Author Interview – Cameron Johnson

In today’s author interview I chat with Cameron Johnson the author of the excellent Traitor God and other fantasy novels.


  • Hi Cameron Johnston tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hello, and thanks for having me. I’m a totally not-middle-aged (expecting 100+ years achieved via a combination of whisky and cybernetics) guy from Scotland who writes darker fantasy, loves archaeology, history and mythology and exploring ancient sites. I was a library kid and I guess I caught the storytelling bug from that, and it evolved from reading a whole lot to wanting to tell my own stories.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Part of it is revelling in the sheer imagination of it all, from floating castles to terrifying monsters, otherworldly places and fascinating characters landed in situations that suck you in. In a way, reading fantasy is like being an explorer of strange new worlds and as that sense of discovery is a wonderful thing.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

The Maleficent Seven will (probably) be out in August 2021, and let me tell you, writing seven (and a bit) villainous points of view is a pretty daunting prospect after writing two books with only a single point of view protagonist. In the end, I really enjoyed writing those characters and seeing them develop their own unique voices.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I like to vary characters so I don’t have a set type, other than perhaps one with a sharp tongue. One thing I do try to do write are characters that are never 100% good or 100% evil – a bad guy might be a good father or love and care for dogs for example. People are bewilderingly complex creatures. As for how much of myself I put in, probably very little – I’m thankfully much nicer than most of my characters.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Know that most authors are incredibly self-critical, and what you read has gone through several rounds of editing and rewrites. When you start out, the first draft of your first novel or short story will probably not be good, and that’s OK – many published novels started life on shaky feet. To write well you need to learn to write, and then you have to learn to edit your work so it makes sense and reads smoothly. Don’t despair at your first attempts and give up – you will learn from writing it, and then learn to edit it.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

Panic? Hot cups of tea? Perhaps the odd whisky? There are no tricks sadly, just sitting down, avoiding the internet and distractions and getting the words down. It’s easy to procrastinate with a million other things you could be doing, but you just need to resist and get to work.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

-Almost entirely a pantser. I like to know the start and the end of a story, and perhaps a few important points along the road to give it shape, but other than that the characters make their own decisions and write their own story.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

Oh, lots of plans. Too many, really. The only problem I have is what one I want to explore next. I have a few standalone fantasy novels I want to write so I will probably toss the dice to decide what one I start writing first.

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

I’ve noticed a slight preference for less grimdark fiction at the moment, turning to more popcorny adventuresome stories instead. I expect that’s trying to find an emotional balance with the relentless craptitude of 2020.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

-I’ll go with Lord of the Rings for this one. What a world! That said, I do love The Mandalorian.

Website: http://www.cameronjohnston.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CamJohnston

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cameronjohnston13


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Author Interview – PD Alleva

Joining me today is science fiction and horror author PD Alleva.


  • Hi PD Alleva tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I write primarily in the science fiction and horror genres, always mixing in a bit of fantasy, supernatural, metaphysical, thrills and chills into something I like to call alternative fiction. Honestly, the word multi-genre sounds like you’ve got marbles in your mouth so, being a child of the 90’s I prefer the term alternative fiction. I’m also a semi-retired hypnotist and behavioural therapist with a specialty treating trauma and addiction.

I’ve always been a writer. I wrote my first full-length novel in sixth grade and used to write fan fiction as far back as the memory will allow. Just the simple thought of creating a book is inspiration enough to put pen to paper and write a novel. I believe literature marks the time and I’m happy to contribute a voice to the literary community.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The ability to stretch the limits of the imagination. We can go anywhere we choose, do whatever we want. Build cathedrals in one chapter and burn them down in the next. Spiral across time or duel with a dragon or spiral across time while duelling with a dragon. I could go on and on.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

The Rose Vol. 1 has been a two-year long project that started as a short story, a prelude to a trilogy I was writing at the time titled The Indigo Trials. I was writing the short story with the purpose to introduce the superpower in the series, a superpower called ‘the rose,’ which is based on an alchemy meditation practice, although I amped up the superpower to include the ability to transform chemical structures, suspend gravity, and move objects with a thought. However, as I was writing (and having a great deal of fun doing so) it became apparent the story and the characters wanted more and refused to be put in a box as a simple short story.

The story begins after a World War 3 treaty has been signed and follows an unsuspecting American citizen, Sandy Cox, who has been living in a WW3 safety camp for the past few years. At this point in the story human beings are still unaware that aliens exist here on earth, and they are definitely unaware that their own government has conspired with these alien’s in an effort to turn the human population into easily controlled zombies in a diabolical plot to achieve planetary and interstellar domination. Sandy is one of the naïve until she is taken to an underground medical complex and discovers the existence of grey aliens and, even more sinister, a sophisticated species of what I refer to as Dracs, or, the alien vampires.

I had some very specific challenges when writing the book. First, I am a vampire fan, always have been, and introducing a new take on vampires was highly challenging. Not only did I need to satisfy fellow vampire lovers, I had to break open and pen an entirely different although familiar lore behind the Dracs. In addition to this challenge was the alien lore, theories, and conspiracies that I wanted to include in the story, most specifically the lore and mythology behind the Dracs and greys. Any ancient alien theorist will be able to pick up on the multiple theories presented in the story including concepts such as the 12th planet, hollow earth, and Robert Morningstar papers. So, the challenge was two fold, satisfy the vampire and alien lovers while remaining loyal to genre, mythology, and lore, and I tackled this challenge by presenting the dystopian science fiction story through the eyes of the casual observer discovering all the chaos and mayhem that exists behind the scenes. So, just as the unsuspecting heroine Sandy Cox is discovering all these alien vampires the reader is discovering them with her. I hope the end product is not only satisfactory on the intellectual and creative level, but also on the ‘just plain old fun,’ level.

The Rose Vol. 1 was published on October 7th and is currently available worldwide at all major retail stores.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I enjoy writing villains. There’s just something extraordinary about piecing together an iconic villain, delving into the dark mind and hearts of the truly depraved, insane, and chaotic. Yeah, I like my villains.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Write a good book. Great editing is a must and don’t forget that great stories are a collaboration so find an editor that challenges your writing style and remember its nothing personal, its just business. Write to market, and find what works best for you for marketing.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I rarely work under a deadline, as I don’t agree with pushing the creative process, usually things get lost in the shuffle and when you’re writing stories that require so much detail, lore, and backstory across multiple point of view I just need it to flow the right way and not concern myself with deadlines. Case in point is the horror thriller I’m currently writing, Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect, which I’ve been writing for the past seven months and it’s close to 140,000 words that was originally going to be a novella (guess Jigglyspot refused to be a short blip on my radar). When I’m knee deep in a project it takes up my full attention, thankfully I’m not on any deadlines. I enjoy going with the flow and putting out a stellar product over meeting deadlines.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

Pantser mostly, although I do send myself little emails with thoughts on plot changes and character development.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I also write horror novels. I have a horror and dark fiction series titled Beyond the Chamber Door. The first two books are already published (Twisted Tales of Deceit, and Presenting the Marriage of Kelli Anne & Gerri Denemer), with two more in the pipeline (Golem and Jigglyspot and the Zero Intellect). I’m also about to start writing Vol. 2 for The Rose followed by completing the next part of The Rose series (The Indigo Trials trilogy). From there, two more horror novels followed by the third connected series in The Rose, an apocalyptic time travel series titled Winter.

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

A darker approach as always. Every novel I’ve written has dark elements to it, kind of the yin and yang of the universe all wrapped into a neat little package. Plus there’s the whole reality that more often than not bad people win more often, I like to reflect this reality because its not always rainbows and sunshine that life has to throw at us.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

The original Star Wars, anything after that is up for debate.

Author Links:

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Website:  www.pdalleva.com

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Author Interview – Poppy Kuroki

Joining me around the campfire today is indie fantasy author Poppy Kuroki who has travelled all the way from the land of the rising sun, Japan!


  • Hi Poppy, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I’m a ghostwriter and editor living in Japan. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and a lot of my inspirations have come from music and video games, as well as real-life feelings and tragedies.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

It’s limitless! I’m always amazed with the fantastic original worlds people can build from the genre. I write quite low fantasy, but I read a lot of high fantasy with magic systems and worlds so vastly different from ours.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

My latest fantasy is Oath: A Black Diamond novel. I wrote it a year or two ago and sat on it for ages, wondering if it was good enough. It’s coming out on November 1st and has had some great reviews so far! I was going through a rough time when I wrote it and a lot of that is reflected in Colette’s story.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I love characters who go through some kind of life-altering experience and grow with the bad things that have happened to them. I mostly write female characters as I can identify with them more.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

About writing, I’d say that there’s always room for improvement. Read a lot, especially in your genre, and be open to criticism. Study what makes good writing and identify and weed out your bad habits. For publishing, take up free courses and ebooks (there are tons of them out there) and watch out for scams; unfortunately there are many of those out there, too.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I set a word count goal for myself when writing the first draft. 1,000 words today, and it’s OK if they aren’t good, just get 1,000 words down! If I don’t feel motivated, I start with a goal of 200, then 500, and that’s usually enough to get me into it.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

Definitely a plotter. If I start writing without any idea of where it’s going, I won’t finish it. I had a lot of partly finished projects when I was younger before I learned that lesson. I respect pantsers though, if you can end up with a finished project without knowing where it was going to go, more power to you.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I’m currently writing a series of origin stories for the characters in Oath and how they became assassins. I’m also working on a steampunk novel. It’s my first time writing in this genre so it’s exciting!

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

I’ve always loved dark or sad stories. If a book can make me cry, it’s an instant winner. I can enjoy happy tales too – I love Disney films just as much as anyone – but sad stories with deep, dark themes resonate the most.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Lord of the Rings! Where would we be without it?

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/greatbookswithpoppygroup
Twitter: twitter.com/poppyinjapan
Instagram: instagram.com/poppyinjapanofficial/
Website: https://poppyinjapan.com

Poppy’s new book A Bard’s Lament is out now!


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Author Interview – Cassie Crow

Joining me around the campfire today is YA fantasy author Cassie Crow. Settle in and enjoy!


  • Hi Cas tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

    Hi. I am the author of The Wayward Haunt, the first novel in The Wayward Series, a YA dark fantasy which was released in June 2020. Since I was very young, I’ve been drawn to stories involving the supernatural. I would spend my lunch times at school creating scary stories for my friends to listen to. Barbie and my dolls would often end up some terrible, haunted, fantasy setting of some kind. I think what inspired me to write was that for a very long time, I couldn’t. I really struggled as a kid to read and write. I hated it. Eventually I was privately tutored by a teacher named Mrs Swann who recognised my love for storytelling. She taught me to see that reading and writing weren’t any different. With her guidance, I caught up to my peers in class. I think I chose to become a writer because I needed to prove that I could do it. Now I write because I love to be creative.
  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

    I love to read and write fantasy because it takes me into another world where anything can be possible. Fantasy is always growing and evolving. Every author brings something new to the genre, which keeps the stories entertaining and interesting. You never know exactly what you are going to get when you read fantasy, because rules are unbound by reality. The author’s imagination can be limitless. I write dark fantasy because I’ve always enjoyed chilling, ominous stories. The Wayward Series is set in a war-torn, dystopian world where magic is prevalent and ghosts exist, but the themes and events are very similar to what has occurred throughout our own history. I think fantasy allows authors to write about what is happening in our own world, by exploring it through fantasy.
  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? (include release date etc here)

    My current project is the second instalment in The Wayward Series and is the sequel to The Wayward Haunt, titled The Four Revenants. It picks up directly where The Wayward Haunt finishes. I am halfway through the first draft, which I hope to have completed by April 2021, with the novel released early 2022 (fingers crossed). Just like the first book, it has come with its challenges. Time being the biggest. I feel like there are never enough hours in the day to complete everything I wish I could do with my writing. I work part time, have to organise marketing for the first book, and write a second novel. Sometimes it’s exhausting and I have to remind myself that I’m human and need to take a break. Sometimes it’s great fun and I enjoy every moment. Funny enough, that happens after I’ve taken a break.

    The second biggest obstacle is the fantasy-world building in my story. There is so much history and detail in the world that I’ve created, that it could easily become overly complicated. My biggest fear is that the reader won’t be able to follow it. How do I overcome that? Honestly, I ignore it as I write, even though its nagging away at me. I focus on getting the story completed. After a few weeks, I’ll return to the story and read it. If the world doesn’t make sense to me, I know there’s a huge problem. I’ll need to edit and rewrite. Once it makes sense to me and I think it’s ready, I wait to see what the beta readers say. Again, if it’s too complicated, it goes through another rewrite.

    I think the best thing about writing the second novel is that I learnt so much from the first book, that the challenges are less daunting. They’re still there, but now their easier to manage.
  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?


I enjoy writing all sorts of character types. The easiest characters to create are the ones that are similar to me, or have traits I wish I had. I like to explore both the positive and negative qualities in a character. My main character in The Wayward Series, Zaya Wayward, is strong, confident, and assertive, but she’s also impulsive, judgemental, and has trust issues. I have worked hard to make sure Zaya is always driving the story. Sometimes she makes the right decision. Sometimes she makes bad ones. Just like in real life, her mood dictates what she does. I also enjoy creating villains because… well, what writer doesn’t love creating a superbad guy… or girl. You can be entirely evil and get away with it. It’s great fun. But I do try to make sure my villains aren’t two dimensional. They have a backstory. They have a motive they believe is right, no matter what the cost or sacrifice. Even in a fantasy world, the emotions and thoughts of a character need to be real and relatable. That’s the part I love developing.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

    As a writer, I think the most useful thing I’ve learned is to manage time and be realistic with what I can accomplish. Writing is hard. It took me years to learn, and I’m still learning. I am a perfectionist (something I’m teaching myself not to be), and often I’d get frustrated at how little time I had to write. When I finally did have time to write my stories at the end of the day, I was too exhausted. My writing just didn’t flow. I had to learn time management and be realistic with what I could write in that allocated time. Everyone has commitments—family, work, relationships, sport, etc. For wannabe writers out there, I suggest finding a realistic schedule that works for you. Don’t tell yourself you are going to write for five hours a day if you know that in reality it’s impossible. If you can only write an hour a day, do it. If you can spare two hours on a Saturday afternoon, do it. Writing should be fun and enjoyable, not a chore. You will learn and accomplish far more when you are in the right frame of mind.
  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

    I set daily, weekly and monthly goals with my writing. I write and write and don’t care about editing. I just get the story into the computer. The editing comes later. I take a break when I need to, because if I don’t, I will drain myself and achieve nothing. I exercise. Ideas often drift into my head when I’m out on a jog. I take a notebook with me wherever I go. Inspiration can strike at the unlikeliest of places. Some of the dialogue in The Wayward Haunt is directly from conversations I have heard among friends and colleagues. I am realistic with what I can achieve in a day, or an hour.
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I am definitely a plotter. Everything in my stories, beginning, middle, end, scenes, chapters, are plotted out and written down. I find that this helps me to keep focus and to meet deadlines. I know exactly where I’m going with the story. Sometimes, unexpected ideas jump in my head as I write. Strangely enough, they work for the scene or chapter that I’m writing. They are always nice surprises when they occur. So yes, I am a plotter, but I do not object to new ideas coming along halfway through my stories. It keeps things interesting.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

    The Wayward Series will be a set of four books, so book three and four are in the pipeline to be written and published. I have many ideas in my head for other novels that I haven’t given attention to at this stage, because my focus is on The Wayward Series, but eventually I will delve into those other stories. I want to write a cozy murder mystery, something along the lines of Agatha Christie. Knowing me, it will have an element of horror in it.
  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

    I enjoy both. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something a little darker, scarier, and tragic. Other times I want a happy feel good story, or a story where the hero faces dangerous obstacles, but ultimately triumphs. Life throws unexpected situations at us all the time. I like stories to do the same.
  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?


To watch, precisely in that order—Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. To read, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings. I read Lord of the Rings when I was fourteen. It’s a wonderful story. Tolkien is amazing. But honestly, I don’t have the time or the strong mental energy it would require to read it again.

Author Website: www.casecrowe.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/casecroweauthor/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/casecroweauthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20457182.Cas_E_Crowe


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Author Interview – Aaron Hodges

The campfire crackles in the cold night and a shivering figure emerges from the forest. It’s Aaron Hodges, the epic fantasy author from New Zealand. Unlike his homeland that is now enjoying the fruits of spring, the camp is in the grip of winter. We pull up a stool next to the fire and chat.


  • Hi Aaron tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Well I’m a fantasy author from New Zealand and I have to say I’ve always been inspired to write. I think in a similar way I love to read fantasy, writing gives me ability to go off into my own world for a while. I really love having that ability to escape real life for a bit—and especially when I get to share it with others!

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I think that it can both give us an escape from real life, but also that it often mirrors the same struggles we have in the real world, albeit in a simpler way.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

Well my latest project is a series set in a fallen world, where humanity is at war with the inhuman Tangata, creatures with superhuman strength and speed, which are determined to destroy humanity. I’ve just about finished off the third book, Age of Gods, which is due to be published on the 8th November. In this book, the two main characters are completely separated, and their individual plots and discoveries about the past are both quite complicated. That’s made it really difficult to keep everything in line in my head, and I just hope I’ve managed to write it so that I bring the reader along!

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I love characters that are able to rise above their circumstances. I often have characters based in normal settings, without any particular special ability or skill, but who are determined to lift themselves up, to face the challenges of the enemy and save the world. I’m not sure how much of that they get from me though 😉

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

The value of time management. I really force myself to have fixed times that I go and write and work on my advertising etc. I’ve found without that strict schedule, I don’t get half as much done, and would never be able to keep on track with my releases! Equally, making sure I give myself time off is important too—something I got out of the habit of doing during the pandemic, since I got bored without my work!

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I know about how much time each phase/edit of my work takes, so I pencil in a release date when I first start a project—usually about 3 months from when I start. Then I just use the time management I used above to make sure I am working on it and keeping to schedule!

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

A bit of each, I generally write a general plot outline, then pants the bits in between as I go!

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I am considering dipping more into the scifi genre soon, after reading Skyward by Brandon Sanderson and really enjoying it (before I really had no interest in space ships!). I’m still brewing the story in my mind, but it would be based on a planet where humanity is enslaved by a technologically superior race of aliens!

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

Gotta enjoy the good triumphs over evil, but not without sacrifice. Nothing good in this world comes easy.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Harry potter!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/fantastic.adventures

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14713614.Aaron_Hodges

author@aaronhodges.co.nz

Latest series: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08653PM1L/

            (Book three is out now!)

Thanks for taking part!


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Author Interview – Chris Lodwig

Today I’m joined at the campfire by sci-fi author Chris Lodwig.

  • Hi Chris tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Well, I live in Seattle with my wife, daughter, and a pile of pets.

I have spent the last twenty-three years working for technology companies around Seattle. I coach soccer and fly fish in my spare time—when I’m not writing, of course.

I have degrees in both Comparative History of Ideas and Communications from the University of Washington in the United States.

As far as what inspires me to write, I love it when I have an image, or situation, or idea in my mind that I want to explain, and I have to struggle at it. I might try twenty different ways to get at the idea, and then, when I get it right, I go, “ah, that’s what I wanted to say.” I get this little shot of dopamine or oxytocin. It’s a bit addictive. And then, when I’m done and someone else reads it, and they get what I’m saying or see what I’m showing them, it’s the closest thing to telepathy I can imagine this side of the technologies I write about in my stories.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

I read a fair amount of fantasy, but I don’t currently write it. I think that I like fantasy for the same reasons I like sci-fi. You’re allowed to bend the rules and write about the impossible and that allows you to stretch the boundaries of experience. Which gives you more room to speculate about what it means to be a human. What would you do if you could be all-powerful, or omniscient, or could have all your problems solved for you? What would you be willing to give up? What would that mean? I love those sorts of questions.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together? (include release date etc here)

In June I released my debut sci-fi novel, Systemic.

It sits somewhere between a eutopia and dystopia depending on who you ask. It takes place several generations in the future. We’ve created a massive AI and for years, it’s been solving all of society’s problems. Of course, now the issue becomes, what happens to us when we don’t have any problems left to solve?

The story itself focuses on three strangers who are each making a pilgrimage to a small town in the middle of the Sagelands called Prower. Maik is hoping to find the woman he loves, Eryn wants to return to her childhood home, and Lem is out for revenge against the AI hosted in the town’s data center.

Without giving too much away, no one knows the real reasons they’re headed to Prower, but it has something to do with solving the problem of us not having any more problems.

Writing Systemic was actually quite easy. It all just sort of fell out of by brain. I feel more like I watched myself write it. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a ton of work, it certainly was. It took me about three years working in every spare moment to get it all down and edit it. I think I had four major editing passes, plus all my beta reader feedback, etc. But it wasn’t difficult or challenging. And that’s not normal for me. I just finished a thirteen-page short story, that I swear was harder to write than my 500+ page novel.

For me the most difficult thing has been promotion and sales. That’s a whole art and skill in and of itself and I’m not particularly good at it.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I like to write characters who are different from me. I like to put myself in their shoes and figure out why they do the things that they do. Writing for me is about discovery, and I know myself pretty well, so puzzling together other people’s reality is just more fun and interesting. 

As far as how I do that, I guess that requires me to put something of myself into them. So, for example, I might say, “This guy needs to do this really horrible/funny/selfish/dangerous thing. What would need to be true for me to do that thing?” So, I guess the thing I put in them is my assumptions about how I would come to that decision. In order for me to be a back-stabbing mob boss, I would need to have had a childhood that was so threatening to me that I would have needed to develop a me-verses-the-world mentality to survive.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

We’re all wannabe writers, or artists, or musicians, or fishermen, or gardeners.  The only difference is doing. 

So, if you want to be a writer, write.

I think the hardest thing about writing, aside from just making the time to do it, is writer’s block. I think writer’s block comes from a desire to write something amazing, but then the thing that falls out of our brains is just some quivering pink embryo of an idea and we’re a bit too grossed out or ashamed to commit it to paper. But writing is a lot like sculpting. You need to have a block of words so that you have something to carve away. Let yourself write crap, just make sure to write a lot of it. No one needs to see anything you’ve written until you decide to show them.

I used to play in bands. It was a lot of fun. I play guitar pretty well, but I used to play thirteen other instruments poorly. But I was the guy up on stage doing it and that technically made me a trumpet/accordion/euphonium/musical saw etc. player. There were a hundred people in the audience who were probably better than me, but I was the one having a great time.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I simply force myself to write every single day. If I have writer’s block I write anyway. Which basically means I don’t let myself get writer’s block. And if I’m having a particularly bad day, I edit. Luckily, I enjoy editing almost as much as I enjoy writing.

