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Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Jafrey

We promised when we did our original Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Time’s Edge post there would be sequels. Naturally, we just had to take a look at the world from the point of view of Jafrey, the irascible old man from the Time’s Edge series.


It’s okay to be yourself.

“Nice to meet you,” Jafrey said gruffly, his hands stuffed firmly in his pockets. “Shame the way they make us all get decked out for these events. Feel like a fool.”

(Jafrey, grumpy about being forced to dress up for a formal dinner. Time’s Edge.)


A sense of humor is a good thing.

“Alrick requested that we train him.”

Michael saw a spark of interest in Jafrey’s light blue eyes. “Did he? Interesting.” Jafrey eyed Michael again. “You his son?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” Michael replied.

Jafrey gave a brief laugh. “Got a sense of humor. Good.”

(Time’s Edge.)


Mind your own business.

“If it’s that important, I don’t want to know. Knowledge like that can get a man killed.”

(Jafrey, deciding he doesn’t really want to know the secret involving Michael. Time’s Edge)


Be honest.

“Then either Barris or Jafrey is lying,” Michael noted.

Jafrey chuckled. “Good thing Barris didn’t hear you say that!”

“But it doesn’t bother you?” Michael asked with half a smile.

“Holy Kryton, no. I admire honesty.”  (Time’s Edge)


Have some fun once in a while.

“Ah, he’s an old lizard. No fun at all,” Jafrey said as the door closed behind Ivar. “Now we can really have a good time.” He swung toward the musicians. “Play something we can dance to!”

(Jafrey, deciding to party once the very serious Ivar has left the room. Time’s Edge.)


Know your limits.

“I never go near that damn place!”

“Yes.” Ivar nodded. “I have noticed that you are the only member of the staff who has never ventured out to the site.”

“I’d rather be boiled in Karrilian lizard juice.”

(Jafrey, refusing to venture out to an abandoned site that holds bad memories for him. Time’s Edge.)


Don’t be envious of others.

“Alrick will kill you if you talk, and Michael will kill you if you don’t.” Jafrey shook his head. “Glad I’m not you.”

(Jafrey, grateful that he is not the boss. Time’s Edge.)


The Cover of Time’s Illusion

Time’s lllusion, the third book in the Time’s Edge sci-fi/fantasy series, will be published in Fall 2012. The cover has just been completed. The picture is the work of the very talented Ali Ries. You can view Ali’s artwork on her website:

Time’s Edge Book Trailer

A Cat-Friendly Book Trailer

While experimenting with GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) we created the following book trailer for Time’s Edge.




Sneak Peek: Time’s Secret

Time's Secret, book #2

What would you do if you were on a quest you didn’t like to find an object you didn’t want…

If your wife made a prophecy that hinted you could not succeed…

If an oracle warned that everyone close to you would perish if you failed…

If those closest to you were keeping secrets that affected not only your quest but your very life…

If your life and your destiny were the most closely guarded secrets of all…

Most answers are revealed by Time.

But what do you do when time is running out?

Click here for a sneak peek at the prologue of Time’s Secret, the sequel to Time’s Edge.

Fan Art

A fan art picture of Kate from our novel Time’s Edge. Thanks to Amber C. for the drawing!

A Time’s Edge Sampler: Do You Believe in Fate?

Time's Edge, book #1

An excerpt from Time’s Edge, Chapter Two: Do You Believe in Fate?

ON THE THIRD floor of the same building, Professor Albert Artolli paused outside the closed door of his office. Light was glowing beneath the bottom of the door.
It was after four o’clock on a Friday, a time when the science hall was usually deserted. He eyed the door, realizing there were only a few possible explanations for a light being on in his office at that hour, none of which he particularly liked. No one should have been in his office, unless…

The professor thoughtfully stroked his beard, staring at his reflection in the dark glass of the door. Gray steaks ran through his brown hair and beard, and his blue eyes were framed by wire-rimmed glasses. He knew his old-fashioned vest and jacket made him look like a professor from one hundred years earlier. He smiled slightly and grasped the doorknob.

The professor opened the door abruptly, drawing a startled exclamation from the young woman who sat at a desk in the office.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said in relief.

“Who were you expecting? A monster?” the professor asked sharply. He wasn’t particularly pleased to see her there.

“No, not a monster, exactly.” She looked at him with a frown, wondering, he knew, about the tone of voice he had used. He sighed and shut the door.

“Kate, what are you still doing here?” he asked.

“I’m finishing some reports for Dr. Riley.” She gave him that I-have-a-feeling-you’re-up-to-something-look he knew so well. “What are you doing here?”

“I left some files here that I want to work on this weekend.” He headed toward his desk. “Fortunately, I remembered them before I left campus.”

Her dubious look told him she didn’t entirely believe his tale.

He sighed again. Kate had been his secretary for the past six years. She worked for him full-time and went to college part-time. She was now twenty-four years old and in her senior year, a beautiful woman with dark brown hair falling in waves over her shoulders and large eyes of an unusual color—not quite blue, not quite green, but a bright shade that was a combination of the two. He had known her since she was a baby and often felt she was his own daughter. Unfortunately, that meant she also knew a lot about him, such as the fact that he generally didn’t come back to the office on a Friday afternoon.

“I had a hunch you might still be here,” he began, deciding that an offensive approach would bring him less trouble than explanations. “You should have left here over an hour ago.”

“I hate the thought of leaving unfinished work,” she replied. “I’m not doing anything tonight, and I prefer to keep busy.” Then she shrugged. “Besides, I felt I should stay.”

The professor shot her a sharp glance. He had not missed the significance of her remark. “Is something wrong?”

She said slowly, “Do you believe in fate, Al?”

He raised his eyebrows. “That depends on what you mean by fate.”

“Do you think some things are meant to be? That some people are destined to do certain things or to meet each other?”

The professor sat down in his chair, frowning slightly as he weighed the question.

“Fate, as you called it, isn’t carved in stone,” he said at last. “Everyone has a destiny, but how they fulfill it is their choice. Some even choose not to fulfill their fate.”

“How can you escape fate?”

“Because fate doesn’t really exist. No one is fated to do anything. Everyone simply makes choices.” He frowned thoughtfully. “I do believe everyone has a greater purpose or destiny. But that isn’t fate. It’s not certain. You can choose to walk away from your fate.”

“Then why don’t more people do that? Why do people accept their lot?”

“It’s easier,” the professor said with half a smile. “Making a choice is often difficult and many fear to make the wrong one.”

“So they make none?”

“Yes. But that in itself is a choice.”

“I see.” She pondered for a moment. “But accidents happen. There are things that aren’t choices but random events, and they affect your life. Isn’t that fate?”

“No. They are, as you said, random events that are the result of a choice or, perhaps, many choices. They may not even be your choices, but they can affect you nonetheless. No one lives in a vacuum. We all affect each other by our actions.” He eyed her curiously. “Why the sudden concern about fate?”

Kate stared down at her desk for a moment. Then she raised her head and looked directly at him. “Something is coming. I know it.”

He nodded as if she had said the most ordinary thing in the world.

A Time’s Edge Sampler: Meet Michael and Max

Even writers need to paint their living rooms occasionally. While we work on that, please enjoy an excerpt from Time’s Edge, Chapter Two: “Do You Believe in Fate?” In this scene Commander Michael Blayne has landed in an Old Earth sidetime with a Mutlipurpose Advanced eXperimental Computer (Max).

Michael’s ship passed smoothly through the Time Tunnel, the name Division 9 had given to the passage between two time portals. It emerged into the first of a series of shimmering, rainbow-colored curtains of light.

“Transition complete. Frequency achieved. We are approaching sidetime 7,” Max announced.

“Initiate time braking,” Michael instructed. He swung around in his seat and ran his hands over the multicolored console.

“Time braking complete. We are currently in orbit around the planet Earth.”

“Phase out.”

“A wise precaution,” Max approved. “Although the technology level is primitive, the sensors of the period would have been able to detect our presence.”

“Thanks,” Michael said dryly. “Did you transmit our history-making arrival to RMB 1020?”

“Certainly,” Max returned. “However, I did not use the term ‘history-making’. In fact, we did not make history since a probe made the trip prior to our arrival.”

“Ah, but we’re the first living beings to do it,” Michael replied sarcastically. “Or so I’ve been told.”

“I do not see how anyone could possibly make that claim with any assurance. The SAF supposes they are the only ones to have the technology, but they cannot prove it. There may be others making the attempt. Also, I am not a living being, so you are the only one to make history.”

“I wonder if I am the first one to make this trip,” Michael said. “When Alrick said I was perfect for this mission, I had the distinct impression he didn’t mean probe retrieval.”

“A probe was sent back to this sidetime. It was launched from RMB 1020 on—”

“I’ve been briefed.” Michael sat lost in thought for a moment. “The probe may just be a cover for whatever the real mission is. Unfortunately, I have no information.”

