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.


Twitter: @edonald

Monday, September 21, 2015

Interview with Peter Welmerink author of TRANSPORT: HUNT FOR THE FALLEN, book two in TRANSPORT series

TRANSPORT: HUNT FOR THE FALLEN, book two in your TRANSPORT series, continues the adventures of Captain Billet, his crew and their big armored personnel carrier, the HURON. What can we expect in this next book?

Billet is ailing, mainly due to that nasty forehead wound he received during the events of the first book. All the soldiers had been vaccinated back in the day, but some people’s systems burn it out sooner than others. No one’s sure at the time, if his vaccine is wearing out or if he is having a heart attack. There’s a lot of stuff weighing on our captain.

During a heavy rainstorm that’s been literally flooding the area, some of the local, protected zombies have fallen into the nearby churning river. One of Billet’s peers, a tank commander by the name of Jeremy Pike, wants to round them locals up quickly, mainly because the biggest rotter has a canister of black market drugs stitched into its belly. As people, even local militia, defect from city to city, village to village, Pike seems to be taking his big Abrams tank and crew out of the city, possibly going AWOL.

Billet won’t stand for this and gives chase. Though the HURON outweighs the 68 ton main battle tank; the tank greatly outguns the Heavy Transport Vehicle—a 120mm cannon on Pike’s DEVASTATOR versus a new 25mm cannon on the HURON. Still, the vehicles are going to end up dueling out in the rain-slogged gravel pits out beyond the city limits.

The fighting nuns of the West Side Apostolate, and Bob the 1950’s gas station attendant zombie, also makes another appearance.

And there is an Undead assassin pursuing Billet.

What makes your zombies different than everyone else’s?

First, there are a lot of writers who write different zombie material. They (the zombies) are an exciting lot to write about as they offer so much versatility depending on where, when and how you write them.

I feel what makes MY zombies different is that I introduce their presence as everything is in a POST-Post zomb-pocalypse state. The viral pandemic that “created” them was in 2013, and the storyline in the series is set in 2025-2026. We’re still here, and rebuilding. They (the Undead) are still here. They are like one of those INVASIVE SPECIES…you don’t like them but kind of live with them.

Until you can eradicate them, or try without getting arrested, fined and possibly jailed. The local zombies who are held in the city’s retention area on the west side of town are protected by law, from harm. They are fed doped “meat byproducts” and cared for within the enclosure. When the military has to go in there (a shitty job for sure), they have to be careful not to run over, shoot or damage these poor shambling folk as they are “the poor, afflicted family and friends of the city.”

Yeah, it’s an effed up POST-Post Apoc world for sure.

The “Feral” ones outside city limits are kind of your usual Undead fare. They’ll bite your face off if you let them.

You have a lot of military jargon, military acronyms and such in your books, and thankfully give us a glossary at the back of the book for us non-military types. Have you served?

I have been asked that before. No, I have never served, but I have family and friends, and many, many books and reference material I utilize for my information. My first TRANSPORT editor, before I submitted it to a publisher, had served and was kind enough to straighten me out if I was making things FUBAR’d. I know several military folks, either currently serving or those who had served, who have read and enjoy the books. And so far, no one has said, “Um, Welmerink, you’re going a little bit out of bounds there.”

Considering the TRANSPORT series is fictional, I try to shoot for some technical authenticity.

Do you consider the TRANSPORT series a Horror series, or what?

There are definitely Horror elements in the storyline obviously, but I have always viewed the whole thing as a Military Action-Adventure, or a Military Thriller I guess you would call it. I even think of it as kind of an Alternate History tale. I don’t expect the story events to actually happen so I am seeing the city and areas in the series (most of them actually, in reality, exist) as portrayed in a future Alt History light.

Who is your favorite character in the series?

I love all the characters, but I have to say Rebecca Regan, daughter of the leader of Reganshire, was a grotesquely entertaining character to write. The young woman is rotting from the inside out and you are not quite sure if she realizes it or not the way she often with, say, Captain Billet. She is a nasty character that makes me cringe and chuckle (insanely) at the same time.  

Any current projects you are working on you can share with our readers?

I have a short Action-Adventure novella out, RETURN TO STRANGE HOME, by a local (Michigan) publisher, and the third and final book in the TRANSPORT series is out now. I am hoping to begin work anew on the Viking berserker novel, BEDLAM UNLEASHED, with author Stephen Shrewsbury, and may have some other shorter TRANSPORT-related pieces in the near future…between day job, family and breathing.

Where can people find out more about you? and are the best online spots. I also support other authors and Creatives via

Monday, August 31, 2015

Interview with AshleyRose Sullivan author of Silver Tongue

Silver Tongue is an alternate history story. Where did that idea come from?

I’ve always been interested in history. I love going deeper into the big stories and learning about how everything lined up to give us the present we have today. At some point I was reading about the American Revolutionary War and how Washington’s crossing of the Delaware was such a pivotal moment. I remember looking at Leutze’s famous painting of the crossing and thinking, “What if the very next moment, Washington fell off the boat and drowned? What might have happened?” It sort of spun out from there.
I’d been wanting to write a supernatural YA novel—a novel for my teenage self—and the idea of these three best friends facing a crazy, mixed up world together all snapped together.

What makes Claire such a strong character?
Her determination, I think. When the book opens Claire has a lot of potential and a great foundation but she’s not really sure of anything in her life because everything around her seems to be changing. Still, when tragedy strikes and something needs to be done, Claire’s right there, in the thick of it. She’s not afraid to act. Whether she’s ready for something or not, she just jumps in. She’ll do anything to protect her friends.

If you were Claire how would you reacted differently?

If I were Claire I’d probably be using my super powers for nefarious purposes.

How do you feel bringing characters like Frankenstein will change the way the reader will look at the story?

I love it when fiction and reality blend together and I hope my readers will too. I hope it might encourage readers to pick up these old books. Modern genre fiction owes so much to classic gothic literature and, even after all these years, it still has so much to teach us.

Bringing in the character of Sam who is a descendant of George Washington brings about some secrets. How did you feel about this character when writing him, was it hard, easy?

Sam is struck from the byronic hero mold in that he’s handsome and broody and secretive. So, in that way, he was easy. But, I also wanted to make my own mark on this character type. Sam is a teenage guy with more secrets and responsibility than anyone his age should have to deal with. Because of that, he’s often at odds with himself and I tried to convey that and make him a fuller character.

The one thing you hope readers will get out of Silver Tongue after reading it?

Life gets better, fuller, richer the more you live it. Don’t give up.

Any current projects you are working on you can share with our readers?

I’m currently working on the next Silver Tongue and Awesome Jones books!

Where can people find out more about you?

I have a website where you can learn a little about the different stuff I do. I also have a (somewhat) daily blog.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Author Chris Garrison Guest Post

How Faeries have influence the Fantasy genre today

Once upon a time, all fantasy was fairy tales. Long before the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and the 1001 Nights, fairy stories were passed down through oral tradition in many cultures. These tales were told and retold, with elements recurring: the big bad wolf, magic rings, magical tricksters, fairy spirits both helpful and harmful. Our modern fantasy genre borrows from that rich history of symbols and tropes, building upon a base that extends into the mists of the past. J.R.R. Tolkien himself was a staunch defender of the fairy tale as a genre, and his Middle-Earth is built from many different myths and fairy tale elements. And Tolkien's work is a major part of the foundation upon which modern fantasy has been built. Elves and Dwarfs, Dragons and sorcerers, magic swords and rings of power, all of these come from fairy tales.

Today, we mash things up, we take old tired tropes and breathe new life into them by putting them into new situations or by combining them with new ideas to bring about something new. Fantasy has reached for its roots, pulling up old stories and replanting them in our modern world. Addie King presents a young woman in law school who is plagued by her birthright, as a descendant of the Grimms. There are even steampunk retellings of fairy tales, such as Katina French's Blowhard, in which the Hamm brothers stake a land claim on the prairie, only to be besieged by a steam-powered wind machine. On television, Grimm and Once Upon a Time cross old familiar tales with the world we live in, making the stories play out differently than we'd expect.

Fairies represent another world to us, creatures that live outside of what we can see and hear and touch and taste in our everyday lives. They're what's just around the corner, what lurks in the woods, the things that go bump in the night. Fairies are so much more than Tinker Bell, though even she's an example of wonder, a tiny luminous being with magical powers. Fairies appear in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files as anything from tiny amusing sprites like Ms. Bell, all the way up to human-sized, semi-godlike beings like Mab, who's the very essence of Winter, powerful and cruel. Butcher provides another dimension for the fae, “the Never Never”, which touches our world in ways that only wizards and powerful fae can predict.

Still other takes on fairies in recent fantasy include part-fae humans. On television, there are many examples of this in the Canadian TV show “Lost Girl”. Fae look a lot like regular people in that show, they just have aspects of their otherworldly selves that most won't be able to detect.

In my own Blue Spirit, the fairy world is right alongside our own, but it's a different shape, so a small space could be large in the spirit realm, or you could travel fast along certain paths in our world because they're shorter in the fairy realm. Fairy creatures may pass between the worlds, but will generally fool mundane humans into seeing them as something that belongs in our world, or remain beyond our senses entirely. Skye is the main character of Blue Spirit, and she can perceive both worlds when she's indulged in alcohol. She has a bit of her soul that was separated from her that has become its own spirit-world entity named Minnie. Skye treads the border between worlds, seeing the true nature of fairy creatures superimposed upon them, where everyone else sees what they expect to see. Skye is befriended and guided by the gnome-like Transit King, who helps her protect her friends and herself against a power-hungry Fairy Queen, but in exchange, expects a favor, any favor he asks.

Fairies lurk just under the surface of modern fantasy, and many storytellers reach for the roots of the genre to weave primal symbols and stories into their own.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Interview with Loren Rhoads author of The Dangerous Type

You have given lectures on reading your own work. What do you find is the key thing writers miss when looking at their own work?

When they perform their own work, writers tend to think about the scenes that were fun to write, or bits of research that excited them. They don't always think about what would make sense taken out of context, what illuminates the characters to people unfamiliar with the story, or what is most likely to sell the book to the audience to whom they're speaking. They need to think as someone coming to the book cold rather than as someone intimately familiar with it.

What is the one thing you find most challenging being an author?

I have a hard time switching gears from one project to the next.  I want to work on something straight through until it's finished, which isn't realistic when you're waiting on an editor's notes or for the proofreader to get back to you.  I tend to fritter away my waiting time, tidying up my social media sites or fiddling with my blog, instead of just jumping ahead on the next big project that needs my attention.

In the beginning of The Dangerous Type, it is talked of the Templars being basically extinct, how important was that to put at the beginning?

The extermination of the Templars is crucial to the trilogy.  It's the most important change in the galaxy since Raena was sent to prison.  She expected the War to have ended during her imprisonment, but she never predicted that Humanity would lose so badly after they committed the Templar genocide.  The Templars may have been the first space travelers in the galaxy (none of the surviving peoples know) and a large variety of widely used technology -- from translation devices to star drives -- is based on Templar math. In the subsequent books, the tech is breaking down galaxywide because no one really understands how Templar tech works.

Do you feel there are now more strong women roles in books than there used to be and how do you feel that impacts on today's fiction?

There are definitely more -- and more varied -- roles for women than there used to be.  In fact, I'm interested in the way the woman warrior trope has morphed. Originally women had to be tougher than the boys. The lone female, surrounded by men, was always an aberration. She was not at all like other girls.  In answer to that, I wanted Raena to have strong relationships with other females. The only healthy relationship in her life, in the beginning, is with her adopted sister.  On the Veracity, she serves with a feline female hacker and a neutral gendered engineer, whose translator speaks with a feminine voice. It was important to me that Raena have friends who weren't male and that they talk about things other than men. I think today's fiction is more realistic because of its variety.

How would you describe Raena?

Raena stands under five feet tall, so people underestimate her.  She's always worn her hair long and straight down her back, so in the beginning of The Dangerous Type, she whacks it off with a knife.  The uneven result amuses her, so she leaves it that way.  She has several large scars as mementoes of the rough life she's led.  She sees them as talismans that keep the past from hurting her again.  She's fierce in her loves and hates, extremely loyal, and lethal.

Revenge seems to be one of the themes in The Dangerous Type, do you think people want revenge on certain situations more often than not?

I based the framework of The Dangerous Type on martial arts revenge movies.  The warrior is beaten by the bad guy, then trains himself up until the climactic battle at the end.  Justified vengeance is always the motivating factor in those stories. In The Dangerous Type, Raena isn't merely revenging herself on the master who trained her and abused her sister. She's also avenging the Templars. There are several levels of vengeance going on.

In real life, I don't think revenge is the answer, but I find it very satisfying in stories from Harry Potter to Ancillary Justice.

How would you describe the relationship between Raena and Thallian?

Complicated.  She'd never had any power in her life, so she was captivated by him.  The longer she spent serving as his aide in public and his lover in secret, the more she realized that he was a psychopath.  She wouldn't have ever had the courage to leave him, until her sister was picked up as a political prisoner.  Even after they escaped, Raena felt that it was only a matter of time until Thallian captured and killed her.  On the other hand, Thallian lives in a galaxy where no one seems real to him.  After she left, he realized that Raena was real.  He understood what he'd lost.  So of course he would do anything in the galaxy to have her back.

Thallian seems like a villain than at times he seems to have a softer side. Is that an act on his part or does he really care?

I'm particularly fascinated by the personas people create for themselves -- and for other people -- and how those personas affect how the characters are perceived and perceive themselves. The answer to your question depends on which point of view is telling the story.  

What influenced you to write the In the Wake of the Templars trilogy?

I wrote stories about Raena in the early 90s for a zine published at MediaWest Con.  At that time, Raena's story ended during the War, when she was imprisoned in a Templar tomb and forgotten.  I've always wondered what would happen to her when she got out, what it would feel like to be a time traveler who drops back into the lives of people she used to know during the War.  Everything has changed, except Raena's outward appearance.  Could her friends accept who she's become?  Could she accept the way the galaxy has changed?  The only way to find the answers was to write the book.  I have NaNoWriMo to thank for getting them finished.  When I approached Night Shade about the first book, I mentioned I had a short NaNoWriMo draft of the second one.  He asked if I could write a third book and sold the series as a trilogy.

Can you give readers a sneak peek into the last two books of In the Wake of the Templars trilogy?

I wanted to play with different tropes in each book.  The Dangerous Type is a space opera revenge story centered around two interlocking love triangles.  Kill By Numbers is a Philip K. Dick mind warp, which deals with the failure of the Templar tech and looks into the nature of memory and truth.  No More Heroes is an interspecies love story set in a courtroom drama that ends with a time travel attack and rescue, as a venue for exploring the way a strong leader can influence people and inspire the best in them. The second and third books will both be out before the end of the year.

Are you making any upcoming appearances?

Thanks for asking!  I've got three scheduled so far.  I'll be at Borderlands Books in San Francisco on Sunday, July 19 at 3 pm.  During Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, I'll be taking part in the Broad Universe reading on Friday, August 21 at 7 p.m. In October, I'll be reading at Gamescape North in San Rafael, California on October 11 at 3 pm, as part of the Litquake Festival.

Are there any new projects you are working on you share with readers?

I have a story in the nEvermore! anthology, which just came out.  Margaret Atwood and Tanith Lee both have stories in the book, so I am thrilled to be in their company.  My story features Alondra DeCourval, the young witch whose stories have appeared in Wily Writers, Not One of Us, Instant City, Wattpad, and in the books Sins of the Sirens and The Haunted Mansion Project: Year One.  In my mind, Alondra's stories have always been linked. I'm finally pulling them together into a novel that explores all the ways she tries to prevent the death of her guardian.  I hope to turn it in to my editor at Night Shade in the fall.

Where can readers find out more about you?

Loren on Facebook:

Loren on Twitter:

Loren’s blog:

Friday, June 5, 2015

Interview with author C. T. Christensen

Top of Form
Bottom of Form

What influences your writing?

That’s, pretty much, a life story question; I am what I am because of what I have done and where I have been. One of the most common recommendations to new writers is to write about what you know. In my case, it was technical interest, military experience, and observing how humans manage to screw up almost everything.

What made you interested in Science Fiction?

My earliest memory of SciFi grabbing my attention was back in elementary school when I found a book by Heinlein in the small school library. BANG! That was it!

What advice would you give people wanting to write Science Fiction?

I don’t think of myself as the Guru On The Mountain Top, but I would make sure they understand that I do not consider Zombies, Vampires, and Fairies to be Science Fiction. To my mind, true SciFi is human problems set against, and influenced by, a technological background.

In Kaleidoscope, Josiah West Book One, Josiah West is of the Federation Navy; how did your own experience in the military help to define this character?

My Father was a paratrooper in WWII. His brother, my uncle, lost a leg during that war. While my Father’s side of the family did not arrive in the U.S. until the beginning of the twentieth century, my mother’s side of the family has participated in every scrap this country has had right back to the Revolutionary War.
I was the oldest of three brothers and a half-sister; I did over four years in the Air Force, my next youngest brother did a tour in the Navy as a corpsman in Vietnam, our youngest brother was an Army paratrooper before becoming a helicopter pilot, our half-sister also enlisted in the Army and became a helicopter pilot. I guess you could say that there has been an interest in the military in my family.
The military is a different culture from civilian life because of the job that has to be done. The people that are in the military are just ordinary people with the usual array of abilities and weaknesses. When I created Josiah West, I aimed for an ordinary man with a slightly unusual background, a good character, but, otherwise, just an ordinary guy that gets dumped into the ultimate test of that character.

How do you feel the military has shaped Science Fiction today?

Technology! The military is one of the most visible users of the latest technology. Military contracts pay for some of the greatest advances we have made. It is an unfortunate consequence that some of the greatest technological advances have been made under the influence of war. The more we know is possible, the more we wonder what is possible.

How important was it to make Josiah a strong character when dealing with firsts like the first ship of its kind?

That was easy! Josiah has been a pilot since he was a kid. As an example of his kind of mentality, I have a private pilot’s license with ratings for single-engine and sailplane. Would I like to be dropped into the cockpit of an F-16? HO BOY! You bet!

Where can readers buy Kaleidoscope, Josiah West Book One?

Available today at (my site), and and is showing up on other Internet sites too.
Also available in paperback to libraries and brick and mortar stores...Just ask them if they have it or will get it.

When is the next book in the series coming out?

I am aiming for early summer 2015 and, at the moment, everything looks like that will become a reality.

In your short stories collection, Science Fiction Short Stories Collection one, you have four specific stories. How did you pick those four to go into this collection?
There wasn’t much in the way of “picking” involved. Elaine’s Gift, Ringside Seat, and Shadows were the first out, were pretty short, and offered as singles. When I had the three, I put them together to make a better deal for the readers. When I finished Article Six, I offered it as a single for those that had already bought the collection and added it to the collection to enhance its value. Kaleidoscope will remain a single because of the sequel I am working on.

In your short story, Article Six, you talk about the importance of Technology. How do you feel technology has helped or hindered us in today’s generation?

I think of technology as the proverbial double edged sword. Humanity has made huge advances in mathematics, electronics, aviation, chemistry, and much more. On the downside, we put many--if not all--of these advances to the mundane task of killing each other. I find it highly indicative of how human mentality works when I see pictures on TV of people squatting in the ruins of a bombed-out town, having a hard time feeding themselves or finding clean water, but they all seem to have an AK-47 and plenty of ammunition.
Humans are tool users; it is our instinct to build things. Our technology has enabled us to expand to 7 billion on this planet. I believe that 7 billion is easily sustainable if humans only had the cooperative ability needed and a real test for leadership ability that would eliminate most politicians.
As an example of how I think humanity is losing its ability to use its technology for its own benefit, I have noticed for the last forty years, or so, that every year in this country we have massive floods somewhere while right next to those reports are the ones about the droughts out West and the depletion of aquifers due to drilling and pumping. Every year, I await for one of our, so called, “leaders” to come up with the idea of building pumping stations and a cross-country pipeline system to pump trillions of gallons of flood waters from where it isn’t needed to where it is needed. The Earth is not running out of fresh water; the Earth is what is known as a closed system, so nothing is being lost. Negative aspects of technology exist only in the human mind. Humans are clever, not smart.

In your story Shadows, you describe things happening for a reason or none that a person can think of. How often do you feel things happen for a reason?

I believe in coincidence and chance. I do not believe in supernatural beings guiding our steps. If things happen for a reason that means that reason was behind it. Shadows was intended to leave a question dangling; it could have been a good dose of celestial coincidence or something else.
I might add here that I used a small part of Shadows in the sequel to Kaleidoscope.

In your story Ringside Seat you describe the characters in Alaska. How has being in Alaska influenced this story?

Alaska has to be experienced to be believed. I was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base at Anchorage. On the Base and in the city, you are in a normal, civilized environment. Drive a few miles away, get off the road and you can get lost forever. I spent a good deal of time out in the woods and found it to be quiet and peaceful. The opening scene of Ringside Seat attempts to convey that move into another world.
The city boy, Jerry Grant, reflects my impression when I was first exposed to that vast and quiet landscape. Then, there were people like Bill Fowler, the ones that came and just didn’t leave. I don’t mean to sound like a stooge for Alaska Tourism, but it left an impression.

Where can readers buy Science Fiction Short Stories Collection one?

Like Kaleidoscope, it is available today at (my site), and and is showing up on other Internet sites too.
Also available in paperback to libraries and brick and mortar stores...Just ask them if they have it or will get it.

Where can readers find out more about you?

They can go to “About the Author” on my site,, for one. There is also my Author’s Page on and as well as I also have a Facebook page at:

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Interview with author C. Bryan Brown of They are Among Us

How would you describe Alex as a character?

Alex is driven, dedicated to her team and her career. She’s aware she’s sacrificing certain aspects of her life, and while she’s not happy about it, she copes. She’s neither drug-addled nor a boozehound, and I think that sets her apart from some of her male counterparts in other literary works. Alex doesn’t need to be redeemed, and she’s not fighting inner demons as well as outer ones.

Not every person is damaged, and not every character is, either. With Alex, I hope to present a strong, confident woman who is capable, but not perfect. I wanted her to be real and, as the trilogy unfolds, to be profoundly affected by the things that happen. To do that, she needed to start in a decent place, as opposed to some beaten down, tragic point in her life.

How would you describe the villains in this story?

Ambiguous, at best.

The novel starts out with a clear antagonist, but when we actually meet that character in the book, things are definitely not what you think. And as the reader follows that character through the latter half of the story, the reasons why he’s the antagonist are very clear, but some of his motivations are revealed and that should make the reader question whether or not he’s as bad as originally thought.

I tried to make the characters multi-layered enough that the reader walks away from this book asking, “Who are the real villains?” and they continue reading to find out. Maybe it’s who they think it is, maybe it’s not.

Who was your favorite to write about?

This might sound odd, but I didn’t have a favorite character in this book. I enjoyed writing each of the characters for their own reasons, and I’m looking forward to what comes next with each of them.

As a collective, I enjoyed writing the vampire half of the book a bit more. There’s something about writing wanton death and destruction, lack of societal rules, and dealing with a supernatural race that’s appealing.

What makes They are Among us different from other stories you have written?

They Are Among Us has a much larger scope than anything I’ve written before. It’s the first book in a trilogy, and by the end, the world as the characters know it, will be vastly different.

I’ve included far more characters than in any other book, and each one has an impact on the overall story. And as the story continues, I’ll continue to add and subtract characters, as it’s certain not everyone will make it to the end.

Another difference, at least for me, is that They Are Among Us sticks more in the horror genre than most of my longer work. I tend to stray into the realm of urban fantasy quite often, and I didn’t this time. The novels gets darker toward the end, and the second and third books turn out even more lights.

Do you feel there could possibly threats out there such as in your story against humans?

That’s a tricky question to answer. I don’t want to give too much away in regards to the trilogy’s overall plot, so I’ll answer with some generic comments.

No, I don’t believe there are vampires in our world, at least not in the way they’re portrayed in the book. My take is a hybrid of the classic vampire and aspects of the more modern vampires I’ve read/watched in the last decade or so. That said, I definitely think nature will take care of herself in the long run. As it is, we’re seeing fungus that turns insects (ants, spiders, etc) into zombies whose goal it is to infect other insects. I can mention the new dementor wasp, named after Rowling’s soul sucking creatures in the Potterverse. We can talk all day long about poisonous spiders, snakes, and the fact these creatures are prey to something else. Again, nature takes care of herself and to an extent, you can call that an underlying theme in the trilogy.

Right now, there are very real threats to our existence that we can either deal with or ignore, and who knows what sort of creatures/animals/insects/viruses will pop up in the future to challenge the human race as the dominant one on the planet?

There is a lot of procedural work described in this story, how much research have you done to write it?

I’ve done a fair amount of research to date. My first novel, Necromancer, also dealt with characters in law enforcement. I relied on some of that earlier research when writing They Are Among Us.

But the real answer is that I have family members in law enforcement and I’ve picked brains on more than one occasion. I’ve also done extensive reading on equipment and weapons, watched videos of raids and deployments, though no doubt there are going to be mistakes, which are all mine. I tried reaching out to the FBI (you can send them questions via their website), but no dice. I guess they don’t like the idea of mixing it up with vampires.

And, I should add that it helps, too, when dealing with the supernatural because there really isn’t a playbook on how to handle those situations, so I was able to wing more than my fair share of scenarios, which was fun. I figured as long as I didn’t devolve my characters into “stupid cops,” readers would let the little things slide. I know, as a reader, I watch more for out-of-character actions as opposed to whether the flanking position is 100% accurate.

How much of an influence has your wife been in your writing?

My wife is much more motivation than influence. If I’m not utilizing my time well, her foot is the first one I feel, usually before my own. I definitely believe I’m entitled to a day off now and again. She sees things just a bit differently in that regard. Plus, she’s always pushing me out the door to attend events, writing groups, or just to get away from the kids for a few hours at the local Panera. She sacrifices a lot to give me the time I need, and that keeps me on the mental straight and narrow, knowing that if I don’t get this project done or get that project done, there’s someone I’m actually going to disappoint and feel like I’m taking advantage of.

As far as actual influence, though, she’s one of the strongest women I’ve ever known, and I draw on pieces of her personality for every woman I write. Whether it’s the stubborn side, the vengeful side, the mothering side… she’s always there. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you fear most when writing?

Sucking, which may be cliché, or not, I don’t know.

Deep down, I know you can’t please every reader and there will be people who dislike your work, but that doesn’t stop me from looking at every word and line. Most of the time, I can control the fear and write and then worry about the suckitude in editing and beta reading phases, but every so often, it catches me and I find myself rewriting the same paragraph for an hour.

Once the work is published, though, I’m good. I don’t mind bad reviews, especially if they’re well thought out and presented logically. A bad review lends credibility, in my opinion, to any creative art, as art is supposed to make you feel something. Otherwise, what’s the point?

What are your future writing plans and will there be more to this story based on the way it ended?

The future for me holds three projects I hope to complete by the end of the year. I’m working on At Dawn They Sleep, which is the second book to this trilogy, so there’s definitely more on the way.

After that, I have deadlines for a young adult fantasy novel and a science fiction / urban fantasy mash-up novel. Both of those will also kick off new trilogies.

Between all that, I hope to keep moving forward with some short story ideas I have kicking around.

Where can readers find out more about you?

I try to be all over the place, but in reality that’s tough to do. I utilize Facebook and Twitter more than my website, but the website is the hub of all things C. Bryan Brown related. Anyone interested can head over to and stalk me there, plus find the links to my Facebook and Twitter. I have an Instagram, but really, the only pictures I take are of beer bottles as I’m drinking them. Who wants to see that?

Where can They are Among us be bought?
You can pick up a copy of They Are Among Us and all my other work on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, my website (see previous question). They Are Among Us and Necromancer are also available on the Post Mortem Press (my publisher) website, which is