Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Interview with "The Other Inheritance" Author Rebecca Jaycox

Last week was a very special time for a good friend of mine, Rebecca Jaycox. Her sci-fi novel The Other Inheritance has been finally sent out into the world, available as both an eBook and paperback, and I got to speak with her about being a newly published author, hints of a series to come, her upcoming signings, and more!

But before we go to the interview, I'm sure you're asking, "Who is this Rebecca Jaycox?" Well...

Rebecca Jaycox grew up in the tiny town of Berryman, which borders the Mark Twain National Forest and the Courtois River about 70 miles south of St. Louis. The beautiful landscape fed her imagination, and she began writing stories at age 10 and never stopped. Always seeking adventure, Rebecca moved to France after she graduated college with a journalism degree to teach English at a French high school. Bitten by the travel bug, she has recently visited Italy, Greece, Austria, Spain, and finally made it to her bucket-list destination of Istanbul last summer. Rebecca now lives in New York City with her husband, Gregory. She is the curator and program director of the YA Lit Series at the 92nd Street Y—one of New York’s premier cultural centers. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction.

Pretty awesome, right? :) Read on for more!

GEORGE SIROIS: We're only a couple days removed from the moment when "The Other Inheritance" went live on Amazon. How have you been feeling since then?

REBECCA JAYCOX: Awesome, scared, and relieved all mixed together. I’m proud that the book I’ve worked so hard on for the past eight years has finally been published. I can officially say I’m an author! But with that pride comes panic; yeah, now my book is actually out there for the public to read and judge. I just I hope they like it.

SIROIS: Let's take a few steps back to the beginning. When did you know you were going to be a writer?

JAYCOX: I guess I’ve always known. I was writing stories on my grandma’s antique typewriter before I even knew how to type, but when you’re a kid, everyone wants you to become a doctor or a lawyer. You don’t think, yeah, writer, that’s a valid career option. It wasn’t until high school that I started taking creative writing classes and winning some awards. It just felt natural to me, and even though I tried other things, I always came back to writing. Always.

SIROIS: When did the initial idea for "The Other Inheritance" appear? Tell us about the moment when you knew that you had something here.

JAYCOX: I don’t really know; I’d been kicking the idea around in my head since my early twenties. I love fantasy and science fiction, and I wanted to create a strong heroine who yearned for and struggled to be “normal” only to accept that she was extraordinary and that was okay. Creating a magical world around that concept was easy. I first knew I had something when my fellow writers in one of my workshops responded so positively to the character of Reggie and to the magic of the world I was building.

SIROIS: Other than Reggie, who is your favorite character?

JAYCOX: Hands down, Brwyn! He’s seductive and charming and outrageous. He’s a guy you definitely want to have a drink with; the stories he could tell you!

SIROIS: How long did it take to write this, from first to final draft?

JAYCOX: From first draft to last, it took me a total of eight years. It was worth it.

SIROIS: Is this the first book in a series? How far do you see the story going?

JAYCOX: This is the first book in a series. I originally imagined it as two books, but now that I know what story I want to tell, I might have to push for a trilogy.

SIROIS: Is there anything that you can tell us about the future of this series without giving any spoilers?

JAYCOX: There is going to be a giant cornfield in the next book. If there is one thing that Stephen King has taught me, it’s that nothing good ever comes from going into a cornfield! They hide nefarious things…

SIROIS: You have two upcoming launches for this. Tell us about them. Where and when?

JAYCOX: The first launch is at The Book House in St. Louis on December 13 from 1-3pm and the second launch is at Lange General Store in Steelville, Missouri from 12-2pm. I’m also going to do a launch in New York, but I haven’t determined the location yet.

SIROIS: Where can fans find you?

JAYCOX: Fans can find me on Facebook HERE.
You can follow me on Twitter at @rebeccajaycox.
My website and blog are at (but it’s undergoing some remodeling right now)
You can find my author page on Amazon HERE.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! How would you like to win a copy of the paperback or eBook of The Other Inheritance? Just click HERE to take part in RHP's big giveaway!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interview with "Final Empire" Author Blake Northcott

Mark Waid said her writing "grabbed me from the first page and wouldn"t let go." Mark Millar called her "the most exciting new voice to come to superheroes in over a decade." And for the third straight time, her Kickstarter campaigns to fund production of her novels brought in 270 percent of their original goals. Blake Northcott is definitely a treasure in the world of indie publishing, and in just a few days, her latest campaign on Kickstarter will be coming to a close.

In 2013, after releasing her novels "Vs. Reality" and "Relapse," Northcott wrote the first part of her "Arena Mode" trilogy, with illustrations by some of the top artists in the comic book industry, and the response has been absolutely incredible. So much so that when she announced the first sequel - "Assault or Attrition" - 638 backers pledged over $30,000 to continue reading her work. Now, with the third of three successful campaigns in its final days, and Blake ready to finish writing "Final Empire," the conclusion of the "Arena Mode" saga, she was gracious enough to answer some questions for me.

GEORGE SIROIS: In celebration of the upcoming final chapter of the "Arena Mode" saga, let"s go all the way back to the beginning. Take us to the moment when this world popped into your head.

BLAKE NORTHCOTT: The title for "Arena Mode" came to me in the middle of the night, actually. I was half asleep, thinking of a podcast I'd just heard where there was this deep, hour-long discussion about a Hunger Games, Battle Royale-type of scenario where Marvel and DC characters fought to the death.
And then it occurred to me that this was the conversation that every comic book fan has had at some point in their life.
Of course that alone isn"t a story – it's just a backdrop – but I thought about weaving a story around the events of a sporting event in a not-too-distant future, where superhumans exist and the world is a little more dystopian than it is now.

For those who came in late, here is the summary to "Arena Mode."

In his twenty-nine years, Matthew Moxon had done virtually nothing with his record-breaking IQ and unparalleled problem solving abilities. Until one morning, after a dangerous fall lands him in the emergency room, he discovers that a tumor is pressing against his brain.
Unable to afford experimental but potentially life-saving surgery, Moxon takes drastic action; he volunteers for Arena Mode: 2041's most vicious sporting event, where thirteen superhumans fight in an urban combat zone for a multi-billion dollar prize.
Moxon is forced to battle opponents possessing ungodly speed, strength, and abilities once thought to exist only across the pages of superhero comics – and he’s armed with nothing more than his rapidly-diminishing brain cells.
With the odds stacked impossibly against him, Moxon fights to not only survive the wrath of the other competitors, but to unlock the mysteries buried within the Arena itself.

SIROIS: Was "Arena Mode" always going to be a novel? Did you explore other venues for this?

NORTHCOTT: Yes, that was always the plan. I wanted to get deeper into character development with the protagonist, and dig into his inner monologue a little – so that kind of storytelling really requires a novel. Without his viewpoint and his take on the world around him, it's a lot more of a straight action story.

SIROIS: When did you know that you had something special with this story?

NORTHCOTT: Probably when the feedback started coming in. At first I thought it would be geared towards this really specific, comic-centric audience, but I think it swelled beyond that. Men and women of all ages have responded positively, and that"s been a blessing.

SIROIS: Was there a particular character that you knew the readers would gravitate to?

NORTHCOTT: I had a feeling Brynja would be a favorite… not just because she has blue hair and a pet manticore – because those things are indeed awesome – but because she has this quick wit to her, combined with a quick temper. She's always the first one to say something clever, but she's also the first one to throw a tantrum. It makes for a fun character. And her power is pretty unique.

SIROIS: Was self-publishing always the plan with this? Or did you originally consider shopping it around?

NORTHCOTT: I was committed to self-publishing for sure. I figured “I"m a nobody – who is going to care?” Publishers want guaranteed cash, not an unknown commodity. So that route was always the plan.
And now that a couple publishers have come knocking, I think I might stay self-published – with Amazon Kindle and other avenues, it might be in my best interest to keep going it alone!

SIROIS: Can you tell us about how you put together your first "Kickstarter" campaign? What was it like getting so many talented artists to come onboard with you and your story?

NORTHCOTT: Well, I'd spent a year or so writing articles for blogs and making contacts, so it was just a matter of asking friends if they'd be down for it. Putting the book together was one thing – a huge challenge, as any author could tell you – but co-coordinating artwork from a ton of different people who all work for different companies, comics, etc. was a whole other job!
One of these days I"m gonna learn my lesson and just stick to writing, and leave the managing, marketing, and everything else to someone more qualified.

SIROIS: The first "Arena Mode" Kickstarter campaign was a huge success, bringing in over 500% of your original goal. As the pledges kept coming in, how difficult was it to come up with more stretch goals?

NORTHCOTT: To be honest, I just kept trying to think of ways to give back. I looked at other successful campaigns at the time, and stole their best ideas. Whatever looked good, I copied and offered for my backers! I think it worked out pretty well in the end.

SIROIS: Did you always envision this as a trilogy?

NORTHCOTT: I did, but I wanted each book to stand on their own as well. The middle chapter is definitely not The Empire Strikes Back – there is no huge cliffhanger. I did an Epilogue, more to serve as an "after-credits stinger" of sorts, but the story very much ends.
For the larger arc, though – yes, three books was always the charm. Things will be revealed and will wrap up at the end of Final Empire that will be the culmination of all three books!

SIROIS: As I typed this, we"re getting very close to the 30K goal for "Final Empire," the third and final installment in the saga. Passing this goal ensures a third straight audiobook recording. What has it been like hearing your story come to life in this format?

NORTHCOTT: It has been incredible, actually. Kiri Callaghan is such an incredible performer. She "acts" each character as if she"s portraying them on-stage, and the result is just unbelievable. I"ve been good friends with her for some time and I"d seen her act in plays before, so I knew she"d do a fantastic job, but she really blew me away with both books.
And another dear friend, Jeff Geddes, helped a ton with editing and pulling the books together – especially the second one. I have to mention him because he"s a magician.

NEWSFLASH: Blake has not only surpassed the $30,000 goal as of this posting, but she's already unlcoked the $35,000 goal and is getting closer to unlocking the $45,000 goal! Here is a video of her sharing the news, and sharing a celebratory drink...

SIROIS: Tell us about cosplayer Destiny Nickelsen and how she became involved in this new campaign.

NORTHCOTT: I met Destiny online just recently and saw her work. I instantly because a huge fan of hers not just for her modeling, because she"s a gorgeous girl, but for her dedication to the craft. She really goes all-out making sure her cosplays are accurate, right down to the last detail. It's so fascinating to me.
I immediately envisioned her as Brynja, and she thought that was an awesome idea, too!

SIROIS: Do you ever see yourself going back to the "Arena Mode" world?

NORTHCOTT: The trilogy is it – after “Arena Mode,” “Assault or Attrition,” and now “Final Empire,” there won"t be any more additions to the Arena Mode Saga. It would be like another “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter” – they"re over, and shouldn"t be continued.
There are going to be some short stories in the Arena Mode Universe, but the story of Mox, Peyton, Brynja, and everyone else will most definitely be concluded after “Empire” has wrapped.

SIROIS: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Here is your space to plug whatever and whomever you like. If there"s anything I missed that you want to mention, fire away!

NORTHCOTT: Yay! Plug time! Well I hope everyone checks out “Final Empire” at Kickstarter – hurry, it ends November 16th – and also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Other Inheritance

“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re a cliché?” seventeen-year-old Reggie Lang asked. She was scrunched in an antique, high-backed chair. Her chestnut hair spilled over her shoulders, her splattering of freckles barely visible in the firelight.

“Am I?” he said.

The man on the other side of the hearth stretched his long legs out toward the fire. A scar puckered his right cheekbone slanting down to the sharp blade of his nose.

Reggie took in his tough leather boots and duster. “The Hell’s Angels called. They want their motorcycle back.”

I can't tell you how thrilled I am for my friend Rebecca Jaycox. She has been working on her novel - The Other Inheritance - for years, and it's finally about to be sent out into the world, thanks to Rocking Horse Publishing taking a chance on it, just as they took a chance on me in 2013. I'm so excited for the upcoming three-part book launch in December - one launch in New York City and two in the St. Louis area - and I know readers everywhere are about to discover a true writing talent.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Read All About It!

It's going to be a hell of a week, getting ready for my 20-year high school reunion. I still can't believe how quickly time has passed, and I'm very excited to re-connect with my old friends and former classmates in a way that Facebook just can't provide (unless you're very good at Photoshop). And of course, there's the book signing on Saturday afternoon at the Short Pump Barnes & Noble.

So yes, I'm really excited about this weekend, and I'm also excited about the amount of people that have signed up for my monthly newsletter. To all of you who have signed up, thank you so much. And to those who have taken the time to at least give a glance to each issue, I love you guys!

If you'd like to be a subscriber to the newsletter, and get a first-look at Chapter 1 of each part of the five-part serial "From Parts Unknown" (The issue that just came out includes Chapter 1 of Part Four), please sign up by clicking HERE. And please make sure you check your spam folder in case the issue is sent there instead of your inbox.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Excelsior is "Coming Home!"

A few weeks ago, when I took a look at the calendar for a particular website, a quote from one of my favorite movies from the 1980s, Oliver Stone's Wall Street, came to mind: "I just bagged the elephant!"

The site in question was Barnes & Noble's event calendar. Next Saturday, November 8, from 2 to 4pm, I will be signing copies of "Excelsior" at Barnes & Noble on Short Pump in Richmond, VA. Now, I was planning on being in town anyway for my 20-year high school reunion, but a former classmate of mine put the bug in my ear to at least reach out to a local store and see what happens. I waited on it for a little while for two reasons. One, I wanted to come up with the right way to phrase the e-mail I was going to send. And two, you have to talk yourself up to get a store to pay attention to you, and to say that's not my strong suit would be an understatement. (Hell, it's taken me a few weeks just to get this blog post up and running.)

But if I wasn't going to put the word out about "Excelsior," who would? You can put together the best thing ever, but if nobody knows about it, nobody's going to notice. The time had to be now! Over and over, I've seen other writers celebrate the news that they had landed a B&N signing, and I always made sure to ask how they did it. Now, I had an opportunity for others to ask me how I did it, and sure enough, I was asked by a couple other writers how I got this signing next weekend. So here's how it all went down...

The first thing you have to do when contacting any store - Barnes & Noble or otherwise - is to know who's going to receive your request. I contacted the Short Pump store - which is less than a mile away from the hotel where Cheryl & I are staying - and asked to speak to the Community Relations Manager. Unfortunately, she was already gone for the day, but I got her name and e-mail address, then started crafting the e-mail. I spent almost an hour putting together the right kind of wording, and fortunately I had a hook in place that would likely get their attention: the reunion.

I had graduated from Godwin High School in that area, moved away to go to college in New York City, found my way to St. Louis in 2011, and found a publisher that was willing to take a chance on a character I created during my high school days. Now my character and I were coming home for this big 20-year reunion, so what better way to celebrate than by achieving something that I had no idea I would do back when I graduated? I mentioned the small amount of buzz it had built up (So many kudos to Teresa Jusino for interviewing me on, to Steve Gustafson at 411Mania for the very kind words, and to Ann Charles for the terrific plug posted on her blog page a few years back) and thanked her very much for her time. And I hit "Send." And I waited.

I expected to keep waiting from July (when I sent the e-mail) to now. But that didn't happen. Just a couple days later, I got an e-mail from that Barnes & Noble's Community Relations Manager, saying that they would love to have me at their store for a signing! Time went on, and earlier this week, I heard that the order for the books has been placed and the order was for more books than they normally order for signings! That to me is a huge win, especially since it means that people called up the store and asked for a copy, so (hopefully) all of those people will be at the store next Saturday.

Now, I know all of this kinda sounds anti-climactic, like I trained for years to go on this epic journey that started and ended across the street. But that's the point. How did I get this event set up? By getting in touch with the right person and having the right kind of hook to grab their attention. If I - someone who's not comfortable in the slightest promoting their own work - can get a signing at a Barnes & Noble, then you guys can definitely do it. So make it happen, and I'll be cheering you on every step of the way!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

From the Archives of 411Mania - Scene Anatomy 101: Iron Man

Considering the big news that was just announced by Kevin Feige about the upcoming Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's only right that this week's look back into the Scene Anatomy 101 archives was a scene from the very first step of this universe into something truly special. Read on, my friends. Read on...

Dual personalities are nothing new in the comic book world. Hell, they’re nothing new in the literary world with classic stories like “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” “The Wolf Man” and others. In those tales, a second personality takes over the body of the main character and forces him to cause mayhem and destruction, and then the next morning, the main character has to discover what he had done and the consequences of his actions.

When thinking back at various comic book characters that unleash destruction without realizing it, the first character that obviously comes to mind is The Incredible Hulk. In all of that character’s incarnations, we see Bruce Banner (or David Banner in the television show) slowly waking up in a strange place, with his clothes torn to hell, wondering how he got there and how much damage his alter-ego had done. But there’s another character in the Marvel Universe who discovers to his own horror what damage he had done, and that he must take it upon himself to make it right. Only he found himself waking up under very different circumstances. The man’s name is Tony Stark, and he was brilliantly brought to life by Robert Downey Jr. in the Summer 2008 smash hit…


Monday, October 27, 2014

Next Stop for Eric Swett's Blog Tour: Discussing Apocalypse in the Balance

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Eric Swett, author and blogger, about his latest book Apocalypse in the Balance: Book 2 of Armageddon Angels, which is now available in paperback and eBook. We had quite a bit to discuss, especially since this next part in his saga came out a lot later than anticipated. As we all know, life is what happens while you're busy making plans, and Eric has had more than his share of experience with this. I hope you all enjoy reading this discussion with Eric as much as I did communicating with him.

SIROIS: Before we start, can you tell us about the overall "Armageddon Angels" story? We not only want to let people know about this second part in the series, but about the one that starts it all.

SWETT: In the first book we encounter Justin. He’s an Angel that chose exile from Heaven so that he could live amongst humans. After a couple thousand years he forgot who he was exactly and how to use his Angelic powers. When he and a friend witness a brutal murder by a local crime lord they are forced to go on the run and Justin has to figure out if he can go back to being an Angel and unravel the question of who he really is.
The new book takes place five years later and focuses on a man named Kohaku Hitaratsu. He’s a businessman who loses everything. His business, his wife and his mistress all turn on him and he is forced to seek refuge in his old neighborhood. While the poorest part of town is dangerous enough on its own, when murder victims start rising from the dead and monsters are roaming the street, Kohaku decides to protect his new home and the friends who share it. When he discovers there is more to himself than just a businessman, things start to get a little crazy and he must decide which is more important, the world or the woman he loves.

SIROIS: So how are you feeling these days? In your preface, you mentioned how you took a break from writing to concentrate on your wife and family. Tell us about that time away from writing.

SWETT: I took a break because two years ago because we had another baby and I chose to focus my energies on my family. Having a new baby in the house is challenging for anyone, but I’m not as young as I used to be and getting up in the middle of the night to take care of a crying baby wiped me out. Some time after her first birthday I got a new job near my home, so I suddenly found myself with a little extra time and that rekindled the fire within me. I could still use more sleep, but otherwise I’m feeling fine.

SIROIS: What was the moment when you knew that it was time to get back to work?

SWETT: I think the real striking point was when I found out one of my new coworkers was doing some writing. I had never really stopped writing, but it took a back seat to everything else, so I was writing in little bits of pieces here and there and rarely on my novel. Having someone else I could talk to about it made me itch to get this books finished.

SIROIS: Since you stated that the first draft was 2/3 done before you stopped, what was it like looking back on the work you had already done? Did you feel that you had to start from scratch or were you still satisfied with the direction you were going in earlier?

SWETT: When I decided to tackle the WIP again I did a quick read through of what was already written. I tried to ignore spelling and grammar errors going through because I just wanted to get a refresher on the story as I had written it so far. Since I had stayed with my outline fairly well it was pretty easy to pick up where I had come from. I did make a few changes to the outline after my reading because I had some thoughts pop into my head that got me really excited, so I knew I had to make the changes. Starting from scratch was not really an option since I have the next couple of books in the series roughly outlined as well. Apocalypse in the Balance is a turning point in the story. If I didn’t stick with the outline I had set up I would have needed a complete change to the rest of the series. Planning is kind of a new thing for me in my writing and I was determined to stick with the heart of what I had laid out.

SIROIS: How did the story originally come to you? What was it about this story that made you think this was the one to tell?

SWETT: The first book started out as a writing exercise. I did not plan it out much, but as I approached the end of the story I knew I needed to take the story further and expand on it. Planning for the rest of the story convinced me it was worth writing. I’ve always been a fan of the future and post-apocalyptic worlds. The biblical Apocalypse is a topic that has been explored by hundreds of writers, but I thought my take on it might be a little different.
Tell us about your main characters. What is it about them that you feel readers will gravitate toward and want to read more?
In Apocalypse in the Balance the main character is a not so pleasant fellow who falls from a place of power and corruption and he is forced to look at his life and the mistakes he has made before he is able to move on. I think people will gravitate toward him because of his flaws, the same sort of flaws that we all have, and the fact that he tries to overcome them. It is a very human condition that everyone can relate to. He is not perfect, he’s not particularly heroic, but he is someone pretty easy to understand.

SIROIS: Now that the second part to this series is out, what do you see for the rest of the series? Are you working on the next part now?

SWETT: I have roughly outlined the next two novels, but I have not started on book three yet. I’m itching to get to it, but I wanted to do a novella first and that is what I’m working on. The yet unnamed novella takes place during the five years between the first and second book. The main character from the first book makes an appearance in the second, but he is not the main character. I really like him as a character and I wanted to expand on him a bit, so I thought I would take the reader back a little and give him a little more depth. The plan is to have the novella’s first draft finished by the end of November, edited in December and available to readers in January. Come February of next year I will start writing the third book in the series. It’s going to be a bit different than the first two. The action will be faster and more intense. There will still be some twists and turns coupled with some mystery and surprises. It’s going to be a fun ride.

SIROIS: What else would you like to share about this story? (Links, plugs, shout-outs, etc.)

SWETT: The one last thing I would like to share about this story has nothing to do with the story, but the sale of the book. Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that my first child, Hailey, died when she was twenty-five days old. She had a rare form of leukemia. My sister, Amber, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and a good friend of mine, Rick, died earlier this year from complications due to Leukemia. When I finished this book, I wanted to do something, so I am donating 10% of all royalties to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America. I give to plenty of charities, but this one is particularly special to me, and I would love to be able to send them a big fat check at the end of each year.

I wish Eric and his family all the best, and I look forward to hearing of this book's success, as well as the success of the rest of the saga to come.

You can get your copy of Apocalypse in the Balance by clicking HERE.