“Chief Zartollis will most likely provide it when he arrives.”

“When he arrives?” Michael sat up straighter. “How do you know he’ll be here?”

“He told me.”

“Why didn’t you inform me?”

“You said you had been briefed.”

“Don’t be snide, Max.”

“I am not capable of feeling emotions, Commander.”

“No, but you’re very good at expressing them. Division 9 will be overjoyed. Now give me Alrick’s entire message.”

“He will be arriving in this sidetime within one Earth hour of our arrival. If you find the probe during that time, he asks that you wait for him.”

Michael drummed his fingers on the console. “There’s obviously something more than probe retrieval going on here. But it makes no sense. If Valda, Lucas, and Franc are involved, why send us to distant corners of the galaxy? What could be so secret that even the agents involved can’t be told?”

“I cannot answer those questions. There is insufficient information.”

“I agree. We’ll have to keep our eyes open for anything unusual and see what develops.”

“Commander,” the computer said, “I do not have eyes.”

Michael sighed and swiveled back to the main screen. “I suppose we had better get on with it. Show me the last known location of the probe.”

A picture of Earth came up on the screen. It was succeeded by a map of North America and then one of the northeastern section of the continent. This zeroed in on New England and became a state. The town was displayed and then a specific quadrant of the town. The final image was a picture of a cluster of buildings built around a square of grass.

“This is the last transmitted image from the probe,” Max said.

“Any information on what type of institution that is?”

“None from the probe. I will begin scanning as soon as we are within range.”

“Good. Notify me when you have the information.”

Michael brought the ship into orbit and then guided it down to the last location of the probe. As the ship hovered unseen over the buildings, Max began his report.

“I have locked onto the central computer system. My preliminary scan indicates this is an institution of learning, Clarondon University to give its exact name. It is a multi-disciplined school with 10,243 students. The breakdown of teachers—”

“I don’t need that. Print out a plan of the grounds.”

The computer immediately ejected a map of the campus. Michael studied it carefully.

“A university,” Michael mused. “A teacher or perhaps one of the students—”

“Commander,” Max interrupted, “I am receiving signals from the probe.”

Michael leaned forward attentively. “Location?”

“The signal is emitting from the building directly beneath us. The Verne Science Hall, to be exact.”

“This is going to be the shortest mission of my career,” Michael commented as he stood up. “Pinpoint the exact location. Also, do a visual of the inhabitants and generate appropriate clothing. I won’t be able to wear my uniform in this time.”

“Sidetime,” Max corrected.


Please Folks, Don’t Try This at Home

Where do ideas come from? Mostly, they seem to appear out of thin air, but sometimes they can have far more real sources.

Picture this: A man and a woman are hiking in a park. The man suggests leaving the trail to climb up the side of a waterfall. The woman is dubious. The man assures her he has made the climb before and it is safe and easy. Against her better judgment, the woman agrees to give it a try. They begin to climb. Halfway up the steep, slippery, safe and easy side of the waterfall, the woman slips. She dangles from the rock above, the man gripping her hands. Below her are some very large, very pointy and very solid-looking boulders. She looks up into the man’s eyes. “I love you,” she says. “But if you drop me, I’m going to love you less.”

Yes, this really happened to us when we were dating. Years later, this event became the inspiration for a scene in Time’s Edge. The hero and heroine wind up dangling off a suspension bridge over a rocky gorge. Not an exact translation, but the spirit of the original adventure is there. And it wasn’t the only time a real-life situation inspired us.

On another pre-marriage outing, we decided to go to a local beach. The tide was out and we wandered far from shore collecting rocks and shells, blissfully unaware that the tide was not going out but coming in. By the time we did realize what was happening, there was a large channel of water between us and the shore. As the tide rolled in, we frantically hopped from one shrinking sandbar to the next before Joe finally pointed out it was time to sink or swim. We plunged into the icy waters (it was April on Long Island Sound, not a warm time of year for a dip) and made it to shore, soaked and freezing. As we stood on the shore waiting for feeling to return to our bodies, Joe said, “That would make a good scene in the book!” He nearly got tossed back into the water. However, years later, our icy swim has resurfaced as a scene in Time’s Illusion, the third book of our series.

Does this mean we have fallen through mysterious dark doorways into other times or that we’ve been accosted by a seven-foot tall monster? Nope. Our imaginations work just as well as any other writers. However, real-life events do have a way of working themselves into our tales, albeit in a roundabout way. We’ve been lost in the woods, trapped in an elevator, stuck on a cliff ledge and stranded on a roller coaster. (We hope our mothers aren’t reading this.) And do these things happen to our characters? Not exactly. What we tend to do is latch onto the feeling of the event, the emotion and adrenalin and underlying humor that always seems to infuse the mishaps of our lives.

Of course it’s not just outdoor adventures that inspire us. Mary’s close encounter with an MRI is a good example. There she was lying on the board that slides into the closed tube (no open MRIs in those days!). She had been injected with a strange substance by the evil attendant who then ran away to his safe, radiation-free booth. His voice crackled over the microphone that he used to communicate with his victim…um, patient. He cheerfully told her that if she began to feel uncomfortable she could just squeeze the blue ball that was attached to a wire. This would let him know there was a problem. She had the ball in her hand and lifted it to make sure it was connected. It wasn’t. As she realized she had no way to communicate with the owner of the voice, she looked up to see a yellow smile face sticker grinning down at her from the top of the tube, which seemed at the moment to be a fine sadistic touch. She stoically endured the session and emerged from the tube with red, blotchy skin because she was having a reaction to the injection. The attendant came out from his room with a big smile and proclaimed, “That went well! By the way, you seem to have a sinus infection.” She prudently left before she gave in to her desire to punch him in the nose.

This experience became a scary scene in Time’s Secret. The MRI became a torture device in a place called the Inquisitor’s Chamber, and the attendant became a villain who is eager to demonstrate how the machine works. (For those who are wondering, the smile face sticker didn’t make it into the scene.) All the emotions of the actual event are there and the resolution… Well, the book isn’t published yet, and we don’t like spoilers, but we will say that getting even with evil MRI attendants can be fun.

Fictional Characters Are People, Too

As any writer knows, characters in stories tend to take on lives of their own. You give them eye and hair color, personality traits and quirks, a background, possibly a few talents. Then, like Dr. Frankenstein, you stand back and watch your creations come to life. And, like Dr. Frankenstein, you sometimes discover that creations can behave in entirely unexpected ways.

We put a lot of work into creating characters for our books. We keep a notebook devoted to characters, detailing everything about them from physical descriptions to histories to favorite foods. Many of the details never actually make it into the stories, but they do help us create more fully developed characters who behave in ways consistent with their personalities and backgrounds. We talk about them as if they were real people and just like real people, they do not always follow the nicely constructed plot of their lives.

Nothing blows a hole in a plot faster than a character that just won’t react in the way we had planned. This shows up right away when trying to write a scene that requires a character to behave in a way that, well, just doesn’t suit them. The scene stumbles along, sputters and then stalls. We read it over, trying to determine where the problem is. Invariably, one of the characters is being difficult.

For example, Kate, one of the main characters in Time’s Edge, was supposed to reveal some of her secrets to Michael, the hero of the story. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it happen. No matter which way we wrote the scene, it was awful. Stilted. Unnatural. We finally realized she just didn’t want to reveal her secrets. She came from a family who had learned her secrets and treated her very badly because of it. She had spent her entire life hiding and trying to pretend that she was just like everyone else. She wasn’t about to spill her guts to Michael or anyone else. He would just have to discover her secrets for himself, a job it turns out that he was very good at. A whole new sub-plot developed that gave us a much more exciting and interesting tale.

And that is the strength of listening to characters. Like children (or monsters, if you prefer the Dr. Frankenstein approach), they go their own ways, think their own thoughts, live their own lives. Sometimes they’re logical, sometimes they’re not. They can be maddening, like when they insist on doing stupid things (ie: Michael dives head first through a dark doorway even though we all know he’s headed for disaster, but Kate is in trouble and he’s not the type to let a little thing like looming disaster get in his way!) or, worse, when you need them to do stupid things and they simply won’t (ie: Kate refuses to go through a dark doorway because she’s a seer and knows too darn well what’s waiting for her). She just knows better, even though you need her to do the dumb thing in order to further the plot.

Fortunately, characters have no idea where the plot is going and that’s very good. It frees them to be themselves. They don’t have the tunnel vision that comes from believing a story must unfold in a particular way. They are living the story, reacting as it develops. It’s a little bit like living in the Twilight Zone. We create characters and then they come to life and insist on behaving in ways we can’t seem to control. All we can do is provide them with interesting situations and then see what they do. We basically follow them, recording their experiences as they wander through the worlds we have created. Sometimes their reactions can lead the tale in new and wonderful directions and sometimes it can leave us wondering why we created these unruly beings to begin with. So here’s to Dr. Frankenstein and Rod Serling. We think they’d both understand how we feel.


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