Interview: Jim Bernheimer, Author of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain

BernheimerConfessionsOfDListSupervillainFolks, Jim Bernheimer has been tremendously entertaining to me with his books and it is with great pleasure that I have him on the blog for an interview. Of course we have to talk books (Heinlein and C. T. Westcott), along with the Harry Potter fanfiction universe, audiobooks, Gryphonwood Press, and lots of other stuff. Sit back and enjoy!

1) On your Goodreads page, you cite such influences and favorites as Tolkien, Heinlein, Poe, and C. T. Westcott. That’s quite a wide range in literature. Will you give a few examples of what about their works caught your imagination?

I first read Tolkien when I was around 10. His descriptions were extremely vivid (look at the way they’re making 3 movies out of a single book!). Robert Heinlein, as far as I am concerned, was the master of the first person narrative. My three favorites have always been Starship Troopers, Glory Road, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The way he got the reader inside the main character’s head is something I’ve always tried to emulate. As for C.T. Westcott, his Eagleheart trilogy gave me the definitive anti-hero in Wil Bucko. He’s a rogue and a scoundrel with an odd streak of nobility. The author’s wit and abrasive, dark humor is an inspiration. Cal Stringel from the D-List Supervillain series is my version of an anti-hero and I owe a debt of gratitude to all three of these authors.

BernheimerPenniesForferryman2) You came out of the world of fan fiction. Mind sharing some of the SFF worlds that you wrote fan fiction about? What about those particular worlds captivated and wouldn’t release you until you had spilled some ink?

I write fanfic under the name of JBern and carved out a decent sized following in the Harry Potter fanfiction universe. I really enjoyed the first 4 books in the series, but for me the wheels started coming off on the series in book 5. There was and still is so much potential in that universe and I still have ideas that I hope to have the time to visit. One of the things I did with fanfic was to be bold and experimental. The first fic I published was my attempt to do a bloody and violent wizarding war a Saving Private Ryan version of the HP universe. It was dark gritty and horribly long by novel standards. Then I wrote another novel length fanfic and the sequel to it all in 2nd person present tense just to try the style that just about everyone and their brother say to never ever do. I also had another story going at the same time in 1st person called The Lie I’ve Lived which cemented the notion in my head that I’m most comfortable writing in that style. (There was one terrible 2-3 month block where I had all three of those stories going at the same time and I was writing in 1st person present, 2nd person present, and 3rd person past tense all at the same time – I do not recommend doing this by the way.) One of the nice things about the fanfic world that helped my development as a writer is that I got lots of feedback in a short period of time. Getting people to read and evaluate what you write is no easy task. Review sites like your own are inundated with requests all the time. For example, the first novel I published on Amazon (Dead Eye: Pennies for the Ferryman) has, at this time, 81 reviews. That’s pretty good. At the peak of my fanfic writing, when I put out a single chapter of one of my main fanfics I would get somewhere in the neighborhood of 125 reviews. The serial nature of fanfiction lends itself to a greater level of feedback. Thankfully, there seems to be less of a stigma surrounding both that and self-publishing these days.

BernheimerPrimeSuspects3) Has your superhero identity as a SFF writer caused any issues with your day job as IT Guru and System Administrator? How do you balance it all with family life?

It’s a delicate balancing act. The writing has never really caused any issues at work since I keep them separate. Most days at lunch, I’ll go sit in my car and hammer out a few hundred words on my smartphone. The majority of Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective mystery was written in that fashion on a slide out keyboard using my thumbs. As for home life, my wife generally lets me know when I’ve been spending too much time on the computer and neglecting my other responsibilities. I won’t lie and say there has never been a rough patch because of my writing, but am eternally grateful that she puts up with a bum like me.

4) Having read a few of your books, I know that some of your characters have flexible moral boundaries. Where has this allowed you to take your stories that you didn’t expect? Have you ever written a scene that made even you squirm?

I try to write as realistically as possible and that’s usually where the flexible morals part comes in handy. It’s really all about suspension of disbelief. If the reader can buy into the fact that Cal Stringel or one of my other characters could do “X” because of the circumstances, then it lets me push the envelope. Early in D-List, Cal has the Olympian Superhero Aphrodite prisoner and is attempting to get her clean from this substance controlling her mind. The plot complication there was that Cal was a criminal with his own festering ball of issues and ill-suited to be anyone’s 12 step partner. From any other perspective other than Cal’s, he tortured her. That was a difficult chapter to write.

