Welcome!

Thank you for stopping by. Hopefully, you’ve done so because you are interested in learning about books, the writing process and what makes a writer tick. Although this author specializes in science fiction and fantasy, over the coming weeks and months you will find interviews with  many of today’s top authors—not only producers of these genres, but everything else including young adult novels, romance, historical fiction, thrillers and more. We will explore not only their writing process and get tantalizing hints at their works in progress, but we will also learn about the varied lives and interests that drive these American, Canadian, Australian, Asian and European creators of today’s genre and mainstream literature.

I hope to find interesting enough stories to entice you to return time and again and I invite you to subscribe to this website’s newsletter to keep abreast of the rapidly changing world of modern publishing.

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 18 – New Releases by Quincy J Allen & Dave Butler

This week, The Write Stuff breaks away from its customary author interviews to showcase new releases from two former Interviewees, Quincy Allen, featured on December 7, 2015, and Dave Butler, whom we met on January 4 of this year.

1000-Headshot1Quincy describes Blood Curse, published by WordFire Press on June 2, 2016, as a Western Steampunk Epic Fantasy with a clockwork gunslinger destined to stop a demon apocalypse that could wipe out two worlds. It starts in the old west and pretty quickly morphs into fantasy (magic and dragons in the world) and finally becomes epic fantasy where a number of factions all must work together to stop the apocalypse.

A ruddy sun has set on the gauntlet that nearly killed Jake, Cole, and Skeeter in San Francisco. Storm clouds loom on the horizon, promising the inevitability of an airship battle with the nefarious Colonel Szilágyi. Blood Curse, the second book in the Blood War Chronicles, drops Jake and is friends into the middle of a war between the Free Territories and the Empire of Texas. In the shadow of warships, mechanized infantry, and spies, he discovers a world he couldn’t possibly have imagined and begins to understand what fate has in store for him. Jake doesn’t want that destiny, but his growing feelings for the Lady Corina Danesti lead him down a path of death and destruction on a scale that could encompass worlds.

The Blood War Chronicles series is set for six books, and WordFire Press, Quincy’s publisher, has already signed a gaming contract that will reach out to dozens of countries. There’s artwork already available and a website that should go live in the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes open! Here is where you can find Blood Curse on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Curse-Book-War-Chronicles/dp/1614754322/

Take a quick peek inside:

1625CoverJake eyed Brewer. “Cromwell’s committed himself. Either he takes the city or he writes these bastards off. And the gates are the key. You said it yourself. He has a large ground force south of the city and heading this way.”

Brewer nodded, giving Jake an appraising eye. “That’s what I’ve been told. And their air support has beaten the hell out of the Dragun. She’s still holding her own, but so long as she has to defend herself, she can’t tear into the ground forces. She’d make quick work of them otherwise. A bunch of our other ships went down in the first pass, taken from above. We have a contingency plan, but they’re holding off on that for some reason.” Brewer chewed on the end of his cigar as he thought about what Jake was saying. He took a long pull on the cigar and blew the smoke up into the air. Finally, he relaxed. “What did you have in mind?”

“Ghiss and me, with a little help from Cole and that there Thumper,” Jake nodded to the rifle Cole leaned against, “will be your right flank. I want you and your people to hit that south side with everything you got. Crash vehicles into the barricade … melt your barrels if you have to. I want you to make as much noise as possible, but keep your heads down. Just keep their attention on you without risking any lives.” Jake looked at Ghiss and Cole. “We’ll take care of the rest.”

Brewer looked at Jake like he was loco. “Just the three of you?” He gave out a great guffaw. “You’re out of your damn mind!”

Ghiss spoke up. “Oh, I agree, Mister Brewer. By all accounts I believe we all are. However, our sanity, or lack thereof, does not change the simple fact that, provided a proper distraction, we are fully capable of tearing those men to pieces.”

Brewer looked the mercenary up and down, noting the pistols and their cables. He’d seen enough energy weapons to know the things probably wouldn’t run dry … at least not for a while.

“It’s still just the three of you,” Brewer finally replied, his voice filled with doubt. “And there has to be at least forty or fifty of them … plus that assault unit.”

“You let me worry about the armor,” Jake said with more bravado than he felt. “And there’s four of us, actually,” he added. His smile was overflowing with all the confidence he could muster. He hooked a thumb behind him, pointing through the gap at the Brahma. “We’ve got Lumpy.”

Brewer leaned over slowly and looked at the bull who was busily licking his nose.

“You’ve got Lumpy,” Brewer said in a flat tone, blinking his eyes. He kept puffing on the cigar. He looked back at Jake who kept smiling.

Jake gave Brewer a sly wink. “And you’ve got nothing to lose,” he added, “except a bit of ammunition.”

Brewer thought about it and nodded slowly, realizing that he had almost no risk aside from the ammo, and they had plenty stored around the city. It was enough to put the man’s decision over the top.

“Alright.” Brewer looked over his shoulder. “Billy, pass the word and get on the talkie. We leave eight defenders here to guard the hospital. Every other fighter who can still carry a weapon meets at the southern position in ten minutes.”

“Sir!” the boy shouted and dashed back into the warehouse.

“You better be right,” Brewer said, turning back to Jake. “For your own sake.” He stepped over to a stack of crates near the gap in the barricade. He pulled out two chaingun drums and handed them to Cole. “Here, you’ll need these. They’re full.”

“Thanks,” Cole said, hefting them, and then started swapping out the drums.

“Y’all better get ready,” Brewer said. “In about twelve minutes all hell’s gonna break loose.”

Jake nodded. “We’ll wait about thirty seconds after you start shooting before we hit ’em. I’ll give you a high sign from inside their barricade if we make it, then you and your people can come in and take back what’s yours.”

Brewer held out his hand. “Good luck.” He shook hands with Jake, Ghiss, and Cole. “You’re gonna need it.” Without another word, he walked back into the warehouse.

… … … … …

Butler 2Dave Butler, whose scientific romance, City of the Saints, was also published by WordFire Press, just landed a contract with Knopf Doubleday. His most recent release, The Kidnap Plot (The Extraordinary Journeys of Clockwork Charlie), a steampunk fantasy, hit the shelves on June 14, 2016. It’s available in your favorite bookstore right now. Or, if you’re thinking about purchasing The Kidnap Plot online, here is the Amazon link:

http://amzn.to/28S1NDM

He describes the story this way:

Charlie is a reader. He’s not allowed outside the house, but then one day his father is kidnapped, and Charlie has to launch a rescue mission. This is a story about matriarchal warrior pixies, heartbroken lawyer trolls, fantastic steam-powered devices, and a hero with a secret even he doesn’t know.

Dave has composed a filk song for the book. you can listen to it here:

https://youtu.be/xilOU5JCKaw

 

The Kidnap Plot’s first 500 words follow:

Chapter One

 

Butl_9780553512953_jkt_all_r1.indd“Charlie Pondicherry ain’t got no mum!”

Charlie cringed. There would be a rock. There was always a rock.

“What are you talking about, Skip? Charlie Pondicherry ain’t even got a dad! Charlie Pondicherry’s a toenail fungus; that’s why he’s always got that goop smeared on him!”

Skip, Mickey, and Bruiser followed Charlie down the Gullet. Charlie was sure the three boys had just waited in the alley for him to come out. Charlie’s shoulders slumped.

He hunched down lower over the basket of dirty laundry he was carrying. Sooner or later, there would be a rock.

“A fungus . . . ha-ha! A fungus!”

Whack!

That was the rock. It hit Charlie between the shoulders. He stumbled, but kept his feet.

He wanted to turn and stand like a ship’s captain, letting the pirates have it with both pistols . . . but he’d soil the laundry. Plus, they outnumbered him three to one, and any captain knew those weren’t great odds. Charlie gritted his teeth and hoped they’d give up.

The steam clouds that surrounded Lucky Wu’s Earth Dragon Laundry were just ahead. Behind him he heard the sucking sound of the other boys’ feet in the mud.

“Where you going, fungus? Get him, Bruiser!”

Bruiser grabbed Charlie by his jacket and shoved him against the brick wall. Charlie gripped tight with both hands and managed not to drop any of the laundry.

“You got any brass, fungus?” Mickey sneered. Mickey had ears like jug handles and teeth too big for his head. He spat when he talked.

Charlie glared at the bigger boy. “Do I ever have any money?” Charlie’s bap—his dad, the other boys would have said, but Charlie’s father was from the Punjab in India and insisted Charlie call him Bap—never gave him money.

“What you think we are, stupid or sumfing?” Skip shouted. Skip had a loose lower lip that flapped down and almost covered his chin. Also, Skip smelled terrible.

“Stupid or sumfing!” Bruiser echoed, and he laughed. Bruiser was a big boy, with man-sized knuckles.

“Going to Fathead Wu’s again, yeah?” Mickey spat. “What, you ain’t got a bit of brass to pay old Fathead?”

“Are you an idiot?” Charlie snapped. He was shaking, but he might as well speak his mind; whatever he said, he was going to get punched. “I always go to Wu’s. And I never have any money.” Charlie wished he were bigger. He’d pound Mickey and his friends flat. Maybe then Bap would let him out of the shop more. “Clock off!”

“How many times we gotta teach you this lesson?” Skip jeered.

Bruiser pressed Charlie against the wall with one hand and balled up his other fist. His big hand hung in the air like a wrecker’s ball.

Charlie laughed. “You’re slow learners, I guess.” He smirked to distract them from his hands while he shifted his grip on the basket and made a fist inside one of his bap’s shirts. He was Captain Charlie Pondicherry, priming his pistols.

Bruiser didn’t know when the joke was on him. “Slow learners, ha!”

Mickey looked at Bruiser, irritated.

Charlie threw the basket of dirty laundry at Bruiser’s face.

“Huh?” Bruiser shouted, and swung his fist—

Charlie ducked—

and pow! Bruiser’s fist plowed right into the top of Mickey’s head.

“Ow!” Mickey staggered back.

Charlie hurled his fistful of shirt at Skip’s face and turned to run, but the shirt missed and Skip knocked Charlie down.

Charlie hit the mud in a rain of dirty laundry.

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 4 – Interview With Jody Lynn Nye

Jody Nye Head ShotIt seems that the list of quality sci-fi and fantasy authors is endless and I know I can never read all of them, but when a name starts cropping up at every turn, it eventually grabs my attention and makes me take a more serious look. That’s how I discovered this week’s guest, Jody Lynn Nye. Not only is Jody one of the marvelous authors WordFire Press publishes, but because of the genre I read, Amazon keeps recommending her. Lacking the time to actually pore through a book, I downloaded an audio copy of Advanced Mythology and found myself caught up in the story almost at once. What’s more, since many of the authors I know speak highly about Jody as a person, I was especially glad when she consented to an interview. We’ll begin by getting to know her. Then, at the end, we’ll take a peek at two of her works.

Before breaking away from gainful employment to write full time, Jody worked as a file clerk, book-keeper at a small publishing house, freelance journalist and photographer, accounting assistant and costume maker. For four years, she was on the technical operations staff of a local Chicago television station, WFBN (WGBO), serving the last year as Technical Operations Manager.

Since 1987 she has published over 45 books, some in collaboration with top talents in science fiction, including Robert Asprin, Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and John Ringo. She has also published more than 150 short stories, many with a humorous bent. Since Asprin’s passing, she has continued two of his series, Dragons and the Myth-Adventures. Her newest series is the Lord Thomas Kinago books (Baen Books), humorous SF space opera. The most recent is Rhythm of the Imperium.

Over the last twenty or so years, Jody has taught in numerous writing workshops and participated on hundreds of panels covering the subjects of writing and being published at science-fiction conventions. She has also spoken in schools and libraries around the north and northwest suburbs. In 2007 she taught fantasy writing at Columbia College Chicago. She also runs the two-day writers workshop at DragonCon, an annual convention held every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. She and her husband, Bill Fawcett, are the fiction reviewers for Galaxy’s Edge Magazine.

I really enjoyed Advanced Mythology. What inspired you to write about computer-literate elves attending a modern day university?

Adv MythIt came from an instance at my university library. In the carrels in the stacks, you could hear whispering voices even when the levels were empty, in the late hours of the evening. I know that they came from the librarians talking near one of the intakes for the air ducts, but it was such a mysterious sound. With writers, all manner of curiosities become “What ifs?” The whispers made me think, “What if someone was living in the basement of the library?” Then I wondered who it could be, what were they doing there, and why didn’t anyone else know about them? Since my mind often turns to fantasy, the source of the whispers became little people, and they live in a library because they prize literacy and culture, and the building is very much underused and underpopulated even during the busiest study seasons. It wouldn’t be that difficult for them to take over a section that had fallen out of memory and set up a home.

It is a joy to find a book about elves and magic interwoven with so much of the real world. You appear to have an insider’s knowledge of the workings of an advertising agency and are obviously well-versed in computer technology. You also are somewhat acquainted with the philosophers Nietzsche, Hegel, Aristotle and Socrates. That’s an interesting combination. Would you care to fill us in on your background?

I love learning, books, and libraries. I read endlessly. I enjoyed the philosophy courses I took in college, but I’ve always been an autodidact. If a subject interests me, I’ll research it. I also pick up bits and pieces of information like an intellectual magpie. My collection is eclectic. I ask questions of people with interesting jobs and hobbies. You never know when a fact or an experience will come in handy. Really, everything will be of use sooner or later.

As for the advertising agency, I took an advertising course in college, and my mother had a close friend who worked for one of the major agencies. When I needed to know the ins and outs of how one operated, I reached out to her. She put me in touch with a friend at an agency, who let me hang around for a few days. Several of the people in Advanced Mythology are real employees of that agency. The same goes for computer technology. I know a little, but I also know friends who design computers and computer games, repair or build computers, and toy around with technology in all forms. If I don’t know something, I ask. I don’t mind saying that I don’t know something.

How much of your experience with the gaming company your husband, Bill Fawcett, owned comes into play?

Plenty. I saw the way the Mayfair employees interacted, how they begin the design of a new game, how they work out the rules and interactive gameplay until they have a winning product, how they support a product line, how they interact with customers and players. I wrote role-play game materials for Mayfair in the mid-80s. My experience with game mechanics led to me being chosen as a writer of Pern and Xanth game fiction on the Crossroads choose-your-own-adventure project that Bill brought to TOR Books. I had the fun of explaining to Anne McCaffrey how a probability tree worked, and giving her a short but humorous mini-adventure using one of her characters to illustrate. She loved it.

What spawned the name Uhuru Enterprises? (For those who haven’t yet read Advanced Mythology, this is the name of a business in the book.) This isn’t the Star Trek spelling, but rather the Swahili one. Does it have something to do with Keith’s roommate, Doug’s, African heritage?

“Uhuru” means peace in Swahili. Yes, Doug’s heritage was the reason that they (or rather, I) chose the word. It’s also one that a reader might have encountered before, and if they haven’t, they should have.

Advanced Mythology is a fun book for the reader, but I’m wondering what about it makes you want to get up each day and add to the story? In other words—I know the things that drive me to write—what’s in it for you as an author?

Stories tend to kick me out of bed in the morning. If I wake up thinking about the plot and where I have to go from where I left off, I know it’s working. When I’m deep into a book, I really don’t stop. I just sleep long enough for the toxins to leach out, then get up and go back to it. I love the way it feels when a story is going together well. I would (and do) write even when a story is not yet commissioned because I have to. The plots are too compelling not to get down on paper, or in a computer file. I have a note app on my iPhone where I type in ideas that come to me late at night and a recording app that I can speak into if I get ideas in the car. Writers have to write. I’ll always have more ideas than I will have time to write, and more written work than I’ll ever have time to publish.

I also love my characters. Keith Doyle is an immensely positive person. He is outgoing in a way I wish I was. He loves to get involved in a project, and he cares deeply for people. He’s braver than he thinks he is, and more talented in magic than he ever dreamed. Shona Taylor (Taylor’s Ark series, soon to be reissued by WordFire Press) is resilient and intelligent, good at her job, deeply in love with her husband, loyal to her friends, and curious about what’s out there in the universe. Lord Thomas Kinago (the Imperium series published by Baen Books) is absurdly overprivileged, but he has a good heart and is eager to take his friends and relatives along for the ride on each new adventure. I love world-building. I do just marginally less work on creating my characters’ environments for a short story as I do for a novel. I find myself thinking what other stories could be taking place in those universes, away from my main story lines.

MythFits_coverMyth-Fits, the latest in the series your friend, the late Robert Asprin began, just came out and it’s already earning five star reviews. How many more have you planned? And for your impatient readers, when is the next likely to appear?

I’m very happy with the response Myth-Fits is getting. I could tell by the faces of the people coming by the WordFire Press table at Phoenix Comic Con at the beginning of June that they remembered the series with great affection. I’ve been told so many times that the Myth-Adventures books came along when people needed them. They’re so positive and funny that they take the sting out of bad times. I’ve always said I intend to be the anodyne to the evening news. My own work also tends to be on the humorous side. There will always be books of Significance and Angst in plenty, but they aren’t the ones a reader turns to when they’re feeling down. There’s a saying that if the book you want to read doesn’t exist, maybe you had better write it yourself. I’m doing that. At the moment, I don’t know when more Myth will appear. I’ve got two plotted out ready to go, as well as another in Bob’s Dragons series that has also been left in my care. (And, sorry, Phule-fans, there are no more Phule’s Company books planned at this time.)

Have you found it difficult to work on such a long-established series?

Not really. I was a fan of the books long before I met Bob. He was one of my husband’s best friends, and became one of mine long before we thought of working together. I respect the series, and I adore the characters. Bob’s world-building for the first book in the series, Another Fine Myth, was so comprehensive that neither of us have ever fully plumbed its depths. At the head of chapters in which Skeeve is present (a bit of trivia) are quotes that purport to be by famous people. The characters are all “demons,” which is just short for “dimensional travelers.” The magik system is well-thought out, relying upon force lines in each of the dimensions. Where force lines are scant or absent, the denizens rely upon technology instead. Aahz’s dimension, Perv, has a reputation for questionable behavior and bad tempered inhabitants. It’s also one of the few that use both magic and technology. Even after having written several books in the series, I enjoy rereading the earlier ones. The stories are episodic in that what has come before does affect the subsequent tales, but the gang returns, like Sherlock Holmes to Baker Street, to its intradimensional tent in the Bazaar at Deva (where Deveels come from, you know). What Myth fans respond to is the humor, the painful puns, and the unbreakable friendship between the characters.

Myth-Fits is the 20th novel and 21st book in the Myth-Adventures series. In it, Skeeve, Aahz and the others are on a mission to retrieve a mystical object called the Loving Cup from a fabulous resort dimension called Winslow (the name is not a reference to the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy,” but to the stuffed toy dinosaur that belongs to the artist most associated with the Myth-Adventures, Phil Foglio). The job is not as easy as they were told, and other magicians seem to be on the cup’s trail. I also bring in the conclusion to an ongoing story arc that has been building for several books.

What else is on the horizon?

I’m working on a new SF series. It’s still very much in the planning stages, so I won’t go into too much detail now. Alongside that, I’m working on a YA science fiction series with Travis S. Taylor. We just turned in the first one to Baen Books. I’m having fun working with Travis. Both of us have done numerous solo books and collaborations with other people, but we’ve never had a chance to work together or to write YA before. I’m also hoping to go back and add to some of my other series, in all my copious spare time.

Would you care to share a bit about your “other” life?

My husband and I just celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. We have a cat and many nephews, nieces, godchildren and unofficial godchildren whom we like to spoil. We enjoy travel, good food, SF movies and television, and both of us read endlessly. Our house is furnished in Early Book. Every room but the laundry room has bookshelves or magazine holders at hand. I’m a keen cook and baker. I make specialty cakes, and I tend to cater my book signings and writing workshops with lots of homemade goodies. Some of my other hobbies are calligraphy and illumination, photography, medieval and Renaissance history, beginning knitting, intermediate crochet, freelance research, and nipping in and out of social media. I thought I’d hate Facebook, but it’s like a back fence to lean over in the morning to share a cup of gossip with a friend.

For readers who are wishing to obtain autographed copies, or who would simply like to exchange a few words, what Cons or other events are on your agenda over the months ahead?

I keep a calendar on my website, http://www.jodylynnnye.com. I’m on Facebook as Jody Lynn Nye, and tweet @JodyLynnNye. Here are my scheduled events before the end of the year:

LibertyCon 29, July 7-9, 2016

Chattanooga Choo-Choo Hotel, Past GoH

Chattanooga, TN

For more information, visit the website at http://www.libertycon.org

Gen-Con Writer’s Symposium, August 4-7, 2016

Indiana Convention Center

100 S. Capitol Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46225

For more information, visit the website at http://www.gencon.com/

DragonCon, September 2-5, 2016

(Also DragonCon Writers Workshop, Sept. 1 &2)

Peachtree Hyatt

Atlanta, GA

For more information, visit the website at DragonCon

New York Comic Con, Oct 6-9, 2016

Javits Center, WordFire Press booth

New York, NY

For more information, visit the website at http://www.newyorkcomiccon.com/

ConStellation 34, Oct 14-16, 2016, Guest of Honor

Four Points by Sheraton

Huntsville, AL

For more information, visit the website at http://www.con-stellation.org/constell/wiki/index.php?title=Con%E2%80%A0Stellation_Main_Page

WindyCon, Nov 11-13, 2016

Westin Lombard

Lombard, IL

For more information, visit the website at http://www.windycon.org

Thank you so much for sharing your time with us! What follows are brief blurbs and samplings from Advanced Mythology and Myth Fits, after which are Jody’s social media and book buy links.

Advanced Mythology:

Keith Doyle has made it to graduate school! In between classes and hanging out with his magical friends, the Little Folk, he has a new job as a copywriter for PDQ advertising agency, working on a campaign for a revolutionary electronic device. His plans for the party to end all parties on Hollow Tree Farm are coming along nicely. Things are not so rosy for the Little Folk. They’re being haunted not only by malevolent spirits passing through their cellar, but a Big Person who has discovered Keith’s supposedly well-camouflaged invitation to all creatures magical. Keith finds himself in danger trying to keep out of the hands of the industrial spy to protect not only the trade secrets of his client’s firm, but his friends and their home. Can Keith’s ingenuity and his limited magic keep the elves from being revealed to the world? Will the party ever take place? Will Keith ever get his hands on one of those wonderful devices?

 

“Hello?” Keith called as he walked down the cellar steps. “Come out. I won’t hurt you.”

He heard a rustling, then realized it was footsteps coming from upstairs. Half a dozen people saw him go into the basement. Most likely a sizeable group was gathering, wondering if he was going to be walking back up there under his own power. Of course he was, Keith thought firmly.

The small windows high in the wall between the lanterns were dark. Sunset was long past. Keith should have felt tired. Instead, he experienced a rush of energy brought on by the possibility of experiencing something new. Human nature was a funny thing, Keith thought. He was likely to get thoroughly roughed up, even killed, but his steps were light. … Keith preferred his chances with something out of the unseen world…. Keith felt his way along the walls, sensing the spell that protected the house. It was a version of the charm that ran all the way around the property: more thorough but less powerful, and smooth as plastic under his fingertips. Not completely; he sensed rather than felt jangling edges where the charm had been disrupted. An answering tingle ran down his spine. It had broken through again. Was it here now?

The sound of crackling answered him. He suddenly realized that he was casting a deep shadow that danced against a wall suddenly lit in orange. His spine still tingled, but it was growing very warm, too. Slowly, Keith turned around. Hovering in the air at eye level was a ball of fire about the size of a cat. It had small black eyes that glared unblinkingly at him.

“Hi. I’m a friend of the owners. Who are you?”

Wham! An invisible cannonball hit him in the stomach, propelling him the short distance to the wall. Another knot of force met him there, and sent him sprawling across the room.

“Hey, wait, I’m friendly!” Keith protested, picking himself up. The poltergeist, or whatever it was, had uncoiled like a snake, and was swimming toward him in the air. He threw up his hands to protect himself. Quick as lightning, the streak of fire was behind him. Another kick sent him back the other way. He rolled to a halt against the wall under the stairs. Reaching up, he grabbed hold of the newel post and wrapped his arms around it. The next kick hurt, but he managed to hold on. “Stop! Why are you doing this? Look, my friends are nice people. You’re scaring them. They haven’t done anything wrong. All they want to do is live here. Look!”

He hooked one elbow in between the treads of the staircase. With one hand he started drawing illusions. Enoch might have taken off points for technique, but under the circumstances his images were pretty good. First he showed the village the way he remembered it first: everybody sitting down to dinner in the basement of the library. …Then, he created a really detailed image of the farmhouse sitting on its hilltop, surrounded by a glow. The elves, looking much happier, started farming and gardening and building little houses. The fire creature didn’t let up. Once it discovered it couldn’t throw him around anymore, it started ramming him with its nose, burning his shirt and pants in patches the size of Keith’s fist. … Keith ducked, covering his face with both arms, but he didn’t let the image die.

“Wait, you’ve got to see more! This place is very important to them. They’re really nice to be around.” The one thing he vowed not to do was hit back. He had an idea that that was what got Holl and the others in trouble with the creature in the first place. No matter what it did to him, he’d respond with more information. It was his only chance to break through. If this didn’t work, the elves would have to keep from doing magic here forever. Keith was determined to make peace. “See? The Master is my teacher. He’s great. He’s taught Big People as well as little people.” He showed the Elf Master with the mixed class on Sundays, showing many of the students who had passed under his hands: Lee, Teri, Dunn, even Karl Mueller, who’d turned out to be a rat, and told the monster what they’d been able to accomplish because of their education. “Lee’s a newspaper writer now. Teri designs clothes—oof!” Keith didn’t dodge fast enough to miss the next pass. The snakelike tail whipped him in the cheek.

“Hey!” he exclaimed. “That hurt! You’re not listening to me!”

…Wherever the little monster shot off to in the room, Keith had a picture waiting there for it: Enoch carving lantern screens, Dola babysitting Asrai, Keva kneading bread. Each showed one or more of the elves engaged in a peaceful, productive occupation.

… Keith had to jerk his head back to avoid being smacked in the face by a wave of fire. It threatened to pin him against the wall. He wiggled out from behind it, only to be met by another wave. He ran across the cellar, meaning to take shelter among the barrels, and plunged directly through another that sprang up in the center of the room. It shed little heat. The creature meant to scare him, not hurt him.

“Oh, so you’re not so bad after all,” Keith said. “But I’m not budging.”

He kept up the picture show, making visuals out of vivid memories. He had to grin at the recollection of Enoch trying to parallel park his car, his head barely showing over the edge of the steering wheel, concentration written all over his dour face. A powerful blow in the chest knocked Keith over backward. He found himself on the floor, looking up into the bright black eyes.

“Hi,” Keith said. “Forget it. I’m not going anywhere. You might kill me, but you won’t outwait me.” He squeezed his eyes shut as the flames came closer and closer to his face.

“Not the ssssame,” came a sibilant voice from inside the flames.

Keith’s eyes flew open. It could talk! “As who? Not the same as who?”

Instead of answering, part of the creature seemed to dissolve into a haze as the rest of it gathered in a loop. Within the confines of the circle, a picture formed in flame. Keith recognized the elves, faces drawn in hair-thin lines of fire. “They fight and flee. You sssstay. Ssssuperior.”

“Me? Superior? Compared with them?” Keith asked, getting used to the hissing voice. “No way. I’m just more stubborn.”

Myth-Fits:

Business is slow for M.Y.T.H., Inc., and its president, Bunny, is getting nervous that the company might not meet its quarterly goal. So when a job comes in that’s worth an absurd amount of gold—and also happens to take them to Winslow, the most luxurious vacation resort in any dimension—the team jumps at the opportunity to recoup some cash and maybe catch some R&R.

Only, magician Skeeve has an unsettling feeling that this mission might be trickier than it seems. Someone in Winslow is messing with the magic lines and working hard to ensure that the M.Y.T.H. crew gets nowhere near the powerful relic that they’ve been hired to find. And as the mysterious manipulation turns deadly, Skeeve, Bunny, Aahz, and the rest of their partners find themselves in a race not only to finish the job but also to escape paradise alive…

 

A cheerful female in white shorts and a bandanna top rushed over to me and handed me a parchment scroll.

“What’s all this?” I asked her.

“It’s simple. Find all the items on this list by midnight tonight and win a prize!”

“Big deal,” Aahz said, holding up his hand and beckoning. A waiter appeared out of thin air and presented him with a bucket-sized goblet sloshing with beer. He glugged down half the brew, and let out a sigh of pleasure. “What do we get? A t-shirt? No, thanks.””

“No, sir!” Campfya said. “Winslow only offers attractive prizes to our honored guests! One hundred gold pieces!

Bunny’s big blue eyes shone. “A hundred gold pieces?”

“Yes, Miss Bunny!”…

“We’re overqualified,” Aahz said, with a yawn. He handed the empty pail to the server, who promptly vanished. “But it might be entertaining to shellac the competition while we’re waiting for the cup to turn up.”

“So you will enter?” Servis asked. His face creased in a delighted smile.

“Yeah, why not?” Aahz said. “What are we looking for?”

Campfya handed us a blue-tinted parchment and a large white sack. I unrolled the scroll and read down the list.

A handful of Troll fur

A Deveel’s hoofprint

A Klahdish expression

Two ounces of pink sand

A blank look

Some blue air

A pair of dice

Dragon breath

I skimmed down. I wasn’t sure what a few of the items were, but I was sure the others would know. Then I read the final entry:

The Loving Cup

“What?” I demanded. I pointed to the final item. “Why is this on the list? It’s one of a kind. That’s supposed to be ours! We’re waiting for it to be delivered.”

Servis looked at the list. His kindly brows drew down.

“Oh, my. That wasn’t on the original list. There should be only twenty items. I have it here.” He reached into the air and pulled a purple-rimmed scroll out of nothingness. “You see? – Oh, my courteous aunt, it is there! That’s not right!”

“How many groups are on this scavenger hunt?” I asked.

“About a hundred and fifty,” Servis said. He looked worried, but no more worried than I felt. “Someone has tampered with the list!”

“But who?” I asked.

“Your girlfriend,” Markie said, in a flat voice.

“She’s not my girlfriend!” I exclaimed. But the expressions on my friends’ faces told me they didn’t believe me. …

“Who wants to hold the bag?” Aahz asked.

“I will,” Bunny said at once. “We ought to divide up the list.”

“In a minute. First, number one,” Tananda said. She beckoned to Chumley to hold up his arm. The big Troll cringed.

“But, Little Sis, it hurts when you do that!”

“I’ll try to keep it painless,” she said. Chumley held still with admirable patience while his sister plucked a sizeable pinch of fur from the back of his arm and placed it in the bag. A check mark appeared beside the first entry on the scroll.

“Another easy one,” Aahz said. “Dragon breath. I can’t believe they want a dose of halitosis. They must mean fire.”

“But Gleep’s fire will just burn the bag up,” I pointed out.

“Gleep!” my dragon agreed.

“Piece of cake,” Aahz said, with an expansive sweep of his hand. “Remember when I taught you to levitate? Same thing.”

I frowned. “How could it be the same thing?”

“To lift yourself off the ground, you use magik to push against it. The same principle applies here. Take some magik out of the force line. Picture it forming a globe with one arc still open. Like a hollow ball with a hole in it. Imagine all the force pushing inward. Got it?”

“I think so,” I said.

It was easy enough to pick up a small quantity of magik from the wavy blue force line that ran beneath our feet. In my mind, I shaped it as Aahz directed. It formed a bubble about the size of my fist, pale green in color, right in front of my stomach. I nodded.

“Good,” Aahz said. “Show me where it is.”

I held my hands on either side of the globe.

Aahz turned to Gleep.

“Can you breathe into that?” he asked. “Without causing a massive house fire or giving Skeeve a hotfoot?”

“Gleep!” my dragon protested, hurt in his large blue eyes. But he flared his nostrils and took a deep breath.

I turned my face to one side as Gleep exhaled a narrow stream of bright golden fire directly toward me. The heat was unbelievable, but to my delight and amazement the force bubble absorbed it all.

“Close it, kid!” Aahz bellowed. I turned back to look. The lance of dragon breath bounded around inside the globe, trying to find a way out. A tongue of flame licked out of the one place on the bubble that faced my dragon. Swiftly, I pinched the opening shut. The fire kept ricocheting around, drawing patterns of red light against the magikal surface.

“That’s one neat piece of magik!” I said, turning the small orb over and over. “Thanks, Aahz!”

“It’s nothing special,” Aahz said, with a shrug. “Just doing my job as an instructor. Looks like you still need continuing education, if you never worked out that you can use magik to press against other substances or itself for other purposes on your own.”

My face grew as hot as the bubble.

“Maybe if you explained that in the first place, I would have known it!”

“Some people figure it out without being told! I didn’t realize your aptitude was so low you never tried to experiment!”

“You always stressed how dangerous it was!”

“You won’t know how to minimize the danger if you don’t try!”

“Boys, boys,” Tananda said, putting a hand in each of our chests and shoving us away from one another. “Let’s get a move on. There are a lot of things to find!”

“What about a Klahdish expression?” I asked. “What does that mean?”

Aahz shrugged. “Same thing as a blank look, is my guess.”

“What?” I asked. Suddenly, a pink haze covered my face. It moved outward and shrank to an oval the size of my hand. In it, I could see my own reflection. My mouth was open and my brows were high up. Two check marks appeared on the list.

“Perfect,” Markie said, gleefully. “Just don’t let anybody else get you to make that face, and we’re ahead of the game. And don’t let your dragon breathe fire anywhere else, no matter what.”

Book online sales links:

Advanced Mythology

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Advanced-Mythology-Jody-Lynn-Nye-ebook/dp/B00UXHNRNC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467065154&sr=1-1&keywords=advanced+mythology#navbar

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/advanced-mythology-jody-lynn-nye/1102079010?ean=9781614752738

Myth-Fits

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Asprins-Myth-Fits-Myth-Adventures-Jody/dp/0425257029/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1467064986&sr=1-1

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/robert-asprins-myth-fits-jody-lynn-nye/1123289747?ean=9780425257029

Social Media Links:

Website: www.jodylynnnye.com

Myth website: www.mythadventures.net

Twitter: @JodyLynnNye

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jodylynn.nye

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/9615.Jody_Lynn_Nye

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 20 – Interview With Ken Scholes

I couldn’t be happier than I am to feature this week’s guest, Ken Scholes. I had been trying to corral Ken for two or three months, but several events got in the way and many of the questions I had prepared for him were based on flat-out misconceptions. In order to get around these issues and present something both cogent and revealing, we arranged to get better acquainted over lunch at a restaurant near his home. As a result, much of what follows after his bio reads like the recorded conversation it actually was.

