Interview: Eric Garrison Gives R.J. a Reality Check

ericgarrison-tbpCongratulations to my friend Eric Garrison on his two book publishing deals, one with Hydra Publications for his recently released science fiction dimension hopping thriller, Reality Check. The other for a multi-book deal with Seventh Star Press.

 

Shorty after Eric and I met, we discovered pretty fast that our writing shares much in common. We decided to embrace the similarities and write in a “shared world.”

 

So ignore all that, because Reality Check is something else entirely.

 

Reality Check is Eric’s genre-bending, dimension-hopping science fiction thriller, the first of a planned trilogy. You can meet Eric along with many other awesome authors *koff-koff me too koff-koff* at the That Book Place Book Fair, Saturday, March 16, the first place on the planet where Eric will appear, armed with the paperback of Reality Check.

 

Reality-Check-Cover-thumb“When a quantum supercomputer’s ‘reality simulator’ program causes temporary insanity in its beta-testers, Lee Green rolls up his sleeves and dives into a virtual world to debug the problem. Only he discovers that place is more real than anyone imagined.

He finds alternate versions of his friends in that mad science reality, their lives and relationships very different from those in the ‘real’ world. Quantum entanglements become romantic entanglements as he meets his love again in each new dimension.

Lee must save these other lives, decide which destiny is truly his, and what he’s willing to sacrifice to get there.”

 

For those that can’t make it, click here and here to see the book’s Amazon links.

 

 

There’s something both classical and yet new to this story. When it comes to science fiction, are you drawn more toward the classics or to the more modern stories? Which authors inspire you, particularly with this work?

 

I suppose if I had to pick just one of those, I guess I lean toward the classics. Even the modern authors I read, Stephen Baxter, John Varley, Dan Simmons… these guys write about spaceships and exploration and how humans change and still remain human.

 

Looking at my bookcases for science fiction authors, I see a lot of Asimov, Niven, Simmons, and Gibson. But if I think about the forces that formed Reality Check, I’d have to give credit to Robert Heinlein, Neal Stephenson, and John Varley. Whatever else you may say about Heinlein, he was the master of social science fiction… that “what if” being applied to how people adapt to technology and alien situations. Neal Stephenson, on the other hand, is the master of science fiction at breakneck, breathless pacing. I always strive to keep the momentum in my novels going.  John Varley follows in Heinlein’s footsteps in his treatment of individuals and relationships in science fiction, but he’s also amazing at cranking things “up to eleven” in intensity, taking the story through twists and turns that make you afraid to put his books down.

 

From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.
From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.

I’m going to give a nod toward Jack Chalker too, since absolutely no one writes body swapping stories like he does. There, I said it, I love Jack Chalker’s novels. We all have to have guilty pleasures, right?

 

 

What work would you most directly compare this story to?

 

That’s a tough one. It’s part Matrix, part Quantum Leap and part Star Trek TOS: Mirror, Mirror. I take a techie geek from our world and put him in alternate worlds, where he finds his own life still intertwined with his friends’ in different ways, despite the changing backdrop and genre.

 

 

When you first discussed the concept of this story, what struck me was how difficult, potentially, keeping track of your plot points might be. Yet everything falls into place quite nicely. Discuss the approach you took to keeping the plot from getting away from you.

 

Without giving too much away, I think the symmetry of the story was what held it together. Sure, three characters across three-and-a-half worlds did get confusing. Those three became nine individuals, but despite local differences, each triplet has great similarity to his or her alternate counterparts. It could have gotten all sorts of crazy, dealing with three main worlds, each with its local crisis, and all those characters’ motivations, but in the end, I told the story in first person for a reason: This is Lee’s story. Seeing it all through his eyes, we follow just his thread through the warp and weave of the novel. Writing it that way, I could concentrate on his wants and feelings and actions, even as everything changed around him, including his own body.

 

 

Let me throw a couple of thoughts at you that occurred to me as I read your book, and get your response. Reality Check follows a protagonist, unsure of himself, unhappy with his life, who finds within himself hidden potential as his exterior environment radically shifts. Reality Check may be seen as a study on how our environment directly affects us as a determining factor on how much of our potential we can find within ourselves.

 

From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.
From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.

I think this is a valid way to look at a theme in the story. Lee’s in the doldrums in his own life, but when he’s thrown into alternate versions of his life, he meets the challenges he finds there, doing more to fix those lives than than his own. Change is difficult, but it’s being put outside of our comfort zone that makes us grow and shine. Lee could have continued happily enough in his rut, but so could Bilbo have sat at home in his hole. And like Bilbo, Lee makes that first choice to step outside of himself to become so much more than he would have otherwise.

 

 

Try this one: A core theme in Reality Check seems to be that some people are destined to be together and will always find each other, no matter their life circumstance or position in life. With each reality shift, Lee continues to have a close relationship with his two best friends, even though the realities have little to nothing to do with each other geographically or, in many ways, the professions and organizations the three of them are associated with. (Dancing around spoilers). Do you embrace this destined viewpoint between individuals as a personal philosophy?

 

I think the idea of a soulmate is overused. I absolutely do not believe the “romantic” notion that there’s one true person for each of us in this world. I don’t see that concept as romantic, I see it as depressing. Only one person out of billions that really gets you? What if you pick wrong and meet your real soulmate later?

 

I prefer the idea of kindred spirits, in the sense that some people, you just know right off the bat, like you’ve met them before. Like we’re all just characters in some massively multiplayer online game, and we’ve played other games with the same folks another time. I do think we’re drawn to certain people, and I like to think that would be true no matter what universe.

 

Just to be contrary, I’ll relate that Reality Check doesn’t actually imply this. One of the Dionnes comes out and says that the only way the reality hopping works for Lee is because he’s swapping with people in other universes enough like him to be essentially who he is, despite all other factors. She goes on to say that the reason he’s surrounded by his closest friends, even in other universes, is because he can’t be who he is without those people as a part of his life.

 

But it’s really just a chicken-and-egg sort of thing.  Can they travel between dimensions only because they are together, or would they be together in any universe? They’re simply not the same people without each other, so it doesn’t matter which is the real reason. We are who we are, in part, by who we choose as friends.

 

 

This is your fifth completed novel and your first venture into science fiction. Discuss your journey as a writer. Is this a novel you could have written at any point in that journey or did you have to build up to it? Why did you feel that now was the right time?

 

I wrote Reality Check for two main reasons.  One, I had this idea, in some raw form, rattling around in my head for many years beforehand. It’s been sitting in my “Story Ideas” file in Google Docs all this time. It was going to be a short story, originally, but I couldn’t think of a plot to go with the concept that would fit that format. Two, I’d written four urban fantasy novels already, one trilogy and one spin-off, and I felt I wanted to stretch myself by writing all new characters and a different genre.

 

From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.
From the Reality Check book trailer. Art by Nell Williams.

I really don’t think I could have written this as my first novel. It was a huge challenge. I quit writing it out of frustration halfway through the first draft. I did, I quit, I shouted I was done with it. I felt overwhelmed, and I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end it. But some good friends told me the idea was too compelling to abandon, that I had to finish it. With that external motivation, I sat my butt down and redid the outline, in greater detail, and finished a rough draft. Which I got feedback on; I was right, the ending wasn’t very satisfying. So I made it a sort of false ending and kicked the plot back into gear toward a new goal, which ended up rewriting and expanding it quite a bit. Even that ending wasn’t quite satisfying, so I tweaked it until I was satisfied and added an Epilogue so the ending didn’t come to such an abrupt halt.

 

There’s no way I would have had the discipline and drive to retool, rewrite and polish this book before the time I wrote it. It took having the other four books under my belt to have the confidence to finish what I started, with a little help from my friends, and the patience that came with the experience I gained over time.

 

 

Because “it’s complicated,” can you discuss what’s coming up from Eric Garrison?

 

It really is complicated! Toward the end of last year, I had a choice of working on a sequel to my urban fantasy spin-off, Blue Spirit (which I’ve already started), or following up on the adventures of Lee, Dionne and Cecil with a Reality Check sequel. Mean Spirit or Sanity Check. But a few things happened. First, Reality Check got picked up by Hydra Publications, which meant spending quality time with an editor (shout out to Martha Swanson!) to further refine that work. Then, I pitched my self-published Road Ghosts trilogy to Seventh Star Press, and they’ve decided to pick it up and publish it, along with Blue Spirit, as part of a six book deal.

 

So, my first novel, Four ’til Late, will be my next novel to come out in late spring or early summer of 2013. It will be followed by Sinking Down, the second book in the trilogy in mid to late summer. Blue Spirit will come out right on that book’s heels, for complicated reasons… mainly so that it doesn’t have to stay out of print as long, but partly because its protagonist, Skye, is introduced in Sinking Down and doesn’t have a role in the third book in the Road Ghosts trilogy.

 

So that means I will be working on a sequel to Blue Spirit in order to have it come out by the end of the year or early next year. But I think it won’t be Mean Spirit; I’ve decided more has to happen between those two books, so my working title for Skye’s next adventure is Restless Spirit.

Visit Eric Garrison’s website here.

Check out the Reality Check book trailer here.

Check out artist Nell Williams here.

 

Strange, Weird, Wonderful…and Too Brief!

The anthology A Big Book of Strange, Weird and Wonderful Volume 2 was released December 1. What follows is the introduction, composed by me,  that opens the volume.

BB2SiteSmallCoverIn 2009, an Indiana Networking site announced a new publication called Strange, Weird, and Wonderful Magazine was open for submissions.  So one by one I sent in what I thought were some of my strongest selections and all were immediately rejected, so I composed something new.

“Able Bodied” appeared in the Winter 2010 issue, and Vol. I of this annual.  Newly motivated, I continued to shop my stories around and quickly realized SWW offered unique opportunities.

Let’s talk word count: A “limit” of 15,000 just isn’t done. Most editors preach the shorter, the better, but D.L. emphasized great stories dictate their own length, not the needs of the editor.  And as trends shift towards more electronic reading, print costs, the primary reason for the demand for shorter stories, no longer mattered.  But writers couldn’t practice excess simply because they had the room to do so. D.L. and Sharon also believe in discipline, and the importance of every word’s impact.

Soon after, I released my first novel, and D. L. asked if I was interested in contributing a story as the featured author. I said “yes” and submitted “Inner Strength,” the story in this volume.

Though this marked the first appearance of “Becky”, it was by no means her last. Readers can follow her adventures as Paranormal Investigator “Rebecca Burton” in the short story Backstage Pass and the novella Haunting Obsession, my latest releases through Seventh Star Press. Her story will continue, but she appeared in SWW first, and that makes me unreasonably happy.

SWW offered the perfect starting point for me and other writers serious about our craft. And I’m grateful it was there for me. I also know D.L. and Sharon have great plans for the brand: original anthologies and expanding into novels, where they’ll continue to offer a fantastic platform for talent. And so while this “Best of” volume marks the end of an era, I look forward to seeing the Strange, Weird and Wonderful tales of the future.

–R. J. Sullivan

Order your copy from Amazon or the pulbisher’s site!

Hoosier Horror for the Holidays

The Mooresville Public Library

and the

Indiana Horror Writers

Present

Hoosier Horror for the Holidays

A gathering of Indiana authors with: Vampires, ghosts, pirates, superheroes, fantasy warriors, wizards, and more!

Saturday, November 3,
1-3 PM

Mooresville Public Library
220 West Harrison Street
Mooresville, Indiana 46158
317.831.7323, mooresvillelib.org

Featuring:

Matt Adams: Indianapolis, Author of superhero prose, lives and works in Indianapolis. Long ago, I planned to patrol the streets as Batman, but ultimately decided writing was safer. www.mattadamswriter.com I, Crimsonstreak.

Maurice Broaddus: Indianapolis, co-editor of the Dark Faith anthologies (Apex Books) and author of the urban fantasy trilogy, Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot Books). www.MauriceBroaddus.com King’s Justice, King Maker, King’s War, Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, and more.

Nicole Cushing: Southern Indiana, prolific author of horrific short stories. www.nicolecushing.wordpress.com Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beast Within (anthology); and the forthcoming novella Children of No One.

Eric Garrison: Indianapolis, dark supernatural fantasies: ghosts, demonic possession and sinister fairy folk. www.ericgarrison.wordpress.com Road Ghosts (3-in-1), Blue Spirit.

Roberta Hoffer: Indianapolis, three words: Romantic Vampire Series. www.asilentheart.com Silent Heart, Silent Madness.

R.J. Sullivan: Camby, author of edgy ghost stories and paranormal thrillers. www.rjsullivanfiction.com Haunting Blue, Haunting Obsession, Contributor to Dark Faith: Invocations

Kathy Watness: North Salem, serial contributor to fantasy anthologies, such as the Blue Kingdom series, “Terribly Twisted Tales,” and The Crimson Pact, V.1.

Michael West: Indianapolis, prolific author of traditional horror and scares. www.bymichaelwest.com Cinema of Shadows, Wide Game, Poseidon’s Children, Skull Full of Kisses, and the just-released Spook House.

RJ Sullivan Publishing News Press Release

For Immediate Release
February 23, 2012

Seventh Star Press Announces Four-Book Deal with Paranormal Author R.J. Sullivan
Seventh Star Press proudly announces a four book deal with author R.J. Sullivan, making him the seventh author to come aboard the publisher’s main roster.

The addition of R.J. Sullivan comes close after Seventh Star Press’ strongest year yet, during which titles such as Jackie Gamber‘s Redheart and Michael West‘s Cinema of Shadows received excellent critical reception, and the artwork featured by the press also received increased recognition, as Matthew Perry recently won Top Cover Art in the 2011 Tor.com Readers Choice Awards for his cover art on Stephen Zimmer‘s The Seventh Throne.

The first title to be released by Seventh Star Press, Haunting Obsession, tells the story of Daryl Beasley. Daryl collects all things Maxine Marie, whose famous curves and fast lifestyle made her a Hollywood icon for decades after her tragic death. Daryl’s girlfriend, Loretta Stevens, knew about his geeky lifestyle when they started dating, but she loves him, quirks and all.

Then one day Daryl chooses to buy a particularly tacky piece of memorabilia instead of Loretta’s birthday present. Daryl ends up in the doghouse, not only with Loretta, but with Maxine Marie herself. The legendary blonde returns from the dead to give Daryl a piece of her mind—and a haunting obsession he’ll never forget.

A member of the Indiana Horror Writers, R. J. Sullivan resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. His first novel, Haunting Blue, is an edgy paranormal thriller about punk girl loner Fiona “Blue” Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren.

R.J. is hard at work on the next chapter in Fiona’s story, Virtual Blue, which will be released in 2013, followed by two more novels over the course of 2013 and 2014.

“I was with Michael West at several events last year, and I couldn’t help but notice the slick marketing materials he was handing out,” R.J. Sullivan commented as to why he wanted to bring his work to Seventh Star Press. “I saw how Seventh Star had a personal presence nearby to assist at the cons. I realized that having the publisher at those events changes the convention vibe, which can otherwise be an isolated experience. I love that they produce interior artwork as part of their product–it shows an understanding of the genre and its readers. It’s clear Seventh Star understand the modern publishing world, and does everything they can to open up opportunities for the author to succeed.”

Bonnie Wasson, whose cover art and illustrations are featured in Seventh Star Press titles such as D.A. Adams’ The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, will be creating the artwork for the R.J. Sullivan novels.

Haunting Obsession will be released in limited hardcover, softcover (trade paperback), and several eBook editions, including versions for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, and Sony-compatible devices.

For further information on R.J. Sullivan and the upcoming releases, please visit www.seventhstarpress.com or the author’s site at www.rjsullivanfiction.com

Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky

Review: Cinema of Shadows

Cinema of Shadows
Michael West
Cover and interior illustrations by Matthew Perry
©2011 Seventh Star Press
www.bymichaelwest.com

9/10 Arjays—because there’s nothing cooler than an Arjay

For the last several months, every review site on the web has taken a moment to heap praises upon Michael West’s Cinema of Shadows, his second novel and his first release through Seventh Star Press. Now it’s my turn. Cinema is a triumph—incredibly satisfying, offering the scares you hope for with an attention to detail, history, and a set of characters you like and root for, even knowing not everyone makes it through to the end.

And the movies. The book is a celebration of Michael’s love of movies.

The book begins with a couple of prologues, first about our main character Kim Saunders, then with a significant flashback within the Woodfield—the movie palace in which the bulk of the story takes place.

Michael takes us back to Harmony, Indiana, the setting of The Wide Game (which I awarded the coveted 10/10 Arjays, see review here). He’s taking us from high school to college, where follow Ms. Kim Saunders and her group of friends—her roommate Tashima, and Joss and Kevin. The four have been grouped into a “team” of wanna-be investigators all trying to earn a semester’s credit of paranormal research under the leadership of the infamous and very British Professor Geoffrey Burke.

Kim is chosen to communicate with the spirits. It’s clear from the start she has a talent in finding rapport with the other side. When she addresses them, things “happen.” Her friends don’t know (but the reader is let in) of her mysterious past and the encounters that have allowed this to happen.

Following a partly botched haunted house episode, Kim is taken to the emergency room and treated by Doctor Tyler Bachman. It’s hardly five minutes later that “Doctor Bachman” has discharged her, asks her out, and he becomes “Tyler” for the rest of the novel, and the budding romance falls into place.

Professor Burke has been offered the unique opportunity to investigate the soon-to-be-demolished Woodview Movie Palace for the weekend, and he recruits the student team most aggressively to join him. Everything clicks into place pretty fast, and soon the team is setting up at the movie palace, learning its ghastly history, uncovering its secrets, upsetting the spirits, and getting into all sorts of trouble.

At 278 pages the book moves fast, yet never feels rushed. For me, comparisons to The Wide Game are inevitable, so, compared to The Wide Game, the situation is simpler, more straightforward. While The Wide Game protracted the reveal, Cinema is about getting to the scares and whipping the plot along.

The book, about a movie palace, shows a distinct love for movies, and “unspools” like a movie. Lines that will read as throwaway detail to some will have film students nodding their head at the in-joke. For example, when Kim and Tyler take a late-night stroll, Michael makes a point to mention that the sidewalk glistened wet from a recent rain. Those familiar with cinema techniques know that cement photographs better when wet and is often hosed down prior to filming.

Much has been said about the scares in other reviews, and I won’t go on about that except to confirm that if that’s what you’re looking for, Cinema is full of scares, surprise reveals and action sequences. I want to take a moment to praise Michael on his characters and his ability make the reader care and root for each one, even the throwaway ones. (The stripper, Michael—how could you do that to the stripper? Like her life wasn’t tough enough?)

I’d like to also mention the Catholic Christian emphasis in both Cinema and The Wide Game. For several decades it seems to have become out of vogue to create horror stories in which the power of God and the name of Jesus Christ can affect the outcome of supernatural encounters. (The crucifix, in modern vampire fiction, is waved around more like a can of mace than a symbol of spiritual presence). Modern American spirituality tends to be removed or minimized from “mainstream” horror fiction and only handled (or mishandled in my opinion) in “Christian horror” fiction. Not so in Michael’s work.

Cinema offers us a group of sexually experimenting college kids, prone to use “bad” language, but some of which have a strong faith, and fall back on that faith in hopes to affect the outcome of the tale. As a result, Cinema becomes one of a few unacknowledged Christian Fiction horror novels, with Christian characters most American Christians would understand and relate to, but will never be found in  a Christian Bookstore. For me, and I suspect for others, Cinema and The Wide Game fill a gap in secular storytelling, and I applaud Michael and Seventh Star Press for making that stand.

Now I hear Michael screaming “why didn’t it get ten Arjays?” A rating of 9 should tell everyone that I loved Cinema of Shadows, but I related to The Wide Game on a personal level in a way that no author can control. And so, I preferred The Wide Game,  by a “smidge”, and had to rate the story in a way that reflected how each book affected me, the reviewer, personally.

Bottom line: Highly recommended for those who love action-oriented cinematic paranormal fiction.

See my interview with Michael West around the time of the release of Cinema of Shadows here.