Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series ~ Featuring John Palladino

For my super special Halloween edition of Sunday Brunch this year, I’m so excited to jump into the book tour for The Trials of Ashmount in conjunction with Escapist Book Tours! This book is great for GrimDarkTober and John Palladino is a local author so I’m dually excited to share this interview. Actually he might fight me on that statement but in general, WNY is “local” in my eyes.

I’ve already read and reviewed the book, so search for that on the blog if you’re interested! Also do check out the other tour posts here on the Escapist website!

Read on to see some great thoughts on the Grimdark genre, Trials, the next book, and of course, Halloween vs Christmas.  

Anyway, let’s get on with it 🎃


🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone your favorite thing about ‘spooky season’?

🎤Well, my favorite thing about “spooky season” is that it’s the beginning of my favorite stretch of year – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas (my favorite holiday), New Years, and, on top of all that, the weather gets cold, it becomes darker, and snow begins to fall. I love all of it. And to me, Halloween is the start of it. And maybe I’m ashamed to admit it, but I also enjoy the holiday music – it adds to just a generally positive atmosphere in stores and stuff that isn’t around during the rest of the year. 

🥞What’s your brunch order today?

🎤 I’ll be honest – I’m usually asleep when brunch occurs. However, if I’m at brunch, I’d probably order a breakfast sandwich (sausage, egg, cheese on an english muffin because that’s the only way to have them and I’ll die on this hill) and then some sort of potato side. Hashbrowns? Sure. Those are good. 

🥞I’m willing to forgive some rabble rousing, but do explain how bringing up Christmas in October is a good idea 🤣 p.s. this is about the authors Twitter handle, which states that Christmas is better than Halloween 😳

🎤Is there such a thing as there ever being a bad time to bring up Christmas?? It’s the best holiday. Presents, snow (though not so much anymore lol), vacation, music, the food? It’s all splendid. I’d do Christmas once a season if it were up to me. Halloween I could live without. It’s a fine holiday, but I don’t generally participate. Costumes are cool, but I generally stay home and hide during Halloween. Halloween is social, Christmas is not (unless you’re one of those family families, in which case, I wouldn’t like Christmas… who wants to do all of that travel and family visiting when you could be in your own house? I know – plenty of you… but for me, I prefer times when I don’t have to deal with people, and most Halloween celebrations are packed with other costumed people!). Also I’ll just say it, and I know this is going to offend a lot of you… pumpkin spice anything is gross. I know, I know, I apologize. I just hate the smell, taste, and look of all the special pumpkin spice stuff… I am not willing to completely write off Halloween, though. As a kid it was always my second favorite holiday. I suspect if I wasn’t single and had somebody to hang out with, or a family, I’d probably be more willing/eager to participate. But for the last decade of my life, I’ve not participated in a single Halloween event. 

🥞 Alright, let’s talk about the book. So there are a bunch of pretty different characters in Trials, is there one point of view that you either wrote yourself into or just enjoyed writing the most?

🎤I loved writing the Demri, Villic, and interlude chapters. Kelden/Seradal/Edelbrock all had enjoyable chapters to write, but Demri and Villic I never got sick of writing. Villic was definitely based on my childhood. As a kid I had major introversion and found socializing with anyone to be a very difficult/nerve-wracking experience. His fears are directly related to my experiences. Fun fact about Villic – originally he wasn’t a main character in the book. His role was expanded after discussing why he was in the book with my editor and early readers. And now, I hear from a lot of people that he’s either their favorite/second favorite character, so I’m really happy I did. Overall though, Demri is my favorite character to write. I think he’s just a blast. I struggled with the decision to actually write out his stutter for the entire book or not. I wrote the first draft with the stutter written out and a few people mentioned I should just note that he had a stutter. I didn’t want to do that though because I thought it would make Demri’s character more real, and nobody would forget that it existed. Demri owns his stutter, it doesn’t bother him, and it felt sort of disingenuous to “hide it” behind a “he spoke with a stutter” because it’s such a big (yet also insignificant) part of his character. 

🥞 Is it hard, as an author, to put your characters through hell and back?  I don’t think anyone in Trials had it easy 😳

🎤 No. I see all the time that people are upset about the things they do – like they cry over something they wrote. I don’t understand that. When I’m doing something bad to a character, I’m laughing and grinning ear-to-ear, excited for people to read it, and hoping they’re surprised by it. I will say that book two I’ve written a few things that made me sad because I sort of wanted more time without said things happening (I can’t be more specific without spoilers). However, that’s what made sense for the story, so that’s why it doesn’t bother me. 

🥞 Did you have a scientific method for who you were going to kill off, or are we an impulse murderer? (P.s. your character page was amazing)

🎤Mostly impulse. There were a few deaths that I planned on, but a good majority of the ones in Trials just sort of happened. And thank you – the character page was a lot of fun to do. The heading started out as a joke to my editor, but she loved it so much I kept it. 

🥞 What elements do you think make up a good Grimdark? Where did you succeed the most bringing that into Trials?
 
🎤I think the best Grimdark stories have realistic consequences, an unpredictable nature, and morally gray characters. Those are the three aspects I most judge a book on when deciding whether or not it’s Grimdark. Personally, I think I did a pretty good job at implementing all of these into Trials. I get a lot of messages/comments on some of the surprises in Trials – I’d love to elaborate, but I can’t without spoiling the book. In regards to morally gray characters, I don’t necessarily mean that everyone’s a prick, but that everyone acts in their best interests (or most of the characters – it’s not wrong to have a “heroic” character in a Grimdark world, but a majority of people don’t self-sacrifice like the characters in epic fantasy often do). 

🥞 Feeding off of that, do you have any personal favorites or Grimdark book recs for us?

🎤 I will always recommend A Song of Ice and Fire by GRRM and all of the books in the First Law world by Joe Abercrombie. For people who enjoy a very dark-feeling world, check out Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar – the overall “vibe” of the world might be the most cringe-inducing I’ve experienced.

🥞 Can you tell everyone how book 2 is going? Any hints you’re willing to give us?

🎤 Book two is just about finished being edited by Sarah Chorn. I can’t wait to edit the book and get it out there. The title is Buzzard’s Bowl and there is a brand new main POV character I think everyone will like. Her name is Ashen, and that’s all I’ll say for now, although if you want to know a little more, read on.

🥞 Seeing as it’s Halloween, what’s your favorite costume that you’ve ever worn? Bonus points if you have a photo!

🎤 This is a great question but it’s really difficult for me because I don’t even remember most of the costumes I’ve worn. I haven’t dressed up for Halloween since I was sixteen. I’ll say a werewolf. I DO have a picture of it but I have no idea where it is. And it’s physical because the whole digital thing didn’t really exist back then…

🥞 Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! This last space is an open forum for you so feel free to talk about anything in the world you may want to here!

🎤 Iwant to thank Athena for this fun interview! Hopefully my Halloween takes weren’t too painful for you to deal with 😛 

Alongside book two in the series, I’m working on releasing a short story anthology called Before the End that’s going to have a bunch of stories set in the world of Cedain. Some of the characters will be familiar, while others will be completely unique to the anthology. There are also a few character introductions who will appear in Buzzard’s Bowl. I’m also considering putting a pair of characters into book three. Some of these stories can be found, unedited, on my website, johnpalladino.com One of these stories is a character introduction to Ashen, the brand new main POV character in Buzzard’s Bowl. I think people will enjoy her – she’s quickly become a favorite of mine. If people want to wait for the anthology, I plan on releasing it BEFORE Buzzard’s Bowl comes out. I don’t have any ironclad dates for either of these. My *hope* is to release Before the End this year, and Buzzard’s Bowl at the beginning of next year. We’ll see if everything pans out, though. This is hoping that there aren’t any major delays from any of the services I’ll need to pay for (which is often unusual).

Meet the Author:

You’ve stumbled upon somebody who takes nothing seriously, not even author bios. It’d be a good guess to say John Palladino was born in 1988, lives in Avoca, New York, has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, and enjoys hibernating at home while writing. He might also lie and say he enjoys pets, long walks on the beach, and his hobbies include happiness and scuba diving. You’d see right through those lies, however, and notice he prefers the simpler things in life—reading, video games, and making ill-timed jokes. John also dislikes taking care of anything that excretes substances.


Here are the author links & Giveaway info!

Author Website: https://johnpalladino.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AGrimBastar
Facebook:  https://facebook.com/AGrimBastardAuthor
Goodreads:  https://goodreads.com/AGrimBastard

Giveaway Information:
Prize: A Paperback Copy of The Trials of Ashmount!
Starts: October 27, 2022 at 12:00am ES
Ends: November 2, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

Direct link:  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79e197ac63/

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Why I Gave Up on Grimdark Fantasy (A GrimDarkTober Guest Post from At Boundary’s Edge)

October is wrapping up along with a great month of GrimDatkTober guest content from a few of my favorite people across the SFF blogosphere.  I hope everyone has found a few more books to add to their ever growing TBRs!

Today I’m happy to present the last GrimDarkTober guest post for you all.  Nowadays he mostly sticks to Science Fiction, but Alex from At Boundary’s Edge used to be a huge fantasy reader as well.  True to his brand of cranky-but-actually-cinnamonroll-in-disguise vibes, check out this great piece on why he eventually put GrimDark aside

 


Why I Gave Up On Grimdark Fantasy

I grew up reading fantasy. I tried a thick, somewhat battered omnibus of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings twice before I was 10. Admittedly, I never made it through The Return of the King, but I was absolutely enchanted by the world. I remember seeing Robert Jordan’s Winter’s Heart on the shelves of a used bookstore and thinking from the sheer size that it must be something truly Shakespearean in content. I didn’t complete either Tolkien’s or Jordan’s epics until much later on, but I filled my time with other classical epic fantasy. The Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks were my first adventure in collecting a whole series. I read David Edding’s The Belgariad and Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, and knew I was hooked on fantasy. As I hunted out new books to read, and sent my mother to do the same, I soon found myself in possession of a book with a bloodstained map for a cover. It was called, rather enticingly, The Heroes, and it was written by a man named Joe Abercrombie.

I was fifteen, and The Heroes offered me a new window on fantasy. This was a fantasy where people died a lot. There were no heroic sacrifices, just meaningless and pointless deaths. It was great. Blood spattered on every page, there was no clear-cut good and bad. Most of all, it was absolutely hilarious. It wasn’t only Union soldiers who had split sides by the time I reached the end. I rushed out by the other books set in the same world, and found them all in a similar vein. Though the books were filled with hateful characters, the writing itself was a clearly loving poke in the eye of the tropes and stereotypes of the fantasy I’d read up to that point. It was while looking for Abercrombie’s next book that I encountered the word that would change it all. Grimdark.

Finally I had a label for this darkly humour thing I enjoyed so much. I let that label guide me to my next reads. And so I came across Mark Lawrence. The Broken Empire wasn’t quite as riotously funny as The First Law, but Jorg had a way with words that could get a laugh out of me at times. His successor, Jalan from Prince of Fools was a much more jovial character. The comedic elements running through this books were distinctly British. A raised eyebrow and a ‘here-we-go-again’ mentality when it came to the tropes. These stories weren’t so much subverting tropes as having fun by actively running against them. And that’s what grimdark became to me. Fun. Over the top violence and a fistful of jokes wedged in for good measure.

At around the same time as I was reading Lawrence, I started Peter V. Brett’s The Demon Cycle and Brent Weeks’  . Both of these were books I had seen bearing the grimdark label in some corners of the online community, so I assumed they’d fill the same void. But they didn’t. I enjoyed both series, but neither was particularly funny. Even when they were over-the-top, I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were being played straight. They weren’t laughing at how bloody they could be, they thought it actually meant something. It was a emo, edgelord mentality that left me utterly cold.

Within a year or so, I discovered the work of David Gemmell, a forebear of grimdark who truly believed in heroism, and his work was a breath of fresh air. Gemmell’s work also led me to that of Stan Nicholls, who surely deserves more credit for running ahead of the grimdark curve. His Orcs novels are a sweary, bloody spectacle, at one point putting a unicorn horn to truly inappropriate use. But they’re funny. Weapons of Magical Destruction in its title alone tells you the tone of the book. A satire not only of fantasy, but of real-world events, all told with a crazy grin and an axe in each hand.

Meanwhile, the modern grimdark train rolled on. As an avid fantasy reader, I did what I could to keep up. I bought the first book of countless series, looking for that same witty high. I bought Anna Stephens’ Godblind, Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption, Devin Madson’s We Ride the Storm, and Mike Shackle’s We Are the Dead. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed a single one of them. They were well-crafted books, but they proved to me one incontrovertible fact. Grimdark had started taking itself seriously. The joy was gone. The laughter was dead. There were still some good books falling under the grimdark label. R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War is more of a historical fantasy, but uses that history of violence to provoke thought. Adrian Selby’s Snakewood is one of the few books to include a magic system that doesn’t make me pull my hair out. Anna Smith Spark’s Empires of Dust is a literary masterpiece in terms of prose, and even includes some of that too-rare humour amid all the misery and tragedy.

As the grimdark label covered more and more books, it ceased to hold the meaning that had drawn me in all those years ago. Worse still, the nihilism had spread to the far corners of the fantasy genre. Fantasy became a place where hope was for idiots and anyone calling themselves a hero was only after your money. It just wasn’t fun anymore. The worst offender was R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Came Before, a book that was, with its central thesis that men exist only to destroy and subjugate each other, so utterly devoid of cheer that I finally decided to call it a day.

Grimdark has cultivated a reputation for telling it like it is. For showing the world for the horrible place it is. But that’s wrong. Yes, there are bad things in the world (and worse than you’ll see in most grimdark books), but there’s joy in the world too. Even in the worst of situations, people will crack a joke. If all you’re doing is showing humanity being horrible to itself, you’re not being anywhere near as smart as you like to tell yourself. So much of modern grimdark seems intent on wallowing in self-pity, and dragging the reader down with it. Quite frankly, it’s become dull.

So yes, I’ll still read Joe Abercrombie. I’ll pick up Anna Smith Spark’s next book. But because of the author. Not because of the genre label that gets slapped across the cover.

Grimdark – whatever you are anymore – I’m done with you. Let me know if you get your sense of humour back.


You can find him online at: 

Blog: https://atboundarysedge.com/

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/HormannAlex

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews Horror

Roots of Darkness: The Horrifying Origins of Sword & Sorcery (A GrimDarkTober Guest Post by Peat Long)

This Sunday I’m thrilled to present a GrimDarkTober guest post from a book blogger who needs little introduction!  One of the many awesome people I met through a Wyrd & Wonder read along, Peat Long’s blog offers up a ton of book reviews, articles, lists, plus many other curiosities. With no further delay, here’s his article!


Roots of Darkness: The Horrifying Origins of Sword & Sorcery

For many, October tis the month of darkness. Gloom, murk, and perhaps a side of iniquity. Book twitter is full of tributes to this spirit, which is obviously difficult as bookish folk have no taste for the macabre and spooky, not least of which is Athena’s Grimdarktober.

Therefore, in my own tribute, I give her and you this post on sword & sorcery.

Some of you might not see the connection here. You might be thinking what does the genre of over-muscled louts seeking a totally not-compensating for anything life of big swords and scantily clad ladies have to do with dark fiction? The answer to that starts with two words.

Weird Tales.

Back in the 1920s, when pulp magazines played a big part in the American literary landscape, there was a magazine named Weird Tales. It was founded specifically to be a home for supernatural stories at a time when there was none, with repeated references to a particular influence: Edgar Allan Poe. A lot of the fiction published in the magazine reflected that influence; ghost stories, gothic stories, horror stories. But some of it was the nascent genre of sword & sorcery. How did that happen? And what influence did that have on the stories?

Some of the how lies in the peculiar mindset of Robert E Howard, whose Conan stories formed the accepted recipe for sword & sorcery. He was a bookworm who absorbed everything, a would-be pugilist with a dislike for the modern world, not to mention an author in search of ways to make a sale. Unconventional settings and violent stories came naturally to him, and were a natural addition to the more conventional horror fo the magazine.

A great deal of the how also lies with the very nature of Weird Tales. Its writers formed a close-knit community, writing to each other often, and few of them wrote as often as old Mr Nightmare Fuel himself, HP Lovecraft. His influence was felt in many ways – one proto S&S tale was inspired by him asking the author why not a story told from the werewolf’s perspective, another story got published after he prodded the editor – but the biggest was that of his stories.

At which point you start to see some other S&S staples enter the canon. Weird snakemen. Sinister sorcerers and their eerie cults. Indifferent, terrifying gods. Alien monsters and forgotten communities of malevolent people. In some respects, these are things the early S&S authors would have looked at anyway as these did reflect the fears of the time, but these are very much the sort of thing Lovecraft loved. As such, they very much part of what Howard, and other early S&S writers influenced by Lovecraft such as Clark Ashton Smith and Fritz Leiber, used.

Which means that, amid the tales of conquest and feud, of picaresque adventure in exotic locales, you get a distinct vein of sword & sorcery stories that are almost pure horror. Situations where mighty sinews, honed skill, and indomitable wills only allow our heroes to survive where all others have died. The worlds might be more historic than Lovecraft’s contemporary gothic stylings, the heroes more alive and sane at the end, but the similarity is marked.

And the result is some very dark fantasy fiction, perfect for your October reading! Want some examples? Here’s a few to look up…

Worms of the Earth by Robert E Howard – Howard’s most horrifying tale probably belongs to the character Bran Mak Morn, whose attempt to get revenge against the Romans involves making common cause with those he’d rather have nothing to do with. Very creepy.

The Howling Tower by Fritz Leiber – This adventure of Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser can be found in Swords Against Death, a collection which features a great many horror-esque stories. In this case, what seems a simple case of finding treasure in a tower goes rather unpleasantly wrong.

The Black God’s Kiss by CL Moore – This one can be found in just about any Jirel of Joiry collection, many of which are named after this story. The long and the short of it is some bastard takes Jirel’s castle and makes some presumptions about her sexual interest in him, so she elects to go to hell to find a weapon to right all of this. Hell is, unsurprisingly, somewhat unsettling.

The Testament of Athammaus by Clark Ashton Smith – This short can be found in the Hyperborea collection. It is the tale of a city’s downfall and an execution that won’t go right, told with mordant humour and gruesome horror, and a very nasty villain.

The Unspoken Name by AK Larkwood – From the old to the new. Larkwood’s riff on The Tombs of Atuan also includes plenty of that horror S&S feeling as the former priestess Csorwe navigates many, many terrifying challenges in her bid to prove her worth to her saviour.

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall – Another recent piece of weirded out adventure that seems to be in the spiritual lineage. It is more high flying and epic than most of the names here, but the adventures of Vasethe through the nine-hundred and ninety-nine spirit realms contains a good dose of uncanny wonder.

So there you go. Even the hardiest of heroes have horrifying moments, and all because it’s baked into the genre right at its very inception – hopefully you look up some of these stories and enjoy the dark side of sword & sorcery this Grimdarktober


You can find Peat online at:

– Twitter: @PeatLong

– Blog: https://peatlong.wordpress.com/

 

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

A GrimDarkTober Guest Post: TheReviewBooth reviews The Year of the Witching

Hi everyone and welcome back to more awesome GrimDarkTober content! Brandy is one of my longest running Instagram friends and held up a corner of the now defunct blogging group for years too. I was excited when she said yes to contributing because we tend to have fairly similar reading tastes. Definitely check out her media links at the end of the article! The Year of the Witching is a dark fantasy novel with a decent amount of blood, gore, and Handmaid’s Tale vibes. It’s a great for spooky season and I hope you guys like Brandy’s review! 


About the Book:

  • Title: The Year of the Witching
  • Series: Bethel #1
  • Author: Alexis Henderson
  • Publisher & Release: Ace, 2020
  • Length: 368 pages

Synopsis:

A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.


Review:

The Year of the Witching took its time unfolding the story and it lost me a little here and there when the story slowed down. The pacing of exciting events might be slow but that doesn’t mean that what is going on isn’t valuable information.

Immanuelle isn’t shunned just for her mother’s union with her father – a man of a different race but also because that union took place while she essentially belonged to someone else. Once resigned to her fate and station, Immanuelle begins to yearn for more and I loved that. It made her feel like an actual person waking up from this place that is suffocating and unwilling to accept her as is.

Something settled deep within Immanuelle. It took her a moment to recognize the feeling. It wasn’t the flames of anger stoked,or the cold throes of grief. No, this was something grim and quiet… something sinister.

Wrath.

Immanuelle and Ezra felt a little like fated love to me personally but they at least had to work at it. Being who they were and their religion didn’t afford them many opportunities to become close. It was nice to see a sweet clean romance budding in a YA title – it seems like a while since I’ve encountered that.

I liked this story and I will definitely read the second book that is coming out but it was just an odd book for me. I am really excited to see where this story goes and learn more about the world (not just mostly the town) that Immanuelle lives in. The pacing was weird like I mentioned but it was more than that and I can’t put my finger on exactly what. I just felt a disconnect from Immanuelle’s story.

Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can find Brandy online at:

https://linktr.ee/thereviewbooth

https://instagram.com/thereviewbooth

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

A GrimDarkTober Guest Post: Dr. John Mauro reviews Norylska Groans!

A quick note from OneReadingNurse: Welcome to the first guest post for GrimDarkTober month! I’m honored to host this review written by Dr. John Mauro of the indie grimdark fantasy Norylska Groans! You can find him on twitter at @DrJohnmauro and locate more of his reviews on both GoodReads and the Grimdark Magazine website. Without further ado, let’s introduce the book and see the review!


Here’s a bit about the book:

  • Title: Norylska Groans
  • Series: N/A
  • Authors: Michael R. Fletcher & Clayton W. Snyder
  • Publisher & Release: Independent, 2021
  • Length: 378 pages
  • Guest Rating: 💀💀💀💀💀

The synopsis via GoodReads:

Norylska Groans

with the weight of her crimes. In a city where winter reigns amid the fires of industry and war, soot and snow conspire to conceal centuries of death and deception.

Norylska Groans
and the weight of a leaden sky threatens to crush her people. Katyusha Leonova, desperate to restore her family name, takes a job with Norylska’s brutal police force. To support his family, Genndy Antonov finds bloody work with a local crime syndicate.

Norylska Groans

with the weight of her dead. As bodies fall, the two discover a foul truth hidden beneath layers of deception and violence: Come the thaw, what was buried will be revealed.


Finally, here is the review by Dr Mauro!

Norylska Groans is a tour de force from Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder, two of the top authors in grimdark fantasy. The story is set in the Russia-inspired industrial city of Norylska, bathed in filth and constantly groaning from its brutal cold and wind—the perfect setting for an urban grimdark novel.

As an avid fan of both classic Russian literature and grimdark fantasy, I loved every aspect of this book. With an assortment of pseudo-Russian slang and an ultraviolent cast of characters, there is also a clear inspiration from A Clockwork Orange.

Much of the book revolves around memory stones, which store memories and even personality traits from the individuals who wear them. Dostoevsky would be impressed with the depth of psychological analysis in this book, as the traits from the memory stones fight against the personality (and often sanity) of those who wear them.

The concept of this book is so creative, combining some of my favorite literary elements from across multiple genres. It’s the type of book that makes me think: “I wish I had thought of this idea.”

But is it grimdark enough? Ummmm…yes.

Fletcher and Snyder cranked the grimdark knob up to eleven, and then kept turning it up until the knob broke off and sank into a pool of blood. This book is manna from hell for grimdark lovers.

If you love grimdark, you need to read this book.

5/5


There you have it!  Stay tuned this month for more awesome grimdark and generally spooky content from a few of my good friends!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy Middle Grade

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring Thomas M. Kane

Happy weekend to you all and welcome back to the Sunday Brunch Series! Episode 26 features Thomas M. Kane, author of many scholarly books and articles as well as the fantasy series Mara of the League!

He was kind enough to join me today to talk about Mara, Cold War history, his time writing gaming material, and tons more!

Without further delay, here he is ⚔️🥞


🍳Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?

🎤 I used to live with a cat who ate paper. He figured out which button to press to make my computer printer eject sheets of it, so whenever he finished with one page he could help himself to another.

🍳What’s your brunch order today?

🎤 Pancakes sound good!

🍳So you also published gaming material? I was interested in learning more about your transition from gaming supplements, to role playing for students, to eventually lecturing on military exercises?

🎤 Yes, I broke into professional writing by publishing articles for role-playing games in Dragon magazine in the 1980s. Roger Moore, who was then editor at Dragon, was incredibly supportive. By the early 1990s, I was writing adventures and supplements for a wide variety of game systems, notably Shadowrun, Cyberpunk. GURPS, Top Secret, Talislanta, Ars Magica and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

A lot has changed in the gaming world. However, I’m thrilled to add that some of my work is still in print. I’m especially pleased to say that Atlas Games is still offering the Cyberpunk and Ars Magica adventures I wrote for them. Atlas encourages an original approach to writing gaming scenarios, with emphasis on character development. My work for Atlas includes The Chrome Berets, a Cyberpunk adventure in which characters wage guerrilla warfare. Greenwar, another Cyberpunk scenario featuring corporate takeovers and South of the Sun, an Ars Magica sourcebook about the legendary kingdom of Prester John.
I also designed wargames for Strategy and Tactics magazine and Command. When I started teaching politics at the University of Hull, I developed a module (i.e., a class) called The Nature of War, which dealt with the human side of warfare. To give students a taste of the confusion and complexity surrounding military command. I ran a week-long simulation of the World War Two German attack on Tobruk. Students took the part of leaders on the opposing sides and spent a week writing battle plans. We then worked out what we thought would have happened if they had implemented those plans in real life. The students often spied on the opposing team and attempted other hijinks which added to the fun.

Meanwhile, as you mentioned, I participated in a Royal Navy wargame called Operation Tropical Endeavour. I also observed a simulated battle involving real tanks at the US Army’s National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin. The NTC trip was especially valuable from a writing point of view, since it was an opportunity to see what military operations look like when you are in the middle of them. Or, perhaps, not to see—one truth which Fort Irwin demonstrates is that modern battles take place across great distances, and that the enemy is usually out of sight.

🍳You also travelled a ton while living in the UK, do you recall having a favorite destination?

🎤 When I was growing up, I really wanted to explore a cave. In Europe, I finally got to. Being deep inside the earth is an amazing experience. Perhaps the most memorable cavern I visited was the Cueva de la Pileta in southern Spain, which features paintings that are approximately 20,000 years old. The paintings are extremely detailed and realistic—more realistic, in fact, than the relatively recent prehistoric artwork found in other parts of the cave.

🍳Let’s talk about your series, Mara of the League!  You likened the Waan conflict to the real-life Cold War, in which to summarize, neither the U.S. nor Russia really wanted to attack each other directly. How did the war translate into a fantasy series for you?

🎤 You are right, that’s one of the most important similarities. Mara’s homeland, the League, is locked in a rivalry with a country called Waan. Both sides know that if they wage a full-scale war, they risk devastating the countryside and triggering a civilization-ending famine. Therefore, they spy on each other and stir up trouble for one another’s allies while trying to avoid direct confrontation.

This standoff has lasted over a century. Most League citizens expect it to go on forever. However, as the story progresses, Mara becomes convinced that Waan’s leaders see the stalemate as no more than a temporary obstacle, and that they are working to engineer a situation in which it can invade the League at an acceptable cost. The question then becomes whether she can convince her rulers to fight back against Waan’s plot in time.

So, the Mara of the League series is mainly an adventure story. The first three books involve espionage and political intrigue. Book Four features military strategy and battlefield action. The series also devotes a lot of attention to Mara’s thoughts and to her attempts to make sense of her world. Like the university class I mentioned earlier, this series is very much about the human side of things.

Anyone who enjoys exciting stories can enjoy this series. Those who are interested in history may notice that Mara is facing situations which resemble crises which erupted in real life. Fans of Cold War thrillers may notice that I’m taking a different approach from many authors in that genre. Sir John Hackett set the tone for many Cold-War-gone-hot books with his novel The Third World War (spoilers ahead).

The Third World War depicts a scenario in which weak Soviet leaders stumble into an ill-considered war with the West. The numerically superior Soviet forces do considerable damage at first, but Western defenders thwart them with superior technology and skill. Soviet leaders then fire one nuclear missile, but when the West retaliates with a single nuclear strike of its own, the Soviet government collapses.

Hackett’s novel is enthusiastic about military hardware. It pays relatively little attention to the ways in which a third world war would touch the lives of its characters, and of everyone on earth. Although Hackett suggests a political scenario which could bring war about, he depicts the Soviet leaders making hasty decisions, with few motives beyond staying in power. He glosses over the fact that the Soviet Union was founded upon a belief system which held that war to the death with the liberal nations was a historical necessity, and which gave them a compelling reason to prepare for such a conflict in a long-term and systematic way. Other thrillers (e.g., Ralph Peters’ Red Army) present the Soviet Union as a more formidable opponent, but even they stick to tried-and-true scenarios of Soviet numbers going head-to-head against Western hardware. A great deal of Western military planning rested on the assumption that something like this would happen in real life. Real-life international relations scholars tended to downplay the importance of Communist ideology as well.

Russia’s mistakes in its 2022 invasion of Ukraine makes Hackett’s depiction of Soviet incompetence seem believable. On the other hand, the increasingly visible ideological splits in contemporary politics remind us that Soviet leaders may have sincerely believed in their version of Communism. Fortunately, we will never know whether Hackett’s vision was realistic.

The Mara of the League series takes advantage of its fantasy setting to get away from arguments about what would actually have happened if the Soviet Union had attacked the West and explores what might have happened in an ideologically-driven conflict where the antagonists know what they are doing.

🍳Whew. What would you say to someone who reads that and says “Wow, I’d love to read the Mara books but I know nothing about this portion of history”?

🎤No background knowledge is required. The story begins with an eleven-year-old girl trying to save her family. She doesn’t know much about war or politics yet. Readers learn along with her.

🍳What prompted you to start Mara off as a tween, and grow her up pretty quickly throughout the series?

🎤As an adult in Book Three, Mara warns her country’s ruler of an attack no one else sees coming. Many think she is wrong, and that following her advice could provoke a civilization-ending war. Her experiences at twelve and seventeen helped her see threats which others overlooked and motivated her to want to defend herself at all costs.

[[She also got used to standing her ground when people thought she was wrong as a young kid! My favorite theme so far is trusting your own logic and intuitions]]

🍳You took an unconventional view of witches which I really liked, and brought a rather realistic fear of magic into the first book.  Why did you choose that take, vs, say, bringing real magic into the series?  Did it fit into the “flintlock fantasy style” a bit more?

🎤So glad you liked it! Mara spends her youth confronting her own country’s injustices. So, much of the story concerns the ways societies respond to dissent, the ways people turn against each other, and the ways powerful institutions keep control. The fact that Mara’s government did not need any evidence of real magic to accuse her aunt of witchcraft was part of the point.

However, real magic may exist in Mara’s world. There’s a scene in which her father claims to have seen it. When I came up with the idea for this series, I planned to include working magic. I planned to have it play a role in warfare similar to the role played in real life by nuclear weapons. As I started to write, I found I could tell the story I wanted to tell relying solely on the real-life problems of feeding armies in the early gunpowder era, so the magic weapons turned out to be unnecessary

🍳I loved the audiobooks and thank you for the chance to listen! How did you connect with your narrator? Was it a positive overall experience bringing Mara to audio?

🎤Again, so honored by your kind words! I beta-read Stevie Marie’s excellent fae-based fantasy Heart of Darkness. A few months later, she posted on Twitter that she planned to start narrating audiobooks. By good fortune, I saw the tweet and responded to it. I am thrilled with her work, and I’ve gotten lots of encouraging feedback. I’m incredibly grateful to have connected with her.
I’m currently listening to Stevie’s Kingdom of Acatalec. It’s a science fiction adventure about a feisty pilot who competes in an illegal drone race to save her friend. Strongly recommend.

🍳Have you read anything amazing recently?

🎤A few months ago, I discovered Gillian Flynn’s thrillers Sharp Objects, Dark Places and Gone Girl. I found her characters relatable and really enjoyed the way she explores their thoughts and feelings. Also very much admire the way Flynn crafts sentences. Unfortunately, she hasn’t written much, so I went looking for other authors who take a similar approach. This led me to discover Paula Hawkins, who is also brilliant. Just started Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, and it looks as if it is going to be fantastic too.

🍳Thanks so much for taking the time to interview! The last question is always an open forum, so please take this space to talk about anything I missed, or anything in the world that you want to share!

 🎤Now that Mara’s series is complete, I’ve written a book about her mother Abigail. Abigail is a seventy-eight-year-old lawyer. As the war between Waan and the League rages around her, she comes out of retirement to defend a teen accused of murder. This fantasy legal thriller is titled The People vs. Abigail Bennet, and it will be available for sale in early 2023.
I also invite everyone to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter at thomasmkane.com. Every issue includes original articles or short fiction. The next issue features a return to Life in a Cup, a series of humorous tales and personal reflections based around experiences I’ve had drinking coffee.


There you have it! Thank you as always for tuning into Sunday Brunch, and do let us know if you enjoyed this interview!

You can find the author and his books online at:

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/thomasmkane11

Website: https://www.thomasmkane.com/

Book sales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XWXP1X2/?ref_=d6k_applink_bb_dls&dplnkId=86e72651-f7fe-4546-96b3-f9bfa4db2526

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series ~ Featuring W.O. Torres

Sunday Brunch is back! Before getting started I want to thank everyone who supports both indie authors and smalltime bloggers, including my little interview series! Brunch has always been a beacon of community and I’m endlessly glad to see how the indie SFF world supports it’s members!

That said, episode 25 of the Sunday Brunch Series features self published sci-fi author W.O. Torres! He is entered into the second SPSFC competition and if you don’t know what that is, I’ll include the link at the end!

Sci-fi means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and I love W.O.’s story! Read on to see how sci-fi positively influenced his life and eventually led to holding a book of his own!


🍳Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?

🎤Thanks for having me. So, an interesting fact about me that isn’t in my bio is that I have had three very close calls with death over my lifetime that include: a near drowning at Lake Camanche after swimming between islands and having to be saved by a boater, water poisoning (drank 160 ounces of water in a four hour period because I was training in 112 degree sun and didn’t know you could die from drinking water) and being hit in the temple with a rusty nail that was attached to a 2×4, while at the landfill. In each instance there was a medical professional who shook his/her head at me while uttering the same sentence…”you are lucky to be alive.” So, I got that going for me, which is nice.

🍳What’s your favorite brunch food?

🎤My favorite brunch food is such a great question and in my case it has special consideration. For the past 25 years I have skipped breakfast as part of an intermittent fasting regimen. But, when the stars align and the kids are in school, me and my wife have the day off and find ourselves craving mimosas…I will go bonkers over brunch! I start with a mimosa or bloody mary that has a piece of bacon in the drink.I absolutely love omelettes and will sometimes have them for dinner. I like to create my own with pepper jack cheese, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes. Or, if I can find it on the menu I will always order a plate of chilaquiles, which instantly reminds me of my Abuela’s cooking

🍳I love that you mention sci-fi and other related media like Marvel comics as an outlet away from getting into trouble as a teen! What did that look like for you?

🎤I’m not using hyperbole when I say Marvel Comics altered my life in a good way. My neighborhood was filled with gangs, drugs and violence and unfortunately if you grew up there, it was inevitable that around the age of junior high school, you were recruited into the gang that spanned a couple generations. At the same time this was going on, I was out of my mind obsessed with Marvel Comics…think late 70’s to early 80’s (before Spider-Man had a suit that turns into Venom and when the “New X-Men” featuring Wolverine, Night-Crawler and Colossus had only been in print for a few years). I met a very small group of kids in grade school who were like me, and by that I mean could reference the origin story for Daredevil. We formed our own little “gang” and while other kids our age were running the streets, we were holed up in each other’s bedrooms arguing over the leadership styles of Professor X versus Mr. Fantastic

🍳You also mention Star Trek in your bio so we had better have your favorite show and favorite captain, bonus points for including your rationale 🤣

🎤 I began watching Star Trek in 1976, I know this because I have vivid memories and pics of my 6th Christmas presents which were 10″ action figures of the entire crew of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (no letters after), that included a transporter room (you placed a figure in one side, then spun the top and watched them fade until appearing on the other side…I would give anything to still have it)!!! So, when I tell you who my favorite Captain is, rest assured that it is not a decision I entered into lightly. I’ve watched them all (full disclosure, I haven’t started watching Strange New Worlds yet) and there is one leader who stands above the rest and their name is…Captain Jean-Luc Picard. I will literally start a barroom brawl with anyone who disagrees with me. I have worked in Law Enforcement for nearly 25 years and we train constantly and never stop talking about leadership. It’s a weird thing in that nobody seems to be able to agree on a definition for what a leader is, but we all just know it when we see it. And that’s Picard. I would follow any order that man gave. Plus…Sir Patrick Stewart, I mean, c’mon on!

🍳So you grew up loving sci-fi and now have written a scifi book! How cool is that?

🎤I’m in my fifties now and have had a lifetime of experiences and sometimes when I reflect on all the people and places and emotions, the one constant throughout my life is and has always been, science fiction. Magazines, movies, comics, television series, books, stories and even discussions all surrounding sci-fi are littered like tiny dots across my timeline. I’ve always written stories but I never once completed a story, until my recently self-published novel, Tomorrow Lives Today. Once I held a copy of my own sci-fi / time-travel book in my hands, it didn’t matter that it took me a lifetime to finally do it. Something about that moment when I stopped being just a consumer and finally became a contributor…it’s an indescribable feeling, really.  
 

🍳The book focuses on time travel and technology, fun sci-fi topics! Are these your favorite subgenres or what nudged you toward writing the story that you did?

🍳I have so many favorite sci-fi tropes that I could never pick just one. If I’m being honest, I will probably never feel complete until I write a space-opera at some point in my life. That being said, there is something viceral that happens to me on a biological level whenever watching/reading about time-travel. I don’t know what it is but it began when I was fourteen years old and The Terminator hit theaters. That movie warped my mind like no other movie previous to it. My friends couldn’t stop talking about cyborgs (which don’t get me wrong, I love them as well) but I couldn’t stop asking theoretical questions about going back in time. The past thirty-five years I have made it a priority to consume any story that has to do with time-travel as that initial feeling still hasn’t gone away. So, when I started writing my novel, Tomorrow Lives Today, it began with a premise set in actual science I had just read about about called The Technological Singularity; a hypothetical future point in time where tech growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unfathomable changes to humankind. I think the dots lined up and it just made sense to use time-travel as a tool to tell this story the way I wanted to.

🍳What was the last amazing book that you read?

🎤The last amazing book I read that I find myself thinking about months later, was Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. He’s a great writer first and foremost and he delves into trippy sci-fi concepts that he neatly connects to human relationships. I love his books. If you haven’t already read Dark Matter, it is about parallel universes and decisions made. That’s another genre that has exploded recently that Star Trek (the original) was decades ahead of in telling. Thank you Gene!

🍳Your book made it into SPSFC2! That’s exciting – are you excited? What are your general thoughts about a self published sci-fi competition?

🎤YES! Having my book selected as part of SPSFC2 felt like when your coach scans the bench and calls your number! GET IN THERE! I think it goes back to this new feeling (my book has only been out since 6/2/22) of being a contributor and not just a consumer. There are three-hundred other book entries so the chances of winning with so many other talented writers are about as good as successfully navigating the innards of a Borg Cube (yes, I’m saying there’s a chance), but just being included is a WIN as far as I’m concerned.  

🍳Do you have any advice for those who are also self publishing, or considering it?  I think the most common lament I hear is that it’s hard to get eyes on a new self published book

🎤 The best advice I can give after spending nearly four-years writing, editing, finding Beta Readers, a professional editor and illustrator, and countless revisions is…don’t give up. You can walk away and take a break, but keep thinking about your book, keep scribbling notes in a pad next to your bed or on your phone in the middle of a boring work meeting. Seek out other writers on social media in your genre and ask questions, answer questions. Keep pushing, keep grinding and enjoy the little victories, like closing a time loop or coming up with a dope line your antagonist would say and the end result will be greater than you ever imagined. Sometimes when the day is kicking my ass at work, I say to myself, “Hey, you wrote a sci-fi novel that’s four-hundred and fifty-one pages…you can do anything!”

 

🍳Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! This is the open forum question, so if you want to talk about ANYTHING else, please do so here!

🎤Thanks for having me and listening to me rant about things I’m passionate about. Each time I connect with anyone who is part of the sci-fi world always leaves me in a better mood than where I started. Since you handed me an open mic, I would also like to mention that books and stories need diverse characters. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and I can count on one hand how many Mexican-American characters I read or watched in sci-fi stories. It’s gotten better, but still a long way to go. My MC is Mexican-American like me, but his love interest is a black female. I am neither black nor a female but I didn’t think it should stop me from writing about Destiny Jordan, who is one of my favorite characters I have ever written. So, I connected with two extremely talented writers who happened to be black females and asked if they would consider being Sensitivity Readers to make sure I was showing empathy in my writing and avoiding any negative stereotypes when it came to Destiny. The experience from their feedback improved my writing in so many ways and I do believe some stories are best told from a unique perspective, but I also see tremendous value in adding diverse characters in your story, even if the characters differ from the writer.


Check out his book here!

 

Meet the author: bio from Am*zon

Mr. Torres resides in Northern California along with his beautiful wife, brilliant daughters, and their wonder dog, where he often writes once everyone is finally asleep.

As a child of the ’70s, his original works are inspired by his love of the golden age of Marvel Comics, Saturday afternoon Kung-Fu Theatre, Star Wars, Star Trek, James Bond, The Twilight Zone, and all things strange and unexplained.

These obsessions helped him avoid gangs, violence, drugs, and dropping out of high school, which were sadly all too familiar occurrences in his neighborhood.

He is wrapping up a twenty-five-year career in law enforcement and looks forward to the next chapter. Tomorrow Lives Today is his debut novel and was partly inspired by a lucid dream he had the same day his childhood idol, Stan Lee left this world and crossed over to the other side.

When not writing, he can be found coaching youth sports, attending dance recitals, and on occasion, enjoying a super burrito with carne asada…or carnitas.

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/wotorreswrites

Here also is the SPSFC link where you can track the progress of this book along with 299 others!

https://thespsfc.org/


Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read and support indie authors!

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Fantasy

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring W.P. Wiles!

Welcome back to Sunday Brunch! Episode 24 features fantasy author W.P. Wiles, in conjunction with the online tour for his recently published novel The Last Blade Priest!

I really appreciate Angry Robot for letting me nag so many of their authors, and of course the authors for taking the time to interview!

Without further delay, let’s jump in!


🍳Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?

🎤I very much wanted to call my daughter Halo, after the Alan Moore character Halo Jones, but my wife said that people would think I had named her after the computer game, and she was right.

🍳What would your brunch order be?

🎤Orange juice, black coffee, apricot danish, poached eggs on toast. 

🍳Everyone talks about tropes these days and The Last Blade Priest seems to be full of subverted tropes.  Were there one or two specific ones you went out trying to tackle ?

🎤When I first started writing, I thought it would be almost entirely from the point of view of Inar, a builder who is reluctantly employed as a guide by a party of rich, arrogant people from the League who want to survey a mountain pass that leads into a forbidden kingdom. So you’d have a fairly standard fantasy set up: a questing party of mismatched outsiders trying to penetrate this mysterious holy land, containing a magical mountain, facing perils and so on. But I quickly realized that I wanted more than a taste of this distant and decadent religion, I didn’t want to only present it from the outside, I wanted to spend time with it and in it. So you also get a perspective within the religion, among the scheming priests in their forbidden fastness – you get the quest from both sides. Another trope that I had fun with was the Elves, but maybe we’ll talk about them separately … 

🍳On the trope topic, do you have a least and most favorite one to read!

🎤I am a sucker for the Gothic, so I will always enjoy crumbling, isolated houses, forbidding ruins, dark ancestral secrets and all that jazz. It’s hard to name a least favourite because I think almost anything can be executed well, or at least given an interesting twist. Zombies have been done to death, though. Let’s have more ghouls, mummies, wraiths and skeletons instead. 

🍳I had to look up a ton of words used in TLBP to describe locations and building structures; most seemed rooted in old English. It felt authentic! Was the language used a conscious choice to set atmosphere/tone/setting or what brought you to your architectural descriptions?

🎤 Naturally an author doesn’t want the reader to have to go to the dictionary too often, and I hope you didn’t have to! But a little bit of unfamiliarity in the language helps give a world a sense of difference and that difference can help it feel real. I write about architecture in my day job so I guess that’s also a language I’m familiar with. 

🍳The book is pretty dense to start with –  names, places, titles, etc, did you have any thoughts about including an index or did you trust readers to stick around for the explanations later on?

🎤I hope that explanations follow new words or concepts pretty closely, even if they don’t happen at once! An author has to walk a line between two dangers. On the one side is the danger of confronting the reader with too many unexplained terms and concepts and leaving them struggling to understand what’s going on. On the other side is the danger of stopping to explain everything as it comes up, which slows everything down and can feel like an author showing off how much attention they gave to all the details and the world building. So you have to navigate between those perils. As a reader I don’t mind having to figure out some stuff for myself, and I find early exposition dumps a little dry, so maybe that’s the direction I tend to lean as a writer. But maybe a glossary would be a good idea for the future! 

 🍳I personally love world building and it was pretty intense in TLBP.  Lore, religion, tradition, text, there were so many factors.  Was there one part of the world you liked creating and embellishing the most or did it all come together as one piece?

🎤I did enjoy thinking about the architecture a great deal. I wanted it to be coherent across the various locations and cultures that appear. Some places build in timber because they don’t have ready access to stone, in other places it’s the other way round. The religious architecture of the Mountain worshippers bear traces of their history: they once built cairns for sky burial and human sacrifice, emulating their holy mountain, and when they got to building temples they made them faintly mountainous, with sloping sides, lit only from the top. But I would like to reassure any prospective readers that this is kept very much in the background! Some people enjoy inventing fantasy languages – I enjoyed creating a fantasy architectural tradition. 

🍳One other question I love to ask is – What idea or theme or visual came first for you in creating the novel?

🎤 A hidden religious kingdom and a holy mountain were probably the starting points. I am a keen armchair mountaineer. I love to read about mountain-climbing and the high places, the strangeness of glaciers, the almost mystical experiences brought on by altitude sickness. There is an astounding surrealist film by Alejandro Jodorowsky called The Holy Mountain, which I saw as a young man and it left a deep impression on me – it’s saturated with this very disturbing imagery, much of it religious. I think that probably planted a seed, long ago, although the book is very different.

🍳Elves as chaotic villains! I liked your recent short piece on Orcs as villains.  What prompted the choice for elves in this role?

🎤As I wrote in that little essay, Orcs are great antagonists, but they’re just antagonists. They can be a little one-dimensional. Meanwhile, I’ve long been tired of the haughty, cultured Elves we’re all familiar with. Their immortality made me think of a short story by Martin Amis called “The Immortals”, which is in Einstein’s Monsters. It’s about a group of immortal beings who have just watched civilisation get wiped out in a nuclear holocaust. But are they in fact immortal, or are they just delusional, traumatized survivors, slowly dying? I don’t want to give too much away about it, but what if Elves were less a race and more an altered state, and an extremely dangerous one? So they have pointy ears and a sense of overpowering superiority and they think they’re immortal, but … 

🍳One random bookish question – what’s your favorite fantasy novel?

🎤My favourite recent fantasy would have to be Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It’s a terrific novel, with vivid characters, an unforgettable gothic setting, intrigue, gore, well-executed magic, mysteries … everything, really. It’s also very funny. As for long-term favourites … Titus Groan meant a great deal to me, and the influence of Gormenghast castle can be felt in my own creation of the Brink. Also Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun

🍳Thanks so much for joining Sunday Brunch! If there’s anything you’d like to add or say about anything at all, please do so here!

🎤Thanks for having me! Don’t eat any strange mushrooms!


Meet the author:

W P Wiles was born in India in 1978. He is the author of three novels: the Betty Trask Award-winning Care of Wooden Floors (2012), The Way Inn (2014), and Plume (2019). When not writing novels, he writes about architecture, and he is a regular columnist for RIBA Journal. He lives in east London.

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – Featuring Dave Dobson!

Happy Sunday again! Brunch is back, this time in conjunction with Escapist Book Tours
 
 
Episode 23 features Daros author Dave Dobson and a giveaway.  Thanks for my digital copy to read too!
 
Daros is a space opera that made it to the semifinal round of the current SPSFC! I’m happy to have a feature on the tour and will share book and giveaway details at the end. For now let’s jump in!
 

 
🍳Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?
 
🎤I’ve taken part in several sediment drilling expeditions on ships. The longest one was for two months on the JOIDES Resolution off the coast of Brazil as part of the Ocean Drilling Program.
 
🍳What’s your brunch order like?
 
🎤Pretty much waffles, french toast, pancakes – anything with syrup. And at brunch you can usually grab a bunch of bacon or sausage when nobody’s looking, if it’s a buffet. Otherwise, I have to order a reasonable amount. My grandma used to make me bacon nearly every morning when we visited, so it always reminds me of those times out in California.
 
🍳I know this is a Daros interview but Snood was the first game that anyone in my family ever got hooked on – and you were the designer? That’s amazing! Can you talk about it?
 
🎤Sure! Snood was a really great experience for me, and it still gives me a little bit of third-rate celebrity, although it’s faded a bit from the public mindset. It started as this game I made for my wife, and then I ended up releasing it as shareware using the free web space they gave all Michigan students back in 1996. I had released a couple other games that way, games I wrote when I was supposed to be working on my research. Snood really took off that year and the next, mostly among Mac users on college campuses, and it became a national thing a few years later after an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that got picked up in syndication and hit newspapers all over the country, back when newspapers were a primary way people got information. There have been at least 30 million downloads of the game (although that’s a little hard to calculate). The number of people who actually paid for it is significantly smaller.
 
My favorite part of the whole experience was hearing from players who were having fun with the game. For the first few years, all of the payments came in via postal mail, because nobody was used to paying for things online. That meant I would go out to my mailbox every day and find a few letters, sometimes more (the biggest day I remember was over 30 different letters), from all over the world, many of them with crumpled $10 bills inside, most of them with a nice note.
 
The weirdest thing that ever happened to me was actually being identified from my grainy website picture at a movie theater in Ann Arbor as the Snood guy. I had no idea people were even paying attention to that. Once we had T-shirts and other clothes, I liked wearing them to public places like amusement parks. Sometimes people would point at the shirt and say, “Hey, I play that game,” and I’d be able to say that I wrote it. It was super cheesy and self-indulgent, but it was really fun, and I got to meet some players that way. My favorite one of those was in a random motel elevator in Wyoming when I was with my dad. He thought that was really fun.
 
🍳There are a ton of gamers here too, can you tell us some pearls about your game design life/career/etc?
 
🎤 I don’t know about pearls, but I’ve always been a gamer and a game designer. Video games were born (at least in mainstream life) during my childhood, and I would save all the money I had to go to the local video arcades with my friends. Once we got a computer, I taught myself programming and started making games. They were terrible, but it was really fun, and it’s a hobby (and eventually a business) that I’ve kept up ever since. Even before that, I loved playing board games and card games, and I used to design them when I was a kid and make my friends and family play them. Some of them were really spectacularly bad. I can remember this Roy Rogers game I made, where you moved around this track with events happening to you, and the way I designed the board, you had to roll a 3 and then a 6, or you’d get sent back to the corral and have to start over. It was impossible. My parents played for maybe 20 minutes, and my brother for a little longer, but that wasn’t one of my successes. More recently, I’ve put out a set of puzzle card games, the Dr. Esker’s Notebook series. Getting a bunch of those printed and starting to sell them has been really fun (and a little scary, sending a bunch of money overseas), but it has all the excitement of the early days of Snood.
 
🍳 Ok, Daros!  Your book did pretty well in the inaugural SPSFC!? How was the competition experience for you as an author?
 
[Note: Daros was a semi-finalist – didn’t make the finals. Placed 15th out of 377]
It was really, really fun. My fellow authors formed a really strong community, reading and promoting each other’s books. The judges are all volunteers, and they put a ton of work and thought into their reviews and evaluations, and most of them ended up being big supporters of the indie authors who took part also. I’m so grateful to Hugh Howey and Duncan Swan for running it, and also to the fantasy precursor to the SPSFC, Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO. I’ve entered that a few times, and it has a similar supportive community and really neat vibe.
 
🍳I love asking authors why they chose specific magic or precious or valuable items – so the valuable green Chevron that Becca was in possession of – a random choice or a real life object??
 
🎤That was just something I added when I wrote the second chapter of the book. It has nothing to do with real life, just an object. I usually write without a firm plan in place (in writer lingo, I’m a pantser), so when I added that, I knew it should probably end up being important to the story, but I had no idea what it was or what it did. I didn’t really figure that out until about 70% of the way through the book, when I started figuring out what the big story was and how it might end.
 
🍳Daros is pretty funny despite some tough subject matter! I love the chapter titles!  Did you originally set out to write a book with humor or did it get more or less light as you went?
 
My kids and my students and my long-suffering wife will tell you that I’m nearly always looking for a way to make a joke, so I like to include humor in all of my books. Some of them are funnier than others, but I try in all of them to include a full range of emotions – they’re not just full of gags. In Daros, the relationship between Brecca and Lyra was a great spark for humor, and Frim’s unusual situation was also a way to get at some humor, sometimes pretty dark.
 
The silly chapter titles are something I do in all my books. I started with Flames Over Frosthelm back in 2019, and I had a lot of fun with it, so I’ve done it in every book since.  Daros has some of my favorites, some of them real groaners.
 
🍳Do you have favorite themes to write about, and if so how did they manifest in Daros?
 
🎤I love reading books where the main character is somebody you can cheer for. I don’t need them to be perfect, but I do need them to be trying to help others and have a strong sense of right and wrong and of justice. So, that’s what I tend to write. I love an interesting villain, but I’m much more drawn to heroes, especially people who are forced into challenging situations and have to muddle through. That’s why Frim is how she is in Daros – I wanted to include somebody from the invading alien force as a narrator character, but I hit upon the idea of having that person be a secret rebel. That let me like Frim (and it also put her in danger, which was cool) while still revealing more about the Zeelin’s culture and goals.
 
 
🍳Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character?
 
🎤Favorite authors are numerous. Some that I like a lot are William Goldman, Nnedi Okorafor, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Scalzi, and Ursula K. Leguin. I’m a total sucker for the John Carter books – I loved them as a kid, and they’re obviously dated and sometimes problematic today, but they were romantic, thrilling, and exciting as anything. I try to model my writing after The Princess Bride – an engaging story that you end up caring a lot about, but with a lot of fun along the way. A lesser-known personal favorite is Bridge Of Birds by Barry Hughart (and the sequels). A really great story about a charming pair of friends having a grand adventure in ancient China.
 
 
🍳Thank you for joining Sunday Brunch! If there’s anything else you want to add or say about anything at all, please do so here!
 
🎤Thanks so much for having me – these have been fun questions to answer. If anybody wants to write, I love getting email from readers (or Snood fans) – just drop me a line at dave@davedobsonbooks.com.
 

Author Bio & Links
 
A native of Ames, Iowa, Dave loves writing, reading, boardgames, computer games, improv comedy, pizza, barbarian movies, and the cheaper end of the Taco Bell menu. Also, his wife and kids.
In addition to his novels, Dave is the author of Snood, Snoodoku, Snood Towers, and other computer games. Dave first published Snood in 1996, and it became one of the most popular shareware games of the early Internet. His most recent project (other than writing) is Doctor Esker’s Notebook, a puzzle card game in the spirit of escape rooms.
Dave taught geology, environmental studies, and computer programming at Guilford College for 24 years, and he does improv comedy every week at the Idiot Box in Greensboro, North Carolina. He’s also played the world’s largest tuba in concert. Not that that is relevant, but it’s still kinda cool.
 

Giveaway info! 

Prize: An eBook, Audiobook, or Signed Paperback copy of Daros!
Starts: June 6, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: June 12, 2022 at 11:59pm EST

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79e197ac28/

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Science Fiction

The Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series – Featuring R.W.W. Greene

Hello friends and Robots! First off Happy Mother’s Day if this applies to you in any way shape or form!

For episode 22 of the Sunday Brunch Series I am honored to be kicking off the Angry Robot Books Mercury Rising tour with author R.W.W. Greene! Mercury Rising releases this coming Tuesday the 10th!

Let’s jump right into the interview, then I’ll share book and author info at the end!

Also do 100% be sure to check out this stunning lineup of content through the rest of the tour!

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🥞 Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting fact about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?
 
🎤First, thanks so much for inviting me to brunch. Interesting fact … Yeah, I don’t know. I can’t swim. Is that interesting or pathetic?
 
 
🥞I think it’s awesome that you listed breakfast as a possible interview question! This was meant to be 😂 what’s your favorite brunch food?
🎤Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day — whatever time of the day I choose to have it — and this big plate of eggs and homefries sets the mood just right. I will be accompanying it with nigh-infinite cups of black coffee and maybe a sliver of that quiche.
🥞 One of my favorite topics is morally gray characters and you nailed it with Brooklyn in Mercury Rising.  What do you think makes a good morally gray character?

🎤When the Color Wheel of Our Lives spins, it blurs into grayness. We might be blue or orange at certain points, but the average is that cloudy gray. You’re a good person. Okay, would you steal if you were starving? If your kids were starving? Do you ever drive faster than the speed limit? Ethics come from the outside. Morals are interior, and like everything else inside us, they’re slippery. We tend to resolve the cognitive dissonance of our own immoral actions pretty quickly. It’s just one puppy. Everybody does it. I’m a good person, and I pee in the shower, so obviously, to be a good person, you must pee in the shower, too.

I think the trick is to make the character as real as possible, and realize that real is really messy.

🥞Each of your books takes a big issue (as in pollution or climate change or war or etc) and gives the readers a big *hey this is happening* message – is this the thought that starts your book ideas? Is there an issue that’s particularly near and dear to you?

🎤My stories usually start with character and situation. For “The Light Years,” I had some version of Adem and his arranged marriage. For ‘Twenty-Five,’ I had Julie being left behind on Earth. For ‘Mercury,’ I had Brooklyn and his need to just make it through the day and get back to his apartment.

The ‘hey this is happening’ stuff comes in because everything is happening all the time, and it keeps happening over and over. We’re drowning in the rhymes and resonances of all the things we’ve (the Big We) ever seen or done. I suppose I’m most attuned to things that will affect the future. Which, I guess, is everything.

I don’t sleep all that well, and I take pills for anxiety. I wonder why

🥞You were a part of a “swearing in SFF” panel at Quarancon! Can you share your general thoughts on foul language & slang in SFF?

🎤Swearing is interesting because we lose vocabulary as the arc of history bends toward justice. I don’t hear origins as expletives nearly as much as I used to. Being a bastard isn’t the curse it once was. As the meaning of ‘bitch’ changes and evolves, being a ‘son of a bitch’ ain’t so bad. Slut-shaming is slowly giving way to sex-positivity. As we become more secular, there are fewer gods to blaspheme.

Most of what we’re left with is body parts and bodily functions. And fuck, which is  the Swiss-Army knife of swear words.

What would a wood elf find profane? ‘You slayer of trees! Culler of conifers! Maple mauler! Fucking asshole!”

A William Gibson cyberpunk-cowboy: “Cube! (from ‘cubicle’) Drug-cutting corpie! You dirty little dataport! Virus licker! Fucking asshole!

🥞Is there more to come in the Mercury Rising universe? {I loved the open ending but also want more Brooklyn}

🎤 There is. Angry Robot and I have contracted for a second book in what is meant to be a trilogy. You’ll see book two in early summer of 2023. If all goes well, the third book should come out summerish 2024, either from Angry Robot (fingers crossed) or self-published.

{{I’m on board, ESPECIALLY IF AR FINALLY EXPLAINS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 400. I should start asking the authors}}

🥞After three books now and multiple short stories, what is the most valuable (or entertaining) feedback you’ve gotten so far?

🎤One short-story reviewer pronounced me a ‘middle-aged writer,” which while true, hurt. A dude on Goodreads recently gave ‘Twenty-Five to Life’ one star because he didn’t like who I dedicated the book to. One gent out on the West Coast of the U.S. wrote and said ‘The Light Years’ helped him come to terms with his father, which is cool but completely unplanned.

Probably the most useful feedback I’ve received is ‘Don’t read the reviews!” I don’t always listen.

🥞Random Sci-fi question: With the conference coming in May, any thoughts on the Nebula nominees this year?

🎤My secret shame — not so secret now — is that I often don’t get to the Nebula nominees until they are on the final ballot. I read a lot, easily three or four books a week, but much of it is not in-genre and the stuff that is doesn’t always show up on awards lists. After the ballot is released, I usually go on an all-Nebula reading spree so I can cast an informed vote.

There are so many books being published, I have no idea how anyone keeps up, and that’s not including all the novellas, novelettes, and short stories. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

{{True fact, I’ve succumbed to mood reading and pretty much anything from AR}}

🥞Here is the rapid-fire round of bookish questions:  favorite author? A book or series that you always recommend? Favorite literary character?

🎤My favorite SFF author is currently a three-way tie among William Gibson (always), Becky Chambers, and Seanan McGuire. Gary Shteyngart is orbiting this triumvirate waiting for one of them to die or retire.

I’ve recommended Mary Doria Russell’s ‘The Sparrow’ more times than I can remember. Series … maybe the ‘Emberverse’ stuff by S.M. Stirling.

Character … Henry Palace in Ben Winter’s ‘Last Policeman’ series. Or Trixe Belden. If you push me, Trixie beats Henry all the way.

🥞Thank you for joining Sunday Brunch! If there’s anything else you want to add or say about anything at all, please do so here!

🎤Thanks so much for having me. The company was excellent and the quiche divine. Have a lovely day!


There you have it!

If you want to see my early Mercury Rising review, click here!

Author Bio:

R.W.W. Greene is a New Hampshire USA writer with an MA in Fine Arts, which he exorcises in dive bars and coffee shops. He is a frequent panelist at the Boskone Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Boston, and his work has been in Stupefying Stories, Daily Science Fiction, New Myths, and Jersey Devil Press, among others. Greene is a past board member of the New Hampshire Writers’ Project. He keeps bees, collects typewriters, and lives with writer/artist spouse Brenda and two cats

Book Blurb:
Even in a technologically-advanced, Kennedy-Didn’t-Die alternate-history, Brooklyn Lamontagne is going nowhere fast. The year is 1975, thirty years after Robert Oppenheimer invented the Oppenheimer Atomic Engine, twenty-five years after the first human walked on the moon, and eighteen years after Jet Carson and the Eagle Seven sacrificed their lives to stop the alien invaders. Brooklyn just wants to keep his mother’s rent paid, earn a little scratch of his own, steer clear of the cops, and maybe get laid sometime in the near future. Simple pleasures, right? But a killer with a baseball bat and a mysterious box of 8-track tapes is about to make his life real complicated.
So, rot away in prison or sign up to defend the planet from the assholes who dropped a meteorite on Cleveland?  Brooklyn crosses his fingers and picks  the Earth Orbital Forces. A few years in the trenches and then — assuming he survives — he’ll get his life back, right? Unfortunately, the universe has other plans, and Brooklyn is launched into a story about saving humanity, finding family, and growing as a person — while coping with high-stakes space battles, mystery science experiments and finding out the real enemies aren’t the tentacled monsters on the recruitment poster.

Unless they are.