Witches and Villains with Isra Sravenheart

I believe one of the most important concepts in writing fiction is that the success of a story depends on the villain. Johnny Lycan would be a weird little adventure story without Kozlov. But good antagonists have a reason for being all villain-y. Some writers dig deep into that.

Enter Isra Sravenheart. Her books are full of witches, demons, warlocks, and others who have perfectly good reasons for doing what they do. I recently met her in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Focus Facebook group. We also appeared on the same YouTube interview with Opus Knight recently.

Isra, tell us about yourself.

Hi. I am Isra Sravenheart, a USA Today and Amazon Bestselling author. I first found success with my book Her Dark Soul in 2017 which is book 1 in my Dark Spell series. Of which I am currently promoting the boxed set of 1-4 in the series. I am very much an introvert at heart living with my four cats who are sassy as they deem themselves to be. I’m also an avid binge-watcher of fantasy and paranormal shows such as Supernatural, Vampire Diaries, Buffy Angel. I also am releasing my first PNR book this May “Forbidden Rendezvous with the Devil” an interesting tale about young lone witch Sabine who has faced a break-up and now founds herself entangled with two vampires.

There’s a lot going on there. Tell me about your series.

Dark Spell series is a dark fantasy series featuring witches and warlocks. It’s an epic vivid world that I created with angels, demons, unicorns, dragons, light-bringers and I mainly focus on the aspect of villains and their POV. It spans eight books and mainly follows Isra and Astrid in their journey however things are not as clear cut as they seem. Don’t judge someone because nothing is what it seems. The good guys might look cute on the outset but they have their own tale of darkness to tell.

It has been compared to Grimms and Disney by many of its readers however it has a dark tone and focuses on aspects such as betrayal, forbidden love, unrequited love and dealing with one’s own personal demons (darkness.)

What are the roots of the story? Where does all this come from?

I love exploring a villain’s POV and while we’re not justifying what they did and we know it’s bad, we can understand the root of the character so at least their actions become understandable, Not everyone is born bad. There has to be a good reason. What makes people tick? I look at the ins and outs of the whole emotionally dragged-out mess, whilst not condemning them for it because everyone has their own reasons for being a certain way. It’s been a fun series to write and I love how there has been such a wide range of characters and eccentric personalities. My fave characters to write are Astrid and Samuel the light-bringer. He is off his rocker, to quote my editor Jody Freeman. 

Who hurt you like this? Who are the authors who influenced you?

Neil Gaiman. Gregory Maguire, L Frank Baum, Phillip Pullman. lots of dark fantasy vibes here. That;s kinda my jam and read most of these when I was young especially the oz and Wicked series. 

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

Goodreads, Amazon links, twitter, Facebook author page, website etc. Everything is nicely situated on my linktree including the boxed set review copies pinned to top, boxed set 1-4 buy page and my reader magnet for dark spell series https://linktr.ee/israsravenheart

The second book in the Johnny Lycan series is coming out on December 8. Johnny Lycan and the Vegas Berserker, will be coming from Black Rose Writing. If you want to be the first kid on the block to receive swag or news about the book, sign up for my newsletter by clicking the link on the side of the screen. Meanwhile, Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk is available now in paperback or Kindle.

A Cop, a Chase, and an Earthquake- Luke Swanson

One thing about being with a publisher like Black Rose Writing, rather than publishing myself, is that you become a community and get introduced to plenty of other writers. One such person is Oklahoma author Luke Swanson. I got a chance to read his new thriller, Epicenter, and thought it would be great for you all to meet him as well.

Luke, what’s your deal?

My name is Luke Swanson, and I’m a fledgling author from Oklahoma City. I currently have three books published—a mystery, an action thriller, and a tragi-comedy—with a fourth coming in July. If I had an agent, they would tell me, “Write a consistent genre, you dolt!” But I don’t, so I do what I want.

I feel you. Moving from historical fiction to urban fantasy was hardly a career move. What’s your latest novel, Epicenter, about?

Epicenter is a standalone sequel to my first book, The Ten, which is a murder mystery. Epicenter shifts into full-on action mode—I’ve had a reviewer describe it as a Die Hard movie, which is high praise (as long as they’re talking about 1, 3, or 4). On a hot day in Los Angeles, Detective Jason Flynn finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He needs to keep a witness and a hostage safe as a brutal cartel is gunning for them all. And on top of that…the “Big One” hits. The worst earthquake in US history rocks the city, and Jason and his reluctant allies need to survive.

As someone whose life got upended by the Northridge quake, I thought that was a great twist, and you caught some of the chaos that would naturally follow while just trying to do your darned job. Where did the idea come from?

I love Jason Flynn, who I created as a lead in The Ten. I could have made a continuing crime series with Jason solving a murder every week, but I didn’t feel I would do very well in that space. Michael Connelly and others have already mastered that genre. Thus, I took Jason and tossed him into an action movie. Epicenter specifically came from a few daydreams. For one, I wanted to put Jason through the wringer. In this story, he has the worst day imaginable, and his character arc reflects that. Also, I was inspired by the breakneck pace of Mad Max: Fury Road, as odd as that might sound. There’s no stopping for a breath, there’s only survival. I loved that idea. Being from OKC, I also am constantly toying with the idea of a mystery set during a tornado…and since Jason lives in LA, I transposed that obstacle onto him, with an earthquake.

What inspired you to be a writer?

 I’ve always been a huge reader, and the idea that someone somewhere someday might be inspired by a book I’ve written is what motivated me to put words onto a dauntingly blank page. I love stories, and I hope to share that love with my readers.

Who did you read as a kid that inspired (or corrupted) you?

As a young reader, my bread and butter was the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz…and as a modern reader too, since I still keep up with that series. I love Steven James’s thrillers too.

How can people contact you or learn more about your work?

You can follow or reach out to me on Instagram! I’m fairly reachable, and I’d love to chat with readers. You can also follow me on Goodreads to see what I’m reading and Letterboxd to see what I’m watching—after all, the media one consumes tells you a lot about them.

Speaking of Black Rose, the second in the Johnny Lycan series, Johnny Lycan and the Vegas Berserker, is coming out on December 8. If you want to be the first kid on the block to receive swag or news about the book, sign up for my newsletter by clicking the link on the side of the screen. Meanwhile, Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk is available now in paperback or Kindle.

So, 2022 Looks a Little Busy

First, 2022 is not a real year. It’s science fiction. Blade Runner took place in 2019. Soylent Green takes place in 2022. But I’ll play along and pretend that it really is the Year of Our Lord 2022. If that’s the case, what will I be up to?

When it comes to the dreaded Day Job, there are two big creative projects in the pipeline.

We have signed a contract for The Long-Distance Team. Kevin Eikenberry and I have contracted with Berrett-Koehler publishers for another book. We’ll be following up The Long-Distance Teammate, Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership and The Long-Distance Teammate, Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere.

The Long-Distance Team, which is about designing the work culture you really want, is under construction. It will be officially out on January 22, 2023, but available for pre-order before the end of the year.

Also, it’s likely I will be doing a podcast. It won’t be the late lamented Cranky Middle Manager Show, but it will be informative and snarky. Details to follow.

On the fun, creative front look for the second in my werewolf detective series. Johnny Lycan and the Vegas Berserker will be out before the end of the year from Black Rose Writing. The third book in the series is under construction so it won’t be 2 years between installments, I pinky swear.

Check out my latest novel, Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk. It will give you something to do until your next WebEx meeting.

You can find out everything that I’m up to creatively by signing up for my infrequent but action-packed email newsletter. Use the signup box on the side of the screen.

Johnny Lycan 2 is finished. Kind of.

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.

It’s aliiiiiiiive

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

John Wing Jr and a Car to Die For

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.

High on the list of talented folks who have stuck it out wayyyyyy longer than I, is John Wing Jr. He is still grinding it out, most notably as a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent. But he’s also a podcast host, a poet with ten collections under his belt, and a new novel.

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.

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Dragons, Dwarfs, and Maybe the Most British Name Ever

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?

You can find me at my website: www.gemmaclatworthy.com 

Instagram: www.instagram.com/gemmaclatworthy 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/gemmaclatworthy

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gemma-Clatworthy

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/Gemma Clatworthy

Of course, if you’re NOT sick of werewolves (ahem) Please check out Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk. Volume 2 is nearly finished!

Get it from my publisher, #blackrosewriting or on Amazon

Las Vegas Author Taisha Speters and Her Fantasy Debut

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?

My book is listed on Amazon:

My Goodreads Author Page:

Facebook Author page:

A couple of quick things for my own selfish purposes:

  1. If you are interested in contributing to a boxing anthology, drop me a line for more details. Twitter @wturmel You can read my latest short story on Storgy
  2. Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk has 48 rave reviews (well, 2 grumpy ones.) Have you read and reviewed it yet?
Check out my latest novel, Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk. It will give you something to do until your next WebEx meeting.

John Steinbeck Wrote a Werewolf Novel So Get Off My Back.

So apparently, I have something in common with a Nobel-winning author. Seems John Steinbeck wrote a novel about werewolves that has been languishing in a vault at the University of Texas for, oh, 90 years or so.

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.

Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk is now available in paperback and Kindle, and available almost anywhere from #BlackRoseWriting. It’s an American Book Festival Finalist for Best Horror of 2020. “If Raymond Chandler wrote about werewolves.”

Jon Robinson’s YA Werewolf

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. 

It’s interesting that you’ve written so much about sports. A lot of my short stories center around boxing, and yet here we are talking werewolves. Who do you read?

I’m a big fan of everyone from James Lee Burke to Shea Serrano. I also really love to read sports books that take you behind the scenes, like Jim Bouton’s Ball Four.

Where can we learn more about your work?

Check out my website: Jon Robinson Books

On Goodreads: Jon Robinson (Author of NXT) | Goodreads

You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram @Jrobandsteal

Amazon Author Page:

Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk is available in paperback and Kindle, and available almost anywhere from #BlackRoseWriting. It’s an American Book Festival Finalist for Best Horror of 2020. “If Raymond Chandler wrote about werewolves.”