Author Interview: Amanda Orneck

AmandaOrneckBorn in Fountain Valley, CA, raised in a small town called Montrose, CA, Amanda Orneck has never stayed in one place for long – until now. She currently calls Huntsville, AL home, where she spends her days writing, gaming, and loving her family to pieces.

Amanda received her Creative Writing degree from the University of Southern California, learning her craft at the feet of David St. John, Aimee Bender and Carol Muske-Dukes. While at USC, she received the Middleton Creative Writing Fellowship for excellence in poetry.

For seven years she honed her writing craft as a video game journalist, writing for GamePro, WoW Insider, GameGeex, and a handful of other outlets. In 2014 Amanda left the world of blogging behind to focus on her first love, fiction. Shadow of the Owl is her first novel, and she is currently in production on a cyberpunk novel entitled Deus Hex Machina.


Shadow_OwlIn a kingdom populated with nomadic elves and human colonists, pampered princess Mylena lives a charmed life. Her world is thrown into turmoil however, the night her mother loses her throne, her kingdom and her life. Forced to flee the castle, Mylena must live in secret amongst the peasants of a small elven settlement, tending to her wounded father and eking out a living as an apothecary. As she does, a new sort of life rises from the ashes of her old one, a life that includes the kindling of romance with a young elven boy named Fionn. Mylena falls in love with her new life among the peasants, and prepares to spend her days treating illnesses and hiding who she really is.

Until the day the usurper’s minions find her and rip that life to shreds.

Now Mylena’s running from not only the evil sorcerer who wants her dragged back to the castle in chains, but also from those who want her to step into her mother’s position and retake her family’s kingdom. The once pampered princess must choose: Leave behind the simple life she’s come to love and rise up to save her people from tyranny, or stay hidden and watch it all burn down around her.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. Shadow of the Owl is a wonderful fantasy set in a world with humans, elves, sorcerers, and magic. Tell us about the story and its main characters.

Shadow of the Owl is a traditional fantasy novel in the vein of Lord of the Rings and Sword of Shannara. Mylena, the main character, is an exiled princess I think a lot of people would identify with. She’s struggling with growing up in a kingdom under siege, living in secret with her father in a village in the forest. The culture of the world is a bit unique in that the original inhabitants of Shadowhaven were a race of shamanistic elves, each of them born with one type of elemental magic. Add to that a group of colonizing humans who built a society with these elves, and you have a melting pot of a kingdom that is very much in its infancy. Mylena sort of represents this mixture, being half human and half pixie (the race of her mother).

Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?

I’ve never been a fan of villains. I used to do my best to write without them, but stories get boring without antagonists, don’t they? I have always rooted for the hero, and I find their stories more compelling to write.

Q. What do you like most about your Princess Mylena? What do you like least about her?

Mylena is incredibly strong willed, and I love that about her. Writing her character I often tried to make her do things in scenes and she just would flat out refuse. “I was raised in a castle, in comfort and luxury, I would never do that!” she would announced. It made writing her incredibly challenging and incredibly fun. I don’t like the selfish streak she has though. She’s the sort of person that thinks of herself first — I guess that comes from being raised as the heir to the throne. She learns to get a bit better on that score along the way, I’m happy to say.

Q. Why did you choose to write fantasy? What draws you to that genre?

I grew up on fantasy. My father was a huge sci-fi and fantasy reader, and one of the first books I remember him reading me was Thurber’s The Thirteen Clocks. I also think an unhealthy fixation with Disney princesses added to that, come to think of it.

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other fantasies?

Mostly I think that I’ve got a unique bunch of people adventuring together. Aside from Mylena Saebariela, you have the orphan Chiave, who’s the only human with a magical ability in the realm, Warrek, the Captain of the Guard who comes home after duty out of the country to find his best friend the king is gone, and I can’t forget Joppa — she’s sharing memories with her dead twin brother.

Q. Readers may not realize that writers do lots of research, even for fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research did you do for this story?

I did a lot of research into medieval combat and herbology, specially about American plants and how they can be used for medicinal purposes.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the book? How?

Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, most definitely.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

Definitely the swamp scene. You’ll know it when you see it, and you’ll probably agree that it’s the best.

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

Since I started writing this novel when I was a child, combat was by far the hardest thing for me to grasp, so much so that I put down the manuscript for years until I “grew up” enough to be able to tackle those parts of the book.

Q. What inspired you to write this story with these characters?

I’m not exactly sure where the idea came from, honestly. As I said, I began writing it when I was twelve, so who knows where the first spark came from.

Q. Do you have plans for more books in this series?

I do. Most likely two more books in the main series and if there is reader interest, Joppa might get a book of her own.

Q. Do you plan to ever write in a different genre?

I do write in science fiction as well. My current project, which I am doing the final edit on with my publisher, is a cyberpunk novel set in dystopic future California. It’s entitled Deus Hex Machina and sort of answers the question “What if worship of technology went too far?”

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I had sat on SotO for so long I honestly forgot about it. Then a friend published a book on Amazon, and since I was looking for work suggested I write some short stories and publish them as a way to get some income. I started planning some, then remembered I had a novel almost done, and the rest is history.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

Oh I love editing, but I spent many years as an online editor for various websites. I really love the process of taking raw writing and polishing it. I’m editing DHM right now, and it’s a ton of fun to be able to check off scenes as “fixed.” I use a lot of spreadsheets when editing (I also use them a fair bit when writing), to keep me organized and on track.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

No, I used to write for a variety of video game websites, but I realized when that work dried up that I was chafing to get back to fiction, so this is my only gig now.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I love reading (but I suppose that’s part of the craft, isn’t it?) and playing video games, watching movies and TV shows with great stories. Basically, anyway I can consume stories, I do it.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

Make a plan. Deciding which avenue for publishing you want to pursue is a huge step, and once you focus on self-publishing or finding an agent, it will help you focus your energy in the right places. Once you have a book you are proud of, make sure to get as many eyes on it as possible. Honest feedback is the greatest gift your friends can give you, and it’s even better if its from someone who doesn’t care about your feelings. Write a lot, read a lot, and never feel guilty for reading a book instead of doing something else. It’s research for your craft!

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Publishing today has changed so much, but even before the shift to a more indie-available paradigm, writing has always been seen as easy — after all, everyone can write. We do it every day, so therefore what authors do isn’t really all that valuable. I have recently come to own my role as an artist, and am proud to speak up in defense of writing as an art form. No, it’s not easy. Yes, anyone can type words on a page, but the crafting of characters, structuring pleasing plots and rousing scenes, describing details in such a way that the reader is captivated, none of that is easy. Writing is one of the hardest things I do, and though I often wonder why I pour so much of myself into this endeavor, I can’t stop. It’s who I am.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

Oh, great question. My biggest issue with a book is a protagonist with all the tools. If your character has every key to every locked door, how is that interesting to read? If however, they encounter locks that not only bar their way, but fill the room with water every time you try to pick them, then we get to learn something about the character by how they react to the impossible. Give me struggle, and you will own my interest. Sure I want a hero to win the day, but I want to see them sweat a bit on the way.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It won my heart with its magical realism, and nothing has been able to capture the joy of spontaneously appearing butterflies since (although I did try myself).

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

Oh, that’s a toss up between Gilmore Girls and Firefly. Both of those shows gave us amazing characters that were witty and delightful. There’s definitely a bit of River Tam in Joppa.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

State and Main. I love movies about writers, and there is something so charming about this movie.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

Only one? That’s cruel. I would say Japan is at the top of my list because I’ve traveled Europe a couple of times, but I haven’t yet visited Asia.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Amanda Orneck

Blog: ImmersiveCursive.com

Facebook: officialamandaorneck

Twitter: @amandorneck

Goodreads: amandaorneck

Book Links: books.pronoun.com/amandaorneck

Shadow of the Owl: Amazon.com  Barnes and Noble.com

Deus Hex Machina: Inkshares.com

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Author Interview: Judd Vowell

JuddVowell_highJudd Vowell lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with his wife and son. When he’s not reading, he enjoys playing guitar and writing songs. The Overthrown trilogy novels are his first. Book One is The Great Dark and Book Two is The Resurrected.

In Overthrown, Judd Vowell creates a strangely familiar world, in a future that feels as close as tomorrow. He weaves two dynamic stories together flawlessly; one of a collapsing society brought on by hacker terrorists, the other of a family’s unlikely fight for survival in the newly dismal landscape.


Overthrown_lgThe Great Dark  Ever since the Great Dark pushed the world into chaos, Gordon’s singular focus has been keeping his family alive. But survival is growing tougher by the day, just like the cancerous tumor wrapping itself around his wife Meg’s spine. He knows that Meg won’t survive without the medicine that’s in a distant and deserted city, out in the darkness filled with fearless wild animals and bands of violent outliers. The only allies Gordon can enlist to help him are his 15-year-old twins, Jessica and Henry. The three of them soon find themselves in the midst of a new war against the hackers who destroyed the world’s technological infrastructure and rebuilt it for their own design. Gordon begins to realize that his children may be the only hope that civilization has left.

The Resurrected  The first battle for America’s liberation from ANTI- is over, and the rebels known as Lefty were fortunate to survive it. Jessica and Henry are two unlikely heroes involved in the rebellion against cyber-terrorists who pulled the Great Dark curtain over the world. Now they’re separated, Jessica imprisoned against her wounded will by the ANTs, and Henry back home to help his diseased mother Meg heal. The burgeoning war will bring them together again, but will it be soon enough to save them both?


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. Overthrown is a dystopian science fiction thriller trilogy in which cyberterrorists have plunged the world into darkness. Dystopian themes have been very popular lately. What’s different or unique about your story?

It’s a good question because you’re right, this is a popular genre, so I decided to address exactly that in the first chapter. My narrator actually acknowledges the “post-apocalyptic obsession” we have as a society. But Overthrown is different because it’s based in reality, nothing supernatural. This is a story that could actually happen, although I hope it never does.

Q. Gordon, Meg, and their twins Jessica and Henry are a family trying to survive the chaos. Tell us about them and how they are drawn into the war against the hackers.

Meg is fighting cancer when the lights go out, and a year into the darkness her husband Gordon and their kids are forced into facing the dangerous outside world if they want to keep her alive. She is running out of medicine, which means they have to travel to the hospital complex a hundred miles away to get more. On this journey, they are pulled into the new rebellion against the cyberterrorists who have caused The Great Dark.

Q. The teenage twins are central characters. What do you like most about Henry? About Jessica? 

Even though they are twins, the have very separate and distinct strengths. Jessica is athletic and a natural leader, while Henry is clever and thoughtful. In this way, they actually complement each other, and help each other survive the darkness.

Q. This trilogy is epic in scope. What inspired you to write this story with these characters? 

The original inspiration came in 2011, when the devastating April tornadoes moved through Alabama. My wife and I lived through the four-day blackout that followed with a brand-new infant at home who needed oxygen. We had backup tanks for my son, but that experience planted the seed. Combine that with the rise of international hacker groups like Anonymous, and the story began to write itself.

Q. Every thriller has to have its villains. What motivates the bad guys in this story? 

The true motivations of ANTI-‘s leader Salvador Sebastian may not be that obvious, and that’s intentional. He holds a specific hatred for modern-day governments and monetary controls, but the real reasons won’t be revealed until book three in the trilogy.

Q. Readers often don’t realize that writers do lots of research, even for speculative and fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research did you do for this story?

I had to research computer-hacking a good bit. That’s something I didn’t know much about, and it’s central to the story. Also, some of the villians backstories, like Salvador. He originally comes from Cuba, so it was interesting to learn about that culture.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the books? How? 

Nothing too direct. But I would say stories like Stephen King’s The Stand and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Q. What was your favorite scene or section to write?

Now that’s a tough question. If I had to choose, I would say the battle that takes place near the end of the book, where Jessica and Henry’s characters truly take shape. It sets the rest of the trilogy in motion.

Q. What was the hardest part of the books for you to write? 

A lot of the foundation for this book was based in actual experiences for me and my family. Some of that was tough, but it was also therapeutic.

Q. In Book Two, new characters are introduced and we learn more about the terrorists. What can we expect in Book Three, and when will it be available?

Book Three, with a working title of The Reckoning, will be the decisive battle between good and evil, with the rebellion getting their world back from ANTI-, or Salvador keeping hold of his new society. I’m pushing for a Spring 2018 release.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? Did you “dabble” very long before you felt the time was right to publish your work? 

I’ve been a musician for most of my life, and I’ve written songs since I was a teenager. So I guess that could be considered dabbling. Believe it or not, Overthrown was the first full-length novel I’ve ever written.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing? 

I have a select group of “early readers” I use, and I trust their opinions and criticisms. One is a fellow author, and one is my sister, who has her doctorate in English. So I would say my editing team is strong. Any good writer needs another set of eyes. Editing, in my opinion, is essential to the process, so I don’t hate it at all.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing—yet—to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing? 

Yes, I am General Manager at Carriage Chevrolet in Fayetteville, Tennessee. Selling cars and writing books…what a combo, huh?

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I play guitar, spend time with my family, and travel.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors? Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public? 

What’s that saying? Practice, practice, practice…it’s true. Just commit to writing at least some every day. My number was one hour. And I still try and do that. I write one hour a day. Your imagination is like a muscle…you have to keep it in shape.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away? 

Poor grammar, unless it’s intentional.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why? 

That is tough. It seems to change often. I just like good fiction, really. East of Eden, No Country for Old Men, Life of Pi, and so on. Too many whys to say.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why? 

Even tougher. Because there has been so much good TV lately. Homeland, Stranger Things, Breaking Bad. But I can still watch a Seinfeld and laugh out loud.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why? 

Hands-down The Shining, even though Stephen King supposedly hates Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of his book. I don’t know why. It’s visually stunning, with so much horrific imagery that is confusing at the same time. And Jack Nicholson is completely terrifying. I’m getting chills just thinking about that typewriter scene.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why? 

After creating my villain’s backstory, I think I’d have to say Cuba. It’s intriguing to me that it’s been “off-limits” for so long even though it’s so geographically close. And in a way, it’s stuck 60 years in the past. It would be like walking back in time.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Judd Vowell

Facebook: JuddVowellAuthor

Twitter: @JuddVowell

Goodreads: Judd Vowell

Find Judd Vowell’s books on Amazon.com

Author Interview: Terry Maggert

Terry_Maggert_sq.jpg“Left-handed. Father of an apparent nudist. Husband to a half-Norwegian. Herder of cats and dogs. Lover of pie. I write books. I’ve had an unhealthy fascination with dragons since the age of— well, for a while. Native Floridian. Current Tennessean. Location subject to change based on insurrection, upheaval, or availability of coffee. Ten books and counting, with no end in sight. You’ve been warned.”
–Terry Maggert

A history professor with an awesome sense of humor and equally good taste in television viewing (he chose to start the first day of the semester by discussing the Targaryen succession), Terry’s novels explore dark fantasy, immortality, and the nature of love as we know it.


MaggertBooks


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyMy novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. Dystopian sci-fi with dragons. Paranormal urban fantasy. Young adult fantasy. Time travel. Sword and sorcery. You are a most prolific writer. Tell us briefly—if that’s even possible—about your books. Do you have a favorite?

My favorite book is whichever one I’ve just finished. That gusty sigh you hear is me getting ready to crack my knuckles and start again, however—I have a favorite character. I love Tammy Cincotti, from the Halfway series. She makes me laugh out loud every single time I write a scene with her from the fingers guns to her hairdo to her unapologetic use of perfume. I love everything about her, right down to her weirdly intense loyalty and affinity for acid washed jeans. She’s a female version of me if I had a nuclear libido and still thought big hair was the only way to go.

Q. Do you have a new book or series in the works? How will it differ from your other novels?

I’ve got two series and five novels in the works, and they’re all over the place. One of them (out in Spring 2018) is quite a departure for me in the sense that it’s a male antihero who has a basis in truth. I read an incredibly sad story about hundreds of children being found in a grave behind an Irish orphanage, and something clicked in my head. As a father, the story made my stomach flip with rage and sadness, and I created a character who is the lone survivor of that orphanage. As he turns eighteen, he realizes that he isn’t crazy—he is hearing voices, but they’re the children who came before him in that sad, lonely place. I think it’s going to be visceral, sad, but oddly beautiful, too, because despite all of this, he’s going to survive.

Q. Do you find it more fun to write heroes or villains? Why?

VILLAINS. Oooooooo, they’re delicious to write. I lift my lip in a sneer, imagine myself glaring at someone while holding a glass of scotch, and write the most glorious insults. As a history professor, villains are everywhere—I just put them in front of my heroes, and the good news is their pride will always cause them to lose. Almost always, that is.

Q. Why did you choose to write science fiction and fantasy? What draws you to those stories?

I was a strange, dreamy kid who liked fishing, sports, and books. I was always off in my head, thinking about dragons or light speed spacecraft or long lost treasures. I think that the larger part of my brain never matured. If you ask my bride, she will confirm this.

Q. How do you write such amazing and strong female characters?

First: thank you! Second: write real people, and then make them women. That’s it. The details are things that real people experience, like Carlie’s short girl problems and morning hair, or Risa’s hatred of socks and sandals. I give them personalities based on who they are, not just what they are. Characters react, and denying that a female character may react differently is being dismissive of their reality. I’m proud of them, and can say that to me, they feel real.

Q. What’s different or unique about your stories?

I like to think that my readers feel like they’re in the moment with me. If Waleska is sad, so are you. If Aurelia kills someone who deserves it, you cheer. Their emotions are three dimensional and present. Also, waffles. We’re going to talk about waffles and pie. A lot.

Q. Readers may not realize that writers do lots of research, even for fantasy stories, before they complete a book. What kind of research do you do?

45 years of rabid reading. A relentless curiosity about everything except butter beans, which are of the devil and should be removed from the planet. A Master’s Degree in History. That’s the start. The rest is filled in by a passion for simple questions, like, “What would happen if a demon went to the beach? Do Vikings like jokes? What kind of dog would be friends with a ghost?” These are the simple seeds of stories that I love to write.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influence you the most? How?

Anne McCaffrey taught me to love dragons, and the unknown. Ernest Hemingway taught me that a simple sentence can make you cry for days. Robert Frost showed me that a poem can take me there. These are just a few, but the simple truth is that writers are the sum of their experiences, shaped by the voices that have made them feel something in their heart.

Q. What is your favorite type of scene to write?

Two people, in a room, being uncomfortably honest. Think of something that makes you feel like you’re intruding—that’s where I want the reader to be.

Q. What is the hardest portion of a novel for you to write?

THE MIDDLE OH PLEASE MAKE IT STOP. The middle. It’s just so far from the beginning that I’ve forgotten things like they hair color of characters. And their gender, sometimes. And why they hate each other. So, yeah. The middle.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I was sitting up with my son (I took night shift when he was a toddler) and started writing a novel. I wrote 88,000 words with one hand while holding him, more or less. After the first sentence, I realized I had found my true voice. This is not to say it was perfect, but for the first time, it was me. I’m also responsible for some truly dreadful poetry, thus I write books now.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

I don’t mind, because I’m ashamed of the idiotic errors I make. It’s like the ability to take back dumb things you’ve said. Who wouldn’t love to do that? Okay—maybe I say more dumb things than the average person, but you get my point.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

History Professor, but I treat my writing as a business. I have a written plan, goals, and hit them in my third year. Candidly, the first two years made me better, the third year taught me to write efficiently. In year four, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t just love writing; I need it. I’ve never been happier, and am an author coach as well. I love working with young writers who are talented but might need a bit of guidance.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

I eat, I bake, I run, I drink alarming amounts of coffee, and read. We have a lot of animals, so rescue is a big part of our lives. Our son is nine, and he’s the best thing on the planet, so the simple truth is that enjoying our family helps me get over the fact that my bride won’t let me have a giraffe. I’m not happy about this.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

1. Get a great cover. 2. Get a great cover. 3. After you get a great cover, get advice from someone you trust. I’m an author coach (mostly first time novelists) and our concern is always being professional and avoiding fraud.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

I don’t wear tweed. Ever. Oh, and writing from one to three in the morning while cats make biscuits on your head is hardly dignified, but it IS accurate.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

When the author is more concerned about politics than a great story, I close the book and walk away. Every single time. If you’re not writing the best possible book, then I’m not devoting my time to it.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

The White Dragon, by Anne McCaffrey. It’s the distillation of her series “The Dragonriders of Pern” and I’ve had my copy for more than thirty years. It’s part fable, part sci-fi, and just perfect to me.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

Magnum, PI. Thomas Magnum was the picture of honor, and I value that. Also, he rocked Hawaiian shirts all the time, and I value that, too.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

A strange film titled, “The Big Blue”. It’s about the sport of free-diving, and as a kid who grew up on the water, it’s a sort of love letter to the mystical quality of the ocean. Also, I love dolphins, so it’s almost a fantasy set in the modern era.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

I travel a lot, but I must go to Africa because there’s a hotel where you can have breakfast with giraffes. I wasn’t kidding earlier; one of them is coming home in my carry-on. It’s going to happen.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Terry Maggert

Blog: http://terrymaggert.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terrymaggertbooks/

Twitter: @TerryMaggert

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7226905.Terry_Maggert

Find Terry Maggert’s books on Amazon.com

Author Interview: Declan Finn

Declan_FinnDeclan Finn is the NYC-based author of books ranging from thrillers to urban fantasy to SciFi, including the 2016 Dragon Award Nominated Novel for Best horror, Honor at Stake. He is known for his strong fight scenes and his romance novels are sexy without being dirty, providing enough sexual tension to curl toes. He hosts the Catholic Geek Radio show, and can be found wherever someone is starting trouble. He also writes thrillers, video game reviews, and works for several blogs.

His thriller A Pius Man has recently been re-released through Silver Empire Publishing.


A_Pius_Man

In A Pius Man, six unlikely heroes must work together to unravel a web of intrigue and murder that entwines one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century. Was Pius XII a Nazi collaborator who deliberately let millions of Jews die? Has the Vatican covered up the truth for more than 60 years? Or has someone perpetrated a decades-long smear campaign? And what will happen to six strangers trying to finally bring the truth to light?

As the head of Vatican security, Giovanni Figlia must protect a new, African Pope who courts controversy every other day. The Pope’s latest project is to make Pius XII, “Hitler’s Pope,” a saint. Things haven’t gotten better since the Pope employed American mercenary Sean Ryan. Then a body fell onto the Vatican doorstep.

Mercenaries, spies, beautiful women, international intrigue and ancient secrets – The Pius Trilogy has it all!


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyAlso published by Silver Empire, my novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. You’re an accomplished writer, having published novels in several genres. Tell us about The Pius Trilogy and why you chose to write that story.

A Pius Man is what happens when you anger a historian whose family Christmas movie was Die Hard.

The Pius Trilogy was started by my reading a novel that was chalked full of bad history. This isn’t new for me, since I’m a historian – reading novels with bad history is a daily occurrence for me. Usually, it’s not so bad that it takes me out of the story. However, at the time, I had just completed months of research into Pope Pius XII, and his papacy during World War II. The history in this book was just so unbearable, I checked the back of the book to see the sources cited. The sad thing is, I knew the sources, so I knew that his sources told him something different than the book was saying.

That was the point where I decided that, heck, if certain losers can get away with mediocre novels, filled with blatant lies and dubious sources, then I could put together a good novel with actual history. And thus, The Pius Trilogy. I had free reign to slip in facts between the bullets.

Q. The Pius Trilogy was originally published a few years ago. Why did you decide to re-publish it now with Silver Empire?

When I originally self-published the trilogy, it was because I knew I had to keep moving or go crazy. You see, I originally had an agent. It was just my luck that I procured said agent the month that book companies were laying off people by the tens of thousands – a month. And that isn’t even a slight exaggeration.

After two years of negligible progress, I knew I had to self publish the books, or tear my hair out. And I edited and polished the novels until I couldn’t read them anymore. I either had to edit them or spike the entire series.

You can look over the earlier versions of the series, and it wasn’t the best it could be. The covers needed work, and were eventually replaced by my friend Dawn Witzke when she went into the cover business. But it needed professional editing, and I’m a cheap bastard. And I couldn’t go back and edit it myself, otherwise I would have just rewritten it, and reset the whole process.

With Silver Empire, they were interested, and I saw the potential to have the book perfected, and then reach a wider audience.

Q. This novel has been compared to Dan Brown’s thrillers featuring the character Robert Langdon. How is your hero/protagonist like Langdon? How does he differ?

Ah, we’re going there, are we? It has been brought to my attention that slamming a competing author, especially if they’re selling well, is probably a bad idea.

But, since you twisted my arm: If I ever wrote a character as two-dimensional as Langdon, I would insist on being put in an asylum. He is a talking head, meant purely to provide exposition. Good God, his adversaries are usually crazy and / or mutilated in some way (Highlighted in his second and third novels), and half the men I know personally could have overpowered any of them. Langdon has no ability to fight, and barely has the ability to run, if I recall correctly.  He has no backstory, no personality, and don’t even get me started on the end to Inferno.

If I wrote a character that inhuman, just kill me.

My characters are typically colorful, varied, and with enough character backstory and biographies to fill a novella. One character, Sean AP Ryan, is a gun fighter and … mildly insane. I have a collection of spies, who range from a James Bond type to a George Smiley – one leaves a trail of destruction, and the other one is the little man who wasn’t there. I have academics who are cops, characters born from all over the world who might as well be the Avengers. Heck, I have a cast of heroes more international than the team that took out Dracula.

Oh, yeah, and unlike Langdon, my characters provide footnotes for the history they use.

Q. What makes A Pius Man better than anything Dan Brown wrote?

Wow. We’re really going to go there, are we? Okay.

  • Real history, real footnotes.
  • Actual threats and genuine dangers.
  • Good guys who are good people.
  • Bad guys who are not misunderstood, but evil. (When the most sympathetic character in your novel is the albino assassin, you’re doing it wrong)
  • A plot that makes sense (Really? Genealogies that go back 2000 years? The Mormons aren’t that good.)
  • Heroes with personalities.
  • No stupid puzzles that could be solved by 5-year-olds. (Really? The last password was “Apple”?)
  • An actual grasp of world politics, Catholic Theology, and history

Is that enough of a start?

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other thrillers?

To start with, my cast of characters is about the size of the Fellowship of the Ring.

You could say that the politics is there like in a Brad Thor or Vince Flynn novel. You could say that the technical toys and history fueling the main plot is reminiscent of James Rollins. You could even suggest that the “Discover something and get shot at” is a formula out of 24 or Robert Ludlum.

Though I do dare you to find a novel that tackles that much at once, while getting the history and world politics correct, and making all of the characters engaging. Most of the authors I just named can do some of what I’ve described, but not all. You might think that’s boasting, but again, these three books were developed over the course of ten years. If they weren’t awesome, I’d be in trouble.

Q. What kind of research did you do for this story?

For the history, I used everything from newspapers on microfiche to archived papal records, to memoirs, personal interviews, and even a TIME magazine article.  The last was a matter of looking up non lethal weapon technology; the article led me to DARPA research papers posted on the internet.

I went through the gun range, took knife fighting courses, got to level three of five for Krav Maga, and had long conversations with a marine about warfare and if flash bangs could kill somebody if set off at close range.

I was busy.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

I have two. One was a scene on the Spanish Steps, with an armored SUV. And the part where I blew up Leonardo da Vinci airport.

Heh.  “Sean, what are you doing with that fuel truck.”

… You had to be there.

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

Making the history readable. There’s a lot to cover, and the first draft of the novel literally had footnotes. I used a history paper for dialogue. Trust me when I say that a lot of editing effort was spent making that into easy, casual dialogue, and not the talking heads I wanted to avoid.

Q. What inspired you to write this story with these characters?

I wanted a variety of characters to look at the historical problem from different ways. This resulted in collecting an Irish Catholic Cop, an American Jewish Secret Service Agent, a Mossad spy, a German spy, several Catholic priests, and several people who don’t care, but have to solve the problem, lest they get killed.

Q. You also write romance, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. Do you have a favorite genre to write? Tell us briefly about your other books.

I write what I read, and I read everything. I don’t really have a favorite.

My nonfiction book, For All Their Wars are Merry, is about IRA songs and the history behind them.

My Dragon Award nominated series, Love at First Bite, is one part urban fantasy, and one part paranormal romance. It’s my revenge on … everyone who screws up the vampire mythos.

It Was Only on Stun! and Set to Kill are my comedy murder mysteries at scifi conventions. Chronologically, they actually bookend The Pius Trilogy, but only if one is following certain characters from one book to another. When I say they’re comedy mysteries, well, let’s say the lead is not a member of Fandom, yet he’s plunged right into it. And since I’m a nerd who enjoys conventions, I can guarantee that the lead has to adapt to Fandom, not vice versa.

Codename: Winterborn and Codename: UnSub is my take on post-cataclysmic worlds. Most people call them post-apocalyptic, but once the apocalypse hit, there is not “after.” It follows a spy in a post-World War III Earth, from a story of revenge to being thrust into a nightmare that is a far more realistic dystopia than usual.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I spent less time “dabbling” and more time following “the right path.” You might know it from traditional publishing. Step one, get an agent. That took two-three years. One agent dropped after 18 months (long story). My second agent lasted about two years before I gave up on traditional publishing.

Had I had more friends in indie publishing earlier, my writing career would be further along.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

The real problem of editing is that every author thinks they got it right the first time. It’s actually easiest if an author waits a few months, and then rereads their manuscript. At that point, we all read the work and wonder “What was I thinking? Was I on something? Am I a complete idiot?”

But editing becomes a problem for me after the first few passes in short order. After a while, it becomes an exercise in frustration, and makes me just want to set the whole thing on fire.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

Writing is my job. And selling my writing. You want to talk about a part that writers hate? Marketing.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

Writing isn’t fun?

I read, when I have the time. But I literally write from nine to five every day. And if I’m not writing a book, I’m trying to sell books. I’m occasionally allowed some television and some video games. TV is fun because I rewrite the episodes, and see which ending I like better. The TV shows that surprise me are the ones that last the longest.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

If they WANT to be professional authors: DON’T.  Do. Not. Period. It is unforgiving, ungrateful, and punishing. Spend months pumping out a story, and the first question a fan will ask is “That was fun, when’s the next one?”

If you have to be a professional author, go all in. If you’re the person who has to write to get the voices in your head to go away, and you must have a notebook by your bedside to keep track of the fever dreams that keep you up at night … then go ahead and write.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

They think it’s easy. The man on the street can say “Oh, I have a great idea for a book, I just need the time.” Trust me when I say that finding time is bad enough. But as an author– perhaps Orson Scott Card—once said, the first million words are just practice. You don’t just decide to be a writer and then pound out a bestseller – or even a good book.

And “good ideas?” Good ideas are a dime a dozen. The execution? That matters. Creating the work matters. Putting in the effort matters.

Pro-tip, if you ever walk up to a writer and say “Your job is so easy, any idiot can do that,” remember to duck.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

  • Prose that is unnecessarily dense. I read for fun, not to practice parsing sentences.
  • Oversexed books: on the page, sex is boring. Give me a plot or characters. Pick one.
  • Nothing happens. I’ve read books where the first 100 pages stay in one place and don’t move.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

Vertical Run, by Joseph Garber. It is a nonstop thrill ride that had great character as well as solid action.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

Babylon 5. It was a war story, a romance, and a space opera, with the best drawn characters on television.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

Die Hard. I literally rewatch it every year, and still find something new in it.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

The Vatican. It would help me do some of the later fight scenes better.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Declan Finn

Blog: declanfinn.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Declan.Finn.Author

Twitter: @DeclanFinnBooks

Book Links:

A Pius Man: amzn.to/2s5Mtc4

Honor at Stake: http://amzn.to/211yOyp

Murphy’s Law of Vampires: http://amzn.to/2egVsna

Love and Let Bite: http://amzn.to/2jCkgpK

Good to the Last Drop: http://amzn.to/2whihhz

It was only on Stun: http://amzn.to/2aaTEKT

Set to Kill: http://amzn.to/2e7tkzR

Sad Puppies Bite Back: http://amzn.to/2czhQE9

Codename: Winterborn: http://tinyurl.com/m69tt8y

Codename: UnSubhttp://amzn.to/2eONNh9

For All Their Wars Are Merry: http://amzn.to/2bAUO0G

Win a Kindle Plus 15 eBooks!

FantasyGiveaway

Enter to win a new Kindle eReader, PLUS fifteen (15) fantasy eBooks.

In addition to the awesome All-New Kindle E-reader – Black, 6” Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, one lucky winner will receive…

Echo of the High Kings by Kal Spriggs.

Fade by Daniel Humphreys

Doctor to Dragons by Scott G. Huggins

Who’s Afraid of the Dark? by Russell Newquist

Brotherly Envy by S.D. McPhail

Scales: A Mermaid Tale by Pauline Creeden

Honor by Rachel Rossano

Fallen Emrys: Niawen’s Story by Lisa Rector

Aerisia: Land Beyond the Sunset by Sarah Ashwood

Playing With Magic by Carrie L. Wells

Where Carpets Fly by Elise Edmonds

Toonopolis: Gemini by Jeremy Rodden

Got To Be a Hero by Paul Duffau

The Temptation of Dragons by Chrys Cymri

From the Stories of Old: A Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings by Heather Hayden

By entering this giveaway, you acknowledge that your email addresses will be added to the newsletter email lists of ALL FIFTEEN (15) participating authors. You will receive email from them, but never spam.

ENTER HERE

Entries accepted until September 18, 2017.

Author Interview: Russell Newquist

russellRussell Newquist is a Viking disguised as a software engineer. Equipped with a BA in Philosophy and an MS in Computer Science, he spends a lot of time building really cool software. Because he enjoys a good martial arts workout with friends, he is also the owner and head instructor of a thriving dojo. As if that weren’t enough, he started the publishing company Silver Empire where he is the editor-in-chief and one of the published authors. On top of all that, he’s a husband and father to four small children.

His first novel is War Demons, an action-packed, unputdownable Urban Fantasy.


War-Demons-Cover-smDriven by vengeance, Michael Alexander enlisted in the Army the day after 9/11. Five years later, disillusioned and broken by the horrors he witnessed in Afghanistan, Michael returns home to Georgia seeking to begin a new life. But he didn’t come alone. Something evil followed him, and it’s leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

The police are powerless. The Army has written Michael off. Left to face down a malevolent creature first encountered in the mountains of Afghanistan, he’ll rely on his training, a homeless prophet, and estranged family members from a love lost…

But none of them expected the dragon.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeySilver Empire published my novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. Congratulations on publishing your first novel! Tell us about the book and why you decided to write urban fantasy.

Thank you, Susan!

Well, this book kind of grew organically into what it eventually became. I had a few scenes in my head that I started with. The prologue was the first bit I wrote. Then what is now chapter two. I kind of had the character in mind at first – a soldier returning home after he’s had some really harrowing experiences. The normal war type experiences, but also supernatural stuff.

Then it kind of grew into something. And then I had 20% of a book… but I didn’t really know what it was about. But I also knew that if I threw it out and started another project, I’d never have a book. I needed to finish one.

At the same time, I’ve had this character in my head that I knew I had to write about eventually. His name is Peter Bishop, and he’s been in a few short stories already. He’s heavily influenced by the Michael Carpenter character from Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series. And I kept telling myself, “Just finish this book and then you can get to Peter.”

Then one day I realized that, quite by accident, this book was a Peter book. In fact, it’s his origin story. It didn’t start that way at all. But I got to a certain point and just realized that I needed the character to fill a certain role in the story. And bam, it all came into place.

Q. Your protagonist Michael Alexander is a fascinating character. What do you like most—and least—about him?

Well, as a character what I really like is that I did manage to convey what I wanted to with him. He’s coming home from war and he’s been through hell – the kind a normal soldier goes through, and some supernatural stuff… and even a few personal events that he doesn’t fully understand himself at the beginning.

And yet at the same time, he’s still fundamentally a decent guy. Not just a decent guy, a good man.

The parts I like least about him are more how I’d react to him as a person if I knew him. He’s kind of an asshole sometimes – only sometimes, really. But it comes out. And that’s actually mostly a result of him being broken, so it’s forgivable. But it’s not always fun.

Q. As the War Demons cover suggests, Michael Alexander has come back from war facing a difficult adjustment to civilian life. This story is infused with elements of horror and the supernatural. Without giving away too much, what can you tell us about your story’s bad guys?

Michael faces several threats throughout the story. He’s the sole survivor of a helicopter crash – except originally he wasn’t the sole survivor. He and a comrade survived, and had to fight a demonic creature in a cave. Michael made it. His friend didn’t.

Then the thing followed him home.

The demon is a ser na demon, from Tibetan culture. Why was there a Tibetan demon in a cave in Pakistan? Well, that’s a mystery that’s not fully resolved yet. The sequels will follow up on that exact thing.

As the blurb says, later on a dragon shows up. That was kind of fun because it’s not quite a typical dragon. It’s a Peluda dragon, although our hero doesn’t know that yet. He just knows that it’s furry. But that plays a big role in the novella I’m currently writing that’s somewhat of a sequel but not quite. The working title for that one is “Vigil” and it follows Peter instead of Michael, and it’s been crazy fun to write.

Q. If this is not a series of true events that you have chosen to disguise as fiction, what kind of research did you do for this story?

You caught me. I’m actually a dragon slayer. 🙂  No, it’s not autobiographical. If only my life were that exciting!

The ser na demon I stumbled across by accident. I was sitting in the audience of a panel at DragonCon on “Eastern Demons” one year with my book 10% done. A man named Kyl T. Cobb gave a really great presentation, although somewhat more dry and academic than the usual DragonCon fare. And he got to the slide on the ser na and I leaned over to my wife and said, “That’s it! That’s the thing in the cave!”

My wife is also the one who sent me the info about the Peluda dragon. She stumbled across it and it helped me make the dragon different and not just more of the same.

As for the location, I lived in Athens, Georgia for four years and went to classes on the UGA campus. So most of that is from memory, enhanced by Google Maps. And I picked the Sigma Chi frat house (which no longer exists, but did at the time of my story) because supposedly all that stuff I described in the basement was actually there for fraternity initiations. Go figure.

Michael’s aversion to school is 100% autobiographical, but every reader probably already guessed that.

One other aspect of Michael’s history is also, unfortunately, based on reality – but thankfully, not my own. I played World of Warcraft for a long time with a man who had joined the Army on September 12th because his fiance died in the attacks. He was more than a bit troubled, but a really, really good guy. He was also the best tank on our server, straight up.

To the best of my knowledge, he has only fought metaphorical demons and not the literal kind. I haven’t talked to him in years, but I pray for him all the time.

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other urban fantasies?

Well, one thing I’ve done is that I’ve gone a bit old school. Modern UF tends to take a very syncretic approach to magic, trying to blend everything from every culture together. I’ve returned to the roots of titles like “Dracula” (which some might consider to be among the first UF), and I take a decidedly Christian theological view. But the book isn’t out to proselytize or convert anyone. It just takes it for granted.

For example, it’s specifically noted in the book that humans don’t have the power to kill demons. We can fight them, we can expel them, we can exorcise them. We can even win. But we can’t kill them. Why? Because demons, in the Christian view, are fallen angels. And angels are a “higher” power. Only the power of the Lord can kill them. And yes, that might be a plot point.

Another aspect that is more minor in this book but will play a big role later with some already established characters is the corrupting nature of magic. In the Christian worldview, magic is always and everywhere evil, even if it’s used for the best of intentions. And because of that, it brings a heavy cost. There’s one character in this book who has used some serious magic. The price will be coming due in the sequels.

Some people will really like that. Some readers will immediately decide they don’t want to read it because of the religious aspects. Others will be on the fence. That’s OK. You can’t write for everyone.

Q. Which works and authors would you say influenced the book?

Jim Butcher is the heaviest influence by far. Peter Bishop largely exists because I wanted to write about a character like Michael Carpenter but I knew that was never going to happen. Along the way, the character evolved a lot, though, and became truly my own. But there’s a huge influence there.

Larry Correia is another big influence on this book, in more ways than one. This book is far more action-heavy than most of Butcher’s books, and that’s got a lot to do with Correia’s influence.

Some of my readers may find it odd that Jonathan Maberry is another big influence. He’s another martial artist like myself, and I find his style of writing action to be a lot closer to mine. I’ve had the good fortune to meet him several times and actually discuss martial arts with him. He had a laugh because I brought a copy of an old jujitsu book he wrote to DragonCon for a signing one year. Everyone else in line had his zombie books or one of his technothrillers. I’m just weird that way!

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

The car chase scene. That entire chapter came out in a white heat in probably two hours, maybe less. I had an absolute blast writing it, and I still love it every time I read it. It’s completely absurd, but it worked really well in context. And it gave me a great running gag for the characters from here on out. You will never, ever see Peter get anywhere near a car with Michael without bringing it up. Ever.

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

The entire second half!

Seriously, action scenes are hard to write. They take a lot of work – and having some knowledge on the subject actually makes it worse, not better, because you want to have at least some semblance of believability to them. But the problem is this: real fights are short. Very short. Especially when they involve lethal weapons. But short isn’t interesting to readers at all. So trying to lengthen it out without making it totally silly is really tough.

Q. I was privileged to read an early version of War Demons, and it’s a great, pulse-pounding start to a series. Can you give us a hint of what we can expect in the next books?

Well, if you’ve read the ending of War Demons then you know that Michael and Peter (who is almost but not quite a co-protagonist) go their separate ways at the end. And I’ve got two follow-up projects going on next.

The first is a novella tentatively titled Vigil. It follows Peter down his path. The first draft is about 90% done now, so it should be out by the end of the year. This one came about because I heard one particular rock song and took the lyrics far too literally. And it’s also been in my head for a while, so I’m glad to get it out. But basically, Peter Bishop, Knight of the Sword of the Archangel Michael, has to rescue a damsel from a dragon. Under a church. In France. During the Easter Vigil mass. It’s insane, but fun.

The second project is the actual direct sequel to War Demons. Again, if you’ve read the end of that book, you know that Michael has entered a brand new world – a world that will introduce him to many rich, powerful connected people. This book is going to be about that world, how depraved it is, and how Michael reacts to that and deals with it. It’s tentatively titled Spirit Cooking, and if you know what that is, it’ll give you a decent idea of what the book’s about. If you don’t know what that is, don’t Google it at work. And prepare to be horrified. There’s a reason Michael needs to take on that kind of evil.

The outline for that book is almost done, so I should be able to hit the ground running on it as soon as I finish Vigil. My goal is to have it out in early 2018. I’m busy enough that I probably won’t make that. But I have a much better idea both of what I’m doing and of where I’m going than I did with War Demons, so it should go much faster.

Q. War Demons also gives us Peter Bishop’s personal history. I’ve enjoyed reading that character in several of your short stories. Tell us about him and if you have plans for more Peter Bishop adventures too.

Well, obviously, there’s Vigil as I mentioned above. The current series, centered on Michael, is a trilogy, with a definite ending. I know pretty well where that’s going. I’ve also got plans for a fourteen book series starring Peter. I had originally planned to interleave them – hitting the first Peter book next, then coming back to the Michael books.

For business reasons, I’ve decided to finish this series first. But the timelines will still be interwoven as originally planned. The first Peter book is tentatively titled Unholy Vows. The story takes place with Peter’s wedding as a backdrop, and it fits in between War Demons and Spirit Cooking. The outline for that one is coming together very nicely as well, and I’m actually kind of chomping at the bit to write it. It’ll be introducing some very fun new characters.

Why fourteen books? Well, there’s a method to my madness. 😉

I also have a very good idea of where that series is going overall, including an idea of the ending so clear that I could write the last couple of chapters immediately if I chose to. Very little would change. I’ve got about 6000 words of plot notes for the entire series so far. I expect that to grow quite a bit over time.

I’ve also got another Peter short story in the works for our upcoming Stairs in the Woods anthology. It involves a park ranger and a Boy Scout troop, and the fae again.

Q. You are the editor-in-chief of Silver Empire Publishing and your wife Morgon is also a writer. Why did you decide to become an indie publisher? What genres do you publish?

Well, the general idea behind becoming a publisher rather than just self-publishing was one of scale. Making money in any business is largely a factor of scaling up. In the modern economy, scaling up helps in a ton of different ways.

