Author Interview with David Allen Voyles

Dragon Soul Press took a moment to interview All Dark Places 2 Author David Allen Voyles.


1. What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

I taught literature for nearly thirty years so it’s hard to say which writers I enjoyed the most—there are so many. But I can identify these three as having a tremendous impact on me: Edgar Allen Poe for defining what horror is, Ray Bradbury for teaching me the sheer pleasure and poetry that a story can offer, and Stephen King for providing me with superb models of terrifying plots and believable characters.

2. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I’ve always loved Halloween. My family and I have hosted a Halloween party for the past forty years, most of which had their own creepy theme. Early on we incorporated the idea of storytelling into the fun. We always encouraged our guests to share a scary story, but I made sure I had at least one ready to tell myself. One year our theme was “Dark Tours” and I escorted small groups of guests around the property, through the house, and even on a walk in the neighboring woods and told stories about the haunted scenes we had prepared for them in all those places. The success of that party led to the idea of creating our own ghost tour business, and within a year, we had purchased and renovated a 1972 Cadillac hearse in which we transported our customers to various haunted sites in our area. I had to create stories for the tours, of course, which was great fun, but that experience encouraged me to write stories much darker than those I could tell on a family-friendly ghost tour and to eventually publish two collections of original short stories.

3. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I think so, yes. In elementary school I enjoyed writing stories even when they weren’t assigned. Later I decided that I wanted to be an English teacher and have my own class where I could get students excited about the wealth of literature that awaited them. Writing is a large part of the English class curriculum, too, of course, and I enjoyed writing creatively with my students.

4. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

As I said, Halloween is a big part of my life. This year, due to Covid-19, the celebration will have to be a virtual one, so I haven’t devoted as much time to making props for the party as I normally do, but making skulls, corpses, haunted trees, and tombstones for our annual haunted scenes is a hobby I very much enjoy. I’ve also recently become interested in puppetry and hope to find time to create the characters for several scary puppet shows that I’ve written the scripts for. Yes, that’s right. I said scary puppet shows. As if puppets aren’t scary enough as they are! Am I right?

5. If you were a tour guide, what would you like a visitor to see and what impression would you want them to take away with them when they leave?

For three years I had the pleasure of being the ghost tour guide for my own small business, Dark Ride Tours. As the fictitious undertaker/host Virgil Nightshade (“Virgil” from Dante’s guide throughout Hell in The Inferno, and “Nightshade” from one of Ray Bradbury’s young protagonists in Something Wicked This Way Comes), I wanted guests to experience the spine-tingling thrill that comes from a good, scary story. And to wonder if–just maybe–ghosts might be real.

6. Do you write listening to music?

Not always, but often I listen to dark, ambient music. I do not listen to songs with vocals, however, as lyrics seem to conflict with my ability to write. I’m currently in the process of writing episodes for the ongoing story of Witch-Works for my horror podcast Dark Corners which is based on an existing dark ambient music album of the same name by the wonderful musician/composer Mombi Yuleman. Each chapter in the story is based on a track of the album, so I most definitely listen to those dark sounds while I’m writing. My collaboration with Mombi has led me to search out more dark ambient music, which I find perfect for creating a mood conducive to writing good horror.

7. Is there lots to do before you dive in and start writing the story?

It really depends on the story. Sometimes all it takes is to think of a creepy idea and jump in. Other storylines take more work. For example, I’ve been asked to contribute to a horror anthology that will accompany a collection of Lovecraft-inspired music, so I re-read a few Lovecraft stories and researched a bit about Lovecraft’s Elder Gods and his cosmos in order to figure out how to incorporate some of his elements into my unique tale. I am outlining the plot now and looking forward to fleshing out the story. So I guess you’d definitely call me a “planner” rather than a “pantser.”

8. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I love all aspects of the actual writing process—the planning, the first draft (probably my favorite part), even the editing. What I really don’t like is having to promote my writing. Social media is a necessary evil these days, but it siphons off so much time away from actually writing that I find it a frustrating distraction.

9. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t think I thought of myself as being a real writer until I connected with Gestalt Media, a small publishing company dedicated to promoting indie writers. I had self-published my first collection, The Thirteenth Day of Christmas and Other Tales of Yuletide Horror, but I was still hesitant to say, “I’m a writer.” I think it took finding someone else who didn’t know me aside from my writing and who seemed to think that other people might like to buy my stories for me to feel myself really a writer.

10. What is the significance of the title for your All Dark Places 2 story?

I’d like to think that there is a sense of prevailing justice to life, or perhaps more specifically, some kind of karma. It galls me to think of some of the despicable people we see today being rewarded for their selfish, thoughtless, and destructive behaviors. The idea of “Just Retribution,” where someone who has lived a life devoted to harmful self-interest ultimately gets what they deserve is, I know, simplistic to say the least. But aside from providing me with an opportunity to include a scene that once terrified me in a dream (the ultimate haunted house), the story satisfies my need, for at least once in my universe, for things to work out as they should in the end. Very few of my stories do that.

11. Where can readers learn more about you?

Website: davidallenvoyles.com

Horror Podcast: Dark Corners with David Allen Voyles (Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and here: gestalt-media.com/darkcorners)

Facebook: David Allen Voyles @DavidAVoyles13

Twitter: @davidavoyles

Instagram: davidallenvoyles

Interested readers are also welcome to sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter by downloading the free story “Captain Buchanan’s Return” at http://dl.bookfunnel.com/y83ic544jh

Choosing a Title

In my recent social media adventures of IG and the Twitterverse, I’ve seen the recurring question:

 How do I title my WIP? 

Today, I’m going to walk you through how I title my works-in-progress!

While I admit I’m primarily a young adult or new adult fantasy author, I promise this technique will work across a variety of works, encompassing all target audiences and genres.

  1. Make a list of:
    • Major Character(s)
      • Key Character Traits (~3 each)
        • Species or Races
        • Animals
    • Major Point(s) of Conflict
      • Key Themes (~3 each)
    • Major Items or Places
      • Artifacts 
      • Locations
    • Overall Mood / Atmosphere
      • Emotions (~3 each)
  2. Decide on your top 3-5 from the above list.
  3. Explore definitions, synonyms and like terms for the choice words. Utilize your favorite search engine for quotations or turns of phrase utilizing these words. Play with them, mix & match, combine them at your leisure. Have fun!
  4. Begin to narrow your list. (This is where your possible titles will form.)

Allow me to demonstrate!

  • Major Character(s):
    • Aurelia, the purple dragon shifter
    • Seru, the electrifying saint beast
    • Thalasia*, the blue siren
  • Major Point(s) of Conflict
    • The Great War (prior to the book)
    • The Magical Barrier Collapse
    • The Guiler Invasion
  • Major Items
    • Prismatic crystals (Violet & Purple)
    • Saint Beast’s enchanted collar
    • The Golden Lyre (siren charm)
    • The Golden Drake (dragon coin)
  • Major Places
    • The white sand beach (the site of the MC’s first encounter)
    • The bridge (point where Thalasia and guilers cross to Prisma Isle)
    • The central market (place of gathering for all species on land)
  • Overall Mood / Atmosphere
    • Rebellion
    • Overcoming Differences
    • Divergence
    • Friendship

Even my initial version–which may sound a tad over simplified–gives us more than enough to work with. I’ve highlighted my choices above. Feel free to circle the ones you like and cross out the ones you don’t particularly care for or get good vibes from. There will be plenty of options, so don’t stress. 

Upon analyzing the list, I’ve narrowed it down to a few choices I thought really encompassed the story as a whole. Now, I’m going to do a spot of research using a dictionary, thesaurus, and my preferred search engine. 

I’ll note down a few relevant examples of what I compiled below for ease of viewing.

  • Prismatic crystals
    • Colorful
    • Amethyst
      • A powerful and protective stone
      • Prevents overindulgence 
  • White sand beach
    • Ocean
      • Tides
  • Rebellion
    • Uprising
    • Revolution
  • Friendship
    • Unity
    • Togetherness

Again, my list might seem overly simplistic, but I’m well versed in this process, so don’t feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed if your list is a touch longer or shorter. Work with what you have!

Now, you play with the words and their meanings until you find an option, or a few, that you think suit your WIP. This go ‘round, my title jumped out at me as I was creating the list. That may or may not happen for you right away. Don’t get discouraged. You will find your title. Just be patient and continue working.

Decision time!

Once you have a handful of viable options, choose the one that you think works best and gives your story the proper spotlight in which to shine. 

Rebel Tides

As you can see, I chose the title Rebel Tides. I, of course, ran this and a few other options past my co-author, Krys Fenner, since we wrote this new adult fantasy novel together. I recommend you do the same with your titles, whether you have co-authors or just a few trusted writer pals. Obtaining a second or third opinion always helps. (Depending on their knowledge and familiarity of your WIP, it may also be wise to include a detailed summary of your story.) 

Easy, right? Or, at least easier than you initially thought.

This tried and true method of creating a title has worked for me for many years. It’s a method I turn to time and time again. I sincerely hope it helps you select your next title for your work-in-progress.

If it does, please, feel free to reach out and tell us about it! I love to hear from my fellow authors within the Writing Community. 

A few closing explanations on why I chose Rebel Tides as the title of my new adult fantasy novel. 

The initial story was intended to be a young adult novel, detailing the friendship formed between two rebellious heroines: a dragon shifter, Aurelia (my character) and Thalasia (Krys’ character), a siren. The two were set to adventure to a magical academy and discover themselves together in the process, making their share of mischief as they went.

Long story short, the collaboration changed hands–and publishers–before their story could be completed. 

In the revived and revamped form, their story shifted from a preteen coming-of-age journey to an action-packed struggle of survival, where the disappearance of a magical barrier cues a series of destructive incidents across the island a majority of the characters call home. Thalasia is initially blamed by my protagonist, Aurelia, who finds herself at odds with the newcomer. My secondary character, the saint beast, Seru decided to cozy up to Thalasia, even if it meant betraying his species in the process. 

Krys and I were beside ourselves at these dramatic and sudden changes demanded by our cast. But, we decided to roll with it and see where it went. In the end, Rebel Tides still fit our story–if for entirely different reasons. 

Our characters first encounter one another by the beach. As time progresses, it becomes evident they must rebel against the societal norms of Prisma Isle and their species to come together in order to save the island from guiler invaders. You might say, they need to create a shift or change the tides from the way things have always been toward a new way. In Thalasia’s and Seru’s case, they even seek to challenge and change fate itself. 


I appreciate you taking the time to read my first-ever blog post for Dragon Soul Press. I hope you enjoyed reading and partaking in the fun exercise provided. I’ll see you next time.

~Livi Luciana (a.k.a. the_rainbow_crow)

Author Interview with S.O. Green

With the upcoming release of Dragon Soul Press’ Lethal Impact anthology, DSP interviewed Author S.O. Green featured within.


 

  1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. That, to me, was more important than being a writer. I wrote fan fiction as a way to flirt with my girlfriend (actually, I still do) and as a way to hone my craft. It was only two years ago that I started looking at professional writing, and only this year that I started to take it seriously. So here I am.

  1. Describe your writing process.

I usually start with a concept or a theme. That’s why I love Dragon Soul Press anthologies. The themes are always so strong. Once I have a theme, I brainstorm a premise using some of my favourite character archetypes. Then I write out the plot as it comes to me, fix up the holes and improve the flow before starting to write. I add layers as I go and always allow room for growth but I’m a planner at heart. I try not to research anything until the story is written because I prefer to focus on character and drama rather than detail. Once it’s written, I let my girlfriend take an axe to it.

  1. How do you come up with the titles to your stories?

The title is the very last thing I decide on. Early drafts are always entitled things like ‘The Demon Story’ or ‘Reign of Queens Story’. When I finish, I look back through and see if I can find a phrase that describes the entire piece. My latest story for Dragon Soul Press is named ‘Eve’s Apple’, after the main character’s love of apples. That quirk wasn’t even in the original plan but, once I started writing, it became important pretty quickly.

  1. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I do all my writing on an Alphasmart Neo. It’s basically a keyboard with a calculator screen. No games, no internet, no nothing. There are no distractions. It’s the main reason why my output is so high. I’ve typed over half a million words since the start of 2020 and it’s great because I used to really struggle with my output. Oh, and there’s also usually a redhead in my stories somewhere.

  1. How do you handle writer’s block?

Honestly, I try to just not get it. I start every day with a little writing. Something rough with low stakes so I can just let it flow. It might never see the light of day. On the other hand, it might also be the first draft of something. If I get blocked on a specific project, I try to approach it from a different angle – a new point of view, a new character or a new starting point. My experience of writer’s block is less about the writing and more about motivation.

  1. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I tend to say the empty spaces. I read; I watch TV; I play video games. My stories come from the spaces between stories. ‘What if?’ scenarios or events I felt should have happened but didn’t. ‘Eve’s Apple’, was based on the question, ‘what if a main character knew they were an android all their life?’ You can find the answer in the upcoming Lethal Impact anthology.

  1. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Mainly, I search for new ways to make plants delicious and learn to kill people with my bare hands. I play a lot of video games – classic survival horror, epic open world and twee farm simulators tend to be my favourites. I try to read a lot too. I’ve found some brilliant indie authors since the start of the year whose work I adore, like Carrie Gessner and Dan Trudeau. I also have a job but who cares about that?

  1. What are you currently working on?

My current project is for Dragon Soul Press’s Fairytale Dragons anthology. Really, I’ve been spoiled for choice with DSP’s catalogue of submission calls. They’ve recently added a call for steampunk as well so I’m going to be very busy over the next few months. I usually try to have a few projects on the go at once so I can flit between them and keep my motivation up. Short fiction is a fever I can’t sweat out, but I have a novel I’m revising for self-publishing and a novella that is under consideration with a publisher as well. I like to keep busy.

  1. If you could travel to any fictional world, where would you go?

Frank Baum’s Oz. The characters are all so nice and it really is a paradise. Baum’s descriptions of it were always so beautiful and it feels like anything might be possible there. Guilt-free, plant-based chicken dinners grow on trees. Ozma of Oz is also one of the first transgender characters in Western literature, having spent her formative years as a boy named Tip. Reading his original canon recently, I was amazed at how relevant the series still is. On the other hand, I don’t think they’d appreciate my work there, being of a significantly more cheerful disposition.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

I update Amazon and Goodreads whenever something new comes out. There’s also my blog, where I review what I read and tease out issues that interest me. I’m also there for the banter on Twitter and Facebook.

At some point, I’ll grow into them all and they’ll look pretty and professional. Until then, enjoy the chaos.

Do’s and Don’ts of World-building

If you’re writing either a fantasy story or a sci-fi one, there is no getting around the world-building. It’s pretty much essential to your genre. World-building occurs when your story’s world deviates from the “rules” of present world that we occupy. So even if your story isn’t set in an entirely different planet, but it’s got a little dusting of magic thrown in, guess what? You’ve entered the realm of world-building. And that requires us to begin looking for and providing explanations for why our fantasy world functions the way it does. 

When it comes to the art of world-building, there are certain things we need to keep in mind. Even though world-building does break the rules of our present space, there still is a certain way of creating your fantasy or sci-fi world so that it reads coherently and doesn’t come off as a big hot mess to your readers. 

So, if you’re grappling with how to create an alternate reality in which your world is set, here are some common mistakes you might want to avoid making:

Spending too much time world-building: There is such a thing as spending too much time building your world. While you do need to build up your world and explain the whys and hows, what you don’t want is to get so wrapped up in creating the world that your book reads more like a history lesson than a story. The way I like to do things is I like to create the entire world separate of the story – complete with a history and a language if there is one – and then just pick and drop in the bits that are relevant to the story. I don’t know how many are familiar with Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory, but it’s the theory of omission. There is only 5% of the story on the surface while the rest of it is underwater. And if the writing is clear and concise, then the reader can infer the other 95% of the story. It kind of works like a show, don’t tell sort of idea. But basically, I like to look at world-building with almost the same lens as the Iceberg Theory. If you know the world well enough yourself, you really only need to show the reader the relevant parts while the rest is left underwater. That is why I’ll list out everything about my world ahead of time, but just include what is relevant to the plot. 

Including things that are never used: This sort of touches back to my first point. It’s okay to build an entire family tree for yourself, but unless it’s a vital part of the plot, don’t include it in the book. Same with language. Unless there is a major plot point around an alien language there is no need to include an alphabet or launch into an explanation of the grammatical rules surrounding a certain language. A simple clue that there is another language in the world – like referring to a “common tongue” or a character noting that another character has the accent of a certain tribe – is more than inclusion enough. Don’t over explain something, especially if it’s a part of the world that doesn’t warrant an explanation in the first place. 

Not planning ahead: While there is no time like the present, getting a little ahead of yourself doesn’t hurt when you are world-building. Particularly if you’re creating a series. You want to have somewhat of a long-term grasp of your world. It helps to cut down on future plot holes. 

Lack of conflict: Let’s face it, perfect worlds are boring. Our current world is a festering cornucopia of social, political, and environmental problems the world over. But that is what makes our lives interesting – we all have our own personal struggles to overcome. We’re our own heroes or heroines in the stories of our lives, and we can thank the conflicts we face for that. Your fantasy or sci-fi world should also hold conflicts that affect or influence your characters. That is what is needed to start them on their heroes’ journey. Don’t create a perfect world, create a flawed one and watch the fun unfold. 

Creating a world that has been done before: Yes, we’re all prone to being inspired by other books or movies or TV shows that we’ve enjoyed. But the last thing you want to do is be charged with derivative copyright infringement for creating a carbon copy of a world that has already appeared in another work of fiction. Of course, just because someone has already written a book about a group of students attending a magical school, or someone else has a world in which cars fly, that doesn’t mean you can’t still write your own story. What it means is that if you’re going to have a world of flying cars, or a story about students attending a magic school, you need to put your own spin on it and make your world as uniquely you as possible. 

Breaking your own rules: Readers of sci-fi or fantasy are willing to suspend their belief. But they won’t forgive the writer for breaking their own rules. So, when you are creating your world, be sure to pay attention to the rules that you’re setting in place. If you are creating a world in which witches only discover their magic powers at the age of 14, but then suddenly you’ve got witches practicing magic and spells at 5 years old, your readers are going to be confused and upset by these plot holes. That is why as the writer and the “god” of your world, you need to pay attention to the rules that you have set forth. Don’t break your own rules. It creates a lot of plot holes and angry readers. 

Writing Likable Characters

We all want our readers to be invested in our stories. When a reader invests in your story, they are investing in a continued journey with you as a writer. Besides having someone thoroughly enjoy the work that you put so much effort into, having an invested reader can lead to great opportunities such as representation and publication if you’re seeking a more traditional means of publishing, or a loyal fan-base and more clout on social media if you’ve chosen to go with self-publication. Either way, only good things can come for you and your book if you have invested readers. 

But what is the key to success to capturing the hearts of readers? One of the easiest ways to get a reader completely on board with your book is to create likable and relatable characters. Think of all the books that you personally like – how many of them can you honestly say you like them for reasons other than the characters? Sure, the Harry Potter series is cool and JK Rowling outdid herself when she created the wizarding world, but if you stripped all the magic away, you’d be left with only the characters. And that was truly the heart of the books. It was Harry, Hermoine, and Ron that stole our hearts and made us want to keep reading. You can try to counter argue, but deep down you know it’s true. Take any story of any genre and strip away the fantastical settings, the plot twists, the romances, etc. and you’ll see that it’s the characters that are always at the heart of all our beloved books. 

But what is it about certain main characters that resonate with us and make us feel invested in their stories? All these beloved main characters and side characters that we love to discuss at length with friends, cosplay at events, or make fanart for; the one thing that they all have in common is their likability and relatability. So how do you go about creating characters that people like and want to follow?

Here are some tips:

Vulnerability– giving your character a vulnerability is one of the easiest ways to get your character to resonate with readers. This vulnerability can either be a physical one like a handicap or an emotional one. Either way, seeing a character struggle with their own weaknesses, hopes, limitations, or fears is always a way to get readers to see themselves in a character. 

Backstory– kind of lining up a bit with the vulnerability point is backstory. Introducing a why for the character’s actions or thoughts is always a way to make them seem relatable. And looking to their backstory is a good place to start. This is particularly helpful if you want to write an antagonist that is well-rounded and not just a straight up A-hole. Sometimes some of the best villains have some of the saddest or complicated backstories. Take the most recent Joker film. This is a perfect example of a well-rounded villain. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a bad guy, but getting to see his origins definitely helps us better understand his motivations. And in doing so we end up feeling bad for him – something that ends up making him more relatable in our eyes.  

Failure– letting your main character fail isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can definitely help the relatability of a character. We’ve all faced failure within our own lives. We all love an underdog story with the odds stacked against them. Let your character fail and make a courageous comeback. Their resilience will speak volumes with readers because we’ve all been there. 

Morals– most for the heroes of our stories making them be nice helps a bit. We want to think of characters as being generally nice. Characters that show kindness, generosity, or selflessness are generally seen as “good” and you want your characters to be good. No one likes a character that will kick a puppy and laugh. Of course, steer clear of making them a goodie-two-shoes. Some character flaws do make them more “human.” Also, don’t be afraid of giving your villains some morals too. Just because you have a supervillain who wants to destroy the world doesn’t mean that they can’t have a moment of selflessness. How many times do we end up liking villains after they end up redeeming themselves by showing a selfless side to them? Think Shadow Weaver’s sacrifice of herself to save Adora and Catra in Netflix’s She-ra. Personally, I shed a tear at that.

Humor– whether they’re self-deprecating, snarky, or just plain silly, giving your characters some sort of sense of humor makes them relatable to readers. We all love to laugh. It’s the next universal language besides love. So, it only stands to reason that readers would gravitate towards characters that have a funny side to them. And so long as their humor is true to the character’s personality, it will resonate with audiences.

Self-Awareness– let’s face it, flawed characters are the best characters. But the key to a good flawed character is that they’ve got enough self-awareness to be able to say sorry once in a while for their shortcomings. Giving your characters, particularly your heroes and heroines, a moment of “yeah I know I’m an A-hole sometimes but I’m trying” can definitely help readers cut them some slack for some of their more morally questionable actions. 

Fear and Pain– having a character be motivated by their fear or their pain can definitely make them relatable to readers. How many of us in our everyday lives are motivated to action by pain and fear? That 20-page college paper we’ve all written the night before it’s due was definitely written on pure motivation from fear of failure and a painful lack of sleep. Having characters move through plot points based off their fear and pain will definitely make them relatable. After all, nothing is more human in this life than feeling pain and fear, which is why our characters must feel these things too.