Friday, December 30, 2011

Same Six Questions, Different Response

I've won a minor award from Andy Rane's blog for directing the most traffic to his "Same Six Questions" interview. Andy's a fellow indie novelist and he's got a pretty neat blog concept. It's an interesting, quick way to find some new authors you might not have encountered otherwise. I suggest you check him out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

eFiction December Issue is Live

eFiction Magazine is back with a shiny new December issue.  Buy it from Amazon or read it free online.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Post by Jerry Hanel

Getting bored while you wait for me to hurry up and post another review?  I've got some Jerry Hanel to tide you over.  Jerry's the author of Death Has a Name and Thaloc Has a Body, two titles that may sound vaguely familiar to readers of this blog.  He brings a welcome breath of originality to the urban fantasy genre, and today he's here to tell you a bit about the stories behind the stories.  Take it away, Jerry:
Adventures NOT in writing 
(or 'How my hobbies influence my stories')
In order to write compelling stories, they have to have some basis in the real world. Even paranormal stories have to be grounded, at some level, to a world that the reader can relate to. Items in that plane of existence have to translate into something the reader can recall in their mind so that the item or situation you describe can have the illusion of reality.
While writing is a great outlet for expressing our creativity, we need "inlets" to be able to translate those creative moments into expressions that other humans can interpret and understand.
This is why it is imperative that we, as authors, do more than just write. We need to get out of our shells and do something crazy every now and then. Go hang-gliding so that you can recall the feeling of freefall. Or travel the world so that you can describe the emotion of being completely awestruck by a something you've never seen before. 
For me, I have three main "inlets" for creativity. I love to play role-playing games, I am in love with an eighty-six year-old woman, and I have a day job that keeps me very busy.
For the most part, the day job is like anyone else's. I sit at a desk, filing papers, and working on projects. I attend meetings and give presentations. These may not seem like the pinnacle of writing fodder, but they are immeasurably helpful. I can recall getting up to give a presentation to the CEO of a Fortune-500 company -- the fear, sweaty palms and verbal constipation. I'm a competent, well-educated man. I'm confident and usually very well-spoken. But in that moment, nerves had me so bound up that I couldn't form a valid sentence to save my life. It took me five minutes to just get started, and when I was finished, I prayed he wouldn't fire me for incompetence. Side note: I'm still employed there. Those kinds of experiences are the foundations that I use to build every-day scenarios into my stories.
The eighty-six year old woman is a resident of one of the elderly centers where I volunteer to help distribute food. Her name is Miss Zenobia, and she is the most selfless, loving caring woman I've ever met. Week after week, I go there, and each time I visit Miss Z does something else that just blows me away. I'm happily married to a wonderful wife, but Miss Z has a special place in my heart for being caring and compassionate. I love her like my grandmother even though we aren't related except through those brief ten-minute encounters.
Sure, I can write a sappy love scene about a man and woman, keeping my relationship with my wife in mind. But it is through uncommon relationships like serving Miss Z a meal, then watching her give that meal to someone else because she's "just not that hungry today and Terrence could sure use a good bite to eat, bless his soul" that really help me to know what true love and compassion are all about. They help me define my characters in full, 3-D, living color.
And when I get stressed out from writing, my day job is unfulfilling, my wife is on my nerves and the senior centers are closed up for the night, what can I do? I kill something. Violently. With a big sword, or a flaming ball of fire. Am I a murderer or arsonist? No, I am Bartholomew Bladeslinger, Tiefling Paladin.
Most people use role-playing games as an expression of creativity and a means to just be goofy teenagers, even for a few minutes a week. I'm nearly forty years old, and didn't really get into role-playing games until a few years ago, but through these sessions, I've been paired up with people I wouldn't normally hang out with otherwise.  I embrace my inner geek and roll dice, count points and march across some campaign or other to attack the creatures of someone else's imagination. 
These games not only help me blow off steam, they teach me so much in the process. I've encountered situations that -- while I would have handled them differently in my own mind -- I've had to resolve as a team from several other points of view. It has helped me to not only have a social release, but to better understand social dynamics. I've learned how to describe my paranormal craziness in ways that relate to the common world, and I've had a great time in the process.
All-in-all, whether you are a reader or a writer, there's one thing I have to say: Books are awesome, and we need to never give up the fight for reading. Novels and stories will never be replaced by Hollywood special effects, no matter how much they spend, because books are read with the heart, not the eyes and ears.
But when even your latest book comes to an end, there's only one thing that matters: Who have you connected with in your life? Not only will that help you be a better writer, it will help you be a better all-around person.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review - In Our House

In Our House is a captivating, fascinating, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining collection of eight short stories from award-winning author Peter Balaskas.  If you had to assign a genre to the collection it would be horror, but the collection is much too complex to classify easily.

If there is a recurring theme running through In Our House, it's an exploration of the nature of a man, the choices we must make, for better or for worse, because of what we are, and the consequences we may face as a result.

Duet begins the collection, the least-spooky story in the collection.  The narrator is a writer.  His art is fundamental to who he is.  But in order to create, he may have to destroy the most precious relationship in his life.  She will not thank him if he keeps her around at the cost of his life's work.  He must make an impossible decision, and the results are... unexpected.

Auld Acquaintances, Id, and Wash Cycle are more ordinary.  In these three straightforward horror tales a thoroughly bad person gets his comeuppance.  Each story involves a man trapped in some way by his own nature.  One man can no longer keep his darker nature suppressed.  Another man, after a long life of cruelty and corruption, must finally pay a terrible price.  They are entertaining, if not deep, and if I had stopped reading there I might have been disappointed in the collection.

The stories veer into deeper waters, though, with Crossing the Styx.  Martin is a healer.  It's what he does; it's who he is.  He helps the living cope with the aftermath of tragedy.  Then he finds a very special victim, one only he can help.  How can he refuse, when the price he must pay is so small?  But others come.  Their need is great.  The price is rising, but how can he turn them away?  Martin is going to find out just exactly how much one man can give.

WIth In His House, the collection veers into allegory.  An artist is trapped in a house, surrounded by a tempest, afflicted by some very strange housemates.  It's all real... in a way.  Only a profound journey of self-discovery can set him free.  It's a tense and deftly-written story, and it packs a tremendous emotional wallop.

These stories will stay with you long after you're done reading them.  Don't miss In Our House.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Immortals is Out

Immortals has been released in theatres. Just my $.02, but it's nothing brilliant.  It's awfully pretty to look at, and I had fun watching it, but it was instantly forgettable.  Very "300 meets Clash of the Titans."  Some parts made more sense than others, but there is sure plenty of excitement. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guest Blogger - Ty Johnston

Today I have a guest post from an author I respect and whose work I enjoy, Ty Johnston.  Take it away, Ty:

Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle ( ), the Nook ( ) and online at Smashwords ( His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog

As a writer, lots of different authors have influenced my own interests, writing style and favorite genres. From Alexandre Dumas to Stephen King, Leo Tolstoy to Max Brooks, Homer to Ed McBain, my list of favorite authors could be quite extensive.

But for the most part, I write fantasy, usually epic fantasy. This brings up the question, which fantasy authors have influenced me the most?

Like many youngsters who were readers growing up in the 1970s, I took my first bite of fantasy literature with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, following it up soon after with The Lord of the Rings. For my generation, many got their start with Tolkien and his tales of Bilbo and Frodo.

Growing up, I did not have much access to fantasy, so discovering Tolkien was eye opening. I was transported away to a land where even the least among us could at least try to accomplish great good. For the 7-year-old me, that was heady stuff.

Soon after, as I neared my teen years, I discovered Sword and Sorcery literature through the Thieves’ World anthologies of short stories, edited by Robert Asprin and later co-edited with his then-wife, Lynn Abbey. Again, my eyes were opened, this time to a much more gritty version of fantasy, one that seemed much more adult to the young me.

At this point, I was thirsty for more fantasy fiction, but there just wasn’t that much available in the town where I lived. That changed in 1983 when a local book store began carrying the Dungeons & Dragons games. The games were popular, and right away the store started selling more and more fantasy literature. This is how I discovered Fred Saberhagen and The First Book of Swords, and soon after Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragons of Autumn Twilight. These two novels were each the beginning of a separate series, so I had my reading cut out for me for some little while.

One element I’ve always enjoyed about Saberhagen’s writing, and that of Weis and Hickman, is the prose was not overly flowery. They told their stories with lots of characters and lots of action, and they didn’t take a thousand pages to do so. I strive for much of that in my own writing to this day.

So far I’ve outlined the majority of my early fantasy reading. I left out a handful of authors, some of whom I quite enjoy, because I’ve never felt they had a major influence upon myself as a writer. But I have to mention Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber, two astounding authors who kept my interest in fantasy going strong.

As I grew older, I began to read less fantasy. Actually, I began to read less in general, though I never stopped completely. For most of the 1980s and 1990s, my interests were drawn to horror, with the likes of Stephen King and Robert McCammon holding sway over much of my reading during this era. Also during this time, I became a huge fan of The Sandman graphic novels, written by Neil Gaiman, and found them an excellent mixture of fantasy and horror. To this day I consider it some of Gaiman’s strongest writing.

By the late 1990s, I was burning myself out on horror. I began to turn back to fantasy more and more.

I found I had a lot of catching up to do, as I had missed a lot of the newer fantasy authors who had come along during my dry spell.

When I dipped back into fantasy, I started with R.A. Salvatore, mainly because he was such a popular writer. The first book of his I read was Homeland, and I still enjoy that novel. Since then I’ve read about a dozen of Salvatore’s books, some I like and some not so much, but I still like much of his writing style.

More recently, in the last few years I’ve been turned onto Steven Erikson and his Malazan Books of the Fallen. I’ve read the first 9 books in this 10-book series, and I’ve found much to love about each and every one of them. I think Erikson is overly long-winded and could use a strong editor, but he’s the only fantasy author who raises such strong emotions within me.

Also, over the last few years I’ve found myself turning more and more back to Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, and the father of Sword and Sorcery literature. I read a fair amount of Howard when I was younger, but it was not until I was in my late 30s that I truly appreciated how gifted a writer he was. I wish there was more material by the man, as I’ve read just about everything of his I can find, and that includes a lot of short stories outside the fantasy genres.

Stephen King continues to hold my interest, though I think his novels are a little more hit-and-miss than they were a couple of decades ago. While I don’t find it perfect, I did quite enjoy his series The Dark Tower and its mixture of epic fantasy, horror and even science fiction.

That about wraps my list for fantasy authors who have had a major influence upon me. You might be surprised at some names that are missing. George R.R. Martin comes to mind, as does Brian Jacques. To be honest, I’ve yet to read those authors. I have several of their books, but I keep putting them off because there is so much out there to read, within and outside of the fantasy genres.

But I’ll get to them. I promise. I’m always looking to discover great authors.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review - Grease is the Word

My rating: 4.5/5

George Berger's brain doesn't work like yours and mine.  He's one of those people who makes you glad the Internet and indie publishing have caught on, because his work is totally unpublishable and yet so completely worthwhile.  You simply have to check out one of the most unconventional, quirky, and irresistible voices out there, and this short story is an excellent place to start.  First, it's short.  Very short.  Not much time investment.  And the fiduciary investment is even less.  It's free.

Grease is the Word is a thrilling tale of ex-special forces operatives working in the private sector, on a covert mission with stakes that are - well, exaggerated, frankly, but certainly unexpected.  This will be one of the funnier things you'll read this month.  Check it out.

Watch for George's ground-breaking epistolary novel, as yet untitled, coming out some time in 2012.

Grease Is The Word, Free at Smashwords

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Author Interview - Erin Lale

Today's bonus treat is an interview with Erin Lale, author of the Punch novels, bigger-than-life science fiction set in a shared universe called Time Yarns.  Take it away, Erin...

You've taken your writing in some innovative directions with Time Yarns.  Tell us a little bit about how the Time Yarns shared universe works.

Time Yarns is a different kind of shared world; instead of sharing characters or settings, what all the different stories have in common is the way physics and magic work. The core idea of Time Yarns is that time travelers have gone back to change history and have created many parallel universes, and that these time travelers use the power of the mind to travel in time because human beings cannot actually invent time machines.

When someone tries to invent a time machine, what they get is a machine like The Timelessness Machine, which is the title of a short story I published in the first issue of Sterling Web long ago and have recently reprinted in my collection of my short fiction, Universal Genius.

There is a story about a timelessness machine in each of the two upcoming Time Yarns multi-author anthologies, Cassandra's Time Yarns and Anarchy Zone Time Yarns, by New Zealander and aglal biofuel inventor Ian Miller and by Canary Islands resident Tony Thorne MBE, who was awarded a chivalric order by the Queen of England for advances in cryosurgery tools and carbon fiber furnaces. They each came up with the idea of the physics of timelessness independently, without having read my classic of hard sf. Great minds think alike.

The Punch books are a series of transmedia novels.  Tell us how that works.  What are the transmedia elements?  Do you see multimedia as the future of ebooks?

The Punch books are packed with pictures, video clips, sound, and art. I imagine a future in which what sort of creative a person is has become disconnected from the medium because all creative works are on the same electronic platform. People will no longer define their work as being on cellulose or celluloid, sound waves or light waves, because everything is on the net and on ebook readers that double as computers and smart phones. People will no longer call themselves writers, filmmakers, game designers, musicians, photographers, composers, graphic designers, or animators; everyone will be a transmedia artist.

One of the other Time Yarns authors, Humberto Sachs, believes so much in my vision of the future of transmedia that he set up a project within his company, TeknoX, to bring it about. Sachs is an aerospace engineer from Brazil, co-designer of the F-18 and the International Space Station, but now he has started a company to design an open source integrated hardware / software design and production platform, and he's using the transmedia project to test the platform.

If an edition of Punch can be published as one long book with all its transmedia elements intact and fully imbedded instead of having to link the videos from host sites, that will prove the platform superior to today's platforms. It's been really exciting to set out to publish sf anthologies and happen to connect with a writer who is also working on bringing about the next technical revolution.

Carla Punch's story is one wild ride.  Marine, knight, captain, saint...  How did you dream up this incredible journey that she's on?

Her story is Life 2.0, my own life re-imagined. I started writing the first draft of Punch 10 years ago, shortly after completing my memoir of Life 1.0, my nonfiction book Greater Than the Sum of My Parts: My Triumph Over Dissociative Identity Disorder. The autobiography is raw life, and Punch is life whipped up into a feast. Some people give their problems to a higher power; I gave mine to an action hero.

The Punch books deal with a lot of the same issues I deal with in my memoir, such as recovery from PTSD, gender and sexual orientation issues, issues around career as identity, religious conversion experiences, disability issues, cultural assimilation, infertility and substitute child-figures, and how a person reinvents herself and achieves personal growth, all re-envisioned as a hero's journey. 

Humour is an important element of the Punch books.  How do you juggle so many elements, high adventure and epic plot scope, and still keep things fun and funny?

