P.L. Blair – Shadow Path

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Shadow Path is the first book in my Portals fantasy/detective series – and has recently been introduced on Amazon as an ebook.

Corpus Christi police detective Kat Morales, a human, and her elven partner Tevis MacLeod find themselves beset by murderous pixies and magic of the blackest kind as they investigate a trail of killings committed with swords inscribed with fatal runes. And at trail’s end is a former lover of Tevis’, now a necromancer, whose real goal is Tevis’ death.

Shadow Path is based on the concept that magic – and wizards, elves and all the other creatures of human mythology and folklore – is real, existing in a world connected to our own by portals that once stood open. This is why we have tales of these beings. About a thousand or so years ago, the portals were closed – but now they’re open again, and the inhabitants of that world are returning, and bringing their magic with them.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m a native of Tyler, Texas, grew up there … later moved to Rockport, a little art community on the Texas coast about 30 miles north of Corpus Christi, which is the setting for my books. From Rockport, I moved to Sheridan, Wyo., and spent the next 20-plus years there as a full-time resident. In 2008, I moved back to Texas to be closer to family, but I still spend my summers in Sheridan.

I’ve written for newspapers for more than 30 years – I have associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in journalism. But in spite of – or more likely because – I’ve spent 30-plus years covering crime news and courts, fantasy has always been my escape valve.

Of course, the years of covering crime, plus a fascination with the various CSI shows, NCIS and Criminal Minds on TV had their influence as well. And I love mystery novels and police procedurals. Sherlock Holmes was one of the first fictional characters I met, and he’s still my favorite detective.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write novels. I took journalism and creative writing classes in high school and college with the idea that I would work for newspapers while “perfecting” my skills sufficiently to write books.

Then, I got sidetracked by the newspaper work. It’s fascinating, and I discovered I enjoyed a lot of it, following criminal investigations and court cases, even covering city, county and state governments, interviewing people and writing features.

But in 2006, I realized I had left a part of myself behind – the part that wanted to write books – and that if I was going to achieve that dream, I needed to get started. I was at that time 59 years old, and my closest friend – whom I called my “Wyoming sister” – had recently died from complications of cancer. I think I was feeling a little bit of my own mortality.

So I started thinking about what kind of book I wanted to write, and fantasy – elves and magic – was what came first to mind. I already had characters in mind – Kat and Tevis – and I knew I wanted them to be continuing characters in a series. Maybe because I hate when people go out of my life …
So that led to the second element of my books, the detective part. That, and the fascination with forensics. I originally intended for my characters to be CSI-type detectives.

But then I gave Tevis the ability to (most of the time) See how someone died just by laying his hands on a corpse, so that kind of took me in a whole ‘nother direction.

How did you choose the title?

It came to me. I had started the first chapter, and the question of a title was nagging at the back of my mind.

Then the words came to me – “Shadow Path.” And that actually led me past the opening scene to the plot, because “shadow path” suggested dark magic – evil magic – and the ultimate in evil magic, the magic of death.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

Actually … zero. I needed a primary reader, someone I trusted to read what I was writing and give me honest feedback, so I turned to a co-worker at The Sheridan Press, where I was working at the time. She started reading – a chapter at a time – and at one point, several chapters in, she told me that her recently deceased husband had left her with a business that she wanted to convert to a publishing company – and she wanted to start by publishing my book!

So that’s what happened. She organized Studio See and published Shadow Path a few months later.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

Somewhere around the age of 8, I wrote a story (all of maybe a page and a half), something about a witch. And my wonderful teacher encouraged me to read the story in front of the class for “show-and-tell.”

My classmates actually liked it! And I thought, wow! I can entertain people with this stuff!
Pretty much from that moment, I was determined to be a writer.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Working for newspapers pretty much dispels any rituals. You have deadlines to meet – and newspaper editors who accept very few excuses and do not believe in Muses. I can pretty much write anywhere, under just about any conditions. Although I’m at my best when there’s a certain amount of chaos happening around me – part of the newspaper atmosphere of ringing phones and people conducting interviews only a desk or two away.

