This really is hypothetical and not in the “secretly I have a deal” way we often use it. I’ve just been thinking about stage and theater and the adaptation of work to different media. The scripts I’ve written have largely been adaptations. All of them are a good fifteen+ years in my past, and before I started writing fiction seriously.
I was thinking about playing around with adapting one of my shorter works for stage mostly as a way to experiment. A lot of what I know about dialogue and pacing comes from translating my experience on stage to the written page. I’m curious to see what I’d learn if I go the other direction.
So… of my non-novel work, what would you like to see on stage. And why? <–What I really mean here, is what images/moments stick with you?
(Trivia: Shades of Milk and Honey started as a piece of flash fiction, that I then began expanding for a radio serial, before finally deciding that a visually based magic system was a poor choice for an audio medium)
Jaym Gates is joining us today with her anthology Upside Down. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is an anthology of short stories, poetry, and essays edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates. Over two dozen authors, ranging from NYT-bestsellers and award winners to debut writers, chose a tired trope or cliche to challenge and surprise readers through their work.
Read stories inspired by tropes such as the Chainmaille Bikini, Love at First Sight, Damsels in Distress, Yellow Peril, The Black Man Dies First, The Villain Had a Crappy Childhood, The Singularity Will Cause the Apocalypse, and many more…then discover what these tropes mean to each author to find out what inspired them.
Join Maurice Broaddus, Adam Troy-Castro, Delilah S. Dawson, Shanna Germain, Sara M. Harvey, John Hornor Jacobs, Rahul Kanakia, Alethea Kontis, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Haralmbi Markov, Sunil Patel, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Ferrett Steinmetz, Anton Strout, Michael Underwood, Alyssa Wong and many other authors as they take well-worn tropes and cliches and flip them upside down.
What’s Jaym’s favorite bit?
Anthologies, and more specifically the editing of anthologies, are my catnip. I got my start completely by accident, and found myself addicted after that first one. They’ve treated me well in turn, for the most part, but every now and again I wonder why anthologies, and why do I keep coming back? It’s certainly not for the money or the fame!
Instead, I think my favorite bit is the thrill of discovery. I’ve done anthologies where everything was from the slush pile, and anthologies where everyone was invited, and everything in between. I love my invited authors, and the slush pile certainly has its horrors, but there’s nothing like the feeling of opening up a submission and realizing that you’ve hit pay dirt.
Some of my all-time favorite stories have come from the slush pile. Many were from first-time authors who were afraid to submit because they didn’t think they were ready yet. Others were from authors I hadn’t encountered before, and some I didn’t think would be interested in that particular genre but who’d had a great idea. Some of the stories required heavy editing, others, almost no editing at all.
Slush piles are intimidating. For a recent anthology, Genius Loci, I had over 900,000 words of submissions. War Stories was at about 700,000 words of submissions. Sometimes, in the depths of the slush pile, reading through something that is the complete opposite of all my project guidelines, I think maybe I should just do invite-only from here on out. But those stories that jump out of the slush and latch on keep me excited. We could only take 90,000-110,000 for those books, and we invariably ended up putting two to three times that number on the “But I Really Want This” list. That’s a pretty good ratio. There’s a lot of amazing talent out there.
It’s validating, too. Sometimes being an editor feels futile. All I’m doing is putting together stories that other people have written. It can feel invisible, and sometimes frustrating, because I’ll never do an anthology that pleases everyone. When I find a story in the slush that’s made the rounds elsewhere, or that’s special to the author in some way, it helps me reconnect to my own passion for the task and the project.
It’s even more fun when we start editing a story that’s aaaaaalmost there, but not quite. I love figuring out what the author’s ideal version of a story is, and helping them polish the story until it reaches that ideal. It helps me with my own writing, too, because I have to be able to put away the rose-colored glasses and cut away everything that isn’t essential to this particular story.
Okay, maybe I have more than one favorite bit, and maybe neither of those things is really small enough to be called a ‘bit’…but I think that’s forgivable. But seriously, be a slush reader for a while, if you have the time. I think you’ll see what I’m talking about the first time you see a story you found in slush go out into the wide world.
Jaym Gates got her start in editing by making a joke on Twitter six years ago. At the time of writing this bio, she’s working on her 15th anthology. The titles include RIGOR AMORTIS, BROKEN TIME BLUES, WAR STORIES, GEEK LOVE, GENIUS LOCI, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, UPSIDE DOWN, INVISIBLE WOMEN, LEGENDS OF STRATEGY: HOW STAR WARS EXPLAINS FUTURE STRATEGY, ECLIPSE PHASE: AFTER THE FALL, EXALTED: TALES FROM THE AGE OF SORROWS, and VAMPIRE: ENDLESS AGES. She is also a developmental editor for Falstaff Books, and lead editor for the BROKEN CITIES shared-world setting.
In her spare time, Jaym trains and rides horses, collects tea, practices a martial art called Systema, and writes. You can find her on Twitter at @JaymGates. Her website is www.jaymgates.com
Michele Fogal is joining us today with her novel Root of the Spark. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Dell has an unexpected spark that masculine and feminine energies create when swirled and fused inside a single person. But will this be enough to stop the age-old tide of fear and violence as it rises again?
Born in the midst of the oldest human war, the war of the sexes, Dell is the first true hermaphrodite on the planet of Ameliaura. Dell has used the anonymity of the Fatherlander cities to survive, and the tight community of the Motherlander villages to manage, but reaching maturity means that neither of those are enough to thrive on anymore. After a vicious attack, and an unexpected love interest, Dell must step into the light to fight for a real home.
