Tag Archives: magic

Author Interview: Tim Susman

I met Author Tim Susman at WorldCon in San Jose.  I think you’ll agree he is an interesting author with a good story to tell.  Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Tim SusmanHi! I’m Tim Susman, a gay male American writer (he/him) currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area with my two partners and our dog. I studied business and engineering in college before moving on to zoology in graduate school and then starting a career as a database systems consultant that led to jobs as a product manager and a project manager. After being laid off in 2010 I took up writing full time and have been doing that ever since.

When and why did you begin writing?

In college, a friend of mine asked me to come up with a story for a birthday present she wanted to give me. I think in retrospect she just wanted a couple of paragraphs because when I presented her with a full-blown story she didn’t know what to do with it. The college SF magazine did, and I joined the SF club that fall. I read voraciously as a child, and I think I started writing because I wanted to tell my own versions of the stories I’d loved best.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably when that first story was published in my college magazine. Seeing something in print with my name on it, hearing that other people liked the story and wanted me to write more, made me feel confident about calling myself a writer. It would be almost twenty more years before I’d call myself an author, though.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest book is “The Demon and the Fox,” the second book in the series “The Calatians.” Set in 1815 in an America with magic colleges that is still a British colony, the protagonist, Kip, is the first in a race of magically created animal-people (Calatians) to become a sorcerer himself. In “Demon,” he searches for the perpetrator of a mysterious attack that killed many of America’s best sorcerers. While on this task, revolutionary sentiment grows around him, but even though his people are subject to prejudice and abuse, he worries that he’ll lose his opportunities to become a sorcerer if he turns against the British Empire. If he can solve this mystery, though, he’ll be a hero and much more secure.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had been thinking about parental responsibility, and wanted to explore it through several lenses: first, through Kip’s relationship with his own father; second, through the relationship between the Calatians and the humans who created them; third, through the relationship between the colonies and the Empire that founded them. Each of these relationships in the books takes a different view of the responsibilities a creator or parent owes to their children.

From an aesthetic point of view, I love writing in historical eras, and I love writing about animal-people. I have wanted to write a magic book for a long time, but worried that my engineering background would make my magic too “science-y.” I worked for a while to come up with a magic system that felt magic to me.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I focus more on character interaction and dialogue than on lengthy descriptive passages, but I also like to play around with different styles.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Kip is an animal-person with the traits of a fox, and the first in the series is called “The Tower and the Fox,” so I wanted the rest of the series to be thematically linked. In this book, a demon is responsible for the attack, but Kip also summons a demon to help him in his search and begins to learn more about their world, so I wanted the title to focus on the demon as well as our protagonist.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Mostly what I discussed above: to think about our responsibilities to those who depend on us, or those over whom we have power.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Generally no, although everyone in my life creeps into my books in one way or another.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Ray Bradbury’s lyricism was an early influence. Madeleine L’Engle and Susan Cooper’s very personal stories of fantastic magic have stayed with me ever since I discovered them at an early age. Kij Johnson’s beautiful language and emotion were inspiring. David Mitchell’s imaginative and meaningful stories are some of my current favorites. Kazuo Ishiguro’s grasp of the human experience is something I strive to approach in my own work.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Laura Garabedian is a friend of mine and a fantastically talented artist. I’ve admired her fantasy illustrations for years and was delighted to have the chance to work professionally with her.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I have this paraphrased quotation on my desk from William Faulkner: “Don’t bother being better than others. Be better than yourself.”

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Just a very heartfelt thank you.

The Demon and the Fox Book CoverTim Susman
Mountain View, CA


The Demon and the Fox

Cover Artist: Laura Garabedian
Publisher: Argyll Productions


Author Interview: Jeffrey L Kohanek

From a young age, Author Jeffrey L Kohanek felt driven by an internal desire to create. With an early love for heroes with superpowers, he found his childhood-self creating his own comic books. When he finally decided to write his own epic fantasy series, it was with the desire to instill that same sense of wonder in his readers. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Jeffery L KohanekMy name is Jeffrey L. Kohanek. I grew up in frigid Minnesota and moved to sunny Southern California fourteen years ago, where I currently live. I am married, and I have two children who are both in college. Among my favorite activities are: hiking, traveling, reading, spending time with my family, and playing the occasional video game.

When and why did you begin writing?

Like many others, I took the responsible route in college and graduated with an engineering degree rather than one in creative writing, although I loved it. When my children neared the end of their high school careers, I found time in my schedule that had previously been filled with their activities. That was when I decided to resurrect my passion for creative writing. Four years later, I have four published novels with two more releasing this year. I love being an author, and I intend to keep writing for many years.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I guess the moment came when I was offered a contract for my first book. It was published by a mid-sized press, and I have since reclaimed the rights and self-published the same book. However, the validation that someone else saw value in my writing flipped a switch inside my head and made it all seem so much more real.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I currently have four books published, all set in the fantasy world of Issalia. A Warden’s Purpose, the first book of a new series set in the same world. Set seventeen years after a major war that destroyed half of the continent, the story is told through the eyes of a brother and sister. Here is a synopsis:

Two schools: One of magic and science, the other about military excellence.
A dangerous undercurrent flows within both…dark and deadly.

Everson is brilliant, ingenious, and broken. Cursed with a disability, he dreams of nothing more than being useful. Quinn is bold, defiant, and will do anything to protect her brother. When Everson is accepted to an academy of magic and engineering, Quinn enters a school of combat in order to join him in Fallbrandt. However, things within the fabled institutions are not what they seem. Beneath a mantra of good intentions and the objective of a better future, conspiracies lurk.

Quinn finds herself embroiled in a struggle she doesn’t understand, one that has dire consequences as her training shifts from difficult to deadly. Her relentless determination and will to survive might be enough if she only knew whom she could trust.

Within the other school, Everson learns about a dangerous power known as Chaos. Unable to wield this magic, he instead focuses his efforts of melding Chaos with science, dreaming of inventions that would shape the future. Perceptive, imaginative, and curious, his endeavors lead him to a revelation that could change the world…and then he discovers the truth.

What inspired you to write this book?

When I finished the Runes of Issalia trilogy, I felt that there were many more stories within the world I had created and characters that I had yet to explore. Everson and Quinn drive the story. I feel like they demanded it be told and I was merely a conduit to making that happen.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My prose tends more toward action and emotion, with tight worldbuilding and a limited narrative rather than trying to astound the reader with poetic verse. This keeps the pacing up and has worked well for me.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

A Warden’s Purpose is the first book in the Wardens of Issalia series. The title itself came through the book and was not set until I was almost finished with the first draft. In the end, the people who are recruited to be a Warden must have a purpose that drives them, something that makes them who they are while also suiting the overarching needs of the Wardens.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Inclusion. Many of my books feature inclusion or prejudice as an overarching theme. In this case, Everson’s disability may limit him physically, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a whole person or that he cannot be useful.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

I always include some personal experiences in my stories, but Everson’s tale is fully original, as is Quinn’s.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

In the early years, David Eddings and Raymond E. Feist were significant influences on me. More recently, Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss are two who authors whom I admire.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I would love to have Brandon Sanderson as a mentor. His BYU 318R courses on Youtube show how well he can break down a story in an analytical way and his support would be very helpful.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

J. Caleb designed my cover. I chose him because I am attracted to his style. He did a wonderful job taking my guidance and bringing images of Everson and Quinn to life.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I have three bits of advice to other writers:

1. Write. The more you do it, the better you get.
2. Editors are important and you MUST have someone qualified edit your work and make it the best it can be.
3. Lastly, share your writing. Authors are often afraid to do so, fearing that their work isn’t good enough. Don’t worry about that. If you’ve written a book, get it in front of other people for them to experience and to provide feedback. Not everyone will love it, but that’s fine.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love, love, love my readers. I enjoy hearing your feedback and I read every review about my books. The positive reviews give me an emotional boost and feed my muse. The critical ones help make me a better writer. Also, don’t be afraid to email me.

A Wardens Purpose eCoverJeffrey L. Kohanek
Huntington Beach, CA


A Warden’s Purpose

Cover Artist: J. Caleb
Publisher: Fallbrandt Press


Book Review: Pawn of Prophecy

Book Name: Pawn of Prophecy
Author: David Eddings
First Published: 1982

Author David Eddings grew up in Snohomish, Washington, a small town near Seattle. He displayed a talent for drama and literature, winning a national oratorical contest and acting in lead roles in junior college plays. He graduated from Reed College of Portland, Oregon in 1954. He was working on a novel that he thought would be his thesis for the university when he was drafted into the US. Army. He served his country until 1956 and moved on to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle. He gained his MA in 1961 and moved on to a job in purchasing at Boeing Aircraft, a large company in the area. It is there that he met his wife Judith Leigh Schall and he and Leigh would remain married for 45 years until a stroke took her life.