Most obviously, selling more products means more revenue. And selling more books largely means publishing more books. And since I can only write so fast myself, publishing more books means getting more people involved.

Then there’s also the factor of reaching fans. If I have five authors with small fan bases, but we can work together, we can turn those five fan bases into one substantially larger fan base. We get one giant e-mail list instead of five small ones, and so on.

But there are a ton of other factors, too. Advertising is cheaper in bulk. Covers can be cheaper if you work a deal with an artist to pay him for five covers instead of one. Web hosting is cheaper if we only need one server. Etc.

But lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my experience in other businesses has taught me that going alone is very seldom the best way to do anything. My dojo wouldn’t be half what it is without the wonderful assistant instructors I’ve got.

We’re focused on heroic, wondrous adventure stories. Which is kind of vague. 😉 For the next 12-24 months, we’re focused on the subgenres we’ve already got: urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, historical fantasy/sci-fi, and political/religious thrillers. We’re also seriously considering an expansion into space opera in the near future. We want to expand beyond that, but probably won’t do so for a while for business reasons.

Q. You published a couple of anthologies of short fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as my novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key before you published your own full-length novel. How did that happen? Wouldn’t most authors want to publish their own work first?

Most authors might, but I’m a businessman first and an author second. For many reasons, it made sense to publish other stuff first. The anthologies were a great way for us to reach out to other authors and make connections, and that process has really paid off.

And sometimes good opportunities drop in your lap, like when someone randomly approaches you with a really interesting sword-and-science novel! We have a very definite plan for Silver Empire’s growth and future, but you also have to be ready to react when good luck comes your way. We got lucky with The Origin Key, so we seized the opportunity.

Q. What advice do you have for authors who are trying to decide if they should a) go the traditional route with an agent, b) self-publish, or c) connect with a small, indie publisher?

This is a very, very individual decision and you should make it very carefully with no illusions.

Traditional publishing (the agent route) is not a dead option, but it’s becoming more and more so every year. It’s probably your biggest chance at “winning the lottery” and really making it big. But a big chance is still a crappy chance. It’s also really only got about three channels: no deal at all, a deal but you’re really not making much, or JK Rowling. The mid-levels are especially drying up these days, because all the big publishing marketing dollars are going to keep their big names alive.

Also, beware: the traditional publishing business model absolutely depends on physical bookstores. And the vast majority of brick-and-mortar sales these days are coming from two places: Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble. Wal-Mart only sells a handful of books. If you’re not one of the absolute top blockbusters, you’re out. And Barnes & Noble has been flirting with bankruptcy for the last year or so. They’re struggling hard right now. The day B&N goes down, my guess is that at least two of the big five publishers go down with it. (Don’t ask me which two – I have no idea.)

So it’s the path with probably the highest possible payout, but even if you get a good deal it’s by no means a “safe” route anymore.

There are some really interesting things going on in indie publishing right now. I can’t even keep up with 10% of it. The royalty percentages are usually better, and there are a number of indie publishing houses on the rise.

However, you’re still taking a risk with indie publishers (even us). Indie publishers are small businesses without a huge resource pool behind them. They can fold in a heartbeat. And selling books is tough – so you might be excited to have that book deal, but have no sales behind it.

And that’s the honest ones! Be careful! I can’t stress that enough. Since getting into this business I’ve heard some real horror stories from other authors about “publishers.” My simple advice is this: if they’re charging you money, they’re not a publisher no matter what they call themselves. They’re a publishing service. The distinction matters. An honest publisher might not sell many of your books, but they’ll at least treat you fair and do the things that a publisher should be doing: get you a cover, get you in Amazon, etc.

Self publishing has a lot of pros and cons these days. I know a few folks doing very well self published (including one writing pair that had a $28,000 month with one particular novel). But if you’re self publishing, you basically have to learn the entirety of the business yourself. You’re on your own, which carries its own risk. It’s your money on the line for the cover, etc.

On the other hand, the risk can be pretty small. Even with a good cover and a good editor, you can get a novel out for under $1500. Maybe a lot less. That’s a number that most of us wouldn’t like to lose, but we could live with it.

So it really depends on a few things. What amount – and what kind – of risk are you willing and able to tolerate? And how much of the work are you willing and able to do yourself – or pay someone else to do out of your own pocket? The answer to those two questions is going to point you in the right direction.

Q. Tell us about Lyonesse, your short story subscription service.

Frankly we’re doing everything we can to save the dying market of short fiction. We’ve adopted a bit of a new business model that kind of resembles NetFlix or Kindle Unlimited. For the crazy low price of $6.99 a year, you get 52 science fiction and fantasy adventure short stories – one every week. You also get an extensive back catalog of short stories. They’re all in convenient formats, all DRM free, and no advertising.

It’s a pretty killer deal, and folks are absolutely raving about what we’ve done so far. The service as a whole is pretty slick in how it’s put together. But it’s really the stories that make it, and we’ve had some very interesting ones. My personal favorite so far is by Hugo Award nominee Cheah Kai Wai, but we’ve also got some really amazing stories by some authors you’ve probably never heard of.

Q. Are you open to submissions right now? What kinds of stories do you look for?

Well, we have to put out 52+ stories per year for Lyonesse, so we’re always looking for submissions for that. We’re really looking for stuff that highlights heroism and adventure, but we’ve slipped in a few other things as well, when they’re good enough.

On the novel side, we’re a little more tightly focused. We’re currently actively seeking a space opera or military sci-fi novel. Other than that, we’re really focused on the four genres we already have a toe-hold in: urban fantasy, sword and sorcery, historical fantasy and religious thrillers. And we have a strong preference for works that are the beginning of a series. It’s OK if future books aren’t written yet. But the blunt reality is that series are where the money is made in this business.

Q. How do you define success in indie publishing?

Living in a house made of gold bars?

Kidding aside, I have a really great day job. So for me, generating a nice side income to supplement that is really great. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

The same things I’m not really interested in publishing right now, honestly. There’s a heavy modern and post-modern trend toward deconstruction, darkness, and nihilism.

Deconstruction can be interesting, but our culture has reached the point where deconstruction is almost the main thing we do. Sooner or later you run out of interesting things to deconstruct. You have to start constructing again. I’ve had a handful of books recommended to me that I’d probably enjoy if I read them, but these days I can’t muster enough interest to read yet another deconstruction.

Darkness is good in fiction – to a point. You need darkness to emphasize the light, and Lord knows I’ve got enough of that exact thing going on in War Demons. But when darkness is all you have, or when the darkness is so deep that it swallows the light, then what’s the point? It’s not entertaining anymore, it’s just depraved. I had a place for a certain degree of that in my teens. I think most of us go through a phase where we kind of need to stare into the abyss. But I’ve been through that phase and I’m not really interested anymore. From a publishing perspective, I feel like there are plenty of outlets for that these days. I want to put out something that builds the world up, not stuff that tears it down.

Even on its own terms, Nihilism is pointless. Our modern culture has rejected the religion of our forefathers. Well, OK. I’m not going to sit here and try to convert everybody back. But we also haven’t replaced it with anything meaningful. And when you remove that religion without a strong replacement, you leave a void. If nothing else fills it, nihilism will. And it’s creeping into our culture everywhere. Again, it’s literally pointless. It’s a waste of my time as a reader and as a publisher. The meaning and depth doesn’t have to agree with my worldview. In fact, I like having my worldview challenged. But put some actual meaning into it.

Note that this doesn’t mean that I want to read, write, or publish a bunch of message fiction. I hate that crap, too. And it doesn’t mean that every story has to be “deep.” But if a story is pretending to be deep and it’s “great message” is, when distilled down, simply nihilism, then I’m out.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

The Lord of the Rings, hands down. I’ve read it at least two dozen times. For a long time I read it once a year. These days I’m too busy… but it may be about time to dig it out again.

Why? Largely because it’s a tale that showcases the best in humanity. And it’s a great example about using darkness to emphasize the light. In the real world, the worst situations are what bring out the absolute best in people. The best literature reflects that. Tolkien creates a world where real evil highlights true heroism. And one of the great things about the book is the way it shows almost every kind of heroism, not just one kind. From the simple, “I’ll stand by my friend through thick and thin,” of Samwise Gamgee to the sacrifice of personal power of Farimir to the battle prowess of Aragorn, it really hits on everything and on every level. It’s powerful stuff.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

Babylon 5, and again it’s an easy one. Having a single story line that spans dozens or even hundreds of episodes is common in Anime, but it’s completely non-existent in live action television – except for Babylon 5. I’m not talking about a season-long story arc, where there’s a new story every season. That’s really common now (and a huge improvement over how TV used to be). I mean one story line that spans 5 years and 110 episodes of TV.

On top of that, the show was extremely well written and it happens to be sci-fi, which is one of my favorite genres. So what’s not to love?

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

This one’s tougher, and I’m going to have to go with more than one because there are several films in different genres that I love equally but for very different reasons.

In the action realm, I absolutely love The Dark Knight. It’s not just the best superhero movie, it’s one of the best movies of all time. It’s got great characters, portrayed well, put in impossible situations, and the ending is painful. And yet it’s not nihilistic at all, because the painful ending is also full of hope and heroic sacrifice. On top of that, it has that wonderful moment on the boats where you see the amazing heroism of ordinary people. Put all that together with one of the tightest scripts I’ve ever seen and you have a true masterpiece.

In romantic comedy, there’s nothing that tops The Princess Bride. It’s a chick flick made for guys, and it somehow manages to pull of both. And not in a minor way, either – it pulls off both flawlessly. It’s got action, adventure, pirates, and true love. The story is simple – fairy tale simple – and yet powerfully moving. Which is exactly what the best fairy tales do, as well. And it’s absolutely hilarious, all at the same time. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen that film, and it never gets old.

In drama, I’d have to go with Secondhand Lions. It’s a coming of age story that’s actually in many ways reminiscent of The Princess Bride, and yet it’s a completely different film at the same time. It’s another story that really highlights heroism at all levels – very big and extremely small all at the same time. The only problem with the film is that I’m still waiting to here the rest of the “What every boy needs to know about being a man” speech. What they included is one of the best speeches ever told in any human tongue, but I’m very bothered that I haven’t heard the rest. I’m not sure I know everything I need to know!

Q. If you were a superhero (and I’m not saying you aren’t), what is your superpower? What is your superhero name?

Apparently my superhero name is “Tai Pan” and it was chosen for me by some fellow writers. I’m not entirely sure what superpower they’re trying to claim that I have with that and I don’t fully get it, either. But who am I to argue?

Q. I’ve heard you say that “sleep is for the weak.” Honestly, though, how do you find the time to do so many things so well?

Well, I say that as a joke, but one thing is that I really don’t sleep as much as I should. I’ve always had trouble sleeping. I made a conscious decision in my early 20s that if I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t going to simply lie in bed not sleeping, either. So now when I can’t sleep, I get up and do something productive. Or, more often, when I know I won’t be able to sleep yet if I lie down (and most of the time I can tell), I just stay up and keep working.

I also get bored easily. Really bored, really easily. And when I get bored, I get depressed. So staying busy is mostly just self preservation. It bugs my wife sometimes that I spend so much time working.

And speaking of that last, I get an awful lot of support from my family, and my wife Morgon in particular. What the outside world sees as my productivity is often really a combination of the two of us. I’m just the face we present to the public.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

Yeah, people think it’s all fun and games, that words just magically appear on the paper, and that you make a ton of money. It looks like the best job in the world, right? No boss, no hours, just make up stories and stuff.

But the reality is that it’s very hard work, especially if you actually want to make any money at it. The words don’t write themselves. And beyond the actual writing part, there’s a lot of marketing and business work that goes into it – even if you have a publisher behind you. And for most authors, the pay is absolutely terrible. The number of authors in the US who make a full time living at it is depressingly small.

But on the other hand, it’s the best job in the world because there’s no boss, no hours, and you just make up stories and stuff.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Russell Newquist

Blog: http://russellnewquist.com/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/rnewquist

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rnewquist

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13656278.Russell_S_Newquist

Book Links:

Lyonesse Short Fiction: https://lyonesse.silverempire.org/

Dwarka: India’s Atlantis

Move over Atlantis, we need to make room for the lost city of Dwarka.

dwaraka-recreationWhen Plato wrote about a utopian island kingdom as an allegorical tale, he had no idea that our modern pop culture would become riddled with references to the “lost continent of Atlantis” thousands of years later. The idea that Atlantis might have been a real place that collapsed into the sea at the height of its power and influence has captured the modern imagination—and kept it in a chokehold for generations.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Krishna1Another legendary city known for its lavish architecture and utopian lifestyle is Dwarka, translated as “Gateway to Heaven” in Sanskrit. According to the ancient Hindu Mahabharata texts, Dwarka was founded by Krishna, the blue Hindu god of compassion, tenderness, and love. The city is described as having 900,000 royal palaces, all made of crystal and silver and decorated with emeralds. It featured an elaborate system of boulevards, roads, market places, assembly houses, and temples. The ancient texts describe how the evil King Salva declared war and attacked Dwarka with a flying machine using lightning-like energy weapons. Lord Krishna counterattacked, firing his weapons described as arrows “roaring like thunder and shining like the rays of the sun.” Their devastating battle left most of the city in ruins.

dwarka_underwater-compressorUntil recently the very existence of Dwarka was thought by many to be merely legend. In 2001 the Indian government recovered materials from an underwater archaeological site in the Gulf of Khambhat. Pottery, sections of walls, beads, sculpture, and human bones and teeth from the site were carbon dated and found to be nearly 9,500 years old. Marine archaeologists have mapped sandstone walls, street grids, and remains of a busy and important seaport at 70 feet under water.

Dwarka-Gulf-of-Cambay-India-1024x576What has been investigated so far corresponds closely to descriptions of Dwarka in the Mahabharata. Many semicircular, rectangular, and square stone structures, as well as stone anchors have been documented, indicating a thriving overseas trade coming through this port city on the west coast of India. Scientists believe the area was submerged as ice caps melted at the end of the last ice age nine to ten thousand years ago.

DwarkaMapExplorations of the Dwarka site are challenging long-held scientific beliefs. For instance, mainstream science holds that ancient Indian culture goes back some four to five thousand years. Yet these ruins are at least nine thousand years old, dating back to a time when the area submerged under water. The city must have existed before the flooding by centuries—if not by millennia—for it to have grown and expanded to become the bustling seaport that it became.

DwarkaNow that these remains have been discovered under water, there is evidence that the legendary Dwarka did exist. It was a real city populated with living citizens suggesting that Indian civilization may be twice as old as scientists have believed. Whether or not it was also the dwelling place of lord Krishna and his aerial battle with king Salva was an historical occurrence is still a matter of some debate.

But what if further scientific study proves that this submerged city is without doubt the same Dwarka as the one described in the Mahabharata? And that the battle between Krishna and King Salva was an historic fact and it was fought with futuristic, high-tech weapons? We might start paying more attention to the ancient alien theorists. We should definitely start reading more history.
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