Friday, June 29, 2012

Author Stuart Jaffe pens fantasy, post-apocalyptic tales


1.) Stuart, for those not familiar with your works, can you tell us a little about you as a writer and your writings?

Sure. I've been writing for close to twenty years now. Spent much of that time being published as a short story and non-fiction writer. My novels are now coming out and it's been a blast. I write some science fiction (After The Crash) but mostly fantasy. I have a post-apocalyptic series, The Malja Chronicles, that's best described as 'Xena meets Mad Max.' The first book is called The Way of the Black Beast.  I also have a paranormal-mystery series about a modern man whose office is haunted by a 1940s detective.  The first book in that series is called Southern Bound and it comes out this month. I'm working on another Fantasy series that, in today's market, would be called YA because the protagonist is a 16-yr-old girl, but I'm writing it for a general audience.

2.) You are also a co-host over at The Eclectic Review Podcast. What kind of things do you and your fellow host talk about?

My fellow host is my wife, a biologist, and we talk about, well, everything. Some past topics include GMOs, NASA, the publishing industry, robotics, the history of vampires, how your nose works, and much, much more. It's called Eclectic after all. It's a weekly, half-hour show that spends the first half on a topic and the second half reviewing books, movies, comedians, and everything else. We also have plenty of special episodes, such as our annual Schlockfest, where we break form and do something unique.

3.) Who are some of your favorite authors?

My all-time favorite author is John Steinbeck. His books were the first that taught me literature didn't have to be boring. Other writers I love include Jack Ketchum (horror), Brian Keene (horror), John Jakes (historical fiction). Also Kafka and Philip K. Dick. Plenty of others, too, but those are some that don't always get mentioned.

4.) Does music influence your writing?

Yes and no. I've played blues guitar for about twenty-five years, so I don't listen to music while I write. I can't. If I do, I start really listening and then I don't write. But I do feel my music background helps me in "hearing" the rhythms of a scene. More directly, I've drawn on my knowledge and love of the blues to create the Bluesmen -- a group of assassin-musicians that give Malja plenty of trouble in my post-apocalypse books.

5.) Since you have studied martial arts, how does this impact your writing?

For one, I know what can and cannot physically happen in a fight and therefore I can make a conscious choice to be realistic or not in my fight scenes. Also, I've learned how much thinking and how much trained reaction go into combat, so I can utilize that to create tensions or actions accordingly.  I've also trained in weapons, so in the second Malja book, The Way of the Sword and Gun, I have a scene in which two characters have a sword fight. Both are highly trained, so as a result, there is little flashy combat. Instead, they have to watch each other closely and wait patiently for the right opportunities. It's one of the climactic fights and, judging from reader reactions, one of the most exciting and intense fight scenes, even though there is little actual fighting.

6.) Do you think you could take out Chuck Norris? Come on, he's an old man now!

A few months ago I might've been up to the task. Unfortunately, an old knee injury finally said ENOUGH! I'm in the recovery process from having knee surgery, and my doctor said that other than Tai Chi, my marital arts days are over.  So, I'm giving this one to Chuck.

For more on author Stuart Jaffe, check him out online at:
The Stuart Jaffe Website
Stuart's Amazon page
Stuart's Smashwords page

Books read in 2012: No. 58 - Odd Thomas

by Dean Koontz

Started: June 27
Finished: July 1

Notes: A couple of decades ago I was a huge Koontz fan, but I eventually tired of him. His plots and characters all began to feel the same to me. Still, every once in a while I give the man another chance. I'm particularly interested in this novel because it is the first in a series of books concerning Koontz's serial character Odd Thomas, apparently a fry cook who can see dead people.

Mini review: I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised. This is the best Koontz novel I've read in a long, long while, and it is unlike anything else of his I have read (which is quite a lot, though mostly pre-1990 or thereabouts). This is allegedly the first novel in a six or seven book series, and in the future I'll be tempted to read more. Not exactly horror in the traditional sense, more a supernatural thriller, this is still a fairly dark work for Koontz. I enjoyed it more than anything of his I've read in a long time.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dan C. Rinnert novel has everything: assassins, zombies, conspiracies and ... baseball?

1.) Dan, your novel In Search of the Legendary Phineas Ray includes zombies, assassins and baseball. So, tell us how you came up with this interesting, and somewhat unusual, mix for a story?

The early drafts involved baseball, a government conspiracy and an assassin. Stuff like zombies, the unicorn and talking fish came about later, when I would look at mind-numbingly boring scenes and ask myself, “What is the most bizarre thing that could possibly happen right now?”

Imagine you’re trying to track down some information on a very old baseball card. You’d take the card to a sports memorabilia shop and talk to an expert on baseball cards. You’d have stuff like, “What can you tell me about my card?” and “Wow, that’s a very old card. Where did you get that?” followed by “My grandfather gave it to me.” And so on.

That’s all pretty boring stuff. Sure, you can describe what the expert’s wearing and how he’s acting, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s very very boring and, if you fall asleep writing it, your readers will probably fall asleep reading it.

But, if the expert’s just come inside from slaying zombies in the back alley, is covered with blood and carrying a chainsaw, well, now you’ve got something.

2.) What are your future plans for your writing?

I'm currently working on three projects: the not-quite-a-sequel to In Search of the Legendary Phineas Ray, a collection of four short stories in the twisted romance genre and an extraordinarily lame novel.

3.) What are some of your favorite books?

I like old books. When I was in high school, we went to the nearest big city library, as opposed to our local library, to research a paper or something. I don't even remember what the assignment was. One of the books I used was a couple hundred years old. I used to remember how old it was but I don't anymore. I also can't remember if it was one that could be checked out.

At any rate, this book had been around for at least a couple centuries. How many people have held that book through the years?

I have a lot of old books in my collection. I'm not sure how old the oldest is. I have several that are over 100 years old. Some are dog-eared or contain handwritten notes from previous owners, or from someone who gifted the book to someone.

The future, of course, is eBooks. It's easier to have a large collection of books on a handheld device than it is to have as many physical books. On a device that fits in your hand, you can probably hold more books than the early days of the Library of Congress.

