Book Review: Derek Agons Slays a Dragon

Derek Agons Slays a Dragon

Title: Derek Agons Slays a Dragon
Author: Samuel Tucker Young
Release Date: February 17, 2014
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Pages: 166
Format: e-book

My rating:
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Characters: Derek is your average teenager, but a bit more intelligent and lonely, a “nerd” you could call him. His professor, Prometheus, is looking for a book that Derek has, but he has his own agenda. Then there’s this talking cat that seems to be deceiving not only Derek, but the whole animal kingdom in pursuit of this book, which he claims will help Derek kill a dragon and save the world. There is also a mythical girl, Tella, that Derek falls completely head over heels for. She’s a bit cold, but we find out why as the book goes on.
Plot: The title is slightly corny and it seems like a typical fantasy, but it is so not. Every time I thought I could figure out what happens, something totally unexpected, yet still realistic comes up. At first, Derek is kind of going with the flow, shell-shocked, not really believing that his mission is what will stop the earth from destruction. Then about halfway through, he realized how much is at stake. While he is mature in the beginning of the book, his choice will ultimately decide not only his fate, but every living thing’s.
Writing: This is really where the high rating comes from. While the plot is good and well-put together, it drags slightly through the middle and picks back up again. The writing, however, remains phenomenal throughout the entire novel. The characters seem typical – misunderstood teenaged boy, talking animals, evil professor – but the way Young describes and evolves them is what held my interest. I would recommend Derek Agons Slays a Dragon to lovers of young adult fantasy with a little bit of sci-fi and coming of age reality thrown in. Great characters and great writing.

Author Spotlight: Samuel Tucker Young

Derek Agons Slays A Dragon

What all have you written? Include everything:
– A couple screen plays, none sold though. Also, I have written a lot of music under the moniker Timberwolf. Last but not least, I have written the Young Adult Fantasy, Derek Agons Slays A Dragon.

Where can we buy or see them?:
– The book is available to purchase in paperback form on the official website (www.officialderekagons.com) or Amazon.com. The Timberwolf album is streaming on Spotify, iTunes and Pandora.

Tell us a little bit about your main character:
– Derek is essentially me, as a kid in high school. He is obsessed with videogames, apathetic towards any school class that isn’t drama and more interested in the sky than the world around him. He’s spent most of his time arguing with his siblings and staying out of trouble. Too bad that won’t last for long with what I have in store for him!

What are you working on at the minute?:
– Writing the second book in the series, along with recording a new album.

What is it about?:
– The second book is a continuation of the series, which I definitely can’t divulge too much info on. Heck, even the title of it is a bit of a spoiler.

What genre are your books?:
Primarily Fantasy, though usually Young Adult Fantasy.

What draws you to this genre?:
Fantasy in every aspect absolutely fascinates me. The thought of a secret world hidden beneath our own, in any capacity, is thrilling in every way. From Harry Potter to Narnia to Pokemon, I walk around thininkg about all the little oddities of life and how they could easily be a doorway to something special. Even worlds that aren’t directly linked to our own intrigue me. Redwall, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Wheel of Time . . these series keep me coming back for more because of the immense amount of imagination it takes to build them. I feed on those worlds and the creative juices it took to imagine them.

Do you have to do research for your books?:
Absolutely. From names, to myths, to places and news stories, I love to keep my stories grounded in reality regardless of how fantastical they may become. I have a habit of taking everything around me, everything that I know to be finite and true, and twisting it and turning it into something magical. Researching actual facts about the world we live in just fuels my creativity.

When did you decide to become a writer?:
When I was in high school, I noticed early on how much effort it took just to pull a C+ average in Math, whereas I slept my way through English and still pulled A’s. It was then I had the thought that I should probably be a writer of some sort . .

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?:
Not at all. I just sit and write. Some days, barely a sentence comes out that I actually use. Others, three pages plop out that I never change in the slightest.

Do you work on an outline or plot before you start writing?:
Yes, always. If I’m writing, I know where I’m going. I may not know every single step along the way, but the path is set.

What is the hardest thing about writing?:
Actually writing. Sitting down, opening up the laptop and staying diligent, no matter how much of a trudge it can be, is both excruciating and exhilarating.

What is the easiest thing about writing?:
. . Actually writing. I know, it seems silly, but the truth is when I’m in the zone, I find that 4 hours just went by and I’ve been writing the entire time. This is the exhilarating part. Writing and knowing that the words are fluid is so easy and carefree. I get lost in it.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?:
Depends on how long it takes for a full outline to surface. This particular one took about 4 years, but the majority of it was written in spurts. Now that I know exactly in which direction I’m taking the series, it’ll hopefully be a year or two in-between books.

How are you publishing this book and why?:
I am self publishing the novel through Amazon and createspace. I love the artistic and creative control both outlets give you.

How do you market your books?:
Ah, the hustle. It’s emails, emails, emails, talking, talking, talking. I’ve made business cards with the book cover on one side so that I can hand someone something physical every time they seem interested.

What do you do to get book reviews?:
Same thing. Marketing and reviews go hand in hand.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?:
Write, create and never stop dreaming. Set your goals for the most unrealistic heights, the biggest dreams, and then don’t stop until you achieve it. No matter how hard or dark the road ahead is, there is and always will be a reward if you work your butt off. I firmly believe it. So seriously . . write, create and never stop dreaming.

Website: http://www.officialderekagons.com

Facebook: facebook.com/officialderekagons

Twitter: twitter.com/heistimberwolf

Book Links: http://www.amazon.com/Derek-Agons-Dragon-Samuel-Tucker/dp/0615868584/ref=sr_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392868804&sr=1-1&keywords=derek+agons+slays+a+dragon

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20873485-derek-agons-slays-a-dragon

Stay tuned for my review of Derek Agons Slays A Dragon in the future.

Author Spotlight: R Julian Cox

Bio: I’m a British writer living in the UK that only recently completed his first novel, ‘Shadow on the Sun’ and have the follow up, ‘DEEP EARTH’ well under way with a third planned and necessary to complete the whole saga.
Since moving to London 40 years ago becoming a ‘novel writer’ (I’ve written various non fiction works) has long been my ultimate goal but the necessary fact of earning a living and supporting two ex wives and various daughters has always come in between!

What all have you written? Include everything:
I assume you mean books here? Otherwise as a professional writer for most of my life the list would be endless!
On the books front was a ref book published in 1975 on North Sea Oil
Before that was another ref book on Industrial Pollution
Since then has been ‘Shadow on the Sun’ and that will soon be joined by ‘Deep Earth’, book ll of the planned trilogy

Where can we buy or see them?:
I doubt whether the first books I mentioned are still in print. They’d be a bit out of date if they are!
‘Shadow on the Sun’ is available from the usual suspects, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones (UK book store and available via their on-line system), KOBO, and hard copy versions through Lightning Source Ltd, a UK based on demand printer that’s an offshoot of Ingrams and who distribute to over a zillion retail outlets all over the known galaxy.

Tell us a little bit about your main character:
The pivotal character is UK scientist, Dr Jonathan Anderson, a world authority on the mathematics of particle physics. He’s also a lay preacher and therefore deeply religious. This causes him to have belated qualms about what he has done and which has led to the development of a new type of anti missile ‘beam weapon’. Latterly he discovers his ‘invention’ may do far more than he originally foresaw. This doesn’t sit well with his religious ethics. But no one listens. But in the end he’s proved right.

What are you working on at the minute?:
Writing Book 2 in the saga, DEEP EARTH. I am 50,000 words into it out of an envisaged 100,000 words (same length as Shadow on the Sun) and its going well. Hope to have the first draft completed by the end of March. If so it will hasve taken me ten months.

What is it about?:
‘Shadow on the Sun’ deliberately left unanswered some questions it posed. Part of its storyline is an American secret project called DEEP EARTH. The question posed and left unanswered by ‘Shadow on the Sun’ is: ‘was it successful?’. Read DEEP EARTH to hopefully find out. Some of the characters are fleshed out more plus laying the groundwork for Book 3, BRIGHSTAR.
The initial problem here was to make the DEEP EARTH readable for people who had not read ‘Shadow on the Sun’ plus not making it boring for people who had! I’m quite pleased at how I tackled that problem and how it’s turned out.Also ‘Shadow on the Sun’, although labelled SF is really cross genre with some accent on the ‘mystical’. I wanted to keep that aspect going. I think I’m succeeding. Don’t know about the readers, but I certainly want to know how it will all turn out!! Watch this space.

What genre are your books?:
Loosely SF in the same way Michael Crichton’s books are SF. They are not Star Trek although that’s a series I much admired. But I couldn’t write that type of material. I’m more into believable SF. Something the reader thinks ‘could’ happen. I think with ‘Shadow on the Sun’, I must have been quite successful with one reviewer complaining that the novel was ‘all fiction’. Some other reviewer had to remind him that novels generally were – which is why they are novels!!! It made me smile.

What draws you to this genre?:
It’s something I have a lot of knowledge about. I spent years writing about ‘technical’ things before drifting off into writing about ‘Business’. The trick for both of these is often describing very sophisticated things in an interesting way to unsophisticated people who have no knowledge of them. It’s also useful if you want to ‘hide’ an untruth in a plot by hiding it amidst a welter of true facts. This helps convince the reader that overall, the author knows what he’s talking about, that they are in ‘safe hands’.

Do you have to do research for your books?:
An enormous amount of it. It’s that thing again of convincing the reader that you know what you are talking about. For example, much of the plot surrounding ‘Shadow on the Sun’ revolves around that 600 sq miles of a nuclear dustbin that is Hanford Reach in Washington State.
This is not a place you want to be if you don’t want to glow green in the dark!
For those who don’t know it, this is the area where the originally named US Atomic Energy Commission used to make Uranium 235 and Plutonium for the US stockpile of 60,000 nuclear warheads. They did it from around 1943 to 1987 when the last reactor used to make this stuff was closed. Sadly, in all this time, the AEC were none too careful about environmental concerns. The toxic legacy they left for future generations is enormous.

When did you decide to become a writer?:
I’ve always been a ‘writer’ as I’ve already said. I moved to London from my home town of York, two hundred miles to the North, with that aim in mind. But I got sidetracked! Working on magazines, national newspapers, PR companies, marketing and finally in financial. Bills had to be paid and this was the way I chose to do it.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?:
Yes. I view ‘writing’ like an industrial process! I set out to write a minimum of 500 words per day. This might not seem a lot. But when you factor in all the interuptions and research, it is not bad. If one day you miss out on those 500 words one day its a target you can double up on the following day.
One well known writer who I asked this question of replied he did 8000words! Well, he might have written 8000 words but I doubt they would be any good! My modest 500 means 10,000 words a month or enough for a well thought out novel in a year. As I’ve said, the daily routine also includes ‘marketing’ and research. Most recently on the research front, for example, I’ve been studying the Arizona town of Phoenix and one of its largest, industrial manufacturers. It’s tuned out quite well I think!!! But enough said!!!

Do you work on an outline or plot before you start writing?:
The straight answer is ‘no’. Although for DEEP EARTH, I knew where it started from and where it ended – as would any reader of ‘Shadow on the Sun’. So the issue was more in the ‘how’ I got from the beginning to the end.
I find too that once I start writing things occur to me that never occurred before. I was explaining to someone the other day about how its going with DEEP EARTH. Here I sat down and just wrote most of the first 50,000 words off the top of my head. Because my writing style is very episodic and layered, I had to go back and add bits in. Also I wanted to add
‘more sizzle to the sausage’ for the opening chapters. I think I’ve done that and its turning out well.
This was all very different from how I did ‘Shadow on the Sun’. That was very much ‘a learning cycle’. As I’m sure you already know, writing a book is very different to anything else you might write. In the past most of my stuff might have been three to five hundred words for newspapers, if that. Short, laconic, to the point. For a magazine you might occasionally write 3000 words. Compare that to just one chapter of ‘Shadow on the Sun’ which might be up to 5000 words. And then there’s another 25 or so chapters to follow!!! This takes mental stamina when you consider all the thing you have to combine to make it work.
So to answer your question, I wish I could ‘plan’ it out at the start. But my approach is far more organic. Often it feels as if I’m just a ‘pair of hands’ and someone else is doing the actual ‘creative’ work!

What is the hardest thing about writing?:
The ‘ideas’.
Ideas are the most rare and precious commodity in the world. A writer needs a lot of ideas to see him through. And these have got to be fully fleshed out in order for them to be convincing. Readers will soon know you’re a fraud if you haven’t worked it out! And then of course you have to be careful about revealing too much otherwise the reader gets ahead of you. That would never do. And my books are not meant to be easy to read unlike say ’50 Shades of Grey’. I want to make the reader ‘think’. So there’s a lot to it.

What is the easiest thing about writing?:
I don’t think there is any ‘easy bit. It’s all hard work! But well worth it if you’ve managed to ‘grip the reader’. One review I got said he couldn’t put the book down and it was two o’clock in the morning when he did!

How long on average does it take you to write a book?:
Shadow on the Sun too took years!!! It was done inbetween doing things I got paid for. This meant the plot meandered all over the place and it took an ‘editor’ to point out that I had written three books in one when I handed the 160,000 beast over to her.
But I hope I’ve learned since then. DEEP EARTH will have taken me ten months. But that’s more or less a full time job. unlike ‘Shadow on the Sun’ which was mostly part time. Sometimes I might not have touched it for a couple of years!

Do you edit your book right after you finish or let it sit for awhile?:
The term ‘editing’ is a difficult one to use. With ‘Shadow on the Sun’ I over-edited it as I went along. And looking back, I really did not know how to write a book. I learned so much from the editor I employed. She was very good, but very hard. I hated her!! But I was a pro and knew it needed to be done.
DEEP EARTH, as I’ve already explained, is quite different. Although I’m editing as I go along its only for plot. The main issue, and which I didn’t think would work initially, was to get the story down on paper. In my case I got half the story down before I went back and started tinkering. But it’s a ‘rough edit. I know there is more to be done both by me and by an external editor.
After writing for as long as I have, one thing you eventually realise, always get someone else to do the edit. But of course this is how newspapers and a lot of magazine work so its nothing new I’m saying here.

Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?:
She’s called Gale Winskill. Finding the ‘right’ editor is quite tough. It’s got to be someone who is sympathetic to what it is you want to say and how you want to say it. Even then it can be a tussle between ‘you’ and ‘them’ until you get it right.That, I think, is the way it should be.
I was lucky. I went to a seminar close to my home and one of the speakers was an ‘editor’. Part of what she was saying was about the difficulty in trying to write something in the ‘present’ tense; that you could do it but not for very long. I knew what she was talking about and I knew she would know what I was talking about. So I asked her to do the edit for me. `She accepted! The result was ‘Shadow on the Sun’.
I learned a lot from her!

How are you publishing this book and why?:
I have my own publishing company called ‘Northern Lights Publishing’. This was originally because I thought – and still believe – that so many of ‘self published books’ are poorly thought out, poorly written, and poorly proof checked if at all. Sooner or later this is going to affect the public’s perception ‘indie’ books. Maybe it already has.
With my book it did go through all the ‘hoops’ one would expect from a conventional publisher. On top of this I expected most of my sales to come through the United States. And here you have the IRS!! To reclaim the thirty percent withholding tax they automatically impose its easier if you go through your own company!
So you will see on the book cover that it is ‘published’ through Northern Lights as I’ve already said. ‘Shadow on the Sun’ is printed POD with hard copies distributed via Ingrams subsidiary, Lightning Source Ltd including to Amazon.
The final reason for publishing myself is that I couldn’t see what a traditional publisher could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself though I have to admit the ‘marketing’ side is pretty full time let alone doing any writing!

How do you market your books?:
That’s a good question. I view the book as a ‘product’ just like anything else. There’s a ‘process to go through. The most important is to get initial feedback from a limited number of customers. That is from people who don’t know you and you don’t know them. ‘Friends’ will always tell you what they think you want to hear to spare your feelings.
But you need to know whether what you’ve written is any good. If it isn’t then no amount of marketing is going to help. All it will do is tell a larger audience that you can’t write!!
Getting those initial ‘reviews’ is hard work. At the end of the day you are reliant on Amazon and Good Reads plus one or two blogs that you might get into. It takes time. The beauty of printing POD and Kindle is that you may get ‘feedback’ that you can incorporate relatively easily into your book at little or no cost. That’s what I did.
Once you’ve got the all important ‘positive reviews’ you then have to go for it big time: trying to get into as much of the media as you can. Local radio, internet blogs, magazines, local newspapers and maybe some national newspapers too if your very lucky. Mostly it’s a hand quarrying job until you establish your readership base.
There are some who say Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Personally I’ve found these a waste of time. They absorb so much time and you get so little in return.

What do you do to get book reviews?:
It’s the tried and tested route. It’s down to a press release giving the basis details of your book (page number, ISBN, word count, prices for different formats etc etc) along with a five or ten word plot summary so that the potential reviewer can see what’s on offer in a few seconds. Also included is a longer synopsis oif the first, short synopsis whetted their appetite. Different reviewers want different things. One has to try and cover the whole waterfront. But mostly its all down to persistence, persistence and persistence

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?:
Think of something else to do! Unless you already have ‘resources’, writing is a good way to starve!

Blog: http://rjuliancox.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rjulian.cox

Twitter: https//twitter.com/RJulianCox1

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/rjuliancox

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/18858267-r-julian-cox

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udgdDuThEJA

I would like to thank R for his time in completing the interview. Stay tuned for my review of Shadow on the Sun coming in the future.

Author Spotlight: Stan Morris

Cover for 'Surviving the Fog-Kathy's Recollections'

Bio: Stan Morris (1951-) was born in Linwood, California, to religious fundamentalist parents. He grew up in Norwalk, California and Concord, California, where he discovered the amazing world of hard science fiction and became influenced by conservative atheism and liberal humanitarianism. He moved to New Mexico in 1972, and finally to Maui, Hawaii in 1983. He worked a variety of jobs at oil and gas companies, driving situations, and computer tech operations. He retired in 2006. His first book, “Surviving the Fog,” was published in 2009. He lives on a farm and grows coffee, avocados, tangerines, peaches, plumeria, a variety of vegetables and herbs, and an incredible amount of weeds. He is married to Rene Yamafuji. They have two sons.
He published “Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure” and “The Colors of Passion and Love” in 2011. He is presently working on a scifi series about a solar system with one inhabited planet (Marl) and thousands of inhabited asteroids (the Hoop). “Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure” is set in that world, which Stan calls, “Mackenzie’s Rock.” “Surviving the Fog-Kathy’s Recollections,” will be published at Kindle Digital Publishing on May 16.

What all have you written? Include everything:
My books include;
Surviving the Fog
Surviving the Fog-Kathy’s Recollections
Sarah’s Spaceship Adventure
The Colors of Passion and Love
Sam’s Winnings (Tales of the Ragoon)
Kate’s Movie Star (Tales of the Ragoon)
Amy’s Hero (Tales of the Ragoon)

My short stories include;
A Boy and a Dog
A Valentine’s Day Surprise
Encounter with a Werewolf
Gorba’s Moccasins
Jessica Saves the International Space Station
Old Henrietta
Quantum People
Rogue World
San, the Amphibian
The Choice
The Hardware Store
The Orange Trees of Los Angeles
The Qrim Chieftain
The Real American
The Tube Baby
Trouble in Paradise
Useful Ways to Use Zombies
Why Joe Had Only One Wife
New Friends (novella)
This Olde House (unfinished book)
Jane and the Alien Psychologist (Tales of the Ragoon)
Euthanasia: Jane and the District Supervisor (Tales of the Ragoon)
About the Ragoon (Tales of the Ragoon)
The Ragoon Consumption of Humans (Tales of the Ragoon)
Stony Faces
Freedom’s Barn
The Time Bubble (unfinished book)

Where can we buy or see them?
My books can be purchased at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Nobles, iTunes and other book sites.
My short stories can be found at my website.
https://sites.google.com/site/stanandrene/books/stan-s-short-stories

Tell us a little bit about your main character:
Kathy is fourteen, blue eyed, and blond. She is a shy girl who is slightly introverted. She was born in Concord, California, and at the beginning of this book she is living in Morgan Hill, California. She is just about to finish the eighth grade when her parents send her to a camp that preaches abstinence and teaches methods of birth control. She is not happy about this.
“I had no problem with abstinence, and I was not interested in learning how to roll a condom onto a penis.”

What are you working on at the minute?
At this time I am alternating between two books, The Beautiful Alien Nerd and Surviving the Fog-Douglas Lives.

What is it about?
The Beautiful Alien Nerd is about a young female agent sent to Earth to encourage and help the development of space travel. A mishap causes her to land near Roswell, New Mexico instead of her original destination, Moscow, Russia. She is forced to gather a group of disparate high school students to help her decide how to proceed with her mission. Surviving the Fog-Douglas Lives is the story of a man who comes to the aid of a little girl and a young woman.

What genre are your books?
The Beautiful Alien Nerd is a science fiction book. Surviving the Fog-Douglas Live is a post apocalypse book.

