Friday, February 11, 2011

Interview with M.Cid D'angelo author of "Dark Running" and more.

 Welcome M.Cid D'Angelo {Mike} to your interview.

Okay lets find out some pertinent background facts first up...

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Los Angeles but I didn't know my father and my mother moved around throughout my childhood. I really can't claim a hometown.

Where do you live now?

I live in Prescott Arizona. It's a "Red" state, so I'll [probably end up back in California before its all over. ;-)

I read somewhere that as a child playing with your dinosaurs and cars you had a profound feeling that you needed to write it all down rather than commit the pleasure of that time purely to memory? I believe it was an internal voice that said “if you write about it; it will be there forever” That must have been a pivotal moment in your life.

I was always a highly-imaginative child. I was small and often got picked on at school, so I would usually be found playing by myself, making up worlds. These playtimes would increasingly become more complex, whole stories and worlds that included plastic dinosaurs, plastic soldiers, GI Joe, and matchbox cars. I began writing Godzilla short stories for class when I was 7!

When did you begin writing as more than something just for you?

My apprenticeship stage in writing began when I was 15 and when I decided to compose my very first novel-length manuscript. This incident too was somewhat spiritual in nature; my family had just moved into a run-down apartment in South Lake Tahoe, California, and I had a dream one night that a young woman emerged from the sea with a handful of pencils in her hand. She asked if I wanted to be a writing partner, and i told her gleefully yes! My muse, I suppose, in vivid form! Shortly thereafter I discovered a Royal Electric Typewriter in one of the closets of the apartment and I began clacking away at this new project - a novel about skin divers searching for treasure in the Bahamas. I recall it was 241 typed-pages long.

I began studying Writers Markets and began conforming my text to specified norms for the publishing world. However, I didn't submit my first short story until a year later. It was turned down.

You served eight years in The United States Navy, tell us what motivated you to join.

I was a young man with nowhere to go. I had just finished high school and being from a poor family and not qualifying for scholarships for higher education, I had to seek a place to put my stamp on the world. I joined the USN in 1985 and saw the world.

Where were you stationed.?

USS Coral Sea (CV-43)Image via Wikipedia
I was aboard the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) as a Weapons Technician. I've been around the world twice and before I was 24.

Did you see active service in the Gulf?

My time was before that. We saw action, and it was *my* bombs that we dropped on Mohammar Khaddafi during the Gulf of Sidra/Line of Death incident off the coast of Libya.

When did you first crave to have your written work seen by others?

My first short stories were submitted to Playboy Magazine and Readers Digest in my mid-teens. They were experiments for me to see how the publishing world operated, and as experiments, these inferior works were rejected in turn.

Where was your first work published?

My first published work was seen in The Ricoh Rounder, a quarterly newsletter for the Ricoh Corporation in Irvine CA. My first paid work was a non-fiction article about metal detecting and research for treasure leads in Lost Treasure Magazine.

When did you begin to write Dark Running?

Sometime in the early 90s I felt the urge to create a series genre-based character that would be the cross between Indiana Jones and Hercule Poirot. An archeological detective, so-to-speak, with a high emphasis on adventure. I dreamed this character to be funny and egotistical, and Artemus Dark was born. However, I decided that it would be fun to create an occult-adventurer in the vein of Solomon Kane (no rhyme intended) who lived in a world just like our own, only that instead of Faith and religion, magic was real and the mainstay.

So, you had professional firms of sorcerers and witches and psychics as well as lawyers and medical doctors and computer technicians. And I asked myself, in this world, if a murder occurred supernaturally - who would be the one to investigate it?

So fun-loving, egotistical, wily Artemus Dark was a "shade" - someone trained at the occult universities such as Duke or the prestigious Oxford School of Occult Science - who was often contracted to investigate occult murders and other occult crimes. Only Artemus' celebrity and wealth outshines his rivals, causing him no end of jealousy.

How long did it take you from word one till final draft?