One thing I have found that is particularly useful to me, is that I write many different ways using lots of different tools. So, one day I might be writing by hand, another dictating, then writing on my phone. I find each of these tools and techniques produces different sorts of work. If I’m experiencing friction with one, I switch to the other. I wrote around 70% of the first draft of Systemic on the bus on my phone with my thumbs. I have a blog post about it. https://chrislodwigauthor.com/2020/08/08/different-tools-for-different-jobs/

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

While writing Systemic, I was definitely a pantser. The whole book just spilled out of me. I hadn’t written in so long that, I was driven more by my own curiosity about what I was writing than any idea that it was going to be a book. There is a major twist about two thirds the way through the book. Readers always tell me how surprising it was. Part of the reason it’s so shocking is because I didn’t know it was going to happen until about a paragraph before it did.

Now that I know the broader arc that Systemic fits into, I’ve become much more of a plotter. I worry sometimes that the much more ridged structure of the sequel will make it less organic. But I also think it will give the whole thing better bones to start with and might make the editing process much quicker. But who knows? I’m still learning, and I have to try new things. I’ll let you know how it all turns out when I’m done.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I’m about 300 pages into the sequel to Systemic. There are three main story lines, the first of which picks up Lem and Eryn’s story where Systemic left off. The other arcs deal with an outcast girl finding her purpose, and a band of professors, who have turned the Systemic writings into a psudo-religion and travel around like itinerant preachers teaching it to the masses. I’m starting to suspect it might actually be two books. So, it might be more accurate to say I’m 150 pages into the second and third books of the trilogy. I’ll have to see.

I’m currently finishing up a short story that has to do with transferring emotion and empathy to other people via a social network. It overlaps pretty heavily with the Systemic universe. It just came back from the editor and I need to start shopping it around.

A few months ago, I woke up with this paragraph in my head, and it keeps picking at my attention:

There is a long-standing debate about which of the world’s cities is the most magical. Some say Paris with its bright late nights and palpable romance, or London with its mists and fogs and blind alleys. Prague—which was never destroyed in the war—must be powerfully protected. Then there are Athens and Cairo whose labyrinthine streets have existed since humans began coming together to make their magic…

Maybe I have a fantasy story bouncing around in me. That would surprise and delight me.

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

That’s tough. Thinking about the books I’ve read lately, it’s hard to tell from the evidence which I prefer.

I recently re-read 1984, and really loved it. Not just because it’s poignant social commentary, but I was also surprised to discover how excellent the writing was. I know that shouldn’t surprise me, it is a classic after all. But being forced to read it in high school, you don’t really appreciate it.  The one thing I came away after reading 1984 was that everyone is scared that book is our future, and I guarantee that both sides think the other one is who Mr. Orwell was warning us about.

I just read Neil Stephenson’s “Fall”, which had some really fun ideas about simulated reality, and some very dark social commentary.

But I’m also reading, “The Girl Who Drank The Moon,” which is charming and light—though with a few dark streaks. I can’t get enough of that book.  And “The Crane Wife” which is lovely and magical, but with threads of sorrow coursing through it.

The one book I am actively advising people against reading is “The Handmaid’s Tale.” That’s just asking for trouble and despair.

What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

This is not me punting, I promise. I really do feel this way. None of them are better. It’s like arguing over which color is best. Well, if I’m painting a rose, I’d say “red”, if it’s a sky we’re talking about I’d say “blue”.

So across which dimension of story are we talking about here? They are each nearly perfect platonic ideals of the mythical hero’s journey. But they all have such different qualities. 

Harry Potter feels like a well-told kid’s story, it’s clever and cute, but the magic feels a bit predictable. There are wands, and pseudo-Latin spells, and crystal balls and the like.  Which I get is part of the fun of the whole thing—the idea that all of those are real and are as common as protractors and #2 pencils for wizards. I imagine J.K. Rowling sitting upright in bed one morning as saying, “Get me a pen, I’ve had a great idea!”

Star Wars is a brilliant mash up of swashbuckling pirates, samurai movies, eastern mysticism, and sci-fi. So, it might win for genius if you measure genius by the ability to connect disparate things into a cohesive whole, which is one of my favourite definitions.

But if I had to choose, I would probably pick “Lord of the Rings” simply because it feels inevitable. Like it’s a true history scratched into a rock in some cave somewhere which was uncovered by archaeologists and translated from the dwarvish. That certainly comes from the fact that Tolkien put so much into the world and the depth of its history and mythology.

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Author Interview – Eric Shapiro

The woods can be a spooky place at night with the shadows of the trees eliciting horror if you allow your imagination to run riot. Tonight I am joined at the campfire by Horror fantasy author Eric Shapiro.


  • Hi Eric tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hey, Matthew. I’m the author of a bunch of dark fiction and screenplays and the co-owner of a Silicon Valley newspaper called The Milpitas Beat. As a kid, my mom inspired me to write by instituting a no-boredom policy in the home. If I said I was bored, she’d tell me (lovingly) to write a story. As an adult, I stay inspired by dreaming up characters whose minds I find fascinating and want to explore.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

You know, I think I was thrown at you by my publicist Michael Evan (laughs) even though I don’t specialize in fantasy! The good news is, I have some fantasy stories kicking around in my mind. I also tend to see horror as surrealism, which you could argue is a subdivision of fantasy. Anything psychotropic that challenges the banality of consensus reality is worth looking at. It keeps our minds expanded and healthy.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

My latest fiction release is called RED DENNIS. It came out this past March from Independent Legions Publishing, just as the pandemic was starting. It was a challenge in the sense that it was my first proper novel, after having written 5 novellas. This book was almost the length equivalent of 3 novellas. So the challenges were keeping it tight and propulsive, and also staying in one narrator’s mind for that long, particularly since he’s a very troubled person. I started thinking I was him at times. So how’s that for being into fantasy? (laughs)

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I’m almost exclusively drawn to protagonists who are neurotic or psychotic. There’s a ton of me in them. They’re not me, but they’re strong aspects of myself, either latent-shadow elements or more overt representations where it’s just me under different circumstances. The protagonists in my novellas IT’S ONLY TEMPORARY, THE DEVOTED, and LOVE & ZOMBIES sound almost exactly like me, but they’re all individuated – from me and from each other. There are subtle yet huge differences; it’s like I’m an actor playing different roles. The protagonist in RED DENNIS doesn’t quite sound like me, but he’s one door down; he lives in an area I feel awkward and alarmed about. Again, it’s like I’m an actor and each time I draw a protagonist, I’m pulling different points of emphasis but using my own available human materials.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

The more you practice, the more spontaneous and automatic it becomes. This can be helpful from a productivity and inner-access standpoint (as in having access to yourself and your emotions), but it can be hurtful in terms of finding passion to start something new that’s really special. Once you’re used to the medium and confident in your ability to put out professional work, the bar for what gets you excited gets much higher. So I’ve learned that there’s no replacing ass-plus-seat experience, but as you accumulate it, you might lose a little excitement or edge about the work and have to rediscover or rekindle it.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I wrote a whole book about this, also out in 2020, called ASS PLUS SEAT. It’s 21 tips for inspiring writers to finish their books and screenplays. The title states the main ethic: You have to sit down and do it. Start writing and then the muse arrives. She’s not capable of making you begin.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

A little bit of both, with a strong lean toward pantser. I plot insofar as I have a clear scenario in which to operate, then pants my way through it and usually end up surprised by where it goes.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I’d love to do a book series; that’s one of my goals. A trilogy or a saga that expands beyond three stories. I’ve yet to settle on a world or scenario, but I’ll know it when I have it. The whole idea’s set to a simmer for now. 

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

Anything that’s frank or candid goes down well, at all times. As long as it’s not lying to me, I think it’s part of the solution.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Star Wars all the way! I just last night watched A NEW HOPE with my kids for the first time. They loved it. There’s three trilogies, of course: the original, the prequels, and the Disney ones, and major peaks and valleys in terms of motivation and quality, but at its best that’s a ridiculously exciting and inspiring world.

Check out Eric via the links below-

https://www.amazon.com/Eric-Shapiro/e/B007167ZP4%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

https://www.facebook.com/eric.shapiro.3386


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Author Interview – James Reid

Today I am joined at the campfire by dark fantasy author James Reid and his magnificent beard. We chuck another on the flames and settle in for a chat about all things books.


  • Hi JMD Reid tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I am a fan of fantasy books. I always loved the works of Tolkein, Eddings, Jordan, Brooks, Weis & Hickman, and more when I was a teenager. I wanted to tell my own stories set in fantastical worlds of my own!

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The creative worlds, creatures, and powers that are impossible in the real world. It lets your imagination be its most free.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

My latest series is Secret of the Jewels, a five-book dark fantasy series that starts with Diamond Stained. It follows Obhin and Avena, two souls weighed down by their guilts and regrets.
Obhin, a palace guard who has fallen after making a tragic mistake, is now a bandit at the nadir of his life. He doesn’t care about much any longer. About the pain he causes others. But when his only friend is mortally injured, he’s spurred to save his life. Joined by Avena, a young woman the bandits have captured, they fight to keep him alive despite the objections of the bandit leader.
This act gives Obhin a chance for redemption. A new beginning, but can he find that new beginning in a city full of crime and corruption where a dark necromancer, a crime syndicate, and political unrest threatens to plunge the city into madness.

And can Avena trust this dark stranger in protecting the most important person in her life: her teacher and famed healer.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I like to write characters with flaws and help them overcome them. Probably because I’m such a flawed person and it’s nice to know that people can be heroic and overcome their weaknesses.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

You need to write, write, write. I could be crap. I could be garbage. It could be nonsense. But you need to get in the habit of writing and develop your mental muscles. You can’t get better if you don’t write, write, write. If you can’t find an hour every day to write, is it really something you want to do? Something you are passionate about? This discipline can be hard to achieve, but if you can get it, you’ll start to find you finish stories and make progress.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

I write everyday. I have a schedule I follow. This is my job, and I treat it. Wake up and go to my writer’s den.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I am a hybrid. I started off more of a pantser, but now I do very loose outlines of major events then write more detailed scene outlines for a few chapters at a time. I write them and that way I can evaluate how the characters reacted and what they should do next. So there is room for my loose outline to change and grow while my scene outlines generally don’t’ change much.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I am editing What Mask Hides, which is a sidequel to Secret of the Jewels. It takes place in the same time period of Secret of the Jewels and they have some connection, but each are standalone stories. It’s about a noblewoman who becomes a thief to find meaning in her empty life. Then I’m writing No One’s Tale which serves as a sequel of sorts to both series. It follows villain characters from both series as they search for new place in the world after seeing what their actions caused. One is a shapeshifter called No One who also needs to figure out who he is. In addition, I’m writing a fantasy quest series called Shadow of the Dragons. About a young boy trying to protect his childhood friend after she’s possessed by a dragon and a dark organization needs her for their nefarious goals.

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

I like my characters to triumph but to have difficult journeys.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Lord of the Rings. Star Wars had three awesome movies, but Disney is running it into the ground with their current soulless stories. Harry Potter is great, but J.K. Rowling should stop writing these Fantastic Beast movies. She somehow ruined the concept of a fun movie about a guy going around with magical beasts into this crazy, over the top mess.

Follow James via

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

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/61bSz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JMDReid

Website: http://JMD-Reid.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/J.M.D.-Reid/e/B00P44PBQK/

Diamond Stained Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085X3PHYB


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Author Interview – Nikki Nelson-Hicks

Writing by the flickering flames of the campfire I see all sorts of shapes and tales cast by the light. Adventures and heroes, villains and horror. A twig snaps in the woods nearby and I look up to see my latest guest. Author Nikki Nelson-Hicks.


  • Hi Nikki tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

Hi! I’m Nikki Nelson-Hicks and I think my interest in writing started because I am a reader. My childhood was chaotic and I found solace in stories. That is still where I find peace and the place I flee to when I need some guidance and a cosmic head rub.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

The world building. Creating entire civilizations, races, religions, universes, all from the static medium of ink on paper. Think about that. It’s magic.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

This past year I’ve been putting together all the stories from the Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective series into an Omnibus. My first intention was to put them all into one volume but, yikes….it turns out the first one was 300 pages long. I had to split it into two volumes.

The first volume is already out on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. The second one, will be out hopefully in November.

The biggest obstacles I faced while writing…well, I should say re-writing, reformatting and re-editing, these stories was coming the grips that, although they were originally published by another small press company and did pretty well….they weren’t very good. Oh my. Especially that first story. Yikes. What a mess. I’ve grown as a writer and I was able to go back, make corrections, add some meat to a very decrepit skeleton and make the series not only flow better but more enjoyable for the reader.

Oh, and 2020. That pretty much got in everyone’s way.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I love to write heroes that take on the bad guys and fix wrong and make everything right. It’s the Fury in me. I put a lot of my hopes and dreams into my characters. I wish I were as strong as they are.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

I have a poster on my wall above my desk that reads:  QUIT YOUR COMPLAINING. IT’S NOT THE WORLD’S FAULT THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER. IT’S NOT THE WORLD’S JOB TO ENJOY THE STORIES YOU WRITE AND IT’S CERTAINLY NOT THE WORLD’S OBLIGATION TO PAY FOR YOUR DREAMS. NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR IT. STEAL A PEN IF YOU HAVE TO BUT STOP WHINING AND GET BACK TO WORK.

Oh, and get a chair with good lumbar support.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

When I have a deadline, everything else in my life gets put on hold. The house turns into a pigsty. Meals are whatever you can put together in a pantry. Showers are on a need-to basis. My family learns to deal with life all on their own. Momma’s got work to do.

If I’m not a deadline, I force myself to work at least two hours a day on a story. Hey, I have a day job, a family, 5 cats and 2 dogs to take care of. Two hours is a lot to carve out of my day.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

I’m a hybrid. I loosely plot. I need to know the Beginning and The End. The middle bit can be a bit more muddy but I can make my through it as long as I know The End.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

I write in all sorts of genres; I don’t like to get pinned down inside one box. (Although I’ve never tried Romance. I’m not sure I have the stomach for it.)

When I finally put the Jake series to bed, I have two stories I want to work on.

 One is called “Crown of Feathers”. It is based on the Appalachian legend that a crown of feathers can be found underneath the pillow of a dying person. If you find it, it means they are going to heaven There are actual examples of them in an Appalachian Folklore Museum in East Tennessee. In my story, set in the turn of the 19th century, a boy steals the Crown of Feathers from beneath his dying mother’s pillow so that Death won’t be able to take her away. Shenanigans ensue.

The other is a modern day thriller called “Hand Me Down”. Short and sweet, it is about a woman whose dark deeds from her past bleed into her present and threaten to destroy everything. There’s lots of murder in it. It’s gonna be fun.

  • With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

I want my heroes to win. I want the bad guys to get what they deserve. It is bourgeois but I don’t care. If I wanted stark, dystopic reality, I’d watch a freaking history channel. Fiction helps me see a world the way it SHOULD BE and, maybe, it can teach us how to create a better one. If something can be imagined, it can be created.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Did you know that an interview question posited by the FBI is: Would you rather be a serial killer or a terrorist?  It’s a way to tell if a person is an individualist (serial killer) or team player (terrorist).

I feel the same way if a person asks if I like Star Wars or Star Trek? It’s a way to tell if a person is a team player/bureaucrat (Star Trek) or if a person is more of a rebellious streak (Star Wars).

Confession time: I have never read Lord of the Rings.  I have what I call a Tolkien Block. When I was a teenager, a group of girls started up a coven and wouldn’t allow me to join their group because I “wasn’t their type” because I didn’t read Tolkien. Ever since then, I can’t stomach it.  I didn’t even like the movies. I got bored. I mean….don’t even get me started on those damn eagles. WHY DIDN’T THEY JUST USE THE EAGLES??!?!

So, we’re down to Harry Potter or Star Wars.

Huh.

Harry Potter is fun but if you really stop and start to think about the idea of a Wizarding World that, for some stupid reason, lives in a Dickensian dystopia and doesn’t use their obviously laws of physics bending powers to aid the world at large, it starts to fall apart. Seriously. Quills over a ballpoint pen? Owl mail over Email?

Star Wars has a very warm, fuzzy spot in my heart because I was there at the beginning, sitting in the theater, 1977, when that Imperial Cruiser pulled out overhead.  My heart still races when I think of the opening overture.

Yeah. I gotta go with Star Wars (despite the terrible prequels and then even sadder sequels). At least we have The Mandalorian. #itistheway

My blog is:  https://nikkinelsonhicks.blog/

My Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/nikkinelsonhicks


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Author Interview – John B. Rosenman

The flames crackle and the light flickers as the campfire finds new vitality from the fresh kindling I’ve thrown onto the fire. The night is cold but that doesn’t stop another author making their way to warmth of the flames. Tonight I am joined by prolific sci-fi and fantasy author John B. Rosenman.


  • Hi John tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

 Hi. I’m John B. Rosenman, and I’m a retired English professor who writes speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, paranormal (and one young adult). I’ve published a couple dozen books as well as two hundred and fifty stories in places such as Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Fangoria, Galaxy, Endless Apocalypse, The Age of Wonders, and the Hot Blood erotic horror series. My novels include action-adventure scifi novels such as Beyond Those Distant Stars, Speaker of the Shakk, A Senseless Act of BeautyAlien Dreams, and the Inspector of the Cross series (Crossroad Press). I’ve also published a four-book box set, The Amazing Worlds of John B. Rosenman  (MuseItUp Publishing). Recently I completed a science-fiction novel Dreamfarer which is the first in a new series.

I love ideas and story concepts. In fact, I always have.  When I was a small child I would say to my father, “Tell me a story.” His stories by my bed at night planted the seed. I like to create alien worlds, fascinating characters, and prose and something poetry that is as good as I can make it. I also like to revise, though sometimes it’s a struggle.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

Fantasy makes the invisible visible. There are other worlds, other realms, other universes with beings as wild and as beautiful as I can make them. So-called objective reality is not the only reality. I recall a line from a movie that said you can live in the Imagination. That’s the most beautiful nation of all.  My favorite title for a science fiction / fantasy magazine was If. If you can imagine it, in some way it must be true and exist somewhere.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

Crash is due out in mid to late November. It’s the sixth novel in my Inspector of the Cross scifi / adventure series and reflects a new approach to the adventures of my hero because the alien enemy, the Cen are no longer involved. Also, Turtan loses his memory and no longer knows who he is. Oh, he faces all sorts of challenges, and I had to reimagine the whole series. Plus, I faced other challenges because circumstances required me to pack up the whole series and move it to a new publisher, Crossroad Press.

At the same time, I resurrected a novel I wrote nearly forty years ago. Dreamfarer is about a world where machines give people dreams that are so much more beautiful, exciting, and fulfilling than real life.  At the age of thirty-two, you can have yourself “interfaced” and dream the rest of your life away. What could go wrong? What’s wrong with that? Dreamfarer will be published by Crossroad Press, but I don’t have a date yet. I’m also at work on a sequel, Go East, Young Man. Like Dreamfarer it focuses on the adventures of Sam Adams, a man who had the misfortune to wake up forever from his wonderful dreams and who is determined to destroy the dream industry because of its terrible impact on humanity.

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

I’m addicted to noble, tormented heroes who battle evil and sinister forces. Sometimes they’re Christ-like in nature as in my Inspector of the Cross series, and occasionally they have godlike powers of healing as with Dax Rigby in Dax Rigby, War Correspondent. I put a great deal of myself in them, particularly my desire to be like them. In my mainstream, coming-of-age novel, Johnny Roth embodies two traits I yearn to have. They are to be a great boxer AND a great artist.

Sometimes I try to see things from girls’ or women’s POV. Sky in Skyburst is a fifteen-year-old girl dying of cancer. What must it be like to be a young girl faced with such a problem? Ah, but as with others of my heroes, she has great, even transcendent abilities. Stella in Beyond Those Distant Stars is turned into a cyborg after she has a radioactive accident. Like Sky she’s tormented and apparently doomed, yet she manages to find love and fight against an alien enemy that seems invincible.

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

Above all, never give up or let yourself be defeated by rejection and negative thoughts. If you’re a writer, you will be strong and forge on.

Beyond that — Read, read, read; write, write, write; revise, revise, revise. If possible, join a good writers’ group where expert criticism and critiques are supplied on a regular basis. Analyze everything. If a work of creative fiction astonishes you, try to identify some of the elements that make it work. Read critical articles discussing them and take a course or two in creative writing.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

If I have a deadline, I will make it because I want to be published. I guess you could say my desire is my writing trick. If there’s a deadline for submitting a short story, and I have a good idea or like the subject, well, then, I will get my story or stories in on time. The same goes for a situation in which a publisher indicates that a certain date is the deadline for getting my novel in. In this case, NOT BEING PUBLISHED is my writing trick.

Also, if a story or novel is going well, if my inspiration is hot and flowing, I tend to harness my inspiration and keep scribbling. This is especially true with a novel, which requires dedication and the long haul. Skip it for a few days or weeks, and I may never go back.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

       I’m a pantser. Often it’s like I’m wandering in a fog and only gradually does the road ahead become visible to me. I may have an idea of the eventful conclusion but no clear, overall plan of how I’m going to get there. I used to walk through a local Barnes & Noble that I found particularly conducive to inspiration and sometimes the slightest thing there would suddenly spark a story. For example, I saw a book titled The Calm Technique and instantly a story leaped almost full-blown into my head. The Death Technique is about a man who has the       gruesome ability to make his body rot and resemble a corpse. I sold it to a pro anthology.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

      I plan to finish Go East, Young Man, the sequel to Dreamfarer and see it published.  I’ve       been thinking of shifting my focus after that and concentrating on short stories. They take less time and sometimes can be written quickly. There are various publishers I’ve published with before and various anthologies and magazines that have published my fiction. It would be nice to submit short fiction to them. I also love “theme” magazines, newsletters, and anthologies. Recently I published revised, previously published stories in Flame Tree Press’s Endless Apocalypse and Dying Planet collections.  In addition, I hope to generate some new stories. Will I try Romance? I doubt it. Nor do I see myself getting into elves and faeries. But you never know. It’s better to be fresh and try new things. 

With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?

   I used to like horror and dark fiction more than I do now. Heck, I was Chairman of the Horror Writers Association. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve come to prefer tales where the sun occasionally shines and good tends to triumph over evil. My science fiction / speculative fiction novels feature heroes who ultimately conquer or prevail over villains.  But I do love my villains, whose darkness sometimes threatens to overshadow the goodness of my heroes because it’s more compelling and interesting. I do continue to like subtle, atmospheric dark fantasy or horror, where darkness is suggested and hinted at rather than shown. Please, no extreme, gory horror, though I used to write some.

What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

Star Wars, I think, primarily because I sometimes write space opera novels with swashbuckling heroes and larger-than-life bad guys. I read the first two Harry Potter novels. They were okay, but I never went back.  I read the first 560 pages of Lord of the Rings and then stopped reading. Please, somebody, tell me why and where I’m wrong!

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