Ken Aug 2014For those who don’t know him, Ken is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed author of five novels and three short story collections. His work has appeared in print for over fifteen years. His eclectic background includes time spent as a label gun repairman, a sailor who never sailed, a soldier who commanded a desk, a preacher (he got better), a nonprofit executive, a musician and a government procurement analyst.  He has a degree in History from Western Washington University. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Ken makes his home in Saint Helens, Oregon, where he lives with his twin daughters and plays gigs at his local Village Inn Lounge. You can learn more about him by visiting www.kenscholes.com.

Although he’d been turning out stories for many years prior, 2009 was when the publishing world stood up and took notice. His debut novel, Lamentation, earned high praise—“Ken Scholes mixes wildly beautiful imagery with the sharply visceral; the profoundly mythic with the profanely human. These keenly observed stories of faith, love, and loss will resonate in your bones.”  ~ Tina Connolly—as have his subsequent books. Followers of The Psalms of Isaak series that Lamentation began, may feel sorrow when the saga concludes sometime in 2017 with the release of volume number five, entitled Hymn, but also joy over its completion. Until then, his readers will have to content themselves with Ken’s short stories… an entirely pleasurable task, to be sure. At the interview’s end, we will take a look at part of that collection.

Several obstacles kept us from getting this interview out of the blocks as soon as we had intended. Most recently, you were out of town at the end of May. As I understand it, you were teaching a class.

I was at MisCon in Missoula, which is a science fiction and fantasy convention that runs every Memorial Day weekend from Friday through Monday early afternoon. It’s much like OryCon or the others here locally, but what I like about it is that it’s small and intimate and a lot of fun. Kevin J. Anderson was there along with Jim Butcher. Pat Rothfuss made an appearance. J. A. Pitts was there, as well as Peter Orullian and Rhiannon Held. It’s just a nice gathering of science fiction and fantasy writers. There were a ton of us. While I was in town, I did my Muse Management and Production in the Story Factory Workshop the day before the con started, so I offered a Con discount and I think maybe a dozen to fifteen people spent the day with me learning to write short stories.

You’ve told me you intend to write a book dealing with PTSD. That’s quite a departure from your usual fare. Would you care to tell us what inspired it?

I’ve had complex PTSD since early childhood. We factor probably age two is when it was fully in place for me. So it’s been a lifelong struggle that I wasn’t necessarily aware of having until my kids were born and my parents died all in a mad rush over about fifteen… eighteen months of my life in my early forties. Ultimately out of that experience, not only did I try out a bunch of other things for PTSD like medication, EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy, I also discovered Dr. Eugene Lipov’s use of the stellate ganglion block—a nerve block for pain—and its effect on PTSD by rebooting the amygdala and turning off the panic signal. So I go into Chicago as needed for an injection to the C3 ganglia nerve cluster. It’s a normal pain treatment. It’s used in pain centers all around the country. It’s just not been authorized for PTSD yet by the FDA.

And what do you intend to include in the book itself?

In the book, I’ll be talking about my experience with Lipov’s work on the stellate ganglion block. I’ll be talking about my other experiences around PTSD: tips and tricks for living with PTSD, staying the course when it comes to finding the best path for treatment of PTSD, but certainly advocating at this point—because I’ve now been in remission for close to eighteen months—advocating that the people look to what he’s doing as a first line. There’s nothing invasive, other than an injection. There’s no ongoing medication. It’s a shot of anesthetic that shuts down the PTSD.

You’re involved in a lot of social issues and you’re now planning on using your kick starter books to address them. Do you want to tell us something about the book or books in that series and what you hope to accomplish in the near future?

Sure. I’ve been doing a lot of thought on how to expand my life in the direction that it needs to go in, now that I’m divorced and don’t have that second income supporting this writer. So one of the ventures I’m looking at is beefing up my indie pubbing presence. And in the midst of thinking about all of that, I suddenly realized that there really doesn’t appear to be an e-book publisher out there with a specific focus just on doing good: a social justice approach to publishing. For instance, I’ve had Walking Bear Media as a DBA for several years and have done very little with it, other than a few indie pubbed collections. And now I am looking at a team of writers coming together, both allies and transgender people, to address the bathroom laws issues that are cropping up in North Carolina and other parts of the country. So I am looking at a model, now, where a group of authors or creatives would come together to donate various bits of their art, whether it’s essays, blog posts, short stories they’ve already sold. I wouldn’t be looking for any real fresh material, other than maybe supporting essays. But primarily, I’d be looking for folks of passion who care about a cause, willing to offer up something that’s a reprint. Put it all together along with a plan for what they want to do that’s good out of the proceeds of that anthology, and then leverage a $2.99 book through Amazon’s Kindle, so that at a dollar fifty of that’s going back in. If you are familiar with the Amazon model, you get about two dollars back on a $2.99 book. So having three quarters of that go directly to whatever cause they’re wanting to work on seems like a good starting place. I’m hoping to do a few of those. We’ll start with the transgender bathroom laws anthology, and then we’ll see what we can do in the quarters ahead.

Can you talk a little bit about the METAtropolis book that you wrote with Jay Lake and maybe discuss a little bit about his passing?

The Wings We Dare AspireJay was involved with the initial METAtropolis, which was the brainchild of John Scalzi and Steve Feldberg over at Audible and they invited Jay along with a group of other writers. And then John Scalzi bowed out for various reasons and Jay took on editing that project for the second version which was METAtropolis Cascadia. At that point, he invited me in, along with a couple of other writers. And when I did that, I thought that it would be fun for Jay and I to connect our stories together, since we were best pals and we lived in within close vicinity of each other. So, he and I both worked off of each other. And he and I used the character and the setting from his first METAtropolis story, which I think was called “In the Gardens of the Night,” that dealt with a character named Tygre Tygre and a security officer named Bashar. I took that story and expanded it and set it later. I dropped in new characters, mixed with the Bashar character, to write the novella “A Symmetry of Serpents and Doves.” He then took the world that he had created in that first novella and did a story interconnecting with mine called “The Ball Dancers.” He put his at the beginning of the anthology and mine at the end of the anthology, and it did well. The anthology had an all-Star-Trek cast with various stories—mine, his, Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Karl Schroeder, Tobias Buckell and I think Elizabeth Bear. I can be missing some names. But anyway, the second one went on to win an Audie Award.

And then for the third one, because Jay’s health was declining, he asked me if I would co-edit it with him. So we did METAtropolis Green Space together. And, out of that, we decided that, because we had so much fun at the last round, we would tighten the stories up even more so. And so this time around, he wrote the first novelette which was called “Rock of Ages.” And then, I took his novelette and added to it, creating a second novelette that basically stood alone, but finished out his story, and called it “Let Me Hide Myself in Thee,” referencing back to the old hymn, “Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee,” also bringing in the same characters.

So we had five novelettes and novellas set in the same universe, using the same characters, but we had not been able to find a print market for the entire METAtropolis Cascadia or Green Space projects. So volumes two and three lived on in audio, but nobody wanted to do a print version of these books. Then, Jay and I packaged it together with the five pieces, each written under our own individual names—three by him, two by me—and Kevin J. Anderson picked it up at WordFire. We were really fortunate in that we wanted to get this done and into Jay’s hands before cancer got him. And we managed, I think, by about two weeks. We put a copy of the book into his hands and two weeks later he was gone. It’s our first and only book together and I’m proud of it. Oddly enough, it’s not sold really well, but I’m hoping that it will pick up some steam as people start to hear more about it.

You recently finished the first draft of Hymn, the fifth and final volume of The Psalms of Isaak series. The series has taken several years to complete. Will you tell us about your journey?

I started the Psalms of Isaac with a short story that I wrote in 2005, and that short story evolved into the novel, Lamentation, which I wrote in 2006 over a mad rush of about six and a half weeks on a dare from Jay Lake and my wife at the time. It came together fast and everybody loved it instantly. It went out and landed the first agent that touched it. It went out and landed the first publisher that touched it. The publisher, Tor, loved the book so much that Tom Doherty said, “Hey, get all five of these.” I was about halfway into the second book when all of this happened. I came home from that experience and my mother died within just a few weeks of coming home from this whirlwind Cinderella trip to New York. So, we instantly were challenged around productivity and I found myself writing through major losses all the way up until this book, Hymn, the last book in the series. My mom died halfway into Canticle. I finished Canticle, and my nephew died while I was starting the revision process of the second book. I was halfway into the third book, Antiphon, when my father died. I was at the tail end, as I remember, as I typed the last sentences of Antiphon, while Jen and the girls were in the hospital right after they were born. I managed to get Antiphon done and then, at that point, I did not come around to finishing Requiem until 2012. That was a long, long gap. And, of course, that was during the time that I was dealing with PTSD at its worst. It was 2011 that I first discovered the block and I went off to Chicago to experience Lipov’s magic cure, so to speak. It’s great having a mad scientist in your pocket.

Of course, sales suffered as a result of Hymn not being written and Requiem not being written and turned in on time. But at the same time, I had such a splash front end, with world rights and foreign publications, that we were able to earn out my advance rather quickly. I had an advance against all five books and we had earned that out by the time the second book was in paperback. So we did well in that regard. However, it’s still not been a big money maker and sales have gone down with each book. My tardiness on the books has not helped that process at all, but the hope is that now it’s done—it’s ten years of my life that I’ve poured into this by group of people, these characters, the problems they’re solving—now that it’s a complete package, Tor can push it, I can push it. Now that it’s finished, more people may be inclined to pick up and start a new series.

Thank you so much for giving us all a glimpse into the often not-so-simple life of a writer. I, for one, am glad I persisted and cornered you.

For our visitors, here is an introductory blurb, followed by a very short story from Ken’s most recent work:

Blue Yonders CoverScholes’s third Imagination Forest collection which he released in August of 2015 (after Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars, and Other Unusual Suspects) continues exploring the limits of speculative fiction in seventeen short stories whose genres include playful fantasy and SF as well as edge-of-your-seat suspense. Scholes revels in the offbeat and surreal, marrying otherworldliness with very real human fears and concerns, and his stories are all the richer for it. Curious characters abound, including “The Starship Mechanic,” about an alien mechanic fascinated with the holdings of a San Francisco bookstore, and a cat-woman trying to escape her former owner in “A Chance of Cats and Dogs.” The collection has a distinctive rhythm, with the novella-length standout piece, “A Symmetry of Serpents and Doves”, bookended by shorter vignettes. Scholes’s work is considerably inventive, and this collection showcases his versatility as a writer.

 

Awash in Autumn, the Queen Reflects

 

Every day is the same and yet different.

Emily goes to him on her lunch break, her eyes flitting over him and away quickly though she knows he knows.  And Tony smiles and asks her what she wants but she always wants the special — his special — and he always adds magic to it.

“Pumpkin spice latte?”

Her eyes are on him.  They are away again.  “Please.”

Then, small talk.  But the best conversation of her day.  Concluded by the flourish of his art in the foam and money changing hands.

What magic be today?  She looks a the foam and her eyebrows furrow.  She doesn’t recognize the tiny image.

“You’ll see,” Tony says.

She sits in the park on a bench in the gray October day.  She eats her sandwich first.  Then her apple slices.  Only after does she consider the latte.

Emily ponders it, then sips it.

Antlers.

She smiles and closes her eyes.  He’s never done antlers before.

It is warmer in the clearing; she stands in it in her gown, the crown heavy upon her head.  In this place, she is a queen.  And the world is on fire around her, the leaves blazing autumn red and yellow, orange for as far as her eye can see.  Her feet itch to run the leaf carpet but she waits for Tony, wondering how he will come to her in this place

He snorts as he runs into the clearing, scattering leaves with his hooves as he tosses his antlered head.  He prances around her, then sets off east and she follows.

She runs after him, feeling the crown grow lighter upon her brow as she picks up speed.  When she reaches him, she leaps and mid-leap, she lands upon his back and seizes hold of his neck.

They run the forest now, dodging fallen branches and racing through alternating shafts of sunlight and shadow.  He carries her for hours before the trees fall away and they run old pastures gone to grass, leaping the fallen stone walls that occasionally intersect them.  The sun is low in the sky behind them, the sky shot through with red, when she bids him stop beside a burbling creek.

There, she stretches out upon her stomach to drink her fill while the stag stands beside her doing the same.

Crickets are singing and she sees the forests that surround them in the distance blazing with glory beneath a crimson sky.  Emily sees the meadow taking on the same glory.  And the white hide of her friend, Tony.  Last, she looks at her own arms washed gold and red in the setting sun, and closes her eyes.  Glory shining everywhere about me and upon me, Emily realizes.

Awash in Autumn, the queen reflects.

When she opens her eyes again, there is just enough time to walk back to the motel and re-stock her cleaning cart.  She drinks the last of her latte and when she walks past Tony’s espresso stand she looks away and smiles when he winks at her.

 

You can purchase it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Yonders-Grateful-Other-Fanciful-Feasts/dp/1933846518/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462473599&sr=8-1&keywords=blue+yonders%2C+grateful+pies

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 6 – Interview With Michael R. Collings

In April 2016, the World Horror Convention presented Michael R. Collings its Grand Master Award. This placed him alongside such notables as Stephen King, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons and a host of other notables. Once we reveal Michael’s amazing curriculum vitae, we will open our interview by discussing his unique science fantasy, Singer of Lies. We will then touch on his career in academia, where he broke the accepted academic model and which then became part of the life events that led up to his recent honor. After visiting his “other” life, we will talk about the award itself and the circumstances surrounding it.

Collings3Michael R. Collings is an educator, literary scholar and critic, poet, novelist, essayist, columnist, reviewer, and editor whose work over three decades—more than one hundred books and chapbooks and thousands of chapters, essays, reviews, and poems—has concentrated on science fiction, fantasy, and horror, emphasizing the works of Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, C.S. Lewis, and others. His books for Starmont House, beginning in 1984, were among the earliest serious scholarly appraisals of King. His 1990 study of Card was the first book-length exploration of Card’s fictions.

His publications include a Wildside Press best-selling horror novel, The Slab; a 6,500-line Renaissance epic in full Miltonic style, The Nephiad: An Epic Poem in XII Books; two discussions of writing, The Art and Craft of Poetry:  Twenty Exercises toward Mastery and Chain of Evil: The JournalStone Guide to Writing Horror; literary analyses, as in C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy: A Study in Genres; and Averse To Horrors: An Abecedary of Monsters and the Monstrous, an alphabetical treatise on horror, written in limericks.

He has served as Guest, Special Guest, and Guest of Honor at a number of cons, professional as well as fan-oriented, including Academic Guest of Honor at MythCon (Conference of the Mythopoeic Society), where he presented the Keynote Address on Orson Scott Card; Academic Guest of Honor at EnderCon, celebrating the novel’s 25th anniversary; Special Guest at the Salt Lake Comic Con (2014); and three-time Academic Guest of Honor at the World Horror Con (2008, 2012, and 2016). He is a triple finalist for the Rhysling Award from the Science Fiction Poetry Association; and has been twice nominated for the Bram Stoker Award® from the Horror Writers Association, once for non-fiction and once for poetry. In April 2016, he received the Grand Master of Horror award from the World Horror Convention, 2016.

He is a past Senior Publications Editor for JournalStone Publications, where several of the books he worked with went on to become Stoker® finalists; and his articles and reviews have appeared in both Hellnotes and the print-magazine Dark Discoveries.  These and other writings are posted online at michaelrcollings.blogspot.com.

Dr. Collings was poet in residence at Pepperdine University from 1997-2003.  Now retired as a professor emeritus of English after almost thirty years at Pepperdine, where his courses included literature, composition, and creative writing, he lives in Idaho with his wife and number-one fan, Judi, and writes and writes and writes.

This is how Michael summarizes Singer of Lies.

SingerHe is young and intelligent and highly trained. He is Erik Baanfeld—shipwrecked on a long-forgotten Colony world, where brawn and brute strength are more valued than knowledge. Physically untrained and emotionally unprepared in the barest skills of survival, he seems compelled to spend a short, unpleasant life as a half-naked savage worked like a beast of burden, on a world sunk into barbarism. It’s either that… or die. His only possible chance, his only hope of becoming one with the Folk, is to become a singer—and not just any singer, but a Singer of Lies!

In Singer of Lies, I enjoyed reading about an abandoned Earth colony whose culture was consciously based around the Earth epic, Beowolf, but what made you decide to use Anglo Saxon as its language base?

 When Singer was drafted, I had just completed my doctoral work in English at the University of California, Riverside, a goodly portion of which included Anglo-Saxon (in the original language) and Middle English literature. My brain was steeped in the rhythms of Anglo-Saxon, as well as in the language and power of Beowulf. So, logically, I decided to put that background to good use and imagined a culture, abandoned for centuries, that had modeled itself on the epic, largely to defend itself from a creature native to the planet.

Through its various drafts, until its final publication in 2009, the one remaining constant in the novel was the setting: an Anglo-Saxon world in which a future language scholar, stranded and essentially helpless, had to figure out a way to survive.

 You’ve said that there is as much horror in Beowolf as there is in a Steven King novel. Clearly, your book has its Grendel, but what else about the epic led you to write Singer of Lies?

 Basically, you just answered the question. Beowulf is an epic. The Stand is an epic. The Talisman is an epic. Much of science fiction—and for that matter, much of modern fantasy and horror—picks up on the basic elements of epic and makes them contemporary. At UCR, I had taken a course in epic, in one manifestation or another, every semester for three years; I even took a directed-studies course under a world-class Miltonist and epic scholar, in which I traced epic into the twentieth century through science fiction. So when I wrote the novel—my second—it seemed obvious that it would incorporate as much of an epical sense as it could.

The Grendel-monster is one result. The world itself is another—a place so difficult for survival that Weard and his people consciously re-created a heroic age, with warriors mighty of thew and no place for the weak…which Erik definitely was.

 There was a striking poem that occurred in the first half of the book. When I didn’t recognize it, I thought it might be yours. If so, what is its title? Where can we find more of your poems?

 The poem (on page 173) is my translation of one of the earliest English poems, “Caedmon’s Hymn.” Even older than Beowulf, the hymn was written around 660 A.D. and survives in a number of manuscript copies.

Erik steals the context of the “Hymn” when he recites the poem as if he had composed it, which lead to him becoming the community’s Singer, but also makes him a Singer of Lies—he has stolen his way into the community, not knowing that Aethele and Weard know exactly what he has done.

I have written a great deal of poetry—in fact, one of the reasons for my receiving the Grand Master award was my support of poetry, SF/F/H especially, at a number of conventions over the past thirty years. Most of my poetry is available through Amazon, including, surprisingly enough, a Miltonic Renaissance style epic, The Nephiad: An Epic in XXIV Books; In the Void: Poems of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Myth, and Horror; Som Certaine Sonets, which contains a number of horror-oriented short poems; and Hai-(And Assorted Other)-Ku, which contains a fair number of scifai-ku and horror-ku.

One of my books, A Verse to Horror: An Abecedary of Monsters and the Monstrous, was a Bram Stoker Award® finalist for poetry. It is an alphabetical encyclopedia of horror motifs, each entry reduced to a single poem…a limerick.

My current project, Corona Obscura: Sonets Dark and Elemental is a “corona” or “crown” of sonnets on horror themes. A sonnet corona typically consists of seven poems on a single theme, the last line of the first becoming the first line of the second, and so on until the final poem. Its last line is identical to the first line of the sequence, completing the circle or crown. Corona Obscura is a squared-corona… forty-nine sonnet-like poems, each linked last line to first.

 The Dean at your division at Pepperdine University once told you that he and your colleagues, in your words, “did not feel you were doing literary work.” You also related that you had been denied an academic chair as a result of your focus on speculative fiction. Has that academic short-sightedness changed in any appreciable way since then, either at Pepperdine, or throughout academia at large?

 In all fairness, the Division chair was relaying the feelings of several colleagues; throughout my tenure at Pepperdine, the chairs supported me as much as possible, but, yes, there was considerable hesitance about my work in speculative fiction. One colleague told one of my students that Stephen King had no place on a college campus; another sat down with me and told me exactly how to get my career back on track.

I have been told that part of the reason SF/F/H is increasingly accepted in academics is that my early work on King demonstrated how his stories could be discussed in academic terms. By the time I left Pepperdine, half a dozen others in my division were working at one level or another with speculative fiction, and in general I think that is true of many colleges and universities. It is, after all, difficult to completely ignore the books that students seem to find important.

I often find that when I am under the gun I produce more work. Conversely, when I have more leisure time, I get less done. Now that you are retired, do you find more time to write than when you were working, or just the opposite?

 My first two novels were drafted while I was in graduate school. Many of my academic books were written while I was teaching. But since I left Pepperdine on a medical early retirement (my increasing deafness made it difficult for me to hear my students) in 2006, I have revised much of that early work, including those first two novels and my doctoral dissertation on Milton, and published them, many through Wildside Press. The bulk of my publications have come in the past ten years: novels, collections of short fiction, poetry collections. It seems that I can’t not write.

 Is there an author who fascinates you, whom you have yet to write about, and do you have plans to do so?

 Not an author, but a body of work. I still intend to do a book-length study of King’s Dark Tower Series. I’ve written on Orson Scott Card and his Ender novels; on C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy; on my son Michaelbrent’s Billy Saga…and next is the most challenging of all.

 Why do you say your children didn’t dare bring their writing to you, but rather to your wife, Judi?

 From the time I received my doctorate, I became “Doctor Daddy,” the professional writer and reader, the one they saw making big red marks on student papers and the one who talked about what was right and wrong in other people’s writing. Judi was the nurturer. They knew she was “safe”—she would love them and what they gave her no matter what. Understand that my older son was writing “novels” by the age of seven. They all went through an early apprenticeship in writing something, having Mom read it, and going back and writing something else. I think Doctor Daddy was just too unapproachable at that stage.

 Aside from reading and writing, what are your favorite pursuits?

 I love music. I played the organ for my church for over fifty years and treasure every moment of the experience. I stopped about a year ago—I could no longer hear the notes I was playing and relied on Judi for signals about volume. It finally became too much and I asked to be released. I’ve not touched a keyboard since.

It’s much the same with everything else. Being severely deaf, with world-class tinnitus in both ears and frequent balance problems as well, I’ve been systematically cut off from much that I enjoy. I rarely participate in groups of more than one or two, since I won’t understand most of what is said otherwise. On panels, I usually do not hear the other panelists’ comments, and Judi usually repeats audience questions for me.

Movies are out, as are sports—too much noise, not enough understood.

So basically, I read and write, take drives with Judi, enjoy my children and grandchildren (in small doses—I can’t understand most of what the younger ones say) and in the most literal of senses, try to stay sane.

 In the world of literary cons, where will the next year take you?

 This is a difficult question, because of the hearing. Travel is hard; air travel especially leaves my ears roaring for hours afterward. Con attendance is something that I am thinking about seriously, although I enjoy the opportunities to present papers and do Q&A sessions.

Tell us about the circumstances surrounding your recent award, Grand Master of Horror. Who made the decision and how were you notified?

 GMA award 2Early in the planning process for each World Horror Convention, attending and supporting members of the World Horror Society receive requests to nominate a Grand Master recipient. The recipient must be living (at least at the time of the nomination) and have many years of participation in any facet of horror, including literature, film, or art. The nominations are closed at the end of the preceding year, ballots counted, and (if still living) the recipient is notified about a month before the WHC.

I received an email from the WHC coordinator at the end of March this year, telling me about the award. At the end of WHC2016, I formally received the award.

There is a list of all previous Grand Masters posted at http://whc2016.org/gma.html. It is an intimidating list of extraordinarily talented story tellers, including many of the people whose books I have reviewed and otherwise written about. I was stunned to be told that my name would now be on the list. And am still stunned…but proud.

Those who would like to purchase Michael’s books can do so at:

http://www.amazon.com/Michael-R.-Collings/e/B001HPWLC2

His review/essay site, Collings Notes, is:

http://michaelrcollings.blogspot.com

You can find him on Facebook as:

https://www.facebook.com/michael.collings.7

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 25 – Interview With Charles David Carpenter & D. W. Jones

For the first time since I launched my interview series, I’m featuring two authors at once. Charles David Carpenter and D. W. Jones have co-authored a YA fantasy series. Rather than my introducing them, it’s simpler if I allow each one to fill you in on his own background.

CHARLES_WEB_115Charles D. Carpenter: Welcome to my mind’s eye view of the world. Besides being a writer, I am an actor and martial artist who was born and reared in sunny Southern California. Yes, I am the rare native who was actually born here. See, we do exist.

As a martial artist, I have learned how to fight people. As an Angeleno, I have learned how to fight traffic. Traffic is tougher, by far. I attended California State University Northridge, but my father instilled in me my love for writing. My family has always said, “Before he could talk, he could write.” Thank you, family.

My love and passion is writing novels. To be very specific, fantasy novels. Although, D.W. and I have written various works together in differing genres, fantasy is the genre that moves my heart.

 

206D.W. Jones: Spending my formative years in Washington, D.C., I know about cold. I was accepted into the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts in high school and several years after graduating from Northwood High, I made my way to Los Angeles, where I have lived for the past ??? years. So now, I know about sunny and warm. Um, sunny and warm is better.

Stories of daring adventures in faraway places with action and romance helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the streets, inspiring me to dream bigger and reach farther. Those stories still inspire me today.

In 2005, I joined creative forces with Charles David Carpenter and began collaborating on various writing projects, including the very successful original comedy series for the Internet called CAN WE DO THAT?

Like night and day, we are two uniquely different authors who came together to form what we feel is a dynamic writing team. After several screenplays, TV pilots and commercial copy we embarked on writing our first novel series.

hd-bk-sos-copy-880x1024They have completed the third book in the series entitled Storm of Shadows, and they describe it this way:

Humanity teeters on the edge of chaos as war looms imminent and natural disasters strike the world of Tarune. The Necromancers, knowing their time is running out, intensify their plot as they close in on the Pride. As Velladriana struggles to control her growing powers, the blossoming emotions between she and Corwyn threaten to tear them apart. Only time will tell if hope will survive.

Tell us about your most recent release.

CDC: Before I do that, I want to take a moment to thank you for your EXTRAORDINARY patience, as well as for honoring us with this invitation to your interview series. We are huge fans of your work and are humbled by this consideration. So, thank you! Now, on with the show. Storm of Shadows is the third novel in series. It is difficult to give too much comprehensive detail about this novel without compromising the surprises waiting for you in the first two books. That having been said, I am really proud of this installment. I guess I’d say I have pride in this Pride. Anyone? Hello…is this thing on?

DWJ: Unfortunately for us, it is. Anyway, the action is fast paced as the world of Tarune heads to the brink of a war between both human and supernatural forces.

CDC: That, though, is just the backdrop. It is the interpersonal relationships and how they are developing that we truly love about this book. For us, characters and their motivations hold the true heft and power of any story.

DWJ: These characters are real. Their lives and needs are real. As such, the world they inhabit is real. A lot of surprises await the characters we hope you have come to love… and hate.

What was the inspiration behind your series?

CDC: For me, the original inspiration behind these books was to create a world in which people could immerse themselves and feel safe. You see; I was bullied as a kid. I didn’t have many friends in this world, so I sought them in other worlds. Most specifically, I found them in the pages of the novels that allowed me to escape my tormentors. Now, not to worry, I got through it and have a rich and bountiful circle of friends today, but those books did help me through some dark times. So, my inspiration was to create a world that would allow any child going through what I did to find a magical place of solace.

DWJ: Also, we have a lot of voices constantly talking, singing, chanting and squabbling inside our respective minds. Writing lets others hear those voices, too.

What other novels have you written?

CDC: We have written the first two installments of the series: Quest for Elderstone and Tides of War.

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Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

CDC: Actually, Quest for Elderstone is currently required reading for Diversity and Social Justice in Counseling class and Internship in Clinical Mental Health Counseling for the Department of Counseling at Johns Hopkins University. I think that is pretty darn cool.

DWJ: As a matter of fact, we will be the keynote speakers there for a symposium on bullying at the end of the month.

That is seriously cool! How did that happen?

CDC: Quest for Elderstone was discovered by a doctor named Marsha Boveja Riggio and she reached out to D.W.. Her complete title is Dr. Marsha Boveja Riggio, LPC -S (DC & MD), NCC, President, Maryland Association of Marriage & Family Counselors Executive Director, Maryland Counseling Association, Board Member, William V.S. Tubman University Foundation.

When D.W. told Dr. Riggio about the books we had written, she had the idea of using the books for her classes, as she is constantly looking for new client cases for her students to analyze and conceptualize as part of their clinical development.

She read the books herself and loved them. She said she was not really a fantasy fan, but our books touched her on a number of levels, and now she is very interested in exploring the genre.

Quest for Elderstone seems to be a successful integration. The characters give the students strong archetypes with well developed life histories for reference. Dr. Riggio may be adding the other two books as required reading, as well.

As I said, this is seriously cool, as well as an unexpected reader base. What else are you working on?

CDC: Along with the fourth and final novel in series, we are writing several short stories based on the characters we have introduced in the series. Corwyn, Reese, Dolthaia, most of the Companions of the Pride, in point of fact, will have eventual origin stories about them.

DWJ: Also, we will give origin stories on the different character classes and groups unique to our world, like the Oslyn and Weavers, to name a couple.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

CDC: When we are involved in the heavy lifting of the writing, meaning we have set the basic, loose outline and chatted at length about the world’s development, writing is best accomplished by setting aside hours in the morning. D.W. and I have schedules that are a bit more flexible than most. Personally, if I can keep my mornings clear, attacking the novel after a super early workout gives me a feeling of true accomplishment.

DWJ: The most important thing, though, is to put your proverbial butt in the seat and write something everyday.

Do you create an outline before you write?

CDC: We loosely outline. Since there are two of us, we need to be on the same page. We know the basic direction of where we want to take storylines and plot twists. That having been said, we really do allow the characters and the stories to speak to us as we go. It lets the life of the world grow on its own.

DWJ: Sounds artsy-fartsy, I know, but it really does gives us some interesting twists and turns in the creative process.

Why do you write?

CDC: Same reason I breathe.

DWJ: Wow, that is the shortest answer he has ever given. It is the truth, though.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

CDC: Writing is a collaborative art form. People talk about the lonely life of the writer. Well, it may be true that it is a solitary endeavor but, at some point, you need other people.

DWJ: Developmental editors, copyeditors, beta readers; you need help. We have learned to listen to others and openly accept and utilize their input and critiques.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

CDC: Yes, this is a story about real people. Some of their powers and abilities may be unique and unusual, some may not even be completely human, but their motives and desires are the same ones that drive us all. We didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel. We just wanted to paint it our own color. From teens to adults, I truly feel this series has something for everyone.

DWJ: Also, check out our site, necromancerspride.com. We have great gear, from shirts to beanies to hats, which we think you will really like. We want your experience in the world our Necromancers inhabit to be immersive and interactive. The books are just the beginning…

Do you have another job outside of writing?

CDC: Acting.

DWJ: Entrepreneur.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

CDC: It’s not how, but how often. We will all fall at some point, most likely at many points. We all make mistakes. The biggest mistake would be to stop getting back up. DWJ: We are here for each other in that way. Everybody needs a hand.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

CDC: My wife, daughter and son.

DWJ: My son.

Before I provide our visitors an excerpt from Storm of Shadows, as well as book buy and social links, I’d like to thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedules to participate in The Write Stuff. It’s been an honor to have you aboard. I’m sure our visitors are curious by now, so here is a taste of Storm of Shadows:

Zara was somber as she looked out across the rolling landscape of the Locksdale Foothills. Here, so close to the border between Canodria and Medioc, the two great armies assembled for war. This beautiful countryside would bear the full brunt of the destructive might of both kingdoms. Neither would be foolish enough to willingly wage battle on the scorched earth of the Kerathic Plains. No, it would be this rustic setting, as well as the Flat Lands to the south that the war would ravage. The peoples of these lands would suffer, and many innocents would die. It was a morbid proposition.

The sweeping beauty of the land always made her reflective. The many canyons, gullies and undulating hillocks of the terrain often made her contemplate settling there when her time as a Herrod was done. The Flat Lands had their own subtle charms: windswept bluffs that opened onto vast savannahs leading to the shore. But something about the Foothills of Locksdale always held her heart.

That thought so burdened her soul at this moment.

She focused attention from the landscape and back to the situation at hand. The sounds of battle preparations filled her ears. Had she her way, only the sounds of music, reverie and song would ever reach her ears. As a Weaver, that was her passion. There were songs here, of course, but they were different. As the battalions marched past, the horns would blast, and the soldiers would sing. Theirs, though, were not songs of beauty. Theirs were rousing, bawdy songs of glory in battle and of crushing their enemies.

From her position on the wide hilltop, to her left, she watched the gleaming armor of thousands of men marching down into the large, open flat below. Banners streamed in the wind, and sunlight glinted off armor forged by the finest smiths in the southern kingdom. To her right, cavalry marching six abreast moved into their positions. The soldiers set up camp. They dug latrine trenches and erected tents in neat, tight columns. They had set the horse lines and put feed stations into position. They fortified the positions of the ballistae, which hundreds of heavy beasts of burden pulled.

The songs of war, she thought sadly as a particularly boisterous contingent of archers marched past. “What a sad refrain they do make,” she whispered aloud.

“Mistress Herrod,” a small voice behind her called. “My Lady?”

Zara saw Danth, a young boy, approaching her. He could be no more than seven winters, or perhaps eight. His eyes were brown and sparkled with the cheerfulness of youth. His smile was wide, with a large gap where his two upper front teeth used to be. He wore a doublet of brown leather much too large for him with the Cougar of Canodria emblazoned in red on the chest and a motley colored jester’s cap that slumped over his thick eyebrows.

“Yes, Danth.”

“King Forlmorlaine wishes to see you now,” he said with a smile.

He always seemed to smile. He was obviously well pleased at having so important a task as to call the Herrod of the South to have audience with the king.

“Lead the way,” she said with a grin, her smoky voice sweet and comforting.

The boy ran back toward the large tent erected as the king’s residence while on the march. Supported by three 20-foot tent poles, the huge burgundy canvas structure looked regal indeed in the final light of day. The golden rays of early sunset had broken through the clouds, sending rich yellow beams across the fields. The royal tent was bathed in it. The banners of Canodria blew majestically in the breeze from each tent pole, and several other banner stands had been set about the field.

Smaller tents of multiple colors surrounded the main royal lodging, the mobile residences of the nobles and generals that comprised the upper echelon of the army’s ranks. Cast in the dramatic rays of the sun, the scene had quite a noble and heroic feel. It evoked images of the tales of battles of long ago. For those Weavers who excelled at composing battle hymns, it would strike a most inspiring vision. For Zara, whose tastes leaned toward love and nature, the scene rang far more of melancholy than majesty. Where others would see future glory, she only saw inevitable death.

Those of you who are interested in keeping up with these authors can find them here:

Website:         http://necromancerspride.com/

Blog:   http://necromancerspride.com/blog/

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/Necromancers-Pride

Twitter:          @charlesdavidcar

Twitter:          @writerdwjones

You may purchase their books at:

http://necromancerspride.com/product/quest-for-elderstone-bk-1/

http://necromancerspride.com/product/tides-of-war-bk-2/

http://necromancerspride.com/product/storm-of-shadows-bk3/

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 11 – Interview With Matthew Pallamary

Author PhotoMatthew Pallamary is an author who writes in multiple genres and seems to do everything well. Ray Bradbury praised his collection of horror stories, The Small Dark Room of the Soul as well as his historical novel dealing with shamanism and, as pervades much of his work, spirituality, Land Without Evil, saying, “Bravo! More!” Three of his works were award winning finalists in the International Book Awards: Cyber Christ in the Thriller/Adventure category, A Short Walk to the Other Side, his collection of short stories, and Eye of the Predator in the Visionary Fiction category. He’s written a memoir and edited a biography, both of which have received notable reviews. He’s also written a science fiction novel entitled Dreamland and a dark novel entitled Night Whispers.

Matt’s work has appeared in Oui, New Dimensions, The Iconoclast, Starbright, Infinity, Passport, The Short Story Digest, Redcat, The San Diego Writer’s Monthly, Connotations, Phantasm, Essentially You, The Haven Journal, and many others. His fiction has been featured in The San Diego Union Tribune, for which he has also reviewed books, and his work has been heard on KPBS-FM in San Diego, KUCI FM in Irvine, television Channel Three in Santa Barbara, and The Susan Cameron Block Show in Vancouver. He has been a guest on the following nationally syndicated talk shows: Paul Rodriguez, In The Light with Michelle Whitedove, Susun Weed, Medicine Woman, Inner Journey with Greg Friedman, and Environmental Directions Radio series. He has received the Man of the Year 2000 from San Diego Writer’s Monthly Magazine and has taught a fiction workshop at the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference for twenty five years. He has lectured at the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Conference, the Getting It Write conference in Oregon, the Saddleback Writers’ Conference and numerous others. He is presently Editor in Chief of Mystic Ink Publishing.

Your endeavors are so varied, it was difficult to decide where to begin. Since spirituality is at the core of everything you do, I am focusing on Land Without Evil and your shamanic approach to writing and teaching others how to write.

Over the years, you’ve made several trips to the Amazon rain forest. How did these trips feed Land Without Evil and your writing courses?

Land Without Evil coverI took an honors course in anthropology titled “A Forest of Symbols – Orientation and Meaning of South American Indian Religions” which is where I learned of the actual Guarani story of the Land Without Evil, which is what the book is based on, so I actually wrote and published the book before ever going into the jungle. Prior to that course I was researching the lycanthropy mythos, (Werewolves), for my novel Eye of the Predator which led me to shape shifting. The jungles of South America have the strongest shape shifting traditions and these were tied to visionary plants. I have had a lifelong fascination with altered states and shamanism and one of the things that struck me the most through my research in anthropology was the fact that shamanism is based on experiential knowledge. You can read textbooks about it for the rest of your life, but you will have no real conception of what it is and what it entails. You can’t learn much of anything about it by watching or observing native people performing rituals. The only way you can truly learn is through direct subjective experience, which means taking part in the rituals and ordeals to learn first hand what the teacher plants have to teach you – if you prove you are worthy.

Phantastic Fiction Front Cover IBW WinnerYou’ve been teaching writers for a quarter of a century, packing the house I might add. And now you’ve translated your courses into a book. Without giving away all of your course’s or Phantastic Fiction’s teachings, will you provide one or two salient points that might encourage visiting authors to explore the rest of what you teach?

In the shamanic world view, absolutely everything is energy. When we write and create we are manipulating energies on multiple levels and we are working in-depth with our subconscious, so we are in essence manipulating energy, whether it is plotting, pacing, dialogue exchanges, emotions, punctuation, and many more variables. Additionally, the shaman’s descent into the underworld where he experiences death, dismemberment, and rebirth in order to become a “man of power” is exactly what happens on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, which is the essence of story that has been around in this transformational process since prehistoric times, long, long, before the written word came into being.

How is it being received?

It’s been an eye opener for many people as it gets as far into the roots of what a story is as possible. These time honored concepts are deeply embedded in the psyche of humanity and have much to teach us about ourselves. Aside from its esoteric aspects, I have been blessed by the “wisdom of the masters” through all my years of being with the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and the Southern California Writers Conference where I was mentored and really adopted into the writing family of Ray Bradbury, Charles Schulz, Barnaby Conrad, Chuck Champlin, a leading L.A. Times Film Critic, and Paul Lazarus, former Vice President of Columbia Pictures as well as many others. They have all passed on and I find myself one of the few keepers of the wisdom and tradition they blessed me with, so I am also passing on much of what came from them.

Like all of your work, Land Without Evil has garnered high praise. In addition to the wonderful plaudits, it’s been made into a play. And now, I’ve heard rumors there’s something greater waiting in the wings. Would you care to elaborate on this new development, touching on key points of the book’s journey?

There was some interest from a producer in making Land Without Evil into a film, so I have written the script, but things appear to have come to a standstill there. What I am very excited about now is that Land Without Evil is being translated into Spanish. In the Lonely Planet Travel Guide under Paraguay, they say that if you want to learn about the history of Paraguay, read Land Without Evil, and it was listed as the top fiction pick on the Paraguayan Embassy web page. It’s a huge part of Latin American history, so I think it will find a good audience in Spanish.

Whose idea was it to have it translated? Yours or your publishers?

It was my idea to get Land Without Evil translated and I have been trying to make that happen for some years now.

What can you tell us about your translator?

Through  a service called Babelcube I found Rosina Iglesias who works in Spanish Administration as a civil servant.

Are you able to participate in the translation process? If so, how and to what extent?

She also asks me questions from time to time when she has them regarding certain parts of the book.

Shifting the focus from your work to you as a writer, what is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

 On an uninterrupted day, I like to hit it first thing in the morning after the first cup of coffee and morning email/business/posting chores are done, straight through until afternoon. After a bite and a break I hit it again until dinner time around 7:00.

It’s all about the discipline.

Indeed it is. Do you create an outline before you write?

I do, but it’s a bit different than what many might think. I have a chapter that goes into detail about it in Phantastic Fiction.

Why do you write?

Because I have to.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Fighting daily procrastination.

Is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

My work is quite varied. I have ten books in print. Land Without Evil is a historical novel. I also have two short story collections that are science fiction/horror in the Twilight Zone tradition, a memoir about my shamanic studies that ends in the Peruvian Amazon. Two science fiction novels, two nonfiction books, one about perfect form and motion, and the other about writing, and two novels that are thrillers, one of which is horror.

About your “other” life, do you have another job outside of writing?

I edit, critique, teach, and guide people toward publication.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I am a nomad.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

By understanding that everything is transitory and nothing is permanent. I have been through some extremely challenging ordeals in my life and have learned the art of flexibility. It didn’t kill me and yes it made me stronger.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Land Without Evil show posterThe Land Without Evil show!

There is not enough space to go into how Land Without Evil was made into a play. But, for those who are interested, you can find the complete story here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/SkyCandyAustin2012/LandWithoutEvil11/prweb10182711.htm

That said, what do you consider your biggest failure?

I’ve had many, but I am still alive, so the game is not up yet.

Do you have any pet projects?

I am presently collaborating on a book about the history of the Santa Barbara Writers Conference which is now in its 43rd year.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

I’d have to say Ray Bradbury. But the biggest of all time was my Mom, who was my very best friend. She left the planet about twelve years ago.

Before I present an excerpt from Land Without Evil and provide your book buy and social media links, I’d like to finish as I usually do with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a …

 Bit crazy and eccentric.

 The one thing I would change about my life:

 I would have made different relationship and financial decisions if I had any inkling of where they might have gone, but then again, I may not have learned what I needed.

 My biggest peeve is:

 Hate

 The thing I’m most satisfied with is:

 My writing and the craft that goes with it.

Now, without further ado, Land Without Evil:

ONE

Avá-Tapé gazed up at the crescent moon looming high above. He felt the weight of the humid rain forest air hanging thick and still, and the presence of the trees pressing in on him. Firelight flickered at the edge of the clearing, darkened from time to time by the formless shadows of the dancers, led by his father.

Rattles shook and a new round of chants rose into the starlit sky as each syllable took wing and fluttered through the darkness like the cry of night birds.

Like Avá-Tapé, most of the tribe huddled around the fire watching the men dressed in feathered headdresses, armbands, and anklets dance as one. Their movements kept a rhythm that gave meaning to the unseen forces between the beats of time.

Avá-Tapé’s round face made him look younger than his sixteen harvests, but his dark, almond-shaped eyes missed nothing. He sat straight and alert, his long arms and legs coiled, ready to spring into the dance with the others. While he watched the pageantry unfold, Avá-Tapé pondered what his father had taught him. Chaos. Order. Destruction. Thoughts that held fear for the white people, but were everyday parts of his father’s world. He sighed remembering how important he had felt helping the Christian priests with their sacraments. His chest grew tight as the two realities fought for possession of his heart.

His father, Avá-Nembiará, had become the most powerful holy man of their people by the force of his visions. Most of the people now called him Nandérú, “our father.” In front of whites they called him paí, the solitary one who lives between man and the gods. Some whispered that Tupá, the son of gods, spoke through Avá-Nembiará.

Two men tossed another log on the fire, showering the night in a flurry of shimmering sparks. The tempo of the chants increased and the dancers quickened their pace. Flames jumped higher.

Avá-Nembiará’s voice rose above the rest, its tone full of yearning. Avá-Tapé shivered and watched his father’s dance become erratic, his movements larger and wider, until Avá-Nembiará threw his whole being open like the wings of a butterfly embracing the sky. A moment later, his steps grew fitful and jerky until he dance-staggered out of step with the others, keeping a rhythm only he could hear.

The chants and dances of the others faded until Avá-Nembiará remained alone clutching a feathered rattle, swaying before the fire, his handsome angular face impassive, short black hair flattened against his sweaty forehead.

Fire glow highlighted the brilliant colored feathers of his headband, reminding Avá-Tapé of the lights above the heads of the Christian saints in the pictures the whites had shown him. Light from the orange flames caressed the sweaty sheen of his father’s muscled form as if infusing it with new life. Swirling patterns washed over Avá-Nembiará’s dark features, illuminating his glazed eyes and changing expression.

Avá-Nembiará sank to the ground and tilted sideways, then straightened as though pulled upright by the head. His normally sharp eyes became unreadable hollows that glinted in the flickering light. Other than the fire’s crackle, the clearing remained silent and still. No wind. No bird or animal cries. No sound from the awestruck tribe.

Avá-Tapé held his breath, expecting flames to burst from his father’s chest… until Avá-Nembiará spoke. His words and voice were those of another.

“The time of destruction has returned. The Earth is old. Your tribe is no longer growing. Your world is bloated with death and decay. I have heard the Earth cry out to our Creator-Father. ‘Father,’ it says, ‘I have devoured too many bodies; I am stuffed and tired; put an end to my suffering.’”

“Tupá,” someone whispered.

“The weight of your faults has made your souls heavy and holds you from magic flight. You eat the food of the whites and live their ways, not the ways of your ancestors. The growing weight of your faults has brought you to the end of the world through the fleeing of the light. The bulk of your errors will soon block it. The sun will disappear and there will be nothing for you to do on this Earth. This will be the moment of the ará-kañí. This will be your last day. The last time that you shall see this world.”

Spiraling patterns from the fire accented his features as he spoke. Sometimes the calm face of Tupá and the sweep of his grand language dominated; other times the tenseness of an all too human expression came back amidst strange words. Avá-Tapé looked around at the faces of the people. Some showed the same intensity, some fear, others concern. The older men’s expressions revealed acceptance.

“You do not have to fall to the crushing weight of techó-achy,” he continued. “You can free yourself from the weight of your faults, lighten your bodies, and reach perfection by abandoning the food and the ways of the whites. You must journey to where you can dance until your bodies rise above the earth and fly across the great primeval sea to the Land Without Evil.”

A murmur rose from the crowd.

Ywy Mará Ey, a paradise of abundance and wealth. True immortality awaits you there. You do not have to die to enter. It is a real world that lies in the place where the sun rises. Only dancing believers dwell there. To find paradise you must…”

The clearing came alive with the soft rustling of robes fluttering like the wings of bats as Father Antonio rushed forward brandishing a cross, followed by a mob of black‑robed Jesuits. “I exorcise you, Most Unclean Spirit!” he bellowed, dark eyes blazing. “Invading enemy! In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He made the sign of the cross, causing the people to scatter into the forest. Avá-Nembiará looked up at the priests, his expression dazed and unfocused.

“Be uprooted and expelled from this creature of God.” Father Antonio’s hands moved deftly as he made the sign of the cross again. “He who commands you is He who ordered you to be thrown down from the highest Heaven into the depths of Hell. He who commands you is He who dominated the sea, the wind, and the storms. Hear, therefore, and fear, Satan! Enemy of faith! Enemy of the human race! Source of death! Robber of life! Root of evil and seducer of men!”

Satan? Confusion swept through Avá-Tapé. Tupá spoke through his father. Not Satan!

Avá-Nembiará shook his head and glared at the Jesuits. His features hardened. He rose, standing tall in the firelight, his headdress backlit by flames. His shiny skin glowed orange as if it held a life of its own, in stark contrast to the dark formless robes of the priests that seemed to swallow light. His father looked every part the Holy Man. Avá-Tapé felt a surge of pride swell in his chest.

One of the priests looked over, his glare pinning Avá-Tapé. “Begone!” the man shouted.

Avá-Tapé didn’t move. Father Antonio started speaking Latin and making elaborate movements around Avá-Nembiará while Father Lorenzo sprinkled him with holy water. Avá-Tapé stood on trembling legs, wanting to run, but willing himself to stay.

When the priest started toward him, Avá-Tapé ran to his father’s side. Father Antonio continued his rituals and Latin chants while thrusting the cross at Avá-Tapé and his father. Avá-Nembiará put his arm around his son, grunted, and pushed his way through the black robes. The priests let out astonished gasps, and Father Antonio stopped his invocations.

Avá-Tapé walked into the darkened forest at his father’s side, leaving the muttering priests alone in the clearing.

 *          *          *

To learn more about Matt or to purchase his books, you may do so here:

 Social media links:

Website:         https://www.mattpallamary.com

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/mattpallamary

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 Book online sales links

 http://lrd.to/Land-Without-Evil

http://lrd.to/The-Small-Dark-Room-of-the-Soul-and-Other-Stories

http://lrd.to/spirit-matters

http://lrd.to/a-short-walk-to-other-side

http://lrd.to/dreamland

http://lrd.to/infinity-zone

http://lrd.to/eye-of-predator

http://lrd.to/cyberchrist

http://lrd.to/phantastic-fiction

http://lrd.to/night-whispers

The Write Stuff – Monday, March 28 – Interview With Jim C. Hines

Jim-WFC-FullJim C. Hines’ writing is so varied, it makes him a difficult author to label. His first novel was Goblin Quest, the humorous tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Actor and author Wil Wheaton described the book as “too f***ing cool for words,” which is pretty much the Best Blurb Ever. After finishing the goblin trilogy, he went on to write the Princess series of fairy tale retellings and the Magic ex Libris books, a modern-day fantasy series about a magic-wielding librarian, a dryad, a secret society founded by Johannes Gutenberg, a flaming spider, and an enchanted convertible. He’s also the author of the Fable Legends tie-in Blood of Heroes. His short fiction has appeared in more than 50 magazines and anthologies.

Jim is an active blogger about topics ranging from sexism and harassment to zombie-themed Christmas carols, and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012. He has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Masters in English, and lives with his wife and two children in mid-Michigan.

