My special guest today is novelist Richard Hacker. He’s chatting with me about his new speculative fiction and book 2 of the Alchimeia series, Vengeance of Gimbald. It’s a cross of sci-fi, thriller, and historical fiction.
During his virtual book tour, Richard will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too.
Bio:Richard Hacker, lives and writes in Seattle, Washington after living many years in Austin, Texas. In addition to the science fiction/fantasy novels of The Alchimeía Series, his crime novels ride the thin line between fact and fiction in Texas. Along the way, his writing has been recognized by the Writer’s League of Texas and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. As a judge in literary contests shuch as PNWA and ChicLit, and as a freelance development editor, he enjoys the opportunity to work with other writers. In addition, he is the Sci-Fi/Fantasy editor for the Del Sol Review. Die Back was his first novel in the Alchimeia series.
Welcome, Richard. Please share a little bit about your current release.Battling evil through time and death.
Six hundred years after a fifteenth century scryer gains the alchemical knowledge to create a dark future in his own image, Addison Shaw inherits a destiny: to fight this ancient war that threatens all he loves with extinction. Using an alchemical pen, he writes himself into past lives, leaving his body in the present. Upon completion of his mission, he must die in order to break the link and return home. Addison, and his inking partner, Jules, are members of the League, a secret alchemist society of Inkers who protect the time continuum. They believe they defeated their enemy, Cuthbert Grimwald, known to them as Kairos. When he resurfaces filled with vengeance, intent on destroying the League, and acquiring the Alchimeia, a book of such power the League has hidden it for millennia, Grimwald leaves a path of destruction across centuries. As he quests for absolute control of reality, Addison and Jules pursue him through time and death in a desperate struggle to save the world from his vengeance.
What inspired you to write this book?
This might sound odd, but it started with a fountain pen. I was holding a fountain pen one day and my mind wandered to the power of words. Human beings have been naming things since the beginnings of language. It’s how we find our place in the world and in some cases I think, gives us a sense of control. Or at least the illusion of control. So, what would happen if a character had a pen filled with alchemical ink that when he wrote the name and a date for someone living in the past, his consciousness would be transported into that person? What would he do with that astounding capability? And as with most technology, what if someone decided to use the alchemy to acquire power and control time itself? How would the protagonist fend off this attack on the time continuum and reality as he knows it? And then I put the fountain pen down, pulled at the laptop, and started writing.
Excerpt from Vengeance of Gimbald:
This is an excerpt from a chapter early in the book. I’ve included it because I think it introduces the idea of die back and ripping, which happen often in the book, as well as a taste of the relationship between the inking partners Addison and Jules.
I rise from the ground and the world spins. I close my eyes to make the carousel stop. When I open my eyes again, I catch something in my peripheral vision–a cop? No. Crap. An Incan warrior with a spear in one hand and a copper and wood shield in the other walking with purpose toward me. His copper chest armor clatters softly with his gait. He looks pissed. I drop the stone, reaching for the sword. If I’m in armor, shouldn’t I have a sword? I find the hilt in my hand, but before I can remove the blade from its scabbard, he speaks–in English.
“What are you doing?” He drops his shield and shoves me. Hard. I crash up against the wall. The man’s face is a scowl, nostrils flared. He bangs on my chest armor with a fist.
“Addison, what the hell are you doing?”
“Come on genius. Speak.” She drives the point of her spear into the ground beside our feet.
I left Jules in Peru. This is the Jules from a different continuum. 2.0. Yeah, Jules fucking 2.0. “How’d ya find me J2?”
“I went by the house, mi amigo. If you’re going to ink without anyone knowing about it, you might try somewhere other than your study. And who the hell is Jay Two?”
“I don’t have to defend myself to you. You think you can just waltz into my house anytime you want?”
“I found you by a bottle of whiskey. Thought you were passed out until I saw the pen in your hand. God, you reek. Did you throw up on yourself?” She shoves me again, then paces away. “I told myself that my inking partner wouldn’t be stupid enough to drunk ink.” She turns back, glaring. “Obviously, I was wrong.”
She paused, her eyes fixed on me. “Why are you here?”
“I just had a loose end to tie up. That’s all.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.” She grabs my arm. “You ink a fucking conquistador five hundred years in the past to tie up a loose end? If Nikki finds out about this she’ll be tearing you a new asshole.”
“I just wanted to set something right.”
“First of all, Einstein, what is there to set right?”
“Maybe you should tap into Pizarro’s consciousness,” she slaps me repeatedly on the head, “to find out what the hell you’re doing. You did ink into him, you know. Pizarro has slogged for days through the mountains from the sea to this place.”
“Addison, we’re in Cajamarca, Did you also sleep through every history class you’ve ever taken?”
“Cajamarca?” This can’t be right. I need to be in Machu Picchu to save Jules. Well not Jules 2.0 going all ape shit on me, but my Jules. The Jules I left in Peru in another continuum.
She smacks my chest plate again, holding me against the wall. “Yes! Pizarro captures the Incan Emperor and it all goes downhill from there. I just got here a few days ago–wanted to be sure what I was getting myself into, waiting for you to show up in Pizarro–and I swear to God, if I eat another sweet potato, I’m going to puke.”
“Jules, just leave me alone.”
“Addison, you can’t do this. You’ve got to die back.”
I push her away. “Well, you’re here too.”
“The Spaniards hack my guy to death tomorrow morning. Pizarro doesn’t die until 1541. Do the math, Addison. Just being here could alter the time continuum. You know as well as I do that every mission we run is carefully planned. I don’t think emptying a bottle of whiskey qualifies as careful planning. Do you?”
I wrench her hands away. “Don’t you get it. I’ve lost too much, made too many mistakes. If I can set something right, I’ve got to try.”
She lowers her voice. “I don’t know everything you’ve been through, but you won’t talk about it. So, it’s a bit difficult for me to sympathize.”
“I don’t need your sympathy.”
“Fine. But whatever you’re up to, what do you think is going to happen?”
She’ll never understand. Not Jules 2.0. “I just wanted to fix it.”
“Addison, listen to yourself. Would you let me keep my mother from being murdered, knowing if I did, the continuum would shift in ways we couldn’t anticipate?”
“How is this different? You told Nikki and me how things spiraled out of control because you kept trying to ink your way to a fix. Remember? You just managed to pull off a reset before you were nuked to oblivion and the rest of us were lost in time and space. So don’t tell me this is different.”
“Jules…” She doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know about Peru. “I’m not leaving.”
“You can’t, Addison. I won’t let you.”
With a suddenness I don’t anticipate, a blade flashes in the warrior’s hand as Jules slashes the side of her neck. The Incan’s carotid artery gushes blood. Our eyes lock.
“Sorry, Addison, but you know I’m right.”
I put a hand to her gaping wound, but there’s nothing for me to do. The warrior’s eyes fade and he falls to the ground. Jules has died back. What is she up to?
She’s going to rip me. Son of a bitch. “Jules! DO NOT…!”
Jules opened her eyes to the study, rubbing her arms to find some warmth against the memory of cold Andean mountain air. Addison sat motionless, still in an inking trance across the desk from her. Finding him in the study with a nearly empty bottle of whisky could have only meant trouble. IUI, Inking Under the Influence, was high on Nikki’s list of severely punishable offenses. So Jules had inked after him hoping to get him back before Nikki discovered what he was up to. Drunk inking. What, are we in high school or something? And what’s the deal with Pizarro? And who the hell is J2?
She reached into her backpack where she kept some makeup, a couple of energy bars, a small nylon shopping bag, her iPad, and a ‘rip kit’. Jules unzipped the black leather kit, spreading it open on the desk. Passing over a variety of cables, electrical plugs, and pliers, she picked up a stun gun. Checking to be sure it was charged, she pressed it against Addison’s exposed neck and pulled the trigger.
His body, still seated in his chair, jerked, then collapsed over the desk. She put the stun gun back in the kit, zipped it closed and walked around the desk, where she slipped the kit into her backpack.
Ripped from the inking, Addison startled, clutching his throat. “Do not rip me, dammit! NO!” His eyes wandered as his mind, floating in an alcohol induced haze, tried to connect with the present. He took a deep breath, his gaze rising to meet Jules’, then he vomited across the desk.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m currently working on the third book in the Alchimeia series—untitled at this point. And I’ve got another project I’ve worked on and off over several years, a humorous science fiction story along the lines of Tom Holt’s novels, called The Bifurcation of Dungsten Crease. The initial draft with a different title was selected as best science fiction novel by the Texas Writers League way back in 2010. So I’ve come back around to it and will publish this year. Hopefully, Book 3 of the Alchimeia will be out in 2021.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I say in the third grade. Other kids were bringing various things to show and tell: steam engines, mice, grandfather’s watch. I brought short stories.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Yes, I write full-time these days, but in a rather eclectic way. My day is usually divided into writing, music, drawing, cooking, and miscellaneous. So I reserve several hours each day for writing, usually in my study or I’m one of those guys you see at the coffee shop. I sing with a vocal jazz ensemble called The Offbeats, About an hour each day is used for rehearsal music. A couple of years ago I decided to re-awake my inner artist. I hadn’t drawn anything since I was about twelve and didn’t really think I could draw. I’ve been at it for a couple of years now and have gotten into urban sketching. Each day I try to either do some drawing at home, or go out in the field to do a sketch. And I absolutely love to cook. I’ve always got something going. I’ve recently gotten into bread baking.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmmm. I know folks who have to be in certain places or eating certain foods or drinking a double latte. I’ve made a conscious effort to write anywhere at anytime. I suppose the quirk would be that I will write anywhere at anytime. I’ve written on trains, planes, cars, buses; in coffee shops, restaurants, malls, churches, park benches, bathrooms, stadium stands; at all times of day and night. There’s a thing with urban sketching that you always carry a pencil and sketchbook with you so you’re always ready to draw. I try to keep the laptop close. You never know when an idea will come to you.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Yes and no. I had ideas. I first wanted to be a jazz trumpet player after seeing Louis Armstrong. Then I was going to be a writer, then a scientist and for quite a while I was definitely going to be a doctor.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Two things I’d like to add. First, the underlying message of the Alchimeia series is about courage and perseverance. When life looks hopeless, when everything seems to be turned upside-down, the people who make a difference are not superheroes, but people like you and me, who persevere in spite of the odds. And second, readers are the reason for the season. Without you, writers would be lonely people sitting in coffee shops pounding on laptops. With you, we become the tellers of fantastical stories, entertainers, philosophers, and poets. And together, a writer and a reader, we make magic. Thank you for sharing some of your life with me.
I hope you’ll check out Die Back and now book 2 of the Alchimeia series, Vengeance of Grimbald. Both are available on Amazon.
Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
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