Guest Post – Jade Varden – on Writing and Marketing

Today YA author Jade Varden joins us – here are her tips on writing and marketing.

Jade – over to you.

Advice to newbies: Read a lot. Find out what sort of stories you like. Re-read your favorites. Read, read, read.

Your best and worst marketing tips: Market your book by giving people something they can use. What does your book offer them? What questions will it answer? Will they laugh or cry or think because of it? Think about that, and you’ll know how to market it. Don’t market your book by saying “buy this book.” Be more creative than that.

What YOU look for in a good book. I look for a strong main character that I can feel something about. Good or bad, I want to feel something for the character.

The importance of good and consistent characterisation.A character has to stay true to their established personality, but character growth is also important in books.

How to find beta readers. Use forums to find them. This is a great resource for connecting with other authors and readers.

Please tell us a little about yourself. (A couple of lines.) Lately I’ve been trying to challenge myself with my writing. I’ve been trying to branch out into new genres, and I’m really enjoying it so far.

On average how many books do you read a month?  What genres do you enjoy? I don’t really have much time to read beyond doing my own proofing. I love the YA genre, but I’m eclectic. I read mystery, horror, romance, anything that looks good.

When reviewing what are the important criteria? Editing? Plot?  Which factors do you overlook? (if any). I look for character and plot development. Pacing is also incredibly important. I don’t want it to be too slow, but not too fast either.

What are your opinions on authors commenting on a review – negative and positive? I don’t think they should do it.

Do you feel it is appropriate to discuss author behaviour in a review, is this a factor which influences your choice? No and no.

A lot of readers comment about a book with all 4 or 5 star reviews and nothing below as being suspicious? What do you think about this? I think people probably do this a lot. It’s much easier not to write any text, right?

Do you give negative reviews?  I give constructive criticism. It has been interpreted as negative in the past.

Do you mainly stick to your preferred genres, or would you consider reviewing outside your comfort zone? If the plot sounds interesting, I’ll definitely go outside my comfort zone.

Are your characters based on real people? All of them are based on real characteristics that I’ve seen in people, but only very rarely is one of my characters wholly based on a real person. I pick and choose from people I know and even strangers.

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? No, but that’s an amazing idea.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? Research is huge when it comes to writing a book, and you need to do as much as you need to do to answer all the questions your readers might have. I don’t necessarily enjoy research because it is time-consuming. I look for credible resources only. Encyclopedias, university websites, newspapers. Don’t use Wikipedia.

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? I absolutely do. Indie authors have taken an alternative path, and anything different is suspect.

Do you read work by self-published authors? Absolutely!

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Read. Connect with readers. Edit.

What are your views on authors offering free books? It’s a great way to promote.

Do you have a favourite movie? Gone With the Wind

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I’m afraid of the shower.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? I love, love, love ebooks. It’s just so easy.

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look?  What makes you turn away? The blurb. I’ll always flip a cover over to get to the blurb. If I see any errors in the blurb, I’m out.

Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence your choice?I don’t, because I want to avoid spoilers. However, I will look at general ratings and if a book has a ton of really low ratings I might think twice.

Do you “judge a book by its cover?” I do up to a point. I’ll only turn away from a book if the cover is really poorly done.

Does the behaviour of an author affect your choice to read one of their books? I usually don’t know much about the author personally when I go to read one of their books.

If you had to pick three favourite books to take to a desert island what would they be? Gone With the Wind, Flowers in the Attic, Valley of Horses.

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline? I don’t think there’s any question that they are.

Some readers believe all 4 and 5 star reviews on a book must be fake. What are your thoughts on this? I think that sounds ridiculous.

About the Author

 

Jade Varden writes young adult novels for teen readers. When she’s not crafting mysteries in her books, Jade also blogs practical writing tips for authors who self-publish. Jade currently makes her home in Louisville, Kentucky, where she enjoys reading and reviewing indie books by other self-published authors. Follow her on Twitter @JadeVarden. Visit Jade’s blog at http://jadevarden.blogspot.com/ for reviews, writing tips, self-publishing advice and everything else you ever wanted to know about reading and writing books.

 

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JadeVarden

At Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jade-Varden/e/B006QD4LUA/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Fantasy, Science Fiction and Literary Heroes in our Society – Thaddeus White

Today I am pleased to welcome back Thaddeus White, fantasy author for a guest post on my feature for 2015.  Here are his views on fantasy in society, and its influences.

Name: Thaddeus White

Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? England

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be? I think that this is definitely the case. Superheroes are utterly dominating cinema and are starting to make headway on TV as well. The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films (and Harry Potter) have enjoyed immense success, as has (and will) Star Wars. Game of Thrones is hugely popular as well. Sci-fi and fantasy aren’t niche anymore, they’re mainstream.

I think the shift has occurred for several reasons. CGI allows a truer rendition on-screen of what happens in books, and there’s increasing awareness that fantasy isn’t necessarily fairytales and elves (the rise of grimdark). This means that those into gritty and grim stuff can find much to enjoy in fantasy. As geeks have inherited the earth, it’s helped to make science fiction cooler.

There’s also a natural ebb and flow to what happens to be ‘in’. Right now, sci-fi and fantasy are doing well, but sooner or later fashion will shift.

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?There are many fantasy tropes, but this isn’t limited to this one genre. The flood myth and dragons are commonplace in religion and old legends, and how often is a spy also a ladies man? Tropes can be overused to make something boring and generic, but they can also be handy pegs, shorthand to let readers know something without having to detail it (eg dwarf = short, probably bearded, may well have an axe, likes a drink).

Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this? [Disclaimer: I am a chap]. I think it’s far less the case than it was, and it’s important to note that other genres are female-oriented (romantic fiction, for example). A potential issue with fantasy, set either in a medieval or a largely realistic medievalish world, is that there wasn’t gender equality, so the stories are often male-dominated. Women can of course have roles in commerce, religion and magic, but (keeping to medieval norms) it’s hard to give them common roles in warfare or political power. It’s impossible to impose modern gender norms on a world aspiring to be the equivalent of, say, 14th century England.

Sci-fi’s an entirely different kettle of fish, because you can make a sci-fi society credibly equal, or even matriarchal in nature. Shifting Starbuck from a male to a female character in Battlestar Galactica was a credible change.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? I think internal consistency is critical to credibility. People will suspend disbelief for magic or advanced technology beyond anything possible today, but they will never believe a world or universe where the author contradicts his own tenets. So long as an author adheres to the rules that are established, there’s no problem.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers? It’s interesting you mention those, because one of the biggest influences on me was the videogame Vagrant Story (came out about a decade and a half ago now). It had a phenomenally good translation to English (it was originally in Japanese), and Alexander O. Smith deserves huge credit for the translation. It’s almost Shakespearean, and, (as well as English), French, German and Latin are mingled together to give the city of Lea Monde, and the wider world, a deeper sense of history. It was an inspiration for me when I was doing the extensive world-building behind my first book, Bane of Souls.

Another major influence, albeit in a smaller way, was the BBC adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s one specific moment I shan’t spoil that, as a young child, made me realise just how exciting fantasy could be.

Social media links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MorrisF1

Website: thaddeuswhite.weebly.com

Blog: thaddeusthesixth.blogspot.co.uk

Amazon UK author page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thaddeus-White/e/B008C6RU98/

Fantasy, Sci-fi and Literary Heroes in Our Society – Guest Post – Wade Garret

Welcome to Wade Garret, author of ‘extreme science fiction’ in the style of Dune. Today he talks about the influence and pervasiveness of science fiction and fantasy in our society.

At 33, Wade Garret is the youngest of three children (the only boy) born in NY, but raised in the southern United States. He’s married to a wonderful woman and has a convict for a dog. When not reading, writing or occasionally drinking at the pub, he can be found researching the latest comics or in the chair of his favorite tattoo shop.

Genesis is only the beginning for Mr. Garret’s epic Kingdom Come series.

@wadejgarret
WadeGarret@FB
Q) How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi are in our society today? Why do you think this is?

A) They’re everywhere. As they should be. The people reading this can likely point to a dozen or more things in eyesight that have F/SF all over them: T-shirts, magazines, electronics, cereal boxes and so on. Honestly, lots of interests have learned to see $ where they didn’t before. The content has always been here, but with movies and TV driving it over the last few decades, it’s hit Warp Speed. Also, it’s cool to be a geek now.

Q) It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?

A) So what? There are “tropes” in every genre. There’s common themes and archetypes in all fiction. The Hero’s Journey works for a reason. As a writer, you take those basics and make it interesting, worthwhile; the layers you build and the choices you make define how every story is unique and worth reading. Consider every epic fantasy you know. How different are they? How similar? Which one would you cast away because it came second, borrowing ideas or concepts from the first?

Q) Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case?

A) I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. I think the influx of YA stories have really impacted that model over the last decade. Anytime I walk into a bookstore I checkout the F/SF areas and discover a mixture of readers. In the YA areas, all female, all ages and the stories are F/SF. It’s great. I want my daughter to have a ton of options when choosing her next great adventure to read.

Q) How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable?

A) Most important. When you’re dealing with the Fantastic, believability is key. Once you build the framework for your world, the rules, you’ve got to stick to them. If you break or ignore your own rules, you better have a good reason, because if not, how is your reader going to 1) become a part of the amazing story you’re trying to tell and 2) feel w/e the emotion is you’re trying to impart to them as those rules come into conflict with the characters and the world?

Q) How has science fiction changed from the days of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne?

A) Only in that we have more material to work with which is now mundane, therefore, we must reach beyond the deep to inspire and mystify. Imagination is the real engine of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Considering what was once pulp content alone, separate from the flashy gadgets, odd gizmos or strange wizards with epic powers, I feel it’s now being taken seriously; the richness and depth is being respected. I love it, cause it means more people will experience it and pass it along.

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Fantasy and literary heroes in our society guest post – Joe Bonadonna

Hello, everyone! My name is Joe Bonadonna, and I dwell in the Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders . . . Chicago, IL, USA.

So far I’ve published three books: the heroic fantasy collection, Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, published by iUniverse; the space opera, Three Against The Stars, published by Airship 27 Productions; and Waters of Darkness, a sword and sorcery pirate adventure, written in collaboration with David C. Smith, and published by Damnation Books. I have stories appearing in Heathen Oracle’s Azieran: Artifacts and Relics; GRIOTS 2: Sisters of the Spear, from author Milton C. Davis’ MVmedia; and Janet Morris’ Poets in Hell, from Perseid Press. I have also written a number of articles and book reviews for the online version of Black Gate Magazine.

My Amazon Author page:

http://www.amazon.com/JoeBonadonna/e/B009I1KYIK/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1417454147&sr=1-2-ent

My blogspot:

http://dorgoland.blogspot.com/

How do YOU define fantasy/science fiction/heroism?

I’m old school, so I’ve always defined science fiction as inhabiting a post-industrialized world, with theoretical and practical advances in fields such as technology, genetics, and even psychology at its core. You know, the usual . . . spaceships, time travel, cloning, aliens, and such, and usually set in the future, although that alone is not always a qualifier.

As for fantasy, there are all kinds: all fiction, one can say, is fantasy; someone dreamed up the story, imagined the world in which the story takes place, even if it takes place in the real world of here and now. But we’re talking Heroic Fantasy here, so I’ll go with that. Heroic Fantasy to me is always set in a pre-industrialized society — no electricity, no planes, trains or automobiles — and that covers a lot of territory, from the prehistoric to the 16th or 17th century. When it comes to Heroic Fantasy, I’m pretty set in my ways. It has to follow certain rules and guidelines, and follow the Homeric tradition; I don’t go in for a lot of cross-breeding with other genres of fiction, such as paranormal romances, horror stories, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural genres — although elements of each often play roles in HF. I do not consider pulp fiction characters such as The Shadow, The Phantom, Green Hornet and such to be Heroic Fantasy: heroic fiction, to be sure, but those characters and that genre or style belong in another discussion for another day. When I discuss Heroic Fantasy, I discuss fiction that is not set in the real or modern world. You may disagree, but I’m just saying, is all.

Heroic Fantasy is very specific, in my opinion, and does not need to be world-spanning, world-in-jeopardy in plot, which I consider to be Epic Fantasy. For instance, Game of Thrones I view as Epic Fantasy because of its multi-cultural approach and world-spanning events, but since I have not found many truly unselfish heroes in the Homeric tradition, I don’t consider it Heroic Fantasy. Lord of the Rings crosses into both epic and heroic fields by nature of its world-building and memorable characters. The characters in Janet and Chris Morris’ stories and novels of The Sacred Band are firmly rooted in the Homeric tradition of Heroic Fantasy, with the added touch of drawing upon myth, legend and history.

Some other novels I consider Heroic Fantasy are Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, H.R. Haggard’s The Saga of Eric Brighteyes, Parke Godwin’s The Last Rainbow, T.C. Rypel’s The Deathwind Trilogy, and novels by such authors as Evangeline Walton, David Eddings, and Guy Gavriel Kay, to name a few. However, these are just my opinions, based on my personal preferences, and in no way are absolutes. At one time, 30 and 40 years ago, the genres of “fantasy” and sword and sorcery were much smaller, more confined, and far more easily tagged with labels. Now, take the Harry Potter novels, for instance . . . they are fantasy, to be sure — but are they Epic? Heroic? I would say they lean more toward Heroic Fantasy because of the selflessness of Harry, his willingness to sacrifice himself to save his friends and destroy Voldemort. He stands up to evil, faces odds greater than he may be able to thwart, and goes about it with no ulterior motives, such as wealth and power. He is very much an Everyman, in spite of his magical powers.

And this brings us to your next question: How do I define Heroism?

Heroes to me are those who will stand up for what they believe is right, without thinking of themselves or their personal gain; and they could be good guys fighting on the wrong side, simply warriors fighting for their country. They fight for the underdog, the lost cause — and as I once heard in a film whose title I cannot remember, “Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.” Heroism is about selflessness, doing right by others, fighting for a cause greater than oneself. True heroes are not concerned about wealth or power, their only concern is to help people, to defend those too weak to defend themselves. They strive to right an injustice, and fight for that in which they believe, with no selfish or personal motives other than to save the lives of family, friends and fellow countrymen: they fight for king and country. And what always struck me as truly heroic (and of course, fatalistic) are the actions of those who know they are fighting against overwhelming odds, who know they will die in the final battle.

As for my own work . . . I consider Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, to be Heroic Fantasy, due to the nature of Dorgo, my main character; there are elements of horror and the supernatural inherent in his adventures, which owe a great deal to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and film noir. My space opera, Three Against The Stars, features four main characters I consider to be heroes in the Homeric tradition: Marines defending their planet. Waters of Darkness, my collaboration with David C. Smith, is pure, old-school pulp fiction sword and sorcery, with a large element of horror as the centerpiece of this pirate novel, which is set in 17th century Madagascar. My short stories and novellas published in various anthologies range from Sword and Soul fantasy, to Heroic Fantasy, to straight horror.

I do not put comic book superheroes in the Heroic Fantasy genre. They are part of something else. I am not putting them down, because they belong in a class all their own. The motives of the superheroes may be pure, noble and unselfish, but they are superheroes — not the ordinary, Everyman that constitutes most of Heroic Fantasy. Due to their very nature, the origins on their becoming endowed with superpowers, I would class them more as Heroic Science Fiction, or even Science-Fantasy, to use a very old-school term. Technology, chemistry, genetics, scientific experiments gone awry — these are more often than not what gave superheroes their superpowers, in the first place.

And now, for the sub-genre of Sword and Sorcery:

In my eyes, Sword and Sorcery is to Heroic Fantasy what film noir is to murder mysteries and crime/detective stories. In S & S, the main character is not always heroic, in the Homeric tradition: he/she can be a rogue — a thief, a mercenary, an assassin — whose motives are often (but not always) self-centered, based on greed, revenge, power. The beauty of S & S lies in the use of the anti-hero, as in the best of film noir. Conan was not always the pure hero: his goals were not always selfless, not always altruistic. He was a rogue, a killer, a survivalist, and yet, as subtly written by Robert E. Howard, he often rose above his baser instincts to become a true Hero. That is the magic of Howard’s original concept, of his vision. He created Conan to be all things, to fit whatever role the nature of the story called for. While I prefer the characters of King Kull and Solomon Kane, Conan was truly a character written “for all seasons.”

Another difference I see between Sword and Sorcery, and Heroic Fantasy, especially Epic Fantasy, is that the stories, by tradition, are more intimate, more confined. I’m talking old-school S & S here — much of Howard, Leiber, Jakes, de Camp, and Fox — in their stories, their worlds were not often at stake, although cities and kingdoms were usually in jeopardy. These are like the western genre in films and books: small-scale stories set against a larger canvas, but not always integral to that canvas. The American Civil War may be going full throttle, but someone could be seeking a lost Spanish treasure the Arizona or California territories that will have no bearing on the war or its outcome. The best S & S tales to me were always the novellas of Howard, and the short, 60- and 70-K word novels of other writers. In my opinion, it was Michael Moorcock who took the genre into new territory, setting his Elric, Corum, and Dorian Hawkmoon stories and novels against a wider canvas and adding the world-in-jeopardy theme. His sword and sorcery tales gradually grew into more thoughtful, thematic and expansive Heroic Fantasy. I won’t go into titles and authors here, but I will say that there are many novels, many multi-volume sagas published nowadays and promoted as Heroic Fantasy that I consider more in the sub-genre of Sword and Sorcery. And quite a lot of comic books and science-fiction novels are being considered by fans and authors alike to be Heroic Fantasy; but I would say they are more Heroic Fiction. Semantics? Perhaps. The tomato and potato thing? Maybe. But like everything related to all forms of art . . . it’s all a matter of personal opinion and taste.

 

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today? Why do you think this is?

I left the fantasy and science fiction scenes back in the mid-80s because I wanted to explore other genres of fiction, such as some 19th century literature, horror and crime novels, British mysteries, WWII thrillers, and the great writers who were published in Black Mask magazine. I also wanted to and did write screenplays, as well as needing a long and healthy break from fantasy and sci-fi. I never really returned to reading science fiction because what I liked to read was no longer fashionable. But I did return to fantasy around 2000, and found a whole new ball game, a whole new set of rules, and a publishing industry at the start of a sea change, with indie/self and small press publications. Besides the overwhelming number of books being published, and the ever-increasing number of authors, both films and television were jumping on the fantasy and science fiction bandwagons, inundating the market where their own brand of original stories or those based upon published novels. Graphic novels such as Sin City and Watchmen hit the theater screens, while The Walking Dead took the small screen by storm. DC Comics, and to a much greater degree and success, Marvel Comics, changed the course of films based on comic books. With the success of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia, fantasy is everywhere these days — films, and network and cable television. And science fiction in films, while somewhat lagging behind, is starting to make waves again with films like Interstellar. In short, the B- and C-grade films of the 1950s and 1960s became the A-list projects of today.

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?

Short answer: yes, indeed so.

What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life?

Not really. It all depends on the writer and the nature of the character and the story. In real life, as in fiction, there are all sorts of heroes. Take Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, for instance: truly a heroic character because of his convictions and what he stands up for, fights for in his daily life. History and fiction, in both literature and films, are what have always inspired me. And more often than not, Heroes die fighting for what they believe in and stand for. The 300 Spartans, The Alamo, Spartacus, Wake Island, Bataan, Beau Geste, Masada, Bridge on the River Kwai, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Gunga Din . . . these are some of the historical events and fictional stories in books and cinema that have worked on my heart and soul. Most if not all the characters — both real and fictitious — die in these stories. That always affected me, especially since at the age of seven I was exposed to the death of 92 children in a grade school fire, and at the same time had already started becoming familiar with the above films, and then later, the novels and poems. So I have always connected with stories of this kind, no matter when or where they took place. And when people tell me that killing off main characters or the entire “cast” is the easy way out, I must disagree: history has shown us that this is quite often the case. And if the events in a story, the need to end the tale in the deaths of one or more characters demands it, then go for it. For instance: had Frodo fallen into the Crack of Doom with Gollum, had Harry Potter died in the final battle, the poignancy level for me would have been amped up by a factor of ten. Nothing hits me harder than the death of a beloved and memorable character: Sidney Carton, from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, remains to this day my favorite of all heroic fictional characters. He was no warrior — he was a drunk who gave his life unselfishly for the woman he loved, to save her husband from the guillotine. A totally unselfish act. What is more heroic than that?

If you could pick a couple of characters from literature as ‘heroes’ who would it be and why?

You mean, pick them to write about? If that’s the case, I’d like to write Sidney Carton’s story before we meet him in A Tale of Two Cities. He is a tragic and heroic figure who really appeals to me. For Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell shared-universe, I have written about Victor and Adam Frankenstein, Galatea, Lemuel Gulliver, and Quasimodo — not that they were all very heroic characters, but I can give them that heroic gravitas. I’ve also had the opportunity to write about real, historic figures, like Mary Shelley, Aristotle, and da Vinci, and will hopefully be exploring even more real-life characters in the near future.

If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books?

By the plot, the mystery to be solved, the people in jeopardy who must be saved, and by the villains that must be overcome and defeated. What are the stakes involved? What does the hero stand to gain or lose? Does he undertake the case, the quest, the mission for money? For love? For justice? For revenge? Dorgo the Dowser would like to profit from some of the cases he takes on, he hopes to make a profit, but more often than not, he doesn’t. And most of the time, his cases involve helping a friend, seeking justice, or he just gets embroiled in something because basically, he’s a good guy who always strives to do what’s right. Except for the pirates in Waters of Darkness, who are mercenary by nature but are also the good guys, my heroes are unselfish, and they will risk their lives doing what they believe is the right thing to do, and expect nothing in return, save the personal satisfaction of doing good.

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?

To my mind, every genre has its tropes, and the job of the writer is to use these in new and different ways, to turn them inside-out, to turn them on their heads, or avoid them altogether. Dragons, elves, dwarves, vampires, werewolves, zombies, the king returning to claim his rightful crown, the evil sorcerer . . . all these and more have been used for decades. The trick is, if you’re going to use them, add a twist to their story, and put a new spin on these characters. Avoid the cliché and make them your own. In my stories of Dorgo the Dowser, I use mythical creatures, mostly from Greek mythology. What I try to do is give them each their own culture, society, and religion, with personalities that run the gamut of human qualities. One of the things I’ve done is to portray certain mythological creatures — I call them “Muthologians” — as characters in 1930s Warner Brothers’ gangster films.

Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this?

No, I see it changing. Quickly changing. When I was cutting my teeth on sci-fi and fantasy, most writers were male. I grew up with Catherine (C.L.) Moore, Leigh Brackett, Mary (Andre) Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and later Janet Morris, Marian Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. Leguin, C.J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Evangeline Walton, and many others. Now I’ve met many female authors, such as you, Alex Butcher, as well as Diana Wicker, Catherine Stovall, Deborah Koren, Nancy Asire, Beth Patterson, and Valjeanne Jeffers. . . And let’s not forget Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Myers, and Laurel K. Hamilton.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable?

If I wrote hard science fiction, I’d make sure to get my facts straight. In my space opera, in my sword and sorcery, heroic fantasy and horror stories, I strive to make elements and plot points as plausible as I can.

How has science fiction changed from the days of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne?

Of course. SF has changed simply by virtue of the advances in biology, psychology, medicine, technology, etc. In the days of Shelley, Welles and Verne, things like quantum physics and wormholes and strong-theory were unknown. We are pretty much living today in the science fiction they imagined.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most? What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers?

Since I do not write real science fiction, I’ll forego that part, although my space opera was influenced by E.R. Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, Edmund Hamilton, Alex Raymond, and Marian Zimmer Bradley. My first influences in fantasy and sword & sorcery were Greek mythology, Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, and R.E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and King Kull; later I encountered Janet and Chris Morris, Tanith Lee, Guy Gavriel Kay, Charles Saunders, and Ted (T.C.) Rypel.

As far as film-makers go . . . I grew up on writers Curt Siodmak, Rod Serling, Joseph Stefano and his original The Outer Limits, and director Jack Arnold. My cinematic influences are mostly non-genre writers and directors: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, William Wellman, Michael Curtiz, and John Ford.

Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold?

I say very important. Our myths and legends and folklore define us, shape us, and even influence us on so many levels. Religion does the same thing. You can learn a lot about a country and its people, about a nationality by studying their myths and religions, as well as their history, which may be the most important factor in learning about other cultures.

What are some in YOUR society/cultural identity, how are they perceived and why are they important? Why have they endured?

I come from a predominantly Sicilian-Irish, Catholic background. So right there we have the Roman versions of the original Greek myths, as well as the ancient Celtic lore and Gaelic legends. Throw in the Catholicism in which I was raised and taught for nine years, and that also sums up a lot of what I write. For instance, the main religion in Dorgo’s world is monotheistic; Judeo-Christian in tradition — but it’s not the only religion. I have a number of others that are polytheistic and pagan in origin. I use these to give depth to many of my characters: some live and breathe and act by their religious convictions. And not all “priests” are holy men, and not all rogues are irreligious. I strive to make my characters as real as possible, and as relatable to our own world as I can make them. What endures is because in all religions, in all cultures, there is a common thread, a common element of truth. And truth, in real life as well as in fiction, will always endure. When you write for and from the heart, it’s the most honest writing you can do.

Thank you for having me, Alex. It has been a pleasure.

 

Thunderclap – One User’s Experience

After my recent post about Thunderclap, the crowd-speaking platform, I decided to interview author David Toft about his experiences.

Hi David, and thanks for joining us. How did you first discover Thunderclap?

The more I think about this question, the less sure I am about the answer. I think a writer friend contacted me asking for support for their campaign, but I honestly can’t remember.

 

Can you tell us about your promotions?

I’ve run three promotions. The first to generate interest in my current trilogy and linked to Amazon’s listing of book one.

I decided to visit my back catalogue for the second and chose Ishtal, a fantasy published by Wings ePress a couple of years ago. Again I linked to the book’s Amazon listing.

Back to the Kyklos Trilogy for campaign number three, and again linking to Amazon’s listing of book one, The Cycles Turn. It’s reached 140% support and is due to go ‘live’ in a couple of days. If it’s not too late you can add your support at http://thndr.it/1nzIjXj

 

What is involved? How much leg work did you have to do?

Thunderclap campaigns are amazingly easy to set up. If I can do it, anyone can. Getting those one hundred supporters is where the work comes in. It doesn’t sound a lot, but believe me it isn’t easy. I was on my own for all but the last few days of my first campaign and spent an awful lot of time that should have been writing time begging for support from facebook groups, on twitter and on Google+. If you’re thinking of setting up a campaign, join a mutual support group such as Thunderclap Campaigns, or Stormbuilders, on Facebook

 

Tell us about your successes? How have you benefited?

I think there’s a danger that running a successful campaign becomes an end in itself. All my campaigns have been successful in that they’ve all achieved the required support and gone live. My aim when I started was to boost book sales, and the first two campaigns failed to do that to any noticeable extent. Here’s hoping that number three is different.It’s all about exposure, people tell me, and yes Thunderclap campaigns have increased my exposure, particularly on Twitter, increasing my follower numbers and generating retweets and favourites.

 

Did you discover any pitfalls?

None, really, but remember that if you’re in a mutual support group, every Thunderclap campaign that you support will appear on your Facebook timeline. If you don’t want that timeline plastered with erotica, be selective.

 

Would you recommend Thunderclap?

I would, as a means of increasing your exposure, and it’s free which appeals to me as a Yorkshireman.

 

What promotional advice do you have for others looking to use such crowd-sharing features?

Join a mutual support group, but be a little selective, if you want to keep your Facebook timeline free of certain posts, support via Twitter only, you’ll get your support returned and keep your timeline clean.

If you choose Thunderclap, when you support another campaign click on the ‘tweet’ option. Doing this doubled my number of Twitter followers and gained me more retweets and favourited tweets than I’ve ever seen before.

Enjoy! It can be fun and you’ll make more friends.

7 unknown worthwhile reads – a guest post by Shane Porteous

Hello one and all, my name is Shane Porteous, I am an author but this post isn’t about me plugging any of my works, rather I would like to talk about books that I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed. Instead of talking about the works of Tolkien, King, Rowling, Martin, Clancy, Barker and Lewis, all of whom are now household names, I thought I would talk about relatively unknown books that I feel are definitely worth a read. The reason for this is rather simple, like almost all writers I love reading but rarely have a chance to talk about books I have discovered and enjoyed.

So I have decided to indulge the reader in me, I feel that all readers are on a quest to discover unknown gems of literature. I think this has to do with just how rare such a feeling is. The feeling that the story you are holding in your hands is something precious, something special, something rare. While stories like Lord of The Rings, The Stand, A Song of Ice and Fire are magnificent stories, their brilliance is common knowledge. When you discover their brilliance for yourself, you’re discovering something that millions of people have found before you. Those gems though beautiful have been read by everyone, I personally think that if you could somehow visit every book shelf in the world you would be hard pressed not to find at least one book by the aforementioned authors on it.

So my hope is that I can help you discover new books for your bookshelves (or e-reader). Keeping in mind that quality is all a matter of an opinion. The old saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind. With that said I hope you feel the same way I did when reading these books and enjoy discovering these unknown gems for yourself. So without further to do, in no particular order I present my 7 relatively unknown worthwhile reads.

 

Number 7. Woken by Kaine Andrews

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Woken-Kaine-Andrews-ebook/dp/B00C6KBSRG

Woken is the story of Ophelia a young woman who barely survived a savage attack at the hands of Andrew, her sister’s boyfriend. Several years have passed since that horrible night and Ophelia is still haunted by what occurred. Relying on medication just to get through the days and haunted by terrible nightmares. Her only sanctuary is that Andrew has been in a coma since that night. Finding comfort in the arms of the charming Roger, things finally start looking up, if only slightly. But all of that is about to change because Andrew has woken from his coma and is ready to finish what he started.

The first praise I need to give this novel is the fact that Kaine Andrews made each of his characters matter. Ophelia is not a generic victim whose torment is exploited for the sake of performing horrific acts upon her. She is a fully realized character and grounded in reality. She isn’t some supermodel looking woman with the intelligence of a scientist. She feels like a real person, someone you could honestly meet in real life.  When bad things happen to her, you actually give a damn about it, you feel her pain, you feel her fear.

Feeding into this perfectly is Andrew, the villain of the piece. Andrew isn’t a campy character, he isn’t a Halloween special. Andrew is a sick, twisted monster of an individual and at no time did the author pander or try to lighten his mood.

This is a true horror story, not something you would read to your children on Halloween night because they want a spooky story. This is dark, bloody and horrific; Kaine Andrews manages to show the brutality of violence without every exploiting or relying on it to tell his story.

Beyond these points is just how talented of a word smith Kaine Andrews is. Every word in this book feels like an ant of the same literary colony, working together to tell this story. There are no red herrings, no pandering and no fillers. Woken doesn’t rely on anything other than its own strengths, a true rarity for books these days. If you like horror that is as horrific as it is well told, you would struggle to find a better book than this one.

 

Number 6. Masquerade (book one of the Heven and Hell series) by Cambria Hebert.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Masquerade-Heven-Hell-Cambria-Hebert-ebook/dp/B008RG09SM

Masquerade, revolves around Heven, a high school student, who once was leader of the cheer leading squad. Several years before the story begins she was attacked and left disfigured by an unknown creature. Still reeling from the scars both physical and emotional of that attack her life suddenly takes a positive turn when she meets Sam, the handsome new stranger of her small town. But while new love is in the air so is terror for the creature that once attacked her is back and ready to finish what it has started.

I am bending my own rules a little bit mentioning this story. I just checked Cambria Hebert’s goodreads profile to discover she now has hundreds of reviews and thousands of ratings. This doesn’t surprise me in the least for several very good reasons that I will get to in a minute. I just need to stress the fact that when I first read this book there were only a handful of reviews for it. Also another point I need to make is that ultimately this list is my opinion on things and I am not saying that people should or shouldn’t like or read certain types of genres.

For me normally, there are three things that will stop me from reading a book, Romance, an Urban Setting and Young Adult. Masquerade has all three and yet I read it from first page to last without a problem. This is because this book is the most well paced story that I have ever read. It is amazing just how well Cambria Hebert was able to pace this story without ever once making it feel disjointed or underwritten.

While it is very much a young adult paranormal romance story, I was never bored reading it, every chapter brought a new revelation, something of value to the story. It left me guessing for its entire run, something that very few books have ever done for me.

It is often said, that a good book is one that can transcend its genre and this book definitely does that as far as I am concerned. The fact that I felt engaged and interested the entire time while reading about things I normally could care less about such as teenage angst, social politics and romance shows just how great of a story is actually is.

 

Number 5.  The Superiors (The Superiors #1) by Lena Hillbrand

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Superiors-Lena-Hillbrand-ebook/dp/B004ZGB2I4

The Superiors represents a future where vampires have taken over the world and humans, better known as Saps are little more than livestock. The main character is Draven, a rather unassuming vampire that has a mediocre job and lives a rather ordinary life who one day meets a young sap called Cali, trying to run away from her predetermine fate.

There is a lot that can be said about an author that can take something as overused as vampires and actually make an engaging, interesting story out of it. Reading my brief summary of the plot you are probably thinking that such a story has been done before and you’re right it has. But putting that aside, I found The Superiors a story that honestly stands on its own merit. Lena Hillbrand has created a fascinating fleshed out world.

Draven the main character is a kind of “Joe Vampire,” he isn’t some dark shadow that stalks the night or some Romeo who for some reason is only interested in teenage girls. There aren’t ANY romantic overtones in this story and that is a true rarity in vampire literary.

Beyond using vampires, the story itself is just incredibly engaging, what I loved about it is that the author takes her time with the story, she doesn’t rush through it (something that quite frankly annoys me about a lot of books that are written today). Instead she masterfully crafts every inch of this world, she doesn’t so much tackle social issues as deals with them with the subtly of an assassin.

A perfect example of this for me was how the vampires, who consider themselves the master race have fallen into the same traps of the world that humans once did. The vast majority of the vampires seem no happier than their human counterparts whose jobs they took over. There is a hypocrisy there that most vampires are now realizing and only the older order, who haven’t had to take these mediocre jobs to keep the world running are not affected by this reality.

That’s what I love about this story, it doesn’t represent a romantic or mystic vision and this world is dark, gritty and carries an undeniable genuineness to it. The author hasn’t tried to emulate anybody; they have told their own story and told it well. 

I read and enjoyed the Superiors during a time in my life when I would’ve rather gone to the dentist than suffer through another generic vampire story. I honestly can’t give it bigger praise than that.

 

Number 4. Veil of the Dragon (Prophecy of the Evarun) by Tom Barczak

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Veil-Dragon-Prophecy-Evarun-Barczak-ebook/dp/B0086RX20Y

A High Fantasy story revolving around a land that has seen better days and the resurrection of the fallen King Chaelus by a boy knight called Aaron all in the hopes of fulfilling a certain prophecy.

When writing a review for this I gave it the title, Like Reading A Dream, because that is the truest way I can describe this story. There is something otherworldly about reading this, a powerful feeling that fills you from the very first word to the last. I honestly felt like a ghost in this world, watching this world through eyes that weren’t natural.

I am a big believer that works of fiction need a personal stamp and from that point of view I have never read another book before that has been told with such a strong personal style that the author represents with this story.

It is often said that a good book is one that is brought to life in the reader’s mind and if that is the case this book is the very embodiment of that. I didn’t feel like I was so much reading about this world as experiencing it. Because that is what this story is, an experience, one that I doubt I will ever forget.

I wish that I could say more about this book, but frankly I couldn’t do it justice. As I stated before this book is an experience, one that has to be experienced personally in order to understand what I truly mean.

 

Number 3. Reader of Acheron (book one in the Slaves of Erafor series) by Walter Rhein

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reader-Acheron-Slaves-Erafor-ebook/dp/B00HS1532E

 

In a dystopian future, reading has been outlawed and slavery is rampant. The corrupted ruling class of this bleak existence is on the hunt for the so called Reader of Acheron, all hope is far from lost however as Kikkan, a slave that took his freedom is on a journey of his own, a journey that could change the entire world if successful.

Look I got to be upfront about something before I say anything else. A huge reason why I enjoy Walter Rhein’s books is that his writing style is very reminiscent of David Gemmell’s, who is an author that I loved reading while growing up. So I am sure there is a kind of nostalgia by proxy, if I can use such a term, when I read this story.

With that said, Reader of Acheron has a lot going for it that should be judged on its own merit. Obviously as a reader I could immediately identify how dangerous of an impact outlawing the act of reading would be. But what I liked about this story and the author deserves a hell of a lot of credit for this, is that I never felt like he was trying to force a morality tale down my throat, like he was using this book to get across his own personal opinions.

Rather this was first and foremost an engaging story with fascinating characters. It is as well worded as it is well paced. I read the whole story in a single setting and afterword I found myself thinking about the meaning of the tale, the points that were so finely raised within it.

It isn’t often that I can say this about any book, let alone one written by a somewhat non established writer. This book both entertained me and made me see things about society that frankly I had never really thought about before and to me that is the mark of an excellent story teller.       

 

Number 2. Mathion (book one in the Mavonduri Trilogy) by Jeff Shanley

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mathion-Book-Legacy-Wolven-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00ENQBM9K

Mathion is the story of Mathion, the prince and future heir of the Wolven people. His kind has been stuck in a war lasting thousands of years with the Kanin (werewolves). The story revolves around this young prince accompanied by his white wolf companion Elekan as he risks certain death to save a friend from the clutches of The Betrayer, the terrifying king of the Kanin.

The first thing that impressed me about this book was its genuine depth. There is a back story, to a back story, to a back story, to a back story. Literally tens of thousands of years that have been thought out and known by the author and it really shows while reading this story. It is rather quite sad, how rare this trait is among a lot of high fantasy writers today, considering genuine depth is the strongest corner stone of the High Fantasy genre.

But that isn’t the main reason why Mathion makes this list; it is because how it made me feel while reading it. While Mathion isn’t a children story by any means (it is after all a story about thousands of years of warfare between werewolves and medieval like warriors.) it made me feel the same way I did when I was 12 and read the Hobbit for the first time. I felt full of wonder and excitement reading about this world, a world that I had never quite imagined before.

I honestly felt like getting under the covers and reading this story well past midnight, because I was so enamored by it. Mathion is a better representation of classic heroic traits than almost any other character I have read about. I felt sad, when he was sad, I felt compelled by his conflict between duty and personal friendship. His relationship with his white wolf Elekan felt so real to me, reminding me of what I felt as a child raising a pet of my own.

With the exception of Tolkien himself, I cannot think of any High Fantasy writer that can embody the traits of classic High Fantasy as well as Jeff Shanley has with this story and considering that High Fantasy is my favorite literary genre, I think that is saying something. 

It is no exaggeration when I say that I found myself thinking about the Mavonduri world almost every day for basically a full year after I had finished reading it. Mathion is one of the very few books that not only have I a re-read a number of times, it is one of the few books that I make time in my busy schedule to re-read.

People will often ask what is a good High Fantasy story? Some say a book that resonates with the real world; others will say a story that represents a world that is nothing like the real world. My answer to this question is this book, Mathion.

 

Number 1. Of Good and Evil by Gerald G. Griffin

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Griffin-Gerald-Author-Jul-27-2010-Paperback/dp/B00AACIEZ6

Ron Sheffield is a former green beret, who fought in the Middle East but was discharged for his erratic behavior. In truth it was because he possesses powers unlike any the military has seen before. In the civilian world once more Ron becomes a hit man for the mafia in order to deal with his powers. He soon meets Amber Ash, who has powers of her own. Together they realize that they cannot escape their pasts.

While I meant what I said in the beginning of this post that these 7 books haven’t been placed in any particular order, I am going to state for the record that this book is my personal favorite of the bunch. While all 7 of these books are worthwhile reading, Of Good and Evil is simply in a league of its own.

There is a great maturity to Gerald G. Griffin’s writing, one almost never seen in MOST author’s work regardless of whether they are well known or not.

The sheer scope of this book is impressive, dealing with the paranormal, terrorist cells, the mafia, government conspiracies, secret societies, doomsday plots and much more. But more impressive than the scope is just how deftly Gerald G. Griffin handles all of these themes. This book easily could’ve come off as muddled and incoherent and yet nothing could be further than the truth, it is just flawless how well told this story is.

With startling effortlessness Gerald G. Griffin accomplishes mystery without frustrating his reader, he deals with real world issues, but does so in a way that doesn’t require expert understanding of the world’s politics and yet clearly shows a great understanding of such politics himself.

I cannot stress just how much I recommend this book to any mature reader. It truly boggles my mind that this book isn’t on the New York Times best seller list. With that said I am proud to say that apparently this book is going to be turned into a movie! It makes me genuinely happy to know that this magnificent book is finally getting the treatment it so richly deserves.

So there you have it, those are my seven recommendations. I appreciate you taking the time out of your life to read this post and I honestly hope that I have helped you to discover some literary gems.