Interview with Richard C. White about his new book Harbinger Of Darkness!

Some of you may remember way back before #Writober  started, I asked What are you planning for #Writober? Back then, a million years ago, I mentioned that I planned to do Readers Imbibing Peril XII’s Peril in the First. I listed the books I planned on reading and half of those have changed, but I also mentioned a surprise. Here is that surprise. I was given a copy of Harbinger of Darkness by Richard C. White in exchange for a review. He also agreed to an interview. Imbibing So Much Peril!

My Review

 

four stars

The cover of Harbinger Of Darkness by Richard C. WhiteThough I’m not usually a kings and princes, guilds and taverns kind of reader, I enjoyed many things about this novel. I especially enjoyed the strong female protagonist. Perrin, by day, working in her father’s bookshop, uses a charm to change her appearance and becomes Raven, by night, master thief who doesn’t play by the rules. I was pulled into her world through visual description and quick-moving action scenes. I also enjoyed the crisp, natural dialogue.

There were some areas of the novel that I felt dragged slightly. Though there was a rich, layered story being told, I sometimes thought it could be told with fewer words. There were a few times I worried the story would turn to fairy tale stereotypes, but the story took a creative turn and rewarded me for my continued reading.

Harbinger of Darkness is a visceral adventure through a world of magic with well-developed characters, dynamic dialogue and a good dose of two-handed sword fights.

Interview with Richard C. White

Reading your bio at the end of Harbinger of Darkness, was fascinating. You have a career with a defense contractor and you write novels? Can you tell us about a day in the life?

Im a technical writer, by trade, so as I like to describe my life as six weeks of boredom followed by two weeks of panic. Most of the projects I work on are what we call eight-week spins, so for six weeks, theres not much for me to do while the developers and programmers work on their projects. However, once the code goes final, I have one week to write the users manual, update the technical manual, review and update the requirements spreadsheet, and write the change sheet. Once thats all done, then I have to get the government lead to review and approve my documents before the end of the second week, so we can release on time.

I try not to let that six-week slack period go to waste though. Most of the time, Ive been able to work on my latest story while Im on the slow part of the spin. Ive been able to sell my project managers that Im getting in typing practice. Generally, theyve been cool about it though – as long as I am at my desk, answer my phone/email, and help out when needed, etc. – its sort of like being on-call.

Most of my writing is done at home though. I try to carve out an hour or two before bed for writing, but that doesnt happen all the time. Getting a chance to spend time with friends and family is pretty darn important for physical and mental health.

One of my favorite writing exercises is going on writing walkabouts on the weekend. Ill take a Saturday or Sunday and go out and do an hour or two of writing at a coffee shop, then walk to the park and write, then hit a restaurant to write/eat, then maybe a local pub or a bookstore and write some more. The object of a walkabout is getting outside of the house to write, but not abusing a businesss hospitality. If I hit a coffee shop, I only stay a while and I order somethingsame for a restaurant, pub, bookstore, etc.. Im not there just to leach their electricity or wi-fi.

So, between working in some writing at work, in the evenings at home and on the weekends, I manage to balance family, work, and my writing. I wish I could say I was one of those who wrote every day, but I do what I can. Maybe after I retire, Ill consider trying to write full-time, but I dont see it happening anytime soon.

I would see the Star Trek and Star Wars book titles on the bookstore shelves and assume they were books that rehashed the scripts. I only learned about the media tie-in genre this past summer, but you’ve lived it. What, to you, is the purpose/joy of media tie-in and what’s it like to write for licensed media?

There are a number of different types of media tie-in stories. Some are novelizations of an existing property, say, Star Wars. There you take the movie and expand on it. A movie script would probably make a long novella, so to get 80-100,000 words for the novel, you get to go into descriptions, what the characters were thinking in certain scenes, what might have been happening right off screen, or how did that character we last saw on this planet manage to get to the other planet in the nick of time? Novelizations are a way to linger over a movie/tv show/game and fill in a few blanks.

Other media tie-ins are original stories set in the established universe. Now the authors get to maybe go back and revisit characters who only appeared in say one episode of Doctor WHO or NCIS and maybe instead of them being just a walk-on, now we get to do an entire story about them. Sometimes, we can tell stories of what happened between two episodes or even two seasons of a show to cover what happened to the characters (provided the season didnt end on a cliff-hanger). Other times, we come up with completely unique stories about charactersperhaps we tell the story of what they did before they came onto the show or if theyve left the show, perhaps we do a reunion story, to catch the fans up on whats happened to this or that person.

However, writing media tie-in stories has its own unique pitfalls. First of all, most people dont get to start off writing media works. You cant just write a Supernatural novel and send it to the publisher and hope theyll pick it up. Most of the authors you see whore writing media tie-in have been approached by an editor and asked to pitch something. Studios are very protective of their properties, so for the editor to sell you as the author, they like to be able to point to something youve already done to prove you have some writing chops.

So, if you get the opportunity to write something, then you get to do the tie-in dance. First off, the editor gives you your right and left boundaries, a.k.a., the licensor is looking for a story about X and Y, but dont go into Z or U. Why? They may or may not tell you, but the licensor is the final approver, so learn to keep them happy. Then the writer comes up with two or three plot pitches, which have to be approved by the editor and then the licensor. Once they decide which they like best, then you do a synopsis or perhaps a chapter breakdown and again the editor and then the licensor have to approve them. Finally, you get to write the short story, novella, or novel. And again, it goes through the editor and the licensor.

At any time in this process, the licensor can go, Nope, thats not working, and thats it. Hopefully, your editor can smooth thing over or help you come up with a way to mollify the licensor, but if they say no, then your story is dead. And I mean dead, since youre using their characters, theres no where else to sell that story. Sure, I guess you could try to file the serial numbers off the story and change it enough to make it your own, but in that case, why not just write a new story?

What inspired you to write Harbinger of Darkness?

Its hard to say what was the initial inspiration for Harbinger, but I can definitely trace some of its literary roots to stories like the Scarlet Pimpernel, Batman, Zorro, and the Green Hornet. However, I wanted to make the main character a bit more human. Perrin isnt necessarily out to right great wrongs or even make the city safer, although, she winds up setting herself against some of the greater criminals in her own citybut for her own personal reasons. Instead, this is about someone who feels trapped by circumstances and she is forced to take what some would call drastic actions to free herself and be able to follow her own dreams in the end.

I also wanted to try and determine for myself if I could write a story about a nocturnal character who a) is not independently wealthy, so they must maintain their secrets while holding down a regular job and b) must keep their secret identity from their own family – no faithful Diegos or Alfreds for Perrin. It was fun to take the trope of the costumed crime-fighter and morph it into what I wanted for this story. Hopefully, Ive succeeded.

Halloween’s coming up, do you have a favorite horror author/novel?

I have to admit, I like dark fantasy, but Im not much into modern horror. That being said, I do enjoy the Saga of Pandora Zwieeck series by Steve Roman. Even if Steve wasnt my publisher, he does write a damn good yarn with this series. Im constantly nagging him to put out the third book so I can find out how this first arc is going to end.

I did enjoy earlier Steven King The Shining, Carrie, Firestarter, and I remember making the classic mistake of trying to read The Exorcist at midnight when I was 12(ish). Not great for sleeping, let me tell you.

What’s your favorite scary movie?

Alien. Far and away, one of the most intense horror movies that I can remember, It was marketed as a Science Fiction movie, but it was a classic locked-house monster movie. Others I really enjoyed over the years were Jaws, Psycho (1960), The Birds, Cat People, An American Werewolf In London, and for a touch of comedy, Young Frankenstein and Abbot and Costello Meet the Wolfman.

What’s your biggest fear? Do you think it’s rational or irrational?

My biggest fear? Spiders, and of course, its irrational. Obviously, Im thousands of times larger than they are, but I dont like them, never have, and suspect I never will.

Which dictionary do you use?

My go-to dictionary is the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, ©1964, that I was given when I was in Kindergarten, and still use to this day.

Any advice for writers who have yet to feel their novel is finished or are yet to be published?

If youre feeling like your novel isnt finished, my advice is to really think about what youre doing. Are you really doing restructuring and introducing new plots or are you simply playing with where do the commas go in other words, are you really making meaningful changers or simply procrastinating? Eventually, youre going to have to take that next step and either start writing those query letters to try and get an agent/publisher to take a look at what youve got or else start down the path to self-publishing.

A number of people I know have worked and reworked and re-reworked their novels to death because they were afraid of what someone might say or think if they read it, but writing to be published is not for the timid. After a while, youre going to have to put it out there, with the understanding that once you release it, you have no more control over your story. People may like it, they may dislike it. Odds are something you write is going to be misinterpreted (dont even get me started on literary criticism here). Some people may even be offended at what you wrote.

Dont let that fear stop you because you have NO control over it unless you never write again. Once its published, the writer part of you has to forget about it, put pen to paper, and start working on your next book. The promoter part of you may have to spend some time with making sure people know your first book exists, but thats another tale for another time. As a writer, once you say, The End, except for making corrections/edits, its on to the next story and dont look back.

Cover of Terra Incognito by Richard C. White

Richard C. White has also shared his writing wisdom in a book for writers – Terra Incognito: A Guide to Building the Worlds of Your Imagination.

You can learn more about Richard C. White and his books on his website RichardCWhite.com, his facebook page AuthorRichardCWhite, on Twitter @Nightwolfwriter and at StarWarpConcepts.com

Wanna see Richard and hear his voice? Here’s a video interview on Youtube.

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Summer Book Bingo 2: Adventures with A Good Book

In my last post, I told you about all the fun squares/book choices of the Seattle Summer Book Bingo. One of those squares said to get a recommendation from an independent bookseller, so I headed over to A Good Book in Sumner, WA to see what they could recommend.

Recommendations

When I mentioned to the dark-haired, bespectacled young man behind the counter what I was up to, he motioned toward the woman behind him who was the proprietor of the establishment, Evelyn Nicholas. They were both quick to point out the books that were next to the cash register.

Campfire Bookclub

The first book they showed me was A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel (Shades of Magic) by V. E. Schwab. This is the book selection for their June Campfire Bookclub. You are welcome to join in a discussion of the book around a campfire with a drink and marshmallows on June 28th from 7-9pm. The book is part of a trilogy and Evelyn told me that her customers who read the first book rush back in for the second,  A Gathering of Shadows: A Novel (Shades of Magic). The third book in the series is A Conjuring of Light: A Novel (Shades of Magic).

Though this sounded interesting, and the bookclub sounds fun, I was curious to see what else they would recommend.

MC The great train robbery 75

The Great Train Robbery

The second book near the register that they recommended was a 2014 re-release of the 1975 novel by Michael Crichton. I had heard of the film and didn’t know it was based on a Michael Crichton book. I have read most of his books and found this tempting, but it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.

Evelyn said, “and we also have used books,” and took me into the other half of the shop. This reminded me that I had read on their website that they buy used books, so I asked her about their buy-back policy. Turns out they do a one-to-one exchange, meaning for every book you bring in, you get a discount on a purchase. I’ll definitely be taking her up on that, next time I visit.

Since I recently enjoyed Pest Control and The Exterminators (Assassin Bug Thrillers) by Bill Fitzhugh and I’ve enjoyed every book by Carl Hiaasen, I asked her if she had any recommendations in that vein.

Evelyn said, “You like funny,” and took me to another section of the shop. She told me about a couple of books then grabbed Hidden Palms: A Butch Bliss Novel by hidden palms coverHarry Bryant. The plot, as she described it, sounded like something Mr. Hiaasen might have conjured and I really liked the cover. Then she directed me over to another area of the store while she explained that Harry Bryant is a new nom de plume of an author that works at the store. I was pretty sure I knew who she was speaking of because I had met him and as I looked over what she called his “darker titles” I saw I was right.

Harry Bryant is the “more light-hearted and funny” persona of Mark Teppo who I met at an authors’ talk at the Sumner library and again when I went to a NaNoWriMo write-in at this bookstore. I haven’t read any of his books yet, so this was a perfect recommendation. SOLD.

While back at the register, where my adventure began, I saw that they, too, have a Summer Book Bingo. I excitedly got my first BUY A BOOK square stamped in the top

A Good Book Summer Bingo Card

row, though I was given a choice, so I recommend reading through and seeing where it will be most advantageous for you to fill a row.

This bingo card is a clever way to inspire me to come back and buy books. The squares aren’t only types of books to read, but calls to action as well. Not only do you get a stamp for buying books, but also:

Read a media tie-in – Okay, this isn’t a call to action. Turns out it’s a genre. The call to action is, I had to look this up. I thought it would be reading articles or essays about books, but it’s not. It’s a genre all its own and, actually, will help me out with my “Genre that is new to you” square on my Seattle Summer Book Bingo card. Media tie-ins are books made from TV or movies. Things like Star Wars and Star Trek books. I really enjoyed the TV shows Monk and Castle, so I will probably read one of the books made as extensions of those series.

Attend an event – I’m not sure, but I would think that attending the Fireside Bookclub would get stamps for an event and a book discussion. Another event at A Good Book that I think sounds interesting is A Good Talk Salon where local people give talks on subjects other than their profession. The only problem being I would have to sign up to give a talk. I hope they have another one soon.

Have a book discussion – It’ll be interesting to see how I prove some of these things for my stamp. I have book discussions all the time.

Show them your library card – I should have gotten this stamp while I was there. I always have it on me.

Review a book – this is something I have been working on. Reviews are so important to authors these days. If you like a book, you should quickly head over to Amazon and Goodreads and let everyone know.

and Gift a book – I’m always excited when I find a book that I think is just right for a friend or family member.

Supporting Local Authors

Evelyn told me, as the only bookstore in town, she really wants to help local authors. She showed me a Free Books in return for review shelf at the front of the store that she hopes to fill with local authors. These are the books I took.

Wedgie & Gizmo- This will be my “Gift a book” bingo square. I plan to give it to my niece and can picture her reading it to her little brother. I’ve already posted my review on Goodreads.

The Fallen Star: The Nocturnals Book 3- Not a local author, but I’m hoping this will be a nice birthday gift for my niece. I better read and review it quickly as she’s an independence day baby.

The Best of Talebones-I was excited to see this on the free-for-review shelf. I met Patrick Swenson at the same author talk at the Sumner library as Mark Teppo. I got a signed copy of The Ultra Thin Man: A Science Fiction Novel and enjoyed it. Though the sequel, The Ultra Big Sleep

was on the shelf, I left it for another reader, for now, and grabbed the collection of short stories from Patrick Swenson‘s previous magazine. As a short story writer, I’m always looking for interesting short story collections.

Another way that A Good Book is supporting local authors is by inviting local authors to sell their books in front of the shop during the Rhubarb Days weekend. Evelyn offered me a spot on Sunday, July 16th and I am very excited to bring Gator McBumpypants to my local community. I’ll talk more about it soon.

I want to thank Evelyn and A Good Book Bookstore for her time, great book recommendations and her work for local authors. I had no idea that trying to fill one square on my Summer Book Bingo Card could be such a great adventure. Goes to show how important independent bookstores are to a community. I hope this inspires you to venture to your local independent bookseller and ask for a recommendation. I would love to hear about your local bookstore and the latest book you bought there.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Whisper by Christopher Bailey: a YA page turner.

I had an Amazon gift-card, so I treated myself to a copy of Whisper by Christopher Bailey and I’m glad I did. Like Chris’s other novels I’ve read, Without Chance and The Crystal Key (Starjumper Legacy, Book 1), it is a page turner. Christopher Bailey definitely knows how to keep me reading to the end.

cover of Christopher Bailey's new book WHISPER

four stars

In Whisper , Jackson, a high school football player, begins to hear a voice whispering in his head. His life is turned upside down when he has a vision while having a seizure. Doctors can’t find a physical cause for his condition, so he ends up in a psychological hospital. Jacks, however, comes to believe he is hearing the voice of a real girl, and she is in trouble.

This book has vivid characters and settings. I found it easy to empathize with Jacks’s sudden roller-coaster of fear and change. Each strange step, though frightening and surreal, leads to a natural chain of events.

The psychologist’s actions were sometimes hard to swallow, but I’ll admit that is personal bias because I have a psychology degree and hope that if I had gone counseling instead of research, I wouldn’t have ended up like that. I also had trouble relating to a Dad that would think doctors know best since I have a Mom who stored penicillin in the freezer and a Dad who almost fell off a roof before he would see a doctor because he had been getting dizzy (heart valve replacement), so again personal bias. However, since I felt that strongly about those personal biases, the characters must have been so well written that they affected me and made me think.

The mystery was intriguing. From beginning to end, the story concept kept me turning pages. There were times I would have liked more clues through the whispers, but the idea of pharmaceuticals stopping the whispers left me thinking the story could veer in many different directions; and it did, leaving me guessing!

Want to know more about this author? He wrote a great guest post for Experience Writing about breaking through writer’s block and did an author interview.