Blog Archives

I Love the Element of Surprise

R. J. Corgan Author Interview

Mammoth Drop follows a scientist to the Black Hills where she finds herself knee-deep in mammoth bones and a murder mystery. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The Black Hills, and South Dakota in general, is heaven for geologists. In fact, most geologists have to do a field season out West as part of our degrees. I studied in South Dakota and Wyoming in the early 90’s and was blown away by the beauty of the landscape. I’ve also worked with paleontologists who have spent their lives studying mammoths and they’re just as marvelous as the animals they study. I wrote Mammoth Drop to celebrate both their legacy and to share the breathtaking scenery of the region with readers.

Kea Wright is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?

Kea is smart, kind, and terrible with people. Like many scientists that work in the field for months at a time, Kea suffers from broken relationships, a low self esteem, and bouts of depression. I wanted to create a heroine where those attributes, both good and bad, are superpowers: they’re external to the group, often forced to think differently, and wind up in places they shouldn’t be. While a reluctant heroine, I love Kea and I hope that readers will as well.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book (and what can readers expect in Book 4)?

Each book in the Kea Wright series has a unique theme. Cold Flood examines how being put under intense pressure can and release something inside ourselves that we never knew existed. The Meerkat Murders examines the concept of altruism, Mammoth Drop explores extinction, while Murder on Masaya examines sacrifice. Each book also has a different tone. Mammoth Drop is absolutely a camp romp full of drinking and dancing to celebrate a scientist and his life’s work. In contrast, the final story, Murder on Masaya,(released in 2021) is a much darker story about the hazards that scientists undertake to gather data and the sacrifices people make for their family. These changes in tone are deliberate because, growing up, my favorite television show was Doctor Who – you never knew where the next story would take you, it could be the distant past or the far future, or be a comedy or a tragedy. I loved that element of surprise. These books are very much in the same vein and I hope readers enjoy the variety.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

During Kea’s visit to the Black Hills, one of the scientists in Mammoth Drop Caverns is brutally murdered. Determined to unmask the killer, Kea takes up residence in nearby Woolly Hole, a gay campground filled with boozing drag queens and bottomless mimosas. Knee-deep in mammoth bones and potential suspects, Kea soon finds herself in the killer’s sights . . .

Powerless

Powerless is a well-written and gritty take on small town life after a major disaster. Kevin Barton and his family live on the outskirts of Harpursville, a hamlet in rural New York. When a major blackout wipes out communication and modern electrical conveniences, the townsfolk must come together to survive. Most of the story takes place in the Barton’s household, where Kevin must transition from administrator to farmer. His wife, Monica, takes on the role of hunter and quartermaster as she minds their ever-dwindling supplies. Their daughter Kelly, and her stranded friend, Dina, try to cope with being teenagers while living through a minor apocalypse.

Powerless is a very realistic take on a prolonged state of emergency. While it is not nearly as dire or hard to digest as Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” (which gets a brief mention), and there are no post-apocalyptic monsters or zombies, the author covers actual threats, like lack of food, water, medicine, and the mixed intentions of other people, which makes this story feel much more grounded.

I find it refreshing that Kevin is an ill-equipped modern day everyman, more suited for desk work than living off the land. He’s not a man “with a certain set of skills” or a former special forces soldier. He’s just an average forty-year-old man who is lucky enough to live next door to a working farm in a time of crisis.

The theme of “power,” who has it, and who does not, is explored throughout the novel. Characters who find themselves powerless in the new world develop new skills to survive, some for the better, some worse. As supplies run out the idea of “neighbors helping neighbors” becomes more of a veiled menace than cheery mantra. Coming on the heels of a global pandemic, what once would seem like a survival fantasy story feels very real and very possible at this time in history.

Powerless is a riveting post-apocalyptic novel that plays with being a psychological thriller as well as a compelling character study.

Pages: 370 | ASIN: B09TX9P62R

Buy Now From Amazon

Is It Simple Revenge?

Gojan Nikolich Author Interview

Ashes in Venice follows a detective in Las Vegas who must find a murderer that is killing murderers in gruesome ways. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I wanted to explore the psychological similarities of good and evil and how the line between the two can often become blurred, depending on the circumstance. In this case, one of the book’s main characters decides to take the law into his own hands when traditional police work falls short of delivering justice. But is this true justice or is it simple revenge? When is violence justified? Is “an eye for an eye” still a valid answer to an unpunished crime? If a good person does something bad long enough, does he or she ultimately also become bad?

Did you create an outline for the characters in the story before you started writing or did the character’s personalities grow organically as you were writing?

I first sketch out the general direction of a novel so that I have a feel for its beginning, middle and end. I then draft key scenes and dialogue by hand in a notebook until things fall into a natural chronology so that I get a sense of how the story should be paced and plotted. By habit, I speak out the dialogue as I write it. The more I flesh out characters, the more attached I become to their personalities, and this helps determine if they become primary or secondary players in the story.

Once I have about 30k words of a first draft completed I’m usually confident of expanding what I have into a full novel of at least twice that length. I actually enjoy editing and revising a book more than I do assembling the first draft. It’s an agony for me to get the first draft to the point where I think it can grow into a completed book that somebody might actually want to read.

I’ve abandoned more books than I’ve finished and this is probably a good thing. My background is newspaper reporting, a job where you throw away more writing than you keep, which is a good rule of thumb for any writer.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The blurring of the line between good and evil. The difference between justice and revenge. How all acts have answerable consequences: we are accountable for what we do and what we say and this determines the paths we take in life.

How life is never black and white, but rather a general scale of varying shades of gray that are constantly changing and adapting based on how we act toward each other.

Author Links: GoodReads | Amazon

A heartless psychopath with size 16 shoes, nursing home hookers and an irreverent Las Vegas homicide detective with a gambling habit set the tone for this off-beat tale of revenge and retribution.
Blackjack addict Frank Savic is deeply in debt and facing family problems when he’s asked to delay his retirement to catch a vigilante killer who murders other murderers in a manner the veteran cop has never seen.
While dead bodies stack up in quick succession, the motorcycle-riding policeman also finds himself reluctantly involved with a desperate mother who will do anything to get justice for her dead son.
Savic, his investigation complicated by a suspected FBI coverup and a prison bribery scandal, is unaware that the murderer might be the solution to his own financial and domestic dilemma.
Add a vengeful killer who seeks justice for his own unbearable loss and you have a teasing psychological thriller that blurs the line between good and evil and where surgical bone saws and spiders are just tools of the trade.
Yes, there are spiders.

Snapshot Into a Killer’s Mind

Eli Pope is back with Snapshot Into A Killer’s Mind: The true story of Billy Jay Cader, giving readers a new perspective into our main character’s life through the eyes of Amy Jo. The investigative reporter shows how Billy Jay became who he is today through her various interviews/snapshots. She humanizes our villain and demonstrates how a loving childhood could have changed the course of his life. We also get to know about Amy Jo’s childhood and her present-day life following her interviews with Billy Jay. If you love The Mason Jar Series, you have to pick up Snapshot Into A Killer’s Mind!

As always, Pope delivers a stunning take on tragic events. The author dives right into the gritty details of Billy Jay’s story with a unique twist. We are essentially reading Amy Jo’s now published book as if we are living in the universe where The Mason Jar Series takes place.

I enjoyed the duality approach Pope took to demonstrate how love can make all the difference after living through a traumatic childhood. He always does a fantastic job discussing the plights of this world in a way anyone can understand, but so few people talk about.

The scene where Amy Jo goes to visit Billy Jay’s father felt so realistic and made my skin crawl. He captured his essence perfectly through his impeccable word choices. It was easy to visualize the aging abuser and the pathetic state he was in. I could feel Amy Jo’s disgust and fear the entire time.

While I enjoyed this novel just as much as the entire Mason Jar Series, I felt that some of the information we were given was repeated. We hear Amy Jo speak about many of the same sentiments and phrases throughout the story. Despite that, I still feel that this is a compelling psychological drama that explores humanity in the unique way that only Eli Pope can.

If you loved the previous books in The Mason Jar Series then you are sure to enjoy this one as well! It works as a short companion novel to the rest of the books. I look forward to the sixth installment and can’t wait to see what twist and turns Pope gives readers next. Snapshot Into A Killer’s Mind: The true story of Billy Jay Cader is a must-read for lovers of dark psychological thrillers.

Buy Now From Amazon

Let The Character Dictate What Happens Next

David R. Low Author Interview

SCHLOCK Featuring Russia Cop is a collection of four dark satirical short stories searching for the “Russian Soul.” What was the inspiration for the setup of your stories?

There is a long-standing tradition of films which combine a noun plus “Cop”, such as Samurai Cop, Maniac Cop, Hollywood Cop, Psycho Cop, Kindergarten Cop, etc. This is my favorite genre of film and I wanted to create my own “Cop” story that could join the ranks. I wanted to say “pantheon” here, as in I wanted to create my own “Cop” story that could join the pantheon of “Cop” stories, but pantheon only refers to people. In that case I hope Russia Cop can join the pantheon of famous noun plus Cop characters. Moreover, Russia Cop sounds a lot stupider than Russian Cop and that really appealed to me. Russia Cop is the oldest story in the collection in that its origins date back to around 2018. The idea of Russian Soul is inherently farcical and nonsensical and does little more than to disguise horrible Russian behavior and beliefs as values. Russia is a very schlocky place and Russians are quite fond of what they perceive as their own exceptionalism. The character of Russia Cop was created to be a personification and enforcer of this Russian Soul. The reality is, after 24 February, this story is already obsolete, as what is happening in Russia right now is far more atrocious, pathetic, damaging, and inhumane than any fiction could ever be. For the sake of clarification, I am talking about what’s happening in Russia, not Ukraine. What’s happening in Russia is the death of free speech, human rights, and common sense. As it turns out, Russia doesn’t need a Russia Cop. The Russian people are eagerly and willingly eating up the propaganda and dangerous beliefs all on their own. On a side note, there isn’t really an appropriate place to bring it up so I will mention it here: 75 percent of sales proceeds the book makes in 2022 will go towards supporting Ukraine.

Tsoi Lives was the last addition to the collection, which probably explains why it feels the most different from the rest (as in it isn’t completely farcical). I’m a huge fan of Tsoi’s music and often found myself in frustrating situations where I couldn’t express why his music was so profound to me or those around me simply didn’t care. The book exaggerates a bit in that it makes it seem like nobody in Russia cares about his music at all. That isn’t true, he is still quite popular, BUT, in my own experience, more and more younger generations turn their nose up at his music and see it is something to be embarrassed of. I’d always wanted to write something somehow connected with him, but a straight up biography would be boring, it seemed more appropriate to write about how his music affected others rather than making a story about the man himself.

I am far too ashamed to explain the origins of the remaining two stories.

Did you create an outline for the characters in the stories before you started writing or did the characters personalities grow organically as you were writing?

Typically, I don’t create outlines for characters. I write as many pages as I can of a given story until I hit a wall and from there, I’ll start outlining the story (not the characters) to see where it goes. I never let plot get in the way of character growth though. Even if I want the plot to go one way, I consider what choice a character would make at a given intersection and let the character dictate what happens next.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Themes always come later. I never set out with themes in mind. I am simply trying to tell stories. With The English Teacher, it essentially condenses all the frustrating and terrible aspects of living in Russia into one night. As the stories came together, themes of frustration, yearning, alienation, propaganda, xenophobia, etc. appeared. I suppose the most blatant themes come in Tsoi Lives, in which one person experiences the frustration of being obsessively passionate about something that nobody else seems able to grasp.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m debating between starting a new endeavor (which will likely be an unreadable and unwieldy behemoth only I find interesting) or resurrecting my first book which I never got published. Both works have science fiction elements and are quite different from my previous two works.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Beginning in the streets of Tokyo and ending in the cosmos, Russia is at the center of SCHLOCK. These four stories center around an eclectic cast of characters in the 2010s – obsessed fanboys, Soviet rock stars, English teachers, expats trying to comprehend the Russian Soul, living sex dolls, Australian pub crawlers, and a genetically engineered law enforcement officer whose sole purpose is to enforce patriotism and Russian Soul in the Russian Federation. SCHLOCK!

The Shed

The Shed is a suspenseful young adult novel and is the first installment of the Liberation trilogy authored by M.C Ronen. This chilling dystopian story revolves around Sunny and her seemingly apocalyptic community called Nature’s farm. Sunny lives in blissful ignorance, governed by strict rules and occasional raids. Her innocent bubble bursts when she discovers a disturbing revelation of what goes on in The Shed: a place off-limits to younger children on the farm. Stomach-churning secrets surround the shed that Sunny and her friend begin to uncover as they begin to explore forbidden areas on the farm.

With this gripping tale, M.C Ronen delivers powerful writing that will chill you to the core. The author’s use of detailed descriptions creates graphic images that will forever be stuck in the mind of readers. I found certain parts of this story unnerving, adding to the dystopian feel. This thrilling story is quite the page-turner, and I found myself flying through the pages.

The author is excellent at character development. The character of Sunny starts out as this naïve girl and develops into a strong independent thinker who starts to question her surroundings. With a strong intuition, Sunny can sense when danger is near and uses this to her advantage to survive the raid that attacks the farm in the opening chapter.

The story progresses smoothly, and the tension remains until the very end. M. C Ronen keeps the reader wondering what is going to happen next. Unfortunately, when the story ends, readers will be left waiting for the second book in this series to find out what happens to Sunny’s character.

The Shed is a shocking and unpredictable dystopian novel. Readers will be taken into a dark and thrilling world where women must fight for their very survival. Older teens and young adults will find this to be a suspenseful read and find it hard to put down.

Pages: 302 | ASIN : B07H4GYYLY

Buy Now From Amazon

A Little Bit of Drama

Author Interview
Albert Scott Author Interview

Broken Revelations: Calamity of the Gods follows a Nephal and his wives through time into the past and to the land of the Gods to search for a thief. What was your inspiration for the wild journey you take readers on in this novel?

I wanted to play with how the gods of various pantheons would interact with each other and shine some light on some lesser-known gods that I think are pretty cool.

Was there anything from your own life that you put into the characters in your novel?

Yes. I put a little bit of drama from my life into each novel but I won’t say what bits I write about I’ll leave that for my readers to have fun figuring out.

What was your favorite character to write for and why? Was there a scene you felt captured the character’s essence?

I love writing for Sun Wukong! He’s my favorite pagan god his mythology is full of things that I can write about and play with like I did when Adrian and the gang went to Diyu in Calamity of the Gods.

Will there be a follow-up novel to this story? If so, what aspects of the story will the next book cover?

Yes, I am planning a follow up novel as we speak it will focus on Adrian being stuck in the Nexus and how he will go about saving his wives from the hands Kar’ma and Erlking.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Adrian Grey just can’t catch a break.

He united the angelic factions with his marriage just in time for the Dominess to give him the task of investigating a series of thefts of relics that has the pagan pantheons preparing to go to war with one another, he discovers that one of the stolen items were the only thing containing terrible beings known as the Calamities and the trail of the thieves leads Adrian and his wives from the top of Mount Olympus to the depths of Tartarus , into the halls of Valhalla through the lands of Duat and the courts of Diyu into a portal where they found themselves eons in the past in the land of Mu: the land of the gods!
With the help of Wukong and Ezriel , Adrian and his wives learn the untold story of the gods and their homeland while searching for a way to stop the thieves , the Calamities and return to their own time before they too become ancient history.

An Ontological Thriller

James Shelley Author Interview

The Deep Translucent Pond follows two students that go on an extremely emotional journey led by their mentor, The Black Magus. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

In literature, emotional journeys are usually between two people in a relationship. I felt that journey could be made even more powerful if taken on by three people—in effect, three people locking arms and trying to get to a higher place together rather than just two. So how do you create a setting to make that happen? The weekly meetings of the poetry fellowship unexpectedly provide that catalyst, the Black Magus, shaman-like, entwining the cords of the physical with the meta-physical to create a dynamic that continually expands into spaces that were not there before, taking the three characters with it.

The Black Magus is characterized as philosophic. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

At one point an old friend of the Black Magus’s characterizes him as a cross between Jean Paul Sartre and Jim Morrison. Such a crossing of a “disciplined philosophic approach” with “unpredictable ecstatic leaping” is going to create a huge flexibility in terms of where that character can go, what he can say. Add some history of mental illness and a kind of religious intensity and you have a character who—if he can hold it together—will burn at a very high temperature. Although it can’t last for too long. In the case of the novel, the Black Magus makes it last for the ten intensively transformative weeks of the fellowship.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Most novels struggle between surface action—plot essentially—which is fast moving and lurid and keeps you reading, and the probing for deeper meanings through character development or insights into the human condition. That second part is almost always secondary, because the book has to sell. I felt there was a way to focus primarily on the latter, the deeper parts, while at the same time giving those parts a “surface action” which will keep reader’s avidly turning the page. An ontological thriller, if you will, with a transcendent climax even more resonant than if a horrible crime was solved.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will be available?

Since The Deep Translucent Pond focuses on a poetry fellowship with the three characters transformed by that fellowship, the novel includes poetry produced by the three characters, used to drill deeper and faster into their interior lives. In a surprising way, the three characters in the novel—Jerome, Natalija, and The Black Magus—have continued writing poetry beyond the book. Their book of new poems is my intended next book.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website

In The Deep Translucent Pond, a 40 year old attorney, Jerome Konigsberg, and 30 year old nurse, Natalija Gasper, are winners of poetry fellowships which allow them rare access to a once famous, now reclusive poet with the nom de plume, The Black Magus. At their first meeting the Black Magus “hijacks” the fellowship, proclaiming it the final piece of a secretive ten-year project known as the Triangulum, its goal: The re-enchantment of the world.
The key to re-enchantment is The Deep Translucent Pond which the Black Magus has identified as “a hideout of the fugitive gods.” If he can reach into it—as placid as a reactor cooling pool—and retrieve a mysterious object from the bottom, re-enchantment will be ignited. He elaborately recruits his two fellowship “students” to help. For their part, they accommodate his severe eccentricities in exchange for flashes of insight into their lives and a feeling that he is guiding them to a higher place.

James Shelley has spent his professional life shifting between the underworld and higher places. He’s been a psychiatric attendant, land surveyor, arts critic, mental health case worker, archivist for the Rockefellers, and a bagpiper playing at the funerals of men and women he’s never met. As an educator, his innovative work at an Ohio college supporting at-risk male students has attracted national interest.
As a writer, Shelley started out writing plays for experimental theatre before shifting to fiction, early efforts earning him an Ohio Arts Prize. In his published poetry and fiction, he has always been fascinated with how prosaic moments can unexpectedly transcend, expanding into spaces that were not there before.
%d bloggers like this: