Thursday, 16 October 2014

Crimson Son by Russ Linton

Today, somewhat later that intended, I'm very happy to play host to Russ Linton and his 'Crimson Son'. First, let's find out a little about the book, then we'll see what we can discover about the author.


His mother kidnapped, his superhero father absent, powerless Spencer Harrington faces a world of weaponized humans to prove himself and find the truth.

Nineteen-year-old Spencer is the son of the Crimson Mask, the world's most powerful Augment. Since witnessing his mother's abduction by a psychotic super villain two years ago, he's been confined to his father's arctic bunker. When the "Icehole" comes under attack from a rampaging robot, Spencer launches into his father's dangerous world of weaponized human beings known as Augments.

With no superpowers of his own save a multi-tool, a quick wit and a boatload of emotional trauma, Spencer seeks to uncover his mother's fate and confront his absentee superhero father. As he stumbles through a web of conspiracies and top secret facilities, he rallies a team of everyday people and cast-off Augments. But Spencer soon discovers that the Black Beetle isn't his only enemy, nor his worst.

I hope you enjoyed that tasty snippet, and are ready to move on, with me, to find out more about the author who wrote it.

Out of all the characters you’ve written which one has affected you most? Not necessarily which one you like most, but which one ‘got to you’?

The one which got to me the most would have to be the nameless character from a short story I wrote, The Doctor's Session. The character is nameless because the story is a second person narrative intended to place the reader into the character's shoes. Shoes most would cringe at being offered.

He (as I couldn't settle on an unobtrusive way to disguise gender) is a serial killer. The story follows his admission into a psychiatric ward after being arrested for one of his grisly murders. As the story continues, you discover that this was not the first time and in a series of reports and emails from his doctor, we discover that he seems to be successfully manipulating the system in order to be released.

To prep for the story, I watched hours of interviews with real life serial killers. One story, related in this matter-of-fact tone by a giant of a man with the most strangely delicate hands, really grabbed me and I tried my best to get into his head space. I spent days after that in an almost nihilistic funk (staring into soulless eyes will do that to you.)

The story was accepted for the anthology, Mental Ward: Stories form the Asylum, so I’m going to hesitantly say it was worth it.

Which character caused you most difficulty to write?

Eric, the best friend of the protagonist in my novel, Crimson Son. He isn't a particularly hard character to write, but I wanted him to have a shared history with Spencer. Interests, hobbies, even phrases they used.

The problem though was trying to separate their voice. Beta readers commented it was hard to track who was speaking when Spencer and Eric were going back and forth - a little closer than I intended.

So I had to separate his voice out from Spencer. I added a few more quirks and really figured out not what they shared, but how they were different. I also tried to assign most of the f-bombs to Spencer, 'cause that's more his thing. Eric gets more interesting with his exclamations.

When do you do your best writing… morning, afternoon, evening, night?

Afternoon. I’ve fallen into a pattern where I get up and get all the boring, mundane, annoying things done first. Exercise, so I can live long enough to finish my next book; grocery shopping, so my family doesn’t starve before I finish my next book; marketing, so I can have enough money to publish the next book.

After all that, I sit down and get to work. I don’t know if it qualifies for my “best” writing – my best writing might have been completely sober in a Vegas hotel room at –bleh- in the morning. But, afternoon is when I’m finding time to write regularly at the moment.

Which story caused you the most difficulty to write?

I have a story titled, “Servant to None” about a female holy warrior from a fantasy world who has a crisis of faith on the eve of the apocalypse. I happen to think it’s a great story, with this epic climax that involves her wading into a pile of monsters boiling up out of a swamp. There’s a lot of complicated stuff going on –two moons with one in a degrading orbit around the other and social commentary on slavery and gender roles. Each time I’ve taken a stab at fixing it, I can’t seem to get it quite right. I haven’t given up though and hopefully it will be out in print soon.

Which character is most like yourself?

Probably Spencer, the protagonist of my book, Crimson Son. The big difference is that he’s always “on”. A bit hyper, though I was more like that *cough* years ago.

Like him, I’m a terrible smart ass and am fortunate enough to have found a wife that puts up with it. I’m also pig-headed and have no problem wandering into situations where I’m clearly over my head.

Spencer also shares an interest in techy-computer stuff on an experimental, self-taught level (though he’s MUCH better at it than I am.) He also knows more about things I wish I had more aptitude for, like chess or an ability to talk about sports other than “stick hit ball go boom.” Here in Texas, you’re bound to end up in some sort of internment camp when they secede if you can’t speak “sport”.

I mean, I played a bit of football in high school, but don’t bother to keep up with college and NFL teams and I’d rather visit the dentist than watch baseball. The one game I went to with my father and grandfather years ago, my Dad was pretty embarrassed about my heckling of the batters (both teams, I was an equal opportunity harasser) and we never went to another.

Do you have any music that you associate with a character or scene?

When I was fleshing out Eric’s character, Spencer’s nutty best friend, I asked myself what music would he listen to? I wanted a unique sound that I hadn’t heard before but that Eric would totally be into. I surfed around YouTube, checking out electronic, punk, indie bands of all kinds and stumbled across Medic Droid.

The second I heard the synthesized beat startup I knew I’d found it. In fact, even before that, the name alone had sold me. A name ripped right out of Star Wars and a heavily electronic sound and lyrics that were scathing and relentless, they fit Eric to a “T”.

Do you plan your stories and, if so, to what extent?

No. I sit, I write. I have a vague idea of where I think the plot should go but what comes out through the keyboard at any moment might derail that. I try to keep the first draft as fluid as possible and then worry about structuring things in subsequent drafts.

Do you plan your characters?

I often discover my characters as I write. As with my “pantsing” for plotting, I have an idea of what I want the character to be like when I start. Their motivations, how they deal with situations and what kind of quirks they might have which will entertain the reader and make the hero’s journey easier or more difficult. I don’t have any of this written down beforehand, it’s just whatever read I can get on the voice in my head.

Often, I discover skills they have which I don’t. Spencer likes baseball. Sidge, the protagonist in my current work in progress, enjoys sewing. At that point, I start researching, just to make sure I can be passingly convincing and make my characters believable. That might be as deep as I go on “planning” them.

How many times have you started a story and abandoned it?

Not that many. Without digging through my folder, I’d say only three or four. I have maybe a dozen short stories which haven’t sold or which are making the rounds through the slush piles in hopes of selling. I also have several that I finished and decided they weren’t working out and subsequently got put on a backburner status.

The backburner though is getting to a critical heat level…

How many stories do you work on at any one time?

Usually only one, but since I’ve built up a backlog of stories I want to revisit, I’m revising about a half dozen. Many times, I’ll be writing for a specific anthology deadline and don’t have the luxury of stopping to work on something else. However, I’m always working on a longer piece when I’m doing short stories. So, technically, I do work on at least two at a time.

Are there any hidden messages in any of your stories?

Absolutely. Hidden messages, symbols, I probably use them too liberally. I’ve gotten wrapped up in the idea of communicating hidden messages before and ended up derailing the story. That’s when my critique group bats me around the ears and tells me to just fucking write. I do what they say and things get better.

I’ve always struggled with subtlety. When I was running RPGs for friends, they’d often need to drag details out of me, important details which I was squirrelling away like nuts for some undetermined winter. When I finally revealed things, they’d almost always be excited with the plot twist and we could start building the story together again.

I’ve gotten better at it through my writing. Perfected? No. But I have learned that the best hidden messages are those which you don’t consciously try to plant. (See? I just planted my nuts.)

Do you have any other hobbies?

I like gaming in all forms: role playing games, board games, computer games. I‘ve also recently developed a hobby of answering questions about myself. I think it’s like taking selfies only I normally wear clothes and only occasionally have a duck face. All the narcissism but none of the stigma.

Roleplaying games were my gateway drug not to satanic worship and the sacrifice of small animals, but to writing. I was plotting and developing characters well before I wrote my first story and I was world building before I learned how many tables and charts it didn’t actually require. Collaborative fiction with rules and an element of chance, that’s what RPGs are and the improvisational nature of them is great for honing creative skills.

Other hobbies? Unlike many of my gamer brethren, I love to visit places where the body creates that mystical substance, Vitamin D, and the wireless signals are limited to tree-to-tree communication via bird song. Hiking, camping and even a bit of backpacking are all at the top of my list of favorites.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have this ring…

What one thing in life can you not do without (coffee? Music? Sex?)

My family. I tried it for a bit and it sucked. I had a job where I traveled and some years, I’d see the inside of my company car more than I saw my wife and son. Interesting job (boring much of the time punctuated by moments of intense Charlie Foxtrot) and one that I thought I might even retire out of.

Dammit, doing the subtlety thing again. This might be why I was hired. Anyway, I’m talking about my job with the F.B.I. No, it isn’t anything like TV. Yes, they don’t mind you thinking it is.

Six years in and I found I was miserable not watching my son grow up. I was also tired of the office politics and bureaucracy and had an overwhelming urge to NOT be someone’s employee EVER again. Government work does that to you. Either that or it lulls you into mind-numbing routine punctuated by paperwork and rules which you need a spindle of string to find your way out of. By the time you emerge, you’re old and gray and ready to start dining at one of those buffet joints.

The first day I walked my son to school, I knew I’d made the right decision and knew where my priorities lay.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about your stories, plans, other works in an orgy of blatant self promotion feel free.

For my blatant self-promotion, I simply want to tell everyone if you don’t buy my book, killer robots will destroy your house. I may launch a Kickstarter for my next book and will consider calling off this killer robot assault at one of the pledge levels, I’m not sure.

By the way, my next book has absolutely nothing to do with Crimson Son. As mentioned earlier in the interview, I’m pig-headed and insist on doing things my own way. No vampire trilogies here to skyrocket up the Amazon charts. Just crazy, character-driven fantasy of all flavors written for the young heart and youngsters who are old souls.

My next novel is closer to high fantasy and I’ve been pitching it as “Metamorphosis meets Lord of the Rings in a mandir.” (This is why I self-pub…) The book follows the adventures of Sidge, a member of a bug-humanoid race known as the Ek’Kiru.

Sidge was orphaned as a larvae and raised in a secluded monastery by human monks. The book follows his struggles with identity as a traditional epic fantasy adventure blossoms in the background. In the end, the fate of a world may hinge on his decisions, or it may not. But the most important question is whether he will come to accept himself for who he really is. 

Awesome interview!!! Don't you just love the attitude rolling off it in bucketfulls? If Spencer is anything like his creator I'm going to have one hell of a wild ride once I get on the back of his bike, He has to have a bike of some sort, right? Flashy? Silver and black? Rockets? Go faster stripes? furry dice.., unless the dots are skulls and there are razors hidden around the edges. Anyway, I digress, Take a look at a scintillating snippet from Spencer's world.

The sound of dry leaves cascading downhill gets louder. My forehead lies flat on the cool earth and stubbornly, my head refuses to turn when I try to get a better look. My eyeballs feel disconnected and keep spinning, no matter how hard I focus. I see running shoes and black, ankle-length stretchy pants approaching. Maybe an Augment?

Wiry arms encircle my chest and start to pull. My moon boots catch at an awkward angle along the frame. As much as I’d love to, I can’t get my limbs to cooperate. She lifts and shifts and twists, struggling with my dead weight until the boot comes free and we tumble backwards. Smooth, damp, cool skin envelops my face for an instant and despite the mental numbness, my thawing hormones recognize the source.

Real, honest to God, non-digitized breasts. Goodbye, iPod diva.

The mystery girl struggles to her feet and drags me away from the crash site. Gently, she lays me on my side and kneels. A highlighted strand of dark brown hair has escaped her ponytail, dangling down her cheek. Her eyes glow with green flecks in the woodland light. Her lips are parted as if she’s mid-sentence. No makeup, just sweat and a smudge of dirt, all forming a stunning image.

I feel violently ill. Stabilizing my spinning head and lurching stomach becomes a priority.

I roll over and clamber to my knees, palms flat on the ground. Standing would be a good start. Impressive, even. Heck, it would impress the hell out of me if I can manage to get vertical with the earth moving this much. I stagger to my feet while she keeps her hands poised to stop the impending face plant.

Figuring out some ingenious way of explaining how I crash landed in the woods that a) makes me sound badass, and b) convinces her I’m not an alien invader (unless she’s into that) isn’t working out at the moment. I could say something cool: “Me? I’ve seen worse.” Or go the funny guy route: “I meant to do that.”

Opening my mouth is a big mistake.

I really hope she didn’t like those shoes.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

In the fourth grade, Russ Linton wrote down the vague goal of becoming a “writer and an artist” when he grew up. After a journey that led him from philosopher to graphic designer to stay at home parent and even a stint as an Investigative Specialist with the FBI, he finally got around to that “writing” part which he now pursues full time.

Russ creates character-driven speculative fiction. His stories drip with blood, magic, and radioactive bugs. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls.

Local / Personal Bio

Russ lives in Denton, Texas where he writes beside an unnervingly quiet dog with the support of his history-obsessed son and his extremely patient wife. He regularly pursues community service and is currently scoutmaster for his son’s Boy Scout troop. He is a regular at the North Branch Writers’ Critique Group and has honed his craft through creative writing courses with Stanford University’s continuing studies program as well as writing workshops at local conventions.

Russ holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do which was marginally more useful in a former life not making his living from behind a desk. He enjoys the outdoors and when he isn’t leading his scouts on virtual campouts in Minecraft, he’s making them haul their gear across state parks in the North Texas area.

Well, thank you so much for your time and trouble in giving a great interview and writing a fab book, If we're lucky there will be people racing to purchase it even as we read. Go for it!!

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  1. Thanks so much for hosting my book! I've been away from my connection today so a bit late checking in, but if there are any questions I'll be around to answer!