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?
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?
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.
Long time readers will know I’m not a big fan of YA as a genre. (You can read my rant about it here.) That said, introducing young’ns to scary stories is a time honored tradition. Hence my interview with eclectic author Jon Robinson. His first foray into Lycan-inspired fiction is Sunshine and the Full Moon. Like 14 year old girls aren’t scary enough…
Jon, welcome aboard. Tell us about yourself.
I used to write about video games, sports, and wrestling for everybody from ESPN to Sports Illustrated to WWE. But now I’m trading in my love of sweat and polygons for werewolves. That’s right … silver bullets, fangs, and fur. I’m all in. Sunshine and the Full Moon is my first novel, and the main character, a sassy 14-year-old girl obsessed with geocaching, baseball, and k-pop is inspired by my daughter. Her encounter with a werewolf is actually something I had a dream about, so I decided to turn that dream into a novel, and here we are.
Johnny Lycan started as a dream too, and look where that got me. Tell me about Sunshine…
A 14-year-old girl named Sunshine goes on a geocaching adventure and uncovers a werewolf den. Turns out, the town her grandmother lives in up in the California Gold Country has had a mysterious string of deaths, and Sunshine stumbles headfirst into the mystery. When a young girl in town goes missing, can Sunshine figure out the clues behind the creature wreaking havoc throughout the small town before it’s too late?
What is it about that form of magic or character that appealed to you? What are the roots of the story?
I’ve always been a big fan of werewolves. Vampires are cool, zombies are fun, but to me, werewolves are king! Anyway, I had this dream where there was a werewolf attack, and the creature bites down on a young girl’s arm, but the girl had a cast from where she broke her arm, and the werewolf’s teeth get caught. So you have this moment where it’s staring eye-to-eye with the girl, saliva dripping down on her as it tries to wrestle its way free. I decided to work backward from that point in the story, develop a plot and main character around my teenage daughter’s personality, and Sunshine and the Full Moon took on a life of its own.
Good urban fantasy usually starts with a good, “what if?” For just one example, what if an average joe who wanted to be a detective happened to be a werewolf? That’s a pretty simple one. Other stories are more ambitious: what if all the evil characters–Lucifer, witches and demons had to band together to save the world? That’s the kind of thing that goes on in the head of Leslie Swartz, and her newSeventh Day series.
Leslie, who are you and what’s your deal?
I tell people I’m a poet-turned-novelist which sounds pretentious but I think it’s important if they want to get a sense of how I write. My style has been described as blunt, honest, and evocative. I don’t write beautiful prose for the most part. I don’t spend too much time describing things like what characters are wearing or what color walls are painted. I write to inspire emotion. I want the reader to feel something.
As for who I am outside of my work, I’m a 41-year-old woman in Indianapolis homeschooling three kids during a pandemic. I’m tired. I get maybe an hour or two of free time a day that I usually spend watching easy TV to calm my brain down. My favorite show right now is The Challenge. Team CT for life!
What’s the big idea behind the first book in your series, Seraphim?
The Seventh Day Series is seven books of rowdy angels, vampires, witches, and Lucifer fighting monsters and preventing one Apocalypse after another. Really, though, it’s a story of found-family, complex relationships, trauma, and redemption. It’s character-driven, dark, funny, and chock-full of twists.
That’s a lot going on. Where did the idea come from?
“Wyatt” came to me in a vision when I was sixteen. I can’t explain it so I won’t try but he was very clear to me; steely eyes, dark hair falling in his face, angry and depressed but like, resigned to it. I didn’t create him so much as I just kind of became aware of who he was. So, I spent years researching religious lore and different mythologies. I’d have an idea and start writing but inevitably, I’d throw it out. No story was ever good enough for the character. So, one day I was watching Guiding Light and this actor, Tom Pelphrey came on the screen and he looked exactly like the character in my head. It was uncanny. Obviously, I became a fan and watched other things he was in.
Over the years, his facial expressions and his very precise way of speaking became part of “Wyatt”. Years later, I was watching an episode of Iron Fist and Tom Pelphrey did this scene that broke me in half. I lost it. Complete meltdown, hysterically sobbing on my couch for forty-five minutes. When I got myself together, I had all this renewed gumption to get these books started. I had a ton of plot ideas but none of them made sense if “God” was who I said he was. So, I was going over everything with my husband and he looked at me with this how-have-you-not-thought-of-this-before face and said, “What if ‘God’ was asleep?” Mind. Blown. Everything else fell into place. It all worked. That day, I wrote character bios, a few scenes, and outlines for the first four books.
Inspiration is a funny thing, ain’t it? What do you read?
I love Shakespeare, Poe, and Dickens, as we all do, right? Anne Rice and Stephen King are, of course, huge inspirations for me. I remember being in the fourth grade and relating so hard to “Gordie” from The Body. I started writing stories when I was four, so that character was everything. My favorite newer authors are Evelyn Chartres and J. Edward Neill. I love anything creepy with lots of twists and they deliver in those departments in spades.
