Posts Tagged ‘David Lee Summers’
DLS: You’ve written under several pseudonyms including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch. You’re clearly not hiding your identity when you use a pseudonym. What do you see as their purpose? Authors often build brands around their names. Do you build a new brand identity for each pseudonym or do you see these as subsidiaries of the Gini Koch brand?
GK: I write under pen names because my voice changes. I believe that your name is your promise to your readers. As Gini Koch, I write fast, fresh, and funny fiction. So, if you pick up something from Gini Koch, you expect to laugh a couple of times at least. But being funny is hard work and I don’t feel like doing that all the time. So my other pen names allow me to write in any way I want, changing my voice along the way, which is a lot more fun for me.
I write horror as J.C. Koch, I write SF/F/Paranormal as Anita Ensal and Jemma Chase, and I write novels set in the Old West and dystopian future fiction with an Old West flair as A.E. Stanton. G.J. Koch is the closest to Gini Koch – that’s the name I write the Alexander Outland series under. I think G.J. is a little funnier than Gini, but that’s kind of for readers to decide.
I look at the other pen names as subsidiaries, yes, because they’re all me, and they’re all coming from my mind. Most of the time these days I byline anything from the other names as Gini Koch writing as (say) J.C. Koch. It lets my readers know it’s me, but me writing in “that” voice, so they know more what to expect.
DLS: Who was your greatest writer influence/inspiration when you started? What are some books of theirs you would recommend?
GK: I firmly feel that anything you’ve ever read will influence you – good, bad, or indifferent. However, I’d say that the writer who influenced me the most when I started writing was Terry Pratchett, and I’d recommend any and all of his Discworld novels.
Other influences would be O. Henry, Arthur Conan Doyle, Madeleine L’Engle, Dave Barry, P.J. O’Rourke, Clifford D. Simak, Robert Silverberg, and, possibly most of all, Robert Benchley. I’m sure the moment I send this I’ll remember other authors who were inspirations, but these will do for now.
DLS: The Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Kat series is now up to fourteen books with the release of Alien Nation. Obviously sales factor into keeping a series going, but did you write the early novels with the idea that this could be a long-running series? Will the series run indefinitely or is there a plan for it to end after a certain number of books? Do you have an ending in mind if the series should come to a conclusion?
GK: I see almost all story ideas as series, and some of them I can see running for a really long time. When I’m writing an Alien novel, I normally “see” the next few books ahead. So, for example, when I was writing Book 5/Alien Diplomacy, I could “see” Alien vs. Alien, Alien in the House, and Alien Research. I might not know what’s going into which book, particularly smaller subplots and supporting characters, but I know where the series overall is going.
I don’t know that I can honestly say that I planned for such a long-running series, though I’m thrilled that’s been the case. In the first few books, I was aiming for Book 10/Universal Alien. All the books were, for me, aiming for that novel. Once that was done, now all the books are aiming for Book 20. So, hopefully we’ll get there. I’m currently contracted through Book 17, so here’s hoping!
DLS: You’re not only a prolific novelist, but a prolific short story writer. Aside from writing to a shorter length, do you approach the two forms differently? If so, how? Do you think all writers should hone both skill sets? Why or why not?
GK: I actually do approach short stories differently from novels. I’m an extreme linear writer. I start with the title, then the first line, and when I get to the end…I stop. I don’t outline novels because if I did, if I knew everything that was going to happen, then I wouldn’t bother writing it, I’d already know and have lost interest. So, if something surprises you in one of my novels, good, because it surprised me, first.
For short stories, however, I outline those in my head. I see what I want happening, and then I write. Usually the story changes a bit from my internal outline, but I know what’s going to happen. For whatever reason, knowing how a short will end doesn’t ruin the surprise for me. This is probably because I’m a natural novelist – it’s easy for me to write novel length. But short stories are much harder for me, so I plan them out much more. So far, it seems to be working.
I do feel that, as an author, you should learn to write in as many lengths and genres and styles as you can manage. It increases your odds of selling. But this is an artistic pursuit, and everyone does their art their own way, which is as it should be.
DLS: What do you see as the role of social media in an author’s marketing repertoire? What social media platforms do you prefer?
GK: Right now social media is where it’s at. It’s free, but it costs your time, which is not free. However, it’s a great way to meet and interact with readers and fans, and, frankly, as with having a website and a blog, being on Facebook and/or Twitter are kind of the baseline.
I like Facebook and Twitter a lot, am still basically useless at Instagram, though I keep on trying here and there, and I love Pinterest, but boy, is that the time suck if you’re not careful. But it’s so much fun, too. And I can show off my covers, do boards where I show who I think the characters look like or could play them in that movie/TV show that, sadly currently, only exists in my mind, share jokes, and then some.
DLS: In addition to social media, you put a lot of effort into getting out to conventions and festivals, and you often have an amazing dealer’s table set up. You’re an author with a big publisher and books in the stores. Why do you go the extra mile to have this kind of presence?
GK: Because you don’t stay an author with a big publisher and books in stores unless you’re out there, pressing the flesh, so to speak. My personal viewpoint is that until you’re a household name – as in, if you go to any grocery store and say your name, people would know who you are even if they don’t read – you’d better be working. And part of the work that goes into being a successful author is going to live events, meeting readers, connecting with fans, speaking, sharing your personality, and so forth.
I happen to enjoy people – unlike what seems like three-quarters of the authors out there, I’m not an introvert – and I enjoy going to events. I love running the yap, I love meeting people, I love sharing my books with new readers and discussing plot points and characters with existing fans, and so on. So going to live events is work that I truly enjoy. But even if I hated it, I’d still do it, because it dramatically affects my sales and my readership, always in a positive way.
DLS: Tell us a little about Alien Nation. What else can we look forward to in the coming months from Gini Koch (or any of your other “secret” identities for that matter)?
Well, Alien Nation is about what happens when word of how well Earth’s repelled interstellar bad guys spreads, and many alien races head for our planet, looking for help from the person who’s been saving the day for a long time now – Kitty. In addition to the usual hijinks for Kitty & Company, we also see the end of some major villains, which was nice for me and the characters. Well, not those villains, but everyone else.
Alien Education/Book 15, releases May 2, and Aliens Abroad/Book 16, releases in December. I’m also planning to have The Alien Collection, which will be a collection of all my Alien series short stories, both previously published and some new, out this year, as well as a collection of my short horror stories, writing as J.C. Koch. I’ll be in several anthologies – Unidentified Funny Objects 6 from UFO Press, Submerged and All Hail Our Robot Overlords! both from Zombies Need Brains, and, finally, the long-delayed MECH: Age of Steel, again writing as J.C. Koch, from Ragnarok. Alexander Outland: Space Pirate, writing as G.J. Koch, gets a mass market re-release in June, which is pretty exciting. I’ll also have an audio release, The Legend of Belladonna Part One: Natural Born Outlaws, writing as A.E. Stanton, coming from Graphic Audio. So, lots ahead for 2017 and beyond!
Gini Koch writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series. Touched by an Alien, Book 1 in the Alien series, was named by Booklist as one of the Top Ten Adult SF/F novels of 2010. Alien in the House, Book 7 in her long-running Alien series, won the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award as the Best Futuristic Romance of 2013. Alien Nation, released in December 2016 and won the Preditors and Editors Readers’ Poll for Best SF/F Novel of 2016. Book 15, Alien Education, will release in May 2017, with Book 16, Aliens Abroad, coming December 2017.
As G.J. Koch she writes the Alexander Outland series and she’s made the most of multiple personality disorder by writing under a variety of other pen names as well, including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch.
Gini also has stories featured in a variety of excellent anthologies, available now and upcoming, writing as Gini Koch, Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, and J.C. Koch. Writing as A.E. Stanton, she will have an audio release, Natural Born Outlaws: The Legend of Belladonna Part 1, coming from Graphic Audio in 2017.
Gini is an in-demand speaker who panels regularly at San Diego Comic-Con, Phoenix Comicon, and the Tucson Festival of Books, among others. She’s also been part of the faculty for the San Diego State University Writers Conference, Jambalaya Con, the Desert Dreams Writers Conference, and the James River Writers Conference, among others.
Prior to becoming a full time author, Gini spent over 25 years in marketing and advertising, first in small- to mid-sized direct marketing firms in Los Angeles, and then with IBM, and she was a social media maven before it was cool.
David Lee Summers. David is the author of more than thirty sci-fi and horror fiction novels and short stories including his latest horror novel THE ASTRONOMER’S CRYPT for Lachesis Publishing. Connect with David Lee Summers. online via facebook and twitter, and check out his web site.
What it’s about:
Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.
Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond, searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.
Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, but then, she must pay the highest price of all . . . her human soul.
An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.
Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, rogue vampyrs, and their ultimate nemesis—Vlad the Impaler.
If you scare easily, don’t read this book. If you dare to read it, you’ve been warned.
Two years ago on a stormy night, in the dead of winter, Mike Teter experienced something that would change his life forever. Mike was a telescope operator at the world renowned Carson Peak Observatory in New Mexico. We won’t tell you what he saw that night on the mountain nor what happened afterward on a dark stretch of highway, because it would haunt you just as it has haunted Mike. But what we will tell you is that Mike is back at Carson Peak. And what he witnessed that night two years ago is about to become a reality . . .
Get THE ASTRONOMER’S CRYPT for only .99 cents! This week only at Lachesis Publishing! Just sign up for our newsletter and we’ll send you the promo code! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE LACHESIS PUBLISHING NEWSLETTER.
What it’s About:
The Cluster is a vast alien machine that destroys starships indiscriminately in its quest for something or someone. Commander John Mark Ellis, disgraced and booted out of the service when he fails to save a merchant ship, believes the key to stopping the Cluster is communication. Clyde McClintlock believes the Cluster is God incarnate. G’Liat is an alien warrior whose own starship was destroyed by the Cluster. All together these three set out to solve the mystery of the Cluster before it finds the object of its quest.
Get CHILDREN OF THE OLD STARS right here at Lachesis Publishing for only .99 cents!
In:Amazon bestselling author, amreading, amwriting, anthology, authors, Bestselling Authors, blog post, book store, Comic Books, craft of writing, Crime Thrillers, Dark Mystery, Dark Paranormal, Graphic Novels, Hauntings, horror fiction, Independent Author, Lachesis Author Guest Blog, Lachesis authors, movie inspiration, movies and books, mystery, pitching your book idea, Q and A Tuesday, Q and A with Bestselling Authors, science fiction, science fiction thriller, Supernatural, Supernatural thriller, suspense
Jeffrey J. Mariotte is the bestselling, award-winning author of fifty novels, including supernatural thrillers Season of the Wolf, Missing White Girl, River Runs Red, and Cold Black Hearts, horror epic The Slab, thriller The Devil’s Bait, and the Dark Vengeance teen horror quartet.
He also writes occasional nonfiction, short fiction (some of which is collected in Nine Frights), and comic books, including the long-running horror/Western comic book series Desperadoes and graphic novels Fade to Black and Zombie Cop. With writing partner Marsheila Rockwell, he has published several short stories and a novel, 7 SYKOS. He has worked in virtually every aspect of the book business, as a writer, editor, marketing executive, and bookseller.
I’ve known Jeff for several years and was delighted when he agreed to answer a few of my questions.
DLS: When people see an author’s name, they often see it as a “brand”, knowing what kind of story they’ll get. You’ve written in several genres from science fiction to weird westerns to horror. How do you define the “Jeff Mariotte Brand”?
JM: I’m convinced that writing in different genres has been harmful to my career, because readers tend to like a writer who stays put, who delivers basically the same thing book after book. Once you’re well established, you can switch around–like Robert B. Parker eventually turning to the occasional western after writing a ton of mystery books in different series. But shifting around before your “brand” is established seems like a bad move, career-wise.
That said, I don’t see how I could have done it differently. I have to write what I’m moved to write at any given time. I’d get bored writing the same series character over and over. I haven’t calculated out the wisest career path, but have written the books that felt like they needed to be written as they came along. I’m true to myself, if not to market considerations. My agent might prefer it the other way around, but I am who I am.
I hope that readers know that when they pick up one of my books, they’ll get a compelling, suspenseful tale that’ll keep them turning the page; they’ll get well-written and engaging stories populated with characters they’ll believe in and care about. Regardless of genre, I try to always write books that will brighten a reader’s day and life, that entertain and maybe inform and enlighten. My books are generally optimistic, even when they venture into dark places, and one of my central themes seems to be the idea that there’s magic in the world, if only you know to look for it.
DLS: Who was your greatest writer influence/inspiration when you started? What are some books of theirs you would recommend?
JM: I was a bookseller for years before I got published, so I was reading pretty extensively in my preferred genres–horror, mysteries, thrillers, sf, fantasies, westerns. Consequently, I had (and have) a lot of inspirations. Some have changed over the years, and others have been consistent. In the early days, I was strongly inspired by Robert E. Howard (particularly his Conan stories), the aforementioned Bob Parker (his Spenser novels), Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe) and Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer). At the same time, I’ve often been inspired by writers as varied as Stephen King (The Stand, The Shining, On Writing), William Goldman (Marathon Man, Boys and Girls Together) and Wallace Stegner (Angle of Repose, Recapitulation, Wolf Willow). More recent influences include James Lee Burke (any of his books, but especially the Robicheaux novels). That’s a pretty male-centric list, but I could also add in works by Joan Vinge, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore, Laura Lippman, Barbara Kingsolver, and plenty of other talented women, as well as one of the best writers I know, Marsheila Rockwell.
DLS: You recently married your writing partner, the talented Marsheila Rockwell. How do your collaborations work? How does collaborating compare to writing solo?
JM: Funny you should mention that…
We collaborate very well, almost seamlessly. We have different strengths–she’s a poet and her command of language is beautiful, while I’m a stronger plotter, for instance–but when we work together, our strengths complement each other, and by the time we’re finished with a story, we usually can’t tell who wrote what. We try to start with a solid outline so we know where we’re going and what each other’s vision of the overall story is (and because we both come out of a tie-in writing background, we’re used to working with outlines). Then we trade off–scene by scene, chapter by chapter, whatever works at the moment and for any given project. On the first book of the Xena: Warrior Princess trilogy we’re working on, we had a relatively tight deadline and had to be writing different chapters simultaneously, which was a little awkward. But we smoothed it all out, and it came out well in the end.
As for the difference between collaborating and solo work, it is a different beast. A solo story or novel is one person’s vision, and everything in it, good or bad, is a reflection of that one person. A collaboration is necessarily a shared vision. I’ve written a lot of comic books and graphic novels, and because I don’t draw, those are always collaborations. And I’ve collaborated with other writers, too. So it’s not new to me. It does feel more natural with Marcy, and we work together better than I have with anyone else. Ideally, the result of a collaboration is a book or a story one writer couldn’t have written, because each participant brings different skills and life experiences to the table, and that’s what Marcy and I get when we write together. The fact that I get to be married to her is icing on the cake.
DLS: What insights have you gained from owning a bookstore that can help writers be more successful and stand out from the crowd?
JM: I think the experience of working in bookstores, managing them, and being an owner of one, has made me less ready to jump on board the e-book train. I think printed books are an ideal marriage of form and function–they don’t require a power source, they don’t break down or become corrupted, they’re always there when you want to read and you can save your place with a bookmark or a piece of paper or a paper clip or whatever’s handy. At the same time, I have a more realistic view of the book business than some people, who seem to think that Amazon is the only bookseller that matters. The truth is that printed books still far outsell e-books, and other outlets still sell more books in the U.S. than Amazon does, so if a writer focuses all of his or her efforts on Amazon, he or she is leaving a lot of potential sales on the table.
DLS: Not only do you write in your own worlds, you’ve written novels and stories for Star Trek, NCIS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and other franchises. How does “playing in someone else’s sandbox” compare to creating your own world?
JM: I love writing my original novels, and will always want to do that. Creating my own characters and involving them in situations entirely of my own devising is the ultimate creative experience. But it’s also a blast to be asked to write novels about characters I love, like Conan, Xena, Spider-Man, Superman, and great TV shows like CSI and NCIS: Los Angeles. I get to tell stories in beloved fictional universes, and get paid for it–nothing wrong with that!
The skills that are called on are the same. I have to create characters, plot stories, write in an engaging and entertaining manner. And the truth is whether I’m writing in an existing fictional universe or my own, I have to be consistent and true to the rules of that universe as it’s been developed. So the main difference is that in tie-in work, I have to try to capture voices that were devised by other writers (and sometimes actors). Fortunately, I’m pretty good at that.
DLS: If someone wanted to try their hand at writing and selling a novel in the world of a popular franchise, what would they need to do? How should they start?
JM: They could start by visiting the website of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, IAMTW.org. There they can find out a lot about the nuts and bolts of the tie-in business, and maybe find out about licensed fiction lines they didn’t even know existed. The organization has also released a book by its membership that contains more details about the trade.
Typically (although there are exceptions) to write a tie-in novel, you have to have had at least one other novel professionally published. Publishers have already invested a lot of money to acquire a license, so they don’t want to risk more by hiring a writer who hasn’t proven the ability to write a publishable book. And there’s often competition for tie-in gigs, so if it’s a choice between a writer with a solid track record and an unknown new writer, the established pro will have the advantage. So the best thing a writer can do is write a good book, get it published by a reputable publisher, then approach the publisher of the licensed fiction line of interest and say, “Hey, I wrote X and I’d sure like to pitch you something for your Y line.”
DLS: In addition to writing novels, you’ve written and edited comic books. How are writing comic books similar and different than writing novels or short stories? Do you collaborate with the artist ahead of time, or create any kind of storyboard in addition to writing?
JM: As I mentioned above, because I don’t draw the comics, each one is a collaboration, start to finish. I write the script before the artist draws it, so while I’m writing it I’m only speculating about what it’ll look like at the end of the process. Usually what I’m seeing in my head is not much like what comes out on the page. From the very beginning of my career, I’ve had the good fortune of working with some amazing artists, whose work on my scripts has blown me away.
Ultimately, the skill sets the writer brings to the table are similar. You need to tell a story that’s worth telling, that’s interesting and surprising and suspenseful and is hopefully enlightening in some way. The differences are in the techniques and the outcome. In comics, you have to be willing to stand back and let the art tell the story. The writer makes up the story (in most cases), and puts it down in a script that no one will ever see, but the artist is the one whose interpretation of the story ends up being what the readers see. The writer has to let the artist do that job, and keep the words to a minimum so they don’t get in the way of the art.
I don’t try to direct the artist to any great extent. I tell them what has to be in each panel to make the story work, but leave it to them how the panel is composed, how the different panels fit onto the page, etc. I’ve worked, as an editor, with writers who don’t trust their artists and do sketch layouts for them. Fortunately, in most cases, the artists I’ve worked with are far better at that than I would be.
DLS: What kind of research did you do writing the comic book biography of Barack Obama? Did you get to interview the President or did you work from other resources?
JM: That project was fascinating, and required vast amounts of research. I didn’t get to meet or speak with the President (though I’d still love to). I wrote it during the 2008 campaign and the first few months of his presidency, so at the time there weren’t even any books about him other than the two he wrote himself. Obviously he was a well-known public figure, but what had been written about him was mostly journalism coming out on a constant basis, along with a few more in-depth magazine pieces. I read his books and every article about him I could get my hands on, and watched him on TV whenever possible to get a sense of his voice. The scripts were vetted by lawyers, and I had to have every fact triple-sourced, and had to be able to show where every line of dialogue came from. The project was originally three separate comic book issues that were collected into a single hardcover book, which was actually the first book-length biography written about him.
DLS: I sense a certain passion for small towns on the southern border of the United States in your writing. What captivates you about those places in particular?
JM: Borderlands of all kinds are fascinating to me. I have written a lot about the US/Mexico border, but I’ve written about other borders, too–my Age of Conan trilogy, for example, was largely about the border between the Aquilonian Empire and the Pictish lands–which is kind of a parallel to Hadrian’s Wall, where the Roman Empire ended and the wilderness began. Other borders in my fiction include borders between our world and another (or many others). Borders are where different people with different interests and backgrounds intersect. There’s natural drama in that. Along our southwestern border, there are of course political issues, issues of crime and punishment, and the story of the human race–which is the ongoing story of migration–all of which are rich territory for fiction.
JM: The new book is 7 SYKOS, a collaboration with Marsheila Rockwell. It’s kind of a science fiction/horror/thriller hybrid. Basically, a meteor has brought a spaceborne virus into the Phoenix metropolitan area, which has the effect of turning those infected into raging lunatics hungry for brains. It’s incredibly virulent and there’s no known cure or vaccine. In order to keep it from spreading throughout the nation (or the world), the military has fenced off the Valley of the Sun, and nobody is allowed in or out. But everyone knows that’s only a temporary solution, so if something more permanent can’t be figured out soon, the Valley’s going to be nuked out of existence. Trouble is, the only way to come up with a fix is to get enough of the meteor to study, and nobody can get to it. But it turns out that the unique brain structure of psychopaths makes them immune to the virus. So they can go into the quarantine zone, to look for pieces of the meteor. And all they have to do is agree to perform an essentially altruistic act, learn how to play well together, and survive the onslaught of thousands of Infecteds who want to eat their brains. Nothing to it, right…?
DLS: Sounds amazing! Thanks for the wonderful and informative interview!
In:amreading, amwriting, blog post, Films and books, Horror, horror fiction, Lachesis Author Guest Blog, Lachesis authors, movie inspiration, movies and books, paranormal, science fiction thriller, Supernatural, suspense, suspense thriller, suspense thrillers, writing craft, writing inspiration
Movies often fire my imagination and inspire my writing. These days, I watch movies carefully to see what storytelling tricks I can glean. Special features on DVDs can be instructive, helping me see what choices the directors and writers made to tell their stories. Movies can give me a frame of reference when I’m visualizing a location in one of my novels or imagining how a character might react in trying circumstances. Today, I want to look back at three movies that I found particularly influential.
There’s a good chance I wouldn’t be a novelist if not for The Milagro Beanfield War, directed by Robert Redford and based on the novel by John Nichols. It tells the story of a developer who wants to build a resort in a small New Mexico town and those people who stand up to him, including Joe Mondragon, who resuscitates his father’s beanfield with water slated to irrigate the development’s green lawns. An angel with an accordion and a serape gives our heroes a nudge. For most critics, it explored magical realism in the desert southwest. For me, it showed the kinds of things my family and friends do. The movie showed me that the stories I experience everyday can be worth telling. I started looking at the stories of my mom’s family homesteading in New Mexico and began to imagine what it would be like if people homesteaded an alien world. That led directly to my first novel, The Pirates of Sufiro.
I studied German extensively in my college years. My professors not only had us read German literature, but introduced us to German cinema. A major film that came out during that time was Wolfgang Peterson’s film, Das Boot. It is a tense, occasionally humorous, often frightening film that showed the grim realities of crewing a U-Boat during World War II. The movie helped me understand one thing that long bugged me about science fiction films. The space ships often look too clean and everything is so spacious. It struck me that space travel would be much more like working on a submarine. It would be claustrophobic. Fire would mean disaster because it could exhaust the air supply very fast. Every bit of space aboard the ships would be used as wisely as possible to keep costs down. When I started imagining the star vessels in my books, The Pirates of Sufiro and Children of the Old Stars, I imagined that they would be more like the submarine in Das Boot than the Starship Enterprise. This realization helped me visualize my spaceships and think about how the officers and crew would interact with each other.
While I might not have written a novel if not for The Milagro Beanfield War, I wouldn’t have written horror if not for another film I discovered during those years studying German. Werner Herzog’s 1979 film Nosferatu is a remake of the classic 1922 silent film. What made Herzog’s movie special is Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of Count Dracula, which creeped me out while making me care about him at the same time. Characters such as Lord Draco, Alexandra, and Rudolfo from my Scarlet Order vampire novels owe a lot to Kinski’s performance. What’s more, the vampire makeup in that film helped to inspire the human-created monsters in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. Perhaps more important than even these elements, Nosferatu taught me that horror is one of the ways to explore human emotion in the extreme. We see humans at their worst as they give into temptations and at their best as they sacrifice themselves for noble causes.
As I write this, I’m working through the second editorial pass of my forthcoming novel The Astronomer’s Crypt and I find these movies have influenced this work as well. The setting is my beloved southwestern United States, which I learned to utilize from The Milagro Beanfield War. I endeavor to create tension like that in Das Boot and we see humans at their best and worst as we do in Nosferatu. I’m sure this won’t be the last novel to be influenced by these amazing films.
In:amreading, amwriting, Art and Writing, authors, bestselling author, Bestselling Authors, blog post, Book Signings, Getting Published, Good Books, Lachesis Author Guest Blog, Lachesis authors, Lachesis Blog, science fiction, Writer's Craft, writing craft, writing inspiration
In May 1983, I was 16 years old and a junior at San Bernardino High School in California. One of my best friends, Rodney King, was a senior at Pacific High School across town. Rod told me that Ray Bradbury was scheduled to give a presentation at his school. I was on San Bernardino High’s newspaper and persuaded my teachers to give me permission to report on the presentation.
On the morning of Ray Bradbury’s talk, Rod picked me up and we drove to Pacific High School. We were walking across campus, when the principal stopped us. She saw I was carrying a tape recorder and asked if we were reporters from other schools. I confirmed I was. She then said, “Mr. Bradbury is having lunch in the library, would you care to join him?” Of course, we leapt at the opportunity. There he was, the man himself! Ray Bradbury in the library talking to teachers and administrators. He seemed pleased to see some students there as well and we joined in the conversation.
Once we finished lunch, we adjourned to the auditorium where Bradbury spoke and answered questions about his work. Afterwards Rod and I went up to him to say goodbye and thank him for talking to us. He pulled us aside and said, “I’m going out for cocktails with some of the teachers after this. Would you care to join us?” Of course we agreed and spent another hour with him. It was truly a magical day. I remember he told the story of how he came up with the story “The Veldt” from The Illustrated Man. He read some of his poetry. He encouraged us to read and write every day. All of that has remained with me over the years. Sadly, these were the days before everyone carried a cell phone much less invented he word “Selfie,” so I don’t have a picture with him, but he signed my copies of Fahrenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I treasure to this day.
I next had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Bradbury about two years later when he spoke at California State University at San Bernardino. That was a brief visit and he signed a copy of Dinosaur Tales for me. What I most remember is that when I stepped up to him in the autograph line, he immediately recognized me, stepped around the desk where he was signing, and gave me a hug.
I didn’t see Mr. Bradbury again until early 1995. At that point, I was living in Tucson. He came out to speak at a writer’s workshop held at the University of Arizona. I attended with my wife, Kumie, and my friend, William Grother. He gave a wonderful presentation over lunch where he told us a person should read a short story, a poem and an essay every day. “Imagine how much you will learn,” he said. He also told us about his experiences in Ireland, writing the Moby Dick screenplay for John Huston. Again, I had an opportunity to visit with Mr. Bradbury. He gave me and Kumie hugs and we left him to speak to other fans.
A couple of years later, I saw a copy of Green Shadows, White Whale, book of collected Ray Bradbury’s stories about working for John Huston in Ireland. I remembered his stories from the workshop so fondly that I immediately bought the book and read it right away.
About that time, I was also reading submissions for a magazine I was editing called Hadrosaur Tales. Three stories in a row that described a knight climbing a mountain to slay some hapless dragon. I found myself asking, “Isn’t there a fresh way to tell this story?” I thought of Ray Bradbury in Ireland, writing Moby Dick. The question occurred to me, what if teams of people flew out in airships and hunted dragons? I wrote the story of a young man named Rado who joined such a crew. Rado was named for Ray Douglas Bradbury. When the story was published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, I sent Mr. Bradbury a copy and told him the story of how I came up with the idea. He wrote back a few days later and said how much he enjoyed that day in 1983 at Pacific High School, how proud he was of me, and that “The Slayers” was a “fine story.”
If you’d like to hear Ray Bradbury speak, my friend Gloria McMillian recently pointed me to a YouTube video recorded in 2001, the year my story was published in Realms of Fantasy. In it, he gives terrific advice and tells many great stories from his years as a writer. You can watch it at: here.
Back in 1983, Ray Bradbury told the story of visiting a carnival when he was a child. A man called Mr. Electrico strapped himself into an electric chair. With lightning arcing all around, Mr. Electrico pointed a lightning rod at the young Bradbury and said, “live forever!” That’s the moment Ray Bradbury decided to be a writer, so he could live forever.
By day I’m a mild-mannered writer of science fiction and horror. By night, I operate the Mayall 4-meter telescope and the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory outside Tucson, Arizona. These two telescopes have contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe. They’ve played a role in the discovery of dark matter, the large scale structure of the universe, dark energy, planets outside the solar system and much more. Working with these telescopes has also done much to inspire my writing.
For many years, I specialized in observations of spotted binary stars. Spotted, in this case means that they have spots, like sunspots, only much larger. In some cases the spots can take up over a third of the star’s surface. Binary means that two stars orbit each other. These are very active, violent stars and I visit such a system in the opening scenes of Children of the Old Stars.
I’ve spent many nights at Kitt Peak pointing telescopes at globular clusters. These are great spherical clouds of ancient stars that orbit our galaxy. In fact, the “old star” part of my “Old Star/New Earth” series gets its name from these stellar groups, which in my novels prove to be the home of an ancient and powerful life form. The series’s overall storyline was inspired by taking one of the deepest images of our galaxy’s center and imagining a way for humans to get there and see it firsthand.
Before working at Kitt Peak, I spent a summer working at the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket Island, off the Massachusetts coast. Nantucket was once the center of the American whaling industry and is home to many proud, old families. What’s more, the novel Moby-Dick opens on Nantucket Island. When I imagined a character who would sail off into the unknown frontiers surrounding our galaxy and at its heart, I immediately looked to a man born and bred from a long line of Nantucket sailors and you’ll find the island featured prominently in The Pirates of Sufiro, Children of the Old Stars, and Heirs of the New Earth.
Not only does work at an observatory inspire my science fiction, but it has a way of inspiring my horror as well. At one time, one of my co-workers used to joke that those of us who operate telescopes were the vampires of the mountain because you never saw us before sunset or after sunrise. She was also a fan of vampire fiction who introduced me to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire. Because of that, I began to ask what if a telescope operator really was a vampire? That line of questioning led me on the path to writing my novels Vampires of the Scarlet Order and Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order.
Lest you think vampires are the scariest thing you might encounter at an observatory, we do have our share of ghost stories. There are tales of the rocking chair in the 4-meter lounge that rocks all by itself. Last winter police reported getting a 911 call from the observatory. When the telescope operator on duty checked the number, it came from inside a locked, empty elevator. Just a month ago, the breaker to the kitchen tripped mysteriously. The breaker is located in one of the spookiest hallways in the building, where I often feel someone is walking right behind me. Now, all of these stories actually have rational explanations, but the shivers these tales induce helped me to create The Astronomer’s Crypt, the first of a horror series that I have written for Lachesis Publishing.
Writing is a passion and a calling for me, but I’m grateful for my career in astronomy. Even if I were to leave it, I’ve seen wonders and had experiences that will inspire many books to come.
In:blog post, Fantasy/Adventure, Lachesis Author Guest Blog, Lachesis authors, Lachesis Blog, paranormal, science fiction, science fiction thriller, Superhero fiction, suspense thriller, Uncategorized, Writing a great hero, writing craft
Reviewed by David Lee Summers
I grew up watching superhero TV shows and reading comic books, so you might expect me to be a fan of superhero fiction. Unfortunately, superheroes have rarely translated well into short stories or novels for me. I either find the stories shallow translations of comic books or I find that the author tips the scales too much in the other direction and spends so much time on probing the superhero’s psyche that they forget to give us the action and fun that makes the genre special. That said, Greg Ballan’s Hybrid: Forced Vengeance has shown me that a superhero novel can be just as thrilling as the best comics and movies while adding the depth and complexity we’ve come to expect from great fiction.
An alien called Jakor has combined the DNA of a detective named Erik Knight with that of his own race, the Espers. Knight can essentially transform into a metallic being with super strength and telepathy. Bullets can hurt him, but they’re not fatal. What’s more, he possesses an Esper staff with the ability to transform into swords, shields, and other useful items. As Hybrid: Forced Vengeance opens, Knight is on a mission for the U.S. Government in Saudi Arabia. While there, his pregnant wife Shanda is apparently killed in a car crash. While still grieving for his wife, Knight is sent on a new mission. This time, he must protect the daughter of the French president from an assassination plot.
Once Knight goes overseas, we learn that Shanda did not die after all. She’s been taken to Area 51 in the Nevada Desert so the military can take her newborn, study the child, and try to make more malleable super soldiers than the willful Erik Knight. Shanda turns out not to be the only captive of the story’s villain, Colonel Ross. It turns out the government also holds an alien called Gray from a race called the Observers. Ross hopes that Gray will give him the secrets to a flying saucer the government shot down years before.
Through the course of the novel, Knight gets caught up in a web of intrigue, suspense, and government conspiracy. Ballan introduces us to many characters, each with their own agendas. Most important of all, Hybrid: Forced Vengeance never forgets to be a fun-filled, action-packed ride. At times, Ballan threatens to go over the top with some of the situations he presents, but superhero stories are supposed to be morality plays that pit the best heroes against the worst villains in the most extreme circumstances. Hybrid: Forced Vengeance delivers just that.
Greg Ballan is the author of the science fiction thrillers Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vegeance (and the upcoming Hybrid 3) You can purchase them both at Lachesis Publishing, amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and kobo.
It’s not very often that I find myself finishing a book with my jaw literally dropped open. That’s what happened with David Lee Summers’ new novel, Heirs of the new Earth. I flat out admit I was disappointed. Not with the ending of the tale but the very fact that I had come to the adventure’s conclusion. Summers carefully breaks up his tale into sections and like a master weaver threads separate story arcs and characters across the galaxy, spinning the fabric of an amazing tale of science fiction adventure that kept me on the edge of my chair eagerly scrolling page after page. A warning to every reader . . . block off a good chunk of time, pour your favorite beverage and sit down in your favorite comfort chair. Once you start reading, the story jumps out and grabs hold, drawing you into a world one thousand years in the future where mankind has spread across the universe, contacted other intelligent life, and colonized new worlds.
Not all life in the galaxy is warm, fuzzy and humanoid. This, in my opinion, is where Summers shines like a fiery day star. The author creates a palpable sense of awe and dread painting an intricate portrait of a mysterious alien race known only as the Cluster. Summers’ prologue gives the reader a sense of the mysterious alien(s), their history in the galaxy and the beings’ desire to merge with another species to use as “Appendages”. Unfortunately for humanity WE have been chosen. Summers intricately dissects the cost/benefit analysis of human interaction with an “All powerful entity” motivated to “Help” us cure disease and cleanse the Earth for our benefit. Sometimes the price for paradise can be too steep and the motivation of a benefactor not always as pure as one is led to believe. Summers creates a viable web of intrigue and puts a morality study into play as humanity is unwittingly aiding in its own destruction.
Summers takes the battle for humanity into deep space at the Galactic Core with incredible ships such as the Mapping Cruiser ‘Nicholas Sanson’ led by Captain John Mark Ellis and the refit pirate schooner ‘Legacy’ headed by the elder Captain Ellision Firebrandt. But he also utilizes cerebral pathways and gateways of the human mind manipulated by the advanced alien intellect. Summers’ brilliant depiction of an ancient sailing vessel navigating interstellar space populated by copies of human brain patterns literally made me stop mid-read and ponder the possibility of such an incredible concept. Summers goes even further as he creates the final epic space battle to save humanity from its “Benefactors.” It is here that all the story arcs come together, each fabric of Summers’ tapestry woven to perfection culminating in the final battle to save humanity not only from the Cluster but from itself. Again, David Lee Summers shows his story-telling genius by throwing a major twist into the salvation of humanity and giving the reader another moment for dramatic pause to consider such a wondrous possibility that man may not be the best intellect on Earth. In the end it isn’t human genius or firepower that saves mankind but something more subtle, awe inspiring, yet somewhat terrifying at the same time. As the danger for humanity isn’t over but may only be delayed as the powerful alien Cluster learns and develops from its new host appendage.
It took longer than normal to get involved with the main characters of this tale because it’s the third book in a trilogy, and though it’s apparent there are relationships established in the first two books that continue in the third, this doesn’t detract from the story as the relationships become self-evident and the plots cleverly merge together. Summers’ ability to create a unique future for humanity is quite believable as the problems that impact modern day society in the 21st century are still there in the 30th century only exasperated in scale.His description of 30th century Earth is as fantastic as it is credible which makes this epic tale about the struggle to preserve humanity that much more intriguing and viable to any reader.
Grab your favorite chips and beverage, curl up in a nice cozy spot and give your mind and imagination the treat of this incredible tale told by a unique, gifted author. The only problem I have now is waiting to get book one and book two.
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