Interview with Jonathan D Allen

Jonathan-D-Allen-300x250Tell us about your publishing journey…

I’ve written fiction for more than 25 years but didn’t feel my skills had reached a point worth pursuing publication until 2011. Once I did decide to get serious I found myself writing a series that crossed genre boundaries, posing a difficult sell. I had to write the novel, though, so I finished it, polished it, and submitted it to an open call for submissions with Angry Robot books. I got to the second round, which involved sending my whole novel. While the publisher ultimately passed, it gave me the courage to submit with agents in New York. Most liked it, but it didn’t work for their vision or they didn’t know how to market it.

One agent, though, took the time to explain why he passed, saying he had trouble connecting with the main character. After a day of moping I grabbed that advice and began a total rewrite of the novel. The rewrite took six months, and during that time I read more about self-publishing and the shifting publication market. It seemed a no-brainer to go indie once I had the final version of the novel in hand, figuring the whole thing a little too niche to catch on with a publisher. I’ve self-published two more books since then and intended to stay indie, but my muse delivered the ideas for a series of literary novels last year and I’m going to give traditional publishing one more shot. At least the Among the Dead series will remain indie. Past that, I can’t say.

What do you love about being an author?

The characters! I’m all about characters. Don’t get me wrong, situations can be interesting, and I enjoy scenarios that are like puzzles, difficult to solve but rewarding in the end. Still, I keep coming back to those crazy, weird characters. There’s nothing like connecting with a good character and telling his or her unique story. They are the reason I keep on writing.

If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?

Dean Moriarty from On the Road (who just so happens to be based on real-life Neal Cassady). I would love to pick the guy’s brain about his exploits and better understand his philosophy – or lack thereof. I’m guessing we would stop at a neighbourhood pizza joint for some beer.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?Pathways-Of-The-Dead-Cover-200x300

Noomi Rapace is the only choice to play Matty, as Matty’s look is based on her portrayal of Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For Kristy, I wish I could go back in time and get a younger Kristen Bell, you know, from when Veronica Mars began? Tommy is tough, since he looks like a kid, but Fabrizio Guido looks the part. Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi would play Omarosa, sort of a Middle Eastern Ellen Ripley. Grabbe could only be portrayed by Jason Alexander – the guy is a clone. Jazshael would be the most difficult, as he’s very unique, with white skin, white hair, and a crazed demeanor. I wish I could get Heath Ledger.

It’s Valentines Day – Lovely excuse to show someone you care, or commercial nonsense designed to suck money from your pockets?

Oh, both. No doubt companies created the holiday, but you can still use it as an excuse to show love to your significant other. I find any excuse works, but Valentine’s Day provides a pretext to get more dramatic. I am, however, a romantic at heart.

If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?

Waaaay back, about 10,000 BC. I’m an ancient history buff and wonder if any major cultures/civilizations predate the Fertile Crescent. Highly unlikely, but I do wonder if shifting plate tectonics or some major upheaval has hidden a revelation from us. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.

What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?

Sometimes love isn’t enough. I never would have listened, but I could have avoided a great deal of heartache and wasted time. Of course, it provides good story fodder, so silver lining and all.

What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?

Paper Towns by John Green. I’m not really a YA reader, but this one intrigued me and read more like adult literary fiction than your standard vampire/fantasy/dystopian YA tale. For those who haven’t read it, the book is about a boy who is taken on a whirlwind trip of revenge for one night with his neighbor, a girl who he’s loved from afar for ages. She disappears afterwards and the remainder of the book is about the protagonist trying to find her, discovering that she was not what she appeared – nor is he what he thought. I’d have loved it when I was 17 or 18 and heartily recommend it even as a crusty fogey.

If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?

I’m a big fan of literary fiction and, in fact, my next work is a literary novel about a small-town dentist who happens to be a sex addict. The story runs in two time periods, modern day and ten years ago, and shows us his early recovery and courtship with his wife and his deterioration after she dies in a tragic car accident. I love literary fiction because it attempts to stare at the world and document it as it is, capturing all our human frailties and strengths.

Where can fans find you online?

I have my own site, http://jonathandallen.com, and am also on Twitter and Facebook. I update Twitter and Facebook regularly, but am currently on a mission to update the blog on my site at least once a week with updates on what’s going on in my life as well as my fiction.

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Virtual Book Tours: To tour, or not to tour?

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Well, if you’ve been reading my blog (if you haven’t – where have you been?) you’ll have noticed that I do a lot of book reviews and author interviews. The interviews are mainly because I’m an incredibly nosy person, but the reviews tend to be either Netgalley related (If you haven’t joined yet and you love reading – what are you waiting for?) or for virtual book tour companies. I started looking at these sites when I got the release date for my own book and decided to join a few to see how they worked and which of the many companies offering this service provide the best value for money.

I must admit, I’m having quite a bit of fun doing these tours. I’ve met some truly lovely people and been introduced to some awesome authors and books – ones I’d have never found on my own. The whole thing appeals to my organised ‘anal’ side, and it doesn’t hurt to have related content almost every day for this blog.

Now, I’m not reviewing the companies who do this, but from my sidebar you can see the ones I tend to favour and I’d encourage you all to have a click through and perhaps join as a tour host or invest in a tour for your own book. And let me know your thoughts as comments on this post.

I see a number of the same authors out there who are dedicated to using these services and repeat business must hopefully mean they’re seeing fairly decent results in the interest levels in their books. The basic equation here is that bloggers have followers, and followers might buy your book.

Most tour companies will offer a service that includes: reviews, interviews, spotlights, and guest posts. You can pick and choose from this menu, but I’d advise you to go ‘tapas style’ on it and try a bit of each to see what you like the most. Reviews can be the scariest of all, what happens if a blogger hates your book? To be honest, this is a natural part of being an author anyway – not everyone will like your work – accept that, move on, suck it up… Do you like everything you read? No. I certainly don’t. But did bad reviews hurt ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’? No, it unfortunately did not!

With more and more books being released it can be hard to get yours to the front of the reading pile. And this isn’t all down to your publishers either; as a modern author part of the job is keeping social and having a decent online presence. Whether you like it or not, we are living in an increasingly digital world and blanking it is not just rude but utterly career stunting. Authors need to get their work out there, and yes this can be time consuming – so virtual book tour companies could be a clever solution for you to do just that whilst keeping your precious time on the thing you actually want to do – going down the pub, oh wait I mean write!

Book Review: The Siren’s Tale by Anne Carlisle

The-Sirens-Tale-Cover-200x300Synopsis:

Cassandra, a smart siren in human form, can have any man she wants. So long as she wants him dead. Told in part by the ghost of the main character, the story follows Cassandra’s headlong pursuit of passion in the hinterlands of the Old West, where she comes into conflict with a powerful curse, which passes down the generations.

Cassandra has phenomenal success in the silent film industry in California, but troubles remain. Her demon grandson is headed to Wyoming to wreak revenge for his father, the bastard son she abandoned. And the family is threatened by extinction, unless the youngest carries her illegitimate pregnancy to term.

Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Lazy Day Publishing – All Romance Ebooks
Add The Siren’s Tale to your Goodreads list!

About the Author: Anne-Carlisle-300x225

Anne Carlisle, Ph. D., is a professor of writing and an award-winning writer. The Siren’s Tale is her most recent release, from LazyDay Publishing (June, 2013), available in ebook on Amazon, B&N, and ARE. It is the second novel in her Home Schooling series, literary/commercial fiction for paranormal-romance readers and New Adults. The series of stand-alone novels feature the exploits of lustful sirens in human form as they emerge into adulthood, spin their webs, and struggle with a family curse. Carlisle holds a doctorate in 19th Century British Literature from Case Western Reserve University. Currently Professor and Course Chair at the University of Maryland, she teaches college writing worldwide to U.S. military students. Formerly, while working as a newspaper columnist, magazine editor, and theatre reviewer, she authored a book on writing, wrote hundreds of articles, and was awarded prizes by the ANPA and the National Writer’s Club. She also served as a dean for Golden Gate University in San Francisco. She works from her homes in Seattle, Key West, and Wilmington, NC.

Website – Blog –  Twitter – Facebook – Goodreads

My Review:

I really loved the idea of a story about Sirens. Although I hadn’t read the first book in the series, it was pretty clear that you didn’t need to.

The story is told, not really through the eyes of one character but as a kind of story-telling in itself to another character, a kind of relaying if you will – which although is a brilliantly new concept, was kind of lacking for me. I couldn’t feel much emotion about what was going on and it felt as though the whole book was one long info dump, which I personally don’t like. I think the key to a good book is a great storyline, and for a great book, it’s unravelling that storyline without the reader even noticing that that is what you’re doing – this had a great plot, but for me was delivered in a less than ideal manner.

From a writer’s perspective I have to give props to the author for at least trying something new. Just for me, it didn’t work and I kind of found myself skipping certain parts – which is not a a good reader trait. The love scenes were a little bland, which was a shame as the sexual aspect of Sirens is one of their more favourable traits for an author to play with.

There had been a lot of research done about the place and time period which was good and helped to add some scene setting.

The front cover doesn’t really explain much about the book, but it is pretty and quite frankly I’ve seen worse.

Overall I’d give The Siren’s Tale (#2) 3 out of 5 stars. An interesting way of writing a novel.

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Book Review: Tangled Souls by Jana Oliver

Tangled-Souls-Cover-200x300Synopsis:

Wiccan Gavenia Kingsgrave’s psychic gift, the ability to talk to the dead, comes with strings attached. As a Shepherd, she escorts them into the hereafter, but not all the souls want to cross over, and some can be downright vicious. When her latest case involves a heart-breaking hit-and-run victim, Gavenia is stressed to the max. The last thing she needs is a no-nonsense private detective on her tail, even if he is a handsome Irishman.

Former homicide detective Douglas O’Fallon possesses his own psychic gift, one he’s denied for years. Hired by a wealthy client to prove that Gavenia’s a con artist, he is skeptical of the witch’s claims she can speak to the dead. If he finds her gift is genuine, then he will be forced to accept his own. When their two cases intersect, opposites attract. But will they be able to set their differences aside long enough to outwit their foes – both the living and the dead?

About the Author.Jana-Oliver-235x300

Jana Oliver has the perfect job—she listens to the voices in her head and then writes their stories. Her latest creation, BRIAR ROSE, is a dark steampunk retelling of Sleeping Beauty, complete with Hoodoo, a vengeful Civil War ghost, and metal magic (Sept. 2013 Macmillan Children’s Books). In Jana’s young adult DEMON TRAPPERSSeries, Riley Blackthorne, Atlanta’s first girl Demon Trapper, takes on a host of Hellspawn and their diabolical masters. This award-winning series has spread across the globe, with editions in ten countries. Jana’s foray into time travel and alternate history resulted in the Time Rovers Series. Set in 1888 London, the series deftly blends time travel, shape-shifters and Jack the Ripper. The trilogy received twelve awards, including the Prism Award for Time Travel and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense. When she’s not daydreaming, she can be found savoring a growing collection of single malt scotch and old books. Visitors are always welcome at her website: www.JanaOliver.com

Website –  Twitter – Facebook – Pinterest

My Review:

It was a bit confusing as a story and, after finishing it, I still have a few unanswered questions – but hey that’s why its adult urban fantasy – not everything is wrapped up in a neat shiny bow when you get past your teens. It definitely had the feel of an almost Film Noir detective novel and perhaps would have been better set back in the 1920s. The love story was very believable and kind of sweet to see two very dark, broken souls come together.

From a writer’s perspective it was a great plotted mystery and the two characters were well defined. For me, it could have been a bit more action heavy. It was very slow going. After reading the history of the book I noted that Jana Oliver had been working on it for several years and that could have been the issue. The longer you cook a manuscript the more themes, facets and connecting scenes end up in there.

I do love the front cover – very pretty indeed. If I could change it, I’d add O’Fallon in there too – as he is just as much a part of the story as Gavenia, as its told through both of their eyes.

Overall I’d give Tangled Souls 3 out of 5 stars – a great example of an supernatural mystery with a healthy dollop of romance.

Amazon US – Amazon UK – Barnes & Noble

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Book Review: Shadow Embraced by Cheree Smith

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Synopsis:

No escape.

Those words haunt Scar’s dreams. She thinks the creature that terrorises her while asleep isn’t real, but when she’s abducted and taken to a reform school meant to contain creatures too dangerous to function in society, she starts to wonder whether she isn’t some monster.

She turns to an underground fight club full of vampires, werewolves and witches established by the students to control her urges, and who is she kidding, she loves to fight.

When fighters begin to disappear, turning Scar into the prime suspect, she must race to prove her innocence before her true nature is exposed.

The only problem is that she’s not entirely sure she’s innocent.

About Cheree SmithCheree-Smith-225x300

Cheree Smith lives in a country town in Australia as a high school English teacher where she writes paranormal, horror and dark stories for young adults. She enjoys listening to and learning about legends and myths, watching scary movies and dreaming up new worlds where monsters can come alive. When she is not in her writing cave she can be found listening to music, even dabbling in the occasional writing of music or reading.

Website –  Blog – Twitter – Facebook – Goodreads

My Review:

Shadow Embraced is a kind of Harry Potter meets Twilight, and although there’s nothing really new here, in terms of story line, it’s still a great read – especially if you’re a Twilight fan.

From a writer’s perspective the whole book is written first person present tense, which is really hard to maintain – so my hat is off to Cheree for doing this – keeping it present tense is a great way of cranking up the tension and keeping the reader in the moment. There were a few mistakes in there – but I’m assuming that’s because I had a galley copy rather than the finished manuscript.

The whole story was interesting and it encapsulates the whole supernatural world nicely. It was written exceptionally well and the plot was thought out – which is always a tick in my book as, with paranormal stories, it’s all too easy to simply rely on that aspect to make your work interesting.

Scar was a a slight let down as a character – she’s kind of two dimensional and the only interesting part of her is that she is a Dhampire. But, in her defense, it’s kind of a hard thing to find out – so perhaps she would be all-consumed by that and not much else.

I’d give Shadow Embraced 4 stars out 5 as I really loved the Twilight books and, in the absence of any new ones coming out any time soon – this really filled a gap.

Link through here for a competition

Link through here for a competition