eyE[before]Olivia Stocum

First off, allow me to apologise for my unexpected hiatus from eyE. I hadn’t planned it, but as the old adage goes, ‘life is what happens when you’re making other plans’. In between my aforementioned ‘life’ and trying to get BaCwS finished I’ve been a bit short on time, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to have an awful lot more time in the near future either. But nonetheless, I shall endeavour to continue posting when I’m able.

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Now, on to more important matters. As a reward for your patience, I was recently afforded the opportunity to interview the brilliant Olivia Stocum. Olivia is a historical romance author whose debut novel, ‘Dawning’, comes out in just a few days on July 17th. Many of you may know Olivia from her awesome blog, of which I am a big fan, titled ‘The Claymore and Surcoat’. Many more of you will get to know Olivia, through her fantastically impassioned portrayal of love and devotion set against the backdrop of the rolling Scottish countryside in the 16th century.

A lover, dreamer, archer and artist; the auspicious Olivia Stocum.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“When I was a kid my dad told me I had to start living in the real world, because my uncanny ability to fade into La La Land would get me nowhere in life. I saw this as a challenge. Once he said that, there was no going back. I HAD to turn my overactive imagination into something useful. Judging by how proud he is of me now, I have to wonder if he was using reverse psychology.”

As a writer of historical romance, how much research do you usually put into your story’s background? How do you find the balance between fact and interpersonal fiction?

“Sometimes history can get in the way of the story. When this happens, I think it’s better to tell an engaging story. To some degree you have to create your own reality when you write about a time and place 400 years ago anyway. There’s no way to know every tiny detail of your characters’ daily lives without having to fill in some blanks. Consistency is the key. Decide what’s right for your world and stick with it! Also, make sure you don’t make any obvious changes to the setting or history buffs everywhere will fall into a dead faint.”

As someone who has declared themselves an adamantly independent author, what do you think the advantages and disadvantages of the independent marketplace are for newcomers?

“The indie market evens the playing field. Now, anyone with an imagination and a willingness to work their arse off can make a go of it. No more emptying the bank account to hop a plane to some writers’ conference where you will have to lick shoes all week in hopes someone with a pie chart and a list of acceptable plotlines will confirm that you are, in fact, a novelist. The downside is that the market is flooding with writers who probably should have taken a few more workshops, or joined a critique group, before publishing.”

What do you think are some of the most commonly mistaken or misleading ‘rules’ you’ve been told about writing? What lessons have you learned from your own experiences?

“Oh wow. I’ve struggled with this a lot. At one point I allowed stringent contest judges (to) critique my work to a stagnant death. Sure, I had a clean manuscript, but it lacked the ability to elicit an emotional response in the reader. Take a look at some of the greatest writers throughout history. Guess what? They broke rules. Lots of them. But like many things, you have to know the rules before you can break them. I would tell any newbie out there to study the rules, but keep in mind that they’re really more like suggestions.”

If you could visit any place, at any time period in history, but could only do so trapped in the body of a marmoset, where and when would it be?

“A marmoset is some kind of monkey right? Let me see… little monkeys make me think of Indiana Jones because there was a little monkey in ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’, which makes me think of Egypt, which reminds me of my belly dancing days… wait, what was the question?

“Oh yes, trapped in the body of a marmoset. Well, if I went to historic Scotland, I’d probably end up rotting in a cage because they wouldn’t understand me. (Not their fault, mind you). So I would stick with the Middle East, India, or Africa. I’d be the favourite pet of some young lady who dressed me up cute and carried me around with her all day long. Yes, I could do that, look cute, and have no responsibilities beyond that.”


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Once again, Olivia’s debut novel, ‘Dawning’, is officially released in paperback on July 17th, but can be pre-ordered on Amazon here. (EDIT: Olivia has corrected me, it will also be available on Kindle as of the 17th! :)) Also, make sure you check out Olivia’s blog, ‘The Claymore and the Surcoat for regular updates on her work. Thanks again, for your time, Olivia!

eyE[before]Justin Bog

JB2Allow me to suspensefully assault the drum before me as I introduce you to the exceptional Justin Bog.

It is a great honour to get the chance to interview Justin, who is based out of the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. I was just recently afforded the opportunity to beta-read his newly released novella ‘The Conversationalist’ and am a big fan of his dark psychological thrillers. He currently has a short story collection in print titled ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories’ and his debut novel, ‘Wake Me Up’, will be published by Green Darner Press in 2014. Aside from writing fiction, Justin is also the Senior Contributor and Editor at ‘In Classic Style’, and he also maintains a blog over at JustinBog.com.

And so, here he is.

The perceptive, pensive, and e’er poignant Justin Bog.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“As a child, this want remained undefined until I found a typewriter in the attic. After that, I never stopped writing, but I didn’t share my work with others very much. Once I learned how to read, early in the first grade, I always had my nose in a book—this was much preferable to math studies, even though I enjoyed the puzzling world of mathematics as well. Because I loved books so much, I dreamed of working in bookstores. I never dreamed of owning one, just had my heart set on being in the fiction department of a cozy bookstore like the basement bookstore in my hometown. That dream did come true; I worked in one large bookstore throughout college and then for three terrific independent bookstores over the next twenty years before moving to the Pacific Northwest to concentrate solely on my writing. I applied to MFA programs two years after graduating from the University of Michigan, where I had taken three years of creative writing courses. I was accepted into two programs and chose Bowling Green State University because it has a small, almost boutique, program. There is also a Visiting Writer year and Dan O’Brien, author of ‘Eminent Domain‘ and ‘Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch‘, took over the writing workshop one term. Even though I moved away from Harbor Springs, Michigan in 1993, and ‘Between the Covers Bookstore’ has changed ownership, I will be doing a reading and signing for the new proprietor on July 10th. I can’t wait to go back to northern Michigan.”

‘The Conversationalist’ being your second publication, did you feel any of the ‘2nd book’ stigma that writers often complain hangs over them after their first literary foray?

“Not at all. ‘The Conversationalist‘, a novella, would’ve fit well as the final piece after ‘Train Crash’ in ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories’, since it also has a character who seems obsessed by trains and how destructive they can be. I’ve been ready to publish my first novel since 2011, but decided to postpone that until after I introduced my work through a short story collection. I’m very happy with the choice I made. People seem to like my dark off-center tales, and I hope they enjoy meeting my new characters in ‘The Conversationalist‘. This one has a more direct plot, and a main character who is just sketchy enough to make me want to write about.”

How important do you believe observation of people to be when writing a story focused on interpersonal relationships? How much do you borrow from real life?

“Observation is paramount in most of the stories I tell. Someone even called them observational tales. I try to reveal character through observation—get into the psychology of what motivates certain broken types, or even the person we all walk by in everyday life without a second glance (or even a first). Everything comes from real life, but that’s just a jumping off point. I don’t write about friends, family, or acquaintances. ‘On the Back Staircase’ (is) the most autobiographical (short story I’ve written) because it is set in my childhood home and has a similar family of seven people, including two sets of twins, (but it) is not about my siblings or parents. I just talked about this with my twin brother. It’s not us, I said, and I stand by that. There are touchstones in the tale taken from my past, but the characters are fictional. All the characters in my writing are usually created out of thin air.”

Do you believe digital media (e-books) have changed the execution, demand, and ultimately the public reception of short stories and novellas?

“EBooks have changed everything about publishing, and maybe make shorter work, short stories, ‘singles’ and novellas readily available to readers in larger numbers. Short story collections, in general, did not sell well when I worked in bookstores. I read them, and believe other writers are the ones who read short fiction. eBooks are beginning to change this, make shorter work appealing because people can read them on their iPhones when waiting in any office, or in line at the Post Office—I do this, and love it. I hope to discover many more authors’ work this way. I love reading eBooks and print paperbacks in even measure. There’s nothing like the feel of turning real pages, and that’s why I am not bemoaning the loss of “real” books just yet. I’ll always buy them.”

If you could have a conversation with anyone, real or fictional, from throughout the span of human history, who would it be (bearing in mind that you have to murder them upon the conversation’s completion to ensure the preservation of the existential continuum)? 

“A macabre question to finish this interview off is perfect. But first I want to thank you Ryan for allowing me to share my writing thoughts here on your blog—kind of you.

“I have to choose someone to speak with, and in doing so, execute this person . . . sad for him, and I will choose someone fictional since then the murder aspect isn’t criminalized… I would love to have dinner (adding a meal in since it’s this character’s last supper) with The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantès. His story, told to perfection in what is my favorite classic novel of all time, the very first suspense novel written, is so complex, I know there are many other stories he could tell, and the more he reveals over this really long dinner will help prolong the grim reaper’s appearance. I should’ve chosen Scheherazade. :)”


conversationalistbookcoverjpgJustin Bog’s new eBook ‘The Conversationalist‘ is available for purchase from Amazon.com here. His collection of short stories, ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories‘ are available in both paperback and eBook form. His debut novel, ‘Wake Me Up‘ will be out in 2014, and you can follow his blog, JustinBog.com, for further updates and information on the up-and-coming projects of this very talented author. Thanks again Justin for making the time to speak with us. 🙂

Bastion

the-last-human-on-earth

Set in stone, bronze, iron and gold,

The last legacy of man and God,

Bears witness to his dynasty’s demise.

Arms upheld denying chaos’ rise,

Crook laid down, with none to terrorise.

The epitome and essence of the human condition,

As slowly solitude aids orders expedition,

And humanity’s witness becomes history’s patrician.

Survival, endurance, and beastial roar,

Self styled God is made man once more.

But survival’s ward wears through self-contemplation,

External durance turns to internal altercation.

The garden of earthly delights is not dead,

While sap’s sickly sweet smell swims free through the head,

Flowing forth from the corpses now charged in his stead.

And in narcissistic utopia,

A unique cornucopia

Of insanities beset history’s end.

A life taken corrupts life’s rise and fall.

A punishment paid with no heed at all.


If you guys enjoyed this poem I wrote some time ago (which, incidentally, is about the last human), then be sure to check out the article I just wrote for Warhols Children, ‘The S.S. Pornocopia and Other Erotic Tales‘. It’s been a while since I’ve written an article for them, this one is about the ingrained role of pornography in modern culture. Enjoy! 🙂

eyE[before]Adina West

AdinaWest300dpiThis week’s eyE is on the talented Adina West. I had the pleasure of seeing Adina speak in a panel at ‘Forest for the Trees’ as part of the Sydney Writer’s Festival last fortnight. Adina is an up-and-coming author who’s debut novel, ‘Dark Child’ is being released in a revolutionary serialised format by Momentum Books (a digital branch of Pan Macmillan). The episodic release of Adina’s exciting new paranormal fantasy series (which reached #1 in the iTunes book store in Australia and NZ on May 1st) has the potential to change the face of e-publishing as we know it. Luckily for us, Adina has been gracious enough to grace us with her presence.

An interview no independent or mainstream author should miss; the lovely, lively, and lexicological Adina West.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“I was bitten by the bug when I was too young to remember or pinpoint a reason. I’ve dallied with writing since I was in primary school, and I think I still have a hand-typed draft, with pictures, of a children’s book I wrote called ‘Maura goes shopping’. Yummy afternoon teas seemed to be a focus in my writing at that age. Very Enid Blyton!

“More to the point is what first made me finally make the mental leap to thinking seriously about seeking publication. And I can certainly identify that! It came from me reading Stephenie Meyer’s website, which at the time contained, and perhaps still does, a long account of the process she went through in writing Twilight in only a few months, and then sending it to a publisher on the urging of her sister. She mentioned fitting writing in around normal mothering duties like taking her kids to swimming lessons, and as I’d recently had my first child and was both sleep deprived and time poor, her story really resonated. It’s not a unique scenario by any means, but it came at the right time and spurred me on to take the next step. Self belief and persistence are enormously important to writers. I realised all sorts of things are possible if you want them badly enough.”

Your paranormal fantasy novel, ‘Dark Child’, has recently been released in a serialised format. Do you believe that serialisation of e-books and novels could become a standardised, or even more commonplace, form of release for e-books?

“It’s hard to say whether it’s a trend that will endure. It’s certainly very popular at the moment, particularly for self-published erotic fiction. It allows a first instalment to be offered cheaply or for free, and the ‘loss leader’ idea is a great marketing strategy in this electronic age when discoverability of product has become the single biggest sales barrier. Perhaps when the marketplace is flooded with serialised fiction this choice by authors and publishers will drop in popularity as it’ll no longer be a point of difference.

“But right now we’re seeing a resurgence not just of serialised e-books, where each instalment is often 20,000 words or less, but also anything written in a series. Series certainly aren’t new, particularly in fantasy where for years it’s probably fair to say they’ve been the dominant form. But in YA and NA fiction, and in both contemporary and traditional romance, it’s becoming more and more common to see authors writing books that are interlinked. One of the very newest trends I’ve noticed is where an author writes an interlinked pair of books, with both covering the same events but from opposing viewpoints (usually male and female protagonists). A recent example is author Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster/Walking Disaster duology.”

How do you envision the evolution of the paranormal fantasy genre in a ‘post-Twilight’ world?

“I’m not sure that should be phrased as a speculative question on what the future will hold because I think we’ve already seen very significant evolution in this genre since Twilight. An entire generation of teenagers has had their reading experience informed by its presence. The single biggest contribution Twilight’s success made was to move paranormal and urban fantasy fiction out of the shadowy realms of genre niche and into the mainstream market. Literally millions of new readers tried Twilight as their first ever foray into the genre, and have since become fans of paranormal fiction. YA fiction is certainly rife with paranormal offerings!

“With a vast increase in potential readership for the genre, so much more experimentation and genre blending is possible, and certainly people have realised the huge amount the genre offers to readers who love romance! Pre-Twilight, mainstream readers hadn’t heard of PNR (paranormal romance) at all, and the word ‘vampire’ would make them instantly anticipate a story steeped in horror and gothic elements. Times – and reader expectations – have certainly changed.”

As a writer of paranormal urban fantasy, how do you feel the advent of e-books, the internet, and the inevitability of globalisation have affected the narrative mechanics of the genre, particularly in regards to world culture?

“I think the directness of an author’s response to these changes is commensurate with their understanding and acceptance of such realities. The world can change all it wants, but some writers, and their readers, will continue on much as they always have. There are, and will always be, traditionalists. But within the genre as a whole, I think we’re already seeing big shifts, particularly from writers outside the U.S.. Hmmm, wonder why that is?

“Distribution of fiction has become international and I personally think the opportunity to cater for a much more diverse audience than ever before is a wonderful challenge. I think one author who is doing some very interesting things in this regard is New Zealand PNR/UF author Nalini Singh, who sets her work in a fictionalised near-future. She has stories that span the globe and include characters of every ethnicity and skin hue imaginable.

“Personally, I’m a bit of a magpie in this regard, and I’ve always liked the possibility of being able to pick and choose elements I’d like to include from as broad a range of options as possible! An international canvas suits me just fine. That said, I have my traditional leanings too. Having grown up with a vampire mythology rooted in Eastern Europe (where my mother was born, incidentally!) I have found it hard to discount this. But immortal or near immortal beings with plenty of time on their hands would logically have travelled the world, and there’s plenty of scope for narrative diversity in that.”

A dyslexic vampyre-slayer, a syphilitic succubus, and a werebadger with alopecia engage in violent combat to see who gets the last slice of birthday cake. Who is the obvious winner, and why?

“I don’t want to be the one to tell him, but that balding werebadger should see his GP ASAP. Alopecia is a symptom of second stage syphilis, so him and the succubus? Well, I don’t want to point fingers…but when she finds out what he’s ‘passed on’ (and a succubus always finds out – they’ll suck the answers right out of your mind at a moment of weakness) the two of them will be too busy fighting to notice the vampyre-slayer nipping in and scoffing that cake…”


DarkChild_OMNIBUS_Adina_WestAdina’s premiere paranormal fantasy book ‘Dark Child’ is out now. Episode 1 can be purchased here, or it can be bought as a collected Omnibus edition here. Also, be sure to check out Adina’s website – AdinaWest.com

Martyrs and Masochists

blood-knifeWhat currency is worth more than human blood?

Horded by misers,

fearing red river’s flood.

Who won’t risk a spill

in spite of blood’s call;

Ever beating twin drums

of love and lust’s thrall.

Where passions price

comes in carnage and gore,

Martyrs and masochists will always pay more.

Bloodletting release after eons of pain,

Barters bliss

and the thought

that it ought not

be in vain.

But shaving life’s mane

tempers power in paw,

As angels and thorns

raise a differing roar,

And spent blood is in circulation once more.

eyE[before]Charles

Thcharles-yallowitzis week, I interviewed a regular fixture within the blogging community; the very talented Charles Edward Yallowitz. Though I have been all too certain Charles and I would cross paths eventually due to our mutual love of the fantasy genre, the chance to finally grill him is an exciting one. Charles is a fantasy author from Long Island who published the first book in his Legends of Windemere series at the start of this year, ‘Beginning of a Hero‘, which I am happy to say I recently added to my Kindle reading list. Charles also maintains a dedicated blog, featuring updates on the Legends of Windemere series aswell as tales about his trials and tribulations as an author.

A gifted story-teller, enigmatic blogger and esoteric imaginator; here are a few words from the fantastic Mr. Charles Yallowitz.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“At the age of 7, it sounded like it would help get women and free drinks. Seriously though, it really was a spontaneous spark that I couldn’t get out of my head. I still haven’t got it out of my head. I was 15 and I had just finished reading the first volume of Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Book of Lost Swords’. The idea that I could write popped into my head and I started designing characters for a book. I began writing short stories and excerpts for my English classes which got praise and it kept rolling from there.

“I think… it just kind of happened, and I found that it made me very happy. The idea of entertaining and inspiring someone with a story really connects with me. I’ve escaped into books since I was a child, so maybe part of me thinks this is a way to continue that tradition… the spark got set off in my brain and took over.”

Why appeals to you most about fantasy as a genre?

“The fantasy genre has a lot of standards, but a lot of flexibility. There are the traditions of swords, magic, dragons, and various other races. It’s a very time-tested genre. Yet, you can get away with more awe-inspiring moments than in other genres. A character diving into shadows as a mode of transportation is easier to explain through magic than technology. We have technology in our world, so you have people trying to figure out the physics. When you use magic, people are more willing to suspend disbelief.

“In terms of the flexibility, you can get away with changing the standards. In my world, I made orcs different than the wild marauders that most worlds use them for. They’re civilized even though they live in the wild and their species has a beauty and the beast thing going on. The males are ugly, brutish, powerful beings and their women are gorgeous Valkyrie-like beings. In a fantasy world, you can get away with altering stuff like this because there is nothing in the real-world for people to compare it to. If you try to have a human fly around space without a suit then you need to know your science and explain everything. People are a lot more critical of genres that take place anywhere near our reality.”

What do you think is the most important or defining aspect of a good fantasy novel?

“I’ve actually written and deleted so many things here because I can’t think of a defining aspect of fantasy. Typically, fantasy is a story that takes place with magic, or at least in a medieval-type setting. When you get into the future and technology, it becomes science-fiction. Unless it’s Star Wars, because the Force (essentially) turns that into fantasy… but (truthfully), I think it’s just in a genre all its own.

“I think the sign of a good fantasy novel are the heroes. Not so much that the heroes are brave and noble, but believable. A pitfall of fantasy is that you’re working in the genre that is the farthest removed from our reality. The heroes are the bridge between the reader and the world you’ve created. They need to feel relatable to the reader or you won’t draw them into the world. This can be done with flaws, quirks, and anything that makes the character more human. For example, Luke Callindor is cocky and brave, which makes sense for a new hero. To make him believable, I rarely let him get out of a situation unscathed. He screws up a lot, which has led to many readers telling me that he’s a character they can stand behind. The hero doesn’t have to be infallible for the story to be good. In fact, a character like that tends to hurt the story because the reader feels like there’s no risk of failure, so the ending is predetermined.”

As genre definitions continue to blur together, and it becomes increasingly popular to blend traditional fiction categories together (such as science fiction and horror, etc), where do you see the future of the fantasy genre heading?

“Fantasy has blurred with other genres for a long time, so I think it’s going to stay the course. You already see a lot of technology slipping into fantasy with the use of airships and lanterns appearing. The alteration of these objects is that they are powered by magic, so it’s more of a magi-tech society. It could lead to a sub-genre of magi-tech books within the overall genre. The sub-genre trend is probably going to be the big change.  Some people don’t even realize when they’re crossing genres now. For example, having a cowboy in a fantasy setting isn’t far-fetched thanks to Stephen King’sDark Tower. The same is going for zombies appearing in fantasy.”

You have to fight Luke Callindor (the main character from the ‘Legends of Windemere’ series) to the death, armed only with whatever you have in your pockets right now. Go.

“*looks down at pajamas* Well . . . I guess I’d run until I could find something to fight back with. Luke’s dual saber, flipping, jumping style isn’t easy to predict, so I’d probably keep tossing stuff at him. Try to keep him on the defensive with whatever I could get my hands on. I could throw him off his game by yelling secrets or see if I can rework him in my head to change him. You know, get rid of a leg or turn his swords into a pair of live eels that slip away. I wouldn’t win, but I’d like to think the moment Luke kills me, he’d blink out of existence too. Kill your creator and you go down with him.”


Charles’ blog can be found here – Legends of Windemere

And the first book in the Legends of Windemere series is available for purchase here (on sale for $2.99) – Beginning of a Hero – Book 1 of Legends of Windemere

The Nomad

sad-angels

The nomad crossed the failing light,

Into the pregnant moon,

Diana’s long lost daughter

Reunited on the wind,

As twilight breeze bore desert sand

And opalescent bloom,

E’er driving on the nomad

As she arched her wings and grinned.

What force can halt the woman who won’t tread upon the earth?

A fleeting barren wasteland to the nomad’s wanton eye.

Laissez-faire on sea and air,

Why fight the flow of earth’s sole snare?

When verdant field in time will yield

Too wet,

Too hot,

Too dry.

So onward drives the nomad,

Crossing deserts and dark plains,

Swooping into valleys,

Cresting ridge by crescent light,

Chasing after shadows in a sea of pitch black stains,

Coalescing round her head to mar her moonlit flight.

But darkest piracy of thought

Won’t shy her from her course,

Horizon in her sights,

Promise spurring in her side,

Gliding like an angel

Driven by demonic force.

Always fleeing failing light

And truths no night could hide.