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, November 23 – Interview With Will Hahn

Will Hahn is one of many authors I’ve had the privilege to meet through the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network. Among them, his writing stands out as especially crisp and refined. Will has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will 6 web-FSFWill didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). His current epic is Judgement’s Tale; part one, Games of Chance, part two Strength of Conviction and part three, Reunion of Souls came out in 2014. Part four, Clash of Wills, was released on May 1, 2015.

I asked Will to give us a sense what Clash of Wills is about. He described it this way:

As the heavenly portents align, a mystic portal to the Hopeward opens again, letting a few goodly souls enter the prison where a comrade was marooned and evil beyond measure has laid a trap. For the heroes, it is not enough to uncover danger—wit and skill can carry them to its presence, but resolve and sacrifice are needed to defeat it. If it can be defeated. The challenge is often to choose one wrong over another, to accept the consequences when only the one prize most dear can be saved.

Treaman and his adventuring party discover just how quickly fame and fortune evaporate, once back in the clutches of the Percentalion; three miserable refugees of that chaos-cursed land will die unless the star-gazing preacher Alaetar can beat back the monsters at their heels.

And Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, faces an undead thane of ancient times; he must decide whether the only friends he has ever found will live, or if the Lands will again suffer the curse of Despair when facing the… Clash of Wills

Can you tell us a bit more about it?

In “Judgement’s Tale” the fate of the entire Lands of Hope falls into the path of a lone, determined orphan youth from beyond its borders. The liche Wolga Vrule has been plotting his escape for centuries, after which he will conquer the Percentalion,  Hope’s central kingdom. Vrule has an Earth Demon, Kog on his side, and has laid his traps with care. Solemn Judgement, on the other hand, is an orphan youth brought to this strange land by his father who died as they hit the shore. He studied long and hard without any guidance from his hosts; they took pains to hide his true power from him. Judgement simply wants to do the right thing by his friends, though this quest looked perilous from the start even in their ignorance of the true threat. But really, what chance could he have…

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

In chronicling this tale, I came to realize that events happening many leagues away, involving another group of heroes, were actually part of the story. So I wrote them in and at first all was well. The last third of the book, however, covers events occurring in several distant places, all on the same night of the year (more precisely, the same thirty-six hour period). I found it very hard to arrange the chapters to my liking, but thanks to the wizardry of word processing I could shuffle them like cards until I found the order I wanted. It was hard work, but in the end very satisfying.

What other novels have you written?

The focus of my chronicles to date has been around the start of the Age of Adventure, which sages put somewhere between 1995-1996 ADR (the calendar of the Lands of Hope). That’s when the events of Judgement’s Tale take place, and the actions of Solemn Judgement among others cause the end of the Age of Emptiness preceding it. My other chronicles to date have looked at the years 2001 and 2002 ADR: the former in The Plane of Dreams and the latter in the Shards of Light series (of which I have two novellas written to date). I also have smaller tales available today (referring to events in the earlier days of legend), and a free Compendium of information about the Lands on my website for those who like to geek out on the details.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I have two immediate projects. The sequel to Judgement’s Tale which concludes the saga of the Percentalion is The Eye of Kog, and I am drafting on that like a madman. I also have begun the third book of the Shards of Light series, called Perilous Embraces, which is probably the toughest challenge I’ve had since I began to chronicle this world. Both are about halfway done, but the former is twice as long so it’s getting the attention right now.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

Almost everything in the Alleged Real World is a threat, frankly. Time demands come from everywhere, the home-office is full of noise, and I am easily distracted.

But far and away the biggest danger is cats. We have five right now (I blame my lovely wife), and they take turns jumping in my lap. There are days at a stretch where nothing gets done. It’s an epic struggle, I assure you!

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

Finding the time. That towers over every other consideration, and it comes down to lack of discipline (which I dress up with a lot of “trusting my muse” nonsense). If I peck away for five minutes, tops, I find myself writing rather smoothly at least 90% of the time and I’m in the groove. And what comes off the keyboard is pretty polished, in the right order, etc. most of that time. Very rarely—as recently with my WiP—do I hit a rough patch where the writing is really slow. It’s just that I don’t get back to it. But even at worst, the story sits and gels waiting for me to return. Put another way, it’s always on my mind.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I am a day-job dilettante, able to work from home on a flexible schedule which is a great blessing. I can crab all I want about slow progress on the chronicling, but that other job pays the bills. And since my daughter was home-schooled, the three of us have been together the whole time which is a great treasure. She’s off to college this fall, but still living at home! We stick with a winner around here.

Describe a typical day.

I’m up at 4:30 AM. Not because I’m an early riser, but because those darn cats will just start ripping furniture if they’re not fed. Then a quiet time until around 8, when I tackle the most urgent tasks at work and perhaps slip in some writing. The middle of the day is very choppy—homeschool is a misnomer, you need to drive all over for this lesson, that tutoring, etc. I also try to get up and walk around a bit so I don’t turn into that guy at the end of the evolution chart, the one marked “something went wrong”. In the evening, the ladies like to see reality shows and contests, while I sometimes sneak off to peck away some more. If I get my way, I go to bed absurdly early. But then I read.

I am the servant of a couple of cats and they have their own schedule as well. What motivates or inspires you, not necessarily as regards your writing?

It’s always been heroism that draws me. I don’t read the paper when some dope set a building on fire—I wait for the article a week later where they catch him. I love sports because the exertion and determination echoes heroic quality (and we all make heroes of sports stars, don’t we, and even movie stars). My taste in film, TV, and books all leans that way, and it was all I looked for when I studied history. Why stick your neck out? How many people against you is too many? What makes folks persevere (and how can I get me some of that)?

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

Simple, I compare to those around me. I live in a house with two cancer survivors. So the next time I fall behind on a project for work, or my shoulder hurts, or I wish I had enough money to buy something but don’t… it takes maybe three seconds to realize how good I’ve got it. The worst day always ends, and if my lovely wife and miracle daughter can do it, so can I.

Do you have any pet projects?

2015 is the Year of Local Presence for me. I have books coming out in paper now, thanks to my awesome publisher Katharina Gerlach. I toured the local library to give seminars, and there’s a book fair coming up. If I break in to the local papers or radio, I’ll consider it a true success (they’ve been hard!). Outside of that, I always have audiobooks to do (I love speaking the chronicles myself, and started on the second book in Shards of Light but need to get back to it). Not sure I can refer to the upcoming books in my mind (two novels and two novellas) as “projects”, more like “sentences”! But I’ll take my lumps like a man if I can just make progress.

I like to finish each interview with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a … Cut-up. I hope!

The one thing I cannot do without is: My lovely wife Dorie. I would lock myself out of the house without her. Some days, she does it for me! But she always lets me back in later.

The one thing I would change about my life: I wouldn’t forget to apply for super-powers until it was evidently too late. I’d love to be like The Atom in the old DC comics.

My biggest peeve is: Anonymous bile. What’s the point of instantaneous communication if the only thing we do is blast-dehumanize anyone who disagrees with us?

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: My miracle daughter Genevieve Celeste, who encountered autism and leukemia and is at university now to study instrumental and vocal music performance. Boom, baby. That’s epic.

Thank you for spending time with us. I’ve been wanting to feature your work for some time now.

After the following excerpt from Clash of Wills, I’ll be providing social and book buy links for those who’d like to learn more about Will or purchase his work.

LoHI_JT_CoW_webAt the end of the pillared way, two stone arches stood on the left and right edges of the mesa, evidently leading to a drop and death in the chasm below. Between them, the rock floor rose several more steps to a dais twenty paces wide. There stood a tall robed being, in decayed dark robes bearing a scepter in his skeletal right hand.

His hood was back and the head was completely hairless. Not bald; the crown of his head looked as if it were no more a home for human hair than a marble bust. All his skin was dark and wizened beyond years, beyond parchment or wood; even the age-folds had flattened and died long ago. The eyes, as the three came closer, were strangely unremarkable, small and hard to see. In a moment, Cedrith realized they were only pupils, moving on stalks no longer covered with white vitreous jelly. Noseless, earless, lipless, the face was barely able to grin, which it did constantly. The teeth inside were small and horribly stained, but solid enough to clack with every movement of his jaw.

His frame was almost impossibly tall; standing on the dais he looked full seven feet high. The robes, richly decorated once with cloth-o-gold, seed pearls, silken swaths and hanging jewelry, had faded with the immense passage of time to look like soiled burlap. Under the bottom hem, the feet must still have been partially shod, but as he strode eagerly to the edge of the dais, the sound of his pace–a mixture of leather and bone and flesh–was horrible to hear. The scepter in his right hand was the only clean, undecayed facet of his entire appearance; black wood or iron with a flanged metal top, projecting wicked spikes to the outside while within an egg-sized gem reflected all the darkest hues of the rainbow.

He spoke, and both Cedrith and Natasha gasped at the shock of it; the sage fell to his knees and elbows, lashed with pain to hear a voice that should never speak. With desiccated lips, dried throat-chords, and just a nail-thin worm of a stump where his tongue should have been, the monstrous lord of evil yet spoke with perfect elocution, in powerful, dusty tones that reverberated as if they emanated from one side of him. It was all wrong, violently off, and Cedrith quietly murmured, begging him to stop with every word.

“You cannot imagine, I assure you, how very long I have awaited this moment. I am mortified–hah, yes! mortified indeed–not to have been able to come forward as would suit a proper host. But the rules, you see, are quite constraining. Still, you are here, at last, and destiny will be served. That is, indeed, the most important thing.”

Website: http://www.williamlhahn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheLandsOfHope?ref=hl

You may purchase his books at:

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/William-L.-Hahn/e/B0057RBIO8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/will-hahn

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WillHahn

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 26 – Interview With Peter J Wacks

Peter Wacks headshotToday, I have the pleasure of featuring WordFire Press’s managing editor and best-selling author, Peter J. Wacks. I was introduced to Peter earlier this year during Portland, Oregon’s Rose City Comic Con and have since learned he is truly a multi-faceted individual. His graphic novel, “Behind These Eyes”, which he co-scripted with Guy Anthony de Marco and Chaz Kemp, was nominated in 2013 for the Bram Stoker Award®. His first two novels, Second Paradigm, a sci-fi mystery thriller, and Bloodletting, an epic fantasy and Part 1 of the Affinities Cycle, which he co-authored with Mark Ryan, were both released earlier this year. In addition to his publishing endeavors, he created the international bestselling Cyberpunk CCG (Collectable Card Game), and has also been an actor and a TV producer.

coverOn or about November 15 of this year, WordFire Press expects to release Peter’s steampunk adventure, The Dandy Boys Mysteries, which WFP describes as follows:

The Vengeance universe, originally published in the Penny Dread Tales, begins here with a young Friedrich Von Helsing, who will eventually grow to fight the supernatural alongside the mysterious Brotherhood.

In the stylings of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and Jonathan Polidori’s The Vampyre, this Victorian adventure follows Friedrich and his band of four friends, as these five young scholars debunk the supernatural in 1839. What starts as an innocuous set of adventures studying conmen, mages, Romani curses, and mad scientists leads them down a dark path to true occult.

 

Peter, before I will give our visitors a taste of Dandy Boys, I’d like to spend some time showcasing you as a writer. Would you please tell us something about your earlier work?

 My proudest novel was Second Paradigm. It was the first novel I published, and though it is the oldest example of my work, I accomplished something with it that I’m not sure I could duplicate these days. With Second Paradigm I created a story that can be read in any order, and still delivers Build Up, Conflict, Resolution, in order. The story itself is a time travel story, which did make it easier to lay out a nonlinear plot.

You’ve piqued my curiosity. Time travel is a difficult subject. Would you care to discuss some of the awards you have won?

I have been lucky enough to find my work nominated for a couple awards. The two big nominations were “Behind These Eyes”, a horror graphic novel which was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, and Interface Zero 2.0 a gaming setting which was nominated for an Enny. I also wrote a preface for the 2015 Writers of the Future anthology which was turned into a short film. An interesting side note: Second Paradigm, which I mentioned before, landed me a guest speaking appearance with a chapter of Mensa – since no one before me had broken Aristotelian plotting with true nonlinear “reorganizable” storytelling.

Do you have any other books in the works?

Right now is a very exciting time. I just coauthored a novella with Kevin J. Anderson for the TV show Heroes Reborn (which I love!) I have two series on the way from Baen Books: one a multi book joint world alt-history/fantasy with Eytan Kollin, Walter Hunt, Eric Flint, and Kevin J. Anderson, the other an Urban Fantasy about an everyday P.I. who gets caught in a world of the supernatural. I have 4 other titles in various stages of shopping/signing, but I don’t want to get to far into those until I have more details on the releases.

Very exciting indeed! What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Intense. I prefer to go at a slower pace, but stick at it for a solid 8 hours, if not more. I do this 7 days a week, unless I have conventions or other appearances-at which point I get as much time as I can in.

Do you create an outline before you write?

I do both. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I pants (fly by the seat of my pants.) It really depends on how busy I am when I think of the story. If I have a bunch of other stuff on my plate, I’ll outline just so I can save the idea. (I have 227 draft outlines for books in my “to do” folder.

That’s great! Then we’ll be hearing from you for some time to come. I’d like to delve a little deeper, if I may. I’ll start by asking why do you write?

I know it may be cliché but I can’t not write. The people around me notice that the longer I go without writing the more of a grumpy jerk I become. It is just how I am wired.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

That is a rough question. I know that I care a LOT more about digging into every layer of my characters than I did 10 years ago. They have become friends in a way that they didn’t used to be, even if I think they are jerks. I think a larger part of evolution though is that I have gained confidence. There are people out there impacted by my stories, even if I don’t have the notoriety of a headliner author, and that gives me confidence that the sacrifices of following a creative life (like I have a lot of choice – I don’t think there is anything else in the world I want to do) are worth it.

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

 I do not. But I do. My “day job” is as the managing editor of a publishing house, so when I’m not writing… I’m still reading and analyzing story. The oddity in my life is that my writing actually pays most of my bills; and my “day job” is something I do because I love the people I work with and find it rewarding.

Would you care to share something about your home life?

I’m a single Dad and it is one of the most rewarding pieces of my life. My kiddo doesn’t feel like she comes from a broken home, she has adopted the attitude that she is luckier than most kids because she has 3 parents that love her. But – the only piece of my life as “big” as being a writer, to me, is being the best Dad I can.

If you don’t find this next question too intrusive, what do you consider your biggest failure?

Friendships. I am so busy with writing and being a dad that I rarely have social time to check in on my friends. I feel like I fail those around me by not being available, but they still stick around, being amazing people and checking in on me to make sure I haven’t been sitting in front of the keyboard, glassy eyed, without eating for the last 36 hours. And then they feed me when they discover that, in fact, I have been.

Thank you for sharing your time with us and thank for your candor. Obviously, your readers learn something about you from your work, but your responses here reveal much more about your humanity—something I believe is essential for creating a strong reader/writer bond.

 As we close, before I provide a sample from The Dandy Boys Mysteries and provide links to where our visitors can follow you and purchase your books, I’d like to close with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is:                                Unwind time with my daughter.

The one thing I would change about my life:                 The number of hours in the day. We need to move the planet a bit, get up to a nice 36 hour day.

Hah! My sentiment exactly. My biggest peeve is:         Having to sleep.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is:                  My kiddo. She is the awesome.

For those of you who have stayed with us to the end—and how could you not have? Great responses, Peter—here is the excerpt you have been waiting for:

Journal One
The Gypsy Curse

Entry One

 

In April of 1838, Cambridge University issued advanced degrees to several individuals of note. This was done in recognition of the completion of their studies and exemplary performance, as well as their keen insights and application thereof to the problems thus presented by the world.

The honorarium was attended at the newly founded Thomas Graham House headquarters of the Royal Society of London, located on the outskirts of Cambridge. Though Graham had been a fellow for only two years, great things were expected of him as a chemist who more than rigorously applied the Socratic Method to his studies.

Among these so laureled were the founding members of The Fellowship of Adventurer Scholars for the Revelation of Mythology and the Advancement of Natural Philosophy. The Fellowship was a bold venture, one which would cast aside such methods which found men of science cloistered in musty rooms, and would instead embolden its Fellows to embrace the very Spirit of Discovery.

Musty rooms could, as some had said, only contribute to the knowledge and study of musty rooms, while the world beckoned from outside the windows, enticing the inquiring mind to dissect and study its many wonders.

While the Fellowship did aspire to become a branch of the Royal Society, it was by no means intentioned to be constrained by the guiding vision of those notable gentlemen; rather, it sought to show that the empirical methods of these great explorers of the mind were better suited for examinations of the natural world.

Founded, as it was, by those more … youthful in nature, The Fellowship embraced travel and exploration. The body of the Fellowship of Adventurer Scholars consisted of Niles Byron, the eldest son to Lord George Gordon Byron; Dominic William Weyland, the youngest son of the noted industrialist Thomas Weyland; William Owen Wilson of the Oxford Wilsons; Rufus Emmerson, whose father had acquired a small fortune as the principle financier of the Weyland Industrial Consortium; and Friedrich Von Helsing, of house Helsing, who was himself second in line to a small barony in northern Germany.

Each of these men were of the highest caliber, as defined by the mind if not by blood, and disciplined with their time and intellect, bringing both to bear on the problems that so willfully accosted the good men and women of The Emperor’s.

While the exact nature of their introduction is unknown, it is common knowledge that these gentlemen shared several interests and associations while attending the King’s College, and that they could often be found in each other’s company. Despite their disparate social statuses, their shared intellectual and literary interests led them to engage in regular symposiums of the true Greek fashion.

In addition to such shared interests, the disciplines which these men mastered contributed greatly to their collective venture, as if the fates themselves had guided their interests toward that which would best accommodate their quest for truth in a darkened world; but perhaps even their philosophies at this time were not sufficient to dream of all the things in heaven and earth. Though the world may be a stage, and the Adventurer Scholars were but players, the ideas they pursued were, to them, the very parchment and ink with which the great playwright scribbled the tragedy of the world.

Niles Byron had, at that time, received his degree in matters of the Law. The discipline which was intended to prepare him for the affairs of his estate had instead provided the Fellowship with the ability to deftly maneuver the many difficulties of the world’s changing political spheres. It also allowed them a certain ease of passage through customs points, for in a world of imperial rule, the force of law could compel compliance more swiftly then could a blade, just as the badge of citizenship could defend better than any shield. And were one to find themselves in such a place as rejected these authorities, then the quick wit of the esquire could be called upon to lubricate the most insurmountable of obstructions.

Simultaneously, the title of Medical Doctorate, which had been bestowed upon both Rufus and Wilson, granted the coterie many tangible investigative insights, as well a certain degree of universal social acceptance. For who does not value the man who can heal all ailments and address even the sicknesses of the soul? Having two such fine exemplars of the field in their company could only further the prestige of the Fellowship and contribute to their study of the human phenomena which so captivated their interest.

It was the analytics and theoretics of Natural Philosophy—obtained by both Weyland and Helsing—which rounded out the group’s skills and provided a firm methodology for what followed.

If you’re looking to follow Peter, you may do so here:

 Facebook:      www.facebook.com/PJWacks

Twitter:          www.twitter.com/peterjwacks

Website:         www.peterjwacks.net/

 Buy Links:     www.wordfirepress.com

www.amazon.com/Dandy-Boys-Mysteries-Vengeance-Book-ebook/dp/B014WWE5SE

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 12 – Interview With Nancy Kress

I was introduced to Nancy Kress by my previous guest, Mike Resnick, this past August at the WorldCon book launch party that WordFire Press was throwing for his newest release. The guestroom where the party occurred was growing increasingly crowded as Mike led me through the throng of partygoers toward an attractive brunette seated on a couch against one of the walls. When he told her about my interview series, she smiled and immediately gave her email address to this stranger standing before her, assuring me she would be delighted to participate. I could see I was interrupting her conversation with the woman seated next to her, so I thanked her as best I could and made myself scarce. To this day, I wish I had had a better opportunity to get to know her. This then, is your chance and mine to acquaint ourselves with one of the all-time masters of sci-fi and fantasy.

Nancy KressNancy Kress is the author of thirty-three books, including twenty-six novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the novel Probability Space. She often writes about genetic engineering and is perhaps best known for the Sleepless trilogy, beginning with Beggars In Spain, a complex look at the intersection of genetic engineering and national economics. Most recent works are the Nebula-winning Yesterday’s Kin (Tachyon, 2014) and Best Of Nancy Kress (Subterranean, September, 2015). Her work has been translated into more than two dozen languages, including Spanish, French, German, Croatian, Danish, Hebrew, and Klingon.

In addition to writing, Kress often teaches at various venues around the country and abroad; in 2008 she was the Picador visiting lecturer at the University of Leipzig. Currently, every summer she teaches Taos Toolbox, a two-week intensive writing workshop, with Walter Jon Williams.

She describes her most recent release, Best Of Nancy Kress, this way:

This collection holds twenty-one stories, written over nearly forty years and representing the best of Nancy Kress’s fiction. Three of these stories have won the Nebula, the Hugo, or both, and another four were nominees. They include time travel (“And Wild For To Hold”), hard SF (“Shiva in Shadow,” “Margin of Error”), alien planets (“Flowers of Aulit Prison,” “My Mother, Dancing”), trenchant satire (“People Like Us”), near-future extrapolation of current technology (“Someone to Watch Over Me”), explorations of social movements (“Beggars in Spain”), and unclassifiable (“Grant Us This Day”). The gorgeous cover, representing Anne Boleyn in “And Wild For To Hold,” is by Tom Canty.

The stories were chosen by Kress herself, who says: “The stories in this book try to do different things. Some, such as ‘People Like Us,’ are predominately idea stories. Some, like ‘Laws of Survival,’ are mostly interested in what a character would do in an impossible situation. Some, like ‘Unto the Daughters,’ were written because I enjoyed writing the voice. At least one, ‘Casey’s Empire,’ is a comment on writing science fiction: why, how, and at what cost one may become an SF writer. I picked the stories that are my personal favorites.”

The Best Of Nancy Kress received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, which called it a “sparkling and thoughtful collection…Kress has a gift for focusing on the familiar and the personal, even in the most alien settings.”

Nancy, thank you so much for agreeing to honor us with your presence. You’ve been writing for nearly forty years and have almost one book still in print for each of them. In addition to your many Hugo and Nebula award-winning science fiction novels and novellas, you’ve written numerous short story collections so I am compelled to ask, how do you keep your writing fresh?

Writing evolves. My first three novels were fantasy, the first heavily influenced by Peter Beagle (a fact mentioned by every single reviewer of the book). Then I moved on to more traditional fantasy, before deciding I’d like to write a science fiction book. I did some thrillers, some space opera, and, increasingly, hard SF based on emerging science. The disadvantage of this is that, unlike some other genre writers, I have not built a “brand” with a coterie of faithful followers sure that they will like the next book because they liked the last one. The advantage is that it does keep writing fresh to always be trying something new. And, of course, with hard SF, there is always new science to draw on.

I enjoy Beagle’s writing, as well. Many writers specialize in either non-fiction or fiction. Some choose to write almost exclusively novels or short stories. I, for one, feel I need novel-length works to develop my themes, yet you seem to thrive in virtually every writing environment there is, including non-fiction. While many of your books are for adults, your 2013 novel Flash Point targets a YA audience, something that requires an entirely different mindset. I don’t mean to sound disparaging—far from it—you’ve earned my greatest respect. Nonetheless, I have to ask how is this possible?

I think some writers are natural novelists; some are more effective at shorter lengths. I’ve experimented with all of them, and my conclusions are two: First, my favorite length for science fiction is the novella. It is long enough to develop an alternate world but short enough that only one plot line is needed, which lets the writer drive that one on through for maximum punch. Second, I think I am a better writer at short lengths than at novel lengths. All my awards except one are for short fiction. As for Young Adult books—Flash Point was also an experiment, but not one I will repeat. I didn’t really understand fourteen-year-olds when I was one, and the teenage culture now is not something I think I can successfully appeal to.

Many of your works delve into areas that require great technical expertise, for example genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Yet, as far as I can tell, before your writing exploded, you transitioned from being an educator to working in advertising. What do you read to develop the knowledge base required for your books?

I wish I had a scientific education! Had I known when I was young that I would turn into an SF writer, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I hold a Masters in English. To write about genetic engineering, I research on-line, attend lectures, and pester actual scientists with questions. My best friend is a doctor; she goes over my work to check that I have not said anything egregiously moronic.

A career such as yours has many turning points, some striven for, others that blind-side the recipient for better or for worse. Would you care to provide two or three of the more pivotal moments?

The first turning point for me came with the writing of the novella “Beggars in Spain,” which won both the Hugo and the Nebula and which would never have been written without a jolt from writer Bruce Sterling. At a critique workshop we both attended, he pointed out that my story was weak because the society I’d created had no believable economic underpinnings. He said this colorfully and at length. After licking my wounds for a few weeks, I thought, “Damn it, he’s right!” In the next thing I wrote, “Beggars in Spain,” I seriously tried to address economic issues: Who controls the resources? What finances are behind what ventures? Why? With what success? My story about people not needing to sleep, which I’d actually been trying to compose for years, finally came alive.

Another big turning point for me was deciding to make my two biothrillers, Oaths And Miracles and Stinger, as realistic as possible. That meant a lot of scientific research. My reward was having both scientists and FBI agents tell me, “I believed every word you wrote.” Very satisfying.

Would you be good enough to describe your path to publication?

I began with three short-story sales to SF magazines. That convinced an agent to look at my first novel, without making any promises of representation. But she liked the book, and so she took me on.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing an SF series based on my novella “Yesterday’s Kin,” which won the 2014 Nebula. Aliens come to Earth—but they are not as alien as we think, and they bring both great tech and bad news. When I finished the novella, I felt that the immediate story was done but not the greater implications. A three-book series will come out from Tor over the next few years.

Best-NKressOn September 30 of this year, Subterranean Press is releasing The Best Of Nancy Kress, a collection of twenty-one stories written over thirty-five years. I’m really pleased about this.

If there is such a thing, describe a typical day.

I am a morning writer. I wake up early (very early, and it’s getting worse as I get older), drink coffee while puttering around for an hour or so, and then write. If fiction doesn’t get written by noon, it doesn’t get written. In the afternoon, after a walk with my husband and the dog, I do research, email, edit student manuscripts if I am teaching just then, social media—all the non-writing things that go with being a full-time writer. Evenings that we are home, I read. Of course, all this changes with the of actual life. But that’s the basic template.

I’m no stranger to rising early to write. I understand the morning routine very well. Would you care to share something about your home life?

I live in Seattle with my husband, writer Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle. I’ve been here in Seattle for six years now, having moved from upstate New York to marry Jack, and I love the city. It’s beautiful, temperate in climate (unlike Buffalo, where I grew up), and culturally rich. Also, there is a large SF community here.

What inspires you, not necessarily as pertains to your writing?

Narrative and science both inspire me. I get the narrative from books, movies, and some TV. I love movies and go often. The science I must seek out. In addition, I play a fair amount of chess, but I can’t say that inspires me because, alas, I’m not very good at it. When I was younger, I didn’t think you could really enjoy something you were bad at. Turns out I was wrong.

Which authors do you enjoy—sci-fi and otherwise—and why?

My favorite author is Jane Austen: not an intuitive choice for an SF writer. But her satire on how humans behave is just as fresh, funny, and true today as it was during the Regency. Out of genre, favorites include Somerset Maugham, Anne Tyler, Philippa Gregory, Karen Joy Fowler. In SF and fantasy, a diverse group: Ursula LeGuin, Bruce Sterling, Connie Willis, George Martin’s Game Of Thrones, Daryl Gregory, Fred Pohl. Some new, some old.

I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… Over-organized, always wanting to know “what is the plan?”

The person I’m most proud of is… My two children.

The one thing I cannot do without is… Coffee.

The one thing I would do over is… You don’t really expect me to answer that in public in any significant way, do you?

Hah! No. I guess I don’t. The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… My husband. He has a wonderful dry sense of humor. My two children.

Nancy, thanks once again for joining us, most especially for your thoughtful replies. (I also need to find a copy of one of your works in Klingon. What an item that would be!)

Those dropping in for a peek can learn more about this wonderful author via these links:

Website:         www.nancykress.com

Twitter:          @nancykress

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/nancy.kress.9

You may purchase her books here on Amazon:               http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=nancy+kress&sprefix=Nancy+Kress%2Caps%2C206

Or through her Amazon author page:       http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Kress/e/B000AQ4SK2/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1444280027&sr=1-2-ent

The Write Stuff – Monday, August 3 – Interview With AR Silverberry

Before I was published, I felt as if I were the only author in the world. These days, I belong to a seemingly endless circle of authors of demonstrable talent such that each time I turn around, I find that yet another of my acquaintances has won several awards and writes with great originality. Having said this, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to A. R. Silverberry. If you have not yet sampled his work, you should.

Author Photo 2 198x300When I asked Mr. Silverberry to give us his writing biography, not one to go on about himself, he gave this succinct reply:

A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, Wyndano’s Cloak, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. The Stream is his second novel.

I find his premise for The Stream vastly intriguing:

What if your world was six miles wide and endlessly long?

After a devastating storm kills his parents, five-year-old Wend awakens to the strange world of the Stream. He discovers he can only travel downstream, and dangers lurk at every turn: deadly rapids, ruthless pirates, a mysterious pavilion that lures him into intoxicating fantasies, and rumor of a giant waterfall at the edge of the world. Defenseless, alone, with only courage and his will to survive, Wend begins his quest to become a man. Will tragic loss trap him in a shadow world, or will he enter the Stream, with all its passion and peril?

Part coming-of-age tale, part adventure, part spiritual journey, The Stream is a fable about life, impermanence, and the gifts found in each moment.

Will you tell us how this unusual book came into being?

Funny how it came about. I was working on the sequel of my first book, Wyndano’s Cloak, when I was gripped by the idea for another story. I had been having a conversation where I used the metaphor of a stream. I kept thinking about that metaphor. In a few hours, the character of a small boy, alone, defenseless, trying to understand the ways of the world, sprang into my mind. I saw images of him confronting the challenges we all face in life: love, loss, pain, losing your way. The next morning, I put aside that sequel and started writing. It pretty much tumbled out of me and didn’t let go until it was done.

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

I knew almost nothing about boats and sailing. My knowledge of surviving in nature was just as scant. Here’s a short list of some of the things I needed to learn and integrate into the novel: the flora and fauna of the riparian wilderness, the technology available to the primitive people occupying the Stream—knife making, basketry, boat building—and the mainstays of their diet and how it was prepared. In other words, I had a huge learning curve.

Have you written any other novels?

Wyndano’s Cloak (2010) and its prequel, unpublished and living in one of my dresser drawers.

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

Yes! Both books have gotten awards. Wyndano’s Cloak was a Benjamin Franklin Award Gold Medal winner. To date, The Stream has snagged four honors: Shelf Unbound Notable Book in the category of Literary Fiction, Eric Hoffer Award Finalist in General Fiction, Finalist for the da Vinci Eye (for the book cover), and Finalist for Foreword Reviews Indie Fab Book of the Year Award.

What else are you working on?

I’m working on a dystopian sci-fi trilogy. I don’t like to say too much about unpublished projects. You never know how they’ll turn out, or if they’ll turn out! Case in point: the prequel mentioned above. I think about it from time to time, wondering if I can resolve cure the ills that plague it!

I certainly understand. Sometimes you can talk all of the energy out of a project. Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

If you’re personality is not suited to it, the long, solitary hours might be an issue. Fortunately for me, I can get engrossed in my writing for much of the day, and wonder where the time went.

Tell us about your path to publication.

That prequel was written purely on intuition. Translation: I didn’t know beans about writing. I submitted it to agents. All five rejected it, but one was kind enough to critique the positives and negatives about the book. Her feedback was quite helpful, and spurred me to learn about the craft by reading books and taking courses. When Wyndano’s Cloak was completed, my editor (I kid you not, a Finalist for a Pulitzer!) encouraged me to submit it to agents. In fact, after I told him I wanted to self-publish it, he wrote to an agent, without my knowledge, and told her about it. Talk about a vote of confidence! It was wonderful that he was so passionate about the story, but I wanted total artistic control of publication, and went that route.

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

Making it all hang together. The early drafts of Wyndano’s Cloak had too many themes. I spent six months pondering which one to focus on, and drove everyone around me crazy as I agonized over it. Thematically, The Stream was easy, though. I knew what I wanted to say, and that guided the process.

Having the courage to cut and pair down to the most essential things is another challenge. Case in point is the excerpt at the end of this interview. I love the way the scene turned out, but I decided not to include it in the book for pacing reasons, and because I found other ways of conveying what I needed. Think of it as bonus material for people who want more about the Stream.

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

If you like adventure, suspense, and fantasy, along with unforgettable characters, you’ll enjoy my books.

Describe a typical day.

Roll out of bed between 6 and 7 AM. Pet and feed “freelance household beast” (credit goes to the poet, Pablo Neruda). Write until 9. Take a long walk. Jot down story ideas on notebook. Head to work. Listen to audio book (currently One False Move, by Harlan Coben). See clients afternoon into the evening. Listen to audio book on the way home. Read at night. Sleep. Dream.

I’m eager to share a sample from The Stream with our visitors, but before I do, let’s try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

 My best friend would tell you I’m a …

Caring individual.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

My piano.

My biggest peeve is…

Intolerance.

Thank you, A. R., for taking the time to share with us. Here is the sample I promised:

Stream Small Cover 2If Wend had stopped to think about it, he would have realized that his family, searching for fruit, nuts, and roots, never ventured far from either shore, that travelers never sailed upstream to tell tales of what lay ahead. Except for tacking and voyages of a few miles, his family never ventured upstream either. When he’d asked his father why, he was told, “It’s a law.” Wend must have looked blank because his father told him to jump as high as he could. Wend jumped, and after his feet landed on the ground his father said, “Now jump as high as the top of the mast.” Wend had laughed and declared that no one could do that.

“Why not?” his father asked.

“We come down first,” Wend replied.

“It’s a law,” said his father. “And it’s a law that we go that way.”

His father pointed downstream.

If Wend had thought of these things, he would have understood that everyone was tethered to the stream and could only go in one direction. People stopped from time to time, working at abandoned foundries to smelt metal for anchors, chains, and knives, cutting trees to build or repair boats, living in villages, taking over deserted houses like creatures that move into another animal’s shell. They never stayed long, always returning to their boats, always going with the current, always traveling downstream.

For those of you who would like to stay in touch with A. R. Silverberry, here are a few links:

 Website                    http://www.arsilverberry.com

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

Facebook                https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-R-Silverberry/122991764395051

Twitter                     @arsilverberry

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 20 – Interview With Lauren Lynne

I first met YA Contemporary Fantasy author, Lauren Lynne, through the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network, #FSFNNet, a hangout for authors and readers of these genres. Time passed and our friendship grew until one day I chanced to read her Facebook bio and learned we are neighbors, living within a few miles of each other. It didn’t take long before we found a chance to do a face-to-face over coffee at a Starbucks located midway between our homes. I found her to be such an enjoyable lady—certainly an enjoyable, intriguing author—and decided I needed to introduce her to you. Here is how she describes herself:

Author 9I’m author Lauren Lynne. The good side of growing up is that you can write whatever you want. The downside… now I can’t read it without my glasses! I have the soul of an adventurer but the heart of a coward when it comes to danger, yet I’m drawn to all things action-adventure, so this particular genre was a natural fit. You won’t find me bungee jumping, cliff diving or doing parkour because, well… I’m a klutz… so I write it. Think of me as an armchair adventure hound. I create characters who are much braver, tougher, more graceful and athletic than I will ever be. When you dream, dream big!

I love working with students who have a thirst for knowledge. I write for young adults because they are the age group I most love to teach. I grew up in a house where reading was expected, anticipated and enjoyed. I want to pass that joy on to my students. I do not write alone, but pull in my boys for real life teenaged insight. I also listen to my students.

I am a native of the Pacific Northwest, with its vivid and varied panoramas. When I’m not writing, I can be found spending time with my family, working with students, reading, gardening or hiking around Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge or the Oregon Coast with my camera. I am also a graduate of both Oregon State and Portland State universities with degrees in education and science. Writing is my passion and I want to share my love of it and reading with you.

Lauren has written a Young Adult contemporary fantasy action adventure series called The Secret Watchers. Today, we’re showing off book four of the series, Perceptions, published May 26 of last year. Here is its description:

Marlo finds a missing watcher and now it’s up to Lucie and Owen to go undercover to pull her out, if she’s even still alive. They find themselves thrown into the world of human trafficking and are afraid they won’t make it out alive. Caged, drugged and confused, they lose sight of their mission. Then they must face the truth about darkness and light – or is it all just shades of gray? How will they save someone else if they can’t even save themselves?

Sometimes you have to do truly repugnant things for the greater good but then what does that make you? What do you become if you are just as malicious as the dark watcher you are supposed to be saving everyone from? White Eagle says that power is power, but Owen has absorbed dark watcher gifts. He can feel himself morphing and he’s pretty sure he’s nowhere near good anymore.

What will two damaged watchers do now? Are you still good if you’ve been consumed by darkness? Owen will have to figure that out before it’s too late. He meets a mysterious stranger who has an interesting offer. Owen can’t decide if it’s worth the risk but it becomes more and more appealing as he is used again and again by both sides and now that he’s actually killed someone, who will save him?

I asked Lauren to describe the rest of the series and to tell us what else is on the horizon.

I have now written five books in The Secret Watchers series; four are published. Book five will be the end of Owen’s story but readers will see him again. Thanks to demands of loyal fans, there will be a new, as yet untitled, book and possibly series in the world of The Secret Watchers. I have just begun work on a book with a female protagonist discovering who she really is. What is her secret power? Stay tuned to find out.

This December will be the final release in The Secret Watchers series. Protagonist Owen Ryer will be graduating from high school and he will face the greatest evil he has known while battling the darkness that has taken root inside him. I am also working on my first dystopian. This was not something that I planned to write. I was hijacked by a muse and decided to go for it. It has been both fun and challenging.

Do you find there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?

For me, time is the greatest challenge. I still need another job so that I can pay the bills and I am part of the famous sandwich generation where I both help out my parents and my kids.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I would guess that there are as many paths to publication as there are authors. In lieu of writing a ton of query letters I chose to self-publish. That does not mean that if the right offer comes along I will turn it down. I wanted my book in the hands of readers. I did quite a bit of research and finally selected BookBaby who happens to be a local company.

How many people have you done away with over the course of your career?

So far I have only done away with bad guys but hold onto your seat because in Destiny that will change.

Describe a typical day.

I love it when people ask me this question! I would love to build some routine into my life. I have not had that for the last ten or so years. I am working on it! At this very moment it is summer so I am neither teaching nor tutoring. I do some technical editing and I am helping my parents get their old house ready to go on the market. I try to look at Twitter and Facebook every day and respond to friends and fans. I do a little marketing (like answering this interview) and I try really hard to squeeze in some writing. I am looking forward to the day when I can dedicate more time to my craft.

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

I am a Tigger at heart. One of my greatest assets/curses is that I see the best in everyone until they prove me wrong. If someone is going to find a silver lining it’s me! It’s raining? Great, it’s watering my flowers! Most people love my books but the first few ugly, mean or unfair reviews hurt my feelings. Now, I know that everyone has a right to their opinion and I don’t have to agree. I still celebrate and cherish every four and five star rating and each awesome review.

What has been your greatest success in life?

My kids will always be my greatest blessing. They are turning into wonderful people that I am proud of, but when I am gone, my books will live on. I will have left something behind. I will never know how many student lives I touched or how deeply but I will always have the books I authored and the feeling that I have left a positive mark that will remain.

Before we share an excerpt from Perceptions, I’d like to finish with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible:

My best friend would tell you I’m a…

person who is too nice. I need to stand up for myself more.

The one thing I cannot do without is:

GPS or a good map. I have a terrible sense of direction.

The one thing I would change about my life:

A little more money so that I could dedicate my time to writing.

Boy! Wouldn’t we all? My biggest peeve is:

Intentionally mean people.

The thing I’m most satisfied with is:

Where I am today. I am happy in my life and have some flexibility. I have people who care about me and people to care about. What more could you really want? Oh, yeah, GPS

It’s wonderful you can say that. I wish more of us could. Before we close, here is a sampling of Lauren’s writing:

eBook Cover PerceptionsI turned and growled to the newbie watcher, “Who are you? And why are you spying on us?”

He gave us a defiant look, twisted and tried to drain White Eagle, who caught his wrist before his hand connected and snapped it back. “Answer him.” His voice was filled with menace. White Eagle can be an imposing guy when he wants to be.

The young dark watcher raised one side of his upper lip in a snarl making the scar by his mouth pucker.

“Who sent you?” I queried, giving him my best scowl.

“You don’t scare me. I’m not telling you anything!” he sneered.

I squinted at him, deep in thought. Did I have the stomach for this? Did I have it in me to be cruel? Could I torture him for information and still live with myself? If I did, I would be no better than they were. Where was the line and should I cross it?

A slow smile spread over his unshaven face where a scraggly beard showed in uneven patches. “You won’t do it. You don’t have what it takes. You won’t do what has to be done to get what you need. You’re… moral,” he said with disgust like I’d personally offended him. “You’re weak. The good guys usually are. They follow the rules. They can’t do what needs to be done!”

“Shows what you know!” Lucie came out of nowhere to deliver a perfectly executed upper cut to his jaw. Skater dude sagged in White Eagle’s grip, semiconscious as we all turned to stare at Lucie.

“What?” Lucie asked defensively. “We didn’t have all day. Somebody go get the van and let’s take him somewhere we can really question him.”

Mom snapped out of it first, reached into White Eagle’s pocket for the keys and sprinted off.

“Lucie dear, if you’re feeling upset from the proceedings maybe we should talk and not… um, take out our aggressions on others,” Sarah said with quiet dignity.

Lucie smiled at her, a rather sick smile that came nowhere near her eyes. “And I don’t think we should assume he isn’t dangerous. Until we know who he is and what he wants… I consider him a threat.” She shook out her hand as she spoke.

“Did you hurt yourself?” I asked with a huge grin.

A real smile broke across Lucie’s face. “I failed to make ‘good fist’. Sorry, White Eagle.”

Sarah rolled her eyes but White Eagle grinned at her and shifted his limp load that was just beginning to moan softly. I brought Lucie’s hand to my lips. “You gonna need medical attention?” I asked her, still smiling.

Lucie didn’t even get to answer. Mom screeched around the corner, narrowly missed the dumpster, and stopped inches from White Eagle’s elbow. To his credit, he neither blanched nor dropped his load. He did slowly raise his eyes to give Mom a dirty look through the windshield and then looked significantly at his elbow and then back to her. She grinned, shrugged and hopped out of the van. “So where do we stow him?” she asked indicating the limp skater.

I popped open the back and rummaged in the compartment where we kept our supply of zip ties, clips and Velcro. We zipped up our guy and tossed him unceremoniously into the back. Sarah pulled a Taser out of a locked compartment and then chose a seat near our now thrashing captive. “You behave or so help me, I’ll zap you,” Sarah said in one of the meanest voices she employed.

He gave Sarah a long look, then stopped flinging himself around, sensing her seriousness. He subsided into a sullen silence. Mom and White Eagle had a brief, silent argument over the van keys. He finally sighed and relented, making Mom jump up and down in a brief happy dance as she giggled.

“Some things just aren’t worth it,” he huffed under his breath as he plopped into the seat next to mine.

For those of you who would like to learn more about Lauren and purchase her books, here are some helpful links:

 Author Website         http://laurenlynneauthor.com/

Series Website          http://thesecretwatchers.com

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

Facebook                    http://facebook.com/LaurenLynneAuthor

Twitter                       http://Twitter.com/LaurenLynneYA

Goodreads                  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5808133.Lauren_Lynne

Pinterest                    http://www.pinterest.com/laurenlynneYA/

Google+                     http://plus.google.com/+LaurenLynne/about

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, July 06 – Interview With MP McVey

 

FB_IMG_1433457449604Today, I have the pleasure of having MP McVey as my guest. Mr. McVey is a member of the Facebook group, Fantasy Sci-fi News Network, #FSFNNet. I find this fantasy author’s take on the genre refreshing because while so many modern works routinely make use of more recent mythological paradigms, his debut novel, Plod On, Sleepless Giant, incorporates some of the world’s more primitive societies’ core concepts. When I asked him to discuss it, he told me the following:

The world is not as it seems …

At the center of our world lives an elephant. Ancient and alone, he’s chained to a great wooden wheel—turning our rock as it glides through space. But what would happen if he were to stop? What would become of all we know and love on the surface?

All that stands between Earth and its downfall is a sole Watcher—beings tasked with guarding all in creation. Sent on a fool’s mission, he must gather humans from the surface that somehow play a role in our world’s destruction.

But from one mistake, a decision is made … an opportunity taken. When insurmountable forces align against humanity, it seems all will be lost. Can it be stopped in time? Can wrongs be righted? Can we be saved?

My most recent book—and also my first—is a contemporary fantasy called Plod On, Sleepless Giant. It’s a story of love and suspense, set in the shadow of the eternal struggle between good and evil. We get to meet the great elephant, Temelephas, whom lives at the center of our world. He was created as an insensitive automaton … never to remember or feel anything, only to walk in his circle and spin our planet.

Over time, Temelephas learns to remember and begins to feel strange emotions that he doesn’t know how to deal with. It is then that he realizes how lonely and empty his life truly is, and these thoughts slowly lead him to stop his important walk, and stopping the world from turning. And basically the story is about trying to fix the things that have been broken and righting the wrongs.

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

My biggest challenge was not really knowing how to write a book to begin with. I had written many, many stories over time and had started writing previous books, but never finishing. A story is a story, it’s as simple as that. I thought writing a novel would be the same, only longer … I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The pacing was a big thing for me. A story has to be told fast; there isn’t a tremendous amount of time to develop characters or weave an intricate plotline. So the story is told pretty straight forward. But with books you have more room for a deeper story and more complex characters. There’s more wiggle room for pomp and flair.

What else are you working on?

Right now I’m finishing up my second novel, which is a more straight forward fantasy. Plod On, Sleepless Giant was a contemporary fantasy set in Columbus, Ohio … my current work takes place in a world that is completely made up. It’s more in the vein of sword and sorcery, quest, or heroic fantasy (I’m never good at classifying my writing). At the moment I am calling it Through the Wicked Wood, but that could change at any moment.

I don’t want to get too much into it, but I combine some humor and romance in there to round it out—it feels a bit like a fairytale for adults. The characters are all flawed, as is the world they live in … but most of them mean well. My favorite is a character named Eizel Mamzer, a tricky fellow with a snazzy suit and top hat.

Tell us about your path to publication.

It was certainly not your typical journey, though my road to publication started out like so many others. I had finished my book and had edited it so much that I hated the sight of it. I queried some agents and painfully waited to see any sign of hope, but only got rejections and condolences.

I started thinking more and more about self-publishing, having heard some success stories from many different sources. Not that self-publishing makes a writer rich or anything, but it certainly gets your book out there and gets the writer some exposure. So I began to read up on the process—the do’s and don’ts of the whole thing, and tips to help along the road.

So there I was at work(I work at a gas station), pouring over my manuscript as I once more tore it apart with a red pen, when a customer came in and asked what it was I was doing. I told her about the book and we chatted a bit, and she told me about how her husband had written a few books as well.

She left and I didn’t think much about it, just went about my night. A few days later her husband came down to talk to me about the book, and we chatted about writing and life. It was one of those conversations that you know you will remember forever.

He asked to read it, so I sent him a copy via email. Some time went by and he called me at work, excited about my book. He told me he wanted to publish it and that was how it happened.

Have you ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

I have never killed off a character and regretted it, but I have written myself into a corner with nowhere to go. I ended up abandoning the book all together when I realized the only way out was mass murder of main characters. It was the first book I attempted to write and it came on fast. It’s not much of a loss … it was pretty terrible.

Learning to write comes write a plethora of such lessons. Let’s explore that theme a bit further. If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

This is such a great question, and I hadn’t given it much thought until I thought about what my answer might be. I think the most important part would be getting away with it, so the method of the actual killing wouldn’t be as important as the disposal of the body and any evidence. So I would probably poison my victim—leaving no actual “crime scene”. Then I would most likely dismember the remains and dispose of them in a creative way that I won’t divulge. I might actually use the method of disposal in a book someday.

I sincerely hope not! Returning, to the real world, what motivates or inspires you?

Inspiration comes from many different places, I think. Sometimes it’s a fragment of a conversation that sets my mind spinning on an idea or something I read. The idea for Plod On, Sleepless Giant actually came to me in a dream—it would be nice if that happened every night, but it doesn’t. I also find inspiration right here in Columbus, Ohio … the people here are amazingly resilient and funny.

As far as motivation, it’s always the story that drives me forward. Sometimes it’s hard to write because I can sense the story becoming a bit drab and dragging in places. A lot of writers push through this and churn out words daily—which is the key—but sometimes I need to see it as a yield sign or one that warns of an icy bridge ahead.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I do. I work in a gas station. It’s a family owned business(not my own) and my bosses Gary and Tracy are very supportive of my endeavors in writing.

Describe a typical day.

I work until late at night, so normally I don’t get to bed until about one in the morning. So I wake up around 9 am, and I plan to start writing at about ten. On good days I’ll write until about noon, then eat some lunch and get ready for work. On weekends I kind of just write when I can. It’s hard to schedule out due to running errands.

Before I let our visitors sample an excerpt from your book, let’s close with a Lightning Round. Please answer the following in as few words as possible.

My best friend would tell you I’m a …

They’d more than likely say “goofball”.

The one thing I cannot do without is …

Sadly, Netflix.

The one thing I would change about my life:

I guess I would make it so money wasn’t as important, or at least wasn’t an issue for me. Then I wouldn’t have to work so much or stress out about bills, which would give me a bigger, calmer path in writing.

Thank you for taking time to share with us. Here, then, is a sample from Plod On, Sleepless Giant:

 71iUgJf63gL._SL1500_The center of Earth shook and rumbled with the sounds of creaking wood and grinding metal, tumbling through the dark. The din swept through caverns, accompanied by the boom, boom, boom of steady, heavy steps. It would have driven any man crazy, this racket that crept through the darkness, but it was comforting to the one who had to listen. It was a noise he had always known, a sound that was born with him. He was the reason for the noise.

For all time he had walked his circle; his large, gray feet beating a pattern into the dirt. Round and round he went, his weight pushing the large, wooden wheel to which he was bound. He groaned from time to time … long, soulful bellows from his wrinkled trunk.

His ancient head swayed with the thudding beat of his steps, his long immortal ears hanging tiredly at his sides. He would walk until the end of time. He didn’t want to, but he was compelled to. It was his purpose … and without purpose, what would be left?

So he walked.

He could feel their eyes upon him, those that watched him, those that kept him in this existence … those who gave him purpose. Their stares penetrated the thick hide of his neck, burrowed into his spine and peeked in to his brain, listening in on his every thought. That’s how they watched him, how they knew when he was unhappy.

They were in his mind every second of forever, and he came to expect their presence there. After a while he lost track of his Watchers all together, as if they were just another part of him. Life would not have been the same without them.

The Watchers always knew that, sooner or later, the great elephant called Temelephas would work through whatever unhappiness it was that settled in his large heart. After all, he had been walking since the beginning of everything and knew of nothing to which he could compare his sorrow.

Walk, walk, walk, through the darkness he would stomp; his feet pounding his life into the earth. Around he went, his sweaty, tangled hair flowing down around his neck. “Round and round she goes, where she stops … nobody knows.”

If you’d like to learn more about MP McVey and his writing, here are some useful links:

 Twitter:         @mpmcvey

Blog:              www.mpmcvey.wordpress.com

Site:                www.temelephas.com

Book trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKMbJytW7Lk

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, June 8 – Interview With Joshua Grasso

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Most readers assume that an author’s world is steeped in literature. When that’s not the case—an increasingly frequent phenomenon in today’s self-pub world—the book often ends up poorer and the reader suffers. That’s far from the case with today’s guest author. Joshua Grasso, is an English professor at a small university in Oklahoma specializing in British Literature. His books, not surprisingly, are heavily inspired by the works that grace his classrooms—Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Robinson Crusoe, Pride and Prejudice. He is also a life-long reader of fantasy, science fiction, and comics, and tries to work all these influences into his fiction, which are firmly in the classic fantasy literature tradition of Tolkein, Lord Dunsany, T.H. White, and many others. He has independently published two novels, The Count of the Living Death (2013) and The Astrologer’s Portrait (2014).

When I asked Joshua to give us a sense of his most recent work, he described it this way:

Prince Harold has fallen in love with a portrait, which he much prefers to his real bride-to-be. However, the portrait may be a hundred years old, and only the greatest sorcerer in the land can verify her existence. Unfortunately, Turold the Magnificent is currently on trial for maliciously impersonating a person of quality and despoiling her family history. Harold gets him off on the condition that they locate his lady love before his wedding to Sonya, who vows to kill him on their wedding night. Along with his faithless Russian servant, Dimitri, the three steal off to locate the true identity of the sitter—only to confront a curse much older than the portrait. To dispel the curse the prince must lead a revolution, fall in love with his wife, and release the centuries-old hands of Einhard the Black, who are eagerly awaiting their latest victim.

That’s an intriguing premise. Can you tell us a little more?

The Astrologer’s Portrait poses the age-old question: do we fall in love with people or our own ideals? The protagonist, Prince Harold, falls madly in love with a painting that may be three hundred years old, yet is determined to find the sitter, and if possible, confess his undying love to her. A disgraced sorcerer, Turold, is conned into helping him locate his Muse, only to uncover something much larger than a family heirloom: the painting hides a curse which involves a pair of undying hands, a folio of forgotten plays, and the haunted dreams of an Italian noblewoman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the painting in question.

Writing a novel is seldom a straightforward process. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

I wrote the novel over four summers and winter breaks, since these are my “off time” from teaching at a university. As you can imagine, it’s hard to pick up the thread after several months and remember who these characters are, what my ideas were for them, and why it all made sense. In fact, many times I would re-read the work and find it hopelessly inept and uninspiring. I spent days and weeks re-writing it each time I re-encountered it before I could start writing again. Luckily, this helped me gain perspective and challenge my instincts as a writer, since I would approach it after a year or so as a reader, and the reader was often bored or annoyed with the story.

What other novels have you written?

I’ve written four other novels, only two of which are published; the fourth is being completed. My fourth novel, which is 80% finished, is called The Winged Turban. This is the third summer I’ve spent writing it, and it’s going along quite well—much easier than the previous one. Probably because I forced myself to keep reading it and editing it even during the semester so I didn’t lose the thread of the story.

Do you find there are occupational hazards to being a novelist?

I was never interested in merely trying to write for a living. I always thought being a teacher/professor would be wiser, since I could then read books for a living, teach them to others, and become inspired from the interchange of ideas with my students. After a year in advertising, I decided to get my Master’s in English and that led directly to my Ph.D. in British Literature and a position in a small university in Oklahoma. Once I got my bearings as a professor, I began to write in earnest again and have written three novels during my 8 years as a teacher. And as I suspected, teaching the books I love and listening to students talk about them, struggle with them, and more importantly, write about them, always inspires me to continue the conversation in my own writing. I honestly believe that reading, teaching, and writing is all part of the same process of thought, just viewed from different perspectives. I am the same “person” when I do each one.

Tell us about your path to publication.

I spent twenty-odd years from college to the present day trying to publish my novels. I pursued agents, publishers, entered contests, etc., all before deciding that my future lay in teaching, not in selling books. In a way this proved fortuitous, since I’m a better teacher than writer, and teaching fulfills me much more than any amount of fame as a writer would. Also, my early novels were pretty bad and I’ve destroyed them all. What I now consider my “first” novel was written only 9 years ago and has at least 5-6 “skeletons” behind it. However, even my most recent novels have met with indifference from agents and publishers, so I finally decided to self-publish the first two just to see how it went. And while I haven’t been too successful, a good number of people discovered my books and enjoyed them, which justifies the point of writing them. For now, that’s good enough.

That’s more than good enough. Since you mentioned skeletons, let me ask if you’ve ever dispatched someone in a book and then regretted it?

No, because fiction isn’t real life: you can resurrect anyone. Superman has died umpteen times and is still alive and kicking. Same with Sherlock Holmes. No one dies in fiction!

You’ve been on the path long enough to appreciate the difficulties it entails. What is the single most powerful challenge you’ve faced when it comes to writing a novel?

Having characters that are interesting enough to change your story. If your story stays the same from initial conception to final page, you’ve made a mistake. Good characters make the story go in new and unexpected directions. Indeed, you might say that good characters write the story for you. Until you have characters you can see in your mind and that seem to navigate the story without your direct input, the story isn’t really a story worth telling. I’ve begun many a story without the characters, and you know deep in your gut that something is wrong. It’s almost always the characters.

Tell us about your “other” job.

 As I mentioned above, I’m a professor of English literature and teach classes ranging from Freshman Composition, British Literature surveys (typically the earlier periods, from Beowulf to the 18th c.), World Literature, Humanities, Postcolonial Literature, and even comic books. Teaching inspires my writing and is also a release from the stresses of my career. I also write a lot of academic writing—articles, essays, biographical sketches—so that also influences my creative writing. Often, as in the case of The Astrologer’s Portrait, an article on 18th century theatre spills over into the plot of a novel; indeed, I even buried a few lines of an obscure 18th century play in the dialogue of one of my novels. Almost no one would outside of my field would recognize it!

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

Art, music, and books. All of my novels are inspired initially from a work of art: I love paintings and have spent hours in great museums trying to see what the great artists saw. My first job was across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago, so I would go there during my lunch and explore a gallery at a time, seeing the originals of paintings I had once admired in books. One or two of these paintings ended up in one of my books in a round-about way. Classical music, too, fuels my writing and many scenes are written with a specific composer or work in mind. Perhaps even more importantly, though, are the writers and books I admire, which inspire me to try new things or simply to emulate old masters. Nothing I do is “new”: I merely compose variations on very old ideas, and in the process, try to make you forget the original tune.

What has been your greatest success in life?

 My greatest writing success has nothing to do with my novels, though it remains a great accomplishment: this year I won the CEA Critic’s (a literary journal) Robert A. Miller Memorial Prize for Best Article published that year. However, my greatest success beyond writing would simply be earning my Ph.D. and being able to land a job in my field (increasingly hard for PhD’s to do these days). I’m proud that my kids can see me teach and realize how important literature and culture is, and that their father spent his life trying to make “dead” words speak. I passionately believe in the power of art and literature, and am glad I can devote my professional career to defending and promoting it.

What a wonderful perspective. On the other side of the coin, what do you consider your biggest failure?

In a way, all of my novels are “failures.” What I mean is that writing is such a transcendent experience, full of emotion and visions and delusions of grandeur. When you are in that moment, you feel like your work matters, that it will change the world—or at least your world. However, when you read a finished work a year later, it no longer has that magic. Something is lost, and you only see its shortcomings, its failings. In that sense, the work has failed…it rarely has the power to move me as it once did. The connection is lost, and you can only go back and try to create a few sparks in revisions. I doubt I will ever write a work that years later I can read with delight and feel that yes, this is exactly what I meant to say. I can be proud of it, naturally, but I find reading my own works difficult once I’ve gained some distance.

At this point, before I share an excerpt from The Astrologer’s Portrait, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, answer the following:

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

The one thing I cannot do without is… music.

The one thing I would change about my life is… try to get more sleep.

My biggest peeve is… willful ignorance.

Amen to that! The thing I’m most satisfied with is… my library.

As promised, here is an excerpt from The Astrologer’s Portrait:

cover-joshua-grasso-astrologers-portrait-200x300The Royal Astrologer was dead. Shortly after eight o’clock he tumbled to his death from the highest tower in the palace. According to the testimony of a handful of onlookers, there was a violent crash (the window), a pained cry (the Astrologer), a tremendous clatter (a series of coins which dropped onto the courtyard) and a resounding thump (the body). There wasn’t much left to parade around the streets in the morning, so it was a very hushed-up, discreet affair, much like the man himself. No one quite knew what he did in the queen’s employ. After all, the title “astrologer” is a rather ambiguous term. To some, he read the stars and charted their invisible trajectories. To others, he was a dabbler in witchcraft and the magical arts, bringing some unspeakable doom upon the kingdom. But if you asked the queen she would probably call him a “sponge” and insist that his room was fumigated as thoroughly as possible.

The only question was what to do with the late Astrologer’s effects. In his room he had amassed a prodigious collection of artifacts, from paintings, sculptures, books, diagrams, maps, experiments, crystals, and other, less recognizable items that were promptly thrown in the trash. The queen had everything catalogued and put up for auction, which attracted a steady stream of collectors and connoisseurs. Apparently the Astrologer, who never contributed a single krouck to the court’s coffers, was sitting on a fortune worth several hundred thousand fobs. Priceless weapons and faded maps changed hands and brought a girlish smile to the queen’s lips. How nice to suddenly stumble into a neglected fortune and not have to dirty one’s hands with the transaction! She called her chief attendant aside and commanded him to find out how many other octogenarians were in her employ; she was particularly interested if any of them might be willing to depart for their final journey before rather than after the upcoming ball season, the cost of which went up every year and promised to bankrupt her.

Thank you, Joshua, for taking the time to share your writing with us. For those of you who would like to read more of either this book or his earlier work, Count of the Living Death, or else connect with the author, you may do so at the following:

The Astrologer’s Portrait: http://www.amazon.com/Astrologers-Portrait-Joshua-Grasso-ebook/dp/B00LKQ0DXC/

Count of the Living Death: http://www.amazon.com/Count-Living-Death-Joshua-Grasso-ebook/dp/B00FQ6711Y/

 Website: The Virtual Astrolabe: http://hblackbeard.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joshua.grasso

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoshuaGrasso

 

 

 

 

The Write Stuff – Monday, April 13 – Interview With Nicholas Rossis

book photo NR_500I first encountered Nicholas Rossis about a year ago through the Facebook Group, Fantasy Sci-Fi Network News. He is a renaissance man, a diligent, cogent blogger and a best-selling fantasy author. If I were asked to describe him in as few words as possible, I would call him engaged, intelligent and pro-active.

When I asked him to describe himself, he did so as follows: Avid reader. Web developer. Architect by training, holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Most importantly, author.

Nicholas loves to write. He has published Runaway Smile, a children’s book, which you can read for free on his blog. He has also written the Amazon best-selling epic fantasy series, Pearseus. The final book in the series is currently penned and expected summer 2015.

Finally, he has published the Amazon best-seller The Power of Six, a collection of short sci-fi stories that includes his award-winning short story, I Come in Peace.

Nicholas lives in Athens, Greece, at a forest’s edge, with his wife, dog and two very silly cats, one of whom is always purring on his lap.

Nicholas, will you tell us about your most recent release?

coverVigil-700That would be Pearseus: Vigil, the third book in my epic fantasy Pearseus series, and the penultimate one overall.

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

I wanted to have it ready for Christmas, so the main challenge was to have everything ready by then.

I failed.

You see, in the end I decided it was far more important to produce the best possible book, than to meet an arbitrary deadline. So, when the feedback from my beta readers came and I realized I needed to change a few things to improve on the story, I decided to release the book a month later, even if that meant missing the Christmas period.

I think that was wise. Producing the best book one can is a universal dictum and sound advice. Will you tell us about your other novels?

I have written another three Pearseus books, including a novelette-sized prequel. I have also written The Power of Six, a collection of short stories with a science fiction/fantasy twist.

About a month prior to Pearseus: Vigil, I had released my first children’s book, Runaway Smile. I’m especially fond of this one, particularly the great illustrations provided by the very talented Dimitris Fousekis.

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

I’ve been lucky enough that four of my books have repeatedly reached #1 on Amazon in their respective genres. Also, one of the short stories in The Power of Six has won a competition here in Greece and was included in a traditionally-published anthology.

I haven’t made any videos, but it’s something I’ve been considering for a while now. I’ll let you know when I do.

What else are you working on?

I’ve already started working on the last Pearseus book (working title: Endgame – you heard it here first), but I’m also working on my next children’s book, Musiville. It’s currently illustrated by Dimitris, and I’m not helping by making changes to the text!

What would you say are the occupational hazards of being a novelist?

Too many to list here, from the obvious (square eyes from staring at a screen all day long) to the not-so-obvious (people think you’ve had a stroke because you spend half the day staring in empty space). Also, I should mention insomnia (from planning your next scene) and industrial-strength absent-mindedness (a natural consequence of your mind being light years away).

Hah! You’re as bad as I am. Will you share with us how you became a published author?

One could say I’ve always been writing in the form of essays, but also a dream journal, where I’ve kept my most memorable dreams since I was in my late teens. Then, in 2009, I dreamed that someone was urging me to write. I flicked through my dream journal and came across a potentially good tale, so I wrote it up as a short story and submitted it to 9, a Greek sci-fi journal. To my great surprise, it was published. Then, I entered a competition with my next story, and won an award – this was the one I mentioned earlier.

I felt I had found my calling, and started working on my novel, Pearseus, while writing further short stories, a children’s book series (currently being illustrated) and various blog posts in between. I tried sending my various manuscripts to maybe a dozen agents and publishers, but was rejected. It gradually dawned on me that things move at a glacial sleep in the world of traditional publishing. Being rather impatient, I decided to self-publish. To my astonishment, the second book of the Pearseus series reached #1 in its genre within two months of its launch.

I have now published traditionally my children’s book, Runaway Smile, in Greece, so I consider myself a hybrid author.

Fantasy authors frequently kill off their characters. If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

I’m the kind of person who tries to resuscitate ants when he accidentally steps on one, so I think I’m the last person who would commit any kind of crime – let alone murder.

Except in my books, of course. I’ve been reading Sue Coletta’s free 50 ways to Murder your Fictional Character, and now have a pretty good idea of what to use: poison. There’s many a poisonous herbs in our gardens, so the easiest thing would be to slip a handful of those into the unsuspecting victim’s casserole and make sure they eat alone. This would make it the perfect crime, especially if they’re the kind of person to have a herb garden.

Hmm. I’ll have to file that away. Returning to something more serious, is there anything you want to make sure potential readers know?

Only that I love and cherish each and every one of them. If I knew where they lived, I’d bring them chocolate cookies. Unless they left a poor review of course, in which case they’d better not eat them.

I think that brings us back to the previous question. Do you have another job outside of writing?

Yes, I’ve been working on the Internet for the past 20 years, mainly in web design and web marketing. This proved to be a great help when I started self-publishing, as I’ve been using most of the things I’ve learned through my day job for promoting my books. The best thing about it is that I can do it from home, as we have turned the ground floor into a spacious office area, which means no commute. Plus, the tea is always excellent.

Before I share an excerpt from Vigil, I’d like to close with a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m a…

strange kind of beast. But an affectionate one.

The one thing I cannot do without is…

The Internet. I’d feel mute and deaf without it.

The one thing I would change about my life:

Having children. Someone has to test-drive my children’s books.

My biggest peeve is…

The human capacity for self-delusion. I’m now convinced that it’s infinite.

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is…

My wife, as she totally gets me!

As promised, here is an excerpt from Vigil, after which you will find links where to purchase Nicholas’s books, as well as how to connect with him.

In the Sewers

In the distance, they heard the grating of metal against cobbles as the soldiers opened the manhole to search for them inside the dirty sewers.

She lost track of time as they sped down one tunnel after another, each stinking a little more. She fought to push the image of Sophie’s bloodied body away from her mind, but it kept popping back to her head. The woman had been like a mother and a sister, helping raise the twins as if they were her own. And the priest; why would a priest of Themis be after them? What had they done to offend their goddess?

Elsie froze and her pretty face went white. Angel followed her eyes to a dozen red eyes peering at them from the darkness. She pulled her little sister by the hand. “Don’t look at it,” she whispered, but the little girl could not move. Angel leaned down to face her, trying to avoid the stinking waters. More red eyes blinked around them. “Honey, it’s just a rat. It’s more scared of you than you are of it.”

Elsie bobbed her head while craning it around Angel’s shoulder to stare at the animals splashing in the stinking water. Angel swallowed a sigh and lifted her into her arms. Themis, she’s heavier than she looks!

The girl burrowed in Angel’s arms, squirming with each new rat they encountered. Balancing the torch with one hand and holding Elsie with the other proved impossible. Angel handed the torch to Cook. Stumbling under the weight, she moved as fast as she could. She took one turn, then another, when the torch fell into the water with a loud hiss. It glowed for a second, then the light disappeared.

“I’m sorry,” Cook whispered with a strained voice. “It slipped.”

Angel stopped herself from screaming at him. “It’s all right. We’ll just follow…” Her voice trailed off. Where was the light from Xhi’s torch? He must have moved on, unaware that he had left them behind. She fought the urge to shout his name; she had no idea how close the soldiers might be. When was the last time she had seen the flame from his torch? Shit! It was back at the rats’ nest. She must have taken a wrong turn, and now they were lost. Swearing at herself, she wondered how to tell the children that they had to go back. She opened her mouth, then heard faraway voices. Soldiers!

“Follow me,” she whispered and raised one hand to feel the walls as she pressed forward in the darkness. In the distance, her straining eyes caught a light. She headed that way, hoping to find Xhi. Instead, they arrived at a grating that sliced the dim light from above into dirty squares flickering in the waters. She let Elsie down with a loud sigh. “Will you be all right now, honey?”

The girl nodded, holding back terrified tears.

She heard the voices again, this time accompanied by the sound of approaching feet splashing in the filthy waters. They must be getting closer! Her gaze jumped around, searching for a hiding place. She pushed the twins into a tight alcove, squirming behind them. I wish I had a knife! More splashing echoed in the narrow space, drawing nearer. She held her breath as she pressed their bodies to the wall, wishing to blend into the shadows.

“Angel?” Cyrus’ voice made her jump out of her skin, then she burst from her hiding place to jump into his arms.

“Thank Themis, I thought—”

Xhi did not let her finish her sentence. “They’re heading this way. Hurry.” He climbed a tight ladder before pushing a manhole cover to sneak a look outside. A few moments later, he motioned them up. With some loud, straining breaths, she raised Cook, then Elsie into his arms, and he lifted them out. Angel pushed Cyrus up, then followed them.

They had emerged in a confined alleyway, now covered in darkness. The derelict buildings could only be part of the Slums. She drank the evening air in deep gulps. The stained walls around them stank of mold, urine and moisture, but to Angel the stale air smelled of freedom. The twins stared at the unfamiliar surroundings. Elsie sniffed and wrinkled her nose in disgust. They must be so scared. Angel wished she had some sort of treat, aside from a half-eaten apple.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Nicholas!

Visitors can connect with Nicholas on the following links:

Facebook         www.facebook.com/NicholasCRossis

Twitter             www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Rossis

Google+           https://plus.google.com/+NicholasRossis

Blog                   http://nicholasrossis.me/

You may purchase his books at:

http://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-C.-Rossis/e/B00FXXIBZA/

Cover_Runaway_Smile_700http://www.amazon.com/Runaway-Smile-fairy-unshared-wasted-ebook/dp/B00QQC2YLY/

The Write Stuff – Monday, October 6 – Interview With Diane Robinson

This, the second interview in The Write Stuff’s series of Readers Favorite award-winning authors focuses on children’s author, Diane Robinson. Diane, I’ve learned, is as fantastic as are her characters. Scouring the web for information about the author produced this:

2012-07-13 08.57.08Diane lives in a small hilltop castle nestled amongst a very old and magical forest. In this mystical forest, all the fantasy creatures one can imagine live and audition for parts in the author’s next book.

The author has a journalism diploma from the Schools of Montreal and an advanced diploma from the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut. Diane writes fantasy children chapter books, teaches watercolor and acrylic art to children, and is a writing instructor to adults.

I asked Diane to give us the premise of her latest title, Sir Princess Petra’s Talent – The Pen Pieyu Adventures. This is what she provided:

Sir Princess Petra has already proven she is a kind and noble knight. This, however, does not please the king and queen—they want her to behave like a princess and forget this silly knight nonsense of hers!

But when the king writes a new rule in the royal rule book that requires her to attend Talent School and acquire a princess talent certificate or suffer the spell of the royal magician, Petra, reluctantly, agrees to go. But who could have guessed what Sir Princess Petra’s Talent would be?

How delightful! Will you tell us the story behind your book?

The story behind the book is my rebellious nature, to write the kind of story I want to write, to do something out of the norm, to possibly do what many people say a person can’t do in writing for children. I have studied children’s literature extensively—I don’t agree with all the rules. The main character of this series, Petra, has that same rebellious nature and proves that the unattainable can be accomplished with finesse and pizzazz and through kindness. Maybe I just had to prove, to myself, that a writer doesn’t have to follow the norm to write a fun book for kids.

What are you working on now?

Working on the 3rd book in my fantasy/adventure children’s chapter book series entitled, Sir Princess Petra’s Mission-The Pen Pieyu Adventures. I’m also working on a grammar book for elementary age children entitled, Grammar for Kids and Dragons—written in a humorous tone with the medieval characters from my series in the grammar examples.

And a worthy task that is. Goodness knows how much dragons need this sort of help.

May I ask why you have chosen your particular genre?

I’ve been fascinated with the medieval era and fantasy books since I was a kid. By the age of nine, I was making up mini plays–with princesses, brave knights, and meddlesome, or fun, dragons–and performing them for the neighborhood kids. The only hard thing about making the plays work was my sister, the brave knight, insisting to wear her cowboy attire at all times and shooting the nasty dragon instead of spearing him. Sheesh! Cowboys!

Sheesh indeed! Will you tell us why your writing is different from other authors in this genre?

I have a bizarre sense of humor (or so I’m told from non-bizarre humor people) and I think some of that humor comes out in the characters quite well. My books have been described as: ridiculously fun; very silly; incredibly witty; charmingly funny; and even, a maverick fantasy with brilliant flashes of humor and originality. Hmmmm.

That said, why should someone buy your book?

Well, if you think you might like to read about Sir Princess Petra, a tom-boy, onion-throwing princess knight who hangs out with a dragon (Snarls, from the Forest of Doom) that is a chef, royal steed, and is her best friend, along with a bog witch who is afraid of frilly dresses and a continuously soggy-smelling midget knight, Prince Nastybun, from the Land of Mesoggie, then you might want to buy the books. Oh, and then there’s Prince Duce Crablips who wears pink armour and likes to crochet, and King Asterman who runs Talent School in the Land of Lost Donkeys.

Hah! Ridiculously funny, indeed. I like it. Tell us a bit about your path to publication.

My road to publication was full of pot holes and ruts and quite a few broken wheels. I wrote the first book as a picture story book, researched publishers, queried them, sent manuscripts, had a couple of bites, and after 9 years and 27 rejections got an actual traditional publishing contract if I could turn the book into a chapter book. I did, publisher and I signed, publisher forfeited contract due to lack of funds (during the 2010 U.S. recession), back to drawing board, several months later found another publisher who wanted my book and does a few traditional contracts a year. Yep signed up, toot sweet. This publisher also accepted book two (since I hadn’t signed a series contract with them), and will publish book 3 also.

Good for you. What is your writing routine?

In the summer, I have no writing routine. Summers in Canada are just too short, and we all flock outside to play ball, ride horses, gardens, cruise on the lakes, drink beer around the fire pit, play ant hockey, stuff like that. By November, when the snow flies, I wake up early on Fridays (day off from day job) and write for several hours in a row. Saturdays, I edit for a few hours, write blog posts, work on marketing, and catch up on social media stuff.

Petra book one and two coversWhat else have you written?

Sir Princess Petra – The Pen Pieyu Adventures (book one) was my first publication, Jan., 2012. Sir Princess Petra’s Talent – The Pen Pieyu Adventures (book two) is the 2nd book published, Sept., 2013. Previous to those publications, I wrote some newspaper articles, and had some poetry published. I have written adult short stories that are not published yet.

Tell us about the awards you have won.

On Sept. 1st, 2014, I found out that book one won the Sharp Writ Book Award, 1st place in children’s books, and book two won a bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards, grade 4th – 6th category.

Previous to that, book one won: 2012 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist (literary) Award (medal and $10,000.00); 2012 Purple Dragonfly Book Award, 2nd place, children’s chapter books; 2013 Readers’ Favorite Intl’ Book Awards, honorable mention, grade K – 3rd; and was a finalist in the 2013 “50 Great Readers You Should Be Reading” contest.

Do you ever experience writers block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

Sometimes I have writer’s block for weeks at a time. I don’t worry about it much and I never force myself to write. I just have to wait until my imaginary friends start talking to me again, and they do, eventually. If my friends have been silent too long (mad at me because of a ridiculous scene I have put them in?), I go for a walk through the forest on my acreage—that usually gets my characters talking real fast (after threats of bringing in new characters).When I’m going through a writing blockage, I usually work on editing and other left-brain thinking stuff.

Some say marketing a book is more difficult than writing it. What is your marketing strategy?

Marketing books is sheer torture chamber stuff. I work on marketing approximately 5 hours per week. I have a marketing manager, a publicist, and an agent. They all give me input and help me with marketing strategies like: news releases, author signings, school visits, book blast promotions, social media, blogging, and author lectures. It’s still a lot of work on my part, but I have seen how the books have become more popular as I keep up a good and steady marketing effort.

Tell us about your writing community.

I live on an acreage, near a small town. This small town has one library and no book stores. There are several self-published writers around the area, and we all know each other, support each other, and keep in touch. Occasionally, we set up multi-author signing together in the small surrounding towns.

What life experiences or careers inspire or enrich your writing?

For several years, I have been an art teacher to children; being around children is rewarding in that I really get to see and hear what children act and think like, which is vital in writing for children.

For the last year, I have been a writing instructor in the course I teach to adults at the Creative Writing Institute–Writing for Children course. Mentoring other writers is a wonderful experience and it makes me into a more prolific writer—well, I have to be or I will get fired. Yikes.

Ever since I read my first book, Black Beauty, at age 7, I have been a fan of the written word. I read all the time, and have rarely watched television, even as a kid. Reading great writers, whether it is children’s literature or adult horror novels always inspires me to be a better writer.

Do you have a parting thought you would like to leave us with?

If you ever think to convince a wayward dragon of your opinion, either rub his tummy, or run away (which is very insulting to wayward dragons). But always go with your first instinct.

Before I provide our visitors with the links to your book and way to connect, I’d like to share with them an excerpt from the second chapter of Sir Princess Petra’s Talent – The Pen Pieyu Adventures, the title that earned the Readers Favorite award:

The pink knight spoke with a vibrating voice,

“I am Prince Duce Crablips of the Kingdom of

Crablips. I aim to stop the Princess Knight from

acquiring a talent and gaining her certificate. I

will stop at nothing. We may have to duel if you

do not turn back.”

“What in the entire kingdom are you talking

about?” Petra frowned her eyebrows at him.

“Are you not the Princess Knight?”

“Yes, I am Petra Longstride of the Kingdom

of Pen Pieyu.”

“Oh no, not another do-well?” Snarls

grumbled. “The last time you had a do-well,

you squeezed and squished and twirled

Prince Nastybun in your dance routine for so

long … well, he did finally give up, but honestly,

it was just boring. Don’t you know of any other

do-well maneuvers?”

“It’s a duel, Snarls, not a do-well.”

“I know all about your little clutch-’em-dance

routine,” Duce Crablips blurted. “And you’re not

touching me!”

“I have no intentions of touching you or

dueling with you.” Petra said, feeling quite

sure she was becoming annoyed. “But why in

the kingdom would you care if I received my

talent certificate?”

Duce Crablips dropped to one knee,

shouldered his spear to point at them, and began

chanting something that sounded in between

humming in Chinese and the rusty wheels of

the royal wheat mill.

“Stop that! I can’t understand a word your

saying, and it’s all quite harmful to the ear!” Petra

slid down the smooth scales of her mount.

Duce Crablips let loose his spear.

It landed between Snarl’s toes.

Snarls yanked the spear from the dirt, broke

it in two, then, raised his head and blew out a

fierce stream of something that resembled torn

pieces of gooey parchment.

“Oops.” Snarls flashed a fake smile. “Possibly

too many onions in that last omelette ta-da?”

“Snarls, stop dragon blasting!” Petra snapped.

“And as for you, Duce Crablips, just tell me what

your problem is, and you won’t be reported for

interfering with my mission!”

Duce, covered in layers of sticky onion skins,

looked like something ready to bake. His eyes, as

wide as royal platters, were wider than his wide

lips. He slowly stood up on shaking legs.

“Is it true they put you in a frilly dress

for interfering with someone’s mission?”

he whimpered.

“Worse for messing with a knight!” Petra

scolded. “It’s a strict rule in my kingdom.”

If you, or any younger acquaintances, would like to learn more about Diane or her works, so may do so through the following links.

Book online sales:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1gPU1D5

B & N: http://bit.ly/1e2PvFL

Tate Publishing: http://bit.ly/12hBWGg

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18136476-sir-princess-petra-s-talent—the-pen- pieyu-adventures

Booktopia: http://www.booktopia.com.au/sir-princess-petra-s-talent-diane-mae-robinson/prod9781625106827.html

Abe Books: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?kn=Sir+Princess+Petra%27s+Talent&sts=t&x=-863&y=-100

Website, blog and other online social accounts:

Author website and blog: http://www.dragonsbook.com

All About Children’s Books blog: http://www.dianemaerobinson.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Diane-Mae-Robinson/265979866785967

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Diane-Mae-Robinson/e/B007DKO8SK

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5428435.Diane_Mae_Robinson

Twitter: @DianeMaeRobinso

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/indyrobins/pins/

Google +: https://plus.google.com/102087977798605792054/posts