Interview: Gregory Lloyd, Author of The Sword of Agrippa: Antioch

LloydSwordOfAgrippa:AntiochEveryone, please welcome Gregory Lloyd to the blog today. We chat about digging ditches, having dinner with noteworthy authors, cross-genre books, and much more. Enjoy!

1) Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

I hope so. I think they reach into our subconscious and evoke deeper truths than we experience in much of our media today. More people need to understand that while our world requires rational thinking, our thoughts cannot end there. We have to understand that there is much more to our universe than we may perhaps ever comprehend. Hence my interest in sci fi as a bridge to fantasy with Smashwords – The Sword of Agrippa: Antioch – a book by Gregory Lloyd.

2) Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

I’m new to the world of writer and publishers and prefer writing to promotion. That being said I’ve made many new friends at Goodreads and via emails that mysteriously turn up from someone thousands of miles away with common passions and interests. It is amazing.

3) What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Early in my career (while in high school) I was a janitor at a fast food restaurant. One day the manager didn’t like my positive attitude and sent me to spend a few hours scraping gum off of the sidewalk among those waiting to place or receive their orders. I like writing much better than scraping gum. Note: I quickly forgot about the incident/task. Years later I ran into the manager and he apologized to me. He reminded me and I quickly remembered… I did dig ditches one summer in grad school. In Texas. Red clay. Hot. That was perhaps a tougher job.

4) More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

I like the idea of bringing words to life, so that they can resonate with more people. I think movies and especially documentaries can be as or even more powerful than books. I’m waiting for Russel Crowe to agree to play Agrippa. Then I’m in. :)

5) With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

I generally pick books from the “people who liked this then bought this” aisle. I hover around the perspective shifting types, from Lawrence Durrell to Bulgakov, Calvino and even Coelho (Aleph) or books that create a tension of wonder between science and spirituality/intuition/. New Age speculators plus provocative scientists and archaeologists are my favorite authors. I have yet to be lured into romance novels.

6) Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

The Ian Fleming villains are classics. By far my favorite. After that perhaps Ellsworth Toohey. Elmer Gantry.

7) Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

I was having dinner with three great sci fi writers. A fan of one of them had too much to drink and kept babbling on about various books, scenes, plots, whatever. The writer finally said “Will you let me finish a fucking sentence?” There was a pause. Then the gusher started back gushing. I was wrapping up my first three chapters and I would have loved to get some advice…

Book Blurb for The Sword of Agrippa: Antioch

LloydSwordOfAgrippa:AntiochA rogue scientist’s search for dark energy collides with forces intent on preserving the old ways. Powerful oligarchs control science and religion.

Roy Swenson, banned from the US, hits Prague on a quest for energy which will transform the world and lead to a new tech revolution, a new renaissance.

He is forced to continue his research in Eastern Europe. From Prague he sets the stage for the next battle. One he hopes to win.

His experiments with DMT, pineal glands and the properties of a strange new substance (graphene) propel him into the spotlight, and the pressures build. The war begins.

Mainstream industrial, political and religious leaders view him as a threat, not a joke. Dark energy could disrupt humanity’s view of everything.

Roy’s dreams take him to Egypt as a young Roman soldier, Marcus Agrippa. He falls for Samia, an Egyptian slave priestess. In the secret chambers of the Great Library, she guides him through mysteries political and cosmic.

Dreams power Roy/Agrippa through devastating events and sacrifices. Join his quest.

Travel from Prague in 2020 to the Great Library of Alexandria in 48 BC, on a journey linking ancient scrolls, dark energy sensors, majestic temples, and torch-lit torture chambers.

Places to Find Gregory Lloyd

Website

Goodreads

Smashwords

Twitter

Facebook

A Memory of Light, Part VI

WOT 14Welcome everyone to Book 14 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and the final week of this read along. Here is the schedule for A Memory of Light if you want to join us.

This week, Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers  is the host. Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, can be found in the comments. Liesel at Musings on Fantasia has cool non-spoilery fan art.

This week, we covered Chapters 29-36. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1) Finally, Graendal’s Compulsion of the Great Captains has been uncovered. Do you think that Mat’s medallion will protect him from her ‘advances’? It seems as if Ituralde was the only Captain to resist the Compulsion: any ideas about why that might be?

I expect Mat will be able to resist as long as he has the medallion and/or doesn’t sleep. It seems Graendal only worked her Compulsion on the captains while they rested. And perhaps that is why Ituralde held out longer than the others – he was getting less sleep. Maybe? His battle line was being pretty hard hit, so most folks weren’t getting much if any sleep.

Or maybe Graendal was running out of time and hit the other 3 harder because those battle lines were considered more critical? We’re running out of time for all the answers to be laid out before us, so we might have to settle for speculation on things like this.

2) Mat rides into battle and is suitably awesome. Do you think that Tuon is reassessing her ability to control her Prince? Could this be the end of formal Seanchan society as it has existed for thousands of years?

Yes, I think Tuon is reassessing many things right now. I am not sure how much that reassessment will change her mind tho. No matter how proper it is for her to control her man, that won’t happen in this relationship. So, she can either fight it and look the fool (even if she executes Mat she will look the fool) or she can pretend that it is right and proper and change society.

So, I am hoping that Mat can show that change is a good thing under fire, and later on show that it is also a good thing in times of peace. After all, there is that whole slavery issue that won’t sit well with him or the folks of Randland.

3) Perrin and Slayer clash again. It seems like Perrin is still outmatched, although he is continuing to improve, but will he ever be able to dispatch his enemy? Were you surprised that Lanfear proved to be as fickle as we had suspected? Will Perrin take any further part in the Last Battle now that he has returned to the waking world?

So I was terribly worried that Perrin might not make it out of this series alive….but now that he has landed back in the Waking World, injured but alive, I think he will make it. I am not sure he will be the one to take out Slayer. After all, Perrin had to leave his Aiel buddy in the Dream World and I would be surprised if Slayer had taken serious note of him. So he might be able to sneak up on Slayer and take care of business. Of course, he might die too.

Lanfear! Erg! Well, we knew that she is playing her own game.

4) The battle outside Cairhien is almost lost and even the mighty Ogier are starting to fall when Androl produces a miracle. What did you think of Logain’s comment about the notes in Taim’s rooms: does he have a list of all the Shadow’s battle plans? Please comment on the epicness of Androl’s miracle! :D

I am both glad and a little concerned that Logain will be stepping up. His character line has been building for books now, and then he was MIA for a good while, and now he is back in time to help out in the Last Battle. But did he come off as a little too focused or even egotistical to anyone else? I drew a vague correlation between Logain and Rand – two men who suffered greatly at the hands of others while completely helpless. I am concerned that Logain may lash out as Rand did once upon a time, but not be nearly as successful….or perhaps take out some of the good guys as collateral damage while attempting to get Taim.

Androl’s miracle was awesome! If he can somehow open gateways to lava, what else can he open gateways to? Snow storms? Epic hurricanes? Deep, icy ocean waters? Androl may just be the scariest man on the field!

5) Tuon is taking the End Of The World in her stride, with her giant travelling throne and making full use of Min’s Talent. Are you a little disturbed by her serenity at this time? Do you think that Min’s demands will be met, or will she eventually refuse to reveal her viewings?

Tuon has been raised since birth to command the world and maintain absolute, total control at all times. So, quite frankly, I am not surprised that she and her court have all these trappings and still hold to ceremony and hierarchy. Tuon has to maintain serenity on the outside, even if she has concerns or fears going through her head.

Min rocks! I think Tuon needs folks to push back on her, and I am so glad that Min is doing so in such a public way without pleasantries, etc. I think Tuon will behave for the duration of the Last Battle. But after that…well, I hope Min has some type of security that will give her an out is Tuon gets imperialistic.

6) Just for a change, things go horribly wrong. Do you think that the black spikes were a deliberate attack against Faile’s group? Can you believe that Vanin and Harnan are actually Darkfriends, or were they just after the tobacco? Is there any chance that the Horn will make it back to Mat’s hands?

The black spikes seem too convenient for the attack to be happenstance. I would suspect intentional fuckery from the side of evil. But I am not sure the Evil knows Faile’s mission. So, maybe just trying to upset/hurt Perrin, an important Ta’veren, by killing his wife.

I was completely surprised that Vanin and Harnan were suspected of being Darkfriends! And they ran! So, I really hope they are not as our heroes need to be able to trust valued friends at this time, but damn! It’s totally possible they were up to no good.

I have this silly vision in my head of Mat and Olver riding double on a horse passing the Horn back and forth, calling the Heroes to their aid. Wouldn’t that be epic? Haha! Olver would have the story of his life if he assisted Mat in calling forth these epic Heroes.

7) Red veiled Aiel infiltrate the camp in Thakan’dar and cause mayhem. Do you think that even Cadsuane and Sorilea are powerful enough to defeat Graendal? Will the Aiel ever recover from the shame of learning about the fate of their male channelers?

I think we need Cadsuane to play nice for once and do the whole Team Work thing. If she can do that, then Graendal doesn’t stand a chance against Cadsuane and Sorilea.

That was a powerful revelation – the moment some of the Aiel realized that the red-veiled Aiel were a product of their traditions. I really felt for them in that moment because I know their whole society (whoever remains after the Last Battle) will take it very seriously and will pay toh forward, probably for generations.

8) Rand is frozen in place as he battles the Dark One. Why is Moridin frozen as well? Do you think Nynaeve will be able to do anything to help Alanna before she can release Rand from his Bond? Is there any chance that Nynaeve can save the world by simply bopping Moridin on the head with a big rock?

I can only think that the Dark One wants Moridin frozen as he deals with Rand. After all, the DO has got to have a big ego, so he has to be the one to take out Rand (if he can). If Moridin does it, it would steal all the DO’s thunder.

I am not sure Alanna will release Rand. She has been pretty selfish about that since the beginning. But Rand was forcibly bonded to her and there has never been any real affection, so I am not sure her death will have a huge impact on him.

We all want to hit Moridin over the head with a big rock, but right now, everyone has their hands full and Moridin isn’t doing anything. Perhaps hitting him would disrupt something else?

Other Tidbits:

Min got new clothes! How cute! I just hope they have the ability to conceal more knives, instead of less.

Olver and his cuddle time! How old is he now? 9? 12? I don’t recall how old he was when he was first picked up. But isn’t he getting to be that age where snuggling into any woman’s bosom is a little suspect?

Do you think Nynaeve will be able to teach the Wise Ones the art of healing the male channeler madness? If so, perhaps some of the red-veiled Aiel can be captured and returned to society…maybe.

OK, this might sound harsh. Did Rand send Alanna to the Pit to be captured on purpose? If so, why? I am not sure……

Interview: Theresa Snyder, Author of Shifting in the Realms

SnyderShiftingInTheRealmsEveryone, please welcome Theresa Snyder, author of The Star Traveler series, The Farloft Chronicles, and contributor to the Twin Cities series. I first met Theresa through the Twin Cities series Facebook page which is doing a month long event this February with author specials and free books. Check it out!

Today we chat about Minotaurs, myths, gardening, shape shifters, and so much more! Enjoy!

1) Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?

In The Realms there are all manner of fantastical beings from shape-shifters to vampires and Minotaur to fire demons. I would really lover to meet my character, Cody, the wolf shape-shifter. I would avoid Raven the head vampire at any cost. Selfies? I would love one with Azur, the fire demon, but I know she would outshine me.

2) With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

I think the Twin Cities Series, in particularly the ‘Shifting’ books could fall into multiple genres. They are paranormal due to setting, but some of the characters are fantasy and there is definitely a bit of romance running through them. I think this type of writing might make it difficult for a reader to find a specific genre book, but I also think it stretches a reader’s focus. They might find they like romance if it is tempered in a fantasy setting. Or they might enjoy paranormal if there is not a lot of violence like some straight paranormal might present to them. I like a mixture of several genres. I find that in Sherilyn Kenyon’s books. I was lured into them thinking they were paranormal and they have a good dose of sexual content which I did not expect, but found it added to the story significantly.

3) In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

I have been told that I write very gray characters, meaning my bad guys are not ALL bad. I try very hard to put myself in all my character’s shoes and see things from their point of view. None of us are truly horrible all the time. Even a serial killer can be charming. Sometimes my villains redeem themselves, sometimes they do not.

SnyderJames&TheDragon4) In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

I love social media, in particularly Twitter. I enjoy meeting people and making friends. I have had personal encounters with folks I have met on Twitter and they are just as nice in person as on the web. Once again, I wish I had more hours in the day. I hate time zones. I am asleep most of the time that the folks in England are awake. It makes for some challenges to hook up and chat.

5) As a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?

I love gardening. I can daydream my way through a tough spot in a story while I am trimming or nuking weeds. A nice garden also gives you a lovely place to sit and write or read when the mood strikes you.

6) If you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

I would go to The Realms and have a burger from Cody’s food truck. They are supposed to be the best in The Realms, and just think about all the people/paranormal watching you could do while you ate it.

7) Writing in the fantasy genre, how do you take the standard tropes and turn them sideways? Or even upside down?

I like taking the old tales of mythology and tweaking them. If you had a clan of Minotaur what would they be like? In the myth they are violent and eat men, but they are also bullheaded, literally, so what if you educated one? Would he be stubbornly fixated on his work? Since he is large, would he be a body builder? Could the introduction of a lady calm him? Would his interest or skills in other activities help him curve his violent tendencies?

8) What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? Can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

I have a screened in/glassed in porch on the back of the house done in a Moroccan motif. It is my reading/writing cave. Only soft instrumental music is allowed, no TV. It looks out on the garden and I am inspired by nature around me. It is always neat. I can’t work if something is nagging me to clean it or pick it up.

SnyderTheHelaviteWar9) What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

I was the only girl in a house full of boys. I didn’t go to school until I was almost eight years old due to illnesses, so I spent a lot of my younger life telling myself stories and acting them out in my bedroom a night before bedtime. I have written since I can remember, letters with many pen-pals back in the old days of snail-mail and then journaling and short stories. I wrote my first novel during recesses in middle school. I never thought I would BE a writer. I thought I WAS a writer.

10) If you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Aside from my own stable of character, who I do sit down with on occasion, I would like to meet Smaug from The Hobbit. I am sure there is a side to his story we should know and there is no place better than over a cup of tea to find out a person or creature’s inner feelings. The Velveteen Rabbit, because he has always had a special place in my heart. Frankenstein, because I think he was terribly misunderstood and I could help straighten his life out for him. Stephanie Plum so I could get her tricks and secrets for attracting men when she eats donuts and pizza for almost every meal. And Akron from the Dark Hunters books because he just sounds so yummy.

11) If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

1984 by George Orwell

The Stand by Stephen King

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

12) Do you have any strange writer ticks? Little oddities that come out when you’re working on a difficult passage?

If I ever encounter a passage where I cannot determine how to write it or which way it should go I always ‘sleep on it.’ I take a nap or let my mind work on it overnight. The answer is always there when I awake.

13) Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am currently working on the third ‘Shifting’ book in the Twin Cities Series. It will be a bit different and I hope my readers will enjoy the change. I didn’t want to fall into writing a formula series where the hero always saves the heroine, so I have borrowed one of the other author’s in the series character and it will be through his eyes. He will even witness events we have already seen from Cody’s point of view. I am finding it fun to write. I hope my readers find it as much fun to read.

Places to Find Theresa Snyder

Rewinder by Brett Battles

BattlesRewinderWhere I Got It: Review copy via the publisher (thanks!).

Publisher: Audible Studios (2014)

Narrator: Vikas Adam

Length: 7 hours 48 minutes

Author’s Page

Denny Younger was born into one of the lowest classes of society of the English Empire. His hopes for job placement following the end of school tests were a short list of very boring, menial jobs. That is, until the mysterious Upjohn Institute takes an interest in him. There, he trains and tests to be a Rewinder, someone who verifies the personal history of patrons to the Institute….in person. He travels through time to verify some aspect about the heritage of the interested party is correct. At first, he is excited about this job – who wouldn’t be? But then small things start to tug at his conscience and lead him to ask questions. These questions make others uncomfortable. Pretty soon, Denny is faced with a terribly hard choice.

I read the description of this book and figured it would be interesting and an OK time travel story. I was wrong.

It was an amazingly fun ride!

Brett Battles created an alternate timeline complete with a history going back over 200 years. The English Empire didn’t cease to grow and expand in the late 1700s, but rather continued on to engulf much of our known world, including North America. The caste system that was in place in early colonial England continued to refine throughout the years. Denny and his family come from Class 8, just barely above the bottom rung. His other Rewinders in training are not pleased to have such a lowly peasant among them.

Denny had studied history for fun in his teens, and possibly as an escape from the drudgery of his life, the death of loved ones over the years, the strained relationship with his father. Therefore, this hopping back in time to physically observe history is a dream job. But things start to unravel as he notices small things that are awry. Pretty soon it becomes apparent that the Institute, or at least certain members of the Institute, are using time travel to benefit themselves and perpetuate the caste system and the British Empire.

And then something happens during one of Denny’s trips that sets history on a different course. In returning to his own time, he finds things very different. Once the panic has receded, he has time to figure out his mistake, and to get to know this new world that he inadvertently brought into being. Will he set things ‘right’? Or will he leave this new time line in place? Such a terribly tough choice!

I loved the way Battles built the tension in this book. You’re right there beside Denny the entire time, seeing his trapped despair at what he believes will be a life of drudgery until the Institute steps in, his elation at traveling through time, his dedication to job and Empire, how his mind doesn’t want to question the good of the Empire but can’t let these little questions go, and his anguish over having created an alternate time line. Being inside Denny’s head is an awesome ride!

The time travel aspect doesn’t get technical. Time travel is a tool, pure and simple, used by the Institute. There are a few discussions about possible paradoxes and other nuances of time travel. Basically, you never get bogged down in the science of time travel, which allows us to simply enjoy the story. I thought it was an interesting point that the travelers often were paired to a Companion who stayed in the home time and suffered the physical discomforts of time travel – head aches, vomiting, etc. This would leave the traveler free of these symptoms upon arrival at their destination so they could quickly get started on their job.

While this is definitely Denny’s story, there are plenty of women who play critical roles in the plot. Denny’s trainer, Marie, definitely gives him a nudge in the right direction. Then there is Lydia, an upper class brat who is assigned to the Institute at the same time as Denny. She is less than pleased to have the same job description as a lowly 8. Finally, there is Iffy, a woman Denny meets in the alternate time line. All these ladies have their own stories and motivations.

This is one of the better time travel stories I have read in recent years. I am thoroughly glad I gave it a chance.

Narration: Vikas Adam was the perfect voice for Denny. He brought the mysriad of emotions Denny experiences in this book. He also had believable and varied voices for all the ladies. I especially liked his upper class, snotty British accent used for some of the minor characters.

What I Liked:  Denny is an enjoyable character, easy to connect with; time travel without all the science and questions; alternate timeline quandary; the ladies are pivotal to the plot; very satisfying ending. 

What I Disliked: The cover art doesn’t say ‘time travel’ or ‘alternate history’ to me so it is not a book I would have picked up on my own.

What Others Think:

Alternate History Weekly Update

The Guilded Earlobe

I Feel the Need, the Need to Read

Following the Nerd

Wizard’s Blog

Gadget Girl Reviews

Now Very Bad…

Dab of Darkness is now on Bloglovin’ Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The SnowRaven Chronicles: Wine & Wizards by A J Spencer

SpencerSnowRavenChroniclesWine&WizardsWhere I Got It: A review copy via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Narrator: Adrienne Ellis

Publisher: Joseph Buzzoni (2014)

Length: 3 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 3 The SnowRaven Chronicles

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works as a stand alone.

In this edition of Shaska (or is it spelled Saska?) the SnowRaven’s adventures, we have high seas, mud monsters, guns, wine, and magic. Plus a little nudity. Shaska is a woman who can fight under all circumstances, armed or not, in fair weather or poor, outnumbered, and unclothed. This volume holds just as much action as the previous books, but a touch more lot. Indeed, I do believe it is my favorite so far.

First, Shaska is still accompanied by her pet Lynx, the mutant fox serpent that can talk. She tries to leave him behind once or twice, to no avail. Her first adventure involves sailing with  crew into unknown peril to retrieve the flag of a long lost something or other. Supposedly, many have tried to reclaim this banner and failed. And Shaska doesn’t lose a few sailors in the reclaiming of the banner, but then she gives the remaining crew a burlesque-like show using the flag afterwards. This scene in particular made me think of a short story written by Robert E. Howard in which the pirate queen gives Conan a similar dance.

But once she makes it back to land, there are more adventures, more plots and schemes, and more bad guys. If you have read the first 2 books, then you will know that there is a touch of machinery and modern weapons. Here, in this volume we see more of that and it is well done. Even Shaska, a traditional warrior Shepherdess from the high snowy mountains, finds it hard to argue with the advances that come with engineering.

Once again, the Scout Tommy Calvor (spelling?) makes an appearnce. He’s been in the series since Book 1 and I really should give him credit. He provides comic relief and sometimes the common sense. By now, he has rescued Saska a few times, even if sometimes it was just by happenstance.

As with all the books so far there is nudity using such terms as buxom or rock-hard thighs or lithe figure. Shaska ends up naked more than once and yet still defeats her foes. We had one mud monster last book – and we have another in this installment. I don’t mind the nudity because Shaska doesn’t – in herself or in others. Plus, these books are written in such a way as to be just a smidge over the top, like an epic warrior poem where all the deeds, all the foes, all the curses by the gods are a bit exaggerated. And I like it. A lot!

Narration: You might have noticed that the first 2 books had a different narrator (Matt Franklin) than this book (Adrienne Ellis). With the first 2 books, I was positive the narrator was saying ‘Shaska’ but with this book the narrator is obviously saying ‘Saska’. I had to dig through the SnowRaven Chronicles FB page, but the spelling is Saska. So thanks to Adrienne Ellis for saying it clearly and setting me on the right path. 

Unfortunately, I really enjoyed Matt Franklin’s performances more. He had more of a stage voice making it feel like an epic poem read out loud to a crowd over a campfire. Adrienne Ellis had a decent voice for Saska and for the plot narration. However, most of her side character voices all sounded very similar and for some reason they sounded like slightly screechy old grandmothers. I noticed this for high nobles (male) and women and sometimes Lynx. When we did have an old woman, the voice worked. All together, she didn’t have the variety of character voices I was hoping for.

What I Liked: Great cover art; fun plot; plenty of bad guys or monsters to fight; the banner dance (a nod to Robert E. Howard?); the further integration of technology. 

What I Disliked: The narration was not as good as the previous 2 books. 

Interview: Lisa Cindrich & Jay Sparks of Glynn River Press

CindrichSparksExecutablesPlease welcome Lisa Cindrich and Jay Sparks from Glynn River Press. they’re here to chat about self-promotion, villains, retelling of classics, and more. Enjoy!

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

Jay: Secondary characters, especially those closest to the narrator and his/her chief antagonist, are very important and should be developed as much as possible within the confines of the story.

One of the best examples is William Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies. The central conflict between Ralph and Jack is quite powerful in itself. But the secondary characters and what they represent elevate the novel from merely good to classic. Simon, Piggy and Roger each bring something different to the tale, and all elicit a strong emotional response from the reader. Simon and his confrontation with “The Lord of the Flies” is one of the most powerful scenes in the book. Piggy provides Ralph with his strongest support and the penultimate scene on the cliffs is truly heartrending. And Roger—ooo, that evil, malicious little monster! He’s a crucial element in the story. Worse than the biblical Cain (who was ashamed enough of his crime to at least hide his brother’s body), Roger shows how murder can be a “pleasurable” act, and a prelude to the sadism the boys’ civilization will devolve into.

We went a little overboard with the secondary characters in the early drafts of Executables, and it was painful to excise a few of them from the text. (Tommy Edgers comes immediately to mind.) Fortunately, we’ve been able to resuscitate a few of these in short stories we’re writing as promotional companion material for the novel.

So there is that danger: the story can get out of hand if you venture too far from the central conflict in following these secondary characters down each of their little paths. [Lisa: Haha! I remember reading once that Roald Dahl originally had nine other kids entering Wonka’s chocolate factory along with Charlie Bucket. All probably as vividly drawn as Veruca Salt and Augustus Gloop…but talk about potential minor character chaos! So it happens to the best.] They are going to quite fascinating places, after all. But they help you create a richer world and deliver a better payoff to the reader.

Lisa: Not only a richer world, but secondary characters that we know well and come to care about can give us some surprising views on the main characters, can reflect different facets of the protagonists, for good or ill. Think of how differently you viewed Harry Potter’s father after witnessing the interaction between his teenaged self and Snape. I think I was as shocked as Harry!

And yes, there is a danger not only in minor characters taking the story off-course, but also upstaging the protagonist if they are too fascinating or funny. I’d rather read about Mrs. Havisham or Mr. Jaggers than about Pip, Mr. Grandcourt rather than Daniel Deronda.

Over the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

Jay: Well, we’ve come a long way from Beowulf, that’s for sure.

Government and society are the villains in quite a bit of what I read these days, and I think that reflects the distrust we feel towards authority figures in general and with the way many political leaders are doing their jobs. [Lisa: What was Congress’s most recent approval rating, again?] Many of us are struggling to pay bills and take care of our families. It can feel like we are at the mercy of larger forces— whether those are governmental, technological, societal, even environmental—and that is reflected in much of our modern entertainment, particularly in dystopian literature.

There’s also a backlash against rampant consumerism which fuels today’s economic engines. Again, I think this reflects people’s struggles to maintain the status quo in their financial lives, and the worries they have about changes going on world-wide and how they and especially their children will fit into these future realities. [Lisa: I can’t help but think about the conversations I hear among parents, trying to figure out how to advise their kids about college and career choices. Which college majors or graduate studies justify x amount of debt, and how will that affect the ability to buy a house, have a family, retire, etc? Do you dare try to nudge your children toward anything but the STEM areas? And even if your kid becomes an engineer or computer expert, etc., will even those jobs be outsourced? Is anything a safe choice?]

The heroes/heroines in dystopian tales tend to be average folk who are thrust into a role where their actions can have an impact and a benefit to the suppressed populace. Or in their struggle to survive, they provide a basis for the rise of a new society. I think that is a reflection of a lot of our fantasies, knowing full well that there is truly little an individual can do to counter the waves of change that bombard us every day, in many aspects of our lives. [Lisa: Well, I’m not quite as pessimistic as that. Because there are individuals who arise who make a tremendous difference. Or, even if no one individual in a movement stands head and shoulders above the rest in influence, enough individuals wanting a particular change and willing to struggle for it can, as a group, be the impetus for enormous change. But the ‘forces that bombard us every day’ are certainly daunting and sometimes (often?) insurmountable. And in the face of that, who wouldn’t fantasize about being Katniss or Frodo?]

We live in extraordinary times. The discoveries in medicine, in technological innovation, in exploration of our world and beyond, provide an enormous palette from which to craft stories. There is a lot of fear of these changes, but also exhilaration about the potential. [Lisa: Absolutely! Anxiety, dread, excitement, the thrill of ever-increasing knowledge—it’s a great, boiling cauldron of emotion and possibility, both in reality and in fiction.]

CindrichSparksWhateverItTakesConventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?

Jay: I do enjoy the interactions with people, the one-on-one communication aspect of self-promotion. I like conversing with individual readers and hearing what they liked and what they didn’t like about the story I wrote. It helps me in gauging how far to take some stories, and where to draw the line. Plus, it’s just fun! I know as a reader I’d be thrilled to talk to Dan Chaon some time. I did get a chance to talk with one of my literary heroes, Daniel Woodrell, and he’s an amazing person.

We’ve just started to get into the blogging and the tweeting and the tumblring and facebooking, etc. Of course, I’ve had a personal page on Facebook for a while now, so that’s not new, but I never used it for self-promotion. The biggest hang-up I have to get over on the online promoting is the fear of sounding like a braggart. [Lisa: Yup. Or a nag. Or that annoying salesperson who just will not let you browse in peace.] I want to let people know I have a book out there, but it’s almost like I want them to come to it of their own choice, or offer them something for free as a promotion to a sale. But then how do they find the material? So you have to get the information to them some way. I’m getting over my discomfort on this, but it’s taken some time.

Lisa: Well, I’m an introvert and while I enjoy conversations one-on-one or in small groups, I don’t particularly enjoy big crowd scenes and really, really don’t enjoy public speaking or being the focus of attention. (Even at my own wedding, I was thrilled when our little ring bearer was such a totally adorable ham going down the aisle before me that he basically stole the show and it felt like all the pressure to be the star attraction was off! Please, people, can we all just now ignore the bride? Thank you.) I LOVE that I can now meet and mingle online with people who have similar interests and sensibilities. But as far as using those tools to sell? Eesh. I’m pretty terrible. It’s a struggle.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Jay: Technological innovation—what is possible and what is going to be possible in the near-future—these are things that I find most interesting and influential. The speed of change that has occurred in our lifetimes makes any other epoch in history pale by comparison, and so anything that touches on these breakthroughs and how we deal with them as human beings fascinates me. I like perusing Wired, Discover, Mental Floss, and other magazines, and listening to RadioLab. I like works by popular physicists like Michio Kaku and Brian Greene because they can break down complex topics and make them comprehensible for people like me, and they raise interesting questions that just get your brain working in overdrive.

On a personal level, my parents and family have had the most influence on my life and how I look at the world. Both of my parents encouraged my interest in science and asking questions about the whys and ways of everything. Sibling rivalry with my older sister and younger brother brought out a competitive nature in me that continues to this day. My children continue to amaze me with their enthusiasm, their energy, and sense of wonder about the world about them. I love their perspective.

I’ve also always had a thing for the underdogs of history and in sports, and for those whose dedication to a cause and to duty led them to undertake incredible and, at times, suicidal tasks. Think Gettysburg, Into Thin Air, Charge of the Light Brigade, Gallipoli, U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid, Buster Douglas, etc.

Lisa: A couple of influences immediately come to mind. My upbringing as a Catholic and my much later explorations into that religion—once I could get past the unattractive 1970’s churches and bland 1970’s hymns of my youth and plunge more deeply into the cultural and historical richness—the mystery of what it is to be human and the sense of deep timelessness that drenches the art, architecture, legends, and literature from Dante all the way through Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor. I’d assume that a childhood involvement in any particular religion is going to shape who you become in many, many ways no matter what your conscious, mature view is of that religion, even if you completely reject every last tenet. Even if you reject the entire notion of religious faith itself as outdated.

Another thing that influences me strongly is travel. Not that I’ve been able to do nearly as much of it as I’d like and nowhere more exotic than Italy and England, but exposure to new places (even as close to home as, say Atchison, Kansas) always affects me powerfully and often brings out the writing juices.

Like Jay, I also like stories—true or fiction—about fighting impossible or nearly impossible odds. Survival stories—In the Heart of the Sea, The Last Place on Earth, Ice Blink, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat—are special favorites. If a group of people are facing the choice of cannibalism or starvation in a lifeboat or on an ice-trapped ship in the Arctic, I want to know about it!

With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Jay: I think those old genres made it easier for publishers to group their readers according to taste, and market books accordingly. Neat genre classifications may have made deciding what to publish and how to market a little more clear-cut, but with the self-publishing explosion, the old rules no longer need apply and the genre distinctions are a lot murkier, even for traditionally published books. I think it’s great that readers are branching out from what they are familiar with and taking chances, especially with material that might be considered “really out there” and mind expansive.

I do like being lured away from my comfort zones. The rewards are great. I’ve never regretted reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and I was put off from reading it for years because of what I “thought” it was about.

Lisa: I love genres getting all mixed up, mashed up, messed up. Fantastic! It’s right up my alley. I’ve always loved fiction that utilizes but at the same time pushes against the boundaries of its genre, that breaks rules and surprises me. For example, I’ve really enjoyed what Dan Simmons has been doing in his most recent works (The Terror, Drood, The Abominable), mixing historical-based fiction (well-researched as far as I can tell) with creepy paranormal or potentially paranormal elements. Right now I’m reading Robert McCammon’s The Five (fantastic so far, by the way) and it’s been interesting to read about his unfortunate experiences with his publishers back in the 90’s, how they wanted him to stick to the horror fiction he was known for and not stray too far from that. Nobody seemed to think that there would be any readership for the sort of historical/horror/mystery blends that he started writing with Speaks the Nightbird. (frantically waving hand) “Hey! Right here! Your ideal historical/horror/mystery combo novel reader! Ready and waiting!” I’m SO glad that he’s back to publishing regularly again.

One writer I discovered several years ago who might have seemed a bit out of my comfort zone is Sarah Waters. I’ve read the occasional well-known lesbian-themed novel over the years (Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Rubyfruit Jungle, Annie on My Mind) but it wasn’t something I would typically read. If I’d happened on Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet first, I probably wouldn’t have been interested. But it so happened that the first book she wrote that I discovered was Affinity…and, oh, yeah, that might have been written just for me, all 19th century gloom and séances and prisons. The lesbianism aspect was just one other thread, all woven gorgeously together. Now I’ve read more of her books, some featuring more overt lesbian themes, others with none in particular, but all terrific.

CinrichSparksFirstKillWhat reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

Jay: I remember reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot right after Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. I liked King’s modern take on the old vampire myth. I also enjoyed the graphic novel The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and how they deconstruct the classic superhero story. Cormac McCarthy’s anti-western Blood Meridian blew away most of my previous favorites in that genre.

Lisa: I suppose I’d have to break this down into two groups—1.) reboots of specific stories and 2.) reworkings of more general mythic types (vampires, witches, werewolves, etc.) I’m probably more drawn to the second group with a few of my favorites being the reimagining of vampires in Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist, werewolves (obviously) in The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, the magician class in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, fairies in general in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and—well—tooth fairies in Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy. As far as more specific retellings, I’d always recommend The Lightning Thief series, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce, and The Once and Future King by T.H. White. If we can venture away from books, I’m a sucker for the stage version of Wicked, Sondheim’s vision of the Sweeney Todd legend, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Was Homer’s Odysseus ever a fraction as attractive as George Clooney?)

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in dystopian literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Lisa: I’m afraid my class might not be the most balanced because I’d probably ignore seminal works that I haven’t read yet, while concentrating on my personal favorites. (Come to think of it, I’m sure I had some lit professors who operated by precisely that method when creating their syllabi so maybe this is a-ok.) I do think that I’d make sure to include dystopias that fall into different models of oppression: the obvious heavy-hand of physical violence or threat of same; oppression through restriction of free thought and free conscience; dystopia through chaos or anarchy; the we’ve-made-life-easy-and-fun-here-so-why-is-this-person-complaining model. So many avenues to dystopia; so little reading time.

That said, this is a combined Jay-and-Lisa list, no particular order, with our personal favorites starred:

First the required reading:
By the Waters of Babylon (Jay: Definitely. The first piece of dystopian lit I ever read.)
Brave New World*
The Time Machine
The Road*
Harrison Bergeron*
A Clockwork Orange*
A Handmaid’s Tale
Parable of the Sower*
I am Legend*
A Boy and His Dog
Fahrenheit 451
1984*
The Lord of the Flies*

And the extra credit:
Anthem
The Trial
Alas, Babylon
The Stand
The Passage*
The Giver
House of the Scorpion
Cloud Atlas* (Ooh, soulless super-techno dystopia AND postapocalyptic barbarism in one book—so very awesome)
Super Sad True Love Story* (Very uncomfortable read; hits way too close to home)
The Birds (Daphne Du Maurier, not Hitchcock)
Blindness
The Minority Report
On the Beach
White Noise
It’s a Good Life (by Jerome Bixby)
Never Let Me Go
The Hunger Games

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work….or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

Lisa: Wow, I’ve gushed any number of times…at least when I could actually manage to form words of any sort. One of my most tongue-tied was with the poet Mark Strand. He gave a reading (packed) when I was at the University of Illinois. He was funny, sharp, gorgeous images falling from his mouth as he read. Plus he was (to be frank) hot, in a kind of rangy, silver-haired, Clint Eastwood way.

Jay and I were on a committee together a number of years ago that presented a literary award annually to an author from the general Kansas/Missouri area. One year the winner was Daniel Woodrell. This was before Winter’s Bone, but right around the time that the film Ride with the Devil (based on Woodrell’s Woe to Live On) was made. We were so blown away by his writing that everything to do with the event made us anxious even though Woodrell was never anything but gracious and pleasant and easy to deal with. For starters, it was fairly embarrassing that we had such limited funds we couldn’t offer to pay for things like hotel rooms, mileage, or—God forbid—airfare even though we required a trip to Kansas City to accept the award. Committee members tossed around various mortifying ideas for the post-ceremony committee-and-author dinner, assuming that because he was known for ‘country noir,’ he might enjoy eating off battered pie tins and drinking from mason jars while using a checkered Labrador-retriever-style bandanna to dab any excess chicken gravy from his lips. (Thank God, Woodrell said he couldn’t stay for dinner because he had to make the drive back home in time to feed his animals. We never knew if he really owned animals or not, but if he didn’t, Jay and I would like to thank him at this time for inventing a plausible excuse and sparing us all humiliation.) One committee member intended to get her book signed, but fled in panic at the thought of coming face-to-face with such a gifted writer. Another committee member videotaped the event but when Woodrell emailed Jay weeks later and said his publisher would love a copy of the video to use for PR, it turned out that our primary camera had malfunctioned. Someone’s spouse had carried on with one of those early, handheld camcorders—shaky picture, no sound. Jay sent it to Mr. Woodrell with extensive apologies but never heard anything from him again. Ever.

Which favorite utopian worlds (from books, movies, tv) would you like to visit?

Jay: I still remember how intrigued I was with Michael Crichton’s amusement-park-gone-berserk premise in both the movie Westworld and his novel Jurassic Park, so I guess I would vote for either of those. Delos seems like the perfect getaway—as long as the robots don’t contract any viruses that turn them into actual killers. Nobody wants to be on the run from Yul Brynner. And an island that has actual dinosaurs on it? Sign me up, please!

Lisa: An island that has actual dinosaurs on it? Book me a flight in the opposite direction, please!

This is a really tough question! How many utopias are there that don’t turn out to be dystopias at their core? How many authors could write about a true, successful utopia without the reader dozing off? Maybe Narnia (during the good times.) Or Hobbiton (also during the good times.) Or one of the Star Trek series? Yes, there is still intergalactic war and all that, but human society seems to have taken care of so many of the things that ail us today: disease, poverty, lack of education, etc.

The truest utopias in fiction may be the charming old-fashioned small towns and villages that populate picture books—if you ever happen to read picture books, visualize where Arthur (the aardvark) lives. Or Angelina Ballerina. Or the Berenstain Bears. Or Franklin the turtle. Or Fancy Nancy. Or Pinkalicious. Or Clifford. Pleasant downtowns with leafy parks and friendly shops—not a Walmart in sight. Sunny, spacious houses with porches and large yards and big treehouses. It’s safe for the young ones to walk or ride their bikes (unsupervised!) to the library or the ice cream shop or the firehouse. There’s snow for Christmas and one crooked, decayed Victorian mansion at the edge of town to provide a scare on Halloween.

Dang. Can I go there right now? Or, at least, to the Hundred Acre Wood?

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Jay: I used to work in the Technical Services department of a public library system, so I’ve been involved in my share of geeky discussions/debates. I remember how excited we’d get when the Library of Congress would mail us their newly-approved subject headings. We’d have arguments about how many access points were appropriate in a “good” MARC record (answer: you can never have enough), and how far to carry the decimal point in our Dewey classification system (we were limited to four places to the right of the decimal). I thought our bizarre preoccupations were limited to our own library, until I got approval to attend a meeting of a national organization for audio-visual catalogers in Chicago. People like me were everywhere! We’d spend entire dinner evenings discussing the nuances in the cataloging of recorded opera. Ah, those were the days.

We did debate pop culture as well. Such geeks we were! One particular discussion that prompted a heated exchange or two was over which actor portrayed the creepiest “Tooth Fairy” in the film adaptations of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon: Tom Noonan or Ralph Fiennes? My vote still goes for Noonan. His Francis Dolarhyde is the stuff of nightmares.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

If you happen to live in the KC area, we’ll be appearing at the Home Grown Authors’ Fair at the South branch of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library on October 25th. Executables will be available in print by the end of September 2014, and October 2014 will see the release of at least three free companion stories—“Avenge Me,” “First Kill,” and “Whatever It Takes”—set in that same dystopian world.

The novel we’re currently working on, Deflection, is straight-up sci fi; we expect to release it in March, 2015.

CindrichSparksExecutablesExecutables book blurb:

After ten years of brutal labor on a prison meat-packing line, Tori Jennings now confronts an even more unbearable prospect: freedom.

But just because she’s free doesn’t mean she has a future. As an Executable, she has no money, no rights, no citizenship. No laws protect her. And the second she steps off penitentiary grounds into the Pennsylvania countryside, Tori becomes prey. A corrupt court judged her a murderer, and now hit-men, legally hired by the victim’s family, intend to take revenge.

Tori’s only chance is to run—and keep running, struggling to hold onto both courage and compassion as she stumbles through the underbelly of a decayed society. Her mother is dead, her father’s fate unknown. No family or friends can help her. Her sole allies? A troubled ex-cop who’s determined to see her survive and a female killer suffering doubts about her own lethal career.

The execution company will hunt Tori without mercy unless the victim’s family calls off the hit. Tori needs convincing proof of her innocence, but even she doesn’t know the truth behind the death she supposedly engineered. She only know that, without it, she can never run far enough to escape.

Places to Find Lisa Cindrich

Glynn River Press

Goodreads

Amazon

Places to Find Jay Sparks

Glynn River Press

Tumblr

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

CindrichSparksWhateverItTakesWhatever It Takes book blurb:

As president of Regency Executions, Merle Edgers chafes under the general disdain for his line of work: the legalized hunting down and killing of felons branded as Executables. He’s determined his new venture into prison manufacturing will bring him the respect he craves from the socially elite. He’s confident he can make the climb . . . until he pays a surprise visit to Regency’s San Diego office. Brendan Roth, Regency’s west coast manager, has the upbringing of an American aristocrat, a matching sense of entitlement, and a fondness for blackmail. But Roth doesn’t understand just who he’s taking for a chump. Edgers isn’t about to let some Dartmouth punk run roughshod over his ambitions, no matter what he has to do to stop it.

CinrichSparksFirstKillFirst Kill book blurb:

How hard can hunting a human be? Tommy Edgers’ uncle runs a legalized hit squad and all Tommy wants is a chance to prove he’s not the loser so many people seem to think he is. When Uncle Merle finally gives him an easy hit–a straight shot in barren desert–Tommy intends to prove he deserves to hang with the pros he idolizes. But the Russian sadist assigned as his partner has other ideas.

Enter the world of Executables in this short story companion to the novel.

The Cottage at Bantry Bay by Hilda van Stockum

VanStockumTheCottageAtBantryBayWhere I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!)

Narrator: Valerie Gilbert

Publisher: Bethlehem Books (2014)

Length: 4 hours 44 minutes

Author’s Page

The O’Sullivan family is an Irish family doing their best to get by in the first half of the 1900s (1930s, I think). The four kids (Michael, Brigid, Liam, and Francis) star prominently in this book. First published in 1938, the book is a fun and quaint look at Irish country living of the same time period.

The story starts off with the eldest two kids on a small adventure. Their father has sprained his ankle and can’t take the donkey to market. So off the kids go with packed lunches to sell the beast. Along the way, they come across some gypsies and end up walking away with a dog, who they name Bran. The book continues with many other adventures (or difficulties) the kids get into. Bran himself causes a certain amount of grief with his outdoor manners, but the family strives hard to turn him into a suitable house pet.

There’s storms and stories, lost kids and secret caves, irascible cows and picnics. One of the twins, Francis (aka Francie), has a bad foot that occasionally slows him down. But he doesn’t let that keep him from trying all sorts of questionable feats. Brigid (aka Bridie) seems to have gotten the common sense for the lot of them. It was quite fun seeing the kids get into and out of trouble.

My one criticism is the string of racism towards Gypsies in this book. Now I have no doubt that it was historically accurate for racism to be a part of the O’Sullivans’ lives, but we never get to see things from the Gypsies’ point of view to off set that. So, if you plan to read this to your kids, or have them read it, be prepped to chat about the racism.

Narration:  Valerie Gilbert did a great job with this book. Her Irish accent, carried over all the characters, was great. There were a number of Gaelic words as well as the colloquial Irish terms (like for potato) tossed into the mix and Ms. Gilbert did a good job on them all. Her kid voices, and the variety, were totally believable and had the right mix of impishness, fun, and child-like wonder. She also had a variety of voices for the adults, including uncle Patty. There was even singing! Great narration!

What I Liked: Fun adventures for the kids; irascible cow; uncle Patty and his tales; the dog Bran; great narration.

What I Disliked:  Racism towards Gypsies.

What Others Think:

Love 2 Learn