BerheimerRider5) Are there other writers in your family and how have they influenced you?

I’ve only met her once in my adult life at a family reunion, but my 2nd cousin is Nora Roberts. Each summer, she hosts a reunion at her house in western Maryland. If I reap one thousandth of the financial success she has managed then I’ll probably be more successful than most writers ever will be. I keep meaning to go back to the next reunion, but events keep conspiring against me.

6) What fictional character or beastie from your own works would you want to meet? Which would you hide from indefinitely?

Of the characters in my books, I probably most want to meet either Cal Stringel (who can invent cool stuff) or Mike Ross (who can speak to ghosts). Since a lot of the short fiction I write is horror, I could see myself hiding from the swamp monster in the short story, Existence, or the various zombies, werewolves, or vampires that I have written. However, if I had to stick with one, it would be that swamp monster.

BernheimerHorrorHumorAndHeroes7) Some of your books are published via Gryphonwood Press and others are self-published. You even took it a step further and self-published some audiobook versions. Print versus ebook versus audiobook – what were the high points and low points for each for you in the self-publishing world?

As long as you keep a positive attitude, there aren’t any low points when it comes to publishing something you’ve written. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Probably the nastiest criticism I had ever received in the self-publishing world was right at the beginning when I first put out my short story collection, Horror, Humor and Heroes. The reviewer took his time and picked apart every story in the book and while he did like one of them, he then proceeded to use his criticism to launch what I considered to be a personal attack. That experience is one of the reasons why I recommend to all new writers that they should strongly consider the use of a pen name.

When it comes to working with a publisher, the waiting is always the hardest part just like Tom Petty says. Right now, I’m waiting for one of the other Gryphonwood authors to finish proofreading the second Spirals of Destiny Novel, while fending off the fans who are waiting for that long-delayed second installment. As for the audio book world, I’ve had great experiences with Jeffrey Kafer. He’s incredible to work with and I was fortunate to stumble upon him when I was first getting into audiobooks.

8) The New Year is upon us. How do your favorite characters celebrate?

I suppose Cal Stringel would have a small party in what you aptly termed his “Cave of Anger.” Mike Ross would likely be at a larger party filled with both the living and dead. David Bagini 42 would still be wondering how his life had arrived at that particular point.

BernheimerSorceress9) And I always ask this because I am nosy: What new projects or upcoming events can you tell us about?

In the next month, the second book in the Spirals of Destiny series will be released (hopefully), and I’m currently writing the rough draft for the prequel to Cal Stringel’s adventures that will be called, Origins of a D-List Supervillain. I am also working on a short story for an upcoming anthology called Apollo’s Daughters from Silence in the Library publishing that I am really excited about. Both Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston are among the many talented authors who will be working on this project edited by Bryan Young. It’s a companion piece to Athena’s Daughters which features stories from female authors featuring strong female lead characters. When that is completed, I expect to be working on the third D-List novel and then the third Dead Eye installment. That should keep me busy through most of the year. As far as conventions go, I will be attending Marscon in Williamsburg Virginia this month. I am also confirmed guest at ConCarolinas in June. I also to attend the next XCon in Myrtle Beach South Carolina during May and ShevaCon in September. If there is any room, I wouldn’t mind doing a couple more conventions, but we’ll have to see.

Places to Find Jim Bernheimer

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Giveaway & Guest Post: The Black Shard

SimcoxMagicWarblePlease welcome Victoria Simcox back to Dab of Darkness. You may remember her earlier interview where we talked about C. S. Lewis, talking animals, and cover art. Here she has returned to talk further about the second book in her juvenile fantasy series, The Black Shard. Also, we have a giveaway of winner’s choice of her two books, so make sure to check that out at the bottom of this post.

Goodreads blurb on The Magic Warble:

Twelve-year-old Kristina Kingsly feels like the most unpopular girl in her school. The kids all tease her, and she never seems to fit in. But when Kristina receives an unusual Christmas gift, she suddenly finds herself magically transported to the land of Bernovem, home of dwarfs, gnomes, fairies, talking animals and the evil Queen Sentiz. In Bernovem, Kristina not only fits in, she’s honored as “the chosen one,” the only one who can release the land from Queen Sentiz’s control. But it’s not as simple as it seems. To save Bernovem, she must place the gift she was given, the famous “Magic Warble,” in its final resting place. She must travel through the deep forest, climb a treacherous mountain, and risk capture by the queen’s “zelbocks” before she reaches her destination. Guided by her new fairy friends, Clover and Looper and by Prince Werrien, a teenage boy, and an assortment of other characters, Kristina sets off on a perilous journey that not only tests her strength but her heart.

SimcoxBlackShardGoodreads blurb on The Black Shard:

Kristina’s stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least, and it’s all because Hester and Davina are there as well, making her life miserable. When Hester’s cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it’s actually what sends the three girls back to the magical land of Bernovem. In Bernovem, Kristina is very excited to see her former friend, Prince Werrien. When he invites her to sail with him on his ship to his homeland Tezerel, putting it simply, Kristina can’t refuse. Reunited with her gnome, dwarf, animal, fairy friends … and best of all, Werrien, things seem like they couldn’t get any better for Kristina. But when Werrien becomes fascinated with an unusual seeing stone, the “Black Shard,” Kristina is haunted by a ghostlike old hag. Struggling against suspicion, guilt, illness, and ultimately the one who wants to possess her soul, Kristina will see it’s in her weakest moment that she will encounter more strength than she has ever known.

Both questions and answers were provided by Victoria Simcox.

On your blog you state that your teenage daughter inspired Kristina, but who inspired some of the other characters, like Werrien and Hector? (Hopefully, no one real inspired Davina or Hester ;D)

Yes, Kristina, in the book was inspired by my daughter, and even though I named Kristina my character after my daughter, the two are different personalities. Werrien came from different personality traits of people I know. I have a teenage son, and I took some traits from him, as well as his friends and other teenagers I have encountered. Hector, I created from my imagination, at least I can’t pinpoint where I got him from. Davina’s and Hester’s personalities came from kids I knew when I was in grade school—bully type peers. Even though they were annoying, hurtful and even scary when I was young, now that I’m an adult I find it quite fun to use their character traits in my writing.

This book has some beautiful illustrations. I know you teach art, so I was curious as to whether the cover or any of the images inside were your drawings?

Yes, I teach art and have been doing so for 11 years, but the illustration and cover were not done by me. I have a different style of drawing and painting than what is in my book.  An artist by the name of Amanda Swanson did all the art work inside the book as well as the cover. She specializes in fantasy art and I am very happy with what she has created.

Bernovem seems to be such a beautiful place. Is there any place that you’ve been to or read about that inspired it?

I was inspired to create Bernovem from different places that I have been, like the Hoh Rain Forest in WA. I love hiking through its densely green, moss laden trails. There is definitely something magical about it. Hemlock Valley Mountain, in BC Canada, is a place I have been skiing at since I was a youth. It is a majestic yet peaceful place. I was in Tahiti and Hawaii some years back and enjoyed the beaches, aqua-blue waters, and tropical forests. I created Finimus Island from my experience at these two paradises. My mother and father are immigrants from Europe and throughout my lifetime I have had the opportunity to visit Austria, Germany and other places, like the beautiful city of Prague. These places have influenced me in creating the city Ezeree as well as Salas.

What inspired you to be a writer and to write the Magic Warble series?

I remember I was sitting in the movie theater watching the first Harry Potter movie when I envisioned my main character Kristina walking down a snowy sidewalk. At the time that was all of the story I had. I went home that night and wrote my first page not knowing where the story would go.

So the ending of The Black Shard often leaves readers in total, utter suspense – can you tell us when to expect the third installment of this amazing series?

I was hoping Book 2 would leave readers wanting to read more and I’m so glad it did.  I am in the process of writing the 3rd book and when it is finished (I don’t have a set date yet) I will definitely let all my Magic Warble fans know.

Victoria lurks in various fantastical and common Earthly places on the web:

Her Blogspot

The Magic Warble Webpage

Goodreads      Facebook      Twitter

 Now for the giveaway. To enter, simply leave a comment on this guest post – and an email or twitter handle. For additional chances to win, fill out the rafflecopter below. Good luck!

