how the artifacts work, how to make them ourselves, how to utilize technology to solve humanity’s problems, why we are here and what happened to the Ancients. If I could achieve one thing, it would be to discover that – to discover what happened to the Ancients. It is the biggest mystery of my world. I am realistic though, and I realize that such a question is unlikely to be answered in my lifetime, if ever. That will not stop me from searching though.”

He remembers then, her previous statement. “You said you have met non-human people from other worlds. I would be delighted to hear about them – both the people and the worlds.”

Actaeon, there are many different worlds, races, and species. Before you return home, see if Darran will take you by a library. In there, you will find many worlds to explore, and information on just about any subject.

For the strange technology, in part it is from those who may not be as advanced in science as others, and in part it may be phenomena we haven’t figured out yet. (Not everything can be made to fit in a test tube, after all.)

Perhaps one, or both of those sources might provide some help in achieving your desire. It can be hard knowing you are trying to solve something that may not be solvable in one lifetime.

Actaeon, thank you so much for letting Darran bring you over to visit.

Darran, thank you again for visiting.

Any last words?

  • Actaeon runs a hand through his hair behind the goggles on his forehead as he listens.

“I will do just that and interrogate this Darran fellow, Lady K. Thank you for your suggestion. As with any endeavor, the success is often questionable. It is our duty in life to try for such lofty goals, for if not us, then who? And if not now, then when? We are the shapers of our own destinies, but the first step is to try. Many times the reward lies in the effort as well as the end.” The Engineer bows his head deeply then and steps back. “You have my thanks, Lady K, for this frank discussion.”

Darran steps forward then. “I hope you’ve enjoyed a sampling of Actaeon. If you’d like to read more about his adventures in the ruined, futuristic city of Redemption as he is drawn into unexpected adventures, romance and politics, look for The Engineer, A Chronicles of Actaeon Story, [out] on Amazon. “

Actaeon stiffens at the words and arches a brow at Darran. “You are going to have to answer quite a few questions, good sir.”

I think I’ll let you two have that discussion, gentlemen.

Actaeon, it was a pleasure to meet you.

Thank you everyone who’s stopped by to visit.  I hope you enjoyed the interview (not sure who was being interviewed here.)  If you’d like to connect with Darran, you can find him on his Facebook Twitteror The Engineer’s Indiegogo site.  

Don’t forget to stop by frequently to see who else has stepped in to Visit with the Pukah.  

Any comments or questions can be left below.  Discussions are always welcome here.

Darran Handshaw Stops By To Visit With the Pukah


Welcome back everyone to our author interview series.  Tonight, we have Darran Handshaw, who’s come in from New York to visit with us.

Welcome Darran, will you get us started by telling us a little about yourself, and where you’re from?

  • Absolutely. I’m a new author from Long Island, New York. I write in my spare time between working full time as an R&D Engineer for an electronics company, serving as a volunteer firefighter and spending time with my wife and new son.

Congratulations on the new addition to the family. I can imagine that puts a strain on how many hours a day you have for yourself. Any tips for those trying to balance multiple long hour commitments with their writing?

  • Thanks! It is an exciting time, though it is quite busy.
  • My novel, The Engineer, is a long one – coming in at 229k words at the first draft. Since I knew it would be lengthy, the most important thing for me was to set aside regular writing time every week. At first it seems a bit overwhelming, but it is slow and steady wins the race, and I was able to get the first draft done early this year.
  • Every Tuesday after work for me is my writing day. If I miss a day, I make it up somewhere and when I’m on a roll I squeeze in more writing periods. I’d recommend that anyone who really wants to write dedicate a time block for it, even if it seems like it might take a long time. You’ll get there eventually.

I can agree with that. I’m more the every day type, but there’s times when things just won’t cooperate.

Mind if I ask what started you on your writer’s journey?

  • I’ve been writing on and off since I was a kid. Never finished anything though in spite of some ambitious world building and story outlines. I also played on a lot of text-based roleplay MUSHes (multi-user shared hallucinations) where the gameplay could be described as theme-driven, collaborative fiction.
  • It was actually one of those games that I played on: Redemption MUSH, where the story behind The Engineer originated. The co-creator of that game is now my wife, and we went on some fantastic adventures there before starting our real life adventures together. So, it’s a pretty personal story for me. One of the reasons I wanted to make sure I got this one done.

The ones with quite a bit of the author in them seem to be the ones the readers devour the most.

Do you include actual experiences from real life, or focus more on concepts that emerged from the game world?

  • It’s based on the true in-game story of my character, Actaeon, and the adventures he goes on in Redemption, which is a ruined, futuristic city that is now inhabited by people that had arrived there via portal several generations prior to where the story begins. When I say it that way, it might sound a bit dull, but it ended up being quite the epic adventure for him from start to finish, so I thought it fit a novel format quite well.
  • Since I played those adventures, it was very nostalgic to write about those memories. I’m sure there’s influence in there from the real world – especially some of the engineering mindset of Actaeon. Being an engineer myself, I have a certain way that I like to approach things and that helps me flesh out Actaeon’s approach too.

::chuckles:: Makes sense. And, the concept sounds intriguing for me, at least. (Then again, I’m an old RP player too.)

Since you not only played out the concept, but you also included some of your own mindset in the story, did you hide any messages in the work for readers to find?

  • Well, hello from one RPer to another!
  • Messages? You mean Easter Eggs or more of a thematic message?

Either / or.

  • I’m sure there are a few things in there that others who played the game, and especially my wife, will read and get – hopefully be amused by.
  • As for thematic elements, I’m not one to write to a theme. In the case of The Engineer though, Actaeon’s personality drives a theme pretty heavily throughout the story, and that is one of truth and transparency. In the novel there is constant conflict driven by that theme. Actaeon wants to study the ancient artifacts, figure them out, find a way to use them and share that knowledge with others. There are many other groups in Redemption that disagree for a variety of reasons and some of them will even resort to violence.

Oh, dear. Now you’ve got me curious. Are you at a point you can share a snippet?

  • Absolutely, here is the opening scene from the book, for your enjoyment:

The Engineer eluded them for hours as he fled across the ruins, but in the end they captured him.

Surrounded, Actaeon knelt upon a large, moss-covered tile and lowered his polished recurve bow gently to the ground before him. Then he raised his hands into the air in a gesture of surrender.

“Gentlemen,” he addressed them with cheerful confidence. “It appears we have had a misunderstanding.”

Through the lenses of his goggles, Actaeon studied his three remaining pursuers as they closed in on him. The sunlight reflected off their clean shaven pates and their expressionless faces were each divided into four quadrants by a sharp, black cross. They wore boiled leather armor and carried blades fashioned from sharpened shards of debris. One carried a short bow. All of them ignored his friendly greeting.

“If there is something that you wish to discuss; a proposal perhaps? I would be more than willing to-“

Actaeon’s words were cut off abruptly as one of the cross-faced raiders lowered his bow and kicked him in the stomach, causing him to double over onto his side. The recurve bow he had set on the ground so carefully was kicked unceremoniously aside to be collected by another raider. That same raider also took the time to work Actaeon’s halberd free from the body of one of their less fortunate comrades.

“Careful with that bow, it is not designed for such abuse,” Actaeon said, earning himself another kick that knocked the wind from him. He grimaced and rolled onto his back where he could gaze up at the raider who had kicked him. He was rewarded with a faceful of sunlight instead and pulled his goggles down over his eyes to block some of the rays.

Just as the Engineer had begun to catch his breath, he was hauled to his feet by the raider that had kicked him. Actaeon took the opportunity to study his captor’s face for any insight. He found there only dull eyes, devoid of all emotion. Without words, the raider pointed north, where the ruins stretched out to disappear over the horizon in a turbulent mess of shattered structures and overgrown debris fields.

“You must mean to communicate your desire for me to walk in that direction,” Actaeon responded, as though it were up for discussion. “You would, of course, be welcome to join me heading south towards Pyramid, that is, if you would be willing to reconsider.” He was rewarded with a smack to the back of his head.

Actaeon grinned at the raider behind him, “I will take that as the implied negative that it would appear to be.” He led the way along then and the three silent raiders followed him closely, letting him choose the path northward.

Ummm, why does this sound like your character’s setting himself up for some sound abuse?

Wait, don’t answer that – don’t want you to spoil anything.  ::Shakes head in amusement::

One last question for you, now that you’ve whet our appetites. Where can we catch up with you around social media or the blog-o-sphere if we want to stay up to date?

  • Most of my updates go to my Facebook page
  • I also have an Indiegogo site for anyone who wants to pre-order a copy of The Engineer
  • My birdsongs are also on the internet: Twitter
Image may contain: outdoor and indoor

The Engineer
The Engineer, the first novel by Darran M Handshaw, follows the adventures of Actaeon Rellios in the ruined, futuristic city of Redemption.

I will definitely have to check into these.

Any last words before we wrap up?

  • Sure! Expect The Engineer out late this year. It’ll be available on Amazon. It has elements of science fiction, fantasy adventure, war, romance, politics, and, of course, engineering!

Sounds interesting.

Thank you for making the “long” trip over to visit. It’s been fun getting to know you, and your work a bit better.

  • Once again, thank you for having me.

If you enjoyed the getting to know Darran, and want to connect with him to stay up to date on his work, you can follow any of the social media links above.

Don’t forget to check back.  In a couple of days Darran will be returning with Actaeon so we can get to know The Engineer a little better before his debut.  Until then….

Keep those pages turning.

Assaph Mehr Stops By To Visit With The Pukah


Welcome, welcome.  Tonight we’ve a traveler coming in from Australia to visit with us.  Please give a warm welcome to Assaph Mehr. Assaph, will you get us started with a little about yourself, and what started you on your writer’s journey?

  • Hiya!
    I’ve always liked to read, and grew up on classic sci-fi & fantasy as well as detectives and thrillers. I’ve also always liked history, so historical detectives has been a passion.
    I just never planned on writing anything before retirement.
    Then one night about 2 years ago, my wife complained that she had nothing left to read. So after everyone was in bed, I sat down and started to write that idea that has been kicking around in my head for a while…. and haven’t stopped till I finished the manuscript!

Sounds like you were a man on a mission.

While you were writing, did you run into many challenges you had to overcome?

  • With the first draft, not so much. With the current WIP I find I struggle to find the time… But I blame the baby that joined us in the intervening time for that
    I have the stories in my head. I enjoy exploring them as I put them down on paper (well, screen). I just wish more time to do it in.

Congratulations on the new addition. Any tips for making family life, work, and writing balance? Any one of those would be a full time (or more) job, it seems.

  • They are. When I find the leprechauns selling more hours in the day, I’ll let you know.
    Until then, it’s just a matter of finding the time – even the small windows – and plugging at it little by little.

Funny thing, that’s what I hear the most often.

Does that mean you try to write every day, or is it more like you block of parts of the weekend to write?

  • My current writing schedule is on the train ride to and from work. That’s about 45 mins uninterrupted twice a day, that I can devote to writing (unless I’m tired – in which case I read).

Well, it is bandied about that reading is the replenishment of writers. Any favorite authors you find inspirational?

  • I read whatever catches my fancy at the time. Pretty eclectic.

Then I’ll try to narrow it down some. Any indie authors who have caught your fancy?

  • Dan Buri has a great style, with gentle, soulful writing.
    Wendy Waters has a great talent at the depicting broken, slightly mad people.
    Jonathan Maas defies categorisation, with each of his books in a different genre and exploring different issues.

Oooh. A couple of new ones to look up.

A slight change in subject with a double question: Do you find the indie author world one that’s supportive? Do you have a personal set of folks who support you, beyond your family?

  • Yes! The indie community, by and large, is extremely supportive. I’ve made many new friends since publishing my book.

Friends are always good to have, and new friends even better.

Since I know you’re in Australia, I’m curious – what’s the hardest part about being an indie author for you?

  • Timezones are not too much of a problem. Most of publishing and marketing is online anyway.
    I sometimes wish I could attend conventions more often, but realistically there are a lot of geeky and bookish cons in Australia that I haven’t explored yet.
  • The “hardest part” would be very individual. Each author would have their strengths and weaknesses. Each one just need to learn to deal with them, in addition to the general learning curve of writing, publishing, marketing.
    For me this is a hobby. I write because I enjoy reading my stories. There is nothing there that’s harder than pursuing any other hobby.

Have you ever considered making it your full time career?

  • I have a 3-step plan for that:
    1) Write novel
    2) Get movie deal
    3) Buy small castle
  • I’m working on step 2 now

::Chuckles:: I like that plan.

Any snippets you can share to help bring step 2 a little closer to fruition?

  • Several.
    You can find the first few chapters of Murder In Absentia for free on Amazon and Goodreads.
    I also publish short stories with the same protagonist and world as my novels on my website: egretia.com.
    I love it when people read them (they’re short!) and let me know what they think!

     Short Stories

    A few short stories involving Felix, mostly from his past prior to Murder In Absentia. To receive notifications about new posts, short stories and news, please click the “Follow” button… egretia.com

Hmmm… I seem to remember reading one a while back. Really fun short read. Will have to go see what else you have hiding over there.

Do you have many books planned for your world, or do you write as the muse strikes?

  • I have the plots for three more books (one is the WIP) plus several short stories all ready to go. I got most of them while I was still writing my first novel, so as I keep writing I don’t expect to run out of ideas any time soon.

Are they being polite and waiting their turn?

  • In a way. Sometimes a short story will interrupt everything I’m doing, and demand to be written right there (like Girl On Fire). The novels are mostly waiting their turn, as – even though they are independent – there is a certain sequence to them.

I’d like to say you’re lucky, but I know not everyone’s muse is maddeningly insistent on all the words being poured out at once.

Since I know time’s a valuable commodity, just a couple more questions for you.

If someone wanted to keep up with you, and your progress, where would they find you?

::Chuckles:: Seeing as “all over” covers quite a bit of territory, I’ll happily take the links.

And the last question: Any final words before we wrap up?

  • I expect a lot of your reader will have an interest in writing. There is only one secret to writing a book, a secret I’ve shared with my daughter.
    The secret to writing a novel is…. <drumroll>… to write!
    No, seriously, that all it takes. Just keep writing, until you finish the manuscript. Then write some more.

I’ll have to try and keep that in mind – there’s times I know it can get hard to go any further.
Assaph, thank you so much for coming across the pond from “Down Under”. It was great having you here to visit.

  • My pleasure! Thank you for having me.

If you enjoyed the visit with Assaph, and wish to connect, I promise he won’t bite.  Use the links above, and get ready to find out more about Felix and all the antics he gets up to.  (Along with some of the foods he enjoys.)

Don’t forget to check back soon.  Next time, I’ll be talking with The Fox himself.  Until then…

Keep those pages turning.

Sharon Sasaki Stops By To Visit With The Pukah


Welcome back everyone.  The pukah have been out scouting for new authors to introduce to us.  Tonight, they’ve invited Sharon Sasaki back to visit.

Welcome Sharon. Will you start us off by telling us a little about yourself?

  • I am a family physician who now spends all of her working hours in the operating room, assisting in surgery. I work days, evenings, weekends, holidays and I love assisting in all types of surgeries. That is why I write medical science fiction. I want to give people a taste of what it is like to be in the operating room.  I just put the setting in the future on a medical space station so I can extrapolate ideas.
  • I write humorous SF thrillers. I like to make people laugh. Laughter is the Best Medicine, you know.
  • I also paint collages which can be seen on my Website.

I can imagine you have quite a bit of material to use for your stories. How did you get into writing with such a demanding career?

  • I was always writing as a child. A pad and pencil went with me everywhere. When I told my parents I wanted to be a writer, they said, ‘You’ll starve! You have to be a doctor. ‘ I became a doctor but I always wanted to write, so I eventually, after the children were off to university, picked up the computer and started to follow my dreams.
  • I write when I am not catching up on my sleep. Because of my crazy hours, I don’t have much of a social life. Haha.

Social life? There’s such a thing as that?

  • Haha. I have heard rumors that such a thing exists. I have yet to see proof but I dream that it exists. It would be nice!

Agreed. What do you do for self-care, since you have such a crazy schedule?

  • Self care? What is that? Lol. Um, I play tennis with my husband, I read, I walk. I sleep! I never get enough sleep!
    If I can catch a few zzzz’s any time, I will. Helps me from getting in car accidents and putting the public at risk.
  • The writing does help with the de-stressing. We have a great group of people at our hospital who all are dedicated and love what we do, so going into work is wonderful and I love it!

::Chuckles:: Sounds like you and I are in the same boat. Lots of pieces to keep in the air, and not enough arms to catch them all as they come due. Do you ever get a chance to read new-to-you authors? If so, any that have become favorites?

  • I have read E.M. Swift-Hook’s novels, Trust a Few and the prequel to Fated Sky. I really like her stories.
  • I am starting Leviathan’s Wake by J.A. Corey and it is fantastic. I read Dan Abraham in the past and I loved his writing.

E.M.’s books are on my list, just haven’t gotten there (yet). Though I do agree – she’s got a wonderful writing style.

Speaking of personal styles and voices – do you feel you’ve developed your own, or is it still in the process?

  • Well, most reviewers say that my books are like nothing they have ever read before, so that is good. I believe that I have a distinct voice because most people who write SF do not include humour. People who read my books say they laugh out loud. If I can make a reader laugh, I am very pleased.

When you’re achieving a goal with your writing, that definitely deserves bragging rights.

  • Thank you. I try to make things funny. Part of the operating room is the humour. Doctors and nurses tease each other I think as a stress reliever and I try to capture the banter in my books.
  • Writing style is always a work in progress and I write very differently for my fantasy novels

Oh, you write in different genres? What’s your impression of the marketing for your work?

  • I have written the fantasy trilogy but I have not tried to publish it yet. I have only marketed my SF books. It is very competitive. There are so many books out there, many are free. I have Welcome to the Madhouse permafree and I promote it primarily. Bud by the Grace of God, the sequel, is picking up sales gradually. I hope it continues to rise in sales as people discover Madhouse.
    I do not have a lot of time to spend on marketing. I like the writing better. Thank god I have a good day job!
    If you are asking what I do for marketing, I promote Madhouse on sites like Freebooksy, Book Barbarian, Ereadernewstoday, The Fussy Librarian. They are all fairly inexpensive. I hope
    I hope that if they like the free first book, they will be interested in paying for the second and subsequent books.

::Laughs:: Fully agree with needing the day job to keep writing.

On your writer’s journey, do you have anyone mentoring you (either directly, or by example) for your writing and/or marketing?

  • For marketing, I have joined Nick Stephenson’s and Mark Dawson’s programs.
  • For writing, I used to advance read and copy edit for Steven Erikson and Ian C. Esslemont. I think I learnt a lot following how Steve wrote, especially. I read a lot of Neal Asher but I can’t say I have a mentor. I have a very experienced editor in Robert Runte and he will not hesitate to rake me over the coals for anything blasé or cliché.
  • I have learnt so much from Robert Runté on writing style as he is very strict on anything that hints of repetition or slows the pace of the book.
    The whip marks across my back are finally healing. Hahaha!
    But wait! I have the third book with him and am awaiting my new set of whip marks very soon! Goody! ;D

Ouch. I only subjected myself to that once. Haven’t had the courage to repeat the experience, though it did uncover my own “red repetition button.” Do you find the critiques from your editor help with any harsh reviews that may come up?

  • I did not use Runté for my first book. I used him for the second book and I will continue to use him for all subsequent books. As one gets better and self edits, he tells me his comments will become rarer. I feel it is always good to have a very experienced eye go over the text because they know what readers like and what makes a person put the book down and never pick it up again. He is tough but he has my interests at heart. He wants me to put out the best book I can and I am developing a thick skin. My goal is also to put out the best product I can and two heads are better than one.
    I have had pretty good reviews on the Bud by the Grace of God which Runté edited for me. I have had only one warm review and the reviewer wrote: If you like lots of humour, unconventional characters, racing fast-paced action, and a classic SF story, then buy this book. He just did not like that type of book. Haha. So for a negative review, I think he captured the essence of what I am writing.
  • I have been lucky to have two excellent Kirkus Reviews for Madhouse and Bud by the Grace of God. I do not discuss my reviews with my editor. People write what they like and you have to roll with the punches. Often a review reveals more about the person writing the review than the book itself, so I don’t write to the people who do not like the book. I write for the people who love my books and I hope to keep them as avid fans. A book that is pleasant for everyone is not what I am interested in writing.

Nice. I agree, for a “critical review” it seems that you’ve managed to still convey the spirit of your work to that reader.

  • I am sorry that you had a bad experience with an editor. Perhaps the editor was not a good one?
    I have been given names of other good editor by my editor. He said one of them would make him look like Florence Nightingale. lol.

He was a good one, we just weren’t a good mix together. I’ve got a good one now, along with several excellent beta readers who all accept the challenge of tackling monsters and taming them into manuscripts. Wouldn’t have made it so far on my journey without them.

Since you’ve got a third book in the editing phase, are you at a point where you can share a snippet?

  • [This is from Amazing Grace – one of my upcoming novels]

Dr. Mikhail Lewandowski slipped behind his small desk and folded his long legs beneath it, placing his crane-like hands one on top of the other. Dr. Hiro Al-Fadi faced him, seated in an antigrav chair, dressed in a hospital gown, shapeless housecoat, and faux-hide slippers. Mikhail was convinced he could feel the intense heat wafting from the surgeon’s incandescent glare. To say Dr. Al-Fadi looked furious would have been a gross understatement. Mikhail fought the childish urge to crawl under his desk.

This was not only the Chief of Staff he was meeting for the first time, but also his employer. For some cruel and malicious reason, Dr. Weisman had specifically asked for Mikhail to assess this man. Mikhail wondered if Dr. Weisman already had it out for him, although he could not fathom why. He had not even met this doctor yet. As he forced himself to placidly and calmly face Al-Fadi’s thunderhead glower, Mikhail decided that there were worse places to be than unemployed. He suspected he was in one of them.

“Who the Hell are you . . . and what makes you think you can counsel me?” Dr. Al-Fadi spat. The surgeon’s dark eyes bored into Mikhail’s.

Mikhail envisioned Al-Fadi as a giant black widow spider preparing to pounce upon him and inject him with venom. He took a deep breath, donned his cheeriest smile, and leapt into the web.

“I’m Dr. Mikhail Lewandowski from Europa, Dr. Al-Fadi. I’m a fully trained psychiatrist, Board certified, with three years of fellowship training in trauma therapy. I’m up-to-date on all of Dr. Nestor’s methods and theories . . .”

“That is highly unlikely,” Dr. Al-Fadi said, dryly, his frown unchanged.

“Well, I’m familiar with his documented theories and am up-to-date on his published research. I’ve been using his mind-link technique successfully for several years on trauma patients.”

“Three years is not several. How many patients?”

“Well, the final year of my fellowship was the most intense. Ah, I would say . . . close to two hundred patients in total?”

“And what do you consider ‘successful’?” Dr. Al-Fadi asked, too softly.

“Well . . . they got better,” Mikhail offered, moisture trickling down his temples.

“What do you mean . . . better?” the surgeon asked, making Mikhail change his assessment from spider to cobra.

“Well, they . . .”

“They didn’t come back?” Dr. Al-Fadi suggested.

“Some of them . . . didn’t come back to see me, yes,” Mikhail stuttered, acutely aware of the sweat in his armpits.

“What did you believe you did for them, Doctor?” Dr. Al-Fadi asked, a strange smile forming on his face. Mikhail did not feel comforted by that expression at all. It was the smile one might see on a wolf. Pulling back his shoulders and sitting up straight, Mikhail decided enough was enough. No matter who this man was, Mikhail could not let the patient control the interview. Time to assert himself.

“I believe I helped them cope with their trauma better,” Mikhail said. “I believe I made their lives a little easier.”

“That is probably the first truthful thing you have said to me, other than stating your name,” Al-Fadi snapped. “You’re not from Europa. You’re from Bratis, but you trained on Europa during your fellowship. You did your medical training on Proxima Centauri, as well as your psychiatric residency. I read applications, Dr. Littlemanski. I do not just rubber-stamp them. So far, you have failed to impress me in the least, and I refuse to have you as my—babysitter?
“This interview is finished. But first, a piece of advice to you, doctor. When you start a relationship with a patient, I would advise you to at least give the patient some proper clothes. How dare you think you can summon me to your office, dressed in a hospital gown, and think we will have a nice little chat? Do you know nothing about how to establish a patient-doctor relationship?”

Mikhail’s mouth dropped open. His cheeks felt like coal embers.

“Get someone to take me back to my room now,” Dr. Al-Fadi barked.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Al-Fadi,” Mikhail said.

“Sorry doesn’t cut it, boy,” Dr. Al-Fadi growled at Mikhail. “I eat fools like you for lunch.”

“Could we try again, another time?” Mikhail asked.

For the first time, the frown left the surgeon’s face, replaced by a look of surprise.

“You want me to see you again?”

“Yes. I would like to be given a second chance, sir. I did not know what to expect when I walked into this room. Your lack of decent apparel was not of my doing. I would be happy to come to your room. I would actually be more comfortable if you were dressed in your usual attire. I meant no disrespect and I apologize if I did not seem wholly truthful.”

Dr. Al-Fadi sighed. “I will still eat you for lunch, kid. You should start with someone you can handle.”

“I am not a quitter, Dr. Al-Fadi, and I’m not a pushover, contrary to your initial assessment of me.”

“You are annoying and patronizing.”

“You are aggressive and a bully.”

“Hm, you’ve got that right, but that does not make you a great psychiatrist. A blind man could see that.”

“You’re afraid I’ll find something that will interfere with your ability to return to work and that’s why you’re so unhappy to be here. Someone has to approve your return to work. You would prefer it to be someone you know, maybe someone you can coerce or manipulate. I’m a complete stranger, so you’re not sure you can control me. Best for you to demand someone new.”

Dr. Al-Fadi’s brows shot upwards, then rammed down. He examined Mikhail more closely. Mikhail refused to drop his gaze. They stared at each other like two bulls, sizing each other up, seeing who would capitulate and be the more submissive. It was the most primal experience Mikhail had ever experienced.

The Chief of Staff sniffed.

“You’re not as stupid as you look, Lubberdowski.”

“That’s Lewandowski . . . and you said that on purpose.”

“I did. We will have to give you that one, too.”

“The other new psychiatrist who has just arrived on the station is a female sex therapist,” Mikhail said.

“ . . . Okay, I’ll give you one more try, Lewdandlowski, but I’d better have some clean surgical greens delivered to my room before you arrive . . . along with two chairs.”

“Most certainly, Dr. Al-Fadi . . . And that’s Lewandowski.”

“This doesn’t mean you have won in the least, Lewdmanowski,” Dr. Al-Fadi snarled, as a door bell chimed, indicating that the android porter had arrived to take Al-Fadi back to his room.

“I’ll contact you about a new appointment time, Dr. Al-Fadi,” Mikhail said, getting up and bowing. “ . . . And that’s Lewandowski.”
He saw a ghost of a smile appear on the surgeon’s face.

“Be prepared, Loser-louse-key.”

With that, Dr. Al-Fadi was pushed out of the room.

Mikhail fell back into his chair and blew out his breath. He ran his right hand through his damp hair. His clothes were soaked and he desperately wanted a shower. For a little man, the Chief of Staff had the most powerful personality Mikhail had ever encountered.
Perhaps the next time he met with Dr. Al-Fadi, he should show up in the nude.


::Chortles::  For some reason, that exchange looks awfully familiar.  Not sure why though, unless it’s something I dealt with going through my grad classes.

Do you have any supporters (other than family) who’ve helped keep you going when things get tough?

  • Yes. Advanced readers. Ed Greenwood was particularly encouraging to me.
  • I have quite a few local fans in my small town and at the hospital who always ask when the next book is coming out. They buy the paperback which is much more expensive than the ebook. They give the novels for Christmas presents and birthday presents and the receiver asks for the next book when it becomes available. That always puts a smile on my face when people I know and work with are asking when the next book comes out.

Sounds like you’ve got a devoted fan base, and are gaining traction with your writing.

And, the elephant that always hangs out when writers are talking: Do you have any advice for your fellow authors?

  • Ah! Advice. Finish your WIP. Always.
    Don’t let anyone tell you your idea is stupid, whatever. Write it out. Finish it.
    Describe your character’s feelings with all five senses.
    Avoid long info dumps or make them thrilling info dumps.
    I believe you should use an editor. Be humble. Be a sponge. Don’t assume you know how to write. If you haven’t done it before, you don’t know how to write. It is a learning process, just like learning to operate. You would not want to be operated on by a person who has just watched some website videos. Learn from people who know what readers want and know how to write.

Last question: If someone should wish to connect, where can they find you?

Have to agree with you about the Roundtable.

Sharon, thank you for stopping by to visit. I look forward to your return in a couple of days with (insert character name) for a follow up. Any last words before we wrap up completely?

  • Thank you for interviewing me. I really appreciate your time and I hope it was not too boring. My books are far funnier than I am. Lol. ;D
  • Thank you for offering to interview new self-publishing authors. What you do is wonderful for all of us. I just hope we can be entertaining enough to your readers! Thank you so much!

Sharon, thank you in return for making the trip down from Canada for our visit.  It has been a joy getting to know you a little better.


Feel free to leave any comments or questions below.  Discussions are always welcome.