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, T.S. Hottle – TS Hottle is a science fiction writer originally from Cleveland. By night, he writes, cooks, golfs, plays video games with his stepson, and fights with a cat named Tearyon. Sometimes, he wins against the cat, but not often. By day, he is a software developer.
For fifteen years, he wrote crime fiction under the name Jim Winter. Now he has returned to his first love, science fiction He has created The Compact Universe, a series of loosely connected space opera tales centered around humans’ disastrous first contact with a species known as the Gelt.
He lives in the Cincinnati suburb of Deer Park with his wife Candy and her son. When not writing or cooking, they both can be found fixing up their Cape Cod. Which has a deck. Which makes TS very happy.
Thanks so much, T.S., for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
T.S. Hottle: I published a detective novel called Northcoast Shakedown in 2005. It was a PI novel set in Cleveland. I published it under the name Jim Winter when I thought I was going to be the next Dennis Lehane.
JSC: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
TSH: Keep writing. Sometimes, I’ll switch to something else or just riff.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in Storming Amargosa, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
TSH: I had, originally, five characters who are the core of this trilogy, with a sixth added during one of the novellas. My goal was to get them past the occupation of their homeworld and into adulthood where the reader could logically stop, but would still want more.
JSC: What was the hardest part of writing the book?
TSH: It was pretty complex and suffered from POV bloat. I narrowed it down to four POV characters with a fifth taking over near the end. To make it clearer, the final few chapters take side trips off to one-off characters or supporting characters to give a wider view of the battle.
JSC: Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?
TSH: Since Compact Press took over publication, we’ve used Luca Oleastri for all but one book. Luca has a great body of finished work that allowed us to create covers fast.
JSC: What character gave you fits and fought against you? Did that character cause trouble because you weren’t listening and missed something important about them?
TSH: The characters of JT and Tishla have such a deep connection that they often tended to take over whole chapters while maintaining the tension between them. I had to rewrite one of their major sequences three times to whittle it down to size.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
TSH: I was. Until a couple of years ago, I read anywhere from 50-100 books a year. And I listen to at least two audiobooks a month.
JSC: What was the first book that made you cry?
TSH: Ken Bruen’s The Dramatist. It’s probably his best book, and the ending is one that guarantees I’ll never read it again. Just a brutal book with a sad ending, but beautifully written.
JSC: What’s your drink of choice?
TSH: Jameson, with a lager chaser.
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
TSH: I’d make International Talk Like a Pirate Day a Federal holiday.
And now for T.S.’s new book: Storming Amargosa:
The Storm has arrived.
For Davra Andraste, redemption comes as she accompanies the resistance commander to confront the human warlord fighting against both sides. And the newest overlord on Amargosa.
For an ambitious politician, control of human evolution is almost in his grasp. Only a very old foe threatens to undo his plans.
For Laral Farad, it is his family’s last hope to tame the “rogue colony” called Cyal, which humans call Amargosa.
For JT Austin, it’s a now or never moment to prove himself as he trains to liberate his adopted homeworld.
For Amargosa, it’s a chance to end a year-long nightmare.
The Amargosa Trilogy comes to a thrilling conclusion!
“Duck,” hissed Davra as she dove for the bushes.
They had picked up the maglev line by dropping into the Transit Center and following the tunnel out. The last time Davra had come this way, the Gelt had largely ignored it. Now, however, she spotted their third patrol of Warriors outside the former town of Tonopah.
Peteesh, her Gelt prisoner, and the two fighters escorting them from Edoras followed Davra into the brush. Peteesh made a face as she found herself squatting in the dirt among dense undergrowth. She squirmed as the sudden movement drew insects out of the bushes, disturbed as the big primates shook their home.
Vijay, the older of the two fighters, passed around a jar of camo cream, designed to absorb infrared light and hide them from a Gelt patrol’s sensing equipment. Davra smeared it on her arms and face without a second thought. Peteesh, however, cringed when she handed it to her.
“Child,” she hissed, “I can’t have this stuff on my skin…”
“Hush!” Davra raised her binocs and looked through the brush at the Gelt patrol. She saw five soldiers in all, clad in black armor, swords hanging in equally black scabbards at their sides. Three of them had out what looked like energy pistols. A fourth rested his hand near his own pistol. The fifth waved some sort of device in the air.
“That’s a sniffer,” whispered Peteesh. “It can smell us from this distance. We’re dead for sure.”
Davra flicked the electronics on her KR-27 and set the ammo to smart mode. Using the e-sight to find one of her targets, she began gathering data for the bullets to use once they left the barrel. Beside her, Vijay and Kanda, the younger fighter, began doing the same.
“Five shots in smart mode,” Vijay said in a low voice, “ought to even the odds a… What the hell?”
A woman – a human woman – stepped out of the bushes beneath the elevated maglev rail. Clad only in a simple dress favored by farm women before the invasion, she stepped into the path of the approaching Warriors. One of them barked at her in their guttural tongue.
The woman merely sat down in the lotus position and began tapping the palm of her left hand.
She exploded with a force that sent a blast wave into the bushes. The fireball that erupted dissipated only a few meters from Davra. The sound left her ears ringing.
When the fire and smoke cleared, three charred corpses remained, their helmets blown off by the force of the explosion. The two Warriors closest to the now-vaporized woman fared worse. A leg fell from the sky, followed by an arm. The torso of one of them lay embedded in a tree headless and limbless.
Davra emerged from the growth and stared with her mouth hanging open. Nothing remained of the woman except a small crater where she had sat down.
“Did she really explode?” she asked.
Kanda stepped up beside her. “No vest, no device strapped to her waist.”
“She was the bomb,” said Vijay. “Incendiary nanites. Cubists are using them now.”
“Radical Cubists,” Kanda snapped. “Not all of us are blowing up landmarks or even crying oppression.”
“Child,” said Peteesh, stumbling her way out of the bushes, “there’s nothing we can do. We should get to your people.”
It was true. Three of the Gelt had been incinerated inside their armor. The other two had been blown to pieces. The human woman simply ceased to exist in any physical form. That did not mean Davra had to like or accept it.
“Let’s go,” she said. “Don’t want to hold up my arrest any more than necessary.”
They walked through the blast zone and left the dead behind.