Archive | December, 2012

The Twelve(ish) Days of Authors – Day 12, Cotton E. Davis

29 Dec

Today brings us to our last scheduled interview – I really enjoyed doing this, so I might try this again in a few months.  

Anyhow, up last is Burst author Cotton E. Davis, and he’s here to talk about his science-fiction novel, TimeWarp, Inc. I’d like to welcome Cotton and thank him for agreeing to be interviewed!


In his own words:


My sci-fi novel TimeWarp, Inc. is basically the story of an agnostic ex-soldier who travels back in time, where he meets and becomes Christ’s best friend.  It was published in August by Burst, and can be purchased in both ebook and paperback forms.

I’m a retired (age 66) restaurant and retail store manager whose last job was working in the records section of a medium-sized city in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.  Prior to that, I lived in the Washington, D.C. area and before that St. Louis.   


For whatever reason, I can’t sync links very easily on this post – check out Cotton’s website at    


Tell us about TimeWarp, Inc. and who you think would like it.

I originally titled my story Christ and the Centurion, because my time-traveler hero begins the book embedded as a Roman legionary with Julius Caesar’s Tenth Legion in Transalpine Gaul.  The publisher suggested TimeWarp, Inc. instead, and I grudgingly liked that title better.  An agnostic traveling back in time and meeting Christ was ironic enough, but him falling in love with a twentieth-century woman who is a devout Christian shows how characters often take on lives of their own and write themselves.  As far as who will like the novel goes, who knows?  I’ve been told TimeWarp, Inc. is a good story, and women in particular seem to enjoy the romance, but that’s all in the reading eyes of the beholder.


Do you have any other projects in the works that we should know about?

Strangely enough, Burst Books has accepted a sequel to TimeWarp, Inc. about a Neanderthal boy who is time transported to our century at age six and mainstreamed into a mid-Missouri High School at age 15.  My title was Caveman High, but I suspect Diane, my editor, will come up with something better.  I believe the Neanderthal story is due out in July, 2013.


In the spirit of sharing, tell us about a book by another author you adore.

The Death of Attila by Cecelia Holland.  Ms. Holland not only gives the reader an avuncular view of Attila the Hun–the Scourge of God–but does so with a keen understanding of human beings, in this case Huns, Germanic tribesmen and Romans.  Cecelia Holland is always a pleasure to read, as was Frank Yerby.


What’s the best movie you’ve seen so far this year?

Lincoln.  Daniel Day Lewis made the 16th president come alive to me.


How do you feel about writing the novel length as compared to other formats?

To me–and remember I’m a novice at this–writing novels is less difficult than crafting short stories.  In a novel, the writer can take his time and pace himself, characterize (relatively speaking) at his leisure.  With short stories, you have to make every word count, sometimes do double and triple duty: characterizing, setting a mood, describing a background and moving the plot along all at the same time.  I really admire short-story writers.


Did you get into publishing a novel off the hop, or were you in any magazines or anthologies previously?

I’ve pretty much Forrest Gumped my way through life.  One of the many jobs I’ve had was as a newspaper reporter during the mid-1970s.  From there, I freelanced several magazine articles, and became a stringer for a time on a martial arts magazine.  When I retired, ten years ago, I found myself with nothing to do, so I tried my hand at fiction writing.  It wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it would be and, therefore, became a challenge.


Every author has the most loathsome part of the craft–what do you hate the most?

Marketing and promotion.  I have no skill at it…or with computers.


For you, what makes the difference between a ‘good’ book and a ‘great’ book?

Emotional content.  I want to feel something when I read.


In TimeWarp, Inc., do you have a favorite character?

Actually, I have two.  Historian Ph.D. Gwen Hoffman who is tasked with preparing my time-traveler protagonist for life in the first-century A.D. and Jeshua bar Yosef (Christ) himself.  Gwen is like a lot of people.  She doesn’t know what she is capable of doing until she is forced by exigency to do it.  Also, she is a good person who has no hidden agendas, unlike so much of the rest of the world, and she falls in love (with my protagonist) for the right reasons.  As for Christ, he was a challenge.  I had to make assumptions about him from reading between the lines of the scriptures.  One of the assumptions I made was…he was interesting.  Therefore, I made him bright and funny and skilled socially.  And, as one character put it, he was “a nice guy.”

That about wraps it up with the Twelve(ish) Days interviews – now I’ll have to think to keep this blog interesting. I hope wherever you are, that you have all the best for 2013. 


The Twelve(ish) Days of Authors Day 11, Graeme Brown

28 Dec

Today’s author is another from the Burst Books line, Graeme Brown!


Graeme Brown is a Winnipeg writer, artist and student of mathematics.  Being a long-time fan of epic fantasy and suffering from an overactive imagination, he has been writing stories for more than twenty years.  He also enjoys running, yoga, and classical piano.


You can check out more about Graeme at his website, twitter account, and blog.


So, without further ado, I’d like to welcome Graeme to this interview and thank him for agreeing to answering the questions! His first short story with Burst Books, The Pact, is coming June 2013. 


Tell us about The Pact and who you think would like it.

Will Lesterall, a cowardly boy, must find courage when his castle wonderland is threatened by a host of monsters and an ancient pact made with blood and fire.  It’s a short reading vacation into a world of epic fantasy reminiscent of Tolkien and Jordan and Martin, all authors who have influenced my style and who I’ve paid particular attention to over the last many years.  Anyone who enjoys a richly detailed fantasy world with a dark, intriguing atmosphere will likely enjoy this story.


Where did you get the idea for The Pact?

It was a dark 5am walk to work.  I was contemplating putting my epic series aside and looking for a short story to write so that I could start building my writing portfolio.  A couple of ideas came to me, but the one that stuck was the one about two boys in a small castle village beside a mountain.  I knew there were monsters in those mountains and that their home was going to get attacked, and I became interested in their story.  Over the next few weeks, I started outlining, until I had a lot of the details I needed, then I started writing.


Tell us a bit about your writing style – is there anything you find really easy or, really hard? (First person vs. third person, short stories vs novel length, ect).

I write a little bit every day, even if it’s only 100 words.  This keeps me connected to whatever project I am focusing on.  Usually, I spend time going over the most recent few pages, using this to get connected to where I left off.  Often I spend weeks on one scene, depending on the layers of complexity, but I find draft-writing is a dynamic process.  I don’t have a second or third draft – I only have one.  When I’m done, it sits for a bit, gets read by an alpha reader or two, then I will give it a polish, read it through out loud, then send it away. 

I find it very hard to stare at a blank screen.  Often, getting started is the hardest part, but once I have all my outline and character and setting sketches spread out in front of me, I start typing and the story builds itself.  Fortunately, I am very good at adding in surprises, and the method of outlining I have developed gives me some tools to put together some very vivid, sharp fiction that keeps the narrative grounded in character, setting and the progress of the conflict.


In The Pact, do you have a favorite character? How about least favorite?

Heck, I love them all.  Even the villain.  One thing I did when I wrote The Pact was give each character their own profile sheet, and this meant learning about their childhood and motives.  It taught me that even the rottenest of people have reasons for what they do.


Do you have any other projects in the works that we should know about?

I am writing the sequel to The Pact, a short novel called A Thousand Roads.  It follows up with Will’s friend Jak, the story of a young man trying to find his way in a world full of lies and misdirection.  It’s turning out to be a strange and wonderful beast, full of bloody battle, swearing pirates, sexy villains and spectacles that wait in the dark.  I expect it to be submitted to Champagne Books by the spring.


In the spirit of sharing, tell us about a book by another author you adore.

I’m currently reading the latest work of George R. R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons.  There are millions of fan of the TV show, and I think even if you’re not a reader, it has its own magic, a sort of Harry Potter for adults.  Martin’s books are not only story-telling masterpieces, his command of prose is amazing, with passages that are so well-thought out I am often in awe.


What’s the best way to spend a single day during the holidays?

Reading a good book, drinking coffee, engaged in my story, and working on some math, preferably at a nice coffee shop with dim lighting and a fireplace.


How do you feel about writing the novel length as compared to other formats?

I used to writing nothing but long.  Any attempt at writing small turned large.  Even The Pact was supposed to be 15,000 words.  However, writing The Pact was my first success at writing a story from a proper outline, and this has taught me that any tale, no matter how long, is manageable, so long as you have the right way to stay on track.  I like to think of it like building a house or a stadium: you take the time to draw up the blueprints to make sure everything will be put together properly, then you go slowly and carefully to make sure it’s all just right.


Did you get into to publishing a novel off the hop, or were you in any magazines or anthologies previously?

The Pact was meant to be my small start.  I was advised to write something that could sell to magazines.  When it got longer, I had a hard time finding magazines that would take it.  Meeting Ellen at Keycon opened a different door altogether, as I hadn’t anticipated the e-book market.


For you, what makes the difference between a ‘good’ book and a ‘great’ book?

All books are crafted designs, things created to entertain and engage.  A good book does this, stopping readers and pulling them into the world of the text.  A great book, though, is one that you could read again and again and still find new things hidden in its depths.  Capturing a bit of the timeless, the elements of our world that make it what it is, is a grand task, and it’s a writer’s ability to do this that makes them an artist and not just an entertainer.


Do you have any recommendations for writers who are putting the finishing touches on a manuscript?

Read it out loud.  If you want to weed out bad sentences and poor word choices, there’s no better way to hear it than to speak it.  Think of it as preparation for all those readings you’re going to be doing.  You want to be sure of every word, and as your speaking them, ask yourself if you’d feel proud of them were a crowd of one hundred listening to you.


Have you ever been surprised during your writing?

All the time.  Every day I never know what new layer is going to unfold.  That’s the biggest surprise, and the greatest beauty of writing.  That’s why I come back to the keyboard again and again and again.


Thank you so much for stopping by, Graeme! I’ll have to invite some of these authors back as soon as they get their covers and/or their stories go to launch!


Once again, here’s the links to find out more about Graeme and his writing:




Well everyone, we’re at Day 11, and as it turns out, my last scheduled author is due for tomorrow. Things might change if I get a last-minute email or one of my tentative interviewees’ life calms down a smidge, but overall this was a lot of fun and it gave me a chance to get to know some of the authors beyond our author chats and staring at their book covers. I might do something like this again (with new questions, mind!) some time in the spring. So if you’ve been following along this blog for the last few weeks, I’d also like to extend a thank you. And hey, if you’re just tuning in today… uh, hope you like it?

Peace out everyone, until tomorrow!

The Twelve(ish) Days of Authors – Day 10, Jane Toombs

27 Dec

Next up on this author-celebration is romance author, Jane Toombs! Jane is joining us for her birthday, so I’d like to first extend to a Jane a very happy birthday!


Jane Toombs is a retired R.N. who was first published Tule Witch, a gothic novel, in 1973 while still working as a nurse, which is probably why the heroine of this book is one. Currently, Jane is the caretaker at home for her Life Partner who has Parkinson’s Disease and is in a wheelchair. This has cut down her writing time, so she’s currently scanning rights-back books for ebooks to send to Books We Love, LTD. Since she is no techie and would have major difficulty trying to put ebooks up on Amazon herself, she uses this publisher. An eclectic writer, she’s written in most genres except for erotic and men’s action. 



Tell us about The Outlaws and who you think would like it.

My next book will be a rights-back book called The Outlaws and will be an ebook. The setting of the book is the New Mexico Territory in the era of Billy the Kid. Though he appears often in the book, he is not the main character. This book took a great deal of research so that I could use real characters and have them interacting often with characters from my own imagination. I call it a historical western, with romance. Also sex. It should have a broad appeal for most readers.

My main characters in this book are a family of three who have no mother or father. The girl is older than her two brothers and is trying to take care of them as best she can during this dangerous period with the Lincoln County War going on in the Territory. Bad as he was, Billy the Kid was a most engaging character.


Do you have any other projects in the works that we should know about?

I’m finishing up an original paranormal suspense romance called Uncanny, the third book in my Underworld Series from Eternal Press. My next project is to finish Stranger On The Shore, the fourth and final book in my Dangerous Darkness Series from Red Rose Publishing–again a paranormal suspense romance.


 In the spirit of sharing, tell us about a book by another author you adore

My friend and good writer, Janet Lane Walters has an interesting paranormal Egyptian Series I believe paranormal readers would really like. Check out her blog to find these books.


 Tell us a bit about your writing style – is there anything you find really easy or, really hard? 

I never know how to answer this question.  I don’t find anything in a story especially hard to write. I’ve written in first person when I was doing gothics, though I usually do write in third. I’ve also written novellas, novels and sagas.


 Who is your favorite fictional or movie villain of all time? 

Bela Lugosi playing Dracula in the first movie of that title really freaked me out. Of course I wasn’t even a teen at the time. So did Boris Karloff playing Frankenstein in the first movie with that title. Who knows–maybe that’s why I just can’t see a vampire as a hero in novels even today.


Is there anything you know now as a published author you wish you could go back and tell yourself before you had a book on the market?

Yes. Never be intimidated by an agent or publisher. Speak up if you have problems concerning the book you’re about to write.  I learned this the hard way.


Name a fad you never understood or, a fad you wish would go away.

It’s not truly a fad, but I’m really freaked out by some young girls’ desire to get naked and post pictures of themselves for all to see. Also, perhaps because I‘m a nurse I also have never understood anyone’s desire to get zoned out on drugs. Druggies miss out on so much of the world around them. 


Do you have any other writing projects in the works or coming soon?

Oh, boy, do I.  I’ve got two series I haven’t even started yet.  I particularly want to get at  Primes and Nulls, one where a family has both shape-shifters and norms, who resent one another.  Plus I have two books yet to write in my Dagon House Trilogy. 


Do you have any resolutions for 2013?

Yup. The same one I made back in 2009 when I vowed not to begin any more trilogies or longer series until I had finished every book in the ones I had started. So far I haven’t finished all of them, so I simply renew the vow every year.


How do you feel about writing the novel length as compared to other formats?

I started out writing novels, but nowadays I prefer novella length.


Did you get into to publishing a novel off the hop, or were you in any magazines or anthologies previously?

I didn’t actually finish any of the short stories I wrote before I wrote my first novel. Looking at them today, I can understand why. Unlike my novels, I never knew the endings for them. I still don’t, even today.  But I did finish my first novel. And it sold.  (Tule Witch)           

Oops. Just remembered I did go back and finish one short stories titled Frozen Section for a free anthology a group of Champagne Books authors are compiling. It’ll be out soon.


Every author has the most loathsome part of the craft – what do you hate the most?

Marketing and promotion.  I always wish someone else would do that for me.


For you, what makes the difference between a ‘good’ book and a ‘great’ book?

I truly enjoy Michael Connolly’s mysteries and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher stories.  Every one of the books by both these writers is good.  But they don’t resonate with me later as a truly great book does.


Are there any challenges you did not anticipate when teaming up with another author for a project?

Actually, no. I only did this once, with Janet Lane Walters when we wrote our non-fiction book, Becoming Your Own Critique Partner Soon to be reissued with a new title Words Perfect, subtitle still BYOCP.  As a matter of fact, neither of us can now remember which chapters I wrote and which Janet wrote. Which is strange because in fiction we write nothing alike. It took us two years, but the book came together seamlessly–maybe because we edited each other’s chapters and never fought over the edits. But Janet’s into Astrology and tells me that’s because she’s a Cancer and I’m a Capricorn and those two signs get along with each other.  She may be right because first I married a Leo–divorced him. Then married an Aries and we fought a lot. He died, and I finally hooked up with an old friend from school days who’s a Cancer and we do get on well.  



What, if anything, do you celebrate in the coming weeks?

Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Since my SO now has Parkinson’s we don’t do any real celebrating. We will have Christmas dinner on the 23rd with my step-daughter and her husband who have bought a house in town so now live a few blocks away. Leslie and Steve are cooking a ham and the trimmings, which they’ll bring over here. I will have cooked candied yams, cranberry sauce and a berry pie. We’ll all eat here. Makes it easier for my SO, who’s in a wheel chair so getting anywhere is a project, especially in snowy weather.  They will then drive down to Tennessee to spend Christmas with his family.


Do you have a special talent unrelated to writing?

Nope. Not a one. I did used to knit before my hands got too arthritic. But I was only a so-so knitter.


Can you come up with a limerick for us on the spot?



 Celebrating Christmas.

There was a Midwestern old bat

Who wrote many words with éclat

She shut off her pc

With a loud shout of glee

And lay down to nap with her cat.


Care to leave us with an inspiring quote?

 “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.”  ~ Robert Frost


I’ve always enjoyed that quote because I love poetry–even doggeral verse.


If I asked you how to crochet, could you teach me how? If not, could you teach me to play croquet?

No on both, but I could teach you to knit. Or play jacks.


Do you self-publish?

Actually I don’t self-publish because I’m a complete non-techie. But, as I happily discovered, even a non-techie can learn to operate a scanner. Books We Love, Ltd.  does editing and provides stunning art work, plus giving  me whatI consider a fair share of the book profits.  So many of my books were written in the days before computers and I’ve moved so many times I certainly didn’t save any of those carbons from typing days.  The only way I can republish them as ebooks is to scan them and then convert the book pages to ms. form for Books We Love, Ltd.

One of the books they’ve already published was Golden Chances, which I divided into seven shorter books because it’s a long California family saga.  After they sold it that way for awhile, they put it back together and  sold it as a saga.  It’s done far better than I ever expected.

Now I’ve discovered that Samhain’s “Retro” line is asking for rights-back romance books. So I intend to send them a few. They say they will take the actual books if you don’t have mss. for them. We’ll see how that goes.



Thanks for joining us today, Jane! I hope you have a wonderful birthday! You can check out her website at or check out her amazon profile here.


Okay guys – confession to make: I have two more interviews lined up and I’m sure I’ll get what I need shortly, but tomorrow’s post might be me attempting to stall for your attention. This might actually require some wit. Oh dear…

The Twelve(ish) Days of Authors – Day 9, Pippa Jay

26 Dec

Happy St. Stephen’s Day, everyone! Hopefully you’re reading this from somewhere cozy after the festivities yesterday! Where I am, it’s been really cold all week (I’m from a place nicknamed Winterpeg, FYI).

Next up is yet another up-and-coming Burst author, Pippa Jay!


Pippa is a mum to three little monsters, is a scifi author, and is a devoted fan of alternative rock band The Rasmus. Her debut novel – science fiction romance Keir – released from Lyrical Press Inc. in May 2012.

Tell us about Keir and who you think would like it.

Keir is a character-driven science-fiction romance novel with fantasy elements and not too heavy on the tech, so I hope it will appeal to fans of all those genres. It begins in a medieval-style society but transverses several planets with different levels of technology, so there’s a huge range of world building. But Keir himself is NOT your typical hero, so it should appeal to anyone looking for something more than romance.


Where did you get the idea for Keir?

The opening sequence was something I actually dreamt and the rest of the story developed from there, heavily influenced by the music I was listening to at the time.



How would you compare Keir to your other works ?

My other current works are both short stories – 3K and 10K – compared to Keir at 100K. The Bones of the Sea is a straight sci-fi story, based on the idea of the moral dilemma. Terms & Condition Apply is another sci-fi romance story, but much hotter then Keir, and its set on a space station so doesn’t have the same variety of world building or the fantasy elements. Both also have somewhat controversial endings, although Keir isn’t a conventional romance, either.



Tell us a bit about your writing style – is there anything you find really easy or, really hard?

I have a tendency to lapse into purple prose, which my editor slaps me for on a regular basis. I’ve been told I have a talent for world-building, which is also my favourite part of the process. I struggle with dialogue.


What has been the most rewarding part about self-publishing Bones of the Sea and Terms & Condition Apply?

It has to be having total creative control over the whole process. I love working with publishers too, but there’s greater satisfaction in being able to choose your editor and cover designer and to have the final say in it all, although equally more stress. And it gives me the opportunity to do something different from the industry standard and buck the trend a bit.


For you, what makes the difference between a ‘good’ book and a ‘great’ book?

Something that’s so smoothly written it’s seamless, and that really provokes a reaction in me. A story that makes me laugh or cry, and has be thinking about the characters long after I’ve read it is a great one.


Do you have any other projects in the works that we should know about?

I’ve just submitted another science fiction romance short story for an anthology being pioneered by the SFR Brigade – a community of authors dedicated to writing and promoting the genre. I’m also waiting for the first edits for Gethyon, a scifi novel being released by Champagne Books under their BURST Imprint in June 2013.



In the spirit of sharing, tell us about a book by another author you adore.

I love Jaine Fenn – if I can only pick one book it would have to be Principles of Angels, the first book of her Hidden Empire series.


Do you have any favorite couples in fiction?

I love John Chrichton and Aeryn Sun from Farscape. John wasn’t your typical hero, either, at least not at the start, and I really enjoyed the growth and development of his relationship with quiet but kick-ass Aeryn.


What are your favorite topics on a pizza?

Mozzarella, bacon, and chicken


Would you like to leave a shout-out to anyone?

Yes, I’d like to say a huge-thank you to my editor and cover designer, Danielle Fine. She’s been so supportive of all my work and a pleasure to work with. I’d also like to thank fellow Champagne author and friend Misa Buckley who did the fabulous cover for Gethyon and several stunning graphics for me. Lastly to the SFR Brigade – a supportive and hugely talented bunch of authors. 


Care to leave us with an inspiring quote?

“Never give up – never surrender!” ~ Quincy Taggart of Galaxy Quest


Thanks for having me, L.T.!


You’re welcome, Pippa!

Another Christmas has come and gone – but that doesn’t mean we’re all done celebrating! Stay tuned because we haven’t hit all twelve days of authors!  In the meantime though – I hope each and every one of you got at least one good book for Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

25 Dec

I hope the best for you and yours throughout for whatever you celebrate throughout this holiday season – laugh, be safe, and spend time with the ones you love.


Merry Christmas!

The Twelve(ish) Days of Authors: Day 8, Pt. II: Heather Geoffries

24 Dec

Joining me Next is Carnal Passion’s Heather Geoffries.


In her own words:

Heather Geoffries is a pen name that me and my husband write under together. We have been married for almost ten years and we have two beautiful daughters and five crazy cats. We are very similar and we are best friends who do everything together. With that in mind, we decided to write a steamy short story and have another we will submit soon. We live in Northeast Ohio, right in the heart of the snow belt and therefore we have many opportunities to play in the snow with the kiddies. Overall we have fun together and enjoy life.

 Preferred format:  We are enjoying playing with short stories; they are fun, fast paced and satisfying. Some day we’ll dabble with novels but for now, short stories are the game.

Thanks for having me, Leia, and for the opportunity to tell you a little about my story.


Tell us about Nordic Prince and who you think would like it.

When Doctor Steven Mills is dragged onto The Nordic Prince for fun in the sun by his sister, Amanda, he is certain he will be miserable. Until he meets Erik.

Erik is fun, exciting and just what the doctor ordered. Some drinks and dancing with him are more enticing to Steven than any date he’s gone on with women. Before long, the two escape the busy dance floor for the quiet—and private—spa where Eric works on Steven’s body with very skilled hands. Steven is overcome with an onslaught of new emotions and sensations and has the best sexual experience of his life.

Now Steven must wrestle with new feelings and desires and make a decision that could change his life forever.

~Anyone who enjoys a steamy M/M erotic romance and/or erotic romance in general, will enjoy this story.

 Non-realistic 3D render of a cruise ship.

Do you have any other projects in the works that we should know about?

I just finished the sequel, South-Sea Siren, and submitted it to my editor. It continues a year after Nordic Prince with Steven’s sister Amanda, who is on a vacation to Aphrodite’s Island. We have also started another installment.


Tell us about another author you adore.

Saranna Dewylde. I am a huge fan of her paranormal erotic fantasies and I think she would enjoy some of the humor and sensual scenes.


Do you have a favorite character? How about least favorite character?

I really liked Steven’s sister Amanda. She is so fun and sarcastic that we decided to write her story next.


Do you have any favorite couples in fiction? How about a pairing you never understood the appeal of?

I like the dynamics between Jamie and Claire Fraser (Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series).


What are your favorite toppings on a pizza?

I am a pepperoni fan all the way.


What’s the best movie you’ve seen so far this year, or are you anticipating seeing anything over the holiday season?

The Avengers. I love how they combined everybody for one gigantic action packed movie and I can’t wait to see the next installment. Plus, how can you not love a movie that has Chris(Thor), Chris(Cpt. America), Robert(Ironman) and Jeremy(Hawkeye)?


In the spirit of sharing, tell us about a short story by another author you adore.

Virginia Nelson has a plethora of fun and clever little short stories that I delight in and no, I can’t pick just one. Trust me, if you like hilarious and relatable protagonist and a steamy plot—pick up a story by Ms. Nelson.


What’s the best way to spend a single day during the holidays?

Indoor with the family, snuggled on the couch, reading a good book or writing on a new story while looking out onto fluffy white snow.


How do you feel about writing the novel length as compared to other formats?

Actually, both my husband and I are in the middle of writing novels and plan to submit them separately under a different pen name.


Name a fad you never understood or, a fad you wish would go away.

The baggy pants that guys wear. I didn’t like them in high-school in the 90s and they have gotten baggier and lower since then. There is nothing sexy about them. I like to see a man’s backside.


You can find me at:
My Blog:


Thanks for stopping by, Heather! A reminder that there will not be an update tomorrow, as it’s Christmas and I’m going to be busy doing the family thing. But don’t worry – I got more authors and their books to talk about on December 26! And I don’t need to lecture you but if you’re traveling, be careful on those highways! Until Wednesday, everybody!

The Twelve(ish) Days of Authors – Day 8 Pt. I, James Calbraith

24 Dec

Joining us next from London, England is ABNA semi-finalist, James Calbraith! James originally hails from Poland, though he has spent many years traveling, which is heavily reflected in his debut series, The Year of the Dragon, in which he indie-published the first book, The Shadow of Black Wings, which made the Amazon US & UK Bestseller list for Alternative History and Historical Fantasy. Two more books, a novella and a collection of short stories have also been published. You’ll find links to the Amazon and/or Goodreads pages on the covers below or you can go to his website.

Without further ado, welcome James!


Tell us a bit about The Year of the Dragon series, and who you think would like it.

In the middle of the 19th century, a young dragon rider named Bran travels to Yamato, a mysterious land on the brink of a revolution. That’s the one-sentence summary. It’s a historical fantasy: there’s magic, dragons, samurai, magical creatures and lots of war and politics.

I would hope everyone will like it 🙂 But I can see how the book may not be everyone’s cup of tea. This isn’t just an adventure story, where a boy and his dragon (and their team) go from point A to point B and finish off the bad guys in the process. There’s history going on in the background, and it’s important history. There are several plots happening at once, and the story unravels through many points of view. In the best tradition of epic sagas, I’m trying to show the complexity of real history – and real human relationships – in a fantasy setting. People who like that sort of thing should enjoy my books most. But really, most readers should find something for themselves. The books are quite eclectic like that. There’s even an old-fashioned crime drama unfolding at some point 🙂

I was surprised that even though dragon riding has shaped the world in The Shadow of Black Wings, all dragons eventually go feral thus a rider couldn’t stay with a single dragon. What was the inspiration for this?

I don’t think there is any one direct inspiration. If I did read something similar somewhere, it must have lodged in my sub-conscious instead of memory (and you don’t want to rummage in my sub-conscious 🙂

Mainly, I wanted to do away with “the boy and his dragon” cliché. In most dragon books, a dragon binds with the rider “for life”. It’s a cool concept, but by now quite outdated and overused. My dragons are not as smart or sentient as most – they are mounts and beasts of burden, rather than life companions. But they are still DRAGONS, so they can’t be tamed easily and forever.

Tell us a bit about your writing style – is there anything you find really easy or, really hard?

Worldbuilding is my favourite part – as many reviewers have noted, it’s also what I do best. If I could, I would simply write about the worlds in my head – the history, the geography, the bestiaries… unfortunately a novel needs a plot 🙂

One thing I always had a problem with was creating likable characters and believable relationships. The Year of the Dragon series is probably the first time I managed to succeed in that – although, of course, that’s for the readers to decide.

I don’t mind writing short or long form, but when I’m in the middle of writing a novel it’s really hard to switch to short story writing mode – and vice versa. I haven’t really written anything new in short form since starting on The Year of the Dragon novels.


Were there any unique challenges you faced when writing an alternative history novel?

Probably striking a balance between what I thought the readers should know, and what they need to know. When you are neck-deep in detailed historical research for years, at some point you lose a grip on reality. My books are genre fiction, aimed at a broad audience, not a set of dissertations. Most of the readers will not be aware of the intricacies of 19th century Japanese politics, or advances in agricultural technology during industrial revolution. They also don’t need to be told about it, if it’s not necessary for the plot. The first draft of “The Shadow…” read in places like a lecture. Thankfully, I got better 🙂

Did traveling affect your research for The Year of the Dragon, or did travel inspire the setting in any way?

This series would not have existed without my travels. I was suffering from a writer’s block for about four years, until I decided I should start writing about what I saw on my journeys.

You can’t – well, you can, but you really shouldn’t – write a decent book about a different culture without spending at least some time inside that culture. I would never dare to write about Japan without having spent there at least a few months – despite all the research I did prior.

Steampunk seems to have exploded in popularity over the last few years. What, to you, defines steampunk as a genre?

I try not to use the term “steampunk” to describe my book, except when necessary – I prefer the term steam fantasy. The setting of my story is Victorian England, but the steampunk elements are subdued; there is plenty of steam, but not too much “punk”.

Right now, especially in USA, “steampunk” is mainly an aesthetic movement. Gears, leather, goggles, valves and tesla coils, all harmless fun, not much thought put into it. There isn’t much reflection of what late 19th century was really about, especially in England and the Empire. The “punk” element seems to be gone from the genre definition altogether. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne not only presented imaginary inventions based on the 19th century tech, but also explored their impact on the society and civilization. In an ideal world, this is what “steampunk” should be. But I know it’s not anymore, and that’s fine – words change meanings all the time.


In the spirit of sharing, tell us about a book by another author you adore.

Anything by Ursula K. Le Guin. This will date me terribly, but she’s my second most favourite author of all time. Like the Japanese masters of calligraphy, she has the ability to encapsulate a whole world in a simple sketch; her books – especially early ones – are tiny by today’s standards. Barely more than novellas. But they pack more punch than most of today’s doorstoppers. That’s a lost talent.


You’ve published the first three books in the series, another one is due out shortly, in addition you’ve published an unrelated novella. Do you have any other projects in the works that we should know about?

I’m working on an audio version of the first book right now. I would like to write two more standalone works in the near future – another epic fantasy novella (or novel) with a more romantic twist, and a non-fiction book about wacky 19th century inventions. If I have time. But The Year of the Dragon is an on-going project that might take me years to finish, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do anything else.

Do you find working on a series more or less complicated then working on standalone solitary titles?

Both are equally hard. Perhaps a series is a bit easier, because it doesn’t require a change of mindset between one work and another. I can move on from one volume to the next almost seamlessly, whereas with standalones, I need at least a few weeks, if not more, of break to cleanse my mind.

What has been the most rewarding part about self-publishing thus far?

Watching the sales and downloads trickle. It may sound shallow – “writing is not about financial success!” – but each sale or free download meant a new reader, and what’s more important to a writer than readers? Traditional publishing doesn’t give this visibility, and in today’s instant gratification world that’s an important distinction. I don’t know if I could stay motivated to write new books if I didn’t see the previous ones finding readers.


Who is your favorite fictional villain of all time?

Emperor Isaac Dornkirk from Visions of Escaflowne.

Escaflowne was – and still is – the best anime series I’ve ever seen, one that influenced me the most, and had some of the best characters in fiction, ever. Emperor Dornkirk is magnificently cunning, and has a God-like ambition – to control Fate – two traits that make a good villain. A third important villain trait is complex motivation. Dornkirk is not evil; he’s merely misguided.

Do you have any resolutions for 2013?

I don’t really do resolutions, but I have plans. Finishing volume four by April, releasing all four books in a bundle. After that, either starting on book five immediately, or taking a break to write one of the two projects mentioned above.

A dream would be to reach and remain in Top 100 Fantasy on Amazon. But that’s not really a resolution, is it?

You can check out James’ books on Amazon and Goodreads.