From ECHO 8: One of Sharon Lynn Fisher’s Favorite Scenes

echo 8I’m interviewing Sharon Lynn Fisher over at USA Today Happily Ever After, about her latest science fiction romance novel Echo 8.

Here’s the story (courtesy of Tor Books): Three lives. Two worlds. One chance to save them all.

As a parapsychologist working for Seattle Psi, Tess has devoted her life to studying psychic phenomena. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world that’s been struck by an asteroid, nothing in her training will help her survive what’s to come.

After dislocating to Seattle Psi from the other Earth, Jake is confined by a special task force for study. But when he drains life energy from Tess, almost killing her, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds – and creates a bond neither of them expected.

Ross is an FBI agent ordered to protect Tess while she studies Jake. His assignment is not random – he and Tess have a history, and a connection the Bureau hopes to use to its own advantage. By the time Ross realizes his mission could be compromised, it’s already too late – he’ll have to choose between his love for Tess and his duty to protect the people of his own Earth.

Veronica: One of my favorite questions to ask in the USAT/HEA interviews is whether the author has a favorite quote or short scene from the book they’d like to share. The excerpt below was Sharon’s first choice, although we ultimately had to go with a  different,  shorter one for the column. But I thougt it’d be a shame not to share her first choice over here on my blog:

Sharon: As the author, my favorites are mostly super intense, and might not play well out of context. But I like this early scene because it helps to establish the dynamic among the three main characters.

“He’s been asking for you,” called Agent Perez when she saw Ross coming.

Ross moved to Jake’s door, glancing through the square window. He jumped back when Jake appeared behind the glass, inches away.

Ross punched the intercom button and reached for his sidearm. “Back off.”

“I want to know what’s going on,” demanded the fade. His eyes flitted nervously from Ross to Perez. “Where’s Tess?”

The last thing Ross wanted was to hear her name in the fade’s mouth. “Not your concern. You keep quiet in there and maybe no one shoots you.”

Jake’s features contorted in anguish. “Did I kill her? Please—I don’t understand—”

The fade’s head swiveled, like he’d heard something behind him. His body practically hummed with nervous energy, reminding Ross of his meth­addict brother. Except there was nothing sunken or hollow about Jake—not anymore. The bastard was bright­eyed and fully charged.

Jake’s gaze anchored on Ross again. “Am I some kind of—vampire? I felt like I was sucking the life out of her.”

“You were.”

“Is she dead?”

Ross took in Jake’s distress and allowed a pinprick of compassion. “She’s not dead. Not yet.”

Jake squeezed his eyes shut. “God . . . why didn’t you just shoot me? Why don’t you shoot me now?”

Ross studied the fade—dark­blond curls, narrow forehead, brown eyes, short beard curling over chin and jaw. He was about Ross’s height but thinner, and closer to Tess’s age.

“You want me to shoot you,” Ross replied, dubious.

“Why did you let her get so close? You’re a Fed, right? You have to be, dressed like that. Were you supposed to be protecting her or what?”

Jesus. Ross felt like he’d been punched. He slipped his weapon back in the holster and turned to go.

“Hey!” called Jake. The intercom was still on.

Impatient to get back upstairs, Ross hesitated before turning. A part of him could empathize. What a position to suddenly find yourself in.

“What she told me,” said Jake, “—the alternate universe thing—is it true?”

“Probably. It’s a theory.”

“Based on what? I mean, how can you know something like that?”

“We can’t, not for sure. But they’ve questioned enough of you to piece it together.”

Jake chuckled darkly. “I thought she was nuts. Or I’d wound up in some purgatory for suicides.”

Ross lifted an eyebrow. “You killed yourself?”

Jake’s lips set, and he glared at Ross. “I’m finished talking to you. If she lives, I’ll talk to her. Shoot me if you want to. I don’t [expletive!] care.”

Sharon FisherVeronica: I found it to be an exciting, unusual story and I hope you’ll hop over to the actual interview on USAT/HEA. Here’s a photo of Sharon inside the now-scrapped ferry  Kalakala, which plays a part in the novel.

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The Lady or the Tiger Or Choose Both! Interactive Fiction

002As a kid I was thoroughly exasperated when we read the short story “The Lady or the Tiger” in  English lit class. You may remember the story, written by Frank Stockton in 1882 (hence my 1880s illustration!), wherein the warrior in the arena has to choose one of two doors…a Happily Ever After ending awaits if he picks the girl and he gets eaten if he picks the tiger. (I’d be listening for growls myself.) As a future romance novelist, I wanted the HEA ending, I wanted it NOW and I wanted to know what happened next.

Well flash forward to today and interactive romance fiction of this sort is alive and well and becoming very popular. In my special post for USA Today’s Happily Ever After blog, I talk about everything from individual books to a website devoted exclusively to interactive romances. SilkWords was started by a couple,  Keri and Boyd Multerer. She has a background in science and he’s the founder of XBox Live and a past Director of Development for Xbox One. With three young children, she didn’t have as much time to read as she wanted and he brought a gaming mindset to solving his wife’s problem. They also brought in Sharon L. Fisher, a noted science fiction romance novelist with RWA RITA and multiple Golden Heart Finalist credentials, to handle acquisition and editing.

The way I came to understand it after interviewing Sharon, is that in the gaming world, the player is constantly making choices, which sends them along different story paths. In the SilkWords romance world, the reader gets to enjoy the story up to a key decision point and then “picks their path” – does the heroine run off with the sweet but poor curate or does she accept the proposal from the dashing duke, for example – and the reader’s choice will dictate what happens next in the story. I joined SilkWords (membership is free) to research the column I was writing and once I got used to the idea, I enjoyed the experience. I tried a variety of the stories on the site, from sweet to very hot.

Interestingly enough, SilkWords doesn’t always provide an HEA or even a HFN ending. Sharon talks about that in more detail in our interview. And I got the viewpoint from a SilkWords author, Jax Garren. You can read more from my interviews with Sharon and Jax at USAT.

I also read a very hot novella from Christine D’Abo Choose Your Shot: An Interactive Erotic Adventure (Carina Press), which had me fanning myself and going back to explore the paths I didn’t pick the first time through! I also interviewed Christine on what the challenges were for the author writing this type of novel.  She had to do quite the decision tree in her plotting and work hard to ensure that whatever choice the Reader made would move the story smoothly into another level. More from the interview with her in the USAT post.

Girl WalksBut I have to say I had THE most fun reading the ebook version of  A Girl Walks Into A Wedding: Your Fantasy, Your Rules (William Morrow Paperbacks) by  Helena S. Paige. (I learned on the book’s Amazon page that the author name is a pseudonym for three lively ladies with quite varied backgrounds.) Here’s the blurb:

Your best friend is getting married, and she’s asked you to be her bridesmaid. So many decisions: for starters, do you ask the gorgeous but mysterious man you met online to come as your date? Or do you go solo, giving yourself ample opportunity to kick up your heels and scope out the talent?

Once the wedding weekend gets underway in a romantic country setting, all kinds of adventures on offer. Will you ditch your date? Duet with the hot DJ? Dodge the disreputable best man? Or perhaps the rugged pilot you meet in the bar will open up unexpected erotic opportunities – and who knew the maid of (dis)honor had such a sultry streak?

All this while steering your way through the bachelorette party, the bride’s wedding jitters, the Dress From Hell, and more. Perhaps the most tempting option is to flee the entire affair with a tall, dark stranger … or maybe an old friend surprises you with a sizzling encounter.

YOU make the decisions—fulfillment guaranteed. It’s your fantasy. Your rules. The choice is yours . . .

I had a BLAST. I went through the book numerous times, making different selections at the key points, surprising even myself LOL. I won’t tell you who I ended up with after trying all the paths, but I was happy, and not just from the champagne.

So to sum it all up, I did enjoy my dip into “pick your path” interactive romance but for the most part I’ll probably stick with writing my conventional “one path to the HEA” science fiction romances and ancient Egyptian paranormal romances.

Have you ever tried interactive romance fiction?