A chat with Dimitri Iatrou - author of Damastor

Dimitri Iatrou, a Canadian (Nova Scotian) writer, has recently released Damastor – available from Amazon.

With “themes of heaven and hell”, it’s a supernatural thriller set in the Middle Ages and in the present-day. It features a junkie, Kameron, who steals for his fix, and three mid-fourteenth-century figures whose lives have been devastated by the arrival of the Pestilence, or Black Death.

Dimitri Iatrou
Dimitri Iatrou
Tell us about the timeline of the novel, Dimitri. And this Kameron is a hero/antihero?

It's past/present. Goes from England 1349 to the present. Back and forth. Kameron is a druggie who mugs people for a living. But he's connected to the past somehow; moreover, he keeps having memories which do not belong to him. They’re becoming progressively more lucid and more frequent and he’s freaking out because he figures he’s going insane, that the voices are all attributed to years of drug abuse.

Have you done any marketing for your book? Book signings, events, etc.?

I haven’t yet had my official “book signing” event, but it is in the works. I've sold quite a few paperback copies just from my Facebook acquaintances alone, so I was very excited about that. I'm very lucky to have their support. Never thought so many people were in my corner. It's humbling. I never even intended to publish in the first place.
It was only when I was contacted by a publishing house saying they wanted it as their "baby" that I even began to think it was good enough.

Wow! Tell me how you got the deal.

Interesting thing about the publishing deal – It never materialized!
Damastor took me ten years to write because I was never planning on publishing it in the first place. I did years of research on the black plague, superstitions, language used in the middle ages, religion, gang warfare, drug addiction, etc. I had no time constraints and loved creating these worlds and the characters in them. 

Then I got an email from a senior editor who was interested in reading my manuscript. (She contacted me three years ago.) I sent in my manuscript to her on a Friday and a few days later she contacted me and asked if we could meet. So my wife and I met up with her and she basically said how impressed she was with it. I couldn't believe she was talking about my manuscript! She said that she had spoken to her boss and they wanted to make it into a hard cover. I was overjoyed to say the least and we talked about how we would move forward. I was given great insight and advice by both the senior editor and the owner of the company. Fast forward three years, I was made aware that there were certain problems at the company, so I decided to self-publish, full of confidence in my manuscript and my writing ability. I owe my editor full props, as without her seal of approval, I would not have had the courage to publish it.

So now you’re doing your own promotion?

I'm thinking of planning a book signing at my local library, but I'm nervous as heck. It can be overwhelming to think about your ideas being so public.  When one writes, there is a very intimate interaction taking place between thought and written word. To then have a party to celebrate that can be daunting: what if people don’t like what I’ve created? What if they don’t like my imagination? This can be hard. But then I think, “Oh well, never know until I try, right?”

I’ve had my own struggles. An agent had been sitting on a novel for about eighteen months a few years back when it got shortlisted in a contest – first prize was publication. Now, I should’ve continued shopping around while he was considering. But I had to prompt him and ask “Will I publish it with these guys if I win, and/or will you represent me?”
His advice was No, don't go with the small publishing house, and (due to the recession at the time, and the work it would take to get the novel up to scratch) No he wouldn’t be able to represent me. Then, someone else won the contest anyway!

It's stories like this that make me realize how lucky we are to be able to take control of our own publishing now with sites like Create Space.
Eliminate the gatekeepers! LOL

Yeh but it's a tough industry.

It really is. That's why indie authors have to stick together and help each other out, just like you’re doing for so many authors. A little share here and there, a positive comment about an author’s work not only gets the word out, but also instils belief, joy and confidence in that person that someone would take the time to ask them about their creation.

So does Kameron turn good or is he a Freddie Krueger / Faustus type?

Not going to spoil that here, haha! But I will say his supernatural stalker is hell bent on making Kameron see things his way, even if it means Kameron’s death.

It looks great just scanning the opening pages there, the healer nurse woman and the other chap - how do they play into the present day?

The female doctor (Ann), Herendin and Nestor are part of the past [storyline] and all three forge a very close friendship. But this time period (not the characters) also ties in with the present day where violence is widespread all over the world. Kameron is a druggie who gets his narcotics by mugging people. One day when he's about to attack someone, something jumps out at him from the shadows. Kameron decides to solicit the help of his best friend Macky, who also happens to be the leader of the most ferocious gang in the country, the Core. But even the Core isn’t enough to stop the thing that's following Kameron.

Damastor book cover featuring a tree with a winged humanoid in the branches in silhouette
Damastor by Dimitri Iatrou is available from Amazon
Tell me more about this group in the Middle Ages!

They’re basically trying their very best not to catch the curse. Everyone around them is dying. There’s chaos everywhere. Reason has lost its way. Their journey is full of tribulations. I love making my characters suffer! It makes what they fight for all the sweeter. Thank you, Richard, for giving me the opportunity to talk a little bit about Damastor. It's true what they say... once you release your novel into the world, you can no longer hear the characters speaking to you… Until the sequel, that is.

Ha! This is true. The Death of the Author and all that.

Ann is the daughter of a brilliant doctor who died from the plague. She is a realist, has quite a wit, she’s a strong personality and does not hesitate to put you in your place if you irritate her.
Herendin is an elderly man, formerly a knight of King Edward's army. His is a story of glory, love, and immeasurable torment. Nestor is a young man with mental and physical challenges, who has been abused all his life by his father. Only his precious mother loved him enough to force him to flee his village, for everyone there was "cursed". Nestor’s journey involves him trying to locate his mother. who told Nestor she would meet up with him a few days hence.

Sounds like an adventure alright! Nestor probably pre-dates Hodor from Game of Thrones, but he sounds a bit like Hodor.
Oh yeah! Never noticed that. I love Hodor’s character! The innocence and faith he possesses makes him so lovable. Nestor is very much like Hodor.

Do you watch GoT?
Absolutely! Can't keep all the characters straight, but GoT is awesome!

Or Nestor sounds a bit like that other guy. Jon Snow’s pal Sam.
So I heard the Bubonics culled England’s population (to be very crude about it) in a way that freed up farmland, raised prices, gave people an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Basically the rise of the middle classes!

Exactly. As the plague spread throughout Europe, people either died or fled their estates, manors, etc. So these places were left abandoned. No one was left to bury the dead. Because of widespread labour shortages, serfs were able to revolt against the nobility that sought to work them for lower wages in the past. They had the skills, and were smart enough to demand higher wages for their labours.

Unlike us today, eh?  Struggling writers one and all!

HAHA yeah!

Do you have a process or do you set aside the time to write?
Finding the time to write is tricky for me. What with work, a three-year old, an awesome life-partner and the gym, my time is limited for sitting and actually getting quality time to write. But writers write. We find the time, don’t we? We steal a moment here and there whenever we can.

Must be tough! But it’s worth it, right?
Absolutely - When you're so energized and excited about how your manuscript is progressing, you tend to lose track of time. The characters become a part of you. They’re real. I remember starting at 7 pm, next thing I know it's 5 am and I'm freaking out because I have to get up for work in an hour! Guess it's better than being hung over.

It's like day-jobs don't matter. You get through them and you're sustained by whatever you're working on, in terms of whatever story you’re writing.
It's a drug full stop. You’re creating worlds and characters and have the power to do anything your imagination wants to do to them.

It sure is. Hey! Thanks for the interview.
Cool man. It was great chatting. Thanks for the opportunity to speak on your blog. It's a first for me and I really appreciate the exposure you’re offering to so many people. It was my honour.
You can find Dimitri Iatrou on Goodreads and Twitter. Damastor is available from Amazon and elsewhere. He has a website too: diatrou86.wordpress.com

Maze: Daughter of Darkness Part Two by Katya Mills Book Review

Maze, available at Amazon, is Part 2 in The Daughter of Darkness book series by Katya Mills. Your need to read the first is mitigated by a number of factors, not least that we learn about the origins of two of the main characters in the series here.

There’s a conceit in superhero movies and comics related to how the hero is created by the villain, or perhaps by some huge adversity. In versions of these tales:
-Spiderman gets his powers from a genetically enhanced spider bred by a nefarious corporation run by the Green Goblin’s alter ego
-Tony Stark becomes Iron Man when he’s kidnapped by terrorists and compelled to build the very suit which helps destroy them
-and Batman’s origins stem from the death of his parents at the hands of the Joker.
Maze by Katya Mills is available at Amazon
Maze by Katya Mills

Katya Mill’s Maze features the origin stories for Kell and Maze, both of whom are main characters in Mills’ books about DeLux ("Of Light") creatures who live among us, masquerading as human. These beings feed off human fear. Like vampires, they can choose to simply take what they need, they can leave their victims fearless, or they can suckle on their human victims until they die.

