Friday, September 20, 2013

J. E. Hopkins, The Scarlet Crane

AUTHOR:            J. E. Hopkins (Jim)
BOOK TITLE:     The Scarlet Crane
GENRE:               Fantasy-thriller
PUBLISHER:       Self-published

Please tell us about yourself.
I'm a retired business guy living in the Cincinnati area with my wife of 42 years and two demon cats, Boron and Carbon. I've helped engineer softer toilet paper, develop soy-based products that tasted better than 100% beef, and created healthcare software systems.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I write full time. I spend the first couple of hours of the morning tending to social media updates and editing whatever I wrote the previous day. By nine or so, I try to put distractions aside and write until I hit whatever goal I have in mind--usually about a thousand words a day.

When and why did you begin writing?
Writing has always been a passion, but life and the corporate world made it very difficult to get much done. I began writing fantasy novels the day I retired.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
That doesn't leave much time. :-)
I set aside an hour or so a day for exercise and try to spend 1-2 hours reading. I took up learning the piano when I retired but discovered that I just don't have--or I'm not willing to make--the time needed to teach old fingers new tricks. I've dropped that so I can focus more time on becoming a better writer.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
Writing a good book is tough. Getting a good book discovered among the tens of thousands published yearly is tougher. I'm convinced that publicity is critical for success, but have to admit that I haven't yet found the keys to the discovery kingdom.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
The Scarlet Crane is my first book and I learned a ton. I wrote while I was participating in an online writing course and getting coaching from an author and former editor. It would take a day to list all the things I learned, but one of the biggies was to not over-write. I trimmed more than 20,000 words from my first draft, tightening the plot and making it a much better book.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?
I'm self-published. I concentrated only on Amazon for the first year, but I'm soon going to branch out to Smashwords. I do send queries to editors and publishers, but success on that front is such a long shot in today's market that I'm not waiting for something to happen.

What genre do you write in and why?
I write books that are something of a cross-over. Fantasy, because they involve magic. Thriller, because the books are set in the near future and involve some sort of crisis that threatens people and governments.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
The Scarlet Crane is a fantasy-thriller, set in the near future. It's based on a simple, but subversive idea. All kids approaching puberty pass through a one- month period, called Transition, when they can do magic. But only if they use ritual words that have been passed down through time. And only if the magic has never been done before. If the magic isn't unique, the kid dies. 

Rumors have surfaced of a rogue Chinese program, code-named Crane, which circumvents Transition's deadly restrictions. The Chinese seek to exploit magic for geopolitical domination, using kidnapped children as disposable pawns. Two agents working for the US Department of Transition Security have been ordered to take any action necessary to protect the US from magical threats.

In addition to the primary plot, the book includes glimpses into the lives of five kids who use Transition magic, in spite of the near-certain risk of death.

Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you?  Why or why not?
I enjoy reading dark fiction and fiction that includes erotic sex scenes. But I'm more comfortable writing violent scenes than highly sexual ones. I'd probably need to spend some time with a shrink to tell you why.

The Scarlet Crane has one sex scene--unusual for classic fantasy fiction-- and a number of explicitly violent scenes.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?
The Scarlet Crane took a year to write. My second novel, based on the same central idea and characters, took about six months. Experience counts, I guess.

I use a piece of Mac software called Scrivener for my writing. I tend to edit as I go, so my raw draft is a reasonably decent read. I'll give what I've written at least a day on the shelf and then edit it again. I'll collect several chapters and send them to an editor with whom I work for another round of changes.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?
The Scarlet Crane is available today as an ebook and paperback from Amazon. The next book in the series, The Saffron Falcon, should be available in early October.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?
Obvious punctuation or grammar errors drive me crazy. Unnatural dialog and often repeated phrases or clich├ęs are a close second.

I'm a much more critical reader now that I'm writing. I don't mean to sound like a snob about it -- I read plenty of fiction that others would consider junk -- but I'm afraid I'm less tolerant of weak editing.

What books have most influenced your life?
That's a long list, but I'll pick the one that's been a favorite for most of my life: The Lord of the Rings. I never get tired of the beautifully rendered world, the quest, and the many memorable characters. I enjoy the escape that fantasy offers and I've read no book that better allows me to lose myself in its pages. 

Here's a synopsis of The Scarlet Crane:
Transition. When all children have the power to perform magic for one lunar month as they enter puberty. But there is a monstrous catch. The magic must be the child’s true desire and something never done before. Or they die.
The year is 2014. Rumors have surfaced of a rogue Chinese program, code-named Crane, which circumvents Transition's deadly restrictions. The Chinese seek to exploit magic for geopolitical domination, using kidnapped children as disposable pawns. A DTS agent investigating the reports has been found murdered in his Hanoi hotel room.
Dr. John Benoit is ordered to take any action necessary to protect the US from magical threats. John and Stony Hill, his pierced and scarlet-haired young partner, race to pick up the bloody trail, following it to Bangkok, Zurich, Shenyang, and ultimately to a confrontation on the snow-swept plains of North Korea.
Against this global pursuit, glimpses into the lives of five children bring to vivid life the temptation and terror of Transition:
Thanna, sold to the Chinese, dreams of using magic to free herself and Crane's children.
Anya believes Transition can save her from the winter streets of Moscow.
Isa confronts Transition as part of an ancient African puberty ritual.
Sarah, terrified of magic, feels compelled to use it to stop her friend's sexual abuse.
Jonah is convinced he's found a unique way to cure his sister's cancer. 
An American nuclear aircraft carrier is destroyed by Transition magic; hundreds of lives are lost. Civilization teeters on the edge of an immutable metamorphosis as John races to find Crane and shut it down.

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