That's just the way my mind works. I see humor in so many things. Even the name of the universe, Time Yarns, is a kind of pun, because a yarn is a story and it also refers to string theory and to the classical fates or wyrd sisters spinning the threads of time and weaving the fabric of the universe.

In fact, that's an image I use in the Time Yarns Universe trailer that recently wrapped filming and is now being edited, and which I hope to have ready in January for the release of the multi-author anthologies. There's even an element of humor in the trailer, when the voiceover says, "What if thousands of individuals who did not agree with each other all went back in time to change history for the better? What if, among the many resultant parallel universes, was the one we live in?" And then the image cuts to a Chevy hood being thumped open with a literal ba-da-boom sound. That's just the sort of thing that bubbles up in my brain.

What's it like to craft a seven-volume epic?  What have you learned about storytelling from working on such a large canvas?

The first draft of Punch was originally shown to fellow writers years ago as it was written, chapter by chapter, so it was actually a serial from the very beginning. In fact, some of the plot elements were crowdsourced, as a reader suggested the Nelonn / Khunnir pairing and the whole subplot of Nelonn's apprenticeship to Brinonn was created just to set up the scene in the tent a dozen chapters later. Working on the second draft after deciding to unify Punch with other stories into a shared world really made me focus on what was essential to the story.

I also realized that Punch naturally broke into 7 pieces of novella size, like acts in a play.  But I learned the most when I tried to write a description of book 1 to put on the book's Amazon page. I couldn't wrap my mind around a short description of book 1 until I read a voluminous tome called The Seven Basic Plots, and realized I had inadvertantly written a comedy. Book 1: The Loribond has the same plot structure as a classical Greek comedy.

What do you want people to take away from the Punch stories?  What impact do you want to have on your readers?

I want readers to experience Punch the same way I experience it: as a healing journey. Every time I re-read it to edit it, I start in rags along with Carla in book 1, and by book 7 I've experienced spiritual riches.

Read Loribond, Book 1 of the Punch series.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

eFiction Magazine November

EFiction magazine is back with a shiny new issue.  The November issue is live.  Read for free online at, or subscribe at the link below.  The usual quality selection of indie fiction awaits.

Subscribe on Amazon

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review - The Weight of Blood (The Half-Orcs)

My rating: 4/5

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It contains some of the most powerful storytelling I've seen in a long time.  The story has fantastic impact, and I can't wait to learn what happens next in the series.  It's a deeply affecting story that will get right under your skin.

Yet it's hampered by writing that's a bit clumsy and by a need for decent proofreading.  The story overall, the big picture, is mind-blowingly good.  Line by line, sentence by sentence, it is reasonably okay, and that's all.  Now, if I had to choose between a lame story told with consummate skill and a brilliant story told in an unpolished way, there is no question which I'd choose.  And despite my misgivings, this is certainly a book I recommend.

Harruq and Qurrah Tun are half-orcs living in a human city.  They're the ultimate outsiders, abused and distrusted by everyone around them.  They only have each other, and the bond between them is tremendously strong.  Then Qurrah meets a powerful magician, a necromancer, who can elevate him beyond his wildest dreams using some very dark magic.  Harruq is where he's always been, at his brother's side, disturbed by the unpleasant things he must do to support his brother's magic, but unwavering in his support.

The tension mounts when Harruq meets an elven woman who is as decent and kind as the necromancer is dark and twisted.  He would choose his brother over his enchanting new friend without hesitation, if not for the growing rumbles of his conscience...

The Weight of Blood is a complex tale full of action, moral ambiguity, and gut-wrenchingly tough choices.  Harruq is a surprisingly charming, likeable protagonist, despite the ugly things he does to support his brother.  It's a very dark story of complicated people trying to find the right path in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. 

The orcs, elves, and humans are to a large extent lifted straight from Tolkien.  The book is fairly light on world-building, with most of the author's attention going to the exploration of characters and relationships, and to plenty of sword-swinging action.  The book is bursting with adventure.

Did I mention that David Dalglish is a very bad man?  He gives the book away for free, knowing that you will become hooked (you will, trust me) and have to buy the rest of the series.  You can save a buck or two, though, by buying the first three books in an omnibus.

The Half-Orcs is a five-novel series.  Watch this blog for reviews of the remaining titles.

Check it out on Smashwords.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review - eFiction Magazine October Issue

I've been trying to get to this all month.  It's too good not to recommend, but it's nearly time for the November issue and I give up.  Not that the magazine is hard to read; far from it.  I was out of the country for two weeks and hideously busy the rest of the time and I've only had time to read about three stories so far, so here is my unofficial review based on what I've seen.

October was the Halloween-themed issue, and it's a good deal spookier than the usual eFiction fare.  Marcin Wrona's #Baphomet is worth the price of admission all by itself.  It's a compulsively readable, indescribably creepy story about a teenage boy getting himself in WAY over his head.  It's a really excellent piece of writing, and it's enough all by itself to make a subscription to eFiction totally worthwhile.

I read a few more stories.  Quality levels varied, but each story was worthwhile in its way.  eFiction Magazine is a non-professional magazine, with corresponding weaknesses and strengths.  I don't mean it's unprofessional or sloppy or lacks standards, just that not a lot of money changes hands.  There are stories that wouldn't quite cut it in a pro magazine, but they're still quite meticulously written and edited.  There are also stories like #Baphomet, which is as good as anything you'll find online or in print.

eFiction is put together by writers and staff who clearly love what they're doing, and they've created something that's well worth your time.  Some of the writing is a little rough around the edges, but there are unpolished gems you just wouldn't find in a shinier, more expensive magazine.  I would be proud to have my own writing in eFiction, and I'm planning to submit some stories. 

I'm looking forward to the November issue.  Read it online for free at or subscribe on your Kindle.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Win a Kindle - Time is Running Out

Only a few days are left in Red Tash's Halloween Bash.  Win a Kindle pre-loaded with dozens of books, including This Brilliant Darkness (reviewed below) and Lord of Fire, by me.  See for details.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Review - This Brilliant Darkness

My Score: 3.5/5

This Brilliant Darkness by Red Tash is a dark, pretty scary, quite original, and wholly unpredictable horror novel.  It's so chock-full of unconventional characters and truly weird plot elements that it's almost impossible to summarize, but I'll try.

Christine Grace is an American college professor.  A whole batch of weird things happens to her in short order.  A strange unmoving star appears in the sky, and it's only visible over Bloomington, Indiana.  A dark immortal creature is hunting her.  A man she's never met but has long felt connected with has come to Bloomington.  A mysterious young religious pilgrim is seeing her in visions.  And one of her students is exhibiting strange powers.  It's all connected, and somehow Grace is at the heart of it.

I liked the complete absence of familiar tropes.  I couldn't tell you what book this book compares to.  It's startlingly original.  It's also pretty well-written.  There is mystery, romance, rising tension, complex and compelling characters, and an ever-present sense of dread.

Some things I didn't like.  It's almost too weird at times.  Two of the characters are so deeply odd that the scenes written from their point of view are nearly incomprehensible.  Also, I must warn you - this book has some pretty gross imagery.  It's not TOO bad, but there is a scene early on, I'll just say that it involves a blood clot and leave it at that.  Not really a problem, but you should know that this book is not for the squeamish.

There is brilliance in This Brilliant Darkness.  If you're tired of the same old paranormal cliches, this will knock your socks off.

Read This Brilliant Darkness on Amazon.

Read This Brilliant Darkness on Smashwords.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Don't tell anyone, but the October issue of eFiction Magazine is live at  Marcin Wrona, whom you may have read about here, heads up the short stories with #Baphomet, and there is lots more.  Check it out.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Win A Kindle

Already got one?  There are Amazon gift cards, too.  It's all at the Red Tash Halloween Bash.  Discover new books, new blogs, and win swag.  Enter as many times as you'd like up until October 16.

The Kindle comes with a pile of free books, including one of mine.  Check out the details at: is the site, which may be down. is the mirror site.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nathan Lowell Wins Parsec Award

I'd like to congratulate Nathan Lowell on winning a 2011 Parsec Award for his podcast of Owner's Share, latest novel in his series The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper.  The Parsec awards recognize excellence in speculative ficition podcasts.

You can also find Nathan's work in e-book form.  It's understated, beautifully-written, captivating stuff about ordinary men and women behind the scenes in interstellar spaceships.  I've blogged before about Quarter Share, the first book in the series.  Check it out if you get the chance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I've got me an ad!

I was so pleased with this I had to share it.  I'd like to mention my cover artist and eFiction Magazine, where I hope the ad will appear in the rockin' October issue.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview with Phoebe Wray

In the Plowshare, the crew and the civilians were in the galley, watching the live feed from the cameras in Renn’s helmet. No one talked. Her voice was piped in, but she wasn’t doing much talking, either. Leaving the sled for a careening object was one of the most dangerous steps, and she concentrated on it.

“Okay, there’s something here...” They could hear her breathing a little faster but they couldn’t see what she was doing.

“Renn?” Harry’s voice was quiet. “Talk to us.”

She scoffed and everyone relaxed a little. “I’m busy! It’s a—I dunno what—a control box, I think.”

Today's special treat is an interview with Phoebe Wray, who has a short story in an anthology of military SF by all female authors.  Take it away, Wray:

Tell us a little bit about Trashing.

It’s a short story in the anthology “No Man’s Land” from Dark Quest Books; Volume 4 of the “Defending the Future” series edited by Mike McPhail. They are futurist, military science fiction tales, all written by women. I’m very proud to have a story in it. They’re whopping good yarns.

Trashing has an unusual premise. How did you come up with the idea?

It was a story sitting half-done when I heard about “No Man’s Land.” I dug it out and polished it up. My heroine is a Lieutenant in the Targus Navy, a specialist identifying, assessing and retrieving the debris and odds and ends of satellites, booster rockets and the like, tumbling around in her galaxy. She makes a splendid find just as the Bad Guys show up.

I’ve been collecting news stories and NASA reports about space junk for a long time. That stuff, and there’s a lot of it up there, is a navigation hazard, among other things. Even a paint chip traveling 17,000 mph can do a lot of damage. And then, of course, there’s the glove that a Gemini10 crew member lost, still orbiting.

Oddly, the week after the book was released this past May, the International Space Station was on alert because a piece of junk was heading straight for it. Fortunately, it missed; but the crew had already identified their “Safe places,” in case it didn’t.

By the way, I got the planet name “Targus” from the online NASA list of named space objects. There are a gazillion of them!

You're the president of Broad Universe. Tell us about the organization.

Broad Universe is a support and information organization for women who write genre fiction. It was founded in 1999 at the Feminist Convention, WisCon. I’m one of the “mothers” and have served on the Boards from the beginning.

We ask: Why don’t women get more genre fiction published? Why don’t we get as many reviews as the boys do? Why do some stick-in-muds still say we can’t write those tales? Just read what’s out there and your mind will change.

BU is supports and encourages, and through our website ( and several online lists, we provide a sounding board/tip board/information. We’re a non-profit and all-volunteer group, with members around the world. It’s an amazingly congenial place. There hasn't been a flame war ever, since the beginning.

I stepped down as the Prez in August, having served on the Motherboard for a number of years. It was time to pass the torch. I remain on the Advisory Board.

There was a time when science fiction seemed mostly like a club for boys. You're challenging that notion by writing successfully in the genre, and you create characters who fly in the face of conventional genre stereotypes. Has it been an extra challenge to be a woman writing military science fiction?

It’s getting better. Women still aren’t taken as seriously as men in some of the subgenres, military sci fi being one. The sheer number of women who are willing to put their thoughts out there helps. For new writers, it’s challenging. And, trust me, there are still men—writers, reviewers, editors—who scoff and/or sneer.

It’s a slippery fish to land. Right now, Broad Universe has two members who are professional number-crunchers, and they are undertaking a systematic (scientific) look at the stats so we will have more meaningful data. I’ve been working on that particular issue for years. Their findings are starting to go up on our website. They are sobering.

I normally blog about indie e-books, but I have a soft spot for Edge Publishing, since they're here in Calgary, my home town. Tell us a bit about Jemma7729.

That’s my first novel, and it was a delight to work with the genial Brian Hades at EDGE. He’s a savvy, enthusiastic person, and very encouraging. EDGE continues to grow and is publishing excellent work.

The “elevator” on Jemma is that it’s “a futurist, feminist, dystopian, action-adventure novel.” Whew! It continues to get great reviews. Jemma is a rebel in North America in the 23rd century. She’s a skilled saboteur (saboteuse?), who joins with an underground movement to bring a constitutional government back to the Northern continent. She’s smart and compassionate, and the odds are totally stacked against her. She fights for freedom—for herself and everyone—no matter what.

There is a sequel—called J2—which will be out this fall from Dark Quest. It’s a bit odd, perhaps, because the heroine is Jemma’s clone. She looks like Jemma, and there are certain personality quirks that they share, but J2’s a lab rat and a thinking machine. It was fun to write.

It can be tough for a writer, sitting safely in a comfortable chair, to write credibly about the terror inherent in an action scene. You have an advantage, though. You've done things that would scare a veteran soldier green. What did you find more terrifying: standup comedy or live theatre? Do you draw on those experiences when you write?

Oh, yeah! Stand-up can be very daunting. Especially if the jokes don’t work. I loved, especially, acting Shakespeare. He never misses, if you trust him, for one thing. If you tell the truth. You have to do that in stand-up, too. Audiences know when you’re faking.

I DO use my theatre background, mainly in two places: character development and dialogue. My stories and books are loaded with dialogue. Jemma is written in first-person, so it’s one long monologue. J2 is not first person, and that allows me more character development of secondary characters. There are some people from the first book in the second. I have to be extra aware of their voices.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

eFiction Magazine

Someone besides me is bringing you the best of indie fiction.  Check out eFiction Magazine, The premier indie fiction magazine, at

Quality short fiction from indie authors, book reviews, and more, at eFiction Magazine they "push the boundaries of fiction on a monthly basis."  The September issue is currently live.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Recommended Reading - Golden Feathers Falling

Alit was no stranger to the city after dark. She knew where the worst dangers could be found and how to evade them, and could run far and fast. When escape proved impossible, she was perfectly willing to strike with the iron pin that held back her hair. It had already been bloodied, once, inside a too-insistent hand.

Such thoughts always came when deliveries took her far away from the tablet house. They were a litany, a preparation for very real possibilities. Alit had been orphaned by murder. She had no illusions about what the gods could bring down in their ugly moments.

Marcin Wrona is at it again.

I recommended Pale Queen's Courtyard before.  It's beautifully written and full of action and general coolness, and I still recommend it.  Now he's followed it up with Golden Feathers Falling, another book set in the same world.  It's not exactly a sequel, and you'll have no trouble with Golden Feathers if you haven't read Pale Queen's Courtyard.  Golden Feathers is an adventure story set in ancient Mesopotamia, and it has the same top-notch writing and pulse-pounding action.  Here is the author's description:

By night, Alit wards off clumsy advances from boring scribes and functionaries. By day, she carries letters across dangerous Numush to add coins to her dowry. After her tablet house is attacked, she hires a band of mercenaries to find out why, and is drawn into an Ekka she has only glimpsed: a land built on vengeance, crime for coin, and simmering revolution.

Read Golden Feathers Falling on Smashwords

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recommended Reading - Rex Rising

Hera banged her fist on the desk. Nobody outside the Undercurrent was supposed to know the importance of Pelia’s work. Pelia had been betrayed.

A traitor walked among them.

Icy sweat trickled down Hera’s spine and her hands trembled. Knowing she had no time for a breakdown, she shoved her fear deep inside its box. A quick search of the message pool showed her that the shipment had not yet been found. She sagged in her chair, releasing a pent-up breath. Then who had it?

Treachery, murder, sinister government agents, air cars and paranoia... I could go on, but the author has a book trailer that gives you the scoop better than I can.

Read Rex Rising at Smashwords

Friday, August 26, 2011

Barbaric Fun

Yes, I'm boosting my own book.  It's my blog; I'm allowed to.  Besides, it's a good book.  You'll like it.  Here's my new synopsis, hot off of the keyboard:

It all started when he tried to end it all.

Bert Hoover jumps from a bridge, only to be rudely rescued by a flying saucer. The aliens aren't doing him any favours, though. They take him to the backward planet of Mardalu, where he is captured and enslaved by the brutal alien Morans. His only friend, Janice, has been sold into slavery as well.

Escape won’t be easy, especially for a chronic under-achiever. But Bert, tormented by memories of a time he failed a friend, knows he must do better this time. He breaks out of the pit, the vast underground prison where human slaves are held.

Once outside, he's deep in Moran territory, pursued by Rath, the implacable slave master. Harried and hunted, Bert makes it to human territory. He's done the impossible, but now he has to do the unthinkable: sneak back into Moran territory to find Janice.

Janice, meanwhile, is battling for her life in a dungeon beneath the Moran palace. A sadistic slave gets to choose who is sacrificed each month to the monstrous Gooal. Janice can only survive by seeing others die in her place. When the price becomes too high, it is Janice who is slated for death.

Aided by Garron, a Moran orphan, Bert is a refugee on the fringes of Moran society, always searching for clues of Janice. With time running out and Rath drawing closer, Bert finds the courage to face his enemies and attempt a daring rescue. Now all he needs to do is pluck Janice from the jaws of death, escape from Rath, and maybe even find a way back to Earth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interview With the Vampire Author

Today I have a special treat for you, an interview with Julie Dawson of Bards and Sages Publishing.  Julie has written a dark and riveting vampire novel called A Game of Blood.

A Game of Blood includes a quotation from HP Lovecraft, and themes that would be familiar to any Lovecraft fan.  Your protagonist, Detective Grogan, grapples with unspeakable horror, and his very sanity is at risk.  Are you influenced by Lovecraft?  How has this impacted the writing of this novel?
I have always felt that the thing that made Lovecraft’s work so terrifying was the fact that these insanely powerful entities were not engaging humanity as rivals or adversaries or even useful pawns in some cosmic game, but just didn’t care about us.  We humans have this tendency to think we are the center of the cosmos.  And yet here was Lovecraft presenting these beings who honestly thought no more about humans than we think about ants.  Most of Lovecraft’s work isn’t about some monster going out to cause chaos and destroy humanity.  It isn’t some epic struggle between good and evil.  No, it is usually about some human accidentally stumbling upon something they should never have seen, and the entity suddenly thinking “Oh, a human” kind of like we would think “Oh, a mosquito.”
There is also the underlying theme in Lovecraft’s work that we are not nearly as smart as we think we are, and that there are all sorts of things going on around us that we are oblivious to.  Whether it is actual ignorance of our surroundings or wilful ignorance to shut out unpleasant thoughts, there is the notion that the world we think we know is not what we think it is.  That was one of the things I wanted to examine.  In the book, Mitch is less horrified by the reality that vampires exist than by the fact that they have been able to function, in complete secret, for so many centuries.  And the more he digs, the more he sees, and the more it terrifies him.

Vampires get a lot of different treatments these days.  Comedic, romantic, dramatic, we've even seen vampires as private detectives. But you've taken the vampire story back to its roots.  A Game of Blood is horror, and your vampire is a monster.  How did you choose this portrayal of vampires?  I know that Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot was an early influence for you as a writer.  What else inspired you in your vision of the vampire Darius Hawthorne?
The novel actually started off as a short story.  I call it my “Anti-Twilight” tale.  What would a “real” vampire do with a love struck girl with a romantic interest in vampires?  I’ve often joked that the whole “vampire as love interest” thing is actually a vampire plot to make it easier to feed.  So that was part of the direction of the original short story.  When I was finished with the story, however, I realized Darius needed a bigger stage.  
What I tried to do is look at the vampire from both a folklore level and a psychological level.  People who read the book are going to recognize the vampires are close to a lot of the Eastern European lore.  Some can turn into mist form.  Some have animalistic features.  They don’t cast reflections.  In terms of their powers, they very much reflect the type of vampire more often associated with 19th century gothic literature than modern portrayals.   
But there is also the psychological aspect of vampirism.  What impact would that actually have on a person’s psyche?  One day you are human, and then next the only way to survive is to drain the blood from people?  Nobody comes out of that mentally unscathed.  And I think this is the part a lot of modern vampire authors gloss over, or outright ignore. 
Survival instincts take over. Predatory instincts emerge.  Empathy for your prey diminishes.  You can’t be friends with your food, after all.  And other vampires aren’t your friends, either.  They are competition for hunting grounds, because a territory can only support so many apex predators. 
So you start to do things to secure your territory.  You accumulate wealth and resources.  You manipulate institutions in order to mask your existence.  Darius, for all of his charm and wit and humor, is a sociopath.  He has to be in order to survive. 

So much has been written about vampires that it's a challenge to make a vampire character who is fresh and original.  How did you make Darius stand out from the literary legions of the undead?
I think what makes Darius stand out is not that he is something new on the vampire scene, but rather a very traditional vampire concept.  On the vampire family tree, he is much closer to Polidori’s Lord Ruthven than Meyers’ Edward.  One reviewer called him “The new Lestat,” but while it’s flattering to be put in the same category as Rice, I don’t think that is accurate.  Lestat at least struggled at times with his morality.  He lost that struggle more often than not, but at least he was somewhat aware that his behavior was inherently wrong.  Darius doesn’t suffer from any moral struggle.  He sees nothing wrong with his behavior. 
In fact, he considers humanity’s empathy to be out of sync with the natural world and actively rants against it.  There is a scene in the book in which Mitch confronts Darius concerning the rivalry between Darius and his sire.  At one point, Mitch tries to make Darius feel some sort of guilt for his crimes by mentioning the death of a woman he was engaged to marry when mortal.  Instead, it reinforces Darius’ position.

“You can’t even compare the two!”  Hawthorne jumped out of his seat and started pacing like a caged beast.  “This…this is the problem with this modern age!  Political correctness run amok!  All humans are not created equal!  In your attempts to value all lives equally you devalue those that actually matter!  You coddle your weak and invalid at the expense of the strong!  You throw resources at deformities that should not even have been born, while allowing the healthy to do without!  No other creature wastes so much to protect the worthless among them!”

Tell me a bit about your hero, Mitch Grogan, and how you created him.
 Mitch suffers from what can be called a case of chronic empathy.  At the beginning of the book, he’s separated from his wife, who is going through her own personal crisis after having a miscarriage and developing breast cancer.  He wants to be there to support her, but she keeps pushing him away and it is eating him up inside.  Though he’s a bit rough around the edges and curses like a sailor, he has a big heart and wants to do the right thing. 
The concept behind Mitch was that he is someone who is Darius’ polar opposite, and yet they are more alike than Mitch would ever want to admit.  Both are competitive, and that competitive nature is what drives a lot of the one-upmanship in the story.    
Both are also pragmatists.  For Darius, that simply means doing what is necessary to protect himself.  For Mitch, that means weighing the lesser of two evils and trying to mitigate the damage being done.  Mitch knows his hands are tied in a lot of ways.  He can’t challenge Darius physically.  He can’t compete against him in terms of resources.  He can’t even employ the full support of the police department without endangering his partner’s family.  And he can’t go public with information about vampires without either being branded insane or causing a panic that could lead to even more deaths.  So he is forced to play this game by vampire rules, and he is willing to do that because it is the only way to protect the most people.
What were your goals with this novel?  What impact do you want to have on your readers?
The first goal was to bring the literary vampire back to its roots and remind people why the motif has remained so alluring for so long.  Secondly, I hope readers can form a connection with the characters and feel a bond with them.  A story like this only works if the readers can care about the characters and what happens to them.  I like to think I’ve given readers characters they can care about.  Even the minor characters have their own distinct personalities and you can relate to them. 

You have a background in designing role-playing games.  How has this affected your writing?
I think what having a background in RPGs does is force you to think through your world building.  Even when you are setting stories in the real world, you are presenting your version of the world.  That means you have to make sure that all of the pieces fit together.  In RPGs, we call it game balance.  Game balance doesn’t mean all powers are created equal.  It means that no one power is so powerful that it fundamentally changes the world.  So if you think of the traditional fantasy world, you have mages that can throw fireballs from a hundred yards away.  That is a hugely powerful ability if left unchecked.  So it gets balanced out by the fact that there are usually some sort of restrictions on how many spells a mage can cast, either because they can only memorize X number of spells per day or because those spells pull from the mage’s own life force.  If you have priests that can cast resurrection on the dead, how does that impact the world?  Without something to restrict the use of the spell, death becomes a nuisance and nothing more.  So you require expensive components for the spell or say it has to be cast in a certain time period. 
So you take those thought processes and you apply them to what you are writing.  In the modern world, if vampires existed, how would they keep their existence secret?  Why would they need to?  What entities or institutions would exist to challenge them?  What powers would they need to survive?   How would those powers give them an advantage, and how does one mitigate those advantages?  What are their weaknesses?  Do those weaknesses make sense within the lore you have established for the story?  If you put everything together right, you have a world full of supernatural creatures that still feels organic and believable.