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.

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:


My Facebook Author page:

Sunday, November 29, 2020

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



Monsters, Maces and Magic:
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!


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.

(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!