Words with Dan O'Brien, Author of "The Journey"

Can you tell us a little bit about The Journey?

It was meant as a philosophical meditation about a great many subjects set in a dialectic, poetic form. I was attempting to give the prose the feel of something much older. The book follows a being called the Lonely as he traverses a strange world inhabited by philosophical beings and strange environments. In the pursuit of his purpose, he tackles some powerful questions about life for us all.

What's your background with writing?

I have been writing for roughly 13 years. I wrote my first novel when I was 16, published my first at around 21. I published another a few years later, which was well-received. Recently, I started my own website and plan on putting out 8 novels in the coming months.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

I try to read as much as can, from as many genres as I am capable. I draw a great deal from philosophy as well as both modern and ancient writers. I have studied martial arts for a good portion of my life and as such there is a tendency for some Eastern thought to find its way in. Most recently, I have been reading McCarthy and Chabon.

What was it like working with iUniverse?

It was great. They have a very competent staff that manages to make the process quite smooth. A couple of years ago I decided to switch to self-publishing because of the bloated marketplace. As a publisher, they were patient and quite helpful.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

Will White designed this cover, as well as several other covers for my coming novels. He is relatively unknown right now, but he has a great eye for detail. I am collaborating with him on a graphic novel set to come out in 2012.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

At this point I am concentrating on reviews, as many as I can grab. I have the luxury of living in California, so transitioning to contacting booksellers as well as local workshops are certainly in the near future. I would love to grab a table at Comic Con next year if I can swing it.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?

The only one that stands out in my mind was an interview for a newspaper. The interview itself went well, but when I went to check it out the following day, I found that my name had been change to O'Brain despite asking to spell it ten or fifteen times. The worst part was I knew the chief editor and she still managed to spell it incorrectly.

What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

My website is The Dan O'Brien Project. I post the majority of short stories, articles and release dates through the site. On the site itself there are links to other books, sample chapters and in the near future, concept art and perhaps panels from my upcoming graphic novel.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

I actually have two more books coming out this month, Bitten and The Ocean and the Hourglass, that are being published through iUniverse. After that I plan on putting out a book a month until the new year. I am currently amassing a budget to shoot an indie film that I wrote last year. Everybody loves zombies, right?

Is there anything else about you we should know?

Check the website often because new short stories, release dates, sample chapters and events go up all the time.

Words with Phil Machi, author of "Twas the Day After Turkey"

Tell us a little bit about "Twas the Day After Turkey."

Well, it's an illustrated poem I wrote about shopping on 'Black Friday' and it stars the characters from my latest comic strip "Retail Sunshine."

Who is the publisher?

My company 'Livestock Productions' is since it is self-published. However, it is printed through a company in Michigan called 360 Digital Books. They've been a fantastic resourse.

How does the process of self-publishing an animated work differ from a conventional novel?

From what I understand, I was the first (if not one of the first) authors to go through 360 using imagery as the primary element. That definitely caused some challenges in the formatting of the files as well as the reproduction of the colors using ink and paper I was unfamiliar with.

You have three comic strips on your web page, "Livestock," "Not Quite Extinct," and "Retail Sunshine." Can you tell us a little bit about each of them?

Sure! "Livestock" was my first real comic strip. Being a comic strip artist has always been a dream of mine and after several failed attempts, I was in Geometry Class during my sophomore year of high school (1996) when I drew a picture of a cow in the margins of my homework. After writing some appropriate dialog, I later thought up a name for the strip. "Livestock" went on to be printed in my high school and local city newspaper and a few years later my college newspaper. All the while I updated the comic on-line but I've never really considered it a "webcomic" per se.

"Not Quite Extinct" is arguably my most long-term and yet still unrealized project. Since the 2nd grade, aside from being interested in drawing, I was bound and determined to one day become a paleontologist. I used to draw and study dinosaurs all up through my freshman year of college when I changed my major to art. While getting into the swing of things with "Livestock" I toyed with the idea of making a comic strip about dinosaurs. The concept was put on the backburner so I could focus on "Livestock" and around 2004 I dug up the concept again, gave the characters a makeover and submitted some stories as a possible animated cartoon for several TV networks with the hopes of one day making a graphic novel. While that didn't pan out, I was still determined to keep the idea alive and went forward with the graphic novel. Currently, it is in production.

"Retail Sunshine" is pretty much personal therapy! For a year and a half I worked in a picture frame store, making custom frames. I had a pretty crazy boss which got me thinking about cartoonizing my day job. I then started working in sales with Best Buy and left the framing business, and working in a 'big box store' definitely led to thoughts of a new comic strip. It was then that I published my first book of cartoons, "Animal Apathy" which put me in the unique opportunity to switch gears. So I decided to let the "Livestock" hibernate for a while and give a new strip a try. "Retail Sunshine" was intended to be a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek look at the retail electronics world...a very different world than the one I had been penning for 11 years prior.

After reading "Retail Sunshine" I assumed you spent a lot of time in retail. Are most of the scenarios from your experience?

I definitely put my own spin on reality, but there's more truth than you might think with this comic...even with the more ridiculous episodes. Actually, I'm still working retail! I find it gives me enough variety and inspiration to counter-balance the more creative aspects of my life. The company has been very supportive and "Retail Sunshine" is now printed in the Best Buy corporate magazine, which reaches over 1000 stores nationwide.

Did you ever consider taking a job just to see what kind of amusing situations arose for comic strip material? A job at Wal-Mart or McDonald's might be comic gold.

I've thought about it, but I'm not a masochist! Actually, back in the summer of 2000 I worked fast food at a major theme park, and before that I was a caricature artist...all of which gave me lots of access to the general public (including the uglier sides).

Have you ever done any illustration work for book covers, etc?

Recently I've been approached about a children's book, which I am considering. In the past, I've done everything from company logos to album covers and educational materials.

Most fantasy writers are in need of a map, is that something you'd be interested at trying?

Funny you should mention that because a good friend of mine has a very extensive world he's created for a role-playing game and he's been hoping I would make a map for him. Unfortunately, I have a lot on my plate but I'll get around to it eventually and I'm always interested in new challenges.

Where will "Twas the Day After Turkey" be available and what will be the approximate cost?

It's currently for sale at my website and at the on campus bookstore of my alma mater; Bowling Green State University. It sells for $20.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

Mainly, I'm trying to keep up with making new editions of "Retail Sunshine" but there is actually a card game in the works for the comic and I also just created a new Halloween T-Shirt design which is also available at my on-line store.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

Just that if anyone out there has big dreams (publishing or otherwise), they should most definitely pursue them and make sure that they are doing something they really believe in. Because at the end of the day, if you can't look at yourself & your work with respect, then the road won't be worth travelling.

Thanks for your time!! This was fun!

Chris Sorrell, Samuel Z. Jones, Zachary Schmitz and Julie Achterhoff

Hello All,
Another month has slipped past and summer has been replaced with fall. I don't know about the rest of you, but I've always thought that autumn was the most inspirational time of year. Not just for writing, but for doing just about everything! This is the time of year when you should be running around outside wearing a flannel shirt and chopping up things with an axe...and not necessarily just wood!

On that seamless segue into the mindset of the "Heroic Fantasy" fan, I have to say that I have a nice little collection of interviews for you to peruse this month. I'm sure all of the writers I've interviewed for this edition (and Elie Challita who is also doing interviews now) would be more than happy to correspond with you, so drop them a line!

In other news, Rhemalda has just accepted another novel of mine. It's called "Birkie Fever!" in reference to the cross-country ski race in Northern Wisconsin (The American Birkebeiner). Although the heroic fantasy connection is tenuous at best, the race is named after the Norwegian Birkebeiner which is run to commemorate the escape of the infant King Haakon Haakonsson who was carried 52 kilometers on skis by a pair of Viking warriors (true life "Heroic Fantasy"...I guess that makes it just "Heroic").

Anyway, you have that to look forward to, but in the meantime, here's this month's articles!

From J.S. Chancellor,