Thursday, January 21, 2021

An Interview with SF Author Courtney P. Hunter

 

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Courtney. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

 


I’m Courtney, and I’m a first-time author. My novel was released this past October. I’m from Philadelphia, and I live with my fiancé and three rescue pups: Rickie, Billie, and Reggie!


Sentience is my debut novel, and it explores the ethics of AI through a re-imagined Turing Test. It's been described as genre-bending by readers, and I think that's a really accurate summation. It's obviously a science fiction novel, but there's lots of thrills, romance, and some darker elements baked in. I love anything Promethean, and it was heavily inspired by the A24 Film Ex Machina and HBO's Westworld. The novel actually started as a contemporary dance performance that was showcased in the 2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and from there, I took the world that I built on the stage and transformed it into the world of Sentience.



Sentience
follows twenty-four individuals as they travel through a contained natural preserve to participate in a Turing Test conducted by a tech corporation willing to do anything for monetary gain. Throughout their journey, they face obstacles designed by the experiment controllers to elicit human response and emotion. However, four of these individuals are not human. Romance falls together as the world around them falls apart, revealing the lengths people will go to protect those they love, achieve success, or simply survive. While the humans involved wrestle with where they stand on the polarizing issue of artificial intelligence and its applications, the AI in the experiment must prove their humanity to leave the experiment unscathed. The experience of those within the experiment is juxtaposed against those running it, some of whom struggle with the corporation's intentions for the AI that pass the Turing Test. All of this leaves readers wondering what truly defines humanity and consciousness.

 

What inspired you to become a writer, and what is one of the things that surprised you most in the process?

I've always told stories and created characters in my head to entertain myself since I was a kid – during car rides, long baths, or stretches of boredom. It took me until I was around twenty-three to realize that I had a well-developed lineup of characters and story lines from all the years spent thinking.


At the same time, I've also been a dancer for the majority of my life, so I've found that there's lots of story-telling within dance, too. At twenty-three, I choreographed the piece that inspired the novel. When I was done, I felt like the world I created on the stage was the perfect backdrop to the characters and storylines rattling around in my head. I put the two together and that's how my first book, Sentience, got started.


I didn't grow up knowing I wanted to be a writer; it more so just felt like the next step in my evolution as a creator. Now that I have my first novel under my belt, I am itching to write another. I spent so much time working on Sentience without realizing it, so this time around, I'm just drawing a lot of inspiration from personal experience. This way my writing feels just as authentic, even though I didn't spend years subconsciously creating the characters.


As far as surprises go, one thing I learned when I went back to read my book during the process of promoting it, I realized how much physicality there is in my writing. Since I’m a dancer, it’s natural for me to emote physically, and I suppose I made my characters do the same.



It is often said that good writers are avid readers. Do you agree and, if so, what are your reading habits/what do you read?

 

I do, and I don’t agree. I found it hard to read while working on the first draft of my manuscript, and then again while promoting it. In full transparency, I can sometimes be someone who compares myself to others, and with a genre like science fiction that has incredibly selective fans, I felt intimidated reading in my genre.

 


However, when I’m in idea generation phase, and not in the throws of writing or promoting, I think reading is incredibly beneficial, especially if you can use something as a blueprint for how to strengthen a short coming in your own work. One of the first books that I allowed myself to read after putting my first draft together was Neuromancer by William Gibson. A friend recommended it to me to help with how I approached the technical descriptions in my novel. In that case, it was really beneficial.

 

If you could meet and spend a lunch with any two individuals, the first a historical figure and the second being a fictional character: Who would they be and why?  Where would you select to dine, and what might you hope to discuss?

 


I think I would like to have lunch with K from Katherine Faw’s Ultraluminous and the famous burlesque dancer, Gypsy Rose Lee. I’ve done burlesque myself in the past and have lately been wanting to get back into it. I think they could give me the pep talk I need. I also think they are two free-spirited and badass women, and I can be the opposite most of the time. Hopefully they would coax some free-spiritedness out of me over some wine at a brasserie in Paris.

 

What do you struggle with most as a writer and how do you overcome it?

 

EDITING! My goodness, I am a creative writer, but I am NOT a technical writer. I think editing is the most challenging part because it's the total opposite of creative flow. You need to be attentive and incisive, and reading your own work requires this weird level of vulnerability with yourself. Emotionally, it's a really taxing process.

 

As far as technical editing goes, I advise new writers to invest in a good editor, if nothing else. For reading your own work, I advise red wine.

 


Can you share a little bit with us about your recently published work?

 

I wrote it for myself. As a reader, I just felt like there wasn’t much out there like it. I was the kind of kid that grew up reading The Hunger Games and The Divergent Trilogy, and when summer reading was assigned and it was Michael Crichton and Robin Cook, I tore through it.

 

What does the 25-year-old version of that kid read? That’s who I wrote Sentience for.

 

What is one of the most challenging or difficult lessons you’ve learned as an author?

 

As a first-time author, I learned a lot about timing, and at what point in the process things need to get done. For example, like trying to have your book converted into a MOBI file two weeks ahead of your release date is a bad idea. There are so many nuances things that can hold you up, if not done in the correct order. I would have gotten a lot more sleep, if I knew these things.

 

There’s so much information about what to do to self-publish, however, not very much on when things need to get done. If any new authors out there read this and have questions about the order in which I did things and what I would do differently, I encourage them to reach out. I like helping other artists and creators, and I feel like artists don’t help each other enough.

 


Besides reading and writing, what else occupies your time? Do those activities influence your writing?

 

I like creating in anyway I can. It feels good to take the things in my mind and turn them into something.

 

I always connect what I am making back to my writing, and in a lot of ways, creating can help me work out a story in different mediums. For example, my next novel is set in the town I grew up in, so I’ve been taking walks and playing around with taking pictures of the neighborhood.

 

I also want to discuss family dynamics in my novel, so I started knitting while I think about those dynamics. Something about the interconnectedness of yarn makes me think about the way family members impact one and other.

 

Otherwise, I’m probably walking my dogs.

 

What might readers expect next from you?

 

I have a sequel to Sentience in the works, but it’s on pause for right now. I need to step away from that world for a bit and let myself get lost in something new. So, I started working on a stand-alone thriller that’s got some crime and family drama worked in.

 

I’m also trying to get into grad school for Media Studies + Production, so that I can have the tools I need to write and make movies and documentaries. That’s the end game, fingers crossed.

 

As we’re coming to the end of our interview, is there anything you’d like to say or add?

You can watch the dance performance that inspired Sentience here!

https://youtu.be/8GAGF7AF3Ds


Please share where readers can find you on the internet and where they might locate some of your works.

 

You can find Sentience on Amazon. It’s available on Kindle Unlimited.

 

I’m on Instagram @courtneypatriciahunter, on Twitter @courtneyphunter, and on Facebook @sentiencethebook!


Saturday, December 5, 2020

Monsters, Maces and Magic: Fairyed, Audiobook is Available

 


Hey Folks,

Monsters, Maces and Magic: Fairyed is now available, narrated by the awesome Jonathan Waters!

Check it out.

Links:
Fairyed on Audible
Fairyed on iTunes/Apple Books
Fairyed on Amazon



Thursday, December 3, 2020

Interview with LitRPG Author Raymond Johnson

 

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Ray. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your writing?


Hi, Terry! I am just an average guy who works as a funeral director in central Ohio. I have always written, and had a bad experience with a middle school teacher who claimed I plagiarized a story and put me off releasing anything for a long time. I was in my twenties when I actually submitted an expansion to the RPG Nightlife from Stellar Games, which had accepted my proposal and then promptly went under. So, you can see my love of gaming, and my luck with writing. Again, this put me back as a writer. I only publicly got back into writing as a reviewer, and once I found my groove I started doing short stories in Horror anthologies. I moved into LitRPG when the publishers opened their worlds to anthologies. My first published LitRPG tale was in the
Viridian Gate Side Quest Antho.


You recently released a horror LitRPG Novel, The Nightmare Game System: A LitRPG Horror. Can you tell us a little about the series, and what inspired you to write it?

I’ve been into horror since as long as I can recall. I was never afraid of monsters under my bed or in my closet because I was hoping they’d be there. Although, I do remember sleeping with a sheet pulled all the way up to my neck so Dracula couldn’t bite me in my sleep. This is a combination of my two loves, LitRPG and Horror. I tried to put in all the good stuff of both genres and give the book a direction that fans of both could enjoy and maybe cross over if they didn’t know about the one or appreciate the other.

 


NGS gives a lot of nods to horror films; the AI, Blair, is a nod to Linda Blair, and the Slasher, Kane, is a tribute to the great Kane Hodder. Lots of little bits in there like that. I’ve seen a lot of trapped in the game stuff, and thought that horror was the perfect setting. Everyone can imagine being a hero and fighting orcs and wizards, or aliens and robots, but no one ever stops to think about just surviving from one level to the next. Getting dirty and bloody, struggling to stay sane or just alive. Those kinds of games are few and far between. I wanted to integrate that into something that I would love and, thus, NGS was born. The first three chapters were done without any prep; I just started writing and it just came out.

I didn’t know Ramzan’s back story other than he had stolen from people he shouldn’t have and had gotten caught. Blair, Stanislav, Timofey, and Vadim pretty much made themselves, but none more so than Blair. Blair was really alive. I would try to get her to do things or say things, and she did her own thing. I am starting to think I created a Tulpa with her. For those who don’t know what a Tulpa is, it is a concept in mysticism and the paranormal of a being or object which is created through spiritual or mental powers. The guy that created the Shadow said that he saw and heard the Shadow all the time as he wrote, and Blair was like that. She is alive and she is real as far as I’m concerned.

 

I know you do a lot of reading, and especially listening to audiobooks.
Can you narrow the list and name three LitRPG titles you’ve really enjoyed and, in a line or two, why. Also, 3 non-LitRPG titles and why you enjoyed them?


Yes, the first Non-LitRPG would be the Ethshar series by Lawrence Watt-Evans. The first five or so novels are really some of the best fantasy stuff I’ve ever read. Different types of magic and average people collide for shocking endings that stay with you.

The Second is the Joel Silver series Guardians of the Flames. Again, the first five or so books are just brilliant before it drifts off course, but it is so worth it. Gamers trapped in their fantasy game world with real life repercussions as revolutionary when this came out. I often think about it even today.

Finally, and you will notice an odd trend that these are all FANTASY novels and not horror, is the first six Dragonlance novels. This is the most gripping fantasy world I have ever read, and the characters are so fleshed out and compelling that you will never forget them and suffer as not all of them make it to the end of the sixth book. Stop after the sixth, as they just spiral into trash.


 As for LitRPG, one would be your own series Monsters, Maces, and Magic for a lot of the same reasons as the Guardians of the Flame series. Book one was so familiar, funny and full of action that I prayed that there would be more to come. I’ve been enjoying the ride so far.

I’ll cheat here and say that some others that I enjoy are Viridian Gate Online, The Completionist Chronicles, Delvers LLC, Ether Collapse, the Good Guys series, I could go on forever. Seriously, forever. Each of them have something special or rare that makes them stand out, and they all carry on a level of excellence that other series might come close to, but just fall short of achieving.

 

You are also known for writing short stories. Which do you find more challenging to write, novels or short stories? Why?

I struggle with both, but not for the reason you think. I tend to write a lot when I get going. An easily 80 thousand word book hits 120K before I know it. A short story has to have a limit or I will write a full novella before I blink. That’s why I tried my hand doing Drabbles, strictly 100 word stories, and those 1,000 word tales. Just to see if I could reel myself in. I prefer short stories, because I can get an idea and take it and see where it goes. With a novel I kind of have to have a road map, as much as I hate that fact. So, I find it easier to write a novel since I am not really restricted, but short stories are more fun. Sorry, I guess I haven’t answered your question. So, strictly speaking, while I find short stories easier to write in the sense of having complete freedom, I also find them difficult to do with any sense of self-control.

 

When not writing, what fun or interesting things keep you busy?


Funeral Directing keeps me busy. Writing is my fun. Of course, I am a horror movie fanatic so watching horror is a great way to relax. It’s so odd. I have nightmares, or what most people would consider nightmares; horrible monsters, shadows, haunted houses and I don’t even wake up. But let me dream about something normal and I wake up stressed. I used to play RPG’s a lot, but that ended when I had kids. I tried to get them into D&D but no dice. I mean I have tons of dice, but there was no interest from them. I play older games like Darklands and Dark Sun; X-com too but I rarely have time to play. I guess I should say spending time with my family; that’s the PC thing to say, isn’t it?



You are not only an author, but a podcaster for the LitRPG Podcast, mainly reviewing audiobooks. How did that come about, and what do you especially enjoy about listening to books?

It came about for two reasons. First, I’m poor. I don’t have the money it would take to feed my hunger for books. I found out that authors do this thing where they would give out codes for you to listen to their books and leave a review. I figured if they were giving me a code the least I could do was give them a lengthy review, give it some pizzazz, and be as honest as possible giving my opinion on what did or didn’t work for me. I got a lot of books that way. Turns out having a track record of reviewing makes authors want to give you their book. It was here that I actually got back into my groove of writing. You write a few hundred documents and struggle to be creative lets you hone your writing abilities.

I found LitRPG by accident. I picked up a couple books, starting with William Arand’s first trilogy. I liked it, and then moved onto Mourning Wood, and then Delvers. I thought Jeff Hayes was THE narrator for LitRPG! I started grabbing everything LIT that I could, and continued the trend of reviewing faithfully.

I saw SBT asking for auditions to do the podcast, but I didn’t think anything of it. I mean, I just wrote reviews, I didn’t chat them up IRL. Then Jeff messaged me and asked if I planned on trying out, and I was not sure that I should. I thought it over and decided to try it out. I recorded a review, submitted it, and instantly regretted it. I hated what I did. So, I redid what I had reviewed and resubmitted. Wow, that’s a lot of Re’s. Anyway, Ramon liked that I cared enough to try again, and that was how I got the job. I tried to make my show different from Ramon’s just so it wasn’t the audio Ramon show. I tried to be silly and serious, but also do specials that focused on one part of the LitRPG pie. I wanted to do my own thing, and I have to say neither Jeff nor Ramon have ever censored me or tried to curb what I had to say. I’ve had no restrictions whatsoever, and that has been a boon.

 


I love listening to audiobooks because I have no time to read. I can listen to books all day long. I just had a five hour drive to and from a cemetery today, and I listened to Battle Born by Dave Willmarth. Great book, BTW. I would have been bored as all get out if I didn’t have that book. I just can’t listen to music. I hate modern stuff, and I’ve heard all the other stuff a million times. Except for Stevie Nicks. I could listen to her all day long on loop. Audio is better than TV or movies. Each narrator brings something special to the books they read, and when it works, as in when the writing and the narration mesh, holy cow. It’s magical.

 

If you could, what famous (or not so famous) individual living today would you like to share a meal with? Why that person, were would you like to dine, and what would you hope to discuss?


I prefer regular people. Celebrities, politicians, and their ilk are not people I’d like to chat with, and I’m not going to pick one author or narrator. But, if you go to twist my arm I’d have to pick the Goddess Stevie Nicks. I have worshipped her since I was 12 years old, but I’d hate to meet her. Never meet your heroes.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

 Hopefully, more Nightmare Game System. That depends on readers, though.

I also have a trilogy set in the VGO universe coming out next year, hopefully early on, and I am working with a third publisher on a Post-Apoc LitRPG trilogy. So, a lot. I just need to find the time to get writing done.

 

As this interview is coming to a close, is there anything else you’d like to add or share?

I’d like to thank you for even considering me for this. That’s important. The LitRPG community really supports its own and we have each other’s backs. I’d also like to thank Anneliese Rennie and Spectrum Books. I started NGS in much the same way I do my short stories, with just an idea. Two people came to me about it right out of the gate, Outspan Foster and Anneliese. Outspan gave me a lot of encouragement and suggestions on what I needed to do to make my MC sympathetic and have agency. Anneliese was super enthusiastic about the story. She literally took the first chapter and narrated it and sent it to me. I had just started the story. I mean, JUST STARTED and she wanted to do the book right off. So, the character Blair kind of made herself fit Rennie’s voice. Like I said, Blair does what she wants, but we both agreed she was meant to sound like Rennie. Her support has been incredible. I am eternally grateful for her belief in my work.

 

Below, please list the places and links where readers can find out more about Raymond Johnson and his works:

My Amazon Author page:
https://www.amazon.com/Raymond-Johnson/e/B07JCHVHYJ/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

  

My Facebook Author page:
https://www.facebook.com/RaymondDaleJohnsonAuthor/


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Monsters, Maces and Magic: Date Available in Print and Ebook

 

Folks,


Monsters, Maces and Magic:
Date
is now available in ebook and print.

Check it out:

Date: Ebook Vendors
Date: Print

I hope you enjoy my latest tale.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Monsters, Maces and Magic: Pawn is now Available!


Hey Folks,

Pawn is now available as an ebook (from various vendors) and in print!

Description:

Higslaff the Pawnshop Owner needs a job done, but the Guild War has taken a toll. Those he’d normally call upon are engaged in some other vital assignment, or dead.

He decides to hire Gurk, Jax, Marigold, Lysine and Kalgore instead. The adventuring party has proven themselves resourceful and effective on previous jobs, not only for himself, but for the local silversmith, and the Church of Apollo. This particular assignment shouldn’t be a problem.

What Higslaff doesn’t know is that details of his job have been compromised. Agents of the Riven Rock Thieves’ Guild are on the move, ready to wrest control of the enchanted item that could tip the balance in the Guild War.

Here are the links:
   Ebook Version of Pawn
   Print Version of Pawn

If you pick up a copy, be sure to share your thoughts after reading!



Sunday, September 27, 2020

Pawn Release Date: October 6th

 

Hey Reader Friends,

Monsters, Maces and Magic: Pawn is scheduled for release Oct. 6th.

Pre-order information from various ebook vendors can be found HERE.


Cover Art created by Mario Barraza!

I hope you enjoy the tale!

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.



Hexed
(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.