My Memorable and Humiliating Tug-of-War With an Elephant

Most of us have an unusual animal encounter story – maybe one not so exotic and dangerous that it’ll be featured on the former Fox TV show “When Animals Attack” – but something peculiar or cute enough that it’s worthy of sharing. I recently met author and blogger L.L. Reynolds who is a chiroptophobic. In layman’s terms, L.L. is frightened of bats, those winged rodentlike creatures that do a lot of good but also carry deadly diseases such as rabies. And if you read about L.L.’s encounters with bats and talk to others you’ll see her fear is not so uncommon or irrational. She’s actually been bitten by a bat in a place I’ll let her tell you about. Now, I’m not saying go out and kill every bat you see. Bats have enough problems as it is. They accidentally fly into your college dorm one evening and some knucklehead gets out his tennis racquet and starts playing “bat-minton” with the poor thing. And in addition to the human threat, some species of bats are on the verge of being wiped out by a fungus. So let’s take it easy on these little flying mice and move on to something bigger: my elephant story!

Let’s call it 1976. I was just a wee little boy on a school field trip to either the Bronx or Beardsley Zoo. Hey, it was a long time ago, what do you want total recall? At the elephant exhibit, I wanted to get closer to the African elephant so I leaned over the first of two fences and stared in wonder at the massive pachyderm. It was a hot day, probably late May, and I’d taken off my windbreaker and was holding it in my arms. Try to get inside the mind of that eight-year-old boy that day: Uh, oh, the elephant is staring back, and, oh no, here comes the trunk and it’s seized my favorite windbreaker with all the Major League Baseball team logos on it. No way! Pull! The elephant pulled back. Pull! And the little muscles in my eight-year-old arms pulled. The elephant tugged back steadily and was perhaps more determined that the jacket was hers than I was that it was mine.

That's my on the left, with my MLB windbreaker.

That’s me on the left, with my MLB windbreaker.

“Let go!” a man shouted.

Still gripping the arm of my jacket, I saw a guy in safari type clothing hurrying toward me and the elephant. Oh, no. I’m in trouble now.

I released my beloved jacket and the elephant curled its trunk toward its mouth and stuffed my jacket inside … and chewed.

The zoo worker got inside the elephant’s pen and after some careful manipulation removed the soggy bolus that was my jacket and unwrapped it for inspection. The thing was shredded and pocked, like a big piece of slimy, nylon, navy-blue Swiss cheese.

“You don’t want this anymore, do you?” the elephant handler said.

I stared at the masticated jacket covered in elephant spit and shook my head.

He tossed it into a nearby trash can and walked away shaking his head as if little boys were the world’s greatest evil. Shocked I turned around and for the first time noticed that some of my fellow students had watched the spectacle and were now laughing at me. I think I cried then, and years later, I might be walking down some street in Norwalk, Connecticut, and I’d hear my name called and some kid would ask me if I remembered when the elephant ate my jacket. I’d remember and shake my head with a polite grin, recalling another absurd and humiliating experience in a sad and unremarkable life.

Nowadays, I am one of the few people who remember the incident. I’ve asked a few Fox Run Elementary School alumni if they remember the elephant encounter and none of them seem to. My mom, who received calls from the school about the incident, has now moved on to the spirit world so I no longer have her to help me verify the incident. But it happened. It really did. I had a tug-of-war with some poor imprisoned behemoth and while I lost my jacket that day, I learned a valuable lesson: Hyper-curious, hyperactive boys need to stay behind the fence. To quote from Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park: “Be thankful that fence is there, senhor.”


Donkey Sense, a Middle-School Novel – Sneak Peak at the Cover

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to share a first look at the cover of my latest novel, “Donkey Sense,” a story for middle-school ages and up.

Donkey Sense takes you into the thoughts and senses of a bullied eleven-year-old boy named Timmy Unterkanz. Already having suffered the death of his father, red-haired Timmy is nicknamed “Shrimpo Underpants” and teased and bullied by kids at school in the new Pennsylvania town where he and his mother have just moved.

Inspired by the yarn-spinning humor of Mark Twain, Donkey Sense is both a Cinderella story and a slice of harsh reality. In the natural world, we don’t have fairy godmothers or wizards to protect us from bullies. However … WINK … once in a while an animal will emerge to soothe, teach and strengthen us. In Donkey Sense, Pedro, the feisty and magical donkey, provides Timmy with a special friend and a guardian angel who can guide him toward spiritual graduation and happiness.

Okay, so here’s the cover, followed by what the back cover might say.

"Donkey Sense" by Dean Lombardo, coming this winter.

“Donkey Sense” by Dean Lombardo, coming this winter.

Hi, again. Now here’s what the back cover might say:

Eleven-year-old Timmy Unterkanz suffers the death of his dad, and then extreme bullying in a new town. Timmy’s in serious trouble – that is, until Pedro steps in. You see, Pedro’s not your ordinary friend and bodyguard. He’s a talking donkey and he’s got a feisty attitude, similar to that of his owner, a former Texas ranch-hand named J.T. Atkins. Pedro and Mr. Atkins teach Timmy the ropes, like how to defend himself when there are no adults around. Timmy also meets Kelly, his eccentric voice of reason and confidence. Timmy’s safety and happiness will come down to one final showdown against his tormentor, the bully Eddie. Can Timmy turn his life around by proving to friend Kelly – and to himself – that he’s not going to withdraw from a sometimes cruel world? That he’s going to be as feisty and stubborn as a donkey.

*Violin serenade.*
(Donkey Sense, coming this winter from Astraea Press.)

Research in Peace

There’s a delicious feeling when you’re researching a new or in-progress novel and the missing pieces of your plot then start to come together. You understand at this moment why you research.

Most of the time, however, you’re ruing both the lacking page count and the “wasted” time it’s taking to research a subject or subjects.

dean pic 2One must rein himself or herself in at the temptation to toss down the textbook, cut corners and forge ahead blindly to create something that is not credibly bound in some form of buyable reality.

The time and effort I’m putting in to research will pay off, I tell myself.

The research will matter.

The time and effort will pay off.

The research will matter.

Tuning Out the Noise and Turning on the Productivity

Gratuitous Robin Tunney photo

Gratuitous Robin Tunney photo

I’m old enough to remember the days when you sat down at a typewriter with a cigar in your mouth and just wrote. Back in the mid-eighties (or earlier), when there weren’t handy feature-rich laptops, DVD players, palm-sized phones with Internet access, social media time-wasters such as Facebook and Twitter, and countless online games and other distractions.

Despite today’s technological advancements, it’s arguably more difficult for a writer to write. Many of you know the story. You get pulled into the nonsense, into the crusade, the war, the hatred of your country, the shaming, the persecution, the need to trade insults. It’s wrong to stereotype this group but okay to brand this one. They gang up and bully you with, “This is the right way of thinking (my way) and yours is the wrong way,” or “I can say this or whatever I want, but you need to keep quiet.” There was a time when you would read about something in the newspaper and react by phoning your elected officials. Now, we try and solve all our problems over the Internet as if we could actually change someone else’s mind (or the WORLD) with a post or create momentum that would have such a Mothra butterfly effect that, for instance, all the pirates off the coast of Somalia would stop attacking merchant vessels. Yeah, like that’ll work. So insecure are we that we need to reaffirm our security or insecurities by getting likes, shares or, conversely, by being ignored. We whine about our poor persecuted selves, try to give it back, try to win the winless argument, and all of this is costly. Costly in terms of time, money and our mental health.

There was a time when I worried about getting likes for my posts, about having many real or virtual friends to like, share or comment on my posts. But now? Now, I don’t care because I realize the people who I want to care are too intelligent to be taking it up on Facebook. They’re out there doing it. Getting the job done.

The Internet (and television) offers a great start when it comes to research, making connections, doing business, and forging friendships. The Net is also a fun place to hang with those friends and share ideas–to a point.

It’s just not where I want to live my life or waste time arguing with people who’ve already made up their mind about my gender, my country, my ethnicity, and my moderate political views.

I’ve got books to write … and, oh … if you haven’t figured it out already, I’m not looking for likes of this blog post. It’s not about YOU. 

My Writing Process

I don’t blog a heck of a lot because usually I’m writing for my day job, spending time with my family, or working on one or more new novels. But when author Deb. E. Howell tagged me to participate in the Writing Process blog hop I recognized it as an opportunity to self-analyze which factors put me at the top of my game when I am fortunate enough to be in the “writing zone,” productive and effective as a novelist. You see, when writing an author is often pressing because he or she isn’t always inspired to write. It’s easy when you’re inspired and the keyboard seems to disappear and you’re banging out scene after scene as if your thoughts are populating the manuscript wirelessly. But those times when you don’t feel like writing can be extremely difficult. And in such situations, I recite what the late great Michael Crichton once shared in a USA Today feature article:


Repeat after me:


What Crichton meant was if you want to be a professional writer, you better sit down, turn the computer on, and write your story—no buts (or butts) about it.

Now, obviously, I don’t just sit down and write when I’m starting a new story. I draft a synopsis first, then I research/research/research (including on-location exploration) and compose a longer outline. Then I flesh out all characters in character sketches. Once all of this is complete, I follow the outline and sketches pretty faithfully, detouring only when I discover a problem with the plot or a character’s motivations. Then, as Hemingway said, I keep on writing and writing until the end.

Wait, I’m not done yet. I take stock of what I’ve got. I ask, Is this novel of the quality I’d pick up at a bookstore? Does the dialogue sound genuine? When I read through the manuscript usually there are some parts that need strengthening or tightening and some additional things to integrate seamlessly into the story. So is the novel ready to submit yet?

Heck no! I rewrite it again and get it to wail and sing like a David Gilmour guitar solo.

Dean descends into the Man-Cave to write.

Dean descends into the Man-Cave to write.

Yeah, now it’s done.

The End.

Why such a short blog post? Well, I try to remain true to myself. My former publisher, Samantha Smith, an Englishwoman, once praised me (sort of) for my economical style in “Space Games,” (2013, Kristell Ink). She was right about the economical part. I emphasize pacing and eliminate waste. I don’t try to dazzle people with language, vocabulary or length. I tell a high-stakes story and it’s the story … not all the pretty words in between … that is most important to me as a novelist (and I hope most meaningful to my audience as well). I respect poets, but I don’t try to be one. I’m just trying to tell a good joke, spin a good yarn, make people’s hearts race, make’em see and feel it, and write a good ole American novel along the way.

I tag Evelinn Enoksen and Crash Froelich to join this writing blog hop, if they haven’t already participated.

The Celebrated Talking Donkey of Richfield County

It’s always particularly satisfying when you achieve something that knowledgeable and influential people told you that you couldn’t accomplish. For me recently this was writing and finding a publisher for a children’s book – middle-grade level, to be precise. You see, I’ve been an authentic sci-fi horror author since 2007 when my debut novel, “Vespa,” was published by a small press based in Philadelphia. Since that time, I have also witnessed my shocking, soul-searching sci-fi satire, “Space Games,” go to press as well, and in the wake of these two accomplishments, I felt I needed a break from all the horror and adult content. I had been looking into the abyss, as Nietzsche once said, for too long and the abyss was starting to stare back. In addition, readers and peers were wondering if I was this horrible person because my fiction made them feel terribly uncomfortable. Some began judging and measuring my works … after reading them in their entirety, mind you … based on their horrified reaction instead of the quality of each book, which to me is not fair. Ernest Hemingway, arguably the greatest American author who ever lived, wrote in a letter to his parents: “…a writer should not be forced to defend his choice of a subject but should be criticized on how he has treated that subject.” Ahh, never mind that, that’s over.

frog2So I set out to write something sweet for a change, something for my wife and kids and dearly departed mother, something that didn’t have to come with a warning label and draw such anger and revulsion from readers who couldn’t handle it. I had a large number of people test-drive this middle-grade novel and two of the most influential of them told me coldly that it was NOT going to fly for a number of reasons. First, because I was a horror writer and I wasn’t working in “their” genre. Second, because the stories they wrote for teens and middle schoolers never contained as much tension and conflict as the new book I’d written. “Go and read some of the wonderful stuff that’s available to these ages,” one of them told me. And I did and I was horrified by how poorly these novels stacked up against the young person’s literature I grew up on—stuff like the works of Mark Twain and Scott O’Dell and John Steinbeck. It’s a different way of writing sure, but I get it and I won’t talk down to them or try to protect them from the key elements of every good story: characters, conflict (toned down a bit) and rhythm.

Anyway, I’ll soon join the ranks of authors/storytellers who write for both adults and children. In here at the top echelon are Stephen King, JK Rowling, James Patterson, Neil Gaiman, vicious Clive Barker, and even pulp director Robert Rodriguez, the latter who brought us the R-rated From Dusk Till Dawn but whom also delighted our kiddies with the Spy Kids series. It can be done!

And of course there’s Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, whom I can definitely cite as an influence for my new middle grade novel. I remember the power of his yarn and pronounced dialect as it came alive while reading The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County in middle school (even, just re-familiarizing myself with the title brings a smile). Whether you’re in middle school or older I hope you will enjoy my own yarn when it comes out in late 2014/early 2015. Be on the lookout. It’s called “Donkey Sense” and it’s suitable fun not just for middle graders but for all ages.
The one’s for you, Mom, and for you too Mark.

Mystery Novelist Susan Finlay Releases Second in the Outsiders Series

Hello again! In November, I had the privilege of having mystery author Susan Finlay on Den’s Den to tell us about “In the Shadows, the first in her new “Outsiders” mystery series. Today, I want to let you know that Susan has released the second in the series, a novel called “Where Secrets Reside.” Here’s a recap of “In the Shadows” and a synopsis of the hot-off-the presses “Where Secrets Reside.”

In the Shadows
There is a stranger amongst the residents of the cave-riddled village of Reynier, France. Suspicious, they believe there’s only one reason Maurelle Dupre would be lurking in their small village—she’s a gypsy, a thief. But a former Chicago detective turned mystery author, Dave Martin, who happens to be visiting his French grandmother, isn’t so sure about the beautiful stranger when happenstance causes them to meet. He wonders why she seems so frightened and distrustful. He knows he shouldn’t get involved. The last time he trusted a woman in distress, the consequences resulted in the loss of his detective’s shield and his wife. But, as always, the detective in him can’t seem to leave well enough alone.

However, what Dave couldn’t know is how persuading Maurelle to reveal herself will ultimately unveil something far worse than mere theft.

“In the Shadows” is a story of trust, belonging, and murder.

Where Secrets Reside
In Reynier, France, a sleepy hillside village peppered with ancient picturesque troglodyte cave dwellings, the locals value their privacy and their quiet life. Few tourists know it exits, which suits the locals just fine.

Where Secrets Reside

Where Secrets Reside

One day, after a torrential storm, a townswoman happens across a terrified soaked toddler sitting alone in the woods. She brings the toddler into town, but no one recognizes the child. Suspecting the child’s parents—rare tourists perhaps—must be lost or in trouble nearby, the locals organize a search party to find them. Their search leads instead to the discovery of a murder victim, another stranger, in one of the caves. As the investigation gets underway, the situation heats up. The residents of this once peaceful close-knit village find themselves terrorized by a possible serial killer. Facing their own mortality, they wonder whether the killer is an outsider, or one of their own? And who will be the next victim?

Captain Pascal Goddard of the local Gendarmerie has his hands full; he must solve the biggest murder case the region has ever seen. The residents will not let him rest until he uncovers the killer’s identity, putting a stop to the killing so a frantic village can return to normal. But as the list of suspects grows, some begin to worry that past history will paint them as guilty even if they are not; at least not of murder.

Sample or purchase “In the Shadows.”

Sample or purchase “Where Secrets Reside.”

Visit Susan’s blog here.

Reality TV Blasts Off From Planet Earth With A Quentin Tarantino Perspective

Northern Virginia, April 3, 2014 – The cameras are on and the gloves are off in this battle of the sexes in space. Space Games (Kristell Ink) is a powerful new take on our society’s addiction to the Internet, games, and our obsession with celebrities and fame. Author Dean Lombardo presents this raw, hard-hitting and totally engaging topic in a style compared to filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone and Robert Rodriguez.

Say hello to Robin and Joe, contestants in 2034’s “Space Games,” a new, high-stakes reality TV show set aboard a next-generation space station, ISS 2. Overcome by the physical and psychological strains of ‘space,’ the two contestants quickly abandon the show’s sanctioned events to engage in a lawless game of kill-or-be-killed as millions watch helplessly from Earth. With the station orbiting 220 miles above Earth, rescue by shuttle two days away, the reality show rapidly de-evolves into a horrifying study of primal man versus woman, squaring off in a deadly, live spectacle.
Space Games - Cool Header
It’s the first novel to tackle the idea of a reality TV show/TV game show in space, namely, aboard a cramped, claustrophobic space station. As with the filmmakers mentioned above, some scenes of graphic violence are not for the faint of heart.

Born in Norwalk, CT in 1968, and now residing in northern Virginia, Dean Lombardo has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and a natural curiosity about the universe and the many things in it. His first novel, Vespa, was published in 2007.

Lombardo also works as a writer and editor in information technology. Previously, he served as an editor and reporter for several newspapers and magazines in New York and Connecticut. Besides writing and traveling, Lombardo enjoys hiking, and reading suspenseful novels and mainstream scientific journals such as Discover and National Geographic. He and his wife, Karen, have two children and a dog.

For more, please visit the website:

Space Games
Kristell Ink
Available in digital and print editions everywhere online including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Tower Books, Chapters/Indigo
ISBN-13: 978-1909845152



Mary Fan, author of Artificial Absolutes: “A sleekly modern rendition of pulp sci-fi, Space Games is fast-paced, straightforward read that leaves you wanting to know what happens next.”

Brian Bandell, New York Journal of Books: “Like any good reality show, Space Games leaves us wondering what the contestants would do next and how they could possibly top the last bone-breaking outburst of brutality. The ending goes to a pretty dark place—the worst nightmare for any TV producer, except Zimmer.”

Amazon and Barnes & Noble readers:

Amanda P. Jones: “Fun, fast paced read!…A real page turner….a look at the battle of men vs women… what greed will make people do, emotional introspective, plus tons of great scientific facts! A great read for sci-fi fans & those who may typically shy away from a sci-fi book. Just read it!”

D. E. Howell: “Hard hitting culture shock.”

Jasmine: Brutally honest. But awesome. …the focus is on human nature…(never fear, sci-fi fans, there’s still plenty of geeky details for you to enjoy). The lines really do get blurred here and though you might think you know pretty clearly who you’re going to root for in the beginning, you might be surprised at who you end up siding with at the end… if you side with anyone at all…. pick up Space Games, it’ll definitely take you on a wild ride you’re not soon to forget.”

Carine Engelbrecht: “reality television hits outer space with a big bang….The larger-than-life Hollywood approach came across as very authentic, which concentrated the hidden punch of satire and social commentary. I appreciated the technical attention to detail, which made some of the realities of living on a space station come to life. The underlying opportunities presented by this unusual environment were expertly utilized to amp up the drama in the story. While gender can be a touchy subject, the presentation remained balanced and thought-provoking.”

SF Fantasy Author Mary Fan Chats About Space Opera Sequel and More

Hi. Today I’d like to welcome author Mary Fan to Dean’s Den. Mary is the author of the Jane Colt series from Red Adept Publishing which includes the sci-fi space operas “Artificial Absolutes” and “Synthetic Illusions.” She is also the author of the Flynn Nightsider series from Glass House Press. Welcome, Mary.

Tell us about yourself, including influences.

I’m just a simple bookworm too addicted to stories for my own good. Can’t boast of any fancy writing degrees, but I’ve learned a lot by just diving in and doing things. It’s hard to say who my influences are, because I’m pretty sure I can’t be taught (never learned a thing in classrooms – all my education came from reading and doing projects, and somehow I managed to finagle a degree out of my university). Probably a mishmash of all the things I read – fast-paced contemporary thrillers, mind-bending classic sci-fi, fanciful children’s books… and having grown up obsessed with movies and TV, I’m sure some elements of those mediums affected my perception of storytelling.

Mary Fan

Mary Fan

These days, I live in New Jersey with a crazy kitten who likes adding punctuation to my manuscript. And who’s been known to delete a paragraph or two.

What was your inspiration for the Jane Colt novels?

I’ve been a huge fan of space operas since I was a kid – and still am. But all the starry adventures I came across were about Very Important People doing Very Important Things. Space commanders saving the galaxy and the like. Which is awesome, but I always wondered about the lives of those who weren’t chosen for some great destiny.

Enter Jane Colt, a girl living in a universe of fast starships and advanced tech but primarily concerned with the things that plague most 20-somethings – what she’s going to do with her life, how she feels about the boy she’s seeing, etc. etc. And then, I threw her into a sci-fi adventure full of things she’s nowhere near prepared to face.

The Jane Colt novels also feature a heavy dose of cyberpunk – virtual reality, hackers, artificial intelligence, and the like. These were elements that arose as plot elements, then opened doors I didn’t expect to have to handle – questions of consciousness and, to some extent, religion.

“Artificial Absolutes” features a superb visual and imaginative scene that really stayed with me. It’s the part where Jane is conducting a virtual concert and singing as if her life depends on nailing the performance. Can you share with us the inspiration for this scene and what techniques you used to make the scene come alive?

I knew I was taking a risk when I decided to make Jane a composer, because people would inevitably assume she was autobiographical (because that degree I finagled is in composition). But you know what they say: write what you know. And there honestly wasn’t any other occupation better suited for her.

Then there’s another old saying: music speaks when words fail. As both a writer and a musician, I can say that’s definitely true. Music has this inexplicable power that transcends language. The scene you mention comes at Jane’s most desperate hour, and her music is the only way she knows to truly express what she’s feeling. To describe her performance, I drew upon my own experiences on stage – which was back before I conceded that I’m no good at performing.

For those of us who have read “Artificial Absolutes” (and I recommend it to those who haven’t), can you give us a feel for what to expect in the sequel, “Synthetic Illusions”?

synthetic-illusions-800Synthetic Illusions picks up about six months after the end of Artificial Absolutes and is largely about the consequences of what Jane discovers in the first book. It’s quite a bit darker, since loyalties forged in the first book are yanked apart, and characters are trapped by forces even more inescapable than the ones in the first book. Jane has grown up a little – although she’s still her stubborn, outspoken self – and, having survived Artificial Absolutes, bolder when it comes to taking action.

Will Jane to be returning in a third, and perhaps, fourth book?

Yes, a third book is in the works! Without giving too much away, I can say that at the end of Synthetic Illusions, Jane makes a decision that changes her life, and the third book would show her dealing with the new world she finds herself in. And I have plans for a fourth book to wrap up the saga, although a lot of things are still up in the air with that one.

You seem to be tireless and super-productive. Where does your strength come from?

I’ll take that as a compliment, thanks! As for where it comes from… an overactive imagination, impatience, a compulsion to finish things, and sheer stubbornness. The overactive imagination means I have about a million ideas for stories, and the impatience means I can’t wait to put them to paper. The compulsion to finish means even if I get a new idea halfway through a current one, I can’t just abandon it, so I end up working on several things at once. Stubbornness is why I keep at it even though often I feel like I’m being asked for my every ounce of energy as an advance payment for something I might never actually receive.

What are your research and novel-writing habits like?

I always start with a setting – a new world I want to explore. For the Jane Colt novels, I knew I wanted a story set in a classic space opera universe, plus Internet, minus aliens. Then comes the plot and the characters… well, actually, it’s usually the other way around. The characters come to life in my head, and I throw obstacle their way, and they dodge them. I’m an obsessive planner – I have about ten documents worth of backstories, outlines, and brainstorms before I even create a manuscript doc.

As for research – that tends to come in the planning part to help set the stage, then crop up again when I’m writing (and realize I have no idea how to answer something, so I’d better look it up!). Sometimes what I find inspires the story – like all that philosophy I crammed into my head when trying to create the character of Adam Palmer, Jane’s love interest.

As someone who has come pretty far in a short amount of time at a professional pursuit that is notoriously challenging and competitive, what advice can you give to authors trying to break in or turn novel-writing into a career?

Be prepared to work your tail off, and say goodbye to your relaxed life. Seriously. Nothing comes without a price, and I’ve paid in missed gatherings (which lead to more missed gatherings, which lead to people forgetting you exist), an end to my TV and movie-watching habits, and perpetual exhaustion. There’s far more involved in writing a book than most people imagine, from needing to work out every little detail of your story to swallowing your pride when your editor tells you’re wrong.

It requires a strange combination of arrogance and humility to write a book. Arrogance because you think your story deserves to be told more than all the million, billion others out there. And humility because you have to be willing to accept that no, you are not always right, and not everyone who points out a plot hole or clunky sentence is a simpleton who “doesn’t get me.” Arrogance again when people say you’re no good, because you’ve got to find it in yourself to come back with “yes, I am!” And humility again when not everyone recognizes your genius.

