Sunday, August 16, 2020

Audiobooks I've Listened to Again and Again

It's true. I tend to listen to audiobooks multiple times, just like I tend to re-read some books multiple times. That said, there are some of my 'go to' audiobooks that I just enjoy listening to again and again, and don't get tired of them.

For those who might be interested, here they are (in no particular order):

Hard Luck Hank: Stank Delicious
(by Steven Campbell). Science fiction with humor and, as always, a sort of mystery that Hank has to figure out. I enjoy the Hard Luck Hank tales as they unfold, and the cast of characters he encounters and deals with. I especially enjoy the banter between Hank and his 'best friend' Delovoa, the amoral mad scientist. Although all of the Hank's stories take place mostly on Bellvaille (a space station), time and circumstances make each situation unique. In Stank Delicious, Hank is hired as a Glocken player, a unique and violent game played for the galaxy's masses. It adds fun aspects to Hank's struggles.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven
(by Mitch Albom). This is simply an engaging tale with five great lessons for Eddie, the head maintenance worker at Ruby Pier. It's actually a novel that my senior classes have read for the past ten or twelve years. Over 95% have said it's a book they enjoyed. We also listen to it (often as they read along). The version narrated by Erik Singer is far superior to that read by the author Mitch Albom. 

Gust Front
(by John Ringo). This is the second novel in the Posleen War series, but one you can start reading without having read the first novel. A 'classic' alien invasion novel (where the aliens wield technology superior to what humanity can muster--even with the aid of interstellar allies), with a host of characters. What I like is the shift from before the invasion, and the personal stories of preparation, to the first wave of landings in the second half of the novel. The variety of battles, from the small scale tactical, to the grand strategic aspect adds an additional dimension. The POV of the several Posleen battle masters adds an additional dimension to the tale.

Red Storm Rising
(by Tom Clancy). A cold-war classic, military thriller. The military hardware is somewhat outdated, but not by much. Interesting stories on the sea (and under), in the air and on the land. Combines political intrigue as well. The tale of World War III, from political and strategic, to the personal stories of ship and sub captains, aviators, tank platoon leaders, intelligence officials, theater generals, and more combine to give a full picture of the conflict, and its resolution. 

What's So Great About Christianity
(by Dinesh D'Souza). An excellent book for seekers of knowledge, and insight, whether a devout Christian, an Agnostic, or an Atheist. Filled with history (including setting some stories straight), philosophy, and challenging questions, I do better listening to this one than actually reading, which is rare for me with nonfiction.

(by Kevin Hearne). This is the second book in the Iron Druid Chronicles, but one can easily start reading (listening) here. A fast paced and interesting urban fantasy tale centered on the world's last surviving druid. A great cast of characters, and the narration by Luke Daniels bumps the quality up several notches. I will say that this one has sort of fallen in personal interest, after listening to the final book in the series. A horrible ending. It was like the author lost interest in the series, and was checking off boxes to wrap up. That says a lot when what has been built up to over 8 novels and several novellas (Ragnarok), is largely anticlimactic. And what follows to wrap up is even worse. Add to that, the author became more and more blatant with inserting political/virtue signaling views that simply stood out as mini-beacons, and really not a natural part of the narrative. All of that left a sour taste in my mouth, so to speak.


So, there are my main 'repeated listens.' Obviously, I have a wide variety of interests. If you have any favorites, contact me and share them. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Return Interview featuring Fantasy & Horror Author C. Dean Andersson

Dean Andersson's novels and stories have been published by Harper Collins, Warner Books, Kensington, White Wolf, Crossroad Press, and Alpha-Kniga. He received a Bram Stoker finalist award from the Horror Writers Association for his Cemetery Dance story about a close encounter on a lonely highway with the Death Goddess Hel, "The Death Wagon Rolls On By."

Welcome back to Up Around the Corner!
(For those who are interested, here’s the link to Dean’s first interview: First Interview with C. Dean Andersson)

It has been almost seven years since you last spoke with us. Since then, has your writing career progressed as anticipated?

Yes. I am happy with how it has progressed.

Through what book or series would readers most likely know you? For those who may not be familiar with it, could you share a little about the book (or series)?

I Am Dracula is my best known novel in the horror genre. It is Dracula’s Secret History told by Dracula himself. Crossroad Press recently published a new print edition and a first edition ebook.

Warrior Witch of Hel, Book 1 in the Hel Trilogy, is my best known novel in the fantasy genre. It is the sword and sorcery saga of a barbarian warrior woman named Bloodsong. Warrior Witch of Hel follows Bloodsong’s fight against a sadistic sorcerer to rescue her daughter. “Warrior Witch of Hel” is now also a song on the band Smoulder’s new album, Dream Quest Ends. The song does Bloodsong proud.

Here’s a little challenge: What five words might best describe I Am Dracula?

Lies, Love, Satan, Resurrection, Revenge.

Okay, beyond those five words, why do you think readers would be interested in I Am Dracula?

I read Bram Stokers novel, Dracula, for the first time when I was twelve. It fascinated and frightened me, but it left me wanting to know how and why Dracula became a Vampire. Years later, when I was writing, these words came to me: “I became a vampire for lies and for love. I remain one for revenge.” Those words spawned I Am Dracula, the story of a mortal man, a national hero, who becomes a Vampire King.

I know readers who re-read the novel each year. The intense relationship between Dracula and Tzigane, a Witch who falls in love with him, is a love story some treasure. Others tell me the book’s portrayal of evil made them question their beliefs. A reader from the historical Dracula’s homeland thanked me for showing the mortal Prince Vlad Dracula, as a warrior who protected his country and defeated invading hordes. All in all, bottom line, for many readers, I Am Dracula has a strong effect.

Your Hel Trilogy had a foreign translation. How did that happen, and what did you find interesting about the experience?

A Russian publisher, Alpha-Kniga, asked to publish the books. I had nothing to do with the translations. They did everything, and that is the most interesting thing, that it just happened. But unexpected things often happen with the Bloodsong books. For example, the song by Smoulder that I already mentioned. The Russian editions are hardbacks with wraparound cover art by Russian artist Ilya Voronin, and they are beautiful. I heard from Russian readers who enjoyed the books.     

When not writing, what do you enjoy doing? And what is a place that you would like to visit?

I enjoy astronomy. One night when I was rather young, I asked my dad to show me the Big Dipper in the night sky. An article on navigating by the stars in the back of a comic book claimed the Big Dipper pointed to the North Star, and that you could navigate by the North Star because unlike other stars, it never moved. So, dad showed me where to look, and sure enough, extending a line connecting the two stars at the dipper’s end pointed to the North Star. Eventually, I took classes in astronomy in college, and I now read Sky and Telescope magazine each month to keep up with the latest discoveries. Then too, now and then, just for fun, I use a small telescope of my own.

As for a place to visit, Scandinavia is first on my list. My Hel Trilogy takes place there, and I would like to see the land of the Vikings. 

You have been involved in this author gig for a number of years. What are three changes that you have observed over the years? Would you identify them as positive, neutral, or negative changes?

Changes in the methods available for writing, changes in the methods of research, and changes in the way books are published. If writers do not want to go the traditional route of finding a publisher, there are now resources such as Amazon available for self-publishing. And for me, computers, word processing software, and doing research online, at least as a starting point, are far superior to the typewriter on which I used to work and hours in libraries looking for the right research book. So I feel these changes are weighted heavily on the positive side of the scale.

But the most basic thing has not changed. A writer must still invest time and energy creating a story, and to the person doing the writing, the other things should matter as little as possible during the creative process. The story, setting, plot, and characters should be all important when creating a tale. Life goes on outside that creative bubble, but that bubble should be, as much as possible, like a force field repelling everything else, psychologically at least if not physically. Easier said than done, of course, but it is a goal.

What might readers expect from you next?

Nine of my novels are now available as ebooks because I spent over a year editing them, revising and rewriting as I felt was needed, then expanding some sections and writing new ones here and there to make them better books. Experience made me a better writer, and Crossroad Press provided the opportunity to revisit and improve my novels. I recommend the ebooks as ‘author’s cuts.’ The new printed edition of I Am Dracula is taken from its ebook edition, by the way. A reader recently told me she liked the new edition of I Am Dracula better than the original, which said to me that my work on the ebooks had been the right thing to do.  

But now I am concentrating on my works in progress again. There is a new Bloodsong novel I am anxious to finish, Valkyries of Hel, in which Bloodsong is transported by sorcery to a world similar to our modern one and must fight her way through strange dangers to get back to her own world. In the process, she befriends a group of endangered young women in a Korean Pop band and discovers unexpected connections between them and friends in her own world.

And I also want to finish I Am Dracula II: Dracula’s Witch. It is told from the Witch Tzigane’s viewpoint. She has been quite literally to Hell and back, and her account has revealed surprises I had never guessed. It’s fun when a good character takes over and surprises the writer.

Plus, I have a new novel of Horror in the works, something more akin to my Texas Horror Trilogy, which is contemporary horror, the trilogy being Torture Tomb, Raw Pain Max, and Fiend. Torture Tomb tells of a kidnapped young woman and a group of modern Witches who fight physical and supernatural evil to rescue her. Raw Pain Max is a tale of the infamous mass murderess, the Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory in the modern world. And Fiend follows events at a comic book convention when an ancient Witch, Medea from Greek Myths, attends the convention to stop a serial killer of children. The myths say Medea killed her own children, but it turns out she was framed and has been searching down through the centuries for the real killer. In the process, Medea has become a protector and avenger of abused or murdered children.

As we’re closing in on the end of this interview, is there anything you want to add or share with the readers?

I have been told by readers that my novels are fun to read, which is one of the reasons I write, to entertain myself and my readers. I can’t help it. Thanks to my stage Mom, I grew up from age three performing before audiences, following the old showbiz rule, give the people what they want. Readers are my audience now. But I never know how what I write will affect them.

When film director Amy Hesketh placed a copy of I Am Dracula on the Vampire’s dressing table in her vampire film, Olalla, she told me it was because she read the book when a young girl, and its effect stayed with her.

Another innovative film director, Jac Avila, made Maleficarum, the scariest, most realistic and relentless horror film about the Inquisition I have seen. Jac has become a friend and once told me that my novel, Torture Tomb, was a favorite.

Other readers struggling against odds that seem overwhelming in their lives have taken heart from my warrior woman Bloodsong’s fight to save her daughter and protect her people. With Bloodsong, surrender is never an option. She keeps fighting, no matter how hard or long it takes, until she finds a way to win.

So the time I spend writing has produced positive effects, and reactions from readers encourages me to keep writing. To readers I therefore say thank you. I will continue to tell stories. And the show will go on.  

Once again, Dean, thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

You’re very welcome. It was a pleasure.

Below are Links were you can find C. Dean Andersson online and learn more about his novels:


Friday, July 24, 2020

Visual of Music Brought to Life: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Theme Music

I think this is pretty neat, seeing the musicians, instruments and other elements combined to bring this classic theme music to our ears.

Take a watch and listen!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Return Interview featuring Urban Fantasy & SF Author Steven Campbell

Steven worked as a computer programmer for various Fortune 500 companies. He'd been repeatedly asked to move into management but always refused, not wanting to give up on writing. One day he got laid off and received a severance package, and decided to work full-time on his first novel.

Although Steven has been writing basically all of his life, that's when his writing career began to take off.

Welcome back to Up Around the Corner!
(For those who are interested, here’s the link to Steven’s first interview: Interview with Author Steven Campbell, August 2014)

It has been almost six years since you spoke with us last. Since then, has your writing career in any way progressed as anticipated?

It’s great to be talking to you again. Partially because I got to look back at myself. Six years is practically two infinities in the publishing world. When I spoke with you the first time, self-publishing had been maybe a few steps past infancy. And it has changed significantly since then, which has also changed my career. I’ve managed to hang on being a fulltime writer. But if I hadn’t embraced audiobooks early and made a few other practical choices, I might not be able to say that. There are so many books out now, it’s extremely difficult to stay relevant or noticed. Back then, I don’t think I had much in the way of hopes or expectations other than to keep doing it. So far, I’ve been able. But it gets harder and harder every year. I tell my dog at least once a week to enjoy this while you can, because I might not be able to always work from home.

Most readers would know you from your Hard Luck Hank Series. For those that may not be familiar with it, could you share a little bit about the series, and its protagonist, Hank?

It’s kind of a pulp throwback. It blends science fiction, comedy, and kind of noir. Hank is a mutant heavy, who is a fixer, gang negotiator, and a detective on a corrupt space station. He is great at his job because he’s very difficult to hurt and has a likeable personality. Both attributes come in very useful amongst violent criminals.

You have recently kicked off a new project, an urban fantasy, Spell Talker, set in Los Angeles California. What five words might best describe Spell Talker?

Hmm, five words? Am I using them now? Woops!
Modern. Scientific. Fantasy. Los Angeles.

Okay, beyond those five words, what would you like us to know about Spell Talker? Like Hard Luck Hank was to science fiction, how is Spell Talker a little different than other urban fantasy tales out there?

I always liked fantasy and I probably got into it long before science fiction. But I grew away from it because it seemed to really hammer down its subgenres and leave little room for divergences. The sword and sorcery epics. The urban vampires. You often know what is going to happen. I also never really liked how magic was explained. Or not explained. Magic is generally just…magic. Even if it’s explained it doesn’t make much sense, because it’s magic. Okay, so it’s mana from dragon snot. What particles does that produce? On tackling this book, I wanted to make a system that was at least grounded in science. It took me a long time. Whether or not the effort was worth it, I can’t say. For most people it’s probably good enough to say, “magic—POOF.” But I just didn’t want to write that. It’s also a kind of modern journey around Los Angeles. I’ve been living here since 1994 and I wanted to have it set here instead of Elftopia or Sweden, since I haven’t been to either of those places. It’s not a love letter to Los Angeles; there’s plenty of lousy stuff here. But there’s a lot of character in this region and I realized I hadn’t used any of it in a book before.

When not writing, where do you enjoy spending time? What is one place that you would one day like to visit?

I definitely need to check out Sweden or Elftopia since I just made fun of them. I’ve been fortunate enough to live at the beach in Los Angeles. I’ve been here for something like 20 years at this point. I can honestly say I’m the ugliest and meanest person in my entire city of 1.4 square miles. There are days I go outside and it’s just absolutely perfect. No matter how grumpy I was, I have to smile and appreciate it. Like it or not, humans are profoundly affected by weather conditions. I loved snow as a kid, but it’s really fantastic being able to put on shorts and flip flops and be considered overdressed. As for travel, we’re still deep in the pandemic times around here. I’d like to visit anywhere and not be worried about infection. There’s only so much bread I can bake. Though that has been a very beneficial side-effect of quarantine. I’ve become a lot better at cooking. Pressure cooker. Get one!

Although an author can never hit a home run for all readers out there, what is the most inspirational, or memorable, thing a reader has said about your writing?

This may be crass or unthankful, but I don’t really pay much attention. Writers have to have unbelievably thick skin—at least about their writing. Because like you said, you can’t please everyone. My own personal take is that 95% of the world absolutely hates Shakespeare. Hates his writing. They force kids to read him at school and you’d be hard-pressed to find any children sprinting to class so they can get a head start. If Shakespeare is loathed by the planet, what chance have I got? So I’ve long since turned off most of my receptors to feedback that rise above volume level three. Which filters out the screaming and filters out the cheering. I’ve had people say that I helped them with some terrible illness they had, or even their approaching end-of-life. But I just don’t dwell on it. I lobotomized that part of me during my many, many years of editors and readers and buyers despising my work. I can’t turn it back on and bask in the small praise I get from time to time. If someone writes me and gushes, I generally respond and ignore the gush, answering any questions they had.

Before I ask the next question, I want to share something that I don’t’ consider ‘gush’J One of my favorite parts of your novels are the banter and arguments between Hank and his longtime (mad scientist) friend, Delovoa. My wife and daughter love them too.

So here’s the question: Your Hard Luck Hank Series has been narrated by Liam Owen. When writing, do you hear Hank’s voice in the voice Liam Owen created? If not, who would you say Hank sounds like? What about the other recurring characters?

I really enjoy writing banter. And, as most things, I believe that comes across. The things I don’t enjoy writing end up being lousy because I’m having a bad time creating it.

But I don’t really think of any voice. It’s not a slam at Liam Owen, he does a great job on the audiobooks. My brain simply doesn’t work like that. I think partially because I’m constantly fiddling with the dialogue. If I played it like an audio recording in my head, he would be stuttering and repeating the same lines a hundred times and I’d go insane. But it’s a good question. Hmm.

The way I write and go through scenes is more like a dream. Not a Hollywood dream, because that’s not how dreams work. If you relate a dream or remember a dream, you’ll be like, “Some guy picked up a huge guitar for some reason.” You don’t remember if he had red hair, or had on pants, or even if he had legs. You don’t remember if there was grass on the ground or if you were upside down. You see some concept of a “guy” and a “guitar.” But nothing else is filled in. It’s disembodied. It’s not like a real photo or movie or audio. It’s just snippets and fragments that our brain is smashing together. And later, we try and make some narrative out of it.

So that’s what I see/hear when mentally going through scenes I’m writing. It’s a telescopic lens that focuses on only a couple pieces and the rest is just blur that is only hinted at. The voices are probably pretty close to my usual inner voice. We rarely change our inner voice. Like pitch it higher or lower to simulate other genders. And when we do, our own throat modulates to create it, even though we aren’t talking out loud. Try it. That’s really exhausting after a while. So I just mumble along in my own inner voice.

But this is a good question to keep handy. I think we tend to answer it figuratively instead of literally.

What might readers expect from you in the next year or two?
(Click on the YouTube Video and listen to Hank on Belvaille answer)

Once again, Steven, thank you for taking the time to speak with us!


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Interview with author Joshua E. B. Smith

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Joshua. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?
Hiya! First, let me say thank you for the chance to be featured on your site. I sincerely appreciate it, and will be happy to return the favor soon.

As far as myself, I am an independent author from Vienna, WV (which is effectively a suburb of Parkersburg WV – and I promise, it’s okay if you’ve never heard of it). I’ve been published for almost five years now, though it’s only been in the last couple that I’ve been taking it seriously.

I am the author of the dark fantasy/fantasy horror series, The Saga of the Dead Men Walking. My genre is a little hard to define, in truth. Most of the time when people think ‘dark fantasy,’ the thought goes to romantic paranormal or things of that nature. Up to this point in my series, there’s no real romance. Mostly, it’s just a tour of violence and monsters set in a Game of Thrones/The Elder Scrolls-esque fantasy world.

I currently have four novels published in the Saga of the Dead Men Walking, along with three novellas, and two more novels (and novellas) in the pipeline, including the well-reviewed Snowflakes in Summer and my newest release, Insanity’s Respite.

Can you share a little bit with us about your most recently published work?
I just launched (on June the 6th!) a full-length novel, Saga of the Dead Men Walking: Insanity’s Respite, which starts a new chapter in the Saga. The main character – an exorcist from the Order of Love – has been sent to Medias Manor, an asylum for the battered and broken with magical aptitude. His last adventure left him with a broken leg, a perforated arm, and a bad case of post-traumatic-stress disorder. The problem is, while he’s at the so-called ‘Safest Place in the Kingdom,’ a series of murders has recently come to light while a wedding rages (yes, that’s the right word) in the background.

Now he’s in a race to figure out what’s going on while battling the demons in his mind. The question, ultimately, is if the demons in his head are real, or if the only monster in the city is the one hunting the Queen’s citizens outside of the Manor walls.

What inspired you to become a writer, and what is one of the things that surprised you most in the process?
It’s hard to say what inspired me to become a writer. I’ve just always loved to tell stories. For a big chunk of my teenage years, I used to play “Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs” or MMORPG’s for short. These were computer games with a fantasy bent to them that had you going out and slaying dragons and ghouls and the like with sometimes dozens of other players in a virtual world.

When I hit my early twenties, my life changed a bit and I lost the time to log on and play day to day. But, I still had the characters I used to play in my head – and once I realized I could start putting them to paper, I realized what I wanted to do with my life.

As far as what surprised me the most in the process? The fact that writing a book isn’t just about writing a book. If all it took to write a book was to sit down, pull up my keyboard, and just write, I could have a new book every couple of months.

But as an indie author, writing your story – the thing that you are basing your entire business around, your product, your goal, the part that your clients consume and base their opinion off of – is only about thirty percent of the time. If that. The rest of the time is spent marketing. It’s spent designing covers, it’s spent formatting files, it’s spent researching advertising on Amazon and Facebook. It’s spent composing newsletters and trying to generate interactions on social media.

As absolutely crazy as it sounds, as an author, I miss writing. I look at the days when I can say, “Okay, I have just finished getting five ads up and running, I’ve scheduled another three or four FB posts, I’ve done a video, I’ve reached out to local support groups, I can actually write now,” as my days off. The writing is the easy part. The marketing?

That’s another story entirely.

What is one of the most challenging or difficult lessons you’ve learned as an author?
You get told going into it that most authors don’t make above poverty-line level incomes. There’s been numerous studies that have shown this across the board. The difference is between knowing it
and then filing your income on your 1099-MISC form. So, take that, and you take a lesson in humility at the same time because you are going to run into other authors who are making two, three, or even ten thousand dollars a month – they may not be better than you as an author (subjectively or even critically speaking), but they’ve found the critical lines of advertising and marketing that work for them in ways to maximize their income levels.

It’s really, really easy to get stuck in the mindset of, “Why are they doing better and I’m not?” when you need to be focusing on the mindset of, “My work speaks for itself, I just need to get more of it out there and be seen.” That’s a lot harder than it sounds and I honestly struggle with it every single day.

It’s motivation, but at the same time, it’s a hard fight in your head. Not going to lie to you either; some days, I don’t win that battle.

Name one of your novels and list five words that best describe it.
Snowflakes in Summer: Book 1 of the Snowflakes Trilogy. Wraiths, demon dogs, winter, and bad decisions.

What’s one novel that you’ve read and enjoyed, and has stayed with you? Why do you believe it has?
It’s kinda odd, but Dante’s Inferno. It is, to this day, the only poetry I’ve been able to pick up and stand to read. When I was a teen, I’d read it a few times a year. I was born and raised in a very religious family, but as a kid (and even as an adult), I’ve struggled with the concept of ‘Heaven.’ Hell, on the other hand, was easy. Revelation was my favorite chapter in the Bible, but I found it to be… lacking and light on the details, for lack of better words. The Inferno had such great visualizations that I felt like I was there and at the same time, it was such a great introduction to horror in literature that it’s hung with me and strongly influenced my writing style.

When not writing, what fun or interesting keeps you busy?

I cosplay for charity purposes with the Ghostbusters – West Virginia Division. They are a fundraising group that supports both the American Heart Association and the Children’s Home Society of WV, which is an agency that provides support for foster children and helps them find families in WV. It helps me balance out my life – I go from writing scenes of horror, misery and gore to going out and entertaining kids and showing them that you don’t have to be afraid of what goes bump in the night.

What can readers expect from you in the future?
More. A lot more. I don’t have plans to shift genres anytime soon, so I hope to stay in the realm of fantasy/dark fantasy/horror. Insanity’s Respite is the start of a new trilogy (maybe a four book series) and I am giving myself an ambitious (probably way too ambitious) publishing schedule for the next two books in it. About twelve years ago I wrote a mammoth, unformatted, five-hundred-plus page novel that I never finished. That it exists is an albatross around my neck for more than a decade. If I were to stick it in appropriate 6x9 formatting right now, it would likely exceed more than twelve hundred pages…

...but I can’t get back to it until after the current series comes to a close. And I really, really want to get to it.

You can also expect more from me on my Facebook and website. I am giving considerable thought to starting a writer’s blog/interview page of sorts (because I don’t have enough to do already – HAH!) to both give other authors and creators I know exposure and to serve as a platform to drive my own marketing plans into the future.

What are your short and long term writing goals?
You actually asked me this outside of the interview, but I wanted to fit my answer in here. Short term, it’s unlocking a positive net income with marketing. Marketing is the one thing I struggle with more than anything else in the world. Over the last few years, I’ve put in a few hundred dollars here and there with one marketing plan or another with nothing really to show for my efforts.

That said, the last two months, I’ve been taking multiple marketing classes and courses. I’m working (hard) on getting that right formula of keywords and ad copy and blurbs to start turning a profit. Right now, it won’t matter if my profit attributable to advertising is only a buck fifty; that’s a buck and a half more than I had. It’s also a sign that I can start scaling up. I earn that first five dollars? I promise, I’ll turn it around and turn it into fifty.

Long term goals, more books. “Nothing sells your last book like your next book,” - Craig Martell, author, and admin of 20BooksTo50k, an online marketing group. The more stock you have, the better your odds of being seen, the better your odds of turning potential readers into mega fans, and every book you write will theoretically earn royalties in perpetuity. I made a couple of dollars last week over two books I wrote five years ago – and while it’s not much, it’s a couple cups of tea at McDonald’s.

Talk of money aside (those are more ‘business’ goals than ‘writing’ goals), my short term is a successful launch of Insanity’s Respite and to really work on my fanbase. I love it when I know that someone who has read my work before picks up one of my books and is able to escape from this chaotic world we live in for a few hours to get away from it. I love being able to provide that kind of relief. I love being able to make someone feel when they grab a copy of the Saga.

I want to make more people happy.

If I can do that, the rest of it falls into place.

As this interview is coming to a close, is there anything else you’d like to add or share?
A few months ago, I heard a couple of the most inspirational quotes about writing. I like to mention it whenever I see someone hurting or frustrated, and it applies to more than just books – it applies to creating anything. Be it a song, be it a drawing, be it jewelry, be it cosplay, you can apply both of these quotes. I wish I could take credit for them, but I can at least pass them on.

You can’t edit a blank page,” and, “The only person that can tell your story is you.”

Of course, there’s also my line – and this one I can claim:

You are the God of your own world. Create accordingly.”

If you have a story inside you, get it out. Don’t worry about making it perfect. That’s what copy and line editors are for. Don’t worry about making it cohesive at the start. You’ll figure out where the pages go and you’ll find readers who have faith in you to help you make it better when you can’t.

And, ultimately, whatever story you write – you are the writer. You are the creator, you are the maker, you set the rules, you set the tone, you set the conflict and the rewards. You define the sins and you expound the virtues. You’re responsible for the dirt on every page, the souls in every character, and the air that they breathe.

Writing (or creating art in general) gives you more control over anything you have ever and will ever have in your life. Take advantage of it and do whatever you want, however you want, and don’t confine yourself to normal. Consider writing to market, of course, but normal? You’re an author. You gave up normal when you picked up a pen for the first time.

Below, please list the places readers can find out more about Joshua Akaran Smith and his works:

Want to learn more about the Saga? Ready to enter a fantasy world of blood, guts, tears, and gore where good things happen to bad people, and the good people are questionable... at best?

Use any of the links below!

Signed paperback copies are available, too! Just send me a PM and I'm happy to get one in the mail for you!

The Dead Men Emailing newsletter is now live! To sign up and receive information about upcoming events, conventions, the charity work I do, characters in the series, new releases, sales, and the occasional freebie (plus behind-the-scenes business information), hop to the link below and drop your email today!

And lastly, thank you to Terry Ervin for having me today! It’s been an absolute pleasure!
~Joshua E. B. Smith

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Thunder Wells and The Zombie Driven Life Available for Free

Hey Folks,

My post-apocalyptic alien invasion novel, Thunder Wells, and David Wood's post-apocalyptic zombie novel, The Zombie Driven Life are both currently available for free through a host of ebook vendors.

Both are packed with action and adventure. David Wood's novel is filled with dark humor and appropriate for young adults on up.

Link for Thunder Wells: Where Thunder Wells is Available

Link for The Zombie Driven Life: Where The Zombie Driven Life is Available 

Check them out and get your copies while they're still discounted to free!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Upcoming Author Events for March 2020

March will be a busy month. I will be participating in two con events and one presentation.
Follow the links for more detailed information. Hope to cross paths with you there.

Classic Plastics Toy & Comic Expo on March 7th & 8th (Parkersburg, WV)

Local Author Presentation at the Westerville Library (Self-Editing: Strategies for Writers) March 25th (Westerville, OH)

WittCon XVII on March 28th (Wittenberg University--Springfield, OH)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Outpost On Sale for 99 cents!

Monsters, Maces and Magic: Outpost is now on sale for 99 cents through most ebook sites, including Amazon (US/UK/Australia/Canada), Kobo, Smashwords, Google Play, Nook, iBooks and more.

Here's a Books2Read link to get your copy: Outpost Ebook

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Interview with Audiobook Narrator Jonathan Waters

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Jonathan. Please, tell us a little about yourself, your interests, and how you became interested in narrating novels.

Well, I’m Jon Waters and I’ve always been in the acting gig. Or acting bug as some might call it. It was just something that I think clicked naturally. Partially when in kindergarten I dressed as Batman, and then when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I came up short. I liked my parents and we weren’t rich so - Batman was out. Yet looking at everyone else choices of astronaut, officer, fireman, etc. I stumbled upon, probably from my dad watching movies while my mom got her degree in the evenings, actors. We’d watch Star Wars, Jaws, Conan, you know - kids stuff. And after a while it became clear that 1 - these are all play pretend. Something I was having a blast at during recess. 2 - these grown-ups were clearly living very well.

So I could potentially be a barbarian, hero, firefighter, anything all while trying to be an actor. Then I suppose being read to at night by my folks, Calvin and Hobbes, Harry Potter, Choose your own Adventure. I ate it up.

Then through college I’d always been interested, and had been doing, little goofy voices around. Then it dawned that stage and film actors age out. You can’t play King Lear as a college student and you can’t be Jon Snow as a geriatric. So time and roles are limited. The limitless, mostly, is Voice Over work. And yes the voice of a 50 year old will not be the same as a 20 year old, but there’s a big middle area where you can just live and be. That appealed to me wanting to, as my dad would put it,
“Chase the Butterfly” forever. So here I be. I do love me my video games, comics, Batman (still), movies, animation, and a lot of in between. 

What skills did you have when you began your career as a narrator? What skills have you picked up along the way?

So I was already good in front of an audience, at least the reviews say, but the training starting all through middle school, to college, to hard knocks narrating have taught quite a bit.
Breath work, while overlooked, is a constant. Where to breathe, how to breathe, and maintain. Theatre and film are a bit of a marathon in their own way. So is narration. You have to be consistent. You don’t know if someone is going to binge your work or listen on their half hour commute. So you have to deliver a fine product every time. Same with theatre and film. Theatre you have a slower building up and maintain high standards through your performance run. Film, you maybe get a rehearsal, but you’re expected to have a high energy, recall your energy because you’re not necessarily filming in order. So scene 4’s energy might be different from scene 15, but three weeks later you’re back to doing scene 4 again for whatever reason.

You also need good communication skills. You’re working with your author and you need to make sure your lines of dialogue are clean and clear. It can get muddled, but good authors will be direct and concise with their notes. If you’re a character reader, like I tend to be, you need to know your buzz/hook words to get you back to your characters and stress that it’s important that your author/publisher/rights holder knows what characters are intended to sound like. There’s nothing worse than narrating what you thought was a male character and finding out it was actually a female character masquerading all along. Might not mean much to a more straight reader narrator but, to us character people, it is a deadly thing to deal with.

I’ve not quite picked up punch and roll as an editing device. It slows me down. But I understand the reasoning behind it. I do the click and roll method. Where I click my tongue, I see it on the file, and go back through and hunt. Regardless, there may be edits that need to be done when, WHEN, your rights holder listens to your work. Not necessarily the big ones of “oh this was actually Jen’s line” or “Where is this whole paragraph” but you might get things that are small and easily fixed. Examples are “too big of a pause here.” “repeated lines that didn’t have your click.” I’ve always been of the mind that two heads are better than one and most times I don’t have a ton of secondary edits. And if I do, they’re done the day after they are submitted. And you ensure your author is happy.

Take care of your voice. Some folks claim to be talkers, I am one of them, and you might be able to
chat all party long. But you’re needing to hydrate, to take a breath, let someone else talk, eat. Narration is a marathon. If you don’t warm up your voice, hydrate, maybe shower beforehand and sing (poorly in my case) you can potentially damage your voice and make the rest of your day, week, really rough for your vocal cords. Which may lead to your next project being pushed back. And in some crazy instances permanent damage. And not everyone needs a raspy hurt voice for their narrations.

Get good with your editing device. I use GarageBand and yes I know it’s a step above audacity but it gets what ACX and many others require with some tweaks, hot key learning, and some YouTube watching from the pros just to get you started.

Listen to podcasts. Levar Burton does a great one to try to learn a new way of reading books. Pacing, and inflection, and some things you may not have heard before and want to attempt. Research is everywhere.

What three individuals would you love to discover have listened to and enjoyed your work—would make you say, “Now that is totally awesome!”

I’d assume living yes? Hah! Steven Spielberg - I mean come on. Obviously, right? Not that I think he’ll give me a job off the bat but - hey who knows. Still the idea that the guy who filmed Jaws, helped create my first monologue in middle school (Quint’s Indianapolis speech), it would be a full circle moment.

Kevin Conroy - I mean anyone who played the Bat would be a godsend for sure. However, the guy who, if not my father, really pushed that voice thing home would be him. “I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman.” Ooooh, chills. Every time. And, to that end, to follow that/him too. That somewhere down the line someone like me could be where Kevin is, and some kid somewhere follows my suit. “Holy shit! Jon Waters heard my stuff! How cool is that?”

Kevin Smith - From me not quite knowing his films as a child, but knowing Dogma. Then being re-introduced to him through Tusk and then Clerks when I tried and “succeeded” in making my own film “Twelfth Night” was a great inspiration. I listen to his pods every chance I get and, frankly, a guy so excited about the new, nerdy, and awesome always has my vote. A guy who lights a candle instead of cursing the darkness and certainly someone I want to meet and work with someday.

What things influence your decision to take on a project and narrate a novel, and what are some things that cause you or to pass on potential projects?
A good chunk of it used to be “Will this be fun?” “Is this something that I can do?” And while the answer is most commonly a “Sure” or “why not?” There is something to be said these days, since becoming full-time, that makes me go “Will this pay the bills?”

Where I lucked out with The Silver Serpent and others from Gryphonwood Press was they seemed to take a chance on me in the beginning. And for them I’ve done their books royalty share through ACX. I was always a fan of fantasy. Lord of the Rings, Conan. I was in. So that brought the excitement of “What magic is going to solve this?” “A super sword that can do WHAT?!” It’s in my wheelhouse.

What makes me choose on a monetary level is “Can I get this done in a good time, and can I get a return on my time.” Some books, yes. Luckily I live and work not in the big three cities of LA, New York, or Chicago. And most cases I’m not charging Union rates. Which, if I did, it’d become a whole supply and demand issue where I’m putting out fewer books, but maybe getting one somewhere that does pay for my month. But what about my royalty share, and throwing more out there. I think I can luckily say, after nine years doing this that I have both Quality and Quantity on my side.

Sometimes you can just tell by the audition script that it’s just not your cup of tea. Sometimes it’s an author trying to show off with fancy language. And while it may be a challenge to use all those hard to pronounce words one after another, there is a simplicity in the ease of reading and description. “Tom went to the store and he cried, hard, but with the rain falling it was easy to hide.” As opposed to…say, “Tom, morosely, and with the less than truncated air of a bereaved partner wept his oceanic eyes to their tumultuous tsunami as he attempted to parade himself, shivering, through the winter cold to the packed store for nothing less than a pack of cigarettes.” Better? Yes. Sure. In a literary sense, I hope. For me I gotta take a big ol’ breath and hope I don’t mess it up because I gotta attack it again and again until it’s correct.

Many novels have a variety of characters. How do you determine the voice of each character, including tone, dialect variations, mannerisms, cadence, among other things to use when portraying them?

Hopefully the work gets done for you in preproduction with the author to tell you what voices they hear in their head. Some authors leave it to us dumb actors to figure out.

Adjectives help. Rough, course, light, airy, mousey. How are these characters described as moving. “Tom clanked with his heavy armor over to the box.” “Matilda’s lithe form moved like water to the crate.” You might give Tom a more hardened voice. He’s a veteran. Is he a bad guy, good guy, hero? Matilda, does her voice reflect that grace? Does she enunciate her words? Is there a whispery quality to it?

But accents should be, hopefully, clearly labeled in the book. In the sense that “Tom was born and raised in Scotland.” Bet he isn’t Russian. But sometimes it’s never spoken and at that point you and the author can kinda collaborate. For me it’s always Authors choice first unless they pass it on to me.

I remember having to redo Omar’s voice in both Silver Serpent and Keeper of the Mist because before I gave him a husky voice. While I liked it, listeners were not necessarily thrilled. Live and learn.

Are there any words or word combinations/phrases that, for some reason, your tongue always stumbles over and you sort of dread seeing in a novel you’re about to narrate?

Alliteration always tongue ties me. It shows your authors craft for sure. But it messes me up something fierce.

And the big words one right after the other that I, personally, loathe. Because I do have to look up words, and I’d rather not have to do it 9 times in a sentence.

But sometimes a random combination of easy words just throws my tongue and throat in to a spin. Somedays you just can’t quite get out “Jane went for a walk.”

What do you like to do to relax or blow off steam after a long day of recording?

I do like to go to the bar. Have a drink. I’m not a beer snob but I do know a little bit. More of a lager and darker beer fan.

Video games for sure. I just finished Borderlands 3 and am hopping back into Assassin’s Creed 3 remastered. I have been spoiled by the newer games for sure.

Love reading comics. Since I read professionally it’s nice to have pictures with my literature. Eases my eyeballs.

Especially over a long project (or even narrating sequels), how do you keep consistent with character voices, including accents, inflections and pacing? Are there procedures or techniques you've developed?

I write down the characters on a notepad by my computer. So that I can potentially go back and go “Oh, he sounds like….” But sometimes it happens that it’ll be years between sequels and notepads go missing. So, I have to try to remember what this side character, who may not have been anything in book 1, is a huge part in book 2.

But here again you talk to your author and hopefully if they’re writing to your narration as well, they can help guide you back on the track.

Accents and dialects I learned in college but it helps to watch movies. Listen to people from different places on YouTube. And try to find those hook words. For my German-accented characters my hook line is “right, red, road” which should come out as almost “‘ight,’ed,’oad” with a deep in the throat sound that isn’t present for say, cockney, in place of the R’s. Etc. etc.

If an editor from a small press, or a self-published author heard some of your work and was interested in you narrating a novel, what would be the best route to take?
REACH OUT! I’m happy to answer any questions or help you out. You can find me on,,, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and hell, e-mail: I’d be happy to help.

I do have to charge these days, but we can discuss. Even new authors looking for narrators and what they charge. I’ve been, and am all over the board.

Explain yourself in your message. I mean, I like a “I LOVE YOUR VOICE” e-mail as much as the next guy. But if you’re an editor from a small press you probably have some sort of pitch to get me interested, maybe some things coming up in the future.

Hell, ask if I have promo codes for some books. I probably do. “I need to do more research.” I’d be happy to help.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Jon, is there anything you’d like to add or say to the readers here at Up Around the Corner?

I’ve got some books coming out and I’m hoping to put out as many books as possible. I’ve signed an NDA with one group of books, however, I got a bunch of romance books coming out and I got some great stuff from Gryphonwood and Adrenaline Press that I am looking forward to tackling.

But the big goal of this year is to, at least, do 52 new books. One for each week. And so far I think I’m doing alright. If nothing else, I’m going to get really close.
I look forward to whatever the next project is. Everything helps me in some way or another—it just depends.