Monday, 10 November 2014

Interview with Author Ian Douglas

How does a typical book get written in your world - what do you start with?

A lot of coffee and chocolate. No, not really. It starts with the germ of an idea and a lot of thinking. Plots start to drift into sight. A sequence of events synch together. Characters emerge and grow before my eyes. Sometimes I take notes. I do a lot of research. The unwritten book gathers momentum in my imagination.

How would you compare the protagonists of your books with yourself?

Every major character must have a shred of me in them. So I can empathise and get inside their heads. Then I’m able to write them. Predict their emotions, draft their dialogue and so on. Even the villains have a tiny bit of me. But they are also their own people. I’m not a power crazed bad guy bent of world domination. I’m not a feisty young girl with kick-ass moves.
Someone asked me if my characters were real to me. I’m not sure what that means. I don’t lose sight of the fact they are fictitious. I don’t talk to them before I go to bed at night. But I’m thinking about them all the time. The more you think the more you see.
‘Ah, yes they’d hold hands at that moment’ or ‘he’ll get angry now because it reminds him of his missing father’ etc.

How would you typically choose the names of your characters?

Depends on the work. Is it for adults of children? Is it set today or in the far future.
The Infinity Trap is set in a fantasy world of a futuristic, terra-formed Mars. This gives me a lot of licence to have fun. So, taking a leaf out of the Harry Potter books, they have larger than life names: Tiberius Magma, Isla the Incisor, Ptolemy Cusp. Names convey messages about what the characters are. My hero’s name Zeke Hailey for example. The first name is chosen to denote he’s young and cool. The family name reflects the spacey nature of the book. As in Haley’s comet. But it also has a secret significance that will be come clear in the fifth and final instalment.

What's that one Classic work that you wish had been written by you?

Oh Lord, so many! The Hobbit? Shadow over Innsmouth? Anything by Ray Bradbury.

How would you deal with reviews?

Well, there’s not much to do other than read them. If they are positive I am pleased, naturally. I haven’t really had negative reviews for the Infinity Trap. I take them with a pinch of salt. One guy emailed me to say he hated the cover. But 10 people loved it. I passed his views onto my editor anyway.
What’s most important to me is the opinions of young readers. The target audience. So far they seem devour the book and can’t wait for the sequel (out next April). When they feed this back to me, well, I’m thrilled.

What's your favourite writing location?

Um, I only have one. How many is the average? In my studio, surrounded by paraphernalia to inspire me.

What awesome books and projects are you working in at the moment?

Book two of the Zeke Hailey series, Gravity’s Eye, is with the publisher and awaiting editing. So I’m pressing on with book three. New monsters. New villains. Secrets revealed. Mysteries thickening. Danger everywhere! It’s a lot of fun.

I get asked to do all kinds of things as writer. I was asked this year to write a script for an anthology of graphic stories about World War 1. Mine was called ‘Dead in the Water’. And when I saw the artist’s realisation of my story I was blown away. His work was so striking and dramatic and yet so nailed my script. Things like that make it worthwhile.

Guest-post by Author Ian Douglas

Reaching for the Stars

Writing the Infinity Trap made me realise that science fiction is all about travel.

Jules Verne fired astronauts out of a gigantic cannon. And HG Wells used anti-gravity paint to hurl men at the Moon. Neither idea materialised in real life, but they had a point. Radical new kinds of transport are required to achieve our dreams of space conquest. SF has been inspiring scientists ever since. But why? As I realised writing my first SF novel, outer space is all about travel. At every turn of the plot I needed a vehicle to get my characters around. Whether from planet to planet or crater to crater, the more groundbreaking the concept the more interesting the story. Well, the number six bus was hardly going to crack it!

I began to look at SF ideas capturing the imagination today.

Sometimes, old ideas come back into fashion. Take the space elevator, an earthbound tower rising above the stratosphere. First suggested in 1895, Arthur C Clarke famously employed one in The Fountains Of Paradise. I invented my own version called The Televator for The Infinity Trap, as a way for my teenage heroes to launch their journey to Mars. Far-fetched? NASA are working on a real version even as we speak: a cable tethered to a low-orbit asteroid. Cargo will be simply hoisted into the heavens for next to nothing cost-wise.

But this is just the beginning.

Once we've left the world behind, how do we reach the stars? Space is mind-bogglingly big. Our current technology would take decades to arrive at our stellar neighbours. Something of a huge block for any SF writer pounding out that thrilling blockbuster. So we came up with faster-than-light (FTL) spaceships. A journey lasting centuries crammed into a few hours, think the Millennium Falcon or the Starship Enterprise.