What draws you to this genre?
Both science fiction and post apocalypse are genres that allow the authors imagination to go wild. I like that. I like world creation, and I like being able to suggest ideas and to criticize conventional thinking.

Do you have to do research for your books?
Always. I’m in Roswell, New Mexico this month (Nov) visiting family and doing research for The Beautiful Alien Nerd. I’m visiting farms, churches, museums, theaters, and the Roswell branch of Eastern New Mexico University.
I purchased some books about plants when I wrote Surviving the Fog. Wikipedia is my best friend.

When did you decide to become a writer?
I don’t know that I decided to become a writer as much as I decided to write. I’ve been writing novels since I was fourteen.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
No I can’t do that. I write as much as I feel like writing. Some days I churn out thousands of words, and some days I might manage a few.

Do you work on an outline or plot before you start writing?
For most books I do make an outline, but there are occasions when I just write until I am tired of the book.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Segues between scenes. If I have a scene in my mind, it’s easy to put in the word processor, but segueing between scenes requires real work.

What is the easiest thing about writing?
Coming up with ideas. I never have any trouble with this. My characters come to me and demand that I write their stories.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
After seven books I would say that it takes me about six months to write and three months to edit.

Do you edit your book right after you finish or let it sit for awhile?
I let it sit for about two weeks before I return to it. During this time I deliberately turn to some other piece of work.

Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
I did the editing myself, but not until I had my wife read the book and make corrections.

How are you publishing this book and why?
I always epublish my books at Smashwords and at Kindle Digital Publishing. It’s faster and that allows me to return to writing faster than if I went through a paper publisher.

How do you market your books?
Very badly. I try to get buzz from social media, especially through book sites like Goodreads, Writer’s Café, and Readwave. I run ads sometimes, including Google ads.

What do you do to get book reviews?
I ask politely. That is the best, most successful method.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Post your writing at sites like Writer’s Café and Readwave. Writing is a learned skill like any other skill. You need to get feedback.

Website: https://sites.google.com/site/stanandrene/

Blog: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2884264.Stan_Morris/blog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/morriss003

Lnkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=144288678&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/morriss003/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Stan-Morris/e/B004KB2HG0/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/morriss003

Book Links: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CSY4FSY

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/314034

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/surviving-the-fog-kathys-recollections-stan-morris/1115446320

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/surviving-fog-kathys-recollections/id652920621?mt=11

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17927902-surviving-the-fog-kathy-s-recollections

I would like to thank Stan for his time in completing the interview.

Author Spotlight: Laurel A. Rockefeller

Cover for 'Peers of Beinan: The Great Succession Crisis Extended Edition'  Cover for 'Peers of Beinan: The Ghosts of the Past'

Bio: I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. A natural singer-songwriter from an early age, my interest in physics and astronomy were inspired by both early visits to Lincoln’s Hyde observatory and by the 1977 release of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” which caught my imagination alongside with Arthurian legends and medieval songs and tales. During my freshman year at the University of Nebraska, I discovered the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, inspiring me to write my sonnet “Why Bilbo?” which the American Tolkien Society published in 1991. More publications followed as my skill for writing increased with my education and life experience. Today, I am mostly known for my non-fiction work, particularly for Yahoo Voices. The Peers of Beinan is my first science fiction series.

What all have you written?: A singer-songwriter since early childhood, my initial publications were all poetry. In 1990, the Minas Tirith Evening Star chose my sonnet, “Why Bilbo” for the Winter 1991 Centennial edition honoring the 100th birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien. From 2001 to 2003, a New Jersey based newsletter called “The Mudpuppy” requested I write and ran a series of non-fiction articles on East Asian culture and history, inaugurating the non-fiction work I continue today with first Examiner.com, then Yahoo Voices.
To date, over 150 non-fiction articles published by Yahoo Voices inform readers on everything from history to politics to social issues, food/wine reviews, and beyond.
In 2012 my blog review of the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney ran as part of BlogHer’s 2012 election coverage.
In August 2012 I published the first edition of my first novel in my Peers of Beinan series called “The Great Succession Crisis.” In January, 2013 re-writes in response to early reviews led to the revised edition and the extended edition for GSC. The extended edition features two additional chapters plus all five appendices (called data files), supportive non-fiction articles, and yes, even a recipe for one of the Beinarian desserts I created as part of my world building.
In March 2013, I published book two, “The Ghosts of the Past,” a murder-mystery set three generations after the Great Succession Crisis.
In the summer of 2013, I indexed all three books with QR codes for smart phones, releasing what is likely to be literature’s FIRST interactive paperback books. Readers simply scan the embedded codes with their smartphones to be taken to individual web pages featuring images, music, and expanded information on each topic. It’s a unique solution to the problem of under-utilization of my data files, bringing all that information straight to your phone as you read.

Where can we buy or see them?: My paperback editions are available from CreateSpace and Amazon sites worldwide with many bookstores and book store chains offering them through their websites as well.
Every paperback book includes a 25% off coupon code good on any Peers of Beinan series book when purchased on CreateSpace.com (see http://www.peersofbeinan.com for CreateSpace links to each book).
Digital editions are available through the Kindle store, SmashWords, and as a special three for the price of one bundle (1 each epub, mobi, and pdf) on the Peers of Beinan store on Etsy.com.