Every now and then, an author breaks new ground. In today’s publishing world filled with thematic repetition—galactic conquest, defeating a dragon, an evil wizard—it’s refreshing to encounter something untried. When he introduces us to Isaac Vainio, a libiomancer, in his Magic ex Libris series, he takes us onto untrodden soil. I asked Jim to tell us about Revisionary, his latest release and the fourth in the series. He describes it as follows:

RevisionaryWhen Isaac Vainio helped to reveal magic to the world, he dreamed of a utopian future, a new millennium of magical prosperity. One year later, things aren’t going quite as he’d hoped. An organization known as Vanguard, made up of magical creatures and ex-Porters, wants open war with the mundane world. Isaac’s own government is incarcerating “potential supernatural enemies” in prisons and internment camps. And Isaac finds himself targeted by all sides.

It’s a war that will soon envelop the world, and the key to victory may lie with Isaac himself, as he struggles to incorporate everything he’s learned into a new, more powerful form of libriomancy. Surrounded by betrayal and political intrigue, Isaac and a ragtag group of allies must evade pursuit both magical and mundane, expose a conspiracy by some of the most powerful people in the world, and find a path to a better future.

But what will that future cost Isaac and the ones he loves?

Will you tell us something more about it?

This is the fourth and final (for now) book in the Magic ex Libris series, which is based on the premise that a small number of people can reach into the pages of books and pull out the objects described in the story. As long as they physically fit through the book. Isaac Vainio is a librarian and libriomancer from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and an unabashed fan of all things magical. He’s very enthusiastic, which tends to get him into trouble, and very bright, which helps him to get back out of it again. Also, he has a pet spider who can set things on fire.

I am intrigued by your Magic ex Libris series and find the concept of a librarian being able to draw magic from a book, or step from a taxi that had been skirting Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere only to emerge from a pizza delivery truck in our nation’s capitol both enticing and delightful. Will you fill us in on how that concept came about?

The seed of the series was planted at a convention in Chicago many years ago, when an editor asked me to write a short story that took Smudge the fire-spider from my goblin books and brought him into the real world. So I had to figure out how to set that up, which led to a character who could pull things out of books.

The story was published in Gamer Fantastic, but the idea had so much more potential. Imagine all the things, good and bad, you could create with our collective literature. So I fleshed it out, added more characters like Lena the dryad and Johannes Gutenberg and more, and just ran with it.

I’ve been looking at the other books you have written. I must say it’s rare that someone’s book blurb brings me to laughter, but Goblin Hero’s description did just that. How much fun did you have producing your Goblin Quest series?

Jig and Smudge and the rest were great to write about. I’m a long time D&D player, and this series was a chance to go back and mess with some of those old tropes, to change up the traditional stories, and to just really play. I really enjoyed the characters, and the goblins in general. It’s one of the reasons I’ve gone back a few times to write shorter stories in that world.

I was delighted when Gregory Maguire spun off the 1939 the movie classic, The Wizard of Oz, with his Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Now—and I admit I am frightfully behind the reading curve—I encounter your princess series where you expand on Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. What was the spark that ignited that series?

Those books began when my daughter was a lot younger, and was going through a princess phase. A lot of the toys and merchandise she collected showed these characters as pretty, but… not much else. Some of the movies did a decent job of giving the characters strength and agency. Others, not so much.

So I decided to go all out and write a series that turned these traditional fairy tale princesses into action heroes. Snow White would get her mother’s magic mirror and be the sorceress. Sleeping Beauty and her fairy gifts of grace would become the ninja/assassin character. And Cinderella would receive an enchanted glass sword from her mother’s ghost.

Basically, I wrote it because I wanted more stories like this to be out there for my daughter and everyone else.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

It depends on the day. I quit my full-time day job last fall. Before then, I wrote every day on my lunch hour. Now my schedule is a lot more flexible…and at times, a lot more complicated. Some days I’ll put in four hours or more at the keyboard. Others I’m running kids to doctor appointments and dealing with calls from the school and chasing after the dog who got through the gate in the back yard again.

Most writers will envy your new situation. Why do you write and when did you first realize you were a writer?

I write because I enjoy it. I love inventing stories and sharing them with people. There are days when it’s frustrating or painful trying to get the story in your head onto the screen, and it’s just not coming out right. But then there are the moments when it comes together, or when you come up with a clever twist or idea, or you hit on something powerful. Those moments are amazing.

Plus I like fantasizing about swords and magic and robots and all that other cool, shiny stuff.

When did I realize I was a writer? That’s hard to say. I toyed with writing a bit as a kid. Started doing it more seriously toward the end of my undergraduate degree. To some extent, I started to really feel like a writer after my first fantasy novel Goblin Quest came out.

And then there are the days when I still don’t entirely feel like A Real Writer. Like I’ve been playing a trick on the world for 20+ years and having a blast with it, but sooner or later someone’s going to catch on.

You have blogged about some unfortunate incidents pertaining to sexual and racial harassment at several Cons. I think these occurrences are appalling and I applaud you for calling attention to them. Would you care to discuss this?

There’s so much to discuss, but in short, this stuff happens. At cons, at schools, at workplaces, and more. For a long time, there’s been pressure not to talk about it, but that’s one of the reasons it keeps happening. I’m encouraged by the shift I’ve seen in some areas to say no, we are going to talk about it, we are going to let people know this behavior is not acceptable, and we are going to take steps when and if it happens.

Please give some mention of your work as crisis councilor, especially as the Male Outreach Coordinator at Michigan State University.

I spent a total of about five years volunteering at the Listening Ear crisis center in East Lansing, working on the phone hotline for all kinds of crisis calls, as well as working in (and at one point, helping to coordinate) the sexual assault counseling program. In another position, I worked as the Male Outreach Coordinator for Safe Place, the domestic violence shelter and program at MSU.

A lot of that second position involved outreach and education, talking to men about consent and power and abuse, things a lot of guys may not be that aware of. It’s hard to solve a problem when a large number of people won’t even acknowledge the problem exists.

It was intense work at times, but also very powerful and eye-opening. I certainly learned a lot about the world that I hadn’t seen growing up.

Would you care to share how your work led you to write Goldfish Dreams?

Basically, Goldfish Dreams was a mainstream novel I wrote about rape and recovery, based on some of the things I learned and experienced during my time at Listening Ear. It’s not based on an actual person or anything like that. But it was a way for me to take all of those stories I’d heard and turn them into something I hope is both honest and, ultimately, hopeful.

Do you have anything else in the works you are free to discuss?

A few short stories, and a new three-book humorous SF series I’m writing for DAW (who published my fantasy books).

What motivates or inspires you (not necessarily as regards your writing)?

A sense of wonder, and wanting to share that sense with family, friends, fans, and anyone else who’d like to get some.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

We have a cat who likes to wake me up in the morning by jumping onto the bed and licking my scalp. It’s a bizarre and disturbing way to wake up.

I always conclude each interview with what I call a Lightning Round, because it often yields unexpected insights. Answer as many as you care to in as few words as possible.:

My best friend would tell you I’m a …                  Turtle.

The one thing I cannot do without is:                    Insulin.

The one thing I would change about my life:       Fewer chronic illnesses for me and my family.

My biggest peeve is:                                                 Coconut.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:        Mister Rogers.

Before I provide links to your books and social media, I’m going to insert an excerpt from Revisionary:

 Hearing

of the

Joint Committee on Magical Security

before the

U.S. House of Representatives

and the

U.S. Senate

Chairman: Alexander Keeler

#

U.S. House of Representatives,

Committee on Magical Security

 

 

Derek Vaughn, Louisiana

Tammy Hoeve, Michigan

Timothy Hoffman, Ohio

Anthony Hays, Colorado

Susan Brown, Florida

Elizabeth Garcia, Oklahoma

John Senn, Nevada

 

U.S. Senate,

Committee on Magical Security

 

 

Alexander Keeler, Illinois

Kenneth Tindill, Rhode Island

Mary Pat Clarke, Maryland

Kent Childress, Oregon

#

Testimony and Questioning of Witness Number 18: Isaac Vainio

 

The CHAIRMAN: This hearing will come to order.

It’s my privilege and honor to welcome the members of the Joint Committee on Magical Security, as well as the witnesses who have been called to testify as we help to shape the future of this great nation during this time of worldwide turmoil and conflict.

Mister Vainio, thank you for taking time from your work with New Millennium to join us today.

Mr. VAINIO: Your invitation made it clear I didn’t have a choice.

The CHAIRMAN: Do you affirm that the testimony you will give before this committee is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Mr. VAINIO: Aren’t I supposed to be sworn in on a Bible?

The CHAIRMAN: For security reasons, no books will be permitted in the chamber during your testimony.

Mr. VAINIO: Don’t worry, I’m not about to try libriomancy with a Bible, or any other religious text. Gutenberg might have been able to handle that kind of intensity and belief, but—oh, sorry. Yes, I do so affirm.

The CHAIRMAN: Thank you. You may be seated. Mr. Vainio, would you please—what is that?

Mr. VAINIO: His name is Smudge. He’s a fire-spider. He’s perfectly safe as long as he’s in his cage. Don’t go poking your fingers in there, though. He’s my service animal. My lawyer advised me this was permitted under disability law.

Mr. CHILDRESS: You have a service spider?

Mr. VAINIO: He senses danger. Like Spider-Man. Having him around helps me with some…anxiety issues. It’s been a traumatic few years. I have a letter from my therapist if you’d like to see it.

The CHAIRMAN: That won’t be necessary. For the record, please state your history and current role with the organization known as the Porters.

Mr. VAINIO: I’ve been a member of the Porters—intermittently—for about seven years, working to protect the world from magical threats. I’ve been a cataloguer, field agent, and researcher. Ten months back, I helped to found the New Millennium project in Nevada, where I currently work as Director of Research and Development.

The CHAIRMAN: Ten months. That would be shortly after you announced the existence of magic to the world.

Mr. VAINIO: Correct.

The CHAIRMAN: You constructed New Millennium in the United States. You yourself are an American citizen, born and raised in Michigan. Are you loyal to this country, Isaac?

Mr. VAINIO: How do you mean?

The CHAIRMAN: There are hundreds of you libriomancers scattered throughout the world, and thousands of other creatures. Vampires and merfolk and werewolves and bigfoots and Heaven knows what else. What assurances does this committee have that you won’t turn against the United States of America? How do we prevent people like you from selling your abilities to the highest bidder?

Mr. VAINIO: Maybe you could start by not treating us all like potential criminals and terrorists.

 

Thanks, Jim, for taking the time to tell us about yourself. Those visitors who would like to learn more about Jim or purchase his books can do so here:

Website:         http://www.jimchines.com

Blog:               http://www.jimchines.com/blog/

Twitter:          http://www.twitter.com/jimchines

Facebook:      http://www.facebook.com/jimhines

HARDCOVER: Amazon | B&N | BAMM | Mysterious Galaxy | Schuler Books | Indiebound

EBOOK: Amazon | B&N | BAMM | Kobo | iBooks

AUDIO: Audible.com

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 29 – Interview With Laura Resnick

Last August at Sasquan, at the WordFire Press book launch party for Mike Resnick, the author promised to introduce me to his multi-award-winning daughter, Laura, for an interview. I’m pleased to tell you he’s a man of his word. I was equally pleased to find, after reading her work—something I should have done long ago—that her prose is crisp, compelling and filled with the dry, cutting humor I and many other readers enjoy.

Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, whose releases include Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, Polterheist, The Misfortune Cookie, Abracadaver, and the upcoming Goldzilla. She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made multiple “Year’s Best” lists. She began her career as the award-winning author of fourteen romance novels, written under the pseudonym Laura Leone. An opinion columnist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at LauraResnick.com.

I asked Laura to tell us about her most recent release, Abracadaver, the seventh in the Esther Diamond series. She describes it this way:

R.I.P. = Reanimated, Infernal, and Pretty damn dangerous

Struggling actress Esther Diamond, whose year got off to a rough start (what with incarceration, unemployment, and mystical death curses), finally catches a break when she’s hired to reprise her guest role as prostitute Jilly C-Note on The Dirty Thirty, a TV crime drama about depravity and corruption in the New York Police Department.

Esther’s ex-almost/sometime boyfriend, NYPD’s Detective Connor Lopez, who hates that show with undying passion, vows he’ll never forgive Esther for convincing her narcissistic co-star to add verisimilitude to his performance as a morally bankrupt cop by shadowing Lopez on the job. But Esther’s fellow thespian is her best bet for keeping an eye on Lopez 24/7—and, more to the point, on Lopez’s new partner, Detective Quinn. Esther and her friend Max, a 350-year-old mage whose day job is protecting New York City from Evil, suspect Quinn of being involved in the latest mystical mayhem to menace Manhattan—where corpses suddenly aren’t staying quite as dead as they should.

While Max and Esther try to determine what Quinn’s role is in the supernatural reanimation of the deceased downtown, a part-time mortician courts Esther, and a dangerous foe with deadly intent changes everyone’s dinner plans one cold winter night…

When did you start writing and, more important, when did you know your were a writer?

When I was 24 years old. I read a book called How To Write A Romance and Get It Published by Kathryn Falk (publisher of Romantic Times Magazine), and I thought that writing a short novel about two likeable people who fall in love might be something I could do. So I gave it a try. I got hooked, and as soon as I was done, I started writing the next book, and then the next after that.

A friend, who is a best-selling romance author, has used a pen name throughout her career as an admitted strategy to insure that any success she received was not due to her prominent New York family. When you wrote as Laura Leone at the outset of your career, was this a similar consideration, or was it just a way to keep both genres’ readerships distinct?

Neither.

When I sold my first romance novel to the Harlequin/Silhouette all those years ago, they had just instituted a policy whereby all new writers were required to use a pseudonym when writing for them, and we could never use the pseudonym anywhere else without their permission. Obviously, this meant that if a new writer built a readership while writing for them, she would thereafter face a choice between continuing to write for this company no matter how dissatisfied she was with the terms and payment, or else, upon switching to another publisher, losing her audience by having to start all over under another name. Various individual writers and organizations opposed this policy over the next decade or so, and it was eventually abolished; but back when I first signed with Harlequin/Silhouette, the choice presented to new writers like me was that I could agree to write under an exclusive pseudonym or I could forget about selling books to them. So I took the pen name Laura Leone and sold them about a dozen novels over the next five years. (This wasn’t a tough decision for me, since selling books mattered to me more than what name I used; and when I left, H/S released my pseudonym to me, so I have control of it.)

However, I was still writing for H/S and bound by the terms of that clause back when my dad and the legendary anthologist Marty Greenberg invited me to write a short story for one of their sf/f anthologies. I saw no reason to fight with H/S to try to get the use of my professional name (Laura Leone) for one sole short story in another genre, so I just wrote it under my real name, which seemed simplest. If I had known at the time I would eventually write fantasy novels, I would have chosen a different name, since there has occasionally been some confusion about there being two Resnicks in the genre. (For example, after my first fantasy novel, In Legend Born, was released, I kept hearing that Laura Resnick was Mike Resnick writing under a female pseudonym.)

To what extent has your father nurtured your career and how much has he stood aside? 

Around the time I was writing my 8th romance novel, my dad and the late Marty Greenburg started inviting me to write short stories for some of the anthologies they were producing together. I don’t know whether I’d ever have ventured into sf/f if not for that. It wasn’t something I had my eye on, and I initially just viewed the short stories as a refreshing change of pace from writing romance novels back to back to back. But it led to more sf/f people inviting me into more anthologies, which ultimately led to my writing sf/f novels. Pop subsequently also acquired my travelogue, A Blonde in Africa, for a nonfiction imprint he was editing at the time; it’s a book that might not have gotten published otherwise. Most recently, he asked me to write for his new e‑mag, Galaxy’s Edge, and I recently sent him a story for that, which will appear later this year. So, as an editor, he’s certainly given me plenty of work. Apart from that, he occasionally introduces me to editors (or interviewers!), or tells me about work opportunities, and if we talk business, he gives me advice or feedback based on his decades of experience.

With all that said, please describe your path to publication.

While living in Sicily years ago, I read Kathryn’s Falk’s How To Write A Romance Novel and started working on one. I wrote it by hand in notebooks, then typed it on a manual typewriter. Then I spent 24 hours on a train to Rome, which was where the nearest English-language library was, and got some addresses from a copy of Writer’s Market, so I could start submitting the book proposal to editors and agents via trans-Atlantic mail. All the literary agents I queried turned me down, but a young editorial assistant (with whom I am still in contact) asked me to send her the rest of the book. She was tired of doing office grunt work, and the way to get promoted to an editing position was to find a new writer in the slush pile whose book the company would buy. So she championed my manuscript through the multiple readings involved in acquiring a new writer, keeping me informed by mail. I was back in the US when they finally made an offer on the book the following year, and I published about a dozen books with them over the next five years. And like so many other writers who started there and are having long and busy careers, I learned a lot about my craft at H/S.

No matter an author’s success, I believe there is always the thought of the greater work inside that has yet to emerge. Does that ever nag at you, and what do you do to address it?

What nags at me is the question of whether any of my work will ever become popular enough to make me financially secure.

Coming at this from a different angle, does winning an award, such as the John W. Campbell, serve just to validate your work, or can it leave you daunted—as in, “what do I do now to surpass this?”

An award is very gratifying. It can also be an excellent addition to your résumé.  But I  believe that assigning any more weight than that to an award is illusory. Also counter-productive. If I worried about validation from awards or about how to surpass this-or-that milestone, then I’d freeze with anxiety and couldn’t keep writing book after book after book… which is what a career writer does. And then—GOOD GOD, MAN!—I’d have to go find a job.