Dark Running is a revised-revised-revised-revised-etc-etc draft. The novel as you see it changed plots and characters for many years. The first draft was began in 1997 and abandoned after plot holes defeated its scope. It was revisioned as a completed first novel in 2001 as Cast A Spell Darkly, and submitted to markets and was agented by Darla Pfeninger of GEM Literary Agency.

After a year of loose representation, CASD was dropped and lay on the shelf for a few years. This was during the heydays of Rowling's Harry Potter series - and many people mistook my novel as a knockoff, when it remains wholly original.

In 2007, the old draft was taken down from the shelf and revised once again and became Dark Running as you see it today. It was then picked up by Monique Raphel High of the WriteHigh Literary Agency and later by The Cherry Weiner Literary Agency.

2008 was a bad year for you in many areas. You had the rug pulled out from under you when you were led to believe that S&S were about to sign you and then Wham..nada, no thanks. To top that off you lost your job, and your agent went belly up all in November, you also had to leave your condo. How did you get back on your feet after that?

I'm still off my feet! I'm a wandering artist looking for a new venue and a new home.

Many people would have folded under that sort of intense pressure, yet here you are. Did you move and make a completely fresh start?

If it wasn't for my family and friends, it would've been tough. Luckily I have people who still believe in me and my writing, though I have had some trouble in making the big splash I want.

Writing for some is far more than a need, it’s a driving force that will never leave them in peace. Is it like that for you?

This is an art form that is much like Lao Tsu's discussion of the "point of a journey is to never arrive." The Tao ti Ching teaches that it is not our goals that are important; only how we get there and what we see along the way.

My writing began naturally as a young boy and has never left me, although I have tried over the years in frustration to leave it. It usually comes back after I am calmer and less bitter about my situation.

When did you create Writer’s Right on Facebook? And why?

I created Writers Right to be a "secret" society between me and my closest writer buddies in 2008. A sort of Hellfire Club for writing dissidents. Yet, it became more a forum to assist other struggling writers and went public in the winter of 2009. It jumped up in its membership and continues to be a popular place for writers to descend and discuss the publishing world and writing in particular.

Did the response from so many interested authors surprise you?

At first, yes. But I was happy to see the membership increase. I have met some very interesting, talented, and informative writers since.

You made a decision recently to self publish was that difficult for you personally?

It remains for me a defeat, although many of my colleagues feel it is a triumph. The traditional publishing world is fading quickly, it seems. the major houses are going to have to change their stance.

Do you believe that a certain element of snobbery still exists toward those authors taking the step of self publishing?

I do, but only in certain areas. Many established successful agents have advised their clients to self-publish earlier works to help build a platform. Such is what I heard from a friend who is represented by Wylie-Merrick. My former literary agent, Monique, applauded my initiative to self-publish.

The world of publishing is changing and some folks say that the paperback novel will only be found in libraries in the future, do you see that as the way it will evolve or do you see a swing back to paperbacks after the initial Ebook and Kindle dust has settled?

This is the Digital Age. At first I scoffed when I saw that cell phones were offering TEXTing. I thought, who the hell wants to type on a phone when they can just talk? That'll never fly. I was wrong.

I've always found the craving to feel a real hard-bound book in my hands. I cannot read off a computer screen, but it appears I am a dinosaur in this. Hard-bound books will fade; they are not eco-friendly and like LP records, will be replaced by compact means of distribution. It's the wave of the future.

How tech savvy does a new author need to be in your opinion?

Very. I used to be a contract technical writer to Microsoft Corporation, and I've always maintained a presence online. However, when I first had Dark Running prepared to go live on KINDLE, I found my so-called "expertise" went out the window and I had to rely on help from my many writer friends. You have not only to write your story, but you need a professional graphic artist to do your cover art, photos, and you need somone to help you with HTML and PHP/MYSQL or any other software to get your website and other promotional avenues up and running.

How much time must they be prepared to give to promoting their own work?

I spend most my day online, plugging and joking and chatting. There is no day off. I was lucky to have a friend who had all the contact information of local media people to flood press releases to. I contacted major newspapers such as the Arizona Republic. I also courted local art 'zines one finds in coffee houses and sent them press releases too.

If you are a nobody, and most of us are, even all the promotion you do may grant you small success, however. I know bestselling authors such as Michael Palmer and Jim Butcher who are active online and still have tough hills to climb to get people to buy their work.

In the USA, it is necessary to be so self-absorbed. You need to be your own cheerleader as well as CEO. You have to be part PT Barnum selling snake oil, but you have to remember that these people around you are human and respond better to personal messages and discourse.

Do you think that some authors push the promotion envelope too far?

I might be one of them, because I mention my work all the time. Yet, I sincerely like the people I know online and in other areas. I use them, yes, but I appreciate them too. They are good people through-and-through.

Some people say there is no "bad" promotion. Yet, I have well-known and not-so-well-known artists in my FB friendship pile who never converse with me, but continually plug their works. You can't do that. Why? Because people just don't care.

Different countries seem to have different perspectives on the idea of self promotion. It is more accepted in the U.S.A than here in Australia for instance, we tend to frown on people that push too hard or blow their own trumpet, and in Europe it can be considered bad form…what do you believe is the middle ground if any?

I have had experiences in my self-touting when I have offended some conservative individuals domestically and abroad. There is no easy way around this; I try to balance out my self-promotion with humane discourse too. Yet, one needs to bring the stuff up or you will be forgotten, nice as you are. Polite as you are. The days of humility are fast fading when everyone - everyone - who has something to sell is shouting for the world to notice.

Okay let’s get to your book. Artemus Dark ‘Dark Running” please introduce my readers to Artemus?

Artemus Dark is a wily, egotistical, big-as-all-get-out, funny, wealthy, famous paranormal investigator - slash - occult scholar who works solving metaphysical crimes in a world like ours, but with the exception that magic is real. Some people in the novels feel he looks just like a young Kenneth Branagh - the actor.

Tell my readers if you will how Artemus came to be?

He was inspired as a series character who pretty much dictated to me his own personality as I got to know him. A cross between Peter O'Toole's character in the movie MY FAVORITE YEAR and a conglomerate hodgepodge of many people I've known in the past.

Is he your alter ego?

In some ways he embodies my craving for fame, perhaps, and wealth.

Have you a deep seated interest in paranormal activity?

I come from a family of scholars and metaphysical students. I have had interesting experiences in my past that warrant some uncanniness.

Have you ever personally experienced or witnessed paranormal activity?

I used to. All the time. But as I've gotten older, these seem to have dropped off.

I see you describe yourself as a nihilist, tell my readers if you would what that means in terms of belief sytems or rather absence of belief?

I actually joke about that. There's a favorite video game in which one of the enemies calls himself a "nihilist" and I just enjoy that through my cynicism and sarcasm.

Do you find humor in most situations?

Mostly. When I take my medication. And when the voices aren't fighting me.

You don’t strike me as a person that would ever accept less than the absolute best for their work. Do you have a level to which you will say “Ahh I’m there!”? For some that means the New York Times best seller list, for others it is earning enough money to allow them to write full time, what is it for you?

Exactly. I see myself self-supported by my novels and living in a nice home by the sea. Maybe there's a doggie or a kitty nearby. Maybe a cute woman who I can call my snookie-wookie.

I'm restraining myself from asking any more about this snookie-wookie thing!

Artemus Dark is a series of how many books to date?

There are two completed novels and one in draft stage in the main series, and one completed in a spin-off series. Artemus is also the subject of several short stories which I blog online at his special site.

Tell us a little more about the follow ups.

Darkness Becomes You,the second novel in the series, opens up a year after the events in Dark Running. Artemus is called in to assist an old colleague who is experiencing psychic "meltdowns" that appear to affect Artemus himself. Our hero has a set of major troubles pursuing him already, with lawsuits and legal battles with his ex-wife, as well as attacks to his academic career as a professor at Duke University. He doesn't suspect that he is in for one helluva ride dealing with the ghosts of his past in this one.

Darkly I'm Yours throws some fearsome Taoist sorcerers and Asian secrets with some modern-day politics between Red China and the West. Artemus has a chance to make good on his past transgressions to work for the US Government in ousting some vicious Chinese wizards who are supposedly plotting the downfall certain key leaders in America, Australia, and England.

Enchantress on the Edge is a spin-off novel concerning a woman sorcerer who finds herself thrown into the multiverse after having dealings with Artemus Dark in Darkness Becomes You, and must find her way back - if that truly is what she seeks. This has many undertones of a darkly-written Alice in Wonderland and Dorthoth in Oz.

You have written some marvelously varied short stories, many of which have been published. I have read a few, my favorite being “Don Quixote de Las Vegas”. Have you considered compiling an anthology of your favorites?

I'm allowing the world to offer that for me. My short stories are generally literary/mainstream and not what you find haunting an Artemus Dark universe.

What is your preferred medium? Given that you both write and perform.

Well, I've wrote and wroted, and rewroted all my life. I've had stints as an improv comedy performer in Las Vegas and some radio work. I never really had the opportunity to pursue acting or the performance arts. Writing for publication is hell enough.

You are a broadcaster for KYCA and KAHM in Prescott AZ. tell us about that?

It's a part time position where I generally announce the news and weather with little more to it. It came on a whim of the universe and it's fun work. I'm definitely no Wolfman Jack.

I have been told you also do stand up comedy, is that correct?

I did a few stand up sessions as well as performing improvisational skits for the Grand Order of Fools in Las Vegas - a semi-professional performance troupe.

It is a very difficult thing to do. The timing must be perfect, has being a writer assisted in your timing or vice versa?

Perhaps indirectly. I didn't write much for the stand up sessions and the skits were off-the-cuff. Perhaps the same mechanism that allows me to envision characters and plots allowed me to improv.

I have also heard that you are part Cherokee, is that correct?

My grandfather was full-blooded and had hailed from Oklahoma where I have relatives to this day. I look nothing like a Native American, but it's true.

Have you wanted to share your heritage in written form?

Yes; I am still laboring to get someone to publish a few of these works today. Even Artemus Dark touts a Cherokee heritage.

Where do you see yourself both personally and professionally in twelve months from now?

Hopefully a little better off than I am now. Although, I must admit, my life has never fully belonged to me. ;-)

Do you have another wip?

I have several works that hover, looking for inspiration for completion. These include a long historical epic about El Cid (the Spanish Knight from 1000 AD); a completed romance/espionage novel in the style of The English Patient; the first in an Asian Fantasy series in the Wuxia tradition (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, et. al.); and something based upon Jon Ronson's nonfiction work The Men Who Stare at Goats. There's always something going on.

M.Cid D'Angelo has kindly consented to submit his first chapter of Dark Running here for your reading enjoyment.

DARK RUNNING ... Chapter 1.

Death of a Sorcerer 

 Suspended – shadow in light – in a shower of glass. Pain, yes, but not enough to matter, and although the headlong crash through the bottom window dazed him, the sorcerer never thought he might actually die. Gasping, he cast his hands outward, a shiver of blackness rippling the air like a miniature tsunami. The glass he’d broken in his fall pulled back from the concrete and reset itself intact in the pane behind him. 

 He took a breath – two – he was ready. Now he was ready. It wasn’t going to catch him off-guard again. He snapped his head at the dull glow of the lamps along the walk through the park. 

 Chimes? Had he heard them? Out … there? Somewhere …? 

 Philip Dark – some people liked to call him Philip Darkness – bit into the back of his hand, drawing blood. He looked at his palm, drawing his eyes along the bluish lines of an inverted pentagram. It wasn’t natural, and it wasn’t a tattoo. Someone had cursed him … cursed him to die. The sorcerer cocked his head back, wiping his lips with the back of his sleeve. With eyes darting, he ran; he ran as the wet streaks of the park lights blurred past him. 



 Far away? 

 How far away? 

 The sorcerer suddenly saw the streetlights die – one by one – in the rain. The first one to go winked out at the far corner, its neighbor following suit, and the third … 

 … closer. 

 Philip fumbled in his pocket and took out his bone bag. In a tangle of sorcerers, it was best to be prepared. Another streetlight winked out, crashing the avenue into blackness. 


 Artemus could deal with this, he thought. There were images – brief flashes of 
recollection deep down – of his younger brother’s cocky grin and flashy, overconfident eyes. Artemus may be many things, but was not the sorcerer he was. 

 Philip was out of means to defend himself. He threw himself through the sparse crowds, assaulted with outraged glares and curses from those in his wake. A moment more and Philip had crashed into a St. Charles convenience store. He stood in the doorway, dripping from the weather, his ragged glare surveying shelves and the items they offered him. He rubbed at his thin goatee nervously, his wide, terrified eyes taking in the startled looks of those he shared the store with. 

 As with all corner stores, this one displayed a small occult section. Upon its shelves were pre-packaged offerings for the questing magician or witch such as, Sara Lee’s Bitter Mandrake (a general component for any spell at any hour); Dr. Scholl’s Medicated Warlock Regenerative (which soothed nightly muscle pains and cramps); and Pfizer’s Charmed Snake Oil (for modest spiritual ailments such as night fears or unwanted psychical dreaming). The magazine rack near the counter sported, of course, such important periodicals as The Wall Street Conjuror, Forbes’ Top 50 Practicing Magicians in America, and 
the prestigious Sorcerer’s Weekly among the standard titles. 

 Philip tore open the lid of the beverage cooler and thrashed about inside. Soda pop and energy drinks were thrown unceremoniously on the tiles at his feet. 

 The clerk shouted. 

 The sorcerer found no water within the cooler. He spied the tall refrigerators in the back and ran to them. He took several small bottles, opening one immediately and emptying its contents on the floor. Philip cast his hands out over the puddle, muttering syllables. 

 “Dee-gah-doh-lee….” It was Cherokee for “eyes”, the incantation for one of his most used scrying spells. What he hoped to achieve was super-sight – to find out where his pursuer lurked – but the water remained motionless at his feet. 

 “No casting spells in here!” The clerk yelled, pointing angrily at a placard above the doors. 

 The lights flickered and went out. 

 The sorcerer made for the door, dropping bottles in the blackness. 


 Somewhere in the heart of New Orleans, the rain pelted him. Getting darker – yes – dark, absolutely dark: darkness for Dark. The sorcerer shuddered. The avenue stretched on into the night, deserted and surreal for such an hour in the city. It was as if a spell had coated the wet streets and shut away even the most determined. Philip stopped running. 

In all of his life he had never been terrified. Never. 

 He hadn’t wanted it to get this far. All he could think about was Deb. As the 
shadows tore down at him from their lonely perches, she was further away from him now than she’d ever been. Funny how everything can turn to crap in the space of twenty-four meager hours. He had never loved anyone. Not until now. He’d given her everything, well, mostly everything, and not because he’d felt it would endear him more to her, but because she was everything Philip hoped to be. 

 The glowing electric lamps around him were reminiscent of their gaslight ancestors, and they bestowed eerie nimbi of gold and white as they lined the avenue. Yet they were not enough to dispel the shadows that crept along the walks and the sides of the buildings. 

The sorcerer stuffed his hands in his coat pockets, his eyes narrow slits and his feet apart. 

His bone bag bit into his palm, but he felt no pain. Philip cast a look back at the park, catching sight of a swirling cloud of fireflies – it seemed – above the bare bones of the trees. 

Mesmerized he stared, mouth agape, eyes wide … 

 … closer. 

 He whirled around as headlights crashed across the avenue, blinding him in the rain. 

