New Seventh Star Superstar Carl R. Moore wrote this spiffy new review of Haunting Obsession and asked me a few questions about it. I was pleased and honored at the kind words and the attention Maxine continues to draw after all this time. Check it out. Carl’s article follows:
I’m very excited to announce my new review series, Review-Interview, a combination of a book review and short interview with the book’s author. It is in part a continuation of my blog’s original “Is that an Old Book?” review series. Adding a dialogue with the author brings in an exciting new element. The first featured book is Haunting Obsession, and the interview is with its author R.J. Sullivan. Without further ado, please enjoy the first installment of Review-Interview, brought to you by Carl R. Moore and Seventh Star Press:
A gifted young computer programmer has a passion for collecting movies and memorabilia featuring his hallowed idol—the elegant and alluring Maxine Marie. His colleague and girlfriend, Loretta, tolerates his obsession, but only to a point. When Daryl pays a high price for an old rent check signed by the famous actress, not only does he push his hobby and his girlfriend too far, he also summons an entity that is beautiful and dangerous, electric and evil, arousing and voracious—the ghost made flesh of Maxine Marie herself.
In Haunting Obsession, author R.J. Sullivan crafts a novella about a supernatural love triangle that draws its power primarily from its well-wrought characters. Flawed, somewhat geeky heroes likeable for their brains and sense of humor, protagonists Daryl and Loretta come across as a couple you might know and root for. You can see the attraction between them, Loretta’s affinity for the “mind behind the Star Trek posters”, as it were, and Daryl’s understanding that the woman he loves has the right combination of brains and easy-going tolerant spirit to be long-term material.
It’s my pleasure to host a special blog interview on the eve of a new release by one of my favorite storytellers, editors, and publisher entrepreneurs, Mr. D.L. Russell. Almost a decade ago, he started the e-zine Strange, Weird and Wonderful when the idea of delivering magazines via an electronic file download was still new and not in wide use. D.L. used SWW to explore that potential and built SWW’s reputation as a place to find new, talented voices in dark fiction and as an outlet that discarded word count in favor of giving storytellers the room they needed to tell their story. I am proud to be counted among the new voices that first appeared within its electronic pages.
D.L. has since shut down SWW and branched out into themed anthologies under the publishing label Black Books Publishing. It’s first release, 21st century Black Erotica, sets the tone for how D.L. intends to push boundaries and offer his press as an outlet to examine all realms of subject matter.
His latest anthology shows a return to dark fiction with Illuminati at My Door, an exploration of secret societies and those who dare to find them and draw their attention.
Hi, D.L. On the surface, secret societies have been a part of speculative fiction for a long time. Can you tell us why you felt that now is a good time to return to this particular idea? Perhaps it, maybe, seems particularly appropriate to the time we live in?
The main reason is because I don’t feel these stories have been told from an accurate perspective of the common man. This anthology has nothing remotely related to the “last honest man,” constantly looking over his shoulder as he attempts to tell the truth before it’s too late. There are no Fox Mulders in this anthology. In fact, it’s just the opposites, with the main requirement of each story being believe-ability and a straightforwardness usually bypassed in such stories.
In some ways, editing a short story magazine and editing an anthology would be very similar experiences. What makes anthologies a different experience for you? Do you have a different mindset when you consider the submissions? What priorities do you have to consider that differ from magazine fiction?
When we were doing Strange, Weird, and Wonderful, each issue needed to have enough variety to please readers of several of the Spec Fiction Sub-genres. We never had a problem getting the scary stuff, but there were times when it’s all we had to go with and I had to make calls to writers I’d worked with on earlier issues to see if they had any Fantasy or Science Fiction pieces.
With anthologies, it’s the basic or detailed theme of each story that ties the book together. With Illuminati at my Door, the basic theme was if an individual was approached by a member of a secret society, how would they handle it? Especially in today’s world, where secret societies and conspiracy theories are everywhere; almost every major and minor event is branded with its conspiracy element.
Talk about your stable of authors. I know you maintain contact with your SWW contributors. On a new anthology like Illuminati at My Door, how many new names appear in the collection and how many are talents you knew from before who stepped up for you? Did any of the “old guard” surprise you in new ways, or did you discover a new talent that appears in your pages for the first time?
One of my goals as an editor and writer is to maintain good relationships with people I’ve worked with, including other editors, writers, and even artists. We’re all at different stages of our careers, but I think by maintaining those positive relationships, we’re able to cross those career barriers.
There are a couple SWW alums that came on board the Illuminati at my Door project; one was Mary Patterson Thornburg, who is a retired Ball State University English Professor, not only supplied the Foreword, but also has been Copy Editor for every title Black Books Publishing Inc. has done to date. I’d have to say my relationship with Mary is the best example I could give a young editor to keep your professional relationships positive at all cost.
The other is Matt Adams, who’s an Indy native and appeared in SWW with a story I fell in love with called “Old-Fashioned Police Work.” When I contacted him about the theme of Illuminati at my Door, he liked the concept and wrote “What the Network Wants” relatively quickly.
As for new talent, Ronder Scott, Melanie Williams, Rosie Maureen, and Natasha Cage all had limited publishing experience but their stories show no signs of inexperience. The hardest part about working with a newer writer is getting beyond any hang-ups they may have as far as an editor requesting changes to their work, but every one of these women kept an open mind until we had stories they could live with as writers, and I could accept as a publisher putting together an anthology.
In all honesty, I feel this is the best group of writers I have every worked with on an anthology. I’m very proud of the job everyone did and the professionalism they all showed throughout every stage of the project.
What prompted the changeover from the magazine to standalone anthologies? Was it a personal decision or was it something brought on by a shift in the industry?
It was simply a financial decision. Strange, Weird, and Wonderful was a free ezine, our payments to writers and artists weren’t being covered by the minimal advertising we were generating so Sharon Black and I made the decision to start SWW Publishing. Two years later I wanted to do a few projects that didn’t quite fit under the SWW umbrella, and Sharon had a few things she wanted to work on, so we parted ways, and shortly after that, Black Books Publishing Inc. was born.
The more I think about it, it was publications like SWW that helped put our industry in the financial pit it can’t seem to get out of. Readers have come to expect their stories for free and their novels for 99 cents. We created that monster, and now small publishers and self-publishers don’t know how to fix it. I’ve seen publishers give away thousands of copies in a given advertising campaign and never recoup those sales through actual purchases.
We are the only form of entertainment battling this issue and I think publishers should band together and agree to certain standards when it comes to pricing, and giveaways. If we could guarantee a high quality standard for our work, I think readers would embrace it.
What is the long term vision for Black Books Publishing? The website indicates a couple of exciting imprints coming in the near future.
Long term, I would like to amass a library of books that are well written and entertaining. I’m being picky on purpose, with the titles I publish and there’s a reason you haven’t seen a novel from us yet. The saying, about 1st impressions is true. I don’t know if we’ll ever be a prolific publishing company, but I do know each book published will be the best we could accomplish at that time.
This is defiantly a marathon for us, not a sprint.
When you recall what you had in mind for Illuminati at My Door and considering the finished book, how close did you come to hitting your expectations for the collection?
I think its spot on! I wanted strong writing, good stories, and no “last honest man, looking over his shoulder while trying to get to the truth,” kind of stories. Again, I think this is the best anthology I have ever put together.
Yes, I hope the next one is even better, but this is my best work as an editor and selector of stories to date.
Give us some short one-sentence teasers to some of the stories contained within Illuminati at My Door.
I would rather just tell you each story is based on an actual secret society rumor. Most have been around for years, others have not, but each is based on something that’s already floating around out there. Readers who follow those rumors will easily recognize where the ideas came from and those who don’t follow them will simply be entertained.
I sat down in the midst of the holiday insanity of last December to Skype with Kim Smith, the charming hostess of the Writer Groupie Podcast, and talked about my favorite topic for 40 minutes: me. Specifically, she asked about my ghost stories, my love of science fiction, and asked about my upcoming release, Commanding the Red Lotus. She also asked what advice I’d give to an aspiring writer.
Ashley Roland is a talented horror author and artist I’ve known and admired for several years. She writes as A.D. Roland and creates fabulous cover art as Adra Steia. As a contracted cover artist for Damnation Books, she created the cover for Haunting Blue and then created additional artwork for my “way-too-ambitious” book trailer. If you haven’t read them, I wholeheartedly recommend Swamp Baby and Winterborn but only if you’re brave enough! After a few years away, I’m thrilled to announce that Ash has returned as an Indie author with a new fantasy release.
Ash, your early writing is primarily horror. Why did you decide to make Dark Consort a New Adult Book? How did this affect the writing and editing process?
I was already in the process of taking it from an adult fiction novel to one that was more encompassing of readers, so it wasn’t too hard to rewrite and then edit backwards to make sure it was suitable for older teens (with very permissive parents!).
You released a handful of titles under small publishers–now you are transitioning to self-publishing your work. Why the transition? Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each.
I enjoy being part of the community of small press authors. I’ve developed some fantastic business and personal relationships because of my involvement with several small presses. I chose to self-publish because I spent 3 years writing Dark Consort. I didn’t want to spend another year or so waiting for it to come out. I wanted complete control over the book, especially the ability to make sure the price is agreeable to the reader. I love writing and I want people to read what I write. Being able to control distribution, pricing, and availability is perfect. I love getting paid to write, but I honestly love hearing how much someone enjoyed reading my book just as much. If an ebook is priced more than a trade paperback, most people aren’t going to buy something from a writer without a sturdy backlist and a million 5-star Amazon reviews!
Besides being a successful horror author, you have grown your book cover clients. You also had some success in photography. Seems like a real “art war” within you. Are you pulled in several directions these days, or do you have a single favorite way to express yourself?
Some days, I say I’m a writer at heart. Other days, I’m an artist first and foremost. I spent a couple of years away from writing to focus on my art, and I’ve spent the last year cutting back on art projects to focus on writing. I’ve been in school for a while, so that took up all my spare time. I had to choose between writing and art, and unfortunately, I had to choose the one that actually paid the bills. Now that I’m out of school, I’m really enjoying being able to spend hours at the computer, writing!
Your last novel came out in 2010. Why the gap between books?
The gap happened because I got an awesome job managing a portrait studio. It was hectic, demanding work and I just didn’t have time to write. Then the company closed, and I decided, “What the hey, I’ll go back to school!” Two years later, I’m done (temporarily) with school, and figured out it was time to push the chick out of the nest. So far, Dark Consort is really doing well!
What’s next for A.D. Roland?
Dunno. Stuff? I don’t really know, honestly. I have the sequel to Dark Consort, entitled Last Consort, in progress, as well as a supernatural thriller in the vein of Winterborn.
Ruler of a withering kingdom, Ceron has come to terms with the fact that the only way to save his country is to carry on with one of his ancestors’ worst traditions–the kidnapping and sacrifice of a mage to revive the dying magic of Aichinn. Through his short reign, he’s fought hard to bury his hateful legacy and create a new, peaceful rule. The demons that have plagued his bloodline, however, have other plans. Vile plans. They want blood and war, death and destruction. Even as he fights them, tooth and nail, he realizes he can’t fight them forever.
Kaeda just can’t get it right. A healer mage in the lush, bountiful Northlands, no matter of training seems to awaken more than a trickle of her magic. When the mysterious visitor from a southern state offers her an escape from the looming banishment, she takes him up without a second thought. Unfortunately, the stranger isn’t who he says he is.
He’s the dreaded King of Nightmare and Shadow, the Lord of the Goblins, the Dark King Ceron. And he wants her. Despite being kidnapped, imprisoned, and deceived, Kaeda discovers she’s meant for so much more than what Ceron intends. The very land of Aichinn embraces her, and her natural abilities flood forth. The dying kingdom has a chance to live again. With the awakening of the land’s magic, Ceron’s demons rise in full force, determined to wield the burgeoning power as their own.
Kaeda is Ceron’s only chance to save Aichinn–if he doesn’t destroy her first.
Introduction to R.J. Sullivan Blog interview: Kathy Tyers
I’m breaking format from my “Team R.J.” series to present an exclusive interview with author Kathy Tyers. Kathy is arguably best known as the bestselling author of several mid-1990s Star Wars-related projects, including her novels The Truce at Bakura and Balance Point. Fans of her original fiction are quick to express much love for her Firebird books. The first two titles were released in the late 1980s as Firebird and Fusion Fireby Bantam Books. She released several other original novels in that same time frame, including my personal favorite, Shivering World, in 1991 (more on that).
Tyers partnered with Christian Fiction publisher Bethany House in the early 2000s to produce a rewrite of the first two Firebird books and the new volume Crown of Fire, creating the Firebird Trilogy. (plus a rewrite of Shivering World.) Crown of Fire, for those who followed Kathy’s work closely, read like a thinly veiled confessional as the heroine struggles between embracing fame and glory or answering the call to use her “powers” to serve a greater good.
Now, following a multi-year sabbatical, Kathy is poised to reintroduce herself to both her anxious fan base and to new generation of readers in an industry that’s changed greatly since her previous career “peak”.
I see I haven’t talked about myself in three paragraphs, so to remedy that, here’s my personal story about Kathy. *grin* I discovered Kathy Tyers’ work through a bittersweet circumstance. Her Bantam novel Shivering World was included in my “swag bag” of free goodies at a science fiction convention—typically the efforts of a publisher burning off inventory of an underperforming title and an act that generally does not set a reader’s expectations high. That said, Shivering World completely blew me away with its engaging main character, hard science conundrum and masterful, suspenseful plotting.
Though a lifelong science fiction book reader, I did something after reading Shivering World I’d never done before or since—I composed a gushing fan letter to the author (back then, that meant taking pen to paper and using the snail mail method of delivery). What followed after was a friendly on-and-off correspondence for next several years. Fast-forward to the late 1990s, when the internet and Yahoo-Fan-Groups were developing, and I stumbled upon the Lady Firebird Newsgroup. I plugged in and interacted with Kathy and many of her most enthusiastic fans as she prepared to re-release the Firebird novels. Interaction within the fan group led to many *ahem* passionate discussions, fun friendships, and of course, the “inside scoop” on all things Kathy.
On this forum, I also “met” my mentor, friend, and peer editor Dr. Debra Holland (read our blog interview here), a friendship that has as lasted over a decade.
Then, Kathy suddenly took an extended sabbatical from writing, and for the last few years, and the Lady Firebird group has run on autopilot. But now it appears our patience has paid off as Kathy has plans to launch several exciting new project in 2011 and return in a big way! But I’ll let her tell you.
(The Kathy Tyers Interview parts one and two post Wednesday and Friday)