A Time Travel Tagging

I was recently tagged by Lynn over at Books & Travelling with Lynn. The subject is all about books and time traveling, in one way or another. I really enjoy these tag posts as they often give me something to talk about without having to use a lot of brainpower. Here are the Q&A.

SummersOwlDanceWhat is your favorite historical setting for a book?

It’s hard to pick just one. I’ve read plenty of stories set in ancient Greece (Mary Renault), Roman murder mysteries & ‘celebrities’ (John Maddox Roberts, Conn Iggulden), and the 1800s of the American West (David Lee Summers, Cherie Priest). Also, the Tudor era attracts me. In fact, I’m currently wrapped up in Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory.

AsimovStarsLikeDustWhat writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Isaac Asimov is near the top of my list. His books feature prominently in my childhood/teen years. I read his Lucky Starr series but also many of his adult novels. For kicks, I’d love to meet Homer and put to rest the age-old argument on whether Homer was male or female or collection of authors. I wouldn’t mind meeting Pearl S. Buck. Her novel, The Good Earth, was required reading in both the 5th and 9th grades (I moved and changed school districts, so that’s why I got hit twice with this classic) and I loved it both times. She had a very interesting life and it wouldn’t just be her books I’d pester her with questions about, but also her travel and years living in China.

LynchTheLiesOfLockeLamoraWhat book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

There’s so much good stuff out today! Apart from a few classics, most of the ‘safe’ or required reading I had access to as a kid was boring and often felt fake or like it was missing a big element of life – you know, all the gooey, messy bits that make all the good parts that much better. Luckily, I had full access to any SFF novel in the house and there were plenty of those. So to supplement my childhood bookshelf, I would give myself Andy Weir’s The Martian, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series, and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

Chupacabra
Chupacabra

What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

I would speed ahead to my future self and hand her a copy of Robert E. Howard’s stories. His writing is some of the best I have enjoyed and yet several of his stories, Conan or otherwise, have certain sexist and racist elements that really repel me. This book would remind me that humans, including myself, are flawed and that things change over the years, such as views on a woman’s proper role in high fantasy adventure. Yet despite these shortcomings, a person can still love a story, or a person, or a country, etc.

ChaneyTheAmberProjectWhat is your favorite futuristic setting from a book?

I always enjoy closed systems and several feature in SF stories. These are domed cities (Logan’s Run by Nolan & Johnson), underground villages (The Amber Project series by JN Chaney), underwater towns (Lucky Starr & the Oceans of Venus by Isaac Asimov), very large space stations (The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey), etc.. There’s the wonder of discovering these places, seeing how they are supposedly working and will go on working forever, and then watching it all come apart in some horrible way that means death for most of the people in the story. Yeah, welcome to my little demented side.

 

Grahame-SmithAustenPrideAndPrejudiceAndZombiesWhat is your favorite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?

For fun, I wouldn’t mind visiting Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I really like the idea of making polite ball jokes, decapitating zombies, working out in the dojo, and politely trading British insults over tea. Honestly, I think that is the only way I would survive the Victorian era.

RobertsTheKingsGambitSpoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

Back when I was eyeball reading printed books (I do mostly audiobooks now) I had a ritual. I would start a book and at that moment that I knew I was hooked, that I had fallen in love with the story, I would turn to the last page and read the last sentence. Most of the time this didn’t spoil anything, but every once in a while there would be a final line that gave away an important death or such.

PriestMaplecroftIf you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

Actually, I do have a Time Turner. My husband bought it for me at the start of September while he was at an SCA event. It was right after we learned that I was quite sick but a few weeks before we learned just how sick. So, lots of bitter sweet emotions tied up with that piece of jewelry.

Anyhoo, if I had a working one, I would go everywhere and do everything. I would start with planning things that Bill and I have wanted to do together (like celebrating Beltane in a pre-Christian era) and then add in things that I have always wanted to do but which my be a big snooze fest for Bill (such as Charles Darwin’s Beagle voyage).

JonasAnubisNightsFavorite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

Currently, I’m enjoying the Jonathan Shade series by Gary Jonas. Time travel really becomes an element in this urban fantasy series in the second trilogy with Ancient Egypt featuring prominently. I also adore Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I finally read a Stephen King novel, 11-22-63. The characters were great even as the underlying premise was only so-so for me. The Dinosaur Four by Geoff Jones was a fun, crazy creature feature.

ButcherColdDaysWhat book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, for sure. I’ve read the early books several times each and I get a laugh out of them each time. Also I would like to experience Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey all over again for the first time. That book showed me how prudish some of my ideas were when I first read it. I wonder what it would show me now? Perhaps the same thing, if indeed this book has had as big an impact on who I am as I think.

Tagging Other People

So in general with these fun tagging posts, I never want anyone to feel obligated to play along. As usual, if any of you want to play along, I definitely encourage you. You can answer any of the questions in the comments or you can throw up your own blog post and then let em know about it so I can come read it. Here are some people who I think would like this particular time travel subject:

David Lee Summers

Under My Apple Tree

Beauty Is A Sleeping Cat

On Starships & Dragonwings

Interview: Stephen Whitfield, Author Omari and the People

WhitfieldOmariAndThePeopleEveryone, please welcome Stephen Whitfield to the blog today! He’s here to chat about other great historical fiction novels, difficult jobs in comparison to writing, and more! I’ve quite enjoyed Whitfield’s novel, Omari and the People. A big thank you to Jess at The Audio Book Worm for setting up this book tour. Swing by the tour page to catch more interview, reviews, guest posts, and giveaways (including audiobook giveaways!).

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

I believe modern fantasy reflects the culture which produces it. What entertains us says a lot about the best and worst of who we are, through fantastic tales of violence and magic, romance and natural beauty.

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

I have re-read the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brian three times, and I intend to read them again. The man has a lot to say and he says it marvelously.

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?

I’d like for the mundane details in life to only be used in my writing where there is meaning for them, without causing unnecessary offense. Gratuitous vulgarity can spoil a story.

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

Once I worked as a temp paralegal in Manhattan and I was so good at it the firm offered me a permanent job as an accountant. The problem was, I had no experience as an accountant, but the money was so good I could not turn it down. Lasted a week. I know something about writing, so writing compares favorably.

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

The Odyssey by Homer. Seems like it is a great, smart story.

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

I enjoy the outcome of promotion more than the act itself. I like to see sales and even more, thoughtful reviews which come as a result of a successful campaign. I am not a big fan of social media but I’m told it is an essential part of advertising.

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

Leo Tolstoy, Patrick O’Brian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Phillip K. Dick, Malcolm X, Dorothy Day. (Is that five?) They would order Fish and Loaves.

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

War and Peace

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

I would invite the men of Com Platoon, 2nd Battalion, Second Marines,circa 1982. I would imagine there would be a great deal of tasty libations involved.

StephenWhitfieldAuthorAbout Stephen Whitfield

Chicago-born Stephen Whitfield began writing as a Marine Corps print journalist. His writing has appeared in military publications, as well as the Kansas City Star and the Jersey Journal. He holds degrees from from Loyola University Chicago, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Indiana University. His various adventures have taken him to such places as London, Paris, Trondheim, Johannesburg, Beirut, most of The Virgin Islands and the wilder neighborhoods of Chicago.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~Facebook

WhitfieldOmariAndThePeopleSynopsis of Omari and the People

In a squalid ancient city on the edge of a desert (based in part on the African Sahara’s Empty Quarter) a weary, thrill-seeking thief named Omari sets his home afire to start anew and to cover his many crimes. When the entire city is unintentionally destroyed by the flames, the cornered thief tells the displaced people a lie about a better place which only he can lead them to, across the desert. With the help of an aged, mysterious woman who knows a better place actually does exist, they set out. The desperate people must come together to fight their way through bandits, storms, epidemics, and more. As a result of Omari’s involvement with Saba, a fiercely independent woman who is out to break him in the pay of a merchant whom he has offended, his ability  to lead – his very life – is jeopardized.

Audible        Amazon

Interview: Dylan James Quarles, Author of The Ruins of Mars Series

QuarlesTheRuinsOfMarsEveryone, please give a warm welcome to science fiction writer Dylan James Quarles. We chat about what is cringe-worthy, a fantasy author dinner, South Korean English classes, ancient Khmer art, and plenty more. I’ve really enjoyed Dylan’s The Ruins of Mars trilogy, which is currently available not only as Kindle ebooks, but also in the Kindle Unlimited program. Enjoy!

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

One word—Hannibal. In case you missed it while it was out, Hannibal was a cerebral retelling—slash—reimagining of Thomas Harris’s famous Hannibal Lecter series. Though the show only got 3 seasons, I can say without hesitation that those 39 episodes are among the best to have ever graced the airways. If I could go back in time and audition for a role as one of Hannibal’s “dinner guests”, I would. I’m totally a Fannibal!

What makes you cringe?

Hmmm…how much time do you have? I kid, but no really—I’m a very cringey person. Today I’m feeling cringey about soda, high fantasy, Xbox, Sushi with mayonnaise, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3, British beer, Kraft Singles, sloppy exposition in serialized TV shows, and my senior yearbook photo. Tomorrow, who knows?

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?

Reality in fiction is tricky. Fiction is a form of escapism, or at least that’s how I treat it. Personally, I write to entertain. Things like bathroom breaks, though necessary in real life, can be glossed over in a book without making it seem somehow unrealistic to the reader. We’re all well aware of what goes on in the bathroom. Not much new ground to cover there!

That said, sometimes a big part of the entertainment factor in a story is the realism. With, The Ruins of Mars Trilogy, I purposely set the story in the not-too-distant-future so that I could draw from the themes and challenges of our current ‘reality’. Sure I pushed the boundaries of realism pretty far, but I always made sure to keep from breaking them all-together. Realism can be great for building tension and atmosphere. Again though, unless someone invents a new and interesting way to take a pee, not much use in lengthy bathroom scenes.

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

My most difficult job was teaching English in South Korea. I lived in a small city, called Mokpo. I’d done a bit of traveling in Europe and Southeast Asia before moving to Korea, but nothing really prepares you for the shock of total immersion. At the time, I think Mokpo had fewer than 200 foreigners, in a city of 300,000 people.

Still, the actual teaching was the hardest part about living there. Many South Korean students attend regular school in the day, then head to private English academies in the afternoon and evening. These poor kids were in school all day, five days a week, for like twelve to fourteen hours at a stretch.

Moreover, ‘teacher sticks’ for punishing students were still a thing when I was there. On my first day of work, my boss proudly issued me my very own teacher stick, and told me to use it as often as I pleased. That fucking thing went straight in my bottom desk drawer and never saw the light of day again.

I still keep in contact with a couple of my old students, and despite the insanity they went through as kids, they’ve all grown up to be happy and engaged members of the global community. I couldn’t be prouder of them.  In fact, without naming names, one of my former students makes an appearance in the first Ruins of Mars book as the creator of Remus and Romulus!

QuarlesWakingTitanIf you could own a famous or historical art work, what would it be? Would you put it on public display or keep it privately?

Just one piece? I’m a big fan of art, I really am. It influences my writing, my mood, my whole outlook on the world. Art decorates my home from wall to wall—it covers every surface.

While my overall favorite style of art is probably classical Renaissance, I simply adore ancient Khmer architecture from Southeast Asia. I think my favorite piece of artwork is actually a full-on temple located in Cambodia. Its name is Bayon, and among its many wondrous flares are something like 30 tall pillars with giant faces carved into every side!

Maybe if I were Carmen Sandiego I would steal it for my own collection. Since I’m not though, I think it’s best to share the wonder of a place like Bayon with the rest of the world.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

If I had a warning label, it would say: Caution, even so much as mentioning Rome will result in an immediate explosion of anecdotal information and personal opinion.

This is what my wife likes to call, ‘Rome blasting.’ I am OBSESSED with all things Rome, and have been ever since I was a kid. I can remember when I was six years old, and my family rented a house in the south of France. My grandmother would take me to see the aqueducts and ruined amphitheaters that peppered the landscape nearby, and I would spend all day playing among them.

Since then, I’ve been to the Eternal City twice, and have plans to return again as soon as time and money will permit. Additionally, I’ve read works by Pliny, Suetonius, Lucretius, Tacitus, Virgil, Cicero, Julius Caesar, Petronius, Marcus Aurelius, and Plutarch, as well as numerous contemporary historical works and fiction. Like I said, I’m obsessed. Even The Ruins of Mars has a bit of ‘Rome blasting’ in it—the AIs Remus, Romulus, and Ilia are all taken from Roman mythology.

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

My fantasy dead-author dinner party would include the likes of Homer, Petronius, Edith Hamilton, Joseph Campbell, and Oscar Wilde. Homer and Petronius would probably want to eat something weird like peacock tongues or roasted dormice. As for Edith, Joe, and Oscar, I imagine that like me, as long as the wine kept flowing, they’d be up for just about anything!

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?

Unfortunately, I have yet to meet either of my two favorite, living authors. Nevertheless, if by some miracle I were to cross paths with Carlos Ruiz Zafon, or Philip Pullman, I would most likely ‘fanboy’ like a mother-effer, and kiss both of them on the mouth…with tongue.

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

Well, I’m a huge movie buff with a film degree to boot. Nerdy arguments sort of go with the territory! It usually doesn’t take much to goad me into a fight though. All you have to say is something like, “Prometheus was actually pretty good,” or “Jesse Isenberg should be in more movies.”

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

Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on a genre-bending mythological thriller called, The Man from Rome. Although I’m most well known for writing scifi, this novel is a bit of a departure from The Ruins of Mars. I wanted to show people that I am a storyteller first and foremost, and not limited to one genre. Besides, as I mentioned above, I love all things Rome. It was only a matter of time until that love turned into a project!

Set in modern-day Rome, the novel tells the story of a bloody vendetta between two ancient Immortals. However, as was the case with The Ruins of Mars Trilogy, it isn’t long until this outwardly simple premise begins to mutate and take the story in unexpected directions. Also in keeping with my style, I shift the narrative from character to character, giving the reader an ensemble experience.

To create the depth and authenticity the story needed, I pulled extensively from Greco-Roman mythology, history, and lore. At the same time, I put a distinctly scifi twist on it by avoiding fallbacks like ‘magic’.

Sure, certain characters can do amazing, seemingly superhuman things, but that is only because they are literally superior to humans in the evolutionary hierarchy. To me, this is a more compelling idea than out right divinity as it speaks to the nature of power and its corrupting influence on the ego.

Really though, The Man from Rome is a slick, kinetic thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep any reader engaged. I wanted to repeat my success with The Ruins of Mars by writing something that anyone could enjoy, not just fans of the genre. It has a well-rounded cast of characters, vivid descriptions of Roman architecture and cuisine, and action sequences that any Ruins of Mars fan will instantly recognize as distinctly Dylan-esque!

I hope you will consider it for your future reading list. But be warned, if I did my job right, you’ll be booking a ticket to Rome by the end of the third chapter!

Places to Find Dylan James Quarles

Website

GoodReads

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon.com

QuarlesTheRuinsOfMarsBook Blurb for The Ruins of Mars:

Set against the turbulent backdrop of the near future, The Ruins of Mars opens on the discovery of an ancient city buried under the sands of the red planet. Images captured by twin sentient satellites show massive domes, imposing walls, and a grid work of buildings situated directly on the rim of Mars’ Grand Canyon, the Valles Marineris. With the resources of Earth draining away under the weight of human expansion, a plan is hatched to reclaim Mars from the cold grasp of death. A small band of explorers, astronauts, and scientists are sent to the red world in mankind’s first interplanetary starship to begin construction on a human colony. Among them is a young archaeologist, named Harrison Raheem Assad, who is tasked with uncovering the secrets of the Martian ruins and their relation to the human race. Aided by the nearly boundless mind of a god-like artificial intelligence; the explorers battle space travel, harsh Martian weather, and the deepening mystery of the forgotten alien civilization. Begin the epic journey in Book One of the Ruins of Mars Trilogy.

Interview: Nancy Kimball, Author of Chasing the Lion

KimballChasingTheLionDear Dabbers, please welcome Nancy Kimball to the blog. We chat about gladiators, pet dogs, the Colosseum, tough jobs, and so much more. Enjoy!

You’re a self-proclaimed hero-addict and enjoy characters that start out broken and wrecked and rise from that to glory and success. What is it about these characters types that keep you coming back for more? Care to share some examples (from books, movies/TV, or history)?

Oh yes, wounded hero is my absolute reader (and writer) drug of choice. What resonates with my soul in these types of stories is that there is no one so far gone God cannot redeem them. Whether the painful past/present was self-inflicted by poor decisions or circumstances inflicted by others through oppression—and sometimes both, as in the case of my own heroes—there is always hope for redemption. Even if the circumstances won’t change, or get worse, the character can and should change so that in the end, good conquers evil, hope is reborn, and that redemption comes. This is a pillar to my own work, and something I lived first-hand in my own personal story and faith journey.

Some of my favorite examples are Edmond Dantes in Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Christo, Maximus in the Ridley Scott film Gladiator, Job from The Holy Bible, Angel from Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, and Ambrose Young from Amy Harmon’s Making Faces.

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

Shane by Jack Schaeffer, the classic western. I was about ten years old and came across some old books that belonged to my grandfather, who had recently passed away.  I’d never seen him reading anything but the newspaper my whole life, so I knew these books must have been pretty special if he’d read them and kept them. The skinniest one had a cowboy on the front so I was sold. It was the first time I remember being in a story, like I was there, and was the characters, not just reading about them. I still have that paperback too, held together with scotch tape and love.

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

Oh that’s easy. My friend Megan Legrue. She has been on Spartan runs, color runs, numerous 5Ks, a half-marathon, is a cross-fit person, and a never-quit encourager and a constant source of support and unconditional acceptance for as long as I’ve known her. She’s who I want next to me in the zombie apocalypse, LOL! At the end of said obstacle course, there would absolutely be a celebratory pint. In my dreams I get to taste Caecubum wine, which was reputedly one of the finest vintages produced in the Ancient World—not from Greece surprisingly, but in Rome. Unfortunately Caesar Nero destroyed the vineyard that produced it when he built the canal to Ostia. So an ice-cold Dos Equis would suffice nicely.

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?

The favorite aspect for me is connecting with readers. Because I do very limited self-promotion, preferring instead to let targeted paid advertising and reader word of mouth carry my sales and readership growth, I primarily interact with readers through direct contact through my website or replies to my email newsletter. When I do “come out and play” it is typically on Facebook.

I was very blessed to learn early in this business that relationships take time, and technology is instant, thanks to a great book Guerilla Marketing for Writers. So in reader and author groups and organizations, I build relationships where there is common interest in something—whether it is my faith, another book or author, writing, Ancient Rome, audiobooks, how hot Jim Caviezel will always be no matter how old he gets, or whether or not Colin Firth or Matthew Macfadyen was a better Darcy.

Least favorite part of self-promotion? Blogging. So consequently, I stopped doing it. But what really annoys me is when author acquaintances over-shoot with self-promotion and saturate social media to the point I have to unfollow/unfriend them. So I make sure to try to never be that person either.

