Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: R. W. Harrison, Supernatural Thrillers

My main genre is supernatural thrillers. My most recent book is Raven’s Temple, published in January 2022, about a serial killer who belongs to a cult that promises immortality.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:  I began writing seriously in 2011. I had a rough story idea loosely based on a series of hauntings I experienced many years ago and finally decided to get it down on paper. It became the first book in my Onyx Trilogy, The Onyx Seed.   

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author: It took me three years from start to finish, including research, writing, editing/proofreading, cover design and formatting.    

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:  I’ve been able to condense that timeframe over the years. My latest book took exactly a year from beginning the outline to publication.   

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:  I’m an indie author. I did a lot of research as I was finishing up my first book, on both traditional and indie publishing. It came down to a business decision for me. I liked the control that indie publishing offered and that the timeline was of my choosing. Plus, the profit margins are higher.   

What is your publishing process?

Author:  I enlist the help of other authors that I trust for beta reads after I’ve self-edited the first draft. After taking their suggestions and rewriting as necessary, I send it to my editing team. After my rewrites and another review from my editors, it gets polished and proofread, and I work on the formatting and cover design. Once that’s all done, I upload to KDP.   

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:  So far, it’s been exclusively with Amazon’s KDP platform, but I am considering going wide.   

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:  I’m active on a few Facebook groups, including Beta Readers and Critique Partners and Self Publishing Support Group. I’ve made a lot of author friends in the groups and their help with beta reading has been invaluable. 

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author: It’s small, but growing. My platform consists of readers who are new to supernatural thrillers. My books aren’t too dark or scary, so they’re “safer” for the casual reader who just wants a hint of the supernatural in what they read. I also include a lot of geographical references in my writing, so people who live in, or have visited the particular areas, enjoy reading about landmarks and scenery they’re familiar with.    

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author: I definitely need to ramp up this part of my marketing. I haven’t taken advantage of ARCs yet, but will for my next book. I promote the books on my personal social media and my author pages, and “lightly” promote it in some of the other groups I’m active on.    

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author: In the back of my books, I encourage people to leave honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and any other place they normally review books.      

How do you promote your content?

Author:  One of the things I’ve done is become active in Facebook groups that are focused on where my books take place. For example, my Onyx Trilogy takes place mostly in and around Letchworth State Park in upstate New York. There is a large and engaged FB group for the park and I have enlisted the group’s help with research questions, explaining that I’m writing a book that is set in Letchworth. I keep the group informed on the progress, ask more questions, etc. When it released, I asked the administrator of the group if I could announce it. They agreed and I did, which resulted in a lot of interest and sales. The key is to be an active, genuine member of the group, and not be spammy.   

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:  I haven’t figured it out yet, but from everything I’ve read, it’s writing more books, being consistent with your marketing, and being authentic.   

How do you define success as an author?

Author:  Personally, I’ll be successful if I can write full time.   

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:  I write primarily supernatural thriller novels, approximately 75-80K words in length. I am currently outlining a straightforward thriller.   

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:  My slogan is “Books to Leave the Lights on For”. My brand is tied to my genre – supernatural thrillers. I’m fascinated by the things unseen in this universe. Sometimes we call them ghosts or spirits or poltergeists. I may not be convinced that those things exist, even though I experienced a haunting myself, but science hasn’t explained them all yet. The things that go bump in the night make for terrific stories.

How many works have you published?

Author: I have published four books: One trilogy and a stand-alone novel.     

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

      

Author: Raven’s Temple follows a man suffering from a debilitating disease who belongs to a cult that promises immortality. He’s chasing a cure and wants to live forever, but what the cult asks him to do to achieve that eternal life comes at a steep price. It takes place in north central Florida, in the Ocala National Forest and involves ravens, hence the title, which are usually not found in Florida. I had a lot of fun researching ravens and crows, and cults.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author: I try to keep the reader turning pages, so often I will end a chapter with a mini-cliffhanger. The next chapter usually changes POV to another character, so if you want to know how the earlier chapter ended, you have to keep reading.    

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:  I knew I had a story to tell and initially, I just wanted to make sure I could do it. Once I had it down on paper, my goal shifted to getting it in readers’ hands.     

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:  As a genre writer, I offer an escape. A fun rollercoaster of a read that can be enjoyed over a few days and hopefully a story and characters that will be remembered.   

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:  I love the brainstorming part before I’ve even begun writing. Jotting down ideas, bouncing story lines off other authors, coming up with twists and turns for the plot. That’s my favorite part.   

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author: I got a lot out of the MasterClass video courses, especially the courses by Dan Brown, Neil Gaiman, and David Baldacci. I also recommend Mark Dawson’s SPF courses for marketing. A great, free resource for marketing is Ricardo Fayet’s book, “How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market”. It’s available for free on Amazon as an ebook. David Gaughran also offers a wealth of free information on indie publishing.      

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author: In a way, my books are similar to those of Scott Smith, Nick Cutter, and John Langan. Libraries are great places to discover new authors, and since I work in one, it’s easy to see what’s popular or new on the scene.    

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:  I have to be careful with what I’m reading when I’m writing, especially during the brainstorming phase. For example, I’m working on a novella about a haunted lighthouse and happened to start reading a horror novel that takes place in a lighthouse. I put the book down because I didn’t want to unconsciously steal ideas from the book.   

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author: I’m kind of a hybrid between a pantser and a plotter. I started my first book, The Onyx Seed, as a pantser, totally enamored with the idea of just sitting down at the computer and typing out my Great American Novel. However, it didn’t take long to write myself into a corner because those characters sometimes take on a life of their own. So I outlined the rest of the book, and that made it so much easier. Now I work from a loose outline, which allows me to go in other directions if I have to.    

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:  I’ve found my community of fellow authors mostly on Facebook. Some on Instagram, but I’m somewhat more established in FB.   

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author: I wish I could write in sprints, but I’m definitely more of a turtle writer. I’m getting faster, though.    

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:  Figuring out the marketing and business end of the journey. I’m far more comfortable with the writing and editing. It’s getting your book in the hands of readers that’s the most challenging.   

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author: If I let it, it could be demotivating, but I’m confident that, if I just keep writing quality books, they’ll find an audience. They already have, but it’s modest. I’m not sure who said it, but I heard a quote recently…you want to get to the point where you’re not the one beating the drum for your books – your fans are.    

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author: Keep reading in your genre, read outside your genre, learn the craft, practice, ask questions. And, as the title of James Scott Bell’s book says, “Just Write”.    

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author: I began writing at the age of 47. If I could do it over again, I would have started much earlier.    

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author: Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to marketing. I know what I need to work on, but I’m far more interested in writing more books. I justify this because I know one of the keys to being successful is having a large backlist of books.    

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author: I try to set goals for myself, usually 3,000 words a week. Life gets in the way too much for me to set daily goals. I try to reward myself if I hit the goal with one of my guilty pleasures…watching an old, classic movie.    

The peacefulness of a small, post-World War II town in New York is shattered when Larry McConnell drowns mysteriously in a local lake. When a kind boarder joins Larry’s widow, Margaret, and her young son Davey, she begins to think her house may be haunted.

The sheriff believes a rogue deputy is responsible for Larry’s death while Margaret reluctantly seeks the help of a palm reader. The psychic identifies a dresser in Davey’s room as the source of the haunting and the root of the evil that is now swirling around them and threatening Margaret’s son.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:  I usually listen to Psychedelicized.com. A streaming channel that plays classic psychedelic rock from 1967-70. That’s my go-to music.   

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author: I have an office in the house. I’m very fortunate to have a dedicated space that’s totally mine. It has built-in bookshelves on one wall, a large desk, a comfy chair, and a nice view.    

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:  I just finished “The Hollow Places”, a horror novel by T. Kingfisher. Next up is “The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land” by Thomas Asbridge. I tend to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction, mostly history.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author: I’ve learned that dreams can come true. I’ve always wanted to be an author. Writing and publishing one book got me there. And now I’m hooked and loving it. Now my dream is to do this full time.    

Do you have a writing companion?

Author: Often our black cat Tucker keeps me company in the office. One of these days, I’ll include him in a book.    

Readers can find my books on Amazon and more information about them and me on my website, www.rwharrisonbooks.com. I also offer author services such as editing, cover design, and formatting, with details on my website.   

Blog, Book Reviews

Book Review: Shattered Glass by Skip Schmidt

Five Stars

On Amazon

An extraordinary blend of historical and science fiction…

Schmidt’s work delves into past and present day Germany with vivid descriptions and deeply woven political plots. Shattered Glass is full of unexpected twists and suspense that will keep you turning every page. Anyone that enjoys time travel and mysteries, will find this entertaining.

A dive into the Einstein-Rosen bridge theory, Shattered Glass introduces us to two time frames, 1938 Nazi-Germany and the year 2013. We follow Lieutenant Eugen Scheele in the past as he tries to uncover the truth about Captain Kreider’s disappearance, whilst his great-nephew, Inspector Willi Scheele, must ascertain the appearance of Kreider in near present day.

Shattered Glass is a trip back inside the world of Nazi-Germany and the struggle of all who suffered from and were opposed to their reign. The stakes are high with lives hanging on Eugen’s and Willi’s next moves. But anything can happen in war.

Schmidt spares no detail. It is a thrilling ride with murder investigations, dark humor, sex, and constant edge-of-your-seat political tension.

You won’t expect what happens at the end.

Schmidt’s written voice can be enjoyed by the average reader and appreciated by those who like a more… perspicacious approach. Shattered Glass is not a fast or disposable read. It is something you want to sit down and absorb. The characters are genuine—their actions unpredictable and their emotions and relationships as organic as any in real life.

I recommend this work to those who are fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

Looking forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Amazon

Goodreads

Blog, Book Reviews

Review: Rise and Run by R. J. Plant

38521544Rise and Run by R.J. Plant

Delightfully engaging and humorous, packed with action… Plant describes the post-apocalyptic world in such vivid detail, you’ll feel like you’re the third consciousness.

Rise and Run follows Felix and Conor on their journey to uncovering their past as they struggle within themselves for dominance while simultaneously fighting for their lives. The heart of GDI, Government Directive International, is set on utilizing them as a biological weapon ─ unwilling, snarky, and a bit of a head-case delinquents.

The characters all have their own, very distinct, attitudes and accents, bringing forth comedic conversations, tension, and spell-binding questions. Everything around them, in every scene, is described in potent depth from the toxic air to the bloody carcasses and broken buildings. Plant is a master of subtly, especially in writing the flickers of emotion even the most hardened soldiers can’t repress.

A fluid and easy read, Rise and Run is all about the challenge of putting the puzzle together and tracking plot twists that never seem to end. The voices of the main characters are genuine and unfiltered. Plant combines the feel of a movie with a first-person shooter role playing game. It’s live action, split-second decisions, and spares no blood.

The main character’s witty perspective, Felix/Conor says everything that we feel as a reader in a rather dry, ironic manner that makes the harsh, thrilling reality that much more entertaining.

Rise and Run is a definite must-read for anyone who’s a fan of post-apocalyptic, thrillers, and hard science fiction. If you’ve got a crass sense of humor you’re going to like this very much.

 

 

(Spoilers beyond this point)

My personal reflection:

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the vast amount of description and humor. Plant does a fantastic job of creating realistic settings and characters. The plot winds and twists and you never really know what’s going to happen next. This is one of the only books I’ve ever been able to read at a comfortable pace and not feel the desire to skip any parts.

There are a few moments where I got lost in the dialogue as to who was saying what, but nothing that tipped the scale. The only other trouble I had was at the very end. The perspective switches again like it did in the beginning and we watch the main character from a third party, someone I don’t feel connected to as a reader. I had hoped to see the main character healed/healing and maybe a moment of tenderness with another character, but the resolution isn’t definitive. It must be inferred from the other characters on the last pages.

In a way this is fitting with Plant’s style, the ever-elusive clarity on the character’s true situation (not the perceived one).  And, in its own way, this ending shows more to the story than we would not have understood otherwise. So all in all: in the words of a character from the United Irish Republic, year 2042, I call it a fecking good book!

 

 

Blog, Book Reviews, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Book Review: The Unity Game

Book Review: The Unity Game by Leonora Meriel

Genre: Adult Science Fiction

The Unity Game for review postAstoundingly descriptive, beautifully imagined, with unique characters, Meriel will warp your mind, challenge your beliefs, make you wonder, and then want to redefine your understanding of reality.

We begin, following three characters through life-changing moments. Each chapter will follow David on his quest for success amidst visions he can’t explain, Alisdair into his new life only to discover he won’t be staying with the ones he loves, and Noœ-bouk (yes, written with a Latin ligature) in his journey through the last part of his life cycle and what he’s willing to do for a chance to beat his odds.

There are two main plots that run the length of the book you won’t catch on to until the very end. One facilitates the reader’s understanding of the other. It’s a curious monster with philosophies behind our existence and purpose that are enthralling. They lay the framework for the main plot with a twist you won’t expect.

(There are possible spoilers beyond this point)

Muriel really hits home when she breaks down Earth in comparison to the rest of the universe. This is where the Unity Game comes into play. We’re all just, essentially, spirits living multiple different lives in a way to gain experiences to level-up our understanding of the universe and achieve higher status (attain positions on councils etc). The conscious minds take lives on earth as a challenge because it is so unpredictable. The greater the challenge, the more “points” earned. When a consciousness merges with a body on Earth, they forget their “spirit” and won’t remember again until they pass on. Earthlings are described as removing themselves from the God complex (higher understanding of the cosmos) and then denying it exists completely, reducing us to mere “base” structures.

There is little that remains finite about the realms Muriel has created. A Home Planet saved, a granddaughter, a job (repeatedly), and yet there looms this never-ending “now what?” for each character. Even toward the end, passing the knot joining the threads together, there are infinite directions in which the characters’ futures may head, leaving the reader with a sense of hope.

The worlds Meriel has built are beautifully imagined down to every breath the only real measure of time. The three lives/timelines will feel like their own book entirely with raw detail and emotion in every step of their path. Meriel keeps you guessing and searching for patterns on how the pieces will align well into the book. But have faith, she will break your heart, mend it, and trade it out for another all at once in the final pivotal moment.

Be prepared, there are several erotic scenes, particularly with David. While it’s hard to grasp his disloyalty, these scenes will make much more sense when you’ve turned the last few pages. They are raw and primal in an extraterrestrial sort of way. Muriel depicts David’s psychological changes with vivid alacrity: a chaotic blur of images, thoughts, physical sensations, and external reactions that evoke a near-empathetic understanding from the reader.

If you are fans of Socrates, philosophy, or Greek inspired writing, you will love this. Fans of science fiction, fantasy, money, psychological thrillers, space travel, alternate realities, sex scenes, you will enjoy this very much.

This book is not for speed readers. It is meaty and intricate; you don’t want to miss lingering in its depth. It must be absorbed from every angle to truly sense the unity that binds all things.

 

My personal reactions:

The moment that stood out the most was with Noœ-bouk, when he has surpassed his body life and should no longer exist, yet there he is. The parameters around the possibilities are hazy and loose, and some things just happen. But they’re accepted because of the overall theme of consciousness is freedom. I did struggle a bit with the rules of the realms, but that was part of the joy of this book. There really weren’t any rules. It just took some getting used to, some stretching of the mind we’ll call it.

Not having a concept of the plot in the beginning was hard. I didn’t get pick up my first hint until about half of the way through when Noœ-bouk’s Tayr was actually Earth. At seventy-three percent I got my first solid indicator about the Unity Game itself. That’s when the story finally picked up for me and I began to understand the characters, the purpose, and the end goal.

There were a few secondary characters that had segments from their perspectives that I felt pulled me away from the story, but their parts were short. They just didn’t seem crucial to the main plot. But I trusted Meriel had a deeper plan, and I’m glad I did.

It was a bit hard to grasp the collection of these perspectives into the chapters. I believe there’s a theme with the symbols breaking up the parts of the chapters, but sometimes it was in the middle of a perspective, and it wasn’t necessarily for the purpose of a time break. Those were separated by a blank line. I honestly couldn’t catch the pattern despite looking for it. I’m figuring the evolution of the shapes from simple to more complex factors in as well. (Maybe I will understand this on another read-through)

Noœ-bouk’s character was the most critical to the storyline, the most interesting, but also the hardest to connect to. The perspective is difficult to grasp because it is gender neutral, and the lack of emotion makes it difficult to form an attachment. But, the stunning light displays and extraordinary life It has lived keep me hooked.

Toward the end, I figured out Alisdair’s character was more a vessel for explaining to the reader the concepts of the universe, the multi-verse, the lack of actual time, how we’ve all lived thousands of lives already and they’re all happening simultaneously. This was one of my favorite parts. It really scrambles your concepts of “reality” and makes a smoothie out of your brain. But it’s a delight and the places Alisdair and Duncan go are quite magical. The concept of the library without dust and the fact that Duncan created dust with a tap of a finger on a book spine was a nice little detail.

It was mentally thrilling, heart-breaking, and spiritually exhausting. I am definitely going to read this again.