Sunday, July 29, 2012

Artwork ... 'Background'


This is a simple painting. The title comes from what I have in store for this piece in the future. It will be the background behind another piece of art, perhaps several pieces of art. I have an idea for a series of paintings, which will be related to a serial novel I'm working, basically with a different painting appearing on each cover of the serialized story (which I'm planning to tell in five parts of about 20,000 words each). I wanted similar backgrounds for each painting, and then it occurred to me, why not have the same background for each. This is the modern age! Technology is at my fingertips! So, I've painted this image first and plan to combine it with my future paintings in Photoshop. Does this make sense to anyone but me? If not, it will once the finished products are presented, which might take some while as I've still a lot of writing and painting to do.

The feel I was going for here is kind of a mixture. I wanted to represent a deep, dark storm, but also sort of an old, tainted leather kind of look. I think I've pulled this off. My colors were green, red, orange, and just a hint of burnt sienna here and there; the mixture tends toward a dark browning with hints of the original colors here and there, which is what I had hoped would happen.

Also, I wanted to point out that the middle area of this piece is dark on purpose. That is the general area where other images/paintings will be placed.

Not my favorite piece, but I think it works.

Artwork ... 'Randall at the Tower'

'Randall at the Tower'

I will freely admit, I hate this painting. The perspective is way off, which is what I get for not drawing out at least a basic diagram in the first place. Then there's the fact the subject matter is far too expansive and complicated for the small, 11 X 14, canvass I was using.

If you can't tell, that white blob is supposed to be the back of a white cloak. The figure in the cloak is facing a door to a building. The detail needed, or at least the detail I wanted, should have involved a much larger canvas, one that would have allowed to add the detail I wanted. Such was not possible here.

But, I'm still learning and picking up things after years of not painting. I can chalk this one up to another lesson learned. I might revisit the subject matter one of these days with a larger canvas. Maybe.

The title and the image are of my Randall Tendbones character, a healer in my fantasy chronicles. Randall plies his trade, so to speak (technically he works for free), at one of two towers within the city of Bond. The healing tower where Randall works is actually not truly a tower, though the large building is round. I was trying to show a night image of Randall approaching one of the side entrances to the tower. I think I failed miserably.

However, I do kind of like what I did with all the bricks and stones in the wall, the slight texturing effect.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Artwork ... 'Metallics I'

'Metallics I'

This was really more of an experiment than what I think of as true artwork, even abstract art, meaning there was little intent behind it as far as content. I have some gold, bronze and silver paints which are fairly useless to me. I've been wondering what to do with these paints. Sometimes I can use them as filler, to stretch other colors a little, but the shine from these paints often disagrees with whatever I'm doing on the canvas. I find these metallic paints limiting in their use, and they don't really work as well as one might think for painting images of metal objects because their gloss tends to push the light in directions unwanted.

I've also been meaning to try painting with a palette or painting knife, something I had never done before. So, I figured I've got all these metal paints and I've got a painting knife I've never used. Walahh! What I came up with is the image you see above.

The reason this piece is titled "Metallics I" is because I have another idea for an image that will likely be called "Metallics II," whenever I get around to it. I still have quite a bit of these metal-colored paints, and while I don't necessarily want to deplete my complete supply in case I should ever need them (the bronze in particular comes in handy with darkening or browning of other paints), I still would like to use up more of what I've got.

As for using my painting knife, I found it an interesting experience, but I'm not sure it's something I actually want to try to paint with on a regular basis. It does really bring out some texture, and I hope that shows up in the image.

Also, now that I think about it, the randomness of this creation of mine might make it truly more abstract than any work I've ever done. Or maybe not. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. Either way, it was a fun experiment.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Books read in 2012: No. 63 -- Shotgun

by Ed McBain

Started: July 23
Finished: July 25

Notes: I had not intended to read this novel anytime soon. In fact, until today I did not even own this novel. Earlier this year I had read quite a bit of Ed McBain, and I was starting to feel like I was burning out a little on him, so I had promised myself I would not read any more McBain for a good long while. Fast forward to today. For about six hours I was stuck without a vehicle today. I also had no computer, no Kindle, and no books. I rarely travel from home without at least two of those three items, but today I had planned only a short trip. That short trip turned into an all-day affair. So, without wheels and without anything to help keep myself occupied, I began to become quite anxious. Fortunately I spotted a used book store just a few blocks down the road. One decent walk later, after a few minutes of shelf perusal, I stumbled upon this particular McBain novel, one I would have gotten to eventually (as I will all the 87th Precinct novels I've yet to read). Better yet, the price was only a nickel. Yes, you read that correctly. A nickel. As in five cents. The old paperback is fairly beat up, but it's still definitely readable. So, despite my earlier unease, I soon found a McBain novel to help me spend what would have otherwise been a dreadful day. Even better, this novel is from 1969, one of the earlier 87th Precinct novels, which are usually my favorites because they are more to the point and have less personal drama for the characters.

Mini review: One of the things I like about McBain's 87th Precinct novels is that you never know what he is going to do in the end. Sometimes you know who the killer is, and sometimes not. Sometimes the killer is captured, sometimes gunned down, sometimes gets away free. Sometimes a killer gets away only to be caught several books later. Sometimes there isn't even a killer. Most of the endings aren't overly tricky. This one was a little tricky, but not too much. The book's title says it all, and the art image on the cover. I liked this one, but I usually do with McBain.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Two new e-books

That's right! I've got two new e-books available.

The Storm

The first is simply titled The Storm. It is a horror novel that has taken nearly 25 years to write. Yep, you read that correctly. This novel was my first attempt at writing a longer work. I started in 1989, got up to 70,000 words, then college and life intervened. Over the years I have tinkered with The Storm a little here and there, but only recently did I decide to finish the darn thing. For me, for my writing style, I still consider it a little rough, almost a little juvenile. It contains plot points and various other elements which I would not use or do today. While I rewrote and edited some of the those elements down or out altogether, I also left a number of them in so as not to totally do away with the voice my much younger self had once upon a time. I was tempted to start this novel over from scratch, but I didn't think I could do so. The story wouldn't be the same, nor would the characters or the environment. For another thing, the story takes place in 1987, and I am so removed from that time period that I had concerns I would bring a different viewpoint, and that was something I didn't want to change. Does the story work? Well, I'll admit it's not Shakespeare, but I'm glad to be finished with it and I think it's not bad. In the end, it's about 106,000 words total.

What is the plot?

As I mentioned, the events occur in 1987, though they are not specific to the time (other than technology such as cell phones and the Internet would have changed much of the plot). Also, mostly it takes place in the small Kentucky town of Coal Gap, which does not exist; Coal Gap is a fictional town, sort of like Stephen King did with Castle Rock, Maine, and numerous other little fictional towns he has created for his works. The story centers around 10-year-old Billy Griffith who has the power to move objects with his mind. A mysterious figure with the power to raise the dead knows of Billy's existence and heads to Kentucky to find the boy and to claim his powers, along the way gathering other killers and the walking dead. When this figure finally arrives in Coal Gap, all hell breaks loose. Billy is not without friends and companions, however, and they come to the boy's aid. Some will live, some will not. But nothing will ever be the same in the small town of Coal Gap, nor for Billy.

Sands of Time

This particular e-books is a collection of 16 short stories, some rather long and others quite short. The total package is about 76,000 words. Here there is fantasy of various shades, horror and even a couple of science fiction tales. But I have to offer a word of warning. Most of these stories have appeared elsewhere already, either in print or in e-books. I don't want someone to pay for something they've already read somewhere else, not unless they want to, and I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

So if these have seen publication elsewhere, why release them again? Because they are all connected by a singular figure, my John Dee character. That actually isn't his real name, and he goes by many different names at different times, but that is the name by which I think of him.

Dee is more than 2,000 years old and has roots in a minor Biblical character. He has many powers, what we would think of as magic, and he never seems to age or die.

This collection brings together all of the short stories I have written about Dee so far. I have been wanting to create such a collection for a while now, and only recently managed to have the time to put it together.

For those who will notice, the cover makes use of my painting titled 'Dee.' I went back and forth on whether or not my painting should take up the entire cover, but in the end I opted for what you see, though it's not impossible I could change my mind at some point and could then change the cover. Time will tell.

Regardless, I hope anyone who reads these stories will find something to enjoy. Even if only one reader likes only one of the stories, that is enough to make me happy. Though, of course, I hope for more. ;-)

Interviews break

Just to let anyone interested know, I'm taking a break from the author interviews for a while. This is no surprise to me as I had originally planned on the interviews only being a temporary run anyway.

That being said, I'm not opposed to further interviews, but am just taking a break from the weekly grind of dealing with them. If you are an author who would like to be interviewed, please feel free to contact me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Another painting ... 'Dee'


This particular piece might seem somewhat or partially abstract, but it's not. The title comes from my John Dee character, an undying mage with Bibilical ties who appears in a number of my short stories, though I've not written anything including him for some while now (I will eventually, I'm just busy on other projects). Several of my stories with Dee have revolved around the Middle East, ancient and modern, so I often imagine him trudging through the deserts of that part of the world. This painting came from that notion. I intentionally made the dark figure of Dee on the right blurred to give it a look of a spell of sorts shielding him from view.

This was also the most simplistic painting I have done since taking up the brush again, but it is one of my favorites so far. I still show little talent, but perhaps I can get better with more experience. Also, though it does not appear well in the scanned image above, I made use of gold and bronze paints here to give a glinting, sort of mirage texture to some of the desert. I like this painting enough that I will be using it in part on an upcoming e-book cover.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mystery author Crystal Budy brings crime to Northern Ohio ... well, sort of

1.) Crystal, you write mysteries/thrillers set around Cleveland, Ohio. Other than the fact you live in the region, what drew you to write about Cleveland and northern Ohio?

I love Cleveland! It gets such a bad rap. Our sports teams suck, we have some of the worst winters around, and our river caught on fire ( :P ). But the city is gorgeous, the skyline is breathtaking at night, we have incredibly eclectic neighborhoods, and we have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for pete's sake! There is so much history in Cleveland and so much beauty that I've always been drawn to it. It's very inspiring. I couldn't imagine not having based the North Coast Mystery series in Cleveland.

2.) If my memory serves, Elliot Ness spent some time in Cleveland, and then there were the infamous Cleveland torso murders from the 1930s. Have you ever considered writing a historical mystery novel set in Ohio?

Ness grave in Lake View Cemetery
photo courtesy of Crystal Budy
Eliot Ness did spend some time in Cleveland. He was the director for public safety in Cleveland and he's buried in Lake View Cemetery. I actually just recently visited Lake View Cemetery and took some pictures and one of them was of Eliot Ness' grave marker. He was in Cleveland during the time of the murders you mentioned. I would love to write a historical mystery novel at some point when I would have the time to devote to the research. I'm pretty anal when it comes to research. I like to get it right. People laugh because I have a whole shelf of books about the FBI because in researching for the North Coast Mystery series, I wanted to make sure I got things as close to real as I possibly could without sitting down and having a one-on-one conversation with the FBI.

3.) Sam or Dean? Why? And shame on any modern mystery writers not familiar with this awesome pair.

Dean! Sam's cool, but Dean has the car, the leather jacket, and he's just bad ass. He has that whole bad boy appeal. I like that. :)

4.) Your doctor has told you that you must give up either chocolate or caffeine immediately or you’ll keel over dead in a matter of days. Which would you pick to drop? Or would you tempt fate and live dangerously?

Hmmmmm … I can't live without caffeine. I've tried and it isn't fun! So I would have to give up chocolate. Which is an awful prospect. Maybe I should consider that whole living dangerously thing.

5.) Who are some of your favorite fictional characters?

I'm pretty partial to Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice. He seems like such a snobbish prick at first but you can't help but grow to love him when you realize that he has no idea he's being a snobbish prick! Sherlock Holmes is the original bad ass detective. Cara from the Sword of Truth series can kick some serious booty and is also pretty hilarious. And the nerdy child in me has to admit to being drawn to Harry Potter. ;)

6.) Do you eat snow? If not, are there any circumstances under which you would eat snow? A bet, maybe?

I can't say that I do. I suppose if my life depended on it, I would as long as it wasn't yellow. Or gray, for that matter. Whether or not I would do it for a bet would depend entirely on how much money I was going to get!

For more on author Crystal Budy, check out:
Website: Crystal D. Budy
Kindle page for Budy's novel Echo of Silence: A North Coast Mystery
Kindle page for Budy's novel Echo of Darkness: A North Coast Mystery
Amazon page for Budy's print novel Echo of Silence: A North Coast Mystery
Amazon page for Budy's print novel Echo of Darkness: A North Coast Mystery
Barnes & Noble Nook and print page for Budy's novel Echo of Silence: A North Coast Mystery
Barnes & Noble Nook page for Budy's novel Echo of Darkness: A north Coast Mystery

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interview with fantasy author Michael J. Sullivan

1.) Michael, according to the "About" section of your website, you've had quite the interesting path to writing and publication, one that has had plenty of twists and turns over the years. What do you know now that you wish you had known 10 or more years ago?

That success is possible. There are few businesses that can beat you down like this one. I wish my story was unique, but most writers have similar tales of woe in their own pasts. The fact that it takes a long time to learn to write well was never a problem for me. I was more than willing to put in my 10,000 hours to hone my craft. But the bigger issue is that the whole time you are doing that you have no idea whether that effort is an investment or a total waste of time. For me, I ended up feeling like Linus in the pumpkin patch, ruining my Halloween waiting for something that didn’t exist. It caused me to quit writing altogether for over a decade and if the story ended there I would have been like the character from "Field of Dreams" who got within inches of living out his dream only to have it pass him by. Fortunately, I did start writing again, but this time with absolutely no desire to publish. Freed from that pressure, the joy of storytelling returned to me. By that time changes in the industry had opened up whole new opportunities, and because my wife was adamant about getting the books into the hands of others, I was able to finally find an audience. There is no greater feeling in the world than hearing that something you wrote touched or entertained someone. If I had known in the beginning that I would eventually succeed, I wouldn’t have and would have a lot more stories completed. As it stands, I think I’ll probably die before I get a chance to write all the tales running around in my head.

2.) Which has been your most difficult novel to write? And why?

It’s a novel that hasn’t been published and maybe never will. It’s called A Burden to the Earth and it profiles a man’s descent into madness. This was a piece that I focused on style over substance, and the prose took precedence over everything else. I labored over each word and worked hard to construct each sentence to be “just right.” I still marvel at many of the turns of phrases or descriptions in that story. I’m very proud of the result, but it wasn’t much fun to write. The success of my Riyria Revelations comes from writing tales of adventure with likeable characters … basically the type of stories I “like to read.” I can appreciate Burden on an intellectual level, but in many ways it is the anti-Riyria, and if I had my choice of which book to be stuck with on a desert island, I would much rather have the popcorn than the fine wine.

3.) Beginning writers often think of success as coming from either hard work or luck. Which do you think is more important? Or is it a mix of the two? Or something else entirely?

Ha! I wonder if this question is a plant … have you been reading my blog? I’m actually pretty amazed at the whole “luck” argument and that authors will absolve themselves of much (or sometimes any) role in their own success or failures. Sure over the course of any career some breaks will fall your way and at other times not so much, but to say that you have to “get lucky” to be a success is a cop-out, in my opinion.

If we can define “luck” as “being in the right place at the right time” then you can make your own luck by being persistent. The bottom line is that if you keep putting out quality work over an extended period of time you’ll eventually “make it.” The trick is to keep stacking the odds in your favor by being smart and never taking no for an answer. Years ago, you had to rely on others (mainly agents or acquisition editors) so it was harder, but if one novel didn’t get any nibbles, you could write another one and try again … rinsing and repeating that enough times and you’ll eventually get a “yes.” Today, with self-publishing you are the master of your own domain and the only people you have to prove yourself to are readers.

So going back to what I think the keys to success are it’s actually pretty simple.

1.) Write a “good” book (in this case I define “good” as something that people like so much that they tell everyone they know about it) and will insta-buy any future work you put out.

2.) Prime the pump by getting your book in front of a fairly substantial number of people who love talking about books with others. Let these people become your evangelists to help spread the news through the only marketing technique that works, which is word-of-mouth.

3.) Write more books that fit the bill of #1. Once you have an engine that wants to consume what you create, you have to keep the furnace well stoked with new fuel. The rub of course is whether or not you can write a “good book” especially when such distinctions are completely subjective. My rule of thumb is if you write something that you want to read, and execute it professionally, then the likelihood that you can find an audience with similar preferences is pretty likely.

4.) What do you see as some of the major differences between writing novels and short stories?

I’ve only recently started writing short stories that I consider to be worthy of letting others read. I have a tremendous appreciation for those writers who cut their teeth in the short story realm because I personally find it to be quite challenging. I will probably always be a better novelist than a short story writer because I really like being able to slowly reveal a character’s background, and I need a long run way for some of my red herrings and plot twists. I like enticing a reader to stay awake for “just one more chapter” and revel when they are half asleep the next day. Having 100,000 or more words gives me the freedom to explore such constructs.

Short stories force the author to make very tough choices. You have only so many words to develop an appreciation for the main character and what conflict they are going through. You also need to choose your plot carefully .. .it’s not easy coming up with an idea that can be explored in its entirety in the span of 3,000 – 7,000 words. Quite simply, I’m awed by great short story writers. They have a delicate balancing act and walk a tremendously difficult tightrope. I personally think it takes a far greater talent than novel writing, and that’s probably why I’ll continue to make my bread and butter in long form fiction.

5.) You have teamed up with your daughter Sarah for the online comic Plotholes. What is the story of this collaboration and how it came about?

The idea actually was something that came from Robin (my wife) and I. We often joke about various things that we find funny or amusing about publishing or fantasy writing. My mind seems to naturally distil these musings into very concise ideas. Because of my artistic background it’s easy for me to visualize the concept of a cliff hanger or the impenetrable wall of traditional publishing.

These little notions pop up constantly. For instance, one day we were walking home from the Metro and we passed a tree that was completely devoid of any leaves that was fourth in line of a row of others that were in their full greenery. One of us (I can’t recall which) said, “What the heck happened to that tree?” and the other responded, “It was edited.”

That got Robin thinking about creating a comic strip as something fun to put on my blog. I’m a pretty decent graphic artist, and I am good at combining graphics and text, but I’ve never been a great illustrator. After seeing my first attempt, Robin turned to the real artistic talent of the house, our daughter Sarah and asked her to draw something up. Her version blew mine out of the water. Nowadays Sarah is really busy with her own Ugly Vampire comic so there hasn’t been a new Plothole in a while, but Robin and I have come up with a whole bunch of other subjects that we would like to see Sarah draw one day when she gets the time.

6.) You hear a clatter behind your house. Rushing out the back door to see what has happened, you find your characters Royce and Hadrian in a heap, looking as if they have fallen a short distance and landed atop one another. Noticing you, they disentangle themselves and jump to their feet. Weapons are drawn. What do you do or say?

“Hey guys! Good to finally meet you face to face, but what’s with the pointy things? You’re not mad about the time I … or the other time … okay you’re right. I may have this coming. But let’s try to look at this from another perspective, shall we? After all you forgave Wyatt and he did much worse things than I. What’s that? Oh right, I forgot I made Wyatt do those things. Hmm … well I really don’t have much to say … except that I do have an idea for a new story, and guess who would be perfect for it? You’ll love it! There will be adventure, Montemorcey wine for Royce and the finest ale for Hadrian. Hmm? Yes, there might be a tad bit of danger and yes some pain here and there. But I promise nothing that you can’t handle. After all you’re Riyria for Maribor’s sake! Come on what do you say? Up for a little fun? Great! I’m just going to slowly back into the house and go up to my office. We’ll have you on your way in no time.”

For more about Michael J. Sullivan
Facebook (author)
Facebook (Riyria)

Books read in 2012: No. 62 - Brunner the Bounty Hunter

by C.L. Werner

Started: July 14
Finished: August 12

Notes: My understanding is this thick tome is actually a collection of one short story and three books, of which I believe two are collections of short stories that tie together and the third is a novel. The single short story is titled "What Price Vengeance" and the books are Blood Money, Blood and Steel, and Blood of the Dragon. Two things truly sold me on this book. The first was the author, who has shared a table of contents with yours truly in at least one or two anthologies, though I don't remember exactly which ones, probably one of the Rogues Blade Entertainment books. Secondly, the fantastic artwork by Marek Okon truly sold me. Honestly, this is one of my favorite pieces of fantasy art in years.

Mini review: I truly loved the characters here, especially Brunner himself, and the dialogue was some of the best I've read in fantasy in some while. However, the plots for me were hit and miss. Some of the plots I found quite enjoyable, but some didn't do much for me. But that can be expected in a work that collects many short stories, a novella or two, and a novel.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bollywood meets Don Quixote in Daniel Rider's first novel, 'Indian Summer'

1) Daniel, your first novel, Indian Summer, is now available. Can you tell us some about it, and yourself as a writer?

Well, Indian Summer is kind of a modern-day Don Quixote, at least to start out. But it changes the mix somewhat. It asks the question "What if Don Quixote goes mad not for medieval romances, but for Bollywood flicks, instead?" That opens up the question of how does this guy — this very white, very American, very nerdy in some ways, guy — function and look in American society if he’s acting like an Indian superstar. Also, it asks the question, "What if Sancho Panza is a woman, and what if she has a crush on this crazy guy and that’s why she stays with him?" That’s the premise, at least — but ultimately it’s about these two lonely, somewhat damaged, best friends that go off on an insane quest to find him an Indian girlfriend, but ultimately end up being on a quest to find themselves.

As for me as a writer, I find myself in this odd position where I’ve always written, but I also spent a long time as an academic, teaching college English mostly. I quit teaching to be a writer and a stay-at-home dad, and I’m absolutely loving it. I’m just getting started now, and that’s exciting. I’ve had a couple poems published, two stories in this awesome anthology Dreams in Shadow, and some really cool things in the pipeline. Indian Summer is my first novel, and really a labor of love, a kind of hat’s off to my 20-year-old self and my Peace Corps service—although what happens in the book is a very twisted, wild, silly, surreal view of that time. Not looking through a mirror darkly, perhaps, but looking through a mirror dorkily … although there’s some darkness in there as well.

2) You have taken part in the HarperCollins authonomy web site, which gives writers an opportunity at becoming published. What has been your experience with authonomy, and how has it helped you as a writer?

Authonomy is a cool site. For those who don’t know, HarperCollins UK set up the web site as basically an alternative to the slush pile. Writers post part or all of their novel on the site and then critique each other’s work. There’s also a rating system, and every month the five works with the strongest support actually end up being reviewed by HarperCollins editors, and some of these books even get deal offers.

For me, I came to the site a little late, just four months before my book was to be published, so I missed out on getting critiques that would have helped me in the planning process, but I’ve enjoyed the chance to read and connect with other writers, especially those who have similar interests and styles, and to see what people think of my book. I’d definitely do it again.

There are some downfalls to the site. Not everybody writes good reviews — and by good, I mean thoughtful, not gushing. I want constructive ideas, not just “It was good” or “It’s not my thing.” And some people are more about themselves only, and not the community, which is an important aspect to Authonomy. But all in all, Authonomy is a great place to do two things: A) get feedback on your writing, and B) market yourself a bit. After all, you’ll need to do that when you’re published, so attracting readers here is good practice.

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

Oh, there are tons. Probably the big ones, the ones I really see guiding my own writing, are Sherman Alexie, David Lodge, William Faulkner, and A.S. Byatt. Raymond Carver is perhaps the biggest influence; my writing changed a lot after reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Also, for this specific book, Indian Summer, I took a lot of inspiration from Cervantes, Chaucer, and an author named Sonia Singh. Her Goddess for Hire and Bollywood Confidential never failed to put a smile on my face.

4) If chocolate did not exist, how would the world be different?

I was going to say that I’d be skinnier, but then I realized that wouldn’t be true. You see, my absolute favorite ice cream flavor is Breyers’ Mint Chocolate Chip, but I don’t get it very often because my wife doesn’t like the chips. But if it were just mint, watch out — we’d be eating ice cream every day!

5) Whole, 2 percent, or skim milk? Or something else?

Whole, because that’s what my daughter drinks.

6) A friend has e-mailed you, sending a link and telling you, “You have to check this out!” You go to the page and realize you are looking at the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. Unfortunately, your face and name are right at the top of the list. There is a knock at your front door. What do you do?

Oh, man! This is a messed-up scenario! The thing is, I’m a stay-at-home dad and FIERCELY protective of my two-year-old daughter. She’s never even had a babysitter. And I certainly don’t trust the FBI to be a good first babysitter and take care of her. So my first thought would be for her. If my wife were home, then that would be okay. I’d have her take Katie into another room so she wouldn’t have to see her dad get carted away, and I’d cooperate completely. Hopefully, it would all be peaceful and quiet, and I’d get to the bottom of things and be released, though probably not with an apology. (There’s a good Indian movie called My Name is Khan, by the way that deals with an FBI arrest like this…)

If I were home alone, though — wow. There’s just no way this situation can be good. If I answer the door, my daughter sees me get arrested and then gets handed off to God knows who. If I pretend not to be home, they probably have a warrant and bust in — even worse! If I go out the back door — well, I’m pretty sure the FBI has encountered this tactic before and would have prepared for it, so this would be worst of all. So the best I can do is call my wife, tell her to get home quick, hopefully get the neighbor on the phone to look after my little girl, and then call through the door, “There’s a child here. I’ll surrender and come peacefully, but you’ll have to promise no violence.” Still, I’d put my daughter in another room for safety before opening the door.

Whatever happens, this is an ugly, scary predicament, with no good solution, other than waking up and discovering it was all a nightmare. But that would have been a cop-out answer, and I definitely wouldn’t want that kind of cliché on my record.

For more about Daniel Rider
Daniel Rider blogs
Daniel's Facebook page
Daniel's Smashwords page
Daniel's Amazon page

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Abstract art ... 'Digital'


This is my first piece of abstract art in more than 20 years. Not great, but it was interesting to me to put together in acrylics on canvas board.

I've titled it "Digital" because I was going for the colors and sort of the feeling of the falling digital numbers that appear at the beginning of the Matrix movies, sort of my reflection of where the digital age has taken us. You might notice there is a lot more black than color. You might also notice there is a fair amount of silver. These are intentional. Think about it. I'm not one to generally explain my art, visual or written, because I want the viewer/reader to think for themselves, to come to their own conclusions whether they match my own or not.

Also, you might notice in my paintings I'm putting up online that there are sometimes odd lines or smudged places near the center. This is because my scanner is not nearly big enough to the whole canvas, thus I have to scan the paintings in a portion at a time. I've tried using various cameras to try to capture images of my paintings, but they look even worse. Anyone have a good idea of the best manner and/or camera for taking photos of paintings?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Painting again ... 'Bayne'

Recently, for the first time in more than 15 years, I decided to try my hand at artistic painting again. I never have been a very good painter, but it is a hobby I used to enjoy when younger. More than 25 years ago when I was a teenager, I painted rather often and took a ton of art classes in high school; but not being much of a visual artist, I dropped out of the habit. I painted again for a brief period, one summer or so, about 15 years ago. Fortunately, when the painting bug hit me this time, I still had all of my old supplies and surprise, surprise, they were still in working order.

So far I've finished two pieces of ... well, I'm not sure I can call them art, exactly ... but, well, I've finished two paintings. The first one is below and I've titled it "Bayne" as it is based upon the mountain which appears on the cover of my short novel Bayne's Climb. Nothing special, of course, but I was really just trying to refamiliarize myself with holding the brushes, etc. A third piece of work is nearly finished, and then I'll be onto another project. I'll post another piece of art in coming days, an abstract piece (which was always my favorite form of painting, anyway ... but maybe that's just an excuse since I don't consider myself much of an artist).

Who knows? With some practice, I might get good enough at this to eventually use some of my art for my book covers. At least it would provide me with unique covers.

For those who might be interested in the technical details, I use about a dozen or so different colors of Liquitex acrylic paints and about a dozen different sizes and shapes of Robert Simmons brushes, though for the most part I commonly use only about 3 of the brushes. Since I'm just getting back into things, I am painting on canvas board. Eventually I hope to be painting on stretched canvas, but I want to warm up my skills first. I work in acrylics because I feel they are easier to work with than oils and offer more versatility than oils or water colors, basically allowing me to paint heavy or thin or however I want. I'm also painting on smaller boards, only 8x10 and 11x14; again, once I'm feeling in the groove, I'll likely move onto larger canvasses.

So ... the first unveiling ...


Talking novels and talking sandwiches with science fiction author David Weisman

1.) David, why did you write your novel Absorption?

Well, one of the reasons is a secret. But I've always loved science fiction, especially science fiction with complex and well rounded characters who are also easy to care about, and capable of surprising you. I also love stuff which is easy to read but leaves huge and oddly shaped thoughts fighting for space in your brain, and which may even change you a tiny bit more than you realize. So I wanted to add to the amount of the science fiction that I enjoy reading in the world. Also, I'm an introvert. On some days I enjoy the act of writing alomst as much as I enjoy playing mindless computer games, and I feel better afterwards, like I've actually accomplished something. In fact, some days the act of not having written makes me feel badly, as if I've wasted a day, unless I've done something else worthwhile during that day.

2.) If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Keep rewriting and sending your work to writer's workshops. Sometimes superficial mistakes cover up deeper ones, and until you learn to write well enough so that people understand what you're trying to say, they can't tell you how little it interests them. If your idea is interesting and you've expressed it through characters you care about, you can probably find an audience and a way to communicate with them - eventually. Even if you suspect most of the people in your current writer's workshop will not be part of that audience, let them help you clear the first layer of detritus off your masterpiece.

3.) What writing projects do you have planned for the future? What are they about?

My next book is about the Singularity, from a different point of view. Will the Singularity be a benevolent genius, or just a mind which might be slightly smarter than the most intelligent human alive, with all the foibles that implies? And why does everyone assume that it doesn't matter who builds the Singularity and what they try to teach it?

Ultimately though, a good novel is about people. This one starts with a scientist who gave up his American citizenship because the State Department felt his research had military implications. China was the only country with both the money and the will to finance the construction of an artificial intelligence using the carbon crystals he had invented. During the past twenty years he has come to think of the A.I. as a son, even though the Chinese told him it wasn't working yet. Then one day he discovers they have been training it for many years, and it does not think of him as a father at all, and has plans that will harm the United States. He can no longer be apolitical, and will be held prisoner if he refuses to help.

4.) When do you think it is okay for a writer to break the rules?

I think it's OK to break one of the many rules of writing if you understand the reasons for the rule, and can express to yourself clearly what you hope to accomplish by breaking it, and why you couldn't do that some other way. It's very easy to fall in love with your own writing, or to convince yourself something is fine because you are too lazy to change it, or even because you don't like being criticized. If one of those is your most important reasons for breaking a rule, you are better off cultivating some mindless conformity.

5.) Why should anyone read your book?

It is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It cures cancer. It will change your life. It only costs three bucks. I heard a story about a man who had the opportunity to buy my book and didn't. The next day he cleaned underneath the cushions of his couch and didn't find as much change as he expected. There was a woman who passed up the opportunity to buy with one click when she had the chance, and the next day it took her nearly fifteen minutes to find her keys, and she was late for work. If her boss had noticed, she might have been in trouble. Also, there's a story of someone's dog that was sleeping in front of a laptop that was showing the Amazon page for my book. The dog made no effort to buy my book, and left when it heard someone opening a can of dog food. The next day the entire town was destroyed by a nuclear bomb. Also, it is easy and fun to read, but may eventually leave some funny ideas in your brain.

6.) You are sitting down to lunch when you pick up your sandwich and suddenly, miraculously, it starts talking to you. It begs you not to eat it, but this is your all-time favorite sandwich. What do you do?

In real life, my first thoughts would be of ventriloquists and hidden microphones. Am I on Candid Camera? Nah, couldn't be, the show went off the air. Although the possibility that it is being filmed again without my knowing it is still more likely than a talking sandwich. My having hallucinations is more likely than a talking sandwich. Yet based on the phrasing of the question, I'm going to assume all of those have been ruled out beyond any possible doubt.

I'm going to get something else to eat first of all. I mean, this is a discovery that could revolutionize our understanding of science. How could a sandwich talk? It has no brain, and even if was some sort of exotic brain sandwich, the brain would already have been cooked. It would be a shame if a growling stomach led to the premature destruction of this amazing object, which could revolutionize our understanding of the world.

Now, my greatest fear will be the "Horton Hears A Who" scenario. I mean, nobody has ever heard of a talking sandwich retaining the ability for more than fifteen or twenty minutes in real life. Any rational scientist will decide that any films or recordings I make are fakes. I mean, there is no guarantee that the medication prescribed for me will be pleasant, if the doctors get me. So I'm going to talk to the sandwich, and try to determine how likely it is to retain this ability until I get it before reliable witnesses. Think how the conceptions of consciousness (assuming the sandwich talks coherently) as well as physics and biology will change, if I can demonstrate to the world the existance of a talking sandwich.

Yet somehow the possibility seems silly. If this were a story I would find myself forced into the 'Horton' scenario, perhaps pleading to the world on behalf of an army of sandwiches that only I can hear. Unlike Horton's microscopic people, perhaps they will also beg us to keep making more sandwiches, to prevent their species from becoming extinct. So at least they are motivated to communicate with us, and surely the rights of intelligent sandwiches must take precedence over the rights of the unspeaking animals that provide raw materials for their children? Right?

Or perhaps this is the world's only talking sandwich, and it has no hope of having its lifespan extended by science. All that remains is for me to learn what I can of the universe by discussing life with this unique being. Perhaps I can even pass some insight on to the rest of humanity, if I say nothing about from where it comes.

For more on David Weisman
David's blog: Breaking In Before Breaking Down
David's Amazon page

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Author Ann Grant's writing roots tied in with the speculative and the spooky

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

I grew up watching classic science fiction movies with my father. I’ve seen everything from Close Encounters to the Steve McQueen Blob to those really bad Japanese Godzilla films. I can’t get aliens out of my blood, but I’m not a movie maker, so I write stories instead. My current work, Shadow Stations, is a series about two sisters who discover an invasion in rural Pennsylvania. I write about real people who encounter the impossible and maintain a sense of wonder in spite of everything. My writing process: I stay up all night, drink gallons of espresso, and know I’m on the right track when I can’t stop laughing.

 2.) As a writer, how do you go about getting reviews for your work?

That’s a tough question. I do what most writers do. I throw salt over my shoulder, step over cracks on the sidewalk, and lurk in alleys with bags of candy. Seriously, a few loyal fans wait for my books and post reviews, so I’m grateful for that. I’ve had some success with giveaways. I recently found out about Mail Chimp. One writer came up with a suggestion I think I’ll try. He gives away copies of his books and tells the recipients if they e-mail him the link to their review, he’ll send them a free copy of another book he’s written.

3.) Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’ve come across so many wonderful writers, it’s hard to know where to start. Off the top of my head, Irish writer Emma Donoghue (Slammerkin), Peter Benchley (Jaws), Daphne DuMaurier (Rebecca), Kathleen Valentine (The Old Mermaid’s Tale), Dave Conifer (Wrecker), Kealan Patrick Burke (The Turtle Boy), Hugh Howey (Wool), and so many more. Dr. Raymond Moody (Life After Life) is one of my favorite nonfiction writers. The book I would take to a desert island? The Bhagavad Gita. Nobody knows who wrote it.

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

I hope the indie marketplace continues to develop. I’d like to translate my books for overseas readers (right now it’s too expensive).

5.) You have written a non-fiction book about ghosts at the Gettysburg battlefield. So, do you believe in ghosts? Have you had any supernatural experiences?

The first sentence in Haunted Ground says “Mention ghosts and I used to be the world’s biggest skeptic.” My late husband Jack and I used to drive from D.C. to Gettysburg to hike on weekends. One day he told me about a haunted triangular field where a ghost supposedly tampers with cameras, camcorders, TV equipment, and even digital watches. The idea made me gleeful. The field itself has an ominous feeling if you’re at all sensitive to that kind of thing, but no, I didn’t believe in ghosts and joked about it. Well, our new batteries died the first time we walked through the gate. Many other people have documented unusual experiences in the Triangular Field and have even tested the area for geological anomalies, but never found anything. Yes, after years of hiking across the battlefield, I’m forced to admit the place turned me into a believer.

6.) Your doctor informs you that you have contracted a rare disease that allows you to only eat one flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life. If you even nibble at another flavor of ice cream, you will become sick, sick, sick! The good news is you get to pick the one flavor you CAN eat. What will it be?

An ice cream disease! Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food (trust me, it’s a flavor). The best way to eat Phish Food is with friends while you watch the Red Sox destroy the Yankees.

For more on author Ann Grant, please check out:
The Amazon page for the novel Shadow Stations
The Amazon page for the novel Lost Cargo
The Amazon page for Haunted Ground
The Shadow Stations site

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Claudia Lefeve working on third book in Travelers Series

1.) Claudia, can you tell us some about yourself as a writer and your writing?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, until life got in the way. My stories ended up being shelved in the ‘save for later’ department of my brain. Once I started to hear the voices of my characters, I decided to write them down and publish. Unlike the old adage of “write what you know,” I like to write about the things I don’t, so I was immediately drawn to speculative fiction.

I’m coming up on my third year as an indie writer and in that time I’ve had three short stories (small press), one novella, and two novels published. And, after getting the rights back to my shorts, I will be publishing my own anthology very soon!

2.) What writing projects are you working on now?

I’m currently working on PARADIGM, the third book in the Travelers Series, as well as a new story that strays a bit from my young adult series. It’s about a girl and a mummy (and no, not an Egyptian one) that will probably fall under the paranormal romance genre ... well, we’ll have to see where the characters take me.

3.) What do your novels give to readers that they can't find elsewhere?

Some of my favorite reviews have been those that have regarded my writing as refreshing and interesting. The best part of being a writer is to create new worlds and characters, so I definitely take advantage. I’ve never been one to follow the rules, so I don’t. My characters don’t follow the mainstream formulas for life and love, and they’re often ambiguous ... are they good, bad, or both?

4.) On your website you claim to be a TV junkie. How has television, and some of your favorite shows, influenced you as a writer?

My parents weren’t the type to censor my television habits as a child, so as a result I watched a lot of TV growing up. My writing reflects the writing styles and story lines from some of my favorite shows: The Outer Limits, The Twilight Zone, X-Files, Lost, Buffy, and of course, Fringe. I find I am just as influenced by television writers such as Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams  as much as my favorite authors.

5.) Buffy vs. Angel, who wins?

Is there any question? Buffy! She’s logged more kills than Angel, she defeated The First, and she even killed Angel once (or at least she thought she did).

6.) Popcorn, potato chips or carrot sticks?

No rabbit food for me...definitely popcorn and chips. My favorite thing to do (especially at the movies) is to eat popcorn with Kit-Kats. And as a Texas gal, I just love me some Fritos!

For more about Claudia Lefeve
Claudia's website
Claudia at Facebook
Claudia at Twitter

Books read in 2012: No. 61 -- Northanger Abbey

by Jane Austen

Started: July 7
Finished: July 13

Notes: While over the years I have enjoyed several movies and television programs based upon this author's works, I have never actually read any of her material. I've been meaning to give Austen a go for some time now and figured there was no time like the present. This particular novel drew my interest because apparently it is, at least in part, a satire of Gothic literature, of which I'm somewhat familiar.

Mini review: Not completely, but I was partially turned off. Much here I found tedious, especially the first half of the book. The second half wasn't nearly so bad because at least something was happening besides going to a party, gossiping, going to another party, more gossip, etc., etc. Toward the end I was enjoying the story much more as there was a sudden change of events which heightened a sense of mystery about the heroine's future. The dialogue of this novel I enjoyed quite a bit, as I did the satirical elements. There were a few decent laughs here and there, though nothing too boisterous. Will I give this author another try? Yes, but it might be a while.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

'Arctic Wargame' thriller novel free for Kindle

Yes, you read that correctly. Arctic Wargame, the thriller novel from author Ethan Jones, is free through July 12. I've read some of Ethan's shorter works and I've been impressed with his ability to write action, so I'm stoked to try out something longer from him. You should be, too.

Where to pick up this freebie for your Kindle? Why, at Amazon, of course!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Paranormal fiction author Sally Dubats opens up about writing, Witchcraft, cheese and peanut butter

1.) Sally, what type of books do you write? And what has drawn you to do so?

I started writing non-fiction about Witchcraft, but have begun writing paranormal fiction. I’m currently writing a series about a true Witch, and I was drawn to this work because there has been a huge misrepresentation of Witches in literature and film, and I want to add my two cents to the cauldron.

2.) Can you tell us a little about your past, professional and personal, and how it relates to your writing?

I have a long metaphysical studies background, a theatre background, and have been involved in writing one way or another throughout my life. All of this has converged to get back to my creative roots, back to fiction.

3.) What is the best thing about being a writer?

Getting lost in a world I created.

4.) What is the worst thing about being a writer?

Getting lost in a world I created. Just kidding. I think the worst thing is the expectation I place on myself that I’ll be the next J.K. Rowling and Disney will make a theme park after my books and subsequent wildly successful films, but then I wake up and get back to the writing.

5.) What is your favorite type of cheese, and why?

I love gorgonzola because it goes as well with Sauternes as it does Pinot Noir. And funny you should ask; I just saw a recipe for gorgonzola stuffed pears drizzled with Sauternes.

6.) A flying saucer lands in front of you and out pops a little green person. The little green person lifts a small object and points it toward you. Is the object a gun? A holy symbol? Some kind of communicator? You don't know. What do you do?

I was actually asked this in college! Seriously. It was a paper we had to do in Communications regarding the similarities between species! Apparently, among other things, assuming the least threatening position possible is the best answer. For me that would be curling up in a fetal position, but that could also be misinterpreted and I would be instantly vaporized. It is my best wish that anyone landing from another planet, green or otherwise, would be an evolved species here to communicate.

7.) What's your favorite brand of peanut butter?

That's a new question! Actually, I go to my local co-op and have organic peanuts ground for me. The taste is amazing; it's nothing like you've ever had. I also usually do the ground almonds rather than peanuts resulting in, you guessed it, almond butter. Peanuts aren't really a nut, and should more appropriately be called "legume butter."

8.) What's your favorite word?

My favorite word is Blaspheme because it teaches us to take responsibility. Eddie Izzard said it best, "Blasphe-meeee, Blasphe-youuuuu, Blasphe-everybodyyyy."

9.) If you could have any other name than the one you currently have, what would it be?

I was born "Dubats" and around me were famous names, British names, beautiful French names -- family names like Lamb, Chatfield, Drake, and Bonneville (pronounced Bone-veel). I was born with "Dubats" which is a chopped-off Russian name. We're not sure of the lengthier version. To top it off, I was born with a nick-name: Sally. I always wanted a three-syllable name, so I fantasized about the name "Elizabeth." I would add the name from my mother's side, "Chatfield" and be "Elizabeth Chatfield." Doesn't that sound elegant? I would practice my signature with that name. As I grew older, I realized I could never pull it off, and so I kept the original.

10.) Is it true you are hiding under government protection? If so, why? Spill it!

It is not true; I'm simply trying to find my identity between recluse author and "out there" bon vivant.

For more about author Sally Dubats, please check out:
The Amazon page for her novel The Grimoire Chronicles: Veil Between Worlds
The Barnes & Noble page for her novel The Grimoire Chronicles: Veil Between Worlds
The Smashwords page for her novel The Grimoire Chronicles: Veil Between Worlds
The Sally Dubats web site
Sally Dubats twitter feed

'Dark King of the North' reviewed

My novel Dark King of the North: Book III of The Kobalos Trilogy has received an excellent review over at the blog of author Brent Nichols.

Thanks, Brent! Glad you enjoyed the trilogy. And thanks for the kind words.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

William Woodall author of young adult fantasy novels

1.) William, according to your website, you write mostly "fantasy novels for young adult readers, with a Christian flavor." What has drawn you to write in such a genre?
I think I've always enjoyed spending time with young people and talking to them about their lives and the issues they have. I was a high school teacher for several years, and kids are just interesting people, I think.  That goes a long way toward explaining the young adult part. As for the fantasy . . . well, I've always felt that fantasy writing is the purest expression of a writer's art, with the most creative freedom. In a strict sense, all fiction writing is fantasy anyway, since we're writing about people who don't really exist, doing things that never really happened.

I'm sometimes reluctant to classify my work specifically as Christian fiction, because I think people often have a mistaken idea about what that means. There's a tendency to think it either means thinly-disguised sermons, retellings of Bible stories in allegorical form, or (for kids) sweetness-and-light stories where nothing bad ever happens and everything is perfect. Worse still, people often think that Christian writers never write about anything except the conversion experience. But not all Christian writing is like that. Janette Oke has her beautiful Christian love stories, and Ted Dekker even manages to write Christian horror novels which appeal to a broad audience. Those are the types of Christian authors whom I admire most and would like to learn from. My characters will now and then discuss their faith and it forms a big part of who they are and the reasons why they do things, but they don't spend time trying to convert anybody and they don't indulge in long-winded sermons.     
 2.) Do you ever write in other genres, or have plans to do so?

I've sometimes thought about writing science fiction, or possibly other types of fantasy. I used to teach biology and chemistry, so I have the background for a good meaty science novel.  I just haven't gotten around to it yet.  

3.) Which of your books was the most fun to write, and why?

I think The Last Werewolf Hunter series has probably been the most fun to write, at least so far. Zach (the main character) has an entertaining sense of humor, for one thing, and he always kept me laughing.  Characters really do take on a life of their own after a while, and you end up getting to know them like you would a best friend.  The story took about two and a half years to write, and that's quite a while to spend with someone.
4.) Who are some authors you feel have had a big influence upon your own writing?

There have been several, but the ones I usually pick are C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald. Perhaps MacDonald would be the root of it all, since Lewis and Tolkien both admired him greatly and thought of him as a deep influence on their own work. He was a pastor of a church, a deeply pious man, and a deeply humble one as well. I've read some of his sermons and learned a lot from him. He has an amazing way of cutting to the very heart of whatever he wants to talk about and eliminating confusion. He writes beautiful stories which are hard to forget.  

5.) As a writer of Christian literature, how do you approach the sometimes unsavory elements that can pop up in writing a story?

My outlook on this subject is that a writer of Christian literature should never be afraid to take up difficult subjects and unsavory characters. These things exist in the real world, and they will certainly come up during the writing process. In various stories of mine, I've found it necessary to address alcoholism, child abuse and abandonment, occultism, fatal illness, and several other harsh topics. What interests me as a Christian writer is the way people cope with these things and how they relate to the main characters' faith at times.  Every human being at some point has to confront questions about what he or she believes and how to apply those beliefs to the real world of messy choices and difficult decisions. They won't always choose wisely. I think having a main character who loves God and tries to live that way even if he doesn't always succeed is something a lot of people can relate to.

 6.) Cats or dogs? Why? 

Two dogs at the moment. A half-Rottweiler, half-German Shepherd named Blue, whose only use as a guard dog would be if robbers could be licked to death, and a chihuahua who's meaner than a snake.  lol

For more on author William Woodall, please check out:

Friday, July 06, 2012

Author Jeremy Brown brings action to life with thrillers

1.) Jeremy, for those who don't know you, can you tell us some about your writing and yourself?

I am 37, got married last October and recently completed the Ohio/Michigan Tough Mudder with a great group of friends. We decided to start doing adventure races and challenges like the Mudder a few years ago because we were tired of telling the same stories over and over. During the races we question our sanity, but afterward the feeling of accomplishment and shared experience is powerful and lasting.

My first books were published by Scholastic Inc. in 2006. It was a very lucky break and the books got bumped from midlist to lead series -- pretty good for a first timer -- and I thought, “Well, I’ve made it now. Smooth sailing from here on.”


Scholastic was great, but I encountered a few things that I’ve since learned are pretty common with big publishers. My editor left, then her replacement left, the department went through an overhaul, they canceled the rest of the contract, yada yada.

My agent at the time was very encouraging and wanted me to continue in the middle reader/YA vein, but I had different stories to tell. It may have worked out -- the young readers who read Crime Files in 2006 are now old enough to read my adult fiction. Just like I planned!

I self-published for the first time in April and love it. I also have a traditional deal with Medallion Press for HOOK AND SHOOT, the sequel to my crime thriller SUCKERPUNCH, which they also published.

2.) If you could meet any of your characters in real life, who would it be?

I’d like to share a table with former Tier One operators Patrick Darwin and Cal Wafer from FIND > FIX > FINISH, though I doubt they’d give me the time of day. Maybe I could just sit nearby and eavesdrop. Otherwise, it might go like this:

Cal: So that’s how we got out of Chechnya without detonating the nuclear warhead.
Darwin: Reminds me of a close call my team had north of a certain DMZ. Only we used a hot air balloon, not a submarine.
Me: I got poison ivy over the weekend. It’s wicked itchy.

3.) What are some of your favorite books?

Stick by Elmore Leonard
Without Remorse by Tom Clancy
Savages by Don Winslow
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

4.) You used to work building haunted houses (the amusement kind, not REAL haunted houses), so how did you land gigs like that? And are you still doing any work in that field?

My friends and I grew up scaring each other (and the occasional stranger), and when we got older decided it would be nice to get paid for it. So we designed and built a haunted attraction, put on makeup and wigs, and scared the hell out of people during October of 2000. We couldn’t believe how fun it was -- making grown men dive behind the furniture to get away from a clown; discovering no one can stand still when a chainsaw fires up; listening to countless declarations of wet pants.

We did that for a few years. I eventually sought full-time employment in the industry and relocated to a haunted attraction construction company in Florida, and quickly found out that once it became my job, scaring people lost a lot of luster. I quit that job and returned to haunting with friends for a few years, but we haven’t operated an attraction since 2005. Maybe someday -- the pants around here are way too dry.

5.) What is your favorite holiday? Why?

At the risk of being obvious: Halloween. I live in Michigan, and that time of year is fantastic. The colors and smells of falling leaves, apple cider, chilly nights. The first sighting of Halloween candy and cheap costumes is way too exciting.

I recently watched "E.T." for the first time since I was a kid, and I think the Halloween scenes had a huge impact on me. The utter chaos that is rampaging through the neighborhood -- monsters toting flames down the street, masked hooligans peering in windows, everyone in costume and having a blast -- that’s what Halloween should be.

6.) Aliens abduct you and take you away in a flying saucer. After what feels like days the saucer comes to rest between two planets. The chief alien points to one planet and says to you, "That planet contains giant libraries which hold all the secrets of life." Then the alien points to the other planet and says, "That planet is home to all those who have perished in your world, from famous people to those you have loved and more." Finally, the alien boss turns to you and says, "We will take you to one of these planets. Decide which." Which do you pick? Or do you have something else up your sleeve?

I would best the chief alien in Connect Four, commandeer the ship, and start shuttling people from the inhabited planet to the library planet. Then I’d fly back to Earth with a select group of famous dead people brimming with the secrets of life and we’d start a very popular blog and Twitter account.