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

Oh gosh. It was actually a commercial building renovation project I was overseeing two years ago. The ramifications of the decisions I had to make daily, and the success and failure of not only the project but preserving the business relationships involved, rested completely on my shoulders. I’d never found myself in that position before professionally and it was baptism by fire, especially when everything about an already bad situation continued to worsen as the process wore on. I was so stressed out it was making me physically sick, and I wanted nothing more than to just say “I can’t do this” and walk away or hand it off to someone else, but I couldn’t. Not without losing my job which I love. I had to just get through it—with a lot of prayer, a lot of chocolate, and knowing that if this didn’t actually end up killing me, it was going to make me stronger.

That is exactly what my writing process is like. Also how I survived the seasoning process as an author to develop that famous (or infamous) rhino-hide that creatives need to make it in any artistic endeavor. When rejections piled up, or I got miserable contest scores and difficult criticism from industry professionals, or after two failed NaNoWriMo attempts in back to back years, there was so many times I just wanted to quit. Throw in the towel and walk away. Thank God I didn’t, for myself, the readers who embrace my work, and the creative partnerships my author life has blessed me with.

Now, when it feels like I’ll never get the next book finished or am struggling with the self-doubt every author has no matter how many five star reviews or bestsellers or awards behind them, I can cling to the knowledge I’ve been here before. I can make the choice to remember the slain giant behind me instead of fearing the enemy army before me. That reminder comes from the David and Goliath story in the Holy Bible, but really came alive to me as a battle cry for life through the novel Day of War by one of my favorite authors and human beings, Cliff Graham.

You have a pet dog, Eric T. How did he come to be part of your life? Does he serve as a muse to any of part of your writing process?

I came home from work one day and there was this stray puppy on my porch, all ribs and feet. I was NOT going to even feed him because then he wouldn’t leave. I was not in a place financially to care for a dog, and I had a hole in my heart still from the loss of the dog I grew up with and had for fourteen years. So no way was I keeping this dog. No freaking way. Not gonna do it.

Well it’s true if you want to make God laugh, just tell him YOUR plans. Three days later, I was shopping for a crate, collar, leashes, toys and food, making vet appointments, and now I can’t imagine life without him.

Eric is not a muse. When he’s not getting the attention he wants, he will literally bring his toy and drop it on my keyboard. While I’m typing! What he does do is love me unconditionally and sense when Mommy is coming apart at the seams, always there to lick tears from my face, put his head on my knee in comfort when I’m low, and happy dance in greeting every time I get home because he missed me so much. I don’t believe in coincidences, knowing instead those are God things. God sent Eric T. to me in a very, very dark time in my life. And I’m so grateful, even though Eric T. chewed up every single pair of shoes I owned the first three months I had him. And a throw pillow. And the flowerbed in the back yard. And most recently in a fit of anger at being left alone too long while I was volunteering at church, he chewed up my cover model’s wig for the photo shoot for book 2 of my series. But even so, I love him like crazy and he is a constant and tangible reminder to me how much God loves me.

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

The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Mittelmark and Newman (which is fabulous and I highly recommend it to all aspiring novelists), Ancient Rome by Nigel Rogers and The Gladiators: History’s Most Deadly Sport by Fik Meijer. I also reached out to Dr. Kathleen Coleman, one of the worlds’ most recognized and renowned experts on gladiators (she was the technical and historical advisor to Ridley Scott for the film Gladiator). Dr. Coleman was kind enough to give me access to all of the off-prints and resources I requested, which was generous in the extreme. I made the hero of Chasing the Lion left-handed as a tribute to her and her work to preserve and deepen our understanding of gladiatorial history.

What are the top 3 historical time periods and locations you would like to visit?

The Flavian Amphitheater, known today as the Colosseum, in Rome. But not in the first century, that’s for sure. At that time Christians were being persecuted like ISIS is doing now in Egypt and the Middle East. Visiting Rome and standing in the Colosseum is at the top of my bucket list.

I’d also like to visit the Old West in the late 1800’s. California during the gold rush or Oregon in the height of the wagon train days.

Susan, I tried really hard (for about ten minutes) to come up with a third one, but that’s pretty much it—Rome and the Old West. That says so much about me, LOL.

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

The Odyssey by Homer (which my all-time favorite movie ever, Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Is based on), Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, War and Peace, Moby Dick, The Diary of Anne Frank, any Larry McMurtrey novel, Ovid’s Sorrows (which he wrote after being banished from Rome), and Pliney the Elder’s Natural History. Although sharing that makes me feel someone is going to appear out of thin air and revoke my author card, so great question, Susan!

KimballChasingTheLionBook blurb for Chasing the Lion:

From the blood-soaked sand of the Roman arena, a divine destiny will rise.

For as long as Jonathan Tarquinius can remember, everyone has wanted something from him.

His half brother wants him dead. His master’s wife wants his innocence. The gladiator dealers want him to fight—and die—for their greed. Rome’s most famous prostitute wants his love. And the gentle slave girl who tends the wounds on his body and the hidden ones on his soul longs for him to return to his faith.

What Jonathan wants is simple. Freedom.

But God wants something from Jonathan too—something more than anyone would ever imagine. The young warrior’s journey will push him to the limits of human endurance and teach him that true freedom is found within. The greatest battle Jonathan must ever fight will not come in the arena, but deep within himself as he is forced to choose between vengeance and mercy—with the fate of an empire and the life of the woman he loves hanging in the balance.

Places to find Nancy Kimball

Goodreads

Website

Amazon

Interview: Louise Turner, Author of Fire and Sword

TurnerFireAndSwordEveryone, please welcome Louise Turner, author of the historical fiction novel Fire and Sword, which is set in the 15th century Scotland. Today we chat about Star Wars, archaeology, engineers, embarrassing moments, and much more! Make sure to check out the book blog tour hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Tours for reviews, giveaways, and more!

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

Oh, that’s a tough one… I’m lucky, I think, in that if really I love a movie or a book or a TV series, I can leave it for a while then go back fresh so it feels like I’m watching it for the first time all over again. But if you wanted me to pick just one, it would have to be Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. When I first saw Star Wars, I was nine years old, too young to appreciate the fact that movies just weren’t made like that, and that its opening sequence was utterly ground-breaking. Years later, watching Jurassic Park gave me a taster of what it would have been like: as I watched the small dinosaurs ‘flock’ past the actors with a tyrannosaurus in hot pursuit, I knew then that I was watching something completely new, a film that was really pushing the boundaries of cinematic technology.

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?

There’s a simple rule. If it clutters up the plot, it ends up on the cutting room floor. But if it’s important, it stays in. For that reason, the travel tends to be abandoned, unless something crucial happens in that time. The toilet breaks? I’ve included one or two! As for the swearing… I leave it in as required, but don’t go overboard for it, partly because I don’t think modern readers appreciate it (I don’t), and partly because once again it slows down and dilutes the dialogue. And I don’t like that.

Whether I perfectly reflect the reality of the past by doing this is, however, an interesting question. There’s a form of combative poetry called ‘flyting’ which was popular at the court of James IV, where the poets tried to fling as many swear words at each other as they could. Did this represent everyday life, or was it something extraordinary? My high-born characters only swear at moments of extreme stress – they would point out that swearing is a mark of someone who has lost control of the situation, and they really wouldn’t want to be seen in such a position of weakness.

What biographies of the creators of your favorite genres do you want to read? Are there lesser known creators that still need a biography?

I don’t really read much in the way of biographies, the only exceptions being those of important historical figures or early antiquarians/archaeologists. Biographies of modern writers and film makers leave me cold… One exception has been Hilary Mantel’s autobiographical memoir Giving up the Ghost which I found fascinating.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been reading a number of ‘classic’ works of historical fiction by the likes of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve been finding the prefaces increasingly interesting. – sometimes written by the authors themselves, sometimes written by academics, they offer a refreshing reminder that the experiences of these writers who worked way back in the 1800s weren’t entirely dissimilar from those of us who are pursuing this vocation today.

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

The list is endless. The importance of background research in recreating a convincing past world cannot be under-estimated. But the books which influenced me most during the writing of Fire & Sword were Norman MacDougall’s James IV, Jenny Wormald’s Court, Kirk and Community: Scotland 1470-1625, and Henrietta Leyser’s Medieval Women, with Stephen Boardman’s Ph.D. thesis on The Politics of the Feud in Late Medieval Scotland also meriting a Very Honourable Mention.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Intellectually, I’ve been shaped by so-called ‘post-processualist’ school of archaeology which formed the basis of my studies at university. This was influenced in turn by the sociology of Giddens and Bourdieu. I think the best way of describing this way of thinking is to take the view that, rather than seeing individuals as shaped by the physical and cultural environment in which they live, they are both constrained by this environment, while at the same time able to challenge its parameters and in due course transform this environment (again, in both the physical and the cultural sense). This thinking has been vital to the way in which I approach historical fiction – my characters are constrained by events, while at the same time, they do their best to actively influence these events and alter circumstances to their benefit. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t – the end result should mirror what actually happened in history.

But I suppose that overall my greatest influence has to have been my mother. She was an avid reader, a fan of science fiction and historical fiction, and also an extremely busy woman – she had a full time job as a Head of Department in Modern Languages at a comprehensive school, as well as being actively involved in numerous choirs and amateur operatic societies until her hectic schedule was cruelly curtailed by multiple schlerosis. She read and critiqued a very early draft of Fire & Sword but sadly passed away before it achieved publication – I’m sure she’d have been over the moon to hold it in her hand as a proper, published book.

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

A couple of years ago, my answer would have been very different, because these days I’m doing well at playing ‘catch-up!’

During the last few years I’ve read Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, Suetonius’ Twelve Caesers, and Thomas More’s Utopia, so I’m not as hopelessly ill-read as I was! But I need to read more of the (translated!!) Greek and Roman classics by the like of Plutarch and Xenephon, and closer to home, I really must read Bower’s Scotichronicon….

Please don’t be too impressed by this learned list – I can’t read any of them in Latin or Greek, or even in Middle Scots…

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

Ah, what a question!

I think I’d opt for a round of claret (or equivalent) with the following historical personages: let’s have mathematician and philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria for starters (hoorah for the philosophical sisterhood!), then add King James IV of Scots and Scots-born engineer Thomas Telford to the mix for good measure (Tam Telford did a spot of archaeology at Wroxeter in Shropshire once upon a time, which makes him an even more appropriate choice). I’m going to include archaeologist Harriet Boyd Hawes to the group, then for my final choice I’ll include John, 1st Lord Sempill (John Sempill of Ellestoun, featured in my novel), because I think he’d really enjoy the discussion and debate.

James IV would probably steal the show, flirting with Hypatia and discussing engineering with Thomas Telford (who would no doubt offer, for a healthy fee, to redesign the entire roads network of mainland Scotland and build King James a fine set of naval dockyards and canals for good measure), while Harriet Boyd Hawes and myself could talk archaeology and watch chaos unfold all around us…

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?

Eek! Time for an embarrassing confession…

Okay, I think this is best described as an anti-fangirl moment, for reasons which will become clear in a moment. Way back in the late 1980s, I was awarded first prize in the Glasgow Herald New Writing in Science Fiction short story competition for a story I wrote called Busman’s Holiday. The prize was presented on my 20th birthday, by a woman science fiction writer I’d never heard of called C J Cherryh.

It was only afterwards that I gave Ms Cherryh’s books a try. And I was hooked. Seriously hooked. I thought her science fiction was awesome, and yes, I don’t deny it. In the end, reading her work influenced the way I approached my writing, and in particular the way I write historical fiction.

I still have a photo that was taken that night – to this day, I don’t know whether to be terribly excited or terribly proud, or terribly ashamed about the events of that evening. Because she congratulated me! She toasted my success!! And I didn’t even have any clue about just how amazing that was until much, much later in my life.

There. Is that awkward enough for you??? I’m cringing at the recollection even now…

Places to Stalk Louise Turner

Website

Goodreads

Interview: T. Jackson King, Author of the Vigilante Series

T. Jackson King AuthorEveryone, please welcome T. Jackson King, an author I have had the pleasure of listening to at Bubonicon 45 (Albuquerque’s yearly scifi convention). Today we chat about some classics (The Odyssey, Kipling’s Kim, Dr. Jekyll, etc.), the dangers of unicorns, comics, and Wicca beliefs. Plus a whole lot more. So 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?

Star Trek the Original of course! I loved its first TV run. I spent the decade of the 60s following the US space program of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, with the landing on the Moon, and was truly hoping that by –now-, 50 years later, we would have bases on the Moon and a full size colony on Mars with ships exploring Jupiter, Saturn and even distant Pluto. Which I still count as a planet! In books, I would love to re-read as “new” the KIM novel of Rudyard Kipling, which I first read in junior high school. It introduced me to the idea of a Land with multiple cultures, peoples and beliefs, a theme I have pursued in my Alien-dominated galactic adventure novels!

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The ancient Viking beast Beowulf, who struck me as the essence of the Outsider, the Loner, the person Too Different to be tolerated by everyone else. Since I’ve felt like an outsider most of my life, yup, Beowulf would be fun to meet in the wild as we toasted rabbits over hot coals. As for avoiding a fantastic beast, well, I think it would be the Unicorn. Seems to me a horse with a pointed horn that long is meant to do one thing only—impale. I object to being impaled by something painful.

KingAnarchateVigilanteConventions, 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?

Self-promotion is how we devoted writers meet New Readers and reward Loyal Readers. That includes in person book autographing, meeting folks at conventions, and chatting with them online on one of the Amazon threads that I spend too much time on! I most enjoy going to sci-fi conventions and doing book signings. I have yet to start a blog cause . . . it does not appeal. But I love the hunt for great artwork to use as cover art for my Indy published science fiction novels! Since I’ve read sci-fi since fourth grade, I love it and know what kind of artwork appeals to most SF readers. And there are fine pieces of original art with space themes that a writer/publisher can now license to use for cover art, at a very low cost. The cover art for my newest novel, ANARCHATE VIGILANTE, was done by a Spanish artist living in Madrid. I give his artwork credit on the copyright page.

As for least popular parts of self-promotion, it is the assumption by a few online people that folks who produce their own ebook novels for sale on Amazon are ‘not pros’ or are ‘all miserable amateurs’. Not me. I’ve been writing professionally for 26 years since 1988, when Warner Books issued my first novel RETREAD SHOP. I’ve been writing short stories and novels ever since. While there are plenty of amateur ebooks out there, as a reader I know that other readers will leave Reviews that alert browsing readers to an ebook’s deficiencies. And will compliment an author on a well done novel.

KingRetreadShopWhat 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?

Well, I would love to see a board game with that comic book magician guy Dr. Strange. I read lots of issues with him as the lead character and loved how he related magical and mystical stuff to the real world. His casting of spells was just great! Since then I’ve learned more about true ‘magical events’ by studying Wiccan beliefs. It is the Wiccan belief in Mother Earth having an internal ‘energy’ force that is the basis for the contemporary magic that I use in my post-apocalyptic novel THE GAEAN ENCHANTMENT. Gaean Earth Magic is a big deal in that novel. And I loved writing it.

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

Well, I have not read the ODYSSEY by Homer. Did read the ILLIAD. Both books are long shaman-like retellings of the adventures of gods, goddesses and mortals. Ancient Greek mythology, along with some Japanese, Chinese and Hindu mythology, have informed my use of such characters in some of my short stories and novels. My epic novel GALACTIC AVATAR is a mix of hard scifi with mythic archetypes that melds together Joseph Campbell-like gods and goddesses with the last 16 human survivors of Earth’s destruction as the humans realize they are also the “avatars” of those ancient gods and goddesses “in the flesh”. Had great fun writing that novel. Another ancient book that I have in my library, but not yet read, is the first Japanese novel by a courtesan lady of the imperial court. I gotta read it before the end of the year!

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

I think it allows readers to do what people always do—hunt around for stuff that rewards their effort in reading! And yes, while most of my novels are science fiction, I think several of them fit the Action Adventure and Spy Thriller categories, albeit set in the far future. As for my reading zones, they have indeed been expanded. I like reading about dragons in fantasy, like JD Hallowell’s novel DRAGON FATE. I also enjoy some horror, like a very short story I read recently titled “Feeding” by Elizabeth VanZwoll. She penned a very fine story that is under 1,000 words. But ancient history reading and sci-fi reading are my two primary zones of reading enjoyment!

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

Well, the Hyde side of the split personality Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is pretty awesome. He is a very very misunderstood villain. In my opinion! And Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a fine novella staring the two of them!

Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Well, Superman in his various comic book incarnations has been a long favorite of mine. Read the original novel from the 1930s that gave rise to him and liked it. Batman and Robin are pretty decent superhero duos, tho most of their actions are well within the realm of normal physics.

CrispinKingAncestor'sWorldOften various historical aspects (people, locations, events) are used in fantasy and sometimes rehashed in a far-flung future. Are there examples of such historical aspects being used well in the SF/F genres? Examples of what didn’t work for you?

Well, yes, I myself have used ancient Egypt’s River Nile as the basis of a story in my novel ANCESTOR’S WORLD, while other writers past and present have done the same. I really like author Steve White’s use of ancient Mycenae and Crete, along with the real conflict between the Minoans and the Myceneans, in several Baen Books sci-fi adventures. As for poorly used examples, I would cite the use of Atlantis as culture and location in many “popular adventure” novels set in the present day, all of which paint a too simplistic picture of Bronze Age culture and humans. IMO.

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

Ah, a hard question! Well, I would invite Dr. Strange, Ironman, Odysseus himself, Beowulf the critter and Charon the Ancient who conveys dead people along the River Styx to their final abode in the Underworld. Bet Charon would have loads of neat stories to share! Course, I would have to have bowls for the weak Greek wine, pitchers of honey mead and high dose caffeine for other folks to enjoy as we spent a few hours outdoors under the spreading limbs of an ancient oak tree.

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?

Have not had any fanperson moments yet. I guess my brief chat with Robert Silverberg 15 years ago at a SFWA members-only event during a con might qualify for me feeling geekish and gushing.

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

I will be attending two science fiction conventions this year. They are Balticon 48 in Baltimore, Maryland, from May 23-26, and Bubonicon 46 from August 1-3 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Love to meet readers of all genres!

Places to Stalk T. Jackson King

Amazon

Website / Blog

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter

Interview: Michael Meyerhofer, Author of Wytchfire

MichaelMeyerhoferAuthorEveryone, please welcome the author of Wytchfire to the blog today, Michael Meyehofer. We’re going to chat about poetry, ways to burn down a city under siege, the Star Wars Holiday Special, a college course in SFF literature, sidekicks, along with a lot more! Prepare to be entertained!

What are your non-writer influences?

Being an unapologetic addict to the History Channel (Ancient Aliens notwithstanding), I get a lot of inspiration from documentaries. I’m fascinated by ancient and religious history, and of course ancient military history, and I try to weave those elements into my stories whenever I can. One small example: in The Knight of the Crane, the forthcoming sequel to Wytchfire, I needed a quick way for one of my more loathsome antagonist-generals to take down a well-fortified city. I recalled a documentary that mentioned how someone (I think it was Olga of Kiev) conquered a hostile town by capturing birds, tying burning twigs to their claws, and setting them free to spread the blaze around the rooftops of the town. I thought it was a fascinating, if macabre, story (those poor birds!) and decided to incorporate something similar into my book. I also tried to incorporate a lot of my nerdy interest in the history of the samurai and medieval European knighthood.