Warning: this book contains a child who is actually an ancient dragon made of fungus, a lovely villain imprisoned inside the creature’s body, a hasty clan gathering in the collective subconscious, a hermaphrodite orphanage on the brink, and some very naughty acts on a staircase.
The strange thing is that I never expected to experience a WILD myself.
A large part of the universe that I’d been exploring and writing about had to do with a collective subconscious place, a dream landscape. In the story, talented Dreamers could go into this place and interact with each other, and really talented Dreamers could go there while they were awake.
How the Magic Started
My writers’ group at the time had a tradition of using guided meditation to start our sessions. So, I went over to my writing pal Paolo’s house and we did our meditation thing and… something happened. It felt as though I had a muscle twitch in both of my eyeballs.
You know when a muscle moves a small amount over and over but you can’t control it? Just like that, but not in the skin of my face, but rather in the eyes themselves. My eyeballs moved fast back and forth while my eyes were closed, and I was definitely not in control of it. This had never happened before, but I’d just done the relaxation exercise, so I was sublimely mellow, and didn’t worry too much about it. I thought it was odd, but not enough to mention it to Paolo.
EMDR is a type of therapy, developed for trauma survivors, that is particularly useful in improving self image issues. When I’d tried it, it seemed like the idea was to get the two sides of the brain to communicate with each other, quit arguing and reach an understanding. When I spoke to my counsellor friend about WILDs and how cool I thought the idea was, she said, “Well you know that that’s what EMDR is based on right?” My friend explained that the whole principal behind EMDR was to put the client into a waking dream, an REM state.
When I told her about my eye twitching, she explained that not only had I accidently incorporated WILDs into my writing practice, I’d already done it before in EMDR sessions. Twice. I found this convergence of ideas creepy in the loveliest of ways. This kind of serendipity makes me feel like I’m on the right track, and well… that there IS a track.
Now as if this isn’t lovely-creepy enough, it gets lovely-creepier.
Tapping into the Hive
Rapid Eye Movement is usually something that you have only while you’re asleep and dreaming, but I had accidentally figured out how to get myself into a waking REM state. As I explored the idea further, again and again, I could get into this Lucid Dream space and… witness things. I don’t really know how else to describe it. I would do my meditation, which was about getting into an imaginary sanctuary, and then when I was deeply relaxed, I would call out to a character.
The main character of that story (Root of the Spark) is named Dell, and when I called, Dell would appear. I could see this person’s eyes, face and hair very vividly, and then I would jump from my sanctuary place into Dell’s body. I’d look out of the character’s eyes, hear their thoughts, feel the textures and temperatures of their environment. It all felt very real and very magical.
Science vs Woo-woo
From a scientific point of view, I believe what’s happening is that the right and left hemispheres of my brain were “communicating” in ways that normally happens while we sleep, a subconscious form of thought. From a more woo-woo perspective, I felt that I was tapping into the dreamscape that I’d been writing about, and that there were stories there that wanted me to tell them.
How it Helped
Part way through the first draft, I sheepishly realized I didn’t know what Dell did for work. After berating myself for being a bad writer, and sitting down to try to logically figure it out, I stopped dead and had a new idea. Instead of trying to “logic it out”, ie: use my left brain, why not use my right brain and simply ask Dell from inside the REM state? So I did just that. I meditated my way into my “sanctuary” and then called Dell to me, jumped into Dell’s body and whispered, “Let’s go to work.”
Dell simply walked outside, got into a trike-vehicle I’d never seen before, drove to a location I’d never imagined and opened the door of a restaurant/club that I hadn’t invented yet. It was very clear from Dell’s thoughts and the reactions of the staff that Dell was the owner. I still get goose bumps when I think about it.
This process doesn’t work for every story, and certainly not for every writer. My favourite bit is to realize that creative process can be as diverse as our stories. It can change and evolve, no matter how much you’ve written. And the stories themselves have so much to teach us, if we can just quiet our monkey minds and listen. I think that in itself is pure, sparkling magic.
Michele has always felt a sense of kinship with quirky and diverse people. As a bisexual author, writing love stories that explore the rainbow of human experience is both a pleasure and a calling. Her work celebrates the divine nature of diversity, and the sacred, messy work of intimacy.
If you’d like to know when Michele releases new books, bonus content, book club questions, and sneak peeks, you can sign up for her newsletter at michelefogal.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Goodreads, and nudge her to get off there and write more.
Ruth Vincent is joining us today with her novel Unveiled. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Following the events of Elixir, Mabily “Mab” Jones’ life has returned to normal. Or as normal as life can be for a changeling, who also happens to be a private detective working her first independent case, and dating a half-fey.
But then a summons to return to the fairy world arrives in the form of a knife on her pillow. And in the process of investigating her case, Mab discovers the fairies are stealing joy-producing chemicals directly from the minds of humans in order to manufacture their magic Elixir, the dwindling source of their powers. Worst of all, Mab’s boyfriend Obadiah vows to abstain from Elixir, believing the benefits are not worth the cost in human suffering—even though he knows fairies can’t long survive without their magic.
Mab soon realizes she has no choice but to answer the summons and return to the Vale. But the deeper she is drawn into the machinations of the realm, the more she becomes ensnared by promises she made in the past. And in trying to do the right thing, Mab will face her most devastating betrayal yet, one that threatens everything and everyone she holds most dear.
What’s Ruth’s favorite bit?
It seems such a cliché to say that the inspiration for your novel came to you in a dream; I’d certainly never thought I was that type of writer. Yet oddly enough for UNVEILED it did. And not just any dream, but a nightmare. This was a strange occurrence because the CHANGELING P.I series is largely a happy, feel-good urban fantasy. Yet darkness lurks in this world – not gory, in-your-face horror, but a more subtle, psychological foreboding – hence the dream.
It wasn’t some monster dogging me in my sleep that night; it was one of my old high school math teachers. Now I was lucky to have had excellent teachers for the most part growing up, teachers to whom I will forever be grateful – but there were few exceptions. This gentleman, who I will leave nameless, was known for his patronizing sneer, his snide remarks upon any wrong answer, and the way his attitude made us all feel smaller, less confident, less capable. I’d always struggled in Mathematics but I’d never felt stupid – not till his class. All these years later, I recall his face and I grimace.
At the time of the nightmare I had recently met a man I thought was “the one.” He turned out to be a complete jerk and broke up with me – thankfully freeing me up to meet the wonderful man to whom I am now married. But at the time I was devastated, not so much angry with him as with myself. I had always taken pride in being a good judge of character, and now I had to admit that I could be utterly wrong about someone’s intentions. I felt like I couldn’t even trust myself.
With these ingredients simmering in my subconscious, I had the following dream: I dreamed I was lying in the arms of the man I’d been seeing, talking as unselfconsciously as if we were old lovers, when suddenly, his face began to melt. This would have been disturbing enough, but as his face shifted before my eyes, it began to take on another form – the cruel, hardened scorn of my old math teacher. What was worse was he began to speak, repeating things I had said to him in moments of intimacy and mocking them now in his cruel, derisive way, torturing me with my own most vulnerable admissions. “Didn’t you realize?” he sneered, “It’s been me this whole time.”
Years later when I found myself tasked with trying to write a truly villainous villain for my series, I realized that having a bad guy who simply tries to kill my heroine would be too easy a way out. A truly terrifying villain’s violence is psychological. That’s more believable to the reader than any apocalyptic scenario. Most of us have (hopefully) never had someone out to murder us, but we have had people who’ve gotten in our heads, maybe even into our beds, who left us feeling smaller, more helpless, who tried to make us ashamed of our selves. If my protagonist, Mabily Jones, could stand up to a villain like that, I’d think her more of a badass than the toughest, gun-toting action heroine in all of urban fantasy.
I’m not sure what it says about me as a writer that the most disturbing aspects of my book are always my “favorite bit.” And yet, while the lighter, more comic relief elements of UNVEILED gave me great joy to write (and there are many of those – it’s mostly a happy, hopeful book, I swear!) it’s the villains that loom large in my memory long after the manuscript is complete. Villains should play on our own deepest fears. Perhaps I’m not afraid of the fight-scene villain, but I do fear the villain who pretends he’s in a love scene, the villain who manipulates trust and shatters consent. Those are the villains that haunt us, like a bad dream that refuses to fade upon waking.
Ruth Vincent spent a nomadic childhood moving across the USA, culminating in a hop across the pond to attend Oxford. But wherever she wanders, she remains ensconced within the fairy ring of her imagination. Ruth recently traded the gritty urban fantasy of NYC for the pastoral suburbs of Long Island, where she resides with her roguishly clever husband and a cockatoo who thinks she’s a dog.
She is the author of the CHANGELING P.I urban fantasy series with HarperCollins Voyager Impulse, beginning with her debut novel ELIXIR. The second book in the series, UNVEILED, releases 12/6/16.
I’ve got two different short fiction workshops scheduled for January.
The first is my Writing on the Fast Track, which is a seven-week course that meets once a week for two-hours. It starts on Tuesday, January 10th. This covers the same material as my weekend intensives, but is for folks who find time pressure the opposite of helpful.
There’s only one seat left, so if it’s sold out when you get there, just sign up for the waiting list.
The second is my Short Stories Explained (for novelists). This is for writers who are having trouble with structure and with keeping their short stories actually short. It’s one day, but aaaaaall day on Sunday, January 29th.
(I’ll be teaching another short story intensive in March, but since my schedule goes sideways sometimes, I’m not opening it for registration until we get closer.)
I am so incredibly pleased and honored that AudioFile has picked Ghost Talkers as one of the best audiobooks of 2016. Also floored.
Just to put this into perspective for folks who aren’t in the audiobook industry… The AudioFile Magazine editors maintain an archive of more than 40,000 reviews and pick the 2016 books from the list of work that they reviewed that year. So… kinda neat. You know, if you’re into that stuff.
Huge congratulations as well to the other folks in the SFF section of the list.
AGE OF MYTH Michael J. Sullivan Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds (Recorded Books)
ALIEN: OUT OF THE SHADOWS Tim Lebbon, Dirk Maggs Read by Rutger Hauer, Corey Johnson, Matthew Lewis, and a Full Cast (Audible, Inc.)
ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY Charlie Jane Anders Read by Alyssa Bresnahan (Recorded Books)
BATTLEFIELD EARTH L. Ron Hubbard Read by Josh Clark, Charlie Davis, Scott Menville, Jim Meskimen, Stefan Rudnicki, and a Full Cast (Galaxy Audio)
CAPTAIN TO CAPTAIN Greg Cox Read by Robert Petkoff (Simon & Schuster Audio)
CITY OF MIRRORS Justin Cronin Read by Scott Brick (Random House Audio/Books on Tape)
THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER Harlan Ellison Read by Harlan Ellison, Scott Brick, LeVar Burton, and a Full Cast (Skyboat Media/Blackstone Audio)
THE FIREMAN Joe Hill Read by Kate Mulgrew (Harper Audio)
GHOST TALKERS Mary Robinette Kowal Read by Mary Robinette Kowal (Audible, Inc.)
JERUSALEM Alan Moore Read by Simon Vance (Recorded Books)
MARVEL: DAREDEVIL Kevin Smith, Joe Quesada, Richard Rohan [Adapt.] Read by a Full Cast (GraphicAudio)
THE OBELISK GATE N.K. Jemisin Read by Robin Miles (Hachette Audio)
SERENGETI J.B. Rockwell Read by Elizabeth Wiley (Tantor Media)
THE SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF HOPE Claire North Read by Gillian Burke (Hachette Audio/Blackstone Audio)
VERSION CONTROL Dexter Palmer Read by January LaVoy (Random House Audio/Books on Tape)
So… hey. I went on book tour for Ghost Talkers in November, specifically, the week of the election. It was…difficult. Audiences were way, way down as in — places where I’d previously had standing room only were half-empty. At this point, it’s not likely to hurt me because, honestly, the book itself came out in August.
For any author, having a book come out when people aren’t buying books or when it’s difficult to self-promote because the national conversation is focused on other topics… that’s going to be hard.
A debut author though?
Oh, man… You work so hard and then your book finally, finally comes out. And it’s this month? Oh, sweetie… I’m so sorry. It’s not usually like this. Usually, you can trumpet about it, and people are super-excited for you and it feels really celebratory, and scary, but mostly filled with squee.
I know you’re feeling like your book came out, and that no one noticed. I know it feels like if you promote it, people are going to look at you funny.
So, hey– I’m looking for something new to read. Did you have a book come out in November?
Tell me about it.
(And if you’re a debut author write in all caps I AM A DEBUT AUTHOR.) (Also, congratulations!)
Stephanie A. Cain is joining us today with her novel Shades of Circle City. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Chloe is Catholic, a cop, and conventional, not necessarily in that order. But when a run-of-the-mill burglary arrest goes bad, she ends up dead. Turns out there are worse things than having a bra that doesn’t fit right.
When she wakes up alive–yeah, she’s as surprised as you are–she keeps seeing people her friends can’t see. She can’t get those people to talk to her, though, and one of them looks hauntingly familiar, even though it’s no one Chloe actually knows.
A handsome Indiana State Trooper with secrets of his own tells her that her would-be killer is tied to an open robbery case. While they work together to bring a relentless killer to justice, Chloe has increasingly disturbing encounters with the shades only she can see.
She finally realizes her death (and subsequent resurrection) has given her a connection to the restless dead of Indianapolis, and with a recent homicide rate over a hundred a year, there are a lot of restless dead in Indianapolis. What’s a conventional, Catholic cop to do?
Catch the crook, get the guy, and say a few Hail Marys just to be safe.
What’s Stephanie’s favorite bit?
STEPHANIE A. CAIN
My favorite bit of Shades of Circle City is an accident–or, really, a series of accidents.
I’m a member of a fantastic writing group called IndyScribes, and when I came to them with Shades of Circle City, I had already completed one revision. A member of my writing group took one look at the name Braxton Wolfe and commented, “He’s a werewolf, right?”
“Sure!” I decided, and frantically scribbled an entirely new set of scenes to work in that subplot.
When I introduced the rest of the wolfpack, I threw in a skinny, angry guy named Murphy O’Hare who had been bitten, unlike the rest of the members of the pack, who are hereditary wolves.
Another member of my writing group said, “Oooh, there’s a lot of backstory to that, isn’t there?”
“Sure!” I decided, and frantically scribbled an entirely new set of scenes to work in that subplot.
When I explained in a later scene that Braxton’s father had dealt with the werewolf who turned Murphy, yet another member of my writing group said, “I bet that’s what really killed Braxton’s father, isn’t it?”
“Sure!” I decided, and…you know the drill, right?
To be completely honest, if I didn’t have the IndyScribes, this book wouldn’t be half the novel it is today, and I mean that both literally and figuratively (it was a lot shorter before the werewolves jumped in).
As much as I love my main characters, I have to confess, I’m a sidekick girl. I’m a minor characters girl. I love Samwise and Boromir more than Frodo and Aragorn. I love Robin more than Batman. And… I love Murphy more than Braxton.
Not as a romantic partner for Chloe, and I imagine I’d actually enjoy hanging out with Braxton more than I would Murphy. Murphy isn’t a comfortable guy to be around. He’s snarky and angry and he’s dealing with a dozen changes in his life as well as struggling against poverty as a high-school dropout, and despite all that, he’s strong and brave and loyal, in his own prickly, Murphy kind of way.
My favorite bit of Shades of Circle City is when Murphy finally gets it through his head that one good thing about being bitten is the pack he acquired with it. The family he acquired. Because pack, as Braxton points out more than once in the novel, is family.
