Inkshares Interview - Joseph Asphahani & THE ANIMAL IN MAN

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An artifact of immense power puts Maxan in the middle of a secret war between mighty guilds. To overcome the resourceful and sinister masters who would use him, use everyone, as puppets, he must decide which nature defines him. Animal, or man?

Who is Joseph Asphahani and what's THE ANIMAL IN MAN all about?

Legends say that Asphahani was a high school English teacher [turned corporate stiff], and that he cut his literary teeth by helping his students analyze the techniques of effective rhetoric and then refine their own writing. Nowadays (referring to that jab about being a corporate stiff), he helps a multi-million dollar logistics software corporation with their online marketing. By day, not so creative, perhaps, but it pays the bills. By night, he's a proud father of two rambunctious daughters, showing them the wisdom of Samurai Jack and Powerpuff Girls, and he's a sci-fi-fantasy writer into the wee hours of the morn. "The Animal in Man" is a fictional exploration of some questions that have come to bother him for decades. Are we addicted to violence? Is being violent part of our nature? Do we have to be violent to release something worse from our souls, and if so, what? The story of The Animal in Man takes a shot at answering these by following a fox-man named Maxan as he's pulled into an ancient conflict between two powerful, secretive groups. He gets his paws on a weapon that could turn the tide of that shadow war - a mind-altering device capable of turning everyone around him into ravaging beasts - and must ultimately decide what to do with it. A decision that defines who he truly is. ......The story is so complex and epic, to this day its author struggles with summarizing it. Forgive him.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

(Switching to first person now...) Almost all the stories I've ever conceived or written have focused on just one theme in some form or another. Deception. Lies. Manipulation. Whether we lie to others to gain control over them, or we lie to ourselves to pretend we're happy... I often wonder what is the deeper reason for telling lies. Why do we want that control? Why do we seek false happiness? For my own part, I was once lied to by someone very dear to me, and it destroyed me utterly. And yet, finding the truth ultimately set me free. It's very much like the age-old allegory of Plato's Cave. The idea of "The Animal in Man" was born from this need to explore how lies can control individuals, groups, entire nations. What if their innate desire to harm one another turned out to be part of some malicious plan? Would they keep fighting, since it's all they've ever known? Or would they at least try to lay down their arms and find peace? ............Oh, and the book is also very much about anthropomorphic animals. There's an important reason for that. Like how - in this world - we may call someone crazy, and we say "he's an animal!" Is he though? Isn't he still human? What is a human? And is a human really any better than an animal? These kinds of questions fascinate me, and I believe writing this book is my attempt at answering them.

Why Inkshares?

Just look at this place! The website is clean and user-friendly. My book stands shoulder to shoulder with some other really fascinating books on this platform. Self-publishing on Amazon, to me, is like trying to launch a ship into the ocean, only the ship is made from duct tape and cardboard. Inkshares provides the author/boat-builder with better materials to make it, a better pier to launch it from, and a network of support from other builders to keep you going. Your ship is much more likely to sail (and sail in style!) when it sets out from Inkshares.

What books have captured your attention lately?

I'm following so many books, it can be hard to explore all of them. (That would be like a full time job!) But there are definitely some that rise to the top. Honestly, taking a closer look at YOUR book "Wrestletown" is what got me in touch with you to begin with! I would probably not be here answering these questions if I hadn't been mesmerized by the amazing cover-art. The synopsis hooked me, and the first couple chapters reeled me in, man. Besides that, Peter Ryan's novel "Sync City" grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. (Like, seriously, I can feel it's meaty grip pulling my neck around by the ear right now; if you read the first chapter you'll understand what I mean.) Peter's a talented author and worth paying attention to. His second book "Destiny Imperfect" is one I'm closely following. Outside of Inkshares....... There's this one book called "The Buildiers" by Daniel Polansky that was absolutely thrilling. It's a quick read. You can finish it in 2-3 hours. It comes with my highest recommendation. It's also about animals killing eachother: A salamander with knives, a badger with a gatling gun, and a stoat (NOT a skunk!) with a French accent. And so much more.

Who are your greatest influences?

Hmmm... Influences on my writing style are constantly shifting. I'd say that right now, it's Joe Abercrombie. I read "The Blade Itself" a while back, and have just begun the second book in his First Law trilogy, "Before They are Hanged." If you're an author who's heavy on writing an action scene (like me), you can learn A LOT from a scene out of Abercrombie's work. I also like how he handles weaving a character's thoughts into a scene - something that's crucial to how I'm telling the story of "The Animal in Man." Besides Abercrombie, I've carried a copy of Gary Whitta's "Abomination" in my laptop bag since I first started writing (after publishing via inkshares became a reality). I knew who Whitta was, having been a super-fan of The Book of Eli, and I found his writing style in the novel to be really crisp. I am constantly re-reading scenes from Abomination to study how I can keep moving plot, speaking dialogue, relaying thoughts, and describing action, all on the same page, all as engaging as possible. (Also, I'm a huge fan of Dark Souls - the video game franchise - and I found "Abomination" was hitting all those dark-grotesque-monstrosity notes for me.)

What's next for you as a writer?

I have about eight projects that are always kicking around in my mind. I wrote a pretty heavy Game Design Document as my Master's Thesis for Full Sail University - called "The White Shadow." It's pretty frikkin' rad. I'd like very much to shop that around to game development studios and see if a team of creative designers, artists, and programmers would be willing to help me make the damn thing. Other than that, I have an idea for a Y.A. novel in which a young, orphan girl wonders why real life can't be like the life she sees in movies and games, and soon begins to see the lines between them blur thereafter. Finally, I'd really like to tell a branching narrative story I'm calling "Curses and Mists" in a choose-your-own-adventure format. I grew up on those books! I'd really like to see them make a comeback, and Curses' particular story of darkness and insanity would really lend itself well to the genre. Stay tuned, I'm always working on something.

You can read a sample & pre-order THE ANIMAL IN MAN on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Tony Valdez & DAX HARRISON

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In a space-faring future, an alien war criminal seeks vengeance on humanity, and a celebrated-but-bumbling hero is forced back into action... whether he likes it or not.

Who is Tony Valdez and what's DAX HARRISON all about?

Tony Valdez is a fledgling author who has decided to write silly stories, and he also feels equally silly talking about himself in the 3rd person. :) I'm also a big nerd, a mediocre podcast host, an occasional musician, and full-time maker of funny faces in the bathroom mirror.

DAX HARRISON is a fast-paced, action/comedy novel set in a spacefaring Star Trek-like future. The story focuses on Commander Harrison, widely known as a legendary soldier and hero, a Captain America for the space age if you will. Dax made his claim to fame a decade ago, winning a key victory in an alien invasion war which threatened to wipe out humanity as we spread out into space. ...Or so we've been led to believe...

Since then, Dax's career has faded into obscurity. However, the legend of the commander has grown immensely in the public eye through pulp stories and media based on exceedingly embellished versions of his exploits. Dax has not-so-humbly allowed himself to enjoy a bit of that fame (and a few royalty checks) while coasting into retirement on cushy assignments. But as he counts the days until he can disappear on a beach somewhere, naturally, fate has other plans.

A dangerous shadow from the past puts a wrench in Dax's easygoing existence, and he is forced to finally live up to his grandiose legends, whether he likes it or not.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

Dax began as a humble idea for a low budget comedic sci-fi short film about a bumbling space captain, who drunkenly falls asleep at the wheel and nearly crashes his ship. A simple one-off scene (which remains one of the first scenes in the book) that I planned to film with friends and post online for fun. Unfortunately, I fell hopelessly in love with the characters, kept writing, and ended up with a feature film script. While proud, I quickly realized I had absolutely no budget, resources, or Hollywood contacts to possibly make the giant spectacle come to life.

Eventually, I decided this was a good thing. As much as I adore movies, I didn't want to spend years pushing, wheeling and dealing, and/or begging for my story to see the light of day. I just wanted to tell it. So I set my mind to adapt the script to a novel and self-publish via Amazon.

Why Inkshares?

Inkshares provided a number of opportunities that self-publishing didn't. Were I to secure enough pre-orders, Inkshares would fund the publishing run, including physical and ebook copies, provide full editing services, cover design, and marketing. Furthermore, I discovered the company via an announcement of a joint contest with Nerdist Industries, offering guaranteed publishing at a lower pre-order total, so long as I managed to be in the top 3 against the other competing authors.

I didn't win the competition, but I eventually secured the standard number of orders necessary for a "light publishing", which Inkshares now markets under their Quill imprint. I'll still be doing a bit of heavy lifting, but Inkshares will take care of copy edits, get physical copies into the hands of my backers, and continue offering physical and ebook copies through their site and the other major online retailers. The team is currently patiently waiting for me to finish editing the manuscript (which I aim to complete this weekend - 6/25 - 6/26) and hand it in to continue the production.

The process of campaigning on Inkshares also granted a major and unexpected benefit: Connecting with an amazing community of fellow authors. As the resident goofball who originally "just wanted to make movies", I was touched by the unbelievable support by other campaigning writers, working together to encourage, offer guidance, and help each other build reader bases. It's been incredibly humbling, and I couldn't have done it without them.

What books have captured your attention lately?

Too many. This might sound like a pandering answer (I swear it's not). I'm mostly looking forward to a few books from my fellow Inkshares authors. I just started diving into my copy of Monkey Business by Landon Crutcher (You can find my endorsement on the cover). I'm itching to start my ebook copies of The Life Engineered by JF Dubeau and Ageless by Paul Inman. She Is The End by A.C. Weston (once it publishes) is also at the top of my list. Basically, I have a massive backlog thanks to being fully engrossed in putting the final touches on Dax. ...I also have a very fancy edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes sitting on my bookshelf. Shhh, don't tell my mother-in-law I haven't read it yet. She bought it for me several Christmases ago.

Who are your greatest influences?

For Dax in particular, it's an unusual answer. As I said, it was intended as a big Hollywood movie, so my immediate influences are more cinema-minded rather than traditional authors and books. Dax comes from my love of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and other classic Spielberg and Lucas adventures. The hero is also a rogue and somewhat of a selfish cad. A blend of Ash Williams from Evil Dead/Army of Darkness and Zapp Brannigan from Futurama.

In general, I just love good stories in any form. Adventures in particular. Grand stories from books, movies, TV shows, comics, videogames and so on. Anything that makes me laugh, cry, cheer and/or leaves me in awestruck wonder. I eat that stuff up.

What's next for you as a writer?

DAX 2 is the obvious answer. Haha! I have the beginnings of an outline, and I'm excited where it's headed. But first I may run to the hills, live in a cave for awhile, tackle my backlog of books and videogames, and come back with my creative batteries recharged. I'll invite my wife to the cave too. She's missed her husband dearly while he's been glued to the computer over the past year. :)

You can read a sample & pre-order DAX HARRISON on Inkshares.

New fiction - Late Term Ejection

SpinetinglerLogo1 I'm proud to have a new short story, "Late Term Ejection," in Spinetingler Magazine this week. It's on the Sci-Fi/Horror side of things, and a bit different than 'my usual stuff' (if I have such a thing...). I've been toying with the idea of turning aspects of the story into a longer work or comic for a while now. I hope you guys dig it!

You can read "Late Term Ejection" online (for a low price of free) HERE.