Signed Book Giveaway & Interview: Jeffrey Bardwell, Author of Broken Wizards

Folks, please give a warm welcome to Jeffrey Bardwell. He kindly lets me heckle him with questions and is also offering up 5 signed advanced review copies of Broken Wizards, open internationally! Scroll to the end of the post to check out that giveaway!

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

If I were a background character, I would be the cheeky voice of experience gleefully hanging lampshades on all the plot holes while the protagonist was walking down the street and pontificating or ordering a pizza. I would be the very astute, very snarky delivery boy who would be stiffed his tip for my troubles.

2. Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon?

Fiery breath? Long nails? Flaky skin? I’m half way there already every time I wake up in the morning. I would much prefer to be than to have a dragon. That way, I’d be the one making the messes instead of cleaning them up (of the destructive burning building variety). Any dragon I own will be house trained.

3. As an ecologist, what’s the most interesting gross fact you know?

There are several species of fungi that will invade insects’ bodies and nervous systems and turn them into zombie bugs. I find the concept terrifying. I once had a mentor who could eat a ham sandwich with one hand and perform a blunt dissection with the other, so gore doesn’t really gross me out these days. My nightmare fuel is more psychological and of the body snatchers variety.

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

Um . . . Batman, hands down. Save me, oh knight of darkness!

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

The one with the most engaging plot twists of course: Game of Thrones. Mostly, I just want to wipe my mind and binge watch the whole series after it’s released while curled up on the couch with the love of my life. Now, where can I find some of that brain-warping fungus?

6. Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

It’s a tie between Sherlock Holmes and Watson and Batman and Robin. I guess it’s no coincidence the the latter are the superhero expies of the former.

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

My den is a semi organized mess. I can usually jot notes, work on revisions, write the bare bones of scenes, and plot novels anywhere. But actually sitting my butt in a chair and writing chapters at a time requires either my desk in the basement or the kitchen table, depending on the weather. I hope to get a proper office organized someday in the guest room, but as they say, hope springs eternal.

8. 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, wow. You’re asking that of an ex academic [rubs hands together and grins]. Let’s teach! I would arrange my course around authors rather than books. I guess I would start with Edgar Allen Poe and the intersection of mystery, horror, and fantasy and then look at how different authors have added their own unique spin on SFF over the years. I’d throw in some lesser known authors like James H. Schmitz to show off a few outliers like well-rounded, perceptive female characters. Then, we’d examine common tropes and how they reflect how SFF changes with society and then start deconstructing them. Now that I’ve said all that, I really want to teach that class . . .

9. It’s a long sailing trip: what books make it into your trunk and why?

I admit I would cheat and bring the following: 1) a hand crank generator, 2) an AC/DC converter, 3) a few shrink wrapped ereaders with an eclectic mix of everything I can cram into them, and 4) OK, one or two hardbacks: Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein and The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve read those multiple times over the years, so I wouldn’t mind being stuck with them when my generator fails or the boat sinks and it’s desert island time.

About Author Jeffrey Bardwell:

Jeffrey Bardwell is an ecologist with a Ph.D. who loves fantasy, amphibians, and reptiles. The author devours fantasy and science fiction novels, is most comfortable basking near a warm wood stove, and has eaten a bug or two. The author populates his own novels with realistic, fire breathing lizards. These dragons are affected by the self-inflicted charred remains of their environment, must contend with the paradox of allometric scaling, and can actually get eaten themselves.
The author lives on a farm, is perhaps overfond of puns and alliterations, and is a gigantic ham. When not in use, he keeps his degrees skinned and mounted on the back wall of his office. Email at: jhbardwell@gmail.com

 

Places to Stalk Jeffrey Bardwell

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Book Blurb about Broken Wizards

Time’s up for mages!

The wizard purge is in full swing. Sorcery is illegal in the modern, steam-powered Iron Empire. The Magistrate’s Black Guards hunt the uncivilized mages using mechanized armor and mysterious, clockwork weapons. The guards deliver their prisoners to the Butcher, Captain Vice. All wizards are tortured and executed as traitors to the state . . . with one exception.

That exception is Devin, an outbreak mage and ex artificer, a prince of machinery. The Magistrate exiles the youth over Vice’s protests to the wild kingdom of wizards and dragons. Devin only knows gears and springs, but his savage magic offers salvation, if he can tame it. The exile must learn to harness his dangerous, new powers before the Butcher tracks him down to finish the job.

Follow Devin’s quest in Book One of The Artifice Mage Saga. Join the fantasy steampunk brawl of metal vs. magic where sorcery is bloody, science is greasy, and nobody’s hands are clean.

Amazon ~ kobo ~ Free Sample

GIVEAWAY!!!

Jeffrey is graciously offering up 5 signed ARCs of Broken Wizards [OPEN INTERNATIONALLY]. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1) What books would you take on a long sea voyage? 2) Where do you live? Giveaway ends May 10th, 2017, midnight.

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Interview: David Lee Summers, Author of Lightning Wolves

SummersLightningWolvesFolks, please welcome David Lee Summers to the blog once again. He’s previously gifted me with a bit of his time in this other interview. Today we chat about fairy tales, Star Wars, Cherie Priest’s works, awkward fan moments, and question over the correct use of the term ‘parsec’. I had quite a bit of fun in reading through David’s answers and I expect you’ll be as entertained as I am.

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?

One of my favorite poetry collections is Jean Hull Herman‘s Jerry Springer as Bulfinch or Mythology Modernized. Throughout her collection, Ms. Herman recounts stories of Greek myth and recounts similar episodes from the Jerry Springer Show. It all goes to show that we not only project our hopes and aspirations into our myths, we also reflect who we are as human beings on our myths and sometimes we don’t always come off in the best light.

No matter what genre a writer tackles, they’re going to react to those things around them. Now a science fiction writer might either add some wish fulfillment and create the world she hopes will come about, or she might create the world she fears. The same is true for fantasy. We’ll raise up our better selves in the form of heroes and noble creatures while also dashing ourselves through villains and monsters. In answer to your question, I think modern fantasy fiction simply gives us a lens by which to view the modern world and attempt to make the best choices as human beings. A century from now, people will look at our fantasy in much the same way as we look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as a window into past times.

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

The fantastical beasts of fiction I would most like to encounter would be any Maurice Sendak‘s wild things of Where the Wild Things Are. They look vicious, but really, all they want to do is play and I could be their king by simply being fierce at them.

Although I love dragons and gryphons and would love to see one from a safe distance, I’d probably also want to avoid them at all costs because I’m not sure there would be a safe distance.

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?

I would love to see a PC game based on Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century novels. It would be fun to see a lot of the different locations and situations visualized. It could be done as a quest game with different objectives. I’d love to campaign through her alternate Seattle underground, or aboard the speeding train of Dreadnaught, or through the streets and swamps of her steampunked New Orleans from Ganymede. For my part, I would like to play the part of airship pirate captain Andan Cly, but there are plenty of great characters that a player could choose to be in this world.

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

One of the go-to books in my personal library is The Atlas of Past Times. It was a book I found on remainder on a shelf outside a bookstore, but I find it a great quick reference when I’m checking where boundaries were at a given point in history or who was in charge of what, which can then point me to other historical reference materials. This is very useful if I’m working on a historical story, alternate or otherwise. It also reminds me about how fast boundaries have changed in human history.

In general, I think the most useful books for building cultures are collections of folk tales. I’ve used Grimm’s Fairy Tales, American Indian Myths and Legends by Erdoes and Ortiz, and Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers. There are also a lot of good projects where people have collected folktales on the web. These tell you a lot about people’s hopes and fears, their morality, and their taboos. Reading folk tales along with books from other times and places can open your mind and help you consider what future or fantastic cultures might be like.

NASA has many great online resources not only for their discoveries, but the spacecraft and vehicles that made them. This can be helpful when you’re thinking about how vehicles work in space. Plus, they often give you references for places to look for more information.

The way I approach any story at the beginning is to think about what building blocks I need for the story. Will I need to know about a certain region of the world? Do I want to build a culture that’s analogous to a culture that has existed? Sometimes I have books that will help answer those questions in my library. If not, I’ll go to the online card catalog for the local library and see what kinds of books they have on those subjects.

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

Paradise Lost by John Milton is one I’ve always wanted to sit down and work my way through because it inspired so much of the modern lore about angels and demons—things people think are Biblical but aren’t. I’d also love to read the Iliad and the Odyssey all the way through. I’ve read large chunks of the latter, but it’s been a long time. On a somewhat lighter note, I’ve been looking for a good translation of Jules Verne‘s ‘Round the Moon, the sequel to From the Earth to the Moon. Verne ends the first book on a cliffhanger, with his crew going to the moon, but we don’t find out what happens until the second book and I haven’t tracked down a copy yet!

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have others dressed up as characters from your books?

In fact the outfit I often wear to steampunk events is inspired by the clothes I describe for the inventor, Professor Maravilla in Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves. It’s a cravat, brightly colored waistcoat, and tailcoat. The bounty hunter, Larissa Crimson, was created by my daughter as her steampunk persona for events. As it turns out, she appears as Larissa on the cover of Lightning Wolves.

So far, I haven’t encountered anyone outside my family dressed up as a character from my books, but I’d be absolutely delighted if they did. They’d get a free book and I’d have to take a picture with them!

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

I would start with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. After all, she pretty much invented both modern science fiction and horror with Frankenstein. Next would be Arthur Conan Doyle. It would be great to meet the man behind Sherlock Holmes and see if I could get him to recount stories of some of his famous hoaxes. Another British author of the period who would be fun to have at this table would be D.H. Lawrence, to discuss both poetry and his perspective on northern New Mexico at the time my grandparents were doing their best to make a life there. Leigh Brackett would have to be on the list for both her role in early pulp science fiction, but for a Hollywood writing career that ranged from working with Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, to John Wayne in Rio Bravo, and finishing with the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. With Leigh Brackett there, I would have to invite Ray Bradbury. Even though I got to meet him before he died, there are so many more things we could talk about and discuss now than when I met him in the early days of my career.

Who knows what they would order if left to their own devices, but with three people from England and two of them from the late Victorian period, I’d be inclined to invite them over to a sumptuous holiday meal of turkey and all the trimmings. If I were preparing it, it would be a smoked turkey with mole sauce on the side. I’d make sure there was plenty of wine and beer available. The one time I was with Ray Bradbury that he ordered something, it was a Heineken.

SummersDragon'sFallIf 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?

The hard part of this question is that a college semester is only going to have limited time and you can’t read all the greatest, best, or the most influential works. My inclination would be to use Frankenstein to discuss science fiction’s beginning as cautionary, morality tale. I would move on to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to discuss the rise of science fiction as an optimistic genre. Starship Troopers would probably serve as classic military, hero-driven science fiction and as a jumping off point for the role of politics in science fiction. Dune would probably come next to show a continuation of the heroic saga, but subverted by the sensitivity of ecology and drug culture at the time it was produced. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester would probably come in there, too, to show how heroic science fiction could be completely subverted, allowing for the rise of cyberpunk and other genres. A novel like Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl would serve to show the return to science fiction as cautionary tale, the introduction of steampunk and a jumping off place for a discussion of the future.

Lots of other books would certainly be mentioned, if not substituted for these. Certainly Ray Bradbury’s novels and stories would be discussed. Lois McMaster Bujold and the Miles Vorsagian novels would be good examples of character and plot almost becoming primary to any particular science fictional element. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could come in as part of a discussion on the role of humor in science fiction. So many books so little time!

SummersRevolutionOfAirAndRustCare 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?

It was more cool than awkward, but last year at Phoenix Comicon, a fellow bought a copy of Revolution of Air and Rust. He was nice enough, but said he’d read it over and let me know what he thought. The next day, he came back to the table with one of his friends and he immediately bought Owl Dance and told his friend, he absolutely had to buy Revolution of Air and Rust. “That’s one of the best things I’ve read.” That just made my day.

As for awkward fanboy moments on my part, I went to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on the day of release with friends of mine from across town. We were all in high school at the time. They introduced me to their friend Jan Bixby. We were having a great time in line talking Star Trek, science fiction, and generally geeking out when an older man built like a bantam rooster with hair that looked like it put combs in their place walked up and had a few words with Jan. One of my friends pulled him aside and introduced me to him. “This is Jan’s dad, Jerome.” I shook his hand, then said something like “Pleased to meet you, sir”, then he went on his way. A beat or two later, I put it together. Jan Bixby’s dad was Jerome Bixby, the author of such original Star Trek episodes as “Mirror, Mirror” and “Requiem for Methuselah” plus the great, great horror story “It’s a Good Life” which was made into a Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy. I think I was speechless and muttering incoherent syllables for a while afterward. One of my friends had to point out in typical high school fashion, “Yeah, but he’s just Jan’s dad.”

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

One argument that seems to crop up from time to time is whether or not soft science fiction has any value influencing scientists. For example, someone might point to the infamous line from Star Wars where Han Solo says the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” In the context of the movie, it’s clear he’s referring to parsecs as a unit of time, when in fact, they’re a distance that was initially based on the size of an arcsecond of angle on the sky. The claim is often made that not only is this bad science, it’s going to lead kids away from the sciences and we’re going to raise a generation of idiots. Therefore, this kind of terrible science needs to be eliminated from science fiction at all costs.

However, most astronomers I’ve known have gone into science precisely because soft science fiction got them thinking about the adventure of space at an early age. Carl Sagan famously fell in love with Mars because of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who got almost everything wrong about Mars. I’ve known generations of scientists who got interested in science because of both Star Wars and Star Trek. In my case, I remember hearing Han Solo’s line from Star Wars and wondering what a parsec was. Was it anything real? When I looked it up, I found out they got it wrong. So what? I still loved the adventure of Star Wars, but I have to admit, I felt a little bit superior to the writers of Episode IV. A whole new world opened up to me and I started looking up even more stuff.

So my side of the argument usually runs something like this: Science fiction influences scientists not because it’s right but because it’s fun. Sure as writers, we should do our best to get it right, but it’s the fun that makes people care. I’ve yet to meet anyone who stopped having an interest in science because George Lucas didn’t know what a parsec was.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Places to Find Jim Bernheimer

Website

Goodreads

Amazon