My next book, Psy-V: The Metamorphosis Protocol is scheduled for release in April. Currently working on the book cover which, when done, will be posted here. I can’t wait for this book’s debut!
Starting today, 3/27/2013 through 3/31/2013, the eBook is FREE on Amazon. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Fairy-Tail-ebook/dp/B007TVY5N6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1364394181&sr=1-1&keywords=andrew+p+weston+fairy+tail
- Post consistently. When first starting blogging, posting 6 months here and2 months there–with no rhyme or reason. Smart bloggers post at least post once a week–usually on the same day of the week. The benefit to a consistent schedule is that readers know when to “tune in” to your blog.
- Encourage comments. Some bloggers recommend turning the comments off when the traffic is low, because conditions are favorable for zero comments. However, it’s a smarter strategy to expect zero comments, but encourage them from the very beginning. The best blogs will get a conversation going, and that helps build traffic. It can feel lonely waiting for that conversation to start, but just keep plugging away.
- Tag content. Most blogging interfaces (like Blogger and WordPress) have ways to tag posts with keywords that you may use multiple times. And this enables readers to click on the tag to see all the content on your blog that is related to that topic. Plus, it helps with SEO (more on that below).
- Always put your best foot forward. Don’t fall into the trap of pulling punches on your blog. That is, don’t hold back your content. Many writers talk about how they use their blogs as places to throw their scraps. Always blog your best, and you’ll be surprised how you’ll come up with even better ideas as a result.
- Be sincere. Whether you’re sincerely a jerk or sincerely a helpful person–or even sincerely confused, sincerity goes a long way in the blogging world. Don’t try to change your blogging persona every week. Pick an identity and stick with it. That’s one of the surest ways to connect with your audience.
- Create a niche. Most successful blogs have a niche, something that defines what it is. Over at Poetic Asides, that niche is poetry, especially related to poetry prompts and challenges. MNINB is not the best example, but it’s niche is better writing and living. One of the main benefits of developing a niche is that readers know why they’re coming to your blog and why others should go to your blog.
- Think readers first. If your blogging goal is to increase your audience, then you need to think about the needs of your readers first. Most of the tips on this list are designed to put the reader first, from being consistent and being sincere to including share buttons and paying attention to blog stats from time to time. If your blog is reader-centric, then the readers will come and bring their friends.
- Blog different. While it’s good to use successful blogs as a model for your own blogging efforts, readers are looking for unique voices. If your blog is all about books and certain genres (for instance), maybe you can blog about a specific book or genre or writers who favor that genre.
- Provide links. Link well and link often. Link to your own blog content. Link to the other sources of information across the Internet. Link, link, link. That said, make sure the links are relevant and helpful for your readers. If you link to bad information or information that’s not relevant to your blog post, that will leave a sour taste in your readers’ mouths.
- Think SEO. Google is building up the importance of social media in its searches, which may incite other search engines to follow suit, but that doesn’t mean that SEO (or search engine optimization) suddently has no relevance for bloggers.
- Avoid ads (until you’re gain a following). Just because Blogger and WordPress have tools to help you monetize your blog with ads, it doesn’t mean you have to use them–at first. Ads are distracting and can slow down your blog. In fact, they may even harm your search result placement. Plus, if you don’t have significant traffic, there’s no money in hosting ads. Instead, focus on building your traffic first. Many blogs advise getting traffic up to at least 10,000-15,000 page views per month before worrying about monetizing. Even then, you may find that ads aren’t a good fit for your blog.
- Have a social media strategy. A blogger without social media accounts is going to find it incredibly hard to build blog traffic. Bloggers should work to develop meaningful connections on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ at a minimum. But there are others as well, including Red Room, Goodreads, Tumblr, and more. When you publish a new blog post, be sure to link to it on your social media accounts. As mentioned above, the reach your content has on social media sites may significantly influence where you appear on Google searches.
- Comment on other sites. You have to give if you wish to receive. In addition to responding to comments on your own blog, be sure to leave insightful comments on other blogs you admire. If you read a post that really hits home, let the blogger know. If you disagree with a point, share a thoughtful comment on why you have a different perspective (and be nice about it). Also, make sure your comments link back to your blog, in case other readers are interested in learning more about you.
- Archive well. While tagging can help, it becomes even more effective when you use tags to help archive effectively. This means that you don’t create a brand new tag every single time you post–unless it’s necessary. Instead, try to think structurally of how your posts fit together. Some of tags have more content than others, but they all help group information to make it easy for my readers to find content about which they care.
- Include images in posts. There are a few reasons to include images in your posts. One, they make the blog and each post more attractive and help with design. Two, images help bring in traffic through search engines. Three, post-specific images help differentiate posts in your streams of information on Facebook, Google+ and other social networks.
- Keep an eye on your blog stats. You don’t have to quantify everything, especially when it comes to content. However, a lot can be learned about what’s working and not working on your blog by checking out your blog stats. If there’s a feature that always seems to gain traffic, then you know it’s a safe bet that those posts will continue to work in the future. If there are features that never (ever ever ever) gain traction, then you’ll have to make a decision about whether you still think it’s worth putting time into those posts. And yes, I think stats are something you look at over an established period of time. The Internet can be fickle, so a great post can go overlooked from time to time, and a horrible post can get amazing results every once in a while. The trick is figuring out what sticks for the long haul.
- Give readers option for e-mail updates. As you can see in the upper right-hand corner of this blog, readers can sign up for free updates from your blog. It helps to send out reminders to readers to check out your blog. Visitors can can check out updates on smart phones without having to go online, which a lot may do. It’s a great way to check out a blog when stuck in a waiting room or have a few minutes to kill.
- Provide social media share buttons. Create button strategy. These buttons make it easy for readers to share content that they think is great–without leaving your blog. And as has been mentioned a few times above, social media is a growing force in search engine results.
- Be prepared for high traffic days. The best way to be prepared is to make sure you don’t get lazy with your posts by not including links to your other relevant content and that you include share buttons. You never know what is going to really catch on with readers, so treat every post like it could go viral–that way it’s optimized to reach even further.
- Pick and choose posts to push hard. As you get a better handle on which posts appeal most to your audience, you should know which posts probably deserve a little extra promotional efforts. Hint: The better performing posts should get more promotion, because these are the ones that readers have shown appeal to them the most. You should link to everything at least once, but linking to every post multiple times is likely to scare potential readers and connections away. So pick your battles.
- Craft an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar makes following several of the steps above much easier.
- Invite guest bloggers. Guest bloggers makes a blog more personal and inspirational when dealing with situations about life events, in addition to the tips about writing, blogging, etc. So invite people yiu know and respect to guest post. This benefits are bringing new readers who are connected to the guest bloggers, and it benefits the guest bloggers by exposing their work to those who are drawn to that subject.
- Provide testimonials. These are cool to have, things like comments, from e-mail messages, social media sites, etc. It helps build excitement, especially for readers who are new to your blog and want to know more about you.
- Have a blog post promotion plan. Share blog posts on Facebook , Twitter , LinkedIn , Google+ , and Facebook at a minimum.
- Build your brand. This is just the act of making sure that everything you do works to help get traffic to your blog and help build you, the blogger/author/person, get to people can identify with what’s happening on your blog. It may take a while for your brand to evolve, but once you start to get an idea of what it is, work to build and communicate that message. This brings us full circle to being consistent, which is the surest way to build traffic over time.
An excellent short story by a gifted writer available in eBook and is free on Amazon.com today 3/25/2013 through 3/29/2013.
What Wilbur doesn’t realize is that another woman has her eye on him too. The White Lady returns every Halloween to take revenge on the men of the campus for her brutal murder. She has chosen Wilbur as her next victim.
Hello fellow writers. In the past, I’ve interviewed authors, both self-published and those who went through traditional publishers. This time, I thought I would interview an editor. Rumi Kijay, a freelance editor from Pagan Writers Press, volunteered. Rumi worked with me on Touched: The Hunter Legacy and is now editing my soon to be released book entitled Psy-V: The Metamorphosis Protocol.
It took a plate of brownies to wrestle a “yes” out of him to do this interview. I also had to make a Starbucks run … who knew coffee could be that expensive.
Okay, so here’s the scenario. You’ve labored for months on a book, read it time and again and think “yes, that’s it”. You then send it out in the world, waiting to be recognized. And when reviews finally start coming in, instead of readers talking about how good the storyline is, there are comments about poor grammar, spelling errors and terrible formatting. That’s a bad time to realize you needed an editor.
L.M. David: Welcome to my little corner of the building and thanks for doing this interview. Usually, my blog guests have a run in with Preston but security told me he took one look at your black and red Tartan kilt and walked off, shaking his head.
Rumi: First, Preston’s your creation, just make him nocturnal and he’ll stop pestering your daytime guests. Second, thanks for the invite, always happy to talk to you. And last, thank you for the brownies, they’re lovely.
L.M. David: You know, I’ve never seen anyone stack them like a sandwich. And the way you jam that into your mouth with a chaser of coffee … wow. You realize you’ve gotten crumbs on your shirt and … your beard. Would you like a small whisk broom to brush them out of there?
Rumi: It’s okay. I got it.
L.M. David: Oh, no you did not just pick that out of your beard and eat it.
Rumi: Why wouldn’t I? It’s not like it landed on the floor.
L.M. David: Let’s get to the interview before I lose my breakfast…
Q. Beyond your eating habits, tell us a little about yourself.
A. Well, I was born in Canada the same year Star Wars made its film debut. I lived in Quebec City most of my life, which is a fascinating place sitting somewhere between Europe and North America. The people and the place have shaped most of my story. It’s where I first fell in love, where I received my Ph.D. in biology, and where I lost my religion. A little under a decade ago, I jumped over the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Brussels, at the heart of Europe, where I discovered a passion for science communication, and expanded my fiction writing and editing.
Q. You currently work freelance for Pagan Writers Press but are looking to expand and work with writers in need of editing services. That being said, tell me what genres are you willing to accept?
A. My main areas of experience are science-fiction and erotica, (he did a fist pump when saying erotica, ladies!) but I’m just as happy to work with fantasy and horror. I’m also interested in non-fiction works, but I feel that I need to have a basic knowledge of the topic before jumping into that in order to do justice to the author’s vision.
Q. Let’s say I wanted to be an editor, what would you suggest I do to accomplish that?
A. Read, read, read, and write, write, write, find your own voice and look at it closely. This will help you to see what the author’s voice is. And it’s one of the most important parts of an editor’s work, in my eyes: to help an author’s voice shine.
Q. When editing a manuscript, what is the most challenging thing with respect to new writers; grammar mistakes or formatting problems?
A. With new writers it’s neither. All writers pour themselves into their work, and have a very personal relationship with their creations. An editor’s challenge is to be as ruthless as possible, especially if the text needs to be whipped into shape. As the author’s work matures, they can add a more distance from their work and that’s where the editor can help them ‘kill their darlings’.
Q. So why, in your opinion, are editors important?
A. As writers, we can lose perspective when it comes to our own work. I’m the first to admit it. Editors are essential because it’s their job to ensure things make sense and the story flows. As a bonus, the basic grammar check is often something we no longer do as writers once we have been swimming in our words after a dozen reads. The mind shuts down, or connects the dots, and we become blind to errors. An editor helps shed new light on the author’s work.
Q. When editing, would you give feedback on a writer’s strong and weak points?
A. Absolutely, it’s the part of the process I find most rewarding, helping the writer grow.
Q. Then how would you handle a client who is sensitive to criticism with respect to their work, and they voice that opinion, or resist the changes you suggest?
A. That situation becomes tricky, and one that doesn’t have a single answer. I believe it depends on the suggested changes, of course. The duty of the editor is to help make the book become better, not to attack, or belittle the author. There has to be openness on the part of the writer with respect to an editor’s changes, no matter how large or small, to their manuscript from the time it is accepted for publication until it actually goes to print. If the editing process becomes a squabble fest, then the partnership between editor and writer hits a wall and growth is not possible, not for the writer, the editor and, most of all, for the fine tuning of the book.
Q. I queried my Prose Group for questions. One asked: What are the most common high-level errors you see, problems beyond those a competent line-editor would catch and fix?
A. Hmm… Difficult question, although a very interesting one. Every writer has his/her own quirks and blind spots. And every editor has his/her own pet peeves so where the two meet is a possible collaboration between writer and editor. Mistakes that do come up are often in word choices, in the direct translation of spoken language into written form, but higher than that is story construction and evolution of characters that sometimes get lost into the writing process.
Q. Here is another question from my Prose group: Do you have any suggestions regarding handling dialogue? Meaning, as a writer, it can sometimes be difficult trying to figure out when you should identify the speaker and when it’s okay not to.
A. There are no steadfast rules. I suggest reading it over with as much distance as you can get, and see if it is understandable. You can also use the help of someone external to see if the dialogue is understandable. Usually when it’s two people who are talking, you need less identifiers, but as soon as you get into a discussion with many people, then it can get confusing very fast, and then you have to get back to ‘said’ at every piece of conversation. I like things simple, so I’m an advocate of ‘said’ to be used all the time in conversations instead of alternate verbs like ‘sputtered’, ‘whispered’, ‘interjected’, ‘remarked’… ‘Said’ is an invisible word in the English language, and it doesn’t break the flow of conversation.
Q. Here is another question from the Prose group: I have a problem with tenses, most of it being present and future. Are there any rules to follow to get this right?
A. The only rule is that all your verbs should work together. If you start your narration in present tense, then all other verbs have to use present as their ‘reference point’. It’s not much more complicated than that. What do you mean with ‘most of it being present and future’? Do you write fiction with future tense narration? This can indeed be very difficult to achieve, and I don’t recommend it to anyone.
Q. Another member asked this: Most of my work in in first person POV. What are the most common mistakes made using this format?
A. First person narration has one main problem: the person telling the story has no distance from it, so a lot of information needed for the reader to understand the story lies beyond the boundaries of the ‘I’ experience. This can lead to convoluted lines of thought by the narrator in order to get the information through. In a mystery, or an adventure setting, the ‘I’ narrator announces from the start the protagonist is going make it through the story alive, otherwise he wouldn’t be telling it. One of the arguments for first-person narration is that it is more engaging for the reader. But it can also turn out completely the opposite, making the text seem self-absorbed and self-obsessed, and alienating the reader instead of engaging him. On a very practical level, an ‘I’ narration can easily suffer from ‘I’ overload, with every other sentence starting with ‘I’, and trying to fix that can lead to word gymnastics that are not necessarily much better.
Q. Here’s another question from the Prose group: Head hopping is an issue for me. How can I let everyone have a voice without someone pointing a finger at me about the head hopping subject?
A. Limit head hopping to clear scenes or chapters. It’s ok to have several voices in a story, but it has to be in clear chunks, otherwise it becomes confusing. I am not sure if it is advisable to let ‘everyone’ have a voice. When telling a story through the eyes, or the life, of one character, or maybe two, or three, it can make the whole thing more personal. So take the jump into one character’s head if that is how you want to tell your story, and don’t worry about leaving the thoughts of other characters out of the narration. The POV character could actually wonder what the others think; it could be a nice trigger for dialogue, for instance. You could also take a step back in the narration, telling the story of everyone at once, but then you can’t get into anyone’s head.
Q. What is your favorite genre to work on? And why is it/they your favorite(s)?
A. My genre of choice is science-fiction, in good part because it’s the genre I’ve been swimming in since I started reading. Looking forward and imagining what might be has a strong pull on me, and I enjoy exploring the visions of other authors. Another genre of particular interest to me is erotica, mainly because finding well-written erotica is a rare thing in this age of fan and slash fiction. My work as a photographer has been an exploration of sensuality for 15 years, now, and I am happy to explore the same theme in my writing and editing work.
Q. Off subject, you mentioned you have written books. What are they about and do you plan to publish any in the near future?
A. I have participated in the craziness of NaNoWriMo for the past five years. Through it, I’ve written five novels, all of which are in various states of completion. I am at a place in my writing where I feel I can finish each and hand them to an editor and, from there, get them published. I have in the works a science-fiction trilogy, a pre-historic epic, and a modern-day tale of enlightenment. I believe it’s this last one that will get re-worked and pushed towards publication. The title is ‘The Council of the Enlightened’. It follows a man who reaches the awakening and gets tangled up in the bureaucracy of a strange organization that monitors everyone who reaches enlightenment. It’s a theme that seems to crop up in my writing again and again, this quest for illumination. I’m also working on an ongoing poetry project ‘A Thousand Kisses’ that is growing organically at the rhythm of my inspiration.
Q. What do editors pay the most attention to? Spelling, grammar or how the story is written?
A. It all depends on the state the manuscript is in, and on the individual editor. The most important thing for me is the story. The rest is easily fixable, but a story problem needs a lot more work.
Q. A friend of mine said that editing is easy and editors are not necessary as long as I pay close attention to what I am doing. Is that true?
A. Editors give you an outside eye on your work, which is always a valuable input. At some point in the writing process (very early on I’d say), we lose the perspective needed to judge our own work dispassionately. Something we find amazing might actually be bad, or the other way around. That’s where editors can come in handy, to bring us back to the reality of our work.
Q. Here is yet another question from a Prose member: There was one thing that worked for me once (many years ago) when I was applying for a rather big job. They seemed to be having trouble making up their minds about me and someone else. I sent them some additional information (naturally, just trying to be helpful – and not at all pushy). It may have worked. They hired me. All publishers have a set procedure for submissions, and tell you not to vary an iota from it, but I wonder if that is true. For instance, I’ve added one story to my short story collection, and am sending it to the five publishers I sent the first 21 to. Just being helpful, letting them know there’s even more. They have a lot of submissions and names mean little to them, so my thinking is it doesn’t hurt to give them reason to remember my name. So, the question is: If you have something helpful to add to the submission you originally sent, should you send it?
A. This all depends on the specific publishing house, but I would say that it is not necessary. An extra story out of “21” is not going to tip the balance. If the rest are good, they are good, and if the rest are not good, then an extra story is not going to make a difference. I would like to think that all serious publishers care about stories when they are in the selection process. The extra nudge is not necessary, in my opinion.
Q. Here’s another Prose question: Can my self-published book be published by a notable publisher?
A. Most publishers have clear guidelines about submitting previously-published work, and these guidelines apply both to traditional publication and to self-publication. I would suggest you go through an agent to help with the process unless you are knowledgeable about how the system works.
Q. And totally going off the editing topic, I’d like you to name some of your favorite authors and tell us why you like them.
A. Well, I prefer science-fiction classics, books from Asimov, Clarke and Herbert, mainly because that is where I discovered the joy of reading. ‘Dune’ is one of the first novels I read on my own impulse in the first year of high school, and it shaped the way I construct stories now. Another favorite is Kim Stanley Robinson, who writes compelling ‘hard’ science fiction. I also love the work of Carl Sagan, who found a balance between science and poetic imagery that resonates with me very strongly.
L.M. David: Well, okay, that’s all the questions I have. Thanks, again, for doing this interview. As a side note, I’d like to add Rumi and I have been collaborating on a little erotica novelette entitled: “Distant Promises”. It follows a long-distance relationship between two people who both have their demons to battle, and who heal each other’s wounds through, for lack of a better description, mind-blowing sex. It’s now in the editing stage.
“Rumi” website editor’s link:
Hello, this is L.M. David. Today, I am interviewing Brian Patrick McKinley, author of Ancient Blood: A Novel of the Hegemony. Brian, thanks for coming today and I must say, I love your suit. As a matter of fact, you and our resident vampyre were seen talking in the hall beforehand – we caught it on our surveillance cameras. Mind telling me what that was about?
Brian: Nothing really. Preston just wanted to know if I would tell him who my tailor was, said something about a credit card, your name and him needing a new wardrobe…
L.M.: Oh, not again … memo to self, close credit card account.
Okay, let’s get started before he gets out of here and bankrupts me.
Q. Tell me a bit about yourself.
A. Being a writer is probably the most interesting thing about me. I’m 38 year old and live in New Jersey, but I’ve also lived in Pennsylvania, California, and Illinois. I’m single and have hit what most would call a string of disasters just prior to being accepted by Midnight Hour Publishing. While that alone hasn’t turned the rest of my life around, I have to say that finally being published and finding such support and company has helped me emerge from a very dark period in my life.
Q. Ancient Blood: A Novel of the Hegemony has a lot of political undertones. Why did you fashion your world of Vampyrs (I love the fact you did not use the traditional spelling for vampire) that way?
A. Actually, the reason I used that spelling is because it’s the way the word first appeared in written form. I forget where I found that tidbit, but I decided that I would use the oldest form as what my vamps would call themselves.
The inspiration for Ancient Blood came from my experiences playing roleplaying games, especially Live Action games where you spent more time trying to accomplish your goals through social manipulation and back-room dealing than by beating other vampyrs up. It opened my eyes to the idea that a vampyrs best defense against the outside world would be using the power wealth and politics brings, especially in America. From there, it’s an easy jump to imagine that if vampyrs did actually exist, they wouldn’t run around killing victims in alleys but cultivate groups of people happy to give their blood and soul for a taste of the power a vampyr could amass.
Q. Are you into politics?
A. I’m not so much “into” politics as I am disgusted by politics. To me, politics and corporations are the reasons that we live in a society where the top 2% live with such abundant wealth that they could literally end world hunger and yet more than half of the rest are barely surviving. I wonder why Congress and CEOs regularly give themselves “cost of living” raises, but in the same motion deny a dollar raise in the minimum wage for the people who actually have to live on their salaries. To me, the idea that a conspiracy of ruthless vampyrs is secretly behind all the evils and injustices of the modern world is obviously ridiculous, but also almost wishful. It would be nice to think that it wasn’t all our own fault, wouldn’t it?
Q. Yes, you’re right about that. Is the world you created the way you believe a vampyr driven society would be? And if so, why?
A. I think it’s one possible scenario. To me, it makes sense if you take it from the Vampyr’s point of view. Assuming the society began in ancient times, most ancient people didn’t have any conception of freedom or individual liberty as we think of it today. Add to that the Vampyrs cannot exist in large numbers or make their existence known or they will likely be hunted to extinction by frightened humans. They can’t go out in the day, which is an enormous hindrance to activity in all but modern times, but they need blood to survive. The only practical answer is to accumulate wealth in order to buy all those things you can’t go out and get yourself. Naturally, with wealth comes enemies and so you need to build up a protective force to keep you safe and guard your secrets. How do you build up an army without becoming a threat to whatever local governments exist? You become the government. You support it with your wealth and the power of your blood so that it can protect you. The Order exists because it needs to. As restrictive as it is, it provides its members with safe and easy access to food, shelter, and safety. The vampyrs all toe the line because it’s obviously in their interests to do so, while the slim hope of advancement eliminates the weak and incompetent members. Social Darwinism in action.
Q. The Hegemony is a dark vampyr story, with degradation of its own and sex slaves, a place where Caroline has all the answers and Avery is rebelling against everything. Why did you have these two be polar opposites?
A. From a practical standpoint, it was a way to explain things to the reader; however, to me the relationship aspect was as important as the politics. That’s what gives the book its heart. For me, a relationship without conflict isn’t really a relationship at all. Part of the tragedy here, in my opinion, is Avery and Caroline both enter their relationship for different reasons and think it will work. Maybe it would have if they hadn’t been caught, but under pressure, you see the differences between their personalities and the stress it causes. Remember, Caroline was a rich intellectual who is literally old enough to be Avery’s grandmother! She’s going to have a very different value system from Avery’s working-poor, pop-culture saturated, Generation X mentality. I think too often those kind of differences are glossed over in vampyr romances, but that subtle difference in expectation and experience has destroyed many relationships I’ve had. And while both are idealists, even romantics at heart, Caroline has lived The Order at its best and worst and learned the rules while Avery thinks he’s going to be a superhero with fangs living out all his fantasies. I think they really do love each other, but I’m not sure they’re actually good for each other.
Q. Tell me a bit about Avery’s character.
A. He’s an average guy working boring jobs to pay his bills when he meets Caroline and falls desperately for her. He’s a huge fan of fictional vampyrs and, when he realizes she’s a real vampyr, he’s hooked. Caroline, of course, knows the danger she’s in and doesn’t want to bring Avery into her world. But he’s so genuine and completely unlike what Sebastian’s become that the attraction becomes mutual and she eventually gives in to Avery’s desire to make him a vampyre as well. Avery is basically like me: kind of a geek, funny, and a romantic. When I asked myself what I’d do if I met a girl who seemed perfect but was a vampyr, my response was “get her to make me one too” so I knew Avery would represent all of us readers/viewers who secretly wish we could have an opportunity like that. What happens when Sebastian captures the two of them and Avery learns what being a vampyr is really about is the story is about. It’s both tragic and redemptive for Avery, though, because I think that, while he loses the innocence of his fantasies, he finds strength and power inside himself that he never knew he had. He does a lot of growing in the story.
Q. Caroline, Avery’s love interest, is a rather tough individual. Is her character based on someone you know?
A. Not really any one person. She started off as my “dream girl”, where I put together the qualities I find attractive, but then fleshed her with a backstory and followed those qualities to their logical conclusion. Caroline is a psychology professor from the 1940s recruited by the government during WWII to help analyze the Nazi hierarchy and provide insights for espionage purposes. Toward the end of the war, she met Sebastian Blackwood and the two fell in love; Sebastian, however, was a vampyr with a degenerative condition. To make matters worse, he was also in charge of North America. Caroline chose to become a vampyr to be with him, but also to help him steer America in a beneficial course for the future. Sadly, as Sebastian’s condition worsened and he became more feral, their relationship worsened and became abusive, but Caroline was literally trapped with nowhere to go. She eventually figured out a way to escape and went into hiding while she worked on unraveling the mysteries of the vampyr condition. I especially like that she’s a very strong woman, but she never turns into the “alpha bitch” action heroine that’s so standard these days. As for whether Caroline’s ending is tragic or triumphant is something I’ll let each reader decide for themselves.
Q. Your story is told from two points of view: Avery and Caroline, and interspersed are excerpts from a manuscript done by Avery. It’s like a book within a book. How did you come up with that idea?
A. I took my inspiration from Bram Stoker and H.G. Wells among other turn of the century authors and went for an epistolary novel because it added verisimilitude. I realized early on that, to make the novel’s action comprehensible and accessible, I’d have to filter as much as possible through Avery, but there were still elements that I wanted that only Caroline’s perspective could give. In the end, I decided to include Caroline’s journal entries because I thought they created an interesting parallel to the modern-day action. It also contrasted the disintegration of Caroline and Sebastian’s relationship with the difficulties Avery and Caroline were having. There was also the intention that the reader would wonder how much history might repeat itself as they continue.
Q. The character Valmont was a total pill – why make him such a vile creature?
A. Valmont? He’s a sweetheart! LOL! Actually, there are a couple of reasons for that. Mainly, I thought about how interesting it could be to have a villain who is truly evil, but played straight. By which I mean someone who deliberately and rationally chooses to be everything we consider evil. He’s not deranged and he doesn’t think what he’s doing is right in some convoluted way: he has literally made the decision that his soul is damned for all eternity. Therefore, his response is to be the absolute worst person that he can be. He’s dedicated to Satan in a way that most devout Christians are devoted to God, which I thought might be an interesting departure from the normal antagonist. Also, from a fun stand-point, I wanted to poke fun at the “dark, sexy vampyr bad boy” that women love so much and give a glimpse at what a guy like that would really be like.
Q. Now to the evilest creature of them all — Sebastian. Talk a little bit about his character.
A. I don’t see Sebastian as evil. He’s more a tragic, fallen hero who wanted the simple life of an priest, but got sucked into The Order and spent centuries trying to remain decent in the face of all the corruption around him. He finally got his own land to run with freedom and enlightenment, but The Order corrupted and ruined that, too. He then fell in love, but no sooner does he begin to be happy, he develops a degenerative condition that tears at all the best parts of him. Sebastian, as you see him in the book, is an abused animal with enough sense left to make one last attempt at striking back. To me, Sebastian is part cautionary tale and part Greek tragedy.
Q. There are creatures called the Kwang-shi in the book. Are these based on mythical creatures?
A. Yes, they are! The Jiang-shi are the native vampyr myth of China, though I should mention that I have taken some liberties with the original folklore. In my story, they have powers and abilities that normal science can’t explain, but some of it can still make sense if you look at quantum physics. Or, you can believe that they actually have magic and that’s that. That’s sort of my nod to the classic mystical vampyr that can’t be explained away. For the purposes of my novel, I combined the Jiang-shi idea with that of the “hungry ghost” that is a staple of Chinese myth. I explained the creation of the Jiang-shi as a Hungry Ghost taking up residence in the dead body and strengthening the po, thus re-animating the corpse. However, I wanted the Jiang-shi to have some distinctive features, so I made them unaffected by sunlight because my regular vampyrs are. I also made them more psychic/emotional vampyrs than blood drinkers, though they can feed on blood that is strong with their emotion of choice. I gave them the traditional weakness to religious items wielded with faith because of the positive energy of the faith which clashes with the negative energies that sustain them. Naturally, given their origins, I wanted to make use of Taoist philosophy in their workings. I forget where I read this, but there was some Chinese demon or creature that tried to avoid sleep because their po was given a taste of their eternal punishment as they slept. I thought this was really novel and different, so I incorporated it into my Jiang-shi as well. For variety, I also gave them the Kuang-shi (which is really just the original pronunciation of Jiang-shi), which are the green and white furred monsters of legend, as servants.
Q. What are you currently working on now?
My current project is called Drawing Dead, which takes place in the same universe as Ancient Blood but in the 1930s. It’s the story of a New York gangster named Faolan O’Connor who is recruited into The Order during a war between the cities of the Northeast coast. He decides quickly that he wants to take over as the boss of New York, but it soon becomes apparent that he’s got a tough fight ahead of him even if he is able to navigate the minefield of vampyr politics. It’s a very different kind of story, primarily because Faolan is a very different kind of protagonist than Avery. I just finished it and can’t wait to see what people think of it.
Q. When writing Ancient Blood, what was your favorite part? And what was your least favorite part?
A. Probably my favorite part was when I got to have fun thinking about some of the banal aspects of vampyr life and incorporating them into scenes. This was originally a screenplay, all action and clever dialogue, but the best part of expanding it into a novel was adding in little mundane details. My least favorite part is always the time it takes me to write. Ancient Blood was a faster than any of my other works, but even so, it took the better part of a year to complete.
Q. So you’re also writing screenplays. Have you had any success with those?
A. Sadly, no. I wrote the script that became Ancient Blood, then one about Native American werewolves who hunt the vampyrs of The Order, then two with a friend that were urban fantasy and a science fiction action-adventure. I got a response from an agent about the werewolf one, but she said the people in L.A. didn’t get the concept, and suggested I try it as a novel instead. Of course, a year later, Underworld came out, so I’m pretty sure they get the concept now.
Q. If you had a chance to become a vampyr, would you?
A. Probably, yes! LOL! After everything I’ve said, that might seem ironic, but I’m still in love with the concept of the vampyr myself. Unless it looked like being a vampyr would really be terrible, I’d probably want to go for it.
Q. What has been the toughest thing you have experienced on the road to becoming published?
A. That’s easily got to be the number of disappointments and rejections. It’s very difficult to keep up that belief in yourself and the determination to write when year after year goes by with nothing to show for it. You can’t help but wonder if you’re doing the right thing and it’s very disheartening.
Q. Do you have any advice for those who want to become published but are becoming discouraged because their work can’t seem to find a place within the publishing world?
A. My advice would be to keep looking around. Just ten years ago, it was either get published by a major publisher or be a failure. Nowadays, not only are indie publishers and self-publishing gaining respect, they’re on their way to becoming the norm! That said, there’s no excuse not to make sure that your work is as strong as it can be. Just because you can go on Createspace and get your book up on Amazon in ten minutes doesn’t mean that you should. Get feedback from anybody who will read you and really listen to it. If your work is good, you will find someone who will publish it.
L.M.: Okay, that concludes this interview. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a call to make…
Brian is a lifelong vampire fan from New Jersey and has written four screenplays, a stage play which won a state-wide contest and was produced by a NJ community theater, and numerous short stories which have been published online in various magazines.
Humanity has left the Solar System.
According to a news release, the Voyager 1 spacecraft appears to have travelled beyond the influence of the Sun.
After 35 years it has become the first manmade object to leave the Solar System and enter inter-stellar space.
The Voyager 1 probe was initially intended just to explore the planets of our solar system – but it never stopped.
“This is a present from a small distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts, and our feelings,” said President Jimmy Carter at the time of the launch.
The remarkably durable craft has now travelled 11 billion miles, trailed at 9 billion miles by its successor, Voyager 2.
Voyager 1 will now travel alone in space, on a course for the star AC +793888 – which it will never reach.
Within 15 years its plutonium generator will stop producing electricity, at which point its transmitter will die and it will drift alone in space.
Nasa’s spacecraft recorded drastic changes in radiation levels on August 25, 2012 according to a study in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
Those changes hinted that the craft had crossed the so-called “heliocliff” where the Sun’s wind of energetic particles ceased to be felt.
That the sudden change reflected the true boundary between our solar system and the wider universe has now been accepted by the AGU.
Scientists will still debate whether the craft has truly left the Solar System or not as a technical definition – but what is clear is that the craft is now in an unknown region of space, where we have never been before.