Full disclosure- zombies aren’t my favorite monster, horror or fantasy trope. (Train to Busan is an exception.) Still, the ability to manipulate the dead with a little necromancy does offer great potential for storytelling. So I took this chance to check out MG Gallows first novel, Death Dealers.
I also asked some questions of the Red Deer, Alberta author. If you’ve never been to Red Deer, picture putting Waco , Texas exactly halfway between Edmonton and Calgary and you come pretty close.
M. G, tell everyone what your deal is.
I am a lifelong nerd, non-practicing edgelord, semi-retired resurrectionist, olympic-level procrastinator, and a recovering anatidaephobic. I love my homeland of Canada, because the deadly chill prevents Australia’s giant spiders and drop bears from touching my feet while I sleep. My friends all have real jobs, to which I secretly envy and resent their success (they won’t read this, will they?). I’m kidding about the Australia part. A very good Aussie friend is the reason I’ve even made it this far. Since 2016 I’ve cut my teeth writing freelance fiction for Wyrd Miniatures, and their awesome Malifaux gameline. I love writing stories, I think I’m pretty good at it. Death Dealers is my first novel.
What’s Death Dealers all about?
Death Dealers is about Alex Fossor, a necromancer trying to pull his life together after a bad breakup. He settled in the Pacific Northwest after discovering a community of wights – your garden variety ‘thinking’ undead – living in self-imposed exile underground. Compelled to help them deal with their condition, Alex sells his services as a crime scene cleaner to the city’s crooks, ‘disappearing’ bodies so the wights have a steady supply of the human flesh they crave.
The story picks up when a client is murdered, and Alex is framed for the deed. This leads to a confrontation with the Rimbault Society, a centuries-old organization of mages who quietly run the world. Alex barely avoids an execution, but the clock is ticking..To clear his name, he’ll have to deal with intrepid detectives, silver-tongued femme fatales, undead frat boys, foul-mouthed Irish Loa, and expose the true culprit before a hex on his heart burns him to ash.
“Undead frat boys” feels both creepy and redundant, but that’s my issue. Where did this story sprout from?
Alex’s beginnings stretch back decades, to my earliest experiences with vampires, zombies, and all things necromancy. I’ve always been fascinated by undeath, from Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, to George Romero’s zombie plague that has become such a mainstay of our culture. Getting to play a necromancer in tabletop or video games was always an easy sell for me. But there’s a huge stigma against necromancy in most fantasy settings, one I feel is largely hypocritical. A wizard can magically burn someone to death, and nobody panics. But then he reanimates the body to fight for him, and everyone loses their minds. I wanted to write a protagonist that walked that narrow shade of gray. Alex is someone you can relate to and even cheer for, but his methods are those classically given to a villain. He’s the slasher-killer stalking victims at a summer camp, the coldly pragmatic mastermind using every resource – even the recently dead – to help him win, and occasionally he dips his toes into the stereotype of the cackling and sadistic necromancer. And he does it to serve his idea of justice, and protect the people he cares about.
Who do you read that folks should know about?
I discovered my love of fantasy with writers like RA Salvatore, Elaine Cunningham, and Paul S. Kemp. It was Elaine who introduced me to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Harry Dresden’s colorful, cosmopolitan world of modern-day monsters has been a huge inspiration for many authors, including myself, but I would be remiss not to mention Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie/Angel Crawford series. Punk rock and flesh-eating zombies go as far back as Return of the Living Dead, and I’m proud to carry that tradition forward in my novel.
Where can we learn more about you and your book(s) Goodreads, Amazon links, twitter, Facebook author page, website etc.
Mashing up mysteries with fantasy is a time-honored tradition. Patient Zero, of course is Harry Dresden, but also includes others like Nate Temple and (ahem) Johnny Lycan. A new addition to this crew is Alix Deveraux, the creation of this week’s interviewee, Chelsea Callahan.
Chelsea, what’s your story?
I am a hermit. I spend most of my time writing, because that is where I’m happiest. I’ve always loved stories, in any form I can find them. I’m that rare bird, who’s always watching something, or listening to something. Silence, even when I’m writing, just puts me to sleep, or if it’s late at night, silence just creeps me out.
I didn’t start out writing stories. I’m an extremely visual person so when I learned in 5th grade that you could take beautiful words and create this thing called poetry with it, I started there. Poem after poem I wrote, and then as I got older, those poems became short stories. Things that felt so long at the time they had to be novels….little did I know I’d get to college and write papers twice as long. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school though, that I began writing a story with the intention of getting it published. I’d finally gotten to the point of wanting to write my own story. My head was so full of all the movies, and television I’d devoured, I had to make a story of my own. I had to play with characters swimming around inside my head.
One problem. I’ve always struggled when it comes to writing. Looking at me now, you’d never guess I used to hate writing and hate reading. My dyslexia, made both of those things a major problem while I was growing up. I still have problems with them. It’s hard to feel confident about anything you produce when your brain tells you what you’re seeing is correct, and the person reading it sees something entirely different. I can edit a thousand times, read and reread every word on the page, and still miss the most obvious of errors. I’ve gotten better thanks to the support of my mother, and my friends. It is possible to get better, to improve, but I know I’ll struggle with it all my life.
I just won’t let it stop me from telling the stories I know I was meant to tell.
Good on you. So what’s the deal with Alix Deveraux?
My most recent release is called Wicked Raven. It’s the first book in my Alix Devereaux series.
The main character Alix, has been away from home for three years. She’s been traveling the human world and the fae world desperately hunting for the thing that killed her fiancé and nearly burned her alive inside their New York City brownstone. But after three years she’s tired of the chase, and has decided to come home, and pay her respects to her fiancé on what would’ve been his thirtieth birthday. What she soon discovers through a dead body left for her on Rhys’s grave is that The Raven has returned and she might just be his next victim.
It’s a thrilling ride full of emotional trauma, murder mystery, magic, romance, and general mayhem. Out of everything I’ve written it’s my favorite so far, but it’s also not my only Devereaux novel. The first book I published, Eyes of the Grave, is the first book in The Rebekah Devereaux series. Which centers around one of Alix’s many cousins. This one in particular living down in New Orleans. Rebekah is a P.I. with a unique talent. With one touch she can solve a murder or prevent one. The problem is that when she touches this latest body, her visions say she herself is the killer. Trying to figure out what exactly happened to the dead girl in the cemetery, Rebekah has to balance keeping her potential involvement a secret from the cops, and repairing the rocky relationship between her and her husband. I mean honestly though how do you tell the man you love, all you can think about when he touches you is killing him?
Then of course there are five short stories out that bridge the gaps between the novels and provide some fun side adventures to expand the world.
What is it about the magic system or the story that inspired you?
I fell in love with Urban Fantasy when I heard someone describe it as magic in the real world. An idea that just fascinates me. On a deep level I’d love to discover that the world I see around me every day is hiding a much weirder magical world right beneath the surface. I mean who doesn’t reach for something across the room and just wish for a second that their magic powers would kick in and the object would just zoom right over into their hand?
After watching things like The Magicians, Harry Potter, and Buffy. Then reading books by Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs I found myself asking, what if all of that was possible? What if witches could be all of these things, do all these things? What if all the stories were true on some level? How do you control a world like that? Those questions proved to be extremely thought-provoking for me, and my books were born from the answers.
The magic system that exists in the universe of the Devereaux witches is largely a person to person design. It all comes from inside the witch, and burns calories, because what better way is there to explain the thin beautiful people in the world that seem to be completely unreal when you look at them. But beyond that, each witch, or mage expresses their power in their own way. The weaker the witch is the more standard their power becomes, but for witches like my characters Alix and Rebekah things start to get a bit varied.
For example: Rebekah’s powers manifest heavily in telekinesis, and through her touch. If you surprise her, and brush any bit of your skin against hers she’s overtaken by a vision of your death. Or at least how you will die based on the decisions you’ve made up to that exact point in time. Alix’s powers rely more heavily on spell work and sheer force of will. Then there’s a third cousin Shado that appears in Eyes of the Grave who’s power leans more heavily on healing energy, or healing auras. They’re all part of the same family, by blood, but each one has their own spin on their power.
I love this type of magic, because it truly means you never know what to expect. Each person has their own identity, their own power. Which is also why the manifestation of that power comes with color, gestures, and words, or some combination of those things. People use spells in different languages. It’s all up to the user. Just as it’s up to each person in the real world how they handle themselves. Magic or not, we all have power, and we all use it a little differently than the person next to us.
Who do you read, that people should know about?
Cassandra Thompson and Halo are two Indie authors I encountered through Twitter, who are not only wonderful writers, they’re also fantastic people. Julia Quinn I’ve gotten hooked on thanks to the new Netflix show Bridgeton. Jacka I discovered randomly on the shelf one day when Barnes & Noble didn’t have the Dresden Files book I needed, and I wasn’t able to put the series down until I ran out of new books. Sarah J. Maas is a true master at having her characters deal with emotional trauma. No matter how far from “Human” they are I’m always amazed at how real her creations feel. It’s inspiring. Holly Black is a fae queen in disguise I’m almost positive. Then of course, Anne Rice is a classic gothic horror, and supernatural powerhouse. How can you not love her work? Deborah Harkness and the All Souls Trilogy are brilliant. There’s so much history, and romance, and mysterious magical adventure. I can’t get enough.
But it was Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs that really inspired me the most to get into writing Urban Fantasy books. Their work truly defines the genre.
How can people find out more about you and your work?
Well, I am The Writing Druid on most social media platforms. You can find me in order of most active to least active on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tiktok, Facebook, and tumblr.
You can also catch some reviews of my favorite tv shows or movies on my website, as well as any news about my upcoming books! That link is http://www.thewritingdruid.com