Book Giveaway & Interview: Geoff Camphire, Author of the Charlie Dead Series

CamphireCharlieDead&SoCalledZombie ApocalpseEveryone, please welcome Geoff Camphire, author of the humorous zombie Charlie Dead series! We discourse on zombie movies, what a zombie obstacle course would entail, what zombies symbolize in modern society, and plenty more. Also, don’t miss out on the paperback giveaway (US only please) – scroll to the end for details on that.

If you could be an extra on a zombie movie or TV series, what would it be?

Getting shot in the forehead with a crossbow on “The Walking Dead” would be pretty darn cool. I’d make a great zombie. I’m almost lifelike. Almost.

How does it feel, I wonder, to be a treated like a monster? In my CHARLIE DEAD trilogy (‪http://tinyurl.com/peqqlls), teenager Charlie Dunlap, newly infected with the zombie virus, fears he’s about to find out. These young-adult sci-fi novels explore life among the undead in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian America. I hope people enjoy it as much as shows like “iZombie” and “The Walking Dead.”

What’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

If punctured, the human heart can squirt blood more than 30 feet. Which can make it hard to catch it in your mouth.

If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death, would it be a superhero, supernatural creature, or a space alien?

Definitely a supernatural creature. Specifically, a zombie. Even more specifically, it would be Wendell Reed, the main zombie character in my CHARLIE DEAD series.

Charlie is a teenager trying to avoid becoming a zombie, and Wendell, for a variety of reasons, tries to help him. In doing so, Wendell risks being utterly destroyed himself.

Of course, for a zombie, this is as close to “certain death” as one comes. After writing about Wendell for years, I’ve grown quite fond of the big, undead lug. So, would I save him if I had to choose someone to rescue? I suppose — but, fortunately, as an author, I can do whatever I want!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

One year, when I was a kid, “The Exorcist” aired on network TV for the first time on Halloween. It was an edited version, but still pretty scary. I remember coming home from trick-or-treating, planting myself on the carpet in front of the tube in our basement game room, and gobbling candy bars alone in the dark. It was like an out-of-body experience.

At one point, a commercial came on — and suddenly I became aware of myself. Bathed in the glow of the TV screen. Scared halfway out of my mind. And grinning like a madman. Looking back, I understand now what a pivotal moment that was.

CamphireCharlieDead&TheSeedsOfZombieChaosHow does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

Well, I grew up in Pittsburgh, which really was ground zero for the explosion of zombie movies that’s given the world its modern vision of the living dead. I’ve never shaken the infection — or the hunger to spread the zombie virus.

Of course, as an adult now, I experience pop culture a little differently. After enjoying the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” books along with my kids, I started wondering why young-adult zombie literature didn’t offer a series of comparable quality. So I wrote my own.

People today are fascinated with zombies — and for good reason. The planet is swarming with mortal dangers, existential threats and systemic efforts to take over our lives. We’re all afraid of being gobbled up, turned into zombies. Mindless zombies and the walking dead invite us to tackle the hard questions of free will and what it means to be really alive. The real stumper isn’t “How do we kill zombies?” but “How to do we live with the reality of zombies among us?”

And I want my post-apocalyptic world to be familiar, but not too much. Without dropping a lot of references to things like specific products or movies, I try to paint a picture of people as they live today, struggling and striving, often unsuccessfully, to make their world normal again. Turns out, that’s hard to do when there are zombies everywhere.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

How important is reality in my fiction? I’m not sure that reality is particularly important in my reality. I write about zombies, after all.

That said, I don’t feel like art is obligated to be absolutely faithful to all the mundane facets of real life. Sure, fiction is most entertaining when it feels somehow plausible — when characters’ motivations make sense, when the words coming out of their mouths sound like things they’d say, and when events unfold within the rules of a reality established by the story. So reality is important. But it’s the reality I create that matters. And that reality isn’t filled with paragraphs punctuated by trips to the toilet.

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

Our heroes have stayed mostly the same over time. They’ve always had to overcome obstacles, externally and internally. That’s what makes them heroes. And they’re important, sure. But if I’m being honest, I am much more interested in our villains — specifically, our monsters — and what they say about us.

Creepy as it might sound, I take inspiration from the simmering panic I hear in the voices of ordinary people. When you ask people about their fears, what do they talk about? Faceless enemies, terror groups, existential threats. A growing sense of freedom being taken away. Outsize control exerted by governmental, religious and economic forces. And the desperation to somehow escape becoming just another one of society’s dead-eyed drones.

That’s why we’re drawn to tales of zombies. Most zombie stories focus on the fight-or-flight response to attack by the unliving. But in real life, there’s no escape. You certainly can’t avoid death. Even before that, there are forms of “zombification” that find you, no matter what. You can never completely get away from the drudgery of work, the limits placed on your free choice by society, and — maybe most important — the tendency of people to treat each other as lesser-than, inhuman monsters.

We’re all running from the zombie plague, and we’re trying to figure out what it means to really be alive. So I wanted to write about the ways we learn to live, hopefully, in a reality that’s always is and always will be overrun with zombies.

CamphireCharlieDead&TheSpoilesOfZombieCombatIf you were sent on a survival quest which other 4 zombie fiction authors would you take with you?

Richard Matheson, Max Brooks, Robert Kirkman and Seth Grahme-Smith. Why? Realistically speaking, I don’t think I’m going to last long on any “survival quest.” I’m going to be one of the first to go down. So, I figure, I might as well enjoy some scintillating conversation with innovative intellects before I become somebody’s lunch.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

This question really is not fair, because I feel like I’m being set up to self-promote. But I’m taking the bait. Naturally I feel like my CHARLIE DEAD books would make the most amazing video game ever. Personally, I’d want to be Charlie. But others might choose to be characters like the undead Emma Fletcher, buddy Sam Curtis, or the zombified secret agent Wendell Reed.

Then the good guys face off against the bad guys. And not just rabid zombies. The villains are legion — including the loony zealots of Orthodox Life Church, the ruthless opportunists of Nolegys Corporation, and the jackbooted thugs of the Community Health Enforcement Watch, or CHEW. The “Zombie Combat” tournaments in the video game could be just as wild as those featured in the books, where normals and zombies go head to head. And heads do roll

What do you do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing zombie fiction, I’m a husband, a father, a freelance journalist, and a communications guru who runs a public awareness campaign reaching over 50 million people a year with information and resources about science education. Also I watch zombie movies. Lots and lots of zombie movies.

What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

Aside from slender, Dr. Seuss-style children’s books, the first real book I remember reading by myself was “A Wrinkle in Time.” I was in elementary school, and I can remember being blown away by the bizarre combination of supernatural fantasy and science-fiction, the careening adventure and high drama, the wrenching emotion, and — maybe most — the characters I wanted to know better. What a storyteller L’Engle was! What a story!

You have to run a zombie obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

Merlot. I think a simple red would pair best with my friend Gavin, who is catastrophically clumsy. Gavin would make excellent zombie bait, I think. Outrunning him would provide me with my escape. And since red wine goes with red meat, I might be tempted to share some with the zombies feasting on Gavin. Then again, I just might save the bottle for myself. I do like to have a drink while I’m enjoying a show. Buh-bye, Gavin!

CamphireCharlieDead&SoCalledZombie ApocalpseBook Blurb for Charlie Dead & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse:

Zombies, zombies, zombies! How does it feel to be one of the walking dead? Hunted? Not free? Never allowed to live the life you choose? Charlie Dunlap, newly infected with the zombie virus, fears he is about to find out.

Charlie doesn’t want to become one of the mindless corpses at Norwood High School, where his few friends include the zombified Emma Fletcher. In this post-apocalyptic Armageddon, undead hordes are part of the horror of daily life.

Just as Charlie is losing hope, though, a mysterious government agent appears at the door, raising questions about the boy’s late mother. How was the vanished scientist connected to the origin of the virus? Why was this terrible plague unleashed on the world? And who is now targeting zombies for persecution?

Charlie, recruited to aid in the investigation, faces each new adventure with a dose of gallows humor and fading hope for a cure. But Charlie knows there’s more than his own fate on the line. At stake is the power to control the whole human race.

Will Charlie survive? Who can he trust? In a world at war with the living dead, it’s not always easy to tell who the real monsters are.

From author Geoff Camphire comes this high-flying, pulse-pounding zombie novel series, a new kind of dystopian science fiction. “CHARLIE DEAD and the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse” is Book 1 of the acclaimed CHARLIE DEAD series.

Places to Find Geoff Camphire & his Charlie Dead series

The CHARLIE DEAD books are available as paperbacks and ebooks on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/peqqlls. Go online to check out the first installment — “CHARLIE DEAD & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse” — and click “Look Inside” in the upper left corner to read the first chapter. You can “like” the Charlie Dead Book Series on Facebook and follow @Geoff_Camphire on Twitter for news and updates. And learn about CHARLIE DEAD and more by author Geoff Camphire at www.geoffcamphire.com. Also, catch him on GoodReads.

GIVEAWAY!!!

Geoff Camphire is pleased to offer one free full set of CHARLIE DEAD paperbacks — Books 1, 2 & 3 — to the first U.S. resident who, after this Q&A appears online, emails him at geoffcamphire@yahoo.com with his or her favorite quotation from the first installment, “CHARLIE DEAD & the So-Called Zombie Apocalypse.” Join the zombie feast! Bon appetit! You can check out the first couple of chapters of Book 1 over on Amazon using their ‘Look Inside’ feature. Hint: This gives you plenty of awesome quotes from the book!

Interview: J. A. Cipriano, Author of Kill It With Magic

CiprianoKillItWithMagicEveryone, please welcome the author of the urban fantasy Kill It With  Magic, J. A. Cipriano! We chat about the  Flintstones, genies, Penny Arcade, World of Warcraft, and plenty more! Enjoy!

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? 

Not particularly. What new fictional thing has come out in the last decade that really changed the way we look at stuff, really introduced new ideas and caught on? Even Harry Potter is almost twenty years old. Pretty much everything that’s out now has been around for a century. Most super heroes are 80 years old. When we come out with something new, then I’ll change my answer.

I mean, I’m no exception. I write about werewolves, vampires, and teenage girls with katanas, as if that hasn’t been done a billion times.

CiprianoTheHatterIsMadGiven 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?

I’m pretty sure most fantastical beasts eat people, so I wouldn’t really want to encounter any of them really. Though I guess I could live with encountering a genie, only he’d have to be like the Robin Williams genie and not like Jafar. Then again I have always wanted a unicorn or a Pegasus. Could I catch a winged unicorn to use as my own personal steed? Is that allowed?

I don’t think I’ve ever taken a selfie, so that’s probably out. I got a new shirt one time I wanted to show my wife and got too embarrassed trying to take a pic of myself so I made the girl at the store take a photo of me.

CiprianoFairyTaleIs there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

I really like Fight Club. I like the movie and the book. I think the way they did the movie is just phenomenal. I was reading the book and was like how could they make a movie from this, then I saw the movie and was like, “wow!”

That being said, I haven’t read Vampire Diaries, but I like the show…

I was driving yesterday and was thinking about, of all things, The Super Mario Brothers movie. I want to see a sequel for it because Daisy comes back at the end all bad ass and is like “I need your help.” I want to know why, dammit!

CiprianoPursuitIn 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 actually can’t stand promoting myself. I always feel like I’m bragging or that someone is going to discover I’m a big fraud and break into my house and steal my cat. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened… yet.

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

I want to eat those giant brontosaurus ribs from the Flintstones! I’d pull up in my bone mobile and ask for a strawberry shake, pterodactyl chili fries, and a brontosaurs burger, you know, for after the ribs. Plus I want to watch the girl skate around and pretend I’m in the fifties, you know, before I had an ipad at the table to summon my waitress and pay my bill. Wow… that answer makes me feel old.

CiprianoHardboiledWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer? 

I wrote a lot as a kid, and always wanted to be a writer. I was a pretty smart alecky kid. My parents swear that when I was like 2 and a half they took me to interview for a McDonalds’ commercial. All I had to say was “Mom, Dad, can we go to McDonalds?”

Evidently, I spent the next hour telling the person I didn’t like McDonalds and wanted lobster and caviar. Obviously they gave up and sent us home. As soon as we got in the car, I smiled really big and said “Mom, Dad, can we go to McDonalds?”

CiprianoMayContainSpiesCare 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? 

Actually, there was this time I met the creators from Penny Arcade, and I just forgot how to even talk. I just stood there with my mouth open with my wife and them looking at me like I was a crazy person. Finally, they asked me if I wanted a sketch. I nodded dumbly, and Gabe asked me which character.

I opened my mouth, but words didn’t come out. I couldn’t even remember a single character from the comic I’d read for years. I was just like… um the yellow one. Then I smiled awkwardly.

Just thinking about it now makes me blush because I remember them looking at me like “who is this person pretending to like our stuff and taking up valuable time from real fans.”

What do you do when you are not writing?

I play with my two year old and play World of Warcraft. I used to run a lot and do marathons, but I realized I hate, you know, exercising and sweating. I can’t stand sweating.

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

Probably when I asked why the shamans in WoW don’t say anything about the fire god, but they praise the others: water, earth, wind.

My friend said it was because Ragnaros was dead.

I looked at him and was like, but the Cataclysm released Al Akir and we killed him in tier one, so wouldn’t that mean they shouldn’t talk to wind either?

That was when it got quiet and everyone looked at me like who is this person who suddenly knows lore?

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (real of imaginary, living or dead)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

Um… can I bring Nightcrawler from the X-men so we can just teleport through all the obstacles and go drink beer at the end? Because, you know, all races give out beer at the end. Unless this is a beer race, then I’d need one of those guys from Revenge of the Nerds.

CiprianoKillItWithMagicKill It With Magic book blurb: 

Sixteen-year-old Lillim Callina is good at two things: running away and magic.

Now, Lillim’s half-demon ex-boyfriend is contacting her for help, she has somehow gotten herself mixed up in a kidnapping, and her long-dead rival has risen from the grave.

So when a dragon plotting to take over the world offers her a choice: Work for him or else.

Lillim Callina is going to choose else.

Placed to stalk J. A. Cipriano

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Giveaway & Interview: Joseph Racconti, Author of The Blood Cloth Syndicate

RaccontiTheBloodClothSyndicateEveryone, please welcome Joseph Racconti to the blog today. His suspense/thriller novel, The Blood Cloth Syndicate, was published in 2014, and just became an audiobook this month. We have a nice chat about side characters, chickens, ancient mysteries, and much more.

Joseph is also giving away 5 Audible copies of his book. For the giveaway, you have to read through the interview and find out how to snag a copy. That’s right, we’re making you work for it! But you’ll enjoy it as Joseph is a pretty interesting author!

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

Out of all of the authors that have ever lived, I have to pick one?  Hm…I think I would have to go with Charles Dickens.  He’s my absolute favorite author.  I think he’s brilliant.  I wouldn’t have anything particular in mind.  I’d just like to have an organic talk with him about religion, writing, society and whatever else happened to come up.  I imagine it as the kind of talk that goes until 5 in the morning without you noticing.

If I could get more than one it would have to be Dickens, Poe, Wilde, Twain, C.S. Lewis.  We’re all sharing a table and have had a little bit too much to drink.  With the exception of Lewis of course.

Oh, and we’re drinking Guinness and Jameson.

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

I have still yet to read, “The Republic” by Plato.  I have no idea why I haven’t read this yet.  I’ve wanted to for years.

In my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

I do painfully extensive research when I’m getting ready to write a novel.  I can’t even explain to you guys how much goes into it.  I think it’s detrimental to me at times.  I can get hung up on it.

Anyway, to answer the question, I look for things that have happened throughout the world around the same period of time.  I research a lot of unsolved mysteries, world mysteries, assassinations, lost cities, etc, etc. With a little bit of imagination those things can be linked.  A lot of times they can get tied together pretty convincingly.

I’ve had a lot of fun conversations with people dealing with what really happened in the past and what I made up.

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 want my readers to love to hate my villains.  I like to think that I write my bad guys differently than I read in other books or see in movies.  My bad guys are something to fear.  You won’t find them giving long speeches or suddenly discovering that they’ve been wrong all of this time.  They believe they’re the good guys and will do anything they need to in order to reach their goal.

I think the most satisfying remark I’ve ever gotten from a reader about one of my antagonists was in a random message that read, “Jen is a ****.”  It was a four letter word more popular in England than here in the States.  Although it was blunt and may have lacked finesse it let me know that I had been successful at making people loathe her.

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?

My favorite part of advertising is giving stuff away.  I love giving people things.  Everybody loves free stuff and I get to be the person that gives it to them.

The hardest part is getting people to pay attention to a new author in a world that has been flooded with authors.  In a time where anybody on the planet can throw anything onto Create Space or Amazon KDP there’s a lot of sludge that you have to crawl through in order to find the pieces of work worth reading.  It’s never easy to convince somebody that yours is one of them when so many people say that.

Since I mentioned giving stuff away for free, I’d love to give 5 of your readers a free audiobook.  If they want to like my Facebook page or start following me on Twitter so they can shoot me a message, I’d be more than happy to get that out to the first 5 of them straight away.

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?

My writing area is pretty well put together as far as the different things that I’ve collected to inspire me.  My wife and I love to travel and always try to bring “non-touristy” things back.  I have a few items from each place that we’ve visited so far.

I also have some stuff that other people have picked up for me along their travels.  They’re all on display museum style.  Ha ha.  It’s very important that they’re all in their place and are not messed with.

As far as my notes and things like that go; forget it.  It’s a total train wreck.  I try so hard to keep my things in order, but it never works.  I can’t tell you how many calendars that I’ve bought.  I’ve probably picked just as many day planners.  I’ve had numerous folders that were supposed to keep my research all together, my outlines all together.  It just never works out.  It always ends up with scribbled ideas and half sentences on scraps of paper.  They all get shuffled together and jammed into drawers or hung up haphazardly.

When it comes to writing, I can write just about anywhere, but not well.  I do most of my outlining on the go or while doing other things.  I tried to write on a plane once.  I think it was a 3 hour flight to Quebec City and I managed to get about 600 words.  Most of the time was spent deleting various parts of it repeatedly.

The perfect writing scenario for me is being at my desk in the total silence.  It used to be at my desk in the total silence chain smoking.  I quit smoking about 6 years ago, but to this day sitting down to write makes me crave a cigarette.

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?

The most recent fanboy moment I’ve had was over, “The Fifth Gospel,” by Ian Caldwell.  I think I probably just about drove my wife insane going on about how wonderful it was every time I made a little progress in the book.  He’s definitely claimed the spot of my favorite current author.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

The first person to come to mind for me when I think of breakout side characters is Neville from the Harry Potter series.  His arc from The Sorcerer’s Stone to The Deathly Hallows is so well done.

As far as my characters go, I’ve had two characters get way more attention than I had anticipated from, “The Blood Cloth Syndicate.”  One of them is named Jimmy and the other is Andy.

Jimmy is hardly in the book and for some reason people did not like that.  They wanted more of him.  They said they loved him and became emotionally attached to him quickly.  I’m not sure why.

The other character named Andy though, is the big one.  He’s the little brother of another character in the book and people absolutely freak out over him.  I don’t think I have received as much feedback on any character as I have Andy.  I’ve even gotten a few requests to do a novella with Andy and his brother that’s set before, “The Blood Cloth Syndicate” takes place.

I’m not against it.  I’ve kicked a few ideas around in my head, but I think it may have to wait until I finish the entire series that that book is a part of.  We’ll see.

Care to share a bit about your chickens, garden, and dreams of a little homestead or farm?

I love homesteading.  Aside from writing for a living that is my ultimate goal.  My family has always gardened and different members have had a few chickens now and then, but for the most part we’ve been city people for lack of a better term.

I like raising my chickens, gardening, canning, chopping wood, and everything else that goes with that.  I really enjoy going out and foraging as well.  A couple years ago my wife and I went out and picked mulberries and ended up making 50 jars of jam in one sitting.

It was a lot of work, but it was nice.  We sat and talked, laughed.  The kind of stuff that people don’t do too much anymore.  I remember when I was a kid and we would grow green beans.  Everybody would sit around and string those things for hours.

I’d recommend that everybody does a little bit of something along those lines.  Sometimes the world is spinning so fast I think we’re all going to fly off.  Slow down a little bit.  There’s a lot here for you and you don’t want to miss it.

RaccontiTheBloodClothSyndicateThe Blood Cloth Syndicate book blurb:

A group of people forged in the fire of ancient Israel, the shadowy remnants of a French claim to power and one of the most controversial relics to ever exist.

Brothers John and Jimmy have a big night planned with one of their childhood friends, but when they arrive at his house to find he is missing, their plans take an unexpected turn. Information they receive while visiting their grandfather, and last remaining relative in a nursing home, spurs the reunion of old friends who discover their relationships were not by chance.

Places to stalk Joseph Racconti

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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

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Places to Find Jay Sparks

Glynn River Press

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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.

Interview: Liesel K. Hill, Author of Desolate Mantle

HillLieselKAuthorFolks, once again the most entertaining Liesel K. Hill graces the blog. She has a new book out in her popular series, Desolate Mantel, Book 2 of Street Games series.

1) If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

You know, I’m currently re-reading all the Harry Potter books. Those doing the read-along have said more than once that we wish we could re-read them for the first time. Again. It’s super-fun to be reading them again–it’s been years since I picked one up–but reading it the first time was more magical.

HillDarkRemnants2) Who are your non-writer influences?

My non-writer influences are definitely my family and friends. I have the best family in the world. My dad is a saint and I’ve very close with all of my siblings. They inspire me daily. And my friends, of course, are the best. They keep me laughing and make life worth living.

3) 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?

Self-promotion can be both fun and challenging. I love talking about books with others who are passionate about them, whether it be mine or someone else’s. (That’s what the online community is for, right?) I think the hardest part of self-promotion is finding the right promos to do and then remembering to do them. I’ve found that most “free” promos are not very effective, but most of us rising authors have to keep a close eye on our bank accounts. So, I’ve started doing affordable paid promos for ebook websites, and they are working fairly well so far. That said, my biggest challenge for self-promotion is pulling myself out of my writing long enough to remember to promote. It’s definitely a balancing act. 😀

HillDesolateMantle4) 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 don’t know that I really have one. I haven’t met many of the people whose work I might gush over. I did meet Brandon Sanderson at LTUE last year, but I kept my cool and didn’t gush too much. I just told him that a bunch of us bloggers were doing a read-along of the first two books of his Stormlight trilogy. He got really excited, said that was great, and to email him and he’d give us a shout-out on Twitter. He never actually did. His assistant emailed me months later (after the read-along was over) and apologized that we’d gotten lost in the shuffle. I think Sanderson’s just too busy to remember things like that. But both of them were very polite and excited at what we were doing.

5) Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?

Cover art is definitely important! I loved the Daughter of Smoke and Bone covers from Laini Taylor. Books 2 and 3 were especially good. And, not to toot my own horn, but my publisher JFP did an amazing job on the cover of Citadels of Fire. I don’t have the cover yet for book 2, but I’m really looking forward to it because #1 was so great!

HillCitadelsOfFire6) What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

One I remember reading clearly as a kid was King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. I’m sure it wasn’t the first one I ever read, but it’s the earliest I remember for sure.

7) You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (real or imaginary)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

Obstacle course, huh? Wow, so many great people to choose from. I’d probably want someone super-fast and strong like Clark Kent or a vampire. Maybe throw in some resourceful warriors like al’Lan Mandragoran or Kaladin. I wouldn’t mind having everyone’s favorite boy wizard along, just in case we need some Hogwarts-style magic to complete the course. And of course I’d have to have my sisters with me. Just for the fun of it. 😀 As for the tasty libation, I’ve always wanted to taste Turkish Delight. So maybe that can be the grand prize! 😀

HillDarkRemnantsDark Remnants, Book 1 of Street Games

In the most dangerous city in the country, one controlled by a sadistic gang called the Sons of Ares, Kyra Roberts is searching the deep places for someone…

Kyra has come to Abstreuse city to find someone she’s lost, but walking the underbelly—a dark alley system residents call the Slip Mire—even in disguise, is rife with dangers. Kyra must stay on her toes if she intends to live. After crossing paths several times with the same detective, she wonders if his work and hers might be connected.

Gabe Nichols has worked homicide in Abstreuse for three years. Dead prostitutes and gang violence are part of the night shift. When a woman who looks like a street junkie but acts like an intellectual saves his life, he’s intrigued. Another woman shows up at his crime scene, and Gabe’s instincts kick into high gear when she clams up. Two cases involving strange women who won’t tell what they know are too coincidental.

If Gabe and Kyra can’t find a way to collaborate, they may not live to see the sunrise. Doomed, like so many others, to become gray, unmarked graves in a forgotten fracture of the Slip Mire.

HillDesolateMantleDesolate Mantle, Book 2 of Street Games

In the most dangerous city in the country, one controlled by the sadistic Sons of Ares gang, Kyra Roberts recently crossed paths with detective Gabe Nichols. She dismissed any liaison with him as impossible, but telling him the truth may prove inevitable…

Walking the Slip Mire nightly, dressed in her disguise and trying to infiltrate a homicidal gang, Kyra sees plenty of things she can’t explain. When she begins to suspect a serial killer might be at work, she decides to approach Gabe again.

Gabe has plenty to keep him busy: a bizarre missing persons case, a new development in his brother’s cold case, a new neighbor, and the grisly murders that are a nightly ritual in the Slip Mire. When Kyra shows up unexpectedly, he jumps at the chance keep her around, but it’s harder than he bargained for. She’s not an average source any more than she’s an average Mireling. Gabe wishes she would be sensible about her own safety.

Their partnership crumbles, but when things become even darker than usual in the Slip Mire, they’ll need one another get survive a hellish situation. If they can’t work together to shoulder their burdens, they’ll find themselves utterly alone. In Abstreuse, it’s not a matter of not coming out of the darkness, but of being absorbed by the darkness itself…

If you want to find her on El Internet, she has several hangouts:

Interview: Kory M. Shrum, Author of Dying for a Living

ShrumDyingForALivingEveryone, please welcome Kory M. Shrum to the blog. You can catch my review of her book, Dying for a Living, over HERE. It is one of my favorite reads of 2014! Sit back and be entertained by this talented author as we chat about Anita Blake, Stephen King, Joss Whedon, and much more!

1) If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

If we are talking movies/TV: I’m a pretty big Joss Whedon fan, so if I could, I’d love to relive the magic that was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All that tension between her and Angel in the first series… YES PLEASE! But honorable mentions: Charmed, Supernatural, and Futurama.

If we are talking books, the Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton, or of course, Harry Potter.

2) The Jesse Sullivan series puts a new spin on the undead/zombies: what did you struggle with the most and what did you enjoy the most in giving this ancient horror monster a new face?

I found writing a novel in general to be hard. There are many, many threads to pull together in a novel: setting, character, POV, plot (which in itself has many threads), and so it can get tangled pretty quickly. Working to make sure everything is tight and functional can be really hard. Using my imagination to create something totally unique–that was the easy part. (But then again, I’ve always been more of an idea person myself).

ShrumDyingByTheHour3) How does modern pop culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?

I’ve heard it both ways. There are some writers (I’m looking at you Stephen King) who are able to use a multitude of cultural references with great success. I remember listening to The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, in which the narrator’s cassette player “dates” her story/experience. But at the same time, it was really nostalgic and heart-warming. So I think certain references can really take us back–in a good way. But there is always the danger that someone will read this (God I hope so) 20 or 50 years in the future and be like “what the hell is an iPad?”

4) 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 must admit I’m pretty terrible at self-promotion. I don’t like it when people ask me to buy things, and so I always feel pretty scuzzy when I do it to others. But blogging and cross promotion (if only for the pleasure of mingling with other creative types) have been the most enjoyable so far.

5) If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

Die.

Nah, I’m kidding. I can be a bit dramatic. I would be explorer.

ShrumBlind6) If you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

I would like to eat a soul. I watched a demon butler do it once and have always wondered exactly what it would be like. Seems interesting, right? 

7) In Dying for a Living, the main character has a less than vanilla mainstream love life; how important is it to build in nonstandard adult relationships in modern fiction?

I don’t know if it is important to be “nonstandard” as much as it is to be real to your characters. I mean, shock-and-awe just for its own sake can definitely backfire. The good news is that love and attraction are naturally unpredictable and complicated. And when you’ve got an attractive, funny girl with commitment issues and an open sexuality–what do you think is going to happen? 😉 ANYTHING. 😉

8) 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? 

Anne Rice read my blog one time and said nice things. I cried.

9) What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

It was a book about sea creatures in which I proudly announced that a squid was nothing like an octopus. I was about 3.

ShrumDive10) You have to run an obstacle course (you can compete one-on-one or team up). Who do you invite along (fictional or real, dead or alive)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?

For some reason, when I first read this, I thought “three-legged race” and then reread it and realized you said no such thing–so height is not as important as I first thought. Whether I team up or go solo is really dependent on what kind of course this is…I can move faster alone and I’m hella competitive so that might work better for me. But if it’s like a maze full of monsters or something, I’d best take someone with me–Anita Blake or Louie (from my short story Dive) maybe. They are both ruthless, capable heroines far more versed in weaponry than I, so…

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

I’m working on an anthology with my co-editor Angela Roquet (author of the awesome Lana Harvey Reapers Inc series), which is fun on a bun. I’m also working of the third book in my Dying for a Living series as well as producing the audiobook for the second title Dying by the Hour. In February, I will be at my ‘ol Alma Mater Austin Peay State University giving a reading/talk. And then in May, I’ll be at the RT Booklovers convention with my fellow Horsemen of the Bookocalypse (You may call me Conquest).

Interview & Giveaway: Anika Arrington, Author of The Accidental Apprentice

ArringtonAccidentalApprenticeFolks, please give Anika Arrington a warm welcome. She’s here to chat about her book, The Accidental Apprentice, and plenty of amusing things, such as Firefly, great food, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, and the need for sleep.If you’re interested in the giveaway, scroll to the bottom.

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

Madame Falstead would be fun, with her wicked cane and crazy red hair. I’m even the perfect build if a bit taller than she is. There are aspects of her character that are slightly autobiographical as well, so I think slipping into her shoes for a day would be rather comfortable.

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

Well, I’ve loved both of the Sherlock Holmes reboots. Downey Jr. and Cumberbatch both do incredible things with the character, and their Watsons are equally brilliant. Honestly, I now want to go watch the first episode of Sherlock season 3 just thinking about it. So stinking hilarious!

As far as remixes not working, while nothing specific jumps to mind besides Disney’s Maleficent (which wasn’t awful or anything), I’m not thrilled with the modern trend of bringing a story back around to make the bad guys merely misunderstood. I think every writer who has studied at least a little understands the value of having an antagonist that people relate to or sympathize with, but that doesn’t make them the good guy. If you are willing/capable of killing people or destroying civilizations to get what you want, then you are a bad person. And I like stories where the good guys win. Maybe not in the way you expect and not without loss and sacrifice, but the bad guy is the bad guy and the good guys (while not necessarily perfect) need to win in the end.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you chose to do?

I am a mom of 6, so if I wasn’t writing I know my time would fill up quickly, and that would be just fine with me. I toyed with the idea of going to culinary school to become a pastry chef, but I don’t think the hectic world of the professional kitchen is for me. And I love physics, but my brain doesn’t hold onto formulae in the way that’s required to play with the cosmos. My list of interests goes on for miles, actually, but the only thing I have ever been able to stick with and play with is the written word. Although I was rather good at charcoal drawing. . . .

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

That is a trick question as all activity relates to writing or reading in some way. But in the spirit of the question: Cook!! Or at the very least, Eat!! Make it a truly visceral experience every time you sit down to a meal. Take in the scents and pick them apart in your head. Savor the mouth-feel of every bite. Let the flavors move you. And then when you sit down to the page let that same act of observation permeate every scene. A huge part of the “show-don’t-tell” aspect of writing is just taking observation to the next level. I am still learning and struggling to apply the concept, but all close observation feeds creative endeavors. Walk in a natural setting, and notice the smallest details of the life around you. Watching cloud shapes. Go to museums: art, historical, natural history, science. Listen to music., with a careful ear for melody, harmony, and lyrics. And love people. Engage with your family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends as often as possible, and I don’t mean on social media. Listen to people. Listen to the way they talk as well as what they say. Learn how to read between the lines so that your characters will never have to say insipid things.

FreemanMechanizedWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

Ha, if anything my kid self knew it better than my adolescent and early adult self did. I memorized stories at the age of three and one of my parents favorite party tricks was to hand me a book and let their friends stare in awe as their three year old “read” herself a story. I would draw pictures and make up the stories that went with them. And I have always told myself stories in my head at night to put myself to sleep. I was pretty nerdy from the get go, but in a fairly out-going way. I was 6th grade student council president, lead (or at least I tended to have the most lines) in the school plays, and I spent my recesses in the library’s non-fiction section reading books about sharks, spiders, how to draw horses, whatever struck my fancy. And my kid self really wanted to be a doctor until I realized I am one of those people that can’t handle blood.

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

Root beers and hot chocolate all around for Samwise Gamgee, Charlotte Doyle, Meg and Jo March, Neville Longbottom and The Weasleys, and Anne Elliot from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. (Hey, I’m a writer. I never said I could count.)

What do you do when you are not writing?

Did I mention my six children? The oldest is 8 years old this month, so yeah. . . . I love to be in the kitchen if my previous response didn’t make that evident. I love listening to baseball on the radio during the season (Go D-backs!). Watching it on tv makes me mad, no idea why. And I do like going to the movies. I don’t get to the theater as often as I would like, but that’s what Redbox is for, right? There are even things that I don’t do with my time that I miss, like going to art museums, concerts, practicing the piano and Japanese. As a parent (mom or dad) you give up things to make sure the family runs smooth. Oh and sleep, I miss sleep.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

I’ve always been of the mind that the side characters are where it’s at. Wash from Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” series was my favorite. In fact, nearly every time Alan Tudyk appears on screen his character ends up stealing the show for me. Neville Longbottom is my favorite character from the Harry Potter series, particularly the way Matthew Lewis played him in the films. He grows so much and develops as a character in really great ways, you just can’t help cheering for him in the end.

As far as The Accidental Apprentice goes, Crispin stands out as a sneaky B-character who runs off with most of the scenes he’s in. He’s so funny and tenacious and I just want to ruffle his blonde curls. I’m looking forward to making him a point of view character in the sequel.

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

Barring anything unforeseen, I will be at the Chandler Author Walk in Chandler, Arizona on November 21st. I’ll be selling and signing copies of The Accidental Apprentice and Mechanized Masterpieces: A Steampunk Anthology. I’d like to add a few more, but we’ll see. I’m hoping to start work on Accidental’s sequel in January. And of course, any events I am attending can be found on my website, www.anikasantics.com.

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

Find Arrington on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

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Interview: Gabi Stevens, Author of The Wish List

StevensTheWishListEveryone, please welcome Gabi Stevens to the blog today. She is the author of the Time of Transition series. She also writes under the name Gabi Anderson (Destiny Coin series) and G. S. Anderson (Preternatural). Today we discuss Harry Potter and Cinderella, Star Wars I and backstory, game shows, reboots versus retellings, and plenty more!

Who are your non-writer influences?

Dare I be cliché and say my family? Okay, now that that’s behind us . . . I have to thank the teachers in my life who taught me how to think and dream, especially in high school. I went to boarding school and not only did those teachers see us in the classroom, but they also lived with us on campus. We ate meals with them, I babysat their children, etc. They introduced me to Sci Fi and Fantasy novels.

StevensAsYouWishWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Ooo, confession time. I haven’t read Dickens. I know. Shocking. But I will, one day. I’ve really never read Hemmingway, but I know the plots, and I just don’t want to. Okay, I have read The Old Man and the Sea, but none of the others. Steinbeck is another author I’ve never read. I tried to read The Red Pony once, but, well, no. I only kick myself for the Dickens. I haven’t read all of The Canterbury Tales or any of Beowulf, but I can claim to have read part of The Aeneid in Latin, as well as some Livy, Tacitus, and Palutus’s Menaechmi. And I can claim Faust, parts one and two in German. (Too much bragging?)

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

If you subscribe to the Joseph Campbell school of thought, there is only one story, so essentially every story is a reboot. That said, I loved Harry Potter (books more than movies, although I loved the movies too), which is essentially Cinderella. I myself have written a couple of Beauty and the Beast stories (one of my favorites). If you can’t tell, I love fairy tales (must be my German Lit background). I enjoy most of the new retellings of them–although no one has ever tackled my favorite, King Thrushbeard (or Grislybeard, as some have translated it, although the point of Thrushbeard is that the king’s beard looks like the beak of a bird).

StevensWishfulThinkingI’m not as fond of reboots. If it was good before, why remake it? Psycho? Really? And not enough time has passed to reboot some of the series (Could be that I’m just old). Dare I confess I haven’t seen the new Spiderman reboots? Planet of the Apes? Mad Max, ignoring the modern incarnation of Mel Gibson, is pretty awesome already. So what if it’s dated. That’s part of its charm. And clearly, the new one is not out yet, but did we really need a new one? There are so many untouched stories out there, why remake something that’s already been done and done well? But of course there are exceptions. I can’t wait for a good Hulk movie. And (I know this is controversial) I do like the reboot of Star Trek (but I loved the old series). But if they have to reboot, why not pick the really old stuff, like the Thin Man series. But my favorite is the reboot of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock (huge fan of this reboot).

There is this rumor that you have been on a few game shows – an experience worth repeating? What would your favorite characters from your own writing be like on a game show?

I have indeed. I was on the Family Feud with the women in my family when Richard Dawson was the host. We won twice then lost the third time, but only won the “Big Money” once. So many tales to tell from that experience, especially since two of our members had heavy Hungarian accents.

Then I appeared on Sale of the Century, and lost it in a tiebreaker because they said tiebreakers would be hard questions– it was easy, and by the time I thought, “But that’s easy,” the other guy had answered.

AndersonTemptation'sWarriorBut my favorite was on Jeopardy, where I came in third, but won the best set of pots and pans ever. No, seriously, they will be handed down to my children, the quality is that good. And I was doing great until Final Jeopardy. To myself I was chanting, “Don’t be US presidents, don’t be US Presidents”, and up pops the category: US Presidents. Man, the day before (because you watch several tapings while you wait) no one got the Final Jeopardy question right (What does Alice cross in “Through the Looking Glass?), and I was sitting in the audience screaming to myself because I knew it. My question: The last surviving president to have signed the US Constitution. Really?

So if my characters would be on game shows my characters, Tennyson Ritter, hero of THE WISH LIST, would do awesome on something like Jeopardy, but horrible on something like Family Feud. He’s got brains, but he just doesn’t have the exposure to the real world to answer questions about how other people would answer. Jonathan Bastion, hero of AS YOU WISH, is too savvy a businessman not to know how people respond to things, so Family Feud would be his game. And Hyacinth, one of the Fairy Godmothers who appear in the entire trilogy, couldn’t be bothered to do something like a game show. She would probably watch them and mock the contestants that appeared on them.

What is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th) is my favorite, closely followed by May the Fourth (Star Wars day!).

AndersonFalconAndWolfHow did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

That was fun. I bought my daughters little tokens—one got a Pocket Dragon (porcelain figurine) reading a book, one got items for her Josefina doll, and I just can’t remember what I got the youngest. I bought my husband a ping pong table, which has since gone the way of the dinosaur. For myself, I bought a tiny Swarovski crystal inkwell with gold quill. When I got the call my husband was in the air, flying to Britain, so I had to leave a message at his hotel to call me as soon as he arrived with the words, “Good news” so he wouldn’t panic upon arrival. My two oldest daughters jumped up and down, and my youngest just looked up at me and said, “Chocolate milk.” Way to bring me down to reality quickly, but she was only four.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Edgar Allan Poe, L. Frank Baum, and Agatha Christie. But I would order for them–tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa, margaritas, green chile, and sopapillas. They need to be exposed to the food from where I’m from. Especially the margaritas. Can you imagine the conversation we could have after a couple?

AndersonEverYoursIf 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?

How about for your 8th grade students?

I already did give my eighth graders SFF literature. Not only did we read a bunch of short stories—Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” “There Will Come Soft Rains”; Asimov’s Nightfall; Stephen Vincent Benet’s By the Waters of Babylon; but we also read the entire I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

As for college, here is my list of must reads: Stranger in a Strange Land, The Stars My Destination, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Martian Chronicles, The Foundation Series, The Lord of the Rings, Doomsday Book, Lord Foul’s Bane,…I know I’ve forgotten a ton.

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?

When isn’t such a moment awkward? When I’m the one doing the gushing, I figure I’m bothering the author. I had a chance to meet Brent Weeks last year and his wife and their little girl and all I could talk about was child rearing. And when someone gushes to me, I always wonder why? I’m not that good (did you know that most writers are terribly insecure).

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

When my husband and I watched Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, we spent two hours discussing the movie at the end. We are both huge Star Wars fans (the original series, and Han shot first) and we didn’t like it. What it boiled down to for me was it was all backstory. As a writer you’re taught not to dump backstory on the reader. Yes, you give hints to what happened in the past, but unless it’s relevant, you don’t need backstory. SW I, II, and III are all backstory. I didn’t need to know why Anakin turned bad. I already knew he had and that he was redeemed. Funny, considering I usually like spoilers, but the difference between spoilers and backstory is huge.

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

I am currently working on shopping around my first pure fantasy novel. I’ll keep you posted. In addition, I’ve got a story collection, Preternatural, on Kindle and Nook under the name GS Anderson, which is receiving some great reviews (Phew). Look for me and news about me at my web site: www.GabiStevens.com. You can also find me at Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Places to Stalk Gabi Stevens

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Interview & Giveaway: Edoardo Albert, Author of Edwin: High King of Britain

AuthorEdoardoAlbertIt is my pleasure to have Edoardo Albert on the blog today. His novel, Edwin: High King of Britain, is the first in the series chronicling the Christian kings of England of old. Come enjoy our chat on historical figures, Tolkien, how the Anglo-Saxons took their swearing seriously, and more! Scroll down for info on the Giveaway!

Who are some of your favorite historical villains? Who are some of your favorite historical heroes? In general, are these villains and heroes misunderstood by the modern public?

Of course, Aristotle was right: all men act according to what they see as good – even the worst men in history do not get up in the morning to twirl their mustaches and cackle, “What is the evillest thing I can do today?” But yet, men do evil, and great evil at that. A favorite villain must be one with a certain style and panache, so I suppose someone like Napoleon would rank at the top of the tree there: a man whose vanity and energy plunged Europe into a decade and a half of war, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and a world remade, yet whose charisma was such that he is still regarded as a hero as much as a villain. Such was his personal magnetism that I’m sure if I’d been in his orbit I would have ended up circling the Napoleonic sun along with all his other satellites. As for heroes, you’d be hard put to do better than William Wilberforce and the others who campaigned, and succeeded, in ending an institution as old as humanity and one that no one could really have imagined could be ended: slavery. But, since evil lacks imagination, slavery and human trafficking is on the way back, for what better way to demonstrate pure power than to own other human beings.

As to these and other historical figures being misunderstood, it depends on where you stand on the debate as to whether one can enter into any other age in any real way. The cultural and historical relativists have strong arguments, but in the end, as a writer, I plump for the belief that the fundamentals of human existence unite us through the ages. Besides, all men consider their time to be normal, and in writing historical fiction that is one of the great rules to bear in mind when dealing with the strangeness of past cultures.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

To be honest, mostly by ignoring them. Bathroom breaks are the common lot of humanity and although the toilet difficulties in pre-modern times are quite interesting they are better dealt with a non-fiction book (in fact, that could be a whole new book right there – Toilet Habits of the Past!). Anglo-Saxon swear words have transferred all too well to modern English, so I haven’t felt any particular need to include them, and a characteristic of pre-modern and barely literate peoples was a far greater reverence for language, so even the cursing was better done. There’s quite a bit about travel in Edwin: High King of Britain, for with roads being generally poor, rivers and sea were more highways than obstructions.

AlbertEdwinHighKingofBritainMyths 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?

At the most surface level, it has spawned various fandoms, from Harry Potter to Tolkien geeks to Trekkies. The writers of the golden age of science fiction were indirectly responsible for the space race, their writing inspiring many of the scientists and engineers that worked on the Apollo missions. Modern fantasy fiction seems to have had a more diffused effect; it’s probably stepped into the void left by the decline of religious belief in some countries of the old West, although in that case its more placebo than anything else. I suspect the jury is still out as to whether its long-term effects will be for good or ill.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

The Lord of the Rings. It still stands head and shoulders above all modern fantasy, and to read it again would be to enter Middle-earth afresh – who wouldn’t want to do that?

What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

For the world of Edwin – a very real but only dimly perceived world – the two foremost documents are Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Without them, we would have only archaeology, which is vital for a deep understanding of a world but leaves us without names or actors within that world. Apart from these foundational sources, there has been a great deal of excellent scholarship on the period, notably by James Campbell (a different Campbell to the one who wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces), Peter Hunter Blair and Nick Higham. I’ve also hugely benefited from my conversations with my archaeologist co-writer of Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom, Paul Gething, who shared his expertise, knowledge and passion for the period with me through many long conversations.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Apart from Paul, my wife and children. Harriet is my first reader, my best critic and, as an actress and voice teacher, the perfect person to read my stories out loud to me; there is no better way to learn if something works or not than to hear it read to you. And having a family has simultaneously reduced the time I have available to write by half but increased my productivity when I do write by something like fiftyfold – I have reason to write other than myself now!

Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Thucydides and Herodotus are on my to read list, along with the Aeneid, from the Classical period. The lack of sources for the early Anglo-Saxon era means that it’s really not that difficult to read everything that’s survived from then, and Bede is such a pleasure to read that I return to him frequently.

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 would hope it means that people will read more widely; I suspect that little of the self-consciously literary fiction of the second half of the twentieth century has any lasting value, but some of the genre novels will survive as long as people read – Stephen King is a better chronicler of our times than the vast majority of literary novelists. As to me, I read widely as a matter of course, so I’d be delighted to be lured out of my comfort zone.

If you could go enjoy a meal in a historical setting (time travel, here we come!), where/when would that be, and what would you eat? Who would you invite from that time and place to sup with you?

Gosh, that’s a tough question! Part of me would like to attend the Last Supper, but I’m not sure I could bear to be present for the events of the day afterwards. Apart from that, I’d like to invite Dante and Boccacio to a high medieval feast in Italy – days of feasting, song and conversation – and then to drop into the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford in the 1930s when Tolkien, Lewis and the Inklings were all in full flow.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Read! Bring up children. Day job – the usual stuff writers do when they’re not writing.

I snooped around on your website. You have written in several genres: SFF short stories, history books, a biography of Tolkien, a children’s book, historical texts on Islamic philosophers. Which do you find more challenging: the non-fiction or fiction works? Are there genres you would like to branch out into even further? Do you work on more than one book at a time?

Non-fiction and fiction present different challenges. With non-fiction the first and greatest challenge is to tell the truth. Of course, that’s also the challenge of fiction, but the templates of truth are different in each case. Non-fiction requires adherence to sources, proper understanding and sifting of contemporary scholarship – with its enthusiasms and biases – and synthesis; there’s always more you could write! Fiction demands the writer remains true to the story and its characters, removing himself from them as far as is possible. I think working in different areas has benefited me hugely as a writer and I’d definitely hope to write in further genres; in fact, a book I’ve been commissioned to write on the spiritual history of London is turning into something of a new genre in itself: part history, part travel, part spiritual autobiography, I’m making it up as I go along! When writing, I usually just write one book at a time, but I’ll probably be reading and researching the next at the same time.