However, with that technology, we lose a little bit of history. On an e-reader, you can read the same book that someone else read generations before, and you can imagine what they must have thought when they read it. But, that's not the same as holding the same physical book that someone generations before once held. It's not the same as holding the same book that was passed down from a grandparent to a parent to you. And so on.

We gain convenience, but we lose some of that personal history.

4.) What is your favorite sport, and why?

Soccer because it airs on channels I don’t watch and they never pre-empt a science fiction program for a soccer game.

5.) Pirates vs. ninjas, who will win?

Ninjas are masters of stealth, so that gives them the element of surprise. However, pirates cheat so they're unpredictable, which balances the equation. But, in the end, when you contrast the surgical precision with which ninjas can attack against the rather roughshod nature of pirates, it becomes a moot point because, as the pirates and ninjas battle it out the kraken comes along and swallows the ship, consuming them all.

6.) You are walking home one night when you hear a moaning sound behind you. You turn back to look and find lurching toward you slowly a dozen yards away a flesh-eating zombie! What do you do?

It depends on how far away from home I am.  If I’m far away from home, I simply run home. If they’re slow-moving zombies, they’ll never catch me and I’ll be able to get a large enough lead that they’ll never know where I went.

If I am close to home, then I don’t want them following me to my house. But, there’s this one neighbor that drives his truck through my backyard without even asking permission or anything.  He just drives back there like he owns it or something. What if I had planted stuff there? So, I would run to his house.  I would ring the doorbell and, when someone answered the door, I’d run inside, through the house and out the back door.  The zombies, of course, will follow me shortly thereafter, but they’ll never see where I 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interview with author Elizabeth Baxter


1.) What urges you to write in the fantasy and science fiction genres?

I think it stems from my reading choices when I was little. I learned to read at a very early age. I think I was about four. I worked my way through the school library and found that the really interesting books were the ones about dragons and wizards and great big talking lions. I mean, who wants to read about this world? Boring. So it isn’t a big step from reading about all these other worlds to creating ones of my own. In fact, I think I was six when I wrote my first book (I use ‘book’ in the loosest possible term).

2.) In the past, the speculative genres tended to be dominated by male writers and possibly male readers. Do you think this has changed in recent years?

Absolutely. Name some of the most successful SF authors in recent times and you’d undoubtedly get J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer in there somewhere. In fact, I wrote an article about this topic over on my blog. You can read it here.

3.) Who are some of your least favorite authors, and why?

Stephanie Meyer. Now, let me qualify that. I wouldn’t say she’s one of my least favourite authors, but she has written some of my least favourite books. I hated the Twilight Saga. Sure it’s been unbelievably successful, but it’s one of the few books I’ve ever thrown across a room in frustration. Reason? Bella Swan. She’s a terrible role model for young women. Dumping her friends for a boy she’s known for two minutes? Letting him watch her sleep and thinking that’s normal? Married and pregnant by eighteen? Yuck.

4.) Do you think indie authors are better served by doing all their own work, or by hiring others for some of it (editing, cover design, etc.)? Or does it depend upon the author and/or situation?

If you’re a good cover artist, good editor and understand html formatting, do everything yourself. If not, hire people who are. You can learn to do all that stuff, but it takes time, patience and skill. You’d be better off using that time to write, I reckon. I’m very fortunate in that my other half is both an artist and an editor. Ah, I knew he’d come in useful one day.

5.) If you were given the opportunity to write a media-tie-in novel, would you take it? And which world or universe would you prefer to write in?

When I was about twelve I wrote a book based in Narnia. This took place after the Last Battle and told the story of how Peter and Tirian cause a war because they both want to be king. So I guess that would be a fun tie-in to write. Failing that, I’d love to write something based in Middle Earth. I think I’d focus on The Shire and it’s goings on.

6.) I checked out your blog and ... Oh, my gosh! A woman who reads Steven Erikson! I swear, if I weren't already married, I'd look you up and propose! Sorry, that probably sounds kind of stalkerish, doesn't it? Okay, I have to act all professional and interviewery now. Uh, so the question is: What do you love most about the Malazan novels by Erikson?

What’s not to love? Steven Erikson’s books are amazing! I think it’s the sheer scope that I find most appealing. You have the T’lan Imass and Jaghut that have lived for hundreds of thousands of years, gods that have lived even longer, dragons, immortals and scary black dogs straight out of the Hammer House of Horror. And against this backdrop you have some very human stories playing out. The plight of Iktovian and Beak made me cry. Fantasy writing at its best.

For more on author Elizabeth Baxter, check out:
Her blog: Small Blonde Hippy
Author of Circle Spinner and Other Tales

Books read in 2012: No. 57 - Cross

by James Patterson

Started: June 23
Finished: June 26

Notes: I've never actually read a Patterson novel, but considering he is one of the most popular authors in the world, I've been thinking for some time I should check him out. I've seen a movie or two based upon his works, but I've never read any of his books. Now is the time.

Mini review: This was one of the easiest reads I've had in a while. Patterson is a very bare-bones writer. But while I enjoyed the flow of the text, I wasn't particularly enthralled by the plot or the characters. The plot was a bit too simple for my taste, and the characters weren't wooden but they weren't exactly jumping to life on the page for me. The writing style is very interesting, and I can see why this author is so popular, his words flying through the readers mind so swiftly it's almost more like watching a movie than reading a novel. Would I read Patterson again? Probably, but nothing here is telling me I need to read more from him. Maybe I'll feel differently eventually, but for now I think I got what I wanted from studying this author.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Interviewed by author Martin Lake

Since turnabout is fair play, today author Martin Lake interviews me over at his blog. For those who don't remember, I recently interviewed Martin here on my blog.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bulgarian author Borislava Borissova loves history, mystery, romance and adventure


1.) Borislava, for those who are new to your works, can you tell us a little about your books and your writing?

Affairs of The Heart is my second published book. It comprises of two love dramas: "The Last Secrets of The Ancient Island” and “A Love In A Time of War.” In them lives all passion I have for history and adventures, mysteries and great love.

My young adult fantasy The Starlight Prince became my first published book in 2010.

Now my third book, Love And Other Dreams, is completed and you may find its first chapters here.

I have been working as a recruiter in the field of Human Resources for years, but in my free time history and writing are the important passions of my life. I love interesting stories and legends, adventures that take us through the ages and help us to experience countless earthly and celestial places. I love ancient parts in the towns, which are like museums under open sky. I like discovering these scenes of legends and secrets, history and culture.

2.) Who are some authors who have had an influence upon you as a writer?

They are many, too many, too different in their genre or messages to the readers. Since my childhood I love being in the world of books and I think every author, every text has given something to me first as a reader and second, I have also received some ideas, lessons for writing.

3.) What do you hope the future holds for you and your writing?

Of course, there is the idea about success in everyone. I hope Love And Other Dreams would meet as many readers as possible. Actually, I have never lived with the thought “I can do this.” In my case it is always the sense “I need to write, I want to write.” I believe I am much better storyteller with my new book and I have much to say, to share with other people.

Sometimes I imagine that I am much older, in 2032 for example, I have a time, and decide to start writing the same story again. I suppose, my messages to the readers, my choice of words, my story-telling manner would be different from now. Perhaps it would sound more mature and peaceful but in the text I have written nowadays lives all passion I have for history, mysteries and great love.

4.) Your author's bio on the back of your books says you live in the city of Sofia, Bulgaria, a city with plenty of history that draws lots of tourists. What is your favorite thing about living in Sofia?

Vitosha Mountain. I adore it. I know its marvelous Boyana waterfall, the beauty created by the white blanket over its snow hills and green fields some distance under them in spring times. I think I love most the wonderful sunsets over it. Like A.S.Exupery’s The Little Prince, I can watch these sunsets again and again. The mountain is an important setting of my story “A Love In Time of War.”

5.) What is one of your least favorite things about living in Sofia?

Unfortunately there is a lack of the romantics in the big cities. I am used to working on an open window with noise of passing buses, cars, steps and also voices of many walking people, but sometimes I dream to lay somewhere on green meadow with butterflies, ladybirds, turtles, foxes, hedgehogs, wild flowers, watch the endless sky and writing about love.

Find out more about Boris and her works on these sites:
Borislava Borissova
Amazon page for Affairs of the Heart
Borislava's Facebook page

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Undead are no strangers to author Dawn McCullough-White


1.) Dawn, you write mostly dark literature. Can you tell us a little about yourself as a writer and your novels and characters?

Well, I started writing when I was fourteen years old and spent about six solid years writing novels, then my attention on it waned quite a bit, I didn't attend college and instead went out into the world of minimum wage jobs and experienced the hard knock life of no money and heartbreaks. They can say there is no caste system in the US but that's crap. I began writing again after my second marriage at age thirty-six, and my trilogy is a good reflection of the struggles I went through in my life. It's dark, the characters are tortured souls, and the undead are really a metaphor for being an outsider.

2.) What does your family think of your writing?

My husband is extremely supportive of my writing. He is one of the people who helps beta read my books for me actually, and this fall when my son starts kindergarten I'll have the time during the day to pour energy into writing and marketing, and he is all for it.

3.) Once upon a time, the literary world seemed to be a bit of a boy's club. Do you think that has changed?

Back in the 1990s I submitted a very few query letters to publishing houses and horror magazines, and I received encouraging responses from some of them. I don't really think it mattered what gender I was, what I wrote interested them enough to elicit some response. Now, it doesn't matter at all, I publish myself and have no plans to publish traditionally so if there is an old boy's club it won't effect me.

4.) Your doorbell rings. You answer and find standing before you your character Cameo in real life. What do you say? What do you do?

I'd probably hide my son, she's a killer and an undead with superhuman strength, speed and healing ability.

5.) Your website says Gew├╝rztraminer is your favorite drink. I'm a beer snob, but I don't know much about wine. Can you tell me a little about Gew├╝rztraminer and why it's your favorite drink?

It's a German white wine named after the grapes, and it's pure ambrosia- it tastes like flowers.  It's very easy to drink too much.

6.) What are some of your favorite dishes to eat?

Baklava.

For more on author Dawn McCullough-White
The Dawn McCullough-White website
Dawn's Amazon page
Dawn's Smashwords page

Books read in 2012: No. 56 -- Peace Like A River

by Leif Enger

Started: June 17
Finished: June 23

Notes: My other half rarely suggests a book for me to read, mainly because we have vastly differing tastes in reading material. That being said, she has never lead me astray, so whenever she suggest a book, I generally hop on it and get to reading. This is one of those books. From reading the back cover copy, it's about a 11-year-old boy who goes on a cross-country quest with his family to find his older brother who is wanted for murder and is on the run from the law. Sounds intriguing to me.

Mini review: For the most part, I didn't care for it. The first hundred pages I found completely frustrating as every other paragraph seemed to be a flashback, and most of the flashbacks didn't seem to have much to do with the overall story (though some did, as revealed much later). The middle part of this novel I actually enjoyed. Then the ending I found ... trite ... though admittedly unexpected. And while I would not say this novel was written badly, I did find the descriptions for some of the scenes confusing, leaving me trying to figure out what was going on. Still, this was a touching tale, and despite its literary leanings is still at its heart a speculative novel (not something I expected going in, which isn't a bad thing). Those who enjoy Christian or spiritual fiction might enjoy this one, and those elements of the story I found interesting. I would also like to add there is a strong Western motif to this novel, and it is rather fortunate I recently read Riders of the Purple Sage because if I had not I would have been lost concerning a few minor points; there is a sub plot that actually kind of revolves around Riders of the Purple Sage, and this touch I found interesting especially as I had just read this Zane Grey novel.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Horror author Edward Lorn on his new novel 'Dastardly Bastard'


1.) Edward, you're on a blog tour this month for your new novel Dastardly Bastard. Can you tell us a little about the novel, and yourself as a writer?

Dastardly Bastard revolves around a group of seven unique people taking a tour of Waverly Chasm. Each person must deal with what awaits them on the trail in their own way. The underlying theme is memories and how they affect one’s life.

I don't consider myself a writer, so much as a storyteller. I've been telling stories since before I could write well enough to convey my thoughts. I remember loving Show and Tell when I was a kid. When I was six years old, I told my first grade class that my baby brother had passed away suddenly in his sleep. I had the entire class bawling, the teacher included. I did not, in fact, have a baby brother. But the class didn't know that. When my teacher called to give my mother her condolences, alas, my precious story was destroyed, along with my backside once Mom got off the phone. Of course, the punishment was well deserved. That teacher advised my mother to start making me write this stuff down. Thank you, Mrs. Kratz. Wherever you are.

2.) Do you consider yourself a "dastardly bastard?"

All authors are sneaky sorts. Any of them worth their salt, anyway. So yes, I fit the "dastardly" side of the equation. But with "bastard", the plot thickens. Two little known definitions of "Bastard" are “something irregular,” and “something unusual.” I like both. In that sense, I am most definitely a "Dastardly Bastard". But no, I am not someone's conniving, illegitimate child.

3.) Who are some of your favorite authors?

Stephen King and Richard Laymon have molded me into the writer I am today, but I also enjoy Dean R. Koontz — when he dropped the R., he lost something special—Bentley Little, and Stephen Laws.

4.) Do you consider horror a necessary genre for today's world and today's readers?

To relate to a reader, you must first make them care about your story and characters. With love, comes worry. You don't want anything bad to happen to the people you care about, real or fictional. But what's a story without conflict? You must have something that scares your reader to make your story mean something, to give it purpose. Nothing does that better than an element of fear.

5.) I've seen your blog: What's wrong with microwaving Pop Tarts?

Okay, let's break this down logically.

First, the name "Pop Tart" is indicative of the action performed by the tart. It "pops" from the toaster when the pastry is ready to be consumed.

Second, Pop Tarts are packaged — even in their generic, knock-off form — in aluminum foil. Kellogg's is telling us, subliminally, that these pastries should not be put into the microwave. We're all taught at a young age that metal and microwaves do not mix. The combination equals combustion. If your parental figures missed teaching this important life lesson, you've figured it out on your own, and possibly had to buy a new appliance for your efforts.

Third, as I pointed out in the blog, microwaving Pop Tarts is part of what's wrong with our society as a whole. It takes me two minutes and thirty-seven seconds to toast a Pop Tart to my liking, and I enjoy them a little well done — if “well done” is even the proper terminology here. The microwave instructions state: three seconds on high. Who doesn't have three minutes in their everyday life to toast a Pop Tart? Whoever these individuals are, I feel a great deal of sympathy for them. So I would like to replace "Stop and smell the roses" with the more modern-friendly, "Stop and toast your Pop Tart."

Lastly, Mara McBain, author of Club Justice, commented on my post, asking, "What if you don't have a toaster?" That one killed me. If you don't have a toaster, don't buy Pop Tarts. I liken that to purchasing tires when you don't own a car. Sure, you can make a nifty swing out of a tire, but that's not the manufacturer’s original intention.

6.) Chicken, fish, pork or beef? Or ... tofu?

I'll take the House Special, please. But you can hold the tofu. No need to kill any innocent soy beans just to please my palate.

7.) Your phone rings and you answer. On the other end is a voice identifying itself as belonging to Stephen King. Much as he did with Peter Straub, he wants to collaborate with you on his next book. What is your initial response?

Do you want the first chapter, or can I have it?


For more on author Edward Lorn and his novel Dastardly Bastard, please check out:
The Dastardly Blog Tour page
The Dastardly Bastard Amazon page
The Dastardly Bastard Barnes & Noble page
The Dastardly Bastard Smashwords page
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Books read in 2012: No. 55 -- The Disembodied

by John Grover

Started: June 17
Finished: June 17

Notes: This is another short tale from an author I have interviewed.

Mini review: I have to say, I felt this was one of the more original horror stories I've read in some while, all while keeping within fairly familiar and traditional horror tropes ... the small town with a dark secret, beasties that come out of the woods, etc. The main villain(s) here is different from most of its type, but I'm trying not to give too much away. Also, I'd like to add, the title is perfect for this story; it seems a relatively simple title, and it is, but it's also most fitting.

Books read in 2012: No. 54 -- Carved in Memory

by Ethan Jones

Started: June 17
Finished: June 17

Notes: This author was recently one of my interview subjects, and I do try to read material from some of the writers I interview, especially when they've got a freebie available, such as this short story. I love discovering new writers, and not only do I like to try out their material, but I like to study how they do what they do on the page (or digital screen, as the case may be).

Mini review: There's some fine action writing here. Also, this is more than a short story, but also a preview to Jones' novels. The first-person tale here is right out of the television show "24," so those who are Jack Bauer fans should eat this stuff up. The basic plot? Well, I'll try not to give too much away, but let's just say secret agent (of sorts) Justin Hall has been captured by terrorists and has to find a way to escape while also saving another prisoner.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 53 -- Kiss

by Ed McBain

Started: June 13
Finished: June 16

Notes: The last couple of McBain novels I've read have not been 87th Precinct novels, and I'm kind of missing the old gang. So I decided to grab down this gem from my to-be-read pile. It's about a wealthy blonde who is being hunted by a killer, and the police officer who tries to protect and save her. (I'm guessing the Steve Carella character since he's most often the protagonist in this series).

Mini review: Well, drat. This one was about half courtroom drama, which I tend to not enjoy so much. Still, the police action was McBain's usual superb material. Maybe I should just take a break from McBain for a while, at least to give me some time away from the courtroom stuff.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Author Colin McComb's 'Oathbreaker' a different kind of epic fantasy novel


1.) Colin, you have quite the writer's background. Can you tell us a little about it?

My writer's background starts very, very young. I remember writing some stories when I was in 5th grade that were apparently dark enough that my teacher called my mom in for a conference. Now that I think about it as an adult, that's ... that's kind of disturbing. At any rate, I focused mainly on games for a while, and I got a job designing adventures, accessories, and campaign worlds for Dungeons & Dragons when the property was owned by TSR Inc. That job led me to Interplay Productions/Black Isle Studios, where I helped design Planescape: Torment. And at some point in there, I thought, "I really want to write stories."

2.) Why should readers pick up your novel Oathbreaker, Book 1: The Knight's Tale?

People should pick up Oathbreaker because it's epic fantasy without the doorstop aspect. It's a story told through the eyes of people affected by the history, rather than the ones who are writing the bulk of the history. You won't see the thoughts of the king or his betrayers; we don't follow the machinations (at least not directly) of the coup. Instead, we see the ripples throughout the empire, and follow the escape of a cybernetic knight as he flees the capital with the king's infant daughter. What I'm saying is that it's a fun story, different and imaginative (I hope!), and for the price, you're not taking a risk at all. Also, take a look at those reviews!

3.) Which is more fun: Writing fiction or writing gaming material? Why?

They're both fun in different ways; they both have their challenges. Putting together satisfying mechanics, designing a cool trap, establishing a villain who is seemingly unbeatable, creating a shared world experience with a sense of wonder that hundreds of thousands of people can share and participate in themselves ... all of that is just great fun. It's like building a puzzle for players. With the fiction, on the other hand, I don't have to worry about how the players are going to get around my villain. Instead, it's an exercise in telling the story believably, in which the only way past the tricks and traps is the one my characters take. I don't have to plan multiple contingencies ... it's just pure creativity. I realize this answer is a total copout, but it's like when your kids ask you who you love more: the answer should always be, "I love you both equally, but in different ways."

4.) If you could choose any fictional fantastic creature to be real, which one would it be? And why?

Any? You do realize that I've had like 30 years' of gaming to draw on for this answer, right? I could go with the traditional ("Dragons! Because Smaug was so awesome!" or "Unicorns! Because The Last Unicorn was so magical!") or with the creepy ("Vampires! Because they spar ... ow!") or with the truly weird ("The wolf-in-sheep's-clothing!"

Really, the answer I'd give you would have to depend on my mood at the time. Right now, I can only imagine that any fictional creature made real would be tagged and bagged quickly, especially if it was a threat to human life.

5.) What movie have you seen more than any other? How many times have you watched it?

Oh boy. I watch a lot of movies more than once. For instance, I've seen John Carter three times already. Since I can't say for certain which I've watched more than the others, here's a list of my uncounted favorites. Most of these are movies I can put on in the background; I have others that I watch less frequently because they're more gripping (like, say, The Godfather):
-- Star Wars (original trilogy)
-- Raiders of the Lost Ark (original only)
-- The Usual Suspects
-- Fight Club
-- Cube
-- Lord of the Rings trilogy
-- Alien/Aliens
-- Silence of the Lambs
-- Terminator/T2
-- Apocalypse Now

6.) The mob or the IRS or some other goon squad believes you owe them money. They have captured you and tied to you to a chair. The head goon informs you your debts can be wiped away in a matter of seconds, all you have to do is give up a body part. It doesn't even have to be a big body part. Which part do you pick?

Can I pick my hair? Because, man, if they'd just lay claim to that, I could save a pile on razors. Otherwise, I'd choose the second toe from the left on my left foot, because that's the one with the nail that keeps jamming when I run. Also, can I argue with them about how much money I owe? Because if they let me talk, I'm pretty sure I can talk them down a bit.

For more about author Colin McComb, check out his website and blog.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Science, fantasy mixed in Alisa Jeruconoka's novel


1.) Alisa, for those not familiar with your work, can you tell us something about your writing and you as a writer?

I live in London and studied medicine at university. However on leaving I found a career as a professional business interpreter and did this for several years before deciding to become a writer.

My mum from a young age got me into writing fantasy fiction as a way to make my homework more enjoyable. I found it easy to write about imaginary worlds and characters and loved doing this so much that I carried on writing in my spare time during college and university, where some of my stories were published or performed by the drama department.

2.) What has drawn you to write young adult fantasy literature?

It all happened about two years ago when I visited a bookstore with my fourteen-year-old niece. Whilst choosing a book for her to read, I noticed that nearly all the books in her age group were urban fantasies about vampires and werewolves. It was then that I decided I would write a book with the aim of re-introducing this age group to richly imagined Science and Fantasy fiction, a genre that looked as though it had been forgotten in today’s YA book market.

3.) What is unique about your writing? What won't readers find elsewhere?

I hope what my readers find unique about my book is the way I have merged two genres together, fantasy fiction and science fiction. The challenge for me was not to let one take over the other in the story or writing style.

I have also added an educational element to the book where I introduce young adults to the wonders of the universe as well as advances made in genetic engineering and how non-humans may use these.

4.) Who are some authors who have influenced you?

Some of the writers who have most influenced me are Neil Gaiman, Mark Chadbourn, Kim Newman and Jason Pargin (his pseudonym is David Wong). I just love the way you instantly like their characters and quickly fall into their stories, both of these things is something I would love my readers to experience when reading Unparallel Worlds.

5.) Do you prefer print books or e-books? Or is it all the same to you?

I’m a bit old school and if I have the time I love going to the bookstore to look through the books they have and buying something in print. However I do buy and enjoy e-books, especially those I can’t find in print.

6.) Milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate?

As a women, ‘YES’ to all of them! But if pushed then I would go for dark chocolate with a great cup of coffee.

Alisa adds ...

Please be my guest  at www.unparallelworlds.co.uk. On my site you can find updates about the book and if you are a new or established author then you can use my site as a fantastic way to spread the word about your book.


Books read in 2012: No. 52 -- The Author's Marketing Handbook

by Claire Ryan

Started: June 11
Finished: June 13

Notes: Whenever I pick up one of these modern guides on marketing and writing, I'm always looking for something new, something different to try. Almost always am I disappointed, though I have picked up a few small ideas here and there. Nearly all such books contain the same old material about making use of social networking, hiring help, advertising, etc. I'd like to see something unique, something not everyone else is already doing. Hopefully I won't be disappointed this time.

Mini review: This is solid material for this beginning their career as a self-published writer. Actually, much of the information here would also be appropriate for those looking to blog, or even become a professional blogger. While this e-book wasn't overly technical, it did have a nice hands-on approach I found refreshing. It gets to the nitty gritty without focusing upon a bunch of marketing theory or hoopla, which I also found refreshing. I didn't learn a lot new here, but I did pick up a few hints of things to try and a few new ideas. Well worth my reading time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cathryn Grant brings menace to suburbia with stories, novels


1.) Cathryn, you write in the suburban noir genre. Can you describe suburban noir for those of us not familiar with the genre?

Just like classic noir, Suburban Noir stories always involve a crime, although sometimes I have a loose definition of that word. I’m interested in exploring the circumstances that might drive a seemingly normal suburbanite to commit homicide. One of the themes, obviously, is the dark side of suburban life. On my website, I describe it like this:

Classic Noir focused on the subterranean stream of discontent, a sense that the so-called “good life” wasn’t really that good — that it was actually quite toxic, because it was based on envy, greed, and materialism. Those things lurk behind the suburban veneer of manicured yards, designer furniture, and exotic vacations, fast-paced careers and super-children. Beneath that? Fear.

I’m interested in the slow, inevitable descent into crime. Although they’ve been called psychological thrillers, my novels and stories are more centered in a character’s mental state rather than a typical psychological thriller where the action is driven by someone in jeopardy. My novella series is slightly different, partially because those stories involve encounters with spirits from beyond the grave, but still explore similar themes of the disconnect between characters’ internal worlds and what they reveal to others.

I don’t know whether it’s a recognized genre, but recently the collection of short stories, Long Island Noir, was characterized as Suburban Noir, and Megan Abbott labeled her latest novel Suburban Noir.

2.) What do your books bring to readers that is unique?

My fiction peels back the walls of suburban homes to reveal the truth within. Instead of pulse-pounding suspense, there’s a mood of dread that builds slowly. A guy who read my first novel said I make the mundane menacing.

3.) Which one of your novels or short stories makes you the most proud? Why?

One that hasn’t yet been published … yet! – "I Was Young Once."

The story was prompted by a vivid experience I had when thinking about my grandmother after she’d died. I was washing one of her pans, looking at my hands in the soapy water and thinking of her hands washing the same dish. Of course, as they usually do, my thoughts turned to crime.

It’s a fairly short story, less than 3000 words. It received an honorable mention in the 2007 Zoetrope All-Story short fiction content. Joyce Carol Oates, one of my favorite writers, judged the contest that year. Knowing she enjoyed my story still gives me a thrill, almost 5 years later.

I had taken the story to my critique group and received a wide range of feedback. One person in the group gave it high praise and suggested not changing a word, but I re-wrote it based on the other responses, which were much less positive. My husband said I’d ruined it. I decided I agreed with him and submitted the original to the contest. That experience taught me a lot about being true to my voice.

4.) Which do you feel is most important: characters, plot, theme or setting? Or something else?

It’s difficult to separate those components. I think the best fiction has all four so tightly integrated they become one thing – the setting is a character, character is action (plot), characters are molded by their environment, and the theme reveals itself in the characters, plot, and setting.

5.) Professionally you work in marketing. How has that influenced your writing? Or has it?

The high tech industry inspires me to tell dark stories! Seriously, sort of, Silicon Valley is the setting for most of my fiction. Other than that, my day job hasn’t influenced my writing much. It does influence the business side of being an indie author because I’ve learned a lot about running a business, marketing, and all that fun stuff we writers would rather not do.

6.) Where can I find the world's best martini?

I can’t say I’ve tasted martinis the world over, so I’ll stick close to home – The Distillery restaurant in Half Moon Bay, California, offers excellent martinis, a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, and their very own ghost.

For more about author Cathryn Grant
Cathryn’s website: SuburbanNoir.com
Amazon page
Smashwords page

Friday, June 08, 2012

'Wings of Shadow' first novel from author Anna Kyss


1.) Anna, for those who are not familiar with you, can you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I just released my debut novel, Wings of Shadow, in late May. It is the first book in The Underground Trilogy. At first glance, it is a YA urban fantasy with a hint of sweet paranormal romance. But the novel also examines the concepts of social Darwinism: what cost should be taken to save an entire species? What sacrifices should be made? I think readers will be surprised at the very literal manner in which this theme is tackled.

2.) What is a typical writing day like for you? Or is there such a thing as a "typical" writing day for you?

As I am relatively new to the writing arena, I have a foot in two different worlds. During the weekdays, I am immersed in my “first” career which creates odd writing hours. I often begin writing around ten at night, and my best bits of creative genius seem to happen in the midnight hours. Often, I spend Saturday or Sunday doing a writing/editing/revising marathon.

3.) Who are some writers you believe have had a major influence upon your writing?

There are multiple paths to becoming a writer. Some people seem to know from the time they are children. They grow up writing down all the creative stories their imaginations provide and take all the proper coursework in college.

I had no idea that there was a writer hiding within me until I was in my thirties. I was a voracious reader, though: the child who always had a pile of thirty books and finished that pile within days. I did always receive compliments and high grades on my written work, formal reports and such, throughout all of my schooling.

My biggest influences have been the stories of authors who woke to discover novels within them and their resounding successes when they set those novels free.  

4.) Mountains or beaches? Or neither?

I’m an eclectic traveler … sometimes I am in the mood for a tropical beach; at other times, I prefer hiking through the mountains or groves of old growth forest. I even have my “big city” moments. As long as I have the chance to wander someplace new, I’m a happy, happy girl!

5.) If you could drink only one liquid for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Really? You had to pick this question? I am so embarrassed to actually have to answer this. I thought about making up some interesting drink of choice, but I am going for complete and total honesty in this interview, so here it goes …

I tend to eat a pretty healthy diet. I buy mostly organic, always look for the local vegetables, and have been on a vegan diet for the past 13 years (and vegetarian even longer than that). But, if I had to pick only one liquid to drink, it would have to be my horrible, terrible, “bad habit” drink — I can’t believe I am actually going to reveal this to the masses — Diet Coke. I would be completely content to drink nothing but Diet Coke for the remainder of my days. There, my secret is finally out!

6.) What is one country you've never visited but which you would like to travel to? And why do you want to go there?

This is an impossible question. Only one?  There are so many choices. A quick Google search showed approximately 196 countries in the world, and I have only visited twelve of them. That leaves 184 to set foot on, and I do want to set foot on each and every one.

If I was forced to choose only one, though, it would have to be Bhutan. I would love to spend time in a country that measures the Gross National Happiness of its citizens, and values Gross National Happiness more than Gross Nation Product. Happy Buddhists in the Himalayan mountains … sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Besides, who wouldn’t want to visit a country with such a cool nickname: Land of the Thunder Dragon. If Bhutan didn’t lay claim to the name already, it would have made an excellent title for a novel!

For more on author Anna Kyss, check out her website annakyss.

Books read in 2012: No. 51 -- Riders of the Purple Sage

by Zane Grey

Started: June 5
Finished: June 11

Notes: While I have long been a fan of Old West film and historical studies, I've never been drawn to fictional literature about the period. Something about the bravado of the times doesn't work well for me in the written word, though I'm enjoyed some McMurtry, Twain and a little L'Amour over the years. That being said, my recent historical reading has given me a push to try some Old West fiction once again, so I thought I'd start with one of the classic authors of the genre and one of his best-known works, a novel which has had a major influence over the Old West genre since its original publishing in 1912.

Mini review: A dandy of a story, and I can see how it has influenced Western literature and film over the years because there are a number of characters that have become quite "stock" with the genre. The author here spends a lot of time describing the landscape, mainly the rugged lands of Utah in the early 1870s, and this is a double-edged sword; it's good because the description are done quite well, but it's also bad because it stops the story cold for a while. If famed Western director John Ford was not influenced by these landscape descriptions, I would be surprised, because Ford's Western made grand use of the deserts and plains and crags of the West as setting, making setting a character in and of itself, which Grey did with this novel. Apparently there's a sequel to this story, and I will be searching it out.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Interview with Judi Coltman, author of 'In The Name of The Father'


1.) Judi, for those who don't know you, can you tell us a little about yourself as a writer, and about your books?

I have been involved in some aspect of the publishing business for twenty years. I've written exciting articles for national publications about sales, marketing and point of purchase displays as well as the fascinating world of nuclear power and auxiliary feed water pumps. So it makes sense that I would make the leap into fiction, no?  I decided in 2010 to pursue my passion, dusted off some story ideas and got to work.

2.) What is your favorite genre to read? And to write?

I love a good mystery but throw in biographies for a change of pace. I don't have a favorite genre to write in, I change it up all of the time. May I just lump it all into Literary Fiction?

3.) Who are some of your favorite authors?

In no particular order:
John Irving
Patricia Cornwell
John Grisham
Pat Conroy

4.) As a writer, how do you define your own success?  

There are really two layers to how I define success. At the gut level, success was when I sold my first book to people I did not know. On a financial level, success is selling books every month without doing too much to make it happen. But, off the top of my head ... success is the moment I committed to myself to make it happen and I followed through.

5.) How many times a day do you check your sales numbers? Tell the truth! 

I've gotten much better at controlling myself. I check sales first thing in the morning, once in the afternoon and again before I go to bed. There have been times, though, where I check when I wake, again with my second sip of coffee, and then every 5 minutes throughout the day. I found it wasn't making a difference.

6.) If you could go back in time and meet anyone, who would it be and why?

Unfair question. I should probably say I'd like to meet someone like Joan of Arc, but the truth is, I'd like to meet Paul McCartney ... and Oprah. I don't need to go back in time to do that.

For more about author Judi Coltman, check out ...
Her blog: My Life in a Nutshell
Her website: Judi Coltman
Her Amazon page

Monday, June 04, 2012

Author J.S. Dunn's research brings authenticity to novel of Bronze Age


1.) What brought you to write historical fiction, especially that set in the North Atlantic during the Bronze Age?

You mean, what eejit would spend ten years researching the early Bronze Age in cold, damp Ireland and along north Atlantic coasts! It helped to be living in Ireland at the time, where I developed a keen interest in the great Boyne passage mounds, what culture built those and why. Why were those enormous, engineered mounds later called elfmounds? That seems like quite a piece of propaganda.

As the research progressed, it became clear that Something Big happened at circa 2500-2200 BCE. Fortunately many eminent archaeologists of our day agree with that. Don't you just love it when that happens? The whole paradigm for the Bronze Age is shifting due to new archaeology, linguistics, and genetics findings. This is the first fiction to use the new approach.

So the conflict in this novel is between old and new cultures and concerns change. How will the native Starwatchers who built the mounds adapt to the incoming marauders who want to exploit Eire's copper and gold. Parts of the plot follow the myth of Aengus, but the physical setting strives to be factual. That’s another first – this novel of ancient Eire uses no anachronistic iron swords, and no fluffy fairy folk or druids.

2.) What relations do you see between the ancient world and today's world?

The novel Bending the Boyne contains many political references including a quote from Gerry Adams, “Making peace is harder than making war.”

Also, issues of ecology and sustainability come into play. Early mining and smelting left a chemical trace, arsenic and other nasty residues, that can be detected today from soil core analysis. From ancient Cyprus to southern Spain, the land denuded of trees for ancient mining has never recovered. Spain used to be green and covered with a forest, now it’s a desert south of the Pyrenees. That’s just fact and plain to see. Are we going to get it, the lessons visible from the past, and use our environment wisely?

3.) Can you tell us about some of your future writing projects?

Thanks for asking – an excerpt from the second novel has just been accepted for an anthology of historical fiction. The second novel is set around 1600 BCE, another period of change in the Atlantic Bronze Age.

4.) Who are some authors you feel have influenced you as a writer?

Definitely: Robert Harris, Mary Renault, Edward Rutherfurd, James Michener. And Jean Auel for making the Paleolithic accessible to the modern reader, which I hope to do for the Bronze Age.

5.) Which do you do more of, writing or research? And how do you relate them to one another?

Am obsessive about the research and using primary source material whether it’s astronomy, archaeology, paleobotany, or genetics. And, I must have redrafted each chapter in Bending The Boyne at least twenty times. No doubt the second novel will take several years to finish as well.

Here is an example. An article in a genetics journal concluded that the Irish pygmy shrew came to ancient Eire from northern Spain (and not the UK). So that tidbit prompted an entire new chapter and subplot in the next novel about a fellow who hitches a voyage from Spain disguised as a pack of skins – only to find shrews bothering him at night during the trip!  Solid research adds so much to telling the tale, it cannot be overlooked.

6.) According to your site, you have traveled quite a bit. Where are some of the places you have been, and where are some places you look forward to traveling to in the future?

Have explored 5000 year old copper mines in northern Spain (and the local wines and goat cheeses were excellent), and a small mound on Anglesey off Wales, and the large passage mounds and stone rows of the Morbihan in Brittany, France; to name a few. The megaliths are usually located on high with scenic vistas and can be very moving places to visit, unforgettable.

I really enjoy the travels; rough days hiking around remote sites but staying in good country hotels at night is the way to do it. Also it pays to get a local driver rather than renting a car. The local can find things much faster than the tourist – that is, once they understand my Spanglish or bad French. Later in 2012 I hope to see sites in Cornwall, and in Ar Mor/northwest Brittany, then drop down to southern Galicia and Portugal. The research sets the itinerary.

Travel tip:  RyanAir can fly you around within Europe for less than $50 USD if one books the flight(s) early enough. I’m a huge fan of that airline despite its no-frills reputation. But go online to book the flights from the States, and well in advance of your trip to Europe (via a US or major carrier).

For more on author J. S. Dunn, please visit:
J.S. Dunn Books
Seriously Good Books
Amazon page for Bending the Boyne

Win a Kindle Fire or a Kindle Touch and a BUNCH of free e-books

With the July 4 release of his new novel The Wizard & The Warlord, author M.R. Mathias is holding a contest to give away a free Kindle Fire and a free Kindle Touch, each which will come loaded with nine of his own e-books as well as five e-books from other fantasy authors (including my very own Ghosts of the Asylum novel).

Anyone can enter the contest, so what are you waiting for?

Friday, June 01, 2012

Joe Mirabello, author and artist, interviewed

1.) Can you tell us about your novel The Armpit of Evil? And how did you come up with that title?

The Armpit of Evil is an exhaustive dissertation on the effects of the axilla region of the body on altruism. It’s also a satirical spin through everything we love, and hate, about the fantasy genre, filled with heroic chins, evil citadels, damsels in distress, vile sorcerers, and monsters of every type. It’s the only book in existence that examines aerodynamics of cutlery-style grappling hooks, reveals the secret marketing schemes of dungeons, and features a madcap cast of characters so jam packed with hilarity that no physical media yet has been crafted that can handle the insanity! That’s why it’s only an e-book.

As for the name The Armpit of Evil, it came from being the last domain name left on the internet. Ever. It was just sitting there, like the last puppy at the Oliver Twist Puppy Orphanage, cold and lonely and unwanted, its fur mangy, its bowl kibble-less. So I bought it (the domain name)and wrote a book to remind us all that the world is not some cruel place where we let such travesties happen! Every time you visit The Armpit of Evil site,that poor, shivering domain name feels loved and you, yes you, make the world a better place.

2.)Do you have any future plans for another novel? Or short stories? Or something else writing related?

Well, it’s only peripherally related to writing, but I’m planning on turning The Armpit of Evil into a perfume line for women.

Actually, in all honesty, as much as I enjoyed writing a light-hearted satire like Armpit, I lately have been taking a successful dive into horror/spec fiction work. I had my obligatory-creepy-little-girl-horror-story appear in the most recent Arcane (as the anthology opener no less!), and I recently sold a story to Shock Totem.

I do have more than my share of trunk short stories, novels, and such. I am constantly working on something new, or many new things, as the case often is. Heck, I’m almost obsessive about it.

3.) You are an artist professionally. How has that impacted your writing?

To state the obvious first, working as an artist gives me an acute awareness for how a scene is arranged visually, and for what details to paint across the written page that might stick in the mind in the reader.

More importantly, being an artist professionally first means I approach writing with a ‘practice, practice, practice’ mentality. People aren’t born with the skills to be a professional artist, especially in a field like mine (video game environment art), which is highly technical. I’ve had to earn whatever skills I have by starting from the suckiness of square one, and there’s no shame in that. My attitude towards writing is the same way; I practice a lot!

4.) Which would you rather work on, visual art or writing? Why?

I use one as an escape from the other, so, my answer is probably: whichever one I’m not doing now! Additionally, what I want to work on depends on whether I’m mostly reading, gaming, watching movies, reading comics, or looking at art at the time. I’m a vessel for distraction, and there’s nothing that will make me want to contribute more to the oceans of a medium than diving in and going for a swim. If I know I have something I NEED to complete, I often have to ban myself from OTHER formats of entertainment, as they’d only pull my heart out of what I’m working on.

All that said, the lines between art and writing are not as distinct to me as they seem to be for others. Art, writing, technology: they’re all means to convey a concept, and I’m happy, thrilled even, to explore where those lines blur. That makes an industry like video game development one I’m well suited to, I suppose.

5.) Good guys or bad guys, which do you prefer?

Bad guys are way easier to write!

6.) What is your favorite cheese?

Havarti, though only in moderation. A world full of havarti, while resolving all global cheese shortages, might just be one of the end signs foretold in Revelations.

7.) What is your favorite word? Why?

No, but that’s a pretty good one: versatile...useful as a question...or an exclamation...or a death-cry ... but no, I can’t say that’s my favorite.
To find out more about Joe Mirabello, check out ...
artwork by Joe Mirabello

Books read in 2012: No. 50 -- The Story of the Outlaw: A Study of the Western Desperado

by Emerson Hough

Started: June 1
Finished: June 5

Notes: The author was a friend to Pat Garrett, and a known Western journalist and writer of the late 19th Century, so I've been wanting to delve into this little book for some while now to see his impressions. Apparently this is a collection of articles about various known outlaws of the Old West.

Mini review: As expected, this wasn't all exciting reading, though some of it was. What was most interesting for me was the historic aspect of this book, supposedly published in 1905 though there are mentions of dates in 1905 and even one in 1906 within the pages. The language here was of interest from a historical perspective, as was the opinions about some of the "bad" men of the Old West. Here, "bad" men means something more akin to what we would think of today as tough men, though not necessarily evil men. The author here is also pretty opinionated, especially toward the end of the book, about various aspects concerning crime, law and order. Worth reading for fans of history about the Old West.