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What is the favorite book you remember as a child?
That depends on what age we are talking about. If you mean, Dad reading me a story before bed - The Cat in the Hat. I was a mischievous kid, and I dug the whole idea of The Cat in the Hat breaking all of Mom and Dad’s rules – and getting away with it.
A little later, in my teenage years, I carried around a copy of Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Weis and Hickman) like a security blanket. Even when I ran away from home and lived in the woods (true story) it came with me. I have no idea how many times I read that book. I used to have my favorite sections dog-eared and would just read them over and over. It was my first real love in terms of Fantasy novels. Dragonlance is my standard for what fantasy should be. At the time, I had no idea I would ever become a writer, but looking back, it had a lot to do with the decision.
What is your favorite book today?
The Soulforge, by Margaret Weis. Yup, more Dragonlance. The Soulforge came out in 1998, but it still holds my #1 spot. If you’re a fan of Dragonlance, how can you not love the Raistlin origin story? Whenever I introduce someone to Dragonlance, I give them my old beat-up hard cover of The Soulforge like it’s a holy artifact and say, “Start here, at the beginning. You’re welcome.”
Tell us about your current book in 10 words.
Armed only with faith, Ayla leads a revolution against minotaurs.
What are you reading right now?
Im actually beta-reading a fantasy humor book by DC Fergerson called The Singer and the Charlatan. It’s irreverent and clever comedy with a hint of the dark. It takes place in a different part of the same world as Dark Communion, but are two totally unrelated stories. DC Fergerson is actually one of the editors of Dark Communion and has been my brother-in-law for the past 14 years. The great thing about his writing is the dialogue. It makes each one of his characters unique, and utterly hilarious whether they mean to be or not. It comes out early to mid-2017.
What books do you have on hold at the library?
I hate to admit it, but I haven’t been to a real library in about five years. I mean, I carry one around in my pocket every day, so there isn’t much motivation to drive out there. I still love the library though, even if only in my memory. I have Kindle Unlimited, and kinda dig the convenience of it. But my “to read” list for this week and next week is:
Stone Heart, by Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps (Book 3 of the Heart of the Staff Series.)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (My wife got the hardcover for our collection)
Beta-read Livelihood, by Lindsey Williams. (Sequel to Motherhood)
I wish I had time to read more, but with the Kickstarter (for Dark Communion), Dark Communion’s impending release, the audio book production, getting back to my blog, and building a social media platform – my head is spinning too fast to do more.
E-Reader or print? and why?
Both. When I’m looking for a new series or a new author to read I turn to downloads. I don’t have time anymore to peruse the bookstore. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE bookstores and if I’m at the mall for the second time in a decade I will spend an hour reading the first few pages of a bunch of books in the fantasy section. But I’m on the toilet a bit more often, and multitasking saves time. (I have lost a cellphone or two that way though.) If I find an author or series that’s appealing, I download it. If I REALLY like it, I will buy a physical copy of the next book. Then if I REALLY REALLY like it, I will get a hardcovers of the whole series for my shelf.
Dog-ear or bookmark? (don't worry—Librarian Judith won't hold it against you—much)
Depends on the book. If it is a beautiful hardcover, I use a bookmark or just remember the page number. If it’s a paperback… good lord… the dog-ears in some of my paperbacks have dog-ears.
Favorite book you've read this year?
Motherhood, by Lindsey Williams. Her clean, direct, and fearless writing style is why I begged her to be a beta reader and later, my editor. It’s a sci-fi alien abduction story – which normally I am not into. She asked me for a review on my sad little blog and I hesitantly agreed. But once I sat down and started reading, I finished it in one sitting. That’s not something that happens to me too often. I highly recommend it, even if you aren’t typically a sci-fi reader.
The easiest answer is Fantasy. It’s the majority of what I read. But before Margaret Weis and Dragonlance came Stephen King. I read Pet Cemetery way too young and it scared me to the point of begging for a nightlight in my room again. (I had a little brother down the hall, the same age as Gage and I had nightmares about him coming in my room and cutting my Achilles tendon from under the bed.) I LOVED it and turned into a huge King fan. I read everything by him, and then even experimented with Dean Koontz. (Not a fan) I like being scared out of my wits, so horror is a real passion of mine. Unfortunately, I have not read a horror novel that has scared me in a very long time. (And Ive read many) I think it could be my age or a level of desensitization due to reading books so analytically now. (Writing changes you) But it is that horror influence at a young age that colors a lot of what I write.
Do you loan your books?
I believe in sharing. I preach it to my kids, and practice it in life. Also, it gives me and friends something new to talk about and enjoy together. You can recommend a book 100 times, but they may not remember or bother to pick it up. Lend someone a book, and the chances go up that tomorrow at school or work you’ll be talking about your favorite moments from the early chapters and trying not to let a spoiler slip. (Isn't fighting to keep quiet about the spoilers and dropping hints part of the fun?)
Ayla lifted the woman’s chin with her finger. “What is your name?”
“How far along are you?” They both knew what she really asked; are you carrying a calf?
The woman met Ayla’s eyes and did not look away.
Ayla’s heart ached with pity. Judging by the size of her womb, if she had carried a human child, she would only have two months to go. Horses clopped up the drawbridge until the other wagon stopped behind the first. The people on the back leaned to see what went on up ahead. Ayla knelt down in front of the pregnant woman on the cool stone of the gatehouse.
Her voice echoed off the stone walls. “Who is this man with you?”
The woman bowed her head. “My brother, Gaelan, milady.”
Butch’s chest rumbled. “It’s Priestess.”
The woman looked up, then back down and hurried to correct herself. “He’s my brother, Priestess.”
Ayla shook her head at Butch with a stern look and he dipped his head in silent apology. She lifted the woman’s chin again. Her voice kept the compassion it had before, but with an edge.
“You are too far along for any surgeon to help you.”
“I know, Priestess. That’s not why I came.” The pregnant woman’s green eyes held Ayla’s gaze and did not waiver. She set her jaw. “I want to fight.”
My deep and abiding love of fantasy began when I was six when I first saw the 1981 film Dragonslayer on VHS with my father. He loved fantasy movies too, but didn’t have the courage to be a dork about it like I did. That movie was a gateway drug that led me straight to the hard stuff - CS Lewis. I was far too young for such potency but by the time I was ten I had read the whole series. That’s when I found my first Dungeons and Dragons group. When I started playing, my friends and I used pre-made campaign settings and published adventures, but I quickly grew restless with their limitations and trite story lines. I needed my own persistent world: something adaptable to my whim and that no one else owned.
Back in my day, there was no internet, so I took out every book about castles and medieval history from the school library and read them in Math class (I'm still terrible at math as a result). I came up with an entire world and brand new history. I read books on cartography and hand drew maps of my new world. I created a cosmology, a hierarchy of gods, and the tenets of their religions. I read the Dungeon Master's guide a dozen times, and every fantasy novel I could get my hands on.
Then, one day, I sat down and told my friends, "Hey guys, wanna try my story instead?"
Even 15 years after the original D&D campaigns ended, former players tell me that they share our incredible stories with their children. I'm honored to say that most of those players still have their original character sheets 16-20 years later, and a couple have even named their children after them.
Now, I'm 39 years old and a loving father of 2 girls, and I still play those games on occasion. My passion has evolved into putting those ideas and amazing stories on paper for the whole world to enjoy. My first novel took me and co-author DC Fergerson 10 years to write and topped out at 180,000 words. Being too long and too complex, I finally ended the project and took its lessons to heart.
I learned that Dungeons & Dragons did not translate well into a novel. D&D made for great times, but also for some meandering plot lines, pointless encounters, and poor character motivations. No matter how memorable some of the moments were, if I wanted anyone to read my story, I needed to learn a lot more about writing.
I threw myself into being a full time student of novel crafting. I read every book on writing by Dwight Swain I could find. I paid Chuck Sambuchino (Editor for Writer's Digest) to critique and edit my older work. I took James Patterson's Masterclass, went to college, and joined online writing communities. All the while, I read my favorite fantasy novels again, only this time with a mental highlighter. I reworked my stories, outlined them, and decided to start from the beginning. Many, many years later, I am in the final edit and proofreading stage of Dark Communion, the first installment of the Shadowalker Chronicles. My role as a father of two girls heavily influenced the characters I’d known for over 20 years, shaping them into women that my own daughters could respect. My characters took on a depth and quality that brings them off the page and into the minds of readers, because they have become all too real. I was privileged enough to work on two careers at the same time to accomplish this feat - a fun-loving and involved stay-at-home dad, and a full time writer.
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