Philip slammed hard against the side of a post, oblivious to the impact. He hurtled across the street, cars swerving to miss him, horns blaring. The passing of headlights of traffic brought little comfort as Philip ran. Steam rose from manhole covers – misty angels in the dark – spreading wings in the cold air. Within them, in the balance of light and shadow, something moved. Philip caught sight of it in flashes. 

The sorcerer jumped over low iron rails and brick-lined garden boxes. The grayish-black shadow moved with him, confounded a moment by the gushing water pipes, but once cleared, came clicking and buzzing out of the darkness. 

 Philip staggered into the alley leading to his apartment behind the old Samekh 
Occult Library, and then leaned against the grimy wall, his hands to his face. 

He had only a few tricks left. 

 Shadows around him, invisible and silent in the rain. 

 The sorcerer cast a ragged look back at the gloom. 


 It dawned on him, standing there in the perilous darkness, who had betrayed him. 

The betrayal been so simple, so ingenuous in its design. 

 Somewhere he heard chimes, in the air and the shadows, closing in upon him. Philip strained to listen: traffic on the boulevard, far away. He gave a quick glance at the back door of the old library and then rocketed up the wooden stair. He tore open the door, slamming his weight against it once inside. 

 He locked it conventionally, of course, but there was only a moment of quick action afterward: preparations for a spell. A deadly spell. The sorcerer took his bone bag and crossed it over the threshold, focusing his piercing blue eyes on the portal itself. A second later a faint gold luminance engulfed the door and faded. 

 All at once now – stillness. No chimes, no buzzing, no clicking, no spasmodic blurs of movement of his pursuer. Had he lost it? Was it confounded in the darkness outside? 

 He surveyed the chaos of his living room; broken furniture, stacks of papers and books littered the floor. A naked skull – misshapen because it wasn’t human or animal for that matter – glared at him accusing with sightless black orbs from its perch above the old clock. 

 … tick … tick … tick … 

 Philip threw candle wax on the carpet, and then cast tap water from a half-empty pitcher from the mantel. He held out his hand and muttered some syllables. The droplets pulled themselves from the carpet and into the air and began to whirl in a small globe of mist. The sorcerer watched it, clutching his bone bag tightly, but the vision the globe bestowed was blackness. 

 Where was it? 

 From the depth of the globe the blackness swirled and suddenly broke asunder as foot-long claws tore outward from its heart. Philip hopped back, but the globe vanished and with it, so did the terror. 

 It was close. 

 … tick … tick … tick … 

 Power numbers, he thought. Philip grabbed the phone and began mumbling, holding the fingers of his free hand over the machine. He flipped open the tape lid on the auto-dialer and checked the cassette. 

It was old, yes, but it should work. It had to work. Quickly the sorcerer thumbed the dialer and switched the tape on. A cold, feminine greeting rolled 
when his brother’s line picked up. 

 Trismegistus, the voice said in monotone, over and over again. 

 He looked up just as the second hand on the clock stopped moving. 

 Cold ruffled his hair. Heart pounding, Philip grabbed a heavy, wax-encrusted 
candlestick from the far corner of the room. There was hardly any light, but within the shadows of the kitchen, something moved. The sorcerer entered, fumbling with a free hand for the light switch. The room jumped out at him stark and lonely. Cool air pushed through the small window. 

 The sorcerer thought, I’m sorry, Deb, to love you. 

 And the thing exploded in front of him and the lights went out. Sparks and glass shot out as Philip threw his strength back at it and suddenly the world was swallowed up in orange and red ... and then darkness in all but silence. 

* *********

Time to plug your sites.
You can find him on twitter at artemusdark

"Don Quixote de Las Vegas"

"Girl Sunday" in Eureka Literary Magazine (Fall 2010)
"Thumbs Up" appearing in Third and

"Adagio in the Dark" - Lady Jane's Miscellany (Summer 2010)


His Artemus Dark urban fantasy series has been represented by the WriteHigh Literary Agency (2007-08), the Cherry Weiner Literary Agency (2009-2010).

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