Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Horrorween!

Is this an awesome cover or what? And just in time for Halloween! I'm pleased to have Robert Ropars join me on the blog today. He's the author of DARK BITES: Four Tales of Horror. We're sitting here nibbbling on skull cookies and sipping rummed-up apple cider. Robert, welcome!

Thanks, Susan. These skulls are delicious.

Here, have another and tell us how many books you've written.

I have published seven books since 2008.  These include two books of poetry, Carriage Returns in 2008 and Romantic Confessions in 2009, a four-part ebook series in 2010, including Windy City of the Dead, Like Cats and Dogs, The Red Planet, and 848, and these latter four I subsequently published as a collection called Dark Bites:  Four Tales of Horror in December 2010.

Ah, I see.
What books or authors have influenced you, Robert?

A wide variety of authors including (but certainly not limited to) Stephen King, Tim Powers, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lloyd Alexander, J.R.R. Tolkein, Neil Gaiman, Len Deighton, Robert Ludlum, etc.

What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

The reaction/comments from so many people all over the world has been gratifying and encouraging.  It further fuels my desire to write and publish many more stories.

Tell us  more about Dark Bites.

After publishing two books of poetry, I sought to return to fiction, which I had previously pursued within the context of short stories.  I had researched ebooks and deciding to get going again, I felt that doing a series of shorter stories/novellas that I could then combine into a collected volume made a lot of sense.  This book contains four stories of horror with strong female protagonists.  Though they can be read on their own, they interlock in a variety of ways creating a larger world.  The women face zombies, werewolves, vampires, ghosts and the scariest monster of all-a sexual predator.  I wanted to explore these classic horror genre themes with a fresh eye creating a new look at old stories.

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Boert, ...?

Whoa, Susan! I think you've had too much rummed cider. LOL.

Ahem, perhaps. Let me try that again. Were any of your books more challenging than others?

The Dark Bites series was definitely more of a challenge than the two books of poetry.  The first was a collection of poetry I had already written over a twenty-year period.  The second book of poetry was new poems and haiku written in 2009, but they were a labor of love and not a prolonged endeavor.  With Dark Bites I was creating a four-part series with stories that needed to stand on their own as well as work as a cohesive whole.

What are some of the problems you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

The challenge was to be prudent about how much/often characters and locations appeared in each story (if at all).  In other words, I wanted to ensure that any crossovers mattered and weren’t just included to artificially link unrelated stories.

How do you develop characters?

Once I have my story idea in place, the characters come to me and I mentally draw out their lifestyle, interests, tastes and name.  It’s a bit like inventing someone I’d really like to meet, have tea/coffee with and hopefully end up long-term friends with.

How do you choose your setting?

Living in the Chicago area since 1986, and loving the area as I do, I never felt that my stories would take place anywhere else.  However, I wrote the stories in such a way that if they were to be adapted for film for example, if needed they could be transplanted to London, Paris, San Francisco, etc. with only minor tweaking.

What are your protagonists' strengths? Flaws?

All four women are strong, intelligent, and largely self-sufficient.  I wanted to write the kinds of strong heroines I enjoy reading or seeing in movies.  I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from women who’ve read the stories and appreciated the main characters’ strength and courage. 

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a new horror ebook Dead Woman’s Curve which should be available right about now.  I have at least three or four horror and thriller stories outlined ready to write.  I am planning to constantly push my boundaries and comfort zones and try other genres including western and romance.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I Tweet a LOT so definitely consider following me on Twitter ( ).  I have a Facebook account ( ), but rarely use it (feel more in tune with Twitter I guess).  I blog occasionally, not often enough. ( ).  In addition, I have author pages on both ( ) and Amazon ( )

Grab another cookie, Robert, and have great success with your books. Maybe we can connect on Twitter and Facebook.

I'd like that, Susan. Thanks again, and a Happy Horrorween to everyone out there!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lutz Barz's Virtual Quantum Collapse

Lutz Barz has stopped by this morning to talk about Virtual Quantum Collapse. Welcome, Lutz.

Thank you, Susan.

