Author Interview: Amanda Porter

AmandaPorterA.G. Porter is the author of The Darkness Trilogy, a YA Paranormal Thriller, and Pieces of My Heart, a book of poetry. She is currently writing a spin-off of her Darkness Trilogy characters, as well as her next poetry book. When she isn’t writing, she’s either busy being the coolest librarian on the planet or spending much needed time with her family. Ms. Porter lives in New Hope, Alabama with her husband, Billy, stepson, Brenton, and their 4 dogs.


1TheShadowThe Shadow Rayna Stone is an eighteen-year-old girl from a small Alabama town that just wants to save a little money for college. A summer job at an upscale resort surrounded by snobby, rich folks isn’t her idea of fun—until she meets eyes with the owner’s son, Liam and things begin to look brighter. But then she starts seeing things that she can’t explain and having dreams that are haunted by a being she calls The Shadow. The Shadow shows her things about some missing girls that she wished she had never seen and her dreams seem to be coming true. As if that isn’t enough, she learns that her ability gives her an insight into the feelings of others around her. When Rayna learns that Liam does feel something for her, she wants to tell him she feels the same, but something is warning her to stay away. Not because he is dangerous, but because she is.
2TheForsakenThe Forsaken Six months ago, Rayna Stone came face-to-face with a demented serial killer and survived, but not unscathed. Everyone knows that she is the “girl who almost died.” She’d rather hide, but she tries to live her life, go to school, get a job, and try not to let her Gift overwhelm her. Her nightmares have changed, but they’re still trying to show her something. All she can see are The Eyes and they must be watching her for a reason. Ron is still out there and The Shadow still haunts her dreams. Her Gift is getting stronger and she has obtained very powerful and more deadly abilities. While this might sound desirable, Rayna can’t help but think that means her Gift is preparing her for a war.
3TheRedeemedThe Redeemed Nightmares. The oncoming war. More Gifted emerge and not all of them are on her side. Secrets about her father are revealed. Who are The Children of The Light? Will Rayna be able to resist the powers of The Shadow with Jayce’s help? She had planned to face down her demons with Liam by her side, but now that he’s lost his soul, is he really lost to her forever?
Question after question, obstacle after obstacle present themselves in the last installment of The Darkness Trilogy. It’s coming to an end—the battle, the war. The only question Rayna Stone wants answered is whether she and her friends make it out alive.


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. The Darkness Trilogy is a scary young adult paranormal thriller. Tell us about the story and its main characters.

It all starts with my main character, Rayna Stone, when she attends a summer internship at an upscale golf resort in Guntersville, AL. It’s there that her supernatural abilities awaken, putting her and her friends down a very dangerous path with a being known as The Shadow.

Q. Why are you drawn to frightening themes?

I think it stems from my love of the paranormal genre. I’ve always been drawn to it.

Q. Why did you choose to write in the YA genre?

Because I love it. Even when I finally made it into adulthood, I was still reading in that section.

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

I love my heroes, but villains are fun as well. I think villains are much more intriguing for an author because we are not and never will be, or at least I hope so, that horrific. Especially supernatural villains. They are able to do some very terrifying things and not care about the consequences.

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other YA paranormal tales?

For one thing, my story takes place in Alabama and there really aren’t many southern YA paranormal thrillers. Rayna is also a Christian so she utilizes her faith to help her in her quest to defeat the bad guy.

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 did a lot of research in the geography of Guntersville. It’s a real place! I spent a lot of time on the campgrounds as a child, but Guntersville is huge. I wanted to make sure I got the area I was talking about right. I also research myths and legends of different spiritual beings.

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

Definitely R.L. Stine and Dean Koontz.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

Oh, wow. I’m not even sure. I really like writing a certain character’s scene. Jasmine is this snarky, sassy girl with zero filter. I want to be like her when I grow up so I definitely enjoyed writing any scene with her. Besides that, the epic fight scenes!

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

The end of the trilogy! It was bittersweet.

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

I actually had the idea for this story beginning in the 9th grade. It evolved when I started to experience sleep paralysis. Look it up!

Q. Do you have plans for more books in this series? Other books possibly in a different genre?

I do. I’m writing a spinoff right now.

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 seriously think I just woke up one and told myself that if I ever wanted to finish a book I better start now. I wrote off and on again for years, but that bug bit really hard one day.

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’m with the despisers. I hate doing it. I will read through my own works to see if I catch anything and just to make sure I didn’t go off the deep end somewhere, but I don’t edit my own writing.

Q. Why did you decide to self-publish?

I went round and round with Literary Agent. It didn’t work out, but I’m thankful for the experience. After that, I decided to go it alone. I have learned so much along the way. I would highly recommend a new author to reach out to other self-published authors so they avoid all the pitfalls. Network! Go to conventions and book festivals. I wish I knew someone when I started out!

Q. You seem to have a dream job for a writer—you are the manager of a branch library! Tell us how being a librarian has impacted your writing, and how your writing has influenced your career.

I think just being reminded on a daily basis that there are people out there who genuinely love a good story, a book, keeps me motivated.

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

Sleeping. LOL! I spend a lot of time reading and just being with my family. I also volunteer a lot so I normally stay pretty busy. I have a little one on the way (yay!) so my schedule isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

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

Just write and write what you want to. It’s OK if the first book you write isn’t great. Write another one. It’s like anything else in life, the more you do it, the better you’re going to be. It’s that simple.

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

The amount of time, money, and our souls we put into our craft. We don’t just sneeze out a book. It takes years for some of us and a lot of hard work.

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

Anything that’s over-the-top explicit just for shock value.

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

This is an impossible question to answer! I can name a few series I’ve gone back to and read several times, but to pick one? I can’t. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Odd Thomas, and the list goes on. I like them all for many different reasons.

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

There are so many! Doctor Who, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, GoT…

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

It’s probably Jurassic Park or Edward Scissorhands or Terminator 2 or Aliens or A Nightmare before Christmas or anything Disney…see, I can’t pick just one.

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

Ireland! I want to go on a castle tour.

Contact Information:

Author Name: A.G. Porter

Facebook: @TDTAGP (A.G. Porter, Author)

Twitter: @agporter1

Book Links: A.G. Porter’s books are available on Amazon.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: 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:

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

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

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

The Hunger Games

Image_square_webby Susan

2012, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Directed by Gary Ross.

For a long time I didn’t understand all the hype for this movie, having not yet read the book upon which it is based. Thanks to a very good friend I was able to correct that egregious error; I finished the book mere hours before heading to the theatre.

What an intriguing story! What memorable characters! What heart-pounding action! This movie adaptation of a book should be the standard by which other adaptations are judged. It stayed true to the original story and characters while also including greater detail that captured the spirit of the novel completely. I was blown away.

There is much more to this story than just the cruelty of making teenagers fight to the death as entertainment in the ultimate reality show. The future inhabited by Katniss Everdeen is truly a bleak place. The one-percenters have taken over and rule the ninety-nine percent with an iron fist. Keeping the populace hungry, fearful, and destitute is a wonderful deterrent to rebellion.

As a teenage heroine, Katniss is a thoroughly refreshing alternative to whiny Bella Swan. No offense to any Twihards (some of my best friends are Twihards!), but Bella really started to grate on my last nerve before the second half of the last book. There is also a love triangle of sorts in The Hunger Games that is integral to the story, unlike Twilight where the love triangle is the story.

If you haven’t read the book first, please do so! If you’ve already seen the movie, please read the book! And then read the next two in the series.

A fellow blogger has written excellent reviews of both the movie and the book. I refer you to http://www.moviebrit.com (aka Kate) for her review of the movie http://moviebrit.com/reviews-2012/the-hunger-games/ and the book http://forwinternights.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/the-hunger-games-by-suzanne-collins/.

A full bucket of popcorn!Rating: Full Bucket

Anonymous

by CosmicTwin3

 

2011, Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, and David Thewlis. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Written by John Orloff.

William Shakespeare may not have written all those plays and sonnets and what-not that have his name on them? I have to admit I never gave it much thought. Apparently, others have.

I am a big fan of several Roland Emmerich films, namely: Stargate, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 10,000 BC, 2012. Every time I start listing Roland Emmerich movies, I almost forget about The Patriot, which is not all that surprising as it doesn’t seem to fit in the longer list of sci-fi/fantasy/doomsday features. So you can imagine my surprise when I noticed on the coming attractions last summer that Anonymous was directed by Mr. Emmerich. In one way it makes perfect sense – recreating Elizabethan England in glorious detail with CGI must be a little bit similar to creating alien invasions or bringing herds of woolly mammoths to life. But how does anyone go about making an entertaining movie that postulates William Shakespeare was a fraud? I mean, isn’t that the kind of thing you find on “Preposterous Stories and Conspiracy Theories” on cable TV?

The previews looked pretty interesting and my curiosity was piqued; if old Will Shakespeare didn’t write all those works attributed to him, who could it have been? Besides, I would enjoy seeing that time and place brought realistically to the big screen. So I made plans to see it with two friends, one of whom was adamantly insistent that it would be a terrible travesty, a blasphemous defamation to even suggest that Shakespeare’s works were not his own. I agreed that it was a pretty far-fetched theory, but it could make for an interesting movie nonetheless.

The movie was not only very good, it was riveting. It’s a political thriller centered around the issue of succession – who would assume the throne after Elizabeth I? The intricate complexities of court intrigue were at times a bit difficult to follow (the extent of my knowledge of that period of history comes more from seeing a handful of episodes of The Tudors and the occasional History Channel special than any real scholarly pursuit) but I managed to not get lost. The issue of succession was so critical to so many rich and powerful people that some would not stop at murder to gain the outcome most favorable to them. What does any of this have to do with who wrote the works of Shakespeare? Manipulation of the popular media for political purposes! For an illiterate populace, seeing stage plays was frequently more than just mere entertainment; it was a means of communicating ideas about the current political climate and information about people in power. Emmerich’s Anonymous suggests that the true author of the works in question used certain plays with specific themes to make statements about corruption in high places and to rouse the citizenry to action.

My skeptical movie companion was unswayed by the end of the movie and is still a devout believer in William Shakespeare being the true author. She thinks the movie was horrible. I disagree – not about the authorship of Shakespeare’s works, that’s absurd! I think it was a pretty good movie with great performances. Don’t think of it as revisionist history, think of it as an alternate reality. Either way, we still have those wonderful plays and sonnets and what-not that were written by a real genius.

Three boxes of popcornCosmic Twins rating: Triple Serving 

In Time

by CosmicTwin3

 

2011, Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol.

Let me start by saying that I have a weakness for thought-provoking science fiction movies that are well executed.

Imagine a world where someone has figured out how to capture, add to, and delete from the remaining time of any individual’s natural lifespan. There is no money; anything that can be bought or sold is traded in terms of time – a few minutes for a cup of coffee, a couple of hours for a bus ride, decades for a car. Generations of genetic engineering means no one physically ages past 25 but once you turn 25, you have only one year of free life left.

The poor work every minute they can as soon as that clock starts ticking down to replenish their lifespan time. Most live at a basic subsistence level with barely more than 24 hours left to them at any given point in a day, so they run everywhere they go performing tasks as quickly as possible. They cannot afford the luxury of simply taking a few minutes to enjoy their family or savor a peaceful moment. Conversely, the wealthy have accumulated so much time they can live for hundreds of years – and never look a day over 25. It’s a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer because the rich control the price of everything the poor need to buy.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is one of the hardworking poor. So far he has managed to survive 3 years beyond his 25th birthday when he suddenly becomes the beneficiary of a gift he didn’t ask for; a century of time from a man who had tired of being one of the idle rich and wanted to die. At first Will wants a taste of what he’s never had; a glimpse of how the 1% live and the opportunity to experience it for himself. It isn’t long, though, before Will is identified as an imposter in the wrong time zone. Having all that time makes him a threat to the system that allows the very wealthy to live forever and keeps the poor too busy with basic survival to question why the system works the way it does.

Justin Timberlake is very good as Will Salas and Amanda Seyfried does a nice job in her role as the rich girl who may be just bored enough to seek out a little adventure. The way the plot unfolds is pretty standard as a nice young man gets caught up in a situation not of his making and must survive by his wits while he drags a pretty girl along with him. What elevates this movie above just another formulaic ho-hum predictable thriller wannabe is the idea that time has replaced money and everything – from the food you eat to the clothes you wear to the apartment you rent – is valued in time. (This is a very entertaining and original sci-fi movie, but not superior to Source Code. If you missed Source Code in a theater, see it on disc! Director Duncan Jones delivered a Hitchcockian thriller with a mind-blowing premise that will have an observant viewer pondering possible alternative outcomes for a very long time.)

