I just put finished to the second book in the Johnny Lycan series. Well, an ugly, squawling, half-assed first draft anyway. Our boy finds himself in Las Vegas, and faces, among other things: a megalomaniac rancher, a honest-to-god Berserker, an ancient relic that may or may not be from Earth, a coven of bad-ass witches, and more about himself than he wants to know.
Believe it or not, book 3 is already outlined and will be started soon. Sorry about the delay between books. Turns out that between buying a house, navigating a global pandemic, a demanding day job and the general yukkiness in the air, I’ve learned something important. Existential dread is not great for the creative juices. You may quote me.
Watch for Johnny Lycan and the Vegas Berserker coming in 2022 from #blackrosewriting (blessings upon them)
If you haven’t read Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk, there’s still time to be one of the cool kids who find stuff before everyone else and lords it over them. Read it here
My stand-up comedy days are long behind me. In fact, a quick check of the math says I started in 1979 and hung up my mic in 1996. But I still remain friends with many of the people I went through the trenches with.
It’s a good read, and after knowing him for over 35 years (note to self: stop doing the math), it’s clear there’s a lot of him in it. Seemed like a good time to introduce John to you lot.
What inspired you to tackle a novel?
I have always been a writer. I was a writer first. The first thing I ever tried to write was a novel, or a short story. So it wasn’t too outlandish to try again in my late fifties. I’d tried a few other times but I’d always gotten bored and decided the story was boring. Plus I wanted to see if I set a particular writing regimen, could I finish a novel in a set period of time.
I get that. Count of the Sahara started as a bet with myself. A Car to Die For might seem a surprise to those of you who know you through your standup. Where’d it come from?
I had the bare bones idea of the story — the small-town lawyer who is kind of a gumshoe — for a very long time. The character is based on my father. The main case of the burglar was a case my father had in the 70’s. And there were aspects of the man who keeps others’ secrets that I decided were very interesting.
There’s humor in the book but it’s not necessarily funny. Was it hard switching gears?
I wanted to have as much humor as I could find, but there were no intentions with regard to writing funny or not. I was trying to tell the story. If opportunities for humor came up, great, as long as they moved the tale along its way. I had a few jokey lines that I took out in the rewrite because they seemed contrived. (The draft took three months. I tried to write three pages a day (single spaced). Some days I wrote more, and only two or three days I didn’t make three pages. The rewrite took a year.)
Poetry, jokes, and now a novel. How is writing each different?
Jokes and poetry are very similar in the writing. A visual picture and some powerful words, good-sounding words, and done as quickly as possible. Fiction is completely different, since you have to weave many strands of the story into the main story by the end. It’s the reverse of a comedy act, which is a river with many tributaries you can choose to go down or not. The novel has to flow into the main river by the end. Narrative is very unforgiving when compared to jokewriting or poetry, which have fewer rules.
Growing up in Canada, we had some different influences than American kids. I also know that you read even more eclectically than I do. Who did–and do–you read?
The two writers I read the most were Philip Roth and Mordecai RIchler, both dead. I read more non fiction now, a lot of scientific stuff, my favorite being David Quammen, a Montana-based writer. I like pulp, too. Stephen King, occasionally, (reading one of his now — The Institute), Thomas Perry, Michael Connelly, and I confess that I’ve read all or most of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child.
Where can people follow you and all you’re up to?
@johnwing5 on Instagram and Twitter, The Bad Piano Player Podcast on Spotify or wherever you get yer podcasts, dude.
Check out my Amazon Author Page for all my fiction and non-fiction work, especially Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk.
I love connecting with other writers. Not long ago, just after I interviewed Jamie Davis about his paranormal paramedic series, we had a chat on an app called Clubhouse. We were joined by a delightful woman, who had the most British name ever. If you were going to choose a woman’s name for a fantasy writer, could you do better than Gemma Clatworthy? Didn’t think so.
As it turns out, she has a new fantasy series, and it’s a lot of fun. What other excuse do I need to ask her some questions?