Tell us a little bit about your main character: The Peers of Beinan series is an epic medieval science fiction adventure series with multiple “main” characters.
Book one “The Great Succession Crisis” focuses on Princess Anlei, the adolescent daughter of Queen Isabelle who must learn to accept her heritage as daughter of a queen and granddaughter to Beinan’s most powerful religious leader, to become the person she was always born to be.
Anlei’s journey takes her from cold, irreverent adolescent five yen-ars from coming of age through the political minefield that becomes known to later generations as “the Great Succession Crisis of BE 6326-8,” into marriage, early motherhood, and finally to matriarch of her family. It is a journey grounded in both history and our own lives as women.
In book two “The Ghosts of the Past” an ensemble cast of Anlei’s descendants face terrorism, love, and loss as the villain of The Great Succession Crisis pursues his revenge from the grave — and through his followers.
Central characters in Ghosts of the Past include Lord Knight Elendir of house Ten-Ar, his best friend Prince/King Kendric, Kendric’s daughter Princess/Queen Constance, and Constance’s daughter, Princess Anyu, the narrator of the “Anlei’s Legacy” trilogy (Peers of Beinan books one, two, and three).

What are you working on at the minute? What is it about?: Right now I am working on book three, “Princess Anyu Returns” which I think everyone will love. It’s the story of Princess Anyu’s exile to D425E25 Tertius, her return to Beinan, and the battles she fights to free her people from Lord Yelu’s iron-fisted reign of terror.
Returns is a story of survival under harsh conditions and the way that love, hope, and friendship can overcome the most impossible of obstacles — including a hostile planet filled with toxic gas.

What genre are your books?: My books are multi-genre. They are historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, murder-mystery, romance, adventure, coming-of-age, and political thrillers.

What draws you to this genre?: I love stories that cross genre lines. The best stories have rich and detailed, highly researched settings while also telling great and captivating stories. I think I achieve all of that with the Peers of Beinan series, offering great and believable world building grounded in science, history, anthropology, and so forth while also addressing social issues and asking questions that I think are not asked nearly often enough in our new instant gratification society.
Books, television, and movies should provoke you into thinking. That’s one reason why I feel Star Trek is the phenomena that it is; it explores questions about life and society without setting the stories too close to home.
We need more of that.

Do you have to do research for your books?: My books are very research grounded. So much so that I don’t feel I imagine really anything, but apply and redact instead. For example, data from orbiting telescopes show us that absolutely no two planets in the universe are the same. Each one has its own unique chemistry, rotational period (aka “day”), revolutionary period (aka “year”), and other quirks. Before beginning on even the first draft of The Great Succession Crisis, I spent a month doing the math and calculations needed to create a believable planet Beinan, often working with engineers so that everything lines up accurately.
While working on Ghosts, I spent three weeks with three different types of periodic tables working out what Lord Elendir finds at the ruins of the healing center where his father perished. To date, twelve elements/isotopes hold Beinarian names (see http://www.peersofbeinan.com/QR-page-index.html)
That is just a tiny sample of the amount of research I’ve done and what goes into these books. I’ve talked to veterans, doctors, engineers, chemists, biologists, ecologists, and dozens of other professionals, all in my quest to get my details exactly right. So when Lord Kian perishes to a crossbow quarrel near his heart, his final words and the amount of time it takes him to die is medically accurate. That could only happen through the assistance of the ER doctor who helped me and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

Do you work on an outline or plot before you start writing?: I outline a little bit; obviously working on trilogy arcs for my series (which I hope to bring to at least twelve novels before it is complete), I have to outline so I know the arc of the trilogy. But most of the details and plot twists in particular happen organically. The characters decide where they want to go. This is particularly true for the Great Succession Crisis character who decided that he wanted to be a main character in book three, Princess Anyu Returns, even though Returns is set more than two hundred yen-ars (Beinarian years) past the maximum date he could have lived to. This has completely transformed the plot outline for Returns and I think will make the book an even more exciting read, especially since you do not learn exactly who he is until Princess Anyu does.

What is the hardest thing about writing?: I am a perfectionist, so one of the most difficult things for me is to let something I’ve written stand as is without editing it dozens of times — or deleting scenes/chapters outright and starting completely over. It can really extend out the writing process, but in the end, I have to be happy with the draft in hand before I release something. There’s no point publishing until the story is as perfect as it can be.

What is the easiest thing about writing?: Believe it or not, the research is the easiest part for me. I love learning. It rarely matters what academic discipline something belongs to; as long as something does not terrify me or gross me out, I’m usually pretty interested in learning more about it.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?: One to two years is coming out about average for me, but it depends on a lot of things. Ghosts took me about ten months to write, even though it is twice as long as GSC which took me around 18 months to write. Returns is taking longer. Part of that is the amount of time I’m spending promoting the first two books, but another component to it is that Returns moves the story to the hostile alien world D425E25 Tertius. I have to maintain a Beinarian point of view for consistency reasons and that slows down the writing process a great deal for me. Every time I mention time in any way, I basically have to sit down with a calculator. That wasn’t an issue in either of its prequels because my characters were all on their own world and in their native time.

Do you edit your book right after you finish or let it sit for awhile?: I constantly edit as I write, after completing my first draft, even after initial publication as I find tiny things my perfectionism is not happy with. That editorial process means I’ve started and restarted Returns about four times. For me, editorial is almost non stop, even after publication.

What do you do to get book reviews?: I give away a lot of copies, both digital and paperback to GoodReads members, bloggers, and book reviewers in exchange for their honest opinions.
The other thing I do is follow up with the acquaintances from work and from social media who have purchased my books. Sometimes it takes a while, but most people, when asked nicely, will post a review for you.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?: Two words: research and practice. There is absolutely no substitute for either one of them. The craft of writing is not something you can just do — no matter how talented you are. It takes time and many years of practice to really refine your skills. There is no shortcut for this. Writing is something you learn by doing.
Research is critical to your success as a writer because it establishes credibility. Imagination is not enough because there is only so much suspension of disbelief. The more grounded you are in fact, the more your imaginative details will make sense and will be accepted.
Research is especially critical in historical genres. Always assume that your reader knows more about your setting and any historical persons you feature as characters than you do. When you write with people who know your subject better than you do in mind, it keeps you centered, grounded, and detail oriented.
Finally, always make sure your cover art details actually match your settings. I’ve seen thousands of books set in one time with covers depicting another, especially with romance books. When content and cover art costuming don’t match, your reader will rarely give your book a second look. Avoid this mistake and choose wisely.

Website: http://www.peersofbeinan.com/

Blog: http://peersofbeinan.wordpress.com/

Yahoo Voices: http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/564524/laurel_a_rockefeller.html

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PeersOfBeinan

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurelworlds

Lnkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/company/the-peers-of-beinan-series

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/peersofbeinan/peers-of-beinan/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Laurel-A.-Rockefeller/e/B008YVJJFE/

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/laurelarockefeller

Book Links:
http://www.etsy.com/listing/153254126/the-great-succession-crisis-extended
http://www.etsy.com/listing/153424940/the-ghosts-of-the-past-digital-book
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/311557
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/296320
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B9IBFCY/
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BVBHNDO/
https://www.createspace.com/4367566
https://www.createspace.com/4156679
https://www.createspace.com/4163300
http://www.amazon.com/Great-Succession-Crisis-Extended-Beinan/dp/1482340550
http://www.amazon.com/Succession-Crisis-Interactive-Extended-Beinan/dp/149103209X
http://www.amazon.com/Great-Succession-Crisis-Large-Extended/dp/1482384175
https://www.createspace.com/4211143
https://www.createspace.com/4375671
https://www.createspace.com/4211600
http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Past-Peers-Beinan/dp/1482794489
http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Past-Interactive-Peers-Beinan/dp/1491085363
http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Large-Edition-Beinan-Volume/dp/1482797372

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6569976.Laurel_A_Rockefeller

I would like to thank Laurel for her time in completing the interview.

Author Spotlight: Veronica Bane

Mara

Bio: Veronica Bane grew up in San Diego, California and spent her days writing in local coffee shops and at the beach. Her writing was and has always been fed a healthy diet of chai tea lattes and film scores. Veronica studied Creative Writing at Chapman University and now lives in Los Angeles. Her book Mara was released August 2013 from Black Hill Press and is now available for purchase at Amazon.com.

What all have you written? Include everything:
Mara is my debut book and was published in August 2013. I am currently editing the sequel.

Where can we buy or see them?:
Mara is available for Kindle and in book form on Amazon.

Tell us a little bit about your main character:
Mara is brash, angry, and troubled. She can manipulate flames and uses those flames to punish those who have done her wrong. I loved writing Mara because she is so raw and authentic, and she makes plenty of bad decisions. That’s fun to write.

What are you working on at the minute?:
I am currently working on the sequel to my first book.

What is it about?:
The second book elevates the story in that the characters are dealing with the fallout from the events in the first book. They’re struggling with identity while trying to fend off greater and more terrible villains than before.

What genre are your books?:
YA Fantasy.

What draws you to this genre?:
Young Adult is having such a great moment right now. There are so many female protagonists that are varied and different, and the characters are dealing with authentic problems. I love it! I’ve also always been drawn to fantasy worlds because there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a little bit of magic in every world.

Do you have to do research for your books?:
Absolutely. I had to research the different powers that my characters might have. I watched a lot of fire, too. I studied fights in films and documentaries.

When did you decide to become a writer?:
I wrote my first poem in second grade and haven’t looked back.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?:
Sometimes, when I’m feeling methodical, I’ll write down word counts in my planner. I’ll tell myself that I’ll write 10,000 words that week, but in reality, I’m more concerned with the fact that I sit down and write every single day. If I’m carving out time to write, the words come. They may not be the best words the first time around, but I can work with them later.

Do you work on an outline or plot before you start writing?:
Yes, I outline before I start writing. I want to make sure that the characters have journeys to go on and things to do. I don’t want to tell a story about people thinking for a long time. I want to know that they have a purpose.

What is the hardest thing about writing?:
You know, there are many difficult parts to writing, but I also feel like those things make writing great. For example, revising is hard, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. Promotion can be challenging, but it’s a great way to connect with other readers and writers. It’s all part of the love of writing for me.

What is the easiest thing about writing?:
The easiest thing about writing is when you sit down to write a scene that has been on your mind for a long time. When a scene comes out exactly the way you envisioned it, that’s a great moment.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?:
It depends on the project, but usually 3-4 months from conception to revision.

Do you edit your book right after you finish or let it sit for awhile?:
Again, it depends. Ideally, I like to let it sit for a day or so, but sometimes that’s not possible. Also, I start with revising the first part of the book, and that’s usually been sitting for awhile, anyway.

Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?:
The amazing Ashley Heaton edited my first book. My publisher assigned her to me, but she is absolutely phenomenal. I was terrified of editors because of what I had heard from other writers, but she made my book so much better. I can only hope I get to work with her again.

How are you publishing this book and why?:
My book was published through Black Hill Press. They publish novellas, and I loved the concept of telling a really concise young adult novella. I’m a huge fan of word economy and making each word work for its place on the page, so they were a great fit for me.

How do you market your books?:
I try to be very active on Twitter and Goodreads. I reach out to bloggers that I admire. I’m also doing some podcasts and a mini-documentary on my book in the near future. Finally, I’m doing a blog tour in November. It’s all very exciting!

What do you do to get book reviews?:

I think it’s important to build relationships within the community and use that to begin asking for reviews. I like to post about blogs I like and make sure to link to reviews that are posted. Writers who constantly post on their Twitter and Goodreads feeds with review requests can turn people off.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?:
Realize that writing cannot just be a hobby for you. If you want to do this professionally, you have to write every single day. You must read. You must be willing to put yourself and your work out there. You have to be able to take notes on your work and still love it the next day. If you have a passion for writing and you take it seriously, then you can do well.

Website: http://www.veronicabane.com

Blog: http://www.veronicabane.com

Twitter: veronicabane

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/e/B00DVNIOP6

Book Links: http://amzn.com/0615846130

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18108680-mara

I would like to thank Veronica for her time in completing the interview. Stay tuned for my review of Mara coming in the near future.

Author Spotlight: Tricia Drammeh

Bio: Tricia Drammeh is a wife and mother of four children who lives in New Hampshire. Her published works include The Seance, The Claiming Words and The Fifth Circle. She is currently working on her seventh novel. When Tricia isn’t writing, she can be found devouring books, interviewing up-and-coming authors, and drinking vast amounts of coffee.

Interview:

What all have you written? Include everything: The first book I wrote and published was The Claiming Words, the first book in a YA fantasy/paranormal series about two girls who become entangled in magic when a new family moves to town. I’ve also written The Séance, a YA horror novel about a girl who performs a séance and accidentally summons a demon. The Fifth Circle is a stand-alone novel geared toward older teens.

Where can we buy or see them?: Links to my books can be found on my website: http://www.triciadrammeh.com/ or on my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Tricia-Drammeh/e/B008UI2CE6/

Tell us a little bit about your main character: The main character in The Séance is Abby, a freshman in high school who is obsessed with the paranormal. She convinces herself she knows how to perform a séance, but after she accidentally summons a demon who makes her life hell, she realizes she doesn’t know as much as she thought.

What are you working on at the minute?: I’m currently working on a modern-day, YA Romeo and Juliet.

What is it about?: It’s about a love at first sight relationship. The two main characters are cast in the leading roles in Romeo and Juliet in their high school play, but their real lives also have some similarities to the play they’re performing in. “Romeo” has a tarnished past that everyone knows about, but “Juliet” has a secret that threatens to destroy both of them.

What genre are your books?: My books are usually paranormal or mainstream fiction aimed toward the YA or NA audience.

What draws you to this genre?: I love paranormal books. It’s my favorite genre to read. I think I first fell in love with paranormal novels when I read Anne Rice years and years ago.

Do you have to do research for your books?: For The Fifth Circle, I had to re-read Dante’s Divine Comedy. I also had to do a bit of research on mental illness and the criminal justice system. Right now, I’m re-reading Romeo and Juliet.

When did you decide to become a writer?: I’ve always dreamed of becoming a writer, but I didn’t write my first book until I was almost forty years old. I sat down and just began writing one day and I was hooked.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?: Not really. There are times I’ll buckle down and set solid word count goals, but I tend to be a slacker.

Do you work on an outline or plot before you start writing?: Never. I usually write until I flesh out the characters. From there, I let the characters form the story. I usually outline as I go and never know how the book will end until I’m pretty far into it.

What is the hardest thing about writing?: The hardest part used to be finding the time to write. Now I have trouble getting into the zone and maintaining my momentum. There are lots of distractions and I am easily distracted.

What is the easiest thing about writing?: Editing. I enjoy the process of editing, rewriting, and proofreading.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?: It depends. The Claiming Words and The Séance were written in about two months, but The Fifth Circle took me nearly a year.

Do you edit your book right after you finish or let it sit for awhile?: I let them sit, sometimes for six months or more.

How are you publishing this book and why?: The Claiming Words series was contracted to a publisher, but I’ve self published my other books. I definitely plan to self publish future books because most authors have to do their own promotion, which is the hardest part of being an author. Unless I can find a publisher who not only promises to market, but also has the ability to do so, I don’t think it’s worth giving up such a huge percentage of royalties to a publisher.

How do you market your books?: I’m not very good at marketing, and over the past several months, I haven’t done much marketing at all. In addition to doing the usual—Facebook page, website, blog, Twitter—I’ve also done a few blog tours.

What do you do to get book reviews?: Reviews have come from blog tours or free promotions.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?: Don’t let anyone tell you how to be a writer. There’s lots of advice out there. Some of it’s good. Some of it will make you second guess yourself. Be fearless and trust your own instincts. Above all, write.

Website: http://www.triciadrammeh.com/

Blog: http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTriciaDrammeh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TriciaDrammeh

Lnkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/tricia-drammeh/56/7b9/139

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/triciadrammeh/

I would like to thank Tricia for her time in completing the interview. I plan on reading at least one of her books and posting a review in the near future.