Monthly Archives: July 2015

July 27th, 2015

Far From Where I Grew Up

My cousin, Ben Brooke, arrived in Basel last Saturday, midway through a three-month Eurail tour. We had a fantastic time showing him around Basel and a little bit of the rest of Switzerland. As we did the things tourists do, answered Ben’s questions, and generally horsed around, it hit me once again: I’m an American living abroad, one foot in the American culture and one in the Swiss one. I write books in English, but I speak German in my daily life. Sometimes it takes a visit like this to make me realize how lucky we are.

This being Switzerland, we had to go and see the mountains.


We took a cable car in Grindelwald to get up there, and at 7,000 feet had these views.

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Like I said, enough to make you feel like horsing around.

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Back in Basel, we took a ride on one of the ferries that cross the Rhine. They work on a special system without any kind of motor. It’s so quiet, all we hear is the water slapping against the long wooden hull. The passage to the other side costs 1.60 Swiss Francs for adults, and 80 cents for kids.

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Ben thought it would be a good idea to go up in the steeple of Basel’s cathedral. On such a windy day, I wasn’t so sure. But the view from up there was spectacular.


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At a spot on the Rhine River in Basel lies the confluence of three countries, Germany, France and Switzerland. We stood over that spot on the International Peace Bridge.

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About two hours’ drive from Basel we visited the St. Beatus Cave system, taking the guided tour almost 900 meters into the cave interior. The cave entrance is situated a short hike up the side of the mountain. From up there you have a tremendous view of the Lake of Thun.

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A lot of people settle in the place where they were born and raised. Others, like me, plant new roots in a place far from where they originally came from.

What about you? Do you live far from your birthplace? Write your answer in the comments below. Your story would interest me.



July 20th, 2015

Why Write About Drones? with Author Jackson Dean Chase

Drones-1Ever wonder why people write about drones? Wonder no more. The next few months, I’ll be interviewing authors about their interest in the future, the influence drones could and do have on our culture, and where they might go next.

This week, Jackson Dean Chase stopped by the blog to talk about his own fascination with drones in his novel, aptly titled, Drone.

  1. What inspired you to write your YA novel, Drone?

Jackson Dean Chase: Drone was inspired by my love of science fiction. It plays with the tropes of modern dystopian novels while combining them with a Star Wars sensibility. By that, I mean lots of action. I don’t want to waste pages talking about technology or with my heroine sitting around moping about boys instead of saving the world. Where’s the fun in that?Drone-Series-72dpi-1500x2000

  1. What made you decide to write in the science fiction genre after writing in the horror genre? Was it harder or easier? Why?

JDC: Although I’m a passionate horror fan, I don’t want to be thought of as a “horror author.” I want to be thought of as an author, period—one who delivers stories that transcend genre and category. But switching from horror to science fiction was difficult. It’s hard to keep the technology straight and to rely on science to explain things instead of the supernatural. Fortunately, that’s what editors are for.

  1. Are there elements of horror in your YA dystopian series, Beyond the Dome?

JDC: Absolutely! The first time my heroine has to kill an enemy is horrific, and when she has to look at herself in the mirror afterward—knowing what she has become—that’s horrific too. I don’t shy away from the violence or how it affects my characters. There’s a mad scientist, organ harvesting, arranged marriages and forced pregnancy, not to mention people dropping dead when they hit their genetic expiration date. But for me, the real horror is the future society’s “Elite” vs. “Drone” caste system and the ruthless corporations that run it.

  1. Do you connect better with your horror series or dystopian?

JDC: I connect with story. A great story will work in any time period, any genre. Star Wars does it by combining the western and samurai film with sci-fi. John Maddox Roberts transplanted hardboiled and noir into Conan the Rogue, brilliantly combining Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest and The Maltese Falcon with Conan the Barbarian.

  1. Did you find it challenging to capture the perspective of teen girl in Drone? Why or why not?

hard_times_web_fileJDC: If you’re going to grow, I think it’s important to write outside your comfort zone. But at the same time, you need to find ways to stay within it, because that’s what you know best and have the most passion for. So I’ll take a genre I love, like horror or science fiction, and instead of writing it from my male point of view, I’ll write it from the opposite.

  1. What is the theme that links all of your books together? Where did it come from?

JDC: Wish fulfillment is the theme, usually from the plight of the Outsider. It’s brought on by pain, by loneliness, and the desire to escape, to shine—no matter the cost. The pain you read on the page is my pain, my experience, filtered through the eyes of my characters and their reality.

I wasted a few decades being depressed and angry. It wasn’t until I started writing that I learned to love myself, to forgive my mistakes, and move on. The beauty of having overcome my darkness is I can still feel it, still tap into it without trauma, without pain. It’s a tool now, fodder for my fiction, where it belongs.

  1. Why do you think dark and edgy, fantasy-based books have become so popular amongst young adults?

JDC: I think they’ve always been popular, they just haven’t been accepted into the “YA” category until the past decade or so—at least not in any numbers. Before that, you had teens reading about teens in adult books like Flowers in the Attic or The Basketball Diaries, but there was no “YA” equivalent. What finally opened the floodgates to the new tide of dark YA was the increasingly desperate, post-911 world we find ourselves in. Horror and suspense thrive in uncertain, dangerous times; consuming fantasy horror and suspense provides a safe outlet for that fear.

  1. Has writing horror ever affected your mood? Have you ever not been able to snap out of the emotions you engage when you write haunting scenes?

JDC: A few times, but only when I was being affected by unpleasant real life events—ones I hadn’t had time to process. But the mood doesn’t last long; I won’t let it. After all, I want to write about horrifying events, not live them. [laughs]

  1. Do you have any new projects coming out? warrior3

JDC: Sure! I’m writing Warrior, the sequel to Drone and getting ready to publish Hard Times in Dronetown, which is a short story prequel. You can check out my current and upcoming books at If you go now, you get my Starter Library free.

 About Jackson:

I’m an author and poet who specializes in Young Adult fiction. While much of my initial work JDC_Color_Minifalls within the Dystopian and Horror genres, I plan to add fantasy, science fiction, and thrillers throughout 2015 and beyond. I will also be releasing adult novels and poetry collections.

I hail from vampire country. No, not Transylvania—the other one in Washington state. I grew up wandering the rain-swept wilderness hoping to find the magic portal that would take me home. I never found the portal, but I did find another way out… through writing.

I’ve always loved science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but it wasn’t until I combined them with pulp thrillers and noir that I found my voice as an author. I want to leave my readers breathless, want them to feel the desperate longing, the hope and fear my heroes experience as they struggle not just to survive, but to become something more.



July 8th, 2015

My Birthday Surprise

I was born, as my mother never tires of telling, on May 1st at one minute past midnight. The doctor gave her the choice, and she chose May 1st. This is why, a few weeks ago, on April 30th, my girlfriend kept me up till midnight to wait for my birthday cake. We sat on the balcony, enjoying the unseasonably mild May weather and the peaceful quiet in our neighborhood. As a church bell somewhere nearby struck twelve, it seemed as if we were the only people awake in this part of Basel.

At last, 12:01, my birthday!


My girlfriend brought a strawberry cake with one candle burning on top. We made a toast, and the toast was identical to the wish I made before blowing my candle out, and I was thinking, this cake is a very nice surprise. My girlfriend had been telling me for weeks that she had a surprise for my birthday. I thought this was the surprise. But it turned out the cake was just the beginning. When we finished our cake, she said, “Now, come with me.”

Although it was past midnight, my girlfriend led me up the stairs to our attic, where I found a fully-packed suitcase and a birthday card on top. Imagine my shock when I opened the card to find a cut-out picture of the Eiffel Tower pasted to the red paper. I had always wanted to go to Paris with her. Now she’d gone and booked a trip for us for my birthday.

We left the next morning.

Although Basel lies about three hundred and sixty miles from Paris, the speedy TGV train got us there in just over three hours. You see the French countryside zipping past, but you don’t realize how fast you’re going until you reach a stretch where the trail line parallels the highway. The train easily overtakes even the Porsches and Ferraris passing all the slower cars, driven by young men who think they’re going to live forever.

The trip to Paris was a fantastic surprise culminating a year of surprises, in which I finished the third and last book in the Drone Wars series (coming July 15th!), and mostly stayed off of social media and my blog. I didn’t miss social media itself, not at all. What I did miss was having contact with you all, my readers.

This latest book took a lot out of me, and I had to say no to a ton of invitations and opportunities to remain focused and finish it. I’m happy to say the job is now done, and the book is being formatted right now. I hope you like the cover:TherDroneWars_ebookcover

Anyway, while in Paris, I left my laptop at home and of course didn’t give a single thought to the role drones might play in our future. We spent three and a half wonderful days there, and here are my main impressions.


The restaurants

We arrived at lunchtime, and since it was raining when we came out of our hotel, ready to explore Paris, we sought shelter in the first decent-looking eatery we found, which was on the Avenue de Suffren, 100 yards from our hotel. Here we ate a delicious plate of pasta and salads, which, with soft drinks, cost us less than 40 Euros. The service was friendly, and we had our food within ten minutes. This restaurant was situated in a row of restaurants, all on the Avenue de Suffren. We tried all of them, and in each the staff was friendly, the food was good and also cheap, and the service was impeccable. In three and a half days we did not encounter a single unfriendly waiter or waitress, contrary to my expectations.


IMG_3318The rain

We wanted to see the city rather than zipping around underneath it, so we braved the rain and wind for the first two days, no métro. Long stretches of the River Seine are flanked by green parkland. We walked the entire length of the Champs Elysées in the rain, from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triumph, before heading back down the hill from there to our hotel near the Eiffel Tower.


The lines

My girlfriend had a number of tourist landmarks on her bucket list. We started with the Louvre. IMG_3280Oh, my, when we arrived at that pyramid, the sight that greeted us … just finding the end of the line took twenty minutes. It was just a light rain, but the wind was also a factor, and we said to ourselves, the Louvre will have to wait till our next trip. We probably could have booked online tickets, but in other cities our experience with those has been mixed, to say the least.


On to Notre Dame, where we thought it might be fun to climb the 350 steps to the roof for a view of Paris, and the famous gargoyles. But when we arrived at Notre Dame, the line snaked backward the whole length of the cathedral and as much again down the other street. They told us there was no guarantee that we would even get in that day, even if we waited in the line. So instead we enjoyed the pictures of the gargoyles in our guidebook.


IMG_3329The line at the Versailles Palace serpentined six times through the entire length of the gravel courtyard, and kept moving in the pouring rain, like a Chinese parade dragon. With our shoes squishing with water, despite umbrellas and raincoats, not having made any progress in this line after thirty minutes, we gave up and returned to the ticket office. They gave us our money back without a fuss.


The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower loomed over us numerous times over three and a half days, mostly in the rain, IMG_1459as we began or ended our walking tours. Every time we walked through the gigantic iron arches, we had to thread our way through the monstrously long lines just to get to the other side. However, on our last day, when the sun suddenly came out as we were walking under the tower, we noticed that one of the lines only extended out a little way. Forty minutes later we found ourselves on the second level of the famous tower, almost four hundred feet above the city of light, snapping unforgettable pictures.


Dressed up for the occasion

Dressed up for the occasion

The Moulin Rouge

I would show you pictures of the show from this famous cabaret hall, but photography of the performers was prohibited, and we didn’t want to get kicked out of our front row seats. The dance numbers and comedy skits, and even one acrobatic act, kept us enthralled for two hours. The costumes featured unbelievable feathered creations and explosions of color.




It was blissful spending three and a half days without my laptop, without my book, my story. This was my sixth book. Finishing is always hard, because it means letting go, giving up, in a way. You’re thinking: maybe the story would be stronger, easier to read, if I just revised once more.

But once in a while you have to take time to live your own story. Don’t you agree?