As he worked, Braxton considered what should be done. There were plenty of magic-users in Indianapolis, and he didn’t have a problem with most of them. The vast majority were benevolent types, or at the very least, petty in their selfish use of magic. People using their talent to make ends meet didn’t bother him, as long as they weren’t hurting anyone else. But now there was a magic-user who had hurt one of his pack. And not only that, but she had helped turn someone. It was inexcusable. Something would have to be done.
Finally he rocked back on his heels and rubbed a hand over his face. “Murphy,” he said, trying to make his voice gentle but firm. “You aren’t a lone wolf anymore. I appreciate what you were trying to do, but that isn’t how we operate. We’re creatures of the pack. We work better together.”
Murphy met his gaze for half a second and then looked down. “I just…I owe you. I couldn’t—”
“Yes,” Braxton interrupted, “you could. We don’t keep score. Not in this pack.”
“Which is what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Tara put in, her voice sardonic. Murphy’s scowl deepened, but his shoulders relaxed.
This happens late in the book, because Murphy has a lot of anger and guilt and confusion to overcome. He’s on a journey that’s a little different from the others, but when he finally gets it, it feels incredibly satisfying to me.
Of course, things go to hell right after that, but it’s still a little moment of, “Hey, Murphy’s gonna be all right, after all.”
Stephanie A. Cain writes epic & urban fantasy. She is the author of the Storms in Amethir epic fantasy series. Shades of Circle City is the first in her new urban fantasy series. A native Hoosier, she writes urban fantasy set in the Midwest in addition to her epic fantasy. She spends her work time at a small museum doing historical research, giving tours of a Victorian man-cave, and serving as a one-woman IT department.
A proud crazy cat lady, she is happily owned by Eowyn, Strider, and Eustace Clarence Scrubb. In her free time, she enjoys hiking (except for the spiders), bird-watching, and reading. She enjoys organizing things and visits office supply stores for fun. She owns way more movie scores and fountain pens than she can actually afford.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a number of people tell me that they had made their first appointment with a therapist. They told me because they didn’t feel safe telling their family. Let that sink in for a minute.
A complete stranger was safer than their family.
Are you one of those family members? I know you don’t mean to be, but it’s easy to slip and make people feel like depression or anxiety or a host of other mental health issues are a weakness. They aren’t. Don’t tell someone to tough it out, or “man up,” or to get their act together.
You think they want to be in this state? No. So support them in getting the help they need.
And if you do have family like this? I just want to tell you that I am proud of you for taking care of yourself. You are awesome. Get the help you need and don’t let anyone shame you for seeing a therapist. You wouldn’t try to heal a broken arm on your own and the mind is a helluva lot trickier.
Rob and I have been married for fifteen years now and I remain as happily in love as ever. The nature of the way that love expresses itself changes over the years. Our first anniversary was spent at a resort where we met up during the middle of a puppet theater tour I was on.
This year, we’re taking the cat to the vet. Romantic, I know. But the beautiful thing about a marriage is that even the mundane details of life can be acts that reaffirm commitment and love. We’re taking Marlowe to the vet (he’s 17, this is just a check-up) because we knew that it was a day when we were both available. In the evening, after apologies to the cat for indignities suffered, we’re going out for cocktails at Violet Hour.
I had to ask Rob to order his own present this year (martini glasses, because it’s the crystal anniversary) because I couldn’t find glasses that weren’t the size of your head, and we wanted 4 oz. ones. He works for a winery and they have access to amazing stemware catalogs. The fact that he has to do the work to procure them? Not important. He wouldn’t have thought of it on his own, and is pleased that I did.
Jeremiah Reinmiller is joining us today to talk about his novel Gearspire: Advent. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Out on the frontier, where the Directorate’s law fades, and invasions from beyond the Cinderveil are a constant threat, life is hard. Ryle knows this better than most. With a grifter for a mother, and a bandit for a father, he spent his childhood picking pockets and slitting throats to survive. And that was before Kilgren, Ryle’s unstable and vicious father, betrayed his family and the realm.
For five years, Ryle has run from that legacy. He’s earned a swordmark, fought to make a new life for himself, but never escaped. Until now.
Rumors are swirling that Lastrahn, lost Champion of the House of Reckoning, has returned to hunt down Kilgren and end his mad schemes. If Ryle can find the Champion, he might get the shot he desperately seeks to bring his father to justice and close the door on his bloody past.
Hanging in the balance? An impending war. A forsaken love. And the secret of a mysterious tower in the west that may hold the key to it all.
A place known as Gearspire.
Gearspire: Advent is the first book in the Gearspire dark fantasy trilogy.
What’s Jeremiah’s favorite bit?
When I set out to write this post I thought about several bits from the novel I could discuss. About twisting tropes, or dropping readers into the action and letting them catch up. About how origin stories are often boring, which is why I skipped one. Or why this novel is definitely not about a farm boy, an orphan, or anyone who is chosen to do anything.
They’re all interesting enough topics, but then, like the late, great Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, I asked, “Why so serious?” I mean, really, that’s all heady stuff, but where’s the fun? This is a favorite bit post, after all.
It was then I realized this novel is really about a few of my favorite things (no, I’m not busting into a Julie Andrews solo, you really wouldn’t want that). So, for Gearspire: Advent, my favorite bit is the mixed up, mashed up story I wound up with when I threw in everything I love. It was me on a page.
Now, let’s be clear. It didn’t start out that way. I began with a fantasy tale, and all the trappings that entails, but the more I thought about what should be in such a story, the more trapped and constrained I felt. It was only when I decided to fill the story with what I wanted that I began to enjoy it.
So, I started with some pretty standard dark fantasy elements: sword fights, magic, gritty choices, and a few monsters for seasoning. All things I’m fond of. But you know what else I like? Steampunk. All those wooden mechanics, crazy inventions, and severe outfits. Yeah definitely on the favorites list, so I threw them in. It needed some adventure of course, and some scares. I’ve been known to enjoy horror from time to time, and I added a few bits like that.
By that time, it was getting pretty good, but we weren’t there yet. It needed a touch of romance, and then to balance that, of course the obvious choice, ninjas. I mean really, it’s hard to craft a good love story without some ninjas involved.
I was feeling it then, but it wasn’t quite there. The book still needed some betrayal for contrast, some apocalypse for gravitas, and some psychics, because, well . . . why not?
At that point I thought, have I gone too far? Should I trim some of this out? But of course, the answer was simple, no way. Because all of these favorites bits were why I loved the story and what made it mine. Without them it might just be any other story, but with them, they formed my story.
So yeah, it’s a crazy, gritty, dark fantasy / steampunk mash-up with monsters, and ninjas, and sword fights galore. It’s different, and it’s mine, and I’m happy to share it with all of you. If you want to check it out, I hope you enjoy it.
Gearspire: Advent is available in both eBook and physical formats on Amazon.com. Or, if you’d like a couple free stories, head over to www.jqpdx.com, sign-up for Jeremiah’s mailing list and receive two stories set in the Gearspire universe.
Jeremiah Reinmiller is a lifelong computer geek, martial artist, and native of the Pacific Northwest. When he’s not building clouds (the computing kind, not the rainy ones) he’s probably hunched over a keyboard hammering out words in a semi-organized fashion. His stories have received the 2014 Sledgehammer Writing Award, and been published by Subtopian Press, Abyss & Apex Magazine, and Cantina Publishing. He resides in Vancouver (the one in Washington, not Canada) with his wife and their two cats. Information on what he’s up to, and more of his stories can be found at www.jqpdx.com.
Jon Del Arroz is joining us today with his novel Star Realms: Rescue Run. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Since being court-martialed by the Star Empire, smuggler and thief Joan Shengtu has done what she needed to do in order to survive—gaining a reputation along the way. When a new client’s mission goes sideways, Joan finds herself caught in the middle of dueling gambits between the Star Empire and the Trade Federation. Recruited to perform the heist of a lifetime, the fate of the Star Empire rests in her hands.
On the opposite side of the galaxy, Regency BioTech manager Dario Anazao sees an unsustainable situation brewing that promises a full-scale revolution. The megacorporations of the Trade Federation have kept the population in horrible working conditions, violating their human rights. With no one else to help, Dario must take it upon himself to rescue the workers of Mars.
Can two heroes from warring factions come together to make a difference in the galaxy?
Star Realms: Rescue Run is the first novelization of the critically acclaimed Star Realms spaceship combat deckbuilding game. You can check out the game here: http://www.starrealms.com.
What’s Jon’s favorite bit?
JON DEL ARROZ
The balcony had a holoprojected view of the Martian landscape, including the Arsia Mons mountain. The oxygen level must have been pumped in higher in that receptacle, a closed room despite the open-air appearance. None of that surprised Dario. What did was the woman he saw standing there, gazing out over the balcony. With dinner about to be served, he’d expected to have some time alone here.
She turned to look at him, big brown eyes piercing through him, making him shiver. She wore an expensive dress. Dario didn’t know too much about fashion design, sticking to more conservative business attire, but color-changing fabric like she had on couldn’t come cheap. This woman was here to make a show. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb,” Dario said, carefully taking a step back.
The woman smiled at him, pearly teeth exposed from her red lips. “No, you’re not interrupting. I just needed some fresh—” she stopped herself, shaking her head with a laugh. “It almost feels real, until you think about it. You know?” – Star Realms: Rescue Run
Star Realms at its core is a game about bases and battleships, massive fleets endlessly propelling at each other in an attempt to dominate galactic authority. When I wrote Rescue Run, the first novel in the Star Realms universe, I kept myself aware of that, but I wanted to focus on what it meant to be a human in such a chaotic universe.
My favorite bit of this book doesn’t come in the fight scenes, or even the gambits or missions that the various factions within the universe, but from the excerpt here, in which the two protagonists from two very different walks of life meet for the first time, and realize that they have something in common as people. These human moments are what matter most in our lives, and so the human moments are also what have the most impact in my story.
Another sub-theme that I layered into Rescue Run is one that technology presents illusions that give us comfort, but not substance. The Star Empire and Trade Federation are manipulating people’s psyches as much as they’re pushing for control of different areas of the galaxies. Characters are decked out with body modifications that control aspects of their lives down to their hearing and vision. They’re trapped in bases and starships, never seeing reality beyond what’s been constructed for them by their empires or corporations. This scene highlights the doctored perception of reality, as the main protagonists of the story are staring at a phony landscape of Mars that’s projected in front of them on a wall. The real landscape of Mars is just below the station where they’re at, but the powers that be don’t want people looking in at the desperate lives of the helpless and poor that they’ve built their fortunes on: they want to create a space where people are comfortable enough that they wouldn’t dare upset the careful balance the corporations had created.
