Checking In on Daven Anderson

daven2016

I met my friend and fellow author Daven Anderson when I was first signed to a publishing contract with PDMI Publishing.  Daven was already among the stable of PDMI’s authors, and, since he’s a personable guy and we both write in the same general areas of science fiction and horror, he and I hit it off quickly.  His “Vampire Syndrome”, first in the saga of the same name, is a masterful and innovative variation on the ageless idea of vampires, featuring a protagonist named Jack Wendell, who I can just about guarantee is the only vampire with Down’s Syndrome you’ve ever encountered. I’ve had some good conversations with Daven at book signings and particularly at the Birmingham Local Author Expo and Book Fair in Birmingham, Alabama, home to the historic Tutwiler Hotel, which Daven and I both share a fondness for.  But enough small talk—Daven’s here.

 

CG: It’s been a little while since we sat down for a chat, and while I wish this was the Tutwiler Hotel, we’ll have to settle for a blog.  So, tell me a little bit about what’s been going on for you in the past year?
DA: I left the day job I held for 26 years, and started a new one. I embarked on a major upgrade and restoration project for my 1960 Plymouth station wagon. I helped transition my 92 year old grandmother to assisted living. Each of these three events constitute more transition in and of themselves, than I’ve had to deal with for many years.

 

CG: What projects are you currently working on, writing-wise?

DA: “Vampire Invasion”, the concluding volume of the Vampire Syndrome trilogy. From there, I can build on the Vampire Syndrome universe as I please. For instance, the main trilogy never touches on the existence of werewolves, and I have that outlined as a self-contained story. I’m also outlining a story about a young man who lives on a planet where the population is 92% female.
 

CG: As authors, we are always influenced by things that go on in our lives. We touched on part of this in the first question. Have you done anything really fun, or learned anything new and interesting in the past year?

DA: I finally solved a decades-old mystery this year. When I was little, my great-grandmother said “If the world’s ending, head for Shamballa.” In this case, “Shamballa” being the small mountain town southwest of Sedalia, Colorado.
Adult me, when driving through Shamballa, had always thought it odd that my great-grandma thought this nondescript mountain town would survive the end of the world.
It turns out that the town was founded in 1953 as the Shamballa Ashrama ‘survivalist’ compound, by metaphysicist/occultist Dr. Maurice Doreal.  The compound’s underground cave complex is, of course, not visible from a casual ‘drive-by’ inspection.
It was intended that the residents of the hundred-odd homes in the compound could take quick refuge in the (naturally lead-lined) cave in the event of a nuclear attack sometime around “the year of the Avatar, 1956.”
In the October 1946 issue of “Amazing Stories” sci-fi magazine, Dr. Doreal stated in a published letter that he was moving from central Denver to rural Colorado to wait out the coming nuclear holocaust.  That same year, he told the Rocky Mountain News that he had foreseen the advent of harnessed atomic energy, years before it became public knowledge, during a visit with the (predecessor of the current) Dalai Lama in Tibet.
The compound complex remains closed to outsiders today. It is rumored that Maurice and Sonya Doreal’s vast library of science fiction books (over 30,000 books as of the early 1950’s) remains intact in the complex.

 

CG: What’s the latest book you’ve read?  Movie you’ve seen?  Do you still find yourself challenged or inspired by things you see , read or hear in the arts?  How, if at all, has this changed since you first thought, “I could write a vampire novel”?

“Auto Biography” by Richard Harris, a masterful fictional recounting of the 57-year life of a 1957 Chevy station wagon, through the eyes of its owners. With its present (2014) owner, outlaw felon Tommy Arney, attempting to finish restoring the car and tracing its owner lineage before the FBI closes in on him. The car’s ‘descent’ from the sunny optimism of 1957 to its current dark, decrepit world is an obvious but very enjoyable metaphor.

 

CG: I know that you’ve been involved in writing groups in your local area, and I’ve done a bit of this myself, in Knoxville and online.  How do you feel writing groups help beginning writers, or even established ones?  In what way can they be a hindrance?

DA: The goal of critique groups is to get to “the level”.  Almost no one is at “the level” right out of the gate, so you benefit from the sage observations of those who are, or are close to, “the level”. Once you get to “the level”, their input can become detrimental, the work will become over-analyzed, and that’s when you have to move on.

 

CG: I personally feel like I grow as an author with each new book I write.  I hope my readers feel Annah’s Exile is a step forward from Annah.  How do you feel Vampire Conspiracy reflects a growth in your ability and craft as an author?

DA: Sex, specifically the depictions thereof. Jack doesn’t hook up with his girlfriend in Book One (although the relationship is gradually building during the course of events), because I didn’t want the “love story” to be the main focus. Yet, I also wanted to show that a person with Down Syndrome can have a romantic relationship with a “regular” person. So, Book Two, we have the “hookup” and Jack losing his virginity.

In my universe, the first Human Vampires were created 25,000 years ago, after an exploration vessel from planet Sek’Met crashed on Earth. Since vampirism is transmitted via semen or vaginal fluid, this means the first humans who became Human Vampires had sexual intercourse with said aliens. And when those aliens are super-lethal carnivores who resemble the Nosferatu appearance archetype, one might wonder how a human could possibly find one of the aliens attractive, let alone have sex with them. The best way to answer this was, of course, to have one of my characters have a sex scene with an alien, and the character’s inner monologue during the intercourse makes it clear the experience was as erotic for this character as it was terrifying.
CG: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Portals and Pathways readers?

DA: Our books (your “Annah: Children of Evohe”, and my “Vampire Syndrome”) are recent additions to Wal-Mart’s inventory.
Of course I am overjoyed at this turn of events, but it does also highlight another thing I never would have expected.
I think I can speak for you, me, and every other PDMI author when I state that one of the most important reasons why I chose to sign with PDMI, versus self-publishing my work, was to have print versions of my work be available for purchase.
In my case, I always dreamed of having my book carried in a certain ‘mom-and-pop’ bookstore in Denver (known for their large selection of vintage books). When I inquired about consignment as a local author, the owner informed me she was shutting down the store’s local author section.
The only new books that store now carries are all titles from the “Big Five” major New York publishing houses.
This was hardly the outcome I envisioned years ago when I first signed with PDMI, that my once-favorite “hole-in-the-wall” store would not carry my novel, but Books-A-Million and Wal-Mart do.
No matter how big PDMI’s distribution may get, or however many books of mine sell, it’s still bittersweet that my initial dream (to be stocked in my once-favorite small bookstore) never came to fruition. A metaphor for how books matter more than money.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Jack-Wendell-s-Vampire-Syndrome-Book-1-in-the-Vampire-Syndrome-Saga/53628570

 

CG: Thanks for chatting, Daven!  It’s always a pleasure, my friend.

DA: You’re welcome, Clay.

A Conversation with C.F. Waller

 

 

I first made the acquaintance of Charles “C.F.” Waller when we both appeared as guests on the Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast hosted by author S. Evan Townshend.  He’s a personable and knowledgeable fellow, with a good sense of humor and a sharp knowledge of the craft of story. I knew then that I wanted to get ahold of him for a chat here on Portals, and he was kind enough to oblige me.  Waller is the author of six books, most recently a novel called Tourists of the Apocalypse, published in April of this year.

 

CG: Charles, I greatly enjoyed appearing on the Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast with you back in May.  Since I’ve never featured you on Portals and Pathways before, tell our readers a little bit about what inspired you to become an author, the particular genres that inspire you, and one or two authors who are favorites of yours.

CFW: Michael Crichton is my favorite modern day author (Jurassic Park, The Terminal Man, Prey), although he recently died very young.  I adore Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Grey, Henry James The Aspern Papers, James Joyce’s The Dead or anything by Dashiell Hammett.

I started writing screenplays, then realized no one would read one from a guy with no resume. With seven or eight novels published, I am starting to get some traction, but sticking to books for now.  I may or may not have a screenplay file open on my laptop somewhere, but that’s classified.

CG:  Science fiction is a genre that has been around for much longer than most people realize, I think, and shows no signs of losing its appeal.  What do you think is responsible for the ongoing appeal of SF—not only in the literary realm but in other media as well?

 

CFW: I’d like to think we crave it because of astounding advances in science that open our minds to new possibilities #OPTOMISTIC.  In truth, we are deluged with Star Trek/Star Wars/Marvel Universe movies at present.  I enjoy them, but am always looking for the small budget novel/movie with something to say.  My favorite small budget science fiction movie of all time is Primer, written, directed and starring Shane Carruth.  If you haven’t seen it plan on watching it 20 times and after the first time turn the director’s commentary on to catch up.

 

CG: As authors, we don’t write in a vacuum.  I know I always find myself inspired by the art that I’m currently experiencing. What’s the most recent book that you read and enjoyed?  Most recent film?  Piece of music?

 

CFW: I read so many pre-release (Beta version) books for other authors that I almost never read the final polished product.  The best thing I have read/seen recently was a movie/screen play by Alex Garland called Ex Machina.  I was so taken by it, I downloaded the screenplay to read.  It’s one of the most thought provoking works of the past few years.  I have watched it 20 plus times.

 

I laughed when you asked about music.  I listen to a lot of Taylor Swift.  Yes, I saw you all cringe!  #SHAKEITOFF

 

CG: What are some of your pastimes and passions outside of the world of writing?  Is there something besides being an author that you’ve thought about trying, but never have?

CFW: My wife and I play Yahtzee and watch a lot of Gordon Ramsey cooking shows.

I have had several careers along the way, but am happy to stick close to home these days.  If I could have a do-over on life, I might try running for political office although that might be a carryover from binge watching seven seasons of The West Wing recently.

 

CG: What’s your advice for any beginning writers who might read this?  Also, is there a particular book on writing that you’ve found useful?

CFW: There are a few things I wish I had understood in the beginning.

The first thing you write will be rubbish so keep writing new things and laugh about it later.

Make sure you cover is poster quality/professional and don’t publish a manuscript that’s awash in grammar errors.  It’s sad, but true that people buy with their eyes.

Don’t try and find a publisher.  Self-Publish and then write something else.  Don’t spend a year trying to promote and sell an early work.  Put it out there and move on.

You will get bad reviews.  Instead of being upset, read them and try to learn something.  If a book has all 4-5 star reviews, then only friends of the family read the book.  I cherish my 1-2 stars’ reviews as it proves that on the whole, the reviews I have are factual.

The best writing book I have found is the Fiction Writing Journal Handbook by Robin Woods and Tamar Hela.   It’s key to my writing process at the beginning.

 

 

 

CG: What projects are you currently working on?

CFW: My November release is in final edit.   It’s titled The Conduit: A Tale of Resurrection (The name tells you all you need to know).

I am working through the first draft of a Spring 2017 release.  It’s an Aeronautical themed techo-thriller.  I have been doing a lot of flying in friend’s private planes and receiving back stage tours in airports this year in preparation.  If the books as much fun to read, as the research was to do, it will be great.  It’s tentatively titled Waypoint.

 

CG: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Portals and Pathways audience?

CFW: Sure . . . Cats over Dogs, Onion Rings over Fries, Palm Trees over Evergreens and always eat a second piece of cake.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time and thought to answer these, Charles—it’s much appreciated.

 

If you’d like to read C.F. Waller’s work—and I want to read it all—you can find his Amazon page here: https://www.amazon.com/C.-F.-WALLER/e/B00CLV2CGG

His website is located here: http://www.cfwaller.com/home.html

And you can find the edition of “The Speculative Fiction Cantina” podcast, on which Charles and I were both interviewed, at this link: http://writestreamradio.com/2016/05/24/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-c-f-waller-and-clay-gilbert/

Keeping Up With Cindy Koepp

Today’s Portals and Pathways features a return visit with science-fiction novelist and editor Cindy Koepp.  Cindy’s a fascinating lady who writes fascinating stuff, and you can check out all her work at Amazon.com right here. https://www.amazon.com/Cindy-Koepp/e/B008QXR2QI

For this conversation, rather than the typical Q and A format, I used my initials, CG, for the questions, and Cindy’s initials for her replies.  Enjoy!

CG:  It’s been a while since we had a chat. What’s your year looking like? Any recent publications or current projects you’d like to tell us about?
CK :I’ve had a very busy publishing year so far.
– In January, PDMI Publishing released my science fiction novel Like Herding the Wind. WHOOT!
About that time, editing began on The Condemned Courier, a fantasy serial turned novel, also with PDMI. Yay!
– Bear Publications invited me to participate in an anthology called Victorian Venus. I contributed a steampunk (sorta) story about an Inuit dog-sledding team called “Chasing the Sun.” It should release soon. Happy Day!
– Bear Publications produced another anthology called Avatars of WebSurfer. I have 4 short stories in there: “Jewel Among the Stones,” “Interference,” “The Fall of the Invincible Man,” and “Hard Knocks.” *Round of Applause*
– Under the Moon will soon release The Loudest Actions, the sequel to my first novel Remnant in the Stars. *RAWKFIST*
– I started on the sequel to Lines of Succession, which I’m tentatively calling A Suitable Arrangement. Under the Moon published the first one, so I’m hoping they’ll go for Part 2.
Some of my editing projects have been going on, too.
– I completed edits for Lori Robbin’s Lesson Plan for Murder, which is now in Barking Rain Press’ queue to be formatted.
– I also edited Victoria Adams’ book-length analysis of the Book of Job: Why Me?
– PDMI has given me Lawayne Childrey’s book Peeling Back the Layers for editing; and Barking Rain Press gave me Sheri Levy’s Starting Over, the sequel to the MG/YA book Seven Days to Goodbye.
I feel like I’ve forgotten something, but I think that’s all of them.

CG:  The passing of time always brings new growth and new opportunities for people, especially writers. How have you grown the most as a writer in the past year? What’s the most exciting new opportunity that’s come your way recently?
CK: I tried my hand at writing flash fiction. *snicker* Yeah, that didn’t work. The shortest one was still 3000 words long, but that’s about 3000 words shorter than my previous shortest one. So, progress?
During the edits of The Loudest Actions, the editor at Under the Moon had me go do some research on how to show emotion and tone for characters, particularly in dialogue. I’ve now added a line to my self-editing checklist: “Watch out for Vulcans and Greek Stoics.”
The most exciting opportunity I had was an invitation to be on a podcast called Lasers, Dragons, and Keyboards. I’ve done these blog interview kinds of things but never anything like that before.
Another exciting opportunity coming soon: A book signing at a Barnes and Noble near where I live.
An exciting editorial opportunity was starting my own freelance editing service: Time Koepp.

CG : Writers grow from all sorts of things—books we read, music we listen to, people we meet. Have you read anything good recently? Listened to any new favorite music? What other things do you find inspiring you these days?
CK:  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much of a chance to read for fun, and I only listen to music on road trips. I don’t go to movies in theatres very often these days because so many of them use flashing light special effects.
The vast majority of my reading has been from either my editing projects or doing research for my writing projects. The only music I’ve listened to lately was the soundtrack for Les Miserables and a Kansas album Somewhere to Elsewhere while road tripping to and from my parents’ place.
People often speak of things that inspire them to write or make other art, but I don’t know if I can identify anything that consistently generates ideas for me. Sometimes Scripture, sometimes a movie or old TV show I have on disc, and sometimes the ideas pop into my brain without a return address.

CG:  One of the things I enjoy personally about your work, Cindy, is that many of your stories deal with people learning to get along—humans and aliens, aliens and aliens, and humans and other humans. What do you think is the most important thing about getting along with others?

CK: When learning to get along with someone else, we need to avoid two very common pastimes: conclusion-jumping and keyword-listening.
For example, I’m a white, conservative, Christian (Southern Baptist, at the moment), 40-something, Texan female. This does not mean I hate homosexuals, despise the poor, whack people upside the head with my Bible, try to drag people to a baptistery, go hunting, or own a horse. In fact, none of those things are true, but different people have jumped to each of those conclusions.
Listening for keywords and jumping to the conclusions are often done to save time in our busy day. Arriving at the conclusion that I must be a deadly shot with a pistol because I live in Texas spares the listener the time it would take to find out if I actually own one. The problem comes when misconceptions develop.
The only real barrier to truth is the assumption we already have it. If we think we already know what we need to know about someone, we’re not very likely to pay attention to what really is true. Instead of assuming something is true, take the time to get to know the person. You might be surprised.

CG:  Anything else you’d like to say to our Portals and Pathways readers?

CK: As violence escalates between racial lines, class lines, and even job descriptions, more than ever, we need to listen carefully and demonstrate love for others. Remember, love is a verb, not an emotion. It’s a choice to put the needs of others first. The first step is listening, really paying attention to what other people have to say.
Truly loving someone doesn’t mean we must necessarily agree on everything. “I disagree with you” is not synonymous with “I hate you.”
Y’all stay safe out there!

CG: Thanks so much for being my guest!
:CK: Thanks for letting me come play again.