Interview: Mitchell Charles, Author of The Kingdom of Oceana

CharlesTheKingdomOfOceanaEveryone, please give a warm welcome to author Mitchell Charles. I really enjoyed his book, The Kingdom of Oceana and am very excited to have the opportunity to interview him.

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

Chinatown is probably my favorite movie, and without question my favorite script. I can watch it over and over. The Alchemist is my favorite book, and has a profound effect on me every time I read it. I especially like the audiobook version read by Jeremy Irons – Epic!

If you were sent on a magical quest, which other 4 historical fantasy authors would you take with you?

Michael Crichton, George R. R. Martin, James Clavell, James A Michener

Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Professor Snape is my favorite villain. You really never know for sure that he’s against Harry until the very end of the series.

You and your publisher have gone to the trouble to build some extensive educational aids and activities that go hand in hand with your book, The Kingdom of Oceana. This isn’t often seen with fantasy novels, even historical fantasy novels. Do you think other publishers and authors will take up this excellent practice? Do you expect even more educational media to be added as your book series progresses?

I was looking for a fun way to engage students into my fantasy world. Hawaii is such a magical place, so it was easy to create the study guides.

To check out these study guides and fun activities, have a look at the Mitchell’s site.

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

I’ve always love the ocean and sea creatures. My father taught me to SCUBA dive as a teenager and it’s still my favorite activity. I think I always had a knack for story, but didn’t put in the time and effort to write until The Kingdom of Oceana series.

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

The Alchemist (The Alchemist), Walter White (Breaking Bad), Doctor Stephen Strange (Dr. Strange), Yoda (Star Wars) and Doc Brown (Back to the Future).

You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Hermione Granger – she has a spell for everything!

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

I am currently working on the sequel to The Kingdom of Oceana. The story takes place about 25 years later and follows the next generation of Oceanic heroes, King Ailani’s and Queen Momi’s three teenage children.

Book Blurb for The Kingdom of Oceana

CharlesTheKingdomOfOceanaFive centuries ago, on the island now called Hawaii, there was a kingdom filled with adventure, beauty, and magic.  When 16-year-old Prince Ailani and his brother Nahoa trespass on a forbidden burial ground and uncover an ancient tiki mask, they unleash a thousand-year-old curse that threatens to destroy their tropical paradise.
 
Warring factions spar for control of Oceana, sparking an age-old conflict between rival sorcerers. With the help of ancestral spirit animals, a shape-shifting sidekick, and a beautiful princess, Prince Ailani must fight for his rightful place as the future king of Oceana.
About the Author

MitchellCharlesAuthorMitchell Charles’ love of the ocean and its miraculous creatures began at the age of 12 when his father taught him to SCUBA dive. From his first adventure 50 feet (15 meters) beneath the Caribbean Sea he was hooked.  He has been involved in the Oceanic Society, America’s first non-profit organization dedicated to ocean conservation, established in 1969.

Mitchell’s inspiration for The Kingdom of Oceana was born of exploring the spectacular coastline, lush valleys, and vibrant coral reefs of the Hawaiian Islands. On these excursions, he imagined what Hawaii was like hundreds of years ago. Before Captain Cook arrived from England. Before the golf courses and hotels. Before the ukulele and the Mai Tai became icons of Hawaiian culture. He dreamed of a time when the islands were an undiscovered magical paradise.

These days, Mitchell divides his time between Southern California and Hawaii. He has two teenage children and a dog named Magic.

Mitchell is currently working on the second book in the Kingdom of Oceana series, The Legend of the Nine Sacred Pearls. For more information, visit http://kingdomofoceana.com/

Readers can connect with Mitchell on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Ebook Giveaway & Interview: Robert Eggleton, Author of Rarity From The Hollow

EggletonRarityFromTheHollowPlease give a warm welcome to author Robert Eggleton! Today we chat about personal influences, YA SFF literature, Tom Sawyer, and plenty more. And don’t miss out on the International EBOOK  GIVEAWAY of Rarity from the Hollow at the end of this post!

1. Who are your non-writer influences?

I am so fortunate, Susan, to have been involved with many positive influences in my life. As with many folks, my mother was the biggest the most influential. She was one tough cookie – faced barriers without flinging, at least not so her kids could see her struggles. She understood and practiced unconditional love, taught her children well – to respect diversity, to work hard, to dream, and to laugh.

There’s a long list of people that were influential, kind without condescension as I was growing up. When I was a boy, a manager of a grocery story hired me to clean and paid me in food that fed the family, kept it intact. He taught me to work hard for those things most important, like family. Another manager gave me my first real job when I was twelve – cleaning a drug story for which I was paid in real money, social security deducted from check with my name on them. Special thanks and accolades go out to Chief Miller of the St. Albans, West Virginia, Fire Department. Not only did he save my life by dragging me out of a house fire that killed my father when I was thirteen, that man took me home with him to life – kindness to strangers. I’ll never forget that man, and he didn’t forget either. Years later, after the fire, I had finished my graduate degree and was working for the West Virginia Supreme Court – he called me at work a couple of weeks before he died. My list of positive influences during childhood goes on, and on, and on…….

As a young adult and on into adulthood, to this day, my fortune has continued. From my eight grade English teacher who motivated me toward creative writing, to a zillion brave kids who protested the Vietnam War with little recognition for their hard work but kept it up until that war ended, to Dr. Wiggins, a philosophy professor at West Virginia State College who influenced me by demanding critical thought, all of those famous role models who cared about justice and fair play, like Martin Luther King, Jr.,… man, there are so many that it’s not possible to name the most influential.

My wife has been highly influential and continues to reinforce my love for academics – she’s the smartest person that I’ve ever met. She’s like a Trivial Pursuit expert or something. My son has been a tremendous influence on me, especially in this world of rapidly changing technology. He won’t buy it when I make an excuse that I’m too old to learn new technology or to keep up with new musical groups. I has kept me thinking young.

I can’t tell you the name of the biggest recent influence on my life because it’s confidential information protected by law. I call her Lacy Dawn, the protagonist in Rarity from the Hollow, but she’s a real-life, skinny, brown haired, eleven eye old girl that I met when I was a children’s psychotherapist. I recently retired from our local mental health center after working in the field of children’s advocacy for over forty years. One day in 2006, Lacy Dawn was sitting around the table from me during a group therapy session. Instead of simply disclosing her victimization, she spoke of hopes and dreams – finding a loving permanent family who would protect her mentally, physically, and spiritually. She’s the most powerful person that I’ve met in my life. Lacy Dawn influenced me to make my own dream come true – to become a writer of fiction and to never give up, on anything.

2. Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent?

I am looking forward to Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clark being shown on the SyFy channel later this year. That’s one of my favorite books and I hope that the producers pull it off in the manner that it deserves. Personally, I thought that 2001: A Space Odyssey was a masterpiece of a book and movie both, but I’m sure that some would disagree. Even though the movie deviated some from the books, I loved The Lord of the Rings and who in their right mind would or could disrespect Harry Potter on paper or screen. Maybe it was just my corresponding moods as I read the book and watched the movie, but I close with my personal number one: Jurassic Park, written by Michael Crichton and the film directed by Stephen Spielberg.

3. 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 would love to have a den or a home office to write in, and if I did it would probably be messy with notes and open books. My wife and I live in a small house that has become almost a library because it is filled with books. I write in the living room and get fussed at by my wife for not keeping it neat. I point the finger back at her because she’s the one who refused to adapt to eBooks. Books seem to be dust magnets and, especially with the older ones, vacuuming is tedious so as not to damage their covers. Frankly, I don’t think that “neat” is a term applicable to my writing environment.

I can write anywhere. Actually, since I was a kid I do write everywhere, all the time, even in my dreams. Writing is not the issue. It’s the recording of the writing. For example, I used to write poems on scraps of paper, including in restroom stalls, at the park, any place or time that life forces coalesced. Guess what happened to all those papers? Right – the washing machine drain or clothes dryer filter. That’s life. To produce writing I need a PC now. I’ve tried laptops without success. When I leave my house, such as to go to a restaurant, I take paper and pen, jot notes if an idea strikes, but I need a full sized monitor and keyboard to actually produce. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older.

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

The poorest selection of books for a syllabus on college level YA SFF would be popular YA SFF books. Students who would register for such a class either would already be experts on those books or would have been looking for easy elective college credits. As the professor, it would be up to me to spoil the party.

In the tradition of literary fiction, I would ask each student to select a novel that targets an adult audience and covert it in a summary to YA, and convert a chapter of it to YA writing style. Then, make a presentation to the class with their classmates functioning as editors who “censor” YA content. In my opinion, adults are harsh censors, children are much more astute about the world around them than adults want to acknowledge, and college age is a time where a proper balance could be found, but not likely to make it through an editor and achieve publication. The final exam would be an essay on the practical ethics of self-censorship when writing YA novels. Since the essay is a personal opinion, every student who completes the assignment fully, by instruction to the letter, would get an ‘A.’ The students who didn’t complete would be sent to the eternal slush pile until they grew up and decided to write stories for adults.

5. 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 would love to share an awkward fan moment if I had one. The closest that I could describe would be friends and acquaintances wanting to compliment my writing and to talk about Rarity from the Hollow. In summary, I shrug at compliments because they cause me to feel awkward.

Sometimes I think that artists are the worst interpreters of their own creations, possibly the last to understand where it all came from. A good example would be the lyrics to the 1967 rock song by Procol Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the lyrics have been interpreted many times with as many incongruous findings. The lyricists think that the song was about picking up a girl in a bar. Personally, I think that the creation of this and many great works are attributable to a power greater than the humans through with the inspiration flowed. I know. That sounds totally flakey.

Still, this belief affects the way I react to compliments, or criticism, and also affects the way that I regard works by others. Recently, for example, Rarity from the Hollow received a Gold Medal from Awesome Indies. The reviewer found, “…profound observations on human nature and modern society….” Maybe that’s so, but maybe not. Regardless, it even makes me feel weird to be in the same room with someone when they read such a high compliment, so I usually excuse myself. And, in any case, I’ll take full blame for what’s wrong with the story, but believe that some of what’s right about it, the magical parts, is beyond me.

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

The only geeky argument that comes to mind is whether or not it was an antiracism stance, a subliminal political message by J.K. Rowling when Harry freed Dobby from the Malfoys by giving him one of his socks. This argument escalated into a debate about social activism and fiction, yada yada, yada. I know that it sounds stupid, especially between close friends, but his argument actually got heated. Fortunately, my friend’s wife interjected something that took both sides of the debate, and that ended the argument. I, personally, still feel that science fiction fuels science fact, both technologically and socially. And, my friend still thinks that good fiction is pure escapism. I don’t remember exactly what his wife said but it was something to the effect that the best fiction is a work that one escapes into while addressing the realities left on the outside, in the real world. I don’t know. It sounded smart at the time – smart enough to end our argument.

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

Tom Sawyer is the first book that I remember reading on my own. It had a lasting impact on my life, especially with respect to the balance between work and pleasure.

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

Since I get to pick someone to run an obstacle course with me it might as well be the best athlete. I pick Bruce Jenner in his prime as a runner, her prime now. After we win, the libation would be spring water in abundance to the great God of Equality, the one true god who ensures that haters are unhappy humans.

EggletonRarityFromTheHollowBook Blurb for Rarity from the Hollow:

Lacy Dawn is a little girl who lives in a magical forest where all the trees love her and she has a space alien friend who adores her and wants to make her queen of the universe. What’s more, all the boys admire her for her beauty and brains. Mommy is very beautiful and Daddy is very smart, and Daddy’s boss loves them all.

Except.

Lacy Dawn, the eleven year old protagonist, perches precariously between the psychosis of childhood and the multiple neuroses of adolescence, buffeted by powerful gusts of budding sexuality and infused with a yearning to escape the grim and brutal life of a rural Appalachian existence. In this world, Daddy is a drunk with severe PTSD, and Mommy is an insecure wraith. The boss is a dodgy lecher, not above leering at the flat chest of an eleven-year-old girl.

Yes, all in one book.

It is a children’s story for adults with a happily ever after ending.

Places to Find Robert Eggleton

Website

GoodReads

Facebook

Twitter

GIVEAWAY!!!

Open International! Robert Eggleton is offering up 6 ebook copies of his book Rarity from the Hollow. To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Leave a way to contact you; 2) What YA SFF books have you enjoyed? This giveaway ends Jan. 31st, 2016, midnight.

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Giveaway & Interview: Lee Stephen, Author of Dawn of Destiny

StephenDawnOfDestinyHello readers! Join us today for a chat with author Lee Stephen. Today we chat about childhood books, obstacle courses, dream SFF college courses and much more! You can check out the giveaway at the end of the post. Also, a big thanks to iRead Book Tours for asking me to join in. You can check out the tour schedule over HERE.

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

My worst job by far was as a mall survey guy. I got hired as one at the Esplanade Mall in Kenner while I was on summer break from college. There’s no way to compare it to writing, let alone anything dignifying. Your job was basically to aggravate people into answering questions. It’s a job that I think has gone extinct, and the world is better for it.

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

Self-promotion actually isn’t my favorite part of writing, so I kind of consider it a necessary evil. I rather let my writing speak for itself. I think if you write something that’s entertaining enough, people will come to it on their own.

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?

I really think 1984 would be on the required reading list, just because it hit on so many notes that are reflective of society today. I’d probably also include some of Crichton‘s work, as he was a huge influence on the genre. You can’t forget Bradbury, either. Any one of those authors could lead off an entire course.

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?

Without a doubt, it would have to be when a fan showed up at my place of work to ask me some questions! I work for Homeland Security, too, so that took some brazenness. That happened pretty early on in my writing career, too, which is odd. Thankfully that was only a one-time occurrence. Fans, don’t stalk your authors!

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

My college roommate, Joel, used to argue with me incessantly. We argued for like an hour on whether the phrase, “you can’t have your cake and eat it, too” was a truth.

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

If you discount child books like, If You Give a Mouse a​ Cookie, then it’d be The Curse of Blood Swamp, by Cindy Savage! And yes, I had to look it up to remember. I think I got that in elementary school from a book fair, or something. I don’t even remember the story today, but I do remember reading it over and over when I was a kid. Man, you got me wanting to go hunt that thing down now and see what all the hubbub was about back then! I obviously loved it enough to read it about a dozen times.

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

I think I’d own an obstacle course! I’ve always wanted to run one. I might need to dust off my old P90X DVDs, though, to get back in “playing” shape. If I had to pick one character, limiting it to Epic just because, why not, I’d probably have to take Scott, my lead character. He was a college athlete, so he can pick up any slack I leave for him.

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

The biggest event happening in my life, right this very minute, is celebrating our second son, Lawson, into the world! He’ll have just been born by the time people start reading this, so rest assured, I’m sleep deprived at this very moment. Daddy loves you, new little buddy.

Book Description for Dawn of Destiny Audiobook

The Dawn of Destiny audiobook project is a full adaptation of the first book in the Epic series. It’s not your typical “audiobook,” even though technically that’s what it is. When people hear “audiobook,” there’s a certain type of thing that usually comes to mind. Most likely it’s the thought of someone reading a book to them, occasionally with music playing in the background. This isn’t that.

What you’re going to hear in this project, is more of an audio “experience,” the audio equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie. Over thirty voice actors played a role in this. This is ear-splitting sound effects, bombastic music, and characters shouting back and forth in the middle of a war zone. This is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

Book Description for Outlaw Trigger

They say every man has a breaking point-every man can be pushed off the edge. Scott Remington entered EDEN with the heart of a lion. He forged glory in the furnace of war. But on the heels of dawn, darkness awaits. Only when stretched to the limit will a man truly learn who he is. That limit is about to be breached. Lines will be crossed. Sides will be chosen. And faith will be put to the test. Will the righteous prevail?

Author’s Bio

Born and raised in Cajun country, Lee Stephen spent his childhood paddling pirogues through the marshes of South Louisiana. When he wasn’t catching bullfrogs or playing with alligators in the bathtub (both true), he was escaping to the world of the imagination, creating worlds in his mind filled with strange creatures and epic journeys. This hasn’t stopped.

Now a resident of Luling, Louisiana, Lee spends time every day delving into the world of Epic, the science-fiction series that has come to define him as a writer and producer. Alongside his wife, Lindsey, their sons, Levi and Lawson, and their dog, Jake, Lee has made it a mission to create a series that is unique in its genre—one unafraid to address the human condition while staying grounded in elements of faith.

Places to Find Lee Stephen

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Giveaway

Win one of 3 sets of books in the Epic series, Dawn of Destiny and Outlaw Trigger (Open to USA & Canada) Ends July 4.

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Interview: Lisa Cindrich & Jay Sparks of Glynn River Press

CindrichSparksExecutablesPlease welcome Lisa Cindrich and Jay Sparks from Glynn River Press. they’re here to chat about self-promotion, villains, retelling of classics, and more. Enjoy!

Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?

Jay: Secondary characters, especially those closest to the narrator and his/her chief antagonist, are very important and should be developed as much as possible within the confines of the story.

One of the best examples is William Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies. The central conflict between Ralph and Jack is quite powerful in itself. But the secondary characters and what they represent elevate the novel from merely good to classic. Simon, Piggy and Roger each bring something different to the tale, and all elicit a strong emotional response from the reader. Simon and his confrontation with “The Lord of the Flies” is one of the most powerful scenes in the book. Piggy provides Ralph with his strongest support and the penultimate scene on the cliffs is truly heartrending. And Roger—ooo, that evil, malicious little monster! He’s a crucial element in the story. Worse than the biblical Cain (who was ashamed enough of his crime to at least hide his brother’s body), Roger shows how murder can be a “pleasurable” act, and a prelude to the sadism the boys’ civilization will devolve into.

We went a little overboard with the secondary characters in the early drafts of Executables, and it was painful to excise a few of them from the text. (Tommy Edgers comes immediately to mind.) Fortunately, we’ve been able to resuscitate a few of these in short stories we’re writing as promotional companion material for the novel.

So there is that danger: the story can get out of hand if you venture too far from the central conflict in following these secondary characters down each of their little paths. [Lisa: Haha! I remember reading once that Roald Dahl originally had nine other kids entering Wonka’s chocolate factory along with Charlie Bucket. All probably as vividly drawn as Veruca Salt and Augustus Gloop…but talk about potential minor character chaos! So it happens to the best.] They are going to quite fascinating places, after all. But they help you create a richer world and deliver a better payoff to the reader.

Lisa: Not only a richer world, but secondary characters that we know well and come to care about can give us some surprising views on the main characters, can reflect different facets of the protagonists, for good or ill. Think of how differently you viewed Harry Potter’s father after witnessing the interaction between his teenaged self and Snape. I think I was as shocked as Harry!

And yes, there is a danger not only in minor characters taking the story off-course, but also upstaging the protagonist if they are too fascinating or funny. I’d rather read about Mrs. Havisham or Mr. Jaggers than about Pip, Mr. Grandcourt rather than Daniel Deronda.

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

Jay: Well, we’ve come a long way from Beowulf, that’s for sure.

Government and society are the villains in quite a bit of what I read these days, and I think that reflects the distrust we feel towards authority figures in general and with the way many political leaders are doing their jobs. [Lisa: What was Congress’s most recent approval rating, again?] Many of us are struggling to pay bills and take care of our families. It can feel like we are at the mercy of larger forces— whether those are governmental, technological, societal, even environmental—and that is reflected in much of our modern entertainment, particularly in dystopian literature.

There’s also a backlash against rampant consumerism which fuels today’s economic engines. Again, I think this reflects people’s struggles to maintain the status quo in their financial lives, and the worries they have about changes going on world-wide and how they and especially their children will fit into these future realities. [Lisa: I can’t help but think about the conversations I hear among parents, trying to figure out how to advise their kids about college and career choices. Which college majors or graduate studies justify x amount of debt, and how will that affect the ability to buy a house, have a family, retire, etc? Do you dare try to nudge your children toward anything but the STEM areas? And even if your kid becomes an engineer or computer expert, etc., will even those jobs be outsourced? Is anything a safe choice?]

The heroes/heroines in dystopian tales tend to be average folk who are thrust into a role where their actions can have an impact and a benefit to the suppressed populace. Or in their struggle to survive, they provide a basis for the rise of a new society. I think that is a reflection of a lot of our fantasies, knowing full well that there is truly little an individual can do to counter the waves of change that bombard us every day, in many aspects of our lives. [Lisa: Well, I’m not quite as pessimistic as that. Because there are individuals who arise who make a tremendous difference. Or, even if no one individual in a movement stands head and shoulders above the rest in influence, enough individuals wanting a particular change and willing to struggle for it can, as a group, be the impetus for enormous change. But the ‘forces that bombard us every day’ are certainly daunting and sometimes (often?) insurmountable. And in the face of that, who wouldn’t fantasize about being Katniss or Frodo?]

We live in extraordinary times. The discoveries in medicine, in technological innovation, in exploration of our world and beyond, provide an enormous palette from which to craft stories. There is a lot of fear of these changes, but also exhilaration about the potential. [Lisa: Absolutely! Anxiety, dread, excitement, the thrill of ever-increasing knowledge—it’s a great, boiling cauldron of emotion and possibility, both in reality and in fiction.]

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

Jay: I do enjoy the interactions with people, the one-on-one communication aspect of self-promotion. I like conversing with individual readers and hearing what they liked and what they didn’t like about the story I wrote. It helps me in gauging how far to take some stories, and where to draw the line. Plus, it’s just fun! I know as a reader I’d be thrilled to talk to Dan Chaon some time. I did get a chance to talk with one of my literary heroes, Daniel Woodrell, and he’s an amazing person.

We’ve just started to get into the blogging and the tweeting and the tumblring and facebooking, etc. Of course, I’ve had a personal page on Facebook for a while now, so that’s not new, but I never used it for self-promotion. The biggest hang-up I have to get over on the online promoting is the fear of sounding like a braggart. [Lisa: Yup. Or a nag. Or that annoying salesperson who just will not let you browse in peace.] I want to let people know I have a book out there, but it’s almost like I want them to come to it of their own choice, or offer them something for free as a promotion to a sale. But then how do they find the material? So you have to get the information to them some way. I’m getting over my discomfort on this, but it’s taken some time.

Lisa: Well, I’m an introvert and while I enjoy conversations one-on-one or in small groups, I don’t particularly enjoy big crowd scenes and really, really don’t enjoy public speaking or being the focus of attention. (Even at my own wedding, I was thrilled when our little ring bearer was such a totally adorable ham going down the aisle before me that he basically stole the show and it felt like all the pressure to be the star attraction was off! Please, people, can we all just now ignore the bride? Thank you.) I LOVE that I can now meet and mingle online with people who have similar interests and sensibilities. But as far as using those tools to sell? Eesh. I’m pretty terrible. It’s a struggle.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Jay: Technological innovation—what is possible and what is going to be possible in the near-future—these are things that I find most interesting and influential. The speed of change that has occurred in our lifetimes makes any other epoch in history pale by comparison, and so anything that touches on these breakthroughs and how we deal with them as human beings fascinates me. I like perusing Wired, Discover, Mental Floss, and other magazines, and listening to RadioLab. I like works by popular physicists like Michio Kaku and Brian Greene because they can break down complex topics and make them comprehensible for people like me, and they raise interesting questions that just get your brain working in overdrive.

On a personal level, my parents and family have had the most influence on my life and how I look at the world. Both of my parents encouraged my interest in science and asking questions about the whys and ways of everything. Sibling rivalry with my older sister and younger brother brought out a competitive nature in me that continues to this day. My children continue to amaze me with their enthusiasm, their energy, and sense of wonder about the world about them. I love their perspective.

I’ve also always had a thing for the underdogs of history and in sports, and for those whose dedication to a cause and to duty led them to undertake incredible and, at times, suicidal tasks. Think Gettysburg, Into Thin Air, Charge of the Light Brigade, Gallipoli, U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid, Buster Douglas, etc.

Lisa: A couple of influences immediately come to mind. My upbringing as a Catholic and my much later explorations into that religion—once I could get past the unattractive 1970’s churches and bland 1970’s hymns of my youth and plunge more deeply into the cultural and historical richness—the mystery of what it is to be human and the sense of deep timelessness that drenches the art, architecture, legends, and literature from Dante all the way through Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor. I’d assume that a childhood involvement in any particular religion is going to shape who you become in many, many ways no matter what your conscious, mature view is of that religion, even if you completely reject every last tenet. Even if you reject the entire notion of religious faith itself as outdated.

Another thing that influences me strongly is travel. Not that I’ve been able to do nearly as much of it as I’d like and nowhere more exotic than Italy and England, but exposure to new places (even as close to home as, say Atchison, Kansas) always affects me powerfully and often brings out the writing juices.

Like Jay, I also like stories—true or fiction—about fighting impossible or nearly impossible odds. Survival stories—In the Heart of the Sea, The Last Place on Earth, Ice Blink, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Charlotte Rogan’s The Lifeboat—are special favorites. If a group of people are facing the choice of cannibalism or starvation in a lifeboat or on an ice-trapped ship in the Arctic, I want to know about it!

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

Jay: I think those old genres made it easier for publishers to group their readers according to taste, and market books accordingly. Neat genre classifications may have made deciding what to publish and how to market a little more clear-cut, but with the self-publishing explosion, the old rules no longer need apply and the genre distinctions are a lot murkier, even for traditionally published books. I think it’s great that readers are branching out from what they are familiar with and taking chances, especially with material that might be considered “really out there” and mind expansive.

I do like being lured away from my comfort zones. The rewards are great. I’ve never regretted reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and I was put off from reading it for years because of what I “thought” it was about.

Lisa: I love genres getting all mixed up, mashed up, messed up. Fantastic! It’s right up my alley. I’ve always loved fiction that utilizes but at the same time pushes against the boundaries of its genre, that breaks rules and surprises me. For example, I’ve really enjoyed what Dan Simmons has been doing in his most recent works (The Terror, Drood, The Abominable), mixing historical-based fiction (well-researched as far as I can tell) with creepy paranormal or potentially paranormal elements. Right now I’m reading Robert McCammon’s The Five (fantastic so far, by the way) and it’s been interesting to read about his unfortunate experiences with his publishers back in the 90’s, how they wanted him to stick to the horror fiction he was known for and not stray too far from that. Nobody seemed to think that there would be any readership for the sort of historical/horror/mystery blends that he started writing with Speaks the Nightbird. (frantically waving hand) “Hey! Right here! Your ideal historical/horror/mystery combo novel reader! Ready and waiting!” I’m SO glad that he’s back to publishing regularly again.

One writer I discovered several years ago who might have seemed a bit out of my comfort zone is Sarah Waters. I’ve read the occasional well-known lesbian-themed novel over the years (Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Rubyfruit Jungle, Annie on My Mind) but it wasn’t something I would typically read. If I’d happened on Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet first, I probably wouldn’t have been interested. But it so happened that the first book she wrote that I discovered was Affinity…and, oh, yeah, that might have been written just for me, all 19th century gloom and séances and prisons. The lesbianism aspect was just one other thread, all woven gorgeously together. Now I’ve read more of her books, some featuring more overt lesbian themes, others with none in particular, but all terrific.

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

Jay: I remember reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot right after Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. I liked King’s modern take on the old vampire myth. I also enjoyed the graphic novel The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and how they deconstruct the classic superhero story. Cormac McCarthy’s anti-western Blood Meridian blew away most of my previous favorites in that genre.

Lisa: I suppose I’d have to break this down into two groups—1.) reboots of specific stories and 2.) reworkings of more general mythic types (vampires, witches, werewolves, etc.) I’m probably more drawn to the second group with a few of my favorites being the reimagining of vampires in Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist, werewolves (obviously) in The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, the magician class in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, fairies in general in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and—well—tooth fairies in Graham Joyce’s The Tooth Fairy. As far as more specific retellings, I’d always recommend The Lightning Thief series, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce, and The Once and Future King by T.H. White. If we can venture away from books, I’m a sucker for the stage version of Wicked, Sondheim’s vision of the Sweeney Todd legend, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Was Homer’s Odysseus ever a fraction as attractive as George Clooney?)

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

Lisa: I’m afraid my class might not be the most balanced because I’d probably ignore seminal works that I haven’t read yet, while concentrating on my personal favorites. (Come to think of it, I’m sure I had some lit professors who operated by precisely that method when creating their syllabi so maybe this is a-ok.) I do think that I’d make sure to include dystopias that fall into different models of oppression: the obvious heavy-hand of physical violence or threat of same; oppression through restriction of free thought and free conscience; dystopia through chaos or anarchy; the we’ve-made-life-easy-and-fun-here-so-why-is-this-person-complaining model. So many avenues to dystopia; so little reading time.

That said, this is a combined Jay-and-Lisa list, no particular order, with our personal favorites starred:

First the required reading:
By the Waters of Babylon (Jay: Definitely. The first piece of dystopian lit I ever read.)
Brave New World*
The Time Machine
The Road*
Harrison Bergeron*
A Clockwork Orange*
A Handmaid’s Tale
Parable of the Sower*
I am Legend*
A Boy and His Dog
Fahrenheit 451
1984*
The Lord of the Flies*

And the extra credit:
Anthem
The Trial
Alas, Babylon
The Stand
The Passage*
The Giver
House of the Scorpion
Cloud Atlas* (Ooh, soulless super-techno dystopia AND postapocalyptic barbarism in one book—so very awesome)
Super Sad True Love Story* (Very uncomfortable read; hits way too close to home)
The Birds (Daphne Du Maurier, not Hitchcock)
Blindness
The Minority Report
On the Beach
White Noise
It’s a Good Life (by Jerome Bixby)
Never Let Me Go
The Hunger Games

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

Lisa: Wow, I’ve gushed any number of times…at least when I could actually manage to form words of any sort. One of my most tongue-tied was with the poet Mark Strand. He gave a reading (packed) when I was at the University of Illinois. He was funny, sharp, gorgeous images falling from his mouth as he read. Plus he was (to be frank) hot, in a kind of rangy, silver-haired, Clint Eastwood way.

Jay and I were on a committee together a number of years ago that presented a literary award annually to an author from the general Kansas/Missouri area. One year the winner was Daniel Woodrell. This was before Winter’s Bone, but right around the time that the film Ride with the Devil (based on Woodrell’s Woe to Live On) was made. We were so blown away by his writing that everything to do with the event made us anxious even though Woodrell was never anything but gracious and pleasant and easy to deal with. For starters, it was fairly embarrassing that we had such limited funds we couldn’t offer to pay for things like hotel rooms, mileage, or—God forbid—airfare even though we required a trip to Kansas City to accept the award. Committee members tossed around various mortifying ideas for the post-ceremony committee-and-author dinner, assuming that because he was known for ‘country noir,’ he might enjoy eating off battered pie tins and drinking from mason jars while using a checkered Labrador-retriever-style bandanna to dab any excess chicken gravy from his lips. (Thank God, Woodrell said he couldn’t stay for dinner because he had to make the drive back home in time to feed his animals. We never knew if he really owned animals or not, but if he didn’t, Jay and I would like to thank him at this time for inventing a plausible excuse and sparing us all humiliation.) One committee member intended to get her book signed, but fled in panic at the thought of coming face-to-face with such a gifted writer. Another committee member videotaped the event but when Woodrell emailed Jay weeks later and said his publisher would love a copy of the video to use for PR, it turned out that our primary camera had malfunctioned. Someone’s spouse had carried on with one of those early, handheld camcorders—shaky picture, no sound. Jay sent it to Mr. Woodrell with extensive apologies but never heard anything from him again. Ever.

Which favorite utopian worlds (from books, movies, tv) would you like to visit?

Jay: I still remember how intrigued I was with Michael Crichton’s amusement-park-gone-berserk premise in both the movie Westworld and his novel Jurassic Park, so I guess I would vote for either of those. Delos seems like the perfect getaway—as long as the robots don’t contract any viruses that turn them into actual killers. Nobody wants to be on the run from Yul Brynner. And an island that has actual dinosaurs on it? Sign me up, please!

Lisa: An island that has actual dinosaurs on it? Book me a flight in the opposite direction, please!

This is a really tough question! How many utopias are there that don’t turn out to be dystopias at their core? How many authors could write about a true, successful utopia without the reader dozing off? Maybe Narnia (during the good times.) Or Hobbiton (also during the good times.) Or one of the Star Trek series? Yes, there is still intergalactic war and all that, but human society seems to have taken care of so many of the things that ail us today: disease, poverty, lack of education, etc.

The truest utopias in fiction may be the charming old-fashioned small towns and villages that populate picture books—if you ever happen to read picture books, visualize where Arthur (the aardvark) lives. Or Angelina Ballerina. Or the Berenstain Bears. Or Franklin the turtle. Or Fancy Nancy. Or Pinkalicious. Or Clifford. Pleasant downtowns with leafy parks and friendly shops—not a Walmart in sight. Sunny, spacious houses with porches and large yards and big treehouses. It’s safe for the young ones to walk or ride their bikes (unsupervised!) to the library or the ice cream shop or the firehouse. There’s snow for Christmas and one crooked, decayed Victorian mansion at the edge of town to provide a scare on Halloween.

Dang. Can I go there right now? Or, at least, to the Hundred Acre Wood?

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

Jay: I used to work in the Technical Services department of a public library system, so I’ve been involved in my share of geeky discussions/debates. I remember how excited we’d get when the Library of Congress would mail us their newly-approved subject headings. We’d have arguments about how many access points were appropriate in a “good” MARC record (answer: you can never have enough), and how far to carry the decimal point in our Dewey classification system (we were limited to four places to the right of the decimal). I thought our bizarre preoccupations were limited to our own library, until I got approval to attend a meeting of a national organization for audio-visual catalogers in Chicago. People like me were everywhere! We’d spend entire dinner evenings discussing the nuances in the cataloging of recorded opera. Ah, those were the days.

We did debate pop culture as well. Such geeks we were! One particular discussion that prompted a heated exchange or two was over which actor portrayed the creepiest “Tooth Fairy” in the film adaptations of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon: Tom Noonan or Ralph Fiennes? My vote still goes for Noonan. His Francis Dolarhyde is the stuff of nightmares.

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

If you happen to live in the KC area, we’ll be appearing at the Home Grown Authors’ Fair at the South branch of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library on October 25th. Executables will be available in print by the end of September 2014, and October 2014 will see the release of at least three free companion stories—“Avenge Me,” “First Kill,” and “Whatever It Takes”—set in that same dystopian world.

The novel we’re currently working on, Deflection, is straight-up sci fi; we expect to release it in March, 2015.

CindrichSparksExecutablesExecutables book blurb:

After ten years of brutal labor on a prison meat-packing line, Tori Jennings now confronts an even more unbearable prospect: freedom.

But just because she’s free doesn’t mean she has a future. As an Executable, she has no money, no rights, no citizenship. No laws protect her. And the second she steps off penitentiary grounds into the Pennsylvania countryside, Tori becomes prey. A corrupt court judged her a murderer, and now hit-men, legally hired by the victim’s family, intend to take revenge.

Tori’s only chance is to run—and keep running, struggling to hold onto both courage and compassion as she stumbles through the underbelly of a decayed society. Her mother is dead, her father’s fate unknown. No family or friends can help her. Her sole allies? A troubled ex-cop who’s determined to see her survive and a female killer suffering doubts about her own lethal career.

The execution company will hunt Tori without mercy unless the victim’s family calls off the hit. Tori needs convincing proof of her innocence, but even she doesn’t know the truth behind the death she supposedly engineered. She only know that, without it, she can never run far enough to escape.

Places to Find Lisa Cindrich

Glynn River Press

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Places to Find Jay Sparks

Glynn River Press

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CindrichSparksWhateverItTakesWhatever It Takes book blurb:

As president of Regency Executions, Merle Edgers chafes under the general disdain for his line of work: the legalized hunting down and killing of felons branded as Executables. He’s determined his new venture into prison manufacturing will bring him the respect he craves from the socially elite. He’s confident he can make the climb . . . until he pays a surprise visit to Regency’s San Diego office. Brendan Roth, Regency’s west coast manager, has the upbringing of an American aristocrat, a matching sense of entitlement, and a fondness for blackmail. But Roth doesn’t understand just who he’s taking for a chump. Edgers isn’t about to let some Dartmouth punk run roughshod over his ambitions, no matter what he has to do to stop it.

CinrichSparksFirstKillFirst Kill book blurb:

How hard can hunting a human be? Tommy Edgers’ uncle runs a legalized hit squad and all Tommy wants is a chance to prove he’s not the loser so many people seem to think he is. When Uncle Merle finally gives him an easy hit–a straight shot in barren desert–Tommy intends to prove he deserves to hang with the pros he idolizes. But the Russian sadist assigned as his partner has other ideas.

Enter the world of Executables in this short story companion to the novel.

Interview: Michael Coorlim, Author of Sky Pirates Over London

CoorlimSkyPiratesOverLondonI have enjoyed several of Michael’s works, so it is with great pleasure that I wheedled an interview out of him. Please sit back and enjoy the chat about Doctor Who, Stargate, The Lord of the Rings, Xena, and plenty more!

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

That’s a hard question. I’ve found that often, a lot of my favorite series don’t really match up to the way I remember them, because they haven’t aged well, or because I’ve changed from the person who first enjoyed them.

That said: Doctor Who. It hasn’t let me down. I’d love to watch it all over again with fresh eyes.

CoorlimInfernalRevelation1Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

Reality is important when it comes to characterization and consequences. Lengthy travel and bathroom breaks and the like should be skipped over unless, for whatever reason, they’re vital to the plot or the character’s nature. Swearing is definitely part of characterization; the way people talk and the words they use tells us a lot about them.

My most recent release, Infernal Revelation, recently had a reviewer mark it down for its profanity. The speakers in question are rebellious teenage boys outside of adult supervision, and yeah, that’s how they talk. It’s part of their cultural make-up. In particular, it’s a YA book, and teens know how teens talk.

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’d like to see a simulation/management game based on Leo Frankowski‘s Cross-Time Engineer. A modern day man is sent back to the 13th century and has ten years to prepare medieval Poland for the Mongol invasion. I like games where you build things, where you see a lot of development on any scale, personal or social or whatever.

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

Genre has always been a bit of a tyrannical marketing tool. I think that we’re only beginning to see the possibilities available. This has impacted my writing more than my reading… I’ve always read anything I could get my hands on, but now I’m no longer being told that to be a successful writer I have to pick a single genre and stick to it.

I think we’re going to see some great experimentation from big name authors in the future.

Who are some of your favorite book villains? Who are your favorite hero duos from the pages?

Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes was great because you don’t really see him so much as you see the effects of his presence. Hero duos: Frodo and Sam. Gilgamesh and Enkidu if you want to get tragic about it.

CoorlimFineYoungTurkOften 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?

I read a lot of alternate history and time travel fiction. Michael Chriton’s Timeline – the book – was good. I didn’t care so much for the movie. Stargate – the movie and the television series – mined mythology, as did the Hercules and Xena television shows. They weren’t terribly accurate, but they didn’t have to be. It was just great to catch the references.

Oh, and the early Doctor Who seasons did a lot more with time travel. They weren’t always terribly accurate, but they were a lot of fun.

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?

The best villains are the tragic villains. Ideally I want my readers to identify with and even sympathize for my villains. I want them to understand why they commit terrible acts, and perhaps to see how they might end up in the same situation. Ultimately, though, what makes a villain is the failure to change, to grow like the protagonist does. They are defined and defeated by their destructive patterns.

I want readers to feel bad for my villains, but also that their downfall was inevitable.

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

Middle-Earth. Lembas wafers.

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 was on a Worldcon panel with Eleanor Arnason, Bud Sparhawk, and Connie Willis. All I could think about was that I should probably be down in the audience instead, not alongside Hugo and Nebula award-winning authors. I’d grown up reading their stories.

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

I think I notice bad covers more than good, but I’m approaching them from a design standpoint. I evaluate them for their color compositions, layout, and typography. I find it hard to “see” them like a reader.

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

The validity of genre fiction compared to “literature.” There are a lot of people out there who like to look down on others because of what they read and what they enjoy. I think it’s a form of insecurity, seeking validation through the dismissal of others.

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 really liked Merry and Pippin in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In my own work, I’ve found that often secondary characters will spawn books of their own; in The Collected Bartleby and James Adventures, Bartleby’s fiance Aldora makes a few appearances, but I was so taken with the character that I wrote the second collection in the series all about her. I have vague plans now to do the same for some of the other characters, namely James’s old friend and con-artist Buckley and his experiences with the Parisian underworld of the Belle Epoque.

Places to Find Michael Coorlim

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Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton

Why I Read It: Love this book!

Where I Got It: paperbackswap.com

Who I Recommend This To: Those who enjoy renditions of Beowulf or historical fiction.

Narrator: George Guidall

Publisher: Recorded Books (1999)

Length: 5 CDs

I have read this book numerous times since I was ~17, long before the movie tie-in (13th Warrior) came out. It is by far my favorite Michael Crichton book, and I believe it to be his best work (in my humble snobby opinion). This was my first time enjoying this book in audio format. In short, Ibn Fadlan, a poet and a scholar, is banished from Bagdad for dallying with another man’s wife. He travels to the far known reaches of the Arab world (in the 900s). Eventually, he meets up with a new kind of barbarian, the Vikings. From there he gets sucked into an adventure with them to fight a foe that must not be named. They venture to the far north to help defend a small village from the Wendo, a mysterious race that eat the dead.

If you have read this book, or seen the movie, you probably know that it is another take on the ancient tale of Beowulf. I really enjoy how this book captures the Viking culture through the eyes of a scholarly Muslim. This lead to much amusement, especially in how boisterous the Vikings are, their lack of fear of death, their take on sex, and enjoyment of fighting. Much of the book is told in a almost textbook manor; however, just when you think you might zone out Crichton throws in interesting tidbits that will have you rereading the previous few sentences and laughing out loud.

I have listened to many books narrated by George Guidall and I enjoy his even voice and the way to can capture the ridiculous, sorrowful, and enlightening moments through mere nuances of his voice. However, for this book I have to say I would have enjoyed an Arabic accent to capture the ambiance of the novel.

What I Liked: The scholarly attitude; clash of cultures; fighting a loosing battle and still coming out on top; magnificent heroes that are real people; the character growth of Ibn Fadlan; the dwarves.

What I Disliked: Women were for sacrifice and sex; no Arabic of Viking accents performed by the narrator.