Also, anyone watching over my shoulder will absolutely kill my creativity, at least for a few minutes.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Sometimes they’re just variations on names I already know. Kat Morales became the name of my heroine because I wanted her to have Hispanic roots – given the strong Hispanic culture in South Texas – and “Kat” seemed strong, feminine and suggestive of catlike qualities.

Other times – especially for my elves, wizards and other creatures – I resort to a sourcebook of names. I knew I wanted Tevis’ name to sound slightly Scottish, because of the image I had in mind of him, and after I found “Arvandus” as the name for my primary wizard character (wizards in my world aren’t humans but beings who look human), I turned to Latin-sounding names for wizards. I’ve also stayed with Scottish Celtic as the root for elven names.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

I am learning a lot of the basics of promoting my books – and the importance to writers of the internet. I’m also learning – slowly – how the technology works. As for the writing itself, that’s a constant learning process. I figure the only writer who stops learning about the craft is a writer who’s dead.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

Probably start educating myself about the internet and the technology sooner – faster. I lost a lot of time stumbling around, because I didn’t know the questions to ask, the places to look – such as the various Yahoo groups, sites like Goodreads and Facebook. I now have presence on both of those, but not until fairly recently. Also I’m just now learning how to take advantage of what Amazon offers its authors.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I’m eclectic. I like reading pretty much everything, fiction, nonfiction. That said, I love Tolkien. His Middle Earth is such a wonderful world – and I love authors like Tolkien and Dennis McKiernan (another of my favorites) for their worldbuilding skills. I don’t have that skill, which is why I haven’t – yet – tried my hand at epic fantasy.

I love Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Also Tony Hillerman and Rex Stout, because they have created strong characters. I like Donna Andrews’s mysteries, for their humor and because they all in some way involve some kind of bird.

Isaac Asimov’s science essays. I nearly flunked science in school – one of the reasons I went for a BA degree, not BS. But Asimov made science understandable to me, because they were so clear and concise.

Kim Harrison’s books about Rachel Morgan, the witch in Cincinnati, and her circle of friends – a pixie, an elf, a vampire. Great reading!

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I have three other books besides Shadow Path waiting to become ebooks – Stormcaller, Deathtalker and Sister Hoods.

Stormcaller involves an ancient Aztec god who wants his worship restored – complete with human sacrifice – or he’ll send a megastorm to take out the Texas coast.

In Deathtalker, Kat and Tevis are up against a serial killer who’s a kind of psychic vampire.
And Sister Hoods, which starts with nymphs and satyrs perpetrating a bank heist, involves Kat and Tevis in a battle to save a magical woodlands – without waking the sleeping wyvern who’s making it his home.

Book 5 in the series involves a bunch of leprechauns searching for the thief who stole their gold, and Book 6, my current WIP, takes Kat, Tevis and their allies to a conference in Washington DC – where the conference hotel becomes the site of battle between the Seelie and Unseelie courts.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

For writing … Stay true to your own inner vision. And write. A lot of people at book events tell me, “I have a book in my head.” Nothing will be achieved until you get the book out of your head and onto paper.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Anyone who enjoys fantasy – or the blend of magic and police work. If you like Kim Harrison, I think my books might appeal.

What I’m finding is that I do have a wide appeal – my fans include men and women, readers as young as ten and old enough that they don’t want to share. My fans include some who’ve told me they enjoy detective stories, don’t like fantasy – but they’ll give my book a try. And they come back and say, “When’s the next one coming out?”

My publisher says if all my characters were human, and the magic removed, she’d still be happy to accept my books as straight detective stories.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My web site is www.plblairportals.com. I don’t sell any books from the site, but I blog there.

My publisher’s site, www.studiosee.com, offers books for sale and offers a free read of the first chapter of Shadow Path.

I am on Facebook, www.facebook.com/plblair

Books also are available from Amazon.com, Books A Million and Creatures ‘n Crooks.