For more on author Jeremy Brown, please see:
His website: Jeremy Brown
His Amazon page
The Medallion Press page for Jeremy Brown

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Fantasy author Darrin Drader's two new projects

1.) Darrin, what can you tell us about your new/upcoming novel?

Which one? I have two projects to talk about right now. The first is the series of serialized fiction I'm working on, which is set in the shared world called The Endlands. Originally created by Scott Fitzgerald Gray, The Endlands is much more of a traditional fantasy setting than my other project. This series is called The Heroes of Gracia, and the first story is called The Vacant Forge. It serves to introduce the characters and also explain why they leave their life of relative comfort to go adventuring in the wilderness. There is a larger story arc that will emerge through the run of this project, but I'm keeping each story at the length of a long story or short novella (about 30 novel-length pages), and the larger story will unfold in a very much episodic manner. The Vacant Forge starts the story with a blacksmith's apprentice who awakens in the middle of the night to find his master dead. He, along with his friends, strike out to try and find out what happened and bring his murderer to justice. This will ultimately reach the highest reaches of power in the city they live in. The Vacant Forge is available now through

The other project I'd like to talk about is a full-on novel called Echoes of Olympus. It's set in the classical period of Ancient Greece, but it's definitely an alternate history book. It begins with Alexander the Great's invasion of Asia Minor and is told from the point of view of Heliodas, one of the sons of Zeus. When he's gravely injured on the field of battle, he's found by a woman named Thermiandra, who was following a vision given to her by Athena that led her to him. Together with the Macedonian warrior Pelephon and the Egyptian wizard Archetus, they strike out on a quest that has implications not only for them, but for the entire world and the gods themselves. Echoes of Olympus will be released by Dark Quest Books in the near future.

2.) How does your day job relate to your fiction writing? Or does it?

Well, before the studio I worked for self destructed, there wasn't a lot of overlap. I wrote dialogue for a computer game, so if nothing else, it kept me in the practice of producing material daily, and writing good character dialogue.

3.) As a writer, what do you hope to bring to your readers?

I hope to bring entertainment, and I also hope to be able to tell good human stories that will touch people on some level. I'm not going to lie and say that it's of literary quality, as a lot of it features action at its core, but I occasionally like it to be a little more than just a fun romp through fantastic scenery.

4.) If you could be rich or famous but not both, which would it be?

Oh, absolutely, rich. Who wants to be famous? If I had all the money in the world, I'd be able to do what I wanted, go where I want to go, and not have to worry about making ends meet. If I was famous but not rich, I'd be constantly hounded by the media, have my personal privacy invaded, and possibly have me or my family threatened. That's no life!

5.) Who is your favorite relative, and why?

Come on, Ty, is this a fair question? Really? See that question above about fame vs. wealth? If I actually go on and answer this question it will be like choosing fame above.

6.) You are on a ship sinking next to a deserted island. You have been able to carry to the island enough food and water and clothes to last you a good while, but the ship is going down fast and you only have enough time to grab one more box of goodies. You have three choices: a case of beer, a crate filled with guns and ammo, or a box full of books. Which do you grab?

Obviously the books. I don't drink a lot of alcohol, so I won't be needing that, and I've seen enough Survivorman to be able to survive, especially so close to a ready supply of fresh fish. No, I'd need to keep my mind active, so I'd want to take the books. Hopefully they're a collection of MY books rather than some other passenger's romance books.

For more on Darrin Drader
Darrin's Smashwords page
Monumental Works Group

Books read in 2012: No. 60 -- Flashing Swords #1

edited by Lin Carter

Started: July 2
Finished: July 7

Notes: I have intentionally not been reading a lot of fantasy of late because I was feeling some burnout from the genre. I spent much of last year reading and writing fantasy. So, I sought some change. However, I ran across this little hardback collectible of Sword and Sorcery tales in a used book store a few months back and I've been chomping at the bit to tear into it ever since.

Mini review: I hate to say it, but I was disappointed with this one. The story by Friz Leiber was the best, but even it I felt was not one of that author's strongest tales. The stories by Jack Vance and Poul Anderson left me feeling kind of bleh. And though I'm not a big fan, Lin Carter's story itself wasn't too bad, starting off strong but sort of whimpering out in the end, in my opinion.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Martin Gibbs not your run-of-the-mill fantasy author

1.) What draws you to read and write fantasy literature?

I enjoy an occasional escape from reality. As such, I really only enjoy worlds that are distinctly separate from ours, where magic is possible. My first exposure was way back with some great Forgotten Realms books and a few D&D sessions with friends. It was a pleasure to disconnect from everything and go fight wizards, orcs, and other nasties in wonderfully imagined worlds.

That said, I never understood why so many fantasy worlds were still in the middle ages technologically. With all that advanced magic, why could they not have at least invented matches? I poke fun at that in my own middle-aged world because fantasy should also be able to keep itself in perspective and have the ability to laugh at itself. A warlock can erase a man from existence, but has no indoor plumbing.

2.) Which of your books was the most fun to write, and why?

For fantasy: Part II of A Drunkard's Journey, Dead Spaces. I am going through the editing process now with the editor, so it will be out in summer. The book was a chance to open the floodgates of disaster and chaos and just let things run wild — things could go along at quite a rapid clip. I have the third and final book drafted, but for some reason the last book is always the hardest.

I am working on a historical fiction piece under a pseudonym, about the Three Kings, and that has actually been my favorite. It's like writing a fantasy quest, but with characters everyone knows (at least they think they do). I really enjoyed reading the ancient histories and coming up with possible scenarios for their journey. This will come out by Christmas.

3.) What are some of your favorite books?

Fantasy: Wheel of Time (first five and last "three"), the first Nightrunner books by Lynn Flewelling, Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice.

4.) A time traveler snags you up and drops you in the middle of a battle 500 years ago. He offers you your choice of weapons. Sword, battle ax or M-16?

Since he didn't offer any bullets, and they will run out, I'm going with a battle ax. I have no skill, but some upper body strength — maybe I could survive a good ten minutes before I got cut down.

5.) You also write some noir crime fiction. Who are your favorite authors in that genre?

Ellery Queen, SS Van Dine.

6.) What's your favorite brand of peanut butter?

Peanut butter is of the devil and it must be destroyed. Unless it's served with udon noodles, Sriracha chili sauce and cilantro. Brand doesn't matter at that point.

7.) What's your favorite word?


8.) If you could have any other name than the one you currently have, what would it be?

Ehud Gershom. Actually using that name for a book coming out this Christmas!

9.) Is it true you are hiding under government protection? If so, why? Spill it!

Absolutely not. But, perhaps... no, that happened just that one night on Bourbon Street. A chimpanzee named Solomon was smoking, absently twirling a rubix cube in his hand. He asked me if I'd want to know some juicy secrets, and being the open, naive, and completely degenerate creep that I am, I said yes. He had only opened his mouth to speak when a black helicopter swooped down and he was gone. Something hit my head and I woke up in a mental hospital, chained to a pink wall, my toes gripping flaming crayons.

So, the answer is no. Maybe. Yes. Absolutely not. Yes. Always.

I'm, sorry, what was the question?

To find out more about author Martin Gibbs, check out:
His blog: Out There Fantasy
The Spaces Between (Part I of A Drunkard's Journey)
Voltaire's Adventures Before Candide (Bizarro Space Fantasy Short Story)