Oh, and get a thick skin. It’s not easy facing a mountain of rejections, both when you’re searching for a publisher and later when your book is languishing at the bottom of the Great Kindle Mountain.

Thank you for being with us today, Mary. All the best.


To find out more about Mary, please visit:

Mary Fan website:
Jane Colt series webpage:

Fantasy Author Ivan Amberlake Visits The Den

Hello. Today, I would like to welcome author Ivan Amberlake to Dean’s Den. Ivan is the author of “The Beholder,” an urban fantasy novel that I recently enjoyed. Ivan’s latest novella, “Diary of the Gone,” was released September 23, 2013, and he’s here to discuss this new release as well as his first novel and future projects.

Ivan, welcome to Dean’s Den. First, tell us about yourself.

Ivan Amberlake, author of The Beholder and Diary of the Gone

Ivan Amberlake, author of The Beholder and Diary of the Gone

I’m from Belarus, and to my deepest regret I’ve never been to an English-speaking country. I fell in love with English and with the way it sounds about the time I was finishing school. Since then I’ve been learning it and also writing in it.

My wife and I are both teachers of English at a university where we met in 2004. I’m lucky to have her by my side. She’s a very active person who always supports me in my endeavors. I enjoy putting some of her traits into my female characters, like the kind of perfume she uses, or the color of her eyes, and it’s fun when she finds these parts in my books and keeps asking me questions about these traits.

“The Beholder” is a classic good versus evil tale with the theme of sacrifice running through it. What was your inspiration for the novel?

I can’t say there’s one thing that inspired me. While writing “The Beholder” I was greatly influenced by the music I listened to, and it varied from really heavy stuff like The Crown and In Flames (not recommended for the faint-hearted) to enchanting romantic melodies of a Swiss band Eluveitie. In the end, the book turned out an unexpected mixture of fantasy, thriller and romance. Movies like The Matrix and books like Harry Potter also had a great impact on me at that time, which a lot of readers mention in their reviews.

As for “Diary of the Gone,” I must say I finished it thanks to my wife’s encouragement. She believed in me and in this book, and I’m really grateful to her for her support.

In what ways is “Diary of the Gone” similar to “The Beholder” and in which ways it is a departure?

I’d say these two books are different in many ways. “Diary of the Gone” is a paranormal suspense novella about fifteen-year-old Callum Blackwell who sees people before and after they die. It’s aimed mostly at young adults (13+), but it also appeals to adult readers.

Diary of the Gone

Diary of the Gone

“The Beholder” is an urban fantasy with a more pronounced romantic thread than in Diary. “The Beholder” is a new take on the Light vs. Dark theme, involving a new kind of reality that only a chosen few are able to see and control.

One obvious thing in common for me is the protagonists. Both Callum Blackwell and Jason Walker are thrown into turmoil of dark events happening around them, and their task is to survive and save those who are dear to them, which is not always easy to accomplish.

Is this new one through the same author consortium, Breakwater Harbor Books? Tell us about BHB.

BHB is a group of self-published writers who support each other with feedback and promotion through various websites like Facebook, Twitter and so on. Some of our members are bestselling authors in various genres from sci-fi to zombie novels. A few of our members haven’t yet published their books but we anticipate they will in the near future. For more information on the group, you can go to

Any favorite hobbies, movies or books you’d like to mention?

I have two hobbies right now, reading and writing, although I don’t have as much time to devote to them as I wish. I also enjoy watching sitcoms, but often real life is in the way so I can’t spend much time doing the things I enjoy.

What’s next for Ivan Amberlake?

I have a few projects in mind, but I’d better share them with you when I finish these books. I can only say that after a long period of procrastination, I’ve started writing Book #2 of The Beholder Series called “Path of the Heretic.” There are lots of ideas in my head right now, and the only thing is to put them in the right place so the story is both coherent and believable. I can say that there are things happening in the book that I couldn’t even think would happen, and I hope the readers will be as surprised as me.

Thanks for being on The Den.

Thanks for the great questions, Dean!

Note: Ivan mentioned he is currently enjoying a sci-fi novel called “Synthetic Illusions” by New Jersey author Mary Fan. By coincidence, Mary is scheduled to be the next guest on The Den. For more about Ivan, see below.

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