Sunday, March 9, 2014

"The Jammer and the Blade" by DJ Edwardson

The Jammer and the Blade
by DJ Edwardson

For Sun li the Code is more than a way of fighting; it’s a way of life. Truth, honor, faith: these are the true strengths of a warrior. But her beliefs are not enough to save her father from the wasting disease ravaging their planet.
The only hope for a cure lies in the hands of an underworld insider, whose price requires Sun li to follow him into a war between drone armies and cybernetically enhanced humans. There, she’ll need more than her energy blades and the Code to survive. Saving her father, and herself, may be a test of faith beyond anything she could have imagined. For, as the Code teaches, sometimes the most difficult battles are the ones we fight within.

Sun li stared at the freshly cut arcoiris flower. Its rainbow petals were still crisp and buoyant, their color undimmed even in the fading light of her father’s shop. It lay on the counter, a bright splash of nature amidst the brown, overcrowded shelves stuffed with tea boxes and packets of incense.
“So what’ll it be? Will you take the job or not?”
The man asking the question looked up at her from the other side of the counter. He wore a worn military vest that was black and gray with a silver diagonal stripe across the chest, but Sun li could tell he had never fought a day for the Delegation. Every soldier Sun li had ever seen was an auger, someone who had been physically augmented to be superior to ordinary humans. Some of them for speed, some for strength, some for other, darker purposes that only those high up in the Delegation knew about. Weapon implants, artificial limbs, enhanced senses, anything to give them an edge in the Delegation’s wars.
The man in front of her was no soldier. Her sister probably could have bested him without breaking one of her manicured nails. He was short, had bloodshot eyes and a nervous tick on the left side of his mouth. And as if there were any doubt, he reeked of gutrot, the undersider’s beverage of choice.
“I need some time to think it over,” Sun li replied, though she knew she didn’t have any time left.
She didn't want to take this job. The man hadn’t given her many details, but he had said the job would take them to Silenia. That was at least a day’s journey away and her father was far too sick for her to be away from him that long. Besides, she told herself, she wasn’t qualified for infiltrating a military installation. Most of her jobs had been on the back streets of Bracken, chasing dishonest merchants or hunting down undersiders who the Delegation had posted a reward for.
However, none of that mattered when she looked at the arcoiris. On the humid world of Kess, these rainbow-colored flowers were rarer than a day without rain, but somehow this low-life had gotten his hands on one. He was either fabulously rich or as desperate as she was. And judging from his soiled clothes and rancid breath, she had little doubt as to which of those was the case.
He grabbed the flower off the counter and unfastened his satchel. “Well, I’m sure I could always buy the services of some other blade with this,” he said. “So I’ll just take my business -”
“Wait,” she said, her hand darting out over the top of his. “I’ll take the job.”
The man gave her a curt nod. “Excellent,” he said, flipping his hand and allowing her to take the stem. “I knew there was a high probability you would accept my offer. I look forward to working with you.” He turned to leave, but she moved to cut him off.
“On one condition,” she said, staring at him with her dark, narrow eyes. “I don’t kill innocents.”
The man shrugged, “You won’t be killing any innocents on this job. I can promise you that.” He smoothed down the silver stripe on his coat as if that were some sort of sign that he would honor his word.
“All right, then,” she said. “You’ve got yourself a blade.”

GREAT work; and very nicely written. I'm not even totally done with it yet, and I'm finding it a great deal at $2.99 folks. Sun Li has it rough, and seeing her try to get through things is pretty tense at times. Hope to read more!

Interview with the Author
Hi DJ, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, The Jammer and the Blade.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I’d say principally the work of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. I think you might have heard of them? Tolkien was the first fantasy I’ve ever read, and though I didn’t stumble upon Lewis until later in life, he had a huge impact on me. And I’m a fan not just of their fiction, but I have a deep respect for their non-fiction, particularly that of Lewis who was one of the most clear thinking writers of the twentieth century. A couple of essays which they wrote had a huge impact on me: specifically, “On Stories”, by Lewis and, “On Fairy Stories”, by Tolkien. Both of them were masters in their own way and I can only hope that their influence shows through in my writing.
What age group do you recommend your book for?
I actually read this book aloud to my family and based on their response I’d say about nine and up. There are some scary, tense moments, some battle scenes, things younger kids would probably find frightening, but other than that, I think it reads well for older kids on up.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I’ve had the main character in my head for many years and then one day the idea for the “mission” she gets hired for at the beginning of the book popped into my head and I just felt she would be perfect for it.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
I think for me the idea almost always comes first, though in this case it was the character. But as I said before, I didn’t really have her in this story or even know much about her until I got the idea for the basic plot of the book.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The ending. I ended up re-writing it and I think it came out much better the second time. The original ending was shorter and too abrupt and I felt it just left too many questions unanswered. Going back and expanding it, I felt much better about it and hopefully the readers will as well!
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope this book causes readers to reflect on the importance of family and faith, on the need to not stray from what you know is true.
How long did it take you to write this book?
You know, I think it was about three months all told, including the editing. The first draft went down very fast, but then the editing took longer than I had anticipated. Overall though, it came together pretty quickly.
What is your writing routine?
Hmm … I guess I start out with and outline and then once that’s down, I jump right in. I do almost no editing during the first draft, I just plow through until it’s finished. Then it’s just edit, edit, edit. It usually takes me three or four drafts before it’s ready to be read by anyone and then it’s off to beta-readers, more editing, and then finally off to the content editor and finally the line editor and boom - instant book! Ha ha, not really.
How did you get your book published?
I was submitting to literary agents for about a year and getting only form letter rejections. No one was really interested in my book. And one day I realized that I didn’t really want to work with any of these agents I was submitting to anyway. I didn’t like the books their other clients were writing, I was just doing this because that was how I was told the system worked. Then I read a post by an independent author about how she had published her book on her own and I started to consider that possibility. It took me another six months or so after that, but finally, after doing a lot of research and setting up a website and making a trailer for the book I took the plunge and published directly. And I don’t regret my decision one bit. I really like the creative control that being independently published gives me.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Write. Just put words on paper as fast as you can. Don’t worry if it’s terrible, just write until you are finished and then read it out loud. That is one of the best things you can do as you are revising it. That’s when you’ll know how good it is. And don’t beat yourself up if it isn’t perfect, just keep writing. You’ll get there. Just don’t stop.
Great advice, DJ. What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Spend time with my family, especially playing games. I try to exercise and stay in shape, but sometimes I let it slide and just write instead. I actually don’t have a whole lot of free time these days. Most of the time I’ve got soccer practice or little league games to go to, so life outside of writing doesn’t give me a whole lot of wiggle room for extracurricular activities.
What does your family think of your writing?
They're pretty supportive. Although my daughters rag me whenever someone dies in my books. They really don’t like that and it’s something I’m actually trying to be more mindful of. Death is very traumatic for kids and I think we can sometimes get numb to that since we’re exposed to so much entertainment these days. But I really appreciate their input and feedback. They are by far my biggest fans.
That's great! Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in Iowa. I’d say I had a fairly normal, pretty happy childhood. I loved playing in the snow in the winter and playing touch football in the spring and summer. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary. I loved riding my bike around the neighborhood, watching Saturday morning cartoons. Basically I was a pretty average kid. My biggest accomplishment was probably getting my Eagle Scout badge. That and I was the fifth grade checkers champion at my school. Woo hoo!
Great achievements! Did you enjoy school?
Absolutely. School was where I could be a rock star. For me, getting good grades, following the rules, that was all I cared about. I was really good at school and I took a lot of pride in that. The thrill of getting a hundred on a test, bringing home straight A’s, it didn’t get any better for me than that. I know, sounds weird, huh? But learning can be a lot of fun if you approach it the right way.
Doesn't sound weird at all. Sounds like me - and my daughter as well! Did you like reading when you were a child?
Surprisingly, no. I was much more interested in picture books early on. I wasn’t a big reader. I didn’t really start to hit my stride until my teenage years. That’s when I started to be a more dedicated reader. These days I still don’t read as much as I’d like. I’m pretty slow, actually, so it takes me forever to read a book. But I really do enjoy them. I tell people, “I’m not well-read, but I read well.” Hopefully that counts for something.
What a great saying! What was your favorite book as a child?
As I said, I didn’t read a whole lot when I was younger, but as a teenager it would probably have been the Dragonlance Chronicles. I read both of the series and even bought some of the short stories. I was really enamored with it back then.
Who were your favorite authors as a child?
Probably Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I was also a big fan of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’m a late bloomer, I guess. I’d say it was about five or so years ago. I was in a literature club and reading all this great fiction and it really inspired me. And then another member of the group mentioned that he was working on a story and it got me thinking about this book I had written a few chapters for years ago. It was just sitting on my hard drive and I thought it would make a really great novel. And so we started sharing our work back and forth. It was pretty rough going at first, but I kept at it and finally finished about three years and a zillion drafts later.
Good for you! Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I’d say so. I was always fighting dragons and exploring new solar systems back then! Well, in my mind, anyway. I actually started writing a Choose Your Own Adventure book with my best friend in fifth grade, but we never finished it. I think we had about fifty pages. I still remember one of the characters. His name was Freznef Barino. What a great name, eh?
Sure thing! Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
You know, I’ve only been at this for one year and to be honest I do not hear from my readers as much as I’d like. I realize that I’m still relatively unknown so it’s understandable. All the same, I would love to hear from people! I’ve got a website and that’s that best place to get in touch with me.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Book 2 in the Chronotrace Sequence should be out within the next month or so. It’ll be out in paperback and ebook format so look for it coming soon!
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, DJ. Best of luck with your upcoming release.
Thanks so much for having me.

About the Author
DJ Edwardson spent two years working in Latin America after college. It was during that time that the ideas for the Chronotrace Sequence first started percolating inside his mind. Much later, after encouragement from a friend in a reading group he had joined, he started writing in earnest, publishing the first book in the series in 2012.
His favorite authors are J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He likes to think that authors who use their initials are better writers but he can't actually prove it. Although much of what he writes falls in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, he likes to call his work "imaginative" fiction and often incorporates elements from multiple genres.
Into the Vast, Part 1 of the Chronotrace Sequence, is DJ's first novel. He is currently at work on the second book in the series, which is due out soon.