Carnival of Cryptids, an exciting fantasy anthology, is about to hit the market, and I have been honoured to read its preview. In the coming weeks, every Aussie Saturday, I will post an interview with each of the book’s seven awesome contributing authors along with my mini review. However, due to the recent Australia Day, this first entry only is out on an Australian Monday.
Hello Jeff, thank you for visiting with us. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of “Carnival of Cryptids”?
Carnival of Cryptids gives seven stories about creatures man was never meant to know.
How real are your characters?
My characters are larger than life, but show their human weakness. I started from the genre of pulp with an adventurer, and the sense of awesomeness definitely carries through with the crafty native and the dashing hero.
What inspired you to write this short story? When did you know you just had to write about Mapinguari?
I’ve always been fascinated by the cryptid I chose, the mylodon or giant ground sloth. I remember seeing a picture of it in an ancient mammals children’s book I had as a kid, and I’ve never lost my fascination with this enormous yet seemingly gentle creature. Whenever I heard more stories about it, such as conquistadors supposedly fighting one, my interest grew. When the cryptid theme was given, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about.
How long did it take you to “Where’s Captain Rook?”
I worked on prewriting for about two weeks from initial idea to a mental draft. The first story I had in mind was nothing like the result: the protagonist changed, the theme deepened, and the twist appeared. When I had it all mapped out, I sat down and hammered out the story in a long afternoon. It was such a wonderful feeling to end the day having created something.
And having created something worth reading at that!
How did you come up with the title?
The story needed something memorable and pulpy but not as garish as “The Adventure of the so-and-so.” Using the first line of “Where is Captain Rook?” proved excellent as the now-first line became a haunting, “He’s dead.”
Hey, we have something in common in that! I picked most of my chapter titles the same way.
Tell me your favorite line in this story.
I love the conclusion hinting that the magic of the Amazon had something to do with causing World War II. “Wars need rubber.”
Thank you Jeff.
Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?
Jules Verne and H.G. Wells have always been great influences to me. I love Verne’s attention to detail, explaining how an 1860s submarine worked, down to the chemistry of its electrical system. His adventure stories really showed me how to plot. Wells’ variety of topics and exploration of reasonable outcomes from fanciful “what ifs” are great. Establish the rules of the world, and the reader will trust you no matter how weird the bug-aliens of the Moon are.
And you sure have the vivid imagination to support that!
What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
Writing always struck me as the same as the old actor’s adage, “If you don’t have to do it, don’t.” It’s not easy. Sitting at a screen typing for hours or writing by hand until you get cramps is tough, but there is no deeper sense of completion I’ve ever felt than finishing a story. It’s the good kind of tired where, at the end of the day, you look back over your handiwork and smile.
Congratulations on completing this short story!
Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?
My friends have always been great encouragement simply by listening to my “crazy ideas” whenever I have them. They’re a great set of sounding boards and make me question it from every direction to understand fully my own seedling of an idea. My best friend Chad, an engineer, and my wife, Courtney, a writing major, are two of the best for coming up with new angles.
What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
Whenever possible, I’m continually at work on my Alternate History blog and my web comic. I’m hoping to complete both by this summer, editing and compiling This Day in Alternate History into a single collection and relaunching The Academy with “director’s commentary” on the process of web comic creation.
How do you see writing, Jeff?
If anything, I see it most as a way of life. It doesn’t pay the bills, but I’ve always hoped it would. Someday my life dream is to just sit and make stuff up all day, every day.
With your imagination and talent, I’d say keep going! A lot of people are sure to find your work entertaining.
Now, how much do you have in common with your protagonist Paulo?
We’re both meek, but we plan for the long game in a tricksterly fashion.
That cunning twist at the end! Never saw that coming 🙂
What are your hobbies?
Writing, definitely. On top of that, I like building things, remodeling, and watching tons and tons of movies.
Movies? With your imagination, I guess it’s worth taking up screenwriting to entertain more fans. Check out “The Screenwriter’s Roadmap”, highly recommended. What is your other profession, by the way? When do you find the time to write?
I teach college Composition courses as well as other classes I have developed, such as the History of Comics and Comic Books and a biography of Charlie Chaplin. I write before class, after class, on days off, evening, and pretty much any time I don’t have something else scheduled.
Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.
I got married a month ago, and Courtney’s definitely a major part of my life. Things are just better when she’s around. I think spirituality and morality are two of the most important things in anyone’s life. Personally, I find meaning in accomplishing things, which keeps me busy trying to start, work on, and complete projects.
How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?
I think it inspires hope. I’m just an average guy, and if I can sit down and do something I want to do, why can’t they live out their dreams, too?
I agree. We all need a purpose; it’s a great feeling to be looking forward to our tasks.
What one thing is important for your readers to know about you? Why?
Ideas come to me like a little seed popping inside my brain. “What if this?” Then, it grows and stretches and consumes until I have to write it out, tell someone, share the seed so it grows beyond me.
Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?
Patience, infinite patience. Sometimes you’re working so hard you can’t stand it; other times you’re waiting for emails to be returned or rejection slips in the mailbox. Either way, be patient and keep plugging along.
You’re a saint!
Thank you so much for your time, Jeff. And best wishes in all the things that you do.
Jeff Provine was raised on a Land Run farm in northwest Oklahoma. He lives with his wife of one month and two kitties in a home he remodeled. Come check out Jeff’s website, his ebook ‘Dawn on the Infinity”, his steampunk adventure series of Celestial Voyages.
Following is my mini review on “Where is Captain Rook?”
The year is 1938 and jungle guide extraordinaire Paulo Nativo prepares his boat for Captain Rook at the border of the Venezuelan jungle and the wide Amazon River. Upon his arrival, the brash explorer from Chicago announces his destination and the purpose of their expedition, commanding Paulo to take him up the river regardless of the guide’s strong reservations. What dangers await them deep in the jungle?
WHERE IS CAPTAIN ROOK is one fine short story. Provine’s vivid details of the exotic setting and his ability to develop rich characters within the short span as the plot unfolds are engaging.
Watch out for the anthology’s release later this week. It’s all for charity, specifically the American’s National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Today I released my Spanish edition La CANCIÓN de SYDNEY to the Sydney’s multi-cultural society and to Spanish readers worldwide.
Oh well, it’s past midnight now in the Aussieland, but like most of you I was busy celebrating the day. I hope you all had fun, and will have fun in making great contributions to the world’s betterment this year.
Thanking my non-Aussie friends for sending me their best wishes today. Many of you have often told me, “Australia? Lucky country!” Well, it sure is a lucky country, because here we’re guaranteed the freedom of human rights and given a fair go in the things we do and believe in; and here’s a country when after a disaster people will roam the streets, not to loot, but to lend the victims a helping hand in every possible way.
Spanish readers: Lea los capítulos de muestra GRATIS aqui.
Other news: my English brochure for 2013 London Book Fair:
Donald Calvanese is the author of “Carcium: The Conflict Begins”, a fascinating fantasy novel I recently reviewed. A restaurateur and a song-writer, Donald talks about his book and his authorly life.
Ia: Hello Donald, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of CARCIUM: The Conflict Begins?
Donald: An exciting, enjoyable story for the entire family.
You have such an amazing story and vivid descriptions of the settings and characters. How real are your characters?
Donald: When I write, the characters are real people to me. They have personality, depth, and heart. When I see them in my mind’s eye they are living. On my website I have created digital paintings of the characters. This I believe makes my characters more life-like. I spent many hours working with the artist to make them just how I envision them.
Wow, Duras Carcer sure looks spooky in that painting!
Who or what inspired you to write this book? When did you first know you just had to write?
The thought of creating an entire world from my mind inspired me to create Carcium.
When I was 12 I saw my first guitar in a music store window, from there I learned of lyrics. I thought it was amazing you could write your feelings down and turn them into songs. I remember watching a movie and thinking how wonderful it would be to create a world of my very own. From that moment I never looked back and now I write every day.
I hope to hear your own song/s in your book trailer one day. And you must have written a lot of stories! How long did it take you to write The Conflict Begins?
It took about a year.
How did you come up with the title CARCIUM?
I wanted a word that did not exist. So I just started jumbling words and letters around ‘til I found one I felt sounded like a kingdom.
Brilliant! What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
I spend as much time as I can in schools with my program, Writing and Reading Across the Universe. One day before I started the program a young boy ran up to me, hardly able to speak because he was so excited to meet me. He told me how much he just loved Troy and Brutus and could not wait for the second book in the trilogy. I was very humbled by this experience.
Another time, at work a man came up to the Bar. He told me he purchased the book for his mother who was struggling with cancer. He said that she was determined to live because she just had to finish the book. He said my book help to keep his mother going. I gave him my personal email and told him to have his mother email me and I would send her the second book before it went to print.
Words cannot express how this made me feel. I am blessed to have this gift of writing. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that my story connects to so many different people.
You sure bring joy to many people. Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?
My wife, my daughter, and my late mother give, or have given me the most encouragement. I believe when you have the help and encouragement of the people closest to you in your life, you can accomplish anything. With the support of those people I have refused to quit. I have been writing for many years and no matter how many doors get closed I turn and knock on another.
I try to convey this message in my writing to help children understand the power they all have inside.
Tell us your next installment of Carcium. What’s your latest news?
The second book is called “Carcium—Darkness Falls”. This book is going to give the reader even more excitement. I introduce more characters. I take the reader on a crazy non-stop thrill ride in their mind. I will move their heart as well as their soul. I do not let go of them until the very end of the book. I can promise the reader they will be begging for the third book when they are finished.
Looking forward to read that. And how do you view your writing? Is it a career or distraction? Why?
I see writing as a career. When you love something you will wait a lifetime to be with it.
I sure relate to that!
Now, how much do you have in common with Troy?
I think the one thing I have in common with Troy is the understanding and willingness to step outside and look at myself. Also to be able to support a friend even when it will not help my cause in any way. My wife and daughter think he looks a bit like me.
Aren’t you tempted to write about food or being a restaurateur? Tell us a bit about the restaurant. When do you find the time to write?
I have to say, I do not think of writing a book about being a restaurateur, but the thousands of people I have met over the years give me many ideas for new and exciting characters in my writing.
The restaurant is an old tavern from 1779. It was moved by a woman in 1927 to a fair ground. During the holiday season walking in will bring you back years with a warm fireplace in the corner, carolers singing silent night, and the smell of a traditional New England meal of roast Turkey, mashed potatoes and butternut squash. You can admire the original woodwork while you sip a pint of ale. Sometimes late at night when I am all alone, I sit and wonder about the men and women sat here 200 years ago.
William Faulkner wrote while he was a night watchman. I do much of the same. I find time here and there during the day, and then when I am waiting for the dishwashers to finish at the end of the night.
A restaurant with histories! How intriguing. I think we have a lot in common, when in an old place I too often wonder about the people of the past. And I quoted Faulkner somewhere in my novel.
What are your hobbies?
I write music. Build legos. I enjoy playing sports with my daughter and making up stories to help put my little girl to sleep. She has me make up stories from a cookbook she received at the Build-a-Bear store. A title of one the stories is “Best Friends Popcorn”, from the recipe of the same name. It was about two little girls. One named Two Cups Brown Sugar and one named Two Sticks Margarine. Together they would make best friend popcorn. This popcorn they used to feed Santa’s reindeer because they need food to keep them going through the long journey. If you leave them food, the reindeer will leave you a special present.
Well on Christmas morning my daughter opened a gift she did not ask for. She turned to me and said, “Dad it worked. Look what the reindeer left me!” That is just one of the joys of writing for a little child’s heart.
You sound like my mother! She used to tell brilliant made-to-order impromptu stories for my toddler.
Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.
Who matters most to me in my life is my wife and little girl Alivia. I guess what matters most is making sure I give my girl whatever she needs to be the best person she can be. This is one of the messages I try to express to young readers through my character’s challenges in Carcium.
What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?
That I am human.
Why….because I want children to understand they are built the same way as the people they look up to or aspire to be like.
Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?
Just enjoy whatever you read or write. You only get one of each day, and if you do something you enjoy if for only a moment, that is a good day.
That’s inspiring. Thank you so much, Donald.
Dear readers, check out Donald’s website, Facebook, and Video Trailer. The first book in his Carcium trilogy is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tate Publishing, IndieBound, & Books-A-Million. And here comes my review of the novel:
Carcium – Reviewed by Ia Uaro of BookPleasures.com
It has been a quite a while since I last felt this enthralled by a Fantasy read. What an imagination! Delightful and wholesome, Carcium: The Conflicts Begins is an original, superbly crafted action-packed fantasy for both young adults and adults where a spoiled and selfish prince must fight abominable evil in order to regain his kingdom and save his people, and along the way learns about the beauty of nature, the power of kindness and the value of friendships.
Prince Troy of Carcium is lazy, haughty, and mean. Formerly secreted for safety reasons, he is brought to live in the palace after the demise of his father, the wise king. Troy lives in opulence and doesn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt over the sufferings his poor subjects must endure due to his extravagant lifestyle. He takes away their harvests for endless sumptuous state dinners on his honor, and he deprives his people of water by channeling the streams to his own royal gardens.
Unbeknownst to him, his every movement is being watched by the mystical elves who oversee the kingdoms, and Troy fails their leadership test miserably. This means, Carcium is put in limbo, and evil sorceror Duras Carcer–who draws his life force from fallen kingdoms–will have the opportunity to rule Carcium. Troy has one last chance to redeem himself and revive his kingdom, but first he must find the only weapon that can destroy Duras Carcer. And so, rudely thrown out his lavish castle, the unprepared pampered prince begins his perilous quest…
Calvanese’s storyline is carefully plotted. The action and sword fights–during treacherous encounters with dangerous snake vines, starving giant cats, slobbering gargoyles, despicable knights, revolting demons–are choreographed in suspenseful details, forcing readers to tighten their seatbelts as they are brilliantly taken on a magical journey through the richly drawn settings that aren’t just challenging and spooky, some actually move, and oh, add to that foul scents, vile substances, fires, lightning, deadly obstacles and the time constraints. And the hideous villains! Calvanese cleverly creates chilling characters that even your worst nightmares wouldn’t conjure–malicious malevolent monsters so evil that you sympathize with Troy and his newfound friends, such that you even forgive the very frequent but necessary use of violence in their quest to save the innocent people of Carcium.
Suffice to say, Donald Calvanese is a masterful storyteller with vivid imagination who knows his target audience well. He is at times wicked, often insightful, with powerful narration and the knack to heighten readers’ fear. The first book in the Carcium series, Carcium : The Conflicts Begins is a wonderful read that both young people and adults are sure to enjoy, particularly those who love watching the recent teen Merlin series, speaking of which, I’d absolutely love to see CARCIUM on the big screen, to appreciate its marvelous lands and beautiful creatures, even though I’d be gripping my seat in terror half of the time.
I give it 4 stars because the structure could be balanced slightly better by assigning more proportion to the “human” aspect. A few existing typos don’t bother me and an editor can easily clean them up.