If you want to read a sample of Luke's writing, vote in the 'comments' section of this blog post. In order for your vote to count, you must have an email subscription to the Underground. If Luke gets ten votes by next Friday (April 6th) we will post his first chapter on Underground Book Reviews.
A few months ago I met Lucas Rosen at the Algonkian Pitch Conference in New York City and immediately we hit it off. We were two of a handful of epic, non-YA fantasy writers present at the conference.
I was immediately impressed with his ideas, dedication, and serious approach to his craft. I’m glad he took me up on my offer to appear here in the Underground.
Lucas, who goes by Luke, is a twenty-two year old graduate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who works in pre-elementary education and coaches basketball on Saturdays. His breakout novel is called Soul of a God
, which he is presently marketing. If you are an agent or publisher you can view his profile and query at Author Salon
Luke, tell our readers a little about your book, Soul of a God
.LUKE: Soul of a God
is the first book in the God Soul Trilogy
. The basic plot of Soul of a God
revolves around the search for the soul of Dios, the god of creation, which has been lost since the creation of the universe. Our hero is Kaj, a young monk who has spent the first twenty years of his life focused solely on his training and studies. What makes Kaj different from ordinary monks are the mystical tattoos that adorn his body and grant him great magical power. It’s during the final stages of training to master this power that Kaj’s world is ripped apart by tragedy.
At the start of the book, he knows nothing about the Soul of Dios, save for the legends and stories that speak of its existence. But as he leaves his home and journeys for answers, the forces of evil begin to present themselves and he realizes that it may not be just a legend. Companions gather about him as peril increases and soon Kaj is forced to face a problem that has been plaguing him since the start of their journey: can he overcome his fear of failure and inadequacy, or will he let the greatest loss in his life come to define who he is?BRIAN:
What was you inspiration for this story idea?
I don’t know how it happened, but I finally found someone crazy enough to represent my work. Not only that, but I’m working with some really awesome people to do the final touches. The Atheist’s Prayer
will be published by Perfect Edge Books, a new imprint of John Hunt Publishing
. Right now that’s all I can say. Except that they rock. I can say that too.
Wait, what’s The Atheist’s Prayer
about? OK, I’ll tell you, but only because you asked so nicely...
A year ago, nineteen people were found dead in a remote area of the National Forest. They were lying in a circle, holding hands and wearing plastic fairy wings. The cause of death remains unknown.
Experts claim that there is no possibility of a reoccurrence, but Candy knows better. She knows that there are copycats out there, and another suicide is imminent.
The problem is, Candy is a coke-dealing stripper, and the only person who will listen to her is an alcoholic mall Santa named Hank, who’s only listening because, well… she’s hot.
If Candy and Hank don’t figure their shit out, and quick, two innocent children will be dragged along on yet another deranged, fairy-worshiping suicide mission.
Next Sunday, the ritual will begin.
Inspired by Chuck Palahniuk and Christopher Moore, The Atheist’s Prayer
follows a mentally disturbed woman, an alcoholic and a seven-year-old as their lives are brought together by a stripper and torn apart by a suicide cult. Underneath the crass humor, The Atheist's Prayer challenges our stereotypes and explores our interpretations of religion and myth.
Dying to know more? You can follow me on Twitter
, become a fan on Facebook
or check out my website
and I'll keep you updated.
Till next time,
Amy R. Biddle
Nathan Larson isn’t just the author of The Dewey Decimal System. He is also a musician, a producer, an artist, and a self-proclaimed “thought criminal.” He lives is New York City, which is also the setting of his post-apocalyptic novel. I’m excited to have Nathan with us today to answer a few questions.
AB: You’re obviously interested and involved in many different artistic venues. What made you move from visual and audio media, and try to write a book?
Nathan: The opportunity presented itself and I jumped on it. Had I not personally known Johnny Temple, who runs Akashic Press, it's quite likely I would have never thought to write a novel, particularly a "genre" type of thing. It came out of nowhere and I'm just so happy it did, it's like a bonus round for me.
AB: How long did it take you to write The Dewey Decimal System? Tell us a little bit about your writing process.
