Sunday, February 19, 2012

Interview with Fantasy Author J. Dean

I'd like to welcome author J. Dean, author of The Summoning of Clade Josso, to the blog. First, would you tell us when you started writing? What did you first write?

Fifth grade.  The movie RED DAWN had come out, and one of my friends had written what was essentially a two page "clone" story that took place in our school.  I read it and decided then and there that I wanted to do the same thing, so I too wrote a clone story (Yeah... not much in the imagination department yet).  From there, it stuck with me, even after my friends fell away from it.  I couldn't keep from writing; far too fun.  It still is.

Tell us about the fantasy world(s) you make up. What are they like?

Imagine if you will seven different universes, each universe containing a world in which exists a different race of beings.  Now, imagine each of these worlds having a gateway that leads to a "para-world,"  a sort of "world between the universes" that acts as an in-between place, like a hallway connecting different rooms.  This para-world (called the Meridian) is not a round world.  It is a flat plane of existence, filled with diverse climates and terrains, and at its center lies an entrance into yet another place called the Vein.  At one point beings could come and go as they pleased through these gateways, crossing from one world to another via the Meridian, living in an existence that could rightly be called paradise.

But something terrible happened.  A war between two factions, the Sect of the Awakened and the Heretics (or the Blindmen), caused the slaughter of many beings, and sealed off the Meridian, severing connections between the Seven Worlds.  As a result, a terrible evil has spread across the Meridian and seeped into each of the different universes, tainting and corrupting the Seven Races.  The Meridian itself was changed.  Once a harbor of prosperity and commerce, it transformed into a harsh, deadly environment, filled with deadly creatures and empty ruins that once represented great civilizations.  And until what is written in the scrolls comes to pass--that one being from each of the Seven Worlds enters the Meridian and comes to the Vein in order to awake The All, Balys-Crahly--The Meridian and its adjoining worlds will remain in this darkness.

How do you work out a magic system for your world? Do you prefer a lot of magic? Light magic? And why?

I actually don't prefer it.  The "magic"--and I wouldn't even really call it magic--has limits on it, in part because it's more or less manipulation by things (maybe beings?) we don't see, rather than being a broad, available "force" like the Force in Star Wars, used by wielders as they please.  It would be more accurate to call it "power" which has an external conscious source, but the power has parameters on it, rules that the "users" cannot violate.   That being said, there is an incorporation of technology into the stories as well.

I have a couple of reasons for taking a more unorthodox view of magic and power in my stories.  For starters, I didn't want to be a Tolkien/R.A. Salvatore clone.  The world of hobbits, elves, orcs, wizards, and the like has been done to death, and with this series I wanted completely orginal characters, creatures, monsters, places, etc.  Part of that originality came in the form of deciding whether or not to use magic, and instead of rehashing it or doing away with it, I altered it.  Some of it I have to keep tight-lipped on, because then it would involve telling you TOO much about the plot, and that means I'd have to tie you up and lock you in the broom closet.  And we don't want to do that :D.  But I prefer to call it "power" rather than "magic," because there is a subtle difference.

What is the hardest thing about making up a fantasy world? Why?

For me the hardest thing was doing something original.  Like I said earlier, the Tolkien path of fantasy has already been trodden by so many authors and epics, and as much as I admire J.R.R. Tolkien, I didn't want to do that.  It's easy to do what's already been done; the real challenge is to come up with something different, and that's what the Vein epic is all about.  It's an original story, with original characters, in an original setting, with original dangers and wonders.  Doing that requires real thought and development, simply because you're scrapping established templates and making up your own.  It's a challenge, but in the end it's also rewarding to see people read what's been written and say "Wow! That's really different!" instead of  "Oh, nice story."

Tell us about your most recent main character. Would we want to share a meal with them? Why?

Probably not.  The first two characters in the first two novels (Clade Josso and Old Velt) were quite pleasant fellows, very kind, noble, and brave.  But Kran, well... he's a different story.  You see, not all of the characters coming into the Meridian are doing so with noble intentions, and Kran is here for himself, nobody else.  The Sect members accompanying him are tolerating him because he's important to the fulfillment of the prophecy in the scrolls, but Kran has no qualms about taking the blaster grafted into his arm and killing somebody who rubs him the wrong way.  That being said, he's cooperating with the Sect members while taking his trek to the Vein, but only because it's to his benefit.  He is haughty, selfish, looks down on any other being-and he is sure to let them know it without apology.

What about the villain of your most recent novel. How did you make them up? Would we be scared to meet them in a dark alley?

Oh I think so.  There are a few creatures that would more than qualify as monsters in the Vein, but I'm most proud of the Cloud Specter.  A massive giant that lurks in a rolling black thunderhead, it lowers itself in an inverse position from the cloud (so that, from our perspective on the ground, the Specter is upside down, with its feet in the cloud and its head just above us).  It's huge, a behemoth taller than the tallest skyscraper, and it loves to kill anything on the ground with one swipe of its hand--which it can do without any problems.

What is your next project?

Aside from continuing to work on the Vein series (and the third book should be done by summer, God willing!), I'm putting together a short story collection of mostly horror entitled Alternate Endings, featuring highlights from previously released work and also including some new stories I've written, two of which are probably novella length.  I hope to have that one ready for summer as well.  After all, what's a little summer reading without sending the occasional chill up the spine, right?

Thanks for dropping by to answer my questions.

Readers can buy The Summoning of Clade Josso on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Smashwords.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Blood Duty Reduced to 99 Cents for One Week Only

For one week, Sunday, Feb. 19 through Saturday Feb. 26 I have reduced Blood Duty from it's regular price of $2.99 to only 99 Cents.

It has some good reviews--4.8 star average. I hope you'll check out the reviews and the sample. It might just be the read you're looking for.

Tamra Dervon, Captain of the Guard of Wayfare Keep, thinks her biggest problem is her love affair with Jessup. The scout is holding things back from her, and she doesn't know what. But when a seemingly unbeatable army of demons invades, Tamra's personal problems look very small. Tamra and Jessup find themselves leading a last-ditch defense. Their army is defeated. Jessup disappears in the retreat, and her duty calls for a desperate self-sacrifice. Alone, she must face the demon horde.

Available for 99 Cents on Amazon US and Amazon UK this week only.


And back to our regularly scheduled author interviews tomorrow.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Interview with Epic Fantasy Author Sara Jo Easton

I'd like to welcome Sara Jo Easton. Sara, would you tell us when you started writing? What did you first write?
I started writing at a young age; my mother has "books" I made up when I was five. I first got serious about writing in the fifth grade, when I had a very helpful and encouraging teacher. I've been working on my writing ever since.

My first novel involved an orphan bobcat and a pack of wolves fighting evil humans. I had fun writing it, but looking back I've gotten more joy out of laughing at my middle school antics. I'm rather glad that Kindle publishing wasn't easy when I thought that particular story was good.

Tell us about the fantasy world(s) you make up. What are they like?

The Sandleyr is a world in which humans are slaves to a race of dragon-like creatures called the Onizards. Ideally, the Sandleyr is ruled by four empaths called the Children of Light, but when the last Child of Light died, no one inherited her powers. Instead of an empath who has a strong incentive to keep his or her people happy,  the Onizards of the Day Kingdom have the Fire Queen, whose idea of fun is setting humans on fire.

The human Jena was just trying to stay out of trouble when she was brought to see Onizard eggs hatching. A freak accident left her as the only one who could save a drowning hatchling. Now that her mind is telepathically Bonded to the mind of that hatchling, she has to fake her own death to avoid the Fire Queen's wrath. There's also the awkward expectation that she'll be the one to free her race.

How do you work out a magic system for your world? Do you prefer a lot of magic? Light magic? And why?

The Onizards have plenty of magic in their world, but the magic has limits. The Fire Queen can breathe fire, but she can't do so as often as she'd like. The Children of Earth are probably the most powerful Onizards, as they can heal wounds, but Children of Earth can tire themselves out or even over heal.

I like having a lot of magic in a story, but having that magic limited to make it more special. Magic that comes too easily ceases to have the wonder that makes it magic. 
What is the hardest thing about making up a fantasy world? Why?
The hardest thing to do when making up a fantasy world is to tone down the information in your head when it's time to write the story. You may know everything there is to know about your fantasy culture, but if it isn't related to the story it isn't worth adding.
Tell us about your most recent main character. Would we want to share a meal with them? Why?
I don't think sharing a meal with Jena is a good idea unless she's the one issuing the invitation. Wherever Jena goes, a loyal group of Onizards follows. They would eat everything in your house and still be starving.
What about the villain of your most recent novel. How did you make them up? Would we be scared to meet them in a dark alley?
The Fire Queen popped into my head when someone stole my writing and threatened to set it all on fire. The idea of someone who would callously burn something knowing what it meant to another thoroughly frightened me.
I don't think the Fire Queen would fit in a dark alley, but if she was stuck there she'd already be angry. I would be terrified to meet the Fire Queen when she was angry, as  she'd waste no time in killing me.

What is your next project?

"The Speed of Wind", the next Onizard novel, comes out in March, so I'm busy editing and formatting it. After that, I'll be working on another Onizard story for an August/September release.
The Zarder is available on Amazon. I hope you'll check it out.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Interview with Fantasy Author Ruth Nestvold

I'd like to welcome fantasy author Ruth Nestwolf, author of the novel Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur.
Ruth, when did you start writing? What did you first write?
Sometime in grade school. The first thing I wrote were animal stories, what I liked to read at the time. I started my first historical novel (set in ancient Crete) in seventh grade. In high school, I actually sent a couple of stories out to short story markets. But then rationality took over, and instead of writing I studied literature, had a couple of kids, got a Ph.D., taught at the university for a while. Much of that time I was writing on the side, but it wasn't until after I attended the Clarion West Writing Workshop that I began writing regularly and actually started to have any success. 

Tell us about the fantasy world(s) you make up. What are they like?
I write a lot of different things spanning the genres of fantasy and science fiction, but my novels are mostly in the genre of historical fantasy. They tend to be set in a recognizable historical period, but with distinct magical elements added. Take Yseult, for example -- admittedly the only one I've published until now. *g* It's a retelling of the famous love story of Tristan and Isolde, set in fifth century Ireland and Britain, and the overarching plot revolves around the battles of King Arthur against the Saxons and other enemies of Britain. I did a lot or research, and I think it has a very historic feel to it -- but at the same time, a number of the protagonists are wielders of magic. I like fantasy worlds that have a gritty, realistic feel to them but are still recognizably different, and so those are the kinds of worlds I try to create. 

How do you work out a magic system for your world? Do you prefer a lot of magic? Light magic? And why?
For Yseult, I started with the pseudo-historical setting I was using and tried to figure out what kind of magic would fit into that world. Looking at Druid magic and Irish myth and superstition, I based my magic on various ideas of "second sight" but made it much more powerful. I don't like magic that can solve all problems, though, so the magical powers in Yseult are limited to seeing into the future and the minds of others, sending thoughts and dreams to another person over a long distance, and manipulating people's perceptions (the power of knowing, the power of calling, and the power of changing). It's important to me to have very distinct limits to the magic in my world; it keeps things from being too easy for my protagonists. When magic is too strong in fantasy or its price isn't high enough, problems can be solved much too easily and tension disappears. 

What is the hardest thing about making up a fantasy world?
Getting the rules right and making the world consistent. 

Tell us about your most recent main character. Would we want to share a meal with them? Why?
I'm trying to figure out who my most recent main character is. *g* At any given time, I have multiple projects in various stages of completion. Right now I'm editing a follow-up novel to Yseult, Shadow of Stone, but in order to concentrate on that, I shoved another novel to the back burner. I also recently completed a steampunk short story set in my own backyard, the Daimler-Motorenwerke in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt in the 19th century. 
But when it comes right down to it, the protagonists in all those fictions are difficult and pleasant in their own ways. Whether you would want to share a meal with them would largely have to do with whether you shared their quirks and obsessions. 

What about the villain of your most recent novel. How did you make them up? Would we be scared to meet them in a dark alley?
My villains tend to be people who function quite well in their society, so they probably would not be particularly fearsome in a dark alley -- unless you knew them well already and knew what they were capable of. The main antagonist in Yseult is an ambitious king whose sense of morality mostly revolves around his own advantage and getting back at those who have gotten in the way of what he wanted. In the follow-up novel, Shadow of Stone, the antagonist is a kind of "poor relation" who resents how badly life has treated him and is determined to turn things around so that he can achieve the status he thinks he deserves. What both of them have in common is a talent for manipulation and an inability to empathize with the problems of others. Their fixation on themselves borders on the psychopathic, but at the same time, they are completely normal members of society. 
I guess I make up the kinds of villains I do because I believe evil tends to stem from selfishness and lack of empathy. It might not look evil on the surface, but someone who is concerned with his or her own advantage above all others, given enough resentment and/or opportunity, is quite capable of committing atrocious acts in the name of what they think is justice. Several books I've read on criminal psychology have been very helpful in creating my antagonists. 

What is your next project?
The present work in progress, Fragments of Legend, is something new for me, since it jumps between different levels in time and reality. In the modern level of the story, an American book conservator in Germany discovers evidence in the backing of an old herbal that could mean that the most famous epic of medieval German literature, the Nibelungenlied, had been written by a woman. The story of her attempts to uncover the truth in the fragments she found unfolds parallel to the medieval narrative of the woman brave enough to defy convention and write her own version of the Nibelung legend, as well as the half-mythic, half-historical tale of Brynhilda, Sigfrid and the downfall of the Germanic tribe of the Nibelungs. 

Ruth Nestvold's fantasy novel Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur is available on Amazon for only $4.95. You can also find her Dragon Time and Other Stories and Looking Through Lace on Amazon.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Interview with Epic Fantasy author Sean Van Damme

When did you start writing? What did you first write?
I started writing from a very young age, but knew that was what I wanted to do in 7thgrade when I started working on a grand Sci-fi novel.  That was what I wrote for a long time before I moved to scripts and fantasy and such. Looking back now at those hundreds of pages of loose leaf paper the pure joy and “I’m not paying attention in class” still brings a smile to my face. 
Tell us about the fantasy world(s) you make up. What are they like?
The world that I created for The Long Night, is a fractured land of city-states and small independent townships. The people are far to fractured and petty to ever fall under a single king, and the warfare among the cities is so common that the world is to weak for a single group to come out on top.  When I was outlining the book the story was going to be a Mod for Dragon Age: Origins, so the world fit into a feel that would have worked right with the engine, and was also colored by my having just finished reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I came late to that game what can I say.
As a world builder I wanted to avoid some of the tropes that I saw to often like powerful kings, mage and thief guilds etc running the show. I also only put in a second race aside from Humans and those were Dwarfs. I decided to do something different with them as well turning them into refugees whose city had fallen into a massive underground air pocket.
The only thing that in any way unites the whole world is religion an the worship of their lord of light Hyack, whose followers have built a very strong institution and army that gallivanting around crusading, as they see heretics everywhere, if they had power armor they would be Warhammer 40K marines.
How do you work out a magic system for your world? Do you prefer a lot of magic? Light magic? And why?
I went with a middle ground for magic, it wasn’t something that hid in legend, and wasn’t so omi-present that people had lost any awe for it. As such I also didn’t want my caster to be to over powered so I put down limits to how it worked. I gave it an almost scientific explanation; the mages can see down to the components of our world and manipulate them, such as causing water molecules to slow down forming ice, or pushing the air into a pocket crushing a goblin’s head. At the same time this puts a strain on the caster meaning that most mages can only cast a few spells before they start to get light headed.
Being that it was scientific magic is something that can sort of be learned, a mildly powerful mage with much practice and reading can become more powerful, whereas most people who are born so strong that they can move walls as children tend to go insane, do to parts of their brain pushing out other parts, and are put down by the magic establishment because they are to dangerous.
What is the hardest thing about making up a fantasy world? Why?
Trying to not make it cookie cutter, but at the same time not making changes and decisions just to be different. Everything had to make sense, and had to support the story. I didn’t want to get bogged down creating thousands of years of history only to use a fraction of it on the page. I outlined a lot of history but only developed what I needed, and even then about half of that didn’t make it to the page.  After I finished when I was outlining the prequel trilogy (which has been pushed back in my ever expanding queue) I went into more depth about the world history and subcultures etc.
Tell us about your most recent main character. Would we want to share a meal with them? Why?
Well if we stick to fantasy my most resent main is Alen Tar, he would be pleasant enough to share a meal with as long as you didn’t bring up the past, he has a sore spot for his past failings and can never let those go. Otherwise he would be polite if a little cold.
What about the villain of your most recent novel. How did you make them up? Would we be scared to meet them in a dark alley?
In The Long Night the villain is far more the darkness and their own demons and pasts, and less the Prophet of darkness or Val’Mal both of which are more generic evil then I would have liked but such is life. 
What is your next project?
Right now I am banging out a few thrillers that were in my head keeping me from writing other things, then I am going to go and knock out that Sci-Fi story that I started in 7thgrade.  Fantasy was something I fell into quite by accident and really surprisingly enjoyed writing.  I have some ideas for more books in my world, but they haven’t completely crystallized yet so I am letting them ferment in my brain before I tackle them full on.

The Long Night is available for Kindle and Nook for only $2.99.