Thank you for your questions; they really made me think hard!

About the Book

Debut historical fiction series vividly recreating the rise of the Christian kings of Northumbria, England.

In 604 AD, Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin’s usurper. As Edwin walks by the shore, alone and at bay, he is confronted by a mysterious figure–the missionary Paulinus– who prophesies that he will become High King of Britain. It is a turning point.

Through battles and astute political alliances Edwin rises to power, in the process marrying the Kentish princess Aethelburh. As part of the marriage contract the princess is allowed to retain her Christian faith. But, in these times, to be a king is not a recipe for a long life.

This turbulent and tormented period in British history sees the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon settlers who have forced their way on to British shores over previous centuries, arriving first to pillage, then to farm and trade–and to come to terms with the faith of the Celtic tribes they have driven out.

The dramatic story of Northumbria’s Christian kings helped give birth to England as a nation, English as a language, and the adoption of Christianity as the faith of the English.

Places to Find Edoardo Albert

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Giveaway!

Edoardo Albert has one paperback copy of Edwin: High King of Britain. The giveaway is open to US, UK and Canada residents. In order to enter, leave a comment answering this question: What historical figure would you like to read a historical fiction on? I’ll select at the end of the book tour (midnight September 19th, 2014). Leave me a way to contact you in the comment (email, twitter, etc.). Good luck!

Follow The Tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Monday, August 25
Review at Princess of Eboli
Review at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

Tuesday, August 26
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Wednesday, August 27
Review at Dab of Darkness

Thursday, August 28
Interview & Giveaway at Dab of Darkness

Monday, September 1
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, September 3
Review at The Writing Desk
Review at The Mad Reviewer

Friday, September 5
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, September 8
Review at A Book Geek
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Tuesday, September 9
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, September 10
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Interview & Giveaway at Thoughts in Progress

Friday, September 12
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Monday, September 15
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Tuesday, September 16
Review at Layered Pages

Thursday, September 18
Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

Friday, September 19
Review at Book Drunkard

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Interview: Barbara Venkataraman, Author of Death by Didgeridoo

VenkataramanDeathByDidgeridooEveryone, please welcome Barbara Venkataraman to the blog today. I have enjoyed Book 1 in her Jamie Quinn mystery series, Death by Didgeridoo. Today we chat about Harry Potter, literary good guys, writing tips, and the childhood book nerd. Sit back and be entertained!

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

I think it would have to be the first time I read science fiction or fantasy, it changed my life forever.

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?

Hmmmm, I really enjoy meeting new people, including my current interviewer! I’ve heard some amazing life stories and have ‘met’ some lovely people through e-mails and blogging. What I dislike about promotion/marketing is how it takes time away from writing. And it can be tedious sending out queries and requests for reviews, especially when you hit a dry spell and don’t get many responses. It feels like a variation on that old joke—if a writer asks for a review in the forest and nobody is there to hear her, what is she doing in the forest in the first place?  lol

Who are your non-writer influences?

Comedians—I love watching a good comedian and being surprised; I love laughing. My other influences are the stories I hear all around me and, of course, theatre. Writing a novel is like watching a play in your mind: the lines have to be clever and succinct; the gestures, the expressions, the scenery, everything counts. Watching theatre teaches me those things.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

Iago is just the meanest, and so diabolical! Javert in “Les Mis” is so focused on the letter of the law, rigid and self-righteous that when he realizes good and evil are not what he thought, he has no choice but to commit suicide. He is a complex guy!

VenkataramanTripToHardwareStoreWho are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Here’s where I can’t be original, but Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Sherlock and Dr. Watson, Prospero and Ariel from “The Tempest”.

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

So many stories are a twist on an old story. There are many versions of Romeo and Juliet out there and  it wasn’t original even in Shakespeare’s time, but one of my favorite versions was “West Side Story”. And I have to admit, I’m a sucker for “Sherlock” on the BBC. I think Arthur Conan Doyle would have approved!

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

Taking a walk outside always helps me think, I can’t recommend it enough. And vigorous exercise for as little as five minutes is helpful, too. As for reading, I recommend reading your favorite books several times. The first time for the story because you enjoy it. The second and third times, to analyze the story, the voices and the overall technique to learn how the author pulled it off. It’s like being amazed by a magic trick and then figuring out how it was done.

I also recommend reading terrible books to see how not to do it. Write reviews of them so that you can analyze each aspect.

Finally, I recommend reading books on the nuts and bolts of the craft. I recommend Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” and Stephen King’s “On Writing”. I also recommend Orson Scott Card’s “Elements of Fiction Writing-Characters and Viewpoint,” and Ron Carlson’s short book, “Ron Carlson Writes a Story.” I also recommend, “Elements of Fiction Writing-Beginnings, Middles and Ends,” by Nancy Kress.

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?

It’s a mess, I’m sorry to report, but there’s a method to it. I can write anywhere and I started doing something strange by accident. I e-mailed myself the chapter I was working on and found I could write on my cell phone wherever I happened to be. The weirdest place I ever wrote was standing in line at a Mexican restaurant waiting to pick up my food! I had a thought that just couldn’t wait.

VenkataramPerilInTheParkWhat were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?

As a kid, I always had a book in my hands. I’ve been told I took a book to a slumber party when I was 6 and I took one with me in the car on the way to Disney World! Luckily, I wasn’t driving since I was only ten, but my best friend was annoyed. I was the nerdy kid who got excited when the bookmobile came to my neighborhood and I was the kid who cried at seeing my first real library and realizing I could never read all those books.

I always wanted to write ever since I won a prize for my “Duck Poem” in second grade!

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Shakespeare, Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Vonnegut and Robert Frost. I’m not sure what they would order, but Shakespeare & Dickens would be pretty impressed with the large selection and Vonnegut would be bummed to learn that he couldn’t smoke inside anymore.

The Desert Island Collection: what books make it into your trunk and why?

Funny books, of course, anything that could make me laugh. All of Harry Potter because I never get tired of them and finally, a book about how to escape from a desert island!

What do you do when you are not writing?

I love to swim and to take walks in serene parks. Both of those activities always clear my mind and restore my perspective. And of course, read! Reading makes me laugh and cry and think about the world in new ways. But hanging out with my family and friends is at the top of the list.

VenkataramCaseOfKillerDivorceSide characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

I wish I could be original here, but all of the side characters in the Harry Potter series were fun and interesting. Who wouldn’t want to be fussed over by Mrs. Weasley, or learn about magical creatures from Hagrid? In my own books, I was surprised at how much Duke Broussard took over. He has a large personality! And he seems to have a lot of fans out there.

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

Well, my second Jamie Quinn mystery, “The Case of the Killer Divorce” will be out on audiobook in August. And my fourth Jamie Quinn book, “Engaged in Danger,” will be out in September. Finally, my book of humorous essays, “A Trip to the hardware Store & Other Calamities” has been chosen as a finalist in the Readers Favorite Contest, Woo hoo! That’s all the exciting stuff going on in my world.

Places to Find Barbara Venkataraman

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