AuThorsday with John C. Adams

Today I’d like to welcome John C. Adams, horror and fantasy author of Souls for the Master, Aspatria, and Dagmar of the Northlands.

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

My latest fantasy novel is called Dagmar of the Northlands, but really it’s everyone’s story. Dagmar is only one in a cast of characters, but each has their own challenges. The Gortah van Murkar books are set in a universe with lots of pitched battles involving sword and sorcery, but there’s also plenty of romance and focus on characters, too. Both Dagmar and Gortah are exploring their sexual identity with new partners, for instance.

Some of the main characters also appeared in the prequel Aspatria, but Dagmar and the Men of the North appear for the first time in this novel. Aspatria was inspired more by an Anglo-Saxon universe whereas the Men of the North, who live in the Northlands, feel like a Nordic culture. When Dagmar and her fellow Men of the North sail off to raid Orkna one autumn morning this brings them into conflict with Gortah, who claims the island as part of his empire.

I also write horror.

I really enjoyed how well your characters are developed, as well as the historical feel of your setting.  There’s plenty of fantasy, but it also feels like it could be real history.  Do you research a lot of history/cultures to add to the context before you write?

I’m English, but we live very close to the border with Scotland. I did a lot of research for Aspatria to get the Anglo-Saxon feel right, and then the same for Dagmar of the Northlands, which is Nordic inspired. Orkna is based on the Orkneys, of course, which I’ve visited and researched, too. And Murkar has a Dutch feel to it in some ways. I do read a lot of period history before writing a fantasy novel, and it’s well worth the investment of time to do this to get the everyday details right.

What are you working on currently?

My next novel will be a horror one, the sequel to my first novel Souls for the Master. It’s called Blackacre Rising. It’s due out in September, so the text is finished of course, but I’m already moving on to my next project: writing the sequel to Dagmar of the Northlands. I haven’t settled on a title just yet, but it features new characters in a Russian-inspired culture alongside old friends like Gortah and Khan Nicholai of the Albins. I’m about halfway through the first draft.

Great!  Do you find that it’s easy for you to move from book to book and genre to genre, or do you like focusing on one at a time?

Any writer who works in more than one genre will tell you that it’s always a bit of a jump from one to the other. In longer fiction, I’m either writing a horror novel or a fantasy novel at any point in time and these can easily take over a year to finish up if not longer. However, I review both genres and write short fiction and articles in each constantly, so in some senses it feels like I’ve never been away because I’m constantly immersed in both.

What is your favorite scene you’ve written?  Can you give us a peek?

I’m an incurable romantic, so my favourite scene ever is from Aspatria when Gortah, who is 48 and who has been a widower for ten years, takes his son Eugene to visit a new queen Dextra who has risen to the throne when every man in her family is killed in battle. She’s inexperienced as a ruler, but she’s already making her authority felt and he is unprepared for the potent mix of her beauty and her position, which is equal to his. She puts him right in his place, and good for her.

Gortah smiled down at Dextra. The young queen’s delicate beauty was working the same charm on the king as it did on every man she met.

Dextra was routinely described as the most beautiful woman in the world for good reason. She had blossomed from a gangly, awkward child into a lovely young woman and, in the last year, her beauty had become radiant and rich. Now, the sorrow of her grief at the loss of her menfolk gave it a fragile quality that made it even more potent.

A blush spread across Gortah’s round face, and his eyes widened. The most powerful man in the world could still be taught a lesson about female beauty when he was least expecting it.

As Dextra looked up at Gortah her expression hardened.

“I am your equal, sir, get down off your horse and greet me accordingly.”

A gasp of surprise went round the square at Dextra’s rudeness to the king. She’d entirely misunderstood Gortah’s manner of greeting her.

Gortah rolled his eyes. He kicked his leg over the pommel of his saddle and slid to the ground. He thumped down with a crash as his boots hit the stone flags. He took a single step forwards and dropped to his knees right in front of Dextra. He was grinning. She looked around surreptitiously.

Dextra dipped into a low curtsey. Her white dress billowed out in all directions. She bowed her head and kept her eyes fixed on the ground in front of Gortah. Their faces were only inches apart. His eyes flickered downwards and over her body. Her low-cut dress gave the king a full view of her charms. Her repentant demeanour added to the picture. His Majesty was floored by both elements.

Gortah clambered up. He was not an ungainly man, but he was heavy and muscular. The redness of his cheeks eased, and he adjusted his crown so that it was square on his silver head again. He held his hands out to Dextra once he was securely on his feet. A buzz of relief spread around the crowd. She looked up at him winningly. Then she placed her tiny white hands in his gigantic palms, and he closed his fingers around them.

I love the descriptions and language you use.  I noticed multiple times throughout your book that you make women and men equals – whether on the battlefield or in leadership roles.  Was this something that was important to you in this story?

As someone who is nonbinary, it’s important to me to portray those of both genders and none with the utmost respect. Anyone is capable of good leadership or bad, and the answer lies in character rather than in gender. I also embrace diversity of sexual orientation in my writing. Gortah is bisexual, and Dagmar is coming out as same-sex oriented.

I’ve just written my first trans character in the fantasy novel I’m drafting at the moment. These are exciting times in gender and orientation, and I hope my fiction reflects that.

What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

I’d probably ask them, ‘Have you considered reviewing?’

I review for the British Fantasy Society, the Horror Tree and Schlock! Webzine. It’s made me grow as a writer because every week, one way or another when you include reviews on Goodreads and Litsy I have a review out about that often, I’m reading awesome novels in horror and fantasy (plus a bit of science fiction here and there) and analysing what works and what doesn’t. I’ve learnt so much about those genres by really getting down into the details of the books from themes to imagery, from plot to character. And it’s worth the effort because every so often I find myself feeling like I actually know what I’m talking about!

Haha.  As a reviewer/writer, I agree. It’s amazing how much you learn from critiquing others.  Have you found you catch yourself taking your own advice, so to speak, about your own writing?

Always, because one of the things that has really helped me grow as a writer has been to see what others are doing right. I’ve learnt a lot about the genres I write in from analysing them for articles and writing reviews of specific books. I’d recommend doing that to any emerging writer.

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

Q: Why is the farmhouse in your horror universe called Blackacre?

So glad you asked! Before I became a writer I was a solicitor. At college, land law was a compulsory part of the syllabus. When you need a fictional piece of land, which includes a house, to use as an example and to compare with neighbouring properties to deal with boundary disputes for example, you call the first property ‘Blackacre’ and the second ‘Whiteacre’ and so on through red, green etc to distinguish them. I think I was far too imaginative to make a good lawyer because I always found my thoughts drifting to what a morbid, evil place it sounded and how polished and cultured Whiteacre was by comparison. So my horror fiction features an aristocratic family at Whiteacre (who are all bonkers) and an uplands farming family, the Flints, at Blackacre, which is a pretty dangerous place to live.

That’s interesting! Do you include other real-life names or details in your stories? Kind of personal Easter eggs, even if other people don’t know about them?

I think those who know me well, especially family and friends of longstanding, will have no trouble identifying people and situations that have provided inspiration. The best way to make writing vivid is to draw from real life. Blackacre is located in Cumbria, but a lot of the farming families and communities portrayed in my horror fiction are based on our lives in rural Northumberland. I often use names that reflect the meaning of the place or person to lighten the horror mood, such as the village of Hellhole near the Flint family home or Brett Flint’s mother Narcissa and his father Patrus (the head of the family). Most of what I write is liminal horror, so lightening the mood a little is often a good idea.

Who inspires you to write?

It’s actually perfectly simple. In terms of writing reviews, which I’ve been doing for about two and a half years now, and articles, which I’ve just started expanding into, I seem to have an opinion on every subject under the sun, and I can’t resist sharing them with everyone I meet. Joking aside, I love sharing my thoughts on fantasy and horror, and I always seem to have something new to talk about.

It’s great to gather ideas from all over.  Do you make notes when you come across something interesting that gives you an idea for your own writing?  Or do you let ideas roll around in your head until something comes together?

I’m the world’s worst note-taker and I don’t even have a writer’s notebook – shocking admission, I know! I use a technique called lucid dreaming, whereby you spend really quite a lot of time thinking while awake about characters, plot, action, dialogue and background but without writing any of it down. I believe this style of approach makes my creative experience more robust because the subconscious has time to reflect on the contents of the lucid dream before you set pen to paper. It takes a lot of self-control not to try to note everything down while you’re doing this but to trust to being able to come back to it spontaneously later on. However, over the years I’ve learnt to let it seep into my brain and mature there before writing a novel or a story. It always comes back, either in that form or a better one later on.

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

Like many writers, perhaps especially those who are out and out romantics, I’m utterly absorbed with my own fictional creations and to me they feel absolutely real. I think you need that sort of obsession as a writer to be able to invent, from right out of nowhere, a whole cast of characters. In both horror and fantasy I write series, so some of my characters have been alongside of me for many hundreds of pages.

My daughter Midnight is in Sixth Form and she’s about to start applying for drama school. She has recently been preparing some videos reading selections of my work. She’s doing a wonderful job with them, and I’m so looking forward to sharing them with my readers when they’re ready. Naturally, when we talk about which actors would play the key roles it is firmly tongue in cheek on my part, but for her there is a real possibility that they’ll one day be her co-stars, and that’s incredibly exciting.

In a nutshell, Leonardo di Caprio as Gortah van Murkar, because he’s pretty much bang on the right age, has a wonderful physicality for the role and there’s no one better for a romantic leading man. Dextra is smart, funny, incredibly beautiful and a superb leader who inspires those around her. It would be hard to narrow down which actress I’d like to see play her – so many stars in Hollywood fit the bill right now. I’d love to see Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith or Helen Mirren play Queen Riley o’Eira, she’s so feisty and individual, so much her own person that it’s a joy to write about her and I’d love to see her made real on the big screen.

Wow, that is a cool project! Sounds like creativity runs in the family.  I can completely see any of those actresses as Queen Riley. She was one of my favorite characters, even if kind of minor.  Do you have favorites?

Gortah van Murkar, probably, and in that I’m not alone. Readers who get in touch to share their responses to my novels invariably mention him. I think they respond to his complexity and depth, comparing his sense of duty to his inner vulnerability. Riley’s always popular, in part because she has a very distinctive voice. I’m 49 and as I get older I feel like I’m becoming more like her. Right now, Gortah is the most personally relatable of all my characters for me, partly because he is drawn from within in many ways and partly because we’re almost the same age.

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

We’re quite a creative family one way or another so in truth the thing that keeps me going when I’m stuck, and that happens to any writer occasionally, is imagining the baleful expressions of sympathy on the face of my kids or my boyfriend when, at the end of a long day’s writing, they ask how much I’ve done and I have to admit it’s ‘not as much as I’d like’. Focus on that and suddenly it’s easier to just push on through to meet your quota.

Haha!  That is not an answer I’ve heard before, but that’s great.  Do you let them read what you’ve written to get feedback as you go, or wait until you’re “done” to show your work to anyone?

There’s nothing like peer pressure, is there?

My daughter’s interested in reading excerpts of my work for audio book and for social media such as You Tube. That’s one of our forthcoming projects. My boyfriend’s also a writer, and he’s professional enough to be my fiercest critic in private but really supportive in public. I have an amazing beta reading team, some of whom see the work partway through and some of whom see the ‘polished but not final’ draft. I mix it up, but they make an amazing difference to the finished product, and I try to repay the favour with my feedback on their writing. I also have a regular team of editors for short and long fiction, and I am constantly grateful for everything they do to improve the quality of my writing.

That’s a nice team in your corner! Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Almost always a character is based on real people I know or have known. It’s a good thing I’m a lawyer because I’m usually able to stay on the right side of the line and avoid being caught up in libel litigation but sometimes it’s a pretty near run thing. I also have a great poker face, so I can always face them down whenever a friend or relative asks if the character was based on them. The secret lies in making them feel they’re been unpardonably egotistical and presumptuous in imagining they inspired the character.

Sometimes you don’t know who a character is based on, but you know you’re drawing deep to create them and write about their quirks and foibles. Usually, you can convince yourself they’re really based on someone else and you don’t really know who it is, but just occasionally the last line of defence fails and you have to inwardly admit that, in this instance, you’re writing about yourself. And that’s scary.

I encounter that same realization when adding quirks to characters.  It’s so easy to draw off people you know well, and often you don’t totally do it consciously. Do you feel you learn more about yourself when you include elements of your own personality in your characters?    

Always. I couldn’t agree more. By drawing upon yourself for inspiration, you’re digging really deep. And by externalising traits or action into another character, you are bringing them to the surface and laying them bare. That’s not always comfortable, but it is productive creatively and in terms of growing as a person.

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

The first time I read a story by my boyfriend, Jim Graves, I thought ‘Damn, you’re better at this than I am!’ Not that I’d ever tell him, of course, that kind of thing can go to a man’s head.

Perfectly reasonable response.  Haha.  Would you ever collaborate in writing something together?

We recently started writing a story together and are partway through it. I’ve never written with anyone else before so it was a big step to try. It was more for fun than anything else. I think we were both reticent about how our writer’s styles would mesh to form a single authorial voice bearing in mind that our styles are very different. So far, it’s been interesting and actually very positive. Above all, it’s been fun. The creative process has been smoother than we anticipated, and I’ve really enjoyed working with another writer for a change. We might even get round to finishing the story and writing another.

Thanks, John, for sharing!

WHERE TO FIND John C. Adams:

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

Review of “Dagmar of the Northlands” by John C. Adams

An epic-length book, this story is filled with fantastical lands, intriguing characters, and a complex history of kingdoms and gods. I really enjoyed the vivid imagery and excellent characterization of both the heroes and villains. The plot itself builds and draws you in as you begin to understand how everything might come together. The scenes where the gods are watching the events of man add a cool mystical element. The various tensions in various relationships also keep you interested.

I found the title and blurb a bit odd, considering Dagmar isn’t necessarily the main character. The overall story certainly doesn’t revolve around her by any means. She’s important and a dynamic character, but I thought it was a little strange that the title suggested her story line was the focus.

Also, there were a LOT of characters to keep track of. I like multiple points of view, especially in a book that covers this much ground, but I think there were something like 10+ POV characters. Eventually you figure it out, but it’s really confusing at first because the book jumps from one to another quickly before you’ve gotten to know anyone. I think any experienced reader can handle it, but it’s something to be aware of as you dive in. And along with this, there was a LOT of “son of” and “daughter of” and explanation of who had married who over generations – that might be great in moderation to give a historical depth to these kingdoms, but it was a LOT and added to the confusion from the get-go.

The writing itself is great. I was never distracted by any editorial goofs. There’s plenty of description to give you a picture of each scene without being overly flowery. The dialogue sounds natural and fits in well amid all the action. Also, the author does an excellent job of making you sympathize with each character, good or bad, and even the heroes are shown to have problems, which makes them believably human.

See it on Amazon!

Free Urban Fantasy Trilogy

Stuck in isolation and looking for books? I’m following the lead of many other authors and have made “THE ALT-WORLD CHRONICLES” free for the rest of the week! Stay safe, folks.

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Review of “Given to Fly” by JD Estrada

I smiled the entire time I read this book. It’s sweet, fun, colorful, imaginative, and includes wonderful lessons for any child or adult. The wordplay often made me chuckle, and the writing proves Mr. Estrada is a poet even in prose. The story reminded me at times of “Alice in Wonderland ” and at times of “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” while always being unique as well. Great characters, fantastical adventures, beautiful language – I was hooked.

This is a book I will definitely buy in paperback for my kid to treasure.

See it on Amazon!

Hot New Release “Given to Fly” by JD Estrada

Given_to_Fly_Cover_for_Kindle

Have you ever wanted to read a book that dreams about becoming a Studio Ghibli film?  Well now you can.  Given to Fly is the 13th book by Puerto Rican indie author JD Estrada and his first full length middle grade fantasy novel.  But more importantly, it’s a book with a lot of heart and no violence.

If you see movies, TV, video games, or the news at any given moment, it’s almost as if violence is a required ingredient in whatever medium we enjoy.  Given to Fly is a book that avoids the use of violence even when it talks about real issues like death, financial and professional struggles, and life in general in favor of finding joy and life lessons through the fantastical.


At 11 years old, John Rivers is a kind hearted kid who dreams about flying.  He’s just moved to the Pacific Northwest with his family to a house that although it’s very lovely and very cozy, it’s not exactly magical. What he doesn’t know is that magic is actually closer than he thinks.

After strolling up a hill near his house, he finds a cliff with a cove at the bottom and a huge tree growing over the water.  What’s special about this particular tree is that it currently serves as the resting spot for a house that defies logic while embracing the amazing.  As curious as he is kind, one look at Od Manor would have been all it takes for him to consider heading into the sideways house, but when he sees a shadow inside, he climbs down to make sure no one is in trouble.  Once inside, he discovers that no one is in trouble but that the term living room has never been as literal as when an ottoman starts asking questions.  The house’s owner is called Fäet Odstein, which would be odd enough if he weren’t also the literary persona of JD Estrada.  Adventure ensues as Fäet discovers that John dreams about flying. Intent on helping the boy out, they seek the help from a library pillaging bookworm, angels, spiders, and even take a moment to contemplate at the meaning of life in the linen lagoon as they try to discover what it takes to fly.


Apart from a whimsical adventure that feels like a lover letter to works by Hayao Miyazaki, Given to Fly is also the first of what will be a series of stand-alone middle-grade novels with Fäet Odstein as one of its protagonists.  The purpose of these books shall be to offer stories without violence that hopefully get more children to read and dream.

Influenced by Hayao Miyazaki, Peter Pan, and dreams of flight, Given to Fly is a book full of heart that skips the violence in favor of the fantastical.

Grab a copy today HERE on Amazon!


IMG_1040This is not the first time JD Estrada has written middle grade fantasy stories.  His Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore have been described as whimsical bedtime stories with a lot of heart.  That same heart was the main driver for this story.  Like most of his works, Given to Fly was written longhand in one of the best gifts Estrada has ever received in his life.  A long time ago, his wife gifted him a hard cover notebook.  The image on it was particularly special to him.  She had asked him what image meant the most to him.  Without batting an eye, he looked up the image to the Pearl Jam single by the same name.  A couple of months later and with misty eyes, he had a hard cover notebook with that same image and the name could only be Given to Fly. But what to write about…

The question lingered in the air and rumbled in his brain until a trip to Orlando had him and his wife going to Epcot Center and getting on the Soarin’ ride for the first time.  As sights, sounds, and smells washed over him in the beautiful flight simulator, an idea was born and by the end, he had soared right into an epiphany.  “It’s going to be about a boy who dreams about flying,” he told his wife through tears of joy after getting off the ride.

Several years have passed after that ride and finally Given to Fly is ready for you to read.  It is a tribute to things that bring him joy and a song that makes his soul smile.

IMG_0864In honor of the band that has inspired his life so much, all proceeds for Given to Fly and all other Estrada books for the remainder of 2018 shall be donated to Actionforjackson.org in support of #EBAwareness.  Epidermolysis Bullosa is a family of rare genetic disorders that affect the body’s largest organ: the skin.  Eddie Vedder (lead singer for Pearl Jam) has worked hard to support this cause.  It is a small token of gratitude for everything the band means to Estrada and aligns with his #Humans4Humans efforts to support different causes and try to make a positive impact through his writing and any other efforts to support good causes that help our fellow humans.

qjWC_df-_400x400 (1).jpgFind JD at:

Website – www.jdestradawriter.blogspot.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/JDEstradawriter

Instagram – http://instagram.com/jdestradawriter/

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/u/0/

Facebook page – www.facebook.com/JDEstradawriter

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard

Soundcloud – https://soundcloud.com/j-d-estrada

 

Heroes & Villains: A Superhero Collection

Superhero Box Set CoverIn this ten novel boxed set, indie publishing’s greatest superhero authors will introduce you to the heroes that save the world and the villains scheming to destroy it. Whether you like dystopian heroes, modern capes and cowls, champions of a bygone era, or guardians past their prime, you’ll love the high-octane adventure in this boxed set.

1. “Serpent’s Sacrifice” by Trish Heinrich
2. “Morning Sun” by Jeremy Flagg
3. “Action Figures” by Michael Bailey
4. “Supervillain High” by Gerhard Gehrke
5. “Origin” by David Neth
6. “Sidekick” by Christopher Valin
7. “The Kota” by Sunshine Somerville
8. “Super” by Karen Diem
9. “Wearing the Cape” by Marion G. Harmon
10. “Hero Status” by Kristen Brand

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Review of “Be Careful What You Joust For” by Ryan Hauge & Ivy Smoak

38739327A lot of new fantasy stories about knights, lords and ladies, and ancient lands feel like “Game of Thrones” these days, so if you’re into that kind of story but more for a YA audience, this book could be for you.  With multiple characters’ points of view, you get a good cast to add depth to the plot.  Also, the authors do a good job of creating a fantasy realm that feels familiar and unique at the same time.

That said, there were some things that bugged me.  For one, the story is a very, very slow build.  This isn’t entirely bad because this is a first book in a series and you want to get to know the characters.  All the political intrigue makes for a good, suspenseful read.  However, when the action finally takes place at the end of the book, it’s over really quickly and you’re left with a cliffhanger just when things are finally getting good.  I also felt like some of the characters were a little blah or set up to be interesting but then didn’t live up to their potential.  Duchess Isolda in particular is introduced as having a complex double life, but then nothing much comes of it.  Oriana is a typical, boy-obsessed princess type.  Terric’s subplot was good, but he was really selfish and kept screwing everything up in annoying ways.  Bastian was easily my favorite, and his pet squirrel might be the smartest character.  But Rixin and Marcus were vague and underdeveloped, and I didn’t care about Garrion at all.

The writing itself is well done.  It was easy to follow the dialogue, and each character had their own voice so that their chapters felt like everything was definitely from their point of voice.  The action was easy to follow.  The descriptions were just enough to put a clear picture in your head without overdoing it.

If you’re looking for a lighter “Game of Thrones,” give this a shot.

3.5 Stars

See it on Amazon!

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