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