Friday, September 16, 2011

An Interview with John Rice

John Rice is just a great, engaging guy.  His prose is definitely influenced by his poetic sensibilities.  Check out his interesting and worthwhile blog, http://quillandblood.wordpress.com/, and get to know him.  I’ll be posting a review of Every Night is a Holiday for Death in the next day or two.

Do you write full time or part time, and how do you manage it?

I try to write 2000 or more words a day, and since I’m retired time is not a problem.

You’ve got a blog, Quill and Blood.  What can your readers find there?

Readers of my blog will find original poems, stories, articles on current events and excerpts from stories I’m working on.

You write prose and poetry.  What do you enjoy more and why?

Tough question, I’ve attempted writing verse for a long time, and for the most part it is easier than writing fiction, because there are fewer rules but I suppose because it is more of a challenge, I enjoy fiction better, but not by much, because each genre has its own challenges and rewards. At the end of the day it really boils down to the mood I’m in.

Is it hard to switch between the two?  Do you find your prose getting overly poetic or the reverse?

No it isn’t difficult to switch between the two. Several years ago I filled out a test for a writing program, and my answer from them was, you must want to be a poet. When I first started writing prose I would put in at least one poem, now I only do if the story lends itself to the concept.

You started writing professionally later than most.  What kind of perspective does that give you?  How does that affect your writing?

I have always wanted to be a writer, but for most of my adult life I thought that I wasn’t able to write, plus, working  forty hours a week, and raising a family didn’t leave much time to learn. Even after I retired I didn’t try to write fiction, that didn’t start until the winter of 2007. My first attempt was writing two plays. That was followed by a few short stories for one of my sister’s great grandchildren. Then I plunged into my first YA novel, “Keeper of the Sword,” which took two months to complete. I think it made ad some urgency to get published

Tell us about your latest book.

I have a couple of books that I started, both young adult fantasy novels, the first one is Fire, it is the first of a trilogy, the other two will be Air and Water, the second one is Dragon Breath.

What prompted you to write it?

I suppose the success of Harry Potter

Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?

I have been concentrating on a book of short stories, titled Forever More, I am almost finished the last of the stories for the book, and I have been spending a great deal of time promoting, or trying to promote my blog and Ebook.

Tell us about the hardest challenge you had to overcome in writing?

The greatest challenge has been learning the proper use of English grammar and punctuation.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Read and write, if you pay attention to what you are reading, you can learn a great deal about writing. Join a writing group. Take a course in writing. Learn how to use five new words every-day, vocabulary is one of the biggest guns you will ever have in your writing toolbox.

Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your
life?

The top writer on my favorite list is Tolkien. It has been ever since I read Lord of the Rings. Hemmingway is also close to the top, along with Dickens, Steinbeck, and a host of others too long to mention. One book that has influenced me more than any other is the Bible.

What’s the one thing you want a reader to know about you?

That I believe all gifts, all talents come from God and it is up to us to find out which ones he has given us, then work hard, and pray to develop them.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Very Independent Indie Author--Guest Post from Poppet





I want to thank Poppet for putting together a post for me on what it means to be an indie author.  I have found Poppet to be engaging and interesting, and always controversial.  I reviewed Seithe (Pravus) as one of my first reviews here.  You can agree or disagree with Poppet, but you'll never wonder how she feels about an issue.


Thank you W J for having me as a guest author on your blog.  You've asked me to write about being an Indie author, but I'm going to use this opportunity to also introduce your readers to my work.

In brief, I was raised in an oppressive and violent environment. And everything wrong in my world, everything I feared, everything that made me cry, came with a label attached. That label was called the Bible. It was misused in my home, to such a degree that when my parents divorced, I vowed to never set foot in a church again.

What I could never know was that my childhood would awake in me a deep desire to get to the bottom of this thing we call religion. To the point where it's taken up the bulk of my life. I have spent my life doing research.

Because of this, there is a trend in my books. (A strange trend to be sure.) You could even call them parables. Sharing with my readers what I have spent my life researching. Seithe for example is a book which shows you the glory of humanity. What is it that makes us so very special? Seithe is a Vampyre, but not the kind you're thinking of when you hear the word vampire. Instead the entire tale is about what it is that's so very special about being human, and why it's coveted by other 'beings'. My Heresy series is labelled Heresy, because it draws heavily on texts not accepted by the church. However my latest offering Erra, addresses these issues head on, in the author's note at the back of the book.

Because I am controversial, being an Indie author suits me. I have no one telling me what I may or may not do in my work. I can release as many books as I can write in a year (in the last year I have released a total of 14 books), basically I have no restrictions. And because I grew up surrounded with unreasonable restrictions, enforced with fear and violence, you can pretty much bet your hat that I don't work well as an adult, inside a restrictive system.

I like to be free. Free to follow my heart, and share my life's work with my readers in engaging stories which flirt with a whole mountain of truth. Truth of course is subjective to where your comfort zone is, and how far you're willing to challenge your own beliefs. Heresy, when I wrote it, it destroyed everything I believed, and I think it broke me out of a mental prison. However I was still conditioned with fear, and I cried for days, shaking with fear, thinking about how what I was reading and revealing (and writing) was wrong.

Such is conditioning, and that's how powerful it is, especially if you were conditioned from birth to expect severe repercussions for challenging authority. Especially the authority of a book. It seems so fitting then, that I do this in the same form. With a book. And now that I have read the book which terrorized my life, and found in it some of the truth, I am using my own power to make my readers aware of the bits glossed over.

Make no mistake, I'm not a preacher, and I really don't like the idea of forcing your opinion on others. All I do with my books, is offer another perspective to my readers. What they do with that perspective is completely their own choice.

And because I know that some of my work will press buttons, I am unafraid of lashback and scathing reviews. This is something every author must face (Indie or otherwise). And it's something all authors must embrace. Criticism is an exercise of free will. Not everyone is going to like your work. And that's okay. If we all liked the same things, life would be very boring indeed, and take out night would be predictable.

We are all unique, and I embrace that. I love knowing I'm one of a kind. And so are you. Which means no two books should ever be the same. When we create anything, it should be from the heart, and with the best intentions. Do your best when you create a novel, and then let it go. What the world does with that book isn't your problem. Your only role is to sit down, and write a new book, from the heart, to the best of your ability.

Hence, Indie fits me, it sits really well with me, and I have to say I am thrilled to be an author during this era of revolution in the literary world.

If any of your readers would like to sample my work, they will find three of my books offered for free on Smashwords. (Heresy, Blindsided, and Fey's Adventures). These books are also free at Barnes & Noble, but not on Amazon (I apologise, but I don't control Amazon's pricing that way. I asked them to make it free, and they said they reserve that right).

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AuthorPoppet

Here below is a teaser from my latest supernatural romance, titled Erra, which is a tale about a love triangle.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Review of Vampires Revealed by Rebeka Harrington

Vampire novels are everywhere.  My evil twin, Jerry Wright, wrote one with Barb Jones.  Go to a bookstore and there about half a million of them everywhere.  There are bad vampires, good vampires, gross vampires, sparkly vampires--you name it. Okay, let's face facts, vampire books have kind of become the disco music of literature.  It's a guilty pleasure we sing along with when nobody is looking and make fun of when people pay attention.  Alright...here goes...Hello, I'm WJ, and I'm a vampaholic.
Seriously, though, why are we sick of vampires?  The answers easy--they've become the sparkly stuff of young adult fiction and nearly completely lost their edge.  However, Almost everyone who hates the proliferation of vampire novels would still agree that Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire (Vampire Chronicles) is a great book.  Why?  Her vampires aren't monstrous, and the Twillight weaklings wouldn't have ever been developed without that great book.  I'm not convinced we need fewer vampire novels.  I think we need more for adults.

The author of today's book agrees.  Take a look at her guest post from yesterday, Vampires: Done to Death?   Rebeka Harrington's new book Vampires Revealed does a fine job with that. It's a well-put together novel that doesn't focus on the sparkly if you're a twelve year old you're going to faint concept of vampires.  Still, the three-thousand year old vampire character of Bektamun has plenty of personality above and beyond the fact that she sucks blood.  Harrington takes on origin myths, day to day life, and basic questions that tend to be unanswered (or worse, assumed based on other literature) in vampire fiction today.

The character is cool.  I haven't before read a novel from a female vampire's point of view.  Harrington has created an interesting character that avoids nearly all of the junk that's put vampire fiction out of fashion over the last few years.  I'm looking forward to more in the series.  Oh--quick point here.  It's not only better than the childish YA stuff out there, but this novel is definitely NOT FOR KIDS.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vampires: Done to Death? Guest Post by Rebeka Harrington




Rebeka Harrington started her writing career working for the local newspaper as a teenager. She stepped away from writing for a while but always remained creative.  She’s a true eclectic, with wide and varied tastes that usually end up in her writing.  I was fortunate enough to get her to put together a guest post for us.  She particularly enjoys writing about vampires, and her new novel Vampires Revealed is an interesting and unique take.  (I know you’re thinking “What interesting and unique takes are left?  Trust me on this one.  I’ll be posting a review in due time.)
Rebeka is charming, beautiful, and a real writing talent.  I’m happy to say this guest post isn’t all you’ll hear from her.  We have an interview that will be up soon as well.  And without further ado…here’s my first guest post.  Enjoy


Vampires: Done to Death?
by Rebekah Harrington

Ever since Anne Rice reignited interest in vampires there has been a steady and ever-increasing procession of vampire related fiction hitting bookstores. Some might say vampires have been ‘done to death’ (pun intended). So why, in a world dominated by a virtual excess of vampire fiction , would any author choose to add to the existing overabundance?

Well I certainly can’t speak for other authors, but for me writing about vampires was much like Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin…it was a happy accident.

Like many other small business owners in the current economic climate, I found my business suffering a major downturn. While this has made life difficult, I discovered without the demands of my business, I had more free time on my hands. What to do with this free time?

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with vampires, mostly because I am also fascinated with history. To me vampires represent ‘living’ history. They can also be dangerous, brutal, sexy, good, evil and can scrutinise humanity in a way other fictional characters cannot.

As a self-confessed vampire fan I’ve consumed my fair share of vampire fiction over the years, through books and movies. As much I’ve enjoyed this consumption, everything I have ever read or watched had one thing in common - they left me with questions.

I had now stumbled on what I could do with my free time (my ‘happy accident’); I would set about compiling a list of all my unanswered vampire questions and research the answers. And that is exactly what I did!

Who was the first vampire? How did that happen?

How does a blood-drinking body differ from that of a human body?

Do they have a system of government, laws?

What do they really think of humans? Are humans only food?

After drinking so much blood, do they ever need to use a toilet?

Where did the myth start and why?

That is just a small sample from my very long list of questions.

When I started researching, trying to find some answers, I discovered many people before me had asked similar questions and not found satisfaction. It seemed no matter how much time and effort I spent on my quest for information, I was doomed. Since the answers to my questions apparently didn’t exist, I decided it would be fun to try and answer them myself.

It had been many years since I had done any serious writing, but found it was like riding a bike and it all came flooding back to me. Formerly I had written regularly for a local newspaper. The writing might have come easy, but the answers still escaped me.

Then I had a breakthrough, I discovered the origins of vampires and how it was possible for vampires to exist at all. This breakthrough led me to my main character, Bektamun. She is 3000 years old, has lived through and seen it all. With her help I was able to document the entire history of vampires; their lives, laws and lifestyles. Together, Bektamun and I had written ‘Vampires Revealed’.

Falling back on my experience of writing for newspaper the initial version was somewhat brief, but I gave it to a friend to read anyway. She devoured it and vehemently demanded MORE!

From the humble beginnings of wanting only to answer my own questions, Vampires Revealed has evolved into a comprehensive and unique piece of work. It is best described as an autobiographical, mocumentary expose, written from the perspective of a 3000 year old vampire.

“Leave behind your preconceived ideas, forget the horror stories and disregard everything you think you know about vampires.  Never before have humans had and an opportunity such as this.  To know the unadulterated truth, for every question you may have ever had about vampires to be answered.”

I now find myself completely drawn in to the world shown to me by Bektamun and look forward to exploring it with my future works. Writing Vampires Revealed has given me enormous pleasure, I sincerely hope you gain as much pleasure from reading it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Review of Into the Dark, Desolate Night by John Darling



Does it make me some kind of a crazy guy that I love detective fiction more than any other kind, despite the fact that I write almost exclusively about academic subjects and (when I can) literary fiction?  Let me tell you something.    I love them all, the big-brained Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe types out there; the hard hitting Sam Spades, the sweet and innocent Miss Marples--I could go on and on. There's nothing quite as good as a story with a broken or semi-broken detective peering into the darkest reaches of humanity to get to the truth.  I just read a great Ed Mcbain pulp novel and tore through a John MacDonald the other day.  I love them.  Have I mentioned that?

I love detective Anderson, too.  John Darling has created a great character with plenty of flaws and plenty of smarts.  I love the detective cliche's that make the stories brilliant when they're used right or stupid when they're used poorly.  In Darling's case, it's all done right.  Of course Anderson hates partners.  Of course Anderson is more interested in justice dispensed by gun barrels than by judges.  God!  The pulp in these stories is so thick it makes the thickest, richest orange juice seem thin as hell.

I loved this book.  Maybe I'm an easy target.  Who knows?  Still, the stories are great and the characters, if standard and typical for the genre, are wonderful.  I love the resolutions to the mysteries involved.  Even if they're straight out of the genre handbook, they're great.  Look at this exchange from the story "Sucker Punch."


“You killed her for candy?” replied a shocked Owens.
“Oh, candy, cakes, cookies, fudge, and all. All the good stuff in life,” she said, her voice starting to take on a sing-song crazy edge again, “I don‟t know what that silly woman had against it, I just love it all to pieces myself.”

Who comes up with that kind of cool stuff?  John Darling does.  Pick up the book.  It's ten great stories and three hundred and fifty pages of pure detective fun.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Interview with John Darling




I had an opportunity to get to know John Darling a bit.  Read what he has to say, and I think you'll like him.

Do you write full time or part time, and how do you manage it?

I write part-time.  Most of the time I write in the early morning when the world is quiet and my mind is fresh from a brief night’s sleep (I rarely sleep more than 5 hours).

I understand we can thank tattoos for your latest book.  Tell us about it.

I had never written a mystery before, since romance was my strong suit, but one night I was sitting in a bar talking to a friend of mine who worked there when a lady sat down next to me.  Her clothing left very little to the imagination, so when she asked me if I wanted to see her “tats”, I almost said that I could already see them.  But before I could do that, I realized that she did not say the word I thought she said, so I said “Okay”, not knowing what to expect.  She then went into an explanation of each of her many tattoos, which got a chuckle from my friend since the lady was a regular flake in the bar.  After an hour, I thought, what if I was someone who hated tattoos?  What would I do?  And that is how the first Detective Anderson mystery, entitled Tat, came to be. Since then I have written 9 more stories which I assembled into a book.

Was it difficult to write in the mystery genre?

I found it quite easy even though I had never written one before Tat.  I was more amazed when the first magazine I sent it to wanted to buy it.  The editor said he loved every aspect of Tat.  It was the editor that gave me the idea to write more stories about Detective Anderson.  Since I decided to turn the stories into a book, I had to, reluctantly, withdraw my submission to the magazine.  Pulp Empire is a great place to send work if you write in this genre.

Tell us about your character Detective Anderson.  Is there any of you in him?  Someone else, maybe?

I am Anderson.  I guess I always have been since I have always been one who could figure out what happened or how to do things.  My strongest suit is solving problems and every crime is a problem until you find out whodunit.

You chose a collection of short stories rather than a novel.  Why?

I have never attempted a novel.  Short fiction is what I do best.  The third story in my book, Into the Dark Desolate Night, is called Images and at over 13,000 words, it is the longest story I have ever written.  My excuse is that I can’t keep a thought in my head long enough to write a novel.

Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?

I have labeled my book, Into the Dark Desolate Night, as Volume 1 of The Detective Anderson Mysteries so look for more from him.  I am working on his next case now called The Talking Dead

What inspired you to be a writer?

I have always been a great story teller.  People have told me that they like to listen to me tell a tale because I often act out the characters I am talking about—real or imagined—so one thing just lead to another.

Tell us about the hardest challenge you had to overcome in writing?

I started writing before computers arrived on the scene and at the time I started, I was such a poor typist, that I almost gave up the craft.  Then along came word processing which saved me!

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Write what you feel, not just necessarily what you know.  Anything can be researched on the Internet nowadays.  Also, base your characters on real people that you know, it makes it easier to bring them to life.  In two of my stories that are back to back in my book, I base the older character on a late friend of mine (who died at the ripe old age of 102).  I even used his middle and last name for the character names.  In Tat, victim #7 is based on a female bartender that works in the place where this all started.  She wasn’t crazy about being dead in the story, but she was happy that I included her.

Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?

Kurt Vonnegut.  He is as weird as I am and I blame him for my screwed up personality, especially his seminal book, The Sirens of Titan, which taught me that we are all just puppets to a superior being—whomever you think that is.    John Grisham, is my favorite living author even though he won’t answer my emails. 

How did you deal with rejection letters?

I read them, then toss them, and move on.  They are just part of the game.  The bestselling novel and #1 movie in the country is The Help.  That was rejected countless times until someone saw the marketability of it.

What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?

I learned Cockney.  In my book, Woman in Black, (which is another collection of short stories available on Amazon.com) the title character travelled through time to deal with a pesky alien named Jack the Ripper.  So she would fit in with the criminal elements she would be dealing with, she had to learn Cockney, which means I had to learn it.   

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Review of The Chloe Files: Ashes to Ashes by Howard Hopkins




My wife and I devour books.  Since I gave up all attempts at income from normal, stable, and regular sources in favor of ghostwriting to pay the bills and creative writing to perpetuate the “eventually I’m a’gonna win me a Nobel Prize” myth, we read even more.  A typical day for me involves finding the book my wife stole from me, finishing it, and then stealing whatever book my wife is in the middle of reading.  Thank God for ebooks!  It’s a little harder to steal the laptop, and that meant I could read Howard Hopkins’ book without having to find where my wife hid it.

I liked the book a whole lot.  First things first:  the editorial standards are higher than a bunch of the self-published stuff you’re going to find out there.  I’m not a stickler for all the dots and crosses, but when a book is done well, it’s a definite plus.  As an indie author myself, it’s always exciting when somebody gets it right.  Second things second:  The book is good.  Damn good.

Let’s face reality.  The whole world of paranormal, semi-horrific but not really horror books has rapidly approached completely recycled status for a while now.  Characters are almost interchangeable between books by different authors and clich├ęs rule over creativity.  Hopkins avoids this nicely.  His character, Chloe, is refreshing on a number of levels.  First, Hopkins strikes a good balance between the “strange paranormal events like ghosts and monsters…ho hum, it’s just another day” and “OHMYGODWHATTHEHELLISGOINGONHERE.”  Chloe’s reactions to her particular corner of supernatural hell are believable and entertaining.

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Hopkins books are one of the reasons the genre has legs left.  It is possible to write in this environment without producing derivative crap, and he’s proven it.  There were echoes of Dean Koontz (Odd Thomas) and Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) but also just plain good plotting and characterization you can find in far too few of today’s best sellers.  It’s no surprise, though.  Take a look at the interview with Hopkins I posted a few days ago, there are links to a number of his books, and he’s got a varied background that includes multiple genres.  He can spin a yarn.

Quick confession…I liked the monkey best.  Who gets away with adding a centuries old monkey to a horror story?  Who gets away with putting a locket from Joan of Arc in that monkey’s hand?  Who gets you to actually like that?  Howard Hopkins does.  Buy the book.  You’ll like it.