I’m excited to have as my guest today Mary Buckham, who has released a Novella and Book One of an exciting new Urban Fantasy series, called the Invisible Recruits. I’ve had the pleasure of taking Mary’s Active Setting class via WriterUniv and learned some great methods of writing strong settings. Now a little about Mary:
Mary was born into a family of artists so as a natural story teller didn’t realize she was creative until an adult. After working in the financial and media industries, as well as raising five children, Mary turned to writing and now loves creating thrills, spills and spells as she follows the ups and downs of fascinating characters starting with Alex Noziak, the heroine of INVISIBLE MAGIC, INVISIBLE FATE and INVISIBLE POWER.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Your interests? When did you start writing?
I wish I had a wonderful, marvelous tale of sitting down one day and deciding to be a writer but my journey didn’t start there. It started with the death of my two-month old son from SIDS or Crib Death one dark December day, a few days before Christmas. He was my fourth child and after his death I had to find a reason to get up every day and put one foot in front of another in order to take care of my other three children. When you experience such a loss you have to dig deep, really deep to discover your own core, your reason for being. For me that was writing. I felt I was meant to share stories with others and that’s what I decided to do, one page at a time, one book at a time.
Thanks for sharing that. I’m sorry for your loss. I have a four year old son and just couldn’t imagine. It’s great that writing gave you something to work through the tragedy.
What has been one of your biggest challenges so far in your writing career?
Never learning how to type. <sigh> When I was in high school and college women were pressured into learning how to type so they could be efficient secretaries and assistants. Since I didn’t want to be either I figured if I didn’t learn typing I would be forced to explore other avenues more in line with my Type A personality. So I still hen peck my way through manuscripts. In my next life I’ll learn how to type so I could finish twice as many books!
LOL. I’m not a good typist. One thing I know for sure is you can teach 🙂 How does teaching help you with the writing craft?
We’ve all heard the old adage, those who can’t teach. That’s a bunch of bull-larkey! I think those that teach have the ability to learn and keep on learning and that’s the most amazing gift! I was not trained to be a teacher but found that in sharing what I’ve learned, usually through trial and error, and helping others I have connected with the most amazing writers worldwide. And these are writers of all genres and at different stages in their careers so the give and take of the learning/teaching process is amazing! If I could live two lives simultaneously and had an extra 24-hours a day I’d write full time and continue to teach full time and love both equally.
What type of scenes do you enjoy writing the most?
Action scenes. Maybe it comes from raising five kids. Give me a good skirmish that’s fast-paced and creates winners and losers and I’m in heaven. But I love dialogue scenes too, and scenes rife with sexual tension. Wow, this was a harder question than I realized 🙂
Yes, with kids, you’re constantly on the move :). Let’s talk about your Invisible Recruits series. When I read about it on your website, I had so many interesting questions pop in my head. Let’s start with what made you decide to expand the concept for Invisible Recruits from an original story of everyday women brought together to fight international threats, to one where they have extra abilities?
I love the theme of self-discovery for women. Many of us are so defined by our roles in life—daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, volunteer, employee, etc.—that we can easily forget or never realize our own potential. That’s where the core of the stories started. Everyday women who have a little extra something-something but have hidden or ignored their abilities until tapped to be part of this secret organization. So these women start from a certain self-identity; hairdresser, debutante, temp worker, con artist and kindergarten teacher and expand that into a secret agent status and then have to embrace their otherness until the women they are becoming are nothing like the women they were.
Your book descriptions mention they were endowed with the abilities. How did that happen and did they have a choice?
A lot of us have untapped abilities, but if those abilities are shunned by the people around us it’s really easy to bury them. Think of artists, singers, poets and yes, even writers, who hide their talents rather than risk criticism or ridicule. Then think of abilities that might be a little more challenging for most people to embrace—being a witch or shaman, a psychic, some one able to become invisible for short bursts of time or someone born without a soul. So I endowed my team of five women with these extra abilities, placed them in a situation where they have to use their hidden abilities and then throw them into danger.
One of your heroines, Alex Noziak, is part witch, part-shaman. Tell us a little about how the two magic identities work together or don’t work together. How is she part shaman?
I love the challenges I’ve heaped on Alex. She’s part Celtic-witch from her mother’s lineage, and being witch-born means it’s not a gift one can walk away from, and yet this same mother abandoned her family when Alex was very young. So Alex associates being a witch with losing her family, which is very important to her. Every time Alex uses her magic she fears loss. From her Shoshone father Alex inherited shamanistic abilities that are virtually untapped and include the ability to cross over and communicate in the spirit realm. So Alex is the by-product of two powerful, but very different gifts, and even she doesn’t realize all the ramifications that mixing magic and spirits can bring.
Anything unusual you had to do for research on this book?
For the novella Invisible Prison, I had to learn about the Idaho prison system and magic spells. For Invisible Magic I dug into exotic locations such as a French chateau, a billionaire’s yacht off Monaco and the Maldives. Wish I could say I’ve visited all these locations first hand but that’s still on my to-do list.
Ummm, yeah I wouldn’t mind the Maldives. What has been one of your favorite characters to write?
I love the Alpha men because they unapologetically grab life by the horns and deal with the aftermath later. But I also love complicated, conflicted characters who are flawed but have good intentions. And villains, there’s nothing quite so juicy as a villain with their own goals and agendas, especially if the reader doesn’t realize that they are a villain. Hint: there are more than one of these in the Invisible Recruit series so keep your eyes peeled for some plot twists based on uncovering bad guys who pose as good guys.
Yes! I love it. I like exploring villians who you think might be redeemable, but then they commit a terrible act, and just cross that line of no return. What themes do you like to explore in your books?
Self-discovery, acceptance, being a fish out of water, learning to expand your comfort zones and trust.
Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it?
For the Young Adult Sci Fi/Fantasy series I’m writing with New York Times author Dianna Love we’re using the pen name Micah Caida. The first in that series was published this year and is called TIME TRAP. The second book in that series will be out this November, called TIME RETURN. Otherwise I write under Mary Buckham.
Do you have other interests/hobbies?
Japanese sword fighting. Falconry. Orchid growing. Nah, not really, that’s my younger sister, but I did once have to babysit her red-tailed hawk and feed it raw meat several times a day <shivering still>. Most of my interests and hobbies are much more sedate. I collect ethnic textiles, Japanese prints and folk dolls from around the world. I love to travel world-wide and I am a voracious reader.
Any cool places you’ve traveled to, and do you include anything from your travels in your books?
I’ve been elephant riding in Northern Thailand, slipped across the Mekong River into Laos, climbed the pyramids outside of Cairo and taken part in a Caelih in Edinburgh, Scotland. Okay, the last wasn’t intentional. I couldn’t understand the Scottish directions to stay frozen when they unleashed the German Shepherd attack dogs so when I ran I became part of the entertainment. I think as a writer all of our live experiences end up in our stories, if not literally, then emotionally. I may not have had to face a Warthog Were like my character did, but that attack dog gave me a good taste of fear!
What exciting experiences and, I agree, I can’t help but slip in little things from my travels in my stories. What book(s) are you reading right now?
LOL! I usually read a new book every day or two so I’m looking at my nightstand now. There’s a couple Robert Van Gulik mysteries with a 13th century Chinese judge as the protagonist, a Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, a women’s fiction book by Emilie Richards, an Ilona Andrews Urban Fantasy and a Markus Zusak young adult novel.
What books/authors have inspired your writing?
Harlan Coben for his pacing and way of reinventing himself as an author; Dennis Lehane and Barbara Kingsolver for their lyrical writing; Meg Gardiner for her craft ability; the list could be endless.
I’ve been meaning to read Lehane for quite some time so am now more motivated to check out his writing. What’s next? Any new titles we should be looking for?
LOL! Coming up this year INVISIBLE POWER (May release); INVISIBLE FATE (fall release); TIME RETURN (November release) and then I start in on three books and a novella for another member of the Invisible Recruit Agency for 2014.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I’d like to say a huge thank you for every reader who is willing to try a new-to-them author, who is willing to tell a friend about a great book they read and is willing to read in a world where reading is becoming a rarity. It’s because of readers that writers continue to write. To each of you – thank you!
Blurb for Invisible Prison:
Magic is the last gift Alex Noziak wants but she must embrace it to gain her freedom.
Alex Noziak, part-witch, part-shaman is dumped into the middle of four hostile non-human females and expected to train as a team to protect humans from preternatural threats. Prison never looked so good in comparison.
To save the innocent, Alex must call upon her untested abilities, but at what cost?
Book One: Invisible Magic
Hidden from a world unaware of magic, a recently and only partially trained group of operatives known as the Invisible Recruits are the only ones willing to stand between mankind and those powerful preternatural factions seeking to change the balance of power and gain world domination.
Alex Noziak, part witch/part shaman, anticipates facing dangerous preternaturals out for blood . . not fashion week. But when the rookie agent is sent undercover to find out who, or what, is behind a series of world-wide thefts of top-secret intelligence, Alex tangles with the Seekers.
Seekers hunt gifted human individuals like Alex and her squad whose rare powers can keep the balance between human and nonhuman squarely on the side of the humans. Her simple assignment turns into a battle of survival for everyone involved when she crosses Bran, a mysterious warlock, who might be her only ally or worst enemy.
She has nothing to lose, except her life.
I ignored Kelly’s breathing next to me, Mandy’s scowl across from me, and Jayleen tightening both her hands along her sword’s shaft. The late afternoon sunlight was streaming through high clearstory windows around the gym, the hiss of kerosene lamps I’d set up for back up lighting mingling with the quiet. Demon baiting in the dark was suicidal.
My voice was calm and deep as I raised my hands and began the summoning chant once more:
Here in this place and before the eyes of the unbelievers, come forth.
I call the creatures of the elements. The seekers of release who wish to walk amongst the humans.
I bid you to destroy the binds holding you in thrall.
Come. Prove yourselves.
A faint wind brushed against my skin. A hot, dry wind, not from damp Maryland in March, but someplace far away. Smelling of sulfur and brine.
I squeezed my eyes shut and kept chanting, stretching my arms higher, deepening my voice, ignoring the fissure of warning along my skin.
There is a reason for being. Journey here. Now.
May your masters honor and bow before you. Sending you on your way.
You who laugh at the mortals. Come close.
Echo-demon I summon thee!
The wind picked up and I swore I could feel grit and sand abrading my skin. Kelly caught her breath. I kept my eyes closed.
We welcome you demon of the deep. Come play with us. Show us your might.
Demons did love a dare.
The lights in the room flickered then went out. My eyelids flew open. Fortunately the few kerosene lanterns stayed lit even as they cast long wavering shadows dancing across the room and deepening the darkness in all four corners.
Mandy was no longer scowling but sending wary glances over both her shoulders. Jayleen faced where the danger was greatest, head-on, towards the circle. After her childhood what was one lone demon.
Kelly’s breathing came short and shallow. I feared she’d hyper-ventilate before I finished the summoning. But I couldn’t stop now. The echo-demon was too close. I could feel it’s presence like sharp cat claws stepping paw by paw across my exposed arms. The tensing of my neck and shoulders. The knot tightening in my gut.
“Come on,” I whispered, “show your ugly face. Come forth and die.”
Now! Echo-demon. Close nearby as day dissolves into night. Show us your—
The explosion ripped through the room. Tossing me far enough backwards I landed with a curse on my tailbone. Ten feet in front of me Jayleen and Mandy held their positions. They were no longer waiting or wary. Legs braced, swords held high, muscles tensed. They were ready for bear.
Crap. Where was. . .Kelly had winked out. Only her sword shook in the flickering light. The late afternoon sky had clouded over, as if evil brought its own darkness.
And not one but three echo-demons swirled like a bad nightmare in the middle of the gym; twelve feet tall, brackish green in color, scales covering their bodies as they materialized into more corporeal shapes. First one, with three horns sprouting from his misshapen head, then the second, with a gaping mouth of shark-like teeth, and then the third, with a double-forked tail, each ending in a knobby spike.
Oh by the Goddesses, what had I done?
You can find Mary at the following: