Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Mary Turzillo, Author of Mars Girls

Join me in welcoming Mary Turzillo to the blog! Apex Magazine has put together this lovely blog tour to celebrate Mary’s newest book, Mars Girls. Learn about science fiction poetry and Mary’s involvement in fencing! Make sure you check out the giveaway at the bottom of the post to see how to win an ebook copy of this science fiction novel.

If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

I’m going to be very unoriginal here. I wish Darth could change back into Anakin, through time travel, I suppose, to be reunited and reconciled with Padme, then rejoice in the birth of Luke and Leia. But the Star Wars universe so far has not included time-reversal, so I guess that’s out. Oh well.

The public library of your dreams has arrived! What special collections does it hold?

All the old pulps. All the Ace Doubles. Oh, wait! It ALREADY exists: The Judith Merril Collection, in Toronto! It’s a great institution, run by fabulous librarians. If you are ever in Toronto, don’t miss it. And there’s a great poutine restaurant nearby.

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

Oh, that’s an easy one. Star Wars. It was so fresh when it first came to the screen, so epic. And I’d like to see it without knowing what happened to all the actors later on, because some of that is so sad. I really felt there were more imaginative leaps in the first Star Wars movies than in any previous science fiction movie. The vehicles, the aliens, the bots — any single one of them you could find models for in previous movies, or at least some original thinking. But Star Wars just piled on the neat stuff, scene after scene. And the other thing was a beautiful, very young woman acting as a warrior and a hero. Then more of the same as the series developed.

I also would like to see Scanners and the original The Thing and maybe the original (?) Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A little dark, I know. I do love Donald Sutherland’s work.

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

I hated and loved teaching at Trumbull campus of Kent State. A few of my students were difficult; one class of nursing students tried unrelentingly to drive me from the classroom. They left a preserved pig’s ear on my lectern. They hazed the best student in the class. They shoved a cake in my face. I had a student who wrote themes that were thinly disguised death threats — meaning, my death.

But I was heavily involved with art and theatre students, and they were so inventive and so eager to learn and create, that I am still friends with many of them years later. Some of them have become published authors. Some are college profs, following in my footsteps. I created costumes for Shakespeare shows that they were in. I coached them on lines. I was even in shows with them, playing a witch in Macbeth and Richard III’s mother.

One of my favorite memories: In my office one afternoon, suddenly a human body with an elephant head appeared in the open door. It was one of my Shakespeare I students, just finished with his prosthetics project from his Theatrical makeup class. A few minutes later, the victim of a horrible accident appeared. Blood all over, broken nose, black eye, missing teeth. Another of my student’s prosthetic makeup projects. Later, a green alien, with huge bulging eyes and tentacles sprouting from his bald head. Same deal. A Cthulhu head. An ancient old lady. They each challenged me to identify them, and I could only match my students’ names to about half of them. That was before I had an iPhone, or I’d share pictures. If only!

Those were the kids I loved, the best students in the whole world. The best people.

I loved the non-theatre students, too. They were original, creative, full of spirit and hope. I still know many of them as friends.

You are stuck in space in dire straights. Which science fiction authors would you want with you?

My husband, Geoff Landis, for obvious reasons. But then I’d choose an additional crewmate with an engineering background, like Arlan Andrews, Vernor Vinge, or Arthur C. Clarke. Of Course I’d want a physician, and so I’d choose F. Paul Wilson and Janet Asimov, with Robin Cook for second and third opinions, in case I had a space-related injury. Octavia Butler, because she could think her way out of anything. I wish she was still with us! Joan Slonczewski in case we needed a little genetic engineering done.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in Science Fiction & Fantasy poetry, what works would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

Wow, if only! It would need to contain be an enormous number of poems, so let me just sketch out my brainstorming for this fantasy course.

First Unit: Roots: I’d want poems from Shakespeare (selected passages from The Tempest) and maybe some passages from Dante and Milton, for perspective. Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, of course. A smattering of Poe. These would be early in the course, as teasers, because they would be beautiful and draw students in.

Second Unit: Theory: I’d direct students to follow sfpoetry.com. Essay readings would be assigned, particularly Suzette Haden Elgin’s The Science Fiction Poetry Handbook. I think there exists an essay called “Why Speculative Poetry Matters,” but I can’t find it right now.

Third Unit: An Explosion of New Masters Mid Twentieth Century: The next part of the course would be devoted to landmark spec poetry: I’d assign several anthologies, especially Edward Lucie-Smith’s Holding Your Eight Hands: an Anthology of Science Fiction Verse (1969) and Robert Frazier’s Burning with a Vision: Poetry of Science and the Fantastic (1984).

Fourth Unit: Twentieth Century Master: Contemporary Masters: Here I’d pile on Ray Bradbury’s When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, with special attention to “If We Had Only Taller Been.” Then there would be slim volumes by Roger Zelazny, parts of Creatures of Light and Darkness, plus To Spin is Miracle Cat and “When Pussywillows Last in the Catyard Bloomed.” Next, Ursula Le Guin, not sure which volume, maybe New and Selected Poems.

Fifth Unit: Masters of the Last Thirty Years: I’d create an anthology of all the Rhysling winners. This would be quite a task, because I’d a) have to locate the authors or their literary estates and b) wrangle permission to reprint. So I might just do a Samizdat printing, or have students read the poems from the SFPpoetry website. (I won a 2nd one time, but it’s not up there, because they started listing them after my winning.) I’d also include Bruce Boston’s retrospective, Dark Roads; at least one collection by Jane Yolen; David Kopaska-Merkel’s The Memory of Persistence, Geoff Landis’s Iron Angels, F.J. Bergmann’s Constellation of the Dragonfly, David Cowen’s The Madness of Empty Spaces, one of Mary Soon Lee’s extraordinary Crowned series, and Marge Simon’s Unearthly Delights.

Plus poems by Ann Schwader, Kendall Evans, Suzette Haden Elgin, Bryan Thao Worra, Mike Allen, Deborah P. Kolodji, Sandra Lindow, Gary William Crawford, Josh Gage, Mari Ness, Rachel Pollack, John Amen, Lucy Snyder, J.E. Stanley, G.O.Clark, Tim Esaias, Scott Green, Robert Borsky, Denise Dumars, Bryan D. Dietrich, Linda D. Addison, Sandra Kasturi, David Clink, Stephanie Wytovich, Herb Kauderer, and Alessandro Manzetti.

Out of pure egotism, I would offer free copies of my own books, Lovers & Killers (Dark Regions, 2012) and Your Cat & Other Space Aliens (Van Zeno, 2007) as prizes for the best essays about some other poet.

I’d have a few words about SciFaiku, plus poets outside the spec fic community who write speculative and may not even know it: Billy Collins, Lola Haskins.

I’d alas not be able to do much with non-English-speaking poets —

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

I told Roger Zelazny I wanted to BE him. Roger was fundamentally very reserved, and just kind of froze in horror.

I also fed Algis Budrys an absolutely inedible meal at my house — burned to charcoal. And suggested he should watch his diet and stress level.

Another awkward moment was when I was at a Writer of the Future event and my boyfriend asked Larry Niven what he did for a living. This boyfriend soon became my ex-boyfriend. (Of course that was also because I took him to a Warren Zevon concert and he made fun of the drummer’s hairdo.)

Competitive fencing has been a part of your life. How did you get into it? How long have you been fencing?

I always wanted to fence. Swords, don’t all geeks love them? My departed son collected historical replica swords, so I feel a connection with him when I fence. My husband and I have been fencing for over five years and by pure luck I represented the US in Veteran’s (meaning over 40) Women’s Foil in Germany last year.

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

The whole debate about “mainstream” (meaning literary realism) versus speculative fiction. I hope we’ve finally put that puppy in the grave.

Of course now the big debate is that some factions (white hetero males) think there’s too much emphasis on social justic themes in fiction by women and minorities. It makes my head ache.

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

Margaret Wise Brown’s The Golden Egg Book. The illustrations are so very Miyasaki-like, so pretty, in my memory. The second book I read was Clare Turlay Newberry’s April’s Kittens, a story about a girl who loves her cats, but has to choose between the mother cat and her kitten.

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

I’ll be at Worldcon in Finland (if we ever make our plane rez). I’m trying to arrange some signings for Mars Girls. I’m in the process of arranging some bookstore signings. Check Facebook (I make all my posts public, so you don’t have to go through the whole “friend” chore.) and I have an Amazon Author Page.

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Book Blurb for Mars Girls:

Nanoannie is bored. She wants to go to clubs, wear the latest Earth fashions, and dance with nuke guys. But her life is not exciting. She lives on her family’s Pharm with her parents, little sister, and a holo-cat named Fuzzbutt. The closest she gets to clubs are on the Marsnet. And her parents are pressuring her to sign her contract over to Utopia Limited Corp before she’s even had a chance to live a litte. When Kapera—a friend from online school—shows up at her Pharm asking for help, Nanoannie is quick to jump in the roer and take off. Finally an adventure!

What Nanoannie and Kapera find at the Smythe’s Pharm is more than the girls bargained for. The hab has been trashed and there are dead bodies buried in the backyard! If that wasn’t bad enough, the girls crash the rover and Kapera gets kidnapped by Facers who claim her parents are murderers! Between Renegade Nuns, Facers, and corp geeks, Nanoannie and Kapera don’t know who to trust or where to go. Kapera only wants to find her parents so they can get to Earth Orbitals and she can be treated for her leukemia. Nanoannie wants to help her friend and experience a little bit of Mars before selling her contract to the first corp that offers to buy it.

Life isn’t easy when you’re just a couple of Mars Girls.

Author Bio

Mary Turzillo’s 1999 Nebula-winner,”Mars Is no Place for Children” and her Analog novel, AN OLD-FASHIONED MARTIAN GIRL, are read on the International Space Station. Her poetry collection, LOVERS & KILLERS, won the 2013 Elgin Award.  She has been a finalist on the British Science Fiction Association, Pushcart, Stoker, Dwarf Stars and Rhysling ballots.   SWEET POISON, her Dark Renaissance collaboration with Marge Simon, was a Stoker finalist and won the 2015 Elgin Award.   She’s working on a novel, A MARS CAT & HIS BOY, and another collaboration with Marge Simon, SATAN’S SWEETHEARTS. Her novel MARS GIRLS is forthcoming from Apex.   She lives in Ohio, with her scientist-writer husband, Geoffrey Landis, both of whom fence internationally.

Geoff and Mary ponder the question: what would it be like to fence in zero-G? and: What about if we were cats fencing in zero-G?

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GIVEAWAY!!!

Apex is giving away 1 ebook copy of Mars Girls, open world wide. Just do the Rafflecopter thing below. Ends June 17, 2017, midnight.

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Book Giveaway & Interview: Josh Gagnier, Author of The Demon Within

Everyone, please welcome Josh Gagnier to the blog today! If you want to find out about the GIVEAWAY, then scroll to the bottom.

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

The Big Bang Theory!

As far as what I would do…The show How I Met Your Mother has a background scene that goes through a couple meeting, to having a child graduate college, to one of them dying. I think it was to hyperbolize how long the group was making Canada jokes over the years.

Having a scene like that behind a Sheldon Cooper monologue would be funny.

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?

Absolutely.

One word answers are great, aren’t they 🙂

Seriously though, modern fantasy fiction is a multicultural, multiplatform community. When I was younger, “fantasy nerds/geeks” weren’t often popular and were perhaps a little outcast. Now cos-playing is an amazing adventure in which the people who don’t dress up are the new “outcasts”.

I think a major driving force with this shift would be those people are now game developers. The ones who played D&D and other d20 games on pencil/paper hours at a time are now creating video game versions of those same games.

Somewhere along the line, “nerd/geek” became a badge of honor. I think modern fiction and those writing it helped bring this change.

Many who are now driving forces in our entertainment were D&D players at one time (and/or currently) – Ranging from Vin Diesel and Dwayne the Rock Johnson to Kevin Smith and Felicia Day. Even as far to NBA’s Tim Duncan.

Fantasy fiction pulls on our imagination, and imagination has no limits.

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

My answer is a little unfair as my favorite book series actually started as a D&D module – Dragonlance.

One of my favorite RPG video games is Wizardry 8. It has a 6 person party. I’ve played through several times with portions of the Dragonlance party as my in-game group.

I’m actually running a single character game with Fistandantalis – the most powerful wizard to have lived in the Dragonlance series. I used a game editor (Cosmic Forge) to make weapons from the books too.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

My favorite villains would be one of two categories:
Those that redeem themselves before death – Darth Vader, Raistlin

Then there’s “villains” that aren’t really villains:
Jimbo from Summer of the Monkeys. To Jay, the 14-year-old protagonist, Jimbo is a formidable foe; from outsmarting his traps, to getting him drunk on whiskey. In the end, they were able to parley so to speak.

The Phantom Toll Booth – it’s a while since I’ve read it, but I remember two kings (one of words and one of numbers) who could not get along “because it was impossible” and they couldn’t agree on anything. Milo was able to “unite the clans” because:

“So each one of you agrees to disagree with whatever the other one agrees with, but if you both disagree with the same thing, aren’t you really in agreement?”

I actually used some of this type of perspective in my storyline. Sometimes what we see as good or evil isn’t as they appear; and more often than not things are a shade of grey rather than black or white.

Do you have any superstitions?

My superstitions are paradoxical in that they don’t exist if I believe in them and they do exist if I don’t believe in them.

For example – I won’t study within three days of an exam because I don’t want to unlearn the material. That’s nonsense, but I’ve psyched myself out on tests based on the “final reviews” that were within three days of the exam. I don’t suffer from test anxiety except for when I’ve studied within three days of the exam. Not to mention, if I don’t know it by then, it won’t stick with me anyway.

In writing your antagonists, 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?

The antagonist, Altha Galen, is more of a rumor and whisper for the majority of the book. The story leans toward boosting her reputation until the final battle when many perceptions are made clear while others are shattered.

The names of every character were chosen based on their meaning.

For example: Altha means “healer”; Galen means “tranquil” in Greek; it means “mad” in Swedish.

All parts of the character are held within their names.

A character we meet in chapter 1 is named Belath, named from Demonology Beleth (replaced the second ‘e’ with an ‘a’ or Alpha, aka ‘the beginning’). Beleth gives all the love of men and women. When appearing he looks very fierce to frighten the conjurer or to see if he is courageous. (The “alpha” makes sense after understanding the character’s purpose with the protagonist).

That said, I would recommend readers make absolutely no assumptions of protagonist vs antagonist. Remember, while we are the protagonist of our own story, we may be the antagonist in somebody else’s.

“The difference between religion and mythology is the audiences perspective.” Perspective, even an objective one, is still subjective.

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

Not to be cliché but Shakespeare would definitely be one of them. I mean, he invented nearly 2000 words. Imagine writing and thinking “what word am I looking for here?” not finding one, then inventing one to suit your purpose.

Dale Carnegie – I would love to be able to drink from the tap of all that experience and research into how to influence people and public speaking.

Sun Tzu – I have friends who own their own companies that have said The Art of War helped them with business strategy. I finally bought it and have added it to the list.

Einstein because, considering his accolades, he preferred imagination over knowledge.

Ernest Vincent Wright gets an invite because he wrote Gadsby without a single ‘e’. I wrote a poem without the letter e and struggled every step of the way.

We’d be required to eat before arriving. It would be a night of imbibing, most likely Leadslingers Whiskey and Rum. Imagine the stories that could come from a night like that! (of course assuming the language barriers weren’t present).

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

Batman VS Iron Man

Who would win? Most I’ve talked to say “Bruce vs Tony” Bruce would win because he has extensive martial arts training but “Batman vs Iron Man” Iron man would win because he outguns Batman.

Then again, Batman was able to defeat Superman through planning and tactics – so Iron Man shouldn’t be a problem, right?

My argument is Tony Stark also trains martial arts and with the creation of the Bleeding Edge suit, he is never without one. Bleeding Edge is a suit made of nano-machines which are stored in his own body. Not only that, the suit connects to Tony on a neurological level – it’s no longer a suit, but an extension of his own body.

While they are both billionaires catalyzed into herodom – and it could be argued they are the same character with different window dressings – Iron Man would win vs Batman.
Unless it’s Batman from the series in which he has the Green Lantern ring. Giving Bruce Wayne a power based on intelligence, willpower, and imagination is a cheat code.
(Let the internet hate begin! J )

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

Summer of the Monkeys, The Secret Garden, and Dragonlance Chronicles are the first books I read around 10 or 11 years old.

My copies of Summer of the Monkeys and The Secret Garden had very specific smells to them. So much so, that when I get other books with similar smells, I am reminded of those two stories. They are a major reason I understand why a lot of readers prefer hard-copy over digital copies.

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Synopsis of The Demon Within:

Joe grew up listening to the voice in his head. It helped him through school, helped him gain wealth in his career.

The final temptation of power was too much. He hadn’t considered the cost.

Now he must find a way to defeat The Demon Within.

Little does he know, his every move is being recorded. Every misstep is being judged by a Great Council. As he gets ever closer to winning over his demon, heavenly eyes watch from above. Some root for his success while others hope he’ll fail.

While Joe fights his demon on the battlefront, the angel Michael fights for his Soul in the court of the Great Council.

Will Joe win out?

Will Michael be able to save Joe’s soul?

 

Buy the Book:  Amazon

GIVEAWAY!!!

Win a signed copy of The Demon Within (US only) or an ebook version (international). There will be 2 of each, making 4 winners! Just click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Ebook or paperbook? What country do you live in? 2) What now dead author would you like to dine with? Giveaway ends April 8th, midnight, 2017.

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Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Geetanjali Mukherjee, Author of Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up?

MukherjeeWillTheRealAlbertSpeerPleaseStandUpFolks, please give a warm welcome to author Geetanjali Mukherjee. Her books range from self-help to poetry to history. She’s offering a giveaway of her book Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up? The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect. You can read more about the giveaway at the end of the post. Now, on to the interview!

If you could be an extra on a historical documentary or historical drama, what would it be and what would you be doing?

Definitely, I would like to be anything, anyone, to get on the set of Downton Abbey! Unfortunately, the show is over, but maybe since this is wishful thinking, it’s still possible! Failing that, I would want to be in War and Peace or something. But to be really honest, acting isn’t quite my forte; (even though once in college, I played Joan of Arc in a play!) I would much prefer to be behind the camera, maybe as a script writer or director.

It’s time for you to host the book club. Who do you invite (living, dead, fictional, real)? And what 3 books will you be discussing?

I’m not really into book clubs, unless its one of those ones where you eat chocolate and drink wine and talk about anything but the book. In that case, I would invite the most scandalous and/or interesting people I can think of – Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Bennet, Hercule Poirot and Oprah (because who doesn’t love Oprah). And with such scintillating company, we wouldn’t need to limit ourselves only to books, but talk about a wide range of topics, which I imagine most book clubs do anyway.

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

The Harry Potter series. I came really late to them, holding out for ages and then finally succumbing and wondering why it took me so long. I would love to re-experience them again for the first time (I do read all the books every few years). In terms of TV series, I have a long list of series I would like to re-experience – some to have an excuse to watch them again, and some like Friends, because they are so familiar to me that I have forgotten what it was like to watch an episode where I didn’t know every single line of dialogue.

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

I haven’t had enough jobs yet to say which might have been my worst one. I did have a few very tedious ones that I hated at the time, but now realize that boredom is probably not the worst quality in a job. I have also had ones where I worked with people I didn’t particularly like, or ones where I constantly felt like I didn’t know what I was doing or felt inadequate. In hindsight, those are the situations where I learnt the most, so in a way I am glad I had those experiences.

In some ways writing is the hardest job I have ever had, even though it’s one that I have chosen. I think the aspect that makes it the hardest is not having someone to show you the ropes, not having a blueprint or a pre-existing path that you can follow. This combined with the fact that you often don’t get feedback on your work for long stretches of time, makes writing for me much harder than anything else I have done, even other creative work. If you design a book cover or create a piece of choreography – within a few days, even a few hours, you can show your work to someone else and get feedback. As a writer, especially of books, I find that I am reluctant to show my work to anyone unless it is as polished as I can make it, which means for weeks and months I work in a vacuum, with no idea whether my work is good or not. On the other hand, one is just sitting at a laptop or scribbling in a notebook, so one really shouldn’t take it all that seriously, compared to the dozens of dangerous, grueling or plain difficult jobs that are out there.

MukherjeeFromAudenToYeatsWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in researching your own work?

I write mostly non-fiction at the moment, although I am experimenting with writing memoir and fiction as well. The number of nonfiction books that have influenced my work are too numerous to list here. I read extensively while researching each book, but additionally I am sure I was influenced by all the books I have read before. Writers assimilate everything, and no matter how we try to make something original, everything that has gone before has an impact on our work. In a bid to get better at writing nonfiction, I have been reading the best examples of each genre that I can find, which although is quite educational, can be an intimidating exercise, as I realize how far I still have to go in my skill and craft.

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

The aristocratic Russian society that is depicted in Anna Karenina or War and Peace – I would give anything to be a fly on the wall of those parlors and listen to those conversations. I would equally love to be a guest at Downton Abbey, or perhaps at Blandings Castle, in their heyday. The third time period would be Calcutta, India during the first few decades of the previous century – I have heard countless stories about that time, and the lives led by my great-grandparents.

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

Almost every book that appears on the 100 books to read in this lifetime sort of lists that I wasn’t forced to read in school, and therefore haven’t read yet – including most of Shakespeare’s plays, many of Dickens’ novels and classical works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey and the works of famous philosophers. I have read excerpts or abridged versions or seen adaptations of some of these works, but I have this recurring fantasy that one of these days I will read them all. Actually I recently read a book by Steven Pressfield where he describes going through a phase while writing his first few novels, when he was also reading the classics to become a better writer, and it made me realize that I will soon have to stop kicking myself and just dive in. The problem also is that along with the classics there are many contemporary books that I want to read, and end up prioritizing them instead.

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

I am not really a neat person, although I like the idea of being one, so I am forever making a mess, then neatening up, then reverting to that mess not much later. I have recently moved, so haven’t quite set up my writing space yet, but I have many potential writing nooks in my new place (which was one of its main attractions).

I used to have my writing table facing the sea, an ideal space for working, but somehow I found I couldn’t write first draft there. I tend to find writing easier in temporary writing spots – such as coffee shops, planes, and even the living room sofa. Where I can write depends to a large extent on the kind of book I am writing and how it’s going. I am always on the lookout for the perfect cafe or restaurant to turn into a writing space, mostly because it’s rare to find any coffee shops with comfortable seating and a guarantee of finding an empty table where I live. In the meantime, I write when and where I can, mostly on my bed, and spend far more time thinking about and preparing to write than actually doing it. Editing on the other hand, I can’t do anywhere other than in a quiet room, usually at my desk or sitting up in bed. I have tried editing at the library or in coffee shops, but usually I can’t concentrate or make the kind of progress I need to.

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

My aunt had given me a large selection of children’s books that were basically abridged versions of fairy tales and other common children’s stories, beautifully illustrated, and each of them came with a recording so that you could follow along with the book. My parents used to read to me from those books, and I remember reading Peter Pan aloud by myself one day, and then eventually, all of the others. I still have those books, because I couldn’t bear to give them away.

Author Bio

GeetanjaliMukherjeeAuthorGeetanjali Mukherjee is the author of 6 books, and her latest book Anyone Can Get An A+: How To Beat Procrastination, Reduce Stress and Improve Your Grades was written to help students of all ages improve their study habits and get better grades with techniques based on the latest scientific research. She has a law degree from the University of Warwick, UK and a Masters’ in Public Policy from Cornell University. Geetanjali also interviews authors and writes about creativity and productivity on her blog Creativity@Work. 

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Book Blurb for Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up? The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect

MukherjeeWillTheRealAlbertSpeerPleaseStandUpHe presented many faces to the world, but which one was genuine?

Over the years Albert Speer has been given several titles – ‘the good Nazi’, ‘Hitler’s architect’, ‘future Reichchancellor’, and even ‘the only penitent defendant at Nuremberg’. There is no doubt that there are many faces to Albert Speer: he was a man who had far greater power during the war than any other aside from Hitler, and was widely believed to succeed Hitler; his tremendous powers of organization raised German production to its peak at a time when resources were at an all-time low; and it was expected by all, including himself, that he would receive the death sentence like the other Nazi leaders, instead escaping the noose with only twenty years.

In light of his extended involvement in the Nazi party, both as Hitler’s architect and the Minister for Armaments, and his contributions to the illegal war waged by the regime, the question naturally arises: did Speer receive adequate punishment? Did the verdict reflect the perception that Speer was somehow ‘less culpable’ than the other defendants, or did he mastermind his defence in a way that reduced his sentence? The events leading up to the Nuremberg trial, and the trial itself, provides clues to answering these questions: what can we learn about the personality of Speer from the evidence available, and why does it matter?

GIVEAWAY!

Geetanjali is giving away 5 ebook copies of Will the Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up?, in any format, worldwide. You can do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) What is a historical time period/location you would like to visit? 2) Leave a way for me to contact you. Giveaway ends January 16, 2017 midnight my time.

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Interview: Richard Storry, Author of The Cryptic Lines

StorryTheCrypticLinesEveryone, please welcome Richard Storry to the blog today. I really enjoyed his suspenseful book, The Cryptic Lines, which is perfect for this season! 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, and guest posts.

What makes you fall in love with a story?

A story needs to grab me during its first page or, at least, its first chapter. The kind of subjects which appeal to me are things which are mysterious, with explicit or implied suspense.

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

For a number of years I was working five evenings a week as a cocktail pianist in hotels and restaurants. It helped to pay the bills, but it was a thankless task. Writing is much more satisfying and rewarding.

Who or what are your non-writer influences?

It would have to be the combination of certain teachers of years gone by (both academic and musical) together with the music of certain composers, such as Bernstein, Copland, Gershwin, Richard Rogers and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

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

Any painting by John Constable. All his works are amazing and capture the essence of their images perfectly – though I would probably keep mine for private viewing only!

StorryTheCrypticLinesGraphicIs there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? How about book to stage adaptations?

Although it’s an old one, “Gone with the Wind” made the transition from book to movie brilliantly. Regarding book to stage…forgive me if I appear a little self-obsessed, but I was delighted with the adaptation for the stage of my novel “The Cryptic Lines” which was done by Pete Gallagher. He made a very fine job of it!

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

Charles Dickens (Christmas turkey), Agatha Christie (Anything fine dining), Victor Hugo (Escargots), Robert Burns (Haggis), Shakespeare (Roast pheasant).

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

I’ve always loved the assistants – Dr. Watson, Captain Hastings etc. In my latest book, “A Looming of Vultures” (being published soon) a side character called Lukas was introduced just to provide some companionship to one of the main characters – but he ended up having a pivotal role to play as the story neared its conclusion.

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

‘A’ is for apple, ‘B’ is for ball(!)

 

RichardStorryAuthorAbout Richard Storry:

Richard is the author of four published novels, with his fifth “A Looming of Vultures” due for publication in 2017. Prior to writing his first novel, “The Cryptic Lines” he was very busy in the theatrical world: He composed the incidental music to Chekhov’s Three Sisters, seen in London’s West End, starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Eric Sykes, and subsequently broadcast on BBC4 television. His musical adaptation of “The Brothers Lionheart” premiered at London’s Pleasance Theatre, followed by a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival where it was voted Best Childrens’ Play. “The Cryptic Lines” has now been adapted for both the stage and screen.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~Facebook ~ GoodReads

Synopsis of The Cryptic Lines:

StorryTheCrypticLinesSet in a sprawling gothic mansion in a remote coastal location, somewhere in the British Isles, the elderly recluse Lord Alfred Willoughby is deciding what is to become of his vast fortune after his death. Whilst his head is telling him to leave nothing at all to his wastrel son, Matthew, his heart is speaking differently. After much deliberation, in a last-ditch attempt to try and show to his son the importance of applying himself to a task and staying with it to the end, he devises a series of enigmatic puzzles cunningly concealed within the lines of a poem – the cryptic lines. If he completes the task successfully and solves the puzzles he will inherit the entire estate; but if he fails he will receive nothing. However, from Lord Alfred’s Will it emerges that Matthew is not the only interested party. The mysterious old house holds many secrets, and nothing is as it first appears…

Audible        Amazon

About the Narrator Jake Urry:

JakeUrryNarratorJake Urry is a British actor and audiobook narrator, and also co-founder of Just Some Theatre. Since graduating from an Acting degree course in 2012 he’s toured with Just Some Theatre as an actor and producer, worked on a number of commercial voice over projects and most recently started producing Audiobooks. Jake has produced over 10 titles since March 2016 and has rapidly found himself at home narrating Thriller, Horror, Mystery and Suspense titles. His audiobook work includes dark psychological thrillers White is the Coldest Colour and Portraits of the Dead by John Nicholl, occult mystery series The Ulrich Files by Ambrose Ibsen, and gritty Sci-Fi novel Shadows of Tomorrowby Jessica Meats.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ GoodReads ~ Voices ~ Soundcloud

Audiobook Giveaway & Interview: Brian E. Niskala, Author of Rhinehoth

NiskalaRhinehothFolks, please welcome Brian Niskala to the blog today. We chat about horror writers, financial growth, cycling, and a porpoise scare – plus much more. Indeed, Brian is quite the entertaining interview! There’s an audiobook copy of his suspenseful horror novel Rhinehoth up for grabs, so scroll to the bottom to check out the giveaway!

What makes you cringe?

Wow, what a question to lead off with. People who Mix capital and lower case letters when they hand write something. The use of the word “mine’s” as “That is mine’s” or at least I think they intend to use an apostrophe. People who think they drive a car/truck well and pass on the right. Okay I could go on and on…

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

Works of Shakespeare, I studied them in High School English and hated it. But now I see the root and invention of so many words came from him that I would like time to read all his works. I’ve actually read the Bible 3 times and actually have become rather opinioned on the whole thing. As a result, I like to read the bible every so often as a refresher. Not that I consider myself religious, but more spiritual as I have become older and wiser. I have in fact also read the translated Koran and Torah, but more so as a book, rather than a study. The Koran and Torah I would like to revisit and take my time to understand them as I do the Bible.

NiskalaArticlesInHorrorIDo you have any phobias?

No phobias that I can think of, I’m paranoid about some things, but no so much as to be a conspiracy junkie. Well now that I think of it, I could say I have a phobia about sharks. I mean I will swim in the ocean, or rather wade in it. But if I can’t see my feet, I’m too deep. I had a scare when I was a young teen. I was swimming in a bay off my uncle’s boat and something rubbed up against me. When I say I turned white and froze, I turned pale white and almost sank because I stopped moving my arms and legs. It ended up being a porpoise, similar to a dolphin. But when its fin broke the top of the water, I freaked! Not to mention I had recently watched Jaws and to this day I will not go deep enough in the ocean to swim. I have a lake by my house with a cool looking beach. I even freak out a little swimming over to this floating dock we have about 40 feet from the beach. If a piece of lake weed hits me or a fish, I nearly jump right out of the water!

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

I write both fiction and non-fiction so I find myself being a research bee. I like to read and re-read a lot of books. I find myself reading Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, often. Then into my research, I try to craft characters around Campbell’s research of what works over the millenniums. I draw a lot from biblical reference, more so for the familiarity that people will associate with and as those stories have been so well crafted over time.

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

Besides writing, I am an avid investor. I have a book out on investing and I’ve always been interested in the stock and bond markets. I actually spend more time researching stocks and financials than writing. Writing fiction actually gives my mind a break from writing my non-fiction works. So in short, I would have probably chosen to be a stock broker or hedge fund manager at this point of my life.

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 have a Twitter account listed under the name Rhinehoth, fitting enough. I have about 19,000+ followers which that number seems to grow daily. I use Twitter to help promote my books as well as other author’s works that I enjoy. I have not started an official blog as of yet, but think that is my next social engagement. Self-promotion is paramount to being successful in just about anything, especially in book marketing and sales in general.

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

As a kid I was high energy! To say the least I had trouble sitting still, so writing was initially the furthest from my mind. I wanted to be a ship captain from an early age. However I did write this adventure story that got some national recognition when I was in 5th grade, I went to a couple of writing workshops as a result but wasn’t taken too serious as I was so young. My short lived ship captain and writing dream was put on hold for another passion. I had a friend who was interested in cycling and as a result I became a very avid cyclist. My love for cycling grew and soon I found myself pursuing a position on the US and Olympic cycling teams. So needless to say, my athletics took over as my primary focus. I began writing seriously after a long term bout with unemployment after the 2008 economic hiccup. It was either sit on the couch and “drink” (I haven’t and don’t drink alcohol) or keep active, productive and write. I had an opportunity to start-over and reinvent myself. I thought of what I dreamed of as a kid, being a captain of a ship was possible, if I bought the ship and captained it myself at my age. I remembered the excitement of getting national recognition for my story when I was younger and that is when my mind became flooded with countless book ideas. From there I knew what I wanted to do, write.

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

Edgar Allan Poe would be my first pick. He was the only one that truly wrote anything that kept my attention span in High School English. He would order blackbird pie of course…

Alexandre Dumas as he is my favorite author. The Count of Monte Cristo is my all-time favorite read. Said to be an expert cook himself, I would think where ever we ate he would order the house special to learn from and test his taste buds.

Agatha Christie I like her writing a lot, it gives you a glimpse into early 20th century with people’s thought patterns of her day. Her mystery/detective novels would keep me reading for hours. She would order the most exotic thing on the menu.

Jane Austen I love. Her novels are great reads and give you a real good representation of her time period. It truly is remarkable how our language has changed over a few centuries. The fact she died at 41 is a tragedy considering if she had lived another decade or more we probably would have a few more master pieces from her. She would probably order gruel and soft boiled eggs and boiled potatoes… 😉

H.G. Wells had a significant impact on my vision of the future. The fact he wrote about complex futures in a time period where the technology was still rather primitive is amazing! Somehow I always pictured him eating steak, baked potato and beer.

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

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Hell House by Richard Matheson

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Shining by Stephen King

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

I would choose these 6, a nice number representing monsters, ghosts, demonic possession, and one who was driven mad. Classic mixed with some modern tales. My class would be based around how one’s inner thoughts can create a hell on earth.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I am a father of 4. Half of them are grown but still live home and the other half in school. They keep me pretty busy. But I am a voracious reader and audiobook listener as I travel often for business. I am well past the 1,000 mark of books read/listened to! But my true passion, above and beyond anything else is finance. Believe it or not, most of my daily thought pattern is how to invest my money to create more wealth.

Places to Stalk Brian E. Niskala

Website

Twitter

GoodReads

Amazon

Book Blurb for Rhinehoth

NiskalaRhinehothThis AudioBook has a full cast of characters! Over half a dozen actors and actresses were cast to complete this audio drama production.

Rhinehoth – Centuries ago, a great castle was built in the mountains of Germany’s Black Forest. Its ancient guardians still thrive in its walls, forever protecting its dark secrets, holding captive an enemy that threatens their very existence. Foretold is a story of an ancient warrior that is to return to the castle to free the captive Vampire Prince.

Simon Roberts was a petty thief who fled England to escape Scotland Yard after a series of unsuccessful jewelry store heists. He was recruited to do a job in Germany where he was to simply drive the getaway car while providing a look out. He thought this was going to be an easy job and a way to break into the German crime scene. But things go terribly wrong, and he ended up being the only survivor of the botched heist. Simon is quickly sentenced to a prison called Rhinehoth. This is where Germany sent the worst of the worst, surely not a place for a petty thief such as himself.

Rhinehoth is a great German castle that was converted in the late 1930s to a Stalag for war criminals of World War II. The converted prison’s modern day inhabitants are relentlessly tortured, starved, and sleep deprived. This contributes to the prisoners’ delusional visions that help hide the truth and keeps Rhinehoth’s secrets. Their captors are the army of Werewolves who have survived the centuries off the very flesh and blood of Germany’s worst forgotten criminals.

Simon, imprisoned, becomes plagued with visions from his subconscious ancient past with confusion of his modern day consciousness. He discovers through his visions that he is the ancient warrior Guthrie, who has come to free the Vampire Prince and all the captives, while saving the world from a dark plan of biblical proportions that has been orchestrated over the centuries!

GIVEAWAY!

Brian is offering up an Audible.com audiobook copy of Rhinehoth! Hooray! To enter the drawing, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) What makes you cringe? 3) Leave a way for me to contact you if you win. This giveaway ends August 25th, midnight my time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview: Barbara Venkataraman, Author of Death by Didgeridoo

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your non-writer influences?

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

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

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

VenkataramanTripToHardwareStoreWho are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do when you are not writing?

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

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

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

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

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

Places to Find Barbara Venkataraman

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Interview: Luke Christodoulou, Author of The Olympus Killer

LukeChristodoulouAuthorLooking for some Mediterranean mystery? Then sit back and enjoy this chat with author Luke Christodoulou.We talk about Greek grandmothers, Hannibal Lecter, Agatha Christie, and traveling. Sit back and be entertained!

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

I would love to turn back time and read The Lord of the Rings before watching the movie. After seeing The Fellowship of the Ring, I purchased all three books. Tolkien created a whole world in which he placed his characters and I would have liked to have created the images in my mind as I read. However, having watched the movie, the images were already there.

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?

My favorite aspect by far is the one on one (live or through the internet) with readers. My least favorite part is when I realize late at night that I have spent more time promoting than writing.

Who are some of your favorite book villains?

Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is my favorite. So devious and cunning. Hannibal Lecter and Iago from Othello would round up my top 3.

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

For my book, The Olympus Killer:A Greek Island Mysteries Thriller, I traveled through the Greek Isles and gathered information about the setting of my book series. I also noted various trivia facts about each place that may be used during writing. The Hellenis Police were helpful enough to provide details needed as to keep the story as realistic as possible.

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

With The Olympus Killer, I wanted the reader to hate him for his crimes, but at the same time, try to fight off compassion for him due to his abusive past that is presented through the book’s back story.

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

Reading is always my top recommendation, but as you mention non-reading activities, I will say traveling. An author needs to absorb the world and to observe his surroundings and the people in always gathering details for his or her book. I am a great movie fan so the cinema would be another recommendation of mine.

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

I had this discussion with an author friend just the other day. He enjoys writing at his local cafe while that sounds like a nightmare to me. I can only write in isolation in my office chair or maybe in another office if traveling. I cannot concentrate enough around others or upon a plane or train like I hear others do. My office is never messy, yet you would not call it neat and tidy. Papers with notes are always lurking around.

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

Wow, what a question. My brain has gone into overload. Shakespeare popped first in mind. For some weird reason, Moses appeared second. Hmm… Agathe Christie, my favorite, for sure. Tolkien takes the fourth seat. Jules Verne completes the group! As for the menu, I would cook for them a proper Greek fish meze (variety) and see what they enjoy most.

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

My Agatha Christie collection for sure. Then I would take as many thrillers as possible. Ones that I have not read yet. I cannot imagine never reading a new book again. Never to be shocked by a twist again.

MartelLifeOfPiCover 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 do so try to not judge a book by its cover (which can be misleading at times). However, I enjoy anything that grabs my eye by being clever or unique. Despair by Nobokov is great and haunting. Lately, I read Under the Dome by Stephen King. That cover did justice to the title. Life of Pi’s cover has the heart the story has.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I work as an English teacher at a public primary school. I love my job and the children always manage to make me smile no matter what. My ‘free’ time is spent between my wife and daughter and my books.

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

Such a true statement! Side characters always tend to be my favorites. From my own work, I would say that my elder women seem to steal the show in their scenes. Greek grandmothers are truly unique. From other books, I enjoyed Gollum from LOTR and the ridiculous Mr. Collins from Jane Austen.

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

The Olympus Killer, a standalone mystery/crime/thriller and book 1 from my upcoming thriller series set in the Greek islands is available now through Amazon. Then, I will withdraw from the marketing world and continue writing book 2.

Where to Find Luke

Webpage: http://greekislandmysteries.webs.com/

Twitter @OlympusKiller

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greek-Island-Mysteries/712190782134816?ref=hl (Like page and end of the month there will be a draw for a free copy of The Olympus Killer).

GooglePlus: https://plus.google.com/105472990809607302125/posts

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Olympus-Killer-Island-Mysteries-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JMTRPTE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397283795&sr=1-1&keywords=THE+OLYMPUS+KILLER

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Olympus-Killer-Island-Mysteries-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JMTRPTE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397283881&sr=1-1&keywords=the+olympus+killer

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

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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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