WATCH OUT: Amber Green
SC: I want to welcome you all to another edition of Watch Out. This week I’m pleased to bring you author Amber Green. Welcome to Watch Out, it is so great to have you here.
Thank you, Savannah. I love going new places and meeting new people.
SC: For the readers out there who might not know about you or your work, can you please tell them a little about yourself.
When I was a little girl, watching The Dating Game after school, the squirming in response to that question always fascinated me. Nothing else caused such obvious discomfort, even though those people must have practiced answers to that particular question over and over. What detail do you pick, and what do you leave unsaid? I write erotic romances involving couples and trios. I love research and have wide-ranging interests. I’d much rather write a combat scene than a ballroom scene.
SC: Can you tell us a little about your current release?
Khyber Run was released by Loose Id on May 24.
Transplanted from an Afghani battleground to a Florida playground at age ten, Zarak Momand spent the next several years trying to remember Pakhtunwali, the Pakhtun Way, and instill the Pakhtun warrior spirit in his younger brothers. A generation later, he’s a burned-out Navy hospital corpsman who has lost touch with everything that matters: his brothers, his heritage, and possibly his soul.
Then he’s kidnapped by USMC scout-snipers hell-bent on seeing justice for a murdered brother marine. The murderer has deserted. They have ideas where to find him and plenty of unofficial support–but this is Afghanistan, where the easy answers are wrong and the best-laid plans don’t stand a chance. Codenamed Zulu, Zarak navigates the ambiguities of fourth generation warfare, where there are no front lines and where the moral high ground shifts from situation to situation. He can rely on no one but Oscar, a sexually compelling marine who is every bit the warrior young Zarak had once hoped to be.
When finally told the deserter murdered his estranged baby brother, Zarak sees his way clear. Pakhtunwali allows a man to pierce the wall of hospitality–even the code of sanctuary–to demand justice for a murdered son or brother. For the first time in years, his Pakhtun self and his American self are in full accord. With Oscar at his side, and with the memories roused by their travels in these legendary mountains, he finds his spiritual center.
Secretly crossing the border into the Khyber region of Pakistan, Oscar and Zulu lose their companions, their technology, and their horses. In compensation, they find Z’s extended family, Taliban assistance, and gratified lust in the night.
But is Oscar’s rough passion a betrayal between brothers? And what happens when the deserter would rather die than go back?
I woke muddled, thinking the ship’s engines sounded wrong. Red light glared on my eyelids. Breathing meant gagging on the seagull-shit taste of a hangover. And that sound was not my ship’s engines. More like a sardine can’s engines or…a plane?
Opening my eyes took effort. A plane. From the rear of the fuselage, I faced up an aisle between rows of knees hugging sea bags. Not sea bags: MOLLE-packs. Red lights in strips overhead barely illuminated a couple hundred hunched forms in desert camo, a row of males in body armor along each bulkhead, facing inward, and two rows of females jammed into back-to-back seats in the center. Male or female, each of them clutched one of those carbines the sponges called an assault rifle.
Why am I in a plane packed with camo-assed bullet-sponges?
The plane’s deck angled down sharply. Screams rang in my ears, going dull. My ears cleared, painfully, and the shrieks sharpened.
Crashing. That’s what we’re doing.
The deck roller-coastered up, then yawed faster than physics should allow. Whiplash. I saw stars. The stench of vomit wrung my empty guts.
A dive and another yaw brought more screams ringing off the bulkhead, prayer in Spanish close by, retching farther away.
How did I stay in my seat, with gravity halving and doubling and snatching me starboard to port? When the plane steadied long enough to let me look down, I saw bands of dull silver duct tape strapping my thighs to my seat, and another red-streaked silver band over my belt.
Something hung on my lower face. I had some kind of mask. No. Somebody had duct-taped a puke bag to my face. It sagged obscenely against my chin, like a giant used condom.
Pulling it off hurt. The stench blasted from it.
Where do I put this? I looked around, blinking, trying to make sense. The screamers in the middle seats were mostly army. The hundred or so men squatting in the seats lining the bulkhead were marines. Some laughed at the women. Others hunkered down, as if waiting for shrapnel to find them. A few threw curious glances at me, the only squid in sight.
A cluster of pops rapped at the bulkhead, like popcorn in my mother’s big pot. One of the sponges grinned at me. “Small arms fire. Welcome to Bagram.”
Bagram? A map of the giant air base flashed in my eyes, then a dim memory of riding my father’s shoulder, hiding my face in his turban while a trio of Shuravi — Soviets — stomped an ominously silent laborer. Couldn’t be…
“He means hold on,” added another sponge.
I dropped the puke bag to grab my seat. The plane tilted, again nose-diving but this time braking hard. Instead of falling to the deck, the bag shot forward, splatting against a female’s ear.
“I’m hit! Aaah!”
“God! Brains! Oh, God!”
The plane swerved and jinked, each jerk redoubling the shrieks. The smell of fear, sharp and sour, fought with the smell of vomit.
One of the marines chuckled, despite the sweat beading on his face, and pitched his voice low enough to hear under the shrieks. “You know you’re going to have to police that up, Squidward.”
“No-go, sir. The doc’s our volunteer.”
Volunteer? WTF? I twisted to see who’d called me a volunteer, but his rifle caught my attention first. A bolt-action rifle. A sniper’s weapon.
Behind the rifle, teeth flashed in a grin. He didn’t seem to exist, except as a rifle, a hint of helmet, and a grin. Then the grin vanished.
The deck flipped overhead. The unsecured marines bounced, sending bellows among the screams. I hung from my seat, still taped in place.
The deck flipped again, then slammed up at us. A marine fell across my lap. I caught his weapon before it could bean him. The cool metal slapped into my hand, rousing memories like an old lover’s name.
Find a different excerpt here: http://www.loose-id.com/Khyber-Run.aspx
SC: Which do you prefer, eBooks or paperback?
When the electricity goes out, I prefer paper books. Otherwise, the ability to scroll text size to wherever I need it for the day is very appealing. I also like being able to simply delete a book I dislike, with no angst over the waste of paper or landfill space.
SC: What influences the topics and genres that you pick to write a story in?
Most of my topics have been suggested to me. Left to my own resources, I see a dizzying universe of possibilities–too many to pick from. But my editor says, “How about something set in Afghanistan or Iraq?” or a crit buddy writes a period piece and I start dreaming about another guy in a hat like that, or I hear a song lyric that twists inside my head. The seminal scene usually comes to me in a dream or while twilighting, and can morph repeatedly to suit the characters involved. Unless I’m writing in a series, the genre remains fluid for a while: I’m working on a high fantasy that has shifted from YA to erotic, from M/F to M/M, and so on.
SC: One thing readers might be surprised to know about you?
I only own one pair of shoes. My husband has plenty, though, and I can wear his should the need arise.
SC: What are you currently reading?
A meteorology textbook.
SC: Currently listening to?
Paul Simon, Sting, Ben Webster, Billy Joel, and Cher.
SC: What do you do to recharge yourself and stay fresh with stories?
Besides reading? I eat in places where people talk, so I can listen to them.
SC: Describe your books in 3 words.
My buddy Jadette says, “Provocative, intense and erotic.” I’ll go with that.
SC: What do you think sets your stories apart from other authors?
That’s difficult to say. People express surprise at how much research I do, but other authors research too.
SC: Is there anything you’re currently working on that you can give us a taste of?
Here’s the beginning of one, completely raw and unedited:
I was still stunned from the trial, the words “thirty years” echoing through the empty rooms of my head, when the man in the suit smacked me against a brick wall. “Ever been fucked, kid?”
The world solidified and came clear around me, like a tea glass un-dropped and suddenly un-broke. The man in the suit pressed chest to chest against me, faceless against the sun, mashing my back against the scorching bricks.
The rank smell of old sweat rose from his fifty-dollar suit. He was a prisoner too, then. Nobody is rich enough to ruin a suit that expensive. The kind of man a banker would stand up to shake hands with, that’s what he was. Not the kind of man who sweats in a Biloxi jail yard.
He’d asked a question no man could ask another man. Maybe he expected me to go wild, like a snot-nosed kid.
So I opened my instinctive fists and lowered my voice to match his. “If I have or if I ain’t, mister, is no concern of yours.”
He took his weight off me and stood, a solid shadow in his suit and snap-brim fedora against the melting-hot white sky. “You’re awake. Good. Because three goons around the corner yonder have spent the past half-hour arranging dibs on your ass. You can’t afford to sleep-walk here.”
No. Sleep-walking would get me killed quick. Or get me to wishing I was dead.
He’d done me a favor. Which meant I owed him. A man would admit it. “Obliged.”
“They say you’re bound out on today’s bus. You’re facing hard time. Is it true?”
I took a deep breath. I didn’t know about a bus. “Thirty years. Hard labor.” Adding those two extra words didn’t change anything for me. Labor is hard; that’s what makes it labor. But… “Thirty. Thirty years.”
My voice didn’t crack when I said it. Maybe I’m not hopeless.
He put a hand on my shoulder, squeezed. “Parchman?”
I shrugged. The yard’s dust sat funny on his shoes, as if they were made of glove-soft leather. What did it matter where I’d be sent, if anywhere, or when I’d be sent? Knowing wouldn’t make thirty years go by any faster.
“Probably Parchman. That’s the penal farm.” He leaned closer. “You want out of it?”
SC: What is the best advice you ever got with regards to writing?
You can’t force readers to like something. You can’t make them read long enough to reach the good stuff or to reach the point where everything begins to fall together and make sense; you can only entice them.
SC: Any advice for new writers out there?
Plenty and then some, but the most important thing is to finish the story. Don’t talk about what you’re going to do. Don’t analyze what you’ve written so far. Finish the story. If you find yourself completely bogged down in one scene, either skip over it or change the POV character. Don’t let one boggy scene stop you from moving forward. I highly recommend Write Or Die, by Dr. Wicked. The doctor’s Evil Violins have scraped words out of my head when I thought nothing could.
Once you’ve finished the story, let it rest a little while. While it’s resting safely on your hard drive, take time to consider or research the kind of flowers most common in that place in that month, the physical layout of that airport or station, the kinds of slang your characters might hear or use, whether a magical healer can also affect tanned leather or living wood, and whether 9 p.m. means twilight or dark, moonrise or moonset. Think up a secret lust and a secret fear for each character–most of those lusts and fears never appear on the page, but your knowing them will make each character more of a real person. Then read your story with fresh eyes, marking the appalling timeline errors, color changes, and other brain-farts that always litter a first draft. Add footnotes with your researched tidbits. Then edit: combine or delete the scenes that go nowhere; combine characters to streamline the plot while adding complexity to the persons living through the plot; hack out those big hunks of back-story, mince them, and add them back in bit by bit just before the reader needs to know each fact; and remember the peonies.
SC: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?