Wait a minute—Einstein said it was impossible to accelerate beyond the speed of light. What kind of engines are these rockets using? Well, a warp drive is the most common fictional solution, a matter/antimatter reactor using plasma bubbles to warp the fabric of space-time. Have the scriptwriters outmanoeuvred Einstein? Maybe, again NASA eggheads are researching it. Named after the physicist who came up with the idea, an Alcubierre Warp Drive causes the fabric of space to contract and expand. A starship could, theoretically, ride this wave at FTL speeds. The only problem being, as Dr Alcubierre admits, based on our current know-how it's impossible to build!

Another popular fantasy is the Wormhole. According to Einstein, a wormhole is a tunnel-like shortcut through space. Carl Sagan's aliens use one to visit Earth in his novel Contact. Anthony Horowitz uses one in The Power of Five, and, arguably, Phillip Pullman in the series His Dark Materials, when Will slips between worlds. And of course, let's not forget Stargate. So far nobody has ever discovered one, but Einstein can't be wrong, can he?

So that's getting there. But what about while we're en route?

Ok, imagine we're hurtling through the galaxy at twice the speed of light. How long will a round journey take to the closest habitable planets, say Gliese 667C? Twenty-two years! If the deadly radiation didn't get you, the boredom probably would. This is why SF writers introduced suspended animation. At first they invented deep freeze pods, putting people into icy comas. One small hitch, in reality this would prove fatal. Author Larry Niven got around this in his Known Space novels, by dreaming up stasis chambers. Time is brought to a complete standstill inside the chamber, while years, even eons, pass by outside. It's the same device that saves intergalactic slacker Dave Lister in Red Dwarf.

And it doesn't stop there.

Right, SF has enabled us to leave planet Earth, cruise through the Milky Way, and even do so in relative comfort. Does the journey end there? Maybe not. Iain M Banks, in his novel The Hydrogen Sonata, proposes the ultimate voyage. Leave the known universe behind and enter a higher dimension. One where all restraints of matter, time, and mortality no longer apply. A realm where we become gods. That, surely, must be the final frontier.

Ian C Douglas

Spell of Vanishing -- Guest Post by Author Anna Abner

I Lived In A Haunted House
By Anna Abner

I’m not the kind of person who looks for evidence of the supernatural. I love to read and write about it. My favorite TV shows all have paranormal and supernatural themes (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf), but I never had a concrete stance on whether ghosts are real until I moved into a haunted house.
In 2008 my husband, our daughter, and I moved to Ogden, Utah into a sixty plus year old home. We were native southern Californians and this was our first experience living in the Beehive State. My husband’s job transferred him to nearby Roy and we were excited to find a cheap house within fifteen minutes of his office.
The house has a main floor plus a full basement that can be used as a “grandma apartment” with its own kitchenette and bathroom, and an attic with two bedrooms and a bathroom. Though there were only three of us, it was perfect. We could have a playroom for our daughter, a rumpus room downstairs, and both my husband and I could have our own home offices. I loved it.
The first unusual experience happened almost immediately. At the rear of the property was an older garage with a much newer garage addition built onto the side. I adopted the older garage, but when we moved in it looked like it hadn't been used in decades. It was coated with dust and cobwebs. Someone had dug their own mechanic’s pit into the ground and miscellaneous car parts and shop tools were rusting in drawers and cabinets. The first thing I did was cover the mechanic’s pit and clear out the space from top to bottom so I could park my car inside without being afraid of breathing in the Hanta virus.
After a rough day of cleaning, I was standing in the doorway of the old garage and I saw a man behind me, to my right, on the edge of my peripheral vision. Scared that a nosy neighbor had snuck up on me, I spun around. No one was there.
The kitchen on the main floor didn't usually have any supernatural or scary vibes. But one day my three-year-old daughter and I returned to an empty house. With her in the lead, we rounded a corner into the kitchen. Something by the windows caught her eye and she called out, “Hi, ghost.”
There was no one in the house but us and I didn't see anything. When I asked her what she’d seen to make her say that, she didn't want to talk about it.
The worst area of the house, though, was the attic. When we bought the property the previous owners, who’d only lived there two years, had been using the adorable attic bedrooms—with their hand built shelves, wood paneling, and sloping ceilings—as storage space. I couldn't understand why!
As soon as we moved in I swept the two rooms and spread out my daughter’s impressive toy collection, made curtains for the windows, and lay down colorful play rugs. I couldn't wait to spend hours of fun, imaginative play in there.
Except no one ever wanted to go up there.
One reason, which has nothing to do with the paranormal is, heat rises. During the summer, the attic was the hottest level of the house. Beyond that, though, I always got a bad feeling up there. The stairs leading into the attic were narrow, steep, and covered in thick green carpet. I slipped on them at least a dozen times in the three years we lived there. My daughter fell so badly once, while carrying a play set down, that she still remembers it six years later. When I used those stairs I purposefully gripped the banister tight and planted my feet solidly on each step because it became an almost certainty that if I wasn't paying attention I’d slip. Especially on the way down.
And the attic stairs were always cold. Winter or summer, it didn't matter; they were colder than the rest of the house.
All those toys in the attic used to power on constantly and randomly. My daughter still has a lot of battery powered toys and I can honestly say, except for Zhu-Zhu pets that come on if something touches them, none of them power on by themselves. None. But in the attic, toys would sing and light up and talk without human interference all the time. We just got used to hearing the little piano start playing music, or the animatronic bear say, “I love you,” or the electronic book sing the Alphabet Song. At any time of the day or night.
When we had overnight guests, I set them up in the attic. They would have privacy and their own bathroom. So, when my brother came to stay for Thanksgiving I made a place for him in the attic. I didn't say anything to him about the strange feelings I got up there because I didn't think he’d believe me and I also didn't want to influence him. Maybe it was just me.
The next morning he described his night spent in my attic. First, the plastic vanity against the wall turned on, flashed its lights, and played a bright, tinny melody. He hadn't touched it, even by accident. Once he’d actually fallen asleep, he said he woke up to a man bending over him, his twisted and angry face inches from my brother’s.
My brother wouldn't sleep in the attic again after that. When he visited next time, he slept on the pullout couch in the basement and was much happier.
The final incident I can share happened over the summer when my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew were visiting. Because it was hot, we were all chatting in the rumpus room in the basement, directly under the main floor living room.
Keep in mind our house was older and had wood floors. It made noise—pops and creaks—all the time as it settled, expanded, and constricted in different temperatures. But that day I heard the front door open and close. My husband always came home through that door, never the basement door, so I knew who it had to be. I remember leaning back my head onto the couch and following the sound of his footsteps as they crossed from the door to our bedroom on the other side of the house.
Excited, I announced, “Sounds like he’s home.” I rushed upstairs to greet him, but the house was empty. The front door was still locked. There was no car in the driveway except mine. There was no one there.
I still haven’t researched the property or its previous owners. Half of me is scared I’ll find nothing. The other half is afraid I’ll discover I was living in some hellish murder house. But I have never had any other supernatural experiences in any other home I've ever lived in, and because of my husband’s job I've lived in nine different homes since we got engaged.
By the time we moved away that adorable playroom in the attic I’d spent so much time decorating was being used for storage and no one ever went up there unless they had to.

snow-covered house 

The basement is level with the car. The main floor is in brick. The attic is above that. The garages are in the back.

What the garages looked like before we moved in. The old one is to the right. You can see part of the newer addition on the left.

girl in pink dress

My little girl is standing in the same spot I was when I saw someone who wasn't really there. The old garage is on the left. The newer one is to the right.

blonde woman
I'm writing at the kitchen table in front of the windows where my daughter saw someone.

3 females in a kitchen
My daughter is making a potion with her grandma while I cook dinner in front of the windows that spooked my little girl.

2 girls
The attic. Here is my daughter and her friend playing in the pirate ship playroom I made for her (complete with canvas sail and freestanding ship's wheel). This is the room my brother slept in. Once. See the light spot in the background?

house with arrows
The red arrow points to the attic window of the room my brother slept in. The blue arrow points to my brother, yes, but also the front door I heard open and close from my spot in the basement below.

Book Review -- Spell of Vanishing by Anna Arber

A digital copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

The book has a captivating cover, that speaks of some formidable looming danger. The blood spots on the cover are suggestive of peril as well. The colours are arresting, complimented by the fonts.

Cole Burkov, a necromancer, someone who can see the dead, who inspires fear in others' minds, finds himself in the midst of his own worst fears all of a sudden, when a vanishing spell he casts on himself misfires terribly, leaving him invisible to everyone in the world. Fortunately for Cole, he has an associate in Talia Jackson, who works for the Dark Caster. Burkov had used Talia's help, much against her wishes, to create the vanishing spell. All of this leaves Talia to be the only person on earth that can see Burkov. With radically opposite agendas, Cole and Talia are thrown in to togethe to fave the wrath of White Wraith. Whether they succumb to the powers of White Wraith, or whether they manage to overcome her evil overtures, is what the book takes us through.

This book is brilliant! It is thoroughly gripping and keeps the reader on the edge of the seat. I enjoyed it, needless to say. The plot beautifully blends the paranormal world of the White Wraith, Dark Caster and Cole with the earthly world. It's a pretty tough job to create a world of where such fantasies are abound.The book combines many genres at one go - drama, suspense, action and dark fantasy. The author is also an excellent story-teller, having conjoined the suspense and thrills in the lives of the protagonists with the ambience. The characters are perky, witty and mentally strong, all at once. If you love reading books that are fascinating and electrifying, with memorable characters, you would love this one as much as I did!

My rating for this book: 5 stars

Spell of Vanishing by Anna Abner

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Mild Red Books

Date of Publication:  Nov. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9914031-3-4

Number of pages: 300

Word Count: 70k

Cover Artist: Jaycee Delorenzo
at Sweet & Spicy Designs

Cole Burkov is a formidable necromancer, but waking from a devastating nightmare spell has left him confused about what’s real and what’s fantasy. Afraid of hurting more of his friends, he casts a vanishing spell on himself, except something goes wrong. He’s not invisible to spirits. He’s invisible to everyone.

Talia Jackson doesn’t want to help Cole cast his vanishing spell. She’s on a mission to collect him for the Dark Caster. But when Cole uses her, against her will, to create the spell she becomes the only human being on earth that can see him.

Together, the unlikely allies will seek out one of the most diabolical casters in the dark cabal—the White Wraith. But when the witch fights back, Cole and Talia discover they may not be strong enough to survive her furious assault.

Book Review

Book Excerpt

Rough asphalt dug into Cole Burkov’s knees, but he couldn’t remember why he’d knelt in front of a burned down church in the first place. His memory was in tatters, made up of a pinch of nightmare, a dash of reality, and a whole lot of lost time.
Blood was what brought him back to himself. The old, itchy blood on his hands and the fresh, slimy blood smeared across his left forearm, obscuring the line of scars of varying ages running up his wrist like railroad tracks.
When he cast magic he was always careful to cut shallow slices, but maybe sometime during the night, lost in his muddled memories, he’d cut himself too deep.
He couldn't remember.
Cole sucked in a deep breath, hoping the rush of humid, North Carolina air would stimulate his memory, but it only made him dizzy.
As he gazed up at the charred skeleton of a former religious building, he got the funny feeling he was supposed to be doing something. That he wasn't there on his knees by chance.
A large, ebony crow peered at him from a willow tree at the edge of the parking lot. Crows were bad luck, but one in a churchyard was an omen of death. The bird flapped his wings once and took flight, soaring low over the parking lot before disappearing behind a brick wall.
"Cole!" A familiar ghost appeared in front of him, her face a mask of agony. He had never seen his spirit companion Stephanie so distressed. "I found Dani. She's coming. Can you hear me? She's on her way. Just hang tight and everything will be okay."
Daniela Ferraro. His friend. The witch.
Bits and pieces of the last few days resurfaced. He had strangled Dani in a hospital room and then escaped, hiding out on the streets and in the woods ringing the town. The night before he’d slept sheltered among a copse of pine trees behind Auburn's movie theater. The night before that? Hard to say. He thought the clothes he wore, black scrub bottoms and a yellow smiley face tee, were castoffs from the hospital. Or maybe that was part of the nightmare spell. Maybe he’d never been inside a hospital.
Either way, unable to suffer the guilt a moment longer, he’d come to the Dark Caster's last known gathering place to face him. Or join him. That, too, was vague.
Of course the bastard wasn't there.
But if Dani was on her way it meant one of two things. Either he was still in the nightmare spell and Cole would be forced to kill her again when the evil inside him rose up, or he hadn't killed her and she’d try to stop him from going to war with the Dark Caster.
Neither of those things was going to happen.
“Tell her not to come,” he said. “Tell her not to come anywhere near me.”

About the Author:

Anna Abner has been a writer for nearly her entire life, but some of her day jobs have included teaching, childcare, and real estate. She lives in North Carolina with her family and loves hearing from fans.


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5 copies of Spell of Vanishing 

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