Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guest Blog at Linda Welch's Official Site

Author Linda Welch was kind enough to offer me a guest blog spot over at her official website.  My post tackles the ethics of paying for product reviews.  You can check it out below!

Kevin Domenic - Guest Blogger for Author Linda Welch

So go check it out, get into the discussion in the comments section, and check out the rest of her site while you're at it!

God bless,
Kevin

Friday, January 27, 2012

Author Interview - MJ Holmes

This week, I sat down with MJ Holmes, author of Tyme and Yon Serpent.  A role-playing game turned novel, Tyme and Yon Serpent is the first in a series of six (or possibly seven, depending on who you ask) books.  A native of California, MJ Holmes stopped by to chat about RPGs, writing, and the importance of family support.

Q:  Tell us a bit about yourself.

A:  My name is Micah Holmes, but I use the name MJ Holmes for my writing projects (even though Amazon periodically screws it up).  Seems I'm not the only MJ on the net who writes...

I'm originally from California, but because of work-related issues my parents dragged me kicking and screaming to the other side of the US.  I spent 8 years in Pennsylvania, another 2 years in Massachusetts, and the rest of my days up to now in New Hampshire.

I spend a great deal of time trying not to go mad.  I work in the plastics industry, and you're welcome very much for my making certain you don't find Teflon the hard way in your fast-food tacos and cheeseburgers.  ;)

When I'm not working, I'm spending time with my family.  Occasionally I have time to write, and I hope one day I can feed my writing career enough to grow big and strong and make daddy enough money to put his other kids through college. 

Q:  How long have you been writing?

A:  With the notebooks of short story fragments from high school, several illustrations and scripts for planned comic books (screw 'graphic novels', they're comic books, dammit!), gaming materials and plans devised with my writing partner, I'd say I've technically been writing since 1989.  However, it's the getting published part that eluded me.  When I had a prime opportunity to put down the dice and pick up a keyboard I finally got a full manuscript written.

Q:  What is Tyme and Yon Serpent about?

A:  It's one piece of a very large puzzle.  Feel free to make what you will of that statement.

TAYS is a planned series of 3 Acts, 2 books to an Act, chronicling the strange adventures of stranger people.  There's rumored to be a seventh book, but I haven't seen Future Me in a while to ask him what the hell he was rumoring about.

The best idea I can actually give at the moment is found in the blurb:

"Quested by Divine Intervention to locate and destroy the source of a threatening instability, 'The Otherworlders' begin their trek having neither any knowledge of the world they’ve been transported to nor idea what they should do next. Thrust into one peril after another they struggle to adapt and survive; becoming bounty hunters, exterminators, and conscripts of the city religion on their way to entitlement as a Protectorate. An item found in their questing is identified by a benefactor to be part of an ancient weapon, thus providing them their first concrete lead of the Quest to follow since their arrival."

Q:  How did you come up with the plot?

A:  It was the story I wrote for a Role-Playing Game with friends who all had differing tastes in what constituted as adventure themes.  We needed something to do, and I somehow managed to have an idea for a story that kept us all occupied.  I guess I was inspired from a previous gaming writer and associate who turned my Game Character into a Divine Interventionist (yes, the one previously mentioned).  I felt it was a passing of the torch and brewed up the plot from there.  I devised my own set of characters, gave them fragmented backstories, and thrust them together into a situation; much akin to how most RPG's are started.  The DI instructs them with the usual vague questing, and sends them off to go prune magic hedges.  To keep things interesting, I also gave them all traits that would provide the antagonism that creates the prejudices, love/hate relationships, long-lasting bonds, etc.  I wracked my head for clues from every other fantasy and sci-fi story premises I ever read that were good, bad, or cheeseball and took inspiration from those.

Q:  How long did it take you to write Tyme and Yon Serpent? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

A:  After about a year of gaming, several thousand pots of coffee, and a lot more time on my hands than was probably healthy I had the makings of Act 1.  It snowballed from there.  I would say total time writing, polishing, polishing again with the good rags, and figuring out how it would be published took 14 months. 

Any outside help with editing came more from castoff textbooks I own from English class or guides I purchased for the sake of editing knowledge.  I also had a very strict English teacher that taught us all how to write papers properly.  One mistake would drop a paper one grade, so you can see the importance of misspelling or comma usage alone.  However, no matter how strict he was, he was the best influence I ever had with writing.  I just hope I haven't given him a reason to seek me down and play his crazy filmstrip about commas, colons, and semicolons at me...again.

The cover art is all my handiwork.  I've practiced illustration since 1988 (I'd broken or worn down all my crayons by that point); the design for the Protectorate Crest appearing on the front of Book 1 was a pre-drawn doodle I intended to use in a comic book idea.  I gave it some coloring to go along with the stained glass background, did a little presto with my Graphic Abuse program ('GIMP 2'...go fig), and probably got more lucky than I realized.

Q:  What do you feel sets your book apart from others of the same genre?

A:  Has anyone else published a story consisting of a cop, a shopkeep, a half-elf, a faceless man, and something called a "Ju'Jarran"conscripted to save a world that's never been seen before?  I don't wish to seem rude, but I'd love to know so I can get on with another writing project I had in mind...

Q:  Did you have any specific goals when writing Tyme and Yon Serpent? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?

A:  When I first conjured up this madness, it was only to entertain a small group.  It grew into something I wanted to write out fully, and especially write it for those that read fantasy as much as my fellow dice-chuckers.  Themes and ideas and concepts will have to be figured out by the readers.  Those are part of the puzzle intended.  Like puzzles, you'll have to finish the set to see the whole picture...

Q:  What do you think of the changes taking place in the publishing industry? With authors gaining more control over the creation and distribution of their work, what do you think readers stand to gain/lose?

A:  Readers gain in cheaper products but lose in quality of that work and how it's obtained.

The famous Agency Model needs to die off.  Now.  The advent of eBooks and eReaders is a good start in exposing this Model for the flawed system it is.  Readers know they're paying far too high a price for light; Self-Publishing helps readers occupy the time between now and when the Agencies realize the mistakes they made and their price fixing. 

However, readers are having to deal with the fact that a cheap eBook will have every possible chance of being poorly written, edited, illustrated (where applicable), or reviewed.  Readers have to deal with more push advertising than they need or want.  It's like panning for gold; once a good book is found, everyone else will want in on the action.  You'll have to sift through tons of mud to find it first.

Q:  Who has been your biggest supporter in your writing aspirations? How do they support you?

A:  Foremost: my family.  My wife read the First-Polish manuscript and gave me input.  My first daughter was thankfully too young to understand what her Da was doing at the time.  My friends were all sounding boards for ideas that I had.  The return for their efforts was entertainment in as equal a trade as I could manage.

Q:  As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

A:  Book Sales Links & Blog: http://WhenRealityBurns.weebly.com
Facebook Resource Page: http://www.Facebook.com/WhatIsTAYS
Twitter: @GameCatAlpha

Q:  What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

A:  The ones reading it. The Author who wrote it properly for it to be worth reading.  Everything else can be cobbled together along the way...

Q:  Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

A:  Originally, my writing scheme was: Write a goal the characters must meet, and put hurdles in the way.  In the game version of TAYS, the unpredictable players controlled how linear or not the story was and how much flexibility I'd need to keep things in check.  This allowed me a boon to write in a similar fashion, but let my characters do the steering.  I could question myself when they veered or ran into a wall and devise ways they could get past that wall.  Their goal would always be right behind it.  I had a bugger of a time getting them past a caved-in exit in Book 2...

Q:  And just for fun, favorite vacation destination?

A:  Hersheypark. Hershey, PA.

Thanks so much for chatting with us today!  Hope to have to back again soon!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Author Interview: Jerry Hanel - Win 2 Free eBooks!

Last April, I had the great opportunity to interview Jerry Hanel, author of The Brodie Wade series.  You can check out that interview here if you'd like:  Author Interview: Jerry Hanel

Today, Mr. Hanel is back to give readers some more insight on Death Has A Name, authors who have inspired him, and the indie publishing scene.  On top of that, he's generously giving one lucky reader a chance to get both books in the Brodie Wade series for free! 

Q:  Always a pleasure to have you here!  For our first-time readers, tell us a bit about yourself.

A:  Thank you for having me on board. Well, I'm a thirty-something geek that loves to write. Since writing doesn't pay the bills (yet) I do have a day job as a computer programmer. I work for a local engineering firm, writing technical programs to assist the engineers in their calculations.

I'm married to a wonderful woman named Cheryl, and she has made me the happiest man ever. We had a dog, but he passed away just after Christmas. We'll miss him, but we know he was very old. He is much better off.

Q:  It's been just over a year since Death Has A Name first landed on readers' ebooks.  How have readers received Brodie Wade?

A:  Brodie is the most interesting character I've ever written. He's a quirky, twitchy character. I was very worried since he wasn't a stereotypical masculine marine or willing hero. I thought that maybe people wouldn't understand his hesitancy. But I was very surprised at the response. So many people have written me, telling me that Brodie is one of the funnest characters they've read in a while. Needless to say, every time I read those emails I smile.

Q:  For our first-timers, tell us a bit about the book.

A:  Well, Brodie is a paranormal detective. His gift isn't something he can control. Instead, it appears to him at the most inopportune times. Unfortunately, no one else can see the manifestations, and most people think he is certifiably nuts. He calls the manifestations The Truth because they can only tell him the truth about a situation. The Truth, when it speaks, talks in riddles and quirks. Sometimes it even speaks in other languages. It is unaware of human frailties such as language, time and pain, so Brodie must balance communicating with The Truth, and keeping just out of its reach.

In the first book, Death Has a Name, Brodie's best friend, Homicide Detective Phil Dawson, brings him the most unusual case yet. It seems as though someone that they put to death several years ago has come back from the dead to continue his murderous spree. During the case, The Truth tells Brodie that he must protect the world from the Angel of Death. To do so, he must learn Death's name. He must also protect the Third Key. If Death gets his hands on that final orb, he will resume his march across the face of the earth, devouring every soul.

Q:  What genre would Death Has A Name fall into?  What made you choose that style?

A:  Amazon marks it as Horror. Then again, Amazon lists Twilight as Horror, so it's hard to tell. I call it "Paranormal Thriller". One person labeled it as a cross between Twilight and James Patterson.

I didn't choose the style. It really chose me. I started out writing a crime novel, set in a very realistic, modern, gritty world. The problem came in when I wrote the Brodie Wade character as a bit part. I really, really loved that character. He was so interesting and wild. I threw out the original manuscript and started over with Brodie as the main character. After that, the story really took off, and the genre just fell into place.

I like dark/dystopian stories and songs that end up with a bright ray of hope that runs through them.

Q:  Would you mind painting us a picture of Death Has A Name's world?  The sights, the sounds, the environment?

A:  Death Has a Name is set in a modern Chicago. Most of the scenes are rather gritty. I think Brodie's apartment is the only scene in the book where everything is in order, clean, and in it's place. Once he leaves his apartment to work on the case, everything seems to just be a bit grimy.

Q:  What can you tell us about The Truth?  What is its role in the book?

A:  The Truth is an abstract concept that has come to life. Imagine, if you will, if every word you say, and every action you make leaves its impression in the fabric of space around you. Now, if that impression realizes that something is trying to cover it up, it will fight the bounds that separate our realities to make itself known.

In the book, The Truth knows that it can commune with Brodie, so it will reach across that fabric and try to get his attention. As a plot mechanic, it is how we -- the readers -- can know things about the end before we get there. Unfortunately, you have to know the end at times to make the clues make sense. I hope that when a person reads the book, they can look back through the book and all of the clues make absolutely perfect sense. But the first-time through, the hints and clues are as mysterious as the crime itself.

In the first two books, The Truth causes quite a bit of problem, but in the third book (I'm working on it, now) The Truth appears to be much more an enemy than a friend. Things go upside-down for Brodie, and I wrap up the entire series with a slam ending that I hope will leave the audience with awe.

Q:  Were there any other authors in particular that inspired you to pen your own novel?

A:  Frank Pereti, Robert A. Heinlein and Piers Anthony. I collected every book those three ever wrote. In my older years, I've begun to collect Ted Dekker. While his writing doesn't drag me into the story as deeply as Pereti did, I find their works very similar, and incredibly inspiring.

Robert A. Heinlein taught me how to get facts right without making a book boring or tedious. The characters could be full-fledged, make a social statement, and still be a great book in its own right. It was with his book Tunnel in the Sky that I really blossomed in terms of my writing. I was fourteen when I read that book, and I realized that its so much fun to release your imagination. His books were always so imaginative, even when they were a bit dark. 

And Piers Anthony. What can you say about Piers? Imagination, wit, humor, imagination and more imagination. I couldn't get enough of his Xanth series. If you haven't read that series, go to your local library and find any one book in the series and pick it up.  Most are self-contained stories, so you don't need to know the whole history. But the sheer wit and humor in his unique world are wonderful.

Q:  Describe your ideal protagonist.  What traits do he or she embody?

A:  Valor. He/She must -- in the end -- be willing to sacrifice his own life for the sake of the world. Keep in mind, Brodie isn't exactly valorous. But when it comes right down to it, Brodie must decide to either put his own life on the line, or run away. Of course, he goes in with both feet. I think if a hero isn't willing to put his life on the line, he's just another human, walking down the sidewalk.

Q:  Why should readers buy/download your book?

A:  Wow... you get right to the core, don't you? (hah!) I'm so tired of the vampire books. Not that I don't enjoy a good vamp paranormal. I do! I love them. But when the only stories on the market are vamps or warewolves, the storylines become trite. There are thousands of aspects to "paranormal" stories. I hope that my books show a new, provocative apsect to the "paranormal" genre outside of vamp and warewolf spins.

Death Has a Name is only $0.99, so it doesn't cost a lot to take a chance on me. =)

Q:  Shameless self-promotion time:  Do you have any social network links or other websites you'd like to share?

I'm all over the place. Just look up "Jerry Hanel" on any of them. On facebook, you can find me at:

http://www.facebook.com/jerry.hanel.author

Q:  What do you think of the changes taking place in the publishing industry?  With authors gaining more control over the creation and distribution of their work, what do you think readers stand to gain/lose?

A:  In terms of indie publishing, I think it's a mixed blessing. For authors and readers alike. For authors the pros are the fact that guys like me who probably wouldn't see the top of a slush pile for many years, I have a chance to get my works out. The cons are that the pay is much less because it's hard to get my name out there. And that's hard, because writing isn't a very lucrative career as it is. With so many new people hitting the indie market, it's hard for me to shine in such a vast crowd. 

For readers, the pros are that they have an opportunity to find authors that would otherwise be filtered out by the gatekeepers of the publishing companies that think that they know what "we" want to read. The cons are that they have **so** many new choices that it can be overwhelming. 

Q:  And just for fun, name one random fact about yourself.

A:  I have one pointed ear, like Spock. No, seriously. I do. My right ear. It is -- apparently -- a birth trait for all of the Hanel men, most of the time less obvious than my case. In my case, it's not QUITE as prominent as Spock's ear, but it's very noticeable. 

Thanks for stopping by to chat.  It's always a blast to have you here.  Let's do it again soon!

Win FREE copies Jerry Hanel's novels, Death Has A Name and Thaloc Has A Body, by posting the following phrase in either the comments section of this blog or to my official facebook author page at www.facebook.com/kevindomenic.

"Please pick me to receive free copies of Death Has A Name and Thaloc Has A Body for my Kindle!"

One winner will be chosen at random to receive the books in Kindle format!  So get commenting, because the winner will be chosen on Sunday, January 15th after 12:00pm.  The winning name will be announced on my official facebook page (www.facebook.com/kevindomenic), so be sure to check back Sunday evening to see if you've been chosen!

Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Jerry Hanel for this generous offer!





























Thursday, January 5, 2012

Key to the Stars Featured for Free eBook Friday

Happy New Year, everyone!

Great news!  Jerry Hanel, author of the Brodie Wade Series, has featured Key to the Stars as a part of Free eBook Friday!  If you'd like a chance to win a free copy of the first Volume of The Fourth Dimension, head on over to JerryHanel.com and check out this exciting promotion.

While you're at it, I'd recommend picking up copies of Death Has A Name and Thaloc Has A Body.  Both are excellent reads from the paranormal universe of Brodie Wade.  I don't usually enjoy books from the paranormal genre, but Jerry Hanel's books are a breath of fresh air.  Well-written, suspenseful, unique, and fluid, these are two stories every ebook reader should own.  Check them out!

God bless,
Kevin