Giveaway of 3 ebooks – winner chooses Book 1 or Book 2 (International)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Around the Sphere April 2013

Yes, it is that time again. Time for me to be social. Which usually means snarking on things. In this case, other folks have already put together the snark for me. Enjoy!

I love making fun of Disney heroines. Mostly because they are not particularly heroic. Or rather, running through the woods, cleaning house, or reading a book all while looking gorgeous is heroic for the female form. Sigh….

Here is a really cool article about the what ifs of drawing female superheroes fully clothed. I love the idea and I think a competent, mostly clad superhero (of any gender) is far more attractive than stepping out to fight crime in a bathing suit or highheels and thong-bustier combo.

http://www.geeknative.com/38733/drawing-the-impossible-fully-dressed-superheroines/

Remember Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving) from The Matrix? Yeah, I do. Here he is again in the GE commercial. If all ads were this cool, I would spend more time rotting my brain watching them. Are you ad companies paying attention?

Cracked.com is a great place to visit if you need to kill some time waiting for the bus, that last load of laundry, or you’re stuck at work and can get away with it. Not that I would ever encourage folks to be slackers. Not me. This particular article is on real life places that could be sets for science fiction or fantasy movies. I wish some of these places made up my lawn art.
http://www.cracked.com/article_20357_7-modern-ghost-towns-that-look-like-sci-fi-movies.html?utm_source=thechive.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=7-modern-ghost-towns-that-look-like-sci-fi-movies-pics-article

I’m sure you have seen this trailer by now, but hey, it stars two of my all time favorite actors – Jodie Foster and Matt Damon. So there is no way I was not going to plague you with this trailer one more time.

Ever wonder how to make that superhero Aquaman sexy, useful, and manly all in one go? Well, yeah, I hadn’t actually spent much time thinking about Aquaman either. I mean, who does? Here a cool pic of Aquaman, medieval style. It does the trick.

http://www.ilyke.net/i-thought-this-deserved-to-be-seen-by-more-people–batman–aquaman-medieval-garb/25303/?utm_source=u212&utm_medium=p212137&utm_campaign=aff

Confession time. I love the Riddick movies. I have watched Pitch Black like dozens of times since I first caught on the once appropriately names SciFi channel. When The Riddick Chronicles came out, I hauled my main man off to the theatres to watch it. It was great. Now, a third movie is nearing completion.I know, some of you….perhaps most of you, are quirking your eyebrow at me. I’m OK with that, because I am picturing you all in The Next Generation combat leotard. You look smashing.

This last video is Honest Reviews. Now I love me some Harry Potter – books first, movies second, trick jelly beans third. This video covers all the movies, so beware of spoilers, if you care about such things. Had me chuckling out loud.

Finally, stuff about me that you may or may not care about. I care, and that is good enough. First, I gave an interview over at the Book Store Book Blogger Connection. If you haven’t heard of this, it’s a great site where you can provide little snippets about books you love. Then bookstores, usually small, independent ones so far, print off those snippets and place them on their shelves to entice book browsers to pick up the book and perhaps take it home. Genius. (both the site and my interview).

http://bookstorebloggerconxn.com/2013/04/03/bloggers-who-win-dab-of-darkness/

Almost finally, David Lee Summers, an author, scientist, blogger, and all around fun guy, passed the WordPress Family Award on to me. This is my first bloggity award and I am still figuring out what to do with it. The rules with this award are simple – chat about some other blogs that you enjoy. I assume from the title of the award they are suppose to be WordPress blogs, but I am not one for rules really. I think rules, as well as recipes, are really just guidelines. In some cases they really only denote some end goal and how you get there is up to you.