Alright, Gemma. Give us the wonder that is you.
I’m Gemma Clatworthy, an urban fantasy writer based in the magical county of Wiltshire in the UK. I started writing children’s books during lockdown 2020 (the first book I published is titled The Girl Who Lost Her Listening Ears, which gives you some idea of how lockdown was for us!). When I’m not writing, I enjoy crafting, playing board games, tea and chocolate – not necessarily in that order!
When we were talking to Jamie, I mentioned that Johnny Lycan would have no Fae in it… and THEN I found out they are all over your book. So, apologies. (But Johnny will run into a lot of strange things, fairies and elves won’t be among them. My book, my rules.) Now that I’ve groveled appropriately, what’s your new series about?
My Rise of Dragons series follows the adventures of Amethyst, a half-dwarf jeweller who just wants a quiet life. In the first book, Awakening, her best friend is kidnapped and she’s forced to confront a gang of cultists who want to raise a dragon…and things keep going pear-shaped from there!
Bonus points for “pear-shaped,” which is one of my favorite Brit expressions. What are the roots of the story? It’s so much fun. What was it that hooked you?
The root of the story was really that I wanted to write a character that wasn’t a standard elf or werewolf, (Editors Note: Ouch, but I suppose I deserve that.) which seem to be the leads in a lot of urban fantasy. I was inspired by a friend’s character in a D&D campaign we played – she was a straightforward barbarian who rushed in without really thinking, took a hit and kept going, which is pretty much my main character in a nutshell! I set the story in modern-day Cardiff in the UK because I really enjoyed mixing the magical with the mundane and in a couple of my stories I’ve used real buildings… which may get destroyed by dragons!
Who do you read?
My absolute favourite author is Terry Pratchett – his Discworld series is amazing. I like to think I’m a diverse reader so I also enjoy Ellis Peters (Cadfael series), Phillipa Gregory, Lyndsey Buroker, Nicholas Eames and KM Shea. That’s just a shortlist though because I read a lot.
As you should. So, where can we learn more about you and your work?
For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s a pretty ambitious first book. It alternates between the imaginary story of Willie Braun, a young German-American teenager who becomes the driver and assistant for a charismatic archaeologist on a tour of the US Midwest in 1926. Then it flashes back a year to an ill-fated, well-documented expedition to the Algerian Sahara. We see how the tale de Prorok is spinning doesn’t quiiiiiite match the reality.
In the 6 years since publication, a lot’s happened. I’ve written 2 business books, The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. I’ve also written 3 more novels ( Acre’s Bastard and Acre’s Orphans, as well as Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk) and the sequel to Johnny Lycan is almost finished. You can see them all on my Amazon Author Page.
Whenever I beat myself up for not being faster, I allow myself to think about putting out 6 books in 6 years. I’m not James Patterson, but not bad for a 60-year-old with a day job.
Byron has given me the chance to speak and be interviewed dozens of times on the subject of this fascinating character. My favorite moment was when I heard last year from his Grand-daughter, thanking me for telling his story (as warts-and-all as it is.)
This book began my career (or whatever this is) as a novelist and I’m not stopping anytime soon.
If you want a SIGNED copy of the paperback, please drop me a line. You can get one for $15 plus shipping (if you’re outside the US it ain’t cheap) and you can pay me by Paypal or Zelle. The same is true if you want signed copies of any book, but today is about giving Byron his due.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I ain’t done yet.
Then the latest, even though it was recorded long before the other one is with fellow Las Vegas author, Sarah Tasz and her Neon Salon. We go down a pretty deep rabbit hole about the Vegas writing scene and why people either love it or hate it here.
Of course, Sarah is the author of the Dead Mall series. This interview we talked about Johnny Lycan, of course, but also my other novels. You can find them all, along with my nonfiction work, on my Amazon Author Page.
I was never any good at picking a genre or pigeonhole for my work. Seriously, is Johnny Lycan fantasy, horror, detective noir? So I kind of dig when people just throw genres and tropes into the blender and hit puree. One such example is MM Crumley’s, “The Immortal Doc Holliday,” series. Take an iconic Western character, make him a soul-eating semi-vampire, move him to today (since he’s immortal) and drop him in the middle of Denver. Add whiskey (lots of whiskey) a healthy dose of sex and stir.
What kind of person thinks of this stuff? Funny you should ask…
So MM, (She has a real name, for the record) tell us about you.
I spent the majority of my childhood in Kansas and Colorado, which might be a strange place to start, but I think it helps account for my love of old West icons. My older brothers and I grew up gambling with each other, throwing knives at old stumps, watching 90s westerns, and going to places like Boot Hill, Cripple Creek, and Leadville. And I spent quite a lot of time dreaming about Doc Holliday. (Never mind the fact that my mother told me quite severely that he was not a good role model). Even as a kid I was writing. I wrote sad, dark poetry. Now I write funny, dark books. I can’t get away from the dark; I just love it too much, but there’s always some humor to be found.
What is your series about?
The Immortal Doc Holliday follows the modern (or current) life of Doc Holliday. But he died in 1887, you say? Not in my reality. I’m sorry, fiction, not in my fiction. In the first book Hidden, we find out that Doc gained immortality on his deathbed from a shaman who wanted a favor. In the modern world, the time has come for Doc to pay up. Although he is the only one of his kind, Doc is surrounded by witches, vampires, trolls, and a whole menagerie of cryptids that exist in the shadows of the normal world, a place called the Hidden. Doc walks the line between both worlds, doing what he does best, killing bad guys or people who just rub him the wrong way. As Doc works to repay his eternal life, he uncovers a plot that could very well destroy the Hidden. Cue the killing spree.
What is it about that form of magic or character that appealed to you?
I love fairy tales. I used to have the ENTIRE Andrew Lang fairy tale set. (Don’t ask me what happened to them. You don’t want to see me cry.) I love that I managed to find a way to write about Doc freaking Holliday and work basically anything I ever wanted from a fairy tale into it. Albeit with my own twist. For instance, in the Hidden, witches and vampires are species, just like trolls would be. What I love best about Doc in this setting is that even though he’s a little faster and stronger than a normal man, he doesn’t have powers. He’s just a dude, but I can pit him against anyone, and he will always come out on top. One, because he’s brilliant. And two, because he’s willing to do whatever it takes. “Doc” John Holliday was an incredibly smart person, and his life was riddled with adventure. I’m honored to build a reality in which he never died.
Who are the authors who inspired you?
It’s hard to say just one or two authors when you look out at all the amazing writers out there. Besides fairy tales and a handful of the best classics, I read a lot of fantasy books when I was younger. Terry Brooks, Raymond E. Feist, etc. I also enjoyed Anne Rice and Mercedes Lackey. And I confess I’ve read my share of romances as well. I enjoy Julia Quinn and Karen Moning’s Highlander series, among others. But I can honestly say, and this is a strange mix, that my favorite authors are Terry Pratchett (because he makes me laugh and think), Arnold Lobel (because the way he sees things amuses me), Jerry Spinelli (because he can really pull at my heartstrings), A.A. Milne (because he understood humanity in such a simple, perfect way), and me. I know that probably sounds vain, but I really like my books.
As I write this, it is going to be 117 degrees before this day is over. Even at that, I love living in Las Vegas, and one of the main reasons is the writing community. It’s a diverse blend of just about everyone in every genre. A recent addition to the group is a fellow member of Sin City Writers, Taisha Speters. (Shut up spellcheck. That’s her name!) I thought I’d let her tell you about her debut novel, The Princess of Belsaria.
Taisha, we’ve both been in Sin City Writers for a while, but hadn’t met in-person til last week. What’s your deal?
I’m a new author and I’ve dabbled in the arts for 12+ years but could never figure out where I wanted to go. My first novel, The Princess of Belsaria, was actually handwritten in a notebook when I was a junior in Highschool. Fast forward a few years and when I found the notebook, I won’t lie I was beyond confused on who wrote this drama. So, after some motivation from friends and family, I committed to finishing my first project.
I write mostly fantasy. Before female protagonists became normal, I wanted a woman to save the world. My female character is based off of me.
I currently reside in Las Vegas, Nevada, but I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah. Born and raised. I sometimes feel like an old lady or old soul since one of my hobbies include Crocheting. I take on more artistic projects than in reality I have time for.
Here’s your chance to tell the world. What’s your book about?
My book is about a teenage girl named Marsais Corbin. Outside of trying to apply for a prestigious art college is a relatively normal girl. Raised by her single mother after her father passed away in a car accident. Marsais suddenly falls ill, and the doctors have no indications as to why. Though after a full recovery from the hospital is confronted by a new girl who tells her she’s a witch.
After an incident of her power is displayed Marsais willingly attends training where she finds out just how powerful she really is. Now mastering her powers, she also learns she’s the heir to Belsaria’s throne after she conquers its current ruler.
It’s a wonderful display of magic, love, and royalty. You follow Marsais in her trials to learn about her history as well as her becoming a queen.
What is it about the magic system in this book that appealed to you? Where did it come from?
Honestly, all magic is appealing to me. I find it fascinating which is why Marsais has multiple powers. I couldn’t settle on just one. Through personally I would love a power that connects me to water and telekinesis. The biggest inspiration for my novel is a TV series in the early 2000’s called charmed. Where 3 kickass sisters take on demons and other entities to protect the world while concealing their powers.
Some past authors that I’ve enjoyed will be Stephanie Myer and JK Rowling. I’ve always been an avid reader, but when I hit the age of about 12-13 I found Harry Potter and really grew up in that series. I will ready pretty much anything I can get my hands onto, but these past couple months, my husband got me hooked on a series by Tracy Wolf, The Crave Series.
(We now pause while I weep at how old I am when Charmed is a fond childhood memory for someone. Okay, I’m back.)Where can we learn more about you?
Those of you who have hung in for the past few years know I write an awful lot about the sport. (I’ve explained why in an earlier post.) My editor over at Storgy, Anthony Self, (peace be upon him) has always been a big supporter of my work, and my sports-focused writing in particular. He asked me in passing one day if I’ve ever considered putting together a book of boxing fiction.
But let’s get real. I have half a dozen stories adding up to a little less than half a decent-sized anthology. I’d love to include others who have tales to tell. Male, female, gay, straight, black, white, Asian, Latinx, young, and old. Not every boxing fan is a straight, old, cis-het white guy. Lord knows the fighters aren’t. Where are their voices?
Consider this a tentative cri-de-guerre. Would you like to read a well-done anthology of stories featuring the world of boxing? Would you be willing to contribute? Probably can’t pay beyond a token but as Johnny Lupul would say, I’m serious as dick cancer.
I may look into doing a kick-starter campaign for this if it smells like there’s interest.
Drop me a line through the website or DM me on Twitter @Wturmel
When people ask why I wrote Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk, after 9 non-fiction books and 3 semi-respectable historical fictions, I can now say, “Get off my ass. John Steinbeck wrote one too. At least mine got published.”
Yeah, I know he wrote it before he was JOHN FRICKING STEINBECK, and there’s no word if it was actually finished, and by all accounts it kind of sucks. But one of the great writers in American literature wrote a werewolf story. It’s called Murder at Full Moon, which is kind of lame, but I’ll bet he enjoyed it. It made him happy when he wasn’t writing about huge men accidentally killing women, or prostitutes, or starving Okies, or trying to remember how to say “where’s the scotch” in Swedish during the Nobel ceremony.
Now when people ask me why I write about werewolves I can just say that I’m in good company. Would they say that to John Steinbeck? Well, they did, but you see my point. Have a good week.
If you want to see what a werewolf novel by a non-Nobel laureate looks like you can check out Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk.