Today I have a first for my weekly Speculative Fiction Writer spot - I'm interviewing a husband and wife writing team. Please give a warm welcome to Mark and Kim Todd.
Q: Please tell us a little about yourselves. Where are you from, and what do you do when you're not writing?
K-n-M: Despite what you may have read from other sources, we are normal inhabitants of this planet. Kym has had great success telling people she grew up in Minnesota; Mark has experienced equal plausibility using New Mexico as his place of origin. We recognized similar weirdness in each other when we met in Colorado, where we’ve now lived for years. When we’re not writing, we raise and train horses for dressage and jumping. We like Nordic skiing, hiking, and reading Egyptian hieroglyphs. Oh, and we each have day jobs – Kym a graphic designer and Mark a college professor.
We have six horses, four house cats, and three ranch dogs. Any free time we have beyond working and writing goes to fixing fences, stacking hay, and doctoring sick animals. Any disposable income gets spent on vet bills, farriers, and feed. So, while some people go on vacations or out to dinner, we spend our free time amusing ourselves with our own writing.
Q: You're the first husband and wife writing team I've interviewed. How do you balance writing together with pursuing your own individual writing careers?
K-n-M: Most of our writing is together, and that’s quite a balancing act in and of itself – we call our business Write in the Thick of Things, and that’s how it feels. Kym’s job involves a lot of service journalism, and Mark’s doing the same at school, writing reports, commenting on student work, etc. He steals time late at night for his individual projects, and she uses the early morning hours. Good thing our biorhythms are so different.
Q: When you write together, what is your usual process?
K-n-M: We come up with an idea, write an outline, and literally sit at the keyboard to compose work together. One of us will start a sentence and the other finishes it, or vice versa – all the way through to the end. Yeah, more time consuming than writing paragraphs individually, but we have the advantage of tempering each other every step of the way. If one of us has a stupid idea or a stupid phrase, the other has no problem pointing it out. We don’t need internal editors; we have each other! Neither of us has ever punched the other (yet). How do we stay married using this process, you ask? We refuse to take life so seriously. Laughing at each other is a normal part of our day.
Q: You're about to publish Magicke Outhouse, book three in The Silverville Saga. What is it about?
K-n-M: In a nutshell, good time travel that goes bad. The whole series takes place in Silverville, Colorado, a place where anything can happen. In this, the third book of the series, a local named Buford Price discovers that intersecting ley lines and a mysterious fungus in the bowels of an outhouse allow people to leave their bodies and travel to any place and time via their consciousness, which temporarily possesses someone in a different time destination. It’s got all the makings of a great business venture (Ka Catchers) – if they can just work out the kinks.
Q: Would you like to share an excerpt with us?
K-n-M: Love to. In the scene that follows, Ka Catchers staff members April Schauers and Mica Musil escort a client to the outhouse “Time Portal.” Their guest, Mr. Smith, is an international diplomat traveling incognito, who wants to visit ancient Turkey:
April accompanied Micah and Mr. Smith as far as the flashy façade hiding the outhouse. Along the way, the Ka Catcher team stressed the importance of focusing on the time and place once inside The Time Portal.
“It’s sort of like what Dorothy did when she clicked her heels together three times,” Micah said. “’There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.’ And that’s where she ended up.”
“What?” Mr. Smith asked. “Who is this Dorothy?”
“Never mind,” April said. “You just think about southern Turkey and goat herding twelve-thousand years ago.”
Micah unlocked the façade door, and he and Mr. Smith entered.
“Bon voyage, Mr. Smith,” April called out. “Have a good trip.”
She waited outside but heard him gasp and say, “Is this some sort of joke?” Yep, Micah must be leading him into the outhouse.
After a few minutes, Micah joined her.
“He’s on his way,” he said.
“How long before I can go on my own Day Trip?” She’d decided her destination would be Tintagel Castle in fifth-century Cornwall, England. She didn’t expect to find the Round Table or Holy Grail, but she wanted to see if there really was a King Arthur and Merlin.
“Beats me. Now’s as good a time as any, I guess.”
They entered through the façade, but Micah stopped at the outhouse door. “You’re on your own from here.”
April took a deep breath and approached the door.
“Wait!” Micah reached out, touching her arm. “Maybe you should take out your contacts first. Gonna be in there for a while.”
She popped out the designer star lenses, placed them in a small carrying case, and dropped it in her pocket.
Giving him a hug, she stepped inside the outhouse.
* * *
April barely had time to notice Mr. Smith slumped against the wall, or the sign on the inside door, reading, “This Way Out,” before she found herself curled up next to a rock on a grassy hill.
The first sound she heard was the nearby bleating of goats.
Still a little disoriented, she stood and turned in circles for signs of a castle. But as far as she could see there was nothing but rolling hills dotted with grazing goats. She trotted up a knoll to get a better of idea of how close she was to the coast of the Celtic Sea.
No water in sight.
She looked down at her clothing. Clearly a man’s, but instead of the fifth-century linen or woolen garb she expected, her clothing more resembled a shift dress of crude animal skins. This didn’t look like Arthur’s Cornwall, or even Dorothy’s Kansas.
Her destination looked a lot more like southern Turkey twelve-thousand years ago.
But if that were so, where was Mr. Smith?
From her knoll, she saw a disturbance in the herd. All the animals moved away from one particular goat, which looked at her and started bleating.
The unpopular goat started up the knoll, running toward her. At the moment it rounded a craggy outcropping, a large spotted leopard leaped from one of the rocks and took down the goat with a single swipe.
She watched in horror as the cat settled over the carcass to devour its prey.
* * *
Micah sat in a folding chair situated just outside the outhouse. He unscrewed his thermos and took a swig of coffee to wash down the donut. He figured this part of his job would be the most boring. The waiting. At least he’d remembered to bring a book.
He still worried about two people taking Day Trips at the same time. Initially, Buford had proposed offering multiple-party trips, but he and April had talked him out of it. They certainly hadn’t worked through the consequences, and here they were, trying it on the spur of the moment anyway. He thought back to April’s argument about her own trip. What could go wrong? Chances were, nothing, but it still made him uncomfortable.
He sure wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her. Yeah, she was bossy, but she had stood up for him when Buford had tried to short them on pay. And April sure looked great in that Cleopatra outfit she wore during the commercial’s filming.
She was beautiful, confident, clever – and she lived in the twenty-first century. Of course, she wore lizard lenses and lied for effect. He’d never met anybody so eccentric, but that made her all the more interesting. And despite their rocky introduction, they’d become comrades-in-arms against a world created by Buford Price. Micah even found himself imagining the two of them as a couple.
He laughed out loud. No girl had ever liked spending time with him. Still, was it possible she might one day see more in him than just a coworker? Only one way to find out: He’d take the plunge, invite her to a movie or out to coffee.
Pushing into the chair to find a more comfortable position, he leaned back and daydreamed about a future with someone as complicated as April.
An hour later, the outhouse door blew open and the woman of his dreams stumbled out.
“Micah!” she gasped.
“That was quick.” He moved over to help steady her. “How come you’re back so soon?”
Breathing hard, she rasped, “Mr. Smith …”
“He back already, too?” He looked toward the outhouse.
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Mr. Smith isn’t coming back.”
Q: The cover for Magicke Outhouse is stunning. Who designed it and how much of a creative output did you both have?
K-n-M: [Mark’s aside: Ellie, you have no idea how insufferable living with Kym is going to be for a few days by you gushing over the cover.] Thanks for the compliment on the cover, which Kym designed. That’s one of her graphics jobs. She’s actually made covers for a number other authors as well as several for our publisher, including the first two books in the Silverville Saga series.
Q: If someone were considering reading one of your books for the first time, which would you recommend they read first?
K-n-M: They’re all stand-alone stories, so you can start with any of them. But to understand the full background context, start with Little Greed Men, followed by All Plucked Up, and finally The Magicke Outhouse.
Q: Now for the compulsory random question. If you had to choose five books to send to an alien civilisation, what would they be and why?
K-n-M: First response: some really scary, kick-ass stories that would keep an alien culture from invading us.
1. H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds, which forewarns aliens about the deadly bacteria crawling over every inch of Earth.
2. Any media tie-in Star Trek novel, all of which show what pushy, imperialistic star-faring neighbors we are to other sentient life forms.
3. Superman / Doomsday: Hunter / Prey, the graphic novel where the Man of Steel (once an alien himself) thwarts another alien invader intent on destroying Earth.
4. L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because those flying monkeys would scare the crap out of anyone – or any Thing from space.
5. Finally, any of our Silverville Saga novels to convince aliens no intelligent life lives on this planet.
THE MAGICKE OUTHOUSE (Silverville Saga, #3)
Everyone knows you can’t time-travel. But somehow those rules apply in Silverville, where anything is possible. Combine ley lines with a mysterious privy fungus and you might end up anywhere, from Ancient Egypt to the Wild West or into the future. Add in an almost zombie and a pig that can sing “Happy Birthday,” and you’r e in for a wild ride – if the tour guides can just work out the kinks.
Here’s what reviewers are saying:
“A unique cast of characters makes this a fun and enjoyable read!” – Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of the Amazon Bestselling Cassa series
“This rollicking story keeps the reader captivated until the last, surprising chapter. Who would have thought that a journey that begins in an outhouse could be so much fun?!” – Charlie Craig, showrunner/head writer for SyFi Channel’s hit series Eureka and writer for Fox’s The X-Files
“Mystery, adventure, exotic locations – Kym and Mark Todd have a time-travel hit with this new adventure in the Silverville Saga series. As soon as those deadly kinks are worked out, sign me up.” – Stacia Deutsch, NYT Bestselling author
Kym O’Connell-Todd is a writer and graphic designer. Mark Todd is a college professor and program director for Western State Colorado University's MFA in Creative Writing. They live in the Cochetopa Mountains east of Gunnison with more animals than most reasonable people would feed.
Thank you, Mark and Kim. It's been an absolute pleasure having you here today. I smiled all the way through your answers, especially at the logic behind your book choices. Thank you again for visiting [Ellie's aside: Mark I hope the gushing has stopped, but I don't regret the praise - it's a superb cover!].
At the time of putting this blog post together, I'm at 7644 words. That's 689 behind. I'm planning to get another writing session in before the day ticks over into November 6th. Hopefully, I will have caught up.
If you're taking part this year, how's it going? Are you steaming ahead or just about keeping on track like me?
February Femmes Fatales
It seems like an eternity ago, but back in February 2011 I took part in Lily Child's February Femmes Fatales (FFF). It was when Passing Time - the short story that would later inspire my first short story collection - made it's debut. Another FFF took place the following year, though I did not take part. Since then I've often wondered what happened to all those stories and writers. It seems Lily was having similar thoughts.
I'm thrilled to announce that in February 2014 Lily will be publishing a book containing most of the FFF stories and poetry, plus some bonus material. I can't tell you how thrilled I am about this and will bring you updates as soon as I have them.
That's it for today. I'll be back Friday, taking part in the How I Miss You Blogfest.