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

ME? Cold War Baby. Born in then West Berlin. One of the two great spy capitals of the world. The other Vienna. John le Care terrain. The Cold War got to my parents who wanted to get as far away as possible. With the least fuss. Australia! Where the pubs then shut at 10pm. Outrage.. School was vague until one discovers…girls! Studying went out the window and my results were terrible. In the end failed four out of six subjects. And still got a degree! In Sociology! And instantly unemployable. So I drove buses in Sydney  prior various other jobs including lab tester, quality control at the steelworks in Port Kembla and a brickworks  [south of Sydney]  My sight on the gutter. Very pedestrian. With a few hobbies like mangling the piano and massacring the canvas.

How many books have you written?

Two so far. ‘Artifice’. It grew out of a series of occult-shaman short stories with the aborigines as the creators of mental malignancies in the practice of their dark art. Then I added the broader world and finally the universe. Plus some enigmatic Buddhists, several agents of influence on both sides of the Cold War Divide.Why stop there?Indeed.

What books or authors have influenced you?

First book I liked at school was John Wyndham. Midwich Cukoos and Crysalids had a profound effect on my pointy little head. It was totally cerebral mayhem. Cuckoos became ‘Village of the Damned’. Then Dr Who came along. Later ‘Red Dwarf’ which to this day is unbeatable. A garbage run in space with two mutants, an angst ridden robot and one very sloppy human. A sci fi band called ‘Hawkwind’. Ursula le Guin ‘The Lathe of Heaven’. A must for psyche students! And lecturers!

What has been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

The process itself. It’s tough to create more than just an idea. Writing is an exact science. It’s gotta make sense to the reader. That much I can do!

Tell us about your latest release.  

Ah. ‘Virtual Quantum Collapse’. With three alien female agents. Not Charlies Angels. They  got BRAINS. Broadscale Randon Access Intelligence Neural Network Systems. They can warp, blend, shake, recreate reality. Comes in handy. The plot is simple:

Make no mistake: The incoming data from the Great Attractor indicates that something or someone is recalibrating super strings which brings one to the conclusion that this is the beginning of the end of the universe as we know it. [Then again…]

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

 ‘Artifice’ is available at Lulu as POD and PDF and at Amazon as POD plus Kindle. I went to ‘’ who also epubed it for Apple’s iPad, B & A’s Nook & Reader Store’s Sony. VQC should be done sooner than later. It is available at in PDF due to its epic lengh of 2047pp.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others?

The first. Thirteen plus rewrites. But it got there. A decade or two later.

What are some of the problems you faced while plotting a series with ongoing characters?

Nothing. I delete when the going gets excessive. Plus its fun for the reader, KAPOW and there goes whoever.

How do you develop characters?

It’s been said before. They truly take on a life of their own. It’s good if you’re a headcase suffering [gifted?haha] with a multiple personality disorder. Comes in handy. Really.

How do you choose your setting?

In Artifice I had travelled through southern – western Asia and on to Berlin. Plus been to Afghanistan twice [prior the Soviet invasion]. Was there at the first coup. Lucky me.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

Strengths? Their homicidal delusions. Flaws? None. I love the enemy. Get into their heads and see things from their perspective. Good for the reader as they are not told overtly who the enenmy really is. Your choice.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I’m glad it doesn’t. Posssession happens when it does. Creativity spawns the arena which then becomes a self fulfilling landscape that may or may not survive the coming-looming-threatening cataclysm. Or not. Maybe. Depends. Truly.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

In a few weeks spam-oops I mean inform- other readers writers that it’s there across the stellar forum-network-spectrums. I keep on putting it off. Also get some postcards printed, around 1000 and letterbox them in the right areas.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

Definitely two more. They are ongoing plotline but so dislocated [in my brain!] in time that they can be read independently. And no padding either. Just the edges of a psychopaths demented delerium threatening your sanity and reality. Now that’s multi-tasking..

Where can folks learn more about your books and events? & BookTown obviously. The place to be. The other way is to Google my name and the sites even I can’t remember where I am will be there. The magic of the internet. It’s fantastic.

Oh yes: for the first twenty respondents who attract my attention at BookTown: ‘Artifice’ as a PDF file in your inbox: free.

Wow! Thanks Lutz!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Magdalena Ball's Repulsion Thrust

Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion Thrust, is here to discuss her writing. Welcome, Magdalena.

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

Good morning, Susan!
I'm pretty forthcoming, so don't have a lot of secrets, but readers might be surprised to learn that I swim a kilometre every (warm) day.  I do yoga when it's too cold to swim. Sometimes if I'm feeling blocked or sluggish, I'll go for a swim and everything will almost always become clear.  It's the perfect mental exercise for me.  Yoga comes a very close second.  Luckily I live in a relatively warm climate! 

How many books have you written? 

I've written 1 nonfiction, 1 full length poetry book, 2 novels, and 5 chapbooks (4 of which were collaborations - so I half wrote them).  I've also participated in a number of book length anthologies - poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.  So we could probably say 8.

What books or authors have influenced you? 

I read an awful lot (I'm the Compulsive Reader!) and always have a couple of books on the go, and a large proportion of the books I read are wonderful and influencial in one way or another.  So it's hard to limit myself on this, because the influences are broad and sometimes subtle and hard to isolate.  Sometimes I'm influenced in ways that aren't obvious to myself -- I might, for example, read something that triggers a response or a change in the way I perceive language and what it can do and I won't be completely aware of that trigger.  It will just show up in my work or in my perceptions.  A few biggies who have been overt and enormous in their influences include James Joyce (Dubliners and Ulysses primarily - I dip into the latter frequently), Virginia Woolf (The Waves and Mrs Dalloway have been enormous influences), Umberto Eco (Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum primarily, though I enjoy everything he writes), Dorothy Porter, Peter Carey, Margaret Atwood, Emily Ballou, Tim Winton, Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes, and China Mieville are a few names that come immediately to mind.  I'm sure there are more - many more.  And more waiting for me in the future that I've yet to discover. 

Tell us about your latest release, Black Cow.

Black Cow, which will be released later this year by Bewrite Books, is the story of a family struggling with “affluenza”, a condition that is outwardly manifest in a variety of crises before they leave the rat race to become self-sufficient in a small village outside Hobart, Tasmania. Black Cow explores serious and topical issues, such as the modern dilemma of ever increasing workloads and the impact of stress on families, and overconsumption on the environment, but it also touches on the psychological development, as the family has to dig deep into both the earth and their selves in order to find out what is ailing them. Author Lisa Heidke calls the “writing excellent, professional and polished…capturing that claustrophobic feeling of being trapped and not knowing where to turn. This is a gripping yarn that will appeal to a wide group of readers.” The book will be available, as all BeWrite ( titles are, in paperback and all ebook formats (which can be read on any device) from major and minor online bookstores.

Prior to that, my last book was the poetry book Repulsion Thrust. Repulsion Thrust tackles big subjects not often the fodder of poetry: quantum physics, astronomy, time travel, ecological destruction, and technological singularity, all viewed through the lens of the human condition. A tough, take-no-prisoners collection that is not for the faint hearted.  Of the book, Bob Williams said "In poetry the thin line that divides the hermetic from the obvious is dangerous ground and not all poets can tread there without destruction. Magdalena is comfortable here and not only treads but dances."

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others?

I always like to work at the edge of my capability, so the current book is always the most challenging.  I like to keep pushing that bar up a little bit each time. Right now I'm working on a book that involves time travel between modern day and 1941-46, through a DNA wormhole between two key characters.  Solving a key problem - the mystery that is unravelling the modern protagonist's life-- is subject to her being able to get some crucial piece of information from a past that is and isn't hers.  It's a big stretch for me as I've never done a book like this before.  If it wasn't the biggest challenge for me ever, I probably wouldn't be keen to work on it. 

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I've always been a serendipitous promoter - I spend a reasonably large amount of time online and have let my interests lead me into promotional opportunities that I cam across, but with my current book, I've actually written a full scale marketing plan and am planning to take quite a proactive approach to promotion, tackling 2-3 tasks on my list everyday.  I did a marketing degree last year so feel obligated to do this properly!  The marketing plan includes the full suite of things like setting up a press kit, online and in-person touring, video creation, audio, article marketing, award entries, and so on. 

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

More about my books and events can be found at my website including a newsletter, links to my blog, information about all my books, and more.  Thanks for the interview, Susan.

My pleasure, Magdalena.