Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Baltimore Russell – Baltimore Russell is an actor, producer, and writer. He and his husband created the People You Know series, which aired on HereTV. Almost from the time he learned to work a pencil, he could often be found creating his own stories. He lives in New York City with his husband, John Dylan DeLaTorre.
Thanks so much, Baltimore, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Describe yourself using… ( a food, a book, a song, a movie, an animal, a drink, a place etc)
Baltimore Russell: Smurf. Depending on the day it could be Brainy. Or Vanity. Or Clumsy. Or Greedy.
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
BR: I first knew I wanted to create shortly after acting in my first play. All kids play with toys, but I took it to the next level. I started creating stories for my He-Men action figures to play out. That evolved into actually writing stories for them, which eventually grew, when I was a teenager, to writing and illustrating my own serialized work about superheroes. I put that on the backburner to pursue an acting career. Not long ago, I co-created with my husband a TV series called People you Know about gay life in New York City. I knew early on that I had something to say, and I enjoyed making up stories, but with People you Know, I realized I also had a way with drama and characters. I loved putting my characters through the ringer and seeing what would happen. And that adventure is thrilling.
JSC: Tell me about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
BR: I can’t resist jumping out of unexpected places to scare people. I love scaring people and I love being scared. It makes me giggle.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
BR: I love over-the-top dramas, superheroes and science-fiction. I also love the idea of powers, witchcraft, time travel, outer space and aliens – but what I love most is when these extraordinary things relate back to a human level. In essence, my writing focuses on the human story – amped with powers.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
BR: Having a first-grade teacher for a mom, I was reading at an early age. When old enough to choose, it was all the comic books I could possibly get my hands on, along with whatever books I could convince my parents to get me at the school Book Fair.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
BR: First published work would be this one – Awakening. My sister and I had just finished climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and were thinking about what our next adventure should be. We were riding in a rinky-dink bus with chickens running up and down the aisle when decided the next appropriate challenge would be to co-write a book together – and still be friends after (we are). All the basic elements of the book were formed there. The idea of the earth reacting violently toward mankind; that there was an ancient, secret cabal out to reshape the world for their own designs; a mysterious white light would awaken powers in a select group of people and these heroes would have to come together to save the world.
JSC: Would you visit the future or the past, and why?
BR: Past, because there are things I would want to revisit.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
BR: I co-write, so the process is a little more complicated. My sister and I heavily plot the entire book, outlining the chapters, beats and character arcs, then we divide up the chapters and start writing. But we always allow for happy accidents and plot twists to happen – that’s all part of the fun! When writing, it’s a series of fits and starts as I sit in front of the computer allowing the story to come to life. As we piece the book together we work on the chapters, smoothing out the voice, making sure that all the elements gel and make sense. I try to write for 2 full hours in the morning and then 2 full hours in the afternoon; 2 more hours spent on editing and revising as needed. Then, since we co-write we usually have a daily hour long phone call to work through any tricky story spots. Then we go work with paid editors and the process seems to begin again as we strive to make the book the best possible we can.
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
BR: An astronaut.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
BR: Right now, we are about to hand off the second book of Children of the Solstice series to our beta readers. We hope to release the book late this year with the third book of this series out at the end of 2018.
And now for Baltimore’s new book: Awakening (Children of the Solstice Book One) that he co-wrote with Jennifer Pallanich:
Disasters ring the planet as the earth cries out for heroes to save it. At the same time, an ancient order conspires to fulfill a centuries-old prophecy. Their plan: unleash a deadly tsunami that would destroy North American and European coastlines. Then, at the height of summer, a blinding white light races across the globe, granting a select few incredible gifts. An enigmatic ex-Green Beret trains these powerful misfits in a desperate bid to stop the man-made and natural catastrophes. But can these Children of the Solstice work well enough together and master their new powers in time to halt the prophecy and save humanity from cataclysmic devastation?
Something a little different today: Baltimore am giving out the first episode of his tv series People you Know, which was picked up by HERE TV? It’s a gay series and there is some partial nudity:
Rami came to in a precarious situation. He lay on his side, one hand dangling over the edge of the abyss before him. The cave had become something new. Something dangerous. Though he wasn’t in pain, Rami did a slow body check. He had everything he entered the cave with.
He strained to recall how he’d gotten into his current predicament, but it was difficult to concentrate. He was absolutely and without measure terrified. He had never before been afraid of the dark. Of course, that was on the surface, where electricity allowed him to flick a switch to scare away the shadows. Here, almost half a mile below ground, Rami had no way of shutting off the utterly quiet darkness, save his headlamp, and even that seemed frightened to penetrate the thick darkness of the cave.
Even when humans are absolutely still and quiet, the world is still full of noise. Bugs move across the ground. Wind pushes against leaves. Streams trickle. The sounds that nature provides are constant above ground. Deep inside Earth, noises become fainter, almost nonexistent. At half a mile below the surface, it is deadly quiet. The natural sounds that give rise to the known world are absent so far down. Here, the sounds are made by human intruders. The scuffing of shoes along the dirt-hardened ground. The reverberation of a voice bouncing off rock formations. The ticking of a watch to signify the passage of time. Otherwise, the silence owns the depths.
Rami counted eight other beams of light pointing in different directions. Their odd, still angles unnerved him. His own beam was the only one moving. He uttered a silent prayer that he was not the only one alive, that the rest were sleeping. He opened his mouth, but no words escaped his lips. His throat was intensely sore. His inability to call out to his fellow explorers only fed his mounting terror.
Peering into the dark of the newly revealed cave, he sensed something familiar, yet alien. Rami reached out with trepidation to determine if there was anything out there. Nothing. His beam of light pierced the darkness, but the shadows trapped the light and gave Rami no peace.
He tried to swallow again, but his mouth was bone dry. He swung his arms down to his belt to retrieve his water bottle. He took gulps, not sips, as if he had not had a drink in hours. Wait, he thought, what time is it? He turned his arm and looked at his watch. It read 17:37. He’d been out for at least four hours, and it would take at least six hours just to get out of this cave. Even if this was the longest day of the year, he didn’t want to make his escape into the night.
Facing the new passage, Rami slowly slid backward. He did not want to look around and confirm his fears. He scooted a few feet back, only to bump into something. He reached back to feel the obstacle, but it was not a stone. It was a body, cold and lifeless. He had momentarily forgotten the eight men he had trekked down this cave with. Rami mustered the courage to peek at the face of the man behind him.
It was Ken, the man who had brought him from a prison to the cave. His eyes were wide open in abject fear and his mouth was hanging open. Rami could not move.
He wanted to scream. He wanted to cry out for mercy. He did neither. He reluctantly placed his fingers on Ken’s neck. The lack of pulse confirmed his fears. He knew the rest of the crew were also probably dead. Slowly, he made his way from body to body, placed his fingers where a pulse should be on seven more cold necks, and knew he was the lone survivor. He had no idea what had killed the others or why he alone had been spared in this deep chamber of death.
As he made his rounds, he found Peter’s camera. The green light indicated the camera was still recording. Rami moved it and stood where the camera was aimed. He glanced at his watch again and began speaking.
“This is Rami Kazemi, and I am the only survivor of the Ghar Parau expedition. It is 17:47. We made it down to the sump about four hours ago. As we got to the sump, I noticed the rocks that were staggered near the opening of the new passage were glowing with phosphorescence. I also saw my hands giving off a slight glow. I lifted my hand to touch the rocks, and without warning, the cave started to split. I was hit with a foul stench. Like rotten eggs and spoiled cabbage. I felt an unseen force barrel past us. In its wake, it left what can only be described as some sort of dust. Large, coin-sized dust particles that began filling my lungs.”
Rami now realized why his mouth was so dry.
“I immediately passed out. I came to only minutes ago. The entire rest of the crew is dead. Everyone is gone but me. I don’t know what killed them. I am going to make my way out of the cave. I don’t know what happened and I can only hope that when I reach the top, the world hasn’t gone mad and that I will still be a free man. That whatever came through the rocks, through me, hasn’t killed the world. Mr. Hastings, if you see this recording, please send someone to come get me. Save me. I cannot go back to Astara.”
Rami grabbed the camera. He retraced his steps to Ken and took the man’s satellite phone and water bottle. He grabbed a few other supplies and said a small prayer for the dead. As he turned to leave, a strange sensation started at the base of his skull and traveled down his spine, as though he wasn’t alone after all. He froze dead in his tracks, straining to hear whether something was approaching him. Then he heard it, a whisper floating in the air. Quiet, but familiar.
How long I have waited for you.
All these years reaching out to you,
Helping you achieve your dreams,
Creating a destiny for you.
Baltimore Russell is an actor, producer, and writer. He and his husband created the People You Know series, which aired on HereTV. Almost from the time he learned to work a pencil, he could often be found creating his own stories. He lives in New York City with his husband, John Dylan DeLaTorre.
Native Texan Jennifer Pallanich is a trade journalist who has bylined over half a million words about the oil and gas industry. She loves to read good versus evil stories. An avid scuba diver, traveler, reader, and writer, she lives with a lab mix named Houdini and a cat named Possum.