So, let me take a moment to talk about a few blogs that have been in my life recently. On Starships and Dragonwings has one of the snazziest looking blogs around – not too much glitter or flash, and plenty of dragons. If you love your YA SFF, that’s the blog to check out. We recently wrapped up Book 2 of The Wheel of Time series and we’ll shortly be starting Book 3 (The Dragon Reborn). The Little Red Reviewer, who is also the power and master mind behind the Book Store Book Blogger Connection I mentioned above, has always got something SciFi good going on. I recently participated in her The Emoticon Generation blog tour. Stainless Steel Droppings is running his annual Once Upon A Time reading event that runs the duration of spring and is a celebration of anything fantasy (mostly books and film). It is a wonderful, fun event. We just finished up the Stardust Read Along this past week. Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers has been joining me on all my crazy read alongs, including The Shadow of the Sun Read Along which goes to the end of the month. Barbara Friend Ish is giving away digital copies of her book on her site (just follow the read along link to download yours). Let me just say that Sue from Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers always has such great comments. She really takes the time to read the post and leave meaningful comments. Lynn’s Book Blog has been teaching me UK words, like numpty. Lynn has also been a big participator in recent read alongs. And what is a read along if you ain’t got nobody to play with? Yes, I left the bad grammar in. Yes, I can see you wincing. You’re cute when you wince. There are many more to name, but I think I will save some for the next bloggity award or the next time I am feeling social. Yes, you may very well be on that list. It’s better than being on the Other List.

And just yesterday, Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog awarded me the Liebster Award. So, I had to come back in here and edit because this was the perfect place to stick this.  She gets a wicked chuckle from me on timing alone. First, she has these questions I am suppose to answer. She says I can’t say ‘both’. But she also says rules are for breaking. Hehehehehehhe.

  1. Beer or Wine – Chocolate milk stout or muscato dessert wine. But not both together.
  2. Dogs or Cats – I have to say both as I live with both and if I picked one, the other would find out and kill me in my sleep. For Reals.
  3. Fantasy or Sci Fi – This is a cruel, cruel question. How about Scitansy? The best of both worlds.
  4. Book or Film – Book. Except for The Hunger Games trilogy. That is one series I hope the movies end better than the books did.
  5. Star Wars or Star Trek – Star Wars for the women and star trek for the bald headed men.
  6. Batman or Superman – Batman all the way. There is nothing sexy about a grown boy scout in a blue and red unitard.
  7. Anime or Manga – Manga
  8. Gaiman or Tolkien – Gaiman for the everyday. Tolkien for the once a decade read.
  9. Reading or Music – Reading. But you knew that already.
  10. Chocolate or Cheese – Chocolate. Unless there are fresh local cheese readily available.
  11. Morning or night – Morning. Shit needs to get done in the morning.

On top of that, I am suppose to reveal 11 things about myself. Well, I already told y’all about my Riddick fascination above. That should really count for 2. My favorite bookmarks are the ones my aunt made several years ago. We live on a small farm and I rather clean chicken houses than fold laundry. Alas, folding laundry happens like every other day, and cleaning the chicken houses happens likes 3-4 times a year. Yes, I do wear a respirator when doing that. I often salt my icecream. I know you want to also. Oh you think it might be weird, but I bet you love other sweet & salty food. I have two addictions in my life – my man and Dr. Pepper. I once hit a puppy with my car on a dark night. I broke it’s neck, but it was still alive. I took it home and my man helped me grant him mercy. He is buried near the apple tree. I have a consuming fear of ladders. No, shaking the ladder while I am on it to prove how stable it is DOES NOT help. Just being clear about that. I have been with the volunteer fire and emergency response for 6 months now and seen two fatalities. The only girly thing about me is my super secret cutsy wutsy collection of My Little Ponies.  I have been peed on by a cat more than once. No, I am not on speaking terms with that cat. I have spent quality time in a public place with one boob hanging out of the bra (still covered by shirt). Lots of odd stairs went my direction, but no one took me aside and chatted about wardrobe malfunctions.

This last part is where I torture others. But I am going to mix it up (see rule breaking previously in this post). Instead of nominating 11 others and posing 11 questions to them, I am going to leave it open to you, my dear readers. Leave your answers in the comments.

1) I love interviewing folks, digging into their lives, etc. Would anyone like to do a real interview on my blog? Leave your email or twitter handle, and I will get in contact.

2) If you took the main characters from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy, and Brent Week’s Night Angel series and stuck them in a gated, locked grove, who would come out in the end?

3) Honestly, are the fig leaves really necessary?

4) Should they have a third go at turning Dune by Frank Herbert into a movie?

That’s all I got folks. This turned out to be a longer post than expected, but for anyone who makes it to the end, leave me a raspberry in the comments!