Monday, July 28, 2014

A Discussion with Dennis Villelmi

I have another special guest appearing on the blog today. Dennis Villelmi is a poet and author whose work has appeared in Dagda Publishing's All Hail the New Flesh, an anthology of dystopian fiction.  

You've tried your hand at both, which do you feel more comfortable writing: prose or poetry?

Between prose and poetry I've always felt more at home in the latter, mainly because, when writing, I have a natural tendency towards a personal brand of esotericism which says as much in the "abysses" between the written lines as the lines themselves. However, that isn't to say that I don't bother with prose; I do occasionally, when I feel the subject is more an ocean than a river or stream.

Arthur Rimbaud
What are a few of your favorite authors or poets?

Foremost among my favorite authors are Arthur Rimbaud and Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Though Rimbaud was a poet and Lovecraft a master of the straight narrative, both were seers, or prophets to an extent; both were also tortured souls, which I've always been able to relate to.  I also enjoy reading Robert E. Howard, Clive Barker (a literary demigod to me and millions of others, no doubt,) Poe, and several of the authors of antiquity, viz. Virgil.  

When did the writing bug bite?

Wow, I'd say the desire to write first made itself known when I was fourteen. I had seen Clive Barker do a commercial in 1990 promoting his latest work at the time, The Great and Secret Show. About a year or so later when I was in a shopping mall bookstore I happened upon the paperback edition and, remembering the commercial, decided I had to buy it. As early as the first two chapters I realized, "This is what I want to do." So I've been penning stuff ever since.

Were other members of your family interested in literature?

My late mother certainly loved books. The memory of her bookcase is still vivid, really due to the fact that it towered over both child and adult.  She had Shel Silverstein, Will Rogers, Chaucer, and many more names which now elude me.

Have you seen a marked difference in your writing since you started? Not necessarily in quality but perhaps direction? Do you perhaps approach it differently than you once did?

Over the years the direction of my writing really hasn't altered. I'm just as fascinated by the same themes now as I was when I was much younger. However, my style has become more set in stone, as I make it a point to set more and more time aside for writing. Admittedly, my earlier efforts were haphazard at best, but you don't get anywhere like that, because you don't give yourself the time to learn who you are as a writer. Now, I have a better definition of myself, though it's still begging for completion.

Have you ever written anything that, once you were done, sort of took you by surprise? For example, as you were writing you didn’t realize there was a subtext there that you caught later?  

Seldom am I ever taken by surprise with anything that I write. (I'm not one for surprises in any case.) In my approach, I start with the undercurrent, in other words I go to the darkest depth and bring it up to the surface in all its ugliness. I prefer guidance by shadows as opposed to that of the light that many a writer takes as catechism.

How would you describe the poetry you write? 

The poetry I write is in two words: occult and blasphemous. I aim to unsettle and haunt anyone who reads it. By varying degrees there's Gnosticism involved, as well as the concrete world. But when I write, I keep in mind it's a soul's rebellion against the existing order dating back to Genesis 1:1.

What’s your favorite genre in general? Why?

In terms of genre, my appetite is singular: horror. Horror, and I'm sure Lovecraft, were he here now would nod in affirmation, is "the way, the truth, and the light." Yes, I know I just used the word "light;" but I mean a light of a much different kind. It's a light that the abyss guards hermetically. Horror is more than what we've taken for granted courtesy of celluloid and campfires; it's the scalpel, and the fire of Prometheus that shows us that the greatest monster is the so-called Almighty. 

What genre would you like to try?

Beyond horror, I would like to try my hand at science fiction again. Last year, I wrote a short story titled, "The Apian Way" for Dagda Publishing's anthology, All Hail The New Flesh and I rather enjoyed it due to the research I did and the feeling of playing Creator. I always keep an eye to the future with the hope of a future governed more by science than political folly and antique religious notions.

What are some of the books considered classic that you like?

Naturally, I like the Gothic masterpieces Frankenstein and Dracula. Anything under Edgar Allen Poe, of course. And I'm just as at home in Dante's Inferno as I am in Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the seminal scifi classic.

Do you have a ritual you follow to get you in the writing mood or can you sit down and just let it flow?

Oh there's no ritual; when the the open moments are there, I sit down with pen and legal pad or laptop and crash write. It's very liberating.

Any favorite music while you write?

When writing I oscillate between musical scores by Ennio Morricone and Moby and Black Metal.


Have you published before? 

Prior to my first successes via Dagda Publishing of the UK, I had never really been published. I had about thrown in the towel when Reg Davey emailed me to inform me that a poem I had written several weeks prior, and which I recall composing in just a few minutes, was featured on Dagda's website that day. It was then that I knew that I had to continue.

How do you like working with Reg Davey and Dagda?

Reg Davey is awesome! I mean, he's the kind of editor struggling writers the world over have been waiting for. He's supportive of all his authors and he and the team at Dagda  have proven themselves phenomenal in such a short period of time. To date, everything that Dagda has marketed has shown a remarkable level of professionalism that points in the direction of forthcoming citadel on the publishing landscape.

What are your thoughts on Indie Publishing?

Indie Publishing is the best bet, definitely. When you're an author incognito, you can count on remaining as such if you try and try with the mainstream. Indie Publishing on the other hand is that door left open during the night should you be in desperate need of shelter for yourself and your children, i.e. your short stories, poems, novellas, or what have you. 

What author or poet would you love to meet?

Before much longer I'd love to meet Clive Barker. (Bet you already guessed that one.) I'd also like to meet Kim Addonizio, as she has been an influence.

Thanks for hanging out on the blog today, Dennis. Good luck with your next project. 

For more information on projects by Dennis, visit 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bertena Varney's Lure of the Vampire

I'd like to introduce you to another friend of mine. Her name is Bertena Varney and she's quite the expert on things vampire. I met her a few years ago after Vampires' Most Wanted was published when I drove down to Kentucky to be in the Southern Kentucky Book Fest (I detailed it in my blog posts The Road to Kentucky Pt. I and Pt. II). She was my neighbor during the fest and it was great to meet her and exchange ideas with her. We've kept in touch ever since.

Bertena is a sociology professor at Southcentral KY Community College (SKYCTC)  in Bowling Green, KY. She holds masters’ degrees in sociology, criminology, social science and education. She is from Winchester, KY and attended Morehead State University in KY. 
She was named to the Top Women in Horror in 2012 by Venom and Honey and Blaze McRob’s Tales of Terrors in 2014 and has been nicknamed the Vampire Professor.

She is an Amazon and Kindle Bestselling author of Lure of the Vampire and Lure of the Vampire: Revamped. She is also contributor and co-editor for Vampire News: Tasty Bits to Sink Your Fangs Into, Vampire News: The Not So End Times, Vampire News: Really...Vampires Suck!, and contributor to Vampires Romance to Rippers an Anthology of Risque Stories; Vampires Romance to Rippers an Anthology of Tasty Storiesand The Witching Hour and Sirens Compendiums.

She's also the expert on "True Blood," vampires, television, movies, and more.

She does lectures at libraries, conventions and conferences, including the Harry Potter Convention in Salem, Mass., The Sirens Convention in Vail, Colorado, ScareFest Horror Convention in Lexington. She's also conducted talks at smaller events and discussions in New Orleans, Chicago, London, Paris and other fun places.

Recently, she released the third edition of her book Lure of the Vampire. I bought a copy of the first edition at the fest and was really impressed with the work she did on the subject. I asked her to send me something about her latest edition that I could post on the blog. So let me let her explain to you about her new book:

"The Lure of the Vampire is a pop culture reference book for writers, vampire fans, students and teachers who love to study the mysterious creature of the night. This book is for the fanatics who sit up at night and watch reruns of Buffy for the hundredth time, the Twi-hards that line up for hours before the show just to glimpse the newest "Twilight" movie, the Truebies who all knows that “waiting sucks” between each season of "True Blood" and for those diehard traditionalist that balk at all of this “new” vampire craze.

The Lure of the Vampire is also for the new writers who love creating their own worlds where the vampires may be aristocratic and romantic or dark and dangerous; the world where there are castles, heaving bosoms, chivalry and danger of loving a vampire, the dreams of so many women in today’s world.

And finally, The Lure of the Vampire is a book for those who love to study all aspects of the vampire in both pop culture and the world. Whether they are the historian who loves tracing the evolution of the vampire or the sociologist who wants to explore the world of those that live the lifestyle, the reader will find resources here to help them in their quest for knowledge of this lifestyle.

The Lure of the Vampire is divided into ten sections beginning with mythology and ending with modern vampires. Within each section there are lists that will help the reader learn basic and fun facts about that section’s topic. Links to websites are provided to ensure that the reader may find more information about that section without having to search for it on the Internet or in other books. To help supplement a particular subject within that topic, there are personal essays or interviews that give the reader a personal look from the author’s perspective. For example, Lure of the Dead Boyfriend provides the reader with a look at why women love vampire romance while exploring the vampire as a soul mate, an erotic lover, and an escape from the real world.

Lure of the Vampire provides unique interviews with vampire authors, role players, and those that live the lifestyle. The reader can delve into the world of a creator of an alternate reality or learn more about those whose lives lead them to embrace vampirism as a way of life.

Lure of the Vampire is a complete pop culture reference book for those who enjoy vampires and their impact on society. It provides an extensive bibliography that will allow the reader the opportunity for additional independent study."

Her book originally began as a master’s thesis and then was edited and formatted differently so that vampire fans would enjoy the information as well. Over the last three years she has been asked by fans to create a course online, like the one she teaches in person, and that class has finally been created and will be ready to begin when the book becomes available for sale hopefully on Aug. 1.

She is enrolling students now at a 50 percent discount of the normal class tuition. Once the student pays for the class via PayPal or credit card and purchases the book, they should email the her to get the invite to the class. The class covers each chapter in the book and provides the student with the questions that they must answer, videos for them to watch, an essay for them to write and final: there are also discussion boards that are open for class discussions. Upon completion the student will receive a certificate of completion via email to show that they have completed a course in Vampirology (the study of vampires).

Anyone interested can  check the course out at this address:

Then  email her at or message on her Facebook profile - to get payment and registration information for the class.

You can also check out her website at

Monday, July 7, 2014

An Interview with Erik Robert Nolan

I thought I'd change up a bit here and introduce you to one of my fellow Dagda authors, Erik Robert Nolan, who has a new novel out (available on Amazon) titled The Dogs Don't Bark in Brooklyn Anymore.

The cover of Erik's novel
In a post-apocalyptic future, mankind is at war with a mutated race of super-intelligent wolves. Rebecca "Red" O'Conner is a Captain in America's elite Special Animal Warfare Service, striving every day to protect the desperate East Coast cities from the cunning animal armies that have overrun most of North America. But for Rebecca, there are battles to wage both within and without, as she struggles to cope with memories of a childhood brutalized by violence, loss, victimization,and estrangement from those she loves.

Erik was nice enough to agree to do a Q&A with me so here he is to talk a little about his writing and himself.

What inspired the plot of The Dogs Don't Bark in Brooklyn Any More?

I've been a fan of survival horror since I was boy. I grew up on the George A. Romero zombie classics and the "Planet of the Apes" films. Among the the first horror movies I ever saw were "The Last Man on Earth" and Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds." My two favorite novels are the seminal Stephen King works The Stand (preferably the 1990 unabridged edition) and The Gunslinger, both of which depict post-apocalyptic or devastated worlds.

End-of-the-world scenarios make for great horror. They give us omnipresent threats that affect everybody, and not only those few unfortunates targeted by slashers or boogeymen. They also give us great opportunities for world-building -- exploring how people and institutions react to their impending end.

Did the story evolve over time or did you have a clear vision from start to finish?

It did evolve over time. I originally crafted the first draft of the first chapter as a standalone short story, entitled "Warning: Do Not Speak To The Animals." The characters acquired voices in my mind -- that is how characters grow with me -- and then they grew in depth. The sense of antagonism between Rebecca O'Conner and Francis Lestrade became something I wanted to follow and then share, and the world-ending war is really just a particularly big canvas for that.

At the same time, some things are clear for me. I know the fates of nearly all the characters, and those will be brought to page as the book series progresses.

How would you describe your main character?

She is a soldier doing her best. She didn't ask for the world she was born into. She did ask to joined the armed services, but she didn't ask for the trauma and consequent obsession that made that seem like the only choice for her.

She's no saint, but there is good in her. She's no genius, but she's a sharp girl and a quick study, and she has a few unique talents that will prove useful to herself and her colleagues, despite her very human shortcomings. She's driven, and committed, with a sense of service derived from Freudian sublimation. She'll be trouble for her adversaries.

Any significance to the title?

"The dogs don't bark in Brooklyn any more!" is a taunt spoken by one character to another at a key point in the novel. Revealing its context or speaker would be a major spoiler.

What authors influence or inspire you and why?

My love for language is nourished by the poetry of W. H. Auden. To be honest, I cannot always understand what he is saying. He was a sublimely cerebral man, and I am not. But an average man can recognize beauty when it is captured by language, and I am fortunate for that.

Stephen King is my most obvious influence. I believe he is under-appreciated even despite his fame, because people often don't realize how creative he really is. It's got nothing to do with the ghosts, the demons or the UFO's. It's the fully realized characters he creates, and his ability to render their thought processes and point of view. He creates what seem like real people, then renders their thoughts and voices perfectly. To me, that's amazing.

What's your take on indie publishing? 

It's the great equalizer. Indie publishing allows me to meet, work and interact with people like me -- just regular folks who enjoy stories and like to make up their own. The writers, readers, editors and publishers I meet are ordinary people who are excited about prose and poetry.

They're often very ambitious people, because that's what it takes in this business just to get your name out there. And they are occasionally eccentric, but I like that.

I honestly think there is a sense of connection there that you just wouldn't find with a major corporate publishing house -- a sense of commonality and community. I identify with them. And I have a hell of a lot of fun. It's why writing, for me, is more avocation than vocation.

And that's not even broaching the issue of the range of opportunities for new authors.

How do you like working with Dagda?

Dagda Publishing is a tremendous boon to poets and authors who want to find their voice and reach an audience. It has a firm commitment to new and emerging writers, and its editors and staff are not only highly professional, but also quite easy to work with. I have a blast working with them, and I can't think of a better publisher for an new independent creator. 

Do you have a project you're working on now?

I am currently working on the sequel to The Dogs Don't Bark In Brooklyn Any More. It will be the next book in "The Wolf War Saga."

Is there anything about the novel that took you by surprise once it was done? Perhaps a significance that you hadn't planned on but you caught after reading through the finished work?

I was surprised at how quickly and fully secondary characters developed. This book is largely Rebecca O'Conner's story, and it is told almost exclusively from her point of view. I tried to portray her fully, and let the reader know her and see her world through her eyes. I've gotten some very nice feedback from readers who said they enjoyed that character-driven narrative, and I've been really flattered by that.

What I didn't expect is how secondary and supporting characters became real to me: Janey Auburndale, Danny Ogilviie, Michael Donlon and Brian Keller. They are full characters and are "real" to me in much the same manner that Rebecca is. Martin Trask is one character I just need to expand on in subsequent books. And I currently have a disquieting vignette rolling around in my head told from the point of view of Marie Lestrade, Francis' mother, when he was only a small boy. Maybe that will become a short story, or maybe it will be an element in the later books.

Do you have any favorites in music? Does music inspire your writing process?

U2, Depeche Mode, Tori Amos, and She & Him are my everyday standbys. As far as inspiration for writing, I routinely turn to Sigur Ros, Brian Eno and Richard Wagner.

Which do you think is more important: Character or plot?

Character. Plots are easy to come by. But if you can't humanize your protagonist, or at least arouse the reader's interest in him or her, your story will fail to sufficiently involve the reader.

What are some of the books considered classics that you like?

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, George Orwell's 1984, Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning, The Analects of Confucius, and the short stories of Arthur Conan Doyle and O'Henry. I also love Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." Rebecca's shelf of "blue and pink glass figurines" in Chapter 6 of my book is a direct reference to this.

Would you like a movie made out of your novel? If so, would you like to write it or would you leave it to others?

I'm not sure I would want a movie made out of my novel. If I did, I would leave the screenwriting to others. I don't think that dialogue is my strong point.

Who would direct it?

David Fincher. I loved his work on the much maligned but brilliant "Alien 3" (1992), and I am one of that film's rare fans. But it would be just great if Ridley Scott was called in to handle the battle scenes, and Terry Gilliam handled the dream sequences.

What about a cast?

I've been asked this before. It is always a fun question, and I believe my answers change because I am a movie nerd and I am constantly seeing new films and remembering old ones, and remembering which actors I like.

Elijah Wood in "Sin City"
Right now, I'd select Ellen Page as Rebecca -- she's an amazing actress in films such as "Hard Candy" (2005). And I think she's short, enough! Annabeth Gish could be Molly Landers, and Elizabeth Mitchell could be Janey Auburndale, 
Elijah Wood could be Francis Lestrade. Forget the innocence of Frodo; he does genderless psychopath just fine in "Sin City" (2005).

Would you ever try other genres?

I think about it all the time. Lately I've wondered what it might be like to try historical fiction. But I know that would be challenging because of the need for accuracy. It's so much easier inventing fictional futures and then just making things up.

If you met them in real life what would you think about your characters?

I would admire them. They are little different than American soldiers in the real world, protecting the lives and freedoms of their family and neighbors. I would also worry about them. The fictional world envisioned in the novel is one that often visits tragedy upon those who act heroically.

Francis Lestrade would be the exception. He would make me uncomfortable.

If I met any of the wolves, I would run like hell -- and probably not fast enough.

Erik Robert Nolan
Where can readers find out more about your writing?

You can visit my website here for more information about The Dogs Don't Bark In Brooklyn Any More, as well as my poetry and short stories:

Thank you for this interview, Laura! Congratulations on all the success and great reviews you are receiving for To Touch The Sun. And I'm honored to be able to appear here on your blog.

Thanks for stopping in, Erik.