It’s my opinion that in our own lives in 2016, we’re falling down a slippery slope of a path similar to what’s presented in Rescue Run. We’re connected to the internet all the time, staring down at our smart phones, never looking up at reality anymore. We’re outraged about what we’re told to be outraged about in less than 140 characters. We’re similarly content and safe in not taking active roles in the real world because we never have to look up and see another person. It creates a dangerous environment in a lot of ways, because when we forget that there are real people on the other side of screens or even on the other side of the street, we lose compassion, which I believe to be a cardinal virtue.
Though analyzing this section of Star Realms: Rescue Run shows some heavy concepts, I did try to keep the book in the spirit of the fact that it’s based on a game. For the most part, the novel is fast-paced. There’s plenty of action, adventure, and intrigue, with a healthy bit of romance sprinkled in for good measure.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Star Realms Deckbuilding Game, it’s a free app, and it’s very easy to learn. I did my best to make the book so you don’t have to have played the game to understand the story, so it should be enjoyable to those who like space opera or a good adventure book. There are plenty of fun references to the game layered in for those who are familiar, but to me, it’s the people who matter. That includes my characters Joan and Dario, Star Realms opponents on the app, or anyone I come across in life. It pays to remember we’re not the only souls in the vastness of space.
Jon Del Arroz began his writing career in high school, providing book reviews and the occasional article for the local news magazine, The Valley Citizen. From there, he went on to write a weekly web comic, Flying Sparks, which has been hailed by Comic Book Resources as “the kind of stuff that made me fall in love with early Marvel comics.” He has several published short stories, most recently providing flash fiction for AEG’s weird west card game, Doomtown: Reloaded, and a micro-setting for the Tiny Frontiers RPG. Star Realms: Rescue Run is his debut novel. You can find him during baseball season with his family at about half of the Oakland A’s home games in section 124.
Lesley Conner is joining us today to talk about Apex Magazine. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Apex Magazine is a monthly digital e-zine of professional-level science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction. The e-zine is edited by Jason Sizemore and is a multiple Hugo Award nominee. Apex Magazine has published many genre luminaries (Theodora Goss, Jeff VanderMeer, Gemma Files, Mary Robinette Kowal, Saladin Ahmed, etc.) as well as bright new talents (Onu-Okpara Chiamaka, Tade Thompson, Iori Kusano, and more). Visit http://www.apex-magazine.com for some fine speculative fiction!
What’s Lesley’s favorite bit?
Jason Sizemore and I have been going back forth about who should write this post. We both wanted to write it, but it was coming down to who had the time and who’s to-do pile was more likely to crush them. Between the Apex Magazine subscription drive, our annual flash fiction contest, getting ready to release Rosewater by Tade Thompson in November and Upside Down edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates in December, and everything else Apex, schedules are tight! Finally Jason said he’d read slush if I wrote it, and with that he knew he had me, because Jason reading the stories that have been pushed up to his desk from the Apex Magazine slush pile is my favorite bit.
I know that sounds weird. Let me explain. When Jason reads slush, he’s reading stories that I’ve already read. Stories that were recommended by our slush readers and that I fell in love with and kept moving up the chain. So while he’s reading, if he comes across a story that he’s not sure about or that he’s questioning the ending or a character’s motivation, he asks me my thoughts on it. Aha! This is the moment that I look forward to most as managing editor of Apex Magazine. I whip my English degree off the wall, prop it on the couch beside me, and Jason and I start pulling the story apart.*
I cannot speak for every English program in every university, but my experience at WVU in the early-2000s was one of dissecting poetry and short stories and novels. I wrote countless papers defending my opinions about author intent, discussing pacing and diction in class, picking sentences apart bit by bit, all while knowing there was no way I could be sure I was correct because I couldn’t ask the author, but I would build a damn good argument for my case. And I loved it. Sadly, in the world we live in, spending half an hour discussing the meaning behind one particular word or phrase in a book is not a skill you often have the need for in day to day life – even when a big portion of your life revolves around editing and writing – so when the chance comes up, I grab it!
There’s something about having an intellectual discussion about fiction: discussing how it makes you feel, whether you find it believable, if the pacing works that I find satisfying on so many levels. And when Jason and I get into these discussions over stories in the slush pile, that feeling of satisfaction is even greater.
Several of my personal favorite Apex Magazine stories are ones that Jason and I have discussed. “Blood on Beacon Hill” by Russell Nichols, “Anabaptist” by Daniel Rosen, “1957” by Stephen Cox, and “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys: The Elephant’s Tale” by Damien Angelica Walters immediately come to mind. “The Love it Bears Fair Maidens” by K.T. Bryski coming out in the December issue is another one we chatted a long while about. And I’m not saying that Jason didn’t like those stories. The opposite in fact. These were stories that he did like, but that there was something about them that he needed to work out with another person before accepting. I feel like Apex Magazine is stronger because there is an open dialogue between us, allowing us both to see stories from other perspectives.
While Jason ultimately makes the final decision of whether or not to publish a particular story, being able to champion for my favorites is amazing. I feel like a gallant knight brandishing my sword and beating back the dreaded rejection letter. Even though I don’t always win the battle against rejection, these discussions leave me feeling invigorated. They are a good reminder of why I love reading and everything about the written word, and they are definitely my favorite bit of Apex Magazine.
*I don’t actually whip my degree off the wall. It isn’t even on a wall. It’s in an envelope in the back of my closet.
Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 marks her debut experience in anthology editing. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.
Elizabeth Bonesteel is joining us today with her novel Remnants of Trust. Here’s the publisher’s description:
In this follow-up to the acclaimed military science fiction thriller The Cold Between, a young soldier finds herself caught in the crosshairs of a deadly conspiracy in deep space.
Six weeks ago, Commander Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster were court-martialed for their role in an event Central Gov denies ever happened. Yet instead of a dishonorable discharge or time in a military prison, Shaw and Foster and are now back together on Galileo. As punishment, they’ve been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector.
But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when the Galileo picks up a distress call: Exeter, a sister ship, is under attack from raiders. A PSI generation ship—the same one that recently broke off negotiations with Foster—is also in the sector and joins in the desperate battle that leaves ninety-seven of Exeter’s crew dead.
An investigation of the disaster points to sabotage. And Exeter is only the beginning. When the PSI ship and Galileo suffer their own “accidents,” it becomes clear that someone is willing to set off a war in the Third Sector to keep their secrets, and the clues point to the highest echelons of power . . . and deep into Shaw’s past.
What’s Elizabeth’s favorite bit?
When I was 8-1/2 months pregnant, my husband and I moved into a hotel.
We hadn’t planned it that way. We had expected our house to take longer to sell. We had not expected to have to seek temporary housing for my mammoth self. But while babies are relatively predictable—give or take a few weeks—real estate is not. And so, at nearly 9 months, I was packing up our kitchen.
My husband assembled the packing boxes and put all our dishes and spices out on the countertops. I sat in a chair and packed what I could reach. Realistically, I wasn’t much help. At this point I was both exhausted and uncomfortable, all the time. But I did something, which, for some insane pregnant-woman pride reason, was very important to me.
As I was writing REMNANTS OF TRUST, I remembered the move, and thought: If I can pack up a house right before I give birth, a pregnant woman can run a starship. And so Guanyin was born.
In the US, the cultural images we get of pregnancy are…odd. As with most stereotypes, there are grains of truth—morning sickness, hormonal surges, odd food cravings—but it’s all two-dimensional. Pregnancy is treated as this extreme condition, but at any one point on our little planet, there are a lot of pregnant women.
And for most of us, that pregnancy is an addition to an already crowded life. We don’t have the luxury of putting that life on hold. More than that, often we don’t want to. Perhaps the oddest cultural myth about pregnancy is that everything else should somehow suspend operations and get out of the way.
Guanyin can’t suspend anything. She is the captain of a generation ship, a ship most of the inhabitants call home for their entire lives. Officially her position is elected, but as a practical matter she’s something between president and dictator. She has an extensive staff, and the help of the whole population if necessary; but it is with her that the buck stops. Not only does she have a job she can’t ignore, in her culture it’s literally the most important job there is.
She’s also really, really good at being pregnant. When the book opens, she’s carrying her sixth child, after five uncomplicated births. And on this generation ship, where she has grown up seeing other women have children, she knows it doesn’t always work out that way. Above all other things, Guanyin is pragmatic. She knows she has benefited from good genetics and good luck, and that’s all the excuse she needs to keep having children.
Because on a generation ship, children are important—not so much as individuals, not any more than anyone else, but as tools of survival. In a future where populations tend to be small and isolated, reproduction and genetic diversity are critical issues. Not everyone has the desire or the ability to bear children. It makes sense that a woman like Guanyin, who has both, would choose to do it.
“But Liz,” I hear you ask, “it’s a thousand years in the future. What about technology? Surely they could just use artificial wombs.” Indeed. And in many places they do exactly that. It makes sense to have multiple resources for something as important as propagating the species.
But here’s the authorial insertion bit: I liked being pregnant. The whole experience fascinated me. And part of what fascinated me was that I could go through such a radical physiological change and still be entirely myself.
There’s a complaint, sometimes, that women in literature are too often written in relation to their families. I have a lot of sympathy for that, because women’s lives—like everyone’s lives—are full of stories that don’t have anything to do with their families. More often, though, I see women portrayed as either mothers or heroes, but not both—or at least not both at the same time. And that’s entirely counter to my experience in the real world.
Guanyin is, like many women, dealing with her pregnancy as a normal part of her life. It’s in the background hum, from her interludes with her children to the metaphors she chooses. She is a practical, thoughtful, strong-minded professional who never loses sight of her responsibilities. She’s also, for the duration of the tale, a big, clumsy, pregnant lady.
Elizabeth Bonesteel began making up stories at the age of five, in an attempt to battle insomnia. Thanks to a family connection to the space program, she has been reading science fiction since she was a child. She currently lives in central Massachusetts with her husband, her daughter, and various cats.
Thursday November 10 – 7:30 PM Mysterious Galaxy 5943 Balboa Ave #100
San Diego, CA 92111
Sunday November 13 – 3:00 PM Borderlands 866 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110
What if I’m not coming to your town? If you still want a signed book, you can contact any of these stops and I’ll sign and personalize it for you. This is true for most authors and most bookstores, by the way. Handy.
The thing some people want to know is what happens at one of these book tour things. Here’s how it works. Each stop, I’ll show up in a replica of the Spirit Corps uniform.
Literature happens! Or, in other words, I read and answer questions. Naturally, on this tour, there’s some code-breaking. Do you know the passphrase? Often it’s easier to find than you’d think. Not that I’m hinting or anything…
Besides all that, you’ll be supporting an independent bookstore. Really, it’s is your patriotic duty. Although voting comes first… Now that you know what’s entailed, will I see you there? ‘Cause that would be awesome. Hope so.
Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force. Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps […]