Monday, August 13, 2018

Guest Post Dan Jolley Author of The Gray Widow Trilogy

ON HUMAN BEINGS




A bit about me: I'm basically your run-of-the-mill, garden-variety, bog-standard white guy. I like hard rock, cold beer, and movies in which stuff blows up. I am, for good or ill, America's vanilla cis-het poster boy.

I used to think I had a bit of mystique about me, buried way back in my genetic lineup, since we had a bunch of stories in my family about a couple of 100% Cherokee women who'd married a couple of my great-grandfathers. There was even a bit of anecdotal evidence that we'd descended from one particular group composed of equal parts white people, Native people, and freed slaves.

Disappointingly—crushingly so, for some of my immediate family—a couple of reputable genetics testing kits indicated that my family is half British and half German, and if any Native or African blood flows through my veins, it's in too minuscule a measure to show up on the test.

In short, as far as current consumer-level science can determine, I'm solidly part of the majority that's run things on this continent for the last few centuries.

I never really wanted to be part of the bog-standard majority, though. Forget Luke Skywalker—I wanted to be the eight-foot-tall Wookiee. Playing Street Fighter II? Forget Ryu or Ken. I always played as Blanka or Dhalsim. The most fascinating characters in Original Flavor and Extra Crispy _Star Trek?_ Spock and Data, by far. Sure, Kirk and Picard and Riker were cool and all, but they were no Vulcans.

Yet it seemed as though, everywhere I looked, growing up, the protagonists of just about every work of fiction around me were *just like me*. Straight, white, and male. It grew even more pronounced once I started working in the video game industry, where it's so unusual for a protagonist to be anything other than straight, white, and male that it's often considered newsworthy when it happens.

And the whole time, a thought kept popping up in my head: "How BORING."

I have heard some creators of color say that they started writing because they never saw themselves in fiction. I guess I had begun to see too much of myself in fiction.

I will freely admit that I have, in the past, written plenty of straight, white male protagonists (many of them licensed characters—Batman, Dr. Strange, most of the cast of G.I. Joe, etc.). The main character of my original comic book series, BLOODHOUND, looks like the professional wrestler Triple H. (Though, in my defense, that's largely because my then-wife was a huge Triple H fan.) But I know that shouldn't be the *default.* Which is why, when I got a chance to re-create the DC superhero Firestorm, I deliberately steered the new character away from the straight-white-male mold.

One of the best stories I ever heard came from Whoopi Goldberg, who said that seeing Nichelle Nichols on screen as Lieutenant Uhura made her believe that she could be an actress, too. Well, I'm looking around, and the world I'm seeing is not just straight, white, and male, and I have no interest in depicting the world in a way I know to be false. That's one of the biggest reasons why the protagonist of the GRAY WIDOW books, Janey Sinclair, is a woman of color.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know better than to think I could write "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." I'm not about to try to tell a story presenting the definitive experience of being a person of color, or a woman, or a member of the LGBTQIA community.

But if I'm telling a story like GRAY WIDOW'S WAR, in which a group of humans have been experimented on by extraterrestrials, and end up becoming superhuman military archetypes intended for use as raw material in an interplanetary war... a story in which the characters have to learn to trust each other, and eventually love each other, even as they're fighting horrifying bloodthirsty shapeshifters and heavily armored aliens... Well, why shouldn't the protagonist be a young multi-ethnic woman? Why shouldn't her love interest be a first-generation Indian-American? Why shouldn't they have a close friend who's Muslim, and fight alongside someone who's asexual?


That makeup of humanity is the world I see around me. So that's the world I try my best to write about.



About the author:   Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.

Dan began writing for video games in 2007, and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest Georgia, and enjoys connecting with readers via his website (www.danjolley.com) and on Twitter (@_DanJolley).
More about Dan Jolley:

Website:

Twitter: @_DanJolley





Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Interview with Martha J Allard author of Black Light

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Guest post Author Georgia Jones

I would like to start by saying “Thank You” for having me as a guest on your blog.  I appreciate the opportunity.
My basic story is not that of rags to riches, that would just be too easy.  I have written my entire life.  I have always enjoyed jotting things down and I recall spending an entire day, at a family gathering many years ago, using a paper plate as my easel to paint a picture with words. I created a story where everyone present had a part, some good and some bad.  I have just always written things down, usually in some form of fantasy. 

When I first began to think of Legends of Darkness, the first book in the series, I didn’t see it as a series.  I saw it as a single book with an unusual story. I wanted to create something different from everything else I was reading.  I wanted to incorporate different things into the storyline.  I remember thinking how awesome it would be to have a book that incorporated a little history, legend, and myth all wrapped up in a storyline that would be unique and unusual.  That was my goal, to create something different. I had the book brewing in my mind for a year or so before I ever wrote the first word.  I couldn’t find my beginning.  Finally, the beginning of the book presented itself to me and I began to write.  I’m one of those weird old fashioned people that have a computer, but actually enjoy the act of writing on paper with an actual pencil.  (Yes, I really said pencil.  That’s what I use for my original manuscripts.)  I was about halfway through the storyline when I pulled out another notebook and started keeping notes in it also.  There was just so much more to the story that wouldn’t fit in the story of one book.  My characters began to take shape along with other creatures that I knew I could use later.  So, at that point I had two notebooks with scribbles that nobody, and I do mean nobody, could ever understand.  In my mind it was taking shape as a series though.  I would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and pull out my notebook to jot a reminder.  By the time I was done with Legends of Darkness, I had the whole series drafted to be a five book series. I have since shortened that to a trilogy.


I have been asked if the series stays on course with my outline, as I write each book…the answer to that is “Not completely.”  As I write, things change.  Sometimes they are small details, and sometimes entire characters die, for one reason or another, but the actual plots of the other books have remained the same.  So far the biggest changes have been in the worlds that I’m creating.  As they grow and my world building talents evolve, so does the future of the books in those particular locations.  By the way, I love the world building aspect. 


I write my first draft on paper then for the second draft I transfer it to the computer.  On my first novel I did so many drafts that I lost count, probably somewhere around ten.  On the second book, I did six rewrites.  I have heard authors say that they don’t like doing the edits and rewrites, but I really don’t mind it.  I like adding and taking away from the story where it is necessary.


I’m currently working on the third book in the Remnants of Life Trilogy as well as several other projects.

If you would like to know more about me or my writing please visit
OR FIND ME ON FACEBOOK AT




Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Review of Keepers of the Dead by Bob Freeman




"THE VAMPIRE MACGREGOR LIVES... 

_"Foolish pup," MacGregor chided the werewolf, "you don't get it. 
Laddie, if water were evil I'd be but a drop. What lurks below is an 
ocean."_ 

From the haunted halls of Cairnwood Manor to the bowels of Rosslyn 
Chapel, Bob Freeman hurls you into the very heart of the eternal 
conflict between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. 

It's fang versus claw, spell versus steel, and love versus death in an 
epic battle of blood and thunder. 

When a sinister cabal converges to unleash the ultimate evil against an 
unsuspecting world, only the combined strength of the Wolves of 
Cairnwood Manor and the Circle of Nine Skulls offers up a glimmer of 
hope as werewolves, vampires, witches, immortal warriors, and an army of 
the undead collide in a battle of epic bloodshed." - From the Editors at Seventh Star Press

When reading Freeman's Keepers of the Dead, I was amazed how much I fell in love with the characters and story line. It was not impossible for one to fall deep into the characters such as Michael who is fierce and loyal. The idea of this loyalty causes him at times turmoil on how to protect his family, his house. 

What was really amazing is the artwork that added to this story. Each illustration caused me a pause and I was able to experience the story as if I was really there.

It would be a shame to miss this story that has so much suspense, so much action and so much emotions on what it means to be a family of any kind and what you would do to protect it.

Available at Amazon and where are books are sold.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Guest Post by Stephen Zimmer author of Hellscapes:Volume II

Dimensions to Hell


The Hellscapes collections of short stories are very aptly named, as they involve various conceptions of Hell and the experience of it.  I’ve always found the ideas of Hell found in all kinds of religions to be very fascinating, ranging from the more uniform kinds of Hell found in Judeo-Christian faiths to the more individualized ones found in many Eastern faith traditions  (and a more Eastern concept of Hell is shown vividly in my Rising Dawn Saga, in the 4th book, The Undying Light). 

I’ve always gravitated toward the idea of a more personalized, or customized Hell, where the punishment fits the crime, so to speak.  This notion is not just relegated to religions, as it also has a powerful foundation in literature with Dante’s Inferno and the nine rings of Hell, where the condemned souls are assigned to places and torments that relate to the kinds of sins they committed in their lives.

The idea of a Hell being designed from the ground up in a personalized way is not absent from John Milton’s Paradise Lost either.   Satan gathers the fallen angels within what is essentially an infernal wilderness and sets about building up a new kingdom shaped directly to his will. 

Writers in the modern age have definitely explored these kinds of concepts, whether it be a novel like God’s Demon, by Wayne Barlowe, which I found to be truly amazing and very visual/cinematic in its conception of Hell, or the time-honored Heroes in Hell anthology series spearheaded by Janet Morris.   So, the idea of a personalized hell for those who dwell in it is certainly is not new and has a history from past to present.
For me, as a storyteller, working with a range of visions of hell, or levels of hell, gives me the ability to construct a story that is visceral and macabre, yet still has purpose.  The characters reap what they have sown in life, in an even more individualized way than you find in Dante’s Inferno.  Monstrous creatures might be spawned from the actions of the condemned character, and sometimes there are figures, who are given names like the Stranger (in Hellscapes Volume I, in “The Smallest Fish”), or the Hustler (from “The Club” in Volume II), who play the roles of guides in bringing the characters closer to the horrific realization of their situation and fate.

The personalization of the experiences, situations, and environments allows for a limitless scope in the kinds of stories and depictions included in these collections.   Like Dante’s Inferno and the various circles of Hell, it also allows for a variance in the intensity of the characters’ experiences.  Some face very brutal violent fates, while others face an unrelenting torment that is more psychological in nature than it is physical pain.  
In a given volume like the first or second, that variance among stories allows for a range so that the reader is taken through and ebb and flow rather than keeping everything at the same intensity level all throughout.    These kinds of dynamics make the harder-hitting moments hit harder, and the more reflective moments sink deeper, in my view.

Therefore, the levels, or variations, in the depictions of Hell serve a dual purpose.  Within the story they provide personalization to the particular characters.  In the creation of each tale, they become a powerful asset for the art of telling the story itself. 

The personalization of the various visions of Hells suits both character and plot in a much more organic way, and in the end I think results in a better story overall.  I invite new readers to adventure in the Hellscapes and see if they enjoy reading these various depictions as much as I enjoy bringing each and every infernal variation to life in writing them.





Friday, October 2, 2015

Author RJ Sullivan of Darkness With a Chance of Whimsy Guest Post




RJ’s Top Ten Favorite Collections and Anthologies

First of all, thanks to Shell for letting me guest-post today in support of my new release, Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy, my fourth Seventh Star book and my first collection of short stories. What seemed most appropriate was to briefly discuss favorite anthologies and short story collections that I have on my own shelf, that have touched me as a reader in some personal way. So without any further delay, let’s get to it.

1. Nightfall and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov: The first author I dove into after breaking away from a strict diet of Star Trek and Star Wars media. What can I say, he had me at Nightfall. An incredible idea, told well, in which religion and science clash in theoretical alien society (or not so alien society) on the eve of an apparent apocalypse. If you’ve never read it, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say there is a reason people still talk about this stories over 70 years after its initial publication. There are other gems in the collection, but Nightfall is worth the price of admission. Runners up from this author include the seminal I, Robot and the Foundation Trilogy (Actually eight collected short stories, novelettes and novellas divided into three parts)

2. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr. A career-spanning collection of powerful short stories from the author many readers and industry leaders presumed at the time was a man with unusual empathy toward women. The stories, as the world now knows, were penned by a sensitive recluse named Alice Sheldon. Sheldon’s often apocalyptic visions make her, in my opinion, one of the earliest  and most successful visionaries to blend SF with horror into a potent blend of stories that I compulsively revisit. The novelette The Girl Who Was Plugged In shows us a future in which physical beauty and product marketing are all that matter to a shallow future society (huh!) and how one plain jane consumer jumps at an opportunity by a corporation taking unfair advantage of her. Besides the premise, the story taught me how to find an internal “pulse” in narrative fiction to drive a story forward. “Houston Houston Do You Read” and “The Screwfly Solution” are just two chilling possible futures that look at gender inequality with horrifying consequences.

3. The Martian Chronicle by Ray Bradbury. The classic collection takes 27 short stories related to Mars and presents them as a loose (and often contradictory) timeline. Each story is amazing in and of itself. Bradbury stood as one of the great soft SF authors that stood alongside Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein. Bradbury looks at human impulses and selfish desires and how those desires can often get in the way of doing the right thing. It’s been awhile since I’ve read this one (I will probably remedy that soon) but I still remember the final moment from ”The Million Year Picnic” that closes the collection, when little Timmy discovers “Real Martians” for the first time.

4. The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology by Joseph W. Campbell Jr. Before Astounding Magazine under the editorship of Campbell, SF was mostly seen as trashy pulp. This collection documents the change to the more thoughtful genre it became beginning in the 40s, presenting many key works by the authors that helped bring about that change. Blowups Happen by Robert A. Heinlein; Vault of the Beast by A.E. Van Vogt, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov J, plus stories by Murray Leinster, L Sprague DeCamp, Eric Frank Piper, Theodore Sturgeon, Lester Del Rey, and more. While there are other collections perhaps more thorough that look at the same era, this one has a little underappreciated story by an obscure author called Meihem in ce Klasrum by Dolton Edwards, a short spoof essay that looks at English rules and projects “common sense” changes to grammar (and then applies the change to the paragraph that follows) so that by the end of the story, the reader is faced with nonsensical gibberish they can read with perfect clarity. Whether that’s a good thing or not if left up to the reader, but it’s a delightful piece.

5. The Hugo Winners Vols I and II collected by Isaac Asimov. Another anthology which serves to track the change in SF from its hard science foundation of the 40s into the 60s and 70s when a new generation of authors (led by Harlan Ellison to no small degree) challenged the old school to push the genre further.

6. The Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle While you can find plenty of Holmes short story collections, with many more complete than this, the oversized hardback edition by Castle Books (still in print, you can it NEW from Amazon at a steal for ten bucks!) collects the complete Strand Magazine run of stories. This includes the Hound of the Baskervilles in serialized form and 37 short stories! What makes this collection special is that it reprints the actual page layouts from the magazine with the Sidney Paget illustrations, mastheads, the original typography, and more. It must be seen to be believed. Although I love my Kindle, this makes the strongest argument for me how paper collections are still a vital part of certain reading experiences.

7. The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe. I mean....yeah. Do I really need to explain this?

8. Reel Future. Edited by Forrest J Ackerman and Jean Stine. As a classic movie fan, this is a really nifty set of 16 stories that inspired major motion pictures, including Empire of the Ants by H.G. Wells, Who Goes There by John W Campbell Jr. (The Thing), Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates (The Day the Earth Stood Still) The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) and more.

9. Skull Full of Kisses and Other Stories by Michael West Yes, I gotta show my publisher and one of the authors I most respect a little love here, because this was a collection I bought within minutes of meeting Mr. West (He has that effect on people). As you can probably tell from this list, I don’t go for much straight-up horror, but this collection, with its theme of love, relationships, and longing running throughout, is as awesome as you may have heard. Although I haven’t picked it up in a couple of years, my mind still frequently returns to moments from Jiki, Trolling, Einstein’s Slingshot, For Her, and the amazing Goodnight.

10. Back Roads and Frontal Lobes by Brady Allen. Another small press book by an author I have the privilege to know as well as read. Again, I don’t read a lot of horror so your mileage may vary. In my blog review, I photographed myself wrapped in a blanket cowering while reading it, and my jokey hyperbole was taken in the spirit intended. But I was only half joking. Like Michael’s collection, images and impression from this book continue to haunt me over two years later. From my review: “This collection defines what the term “edgy” storyteller really means.... In this collection, Brady Allen makes 23 attempts to take you somewhere unique and exciting. Someplace you have never gone before. A handful of those times, he won’t quite get there. Most of those times, he will. What Brady will never do is play it safe. Never. And that’s what I admire... .” That was in 2013, and today, I still stand by those words.
So those are ten favorite collections that have touched me in some personal way and that I still love to revisit. Thanks for listening.









Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Elizabeth Donald author of Nocturne Infernum Guest Post

It’s No Good to Anybody In Your Head

If you haven’t seen the film Amadeus, you are instructed to stop reading and go rent it right away. You won’t regret it.

Still here? Great. Amadeus is a biopic of the flamboyant Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose flame flared brightly enough to burn him out at a young age and still echoes in concert halls today.

Toward the final chapters of Amadeus, an opera director comes to see him and asks to see the pages for The Magic Flute, the opera Mozart is writing for him.

“There aren’t any pages,” Mozart says.

The director is upset, thinking of payrolls and schedules, and says, “I asked you if we could start rehearsals next week and you said yes!”

Mozart nods. “It’s all here,” he says, pointing to his head. “The rest is just bibbling and scribbling, scribbling and bibbling.” Mozart is quite drunk, of course. And we hate the opera director for his next line, because we’ve come to care quite a bit for Mozart and his creative craziness by this point.

“Finish it,” he snaps. “Write it down. On paper. It’s no good to anybody in your head.”

I think of that scene when speaking to aspiring writers. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was hoping to land my first book contract, asking questions and listening intently to the authors. Now I’m the one they ask about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, or how I find time to write with a day job, or where I get my ideas. It’s a thousand questions that boil down to, “I want to write. Tell me how.”

Sometimes, I tell them about my friend Joe. Joe was a wonderful storyteller. We’d have lunch, and he’d tell me the latest story he’d concocted: dark fantasies full of drama and angst, color and magic. I’d listen, and then start grinning until he asked me what was so funny.

“Did you write it down?” I’d ask, and he’d give me the half-smile that says, “I know, you’re going to tell me about Mozart and the opera director again.”

The turning point for me was an issue of Writer’s Digest. The cover article was an excerpt from Stephen King’s memoir titled On Writing. The cover showed King’s face, a little less lined than it is now, and the title: “Stephen King on how to get ten pages a day.” Elsewhere on the cover was the title of an unrelated article: “What’s keeping you from success?”

I cut out that cover with King’s image and those two sentences only. I knew what was keeping me from success – on what still keeps me from success, as I measure it. King writes every day of the year, and I do not. Life intervenes, as does the day job, the requirements of being a wife and mother, the other thousand obligations that nibble at the hours.

But that keeps me from success. One day off turns into two, turns into a week, and suddenly the dust has fallen in the mind as well as the keyboard.

You see, the opera director was right – you knew I’d get back to him. He was harsh and selfish, but he was right. If Mozart had never put pen to paper, none of us would ever have heard The Magic Flute. It would have vanished into the ether with his untimely death, and all his songs would be unsung.

What are your songs? What are the stories you have to tell? Why do you keep them locked inside you where no one can see them? What is keeping you from success, whether it is commercial, critical or creative? What is required to get you what you want, and why do you let it slide one more day?

At the risk of sounding like a harsh opera director, I can only tell you what I have learned. Write it down. On paper. It’s no good to anybody in your head. Your stories will be unheard and your songs unsung as long as you let that hard work of putting pen to paper slide for another day, and another, and another.

It is the only answer to “how do you write those books?” I’ve ever come across.

As to where the ideas come… well, if you listen closely enough, in the dark place between awake and asleep, your ideas will speak to you, in what dreams may come. Please, share them with us.

Elizabeth Donald is a dark fiction writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning newspaper reporter and lecturer on journalism ethics; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She lives with her husband and her son in a haunted house in Illinois. In her spare time, she has no spare time. Her latest release is Nocturne Infernum, a trilogy of vampire mysteries set in a dark alternate Memphis.

Website: www.elizabethdonald.com                                         

Blog: literaryunderworld.blogspot.com
Twitter: @edonald