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

Ha, I’ve always wanted to sit down and read Paradise Lost but to this day, I still haven’t gotten around to it. I’m really fascinated by different religious texts (especially the Epic of Gilgamesh). Not sure if this counts because I technically read them piecemeal in college, but I’ve always wanted to go back and spend some time with The Odyssey and The Iliad, too.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

Not to state the obvious but pretty much all of George R. R. Martin’s villains are chillingly awesome—I think because they’re so complex, never quite completely evil. In that same vein, I’m also really partial to Tolkien’s Boromir, Lloyd Alexander’s Ellidyr, and Raistlin from the Dragonlance books.

Often various historical aspects (people, locations, events) are used in fantasy and sometimes rehashed in a far-flung future. Are there examples of such historical aspects being used well in the SF/F genre? Examples of what didn’t work for you?

Not to sound like a broken record but GRRM is another great go-to for this. His rugged, realistic depictions of realistic, messy warfare seem heavily influenced by medieval history and political intrigue. I think Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books pull that off, too. Here are a couple more examples relating to warfare, since we’re already on that topic. As I mentioned earlier, I’m also a big fan of how Raymond Feist handles his battles (and even more so, the preparation for battle). There’s also the obvious example of how JRR Tolkien’s experiences with trench warfare affected his depictions of battle in his Lord of the Rings books, not to mention how Kurt Vonnegut’s experiences informed Slaughterhouse-Five and his other works.

There are plenty of examples of historical stuff woven into stories besides those involving warfare, though. I was recently impressed by the way Deborah Harkness uses her background as an academic to weave historical elements into A Discovery of Witches. I also love the echoes of “western” philosophy and “eastern” religion that frequently pop up in SFF, plus how the social and political strife in SFF worlds often mirror the social and cultural revolutions we’ve experienced throughout our country’s own relatively short history. Frank Herbert’s Dune books and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series are a couple examples. In terms of what doesn’t work for me, though, I don’t have specific examples so much as a general complaint. I find that I’m not all that interested in stories that propagate rather silly historical misconceptions. For instance, the Knighthood in my Dragonkin Trilogy is heavily inspired by the samurai, but I tried to steer clear of silly stereotypes that the samurai were always honorable, undefeatable paragons of virtue. I think that, like medieval European knights, they could be as terrible and repressive as they could be honorable and selfless.

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

I’m a sucker for pretty much any dark re-imagining of fairy tales, ever since Anne Sexton did that in her poetry. I picked up My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me the other day and I’m already halfway through it, really digging the premise! Also maybe it’s just the English prof in me but I can’t help thinking that virtually all the stories we see today can in some way be traced back to Shakespeare (of which there have been plenty of excellent and awful adaptations, by the way). That’s not a bad thing, though, since probably all the basic story elements in Shakespeare’s plays can be traced back even earlier, maybe to Homer. And his stories echo even earlier myths, back and back, to cave-shadowed campfires near heaps of charred animal bones. Even back then, I think humans had the same basic fears, desires, and curiosities (but significantly less literacy and way more body hair).

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?

There’s no denying the fact that self-promotion is as challenging as it is essential—especially with so many other fine, hard-working authors clamoring to get noticed! You need to write countless blog and forum posts, plus maintain very active Facebook and Twitter accounts, and maybe even more importantly, you can’t just promote your own work! Especially with so many books coming out all the time, readers don’t just want to hear from someone who pops in once a year to announce a book release, then disappears. They want authors who are also active members of the community. And it has to be genuine because readers are smart and they’ll see through insincerity pretty quickly. In other words, an author also has to prove that they’re a voracious reader, that he or she loves the genre they’re writing in, that they’re as willing and eager to talk shop and promote other writers they admire. Oh, and authors need to do all this while still finding time to write and revise three, four, even five-hundred-page manuscripts.

That’s all pretty daunting, sure, but I don’t mind. Actually, I like it because it’s worthwhile. Whoever said that it should be easy? I’d add that I first came to publishing as a contemporary poet, and poetry has an even smaller audience than SFF! So that made me more respectful of what it takes to “make it,” and even more grateful and humbled when I find a reader willing to give my work a chance, or a fellow author willing to promote my work aside her or his own.

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

I’d love to sit in a big smoky hall and hoist a mug on Durin’s Day (the Tolkien Dwarfish equivalent of New Years Day). Whacking Day from The Simpsons would be cool, provided the snakes are unquestionably eeeevil! I’m also tempted to add Life Day from the Star Wars Holiday Special, though I’m not quite sure I can bring myself to do it.

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

Oh, I was the poster child for shyness and over-sensitivity! I recall spending whole days sitting with a book—sometimes because I was lost in a story, other times because I was afraid to go outside and face bullying for birth defects (a malformed right ear and a bad limp, which seemed like the end of the world back then). Eventually, though, overcoming this gave me extra ambition and some extra perspective that I could weave into my own writing.

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

Li Po – hot and sour soup and a salmon bagel. Walt Whitman – a big plate of hot wings. D. H. Lawrence – mead and a turkey leg. Emily Dickinson – a Cinnabon. Raymond Carver – straight whiskey, probably.

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

Oh, that’s a tough one! I know there’s some disagreement as to whether or not this constitutes SF but Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five would be high on my list. I already mentioned George R. R. Martin earlier, though I’d probably start with The Tales of Dunk and Egg, his Song of Ice and Fire prequels. I’m also partial to the character development (particularly for Erik Von Darkmoor) and the realism in Shadow of a Dark Queen, the first book in Raymond Feist’s Serpentwar Saga. Of course, there’s Arthur Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (though I’m maybe a bit more partial to Childhood’s End). I’d also need Madeleine L’Engle, J.K. Rowling, and Philip Dick in there somewhere, too, though I’d have a terrible time picking one of their books over another.

KnaakReaversBloodSeaCare 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?

What, me be awkward?! Ha, actually, I’d have a hard time coming up with an instance when I met a writer (novelist or poet) that I really admired and I wasn’t kind of a dork about it! I tend to get really, really excited when I read something I like. In fact, I have kind of a strange rule that if I come across a book that blows me away (or a short story or a poem, for that matter), I make an effort to contact the author and let them know. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few readers do that for me and let me tell you, that kind of thing makes it all worthwhile.

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?

While part of me has a soft spot for minimalism, I also love the epic feel of pretty much every cover made for Richard Knaak’s books. And I’m still jealous of the cover of Raising Chaos by fellow Red Adept author, Elizabeth Corrigan!

CorriganRaisingChaosWhat do you do when you are not writing?

I’m really into exercise, especially weightlifting. Like I said, I love documentaries. And video games. And, of course, reading.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works (books, movies, plays, etc.)?

Oh, I have a soft spot for side characters! I absolutely love Tolkien’s Faramir, Lloyd Alexander’s Prince Rhun, GRRM’s Davos Seaworth, Terry Brooks’ Garet Jax, and Margaret Weiss and Tricky Hickman’s Hugh the Hand.

You are also a poet, and as such, what works would you recommend for a science fiction, fantasy reader?

I like poets who know how to tell engaging stories with humor and cool imagery, but without pretension. Luckily, there are plenty who can do just that! Here are just a few of my contemporary favorites: Dorianne Laux, Sharon Olds, Yusef Komunyakaa, Stephen Dobyns, Allison Joseph, Justin Hamm, Norman Minnick, Peter Davis, George Bilgere, Djelloul Marbrook, Travis Mossotti, and Tony Hoagland. For poets technically no longer listed among the living, some of my favorites are Walt Whitman, James Wright, Li Po, Emily Dickinson, D.H. Lawrence, Basho, Issa, Chiyo-ni, Wallace Stevens, and Ai.

Places to Find Michael Meyerhofer

Website

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K2DPJ60

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wytchfire-michael-meyerhofer/1119392198?ean=2940149291106

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/wytchfire-3

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20935130-wytchfire

Book Page on RAP: http://redadeptpublishing.com/wytchfire/

Author page on RAP:  http://redadeptpublishing.com/michael-meyerhofer/

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Interview: David Litwack, Author of Along the Watchtower

LitwackAlongWatchtowerMy fellow bibliophiles, please welcome David Litwack to the blog today. We shall chat about the secret lives of linguistics professors, Homer’s Odyssey, The Life of Pi, and how no celebration is complete without bread pudding. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway at the end of the post!

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?

Even in reality, we all face extraordinary circumstances, albeit a small number of times in our lives. These times are periods of high stress, when our mettle is most tested and our emotions most intense. Readers read to get that emotional high vicariously, without real life risks (e.g. facing death. If the character dies, the reader gets to close the book and go on with their life). While the mundane minutia of life still goes on during such times, it’s not what interests the reader. Lots of detail is fine, but only if it adds depth to the action.

What biographies of the creators of your favorite genres do you want to read? Are there lesser known creators that still need a biography?

I’m fascinated by Tolkien’s real life. The richly detailed world he created couldn’t have come out of nowhere. It’s hard to imagine the mundane life of an Oxford linguistics professor could have spawned the intensity of The Lord of The Rings. Did his sense of Mordor come from his time in the trenches in World War I? From the loss of his parents at a young age? Unfortunately, while he left us a wealth of fiction, we know little about his inner life. Biographies of Tolkien tell an external story. I’d love to know what went on inside the mind of a writer who could create such an enduring and epic tale.

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

Along the Watchtower portrays two fictional worlds—the world of a recovering veteran in a VA hospital and the fantasy world of his dreams. For the fantasy world, I played many hours of World of Warcraft to get a feel for “living in the game.” I also read a number of academic texts on the mindset of gaming and why it’s so popular.

To better understand post-traumatic stress, one of the best books I read was Achilles in Vietnam. The author, a noted PTS therapist, juxtaposes dialog from his patients during their sessions with text from Homer’s Odyssey, showing the stress of war on soldiers across the millennia. That juxtaposition helped me create the fantasy world of a prince who suffers from war trauma as must as our vets today.

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?

Some readers still stick to their genre, despite ebooks. Maybe that’s a relic of bookstores, where books are shelved together by genre. Or maybe it’s a lack of risk taking. To me, after a while, books of a single pure genre start to feel the same.

I prefer books that cross genre boundaries and are less predictable. The best literature defies genre. I hope as the book store mindset fades, readers will take the chance and explore more outside their comfort zone.

LitwackThereComesAProphetIn 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 was taught that a villain should be the hero of his own story. A villain who does evil just because he’s a bad guy doesn’t interest me. I like a villain who is doing what he believes to be right, even though it may cause irreparable harm to others. A good example is the arch vicar in my first novel, There Comes a Prophet. He believes in his heart that progress and innovation have been the leading cause of evil throughout history. He dedicates his life to avoiding a repeat of ancient wars by suppressing that most human trait—the desire to fulfill one’s potential.

Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? One that didn’t work for you?

I was surprised that the movie of The Life of Pi was so well done. Most of the book takes place in the mind of the main character. I had my doubts it would transfer well to film, but thought the movie was great. Ender’s Game, which is one of my favorite sci-fi books, was not so fortunate. While generally true to the story, its inability to live inside the main character’s head crippled the impact of events, leaving mostly special effects.

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?

Most writers are private people and not self-promoters by nature, making marketing feel awkward. I find it takes a lot of time, and I’m always fighting my sense of discomfort. On the positive side, I like connecting with readers in a way that wasn’t possible before. When I do an interview like this, or write a blog post, and someone comments in a way that shows I’ve touched them—that’s very rewarding

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

Dinner with my wife and friends. A good bottle of wine. Bread pudding for dessert.

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

When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor for no other reason than I had an aunt who insisted I be a doctor. Around twelve, I found out what doctors do. I’m on the squeamish side about blood and stuff, so I changed my mind. And my eventual career in software did not yet exist at that time. The writing bug didn’t strike me until I was sixteen. The editor of a newsletter at a summer youth encampment—a girl with striking blue eyes—recruited me to write an article. The next morning I saw it in print with my byline, and I was hooked.

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?

I know that cover art is important, and I spend a lot of time for each book trying to get it right. But for myself, the cover is the tip of the iceberg. I never buy a book without reading a few good and bad reviews, the blurb, and however far Amazon’s ‘look inside’ lets me go. If the description doesn’t strike me, or if the writing style turns me off, I won’t buy the book.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Read, go for long walks, bicycle, travel, play golf…badly.

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

My third novel, The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, just came out. It’s an alternate world story about a world divided between the Blessed Lands, a place of the spirit, and the Republic, whose people worship at the altar of reason. A mysterious nine-year-old girl from the Blessed Lands sails into the lives of a troubled couple in the Republic and changes everyone she meets. She reveals nothing about herself, other than to say she’s the daughter of the sea and the sky. But she harbors a secret wound she herself can’t heal.

My latest worked is a sequel to There Comes a Prophet. I hadn’t planned on writing a sequel, but the characters, Orah and Nathaniel, kept nagging me to finish their story. Now, I plan on making it a trilogy.

Places to Find David Litwack

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Newsletter
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