Nathan: I wrote this book over the course of perhaps 2 months, my wife was on bedrest, pregnant with our son, so I had taken some time off to look after her...this still left me with far more spare time than I'm accustomed to having, so in the extra hours I would write. Pretty much everything was written sitting in one chair, listening to either Steve Reich or King Tubby. Some of it was written at the NYP Library itself, in the very room about which I speak, so I could simply look up and make calculations as to where this or that was...I wrote fast and sloppy and had no plan, the rewrites then took another 2 months....so all told 4 months I'd say.
AB: In the world of publishing, I’ve found that connections are the most important way to get yourself noticed. Do you feel that your previous artistic ventures helped you secure a publisher?
TITLE: The Dewey Decimal System
AUTHOR: Nathan Larson
PUBLISHER: Akashic Books
EDITOR: Ibrahim Amhad
GENRE: Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
Perhaps the fatal flaw of The Dewey Decimal System is the title itself. Never have I had to so adamantly defend a book from curious bystanders who said, “Wow, that sounds boring.” But despite the title, The Dewey Decimal System was one of the most engaging, fast-paced and entertaining novels I have read in a long time.
Dewey Decimal, our hero, is an OCD librarian-wannabe and part-time hit-man in post-apocalyptic New York City. The novel is told in a refreshing and entertaining voice as Dewey gets himself into trouble time and time again. Dewey is addicted to “little blue pills” and Purell hand sanitizer, and believes that his memories were implanted in his brain to replace who he used to be.
We don’t learn much about Dewey’s skills as a librarian, but we do learn that he’s not a very good hit-man. He quickly finds himself tangled in a death triangle that resembles a love triangle: Before the novel is out he has been assigned to kill the man he used to work for by the man he was originally assigned to kill, and has fallen in love with the woman that both men want dead. Throughout most of the book, he is dragging himself, wounded, from one danger to the next. I couldn’t put the book down, afraid that in my absence Dewey would be shot and killed.
While I enjoyed the book in the beginning, it’s a good thing I took some time between finishing The Dewey Decimal System and writing a review. If I had written the review the day afterwards, it would have been a long string of expletives. Looking back, a book that can incite so much passionate anger and frustration must be a good one.
I can’t fully explain my rage without giving away the ending, but I will suffice it to say that I read the book on the edge of my seat, waiting for answers about questions from the past. Some of the answers never came, and some of them were blatantly destroyed by Dewey himself. This left me tortured and wondering and very, very angry. That being said, I’ll be waiting with baited breath for the sequel, to see if Dewey will unearth some information and redeem himself from such a frustratingly stupid move.
Want non-stop action and a unique voice that keeps you turning pages long into the night? Want a post-apocalyptic scene that is unique and mysterious and chaotic? Pick up The Dewey Decimal System. Want an explanation for the current state of post-apocalyptic destruction, or at least some semblance of closure at the end of the book? Well, you might hold off until the sequel comes out, and hope that Nathan Larson has something good hidden up his sleeve.
As a long time subscriber to the FundsforWriters newsletter, I had heard all about Hope Clark and her life as a writer. It was when I heard she had her debut novel released that I knew I had to contact her. Please welcome Hope Clark to the Underground. KATIE:
First of all, for those few who don't know, you are the editor of the very successful newsletter and website FundsforWriters
, one of Writer's Digest's best websites for writers. Where did you get the idea for FundsforWriters? HOPE:
FundsforWriters was happenstance. At a ladies' writing group in Atlanta, in 1998, I was asked to speak about online writing, and how it differed from print. At the time I was working for the federal government, for an agency that handled grants and loans, but I wanted to write for myself, so I started pitching essays and book reviews to various sites. One of the editors I wrote for asked me to speak in her stead at this meeting, since she was afraid of crowds. Sometime during the presentation, the topic strayed to concern about being unable to afford computers, printers, toner, etc. I started advising them financially, mentioning contests and grants and such, and the emails started flooding in once I returned home. I asked a journalist I knew about how to start a newsletter, which was new territory back then, so I could consolidate my responses to questions, leaving me more time to write for myself. Unbeknownst to me, that was the snowball catalyst needed to start an avalanche, and FundsforWriters took on a life of its own, overtaking my fiction writing with this sudden interest by writers everywhere. After a couple of months, I had almost a thousand writers on board. I accepted fate's nudge, embraced it and went full speed forward. KATIE:
Between the contests, ads, job postings and writing advice, FundsforWriters is full of information. How many hours a week do you dedicate to the upkeep of the information you send out weekly? How do you manage it with your busy schedule? HOPE:
FundsforWriters is a daily effort. I work fulltime as a writer, probably half the time with FundsforWriters, a quarter with promotional efforts and freelance pieces, and a quarter on the novels. My children are grown, but I started this exercise when they were teens. I laid down the law at the time that writing was as important to me as anything on their social agenda. Today they are quite proud of what I've done. I'm also a night owl, so I'm in bed around 2-3 AM each night, and up around 10 AM. That's the clock that works best for me, and now that I'm full-time as a writer, I can manipulate my personal schedule. I put in about 50-60 hours per week, but when I need a day off, I take it. The only glitch is when I'm speaking at conferences and they ask me to speak early in the morning. KATIE:
Agents and publishers are always looking for a writer's platform. You seem to be the epitome of the platform builder. What advice do you have for new writer's trying to build a platform?
As a writer, teacher, blogger, husband, parent and much more, Andrew Cotto offers his insights into education, publishing and the role of authors today. Please welcome Andrew Cotto
, author of The Domino Effect,
to the Underground. Katie: The Domino Effect
is a coming-of-age tail akin to Catcher in the Rye
or A Separate Peace
. Where did you get the idea for the story? Andrew:
I've always loved coming-of-age stories, and those two you mention happen to be among my favorites. Oddly, the idea for Domino
came to me not after reading such stories but after seeing the Spike Lee film, Do the Right Thing
. Something about the effect that movie had on me made me want to tell a story that involved racial or ethnic strife, and I really jumbled a lot of my experiences into something that included both types of conflict. Putting an adolescent in the main role made the transformation a coming-of-age experience. Katie:
The main character Danny has such a unique and realistic voice in this novel. Did that voice exist within or did you research to create realistic teenage interaction? Andrew:
Thanks. Danny's voice really is the key to the narrative because he'd probably be too easy to abandon without that connection he establishes with the reader. I sort of conjured Danny's voice by tapping an array of voices I know intimately, including a certain amount of my own. Katie:
You describe boarding school life so well. Have you attended boarding school or is this the result of in-depth research? Andrew:
I'm not much of a research guy, so I tend to write about things I know already. I spent one year at a boarding school, Blair Academy in western New Jersey, and it was all I needed to create the setting, which really is Blair Academy in its physicality. Katie:
You mention in your bio an MFA degree. Some authors think the MFA is the way to go if you want to publish. Others think authors can do just as well on their own. What made you seek out an advanced degree? Would you recommend it to those who want to be a published writer? Andrew:
I'm a believer in an MFA if you are truly dedicated to growing as a writer. Being in school, with deadlines to meet, is important. It really tests your mettle. You also must endure criticism and learn how to use it. I don't think most writers can grow as much on their own. It also helps one find a community, as well as adding some credibility and focus to the pursuit. In the publishing industry, I believe it opens doors that may not be opened otherwise.
Every once and a while a young adult book comes along that surprises me. The Domino Effect
falls into this category, both thoughtful-- yet humorous, moralistic-- yet light-hearted. Cotto's coming-of-age story left me invigorated, and thinking to myself, “Now, that's how you tell a story.”
Though The Domino Effect
has not seen the rampant readership like current fantasy and sci-fi novels, it should. The story chronicles the high school career, particularly the senior year, of Danny “Domino” Rorro. After a violent attack at his old school, Danny's parents enroll him in Hamden Academy, a prestigious boarding school far different than life at home. Danny manages to maintain his comical out-look on life in this new setting, though he carries scars from the past. Things begin to change for Danny when he is assigned a roommate, Terance King, the only African American at Hamden Academy. This event propels both boys into a conflict of race that tests them to the core and changes them forever.
Though the novel takes a while to warm up, the depth of Danny's character will draw you in and keep you captive. Danny's wise-cracking, street-wise Italian voice will keep you chuckling. Cotto is a master at the adolescent banter and the descriptions of Hamden, told through Danny, were pitch perfect. The tender romance between Danny and Brenda Devine is touching and heartfelt. My one complaint would be that Cotto opens with pages of exposition on the previous three years, much of which could have been dealt out later or cut completely. I fear that readers may get bogged down in the first few pages and miss the gold lurking beyond.
Overall, The Domino Effect
, does not disappoint. You'll find yourself cheering for Danny through the end. But more importantly, you'll find yourself reflecting on deep issues, something that is often lacking in teen literature of today.
You can find The Domino Effect here.
You can find Andrew Cotto's website here
, his Facebook here
and his twitter here
Click here to learn more
Late April, a Wednesday
Lou must really hate herself to be up this early. Or really love Dev. But right now, before her first cup of coffee, she was going with hate. How did Harley do it every morning? Four a.m. worked well as a bedtime, as a harbinger of good memories made, not as a reasonable start time to a day. Lou yawned as she studied Harley between the shiny shelving separating his domain from the rest of the kitchen.
Why couldn't he go to the bathroom for a few minutes? That's all she needed. She could see the amber apothecary bottle on the shelf a few feet away. Lou took a step closer, watching Harley's back. She looked around the quiet kitchen, squinting at the glare of fluorescent lights off stainless steel. The whirr and snick of Harley's mixer kneading bread dough broke the silence. Another step. Another step. She reached her hand toward it. Just a few more inches. Almost there. She would take what she needed then put it right back. He'd never know. Just an inch more.
I'm pleased to introduce Ali Luke, online blogger and author of Lycopolis. Ali lives in the UK and blogs about writing on her site, Aliventures
I understand that you based the fictional online world of Lycopolis on your own experience with text-based role-playing. What inspired you to write a story about online gaming?Ali:
For several years before starting Lycopolis, I had the kernel of a story in my head – about a group of players who summon a demon into their game, without realising the consequences it’s going to cause in the real world. I wanted to write about the (sometimes slightly odd!) relationships we form online, and explore the boundaries between the real, the virtual, and the imaginary. Online gaming was a big part of my life in my late teens, and it seemed like a great fit.
On a broader level, I'm interested in how digital media is opening up storytelling and publishing to more and more people: fan fiction, games, forums, ebooks ... there are so many great possibilities compared with twenty years ago. AB:
Are you still involved in the online gaming community?Ali:
Sadly not, because I’d never get any productive work done!AB:
Your characters make up an eclectic cast. Did you base them off of people you know, or did you summon them up from your imagination?Ali:
None of them are based on anyone real. I’d say that all of them carry some aspects of me (even the less-than-nice characters...) and I’m sure that’s the case for every author. After all, writing fiction is about getting inside people’s heads, and the only head
we have access to is our own.AB:
How long did it take to write Lycopolis? Was it your first attempt to pen a novel?
AUTHOR: Ali Luke
GENRE: Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy
PUBLISHER: Self-published through Aliventures
PAGES: Unknown - only available as an ebook
After finishing Lycopolis
, I found myself wary to go to sleep, afraid I might be plagued by the same nightmares that haunted the characters in Ali Luke’s novel. Lycopolis
is a fast-paced adventure that revolves around seven people who accidentally summon a real demon through an online role-playing game. The novel follows each of them as they struggle with their own greed, anger and fear… the emotions that the demon feeds off of.
Ali writes clearly and concisely, without letting too much prose get in the way of her plot. There isn’t a slow spot in Lycoplis: it starts with action and ends with action. She gets into her characters’ heads and brings out their individual personalities so that we learn to love every single one of them. Of course we love protagonist, Kay, who is a misfit Oxford student and the only one strong enough to stand up to the demon. But even Seth, the antagonist and the mastermind behind the summoning, has his redeeming qualities.
The narrative switches often from real life to the imagined online world of Lycopolis
. In this alternate fantasy world, the seven main characters have different names, different appearances, and even different personalities. While I enjoyed Lycopolis
thoroughly, I did wonder if some people might get confused by the online gaming foundation. I am familiar with online text-based role-playing, but I found myself wondering exactly how the game worked, and an in-depth explanation of the game isn’t provided until halfway through the book.
The ending of Lycopolis
did not disappoint. It was a fast read and made the perfect weekend escape. The plot was original and refreshing, and although some of the sub-plots were left on a loose end, I finished the book with satisfaction. Lycopolis
is the first book of a planned trilogy, and I look forward to reading the sequel.
Online gamers will find Lycopolis
to be a riveting, fun read. This is definitely a book for the younger generation, although tech-savvy adults will enjoy it as well. The content is clean enough to be labeled Young Adult, but the characters, which range from high school students to married adults, are eclectic enough that readers of all ages should be able to find a main character to identify with.
THE LINKSLycopolis on Amazon.comOfficial Lycopolis webpageIf you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.