Kell discovers her essence as DeLux through what she sees of her uncles; like a pack of dogs who are fully domesticated in the house, once they leave family life, they go hunting at night for their human prey. Kell flees her borderland Texas home in horror.

Maze – the heroine’s love interest – is somewhat more self-created, discovering his true nature in his pubescence, in a less affluent area of Los Angeles. But he too has been forced to flee an oppressive father, once his mother determines that he has inherited her recessive gifts.

There are touches of the epic in these events. They feature incidents that could fit into modern-day versions of the heroic flight of Aeneas, or Odysseus’ efforts to return to Ithaca. 

There’s a Tom Bombadil type choral character in Kell’s backstory, an old man with a clubfoot, who brings insight to her about her family. I’d like to see more of him.

Indeed, the writing is such well-crafted, literary stuff that if the novel has a failing, it’s that Mills seems to throw away some fine details in a single line. But when there’s so much going on, it’s irrelevant which aspects are focused on and which aren’t.

There are wonderful dynamics developed between the characters; the jealousy over who gives a massage, shared love of ice cream, and establishment of how characters dislike and distrust each other.
But this novel ends on a climactically powerful low note with a snake motif. There is friction in Ame’s tight little group, and - as villainy becomes apparent - Maze may be considered the Empire Strikes Back of the series so far.
You are likely to never read anything quite like this.
You can buy Maze at Amazon UK and Amazon US.
Katya Mills is on Twitter. Much of her incandescent web presence is curated by this great scribe here and here.

Twitter, you heard wrong...

"We heard you like Twitter," insists Twitter for Business. Well NO!!! I don't like Twitter.

Here is a listicle of WHY I DON'T LIKE TWITTER:


Oh look! A bunch of tweets in which I am mentioned. They have been liked by the wonderful author Katya Mills aka Vitamin K @katya444ever.
Now, without the need to go back through my Twitter feed in a farken DeLorean, WHO TF TWEETED THEM ORIGINALLY, PLEASE? I MEAN, REALLY?

Somebody shouts at you on Twitter and half the time it's like "Who the hell said that?"

2. Searching for better SEARCH functionality! How about that, ehhh?
Let's say I want to do a search for the most excellent Dario Cannizzaro to see if he's performing his literary works anywhere nearby!

"Gimme a C please Carol!"
(I will put in a C - just coz I am a difficult beshterd and I have been mumbling the name Cannizzaro to myself in an Italian accent for the last ten seconds. "Can-itz-ar-roe, Can-itz-ar-roe!")

Sure enough, up pops Dario as my most popular search - even for the letter C! Wow! Impressive memory for the search engine! Let me just click on his name here...

- WHAT THE??? WTF just happened there?
I am clicking on a search for college dropouts all of the southern!
Those Twitter developers must be fitness-fad fanatics!
Coz they're a bunch of pilox!
You zumba bitch!

3. Call off the search
Oftentimes, if I may be so bold as to suggest it, Google finds people quicker than Twitter. Google the person and add twitter in the Google search bar in order to find their account. 
Because Twitter is unlikely to know who the heck you're talking about.

4. Its app was fricken disastrous.
I haven't touched the Twitter app for at least two years but I wouldn't download that thing again unless they paid me twenny dollah a week bare minimum. I don't know if it's any good these days, but my rationale is outlined here. (The main reason is that other apps/browsers do a better job on Twitter than Twitter does.)

5. It's 2017 yo.
Why are we character-limited in 2017 anyway? 
Platform popularity is due in part to server capacity, right? You don't want it too slow. It crawls along sometimes. It struggles to upload content. 
And Twitter downtime is a terrible thing but it happens too often. Like, what do they have exactly at the backend to NOT prevent outages?
Are they operating off a pair of laptops and a cat's brains?

So, these are the reasons. And then some.

Author interview: Claire Buss

Author of The Gaia Effect – available at AmazonClaire Buss presents a world where the characters are protected by the “radiation beyond the wall” – and have all of their needs serviced, including reproduction – by an entity called “Corporation”. But when friends around the couple at the story’s core start to fall pregnant naturally, questions are raised about what they are expected to believe.

It’s an intriguing title - The Gaia Effect? The Gaia principle goes that Earth is a naturally life-sustaining planet, that conditions always prevail to allow a return to a balanced ecosystem?

Yes that's right - the idea that eventually the planet will put itself back into balance. However in my book, the spirit of the Earth - Gaia - lends a hand.  The book is set 200 years in the future, 150 years after the devastating radiation attacks but I can't tell you any more!

Aww. AWWWW. ARRRRGHHHH!!! C’mohhhhhn!
Are you agented, Claire? Did you go the self-publishing route? 
I don't have an agent although I did go through the whole query letters and submission hoops with The Gaia Effect last year.  I got a lot of positive no thank-yous so I left it alone for a while


then went back and had another editing pass.  I was fortunate in that the book was entered into a local competition and part of the prize was to have your book published with an Indie Publisher called New Generation.  I came second and so the competition organisers paid for the publishing.

Congrats on the contest. Wow! So you used a small indie house rather than wait around for the traditional publishers?
I felt that it was too good an opportunity to pass. None of the other finalists have had their book published yet. At least this way it's an indie author learning-curve for me and I can start building a back catalogue. It seems to me that agents like to see that you're semi-established already.
I will try the agent route again with my next novel - The Rose Thief.

What's The Rose Thief about?
The Rose Thief is a humorous fantasy novel. The Emperor, in his infinite wisdom, magically imbued his red rose with the power of love so when the Rose Thief stole it, he also stole love. It's up to Chief Thief Catcher Ned Spinks and his motley band of catchers to find out who the thief is and get the rose back before love dies forever.

Interesting stuff – sounds like the late great Sir Pratchett!
Yes, The Rose Thief is Pratchett-esque.  I have read almost everything he ever wrote and been a fan for nigh on twenty years.  I didn't set out to write a book in that genre, I just started writing and it has evolved from there.  I'm very happy about that. Perhaps you should sign up to my newsletter?? I'm giving away all my news here! 😀 This is my website - have a poke around.

I hate to break it to you but I am interviewing you for my blog! 😃 Would that be okay?
And is The Gaia Effect self-contained or is it a planned series, or is it just screaming out for a sequel, or what?
There is a sequel to The Gaia Effect but at the moment it lives in my head. 😃 The Gaia Effect is self-contained but there are questions and it could be sequeled and prequeled which is exciting.

Yes I see it on Amazon. Good work from the teaser! Great use of terminology. It's peppered with technology, but the story's central. What's funny is the "natural" childbirth is anything but in ways, right?
You found the first chapter then! Yeah I wanted to make the whole getting-a-baby scenario feel really really wrong in as many ways possible.

The Gaia Effect concept reminds me a bit of Wall-E, or The Island (with Ewan and Scarlett)? And do you consider it feasible in any sense, or is The Gaia Effect fantastical? Is it social critique, or laser beams and jetpacks? Hard or soft sci fi?
Not really WALL-E and sort of The Island but not clones.  It's definitely feasible and social critique - to be fair it's only sci fi because it's set 200 years in the future & has advanced technology. More a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel.

A streptococcal what? Stay back, everyone – Claire’s contagious!
And what about advertising and promotion? Is finding success difficult in the glutted market?
I have been building my social media platform and learning about all the different tools available out there. I'm still trying to sort out some traditional marketing and getting ready for a couple of events and all of this is squeezed in around my 'day-job'! It's interesting to call the market glutted, I'm not saying it isn't but I still think good stories stand out. More people are reading, especially ebooks and reading more books was one of the top new year resolutions for 2017.  It's hard work but it's good fun and it’s always great to chat to someone about the book. You are the first person to comment on the scientific theory behind the book title - kudos.

[PUTS ON SPECTACLES.] Jim Lovelock’s Gaia Theory is an interesting example when it comes to the problem of induction in the scientific method. We cannot always leap from the specific to the general – if we take a soil sample from a forest and it’s irradiated, we may assume that the soil will be similar a few feet from where we took this sample. So scientists frequently make assumptions in leaping from the specific to the general – and the same can be applied loosely with the Gaia theory.
Some calamity MIGHT wipe out most of the life on Planet Earth, and the Earth MIGHT restore itself to a balance in order for life to flourish again. But who’d be left to see it?
Are your characters those people?
The Gaia Hypothesis is such an interesting scientific concept. I have met Lynn Margulis and heard her talk on the topic, she worked with Lovelock on the hypothesis.  It is a rather hopeful concept during these days of severe global environmental change and I suppose the fact that I have a Bsc(Hons) Life Science degree might have influenced the use of some science in the book.  My characters are the remnants of the human race which has been sequestered in numbered cities throughout the world.  They don't have a mythology per se, all texts and information related to religion and deities are stored in Archive which is accessible to all inhabitants of City 42.

Some claim that world civilisations were quite advanced before the last Ice Age, and then we lost all our science and entered a Dark Age caused by a disaster such as massive tsunamis – which may well have been the cause of the floods, hence we have stories like Noah's Ark. Bearing this in mind, discuss flood myths in relation to your own book! Is there a similarity?
I hadn't heard that particular Noah's Ark theory but it certainly makes a lot of sense.  I have heard the idea that we fell backwards into a Dark Age. Weren't the Mayans highly advanced?  Their civilisation seemed to stop abruptly for no apparent reason.  Those myths are probably in Archive.

I notice Kira has brown eyes and Jed has gray eyes. You cite eye colour a little in the opening pages, and when it comes to selecting babies, you also use it alongside other traits like gender and personality. Is eye hue important? Plot-related? Something to do with genetics? Can we profile your characters based on their eye colour, and determine their behaviour? Or is it just description for the reader?
The use of eye colour is mostly description for the reader but also to highlight a couple of things – the fact that eye colour is a genetic marker for other health issues and that the eye colour of parents don't necessarily match the eye colour of the children assigned to them by Corporation.  This is because Corp try to maintain a certain level of genetic variety with eye, hair & skin colour regardless of parental match.

I like the punctuation of the storyline in The Gaia Effect with little ads and announcements about events – tell me about that.
A book trailer for The Gaia Effect:
The short announcements are called Sweeps.  Everyone has access to the News Sweeps and can sweep about anything and everything whenever they like.  It's very similar to Twitter except that absolutely everyone uses it and gets a daily digest depending on their own personal interests.  Corporation don't run the sweeps they just try to control them by flooding them with their own propaganda. 
Is there any religion in your novel? Is the Corporation a nanny-state entity, regarded as a deity? Orwell’s Big Brother with kid gloves, or even just Big Brother?

Corporation is in charge of everything, they picked up the pieces after the radiation wars and continued to build their power base.  They are such an integrated part of everyone's life - it's impossible to do anything without them involved in some way.  There are a few limiting factors however, the fact that Corporation don't run the sweeps and that a couple of entities like Force exist independently of Corporation and are not run by them.  But yes, Corporation does have a Big Brother sinister feel to it, I hope.

Claire Buss with the Mayor of Barking & Martina Cole who was the patron of the Pen to Print competition.

I see you’ve written a play too? If you have an idea, is there a point at which you think “This might be better as a play or movie script?” Do you always think in “novel-terms” first? In which other media/mediums do you write?
Playwriting is fairly new to me and I've adapted a short story into a play which worked well.  I think if you have a story to tell it can be used in different mediums easily.  Short stories are my nemesis and I'm hoping that the playwriting will help me get better at telling shorts. I certainly don't lack for ideas.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by my favourite authors to read because of the whole “if they made it, maybe I can” aspect.  I am inspired by people who face adversity every day and still get up in the morning and do their best.  I am inspired by the friendly network of indie-authors out there and at the sheer vastness of books available to read.

Fave writers?
My favourite sci fi & fantasy writers off the top of my head are: Sir Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, John Scalzi, Sara Douglas, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, Greg Bear, Pierce Brown, Brent Weeks, Becky Chambers, Joe Abercrombie, Justin Cronin, Jim Butcher, Jasper Fforde, Katherine Kerr, Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, Ben Aaronovitch, Robert Jordan, Iain M Banks, Orson Scott Card and probably fifty others that I can't think of right now!  I do read non sci fi and fantasy books as well, recent favourites have been I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh and Big Brother by Lionel Shriver.
Claire Buss is on Twitter and Facebook. You can sign up for more news at her website.
The Gaia Effect is available from Amazon.