The creepiest aspect of In Time is that there is not a single person who looks older than 25. Everyone appears to be young and healthy as if the Shangri-La of Lost Horizon has grown to encompass the entire globe. But this is no Shangri-La where peace and harmony are valued above all else; when money doesn’t exist, what do greedy people seek to accumulate? What will they do when a Robin Hood-style champion of the people starts taking time from the rich and giving it to the poor? After seeing this movie you won’t be able to use the phrase “living on borrowed time” without thinking about an entirely different meaning.

Three boxes of popcornCosmic Twins rating: Triple Serving 

Trollhunter

by CosmicTwin3

2010, Norwegian with English subtitles. Directed by André Øvredal, stars Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg and Knut Nærum. Original title: Trolljegeren.

“Why problem make when you no problem have you don’t want to make?” The ultimate government cover up?

Filmed with hand-held and sometimes shaky cameras, this is the story of three college students who set out to do a bit of investigative journalism and end up discovering a terrifying truth. Does that remind you of some other movie – The Blair Witch Project, perhaps? I’m wondering when Blair Witch became a genre all its own when I wasn’t looking. No matter – back to the review…

It seems there is a wild bear problem and the three intrepid students are determined to get to the bottom of it. When they arrive to interview the government-sanctioned and licensed legal bear hunters, there is some controversy about a mysterious hunter with questionable credentials. Who is this guy and why is he so weird? Recognizing a potentially interesting story when they see one (or perhaps just hoping for something less mundane than bear hunting) the trio begins stalking the mystery man to find out just what he’s up to. His beat up old camper and bizarrely outfitted truck offer no explanation for his nocturnal forays into the wild.

The kids are persistent and refuse to give up their pursuit of The Truth, whatever that may be. When they follow the mysterious hunter into the woods one dark night, they find out the awful, horrific reality as they come face-to-face with – a troll. Trolls are big, mean, and scary. Really big, really mean, and really scary. The three students, appropriately freaked out, get a crash course in troll-ology from the Trollhunter. Turns out that not only is he the only government-sanctioned and licensed trollhunter in Norway, it is a super-secret, classified job because the government denies the existence of trolls. When one gets out of hand, the trollhunter is sent to kill the rogue monster and wipe out all traces of its existence. The government then provides a more or less plausible explanation, complete with manufactured evidence. It’s a nasty business – literally – with ravenous randomly rampaging trolls exploding or turning to stone, depending on various factors.

How can all the various types of trolls – and there are many – be kept out of sight and limited to remote areas? More importantly, what has happened to cause a “troll outbreak” that has made the lone trollhunter exhausted, irritable, and more frustrated than usual about the red tape and paperwork associated with his government job? Can the three neophyte journalists keep up with all the action and remain unscathed? Why does it matter if any of them is Christian? What begins as a freaky adventure with a “You’re not going to believe this!” quality gradually develops into a harrowing struggle for survival. Along the way we are treated to some truly inspired storytelling and absolutely mind-boggling special effects that elevate what might otherwise be just another B-grade monster movie to an absorbing visual spectacle.

The filming style is a direct descendant of Blair Witch, but is neither as annoying nor tedious as that one was because the shaky camerawork is not done to excess. The moments of absurdity and humor sprinkled into the mix feel completely natural, as does the crew’s initial bewilderment and then growing terror. Woven into the narrative are some priceless references to fairy tale images of trolls, particularly a sequence involving a bridge and some goats. I’m sure I must have missed some Norwegian culture-specific in-jokes, but I don’t care. The realism of the CGI trolls is reason enough to recommend this one, but the story is also original and well told. Come for the trolls, get a kick out of the whole package.

The rights to this movie have been bought by Hollywood and an American remake is in the works. I don’t know how they could improve on the original, but I confess that I would like to see it without having to read subtitles. I don’t ordinarily mind subtitles, but this time it detracted a tiny bit from the total absorption in the movie I could have experienced otherwise. Also, it would have been even better in a theater instead of at home on Blu-ray, but we must make do with what is available. If the remake doesn’t go overboard on the special effects, keeps the action in Norway where it belongs, and delivers just as fresh and entertaining performances from the main characters, it could have potential. My advice is to see the Norwegian version first. Then you’ll have a leg up on all those poor unfortunates who won’t realize that the American version is an imitation of an original.

Two boxes of popcornCosmic Twins rating: Double Serving (plus a handful of M&Ms)