Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Author Ethan Jones introduces new action thriller hero with Justin Hall novels

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

I write spy thrillers and have completed two novels. Arctic Wargame is the first book in Justin Hall series.  Justin, an agent with the Canadian Intelligence Service, has been demoted after a botched rescue operation in Libya. Eager to return to the field, he volunteers for a reconnaissance mission to the Arctic, after two foreign icebreakers appear in Canadian waters. His team uncovers a treasonous plan against Canada’s security and falls into an ambush by one of their own. Left for dead in the Arctic, Justin and his team must race to save themselves and their country. Arctic Wargame came out on May 22 on Amazon as an e-book and paperback.

Tripoli’s Target is the second book in Justin Hall series. Justin and his partner, Carrie O’Connor, are sent to meet with the Sheikh of the largest terrorist network in Northern Africa, to receive some high-value intelligence. They learn about an assassination plot against the U.S. president, which is to happen during a G-20 summit in Tripoli, Libya. Justin and Carrie inform the U.S. Secret Service about this plot. Then, new intelligence comes in, and they realize something is very, very wrong in their plan. Against all odds, they must stop the assassination before the summit forty-eight hours away. Tripoli’s Target is scheduled for a late fall release this year. Its prologue and first chapter are included as bonus content at the end of Arctic Wargame.

Two of my short stories are also available on Amazon.  The first one, "Carved in Memory," is a prequel to Arctic Wargame and explains an important aspect of Justin’s background. The second one, "The Last Confession," is about a dying NY mobster confession to his priest.

2.)  Ethan, as your website states, you are a lawyer by trade. It seems to me a number of lawyers have become well-known authors over the years, Coonts and Grisham being two of the most obvious, so I have to wonder how that particular career has driven so many lawyers to become writers. How has being an attorney impacted your own writing?

There is a lot of writing and reading involved in the work of a lawyer. Memos, briefing notes, witnesses reports, opening and closing statements. A lot of research goes into preparing for a case, whether it ends up in court or not. The legal research sharpens one’s mind, as everything needs to be persuasive and concise. These skills are extremely helpful when writing a fictional novel.

3.) What do your novels bring to readers that is unique?

My stories feature Canadian secret agents and there aren’t that many of them in the fictional world, although Canada has a strong presence in the international intelligence community.  The plots and the storylines take the reader to places they are unable to go or it wouldn’t be advisable to visit. I hope the readers find my novels entertaining and will want to read more.

4.) Since you write espionage thrillers with links to Canada, what kind of research have you done? For instance, have you had contact with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service?

I have read a lot of CSIS reports and double-checked the facts of my story. Of course, I have made full use of my creative license, but I have tried my best to give the reader as much truthful information and a plausible storyline. I have made good use of internet sources, as well as other media. I have also talked to some CSIS agents.

5.) What is your favorite sport? Why?

I like to play tennis. It exercises all the muscles of your body and it sharpens your reflex skills. Also, one needs only one partner to play it.

6.) You are sitting in your office one day when a well-dressed man comes in, sits down across from you, removes a pistol from beneath his jacket and places it on your desk within easy reach of himself but not quite within your own range. "I have a story to tell," he says. What is your response?

My response will be: I’ll cancel all my meetings for today.

Ethan adds:

I would love readers' feedback.  They can get in touch with my via e-mail. I promise to write to each and every one of them.

My blog is the place to learn about my future works, to enjoy exclusive book reviews and author interviews.

I'm also on Facebook.

The Amazon page for Arctic Wargame.

As an added bonus, here is an excerpt from Arctic Wargame:


Ghadames, Libya
Six months ago
October 10, 3:00 a.m.

The sand dunes sank into darkness as a curtain of clouds dimmed the glow of the crescent moon. Justin limped closer to the small barred window of his prison cell. His bruised chest pressed against the rough surface of the bloodstained wall. He squinted and tried to stand on his toes for a better look. The rusty shackles clawed against the scarred skin of his ankles, and the heavy chain rattled on the cement floor.

“Quiet. Be quiet, you bastard infidel,” a guard growled in Arabic from down the shadowy prison hallway.
Justin stood still and drew in a deep breath, the cold night air of the Sahara desert filling his heaving lungs. Everything went silent again. No rapid steps rushing to his cell. No swearing bellowed by other inmates. He lifted his head, wrapped his free hands around the iron bars, and clenched his teeth, ignoring the jolts of pain from his fingers. With his eyes about an inch over the windowsill, Justin scoped the landscape, searching for the long-awaited rescue team.

Abdul, his connection within Libya’s Internal Security Agency who lay in the cell next door, had confirmed their escape was to take place early that morning. Their previous attempt the night before had failed, despite the inside help of one of the terrorists. Justin hoped this time their plan would be executed with no glitches.

At first, he noticed nothing except the rugged outlines of the steep dunes and the whitewashed walls of the sleepy town. Straining his eyes, he peered again. A small shadow slithered toward the prison wall. Justin blinked to clear his vision and stared at the approaching figure.

Bent at the waist, the shadow advanced at a rapid pace. It quickly disappeared from his sight, and he wondered whether the man had encountered a guard.

Justin’s heart pounded. He placed his ear to the wall and sensed a low grating noise. Someone, the shadow he hoped, was scaling the wall.

The window was at least twelve feet above the ground. He wondered how long it would take the shadow to reach it. A long minute dragged by and Justin was still alone. He breathed faster and faster and urged the man on the freedom side of the wall to make good time.

Finally, a hushed voice whispered in Arabic, “Abdul, Abdul, it’s me, Bashir. You there?”

“I’m Justin,” he replied softly.

“You’re the Canadian agent. Where’s Abdul?”

“In the other cell, around the corner, but that one has no window.”

“When did they move him?”

“A few hours ago, after they gave him a good beating.”

“Can he walk?”

“I think so.”

Bashir went silent for a moment. Justin looked up, but could not see the man’s face through the window. He asked slowly, “Bashir?”


A few seconds later, he heard a scraping sound. Bashir was offering him a large metal key through the window bars. “That’s for the shackles,” Bashir said under his breath, “and this is for the guard.” He produced a black dagger.

Justin grabbed the handle and weighed the weapon in his weak hand. A ray of moonlight glinted off the ten-inch blade.

“Can you do this?” Bashir whispered.


“You have only one chance. I’ll wait for you and Abdul in two black Nissans by the main gate. Then we’ll drive across the border to Tunisia.”

Justin frowned. “What about the hostages? The two Canadian doctors?”

“The Algerians moved them from their safe house to another location, out of the prison but still in town. My men are on their way there.”

“And Carrie?”

“Yes, your partner is with them.”

Justin breathed a sigh of relief. “OK. I’ll make sure Abdul and I meet you by the gate.”

“You’ll have to be quiet. About twenty men are guarding the prison, and we can’t defeat them all.”


“Abdul knows the way, but if you can’t free him, walk down the stairs and go left. The hall will take you to a small courtyard on the ground floor. There will be a guard or two by the gate. You need to cross into the house next door.”

“Downstairs, then left, then to the house,” Justin said, finding it a bit difficult to concentrate on Bashir’s words.

“Yes. Get to the roof of the house and drop down along the side facing the mosque. Follow the road leading to the main gate. Is it clear?”

“Yes, it is.”

Bashir’s clothes rubbed against the wall, and then silence returned to Justin’s cell. He stared at the key and the dagger in his right hand. Stepping back from the window, he was careful not to jerk the chain and alert the guard beyond the solid metal door. The key fit into the shackles’ padlock. He coughed loudly as he turned the key to cover the dull clunk of the lock snapping open. Now almost free, he removed the metal loops from around his ankles.

First imprisoned in Tripoli after their hostage rescue operation went wrong, Justin and Abdul were subjected to torture by the Algerian hostage takers for two days. After Justin and Abdul attempted an escape and killed a guard in the process, the Algerians––with the help of the Libyan secret police––moved them to Ghadames, an isolated and less risky place in their minds.

Justin wasted no time. He took a deep breath, gripped the dagger tightly, and called out to the guard, “Hey, open the door.”

“Shut up,” the guard roared back.

“I need to talk to you.”

“No. Just shut up.”

Justin banged twice on the heavy door.

The guard’s voice grew louder as he drew nearer to the door. “What’s the matter with you? You want me to break your leg?”

Justin slammed his fist against the door.

“That’s it. You asked for it,” the guard shouted.

Keys clattered as the guard struggled to find the right one to unlock the door. Justin stepped to the side and lifted his dagger high, waiting for the right moment. His hand shook. The weapon felt heavy, straining his muscles.

“I’m going to beat some sense into you now,” the guard barked.

As the guard shoved open the door, Justin thrust his hand toward the man’s throat. The blade slashed deep under the man’s thick chin, severing his windpipe. The guard dropped dead into his stretched arms, blood sputtering from the man’s mangled neck.

Justin used the guard’s black robe and turban to wipe the blood stains from his face and his arms. He stripped the man of his keys, his side arm—an old Beretta 92 pistol—his AK-47 assault rifle and two magazines. Justin dragged the body to a corner of his cell and locked the door behind him.

He tiptoed to Abdul’s cell. On the second try, he found the right key. As he opened the door, the powerful stench of sweat and urine almost twisted his stomach inside out. Abdul was lying against a wall, asleep.

“Abdul, Abdul, wake up.” Justin rustled him.

“Huh? What?” Abdul mumbled with a big yawn.

“Time to go, man.”

“Justin, how did you…” Abdul sat up slowly and stared into Justin’s eyes.

“Bashir gave me a key and a knife.”

“Bashir? When did he come?”

“Tell you later. Let’s go. Can you walk?”

“Yes, yes, I can.”

Justin unchained Abdul’s bruised legs and helped him to his feet. Abdul leaned against the wall before taking a few unsteady steps.

“I’m good. I can do this,” Abdul said.

“OK, follow me.”

“First, give me that.” Abdul pointed at the assault rifle.

“Bashir said we need to break out in silence. Too many fighters for us to kill them all.”

Abdul held the AK-47 in his hands with difficulty and fumbled with the safety switch. Finally, he switched it to full automatic. “Just in case,” he mumbled.

“Let’s go.”

Justin threw a glance down the hall and signaled for Abdul to follow him. They moved quickly to the end of the narrow hallway, their bare feet tapping lightly on the concrete floor, grains of sand gritting their toes.
“We go to the first floor, then left,” Justin said as they came to a spiral staircase.

“Then what?”

“Left through the hall until we reach the courtyard. We have to go through the door taking us to the house next to the prison. Bashir will wait for us at the main gate.”

“What? That’s Bashir’s plan? There’s always a group of guards in the back.”

“He said there should be only one, two at the most, and we have to get rid of them quietly.”

“That’s impossible. They’ll see us as we go outside and kill us.”

“Maybe they’re dozing off.”

“If not, we shoot first.”

“No. We’ll have the rest of the Algerians coming after us.”

Justin winced as his left foot landed on the coarse surface of the first stair. He took two more steps and turned his head. Abdul nodded and followed behind him. Holding the dagger ready in his hand, Justin continued down the stairs. He reached the bottom. The hall forked right and left. A light flickered from the right. Justin stepped back, gesturing for Abdul to stop.

“What’s that way?” Justin asked in a hushed tone, pointing toward the light.

“A kitchen and a dining area. And someone’s awake.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’re slipping out the other way.”

Justin glimpsed again toward the dim light, then to the opposite side and began creeping down the hall. He saw a door about twenty steps ahead and figured it was the one opening into the courtyard. Pressing on, he quickened his pace. Abdul’s feet shuffled loudly behind him.

“Quiet, quiet, Abdul,” he said.

“That’s not me.”

Justin turned his head and looked over Abdul’s shoulders. He stared right into the eyes of a man standing five or six steps behind Abdul and pointing a pistol at them. The gunman was of a small, thin stature, clad in a white robe and a black headdress.

“Stop or I’ll blow your head off,” he said in Arabic.

The gunman’s voice crackled abruptly. Its unexpected high pitch startled Justin. The pistol shook in the young man’s hands.

“He’s just a kid,” Justin whispered to Abdul, who was preparing to turn his rifle toward the gunman.

“I will shoot you,” the young man squeaked, this time louder. “You, turn around with your hands in the air,” he ordered Abdul.

Abdul swung on his heels, firing a quick burst.

“No,” Justin shouted.

Bullets went through the gunman. Two large purple stains appeared on his chest as he collapsed over a chair.

“No, no, no,” Justin cried. “He was a kid, just a kid.”

“Who was going to blow our heads off,” Abdul replied.

“We could have talked to him.”

Abdul shook his head. “No time for talk. Now run.”

Before Justin could say anything, someone kicked open the door behind him.

“Down,” Abdul shouted and pointed his AK-47 toward the door.

Justin fell to the floor, while Abdul kept his finger on the assault rifle’s trigger. Bullets pierced the bodies of two guards who entered the hall. Loud cries and barking orders came from two stories above. Rapid thuds of heavy boots echoed throughout the prison. Justin pulled out the Beretta from a pocket of his tattered khakis. As soon as two men running downstairs entered his sights, he planted a couple of bullets in each man’s neck.

“Go, go, go. Move, move!” he yelled at Abdul.

Abdul checked the door and fired a short burst into the courtyard. A few shrieks confirmed he hit his mark, and he dove outside. More gunfire followed. The reports of assault rifles echoed in the night. Heavy machine guns hammering in the distance pounded the urgency of their escape into the Canadian agent. After trading his Beretta for a high-powered AK-47 next to the body of a dead guard, Justin joined Abdul in the courtyard.

Books read in 2012: No. 49 -- Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear

by Ed McBain

Started: May 28
Finished: May 31

Notes: Though I'm a big fan of McBain's 87th Precinct novels I've only read one other of his Matt Hope series. This will be the second. I was slightly disappointed with the first Matthew Hope novel I read, Mary, Mary, because it didn't have the hard-boiled edge McBain's earlier police procedural novels contained. However, Mary, Mary was still a decent read, so I thought I'd give another novel in this series a try.

Mini review: My impression remains the same concerning the Matt Hope series. The writing isn't bad, and I've read enough to see how McBain is putting these stories together, put legal dramas just aren't my thing. So, for the most part I'll be sticking with McBain's police procedurals.

Books read in 2012: No. 48 -- On the Good, Red Road

by Blake Crouch

Started: May 28
Finished: May 28

Notes: This author has a number of thriller/horror novels that are of interest to me, but I've put off reading his material for some time simply because there is so much to read. No more. Up until now I've only read one short work he did with Joe Konrath a couple of years ago, so it's time I read some of Blake's solo work.

Mini review: An excellent short story mixing non-supernatural horror with the Western genre. I believe, though I'm not positive, this short tale is actually a prologue or perhaps first chapter of a longer work, the novel Abandon, which I've been wanting to check out. This only whetted my appetite.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fantasy author Scott Fitzgerald Gray interviewed

1.) For those who don't know, Scott, can you tell us a little about your writing and your path to becoming a writer?

I've been writing professionally (as in, miraculously getting paid for it) since the mid-90s, mostly working as a screenwriter in Canada, but mostly doing "real work" on the side to make ends meet. I abandoned the last of the real jobs in about 2002, at about the same time I backed off from screenwriting and started to focus more on novels, which is what I'd always wanted to be doing while I was screenwriting. I love fiction and narrative in just about any form, but as a writer, I'm drawn first and foremost to speculative fiction and fantasy built around a solid core of character story. I like the challenge of making fantastic worlds and making characters resonate with the core experience of being alive -- applying to fantasy and speculative fiction what William Faulkner famously called "the human heart in conflict with itself."

My creative work never followed anything like a conscious career path, but in the course of accidentally tripping into opportunities at different times, I've managed to accidentally become the writer I'd tried and failed to be early on. Like a lot of people, I had dreams of being a novelist in my 20s, only to discover that though I had some serious skill as a wordsmith at that age, I had no idea how to tell a story or even what stories I wanted to tell. I got into film essentially by accident at about that time, and stayed there because I was making money at it. But in the course of working constantly to make myself a better screenwriter, I was surprised to realize that I'd managed to teach myself a certain mastery of story structure and narrative. I was then able to turn that understanding toward prose fiction, and I haven't looked back.

2.) Besides fiction, you also work freelance for the gaming industry. What relation is there between gaming and fiction writing? Or is there one?

The obvious answer is imagination, though that point's been made by people smarter than me. More specifically, although the "stories" told in the course of roleplaying gaming are very different than "real" fiction, the narrative lessons of fiction and gaming have strong internal connections. For me, one of the most important lessons one can draw from gaming is the idea that what makes a story memorable is what makes it personal. Gaming is a fictional enterprise in which everything has meaning to the "reader" because the reader is one of the collective writers of the story. And this reminds us that the best fiction (and specifically the best fantasy and speculative fiction) is that which allows the reader to draw meaning from a narrative regardless of how far removed that narrative might be from real life.

3.) What are your future writing plans?

To dig into the large number of books that have been building up in my mind and on my hard drive as notes and ideas demanding to be brought to life. I'm just finishing a final proof on a semi-autobiographical contemporary-SF teenage-gamer coming-of-age novel (We Can Be Heroes) that'll be out this month, after which it's back to more of the epic fantasy that accounts for most of what I've written over the last few years. The followup to my novel Clearwater Dawn (book two of three, titled Three Coins for Confession) is next up, but I'm also trying to keep active writing short fiction at the same time that I focus on the longer works.

My writer's mind works in ways that lend themselves to Big Story, such that I often find it easier to outline and play around with longer works than to dig in with the brevity and focus needed to write a really good short story. I'm a firm believer that as writers, we need to constantly challenge ourselves, and that not simply falling back on what we're comfortably good at is the best way to do that. (Feeling like the challenge was flagging is a large part of why I moved away from screenwriting, though I still work a lot as a story editor on other people's scripts and film projects.) Because I find it difficult to write short fiction, every short story I write teaches me something new about my process and makes me a better writer.

4.) Beer or wine? Or something else?

Coke Zero in unhealthy quantities.

5.) Which is your favorite of the Three Stooges? And why?

Moe, because he's an evil genius and i've always aspired to that job.

6.) You wake to find yourself on a deserted island. You have on and with you whatever you have at the moment of reading this. What do you do?

If "on and with you" implies being able to grab hold of the laptop before teleporting away, I'd try to find a power outlet and keep working. After struggling for a number of years to get to the point where I can write anything and everything that I want to write, I now have a lot of stories to get caught up on. However, assuming it's just a clothes-on-my-back kind of scenario, probably the only thing I'd be able to do is starve to death in short order. I know how to catch and clean a fish, but that's about the extent of my wilderness survival skills.

For more about Scott Fitzgerald Gray, check out his ...
Website: Insane Angel Studios
Amazon page
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 47 -- The Butcher's Boy

by Michael Robb Mathias

Started: May 25
Finished: May 28

Notes: I've been on a streak of reading dark novels with a mixture of horror, thriller and paranormal fantasy elements of late, and this one fits the bill. Besides, I've been meaning to read more of this author and here is my opportunity.

Mini review: I have to say, if Mathias can write horror like this, I believe I prefer it over his fantasy work. Not that his fantasy is bad, and honestly I've not read enough of it yet to make any real decisions, but The Butcher's Boy was a pretty strong read. Yeah, sure, like anything it has some things I could pick it, but it had strong characters and a fairly strong plot.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

100 Years of Blood: A novel for those who want to think for themselves

My latest novel, 100 Years of Blood, has raised some questions for myself and from a few of my readers.

What genre is the novel?

That seems to be the big question. I'm not sure I have a good answer.

The plot revolves around an elaborate house built by an English gentleman in the hills of Appalachia during the early part of the 20th Century. The reader follows the events of the house for a hundred years. Many important events happen outside of our away from the immediate environs of the house, and such events are only hinted at. Thus, much is left unsaid, at least directly.

Some of the characters themselves are a bit mysterious, showing hints they might be more than they seem. Or are they?

The questions this novel raises is one of the reasons it is difficult to give it a specific genre label. I write mostly in the speculative genres, fantasy and horror mainly, so there's an urge to label 100 Years of Blood as fantasy. But then the possible fantastic elements of the story are only hinted at and for the most part don't seem to play a direct role in the overall tale, leaning towards this novel being magical realism or some form of literary novel.

I will admit, yes, as the author, I could give direct answers. I could say, "yes, this is a magical realism novel," or something similar. But I don't want to. Why?

A big goal of writing this novel was to have readers think for themselves, to make their own decisions about what is going on in the background of this story. I find so much of today's genre fiction written from a cookie cutter perspective, one that answers every single question that readers might want to know. I also notice this trend in a lot of readers, many of them wanting everything answered for them, handed to them, without them really have to use their own imagination. There's nothing wrong with such literature, of course, but there seem to be few other options readily available.

To that end, there are at least two different ways to read 100 Years of Blood. One is a fairly straightforward manner, which would lean towards the events in the novel being mundane, not fantastical in nature. Another way to read the novel would be to believe there are unusual, possibly supernatural events going on in the background.

What is the right way to read the novel? Neither, both. There really is no straightforward answer. The reader has to figure it out for him- or herself. That was a major goal of writing this novel, to get readers to think for themselves.

I realize some readers will not like this approach. Some readers will get to the end and possibly be angered because their questions are not answered, the mysteries are not revealed. My apologies, but the novel obviously wasn't written for such readers. Those who wish for a sense of wonder, those who don't feel a need to have everything explained, for them is 100 Years of Blood written. And for myself, of course.

When writing this novel, I felt my influences were James Joyce, Bram Stoker and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. However, one reader has pointed out to me that he sensed a Lovecraft influence. I've read my share of Lovecraft and enjoyed it, but I wouldn't call myself a big Lovecraft fan. But looking back, I can see how the reader is right; there is a Lovecraft influence in the way the story is told, but not in the plot or background details (no giant ancient anti-gods with tentacles, for example).

So far 100 Years of Blood is only available in e-book form for the Kindle. In a few months it will be available for the Nook and other e-reading devices. I'm also considering releasing a print format later this year. Time, and the readers, will tell if I've accomplished my goals with this novel. I hope I have. I hope readers will go away thinking for themselves.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Interview with author Monica La Porta

1.) Monica, your novel "The Priest" is available and from looking over your blog it appears your next novel is soon on the horizon. Can you tell us about your writing, your novels, and your characters?

The Priest is the first book in The Ginecean Chronicles, soon to be followed by Pax in the Land of Women, and possibly next fall by the last chapter in the story, Prince of War. The Ginecean Chronicles are set in an alternate Earth where women rule over an enslaved race of men. In the Ginecean society, love between a woman and a man is considered a perversion. The only pure union is between two women. My characters are real persons with strengths and weaknesses. They pay for the choices they make along the way and learn to live by them. Sometimes they make good choices, sometimes they don’t. My writing resembles playing a role playing game. When I start, I have a general idea of what I want to talk about and the kind of atmosphere I want to depict, but no details. While I write, every sentence makes the next one necessary. It’s like looking at a crossroad and deciding which way to go: left or right? If my characters go left, all the possibilities lying on the right path don’t exist anymore, and so on and so forth, until the resulting story is the only one possible. I don’t have a strict layout. Sometimes my characters stray from the path I envisioned at the beginning of the story. Maybe they evolved in a way that made possible only certain choices, but as long as their actions are plausible, I’m fine with the result. To read an excerpt from The Priest go to the Amazon page for The Priest.

2.) If you could meet any one of your characters, who would it be and why?

It would be the Priestess in Pax in the Land of Women. She’s an evil character, but not completely black and white. I like villains who can commit atrocities, but still be real persons. The Priestess is a woman deeply flawed. Ginecean society put her in a place where she has no choices but to be what she is. She is the most tragic of characters because she doesn’t deserve absolution, and that aspect of her made me sad when I was creating her.

3.) Who are some of your favorite writers?

I read voraciously. There are a few names that, for different reasons, I hold dear to my heart. Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear, William Gibson, Philip K. Dick, Lovercraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Camilleri …

4.) You are also an artist. What mediums do you prefer to work in, and what draws you to art?

I dabbled with watercolors in the past, then when mold ate most of my works I switched to acrylics. One day there was no room anymore in my house to show my canvases, and I went digital. Now I mostly paint on my Wacom tablet. I also use cold porcelain, inexpensive homemade clay, to create from flower arrangements to gnome houses. I love seeing paintings and sculptures emerge from an idea. When I see a blank canvas, I see all the images that could emerge at the end of the painting process. Then, at the first stroke, one of the many images becomes the one. To see some of my drawings, go here.

5.) What is it with you and miniatures? :-)

Same thing as with painting and sculpting. I love creating. In the miniature’s case, I can build entire micro-worlds and imagine all the stories taking place inside those universes. Quarter inch scale is my favorite, it allows you to build realistic miniatures, but with the added bonus of being compact and easy to display. To see my quarter inch scale project, go here.

6.) Besides being writers, we have something else in common. Beagles! Can you tell me about your love for these loud beasts

Beagles are the cutest, sweetest dogs. I wish we lived in the country so I could have as many beagles as I want, without neighbors complaining of the noise. What noise? Our furry babies used to go to Beagles Trials and chase rabbits, and it was such fun standing in a field with twenty/thirty of them, barking, bawling, and making a ruckus for every leaf falling on the ground. Good times. Since retired from field trials and having lost his brother, Nero, my remaining beagle, is now my writing companion; an ever-present shadow by my side. Whenever I feel a scene isn’t coming the way I want, I take five minutes of pet-therapy and everything is fine after that.

For more about Monica La Porta, check out her ...
Website: Monica La Porta's blog
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 46 -- Conspiracies

by F. Paul Wilson

Started: May 22
Finished: May 25

Notes: A few years back I read one of Wilson's other Repairman Jack novels and enjoyed it quite a bit, so I thought it time to picked up another one and give it a go.

Mini review: An exciting read and fun with great characters. However, there were certain background elements of the plot that struck me as almost amateurish, as if thought up by a young beginning writer (not that there's anything wrong with that ... all of us are young at one point and all writers are beginners at one point). I don't mean this to be insulting, but I expected a little stronger background from such a strong author as Wilson. But please don't overthink my minor complaint here, because that is all it is meant to be, minor. Overall, this was an excellent read, and I'll be looking for more Repairman Jack novels in the future.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Interview with author Martin Pond

1.) You have one collection of short stories available, Dark Steps, and you are working on a novel, Drawn to the Deep End. Can you tell us about your writing, especially about your upcoming novel?

I wrote a lot as a younger man but stopped when the pressures of life and work got in the way. I started again in 2007, after some prompting from my partner, and initially wrote a lot of short stories and what I'd call fragments of stories. The novel has grown out of having an idea for an opening scene -- I didn't know where it was going to lead but the story has evolved almost by itself. I'm two thirds of the way through the first draft now, and can see a clear path right through to the story's end ... and even the epilogue!

2.) You have taken to publishing your work-in-progress, Drawn to the Deep End, one section at a time online at a blog. Why did you decide to publish first through a blog?

I've had a lot of good feedback from the critique group I belong to, but that is quite a small group. My intention in publishing Drawn to the Deep End in online instalments was to achieve the same but on a bigger scale -- I hoped to get feedback and comments from a much wider audience. That hasn't really happened -- I have a core readership who tend not to comment too much. However, the other positive side-effect of this exercise is that it motivates me to write when I have readers complaining if I miss a week's episode!

3.) You are also taking the uncommon step of not utilizing quotation marks in your novel. Only one other novel I've read comes to mind using this technique, and that was Cormac McCarthy's The Road, though I'm sure other writers probably have done this. What prompted you to go this stylistic route?

My reason was simply that I hoped to blur the boundary between what our narrator thinks and says, and do this more and more and more as the novel (and the narrator's unravelling) progresses. This wasn't a decision I took lightly, not least because it requires me to be very careful with my writing - I have to make the attribution for speech very clear and yet implicit. After 55,000 words I can tell you this becomes quite hard. But you're right in that The Road is an object model in how to do this.

4.) Books or e-books? Do you have a preference?

To read, I still prefer a real book, though I admit to having a Kindle and it is brilliant, not least because it allows me to carry so many books around with me. To publish, I have to say that e-books are easier to format than the paperback equivalents that I've published with Lulu, probably because there are more constraints in place. Once you accept (and adapt to) that, formatting an e-book is a piece of cake.

5.) You have recently begun experimenting with Twitter. What has been your impression so far?

You're right in that I've recently begun a serious push to gain Twitter followers -- a month-long experiment to make social media work for me. In one respect it's working -- I've increased my followers by 700% in less than two weeks. However, I'm not sure about the benefit of this: it certainly hasn't translated into a glut of new book sales, at least not yet.

6.) Earlier this year you were one of five winners in a flash fiction competition through Twitter in which the writers had to come up with a tale in 10 words or less. What was this experience like? And did you have difficulty in coming up with your winning piece?

Well, it was quite exciting on the closing day, watching all the hash-tagged entries pouring through my timeline. I thought my entry - She pretended to be asleep when he came to bed - was okay. I'd tried to give enough of a story to let the reader draw their own conclusions, obviously, but my main aim was to generate some pathos, following Hemingway's example with his famous six-word story. I hope I succeeded.

To find out more about Martin Pond, check out his ...
Blog: Martin Writes ...
Amazon page for Dark Steps
Amazon (UK) page for Dark Steps
Lulu page for Dark Steps
Barnes & Noble page for Dark Steps
WHSmith page for Dark Steps
Smashwords page

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 45 -- Heart-Shaped Box

by Joe Hill

Started: May 19
Finished: May 21

Notes: I've been in a mood for horror of late, and the debut novel of author Joe Hill has received plenty of great press. Though one might expect such from a son of Stephen King. Not that great literary talent can necessarily be inherited, but Joe definitely would have grown up in a literary household (his mother Tabitha King also being a writer) and would have to some extent been surrounded by the macabre. All of that seems to have rubbed off.

Mini review: I have been lucky as hell of late. I've been on a string of really great novels, and this is the latest of them. For long-time King fans who sometimes worry the Master of Horror might eventually retire, grow to ill to write, or heaven-forbid pass away, worry no longer. The King legacy is in fine hands. Hill's writing style is very reminiscent of his father's, though as a writer I felt it was a little easier here to see the mechanics behind the magic than it is with King, though maybe I was looking for it. I'd like to add that one of the differences between Hill and King was I felt Hill was writing more for my generation (Gen. X) and not so much the Baby Boomers, as King generally does. What makes me feel this way? Simply the generational references to music and pop culture and the like.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Interview with Keagan Boodram

1.) Your novel My Funny Valentine features your character Jack Valentine. Can you tell me about the book and Jack Valentine?

My Funny Valentine is a crime/drama/spy thriller, but at its heart it's mainly a story about justice, good triumphing over evil, and it's a story also of revenge, redemption and resurrection. By that I mean personal resurrection of a person's personality, plus there are a few romantic twists in there. Jack Valentine is what I would like to call the fusion of Daniel Craig's James Bond and Bruce Wayne. On the surface, in public he's this suave, debonair, charming, sophisticated man, but in his private time he is a more brooding, sad, lonely, tortured soul seeking some kind of solace.

2.) You are a big 007 fan. Have you seen a lot of the movies (or maybe all of them)? And who was your favorite James Bond on the screen?

As a 007 fan I am ashamed to say I haven't seen all the films, but I've seen a good majority of them and without sounding like a plagiarist, Bond's world helped me to understand the world of espionage a little better. My favorite James Bond actor I would say is Daniel Craig, mostly because his performances are true to the novel version of James Bond whether he knows it or not. It gives you a sense that his Bond is in the realm of the attainable.

3.) Are you working on any other writing projects?

Yes, I am currently working on my second novel, the sequel to My Funny Valentine. If I may spoil something, I'd say I'm halfway done writing it after suffering from writer's block for a while, and I don't mean to praise myself, but I think this new one is radically better than My Funny Valentine.

4.) Are you reading anything exciting right now? If so, what is it?

Currently I'm reading Ian Fleming's The Spy Who Loved Me. I saw the film, thought it was rubbish, and now I have my hands on Fleming's own version of the story and am currently I'm enjoying it.

5.) You are also a poet. Do you prefer writing poetry or stories? Or do you enjoy both equally?

Actually, I prefer writing both. My poetry comes basically at the spur of the moment when I'm hit with sudden inspiration. I have a poetry diary I keep with poems I write when they just come to my mind. I have to admit, though, some of them are pre-mediated because they are love poems and they are for a certain girl in my life. Novels I enjoy more though, more room to tell a story in my opinion.

6.) You live in Trinidad and Tobago, which is known for its wide diversity in foods. So, what are some of your favorite dishes to eat?

Ah, well, you managed to catch the only islander who doesn't eat the local cuisine. I'm mostly allergic to all the oils and spices that come with the food, so I mostly stick to simple home-cooked meals like corned beef and rice or steamed vegetables.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Interview with author and translator Cora Buhlert

1.) Cora, you have quite a list of writing credits. A good number of your short stories have been published and you have quite a few short stories and novelettes in e-book form. You even have several non-fiction writing credits. Can you tell us a little about your writing and yourself as a writer?

I've been telling stories to myself all my life and somewhere along the way I started writing them down. Though I did not decide that I wanted to be a writer until I was in my twenties. Before that I wanted to be a film director.

I started selling while I was at university and my first sales were actually fiction and poetry sales to newleaf, the university magazine. Though "sales" is relative in this context, since they only paid in contributor's copies. A bit later, I got on the internet and found a couple of other magazines that liked what I wrote and were willing to publish it. So by the time the e-publishing revolution rolled around, I had a nice backlist of previously published short fiction as well as of some completed stories that never sold for one reason or another. The majority of my e-books are actually reprints of those old backlist stories, though there are also a few that have never been published before.

Originally, I viewed myself as a science fiction writer, but my actual work is all over the genre map. I like to experiment with different styles and genres and want to try everything at least once. Just writing the same type of story all the time would bore me silly.

As for the non-fiction credits, apart from academic papers (which are a whole different kettle of fish) most of my non-fiction pieces grew out of my interest in vintage pulp fiction and popular culture. I basically wrote about stuff that I enjoyed and that was a formative influence on my own writing. I will probably collect all of those essays in one volume one day, since the originals are out of print and hard to find and –– in the case of my essays on German pop culture – the only English language information about some writers, characters, book and films at all.

2.) What plans do you have for your writing in the future? Have you considered writing a novel?

I have actually written a novel, a Steampunk regency romance called Colfrith. I finished it a few years ago, started looking for publishers that accepted unagented submissions and sent it out in the world. In the end, it only went to one publisher who rejected it stating that they were changing their focus and that Colfrith would not fit the new direction. Then my MA thesis started eating my brain and I put querying on hold. I planned to shop around Colfrith some more after I got my MA degree, but for some reason I never got around to it. I will probably self-publish it later this year, though I first need to take a good long look at it, since the manuscript is several years old by now and my writing has evolved since then.

I also have a second novel, a science fiction novel called Prisoners of Amaymon, that is approximately half finished. Prisoners of Amaymon is another casualty of my MA thesis, for after fighting to be allowed to write my MA thesis about the writing of a science fiction novel, I found that I did not want to see the manuscript again for a very long time after I finished the thesis. So I delved into short fiction again to cleanse my palate. However, by now enough time has passed that I can actually look at Prisoners of Amaymon again without breaking out in hives and can hopefully finish it.

I also have a third novel-length work on the go. This time around it's a piece of realist fiction, a contemporary romance for lack of a better term.

You will certainly see Colfrith for sale some time soon and hopefully Prisoners of Amaymon and the third novel will eventually make it to the shelves as well.

3.) Besides being a writer, you also offer translation services from German to English and English to German, and are a native German speaker. Do you feel this gives you a nearly unique perspective as a writer? Do you think it affects how you approach writing?

Well, I'm not completely unique, since there are a few writers who write in a language that is not their mother tongue, including a handful of Germans writing in English. And some of these writers are bound to be translators, since it's a natural career choice for those who are fluent in two or more languages.

Regarding my translation work, I have done a bit of fiction, but the overwhelming majority of my translation work is non-fiction, business and tech translation, because that's where the money and the work is. Even though it's unfair that tech translation pays so much better than fiction translation, because fiction translation is very difficult to do well.

As for whether being bilingual and writing in a language that is not your mother tongue gives you a different perspective as a writer, it certainly does. First of all, being bilingual gives you a heightened sensitivity for language in general and improves grammar and vocabulary skills as well. There's plenty of research to back this up. And since language transmits culture, being multilingual also heightens cultural awareness, which is extremely useful when writing about people (or if you're an SF or fantasy writer, beings) that are different from yourself.

A curious side-effect of writing in a language that is not the language you grew up speaking at home and in school is that writing swearwords and the like won't make you cringe. Because the sense of violating a taboo while swearing is something that we acquire in childhood and you only acquire it for whatever language the world around you is speaking during that time. But while I intellectually know which English words are considered very rude or even completely taboo, these words don't evoke the visceral cringing that the equivalent German word would evoke.

Finally, writers are the sum of their influences. And due to having grown up in Germany (though I also spent part of my formative years in the U.S., the Netherlands and Singapore), I have a couple of influences e.g. British or American writers don't have. I even wrote non-fiction articles on a few of those influences such as the Dr. Mabuse series, pulp heroes John Sinclair and Jerry Cotton and the German Edgar Wallace film adaptations of the 1960s. And of course these influences show up in my fiction, even though I have published only one story which is set in Germany (The Other Side of the Curtain, a spy novella set in 1960s East Germany) with another, a historical novelette set in the late Middle Ages in the Rhine-Moselle region, coming soon.

4.) As a writer, what do you find are some of the differences between the German reading audience and the American audience, or the audiences of other nationalities?

There definitely are differences between German and American or for that matter British audiences. For starters, the e-book market in Germany is still very small (between 1 and 1.6 percent of the total book market at last estimate) and while it is growing, it is growing slower than in the U.S., because certain factors that pushed the rapid adoption of e-books in the U.S. (e.g. a widespread feeling that print books are "too expensive", many people feeling self-conscious about reading genres like romance or erotica and wanting to hide their reading choices, frequent moves which make lugging around boxes of books difficult, etc…) are just not present in Germany to the same degree.

Of course, there are also differences in taste and genre preferences. For example, the medical romance a.k.a. nurse novel, a genre which died off in the U.S. in the 1970s, is still going strong both in Germany and Britain and Australia as well. Meanwhile, the ultra-macho alpha heroes who are popular with a large subset of American romance readers don't fly so well with German romance readers who are often put off by domineering and borderline violent behaviour in romantic heroes. Going by a cursory glance at the romance sections in British bookstores, Brits seem to love historical romances set during World War II, while you will hardly ever find a WWII set romance in a German or American bookstore.

In the crime fiction genre, the U.S. still adheres to the hardboiled tradition on the one hand and the cosy mystery tradition on the other, while Germans prefer their crime fiction with a dose of social realism, which is why Scandinavian thrillers do so well over here, and with a strong sense of place, which is why regional crime fiction clearly rooted in a specific city or region is very popular in Germany.

Meanwhile, the dystopian trend in young adult fiction that was sparked by The Hunger Games has almost completely bypassed German teens. I sometimes work at a high school, so I see a lot of teens. And not a single one of the teens I talked to had read The Hunger Games or any other dystopian young adult novel, nor had they heard about the books before the movie came out. So whatever made The Hunger Games and similar books such a huge hit in the U.S. does not appeal to German teenagers in the same way. Instead, those German teens prefer paranormal YA fiction or YA fantasy.

Finally, German popular literature has a whole genre that doesn't exist in the U.S., namely the so-called "Heimatroman", which are stories about feuding farmers, brave mountaineers, heroic huntsmen, villainous poachers and virginal forester's daughters with a strong focus on Alpine settings. Most of these "Heimatromane" are romances of some kind, but you also have family sagas and adventure fiction. The "Heimatroman" has somewhat declined in popularity and is mainly read by little old ladies these days, but it still exists. I want to write one someday just for the heck of it.

5.) If your writing took off tomorrow and made you suddenly quite wealthy, would you consider writing full time as your day job?

Well, if my writing suddenly were to take off and make me a whole lot of money, I would probably cut down on my other jobs, i.e. take on less teaching hours and fewer translation jobs, though I doubt that I would give up my other jobs completely and I'd still keep working on my PhD as well. For starters, because I'd hate to let my loyal translation customers on the one hand and my students on the other down. Besides, I tend to be the cautious type, so unless I was making J.K. Rowling level money I would always worry that it wouldn't last and thus keep my other jobs in case I need something to fall back on.

6.) Some consider the literary world to have been something of a boy's club in the past, and some might argue it remains so to this day. Do you feel this has changed?

In most Western countries, women read more than men in general and in particular they read more fiction than men. And the majority of the editors at the big traditional publishing houses are women. Plus, women writers dominate such popular and bestselling genres like romance, erotica, urban fantasy and young adult fiction to the point that it can be difficult to find young adult books with male protagonists. So you'd think that everything is fine on the literary gender front. But unfortunately that's not the case.

Because we still have anthology table of contents, awards shortlists and year's best lists (e.g. Publishers Weekly best books of 2010 list) without a single female writer. Books by women are reviewed less frequently and often less favourably in many of the prestigious review outlets, as a survey last year has shown. If a man writes about modern life and coming of age, of finding a partner and one's place in the world, the resulting novel is called literary fiction and deemed as representative of the human condition in general. If a woman writes about the same subjects, the resulting novels are called chick lit or women's fiction or even romance and is considered only of interest to other women.

What is more, those genres that are dominated by female writers are often dismissed as so much trash. Reputationwise, romance sits at the bottom of the genre totem pole with only erotica below it. The female dominated cosy mystery tradition is viewed as less important than the male dominated hardboiled and noir tradition. The SFF community regularly dismisses the female dominated urban fantasy subgenre as "vampire porn", whether or not a given novel includes vampires or sex scenes. Urban fantasy novels are rarely reviewed by SFF magazines and not nominated for major genre awards such as the Hugo or Nebula or World Fantasy Awards, even though they outsell almost all SFF novels out there except for George R.R. Martin and some media tie-ins.

I don't know if you've ever read How to Suppress Women's Writing by the late science fiction writer and critic Joanna Russ, but the book is truly eye opening. All of the mechanisms and dynamics described by Joanna Russ in that book still apply, almost thirty years after it was first published, and that's bloody depressing.

However, the reviews in the mainstream media, the awards and year's best lists are very much tied to the traditional publishing model, which is changing (and some say dying) fast. And in the new world of publishing, factors like word of mouth and reader reviews are a lot more important than professional reviews, awards and year's best lists and the parts of the publishing establishment that favoured male over female writers are rapidly losing their relevance. It will be interesting to see where this goes and whether the points of Joanna Russ will still be as valid in ten or twenty years time.

To find out more about Cora Buhlert, check out her ...
Personal website and blog: Cora Buhlert
Publisher website and blog: Pegasus Pulp
Amazon Author Central page

Books read in 2012: No. 44 -- Dastardly Bastard

by Edward Lorn

Started: May 14
Finished: May 19

Notes: This author has drawn my attention for a bunch of reasons. One, he will appear on this blog June 18 as one of my interviewed authors. Two, he is an author working with Red Adept Publishing, which I've had my eye on for some time. Three, he has received excellent reviews, more than a few comparing him to Stephen King. And finally four, he's got a damn interesting sounding book. Yeah, that last one is the most important, but the others are nice factors. I like discovering writers for the first time, and here's another shot.

Mini review: Stephen King? Not quite. Sort of Stephen King lite. And I mean that in no disparaging manner whatsoever, because King can ramble on for way too long sometimes. This author does not do so. The plot and characters are somewhat King-like, but the prose and style reminded me more of late author Richard Laymon. Readers who enjoy a fast pace and stories that allow you to get to know the characters will enjoy this tale. Some of the characters might not seem very likable early on in the tale, but ... well, wait until you get to know them. Horror fans, there is talent here. Edward Lorn will be worth paying attention to.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Three FREE Kindle e-books

That's right! Three Kindle e-books for free.

First, M.R. Mathias has made available for free his story ROAR: A Wardstone Short.

Also, Andre SanThomas still has for free her erotica novel Ielle: A Realm of Janos novel.

And last but not least, my own magical realism literary novel is free for the next couple of days. So, check out 100 Years of Blood.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Erotica author Andre SanThomas interview

Before we get to the interview and the questions, I would like to point out that Andre SanThomas' novel Ielle is available for free download today at

1.) What has drawn you to write erotica literature?

I think the biggest draw for me was just to write the kinds of things that I like to read. My books are BDSM, although I'm often told that they're not "typical". They are definitely romances with nice solid happily ever afters involved (at least so far). I'm a "pantser" not a "plotter" which means that I have no idea where the story is going when I start writing. I just go by the seat of the pants and see what happens. My characters have a story to tell, and they just use me to do the typing.

For example, at one point during Ielle, I tried to put Kyr into a threesome with Ielle and another girl. I wrote it all out and then everything stopped. Ielle was upset and Kyr was sulking. Oh, don't get me wrong, Kyr enjoyed the threesome at the time, but he wasn't happy that Ielle was unhappy. After about three days, I gave in and deleted it. I gave another character a threesome instead and I had the dancing girls do a very erotic dance for Kyr and Ielle and the rest of the household and suddenly, everyone was happy. They forgave me and decided to tell me the rest of their story.

2.) Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?

Not yet, but there may be a few other genres in me at some point. Odds are good I would use a different name if it happens so as not to confuse readers, though. As much as it may seem strange, there are probably more than a few children's stories in me somewhere, too.

3.) Erotica fiction seems to get banged around pretty well online from time to time, regularly facing one censorship situation or another. Do you think this will ever end? Will erotica eventually become more accepted, or at least not catch so much grief?

We have a funny relationship with sex in America. No matter how progressive or even out of control we get in some areas, we quickly fall back to our Puritan roots. I think there will always be people that feel that erotica is the root of all evil and will consider it their duty to squash it. Meanwhile, every day we convert a few more people over to the dark side.

It is difficult to promote erotica. Many websites and bulletin boards won't let you mention it or restrict what you can and can't say, even though they let other people promote all kinds of other stuff or allow really crude language and topics in their posts. People are reluctant to give you reviews even when they love your book because they don't want their mother-in-law to see it on Amazon or Goodreads. I've even seen a lot of it from other authors who write in other genres. Fortunately, there is a great community of erotica authors out there if you know where to look for them. I'm fortunate that I've had some great mentors and I've got like-minded people I can kick things around with.

And despite what people say in public, I know where people who read my blog come from. Huge numbers of them find it through a siggy link in those very conservative sites or in those negative posts. You may hide from your mother-in-law or your pastor, but I know who you are and how long you stayed. Just sayin'.

I'm very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. E-books are opening a lot more doors for people. You don't have to go into some seedy triple X shop anymore to find a sexy book. This is especially important for women who probably haven't been comfortable doing that. You don't have to settle for the limited view of a small number of big publishers trying to appeal to the masses. As authors, we can reach out to a niche market that might not be big enough for Random House, but is plenty big for a few talented authors. It really is an exciting time and I believe it is a wide open path that is only going to grow and develop over the next few years.

4.) What are your ultimate goals as a writer? Success? Money? Power? Or are you just having fun? Or all of the above?

I'm already quite successful in my day job field and I don't think you find a lot of power as an author no matter what you do.

So, I would say that I'm a combo of having fun and making money. If I only wanted to have fun, there are a number of ways to put your writing out there for free and just sit back without getting into the business side of things. In my case, I know my books have value and I'm willing to do that business side to realize that value. Plus, I am enjoying that business side as well! Win, win, all the way around.

5.) You are asleep at night when a nudge in your ribs wakes you. You roll over in bed and find yourself facing one of your characters. Which character do you hope it will be? And what do you do?

What a great question! Now being an erotica writer, you might think that I'd be hoping it was Kyr, the manly male in my Realm of Janos series. But no, I've got my real life version of Kyr at home already. So, I'd have to go with Ielle. I know I'd love to sit down and chat with her. We're definitely kindred spirits and I know we'd get along famously. She's a lot more limber and coordinated than I am. Maybe she could teach me some of her dances.

6.) Your novel Ielle is dedicated to your husband. What does he think of your writing? And does he get jealous of your characters?

My husband is 100% always in my corner no matter what. He's quite proud of me and looking forward to retiring when the Realm of Janos becomes a weekly series on HBO or Showtime. He’s got no cause for jealousy and he reaps the reward of all of my research endeavors.

7.) Independent writers are always talking about pricing of e-books, what works and what doesn't, what is good and what is bad, etc. As an erotica writer, how do you come to the subject of pricing e-books?

I think that a lot of authors price themselves too low due to insecurity or laziness.

There are those that choose a low price as a marketing tool, and there are short works that are appropriate at a very low price, that's fine. But there are also a lot that price themselves down in the bargain basement just because they don't have the confidence that someone will actually pay money for their work. That’s insecurity talking.

Laziness comes into play when people drop prices instead of doing the marketing. No matter what price your book is, they don’t sell themselves. Even free promos don’t really take off if you don’t market them properly. Or they haven’t spent the time to research what books in their genre run, or they put their book up riddled with errors and problems. Lower prices do not fix those problems.

My theory is that you should be building the customer that you want for the long haul. Is your customer a .99 customer? If so, you’ll need a heck of a lot of them, so you had better get busy. What price are similar books in your genre? Are you filling a specific niche? It is fine to do the occasional sale or special promotion, but your baseline price of your book should be what it really deserves. That is, something in line with the rest of its peers, maybe a dollar or so less. Then get out there and market, market, market and bring in your customer. Once your customer shows up, you have to write, write, write and make more great books for them.

Thanks again for the interview.

For more on Andre SanThomas, check out her ...
Blog: Being His: Words by Andre SanThomas
Amazon page for Ielle, the first book in the Real of Janos series
Amazon page for Inside: The Realm of Janos Series Fantasy short story
Amazon page for Driven, a contemporary novel in the Sensual Submission series

Friday, May 11, 2012

Interview with author and Dr. Who fan Darren Pearce

photo by Katrina Hepburn
1.) Darren, you have quite the mixed bag of writing credits. Novels, short stories, ghost writing, gaming, you've done a little bit of everything. How did you come to have such an eclectic writing career?

I always wanted to be a writer, from a very early age. I’d write very short stories when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and I’d read a lot. So when the internet broadened and forums became really popular, I’d spend a lot of time making up fan-fiction about Surreal Software’s Drakan game and later on the Equilibrium movie. Great film by the way!

One day I had a message asking if I could help Surreal Software with a homebrew project, as a writer. It was to do with an f2p MMO (even back then) set in the Drakan world. So I jumped at the project, it fell through eventually but it was a cool ride whilst it lasted.

It opened a couple of doors though and I started to do little bits of writing here and there, news for a website called Games Xtreme and then reviews, as well as the odd article here and there. One of my former students who now worked at Particle Systems on the game I-War 2 gave me an email one day and it was a writing opportunity for a company called Dark Quest Games – that began the whole thing, I wrote a short submission and Dark Quest liked it a lot. Neal Levin has been a good friend of mine ever since and it’s thanks to James Moore (my former student and good friend) and Neal that my writing career took off really.

I’ve done a lot since then, worked on computer games, ghost-written a novel that reached 800 pages, worked on my own novel, a lot of short stories and been published a few times in the last couple of years. I also get to work on the Doctor Who RPG which is frankly a blast, and Cubicle 7 is fantastic to work with in that regard.

I’ve also done work on both Lone Wolf Choose Your Own Adventure book bonus adventures (Book 8 and 17) as well as the old and new Lone Wolf RPG from Mongoose Publishing, so yeah, all in all it’s been a mad eclectic writing career for me!

2.) You are also the creator of the webcomic The Chronicles of Wyrden, based upon your novel Fate's Hand. How did the webcomic come about?

Ah, good old Fate’s Hand. That book has been revised a few times since I first started it and that’s why it’s never actually been out into the public eye. Though through Monumental Works Group you can get a taste in Dreams in Shadow! (Not-so subtle plug eh?) – The webcomic on the other hand sprung from a desire to tell a story in the same universe as Fate’s Hand with some of the same characters, in a different format. It was really a case of ‘could I do this?’ because writing for a visual audience is vastly different from writing for a book audience. So one day we sat down and said – let’s do this, created a bunch of pages, I got some balloons from the net and we just threw ourselves at the project.

I’m lucky though, I am married to a very talented artist (Gillian otherwise known as Hellion) and cartographer and we’ve both learned some really cool lessons in the comic art over the four years that Wyrden has been trucking along at Drunk Duck etc. I’ve been able to learn the way comic stories are told and put together and you can see the change in the layout, writing and art from about Chapter 3 of Wyrden.

I also wanted to tell more stories with characters that I had grown attached to. It’s an interesting world and I love industrial dark fantasy a lot, I wouldn’t say that Wyrden is really steampunk but there are influences there – it’s more Renaissance than Victorian and the world is pretty much a dystopia. I had been watching a lot of Equilibrium when I came up with the place, so ... yeah; I borrowed some of the elements from that too.

3.) What do you hope the future holds for you as a writer?

I definitely want Fate’s Hand to be published, and I’m working on that right now – getting it into a state where I can really make it shine. I’ve learned a lot recently about the whole writing process and having a few rejections really helps sharpen the literary min I think. I also want to get it out there and dedicate it to my mom who passed away on Feb 03rd this year; she was a big inspiration and pushed me to become who I am today.

I would like to write a Doctor Who novel one day, as well as do more work on the Doctor Who RPG itself. I’ve got a couple of adventures in the pipeline for that and more stuff to come – including the Hartnell (Doctor #1) era setting which was a great project to work on. Working more with Monumental Works Group on other collaborative projects is a must too; Dreams in Shadow was great to contribute to.

I would also like to do more short stories. I love working for anthologies because those stories push your creative processes to different and sometimes new directions.

Lastly of course, more RPG work is always good and I have a lot of that I can’t talk about yet but soon; soon I can let the cat out of the bag!

4.) What is your favorite fruit?

Hmm. I would have to say strawberries!

5.) You are rumored to be a big Dr. Who fan. Which Doctor is your favorite, and why?

I am a massive Doctor Who fan! I have always loved the show and I’d have to say out of all the Doctors, Tom Baker (Doctor #4) is my #1 favourite Doctor of all time. With Matt Smith (#11) coming a very close second. I have a soft spot for all of them and really love Doctor Who a great deal.

6.) There is a knock at your front door. You open it to find a somewhat frantic gentleman dressed in clothing that's a bit out of style, perhaps a little fancy yet was fashionable during its era. Behind him is an old fashioned blue police call box. The gentleman grabs you by the hand and says, "We need you! You're the only one who can save the universe!" What do you do?

I would have to follow, I mean when the Doctor calls you to arms then there’s no use in trying to fight it. It would be a dangerous, wonderful and pretty exciting thing to travel with that guy. Apart from the whole ‘constant death’ kind of deal due to all of the enemies the Doctor has and so on. I would still go with him because to see Time and Space laid out before you like that, to be able to go anywhere and any-when? That is the core of being a writer right there!

For more on Darren Pearce, check out his ...
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