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Multitasking, it's what the masters do, and currently what I'm having to do as well. As I work to finish and release my annual horror anthology a couple of months late, and build momentum on the novelization of Terran Z - a surprise opportunity arose that I simply could not pass up. So now my plans include 2 novels this year, in addition to the horror anthology and another as-of-yet unannounced (and larger) SciFi anthology.
Going to be a very busy year, stay tuned!
And speaking of horror, what better time than now to hand it off for an in-depth interview with horror master, Lincoln Farish. Take it away, my friend!
Brother Sebastian is halfway up a mountain in Vermont, hell-bent on interrogating an old woman in ashack, when he gets the order to abandon his quest for personal vengeance. He has to find a missing Inquisitor, or, more likely, his remains. He’s reluctant, to say the least. Not only will he have to stop chasing the best potential lead he’s had in years, this job—his first solo mission—will mean setting foot in the grubby black hole of Providence, Rhode Island. And, somehow, it only gets worse… Horror Author Lincoln Farish
If he’d known he would end up ass deep in witches, werewolves, and ogres, and that this mission would jeopardize not only his sanity but also his immortal soul, he never would’ve answered the damn phone.
I took another step into the shop, pushing against the waves of evil. On the next set of shelves, I saw a severed hand in a large clear jar. The hand of a slain witch contains the knowledge of the deceased. The possessor then has that knowledge, all her spells and tricks. It’s one of the reasons witches were burned years ago...
A flash of movement from the other side of the room caught my eye. Two handmade Raggedy Ann style dolls were each held fast to the counter by a small black iron chain. The dolls were sitting slumped, as though alive and waiting for release. High-pitched, girlish voices came from them, full of hate, malice, and insanity. A sign in front of them said they were Hogaana Dolls.
A summoned spirit—a soul called from Hell—can be captured and enslaved by a strong or skilled witch. Trapped between here and Hell, the spirit can act as an oracle and tutor—a guide for witches trying to learn and experience new levels of power and what I’d call madness but she would refer to as “clear thinking” or “a deeper understanding.” The drawback is that a spirit is still ethereal and can escape easily unless tightly contained and constantly fed power to keep it here. The bound spirit can be transferred into a vessel to contain it in a form, a body...
My hands were shaking, my stomach roiled, and my eyes stung from the candles and incense. I wanted to flee...
I needed to leave and report back. This was beyond my abilities.
When I looked up, a tall, thin woman was staring at me from behind the counter. Her gray hair grew in clumps between patches of gnarled burn scars. She was dressed in a tight jumpsuit, stained with blood. Rings covered her hands, and I saw the deep purple of porphyrite in one.
Her face had an odd twist to it, as though someone had taken a screw, driven it into her nose, and turned it. She was a Screwface—a witch who thrived on pain and torture. A witch I wasn’t capable of breaking, or even dealing with. And now it was too late for me to escape.
Only a very special type of Inquisitor—a man without empathy, one who would be called a sociopath in the regular world—could deal with them. Formed into teams called Hammers, they’re elite, but they die even faster than regular Inquisitors. Not only do they train longer and harder than my regular Brethren, they receive special instruction on how to deal with Screwfaces. And despite all this training and conditioning, they’re still sometimes reduced to a pitiful weeping mess after one of their Purges.
Her smile reeked of madness and pain.
One of the dolls moved and shrilled, “Make it bleed.”
She glanced at it then raised the hand with the porphyrite ring, which was glowing and snapping in a purple and black nimbus. She was unleashing some spell; only magic was that mind-bending color. “Goodbye, false monk.”
When did you start writing?
On this series, I started the first one about ten years ago. I'm not sure if I will ever use it, it's a kind of Origins story. Once I wrote it I was kinda hooked, I realized there were many, many more stories about Sebastian that needed to get out. I wasn't in a hurry, and I took my time, hence the slow pace. Since then I finished with my fourth novel in the series. It's funny I wrote my first book long before I'd ever heard of any of the other authors that write along similar lines. The first time I read Larry Correia, Junior Inquisitor was with my editor. I wish I'd read him earlier, his creation of a useful silver bullet is better than mine.
Well I still quibble with the horror genre tag, because I’m not trying to scare anyone. I’m just exploring what would happen if people suddenly were able to do magic. Following that question I had some answers but also more questions. Where would this ability come from, would it uplift the human spirit, or bring out our worst impulses? Then, if they were bad, who would stop them? If all magic users were good I have a Happiest Elf kids story, which for me would be dull. I could have made witches and warlocks both good and evil, but that’s been done. So I went with evil. From that everything kind of sprang forth. How would someone who is evil and very powerful act? What kinds of spells and energies would they have, how would they get more power, how would they act towards each other and regular people? Everyone who’s evil needs some minions, so what would they have and how would they get them? I ended up with this very dark tale about a group of monks who were waging a guerrilla war on evil made manifest. So it’s dark urban fiction that’s almost horror. The “almost horror” modifier came along because apparently I scared some of my beta readers.
What research did you have to do?
Quite a bit on Providence, it's been a long time since I've been there. And lest anyone think I hate Providence, I do not. I just needed a decent sized town for creatures of madness and mayhem to run around in. I could have picked Worcester, New Bedford, even Hartford. I went with Providence. I also spent time learning about the different orders of monks, so that part of the story would be authentic. On weapons I had a lot less research to do since I've used weapons ever since high school and quite a bit throughout my twenty-eight years in the military. I've been over to Iraq twice, Afghanistan, three times for the military, and spent about a year in Afghanistan working for a private security firm. Every bit of equipment the Inquisitors use I have experience with, the same with their tactics, which made it easy to describe but boring to read. Most of the time when there is a fight people focus on what is right in-front of them. To give a story any kind of continuity and avoid “Well if you remember Bob,” or “”Tell me again what happened when the Ogre attacked,” dialogue I had to expand Brother Sebastian's peripheral awareness. At the same time I didn't want to descend into omnipotence, so it was a balancing act.
Why dark urban fiction almost horror?
I was really stuck trying to shoe-horn in my story into a genre, because it just didn't quite fit. I'm not trying to scare anyone, act as a warning to the populace at large on the dangers of Cthulhu, or teach a moral lesson like horror usually does. At the same time if you have a group of people who have powers that can and usually do harm regular people, your story is not going to be a happy one. Bad things will occur, people will die, and mayhem will run rampant. It's not dystopic, for most people magic never enters their lives and they go about quite happily unaware it actually exists. Those that do, however, experience all kinds of terrible events and traumas. Set more or less today that kinda makes it urban fiction, minus the romance. So dark urban fiction almost horror.
Are Wiccans witches?
Not in my books; completely different types of people and motivations. In my world witches are unrepentantly evil, more or less crazy, sacrifice innocents to gain power, and generally nasty all around. Witches will sometime prey on Wiccans, but they could just as easily go after a Girl Scout Troop, or the Moose Lodge.
But witches visit places Wiccans are
Of the few Wiccans I know, all of them are fiercely independent. Which works well for them and is fine for society, as it is now. But if we change things up and people are viewed as herd animals, predators are always looking for the weak, the unlucky, and those alone. Individuality in this situation is counter-productive. From the predator's perspective, it is much easier to stalk a single cow that has wandered away from the herd than it is to try and separate one away from the group. That's what witches are; predators, and how they see us, as prey. Those who are alone, or weak or venerable and easily seduced, or won't be missed are the targets of witches.
Are there only evil women?
Of course not, in my first book, the two biggest sources of pain for Brother Sebastian, the protagonist, are both male; warlocks. There are different types of magic users, ones that have different skills or focuses, which I will reveal in due time, and some of the sub-types of magic users may be more male or female centric, but they are all nasty vicious people bent on blood lust and chaos. Evil is pretty much an equal opportunity recruiter.
Why aren't there good magicians like Harry Dresden or Harry Potter?
Those are differently worlds with different rules. Jim Butcher has within his series, The White Council and the Laws of Magic to reign in true evil. That kinda sorta works for Harry Dresden, but that does leave a lot of room for abuse as Harry's mother pointed out. If you notice in Harry Potter, Arthur Weasly, as nice as he is written, makes remarks about how clever Muggles are for inventing things like electricity and phones because they don't have magic. Like they're an occasionally bright child, there is a kind bigotry of low expectations. This is shown pretty clearly when the Minister of Magic visits the Prime Minister, and of course how Dolores Umbridge acts towards non-humans. There is some real nastiness in the margins of Harry Potter's world, and I think the stories are better for it. The other difference is in both of those worlds, one is born into magic or not, and they grow into their power, no one reads a strange book and has magic unleashed upon them as in my world.
I took, I think, a harder, and more realistic approach as to what would happen if there was magic. It's power. People rarely handle power well, especially if they get it suddenly. A decent comparison is when people win the lottery. They tend to go a bit crazy with all of the new possibilities open to them now they are a millionaire.
Imagine you had the power, magically, and from across the room, to slap someone who was rude, maybe they're yammering away on their cell-phone in public, perhaps they're driving like a jerk, maybe talking during the movie, cutting in line, whatever. Now if you could do that, and no one would know that it was you doing the slapping, and there was no way you'd be punished by the law for doing so, would you be tempted?
Even if you never slapped anyone, but knew you could, how would your attitude change towards regular people? Would you start to hold them in contempt, just a little, because you had abilities they did not? How would your attitude change towards following the law knowing you were above it?
Now toss in some evil entities encouraging you to do more than just slap around people who get in your way and you have a real monster being created.
Does the Government know about witches?
No. First off remember most people can't see magic, just the aftermath. Could you see a politician getting up in front of the cameras and saying, “magic is real,” and not be laughed off the stage? What modern government could admit there was a problem that most people can't directly see, can't measure, and that the government couldn't fix? Following that logic I deduced that they deliberately turn a blind eye to magic, engaging in wilful ignorance. Further to avoid panic, or worse yet looking incompetent, they would silence those who point out that there is a problem. Bureaucracies are very self-protective, ask any whistle-blower, pointing out the Emperor has no clothes leads to punishment, not acceptance.
Even if you did convince people there was magic, witches, and evil made manifest, what do you think would happen? Would people pick up their pitchforks and start weighing suspicious characters to see if they weighed as much as a duck, or would they seek witches out, hoping for favours and power?
Why can't the Government hire those that can see magic?
I had thought about it. Larry Correia's does this with his Monster Hunter series, the protagonists are in league with a shadowy part of the government to eradicate monsters and suppress monster uprisings. Works for him, I'm more cynical. In my mind if you have ten government employees who know about monsters and it'll be news in a week. Governments and conspiracies just don't work out. Remember if two people having consensual sex in the White House can't keep it secret, how would it be possible that an entire agency, or bureau, or department could hide the existence of the supernatural?
With Rick Gualtieri's Bill the Vampire series, the vampires have bribed off cops and various important government officials to keep quiet, and that could work to a point. However, I'm not cynical enough to think that would work well long term either. Now these are their worlds and they say what does or does not work, but for me I figured that a shadowy guerrilla war between evil and the Church worked. Witches stay out of sight because they fear being captured/enslaved/ sacrificed by more powerful magic users, and the monks do so because no one would ever believe them, and some politicians would actually work to keep the knowledge of magic quiet to prevent spreading fear or exposing government incompetence.
Why wouldn't people believe in magic?
We live, for better or for worse, in a culture that follows scientific principles, and reason more or less. How would you even measure magic? “I'm going to sacrifice ten kittens and compare how much power our trapped witch receives versus the ten puppies we sacrificed yesterday?”
Imagine how the law would react - “Yes officer, the neighbourhood bully was drunk again and bothering everyone here at the block party. Ms Crabtree came out and he knocked her down. She pulled out a stick and said some funny words and he fell over dead. I think she's a witch and you need to arrest her for witchcraft and murder.”
Or a defence attorney - “So you think my client is a witch and that piece of wood is the murder weapon? Okay please show the court how that works. Fire a spell out of it. Nothing big, say knock over the water pitcher.”
That’s the point, if we had magic users they would be outside out the law as we have it constructed. Never mind that jails couldn’t hold them, what would be the charge, how would the rules of evidence apply?
Unless you want a world filled with witches doing as they pleased, you have to checks to this power. That’s why in my world you have Inquisitors fighting them in secret.
Why straight up good versus evil?
I went old school, if you read events and tales from before the modern era, say up until WWI that's the way things were portrayed. There was good on one side and then evil on the other. Industrialization started to alter the way we saw the world and our roles. It introduced complexity, and forced people to face a changing, more nuanced world, but it was the mechanized butchery of WWI that had the real effect. It shook people's belief in themselves and in how they perceived others. Instead of black and white the grey was focused on, it was always there, but now it rose to prominence. This trend continued slowly, replacing the hero with the anti-hero, the uncertainty of motives swamping story telling in all of its forms and now in life. Instead of good guys doing bad things to bad people for timeless ideals, we have, for the most part, questionable people doing bad things to other questionable people because a code has been broken, a trust betrayed, an action needs to be avenged.
All well and fine, and what we are now used to, because that is closer to real life. We do things for personal reasons and situationally, not from a larger sense of what is right or wrong. However, what happens when you take someone used to nuance, to complex motives, and who understands the grey in us, and put them in a black and white world? They know what they must do, but are not really mentally equipped to deal with the, “she was bad so I killed her,” kind of abruptness. How does a person who doesn't feel righteous, lead a righteous life; how do you purge evil when you've spent most of your life looking at the grey and not at the black and white?
Why Catholic Monks?
I needed a group that was world-wide, large enough that they could have a secret society with in them and old enough that they could have been battling evil for a very long time. I also need to explain from where the darkness comes without copying anyone. Larry Correia uses the Cthulhu mythos, Harry Potter is fairly agnostic, religion is rarely mentioned, except Christmas. Rick Gualtieri has a hint of Catholicism with the Templars protecting the Icon from the icky vampires. Jim Butcher has a bit more Catholic mythos with Angels and Knights of the Cross, so I went further; full on Catholic. Again I did that before I’d read any of these guys, and they are all worth reading, it just worked out that I was in a niche that no one else was occupying.
Tell me about these Illustrated Excerpts and the book cover, where did you get them?
I have the best editor possible, Danielle Fine. Not only did she make the story infinitely better, she helped create the cover and then did the illustrated excerpts for promotional efforts. Remember I’m new at this and had no idea how to do marketing. She and a few other authors took me under their wings and helped guide me along. For the artwork, I’d like to say it was a collaborative event, but I have no artistic skills. I gave Danielle my vision of what “right” looked like and with a bit of back and forth, okay a lot of back and forth, she made it happen. Of course, now with all of my nit-picking, I owe her some tequila. Probably several bottles.
So where are you now in your series?
The Soulless Monk, the next in the series is with my exceptional editor Danielle Fine. I just finished The Witch's Lair, which is number three. Give me a few weeks to a month to do rewrites and checks and then that's off to the editor. I've also made a tentative start on the next novel after The Witch's Lair. I can't reveal its name as it gives away too much.
I also have a few short stories other, featuring second lead men that I'll probably be adding to The Soulless Monk and The Witch's Lair for additional fun for the reader.
When are they coming out?
The Soulless Monk, the second book, will be out by fall, if not sooner, but there are lots of factors like re-write times; the wife and helper dog and their willingness to put up with my antics that will have to be considered. How many copies and how quickly they are sold of Junior Inquisitor will have an impact. From those sales I'll be paying my editor. I'm hoping to sell a lot as she gets real cranky when it comes to her money, and she does such a good job it feels wrong to try and pay her in kindness and with my good looks.
So with Wednesday's "Back to the Future Day", which marked the day that Emmitt "Doc" Brown programmed into his Delorean time machine (safe to say, this is not a SPOILER ALERT... I hope), I got to thinking about time travel. And more specifically, how impossible it is.
Now let me start off by easing the rants of the haters out there that would be willing to send me forward to meet the Morlocks, or back 65 million years to meet a gruesome fate at the (small) hands of a T-Rex- I love me some time travel in my Science Fiction. Additionally, I am a super huge geek fan of the Back to the Future trilogy. So don't mistake this as saying time travel as it relates to fiction is pointless, because it isn't. It has its place, and it would be a sad day if we never spoke of it.
But let's talk about reality here, folks. Time travel just isn't possible. Why, you ask? I'll lay it out for you in three simple points: 1) Time does not exist in nature, 2) Time is not a physical entity, and 3) What time represents is linear in nature, not a location.
So what does this all mean?
First, let's talk about what time really is. As much as time is second nature to all of us starting at a very early age, time is a construct of humans. That's to say that it doesn't exist in nature – you can't go out and dig up a bucket of seconds, and there are no trees deep in the Amazonian Rain Forest just waiting to have their month fruit harvested.
What is time then? Simple. It's a measurement - but a necessary creation as we could not measure what it represents with any device or standardized unit. For example, I can't tell you that I had a hamburger 4 feet ago, nor could someone tell you that you have a doctor's appointment 6 liters from now – neither make sense. So time is a construct (more on the fallacy of this term in my next point) created by humans – seconds, minutes, hours, and so on – in order to measure the interval between two (or more) events.
As I mentioned above, time is a construct. But that term implies that it's something physical that we created. That's simply not true – time is a logical non-entity; that is to say that I cannot reach into my pocket and pull out a handful of hours, and I can't go to my local hardware store and buy a year or two (as much as I would love to). So time is not physical.
My final point is this – time does not represent a location. As explained above, time is a logical, non-physical, man-made construct that is only linear in nature. Time never cycles backward, nor in any cyclical sense – ever – it only moves forward. Sure, we can represent what we call the "past" on a timeline, but time itself only moves forward.
So back to my original question – what does this all mean?
Well, let's put it together. If time is something that we created, is not physical, does not represent a location and is uni-directionally linear – how exactly would we be able to traverse a construct such as this in any manner except forward in the interval that naturally occurs? The simple answer is: you can't. If it doesn't really exist, except in our minds (and physically represented on devices that we have created to do such), and it's not somewhere we can physically go – then it's not possible to travel to that destination.
Now, there are theoretical physicists that will tell you that if we had access to dimensions outside of the ones we all know and love, that we could achieve some sort of temporal displacement (thanks for that cool terminology, Doc!) aka time travel. In essence, that is (to me) the equivalent of saying "hey, let's suspend reality for a moment and say that 2+2 is actually not equal to 4". I can say anything I want, but that doesn't make it true, and that certainly is the case here. While we can talk extra dimensions all we want, there simply hasn't been any evidence that any exist outside of our own 3 (and some nay-sayers would say that we don't even have 3 of them).
There is also the well-known theory by a Mr. Albert Einstein that says that time slows as we approach the speed of light – but only for the object near the speed of light.
But is that truly time travel?
Not hardly. Sure, we've managed to slow our "time" due to our relativity to the speed of light, but we haven't really traversed the timeline to reach a point in time without moving forward linearly – nor do we have the possibility of moving backward to our previous point on that timeline.
So while the dreamers will dream of visiting famous events and people of the past, and SciFi authors will concoct wild stories of time traveling heroes - time travel will remain just that – the stuff of dreams and fiction.
2084: In the aftermath of a set of horrific events leading to his childhood friend's death, Brigadier Stroud, a former Black Ops commando from the elite Epsilon Warriors squadron, stumbles upon the secret the world was never supposed to know – a portal hidden in a remote area of the New Mexico desert. With the rest of the world shrouded in the darkness caused by the Event of 2077, Brig finds himself thrust into the middle of multiple converging conflicts that threaten to shift the balance of power in a world without power. Can he and his comrades keep their strained relationships bound long enough to overcome disaster and save the day, or will ghosts of the past halt them in their tracks?
Epsilon Book 2: Duality
It's been a long road since Clarity (Epsilon Book 1), and much has happened. While I had intended to release Book 2 sometime around May 2014 - some personal and work crises arose that forced me to split a lot of time that I normally would have used to focus on the book.
The good news is that the extra time has allowed me to hone some of the ideas in the 2nd book, which in turn has made it a much more compelling story (from what I'm told :-) ) I hope you enjoy it!
It’s amazing to me that each week I still get asked “…a blog article about another author? I thought you were an author?” Of course I am, but I still enjoy hearing from my peers, regardless of genre, and supporting them to the best of my ability. There’s no ulterior motive here – I am a reader as well as an author, and it makes me happy to advance the culture of creative writing. After all, as I always say, there’s room on the digital shelf for all of us. I’m not in direct ‘competition’ with anyone other than my most recent work – therefore, I have no qualms boosting the visibility of other authors as well as myself.
This week, we stay within the SciFi/Cyberpunk realm with a new friend that I made over social media in the past few months.
An Interview with SciFi/Cyberpunk Author Adam TrainRJS: With what character in any of your works do you most identify and why?
AT: As generic and cliché as it sounds, there is a little bit of myself in every character I write. But as far as who I identify with the most? I guess it would be High-Side from my cyber-punk novella of the same name. He is a bit of an outcast and sits at odds with the world and social construct he finds himself in - granted for reasons slightly different to my own. Nevertheless, the sentiment at the core of his feelings are the same as my own. Having travelled overseas at a young age and spending a fair percentage of my 20s abroad, it became increasingly apparent to me that all societies, cultures and their subsequent beliefs are man-made. This was a deeply profound realisation for me, and since returning home (Australia) from these stints in foreign lands, I’ve never felt like I belong and constantly finding myself “bucking against” the social expectations and norms, much like High-Side does.
RJS: Describe your writing process
AT: Using the well-known writing analogy of gardeners and architects - I think I can safely say I fall into the gardener camp, at least for the most part. During the initial conception of pieces, I tend to wear the architects hat for a few days before I sit down to write; building a simple skeleton for the story and plot. But once I actually begin writing, the fleshing out takes on a life of its own
and I’m well and truly gardening by that stage. For me, the most exciting and enjoyable part of writing a story is the first half, before I know with any certainty where the tale is going. As soon as I get to a stage where I know exactly how the piece will unfold, writing it becomes a bit like a chore; having to just get it out of my head and onto the page. I love the free flowing nature
when starting a new story and I love the blank page, for me it’s the most exciting and the most creative period of any piece. I do most of my writing in the morning from my home office surrounded by books and film posters, and sitting below my much-prized shelf of travel mementos. I try to write a minimum of 1000 words a day, but if I’m in the zone I’ll keep going until I’m spent. My writing companions are Google (for fact checking any and all sci-fi or historical/fantasy references,) along with a beefy thesaurus and a huge selection of music spanning every genre, artist and era.
RJS: How has your writing style changed since you first started the craft?
AT: I started writing screenplays for feature-length and short films when I was 16, and it was only in January of 2013 that I wrote my first ever novelistic prose piece, (Prisoner of Hakai). I found writing in such a format incredibly freeing and satisfying from a storytelling perspective. No longer was I bound within the defined limits of the visual and audible, and no longer were things “dead on the page,” like backstory and anything that couldn’t be said or seen.
As far as my style is concerned, I’m deeply in-love (obsessed) with the writers and prose from the early 1800s up until the
mid-1940s. Call it pulpy, purple, extravagant or flowery if you want, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I struggle terribly when trying to read contemporary works that are written in modern prose, they just don’t reach out and grab me, and most of the time I can’t even make it through the first chapter. Personally, I don’t care if I have to wrestle with sentences or look up a word in the dictionary, I welcome that challenge as a reader.
In a world with endless entertainment and narrative choice, when I choose to read, I want it to be an experience I can’t
get anywhere else. I don’t want to read a story that is written as though I’m listening to a conversation in an elevator or at the pub. I want something that utilizes the full beauty and potential of the English language. I think as modern writers competing against all those other forms of narrative entertainment, the biggest ace up our sleeve is language and the ability we have
to use it unlike any other storytelling medium. I try to do that with my writing. I understand one can walk a fine line between ripe and over-ripe, and I know that I’ll alienate a percentage of readers with such a style, but even considering that, I want reading one of my tales to be like reading a Poe, Lovecraft, Howard or Dickens story. It’s a huge bench mark to set, I have no doubts about that, but why not set your goals and your standards as high as you possibly can?
RJS: What inspired you to become an author?
AT: Storytelling. It’s far too painful to keep the stories in my head, then it is to write them, or “exorcise” them if you will. Writing is the best way (for me) to tell the stories I want/need to tell. Film and Videogames would be a close second and third. But written narrative is the ultimate as far as freedom is concerned. Words are cheap, unlike special effects and rendered-pixels. With a
written narrative there is no time constraints or budget constraints. You don’t need camera men, actors, programmers or illustrators (for the most part). All the senses and emotions are at your disposal and if you can imagine it, you can write it, and if you can feel it you can convey it.
RJS: What are you working on now?
AT: As of now I’m working on Volume Three of my Transcendent Tales eBook series. I’ve got a total of five volumes planed, each volume being a collection of seven short stories, novellas and serialized novels that run through the volumes. People don’t seem to be too happy with the “novel parts” (a throwback to the Pulp era, and something I wanted to do because I wanted than one cover for the work.) Their distaste with the serialization is understandable; times have changed. Never the less those complete tales in Volume One and Two have been received surprisingly well and I shall stay the course for the remaining three
volumes, with plans to release the serialized novels in the their complete form when all is said and done.
Upcoming works from Transcendent Tales – Volume Three
RJS: Before I became an official ‘published’ author last year with the first in the Epsilon Series, Clarity, I shied away from social media. I felt it was not much more than a dalliance for some, and a vast time sink for most. I didn’t feel like I had the time to offer to make anything of it. After all, I’d much rather be writing than worrying about when someone is at Starbucks getting a coffee and posting about it. However, after my book made it to market, I realized that Social media not only is a wise idea due to the potential of reaching thousands upon thousands of potential readers; it also allows me the opportunity to network with authors that I would have otherwise not likely had the chance to meet.This week’s spotlight is on one such author that I had the fortune to make the acquaintance of when he approached me about reading his work, Rushlight. If you haven’t read it yet – please do. It’s a very gritty piece of spec lit that I enjoyed highly and can’t wait to read further when he releases the second part (soon?).So here we go:An Interview with L.R. Ryan
RJS: Why did you decide to go Indie vs. Traditional publishing?LRR
: First, I want to say thank you, R. James, for inviting me here. You’re very generous to other authors, and I appreciate it
I’d been wanting to test the waters of Indie publishing for some time, because of the greater freedom it gives writers in terms of crafting the story, and the appeal of controlling the process—including the business model of getting a book into print.
So, when I was hired by a producer to write Rushlight
as a screenplay, I negotiated the book rights in lieu of a higher up-front payment for the script—something I don’t think will fly in the future, as Indie publishing continues to produce winning projects.
Overall, the greater choices and opportunities afforded to writers make the Indie route very appealing, especially as we see options improve in creating the total package: art and design, editing and formatting, the elements that traditional publishing houses have always provided.
For me it was about the freedom to proceed on my schedule, and call the shots in bringing the book to market. I’ve enjoyed the process so far, though it’s still a learning experience.RJS: Who is your favorite mainstream author and why?LRR:
Rather than a single favorite, I’d have to say that my literary interests were influenced by a number of authors, like Joseph Heller, John Irving, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ernest Hemingway--especially when I was a young man. Oh, and Harry Crews—sheer brilliance there! But there are so many great authors; it’s hard to choose a single one.
The common element to each of these writers that appealed to me was the strong focus on craft. They told great stories and told them well. You sense their love of words on every page and it leaves a lasting impression.RJS: What obstacles have you found with your decision to be an Indie? What have you
done to overcome them? LRR:
The biggest obstacle I found in Indie publishing is getting every stage of book production right. You can’t just write a draft, fix one or two things, and hustle it out there; you’re in charge of everything and it all comes back on you if it’s not right. Traditional publishers have teams of people who edit, proofread, fact check, design, market, and distribute each book. In Indie
publishing you wear all the hats and have to bring in outside talent to perform all the necessary aspects of publishing your book. Try to do too much of it on your own—as I did—and mistakes creep in to cause you grief.
I’m fortunate to have a very talented graphic designer, Karin at K.Haggarddesign, who lent her talents to the book cover, and I’ve sought out a good proofreader to help weed out my mistakes and those of the transcription company that got past the final edit. We’ll have a new version of the book up soon. So that’s my advice, get professional help at each stage and really pay attention to the details.RJS: What inspired you to become an author? LRR:
It started with a love of reading, which is probably true of most writers. I felt a connection to not only the stories, but the way they were told, the texture of words in a well-crafted sentence. There’s a feeling of intense satisfaction that comes when you get a sentence, page or scene just right.
And there’s a gut feeling about writing for me; if I skip a day that I’d planned to spend writing, I feel like I’ve cheated myself out of
something essential. There’s no other endeavor I feel that way about.RJS: What are you working on now? LRR:
Right now I’m finishing up the revised draft of Rushlight, Part Two,
which should be released fairly soon. I’m not putting a deadline on it, as yet, because I’m taking my own advice about making sure I have all the moving parts lined up before I put it out there for sale. I’m also working on a screenplay with a supernatural storyline about the migration of unrepentant souls—very spooky! And fun to write!
Again, thanks very much for the interview, R. James. I hope to see the second book in your Epsilon series soon.
Amazon book page: http://amzn.com/dp/B00G4EAH4A
R. James Stevens: From an early age, I thoroughly enjoyed creative writing. I was an introvert as a kid and young adult, and writing helped me cope with my shyness by allowing me to speak from within through my words.
However, more than being a budding author, I’ve recently gained enjoyment from speaking to other authors. There’s such a wealth of information and lessons to be learned from others – not to mention it’s just plain fun to hear the people behind the characters share their stories.
This week’s author spotlight falls on Michael Meyerhofer, a writer whom I had the pleasure of meeting via social media in the past few months. Both a poet and Dark Epic Fantasy-genre author, his talent speaks for itself in his writing.
An Interview with Michael Meyerhofer
1) RJS: What inspired you to become an author?
MM: Whenever I read something by an author that I absolutely love, I get this feeling like, Hey, I wish I'd written that! I suppose it's part jealousy but I'd like to think it also comes from a deep love of language, out of this desire to participate in this wonderful tradition of storytelling that goes back thousands upon thousands of years. How could anyone not want to be a part of that? More specifically, I remember when I was a little kid, reading The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy books (Dragonlance, stuff by Terry Brooks and Raymond Feist, etc) and without even thinking about it, I just started writing. Granted, those early stories were terrible (and probably mostly plagiarized) but recognizing their flaws made me want to get better. Now, like then, I can't imagine doing anything else.
2) RJS: If you could meet/talk to any author, past or present - who would it be and why?
MM: That's a tough question... which is a good problem for a reader/writer to have, I suppose! I'd love to meet Walt Whitman. His innovation and passion for poetry helped get me into writing, sure, but it's his intelligence mingled with his obvious passion
for life that made him one of the American greats.
3) RJS: What do you envision the future of publishing to be like?
MM: I think, as with music, that you're going to have more and more styles and formats all existing at the same time. We'll always have those gigantic, traditional publishers taking up the most space but indie publishing will keep getting bigger, and I think readers will continue to grow more and more accepting of indie writers. I also think that electronic publishing will continue to grow, as well. This doesn't mean that old-fashioned printed books are going to disappear, just that readers will have more available formats (just like you can still buy CDs and DVDs, or else you can download or stream music and movies off the internet). Granted, I'm biased, but I think all of this is healthy for the art--any art--because near-exponential growth in terms of writers means more voices, more variety, more innovation.
4) RJS: If Hollywood were to bring one of your works to life, who would play your lead character and why?
MM: Well, if Kit Harington dyed his hair, I'd love to see him play Rowen Locke--not just because I love Game of Thrones (books and show alike) but because I think he'd be good at conveying both Rowen's brooding and his dark sense of humor. Also, I'd love Elizabeth Olsen play Silwren. I envision Silwren as quiet and troubled, but also extremely fierce, which is how Olsen played her
character in "Martha Marcy May Marlene."
5) RJS: What are you working on now?
MM: Well, let's see... I've finished Book II of the Dragonkin Trilogy, tentatively titled "The Knight of the Crane", except for some formatting and editing (which I'm finalizing now). I'm also working on Book III (tentatively titled "The War of the Lotus"), about two hundred pages in. Meanwhile, I've got two finished poetry manuscripts that are looking for a home, plus another, completely different fantasy trilogy started (about four hundred pages in).
RJS: Thank you for your time, Michael!
Thanks very much!
Amazon sales page:
http://amzn.com/dp/1940215285My home page:
http://www.troublewithhammers.comMy FB author page:
Beginning this week, I’m starting a series of interviews to cast the spotlight on my fellow authors. No specific genres involved, just those whom love the craft, and are game to take a few minutes out of their hectic schedules to answer a few questions (that will change weekly, I might add!).
I ‘met’ this week’s candidate, David J Rodger, on Twitter, and instantly appreciated this bloke’s attitude towards writing. He’s definitely an interesting character, as you will find in this interview as well as his work.
Without further adieu, I present:
An Interview with David J Rodger 1) RJS: When did you first develop an interest in writing, and what was the contributing factor? DJR: Writing keeps me sane. I've always had an active imagination. Grew up in a spooky house without any brothers or sisters, so there was plenty of scope for stories to form inside my skull. Some interesting/ odd experiences there, when I was very young. But the thing that really fired my imagination and got me being creative with stories was role-playing games. If you've ever been a GM you'll know the pressure you're under to deliver a story, come up with narrative on-the-spot and cope with radical changes in character direction that can take you entirely off-piste regarding whatever plot you had planned to follow. A great mental challenge. I had been fiddling around with short stories in my late teens; late nights and weekends at my dad's office, using the clunky Oliveti electric typewriter (it even had a typex button). I struck up a bit of correspondence with Brian Lumley (I was a massive fan of his Necroscope series, and then fate had me in a job where I found myself working for his son Richard - interesting character). Lumley was very encouraging. I quit my job at 19 to write my first novel - a terrible, verbose pile of sputum but I loved it. Set me on the course to where I am now. 2) RJS: Your portfolio tends to span multiple genres. What success/difficulties have you experienced in writing for a diverse set of audiences? And what would you consider your primary genre?
DJR: It has been difficult. The general classification is Science-Fiction Dark Fantasy. But you could call my novels a mix of thriller / detective story, placed in a near-future Cyberpunk setting with an undercurrent of Cthulhu Mythos carrying the main aspect of the plot beneath the veneer of crime and corporate espionage. It's why I turned away from mainstream publishers and forged out as an indie-writer, using self-publishing technology as a direct route to market. The success I've had has been very rewarding. Word of mouth has taken my work into the hands of people who would never normally consider themselves fans of Science-Fiction; but they enjoy crime, thrillers and detective novels. And people who would normally avoid horror have found the subtle, eerie atmosphere of the Cthulhu Mythos an enjoyable discovery. I've been told I have wide market appeal; I just need to focus more on the PR.
3) RJS: What are you working on now?
DJR: Just finished a short story I was commissioned to write by the folks at Achtung! Cthulhu who are looking for writers to pad out the universe of the role-playing game. It's called "Shadow of the Black Sun" and is due for commercial release in December as part of the Dark Tales anthology. Now working on four new novels: Oakfield, Broken Fury, Sunder Gloom, and Rise of the Iconoclast. Oakfield is a prequel to God Seed, and features a family visiting a house they have inherited in a remote part of Cornwall, England. It's pure Cthulhu Mythos. Should be available by end of 2014. Broken Fury is a fast-paced thriller, no horror, and follows a corporate mercenary Massimo Pandev through Norway as he helps a hacker breaker into a secure facility. Sunder Gloom is a sequel to Living in Flames - which a horror story set in Bristol that introduced a new Great Old One into the pantheon of the Cthulhu Mythos. Living in Flames has been described as Trainspotting meets Lovecraft, due to the colour of some of the characters I used within it - people I met during my clubbing days. Sunder Gloom picks up where Living in Flames left off and shows how the horror spreads beneath Bristol to rise up and cause havoc. Rise of the Iconoclast sits further in the future, following an apocalyptic event called Yellow Dawn (which is what my RPG is about). Rise of the Iconoclast is a bunch of full-conversion borgs flying around survivor settlements in a battered aerodyne, guns for hire (or they try to be), and quickly get embroiled in a mystery involving an artifact from... beyond.
4) RJS: What advice would you give to authors either just starting out or trying to break into the world of publishing their works?
DJR: Let people read your work. Remove your ego from the project. End of the day you're crafting a product that you want people to pay money for. If there is something wrong with it - you need to know and you need to fix it. As for publishers. The self-publishing route is very satisfying but very hard; writing the book is easy compared to the challenge of marketing and selling it. A mainstream publisher can help you achieve this - but the trade-off is you'll have to comply with how they see your book looking (re-writes or outright rejection).
5) RJS: You’ve created a role playing game (RPG), which is a very ingenious way to connect to a rather eclectic crowd that otherwise may not have exposure to your works. Explain more about this brilliant product.
DJR: Hey thank you for the kind words. Well, go back to 1996, I wanted to start running RPG sessions in the world of my books. I was writing God Seed back then. Felt like a good idea to align what I was playing with what I was writing. So I started to create some RPG systems and took my existing Call of Cthulhu players into this fusion of Lovecraft and William Gibson. The game systems grew and became the only thing we played. For years, it was heaven. But this was a disparate set of systems that only really worked together because we'd all been a part of their growth. Then in 2005 a new guy joined the group. Hagen Landsem. AKA GBH. Game Breaker Hagen. This pedantic sonnova bitch turned up and basically highlighted all the inconsistencies. The game fell apart that day. We never played it again. And I didn't contact Hagen for about a year. But during 2006 I had a bit of a brain wave and thought I could rework the systems into a consistent format. And whilst I was at it, why don't I bolt them into a totally new world. How about a Cthulhu Mythos Apocalypse. And that's what I did. Yellow Dawn - The Age of Hastur, is all about what happens when agents of the mythos inject aspects of Hastur / The King in Yellow into the Earthly reality. It's more than just an RPG. It's an entire world setting and a lot of GMs have been buying Yellow Dawn to use the setting with their own games. It has a heavy post-apocalyptic flavour, but there's also a host of other genres wrapped up within. Technology, crime and complex politics within the Living Cities. A whole bunch of stuff about the new Wilderness - survival, building settlements, and making things from scavenged resources - actually using character skills rather than having these points you never get to use. Dead City Runs are also popular. A twist on the idea of the Dungeon Crawl. There are Zombies, but this is a misnomer, brought about by survivors not knowing what else to call them. They're Infected. But to keep the game / and the setting / fresh the Infection can and should evolve. Just as the Influence of Hastur can warp and change local reality. The Infected can start as Zombies but as characters experience them, the truth is much more terrifying. You can read three novels for more flavour of this: Dog Eat Dog; The Black Lake and The Social Club. I've had a lot of good press for Yellow Dawn. I think folks can recognise how much work went into producing it. But also because there are some genuine USPs about the game that can work for any other system, especially if you like the idea of the character stepping out from the shadow of the player, interpersonal skills (First Contact) and technical and science skills having real value in the world. Hmm - hope that's not too much waffle. I'm happy to pick up questions from any folks who want to ask them via email, Twitter or Facebook. Or take a peek at the official webpage for Yellow Dawn, here: http://www.davidjrodger.com/yellowdawn.htm
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David J. Rodger is a British author of science fiction dark fantasy with eight novels under his belt. He is also the creator of Yellow Dawn - The Age of Hastur, an RPG that blends Cthulhu Mythos and Cyberpunk themes into a post-apocalyptic setting. His books cross many boundaries to deliver a new and exciting fusion of ideas and genres. Critics describe his work as character driven, richly plotted, delivering tension and drama with a quick narrative style, and punching far above his weight as an indie author. Each book is stand-alone and can be read in any order, but occupy a shared universe allowing you to build a deeper knowledge with every story. He has written for SFX and had short stories published in the UK, US and Canada. Represented by Floyd Hayes. "Atmospheric and Creepy" - The Guardian
Official Website: http://www.davidjrodger.com/
Spotlights on each novel
- BEFORE YELLOW DAWN APOCALYPSE
- AFTER YELLOW DAWN APOCALYPSE
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. But not because I’ve nothing to say – quite the opposite. I’ve been diligently working away on Epsilon Book 2. I hope to have more good news within the next couple of months on that front.
In the meantime…
Alright, so this is my first ‘blog hop’. For those that don’t know anything about the process (like myself just a week prior), here’s how it goes. A blogger (in this case, my author friend Kylie Kerosene
) tagged me as the next in line – she does her thing one week, I do mine the next. I tag someone (one or more) in my blog post here…and so on. Each blog connects back to the one previous and the next in line.
A great way to introduce readers/writers to others! Blog Hop Rules:
Answer the four questions below, link back to the person who invited you, and link to the people who will be posting the following Monday. 1. What am I working on?
Various things, but most importantly to myself and my readers alike, Epsilon Book 2. For those that aren’t yet familiar, Book 1 was Clarity
. It is available in paperback and ebook format everywhere (retailers need only look in the Ingram catalogue to find it).
I have several other ideas/outlines that I am also working in my spare time (what is that?). The first will be an anthology of shorts that I have written that all have a common thread or theme among them. I won’t divulge too much more but to say that it fits in with what I’ve done in the past.
Once I get Epsilon Book 2 out there, I will have my nose back to the proverbial grindstone once again on yet another novel that I really need to get written before the inspiration leaves me. 2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
For anyone that has read Clarity
, it will come as no surprise that my works tend to be more about the human condition, or the interactions between humans that arise given a specific scenario, conflict, event, etc. While I classify them as Science Fiction, and there are definitely elements of SciFi present – the story is the more important feature.
While not a revolutionary way of writing, it does differ from standard SciFi fare in that most authors use SciFi as their primary vehicle in telling their stories. 3. Why do I write what I write?
I’ve always been interested in creative writing. There’s a lot going on in my head, and it needs to go somewhere – so why not on a page? I feel I’ve got a thousand stories to tell, but only a limited time to tell them. As I’ve said in the past – they can’t perfect human cloning quick enough for me, I’ve got too much to do! 4. How does your writing process work?
I’m a perfectionist, and tend to be very organized when I write. In that vain, I always start with some brainstorming – quickly recording those thoughts either in a document or on my phone for later transcribing. That process usually intertwines with me creating an outline of the entire work. I know that many authors “wing it”, but I can’t work that way. I need to know where the story is going so that I don’t miss any plot points. My works tend to be very layered, so I have to keep it all straight.
As for inspiration – I’m like so many others in that respect. I enjoy listening to music, and it usually ends up making my mind delve deep into the scenes that I want to write, and in turn, shaping what I do.
My thanks to Kylie Kerosene
for inviting me on this Blog Hop. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you support her work as you’ve supported mine. She’s got something big coming (soon?) and I, for one, can’t wait to read it!
Next week for the Blog Hop will be Painter McBoingBoing
(love the name, btw), Ryndaria
& Fiona Skye.
Here are some other author friends of mine that you might want to take a peek at: L.R. Ryan
(author of Rushlight
) Nat Russo E.A. Thomson
All great writers that deserve your support. Nat has a great blog that offers writing tips (many of which I have taken to heart and employed in my own writing!). Be sure to check out all of their blogs!
When does Science Fiction become Science ‘Fact’?
I was asked this question by a reader of mine the other day, and I thought it deserved some dissection. On the surface, the simple answer is (per the purist definition of SciFi) when your story does not contain the criteria within the definition of SciFi. For example, technology that is not only possible, but is also already in common use; or that the story itself does not take place in the future or a futuristic setting.
But, does such a story that uses common technology or doesn’t take place in such a setting automatically get classified outside of the SciFi realm? That’s one for debate, and if going by the SciFi purist, that answer would be a pretty solid ‘yes’. While I would agree that going by the base definition of SciFi those types of stories would fall outside of the general term itself; however, there is room for sub-classification to some extent.
Some could take the argument one step farther and say that if the technology portrayed in the work is on the ‘glidepath’ from the current state, then that also would not technically be SciFi. Or that if the setting were in the past, it should be considered more of a Historical Fiction piece. A counterpoint to that argument, and one that shoots this argument down in my opinion, would be that if we used that rationalization, then only the most fantastical stories would ever be true SciFi. After all, palm-held tablet technology was SciFi less than 40 years ago – yet here we are on that glidepath, holding iPads and Android tablets on a daily basis like it’s nothing new.
The fragmentation of the SciFi genre into multiple (growing every day seemingly) subgenres has muddled this question even further. Now, if I create a work that takes place in the future with even the slightest of modifications to the ‘norm’, I’ve created a work of SciFi. Regardless if the technology that I choose to portray in my work is current or not, it can be classified into that genre.
To some extent I think that is okay. There’s a bunch of room under the SciFi umbrella for different interpretations of the classification. However, what I would propose is a subset of genres within SciFi that borrow from non-SciFi classifications – such as Drama, Historical, Suspense, et al. You get the picture. Anyone that has ready my novel, Clarity, knows that while I classified it as Scifi, I also commonly refer to it as a Drama. It has some SciFi elements in it, but for the most part (as are most of my works) it’s a drama about the human condition, or the interactions between several humans. Science plays a part, but more of a supporting role. I felt the need to classify it as SciFi because Epsilon Book 2 leans heavily toward SciFi – so rather than mislead potential readers or, worse, alienate them when they read past Book 1, SciFi was a general classification for Clarity.
So back to the question at hand. When does SciFi become SciFact? (new term, copyright me – now) What we’ve discussed here brings up a lot of gray areas, and makes the answer not as simple as the one with which we started. But I think it can be boiled down pretty handily to the author’s discretion. See where the story fits within the criteria of the genre, and then make your determination.
Perhaps if we all band together and begin using some of the non-SciFi genre tags, we’ll convince everyone that they are needed to further define our wonderful genre of Science Fiction.
Clarity. Featuring a healthy dose of foreshadowing!
In last Friday’s blog post, I briefly skimmed the topic of my love for literary devices. Today, I’d like to dive a little deeper into one of my personal, all-time favorites: foreshadowing.
Ever since the spark of my creative writing career those many years ago, I’ve always leaned toward foreshadowing – both in my own writing as well as favoring it in the works of others. Why? Hard to explain, but I think I can best sum it up by saying it gives me something to look forward to – and something to compare once the event actually happens and I can go back and say “aha!”.
It’s a classical element of storytelling that, in my opinion, sets some authors apart from the rest of the bunch. Not to belittle anyone’s talent for writing, but if you use it well, you’ve made a fan out of me. The sad news is that lately I don’t seem to find it in use very much, if at all.
I’ve stated it before – I read a lot of books, and I mean quite a lot. Aside from the works that were written 20+ years ago, I’ve yet to find much foreshadowing in use in recent works – or at least used properly.
So what is proper use? Here’s an example, simple yet effective:
“At least it looks like this is all over for you,” Joe said gravely, as Kevin breathed a heavy sigh of relief at the sight of the alien spacecraft jetting into the atmosphere out of sight.
Now – what just happened there? Sure, the spaceship is gone and Kevin is obviously relieved; why, we don’t know since it’s out of context for this example. However, one word up there subtly tells us what we can anticipate taking place in the near future: Kevin is going to suffer an untimely demise. Whether that’s from another alien invasion, or just Joe getting ready to clunk Kevin over the head with the mallet behind his back.
That one word – gravely – attached to the simple statement that the Joe character made tells us that something bad is going to happen to Kevin. A very simple, yet very elegant way to raise the subtlest of signs to the reader that they need to pay attention; and it only cost me one word. The beauty is that I didn’t really tell you anything, other than “psst! Something’s gonna happen!”.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen overuse of foreshadowing. Some authors feel it’s necessary to telegraph things in every paragraph. Yikes! While that might work for a dream sequence, I’d hardly recommend doing it in bulk. After all, if you’re spending a majority of the story telling the reader to watch out in the future, what exactly are you telling them in the present? Sounds like wasted effort, in my humble opinion. You’d be better off just getting to the action and spare the reader the overhyped suspense.
There are some very talented authors out there pumping out some very readable work – I’d just like to see a healthier does of literary devices, particularly foreshadowing. It keeps me interested, and I can’t be the only one that shares that opinion.
So my advice to you, my author friends: practice using them – even if it’s just once. You’ll be surprised the avenues it opens up, and how much richer it makes your work.
Your fans will thank you.