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: