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John's Melange Author Page
Before we talk about your work, let's talk about the man behind the words. Where do you live and what do you do when you're not writing vampire-killing squadrons or murder mysteries?
I live in Taylorsville, Utah and work as a tutor in Salt Lake Community College's Learning Center. I also am a huge science geek with avid interests in nature, spaceflight, animal behavior and a number of sciences that all find purpose in my writing.
Now, let's get into Squad V. Here's a bit about it:
In the decades following the second world war the United States created new agencies and departments to address a wide range of issues including intelligence, emergency response to disaster and disease as well as covert warfare both abroad and domestically. These converge on discovery of a new threat not only to the U.S. but to the fundamental nature of human society and physiology.
Quincy Barns, a former U.S. Army Ranger and CIA paramilitary operative, learns that not only are vampires real but there is a professional combat force trained and equipped to face the threat they pose. Once recruited into Squad Five Quincy faces enemies and inner dilemmas like nothing the hardened veteran can imagine.
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Seeing vampires in movies and reading a few novels I often wondered what would tbe scientific basis be. After that, like anything else in the real world, if it's truly transformative to the society there would be a government policy. When deemed a threat for a myriad of reasons there comes the question of how to take them down. "Pacify" them in that covert operations underworld euphemism. John Carpenter's movie, Vampires in 2003 is what really had my wheels turning.
What are the vampires in Squad V like? Do they tend to be hopeless romantics or mindless blood sippers? Or a little of both?
Vampires of old were seen as not only no longer human, but incapable of human qualities. The last of these was Thirty Days of Night a few years ago. Yet most of today's vampire stories portray their emotions and thoughts with motives all too familiar. So I decided that the most terrible aspect of vampires was their humanity. The saying is that sports doesn't build character, rather it reveals character. The same should hold true with a pathogen offering incredible positive qualities, not the least of which being eternal life, vigor and youth. Take away rule of law, consequences within the realm of society and mortal concerns from your average person. Pull back those layers of skin and what might emerge. Particularly if the carrier is someone from a past century with outdated morals and, due to extreme life history, has become survival fixated. These are also the reason for Squad V's policy of absolute pacification.
Did you have to do lots of military research for Squad V and did you enjoy it?
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I find the science of warfare fascinating, and grew intreagued at the possibility of ancient and medieval tactics possibly gaining new life in modern times. Many of the close quarter combat scenes in Squad V I choreographed to be sure they weren't too complicated to work and didn't render operators off balance or unable to quickly counter the unexpected. Also, I enjoy well crafted violence in fiction for two reasons. It lets me get out my own stress harmlessly and offers a chance to teach readers why warfare is a thing to be avoided if possible. Walking the audience through the mind-scarring consequences of witnessing a man burned alive summons up Nietzsche's warning to be careful of slaying monsters lest you become one.
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Nine dead. One missing. No suspects and no leads. What happened in the cabin outside Wilson Wyoming?This sounds like a chilling murder mystery along the lines of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians". How did you come up with this one, and did you find it a challenge to keep it unpredictable?
The blurb arose spontaneous as I went to the kitchen for coffee. Though slightly less amazing than Tolkien scrawling out his opening line for The Hobbit, it challenged me to draft a story that answered why, despite one person missing, there were no suspects and no leads. The story of greatest influence included PeterCushing and is referenced in Half Seen, Half Hidden. Yet, as much as a mystery, it also musters up a tragedy for the reader to learn who these people are, grow to like them and- oh yeah, nine of these wonderful and fun people die on you. Inevitability could conceivably creep in to illustrate that how they live is as important as how they die. As the tale unfolds I also hope to challenge people with what they think they know.
If you've ever read one of my interviews, you know that a random question is a must. This is yours: If you could erase one day in history, which one would it be, and why?
Given how things are going in the environments of the world I'm tempted to jump back into prehistory. I would seek out that first ape who considered giving up living in trees to eek out a living in the savannahs of Africa. Staving them back with a hand my message, if I could get that across to them, would be, "No, no. Stay in the jungle my friend. Sure, leopards and snakes are mean, and that alpha ape in charge of the troop is a bully, but out here is a path leading to irreversible damage the likes of which you can't imagine. Just turn around and suck it up."
Now, Mr. Steiner, would you please share an excerpt from a published work or even a work-in-progress?
Fire Alive! is a novel I just finished. First is the blurb and after is the scene is where the second of my two main characters is introduced.
Fire. The light by which we tell our stories and mythic tales. It kept the night at bay for hundreds of thousands of years. It guided humanity’s migrations across the globe, and became mankind’s first weapon of mass destruction.
What if fire developed a mind of its own?
By initial appearance the twenty three year old wore more than his unfair share of youth, but something about the eyes hinted at emotional aging double the normal rate. Every firefighter needed to be in exceptional shape, yet Duane suspected Malcolm had always been strong and healthy. Even a semi-lax grip on his bag revealed a powerful hold.
"Malcolm O’Connell, Probationary Firefighter, come with me." Duane said in much less than army sergeant tone, which, if he guessed right, Malcolm anticipated.
"Sir." the young man cadence also half a notch below his usual.
"Duane Longhurst," he eluded to a fire station’s less formal atmosphere, as he led the way. "The crew call me Longhand, but stick to Longhurst over the radio."
Again in the hall Duane took Malcolm upstairs to show him his room and let him drop off his things. "Okay, this is yours for the next two days. Some of the older stations still have barracks rooms lined with bunks like at the Academy, but not this one."
"One downtown still has a pole, I hear." Malcolm commented absently.
"We got our share of tradition here." Duane offered feeling a flush of pride in his chest. "I’m going to show you one right now. Come with me."
Longhand took him down another hall, stopping to reveal closets with cleaning supplies and other housekeeping, past the recreational room with two rows of recliners facing a single entertainment center. In a perpendicular shorter hall Duane and Malcolm went to a door opening up to a double high garage sheltering Station Eight’s ladder truck and engine; the left and right hands of every fire/rescue station.
The garage’s architecture cut across the station’s 13th South and Main facing corner with tall roll up doors both ways. It allowed a truck to pull in forward and exit likewise to ease departure from and emergence into traffic. Unlike trucks and engines used when Duane joined the department these ran on natural gas instead of diesel using a new generation of high efficiency turbine engines. It created some fuel accessability issues, but stood as a lesser evil than extortionately high fuel prices which increasingly assailed every emergency service until cities around the country decided they had enough.
Yet before Malcolm could step into the garage Duane stayed him with an index finger pointing to a plaque by the door. On well lacquered and polished oak appeared three photos of firefighters in uniform under which shown brass plates for their names, ranks and the station number. Stamped boldly read their dates of birth to death-in-the-line-of-duty. Longhand gave the kid time to soak in the moment.
"What we know as firefighters doesn’t come cheaply, Probie. That price was paid by our brothers before us. So every time we go on a call we pay homage to these brethren on our way out. Each one of these men and woman," Duane added a singular for the firefighter he personally knew seven years prior. "Passed by this door to save lives, protect property and serve the community they loved. You understand, son?"
"Hoo’ah Sir!" Malcolm’s U.S. Army habitual affirmation crept though.
Duane wondered how long it’d take for him to shake that mind set out, but let it pass as he and Malcolm entered into the garage. Malcolm’s head craned around as he walked by Lana, then hustled a step to utterly quietly, "Hey is she like a stripper you guys hired to welcome me?"
Glancing briefly to where Malcolm indicated Duane shook his head seriously. "No, she’s your engineer. Bravo seat on Engine Eight."
"You’re kiddin’ me! She’s hardly a hundred five pounds!" he scoffed incredulously.
Turning full around and pretending not to notice what went be behind Malcolm Duane countered. "Well then, it’s a good thing she can dead lift over two twenty."
Malcolm pulled his head back a bit. "‘That a joke?"
"No probie. It’s not a joke. This is." Duane said flatly taking one huge step back.
The two male firefighters had been slowly angling up on Malcolm with a huge yellow plastic bucket, while Duane kept his mind on the conversation. Once clear of the splash area they hefted it up and poured it out over the red haired probationary firefighter’s head.
His muscles locked in an arm spread stiffly arcing back and frozen gasp on his face Malcolm could only mouth silently his protest against the soaking icy cold assailing him.
The taller of the perpetrators stepped around to beam a grin at his handy work, then pretended to make amends. "Oh sorry probie! We thought your head was on fire!"
Even Duane let loose a chuckle, though restrained himself from more amid cackling among the gathered audience who all waited for the big introduction to Station Eight. Lana wore a particularly sadistic smirk that Malcolm eventually noticed on turning around.
Duane approached him again to more firmly grip Malcolm’s wet and chilled hand. "Now you’re part of the crew! Welcome to Station Eight Malcolm!"
As it turns out real firefighters have a more warped and twisted sense of humor, which I strived to include later in the book.
Thanks so much for visiting, John! I wish you much success and hope you can come back again!