Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

SpecMusicMuse: Interview W/Dan Jolley

 

DanJolleyPhoto[1018]Dan Jolley, Author of the Gray Widow trilogy is back for another interview to talk about his second book in the trilogy, Gray Widow’s Web.

Tells us about Gray Widow’s Web.
Gray Widow’s Web is the second book in the Gray Widow Trilogy, an Urban Sci-Fi story that I actually began working on back in 1996. I wrote a first draft, but ended up shelving it… wrote a second draft ten years later, but shelved it again… and finally, after I realized how to fix a major problem with the book, re-wrote it again and immediately got it picked up by Seventh Star Press. After all that time, being able to continue the story now on a timely basis feels fantastic.

The Gray Widow story centers on Janey Sinclair, a young woman in modern-day Atlanta who, as a teenager, mysteriously gained the ability to teleport from one patch of darkness to another. Janey’s life has been marked by a series of traumas—most recently when her husband was shot during a mugging and left with severe brain damage—and after years of trying to ignore this bizarre aspect of her life, she finally decides to put it to use, and attempt to prevent other people from suffering the kind of cruelty and injustice she has.

As she soon learns, however, not only is she not alone in having a mysterious “Augmentation,” but she’s also a part of a vast extraterrestrial plot that classifies humans as raw material. The trilogy starts off in superhero-flavored waters, but becomes more and more science-fiction as the enormity of the stakes reveal themselves. (There are also not-insignificant horror elements to it.)

Alien plots aside, though, it’s really all about Janey exorcising her personal demons and figuring out how to heal herself. On one hand, she’s a stupendous badass, and can break most people off at the knees. On the other, she’s very human, very flawed, and very vulnerable in a way I hope a lot of people can relate to.Grey Widow's Web_Final_1200X800[1020]

 

In what ways is writing the second book in a trilogy different from the first?
One of my primary concerns with the second (and soon, third) book is walking the line between explaining too much of what happened before, and making things clear enough so that if you haven’t read the first book, or if it’s been a while since you did, you won’t feel totally lost.

That’s just logistical stuff, though. What I’m most concerned about is allowing the characters to grow. In the first book, Gray Widow’s Walk, Janey’s in a situation where she knows, intellectually, that she needs to move on emotionally. And the way to move on is right there, right in front of her, and she knows it’ll be good for her—but she’s torn in half about it. In the second book, Janey might finally begin to give herself permission to be happy, even as she’s facing greater threats and encountering far greater danger than ever.

Likewise, Tim Kapoor, her love interest from the first book, undergoes a pretty significant change in circumstances in Book 2, one that forcibly alters the whole dynamic he and Janey share.

One thing I’ve learned and learned well is that, in any kind of ongoing story, it’s the characters that keep readers coming back far more than any plot shenanigans. So I want to take good care of my characters. Even if that means being horrible to them.

 

In what ways are they similar?
As I mentioned earlier, I wrote the first draft of what would become Gray Widow’s Walk a bit more than twenty years ago. The story has been kicking around in my head all that time, with varying degrees of focus, so now that I have the opportunity to tell the rest of it, it’s really just a matter of getting in the right mental space. Staying in the right groove, I guess you could say. Making sure the prose style matches, making sure the hearts of the characters remain true to themselves.

Of course, I would like to believe that I’ve improved as a writer over the last couple of decades, which is why I think Gray Widow’s Web is a bit better than Gray Widow’s Walk. With any luck that trend will continue, and the third book—Gray Widow’s War—will surpass the first two.

Gray Widow_s WalkCover1200X900[1019]

Did you plan for it to be a trilogy from the start, or did it evolve that way? And if the latter, at what point did you realize it was going to be a trilogy?
I think I realized I had more to say than just what was in the first book sometime around 2006. I love the cast, I love portraying our contemporary world as it really is, and there were always elements that I had left open-ended. It took ten years, but the answers to the questions posed at the end of the first book popped into my head one day, and I realized the story needed to continue past Gray Widow’s Walk.

I have a serious aversion, though, to stories that are supposed to just go and go and… go. Stories like that usually go and go right into the ground. Whenever possible, I tell stories that have a definite, planned conclusion, simply because I think it’s wise to quit while you’re ahead. Consequently, this trilogy will tell one complete story, beginning, middle, and end. If I decide to stick around in the same world after that, I’ll start up another self-contained trilogy. Sort of the Hellboy model: a series of mini-series.

 

What kind of music helped you in writing Gray Widow’s Web?
Music plays a huge role in my creative process in general, but it’s only in the stage before I set fingers to keyboard. I love getting in the car and driving around aimlessly while listening to loud, fast, aggressive music. It does something really good for my brainwaves. If I need to come up with a new idea, or if I’m stuck on a plot point or character detail, I’ll go drive around and think, and nine times out of ten, by the time I get back the problem’s solved.

Right now my favorite band is Disturbed. Immortalized is a fantastic album, followed closely by Asylum, not only for driving around, but also for when I’m doing cardio (which I don’t end up doing as often as I should, sadly).

 

Anything you want to tell your readers about what’s to come?
Gray Widow’s War, the third book in the trilogy, will be out in May of 2018, and if I can pull off what I’m seeing in my head, it’s going to be the biggest, craziest, most nail-biting conclusion I’ve ever written in my entire career.

If you’re looking for something almost, but not quite, completely different in the meantime (to borrow wording from Douglas Adams), I also have a Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series going at the moment called Five Elements. Book 1, The Emerald Tablet, is available now, and Book 2, The Shadow City, comes out at the end of this month. It’s about four best friends in San Francisco who get accidentally bound to the magical elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, and end up conflicting with a century-old sorcerer who wants to merge Earth with a nightmare version of San Francisco called Arcadia. I am told by readers that it scratches the same kind of itch that the Percy Jackson books do.

 

Where can people find you online?
I’m on Twitter, @_DanJolley, and on Facebook, facebook.com/dan.jolley1. Feel free to send me messages. I am waaay better at responding to readers directly than I am at writing blog posts.

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July 20, 2017 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse—Review of Altered States: A Cyberpunk Sci-Fi Anthology, Edited by Roy C. Booth and Jorge Salgado-Reyes

Altered States is a cyberpunk anthology whose stories broaden the horizon of what is usually thought of as subgenre with tight borders. The fifteen stories inside range from the well-defined tropes, to the experimental, to everything in between. Nine are reprints, and six are original to this anthology. My particular favorites were:

“Living in the Singularity” by Tom Borthwick: the plot twist was somewhat expected but fit the story well.

“Ex Machina” by Cynthia Ward: combines hacking with psychology and explores the concept of collective consciousness. I didn’t expect this plot twist at all, and it made for a great ending.

“Extra Credit” by Paul Levinson: combines cyberpunk with parallel worlds. As always, Levinson weaves a great tale from start to finish.

“Attention Whore” by Kerry G.S. Lipp: the most interesting story in the antho. I found it to be just as relatable to modern day as it is to a near-future cyberpunk setting…and the story gave me chills.

Altered States is a great anthology to add to your collection whether you prefer cyberpunk specifically or science fiction in general. I highly recommend it.

Best to read while listening to: the soundtracks to Blade Runner and Johnny Mnemonic. Also throw some Atari Teenage Riot into the mix.

 

December 6, 2014 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse Review: Mind Game

Mind Game, by R.L. Copple, is a YA science fiction novel that combines space opera with virtual reality. Jeremy and Mickey get a virtual reality video game for Christmas. Little do they, and thousands of other children, know is that the VR is no game. Their minds get transported across the vastness of space and into virtual bodies, to fight a war for an imperialistic alien race. A rip-roaring space adventure ensues, filled with humor, heroism, and tragedy.

Copple maintains a fast pace, keeping the action going, and provides unexpected but logical plot twists throughout. Even the dialogue feels real for characters of such a young age, in contrast to how some YA novels can be. You will root for the heroes, boo the main villain, and even feel bad for the other villains. He also manages to tackle very adult topics in a manner that keeps it suitable for a YA novel. Overall, Copple delivers.

While there are definitely some moralistic themes to the story, the themes are where they should be: in the background. Primarily written for entertainment, the themes become an extra topping on the pizza.

If you enjoyed Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, then you will enjoy R.L. Copple’s Mind Game.

Best to read while listening to:  the soundtracks to Star Wars and Goonies comes to mind.

September 17, 2011 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christian Cyberpunk Novelist to Speak

Award-winning Christian Cyberpunk author Frank Creed will be appearing in Second Life, Tuesday, January 20 at 7 p.m. For Second Life residents the direct link to the location is http://slurl.com/secondlife/North%20Bound%20Marina/226/25/24

This will be an informal discussion in which Creed will share about his writing, his life and the state of Christian speculative fiction. Questions will be entertained by Creed. Afterwards, plans include virtual surfing and socializing. Creed is the founder of the Lost Genre Guild, a group of writers, editors and publishers of different types of speculative fiction with a Christian worldview. 

“Christians own the copyright to demons and angels and spiritual warfare,” notes Creed. “Yet, the bookshelves of Christian bookstores are almost totally devoid of speculative fiction except for some fairly sanitized young adult fantasies. Nevertheless, there is a small, but growing, group of writers and independent publishers using modern technology to make quality Christian speculative fiction available.”

Creed is the author of Flashpoint and War of Attrition, both published by Writer’s Café Press. Set in a future where fundamentalist Christians are considered terrorists, these books follow the exploits of a group of supernaturally cyber-enhanced resistance fighters using nonlethal weapons in an attempt to protect members of the underground church from the “Neros” or agents of the government seeking to crush the resistance and “re-educate” their members. 

“I guess I created the first Christian Cyberpunk novel identified as such,” says Creed. “There was a series of books published in the 1990’s which might qualify as the first, but they were never marketed as cyberpunk.”

In addition to writing the novels, Creed also helped co-author a role playing game based on the stories.  “I’m a gamer from way back. So, it was
only natural for me to want to create an RPG where my readers could enter the world of The Underground, ” Creed explains.

Flashpoint has received critical acclaim and won several awards including: Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year (Elfwood 2006), CFRB Best Novel Toured Award (2007), finalist for the Pluto Award for the Best Science Fiction Novel Reviewed, and was nominated for the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Clive Staples award. “Jesus understood the power of the story to communicate in his world. We are creating the parables of a new generation,” says Creed.

For more information email Terri Main at
webservant2003@ yahoo.com

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment