Time to get back into the saddle and write a book… #amwriting #ASMSG

Time to get back into the saddle and write a book… #amwriting #ASMSG

To write a book and how my approach has evolved

My latest novel, Disease, is climbing the charts before a Bookbub deal going out tomorrow.

My latest novel, Disease, is climbing the charts before a Bookbub deal going out tomorrow.

Back from Seoul and my research trip, I’m ready to get back into the saddle and write a book. Although, this time, the process of writing will be different from the way I’ve written books before, different even from my latest project. Speaking of my latest project, Disease will see a Bookbub deal tomorrow and already, it’s climbing the charts, currently occupying the #55 spot on the Alzheimer category on Amazon. Cool!

How I used to write

When I sat down five years ago, writing Family Ties and – shortly after – Jonathan’s Hope, I was just writing, sitting at my office desk, typing in a frenzy, a blur. I don’t remember much of those days except that I wrote over 120,000 words in roughly a month. How that was even possible, I don’t know. Picture a dervish, a ginny, a crazy person typing away at his keyboard feverishly. Something like this…

Over time, my writing changed. From writing about landscapes I knew intimately (Family Ties) and make belief places (Jonathan’s Hope), I moved on to territory requiring research (The Fallen Angels of Karnataka), combining that which I knew (locales) with research online and with friends and family into e.g. the history of HIV. Willem of the Tafel demanded even more research, but I was still able to do it all online, rummaging through 1980s research into nuclear war and what damage the fallout would do.

How my previous two novels came to be

My writing has evolved since, and there’s no qualitative aspect to that. To write my erotic novel Ross Deere, I spent a good year just reading similar books and then loads of time talking to other authors who were writing similar books. While not my deepest book (no pun intended), it’s a book that required a lot of research into the depths of the human psyche, yet ultimately, I learned the most important lesson AFTER the book came out, something I should’ve known from my psychology days, i.e. the difference between how “men” and “women” (in the traditional cis-way) approach and experience sex. A valuable reminder.

When I wrote my latest two novels, Last Winter’s Snow and Disease, research grew, particularly for the former, and for the first time in my career I went on a research trip. At the time, the manuscript was almost finished. But I did go back and change a few details that were off. But for the most part, the book’s details were vague enough that I didn’t have to change much. instead, I added a few things, here and there.

What happens now?

To write a book... Sometimes, that includes finding military underwear in a museum six-thousand miles away...

To write a book… Sometimes, that includes finding military underwear in a museum six-thousand miles away…

This time, I did my research while the manuscript is only about halfway done. Still, lots of words to be written. Yet as I walked the streets of Seoul, as I looked at the pictures of a war-torn city, read the statistics over the number the dead, looked at panoramas of a 1920 Seoul compared to a more recent picture, talked to locals for hours, the novel began to change before my inner eyes.

I’ve never been in this situation before. It’s a bit daunting, not because I lose the way I’ve worked for years, but because I see a different book emerge than the one I thought I was writing. Rather than describing an old man’s life in his upstate New York retirement home, the novel will focus much more on the war and the gruesome effects of war on people, soldiers and civilians alike. And it’s scary because there are a handful of people in Korea who seem to believe that I’ll be writing this amazing book about their history. Someone even asked if it would be turned into a movie. No pressure.

When research changes a book

The new book will be different than what it was before I flew to Seoul. To write a book used to be about closing my eyes and listening to my inner voices. These days, to write a book is about tons and tons of research, hundreds of pictures, articles and walking dozens of miles on the hunt for the right impressions, the right information. And as I walked the streets of Seoul last week, I could literally sense how my brain was rewriting the plot, changing character dynamics. Hopefully for the better. For a while, I thought that Martin (the working title of my coming book) would be a more light-hearted story. After my research trip, I know it won’t be. While not as dark as Disease, a book about war is never lighthearted.

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Hans

Korea: peninsula torn between the past and the future #amwriting #ASMSG

Korea: peninsula torn between the past and the future #amwriting #ASMSG

Korea is an interesting place to visit, particularly if you are interested in culture, colonial history, and geopolitical chess games

Having just returned from Korea, I’ve had the unusual opportunity to talk to Koreans, some young, some older, about the current tense situation between the two states on the peninsula. I talked to them about their views of a brighter future, without Donald’s bigger button or Jong-Un’s need for a nuclear arsenal.

As someone who’s been privileged to witness the extremely volatile and unexpectedly rapid German (re-)unification in 1989 and 1990 from up close, it was interesting to spend time to compare notes with my Korean counterparts on how they view the situation on the ground, mere fifty kilometers (thirty miles) from the border, or the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, as this heavily militarized (yeah, odd, right) area is called. Alex and I had traveled there during our last visit in 2012. We were able to visit the North Korean tunnels dug to infiltrate (and invade?) the South. We peeked through binoculars at the now-closed village of Kaesong, where North Korean labor produced goods for the Samsungs and LGs in the south. We also saw and shivered at the tall towers on both sides, proudly flying each country’s national flag. Eerie!

The entire border to North Korea is mined territory, literally. Violent incidents always a possibility.

Background

A few weeks ago, a North Korean soldier fled to the south, bullets from his comrades accompanying him on his rabbit-like run across the border where he collapsed. Marked by malnutrition, riddled with worms and bullet holes, the man is expected to make a full recovery in a hospital in Seoul. We know little about life in the North, and even my friends in Seoul could shed little light, other than that there is a powerful elite who lives a very good life, while the rest… well, starve? We don’t really know.

Satellite images show that there is very little electric light at night in North Korea, almost nothing outside the capital of Pyongyang, and from the few accounts we have seen and read, the people north of the border live an existence that very much resembles that of pre-war Korea. But we can’t know for certain.

Korea is an interesting country. While originally Buddhist, Christianity has been playing a major role for over a century as primarily American missionaries have been very active on the peninsula. They still are, and many in the Korean diaspora are deeply religious evangelicals. In the south, that is still the case, and churches of different denominations from Roman Catholic to Mormon stand side-by-side with beautiful Buddhist temples (see photo.)

Colorfully lit prayer bags hanging from a tree in Seoul’s richest and biggest Buddhist temple.

Understanding the North…

As for the North, religion is frowned upon, as in all communist countries, although the Kim family is staging itself more in the tradition of the old Joseon Empire. God-like rulers, rather than simply chairmen of the ruling party. Jong-Un’s grandfather, Il-Sung, is still president, decades after his death. Only a god could really fill those shoes, right? So what if that all crumbled? What if the gods were killed? Or exiled? Japan, in 1945, might hold a clue to how it might affect a people…

When East Germany opened the wall, it was the wealthiest of the Warsaw pact countries. Despite the paper-maché cars with lawn-mower engines they were driving. They were Germans, after all: industrious, hard-working, with little sense of humor or appetite for “living the good life”. They saved their money in bank accounts for a better day, and the unification treaty sweetened (or at least didn’t sour) their dreams. The differences, after having been sundered and apart for forty years (1949-1989) were staggering, but still manageable. Yet only last year did East-Germans achieve full parity in their pensions, and the “Soli”, the extra tax levied to pay for the build-up of the East is still paid. Based on the discussions of the two major parties for a new government for Germany, that is not to change. Keep that in mind as we look at a unified Korea.

Korea was split in two, like Germany, at the end of the war, in an American controlled (taking over from colonial Japan) South and the Sino-Soviet controlled North. We are seventy plus years into that separation. Relations between the two neighbors, of one people, are as bad as ever, despite the current Olympia induced romance. It won’t last, or so my Korean friends tell me. South Korea, like Germany, is one of the wealthiest nations of the planet, having risen from the ashes of 1953 like Phoenix. Meanwhile, North Korea is worse off than ever before or so we are led to believe.

Seoul, the capital of South Korea is a hyper modern city with more tall buildings than I could count...

Seoul, the capital of South Korea is a hyper-modern city with more tall buildings than I could count…

Sentiments in the South…

Official doctrine in Seoul is still the dream of unification. That is portrayed in many museums, from the Korean War Memorial to the National Museum or the City Museum. It’s enshrined in the national curriculum and it is the current minister of unification who is handling negotiations with his North Korean counterpart about their Olympic tête-à-tête. However, word on the street is a different one. Seventy years is a long time. Few people from the era are still alive. Even fewer have living relatives on the other side (despite the South’s insistence on always putting family reunions on the table.) The younger generations of Koreans enjoy the fruit of their parents’ and grandparents’ hard labor. South Korea is a wealthy country with good social services, a new smartphone every season, great K-pop music and in terms of fashion. Seoul is definitely the Milan of the East. Rarely have I seen a people so tastefully dressed! Who would give that up? Risk having to sacrifice the latest Samsung gadget to help complete strangers hundreds of miles away?

Also, and I think this is even more important: the younger generations in Korea suffer from similar problems our young do in the West: difficulties finding jobs, a real-estate market out of control. I’ve been told horror stories of thousands of people applying for ten internships where eventually only eight would be hired permanently, of hiring processes lasting months with up to four different aptitude tests. Employers scorning applicants with mere bachelor degrees. Korea has an excellent educational system, but given the stress of staying on top of the pyramid, it is also driving many students to the brink of exhaustion. Kids studying from six am to eleven pm, and some even commit suicide because of it. Tell me, why would they wish to risk competition from millions of people asking even lower wages?

Seoul, after the Korean War. Large parts destroyed after the initial attacks by North Korea in 1950. Replaced by a modern metropolis. The process was not without pain.

Seoul, after the Korean War. Large parts destroyed after the initial attacks by North Korea in 1950. Replaced by a modern metropolis. The process was not without pain.

What the future might hold

Having finally rid itself of the Shanti towns of the post-war era, why would Seoul risk the prospect of hundreds of thousands, millions even, migrant workers coming to town to find their fortune in the brightly lit capital of the South? The prospect of it all frightens the younger generations. Few of them will pay more than lip-service to reunification in public, and will flat out rule that prospect out, for the time being, instead referring to “potentially”, in a “distant future”. They are a smart people, and I agree with that assessment, given what little I (and everyone else) knows about the state of things in the North. Besides, I highly doubt that China is as gullible and naïve as Russia was with regards to the GDR. I doubt that China will allow American troops on its borders. They’re quite thankful for that buffer zone that North Korea puts in between American ground troops and mainland China. I think Beijing is humiliated enough by the mere existence of Taiwan and the Japanese alliance with the U.S.

Oddly, as we’ve recently marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of German reunification, we’ve also seen just how Russia still feels about the de-facto abandonment of promises made as part of the unification process, primarily not making Eastern European countries NATO members or stationing U.S. troops there. Today, there are NATO troops stationed both in the Baltics and Poland, right under Putin’s nose. Mind you, I understand the need for those, given Putin’s saber-rattling of late and his war on Ukraine, but all of this would not have happened (or would it?) if the GDR had remained a separate country. We’ll never know, but the Russians feel betrayed. I doubt that China will make the same mistake.

Olympic thaw

This is what the Korean emperor would see, should he ever leave his palace. The ancient rule that no building shall be taller than his palace, long gone.

This is what the Korean emperor would see, should he ever leave his palace. The ancient rule that no building shall be taller than his palace, long gone. And as the city has moved on, so have the younger generations of South Korea, no longer desperately clinging to the concept of a unified peninsula, one Korea.

In less than four weeks, the Olympic torch will arrive in Pyeongchang and the Olympic games will begin with the Koreans entering the stadium together, once again marching under a unified Korean flag (a picture of the peninsula on white background, as most recently in 2010.) I doubt Jong-Un will be there, and I doubt the unified ladies’ hockey team will play for very long. Many fear that the current romance is a veil to allow the North Koreans to further/finish their armed nuclear missiles. They’ve played the South and their need for political gains before. They need to be re-elected, Jong-Un doesn’t. I don’t think they’ll be successful this time, not like they were in the nineties, during the last era of “sunshine policy” of President Kim.

Young South Korea is worldly, suave, ironic, and not as gullible as their elders were. I find that hopeful, even if it will make progress on the peninsula slow. Sometimes though, slow is better. It beats a Seoul once again ravaged by artillery batteries from the North. Do you have questions? Comments? My trip to Seoul was primarily to learn about locations and settings from my coming novel, but I couldn’t help but discuss the current political and geopolitical climate with the people I met. To them, my thanks and utmost gratitude for honest and meaningful debates.

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend.

Hans

Seoul: on site research or how can I help my brain get this right?

Seoul: on site research or how can I help my brain get this right?

Between day and two of my research trip to Seoul, here’s what I’ve learned

Greetings from Seoul, the capital of the ROK, the Republic of Korea, or South Korea as most of us know it. The country’s official name is the very reason (or part of it) why North Korean forces attacked on an early day in 1950: the fact that the United Nations only recognized the southern government as the peninsula’s legitimate government. Eighteen months later, the entire place was up in flames and we saw the first post World War II conflict between the “West” and the communist East, as North Koreans were supported on the ground by China and Russia, while the ROK was supported by the United Nations. The almost unanimous resolution (Russia wasn’t at the table!!!) would be impossible today, as Communist China, not Taiwan, is now considered the legitimate government of all of China. Times change.

Think this is complex? Yeah, it is, and any historian with half a brain would find at least a dozen areas to fill out the gaps I’ve left in this one short paragraph. But how does this all help you understand my research or why does it matter? For one, being here, just seeing these three letters everywhere, ROK reminds me that the very basis of the conflict is still unresolved. Whether it matters practically in any future talks, as they just seem to have begun re the Olympic Games which are about to begin here in less than a month? I don’t know. But I know from the situation in China that any mention of Taiwan and independence causes convulsions in Beijing. I can only imagine how some North Koreans might react to the claim that their dear leader isn’t really a legitimate representative of his people… As a writer, this gives me perspective. I am literally forced to see things from someone else’s perspective.

I couldn’t have done that from a European vantage point, staring at Google Maps. No offense. Yesterday, and I’d like to share some of my findings here, I spent time in the War Museum (or memorial as it is officially called) and in Buk-chon Village. The latter plays a significant role in the novel. Join me for some tidbits?

Yongsan base, SeoulYongsan Base

Just finding some information about this base, this place that so much symbolized the Korean colonialization, first by the Japanese, now by the U.S., is a place that is difficult to get in to. And to get the armed forces to respond to questions a dead end. They do have social media accounts, but their communication is very one-sided.

But luckily, I found Intel I needed about the base in the fifties from the War Museum. And it seems as if Yongsan is about to finally be a closed chapter for the people of Seoul as this prime real estate is to become available for the local government. The U.S. forces are relocated about an hour outside of Seoul in the near future.

The base plays a role in those aspects of the book that take place in the fifties, during the war, and I needed to get them right. With this, I can safely finish certain aspects. So that was a great thing to accomplish.

Seoul, War Museum exhibit

Another fun detail I found was this pair of standard issue military underwear. For some reason, I mention this in the book, but the look eluded me, despite extensive research on Google (don’t ask…) Finally, I found them.

Bukchon Village

Very important aspects of the book play out in Bukchon village, an old part of Seoul, or the old downtown. At the War Museum, I was able to both see pictures of old Seoul, because so much was destroyed during the war, not to mention torn down to make way for the modern metropolis that is the South Korean capital. But I did find a lot of inspiration and potential locations. Here are some photos from yesterday:

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Seoul, Bukchon Village

Beautiful, isn’t it? My guide, Jaekwang, later took me to a local market where we were fascinated by a long queue for something. We stopped, I dutifully got in line (Swedes cannot not queue when we see one) and we ended up with a delicious and cheap (500 Won) dessert made from waffle dough and filled with bean curd:

Food stall at Kwangjang Market, Seoul

Food stall at Kwangjang Market, Seoul

Fish Waffles, Kwangjang Market, Seoul

Fish Waffles, Kwangjang Market, Seoul

This guy was making his fish waffles non-stop for the whole day. And delicious and warming (it’s around the freezing point here in Seoul) they were. Anyway, it’s almost time for me to head out again. Today we’re going to see Itaewon and other parts of Town. I’ve asked Jaekwang to surprise me and to take me off the beaten track, to show me aspects of Seoul tourists normally wouldn’t see. I’m curious. Tomorrow I have a business meeting, I’ll try to visit more local museums and on Wednesday just wander around, soak up the atmosphere. Come Thursday, I’ll fly home, and I’m sure I’ll have given my brain what it needs to complete the book!

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great week.

Hans

 

#Review: “When Heaven Strikes”, divine story by F.E. Feeley Jr. #amreading #ASMSG #LGBT

#Review: “When Heaven Strikes”, divine story by F.E. Feeley Jr. #amreading #ASMSG #LGBT

When Heaven Strikes: the cover image is really foreboding of what’s inside…

Disclosures first. While I haven’t met Frederick personally, we are online acquaintances. The “pool” of gay fiction authors is, after all, quite small. For some time, I’ve wanted to read his book When Heaven Strikes, as I had heard a great deal of good things about it, just recently e.g. from my friend Tracy Willoughby. This week I finally got the chance to relax and read this book on my flight back from Madeira. I most certainly didn’t regret buying it.

When Heaven Strikes

The stunning cover of When Heaven Strikes

The setup

When Heaven Strikes starts with a scene that takes place in the past. Family at the beach and a storm approaching. Ominous, dangerous, lives are in danger…

The rest of the book reminds me a little bit of the film “Short Cuts“. We get to know an array of different characters, some more, some less. At some point, all those lives touch each other in one way or another, and the ominous storm depicted both on the cover and title plays a major role in the overall arc. I won’t give away any details, but at some point, I was also reminded of my own novel, Jonathan’s Hope, as the novel also deals with a topic that is addressed there. Frederick takes a very different approach than I did, and I found it very interesting to see how differently the same “conundrum” can be dealt with.

Core themes

When Heaven Strikes tackles a couple of major topics with his book. One is that of gay relationships, of deserving happiness, and the challenges of our generation, the first one to really have access to marital bliss and boredom. Do we really deserve it? What makes someone marriage material, particularly if we’ve been led to believe we’re not. And what is love? Would you recognize it if you met love on the street? We have, after all, been led to believe by a lot of people that being gay isn’t about love, that we’re sexual predators, perverts, and sinners.

This points of course to the other major topic, that of faith. Religion is, particularly in the rural USA, a big deal. Having lived stateside myself and having many American friends, I know just what an enormous role churches play in people’s everyday lives. And recent political developments to the contrary, many congregations are extremely hateful of anything LGBT and have used the most recent election to prop up their failing dogmas. When Heaven Strikes plays out in the mid-west, the heartland of evangelism, of Baptist churches, and how it affects the lives of people. Frederick paints a beautiful picture, as scary as it may be at times, and he deals with faith very delicately. I quite enjoyed reading those aspects.

Frederick Eugene Feeley Jr. author of When Heaven Strikes

Frederick Eugene Feeley Jr., author of When Heaven Strikes

The Writing

When Heaven Strikes is a beautifully written book. Frederick takes great care to describe landscapes and locales, to draw characters that are flesh and blood from page one. Whether it’s Anderson, Ted or even Jeff or Gary (***no spoilers, sorry***), two main and two side characters, all equally human. The way Frederick paints landscapes and sceneries is almost photographic and even though my own experiences of Iowa are limited, I had no trouble picturing both towns, landscapes or individual buildings etc.

What is When Heaven Strikes?

It’s a question us gay authors have to deal with, as our books swim (or drown) in the sea that is gay romance. There is certainly an aspect of romance in the story (which isn’t a bad thing) and a tad too much sex for my personal taste. But it certainly is no romance novel, even though I have a hunch that Frederick was subconsciously influenced by his surroundings when he wrote When Heaven Strikes, just as I was writing Jonathan’s Hope. You just can’t help it. When Heaven Strikes is great contemporary literature, social commentary and – maybe more importantly – a book that is a must read particularly if you are gay and troubled by your faith, or maybe lost faith altogether? When Heaven Strikes is available on e.g. Amazon as an e-book, paperback, and audiobook. I can’t wait to read Frederick’s coming novel, Closer, published by my publisher Beaten Track in March. You can pre-order it now.

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Hope your start to 2018 was as good as mine… Have a good weekend.

Hans

Interview with M.D. Neu (@Writer_MDNeu), exciting voice in paranormal fiction #amreading #amwriting #ASMSG

Interview with M.D. Neu (@Writer_MDNeu), exciting voice in paranormal fiction #amreading #amwriting #ASMSG

I’ve met up with author M.D. Neu for a chat, about writing, his books and more…

I haven’t done an author interview for a while, but when Marvin and I got to chat about his books, I figured I wanted to learn more, and after having read his brand new novel The Calling, we sat down for a chat. Meet author M.D. Neu:

Author M.D. Neu

Author M.D. Neu

Who is M.D. Neu in his own words?

M.D. Neu is a writer, a husband and is driven to get the stories out of his head and into print. He also wants to tell stories about people and characters that he never saw growing up (everyday gay hero’s) and largely still doesn’t.

People like him; regular folks that happen to be gay, experience and feel other worlds and see into the future. When he’s not writing and working his day job he loves to travel and spend time with family and friends.

What is one thing you would like the world to remember you for?

That I told stories that everyone could relate to. That you could sit down and read one of my stories and see yourself in the leading role.

Writing

What got you into writing?

I started keeping a journal with I was a foreign exchange student in Germany. When I got back I continued to journal as it helped me process my internal coming out. It was a safe way for me to share my thoughts. From there it morphed into poetry and then into writing stories. It wasn’t something I ever thought I would consider doing for real, not until the last few years where somehow it became part of me and part of what I wanted.

The_Calling_Cover

The cover of The Calling

I guess I’ve always been creative, I’ve always been a talker, and I love telling stories so the three sort of pulled together and this is what that less than holy trinity turned into.

Are you a full-time author or do you have a day job as well, and if so, what do you do?

I work full time for a non-profit that works to end poverty and help those in need. It’s an amazing job and I have two incredible bosses. The best part of my day job is that typically when I leave for the day, I’m not carrying any of it with me. So, it frees me up for my writing. I’m very lucky in that regard.

I’ve just read your first novel, and I’ve read one of your shorter stories. Paranormal seems to be your “calling”. Why’s that?

Some of my favorite authors are paranormal and horror authors, Anne Rice and Stephen King top the list. Then I’ve always loved Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg. I loved the idea of things going bump in the night. It’s fun, but not in a “slasher-gasher” sort of way. I like a good jump scare but add in a little humor.

I try and write things that give me the chills but again not in a way that is going to gross people out. I want it to be fun and have humor to it as well. I also want it to feel real.

Some of the best ghost stories I’ve read have been ones that you never find out fully what happened or is happening kind of like Hitchcock’s The Birds or even Spielberg’s Poltergeist and now his Stranger Things.

Paranormal

I’m no expert in paranormal, quite the contrary. I do understand that there’s a lot of world-building going on, and I sense that even at the end of The Calling, you’re not quite done. I for one wonder where all the red wine comes from… Is that the appeal to you in paranormal or just a necessary evil?

It’s definitely part of the appeal. The Calling started off as a stand-alone story, my take on vampires and witches. I wanted to play around with how these mythical creatures could be around in our world today, especially with video cameras everywhere. As I plotted out the story and created the lore I found this rich world. There was a lot there. There was so much I wanted to explore and I knew I couldn’t cram it all into one book. So, assuming people are interested there will be a second book (hopefully). And I may even do some kind of prequel that focuses on Juliet.

You mention the Red wine, or as I simply refer to it, red. There is vampire magic involved, but as Victor mentions in the book, ‘nothing beats fresh.’

I will dive a bit more into the vampire side of things in book two. How they get their blood, how they can keep it fresh and I’ll even dive into more about their Keepers. I think I have some really cool fun stuff to share so I hope to get it all sorted.

You have taken vampires to a new level, displaying them in a new and interesting light. And the end of the book seems to open up for a lot more. Will we see a series or just a sequel?

Honestly, I only have a sequel planned, but as I mention I might do something with Juliet because I love her character and I find her really amazing and interesting. I’ve got pages of notes on her. We’ll just see what happens and how things go.

Author voice

You have a unique author voice, and your writing is extremely captivating. You literally had me drawn into the story before it really started. Even as someone who doesn’t read a lot of paranormal, I was really wanting to get back to the book, finish it, despite being on vacation with my family… The plot you built is very elaborate, intricate and full of twists. I must assume you’re a plotter. How much planning went into this novel?

Yep, I’m a plotter. Once I have my general idea and I’m introduced to the main couple of characters I start planning out the story. I keep my eye on the end and I have to make sure I can get to that ending in a logical manner. When it came to The Calling outline I found that by chapter sixteen there was no way I was going to get everything I wanted into this book. So I broke the story in half. So, The Calling is technically only the first sixteen chapters of the original outline. Book two will focus on everything that comes after that.

Once I have the outline I start to flesh out each chapter. I love details and description so I find pictures of the places I want to use and do my best to describe what I see. I also use placed I’m familiar with so I can add things like scent and sound to the story. I build all that info into my outline as well.

When it comes to twists I work with the end in mind. I know where I want to end up and then I have to think about the most real way to get there. I try not to wave ‘oh look magic’ or ‘oh look science’ I want the reader to believe that it’s possible so trying to get those details right is also part of the outline.

If I’m doing an action scene or I have a big scene where a ton of characters are I try and map it out so I know where everyone is going. I work out what they are doing in the chapter (during the outline phase) so people aren’t floating around.

The Dark & the Light

The Light and the Dark, tell us about your reasoning behind creating two kinds of vampires. Will we ever see the Dark unleashed?

The Light and the Dark. Honestly, they gave me nothing but headaches. The problem I have with the Dark especially is that if I left them up to their own devices they couldn’t really exist, not now anyway. They would have been discovered and killed off by now. To unleash the Dark would be to put our world into chaos. People would literally be showing up drained of blood on a daily basis all over the world. It would be a mess.

I had to rein them in, which I think works well because we get Victor. He is brilliant. He knows how to play the game and not take any crap.

When it comes to the Dark unleashed, I see parts of that world today, around us.

I mention it a bit when I was talking about the planning. There are parts of the world that are not safe (for whatever reason) and the Dark in those areas use this to their advantage. We may see more of this in book 2.

The gay aspect is very subdued, and you really had me confused there for a while (no spoilers.) In the end, I found it refreshing and gratifying, I have to say. Was that a choice you made on purpose? It seems that way, given Duncan’s own words?

Yes, that was my intent from the start. First and foremost I want to tell stories that anyone can relate to. Duncan could be your brother, cousin, best-friend, the stranger you see every day on the street. That should be who Duncan is and that is what I was going for.

I’m not a big fan of labels. We forget that we are all human first. Nothing else really matters from there on. So, I wanted Duncan to point this out. In fact, I had a little back and forth with the publisher on this fact (not in a bad way, my publisher is amazing and I adore working with them).

One of the reasons why I love to read other people’s books is to marvel at the ingenuity, the creativity we have. “How the hell did they come up with this…” I’ve had quite some moments like that in The Calling, but also in the other story I read, The Reunion. Care to elaborate on your creative muse?

I don’t really know if I have a muse so much as I have this characters floating around in my brain that I listen to. How I write kind of happens this way. I may have a dream or think, ‘what if’ and then if something clicks suddenly I’ll have a character come forward and they will start telling me their story.

For The Calling, I wanted to tell a vampire story that could work in our society today. Vampires that could be real. When I started thinking about the how. This guy Duncan came forward and started telling me about himself and the story grew from there. I want people to read The Calling and think, wow that could actually happen. I kind of also wanted to write a vampire story that Anne Rice would enjoy (I know I know, but it’s true.).

The Reunion

The Reunion

The cover of The Reunion

With The Reunion was a whole different ballgame. Some friends and I were playing this game with this crazy characters and when the game ended I didn’t feel like the story was over so I wrote this 3,600-word ending. It was nothing special, but from that, the idea of The Reunion formed and materialized. I changed the characters around and made them fit the story I wanted to tell. I also wanted to play on what we think we know. One thing that always drives me nuts about movies and stories is we will follow a single character and by the end of the story we someone find out everything. The character either stumbles onto the truth, overhears something, finds the diary, has the big bad tell them everything, etc. I understand why screenwriters do it, they want the audience to feel stratified with the ending. Okay sure that is wonderful, but it’s not real. That is why I like Alfred Hitchcock, he didn’t always answer everything; the characters only knew what they knew and nothing more. So that is what I did with Teddy. We only know and see what he knows and sees.

We often see male main characters described as hunks with six packs and what not. Duncan seems ordinary, at least physically. Was that a choice made on purpose?

If you want to read about beautiful gay men or beautiful gay women I can give you a list of wonderful books to read. If you want to read a story about someone like you who has an amazing adventure then this is that story. Duncan is an average Joe, plain and simple. He’s just average in fact all my characters fall into the average category because I want them to be someone we can all relate to.

Plug away…

Finally, what can we expect and look forward from you in the future? Plug away…

I’m hoping to launch my Sci-Fi Series A New World this year. I have this wonderful short story about a Drag Queen and an angel that I hope will get picked up. I’m going to be working on Book two of The Calling and there are a ton of other ideas I have floating around.

I also post poetry on my website for folks to enjoy. I try and get a few new poems up one a month (or once every other month) depending on how busy I am. So really I’m just starting up, there is a ton of stuff heading out. So I hope people can just sit back and enjoy some good storytelling from me.

Thank you, Marvin, author M.D. Neu, for answering my questions. If you want to connect with him, you can do so here:

His books are available from his publisher Nine Star Press, from Amazon and your other favorite outlets. I’ll talk to you again on Friday when I have another great review for you, a book from another author friend of mine I recently read… See you then.

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Hope your start to 2018 was as good as mine… Have a good week, and don’t forget to check back in on Friday for another book review.

Hans

PS: A word to blow my own horn. I finally received a Kirkus review for one of my books, Disease, and they’re quite gracious, calling it “a must-read for anyone in the throes of an ordeal involving Alzheimer’s disease” (Kirkus Reviews, 1/3/18) If you haven’t read it yet, there’s no time like now!

#Review: “The Calling”, debut paranormal novel by author M.D. Neu #amreading #ASMSG

#Review: “The Calling”, debut paranormal novel by author M.D. Neu #amreading #ASMSG

The Calling is a new – and refreshing – take on the age-old vampire theme

The Reunion

The cover of The Reunion

Disclosures first. I met the author of The Calling, M.D. (or Marvin) through a writers’ group on Facebook. We try to support each other mentally and sometimes through reviews, beta reading or just by discussing various topics that affect our lives and our writing. As gay writers, tiny droplets of sweet water in the ocean that is “m/m”, the group provides a much-needed breathing hole. Marvin had offered me his recent short story The Reunion to read, and I was deeply impressed. This isn’t a review of that work, but if you like a paranormal novella with a twist, read it. I can’t say much about it without giving away much, but it’s going to have your mind go for a few loops! Amazing writing. So I was curious about his debut novel, but his third book, The Calling, a new take on vampirism.

Captivating…

I finished The Calling yesterday, after spending nearly every free minute of my vacation reading it. It IS that captivating. More disclosures: I don’t like paranormal. I like realistic fiction, contemporary, set in the real world. Vampires, werewolves, fairies, dragons, and whatnot are about as fun to read about as religious dogma. It’s fantasy, and I prefer to stay in the real world.

However, every now and then, it’s fun to just let it all go, and escape, and see just how far human imagination can go. I have recently reviewed another paranormal story which goes in an entirely different direction. I liked that, and I certainly enjoyed reading Marvin’s The Calling. It amazes me how people can come up with all those intricacies about vampires, that renew a stuffy and moldy concept. I’m old enough to have grown up with the quintessential Count Dracula, the one, and only Bela Lugosi. I wonder how many millennials have seen his movies on TV… Anyway, back then, vampires were vile creatures who killed mindlessly to drink blood and stay alive. You kept them at bay with garlic and killed them with a wooden stick through their heart, or – if possible – daylight.

Vampirism…

With the Twilight books and films, vampires changed (please accept my apologies for my ignorant take on this. I really don’t read this stuff and I’m sure it’s a lot more complex), at least for me. Suddenly, vampires could be both good and honorable, and rather than becoming dust, they glowed like diamonds in the sun. How very romantic… They still drink blood though, and if I’m not mistaken, beheading also kills them. But basically immortal they are. Whether inspired by Twilight or not, Marvin spins on the good and evil theme, as his dark and light vampires are introduced in The Calling, and the story (I have a hunch, given the ending, that this will become a series) focuses on our main character, Duncan, and his becoming a vampire.

The story…

I really don’t want to talk about the plot, so here’s the “official” blurb for the book:

The_Calling_Cover

The amazing cover by Natasha Snow, who also does my covers… 😉 She’s immensely talented.

“Being a nobody isn’t Duncan Alexander’s life goal, but it’s worked for him. He has a nondescript job, a few good friends, and overall he’s content. That’s until one fateful trip to San Jose, California, where he is “Called” to meet the mysterious Juliet de Exter. Juliet is a beautiful, wealthy, powerful Immortal who is undertaking The Calling—a search for a human to join her world of Immortals. Inexplicably, Duncan’s calling is more dangerous than any of the Immortals, even Juliet, ever thought it would be.

There is more to this nobody, this only child of long-deceased parents, than anyone thought. When Duncan experiences uncontrollable dreams of people he doesn’t know and places he hasn’t been, Juliet and the other Immortals worry. Soon, his visions point to a coven of long-dead witches. The dreams also lead Duncan to his one true love. How will Duncan navigate a forbidden romance with an outcast Immortal? How will he and the others keep the balance between the Light and Dark, survive vicious attacks, and keep the humans from learning who they truly are? More importantly, who is this implacable foe Duncan keeps seeing in his dreams?”

My take…

I absolutely loved The Calling, the way the vampire theme is used, expanded upon and the intricacies of the plot. Shyalaman has found his equal! So yeah, no spoilers. Here’s the biggest compliment I can afford: I really don’t like paranormal books, normally. But here, I can’t wait for the sequel. If it’s as exciting as the first book, I’ll be stuck in a corner, reading it in one go, again.

The Calling is a gay novel, published by Nine Star Press. However, the gay theme is really toned down and not in your face. Quite the contrary. I’ve asked Marvin about it, and if you come back on Monday, you’ll be able to read what he has to say in his “defense” (not that he needs to). It’s quite refreshing to read gay fiction where being gay is as boring/normal/ every day as being straight. You’ll see what I mean.

No go forth and purchase this book, it’s an incredibly well-written (and edited) debut novel. It’s available from your usual outlets, including behemoth Amazon, and from the publisher itself. The Calling was published this Monday, New Year’s Day, and is available as e-book or paperback. Buy it!

Finally…

As always, if you like my blog, my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Hope your start to 2018 was as good as mine… Have a good weekend, and don’t forget to check back in on Monday for the interview with Marvin.

Hans

PS: A word to blow my own horn. I finally received a Kirkus review for one of my books, Disease, and they’re quite gracious, calling it “a must-read for anyone in the throes of an ordeal involving Alzheimer’s disease” (Kirkus Reviews, 1/3/18)