Eddings moved on from Boeing to become a tenured college professor for seven years, but in a fit of frustration, he quit his job due to a lack of a pay raise. He and his wife moved to Denver, Colorado where he took a job at a grocery store to make a living. It was during this time that he turned to writing and began work on a series of novels. After a time in Denver, he moved back to Washington, this time to Spokane. It is here where Eddings turned his attention to writing in earnest.

In Spokane, Eddings came across a copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in a bookstore. He realized that the book was in its 78th printing and this fact made him sit up and re-evaluate his writing. He realized that there could be a larger market for fantasy novels than the coming of age books he had previously written. He pulled out an old doodle of a map he had scribbled a few years ago and this became the basis for the fantasy world of Aloria, the setting of the Belgariad Series.

The Belgariad is the first of Edding’s epic fantasy series. It has five volumes, each title a combination of a fantasy term and a chess term. Pawn of Prophecy is the first book. With the success of The Belgariad Series, Eddings went on to write another five volume sequel series called The Malloreon. Both series proved to be wildly popular and helped to shape the trope of epic fantasy that holds today.

Leigh Eddings is credited with being a co-author in the later novels concerning the Sorceress Polgara, but according to David Eddings, his wife was active as a co-author in all of his fantasy novels. He used her guidance with the female characters to make them more believable. He would have credited her sooner for her work, but Lester Del Rey allegedly did not like the idea, believing that a single author’s name on the books was a better selling point.

David Eddings continued to write his fantasy novels until his death of natural causes in 2009. His manuscripts and other written works have been donated to Reed University along with a sizable grant to fund “students and faculty studying languages and literature”.

“But there’s a world beyond what we can see and touch, and that world lives by its own laws. What may be impossible in this very ordinary world is very possible there, and sometimes the boundaries between the two worlds disappear, and then who can say what is possible and impossible?”
― David Eddings, Pawn of Prophecy

Pawn of Prophecy begins with a prologue about the creation of the world Aloria by the seven gods. One of them fashions an orb and puts inside it a “living soul”. The Orb of Aldur is coveted by the god Torak. The Orb is guarded by King Cherek’s family, who have the ability to hold the object.

The story is told via the eyes of young Garion, a farm boy. An old man named Belgarath, nicknamed “the wolf” arrives at Faldor Farm and enlists the help of Garion, his Aunt Pol, and Durnik the blacksmith to go out in search of a missing object. Unknown to Garion, this is the Orb of Aldur, a powerful and magical object lost to the King’s family. The group has many adventures and eventually grows to include a Drasnian Prince, an Algarian Prince, and a Cherek Earl.

During the many trials that Garion experiences, he hears a dry voice in his mind. As time goes on, Garion learns that this is the Voice of Prophecy, or “Necessity”, which is taking action through him. He is but a pawn to its will. Who is Garion? What is his connection to Aunt Pol and to the thief known as Wolf? It seems that there is more to this farmboy than what meets the eye.

Book Cover Pawn of ProphecyBack in my school days, The Belgariad Series was considered one of those “must-reads” of the fantasy genre. Although today we would consider the storyline to be a classic “chosen one” Hero’s Journey with all the cliches of the genre, at the time, it was breaking fresh ground. I remember reading the series in junior high school with pleasure and went on to read the sequel series as well. It reminded me of Tolkien’s Lord of the Kings, but without the heavy literature quality.

I found the young farm boy Garion likable and the story engaging, with a good balance of humor and intricate world building. While Eddings prose is not particularly deep, it is still a good yarn that is clean enough to recommend to younger readers.

In particular, I like that Eddings created a strong female lead in “Aunt Polgara”. Polgara is a powerful sorceress and of good character. She was one of the first strong female lead characters to come out in the 1980s fantasy, but certainly was not the last! I had not realized at the time that Polgara was a particular creation of Edding’s wife since she was not given co-author credit during the 1980s, but her input is certainly felt with Polgara and her viewpoints.

If you are an adult and are considering reading this classic series, I believe that it holds its own for adults looking for a clean fantasy with less gratuitous violence. While more YA in nature, it is a good read for all ages.

The Belgariad Series

Pawn of Prophecy (1982)
Queen of Sorcery (1982)
Magician’s Gambit (1983)
Castle of Wizardry (1984)
Enchanters’ End Game (1984)

Author Interview: Elizabeth Gaines Johnston

A huge fan of fantasy and medieval history, Author Elizabeth Gaines Johnston loves weaving complicated storylines together to create characters who feel like real people. She enjoys using words to paint a picture, so my worlds have a tangible feel to them. Please welcome this up and coming fantasy author to No Wasted Ink.

Author Elizabeth Gaines JohnstonMy name is Elizabeth Gaines Johnston, author of the Gilded Serpents trilogy, as well as the upcoming sequel series, The Realm of Possibilities trilogy. I am a single mother of two sets of identical twin boys (ages 16 and 10) as well as a busy school volunteer, where I direct and teach the theater program for 2nd-8th graders, as well as helping publish the school’s student paper. I have a BA in English Literature with an emphasis on medieval studies, and a History minor. I love to travel. I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like. I’m also a fan of Doctor Who, Firefly, Marvel, some DC (mostly Wonder Woman), The Princess Bride, and many fantasy series.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always loved to write, in my pre-teen and teen years it was mostly short stories and poetry for friends. When I was first married, right out of college, we moved from California to Minnesota, and so while my husband was in med school, I took whatever jobs I could to keep us solvent. To keep my sanity, I used my lunch breaks and after hours writing what I initially thought would be another short story. However, the characters had other ideas, and soon, I found myself writing Dragon’s Gift, the first book of my first trilogy.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Good question. I suppose in college I began to think of myself as a writer, but it wasn’t until I had over 1000 pages of my trilogy written that I knew myself to be one. I finally felt like an author when I sold my first book to a total stranger, who later told me how much they enjoyed it.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

All three books are out simultaneously, so no one has to wait to find out what happens! The first book, Dragon’s Gift, is the most lighthearted, as out heroine is starting out on her journey, meeting new friends and acquiring new skills. The second book, Magic’s Price, is the longest of the three, mainly because that’s where the divisions naturally occurred. It is more complex, as several key players become separated during this time, and they find they must face challenges they never expected. Our heroine, and her friends, also grow more and more to doubt themselves during this portion of the tale. Finally, in the conclusion of the trilogy, War’s Toll, our main characters have to overcome tremendous odds and their own misgivings in order to defeat the great evil threatening their lands.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always loved the fantasy genre, but the majority of the books have a main male character at their core. I wanted my story to revolve around my heroine, but also to show the strength she gets from those beside her. Not just in the sense of romance, though there are romances in my books, but also from family and allies, some of whom she never expected to find rallying to her cause. I also wanted to give young women the sense that if they believe in themselves, they have already won the most important battle.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to give the reader a chance to see things through the eyes of different characters. I hate to compare myself to another author since each of us has a distinct voice. I am particularly proud of the images I am able to create with my words. I like the sense of painting a picture that the reader can see.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

For each book, it was what the heroine found herself facing. In Dragon’s Gift, Kwyleeana finds herself in possession of a magical pendant given to her by Baelwyn, a dragon. This gift opens her to an entirely new world around her. In Magic’s Price, she has to come to terms with what the magic she is using costs her. She also must decide if she is willing to pay that price. In War’s Toll, the war has arrived, and all the characters, our heroine included, will be forced to face the devastation and loss that wars bring.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Empowerment. I have always felt if you believe in yourself, you are well on your way to success. The worst thing we do is defeat ourselves before we’ve begun. Also, I’m a strong believer in the concept of relying on the strength of those around you…none of us is in this world alone, and the greatest burdens become lighter if we have loyal friends beside us willing to share the load.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

As this is a fantasy novel, not really. However, I spent many years as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and several of my characters in this world are amalgams of people I knew from those years. It also helped me add a real authenticity to my dialogue and details of a medieval-esque fantasy world.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you  find inspiring?

As an English lit major, I found a lot to inspire me. The strength of Isabel Allende’s women, the rich details of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Arthurian tales, the fun and excitement of David Eddings, and the way I can lose myself in the worlds of Terry Brooks. I also find hope in the tales of Brooks and J.K. Rowling, who were in other careers and did not find success as authors until later.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Terry Brooks. The way he incorporated what he knew into his books, and then cast aside his career as a successful lawyer to follow his dream of being a fantasy adventure author.

Who designed the painterly cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Kimberly Daniel designed all three book covers. The first one she did for me as a friend, because all the covers I was being sent by my first publisher were awful, and didn’t fit my writing style at all. I then contracted her to design the other two to keep my styles consistent. I also knew she would give me what I needed for a design, and would do it on time and professionally.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t try to be anyone else. Be true to your own voice. The biggest mistake you can make is to write for what pleases other people. If you write to please yourself, that’s when you will create brilliance. And like my heroine, Princess Kwyleeana, believe in yourself, for then you have the strength to win all battles.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

All authors need readers to support them. If you like my book, please give me positive reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other websites. Ask your local bookstore to stock my books. Recommend my books to friends (or better yet, buy them copies as gifts). And never be afraid to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Dragons Gift Book CoverElizabeth Gaines Johnston
Los Angeles, CA


The Gilded Serpents Trilogy

Cover Artist: Kimberly Daniel


Book Review: Sword-Dancer

Book Name: Sword-Dancer
Author: Jennifer Roberson
First Published: 1986

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, author Jennifer Roberson has lived in the state of Arizona since 1957. She started out in Phoenix, but in 1999, she moved to a home on 2.5 acres of rural land at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff. She gained a bachelor of science in journalism from Northern Arizona University with an extended major in British history. While studying at the University of London during her last semester, Roberson was able to visit historical sites in Scotland and Wales. These travels would later inspire much of her historical fiction and influence her fantasy works.

Jennifer Roberson is a prolific author, with two dozen novels completed and more on the way. Her most famous series is the Sword-Dancer Saga, but her Cheysuli series is also extremely popular with fantasy readers. In addition to the novels, she has written numerous short stories and has edited several fantasy anthologies. In 1996, Roberson collaborated with fantasy authors Melanie Rawn and Kate Elliott on a book called The Golden Key that was a finalist for the World Fantasy Awards in 1997.

Sword-Dancer starts in a faraway cantina on the edge of the Southron desert, known to the natives as the Punja. The great sword-dancer Sandtiger is enjoying a glass of wine and the cantina girls, when a beautiful Northern woman with silver hair and wearing a sword strapped to her back enters, seeking to hire Sandtiger as a guide. Del is on a quest to free her little brother from slavery and to kill the bandits that took him five years ago. Always up for a challenge and to make a few coins, especially when it comes in a lovely package, the sword-dancer agrees to guide her. He has many doubts that she will succeed in her quest, not so much because of her ability, but simply because she is a woman. The Sandtiger comes from a culture where women are property and have little say in their own destiny. He is not quite sure what to make of an independent woman who can handle a sword as well as he can, but he finds it a bit of a turn-on and so he follows to see where this adventure might lead.

Tiger, while the narrator of the story, is hard to take at first. He is an arrogant womanizer, although not without a sense of humor. The arrogance might be excused due to his master-level skill with the blade, but most women will cringe when they are first introduced to this rascal. Between the flying insults to each other, the two master sword wielders battle sandstorms and sandtigers, taking on each conflict as it comes to them. Tiger begins to recognize that the ways of his world do not quite fit him as it once did. Del also begins to change as she lets down her icy guard and learns to trust the sword-dancer at her side.

The plot of this novel is not the most intriguing, consisting of a great deal of episodic fighting, although the ending will be very satisfying. That is not what makes this sword and sorcery fantasy tale so riveting. It is the powerful character arcs that both Tiger and Del go through that will keep you spellbound and make you a true fan by the conclusion of the first book. Each book in the series gets better as you go along. The fighting is superb, the magic is interesting, and the romance is ongoing and heartfelt, giving the story an edge of reality that few fantasy novels reach.

The first novel by Jennifer Roberson I ever read was Sword-Dancer back when it first came out in the 1980s. She was a relatively new author at that time, but the book captivated me with the remarkable portrayal of its two main characters. I am a writer who is more character driven than plot driven, so Roberson’s writing style appeals to me strongly and I credit her as one of my main writing influences. Sword-Dancer was out of print for a long time, but it is now available once again both as a printed and an ebook. Look for the three omnibus volumes that contain the first six novels of the series. Roberson has not left the Punja as yet. She is busy writing more Sword-Dancer novels even now. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Sword-Dancer Book CoverSword-Dancer Saga:

Sword-Dancer (1986)
Sword-Singer (1988)
Sword-Maker (1989)
Sword-Breaker (1991)
Sword-Born (1998)
Sword-Sworn (2002)
Sword-Bound (2013)
Sword-Bearer – Forthcoming