Hah! “Who would want to do that?” asked the man with a day job. You’ve postponed Goldzilla, the eighth book in the Esther Diamond series, until later this year. For your eager fans, do you have an ETA?

I didn’t postpone Goldzilla, I just wound up being very, very slow on this one, which happens sometimes. I’ll post the release date front-and-center on my website as soon as I know it.

What do you love most about Esther and what, if anything, about her do you hate?

I love that she’s full of try. Esther is not always enthused about confronting challenges, but she never gives up, quits, chickens out, or freezes. I don’t think I hate anything about her, though I know from readers that there are things about her that exasperate them.

On an entirely different note, I noticed that in 2006 you wrote several articles for the Associated Press while serving in Jerusalem as a journalism intern. That caught my attention, because in 1972 I interviewed for the post of stringer photographer with Marcel Castro and Hal McClure, AP’s bureau chief, at the Mariv Building in Tel Aviv. This compels me to ask, did you write those articles in Hebrew, or were they for AP’s English-speaking audience?

The Associated Press is an American news service and publishes in English. I don’t speak Hebrew, but it didn’t limit me much, since The AP’s work is conducted in English. And since many Israelis speak English, I got sent out on a lot of stories, handled the phones often, and delivered a lot of copy despite not being a Hebrew speaker. (This is an an intern, though. Regular staffers needed to know Hebrew.)

I appears you haven’t abandoned journalism altogether. Will you tell us a little about the op-ed column you write for Nink?

Nink is the monthly journal of Novelists, Inc. (http://ninc.com/), an organization of career novelists. I’m allowed a lot of latitude with my column, so I research and opine on a wide variety of topics related to writing professionally: the Amazon-Hachette negotiations of 2013, the ongoing problems writers are having with reversion clauses in publishing contracts, the HarperCollins lawsuit against Open Road Media, the flow of successful writers leaving traditional publishing to self-publish, the Authors United letter urging the Department of Justice to investigate Amazon.com, imposter syndrome, fan fiction,  ebook pricing, and the pressure on introverted writers to be social media extroverts.

Is there such a thing in your life as a typical day and, if so, how does it unfold?

Not really. I’m always striving for a life in which there is such a thing as a typical day, since I suspect that having more routine and structure would make me more productive.

Would you care to share anything else about your home life?

I volunteer for the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) a small group that does big work—last year alone, we placed 350 cats in adoptive homes, after rescuing them from kill shelters or the street. So my home life includes the 3 madcap cats I adopted, which is how I first encountered C.A.T, as well as whatever kittens or cats I’m fostering at the time. If anyone would like to know more about us, here’s out website (where we welcome donations): http://catadoptionteam.net/. And here’s a link to the eBay site where we auction donated goods to raise funds for our fosters’ medical bills: http://www.ebay.com/usr/catadoptionteam.

I wish more people would care for their neighbors, both human and animal. What you are doing speaks well for you.

I always finish my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, because the answers often provide unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you: I’m honest.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Sleep; if  I go more than 3 nights without enough sleep, I am barely functional.

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d write more prolifically, which would resolve a number of other things I’d like to change.

My biggest peeve is: People who are inconsiderately noisy—drivers who blare their stereos, neighbors who bellow right outside my window, people who talk in the cinema or theatre or opera, people yammering on cell phones in libraries, people thundering up and down hotel corridors at 2am, etc.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is: My friendships. I am very fortunate to have the friends I have.

Thank you, Laura, for agreeing to prticipate in my The Write Stuff interviews. Before we close, here is an excerpt from Abracadaver, after which, those of you who would enjoy learning more about Laura Resnick or would like to purchase her books will find the appropriate links.

Abracadaver coverExcerpt from Abracadaver, the 7th Esther Diamond novel, by Laura Resnick

Actress Esther Diamond questions a colleague who’s shadowing an NYPD cop whom Esther and her friend Max suspect is involved in mystical mayhem.

While Nolan had been talking, Max had been scribbling on a notepad in his elegant, archaic handwriting. Now he pushed his notes over to me. I saw he’d made a list of questions he wanted me to ask Nolan.

I read them, then gave Max an uncertain look. He nodded encouragingly. So I sighed and dived in.

“So,” I said into my cell phone, “have you guys entered any churches or houses of worship today?”

“No,” said the actor. “Well, not yet.”

“Does Detective Quinn appear to avoid them?”

“Huh?” Nolan sounded puzzled. “No. We just haven’t had any reason to—”

“Does he exhibit any ritual behaviors?”

“He chews on a pen sometimes. He says it became a habit when he quit smoking.”

Probably not the sort of ritual Max meant.

“Have you observed him encountering any dogs or other animals?”

“No. Not many people are out walking their pets in this weather. Why?”

“Has he appeared violent or menacing at any point today?” I asked as casually as possible.

“Uh, no . . . but that’s something I’d like to see. It could give me some background i—”

“Have you noticed any odd smells or odors in his presence?”

“What kind of odors?” Nolan sounded perplexed.

I made a gesture to Max indicating I needed more information, then I read what he quickly jotted down. “Excrement? Rotting flesh?”

“What?”

“Sulfur? Decay? Putrescence?”

No.” Nolan added, “Jesus, Esther, I’m eating.”

I moved on to the next question. “Have you observed any peculiar changes in his eyes?”

“Whoa, does Quinn have a drug problem or something? Is that what you’re getting at?”

“I’m just worried about him,” I said, which was not entirely untrue. “He, um, doesn’t look after himself.”

“Yeah, that’s obvious. Have you seen his posture? It’s no wonder he talks about aches and pains. I should make him an appointment with my chiropractor.”

“He talks about aches and pains?” I prodded, meeting Max’s gaze.

“Yeah—in fact, about an hour ago, he kind of doubled over for a few seconds when he got this stabbing pain in his stomach. I think something’s wrong with his appendix. But, you know, that could be referred pain from his heart. My cardiac doctor tells me—”

I held the phone away from my ear as Nolan prattled on, and I relayed this information to Max, who looked gratified.

“Recurrent, unexplained pain like that is another common sign of demonic presence,” Max said, keeping his voice low. “The evidence is mounting to the inescapable conclusion that Detective Quinn is oppressed.”

“Oppressed?” When Max started to explain, I said, “Wait, not now. Is there anything else you want me to ask Nolan?”

“Find out where they are now,” Max instructed. “This could be an opportunity for us to confront Quinn.”

When I held the phone to my ear again, Nolan was still talking about cardiac stuff. I interrupted him. “You said you’re having dinner? Where are you righ—”

“Whoops, not any more,” said Nolan. “Quinn is waving at me to get up and come to the register. I guess we’re paying and leaving.”

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“A funeral in Chinatown.”

“What?” I blurted.

“It’s for that tong boss who flew off a balcony last week.”

“You’re going to Joe Ning’s wake?” I asked shrilly.

Max’s eyes widened and our gazes met.

Chen’s Funeral Home. Quinn. And a body in a casket.

The last time Quin had visited Chen’s, a corpse suddenly climbed out of its coffin.

“This is gonna be great,” Nolan enthused. “Loads of texture, a tong boss’s wake, authentic underworld characters . . . Jackpot.”

“Nolan, listen to me very carefully,” I said. “You mustn’t let—”

“Gotta go, Esther.”

I sighed heavily and set down my phone in frustration when I realized he’d ended the call.

“So that’s what it wants,” Max said, rising to his feet.

I rose, too, and followed him to the coat hooks by the door. He started donning his heavy outerwear. I grabbed my coat, since I gathered we were going to Chen’s Funeral Home now.

“Max, I still don’t understand. What exactly does the entity want?”

“It wants a cadaver!”

“A corpse?” I said with a frown. “A dead body?”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “That game is afoot!”

* * *

Website: http://lauraresnick.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laura.resnick.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaResnick

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Laura-Resnick/e/B000AP8KXO

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 15 – Interview With Jason Fry

PORTjasonfry_084 4%22x6%22If you are a Star Wars fan, you already know that the release of Star Wars – The Force Awakens makes 2016 a milestone year. Die-hards, however, know full well that Star Wars has never gone away except, perhaps, on the silver screen. This week’s guest, Jason Fry, is one reason why. He has written more than 30 books and short stories set in the Star Wars galaxy, as well as The Jupiter Pirates, a young-adult space fantasy series. He also co-writes Faith and Fear in Flushing, which is a blog about the New York Mets. He spent more than 12 years at the online arm of The Wall Street Journal, serving as a columnist, editor, and blogs guru, among other things. Besides fiction, he writes about sports, music, genealogy, travel, history and anything else that interests him.

While The Write Stuff normally focuses on a single work by an author—occasionally two—because Jason’s work is so varied, we’ve chosen to discuss three: Rey’s Survival Guide, The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections, and The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra.

Please tell us something about each of these.

I had two books come out on the same day, which was kind of fun—Rey’s Survival Guide and The Force Awakens: Incredible Cross-Sections were both “day and date” books tied to the theatrical release of the new Star Wars movie.

tfa-csFor Incredible Cross-Sections I supplied the words to accompany Kemp Remillard’s gorgeous cutaway illustrations of vehicles from the movie. That seems like a fairly straightforward assignment, but the real work to be done was figuring out what the focus of that material should be. I decided it should be context for those vehicles’ roles in the Star Wars galaxy. What were they built to do, and how were they modified from that purpose? How had their designs evolved? Or, in the case of a specific craft like the Millennium Falcon, how had various owners changed them?

I found that approach more interesting than a hard-science engineering deep dive. For one thing, Kemp’s illustrations and the labels had already checked that box pretty effectively. But beyond that, Star Wars is fundamentally fantasy, not hard sci-fi, and while that kind of detail is satisfying to a certain subset of Star Wars fans, I think ultimately it’s not the best fit for the saga.

rsgRey’s Survival Guide is a manual for surviving on Jakku, written in Rey’s voice. I enjoyed that project because it was a unique way to try and tell a story. We didn’t want a diary or memoir – though Rey does recount some of the events of The Force Awakens. But at the same time, we wanted the reader to get a sense of Rey as a person and of how her odd upbringing had shaped her. So the challenge was to tell a story “between the lines,” if you will.

 

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing them and how did you overcome it?

I’ll go back to Rey’s Survival Guide, since I think I’ve summed up Incredible Cross-Sections pretty well. A lot of the challenges with that book stemmed from the unavoidable fact that I had to write it before seeing the movie.

You get a sense of a character from the script, the description, images and what the character does as the plot unfolds, of course. Those things were helpful. But that’s not the entirety of a character—not by a long shot. Rey’s a wonderful character—my favorite Star Wars character since Han Solo—but so much of what we’ve responded to about her comes from Daisy Ridley’s remarkable performance. And I couldn’t draw on that to write the book.

Now couple that with the fact that Rey has, essentially, no backstory. We don’t know who her parents were or where she came from. She doesn’t know who they were or where she came from. She’s not just a blank slate but an erased one—a cipher to us and to herself.

That was difficult, but it was a challenge I warmed to precisely because it was so difficult. So I looked for ways to give the reader a sense of who Rey was by how she reacted to things, by how she discussed people and places and objects in her life, and by figuring out what she wouldn’t talk about.

Fortunately, I had some help. The folks at Lucasfilm who had seen the movie were able to help steer the book in the right direction, and I’m grateful to them. But I still had my fingers crossed when I finally got to sit down in the theater—and two hours later I breathed a sigh of relief that the Rey I’d written fit the Rey I’d seen on-screen.

That would certainly have been a nail-biter. What other novels have you written?

For openers, there’s Servants of the Empire, a four-book series of young-adult novels tied to the Star Wars: Rebels TV series. That series follows Zare Leonis, who’s a minor character on the show. Zare and his sister Dhara are both loyal supporters of the Empire, but Dhara vanishes from the Imperial Academy on Lothal. The Empire says she deserted, but Zare doesn’t believe that – and he learns the Empire kidnapped her. But why? He decides to enter the Academy himself to find out what happened to Dhara and save her if he can.

I don’t just write Star Wars—I’m also the author of the Jupiter Pirates young-adult space-fantasy series from HarperCollins. Jupiter Pirates is set in the 29th century, when Earth’s colonies in the outer solar system have broken away and are in a state of cold war with the mother planet. The series follows the adventures of the Hashoones, a family of pirates turned privateers who are based on Jupiter’s moon Callisto.

The Hashoones operate their pirate ship as a family – the mother is the captain, the father is the first mate, and the three children are midshipmen. They have to cooperate, working together as a crew under dangerous conditions, but they’re also competitors—the captaincy of the family ship is passed down from one generation to the next, but only one sibling can be captain.

The first book in the Jupiter Pirates series, Hunt for the Hydra, came out in December 2013. The second one, Curse of the Iris, is out in hardcover and comes out in paperback in May. The third book, The Rise of Earth, will be out in June. And there will be two more to come!

What else are you working on?

Unfortunately, I can’t talk about the Star Wars books I’m working on now because they haven’t been announced by Lucasfilm or their publishers. But I’m pretty excited about them and hope readers will be too.

I’m also working on a Jupiter Pirates short story that I’ll put up for free on jupiterpirates.com as soon as it’s ready. And I keep playing with ideas for some big, ambitious novels I’d love to get to. I’m busy, which can be exhausting but is a lot better than the alternative when you’re a professional writer.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Depends on how many balls I have in the air at one time, how close I am to deadline, etc. Some days are a relatively measured march forward, while others are defined only by when I’ll have to collapse into bed and sleep for a few hours. (It’s best not to have too many days like those.)

I usually wake up by answering email, scanning the news and seeing what’s new on my frequented sites. I like to start writing by mid-morning and write until my kid gets home and finishes his homework and/or my wife comes home. How much I get done during that time depends wildly on what the project is and how well-defined it is in my head. I once wrote a 30,000-word novella in four days. I’m proud to say I did it; I also hope I never have to do it again.

Hah! I’ve produced a lot, but that tops everything. Do you create an outline before you write?

Yes. And I am a HUGE convert to outlining and/or writing a treatment first – planning instead of plunging.

Writers should find a process that works for them instead of following someone else’s blueprint. But having worked both ways, I’ll definitely evangelize for planning. My treatments are really detailed – sometimes too detailed – but there are huge benefits to that.

Most importantly, outlines/treatments will let you see plot holes, false starts, sagging character arcs, overly complicated narratives and the like before you plunge into writing the book itself. If you go down a wrong path, it’s a lot less painful to discover that on page 4 of a story treatment than on page 140 of a manuscript.

The other benefit is that because I write really detailed treatments and road-test them with editors and trusted readers, I can usually write the actual book very quickly. That four-day sprint I mentioned above could not have happened without all the work that had happened first.

Last bit of preaching: I think some writers dislike and/or fear treatments because they feel they’re straitjackets. But they’re not—they’re blueprints for the house, not the house itself. I’ve never had a book come out exactly like its treatment, and that’s good. You always change your mind about some things, see different possibilities, etc. The difference, to me, is that a treatment makes those zig-zags easier to navigate and results in a better book. You’re making improvements on the fly instead of improvising fixes.

Why do you write?

When I was a kid I told everybody I was going to be the starting shortstop for the New York Mets. When I turned out to have no athletic ability whatsoever, writing was my reluctant Plan B.

Ha ha. (Though that’s true.) I’ve always loved thinking up stories and sharing them with other people. Writing lets you dream onto the page, and sometimes what you come up with resonates with people who picked up your book. Which is really pretty miraculous, if you think about it.

Sometimes I wish I was a financial wizard, a genius programmer or something more lucrative and stable than being a writer. But I’m not wired for any of those things—I’m wired for dreaming up stories and sharing them as best I can.

And you know what? I know financial wizards and genius programmers, and they say: “It’s so cool that you get to write Star Wars.” And they’re right. I’m insanely lucky and I try not to forget that.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve gotten much better at streamlining and strengthening plots and at being true to the characters in my stories. Some of that has come from working with superb, generous storytellers and editors at Lucasfilm, Disney, HarperCollins and other places. But it’s also come from simply putting in the work. I’m a better writer now than I was two years ago, let alone twenty, in part because I’m older and I’ve lived more, but also because I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words in that time.

What is the single most powerful challenge when it comes to writing a novel?

Putting your butt in your seat and doing it. It is so much easier to not write than it is to write. There are errands to run, papers to organize, household stuff to clean, plans to make, mental rabbit holes to disappear down—all of which suddenly become urgent when it’s just you and a blank page. And we haven’t even mentioned the Internet, that marvelous and terrible curiosity/procrastination machine.

One thing that helps me is I spent years as a working journalist, with deadlines as clear and present dangers. If you’ve got a story due at 5, the paper isn’t going to hold the presses because the muse hasn’t flitted down to alight on your shoulder and whisper into your ear. You do the best you can with what you have and get the work done—and then you do the same thing again the next day. That was excellent training for when I was finally ready to write fiction.

Yes, you need inspiration to create good work. But the inspiration emerges from doing the work. We all want an idea to arrive fully formed and then bring it to happy fruition, but that rarely if ever happens. You have to fight for it. All that writing advice about summoning the muse is well-intentioned, but I suspect it does writers more harm than good. Waiting for the muse is a recipe for talking about writing instead of writing. If you’re going to succeed as a writer, you have to be your own muse.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m out of shape despite the fact that my desk is 20 feet from a treadmill. This is a problem that I need to address, not so I look better in my clothes (though that would be nice) but so I produce better work.

Writing is mental exercise, yes, but that exercise takes a physical toll. I find when I’m in good physical shape that I am able to put in a longer writing day, I’m more disciplined during that day, and my writing and storytelling are both sharper. And yet this is a lesson I’m constantly having to relearn, because exercise is the first thing I jettison when I get overburdened, stressed, etc.

I don’t mean you have to run five miles a day or have a six-pack or a certain BMI—that’s not it at all. But I think the writing life is more physical than we imagine and writers would do well to remember it. Starting with me!

That’s an interesting perspective and it has me eyeing my elliptical. What motivates or inspires you?

The world is just an amazing place. It can be horrifying and depressing and infuriating, yes, but it can also be astonishing and inspiring and heartbreakingly beautiful. In all those cases, it’s because the world is full of stories.

Here’s an exercise I like to do as part of school visits: I take a copy of that day’s newspaper (an actual physical copy), tear it into single pages and pass those out to the kids. Then I tell them to find something on whatever page they have—even if it’s the classifieds—and use it as a jumping-off point for a story. Give what they read a twist, or let one thought lead to another, and come up with something. Inevitably, they dream up great things—surprising and wonderful stories.

You can do that just walking down the street. Keep your eyes and ears open and be curious and ask yourself questions and you’ll come home with more story ideas than you can ever be able to write.

How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

You just keep going, I suppose.

When I get low, I remember that everything ever written has had its rabid detractors, that every writer has written things that didn’t work, and that we’re all fallible and make mistakes—some of them ones we’ll brood about forever. It can feel like you’re the only one that’s happened to, but it happens to all of us.

There are people who think To Kill a Mockingbird is a terrible book. There are Coen Brothers movies that don’t work. And everyone has some ill-advised remark or teenage humiliation or missed opportunity that haunts them when it’s 4 a.m. and they can’t sleep. You feel alone in these things but you’re not.

Just keep going. Learn from your mistakes as best you can. Accept that you’ll make more mistakes, vow to correct them, and forgive yourself for them. Know that luck plays a role in things and you can’t control that. And then get on with it. It’s all you can do.

Do you have any pet projects?

I make custom baseball cards. Not for stars, but for the marginal players who never got a card, or who played briefly for one team but only got a card with some other team. I make them to look as much as possible like the actual cards of a given year, down to the photos and the design and the stats on the back and the little accentuate-the-positive facts about the players.

When I make one of those that’s authentic enough, I get a little moment where I can be taken by surprise and think it’s “real”—that someone really made, say, a Benny Ayala card in 1976, and I just never got one buying packs at the drugstore or trading cards during recess.

That makes me really happy, in ways I struggle to articulate. I suppose it makes me feel like in a ridiculously small way I’ve made the universe a more ordered and complete place—more like it should be. I find that soothing. And even though sometimes I’m aghast at the time I didn’t spend writing, I think it’s good that to work different creative muscles.

Thank you so much, Jason, for taking the time to drop by. Before I share an excerpt from Hunt for Hydra, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a … stubborn, infuriating SOB. But one who’s got your back.

The one thing I cannot do without is: Baseball

The one thing I would change about my life: I’d have my hair back or the higher metabolism of my youth. I’ll take either, thanks.

My biggest peeve is: Winter. The northeastern U.S. is a 400-year-old scam. We should all move to California.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: I’m not wired to ever feel truly comfortable or happy and I’m learning to accept that. Sounds like a weird thing to be satisfied with, but I’ve wasted so much time trying to change it, and I have better things to do.

Excerpt from The Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra:

jp1The firing ahead of them had stopped. Tycho looked at his schematic and realized this was where Carlo’s group had gotten lost. He turned on his lamp and saw they were in a narrow room with two ladder wells instead of the maze of passageways shown on the schematic. Pistols and a knife were spinning slowly through the air.

Tycho signaled to the retainers, and they kicked with their hands and feet until they reached the wall, where they locked on to the metal, the magnets in their gloves clicking faintly. They shut off the lamps and began to work their way around the perimeter of the room in the darkness, lifting their hands and feet one at a time and clanking along the wall.

“I think I know what modifications they made,” Yana said over Tycho’s headset. “In about five meters you should reach a short passageway leading to the quarterdeck.”

“Tycho, Ironhawk’s boarding party has entered the Hydra,” Diocletia said in his ear.

The members of the boarding party reached the spot Yana had told them to aim for, but instead of the emptiness of a passageway, their fingers found the outline of a sealed door. Tycho and four retainers—Higgs, Tully, Croke, and Laney—turned on their lamps and took up positions on either side of the door, with the last retainer, Chin, clinging to the ceiling like a spider. They shut off the lights, and Tycho thumbed the door control. Nothing happened.

“Break it down, Mr. Croke,” he said.

“Tycho!” Yana said urgently. “Dad says another gang of Hydras got behind them—they’re headed your way!”

Tycho spun, lifting his gloves off the walls too quickly. His upper body began to float, and he hurriedly felt for the wall again. He pulled out his earpiece and could hear yelling. The voices were getting closer.

“Enemy coming at us!” Tycho yelled. “Look to your rear! Tully, shut off that cursed light!”

A laser bolt struck high on the wall near Chin, dazzling Tycho’s eyes. He heard the thump of the Hydras kicking off the walls of the passageway to hurl themselves through the air in zero gravity, screaming as they came. Another laser blast gouged the decking below Tycho’s feet.

Just like the simulator, Tycho reminded himself, trying to force himself to breathe. But of course it wasn’t anything like the simulator. Wounds here were real, and those who died stayed dead.

“There’s too many—they’ll gun us down!” Higgs screamed, firing his carbine at the oncoming pirates. His eyes were huge and wild. In the sudden light from the shots, Tycho saw Chin windmilling his arms, trying to reestablish contact with the wall. Tully was fumbling for his blaster.

“Higgs! Chin! Tully!” Tycho yelled. “Stand your ground! STAND YOUR GROUND! You are Comets, men, and you will defend crew and country!”

Tycho drew his pistol, reaching behind him to press the magnets in the glove on his free hand against the wall. Short, controlled bursts, he thought.

Then the pirates were among them, screaming and firing. Flashes of laser fire lit up the darkness, giving Tycho crazy, jumbled glimpses of Comets and pirates firing, yelling, tumbling away from the walls. Carbines cracked and thudded, and a spear of laser light zipped by Tycho’s ear, close enough to scorch his skin and fill his nostrils with the smell of burning hair. Someone smashed into him, sending him spinning in the zero gravity, and he fumbled for the wall, his pistol jerking in his hand as he fired again and again, screaming at the top of his lungs.

Then Croke was gripping his shoulder, mouth close to his ear.

“Easy, Master Hashoone,” he said soothingly. “It’s done.”

Croke had turned his headlamp on. Five of Mox’s pirates were still and silent, floating through the air. So was Chin, hand still clutched to his throat, eyes empty. Higgs was hugging his arm to his side, teeth bared in a grimace.

“Tyke!” Yana was yelling in his ear. “What’s happening?”

“We lost Chin, but we’re all right,” Tycho said, gasping for breath.

“Acknowledged,” Diocletia said. “You need to keep moving.”

Tycho shut his eyes for a moment, trying to force his hands to stop shaking.

“Aye-aye,” he said. “Proceeding to the quarterdeck. Mr. Croke, I need this door open.”

For those of you who would like to learn more about Jason Fry or purchase his books, you may do so though the following links:

 Jason Fry’s Dorkery (his term, not mine): http://jasonfry.tumblr.com

Twitter: @jasoncfry https://twitter.com/jasoncfry

Jupiter Pirates official site: http://jupiterpirates.com

Faith and Fear in Flushing: http://faithandfearinflushing.com

 

Book Buy Links: 

RSG: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0794435696/

Cross-Sections: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1465438157/

Hunt for the Hydra: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062230212/

The Write Stuff – Monday, February 1 – Interview With Michaelbrent Collings

MbSeriousMediumEveryone dreams of becoming a best-selling Indie author, but very few make it, let alone to the very top of the heap. That is why I am particularly pleased to have been introduced to this week’s truly gifted and definitely prodigious writer, Michaelbrent Collings, who—for the moment—has stepped away from his usual works of horror to write a YA epic fantasy, The Sword Chronicles.

Michaelbrent Collings is an international bestseller and one of the top indie horror writers in the U.S. He writes horror, sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, and YA and middle-grade books. He is also a produced screenwriter who has written movies for Hollyweird, though in his dark and painful moments he admits he has never “done lunch” or engaged the services of a waxer. Larry Correia, New York Times bestselling author of Monster Hunter International and Son of the Black Sword, has this to say about Mr. Collings latest work, “Epic fantasy meets superheroes, with lots of action and great characters. The Sword Chronicles is dark yet hopeful, and very entertaining. Collings is a great storyteller.”

Michaelbrent describes his book this way:

She is a Dog – one of the many children and teens across the empire of Ansborn who have been sentenced to fight in the arenas. There they fight in battle after battle until they die for the sport of the people of Ansborn – an empire built atop the peaks of five mountains.

But one day she picks up a knife… and everything changes.

She discovers she is a Greater Gift – one of a handful of magic users with powers so great they have only two choices: to join the Empire as one of its premier assassins, or die as a threat to the Empire itself.

She is no longer a Dog. Now, she is Sword. And she will soon realize that in this Empire, not all is what it seems. Good and evil collide, and she can never be sure whom to trust – not even herself.

She holds life in her hands for some. Brings death by her blade to others.

She is a killer.
She is a savior.

That is one compelling lead-in. Will you tell us something more?

It’s an epic fantasy about a young woman who is raised to be a Dog – one of many teens and children all over the Empire of Ansborn who fight in an arena, over and over with no hope of release. One day she discovers she has a magic power granted to one in a million people in the Empire, and she has to choose between a life as an assassin for the Empire, or a life as a revolutionary fighting to overthrow it. It’s a tough choice, because the people she loves and admires the most are her fellow assassins, but she grows to understand the Empire might not be the good thing she has been taught it is. It’s a lot of fun, because I don’t just like to write books where the bad guys have redemptive qualities, I like to write books where you really aren’t sure who the bad guys are for most of the read.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

My need to eat. This is my job, so before I write anything there’s a pretty strict vetting process to figure out if there’s an audience for it, and if the audience will react strongly to this particular idea. In this case, both were a yes, so boom.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I had a narrow window to write it. It clocks in at something like 140,000 words, and I finished it in three weeks. I usually write very fast, but this was pushing it a bit. And how did I overcome it? I slept very little and was very cranky every day.

What other novels have you written?

That’s a short question with a long answer. I’ve written close to 40 novels in the last five years. Some of the popular ones are The Haunted (paranormal horror), The Loon (monstery goodness), The Colony Saga (a zombie apocalypse that moves so fast and hard it would give Michael Bay a heart attack), RUN (sci-fi thriller), and – of course – The Sword Chronicles: Child of the Empire

Tell us about your path to publication.

Ha! I wrote a book called RUN and shopped it to literally every publishing house and agency in the U.S. And if you had rolled me into their offices covered in gold dust, they wouldn’t have touched me. A few months after the last rejection, I put the book up on Kindle (“Hey! It can’t hurt anyone, right?”). A few months after that, it was the top-selling horror and sci-fi title on Amazon, and one of the top hundred products in the Kindle store. Not just books, but products. Out of all the blogs, crosswords, etc. etc. blah blah blah, RUN was in the top hundred. This did me the huge disservice of convincing me I knew what I was doing, so I wrote fifteen more books and had nothing like the same success. It took about twenty books before I started making serious money (i.e., enough to live on).

Happily (hence the “Ha!” at the beginning of this), I’ve fielded offers by numerous traditional publishing houses since then… and had to turn them down because I’m making more money on my own than they can offer me.

Good for you! Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work?

I’m actually a screenwriter as well as a novelist. Several of my scripts have been produced (and, through the magic of Hollywood, amazing scripts were turned into meh movies), and I’ve been reviewed and/or featured by everything from mom-and-pop blogs to The San Francisco Book Review to NPR. To my knowledge, only three or four (out of many dozens) pro reviewers have given my books the thumbs down, which is nice.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

Nope. Well, I’m a husband and a father, but if I call either of those a “job,” my lovely wife wails on me with dirty diapers until I recant.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I am deeply in love. I have a wife I adore, and who has inexplicably stayed with me for over a decade of marriage. I have kids who inspire me – both to do better and to be better – and who constantly make me laugh. I am a blessed guy, and will be such whether I’m a world-famous writer or a guy who digs latrines with his mouth.

What motivates or inspires you?

I could say it’s my family, and that would be true. I could say it was the enjoyment I feel when creating, and that would be true.

Both are nice. How do you pick yourself up in the face of adversity?

I could say it’s my family, and that would be true. I could say it was the enjoyment I feel when creating, and that would be true.

But let’s be honest here: some days it’s all about the Diet Coke.

What has been your greatest success in life?

Continuing to live. Which (for once!) isn’t a silly answer. I have major depressive disorder with psychotic breaks and suicidal tendencies. Some days it’s not about word count, it’s about the number of breaths I manage to take. And in my coherent moments, I understand that breathing in every time I breathe out is quite enough of an achievement – and one to be proud of.

Before I share some of your writing with our visitors, I’d like to conclude with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … … love machine.

The one thing I cannot do without is: … my ability to shoot lasers out of my left eye.

The one thing I would change about my life: … the fact that I can only shoot Gummi Bears out of my right eye.

My biggest peeve is: … people who ask what my biggest peeve is (HOW DARE YOU!)

Thank you, Michaelbrent, for taking the time to share something about yourself and your writing. For those who would like to learn more about this author or purchase his books, I have provided links for you to do so right after the excerpt below:

Here, for your enjoyment, is an excerpt from The Sword Chronicles:

SwordChronicles433x653 The girl woke from the Dream of the Man and the Woman, and she woke as she always did: boot and water.

Many people curled in as the boot kicked them, tried to avoid the water.

These were the ones who would die fast.

The girl had learned quickly. Had learned that if you curled in around the boot it didn’t hurt any less, but it meant you weren’t face up to receive the water. A bucketful to the face, and if you kept your mouth open you could drink. She guessed that that water was fully a tenth part of what she would get each day. And it was clean. Water they were given in the trough was often foul, muddied with clouds of dirt and perhaps worse.

But the water that woke them… it tasted good.

We won’t waste bad water on torture. No, never that.

That it was a torture there could be no doubt. Because all was torture for those in the kennels. All was death for the Dogs.

Trainer walked among them, being handed bucket after bucket by Assistant, dropping a bucket on each of the twenty or so Dogs that slept in this kennel.

“Get up, Dogs!” he shouted. “Another beautiful day to die!”

I won’t die today, thought the girl. But she gave no voice to the thoughts.

There was no point. Speaking never brought anything but pain.

A good Dog was silent unless spoken to. And even then, silence was often best.

The girl stood. Stretched. Never could tell when a fight was coming, so it was best to be loose.

“Get up!” Trainer shouted. He was a beefy man, thick in the middle, with broad scars that crisscrossed his chest and back. The girl wondered – not for the first time – if Trainer had once been a Dog. And told herself – not for the first time – to get that thought out of her head. It was implicit hope. It was the idea that she might one day leave this place.

But there was only one way to leave this place. And she refused to leave that way.

I’ll stay forever – I’ll die – if it comes to that.

“I said, get up!” Trainer’s voice, never far from a roar, now rose to a shriek.

A moan came from a small pile of skin and bone, seemingly bound together only by the loose rags that passed for clothing in the kennel. Trainer prodded the pile with his foot. Another moan. But no motion.

Trainer gestured. Assistant – as wiry and thin as Trainer was thick and muscular – held out a sword.

The girl looked away. She knew what was next. Had seen it before. Had no wish to see it again.

There was the particular noise of sword cleaving flesh. A gurgle.

The pile of rags and skin and bone had refused to get up. And a Dog who resisted training, who refused orders, would earn no coin and was good for nothing.

Trainer tossed water on the next Dog. Some of it washed the blood on the floor toward the drain set in the middle of the kennel. That drain was where they pushed their nightsoils, the rare bits of food that were too rotten to eat.

And it had drunk its fill of blood. As it had done before, and as it would do again.

“Rise and shine,” shouted Trainer as the last Dog – the last still-living

Dog – struggled to his feet. “It’s another love-er-ly day!”

He laughed.

The blood had washed away.

The day was begun.

As promised, here are Michaelbent’s social links:

Website: http://michaelbrentcollings.com

Writing Advice Blog: http://michaelbrentcollings.com/writingadvice.html

Facebook Fanpage: http://facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings

Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/mbcollings

Book online sales links:

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Sword-Chronicles-Child-Empire-ebook/dp/B018X2H2F2/

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-sword-chronicles-michaelbrent-collings/1123092008?ean=2940157845506

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-sword-chronicles-child-of-the-empire

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1064756171

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/292129494/The-Sword-Chronicles-Child-of-the-Empire

Oyster: https://www.oysterbooks.com/book/E6dS9NrwAtcPmTPX6Mb72T/the-sword-chronicles-child-of-the-empire

Paperback: https://www.createspace.com/5915037