#AuThorsday with Calvin Demmer

calvindemmer-1Today I’d like to welcome Calvin Demmer, one of my favorite short story writers and author of the Dark Celebrations series.   

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

I currently spend the majority of my time writing short fiction.  As a relatively new writer, this gives me the opportunity to experiment a bit more with different genres and styles.  But I’d say most of my work falls under the speculative fiction umbrella, leaning towards the darker side of things.

Having read some of your shorts, I definitely agree about your work leaning towards the darker side, and I love that you play around with genres.   In my experience, writing shorts is a very different process from writing longer works.   If you start writing longer works (a novel, let’s say), what have you learned by writing shorts that will carry over to longer work? 

I’ve learned so much… But some of the major areas are pacing, not overloading with exposition at the beginning, and keeping the story tight.  With short fiction you’re always focused on making every word count and have a purpose.  I think that is a great skill to carry forward to any other works.

Agreed.  What are you working on currently?

My main focus is writing short stories and flash fiction then sending them to various markets.  I was fortunate to get published in a few places in 2016 and hope to continue that in 2017.  I also have a side-project, which are stories I write in my Dark Celebrations series.  These are short stories that I write for pure enjoyment with no restrictions. They’re really about having fun with the story and are usually written when I need a break from the main focus.  I’m also looking into some of my older stories with the idea of maybe putting some together for a possible future collection.  This is a slow process as many of them do require some work.  And then I’m also playing around with ideas for possible longer works.

Have you ever started a story or even finished a story and just not liked it, so you toss it?  Or do you always find a way to use a story? 

I’ve tossed a few away.  I’ve also made stories work in the past, but I don’t like doing that and don’t anymore.  There is always a fresh idea.  When I started writing, I probably wrote just over 200,000 words that I never used.  But I knew beforehand I likely wouldn’t use any of it as it was more for practice than anything else.

That’s a lot of practice!  What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the editing process is as important as the initial first draft.  In the beginning, I neglected the editing side a bit.  I now separate the two processes and give them equal attention.  It’s a lot of fun during the first draft.  Everything flows, usually, and it’s exciting to get to the next scene.  Editing was a bit more labor intensive for me.  However, it is where I can shape my story, give it direction, and make the story shine.  As I get better at editing, I am starting to enjoy it more and more.  I’ve also found that it helps to give myself a break from a story after the first draft and then tackle the work from a more critical standpoint when it isn’t so fresh.

Great advice.  I’ve read a lot of books that could be great if the editing was better, and it’s an extremely important step that authors need to pay attention to.  I’m glad you’ve found a way to enjoy editing (and it shows in your work that you take your time), but did you have to work at being critical of your own work, or does that come naturally to you?  I know some authors struggle with that.

It comes easy to me.  I battle myself quite a bit on some stories.  There is a good and bad side to that.  Sometimes, the stories never see the light of day because of it.  Other times, the stories really come out great and shine.

When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I find that having more than one project on the go works for me.  I guess that’s easier when you’re focusing on a lot of shorter works, but even if I throw some longer projects into the mix it would still be a formula I use.  I like to be able to switch to something different if I get frustrated or hit a brick wall with one thing.  This way the writing never stops.

That’s a good system.  When you’re working on more than one story at a time, do you find that thinking about one leads you to ideas for the others?  I imagine that would help keep the creative juices flowing, rather than being stuck in one story.

It does, mostly because your mind is always active and gets used to thinking like that.  I’ve been working on a story before when an idea for something else pops into my mind.  Depending on how interesting and complex the idea is, I might make a note of it.  But usually, the good ideas never really disappear.

Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

When I started just about everything I read and enjoyed made me jealous.  I was amazed by some of the epic works like Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.  Books like Richard Matheson’s I am Legend and Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle also left me in awe.  But as I started to write more and more, I realized that it wasn’t so much jealousy but rather an inner desire to create my own world and characters that was growing within.  These types of works then became inspiration that fuelled me to keep on improving, so that I may also one day create my own colorful worlds and characters.

(That’s always where I hope authors will take this question – turning it to inspiration.) 🙂  Even though your work is mostly on the dark side, do you get inspiration from all over the place, or just stick to certain genres?   How important is being well-rounded as a reader, to you?   

That’s a tough one.  Some people say you should stick to your genre and focus, while others say reading more diverse will make you a better writer.  I don’t know the answer to that, but as for myself, I read almost everything.  I do spend majority of the time in the genres I enjoy, but I also like the challenge of reading things I normally wouldn’t.  As for the inspiration, I get it from everything.  Sometimes works that are not in my genre will trigger an idea.  I would hate to be closed to any avenue that could provide fresh inspiration.

Thanks, Calvin, for sharing!

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WHERE TO FIND Calvin Demmer: 
Website:  www.calvindemmer.com
Goodreads: Calvin Demmer
Amazon Page: Calvin Demmer
Facebook:  Calvin Demmer
Twitter: @CalvinDemmer

Review of “Discovery” by J.B. Taylor

33583727I’m a sucker for any opportunity to read about a new alien world, and the one in this book is pretty good.  In a few short pages (most of the book is set on Earth), the author does a great job of describing this alien planet, alien animals, and alien people.  You get little glimpses throughout the book at just how different – and more powerful – these more evolved aliens are, and little bits about their history and abilities were interesting to me so that I’d like to see/read more.

Mostly this book is focused on Earth and the impending danger the aliens might bring.  Poor Eckta gets dropped here and stuck with us, and he’s a good character – a little bit Superman, but with more of an “alien” foreignness.  Other than him, it was a bit difficult to lock down who the main characters were going to be early on because of jumping from one character to the next, and no one was ever safe.  But each character along the way is fleshed out just enough to be believable, giving a well-rounded look at how Earthlings might deal with such an alien as Eckta. The government reaction and what they did with him was all-too believable, if a little predictable.

The movement of the plot was rough for me.  Everything moves really, really fast and could have been fleshed out better.  A lot of the government activity behind the scenes (avoiding spoilers) seemed implausible and forced.  A lot of the story just lacked a feel of reality for me – I know this is about aliens, but how the plot moved and what happened with the characters felt unlikely.  Another round of edits would probably help too, as there were a few goofs.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story.  It’s quick and full of action, with a likeable character at the center.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Escape from Witchwood Hollow” by Jordan Elizabeth Mierek

23351890.jpgI usually get sick of teen girl stories, but this one was unique enough that it drew me in. You immediately have sympathy for the main character in that she lost her parents in 9-11, and you get to read her thoughts and emotions so that you know her pretty well. The other members of the family were all likeable too, as were most of the townspeople she encounters. There were of course the ‘mean girls’ type, but even they were given dimensions.

The overall mystery of what’s going on in the Hollow was great. I wanted to find out more with every hint I was given, and so that’s what kept me reading. I loved the way the author used the different timelines/storylines to show the history behind the mystery. The characters in these storylines were also complex and interesting, and the author’s ability to add historical flavor was a nice shift from the modern day feel of the main storyline. How everything came together was a surprise that I greatly enjoyed…but I won’t spoil anything.

One thing that bugged me was the constant mention of name brands. I get that this girl likes fashion. I know the author was trying to show that. But it was too much, in my opinion, and often distracted from the events going on. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending. It seemed a little melodramatic, and it made me a bit uncomfortable that…what happened… was portrayed as the best thing to make her happy again.

All in all, this was an enjoyable YA/mystery/ghost kind of story that you can read pretty quickly and keeps you entertained.

4 Stars See it on Amazon!

A Fairly Fairy Tale

The official page for “A Fairly Fairy Tale” is now live!
See link below. 

Source: A Fairly Fairy Tale

Review of “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” by Danielle E. Shipley

28595730This book was exactly what I needed.  It’s rare that I wish I could rate a book over 5 stars, but this is one of them.  It’s a perfect blend of action, humor, quirky twists on mythology, and great characterization.  I literally laughed out loud more than once, and this book was a pure pleasure the whole way through.

We all know some other attempts at modernizing the legends of Robin Hood and also Merlin/Arthur, but this one was nothing I expected.  Dropping these characters into our contemporary world is a recipe for hilarity, and how the author had them interact with cars, electric guitars, fast food drive-thru’s, a certain national retail store, etc. was nonstop entertainment.   I also really liked that the author flat-out had them say some of the stories about them were wrong – Guinevere and Lancelot, for example.   Maid Marian was also much different and (for my vote) better than we’re used to seeing her.   Robin Hood, Will Scarlet (my personal favorite source of comedic relief), Little John, and the rest were also recognizable as “themselves” with their common attributes but also portrayed as fuller characters.

Then there’s Allyn-a-Dale himself.  This is where the author got to play around with a bit of originality thrown into the story, and everything with Allyn really adds to the plot and tension of the story.  I loved that he seems to naturally fit with the others and yet holds his own ground.  I loved the use of his dead father as an internal catalyst.  Everything that Allyn brings with him from his world into Avalon added a dimension that kept the book fresh and original, and the twists of how these worlds interacted was great.

If you like a little goofiness in your Fantasy and you’re at all a fan of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, give this a read.  It’s not long at all, but it completely brightened my day and I look forward to more adventures to come.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

#AuThorsday with Danielle E. Shipley

7021985Today I’d like to welcome Danielle E. Shipley, fantasy author of the Wilderhark Tales novellas, the novel Inspired, and the book we’re here to talk about – The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale, book #1 from the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy.  

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

My Outlaws of Avalon trilogy in brief: Camelot’s heroes and Sherwood’s most wanted are magically alive, conditionally immortal, and ingeniously incognito in a modern day Renaissance Faire.  Enter Allyn-a-Dale, a minstrel dropped in (yes, literally) from a far-off fantasy world.  Cue adventures (and misadventures) galore!

I’m looking forward to reading this!  What gave you this idea?

It came from one of my family’s visits to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  We’d made a point for years of going once every summer – and I would go on to work on cast as a Town Crier from 2012 through 2014 – but 2010 was the first time I encountered their player portraying Robin Hood.  I was thrilled to fangirling pieces, and couldn’t help but half-wonder, half-hope:  What if there were some way that was really him?

That’s great fuel for the imagination!  What are you working on currently?

I’m juggling a few things at the publishing stage.  My next Outlaws of Avalon project falls in between novels; look for my e-novella tribute to Dickens, “An Avalon Christmas Carol”, to go live on Amazon in December!  Also coming soon, my best friend/writer buddy Tirzah Duncan and I have a co-authored short story coming out in an “Arcane Arts” anthology; expect necromancy with attitude.  And of course I’ll be fiddling with Outlaws of Avalon 2 right up until its release in March 2017.  Whether I’ll ever pencil in a space on the schedule for breathing is yet to be determined.

Busy, busy.  Do you like collaborating in the writing process?

With the people in my head, yes.  With people outside of me?  I’m much more selective about that.  Too many awful group project experiences in college.  *glowers into the past*

I hear ya.  What is your favorite scene you’ve written?   Can you give us a peek?

My favorite scene from The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale… That’s gotta be when the Merry Men’s road trip really starts rolling.  My poor characters and I were still exhausted from the chapter before (car shopping is stressful!) and in a kind of grumpy place all ‘round, until Allyn— Well, you asked for a peek, did you not?

“I’m just saying,” Will continued, “that it would make it easier for me to stay alert if the rest of you could make some sort of effort to keep the atmosphere a little more lively.”
Little John answered with a yawn.
Sighing with frustration, Will gripped the steering wheel harder and glared past the windshield. From the back of the van came a soft, musical chuckle, followed by the sound of a gently plucked guitar. And over the strings, a voice that sang:
Little John yawns,
His eyes drooping half-closed.
But small wonder he’s thinking
Of having a doze:
For we’ve ridden this road
Half as long as it feels —
(Time both quartered and doubled,
When traveling on wheels) —
And it’s been a most tiresome,
Dull sort of ride.
So have your yawn, Little John.
Will — eyes wide.”

The song goes on, and it’s just so perfectly Allyn at his cheekiest that it never fails to brighten my mood.

Very clever!  Do you enjoy writing a lot of humor into your stories?

Oh, absolutely.  My sense of drama has darkened with age, but my sense of comedy is still showing its roots.  When you’ve been raised on Bugs Bunny and slapstick chapter books, playing for laughs comes naturally.

What is one question about your books that you wish more people would ask?

I’m all about my characters, so I’m always hungry for readers to want to know more about them. “What does Allyn think of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?” (Answer: Innovative; strange; admittedly fun to wail along to.) “Would Will Scarlet rather go hungry for a day or do his grocery shopping naked?” (Answer: Food and nudity are two of his favorite things, so…) Things like that. The deep stuff.

Haha.  Since you use some previously fictionalized characters, do you try to stay consistent with those known personalities, or do you more make them your own, or a mix?

That’s the blessing and curse of taking on such longstanding legends: There’s a good thousand years of material to draw from!  Fortunately, with so much variation already out there, I was free from thinking that my retelling had to be any one particular way to be valid.  So I reached into the canonical heap, selected the bits I felt like working with, then let the characters in question show me how they wanted to manifest this time around.

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?

In a perfect world, my Merry Men would be here and (in between hanging out with me) could play themselves.  They are professional actors, after all.

Good point and not an answer many authors can give!  Who do you think would do best onscreen?

Will Scarlet, hands down.  The man knows his angles, and would bring the energy nonstop.  Seriously.  Good luck turning the energy off.

Thank you, Danielle, for sharing!

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WHERE TO FIND Danielle E. Shipley: 
Website:  www.deshipley.com
Goodreads: Danielle E. Shipley
Amazon Page:  Danielle E. Shipley
Facebook:  Danielle E. Shipley, Author
Twitter: @DEShipley

Review of “In the Shadow of the Dragon King” by J. Keller Ford

25721483I read this book a lot faster than I thought I would because the world and adventure drew me in.  There’s a good bit of action to balance out a lot of explanation and dialogue – which was needed in a book that spans both our world and a fantasy one.  There’s a good range of characters, and the main heroes’ journeys make you want to follow them along and figure out what’s up.

The world of Fallhollow is your basic fantasy realm with kings and queens, mages, knights, and of course dragons.  The history to the world was pretty well-explained and sets the story in motion.  David is a very unlikely hero, his love Charlotte gets pulled along for the ride, and when they enter this realm we get to see everything through their eyes.

The author added an interesting element by making Charlotte very, very anti-war.  What David is asked to do conflicts with this so that they both have to reevaluate what fighting for justice really means and costs.  This was a bit infuriating at times because Charlotte is so set in this mindset that she doesn’t seem to understand the reality of their situation.  It also kind of stunts David’s growth into the “savior” character he is supposed to be, so it left them a little weak for me.

Then there’s the alternating viewpoint of Eric.  Through his eyes, we see the insider’s view of Fallhollow.   He knows the knights and king and queen, he knows the publically known story of their history with the dragon.  And by eavesdropping (there’s a lot of eavesdropping!), he picks up clues about what’s really going on.  This worked for me because it added mystery and tension to the story, while David’s viewpoint was more about getting from point A to point B.

As a character, Eric is conflicted in many different ways – with the death of his friend, with feeling overlooked, with wanting fame, with not being trusted, etc.  I’m never a fan of whiney teenage drama, and I mostly wanted to slap Eric.  BUT, I think you’re supposed to.  He clearly has a lot of growing up to do, but by the time the truth is revealed I still wasn’t sure he was worth the trouble of liking him.

Overall, this book is a fun adventure.  It has many elements of a typical fantasy world, and the use of magic is pretty cool.  All the intrigue adds to the plot, and although some people might not like all the dialogue I thought it helped flesh out the characters.

4 Stars

See it on Amazon!

Review of “Sentinel Five” by James Quinn

31626072It’s hard for a sequel to live up to a great first book in a series, but this one is excellent.  I actually think I liked this book better than the first.  Once again we follow Gorilla Grant on an assignment filled with action, treachery, suspense, and violence.  This time, I felt like the story was much more straightforward and more pleasurable to follow, and it really did feel like a spy movie in the tradition of James Bond, but grittier.

The writing again fits the genre perfectly, getting the job done with great description and dialogue.  The author’s inside knowledge of this world adds a wonderful sense of reality to the story, and it’s very clear that he’s put a lot of thought into how the plot develops.  Grant as a character is complex and interesting, and the new characters here all lent something unique to the story.

You’ll want to read “A Game for Assassins” first to really get to know Grant, but I also think this story stands alone pretty well because it’s quite separate from the first book’s events.

5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

New Book Cover Reveal

Oh, what the heck.  I finished this up last night and can’t wait to share it!  I mentioned in my February Update video that I was going to “start” working on a new cover for The Woman of the Void that’s a little more sci-fi and a little less fantastical/girly.  Well, I’m already done, so here it is!
It should start updating on all the retail sites soon.
Hope you like.

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